E41 Thomas Wirthlin McConkie: How Meditation And Being Still Helps Us Know God

E41 Thomas Wirthlin McConkie: How Meditation And Being Still Helps Us Know God

Morgan Jones: 24 hours later, and I’m still
not over how much I love the conversation you’re about to hear. I hope you love it as much as I did. If you do or if you’ve enjoyed any of our
recent episodes, please do me a huge favor and leave us a rating or review on Apple Podcasts. One little rating or review can help us so
much and I read every review personally, and they make my day so thank you so much. And now we’ll get on to this week’s episode. Thomas McConkie is the grandson of Joseph
B. Wirthlin and the great nephew of Bruce R. McConkie, two names you might recognize,
and yet at the age of 13, he stopped attending church. Ultimately, a 20-year spiritual journey to
China and back led him to return to the faith of his youth. What healed what had previously been a painful
space in his life and called him home? Meditation and stillness. Thomas Wirthlin McConkie is the author of
“Navigating Mormon Faith Crisis” and the founder of Lower Lights School of Wisdom. He has been practicing mindfulness and other
meditative techniques for 20 years and studying their effects on human potential. He and his wife, Gloria, live in Salt Lake
City. This is “All In,” an LDS Living podcast where
we ask the question, “What does it really mean to be ‘all in’ the gospel of Jesus Christ?” I’m Morgan Jones, and I’m so grateful to have
Thomas McConkie with me today. Thomas, welcome. Thomas McConkie: Thank you. Good to be here, Morgan. MJ: Well, I have been so looking forward to
this conversation. And I would love just as we start to kind
of introduce people to you and to your story. So if there are people listening that are
completely new to you, don’t know anything about you, how would you briefly sum up a
little bit about your faith journey? TM: How brief? I can be so brief or just… MJ: Give us some some detail. TM: I’m the guy who accidentally became proficient
in meditation and realized that it is a spiritual practice that could potentially help unlock
an entire generation’s faith so that’s where I’m coming from. I can tell you the details of how that happened. But I gained so much from a meditation practice. I fell into it accidentally when I was a teenager. And over 20 years later, it’s really clear
to me with the, let’s say, creative challenges we’re seeing in the life of faith in the upcoming
generations, my sense is that a more meditative contemplative lifestyle will potentially play
a big and important role in deepening our faith as a generation, a new generation of
Latter-day Saints. So I didn’t say anything about me there. But that’s the like the ya know headline. MJ: And I think that’s perfect because it
sets the tone for pretty much everything that I want to talk to you about so well done. TM: Yeah, cool. MJ: But let’s kind of talk a little bit about
you and your experience from the age of 13 to 32, you were kind of out of the church. Can you tell us a little bit about that? TM: Yeah. Where to start? So like most 13 year olds or like many, I
didn’t like to, like get up in the morning, early on Sunday and put on a shirt and tie
and, you know, march off to church. I just didn’t like it. But it wasn’t like an existential crisis yet. It was just ‘I don’t want to go to church
today.’ And in my particular family culture and culture
culture, I learned pretty quickly that like not going to church was like, not part of
the program. And at that point, it became a battle of wills. I mean, we could spend the whole conversation
on this, but I don’t think we need to. You know my parents. You should get their side of it. MJ: I do. I keep thinking about Lis during this. TM: Yeah exactly, you know Lis. Talk to her. I mean, I have the bully pulpit right now
and I yield it to my parents let them tell the story. But the long, the short of it is that I didn’t
want to go to church. They really wanted me to go to church. And I felt as a 13 year old boy coerced like,
Well, wait a minute, should I get to choose whether I go to church or not? MJ: Isn’t agency a thing? TM: I think it’s a thing. That’s what I learned in Sunday school. But at any rate, it became a battle of wills,
a protracted battle of wills and before long, it was more about like, just exercising that
choice. More than like, it wasn’t even about church
at a certain point. You know what I’m saying? But that you know, I my mom has told me that
I was like, blessed with a preternatural stubbornness like I have superhuman strength and my stubbornness. I just wouldn’t bend on it. MJ: Some would call it a gift. Some would not. TM: I say that ironically, right? Yeah, it’s like all things a strength and
a weakness, but I didn’t go back to church after that. It just didn’t feel right. But I was spiritually really hungry. I missed spiritual life and practice and community
and ritual and all of it. And it was at 18 years old, that I just felt
