Stories of Individual Health

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Ben Lauritsen

In Robert Frost’s signature poem, “The Road Not Taken,” he reflects on standing at a fork of two roads for a long time, trying to decide which to take. He assesses each for its qualities, tries to tell himself that he’ll just take the other path next time (while knowing deep down he’ll never be back to that spot), and ultimately chooses the road less traveled. In the end, he acknowledges that, for better or worse, that choice will have made all the difference.

For the better part of a decade, I stood at a fork in terms of my belief in the LDS Church, God, and religion in general. After growing up in a fully-active LDS home, serving a mission, marrying in the temple, graduating BYU, and serving faithfully in various callings, I began to experience a crisis of faith. The crisis began with simply acknowledging unpleasant realities within the Church (gender inequalities) and unsavory bits of history (polygamy, doctrinal upheavals). The process accelerated post-9/11 with an erosion of my trust in institutions generally and a further recognition that the Church had few answers for the most salient questions of human existence, divine intervention, and distribution of resources/opportunities. What answers Church leaders had attempted to provide throughout the past century were often abhorrent and conscience-shocking (e.g., justifications for racism or economic plight based on pre-mortal righteousness). In short, the Church did not appear to fulfill what it claimed to be in terms of its truthfulness, authority, and exclusivity with God. Close friends began leaving the Church for these reasons. At the same time, I continued to recognize the Church as a valuable community of sincere, well-intentioned believers trying to improve their lives and a potentially invaluable resource for raising my children. The Church was still the center of my extended family’s life. It had been home to me for over 30 years.

It was during the peak of my angst over which path to take that I discovered the Mormon Stories podcasts. The podcasts immediately helped fill the void of loneliness, self-doubt, and depression that had accompanied my continued struggles with reconciling the Church’s claims and teachings against the core conscience of faith and divine spark that I felt inside of my heart to the contrary. The dozens of perspectives on faith, Mormonism, life, and spirituality I heard through the podcasts helped me develop greater appreciation for the vibrancy of faith and existence and the importance of empathy for anyone trying to make sense of life and God.

A person standing at the same fork I did with my faith could probably make equal claim that either staying in the Church or leaving the Church represented the road less traveled. Which path I have taken is largely ancillary when it comes to judging the value and meaning of Mormon Stories in my life. Mormon Stories never encouraged me down a particular path. Instead, it helped me recognize the spiritual/emotional impossibility I had created for myself in trying to appease all competing influences in my life by traveling both paths at once. “I could not travel both and be one traveler.” Mormon Stories helped me make the healthiest breakthrough of my life so far: that the value of my life will not be defined by which path I take but whether I can remain “one traveler” along the way—true to myself, trusting my conscience, embracing all of my doubts and faith, making forward-looking choices, and having empathy for those around me. In short, Mormon Stories helped stitch me back together as one traveler again.
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Michelle VanDyke


Like many members who come from generations of LDS families, and being a descendent of early saints who sacrificed all that they had, left their homes and even children behind to come to Zion and be numbered among the saints, I was raised with the knowledge that the LDS church is the restoration of the church established by our Savior during his lifetime. I dedicated my life, my choices, to the gospel and to my Heavenly Father and his church. I was married in the temple, held Primary and Young Women callings and served as a visiting teacher. I once had the picture perfect eternal and earthly family that would all be together in the Celestial Kingdom some day. I also had a personal relationship with my Heavenly Father and studied and prayed daily to build that relationship and my testimony. I once thought I could provide all of the answers to my children and husband that they would ever need to overcome trials of faith and by so doing, I would ensure my family would be the eternal family the gospel promised to me. But like many members today, life held some unexpected twists for me.

The unexpected began innocently enough with me studying the Bible and BOM daily for an hour at lunch time and more before bed. I wanted to know the gospel “inside out and backwards,” as the saying goes. I wanted to be the rock for my family to build upon. I found college courses online to study the Bible while I worked. I also wanted to know more about the privileged people who lived with and witnessed Jesus and Joseph Smith’s lives and cultures. Here’s where my world began spinning and turned completely upside down. Nothing in my upbringing and years of Sunday lessons had prepared me for what I found. My studies began to consume me. I spent my evenings in my bedroom in a panic. The rains came down and the floods came up and I felt lost, alone, betrayed. Through my studies, I lost my Heavenly Father and unless you have experienced that, I don’t believe you can understand the pain I experienced. I had days where I didn’t want to live anymore. What was the purpose?

