This presentation was delivered as part of the 2012 Salt Lake Symposium held on July 27th.
To listen to the entire session, click here.
The text for the talk can be found here.
This is excellent. I left the church for many of the same reasons he is conflicted about his continued membership, as well as a few of my own (such as the glass of sangria currently on my desk- I abstained for my four years of active membership, but am happy to have coffee and alcohol back in my life), but the decision to leave was not an easy one, for many of the same reasons he has decided to stay.
Though I have many problems with the church (prop 8 being the straw that broke the camel’s back for me), I also have respect for the church and its members. I think that this man was very brave to acknowledge that he has internal struggles with some of the church’s teachings, and I think it is totally okay to be a part of a church that one is not 100% on board with. Faith should never be an excuse of intellectual laziness.
Shed many tears listening to this great man especially when numerating the list of legitimate Concerns, and reasons why to stay in our LDS church. John, you have changed my thoughts and feelings about gays, and exmormons who i have now come to love (shame on me. Everything you have stated has strengthened me as an active practicing mormon to mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that need comforting.
‘The liquid drops of tears that you have shed, shall come again transform’d again to orient pearl; advantaging their loan with interest, of ten times double gain of happiness.’ Thank you for your tears, your integrity and for saying so beautifully and eloquently what I find so difficult to express. May all our tears flow together towards their true source, were a loving Hand will wipe them dry and bring us to a true sense of joy. Thank you John.
I bawled through the whole thing. First off, John Dehlin–I love you. I ache for whatever it was that I had in the church before I left. If I return, I could not return as the same member I was before I became disaffected. Your talk is such reassurance that there is room for people like you and me in the church, asteriks and all.
I second that.
Absolutely beautiful. John, you so well identify many of my “issues.” Maybe because I was an adult convert and don’t have that genealogical root system in place, I don’t feel I have that to hold onto, and can’t see myself going back to activity (although I was very active and very believing for more than 30 years. Also my children are grown, and I think it would indeed be different if they were young; I might make a different choice than I have. Thank you for your honesty and willingness to show such vulnerability and emotion. I appreciate that more than you can ever know.
Beautiful! Thank you for having the courage to do what you do and for being a large part of creating space for those of us who are re-defining our identity, either out of choice or necessity.
I really don’t know what to make of this. I appreciate you John for all that you do to highlight the plight of Mormons who don’t fit the Mormon mould; Heterosexual, white, male (or submissive female), extrovert, feeling only half a person until marriage, able to believe things that are impossible, and willing to have a family too large for your means.
You listed several problems with the church, of which almost all can be attributed to the leaders that you also said you sustain. I simply don’t understand that. How can you sustain the men who are responsible for perpetuating the lies you are aware of? You also said you don’t see the BoM as a historical document. In saying that you imply church leadership are liars. Do you really sustain these men in the full sense of the word?
On the subject of lies, It’s admirable to want to be present in the lives of your children, however I’m not sure how someone with as much knowledge of the church can allow false assertions and downright lies to wash over your kids during Sacrament Meeting. The last SM I attended was many years ago, and even with my introductory knowledge of true Mormon history, I was able to spot untruths in almost every other paragraph spoken. Is a debriefing required after church so you can set them straight, or do you just prepare them by telling them you can pretty-much disregard everything said at church?
I don’t mean to be insensitive John, but this talk simply doesn’t seem like you. It’s compartmentalization to the extent that you contradict yourself.
The good things you claim the church is responsible for can be found throughout humanity, except when people in “the world” help you move house or weed the yard, it’s not through a sense of obligation. I don’t believe the church benefits millions. It’s often a chore people resign themselves to endure to the end. It’s also apparent it doesn’t make people happy – at least not women – since Utah is the antidepressant center of the world. Either Mormons are miserable, or those who have to live close to them are miserable.
It seems that you are willing to turn a blind eye to many of the issues you are fully aware of in order to retain cultural links and be included in your family rights of passage. Since Mormons don’t have much of a life outside the church, I can understand why you feel it’s necessary to stay in the loop so to speak. I’m not sure that if my entire extended family was associated with the Flat Earth Society I would be willing to turn up to meetings with a smile and sit by family members who are too young to know any better. Then again, flat Earthers don’t have a history of attacking women, gays, intellectuals and non-whites.
John, I appreciate you and your work. I wasn’t going to get angry but I did. Sorry. I ask you with sincerity to read your talk again as if you were reading the words of someone else, and ask yourself “what’s going on with this person?”
I really don’t know.
Though I cannot speak on behalf of John, I felt an affinity with his words and corresponding emotions. You raise some important ‘perceived’ contradictions that have caused me to reflect upon my commitment to participate in the church. However, as John said, this is where he is today, not yesterday or even tomorrow. The journey from literal belief to ‘who knows what’ is full of pain sorrow, questioning and contradiction as we try to make sense of our new emerging reality. John has my respect and admiration for his transparency, vulnerability and courage. Thanks though for sharing your observations ozpoof, but maybe John sees things differently, and if he chooses to share additional reflections with us, our understanding of his position will be seen in a clearer light.
