Donna Showalter: The Faith Crisis of a Former Provo, Utah Relief Society President Ep. 1150-1154

What could cause one of the Mormon church’s “best and brightest” women to lose their faith in the church?

For part 2 of this interview with Donna Showalter, we will hear how an east bench, Provo, Utah Mormon mother, former Relief Society President, former Stake Young Women’s President, and BYU employee navigated her Mormon faith crisis.

– This story includes the gripping account of what happened when they asked Mormon apostle Jeffrey R. Holland to heal their son of his gayness.

– It also includes Donna’s touching experiences as a Relief Society President.

– We also learn about the impact of the November 2015 LGBTQ policy on Donna, Michael and her family – along with the 2019 policy reversal.

Our earlier interview with both Donna and her son Michael may be found here:

Part 1 – Donna provides her Mormon background:

Part 2 – Donna describes her intense devotion and service to the Church, despite having a son come out as gay:

Part 3 – Donna describes her feeling of rejection when Elder Jeffrey R. Holland refused to meet or assist her family:

Part 4 – Donna shares how cracks formed in her faith:

Part 5 – Donna describes the outrage and despair she felt when she learned the LDS Church was “not true”:

Part 1 – Donna provides her Mormon background:

Part 2 – Donna describes her intense devotion and service to the Church, despite having a son come out as gay:

Part 3 – Donna describes her feeling of rejection when Elder Jeffrey R. Holland refused to meet or assist her family:

Part 4 – Donna shares how cracks formed in her faith:

Part 5 – Donna describes the outrage and despair she felt when she learned the LDS Church was “not true”:

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  1. Dear Donna,

    I’m b.i.c. 1950, a 5th generation Mormon on both sides. My great great uncle wrote the beloved hymn “Oh How Lovely Was the Morning.” My own journey led me out of the Church at age 30 after being “all in” until I discovered my priesthood leaders and LDS therapist only offered me self-destructive counsel regarding how to cope with a physically violent eternal companion (wife). After I stopped attending and had my name removed, “No Man Knows My History” and the Tanners (Utah Lighthouse Ministry) sealed my testimony of the untruthfulness of the restored gospel. Even so, to this day I embrace and honor my Mormon DNA and the Refiner’s Fire I experienced along my journey from Zero Personal Boundaries (nearly acquiescing to being bludgeoned to death by my wife) to reclaiming my right to self-determination and self-protection. My Mormon upbringing had taught me, as yours taught you, to outsource and entrust your major life decisions and moral compass to self-proclaimed apostles and prophets.

    I stayed up all night until first light to watch all five episodes 0f your powerful, compelling, heart-wrenching personal journey, Donna. I think yours is the most egregious case I have ever witnessed personally of an otherwise bright, intelligent and capable mind and heart being so totally and completely OWNED by The Brethren. The depth and completeness of The Brethren’s control over your psyche was just stunning, Donna. Truly stunning, and at the same time, fully understandable and believable. If ever there was created an IDEAL MORMON WOMAN (from The Brethren’s perspective), you deserved that crowning achievement without a doubt.

    I often write that The Brethren brainwash babies FOR A LIVING. On a scale of 0-100, the success of your own brainwashing has to rate around 99. You so elooquently communicated your total belief … aka “knowledge” … The Brethren were infallible, incorruptible and completely trustworthy. The possibility The Brethren could ever lead you astray or harm you or anyone else was simply an inthinkable impossibility in your view of reality.

    The extent to which you were so vulnerable and completely exploited by the Master Mind Controllers who run the Church came across so powerfully. Your ability to communicate your inner emotional landscape to John and your audience was simply phenomenal!

    The other insight that hit me hard during your story was how totally appropriate and rational yours (and your sisters’) extreme reaction was to the reversal of the Nov 2015 Policy on treatment of children of gay parents. Comatose TBMs were tone-deaf “pleased” about the “improvement” to not treat LGBTQ members so horribly. Your polar opposite SCREAMING OUTRAGE was the sound an authentic, empathic heart makes when evil monsters admit to destroying countless, innocent lives and families without even an acknowledgment of the needless suffering … let alone an apology. Your unedited, unmuffled, raw and furious reaction was so powerful because it was totally in proportion to the high crimes against humanity committed in the name of Jesus Christ by his self-promoting spokesmodels.

    John was spot-on when he observed your raw and real disclosure of your journey through and beyond the Cult of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will go down as one of the handful of most powerful, moving and compelling Mormon Stories podcasts of all time, Donna.

    You will end up helping SO MANY fellow Mormons find their way through the Mind Control Maze to the fresh air and bright sunshine of truth and real freedom. I sincerely hope that Steve will resonate more fully and join you for the best half of your lives now unfolding, Donna.

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

    You have bestowed a magnificent gift … a true Pearl of Great Price … upon your fellow Mormons and upon our Planet Earth.

    1. Gary, thank you for putting words to the reasons behind Donna’s reaction of “screaming outrage” at the reversal of the November 2015 Policy. Although the LGBTQ Policy was by far the most egregious – for the damage it caused and the whiplash-inducing speed of the reversal – I had a similar reaction to the two temple policy changes in 2019 which affected me directly. Of course the policy changes themselves are welcome. But making those changes without acknowledging the pain they caused is a slap to the face. The fact that a policy can be reversed confirms that it was not revelation after all, and that all of the suffering was needless – meaningless! – and could have been avoided if the men in charge had an ounce of compassion in their hearts. When that realization hit me on May 6, like Donna, I walked over to my computer and clicked Quit. Unlike Donna, I won’t be changing my mind.

      1. An ironic thing coming out of “the Restoration” instead of LDS. They end up looking, a LOT, for ways to resolve the many discrepancies between history and belief. One they use is the revelation given after the failed attempt to sell the copyright to the Book of Mormon: some Revelations are of God, some of man, and some of the Devil. I am sure in some way church leadership views their reversal in that light, and cannot understand why there would be anguish because of it.

    2. GARYC
      I just finished episode 2 of Donna’s story and all that came to my mind was, “I love all Mormon Stories episodes, they have saved me, but Donna’s story is amazing, amazing, amazing!” Then I read your comment and you are spot on! You so articulately presented why Donna’s story is so amazing. Donna, thank you so much for your story and ‘testimony,’ it is so healing for me. I’m so looking forward to hear the next 3 episodes.

    3. Gary,
      You are exactly right about the anger. Like Donna, I felt so deeply angered by, not the reversal of the policy itself, but the utter lack of acknowledgement of any wrongness of the policy, or pain caused.

      It’s as if, having carefully, deliberately run the LGBTQ member families over with their steamroller, the leaders roundly, but in tones of affected compassion, blamed the victims for making noises of pain that disturbed the driver and his passengers. Then, on consideration, they backed up the steamroller, not quite releasing the victims from under the crushing weight, and smiled around beatifically, feeling they had earned praise for their enlightened beneficence.

      Of course they don’t deserve praise! Of course the gesture they’re getting from those scrambling out of the path of the steamroller is not polite or grateful! Of course there is anger, and will continue to be anger, because there is no healing balm of apology or respectful acknowledgement, about any of the egregious boundary violations perpetrated by the church upon its own. This anger isn’t some unfortunate side-effect. It is the appropriate, correct response. It is a normal, healthy symptom of a deep violation of sacred trust.

    4. Donna and John:

      This was the most beautiful, most heart-wrenching and love-affirming story I have heard in my 20+ years of hearing stories of LDS people that have lost faith in the truth claims of Mormonism / LDS.

    5. Wow Gary! You could not have articulated any better how I felt watching Donna’s story! Ditto to everything you said! My heart broke for her and then rejoiced!!! She’s FREE!

  2. Hi John, I’m loving this podcast. I just finished the first just listening and then tried to watch the second where it mentioned about her son coming out. However it seems to be missing on the video.

  3. By far the most powerful Mormonstories interview I have watched. Mr. Dehlin, there are no words to describe the great gift you are giving the LDS Church and its people. Unfortunately, you will get no thanks from the LDS Church for this gift. To have so many powerful stories compiled on one Website – this is a project of historic proportions for Mormonism. Time will bear that out.

    Donna, stay with us. We all need you and your powerful witness of the truth. Thank you so much for what you have done here. Your words will help so many people continue to heal as they make their own transitions in life.

  4. For me, the retraction of the POX was the last straw as well. My reaction wasn’t as emotional but still had the same effect, I’m out and glad of it.

  5. I felt such a kinship with you as you shared. So many things felt similar, especially where you felt the one night you had to see the stars. I felt exactly the same like I was going crazy and I looked outside and thought is that tree even a tree. Then I became obsessed and I had to see the stars. I made my husband take me camping so I could see the stars because, yes they felt real when nothing else did.

  6. Donna has been through a difficult experience. My heart goes out to her. I wish her the best.

    I’ve read the CES Letter and have a few insights to offer. I’ll borrow a thought attributed to Richard Bushman, author of Rough Stone Rolling.

    “I think 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’s trying to do. And there will be a strain for a lot of people, older people especially. But I think it has to change. Elder Packer had the sense of “protecting the little people.” He felt like the scholars were an enemy to his faith, and that (we should protect) the grandmothers living in Sanpete County. That was a very lovely pastoral image. But the price of protecting the grandmothers was the loss of the grandsons. They got a story that didn’t work. So we’ve just had to change our narrative.”

    Somewhere along the line church leaders decided to avoid the messy parts of church history and built a narrative that many older people were raised in. I’m one of those. As Bushman said, it wasn’t to deceive, but to protect. However, as we can see now, that was a mistake.

    Some people cannot tolerate ambiguity. They fly to pieces when they encounter it. Not everyone is that way. Some, when hurt and facing ambiguity turn to the Lord. That is what I did. I was shocked, astonished, hurt, puzzled, and terribly disappointed. I cried to the Lord, pleaded with the Lord, fasted and prayed for an extended period. Finally, the answer came. The way Heavenly Father answered my prayer changed my life and opened the door to greater access to the gifts of the Spirit than I had prior to my faith crisis.

    Over the years as I have visited Mormon Stories, I have listened to many others related their story about leaving the church. It seems, that most of them don’t even mentioned turning to the Lord for answers. Instead, they turn elsewhere. That leads me to believe that they never leaned how to obtain an answer from the Lord before their faith crisis. Too many members are active in church, but not so active in the applying the principles of the gospel.

    I think Donna and many other who have left the church will return. Heavenly Father will open doors for them. Until then, I wish them the best.

    1. It isn’t that Donna can’t handle ambiguity. That was what she was doing prior to reading the CES Letter. She wasn’t quite sure what this “polygamy” thing was. She had heard ambiguous whisperings about it, and ambiguous explanations. It was when she found out the unambiguous details that she saw the truth: Joseph Smith was a sexual predator and serial adulterer.

      1. John, you must have information from those who married or knew Joseph Smith to search the conclusion that he was a sexual predator and serial adulterer. Would you share your sources, I would be interested?

        1. In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith
          Book by Todd Compton, Google it. The LDS essay on plural marriage in Kirkland and nauvoo actually used this as one of their sources.

          Google “Joseph Smith, polyandry” and hang on for the ride

          Google “Fanny Alger”
          Google “Helen Mar Kimball”
          Google “Zina Diantha Huntington Jacobs Smith Young”

          Go to the first episode and listen in order

          1. Following is a quote from a discussion Brian Hales and Laura his wife had with someone. The Hales are the authors of a 3 volume history on polygamy.

            We get this idea that Joseph went to them and said, “I had a revelation that you need to be my plural wife. You’re commanded. Marry me.” And they said, “Okay, because I believe you’re a prophet.” That did not happen very often to our knowledge. Many of these women struggled for a very long time before they decided, “Yes. This is something I want to do.”

