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Our preference would be you keep doing Mormon stories, but will not pull financial support if you chose to do Understanding mormonism.
John…for context, I’m a 42-year-old white guy from SLC. I’ve been a donor over the years, have listened to every episode and have a few thoughts.
Right now, Mormon Stories Podcast is the ’92-’93 Chicago Bulls, and you’re Michael Jordan. The Understanding Mormonism project you’re talking about is your Birmingham Barons. Could the Understanding Mormonism project ultimately become the Chicago White Sox? Sure, but in my opinion, if it happens, it won’t be because you’re the face of it in all of the videos.
IMHO, you’re at your best in a long-form interview format. I think that’s one of the reasons why Mormon Stories podcast is doing so well. On the other hand, I don’t care much for your videos. I much prefer you talking to someone in an interview than seeing you alone staring at the camera, especially if you try to take a funny or snarky approach. That’s just not your jam. I prefer earnest, thoughtful John who can empathize with an interviewees and make them feel safe enough to share their experiences. Your video clips from your interviews are so much better than your solo videos.
I’ll keep paying to see Michael Jordan knock down shots for the Bulls, but I’m not interested in paying to see him swing a bat for the Barrons. I would however increase my donations to help pay for you to find someone whose wheelhouse is video. I already support Lindsay Hansen Park, Bill Reel, RFM, Gina Colvin, How to Heretic, TGIA, etc. as they operate in their wheelhouses. I hope you’ll stay in yours.
Love the comparison Wade!
I agree that the snarky John isn’t as appealing. :P The heartfelt depth of John can be felt on MormonStories, where it can’t be felt on the shorts.
I agree with Wade’s comments whole heartedly. Please keep doing your interviews for Mormon Stories, even with just normal people, who need their story to be told. I hope someone can be found to fill this role of making the Understanding Mormonism shorts. That is important work too. But I think people telling their stories with you is way more influential. I will continue my contributions either way.
You could try out a few things before committing fully to one plan or another. I would enjoy listening to Margi doing Mormon Stories interviews. You wouldn’t have to worry about your concerns with trust or having a lack in interview quality. My wife and I both really enjoyed her on Gift of the Mormon Faith Crisis. In fact Margi and Natasha were critical in my wife’s faith transitions. She trusted them and could feel thier love and enjoyed their wisdom.
Whenever there is change you risk loosing listeners but I think you would pick up others. With Margi interviewing I think you would have listeners appeal to her thoughtful and gentle way of speaking about difficult things. I could see your podcast appealing to more women with her. She and Natasha made my wife feel safe. That’s something that she feel in quite the same way from just you (no offense). And anyone on exmormon reddit can see there is a need for a space where women feel safe. So many men can’t talk to their wives about the church. What if those women just need more women’s voices out there? I don’t know.
Just an idea, but what if Margi started with one interview a month at first. She does ones that resonate with her. I would listen and share for sure. I know my wife would start listening again. You could diversify your audience and you could get some data and make more informed plans.
There is a need for a Brene Brown or Glennon Doyle for those in faith crisis, transitioning, and post Mormonism and I think that person is Margi Dehlin.
I don’t like the idea of other people hosting Mormon Stories. It just wouldn’t be the same if it’s not you behind the mic. You’ve been putting out a ton of content lately, almost too much to listen to. Maybe reduce the number of podcast episodes you’re doing and spend some of that time doing the videos. If someone could help you with writing, filming, and production, you could still be the voice for both the podcast and the videos, keeping your brand consistent. Keep up the great work, and don’t burn yourself out!
Long form interviews are super powerful. 3-4 hours is a breeze! It seems the short-form UM videos could be outsourced.
Top voices for me are: John Larsen (He is the PhD in all of us!, even if he looks like the unabomber! ha.) Would love to see him back on the field.
Bill Reel and RFM are champs (very thoughtful with the right balance of respect and irreverence).
Down the road, Mormon Stories International (a whole vein of stories from those who did not experience the Moridor but experienced cultural colonialism).
I’m a monthly supporter and I don’t think I’ll ever stop supporting, no matter what you do.
This is a hard decision for you, though. I agree with an above comment that I think you really excel in the long-form interview format, and that the shorter videos you do are not where you shine. I think the content you’ve got so far is good, but could really go far if you find the right person to take it on. Obviously that’s easier said than done.
