Moving Forward

February 26, 2013
By

Mormon-Stories-Logo-LargeStephen Smoot of the Student Review recently asked me to comment on the Greg Smith article.  This was my response to Stephen, and it is the only public thing I plan on saying about the affair going forward.

========

Stephen,

I think my biggest regret in this whole ordeal is that I’ve allowed myself to be become a distraction to the real issue: that there are thousands of sincere LDS church members and former members who are struggling with their faith and/or their church-related experiences.  I believe that they are in desperate need of greater empathy and support, and that they should be our collective focus.

I have no substantive response to Greg Smith’s article, other than to say that as I move forward with Mormon Stories, it will be with a renewed commitment to constructive dialogue centered around helping those in need.

Thanks for inquiring.

John Dehlin

P.S.  For a fabulous review of Greg Smith’s article by “Rollo,” click here.  And for a fabulous response to Greg Smith’s criticisms of Rollo’s review, click here.

74 Responses to Moving Forward

  1. February 26, 2013 at 9:58 pm

    Very kind John. Good job.

    mike

  2. February 26, 2013 at 10:14 pm

    That is the high road and the reason I have so much respect for Mormon Stories.

  3. Jeralee
    February 26, 2013 at 10:14 pm

    Perfect! Amen.

  4. james
    February 26, 2013 at 10:17 pm

    John, there will always be a place for you outside, in this great mystery of uncertainty. Where Dr. Coe tells wonderful stories under real stars. Where those once stifled in a musty tent of fear and loathing can breathe in the fresh night air. I’ve been rooting for you, like Atreyu, as you too battle The Nothing. Although to be honest I’m worried about the swamp of sadness. Please don’t turn MormonStories into a mouthpiece for the uptrodden…they have enough greg-like word-offending voices. The downtrodden need you, please don’t “help us” by making us listen inside the tent.

  5. Randy
    February 26, 2013 at 10:25 pm

    I am fascinated how we try to construct or deconstruct complex rationalizations which have at their foundation the mystical and supernatural, when simple, straightforward evidence is all around us – and, we might see, if we stop, look and listen to it.
    Reality is right there staring us in the face and it continues to SIMPLY BE, despite our best efforts to fabricate alternative, very convoluted explanations. Why does reality induce such fear in us that we fantasize so frantically?

  6. Michelle
    February 26, 2013 at 11:15 pm

    A very classy response to a very below-the-belt “hit piece” by Greg Smith. Kuddos!

  7. Jordan H
    February 26, 2013 at 11:19 pm

    This couldn’t have been said any better.

  8. Tom Haws
    February 26, 2013 at 11:25 pm

    John, I can’t tell you how dismayed I was to land at Greg Smith’s article and find that I wasn’t able to read even past its title if I valued my own tenuous tenancy in the land of productivity and healing. Landing on this page to find your earnest and exemplary reply was a type of restoration. Big loves to you, brother.

  9. Mayan Elephant
    February 26, 2013 at 11:53 pm

    Jon, you have my support. Please refrain from judging the exmormons. just go on with all available integrity you can muster for yourself.

  10. Jef
    February 27, 2013 at 2:12 am

    So I read all 70 pages. It was as boring as sacrament meeting. I did understand that John declined somehow went back in time and altered history introducing unanswerable questions and being a psychologist is probably controlling our minds.

    Back to reality. Hasn’t it been an amazing trip to see how one man has had to reconstruct his entire belief system? How he has tried to help others when he was finding his way? Very different from the ” what do you mean you didn’t know he put a rock in a hat to translate the Book of Mormo? Every good member knows that. It’s published by the church every 15 years in some obscure article no one reads”

    Keep it up man, love the ride

  11. Drew Emmick
    February 27, 2013 at 3:17 am

    John,

    You continue to be the great example of true understanding and love that I have deeply admired over the years. Thank you.

  12. Simon in Oz
    February 27, 2013 at 3:58 am

    It is great to see that you still have your eyes on the ball John. The attack apologists are so focussed on the man that they have lost sight of the game. I hope that one day Greg Smith feels the shame he ought to feel for the unprofessional dross he has just published.

  13. square peg
    February 27, 2013 at 5:35 am

    Your response was perfect and simple, just as it should be. I’m sorry you have to endure criticism just for trying to offer support and empathy to those struggling. Your focus is exactly where it needs to be.

  14. Mary Vogwell
    February 27, 2013 at 5:37 am

    Well done. The perfect response.

  15. February 27, 2013 at 6:57 am

    Thanks for posting this, John! Very classy response. I look forward to more podcasts.

  16. February 27, 2013 at 8:25 am

    BTW, I should mention I’ve sent you 5 Myths link to several of my extended Mormon family because they don’t have a clue how to feel about people like us. I don’t know if anyone of them has read it. They’ve said they will when they get time. Time…you know that most scarce commodity for an active Mormon.

  17. February 27, 2013 at 8:28 am

    Hmm. Don’t know what happened here, but I don’t see my first comment. I wanted to thank you for Mormon Stories which I’ve followed during my Year of Cancer. I started a blog last week to save my sanity and my latest post is my very own Mormon story about growing up in Cajun Louisiana before the internet. http://algonquinonthebayou.blogspot.com/2013/02/the-world-cracks-open.html

  18. February 27, 2013 at 8:32 am

    Thank you, John. Your sincerity and goodness has been a strength to many, including me, time and time again.