One day I opened a link my brother-in-law had sent me to Mormon Stories. We all make mistakes, and one of mine was that it had taken me a good 6 months before I opened the link. Through Mormon Stories, I gained and a new understanding of how and why the church was what it was and how so many could believe, even though I could not. Some of the most meaningful interviews from Mormon Stories include the interviews with Richard Bushman, Jared Anderson, Grant Palmer, Grant and Heather Hardy, Todd Compton, Daymon Smith and John Dehlin himself. These interviews helped me learn about the tough LDS issues in an environment of honesty and neutrality. I also found a community to share my experiences with and am no longer alone in this hour of need. Members have a right to study the origins of their church and the right to make an informed decision about how they will believe in and worship God. I view it as one of the most important decisions in a person’s life. Mormon Stories has been an invaluable resource to me and I am so thankful to be able to access it so easily. I listen at work, on the road, and most anytime. I recommend it to one and all.
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Tom Perry


I came across John Dehlin and Mormon Stories in 2007-08. This was the same time period that my life took a unexpected turn. It was around this same time that I encountered the full details of the Mountain Meadows Massacre that I was completely unaware of. I began to read and do extensive research on my own and found myself with some very difficult things to try to process. Things like, “How am I supposed to process the fact that a prophet of the Lord covered up such a horrific event?” And, “He protected those directly involved and only formally disciplined them after the government got involved?” And, “How could so many church leaders be involved with something like this?” I was beginning to strongly feel like there was no way that the Lord was involved in any way shape or form with the church leadership at that time period. Of course that thought leads to, “What if the church was never really ran by God?” And then the dominos started to fall, one by one.

I believe Mormon Stories helped me to consider that leaving the church wasn’t my only option. At that time, leaving the church felt like my one and only reasonable option. But after many hours of podcast listening I noticed a seed was planted that maybe there was another way. Of course I don’t want it to sound like Mormon Stories was the biggest factor for my choice to return to church. By far and away the biggest factor in my thought process was that my wife, parents, siblings and all my friends were all still active members of the church. I quickly learned that I would be cutting myself off from them if I were to leave the church.

I did became inactive for a while and I soon realized that in order keep peace in my family and my marriage I needed to return to church. I needed to compromise with my loved ones because I realized that I was the one who was changing the rules of the game all of a sudden and it took me quite a bit of time to fully realize that. I understand that now.

In the process of all this I was dealing with some incredibly strong depression, hurt, loneliness and betrayal. I can honestly say that is was one of the darkest moments of my entire life. I also admitted myself into professional therapy for the first time in my life over this. This kind of event is not one to overlooked at all. I will be one of the first people to reach out to someone who is experiencing this kind of pain when I see it.

I plan to continue to be involved with members of the church and with those in the Mormon Stories communities for the foreseeable future. I am deeply grateful for John Dehlin and for Mormon Stories and I hope to be able to continue to pay it forward to others who are hurting as well.
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Carolyn Gertsch


I grew up in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I was raised on church history every day. I knew that Joseph Smith had prayed to know which church was true, that he translated the Book of Mormon, and that he restored the one true church of Christ back on the earth. I also knew that he practiced polygamy, that he married himself to other women that were currently married to other men. I knew that there were some things that I really didn’t like or understand about Joseph Smith and my churches history so I put it up on a shelf in my brain and labeled it “I will ask Heavenly Father about it when I die.”

As I grew up and time went on I managed to find more and more things to put on that shelf. I put away the confusion about woman and their roles. I was told do to all I could to prepare to be a good mother and wife and not to have a job outside the home then watched as my mom felt like a failure in the LDS church because she was going to work and leaving her kids home to look after themselves. There were things that seemed contradictory. I was told the church doesn’t get involved in politics; I shouldn’t speak out about such things during church or over the pulpit. But then I was told I needed to lobby against gay marriage. I didn’t lobby, I didn’t do anything. I put that confusion up on the shelf.

