374-375: Eldon Kartchner Pts. 3 & 4: Losing Heather to Cancer, Grief, and its Impact on Faith

September 18, 2012
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In parts 3 and 4 of a 4-part series, Eldon Kartchner discusses: 1) losing his wife, Heather, to cancer, 2) his grieving process, and 3) the impact her death has had on his religious faith.  In part 4, Eldon is joined by several family members to discuss their reactions to Heather’s death as well.

Part 3

Part 4

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66 Responses to 374-375: Eldon Kartchner Pts. 3 & 4: Losing Heather to Cancer, Grief, and its Impact on Faith

  1. Danielle
    September 18, 2012 at 11:31 pm

    Loved this interview! Thanks Eldon for sharing your story so candidly! Loved what you said about when people say they’re “praying for you”. After a recent experience of my own, I came to the conclusion that Mormons say that to make themselves feel better about not actually doing anything for you. You’re story is inspiring.

  2. Danielle
    September 18, 2012 at 11:42 pm

    One more thought….I also could relate to the idea of if I were more righteous, maybe this or that would be different or would not have happened. I also had a very specific blessing once which gave me great hope and years later came to realize that the promises in that blessing were never going to happen. Makes one wonder “was it me? Did I mess up and so now I can never have this promise?” Very psychologically tormenting! I finally came to realize that it wasn’t me, it was just a guy trying to say something that would give me hope at the time.

  3. Scott Turley
    September 19, 2012 at 1:11 am

    I’m not sure Eldon would remember me, but I remember him and his brother in the Tucson institute while I was there. He was something of a star in that institute building. He really captured the essence of what it was like there in the Tucson. I had a really great time there, but it was this kind of Mormon bubble that’s for sure.

    I really enjoyed this interview from start to finish (still need to get through part IV to be honest). What a tragedy to endure something like losing your spouse with three young children. I’m about the same age with four children of my own. I can’t come close to imagining having to go through something like that.

    I’m really sorry to hear about how truly clumsy the church handled the funeral and the lack of support as you went through your mourning process. There’s a lot of lessons in here for me to take back. Your take on prayer is really true – it is for the person praying. There are some people in my life really struggling with potentially terminal diseases – a man in my ward and my wife’s aunt. I hope this will help me deal with them better.

    Thanks so much for exposing so much of your story. It was truly inspirational.

    • Eldon Kartchner
      September 19, 2012 at 11:40 pm

      Scott, I need to say I remember you very well, my friend. And I’m honored that you’d let my experience bring something good to the way you interact with other people. That will surely be sorely needed and highly appreciated, since I remember you as a naturally very kind person to begin with. And, I’m sorry about those in your life who are suffering with terminal illness; I have no illusions left about the fact that we all die somehow and someday, but it doesn’t make my heart break less for the experience.

      Thanks again for saying something, so that I could give a hello back. :)

      Eldon

  4. Brian K.
    September 19, 2012 at 4:35 pm

    Wow! That was such a powerful interview. I just wanted to let you know that it impacted me strongly. Thank you for being willing to be so open and to share it with me.

  5. Traci
    September 19, 2012 at 4:56 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story with us! It was heartbreaking and beautiful. I want to give you a hug and weep with you in your pain. Your children are blessed to have you as their father. And I hope for you to find love once you are ready and on your own terms!

  6. Thomas Marsh
    September 19, 2012 at 5:33 pm

    Wow, what a deeply moving and profound discussion.

    Thank you so much for sharing, this is a real gem!

  7. Alan
    September 19, 2012 at 9:21 pm

    Eldon’s closing comments about people being the most, and only, sacred things in life was the more profound and moving statement that I can imagine. God bless him. I would have liked to have heard more about Eldon’s thoughts for the future, such as whether he thinks he will now be able to enter into a same-sex relationship without being burdened by religious conflict. He certainly deserves happiness.

    • Eldon Kartchner
      September 19, 2012 at 11:51 pm

      Alan, you’re kind. It’s a little funny to have others wonder about my future (you know, why would I assume it was important to any outside person), but I can understand that as a listener, I always want to have as much of the story I’m listening to as I can get! So, I’ll try to address your curiosity the best that I can…

      I don’t know the future, obviously, but I don’t anticipate living alone for the rest of my life. My progress towards even considering a real relationship has been slow, as I have worked to let my grief for Heather be as real and as long as it needs to organically be. But some realities about me, are that I don’t like staying stuck or refusing to grow/continue through life, and that I’m really a relationship person. So the likelihood that I’ll find another partner is probably high. Already, however, I’ve run into that pesky internal disaster that is internalized homophobia, and I know that I have much work to do in my soul regarding truly allowing another relationship to happen, and much more work to do regarding it being with a man. But I can promise you I believe in doing my work; it’ll take time, but I will do it. And thank you – thank you for saying I deserve happiness. :)

      Eldon

      • yawnable
        September 21, 2012 at 8:31 pm

        Eldon– just wanna say I think you’re a rock star and you DO deserve happiness! I’m so thrilled to hear that you see another relationship in your future because, as you pointed out, we are not meant to be alone and I want you to be happy. I truly, truly wish you a beautiful journey in finding someone wonderful who you can build a meaningful relationship with.

  8. Zack
    September 19, 2012 at 11:51 pm

    Bitterness was palpable. Sadness was deeply felt.

    My family has lost four family at young ages just a tragic as this story. I never felt the bitterness towards God that this family feels. Nor my family members. The church, and the people were nothing but wonderful, there were exceptions by a few people, yes, as you will find in most cultures.

    I was having deep feelings for this family through the podcast, than as they expressed the darkness they felt towards people in the church, well meaning people although awkward, gradually the discussion became demeaning towards the members of the church, the gospel that I and others hold so dear. To take a harder and harder stance towards the church, culture and good people that thought they were helpful. As Eldon talks about the feelings he had about being judged, told to be obedient, he seemed to want lash out and judge them (bishop, members friends etc.) just as harshly as he felt they judged him. The rest of the family followed suit in the same manner and lashed out at the church, and the culture. It seemed to deteriorate into how their feelings were more valid their grief more valid. The compassion expressed from those who awkwardly wanted to pray or reach out in some way seemed dismissive to me.

    Sad, and not sad that their faith’s have faltered but sad that have such dark feelings towards their past faith. I really started watching the pod cast wanting to connect with their journey and come out a little more enlighten as I have with some past podcast. I just found it sad.

    I do not see the common member of the church is as judgmental as being described in most of this interview. This is foreign to me in my experience in the church, even through my loses.

    I do believe you each are sincere and loving, I was just confused on where each of you are going with your feelings. I wish the best for each you. For me after my loses, I chose life and hope faith and belief.

    I believe I can help others in the church to be a little more compassionate and a little more loving when confronted by difficulties and grief and the tragedies similar to our brothers and sisters such as this family.

    • Penny
      September 20, 2012 at 9:33 am

      Zack – there are those of us who give with every fiber of our being. There are those that take with every fiber of their being. You are fortunate in your life to not understand the circumstances mentioned in the interviews in relation to the members of the church in your life…”I do not see the common member of the church is as judgmental as being described in most of this interview.”….They walk amongst us. Give thanks Zack.

    • Adam Archer
      September 21, 2012 at 8:04 pm

      Zack,
      I found your comments highly insensitive, demeaning and inappropriate. ” just as tragic as this story. I never felt the bitterness towards God that this family feels. Nor my family members.”
      Congratulations Zack. That really is great, but what does this have to do with Eldon’s experience? You just completely dismiss his “mormon story” by one upping him with your experience. The man is grieving, his grieving experience differs from yours…no need to point out why you are better than anyone else. Just food for thought.