  19. Michael Taylor
    February 27, 2013 at 9:05 am

    I don’t think you could have said it any better. Thanks, John. And thank you for the “renewed commitment to constructive dialogue centered around helping those in need.” All the best to you!

  20. February 27, 2013 at 9:14 am

    John, you are trying to walk a fine line here, and it is appreciated. I consider myself an outsider, both with the MS community and the Church, but have tried to give my questioning Mormon friends an example of a disaffected Mormon who still has faith in Christ. So, I understand the fine line you are trying to walk.

    The article compares you to Jerald and Sandra Tanner, and while I appreciate both of your efforts, I think this comparison is a gross over generalization of both of your activities and positions. What I admire most about your podcasts is your fairness and your attempts to bring out both sides on a position. Keep up the good work. Your response was classy and the best you could do given the circumstances.

  21. Hancock Jr.
    February 27, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    John,

    Let me preface this comment by saying that I appreciate the respectful way that you handled the interview with my father, Ralph Hancock. It was clear that you view many things differently than he does, but you allowed him to speak freely and to lay out his understanding of Mormonism and more. I know that the two of you could share a cordial (probably even friendly) meal together at any time, and this is the type of relationship I believe all civilized folks (especially members of the Church) should be able to have despite their differences of opinion.

    Regarding your reaction to the Greg Smith article: I certainly agree with you that “thousands of sincere LDS church members and former members [...] are struggling with their faith and/or their church-related experiences [...] they are in desperate need of greater empathy and support.” I do not know Greg Smith, but I sincerely believe he feels the same way you do on this point. The question becomes how to best support and help those in need. To be frank, it is hard to put one’s finger on whether you are more interested in leading folks back into the Church or rather helping them leave it as “smoothly” as possible. I believe the whole Mormon Stories effort–from what I can tell, anyway (I have but limited experience with the podcasts)–seems to hinge on an exaggerated dedication to (perceived) neutrality/objectivity/avoiding judgment (not just of people, which I agree with, but of principles, which I disagree with). There are some questions in life which are not neutral, and leaning one way or the other is not like picking chocolate ice cream over vanilla. To me, this is the problem with the general Mormon Stories vibe. I *appreciate* the charity/empathy thrust, which I sense (from you, at least–but certainly not from many of your followers) is sincere and heartfelt; however, I am convinced that the “it doesn’t matter which way you decide–in or out of the Church” vibe is *not* in fact helping and supporting these members in need–rather, it is hurting them right when they need the most support to cling to true principles despite having doubts and questions left unanswered. This is where I believe apologetics can play a helpful role (and yes, it must be done in a positive way… but honestly, I am not familiar with any ad hominem-style Mormon apologetics that I keep reading about on the left-leaning blogosphere). I’ll close this rather wordy comment with a quote from the rock band Rush: “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.”

    • Rude Dog
      February 28, 2013 at 9:55 am

      The reason why many here are not “with” you on your shortsighted, glancing critique of Mormon Stories, is because most here are way ahead of you. I would venture to say that many if not most of the regulars that participate in this tiny community are not struggling with whether or not the Mormon church is what it claims to be i.e., “only true” (being true being led through revelation by living prophets and apostles and personal revelation to individual), “and living church” (living by what one would have to assume the priesthood and church structure administering the saving ordinances), “upon the face of the earth” as we find this claim, in the face of reality, to be almost impossible. Many of us here are beyond belief, what we are trying to do is find peace, love, common ground and place with our spouses, our families. Find common ground and place with our history, our culture, our heritage, and be the best non-believing wives and husbands, moms and dads, brothers and sisters to our families, the best non-believing members of our respective communities, and the best non-believing participants this unique religion has ever had grace their believing pews.

      I have criticized John, agreed with John, praised him when the subject is to my liking, and endured opinions different than mine. Your comment that we are “followers” of John is insulting. We come here for community. I come here as much to connect with like minded thinkers as I do for the subject matter at hand, because I stay, even when the subject matter is not to my liking, like your Father’s opinion, which many of us had to gratingly endure. Your criticism of the some times bombasitc followers of Mormon Stories while searching for criticism for the apologetics dynamic that we “left leaners” seem to recognize, speaks to your worldview, a worldview that I find limiting.

      I love the quote you gave at the end of your comments. The only problem with it is that many of us have already made the decision you are referring to, and are frankly beyond religious treatises and are on to more important, integrity/relational decisions. It’s not the decision regarding the truth of the church, it’s the decision on how to proceed now that we have discovered the reality of our nature and position in the grand scheme of things. Galileo was in trouble mostly because he dared posit that mankind may not be the center of the God designed universe. Darwin I believe is villainized by the religious for the exact same thing, positing that we may not be the center of life and purpose. We as Mormons wake up fresh to the day with assurance in our hearts that the universe, the republic, the saving ordinances and immutable views and singular insights of grand question of God are ours by valiancy in the pre-existence, decreed and gifted by fiat at our birth. I decided “no” to this Hancock Jr., I’ll give my life meaning the old fashioned way, through hard work and study, and by making my life meaningful through being a meaningful person to my wife, my kids, my community, and my friends at the church of my childhood. I’ll still mend rooves, shovel drives, move furniture, participate with the youth, weed flower-beds, and can peaches at the storehouse if you’ll let me. I won’t bite on Joseph, BoM, temples nor prop 8 hate, to which Mormon Stories presents the proposterous idea that I don’t have to accept yet can still serve and participate (although with some obvious limitations) with this community. What say you?

