397-399: John Dehlin and Faith Reconstruction

292644_622849289099_301275819_nIn this three-part interview conducted by Sarah Collett of A Thoughtful Faith podcast we discuss:

  • My ups, downs, and ups with the church
  • The story behind the “Why Mormons Question” survey, including my interactions with a few church leaders
  • A discussion of the Daniel Peterson/Neil A. Maxwell institute incident last year
  • The reasons behind the discontinuation of the Mormon Stories conferences and communities
  • Interactions w/ my bishop and stake president over the past year
  • How and why I’ve returned to full activity in the church

Big thanks to Sarah and Micah for all of their hard work.

250 comments for “397-399: John Dehlin and Faith Reconstruction

  1. Rude Dog
    February 1, 2013 at 6:06 pm

    Oh my heck John! I’m sorry you felt you had to go back. I mean, I totally understand the good things the church brings to the lives of members including community, structure and the like, but in the end the church in not what it claims to be, or do you really now believe that God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ appeared to Jospeh Smith in 1820 near his home in Palmyra? I’ve not heard that yet. I hear and I get the pragmatic aspects, including the powerful draw of the church of one’s childhood, but to me the important question is: Is the church what it claims to be? If you had been raised Baptist, would you still pine to return to the Mormon church? Is your integrity served by belonging to an organization for organizational sake when this said organization’s self proclaimed mission is not to function first and foremost as a social structure, but to serve as the only vehicle to reach one’s potential before it’s defined God? It seems to me this may not be so important to you John, rather I’ve gathered that you are a warm human being full of love and feeling, if not to a fault. You have a propensity to empathy, especially for others, which I see personally as a fault as your burden is probably unnecessarily more than it should be. I believe you see the church as a shelter in the storm of human emotional need. I get it. But in the end, the church makes specific claims about reality that are just not true to which I promise you, the Mormon church has no more idea about some higher power humanity calls God than anyone else, and one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever come upon is the freedom to not believe in this entity at all.

    With that said I would be a horse’s ass if I didn’t say thanks for the incredible perspectives that I have thrilled to on your forum. I soared with Micheal Coe, Brian Dalton, James Nagel, Grant Palmer, and the many more that I wouldn’t have space to recognize. You were fair and balanced, and I was even glad that you always let me disagree with you if I felt so inclined. I came to your forum with my Atheism firmly established, and found no influence one way or another on my belief foundations, but found the information enriching, and helped me understand my history with more insight.

    Mormon Stories is about Mormons, not about John Dehlin. Belif does not rise or fall on John, it rises and falls on the evidence. To be honest, there is more damning detrimental evidence against the Mormon church outside of it’s structure and history, than what lies within, even though that’s pretty convincing/damning as well. Maybe the best thing John has done is let people of all doubting levels, from little doubters to full blown Atheists like myself say, I’m Mormon, I’m here, and I’ll contribute where and how I can. People have never frowned upon my disbelieving boat that pulls the young men and women, my disbelieving hammer and nails, my disbelieving back that hauls furniture to my disbelieving truck. My disbelieving snow shovel that clears a path of love to my believing neighbor. John, I’ve always felt a bunch of love coming from you, along with your annoying (smiley cute face here) need to believe and have community. Not all of us have that need nor wired to want such community. Don’t sell your integrity too far down the orthodox path. Come back every once in a while and regale us with your back in standing exploits, bitching just a little about your troglodyte of a Bishop who will chastise you and your wife and her immodest yet cute green tank top when you’re next intervewed.

    • M
      February 2, 2013 at 2:55 pm

      I’m new to this site. I can relate first hand to many of the questions of faith that I see here. However, I have to ask John as well as others here, is it possible that those who surrender their faith may have acted rashly? My early impression is that Bushman, Givens, Barlow etc have a sense or proportion and context that all could learn from.

      Also, I just listend to the Palmer interview. I’ve read Broadie, Bushman, Samuel Taylor, BH Roberts, etc. All accounts of the rise and fall of Nauvoo. I have to say, it seems to me that Palmer gives the most credibility to William Law of them all.

      Four separate individuals made affidavit before a justice of the peace that they were present in secret meetings where Law led a plot to murder Joseph. Surely Palmer is not ignorant to this. To me his failure to mention this is a real issue.