kind of like spiritually desiccated, kind of dry it out, and I gotta do something. And it so happened my freshman year in college,
there was a big Buddhist Zen center, like two blocks away. And I would see the teachers like at the local
fish market, and it was just like it was in the air and the neighborhood where I was,
and something about it really made sense. And, you know, I think from the McConkie side
of my family, I have like a kind of sense of discipline. So there’s something about the discipline
of like sitting still stationary on a little cushion every day for a long time that I’m
like, Okay, let’s see what happens here. And I was amazed at how much the practice
of just being still changed me immediately, but also over the years. You know, when you hear there’s a huge movement,
especially in the Western world right now, around mindfulness meditation, all of the
health benefits, mental health benefits, etc. I saw those benefits in the first few months
of my practice. My insomnia kind of just cleared up, I had
pretty serious insomnia, mood disturbance, I had a really hard time concentrating in
college, all these really significant life issues for me, they started to get dramatically
better within like a six month period, I was shocked. And if that was all that ever happened with
meditation, if all it ever did for me was like, help me sleep better and eat better
and concentrate and get good grades, that would have been a Grand Slam for me. It would have been like well worth the relatively
little time I’d put in. But it turned out that it just kind of began
there. That was just like the very beginning of a
whole new way of being human for me and I’m, I want to let you ask me some questions because
I’ll just keep talking here. But where I’m going with this is that like,
the more I sat still, the more I felt the presence of stillness throughout my day and
throughout my life, whether I was, quote, sitting still or not, I just felt this presence
of stillness. And before too long after a few years, I started
to connect dots, like, wait a minute, like, be still and know that I am God. We want to live prayerfully and invite the
presence of the spirit into our lives every moment of every day to allow it to guide us
and inspire our actions. All of these profound teachings from our church,
they just started to come alive in me and the entryway for me was through stillness,
and it changed my life and you know, it took me a while to like circle back to a ward family. It took me about 20 years to be exact, but
like, I felt very Mormon, I know we’re not supposed to use that word anymore, but I’m
working on it. I’m cycling it out of my vocabulary. But I felt very Mormon all those 20 years
even though I didn’t go to church, the gospel and what I’d learned as a really young kid
was just like germinating in me and taking deep root and coming alive. It was a miraculous experience for me. MJ: Yeah, I listened to a podcast interview
that you did or actually watched it on YouTube with Terryl Givens, and loved it. And one of the things that you mentioned to
Terryl was that religion and faith for much of your life was a painful space. Why was that and how do you think you were
able to find healing from that? TM: Great question. Well, after the age of 13, I associated all
of religion, for better or for worse, with a kind of ostracization or being exiled, I
felt kind of kicked out of the club because I didn’t want to go to church anymore. Right? So everything about the religious experience
felt like an in group. And I was on the outside of that in group
that was really hard. So socially, I just felt like I didn’t belong
anywhere that was really painful. And it took me years to like, see back into
the depths of why does religion exist? And like, what’s the big deal about the restored
gospel, it took me time to work through my own pain to a point where I could genuinely
appreciate just the power that flows through the tradition. That took me time. Right? So that was that was the first part of the
question like, you know, why the pain? The second part, like how did I kind of process
the pain and what allowed me to move through that pain? A lot of it was stillness. Really, and, you know, we could get into like
the fine details of like, what it means to sit still and have a contemplative or a meditation
practice. But I’ll just say about it that when you sit
still and when you make a spiritual discipline of that every day, you figure out really quickly
what you’re avoiding. If you know what I’m saying, like, if any
one of us just says, I’m going to sit still, and I’m not going to do anything for the next
10 minutes. And every time I have a thought, I’m going
to just kind of like, let it go and come back to just the present moment of what’s happening. You’ll be amazed at how flooded you get with
like, oh, like there’s emotional pain in my heart. And I wasn’t totally aware that that was there. What’s that all about? And you sit long enough and you start to get