      • Scott
        March 6, 2013 at 12:01 am

        Amen Brother!

      • Jeff
        March 10, 2013 at 10:28 am

        And Amen!

  22. Randal Young
    February 27, 2013 at 1:29 pm

    Hancock Jr.,
    Mormon Podcasts hasn’t been “neutral”. It isn’t about not making a choice. Rather it has attempted an honest and respectful look at the historical, scriptural (including Book of Abraham), and social issues that honest sincere and fact seeking Mormons are confronting more and more. I believe John has done a pretty good job of making that happen. He is one of those who has struggled with these challenges.

  23. Hancock Jr.
    February 27, 2013 at 1:39 pm

    Randal,

    Thank you for your take.
    “Mormon Podcasts hasn’t been “neutral”. It isn’t about not making a choice.” So does MoSto in general advocate staying in the Church or leaving it?

    • Randal Young
      February 27, 2013 at 2:42 pm

      I can’t really speak for Mormon Stories as to whether or not they advocate one or the other, but my experience of John Dehlin is that he is about supporting the person to be clear about the facts and issues and does not have an agenda. Clearly, many of his guests do have a clear perspective one way or the other. My take on your messages is that you are on the side of “supporting” people back into activity and that any attempt to do otherwise is “wrong” or contrary to God’s will. If that is your agenda, then clearly Mormon Stories does not support that. In fact, my experience of John is that he supports people in their journey and does not have an agenda one way or the other. Apparently, he has decided to be active in the Church despite or because of the questions he has with the Church and its history. To me this is an honest approach. Apologetics by its very nature has an agenda where scientific honesty does not. Scientific honesty appeals to me and apologetics not so much although I do consider some apologetic work fairly honest.

    • February 28, 2013 at 11:22 am

      Mormon Stories doesn’t advocate.

    • Jonathan Cannon
      February 28, 2013 at 11:41 am

      If you listen to what John says frequently throughout his podcasts, Mormon Stories advocates that people find peace and happiness, and trusts that they are the best judges of what brings them that peace and happiness. It trusts people when they say they are happiest in the Church (as John himself has currently chosen), and when they say they are happiest out of the Church. I fail to see how advocacy must be for or against an institution. It can be for individuals and thus encompass a much more complex spectrum of results.

  24. Steve In Millcreek (SIM)
    February 27, 2013 at 3:03 pm

    John,

    Much conversation surrounds FARMS’ restaffing, the content of Greg Smith’s then-unreleased article(s), and their characterization as a “hit piece” on you and MormonStories (MS). Since I know you and not Smith, I postponed my assessment, unwilling to make ad hominem judgment on you or him.

    I just completed my precursory reading of Smith’s “Dubious..”, and feel that he makes some fair points but nothing to sink MS, only to moderately redirect it; and you may become better by applying his worthwhile points to future MS podcasts.

    By its nature, a podcast is a spoken narrative and unscripted comments may not always be fully accurate. I checked a few of Smith’s items and agree that key MS episodes could have been improved in the way that Smith identifies.

    On the other hand, MS is a spontaneous narrative and it conveys deeply-held, personal thoughts and emotions from you and your guests. Whether each comment is complete or fully rational is less important than the fact that it expresses a stream of consciousness that is deeply held by the pod-speaker and many listeners. That divergence may, of itself, be topic for a future podcast; and the dissonance/reticence within Church leadership to clarify policy or doctrinal points may be yet another pod topic.

    In closing, I speak as an open letter to All: I read Smith as giving a constructive critique, not an attack or “hit piece”. Further, John never said that he was perfect as a MS spokesperson. I never envisioned John as “the teacher” within the MS classroom, rather as “that student sitting on the front row”, deeply wanting to understand each parcel of the teacher’s instruction.

    I’m reminded of a series of currently-running Public Service Announcements for parenting. Their tagline reads, “You don’t have to be perfect to be a perfect parent. There are thousands of teens in foster care that would love to put up with you.” – John invited all to join him in promoting meaningful MS topics as evidenced by other MS-themed sites by Witherspoon, Anderson, Fife, Parker, and others.

    • Jonathan Cannon
      February 28, 2013 at 11:37 am

      I differ from your characterization of Smith’s piece. I found that he gave many of the same criticisms of John’s interviews that I have felt while listening to them, but Smith has gone beyond the facts to ascribing psychological motivations to John. This is done through selective reading of John’s quotes and through quoting OTHER PEOPLE’s interpretations of John’s motivations while discounting John’s most often repeated explanations of his own motivations in favor of selected, infrequent quotes with contextual meanings. One of the methods I found most offensive in Smith’s article was how he cherry-picked comments off of blogs from non-believers as evidence. Where was the balance of quotes showing people that felt their testimonies strengthened? Those aren’t hard to find. Where was the statistical analysis? He could have just gone through a randomized selection of podcasts and counted faithful vs. disaffected comments on those. It would only take a few hours. That would have at least given a semblance of objectivity to Smith’s analysis. The piece admittedly looks at the data selectively (it would be too much work for me to listen to all of the podcasts) with an emphasis on the podcasts critical of Mormonism and the comments of ex-mormons or mormons threatened by Mormon Stories. I fail to see the constructiveness of his approach. Had it been a constructive critique, he might have sent it to John personally for a response before making it public.