    • Jared
      September 26, 2012 at 9:56 am

      Zack,

      You wrote, “I do not see the common member of the church is as judgmental as being described in most of this interview.”

      You should re-read your entire comment. I think you might already know a judgmental member of the church, quite intimately in fact.

  9. Paul Bohman
    September 19, 2012 at 11:54 pm

    Eldon,

    I just want to thank you for sharing your experience… and how truly sorry I am that you had to go through it. I know what you mean when you say you would instantly trade these supposedly valuable life lessons just to have her back and to have a different outcome for her, for you, and for your kids. Being the emotional person that I am, your words brought me to tears more than once. I will hope with you that there is still much beauty in your life ahead of you, and that the memories of a beautiful past will be a source of comfort to you; a reminder of how fully you loved and were loved. I wish the best for you from this point forward, in whatever form it may come.

  10. David
    September 20, 2012 at 12:02 am

    I just finished listening to all 4 parts. It was absolutely heart breaking to hear about how Eldon was doing everything to try and please God and be worthy of blessings. I was so relieved to hear he finally let that all go because I wasn’t sure at first if he had. I used to have those kind of feelings to but maybe not to the same extent. On my mission I was always thinking in the back of my mind that maybe I was not having success because I woke up 15 minutes late or left the apartment 5 minutes late after lunch or went home 5 minutes early at night. I am so glad I have left that behind now as well. Like Eldon said we are good enough. I am so impressed with all the insights that his family members shared. Their love for each other is inspiring. I was wondering at the beginning if I knew any of his relatives and when he mentioned his younger sister Annie I realized I definitely knew her and some of his cousins at the University of Arizona.

  11. Penny
    September 20, 2012 at 9:25 am

    Good Morning – finished the segments for the second time! As relayed to John….”!WOW?” that’s all and am able to keep repeating WOW!!! The story and interview resonates with my soul. I have not lost a loved one to death, but have lost a Temple Marriage to divorce. Going through the same precursors to divorce as Eldon did to his Beloved wife’s death have left me very much in the same realm. People are here to help and lift each other…..no power on earth can spur us into action like the love for ourselves, and our fellow human beings. Thank each of the guests for sharing their intimate feelings with the world – you’ve indeed touched many, including, me!!! Love, Penny

  12. Jonathan P
    September 20, 2012 at 11:43 am

    My heart goes out to Eldon & the Kartchners. Thank you for sharing your story. You make me want to be kinder & gentler & better. Thanks John for bringing us such beautiful and varied Mormon experience. I hope the general church can become more warm & inclusive of individuals who have been pushed out of traditional mormonism. Until it does, I want to be that member to put my arms around people in my community & my ward. Thank you all for your kindness and goodness.

  13. Joseph McKnight
    September 20, 2012 at 2:18 pm

    My lunch hours listening to these 4 parts has been the best help I could’ve ever gotten, a real therapy for me. Side note, don’t try eating a double cheeseburger while listening to these particular interviews; it doesn’t sit well on the stomach. I’m the gay grandpa from the posting in the first 2 parts of the interview, just in case you forgot about me, the 50 year old closeted guy in a not-so-good, mixed-orientation marriage with tons of regrets. I’ve conducted several funerals in my 50 years (I’m I high priest, after all, Oooooh-lah-lah, you’re saying), having served in several bishoprics and filled in when the bishop was out. Elder Packer’s (yes I put the blame directly on him) funeral services are disgusting examples of his being a control freak. It’s awful. Eldon, the depths of humanity, the depths of your very being that you have allowed us to see by these interviews is such that, for me, to go back to the shallowness of Mormon Sacrament meetings and Sunday Schools and Priesthood meetings, will be so very, very hard to do. We do NOT have in the Mormon church enough reality or true feelings, there is too much, IMHO, of trying to put on the good face and do the good things and say the right things that we can’t and don’t allow ourselves to be real at all in our church. My gosh, we tell our young missionaries NOT to write home anything real, just “keep it upbeat” and don’t complain! A funeral isn’t real anymore in our church, nothing is real in our church, and that is why we’re losing so many people. When I try to give my testimony on a fast Sunday, I think I’m so out of line (GUILT GUILT GUILT, that’s us) because I want to reveal my innermost feelings, and yet I can’t be me, not only never being able to “come out” with my gayness, but I can’t even “come out” with a few or more, many more, doubts about stuff, because that’s just not right. Then, a few Sundays pass (yes, this actually happened) and the next talk I hear is on how “we” all should stick to the 5 basic testimony things when we bear testimony, and I’m knocked back down to where is our reality? I can’t tell you how much you have helped me see things more clearly by your opening up to all of us. There are things wrong with us Mormons, and these interviews have helped me see (again) how wrong we are. Thank you to all of your family, too, Eldon. People are sacred, wow, I like that! Can I join your church? (and, no, I wasn’t being sarcastic, I really wish I could sit in that beautiful circle of love that I saw and felt as I watched and listened to you all sitting in and around that black, sectional couch for the interview, an image of real people with real ideas and real feelings.

  14. Becky
    September 20, 2012 at 3:54 pm

    I was drawn to this podcast because I’d seen it posted on my cousin-in-law, Josh Weed’s facebook wall by Mr. Dehlin. I listened to the first two segments and was left with the same curiosity as to how everything ended up for Eldon. I went on with the rest of my day as usual but the following day, with unusual recollection and by total happenstance, the name “Eldon Kartchner” popped into my head. I wondered if the other two segments were available yet…and here we are. I got up this morning at 4:00am and knew I wouldn’t be able to go back to sleep (not un-usual…just have a dog who likes to go out at that time) so I decided to finish listening to the rest of the podcast. Just as listener “Zack” stated, I was left just feeling sad. Have you ever read a book or watched a movie that you’ve had at least some idea of it’s ending, but you’re hoping against hope that it will end the way you want it to? The movie “The Avengers” was a huge hit in our house this Spring and Summer… I’d seen “Thor”, so I knew the path that the character Loki had taken. Throughout the whole movie, I kept hoping that Loki would “come back” that he would remember his families love for him and what he’d been taught all his life and that even though he couldn’t have things exactly his way, it was still a better life on the side of good. I REALLY thought he’d come back and I watched with baited breath, his refusal for every chance he had to take it all back. He never did. I took this to heart because I loved this character. I related to him. (weird, right?) I even “googled” the phrase, “does Loki ever become good again?” hoping that somewhere down the line, Marvel had given his character the chance to come back. Ridiculous!? Yeah, ridiculous…I’m not a comic geek, I just really dug the movie. But I felt the same kind of thing while listening to this podcast. Honestly, as tacky and ridiculous as I sound, I was hoping that Eldon would say something like, “my faith was tested…tested to the point that it’s either I’m in or I’m out…but I stayed in.” Not only did Eldon not stay in, neither did his family. Man, that made me so sad. I kept thinking, maybe the answer they received was because that IS their test. To be told that she would live, but then to have her pass away…their test was to STILL have faith in our Father in Heaven even though they’d received a witness that she would live. I don’t know why I felt the urge to grasp at straws for them? I just kept feeling the way I did with the stinkin Avengers movie…that feeling of “wait, wait…don’t go! Come back, it’s not what you think it is, give it a chance! etc, etc…