really intimate with all of your wounding as a human being. And at that point, you kind of have a decision
like am I going to stay and really get to know this, you know, even become friends with
this pain? Or am I going to like, hop up and just stay
busy the rest of my life like stay busy trying to avoid feeling what I’m actually feeling. So the practice of stillness let me get a
really clear look at what was hurting so much, and by grace and with a lot help from friends
and mentors, I was able to just kind of sit with it. And by sitting with it, I realized there’s
something even deeper than me, something deeper in me than the pain that’s able to hold that
pain. Because at a surface level, I felt so broken,
I felt so frazzled, I felt so scattered. And yet, after sitting still for a while,
I saw very clearly, “Well, if I’m so scattered and broken and wounded and sinful, how am
I able to sit still,” right? What is it in me that’s sitting still. And that gave me a lot of insight into the
atonement. It’s like, oh, like this part of me that can
just be in the depths of my own pain. My intuition is that this is what we mean
when we say Christ sat in the depths of all of humanity’s pain. And I felt healed. It doesn’t happen all at once, but I felt
totally healed and put back together and redeemed and I have no doubt that every one of us in
this generation are capable of connecting that deeply to healing and wholeness and atonement. And I’m excited about you know, being like
one of the voices in that conversation. I think there will be many. MJ: Yeah. I love that so much. My body language for those listening, I like
am getting excited, but… TM: She’s going crazy over here. MJ: Going crazy! But I think that this is so spot on. And these are things you’ve written about
in “Navigating a Mormon Faith Crisis,” is this idea that we can find healing in a more
personal form of worship. And I think this is something that we see
the church moving more toward. And so I want to talk so much about so many
of these things. But one thing is you touched on that this
is a new generation looking for that. Why would you say Thomas that this generation
is hurting in a way that needs to be healed in that way? And how can we satisfy that craving for healing
via meditation? TM: These are big questions. And I don’t sense that I could even begin
to answer either of these with any finality, but we can, you know, have a conversation
about and hopefully it’s an ongoing conversation in the culture about them. Why is this generation hurting more than other
generations? Well, I think in one sense, that might be
true, but I, I look at it a little bit differently. I believe, as we grow up spiritually, as we
mature spiritually, we gain a greater capacity to see more of the suffering that’s in ourselves
and in the world. MJ: And in others, yeah. TM: Right. And I see you nodding like you know exactly
what I mean. So as we as we grow up in the gospel, we become
more attuned to even the least degree of we could say sin. Or we could say suffering, I think they’re
related. And as we become more clear and honest about
“Oh there’s sin here, I need to do something about this. I’m not living up to my privilege if I’m living
with the presence of the sin in my life,” as we do that more and more, and we’re honest
and have integrity with it, we gain the capacity to see an entire community is suffering, an
entire generation is suffering. So I believe we become ministers to other
people’s suffering as we get more and more clear on our own. So that’s an awesome topic you bring up but
I just want to say a word about that. And the next part, like so, how does meditation,
how does mindfulness, stillness play into that? Is that where we’re going? MJ: Yeah
TM: And this is huge, I mean people, I’ve learned, are so unique, and there are so many
different ways to heal. And there’s so many different ways to grow
in the gospel clearly, right? I don’t know what I could say about it at
the moment. It looked like you had a thought, were you
gonna say something? MJ: Well, I did, I was thinking when you’re
talking about, you know, recognizing the suffering of others, I’ve noticed that my friends and
my peers seem to be much more empathetic, then maybe like my parents’ generation. And it’s not for a lack of trying on the part
of my parents. Yeah. But it’s something about our makeup. And maybe it’s the result of social media. I don’t know, I think there are positives
and negatives with that for sure. But I do think this generation, there’s a
certain amount of empathy that maybe is deeper than has been previously. TM: Yeah, I would agree with that. And I would also kind of up the ante and say,
my sense of human history is that we’re moving towards greater love and greater compassion
all the time. I know a lot of people would challenge that. But I’d be up for the challenge. I, I sense that as a collective as humanity,
as Christians, we’re learning to be more empathetic and more compassionate as the gospel helps
us and asked us to do. So I see that, and I believe we’ll look at
