I am truly humbled and honored to release my recent Mormon Stories Podcast interview with Dave, Keri, and Alyssa Witbeck – three phenomenal humans and dear friends – as they share with us their personal navigation through Mormonism as a family of very conscientious members. Themes in today’s episodes include:

  • The potentially toxic combination of religious orthodoxy and perfectionism within Mormon families,
  • Supporting your adult child with an eating disorder,
  • The reality and dangers of spousal abuse and marital rape,
  • Supporting your adult child in a divorce, vs. forcing your adult child to remain in an abusive marriage due to societal or religious pressures, and
  • Navigating a faith crisis as parents while your children remain orthodox believers.

This interview follows in the tradition of my interviews with a) Paul, Kyle, and Lisa Swain Hacking, b) Leah, Cody, and Brinley Young, c) Scott, Joanna, and Maddy Purves, d) Donna and Michael Showalter, and e) Jared, Gwen, Madison, and Taylor Lusk – wherein we interview parents along side their children.

I am incredibly proud of this authentic, powerful interview.

I hope you find value in it.

Part 1 – Dave and Keri reflect on their Mormon upbringing, up to their marriage and raising Alyssa:

Part 2 – Alyssa reflects on her upbringing, as well as her experience with an eating disorder while attending BYU:

Part 3 – Dave and Keri share how cracks developed in their faith, while still-faithful Alyssa was suffering through an abusive marriage:

Part 4: Alyssa shares how she escaped her abusive marriage:

Part 5 – The Witbecks conclude the interview by giving a current status update on their spirituality and path forward:

Part 1

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Part 2

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Part 3

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Part 4

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Part 5

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22 Comments

  1. Vickie Duncan January 18, 2020 at 3:42 pm - Reply

    I have ti sat grateful I am for my mother. That she had the courage years later to tell me. You don’t want to go through the Temple…it is so weird. I look back and think how scary that might have been for her to share such honesty. Kudos to this wonderful family…you did this…you did this…all the good was ot because God answered your prayers. You did this. Survived and became the wonderful people that you on your own.

    • Keri Witbeck January 27, 2020 at 6:40 pm - Reply

      Thank you so much for your kind words :)

  2. Lonnie Morgan January 18, 2020 at 10:17 pm - Reply

    It’s difficult to express how thrilled we are that our family is now out all of the church. It breaks my heart how much suffering this family endured as they struggled to make things work. The trials they endured served the purpose of bringing them to this point where they can now heal from the toxic and damaging effects of Mormonism. The Witbeck’s truly gave it their all, for many years they went the extra mile in their faithfulness. But at some point the church’s deceitfulness became too much to ignore. It took great courage for them to step up, proclaim their freedom, and take back their lives.
    .
    All of our children and grandchildren are now totally out, and it is thrilling to know our posterity will be free of the endless demands for unachievable perfection. No more guilting, no more shaming, no more never being good enough, no more lies and coverups of church history, no more leadership worship. No more having to justify the hypocrisy, the hateful teachings, and the endless gaslighting perpetrated by Mormon leadership. We’re done.

    WE ARE FREE!

    • Keri Witbeck January 27, 2020 at 6:59 pm - Reply

      Beautifully said, thank you so much for your kind words & endless support :)

  3. Nate January 19, 2020 at 10:13 am - Reply

    Hi Dave and Keri, so glad you did this with Alyssa. We loved meeting you on the cruise and getting to know you a couple years ago. Molly and I really liked you guys! The podcast really went into detail…thanks for being so brave and vulnerable with your and Alyssa’s story. Wow. Amazing. Some of us are still too chicken to share our story in public. Alyssa is fantastic. You are lucky to have her in your life.

    • Keri Witbeck January 27, 2020 at 6:42 pm - Reply

      Thank you so much, Nate! We so appreciate what you said. We thoroughly enjoyed meeting you both as well :)

  4. Jessica Brown January 19, 2020 at 7:45 pm - Reply

    Amazing interview! Thank you for your time and openness…

    • Keri Witbeck January 27, 2020 at 6:43 pm - Reply

      Thanks so much for your support :)

  5. Cory January 24, 2020 at 5:44 pm - Reply

    Not quite to the end, so maybe you say this, but is there any legal action being taken against the ex-husband? Rape? Assault? Abuse? It really sounds like a horrific experience.

    • Keri Witbeck January 27, 2020 at 6:51 pm - Reply

      Cory,
      At the time, we were terrified & just put 100% of our energy into getting Alyssa to safety. We absolutely wanted to press charges, but didn’t want to drag anything out for her. All I could think about was helping her put it behind her. In hindsight, we’ve sometimes wished we had pressed charges. I think it would’ve been healing for Alyssa in some ways if she had. However, she is thriving now- so I guess we can’t regret that decision. Thank you for your comments & support. :)

  6. Casey Randall January 24, 2020 at 10:06 pm - Reply

    Sincerest thanks to the Witbecks, especially Alyssa for their courage and candor in sharing their story. I’ve referred a nuanced loved one to the episode discussing the onset of the eating disorder as they deal with it in their family. Best wishes going forward!

