Dr. Greg Prince – The Life of a Faithful Mormon Scientist and Historian | Ep. 658-660

greg-princeDr. Greg Prince is a dentist, a pathology researcher, and a Mormon historian, best known for his books, Power from on High: The Development of Mormon Priesthood, David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism, and Leonard Arrington and the Writing of Mormon History.

  • In Part 1, John talks with Greg about his formative years as a Mormon in Los Angeles, his mission to Brazil, his graduate work in dentistry and medicine, and his role in developing an immunization against Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV, a bronchial infection often fatal to infants), which has saved thousands of lives.
  • Part 2: Greg discusses the challenges of raising a son (Madison) with autism, then discusses how he developed a gospel framework that allowed him to avoid a faith crisis, which led to his entree into Mormon history authorship. We end by discussing his book Power from on High: The Development of Mormon Priesthood.
  • Part 3: Greg goes deep into how he maintains faith/belief in God/Jesus/Mormonism and activity in the LDS Church as a scientist, and after knowing so much troubling LDS history. He also lays out in detail his nuanced LDS testimony.

Show Notes:


Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

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  1. I have great respect for Dr. Prince; as well as others (such as Richard Bushman, the Givens’, etc.) who are able to carve out unorthodox belief systems within Mormonism. To say that they are “nuanced” is, in my opinion, a bit of an understatement.

    My observation is, however, that their belief systems become incredibly complex; looping in and out of hypotheticals, interjecting sophistication, etc. having eliminated the dichotomy of “True” or “False” within the entire narrative of the religion.

    By the end of listening to this, I’m not sure exactly what it is exactly that he believes. It’s just complexity for the sake of complexity. Certainly doesn’t fit the dichotomous narrative of “It’s true or it’s false” that Gordon B. Hinckley (and others) have proposed.

    In my life’s experience – Occam’s Razor has led me to correct conclusions way more often than not.

    To people who are in faith crisis – I have a hard time thinking that alternative takes on Mormonism (such as Dr. Prince’s) are going to be very helpful. I’m happy that he, and others, are able to make it work; but the vast majority of those in faith crisis are not going to be able to make this work.

    1. 100%. The description of his history and science made perfect sense, but when describing his beliefs, it became a metaphore fest, to the point to where I could not understood what his beliefs were. His most emphatic statement was his desire to touch the face of god, an obscure passage from an obscure book written 70 years ago which can have any number of meanings. It reminded me of John Hamer’s description of his god. I have a very intelligent friend who understands all the churches problems who is very active and he begins speaking in metaphores as well rather than direct descriptions regarding doctrine/beliefs. It’s maddening.

    2. Completely agree. Prince is trying to be too-clever by half. His prideful pseudo-intellectualism is just mind-numbing to listen too.

      Disappointing interview, whereas John I usually love your material!

    3. I pretty much had the same reaction to Dr. Prince’s interview, as you and you said it better than I ever could.

  2. I got misty-eyed at the end of Part 1 also. My 15-year-old identical twin girls got RSV shots after they were born. They were born at 30 weeks and just 3 lbs each. They have grown into healthy, happy, talented young women who are practicing to get their driver’s licenses soon. :) Thank you, Dr. Prince for your life-saving work, and thank you, John, for bringing it to our attention. Glad I listened to Mormon Stories today.

  3. MormonPurpleRainFan

    I don’t know why Dr. Prince’s take on Mormonism shouldn’t be helpful or influential for those going through a faith crisis.

    Here’s what I hear him saying: That Joseph experienced something miraculous and jarring and that he eventually came to understand in a particular way (i.e., revealing the corporeality of God, the nature of the trinity, and the need for the restoration). That Joseph produced a text based on some physical artifact that sought to shift the center of gravity of the Bible in an attempt to enhance its relevance for a people in a new world (both literal and figurative) and that Joseph believed that the best way to understand his scriptural project was through the lens of history (and possibly that this was the best way for third parties to experience the revelation in the way that he had experienced it). That theism is a preferable moral and ethical grounding to secular humanism. That Christianity requires transcendence but without negating what it means to be human, and that this balance is really hard to get right. That in trying to get that balance right, the church will inevitably make mistakes, creating sorrow and pain and suffering in many cases. That it’s better to try for transcendence and fail than to not try at all.

    I must say that that strikes me as a pretty good way of looking at things.

    1. Interesting way of looking at it but not remotely close to the sales pitch LDS missionaries give investigators. My wife and I were converted and gave 40+ years of our lives based on an “Ancient America Speaks” filmstrip and the teachings that all of Joe’s experiences were literal. Now we are supposed to simply transition into the belief it was all a metaphor? Instead we now recognize all of it as carefully honed and crafted lies designed to persuade us to give all out “time talent and everything else we received to the building up of City Creek Mall!”

  4. I have some questions that I would like to see addressed in the future episodes:

    1) Dr. Prince relates that he had warned Kate Kelly that a “frontal assault” approach on the issue of ordaining women would not be successful, and set back Mormon feminism (such as it is). The dominant fundamentalist/orthodox part of the church waged a frontal assault that promoted an anti-science, anti-sex, politically conservative, follow the prophet come what may agenda to the point where, practically, speaking most LDS people are not aware of any other approach to their faith. Why must people endure this kind of frontal assault, without being able to mount a counter offensive of equal weight that makes the leaders uncomfortable?

    2) This is related to the first question. Dr. Prince seems to be asking those intelligent souls who have a different view of the LDS Church than what orthodoxy prescribes to remain in in order to influence change. Why should that person endure potentially decades of suffering in an organization that doesn’t seem to want them? Specifically, why should that person endure hours of meetings listening to things that they believe are factually untrue? Why should that person pay tithing despite not knowing how it is spent? Why should that person subject themselves to interviews with priesthood authorities asking questions that are none of that interviewer’s business? Why endure that–especially in the absence of any viable democratic process that could change those conditions?

    3) When discussing the CES letter, Dr. Prince suggested that the letter constituted poor scholarship and poor writing. Would he please comment on 1) the fact that the CES letter is not, and never was, intended to be a scholarly work in the strict sense he seems to imply it should be, and 2) what are some of his specific criticisms?

    4) Dr. Prince seems to suggest that we should appreciate the fact that the leaders of the LDS Church are human, that they make mistakes, and that members should acknowledge and tolerate this. However, those same leaders create the impression that they are more than that, and have sternly admonished members (beginning at a young age https://www.lds.org/friend/2001/08/sharing-time-watchmen-on-the-tower?lang=eng) to accept their counsel as the Word of the Lord for their lives. But when the counsel fails, we let them off as only humans who make mistakes. It sounds like “heads I win, tails you lose” for the leaders. How does one reconcile that? How are they accountable in such circumstances?

    5) Dr. Prince suggested that members of the church who leaving in their 20’s are not concerned about the truth claims–ugh–Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. I left the LDS Church in my 20’s, and it was almost exclusively because of those concerns. John Dehlin just interviewed lots of bright young returned missionaries who have left the LDS Church. To think that people who devoted their lives to teaching Mormonism just get up and leave for no particular reason, or that Twitter or Facebook is more interesting, seems flighty and dismissive of their experience and reasons for leaving. I think the truth claims and the LDS Church’s socially conservative political positions have been of concern to many you people who leave. Your response?

    6) When we lack data Dr. Prince seems to imply that we should trust Joseph Smith’s stories, but he showed himself to be manifestly untrustworthy in his money digging practices, his practice of polygamy, and in the case of the Kirtland anti-banking safety society. Why does he seem to deserve the benefit of the doubt to be viewed positively, and deserving of devotion and respect, when he is manifestly unreliable in so many respects?

      1. Kate,

        I felt similarly. I thought that Greg understood the “justice of the cause” from those who leave for principled reasons. After the 3rd episode of this series, I leave disappointed that Greg doesn’t understand at all. He think staying is the better way. Assuming I understood (admittedly at times he wasn’t consistent or clear), I was especially disappointed when he used the term “lazy” to describe those who leave (around the 45 min mark of the third episode). I didn’t expect him to ever agree with those who leave for principled reasons, but I did hope he understood and empathized. I was wrong.

        Here is the quote I thought of based on the podcast and your comment:

        “First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action;” who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a “more convenient season.”

        Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”

        “In spite of my shattered dreams of the past, I came to Birmingham with the hope that the white religious leadership of this community would see the justice of our cause, and with deep moral concern, serve as the channel through which our just grievances would get to the power structure. I had hoped that each of you would understand. But again I have been disappointed. I have heard numerous religious leaders of the South call upon their worshippers to comply with a desegregation decision because it is the law, but I have longed to hear white ministers say, “follow this decree because integration is morally right and the Negro is your brother.” In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churches stand on the sideline and merely mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard so many ministers say, “those are social issues with which the gospel has no real concern.”, and I have watched so many churches commit themselves to a completely other-worldly religion which made a strange distinction between body and soul, the sacred and the secular.

        So here we are moving toward the exit of the twentieth century with a religious community largely adjusted to the status quo, standing as a tail-light behind other community agencies rather than a headlight leading men to higher levels of justice.”

        Martin Luther King, Jr.
        “Letter From The Birmingham Jail”
        April 16, 1963

    1. Mr Snow, thank you for articulating your questions and thoughts so well. My thoughts magnify what you have stated so well. I enjoyed the interview and also want to thank Dr Prince for his hard work and amazing contribution regarding the RSV. My twins also received the shots. I am so grateful they had that protection.

  5. Hmmm, the last 5 to 10 podcasts have been fascinating but I had a hard time following this one. I think this is a perfect example of the twists and turns the Church takes to spin people around. I think the bottom line is that if you WANT to still believe (scientist or not) you can bend/tweek/distort things in your mind to do so. I personally believe in faith but also facts and reality. John, your work is amazing, please keep up the great work. I always love seeing a new podcast!

  6. I went on a really long (multi-hour) walk and just as I started, I noticed this had just downloaded to my phone. I can listen to Dr. Prince for hours and it goes by in minutes. Thank you Dr. Prince for taking the time for this interview. I can’t wait to read your book on Brother Arington, but my wife/accountant won’t let me buy another book until my unread stack of books is gone (which includes your book on David O. McKay).

    In reference to Mr. Snow’s comment above and his questions #2 and #5. I am with you on question #2. I do agree with Dr. Prince that a good community is important for our social and mental health, but if you dread every single Sunday I am not sure it is worth it. I am glad it works for Dr. Prince and many others. I wish them well.

    On #5 I do think that many of the young youth leave just because it doesn’t seem to help them in a practical sense as Dr. Prince has said. My sense is that when you move into the 20’s and especially when you are talking post mission, it quickly shifts into a lot more leaving over history/doctrine issues. At least that is what I am seeing.

    I have attended a few other churches and the LDS church is doing a bit better than some other churches were I see almost nobody in the 15-25 year old range. But it does not take a PhD in statistics to realize if you lose >50% and you don’t have many converts – you are moving into a dying organization. It seems to me that in the US we are edging towards that. My sense is that in Europe that threshold has been passed. It is actually disheartening that even Dr. Prince says that he does not see we have done anything to counteract that.

  7. There’s a joke that Actuaries tell: “What is two plus two?” Answer: “What do you want it to be?”

    Greg Prince is saying the same thing as it pertains to Joseph Smith by using intellectual gymnastics: “What are the doctrines and History of Joseph’s restored Church?” Answer: “What do you want them to be?”

    I wished the scholars and the apologist of the church would straighten the Brethren out and school them as to what the real History and doctrines of the Church are. I would love to see that on a Mormon Leaks YouTube video.

  8. Nice work as usual, John.

    I hope indonMt come off as a jerk here, but I am not even through the first episode and I cannot pay attention. I am sincerely grateful to Dr. Prince for his contributions to medicine (I used to work in a pediatric hospital myself and have seen the worst of the worst RSV). Certainly, he’s articulate and bright…

    However, this man’s hubris is hugely unbridled. He went to dental school. Check. A lot of people go to dental school, especially these days. Not impressed. He went back for a PhD. Check state it and move on. It seems unnecessary for him to ramble on about how smart he is for over an hour. My husband and I have 8 degrees between us; 3 bachelor’s, 3 master’s and 2 PhDs. We’ve both always tested to be in the top 5% -10% of our classes all our lives. My husband’s research has saved lives and continues to save lives, too. I do not mean to do that which I accuse this man of doing, I am just trying to make a point. Tell us what you did and move on. It is difficult for me to want to listen to the next 2 episodes because I am so annoyed with the bragging.

    I truly, sincerely want to hear what keeps him in the church. I am at a fork in the road right now and I need to understand his reasoning… But it is so flipping hard for me to pay attention to someone who is so self-congratulatory… I am losing my mind over here!

    Sorry; obviously I am the only one who feels this way. Others seem to see it differentlyZ perhaps I really am the jerk.

    1. I don’t think you’re a jerk, but I’d encourage you to get over whether he is or not. Plenty of people have overly high opinions of themselves without having accomplished anything – not only has he done something, but he’s done some amazing things. If he has any perspective that could be of help to questions you find important, I’d say just accept some annoyance and try to learn anything you can from him!

    2. Wow! Completely different perspectives when we both listened to the same podcast. I didn’t sense hubris at all. Indeed, I thought he was pretty unimpressed with his achievements, mostly crediting them to following the advice of a mentor or having some “fortune” or “chance” drop in his lap. He seemed very grateful for those opportunities and gave much of the credit to what he learned from others and the guidance/mentorship he received. I’m not sure what you were listening to but maybe I just missed it.

    3. Well no Ashley…. you don’t stand alone in your observation. First, I really like Greg Prince because he’s often taking an alternative perspective when he’s on the national media or within the small confines of Mormon history. However, this interview was less enjoyable than most I have listened to. I am trying to put my finger on it and frankly am left with the impression that he lacks empathy. He is definitely an intelligent man, however he has more certainty about his answers than I had when I was in my certainty phase of life around my twenties. I don’t hear him with questions, but pretty high confidence in answers. His answers are clearly slightly different from orthodoxy but his response is usually that our expectations are to high. I don’t hear an inquiry in his interview. He’s clearly in control of the conversation and frankly appears to be driving the interview. I was hoping for more. I was hoping for less certainty and more questions. I still hear a very sense of patriarchal authority clothed in privilege. I am attending services at a UU community in Salt Lake City where his sister is married to her partner and our minister. They both share the ministry to this UU conversation and his sister is clearly one of the most musically talented people I have ever met. She is a beautiful soul who graciously shares her gifts with our congregation and is making a difference in this community. However, my appreciation for her level of intellect and her empathetic heart left me wanting to discover these same attributes in her brother Greg. I left this series disappointed.

  9. Wading through this was laborious to say the least, somewhat like the mental gymnastics that were displayed in Mr. Prince’s very unclear and evasive explanations of what he believes, for example. His ability to have many contradictory notions coexisting in his mind at one time don’t seem to bother him at all , but the longer he talked the less impressed I was with his overly complicated, intellectualizing of every word he used. It was exhausting and confusing.

    I can live and let live as well as the next guy, but it would have been nice if he could have afforded the Jeremy’s ‘letter to CES ‘and Palmers ‘an insiders view’ even a portion of the deference he shows to the questionable motives of Joseph Smith and the deliberate deceptions of present day leaders of the church.

    I felt the pains he was going to in presenting himself as the truly gifted genius with an open mind like no other, really fell apart when he couldn’t or wouldn’t answer Johns very patient and clear question about the benefit or harm these two people have done the church. Rather his response that he could have done a much better job at the writing was irrelevant to the question and betrayed an attitude of snobbishness and condescension that discredited what I think he might have been trying to accomplish.

    What he managed to accomplish for me was a further confirmation that my decision to leave the church and unshackle myself of all this heaviness was a smart one. I don’t miss this kind of nuanced double talk and hidden meanings and mysticism.