      • Steve In Millcreek (SIM)
        March 1, 2013 at 11:07 am

        Response to Jonathan Cannon, 2/28/13, 11:37am: Fair points. We agree far more than disagree. I was softer with Smith than you were. By nature, I am a peacemaker; and that came through in my writings. Peace to all. Hoping to see everyone named in the Afterlife.

  25. Justin
    February 27, 2013 at 4:28 pm

    John Thank You

    “neutral”
    “bias”
    “wolf in sheep’s clothing”

    What ever label get’s applied to your service is irrelevant to me.

    I listened to every episode, and all that I can say is thank you, thank you for sharing your journey and how that sharing helps me through mine. I think of the servant in Herman Hess’ “journey to the east”

  26. J
    February 27, 2013 at 5:44 pm

    I read all 98 pages of Greg smiths review. I don’t understand where brother smith is coming from when he judges your temple worthiness.

    Your doing a good thing John. Hang in there.

  27. E.J.
    February 28, 2013 at 10:09 am

    Welcome to the borderlands, no man’s land, the 49th parallel. I.e. – jDehlin’s project, to my mind, seems to be to try and carve more room for doubters and skeptics among the faithful LDS. gSmith’s critique seems to cry out for a more vigilant policing of the boundary between them. (I skimmed Smith’s review of MStories some and am an occassional listener to MS podcasts.) But, What tea leaves of the jDehlin Affair seem to portend (along with the cursory look-sees I make via occasional toes dipped into commentary and linked-to articles via the bloggernacle) is that the two opposing factions in Mormondom will, for a space of time if not forever, sort of draw up lines of a truce. Only time will tell.

    Admittedly MS is not really about building up the Kingdom in the most traditional LDS sense. But whether that also renders Dehlin, et al, as [fill in appropriate LDS-speak for having questionable motives, here] depends on what assumptions should be thought to undergird such a judgement.

  28. Lilli
    February 28, 2013 at 11:42 am

    ‘Truth’, the whole truth & nothing but the truth, is the only thing that will really help all the thousands struggling to find answers to their religious questions.

    And since we will probably never get the whole truth from the Church, we need people like John to facilitate open, honest, respectful but free speech discussions like these to be able to finally reach the truth.

    But only those who are unafraid of the truth will find it. Most people seem afraid of the truth because of what it requires of them, which is ‘true charity’, the defining characteristic of a true disciple of Christ. And so they search & discuss forever, never really wanting to come to a knowledge or acceptance of the truth.

    • February 28, 2013 at 12:31 pm

      Hear, hear!

      Listen to Miller William’s poem, Compassion. http://youtu.be/LJESPZxB5KE

      I wish I could use html in this comment thread. What a pain!

  29. Brad
    February 28, 2013 at 12:10 pm

    Intellectual superiority can be reflected by ones need to attack an individual or a group to maintain ones superior position.
    Withholding information from an intellectually inferior group with intent to protect that group from demoralizing comprehension of accompanying narratives will (once the group becomes sentient)cause significant vexation. Some in the group will promulgate their new erudition with fervent bias critical of the supervisory body within in the institution. Subsequently, most traditional beliefs become problematic and amenable to examination. The compilation of disparaging information creates insurmountable doubt…Mormon Stories bestows an amelioration of my approach to the institution.

  30. February 28, 2013 at 9:56 pm

    I shot a PBS documentary for Stanford in 1990 that involved ancient biblical sites like Jericho. It won a big national award along with National Geographic, I think because it was so fascinating to see, on camera, storied Old Testament cities like Beit She’an (where the body of Saul was hung on a wall for all to see).

    I tried reading Greg’s article but I’d get to lines like ‘The word helmet is never used in the Book of Mormon. What is mentioned is “head-plates,” which is quite a different matter, but the material of which they are made is never described.’

    The takeaway of John’s interview with Dr. Coe, one of the most respected archaeologists alive, is that not the smallest shred of evidence supporting the Book of Mormon has ever been found. But an overwhelming mountain of evidence has been discovered to show that the events in it never happened. Critiquing John’s use of the words “helmets or whatever” felt like reading a review of a Ferrari and having the reviewer spend time on the accuracy of the dashboard clock.

    John made a fascinating, information-packed interview happen on an enormously fascinating topic. Does anyone dispute that?

  31. E.J.
    March 1, 2013 at 3:05 am

    gSmith believes holes can be punched in jjDehlin, et al’s, ethical ediface. And probably a few holes here and there can be found. But to fight jD and MStories on the battlefield of pure, hyper rationality would be destined to be an ever losing battle. But, to fight jD on the battleground of orthodox faith and non-heresy? Pretty easy pickin’s. BUT I suggest to the reader that such a prosecution would in itself be uncharitable and counterproductive to the LDS religious imperative.

