673-674: Jesse Stay – Former LDS Church Social Media Lead

jessestayJesse Stay worked for three years as leader of the LDS Church’s social media initiatives. He was the first LDS Church employee with the name “social media” in his title.  His work primarily involved formulating the early Facebook and Twitter strategies for the church (including for LDS general authorities).  Jesse also provided social media support to various LDS Church departments including the missionary department, public relations, genealogy, the Joseph Smith Papers project, and the “I’m a Mormon” PR campaign.

In this two-part episode, Jesse discusses:

  • Part 1: The evolution of Jesse’s LDS testimony, as he became aware of factual LDS history, saw the inner-workings of LDS Church headquarters, and as he struggled with the LDS church’s November LGBT policy and its direct impact on family and friends.
  • Part 2: Jesse discusses in-depth his experiences working two years for the LDS church as Senior Advisor of Social Media, and for one year as Director of Social Media at Deseret Digital Media.

Currently, Jesse is the founder and principal of Stay N Alive, a social media advertising and marketing agency.

Part 1:

Part 2:



102 comments for “673-674: Jesse Stay – Former LDS Church Social Media Lead

  1. November 21, 2016 at 4:24 pm

    Thanks for having me John!

  2. Jeff Van Vliet
    November 21, 2016 at 5:00 pm

    Looking forward to listening!

  3. Doubting Thomas
    November 21, 2016 at 5:29 pm

    Now this is one I will listen to this evening. Jesse may I ask a question before even cracking open the podcast? Here it is: Do the “brethren” actually post their own messages to Facebook and Twitter?

    • November 21, 2016 at 9:06 pm

      Watch Episode 2 🙂

      • Doubting Thomas
        November 22, 2016 at 11:11 am

        I did last night, and as I suspected, the top 15 leaders don’t post to Facebook or Tweet, but rather a church employee does it. This practice is certainly a pet peeve of mine.

        Jesse, you’re a social media. If you hopped on your wife’s Facebook page and responded to posts, as if you were her, without identifying yourself, would that be “correct” social media etiquette? What if you Tweeted on her behalf? Not cool in my opinion.

        The corporate church has an official Facebook page and Twitter account. THESE platforms would be appropriate to send messages from employees as representatives of the church.

        It seems fake to me which makes total sense to me now.

        Great interview Jesse. Well done John.

        • November 22, 2016 at 1:00 pm

          Thank you Thomas. From a business standpoint it’s standard for Executives to have ghost writers. The most effective businesses train their executives on the use of social media however, and empower them to post on their own and respond on their own. That’s what Joseph Smith would have done.

          • Rob
            November 22, 2016 at 2:25 pm

            Joseph Smith would likely have also used ghost writers. He used clerks and scribes extensively during his life. Very few historical documents are in his own hand.

          • David Day
            November 23, 2016 at 11:41 am

            I remember when Bronco Mendenhall finally “went” on Twitter. The tweets were so obviously from someone in the athletics department instead of Bronco. I wonder how common that is.

  4. Neuquino
    November 21, 2016 at 5:42 pm

    Looks awesome! Will download and listen!

    • Neuquino
      November 25, 2016 at 1:07 pm

      I watched it, and would highly recommend it, member or non-member! Jesse keeps it very unbiased and neutral, something I would not be able to do, for sure! Its all about his experience working for the church, and, as I suspected, its very much like working for any large corporation, with a couple of unique twists.

  5. Lisa McCarville
    November 21, 2016 at 8:42 pm

    Always riveting, inspirational and amazing to me how courageous people are in their journey for the truth.

    • November 22, 2016 at 11:22 am

      Thank you.

  6. Bob
    November 21, 2016 at 9:42 pm

    So much for the “leaders” leading the Church. It will be interesting as more and more people leaving the Church come out and begin sharing what’s really going on. So much for “modern revelation” eh? When all the Q-15 are only approving or disapproving what the lower level employees are creating., where’s the “direct revelation” in that?

  7. Mark
    November 21, 2016 at 10:12 pm

    Hello, Very interesting and sad story of his Stake President trying to “confront” him about mild facebook posts and church members gossiping about them. Did I understand correctly that Jesse claimed his father was sealed to two living women at the same time? Divorced from the first wife and sealed to a second woman while still sealed to his first wife? I thought the church required a sealing cancellation for a man to be sealed to a second living woman.

    • November 22, 2016 at 12:29 am

      No he is sealed to both of them. I’ve confirmed that with my mom.

      • Doubting Thomas
        November 22, 2016 at 11:16 am

        Not only is this practice done, but divorced women are also encouraged to STAY sealed to a living husband who seeks to be, and is, sealed to a second woman. Why? Better to be sealed to some man than no man.

        This practice is spiritual polygamy for the living.

        • Gary
          November 22, 2016 at 1:37 pm

          All of these sealing and unsealing issues are handily resolved when you discover that the Mormon Heaven exists only in TBM imaginations along with all of these after-death relationship complications.

          BS summed it up (Billy Shakespeare): Much Ado About Nothing

          • November 22, 2016 at 1:39 pm

            That is truly one of the greatest therapies for me in leaving the Church. I now am not as frustrated as I used to be about the multiple sealings because it truly doesn’t matter to me any more. I don’t understand it at all, but in reality I don’t care.

      • Mark
        November 22, 2016 at 11:15 pm

        Wow, polygamy is alive and well in the Mormon church.

    • AG
      November 25, 2016 at 3:11 pm

      Divorced men just need a clearance, not a cancellation. There are many divorced men who are sealed to multiple living women.

      • J
        December 21, 2016 at 4:27 pm

        Not true. My brother is being remarried in the temple after being divorced. His ex is still living. He had to get a full cancellation.

  8. Gary
    November 22, 2016 at 12:37 am

    Dear Jesse,

    Thank you for what you chose to share with us, and thank you, John, for bringing Jesse to us.

    I will confess to feeling frustrated every time you bit your tongue and alluded to information you opted to keep confidential for various reasons. In some ways, this was a “teaser” podcast with the most incriminating revelations left unrevealed. You certainly did, however, communicate your bottom line assessment of the Church by “those opposed vote with your feet.”

