A very dear friend (who happens to still value his membership in the LDS Church) is being threatened with a stake disciplinary council for holding a regional Mormon Stories conference, and for his involvement in his regional MS Facebook community. Consequently, we’re gathering testimonials from people who feel like their local Mormon Stories Facebook community and/or regional conferences have helped them stay active in the LDS Church.
If you have a quick “testimony” or story to share with this good brother’s stake president, please comment below. Also, if you have time and are willing/able to cull this link for past testimonies shared that could be helpful here, please feel free to help out. In a day or two we’ll compile them all and send them on to his stake president…hopefully in time to prevent an unfortunate decision for our friend.
To be clear — the goal here is to help this good brother and friend retain his membership.
Thanks in advance.
John and the Open Stories Foundation Board
(Note: For the record, Mormon Stores does not have an explicit goal of leading people in or out of the church, but instead to support people in their LDS-reltaed journeys/transitions, wherever they may end up. For more on Mormon Stories’ shared values statement, click here.)
Mormons generally engage in toouch conversation about themselves. LDSers take ethno-centrism to a new level while placing too much focus on SLC and the pioneer trek west. Sadly, they marginalized the trials of others.
It hasn’t. It has only confirmed the decision to leave the Church long ago.
This is a simple reason-but it helped me realize that there are other Mormons out there that have questions too. Living in Provo, it feels like everyone here is just a simple-minded blind follower. It’s nice to have deep intellectual conversations about gospel doctrine.
Mormon Stories and its local communities have helped me understand that there are others within the church who have similar doubts and concerns. By interacting with eachother I think we’re all finding ways to stay active in the church and still be true to ourselves. I persoanlly feel that MS is an invaluable resource for all members who wish to take advantage of it. Just to know that there are also others who may not believe in every doctrine or aspect of the church, and still choose to remain active, is very comforting to me. It has helped me find a way to remain a moderately-minded, active member.
MS is the only thing helping me feel ‘connected’ to my church again. Let’s take a closer look at those few who sew discord among brethren, and would have some disenfranchised and displaced. What’s in ‘your’ paradox?
Mormon Stories is the only reason I have a relationship with the church. Finding out about things in church history that are not only omitted in church, but are often not allowed to be spoken of in meetings, made me feel betrayed. Then I found Mormon Stories, a community throughout the world that was not afraid to follow the admonition of the Lord in D&C 88:118: “And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.” As I did not have faith, I needed a group who would diligently seek wisdom “from the best books.”
Today I remain somewhat active and can say without hesitance that without Mormon Stories I would have resigned my membership by now. More importantly, I am at peace with my family still participating in the church. If this is an organization that fears in knowledge and only gives lip service to its acquisition, I would have felt compelled to withdraw completely and encourage my family to do so; but as Mormon Stories has shown me that being Mormon does not necessitate fear of study–that some do still seek knowledge with the same courage Joseph Smith did–I have no problem with my wife and kids activity, or with my wife paying tithing to the church. Not only then do I maintain some relationship with the church, but my family has my blessing to do so, which has probably saved my marriage. Mormon Stories is to thank for that.
John – when BYU-I was exposed for the recent skinny jeans fiasco, a groundswell of publicity seemed to put pressure on the church to back off a touch.
I would suggest a similar thing for your friend. Having served in a stake presidency as the executive secretary, there is a power dynamic at play that can easily be undermined with enough publicity.
I feel for your friend.
Try to get your facts right, BYUI never approved that sign, it was placed by employees (students) at the testing center. Further it wasn’t removed because “groundswell of publicity… for the recent skinny jeans fiasco”; before it went public BYUI staff had asked the testing center to remove the sign as it was not in accordance with the Honor Code. There was virtually no publicity at the time. Further the Church has seen a groundswell on topics (such as homosexual marriage)
“the college hasn’t introduced any new policies to crack down on skinny jeans specifically. The university instructed employees at the Test Center to take down the No Skinny Jeans sign last week, Cargal said.” – ABC news (Dec 7 (the day it exploded, virtually no one had heard of this before that point))
Mormon Stories is the place where I found hope when my life was at its darkest point. I found podcasts on this site that helped me through my husband’s “coming out” to me two years ago. He left the Church a few months before he told me he was gay, but I knew that I wanted and needed the Church in my life. I love my ex-husband dearly. He is a wonderful man, but I was struggling to find balance between my love of him and his honorable departure from our marriage and my love of the gospel/Church. I know the gospel is true, but there were so many inconsistencies between what is being taught and preached about homosexuality and the life and teachings of our Savior. I couldn’t make sense of it and felt continually torn between what I knew was true about the love of God and Christ, and the hatred I was hearing for our gay brothers and sisters. When I found Mormon Stories and attended a conference last month, I finally found some peace. I have stayed active in the Church, as have all 5 of my children. I have 3 callings in my ward and still feel that is where I need to be. But I also know that God loves my ex-husband and we all love and support him in his journey. Mormon Stories has helped me find my balance between these two forces in my life. The Mormon Stories community has helped me find people who are intelligent, caring, kind and supportive of me in a time when I have felt marginalized by the main-stream Mormon population. They are the most Christ-like people I have ever know and I am grateful to my Heavenly Father every day that he inspired me to find them.
Mormon Stories is what the Church itself should have fostered and promoted and could have included if it hadn’t been fatally infected with the narrow, arrogant, dumbed-down, insular, quietly paranoid, and exclusionary pathogen that is Correlation.
I don’t know whether this is helpful or not, given that I’ve had my name removed from the church… but I didn’t know about Mormon Stories until several years after having my name removed. I wish I had known about this community and had other LDS people to turn to when I was struggling with my faith. I would have felt like I had some connection to the church still at a time when I really did not. I tried many, many, many times to talk to bishops, stake presidents, friends, family, any faithful member I could find to help me work through my struggles, but people were uncomfortable talking to me. They didn’t have the answers, and treated me like a pariah for asking the questions that were seriously troubling my heart…. In the absence of a more neutral, supportive community like Mormon Stories that would have allowed me to work through MY OWN process, in my own life, the only forums I found where I could discuss my struggles without getting shut down and blamed and judged… were anti-Mormon sites very much in favor of leaving the church, very much against the church. And at that time in my life, 100% committed and unquestioning membership or leaving the church seemed like my only options. Had I had this community, in which people believe the church is not and does not have to be perfect, maybe I would have stayed. Now that I’ve found it, even as an ex-Mormon, I still follow it and it feels like my only connection with the church.
This is frightening to me. Since we refuse to discuss difficult church history or doctrines at church, members, faithful and otherwise, are forced to other sources for information, discussion, and a place to truly feel they belong. Mormon stories has strengthened my belief in myself as acceptable to God. Any crack down on people affiliated with honest religious discussion will further alienate those of us who are trying to figure out where we fit in at the LDS church.
Thanks to the people of Mormon stories, I have been able to hear of other people who have struggled with their testimony and yet have been able to remain in the church with honesty, and intellectual integrity. I found that it gave me the knowledge, and hope that this was possible for me too. In the face of growing inflexibility by authorities in the delineating of a new Mormon orthodoxy, we, through mormonstories have been able to find fellowship where we found none within our wards. In being able to understand that we are not alone, that in spite of changes in mormon culture, the gospel is true.
At Mormonstories, we can rejoice in our brotherhood, share our struggles, and lift one another on each one of our faith journeys. Too often, in the context of a ward environment, it becomes nearly impossible to ask pointed questions in order to better understand a difficult issue. (Difficult issues are the ones that most often need to be hashed out in order for them not to become the ‘steel wedges’ that may fell our faith in the years to come.) I have been blessed by the other mormonstories contributors’ sharing of their own experiences, and understanding, and through that, have, myself been able to overcome nagging questions over issues only lightly passed over in Sunday School.
I do not personally know the brother or sister you will be asked to assess today since the appeal to provide my testimony as to the work of mormonstories contained no name. I suspect I live in a completely different country even. My only motivation in writing this, is to assure you that in spite of all your doubts, this organization has been effective in inoculating me against the kinds of negative information that anti-mormons have been using against the church and its members. We live in an age where information of every stamp can be had in an instant. It is time to admit that the church has some less than admirable things in its past. But with a renewed understanding of context, and the sometimes all too human people involved in the building up of the church, we can see the church for the value it has in our lives, the truth that it brings, and the opportunities for service it provides.
Mormonstories has helped many of those of us who have been hurt by authority abuse, the inflexible orthodoxy of fellow members, or the discomfort of a differing perspective, pare away the layers of scar tissue, and remember the truthfulness of the gospel, and our testimonies. As the church’s “I’m a Mormon” campaign sees genuine results, (the campaign has been effective in showing the US that Mormons of all stripe exist in all the glory of diversity.) mormonstories has taken that rather superficial effort onto the intellectual plane.
There are members in good standing who can see a harmony between the gospel and evolution. They have been able to reconcile these two essential parts of themselves. There are members whose political views are divergent from the Mormon cultural norm who have been able to maintain their love of the church in spite of social pressures to do otherwise. There are members dealing with women’s issues, gender issues, issues of history and scriptural veracity who have benefitted greatly by associating with mormonstories.
It may not be possible for any one person to take every last detail related to the church at face value (and I would question anyone who would make such a life altering decision based on such a superficial scrutiny) and therefore it become important to be able to air doubts and questions. Mormonstories is the kind of forum where such subjects can be broached, and met in good faith. The well meaning participants share in the journey.
I see the efforts of mormonstories a lot like the trek out West. It was only because we were willing and able to bear each other’s burdens that we were able to make it to the promised land. I hope you will understand this brother or sister as a person who has been willing to bear my burdens, as I have been eager to be of help to him or her.
For me personally, I was already out by the time I found MS, but I will say that it helped me feel more understanding and more at peace with how I was treated by some friends and family when I left.
I’ll also be posting other stories from the link above to help you out.
Reposted from other thread: When I found Mormon Stories I felt ‘normal’ for the first time in 30
years. I had kept silent except to my spouse about my not being able to
make sense out of what I read in the scriptures, heard in General
Conference, saw and heard in my various wards, and what I experienced
within myself, my family, my world. Learning that I was not the only
one who wondered and had experiences that did not match what was stated
as ‘truth’ at church. I have learned much about love and acceptance and
allowing others to have their experiences but acknowledging that I am
not crazy. I had been seeing a psychologist off and on for years but
still never getting to it as the psychologist were LDS so I felt like I
could NOT tell my truth even there. Now I am as honest and open as I
can be with ALL people without announcing at the top of my lungs that I
see things differently. Was given courage to speak to both my Bishop
and my Stake President as a result of Mormon Stories podcasts and my new
connection with others who did not see things as I understood that most
LDS do. I am a happier person with more integrity. My husband and 10
of my 11 children are still fully believing Mormons. I attend church
every Sunday as always. I assist in any way I can in the congregation.
I attend most all baby blessings, priesthood ordinations, Farewells and
returns of my missionaries (4 of my 7 boys).
Had I not found
John Dehlin and Mormon Stories and in the end people in my own area, I
do not know where I would be today. Perhaps I would still be in and out
of psychiatric care. I will say, it is still NOT a bed of roses not
being allowed to attend my own children’s weddings all because I cannot
say ‘yes’ to the 4 believing questions in the Temple Recommend interview
even though my behavior was just fine and in accord with that
prescribed by the church. AND I live happily daily now even though
those kinds of things are WRONG in my view. Gail Knickerbocker,
Mormon Stories is one of the main reasons I still have a healthy relationship with both the church and my wife. A faith crisis leads people to seek further knowledge and understanding. That search can lead to a number of different places. My first destination was a message board full of ex-mormons that shared their ideas and opinions about the difficult issues of the church in an angry and antagonsitic tone. When I finally found Mormon Stories, I found a thoughtful and encouraging place to better understand the issues that I had been grappling with. Faithful intellectual members of the church present a way of viewing Mormonsim that helped me respect all positions inside the faith and out. There is not a place inside of the church that these tough issues are discussed and where support can given given, not only spiritually and socially, but also intellectually. Mormon Stories provides that haven for me and for thousands more like me. Faith journeys are incredibly personal, please allow members of your stake to find their way without feeling threatened by where their journey takes them.
Reposted from other thread:
To John’s Priesthood Leader:
For the purposes of this statement,
my name is Zelph. I am a sixth generation, born in the covenant,
returned missionary, married in the temple member. And I remain a
member of the LDS Church today because of Mormon Stories, in particular
the episode with Richard Bushman.
I have always loved Church
History. Our heritage is full of intriguing and inspiring stories. I
love the stories of my pioneer ancestors. From a young age I have
always been interested in learning more about Church History.
Throughout the years, however, as I studied Church History I began to
come across historical information that contradicted the Church’s
claimed history (all from sources you can obtain from Deseret Book).
As a teenager, I did not think too much about these things. As a
missionary, I shelved them entirely and focused on the work. However,
while in college the inconsistencies and contradictions between the
Church’s narrative and the historical record began to mount. The
uncomfortable cognitive dissonance began to mount and weigh me down
until one night, at a computer lab on campus, I had to admit to myself
that the Church is not what it literally claims to be.
a traumatic experience. My entire spiritual identity, my most
intimate relationships and my moral compass was tied directly to the
institutional Church. This was so traumatic, that for another couple of
years I shelved the problems again, but they were always there lurking
in the background.
In about 2006 I met John Dehlin in a
professional capacity. I found him to be one of the most caring,
Christ-like friends I have ever known. I became aware of a podcast
series he was doing called Mormon Stories. The podcast approached the
difficult issues I had been struggling with in a way that was candid,
honest and faith promoting. I began to see a new path. That I could
find spiritual nourishment and meaning in my membership in the Church
even without literal belief.
This newfound approach to my
membership was liberating. I began to grow again spiritually. I
accepted the shortcomings of the Church as an institution and instead
focused on the spiritual efficacy and community. I loved the community
of the ward that I grew up in and many of the wards I have lived in
since. And that sense of community, and of love and service is literal
and real regardless of whether the Church’s claims are.
2008 my testimony was challenged again. I very much disagree with what
our Church did to our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters in
California in Prop. 8. It was very difficult for me to see an
institution that I love and that I know to be full of love commit such a
vicious, unkind act upon innocent persons. Our campaign in California
disrespected our heritage as a historically marginalized people,
destabalized the institution of the family by making it less accessible
and was inconsistent with Christ’s directives of love and acceptance.
If you can’t tell, I feel very strongly about this. If I had not
developed a new, metaphorical testimony of the Restored Gospel through
Mormon Stories, I am certain that my conscience would have led me out of
the Church, and that would have been a tragic loss in my life. I love
But I believe in the good that is in the Church. I
have a testimony of the teachings of Jesus Christ. I have a testimony
of Zion- the special communities that are a part of the Restored Gospel.
I have a testimony of the Spirit and of personal revelation. I have
testimony of prayer. I have a testimony today, an my family remains in
the Church, because after I could no longer accept literal belief I
found another way through Mormon Stories to remain a believing
(metaphorically) member. I will always be grateful to John Dehlin for
the service the he has done for me and tens of thousands of Latter-day
Saints like me.
The value of Mormon Stories to me is that it
provides information in a way that allows empiricism and faith in the
Restoration to coexist. That ability to coexist is why my wife,
children and I remain members. My father is still a member because of
Mormon Stories as is my brother and my best friend.
that God lives. I believe that he listens to our prayers. I believe
that the teachings of Jesus Christ have the ability to transform who we
are. I believe that the Book of Mormon, though not a historical
document, is nonetheless inspired. I believe that families and wards
and friendships are Gods way of using us to shower love and support upon
each other. I leave this testimony with you in the name of Jesus
Mormon Stories was there when I was at my lowest. I felt local Church
leaders pushing me over a cliff while I struggled to hang on to the
edge, and no one would actually listen to my story without holding up
the Handbook of Instructions as a shield to keep them from seeing and
feeling. I was rejected by many in my family. After a half-century of
activity and service to the Church, I felt tossed aside. I wondered why I
bothered to try so hard to keep within the fold.
interviewed me and I began to receive a flood of support and
encouragement. The encouragement was not from disaffected folks but by
saints who took the time to listen to my story, felt my pain, and made
the effort to understand my situation. Suddenly not feeling alone, I
fought back, stayed strong, and kept my faith alive.
of my belief continues to evolve, but now–five years later–you can
still see me sitting in the pews, singing the hymns, taking the
sacrament, and communing with the saints. Without Mormon Stories and the
community gathered around it, the picture would be quite different.
Reposted (sorry for the formatting issues with C/P):
I encountered many difficult questions about church history on my
mission. I came home resolved to learn the truth. Within months, I had
encountered so many troubling issues that I’d never heard of in all my
years of Sunday School, Seminary, and reading church materials. I was
convinced that the church was not what it claimed to be.
time, my position softened somewhat, though I still doubted the official
church narrative, and disbelieved the historicity of the Books of
Mormon and Abraham, and many other troubling issues. I then came upon
Mormon Stories. John Dehlin helped me see that even if there were
doctrines, teachings, and history in the church that I couldn’t embrace,
the church was, on the whole, good. Even if the actual history of the
church couldn’t be reconciled to it’s official narrative, there were
still teachings and ideas in Mormonism that I loved, and equally
important, many, many people.
I had maintained belief in God all
this time, and I turned to him, asking if I should return to activity
in the church, embracing the good in it, and trying to ignore the
elements that distressed me.
The answer I got was, “come back.”
I don’t think it was coincidence or dumb luck that I found Mormon Stories when I did.
discovering John’s Mormon Stories in 2006, I’ve been married in the
temple to a wonderful woman, had two beautiful children, both of whom
have been born in the covenant and received blessings, and remain an
active, contributing member of the church.
It’s not an easy path
for those of us who have learned that the divergence between the events
as they happened and the tidy narrative the church has created is wide.
Though I love my ward and my kind bishop, and have many dear friends
there, I feel barely tolerated for my untraditional beliefs and
approach. Though I keep the Word of Wisdom, pay tithing and offerings,
home teach, and try to magnify my calling, and most importantly, love my
family and God above all and try to treat others with kindness and
charity, I live in constant fear and anxiety at church that someone will
learn that I could never bear a traditional testimony. I worry that I
will lose friendships and be ostracized for believing that the Book of
Mormon teaches true principles, but was most likely not written by
dozens of prophets over centuries. I worry that my belief that church
leaders are good men doing their best, but not necessarily entitled to
any special revelation that I could not receive will threaten my
membership. I worry that disagreeing with some of the church’s temporal
actions (such as it’s $3 billion mall project in Salt Lake City and
Proposition 8) will cast me as a heretic or an apostate.
believe in a loving and kind Heavenly Father. I believe that Jesus is
indeed our savior, and that we in the church pay far too little
attention to Christ and his life. I love the church for the opportunity
and space it provides to practice Christianity – to love with no bounds
and to serve. Though I don’t believe the Book of Mormon is what the
church says it is, I still love and treasure it: it introduced me to
There are thousands upon thousands of Mormons like me,
in varying stages of activity and connection to the church, who love the
church and its doctrines, but also feel unwelcome and unwanted and
unloved by the church and its leaders. However, we are better people
because of our involvement in the church, and the church is most
definitely better off with us. A disciplinary action against Brother
Dehlin would send an awful message to me and those like me; dismissing
someone, like Brother Dehlin, who has tirelessly sought to help those
who were struggling and had no voice and no understanding ear within the
church to turn would confirm my worst fears. It would say, “Your kind
aren’t wanted. We can’t tolerate a diversity of opinions. We can’t
tolerate love that isn’t expressed in our proscribed ways.”
may worry that some of John’s actions are leading people away from the
church. A disciplinary action against John would have far worse
consequences than anything supposed harm John has done. You would be
telling thousands of Mormons that they are not wanted.
work has been a blessing to me, and through me, to my ward; his work has
that sort of ripple effect. Thousands of Mormons who otherwise would
have disengaged from the church continue to slog through an unwelcoming
culture to try to contribute to their wards, build the kingdom, and
simply be edified and loved.
Mormon Stories, Mormon Matters, and John Dehlin have helped me to remain
an active and productive member of the Church. I am a returned
missionary, a BYU graduate, a husband, and a (soon to be) father who
has, in the past few years, experienced an intense “crisis of faith.”
While my Priesthood leaders have been understanding of my doctrinal and
historical doubts, they have also been forthcoming about the fact that
there really is no support for doubters, within the Church, beyond
personal study. I have been instructed, many times, to put issues that
do not make sense to me on the proverbial “shelf.” I am even okay with
that advice and have implemented it in my life. I would rather carry a
library full of “shelves” on my back than leave the Church that I love.