This is a great response. I find myself asking the same questions when it comes to John. The big one for me are the children. My integrity will not allow me to let an organization indoctrinate them with false information. As a NOM parent, you can’t catch all the falsehoods and filter them out of your children’s minds once they have taken hold.
FWIW, we have been 100% honest with our children….and we feel like they are relatively well protected against indoctrination. But they still have chosen church, and we’re not going to prevent them from going if that is their desire. Still — you have the risk of your children being indoctrinated everywhere (school, friends, TV, etc.)….not just at church…even if you raise them as an atheist. We may be making a mistake, but for us, it feels right.
Please define “stay in the church”. Does it include temple attendance?
We have done the same. Though I have the same doubts as you, I have chosen to take those that want to go, and to never influence them with my beliefs (mostly due to a fear of social exclusion. Instead, I taught them to think for themselves and to never judge others.
As they get older, each of them has seen the truth on their own and distanced themselves.
Listening to this was like riding a teeter totter! John’s struggles are the challenges of many and he (and those others) have my respect for speaking out.
Unfortunately for John, and anyone who has come to the conclusion that the church is not what it claims, you can’t have it both ways. It is what it is: Either true at it’s core or not true at it’s core. Sure odd events and policies can be attributed to a few whack jobs on power trips, but Joseph Smith, The Book of Mormon and polygamy? Not my God brother!
The internal struggle you hear in John’s courageous voice will never go away if he stays in the church and is subjected to consistent teachings he does not believe.
Thomas Payne put it this way…
“It is necessary for the happiness of man that he be mentally faithful to himself. Infidelity does not consist in believing , or in disbelieving; it consists in professing to believe what he does not.”
Now I know John and others are saying they no longer believe everything, or are not sure what they believe, but that position, sitting on the fence, won’t ever offer comfortable long-term seating. Mormon’s are very specific about their beliefs and just being in attendance at sacrament meeting indicates some placid level of acceptance.
How long do you hang on when you personally come to the conclusion that Joseph Smith was a fraud? Everything after that is chaff.
To say that “You can’t have it both ways,” is to say, “A person must make a choice of blindly following one’s faith to the point that one can never entertain even the smallest flicker of internal debate,” which is to contend that the vast majority of the world’s religions are stocked with either mindless sheep or hypocrites (Universal-Unitarian being the only religion I can think of that encourages research and debate outside of their proscribed materials).
John can have it both ways. John can have it anyway he wants. This is his journey.
Yes John can have it any way he wants Amy, but John does not exist in a vacuum. The external forces in the LDS church are much different than say in the Lutheran church.
If you’ve ever been a member of another faith you know that the emphasis on absolute truth and basic doctrine in general is a 1 or 2 on a scale of 10. In the LDS church absolute truth and the acceptance of church doctrine is a TEN.
What I heard in John’s voice is the product of trying to have it both ways…
John can have it any way he wants since religion is not illegal. I would just hope that he doesn’t end up encouraging the idea that men in the priesthood have authority from God that is beyond any sort of human criticism or reason and can do or say anything they want since “God said so.”
For the last twelve years or so I have struggled to understand why the church has to be either true or not true while other religions can have some truth and some error. I’ve never heard it explained to me in a very convincing way. The simple fact that many of the people in the church emphasize absolute truth and the acceptance of church doctrine does not necessarily mean that the church is either wholly true or untrue. I once had a branch president who felt that the “all true or all false” claim applies to this church and not to others because this church makes claims that are so bold and clear-cut. But there are plenty of “in-between” positions that a person can take even on these clear-cut issues, just as a “mainstream” Mormon might do when considering the extreme faith claims of non-Mormons. For example, it’s reasonable to think that Joseph Smith had intense spiritual encounters of some kind that he interpreted in different ways over time, and that he truly believed he was a prophet, which makes it hard to label him as a total fraud. I can’t speak for John, but for myself I can say that I am getting more comfortable over time taking and sticking with these kinds of positions on things. I don’t think that doing this requires sitting on the fence as you call it, but growing more and more comfortable with your own middle-ground positions and in many cases your own unknowing. I don’t agree that attending a sacrament meeting indicates a placid level of acceptance anymore than sitting in a buddhist temple once a week would indicate a placid level of acceptance of buddhism. I agree that the congregants in the sacrament meeting would be more likely to tell me I need to either believe or not believe, but I respectfully disagree with them on that point. There was a time when that disagreement made the internal struggle more painful for me. When I look back on that time, I can understand why many people make a painful split away from the church. But I can honestly say that as I have gotten clearer positions on knowing and unknowing, I enjoy the journey most of the time. Part of why I stay is that when I am exposed to the conviction of the Mormon people I find that I am always thinking and feeling things very deeply, whether we are on the same page or not on a particular issue. I also feel that the church will never grow or change if only those who view it in black and white terms remain in it.