      John, you didn’t seem to pull any punches with the believers you interviewed. I have to say I didn’t see the same zeal with the interviews you did with Palmer, etc. Why was that?

      • Jeff S.
        February 3, 2013 at 1:48 pm

        Hey M, I’ve never heard of William Law’s plot to murder Joseph Smith. I did a quick google search and couldn’t find anything. Would you please point me to a link or reference?

        • M
          February 5, 2013 at 9:01 am

          I read it in BH Roberts’s book The Rise and Fall of Nauvoo. I’m away now but can give you chapter and page if later if you need. I belive the chapter is titled betrayal among the brothers or something close to that.

    • Connor Carpenter
      February 2, 2013 at 6:30 pm

      @ Rude Dog: I have a feeling you didn’t listen to the Podcast in full (especially Part 3). From the interview, John is now anything but professing to be now going down the “orthodox path”. When asked directly about what he thought about Joseph Smith, he didn’t profess belief in the 1st vision, but that the Restoration was valid as a group of people’s attempts to understand spirituality. John states MULTIPLE times in the interview that the Mormon church has one among many valid ideas about a higher power. You state that John returned to church for the organizational and social benefits, and while he may have advocated this view in the past, his return was clearly motivated by his spiritual and emotional needs more than anything (especially in his interviews with his stake president over the past year)

      If you want to ask John questions here, you should’ve made sure he didn’t answer them already in the podcast. Now, I would be interested to hear your opinion on the podcast once you actually listen to it.

      • February 2, 2013 at 9:33 pm

        Thanks, Connor.

        • Tyrion Lannister
          February 11, 2013 at 3:44 pm

          John, I understood the LOTR metaphor but I wasn’t the biggest fan of it and only because I have gotten so sick of LDS people treating any Star Wars/LOTR/Star Trek/Harry Potter series as if they were inspired of God and relate so well to the gospel. I don’t want my favorite series tainted with a different genre of fiction :) It took me out a little. I know that is a lame criticism but I had to get it off my chest. You’ve done a great job with the podcast over the years, and you have helped me a lot when I first struggled with the church. Being happy is what is most important and if the church brings you happiness than it is good, and it is a good organization. I suppose I can let the LOTR metaphor slide for all the good you have done for people.

  2. CLIFF S.
    February 1, 2013 at 8:24 pm

    I didn’t know until these 3 podcast, that you were experiencing such problems with the LDS authorities.I’m Realy sorry that you had to experience such controvercy.

    From listening to Mormon Stories over the past 2 years. i have NEVER
    thought you were disrespectfully to the LDS church.

    I was born into the LDS church and stayed A member for 50 + years
    But thru studying history,the bible, and comparing that to the bogus stories and doctorine I had been taught, i left.

    Now finding joy and peace from the grace of GOD.

    I hope you and you family find peace and love on you path.

  3. Brian
    February 1, 2013 at 9:53 pm

    Dear John,

    Good luck on this next leg of your journey. May you find peace and renewal of you soul, and may you and your family be as close as you have ever been. I see you as arriving at the point you hoped for from the beginning: your cries were heard, you concerns were validated, you now you can be in the church with everyone knowing where you stand, and you can retain the relationships that are inextricably tied to the church. That is a noble achievement, although the road you traveled to get there was so very long, hard and tortuous. Thank you for all that you have done for those on the fringe of Mormonism. I consider the money I contributed to Mormon Stories well spent. I ask you to please consider the following: please don’t make it sound like you came back to full activity because you realized that the problem was with you and not the church. When you say things like an angel was on one shoulder and a devil was on the other, and the angel was telling you to stay in the church, and the devil was telling you to leave, then that implies that I listened to the devil, which is what my family and friends think, which you and I know is not the case. It is impossible to chose the right words all of the time, but please don’t make it sound like you were in the grip of the adversary before and now you are not.

    May the road rise up to meet you.
    May the wind be always at your back.
    May the sun shine warm upon your face.
    Very truly yours,

    Brian Staley

    • February 1, 2013 at 11:26 pm


      I don’t think that I ever said that the angel told me to come back to church. That was my own decision. The angel/devil metaphor was used in relation to my battles with my own inner demons (pride, selfishness, etc.). I think I made it super clear in the interview that one can be good/noble in or out of the church.