    I don’t know why Heavenly Father does some of the things he does. I am truly a “blind” follower, but I’m happy to be one. I am a believer. I don’t recall her name, but the sister-in-law said something about “happy endings” and that the church only talks about the happy endings. I think that’s wholly un-true. There are several stories, books, articles, talks, etc… that do not end “happily”. Is happiness that Heather wouldn’t have died or that no one ever dies or gets sick or becomes addicted or is raped or molested or bullied or poor or judged or mocked or confused or gay or beaten or abused? Those things happen and you can’t un-do them. The happy ending is that even when those things happen, you triumph. Maybe not in this life… and why do people have such a problem with that? Why can no one stick it out? This life is SO short. Why does everyone “have to have what they want, the way they want it right now!?” The desire for instant gratification and the bargaining that people do with God…bah! The ideal that “I’ll do this and I’ll be this way from now on if you’ll just give this to me right now”… I do not feel that the Kartchner family bargained with God and if they did, it’s understandable. I’ve done it myself at times, and had to learn the hard way that Heavenly Father isn’t a gambling Man. But I see the same concept here… they received an answer and it didn’t turn out how they wanted or how they were told or how they hoped or expected, so they turned their backs. I am not foreign to death or self destruction. I am not foreign to a “place outside the walls of the LDS church” I am not foreign to sin. I grew up in a loving family and had especially tight relationships with my parents and 4 siblings. But tragedy struck early in our lives and has been a companion with whom we have all been well acquainted. I won’t take you on a trip down my memory lane, but so that you know how well acquainted we are… think divorce, bank robbery, extramarital affair, excommunication, breast cancer, addiction, prison, jail, rehab, custody loss, post-partum depression, abuse and death. Honestly, part of me is SAD everyday. I wonder HOW did my life go from this…to THIS? But I don’t question my Heavenly Father. I just have faith that even if He doesn’t make it right, right now…He has a reason and I will know His purpose someday and someday He will right the wrongs. I have no doubt about that…not even one. I wish that you didn’t either. Maybe, like the Prophet Joseph, you are meant to swim in deep water, but you don’t give up, do you? Oh how I wish that you wouldn’t.

    • The Brian
      September 20, 2012 at 5:36 pm

      Wait… you thought the most tragic part of this story was that he left the church? After everything he’d been through, forced into the closet, finally finding love, losing that love, and then feeling abandoned by his faith? After all that, the sad part is he’s no longer drinking the koolaid?

      Do you have any idea how judgmental you sound in those comments? to say that this man has “given up?”

      It’s exactly this condescending, “you should just shut up and go with it” attitude that drove him out of the church in the first place!

      • Martha Hales
        September 20, 2012 at 10:38 pm

        Well said, Brian! CMakes me want to give you a big hug!

        • The Brian
          September 21, 2012 at 3:31 pm

          I love you too random internet stranger!

      • Becky
        September 21, 2012 at 9:43 am

        “The Brian”- Every comment on here is full of love and compassion for Eldon, do you think that because I shared my feelings, in my own way, that I don’t share in that love and compassion? Perhaps I am not as thin skinned or eloquent as others who have commented here…but let me make this clear…I never once said or even implied that the greatest tragedy of this story was that Eldon left the church. He did leave it, did he not? This podcast is called “Mormon Stories”, is it not? He shared what happened and I listened to every word. I wasn’t taking a stab in the dark. I wasn’t taking a “stab” period. My attitude was/is never “shut up and go with it”. Wow. People leave the church for very different reasons, but I’ve never known of them leaving because someone said “wait…let’s work this out…please don’t go.” How else do people who love the gospel and believe in it express that? There’s no way we can without someone saying we’ve said or done something wrong. I do not and have not judged Eldon. The only one being judgmental here is you. We’re damned for what we say and we’re damned for what we don’t say. My heart is full for Eldon. Let me say that again…my heart is full for Eldon, and if I knew him personally, I’d say the same things to him personally.

        • The Brian
          September 21, 2012 at 3:31 pm

          Love and passion? One would be hard pressed to find any such love in your comments. You parallel his story to that of a comic book villain. The two have nothing in common.

          You say his experiences don’t justify him leaving the church, but what gives you the authority to say that? You’re not him. You don’t know him. You have NO idea what he’s been through or how he feels. You list off all the horrible things in life and say none of it justifies leaving the faith. But until you’ve been through the worst type of hell that life can offer, what gives you the right to make such a claim?

          You’re attitude is in fact, “shut up and go with it,” you openly admit “I am a blind believer” (what a disturbing thing to be proud of). If there is a God, he wants people to be happy. Life is not “so short” that anyone should have to go through it in misery. Life is something to be enjoyed, not just endured.

          I am judging you. I can at least recognize that. You madame are self-righteous and judgmental, the epitome of everything that is wrong with your faith.

    • Paul Bohman
      September 20, 2012 at 10:46 pm

      Becky,

      It sounds like you’ve been through some really rough trials, and that’s worth mourning. I’m sorry you had those experiences. Your response to those trials has been different than Eldon’s, and you know what? That’s perfectly ok. Everyone finds their way as best they can through this life, and that’s what you’re doing. That’s what Eldon is doing too. I understand how you can feel sad at Eldon’s choices after his tragedy. I know your perspective well, because I have lived it. I know your perspective comes from a place of love in your heart. It does.

      I’m now at a different place in my own life, so I have shifted away from the perspective that I once held, and which you still hold. I’m not going to say that my current perspective is better for you, because it probably isn’t. But my new perspective is infinitely better for me, because it feels more authentic to me, and more in line with my personal sense of integrity. I think Eldon feels like I do, meaning that he is acting in accordance with his own sense of integrity, and to do otherwise rip him apart spiritually.

      So, his story is sad to him, yes, but we don’t need to add a new version of sadness on top of his sadness. To say that it’s sad that he left the church may be an honest thought from you, but it multiplies his sadness because it is a form of judgment that wounds him, as he explained in the interview. People in mourning need love. Just love. We have to meet them where they are, without the intent to change them, without the intent to fix them… just with the intent to love them.

      • Becky
        September 21, 2012 at 9:51 am

        You are right…Thank you Paul. And thank you for trying to understand my expressions as I meant them. I just need to stop watching/listening to these things. I’m not cut out for it. :( I did mean what I said with love in my heart and that is all.

        • September 21, 2012 at 2:18 pm

          Becky,

          I know you feel rebuked and somewhat embarrassed, but I’ll just say that I’m glad you have been listening to Mormon Stories, not for the website’s sake, but because that shows that you are open-minded and compassionate enough to care about people from a variety of perspectives, even when they believe differently than you do. Sometimes people on this site tend to chase away faithful Mormons with their comments, because there is a gap between believers and non-believers that is difficult to bridge. Really difficult. My hope is that you continue to try to bridge that gap though. It’s so very worth it, even when people on the opposite side of the gap disparage you for your good efforts. We all need each other, and the more we’re all willing to listen to each other, the better off we all are. And yes, I know that some people won’t appreciate your efforts, and will flat out insult you. It happens both ways, unfortunately, and it’s totally unnecessary. I’m certainly not without fault there either.

          Anyway, even if you never listen to Mormon Stories again, I have faith that you’re definitely “cut out for” listening compassionately to those who may be on a different place in their spiritual lives than you. The tricky part is learning how to express that compassion across these ideological gaps. Tricky, but totally doable.

          All the best to you.

    • Eldon Kartchner
      September 21, 2012 at 1:04 am

      Brian and Paul, thank you so much for your words in my honor; I think you’re trying to make a bigger point with your sentiments, but on a personal level, I was so grateful.