Excellent insight Mark, particularly the last sentence. I feel however the only people that stay view things in black and white. I just can’t listen to them week after week biting my tongue. When I offer an alternate view, or question the party line, people become visibly uncomfortable if not annoyed. I know I should stay and fight for those of us that don’t think black and white, but it is becoming progressively painful. I wish there were more people like us attending thier church meetings, but I believe they have long since lost the battle and seek inspiration elsewhere.
Loved your comment, Mark. This has been my stand since a very young age within the church. I would also add that the “unknowing” is such a huge part of faith! There are things we don’t know, and aren’t supposed to know here on Earth. I admire so much your willingness to continue in attendance of church when expressing a middle ground attitude is so unwelcome. Lastly, I agree with you completely that when I am exposed to the conviction of the Mormon people, I am deeply inspired and moved. My husband being one of them! Thanks again for your comment.
I was deeply touched by John’s remarks. Very poignant and puts things in perspective for me. I only wish I could be more brave!
That was very moving, John. Thank you so much for baring your soul in that way. You have taken more than your fair share of knocks from some aggressive and uncharitable detractors as of late. I applaud your courage in saying what you said and deeply resonate with your feelings. That Corinthians passage has been much on my mind as of late. I was taken aback, though I shouldn’t be surprised, that you quoted it. That was perfect.
Thank you, John, for sharing such honest, deeply personal feelings. Surely you are among friends and allies in the sharing. You’ve opened doors of understanding about my gay loved ones and human beings of all stripes that have made me a better person.
As Rep. Steven Derounian said to Charles VanDoren: “I am happy that you made the statement, but I cannot agree with most of my colleagues who commended you for telling the truth, because I don’t think an adult of your intelligence ought to be commended for telling the truth.”
Doubting is natural, it’s human, it’s God given.
Doubt fosters faith which is a promise paid in time with knowledge.
The spiritual journey is non-exclusive ”for he that is not against us is for us”
God Bless you John
Your comments are perfectly said.
We are all very human and extremely hard on ourselves. Sometimes I think we analyze every facet of life too much.
Each of us are on our own spiritual journey that is non-exclusive.
I pray that as we fall over the “stick we didn’t see”, that we have a friend close by to pick us up and help us clean our wounds.
That’s one facet I count on.
God Bless us all…
This is a very touching speech. I admire what John and everyone involved in Mormon Stories is doing. For me, it has changed my life in very interesting ways…such as joining the LDS Church. I have never felt the pain that I have seen expressed here and elsewhere on MS, but I have sympathies that run deep. John and many of the people of MS are spiritual giants to me, and I cannot express very accurately, with out an underestimation, how much this work means to me; and I know that many others can say ditto.
Crystal Davison DeCoursey As someone who has suffered dearly, and for years, at the hands of some of my fellow church members for being a single, divorced, successfully employed, opinionated mother of two, I have journeyed through the dark corners of thought Dehlin addresses. I’m an educated, open-minded and widely experienced individual. Though my experiences have proved painful and have tested the absolute limits of my testimony, I have come to some rock solid conclusions. Through all my pain, through the exclusion others have subjected me to due to my divorce, which was by no fault of mine, through the discrimination and absolute hypocracy I have been victim to by other church members I know, and do not apologize for the following: God is real. He is the head of this church. Regardless of what some church members choose to do with their agency, their lack of understanding of true Christ-centered living does not null the truth. God’s prophet guides us today through modern day revelation. The Book of Mormon is true. It is scripture. Joseph Smith was chosen and was a true prophet of God. You can read anything on the Internet, including wild stories about the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and the early saints. I’m sure I’ve read them all. Doesn’t make them true, and it doesn’t give people who voice these opinions any legitimacy. I also know that without a true understanding of obedience, and a true willingness to serve the Lord, rather than our own wants, desires, and even fears, we will be overcome with doubt. Our minds will betray us. We will fall. Equally true is the great and abiding power of the Atonement of our Savior, not only to help us gain forgiveness, but just as important, to help us heal from the wounds others have inflicted on us, and learn to forgive others. I see signs all around me daily that the Book of Mormon is true scripture sent to warn the members of the church of the pitfalls of our time. I see the Parable of the Ten Virgins fulfilled every time a fellow Mormon treats me (or anyone else) with disdain because I don’t mesh with their idea of what a Mormon should look like. Part of why we are here is to endure pain, learn from our experiences, and learn to forgive and love others, even in the midst of their humanity and imperfections. The truth is, this work will roll forth “boldly, nobley and independent…” According to the parable written in Matthew 25, only half of the members will be prepared when the time comes. The truth is, God IS an inclusive and loving God, but if we are tools in His hands, it’s up to us to do the including. It’s up to us to openly share His truth and obey His commandments. Without being apologists for our beliefs, as Dehlin seems to be, or condemning others, as I have seen countless church members do, who are clearly ignorant of their own church doctrine. There is no need to excuse or apologize, Brother Dehlin. If you don’t believe this is God’s true church, you’re better off walking away. There will be no middle ground when the Bridegroom commeth. For all the suffering I’ve endured, for all the learning I’ve been blessed to experience, you better believe MY lamp will be full. ~ Crystal DeCoursey
What a blessing you are, that you are willing to testify of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Thank you for sharing you thoughts and feelings regarding this church. I only wish my youngest daughter had read your letter soon. She had questions, the usual ones about gay marriage and the priesthood and women. Instead of coming to her parents, her bishop, the writings and testimonies of the prophets, she turned to Mormonstories and found all the negatives she was looking for, and now my sweet grandchildren no longer attend church. It is heart wrenching.