The “I will ask Heavenly Father about it when I die” shelf finally broke. I couldn’t fit anything else on it after I was told a second time that I needed to lobby against gay marriage. I was raised to love, have empathy and compassion. I was taught that church was a place of acceptance, tolerance, charity, and kindness. After the second call to lobby I couldn’t keep that shelf up anymore.

When I felt like everything had fallen from my shelf, was broken and I wouldn’t know how to continue as a Mormon I found Mormon Stories. I found an essay about how to stay Mormon when I had lost my faith. That is what had happened. I had lost my faith in my one true church. I felt like I couldn’t stay, but how could I leave? This was my life. I had done and been doing everything I was supposed to in order to keep my faith. I read my scriptures, I went to the temple, I paid my tithing, and I prayed and prayed. But I still lost my faith.

Finding Mormon Stories helped me have hope. I knew that hope is like faith. I found in Mormon Stories a group of people that had also built shelves that they put things away in the back of their brain. Some of them had labeled it differently but we all had the same commonality; that shelf. We were Mormon, we wanted to be understood, we wanted to feel accepted and loved. I wanted to be able to talk about the things we weren’t supposed to talk about in church like polygamy, and the Mountain Meadows Massacre, Blacks and the Priesthood, the ERA, and the fight against gay marriage. Mormon stories gave me that community. It is a safe place to discuss what really was bothering me. I wasn’t labeled as apostate, or anti-Mormon or some wayward member in need of fellowship. I was safe. I was able to find a way to keep some hope that what I had learned as a Mormon had value in it. I had hope that the church of my fathers and the traditions of my family had some good to offer me. I felt like my confusion and frustration was normal and not a sin. Unlike the bishop in my ward who made me feel like I had displeased God, Mormon Stories helped me find a place of peace a way to live cohesively in my church even with my frustrations. Mormon Stories helped me understand that actually thinking and questioning could help me become more spiritual and not less so.

Mormon Stories helped me do the following things: Mormon Stories helped me leave the church in a healthy way. Mormon Stories helped me come back to the church in a healthy way. Mormon Stories helped deepen my spirituality or improve my mental health.
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Marco


I’m on my way to pick up my mother-in-law to baby-sit as I burst into tears. I had just run a red light at a cross road on entering the highway. I wanted to hit the break, but was compelled to keep my foot on the gas. I realized I had become an actual danger to myself and my surroundings. I was disgusted and frightened that I might not be able to resist carrying out the horrible thoughts that had been forcing themselves on me. I just wanted my pained soul to end.

Although loosing my faith in the LDS church was not a pleasant experience, the main cause of my pain was the sorrow I was putting my wife through. Instead of a worthy priesthood holder, she now had an atheist at her side. Prayer and scripture study as a couple and as a family, which for years had brought our family peace, were now awkward and uncomfortable moments. I could hardly stand being at church anymore. Only the thought of half the family going to church was worse. I was making my wife live a temple marriage… by herself. I could stay in the church for her sake, just going through the motions and shutting off inside, but that would mean our children would be raised in the church and set up for the same pain I was going through. As I saw no way forward, the option of ending things permanently for me and my wife and children became an option that was constantly on my mind.

I sought medical help and was put ahead of the waiting list and squeezed into the schedule of an experienced psychotherapist, who has helped me to deal with the fear that I might act on my destructive thoughts. The main key was to realize that my thoughts do not determine my actions nor do they condemn me. Thus, letting go of some things that I was taught at church in my youth was the key in overcoming the anxiety caused by my thoughts.