      Becky, my sisters family (the Howards from segment 4) often dresses up for movie premieres. It’s really brilliant! For The Avengers, I was voted into the Loki position – how about that?! I think it really had something to do with that I had much longer hair then, and could look quite a bit like the movie character. So, you know, your mention is not the first time I’ve evoked “Loki”. :)

      It seems clear, unless I’m interpreting improperly, that we are in different spaces concerning what paths in life are best, and who God is and wants for us. But that isn’t why I’m writing in response. I just wanted to say that despite any difference, I’m grateful you wished so fervently for happiness and peace for me and my family. Please let me return the favor of wishing the same for your family amidst all the horrors you’ve already experienced. Thanks for caring enough to listen to our story. I hope we can all stretch into more love for each other.

      Blessings,
      Eldon

      • Becky
        September 21, 2012 at 10:07 am

        I am truly sorry Eldon. I do not judge you. :( I’m just digging a hole that goes deeper and deeper. I did mean what I said with love. Pure love. You really, really are a good man. I love the Gospel and it’s probably good that I was never a missionary…my sentiments come out wrong. Everything I say comes out wrong! :/ I will stay away from Mormon Stories and keep my awkward comments to myself. Many blessings to you as well.

      • The Brian
        September 21, 2012 at 4:26 pm

        You sir are much more courageous and patient than I am. I have a tendency to get really worked up over these things.

        Being gay myself, and raised LDS in Sandy, I’ve lived most of my short life watching friends and lovers go through depression, therapy, and thoughts of suicide. They go to school where they’re bullied by their classmates. Then they come home only to be bullied by their family. On Sunday they’re bullied by their neighbors. They’re kicked out of their homes by “loving” LDS families simply for being who they are. I’ve seen them on the streets of Salt Lake City. They live their entire lives feeling alone and unworthy of the most basic human affection. Desperately they enter into mixed-orientation marriages which, nine times out of ten, end in complete disaster for everyone involved.

        When I was 14 my father told me I didn’t have a soul. My parents tried to send me to a facility for “troubled” kids. They even looked into the legality of kicking out a 16 year old (obviously, they couldn’t). So I apologize if my words come out a bit spiteful. You’re story was incredibly inspiring for me. I felt your pain because in a lot of ways, I’ve seen it over and over. And for some middle age, suburban house wife to come along and compare her struggles to what you’ve been through really boiled my blood. Anyway, I’m rambling. Thank you again for sharing.

      • The Brian
        September 21, 2012 at 5:03 pm

        I just wanted to say one more thing! You sir are not Loki, or Darth Vader, or any other fantasy character fallen from grace. In my book, you are freaking Harry Potter, Luke Skywalker, and Marty Mcfly rolled into one. You’re the hero of my story.

      • Jared
        September 26, 2012 at 10:06 am

        Eldon,

        Your response literally made me cry (kind of shocked me). What a loving, Christ-like, attitude you have. I feel very blessed to have heard your story. Thank you for your example and authenticity.

    • Classof91
      September 21, 2012 at 2:18 pm

      I don’t mean any disrespect, but it is hard to believe in a God cruel enough to tell Eldon and Heather that she would live and then allow her to die just to test and see if Eldon will remain faithful. Does God really play games with us like that? I have to believe that He does not.
      Becky I am truly sorry for all you have been through and I wish you peace and happiness<3

      • Verlyne
        September 29, 2012 at 6:43 pm

        That was my reaction as well. I’m not interested in a god who would play such games.

  15. The Brian
    September 20, 2012 at 5:26 pm

    Best. Mormon stories. Interview. Ever.

    When he said “‘I’m okay with my children having two dads'” I freaking lost it. I apologize to the people on Trax this morning.

  16. Howard Carver
    September 20, 2012 at 10:23 pm

    All I can say is that I wish I could give each of you a snug, loving, hug!

    Thanks for sharing from your hearts. I shed tears with you as you opened up your hearts. I also loved the light-heartedness and your ability to laugh off and on.

    Eldon, I am gay non-Mormon man, but a gay Christian man. I know the difficulties in dealing with attitudes of others that are not understanding and accepting. I too did not accept myself for much of my life, and believed that I needed to be ex-gay, get married, and have a family. Needless to say, the marriage did not last, but I have a decent relationship with my ex-wife, and I have a 27-year old son of whom I am exceptionally proud. I don’t believe me fathering a son was a mistake.

    I would not have done things differently overall, but I am glad that my life’s journey has brought me around to being an ex-ex-gay.

    I wish you all a wonderful future as a tight-knit family.

  17. Joel
    September 21, 2012 at 1:13 am

    48 And again, it shall come to pass that he that hath faith in me to be healed, and is not cappointed unto death, shall be dhealed.

  18. cheryl
    September 21, 2012 at 10:27 am

    Thank you for sharing your story. You mentioned how blessed you were to have Heather, but my guess if she were here she would say the same about you. You are an amazing person! I wish my life was filled with many Eldons!

  19. Classof91
    September 21, 2012 at 2:22 pm

    I loved this podcast…especially the last segment where Eldon talked about his family and how they had each helped him in different ways. It was interesting to see the clarity that has come to all of them with the passing of time.
    Eldon you seem like an amazing person and I hope you find all the love and joy and peace you heart can hold! Thanks for giving us a glimpse into your journey,

  20. amormonlikeyou
    September 21, 2012 at 8:22 pm

    Eldon–thank you so much for sharing your story. Your authenticity and your ability to articulate yourself so well helped me to broaden my perspective and build my empathy for the human experience. You have a gift for storytelling and your story is a gift. Thank you for it. I wish I could give you a big hug.

  21. Maddy
    September 21, 2012 at 10:11 pm

    Eldon thank you for sharing your wonderful and tragic life story. Your brave emotional honesty and openness not only educates but touches the heart. I’m so sorry your life with Heather was cut short. While years ago i might’ve judged those who disconnected from the church, i now realize to leave is a valid and intensely personal choice, as are the choices gay LDS members must make. I hope for the day when one doesnt have to choose between love and membership.

    The pat answers and miraculous answers to prayer that are a steady diet of church discourse trouble and infuriate me at times. I think there needs to be room for more reality and uncertainty. I don’t understand a God that can guide someone to find their pearl necklace but not guide some of the 1 million Jewish children or 5 million Jewish adults to safety. Why would God choose to cure others but not Heather?

    Deepest condolences. I’m so glad you have a wonderfully supportive family.

  22. Josh
    September 22, 2012 at 2:15 am

    Maybe I missed it, but I would have discussed the need that priesthood holders have when giving a blessing to heal. Every priesthood holder will get training of how to open and close a blessing, but not a lot is spoken about what is appropriate content for a blessing. No one it feels like says that you may say unpopular things if the spirit directs it. I learned this the hard way, and now I’m scared to give blessings because of it. When on my mission I met with a family that had a nearing four year old child that still hadn’t learned to say a word. He just made vibration sounds with his tongue. The mom expressed her concern about it, so I asked, has he had a blessing for this? She replied that he hadn’t, but she’d like me to give one, so I did. I remember getting the words say that he was part of their family so they could learn more fully to love and learn patience. I rescinded the thought because I thought that just verified her concern and doesn’t fix anything. So I blessed him to get better instead. I kick myself for not having the courage to say what first came to me. How many blessings say they will heal because it’s just so much more fantastic and easy to say? I can’t say why, Eldon, you received the spirit confirming it, but for me I’ve found looking back that very few experiences in my life would I attribute to being the spirit. Which is hard to realize during the episode that it is no more than invested emotion. D&C section nine states that we have to study it out in our mind. It has to conform to logic. If the nurse told you best case was four years, but plan for her to die, logic screams that she would die because everyone else like her died. Why would she be an exception? I would have thrown out any previous blessing after hearing that, and ask for another blessing with the blessing giver given the knowledge that everyone in her situation has died. Boy, would she have gotten a different blessing! I don’t doubt that! Easier to see not living it out. Why does it seem easy to see past other people’s stumbling blocks, yet not your own? I can’t see past my own, but that’s another discussion.