Thank you, – Karen
Thank you so much for sharing you own testimony. As one who has been in your shoes and in Dehlin’s, I can honestly say it is a difficult journey. I was married to a member of the bishopric when I decided to leave him on the grounds of verbal abuse, so I know what you are saying about being subject to unrighteous judgment from church members. I am currently remarried to a man who converted to the church after our marriage. His testimony is still very green. I agree with Dehlin that we are ALL cafeteria Mormons when it comes to our testimonies. We learn things line upon line and precept upon precept, as I have watched my husband do, and as I still do.
Yes, there are inconsistencies in the church because it is managed by imperfect men. We are subject to long waits for changes in policy as we wait, some less patiently than others, for those leaders to hear God’s voice as he directs those changes.
It sounds to me, Crystal, as if you have heard God’s voice in your own life, so you probably know as I do that God’s voice comes in many different ways as answers to our prayers. I am sure that God even speaks to His servants through the voices of His children, and maybe those voices are not yet loud enough to be heard.
I don’t think Dehlin is saying that he doesn’t believe in the LDS church. I think he is saying that he is often confused by the mixed messages that he gets over the pulpit and from past and present Church teachings. I know, as John has said that he knows himself, that there are MANY MANY truths that speak loudly and clearly and are reinforced by the Holy Spirit when our hearts are open to hear them. Unfortunately, I also know that there are times when authorities speak in opposition to one another, and especially times when members misinterpret scripture, or even cling to past teachings that have been out-dated by current revelation. Thses misinterpretations are often taught to less knowlegable members as absolute truth. For example, there are still those that teach that people with dark skin were less valiant in the pre-existence–that’s a glaring one that was never really backed up by scripture, and only recently admitted to be the result of bigoted thinking by a past church authority.
It can be confusing, and when those who question are met with statements like “There will be no middle ground” amd “you better believe MY lamp will be full.” The confused member gets the clear message that they are simply not good enough to be saved along with you (even though you yourself have not been translated yet).
I often think that I will never truly know, because I am subject to human frailties, whether or not my lamp will be full at His coming. I will do my best to be ready, and hope and pray that he will include me as one of chosen ones. We still have much left to suffer and learn before any of us can say “I will be chosen and you will not–so just give up now.”
My prayers are with you John, myself, and all others who
It makes me sad that your experiences have let you to encourage members with doubt to walk away. Can you imagine giving yourself that advice during your times of trial, if ever you have a doubt?
Is it a bad thing to encourage those with doubt to stay in the Fold? I don’t believe that everything this Church practices is direct revelation from God, I do believe this church is a great way to bring people to Christ. Are you telling me to walk away, and not teach people that Christ can be found in this religion? To me, this is not fellowship, but the same culture that also gave you grief.
Thank you Chris Zundel!!! Christ, when confronted with the adulterous woman never said “If you don’t believe this is God’s true church, you’re better off walking away.” If the church is true to you, Crystal, then why you would you not fight to save all so they can live in that Celestial Kingdom with you? Don’t walk away, ask questions seek for answers–never give up!
Thanks for that John.
I wish that I could help those closest to me understand that I am not a bad person just because I am experiencing my own faith crisis. I have felt love and acceptance withheld as I have tried to let someone close to me know where I’m at right now. It is a very lonely place to be. I am uncertain how to navigate my life and it’s course at this time. I want to be the person my loved one’s want me to be. But I am hurting myself substantially to pretend to feel what I’m not sure I do anymore. Your stories help give me hope and courage that somehow there will eventually be a light at the end of this current dark tunnel. Thanks so very much for all you do.