That still left me with a bleak out look on what my family life was going to look like. How could I maintain my integrity as a non-believer while having spiritual harmony with my devout wife and believing children? Again the answer lay in abandoning childhood wisdom that comes with a mormon upbringing: “either the church is true or it is not.” Through the Mormon Stories podcasts I became aware of the more mature view that the truthfulness of the church doesn’t have to be seen as an all or nothing issue, but that one can relish the good the church has to offer while guarding yourself and your loved ones from being weighed down with perceived obligations, guilt and feelings of inadequacy. Attending a regional Mormon Stories conference with my wife was well worth the transatlantic flight. It was a great way of spiritually bonding with my wife again, who said the Mormon Stories conference felt just like being at church. At present I share my positive spiritual insights with my wife, while I find solace from sharing frustrations and finding support in Mormon Stories Facebook groups. Hearing the many perspectives on spirituality from people telling their Mormon story is soothing to my mind and soul, giving me hope for an ever happier future with my family in the church.

Last Sunday a recent covert bore her testimony in church. She said that she had had suicidal thoughts, but that after she had received a priesthood blessing those thoughts had disappeared. Thanks Mormon Stories, for helping me hang in there and to see beauty in the church once again.

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Adam Vance Boone


A life-long Mormon, I began to have doubts, and so began a thorough study of the Mormon Church with the sincere intent on learning whether or not LDS doctrine, history and theology were true. I found the answers from church leadership to be intellectually unsatisfying.

Enter Mormon Stories: John Dehlin’s podcasts were rich in variety, context and honesty, attempting to answer important questions stricken by those who enter the rabbit hole of church revisionism. Coupled with books by scholars both within and outside the church, I believe I was able to gain a very holistic perspective on who Joseph Smith was and the nature of his environment that influenced the evolution of Mormon theology.

I have always felt the spirit in my life, both in and out of the church, so I was not angry at learning the facts that filled the deep chasm between official church history and the objective historical record. To me, feeling the spirit is the simple process of experiencing all that great-unknown stuff out there. And therefore it stayed with me when I left the church.

My feeling towards leaving the church is one of relief. I was plagued by guilt over having unsure feelings towards LDS truth claims. Mormon Stories helped nurture a wide perspective that allows for an intellectually honest dialogue. I used that perspective in my study of faiths, sciences and philosophies to see the universe as so much bigger, and so much more beautiful and interesting than LDS theology can offer. I believe, as Mormon Stories certainly exemplifies in their interviews and discussions, that we can each have our own opinions, but we cannot have our own facts. Mormon Stories helped me leave the church in a healthy and happy way, and, at the very least, I owe them an apple pie for that.
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Michael Gonda


I participated in the “Why Mormons Leave” survey last year, although I am currently still active in the LDS church. I remember when I first started listening to Mormon Stories in 2008 or 2009. I went through all the podcasts, and was disappointed when I learned that John Dehlin had decided to discontinue the podcast. When he started recording again, it was like a godsend. As an active member of the church my whole life, I struggled with self-esteem and depression related to the fact that I could never seem to gain that unshakeable testimony I heard people at church often talking about. I prayed about the Book of Mormon, but never felt I got a strong enough witness of its truthfulness. I attended the temple, but never really felt spiritually edified, because I always worried about whether I was worthy enough. Since the type of powerful spiritual experience I was looking for didn’t ever seem to materialize, I felt there must be something wrong with me. This was often how I felt prior to, during, and after my mission. Eventually, I started to question some of the most fundamental ideas I had grown up with. Questions about the church’s position on evolution, literal biblical and Book of Mormon history, homosexuality, and many other issues eventually followed. For a long time, I felt wicked and unworthy, because I was even thinking about those questions. This is where Mormon Stories really was a blessing to me. I learned that many people had questioned many things about the church. I found a community of people who had experienced similar issues, and who did not feel threatened by my questions and my doubts.

In some ways, Mormon Stories has helped me to gain a greater appreciation for the religion of my birth, as well as the usefulness of religion in general. I have changed a lot of the ways I feel about the church, and its mission. But I have been able, so far, to maintain a healthy relationship with my family and the church. Hearing other people’s stories about staying in the church, and leaving the church, has helped me become more mentally healthy. I feel like I am a good person now, and that whether or not there is a God, or if he approves of me, that is still the truth. I am grateful for the good that Mormon Stories does in helping people ask important questions in a healthy way, questions that often will not be addressed by the church itself. I am glad there is a community for people who feel like the church cannot reach them anymore, as well. I hope through my experiences I can help other people who are going through faith crises, whether they stay active in the church, or choose a different path.
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Carys Bray

Mormon Stories helped me through the loneliest time of my life.