    Your characterization of the Twelve keeping themselves inaccessible and surrounded by Yes Men walking on eggs was not surprising. Your hope that The Brethren begin to engage directly with members and others via Social Media is a recipe for disaster for the Church. I am surprised you think that’s even remotely gonna happen. Gordon with Larry King and Jeffrey with the British journalist are famous examples of what happens when individuals with so much to hide and keep hidden are handed an “open mic” and no pre-correlated script.

    You know better than most of us that more transparency and more exposure of truth has been and will continue to be a PR disaster for a Church whose only thing in common with Jesus Christ is the same name.

    Maybe after more time goes by you might consider leaking some of what you did not feel comfortable sharing on this podcast. You discovered personally that the Church is basically founded on fraud and continues to hide its true nature and core values from public view.

    I will observe that the The Brethren only deceive themselves when they presume to successfully hide their actual motivations and true agenda from public view. Some of us out here have learned how to discern truth from facade. The method is dirt simple, Jesse, and anyone can do it. Two steps: 1) Turn off the sound and stop all the words. People will tell you only what they want you to hear; 2) Watch their behaviors. What people DO will betray their core values and actual agenda.

    “By their fruits ye shall know them” is a maxim you can always rely on.

    Congratulations to you, Jesse, on getting yourself out. My great great grandfather wrote the hymn “O How Lovely Was The Morning.” And now, Jesse, when “radiant beams the sun above,” you are free at last from the Plan of Eternal Repression.

    Thank you again for sharing. Like Paul Harvey used to say, I look forward one day to “the rest of the story.”

    • November 22, 2016 at 9:59 am

      Maybe a deathbed confessions book or something. That’s as far as I’ll go likely.

  9. Mark Johnson
    November 22, 2016 at 3:49 am

    Not LDS related but …. Minecraft Recipes for Dummies!!! Great stuff! Just got into it recently as a way to teach computer science to kids, its cool. You should do a podcast about that! 😉

  10. Mark Johnson
    November 22, 2016 at 6:46 am

    Were you involved in LDSTECH? I remember contributing to some of the early discussions on that back in the day. That seemed to be the hotbed of the church reaching out to the open source community.

    • November 22, 2016 at 10:00 am

      Yes, I was on the team that launched it.

  11. Rob
    November 22, 2016 at 8:31 am

    Jesse, thank you for an overall balanced perspective. Thank you for your openness. Thank you for your integrity in not violating confidential information. Thank you for affirming that the corporate side of the Church operates just like any other organization.

    Some thoughts.

    What we think of as “The Church” is comprised of two distinct halves–the ecclesiastical and the corporate– which work in tandem to fulfill the objectives of the Church. I believe that a clear understanding of the two is essential.

    The ecclesiastical side is what most think of as the Church, from the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, down to local Stake Presidents and Bishops.

    The business side of the Church has all of the same internal challenges, politics, bureaucracy, etc. as any other organization in corporate America.

    Where the Church differs from other organizations is in that the business side exists only to support the ecclesiastical.

    YSAs have for a long long time had lower activity measures than married adults. This is no secret or surprise.

    In my view, whether you join or remain a member of the Church comes down to personal belief and each individual’s relationship with deity. All of us must use our agency to choose our own path.

    • November 22, 2016 at 10:02 am

      I don’t disagree with you. On either side it comes down to faith, and faith is based on evidence. Which side has more evidence for/against it? That’s all you can do. And I don’t blame anyone for choosing one side or the other.

      • Greg
        November 22, 2016 at 2:33 pm

        Faith is based on evidence? I don’t understand what you mean by that statement. Faith is, by definition, believing or hoping without the need for evidence.

        • November 23, 2016 at 1:13 am

          Hebrews 11:1 – “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

          • Greg
            November 23, 2016 at 9:14 am

            The “evidence” that is talked about in this verse is not evidence like you would have in a court of law. They are talking about more of a conviction of things that cannot be seen with the naked eye.

          • November 23, 2016 at 10:56 am

            Based on what? Your opinion? There are multiple ways to interpret every scripture. I don’t believe in blind faith. And I think those that suggest they do are lying to themselves. The very essence of why people believe is ALWAYS based on some sort of evidence, whether it be witnesses, family traditions, history, or experiences. Faith’s very foundation only exists because those evidences prompted that faith.

          • Steve
            November 28, 2016 at 5:00 pm

            Not to discount anyone else’s interpretation, but my understanding of this text is that our acts of faith become the substance or tangible manifestation of our hope in Christ and/or they become a manifestation or evidence that we have experienced the invisible God and he has made changes to the inner man – so our lives become the evidence that God is real.

          • dennis perez
            December 9, 2016 at 7:01 pm

            In my understanding and conclusion..faith is the evidence of things that we hoped for…

          • December 12, 2016 at 2:48 pm

            Exactly. Faith needs evidence to exist.

          • Cory
            December 12, 2016 at 7:28 pm

            To Greg, re: “evidence.” The Greek word is “elenchos,” which is, in fact, the same word used for evidence presented in a court of law. Liddell & Scott gives an example from Thucydides: “hoi peri Pausanian el.,” “The evidence on which he was convicted [viz. Pausanias].” See Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon, s.v. “elenchos.”

          • December 13, 2016 at 11:45 pm

            Thank you Cory!

    • Mark Johnson
      November 22, 2016 at 1:34 pm

      Rob, I do think that the corporate side has influence over the ecclesiastical side, programs birthed in the corporate side are rolled out to the ecclesiastical side, in a very bearutractic way.

      The structure of the corporate side inspires the ecclesiastical side, but given the ecclesiastical side is dealing with spirituality, which is messy and doesn’t respond well to bureaucracy.

    • Gary
      November 22, 2016 at 4:35 pm

      Where the Church differs from other organizations is in that the business side exists only to support the ecclesiastical?

      Uuuhhh . . . errrr . . . . How do you spell . . . you got that . . . like . . . exactly . . . B-A-C-K-W-A-R-D-S ????????