I’ve been a follower of John’s podcasts since the beginning. Also Mormon Expression. I’ve also continued activity in the church. Continued a balanced approach to learning. Joseph Smith said that through the proving of contraries truth is made manifest. I’ve been on a similar path of faith exploration for over twenty years. I can understand why John stays. There is enough to hang your hat on in mormonism to make it a worthwhile path to follow in one’s quest to seek to understand life’s meaning and purpose. At its core, the LDS gospel teaches that Jesus is the Christ and rose on the third day to be the first fruits of those that slept. All else is secondary. That gives me great hope. Jesus said that only those that come unto him as little children will inherit the kingdom of God. The BofM teaches that we should simply believe in God, that he knoweth all things, etc. My experience has been that as we apply the simple truths and practices of the gospel: church attendance, reading the scriptures, praying, participate in ordinances, serve others, and have the faith of a little child, we can “play” and conduct thought/investigative experiments with all the issues and conundrums of life, then line upon line, precept upon precept, begin to resolve those things that vex us knowing that after all, we see through a glass darkly and will never understand God’s ways completely. As I’ve periodically vascillated between leaving or staying I’ve pretty much come to the conclusion that I might as well stay. For one thing, the grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence and for another, like I said before, it’s a challenge to play in mormonism’s sandbox and see what can be built over time with effort and creativity. Keep up the good work John. Thanks for all you’ve done to create a space in which honest, thoughtful LDS folks can see things as they really are. From critics and believers. The world is a messy place as your LDS Bishop guest recently said. But with the messiness, we still (with sweat and tears) survive and find purpose and meaning…happiness. I think that within the LDS church we find the same sort of thing being played out. Although along with happiness, we may also find truth and/or meaning, to some degree, in regards to what may come our way after we take our last breath. The LDS church provides a pretty interesting and motivational blueprint as to what that next life may hold…if indeed there is something that we open our eyes to after we die.
Crystal, when you say “I see signs all around me daily that the Book of Mormon is true scripture sent to warn the members of the church of the pitfalls of our time” can you expound on that. What signs do you see? I’m having seeing anything of the sort.
Dear John Dehlin: Thank you very much for your heartfelt speech and all your work at Mormon Stories. It is difficult, but, as you have said again and again, there are many in a similar position as you who choose to stay instead of leave, and the Church is slowly changing so that there is some hope. And, for me, my true hope is always in the Savior.
Dear Crystal Decoursey: It seemed you were at once wanting to include people like John Dehlin and I in your way of living Mormonism, but then you told us it’s better if we leave? Which is it? In your words you seem to want to treat us like you have wanted to be treated, not different as a divorced, single mom in Mormonism that you’ve experienced, but then you say many other things that seem to tell us we’re just idiots and suggest we leave. Yikes, I think something is wrong in your logic.
John, I did not find a link on one of the podcasts to leave a comment so decided to leave it here. Your question about why God would require us to do something so inefficient as to spend 1,000 years doing temple work is a question that a younger person like yourself would ask but whose answer is readily apparant to those of us who have spent a lifetime engaged in genealogical or temple work. The work changes the worker. I believe it is far more for us than it is for the person whose work we do. At the end of over 40 years of genealogical research I can tell you I view it all very differently now than I did when I was your age. I am coming to actually feel that I am developing charity. I feel a great sense of love for the people whose research or temple work I am doing, something that entirely escaped me when I was younger. Then it was just a project we needed to get done so we could do more important things. I now know that God is very efficient in his requirements of us; it is just that we often miss the point of His requests because we are unaware how certain actions have the power to change us into different people. When you look back on your life 30 years from now, I think you will see that pain and suffering, sacrifice and patience literally changed you. You see differently and that, I believe, is one of God’s major goals for us in this life. I remember reading an LDS life after death story of a man who suffered greatly from a terrible disease in this life. While in the hospital he was shown the moment in the pre-mortal world when he choose this disease and the other people in the room with him who were deciding whether or not to suffer this trial in mortality. What he saw then was that he chose this particular trial because it would allow him the privilege of learning life’s lessons quickly and thereby shortening his mortal life. It was very attractive to him to spend the minimum time in mortality and away from God. So he chose to suffer greatly but for a far shorter period of time. So many of the concerns I hear you express in your interviews will seem very unimportant when you are older and so many will be answered as you just keep moving forward. Keep up the work.
I sincerely enjoyed John’s comments. I share many of John’s concerns. It is truly difficult when one’s family is deeply enmeshed in a religious organization that teaches exclusivity. I love my LDS family, I love the good things about the church. But I also am a seeker of truth, first and foremost.
I reflect back to my missionary life in Central America, as I held up the flip chart showing Joseph Smith translating the golden plates as he sat at his desk. That is a very stark contrast to Joseph sticking his head in a hat looking at his treasure hunting stone. If Joseph really did use a hat and his stone then why hide it? The logic continues, if they lied about that then what else have they lied about?
So how are we suppose to feel when we learn that we have been living a life based on made up stories? How does the human mind and body respond to truth when that truth calls into question all that one has been taught? It surely is an emotional experience!
John eloquently describes this struggle and I thank God for individuals like John, that value truth over loyalty, that tell the truth as they see it, even when it causes one’s heart to break wide open. God bless us all.
May God bless you John. I walk 30 minutes to work every day and then walk 30 minutes back home at night. And for years every step has been accompanied by a podcast of Mormon Stories. I have experienced weeping and anger as I have listened. John, I wept with you in your telling of your spiritual sojourn. Thank you for the integrity of your transparency.
While the logic is stark, here’s how I see your current position:
1) The BofM is not what it purports to be or what the succession of presidents have promoted it to be.