I was raised in a Mormon family and did what a lot of young Mormon women do: married young and had several children in quick succession. I felt unfulfilled, but when I expressed my feelings I was told that my role as a mother should be enough. After one of my children died, I found it hard to believe in the kind of personal God that Mormons worship. I found it extremely difficult to listen to people talking about God helping them to find things: car keys, money and so on. And there were other things I worried about. I worried that my baby daughter might follow my example and have children before she was ready. I worried because my children were being taught black and white thinking and intolerance for others’ beliefs. I worried that the stories about the origins of Mormonism which I had been told since childhood were full of exaggerations and omissions.

When I tried to talk to people, they implied that I was doing something wrong, that I was either ‘being negative or had engaged in some sort of sin. No one wanted to listen to my worries.

I came across Mormon Stories not long after John did the “Why People Leave” screencast on YouTube. It was a tremendous relief to know that there were other people who understood how I felt, and I found solace in their stories. Thousands of miles away from Utah, I listened to podcast after podcast and reminded myself that I wasn’t alone.

It took me a long time to pluck up the courage to leave the church. I lost a lot of friends, the community I had been a part of since birth and the good opinion of family members. But I gained so much: the courage to pursue my dreams, the confidence to express my feelings, new friends locally and a community of virtual friends around the world. The years when I was trying to work out how to leave the church were the loneliest of my life. Listening to other people’s stories helped me to realize that I wasn’t really alone.

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Isaac Bourgeois


For years I have walked the tightrope of faith and reason, setting up what I now realize is an unnecessary and false dichotomy. Though I grew up loving the Church, I’ve always felt uncomfortable with the “One True Church” idea, the priesthood and exclusivity, the condemnation of homosexuality, the absolute claims of the knowledge of God, etc. At the same time, I’ve also always considered myself deeply spiritual, though I knew it was in an unorthodox way. I grew up completely active, graduated from early morning seminary, served a mission, graduated BYU, the whole thing. A year and a half ago, and after several years (since I was 17 or so) of flirting with existential thought and agnosticism, I finally admitted to myself that my feelings were (as I perceived them) in direct conflict with Mormonism and that I needed to sort them out and be true to what I was going through. I didn’t feel like there was a place for that journey in the institutional church as I had experienced it, so I opted for minimizing my church activity and carrying the burden alone.

I felt my only options were either to carry my intellectual burdens in silence for the rest of my life in the Church, or to own my thoughts and feelings, resign from the Church, and essentially forge a new identity outside the church. I should add that all this is occurring at BYU within a year of returning home from a full, obedient, and earnestly served (though doctrinally liberal) mission in Spain. I couldn’t really talk to anyone, and as such I found myself extremely alone and isolated. I didn’t talk to my parents for months. I couldn’t talk to my siblings. I disconnected from friends with whom I’d previously been able to converse openly. It was a period of intense darkness and depression. The foundation upon which my life had been built was crumbling beneath me. I was constantly fearful of academic repercussions from an institution that I had dedicated so much to. I didn’t have a place with the believers, and I felt equally uncomfortable with non-believers.

I devoured the works of authors, poets, psychologists and philosophers who captured something of what I was feeling – Camus, Sartre, Kierkegaard, Derrida, e.e. cummings, Jung, among others. I am a scientist by discipline, but an artist and philosopher by passion. I’ve tried to understand my existence and nature using all the means at my disposal. In addition to my extracurricular study in philosophy and psychology, coursework in biochemistry, neuroscience, evolution, evolutionary psychology and physiology all contributed to my increasingly deconstructivist view of life, religion, the whole shebang. This whole time I have maintained my temple recommend, not wanting to give up my right to participate in my religious tradition. My family has always been the one thing that kept me from completely walking away, and I am so glad that they provided me that emotional barrier to complete abandonment of the Church. Though I couldn’t bring myself to abandon the Church, it felt like there wasn’t a place there for me. I didn’t feel that the Church’s resources spoke to my concerns, or that there was any forum for me to voice them without being cast as antagonistic or heretical, so I kept seeking help anywhere I could find it. I felt tremendous internal conflict, despair, and isolation.