My husband does contracted video work (he’s basically done every behind the camera job there is) and I’d love to volunteer him, but he’s a full time stay at home dad and part time coach, and I myself work full time. I would love to volunteer to help wherever I can though, whether that’s camera work, editing (video or text), project management, on or off screen talent, etc. Mormon Stories is vitally important to people leaving Mormonism and I don’t ever want to see it die. Feel free to contact me to see if anything you need done is something I can do. In the last year I left a volunteer position on the board at a local playhouse, and I’m really missing having something to spend my time and passion on. I’d love to let Mormon Stories fill that void.
Since “Understanding Mormonism” channel is untested and advances a newer concept, I suggest Dehlin grows it for 6 months while guest interviewers do the MS channel. Ask MS interviewees who they wish to be interview by other than Dehlin; and provide interviewees a list of candidate interviewers who are interested hosting and who were likely interviewed by Dehlin on MS in the past. Or consider matching the skill set and/or personality of interviewer to interviewee. I see a Win-Win here because it can give other talented people (A. Miller, J. A. Hanks, S. Shelley, N. Helfer. G. Colvin, J. Spangler, ..) a solid opportunity to grow another related channel or launch one. In the world of YouTubing, like-minded channel hosts frequently comment on, cross interview, and guest-host for one another. Aside, I’m a solid yet infrequent financial contributor.
We would continue to donate as well, but I am definitely in favor of option 1, with John continuing to do long form interviews. They are where he shines.
I recently watched some of the understanding mormonism videos and while the points are valid and delivered sincerely, the format seemed very rushed and unnatural for John. I would love to see a woman or non-binary person who is about 20 years younger doing the video content. I think it would feel more relevant for those audiences, but not too young.
It’s also possible to do it in a more meme style or illustrative way to lessen the reliance on a single personality. However, that would make it harder to reuse on tik tok and insta.
I’m in no matter what. That being said, I am an audio only person. I listen when I do other things and NEVER sit down to watch anything podcasty. Must be my 56 years talking. I know many others appreciate video. Thanks for your work–one of my fears is that you will get tired of Mormon things (like many of us have…You are (one of?) the only Mormon things left in my life) and decide to do something else!
If you decide to focus on Understanding Mormonism and have others host MS for a little while you can try it out for a short amount of time to see what happens and make adjustments. If you bring someone else on to do Understanding Mormonism it is a lot of work and more challenging to undo if it doesn’t work out. So I would go with you working on UM for a little while and see how it goes.
I also wanted to say I like the short clips of the larger interviews since those are easier to share.
The last comment is you catching up with John Larson was my favorite episode yet. It was what I needed for where I am at in my post-Mormon journey.
I’ll continue to donate whichever option you ultimately choose. Mormon Stories saved me during my hardest days in from 2014-2016 (and still does today) and therefore gets an annuity for life from me :) I want to see your content life for years to come.
That said, my preference would be to try to hire someone you already trust to produce the videos (perhaps with your periodic oversight and guidance). Maybe John Larson, Tyler and Samantha, Anthony Miller, RFM, Bill Reel, etc. I just think you are so good at the interview format and Mormon Stories is booming in large part due to that personality (although the year of guests does sound fun).
Perhaps some consideration should be given to the age ranges you are attempting to reach? I’m 35 and podcasts are my jam (not so much social media/video platforms). Podcasts are just so good for the busy mid-life professional. But if many facing faith transitions today are now in their teens and 20’s, then maybe your skills are best utilized in the youtube space. Ultimately I’m open minded. Good luck!!
New to Mormon Stories, but my opinion is that you hire out your new project. Heather Gay is my vote.
You don’t know me, but from Mormon Stories you’re a dear friend of mine. (Coincidentally, I often listen to Mormon Stories while driving through Katy, Texas.) I have contributed money in the past and will do so again now because I just realized I have been freeloading on Mormon Stories for so long, sorry.
Background: I converted to Mormonism in 1996 but drifted away when one of the missionaries approached me and asked for money in what may have been a scam. I formally resigned in 2016. However, I’m still very open and friendly to the Church and occasionally contemplate the possibility of returning some day… and I have heard most Mormon Stories podcasts and read almost everything that Jerald and Sandra Tanner have written.