John’s tireless efforts have helped me to lighten the load of the
“shelves” that I carry. He has shown me that I am not alone, and that it
is okay to have honest doubts. He has shown many that just the
willingness to fight to keep a testimony shows a great deal of faith and
love for the Church. John Dehlin’s Open Stories Foundation has been a
force for good to many members of the Church.
The word “doubter”
has become a byword in the Church. It is often associated with words
like “dissenter” and “apostate.” This has hurt me a great deal because
there are many of us who are good, well-meaning, and productive members
of the Church. The stigma associated with those that doubt leaves many
feeling depressed and alone within the Church. For many of us, not all I
am sure, our struggle with our testimonies is not related to some
hidden desire to sin or fight against the Church. Many of us are simply
honest and loyal members who seek after God’s truth. Perhaps most
important, we are people who do not want to find support from the
subjective and often anti-mormon groups that exist on the internet
today. We want to find a support group with people who are like us:
people who love the Church, yet need objective and constructive
discussion in order to find solace and to heal from the pain that doubt
I am a 29 year old woman, a wife, a mother and a life long church
member. I appreciate this site because it is a wonderful forum that
explores topics and issues that I see in the church but don’t always
see address in our Sunday meetings. I feel like I am not alone in
searching for answers and I appreciate the added value, insight and
experience of those who have spoken on the podcasts.
I am active
and a temple attender, and believe the church is the right place for
me. I just know that my questions are more expansive and poignant that
they were when I was younger. I would like to see more gospel questions
answered with less cultural presets and more inspiration, more love and
more acceptance, the way I honestly believe God to be.
Essentially Mormon Stories podcasts aided considerably in assisting us
to baptism (me) and rebaptism (him) into LDS church this past weekend.
As mature people wanting to participate in a mature spirituality within
the LDS church, the range of material in the podcasts helped us both in
different ways towards baptism into the LDS church, my husband returning
to the church, myself a newcomer to this church. I have come to know
the name of John Dehlin as someone who has prepared a thoughtful venue
to help people in their Mormon identity. So many people who shared
their experiences in the podcasts have been immense help to me in coming
to a decision that has brought me into the church and I’m not so sure I
could have taken that step without the Mormon Stories podcasts.
I’m an RM, BYU-grad, temple-married life-long member of the church.
About a year ago, I decided to answer some niggling questions about some
aspects of the church that I had come across growing up in the church.
Some examples of things that had been bothering me were the historicity
of the Book of Mormon, the fact that there are several different
versions of the first vision, and the translation Book of Abraham. I
have tried to get answers to these questions, but I don’t feel that the
explanations found in church resources really address the questions.
realization quickly spiraled into the darkest months of my life. I
remained active in the church for the sake of keeping the peace with my
wife. This involved teaching a class of youth, and every week I felt
that my integrity was being wrenched from me by saying the things that
were required of me to teach the class. I would come home from church
every Sunday angry and depressed, from which it took several days to
One Sunday morning, I stumbled upon the Mormon Stories
podcast. I started by downloading the podcast about the Fowler stages
of faith and listening to it. I literally cried as I listen to it,
especially the comments of Dan Wotherspoon as he talked about his faith
and how it has developed over the years. The next thing I listened to
was Richard Bushman, which was equally helpful. Several of the recent
podcasts have also been extremely enlightening and helpful, particularly
the recent interviews with with Dr. William Bradshaw and Dan
I can easily say that John Dehlin and those
participating in Mormon Stories have made my life many times easier in
the six months or so since I discovered them, and he has had a
significant hand in keeping me in the church.
I think anyone who is honest and knowledgeable has to acknowledge that there are very challenging issues in Church history, some of them involving the events themselves and some of them involving the people. Almost without exception, there are no helpful resources from official Church sources. A quick Internet search on most of these topics usually yields a complete array of materials attempting to prove why such a topic proves the Church is false and/or misguided. It is very rare to find a sophisticated, frank, and honest discussion that tackles these difficult topics. Mormon Stories fills that minuscule niche.
Just to feel that I am not alone in needing to scratch that itch is tremendously helpful. But being able to discuss these topics with intelligent, thoughtful, non-judgmental people is also essential. Often I find that there are more nuanced or mature approaches than I have been taught in Sunday School or Institute. Other times I learn ways to be active in my Church participation without having to sweep things under the rug.
Within standard Church environments, the most common reactions to inquiries about difficult topics are usually something along these lines:
-“Well, just pray and reach the scriptures more.”
-“I have unanswered questions about science, but I haven’t begin to doubt science.”
-“Sometimes you just have to put it on the shelf.”
-“There’s a reason we’re advised by our leaders to avoid such material. Just leave it alone.”
-“That issue just doesn’t really bother me.”
-“I’m uncomfortable discussing this.”
-“I am honestly unfamiliar with what you’re talking about, so I’m afraid I can’t be of much help.”
Those kind of answers stopped working for me years ago. Thank God that there are resources and community like Mormon Stories, and amazing minds like Richard Bushman, Terryl Givens, and Greg Prince that were willing to share their stories with us.
“It is very rare to find a sophisticated, frank, and honest discussion that tackles these difficult topics. Mormon Stories fills that minuscule niche.Just to feel that I am not alone in needing to scratch that itch is tremendously helpful. But being able to discuss these topics with intelligent, thoughtful, non-judgmental people is also essential. Often I find that there are more nuanced or mature approaches than I have been taught in Sunday School or Institute. Other times I learn ways to be active in my Church participation without having to sweep things under the rug.”
Well said, Trevor!!!
I am a young married fatter of two who appreciates the service provided by Mormon Stories very much. My mom raised me in the church, and as a child I found direction, purpose, and identity in the community and doctrine of the Mormon faith. As I have grown older, my understanding of God and my relationship with Him have matured into something very different than the faith of my childhood, but still essential to my happiness and sense of identity as a Mormon. I have also found a meaningful, useful, and enlightening world-view in science. Unlike the current view that says science and religion are in conflict with one-another, I do not believe that what science tells me about life and the universe is incompatible with my faith. On the contrary! I believe science has deepened my understanding and broadened my perspective on God and creation, and that my faith has given me a moral compass with which to use my new-found knowledge in a humanistic and enlightened way.
For me, the Mormon Stories podcasts and community provide a place of understanding and encouragement, without which I would have a much more difficult time confronting the challenges of staying active in the church. Indeed, I can honestly say that my wife and I very possibly would not still be active members of the church without it. I am very grateful for this wonderful, diverse group of saints who understand my difficulties, and allow me to express them in an environment of love and encouragement without passing judgment, or questioning my faith, motives, and worthiness.
I’m conflicted on this one. Even though you asked for people to write how MS has helped people remain in the church ( which undoubtedly it has for some), it has also helped many others to transition out of it. I’m one of the later types. I won’t go into reasons why MS helped me transition out since that is not what you are after here.
However, I wanted to comment on whether the right tactic is to show how MS is faith promoting, or faith stabilizing. Maybe it is, and maybe it isn’t. But even if it is, i think people should stand up to this sort of threat and intimidation – not by placating the powers that threaten, but by publicizing the abuse of power and intimidation displayed by the LDS church. MS should use it’s clout to publicize this story. Help get it in the newspapers and blogs.
This is, in my opinion, the right thing to do. Also, it is more likely to cause the church to back off disciplinarian action, than trying to appease them with letters from people for whom MS was faith stabilizing.
When I was diagnosed with postpartum depression (PPD) after I had my third child I was advised by my doctor to find a friend or a group of friends (or therapist) that were willing to support me through this challenge. The friends needed to be people I could trust not to judge me when I unloaded the irrational thoughts I may have and that I rely on when I was at the brink of destruction. The little community of friends I had and found saved my life.
A few years later, after I had moved away from this close knit group of friends, I began to notice some familiar thoughts and feelings creeping back in but this time it wasn’t centered around PPD it was centered around my activity in the church. I was beyond frustrated from the lack of support I felt I was receiving from the Bishopric in my calling as Primary President and by the lack of substance in the conversations I had with the people around me. I was often told to stop thinking so much or to just stop wondering. That was new for me. I’d never been told to stop seeking and to stop searching and it seemed quite contrary to the messages I’d been taught to follow from the scriptures.
“It’s only ok to ask some questions but of others they are to be left alone?”
The spirit told me that was not right, so I took my questions to the Lord and began searching for the answers to the questions I had. That’s when I found Mormon Stories. The blog provides great material to think about but it’s the communities that fuel my desire to serve the Lord within the church I have known and loved.
In the communities, I can talk about what doesn’t make sense to me and I can work out my own misunderstanding. I’ve been faced with some hard things but because my testimony is no longer in the programs and function in the church but in the mission and teachings of Christ, none of these hard things hurt me (at least not for very long) they just add to belief and testimony. I feel the love of God, I’m filled with gratitude for that love and I want nothing more to share that love with everyone, including the members of my LDS faith.
I’m no longer bored at church because the lessons don’t provide anything to chew on or contemplate. I’m no longer concerned about being in church because people will wonder where I am if I’m not. I go to church because it’s where I WANT to be. I now feel like because my mental/spiritual needs to discuss the mysteries of God kingdom are being met I can go to church to serve and help others by sustaining them in their callings. Mormon Stories have helped me find the joy in church attendance and church service that I haven’t felt since I was a youth; learning new things.
The church gave me the foundation, Mormon Stories is helping me build on that foundation.
I am a true believing Mormon. I am a woman. I have been a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints for my whole life. I love the atonement. I love believing in miracles. I love prophets. I love revelation. I love forgiveness. I love sacred spaces. I find the temple empowering. I love family. I love these ideas and am so glad Mormonism focuses on these things and allows me to really experience them.
What first drew me to joining a Mormon Stories regional community was the ways in which the Mormon Stories podcasts strengthened my testimony and helped me develop more empathy and understanding.
Interviews by Book of Mormon scholars like Grant and Heather Hardy and Teryl Givens have helped me approach my scripture study with a renewed zeal. I find myself excited to understand, for instance, Nephi’s motivation, as he looked back on his life, to record and share what he hoped would most strengthen our testimonies. I am reading the Book of Mormon with ownership, looking for ways I enjoy its artfulness and understanding its larger themes. Podcast interviews with these scholars and with scientists help me find workable ways to believe in the Book of Mormon as sacred scripture, because these people, in the interviews and in real life, are aware of the issues that Book of Mormon scholarship and informed readership face. These people have come to terms with their own belief, and I value their personal and varied insights into how they have formed a belief that allows for all truths.
Another type of podcasts I have most enjoyed feature stories from people who have faced difficult experiences in relation to the church. Some of them have stayed. Some of them have not. I have felt great empathy hearing their stories. As I’ve entered the regional MS community, I’ve heard a great many more stories, and my empathy has continued to develop. I want to welcome and accept all people into the church and into my life. I think this must be difficult for me, especially, since every time I have prayed for a solution to some difficult interaction in my life, I have received the answer to “love one another.” For me, giving and receiving love and acceptance in a place where I can openly express my political views, theological ideas, social critiques, and faith is key to following this very personal commandment.
I have really valued the ways in which the regional communities foster support and acceptance of me. I often think about how isolated I feel from other church members, even though I am a true believing Mormon, because of how different I feel from them. Many of my church friends are very loving and accepting, but are so very conservative (politically, mostly) that I feel afraid to share myself with them. I need a real life support group of church members who accept me as I am. When I interact with my regional MS community, I get that support.
Honestly, talking with people–feminists, scientists, homosexuals,
apologists–who have navigated through tricky aspects of Mormonism helps
me feel like I can stay. I can stay and be accepted. For instance, seeing women who confront the reality of sexism in our culture find places of fulfillment as they live their daily lives helps me. Hearing my new friends who are no longer members of the church share their love of aspects of the gospel, the Mormon community, the Mormon culture, and doctrines helps me to value what I have. Wow. I didn’t know there were so many beautiful things to love about Mormonism until I met people who “don’t fit in” who shared with me their faith, their values, their belief.
I love hearing beautiful and articulate arguments that were not at all obvious to me. I am learning how broad the world is, and I am excited that Mormonism exists among such diverse people.
I also realize that as alienated and different as I feel, that there are many people who are much more marginalized than I am. I don’t know what this means about me or about them, but it gives me strength that I can survive. It gives me hope that I can learn how to let being different be okay.
The wonderful thing about MS is that it does both. The fact that Mormon Stories helps people transition out of the faith is what gives MS the credibility to help people like me stay in the faith. It’s difficult to find mentors in the midst of a faith crisis that even comprehend where you are. Where can we have these conversations if not in groups like MS? There is no alternative except similar non-church sponsored groups. Doesn’t the guest list lend any credibility to the assertion that this group is not against the Church? Richard Bushman, Daniel Peterson, Terryl Givens, Grant Hardy, Bill Bradshaw. I know the counter parts of these folks have been on as well, but that’s the point. Mormon Stories has unequivocally provided me a path to remain a fully active, participating, tithe paying, and enthusiastic member of the church.
It can be hard for men in leadership positions to understand, but this church can have a dark side. My dad was abusive. My mom was a nice submissive wife… who did nothing to protect her children, because she was taught that the husband presides and she had to go by his decisions. If that included taking his anger out on her and the kids, well, then, that was that. I do not have a great relationship with my mom now as an adult– could you have a “great relationship” with a woman who thought listening to her husband (and a bunch of strangers in Utah) was more important than your physical safety?
“Families are forever” broke my family.
I’m still active in the church, believe it or not. I love the gospel. And I wish the cultural house we’ve built around the gospel would burn to the ground. Communities like Mormon Stories, Feminist Mormon Housewives, and others are what keep me going because I am learning from friends there how to avoid repeating old mistakes. How to build new traditions when the old ones fall apart. How to make new skins for new wine.
That’s not an excommunicating offense.
As one who has left the LDS church (after half a century), Mormon Stories podcasts has blessed me in providing common ground for respectful discussions with TBM descendants (who now number twenty-five). I share podcasts which especially apply to our situation, and descendants watch others via their own choice, on a wide variety of subjects.
Thus, our familial love has continued via difficult times. Podcasts allow me to continue to claim Mormon culture. Two of my descendants have also left, through their own research. The common ground of the podcasts plays a valuable role for linking our current spiritual paths.I can only imagine that the value of MSPs will continue in our lives as time goes forth.
Belonging to the Mormon Stories support group has helped me to continue attending church without feeling friendless due to the prejudice towards me from orthodox believing members. I think that the Mormon church should be accepting of all levels of belief or non-belief as long as people don’t overtly preach about their concerns in church. Being involved with Mormon Stories only means that you are interested in discussing church history and doctrine in more depth than is taught at church. This should not be forbidden. If it is than that would imply that the church has something to hide.
The Mormon stories community has helped me to realize that there are Mormons like me who think deeply about the gospel, love the theology and are committed to the culture but are naturally questioning, uncomfortable with the judgmental rhetoric and hope to teach my family how to love everyone. Knowing this, I have had courage to express myself more in Sunday school and relief society, I am learning to love the people in my ward, trust that they will be open to my insights and enjoying the opportunities I have to serve in my ward’s relief society. In short, Mormon stories makes me a better Mormon.
I am grateful for John Dehlin and the enormous efforts he has put into Mormon Stories. MS has helped me stay spiritually and physically active in the church. Sometimes it´s not enough to just pray and study the scriptures during a serious faith crisis. I need a forum where there is tolerance for discussion of any and all subjects. I feel very sad that the church is trying to enforce some kind of censorship on an individual member. What is his crime? Is it against church law to hold conferences that are outside of church? I´m very confused by this. I hope he would go out to the media if this goes any further. Seems like that is incentive for the church to not pursue public shaming.
Mormon Stories actually is what the LDS church _should_ provide: a safe place where people can rely on the understanding and Christian charity of others while engaged in a complete, honest, discussion of faith journeys and the full story of the LDS Church’s history and the difficult issues that history presents.
Unfortunately, long ago the church chose the Correlation path which has ended up creating a huge gap between reality and the official versions people are taught at church. So when they discover “the rest of the story,” many of them feel betrayed and lied to. They lose trust in the church, and many leave. The church set itself up for this when it implemented Correlation. And sadly, it perpetuates the trend when it, or any of its leadership, general or local, act in ways that seem to punish honest inquiry.
As other comments here have already shown, some may in fact choose to leave the church as a result of such questioning. Church leadership at all levels should accept this without protest and should wish such persons well. Any other response makes the church look like it is more interested in control and spin rather than in honoring its own principles of individual free agency.
LDS leaders should consider Mormon Stories a “safety valve” for questioning Mormons who might otherwise rely on resources which are openly hostile and may do their own spinning and misrepresentation of facts about the church. Again, as already shown, some who might otherwise have left have actually stayed in the church as a result of finding Mormon Stories. Local LDS leaders who truly believe in their church’s doctrine of honoring freedom of choice just as God Himself does will recognize this benefit from Mormon Stories and should allow it, and all who participate with it, to make those choices for themselves without fear that church discipline may threaten their personal integrity.
When I was first trying to figure out what to do with my faith crisis and whether to be done with the Church or whether to stay and how to make that work……I heard from someone about MS. I downloaded the podcast “Why to Stay” and it really resonated with me. It helped me to see the good in the Church and to see how to make it work for myself, my kids, and my marriage. It hasn’t been easy and many days I feel out of place BUT I always refer to that podcast and it settles my mind that there is always more way than one way to make something work for you. Thank you John for all your hard work in helping people have a place to go. Your work is very important and has and will help many lives. I hope things work out for the best for this person.
I am very active in the church. Despite growing up in the church I had never truly asked myself if the church was true until this past year after a family member died. I had the frantic thought “What if this is all made up and I never see my family member again?!” I felt terrible thinking this but the idea wasn’t easy to shake. The thought crossed my mind that maybe I needed to distance myself from the church while I figured things out.
Then I went to a Mormon Stories regional conference and realized that going inactive wasn’t necessary. Our faith promoting host specifically helped me realize that my questions didnt need to be a wedge between me and the church. He told me as I spoke with him one on one ” It’s okay to be a Mormon with questions.” He helped me realize that even though I was embarrassed to have doubts, I could use the church as a tool to help answer my questions. Thank you Mormon Stories for helping me to feel accepted and close to the LDS church.
Mormon Stories has been a wonderful resource for me and has helped me to not throw the baby out with the bath-water. The regional Mormon Stories conference that I attended was a wonderful, uplifting experience. It helped me see that many people choose to continue to participate in the Church with varying degrees of belief. They still find ways to contribute and benefit from fellowship.
Mormon Stories is a life-line for many today. From personal experience, it has enabled me to better understand the challenges of discipleship in an age of unprecedented information, technology, and skepticism. Mormon Stories has been instrumental in helping me nurture and maintain a marriage (of 25 years) and in raising four children in the Church (including missions and temple marriages). Without the positive support and influence of individuals within the M.S. communities, my marriage would have ended long ago, my sons most likely would not have served missions. Things would be ‘very different’ were it not for M.S.
A conscious decision by a local ecclesiastical leader to sever this life-line, or to create a false-dichotomy of having to chose to participate in only one or the other, is a grave mistake.
Dear LDS Church leaders,
I also help organize a regional group. We have all kinds of people show up to our events, from those who have left the Church to those who are struggling to find a way to stay, and all kinds of points in between. We all get along very nicely and support each other.
I personally go out of my way to tell lots and lots of people that it is possible to be different and stay active in the Church. I am active. I am different. I am loved and accepted by my ward and stake. I tell people all the time this is possible for them too.PLEASE DON’T MAKE ME EAT MY WORDS!!! Please don’t prove me wrong.
I can’t let all these people slip through the cracks and do nothing. They are my family and my friends. If that is grounds for Church discipline, then come get me too. Or do a better job yourself. Either way, i’m just going to keep on loving people.
Mormon Stories is a positive influence for good in the larger Mormon Community. By addressing concerned by many of its readers and listeners, MS provides a balanced thoughtful look at the Mormon culture and history. It builds appreciation for what we gone through as a community. We’re it not for MS, I know that I’d be less active in the LDS Church.
“Well, we have nothing to hide. Our history is an open book. They may find what they are looking for, but the fact is the history of the church is clear and open and leads to faith and strength and virtues.” -Gordon B Hinkley
“Since the Gospel embraces all truth, there can never be any genuine contradictions between true science and true religion…. I am obliged, as a Latter-day Saint, to believe whatever is true, regardless of the source.” -Henry Eyring
“Search Ponder and Pray” “The Glory of God is intelligence”
I enjoyed MS until they started the push for gays, femanism, etc. Truth is truth. Argue with God about the way to eternal life.
