June 6: What would the optimal church look like? A thought experiment

Carlisle HunsakerDialogue Lead: Carlisle Hunsaker

Friday, June 6, 2014, 7:30 pm

Mark and Elizabeth England’s Home
1194 S 500 E | Salt Lake City, UT 84111

Carlisle enjoyed 25 years as an instructor at the U of U Institute of Religion. The past 25 years have been devoted to providing mindfulness training at a local hospital. He currently sees patients at the hospital on a part-time basis, as well as working with clients in a private-office setting. Carlisle is also writing a book to explain his approach to mindfulness training, with the tentative title: The Eupraxic Mind.

He and his son, Rob, both had articles in March’s issue of Sunstone Magazine. Below in Carlisle’s words, are his interests and his hopes for this discussion:

“I cannot lay claim to an extensive corpus of published writings. My store of unpublished writing is more substantial and it will continue to expand because writing, more than any other activity, forces me to push against the ever-present force of mental sloth. Writing also provides some respite from our current, noisy cultural forces.

I have not been interested in intellectual specialization. Thank god for those who are, but I’m easily bored with the microscopic effort to mine obscure nuggets related to a specific historical era or issue. Nor do I experience a passionate response to the jargon and technicalities of philosophy and theology. I’m much more interested in those who paint with a broader brush. What is the good life? What are the essential components of human fulfillment? And what are the forces and the toxic beliefs that contribute to human misery? I’ve provided you two of my published “broad-brush” efforts.

Now, with regard to meeting with the Faith Again group, I would like to lead a discussion designed to explore the implications of a thought experiment. Rather than beginning with the current institutional practices and policies, along with the widely accepted and sanctioned theological/doctrinal framework, let us temporarily put all of that to the side and make the effort to articulate a rough-draft version of human life at its highest pitch. What does human fulfillment look like? What are its essential components, and what must one have and/or experience if one is to find the living of one’s life deeply fulfilling?

With our portrait of optimal human experience in hand, let us return to institutional and theological/doctrinal matters. But now our task is two-fold. First, we must conjure an institutional milieu which would provide the spiritual environment conducive to our version of human fulfillment. Second, we must define the theological/doctrinal points of emphasis which would be most supportive of optimal human functioning and experience. For example, with our view of optimal human experience in mind, how should we view and teach:

  • the atonement
  • the fall
  • the process of revelation
  • the best approach to public and private worship
  • the approach to same sex attraction and marriage
  • the attitude toward women and other gender issues
  • the relationship between authority and agency
  • the role of the family
  • the post-mortal realm
  • the process of judgment,
  • the Socratic dilemma—is it good because god commands it, or does god command it because it is good?
  • the extent to which the institution should
  • the gospel stance toward work

This list represents only the tip of the iceberg. The essence of the thought experiment is to reverse the sequence from starting with the established institutional and theological framework and trying to make our lives fit that framework, to starting with our description of human experience in its optimal mode, and then imagining a theological/institutional framework which would be supportive of human fulfillment.

I’m looking forward to a discussion that would tap into the honesty and wisdom of the good people who attend this group.”

Best, Carlisle

Preparation Materials:

Soul making or is there life before death

Mormonism and a Tragic Sense of Life