My two cents:
1. When I read “video shorts for understanding Mormonism,” I was tempted to believe it was a codeword for “video shorts for why you should leave Mormonism.” If that’s true, and maybe I’m wrong, then the whole project sounds like a sort of mirror image of FairMormon, which I think would be a waste of your time and talents. The most interesting parts of Mormon Stories now are not the tightly focused efforts to debunk Mormon truth claims, or the blow-by-blow accounts of how family members of Mormon aristocrats stumble and plummet into a faith crisis. The most interesting parts are how faithful Mormons and former Mormons interpret those truth claims in their own lives. The splendid Jim Bennett episodes tower over every other episode in Mormon Stories and are a great model to follow, at least in my opinion. Honestly, hearing these endless truth-claim squabbles (e.g., Book of Abraham, horses and iron in the Americas, whether the gold plates were too heavy to carry, etc) are somewhat like hearing 8-year-old boys arguing endlessly over whether Superman is stronger than Batman. If some people use the Mormon framework and belief system to reorganize their lives in ways that amplify Christ in today’s world, then that’s a good thing. I think a lot of Mormons and former Mormons would do well to quit obsessing over the crumbs and start eating the cake.
2. If you decide to do these video shorts, then I hope you will keep them oriented toward dialogue and diversity of thought and not propaganda. I’m not saying that any of the Mormon Stories episodes so far have been propaganda, just that the earliest episodes seemed nicely skewed toward dialogue and explorations of multiple perspectives, whereas some episodes in recent years have undercurrents that seem more like confrontation than exploration. I’d say that a style more like Voice of America and less like Pravda would be your best path forward.
3. I work as a writer, editor, and producer of training videos. I know how time-consuming and expensive video production can be… if one hour of work can yield one minute of video, then I’m going at warp speed. Best wishes whatever you decide!
I am a non-Mormon who recently discovered your podcast after helping a friend of mine with his faith crisis over the past year. I’m not currently a donor, but will be after posting this comment as I am an advocate for many of the topics you cover on Mormon Stories.
As an HR Director for a Fortune 500 company who coaches leaders on how to conduct effective interviews, I’d like to point out that your approach to interviewing guests is part of what makes Mormon Stories podcast so special. Your unique ability to make guests feel respected while simultaneously challenging them is a skill that is not easily duplicated or replaceable. While I do have personal favorites like Dr. Matt Harris, Anthony Miller and John Larsen, I believe that many of your followers and donors value consistency and having you as the linchpin to Mormon Stories.
Simple is sometimes best. My strong preference would be to continue MS podcast as I think there is more to expand on in the current format. Also, do you have any data on the demographics of your current donors (age)? As a point of reference, I’m 40 – not on Tik Tock and don’t plan to be.
All the best with whatever you decide!
Congrats John! How exciting to hear how much the pod has grown. Really proud and grateful to you.
For me, I only donate when I listen to a podcast. And I think I donate pretty generously in those cases. Like $5-$10 for a single episode. And this is because I’m not listening as frequently but still want to give you support, and I view each podcast as worth that much to me, personally.
I never watch the short videos. I think I watched them once or twice to see what you were up to. So, if MormonStories stopped, I also almost certainly would stop donating, since they are correlated for me. I love listening to the long format interviews. I already know all the history so the shorts aren’t super valuable to me. However, I realize that the younger generation is really into that short format style and it’s important to the well being of youth in the church to be waking up.
I could maybe see having guest hosts of Mormon Stories for ~6 months as long as you’re still doing interviews from time to time. You’re really the heart and soul of this channel. If I’m honest, I prefer my media siloed, so if I’m going to watch shorts, I might watch Zelph on the Shelf or someone else instead. I deeply value your methods and gifts of interviewing, and that’s why I love Mormon Stories. You dig deeper than ANYONE, make people comfortable, leave space for full discussion, and don’t rely too heavily on humor or whatnot. I realize that some people consider a shift and evolution to be ESSENTIAL when it comes to media, so I really don’t know if I’m the right one to ask; I can only say what would likely happen for me, which would be, I wouldn’t engage with shorts at all and I would have less content on MormonStories, so my donations might drop. As long as you’re doing great interviews every few months, my donations won’t change. I am only listening every so often either way and tend to pick and choose based on my interest in a specific individual or topic.
Anyway I might be an exception because of how I listen and donate, but that’s my perspective.
For reference, I am an international listener, in my early 40´s, going through a transition out of devout Mormonism. I started listening a few months ago, so I have not been a regular donor, but have recently made a couple of sizable donations. I work as a corporate finance professional.