    Give me straight up honesty and integrity any day of the week. Give me people in my life that say what they mean, simply. It is no less intelligent! You can keep your Joseph Smiths and all their magical genius. It’s not a world I choose to invest my precious self in any longer. So thank you , Mr. Prince for reminding me of what it used to be like.

    And John…I really appreciate the careful line you walked with him in allowing him to fully explain his ideas, while at the same time pushing him near the end of the third hr to answer what was being asked when he started trying to wiggle out by answering something different. At one point you got him to concede a point and he got irritated and said, ‘ whatever!That was well handled!

  10. Fascinating interview.

    Whether one agrees with Greg’s religious worldview or not, one has to give him credit for taking his religion seriously enough to study the hell out of it and arrive at his own conclusions rather than simply accepting the official storyline.

    I loved Greg’s comments and observations about the Pentecostal event that took place in June of 1831 at the Morley Farm.

    Years ago after having studied the event and written several blog posts on it, I became convinced that it was one of the most significant events in the history of the church even though it is very seldom talked about, very misunderstood and generally mischaracterized in the official publications that do give brief mention to it..

    Shortly after having studied the topic and written about it, I was visiting with a Community of Christ historian in Nauvoo and sharing some of my observations about the doctrinal and historical change of trajectory that the church experienced as a direct result of that event. I then asked him if he knew of any authors that took the event seriously and saw that event in a similar way. He he suggested I get Greg’s book on priesthood which I did.

    It was gratifying to see a Mormon historian that actually takes the event seriously and acknowledges its profound significance and impact.

    I would love to review the many pages of research that Dr. Prince has in his possession. What about it Dr. Prince?

    I agree with him that the event represents the endowment of power from on high that Section 38 foretells.

  11. Really loved the section of the interview
    About collage and medicine I especially like the part about if you’re going to do something make sure it’s important. I also like the quote from Paul Dunn about make it interesting.

    Kudos for making the church work for you.

  12. The formula of this whole interview is Greg describes the church narrative as a fairy tail then John says, so it’s a fairy tail? Well not necessarily.
    Ahhhh! This is maddening.
    Greg essentially blows up the whole narrative and picks up a toothpick sized piece and says there still something here worth saving.

  13. Since leaving belief and religion after 50 years of being all in, I can truly say that the three words that bring me much more peace than anything I ever found on the inside are “It’s all BS.”

  14. Just finished Part 2. Here are my thoughts:

    It is interesting to listen to Dr. Prince. He has created a narrative that helps him understand mormonism. You can tell he has developed it through diligent study of the history of the church, combined with personal experience. The narrative works for him. But it is not the narrative that I have personally experienced or been taught in my 30 years of membership. I would propose that one reason Dr. Prince has never experienced faith crisis is because his faith is not built on the same foundation that many post mormons (myself included) had built their faith. I also found it interesting how when discussing his book about David McKay he suggests that the responsibility for a reader’s faith crisis lay at the feet of those leading the church. (will comment more as I finish part 3)

    1. Apologetics and self-apologetics like this just make my head spin and ache. As he said several times – I just don’t get it. For example – many others from the burnt over district had similar experiences, so that is evidence that Joseph’s was true? No, it’s evidence that he made it up based on all the other false prophets of the time.

      That being said, he seems like a great guy, a smart guy and I wish him well. Furthermore, I hope people like him could push the Brighamite church in his direction – towards the Community of Christ, but sadly , the current church is going into the direction of fundamentalism, and it is not going to end well for anyone that remains.

  15. John I love to listen to you interviewing people I’m so glad you know what you want to ask and you don’t let them avoid answering

    prince had a lot of very interesting and wise things to say but The reason I listen to Mormon stories is because I’m interested interested in the religious experience of your interviewees and how it has affected their lives —–so I got a little impatient waiting for the last episode–which became so frustrating I had to turn it off

    when it came to the church he refused to take a clear stand. you’re right he would probably be disciplined by the church if he was straightforward and honest about his stand on the specific issues you brought up
    he avoided saying clearly where he stood on his beliefs and instead danced around the issues–he tried to make your personal questions into an impersonal answer
    It was pretty frustrating to see you continually ask the same questions over and over and he continued to avoid answering. at one point I actually laughed because it was so obvious

    I don’t mean to be rude but I feel that Greg fallls into the category of several historians and many others who in their heart seem to know historical facts –But refuse to admit that it involved lies and deceit and even immoral acts–and take it a step further refuse to admit that it affects their testimony or causes them to doubt the church

    ….he wants to twist The facts around with lots of rhetoric to make it acceptable
    Like bushman he has a big reason to stay respected and. active in the church—it makes it a lot easier to be successful when the members of the church respect and want to read your books
    But like Nancy Kader admitted openly he continues to go to church and appearsto be a faithful Mormon

    I think he even convinces himself with all his alternative interpretations
    Again I think if he was truly openly honest about the facts and what they meant he would be disciplined by the church

    For me it is sad because it is not being honest with himself, with others or being authentic.
    Yes I had to made that choice and it has been a loss — to lose the community and even family support –but it also frees me to be who I truly am and not have cognitive dissonance. to me that is more important than living a lie so that I can have the social and family support, including status, praise and even financial benefits–I try to understand that this can be too difficult for many members

    I had to stop listening on the last interview because it was going nowhere and I was so frustrated with his lack of straight answers and personal honesty
    Sorry but I am just being honest about what I see happening

    1. Emma,

      Greg mentioned that he makes no money from his books because he chose not to get royalties. I understood you implying that he, Bushman, Givens and others of the ‘new age ‘apologists stay in the church for financial and other benefits they get from it. If you were not implying that, then I apologize for misinterpreting your statements.

      I have thought the same thing in certain instances but with Prince and Bushman, I don’t believe that is relevant at all. Both have had successful careers and don’t need a little extra income from an LDS book nor do I feel they need the ‘esteem’ of the LDS people when they already receive great esteem and praise from others as a result of their successful careers. I could be wrong but I can’t imagine that writing books for an LDS audience is lucrative.

      I am a sometimes a little more suspect of the motivations of apologists who’s income, and esteem is directly tied to the church such as CES, FAIR, BYU Studies, Maxwell Institute, etc….. That type of situation, in my opinion, makes it much more difficult to navigate. That’s also why such shoddy scholarship is associated with some of those organizations. Their incomes and esteem are tied directly to the church and that’s a difficult balancing act.

      I just don’t believe Greg Prince, Richard Bushman, Terryl Givens, etc…. should be lumped into that category.

  16. I have to say that I thoroughly enjoy the Mormon stories podcasts and they have been pivotal in helping me through my personal faith crisis but part 3 of this interview was frustrating at best. All I hear is a guy in denial about the veracity of the religion and completely unwilling to commit one way or the other. His constant barrage of big words used to dance around the question is disappointing.

    Maybe I see things as black and white too much but in this case I think there is only one answer to the question “Is it true?” Either Joseph saw God or he didn’t. Either Joseph physically possessed gold plates or he didn’t. Either Joseph correctly translated Egyptian hieroglyphs or he didn’t. To Franks’ point earlier in the comments, two plus two is four. That is a truth that doesn’t change no matter what I want it to be. Debating a different answer is just silly. Abraham Lincoln once asked a question that I believe is relevant here. He asked “How many legs does a dog have if you call his tail a leg? Four. Saying that a tail is a leg doesn’t make it a leg.”

    Greg asks us to look at what the BoM has done and I must say the fruits are quite damaging. The book has spawned, fueled and remained at the center of a religion/corporation full of lies, oppression, racism, sexism, homophobia and in my opinion, thievery. Sure, tithing is optional but so is paying for protection from the local gang in LA. When one is being intimidated by threats, whether physical or spiritual, the “donation” really isn’t optional.

    I for one am unable to make the religion work for me anymore and am confused by those who have seen behind the curtain but still stick around.

  17. Free but still struggling

    I’m only 40 minutes into the third episode. The first two were interesting, but the last one seems to be an attempt to avoid questions. On this issue of Job in the Bible and Greg’s talk of his study of the Bible, I find that his understanding is based on a flawed assumption, that is the correctness of Biblical translations.

    After I read “Misquoting Jesus”, by Bart D. Ehrman, I finally realized that one question must be answered before anyone can make any claim as to what the Bible says. If someone in the time that Jesus is supposed to have lived, wanted a copy of the original manuscript of Mark, how did he get it? No computer printers then. No printing press. Someone had to copy it by hand. Who copied the text? Was the copier literate? Probably not because since there were no books then, there was no reason for at least the general populace to learn to read. It would be like me copying a manuscript of Chinese writing. I could copy it but the chances are very good that I would make at least one mistake. So with the manuscript of Mark, say there was one or two mistakes. Another fellow wanted a copy for his group of friends so he or the owner of the copy would copy the copy and copy the mistake, and so on until scribes got more proficient in copying. Then maybe one learned scribe thought that maybe part of the script had been copied incorrectly so he changed it and then the next copier copied the change, whether it was changed correctly or not. This copying goes on for centuries until the printing press came along in the 1500’s. So now, in our day, what we have is a copy of a copy of a copy, etc How do we know what Jesus says in our Bible is what he really said? And the same method of copying the Hebrew Bible must have gone through the same procedure. So we cannot use the Bible as either spiritual or historical truth to any great extent. Do we have the original of either the Hebrew Bible or the New Testament? If not, how can we use the Bible as a source of spiritual truth? Or do we say that, though many Biblical manuscripts differ from each other, God forced the translators of the KJV to translate correctly so that we would get His Word? But if so, there goes the agency doctrine put the window.

    Mr. Prince talks a lot about truth. Yesterday I visited my tbm Mormon friend and he couldn’t understand why I couldn’t realize there was absolute truth. I asked him what truth was and he said it was what the Church taught. When I talk to another neighbor, an evangelical, he also doesn’t understand why I cannot see truth. He believes very strongly that I cannot see truth because my 40 years in Satan’s church (LDS) has polluted my mind preventing me from acknowledging truth. It seems to me that there is “Mormon Truth”, “Muslim Truth”, “Christian Truth” and hundreds of offshoots of these religions and they each have their own version of truth and they all differ in some form from each other. So what is truth and who’s truth is the correct one?

    Mr. Prince truly sounds like a church apologist. I listen and watch many atheist Christian debates as well as an occasionally LDS-mainstream-Christian debate. William Lane Craig has a PhD in philosophy and doesn’t seem to say anything. Sounds like a presidential candidate. Mr. Prince answers to John’s questions sounds like philosophy. He gives me the implication that he is using the scientific method and that scientists might be getting ideas and conclusions similar to his. Richard Dawkins is a pretty renowned scientist, an evolutionary biologist, and I have heard him say in debates that Mormonism is a joke.

    So far in this interview, had I been an agnostic in regard to Mormonism, this would have put me into the atheist camp.

    I will continue listening. Thanks so much for this John. I wish you could get Bart D. Ehrman on sometime.

  18. John, thank you for another engaging interview. Although I find it difficult to hold a nuanced position within Mormonism, I appreciate the complexity of Dr. Prince’s perspective. For me, faith and belief does not fit into rigid black or white, true or false framings. This interview challenged me to be more open to ideas and at the same time more comfortable with where I choose to be. Thanks, again.

  19. So much for the Gospel being so simple even a child can understand it… If my rationales for believing must be this convoluted, then I’m doomed. I’m a scientist too, for the record (MD & PhD), and generally I strive to deconvolute things in order to understand reality, not the other way around. …which is part of why my faith has faltered, I suppose.

    1. This is what happens when someone looks beyond the simple. It either falls apart or the explanations become very complicated.

      1. I’m okay with complicated. I’m not okay rationalizing faith with hand-waving explanations that rely on hypothetical speculation and conjecture. To study something complicated, you have to go about it in a systematic way, step by step, controlling as many variables as you can, without jumping ahead or leaping to conclusions. Dr. Prince seems to pick a predetermined conclusion and try to connect all the dots in the middle with speculative theories of questionable plausibility. Science & religion are fundamentally different ways of thinking (and by no means are they mutually exclusive, but they are difficult to reconcile). Science seeks to interpret the evidence and determine what ideas it supports or refutes, while religion often seems to attempt to fit evidence into a preconceived ideology. Instead of asking, “What truths do the data lead me to believe?”, religion seems to ask, “How could the data support what I want to believe?” It’s a subtle difference, but a monumentally important one. It is a betrayal of fundamental scientific integrity to make claims that can’t be clearly supported by the data in order to promote a hypothesis that you want to be true. It’s true that one must speculate in order to generate new hypotheses, but you can only stretch it so far. If I tried to propose a hypothesis with so many twists and turns and layers upon layers of conjecture, that proposal would never lead to anything! Because, ultimately, the more conjecture there is in your hypothesis, the more likely it is to be wrong. It has to be founded on solid preliminary evidence that clearly leads to a testable hypothesis. Knowledge moves forward with small steps, not big leaps. I suppose this is part of why religion has historically thrived best whenever general access to information and education has been the lowest — fewer facts to explain away in order to foster faith among the masses. Because the more religion must rationalize, the harder it is for them to connect the dots and maintain a plausible set of ideas. Just read some of the literalist explanations of Moses and the Red Sea, for example. Anyway, I’m really just rambling on here… I really am doomed when it comes to faith, aren’t I? Thanks John for all you do! This has been an incredibly helpful outlet for me as I’ve gone through this process.

  20. Great interview! These long form podcasts with some of the leading figures in mormonism have long been the stand out episodes of Mormon Stories.

    However, I’ve got to say the Mormonism that Dr. Prince and others like him (Richard Bushman, Patrick Mason, etc.) describe, is a Mormonism that doesn’t the organization doesn’t want to exist. The leaders want a fundamentalist, literal church. They preach it and teach it, and warn against non-literalist interpretations. There is a little room for Dr. Prince’s views in the pews, but only because he supports and promotes the core church while his scholarship exists on the intellectual fringe.

    These new mormon apologists take an amoral or maybe even immoral stance on religion. They believe the ends justify the means. It doesn’t matter how the church arose, what the historical falsehoods are, or the immoral teachings the church currently espouses (numero uno being obedience to them above all else). All religions have these problems, why should mormonism be different? Instead of concluding, yes, they all have these problems which is why they are all potentially dangerous!

    I know it’s difficult making it intellectually and morally work, and to do so one needs to construct elaborate defenses, impenetrable to most and unrecognizable to all. To justify themselves, they have complex interpretations, unendorsed positions (moral atheists?), or outright rejections of core beliefs (what gold plates?). Only because they like this community where they fit in, are respected and looked up to.

    I think this Sunday I’m going to say there is no chance the BoM is historical but rather Joseph Smith’s 1829 commentary on the Christian bible. Let’s see how that goes over.

  21. My premi twins got the rsv shots. Thanks Dr Prince!

    I hear brother Prince, bushman, Givens, Mason etc etc give their version of mormonism and I would love to find a way to make it work. It would save me a lot of family pain. However I wonder if they have attended a Ward that is average. If brother Prince gave any of these loose and unorthodox explanations in my home Ward they would run him out of town and he wouldn’t be allowed to return until he pledged allegiance to the orthodox narrative and Donald Trump.

    In a recent interview with my SP I told him I found value in baptism, priesthood ordinances and that I had a hope in God but I couldn’t say we were the only true church on earth and that much of the scriptures were aligorical for me. He responded by letting me know if couldn’t baptize my youngest son or ordain my oldest. So it is nice in theory but just keep your mouth shut if you want to participate. Here in MT my experience on Sunday is a healthy dose of McKonkie. There’s no application of their version.

    1. Tell him that if you can’t do it it’s not happening. That could change his mind. Also, sometimes it makes a difference how you phrase things. For example, instead of saying, I don’t believe the BofM is true, say, I haven’t received a confirmation yet but I have a desire to know of its truthfulness. How terrible of him to take that opportunity from you.