    • Keri Witbeck January 27, 2020 at 6:52 pm - Reply

      Thank you for your comments, Casey. Best wishes to you as well :)

  7. Sandy Phillips January 26, 2020 at 11:00 pm - Reply

    I was in an abusive marriage, much like Alyssa’s, for 33 years. I know – that’s a really long time to live in dysfunction! It took such a toll on my psyche and sucked the joy out of my life. We were married in the temple, totally devout in the Church, and my husband was my Bishop during five of the last six years of our marriage. I am so happy for Alyssa, that she acknowledged the dysfunction early on (before children came along) and got the heck out of that toxic relationship! Whenever I had questions about gospel teachings, my husband would angrily shame me saying, “If you have faith, you don’t question anything!” I think it’s natural and healthy to question anything and everything. After the divorce in 2015, I decided I needed to really know my religion, and I delved deeply into studying. I was shocked and horrified to learn the truth, but even more so, about the leaders of the Church hiding the history (Joseph Smith, temple ceremony, Book of Abraham, polygamy, etc.) from the members. Later the same year, I resigned my membership in the Church. It was a hard road to walk alone after leaving my marriage and my religion, but I am still 100% sure it was the right thing to do for my self preservation. Four years later, I am more joyful and confident than I have ever been! LIFE IS AMAZING!!!

    • Keri Witbeck January 27, 2020 at 6:57 pm - Reply

      Thank you for your comments, Sandy. I’m so sorry to hear about what you went through. And I couldn’t agree more, not only is it natural, but very healthy to question everything. I’m so grateful that both you & Alyssa were able to free yourselves from toxic situations. Life really is amazing, isn’t it? :)

  8. Y Park January 27, 2020 at 6:47 pm - Reply

    Great Interview! Many of us Exmos & PIMOs have So much in common with these fine folks! Truly Successful Cult Survivors!! Good on ya!!

    • Keri Witbeck February 11, 2020 at 4:23 pm - Reply

      Thank you so much for your kind words and support! :)

  9. Garth February 1, 2020 at 5:49 pm - Reply

    Dave, Keri, and Alyssa,
    I have two more episodes to go and I can’t refrain from just pausing and thanking you all for sharing your stories. Every minute is so healing for me. I love all the Mormon Stories episodes but I do have a list of favorites. Your episodes have made it on my “Favorites List.”
    Thank you all so much, I am so looking forward to the final two episodes!
    Garth

    • Keri Witbeck February 11, 2020 at 4:28 pm - Reply

      Garth,

      Thank you so much for taking the time to post your supportive comments. The whole reason we did this podcast was to hopefully be a support to someone, I’m so happy to hear that it was healing for you in some way.

      All our best to you,

  10. Yolanda Orr February 4, 2020 at 2:55 pm - Reply

    Thank you for sharing your story and journey in truth. We have a young child with tendancies to hyper focus. We have thought for a long time that organized religion would be a dangerous path for her and your story gives us peace with our decision to keep her far away. Your unconditional love and support for each other is inspiring. Also i think we are related, my mom was a Witbeck .

    • Keri Witbeck February 11, 2020 at 6:41 pm - Reply

      Yolanda,

      Thank you for you kind words & support. Your daughter is very lucky to have parents who are conscious of what may be harmful to her personally.
      Who is your mother? We may very well be related.

      All the best to you,

  11. David Waters March 7, 2020 at 11:32 am - Reply

    The Witbecks,

    I really appreciated your willingness to be on the podcast. As someone who is still trying to sort out his faith and in the midst of a faith crisis I particularly resonated with David’s approach to this process. I know you all did lots of research which is where I am at in this whole process. I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind sharing with me some of the reliable resources you found while you were going through this process. I greatly admire your courage and willingness to share.

    David Waters

    • David Witbeck March 7, 2020 at 6:49 pm - Reply

      Thank you for your comments. Originally for me, the only “reliable” material to study came from the church or sold at Deseret Book. For example, I looked up the various accounts of the first vision in the Joseph Smith papers. The church talks about them in the essays but I wanted to read the accounts directly from their source. I wanted to learn more about why the three witnesses left the church so I searched for documents written by them (I only remember finding something written by David Whitmer). I did read the CES letter but I only focused on things that I could verify using trusted material. For example, in the CES letter, Jeremy talks about scriptures that were copied to the Book of Mormon verbatim from the King James version of the Bible, but those same scriptures were later “corrected” in the Joseph Smith translation of the Bible. When I learned that I pulled out my Book of Mormon (paper copy) and Bible, and compared those scriptures for myself. I also read books like “Joseph Smith Rough Stone Rolling” by Richard Bushman because he is still an active member and his book was available at Deseret Book so I believed I could trust it. I also listened to a lot of Mormon Stories podcasts and found it helpful to hear how other people, once stalwarts in the church, would process all of this new information that I was finding. As time went on I began to trust materials from non-church sources such as Fawn Brodie’s, “No Man Knows My History” and Grant Palmer’s book. Today I find inspiration and knowledge from many other sources.

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