    Why? Cos, alas, according to my viewpoint, jD”s project at MS is NOT only about explorations of ultimate, rational truths. No, what it’s REALLY about is the accumulation/practice of true WISDOM. Heck, check out the Hebrew Bible’s Wisdom literature – esp. Ecclesiastes. Which says that hyper rationality not only destroys religion but also such essentially non-rational endeavors as holding and expressing pure love for a significant other–it destroys the very essence of life itself. Yet true wisdom is to do what one senses to be right and just and fulfill one’s duties according to the reasonable expectations of society DESPITE the fact that, hyper-rationally, one’s doing so or not “make no sense.”

    What does such an imperative to “be altruistic” and “do one”s duty” mean? what does such a rule cribbed guideline boil down to, in practice – say, for a questioning and semi-disaffected Mormon? Well, one exampllar of such a path is the decisions and choices reached – and shared on his podcasts – by a bro. John Dehlin.

  32. Brad
    March 1, 2013 at 7:00 am

    The great battle of man. Am I going to heaven or hell? Chose a side? I am getting to the point where I would chose none of the above. Battle weary and tired I drop my pen and paper upon the battle field. I walk home and embrace my wife and gently kiss her lips…and declair…I am free.

    • Cylon
      March 2, 2013 at 3:29 pm

      Amen, brother.

  33. E.J.
    March 1, 2013 at 7:52 am

    Hat tip to the side bar links at TimesANdSeasons.org (this one put there by “Dave”): http://www.withoutend.org/if-quacks-duck-apologetics-scholarship/

    • Jan Sewelen
      March 1, 2013 at 1:04 pm

      I totally agree with David Bokovoy.

      It is sad to see so many not very nuanced reactions on Greg Smith’s review. We need voices like David Bokovoy both in the Church, and in Mormon Stories. We should’t declare winners and losers, not classify persons as good or bad, smart or stupid. Such divisions only creates tension and hostility. I have felt this negative climate on both sides. The reactions on Mormon Stories Podcast Facebook group have been frightening. The same could be said about Mormondialogue message board. Louis Midgley talks about John Dehlin groupies :(. It is not productive. The way forward, at least to me, is increased scholarship, more empathy, and less judgement. To me perhaps this is the most important lesson of this Greg Smith debacle. BTW a podcast with David Bokovoy would be great.

      • March 1, 2013 at 1:26 pm

        I’d be game w/ a podcast w/ David or Jan. :)

    • E.J.
      March 2, 2013 at 11:19 am

      OK – in the above -linked post’s comment thread, smallaxe of Faith-Promoting Rumor (itself on Patheos.com) pinged over to his not-stinging CRITIQUE of such critiques as those he suggests are exemplified by gSmith’s – um, HERE: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/faithpromotingrumor/2013/03/wheat-and-tares-apologetics/

  34. Ty Segall
    March 1, 2013 at 10:51 am

    On the balance I find many aspects mormon stories interesting. I see absolutely nothing wrong with the Greg Smith article thus far either.

    I certainly do not see John Dehlin as any sort of guru and I think he does a decent job of trying to be humble. Sometimes I feel mormons as John come across that they are “enlightened” in a way that annoys me. They are sometimes disrespectful and I believe John has been at times. John could do with beefing up on his study of philosophers as I believe his thinking is sometimes very limited.

    The guests are the key and so long as John remains a decent interviewer and gets good guests I believe this is still useful for me.

    The proof will be in the podcasts going forward if John can do a better job of taking himself out of the interview (if that’s what he wants to do)

    • March 1, 2013 at 11:41 am

      Ty – FWIW, it’s totally what I want to do.

  35. Ray G
    March 1, 2013 at 1:46 pm

    I come from a faithful perspective, but I think Smith’s piece was fair and made the point he was trying to, that being that often John isn’t as unbiased as he claims to be. My wife grew up with John, so we’ve followed his journey with interest, and I’ve sensed as the years have gone on the evolution of John’s feelings about the church. While he claims to be unbiased or neutral, many times his tone and demeanor and choice of subjects comes across as very undermining to the church. Nothing wrong with that, but when you present your efforts as coming from a recommend holder, and that you are unbiased, then that is wrong.

    John claims to not have an agenda of leading people from the church, and he may well believe that, but I am certain many more have left the church because of MS than have been strengthened by it (and my guess is that John believes this to be true as well).

    One void he has filled, that really needs to be filled by someone not hostile to the church, is having more probing intellectual discussions by academically accomplished members. I loved the episodes with Bushman and Hancock and Givens, but cringed at Palmer and Coe, not that I couldn’t handle what they had to say, but because they were not completely honest (which I’m sure many will say about the tbm’s). FAIR does an okay job, but not as extensive as what John has done, which I have appreciated, just wish there wasn’t usually the knife sticking in the back of the church.

    • March 1, 2013 at 1:52 pm

      Ray G – I accept the feedback and commit to trying to do better. I can say that I’m not at all trying to kill the church or testimonies, though at times in the past I have felt very angry at the church…though not any more. I’d be curious to know if you felt the same way about my interviews with Ralph Hancock and Brian Hales.

      Please give my best to Sandy.