  22. 1. I can understand and appreciate the nuanced/metaphorical approach. For me, that is the only way that I could believe the LDS church were “true”- meaning that God communicated with Joseph Smith and that communication caused Joseph to form a church, and that it’s a good place for certain people; not sure how much further I can go than that. The problem with the nuanced approach though, is that for those born into the church, we were taught from the very beginning that the church was true from a literalist understanding. If the Book of Mormon is not a translation of a literal ancient artifact of a literal people, if the first vision account in our cannon is not literal etc., we have to also acknowledge that we have been intentionally mislead by Joseph Smith and either intentionally or unintentionally mislead by subsequent leaders up until now.
    2. I’d love to pose this question to Dr. Prince. If we are to believe that the prophets and apostles are fallible, what would he do if he came to the conclusion that the general authorities had given instruction or commandment to the members that he disagreed with or refused to obey in good conscience. If we acknowledge their fallibility, we also have to acknowledge that there have been times that members have inavertidly made the wrong decision through pure obedience. Do we obey our conscience or do we obey the leaders?
    3. Could Dr. Prince recommend any essential reading, other than his own books, that might help a struggling member to better explore his theological approach.

    1. Dr. Prince recommended, “Faith and Belief: The Diference Between Them” by Wilfred Cantwell Smith. I just ordered a used copy from Amazon for $6.00.

  23. For a long time I have admired Prince for his frank criticism of mistakes made by the church and for openly encouraging people to shake off some of the crust of LDS orthodoxy in favor of moving in the direction of a more inclusive and open-minded approach to Mormonism. I’m no Historian, Scientist, or even a Dentist however and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t intellectually process new information I was learning about the church without feeling compelled to leave.

    Even after listening to this latest in depth interview, it remains a mystery to me how he, and others mentioned in this thread (Bushmans, Givens, Kathleen Flake, etc) are able to square what the church teaches its members (including them) about itself with all the information that has been left out without flinching in their commitment. It became too much for me and I chose to follow my gut and leave, even though my gut was also very hungry…I still support his vision of what the church should/could be, even if he might consider people like me a lost cause to mourn.

  24. I can understand the frustration at not getting clear answers from Dr. Prince (or other apologists). For anyone to “stay in the game” without being excommunicated over controversial views, they have to speak with a certain amount of ambiguity.

    I also think people have outsized expectations for what apologists like Bushman or Greg Prince can offer. It’s incredible and rare for a person to make important contributions to even one area. Dr. Prince has not only made important contributions to science, but also to mormon history (even without any apparent formal historical training!). Bushman has obviously made important contributions as both an academic historian, as well as a historian of mormonism.

    These prominent apologists, however, are mere hobbyists when it comes to theology. We expect too much to think that people who have made extraordinary contributions to two fields will also be the master of several more., such as theology and Biblical studies. The questions people are asking are really theological in nature. “Why Mormonism?” “Why would God do _______?” “How can God be in a Church that does ________?” “How could God ask _____ to do ______?” These are theological questions, not 19th century historical ones, and certainly not scientific ones. There’s no reason why Bushman, Prince, Givens, or many other famous apologists would have special insight into such questions, as none of them have any particular education or training in Theology, Biblical studies, Early Judaism, Ancient Near Eastern Studies, Early Christianity, or the like. They are extraordinary at what they do — science, 19th century Mormon history, etc. — but the truth is they don’t do what we want them to, which is to study the big questions about God and humanity.

    We Mormons are paying the price for our hubris. We’ve been so enamored with our narrative of “restoration” and “apostasy” that we ignore the major contributions to thought that have been made by the other 99.9% of humanity through the ages. If you want answers to the big questions, don’t read Greg Prince, Richard Bushman, Fawn Brodie, or Dan Vogel. Read Plato. Read Erasmus. Read Luther. Read CS Lewis. Read Aquinas. Read Augustine. Read the Bible. Read Philosophy. Read Buddha. Read hundreds of brilliant authors from almost as many disciplines who have no connection with Mormonism.

    Then “return and report” to Mormonism and be the one to get Mormonism out of this intellectual mess.

  25. Doubting Thomas


    Excellent interview. Your tough questioning of Mr. Prince made me appreciate how good you’ve become at interviewing and how much Mr. Prince trusts you.

    Bottomline for me is, what would the brethren say about Greg’s interview? Would they agree with her personal spiritual positions are consider his them false doctrine? I suggest after the recent conference they would state the latter. People like Greg make questioning Mormons feel good about their struggles; however, in the end, it’s very clear the church Greg is describing doesn’t exist just because he wants it to. Ask Elder Ballard about the historicity of the Book of Mormon.

    The Givens. Adam Miller. Greg Prince. Richard Bushman. These are the new apologists whether they see themselves as such or not.

    On a positive note, I am going to buy Greg’s book on the priesthood tonight via Amazon. This is my Waterloo. It’s everything to me. It either happened the way the church says it did or the church is a fraud.

    1. I am with Doubting Thomas. I just commented on a post by Patrick Mason saying I loved hearing what he has to say, but it sounded like he was describing a different church – maybe a branch off of the LDS Mormonism. What he described seemed so dissimilar to the Mormonism I have been taught and experience in my ward that I can’t reconcile the two.

  26. Copying from Reddit:

    I just finished listening to the most recent episode of Mormon Stories where Greg Prince is interviewed. In it Greg lays out his views of church history and doctrine. It’s along the lines of the new apologetic arguments advanced by Givens, Adam Miller, Patrick Mason et al. Essentially Greg sees the church as a way to experience the “divine” and pretty much backs off on all the major truth claims, such as a historical Book of Mormon, a literal First Vision, or even the resurrection of Jesus. He essentially says that all of us and current TBMS made the mistake of taking these truth claims too literally.
    I have so many qualms with this new apologetic line of thinking. The first is that the Mormonism that Prince et al. describes doesn’t exist, except in their minds. It’s not our fault for taking the truth claims literally. We were taught they were literal since we were babies. We were told there was no other way to interpret them or else we were heretics. Openly admitting you don’t believe it is all literal is a quick way to get shunned and lose your temple recommend.
    The second and most glaring problem with this line of thinking is that if the truth claims are not literally true, then the modern prophets don’t have the moral authority to tell members how to live their lives. Think of how many members relegated their consciences over the November policy because they think the Q15 have the authority to speak for God. Why should I listen to these guys about anything if none of the truth claims are literally true? If everything is just a metaphor, then TSCC is just another church and it should only be evaluated on its merits. None of these apologists will advocate this. They all advocate unorthodox, (even heretical) beliefs but suggest that we should only engage in orthodox living. It literally makes no sense.
    I know others have brought up these problems with the new apologetic line of thinking, but listening to this Greg Prince interview (even though I have a lot of respect for him as a historian) is driving me crazy.

    1. I get the frustration and believe that it is born out of competing paradigms.

      The Church teaches things (history for example) in a certain way and Prince disagrees with it. I think you can see it throughout the episodes. As an example when he put out his book on the Priesthood, it seemed to be rejected from the higher ups. I don’t feel that he is covering up for the church, but is attempting to give back constructive, critical feedback to an organization that he cares for.

      On the perspective front, Prince stated that very early he broke away from literalism (see the story of leaving Mormon Doctrine on his mission or reading and being influenced by the book Faith and Belief). With that foundation in his early years he is no longer irritated (bothered sill I am sure) by conflicts of belief between himself and the “orthodox” view perpetuated by the Church and many of its members. Faith is the core of his religious life, and not Faith in some list of tenets/dogma handed to him from the institution.

      My two cents,

    2. Jonathan Clark Felt

      It’s hard to admit when we are wrong. A lot of us went through the “betrayal” and wanted to throw the baby out with the bathwater, but couldn’t find a better alternative. I loved what he said about Joseph giving us a set of symbols we can all understand to experience the divine. I’ve never heard that, but it sounds right. Dr. Prince is a Prince for showing me another way to process the same data that made me so mad in the first place. Herah for Israel.

    3. Dr. Prince’s beliefs aside, I find his take on human interaction soothful. He doesn’t seem to be driving himself crazy, and as a borderline crazy intellectual myself, that seems like a smart first rule.

  27. Frank, be frank

    I’ sorry, but the mental gymnastics required to follow or accept Greg’s reasoning in part 3 is outside of my ability to navigate. It appears to me he has arrived at a predetermined decision to find some way to believe, regardless. To me, he plays games that I am unwilling to play!

  28. I love Greg Prince. I have listened to dozens of hours of interviews and talks he has given. I love the fact that he tells it the way the record shows and does not apologize for that. What I am trying hard to understand from him is similar to the comments above from Ken and the copy from Reddit. I love Greg’s Mormonism and I think I could hang out in that world, but that world does not exist currently in the church. As Greg pointed out articulately, the church has required a literal thinking since Joseph F. Smith. You cannot be accepted (socially or as a recommend holder) unless you believe in a historical Book of Mormon, a Peter James and John visit, or an 1838 style First Vision.

    It is not enough to say “There is good in the Book of Mormon, but I don’t believe Nephi ever existed.” It is not enough to say “I believe Joseph had an experience in the grove of trees, but I think it was more of a metaphysical feeling of his sins being forgiven rather than a literal visit from the Father and the Son.” It is not enough to say, “I believe the Priesthood can be an instrument for good, but I believe Joseph kind of made it up as he went along.”

    If you want to be accepted fully by the group; if you want to be completely honest in your TR interview; you must say you believe in these historical events L-I-T-E-R-A-L-L-Y.

    Where am I wrong. Trust me, the hell I am putting my TBM spouse through leaves me WANTING to be wrong. I can still find goodness in the church. I want to be able to attend and be open with my beliefs, but that is not allowed. I want to participate, but I cannot say I believe in the literal foundations. Consequently, I do not hold a recommend and it is killing my wife.

    Greg: You have alluded to the belief that the BofM is likely not historical You have alluded to the belief that the priesthood was a process not an event. You have alluded to believing more in the 1830 account of the FV than the 1838. How do you do that in today’s church and still feel comfortable? I am not asking as an experiment in rhetoric. I really want to know. I look up to you, but I do not understand you. Because I am a man of integrity and cannot say I believe in the literal truth claims anymore, I fear for my marriage and other relationships. The church leaderships REQUIRES literal belief. Until they change that expectation, how can I expect to be a part of the “in crowd?”

    1. Literal belief is NOT required for full participation, including temple attendance!!!! Yet, your comment helps me realize that thinking metaphorically does not come naturally to everyone.

  29. Hi Jon, yet again a very good and interesting interview, but like most other listeners l felt that there was such a lot of mental gymnastics going on their through all that greg was saying, l do respect him for trying to put his point across and be as genuine as he thought he should, but even so there are so many hidden messages he was trying to go over, l didn’t hear once about the lds church being a church of revelation in the whole interview, it sounded like revelation in his opinion doesn’t even come in to the equation just decisions that are made through the brethren at any appropriate time, also patriarchal blessings and whether they are actually from god with divine inspiration or just words spoken from men, thanks again jon, your doing a wonderful job, keep it up. l agree with greg there, that Mormon stories is such a great help to supporting Mormons and no Mormons alike, keep going,

  30. I am curious as to if Greg Prince still has a temple recommend. I don’t recall that being discussed in the pod cast. I don’t know how he could pass the temple recommend questions.

    1. Cody – I think he could. He just says yes, yes, yes, yes, no, yes, yes, yes … as the way he views it his is view of things.

  31. I finally went back and listened again to Greg. can I make several observations. he used the word data when referring to facts…..to make it look like it was not important. he used the word propositions instead of doctrine to make it seem less important

    But the biggest point is this …..he’s a scientist and yet he tells us to set aside the facts and just go by feeling. if it feels good we should stay and forget what our head tells us
    in the world of science fact is the same as truth
    to me that seems so irresponsible for a scientist, to ignore the truth and just go by feeling
    as we all know we can have feelings about many things
    In the world of science and in discovering truth you cannot go by feelings you have to go by facts

    Also I was very disturbed when he continued to say that the book of Mormon has been a moral guide and an inspiration…. John you forgot to bring up the fact that there is a lot of disturbing things in the book of Mormon such as racism and condoning killing —such as the very first part of the book of Mormon and Nephi cutting off a man’s head–is that what Christ would tell him to do??????
    It’s bizarre and disgusting that Christ would condone the things that happened in the Book of Mormon
    So I strongly disagree with Greg–there are many very disturbing things in the book

    although at BYU I felt a lot of emotion when I read the book of Mormon I now understand the facts and what it was really teaching
    God gave us brains so that we could figure these things out—- learn the truth and let that guide us. I don’t feel that Greg is letting the truth guide him but is rather ignoring the truth and going by feeling.
    he insists that those of us who study and learn the facts or truth are weak because we choose to leave the church
    I think it is just the opposite I don’t mean to judge but when people know the truth —the immorality the cruelty and the lies—- and they still stay and support the church —-I think that is a sign of weakness and fear of being on their own…. without social support of members and community of the church
    It takes courage to stand for the truth—and let your choices reflect your inner beliefs
    I believe Greg likes being a respected member of the good old boys club……
    He walks a fine line where he can still be accepted by the leaders in the priesthood and yet tries to admit to the scientific community that these things are facts

    I did think he was egotistical to criticize Jeremy CES letter which was never intended to be a document for the world to see–but rather personal questions about facts that concerned Jeremy. Again Greg focused on the format of the letter instead of the meat of the facts
    Basically Greg is disingenuous and avoids The reality of how the truth—disturbing facts about the church— show us it iis not led by God and continues to cause hurt and pain in so many peoples lives
    By unrighteous dominion

    Can a person, especially a scientist, feel good about himself or proud of who he is…..when he is doing this??

    It is just frustrating to hear people like him talk….. to refuse to make logical conclusions from the facts–and admit to the deceit lies and pain it causes

    It is too bad he cannot be honest
    Because he wants so badly to be part of the community

    I would like to invite Greg to comment on any of this

    1. Emma,

      If the beheading of Laban by Nephi disturbs you, then it means one thing…
      You never got past 2 Nephi :-)

      What I find truly disturbing in the BoM is found in 3 Nephi: the massive carnage inflicted by Jesus himself as a prelude to his appearance to the terrified Nephites.

      Was this a “midrash” on the OT account of the poisonous serpents who bit the Israelites during their desert wanderings? In that episode, we read of how many of them were killed and their bodies scattered in the desert because God was so enraged by their never-ending harsh criticisms of Moses. God however provided relief to these rebellious people by commanding Moses to raise the brass symbol of a serpent so that anyone who looked and believed would be cured of the snakebites. If 3 Nephi was a midrash of this narrative, then it fails miserably.

      Not all midrash is good. There is such a thing as bad midrash, and Jesus himself condemns the Pharisees for their pharisaic casuistry where their midrash ends up subverting God’s moral laws. This is found in Jesus’ condemnation of the Corban rule where a Jew can excuse himself for helping his parents by telling them that his wealth is dedicated to God (Mark 7:9-13).

      If we accept the destruction of the Nephites as a direct work of Christ himself then we end up contradicting everything Jesus taught in the New Testament. All those parables and teachings about mercy and being forgiving, forget all of that. The Jesus of the BoM subverts the Jesus of the Bible. The Jesus of the BoM cannot stand critics, therefore, they have to be erased first from the landscape before he can preach his gospel.

      To believe in these two opposite Jesus is to compartmentalize your mind. And as many as we can see here, it is no easy burden.

      1. When I reread the Book of Mormon a few years ago I was disturbed by how many things that had not disturbed me when I read it as a believer. A believer’s blind eye? A non-believer critical eye?