    • EvenStar
      November 24, 2016 at 8:01 am

      It seems to me that the church is very business oriented and that is has little to do with supporting the church. If this was the case. The mormon leadership would be open and transparent about their finances and about how these business support their ” sacred ecclesiastical duties.” So far, I don’t see how building the City Creek supports the ecclesiastical part of the church, or how developing and entire city in florida support the church mission. I don’t see how the church selling of luxury condominiums in City Creek support the church and the vision Jesus had for us. Can you explain this please? Can the brethren enlighten us about how all these projects and more support the ecclesiastical side of the church? I doubt that explanation will ever come because it’s just business like any other corporation would do, to gain money because their priority is money.

    • Daniel
      November 25, 2016 at 11:34 am

      Hi Rob,

      In addition to what you call the ecclesiastical and corporate parts of the Church, I would add a third, the general membership of the Church. Many members have a tendency to think of “the Church” as a separate entity from themselves when in fact, they are part of the Church, hold callings, and if male, hold the priesthood. Likewise Church leaders ought not to think of themselves as apart from the membership, and certainly not “higher than” the members. There is good reason why the scriptures teach that the Church is to be governed “by common consent,” and not just dictated to by the leaders.

  12. November 22, 2016 at 10:31 am

    Jesse, while it’s still disappointing to see that you’ve made the poor decisions you’ve made that will inevitably affect not only yourself, but your family for generations, I can’t say that I didn’t see this coming. When you made the point to me several years ago while working for the Church that the Church should train bishops on how to counsel “gay couples” about limits on sexual involvement, I knew then you were headed for the exit. It’s too bad there was not much I could do to steer you otherwise.

    I will be straight up with you. From what I’ve experienced in my interactions with you, your struggles believing in the history and teachings of the Church come not from those so-called “problem” elements themselves, but from your conflicting pursuit of self-aggrandizement, building your personal brand, and changing the concept of tolerance into embracing and believing in false teachings. When you seek the acceptance of the entire social media community, trying to gain followers by the hundreds, this is what happens.


    • November 22, 2016 at 12:56 pm

      Richard, I’m sorry that you are willing to put an organization over our friendship. I’ve never criticized your thoughts nor beliefs openly like you’re doing to me here, and I’m not going to start. I’ve referred business to you and always considered you a friend. Who’s being selfish here? I am the one saddened by your comments.

      • halfinhalfout
        November 22, 2016 at 3:58 pm

        Not sure what Richard is trying to achieve here, I guess he is trying to stop people being led astray by someone who has an egotistical agenda, and therefore should not be followed.

        The effect on me was to think, what a mean-spirited personal attack in a public forum.

        That apart, I too want the church to be successful. The problem is my progressive version of success is probably incompatible with orthodox belief. And it is orthodox mormon leaders who set the Key Success Factors. So I rather think we are at an impasse, which will end with me being frustrated with feeling like a second class citizen (alluding to John’s previous podcast), and then falling into less activity.

        • November 22, 2016 at 5:57 pm

          I would love the Church to be successful too. I can’t help but wonder if Richard never watched the videos. I truly did try to remain friendly to both Mormons and non.

      • Richard Robbins
        November 23, 2016 at 11:14 pm


        You might want to consider that you’ve decided to publicly denounce my religion. Knowing you as well as I have in the past, I feel a sense of duty to point out what I believe are your motivations. That’s my inherent duty as a defender of the faith. You can take that for what it’s worth.

        In fact, I did listen to at least a half hour or so of the interview, which is a criticism of my thoughts and beliefs and well as every other member of the Church who remains faithful. Just one quick rebuttal, you mention that the Church was never clear on its stance on “gay rights”. Um, have you ever read the Family Proclamation? For those who aren’t marching in the LGBT parades, that document provides all the detail a person needs to know about how the Lord and his Church leaders feel about homosexuality, which is directly in opposition to the purpose of the family.

        If you weren’t after publicity and building your own brand, the right choice would be to simply remove yourself from the Church and go away quietly, as I’ve seen many people do.

        Instead, just like John Dehlin, you seek out a profitable forum to go broadcast to the world that you’ve found the smoking gun on Mormonism while pointing out the same gossip and hearsay that has been repeated since the Church was founded. You’re simply looking for headlines and attention. The whole act is disingenuous. Sometime down the road when you realize how silly this whole thing is and decide to come back to partake of what’s now missing from your life, I predict that you’ll turn that news into a chance to gain headlines in social media and elsewhere.

        If you’re looking for headlines, attention, a job, whatever, find a different avenue, and quit worrying so much about whether the gays think you’re a homophobe because you’re LDS.

        • November 23, 2016 at 11:45 pm

          Richard, I ask you to please sincerely and carefully ask yourself: “Is my religion Christian?” I value our friendship. The way you’re treating me is not the way a man loves his neighbor. And the religion I believed in was Christian – it taught me not to act the way you’re treating me right now. I have made no personal attacks towards you. Please offer me the same respect. I still love you man – I hope you’ll offer me the same respect.

        • EvenStar
          November 24, 2016 at 8:33 am

          You say Jesse is publicly denouncing your religion. What is the difference between denouncing your religion or telling the truth? Instead of complaining about Jesse denouncing your religion, why don’t you point out if the information was correct or not? We haven’t read in any of your comments one single line that explains what was said that was not true. was something said that was not true? Ultimately, If there is nothing to hide, there is really nothing to fear. And instead of being a defender of the church, shpuldnt it be better to be a defender of truth? Is the church affecting your ability to reason to such degree that you care about defending the church Thant the truth? Wouldn’t that be a poor decision on your part to start being dishonest with yourself to follow any church? If you have some common sense left in you, you will understand what I’m telling you.

          Also, the proclamation of the family doesn’t mentiong LGBT people at all. It’s like they don’t exist. The proclamation of the family is not clear on the church position about gays and lesbians family. The proclamation of the family leaves it to you to interpret whatever you want. In your personal interpretation this issue is clear but for the rest of us is impossible to form any opinion about this issue when the LGBT is not event mentioned in this document. And if th church was clear and transparent on these issues, we all would have access to the Handbook 2 instead of having to find out about church policies through a third party hacker in facebook. Are you gojng to tell me that this is transparency and clarity about he church position on LGBTs?