the next generation. And they’ll look back at us and say, like,
“Oh, they moved the ball forward, they definitely made improvements, and they could not see
how blind they were to this particular injustice.” And you know, it goes on and on. So I see that as well about your question
on you know, like meditation, mindfulness, it occurs to me that if we’re going to talk
about how stillness, how meditation, all that stuff can help us, you know, live a life more
fully in the gospel and so forth, we might want to take a minute to talk about what we
mean when we say meditation. TM: Because these words get kind of bandied
around all the time, even more now than ever, right. I, as I’ve practiced over the years, my sense
of what meditation is has become broader and broader. For example, when I was an 18 year old, I’d
go to the teacher and he’d say like, “This is what meditation is, you sit in this posture
and you do this with your attention, and don’t move for 30 minutes or 30 days” or whatever. They’ll, you know, they’ll tell you how to
focus. As I’ve kind of deepened in the practice over
time. I’m really comfortable with the definition
of meditation as remembrance. And that feels very much like a gospel principle
to me, like when we remember what are we remembering? Well, let me just riff a little bit: We remember
that we are sons and daughters, that we’re children of a living God. And when we remember that the quality of our
whole life in this very moment changes. And as Latter-day Saints, we all know how
to do that. We remember that a lot. We remember that, “Oh yeah. Like, we are co-heirs of God’s kingdom. And we are the intelligence, the very stuff
out of which gods and goddesses are made.” When we remember these things, it completely
transforms our sense of what’s possible. Meditation, we could say, is a tradition of
different skillful means or techniques for helping us remember more often, more reliably. That’s it. So in that sense, I just want to make it very
plain because we haven’t talked about meditation much in all of Christianity for about 400
years now. That’s a history that we don’t need to get
into. MJ: Yeah, please. MJ: A short period of time. TM: Yeah, I mean, like, Yeah, exactly but
it’s been a few centuries since this language was more in the vernacular, like people had
more of a sense of meditation. I think we’ve grown a little bit apart from
it but that’s an anomaly as far as I’m concerned, if our business is restoring the fullness
of the gospel then any truth will need to be eventually gathered up but also embodied
and expressed through the saints. So, you know, when we talk about meditation
this way, like meditation means living prayerfully and constantly remembering who we are, the
power of divinity that flows through us. That is a much more native proposition to
our church than like, “Oh, this guy goes to monasteries, I think is Buddhist. And I’m not into that,” you know, it’s, it’s
not about another culture. It’s about claiming our birthright. MJ: Yeah. Well, and that reminds me so Deseret Book
has this book coming out about stillness. And I mentioned to you that I wanted to ask
you a couple of questions relating to that. One of the things they talked about in this
book, they said that when we practice stillness more fully in our lives, that the “Sabbath
becomes more of a restorative retreat, temple worship a deep immersion into non-doing and
prayer, a contemplative practice of quiet communion.” And I love that because it kind of reminded
me of in the interview with Terryl Givens you said, there’s nothing within meditation
that isn’t natively Mormon. MJ: And so I think that, that that kind of
shows a little bit about the “synergies between doctrine and dharma,” which is another phrase
that they used in this book, what are your thoughts on that? TM: Right. TM: Well, yeah, I mean, about the the first
part of your question. MJ: Sorry, I tend to talk in multiple questions. TM: It’s okay. No I’m like having to organize, there were
like three questions there with two subsets of questions. MJ: Listeners, I apologize. Thomas, I’m sorry. TM: No, it’s we’re, we’re rolling here. So one thing I’ll say about the relationship,
you’re drawing—Meditation as a part of like life and in the church and the life of a Latter-day
Saint, whether that’s sacrament meeting or temple worship, etc. What that brings up for me is just a recognition
that when we read in the scriptures that we can be still and know that God is God. It doesn’t say be still once in a while and
know that I’m God. It says “Be still.” I take that to mean be still always. And here’s a little bit of a distinction here. We could think of be still like, “Oh, man,
be still, now I need to figure out, I’m already super busy. How am I going to find 30 minutes every day
to be totally still because I have so much stuff to do?” Yes, like when we say a prayer, or if we sit
in stillness, it does help to carve out like a little space. But to me, the point isn’t to like sit as