        Of course, Christ burning innocent children alive (and crushed, drowned, etc.) as one of his first acts as a resurrected god-being, then flipping a switch to Jesus meek, mild, and emotionally, blessing the children is quite disturbing … especially with the additional twist of calling down some angels to “encircled those little ones about, and they were encircled about with fire.” Fire?

        Speaking of fire, here’s another disturbingly rash midrash from Alma 14. To my mind, it’s a more insidious example – keeping in mind that Joseph Smith taught, “It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God…”

        10 And when Amulek saw the pains of the women and children who were consuming in the fire, he also was pained; and he said unto Alma: How can we witness this awful scene? Therefore let us stretch forth our hands, and exercise the power of God which is in us, and save them from the flames.

        11 But Alma said unto him: The Spirit constraineth me that I must not stretch forth mine hand; for behold the Lord receiveth them up unto himself, in glory; and he doth suffer that they may do this thing, or that the people may do this thing unto them, according to the hardness of their hearts, that the judgments which he shall exercise upon them in his wrath may be just; and the blood of the innocent shall stand as a witness against them, yea, and cry mightily against them at the last day.

        The Lord just gotta have that witness so he can dish out his just wrath!

  32. Why did Greg keep referencing Paul Done?
    Paul made a lot of money telling lies –insinuating that stories were true but they were fictional. why should he be referring to a general authority who did this? the leaders would have excommunicated him but paul probably had had the second anointing. the most they could do was take him out of actively leading the church
    It’s fine if Greg was friends with him but he is not a person to reference because of his dishonesty! his desire for financial gain overcame his desire for truth!!
    Is that Greg’s role model?

    1. I think he is referencing him as a very influential figure in Mormonism, not as a Role Model.

      Paul Dunn’s story is sad and he did a lot of damage ultimately, but at the time that Prince is mentioning him, he was a powerhouse speaker.

      Personally, I think Paul Dunn, while a proven embellisher and liar said some true things every once in a while.

  33. It seems nearly everyone needs miracles, perhaps to ward off the terror of our mortality, if not its sheer banality. The greater their need, and the greater their attendant ignorance, the greater the imposition their miracle claims make on objective reality.

    Those with greater intellectual resources tend to make lighter claims; so light that they become indefeasible; such as “touching the face of god,” or sensing a rare causal connection in blessing/healing correlation.

    Sure, religious faith can be divested from belief in grandiose miracles that don’t stand up to modern scholarship. But such faith remains a matter of believing things on weak evidence. For example, the belief that taking a right turn from accurate historicizing to arbitrary theologizing entails any less of a miracle to stay on the road to reality.

    For some of us the need for miracles dried up. Yes, the process began with a shock of betrayal. But then it transformed into a courageous and often lonely response to the relentless insult of reality. If we were lucky it evolved into a deeper appreciation for a finite life. Along the way we mourned the loss of our miracles. I think we deserved this more than those who still cling to them, unless we were making the possibility of their own loss seem real.

  34. David Macfarlane

    John, will this be available as a podcast (audio only) as well? I use Pocket Casts to follow Mormon Stories and this one is not available yet. Thanks.

      1. Mr Dehlin, I watched your interview with the missionary from layton serving in california whom was sent home 3 weeks early by president Michael F. Marston from Bountiful, UT , This makes me sick inside to think this leader in the church didnt understand the SPIRIT of what he did and the long term effects of this decision. Had he been christ-like leader he would have taken another road, it not only might have saved this young mans testimony in the church but saved him from years of regret, what an a..hole Michael F Marston IS…. I personally feel like this story is more of a crisis in the church than the femanist movement and LGBT movement combined. I also feel like if a story like this was made public you would not only have non members, less active members but active members looking to the church leadership to change policy to make sure this never happens again. I do not care if you are a believer or not, anyone from any faith would understand that Michael F Marston and others in the church like him cause lifelong pain for good people. I also think you should use your relationship with leaders you are still freinds with in the church like GREG PRINCE to make spiritual murder like this stop in the church and make it known. Also as someone who will be sending a missionary out very soon if this had been my son I would have flown out to california the next day and sat down with that mission president and explained why we would help my son stay out 3 more weeks. Not sure who the idiots at church headquarters were but they would have heard me swear up a storm about this crap. No way in HELL would I have let my son been sent home when even he would have wanted to stay.

  35. Science leads us to believe there is no evidence for God (as a person) and there is no evidence of an afterlife. Science also leads us down a slope where everything is driven by the actions of atoms and there really is no “free agency” and little meaning and value in life.

    We need meaning or at least context and we also need to know our lives have value. The ideas of Mr Prince provide context in terms of a higher power and an afterlife and that what we do matters in terms of what happens in this life (offers peace) and the afterlife. He seems to be saying there is more than what we can see – our feelings and mystery matters.

    Stuart Kauffmann has also offered ideas (context) on why life does have meaning and value without the need for a higher power or an afterlife. He explains that mechanistic science (physics and actions of particles) is not adequate to explain everything and that what we do matter in terms of the outcome in the universe, In his view free agency matters. Kauffmann argues for a new approach and recognition in science. He sometimes refers to his ideas as “emergence” and “the adjacent possible” or in other words what we do matters. We have meaning and value. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dH5m-lLgxsI and https://www.edge.org/conversation/stuart_a_kauffman-the-adjacent-possible

    1. Matt,

      Thanks for this reference. I read Kaufmann’s “At Home in the Universe: The Search for the Laws of Self-Organization and Complexity” many years ago, and found it a bit “out there,” partly because his projections for the fruit of his future of his research it seemed overly-ambitious and partly his stilted language. But then I had an occasion to meet and dine with the physicist Sean M. Carroll who said Kaufmann is worth taking seriously. So …

      I see that Kaufmann has written a book that relates to your comment and reference. Here’s the title and Amazon blurb

      Reinventing the Sacred: A New View of Science, Reason, and Religion.

      Consider the complexity of a living cell after 3.8 billion years of evolution. Is it more awesome to suppose that a transcendent God fashioned the cell at a stroke, or to realize that it evolved with no Almighty Hand, but arose on its own in the changing biosphere?

      In this bold and fresh look at science and religion, complexity theorist Stuart Kauffman argues that the qualities of divinity that we revere—creativity, meaning, purposeful action—are properties of the universe that can be investigated methodically. He offers stunning evidence for this idea in an abundance of fields, from cell biology to the philosophy of mind, and uses it to find common ground between belief systems often at odds with one another. A daring and ambitious argument for a new understanding of natural divinity, Reinventing the Sacred challenges readers both scientifically and philosophically.

  36. Thanks John and Greg. I’ve been hoping to get more believing perspectives on mormon stories. I’ve missed the balance of the earlier days, but I realize the barriers for this given the the church’s treatment of John.

  37. Jay the nevermo

    Did Joseph Smith allow his followers to touch the face of god? Did Smith give them access to the divine?

    Did Smith appropriate certain symbols and use them to convey the “infinite” to his fellow man?

    If he did, did he use a form that was wildly successful? That was effective?

    I’ve read poems, listened to Jazz, looked at paintings, and watched children play that gave me access to what Greg calls the divine or the infinite. Was Smith’s appropriation of symbols (“mormonism”) effective and useful? In comparison to what I’ve experienced, I’d say Smith’s tool was a crude, limiting offering that blocks our view of the divine. Any divine and infinite that seeps thru the cracks of Smith’s mental yoke awaits, along with so much more, for anyone who wants to pull their head out of Smith’s hat.

  38. Thanks John for giving Greg an opportunity to share his personal story and beliefs. Although I might not be as accepting of historical inconsistencies as Greg I appreciate his willingness to present his viewpoint.

    I did think he was harsh with regard to the scholarly value of CES letter, as I do not believe that Jeremy’s intent was to produce a scholarly piece of work: he produced a succinct and accessible piece of work – I appreciate these things are not mutually exclusive, but they can be different nonetheless.

    Ultimately if Greg has found a middle ground that works for his spirituality then that should be respected. What I really got from Greg was that he believes in something divine and can connect with the divine through mormonism, and he hopes that mormonism can improve – all of which I understand, and agree with. He seemed to be fairly respectful to people of all faiths – including those transitioning out of mormonism; as such he is equally deserving of my respect for his nuanced beliefs.

    BTW John you hinted at some UK, Scotland podcasts ( I know Scotland is part of the UK but you did mention Scotland specifically), any moment on this?

  39. I mourn the fact that Dr. Prince remains in an organized religion. At one point he states that atheists don’t believe in an afterlife. Says who?

    Maybe folks in organized religions are just desperate for validation, and are missing out on quite a bit.

  40. Bailed? Really?? I had no idea “bailing out” could be such a heart wrenching and painful process. Perhaps the connotations that I associate with “bailing” are very different from those of Dr. Prince.

    To describe this choice I have made as “bailing out” … as though I were discomfited in some way and just blew it all off because that would make my life easier… anyone who has made this choice will understand how deeply this decision cuts… please use a word that honors the anguish and sorrow. If there was any way that I could have stayed without feeling like a total hypocrite, knowing what I know, and feeling as I do about LGBTQ policies and stances, I would have. It would have been so much easier and safer in so many ways.

    We have not “bailed”, Brother Prince.

    1. I like to think of “bailing out” in the context of a pilot bailing out in an emergency situation, like before the plane crashes. Or before a religion that squeezing my conscience and “crushes” my life.

      (Here I go self-justifying by “re-framing”! – a mini-paradigm shift!

      1. I may be employing a bit of wishful thinking, but I hope that your interpretation is closer to the context inferred by Dr. Prince as well. Thanks for your perspective – it is quite fitting!

  41. Wow! After listening to everything Mr. Prince had to say and reading the comments I should probably just leave it at that because most of what I want to say has already been addressed by others. I would simply add that if the almighty is looking for intellectual contortionists Mr. Prince is a sure thing for the very highest kingdom.

  42. In episode 3, I think Greg misses the point. All the talk of whether this or that necessarily needs to be literally true would make some sense. But, the Church has always insisted (through men claiming a direct line of communication with God), and continues to insist, that this and that is literally true.

  43. Breaching Humpback

    I’ve read Greg’s books “Power From on High” and “David O. McKay.” They are both excellent. I particularly enjoyed reading about the very human side of Pres. McKay and seeing how sausage is made at the upper levels of the church. I appreciated Greg’s insight that the Book of Abraham and the Book of Mormon are related: that the Book of Mormon is a form of Biblical midrash. It gives me a new way of thinking about the Book of Mormon and a positive way of thinking about Joseph Smith’s prophetic process. He really was writing scripture the way it has been done from the beginning, from the Old Testament, to the New Testament, to the Koran and so forth. He was really quite brilliant. I also appreciate the example of Greg and the way he has found of being true to himself, yet maintaining his membership in the church, something I am struggling to learn how to do. Left to my own devices I would probably be gone, but because of spouse, extended family and friends, and their importance in my life, I am choosing to stay and it is very difficult at times to find meaning in meetings where I disagree with 95% of what is being said. I currently stay mostly silent in church, but would love to participate in a meaningful way that will help me to feel better about being there, but not alienating to everyone else that is there.

  44. In episode 3, I feel like Mr. Prince misses the point. All the talk of whether this or that necessarily needs to be literally true makes some sense. But, the Church has always insisted (through men claiming to have direct communication with God), and continues to insist, that this and that is literally true.

  45. Breaching Humpback

    Just a follow-up to my previous comment: I was reading in First Chronicles this morning in the New Oxford Annotated Bible. The footnotes indicate that much of the information is just the same information condensed from Genesis and Kings. Mark is the writing down of prior oral stories; Matthew and Luke have plagiarized Mark , added some oral stories, and then put their own spin on it, often changing the stories and the meaning; John has taken earlier written and oral sources and elevated Jesus to a pre-existent God, something that the earlier Gospel writers would not have recognized; and many of Paul’s letters were not written by Paul, but by people who came later, using Paul’s name and style. One of the fascinating things about Joseph Smith is that we see this Biblical process occurring close to our day and we can draw parallels to those earlier writings. Reading and learning and trying to understand in this way is a bit of salve to the bitterness, unhappiness and anger that easily surface when feeling duped.

    1. In the New Testamen (NT), the scholarly consensus is that the NT authors were all working from earlier sources as they assembled their final writing. Please note that Jesus gave no command to his apostles about writing down his teachings. Rather, the urgent command was to preach, baptize, and make disciples because the kingdom is at hand. The NT books were written only later to address the needs of the rapidly growing Christian communities as the original witnesses who heard Jesus teach began to die and dwindle.

      Paul’s epistles were considered to have been written first before the four Gospels. That Christ is equal with God is a doctrine already found in Paul (Philippians 2:6). This predates John’s gospel. Also, having been imprisoned and tortured a couple of times, Paul may have suffered a serious disability preventing him from personally writing, and thus he would need scribes to write for him.

      It is easy to say that John’s gospel elevated Christ to God until you read that Mark too equated Jesus with God. “Why does this man speak blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone!” asked the Pharisees. (Mark 2:7). They were right, only God alone can forgive sins. And if Jesus were not God, why then did he do what rightly belongs only to God? Good question! It’s so good that both Matthew and Luke would borrow the same dialogue (Matthew 9:3, Luke 5:21). What John did differently was not to elevate Jesus to a higher status, this was already evident in the synoptic Gospels. Rather, he wrote in order to amplify and magnify the fact that Jesus is indeed God.

      The key to understanding the NT lies in understanding the men who came after the apostles: the Early Church Fathers (ECF). These were the men who inherited apostolic teaching. For example, St. Clement the Bishop of Rome, wrote to the Corinthians when a mutiny broke out in the Church at Corinth that resulted in a schism. This early epistle known as 1 Clement (dated AD 96-98) resolved the crisis. For that, the letter became famous and was spread throughout the churches.

      By the 3rd century, many pseudo-Christian writings began to circulate and create confusion. The Church found it necessary to sift the wheat from the tares, and thus a process of forming the NT canon began. The final 27 books of the NT is the result of that sifting. Therefore what we have is what the 3rd century Church validated as apostolic writing. First Clement would’ve probably been considered scripture were it not for the fact that the Church knew it was written after the apostolic era had closed. To accept the NT canon is to accept the authority and judgement of the 3rd century Church.

      In other words, the NT books did not produce the Church. Rather, it was the Church that gave birth to the NT canon. The same is true with Moses and the Israelites. God first raised Moses who led them out from Egypt, assembled them in the desert (ekklesia means assembly in Greek, from where the word church comes from), and then gave them the Law. The Ekklesia of Israel came to existence first before the Law of Moses was given. God creates the community first, and then He gives them his Word. That is the pattern in the Judeo-Christian tradition.

      In stark contrast, Joseph Smith brought out the Book of Mormon first, and then afterwards the Mormon church came out of it. This pattern is similar with Islam where the Prophet Muhammad first created the Quran and from it a community of Muslim believers is born. Mormonism has more fundamental characteristics in common with Islam than with the Assembly of Israel in the Old Testament, or the Church of Christ in the NT.