2) Since the BofM is the “convincing evidence” that Joseph Smith is indeed a prophet, then it raises serious doubt about his authority.
3) If Joseph Smith’s authority is in doubt then two troubling consequences follow:
a) The keys passed in succession to the ongoing line of prophets are non-existent.
b) Our understanding of the afterlife is in serious doubt.
This is how the “house of Mormonism” falls if the BofM is untrue.
But John I would appeal to you NOT to discard Christ, the Biblical Christ along with the troubling structure of the LDS church.
Your comment about “the whisperings” are so much like those mentioned by C.S.Lewis before he came unto Christ. In his autobiography “Surprised by Joy”, he said that he always knew that there was a place of “joy” not far away but still elusive to him. The night that he yielded to Christ, and stubbornly so, the door to that place opened and he was never the same.
That experience is much like my own and can be anyone’s. With Lewis it did NOT require the “organized church” and with us it does not either.
God bless you in your wanderings. Like Paul spoke to the men in Athens: “That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel [grope] after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us.” Acts 17:27
I really appreciated your thoughts and words John. It gave me a lot to think about and consider.
I just had a conversation with a life-long friend that has left both of us deeply saddened and asking ourselves some tough questions. She was at a gathering of old friends that they hold every couple of years. The one devoted Latter-Day Saint in the group stated that it was only with these women whom she had known in college that she could be herself and express how she really feels about things. She kept referring to this as her “real life” and that the one she leads as a Mormon wife and mother was not a real life.
The questions I have are “How could we let the Church become a place where people feel they must be so inauthentic, where they cannot tell the truth about their struggles or beliefs or doubts. Why must every real question asked in Church be answered with a quick soundbite quote from some leader, thus closing off all discussion?”
Earlier this week I lent a friend at work a small amount of money to get her through the week. She is a single LDS mother who has been working very minimal jobs since she was laid off a couple of years ago. She told us that she had no close friends at Church she could ever tell how desparate she is and how close to the edge she is living financially. She expressed the opinion that people at Church would be appalled to know what is truly happening in the lives of she and her children. The bishop is helping but despite working full-time, she does not have enough to make it through the month. Again I ask, “Why do we feel we cannot tell the truth to these people we call Brother and Sister?” I once sat through a very revealing Relief Society lesson on Church welfare. The teacher had prepared a solid lesson on self-reliance and not turning to the Church for assistance. The teenage daughter of a single parent in the ward was in attendance. This young woman repeatedly corrected the teacher, explaining how truly difficult things had been in her family since her parents divorced and how her part-time wages as a high school student working minimum wage jobs were needed to feed them. They truly needed the help and here she was coming to Church and being made to feel like a leech.
So I ask of all of us, “Where is Christ and his teachings in the way we are behaving toward each other?”
Quite simply one of the best talks I have ever heard. You are a good man John Dehlin. Thank you so much for all you do. You have helped me tremendously!
If I resign my membership from LDS ( not a hater ) will they let me attend sacrament services?
Many of us who have left the church find life as atheists quite rich and engaging. Don’t be afraid. You can find a way to have and nurture the relationships you love without compromising your intellectual integrity. There is room for you to do things your own way. You are a beautiful and caring man and many people love you.
WOW, gosh, the focus on *healthy* (for HIM) is a beautiful and refreshing approach, and difficult to fault. It requires an honesty and openness which for me is worthy of the very highest credit. Take my hat off to the effort and quality of thought that have gone into this, I know of no-one more sincere nor more accepting. Bless you JD.
As I strive to understand what is healthy for me, to process my true feelings and be more open and honest; it is people like John who serve as my inspiration and to whom I will (maybe) eternally be grateful.
I have been on my own journey studying everything about the spirit world and the workings of the spirit that I can find. I specifically search all sources independent the church to try and get an broad verifyable sense. This has led me to a strengthened testimony that for sure God is real and his nature is LOVE. However, my study of this aspect of nature has also caused all the same conflicts and feelings John spoke of and frankly, for me, all the same conclusions.
As I read the comments I can see some cannot tollerate the fact that the church is not fully “true” or as true as it professes or that leaders might be lying (where I would really say they are guilty of propegating a myth rather than knowingly lying.)
Well, if you look at the larger picture, for any person or culture their understanding of truth is always changing and always incomplete. Nobody ever (except maybe Jesus) has a 100% true understanding of anything. Even most “rightous” historical figures had cultural practicies or family traditions which were not redeeming and not considered true today. God and his plan allows for that.
Not only that, but from all the accounts I’ve read, when you get to heaven and you realized this thing you believed wasn’t true or that thing. You don’t care. You just realize you were misimformed and you move on and adjust to the truth. It doesn’t blow your whole life even if its big. If you did not believe in Jesus and he meets you on your death, you recognize him affectionatly, even if you never gave him a second thought in this life.
You don’t need to have a clear picture of ALL of what is really true in life to live well, fulfill your individual purpose and return with honor. What you seek with intent and asking and find is enough for what you need to do. The rest will be worked out in the end.