          But no matter what you will find a way to excuse the inexcusable and to justify all your leaders say and do, because even if facts are in your face, you will deny them. You have identified yourself so much with the church, that you take it personal. If the church is exposed, you feel like you are being exposed ypurself,. If the church is criticized, you feel attacked and criticized yourself. This is endoctrination. You are not the church.

        • Earl Scruggs
          November 24, 2016 at 9:53 am

          You asked why Jesse didn’t remove himself from the Church. This may not be Jesse’s concern but I would guess that there are many disillusioned Church employees who are afraid to submit their resignation letter for fear that the Church may terminate their future retirement, even if the employee paid much of the future moneys.

          And you also seem completely opposed to Christian behavior, which is a behavior I find in some of my neighbors. Jesse seems pretty Christian-like to me even if such behavior is not exclusive to Christianity or even atheism.

          Jesse, you have done a good job explaining what you could. Thanks! And many thanks to you too, John. I’ll bet you are a big thorn in the Church’s side! Keep up the good work!

        • Nobunaga73
          November 25, 2016 at 1:27 am

          “That’s my inherent duty as a defender of the faith”.

          Seems a rather grandiose self-appointment, no? How official are these titles, anyway? Do you have a badge you can show before engaging in internet squabbles?

          You’re certainly full of unsolicited advice so I’ll give you mine. Spend more time looking at yourself and less time worrying about others’ journey.

          And stop freaking out about the gay stuff so much (it’s a bit of a tell).

        • Gary
          November 25, 2016 at 3:33 am

          I have posted twice now in direct response to Richard’s comments to Jesse.

          It appears that my sentiments in response to Richard have not survived JD’s moderation filter. (Other posts of mine on this thread have gone through OK, which I appreciate.)

          I do not have to agree with John to respect his right to regulate the dialog here as he sees fit.

          So let’s try for Strike 3. I will water down my observations triggered by Richard a fair amount and see if John will approve what I post this time.

          Dear Richard,

          Many or most of us former Mormons have observed what I see you doing in response to Jesse. If you don’t like the message (yet another publicized discovery that the Church might not true), then it appears that many or most True Believing Mormons (TBMs) seem to automatically (as if via a predetermined neural network) resolve the cognitive dissonance by immediate trigger of a “shoot the messenger” response without actual consideration of the message content.

          The problem is never the Church or its leaders or its doctrine or its behavior or its history. Virtually never. It’s always a problem with the character, intelligence. mental health, maladjustment or wounded emotions of the messenger.

          I appears to me that the normally functioning critical thinking skills of TBMs generally seem to be automatically suspended upon receipt of incoming messaging regarding the Church that is not faith promoting. It also appears to me that TBMs are unaware that their otherwise critical thinking skills just switch OFF as if they are suddenly exposed to personal danger with a response not unlike the proverbial Fight or Flight reaction when physical survival is threatened.

          I will truncate the remainder of my thoughts on topic in hopes that John’s moderating filter will allow Strike 3 to connect.

    • Em
      November 22, 2016 at 2:46 pm

      Sadly – this is very typical criticism of people who leave the church for legitimate reasons. To people in the church, they have to create shortcomings in those who leave. To them, legitimate reasons CANNOT exist. Sigh. All we can really do is keep talking, keep pointing things out, and let reality be our alibi.

    • EvenStar
      November 24, 2016 at 8:11 am

      there is nothing wrong with giving suggestions to leadership on how to help the members better. LGBT community have unique problems and challenges that most of us are not familiar with. The bishop or anyone helping people should have some kind of training and do their part instead of waiting for God to tell them what to do without any effort on their part. You get it Richard? God will help those that help themselves. There is no valid reason for you to criticize Jesse for being proactive and giving constructive criticism. Jesses suggestions benefit us all. They benefit the bishop and they benefit the LGBT community. What are you complaining about? Maybe you are just angry and need to find fault in Jesse no matter what.

      Jesse had to make the best decision he could with the knowledge he ca and he did. If he can respect your decision to stay in church, you should respect his decision to leave. Only Jesse can decide if his decision was a poor decision or not, not you.

    • Nancy
      December 8, 2016 at 6:53 pm

      Self aggrandizement, building a brand….just like the LDS church!

  13. November 22, 2016 at 12:57 pm

    In part 2 at around the 56:32 mark, Jesse says, “I still don’t like the fact that Mike Norton, aka ‘NewNameNoah’ was breaking into temples…”

    Let me set the record straight, when I go to various temples for the purpose of documenting the temple rituals on video I do not “break in”, I gain entry one of three ways:

    1. I borrow a temple recommend from a non-believing member who still holds a valid temple recommend.

    2. I create my own elaborately forged temple recommends using a method that could best be described as “meticulously anal retentive”.

    3. I attended a Ward for three months under an alias and claimed to be a full tithe payer in addition to giving a generous Fast Offering. I have hidden camera footage of me handing my tithing envelope to the Bishop on more than one occasion.

    There’s no “breaking in” the temples. I put my magic underwear on one leg at a time and walked in through the front door like everyone else. 😉

    It should be noted that I have helped over 200 “unworthy” people attend sealing ceremonies of their loved ones since I left Mormonism in 2002. Most of them used forged temple recommends and some of them have used borrowed temple recommends that I helped them obtain. I guess what I do is kind of like a temple spin on the Underground Handcart Company. 😉

    • Mormon X
      November 23, 2016 at 8:59 am

      Mike, so those worthy priesthood holders in the temple have never been prompted to call you out? Two hundred unworthy people have sneaked into the temple and not one of them was called out? So much for the power of discernment by priesthood leaders. Amazing how far the Church will teach (scare) its members into submission to their will.

    • Ty
      January 10, 2017 at 3:23 pm

      Well….those are 3 ways to enter a temple- none of which requires an honest heart.
      My recommend expires this month, I do hope I qualify for a renewal inspite of my faith struggles but if it’s between not going or getting Mike Norton to hook me up, I think that is an easy decision.