Then I found Mormon Stories. I found a community of people with concerns as diverse as our experiences. While I didn’t share all the concerns, I found fellowship in individuals who, like me, loved the Church and wanted to find a place in it. I found people who had forged ahead of me the path I was now following. I found emotional support, intellectual stimulation, and spiritual nourishment as people I had never met shared their educational insights and personal experiences. I finally felt like not only was it OK to explore what my spirituality meant to me, but that it was an exciting and fulfilling journey and that I had fellow travelers to lean on, and to share what I had learned on my way. I found countless men and women who were faithful to their spiritual convictions while being honest about the difficult historical, doctrinal, cultural, and philosophical issues that come up in the church and in life. I felt validated in my approach to actually “seek learning in the best books,” whatever the source, and synthesize all my “secular” knowledge with the prized knowledge I had developed throughout my life in the scriptures. I found renewed value and validity in my relationship with the Church and with Divinity. I felt the conflict within me dissolving.

I have now rediscovered the value of human spirituality, and more importantly, the value of my own spirituality. I feel free to engage my more traditionally believing family and friends in deeply meaningful spiritual conversation, translating my thoughts into their language. My family and friends have responded lovingly, embracing me where I am and validating my experiences and feelings. I feel at peace claiming Mormonism and supporting my host of gay friends and family at BYU and elsewhere (to be clear, I’ve felt at peace supporting them for YEARS, but I now feel ok self-identifying as a Mormon while doing so). I am surpassingly happy. I have found a love for humanity that is more expansive than I ever could have imagined. It is so liberating to accept and feel at peace with my own heritage, while being able to compassionately see the rest of the world as I have for years. I have to thank everyone involved with Mormon Stories for bridging the gap between spiritual authenticity and a fulfilling relationship with the LDS Church. I am still trying to figure out how living in the Church will work for me (I don’t think I’ll ever have it figured out all the way), but I am hopeful that I will be able to maintain deep and meaningful relationships, both with my family and the institutional Church.
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John Nilsson


As a child, I assumed that the claims of my Mormon religion would be found in consonance with science and the scientific method of hypothesis, isolating variables, rigorous testing, and repeat. I suppose this assumption was made possible by reading widely in old Mormon books in my family home from authors like apostles James Talmage and John Widtsoe, both of whom were scientists, educators, and esteemed church leaders. These men wrote with the confidence that the process of scientific discovery would validate Christian religious beliefs in general and Mormon doctrines in particular. Even Joseph Smith, the church’s founder, held that the laws of the universe (including the laws God presumably used to construct the universe from chaotic matter) were in principle open to human discovery. This was a heady concept for me, just learning to sort conjecture and assertion from evidence and conclusion.

By the time I started junior high school, I noticed discrepancies between what I was being taught in biology and physical science classes and what I was hearing in church. I watched in fascination as two students in seventh grade squared off in a debate on biological evolution and the evidence for it. One student cited the Bible as evidence that evolution could not be true. This perplexed me, since I had not heard people pitting religion against science in this way before. This classroom experience prepared me for the anti-science statements I began to notice in church classes and from the pulpit.

When I enrolled at BYU as a freshman in 1993, I was already skeptical of most of the church’s truth claims, since the church seemed tied to a literal interpretation of the scriptures and of its own founding events which clashed with the methods for gaining knowledge I had learned in school and through my extracurricular readings in science and philosophy. The anti-science rhetoric I heard on a weekly basis at church services, and sometimes on a daily basis in BYU courses, from religion professors who promoted everything from pseudoscientific evidence for the ancient origin of the Book of Mormon to creationist quibbling over outdated evidence for natural selection, annoyed me more and more.