    • Eldon Kartchner
      September 22, 2012 at 9:54 pm

      Yeah, I have a hard time with that last part, too – the whole ‘beam in someone else eye, but not the mote in my own’ kind of problem. I’m trying to overcome and improve that, but it’s kind of a pesky resilient little issue!

      I very quickly mentioned in the interview the talk that Dallin H. Oaks gave in the April 2010 conference about giving Priesthood blessings for healing. I did so fairly flippantly, and I’m not necessarily proud of that, but on a personal level I do not appreciate the talk, nor the way it feels like apologetics to me after the fact. Those are MY feelings, and I own them. But I knew VERY well the whole time that priesthood blessings can be incredibly flawed, and the words in them governed only by the wishes of the elder pronouncing them. I did not share in the interview that the man with the gift of healing who gave Heather the significant blessings I talked about, returned to our home a week after she died and apologized, saying he had known without a doubt that he was supposed to say she would die, and that he’d actually had a vision of her entering the spirit world and doing temple work on the other side, but he’d chosen to say she’d be healed instead. I asked him how that squared with his former significant blessing for her, and he said he didn’t remember it but he was absolutely sure it was correct, whatever he’d said. I didn’t want to challenge him with the flat offensive discrepancy, because it seemed so pointless. I thanked him and he left.

      But the problem for me is really about the spiritual confirmations of the Holy Ghost. I didn’t trust anybody’s words, I trusted the Holy Ghost. D&C 9 does say study it out in your mind; but the whole part is to study it out in your mind and in your heart. Maybe I had too much heart and not enough mind; that does kind of sound like me! Maybe I never ever got the Holy Ghost thing right, despite my efforts. I just don’t know. The spirit told me that God said He’d heal her, and I considered that the definition of what miracles were – wonderful things happening in opposition to what we consider our current understanding of science and nature. Or maybe God making science and nature work in a way we just don’t yet understand. Again, I really just don’t know.

      I AM fairly certain that I’m much more logical and mind based now, after Heather’s death. But, that came with (I’m not sure if it’s more causational or correlational)recognizing that me and the Spirit aren’t compatible; either I don’t have any way to know what it is, or it never does speak to me. That’s sometimes sad for me, because at times I really miss it.

      Anyway, I didn’t want to argue with any of your points, I think they’re all valid, I was just feeling some response, so I wrote it. Thanks, truly, for engaging with our story; I’m honored by that.

      Cheers,
      Eldon

  23. Mike
    September 22, 2012 at 1:52 pm

    I really appreciate you and your family sharing your experiences. A family that I care about that I home teach is going through a trial that is similar in a lot of ways except for that it involves a young child. We don’t know at this point how it will turn out but your discussion about what is helpful and what is not helpful for those mourning and going through such an intense trial has been helpful. I especially found it helpful to hear that for you it was best when people would look and see what needs you had and just took care of them instead of asking. Also, hearing that encouraging people to be happy and look on the bright side and move on isn’t something that is helpful. thank you sooooo much for sharing that.

    So at this point, we don’t know how it will turn out. Doctors are being a lot more encouraging than they were before but as a friend and a support, what is best? Is it appropriate to tell them that I feel all will work out? Should I avoid that subject all together? If I sense they being overly optimistic is it good to remind them that though we don’t know what the future holds, or should I just keep my mouth shut. I just have a hard time knowing how to be helpful when everything is still up in the air. It’s hard to know what is appropriate to say, and what isn’t. It’s not hard to care about them, it’s not hard to give up my time to be with them when they need it, what is hard is just knowing what to do that will best support them. I feel very inadequate.

    • Eldon Kartchner
      September 22, 2012 at 9:27 pm

      Hey, so Mike… I don’t know if your questions were meant to be rhetorical, or if you actually wanted a response, but it seems more in my nature to at least say I heard you, so I wanted to do that. I’d love to offer my thoughts, but also acknowledge I’m not the guru; the best I can give you is from my experience.

      First, I hear you on the inadequate. I’ve had several friends pass away from cancer since Heather died, and each time I thought “shouldn’t I know what to say here?!” I was willing to sit down and think out how I wanted to thoughtfully respond, but even after going through it, it’s still a situation in which we’re powerless to provide the fix we really want to give, so there’s just no way to not feel inadequate. But I DID have several people through the year of Heather’s cancer approach me and actually tell me how inadequate they felt, and how they knew they couldn’t do anything to change what was happening but wished they could. That was very helpful.

      Also, I am moved by your concern (because the love of people for each other is kind of my favorite thing to watch). You’re obviously thoughtful and observant enough to see things this family needs, and just do them. In the midst of that, though, I think you have something particular and important to offer that is just you. I imagine you approaching the family and saying something like this (because this is what I see in your writing)… ‘As I’ve been watching your experience, I just wanted you to know that I understand how important it is to be hopeful and faithful, and I AM. I absolutely am. But also I’m scared about the possible poor outcomes, and since I get nervous about that for your family, I realized that maybe sometimes you do to. So if you ever want someone to talk to about the possible scary things, someone who won’t being all doomsday but can listen if you just want to talk about it, I’m here. If you never need to talk about it, that’s SO fine, but just know that I have that to offer you.’

      Does that sound crazy? I had a handful of people do that, and it was like manna. It’s not that I actually utilized those offerings much, but sometimes when our leg if broken, it’s just very important to know that the crutches are over there in the corner just in case we need them at any point – even if we never do. So, I’m just saying, candidly offer your love, and candidly offer the gift of realism you have to give, and only if they want it. Remind them they don’t have to take care of you and your worries, you’re there to help them.

      In addition, I know I said prayer is for the pray-er, and I maintain that, though I do NOT wish to step on your personal convictions and testimony about the power you believe prayer has. But on a few rare occasions, there were some people who actually said some prayers that fully blessed and helped me (from my perspective), instead of just them. These were times when the people actually came to my house or the hospital, grabbed my hand, and then pronounced – right in front of me – their wishes before God about how things would improve for Heather and I. That felt validating and loving and tangible.

      OK, it’s starting to feel a little too much ‘telling you what to do’ on my end. Those are just ideas that helped for me. For whatever it’s worth. Your care for this family is inspiring and I appreciate being able to peek in on it. I wish life wasn’t so hard.

      Thanks for sharing, Mike.
      Eldon

      • Mike
        September 24, 2012 at 9:02 am

        Eldon, your thoughts, perspectives, and ideas are very helpful. Thank you.

  24. Steve
    September 22, 2012 at 6:10 pm

    Here’s a few things that I’ve learned in my 51 years of being a Mormon and in trying to find God. 1) While there are many self-righteous, insensitive, lazy, homophobic, and ignorant Mormons, my experience has been that most Mormons are kind, loving and willing to help bear the burdens of others and mourn with those who mourn. 2) While the church and its leaders are imperfect and have messed up many times, my experience has been that most church leaders are wise and sincerely want to help God’s children to lead happy, constructive and purposeful lives. 3) While God doesn’t always give us what we want on our terms, my experience has been that God generally teaches me more in the storm than in calm waters.

    We often label people and institutions as being black or white. Perfect or evil. My experience has shown me that the world is a bit more nuanced. I’ve navigated through this complex world by trying to be constructive. This means acknowledging the bad and working to improve that which is wrong, while at the same time seeking out that which is good in all of God’s creations.