            Brian Hales: Well, several of them also reported having visions. Mary Elizabeth Rollins saw an angel. Scared her to death, but that was the confirmation that Joseph had promised her regarding plural marriage. Dan, I would add regarding those plural wives, by my count, there was 35. Laura, I think, discounts a couple of them, so maybe 33. Of those, I think, it’s important to note that if we follow them out, all but seven of them died in Utah. None of these women ever criticized Joseph. Even though they’d remarried, and they’d had experiences with a family and sexuality. None of them were later saying, “Joseph used me, or beguiled me, or deceived me, or that polygamy was just a sham for Joseph to get sex.” I mean, there’s none of that. Of the whole 35, and if we look at all the Nauvoo polygamists at the martyrdom, and by my count, there’s 115, we don’t have any of these people who knew polygamy from the inside. None of these men and women are later saying, “Joseph was immoral or this was some kind of a principle that he was using to expand his sexual opportunities.” I think while we may not understand it, these people seemed to. They accepted it right to the end. I think that may be a useful observation.

          2. Dear Teancum,

            It’s called Confirmation Bias.

            Nearly all human beings do it, including you and me.

            You are cherry-picking from the historical record in support of the “Joseph Smith was a good man and did not use his Polygamy Revelation as a pickup line to score sexually with multiple females” theory.

            There is a long list of historically verifiable evidence suggesting Joseph Smith did not struggle much with his poly-partner sex addiction. Fanny Alger penetration preceded D&C 132 by many years. Emma tried to poison her husband … for what reason? Emma threw at least one female housemate down the stairs … why would she do that? The list goes on …

            Never mind all of the above.

            I respect your right, Teancum, to believe whatever you want to believe. … for whatever reasons you want to believe it.

            You will find yourself closer to truth if you acknowledge your own Confirmation Bias and decide if that works for you … or not. All credible evidence deserves equal consideration … that is … unless your conclusion is predetermined.

    2. Donna,
      Thank you for sharing your story with such sincerity. I have watched the last three segments, and you made it clear that you did turn to the Lord… countless times and in countless ways, including all the ways Mormons are taught. From my perspective, you left no stone unturned in trying to somehow see the church as still good and true. The problem was not with you; the problem is with the church–the church is simply NOT what it claims to be. You found that out, and you did the only decent thing you could do: you left.
      I left five years ago, and I am so glad I did.
      If you haven’t read her, I highly recommend the work of Alice Miller, especially her book THE BODY NEVER LIES. Many, many people have had to learn how to listen to the truth that is inside them, and I think recovering Mormons–and all human beings–might be able to benefit from reading this.
      I wish you and your whole family the very best. I hope that you continue in your commitment to yourself to stay with what is real. Only you can give yourself the gift of a life lived in authenticity.

    3. “They never learned to obtain an answer from the Lord before their faith crisis.” This is typical victim blaming that the church has taught you to apply to others and yourself.
      It’s clear in listening to Donna that she was a devoted and fully committed member of the church, someone who prayed and studied on a daily basis and applied her faith in every situation.
      The most faithful members are the ones hurt the most when they find out the church has lied about its history, lacks revelation, and has no place for their LGBTQ children.
      Donna, thank you for your courage and honesty in sharing your story. It will give strength and comfort to many on the same journey. I have so much love and admiration for you.

    4. As I started reading your comment, I appreciated what I believe to be your primary point, which is that Church leaders intended no malice when it circled the wagons around the traditional narrative in the face of scholarly criticism. However, your “many people an’t tolerate ambiguity” is incredibly dismissive of doubters, and as I kept reading… well, what a pompous post. The gist of your post is “I am better than the old ladies who are so ignorant that they still believe the traditional narrative, AND I am also better than that hysterical woman Donna Showalter, and all of the fragile doubters out there that “fly to pieces” when faced with the smallest inconsistencies. Your post is just virtue signalling; you alone have the intellectual balance which gives you a much greater understanding than the silly beliefs of all the dumb grandmas on the church pews AND you have the mental toughness to handle nuance. WELL DONE, TEANCUM.
      Sarcasm aside, consider the following:
      1. Many if not most doubters live with nuance, and embrace ambiguity. The Mormon church is the one that demands certainty and disdains ambiguity. “I KNOW the church is true. I KNOW Joseph Smith restored the gospel. I KNOW the Book of Mormon is true. I KNOW Nelson is a prophet.” These are the mandatory, no nuance declarations in order to be a member in good standing. A member who says “I attend church services and abide by the commandments, but I have a nuanced faith that Joseph Smith was inspired but did not restore the gospel or the priesthood keys, the Book of Mormon offers many important parables that have relevance today but is a 19th century document not a translation of an ancient text, the Church has some troubling current and past practices but does enough good that it remains meaningful place for me to worship, and Russel M Nelson is a qualified leader for our church but I do not agree with many of his statements and I feel comfortable respectfully disagreeing with him” that, my friend, is the definition of nuance and ambiguity, but precisely the sort of ambiguity that will keep you from attending your child’s temple wedding. They may not throw you out, but you cannot be a member in good standing if you embrace “ambiguity.” Again, I say that it is the church that cannot handle ambiguity.
      2. “Ambiguity” is a very kind euphemism for the mountains of contradictions and troubling facts behind the narratives we were fed.

      1. Thirg, Asker of Questions

        “Ambiguity” is a very kind euphemism for the mountains of contradictions and troubling facts behind the narratives we were fed.”

        Thanks for making this point. I didn’t lose my testimony of the church because of “ambiguity.” It was the clear, documented historical evidence: the clear and unambiguous mis-translation of the Book of Abraham, the clear and documented evolution of Joseph’s understanding of the nature of God (as opposed to the official story), the clear changes in the story of the Book of Mormon translation, and many other very clear, established facts.

      2. Dear Marbley, I only have a moment, but I wanted to say that it is not necessarily true that a member who recognizes, even embraces, ambiguity in the gospel will not be found worthy of a temple recommend. Several years ago, I was interviewed for a calling by two general authorities. I confessed my doubts about the historicity of the Restoration narrative, including the Book of Mormon, but affirmed my commitment to keep the commandments and not seek to diminish the faith of others. I asserted my right to declare that I believe the gospel, not by rational analysis or by faith, but by choice. They specifically assured me that although I would not qualify for the calling in question, I would remain a member in good standing as long as I kept those promises, and I could attend the temple and hold other callings in the church. “Doubters” need to understand that there is a place for them in the Church, and a wonderful life in the Church is still available, if that is what they would prefer as opposed to a wonderful life outside the church.

    5. Thirg, Asker of Questions

      “It seems, that most of them don’t even mentioned turning to the Lord for answers. Instead, they turn elsewhere. That leads me to believe that they never leaned how to obtain an answer from the Lord before their faith crisis.”

      You may believe this; it seems to make it easier for you to dismiss others’ experiences. But your comment is not true in my experience. I certainly turned to the Lord until it was clear he was leading me to more and more evidence against the church, at which time I got the message. This comment is just another example of the unconscious moral preening that those who ignore reality use to dismiss the experience of others. This belief is -as hard as this may be for you to hear- just another form of victim blaming. And in fact, you too are still a victim: I believe your thinking has been completely co-opted by confirmation bias and sunk cost fallacy, and, in fact, the inability to accept reality. I hear it in your words because they sound like me for the last thirty years or so before the sheer weight of evidence overwhelmed the ability of my mind to generate excuses for the church. I think you, and others who have ignored the evidence and called it faith, will eventually leave the church as well; its only a matter of time. “We” (those of us who are in your opinion too spiritually weak or undeveloped to keep making excuses for the church) will be here waiting to help you pick up the pieces. Because we’ve been were you are. We understand. Until, then I wish you the best.

    6. The “Lord” speaks through Love and Goodness. She opened the door here on earth to those things. It was her limited and false beliefs that she had to overcome .
      It sounds to me like you have quite a limited view of how one hears and communicates with God.

    7. Thank you for your comment. I can appreciate your experience with praying and finding answers that were comforting and helped you stay. Your journey and experiences are valid and i really appreciate your perspective. Thank you!

      1. Donna I hope you are still reading these comments my story is much like yours but all of my 4 children are are true believers and they are really struggling with their dad who raised them to be faithfull I’ve always been a homofobe and in my younger years I like Brigham Young would have denied the power of the atonement to blood oath sacrifice someone who was gay I still cling to the church because it’s the biggest part of my being I do not know how to act without it but I’m making steps to separate myself I really feel at times that my worth as a soul is nil and therefore my family would be better off without me that is hard to say just like all the things you said in your interview thank you thank you thank you Your words have given me a small bit of relevance. But I just can’t figure out how to set aside my lifetime of service and sacrifice for such a big lie My heart is still grieving give Michael and Steve a great big hug and next time you look up at the stars know that there is a God out there watching us and when we follow our hearts the truth comes out May rainbows follow you wherever you go and may you prize the colors more than the gold that resides at its end

    8. Ah yes, everyone, it’s just a little ambiguity, that’s all. Now quit being so oh-my-heck fetchin’ nit picky and get back to church!

      The only thing worse than incredibly insulting posts like that of tea n cum is that he/she almost certainly knows how obscene it is, yet posted it anyway.

      I have no idea how many members have stopped believing due to the history etc found in the CES Letter and elsewhere, but I’m willing to assume it is several thousand. And as a part of the DAMU for several years now I can honestly say there are many hundreds, and likely thousands that earnestly tried the “pray it away” route.

      The difference is, most of these people can tolerate (deal with) reality. Like the reality that DNA destroyed the Lamanite=Amerindian basis for the BoM, so the church changed the story. And the reality that despite the pathetic apologetic efforts of people like Kerry Muhlestein, the BoA that Smith claimed was “written by Abraham’s own hand upon papyrus” is in fact what actual Egpytologists call a “farrago of nonsense”. These people can tolerate the huge inconsistencies between what the church calls Smith’s “celestial marriages tying families together eternally” and the reality of what actually happened, such as Vilate Kimball refusing Smith’s “celestial marriage tying families together eternally” offer and her daughter Helen’s description of Vilate’s anguish as she “had seen the sufferings of others that were older and better understood the step they were taking” when Smith turned his attention to young Helen.

      That only scratches the surface of the laundry list of realities people tolerate (aka, deal with rather than deny).

      It’s disgusting that anyone would come on here and insult Donna (and others) with that “they turned elsewhere instead of to the Lord” BS. I don’t think the Lord was/is going to retroactively change reality for anyone anyway, tea n cum, so stop trying to talk others into living in denial with you and go tolerate your cognitive dissonance on your own.

    9. GaryC, thank you for putting into words exactly what I felt as I listened to Donna’s story! Teancum, shame on you for simplifying the actions of the church as “protection.” Their actions were downright deceitful and manipulative. It was not us, it’s members, they were trying to protect. It was the institution itself they were trying to protect. And now, when faced with the consequences and fallout their actions have caused, they are gaslighting the members.

    10. Teancum wrote: “It seems, that most of them don’t even mentioned turning to the Lord for answers. Instead, they turn elsewhere. That leads me to believe that they never leaned how to obtain an answer from the Lord before their faith crisis.”

      My faith crisis has been one of the most painful, most heartbreaking things I have ever been through. I absolutely turned to the Lord for answers. For several years, I visited the temple, I fasted, I prayed, I searched the scriptures, I studied only church-approved sources, I spoke to my church leaders and other respected Priesthood holders like my father, my grandfathers, and my husband. I cried in my mother’s lap, I asked for and received blessings. At one point my ward even fasted for me.