  4. Joann
    February 2, 2013 at 12:36 am


    Thank you for all you’ve done! You said in the podcast that sometimes it makes you feel uncomfortable when people thank you, but I think it bears repeating that your work has been very important to many, many people. Though I can’t say its the decision I would have made, I completely respect and somewhat understand why you have chosen what you have.

    I do have one question though. You mentioned quite a few times the importance of emotion and spirituality–that you were ignoring those for too long, that you were spending too much energy intellectually and that you feel that you need to tap into your emotions and spirit etc.

    Could you clarify what you mean by that? What does it mean to you to “plug in” to one’s emotions or one’s spirituality?

    Thank you if you respond, and thank you for everything you’ve done, even if you don’t!

  5. Lostandlooking
    February 2, 2013 at 2:03 am

    John I wish you and your family the best. The podcasts have really helped me during my faith crisis. I hope that if you stop doing them that the current library will stay available for years to come for any who need help navigating this storm. I would never join the church if I were researching and investigating the full history. But it is so hard if one has grown up in it. There is such on hold on so many levels. It’s so hard to let it go and to make sense of why. It is hard to decide if it’s real or not. It seems like we are all in a paradox.

  6. Brad
    February 2, 2013 at 2:06 am

    This was a treat, John. Sometimes, the honest pursuit of truth and happiness leads one away from the LDS church. Sometimes, it leads one back. Its wonderful to hear our friend from so many years, who has led us all through an amazing (and sometimes wild) ride be so transparent.

    Thank you. Seriously. Thank you.

  7. Kathleen
    February 2, 2013 at 2:32 am

    Dear John,
    I am so happy that you have found a way to peace and more joy while still maintaining your honesty and integrity. It is also very encouraging to know that a person can have their own unique kind of “testimony”, be open and honest about it and still be wanted, loved and respected by their stake president. That’s as it should be. The Mormon church needs a lot more people like you who can help it hold on to it’s Big Beautiful Baby (the Gospel of Love) by throwing out all of it’s dark and dirty bath water. Everything has it’s opposites of light and darkness including people and organizations, no exceptions. Our job is to experience the contrast, learn, grow expand and have joy. You’ve done a great job of experiencing the contrast, learning, growing, expanding, feeling joy and sharing it all with us!

    I’m especially looking forward to the “No More Strangers” project or website you mentioned for our gay loved ones. I have a gay son who is a very bright light in my life. I feel that our gay children and youth are among the most innocent neglected members of our church, still fed with dark psychological rhetoric. If change really is possible or needed, the church’s approach or lack thereof has been very counter-productive.

    Thanks so much to you and your dear family for bring light where there has been much darkness. Sincerely, Kathleen

  8. Paul
    February 2, 2013 at 9:09 am

    John, I am taking a moment to share something with you. I hope you take a moment to acknowledge my efforts. Am I ‘laying a guilt trip on you’? Perhaps, but I am most confident that you truly *will enjoy* this TED presentation. The focus (for me) wasn’t about LGBT issues, but a metaphor for all our lives and journeys in life with regard to a multiplicity of ‘complicated’ issues and situations (and yours came to mind).

    – Paul

    iO Tillett Wright: Fifty shades of gay


  9. February 2, 2013 at 11:49 am

    This was hard to listen to at times because of the pain and regret you felt, John, but its beautiful moments outshone those. This was a great interview, thank you for your honesty and openness!

  10. Dave
    February 2, 2013 at 11:50 am

    One cannot pretend to believe a myth once it has been revealed as such.
    I believe it will be a difficult thing to be in such close association with those whose eyes have not yet been opened and who still fully embrace the church narrative. One can go along to get along, thinking that through negotiating the terms of ones involvement in the church some greater good will be accomplished. Again, honesty is sacrificed for what is supposed or thought to be some greater good. It is, in my opinion, a compromise that is extremely difficult and will evaporate in time due to the internal conflict that it will create. Faith is wonderful when supported by the evidences, not lies and concealment. It does not trump honesty and never can.