  14. Linda Wilson (Jim Wilson)
    November 22, 2016 at 2:42 pm

    Hi Jesse. Enjoyed the podcast! We were in the same ward with your grandfather and his family forty plus years ago. I don’t believe you said your fathers name. We knew Greg especially well and Larry a little . I can’t help but wonder who your father is. Greg worked for my husbands business for many years. Would you be comfortable saying? Thanks

    • November 23, 2016 at 1:10 am

      Yes, Greg is my dad

  15. Coriantumr
    November 23, 2016 at 6:58 am

    I’m sure that you had nothing to do with this……. The LDS Scripture portal. once you chose a language different than English has a HORRIBLE error in the Spanish translation. Doctrines and Covenants is translated loosely [pun intended] into Doctrina y Convenios. Doctrina is singular..It should be Doctrinas…plural. If you can post back who do I speak to…… It kinda makes you feel children of a lesser planet and God that Spanish has such an error right at the takeoff. Thanks

    • November 23, 2016 at 10:53 am

      There used to be a feedback button on the site you could report stuff like that. I don’t know if it’s still there.

  16. Kendall
    November 23, 2016 at 8:19 am

    Well done! Thanks for sharing what you could, and for your professionalism.

    • November 23, 2016 at 10:53 am

      Thank you

  17. Mormon X
    November 23, 2016 at 9:25 am

    Jesse, thanks for doing this interview. I learned a few things about the workings of this part of the Church. Just a couple of follow up questions if you don’t mind. I realize there are some legal ramifications if you were to divulge certain information about the Church and you mentioned that the Church doesn’t seem to target anyone who opposes it. My question is: Are you concerned that you could still be targeted in some way even if you divulged other kinds of information (with no legal consequences) about the Church?

    My other question is: In the Church’s office environment, is there a sense or atmosphere that the leaders and church workers are separate from the rest of the regular membership? For example, I ‘m wondering if there is a prevailing mentally (that seems to exist in the Education Department) or arrogance where the leaders and employees feel and/or act like they are better, smarter, or at a higher spiritual plane then the average Church member.

    • November 23, 2016 at 11:02 am

      In answer to your first question, “targeted” is a broad term. Would I have been excommunicated for this interview? Very likely (another reason I resigned). Would I have been fired if I were still working there? Possibly. Could they sue me if I shared confidential information I agreed not to share? Very possible (but there’s not much money I have to give so I don’t see why they would – it would hurt them more than me in terms of publicity).

      That said, like any job I’ve ever had I signed an employee agreement. I have not only a legal responsibility but an ethical one to honor that agreement. Leaving the Church I still have principles. I personally don’t see the need to “take down” the organization like many do. I am simply happy to be a support for those that are struggling and am here when they need that.

  18. Draperville
    November 23, 2016 at 10:17 am

    I’ll be listening to this podcast tomorrow but I just ran into this little curiosity. Someone by the name of Jesse Stay played the role of Elohim in early temple movies. Is this Jesse Stay a son or grandson of Movie Elohim? If so, that’s a pretty novel bullet point on a Mormon pedigree. http://www.salamandersociety.com/media/movies/templemovie/

    • November 23, 2016 at 11:03 am

      Yes – we discussed this in the podcast.

  19. Joy
    November 23, 2016 at 10:51 am

    Did you literally hack into members’ FaceBook accounts to get their responses to Conference? Isn’t that a gross violation of privacy on the part of the church?

    • November 23, 2016 at 11:04 am

      No hacking was done. All Twitter conversations are completely public. This is normal behavior for any business to understand what people are saying. In fact, everyone who participates on Twitter with the #ldsconf hashtag usually follows each others’ tweets.

  20. Scott Roskelley
    November 23, 2016 at 11:03 am

    I was really surprised about how he wanted to implement AI technology to track social network progression from investigation to baptism to disaffection and exit. Not because I saw the effort as subversive or too “out there” – it’s just that it looks absolutely the church future as youth and adult surveys only come up with scant/little information as to why the active stay activated. Jesse can you explain the back tracking on the strengthening the members committee and the AI/digital trolling software and staff involved on monitoring all blogs and social media posts? We all know about the Kirk van-Allen story when they discussed online section132 on the mormonverse blog and had maybe 40 followers, until “salt lake” called his local sp and bishop and directed them to take down. Also there was a huge movement by the church to try to shut down anything related to tom phillips and the second anointing. Primarily people want to map out who is a member of the anointed quorum and how the social networks evolve to recommend others to replenish the quorum as people die off. He mentioned his grandfather received the second anointing – how does he know and who recommended him to receive the ordinance?

    • November 23, 2016 at 11:12 am

      Wow – a lot of questions. I’ll do my best to answer.

      I didn’t backtrack on the Strengthening Members Committee – I never saw one and if one existed I wasn’t aware. They never had interactions with me.

      As for monitoring blogs/social media posts, this was not an active thing other than understanding the topic du jour of what the internet was talking about related to the Church – it was mostly based on specific requests and threats. For example, after General Conference the 12 wanted to know what people were saying during General Conference, so we accrued stats around that. Occasionally if there were specific security threats those would be tracked via public searches as well. These are normal tasks for any large corporation.

      I only know my grandparents had the second annointing because they told family they had it. They didn’t tell us anything else and didn’t like to talk about it.

      • Scott Roskelley
        November 23, 2016 at 11:43 am

        my understanding on the kirk van allen mormonverse blog was that it was not launched long maybe only a few days or weeks before a digital media surveillance team at the church headquarters, identified it, flagged it as negative, and immediately took action through local leadership channels to take it down and silence them. it takes special software and staff to run that kind of operation and it sounds a lot like china, the great firewall, and taking down sites discussing jasmine, umbrellas, charter08, or even admiring the work of ai weiwei. Likely a investigative team was tipped by a church IP lawyer who monitors any url registered with the word mormon in it.

        • November 23, 2016 at 11:48 am

          Sounds like any corporation in America – when copyright or Trademark is violated, the trademark owner has a legal responsibility to defend it. EVERY corporation in America with money actively tracks these violations and makes legal requests to respect copyright/trademark infringement.