If you want the less risky option, you should continue doing Mormon Stories. Imagine Larry King Live without Larry King or Joe Rogan Experience without Joe Rogan. Nope.
I imagine most long form interview listeners are people starting in their 30´s. To be a long-form interviewer, you need self-confidence and life experience, which you don´t normally get in your 20´s or even early 30´s. You have, over the years, really become good at what you do. Don´t fix if it ain´t broken (unless it is broken, meaning views/listens and donations are in steep decline). As a hobby, I recently started podcasting about faith journeys in my language (search “TEEKONNAL” on youtube), half of the episodes are in my language, half in English).
So I think having others (perhaps someone younger) do the short videos is a more natural fit.
I have recently hired a number of new people to my work team and as you know, different people need different kind of management. I expect a more heavy time investment at first. But within a couple of months, they either get going or I have replaced them. Those who have stayed, are performing super well. Oh, and I was hands-on in the hiring/vetting process, so it was a substantial initial time investment, but paid off handsomely.
Depending on the time investment to do the short videos, you might get a few people involved who as a group would be willing to do these for free, as a service. Former active Mormons are used to putting in many hours of volunteer work.
Let me know if I can help with more feedback/ideas.
I would love to see a women or some women involved in understanding Mormonism. What about the woman who has the podcast about the history of Patriarchy or the woman who wrote her theses about the meeting of BH Robert’s and the Brethren over the historicity of The Book of Mormon. (Sorry, I remember stories and not names)
They are also writers. I enjoy almost everything Lindsey Hansen Park writes and records, but then she is also likely too busy.
Or let people apply and “audition” for the job. They can each write their own material on a subject you provide and this way, you might find a fresh voice that viewers/listeners really respond to.
You do a wonderful job of providing a safe environment where your guests can open up and freely tell their stories.
Thank you for the wonderful Pandemic content!
Keep hosting the podcasts. If you must expand to include a video format, please find a better match, more photogenic for the big screen tv
What I meant to say is that I enjoy the podcasts because of you. The focus is entirely on the content, while the video format distracts and dilutes Too risky
Sometime donor here… recently stopped for reasons I won’t go into now. Saw this MS episode last night and began watching the new Sandra Tanner Mark Hofmann interview this morning. It occurred to me to ask: would Sandra Tanner have the time or interest in hosting Understanding Mormonism? She seems to have all the qualifications you are looking for in fitting the job description of UM to a tee.
Like others have already said, I enjoy your long-format interview style. However, you’ve also been a breath of fresh air -and a satisfactorily funny and intelligent one – as the host of Understanding Mormonism. I’m sorry you feel you can’t do both programs, as you’d obviously like to do, but trust that through your innovative skills and judgement, you’ll land on the best solution.
Guest hosts on Mormon Stories might still be nice to see a couple of times a month. My vote is for Jonathan Streeter. I confess that he is my all-time favorite PostMormon content creator. It’s his intelligence/rationality, measured tone, and COMPASSION that have made me a loyal fan.
I am new to your podcast and I’m spending hours every day istening and trying to catch up. I was pleased to learn that you are reading my mind. I have wished for some shorter clips so I can get some needed background to quickly help me follow a given podcast. Sometimes you have suggested listening to a previous podcast before continuing with the one I choose, but I haven’t been able to locate it. I will get familiar with the site in time. Your sources of supporting or foundational information are vital to me, and I would probably need more time than I have left on earth to read them all, but a brief video to summarize a source would be amazing. I could use it to approach my church leaders about my unbelief. Credibility is important to me, although I know I’ll take a beating again, as I did 35 years ago when I approached my leaders with discoveries and a broken heart. I totally enjoyed the laid-back interview with Lindsay Parks, and think she’d do well, but I’m not familiar enough with your guests to make an educated suggestion. I figure if I miss YOU on mormonstories as I continue my journey, I will have hundreds of podcasts I can go back and watch. So I support the sabbatical idea, but in any case, I am submitting my first donation after I send this and WILL absolutely continue to donate no matter which direction you decide to pursue (or not pursue) this idea. God bless you for not being afraid to live by Christ’s example, for the courage to disobey those who would have controlled and stifled your compassionate service, and for the sacrifices you and your family have made for the rest of us who don’t have the guts or talent to do what you have done.
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