642: John Dehlin “Ask Me Almost Anything” on Facebook Live!

John Dehlin answers listener questions via Facebook Live!  This episode was recorded July 20th, 2016.


Richard Bushman Reaffirms his Testimony of “angels, plates, translations, revelations”

Bushman-Richard-L-ed_1As many of you know, Dr. Richard Bushman (LDS patriarch, former stake president, historian, expert on Joseph Smith) recently participated in a fireside wherein the following exchange took place with a participant:

Questioner: In your view do you see room in Mormonism for several narratives of a religious experience or do you think that in order for the Church to remain strong they would have to hold to that dominant [orthodox] narrative?

Richard Bushman: I think that for the Church to remain strong it has to reconstruct its narrative. The dominant narrative is not true; it can’t be sustained. The Church has to absorb all this new information or it will be on very shaky grounds and that’s what it is trying to do and it will be a strain for a lot of people, older people especially. But I think it has to change.

After this video was shared on Reddit and Facebook, rumor and/or speculation began to spread that Dr. Bushman did not believe in the fundamental LDS truth claims.  In response to this rumor/speculation, Dr. Bushman has asked me to share the following letter in its entirety:

July 19, 2016

In the middle of the week last week I began to receive thank you notes from people who had read a statement of mine about the Church’s historical narrative requiring reconstruction. I had no idea what was going on until Dan Peterson wrote about a “kerfuffle”—the word of choice for the occasion—on the blogs. At church on Sunday, D. Fletcher asked me, did you know you were the subject of a kerfuffle. A friend who had been mission president in Brazil sent me a link to a blog in Portugese. Eventually I learned it all began with the transcript of a comment I made at a fireside at Mark England’s house a little over a month ago and posted by John Dehlin.

Sampling a few of the comments on Dan Peterson’s blog I discovered that some people thought I had thrown in the towel and finally admitted the Church’s story of its divine origins did not hold up. Others read my words differently; I was only saying that there were many errors in the standard narrative that required correction.

The reactions should not have surprised me. People have had different takes on Rough Stone Rolling ever since it came out. Some found the information about Joseph Smith so damning his prophethood was thrown into question. Others were grateful to find a prophet who had human flaws, giving them hope they themselves could qualify for inspiration despite their human weaknesses. The same facts; opposite reactions.

The different responses mystify me. I have no idea why some people are thrown for a loop when they learn church history did not occur as they had been taught in Sunday School, while others roll with the punches. Some feel angry and betrayed; others are pleased to have a more realistic account. One theorist has postulated an “emotional over-ride” that affects how we respond to information. But the admission that we ourselves are subjective human beings whose rational mechanisms are not entirely trustworthy does not diminish our sense that we are right and our counterparts mistaken.

As it is, I still come down on the side of the believers in inspiration and divine happenings—in angels, plates, translations, revelations—while others viewing the same facts are convinced they disqualify Joseph Smith entirely. A lot of pain, anger, and alienation come out of these disputes. I wish we could find ways to be more generous and understanding with one another.

Richard Bushman

BONUS: Elder Steven E. Snow Candidly Explains Why the LDS Gospel Topics Essays Are Not Publicized by the Church

steven-e-snow-largeElder Steven E. Snow candidly explains why the LDS Gospel Topics Essays are not publicized by the LDS Church. (Source here.  Date of recording unknown).

“Woven into the story, the history will be some of the issues that sometimes rise associated with church history and our doctrine. We try to cover those with some essays which are linked to lds.org under Gospel Topics. The Bretheren two years ago gave us twelve questions to answer. They included “Race and the Priesthood”, “Polygamy”, “The tranlation of the Book of Mormon”, on and on. Nine of those have now been answered and three questions remain to be answered and we are still working on those. We should conlude our work by the end of this year. If you haven’t had a chance to look at those essays, we’d encurage you to do so and share them with your friends. We are in the process of letting leaders, stake presidents and bishops know about them so they can be a resource in the event that some of their members are having questions or challenges about those issues. “Book of Abraham” essay was just released in July, that’s the most recent of the nine essays that have been publisched on-line.

I think it’d be helpful to know how we chose to roll those out. It was a soft roll out. There wasn’t an announcement saying “You can go to this website to learn everything weird about the Mormon church you ever wanted to learn”. (Laughter from the audience) But yet we had a lot of people struggling with some of these issues. We were loosing young people particularly. And we felt we owed a safe place for people to go to get these answered. So they were deliberately kind of placed in an existing database, so they wouldn’t …. You know, 90% of the church probably couldn’t care less, they don’t worry about such things. But we do have some folks who are on-line and we felt like they needed a safe place to go to get answers if they had questions. So I don’t think you are gonna see a well publicised campaign to tell you to go to these sites. But we just, you know, the people that are interested seem to kind of pass the word amongst themselves. And the only other thing is that leaders now will have access to them. And I think the long- probably the greatest long-term benefit will be: These are answers that have been vetted by the, reviewed by the Quorum of the Twelve and the First Presidency and they have signed off on these answers. And now curriculum and seminaries and institute can safely weave these essays into a future curriculum to in a sense “inoculate” is a word I use quite a bit for the rising generation. So, they can learn a little bit about these things without being totally shocked when they hear them for the first time. Does that make sense? (“yeah” from someone in the audience) Yeah, OK.