  11. jan phillips
    February 2, 2013 at 2:50 pm

    John and Margie,
    Thanks for sharing your life with us.
    I went to the Salt Lake Mormon Stories Conference last year to support my husband. The stories shared made such an impact on me. It seems that I have thought of one or the other almost everyday since. Hopefully by their sharing,and my trying to understand I can become a better Mormon. Thanks to all of you that were willing so share something so personal.
    And John,thanks to introducing me to people like Terel Givens and reintroducing me to Carolynn Pearson, and more. Such great and loving minds!
    John,I will miss the sound of your voice coming from my husband’s office. I wish you the best with your quieter life. Together you and Margie will go on to do new great things.
    Best of luck, and as by Catholic friend used to tell me…God Bless.

  12. February 2, 2013 at 4:54 pm

    This episode has been a real eye opener. Thanks for your candor, brother.

  13. jpv
    February 3, 2013 at 12:13 am

    It’s a great time for the Church with John back: progress on the mormonsandgays.com website,
    Oliver’s Rod addressed on LDS.org
    and even the peep stone transalation in the Ensign ( http://www.lds.org/ensign/2013/01/great-and-marvelous-are-the-revelations-of-god )

    • Terry Anderson
      February 3, 2013 at 2:27 pm

      Thanks jpv. Awesome links. Will pass onto my friends and family.

  14. Jim
    February 3, 2013 at 7:12 am

    Hi John,

    I’ve thought for a while that you continuing to do all those podcasts was going to lead to more pain and suffering because you just weren’t going to get the answers you were looking for. The church is what it is. I do think you realised just in time that it was destroying you and your family relationships. Perhaps you came to realise that finding religious truth is almost impossible, but at least following the Mormon version gets you back your family relationships, and has shown it has a few understanding leaders at the stake/GA levels.

    From my own perspective, it’s really hard to find a good alternative to Mormonism once it has become ingrained into your psyche. I like aspects of eastern religions, especially Buddhism, but each sect is at best an approximation of the “truth”. So it’s just this constant open-minded search and maybe that’s ok.

    Maybe you’re the smart one John. Maybe approaching Mormonism mainly from the emotional/spiritual perspective, in terms of relationships and personal growth through service, is the key to happiness, and just set to one side the discovery that the historical/doctrinal story is just a fairytale. You’ve seen that for you the institution has some value.

    I’m still in that decision process. Thanks for your perspective.


    • Tyrion Lannister
      February 11, 2013 at 3:52 pm

      I think the reason it is hard for many people to find an alternative is because the church so heavily ingrains in people from 3 years old and up that it is the only true church on earth, and all others are false. When you lose faith in the only true church you don’t know what to do, and atheism seems like the only logical possibility. I think if the “one true church” position was not so heavily pushed and ingrained in people it would be easier to find other faiths or even come back some day.

  15. Cindy
    February 3, 2013 at 2:20 pm

    What is the Larson Interview that they keep referring to?

  16. Sam
    February 3, 2013 at 8:13 pm

    Here’s to Mormon palooza 2015. It will be like burning man but instead let’s burn an empty business suit in effigy. I for one am looking forward to presenting a paper on the relationship between panspermia and Adam-God 😉

    Thanks John for all you do and have done.


  17. Steve
    February 3, 2013 at 9:39 pm


    It’s obvious from your many statements over the last several years that you know Mormonism is based upon a pack of lies which the LDS Church still actively sponsors by, among other things, sending out 50,000 or so innocent, naive missionaries to spread the lies and actively suppresses and conceals the truth about its history because the Church knows the truth will be devastating to its power and wealth. How you can justify in your own mind aiding and abetting this huge fraud baffles me. Your mental gymnastics would do a pretzel proud. Truth will inevitably suffer, which is really one of the principal legacies of Mormonism. Good luck to you as you reenter fantasyland.

    • Connor Carpenter
      February 4, 2013 at 12:49 am

      John makes it pretty clear in the podcast that he doesn’t believe objectively in a lot of the claims of the Church. I don’t see any crazy mental gymnastics in the reasoning he has put forth – he has concluded that he feels that the Church experience is spiritually and emotionally nourishing to him and to others, and that that outweighs the negative aspects of the Church.

      It’s definitely not a decision that everyone would or should make, but from what I gather, it’s the choice between allowing either his happiness and health, or the truth, to inevitably suffer. It’s not that complicated. It’s a utilitarian approach that should be respected as a rational decision.

