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John Larsen is the influential founder and host of Mormon Expression podcast, and of the White Fields Educational Foundation. This is his story.
Thank you John Larsen for this insightful comment:
“We’ve been given a great gift; The gift that we’ve all been given, which very few people have been given, is to be very, very wrong about something–and realize it.”
Well said John. Much to ponder there…
The Ex-Saints John and John on choosing the right
It’s wonderful to see humanity at its best. Can’t get over how engaged, sharp-witted and genuine the give and take was; the audience seemed to enjoy the interview as much as I. Congrats to all those behind the scenes, those merry few who can see the light beyond the end of the tunnel.
Getting it right after being so wrong is truly a gift –– epiphany.
All God’s Chillin say “Thank you” while some just clap their hands.
Sheer perfection gentlemen – thank you
I enjoyed the interview and candor. I LOVE the long podcasts, they keep me entertained and distracted when otherwise I’d be bored – exercise, driving, cleaning.
You are both greatly appreciated for all you’ve done. Making the change in my fifties has been less of a hellish experience because of you both.
Great podcast. I’ve been listening weekly to Mormon Expression (ME) for the past six years. ME and Mormon Stories really helped me with my transition out of Mormonism. What I like about ME is that John would confront and tackle difficult issues and sprinkle it with humor and jest. This podcast helped me get to know John Larsen better and see what a great and compassionate person he is.
Great podcast! I have to disagree with John Larsen on one thing though. I like that the podcasts aren’t edited. They’re longer, but it’s nice to be a part of the entire dialogue and understand the progression. It feels more genuine and not like a production. I think a lot of us use this for more than entertainment and more as group therapy.
Enjoyed the back and forth. I’m a fan of Larsen but have to say J.Dehlin, when I refer to your podcast, I refer to Micheal Coe, Ryan Cragun, Grant Palmer, Brian Dalton, Joanna Brooks, Brent Metcalfe, Brian Hales, Hans Mattsson, Sandra Tanner, Jeremy Runnells, John Hamer, and such. When I refer to Mormon Expression i refer to John Larsen, basing it off one man, that’s what you get. One man’s expression. I love and mirror your expression Larsen, however I’d like varied voices as well.
I had never heard of John Larsen before this interview and enjoyed going back and listening to his interview with Zilpha and John on Mormon Expressions from like 2011.
Zilpha sounds like a smart, funny, and genuine individual, and I feel terrible the marriage didn’t work out. Her humor seemed to really complement John’s sarcastic wit.
One disappointing part of the interview was when John mentioned he would probably still be married to Zilpha if he were an active Mormon. I don’t understand that at all.
Regardless, thanks Mr. Dehlin for providing John’s story.
Zilpha is a smart, funny and genuine individual and I am glad she is and has been a key part of my life. We remain friends and co-parents today.
The difficulty in dealing with a public divorce like we have had is that we have never once discussed publicly the reasons for our divorce. Of course the reasons for any divorce are personal and private. Since we have never publicly discussed this, it gives room for insensitive people to “fill in the gaps.”
It also has the side effect of making us seem flippant about the subject of divorce since we really only talk about the peripherals. It makes us seem like we just traded it in for something better or that it was a lighthearted decision, which is not the case.
My statement that we would still be together is in reference to the LDS disposition that the marriage commitment trumps all other values of a relationship and that the Church puts pressure on couples to stay together at all costs, even when there is violence or other types of abuse let alone incompatibility. Had we stayed believers we would have stayed together even though that wasn’t the right thing for us and we are both happier and better off as individuals then we were as a couple.
What is quite incredible, is that we have said this time and time again, but still people accuse us of not taking it seriously. Please, allow couples the ability to work on and define their own relationships–even if that means parting ways. Don’t shame people for divorce.
John, perhaps it was ward roulette but I experienced a different experience with regards to “he Church puts pressure on couples to stay together at all costs”. My wife and I are going through a divorce right now and I know members of the church (including the Bishop) had a lot to do with her decision as I disaffected from the church. Different ward, different experiences I guess.
the church does emphasize remaining married throughout everything, unless the issue is one of the spouses becoming disaffected from the church. then they are apostates and you better cut them off before they drag you to hell. this is unwritten church policy.
Thanks for the thoughtful response.
I wasn’t aware mormon’s divorce rate was much different than the national average, so it surprised me when you indicated you would still be married if you had stayed mormon.