      I have many volumes of journals full of my spiritual experiences. I felt that I had a close relationship with my heavenly parents. I knew how to pray, knew how to feel, and knew how to discern right from wrong. In short, I had, as you say, “learned how to obtain an answer from the Lord” before my faith crisis.

      I did not harden my heart. I did not become offended and turn away. I have not even left. I still attend church. I still serve in callings. I still keep my temple recommend current. I will be going to the temple next week for a wedding/sealing in the family. But Teancum, the answers I receive when I pray are continually thus: This is not the Lord’s church. The other answers I receive? Are a continual outpouring of love. My heavenly parents still love me. They are not unhappy that I am disenchanted with mormonism. They are not sad or upset or fear my loss. I am not drowning in the filthy waters, nor am I laughing and pointing from the great and spacious building.

      But I feel trapped, and isolated, and very, very alone. I do not think this is how Jesus would want his people to live. I do not like being misjudged by others as someone who agrees with or supports hurtful and exclusionary policies. Someday I hope to be able to live authentically without people like you judging me for just not praying hard enough, not being spiritual enough, not knowing how to receive answers. But for now. I walk the walk. I talk the talk, and I cherish a tiny kernel of hope that I’ll find space within this culture for someone like me.

      1. Jane I do not know if you will read this but in so many ways I agree with you Mormonism is the context I have to relate spiritually and like you I have a truck load of great experiences that I’ve shared freely through out my life donnas journey has just begun as have ours I hope the lord will stay by our sides I believe we will find him as we travel but we must love as he loved we must trust as he trusted and we must understand as only we can who have traveled this very difficult road The climb up is much easier than the decent down to he who is afraid of heights cast your fears at his feat and your faith will carry you

    11. I can’t see where “turning to the Lord” has anything at all to do with returning to the Mormon Church. The Jehovah’s Witnesses think the same way. They will even say to someone who has left the church: “Come back to Jehovah” because they actually believe that is the only place you will find Him.
      I have found the Lord, and I didn’t find Him in a Mormon Church. I found Him by reading the Bible and believing what it says. Donna doesn’t have to return to “The Church” to find the Lord.

    12. Teancum, I appreciate your thoughtful comments, but would like to point out a couple of things.

      I can understand giving “milk before meat” but deceiving people (long-time adult members of the church) to keep them from difficult facts would be either condescending (those in authority are somehow better than the average member and therefore able to handle those facts) or simply self-deceiving to come up with a superficial excuse for the deception. I see no reason to believe either of those actions are inspired.

      Your other point about people in faith crisis not turning to God is simply not true for many cases, and appears to be an assumption that allows you to maintain your own faith despite the experiences of others. I spent more than a year fasting and praying to find a way for my experience in reality to be somehow explained by gospel doctrine or personal revelation – but the heavens were silent, my leaders were unable to provide a reasonable explanation, and my only options were to try to live with overwhelming cognitive dissonance, or admit that my experiences did not allow me to believe the doctrine anymore. I’m sure you will explain away my experience with thoughts like “well, he never really prayed hard enough,” or “he just needed to have faith for longer,” or “he has misinterpreted his experiences.” No assurance from me that none of those are true will change your mind – but your hope that I’m wrong doesn’t make it so. In my experience, gospel doctrine is incompatible with reality.

      I wish you well in your continued faith, but I can tell you from personal experience that life outside the church is FAR better than it ever was inside. Expunging the mental gymnastics and constant reliance on hope that I’ll some day understand the “truth” has freed up my mind to enjoy life and my family as they actually are.

    13. MESSY PARTS? messy=BS parts=all of it
      AMBIGUITY? The BS is piled so high it is perfectly clear. Can’t miss it.
      YOU HAVE ACCESS TO THE GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT? Those gifts must not include a sense of smell.
      NEW DEFINITIONS: Lying=Protection, Deception=Mistake, I get it, just like Policies used to be Administrative Decisions, different from Revelations which were inspired Edicts from God, but now Policies are the same as Revelations, and Policies/Revelations are both totally inspired of God, and can be reversed after enough people commit suicide.
      A NEW NARRATIVE? It is a little late to try to change the story now, again. The credibility of the leadership would be undamaged today only if the church actually had possessed and had been dispensing truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth all along since 1830.
      JUST APPLY THE PRINCIPLES OF THE GOSPEL Tell that to the top leadership. The members are doing a much better job at it than they are.

  7. How can I get involved in incircle? So much time on my hands…and want to be involved because I value this kind of service. Stepson is gay whose former partner committed suicide…many friends that are gay that are the only people that hug me!! In Cache Valley….someone help me connect…Thank you Donna for seeing beauty in a place that has nothing to do with talks, sacraments…and fake friendships. You rock…and so does your son!!

    1. You can volunteer by going to and scroll down to the volunteer box. My Encircle experiences are sacred to me, if it’s still ok to use that word! And the precious friends I’ve made there are REAL, lifetime friends who truly care about me and have been there for me and really listened when i was at my lowest. They GET IT because they’ve lived it, too. I hope i get to meet you there!

  8. If, after this interview, John Dehlin decides to pack up his microphone and spend the rest of his life on a tropical island, his work will be complete. I cannot imagine a more powerful, eloquent, or heartfelt articulation of faith crisis. Donna, I think you will discover that your gifts go far beyond landscape design, your church service and even your work at Encircle. You have given voice to the unspoken feelings of thousands of women. You stand like a prophet at the edge of the tradition you loved, calling for justice. Thank you for giving all of your heart. Please stay with us. There is so much beauty waiting for you “out here.”

  9. Donna,
    Your ability to tell your story is truly incredible. You have articulated so many things that I have felt. Thank you. You are wonderful and you have strengthened all of us by telling your story with so much honesty. I feel honored that I could hear it.

  10. That was as powerful an interview about loss of Mormon faith as it gets. And John, we were masterful in allowing her to tell it in her emotionally raw, but clear manner, without your feeling compelled to comment. I don’t recall many podcasts where I have been drawn in so deeply as I was with Donna’s epic story.
    The one thing stood out from her story was the fact that she honestly believed that the Q15 physically sat and conversed with Jesus, and that all the words spoken from the pulpit at General Conference or issued by the First Presidency were explicitly sanctioned, if not actually directed, by God/Jesus. This rocked me back on my heels at first. However, as I thought it through, I recognized that the Brethren over the years had implied this. And recently, Pres. Nelson weaves a tale where he gets nightly visits and directions from the Lord. Even when he was an apostle, he tried to sell the members on the fact that God was directing the leaders’ decisions (e.g., directing and confirming their deliberations [after considering all the possible permutations] in coming up with the botched and ambiguous Nov. 2015 policy that was later rescinded). True believing, loyal members believe this is the only true and authorized church on the face of the earth, and is led by Jesus Christ, as the head of the church. So it’s not a big stretch to literally believe Christ communicates directly with its leaders, if you view this through faithful (and , admittedly, myopic ) eyes. And don’t forget the binary pronouncement of various leaders, including, most recently, Gordon B. Hinckley, who said, “It’s either all true, or it’s the biggest fraud perpetrated on mankind.” (Or something close to that.) With that axiom, I believe that an “all -in” believer will undergo the most cataclysmic faith crises when she is confronted by the facts that expose the church’s past narrative and core principles and historical myths as false. Once you are exposed to that, all the praying in the world won’t allow you to unsee that contradiction. After being faced with this new information, you have several choices: leave and redefine your spiritual/inner life; ignore the facts and bow your head and say “yes”; or trying to redefine terms/principles/history/beliefs to maintain activity in the church. Everyone who stays after facing the gulf between the Church’s narrative and the facts must redefine their reasons for staying. That reason may be to support or be accepted by family; to enjoy the fellowship; to stay with the traditional and comfortable community, or to try to reform from the inside. I understand those impulses some have to stay. I couldn’t stay because my struggle for 40 years to maintain activity finally gave way to my feelings of hypocrisy if I choose to stay.
    No one can tell any other person that their reasons for staying or leaving are flawed or wrong. Faith is an individual matter of conscience. Donna, you have my utmost respect.
    Thank you both, Donna and John, for a powerful interview.

  11. Donna, thank you for sharing so deeply. You’ve done what the greatest writers do, opened your arteries and let your life flow directly into your words, to the benefit of all. I can imagine the exhilaration, and exhaustion you might be experiencing now, in the aftermath. May you be supported in the work you’re doing in the world.

    Much of what you shared resonates so deeply with me, as if you were eloquently speaking my own story. Thank you for being so utterly truthful. When you said that you’d given so many of your years to the false vision of these leaders, and that you would live authentically from now on, my heart expanded with sympathy and recognition! Yes, yes, YES! Those words of yours opened a door wide.

    Though you maybe will never see this post, on the off-chance, can I recommend a book that you may find illuminating and healing? It’s called “The Politics of Domesticity” by Barbara Leslie Epstein. It really helped me find clarity and freedom from aspects of my identity that had been drawn for me by others. It’s not about the church. Not directly, anyway, but it inadvertently illustrates where so much of the psyche of the faithful LDS woman “of a certain age” arises from, and, spoiler alert;it’s not from God, but from early 19th century philosophies and the common discourse of the time. Even though I had already realized the church is not what it claims, this book hugely assisted me in releasing limiting beliefs I didn’t eben know I was holding. Releasing them opened up a whole, broad, new landscape for my life.

  12. Well, Teancum, you must surely have expected quite a response from your rather patronising post. Whilst you may have experienced a new “gifts of the spirit” in your search, the “spirit of the gifts” are hard to find in your message! More like horse manure, than greener pastures. If “ambiguity ” is your solution to finding some justification for continued involvement with the LDS teaching, I give you due respect for that. However, for eg, there was no ambiguity mentioned by former leader, Gordon B Hinckley, when he mentioned, paraphrasing here…… ” if the first vision did not happen just as stated,then we are involved in a great scam”. There are multiple versions, becoming increasingly more embellished. Not a lot of ambiguity in that statement. I wonder how current leader,Russell Nelson, reconciles with that statement ? I further wonder just how it is the pews are still full on Sundays ? I came to the conclusion,just as Donna did, there was just no way to honestly justify membership, unless I willingly pulled the wool over my own eyes. I actually support that, just as I support you Living your truth, but also allowing others to freely and honestly live theirs.

  13. As I read through the comments I see that several of the commenters make assertions that cannot be back up with evidence. Here are a couple:

    1. Joseph Smith was a sexual predator and serial adulterer.
    Fact: None of the people who married and/or knew Joseph Smith ever said anything like that about him. Source: Brian Hales, author of 3 volume history on polygamy.

    2. DNA destroyed the Lamanite=Amerindian basis for the BoM.
    Fact: Destroy is the wrong word. There is a difference between claiming current DNA studies don’t always support a mid-east origin for Indians and claiming that current DNA studies prove that Indians have no mid-east origin. DNA is an on going science. Here is one reason why its not accurate to use the word “destroyed” In this study DNA evidence linked American Indians to Mid-East DNA. Source:

    3. True believing, loyal members believe this is the only true and authorized church on the face of the earth, and is led by Jesus Christ, as the head of the church. So it’s not a big stretch to literally believe Christ communicates directly with its leaders, if you view this through faithful (and , admittedly, myopic ) eyes.
    Fact: Who can name the logical fallacy for this kind of reasoning?

    There certainly are problems circling the church. Why would we ever think that there wouldn’t be? The Book of Mormon clearly teaches that there is opposition in all things. The “doctrine” of opposition in all things is taught by Lehi and then is part of the story in every book in the Book of Mormon. God allows opposition or maybe it is more accurate to say he arranges for oppositions in all things to prove us, trying our faith and patience.