Mormon Stories and those that are involved in its work are amazing. It helped me to deal with the anger and betrayal I felt while researching new things. MS is willing to discuss the stuff you’ll never learn about it church. Mormon Stories truly leaves the 90 and 9 and goes after the 1. Its truly disheartening that there has to exist a foundation like Mormon Stories outside of the church, and even more so that the church would actively go after it like this.
When I got to the point where I could not handle going to church and hearing the same lessons again and again and the same excuses for inconsistencies that I couldn’t believe any more, I thought my only option was to drop out completely. This seemed incredibly sad to me because I had never believed the Bible to be literally, historically true, but had found great lessons and comfort in reading it. Why couldn’t I keep the good lessons and comfort I got from other aspects of my religion even if I didn’t have that literal faith any more? But I couldn’t with the leadership in my ward. If it weren’t for the online community like Mormon Stories, I would have completely left the church. As it is, I have kept my membership and am not as bitter as I was about my home ward. I talk to the missionaries when they come to check up on me and feel no need to argue with them. I talk to them about the things I love about the church and, apparently convincingly, reassure them of my faith in God and love for core Gospel principles. I feel like I do not have to choose to be either apostate or absolute believer, so I am not forced to go apostate.
I know it is tempting to think that making it in or out will pressure people to come in, but for me, it would have forced me completely out. Because the Mormon Stories community has supported me in not turning my back on the church completely, my kids can still go to church and church activities without feeling antagonism or hurt from my direction. It means that I can have productive discussions with people who think the LDS church is weird from all they hear about it (moreso since the presidential campaign got going) with an eye toward sharing my love of my religious heritage without joining in any bitterness. I really don’t feel that bitterness because the Mormon Stories community has allowed me to not feel that profound rejection that made me feel like I needed to defend myself and reject the church members right back. Within the community, I have since met many that are able to keep their temple marriages intact because of the Mormon Stories community’s support and help in reconciling doubt and faith issues. One of my uncles returned to activity and temple attendance after literally decades of being antagonistic and refusing to wear his garments or attend any church functions.
To church leaders who are wondering what to do, please understand that not all the internet is the same. There are a lot of anti-Mormon and ex-Mormon sites out there that people with doubts will find where they will be encouraged to turn their back on the church and never look back. There aren’t many like Mormon Stories that encourage people with doubts not to make any rash decisions and do not make them feel like they are idiots if they know the problems with church history, etc. but still don’t want to remain in the LDS church. Start disciplining members for being Mormon Stories Mormons and the only thing left will be the anti-Mormon sources of support for those who are having crises of faith. People won’t stop having crises of faith. They just will have no Mormon-sympathetic outlet for obtaining support while going through their crises, which increases the odds that they will come out of the crisis on the other side of the LDS church rather than still within it.
When I read “No Man Knows My History” as a teenager, there was no Internet, and no place for discussion of nuances. I was isolated. I felt alone, betrayed, didn’t serve a mission and lost almost all of my testimony. Fortunately I married a wonderful believing woman, and we chose to live in a much more accepting community where I could respectfully ask questions and seek answers without being condemned. We have been active in the church now for more than 30 years. Our children are adults now. They’re all active, too. But I was lucky. I was able to physically move to safer place. I wish there had been a something like Mormon Stories when I was a teenager. I’m grateful it exists now. I hope someone wouldn’t be punished for seeking support in this way.
I am an active LDS member in the Midwest, and have been following Mormon Stories content for about two years now. My membership in the Church is very important to me, and to my relationship with my family. I am an EQ President and an active member of my ward’s leadership council. I sacrifice a considerable amount of time and financial resource to the Church, by my own free will. The things I learn and experience from the Mormon Stories community give me an invaluable additional perspective that is not easily available in other ways. I would not be the same person I am today without it. I feel I am more compassionate, more well-read, a better husband and father, a better EQ president, and better a Mormon by taking advantage of this resource. It is my hope that any Stake President or other member of a disciplinary council would look very closely before judging this group as anything but compassionate, open, and supportive of the Church and its members. Seek only to build, not to tear down.
As a History and Journalism teacher, Mormon Stories was the only venue where I feel I can be honestly be a Mormon with integrity. Without Mormon Stories, very simply I would have left.
It was two years ago that I came to the independent conclusion that I had no good basis for belief. I committed myself to re-examining the faith of my past, but knew that the fact that I doubted and had questions would put my relationships with my wife, my family and friends at risk. In desperation I sought out resources and people who could help me through what I knew would be a very difficult time. I knew that there were no people or resources at church which would empathize with my plight or be able to provide me with support.
I soon found Mormon Stories, and it became a significant lifeline for me. I doubted the truth-claims of the church and the existence of God, but Mormon Stories was a forum that allowed me to be honest in my expression of doubt and concern. It did a great deal to ease my troubled heart, and helped my continue to engage in church activity with my wife.Ultimately my wife left me because of my doubts, and I no longer attend, but Mormon Stories helped me stay active, involved, and supportive of my wife and her faith even as my own evaporated. My wife leaving me is just one expression of the church and its members rejecting those who struggle in matters of faith.If the church is truly meant to be a community of love and acceptance, then Mormon Stories facilitates that purpose. I can see no way in which the action of Mormon Stories as a podcast or community would be the cause for disciplinary action for one who engages with or supports it. It violates neither the letter nor spirit of the law.There are many groups who oppose the church or try to lead members away, but Mormon Stories is not among them. It stands in a unique position of accepting and supporting without judging or encouraging people to move toward or away from the church. For many who struggle, a neutral support is what can lead them back to the fold, or allow them to step away without hate or animosity. Regardless, it is a force for good among the Mormon people.
If you make it impossible for anyone who isn’t just like you to be LDS, there will be few of us who make the cut. I will be forced to disappear into Outer Darkness, along with many others, not because I am a bad person, but because I made the mistake of being interested in church history and my own emotional health. I really don’t want to be cut off irrevocably from the Church, but if that is what the Church wants, then there is really little I can do. I cannot put the genie back in the bottle. I cannot pretend that I have not studied, pondered, and prayed. I cannot deny my own experiences. I cannot deny that Mormons Stories has enriched my life (and made it possible for me to approach the Church and other Church members with more love and understanding than I would have otherwise had).
My old testimony of the Church was founded on ignorance of useless truths, useless truths about human biology and history that the world is increasingly full of. I tried to explain them away. I tried to ignore them. But God wouldn’t stop rubbing my face in them. When I denied them, pretending that they did not matter to me, pieces of my soul died. I could not (and cannot) live with that. Prophets and apostles offered me nothing, except more admonitions to shut up and tune out the useless truth (an impossible task, in my case). The only real help I got was from Mormon Stories (and other, similar organizations, not all of them as friendly to the Church as MS). If you force me to choose between the Church and MS, MS wins: they have actually helped me where Church consistently has not. If you force MS to shut down, then people like me will choose to take real help from “bitter apostates” rather than commit spiritual suicide. Maybe that is what you want — an excuse to get me out of your consciousness, so that you can avoid contact with useless truth (even as I studiously avoid talking about in church settings, where I know it is not welcome). Maybe you don’t want me working at my local bishop’s storehouse. Maybe you don’t want me to do any home-teaching, ever. Maybe you want my believing family to feel even worse about me than they already do. Maybe I am an acceptable loss to you, despite my years of service (and what little money my meager savings has contributed to the Lord’s billions). I get it. But you must admit that I cannot take this kind of attitude toward myself: for me, I am not an acceptable loss.
So, go ahead. Crack down on me (and Mormon Stories), if you want to. Tell me that you are doing it for the greater good, because God told you to. I’ll understand, and I won’t bother you ever again with my pathetic attempts to remain LDS in spite of everything. I’ll find some other community that doesn’t hate me because I cannot get rid of the useless truth God gave me, or I’ll die trying (and provide a useful scarecrow for you: “Avoid studying human biology and Mormon history, or you might end up like that loser”). If you think that I look better crucified as an apostate than admitted as a strange inactive (who fulfills some callings without being able to participate fully), then go for it. I will post a cute little rant on my blog (which is read regularly by at least 8 other people: big publicity!), and the work of God will roll forth, leaving me to pick up the ruins of my shattered life (for which I am willing to take full responsibility: maybe if I had managed it better, I might not be in the mess where I find myself currently). I tell you all of this so that you can see the big picture here, a picture where members of the MS community are well-meaning, friendly little gnats that you are wanting to crush with a sledgehammer. I think a more profitable approach to us is the one adopted by Gideon’s father (Judges 6:31) and Rabbi Gamaliel (Acts 5:34-40). Inspire us with your devotion to the Lord, instead of trying to strike us down with it.
As an instructor in the Elder’s Quorum during the “Presidents of the Church” years, my study of church history and doctrine went far deeper than it had before and I began to discover facts about the church that I had never before heard or been taught as a life-long member, returned missionary, and Hugh Nibley fan. I struggled alone with these issues for five plus years feeling as though I had been lied to all my life, but fearing the retribution of the church and my family, not knowing where to turn. It wasn’t until I found Mormon Stories that I was able to see that there were others like me that knew far more about history and doctrine than I did and were able to stay in the church. I needed more information from safe, anti-Mormon sources, I needed a way to reframe my life up until that point if I was going to be able to stay in the church, and I needed a support community of like-minded people. I 100% attribute my staying in the church to people that I discovered through Mormon Stories such as Richard Bushman, Claudia Bushman, Terryl Givens, Joanna Brook, Daymon Smith, Daniel Peterson, and John Dehlin. I am now an active member, a tithe payer, and my temple-sealed wife and I are raising our two lovely daughters in the church.
Mormon Stories has been a boon for me in the church. I’m an active, believing member, I have two callings (plus being a home teacher, which I love doing), and I love my ward. The stories I’ve come across through MS are by turns fascinating, exciting, sad, intriguing, thought-provoking, and faith-building. Some of the people I’ve listened to I disagreed with very much, but it didn’t lessen my respect for their voices and I feel that I’ve come to understand them as children of God much better; other stories felt like they were my own as I nodded my head the whole interview. And ultimately, the people I’ve come to know through MS (John Dehlin being one, but many others in my local community) have been a great blessing in my life. They are wonderful people, every single one, and I’m grateful to have gotten to know them in a way that they (and I!) can be authentic and sincere. MS has been a huge net positive in this believing Mormon’s life!
Dear Stake President,
The Gospel of Jesus Christ has always been the center of my life. I have taken the responsibility and stewardship of raising my (now adult) children in the Church very seriously. I have four incredible children, all married in the temple, both sons served missions etc…
A little over a year ago our oldest son who had always been obedient, and faithful, who’s life quest was searching for “Truth” in all things in the Gospel, shared with us about what for him was almost a total deconstruction of his faith. Hard to explain in a short time. I am not here to share his journey, but my own as a mother.
It was a dark and fearful time for me. Nothing in my life in the Church prepared me for this. I could not have been more devastated, honestly! I began to reach out to anyone who could help me find my footing as my heart was breaking… My experience was that when I turned to the Church for help and support, and peace what I actually felt was judgement and very little hope. I know this son of mine to be honestly one of the best and most Christ like in his living of anyone I know. And I could not accept feeling that he was lost to Satan. I do not believe that is the case here at all.
When I found, through “google” John Dehlin / Mormon Stories, I found a whole group of people who helped me begin to understand what my son had gone through, and feel more sensitive to how difficulty and often depressing this faith crisis can be in people’s lives. My son described it best when he said it felt like loosing a loved one. Unbelievable grief…My heart began to turn to the experience of my Son, and how I could help love, and support he and his beautiful little family through this difficult journey.
These are difficult and sensitive issues, and for people that experience it, there is NO PLACE within the framework of the Church to discuss or seek advice, counsel, or simply share with others what you are going through, where one can be assured of understanding and support.
I am so grateful, seriously so, so grateful for all of the loving and understanding people in the Mormon Stories groups that help others like me find a safe place to gain understanding and love.
Utah Valley Mother, Grateful for Mormon Stories.
Mormon Stories picked up the slack when the institutional church could or would not. I was told my entire life to search the scriptures and pray; which I did with diligent intent. Where it led me, however, seems to be a different place than the Brethren wanted it to lead me. Because I believed it when I was told that “all truth can be circumscribed into one great whole,” I read widely and searched for truth where ever I could find it. I immersed myself in history, science, philosophy, Eastern approaches to medicine and religion, nutrition, literature, mythology, and on. And the more I searched, the more the standard manual LDS answers didn’t suffice any more.
Mormon Stories has literally kept me in the church because it’s created a space where other people who have also dared to grapple with the complexities and incongruencies have a voice. Many of the voices represented on Mormon Stories come from active members who greatly value their membership but also feel the need to discuss the hard things that are present. When intellectuals, feminists and homosexuals are all told they are enemies to the church and you identify with one or more of those groups, it can be a tough place to be.
Mormon Stories gave me the courage to trust my own personal revelation. I know my heart. I know my intention. I love so much about LDS theology and the elevated status it gives mankind. There are so many things doctrinally that resonate in my soul. I’ve needed Mormon Stories to help remind me of the good things, the best things, because there is a lot of not so nice stuff mixed in with Mormonism and to pretend otherwise seems disengenuous to me. People should not be punished for using their God given intellect to grapple with existence. It should be applauded.
The Mormon Stories community is so reassuring. It’s evidence that there may be a place for people like me, who have a hard time believing in a lot of the church’s teachings but still want to be a part of the community and be uplifted by the positive messages the church has to offer. Before Mormon Stories, I felt like an outcast, and felt like my decision would be black and white: I could be Mormon or I could cut all ties to the church. Neither decision felt good. After participating in the community, however, I feel like maybe I can have a place within the church even if I struggle sometimes.
I’m a thinking member of the LDS Church with my Temple
recommend in hand. Mormon Stories Podcasts have helped my testimony by
recognizing that there are other members of the
Church that struggle with the same issues I do, be it Church history, issues on
Polygamy, Blacks in the priesthood or any number of other issues where the Church
has not made it clear what it’s stand is. I’m grateful to know that there are other
members who think outside the box and keep the Church interesting. Elder
Ballard asked us to get involved online in defining who we are as Latter –Day Saints,
you cannot now hold someone else accountable for following that council just
because their opinion does not a line with some local authority.
My name is Kate Kelly. I am an active Mormon woman who served a full-time mission in Spain, graduated from BYU and now serve in the Vienna Ward nursery in Vienna, VA. (That’s how you know I’m dedicated!)
I have not been involved in my local Mormon Stories community, although there is one here in the DC area and they do great things. I have listened to a myriad of Podcasts on the Mormon Stories website that touch a whole range of interesting and important issues.
I listen to them. I discuss them with my husband and family. I share them with others who are facing issues and might be comforted by them, for example the excellent podcast on postpartum depression by Natasha Helfer Parker and “Sarah” an LDS mother.
As someone who has a very inquisitive mind, but a faithful heart, it is imperative for me to openly discuss issues and questions I have and have candid resources that I can turn to that are not “anti-Mormon.” This is what Mormon Stories is.
There is room within Mormonism for all types of people, and much more frank discussion and candor. Please read this talk given in the Washington, DC 2nd Ward Sacrament Meeting on May 18th, 2008 by Gregory A. Prince who was speaking as a stake highcouncilman. https://www.mormonmayday.org/i-am-a-yard-tree/#more-248 (He has been featured here on Mormon Stories and I believe participated in the DC Mormon Stories Conference in October of this year.) He said, “Perhaps you see the gospel from a different vantage point than those who
surround you in your worship services. Perhaps you have doubts. If
so, come and sit on the bench with me and we’ll share our doubts. But
don’t try to suppress or deny them, or they’ll come back with a
vengeance that you may not be able to control. And don’t apologize or
feel guilty for having them. Doubt and faith are two sides of the same
coin, and a healthy interplay between them makes for a healthy spiritual
There is a place for us yard trees in the church!
Mormon Stories is a warm and welcoming place where we can all discuss and grow together. It is an amazing project that should be encouraged by the highest levels of the church as the leadership of the church struggles to respond to a new generation of members who are not satisfied with old pat answers and tired old lesson topics.
Bless the many people who work so hard to put together Mormon Stories. I remain a faithful member of the Church because forums like this allow me to be myself and learn and grow.
I’m struggling a bit to understand Mormon Stories. Can you assist? I have a some questions. I’m not trying to be antagonistic. I’m just curious.
1) How many people on the “Open Stories Foundation Board” are believing, active members of the LDS church? If any, can you step forward and set the example for this brother being investigated by his Stake leadership?
2) What are the primary differences between “Dehlinites” and “Godbeites?” I asked this to a friend of mine who is heavily involved in Mormon studies. She wrote, “The Godbeites actually stood for something supernatural, like spiritualism; whereas, the Dehlinites teach about the virtues of athiesm (Episodes: 222-227, 253, 270). Other than that, both were(are) organized movements dedicated to establishing alternative and reformed Mormonism.” Is this an accurate portrayal of the objectives of Mormon Stories? If not, how do you explain the content in these episodes and others describing the need for “reformed” Mormonism? If so, how does that reconcile to this thread heading?
3) Based on your conversations with regional conference attendees, what percentage of attendees are active and believing members of the LDS church? Based on the remarks in Episode 304 and elsewhere, one might conclude that believers are tolerated minorities and that Mormon Stories has enacted an affirmative action program for thick skinned believers, and the ‘bread and butter’ participants are drawn from the Ex-Mormon, Post-Mormon, NOM, or LGBTQ communities. Is this an accurate assessment?
4) Would you characterize Mormon Stories conferences as “Symposia and Similar Gatherings?” If so, what are your thoughts on Handbook 2, section 21.1.40, which reads, “The Church warns its members against symposia and similar gatherings that include presentations that (1) disparage, ridicule, make light of, or are otherwise inappropriate in their treatment of sacred matters or (2) could injure the Church, detract from its mission, or jeopardize its members’ well-being…” In your view, do regional Mormon Stories gatherings fit the criteria?
Again, I’m sincerely trying to understand Mormon Stories. Any clarification you could provide might benefit those at the regional level attempting to balance official participation with the LDS Church AND Mormon Stories.
Hopefully this entire page will help answer your questions. Here are my feeble attempts at some direct answers:
1. Keep in mind that the emphasis of Mormon Stories is more on “belonging” than on “believing”, so I don’t think Mormon Stories types will be very interested in giving credentials of their “belief”. On the participation front, however, I think there are some excellent examples of contributing ward members at Open Stories.
2. “Dehlinites” are only about the virtues of love, respect, understanding, and belonging, not about atheism or a particular flavor of Mormonism. Your understanding would be better expressed and episode content would be better explained in terms of the demographic makeup of the people who go through faith challenges or shifts and how they typically end up as they appear on John Dehlin’s radar. It’s more about whom Mormon Stories is talking to than what Mormon Stories is advocating for.
3. Keep in mind again that the emphasis of Mormon Stories is more on “belonging” than on “belief”. The typical person who arrives on John Dehlin’s radar is not a candidate for persuading toward a traditional belief. Therefore traditional or literal belief is not a demographic attribute of interest, or of significance. Active ward members are very common among Mormon Stories listeners and conference attenders. And it’s my perception that in general Mormon Stories activities are increasing affiliation with the LDS ward. And that’s a good thing.
4. Mormon Stories is refreshing because of it’s insistence on respect and loyalty to people on all sides of the church. My thoughts are that Mormon Stories activities are well on the right side of the spirit of the warning you quote. There’s not encouraged or fostered any disparaging, ridicule, mockery, flippancy, or intent to hinder the church in its efforts to build up the kingdom of God on the earth and establish Zion.
A couple of replies to these questions which honestly I don’t think John or anyone at MS should or need to reply to. Not in order of your questions:
1) Are you asking for an inquisition into the personal beliefs of people? Define believing? Do you want them to all flash temple recommends at you? Or would you prefer to interview each one personally? Are you suggesting that church members should only associate with websites/organizations where this is true? How is this any of your personal or anyone else’s business. That said a number of the people in the community have written openly and publicly about their beliefs to the extent they wanted to. Start with the FAQ.
2) Your use of the term “Dehlinites” is honestly offensive. Just because your “friend” writes something like this doesn’t make it true. It makes it sound as if JD is actively seeking “followers” or to draw individuals away from the church into another one. It is especially loaded given Mormon history and common usage of the term. Traditionally it has been used to mark groups led by a leader who claims some form of divine authority. I would guess the people trying to use such a term are very aware of this and have some real agenda. Never has anyone to my knowledge in the MS community EVER claimed or insinuated or hinted or let people believe that they are trying to claim authority or to try and get followers or anything like that. What a horrible, horrible rhetorical claim to make by your friend. What a deeply offensive question to ask.