still as we can for as many hours as we can every day. It’s to touch into the stillness. Be still and know that I’m God. And when we touch deeply into that stillness,
the presence of that stillness naturally starts to permeate our entire life. So that in this moment, there’s stillness. And it could be total cacophony and madness. And we feel a deep stillness at the very core
of our being, and we know God is present and His love is in and through all of us. And that He watches over us and cares for
us. That’s the next level, I think, yeah, it starts
with formal practices of prayer and sacrament meeting and temple but to actually generalize
that to every moment of our life. To me, that is what Zion looks like. I mean, can you imagine 7 billion humans on
the planet that are living in full awareness that we are created by and through the Power
and Light of Christ? It would completely transform our economy
and our politics and our education and the way like, someone lets you in to make a left
turn when it’s rush hour, everything would change. And to me like, whether we call it meditation
or not, I see that fullness rolling out over the earth right now. And I’m on fire about it. MJ: On board with it. TM: I’m on fire. You’re on board. OK, maybe we’ll see if we can like raise the
temperature there Morgan. MJ: I’ll try to get in there. Crank up the heat! No, I actually love that you gave the example
of rush hour because when you first started talking, I was thinking that’s so opposite. Like being still is so contrary to everything
that we’re experiencing in our everyday life. But if you look at it the way that you just
explained it, it’s even in those moments of busyness being able to be still. TM: Exactly it’s not about adding on yet another
like to-do on your list of how am I going to be a good faithful Latter-day Saint? It’s just creating a very healthy spiritual
habit and mental habit of noticing in every moment, in this moment—in this moment right
now there is profound stillness. And there is a profound holiness and we can
remember it. And we remember it just for a moment and like
a perfume… the scent just fills the room. And it fills our whole day. MJ: Super cool. TM: It’s amazing to be alive. MJ: Another thought that I had when you were
talking about that. I guess I’ve always thought of that scripture,
“Be still and know that I am God,” as like I don’t want to say like a self-serving statement
by God but like, be still and recognize that I am God but when you something about the
way that you described it, it made me think Be still. And when you are still you will know that
I am God. And you’ll come to know that on a deeper level,
which I think is significant. TM: Yes. And that is exactly the kind of insight, I
was talking about it earlier in my own life, just now you had a taste of stillness and
an insight, and a deepening of like, “Oh!” and it opens you up to new possibilities. That’s exactly how that happens. Beautiful! MJ: Perfect. We’re putting it into practice. TM: Congratulations! As a new meditation student, you’re well on
your way. MJ: Thank you. Yes, I will gladly sign up. Another question that I had in relation to
this book about stillness is they asked a question and I just wanted to get your take
on that. They were talking about the culture of the
church, and they give some examples in this book of different things, getting a new calling,
feeling overwhelmed, things like that. But it says “How is that this hyper-stimulated
rushed culture influencing how we experience the quiet message of Jesus. In what ways could it be changing our experience
of gospel practices?” Yeah. What are your thoughts on that, Thomas? TM: So I tend to be a nonlinear thinker. You’ve probably noticed that at this point
in the interview, but… MJ: apparently I am too because I’m giving
you a circle of questions. MJ: Yeah. That’s beautiful. TM: Exactly and I’m just like picking one
and going for it. Pick a line and like, don’t look back, start
talking. I thought of Henry T. Ford, when you asked
that, because to me, that’s an icon of our current worldview in the Western world of
like, make a production line, stamp them out, figure out how to make even more things on
your production lines, stamp them out. I really believe at this point in history,
we’re living in the wake of that particular dream, that dream and that value system that
says, the more stuff we can make, and sell and acquire the better off we are. Like it or not, Latter-day Saints to some
extent have been colonized by that one worldview, right? Where we have to be productive, and we have
to do more, and we have to accomplish more. Nothing wrong with doing more and accomplishing
more. But if that doing more and accomplishing more
comes at the expense of feeling whole in this moment, and losing touch with stillness, and
losing, forgetting, rather than remembering that God is in and through it all and blesses,
every step we take on this planet, then we trade our spiritual growth and our eternal