      • Ray G
        March 1, 2013 at 2:46 pm

        It’s Jodi, but I will tell her hi. Your interview with Hancock did not have the negative edge to it that was apparent in other interviews, though I disagree with your politics, so that had to be filtered out. I haven’t finished with Hales yet, so not sure, but hoping for the best. The tone of your interviews reflects your feelings to the church at the time, so I expect Hales will turn out well. Hopefully we can enjoy many seasons of probing interviews without the bitterness.

        • March 1, 2013 at 3:32 pm

          Thanks, Ray! I’ll do my best. And yes…say Hey to Jodi for me. :)

    • March 1, 2013 at 3:33 pm

      > …Coe, not that I couldn’t handle what they had to say, but because they were not completely honest…

      We must all have our own biases because after spending so many years in earth sciences and archaeology, one thing I loved most about Dr. Coe was how honest he was willing to be in the interview.

      I think I can identify with one of his pain points: he has so many LDS archaeologist friends, it’s hard to be completely honest because it’s so hard for them to hear, but I thought he was.

      I was invited to speak by FARMs many times about a PBS documentary I shot on biblical archaeology for Stanford, and I declined, even though I was a Bishop, because if I was to be completely honest, it was too hard for Mormon audiences to hear. I could give it to Jews, Catholics, and scientists at other universities, but not at BYU.

      • Ray G
        March 1, 2013 at 6:46 pm

        I’m certainly no expert, but am a fan of Sorenson, which he, at least to me, gives a plausible scenario for how things could take place. I guess an issue with Coe is that I don’t think he has read the BofM in depth, and he could at least be more forthright with the fact that the vast majority of mesoamerican archeology work is yet to be done. Also, if Sorenson’s work is out in left field, then explain where he falls short, rather than not even address the issues. There are a lot of LDS archeology scholars who don’t have issues with the BofM, who know much more than I, so I don’t know that we have to dismiss Lehi and his posterity outright (though I agree there are many generalities that we should).

        • March 1, 2013 at 8:52 pm

          Reading John Sorenson’s book, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, is really hard, even if you’re like me and want so badly to believe.

          For one thing you have to watch him try to ignore what we have claimed for so long about the inhabitants of the Americas being descendants of the Lamanites as he tries so valiantly to come up with a limited geography theory.

          And then he has to try and reconcile what the Book of Mormon says about the long time span and size of the civilizations mentioned.

          And you have to ignore what we know about how even the smallest civilizations left proof positive of their presence.

          Near the end you get sentences like this: “So much remains to be done on the Book of Mormon in its setting that ‘a flavor of plausibility’ concerning the setting of the early Nephites is as far as we dare go at this time…”

          Unlike Dr. Coe’s work, it’s not peer-reviewed. My personal feeling is it would be faith-shaking for most people to read it.

          • RayG
            March 1, 2013 at 10:53 pm

            Chris, I agree that Sorenson’s work is a big shift from what the traditions have been about the setting for the BofM, but I don’t think it would be that big a challenge to members. I talk about it in SS, and some question me, but nothing nasty. I don’t think most members think that much about it or invest that much thought into those things, they just go with the flow.

            I guess when I read his work, it didn’t seem that he was having to go to extreme contortions to have things make sense. Limited geography is a no brainer when you sit down and think about it, as are two Cumorahs, etc.

            To me there were a lot of things in his book that made me re-think how I read the scriptures–I would imagine things to be a certain way, then realized how things could just as plausibly be read completely different and still be viable. I recommend his book to everyone as a very thought provoking work, even if his hypothesized location is completely off base.

            You said “even the smallest civilizations left proof positive of their presence,” and that may be true, but it doesn’t mean that we’ve found that evidence or interpreted it correctly. I used to live in Lebanon when I was very young. As you know from your background, civilizations are literally built upon civilizations, and are hard to excavate because it means disrupting the more recent structures to get to the more ancient ones. There are lots of cultures whose evidence of existence has only been discovered in the last few decades, many of them involving huge populations. What’s to say that there aren’t thousands of minor groups still to be discovered.

            Sorenson’s statements regarding a flavor of plausibility seem much more palatable than Coe’s blanket statements of dismissal. Coe could much better state there are no definitive proofs, but not that those cultures absolutely didn’t exist. It’s like looking for proof of the absence of God, you are just not going to find it (you may find that your interpretation of God wasn’t accurate, but not that there is no God).

            Anyway, just thoughts. I appreciate your having taken the time to reply.

          • March 2, 2013 at 10:18 am

            > Anyway, just thoughts. I appreciate your having taken the time to reply.

            Thank you, Ray. That was interesting and very fair.

  36. March 2, 2013 at 7:16 am

    Was the tower of Babel a man’s effort to explain different languages, (nice literature at that)? and it was a myth/a legend and not a fact? Most Jewish literature (I don’t mean he scripture) recognizes that Abraham was fictitious, though, again justified as the Tower (there had to be an originator somewhere by whatever name); and so on with the bases of western religion. That being so, accepting that it’s all a myth, what does that do to BoM(Ether!), BoA, (horses, chariots, Solomon temple replicas, etc.) etc. etc.?
    We’re suspended on ‘sky hooks’, as S.J. Gould would say.