The best you can do is to focus on truths that matter and realize you will never have a complete 100% true understanding, nor can ANT organization. Your orientation toward something greater than yourself (God). Your love for people and service to others matters. Your intent and belief matters. Your gratitude matters. These things bring real power in this life and the next. The rest is just details.
Of course, that is just my understanding and I could be wrong. 😉 But we are all on a journey and there is much we don’t know. I think life in this world has many unresolved issues because evolution is such a lengthy process.
I am new here, and had never heard of you before today. But I wanted to let you know, that while I was reading this talk, I felt like you were speaking for me. I have believed for awhile exactly what you said. Everything! I couldn’t believe it, and have found great comfort in your words. I had thought that I was some sort of strange outcast while going to church with (and for) my children, but not believing the doctrines that were being taught, yet still feeling inspired by other aspects of the church. Thank you for having the courage to stand up for the feelings that I know you feel in your heart. I feel this way too, and I feel I am a better me, now that I “believe” differently.
[…] watching his TED Talk, I decided to explore John’s Mormon Stories Podcasts and discovered his Why I Stay and his Top 5 Myths About Why Committed Mormons Leave the Church. John Dehlin was pushing the […]
John, whether or not I agree with you is not important at this time. I would like to say that as a fellow member of the Church, my heart is with you and your family at this time. May you be blessed with comfort and strength. Although we have never met (my son has met you and thinks kindly of you), I extend love and compassion to you and your family.
I want to echo what Sarah (comment above) said. I had no clue who you were until a Facebook friend posted something about your possible church disciplinary meeting. I sincerely hope they don’t excommunicate you because you said things that I have wanted to say for years but never had the courage. I wish like hell that somebody like you lived in my ward. You’re a breath of fresh air, Mr. John Dehlin. I look forward to reviewing this website even further.
I’ve been listening to your podcasts for a few years now having tripped over them on line. For the first time I found that I wanted to respond to a podcast. I am not a LDS member but I love the Mormon Stories podcasts and am a believer in God and am intrigued by the struggle that some/many? have to be Mormon. From my perspective, growing up in the LDS church seems to create people who are all in or all out and are hurt deeply at times by the church because it’s such an integral part of their fabric and they want this structure in their life.
I love what you are doing, John Dehlin, you are making people realize that it is okay to question but also okay to still love the church. God wants us to question–in my mind it’s okay to not love every aspect of the church but still find parts that fortify you. The world is messy so is life and family. I believe you can affect more change when you are part of the conversation not when you are shunning the participants and if we aren’t supporting each other through thick and thin, then what are we doing?
Keep up the good work and thank you again for enriching my life as well as the lives of many.
I am so glad you have decided to stay! I have had questions, but I have faith in time they will all be answered. Many of them, after many years have been answered already. I have faith that, we don’t have all the information now. The more I study, the more I know that Joseph Smith and the modern prophets were definitely inspired. For instance, the dark skin “cursings” have bothered me. It has come to me that the dark skins were not the cursings it was the withdrawal of God’s teachings. God does not care one bit what we look like, he changed the skin color to test us, to see if we would be racist. We need to become like God and look at the inward appearance of everyone, no matter the skin color,(I think darker skin color is beautiful!) if they are fat or skinny, disfigured or perfect. He never stops loving any of his children, but he does bless those that love him. My point is that – God has answered this for me. I am at peace with it. And my heart is happy and full of faith. He has done this with polygamy also – I believe this will not be lived ever again or in the eternities. I am at peace, He has revealed to me because I have had faith. I promise He will answer your questions.
You gotta be kidding!!! Are you saying that some of us are here to be tested, and some of us are here as part of ‘the test’ (to test the most righteous/valiant)? I’m surprised you didn’t start telling us that the primary purpose of all the victims of the holocaust was so the rest of the world could learn ‘pure evil’. Or that the primary purpose of the entire LGBT community is here so the rest of the world can learn ‘pure evil’. If this is really the way you think, I’d recommend you start developing some ‘critical thinking’ skills, and maybe learn to be more loving, humble, and accepting. You don’t have to look to far to at the worlds creations to conclude that if there is a god, then he/she/it is definitely a god of diversity. Do you really think that this type of god would create a group of ‘special people’? Just to be fair, I obviously have my own problems; I need to be more loving and accepting of people like you. I know my way of thinking has flaws, but at least I can admit it.
I’m proud you are a member of my church. That’s all.
John, I wish you weren’t so tied to Kate Kelly, I think you have integrity and hate to see you always grouped together in calls for support.
I have to say that this is better than any general conference talk I have ever listened to or read, which isn’t a lot to be honest. I feel like John just put into words how I felt for the entire 12 years I would consider myself an active Mormon. That despite the obvious flaws, inconsistencies and flat out wrongs the LDS church has within it’s history and walls, there is still a place for it in a person’s life. How refreshingly honest and open this was to hear a member of the LDS church really explain what it’s like to be a Mormon (for a lot of us at least). Filled with questions and doubts but hope and optimism. While I feel like i share 90% of his experience, the last 10% is where we differ and probably why I’ve decided to step away from the church. I don’t share the hope and optimism anymore and it almost hurts to be reminded of the days when I did.