dominion for a car, or a widget. And that, I think, is a problem. So what what I think of when you read that
quote from the book is that we’ve been kind of drawn into a particularly frenetic rhythm
of human life in this particular moment in history. And I’ve found it to be incredibly valuable
to challenge that cultural value system to like, you know, stand up against the tyranny
of constant dizziness and stimulation and tune into a different rhythm which maybe we
could call the soul’s rhythm. The soul as it grows and expands and becomes
divine, it has a totally different movement to it. Like you don’t get soul growth from like speeding
through an article on your smartphone and just getting like, you know, the top tidbits
of like, “Oh, how did the democrats do in the debate last night? Oh yeah, Kamala Harris…they’re coming after
her now,” like that’s not where we get soul growth. It’s when, well and maybe we get some soul
growth there but what I’m saying is, it requires deliberation. It requires real diligence to say like “No,
I’m going to just hold this space open and protect it to allow something like deeper
than the natural man and all his or her impulses to like really well up from the depths of
my being and when we like create a garden like that, in our lives, we see it flourish. We see it flower and it transforms us. TM: That’s what I thought of. MJ: No, I think it’s so good. And it reminded me. Well, one thing as I was reading some of the
things that you’ve written and watching this video with Terrell, one thing that that struck
me was, I think this is something that we’re kind of catching onto with the home-centered
church and cutting church back an hour. How do you think that we might be able to
find more stillness in that more personal form of worship and why is that important
to our spiritual growth? TM: Yeah, that’s an awesome question. I agree, you know, I have grown up, whether
I was like active at the time or not my whole life I’ve heard prophets saying that like
“This is an elect generation, the faith of this generation will be great,” I think implied
in that are also stated as that the challenges to faith will be equally great. MJ: Absolutely. TM: When you talk about moving to the 2-hour
schedule, more of a home-centered church, I see the possibility of a whole generation
standing on its feet. In other words, like really relying on the
power and strength and stability of our own faith to carry us. MJ: Individually. TM: Yeah, rather than like, always looking
for marching orders from headquarters, no question that still needs to happen. And no question, there was a developmental
period where like that needed to be true for all of us. But I think this shift to two hours could
be an indicator that like we’re ready to take more responsibility for our spiritual lives. And that like, we’re not going to find stillness
because like our bishop held us by the hand and like took us right there, like right up
to the still waters to drink. We have to choose it for ourselves. So I’m agreeing with you that I see a correlation
there too. And I also see more and more supports for
this kind of faith in our communities. Meaning that if you’re listening right now,
and you’re present to this quality of stillness, like yes, something is stirring in me and
it just tastes good and I want to look into it more, you can hardly shake a stick at all
the books and CDs and meditation centers and like high-quality teachers in your own ward
family, actually, who can support us all on this path. I mean, I’m really encouraged by that, if
you know what I mean. MJ: Yeah. And you mentioned ministering earlier, which
I think also plays in interestingly enough into this conversation. TM: Big time because like, again, getting
back to this paradigm of we got to do more and get out to see more people, perhaps as
ministers, not that we shouldn’t do that, of course, it’s not an either or, we don’t
have to scrap any of the good things that have got us here. But I’ve found that just in my own life, in
my own practice that a really profound kind of ministering happens when we’re not so focused
on doing ministering. But we realize that, like at a deeper level,
what we’re actually offering to somebody when we minister to them is the quality of our
own being, and our presence, and if we’re very present with someone else, and if we
are in a place of remembrance of God’s incredible glory, when we’re with somebody else, good
things are going to happen. So absolutely as we make more space for stillness,
presence, remembrance in our lives, the quality of our ministering will skyrocket within the
church outside of the church. I believe I’m already seeing that. MJ: For sure. I agree completely. And you, Thomas, have tried, you mentioned
resources available. Here in the Salt Lake Valley, you’ve created
this group Lower Lights, which is a space for people regardless of where they’re at
in their faith to come and join together in stillness. What has that community come to mean to you? TM: A lot. It means a lot to me that in this community,