      • Tyrion Lannister
        February 11, 2013 at 3:59 pm

        Connor, I know you want to be a cheer leader for John and defend him but your comments are not helpful at all. You are not understanding this from others point of view (this is clear from your insensitive comments). A lot of people on here looked to John as an example, and an anchor. This podcast can easily give someone the feeling that John has abandoned all he said before and gone back on what he did. Now I am not saying that is what he did, but you have to realize it is very easy for that to be portrayed from these podcasts. John going back to church is the equivalent of an apostel leaving the church, it would shake a lot of people up. Stop looking at these comments from your opinion and start trying to see how these people feel and why they would post something like that, otherwise you are not being helpful.

        • Connor Carpenter
          February 11, 2013 at 6:56 pm

          @ Tyrion:
          I’m sorry if you found my comments insensitive, but I really cannot figure out how you would make that conclusion. Might I add that I have been an avid listener of John’s over the past year, and also looked to him as an example (if not necessarily an anchor)? And that seeing his ability to return to the Church gave me hope that I might somehow be able to overcome my own problems with the Church, and do the same? This was a hopeful message to me. Maybe you should consider that there are many people, avid followers of John’s work, that would also find comments such as Steve’s to be unhelpful. Still, I wouldn’t recommend that Steve just keep his opinions to himself (as you suggested to me). That kind of defeats the purpose of the internet, right?

          If anyone was hurt from my comment that it seemed to me that John had some valid, personal reason to return to Church despite all the problems he encountered in the past, I apologize, but I honestly can’t understand why anyone would find that offensive at all.

  18. Eric Carlson
    February 4, 2013 at 1:08 am

    John, I hope you are able to enjoy some time with your family. You have had a very significant impact on my life and appreciate the time and effort you have given over the years.

    I do take issue with one of your statements though. You say to either make the church work or find something else to do. The problem for me is that what I discovered in my faith journey is that I don’t care for faith at all. I don’t crave the emotional/spiritual stuff and so I have no place to go back to in the church. And yet my wife if fully committed and so I truly am stuck in the middle unless I want to totally destroy my life. And the church will continue to treat me as defective (no going to my kids weddings, etc.) even if I do my best to fit in. So maybe if you decide to keep Mormon Stories going you can dedicate it to those of us who are being held hostage to the middle way, not just staying there to try to goad others but truly having no other good choices.

    Thanks again for your service.

    • Gail K
      February 4, 2013 at 1:24 am

      Eric, I can relate to this. I have 11 children and have only been to 2 of their weddings, BEFORE I answered the first 4 questions as to whether I have faith in and a testimony of … with a no and was refused a TR. There are many things that make my experience very very very hard to stay in the church and BE happy or GO and BE happy. I am NOT the head of my family, my husband is, as per the LDS teachings. I have a generous husband and he does NOT bother me into going BUT he is NOT going have the children NOT go. thus I am stuck in the middle by choice of staying married and with my kids. Not a fun place when the church shows up at the minimum twice a week but weekdays during school as well, I have two seminary students. Anyway, you are NOT alone in this Eric and I do get what you are saying you have trouble with.

      • Eric Carlson
        February 4, 2013 at 5:32 pm

        Thanks Gail. Yes, very similar feelings. I have always enjoyed life but I know this feeling of being stuck has affected my ability to be joyful and positive around my family. I hope we can find a solution or at least better ways to cope!

    • February 4, 2013 at 5:07 am


      Thanks so much for the thoughtful email. I totally understand the pain/difficulty of your position, and will continue to do everything that I can to keep helping out where I can.

      So sorry for the pain. Hang in there, brother…and let’s collaborate on a podcast series if you’d like.


      • Eric Carlson
        February 4, 2013 at 5:36 pm

        John I’m flattered that you would offer me a chance to collaborate. Not sure what I could contribute but I would certainly be willing to give it a shot. You have my email so feel free to contact me.

  19. Paul
    February 4, 2013 at 3:28 am

    Steve commented on 397-399: John Dehlin and Faith Reconstruction.
    “How you can justify in your own mind aiding and abetting this huge fraud baffles me.”