    I’m not surprised by the kind of opposition that the church is experiencing. Some of it they brought on because of mistakes made by leaders. I have a good laugh when I read the following:

    Catholics, say that the pope is infallible, but no Catholic really believes it. Mormons say that the prophet isn’t infallible, but no Mormon really believes it.

    Donna-thanks for you kind words above. I wish you the best!

    1. “1. Joseph Smith was a sexual predator and serial adulterer.
      Fact: None of the people who married and/or knew Joseph Smith ever said anything like that about him. Source: Brian Hales, author of 3 volume history on polygamy.”

      Why do you keep limiting the sources you’ll accept to only the people who married or who knew Joseph Smith? You might be interested in the true story of Wayne Bent, former Adventist-turned-cult-leader. The woman (and girls) whom he tricked to his bed had spiritual experiences that going to his bed was God’s will. He didn’t have to even ask them. But he didn’t turn them away, because he, too, claimed spiritual experiences that informed him that this was God’s will. The fact that Joseph Smith’s wives had spiritual experiences and visions is hardly evidence that Smith was therefore NOT a sexual predator. Teancum, you do not understand the power of spiritual manipulation. Joseph Smith was a master at spiritual manipulation.

      There are plenty of recorded experiences in which people have followed dangerous cult leaders as a result of spiritual experiences, some of a paranormal nature, in the presence of the leader. Smith is just one of many. And like so many of these other cult leaders, he also found sexual partners in his flock. Google the following: Father Yod, Jacob Cochran, Wayne Bent, David Koresh, Source Family, etc.

      Are you telling me that God really commanded Smith to have multiple wives, but all of these other men who claimed to be so commanded by God were actually wrong? Is Smith really the only one in the whole bunch who actually had divine authorization to commit adultery?

      Take a look at this chronology:

      1. 1831-1833: Smith likely had his first “plural wife.” Fanny Alger.
      2. 1834. Smith claimed he was first commanded to practice plural marriage in 1834.
      3. 1836. Smith claimed to receive keys from Elijah, which modern Mormons believe contain the power to seal married couples together. That is almost two years between the commandment to practice plural marriage and the priesthood authority to do so. These would not have been eternal marriages. These would not have been legal civil marriages, either. This would be adultery.
      4. 1836. Smith does NOT use the keys to have himself sealed to Emma.
      5. 1836 – 1842. Smith marries over a dozen women. He does so without Emma’s knowledge. He is still not sealed to Emma.
      6. 1842. Smith finally is sealed to Emma.

      Conclusion: Smith concocted the doctrine of celestial marriage to give religious justification for the adulterous practices he was already engaged in.

      And by the way, the doctrine of “opposition in all things” is a Gnostic and a Luciferian concept. It turns Lucifer into a hero, a “bringer of light.” who rescues Adam and Eve from the trap of the Garden of Eden set by the wicked demi-urge, creator of the earth. The Truman Show is a modern-day retelling of this ancient doctrine. You can also find it in all sorts of Gnostic-inflected stories from Star Wars to Harry Potter to Lord of the Rings, (all great stories by the way.) This occultic concept worked its way into Mormonism through Smith’s dabbling with the occult through folk magic and other interests.

      Teancum…I don’t think you understand exactly what you are involved with.

    2. You use the very same logic, that the Jehovah’s Witnesses use to defend their religion!

      1. Our leaders are mere MEN, therefore they make mistakes.
      2. We have “New Light” (new revelation) from God so we now have a new position on that. ( Oh, you have proof that the Book of Abraham was NOT translated from the papyrii, well then we have a new revelation that the Holy Spirit gave the Book of Abraham to Joseph Smith directly and not through translation. Oh, people are killing themselves because of our revelation on how we treat the families of gay children well then we have a new revelation that we are to be more tollerant.)
      4. We are being bombarded with attacks because we have the truth, and the Bible says we should consider it pure joy when we are persecuted.
      5. Being attacked and criticised verifies that we have the truth.
      6. We are the ONLY ones who have the true message from God, therefore there can be no truth to the attacks and criticism and they are meant to strenghen us.

    3. Do you honestly believe that by their works ye shall know them Jesus must be mistaken Joseph s early works were of the devil do you allow your kids to play with owe – gee – boards this is what you are defending if you want to get a good grip on polyandry read patty sessions description of her and her daughters sealing to Joseph she was thoroughly convinced he left his seed with her daughter. The Mormon battalion left many dead of Collera. Of all things then there is the book of Abraham then that takes you to section 101 and 132 of the d and c last but not least becoming god doctrine the glory of god is intelligence. Christ never testified to either concept The glory of god is love that is his being so therefore our responsibility here on earth is to love to understand and keep his two great commandments he also said let the dead bury the deadhe did not tell us to follow anyone blindly . Now if this was truly his church we would not have any commandments beyond his 2 .can we find a personal relationship with the savior in Mormonism and share that freely with others ? this is not acceptable now just like it wasn’t acceptable then Now go through the d and c write down every name mentioned how many are relevant. Not many Joseph makes the lord into a confusing taskmaster. Many of us have looked into this His untimely death was not a martyrdom he was armed and he fired back. Tom Phillips has his calling made sure and he cannot be excommunicated because of a second anointing. Come on pray about it Use the very system you employed on your mission knowing what you know I’ve been doing this for a long time it is not easy coming to terms tells me that this is not a very good description of what Jesus would have us follow

  14. Donna,
    You are the most beautiful human being I have ever witnessed. The way you LOVE people with everything in you. The way you are effortlessly kind and merciful speaks of a life devoted to goodness. Your total authenticity was so natural, I sat here in awe. I kept saying to myself “wow. I want to love people like SHE loves people”. I am so inspired, thank you for sharing your gorgeous soul with us.

    1. “You are the most beautiful human being I have ever witnessed.”

      I will second this. My previous comment on this page was a reply to another commenter, and I neglected to tell Donna what an inspiration she is. You had incredible, and incredibly difficult experiences, Donna, and have come through stronger and even more beautiful. Thanks so very much for sharing your story, and yourself, so vividly and powerfully!!

  15. It looks like my comments are being removed. That’s too bad. Maybe they are being reviewed. We’ll see.

    1. My comment was in moderation, probably due to the link I used. It is now showing. Thanks to the site administrator for their policy of fairness.

  16. I’ve listened to a lot of the mormon stories over the past 3 or 4 years. This one and the Christine Jeppson Clark episode are by far my favorites. So powerful.

  17. Donna, the way you have worded your story is so relatable to me. I wish so much I could send this to those struggling with my own leaving. They just aren’t open enough yet. Thank you for your bravery of putting your story out there. There are completely valid reasons for leaving. I just no longer believe it when faced with all the facts and not just the cherry picked or sugar coated ones. It isn’t true. It is wonderful feeling to admit it. I think even if it were true I would have left over the 2015 policy as well. My heart also told me it was deeply wrong and everyone was silent around me. It felt like insanity. I was told it was me and that I was under influence of adversary by my bishop since I was saying the church was so wrong about it. When the reversal I never got that call apologizing for that. I totally understood the rage you felt with the reversal. Thank you Donna and thank you for your service to those who desperately need you.

  18. You are welcome to pull all the information you can to prove Joseph Smith is a cult leader. You made a list of men to prove your point. However, the church Joseph founded, the Book of Mormon, and a host of others things make him different than those you selected to compare him with. Did any of them found a church that has grown to 16 million people and brought forth anything like the Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants, and Peal of Great Price?

    I can’t speak about your assertion that the cult followers had visions and spiritual experiences, but I have serious questions. It appears that in your world there are only cults and true religion doesn’t exist.

    1. “2. DNA destroyed the Lamanite=Amerindian basis for the BoM.
      Fact: Destroy is the wrong word. There is a difference between claiming current DNA studies don’t always support a mid-east origin for Indians and claiming that current DNA studies prove that Indians have no mid-east origin. DNA is an on going science. Here is one reason why its not accurate to use the word “destroyed” In this study DNA evidence linked American Indians to Mid-East DNA. Source:

      That’s a “fact”, is it? Oh, so when the Lord said “And thus you shall take your journey into the regions westward, unto the land of Missouri, unto the borders of the Lamanites” he was just confused about the geography? He really meant southward to North Carolina? You know, since the Cherokees were Lamanites and the other Indians weren’t? And the Cherokee removal wouldn’t take place for another 5-10 years, if that was your next angle. Not that Jackson County in NW MO is “on the border” of Oklahoma anyway.

      Mr. Yates claiming that the Cherokees are descended from Jews is obviously groundbreaking. When did he first announce this claim? “Research” like that screams for peer review. Where are the other geneticists, let alone anthropologists, etc. that will go on record substantiating such a claim? My online search only revealed very skeptical science and genetics bloggers, but nothing of peer reviewed research one way or the other. Meanwhile, speaking only for myself, I am supremely confident that this will go down as nothing more than yet another amusing suggestion that is quickly disproven if and when the scientific community ever takes it seriously enough to even look at it.

      But it doesn’t actually matter anyway. You know why?

      Because it was never about maybe somewhere, some way, a Jewish connection may be found. The story was that the Amerindians WERE Lamanites, period, no questions asked. So what happened when the DNA came along? Fact: It DESTROYED Lamanites=Amerindians. So what did the apologists and then the church do? THEY CHANGED THE STORY!

      Starting with the book itself with its “land preserved and kept from the knowledge of other nations” and the “dark skinned, uncivilized, savages are the ones that survived” to Joseph Smith very frequently and boldly teaching that the Amerindians were one and the same with Lamanites (Wentworth letter, etc) all the way to white and delightsome Spencer Kimball and Jeff Holland’s “the land remained uninhabited to fulfill its destiny” – THAT was the BoM story from the very beginning – Native Americans existed because Lamanites existed. Period. It was the official position. It was SO official the church would later change the intro to the BoM in order to try to get past it!

      Oh, and as far as the cult thing goes and the 16 million (it’s hilarious how believers love to throw that number around when actual believing, participating membership is likely around 1/3 of that), that’s the difference between starting your new church in the first half of the 18th century vs the last half of the twentieth or later. It was a fetchin’ lot easier to find gullible people to go along during the religiously volatile and superstitious 1830’s than in the modern era. Just look at the JW’s and the Seventh Day Adventists and the Christian Scientists, etc, etc., (similar “cults” to Mormonism, yet several are newer and yet larger if counted with the same methodology).

    2. Charles Taze Russell

      Founded the Jehovah’s Witnesses in the late 1800s. Was convinced the the Great Pyramids held the answers to Christ’s return and wrote many books. Since then most of his writings have been discredited, so the Jehovah’s Witness leadership have been given “New Light” from God that re-writes any problems with Russell’s original writings and predictions.

      At present there are about 9 million active members – who go door-to-door 4 hours every week and attend about 4 to 5 additional hours of meetings each week. But there are approximately 50 million followers world-wide who aren’t counted because they don’t do the 10 hours a week to be considered active members.

      They are considered a cult because:
      1. They profess to be the only religion with the truth. There is no salvation outside of the organization.
      2. They believe that God speaks directly to the Governing Body (8 or 9 men who set policy and speak for God)
      3. Any questioning of the JW beliefs or the Governing Body results in excommunication, even by close family and close friends.
      4. There are minimum requirements to remain an active JW, any less and you are labeled as “weak in the faith” and you probably won’t inherit eternal life.
      5. There are rules for grooming, dress, no beards, and even rules for the marriage bedroom.
      6. “New Light” is used to cover up any problems with their doctrines.
      7. Tithing is required, although they say otherwise.