Interesting speech about why you stay in the church. I have to say that like you, I find it disturbing that the church invests money in malls like City CreeK. It makes want to not pay my tithing. I don’t see a good reason for the church getting involved in these types of investment. I suppose I could just invest my tithing in a ROTH IRA account and choose the businesses myself instead of letting the church do it for me. Doesn’t the church have enough money to support itself with the tithing and donations of her members? Do we give so little money that the church has to invest in a spacious and grand building? I find it very disappointing. It makes me feel I don’t want to trust them with the money that can be used to feed my family. I rather take care of the needs of my family first.
This time I want to ask John a question that just came to my mind. Is it possible for you to set up a page on your website, where you can collect votes for the LDS church to disclose its financial records? You could have this option available for certain amount of time. Those that want the church to disclose financial records could vote. You could collect maybe a thousand or more votes or signatures and then submit this request to the church with the support of all those that voted on your page. In this way, maybe the LDS church would make a disclose of their financial records, not that pitiful mention they do in general conference that they call “financial disclosure.” The general conference disclosure is an insult to the intellectual capacity of LDS people. I will be the first one to vote for the church to disclose its financial records if you set up this on your website.
Thank you, again, John, for your “testimony” and words. I am learning to live in this paradoxical world with your help. I listened to this in 2012, and just listened again, having resigned my membership in the Church in between, and I feel more confident in my spiritual decision, my pain, like you say, is too much. I can’t thank you enough for “not staying quiet”. I was almost a casualty.
This is one of the most beautiful and moving things I have ever heard.
It has helped me to understand controversial things by having faith that someday by realizing that times are different, we don’t have the full story, the Lord tries our faith, and that someday the Lord will tell us the reason. Whenever I have shown faith and patience, the Lord in his own time, answers my honest questions and I am ta peace.
Perfectly stated. It is exactly what I too have come to Know “as the Lord’s way”. Love and Patience.
I understand your pain at finding the church is not true but I don’t understand how you can continue to listen and except all the things that are taught that you disagree with I find it extremely difficult I am not being true to myself.
If you live in a big LDS community and have active members in your family it is almost devastating to leave the church family and friends but the question is are you being true to yourself
Thank you! This is exactly what I needed to read. I am sorry that the church feels like there isn’t room for you anymore because you have truly been a blessing to those of us who are/were struggling with their faith and how to fit if we didn’t know everything was true.
As the daughter of a Rabbi I enjoyed Rabbi Ted’s remarks and I feel that you exemplify them here so beautifully John! Love is above all. God bless you and your family. The Church and it’s teachings have brought my life peace, love and a sense or orderr. I have had personal spiritual experiences that have only confirmed what my heart tells me: I am at my best as a Latter Day Saint. please look up “come let us anew” by Mormon tab choir I’ll try to send link, its on you tube with Israeli Star of David etc with words. The words are powerful and true. Shalom Aleichem!
“Come Let Us Anew”
Good talk; I read the transcript. I do share a large number of your concerns.
Traditional Churches, both Catholic and Eastern Orthodox do not require their followers to believe that God actually ordered Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, and in the Catholic Church it is very common to find priests and bishops who refuse to believe that God actually ordered Abraham to do this, but that this story was written at a later time to discourage human sacrifice. Additionally, Catholic theologians see a prefigurement of the Resurrection in this story.
I am not sure that God cursed Job for the sport of it. I was never taught anything like that anyway. Job always seemed more of a cautionary tale against “prosperity gospels” than anything.
Traditional Christianity, which teaches the Trinity does not believe that God sent his Son, Jesus Christ to suffer. Rather, traditional Christianity believes that Jesus Christ is the intellect, the mind, the rational component of Heavenly Father, who took on Flesh and became human. Traditional Christianity therefore believes that God Himself suffered on the Cross to free humanity from the tyranny of sin.
When it comes to charity, on some levels everybody falls short and everybody needs to improve on this level. Building that multi-billion dollar shopping mall, especially in an era wen sopping malls are failing and closing all over America, does seem over the top when it comes to diverting money from the poor. Let us hope for the sake of the LDS Church that this mall succeeds; I shudder to think what would happen if this mall would fail and close and what this would mean for the LDS Church and for Utah.
Traditional Christianity has never been keen on claiming to be “the only true Church,” but rather claims to have the fullness of Truth. When Traditional Christianity claims to have the fullness of Truth is a double-edged sword; it claims to be absolutely true, but also is humble in recognizing that other religious traditions have Truth as well, and also have things to teach Christians. Many devotional practices in both Catholic and Orthodox Christianity actually have origins in Buddhist meditation practice.
The type of God you struggle to believe in is a God that I could not believe in at all in any capacity. Fortunately, my Church does not teach that kind of God.