    I just finished reading a 42 page booklet entitled ‘The First Vision: The Joseph Smith Story’ written by Jim Whitefield (also found on http://www.themormondelusion.com). I’ve read a lot of books on Mormonism, being those adamantly ‘anti-Mormon’, those that are marginally so, and the apologetic ones. After reading this particular booklet, though, which posited very clear and succinct facts to support the FACTS that the Mormon church is, at the very least, not what it claims to be, I came to this conclusion:

    After an in depth study of the facts, the only way I could ever justify being an active, participating member of the Mormon church would be to set aside the ample evidences in support of the fact that it was initially based upon a fraud perpetrated by Joseph Smith (and possibly, if not even probably, others as well), and just accept the Mormon church as it is *now*, which could mean that it is a safe and congenial place to associate with the type of people I enjoy associating with, and the moralistic and other aspects of the church in which to spend time in and raise a family, is appealing.

    I might also add that while listening to, no doubt, all of the MS podcasts these past years, the impression that I got of John Dehlin on many occasions was that he presents himself as a troubled spirit, or in fact, even a ‘dark’ one. However, regardless of my impressions of JD, I think it’s pretty clear (to me, at least) that he has become exhausted slaying dragons–dragons that will continue to pupate ad infinitum, so he has decided to retire to a safe ‘cave’ and one that he feels at home and happy in.

    A long time ago when JD said that he was terminating or turning MS over to someone else to run, I wrote to him and said to ‘let it go gently into the night’. He didn’t take that advise (perhaps because he was incapable, or not ready to do that then). Anyway, just like you can’t put old heads on young shoulders, I think he now realizes that he again has come to somewhat the same juncture in his life, only this time there is more collateral damage, which is unfortunate for some people.

  20. Steve
    February 4, 2013 at 2:42 pm

    Connor says he doesn’t see any “crazy mental gymnastics” in John’s reasoning. Let me see if I can point out some. If I understand John correctly, he thinks it is highly unlikely that there is a God, but he thinks it is just as unlikely that all of this is just randomness (evolution doesn’t teach randomness”), so he chooses to live his life as if there is a God. Fair enough. John further states that he thinks it is highly unlikely that Jesus lived and was resurrected, but that he considers Jesus to be his personal savior because of many teachings (not all) that John values and have helped him in his life. But this is just a play on words because that is not at all what Christianity means by the term “savior.” John then says that he believes Joseph Smith was a prophet despite the many lies that John acknowledges Joseph told on everything from duping people into paying him money for treasure digging (he never found anything) to the first vision to the angel Moroni to the Golden Plates to the rock in the hat translation of the Book of Mormon to the angelic restoration of the priesthoods to the angel with drawn sword who threatened Joseph with death if he did not practice polygamy to the Book of Abraham to the Kirtland Bank to the Kinderhook Plates and on and on and on. If I understand correctly, John believes that to the extent Joseph did good he was inspired by God to do so. John further states that he sees no evidence that Joseph did anything fraudulently. I call this mental gymnastics. It is beyond me how one who understands that Joseph was a serial liar whose lies all were aimed at increasing his power, position, sexual pleasure and/or wealth could have thought he was in communication with God and was just doing what God commanded. What kind of God is that? Did Joseph really believe that God told him that the Church was to build the mansion house and give Joseph and his posterity a suite of rooms on the upper floor forever and ever? You call it what you want. I call it bat crazy. I hope John can keep his integrity and sanity in the Church.

    • February 4, 2013 at 2:44 pm

      Steve – You stated, “John further states that he sees no evidence that Joseph did anything fraudulently.”

      Can you please show me where I ever said this?

      • Steve
        February 4, 2013 at 4:49 pm

        Hi John,

        I was referring to comments you made in part 3 of your interview on Mormon Stories. I went back and listened to part of this again. You stated, among other things, that you did not believe there was anything to indicate that the Book of Mormon was a fraud, that the Book of Abraham was inspired and that you believed Joseph was a prophet, using that term loosely to apply to other great men like Buddha and Mohammed and others, who you honored and respected although he was in many respects flawed, sometimes seriously flawed. My take away from this is that if you did not believe the Book of Mormon is a fraud even though it is clearly a 19th century work of fiction that Joseph tried to palm off as ancient sacred scripture and that the Book of Abraham was inspired even though it is a complete fraud and that you honor and respect Joseph, you don’t believe he intended to deceive in any of his lies. If I have misunderstood your views as to whether Joseph committed fraud with respect to any of his numerous lies, I would appreciate it if you could set me straight. Thanks.