  19. Donna. I really enjoyed your podcast. When I found out the Church wasn’t true, I cried for days. I had studied a lot before going on my faith journey and through the journey I studied official material. I study occasionally now, but I now study the Bible. I don’t just read it, I study to know the meaning. I do not attend any church. As you continue, keep studying Mormonism.

    At my local medical clinic I talk to my physician occasionally. I did last Monday and asked him, a member of a ward several miles from mine, how he is doing. You see his wife is a strong believer but he is not. He turned down a calling to teach Gospel Doctrine and is now in the nursery. He has a temple recommend and has gone to the temple recently. His bishop and stake president knows he has doubts. I asked him how he is making it with his wife and he said, “She realizes that we are each on our own faith journey.”

    As for Teancum who seems to want to say that you didn’t really pray. I think you did. After I found out the untruthfulness, family relations worsened with my married child and I guess I am no longer a grandpa. My wife is suffering from this even more than I. But after I finished studying Mormonism, I was positive that at least Jesus was true so I read the New Testament, recalling where the Sermon on the Mount as given in the Book of Mormon had to have been incorrect, because when Joseph revised the New Testament, he corrected those New Testament verses, meaning that the B o M was not really the most correct book, because the verses in both books are the same. I eventually found that there is no prophecy in the Hebrew Scriptures telling of the coming of Jesus and that is one reason why Jews don’t believe in the divinity of Jesus. Outside of the New Testament there is no proof (And the Bible has the same discrepancies and anachronisms as in the Book of Mormon.) that Jesus was divine. Actually Biblical scholars disagree on whether Jesus even existed. So if Jesus was not divine, Joseph could not have seen him in the many supposed visions.

    There are three world religions and a few sub-religions like Mormonism, who believe they are descended from Abraham–Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Judaism follows the Hebrew translations, Christianity and therefore Mormonism follow the Greek translations, and the Muslims think the Hebrew was altered. Joseph Smith said the the King James version, from the Greek, was the most accurate, but could a Greek translation be more accurate than the original Hebrew? But no one has the original so we can’t compare. Now there are many in the Church, I included, who have a photocopy of the original Book of Mormon and the Book of Covenants (You can buy the books on Amazon. They come with a verification letter from the Church History Department.) and there are some big changes, not just commas and paragraphs.

    So Donna, don’t let anyone try to tell you that you have not been sincere in your search. I was very moved with your story, which is filled with love. Continue to study the MEANINGS of scripture and you will eventually know the truth and it will make you free. And do what is right and let the consequence follow. They followed but I am free from religious control and happy.

    John, give us more like this!

  20. There is a big difference between telling someone you might not marry in this life and telling someone they CANNOT get married. (As well as no dating or any kind of physical affection too)

  21. Donna,
    I can’t stop thinking about your story and the suffering you’re experiencing because of your faith crisis.
    I am a lot like you in that I feel things very deeply and I love big (though not nearly as much as you, you are queen of unconditional love ;)) I fully understand why, after a faith crisis many people no longer believe in God or heaven. It’s that feeling of having been so thoroughly duped, you can no longer trust anything you can’t see with your own eyes. It’s such a terrible feeling. I wanted to share with you how I came to conclude that there is a Creator and was able to feel safe believing in Him and in a beautiful afterlife. I studied near-death-experience books. There are hundreds (thousands?) of documented accounts and the key consistencies in these stories are very reassuring. There are several books written by experts that include scientific research into the phenomenon. The originator of the study of NDE’S was Dr. Raymond Moody who spent 10 years researching and interviewing and collecting data before publishing his findings in his book. Studying all these NDE accounts is actually what spurred my doubts about the LDS Church’s teachings in the first place. I noticed that dying people were always met by their deceased family members when they entered heaven / the Spirit world. Their deceased family members themselves were together in heaven despite not being “sealed” together. Hmmmmm 🤔. Next I noticed that everyone experienced God as overwhelming love. They felt completely understood and cherished by this God (or life force) God was defined in different ways but always described with the same characteristics of all-comprehending, unconditionally loving, deeply personal supreme being or force. I noticed that no one was ever asked what beliefs they had subscribed to in their life on earth. No question of religion. No “worthiness interview”, absolutely nothing about the Mormon church, (or any church for that matter). The only thing that mattered was how much the person had loved others in their earth life. How well they had learned to love. How they had treated other people. That was it. Nothing else. When they returned to their earth life, every one of these individuals had changed in one distinct way: they had a greater desire and capacity to love and help others. They were compelled to be truly kind to each person they encountered, and they joyed in helping and uplifting others. They ALL had the same message after returning to earth: THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN THIS LIFE IS HOW WE TREAT OTHERS. HOW MUCH WE LOVE. Period. Again, this made me wonder about our religion. Think about the temple recommend interview. It’s all about meeting these rigid standards of self-control and personal sacrifice. But if the most important thing in this life is how we treat others and how well we’ve learned to love, why is that not the top priority in the great “worthiness” checklist? Is that even on the checklist? I know some self-righteous, passive aggressive ass holes who make people feel really bad- yet they are fully temple worthy despite. My little sister is the most loving and compassionate person I know. Yet she is gay, a drug-addict, often homeless, and lives a pretty messy, unstable life. She would never be allowed to enter the temple, yet she is endlessly kind and loving, and exhibits true charity. Didn’t Jesus say that was most important?
    This is what started my cognitive dissonance. Then there was the process of reading the CES letter and such, coming to the slow, painful realization that this church is not true, grieving hard, and slowly starting to recover. After the storm, going back to all that I had learned from countless NDE stories/books was what helped me decide what I felt was safe to believe. I thought this might help you too since you have a nephew who died, and that must be painful not knowing what to believe about whether or not there is an afterlife in which you’ll be together with him again. I think you and your family would find a lot of comfort in reading the research and personal accounts of near death experiences.
    Oh and P.S. If it’s true that what matters most is Loving others in word and deed (and I do believe this to be true), then you are SET. You are the queen of genuinely loving people. That is indisputable.

  22. Kate, you need to read the big news event of a few weeks ago about that young boy who died and saw Jesus. There were many books written on that. The event happened some years ago. Pastors and evangelists knew it was true and the the kid told the world he had made the whole thing up. There is also no scientific evidence of an afterlife. It is true that no one can prove that God does not exist.

    And as you are sure there is a creator, most of our country’s founding fathers felt there was a creator, also, but they did not think Jesus to be divine. But as of now there is no proof that Jesus was divine or even existed. You believe he is god because you want to.

    The LDS Church is the only Christian Church in America that is not declining and its growth is almost zero. There is one group that is 24% of Americans. But by 2100, Muslims will outnumber Christians. If God only likes Christians, he isn’t very efficient.

    Kate, had you been born in Arabia, raised as a Muslim child of active Muslim parents, gone to Muslim schools, and married a Muslim, would you be a Christian now believing in the Christian creator or would you be a Muslim awaiting paradise? Religion is determined by geography.

    After my faith crisis, I studied NDE’s like you did. I studied Christian ones and Hindu ones and Muslim ones. Their content was based on culture.

    And Donna, if you read about NDE’s, read a lot. There are thousands of them. I read them all, but I didn’t top there. I am still reading and learning. I just learned today that priests (like Melchizadek), in the Hebrew scriptures, were not allowed to work for a living. God commanded them not to. And not long ago in my studies I learned that in the Hebrew scriptures there is no prophecy of the coming of Jesus. We need to use our brain and study rather than relying on a church leader.

    1. Freedom west, please reference the wording of my comment. I did not say I was sure about anything. I specifically said that I felt safe believing in God after reading so many similar accounts of near death experiences. Please do not twist my words or my message. When I was Mormon, I was “SURE” the church was true. Having devastatingly arrived at the conclusion that the church, in fact, is not true, I now avoid proclaiming that I “KNOW” anything. The only thing I know now is that I don’t know shit. And after a difficult period of time,
      I am okay with that. I’m starting from that place of humility. My exact words to Donna were “I feel safe believing in God”. I actually don’t know if that God is the Christian God, or what. But I do believe in a creator and that has brought me comfort. I’ve begun to adopt the belief of Richard Rohr and believe that all religions are talking about the same divine being/life force anyway. We are all talking about the same thing. But again, I don’t “KNOW” any of this for sure. I do feel safe believing in a beautiful afterlife where we will be with our families and love ones. If you believe differently that is just fine with me. But I wanted Donna to research NDE’S because it has personally brought me comfort and I hoped it might do the same for her. This doesn’t warrant strong opposition from you or anyone else. But thank you for informing me that NDE’S are cultural, I will research that.

    2. Also Freedom West, you didn’t even read my comment, obviously! Because you accused me of believing that God only loves Christians? What in the world?! I said the exact OPPOSITE of that! I said that people were never asked about religious beliefs upon entering heaven and that made me start doubting that being Mormon was even important at all. Please read a comment thoroughly before you respond ignorantly.

    3. Actually Jesus IS foretold in the Hebrew Scriptures. Here are some examples: Psalm 2:7, Psalm 2:11-12, Proverbs 30:4, Isaiah 7:14, Isaiah 9:6-7, Isaiah 61:1-2

      1. Doug Cole, If Jesus was foretold in the Hebrew scriptures, then the Jews would believe in Jesus but they don’t. And the Hebrew Scriptures is not the same as the Christian Old Testament, it being written in Greek and the other in Hebrew. That famous Christian version of Isaiah 7:14, is not talking about Jesus but Israel. And the phrase, “a virgin shall conceive” is from the Greek not the Hebrew. The Hebrew says “a young woman shall conceive.” You need to study the meaning of the Bible. The Greek was translated from the Hebrew. The other scriptures you cited have the same problems. I am currently studying a book titled “The Meaning of the Bible”, by two professors of religion at Vanderbilt University, one a Christian, the other an orthodox Jew.

        1. I always enjoy it when someone says: “You need to ……..” in their argument.

          The Hebrew-English Interlinear Bible says in Isaiah 7:14 “…the damsel pregnant one…” damsel translated from the Hebrew אלמה ‘almah,
          meaning a young un-married girl, and a “virgin” is assumed because of her un-married status. There is a very long discussion on this on the Jews for Jesus website, and they argue that this was translated into Greek 200 years before Christ and Greek scholars at the time would have definitely taken the meaning of the word אלמה ‘almah to mean “virgin”. So it’s not as black and white as you say. You need to…..just kidding.

          Jesus said he was the Messaiah: “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled . . .Thus it is written, that the Messiah should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. ” (Luke 24:44, 46 ESV)

          So either Jesus is a liar, or He is the Messiah. I believe the latter.

          1. According to the book, “The Meaning of the Bible”, by Night (a Christian) and Levine (an orthodox Jew of Vanderbilt University), page 50: “The Hebrew term used for her ( the pregnant woman in Isaiah 7:14-16) is almah, which simply means ‘young woman’. Hebrew does have a term for ‘virgin’, betulah, but it does not appear in Isaiah 7:14….When this text was translated into Greek, the term almah appeared as parthenos, which can mean ‘virgin’ (as in the Parthenon, the temple dedicated to the virgin goddess Athena). However the term in the second century BCE could simply mean young woman or unmarried woman. The LXX of Genesis 34:3 reports that Shechem, who had just had sexual intercourse with Jacob’s daughter Dinah, ‘loved the parthenos.’ At this point in the story, Dinah is no longer a virgin, and parthenos can simply mean ‘young woman’ (as does the underlying Hebrew, na’arah. The Gospel of Matthew, written toward the end of the first century CE, takes Isaiah in the Greek as speaking about a virgin—for Matthew, this was a perfectly legitimate reading—interprets this ‘sign’ as a miracle, and applies it to the conception of Jesus: ‘All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet’ :Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son (Matt. 1:22–23a). The church, using the Greek, had a virginal conception; the synagogue, using the Hebrew, did not.