          • Scott Roskelley
            November 23, 2016 at 2:02 pm

            primarily I was asking if you knew more about the digital media surveillance team at church headquarters which is monitoring the personal views of members on doctrine published on the internet and the machinery behind this surveillance which quickly tips local leaders to take action.

          • Gary
            November 23, 2016 at 2:11 pm

            Members are already spying on each other via social media and tattling to the bishop.

            It had not occurred to me that the Church itself could spend tithing resources to spy on its members directly.

            Has the Strengthening the Members committee gone stalking in cyberspace?

            How close are we to sending missionaries to North Korea? People there are already conditioned to be good Mormons.

        • November 23, 2016 at 11:51 am

          This article describes the trademark owner’s responsibilities well: http://www.forbes.com/sites/oliverherzfeld/2013/02/28/failure-to-enforce-trademarks-if-you-snooze-do-you-lose/#17258f517718 – if the Church doesn’t seek out and attempt to defend their trademarks it weakens the trademarks they own.

          Now, another conversation could be had about whether it’s really necessary for a Church to hold so many trademarks and if all of them are necessary. But as long as they have them, they’re required to defend and protect them.

          • Scott Roskelley
            November 23, 2016 at 2:03 pm

            the mormon trademark is an interesting study. I did a search on TESS and 63 results come up with 15 live with the most recent “mormon mafia” filed in Oct. The justia history has it first used in commerce in 1833, which brings with it the history of transferal after the death of joseph smith as many religious sects believe in the book of mormon other than the brighamite group. they more likely avoid contestation by being the “first to file” in 2002. internationally it lists under category 041 – “Education; providing of training; entertainment; sporting and cultural activities.” for mormondotorg it includes a G&S for “providing information in the field of parenting concerning education and entertainment of children; and providing courses of instruction in the field of marital relations”

          • EvenStar
            November 24, 2016 at 8:55 am

            Very interesting. What seems obvious to me is that the church is more than anything just a corporation, that operates like any other corporation. It’s trademarks are more important to them than the people they target. But the difference with other corporations is that church trademarks have to do with scriptures, doctrines and religious stuff. Otherwise, they wouldn’t target people that express their opinion or criticize church doctrine and history. I guess most companies have different trademarks and get people for violations of business issues, not religious.

            So, the church as a company feels justified to silence and control people’s opinions on line with the excuse of trademarks and it is legal. They are using a business tool to silence people. It’s very smart and not surprising since most leaders are business men and lawyers, what Jesus would call a bunch of Pharisees. Anyway, I wonder if it’s morally correct for them to have trademarks. I wonder if they shouldn’t be more involved in the business of taking care of people instead of their trademarks/image. I personally hope they dont last as a church. I’m very disappointed at every level with this chruch and its leaders.

          • Coriantumr
            November 28, 2016 at 7:15 am

            The Salt Lake City based LDS Church is not the only one using and or claiming origin of the Book Of Mormon , D&C and other revelation documents. As such it stands to reason that the Church positions itself as the owner of key items in the doctrine. The difference is that most of the other spinoffs are also based here in the States. Better be safe than sorry in the land of the Lawyers.

  21. Charlie
    November 23, 2016 at 2:07 pm

    Excellent discussion..I’ll be re-listening to this one for a while, especially 2nd video..

    Glad also that Jesse can say frankly ‘yes, I don’t believe’ or similar and then still just simply tell the truth and give his opinion over what is happening there, both good and bad..

    Once again , excellent episode. Honestly we should be able to talk more about this and at this level, ‘we’ being the believing tbm with those who have decided to leave or no longer believe. There is no need to argue and fight over these matters.

  22. Corrine
    November 24, 2016 at 1:45 pm

    Thanks for telling John your story, Jesse. He thoughtfully shares it with the thousands of folks interested in listening or watching. Sounds like social media, doesn’t it? You’re kindred spirits in the cause of social media.

    After several of the GAs openly encouraged LDS members to share the gospel via social media it was no small irony when they started excommunicating bloggers like Adrian Larsen, John Dehlin and Rock Waterman for blogging different interpretations of the gospel than that offered by Salt Lake. Even your benign and friendly comments on Facebook led to some poor guy throwing D&C 121 to the wind and attempting to strong arm you with common corporate tactics. It seems to me that social media is fundamentally problematic for an organization with as many skeletons, misconceptions and re-written stories in the closet as the LDS church. They can call on their “trained scholars” to write online essays all day long trying to nuance their beliefs only to stash them away on some obscure spot on the LDS website—but the fact remains of numerous skeletons, misconceptions and re-written stories remaining in the LDS closet.

    Good on you for hearing the call of your personal growth when you realized that the correlated gospel of Jesus Christ was actually getting in the way. I doubt what passes for the correlated gospel today would correspond with what father Lehi and Joseph Smith called “delicious”. Part of what you may have experienced is the disconnect between the church as defined by Jesus Christ and the church as a social construct defined by the commandments of men starting with Brigham Young and evolving over time by his successors. In D&C 10:67 Jesus Christ himself defines his church as those who believe on him, repent and are baptized. Period. End of requirements. Remarkably in the next few verses he calls out anyone proclaiming more or less than this. He even calls them his enemies. It sounds odd to call the corporate LDS church an enemy of Jesus Christ but they have enthusiastically promulgated both more and less than what he defined as his doctrine and his church. It appears to me that the path connecting human beings with Jesus Christ lies somewhere outside of the LDS tradition. You sound like a spiritual man. Your conversation with your friend, Richard, reveals that about you. The best to you and wherever your path leads.

    The second episode of the interview was fascinating and tantalizing. The tales you could tell! Good on you for rejecting the urge to burn down the COB, however. If Jesus Christ wanted to burn it down he would. The church is a corporation showing the face of a church; actually it’s 108 interlocking corporations organized under a corporation sole. As the head of the LDS corporation sole, President Monson legally owns everything, from the temples down to those little pouches of chalk and erasers they hand out to teachers on Sunday. If you were to write an expose, perhaps you could sell it to the Illuminati!