  37. Bill
    March 2, 2013 at 12:01 pm

    Having listened to every MS podcast and read Smith’s 98 page piece, I can say that I am still proud to be a MS subscriber and ardent supporter. I remain active in the church even though my wife has not participated for many years. I’m not sure whether our peaceful co-existance would have been quite the way it is without the efforts of MS. I can say that our marriage is stronger now than ever before.

    Smith has trouble with anyone who believes that the church is not exactly what it claims to be. He does not see that there are any legitimate gripes that an honest and faithful member could possible have. The fact that he spent multiple pages criticizing the methodology of the Why They Leave survey completely misses the point that, for whatever reason, thousands of the best and brightest (including my wife) are abandoning the faith of their fathers for legitimate reasons. Not because they are following a cult leader, are weak or lazy or any of the other tired reasons we hear all to often.

    Thanks for the efforts of all involved at MS!

  38. Charlie Carnevale
    March 2, 2013 at 2:37 pm

    Talk about a hit piece….all 98 pages worth.

    I wish there was someway to tell the guy that I’m not one of his generalized concepts. Never been troubled by church history or its sex beliefs but only supported the church’s view on both.

    Anyways, I supposed its useless to email him or something. However I’d point out that I only found out that it was available now via this post on MS. Otherwise I’d be none the wiser.

  39. Brad
    March 3, 2013 at 7:41 am

    John 16 33 These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

    For myself John Dehlin delivers a narrative of the the tribulation we all encounter. Would it be better to be silent? Speak not unless you are spoken to? Only speak of holy righteous naritives or say nothing? Sounds like the naritives of the church. Tell the story or tell part of the story.

    The narrative of the church will always be milk. This is my tribulation, “cover story upon cover story”. If the church as an organization is upset with the story told outside of the milk story… Well,then there will be many who are just as upset about only receiving the milk story. The church needs to own the milk story and the ramifications it has on members who seek truth trough the study of history.

    So, what is the tile would I give to the current story? I will call this chapter of the church ” The New and Everlasting Exodus”.

  40. Jason
    March 3, 2013 at 2:28 pm

    Long time listener, first time commenter. I first found John when he was on podcast 30 or so and I was looking for material to put on my first ipod. Since then, I’ve listened to about 1/3 of the MS podcast corpus. MS plays a much-needed role in showing that Mormonism has many different voices and giving those voices a microphone–even when those voices may be disagreeable. I think John strives to do this objectively, and I give him kudos.

    However, John isn’t always objective and gets too defensive when his role as a spokesman for “uncorrelated Mormons” is threatened. When faced with disagreement at the Mormon Matters blog–he censored posts and shut the blog down. John’s actions here run counter to fundamental MS principles. More recently, John sent accusatory emails to FARMS (and copied church leaders “at the highest levels”) demanding an alleged “hit piece” be censored. I haven’t read the “hit piece”, so I can’t comment on the characterization–but John hadn’t read it either. John speaks of openness, inclusiveness, and listening to diverse opinions–except when John (or people he feels he represents) is criticized. John should have followed his own advice and sought to understand. Poorly written and inaccurate portrayals are easy to spot (e.g., Rosalynde Welch’s review of John) and if Smith’s “hit piece” were truly what John claimed, it would be dismissed too. Hopefully from this episode, John can learn to more inclusive and less threatening–this would only strengthen MS.

  41. Spookum
    March 4, 2013 at 6:46 pm

    I just finished reading Smith’s article. It was fair and made some very good points. I think it’s true that John’s anger at the church and/or its teachings has been glaringly on display in some MS episodes. In that respect, Greg may be right that at times John has done more harm than good.

    I believe that there’s room in the church for both types of people—Johns and Gregs. Almost invariably, though, it will be the Gregs that run the show and are placed in positions of judgeship. In my opinion, this is because the Gregs have learned the implement the first principle of the Gospel into their lives: faith. They don’t always understand all, but they have faith and they know they can question the details without questioning the whole.

  42. Paul M
    March 4, 2013 at 11:53 pm

    Ok, I read all 98 pages and all I can say:

    1. Is this the best they can do? They had hundreds of hours of materials and all they did was CHERRY PICK quotes that supported their negative preconceived notions of John and Mormon Stories.

    2. John does an in depth survey on why people leave the church, and goes the church the results. The apologetics come out poorly, so they go on the attack when instead they should try to understand why and DO SOMETHING POSITIVE to change. Instead we get this hit piece!

    3. It just shows how much apologetics DOESN’T Understand people who struggle with troubling Mormon issues. Podcasts are like a recorded journal of where one person is in their struggle through these issues in this life we live in at any given moment. Acknowledging these issues as valid, showing sympathy and compassion towards those that struggle, and welcoming them and accepting them as they are will get them so much better results than hit pieces ever will.

    • Spookum
      March 7, 2013 at 7:53 pm

      Smith makes it clear in his article that he only listened to a few podcasts: “Obviously, this brief foray is not systematic or complete. It has only ‘dipped a toe’ into the Mormon Stories pool—there are hundreds of hours of audio alone. But, those inclined to dive in completely can at least use the present review to inform them in their personal assessment of the water.”