3) What is with the obsession about guessing other people’s belief and church status? MS and the community that have grown up around people that self-identify in someway as Mormon, whatever that means to them. Again, what you mean by “believers” is fuzzy. There is no doubt that MS attracts people from all different parts of the belief/faith/activity spectrum. It is open about that and tries to create a space where everyone from “believers” as you define them to split-faith families, to those who have left the church, to those who are inactive. So do things like the Mormon History Association, the Daughters of Utah Pioneers, Dialogue, Sunstone,etc. etc. I don’t know what you mean by “thick-skinned” versus I guess “thin-skinned” Mormons. For what it is worth, I am Colesville-branch descended, fully active, TR holding, return missionary, current SS president, former EQ president/YM president/Exec Sec/GD teacher, married in the temple, 4 kid family man married to a cub-scout leader, nursery leader convert wife. I don’t wear white shirts very often, or ties for that matter and I would guess that you and I would probably not believe some of the same things, but we would probably agree on quite a few things. I would surmise that if God revealed what everyone believes in some crazy multiple-dimensional map the odds are about 50/50 that I would be closer to pick your random apostle’s beliefs than you.
4) One of the strong norms in this community as well as a stated goal is to treat everyone with respect, that includes believers, church leaders, non-believers, those in faith transitions, sinners and saints alike. As you can imagine it can sometimes be hard especially in discussions of difficult topics and like any community no one can control what a given individual does. Many people come here from a place of deep struggle with feelings of betrayal and anger (often caused by being surrounded by people obsessed with making sure they believe exactly what they happen to think is right). The whole point of MS is to support people in finding their own personal path, whatever it is, out of such a dark place. So from my perspective I would say no MS and its communities do not fall into a definition of a gathering “which disparages, makes light of, or ridicules etc… of sacred matters”. Indeed the intent is quite the opposite. People take sacred matters very seriously here in my experience. Similarly, there is no systematic desire to “detract” or “injure” or “jeapordize well-being” of anyone or the Church. Just read the other testimonials on here. You make your own determination. When I answer the TR question about whether I belong or support any group….yadda yadda I answer “no” with a clean conscious.
Hope that helps.
I am a board member. I’ll try to briefly answer some of these questions.
1) How many people on the “Open Stories Foundation Board” are believing, active members of the LDS church? If any, can you step forward and set the example for this brother being investigated by his Stake leadership?
Most of the board members are active in the Church on some level. I’m not going to go into everyone’s personal details or define that. It isn’t something we constantly grill each other about. I attend Church half of the time or more, and enjoy being a part of my ward. They are great people. I believe in the purposes of the Church and want it to be successful. You might not judge the content of my faith to be orthodox or “normal,” but that’s OK with me. I support your faith. I’m happy with my faith. We can sit on the pew next to each other, and serve our sisters and brothers together with the same goals.
I have spoken with my Stake President about some of my online activities related to what we do. He doesn’t have a problem with me. He was really cool about it all.
Is that setting a good example? I think so.
2) What are the primary differences between “Dehlinites” and “Godbeites?”
From the Open Stories Foundation perspective, there is no such thing as “Dehlinites.” There are people who are fans of John Dehlin’s podcast interviews. I suppose you can slap a label on those people to identify them as a group. But there are no teachings, doctrines nor a competing institutional church organization. We don’t tell people what to believe or not believe. We don’t claim competing divine authority or want to create a reform Mormonism movement. We just tell our stories and collect the stories of others to share with the world.
3) Based on your conversations with regional conference attendees, what percentage of attendees are active and believing members of the LDS church? Based on the remarks in Episode 304 and elsewhere, one might conclude that believers are tolerated minorities and that Mormon Stories has enacted an affirmative action program for thick skinned believers, and the ‘bread and butter’ participants are drawn from the Ex-Mormon, Post-Mormon, NOM, or LGBTQ communities. Is this an accurate assessment?
We have some active, believing members who participate and claim to be fully orthodox in their personal beliefs. We go out of our way to try and make sure those people are welcome, and that their views are respected. But to be honest, they already have a very strong and wonderful support structure for their beliefs — they have the entire support and organization of the LDS Church already to draw from. That’s great!
We tend to attract more of the beautiful and valuable people who are slipping through the cracks. I can’t sit by and let these people suffer and not help them. They are literally my close family members and friends, in addition to all the people I encounter on the internet and in these regional groups. They are slipping through the cracks. I am only speaking for myself with this next comment: I wish the LDS Church would put us out of business. There are so many people out there you are losing. They are struggling and hurting. They don’t feel they can come to you for help and support. They don’t feel welcome, or that they can be a part of our Church. I can’t sit around and do nothing. It’s overwhelming. We are constantly trying to find new ways just to respond to the flood of emails and other contacts with questions, concerns and people desperate to make things work and keep their family together.
Step up to bat and do something about it. There’s a TON of other things I could do with my time besides “minister” to people in need, if there was an official LDS Church support structure that got the job done. The Savior expects us to dedicate our time, talents and resources with which we have been blessed to serve his purposes. When we serve our sisters and brothers, we serve him. That is what I am doing. I am following His example the best way I know how. I am giving my time and talents to the Savior’s work.
4) Would you characterize Mormon Stories conferences as “Symposia and Similar Gatherings?” If so, what are your thoughts on Handbook 2, section 21.1.40, which reads, “The Church warns its members against symposia and similar gatherings that include presentations that (1) disparage, ridicule, make light of, or are otherwise inappropriate in their treatment of sacred matters or (2) could injure the Church, detract from its mission, or jeopardize its members’ well-being…” In your view, do regional Mormon Stories gatherings fit the criteria?
Sure. Why not. Might as well call them “symposia and similar gatherings.” Personally, I don’t really care what the handbook says. I am not a Bishop or Stake President. We are not conducting official Church activities. Our organization is not an official appendage of the LDS Church, so it doesn’t really matter what another organizations SOP manual says.
On the issue of our conferences being dangerous or damaging to the Church, ridiculing the sacred or disparaging belief, we explicitly discourage that type of behavior. We spend a great deal of time building bridges between people of various levels of “belief,” and it is very important that we be respectful. LISTEN to any of the podcast recordings from our conferences. Please. Here’s a link to the recent one in Washington DC where people bore their “testimonies” and expressed wanting to belong. https://www.mormonstories.org/?p=2103 If you still come away thinking these people are your enemies, then we need to talk.
I love my religious tradition, it is the faith of my fathers and mothers. I am descended from Mormon pioneers: on one side my grandparents who converted in their youth and on the other side my ancestors who were among the first handcart company to cross the plains and reach the Salt Lake Valley. I have had spiritual experiences that I cannot deny because they were very real to me at the time and continue to be as I receive them. I don’t know where I would be in my life had I not grown up in the church. I feel that one of the purposes of religion is to help one better their being and Mormonism has done just that for me. So many people nurtured me as their own and my ward growing up was truly my family. I often think of the phrase, “It takes a village to raise a child,” and my many Mormon “parents” who acted as guides and mentors to me.
But despite being someone who values my membership in the church greatly, I am also one who feels a great amount of cognitive dissonance when I attend. I am a person who naturally questions. I feel this is generally discouraged in the church and judged negatively by most members within the church instead of looking at questions as an opportunity for spiritual growth and enlightenment. Just because one has questions does not mean their faith is questionable. Unfortunately, people who question often silence themselves out of fear of being judged. And they also fear challenging their fellow church members’ faith. People in the position often feel they only have two choices: to become less-active/leave the church or to face a long road to journey alone. Where can these people turn for support?
Without the Mormon Stories community, I would feel lost and isolated in my own church, among my own people. Mormon Stories provides a space for discourse about issues that are not welcomed in Sunday School discussion. It also provides a venue for people to intellectualize Mormon theology and Mormon culture without being pressured to conform in their beliefs, behaviors or identities to a strictly orthodox version of Mormonism. On a personal level, Mormon Stories bridges the gap between my spiritual and intellectual life. It has given me a deeper understanding of my religion that has allowed me to attend to my cognitive dissonance and stay, (according to the church), a faithful, active member.
San Diego, CA
Mormon Stories came along a little too late for me. I started seriously questioning my faith in the mid-1990s, when I worked for the Church in an area office overseas. I worked closely with general authorities and high ranking church employees. I saw and experienced things I had not expected in a church environment. For some years I had felt uncomfortable with many aspects of LDS doctrine and practices, but I felt that there was no one I could talk to who could help me sort out my feelings. I did talk to several bishops, but was told to keep on doing what I was doing. That didn’t help. I simply was not happy in the Church, although I was doing everything I was supposed to be doing. I had gone on a mission, married in the temple, was active in my ward, worked very hard as a church employee in a job that required me to travel every week and work in 13 different countries.
In 1996, I was able to get on the internet for the first time. I looked up the LDS church. Unfortunately Mormon Stories had not been invented yet. I found Recovery from Mormonism — http://www.exmormon.org. That website took a decidedly different tack than the John Dehlin way. In the beginning, it was only a collection of “Why I Left” stories — people writing their stories of why they left the Church. I was fascinated by the many stories and the many similarities between those people and me. I could not believe that there were others who had the same concerns as I. There were others who struggled. And there were others who were frustrated because they had no one to talk to. I was comforted to know that I WAS NOT ALONE! Those few times I disclosed my faith struggles to my bishops, they led me to believe that I was a lone wolf, and that everyone else was a-ok. They never tried to comfort me by telling me that there were others who had felt the same things. Recovery from Mormonism inaugurated their message board a few months after I found the site, and there was no looking back. The RFM message board was (and still is) very anti-Mormon.
I later left church employment, but remained active in the church. I continued to participate in discussion boards at RFM and other sites, because it was the ONLY outlet I had to talk about my questions, to find others like me, and to keep myself from going insane. I was later a founding member of the New Order Mormon discussion board in 2001.
I stopped attending LDS meetings in 2005. I had had enough. The only place I could discuss my questions about the church was on the internet — and with a few friends locally. I had discovered that they also struggled.
Would I have stayed in the Church if Mormon Stories had been around a few years earlier? Maybe. I don’t know for sure, but just maybe. To hear that there are members who are struggling and questioning, yet continue to actively participate in the Church (while attending Mormon Stories conferences and listening to their podcasts, etc.) makes me think that MS might have helped me. I might still be active today if Mormon Stories had begun maybe 10 years earlier. As it is now, we will never know.
I wish Mormon Stories and John Dehlin all the best. It is a great thing he is doing. I wish it had come earlier for me.
Dear Stake President and other people inquiring about Mormon Stories,
My testimony is dramatically different from what I considered to be my traditional, fundamental testimony. The “big shift” happened in 2003, and I will never believe the same again. Nevertheless, I am a member of the church in good standing, and I am in fellowship with my ward. Today I sang with the choir and sat in the front for testimony meeting. Mormon Stories has helped A LOT.
Even as a young child, I struggled with saying unequivocally that I knew the church was true. I have spiraled around issues of faith and testimony for years while simultaneously being an active member with callings as varied as gospel doctrine teacher and stake primary president. I have focused for some time on trying to understand what it means to really love my neighbor and to love God and that has kept me tied to the LDS church. However, I found myself digging for answers to difficult doctrinal questions and what I began to uncover made me feel like I couldn’t breathe. It was is if my faith foundation gently quivered and broke. The entire time I have felt that I have no one to talk with about all the unresolved issues I’ve collected over the years. I found Mormon Stories and I listened to people like Teryl Givens, Johanna Brooks and others. Mormon Stories connected me to people that allowed me to open myself up to the doubts and concerns in a respectful way. I found answers in some cases and in others I simply needed a forum for discussion. I began to feel whole again. Mormon Stories provided that glue that helped me build a new foundation.
I love the view of God in this faith and our importance and connection to him. I can go to church with a heart that is open to all the beauty there and then gently leave what is not uplifting. I couldn’t continue to attend without this Mormon Stories.
I was excommunicated from the LDS church 30 years ago. I discovered Mormon Stories three or four months ago. During that time, Mormon Stories has challenged me and refocused my spiritual life. I have recently started attending LDS church meetings. I feel it’s important for me to be there on Sundays, and it’s important for LDS church members to love, unconditionally, people in the pews who are struggling with their faith. Mormon Stories gives me a safe place to ask questions and to voice concerns, so that on Sundays I can be present at church, engaged in a conversation with church members, teachers, and leaders. Mormon Stories gives me the tools and the hope so that I can be back in the pew, and be open to that experience.
Dear Stake Leadership,
I am a lifelong member of the Church descended from pioneers. I served a mission, have been married in the temple, have four children and am currently the SS President in one of the wards with a concentration of highly educated, graduate school attending/professional married students. Over the last few years my wife, a convert to the church in her teens came to struggle mightily with her membership in the Church. She is one of the most honest, loving, truth seeking people I know. She was on the verge of leaving the Church, a decision I would have supported her in. As I watched her and my family go through this wrenching process I can tell you without Mormon Stories, including the local/regional community that has grown up around it she would have left the Church. It has been the MS community, including those who organize regional meetings that has helped keep my entire family active in the Church.
More importantly, even if she had left, the MS community, podcasts and support provided would have *greatly lessened the trauma for our family*. It would have been one of the only places that would have provided us insight and resources to navigate a newly spit-marriage/part-active family. One important thing you MUST understand about the MS community is that its value is NOT only that it “keeps people in the church” but that for those that still choose to leave it greatly, greatly, greatly reduces the cost of the leaving not only for the person who leaves but the family, friends, and church community they exit. This is of tremendous value to the church and completely consistent with our emphasis on the sanctity of the family. It is exactly the MS community’s place on the frontlines and willingness to accept individuals regardless their own choices regarding church membership/activity, even those that choose to leave, that make it so invaluable to the Church. Families affected by faith crises NEED this.
Beyond my family’s personal story my involvement in my ward, especially as someone deeply involved in teaching church doctrine and history has led to my involvement with dozens of individuals and families that have struggled time and time again in wards so wrapped up in cultural orthodoxy that they are isolated and hurt, ostracized and condemned. Our ward salvages testimonies and church membership regularly of such individuals. I can testify to you that I know personally dozen of families for whom MS, its podcasts and conferences are absolutely integral to their remaining active in the church. The grad student years lead many into faith crises. As SS president in a ward full of potential and real faith crises I can tell you that the MS approach is absolutely critical for this demographic. To put it bluntly, you need to understand if disciplinary actions begin to be taken against people like MS community members for their activities you will negatively effect hundreds and hundreds of vulnerable saints. I can point to individuals and families in my ward who your actions (if you disciplined this person) would harm directly. All the efforts that we make here to deepen people’s spirituality, understanding of the scriptures and church history will be severely hurt if local congregations begin striking out at people such as those involved in MS communities. You may not feel this is your concern or that it is our problem. That is fine, but it is important for you to know and maybe consider.
For the respect and sake of my family, for the respect and sake of my ward, please take this into account when deciding whether this brother or sister should be disciplined. I don’t know what region you are in, but I would also recommend that to gain some more insight you reach out to stake leaders and bishops in areas like Boston, Washington DC, NYC and the Bay Area. It might provide you some perspective and give you a sense for the repercussions of your actions into other areas.
I only remain anonymous out of respect for my wife and family.
This may not be what you are looking for, but I will share a little of my experiences. I believe that a person should be true to their beliefs. That one should make their choices a matter of prayer as did the Prophet Joseph Smith Jr.. You can, if you choose to, read some of my posts on FaceBook. I served a Mission to Eastern Canada, 1955-56. I enjoyed my Mission and the people I was able to share the gospel with. I have never quit studying and praying, and I have had challenges. Because of my desire to know the truth, and continual study and prayer, I shared some of the things I had learned with my dear wife. She was not able to understand, my views or accept them. She went to the Bishop and books of the early church (Joseph Fielding Smith, and other church historians) were turned over to the church. My bishop called me one Sunday after church and asked if he could come over and visit. Of course I said yes. When he came to the door, I opened, and he came in. He walked across the living room, turned to my wife, and said, “If Craig does not quit studying, kick him out, we will take care of you.” Then Bishop Hill turned to me and said, “do you know who knows more than any of us?” Now he could have been thinking of Christ Jesus, or someone else. But, it was revealed to me that he was speaking of the devil, and my answer, “Yes, your friend.” With that, the Bishop came at me with his fists doubled up, ready to hit me. I pointed to the door and said, “There’s the door.” and he left. That was 1969. He showed his colors, just as had been revealed to me. My dear wife divorced me, and later told me that she would not have divorced me, had it not been for Mark E. Peterson telling her to do so. I continued to study and pray, and have been guided by the Lord. I have been blessed with challenges. On a Saturday, after the divorce, when I went to pick up my daughters, I was met by two men from the Stake High Council, and served papers to appear before their court. Now, I was secretary of the Elders Quorum, and also teaching a Sunday School Class. At the appointed time I went to the “court”. President Blood, the Stake President, said “Brother Jones, we do not want to hear what any of the Church Leaders have said in the past, all we want to hear is how you feel.” I had gone there with the council I had read in the Bible. “When you are taken before your judges, take no thought beforehand, what you should speak, for it shall be given you in the very hour.” I opened my mouth, and the words came out, ” I have been taught from my youth to stand up for the truth, even if it meant being thrown in the firey furnace, I have been taught from my youth that every blessing was bestowed according to our living the laws of God, if we don’t live according to His ways, we do not receive the blessings.” The Stake President said “Do you believe in plural marriage?” I said, “Yes, I believe it is a correct and true principle.” He said “Do you have more than one wife? I answered, “No, I don’t have any wife at all.” He then asked, “Do you believe President McKay has more than one wife? I thought, “President McKay is not on trial here, I am.” I had some information from an FBI agent on the matter, but I was not to expose that there. My answer, “It would not change my testimony if I knew that to be true.” He then asked, “Do you believe in the Word of Wisdom?” I said “Yes, I do, and though Brother Bowman here, who had the grocery store in Kaysville, sells a lot of meat to the saints, he doesn’t sell much to me, especially not in the Summer Time.” I believe everyone on the High Council laughed. The Stake President and his two councilors excused themselves for a few minutes, when they came back into the room, the Stake President Alan Blood, said, “Brother Jones, It has been determined that you should be excommunicated from the Church, because you believe in doctrines that are no longer taught by the Church. You believe them so much that you believe President McKay has more than one wife.” They could only have received that last bit of information from my dear wife. There are many prophecies by the Prophets, but you will not find them taught by men who choose to change the Gospel of Christ. You will only find the truth by earnest study and Prayer. The Prophet Brigham Young foretold what would happen in the church, he was taught by Joseph the Prophet, Heber C. Kimball, and President John Taylor all had understanding of what would happen among the people called Latter-day Saints. Brigham Young said he had one great fear among this people, and that was that they would put so much faith in their leaders that they would not go to the Lord and find out whether they were led in the right way or not.
There are two “Official Declarations” in the back of the D&C, both came about because of the force of the United Sates Government. The second Declaration, came as a result of the Church Building a Temple in Brazil, the Government of Brazil, contacted President Jimmy Carter, who revealed to President Spencer W. Kimball, that if the priesthood was not given to those who were forbidden, that the church would loose their tax exempt status. Money and power control.
The Prophet Brigham Young foretold what would happen to the Priesthood when that took place. Of course, in the present big church, a prophet in not a prophet after he is dead. As many are told in the church, “Don’t follow dead prophets.” Seems to me that would include Isaiah, Jeremiah, Jesus Christ, and the rest of the Prophets who have moved on, including Brigham Young, Joseph Smith Jr., Heber C. Kimball etc…………. So many of the present church leaders are ashamed of the Gospel restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith. They fight against the truth. I witnessed when Harold B. Lee, stood up in LDS Conference several years ago, held the scriptures up and said we have been a hundred years getting away from these, it is time we got back to them. He was then put in the hospital for a checkup, he never spoke again. There is more to the story, but such is foretold in Chapter 16 of third Nephi, by Jesus Christ. President Ezra Taft Benson, was also drugged and silenced. I will say no more at present. Some may be offended by this, but truth is truth. I have vowed to stand on truth and principle. In my search I spent quite some time in the Office of Joseph Fielding Smith, he had been Church Historian, and there were things revealed that many would not accept. He had tried to present many truths to the church but was blocked. Some things he just swept under the rug, as it were, didn’t want to stir up the waters too much. My only council is seek the Lord in all things. Seek by study and prayer. The same promise which led the young lad, Joseph Smith Jr., which he read in James, in the Bible is as good today as it was then. Know the Truth and the Truth will make you Free. I have been blessed, not with worldly wealth, but with knowledge, and faith, and a love for the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. God Bless you all in your search for truth. Seek, nothing wavering. Be willing to do what the Lord will direct. History is full of men who wavered in their faith, and chose to obey men rather than God. The Gospel of truth has been lost and found countless of times. The followers of Christ Jesus, were known as “Followers of the Way.” We today call them Christians. Yes, Be Followers of the Way, the way of truth, and the knowledge of our Eternal Father. Again, I say God Bless you all.Gerald Craig Jones
Gerald, your account has me shaking. I’m not sure if it’s cold in here or if it’s just that your story is chilling. Either way. Thank you for sharing it.