Taking a course in the history and philosophy of science was one of the most intellectually stimulating experiences of my college career, and it took every ounce of mental nimbleness I possessed to navigate the triple threat of physics, history, and philosophy the class challenged me with. I read Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions and learned about the concept of a paradigm, a constellation of thought oriented towards solving intellectual problems. This gave me a vocabulary to describe the different mental universes I felt I was operating in. Reading or hearing negative statements about scientific discoveries in church and reveling in a NOVA episode on new evidence for the expansion of the universe since the Big Bang made more sense when I viewed them historically. Many church leaders were operating in a different paradigm from my own, a pre- or at best pseudo-scientific paradigm which allowed them to make dogmatic statements with no evidence needed to buttress their authority.

Recognizing that my views differ so radically from many, if not most, active church members and leaders on the concept of how knowledge is obtained and on the importance of objective evidence, I retreated into myself, sharing my thoughts with a few close friends and family. These conversations often did not turn out well. To borrow the phrase of a friend, it was like a logical rowboat going up against an emotional battleship. In order to find peace, I now modify my church activity to emphasize those activities that I feel good about, and minimize the aspects of church participation that clash with my conscience. Commenting on, and eventually blogging at Mormon Matters enabled me to connect to people going through similar social struggles. The community I discovered enabled me to stay in the Church in a healthy way.

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Jen Stockett


I have struggled with depression, anxiety, and eating disorders for most of my life. When I got married, I married a man that was physically, emotionally, and sexually abusive. I thought the LDS church had all the answers, and I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t happier. I assumed it was because I was a sinner… I tried to make myself perfect. Perfect in my mind meant meek, submissive, completely self-less and self-sacrificing. The harder I tried, the more suicidal I felt.

At 29, I started seeing a therapist, but I just couldn’t seem to get better. I had a close friend tell me to stop going to church. He could see that I would start to pull it together, and then I’d go to church and spend the rest of the week trying to recover. I talked to my bishop about it, and he actually agreed. Going to church was killing me.

I blamed myself. I felt so alone and lost.
I had another friend who was going through his own faith crisis at the time. His therapist gave him information about Mormon Stories. I watched John’s video titled, “Why People Leave…” I was upset that he didn’t even mention MY reasons for not going. So I emailed him, and he immediately added me to the Mormon Stories Discussion group on facebook.

I wasn’t alone. I could share my struggles and there were people there (day and night) who understood. They were supportive and friendly. It still brings me to tears today to think about… I FINALLY felt like I was going to be okay… I found a few close friends in that group. I talk to at least one of them daily. As I let myself feel anger at my life, Mormon Stories community gave me a place to express my anger. When I decided I wanted to talk to my family about where I was with the church, the community helped me to sort out my own thoughts and feelings.

I left the church, and I found peace. I don’t know where I would be today without the people I met through the Mormon Stories community. I don’t think about suicide anymore. It used to be something I dreamed of all day every day. I don’t struggle with an eating disorder. Once I let go of the expectations of others, that struggle just… kind of… went away. I feel sad sometimes. I feel worried sometimes. NOTHING like the depression anxiety I have battled for so long. I am also out of all abusive relationships.
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Jonee Woodward

After 40 years in the LDS faith, I left the only religion I had ever known due to scientific and historic issues that I read about in respected sources but had never been discussed within my years as a member of the church. I found that the teachings I had received growing up as well as things I had been teaching my children were flat wrong. I was devastated about the loss of faith but I felt I could no longer continue as a member of an organization that I felt had hidden so many things from me in what looked like an effort to keep me believing and paying tithes.

Once I left the church I felt so alone, my family are all active LDS and they could only see my choice as somehow leaving so I could sin. People in my neighborhood asked me if I had been offended by someone at church, as if somehow I could have only lost my testimony if I wanted to sin or if someone at church had looked at me the wrong way or said something that I took the wrong way. I was angry, bitter at the church, and lonely.