    Sometimes in my own suffering I yearn for my personal Garden of Eden where I can walk with God with no pain, sorrow or death. Instead, God kicked us all out of the garden into a world of thorns and thistles, uncertainty, cancer and loneliness. It’s in this imperfect world where I’ve learned to love my enemies, bind wounds, acknowledge my own flaws, and find a hidden God.

    That’s my Mormon story.

    • Eldon Kartchner
      September 22, 2012 at 8:09 pm

      And Steve, in my opinion, it’s a very good Mormon story. I wonder all the time about how much my story mirrors the experiences of other members of the church. Obviously, it’s representative of some contingent of others, but I wonder if we’re really outliers on the bell curve, or if those who would amen your experience with their own life are fewer than we think…? I have absolutely no way of really knowing; though I’ve noticed I kind of habitually assume (unless I’m watching myself) that there are lots of others with experiences like mine. It probably looks that way because human beings tend to flock with others who feel like their tribe, and therefore when we look around we feel our community is significant. That’s what I do, anyway. And I want to say that I hope it isn’t the case that I cause some sort of harm to the church if I’m really a statistically isolated situation. Since I still don’t anticipate ever really knowing how common my experience is, I DO appreciate your story because – well, mostly because it’s yours, so it’s valid and important – but also because anybody looking entirely from the outside in on Mormonism, should hear your story (or it’s ilk) as well. Thanks for sharing it. And also, thanks for engaging with mine; that is not an honor lost on me.

      :)
      Eldon

  25. Jennifer Johnson
    September 22, 2012 at 7:32 pm

    When Eldon mentions that he never felt upon walking into a chapel that these were “his people,” I can relate to that. I love these podcasts for their authenticity and candid honesty. It seems to me that every person who is selected for interview seems to have such a solid grasp on who they are, how they got there, and how to let go of the parts of themselves and their past that are not healthy and move on to a better place. I am encouraged by what is shared to do the same in my own life, and I would hope that as more stories like this are shared and we learn from each other how to love authentically and validate every person as Eldon so beautiflly expressed as “sacred” and not worthless or flawed, a community will emerge where every person who enters in will feel a sense that there are “their people.” At least, that is what I am holding out hope for. Thank you Eldon, and family, for your inspiring message and for making yourself slightly vulnerable by sharing things so intimate, but being willing to risk that vulnerability in the hope that it might lead someone to think a little bit “bigger” and love a little bit more intensely – it certainly has done this for me. God bless.

    • Eldon Kartchner
      September 22, 2012 at 8:47 pm

      Jennifer! You just sound like fresh air to me! :) I’m so grateful you’re “holding out hope”. It was MY hope that in daring to tell my experience, perhaps it could have the effect of bringing about positive change; as in, loving, including, caring for, and being with other people more – especially in the church. I’ve thought a lot about the principle that if we as human beings see the need for change or betterment, we should stay involved and become that change ourselves. Ultimately, when all things were weighted out, I couldn’t walk my best path and stay actively inside the church, so I’m trying to be the best change I can from the outside. At least I hope so. And it just inspires me that even though you don’t feel surrounded by your people, you’re trying to create that sense for others. Just beautiful! Thank you! I just loved reading your words.
      Eldon

  26. Jason Hunsaker
    September 22, 2012 at 9:56 pm

    What a moving story. I still have to get though part 4. I’ve noticed two omissions in the narrative that, as I mention them, I hope that I don’t come across as insensitive as your stake president and bishop did. 1) I missed hearing in the interview any sense of letting go and letting “Jesus take the wheel”, or “not my (our) will, but Thine be done.” I don’t know why the absence of that in the narrative stuck me so much, but it did. 2) Throughout your childhood up through your leaving the Church, you consistently describe an absence of self-efficacy following “feeling the Spirit.” Instead of getting a message of “*I* can do this”, instead you describe a feeling if “I *have to* do this.” This was a major red flag for me from the beginning of your narrative, and I kept hoping that you would realize it and talk about it as your story progressed. But, up through part 3, it was not addressed in the interview. The way you relate your story, there is an awful sense of being on your own, “it’s all up to me”, instead of the empowering feeling of “we (God and I) can DO this.” This is also coupled with the sense of “I’m not good enough; I’m never good enough; “I’ll never be able be righteous enough”; instead of a more healthy “God loves me just as I am right now, and He will help me develop into something even better than I am right now, I just need to figure out what the lesson He is trying to teach me, or what strength or character trait He is trying to develop in me.”

    What an awesome, loving person you are. I feel like my remarks are so inarticulate that I will probably have offended you or feel like I am blaming you for not trying hard enough, which is the exact opposite of what my intent is. I needed to hear your story. I connected with it on so many levels. Thank you for having the courage to share your experience, and for calling it like you see it.

    • Eldon Kartchner
      September 23, 2012 at 1:24 am

      Jason, you’re so clearly a good soul. Thanks for hearing my story, but thank you so much here for caring about and being sensitive to my feelings and experience. I’m not offended, I think you have some really good observations.

      From my end, there is one thing amongst many that I tried to accomplish in the interview, and don’t feel like I did really well: trying to tell the story at each part with a reflection of how I felt at the time. Alas, I think my current position, and how it colors the way I view my history, came out stronger than did a true telling of how I felt all along. I know I tried to explain feeling duality, but I don’t think I explained well all of the times and ways that I turned to Jesus for the atonement to help me address how low I felt. During my last 10 years, especially, I became quite the Christian Mormon, believing that we surely needed to focus a LOT more on the grace of the Savior. And I really didn’t talk about that in the interview much at all. I did try to emphasize, and perhaps not enough, what a moment of submission it was for me when Heather received her final blessing. There has never, to my recollection, been a time in my existence when I was more stripped to the bare bones and fully ready to hear whatever the Lord wanted to tell me, and I meant it fully when I said I would believe Him even if He needed to take her. And I want to acknowledge for those who really believe in Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior of all, the only way for my experience to be what it was in that moment, that I either wasn’t really as open as I say I was, when I believed the Holy Ghost was telling me He would heal her, or that the problem is that I didn’t really turn things over to the Lord. I dunno; my inner experience is all I’ve got, I guess. Maybe I did get it all wrong, and have it wrong still. But I gotta go with what I got.

      To your second mention, I think this is a valid pointing out of a narrative missing, too. I mean, I really did feel capable and strong after feeling the spirit. That is true, and what carried me through so much in life. But you’re right – I really didn’t talk about that. The problem for me seems to be that I internalized messages about my worthlessness to such a degree (and I think these came from what I was taught in the gospel) that my ability to really team up with God – to use the atonement to be good enough – was quickly sapped by the idea that I had to do or be something better. A bouncing back and forth between believing in the efficacy of works or grace, and never being able to find a good middle ground I could rest in for long. I think this is where being gay played a big part; perhaps I could have believed the times I felt capable and one with God for much longer and solidified this belief much more firmly in my mind if I wasn’t also always convinced that I was fundamentally flawed in a way that was seeing no change or improvement despite either my efforts to be good, or the application of the atonement.

      I hope I’m even addressing what you had the intent of pointing out, and that I didn’t misinterpret. One nagging thing for me about my response is that I sense you were kind of pointing out some ways in which my gospel experience could have been more tuned in to the real Gospel of Jesus Christ, and that if it had been, I might not have suffered as much or fallen. And my response was to essentially say “Nope! I did all those things and it still fell apart!” And that feels a little bit like I’m just being defensive, which I think is never really productive. If I misunderstood anything, I’m very open to correction.