I find it interesting that many of my views are supported and even reinforced here. I only recently discovered MS so I am still on the fence about it’s agenda. However, I do have to say that me, my wife and several friends, all of whom are members, consider ourselves “Modern Mormons”. When it comes down to it I believe that’s what we are. I do not consider myself a liberal or progressive Mormon because I feel that is too divisive. Yes I know it sounds a bit hypocritical, but consider this. We are a church based on modern Revelation. Reading recent addresses by the Presidency of the Church clearly shows that their intention is for members to become more open and public about their membership. Furthermore, that families are to work together as a team. A wife’s place is no longer just in the kitchen (By the way research has indeed shown that children of stay at home moms do better in school and stay out of trouble. My wife looked it up.)
It is those members who “follow blindly” that are causing other members to feel less welcomed. You can call these members “orthodox” if you like, but I call them lacking in the vision that our Heavenly Father has gifted to us. These are the members who don’t want to talk about the omissions of Church history or even the early seedings of racism and sexism in the Church. As a member I accept that, yes these things happened. However, also as a member I have to accept that we must get past these blemishes.
Interestingly, I am an Elders Quorum instructor and have been told that I am a favorite of the brethren; this includes our Stake leadership.I submit that discussing the gray areas of our faith is all about delivery. I always preface my discussion with comments from the General Authority and include one of my life’s experiences. A great amount of tact is needed when discussing these areas. Some of our best discussions come when we go through the manuals and then start applying life’s experiences.
Our Church is the one true Church and is lead by a modern day Prophet. The gospel is true. Do not let the failings on Man diminish your understanding of His gospel. Know that you are not alone. There are those of us who understand that our Church is a living Church with an inspired direction. Try to help those who follow blindly find the light. As I see it, they may have a strong grasp on the Rod, but are still in the dark.
At a time when I found it difficult to Mormon church, Mormon Stories opened up a whole new world for me. Through this medium, I’ve had the opportunity to connect with men like Dan Peterson (church chief apologist), Terryl Givens (devout LDS author), and Michael Bushman (LDS historian and author of Rough Stone Rolling), all of who reinvigorated my interest in Mormonism and strengthened my testimony in the truth of this church. I am not referring to a radical or unconventional testimony; rather, I had my testimony of the simplicity and truth of the gospel as it is told in Sunday School uplifted and liberated.
Mormon Stories is not a medium for Anti-Mormon sentiment, nor is it meant to tear down the faith of members of the church. It is a tool for those seeking honest and open dialogue about belief and spirituality in general, and I am grateful to it for saving my church membership before the actual Anti-Mormon literature tore it down. It is a resource for those of us who wish to inquire into our faith in a different way, not a threat to the by-the-book Sunday School approach. In fact, I have yet to hear a guest speak ill of that approach; everyone walks a separate path in search of Truth, that is the nature of personal revelation.
I have been taught again and again in church that there is Truth all around us, and it is our job to seek it out, pray about it, and accept that which strikes us as good. To deny someone a valuable medium for doing this is to deny the efficacy of the Holy Ghost, and the role it plays in helping us to discern that which is of God.
I have a firm testimony in this gospel, and the truth contained therein. I know that Joseph Smith restored the truest church to the earth by divine revelation. He did this through personal revelation, which means that is the real basis of this gospel. I have a testimony of this podcast, and the role it plays in personal revelation. I’m grateful for it, and for those who are brave enough to support it and further its purpose. Without them, I do not know where my standing with this church would be. To excommunicate one of them is to condemn my testimony, as it is their work that made it possible. I know this is part of God’s work here on earth, and that he affirms and supports it in its honest search for Truth. Any open search for Truth cannot be denied, that contradicts the precepts of this gospel. An excommunication performed for that reason cannot, in my mind, be affirmed by heaven. That said, I love this church and am grateful for the good its social structure has brought to my life, and I beg you not to take that away from a man who has only honestly sought to come closer to God.
I say these things in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.
Samuel Waldron Grenny
Mormon Stories helped me though a very difficult time. As you know my crisis of faith came while I was serving as a bishop. Mormon Stories helped me navigate through a very difficult time. I found others like me who while they may have had questions and doubt, they were still finding a way to stay active and participating. This past year I joined up with the DC Mormon Stories group and attended a conference there. I should insert here that I often ponder my future in the church and wonder if I can with integrity continue in full fellowship. At the conference Gregory Prince spoke. His comments we encouraged me that there is a place for people like me. And in fact we have much to contribute. Greg gave me inspiration to find new ways to stay and prosper and to help the church prosper. In addition I met others like me from all walks and positions. I was encouraged by the lack of judgement and acceptance regardless of where someone was at in their journey. Al saints can learn from this and do well to treat others the same.
All, I have to say, the local, as It was local for me at the time when I was in the DC area, as I had left mormon storis all together because of work issues I was able to attend a conference. It was the first time in years I felt the spirit and love of the saviour in such a way. There was so much love there, and total uconditional acceptance of one another. We respected everyone for who they were and where they were in the journey. There was no judgement , just complete love, for those who were struggling, and felt they could not be heard or understood in testimony meeting, it was there.
My testimony is not faultering, and didnt while I was meeting at this gathering, it was strengthened. I knew this was why we had the church, and why the lord had hung out with the misfits in the first place, they were hurt, scarred, and seeking. For many of the people who were there, they found answers, felt the sprit again, and many others , myself included, a renewed sense of love for all, as I hope I was able to love , like christ did. Where others would feel unable to be heard, ask, seek, and just think, this allowed those of us out of the ordinary people to partake of the love , we feel we have missed out on. My testimony was strengthened, as those who have lost theirs came and asked me lots about why I stay, and why I love the gospel like I do. I didnt judge anyone, and they didnt judge me, that gathering caused some of the most honest and loving conversations I have ever had.
This makes me very sad to hear. I value the voices I’ve heard in M.S. and it helps me realize I’m not alone in my struggles with the church. Many of the podcasts and speakers I’ve heard have actually strengthened my resolve to stick with the church. When someone as intelligent and knowledgeable as Richard Bushman sticks with the church knowing all the foibles of Joseph Smith, it makes me feel like I can stay too.
I am an unbeliever. I don’t consider my unbelief a problem that needs fixing, and I don’t feel the need to actively convert others to my way of thinking. I’m very much at peace with where I’ve ended up in my faith journey, and I respect anyone else’s right to believe as they choose.
I also still attend church. Why would an unbeliever still want to be a part of the church?
1) I grew up with the church and I feel a strong kinship to the Mormon people. The culture and sociality is familiar to me, and the church feels like home. I have many fond memories related to church experiences throughout my childhood, mission, and time at BYU.
2) Much of my family is still deeply involved in the church, and I wish to remain a meaningful part of their lives, as well as spare them the pain of feeling like a loved one is lost. My family didn’t know much of my personal spiritual views while I was still a believer, and I see no reason for them to know now.
3) I love serving in my church callings and feeling like a contributing member in the faith community. Though I no longer really believe any of the church’s metaphysical or truth claims, I still enjoy participating in discussions at church and even teaching lessons. I understand that my true views are unwelcome in a church setting, and I’m happy meeting other church members on their own playing field (at the risk of inauthenticity), latching onto principles I still feel comfortable with. No one in my ward is aware of my true beliefs, and I think I can contribute far more as long as this remains the case.
The Mormon Stories podcast and community has given me a place where I can express my point of view to others who have been through what I’ve been through. At no time have I felt encouraged to leave the church, but instead have felt an outpouring of support, empathy, and validation in whatever path I may choose. It has been incredibly refreshing to find a community that doesn’t feel the need to tell me what to believe (and marginalize me if I don’t), but is instead devoted to the ideals of listening, understanding, and helping people take full ownership of their lives whether inside or outside the church.
At church we typically only talk of faith promoting experiences and anything outside of that doesn’t feel welcomed. There’s also an immense pressure to comply or always agree with the brethren, even when our own life experiences tell us they’re not always right (i.e., blacks & the priesthood, homosexuality, masturbation, etc.). So it’s very easy for all of us to sit in silence and suffer if we either disagree with the culture norm or its teachings.
Also, it’s frustrating to have church history cleaned up at church, but later in life learn about it in all it’s details. It would be so much better to know the truth all along and be in a place where we can talk about it openly. Instead you have to learn about it on your own & then feel uncomfortable bringing the actual truth up in church. Then you become the “bad” person for suggesting a history that many Mormons are unaware of.
M.S. allows us to take all the cultural pressures off and be true to our hearts. The church demands an all or nothing approach, which in truth, just doesn’t work for the majority of members.
I still have a testimony of the gospel, go to church, have a calling, go to the temple. But M.S. allows me not to feel alone.
I have a brother who is gay and hearing President Boyd K. Packer say that “God wouldn’t allow” my brother “to be this way” is really hurtful. He is that way. That’s who is. He didn’t do anything to be gay no more than I did anything to be straight. It’s comments like these that have led to numerous suicides in our Mormon community. And I cannot, in good conscience, support/agree with President Packer. So, by the church’s standards I’m now being faithless and not sustaining the brethren. It’s all too easy make members feel like they don’t belong and are bad, way-ward disbelievers, when that is not the case at all.
I believe most members don’t agree with every single aspect of the church. So to say we have to be all or nothing, puts this conflict on members. They feel the Spirit and are inspired by the scriptures, prayer, and church. But then they have real experiences that conflict with what some of the brethren are saying at times. So they either feel this immense guilt for not agreeing and stay, but feel they can’t be totally true to themselves. Or they leave and miss some of the things they loved about the church/gospel.
This conflict doesn’t just reach the average member. This happened (and still happens) among our own apostles of the church in regards to the blacks and the priesthood. They felt the conflict! They had strong testimonies of the truthfulness of the gospel, but yet here we were denying blacks the priesthood. Many of them felt sick about it and knew it was wrong. I’m so proud and grateful for the example of Marion D. Hanks, my great-uncle, who helped be part of the change with the blacks
receiving the priesthood. We ALL feel the conflict of our organization not being Christlike at times.
I choose to stay, because the main teachings are inspiring and speak to my heart. But M.S. has given me the freedom to not feel guilty when aspects of the church don’t speak to my heart and are even hurtful and backwards. I live by honesty and inspiration. I want to be true to myself and those around me. M.S. provides that venue that the church just hasn’t found yet.
Mormon Stories has helped me not feel isolated on Sundays. I love and believe in the gospel but correlated history without any flaws, makes me feel dead inside. I can’t believe it’s all or nothing. That’s all I hear on Sundays…If that’s true than I must not have a testimony. My testimony is built on the idea of personal revelation, studying the scriptures, the church’s history, and my love for the Book of Mormon. I need a place to discuss my experience with all of these things. If the church had a place for me to sort through my feelings about both the good and bad parts of Mormon history, I’d gladly use that outlet. In the meantime, I’m grateful for this one.
Pres. Krylborn och andra ledare i Sverige-
Jag skriver till dig på svenska för jag vill att du ska verkligen känna mina ord.
Jag var missionär i Sverige, mellan 2002 o 2004. Att vara missionär i Sverige är en upplevelse som jag aldrig kommer glömma eller ångra. Ni, medlemmarna, var ofta mitt enda hopp efter en lång vecka fylld med stängda dörrar och stängda hjärtan. Ni visade mig otrolig kärlek och omsorg. Ni känner ju hur svårt det kan vara att vara misförstod av andra… att även hatas bara för att du känner o tror på ett visst sätt. Med denna tanke vill jag berätta lite om mig själv.
Efter att ha kommit hem o pluggat, ja även på BYU, började jag känna att jag inte kunde tro på vissa saker angående kyrkans historia och historiska doktriner. Jag blev väldigt deprimerad och kände att det var nåt fel på mig för det spelade ingen roll hur pass mycket jag bad eller fastade, jag fick ingen frid eller nån känsla av att mina tvivel skulle försvinna. Det var hopplöst kände jag. Jag kände på så sätt for jag ansåg att det verkligen var som President Hinckley uttryckte många gånger… att kyrkan var antingen helt fel eller helt korrekt, att det inte kunde vara nåt däremellan. Pga detta, kände jag att jag inte hade nåt val, att jag behövde lämna kyrkan. Jag hade inte varit gift längre än tre år, min fru var gravid. Jag blev fysiskt sjuk några gånger för jag trodde att hon skulle lämna mig om jag talade om mina känslor för henne. (Vi gifte oss i templet och var helt aktiva).
Det var under den här hemska perioden att jag råkade hitta MormonStories. MS hjälpte mig på otroligt många nivår. PGA MS, går jag fortfarande i kyrkan även om jag inte kan tro på allt som kyrkan lär. PGA MS har jag kvar mitt liv och min familj–min otroligt tålmodiga och förståndiga fru, och två underbara barn som heter Lucia och Kristian–vars namn är ett påminnelse för mig av min tid i Sverige som jag uppenbarligen håller väldigt nära mitt hjärta över 8 år efter min hemkomst.
Snälla, tänk efter en stund. Hans och MS hotar inte kyrkan. MS gör inget för att få folk bort från kyrkan eller troendet. Tvärtom i många situationer. Det är sant att somliga MS lyssnare väljer att lämna kyrkan, men de gör inte det för MS har lett dem dit. De som utgår från kyrkan hade nog gjort det oavsett om de hade deltagit i MS eller ej. Å andra sidan, är det många som jag som hade nog lämnat kyrkan men på nåt sätt och med MS stöd och det stöd man får genom att träffas på MS konferenser stannar kvar i kyrkan och bidrar till sina församlingar och den stora världstäckande familj som är JKK av SDH.
Om Broder Mattsson får disciplin av kyrkan kommer jag o många andra både i sverige och utanför att känna sig väldigt ledsna. Jag skulle känna mig ledsen mest, inte för Hans, han klarar sig nog, utan för att jag bemärker när jag är i kyrkan att det är många medlemmar som är beredda att välkomna de med nya eller olika åskådningar. När ledärskapet visar att vi med oortodoxa ideer kanske inte är välkomna, så lider alla, anser jag.
Jag ber dig tänka om det här o öppna dörren istället för att stänga den. Det skulle betyda mycket för mig och många andra bröder och systrar. Vi oortodoxa bara försöker följa det som vi känner i våra hjärtan är sanningen, precis som alla kyrkans medelemmar gör.
bra talat, det enda som ledarna lyckas med detta är att förstärka “sektkänslan”,
där det inte är tillåtet att ifrågasätta eller tänka egna tankar…..skrämmande
“Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
I, like so many members of the Church are heavy laden. We struggle with life’s difficulties like most, and do the best we can with what we have been given. Many of us as we progress through mortality come upon spiritually heavy issues regarding faith, sacrifice, and trust; not only regarding the Church, but regarding the hundreds of other issues that we deal with. First and foremost, for myself the Mormon Stories Podcast community has provided me with an opportunity to connect with others of a similar background.
Frankly, I know of not one Latter-day Saint who doesn’t have doubts about some part of the Church, whether it be historical, cultural, or other. Most of us go years without expressing those doubts or working through them in a healthy manner. From my experience this is due to the culture within the Church, where doubt is frowned upon and seen by many as an indicator of unworthiness or unfaithfulness. Eventually our doubts boil to the surface in one form or another. The result is usually a discussion with a spouse or friend, or perhaps with a church leader. However, many times these valid concerns are not addressed, they are dismissed or minimized. We are told to keep reading our scriptures, to fast and pray and everything will be okay; in essence, to keep doing the same things we have been doing for years to no avail.
We want to believe. The Church is a part of our lives and always will be. For many of us we haven’t given up our faith or abandoned the Gospel, but we need support not found among the typical circles. We need to hear that we aren’t alone, that there are others who are also willing to express concern and even doubt. Mormon Stories does all of those things in a respectful and careful manner. The various interactive groups that have sprouted from the podcast are full of some of the best people I have met. These people aren’t heretics or apostates; they are caring, thoughtful latter-day saints who have turned to other means when church leaders and fellow members have failed to give rest to the spiritually weary.
Translation of my post above:
I am writing to you
in Swedish, because I want you to really feel my words.
I was a missionary in Sweden,
between 2002 and 2004. Being a missionary in Sweden
is an experience that I will never forget or regret. You, the members, were often
my only hope, after a long week filled with closed doors and closed hearts. You showed me incredible love and compassion. You know how difficult it can be to be misunderstood
by others … to be hated just because you
feel or believe in a certain way. With this thought, I tell you a little about myself.
After coming home and studying,
even at BYU, I began to feel that I could not believe certain things about
church history and historical doctrines. I was very depressed and felt
there was something wrong with me because it did not matter how much I prayed
and fasted, I could find no peace or any feeling that my doubts would someday
vanish. It was hopeless, I felt. I felt this way because I
thought it really was as President Hinckley expressed many times … that the church was either
completely wrong or completely true, that there couldn’t be anything in
between. Because of this, I felt I had
nothing choice, that I needed to leave the church. I had not been married more
than three years, my wife was pregnant. I became physically sick several times because I
thought she would leave me if I talked about my feelings with her. (We got married in the temple and were completely active).
It was during this awful
period that I happened to find Mormon Stories. MS helped me on an incredible number of levels. Because of MS, I still go to
church, even though I cannot believe everything the Church teaches. PGA MS, I have my life and my
family intact – my incredibly patient and wise wife and two wonderful children
named Lucia and Kristian – whose names are a reminder to me of my time in
Sweden, which I obviously hold very close to my heart, over 8 years after my return.
Please, think for a moment. Hans and MS are not a threat to the church. MS does not do anything to get
people to leave the church or their beliefs. On the contrary, in many situations. It is true that some MS
listeners choose to leave the church, but they don’t leave because MS has led
them to that point. Those who leave the church had
probably done so regardless of whether they had participated in MS or not. On the other hand, there are
many people, like myself, who had probably left the church, but somehow, with support
from MS and the support you get through meeting at MS conferences, find a way
to remain in the church and to contribute to their communities and the great
worldwide family that is the LDS church.
If Brother Mattsson receives
discipline by the church, many people, myself included, both in Sweden and
outside will be very sad. I would feel sad, not for Hans
(he’ll get by just fine) but because I notice when I am in church that there
are many members who are ready to welcome new or different views. However, when leadership shows that we with unorthodox ideas may not be welcome, I believe
I beg you to rethink this and
to open the door rather than close it. It would mean a lot to me and
many other brothers and sisters. We, the unorthodox, are just
trying to follow what we feel in our hearts is the truth, just like all members
of the church do.
As a 40 year old male who had grown up in the church and who had served an honorable mission to the Germany, Frankfurt mission one year after the Wall came down and the official end of the Cold War, having taught and baptized men and women from the Germany, Italy, France, Spain, U.S.A, Algeria, Angola,Sudan,Ivory Coast, Liberia, Ghana, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Russia, Romania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Poland, Hungary, Viet Nam, China, Albania, India, Nepal…need I go on? Having served in mulitple Elders Quorums and having been an Elders Quorum instrutor for over 10 years, it was more than troubling for me to have a number of the lesser known and no longer taught doctrines and history of the LDS Church dictated to me by a good Baptist friend. I had no way of intelligently commenting on his questions and concerns. This was quite inconceivable to me because I thought I had heard nearly every possible concern about the Church and been able to successfully resolve all of them.
Thus my exploration of his concerns began and I began down a road from whence there is no return. You can not simply UNDO knowledge you have gained about the history of the Church and of some of the actions and “revelations” given to some of its prophets. This was an earth-shattering experience for me. I WAS FLOORED!!! Naturally I now had to question ALL that I once held as true.
I found Mormon Stories and it helped me to SLOWLY and LOGICALLY sift through these ideas and experiences. There were many internet sites which talked about the Mormons and their history but had the motivation to get people to leave the Church. There were other sites like FAIR and FARMS whose goals were obviously to keep people in the Church. Mormon Stories motivations seemed outwardly to be neither. This made it easily the site/community that I could trust through this difficult time because of its neutrality.
I can honestly say that my testimony of the LDS Church and the Book of Mormon is completely different than it used to be and that I would much rather KNOW THE TRUTH than be pacified by warm-fuzzies… And I can honestly say that it is because of Mormon Stories and the people I have met through the communities online as well as here locally that I still have a belief in “good things” and hold to some Mormon beliefs and values as just as valid as any other belief system and am still active in the Church.
Thanks John and MS!