            Jews do not believe Jesus to be the Messiah, mainly because the Messiah as described in the Hebrew scriptures, does not fit with the messiah description in the New Testament. I don’t think Jesus was a liar, but then I’m not even sure that Jesus existed, though most of my NT studies by Professor Bart D. Ehrman of U. of N.C. seems to think he does but is not divine (See Mormon Stories interview with Ehrman). Still one question remains: “With all your so-called Biblical proof, why do so most Jew not believe Jesus as the Messiah?

            If you find this book, you will probably find a lot regarding the nouns and verbs of the Hebrew language, that change the Greek meaning radically. I did, but then one needs to be humble when he comes across such information. I learned that humility a few years ago talking to a Karrite who asked me how many commandments there were in the Bible. What a fool I felt like after I looked it up. I now use good sources based on evidence and fact, not anecdotal ideas. And as a side note, I have yet to have any Christian able to answer my geography/religion question.

    4. If you like to read about Life After Death and Life Between Lives, check out “Journey of Souls” and other books by Dr. Michael Newton, PhD. He was an atheist psychologist who used hypnosis to treat clients to stop smoking, weight loss, etc. One day, his client regressed spontaneously to recall details of a former lifetime. Dr. Newton was intrigued, so he encouraged her to continue the memory and report what she saw. She recounted her death scene and the subsequent transition to a Spirit Realm where she met beings she knew and described the environment and what it was like. Dr. Newton was so impressed, he ended up refocusing his practice on Past Life and Life Between Lives regressions. After more than 7,000 accounts of the Spirit Realm from people who did not know each other, Dr. Newton discovered they were all describing the SAME PLACE from various individual perspectives … each corroborating the Big Picture and adding detailed puzzle pieces of their own experience.

      I like to described Dr. Newton’s writings this way:

      Have you ever visited Iceland? No? Me neither.
      Well, if you interviewed 7,000 people who have visited Iceland, do you think you might end up with a fairly good idea of what it’s like in Iceland?

      I ended up with such a detailed perspective on the Spirit Realm that it became real for me … not just a faithful hope or wish. The frosting on the cake happened a few years later after my closest brother died from a failed heart valve. I happened to meet a woman who was born with a very thin veil and became a psychic medium. In a session with Shannon, my late brother showed up in spirit and communicated with me for around a half hour with a level of detail the left me with no doubt it was my brother’s essence there in the room with us. He described his meeting with our late father and uncle and revealed details Shannon had no possible way to “fake.”

      So … I highly recommend Michael Newton’s books, starting with “Journey of Souls.”

      There is a ubiquitous problem when Mormons realize their cherished belief system is a colossal fraud. It makes sense to stop believing in the Mormon version of God, but it is an error of reasoning to also assume and presume that because the Mormon God is BS, therefore there is no life after death (or before birth). I encourage people to think about it … and be more thoughtful about throwing Life After Death under the bus along with Elohim. Go ahead and steamroll the Mormon God, but maybe withhold judgment about whether human beings are enlivened by spirit souls who existed before and continue on after these physical body “meat suits” time out and expire.

      1. I cannot prove there is no life after death as I cannot prove that God does not exist. To me it is not probable. I cannot prove that unicorns don’t exist but to me their existence is not probable. I have a fundamentalist evangelical Christian living a few miles from me and he has continually sent me varying anecdotal proof on nearly everything, like Ron Wyatt finding chariot wheels at the bottom of the Red (Reed) Sea, dinosaur bones found in Texas that proves the young earth, a piece of wood in sedimentary strata in Arizona proving that the Grand Canyon was made in 6 days, atheist scientists and psychologists who became Christians. A few years ago I found what was said to be the most extensive study of NDE’s in many countries and cultures and there were thousands. I read through a lot of them.

        While active LDS, we had a stake visitor in our ward who talked about his devastating car wreck where he was pronounced dead. In his NDE, he met Joseph Smith who took him to see Jesus who took him to see the Father. I believed him then, but at that time I also believed in a talking snake, a man being in the body of a great fish for 3 days, and some guy walking on water. Two days ago I was talking to an active LDS who knew absolutely that all homosexuality was caused by demons inhabiting bodies. He said all could be cured if they prayed for Jesus to come to them and cast them out. I have a tbm mechanic who believes through what he terms scientific evidence that the earth is flat (There are even flat earth societies online by the thousands.), One year is Phoenix, Arizona, a sighting of UFO’s by hundreds of thousands of people, many interviewed saying the same thing, Five years ago I talked to a prominent member of our community who talked to me for hours while giving me a free repair on my computer. He said he had a friend who was transported to Uranus and those people there were ruling the earth. And there are many people who know they have seen annanaki aliens who are ruling the earth through the Illuminati.

        And there is a movie recommended by many psychiatrists titled, “A Beautiful Mind” about a man named John Nash who thought he was a spy for the government. (True story) His college friends though him a fool and had low intelligence. While on his medicine, he was normal and was able to obtain the Nobel Peace Prize in economics. He had schizophrenia. I know quite a bit about such delusions. Twenty years ago my wife was diagnosed with disorganized schizophrenia, and since we’ve been married (over 50 years now), she has told me and friends and relatives amazing stories and they seem real to her and to other people who I have to explain to afterward.

        I continue to listen to my neighbor who wants so much to find a cure for her husband’s Alzheimer’s Disease. Yesterday she had been listening to hours of anecdotal evidence proving that cannibis (marijuana) will stop the disease’s progression. She said that she spent $10,000 last year on cures and they didn’t help but she wants it so bad, like people want eternal life, that she is a sucker for anything on the market. She is active LDS and continues to ask me why I don’t believe the thousands of people who believe in such cures. And I have read many anecdotes and watch videos.

        A Few years ago I wanted some skin tags gone but I didn’t want to go to an MD so I found something on Amazon and it had thousands of favorable reviews of a product. It was almost too good to be true and reviewers raved about it. I tried 3 bottles with no success. I finally went to a doctor and had it frozen off.

        So unless I can see scientific peer reviewed studies, anecdotal evidence doesn’t get my attention.

  23. Kate, do you believe in a heaven and a god? If so why? If not, why not? I am one of the group of 24% of Americans.

  24. Donna, thank you for your story, your voice, and your fierceness. As you move away from the bubble, you will find a beautiful place to put your trust. It will not be in the organized church, but in the arms of love. Keep seeking truth. Those who go before you welcome you with open arms.

    John Dehlin: outstanding!

  25. Something that will help you out of your despair is to go back to the Bible – THE WORD OF GOD. Just because a man perverted the Gospel and millions of people have been duped since then doesn’t mean that Jesus isn’t real. He is the son of God. His death and resurection are a ransom for our sins, and He bridges the gap between man and God. And when we believe what I just said, we have eternal life. This is what God says in His Word, not a man, not a religion – but God.

    The apostle Paul even foretold of Joseph Smith when the Holy Spirit directed him to say in Galations 1:8: “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!” The Mormon church is walking on some very dangerous ground!

    Jesus is the answer. Not any man or group of men. Not a religion. And you will find Jesus by reading the Bible.

    1. Donna, if you read and study the Bible, do it the same way you did with the Book of Mormon. It has discrepancies, anachronisms, just like the Book of Mormon. Do your study and don’t take someone’s word for it. And if people tell you it must be true because Christianity is the world’s largest religion, just tell them to look at PEW Research regarding what the largest religion will be in 2100.

      1. For a fresh look at Jesus, read “Saving Jesus” by Miceal Ledwith, a former Catholic priest and former advisor to the Pope.

        I met Dr. Ledwith in person 3 weeks ago at a conference and cried with tears running down my face while he was talking about the Real Jesus, who was not a God, but rather a highly accomplished human being. Dr. Ledwith had nothing good to say about manmade religions and the Christianity fraud whereby Jesus was set up as the Savior for human beings committing the crime of being human. Jesus did not die for anyone’s sins. Making mistakes is how we experience Life and grow after learning to make better choices.

        The true teachings of Jesus were hijacked and transmogrified by the clever manipulators who understood religion is the best way to control humanity with guilt and shame. The Brethren continue that legacy today in the Mormon Church … perhaps doing an even better job at guilting and shaming than their competition.

    2. How do you know that Jesus even existed? Because a book talks about him. The Qur’an talks about both Jesus and Muhammed. Does that mean Muhammed existed, also. And in the book “Treasure Island”, we find a character named Long John Silver. Did he exist because a famous books talks about him? Have you seen Jesus? Did he have long hair like most pictures show? If you prayed how did he answer you. Millions of Mormons, including Donna, get or got a good feeling which to them is the confirmation of the Holy Ghost of truth, as stated in the Book of Mormon. Is that how you know Jesus is real?

  26. Freedom West,
    My first, longer comment disappeared somehow, I think I clicked submit too many times 🤷‍♀️. What I originally said was among these lines:
    I never claimed to be “sure” there is a God. My exact words were “I feel safe believing in God for this reason…” When I was Mormon I (like many) professed that I “KNEW” without a doubt that the church is true. Since the devastation of realizing that the church is actually not true, I no longer feel I can assert total confidence in anything. Thus my wording “I feel confident believing…”. You were right when you said I believe in God because I “want” to believe in God. I do. Oh God I desperately do want to hold on to Him. My exploration of many NDE testimonials was one thing that helped me feel safe believing in a loving creator. Also my own personal spiritual experiences. If there is a God then those experiences remain valid. So yes, I absolutely do want to believe in God and an afterlife.
    Far West, you said you’re one of the 24%? Forgive my slowness but are you saying you are a believing Mormon?

    1. Kate, I was a believing Mormon for over 40 years, but am now part of the religious unaffiliated that PEW Research, the largest religion study in the world, says is 24% of Americans and is by far the fastest growing group. Ten years ago it was 19%. The LDS Church is growing .00075% per year. You can follow LDS membership growth on It tells which stakes are new or discontinued in every country in the world and in every state. The evangelical Churches have declined a lot in the U.S.

      Many people who believe in the Christian God follow the New Testament but I have found few that really study it. And most Christians don’t know the difference between the Hebrew Scriptures and the Christian New Testament. And one reason why Jews do not believe in Jesus is that there are no prophecies of the coming in the Hebrew Scriptures. There are 900,000,000 Hindus who believe their gods are true. And Muslims revere Jesus as one of the greatest prophets and Jesus is written about in the Qur’an more than Muhammed. A side note: Most of our Nation’s Founding Fathers were not Chhristians. We need to know more about our religion, our history, and world religions.

      1. You are not exactly correct. The Jewish scriptures do contain prophecies of the coming of the Messiah. Ask any faithful Jew. The issue is whether or not Jesus fulfills those prophecies. And there actually were (and are) many Jews who saw the prophecies of Jesus in the Old Testament. They were the first Christians!

        1. There is a big difference between Hebrew scriptures and the Christian Old Testament. One book is Hebrew, the other is Greek. I explained that in dept on another reply. I got my information from studying “The Meaning of the Bible”, Douglas Knight, a Christian and Amy-Jill Levine, an orthodox Jew, both are professors of the Hebrew Bible and Jewish scriptures, teaching at Vanderbilt University. And if Hebrew scriptures reference Jesus then why are Jews not Christians? I have also taken the lecture course, “The Beginnings of Judaism” and have the transcript book by Professor Isaiah M Gafni who has taught more than 40 years at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and he sees no Hebrew scripture predictions of Jesus.

          But even if we skip these references, there are no original copies of either the Hebrew of the English Bible in existence. The oldest ones are at least 900 years after the fact, so if we try to quote Jesus, how do we know if the words are authentic? Read Bart Ehrman, “Misquoting Jesus” or re-listen to the Mormon Stories interview with Bart.