So, don’t expect a big campaign. I think there’s been a lot of interest within maybe a small percentage of church members but my view is most of the church really is not troubled, members are not troubled by these.”

A Public Request to Scott Gordon of FAIRMORMON

ScottGordonFAIREuropeDear Scott Gordon (President of FAIRMormon),
Since you chose to publicly smear/malign me in a disingenuous way during your recent trip to Europe on multiple occasions (as has been reported to me by multiple sources — see video link below), I would like to ask you to do five things as a courtesy to me, and as a way to demonstrate your credibility to your followers:
  1. In your presentation you claim to “know me personally, and to have had many conversations with me.” Other than our UVU debate (wherein we did not speak in person in any substantive way), and a few email exchanges, can you please list for me/us the dates/times/locations where you and I have had any meaningful discussions face to face – in a personal way? I remember saying “Hello” to you at a few conferences, I remember a few email exchanges, but I do not ever recall a lunch, or a meeting, or any appointment of any kind that would provide you with enough justification for claiming to know me “personally.” Please share. Otherwise, your claims to “know me personally” come off to me as deceptive…and manipulative….and disingenuous — as if you were trying to mislead your audiences into thinking that you knew/know me better than you really did/do.

    FWIW, if you knew me personally, you would never had made the statement that I “have long believed that there is no God.” Just ask those who know me…personally. Perhaps my faith in God has wavered/fluctuated at times — perhaps I lost a belief in an anthropomorphic God — perhaps I admit that I do not “know” there is a God — but to this day I maintain hope that there is a God and/or an afterlife…even though I have made peace with the possibility that there is no God or afterlife. This has been my position on God for many, many years.

    Regardless, what type of person runs around the world smearing people because of their occasional doubts, while conveniently and intentionally ignoring evidence of their professed belief? Shouldn’t such disingenuous smears simply be off the table for someone who professes to be a disciple of Christ…or even a decent human being?  These types of tactics are beneath you, Scott Gordon.

  2. You claim that I “have long believed that there is no God” – and recently used a quote from a Mormon Expressions podcast interview as your evidence. In that interview I certainly expressed doubt about God — but that interview represented a snapshot in time, and a true low point in my life in many ways. That said — and as you well know — people’s faith journeys can be complex, and faith can wax and wane over a person’s lifetime.  This is a fact which you conveniently ignore when trying to smear me publicly.  So….to demonstrate your “FAIR”ness….can you please take the time to gather together all of the instances where I publicly refer to myself as a believer? I know for a fact that there are at least dozens, if not more, in the public domain. Again….I know that you and your associates claim to be “fair” and balanced in your work…and I know that you have hundreds who can help you do this research….so since I feel misrepresented by you, and somewhat publicly maligned/smeared in a sneering way, can you please do me this favor? I would really appreciate it.
  3. Can you please confirm whether or not you will be editing your video to remove the public misrepresentations you have made, and ceasing to malign/smear me in public again in this fashion?
  4. Can you please explain to me how publicly deceiving, manipulating, and smearing people — and seeking to mischaracterize people’s intimate faith journeys — is/are in any way a positive reflection of either FAIRMORMON or the gospel of Jesus Christ, which you claim to follow? Please explain. In addition, I worry that your ill-conceieved smear tactics are backfiring.  Some evidence from people who attended your presentations:
    1. From an attendee of one of your UK presentations: “I was at one of Scotts presentations, and him trying to discredit both you John, and Jeremy was extremely uncomfortable and I think most of us agreed it was inappropriate.”
    2. A quote from an attendee of your Sweden presentations: “This caracter attack will hurt the members of Sweden.That was last thing we needed.It is allready spreading like wildfire. May I humbly suggest — never do that again. Lots of members who were there in Kungsbacka reacted very strong to it. For those who believe it doesn’t matter if John Dehlin is atheist or believe in God. For those who came to get answers the first part of the conferance was so typical mormon behavior. That damaged more than it helped. I am sure that wasn’t the intent but it was the result. Some feedback from a member who was there.”
  5. Can you please share with us the most recent financial statements from FAIRMORMON? I am not able to find them online.
Thanks so much!
John Parkinson Dehlin
Afternote: In 5 minutes of searching I was able to find several of my public statements about my belief in God.

Source #1:

“Asterisk #1: God. Throughout my Mormon adulthood, I have discovered that the Judeo- Christian/Mormon God that was taught to me in seminary–the God that requested Isaac’s sacrifice of Abraham as a test, and cursed Job for sport; the God that would send his Son to die, instead of facing the suffering Himself; the God that sent an angel with a flaming sword to Joseph; the God that blamed the members for the failures of Zion’s camp; the God whose divinely-led church still finds a way to either oppose or remain behind the times on any significant civil rights or social justice movement; the God who, instead, directs His church to build a multi-billion dollar commercial shopping mall over channeling the widow’s mite to the poor. I struggle to believe in this type of God.
To be fair – I was also taught that my Mormon God loves me as His child – and this teaching has been immensely comforting to me over the years — but these Old Testament-God-like stories are troubling enough to me that I feel like I need to keep searching. I’m still hopeful that Mormonism can support the God of my dreams. I have seen plenty of glimpses.”