Hey Watchyour6, I served in that mission around the same time. We may have crossed paths. If you ever want to waltz down memory lane, look me up on FaceBook or something.
As a “gay”
celibate Mormon, but inactive in the Church for 12 years or more, I watched
“Part 4 – Homosexuality and the LDS Church” by retired BYU biology
professor Dr. William Bradshaw (Mormon Story 209-213: https://www.mormonstories.org/?p=1336)
who recently participated in the Circling the Wagons Conference for LGBTQ
Mormons, friends, family and their allies in Salt Lake City (https://www.mormonstories.org/?p=1962).
I did not attend the conference, but two members of my family did.
I had watched his interview at MormonStories.org earlier in the summer
and was profoundly moved by his sense of compassion for those with same-gender
attraction in the Church. This prepared the way for me to have the
courage to invite two missionaries into my home when they unexpectedly knocked
my door this last summer. I gathered my wits and spilled my story to
them, fearing the worst: rejection. Rejection and antipathy is what I’d
experienced and perceived from the Church growing up and in my youth and young
adulthood–an antipathy I sensed from even some of my closest LDS friends,
fellow missionaries on my mission, and BYU roommates in my college years of the
early 1990’s. It was inconceivable
to me from the time I was 12-years-old to feel I could trust anyone in the
Church with my “secret.” I
managed to share my secret only with some college bishops, a few very close
friends (mostly inactive ones), and two of my many siblings over a span of
three decades. When the missionaries arrived this last summer, I felt
determined to share my story with them. I
felt a desperate need to find reconciliation with the Church. I had even prayed for the first time
in months, if not years, with tears rolling down my cheeks the night before the
missionaries showed up at my door (no joke!).
I loved the Church and missed it, but I hated the profoundly painful and
alienating moments of abuse (albeit unintentional) I felt from members. I took the elders’ showing up as a
sign from God that he still cared about me (and suggesting that the Church does
care about its gay brothers and sisters, even if they’re not aware that He
would like them to be welcome in the fold along with the “normal”
was the first time anyone in the Church had prayed for me knowing of my
sexuality. I felt completely transparent before two active (extremely
active: missionaries) Mormons! It was an unbelievable feeling. Elder
_____’s prayer at the end of their visit proved to be the most cathartic
prayer experience I’ve ever had in my life and began a healing relationship
that continues to this day, with their almost weekly visits and my having
returned to Church several times since their initial visit. These younger generation of
missionaries shared how they had LDS friends or employers or family members
before their missions dealing with being homosexual and so they were not
freaked out about it (like many older church leaders still seem to be, even
after decades of supposed life experience). Their compassion makes a
difference even from those who were their age just 20 years ago or so. After I had confessed to my
mission President, in the late 80’s, of my homosexual inclinations (which he
graciously said would not interfere with my ability to complete an honorable
mission), my then zone leader companion returned from a zone leaders conference
and told me that the president “warned” them that there were two “f-gs”
(my companions choice of wording) in the mission and that they were to use
caution hugging their companions or other missionaries; my companion said that
if a “f-g” missionary ever tried to touch him, he would punch his lights out. His demeanor, usually
kindly and civilized, turned momentarily vitriolic and frightening in that
moment, and I felt as if I’d been punched in the gut, and that I’d been exposed—as
something horrible, disgusting and definitely not worthy of mission material. I couldn’t process my
reaction in my mission journal because I wanted to keep it rated G. I was forced to put it
behind me. I moved on, only to face another decade of similar reactions
to homosexuality among Church members (and two decades later, a recent
experience with homophobia among old BYU roommates when I returned to Utah for
any wonder I naturally fell away from the Church? In retrospect, I
realize I’ve probably been suffering from continuously compounding
post-traumatic stress disorder! Secularists have a term for this, and not
a very flattering one: “spiritual abuse.” I feel extremely
reluctant to call it that myself, because I wouldn’t want to admit that anyone
would intentionally hurt me in the Church, but in terms of the practical
outcome, I’m suffering similar if not identical results. I suffer a severe fear of trusting in other
people with my private self, both in and out of the Church. I suffer major blockage of creative energy
and the ability to fulfill my creative “destiny” because my angst over this and
the unhappiness that hovers over me in between the hours of work and play
continue to eat away at me, like a cancer.
Being unreconciled with the Church eats away at me like a cancer. Feeling intense moments of rejection and
judgment, after I gave years of service and activity in the church, have eaten
away at me like a cancer.
this to the contrast I experienced with the missionaries showing up at my door,
patiently and compassionately waiting while it took every ounce of courage I
had in me to tell them of my “trauma” living with homosexual desire as a member
of the Church. They heard my pain, and helped me bear my burden, and made me feel
that I was loved for the first time in I don’t know how long. They bore
my burdens with me, even shed tears with me. They literally fulfilled
that beautiful covenant spelled out in Mosiah 18:8-9 (https://lds.org/scriptures/bofm/mosiah/18.8,9?lang=eng#7).
am unsure how to resolve my sexuality with the Church, but I at least feel
liberated having two LDS members I can feel completely transparent with in the
body of the Church now. I’m working up the courage to share my story with ward priesthood
leaders, and perhaps with members I hope to come to trust, knowing that the
missionaries are only temporary. It’s time for me to move on
from my fear of being ME as a Latter-day Saint, and beyond other Mormons’ fear
of gay Mormons being who they are. Gay Mormons, celibate or
not, are in need of compassion, not judgment they have suffered for decades,
and Brother Bradshaw clearly and pristinely conveyed this message to our Church
members in his interview; giving me the hope that someone in the Church might
someday “come around” so that I can “come out,” and be myself
as a Latter-day Saint with same-gender attraction without fear of disgust or
hatred/persecution by church members. I
already dread the next moment someone says something insensitive or hurtful
about homosexuals among the church body in my presence. I hope all who read this take my words to
heart and reach out with love and compassion to those who experience same-sex
attraction. We do not choose our feelings anymore than a heterosexual
chooses his or hers, this is simply how it is.
We don’t know the causes (yet), and not knowing gives us no excuse to
play judge and incriminator, it only gives us reason to listen even more
closely, more carefully, more compassionately, and more sincerely to our
stories, our Mormon Stories, to get closer to the truth and answers we all want
in reconciling homosexuality with the doctrine of eternal marriage. This is a conundrum that needs compassion,
not judgment–much less condemnation, persecution and snide ridicule. Thank you, Dr. Bradshaw, for representing
the “least of these [Christ’s] brethren”…the “lepers” of the Church. It is how we often feel, but with people
like you, we feel the touch of Christ against our metaphorically “decaying
bodies” and very real, wounded spirits.
I am not suggesting that Dr. Bradshaw is the “friend” John Dehlin refers to in
this post (I have no idea who he is referring to), I am merely using him as an
example of someone at Mormon Stories who has helped me feel a desire to return
to church, if only to help other members understand those with same-gender
attraction. If all us were to leave the
church (or be kicked out?), how will the members ever come to a closer
understanding of our dilemma? Perhaps
it is my new mission in life to become a spokesman for people like me, at least
on the level where I can be “known,” the ward level. Every ward needs a homosexual, if only to humble those who take
their heterosexuality—consummated or not through celestial marriage—for
granted. And we, homosexuals, need you
to help us bear our burdens, our cross, to figure out how to make meaning and
purpose of our lives without the gift of heterosexuality in a religion which
stresses the need for that gift in order to receive the highest blessings of
salvation. Help us reconcile this
challenge, please don’t judge or condemn us for being helplessly born into
it. We may not be your husbands or
wives, but we are your brothers and sisters, and have been from the moment our
Priesthood holders cradled us in a circle and gave us a name by which to be
known throughout the Church, and a blessing, just like you. I need brothers and sisters who will love
me, not persecute me. I need my Nephi
and Samuel, not a Laman and Lemuel.
Pardon the format above if it’s skewed, I didn’t type it out that way :(
Do not take this from me. I am dying here. And you would like to think I am suffering from some sort of spiritual malady. No. I am Molly Mormon.
Mormon Stories makes me feel heard. Knowing that other people know what I know but have dealt with issues constructively, and still find value in their Church membership, inspires me to do the same.
One more thing, “I’m drowning here, & you’re describing the water.” —As Good As It Gets.
Some of us are just looking for a bit more than a description of the water.
The Mormon Stories conferences I have attended give me hope. Hope that love and Zion still exist, in spite of our human differences.
It is not an easy position you are in, to judge someone. I don’t envy the stress that it implies.
In the words of one much wiser than you or I – “Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye?” I’m not one to give advice, but I’d much rather stand before God and say “my heart and the teachings of Christ compelled me to leniency, compassion and understanding”, than “I acted out of fear”.
I have to say I am new to Mormon Stories, and have only been following it for about the past two months. I have long subscribed to the idea that there are different kinds of Latter-Day Saints. I also have long believed that we don’t often follow our own dogma, particularly as it pertains to the 8th Article of faith. “(We) allow all men the same privilege to worship how where, and what they may.” If you ask 15 members of the church what they believe about various points of doctrine, you will find such a wide array of beliefs so as to be unsure if it is the same faith. This is likely true of all faiths. In all of this I have always felt that the traditional, conservative view which permeates the church, particularly in the areas where culture has sprung up where generations of Latter-Day Saints have been either in the majority or very prominent, has stifled some of the basic tenets of our faith. Particularly the idea that our hearts ought to be open to conviction. Also lost in all of the “ought to’s” is a sense that God is love, and that He (not you or I) is the Righteous Judge. When Christ came to the earth he was most harsh with the Scribes and Pharisees (hypocrites) in his chosen people. Those who preached the letter of the law, but ignored the poor, the poor of spirit, and those suffering. In fact, the leaders in the day of Christ often made the plight of the downtrodden worse. There are many now who ignore the plight of Latter-Day Saints who do not fall into comfortable categories (gay, for example) because they are not comfortable with their truths (the reality of their lives or experiences). There are also truth seekers who stumble on the inconvenient truths that can shake one’s faith. There are many things not taught through correlated material that are true, but ignored because of the questions they bring up. Someone needs to talk about these things openly, as they are not discussed in church, and many, if not most, of local church leadership are not conversant in areas of ambiguity or controversy. At a time when my faith in people because of rigid and closed-minded orthodoxy (I might even say Pharisiacal) has been shaken, a community of Latter-Day Saints who truly believe in Christ, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and has opened their minds to the possibilities of fallibility in the Church without rejecting the whole of it has come to my attention in part because of Mormon Stories. Joseph Smith was open to conviction and received beautiful and marvelous things. I wish the best for whichever brother is under the scrutiny of the local leadership, and hope the leadership has the openness of heart to see that not all of God’s children fit neatly into thier boxes, and embrace questioning, searching, and thinking, for without it our church would not exist.
I have always been very active in the church. While responding to sincere concerns of an intellectual that I baptized while in college, I found myself uable to answer his questions. I continued to dig deeper, and only found myself more confused. I continued to read, pray, serve and do everyting I was taught. Unfortunately (for me) the church didn’t seem to have any official mechanism in place to resolve these sincere concerns. MS came to the rescue big time. I do believe that the church in the next 10 years or so will establish a safe, honest, and worshipful avenue for memebers who are confused about these issues to have them addressed without causing fear of disciplinary action to the earnest in heart. MS seems to have filled that gap at least for me.
I’ve been an active member all my life. A few years ago, I felt my faith challenged by problematic events in the church’s history. My first reaction was to want to get as far away from the church as possible. Mormon Stories helped me temper my tone, reaction, and expectations. Among other things, it is a place of refuge for those of us who chose to dig and didn’t like what we found but want to remain in the fold for whatever reason. My reason is a family of six who has found strength and fellowship in the church.
Mormon Stories has helped me to remain an active and productive member of the Church. I am a returned missionary, a BYU graduate, a husband, and a father who has, in the past few years, experienced an intense “crisis of faith.” While my Priesthood leaders have been understanding of my doctrinal and historical doubts, they have also been forthcoming about the fact that there really is no support for doubters, within the Church, beyond personal study. During my faith struggle, I have put many doctrinal issues that do not make sense to me on the proverbial “shelf.” I would rather carry a library full of “shelves” on my back than leave the Church that I love. The tireless efforts of the Mormon Stories community (both online and through regional conferences) has helped me to lighten the load of the “shelves” that I carry. Mormon Stories has shown me that I am not alone and that it is okay to have honest doubts. Mormon Stories has shown many that just the willingness to fight to keep a testimony shows a great deal of faith and love for the Church.
The word “doubter” has become a byword in the Church. It is often associated with words like “dissenter” and “apostate.” This has hurt me a great deal because there are many of us who are good, well-meaning, productive members of the Church. The stigma associated with those that struggle with doubt leaves many feeling depressed and alone within the Church. For many of us, not all I am sure, our struggle with our testimonies is not related to some hidden desire to sin or fight against the Church. Many of us are simply honest and loyal members who seek after God’s truth. Perhaps most important, we are people who do not want to find support from the subjective and often anti-mormon groups that exist on the internet today. We want to find a support group with people who are like us: people who love the Church, yet need objective and constructive discussion in order to find solace and to heal from the pain that doubt brings.
I have resigned from the church, but when I was struggling a community like this would have enabled me to not feel so lonely and remained connected. I tried many times to discuss my disaffection and have open ended
discussion with others about the real history of the church or challenge
cultural beliefs with reason as suggested in Isaiah 1:18. It was almost
like we were not allowed to question or doubt if LDS, that is sad as
doubt is not the opposite of faith, certainty is. I have went to Mormon Stories gathering here in the Portland area and it was a beautiful time that day as I gathered with many who are still active but who might have a spouse or themselves see that there is a middle way in Mormonism. The tent is big enough for all of us, even those of us who have formally disconnected. I still go to RS functions, just as a non-member now. If you discipline this person for seeking community of like minded folks who have a God- given right to think and question, you are not only pushing him out of the church but hurting his family. Would Jesus do that? Think about that. Seriously, sharing stories is common in all cultures, we seek out Mormon Stories to do just that. Most of us who doubt still have faith and value our roots and traditions, even if we change or modify some of our beliefs or question.
So well said, Pam!
Mormon Stories kept me sane and safe during a very dark period in my life when my faith was all but shattered. To say that it goes against the church’s values is to misunderstand it completely. Few things exemplify the 13th Article of Faith like Mormon Stories.
I grew up in a family that was very strong in the Church, and I always loved being involved in seminary and my university ward. Several years ago, I had an experience that really shook me up emotionally, and got me questioning everything I knew. I’m still working on healing from this experience. I’ve remained active in the Church the whole time, and the support I’ve received from my local Mormon Stories community has played an important role in this. My local Mormon Stories group is a community where it’s safe to talk about anything, and where you can always count on receiving love, support, and acceptance, no matter what you’re experiencing. These aspects have gone a long way in helping me heal, and helping me to reframe my experiences and Church membership in positive ways.
Here we go again. The LDS Church is abusive. I ask John Dehlin to stop being so co-dependent toward it. Obviously, the LDS Church isn’t a welcoming or wholesome institution, stop acting like it is.
I might add ;
Dear Stake President and Council of High Henchmen!
Please note that those that stay active still pay/donate 10% and that any contributions made to MS do not compete with the offering asked.
I think Campbell’s sentiments might demonstrate why a stake president would be concerned with someone who host a Mormon Stories event. Especially someone who might be in church leadership. The organization tends to attract those who have an irrational hatred for the lds faith.
Odd. They “leave but cannot leave it alone.” And you cannot leave John alone either. Interesting and sad.
Attending the Mormon stories conference in my area helped me to feel like there was still a place for me as a non-literal believer in the Mormon community. I met literal believers that were loving and who cared about making me feel welcome despite my difference in belief. If it wasn’t for support like this I doubt I would be able to continue as a member of the LDS faith. Since the Church does not want us to talk about difficult issues as part of our regular weekly services, it is nice to have a place we can speak freely and be ourselves.
I’m a life-long LDS member, with Mormon pioneers and a prominent apostle in my not too distant ancenstry. My husband has served in several bishoprics. My “real” education began innocently enough when I checked out a book at the local library on Emma Smith. Later I read “Rough Stone Rolling.” What I learned caused the ground underpinning my testimony to shift. No longer could I look at everything taught at Church regarding its history as totally accurate. I found I had more and more questions and have had to rely more on faith and less on an intellectual belief in the Church. The statewide Prop 8 campaign and local Church leadership’s decision-making in the campaign caused damage. I really began to wonder if I would/could stay involved with the Church. But then, somehow I found Mormon Stories. It has been a relief to know there are others in the Church who’ve also wrestled with these issues and to hear how they’ve reconciled or not reconciled their knowledge and faith. It has given me space to grow within the Church, not available at Church.
I have seen the damage done to entire families when a parent is excommunicated or disciplined. It is not something that should be done in an effort to stifle truth or exert control. It is impossible in these times with modern technology to impart a false historical rigidity. Truth will prevail. People will individually have to grapple with faith and knowledge issues.
I have been a member of the Church for 18 years. Mormon Stories has helped me regarding questions of doctrine that made me question my testimony in the past. While a number of people associated with Mormon Stories may have decided to part ways with the Church it seems to me that a great deal more have found the answers they needed and have assisted members with their testimony.
When I had questions about the church about a year ago I would not consider any resources that were not church approved or in and of the church. Mormon Stories was such a resource. I remember listening to who John Dehlin was and waiting to hear he was an exmormon so I could turn it off. To my delight, he was an upstanding member. While I have since resigned membership, so as to not compromise my personal integrity, Mormon Stories has saved my marriage. My husband who remains active confesses he would not have tolerated my feelings had it not been for Mormon Stories presentations and interviews with others who were going through what we went through. It is an atrocity that before Mormon Stories and other resources like it the church can place such an emphasis on family and yet throw it away when the man or wife to the party of marriage decides mormonism is not for them any longer. I have no doubt that Mormon Stories is inspired and necessary for our time.
Not sure I have the right words. I lost my faith in God and all religions but I still enjoy and love my religious tradition and culture-the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I go to church regularly. For a few years I was semi-active and when I did go, I would get so angry. I demanded answers. And more than just pray and have faith answers, because I was praying and faith isn’t something that everyone just has. Mormon Stories gave me an outlet for the questions that I was always asking. It dissipates my frustration as I can discuss my thoughts and opinions without feeling the outcast. I was able to go to church on Sundays and ask my questions respectfully-asking fewer of them and more specific questions. The people involved with the Mormon Stories community are great and I’ve gone from being semi-active to active thanks to having a group of friends within my Mormon faith. I would ask that you be understanding, patient, and loving towards those of us searching, seeking, striving to understand the world around us and the world to come.
I attended the Mormon Stories Conference in Salt Lake City this past summer. God poured his love out over all of us that day. It was the most spiritual experience that I have had in a long time. I felt God’s love very strongly that day.
Should someone be punished for sponsoring such spiritual events? I seem to remember a group called the Pharisees that tried to do something similar to a man named Jesus.
I recently attended a Mormon Stories conference. I felt more light there than I have felt in years as an active Mormon. While I heard stories of people who left and of people who stay, those stories didn’t change my view of what I should do with my membership. Rather they helped me better understand the real and complex reasons that cause some to leave the church. It gave me even more respect and love for those people that leave. The church taught me to marginalize these people… to not truly hear or listen to them but to simply slap a label on them as apostate. I hope that by knowing and empathizing with such people, I can make the church a better place, where not so many will want to leave.
John Dehlin has worked tirelessly to bring together mormon experience, faith, testimony, distress, and rational inquiry across the spectrum from atheist to former temple president. His sincere purpose in creating this vast interview archive as far as I can perceive is to emulate the Savior in Mark 9, who declares that all things are possible to him who believeth, “And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe, help thou my unbelief.” As a current member of a stake high council, I would say that a more christian service with purpose to fulfill section 6.1.3 of 2010 book1, to “safeguard the purity, integrity and good name of the church,” would be to reach out in love, and obtain access to vast wells of inspiration available through the prince of peace who obtained infinite empathy through the winepress and cross. Organizing an MS conference is not in violation of 6.7.3 as pertains to apostasy, “deliberate public opposition, following the teachings of apostate sects, those that advocate plural marriage”. As LDS christians we are to “make unto [ourselves] friends with the mammon of unrighteousness.” DC82:10. Just as the church invited as VIP guests Dustin Black, Bruce Bastian and others to the December 2010 holiday concert, we should especially reach out to those on the fringe. “Then in a moment to my view, the stranger started from disguise. The tokens in his hands I knew;”
I have been listening to MS since it began. I come from a fifty year church experience as a “faithful” member and have been involved in some aspect of bringing in over 200 people into the church during that time. I have a wonderful wife and five adult children, four of who served , as I did, a full time mission. Two of those children are not active in the church, mostly because of the “reactions” they received from “orthodox” members and local leaders, when they expressed their own “doubts”. I have been blessed with numerous and continuing spiritual experiences as dreams, visions, visitations, etc. There is no doubt in me that Father in Heaven, along with other divine beings, are real!