        2. If Jews read the Greek Old Testament, they could become Christians because Jesus is clearly shown there. It depends on whether a Jew of anybody reads the Hebrew or the Greek. I never knew of this a year ago.

        3. Donna I was so moved by your story. Gary took the words out of my mouth–your orthodoxy and complete naivete was stunning! The extent to which you had completely given over your mind to the church was stunning–and all the more amazing that you broke free of it! Wow! The other thing that makes you so remarkable is your capacity to love and express love. You are an example to me. Thank you for telling your story and risking so much to do so. You will end up with such a powerful purpose in life and be the means of helping so many people in ways that will truly be life changing. Thank you!

  27. Freedom West,
    My first, longer comment disappeared somehow, I think I clicked submit too many times 🤷‍♀️. What I originally said was along these lines:
    I never claimed to be “sure” there is a God. My exact words were “I feel safe believing in God for these reasons, etc…” When I was Mormon I (like many) professed that I “KNEW” without a doubt that the church is true. Since the devastation of realizing that the church is actually not true, I no longer feel I can assert total confidence in anything. Thus my wording “I feel confident believing…”. You were right when you said I believe in God because I “want” to believe in God.
    I do. I definitely do. Oh God, I desperately do want to hold on to my belief in Him. My exploration of many NDE testimonials was one thing that helped me feel safe believing in a loving creator. Also my own personal spiritual experiences. If there is a God then those experiences remain valid. So yes, I absolutely do want to believe in God and an afterlife.
    Far West, you said you’re one of the 24%? Forgive my slowness but are you saying you are a believing Mormon?
    I also said in my vanishing comment that I believe that across all the religions of the world, I believe that we are all talking about the same God. The same life force. The substance of love. The light of the world. We are all talking about the same thing, we just have different names for it/Him. I got this idea from Richard Rohr and I now subscribe to his philosophy,

  28. Donna, Steve, Michael, John, Margi, Cody, Mormon Stories staff, all your families that support you, and all who have had any part whatsoever in this Mormon Story: I don’t know if any of you will even read this post, but it will be therapeutic for me to express and put it out into cyberspace. Donna, I don’t know how to even begin to put into words or express my feelings for what you and your family have been through. I don’t have the words to express my gratitude to John and staff for making this sharing of personal testimony possible, Margi and kids for supporting your husband and dad, Michael for your journey, and Donna for being able to articulate this incredible Mormon Story. Although these two little words are grossly inadequate, THANK YOU! I’m one of those “watch-every-session-of-conference” kind of guys. The way I’m feeling now, if I had my way and had the power, I would give all the Q15 and other General Authorities a “don’t-need-to-speak-or-bear-testimony” pass on the upcoming October General Conference. They would just need to be present and sit in their seats. They would have no speaking assignments. Their job would be to simply listen. Opening and closing prayers would be assigned by Donna. The “Choir at Temple Square” could still sing, however, all the music would be chosen by Donna and her sisters. Russell M. Nelson could still preside and John Dehlin would conduct the Saturday morning session. The speaking portion for all 5 sessions of Conference would be simply watching episodes 1148-1154. I’ve done the math and all 7 episodes, with prayers and music, would all fit very nicely within the 10-hours allotted to General Conference. If the General Authorities could sit through the rawness and truthful sincerity of every one of the episodes without flinching and just be able listen, be present, and mourn, I could possibly begin thinking that they have what it takes to be special witnesses of Jesus Christ. In the 6 hours 51 minutes 36 seconds of these episodes, I’ve learned and felt the Spirit more than any Conference session I’ve watched. I’ve gained a deeper understanding of what it means to mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, the necessity of inclusion and unconditional love, standing up for what one believes to be true, being tolerant and compassionate without judgement, finding our voice and living honestly and authentically, being present and living life in full color to the fullest, living our truth, knowing that when life gets tough we just need to allow things to fall where they may with the assurance that things will get better. Thank you all for a very uplifting, inspirational, and life-changing few hours.

    1. My version of October General Conference is to secretly cut the video feed and splice in Donna’s Mormon Stories interview to be broadcast Church-wide.

      Truth be told, even if Russel M. Nelson announced from the GC pulpit that Joseph lied and it’s all a colossal fraud, a big chunk of TBMs would refuse to believe it and declare Rusty a fallen prophet.

      I don’t recall who said it’s way easier to deceive someone than to convince them afterward they have been deceived. We humans love our cherished beliefs and waste no time enmeshing our beliefs into our ego and sense of identity.

  29. Thanks for keeping me awake driving through our vacation, kept my family safe! There’s no falling asleep during these episodes, even after vicious hikes. So moving, thank you!

  30. Wow.
    Thank you Donna for your amazing story. They really have lost one of the good ones. As the parent of a trans kid I feel your pain and appreciate what you do for kids like mine.
    All the best from Dave in Sweden.

  31. Donna, thank you so much for your story and your time at Encircle…we have to protect our gay children from the world and especially from the church’s teachings. I was at dinner with some friends, talking about church and why I no longer participate. I said it is like a double barreled shot gun. The first barrel is the truth claims and historical issues. The second is the church’s treatment of LGBT members. Either issue is enough to make a parent leave, but both….it is just too overwhelming. Thanks again, your story was (is) amazing……

  32. So many great Mormon Stories interviews. So many compelling stories. So many wonderful people. So much I personally identify with.

    And yet, THIS woman’s story (for reasons not entirely clear to me at this moment) screams out immutable and incontrovertible truth.

    How I wish every apostle were somehow forced to hear (and thereby feel) the affects of their intentional, sustained, and systemmatic “ommisions, misrepresentations, and flat-out lies.”


    1. Donna, I remember when you said that your son prayed a lot and he asked you, “Why would I choose to be persecuted and hurt? ” or something to that effect. Two days ago I talked to a 70-year old TBM about my watching this episode and all he kept saying was that is not a choice but demons inhabiting bodies. He said that people, the victim mostly, had to pray and Jesus would come and cast out the dark evil spirit. He said that there should be no homosexuals allowed in Church and I asked him why Church leaders didn’t have all the evil spirits cast out and he said he couldn’t understand why.. I asked him what he would do if one of his grandkids came out as gay. “I would tell the parents that they need to pray and Jesus come to him and cast the evil out.”, he replied. And to think that I was in a church where these thoughts are so abundant. I truly thank you for enduring through the pain you’ve gone through. Your interview and story will be a great help to those in need.

  33. I couldn’t do it John…I couldn’t stay away. Listening to Donna’s story really touched me. I am generally a little more anti towards the church than I should be, but I am just dealing with the stages of grief right now.

    2 quotes really stuck to me and I can’t let them go.

    1. “The church that’s asking you to be honest, is not honest to you.” Exactly, I couldn’t say it more clearly than that.
    2. “I was screaming in my car, it’s all bullshit!” and she didn’t say it out of vengeance, or a desire to sin, or because she was offended…she said it as a mom who loves her son. It cut me deep to see her love for her son and family. If only everyone would choose to love their family over the love of the church…thank you for your story Donna and thank you John for the interviews.

  34. Dear Donna,
    I was very blessed by your testimony. It really helped me move forward. I am a Christian but not a Mormon. I, too, have struggled to get free from some of the ways Christianity has been interpreted, preached and “parented” to me. I recently left my conservative church for a more open, inclusive church. I have worried, “Am I not respecting God’s Word? Will I lose God’s love if I make this change?” Your heartfelt story comforted and encouraged me to trust my own, sincere walk with Christ and accept my differences from some of the people and doctrines I’ve followed for many, many years.
    I send you my love and gratitude.

  35. Donna- thank you for sharing your story at a time when it is still fresh, open, and raw. Some of the things you’ve shared have inspired me on ways to show support for close family and friends in the LGB+ community, and for that I’m grateful. I wish you well during such a faith upheaval, and hope you can see the light at the end of such a dark tunnel. Life out has been so much better than life in for me, and I expect it will be the same for you and those around you.

    Thank you again, and I wish you all the best as you take out the garbage and clean up the mess belief leaves behind!

  36. Thank you Donna for your amazing interview with John Dehlin. I did not think such dedicated super TBM member like you where, was capable of leaving the church. Your story was so heartbreaking and raw and personal. Thank you so much for sharing it with us. Your words will resonate with others and be of help for many in the years to come, that i am sure of.

    And I hope you will be back some other time at Mormon Stories, cause i and other would love to hear more of your story.
    Thank you again…

  37. Having watched all 7 episodes, and read all the comments, what can I say. Amazing. Each episode better than the previous. I was just so stunned Donna, to see you deal with such an extremely challenging experience, extending over years, and yet remain able to articulate it in such a compelling, inspiring, moving and logical way, full of integrity. I endorse all the positive comments made about your story, and about John and others who put it out there. And as for those comments which debate religions and the like, I appreciate them too, but I don’t think they will ever have the same power as the one loving voice of goodness telling her own story in words and actions full of raw honesty, emotion and frankness. Thank you.

  38. Really, really powerful. So authentic and raw. I was deeply moved. I am still a believer but empathize with certain perspectives she shared and acknowledge we STILL have a HUGE cultural gap and disconnect in the present LDS church. Dark historical policies and practices aside. Incredibly disturbing to even THINK about families kicking their LGBT oriented children out of the home (assuming they are obeying house rules), under the belief that this is what the Lord and/or their local leaders would have them do. I have to believe the Q-15 is aware this is happening and it’s unthinkable they haven’t come down hard on anyone who does this, or preaches this. As for Donna’s story about wanting a church leader to bless and heal her son – I was very confused on this. I don’t believe that any of our teachings in the last 15 years would suggest that someone who admits these tendencies or orientation “needs to be healed”. Yet, somehow Donna thought her son did? I’m still wondering why. But, again – maybe just the huge disconnect we have culturally. Which the leadership needs to address. If the church membership arrives at a certain perspective (like she did), that is not actively being taught at the highest levels, by spoken and written word – something is wrong. And that really concerns me.

  39. Donna, I love you. I literally think of you multiple times a day. I feel so connected and understood by you. (I realize how strange that sounds so let me try to explain.)
    I felt so understood and validated as I listened to your perfectly raw expression of pain and heartache.
    I shared the same true-blue, literal, childlike magical belief bubble as you . I too served with all I had in many ward and stake positions with absolute understanding that the Lord needed me and trusted me. I felt like I was one of his very favorites! He is why I did all that I did and I did not doubt of his reality and power in the slightest. I even remember thinking, “what if he told me to move a mountain?”, “Then he’d help me do it!” I answered myself with all the confidence in the world.

    I listened to you the day your interview was released on Mormon Stories (my lifeline for the past 4 months) in a dark hotel room in Springville. I was experiencing some real heavy stuff amid my own very fresh faith crisis I was visiting my TBM family (who have no clue of my crisis) was contacted, out of the blue, by my birthmother after 44 years… So many conflicting emotions. So much to lose and so many to disappoint. It was a very scary time and place for me but YOU Helped me through…
    Listening to you share so authentically and so exquisitely your pain fear and frustration somehow helped me release some of my own. Thank you!

    Just like I’m sure you are doing, I’m taking it day by day. I’m really trying to consciously look for what I DO have and not focus on what I’ve lost… trying to reclaim the peace, comfort and safety I once felt As a believer. I didn’t participate because of culture or the people and I don’t grieve for that lose. I want my faith back! That’s what I lost really, I lost my ability to believe, trust and communicate with My God… I know it was all a story that I lived out and that I am now awake but dozing off and back into that story is a hard habit to break.
    I send you all my heart, love and beautiful thoughts day after day from Omaha!
    Bless you my friend! Jen

  40. Powerful, powerful stuff. Donna, I can see why they made you a leader–about as high as you can go for a woman within Mormonism!