      • Eric Carlson
        February 5, 2013 at 9:30 pm

        Steve, I think the critical thing here is that John has stated that he is in the middle of reconstructing faith. Faith has nothing to do with facts. Let it go my friend!

        • Eric Carlson
          February 6, 2013 at 8:33 am

          Certainly John is the last one to need me or anyone else to be his defender but on the flip side of that does he need you to be his inquisitor? I will say a little more, not just on John’s behalf but on behalf of myself and many others who are also stuck in this no man’s land where there doesn’t seem to be any position that satisfies all of our needs. What I hear John saying is that he is at a point right now where something a guy did with a peep stone a couple hundred years ago is less important than letting his boy enjoy a pinewood derby with his buddies without feeling like a freak show because his dad is “one of those guys.” John has made a very public statement that he is changing his approach to Mormonism and at the same time has made it clear that he is not reverting to complete orthodoxy. Reading between the lines it seems obvious to me that that means he is willing to overlook some of Joseph Smith’s more unsavory characteristics and instead focus on some of the positive things that have come out of the church, at least for the moment. John, forgive me if I have misstated anything on your part but this reflects some of my own thinking as well.

  21. Rebecca Cengiz-Robbs
    February 4, 2013 at 7:29 pm

    John, I love this site and what it has done for me in the past six months. I just want you to know I think you’re a wonderful person and I’ll keep sending my monthly donation!

  22. Rude Dog
    February 4, 2013 at 10:27 pm

    The loss of a little integrity is small potatoes in regards to quelling the deeper despairs of the soul.

    I, like you, have a hard time understanding why discarding illusions and standing as one’s own true Sun as Karl Marx articulated, is perceived by some a non-fulfilling condition. Staying with Marx, Religion, our Mormon church brings an illusory happiness, and to give up this illusion is a call to give up the condition that requires illusions. In our depressed communities across this country, one can always find an abundance of churches and bars, both fulfilling the exact same need.

    One thing Mormon Stories helped with is to expose or “pluck the flowers from the chain” of religion, “not so that we will bear the chain without consolation, but so that we shall throw off the chain and cull the living flower”. It seems a hard step, that last one, to throw off the chain because it is such a comforting illusory blanket in this modern society which, as our religion’s spritual fruit always reminds us, seems scary, unpredictable, evil, fallen, wicked, and unworthy. So off we go to quell this vale of tears to which religion is the halo, looking, as it is uniquely built into our psyche to accept bad explanation over no explanation, and acceptance and community over solitude. I personally cannot abide the dissonant buzz that comes with two dichotomous thoughts in my head. Some people are okay with it. Maybe John is one of them, and can live a dichotomous philosophy within a philosophy (only true and living church? BoM most correct book?).

    It truly is not truth and light. It is doubt and darkness. It hurts people, it promotes un-truths, distorts impugns reality. Nobody ever said non-belief would be easy in our belief soaked and geared psyches, but instead of looking at disaffection as the end and “where’s my happiness reward star”, maybe when we make the herculean step of truly throwing off the illusory chain, then that’s truly only the start, the start of the culling of the living flower.

  23. Truthseeker
    February 5, 2013 at 6:50 am

    Welcome back bro! I am one of the atheists who remains in the pews out of devotion to my wife. While I can be cordial with other members, I just can’t stand paying my dues (tithing) or allegiance (temple recommend interviews) to an organization based on a mythological history we are expected to tell people we “know” is true when I know it isn’t. I wish you were in my ward. It would actually give me a reason to hang around after sacrament meeting to listen to your commentary. I am too annoyed to sit there and would feel too despised to comment during the lessons when I know my contribution would be unwelcome. I haven’t had to deal with the toughest mormon encounters in my future: the baptism of my children, dealing with their indoctrination, respectfully educating them before they make a choice about a mission, and possibly having to sit out their weddings. As you indicated you are now dealing with some of those issues, I am most interested in any way you could expound on what you are doing – intending to do. As of the moment, I plan to turn the baptisms over to my father-in-law, though my bishops have been so laid back they will probably let me do without interviewing me. I’ve heard you have to have a temple recommend for the confirmation though. I would also like to hear how you deal with the daily indoctrination at seminary without affronting your significant other (though it sounds like you have been blessed not to deal with that problem). For the future of your podcast, I am putting a vote in for an interview with Kristine Haglund and Brent Metcalfe. They both had interesting stories and left me wishing, but left me wishing for one of your in-depth interviews. Keep your head up, I have enjoyed your journey by proxy!