The church is “stuck” in its position, both as an institution, and as individuals, because of a lack of personal, divine revelation. The main reason that church leaders go, “by the book” is that they think that this is the “gospel”. I remember one of my stake presidents, clutching the Melchizedek Priesthood handbook to his chest and saying, “I love this book more than the scriptures, because it keeps me ‘out of trouble'”. By this remark he was referring to to staying out of trouble with the General Authorities in Salt Lake. As long as what he did passed the GA approval, he was satisfied that he was doing “the Lord’s will”.
Over these decades of membership, I have witnessed the decline in the number of persons who have received revelations. Now I commonly hear over the pulpit that revelation is not of any importance and if a member does not experience any, it is nothing to be concerned with. It sounds like the “gifts of the spirit” are being treated in the church like it is with the Catholics and Protestants. In my last temple recommend interview with the stake president, when I just hinted that I’ve had “spiritual experiences”, his response was what Joseph got from the Methodist minister, when relating the “first vision” experience. When I asked him if he’d had any such experiences, he said that he hadn’t and further, that such were more likely from Satan than Divine!
I see the church (members) being satisfied with Mormonism, “by the book” because it seems to be in “black and white” requiring no revelation to discern life’s circumstances. How can such a people be lead by any one, mortal or Divine? So, when any person suffers “doubts”, as this is not “in the book”, nothing can be done. With out MS these people would indeed be “cast out”. No effort by any one will make any difference on the membership generally or the institution to bring about “change”, with out Divine revelation initiating that change. Look at all the revelations experienced during the restoration, yet here we are less than two hundred years later and it is as though revelation does not exist! We have fallen into the same situation as the former Saints did after Christ’s ministry.
We are individually responsible for our own revelation, our relationship with God. Not the church, not the local leadership, not the social network; we are. Not that these aspects can’t assist us in our quest to meet God face to face; but clutching to fallen mortals, in an attempt to avoid God, results in that lack of “peace” which Jesus promises the open hearted. Each of us travels a different road in life, but in the end we all will face Him. He is all that really matters. When He bends and lifts you up, literally, and you look into His face and feel his power remove all the guilt, words cannot express the love you will feel for him explode from your heart and fill the universe. A most fearful experience, but with out parallel in peace. May you all have this joy is my sincere desire.
I will follow you to the ends of the earth. Just give me a voice. When we have counseled together and I feel heard, then I can back your inspired decisions 100%. Let the bride be part of the revelatory process. I am not about blame. I am willing to share accountability come what may. Communication is key, and requires some time and attention. And no stonewalling either. That is emotionally abusive. Ask any marriage therapist. The church being the bridegroom and all.
I also think revelation concerning our social dilemmas can come when the people are ready. Do not point the finger at our prophets. We are responsible. Let us ask in prayer, and prepare ourselves to receive, the further light and knowledge through our prophet. Then the church will be ahead of the game with social solutions, and not appear to be compelled to change. Oh Father, where does diversity belong in the church? We are ready to receive.
John / Open Stories Foundation Board Members:
If there has been an over arching theme to MS it has been a
discussion of “cognitive dissonance”.
This construct has been used over and over again to describe how
individuals in their “crisis of faith” can come to terms with their thoughts,
feelings, and beliefs.
My question for each of you is how do you overcome the
cognitive dissonance you must feel in asking such a loaded, self-limiting,
intellectually dishonest question as: “How has your local Mormon Stories
community helped you stay active in the LDS Church?”
You might as well have asked: “Chocolate ice cream lovers,
please describe why chocolate is the best flavor of ice cream.”
Why not ask the questions that are the driving force behind
this dear friend’s situation. In fact,
why not conduct an actual statistically significant survey of Mormon Stories
Community (MSC) members and then publish the results?
Questions might include:
* Since participating in my local MSC, my belief in the core
tenants of the LDS
* The discussions in my local MSC encourage/discourage me to
keep the commitments I have made to the LDS Church,
such as accepting callings, paying tithing, etc?
* Since joining my local MSC I have more/less desire to
participate in the LDS
* When considering the doctrine, theology, and belief system
of the LDS Church I would describe my local MSC as
faith promoting / doubt inspiring?
Having an intellectually honest review of just how MS and
the MSC affect the lives and beliefs of the participants would be incredibly
enlightening. Asking a loaded and
intellectually bankrupt question to a group of self-selecting respondents is a
disservice to your friend.
The stated goal of this thread was document for your
friend’s stake president how MS and the local MSC “helped them stay active in
the LDS Church”?
Again I am perplexed at how you must deal with the cognitive
dissonance asking this must cause you.
John, you have openly and publicly acknowledged that “many
more people have left the church than have stayed because of my Internet work”.
Why pretend that this is not the case for your friend? This seems like it will only cause further
pain and eventually resentment. Why not just
be honest and acknowledge the facts concerning those who embrace MS and MSC and
their activity and commitment to the LDS
For those who are now about to start a flame war saying I
have mis-quoted John here is the quote, in context, with a link for the full
“Regarding my “encouraging members to stay in the
church” — this was my position for a time while I was trying to figure
out my own relationship with the church (I’ve vacillated over the years about
my own level of activity just as many of you here have), but the StayLDS
position is no longer something that I push…and I’ve been very public about
this on my podcast a few times now.
I now believe that people should follow their joy….period.
In or out of the church. That said, I would guess that many more people have
left the church than have stayed because of my Internet work — and I’m
perfectly happy if they’re happy. I mean that.”
Posted by: John Dehlin
Date: December 15, 2010 10:11AM
***OPEN MORMON or MSC
Many of the participants on this thread and listeners to MS
are likely not familiar with the Open Mormon movement. They will not understand that the local MSC
is at is core a meeting place for Open Mormon Members (OMM) and other
The MSC grew as a direct and deliberate outgrowth from OM. (https://openmormon.com/forum/faq.php)
The recruitment letter for OM
that circulated in 2009 read as follows: “We have begun holding city-based or
regional meet-ups for families and/or couples that want to get together w/
others face-to-face to build stronger ties (vs. something that is completely
virtual/online). We are exploring the options of holding annual conferences,
publishing a magazine and/or books, and potentially becoming a 501c3
Surely it would be in the interest of your friend to
acknowledge that one of the primary goals of the local MSC is to vet new
members for Open Mormon. It is
disingenuous and misleading to your friend to act as if this is not the case.
Further, it is a bit surreal that you have sworn Open Mormon
members to secrecy concerning their membership in the group. It’s more than a little ironic that “open”
Mormons are the most “closed” and secretive/private of any of the
ex/post/anti/pro/mormon groups online.
Again, for those who are about to fire up the flaming
keyboards, please read the full letter below and find the letter in context
quoted here: https://www.thefoyer.org/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=9391&sid=217faab64fbf90f733398c30be57baed&start=15
——————————-Begin of Open Mormon Recruit
I just wanted to let you know that I (and a few very close friends) have
started a group, which serves a few needs:
1. It’s a private, invitation-only Internet community of Mormons who are
committed to Mormonism, but who tend to want to ask tougher and deeper
questions than are generally allowed at Church. Some are very active and are
“true believers”. Some are active and are “semi-believers”.
A few are inactive, but still want positive associations within Mormonism. All
are looking for fellow travelers to help navigate the waters of things like marriage,
raising children, and (most importantly) finding increased levels of spiritual
and intellectual enlightenment within the Mormon/LDS framework.
2. It seeks to be a support resource for those who are newly struggling with
intellectual and/or cultural aspects of the church, and are in crisis. We hope
to provide support for these folks in dealing with spouses, children, parents,
community, etc. Several of those on the list have been through faith crises of
their own, and have successfully navigated through them — and can sometimes
provide helpful advice in such a journey.
3. It is also intended for this to be more than just a virtual community. We
have begun holding city-based or regional meet-ups for families and/or couples
that want to get together w/ others face-to-face to build stronger ties (vs.
something that is completely virtual/online). We are exploring the options of
holding annual conferences, publishing a magazine and/or books, and potentially
becoming a 501c3 (non-profit).
On this list of over 140 people we have housewives, lawyers, doctors,
university professors, successful businessmen, etc. We have a Relief Society
president, a bishop, and folks in various stages and callings within Mormonism.
What this community is NOT: It is NOT a place to mindlessly spew anger and/or
criticism at the church. It is not another exmormon.com or postmormon.com. It
is not the place to take jabs at the church, or to take jabs at traditional
believers (TBMs). It’s not even the place to spend much time questioning the
value of associations with Mormonism, or with the church.
This board is for folks who have either: 1) already made the decision to be
“Mormon” or LDS, or 2) who are genuinely interested in finding ways
to be comfortable with their “Mormon-ness” or church affiliation.
At its core, it’s for folks who want to be LDS or Mormon, and want to make it
work. (If you are wondering why I am making a distinction between LDS and
Mormon — think John Hamer. Someone who is definitely not LDS, but VERY Mormon
— and loves Mormonism).
Here are the rules for the community:
* You must use your full real name as your login name (e.g. juliesmith). You
must also include your city/state in your profile, so folks can know who’s
close to each other (remember — face to face meetups are an important part of
this), and you must add a photo of yourself (look for the post about Avatars in
the housekeeping section to explain how). All of these rules help to ensure
privacy on our list — by letting everyone know who’s reading/listening.
* No lurkers. You must contribute to the community in meaningful ways to remain
* You must promise to keep your contributions constructive, and always oriented
towards the goal of staying affiliated w/ Mormonism in positive ways. Constructive
venting is ok (it’s a fine line) — but this site can’t drift into anti-Mormon
territory or we’re dead. Please try to observe the “4
positive/constructive comments for every 1 criticism” ratio if you can.
* The first thing you must do when you enroll is to:
o Check out the introductions once you’re in ( viewforum.php?f=2 ), and then…
o Introduce yourself to the group within a few days of being accepted.
* Strict confidentiality must be observed. You must promise to never share
anything on the list (content or names) with anyone outside of the list…ever.
All content within this list is copyrighted.
* Details of the house rules can be found here: viewforum.php?f=7
(again….once you’re a member).
If you would like to be a member, and are willing to comply with these rules,
please sign-up up here: ucp.php?mode=register
It may take a day or so for the managers to approve your application. You will
be notified via email once they have approved the application.”
——————————-End of Open Mormon Recruit
Finally, why pretend for your friend’s sake that MS and the
local MSC are anything close to promoting faith or long term commitment to the LDS Church?
John, one of your classic quotes in this regard compared
staying the LDS Church like a gay man marrying
“So when I compare StayLDS to a gay man marrying a straight
woman — it’s only a statement about my understanding of the probability of it
working out in the long run. Some people can do it. But in my experience, it is
problematic for many/most — can often have negative consequences — and the
last thing I want to do is set people up (especially believing spouses or
parents/siblings) with expectations that are not tenable for the semi-believer
or the disbeliever (“Just stay. John Dehlin can stay….why can’t
Full quote: https://www.mormonstories.org/?p=1117
It would be far better for your friend, for MS, for the
local MSC if you acknowledged that on balance MS and the local MSC do not lead
people to become/remain active in the LDS Church.
You have stated “For the record, Mormon Stores does not have
an explicit goal of leading people in or out of the church, but instead to
support people in their LDS-reltaed journeys/transitions, wherever they may end
Why not at least acknowledge here, what you have said in
other forums, that many more people have left the LDS Church
than have stayed because of their involvement in MS and local MSC.
Hopefully this dear brothers Stake President will do his due diligence, and use his spiritual gifts to realize the true nature of MoSto’s. Plenty has been said above, but I would just like to add, alas, the battle begins!
Lots of inspiring stories here. However, if the Mormon leaders about to come down on this guy are anything like most of the ones I’ve known, hearing how Mormon Stories has helped doubting people stay in the church is not likely to impress them. If anything, they will be alarmed to learn how many seemingly devout members listen to this “subversive” podcast, and will be even more dilligent in rooting out “closet apostates” before they can infect others. Yes, its not fair. Doubting or questioning should not be a crime. But that is the unfortunate reality of Mormonism, where total, unquestioning obedience is valued above all else. If you are famous or rich (like Carol Lynn Pearson or Greg Prince), the church may grant you a fairly long leash. But for the rest of us, its safer to keep our doubts to ourselves. Those who are willing to put their names out there, by organizing a MS conference for example, deserve a lot of credit, in that some of them will likely end up having to take the proverbial bullet.
I’m not sure why discussing issues pertaining to the church should be held in suspicion and lead to a church disiplinary hearing. Some of us are unable to agree blindly all the time with every church decision or action. We are taught to study it out in our mind. We can’t do that if we leave our mind at the door of the church.
I have served as a missionary, bishop, high councilman, and about every other calling in the church. When I was about 50 years old I was serving as a ward missionary and had the opportunity to travel to Saudi Arabia to teach and coordinate a master program. During that time I was challenged by my students to learn more about Islam and I challenged them to learn more about the LDS doctrine. What occurred was surprising to me, as I became much more open and began to question some of the basic doctrines of the Church. When I finally spoke to my priesthood leader (I was then an assistant to the HP group leader), he told me that I would have to be released. Subsequently, I was told not to hometeach via email and then begin about 5 years of inactivity. When I would attend I struggled to listen to doctrine that I questioned and felt outside the “family” of the church.
My returning to the church coincided with my discovery of Mormon Stories. Listening to others struggles has allowed me to see others, who have the same heartaches as I. I was listening to one episode recently while I was riding my bicycle and was touched so much that I began to cry. I am aware that others such as Edward Kimball and Richard Bushman do not have a knowledge of what is true, but choose to believe. This has helped me in my life, as I desire a knowledge, but recognize that I also will make my choices in what I will believe.
I would hope that an inspired leader would take the time to better understand the purpose and content of Mormon Stories. If his heart were open, he would see that there is much good that is accomplished by this effort. Do we cast our brothers out because of unbelief and doubts or allow them to gain support by their affiliation to groups that can help?
I was exposed to Mormon Stories only after I, a high priest with many years’ leadership experience, resigned my membership in the LDS church. Had I been involved with Mormon Stories before that time I might have been able to mitigate things through this valuable service on behalf of LDS members led by John Dehlin, a champion both for truth and for the LDS church. It’s high time that local LDS leaders realize that there are other good, solid outside resources in the hands of faithful LDS members that can be tapped to our mutual benefit. To react with disciplinary actions toward a member seeking these truths is a cheap shot at the messenger and displays naked fear of scrutiny. One should never forget the invaluable words of Thomas Paine, “It is error only, and not truth, that shrinks from inquiry.”
My Mormonism and my membership in the church is something I just wouldn’t know how to do without. Over the last few years, it has been an often heartbreaking experience for me to have doubt creep into my life. It has been particularly challenging for me because I have done what I thought I was supposed to do as an upstanding member of the church. Not until I was well into adulthood had I ever heard that someone could answer all of the temple recommend questions honestly and still find reason to doubt aspects (or all) of their faith.
I have come to a point of belief and participation in the church that is often paradoxical and questioning, but I love it. I love going to those three hours of meetings and raising my hand when I can share something that will help someone else. I love my small calling in my ward. I love trying to follow the example of Jesus Christ that the scriptures give, despite failing at every turn.
Several months ago I was at a point where I could have said I was a member of the church, I could have said I was a Mormon, or I could have said I wasn’t. It was a point where saying I was or wasn’t was the only line in my belief I was sure I still had. Mormon Stories and the larger community associated with it, namely the people and their sharing the ways they participate and believe, helped me to reclaim some of my own belief. I would be heartbroken to hear my church didn’t want someone who wanted to believe (if in their own way), who wanted to participate. It would be like I was being told I wasn’t wanted. I know there is a difference between the doctrine or policy of the church and the lives of the membership, but the church is its members. Saying it doesn’t want someone who wants to be there would mean the church doesn’t want itself.
To whom it may concern, I am an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have served as missionary, Elders Quorum President, Young Men’s President, Seminary Teacher, and in the Stake Young Men’s Presidency. I love the Church and what it has done for me. And yet when a news article on Book of Mormon anthropology led to a journal article on DNA evidences led to a faith crisis in 2004, my life was turned upside down. I couldn’t understand my new world and worse had no tools with which to help navigate this new world. My most important relationships became strained and my emotional health suffered. Earlier this year, when external issues cause my internal concerns to resurface with a vengeance, I found Mormon Stories. Mormon Stories became my life raft – it provided me the tools to deal with my faith and my relations to family and community in a positive way. Everyone involved in Mormon Stories, including members of my local support group, have shown that they are “willing to bear (my) burdens, that they may be light, yea and are willing to mourn with (me), yea and comfort those (such as me) who stand in need of comfort” (Mosiah 18:8-9). I urge you to not deprive Saints of this opportunity to serve and be served as we have covenanted to do. Sincerely, Scott Holley
Dear Stake President,
If you take disciplinary action against an active member of the church for associating with the Mormon Stories communities, you are confirming what many of us believe – that the leaders of the LDS church fear that which they cannot control. This is a movement which is growing, and which is helping a lot of people sort through their crisis of faith. Where many if not most who are struggling would have left the church in the past, they now have a place to go to sort out their doubts, questions, struggles, insecurities, discomfort with church history, etc. And there are thousands, maybe even hundreds of thousands of active Mormons who are in this boat. The Mormon Stories mantra is not “pray, pay and obey” or “shut up and color” — it is “let’s talk about it together and support each other as we go along this path.” At the risk of being hyperbolic, John Dehlin is a visionary, though he would surely dispute that label. He has seen a demand and has filled it, where the Church has turned a blind eye. It turns out that a lot of active Mormons have a need for something more — if the Church can’t provide it, other suppliers will rush in to fill the market demand. I don’t see this as a threat to the LDS Church, but I can imagine why church leaders would. It’s a completely new thing – far beyond the “study groups” that popped up some years ago that were squashed by the Brethren. The Mormon Stories phenomonen will continue, because it is facilitated by the internet – something that wasn’t available during the study group era. Information flows nowdays, and will continue to do so. The spigot of freedom of thought has opened and can never be closed again. The Church would do well to learn to adapt to and co-exist with the new reality. I can’t see Mormon Stories hurting the Church, I really can’t, so why fight it? See the good in the movement, and perhaps take some of the best practices of MS and institute them in the Church. I know, as John Lennon sang, you may same I’m a dreamer … but I’m not the only one.
MS is helping people stay in the Church (not me, but many other people!) Look at it for the good it is doing.
I’m a currently-active, temple recommend holding, devoted member of the church. I am a returned missionary and was married in the temple. I have recently served in Relief Society presidencies and Primary presidencies in my ward, and am now the cub scout committee chair. I believe that the Book of Mormon is the word of God and sustain the Brethren as prophets, seers, and revelators.
A couple years ago, I had a terrible crisis of faith where I wondered if what I had been taught my whole life was really true. I learned about parts of church history that I had a very hard time reconciling. If I didn’t have Mormon Stories to help me sort through my questions, I don’t know that I would be a member of the church today. I have a personality that requires a place to fully explore, with other people, the questions that I have, in order to find peace. Mormon Stories was a place where it was safe to ask hard questions and get (mostly) thoughtful answers (you’ll see there are all stripes here, and some are less than helpful/productive — as with any group of people). Still, it was a gift from God and was one of two or three really positive associations that made it possible for me to retain and even strengthen my testimony.
I know that there are those who choose to leave the church after their affiliation with Mormon Stories (there are those who choose to leave the church after their affiliation with their local wards and branches, too). But there are many of us who have been helped to stay faithful as a result of this community. I would be absolutely devastated to hear that something that has helped me so much could be the source of a fellow brother being cast out of our fellowship.
I have been a true blue Mormon all of my life, defending my beliefs no matter what or who came my way. Only in the last year, did I realize that I didn’t have all of the truth behind the basic history of my church and it’s beginning, despite having always attended each class, and having read all the literature that I was expected to that was put forth by the church. One night, my husband was flipping through the tv stations, to pass a Southpark episode where they were making fun of Mormons and Joseph Smith. They depicted him with his face in his hat, while singing that that’s where the book of Mormon came from. I couldn’t believe the ignorance of these people. I started to mention how dumb these people must be to get their facts so screwed up, when I stopped myself and, with a sickening feeling, realized that I needed to make sure I wasn’t the uneducated one. I was shocked to find out that Southpark knew more about the translation of our scriptures than I did. I was angry. I felt deceived and duped by those in whom i was placing all my faith. I had given strict obedience to them, and rather than being trusted in return, I felt ass though I had been sheltered to the point of neglect and, dare I say, brainwashing.