      For further information see:

      Rediscovering the Historical Jesus

  46. Part 3 74:15 – 77:31
    JD – What did you think about Kate Kelly and Ordain Women in terms of the same sort of question, it’s value to the church?
    GP – I think that remains to be seen. I don’t know that that needle has moved much yet. And if it does move, will it be because of Kate and her movement or will it be because of other things? And the answer probably will be it’s a combination. I don’t know.
    JD – Did it set feminism back in your view, mormon feminism?
    GP – Uh, in my view, yes. And I told Kate that directly.
    JD – Why?
    GP – And I told her that on more than one occasion. Because I had lived through the 70’s and 80’s when I saw the same thing happen over the ERA. And that did set things back.
    JD – What’s the calculus in how it set things back?
    GP – Well there is a strong tradition in this church that if the Brethren perceive something as a frontal assault, that they will dig in. And what I saw with the ERA movement back in the 70’s and 80’s (and we were right in the middle of it back there in Virginia, that’s where Mormons for ERA was founded, that’s where Sonia Johnson was) uh, that pushed things back. There was another example in 1998 … racism … thinking that the way to nudge the brethren into action is to go public, it set the whole thing back almost 20 years. So yeah, it can
    JD – Isn’t that on the brethren and not on the person who talked about it? Shouldn’t they be doing the right thing regardless of the consequences?
    GP – If I know that my taking a certain action is going to set the whole movement back, am I just going to sit there and blame the church for that? And this was not … this was not an act of total ignorance, at all. We had lengthy discussions about this.
    JD – With Ordain Women?
    GP – I’m talking about Ordain Women now. On three occasions, lengthy ones. And the message all three times is, this will cause them to go to ground, to dig in and it will set the whole thing back. Blew it off.

    YEAH KATE, you should know better. Men have been teaching women this lesson for ages. We all know it. It goes like this …

    XX – What did you think about Jane Doe getting hit for talking back to her husband last night? Do you think it was her fault?
    OO – Uh, in my view, yes. And I told Jane that directly.
    XX – Why?
    OO – And I told her that on more than one occasion. Because I watched her husband beat his first wife back in the 70’s and 80’s. And he hasn’t changed.
    XX – What’s the calculus in why it’s her fault?
    OO – Well there is a strong tendency with that man that if he perceives something as a frontal assault, he will dig in. And what I saw with his first wife back in the 70’s and 80’s (and I was right in the middle of it, he was my neighbor) uh, that he just kept hitting her. Don’t think that the way to nudge that man into being less violent is to talk back, she’ll just keep getting hit for the next 20 years.
    XX – Isn’t that on the husband and not on the wife to not be violent? Shouldn’t he not be violent regardless of what she says?
    OO – If you know that talking back to your husband is going to cause him to hit you, are you just going to blame the husband for that? And this was not … this was not an act of total ignorance, at all. We had lengthy discussions about this.
    XX – With Jane Doe?
    OO – I’m talking about Jane Doe now. On three occasions, lengthy ones. And the message all three times is, this will cause him to hit you. She blew it off.

    Wow!!! On my mission in a Polynesian ward in the 80’s they taught that it was OK to hit your wife if you warned her three times. Apparently Kate has been warned three times and now the bad actions of the church are her fault. No wonder people are leaving the church. It’s not a FAITH crisis. It’s a TRUTH crisis.

    1. Robert Brown, if there is one thing I don’t like about the Mormon Stories comments sections it’s that there isn’t any way to like the really good comments. Two thumbs up on your comment!

  47. The Book of Mormon and The Book of Abraham were “sold” to us as literal translations. In fact phrases such as “most correct” and “by the gift and power of God” were bundled with that package. A Midrash is an interpretation or an opinion on a sacred text used to expand upon such texts without being seen as adding to such texts.

    There is a difference.

    These guys are back pedaling and looking for a place to land. A Midrash? Good choice. Even its definition is confusing.

  48. Here is the text of the Improvement Era article at about 1:09 in part 2.

    Why Priesthood At All?

    CAN any one, without the Priesthood, pray and have his prayers answered? Or receive the Holy Ghost, with its gifts and manifestations?

    The answer is Yes. Men, women and children who do not hold the Priesthood have had their prayers answered millions of times in the history of Christianity the world over and in the history of this dispensation. Men, women and children also receive the Holy Ghost after baptism through the laying on of hands.

    May one have revelations and visions of heavenly beings, without the Priesthood?

    Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery did so. In May, 1829, John the Baptist appeared to them, and that was before either of them had been ordained. It was John, in fact, who conferred the Priesthood upon them. This function of having visions, of course, was exceptional in their case.

    If, then, one may pray, may have his prayers answered, may have the Holy Ghost bestowed upon him, and may exercise many of its gifts, without holding any Priesthood, what is the place of Priesthood on the earth?

    Chiefly Priesthood functions in con- nection with organization. That is, the greatest need of Priesthood is where there is a service to be performed to others besides ourselves.

    Whenever you do anything for, or in behalf of, someone else, you must have the right to do so. If you are to sell property belonging to another, you must have his permission. If you wish to admit an alien to citizenship in our government, you cannot act without having been commissioned to
    do so by the proper authority.

    Now, a religious organization, or the Church, is in the last analysis a matter of service. You baptize someone, or you confirm him, or you administer to him in case of sickness, or you give him the Sacrament or the Priesthood, or you preach the Gospel to him — what is this but performing a service?

    Now, when it comes to earthly power to perform a definite service, we call it the power of attorney in the case of acting legally for someone else, or the court and the judge where it is
    a question of acting for the government.

    But in the Church of Christ this authority to act for others is known as Priesthood.
    -Improvement Era, March, 1831, p.735

    1. The priesthood is meaningless. My dad had the priesthood but he was abusive. Will the ordinances he participated in save him? When he’s standing next to a good man who wasn’t baptized by “authority”, which one will have more favor with GOD.
      A Calvary Chapel pastor said it best: “Authority comes from the relationship with Jesus. It’s the relationship that matters.” If my dad had a real relationship with Jesus/God, he would have listened to the Spirit and not been so abusive. Rather, he tried to force his children into obedience through domination. Sort of like the Brethren. Don’t question, don’t honor your feelings, don’t ask too many questions, just submit to my priesthood authority. What a joke! There is no authority without a true relationship with divinity.

  49. Jonathan Clark Felt

    Thank you John Dehlin. You have restored my admiration in what you are doing. I’m sorry, but you’ve been on a negative jag for too long. This Dr Prince interview is another interview (in a long line of them formerly) that helps me process what is important. I can’t wait to read his priesthood book now. So, he’s your definite equal (a maybe even a bit superior in intellect based on long experience) which shows me you are a man of depth and integrity too for picking him. God bless you. “Good is as good does.” — Greg Prince.

  50. Thanks John and Dr. Greg for this session. Looking forward to the next installment….

    No doubt, we have many listeners here who are unhappy to hear what Dr. Greg had to say. Me too, I am not satisfied with his answers. Still, I will thank him for speaking and giving us a better picture of what’s it like on the other side. His position reminds me of the middle managers in the company I work with. They’ve got fire both on top and under. Dr. Greg’s got doubting members below who are just barely hanging on by their fingernails, waiting for honest answers to tough questions. Then there’s TBMs who must be sheltered and safely protected from discovering damaging truths. And then there’s the GAs on top who don’t want those truths to come out.

    What’s an apologist supposed to do? Whatever he says, there’s going to be members above and below who will never like what he’s saying, even on the friendly side.

    And just as I don’t get why anyone would want to be in middle management, neither do I get why anyone would want to be a Mormon apologist. For me, the motives are simply “not accessible” :-). However, the fact that we have Dr. Greg and others answering these issues is a sign that the problem needs to be fixed asap, and is just too big for the GAs themselves to handle. They simply don’t have the tools to fix it.

    Again, the problem exploded not because the GAs were sleeping at the controls. Rather, because they weren’t trained to assess the problem when it was still starting. It’s like having a guy monitor a pressure gauge who doesn’t know what or why there are such things as pressure gauges. Even if he looks at it all day, he will never know it when the boiler is already bursting. And if he doesn’t like what the gauge needle is telling him, he might be tempted to twist it so it points exactly where he wants it to be.

    This is why members feel betrayed. We’ve been all let down. This was supposed to be a church of contnuous revelation. When Joseph Smith needed someone to do something unpleasant, he could always count on angels with flaming swords to push him to push another person. These days it seems like even the angels have drawn back their flaming swords. They don’t threaten anymore, not even verbally. The only verbal threat we get is from Elder Ballard asking us where we will go, and what we will do. Nothing more. Not even a fork on hand. This is betrayal… BETRAYAL!

    Perhaps next time, no GA should be called unless he holds PhD in philosophy, history, and theology. And they should constantly write and publish articles and books on church doctrine and history, even if it doesn’t make money. If the Tanners can do it from their garage, so should they.

  51. It is obvious when the questions get uncomfortable and I hate to see someone answer questions with the reserve of what the consequences may be. He gave us a taste of what thinks but I do not feel that he fully, and openly gave us the answers he could have. Great progress will be made in religion when we can talk openly and dismiss error and embrace truth. We will see growth and progress at that point. It will be where science and religion will work together and truth with prevail.

  52. If I were in conversation with Dr. Prince, I would ask how the Book of Mormon and the Book of Abraham match the genre of Jewish Midrash, and how they differ.

    These would be among my questions:

    Can one find in this literature any pretense of a comprehensive history of a tribe of Israel, independent of the Torah? Or original historicized stories about Abraham, Moses, etc.?

    Do its authors ever attribute authorship to ancient prophets? In other words, do they ever explicitly and unambiguously claim they were translating words written “by the hand of” an ancient prophet?

    Does Jewish tradition make a clear distinction between the Torah and the Midrash in terms of their scriptural (or authoritative) status?

    Did any of the Midrash authors make explicit claims of divine revelation?

    Dr. Prince implicitly based his acceptance of Mormon scripture as Midrash – or not being historical – based on the insights of modern Biblical scholarship. What does this imply? For instance, does it place the locus of authority on that scholarship or simply oneself? If so, how does what follows not theological relativism, or, more generally, post-modernism. *

    Where does this line of interpretation end? For instance, since there is only a sliver of historicity about Jesus in all of Paul’s writings, and the NT Gospels were written decade(s) later, is there any reason not to treat these as Midrash?

    I think I remember Dr. Prince saying he believed in the literal resurrection of Jesus. If so, then on what basis? And why is this necessary to his faith? **

    It seems to me that any reasonable account for how Jesus’s resurrection could be pious fabrication is far more probable than its reality.*** For example, grief and cognitive dissonance could have caused Mary to hallucinate a risen Lord at the tomb entrance. Then, when she shared this with the other disciples, they too were primed to accept it, and enjoy their own “spiritual” experiences. Mutually affirming conversation then led to false memories that built up a sense-making narrative. Finally, the Gospel writers transformed their oral tradition into an elaborate pious pseudo-history. Joseph understood the power of pseudo-history in religion-making. And he had the audacity to push this precedent even farther, one-upping many Bible stories to even more miraculous proportions.

    In the absence of answers, I do not begrudge Dr. Prince for making Mormonism “work” for him – particularly in the sense of it preserving his valued kin and community relationships (at least to the extent that they are benevolent). I also think he would acknowledge that his method would not work more broadly, despite his claim that both believing and disaffected members are “missing the point.”


    * That is, “broad skepticism, subjectivism, or relativism; or a general suspicion of reason; and an acute sensitivity to the role of [personal] ideology in asserting and maintaining [one’s own personal preferences]? (see https://www.britannica.com/topic/postmodernism-philosophy)

    ** He claims that faith is not about literal belief.

    *** As reasonable as accepting other conclusions of modern Biblical scholarship.

  53. I listened a few times, and came away confused about what Greg really believes, It sounded, at points, equally confusing to John. One minute everything is metaphor and the point is the fruit. The next minute he believes in the first vision. He seems to attribute the best possible intentions, along with blind faith to everything Joseph said. His positions seems contradictory and more than once he was equally unwilling to concede what he believes.

    The story of his life seems like everything has lined up well for him and he was always able to step through the next doorway presented in front of him. He talks about doing important things and its fortunate for him that what was plopped in his lap was RSV.

    To attack the CES letter on the point of how it was written is an easy cop out for a scientist/intellectual to make. I could give a crap if he could craft a more eloquent letter, or sprinkle it with fifty dollar words that nobody understands. My interest would be in how he deals with all the content in the CES letter. Had Jeremy written the CES letter up to Greg’s standards, then he would probably turn around and say it was not accessible, like he believes Joseph was doing with God.

    By the way, Robert Brown’s comments relating the Kate Kelly exchange to domestic violence, were brilliant!!

    I appreciate your tenacity to try and get Greg to actually admit something John. I believe his unwillingness to do so on many fronts is a picture of why he still clings to a belief system that he likely intellectually dismantled a long time ago. Otherwise he would have made strong powerful statements of his belief and not turned to descriptions like metaphor and midrash. I believe Greg is comfortable, and it is much easier to stay in, than to upset the tea cart and let life get a little messy.

    1. I agree. Prince repeatedly contradicted himself and seemed utterly confused throughout this interview.

      John looks annoyed, as so he should. Prince is embarrassing in his underwhelming and contradictory responses.

      1. I didn’t think Prince contradicted himself at all or was confused. I think he was trying to delicately find language to express his views without a) damaging faith in those that are fine with literal views and b) the brethren, who might not appreciate it.

        I think he made it clear. Joseph had a powerful interaction with the divine. That’s it. No other details or context is available to us. Everything else, is a matter of him providing symbols to his believers to help them access that interaction.

        1. That’s not what is taught in the church. Your statements don’t represent the position of the LDS church or its doctrines.
          And my personal experience with the divine tells me that deceit and marrying children are contrary to a life of a disciple of Christ.

  54. I feel deeply about the behaviour of these so called voices of authority in this whole debate, both formally and informally appointed . Having listened to individuals like Mr Prince and other egos peddling interminable confusion on the circuit of nonsense it leaves me frustrated to say the least. This abstract construct as a concept of faith is so far removed from the reality of day to day lds members it renders no meaning or value whatsoever. It is also tantamount to intellectual snobbery where the condescending religious elite are given air time to prattle on from the pip-squeakery of life about matters so far removed from reality its mind boggling. Having thrown the towel in a year ago as a bishop in the UK where I experienced the church corporation in all its not-so-glorious attire I lament at the utter and woeful degrees of injustice levied by this organisation. The social cost to thousands of people is incalculable and the very idea that we can discuss matters of faith whilst standing in the shadows of the lds church’s disgraceful and embarrassing history is beyond the reaches of my sensibilities. The employment of language which ‘serves’ to shore up the faithful tbm position becomes acutely esoteric and holds little or no currency in the earshot or readership of day to day people. I would be fascinated in listening to the missionary discussions in this illusive gibberish. Just thinking in the context of someone in a UK city where the diversity of its occupants represent all corners of this wonderful planet. No wonder the poor young lads from US walk around like clueless sheep being told to push off at every encounter and frequently emerge as the butt of many jokes. No, they are not martyrs they are just misinformed, out of touch and victims of cultural entrenchment. They have nothing of value or relevance to say to people and what they do say that is relevant is absolutely not exclusive to the lds church. The foul doctrines and policies of this rightwing church would be of concern to many in my country in any reasoned debate both politically and legally, but because the church is so small and diminishing it is simply irrelevant , it does not even register in most public forums. But in reality lds dogma is simply another form of religious extremism which produces/encourages hate and division between cultures and races.
    Lds apologists are well versed in Doublethink I think George Orwell nails this issue well in 1984. I think the following passage (pge 242 of penguin classics edition) provides brilliant insight.
    “On the contrary, orthodoxy in the full sense demands a control over one’s own mental processes as complete as that of a contortionist over his body. Oceanic society rests ultimately on the belief that Big Brother is omnipotent and that the Party is infallible. But since in reality Big Brother is not omnipotent and the party is not infallible, there is need for an unwearying, moment-to-moment flexibility in the treatment of facts. The keyword here is BLACKWHITE. Like so many Newspeak words, this word has two mutually contradictory meanings. Applied to an opponent, it means the habit of impudently claiming that black is white, in contradiction of the plain facts. Applied to a Party member, it means a loyal willingness to say that black is white when Party discipline demands this. But it means also the ability to BELIEVE that black is white, and more, to KNOW that black is white, and to forget that one has ever believed the contrary. This demands a continuous alteration of the past, made possible by the system of thought which really embraces all the rest, and which is known in Newspeak as DOUBLETHINK”.