  23. Mark A
    November 25, 2016 at 7:29 pm

    Jesse, I have a question. You spoke about “the Twelve” as if the Twelve are the ultimate decision makers of the Church. Were you including the First Presidency in the term “the Twelve”? If not, are the Twelve more powerful than the First Presidency in some ways?

  24. steve
    November 27, 2016 at 7:22 am

    Thanks so much Jesse – this is one of the most interesting looks behind the modern day scenes I’ve encountered. It is fascinating how large bureaucratic organizations work. Doubly so when the product being sold is so expensive. Keeping it “sticky” is the interesting challenge.

  25. Jason
    November 28, 2016 at 12:07 pm

    Jesse, Thanks so much for a great interview.

    This is the first interview that I’ve heard so many instances of “what you’re allowed and not allowed to say”.

    Are you afraid of lawsuits?

    Thanks again!

  26. Utah Mormon
    November 28, 2016 at 9:58 pm

    Jesse, thank you for sharing this. I also walked out of church and never went back due to some ecclesiastical abuse of power (Leadership roulette). I was accused of apostasy due to some comments I made once to a member of my ward. I was unable to explain or defend myself. The bishop and the Stake President talked. Then I was notified that my temple recommend was cancelled via email. Although, I ultimately left because I didn’t believe due to historical issues. It was very helpful for me to hear that someone else had a similar experience. For me it was a really confusing and painful experience and I’m sure it was a very difficult experience for you. I really enjoyed learning more about how the leaders of the church use data to inform their operations (I could have suspected as much, because data drove everything I did as a missionary). Learning about the online media efforts of the church was fascinating. I suspected that the Facebook pages of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the 12 were managed by some PR guy, mostly because they only reference prior talks.

  27. WS
    November 29, 2016 at 10:18 am

    Jesse, thank you for doing this podcast! I once taught at a Mormon Church University and experienced very difficult and unexpected politics. Until one experiences the emotional ‘roller coaster’ in the dynamics of working for the Church, it is hard to explain. I agree with you about the Church needing to provide support to employees that experience questions, doubt or may be on the more progressive side of issues. In my case (I experienced a faith transition, unrelated to church baggage, where I self-identify as a ‘secular humanist’.) The bishop was caught so off guard and perplexed at my confession; and so not trained or equipped with the tools to help someone in my situation. He protected me as long as he could from the University, but if I understood him correctly, the question he was asked annually regarding the faculty “ecclesiastical endorsement” was: “does this person have a current Temple Recommend?” I handed my recommend back to the bishop when I confessed my faith transition. With time quickly approaching for the renewed faculty endorsement, he suggested that speak with the University about my faith transition.

    I set up an appointment with the academic vice president. His first comment to me was: “Before you say anything to me, I need to let you know that if this is about pornography, you will be dismissed immediately.” I let him know that it did not involve this, but rather that I considered myself an atheist, and for this reason had surrendered my temple recommend. I taught for another eight months before leaving the university on my terms, and only after I secured a faculty position at a different university. I was approached by my bishop at some point, where he indicated to me that I University would allow be to stay under certain provisions. I declined to even hear the provision, because I knew I could not comply and be true to myself. I have found it interesting that under no circumstances they would have allowed me to stay for issues with pornography, but yet as an atheist they were willing to allow my tenure to temporarily continue based on provisional commitments—does that even make sense to anyone?

    I have not left the Church, for two reasons: 1. My wife (there is a backstory to long to tell, but I am content to remain on the records for her), 2. I see philosophical reasons to belong to an organization that wields the power that they do. My wife and kids are recipients of a certain amount of privilege belonging to the Church. Very few people know of my beliefs. In the past four years I have stepped into a Church maybe six times. For most family, friends, and ward members, I am just the inactive dad. I do wonder at times, how many inactive members are like myself, where I have very strong opposing views towards the church, but am labeled the complacent inactive dad because I do not vocalize my feeling.

    • Coriantumr
      December 12, 2016 at 7:33 am

      I’m surprised you do not get the call from your home teachers and missionaries. They are tasked with looking into inactive members. My daughter is currently serving a mission in central Mexico and she’s been doing research into inactive members and families. Better watch out….you’re on the list. 😉

      • December 12, 2016 at 11:28 am

        I’ve requested they not contact me. In fact through QuitMormon legally they can’t contact me. Visiting Teachers still visit my wife though. They’ve been pretty respectful to my requests though. Not even missionaries have visited (and I think I would have way too much fun with that if they did – they would be allowed only if we could do it over Facebook Live to my audience, for instance)

  28. Minnesota Ex-Mormon
    November 29, 2016 at 3:55 pm

    Thank you for your honesty Jesse. After being in the LDS Church for 30 years, I also found that I could not stay in a place that is built on a foundation of falsehood. It requires you to be personally deceptive in order to justify to others your reason for being a Mormon. Oh what a tangled web that weaves!

    Step #2 after leaving the Church is to leave the Mormon paradigm, though for at least a year or so you may not realize that it even exists. This is a set of understandings, assumptions, and a vocabulary that we use subconsciously without even considering them to be part of our official Mormon belief system. For example, outside of the Mormon paradigm church, faith, and God are not the same things. And also outside: no church has any authority beyond its real estate boundaries – certainly not over the lives of its members. And: rituals (ordinances) don’t have magical powers. And: although it is fine to be active in a church and to volunteer generously in a church, no church or church leaders should be revered or worshiped. No church has exclusive franchise on the truth. No incorporated human organization with a headquarters that can be found on Google maps has been franchised with authority from God.

    The LDS Church teaches that its paradigm conforms to the Bible, but that is as false as many of its teachings. There is no justification in the Bible for it.

  29. PastorPir
    November 30, 2016 at 2:34 pm

    To John: Another great podcast. It was very interesting to get a bit of an insider`s look at the social media part of LDS church.

    To Jesse: I do have one point of clarification. I grew up in the RLDS church and like in the LDS church, I was taught that I was part of the one and only true church of God. Fortunately, that is no longer taught and you would be hard pressed to find too many (now Community of Christ) members who hold onto that belief. I just wanted to bring that up because my impression of the interview was that you think that we still believe that we are the one and only. Actually, one of our Enduring Principles is Unity in Diversity. We are encouraged to ask questions. We also respect the religious beliefs of others.