I mean, I live and I’m based in Salt Lake City and I’m uncomfortable with the degree
of religious division that exists I mean, it’s like there’s a bright line between members,
non-members and now even like active members, inactive members, teetering members like,
you know, like there’s so much division and at Lower Lights, I have been so encouraged
to see people across the spectrum, people in our faith tradition, people not. People like, you know, like very devout, and
believing and others just like “I don’t know anymore. I don’t know if this church is going to be
a part of my future,” but to gather that way, and to connect to something deeper than our
beliefs. It just feels like a really significant community
effort to me and I always feel the spirit at those gatherings. I’m always overcome by people’s unlimited
capacity to grow. And we don’t know how people are going to
grow or what the growth looks like, what growth is ordained for each of God’s children, but
I’ve found that by just being still and being gentle, if we’re willing to let that growth
happen, not unlike, you know, being very still in a forest so that we’re not scaring off
the wildlife. If we’re that still and that gentle, we’ll
catch a glimpse of a spotted deer right up there on the hill. And when we’re really gentle with each other
in this space, and community, I see people growing in ways that I could have never predicted,
but it kind of takes my breath away. So I love what we’re seeing. And I, you know, I think we’ll see more of
it at Lower Lights over the years. MJ: Yeah. Well, I can’t help but think as we’ve talked,
that it’s interesting to watch how God works in our lives. And I’m sure that this is not like a new thought
for you, but just hearing your story, and then hearing how it’s allowing you to help
other people. It just is fascinating to me how God can take,
you know, 20 years of searching and turn it into something that is helping people regardless
of whether they’re in the church or out of the church or whatever. And so, I think it’s inspiring to see how
God is leading and using you. One question that I wanted to kind of address
before we wrap up, I guess there are two questions. So I’m actually going to separate them this
time. You’re welcome in advance. But first, what would be your message to those
listening? Maybe specifically, like a young teenage boy,
who is struggling with their faith? What would what would you say to someone in
that situation? TM: So many things I could say. God is unbelievably, and unfathomably good. So whatever your struggles, whatever your
confusion and your doubts, like, even and especially that confusion and your doubts,
God loves those very doubts and that confusion to the very depths of you. So there’s no experience you can have on this
planet. There’s no experience you can have in this
human life that God does not completely redeem through His love for you. So, as we wander, and we all wander, as we
wander to just know that, like, right at the core of our being there is this divine crystal
planted right into our breast. And it’s like this homing beacon. It’s like the compass of a needle that always
knows where north is, no matter like how dark, how turned upside down, how confused, that
wherever you are, you can actually be still and that compass needle, it will find north
and you can trust yourself and you can trust your feet and my experience is that God calls
us all home, you know? MJ: Another kind of part two of that question. It was interesting to me knowing your parents
to hear you talk about, you know, being a young boy and not wanting to go to church. And I think that that’s something that a lot
of parents deal with. And they want to do it right. They want to like answer in the right way. They don’t want to force their kids to go
to church. But what would your message be to the loved
ones of those who may be struggling with their faith? TM: Yeah, that’s a…And, you know, I haven’t
raised a stubborn like 13 year old version of myself yet. So, you know. MJ: Karma. It’s gonna come back around Thomas. TM: Give it to me, God, give it to me. I’ll accept this challenge. I’ll come back to a brief story that people
who know me have heard me tell in different ways, but it’s related to what you said about
my like, 20 year kind of walkabout, just like trying to heal and find myself and find God
again. And that, you know, somehow has proven to
be kind of useful for people in the community as I can like, show them the ropes a little
bit, at least what I saw out there in the wilderness. For parents who are working with a child who’s
struggling and seems lost, and they’re really concerned. I mean, of course, you need to do what you
can to help them not make mistakes that would cause irrevocable damage. Right. But in terms of like, let me speak to like
addressing the life of faith in your child and the role of the gospel. One of the most life-changing moments I’ve