    Appalled in the UK

    1. What is it you are appalled about? Is it the ineptitude of the church in the UK, or is it Greg’s personal beliefs? Or is it because you see Greg as an apologist?

      I am asking out of genuine interest, as Greg’s personal views do not bother me, yet the other aspects of your post I am in complete agreement with. This summer, almost by chance I reread 1984 (I originally read it as teen over 20 years ago), after immersing myself in church history in the earlier months of this year, 1984 was the most damning piece of ‘anti mormon’ literature I have come across.

      I also am this side of the pond and I struggle to see what relevance the Church has in the UK. Once the church loses its literal position and becomes metaphorical, it can’t demand obedience – it is very much like the story of the minister who told his congregation that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego weren’t really in the fire but they were next to, in the vicinity or somewhere around the fire; the minister was told by one of his parishioners after the service he (the parishioner) wouldn’t be in church next week, he would be somewhere around and in the vicinity.

      So given the ubiquity of information that breaks the logical link of BOM, JS and the One True Church rhetoric; there are largely only social and altruistic reasons to attend. Well the church just aint fun enough (in fact it’s often bone crushingly dull), and it doesn’t do enough obvious good to qualify (and by good I don’t mean doing family history, going on teaches with the missionaries and sitting around with other saints patting ourselves on the back for being better than the evil world, or teaching each other that we need to wear long sleeves, write journals, and love everyone while being complicit in a homophobic and misogynistic institution, oh yeah and giving said institution 10% gross while paying off the janitors so we can roll up our sleeves and clean the restrooms ourselves [how the hell can the brethren not see that this is not a product that is going to sell?]).

      Converts won’t stick, young people won’t stay. This is fast becoming a church for the over 50’s who still buy into ‘traditional values’ and are content to listen to authority figures tell them that looking at anything without the church’s rights reserved stamp is evil.

      As much as I respect Greg’s opinion I should imagine for the average man in the street, or the average guy or girl in the pew who becomes exposed to LDS history, that a position similar to Greg’s is not possible or sustainable. I have no issue with Greg making mormonism work. My issue is with the institution not facing its demons, continuing to act with supreme arrogance, not working hard enough to be inclusive of all people, and sucking the resources out of its people in order to perpetuate a self-congladulatory sawdust factory.

      I hope my comments haven’t went too far off the beaten path.

  55. The beautiful irony that our long-abused “so-called scholars and intellectuals” are now called upon to explain the concept of “midrash” to the membership and thus save the Church from literalism and destruction in this the age of the Internet

  56. John,

    In these “neo-apologist” interviews, there is a certain angle that is consistently left out — what do I teach my kids?
    As a mother of 3 boys (12, 10, and 7 years old), I am straining to hold a nuanced view at a level they can understand when the Sunday to Sunday church/primary program rhetoric is black and white at their age level. How do I “stay in the church” and not have it become a Sunday to Sunday battle ground with the teachers and leaders that are feeding my children’s heads full of “un-nuanced thinking”?

    Can you please address how all of this un-orthodox Mormonism is supposed to work in reality for a mother/father of young children?
    I just don’t see how this line of thinking can fit in with good consistent parenting and regular church attendance.
    I would love to hear a podcast about how others are dealing with this. Or if it is even possible? I am frustrated when these great un-orthodox thinkers do not address the day to day aspect with those of us that must raise the next generation. We are encouraged to “stay in” — but what about our kids?

    My husband and I, personally, have had to take a break… otherwise, our Sunday afternoons were becoming a regular occasion of de-bunking what everyone learned in Primary today. Not healthy for anyone.

    Thank you for all you do.

    1. Nicole,

      I think you hit the nail on the head with your comment. If we discovered the truth, our kids will too. John, I’d love to see a podcast on this as well. How can the Church continue to tell our kids these things when they know the truth? Will they integrate Church Essays into Primary? Joseph translated the BoM by looking into a hat? The first question a child will ask will be, “What is the purpose of the golden plates then? Why did the angel Maroni come down to tell Joseph about golden plates? I’m confused….” The TRUTH in the Church Essays regarding the Book of Abraham is so buried at the bottom, their efforts regarding disclosure and honesty is pathetic. These kids will go through the same process…believe, mission, truth, anger. A podcast regarding children and our role as parents in this mess would be great!

    2. Nicole,

      Before I reply to your message, I wish to express gratitude to John and Greg for this podcast. I found the interview to be enlightening. I appreciate the comments showing the different ways this was received. It expands my understanding of all sides of this issue.

      I like your feedback, Nicole. I struggle like you with knowing how to teach the kids. Ours is a blended family of 12, with only 2 remaining at home. 3 of our adult children are no longer participating in organized religion and one son-in-law is going through a faith crisis after reading the CES letter.

      I am the one in our marriage struggling with belief and don’t make any moves to make permanent changes due to my employment (working for an arm of the church) and being so close to retirement age. (Those golden handcuffs, you know) My wife is understanding of where I am and is more supportive than many spouses are. I am a lucky man.

      My wife and I also team teach 14 year olds for Sunday School. I really struggle with some of the lessons. Some, I just hand off to my wife to teach when I just can’t teach it. Others, I go through an internal battle to make myself teach because I know that I can give the students the nuanced view they deserve and need. I work really hard to make certain I am true to myself. These students are still at an age where they have been sheltered and don’t question the church. (At least that we know of) Sometimes I play “devil’s advocate” (we need a new term for that, since we are trying to get to the truth) to get them to look at things differently. When we had a lesson in August on explaining the importance of marriage and the family and one of the first items was “Ask the youth if they have been asked to explain the Church’s position on same-sex marriage”, I went into a tail spin. I fought with myself about totally skipping this lesson, but felt that this is one lesson that I was supposed to teach. We began discussing this and I saw one girl’s face reflecting great stress. It could have been because one of her siblings is transgender. I talked about how we deal with the church’s position when we don’t necessarily agree with it. I spoke about the estimated percentage of people who are gay (citing about 4%) then equated it to a typical ward. (300 – 500 members equals 12 – 20 gays in an average ward) Then I equated it to their school. This made the statistics relatable. We talked about the fact that someone they likely know, or even someone in their family is attracted to someone of the same gender and how important it is to be sensitive to their position and not say hurtful things. That girl relaxed and by the time she left class, she was smiling. I imagine how she would have felt if she didn’t have someone who would challenge the hard line teachings of the church and was glad I took it on.

      This last Sunday in our teacher council, I heard another teacher talk about giving the students correct information. Based on some other comments he made, I could tell he is like minded and it gave me hope for the future of teaching in the church. I know that there are many who are still teaching dogma. More of us who stay need to be willing to teach so we can adapt the lessons in a way that our children will get accurate information. We need to attend the teacher councils (even if we are not currently teaching) and bring these concerns up so that those teaching truths and engaging the children to think are greater than those who are spouting the whitewashed history and guilt-inducing lessons.

      Nicole, I agree that a podcast would be helpful. I believe there are people who are much more experienced and knowledgeable that could give us better guidance. I envision John having a panel discussion on how to help our children get the right information from the time they enter the nursery without feeling like we are battling against the church on teachings.

      1. Jimbo,

        I agree a panel discussion on this topic sounds wonderful and is much needed!

        Also, I empathize with you in the uncomfortable position we are placed in when teaching certain lessons to the children at church.
        I was most recently in the Primary Presidency and happened to be in charge of Sharing Time for the entire month that was dedicated to The Proclamation on the Family. This was a real struggle for me. I found myself adjusting the lessons quite a bit, in order to square my words with my personal integrity. I also began to find many of the Primary songs distasteful and semi-propaganda-like. Also — is everyone aware that The Proclamation is now being taught and memorized as scripture in Primary? It was the Scripture of the Month for at least 3 months last year in the Sharing Time manual.
        The Proclamation will be scripture to the upcoming LDS generations.

  57. Dear John,
    I absolutely LOVE your podcasts.
    The one with Greg Prince I found distasteful- interesting , yet distasteful
    He was pompous, egotistical, and full of himself.
    I believe at least 50 percent of your audience is as intelligent as he thinks he is.
    I would like to see a panel of 3 of your listeners debate Mr. Prince and you, John, can be the moderator.
    Barbara Hunt

  58. Comments that Greg Prince is egotistical are ridiculous. John pointedly asked career questions and Greg answered honestly & fully. Where’s the egotism?

    1. Wow! Completely different perspectives when we both listened to the same podcast. I didn’t sense hubris at all. Indeed, I thought he was pretty unimpressed with his achievements, mostly crediting them to following the advice of a mentor or having some “fortune” or “chance” drop in his lap. He seemed very grateful for those opportunities and gave much of the credit to what he learned from others and the guidance/mentorship he received. I’m not sure what you were listening to but maybe I just missed it.

      Also, as the other commenter said, John was asking him detailed questions about his career!

  59. I appreciate Greg’s years of study and honesty in acknowledging the issues; especially when it comes to some of the “canned” answers we were given in our youth. All of that said, I kept wondering what Mormon splinter sect he was raised in; because it sure wasn’t the LDS version of Mormonism that my wife and I spent 46 years in. We recently left after discovering the lies and the the cover up of the lies. Now the whitewashing of the lies using disingenuous essays only confirm that we made the correct decision. We continue to marvel at apologists, historians, etc. who know all the damning evidence better than anyone, yet still manage to make the evidence fit their preconceived notion of what is true. If you preach a completely different history, doctrine, and gospel than what the LDS version of Mormonism is, you ain’t an LDS. Simple as that.

  60. Last Feb 2016, in a speech addressed to CES educators, Elder Ballard said:

    “In teaching your students and in responding to their questions, let me warn you not to pass along faith-promoting or unsubstantiated rumors or outdated understandings and explanations of our doctrine and practices from the past. It is always wise to make it a practice to study the words of the living prophets and apostles; keep updated on current Church issues, policies, and statements … and consult the works of recognized, thoughtful, and faithful LDS scholars to ensure you do not teach things that are untrue, out of date, or odd and quirky.


    His advice is generally understandable, until one arrives at the last sentence.

    Who decides which LDS scholar is “recognized, thoughtful, and faithful”? Are they the ones who determine which faith-promoting narratives are “untrue, out-of-date, odd, or quirky”?

    Do we no longer classify Mormon literalist-fundamentalists like Joseph F. Smith, Joseph Fielding Smith, and Bruce R. McConkie as faithful LDS scholars? These men lived nearer to the era of Joseph Smith. They had closer access to the faith stories of the first Mormons. They may not know the real score 100%, but they probably knew it at least 90% of the time. They also knew how incompatiblle Mormonism was with the progressive philosophies of their day, and sought to combat them.

    Many listeners here, while they appreciate the neo-Mormonism of Dr. Greg as a fresh approach to reinterpreting church doctrine and history, also admit that it’s a new thing. They do not recognize it as the religion they grew up with. Yet, have them read passages from the works of the three Mormon general authorities above, and they will recognize them as their own.

    Some of them have already voiced out the growing problem of teaching the Mormon faith to young children as well as the youth. It is a battle between conscience and duty. What typical Mormons know as Mormonism is not neo-Mormonism. And it is not something that will make sense to young people.

    Why? Because young people are not modernists. A modernist is a person who “does not believe what he believes.” He can openly profess belief in, let’s say, the First Vision but… it is not the First Vision as it was handed down by Joseph Smith to the first Mormons. Rather, it is a First Vision that’s been modernized through cutting edge “biblical criticism”, allegorized using “Jewish midrash,” and reinforced to support “sustainable Mormonism.”

    So when the facts say Joseph Smith translated the golden plates, he believes that Joseph truly did, but… the word “translated” does not mean translation in the normal sense. Joseph was not only producing a correct copy of an ancient source document, he was also correcting the source document itself.

    Or when the facts say that the Book of Mormon is an ancient record of the inhabitants of the American continent, he truly believes it but… only as a metaphor or symbol for something more profound. The allegorical meaning is to be preferred.

    Thus, when the typical Mormon stumbles and struggles with Mormonism’s historical facts, it’s because he doesn’t get the point. And the point is, the poor typical Mormon continues to hold on to “outdated understandings and explanations of our doctrine and practices from the past.” Therefore, he was run down and crushed by the inevitable march of Progress. It’s about time they modernize….

    Modernist theology is not designed to help young children grow and mature in faith. It is designed more probably to ease the nagging pangs of guilt eating the modernist.

    For more info, see “Liberal Christianity”

  61. I would like to hear Greg Prince’s opinion of someone from another religion arguing for the truthfulness of their theology using his same arguments. I don’t think he would find them making any sense and maybe looking in the mirror that way would help him understand why he makes no sense to any of us.

  62. Dr. Prince mentioned feelings of betrayal as a common cause for disaffection, and that these should not lead to a loss of faith, since that amounts to throwing the Gospel baby out with the obscurantist bath water drawn by “just so” fallible leaders.

    I interpreted my own anger as betrayal. But then, after seeing this obscurantism as the well-intentioned strategy of deluded leaders, I understood that it was just masking my deeper feelings of humiliation.

    I left Mormonism because I found it humiliating. I was the baby who needed climb out of, what had become for me, dirty bathwater.

    After all these years of silence, I still wonder if admitting my humiliation to my believing family members would be more damaging to our relationships than thrusting the CES letter in their faces. I’ve erred on the side of silence – on the evidence that it would backfire.

    Put another way, I just don’t trust that my motives are not selfish – or that my family’s best interests truly lie in that information coming from me.

    So, in my own way, I hide information; and so I can empathize with the Brethren.

    But there is a difference. I’m thankful that the Internet has made this information available to those who are ready to go looking for it, and even for those who stumble across it, assuming they can constructively deal with the humiliation.

  63. Thank you for taking the time to be interviewed Dr. Prince. It’s interesting that, based on my interpretation, that you do not really expect much if any positive outcome as a result of your behavior based faith, which I too believe and is a super realistic expectation. Of the few portions of talks I listened to at the most recent conference, I particularly noticed everyone one speaking had words to the effect that happiness only comes from living the church principles, and that it’s basically a life of despair unless you do so, a direct cause and effect of faith based behavior.

  64. Does this all lead an individual to receive a fullness of joy in the hereafter and give us salvation as to the plan of salvation, because if the book of Mormon is ‘nt literal and is just a help guide and all that’s been taught us about our eventual happiness in the three degrees of glory isn’t literal,
    then where does this leave us as to truth and knowledge of our literal salvation as has been literally taught since we were all growing up in the church, thanks again Jon for all your hard work

    1. Very good question Beth.

      Most of us are richly rewarded and appreciate a certain degree of inspired fiction, that is not “literal”, such as novels like Les Miserable (by Victor Hugo) or the Trilogy (by J.R.Tolkien) or The Adventures of Hukelberry Finn), as well as other great “man made” achievements in art, music, science and literature….but when religion or scripture is shown to be man-made…..well we know how that works out….just ponder all the different religions and variations of religions and churches…. that all propose the right way to live.

      This wondrous world has challenges, but offers so much joy for man, if we get out there and live, with a simple faith (if you require faith and hope for a “hereafter”), or if a non-believer, there is still so much in the here and now, and having great experiences with your loved ones along with teaching them good principles. I’m not saying to abandon religion, but seriously question religion that goes beyond so many limits of rational and honest soul searching, requiring self-deception, and fear, to maintain it.

  65. After reading comments on Johns Facebook I want to comment

    The bottom line is this— if someone knows the facts and the truth about the church—they know the lies and the deceit–the question is-if they are honest !!! they will admit it to others….
    If they are authentic…..they will not
    Pretend it is true!
    But if a person is Outspoken about this information they will be rejected—

    It’s a painful choice —-be authentic and true to yourself and be rejected —or lie and hide what you really believe to be accepted by members of the church.
    it’s plain and simple
    I don’t think I’m judging but I am stating a fact –that people are not authentic if they pretend to be something or believe something

    I must admit it is especially hard for me to respect those in leadership positions who pretend –pretend to be something they’re not, in order to be socially accepted
    What is it worth to be truly authentic?
    What will a person sacrifice to be socially accepted?