Thank you John and John (in that order).
Am I the only one who enjoyed listening during pre-dawn hours lying in the back of a parked minivan while my kids attended early morning seminary in the backroom of a member’s business in our small-town strip mall? I hope not.
You helped that time fly by … and helped me process it all toward a positive outcome.
Eric (aka “Walter the Welder”)
Thanks for all your work over the years.
I don’t appreciate your swearing,and references to careless sex and getting drunk.or assuming that we all think that’s ok
yes we share your feelings about the origins of the church–but our choices after that discovery can be as different as the colors of the rainbow–don’t assume ex Mormons will think alike–I think it is better to focus on what we have in common–discussing the false doctrine (more info) and the torment and peace of letting go
Rebuilding our own philosophy of life is sacred and personal
Indeed, that dude was likely an infantile TBM, and now is an infantile ex. What an excellent poster-boy for the boys at HQ, who can take someone who jabbers about his wife’s arse seriously.
I take him seriously. Apparently, Phil, both you and Emma missed the numerous self-deprecating remarks John made. He knows he is sometimes an ass, often juvenile and always unfiltered, so you don’t get any points for pointing these things out. John’s approach has helped a lot of people take Mormonism and the transition out a bit less seriously. Apparently, Emma, you ignored the warning to viewers John Dehlin added at the beginning of the video and/or know nothing of John Larsen’s style, so the weight of your righteous indignation is entirely yours to bear.
I had a chance to listen to some additional podcasts from mormon expressions and found the divorce podcast one of the strangest rationalizations I have ever heard.
It almost sounds like you describe marriage as analogous to buying a car. Life’s short so why not trade in your current automobile and get the newer model with the fancy sound system.
I’m sorry but it came across as flippant and to use Phil’s word, infantile.
It is difficult to make comments and have people misunderstand I didn’t mean to make judgments of John we have all had way too much of that
I realize he has done many good things I do respect everyone’s right to their own opinions I really try to avoid labels and put downs
What I really wanted to say is that We may agree on what’s wrong with the church but each of us has to decide how we will view the world, how we will live our lives–what is important to each of us –and that will be very different for everyone. I respect each person’s choices
it is a whole new world to us and we are searching for what we will believe in and how to move forward We can no longer be lumped into a group of people thinking the same thing
Does that make more sense?
While I enjoy the Dehlin podcasts, is it just me, or is the recurring theme of helping those suffering during the process of transition, nine out of ten times related to folks who attended BYU?
I smile that the church has spent millions to counteract you an me. – John Larsen
Incredible conceit. Incredible narcissism.
Agreed. Larsen is a narcissist and very self-absorbed. He’s also intelligent, articulate, and often humorous. But the guy’s bombastic ego is a detriment above all else that he is.
but when he’s right, he’s right.
“incredible conceit. incredible narcissism.”
– if you didnt mention john larsen’s name, i wouldve thought you were talking about church leaders.
Another fantastic podcast, thanks John and John! I really enjoy it when you each interview each other a bit. The back and forth is great.
I liked the discussion of leaning into ambiguity. I think that embracing ambiguity is a more useful approach then leaving one black and white viewpoint and taking up a different black and white viewpoint. I think that the idea that the Mormon Church is either “true” or “not true” is a somewhat simplistic way of thinking. You can find wonderful things in the Church, and you can also find problems. I think that embracing ambiguity helps you to see and understand the complexities of life better.
while i hope for a more progressive church in the future, ill have to side with john larsen on this one. the church goes where the money goes. and even though most members are now residing outside the u.s. (i wonder how many of those are inactive baseball baptisms, though), most of the donated money is by wealthy, white conservatives. if they lean either way, theyll lose either progressives or conservatives. my guess is theyll try to walk down the middle as long as they can (say we are a big tent church to appease progressives, speak against equal marriage to appease conservatives). but when the time comes where theyll have to decidedly take a stance, and it will come, theyll side with those who provide the capital.
if the leaders are truly led by god, they will choose to live by the gospel principles of love and charity and become progressive. if they are not, they will choose to live by the economic principles of capitalism and greed and become more conservative.
p.s.: regardless of what john larsen says, i really enjoy the lengthy, unedited format of mormon stories. i often work by myself, so i have three hours each night where i listen to mormon stories. im usually really bummed out when an episode is only an hour long, especially if its a really interesting topic or guest like denver snuffer, richard bushman, or margaret toscano. keep the format!