    I appreciate you sharing your perspectives and I respect that you walked a fine line while maintaining confidentiality.

    • Gary
      November 30, 2016 at 2:45 pm

      Years ago I saw JD’s interview of the Community of Christ president.

      It was an awakening to witness what kind of similarly human, human beings the Big-15 could be, but never were and never will be.

      I was left with the strong impression that any LDS TBMs whose core values clash with those of The Brethren, should waste no time to abandon the COJCOLDS and make a beeline for the RLDS kinder, gentler version of Joseph’s Myth.

      • November 30, 2016 at 3:14 pm

        I seriously considered that at one point. I ended up realizing Christ wasn’t the Messiah either so that changed any desire for any Christian faith in general. Noted on the correction – they did believe that at one point though, and my point is many religions believe this, not just the LDS Church.

  30. Cory
    December 3, 2016 at 9:11 pm

    According to both Michael Purdy (LDS church spokesman) and Jeffrey Holland, the Strengthening Church Members committee still existed as recently as 2012. See BBC’s “The Mormon Candidate,” starting at 5:15. Michael Purdy , after first denying it, says, “Yeah, there is a Strengthening church members Committee.” http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2n2ggb

  31. Luke Stay
    December 8, 2016 at 2:42 pm

    Thank you for sharing, Jesse. Since you unfriended me on Facebook, I’ve been keeping an eye on your public posts, but never got the whole story. What stood out most to me from your story was that you had nowhere to turn and no one to turn to for help when your questions first started to surface. This is a big problem that the Church should be looking into. I’m sure a lot of it comes from the volunteer leadership and minimal training, but I hope you know that I am always open for discussing the issues going on in your life judgement free. Our family has its share of issues, and while I can’t guarantee that I won’t judge you for the way you act toward the family, please know that I will never judge you for your beliefs. I’m always here if you need to vent.

    • December 11, 2016 at 10:42 am

      Luke my brother! Thank you for your kind comments. While I’m not quite sure what you mean “way you act toward the family”, happy to talk about it any time. Let me know if you ever want to talk about it all. –Big Bro…

      • Luke Stay
        December 11, 2016 at 10:19 pm

        Jesse, I was more speaking in generalities. As my brother, you will do things that make me think less of you, and other things that make me think more of you. I’m sure the opposite is true. I don’t know any families that act otherwise. However, I will never think more or less of you because of your beliefs.

    • Gary
      December 11, 2016 at 4:06 pm

      Say, Luke . . . .

      The Church has already taken its best shot at responding to the troubling questions that arise for members who venture beyond the correlated version of Church history and doctrine. This site links to “The Essays” on lds.org


      Random bishops and priesthood leaders cannot possible do any better than the team of professional wordsmiths who have already spun LDS Reality as much as unreasonable possible in production of The Essays. Richard Bushman exhibited rare TBM sanity when he said:

      “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.”

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MA0YS8LWWX4&feature=youtu.be&t=3503 (go to 56:30)

      Jesse is gone because the Church is not true … and … what the Church does to its members is not nice.

      It’s THAT simple.

  32. Nancy
    December 8, 2016 at 6:44 pm

    Business interpretation of the three fold mission
    Proclaiming the Gospel =increasing market share
    Perfecting the saints=getting more employee engagement
    Redeeming the dead=Temple attendance =Temple recommend=tithing =increasing revenue

  33. Jim Busike
    January 6, 2017 at 2:53 pm

    Overall I enjoyed the interview, although, as it has been mentioned it was a little frustrating to be constantly hit with teasers, followed by, I can’t discuss that.

    What I wanted to respond to is the idea of the brethren being more transparent and being personally active in social media. I think that would be a disaster for the church. I think it would completely erode the mystique of the twelve. I imagine many tweets or posts, if they were truly genuine, would offend a lot of people somewhere on the political spectrum.

    I think it would diminish the sainthood that they have been granted. Many people would discover that they are simply human beings and then, I believe, start to doubt the church because of it.

    I had a missionary tell me recently that one of the twelve personally prays about each missionary and receives revelation as to where they should be placed in the world. I did not respond, but was shocked that he believed it was not simply a business decision based on where missionaries were needed the week his/her paperwork went through.

    I left the LDS church because as a young man that was not even considering going on a mission, I had no value. I was basically told this by my Bishop in my last personal interview. I bring this up only to stress that it was several years after leaving before I started to actually see flaws in the church. It took a considerable time (a few years) before I could de-program myself, and be open to different ideas. In the end I am so incredibly grateful that I was never embraced by the LDS community that I was a part of, because if I had been, I would probably still be Mormon.

    As a Christian, I am intrigued by many of the more progressive Mormons that John interviews. I wonder what the church might become someday with these positive, more enlightened people subtly making progress inside the church.

    I have not considered myself Mormon for over thirty years, but my impression at the time, and I believe the view of others around me, was that the 12, and certainly the first presidency were basically equal to God. They were Gods mouthpiece, so whatever they said basically came from God himself. I think, unless things have shifted a lot in the past thirty years, that’s how the average Mormon would view tweets and posts by Apostles. I think they would see it as God talking and when mistakes were made, or opinions flip flopped, they would think either the mouthpiece or God was unreliable.

  34. Benji Sanders
    January 6, 2017 at 6:02 pm

    Please excuse my ignorance but what is the “Gibbons Doctrine” (Part 2, 39:31)?

  35. Ty
    January 10, 2017 at 8:37 am

    I hope I’m not too late for a response. I read through all the comments- a somewhat spiritually disheartening task, to see if there were any discussion of the repeating of Temple work done for individuals.
    Did President Hinckley allude to this at one point? Can anyone help me find this? Thanks.

  36. January 10, 2017 at 11:57 pm

    At the same time, if the Brethren posted like Donald Trump, I think the process of selecting Apostles and 70 would be a whole lot different, and people more qualified for the jobs, as “representatives of Jesus Christ”, would be selected.

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