      Part of me really feels like “I did everything possible to understand everything possible and do everything possible and believe everything possible, and I figured out that it’s all bunk, and I was duped. And nope, nobody can tell me there was some nuance I didn’t try that I should have, that will prove otherwise.” And then another part of me rolls his eyes and wonders how I can be so ridiculously prideful and know-it-all.

      But thanks for helping me become aware and try to put some of my pride in check, and thank you for even listening to my/our story. Again – I’m happy to hear back if I wasn’t understanding, or if my response is a little off the mark. Sorry, if so! You are very clearly a class act, Jason.

      Eldon

      • Jason Hunsaker
        September 24, 2012 at 6:09 pm

        Okay, so I made it through part 4.

        My belief is that Church doctrine provides the answers to life’s even-numbered problems, and that God is expecting us to learn the answers to life’s odd-numbered problems through our life experiences. Unfortunately, too many people in the Church are afraid to do that, and stick to trying to make the even-numbered answers apply to everything, just like using a crutch. I think that (sadly) you summed up that all too adequately in part 4 at 52:54, and again at 57:00-58:00. It is sad that when God kicks the crutches out from under them so that they would have to confront the odd-numbered problems, their response was to essentially scramble back to the crutch instead of genuinely learning how to help you and minister to you like your wife’s non-member friends and siblings did and still do.

        Thank you for describing and teaching us what it really means to “mourn with those who mourn” (as you do at 1:01:25, 1:06:51, and especially 1:10:28-1:11:31). I know that fear is one of the things that keeps me from helping someone. Specifically, fear of not knowing what to say or do, or what to not say or not do, in a given situation (what the Koreans call nunchi eoptta), and fear of doing something for you that you didn’t want to have me do and tried to avoid having me do, but I went ahead anyway, determined to do you a favor, and then things went wrong and caused you a lot of trouble, yet in the end social conventions required you to express gratitude (what the Japanese call arigata-meiwaku). Sometimes I fear I’m somewhat emotionally color blind. The only way I can see to overcome those fears is to just step outside my comfort zone and risk it. At the same time it’s odd that those same fears don’t inhibit us from telling other what we think they should be doing, or thinking, or feeling.

        To clarify an earlier point, I don’t believe that you left anything undone, or that there was something more you could have done to suffer less. And yet I am glad for you teaching us that people are more beautiful and sacred and important than things or doctrine. I share that belief, and it pains me when I see others (especially and unfortunately within the Church) that haven’t figured that out yet. For me, that is the most important character trait/attitude/worldview we can develop.

        I too have struggled with chronic feelings of worthlessness, but have since realized that this is a cognitive error (according to CBT theory), and am trying to address it (physician heal thyself). But the result has been trying to learn to function without the Spirit. This is because when I felt the Spirit, the feelings of worthlessness would vanish and my sense of self-efficacy (what I now call “faith”) would increase. And oddly enough I have come to somewhat dread those spiritual feelings, not because they weren’t good, wonderful, joyful, and desirable, but because they haven’t lasted long enough to really sustain me. Thus, before long, those good feelings withdraw, I am left unto just myself again, and the feelings of worthlessness, powerlessness, and being on my own return.

        I am so grateful for the feeling of redemption (sorry, I can’t find a better word) that I got during the last ~30-45 minutes of the interview as each of you discussed what you had gained from this tragic experience. Thank you again for sharing it. You’ve given me a lot to think about and process and work through.

  27. Gandhi
    September 23, 2012 at 2:34 am

    Eldon,
    I am just as impressed by your responses here as to your story shared with John; your humility and compassion, to perhaps, what ‘might appear’ a couple of judgmental remarks, was satisfying to the soul.
    As a 51-year-old life time member living in the UK I have been fortunate enough to participate in a number of blessings, from healing of terminal cancers – lymphomas, brain tumors etc to prophecy of future events being fulfilled. These have been faith promoting and a tremendous privilege to share in with an individual/family and to witness the joy and pain of God’s love in their lives. However, I have also experienced its opposite, were I have powerfully felt the spirit and uttered pronouncements or participated in blessings which ultimately have not led to fruition; and I have mourned the fact that I have caused significant discomfort to those who I felt I was revealing the Lord’s will to. I am also left confused as to the nature of God;s will and how he/she communicates to us.
    I loved your expression of being ‘comfortable with uncertainty,’ I long to reach that state and I wish you well in your journey of the soul. I am thankful for you family’s contribution to the podcast and think how fortunate you all our to have each other, I don’t think I have cried so much through a podcast, not just for the pain you have had to endure but out of sheer love for each and everyone of your family members and the loving relationship you all had for each other. I hope you all find peace and happiness in your lives. I wish you all lived in the UK.

  28. James
    September 23, 2012 at 2:39 am

    Wow. This interview was amazing. Also terribly difficult to get through. I had to take a break from listening a couple times because I was getting so emotional. I wouldn’t change a thing about it, though. The pure humanity of your story shines through in every moment, Eldon.

    It’s a wrenching thing to truly confront mortality, and I’m not going to claim that I’ve done so; as yet I’ve been lucky enough not to lose anyone close to me prematurely. But your experiences deeply touched me. My wife now is as old as Heather was when she was diagnosed with cancer, it’s sobering to think what would happen should something similar happen to her.

    A few have expressed sadness that you couldn’t keep your faith even with the trials you’ve had, but personally, I can’t really understand how someone could react any differently than you did. My own disaffection from the church was not precipitated by tragedy as yours was, but one thing in your story that I deeply related to was your being forced to confront the fact that something you absolutely knew the Spirit had told you was also something you absolutely knew was completely false. Yes, it’s always possible to second-guess and say maybe you got it wrong, but as you said in an earlier post, at some point you’re forced to realize that either the answer is wrong or you have no ability to discern the answer, and both those options end up being functionally equivalent as far as helping you live your life.

    As I listened to your story I grieved for you and your family. Thank you for sharing something so personal. There is something deeply human about grief, and, I think, there may be something dehumanizing in denying grief, as can sometimes happen within the Mormon paradigm. I won’t say that it is uplifting, because true grief is something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, but it is part of life, and something that can connect us to our brothers and sisters here in a way that maybe nothing else can.

  29. Peggy
    September 23, 2012 at 7:01 pm

    Eldon I thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing your experiences. I so respect all the choices you have made at every step from your youth to current. You are a very good man and father. I wish you and your children peace and happiness! You deserve it! Your authenticity gives me strength and hope.

  30. Kelly Sperry
    September 24, 2012 at 10:57 pm

    Has anyone ever heard of someone giving a priesthood blessing after the person has died? My father was stabilized in the hospital after having a heart attack. The bishop proceeded with a blessing and pronounced my dad would remain stable in the life flight to Provo and recover. Seconds later he flat lined and died. The morning of the viewing my brothers got special permission from the stake president to give my dead father a priesthood blessing. They said the bishop was rushed and didn’t have time to really give the correct blessing. The part that stood out the most was when they chastised my dad. They blessed him to be able to remember his testimony because he knew how he was supposed to live in this life but made some wrong choices. (He drank alcohol, coffee and didn’t pay tithing.) At the viewing someone said they were sorry and then continued with, “Well, at least you had him as long as ya did.” It sounded like, oh well, big deal, you’ll see him again in the next life. Problem is, I don’t believe in a next life. I had spent the previous 30 or so judging him through that Mormon lens. It was only the last 2 years of his life that I actually got to know him and see really what a great man he was. And even after he died it was harder because people would come forward and tell us of some way my dad had helped them or taken care of them.