Great podcast. Thanks John and John!
Just a comment: I’m glad you don’t edit your videos, John! Hope they stay that way. :-)
While I certainly don’t always agree with Larsen (I think I am more skeptical of the value of entirely secular communities as a potential replacement for religion for a start), he is always worth listening to. Another excellent podcast.
While I have not been involved in Mormon stuff for a while (there is actually a big world out there ;0)
A friend got me to listen to this podcast and it was AWESOME. Big props to both Johns for their work on it. For John Larsen, his position at the end speaking against perpetuating the church without cause reminded me of this essay I wrote for myself several months ago, when I finally quit caring about my membership in the church. Please everybody don’t take this as a diatribe or soapbox moment, but it simply reminds me very much of the conclusions I came to then that others might jibe with.
Foundations Built From Dung….
It is often found that primitive societies build structures from bricks bound-together with animal feces. Obviously, this is possible because the smell therein fades over time, and after it has passed, nobody gives much thought to the questionable nature of the material since it ultimately serves a practical purpose.
All too often religious institutions and ideologies form similarly. After spending close to 30 years as a Mormon, and becoming informed of other questionable belief systems in religion and politics (like Fundamentalism, Ethnocentrism, Fascism, Racism and other “All or Nothing” points of view) I’ve encountered a number of people who have sought to retain the cultural positives and community-strengths that are derived from such dogmatic positions and after much soul searching, and mental pondering, I honestly cannot see the merits for society in allowing evil to continue, for the sake of whatever incidental ‘good’ may come about in the process.
I saw a humorous T-Shirt a while back with a picture of the Pyramids of Egypt that said “Slavery Gets S__t Done” While this is quite funny, one must really be willing to analyze the seriousness of the dark-sides of whatever belief system they have come from and not allow window-dressings to become a justification or mitigation for those things. While it is true that the Nazi’s had style, the Mormons are awesome at business and making money, Catholics have great-looking buildings, etc: these things do not, when looked at objectively, justify the continuation of such entities and the suffering and corruption they are built upon.
People are not perfect, and neither are their institutions, but once the individual sees beyond previous belief systems – proven faulty, they are conceptually obligated to work toward a better humanity than the one they came from. So does knowing that Rodin was a mannerist hypocrite mean that someone viewing “The Kiss” must take that ugliness into account? If they know it, that answer is yes.
As someone coming from years of Mormonism, I’ve seen the bad that comes from only looking at the upshot (Proposition 8, the defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment, etc). Do the symbols carry inherent mental programming that says inequality is OK? I don’t know (although the Pyramids seem to ;0), the fact does remain that people do live now who are aware of the dark-side and if they choose to stay, after seeing what is wrong, they say in their heart, that ‘wrong’ is OK/excusable/in the past.
Can people transmute evil into good? Like running a Catholic church without pedophilia, or a bank without predatory lending? I suspect there are only two ways:
1. If those encountering the object, place or tradition, find it with no understanding of its original context. Such as if Warren Jeffs’ FLDS temple were to be found by future spacemen, a thousand years from now, and it gets converted into a posh interstellar hotel and casino!
2. The other would be following the example of Josiah in the old testament, where a clear-cut written code from a time before the abuses and corruption could be invoked, delegitimizing such bad practices.
While the modern Mormon church doesn’t openly advocate polygamy any longer and/or slavery, abusive hierarchy and a fervent support for “Might Makes Right” do still prevail and make all members a force for suffering and inequality whether they support those things or not.
Speaking for myself, I cannot excuse the latent stench of all the dung the walls of the Church are built from. I have known many great people in it, and it is arguable that their goodness, is responsible for what good the Church does, but just like a headlight covered with dirt, as bright as their light is now, just think what it would be like after clearing away the dirt. A number of people in the Church wonder about how their children will turn out without the examples and values it teaches: the answer, of course, is much less likely to be a bigot/authoritarian.
Just as it is largely unacceptable to reminisce about Nazi Germany, people in other belief systems, found wanting need to also stand against evil in every place it exists, and embrace a future with perhaps less artificial-certainty, but with more clarity of conscience.
I just want to echo what a few others mentioned about the length of your podcasts. Don’t listen to John Larsen’s teasing, they are just the right length, don’t change a thing!
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