  24. A Friend
    February 5, 2013 at 10:30 am


    Appreciate the latest podcast. I’ve listened to others in the past and they have been a boon to my faith, reconciled many questions I had. Felt I was in good company with open-minded, thoughtful members of the Church. Glad to hear your journey has taken you back to the faith. Will be staying tuned, I appreciate your sincerity and efforts.

  25. Husky
    February 5, 2013 at 4:50 pm

    John, the fact that you wish to remain a cultural Mormon is not something I have a problem with, but the fact that you refused to air the Phillips interview because it would make your leadership uncomfortable (or threaten your church membership) shows a bit of duplicity on your part don’t you think. Facts should never be hidden regardless of how uncomfortable it makes someone. If calling something “sacred” in religion is all one needs to do to make it taboo to expose then I can imagine allot of Catholic priest who would have loved to call thier counseling of young boys something that was “very sacred”.

  26. Alison
    February 5, 2013 at 6:04 pm

    Your insights and experience were very interesting to listen to. You were honest and open about very personal things as you walked us all through your experiences. It’s not often in the church that we are given the opportunity to listen to someone share their doubts and faith crisis this openly and I believe it’s very helpful to others. It allows us to hear your experience and reflect for ourselves on our own journey. My impression is you have a great desire to embrace the concepts of love, service, compassion and charity toward others and you’ve recognized you can find those in the church despite questions about the historical accuracy/truth of the restoration and certain doctrinal issues. You are choosing to embrace the positive aspects of the church and how those are helping you personally make life choices and feel happy and fulfilled. You seem to be embracing a very open, loving concept of religious faith and spirituality in whatever form that takes someone. Some may feel that their efforts to do this need to happen outside of the church due to various reasons and you seem supportive and validate that, which emulates the love that you talk about. A big part of someone’s decision has to do with their community and family involvement in the church and the realization that leaving the church will cause estrangement and hurt. These are difficult decisions to make. As someone searching for healthy, positive spiritual answers and leaning outside the church after 45 years of being a member I appreciate your experience and the things you have learned along your journey. I wish you and your family the best and hope that you are able to continue your podcasts in a way that feels fulfilling to you. I have enjoyed listening to them as I work my way through my faith transition.

  27. February 5, 2013 at 11:10 pm


    Thanks for what I perceive to be a heartfelt and open discussion about your journey. I appreciate what you have done and hope you find fulfillment and peace in your decision.

    I do wonder why you chose to return to Mormonism when you felt that the church has misrepresented itself in so many ways. I understand that you have faith in God, and feel that Christ has helped you on your journey, but it seems that the rest of your testimony is not a typical one. Why did you choose to return to Mormonism instead of joining a faith community where your theological and doctrinal beliefs are more accepted?

  28. Joseph McKnight
    February 7, 2013 at 10:30 am

    John and Sarah: Thank you both for these interviews. I don’t think anyone realizes how many Mormons are in similar positions as John’s, tenuously balancing our Mormon lives against our minds. After listening to most of the interview, I say again and again, thank you, John, for what groundwork you have laid. My balancing act is very closeted, or at least I feel like I’m in a closet, hiding from the real truths. I let in little bits of sunlight into the closet when I try to convince my family members of little bits of truth that come up during our religious discussions. But, if I could really choose, probably like so many others, I’d just abandon the whole religion in favor of another kind. I am not at all as openly honest with my local leaders and that is a very disquieting position, but John’s journey seems at least as rough. I hope to be at peace some day with it. Thank you both again!

  29. Mike
    February 11, 2013 at 9:03 am


    I enjoyed listening to your story and I appreciate all the interviews you have done over the years. I was in Sunday school yesterday and we read a passage from D&C 11 and I was wondering if you had read this recently. To me it sounds like maybe you recognized that for you this “Spirit” is easier to hold onto in the church than out.

    12 And now, verily, verily, I say unto thee, put your trust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good—yea, to do justly, to walk humbly, to judge righteously; and this is my Spirit.

    13 Verily, verily, I say unto you, I will impart unto you of my Spirit, which shall enlighten your mind, which shall fill your soul with joy;

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