  41. John, your comments about the numbers of women not wanting the priesthood miss the point entirely. The issue is not whether individual women want the priesthood or the responsibilities that seemingly come along with it…it is about the fact that women cannot *choose* for themselves and are systematically excluded from full participation in the spiritual power source of the church. All feminism is the fight for individual choice. And absolutely there is internalized sexism at work here. Mormon women are socialized to be comfortable on the margins, which takes many, many years of healing to overcome.

  42. What a very emotionally-charged and heartfelt interview, thanks John and Donna, this one definitely ranks up there with the best of ‘em! I just wanted to ask Donna if she is aware of not only the highly disturbing truths and myriad of troubling aspects surrounding church history and Joseph Smith but also the indicting truth about how the ‘church’ operates financially and systemically? For example, the fact that TCOJCOLDS is actually a trademark of the Corporation of the President and that the ‘church’ is basically a massively wealthy Babylonian real estate corporation masquerading as a church? Or that the GA’s are well compensated with six figure salaries along with a one-time million dollar gift when ‘called’ to take care of all worldly debts and obligations with many other financial perks and are not ‘unpaid clergy’ like they emphasized for decades? Or that the ‘church’ has $32 billion dollars in the U.S. stock market (as it asks members to clean toilets in their buildings after laying off all of their janitors) and are invested with Fortune 100 companies and corporations such as Apple, Wal Mart, big oil, big pharma, etc. and believe it or not even defense weapons manufacturers? Or that it owns City Creek Reserve, a $5 billion mall and million dollar condos in downtown SLC which promoted the place (where only the rich can afford to shop) with scantily-clad women with champagne bottles on the sides of buildings? Or that it has only given 1/3 of what it spent on the City Creek project in 3 short years to humanitarian relief since 1985? Or that there are different tithing requirements for members based on your status in the ‘church’ (the lower you are, the more they expect) and that 10% of gross income isn’t even scriptural by Joseph Smith’s own writings? I had a friend who used to sing in the Tabernacle Choir and he used to walk and talk with the ‘brethren’ in the COB – when he learned the truth about how things ran financially, he flat out told me ‘brother, the church is nothing but a big club for wealthy businessmen’.

    I heard Donna use that phrase too (club). He left not long after. It was nice to hear that Donna also knows the truth about September 11, 2001 and the fraud it was on the world – she is a beacon of truth, honesty, integrity, light, goodness and courage in a world full of deceit and corruption! One has to have thick skin to come to grips with the truth about the church because it can be devastating when you learn the church you’ve devoted your entire life, unwavering loyalty and service and 10% income to… is a fraud created by a con man! I still attend church out of pure love for my wife (who is slowly learning the ugly truths but isn’t quite ready to make the leap yet) and both sides of my family who are all still mostly TBM’s, although, a few have learned the truth and walked away from this real estate corporation masquerading as a religion and it absolutely sickens me to hear the hymn ‘Praise to the Man’… about have to get up and walk out of the chapel when that song is sung, disgusting! Probably the most mind-boggling thing is how the ‘church’ continues to perpetuate all of the false and misleading foundational claims it knows are bogus which were created by a con man and worse, allowing its young men and women to spend their own time and money for two years spreading falsehoods and fabrications started by the biggest charlatan of the 19th century??? Is there no shame at the top with the ‘leaders’??? Hat tip to you both Donna and John for this episode, very touching!

  43. Wondering Wanderer

    Donna, thank you for your courage in sharing and expressing the pain and heartache that gives meaning to the term, “faith crisis.”
    Your story illustrates how gullible, naive, devoted, and trusting people can be when living within a bubble . . . and illustrates the terrible trauma that occurs when reality bursts that bubble. Ignorance surely is bliss, and yet, just like Adam and Eve, I would rather eat of the tree of knowledge and have my eyes wide open. When religions, governments, politicians, or corporations lie, withhold information, and put a positive spin on what is negative, it is a form of manipulation and exploitation. They rob us of our agency, because without the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, we cannot make good, informed decisions. Both love and honesty are extremely important for maintaining trust within any relationship. Once love has gone or dishonesty has been exposed, the relationship cannot stand. There is a lot of love in the church and there are a lot of good intentions, but the shared faith which binds the members together is based upon a big lie. Knowing that is what makes it impossible to stay.

  44. I listened to Donna’s life (so far) and was wrenched with empathy…and then today, I’m sitting here reading comments and see “Teancum’s” remarks and all I can say is a big “Thank You Lord” for ending my life as a TBM and my own rediculous JUDGEMENTAL thinking. I wondered why He would let me believe and choose to join in the first place. It seemes I have wasted 35 years; but now I understand….it was my own choice…made in ignorance. The Lord did not make me join the LDS church…he allowed me to! But I wouldn’t understand how the TBM’s could act so sanctimonious if I had not been in those shoes. I just shake my head in sadness when I see my past behavior…not sadness for me, but sadness for the TBM’s out there that won’t check out the claims their “no longer believing” friends and family try to share with them. Thank You, Donna! And Thank You, John!

  45. I had so many validating moments while listening to Donna’s story, thank you. Donna mentioned that she had submitted her name to be removed from Church records via online. Where in the world can I find that? I’ve looked and can’t find anything.

    Donna, thank you for sharing. And thank you Mormon Stories (John).

  46. I listen to a lot of these talks with interest. I was raised Catholic and we have things kind of like the Book of Abraham in our past as a church. Like there was a person who pretended to be Dionysius the Areopagite, a convert of Paul’s, but we know now that he wrote hundreds of years later than that. By the 1700s or so (IIRC) everyone knew he was a faker and now we call him Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite. But he still influenced a lot of important Catholic writers & thinkers like Thomas Aquinas. So we still learned about Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite in college-level Catholic Studies classes, probably some do even in high school.

    I guess my point is, Mormonism is a very young religion and I think it’s having growing pains. But I don’t understand why members feel it’s necessary for things to be 100% historically accurate in order to stay in? To me, there are sort of different truth values to things. Like whoever Pseudo-Dionysius was, he had some insights that were useful, insightful, meaningful to other theologians. We still talk about him today. And I don’t know why he was lying about his name, but maybe he had a good reason. Maybe his direct contemporaries understood it in a different context, like they weren’t deceived but understood he was trying to make a point. Maybe he’s just engaging in a little theater to try and make it more immediate. Maybe ‘he’ was a woman who learned to write well enough to not just keep accounts but talk religion, although that seems super unlikely. I mean, I don’t know.

    But I understand that he was a human and humans are complicated. Even very holy people, like Jesus’ Apostles left their wives & kids at a time when abandoned women were sort of doomed. King David sent a man to his death so he could be with his wife. Why would the Book of Mormon & Mormon prophets be exempt from all the lying & missteps of like Moses, David etc? None of the other prophets in the canon are exempt, in fact they usually have one glaring flaw each. Like we accept that Moses saw God but we also know he wasn’t allowed to make it to the Promised Land because of his misdeeds. Do you really think the Mormon Prophet is more perfect than any of the other canonical Prophets, like he couldn’t make a mistake? Or it might not take 3 years to correct that?

    I understand there’s a human toll, here, and maybe I sound insensitive about that. But part of that is related to this really brittle understanding of your scriptures, even though bishops like Donna’s want to provide examples of love and acceptance. It feels like there’s a lack of deep understanding and also kind of a throwing the baby out with the bathwater. You have this church that does so much good, and turns out these wonderful hard-working, pro-social, kids. I’m related to someone whose life was literally saved by Mormon missionaries. He was beat up at the side of the road and these Mormon kids got him to a hospital. I always think like how many people drove by? Like it’s one of the last real religions that actually believes in doing good and puts that into action. (Have you been to a mainline protestant service lately? I tried a lot of them. There’s very little Jesus and lots of indulgent pro-weed advocacy that has nothing to do with anything. There’s no structure and there’s no ‘you have to act in a positive, pro-social way.’ There’s no call for structure or self-restraint or any kind of historical Christian values in evidence at all.)

    I feel for the people in these interviews because they are clearly in pain. But I just am always surprised by how literal the people who do these interviews are. If the Book of Mormon brought all these good things into this woman’s life, there is a value to it. If you have a church where the tithes are used to support and help each other, there is value to that. But I just can’t share their extremely literal outlook at all. I don’t why everyone is burning their life down and starting over from scratch. You have a good system, it’s just that God speaks through people and people are a hot mess. God is the only perfect being. We have countless examples of prophets who got it wrong and writings that aren’t what they initially seemed throughout Christianity. I mean, again, the Catholic thing, St Denis picking his head up after being executed and walking three miles to the nearest town, preaching a sermon. That obviously didn’t happen, but there is a reason people in that era told that story. It says something about how martyring someone makes their testimony stronger in death, for example. Killing Denis likely led to more conversions than if they’d just let him keep baptizing. (Kind of like how Tupac sells more merch now than he did when he was alive.) It does have a truth value, even if it’s not 100% literal truth. Your Scriptures might be like that. You don’t have to die on this hillside.

  47. Dear Donna, I just today discovered your story here. My own story is similar to yours in many ways, and I’ve often thought of contacting Mormon Stories to share my experience as a Mormon wife, mother, and human being; but each time the thought arose, I would feel like the time was not right. I’m so glad I waited. We needed YOUR story. I think you were far the better advocate for women than I’d have been. Your story is a gift. Your love and service throughout were and are unconditional. You touched on every important point of my experience as a woman (and former RS President) in the church… and you conveyed the depth of emotion and your deep commitment, so beautifully.

    I still – at age 69 – have anger in me for the way my ex-husband, a gay man, was taught in the LDS Church so that he believed counsel he received to “get married, have children, and ‘it’ will go away;” and for the way in which, when that formula failed and I and his 5 children were in danger of contracting AIDS, we went unconsidered in light of his priority as priesthood holder (“You can’t leave him. If you do, he’ll be lost.”). We were eventually divorced and I raised our children as active members, though each left in the end – my sons after serving LDS missions very faithfully. As for me, after ten solid years of struggle, hope, tears, counseling, and prayer, I finally realized that I HAD BEEN receiving an answer to my prayers/pleadings all along, though unwilling to hear it. The answer was, “It is not true and never has been.” I resigned membership in early 2015.

    Nonetheless, when the November 2015 “policy” was announced, I felt it as a direct hit, a way of saying, “Your dream of raising your children as faithful Mormons never mattered anyway. They are the children of an actively gay man.” However, when the reversal came out so soon after, that’s when I was most deeply affected. I raged. I screamed. I sobbed. I find it hard to believe that members – including almost everyone in my family of origin, AND my ex-husband’s family of origin – cannot see that this reversal was absolutely damning to any claim that the church is led by God.

    While I’ve never looked back, my husband of 24 years is still in. And he is as he has always been – a wonderful “bonus Dad” to my children, and a man who held me and felt for me through the years when I cried about the betrayal I felt from the Corporation itself.

    I am still discovering ways in which I was conditioned to diminish myself just like you were. I always thought “I” was the problem. It was so much easier to take that on, than to wonder if the problem was within the organization itself.

    Thank you so much for the gift you gave us all when you were interviewed in 2019. Thank you for being MY voice as well as your own.

  48. If her son hadn’t been gay, would she still hold harmful beliefs about minorities? It shouldn’t take having someone in your own family. I wish you would address this John. Your guests are often very privileged. The LDS Church is very wealthy and one of the few ways they spend that money is on lobbyists to curtail human rights in this country. People like this guest are part of the problem. It’s very frustrating to hear such sympathy for people who lack it for others.

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