  66. It’s a painful choice —-be authentic and true to yourself and be rejected —or hide what you really believe to be accepted by members
    What is it worth to be truly authentic?
    What will a person sacrifice to be socially accepted

  67. I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. (Revelation 3:15,16)

  68. Last one …

    It strikes me as ironic that FAITH-promoting Mormon history always omits or distorts the facts precisely in the direction of making it appear more REASONable.

    On the other hand, Dr. Prince’s approach accepts all the historical facts, but dispenses with the reason, in as much as he uses them as mere metaphorical supports for an arbitrary theological construct. I’m not sure whether he is bringing faith and reason into better balance or running them on different tracks. Is his a more rational faith? Or just a less irrational faith?

    But I’ll grant that Dr. Prince’s approach is guided by the reasonable goal of enhancing and sustaining a community devoted to compassionate service, as he mentioned. And I suppose that promoting a milder strain of theism may be the best strategy for a person who wants to remain a member of his religious community. Or, it might be the only strategy for a person whose intellectual pruning of its implausibilities left a still small voice intact.

    1. Jay the Nevermo

      Nice perspective.

      And could it be that Prince is knowingly opening the exit door to the mormon church and propping it open for members to leave?

      Prince does criticize the mormon church in the interview a great deal. I think the only thing that keeps members from dismissing his criticism as anti-mormon is his periodic embrace of some metaphorical truth. If I didn’t know better, I’d wonder if he was purposefully exposing the truth in a gentle way.

  69. Just finished all three episodes. I’m fascinated and thankful for this forum. I am sooooooo unsettled with so many thoughts. Here is one:

    I can’t stand it when people say the church–gospel, doctrine, scriptures…whatever–is true but the leaders/members are only imperfect humans and that is whey it is ….

    Is this Greg’s ultimate answer? Members are lazy? Members need to own/live their religion? Then we would all be able to see things as he does? As if this is some simple answer to all of the complexities and contradictions that we are all wrestling with.

    I’ve come to believe the exact opposite of the above statement. The church is @#!$% crazy, but the members are incredible people who are doing everything they can to keep it going. I don’t know why we do it, but we do.

    Greg is an example of an incredible person trying to reconcile @3%$! crazy.

  70. I got the idea that Greg was skating around the subject when John tried to pin him down on specific subjects like his belief in the first vision, historicity of the BOM, the Book of Abraham and other subjects because he didn’t want the church to come after him. I was hoping to get some real concrete answers to how I can stay in the church and still live with my conscience and dignity. I was very disappointed in this interview. You tried John… not your fault.

  71. Emma,

    Truth and charity (aka, Love) go hand in hand. You cannot love truly without the truth. “Charity rejoiceth in the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:6).

    Now, to present something as true when you know that it is blatantly false, well, there’s no true love there. That’s called iniquity. “Charity does not rejoice in iniquity”. To persist in a falsehood is really an offense against charity/ love. This is exactly why we feel betrayed upon realizing that the truth was denied to us. It really boils down to an utterly shameless absence of love from those in Church who knew the ugly truth but concealed it from us.

    The close relationship between truth and love is something not fully understood by the LDS church. That’s why now, it is paying a terrible price for not comprehending it. The roots of the problem go all the way to Joseph Smith whose dark secrets, long witheld from ordinary members, are now being revealed. Had he disciplned and mortified his passions then he need not hide anything. Had he reined in his lust for wealth, fame, or power, none of these problems would have cropped up.

    Joseph Smith tried to correct the defects of Christianity without trying to correct his own defects. He is in the same league as Martin Luther, the Protestant Reformer who didn’t reform himself. They never denied themselves to their lusts and passions. By their fruits ye shall know them. Both helped produce endless divisions within Christianity. Both were agents of confusion and disunity. Both made it more difficult to love another Christian. That is their fruits.

    Compare that with those of St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226) or St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582), whose lives were marked by strict discipline, virtue, and holiness. These saints succeeded in reforming the Church without fragmenting it into separate conflicting sects. True reform preserves and strengthens the bond of love. And that is never possible without first submitting one’s will, the passions and lusts of the flesh, to God.

    God is Love (1 John 4:8). The three Persons in the Holy Trinity love each other so intensely that they can only be called “One God”. And this One God wants us to love Him and be one with Him. He wants our communion. This was the death wish of Jesus:

    “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be ONE; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be ONE in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” (John 17:20-21)

    “That the world may BELIEVE THAT THOU HAST SENT ME.” This is exactly why fewer and fewer people find it difficult to believe Jesus and his gospel. The deep divisions of Christianity is a horrible offense against the bond of love and the One God. As long as Christians hold to conflicting beliefs, true Christian love cannot be fulfilled. Non-Christians will see them as hypocrites.

    Knowing the closeness of truth and love, what then needs to be done? Come to Jesus, because Jesus is the Truth. And anyone who wants to follow Jesus must deny himself and pick up his cross (Matthew 16:24). St. Francis of Assisi denied himself and picked up his cross. Three hundred years later, that formula never changed, St. Teresa of Avila would follow it. All Catholic saints before and after them followed it. It’s the only formula that preserves truth and love in the Church for 2,000 years.

    Once you deny yourself and pick up your cross, all the other worldly concerns like social acceptance start to look really petty. Social acceptance was something impossible to think about as Jesus was hanging naked all bloody on his cross. In fact, he was nailed there precisely because he was not socially acceptable.

    By sundown on Good Friday, all that really mattered was that he loved us first. This was the truth Pilate asked for but will never understand.

    The cross is a bridge to a Love that calls and patiently waits for all of us….

  72. There is no cure for RSV.

    There are no effective antiviral medications for RSV. Infants who are hospitalized with RSV are treated with supportive care such as supplemental oxygen, suctioning of nasoparangeal secretions, and supplemental IV fluids. There is also no vaccine for RSV as there is for polio or mumps.

    Synagis/Paivizumab is a monoclonal antibody that is used to prevent children at high risk from RSV, such has premature infants and infants with chronic lung disease and severe congenital heart disease, from contracting it. Because scientists have not figured out how to get individuals to make effective antibodies against RSV in response to a vaccine, a pharmaceutical company manufactures antibodies that are given to high risk infants.

  73. My wife and I some 14 years ago , just a few years into our marriage, (and no kids yet) had the opportunity to vacation with family members Al and Juleen Jackson and their kids in North Carolina. One afternoon we spent many hours with the Jackson’s friend Jolynn Prince and her kids. Jolynn, I recall, was about as accommodating and kind and gracious as a person could be… Amongst other things we did in their company we had an enjoyable time waterskiing in their backyard in the marina. My wife particularly enjoyed sharing a large innertube ride with Madison. Little fella was fearless! :) Greg, I remember your wife telling me that you were in Salt Lake doing research and interviews for a book you’re writing. Brother Prince, I enjoyed much of what you’ve shared in your interviews with John. So much I positively would like to share in response to things you said. but I will say this –we do from my observation to an unsettling degree live below our blessings and potential within the restored gospel. In this tug and pull “fallen existence” that we inhabit, I have a firm witness as sure as the sun comes up in the morning and goes down in the evening that Satan and God exist.

    John, if you would please allow me I would like to share my witness in the beginning stages of my conversion to Christ and how I know that God and his Son and the Holy Ghost exist? :)

    My parents divorced when I was 10– resulting with my Father choosing to be absent from our lives. Regrettably, I chose to use my agency poorly in my teen years. Tragically, mom was diagnosed with a terminal cancer when I was 14. She was told that with chemotherapy and radiation she could possibly live 8 months. She explained to the doctor that she had faith she would live long enough to see her last children off. Very shortly after this, she was given a priesthood blessing that told her as much. Miraculously, her bone cancer multiple myeloma, went into remission. My sweet angel mother was about as perfect as mom (Child of God) could be. She was a fervent/faithfull follower of Jesus in word and deed. There was no duplicity in her; truly, this elect woman was without guile and was wonderfully filled with and emanated the pure love of Christ. Miracles too, were ubiquitous for this saintly woman.

    So many over cast times in my life I would be healed mentally, emotionally, and lifted spiritually just being in her righteous presence. I will never forget a time in my life when I was 16 watching “Geraldo” (a tv talk show) downstairs in my room. The theme of the show that day was: people who were abducted by aliens and returned. Sounds so comical now, but, at that time of my life– it created a faith crisis. Geraldo’s guests were most convincing. As the show progressed, I became increasingly convinced these folks –had– been abducted. Panic filled my heart. The thoughts that raced through my mind were “how could the church be true– why would God allow these things to take place–Alien abductions were not supposed to be apart of the Plan of Salvation”!?

    I knew I had to speak to the resident- spiritual authority in my home. Hollering to see if my mom was upstairs– She replied that she was. I wanted at some point in my life to embrace the faith that my mother so beautifully reflected. I knew that my lifestyle was practically void of the happiness and serenity she had in abundance. I was feeling very forlorn as I walked up those stairs. I most assuredly hoped, but was not so convinced, that she could pour healing oil on my troubled waters. When she saw me, she asked sweetly what she could do for me. I observed that she was sitting in her favorite dimpled leather chair reading her oh-so-loved-scriptures. Upon being in my mother’s presence I was immediately filled with incredible peace and joy. All feelings of emotional pain, anxiety, and confusion were completely taken from me. So thorough was this cleansing– that I didn’t even ask my mother a single question. Astonished by this beautiful and immediate result– I simply told her “oh nothing” turned around and went back downstairs.

    Though I had this profound experience, numbskull me, Still chose to live a life That was unbecoming of a Latter day Saint. The 19th year in my life was approaching fast. I was settling in on the idea that a mission was going to be a part of my future. This was a strong wish and desire of my mothers. My mission call came. The day came for me to leave to the MTC. My angel mother passed that morning. My twin sister had already left the home. Departing to the MTC that morning, I was the last of her 9 children to leave. The power of this righteous woman’s faith, and the power / efficacy of the priesthood blessing she received– resulted in her righteous desire and wish being fulfilled –to the day–

    At first, the Lord’s mission I was called to serve to was a difficult struggle. President Ezra T Benson talked about having a vision seeing an army of missionaries that could “match the message,” this–I was not. Growing spiritually during my formative by my choice was largely wasted. The lead surgeon in the county that we labored in — my first area– Invited us over to teach a friend. Introducing my companion and I– he explained in glowing details what a great missionary my trainer was. He explained with an unenthused tone that “Elder Beesley meant well as a missionary but was not quite up to speed.”

    I was devastated. No doubt he was right. As we entered our apartment that night, I asked to be alone in the bedroom. Pouring my heart and soul out to Father in Heaven– I cried and cried asking forgiveness for not being prepared and pleading for help. That first area I nearly read the Book of Mormon 3 times. A miracle occurred. Nothing short of the Red Sea parting. Not only did the gospel make crystal clear sense, but my intellect (by my standards) soared! I went from an unorganized somewhat unkempt fella– all the sudden I felt to be organized and precise in my actions. So much fog lifted– my mind was expanded and made much more clear. My previous swollen twisted tongue shrunk to size and was “loosed” I truly was going through a glorious- spiritual rebirth. The last fast and testimony meeting before I was transferred to a new area this lead-surgeon member stood to bear his testimony. He stated that amongst other things helping him to know that the church is true– he testified that another feather in his cap of testimony was seeing a miracle with the transformation of Elder Beesley. He rightly knew that I was a lowly way behind the curve missionary when I first entered the mission field. He also knew that nothing short Of God’s tender mercy and miraculous help could have done for me what had occurred and was occurring.

    I know unquestionably, nothing unlocked this door for me so profoundly as did the study of the Book of Mormon. Father in Heaven and my Savior Jesus Christ became so wonderfully real and close to me. I can honestly say that I read a total of 6 books in 19 years of living. The majority of those in the fourth grade. I gave little to no energy in my studies from junior high to high school. Suddenly, to study the Book of Mormon, a book littered with thee thou and thines etc –for it! to come alive! Wonder of wonders…

    Studying the gospel, particuarly reading the Book of Mormon, I became infused with the Spirit of God. I truly became a “New Creature in Christ” (2Corinthians 5:17) born of god, having received a mighty change of heart! I do not know how many times I read The Book of Mormon on the Lord’s mission. I do know that it was approaching somewhere around 15 times. I read certain books with in the Book of Mormon a hundred times and more. I love the book of Alma. :) Joy and anticipation came arising in the morning to read the Book of Mormon. I could not wait to come home for lunch to read the Book of Mormon. I truly hungered and thirsted for the glorious affects that came into my life reading the great “Stick of Joseph” (Ezekiel37:19)

    When you are near SPIRITUALY–blind, lame, deaf, and dumb and you discover sooner than later your relationship with deity/God and Jesus becoming so real and sacred for you–and you are suddenly given beautiful gifts and your known talents heightened–beautiful spiritual vistas are opened up to you–the voice of the Lord (via the Holy Ghost that blessed “Comforter” (John 14:26,27) is heard and obeyed–when great clarity of thought and speech increase and all of this from these fruits given through sincere study and application and prayer from reading a book! Incredible! What amazing love and appreciation fills your whole being…I always knew my mother “knew it” she truly was a mother “who knew” (Alma 56:47,48) I testify that to become a person “who knows” the expedited path is the path that leads you to the unending feast, even the great spiritual banquet –which is– the BOOK of MORMON–book of all BOOKS!

    Sent from my iPhone

    1. Not to belittle your position JB, it works for you and I suppose that is what matters. But from my position and perspective you are in a state of denial, living a fairy tale existence because it makes you comfortable and above [or at least ahead] of the masses. Fine, but I am unable [in good conscience] to join you. Have a good life!

      1. God bless all who find Christ. Whether one is in the restoration camp or not there is power and efficacy to having growing relationship with our Redeemer. Thanks for the well wishes to have a good life! I wish the same for you.

    2. Do you acknowledge the inspirational feelings, and views of what is “truth” that is experienced by millions of God’s children of different faiths and scriptures? What powerful “spirit” drives their convictions and good works? What “spirit” inspires great artists and composers or the inspiration for great scientific discoveries?

      The word “truth” is highly miss-used in the realm of religion. “Believers” should remember, that it is Faith that is the First Principle of the Gospel. Even the 13 articles of Faith state that “We Believe”. Some humility is in order. Even scientists show hope and faith in the discovery of truth, and when their views are proven wrong by other scientists, they have the humility to celebrate a different “truth”, rather than dig in and defend something that is no longer defensible, in the views of so many past members, not to mention other religions, and non-believers, who love life just and experience just as much or more “joy”, than many of the Mormon Faith or other religions.

      1. Great questions and concerns. I celebrate any and all who live lives that reflect morals of righteousness. There is life sustaining and benefiting TRUTH, everywhere! Those who have conviction to follow such truth and reap positive fruit as a result, beautiful! Beyond debate points to substantiate my convictions that I could offer you here on this forum– I would instead please direct you to a quick read / welcoming book “Journey to the veil” by John Pontious. Give it a chance…

        1. JB,

          Thanks for your response and clarification. On the “big picture”, we are in agreement, concerning moral living and the various forms of inspiration in life….basically the admonitions found in the 13th Article of Faith.

          I imagine, that the general experience spoken of in Journey to the Veil, have been with man since recorded history and beyond. Philosophers and religious thinkers have filled book store shelves with these thoughts. The book Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl, a non-Mormon author, covers this subject quite well. For the LDS, the Book of Mormon, covers “the fullness” of these ideas, and it’s “author and proprietor” stated that “A man can get closer to God by reading the Book of Mormon, than any other book”. I’m not sure reading another book of inspiration is necessary for me….but I will consider it. I don’t mind the recycling of inspirational thoughts and experiences, as long as these efforts really do inspire people to action and “life before death”.