Real world, honest answers make me stronger, more unshakeable in my stance within the church. Until I found this sincere and truthful, while imperfect site (as we are all), I was beginning to feel that I would have to turn to blatantly anti- Mormon sites in order to possibly find an unbiased, untainted truth of the history of the church, while knowing that it wouldn’t be unbiased at all. I needed to hear the whole truth, wherever it came from. No watered down, rosy twists on the truth. Podcasts such as Carol Lynn Pearsons, the podcast on the Masons,Richard Bushman, Sister Bushman, Feminist Mormon housewives, Michael Quinn, Margaret Toscano, the Fowler stages of faith. . . All of these podcasts took me on a journey of a neccesary and positive restructuring of my faith in the Mormon church. Many of the podcasts turned major issues for me into non-issues (like the podcast on masonry), though I was still angry at the work I had to do to get to the bottom of things. Hearing Todd Compton discuss polygamy made me feel as though I weren’t crazy after all. Listening to Kenneth Wilcox share his thoughts on having empathy for homosexuals literally made me feel closer to God and Jesus’s example than I had in a long time of attending Sunday school. Just hearing other faithful people who were struggling and working through the same issues as me made me feel as if this was still my community. I was not a stranger looking in. I went from feeling that I had to leave the church immediately, full circle to where I can now enjoy again the positive things the church has to offer, and accept that nothing on this earth–including a religion–has to be perfect in order to be a good thing and a blessing to those whom it resonates with. In my opinion, the only danger lies in not knowing the full truth, and not being honest about those things that hurt us within our own belief system. In these times, it is sites like this and discussions like the ones that happen here, that will save the church from a crumbling membership as it’s members learn more and need safe places to be able to discuss their findings or concerns. It’s when you have to hide them that you cannot stay in a place. The material on this website has preserved so many aspects of my testimony, while growing it as well. I feel like I am closer to being the Mormon that I should have been in the first place . . . One who sees value in all religion, all people, all experiences, all journeys to truth. They are all equal to my own, and we all have something to add to each others journeys. Thank goodness we have a place to share them.
I apologize for the length! But, thank you to all who invest their time and and risk their own religious standing to bring this to others. You are changing lives and people for the better. John, I could never thank you and your peers enough!
thank you for this lengthy response. it has given me a lot of hope that MS will be able to help me.
A wise man said that “truth is unconcealment.”
Mormon Stories is concerned primarily with this kind of unconcealment–with the bearing of souls–in pursuit of a more connected community where knowledge and support can be freely shared.
I wish the Church would do this. It would make the church a much healthier place–a place of less concealment, less delusion, more honesty, more openness, more love and acceptance, less heartache. Accordingly, the question is not whether Mormon stories has helped a member remain active; the proper question to ask is how we within the church can become more like the Mormon Stories community; how we as a church can become less concealed, more open, and more available to each other.
The old saying, “In like a lamb, out like a lion” applies here. Christ would never advocate or condone our modern disciplinary councils and church courts for people who merely share their sincere beliefs. We have become narrow, judgmental and shrill–not as a people, but as a church. The organization is sicker than its members. We have not rid ourselves of the last vestiges of Christianity’s historical inquisition culture, but it’s time… Since Aquinas said that the disbeliever should be “cut off from this world by death,” we’ve come a long way. We no longer torture apostates and disbelievers, we no longer impede reading and the advancement of learning, and burn witches at the stake. Great! Now, let’s rid ourselves of excommunication, church disciplinary councils, shaming, judgement, etc. for those who merely wish to doubt and question and talk sincerely and openly in an unconcealed way.
Mormonism has become more concerned with the signs and symbols of community than with actual community. Do we want brownies on our doorstep or an open heart and mind? A Mormon is properly defined as someone who will bake you brownies while contemplating the everlasting damnation of your soul.
Jonah, while strong at times, I see your primary points and appreciate your thoughts and candor. My main defense for MoSto to exist and John’s friend, a MoSto Conference sponsor, is to add that MoSto is supplementary, not required for all. It exists to assist those that want/need it. MoSto topics and candor are not part of regular Sunday meetings, which fall upon all ears. John’s friend is discreet enough to focus his message on the MoSto audience, who seek it out, not his entire Ward/Stake/Church, who may not be inquiring on MoSto topics. MoSto Conferences and podcasts is (currently) the best forum for complex topics to be presented and discussed. If Church leaders elect to bring MoSto format into the mainstream Church, I think John (and you and me) will welcome it. Again, thanks for your comments.
Mormon Stories is a welcoming community. In some ways, yes, it can lead a person out of the church because the community is evidence that there are warm, loving people who have already transitioned outside of the church who lead wonderfully fulfilling lives with great integrity. To those who have always assumed that leaving the church would be a total downfall into depravity, this can be a revelation: You mean these people still lead morally good lives? And they feel spiritually at peace? But how can that be? Wickedness never was happiness? Right?
Discovering that leaving the church doesn’t necessarily mean descending into wickedness can be quite surprising to some.
So, in that sense, Mormon Stories can have a “bad” effect on church members if the main goal is to keep them going to church and not go astray from that path.
But having attended one of the conferences, I can vouch for the way in which attendees go out of their way to be respectful of other people’s faith journeys. The true believers in the room were a minority, if by true believers you mean people with no doubts or concerns whatsoever, but there were very many active members of the church there. It was a hodgepodge of beliefs and life stories, and it seemed to me that everyone felt safe, or at least mostly safe, in being honest about their beliefs, no matter where they fell on the spectrum. We were ready to check our judgmentalism at the door, and I think we all did a pretty good job of doing that.
No one tried to strip believers of their testimonies.
And no one tried to correct anyone else’s beliefs. In fact, I heard a few ideas that were really out there, in my opinion (not many, but a few), and people still listened with respect. It wasn’t the time or the place to correct someone’s beliefs. It was a time and a place to welcome new people into our lives.
I found MS on a recommendation from a good friend, whose brother was interviewed on a MS podcast on Atheism and Mormonism. It was fascinating and helped me come to terms with my thoughts regarding the LDS Church and my worldview as a whole. I must add that I am NOT an Atheist, but understanding other viewpoints to enlarge my own is at the heart of my personal growth and development. Like many others have said already, MS is where we can find a true sense of community and openness for sincere thought and reason regarding the LDS Church and the incredible institution that it is. Speaking of institutions, I found an incredible parallel between what is going on at PENN STATE and the LDS CHURCH. The Dec 12, 2011 issue of TIME Magazine has an article entitled PENN STATE OF MIND that explores how the culture and institution of Penn State could allow such atrocities to occur with Mr. Sandusky. Let me just suggest the article and these three quotes that are very applicable to our own LDS culture: 1) “Cultures define you, and you become blind to everything in front of your eyes.” 2) Selective perception is our bias toward ignoring information that is at odds with our worldview.” 3) “Subjective perception explains our tendancy to couple uncomfortable information with reaffirming facts in order to make ourselves feel better.” If John Dehlin’s friend is reprimanded harshly or even loses his membership in the LDS church, while wanting to stay, I feel truly sorry that his local leadership is developing a PENN STATE OF MIND. We are better than that. I value my LDS church membership even though my present views and testimony may not be as simple and narrow as they once were. MS helps me tremendously.
Stories has helped me to reconnect with my faith in a wonderful way. By
listening to almost all of the podcasts over the last view years, I was able to
look at tough issues pertaining to my religion from so many different
viewpoints and to reconcile so many inner conflicts. Today, I am proud to be a
Mormon and to be a part of this wonderful religion. I have served in many different
capacities (bishop, high counselor, stake mission president, …), but have never
been emotionally more attached to my church than now. It is so refreshing to approach
any topic openly. Maybe, I feel a bit like Joseph F. Smith, who I believe said that
if Joseph Smith made it back to our Heavenly Father in spite of his flaws,
there is still hope for him. Isn’t that wonderful? I don’t want my church to be
perfect, to have impeccable leaders, or to look back at a blameless history. I
want it to struggle and to fall short at times, but never stop trying to make
it better next time. It is so inspiring to be able to view my religion in such
a way. If it wasn’t for Mormon Stories, I don’t know where I’d be today. Sunday
is the best day of the week again. And it’s great to be a Mormon!
There are Sundays when I feel like, “Why do I come here? I don’t fit in.” But I love so many things about Mormonism and it is my home. Mormon Stories and Mormon Matters provide the deeper spiritual outlet I need to stay active. For example, today I wanted to stop attending church, then I came home and listened to podcast of Joanna Brooks’ “Mormon Story” and I felt like there was someone else out there like me. Listening to her experiences helped me remember a lot of my special experiences in the Church. Resources like this are giving me and my husband a way to stay and raise our family Mormon. We are leaders in our branch, we’re returned missionaries, we are “ideal” Mormons, but we have questions and intellectual-spiritual needs not being met at Church. A lot of us who listen to Mormon Stories are sitting right next to you (those of you who wish these things didn’t exist) in the pew and on the stand. Taking things like this away will only lead to many of us walking away.
Becky, the “why do I come here? I don’t belong” feeling happens to me with greater frequency. Thank you for your thoughts. Good to see kindred spirits and fellow travelers on this path.
What’s the use? The church needs to understand that Mormon Stories has nothing to do with our decision to leave the church. It’s the church that causes us to leave. I just don’t understand why the church can look at its racist past (take a look at Brigham Young’s statements about blacks) as well as the fraud that is the book of Mormon and they still find fault with Mormon Stories. How do they do that? I just don’t understand how the church can cast blame anywhere but internally at its own history and its own present. If we weren’t already having issues with the church, we would never have come here in the first place.
Beginning three years ago, I have faced a crisis of faith that continues to this day. Church was my life and I based almost everything I did around it. My parents and all of my in-laws are strong true believing LDS. I don’t want to leave the church. When my faith was challenged, it was as if I had lost a parent and began the mourning process. There’s a lot of anger and resentment to be found on anti-Mormon sites. Since finding Mormon Stories, I have been able to find a small amount of peace as I attend Church and attempt to put my life back together. Thank you John and all that help with Mormon Stories.
Best Wishes as you continue forward Monte. Thank you for your sentiments.
I am so thankful for MS. I would be miserable without the community of people that have shared their positive and negative experiences in and out of the LDS Church. I was struggling with choices the leadership of the church when I stumbled upon MS. Every aspect of my life was compromised because of the crisis of faith I was going through. MS gave me the strength to stay in the church and keep believing despite my doubt.
There’s no room for honest discussion of doubt in general conference and Sunday school. Doubt is a fact of life but GAs only talk about KNOWING. We’re always taught to say “I know the Church is true.” “Read the scriptures and pray more” is all we’re told to do if we can’t honestly say that. When I started listening MS I heard dozens of genuine testimonies of people earnestly seeking the truth. Just hearing that other people experience doubt and struggle and continue faithful in the church was inspiring and, unfortunately, a novel experience.
I feel that decades of church leadership have tried to “protect” us from hard-to-swallow historical facts and in this age of information members of the church are finding out that they’ve been lied to by church manuals over the years. MS provides an environment where people can discuss a diversity of spiritual journeys. I love MS and have found it to consistently promote my faith.
Phil, Thank you. Spot on.
I have been an active Mormon all my life. I was president of every Aaronic Priesthood quorum. I was an Eagle Scout in my ward troop. I fulfilled an honorable mission, completed my degree at BYU, and married in the temple. I have three children born under the covenant. I even worked for the Church for a number of years. I’ve held numerous callings in my ward over the years.
And I don’t believe a word of the Mormon religion. Not one word of it. I’m an agnostic at best, and some days I find little reason to believe in God. Other days, I believe in a God that is nowhere near the small, petty limited God of Mormonism. I can’t believe in a God who is marking down every cup of coffee a person drinks, or keeping a tally of how often a faithful member goes to the temple. The Mormon God is a bookkeeper, more or less, and I can’t believe in that as a Supreme Being.
I don’t believe Joseph Smith was a prophet, and I’m sure Thomas Monson knows that he is just a man, and doesn’t speak to God like we expect a prophet would. Gordon B. Hinckley more or less admitted as much about himself, in several interviews. Monson has been less than inspiring during his tenure at the helm. I don’t believe the Book of Mormon to be what the Church claims it is. When read with even a semi-logical mind, the Book of Mormon is laughable, and there has never been any convincing archeological evidence for the events that purportedly happened in the Book of Mormon. I believe the general authorities and local leaders are — for the most part — good men who mean well, but are certainly not any more inspired than Pastor Jones at the protestant church down the street. The LDS Church is like all others — it is a man-made institution that is run by men.
In my 30+ years of activity, I have tried and tried to receive a spiritual confirmation promised in Moroni 10: that I would know the truth of all things, but specifically the truth of the Book of Mormon and the LDS church. I have never received such a “burning in my bosom” or any other such manifestation. After decades of trying, I have given up on this quest. I can only surmise that the Mormon God does not want me to know the truth of His church, so I am left to make my own conclusions.
You would think, with my belief patterns, that I would leave the church and never come back, right? Wrong. I am active and go to Church every Sunday. I support my wife in her desire to continue in activity in the Church. I act as if everything were just fine.
The only thing that stops me from going totally postal in this environment is support groups like Mormon Stories provides. I have been able to sustain myself with the comradery of online friends I have met through Mormon Stories, New Order Mormons, Further Light and Knowledge, and other websites. Now I have the Mormon Stories support community to rely on, and without it, I would certainly no longer be even remotely connected to the Church.
I know there are many, many members of the Church just like me. Maybe millions, who go along to get along, but don’t believe one word of it. Or, who don’t believe parts of the doctrine. Lots of Mormons are in that boat – but they go along because it’s a good place for families, it’s a good social support system, and Mormons are really good and likeable people. Last but definitely not least, Mormonism is our heritage and culture. It would be really strange to walk away from it, just because I think the religious doctrine is nonsense. I guess I think of myself as a Mormon kind of the way Woody Allen considers himself a Jew.
Cut off Mormon Stories (or whatever you aim to do) and you will cause many non-believing members to make a choice. It might not end up a favorable one toward the Church.
Amen. God Bless.
I would like to know how this turned out. I know that listening to the podcasts and intermittently commenting on them (sometimes even reading the comments other give, although it tends to be frustrating) has helped me process and, especially, learn.
I tend to want to ruminate this stuff, among others, and it’s difficult not having anyone to talk about that about. I know that I don’t know practically anyone else around me, who is ready to talk about the difficult issues and be a sounding board for me.
P.S. I’d add that there is little if anything that I feel I cannot live with, it’s just that if there’s nobody to compare experiences with, it’s difficult to know how to take stuff that almost nobody seems to wish to talk about.
Mormon Stories has actually helped me cool off about some problem topics. I still take issue with these topics, but I now have a lot less anger toward the church because of the work done by Mormon Stories and its contributors. Were it not for MS, I’d be long gone by now.
Putting a person through church “discipline” for supporting MS does not make sense. The local management needs to realize that this isn’t a game. They can truly hurt this individual and his family relationships if they proceed with this totally unnecessary course of action.
I’m a Mormon Stories supporter. Maybe this is the start of a witch hunt. I’m not willing to put my family through the stress of a “disciplinary action” on me, so I’ll have to sign this anonymously.
Consider the evidence and the human factors. Put self-righteousness aside and do the right thing.
I have been an active member of the church for the greater bulk of my life. I have also had moments of questioning, of disillusionment, and outrage when I noticed abuses of power and authority. I was introduced to Mormon Stories as a preventitive measure. My family didn’t want me to discover some of the less than perfect pieces of church history, feel like I’d been lied to and jump off the deep end.
If anything, it has strengthened my testimony of the divinity of the Book of Mormon and of the necessity and role of personal revelation. At it’s most fundamental level, Mormon stories community aims to do what our Wards and Relief Societies are often failing at–showing that “Perfect Love” that our Saviour taught. Part of showing that love, is being willing to acknowledge where people are, shoulder their burdens, and listen to their questions. The principles of compassion and acceptance shouldn’t just apply to those who attend church meetings, but to all of God’s children, regardless of where they are in their spiritual progression. Mormon stories makes that a reality for many people. In many ways, it provides a space for healing, and allows for real spiritual and intellectual growth. It is a vibrant beautiful thing.
I cannot easily or adequately explain the positive effect Mormon Stories and John Dehlin has had on my marriage and on my family. When my husband, a returned missionary and church leader, lost his testimony and desire for church activity, I felt like a grenade had gone off in our family. I felt so torn between my love for my husband and my love for the church. I felt like I was a failure, he was a failure, and the church was a failure because we had followed all the church directives for our entire lives and now suddenly we were a part member family with no common foundation to build on.
It was almost a shock to discover how little understanding or support was available from our ward. It is so difficult to explain how you can both have a testimony and not have a testimony at the same time. When I finally stumbled onto John Dehlin’s podcasts, I felt like I finally had a way to process what was going on with my family. I realized that my Mormon black/white thinking was what was actually making me miserable. John’s color spectrum analogy gave me a peace and acceptance that I had been lacking for years.Mormon Stories has made me less judgmental of both the church and my family members. It has given me understanding that my husband, myself, and each of my children are on our own personal spiritual paths–not simply active or nonactive church members. We aren’t failures if we aren’t the traditional LDS family we use to be. I can have a testimony and still struggle with aspects of the church AND I can allow others that same freedom. I credit Mormon Stories with giving me increased understanding which makes has made me a more loving wife, mother, and church member.
I pray for more conferences and communities that can be acceptable to the church. I would feel totally lost without the church, but the cost is too high if it requires everyone to walk a spiritual path in lockstep.
Many of us need to have a safe place to question because no one’s testimony is 100% (or 80%, 60% etc) in agreement.
Like one of the other commenters said, “I wish the cultural house we’ve built around the gospel would burn to the ground” and this site and other blogs are the electrical malfunction.
It doesn’t help meany more. The tone and perhaps the purpose is growing more and more negative. The podcast started as more of an inquiry and now tends to assume the only value in the church has moved assumptions are now that
There is always more to the story than “just” hosting a fb page or holding a conference. It’s about are you leading people to Christ or away. It’s ok to question as long as bringing others to a belief in the Savior and His living prophet remains the focus.
I obviously just read this and am probably too late to effect your friend’s
situation but let me react like this:
To future Stake Presidents or Church disciplinary councils: Back Off!!
Go spend your time doing something helpful for somebody. Do not even
think about taking any action against Mormon Stories or its followers.
The time of heavy handed censorship is long past. Believe it!
I think there are thousands of conscientious Mormons who are right at the
breaking point with their frustration with this overbearing, out of touch,
disciplinarian whitewashed culture. I know I am. I am still an active member,
giving these guys the benifit of the doubt. But my patience is at an end!
If you, in all your wisdom, find it necessary to bring disciplinary action
against anyone involved in Mormon Stories, strickly for that involvment,
I’m gone, and I’m not going quietly. You can bet on that.
Have a good day.
I am an active member in Western New York, currently serving as a Ward Historian. I am a return missionary and my wife and I were married in the temple. In recent years we were inactive for quite some time. Quite frankly, church just wasn’t doing it for us anymore. We had a number of concerns both historical and current, which I will not get into here, for which we weren’t finding satisfactory answers. But the worst part was the feeling of loneliness that accompanied these concerns. It seemed no-one at church understood us. And to this day, I have not found anyone at my ward who really understands me, though we have supported eachother and my Dad as been pretty sympathetic.
The kind of information and support that Mormon Stories provides is exactly the kind of thing that my wife and I need to feel that there is still a place for us in Mormonism. STAKE PRESIDENTS EVERYWHERE, don’t take this away from us. You wouldn’t do it if you knew what it means to us. If you make us choose between worshipping according to the dictates of our own conscience, including a devoted search for truth, AND our membership… well, what would you do if someone told you that you are not free to search for the truth, or to follow your conscience as the answers come? What did Joseph Smith do when the ministers told him to ignore the answers to his prayerful search for truth?
If someone wants to remain in the church, and they are supporting others who want to remain in the church, in a way that quite frankly the stakes and wards are not doing so well at, you should want to keep that person. You should not want to threaten or alienate that person.
My husband and I left the church six months ago after a two and one-half year journey that began when our 18 year old son told us he was gay. Since finding Mormon Stories, I have actually considered, for the FIRST TIME, that I might be able to return to church someday. Not yet–but maybe someday after a few more wounds heal. To hear that a man might lose his membership for seeking comfort from like-minded Mormons is exactly the type of thing that has pushed me away. Mormon Stories has given me more hope on church questions than any other source I’ve studied for the past two and one-half years.