    I also wanted to say that I feel the way you do Eldon, about Mormons not mourning. Some of the talks at his funeral were about Mormonism not him. And any time I try to talk about him with family there’s no emotion just, “I know we’ll see him again.” I wish we could all consider for a moment that maybe we’re not right and maybe this life is all we have. I think we would live a lot differently–more whole heartedly.

  31. Chris
    September 26, 2012 at 12:57 pm

    Eldon,
    Your story hits close to home as I lost my father to a terminal illness after he was given priesthood blessings that promised he would be healed. Even though he had digressed so much I was blinded by faith in priesthood power. Up till the last night I spent with him, it still never occurred to me that he was actually dying. I think even he was in denial. It was crushing. I could not make sense of it but I was a teenager at the time and felt that God must know better. But because I never contemplated him actually dying I never said my final goodbyes or reminisced about our time together or talked about my future. This was 25 yrs ago and I thought I had come to terms with his death until a few years ago as the truth claims of the church crumbled so did my all the doctrines, beliefs, justifications, and rationalizations that had allowed me to deal with his death. However, I found it most difficult to make sense of all the spiritual experiences and confirmations I had over the years especially where my Dad was concerned. I had felt his presence and heard his voice many times. I couldn’t explain this. The experiences were so real. It wasn’t until I really began to study neurophysiology and read Michael Schermer’s book “The Believing Brain” that I came to see how powerful the mind is at constructing narratives that support us. It has taken many years but now I have some peace and understanding on spiritual experiences, prayer, and blessings. Most are generated by the mind however, I still leave a little room for the metaphysical.

    I wish you the best on your journey of healing.

  32. Randall Christensen
    September 28, 2012 at 5:41 pm

    I’ve viewed the first three segments…..taking a moment to reflect, breath and give proper respect to such an amazing family! Just want to let it all sink in, and enjoy the beauty of profound love between two people. Eldon and Heather truly are saints! Courageous and candid conversation, Eldon. Thank you so much for sharing such a phenomenal part of your life!

  33. Emily Price
    September 28, 2012 at 7:37 pm

    Eldon and family,
    I wish I were good enough with words to express my appreciation for your sharing your story. Hearing your story I experience a “longed-for” intimacy and empathy from you surrounding these painful topics. Approximately 17 years ago, my brother Aaron suddenly died. I was the 5th child in an LDS family of 9. He was number 2. At the time, I was 13 and he was 18 yrs old. Not a day goes by that I do not think of him with love.
    Warmest wishes and a healthy dose of heartfelt gratitude for your courage,
    <3 Emily

  34. October 1, 2012 at 6:19 pm

    Once when I was feeling sorry for myself about how some in my family reacted to my homosexuality and feelings towards the church someone said to me, “Well, what did you expect?”

    I think I expected exactly what Eldon’s siblings articulated which was essentially, “I know and love Eldon too much not to at least sit down and consider what he has to say. Family comes first.”

    WOW. I hope you realize how fortunate you are to have those sitting with you on that podcast! It’s the exception rather than the rule unfortunately.

  35. October 1, 2012 at 11:38 pm

    Great interview with great feedback. Thanks for being courageous enough to share this, Eldon. We have about a zillion mutual friends and cousins (I grew up in Tucson, but have Post, Layton, and Mayberry cousins all over Cochise and Graham counties); I went to BYU/Provo, then served a mission, then finished at UofA, so we kind of switched places. Then in an even weirder twist, I married a boy from Montana and have lived in the Bozeman Stake for the past 11 years. HOW ARE WE NOT FRIENDS? lol. Anyway, I blogged about you today and my brother from another mother Michael Gregg commented and reminded me that he was once your roommate. TEENY TINY WORLD, I tell you! So come to my blog, have a gander, and THANK YOU for teaching me with your story.

  36. Erin
    October 9, 2012 at 10:39 pm

    Thank you for sharing your deeply moving story. The hours that I spent listening to this were comparable to the hours I spent listening to General Conference this weekend. In many ways the messages I heard hear are the ones that will stick with me. But I found that there were a lot of parallels between conference and this interview. Shane Bowen’s talk about losing his son was absolutely heart breaking and he was very honest in how painful it was and how angry he was. Hopefully it will help people to understand this concept of “mourning with those who mourn”. Another story shared by Elder Anderson was very personal to me. He talked about Georgia Marriot who was struck by a truck while riding her bicycle. She was a friend of mine at IU and was the kind of person who made everyone feel important and loved. Just a joy and light to everyone and an absolutely beautiful musician. She did stabilize in the hospital and we thought she was going to make it but she left this world while her mom was on a plane to come to her side. It was so devastating and I can’t even write this without tears (it has been ten years). I know how hard this was for her family and I know they mourned deeply and still do. Her funeral was an amazing powerful and strengthening experience. I have never been to a funeral that had so many people, many of them non members from the School of Music. They celebrated her life but there was definitely a powerful spirit of missionary work. I think it was because that was really who Georgia was. Just weeks before she died she wrote her testimony in her journal and it was the most beautiful testimony I have ever heard. They shared that journal entry and I have a copy if it that I still read. When you said that being a missionary was just not who Heather was, I felt like it really should be up to the family and not the Bishop how the funeral is organized. Thank you for enlightening us on those policies.

    Also I just wanted to mention about the topic of “prayers for you”. I know I have been guilty of saying that I would pray for someone and then not even praying for them. But when I actually do pray for someone, it is during my prayer that I realize, if I expect God to answer this prayer then I better do something about it and I will contemplate ways that I can help. Maybe the Spirit inspires me to help someone in a particular way or maybe it is just the act of caring about someone enough to pray for them that inspires me to actually think of a way to serve them. Either way, prayer does help me come up with ways to help other people.

  37. D Nielson
    October 31, 2012 at 1:53 pm

    Thanks for sharing your story. I love what you said about how we’re not very good at mourning as a “people.” It is so true. In fact, I have always given myself a lot of time to mourn and kick and scream and get “mad at God” (I know, not very “mormon” of me, right?). But we MUST must must learn to work through ALL our feelings of grief …it’s the only healthy way to do it. I learned that lesson early on in my life and refused to EVERY “suffocate” my soul again but NOT feeling it all. All of the ugly stuff. We must also learn to move forward, it comes at a different time for everyone and there should be no pressure to have someone else’s time be your time. Best wishes on your continued journey. I hope you find a measure of peace and happiness as your move forward.

  38. Jon
    November 4, 2012 at 9:53 am

    Fascinating to listen to. This has really clenched me to believe that it is probably all made up in people’s minds. I still am keeping my mind open, but it is hard to do. It really is a beautiful idea to think that we can live forever and sad to think that it probably is not true.

    I told my wife how I really don’t think God exists anymore. She didn’t like hearing that. It would be nice if we were on the same page. I guess that is what makes life interesting.

    Part of my realization that God might not exist came from seeing people react to politics. People believe in the candidate of their party regardless of what actions that person has taken, even if both candidates are eerily similar to one another. I see this in religion too. People defend their faith regardless of any inconsistencies because the desire to be believe is stronger than the desire to find truth.

    Not trying to denigrate people’s faith. Just how I currently view the world.

    As a side note. This might be insensitive but when I was listening to this heart wrenching story I was thinking how touching this story would be in fictional form, perhaps as an allegory.

    I feel sorry for Eldon’s pain and must admit, being a terribly shy person would not be one of the people that would have come to Eldon’s pain. But this does give me pause to think how I should be more loving to others, which requires that I talk to people. Stefan Molyneux talks about how it seems we live in a world where we don’t seem to want to talk about things with each other that really matter but keep things shallow.

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