Source #2: “John Dehlin: Yeah, regarding God? Ummm, I hope, I hope there is a God. I, I want there to be an afterlife. I’ve felt power and influence in my life before that has motivated me, and I consider myself a believer in God. But this does reflect doubts that I’ve had in my life and that’s why I think it’s a little bit taken out of context because if you… I’m not asking you to respond. Do you mind if I just share? Because some of these are kind of accusations.

Bryan King: Go ahead.

John Dehlin: So, I don’t think anybody actually knows that God exists. I think that people have feelings and emotions and they choose to describe their perspectives as knowledge—but
that is semantics. Because I don’t think that anybody really knows. So, is that grounds for excommunication?”

Source #3:

“God. I still consider myself to be a believer in “the divine” or “God” — although I prefer to retain a great deal of humility when attempting to assign a specific form, beliefs, or behavior to God. I believe that all of us are only guessing when we speak about the divine. While I often question or even doubt the existence of God, it does appear to me as though our creation has some sort of driving force or power, and I cannot deny that (at times) I have felt influence and support in my life which appeared to be outside my own power/ability. Consequently, I retain some hope that there is divine purpose and influence in our existence (and I call this God). I fully acknowledge that I could be wrong about all this, that there could be no “God,” and that this life could be the only life we get. Consequently, I remain determined to make the most of my life on earth — whether or not there is an afterlife.”
Scott Gordon and FAIRMORMON literally gave NO effort to be fair or even-handed with his comments. I don’t know what else to conclude than that he has the desire to malign, distort, manipulate, deceive, etc.

641: Grieving Together: Processing the Recent (and Continual) Loss of Black Lives in America

AltonSterlingIn this episode we invite Psychology Ph.D. candidate Mica McGriggs, Dr. Darron Smith, and Dr. Fatimah Salleh to discuss the recent (and continual) loss of black lives in America due to police action.

Note: Given the sensitivity of this particular issue, I will only be accepting comments in this post that express empathy and support for the panel.  In my view this is not the place/time to debate hand gun policies, politics, or to draw attention back to the white experience.  Please respect this request, and know that we will do our best to find other ways to discuss these issues at another time, in another context.

Thanks.  John Dehlin

Baton Rouge, La.

• On Tuesday morning, two police officers fatally shot a black man, Alton B. Sterling, 37, in Baton Rouge, the capital of Louisiana, while trying to arrest him. The shooting was captured on video that drew widespread attention after it was released online on Wednesday.

• The Justice Department opened a civil rights investigation into the shooting, the latest in a series of killings of civilians that have fueled the Black Lives Matter movement.

• There have been protests and a vigil, but the city has otherwise remained calm.

• Mr. Sterling had a long criminal history, but it is not clear whether the officers knew that when they tried to arrest him.

Falcon Heights, Minn.

• On Wednesday evening, a police officer fatally shot a black man, Philando Castile, 32, during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights, Minn., a suburb of St. Paul, the state capital. The aftermath was streamed on Facebook Live by Mr. Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, a passenger with her young daughter.

• St. Paul has been convulsed by protests. Demonstrators gathered around the home of Gov. Mark Dayton, who said he was shaken by the video. “Would this have happened if the driver were white, if the passengers were white?” he asked. “I don’t think it would have.”

• Mr. Obama, after arriving in Warsaw for a NATO summit meeting, told reporters, “There’s a big chunk of our citizenry that feels as if, because of the color of their skin, they are not being treated the same, and that hurts, and that should trouble all of us.” That was before the demonstration — and the killings of police officers — in Dallas.

• Mr. Castile had notified the police officer that he had a gun on him, and was a licensed gun owner. Whether this information affected the shooting is not clear. Mr. Castile’s girlfriend said he was trying to retrieve his license and registration when the officer opened fire.

Dallas, Texas

• Around 9 p.m., shots were fired as hundreds of demonstrators were peacefully marching west on Main Street in downtown Dallas. Scores could be seen fleeing and screaming, as police officers, who were on the scene to maintain order, took cover.

• Five police officers were killed, seven other police officers were shot and two civilians were wounded. A lawyer for five of the wounded officers said they were expected to recover.

• A senior law enforcement official identified the gunman as Micah Johnson, 25, an Army veteran who lived in the Dallas area. The police killed him using a robot-controlled bomb during a standoff early on Friday.

• The city’s police chief, David O. Brown, originally described the shooting as a coordinated attack by two snipers. Later, officials said they believed Mr. Johnson was the only gunman.

• Three other people are in custody, but their identities and connections to the attack are unknown.