Listening to John Dehlin’s Mormon Stories podcast helped me find a community of people that I could relate to. In listening to his podcast and his guests, I developed a deeper appreciation for the Mormon culture I grew up in and a better understanding of why my family and neighbors were treating me the way they were. In addition, Mormon Stories helped me understand the doctrine and historical issues I had in a more complete light, help me understand why I felt some of the church’s doctrines were actually harmful to myself and my family and helped me move past the bitterness toward the church I was feeling.

A year later, I have mostly moved on past the hurt and enjoy the Mormon Stories podcast for the insight into Mormon culture it brings. My husband and I love listening to John’s podcasts separately and then discussing our different thoughts and our different take aways from each episode. I can now enjoy my cultural past without feeling the hurt and anger I associated with leaving the church and John Dehlin’s Mormon Stories podcasts were part of that healing process.
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John Anderson


My name is John Anderson. I grew up in Ogden, Utah. I served an LDS mission in Valencia Venezuela from 1999-2001. I attended Weber State University and I now teach 5-12 grade school in Salmon, Idaho.
I discovered Mormon Stories Podcast in an attempt to find anyone at all talking about healthy ways to live as a True Believing Mormon that is homosexual. I was in a place in my life where I didn’t seem to care if I woke up again the next morning. My spiritual life left so many questions unanswered and I really had very few people with whom I felt I could speak about things.

Upon listening to the podcasts, I remember feeling very relieved that there were folks out there who saw things as I do. I have been fortunate in the meantime to meet some sincere people and gain some friends who have similar views. I really feel now that I am strong enough to take on this journey. I am also glad that I have been able to maintain a good relationship with my family network and not allow our cultural heritage to become a division between us. I owe these blessings in all or in part to Mormon Stories and the rich nuanced views I have gained of my religion.

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Liz Opplet


I have struggled with the Church’s treatment of women for most of my life. Up until I was married I was generally able to put it on a shelf, but after getting married at 22 I found myself face-to-face with the fact that what I was told about being female was not what felt right for my life. I love my husband, but do not want children. I do not feel like a particularly nurturing person.I am ambitious and want advanced education and a career. I could no longer accept the reasons I’d been given for a male-only priesthood (men and women have different roles, women have motherhood and men have priesthood, women are more spiritual then men) or for the lack of discussion of Heavenly Mother (she needs to be protected, we have multiple Heavenly Mothers.) I was forced to realize that what felt right for my life and my strong adherence to feminism were not what my religion taught me was right.

I tried to force myself to accept the Church’s line about women, but couldn’t. It made me miserable, which made me feel guilty. Then I discovered Mormon Stories podcast and the Mormon feminist websites. The first interview I listened to was Tresa Edwards. As I listened to her story, I realized I wasn’t alone. She felt okay being herself, if that agreed with Mormon expectations or not. That was the first time it had occurred to me I didn’t need to feel guilty for wanting something different then to be a wife and mother. I could decide what my life and marriage would look like. I could trust my own relationship with God, which I’d never felt comfortable doing because it conflicted with what the church told me.

My realization, started by Mormons Stories, that I could trust my own relationship with God has led me to a position of semi-activity. Along the way I’ve had Mormon Stories interviews that have helped me make intelligent decisions. John has said multiple times that if leaving the church does not make you a better person, don’t leave. That has always been in my mind as I’ve worked through my anger. So instead of going off half-cocked, burning bridges and becoming bitter, I’ve made decisions I feel good about. Daymon Smith’s interview helped me decide to stop pay tithing, with John’s comment reminded me that that money could now go to causes i believed in. Carol Lynn Pearson and Joanna Brooks told me that I could keep parts of Mormonism; I didn’t have to give up all of it.

I am still in the process of determining my relationship with the church. John has helped me realize that I don’t have to make the decision at once, and that i can change my mind later. Leaving the church is a painful process that often leads to bitterness and destroyed relationships. Because of Mormons Stories, I had a community that made me feel less alone, helped me to make decisions based on my beliefs rather then anger, and helped to move slowly and carefully enough to preserve my marriage and family relationships. I’m sure that if I’d done this without a support community and access to information it would have been a much more damaging process for me and my family.

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