  43. debbie
    March 8, 2013 at 9:41 am

    John I have always found you to be incredibly fair, practicing extraordinary patience with all those you interact with regardless of their level of “faith” from what some call “TBM” to those often labeled “apostates” … for me the mannerisms and language of most apologetics is not surprising but a direct result of and very nature and qualities inherent in Religious Dogma-Fundamentalism and religious indoctrination. To go on the attack is an act of fear – fear that shakes the very foundation of their very identity. It is a natural human response to a perceived threat. It is easily triggered in Mormonism given the nature of the Mormon history-so easily accesible for all to examine (at least for those with the courage to look with eyes open). It is the very tone and tactics I have witnessed many times when any religious dogma is challenged in most religious traditions around the world. For me it is a sure sign of the great doubt that resides in the hearts of men like Greg Smith. The piece that Greg Smith wrote and many of the articles I have read by Mormon apologists are a direct symptom of fear and doubt. I feel for these men – here you have thousands of members in the church in great turmoil over the huge inconsistencys (to put it mildly) in church history and doctrines-and yet rather than the “Prophet” or “Apostles” answering and giving straight and credible explanations

    nfor all these extremely valid concerns – you have these apologists flailing about – giving insulting to the intellect and often attacking and belittling those good people questioning.

  44. E.J.
    March 8, 2013 at 9:45 am

    jDehlin runs into the same resistance any critic of an existing system or regime will forever run into. And, by the same measure, Smith’s style of pushback…, although scholarly and containg a few items within its criticism having to do with shortcomings of rigor and whatnot, nonetheless has as its basic thrust stuff that predates the beginnings of academia and scholasticism my millennia, the impulse to check a potential authority’s successful accomplishments of the society’s norms and accumulated cultural understandings before granting him or her that status. (Heck, every sub-culture of present-day societies STILL do that, after their idiosyncratic fashions.)

    if the person presenting himself as a holy man doesn’t adhere to avoiding the basic taboos of the people, etc., how can he really be holy?

  45. Brad
    March 9, 2013 at 7:38 am

    John,
    Half way through 397-399. I can’t have the conversations about how I feal about the church or its history with my wife. All of our grown children have left the church or stopped going. My wife is the only left believing . I can tell you that listening to MS gave me the impression to totally focus on my marriage and learn to pay attention to my wife as a loving husband. I don’t attend and have not been visited by anyone in the church for over a year. But I have learned again how to love my wife and lose faith at the same time.
    Thank you for your time and effort. Our family will stay together because of your journey and your ability/ strength to speak openly of the hardships you have faced.
    I am still lost and trying to deprogram years of … I don’t know what to call it… Life on the inside?
    I don’t know where my path or my journey will lead ultimatly. But I do know that I will do my best to be the one that desides which path I walk.

    • March 9, 2013 at 10:55 am

      That was a very moving comment, Brad, at least for me. For one thing I feel the debate about whether John is biased, knowledgeable, or that podcasts are the best format, miss the greater points: he’s brought us a way to get more facts and opinions out in the open so we can make our own decisions with far more information than we’ve ever had. And it’s given us a way to talk about the tumultuous emotions that go with a trial of faith.

      As for your wife, mine was in the very same place when, after 3 years of being Bishop, my trial of faith really began. She loved everyone in the ward, they all loved her, she did everything from Primary President to you-name-it, and it was painful to hear from me about my doubts, even as I stayed very active.

      But years later when our adult children began to investigate the disturbing things they hadn’t been taught, out of love and respect for them, she began to listen and talk openly with them, and they will be forever grateful to her. And it has drawn us all closer as a family.

      • Brad
        March 9, 2013 at 7:36 pm

        Thanks for the reply, my story encompasses much more than than I can express in this forum. I found from MS that I am not alone in my struggle. The information I found or what I now call ” the rest of the story” was not from MS…
        I am greatful for finding MS when I needed it the most.
        For me the story is a human story documented in a very public setting. One can not discount the validity of the content nor should anyone attack the story because it is the naritive of life, written, spoken and recorded in a living journal.
        What we need to remember is to love one another. So simplistic, yet so difficult.

    • Lilli
      March 10, 2013 at 2:20 pm

      Brad,

      I commend you, for I believe that ‘loving & serving your spouse’ & putting them 1st above all else, is the greatest thing any religion could ever teach & it will cause you to become more spiritual than any other thing you can do. It’s what Christ taught.

  46. Brad
    March 10, 2013 at 9:21 am

    I understand the complications of the the brethren to address the the convoluted history of the church. Nevertheless, we need a prophet to address the subject. The silence is laying waste upon a multitude of individuals not worthy of the punishment.

  47. Anthony Browning
    March 11, 2013 at 7:23 am

    For what it’s worth, I’ve never questioned your motives with MS. I believe you are, in fact, doing what you feel inspired to do; help others struggle with something that is extremely difficult and painful. I, for one, have been greatly benefited from your work and appreciate all you’ve done (and continue to do) to help people like me who are trying to find a way to stay in the church that doesn’t require a sacrifice of integrity or to be inauthentic with those who matter most to me. I’m behind you John!

    • March 11, 2013 at 11:21 am

      > to help people like me who are trying to find a way to stay in the church
      > that doesn’t require a sacrifice of integrity or to be inauthentic
      > with those who matter most to me.

      Exactly.

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