          “Purer Religion”, the Golden Rule, and the good basic principles of Christianity do inspire, and can be “an anchor to the souls of men” (a scripture in the Book of Mormon….and oh yes, also in the Bible) . The problem is that man really knows how to mess up simple principles…. add extra rules and man made policies, embellish, “guild the lily”, push revelation that years later is abandoned, teach “half truths” (with good intentions)….on and on.

          For example, how many good people have had their lives ruined or suffered great emotional pain needlessly, creating broken families and discord, due to “revealed” truth, that is not longer “truth”? Need I list all those revelations and policies that we have abandoned? I won’t, because you know. I am certain more changes will occur, perhaps not in our lifetime, but I can only hope that for those still in the church and out, that LDS weddings will one day, take place with entire families and loved ones together (in this life, not just the next) witnessing and sharing the love and joy of the happiest day in a couples life!

          Keep up doing your best….

  74. I’d like to hear Dr. Prince answer “Yes” or “No” to the following statement: “I know the church is true”

    “I know this church is true” … isn’t that the most common testimony that comes out of the mouths of missionaries and members? I wonder what he would say. . .

    To answer yes or to bear that testimony automatically implies a kind of superiority. Didn’t Jesus teach against that kind of religious division and self-righteousness? JESUS is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

    If I’m a Mormon, I’m focused on the brethren, Joseph Smith and myself becoming a God some day.

    1. Randy, there is a big difference between being a Mormon / member and an actual Saint. Sadly, not enough find and obtain- though it is in plain sight and readily accessible to obtain… The Book of Mormon is a prize jewel in understanding and helping to obtain the “transcendent” / converted life / becoming a Saint / born of God etc. It has every thing to do with Christ first and foremost…. Read Mosiah chapters 1-5 for clarity.

      1. There is also a big difference in what you think is a “prized jewel” in regard to the “transcendent” and what others find inspiring, or lead people to Christ and Christ like living.

        For some it is music, art, nature, or other “holy books” and even books of fiction. Some may find great joy in simply living the Golden Rule and living the 13th Article of Faith, which is a combination of all of the above.

      2. JB,
        I want to be respectful because your post was very heartfelt and truly an amazing story. I’m sorry for the passing of your mother, she sounded like a wonderful person. However, Randy has a very good point that you seem to ignore, just like Dr Prince did with his hard questions. There is a big difference from being a Mormon and an actual Saint. Many people are Saints (believers of Jesus) and not Mormon. The question Randy was asking is very clear- Is the BoM true? I think any person that has done any REAL research into the history of the Church knows it is NOT true. The Church has many, many amazing people in it and does great community work but the actual BoM was not translated by a “Prophet of God”. The Book of Mormon cannot be a “prized jewel” when the whole foundation of the book is not truthful. It is a very complex book made up by a very smart and creative man, not a prophet of God. Therefore it is not true.

  75. I’ve just got to add my thoughts after reading through so many of the comments and having joined the complainers. I think Dr. Prince has a healthy way of making Mormonism work. That is the key. He’s making it work. He is a solution finder and a believer. Even if it doesn’t all make sense to everyone else, he is making it work in a reasonable way. It isn’t perfect but it isn’t deeply flawed.
    There are too many people who just complain and critique to the point of disbelief. I’d rather sit with people who have found a way to make it work that sit with complainers and doubters.
    If Mormonism doesn’t work for you, find something that does. But don’t expect everyone to agree with you. That’s the thing about a spiritual life. . . it isn’t an exact science. And there are no absolutes. Be a believer. Not a doubter. Find solutions. Don’t be a complainer.

    1. David Macfarlane

      You bring up an interesting point, Randy–one that I’ve weighed many times. I think that I am no longer Mormon because I choose not to be. It’s as simple as that. Greg Prince is still Mormon because he chooses to be. Perhaps you’re the same. I don’t think being a member of a religion is much more than choosing a path that makes you happy and fulfills you. There’s nothing wrong with that.

      So, have I critiqued to the point of disbelief? Indeed, I have, and the church has not stood up well to that critique, in my opinion. I could choose to believe anyway, and I could construct some elaborate alternative belief system that enables me to stay, but I can’t see the point of doing that when that construct would be diametrically opposed to what the church has already told me is the truth. I was told about a literal history, literal interactions between JS and deity, literal trans-oceanic voyages, literal gold plates and literal American Indian ancestors. The way I learned Mormonism, there are absolutes; it is often presented as almost an exact science.

      We will have to part ways on your characterization–and I don’t think this is being uncharitable–as this being a matter of belief and finding solutions versus doubt and negativity. I feel like I’ve judged the church by the standards they set for themselves, not some arbitrary litany of complaints I cut out of whole cloth. How is that unfair? We agree that a spiritual life is not an exact science, but I think that any kind of embrace of ambiguity by organizational leadership would naturally manifest as some flexibility in policy and treatment of members. I don’t see the LGBTQ policy or the recent spate of excommunications as flexible or understanding.

      I have to ask, what would be the result of all members adopting Greg Prince’s studied, confident, comfortable-with-uncertainty approach to the religion he was raised in? We can leave aside the fact that the overwhelming majority of members probably don’t have the time or inclination to follow his path. But what if they did? I think we’d end up with a much less literal organization in which the current respect–arguably obeisance–toward authority would be greatly diminished, with other repercussions as well.

      I both like and respect Greg Prince, the Givens, Dan Wotherspoon, etc., but it can’t be ignored that the approach they’ve both cultivated and promote is clearly outside church canon. How that’s tolerable among the brethren and explicable to the orthodox core remains to be seen. In terms of adding new members in the developed world and retaining existing members–what has to be the core concern for leaders from an efficacy perspective–I expect it will get worse before it gets better. There will have to be solutions, yes, but I seriously doubt “stop complaining” will be among them.

      1. Frank, be frank

        I can certainly agree, support, even admire your honest approach and good sense, far more readily than either Randy’s or Dr. Prince’s. I must disagree with Randy’s observation that Dr.Prince has found a healthy way to make Mormonism work…to me he has found an unhealthy way to make it work!
        Having said all that, though I much disagee with both the methods and the conclusions of the two of them, never-the-less I fully support their right to approach this problem any way they see fit.

        1. I guess I need to clarify what I mean by not complaining and finding solutions. The big thing I want to avoid is negative criticism against the church like “It was all based on a lie”. Everything I was taught was deception. When I do that, it puts a gray cloud around the beautiful memories I have that were created in the presence of the Spirit. It’s kind of like when I look back at the Christmas morning I got a race track from Santa Claus. If I went online and said stuff like “It’s all based in a lie” it would change the memory and what would be left? Just a bunch of disappointment. I don’t go to church anymore because frankly I don’t believe in Sitting still and quietly knodding my head in agreement in Sunday school and priesthood.
          I believe in keeping my good memories and the positive stuff as they are without changing their goodness with negativity. Solutions I’m talking about for me are yoga, quiet reflection, poetry, some Bible reading (sifting through the BS), music, surfing, cycling, and praying.

          1. Frank, be frank

            While I think I understand where you are coming from, and respect your right to do so, I must state that I must take a different approach. I too have many good, fond memories of various church activities, friends, experiences, outings, etc., etc., etc.. While I am willing to discuss those with anyone interested, and at any time admit to them , I also believe in a very honest, direct approach to other aspects of the church and my experiences with them. I do not attempt to blend the two together, but rather to admit to the merits of, or negative aspects of each. I do not feel I throw the baby out with the bathwater, but I certainly do discard the bathwater! I feel this is basically the approach David Macfarlane takes and why I agree with him so often.
            So far as Dr. Prince is concerned, while I do not in any way question his goodness nor good intent, to me he beats around the bush, never givesing a definitive answer to much of anything. For example, I don’t know if he really believes the church is true [is what it claims to be] or not. If someone asked me what I thoughtof Joseph’s first vision for example, I would state that I think he probably went into the woods to pray, did so, fell asleep had a dream, then later in life when he recalled that dream, he gave various accounts of it to various individuals based on the situation at the time. First vision problem solved…he had a subjective not an objective experience! I feel the same probably applied to the Nephi [later Moroni] event [vbisitation] as well. Can I state this is what happened as fact? Of course not, but no one would have to wonder what I really felt about it. Hope you get my point, and thanks for commenting!

  76. I listened to the interviews with Greg Prince this weekend on a long road trip and enjoyed the discussion up until the third section, at which point I became very irritated with Dr. Prince. Thank you for your efforts, John.

    I see Greg Prince as a person for whom the Church works. Doors open, appointments land in his lap, his career takes off, and aside from his difficulty with his autistic son (my deepest sympathies on this point), he leads a golden and charmed life as so many men in the LDS Church manage to do, without the least little hiccup or misstep. He even finds a way to remain a faithful member and be able to reconcile his scientific beliefs with LDS doctrine without being shunned or excommunicated. Good for him.

    So how come I never had any of the same options available to me? Was it because I grew up female in the 1980’s in a very conservative Southern Idaho town? I had to leave the Church to be able to reach much the same allegorical and pragmatic view of liberal Christianity, after many years of soul-searching and casting around for a comfortable church home. I had to make many career mistakes and detours before hitting my stride professionally in my late 40’s.

    Because I can definitively state that, to my knowledge, there is no place in the LDS Church for someone like me – a well-read, open-minded, idiosyncratic, politically and religiously liberal woman. (who likes to drink coffee and wine, listen to rock music and watch and read whatever movies and books I damn well please. )

    There was no place for me growing up in the fundamentalist Bruce R. McConkie regime of the 1980’s, nor at BYU, nor as a single mother. The Church essentially looked me over, found me unworthy and spat me out, without a single second thought. I was never excommunicated, I just walked away with my children and never went back.

    I would challenge Dr. Prince to explain, given his privilege and prestige in the Church, exactly what good the LDS Church has to offer me and people like me. Because as far as I can tell, the only reason I was ever in the Church, to “bail out,” was because of some English and Scandinavian immigrants who had a religious and economic conversion that involved moving to Utah in the late 1800’s.

    No one ever offered me a choice in the matter, so I took matters into my own hands, figured out my own beliefs and morals and am a much, much happier person for having rejected the oppressive and puritanical morality of a backwards-looking, reactionary organization.

    There are so many things wrong with the Church – its faulty truth claims, its numbing conformity, its lopsided patriarchy. If anything good is to be found, I would say it is because of the members and in spite of the Organization.

    So good on you, Prince, but spare me the lofty mental gymnastics. Talk to actual former Mormons and develop some empathy.

    1. Frank, be frank

      Well stated Tammy! Interesting that you pointed out episode 3 [as I did] as being the point where you especially had difficulty with the Prince position. From my perspective, you did well with your analysis of his “mental gymnastics” [your term]!

  77. As someone who still goes to church I think the church must change the story and become more christlike in doing so, if not most active members will start thinking the church is just a social network of good people and stay for the personal fullfillment of heathly living, just like going to the gymn everyday. nothing more. I will say having known people who work at church headquarters its a corporate giant that will never go away so those of you that think it will are wrong. Its here to stay. I plan on staying but with a freed sense of being independent and I will teach my kids the same.

  78. Hi. I’m interested in reviewing some of Greg’s comments in text. Are there transcripts available from the interview?

  79. I love MormonStories – I love the way John has had such a variety of people on the show. I was really looking forward to hearing these 3 shows with Greg Prince. I wanted to be able to tell my LDS friends that they could watch this show and see that he respects and understands those that leave.
    I am sincerely grateful for his research in the medical field. I thought he might be smart enough to say something to my LDS friends to let them know it is OK that I don’t want to come back to the “fold” but I still want them as friends. I didn’t hear that.
    I did hear – through the mumble jumble that he thinks a community is important – being there with friends and family is important and in my opinion that is why he stays – he knows all the history – so why else would he stay. Wonder how many yawns he has during church services! And by the way – there are plenty of WONDERFUL communities for ex-mormon’s to be a part of.

  80. Dr. Prince seems like a wonderful person and talented seeker of truth. However, I think he has made the mistake of conceding too much, just as the church historians who have over the years conceded now genetically disproven claims to offspring of Jospeh Smith through plural marriages.

  81. Looking to have a mormon historian work with my group on a magazine we are putting together called Sub Rosa. The goal is to inform ppl on topics that are not relected accurately in mainstream media/sensibility.

    One of our founders is a mormon and a few years back brought me to the attention of John Dehlin, as well as the American experience documentary.

    Anyway, we’d love to affiliate our magazine with the principles of the mormon church.

    We are located in Chicago, Illinois.

    I look forward to hearing back


    FM Perotta

  82. Nice job at this interview John. I am more than confused with this gentleman’s thought processes. He is obviously well read and has an eclectic understanding of many theological understandings, but seems to be unable to connect the dots that are simple to understand. There seems to be a motive to obfuscate the natural thought process …or there is a convoluted mind manipulation that I am unable to process. The tenor is solipsistic.

  83. I’m seeing this topic years later, but I can’t keep from addressing the many comments who castigated prog-Mormon intellectuals such as Dr. Prince, especially historians, for “too many gymnastics” etc. I’m a Ph.D. historian also, and I take much the same view as he, the Bushmans, and Dan Wotherspoon do. There’s a reason we humanists often fall into this category: our graduate training and ongoing work forces us to confront a level of truth-claim ambiguity that is simply not present in most peoples’ lives, and we confront it on a daily basis. It’s hard to actually do significant work in documentary archives (in any area–my area is early modern England) with all their very human messiness and unreliability, and then look at Church history as a black-or-white issue. Once you’ve seen into the abyss, you just can’t muster the kind of righteous indignation I’m seeing in most of the comments here. You come to realize that neat and tidy narratives are never correct–and that includes not just “the Church is the only true and living organization approved by God on the face of the earth”, but also “the Church is nothing but a tissue of lies run by liars”. As professionals in this business, we probe, we analyze, we assess from every possible angle, because only then can we arrive at the best approximation of truth. And it will always be little-“t” truth; in history, there’s no such animal as the final, authoritative last word about anything. In this endeavor, there is just as much room for the nuanced believer as for the unbeliever. For example, in an annotated bibliography of American religious history, Patrick Allit of Emory University, who is either agnostic or pure atheist (I’m not sure which, but he was raised Anglican and is certainly not that anymore) praises Richard Bushman’s early book _Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism_ (or something like that) for making a genuinely good historical case for the angel Moroni. If a nonbelieving scholar of Allit’s stature can say that, it behooves the folks making these comments to have a bit more humility. I know that the pain from the church’s own neat and tidy narrative can run deep, and the persistence of that narrative does frustrate me a great deal. But as Margaret Young once said on another of these podcasts (either here or Mormon Matters), what do you expect from an institution? As Max Weber taught us, that’s the very nature of large institutions with big bureaucracies. It’s naive to expect anything else. That doesn’t mean we don’t press for change, of course. Just be honest about the nature of the beast–it doesn’t suddenly cease being that type of beast and pooping that type of poop even if God is the one walking the dog. Dogs require tedious training and there are frequent screwups and messes inside on the carpet along the way.

    I don’t agree with everything Dr. Prince said; I am a good deal more troubled by the dog’s messes–the mistakes made, the coverups, and the harm done by church policy in a number of ways. I could never and would never subject myself to a job at BYU (shudder ** cringe). But one of my areas of secondary specialization is the philosophy of history, and in my hopefully at least somewhat professional opinion, Prince’s general approach is epistemologically sound. If you want to live in a more black-and-white world, well, that’s your choice. But know that it is a CHOICE. In an objective sense, it is not capital-T Truth.

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