ever experienced came when I had been in China for a little while. And my hair was close to down to my shoulders,
actually I’m currently wearing a similar do. My hair looked…it was long and shaggy and
hippie and I’ve been out of the church about eight years, and my Granddad Wirthlin, who
was in Quorum at the time, he just called me down to his office one day to chat, like
real friendly-like, and I was excited because I always had an amazing relationship with
him and was like, “Cool granddad wants to hang out with me in the office, boom, I’m
there.” And, you know, I sat down across his desk
that day, and he looked at me. And this is, I’m 21, the mission years have
passed. I look like a total hippie, I’m half Buddhist
now. He just looked at me and just said, “I know
you’re going to serve a mission.” And in my mind, I just thought, like, “What
does that…I mean that’s gone, that window closed.” And the way I make sense of that moment, now
many years later, is that he wasn’t looking at me anxiously as a really concerned parent
would look at me and say, “Oh 21, I think the cut off is 25, you can still get to the
MTC.” He wasn’t looking at me in human years. It felt like he was looking at me across the
aeons. It’s hard to get through this, so just have
to bear with me. I believe in that moment that was so life
changing. He was looking at me much the way God looks
at His children. Because when you can only see like a couple
of years of your kid’s life, it’s like you’re going to freak out. And you have good reason to freak out if you
have a kid like me at 13 years old, but all of a sudden, if you look at that same child
across 10,000 years, and you imagine, like how luminous that being is going to be in
10,000 years, when you play the long game with human beings, it’s like, “Oh, their path
is a little different. But wow, I can just feel the holiness in this
person,” and my granddad gave me that gift. He gave me the gift of sitting across from
me as a family member, and not being so anxious about like, you know, the next couple weeks,
and he gave me a glimpse into something much bigger and I believe God wants us all to see
each other that way. I think C.S. Lewis said something…everybody
quotes C.S. Lewis in this Church. Here I go, C.S. Lewis! But something to the effect of if we could
see people through these eyes, if we could see people the way they’ll be 10,000 years
from now, we would have a strong urge to worship them. It’s that sense of like, here we are, you
know, recording a conversation, and you and I, we’re actually that divine, and we’re that
holy. And if we remember that, back to remembrance,
if we remember that we treat each other very differently. And I believe our children will pick up on
that awesome love, that divine love that we’re extending to them. And it will bless and change the lives as
it did for me. I know that. MJ: Thank you so much. Thank you for sharing that experience. In conclusion, I just have one last question
for you. And you know what’s coming? What does it mean to you, Thomas, to be all
in the Gospel of Jesus Christ? TM: Hashtag “All In.” I did know that was coming. I needsome tissue, I’ll get through this. So all in…I love the moment in the New Testament,
when there’s kind of a squabble over theology. And they asked Christ like, you know, tell
us the great commandments like what’s, can you boil it all down for us? And he says, love God, love your neighbor. So, my sense is that being all in is being
willing to let Christ into our lives so deeply that everything in us that isn’t godly love
burns away. And that is a moment-to-moment, day-to-day
spiritual exercise of “Can I let the parts of me that aren’t pure love be smelted out
just by the heat and the intense flames of the Spirit?” And I’ve found that just having an intention
to try to live that way is a recipe for really profound happiness. MJ: Thank you. Thank you so much for sharing so many things. I’m like, I can’t wait to edit this episode
because I get to listen to it over and over again. So thank you very much. TM: Thank you. It was a pleasure to be with you, Morgan. MJ: A huge thank you to Thomas McConkie for
sharing his insights on today’s episode, you can find his book, “Navigating Mormon Faith
Crisis,” on Amazon and find out more about Lower Lights by visiting www.lowerlightswisdom.org. We’ll be back next week with another episode
on the topic of meditation, featuring two of the authors of the upcoming Deseret book
release, “The Power of Stillness.” We’ll look forward to being with you then.

2 Replies to “E41 Thomas Wirthlin McConkie: How Meditation And Being Still Helps Us Know God”

  1. This morning, as I backed out of the driveway to head to work, I noticed how quiet it was. Somehow my radio had been turned off. For a few seconds, I basked in the relaxation of the moment–but then I decided that I wanted some music, so I jettisoned the learning silence. Next time I'll try to spend more time in the stillness.

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