491-492: Mara and Danny Kofoed — A Blog About Love

mara danny kofoedSince 2011, Mara and Danny Kofoed have been blogging about their positive approaches to life, even in the face of sometimes heartbreaking circumstances such as infidelity, divorce, and infertility.  A Blog About Love stands as a the Kofoed’s testimony to the human spirit’s ability to transcend despair and difficulty, and to view life for the positive, uplifting, and even loving experience that it can be.

In this two-part series, Mara and Danny talk about their lives in Mormonism, their failed first marriages, meeting each other, starting the blog, their experiences dealing with infertility — and how they keep a loving attitude through it all.

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  1. Deborah Aronson

    Incredible. This story breaks light upon what I have experienced as the heart, the kernel of growth, transformation, wisdom, healing, wholeness. In my experience this is not common in Mormon culture, but the explosion of self-growth is available to us. What we end up calling it, from atheism all the way to fundamentalist viewpoints is, in my mind not important. Everything is connected. 40 years ago I walked away from the church, as I left the mission field. By just beginning with Gratitude and heading off on the path recommended by Mara and Danny, the whole world opens up. I believe that is true for all of us. And, irrespective of what we have been told, there are wonders of spiritual healing and peace just waiting. I have the greatest faith that when anger is over, the journey begins. +Peace

    1. Hey Deborah, thanks so much for sharing your experience as well. And I agree with you, the kinds of things we spoke about are certainly no limited to nor confined by the Mormon experience, and are truly universal aspects healing and wholeness that apply across all faiths and even across atheism as well.

      I remember when I first started experiencing some of the things I did with healing and peace, it was so powerful but also so different than what I thought I’d heard in church. At times, I wondered, why on earth don’t we teach this stuff? That started a process of truth seeking that led me to finding many advocates of this process of healing both within and without the church.

      I realized part of it was a “he who has ears to hear, let him hear” kind of thing…where because I wasn’t looking for it before I’d never found it. But now that I started looking to hear people advocate this path to spirituality that I’d experienced, I found it everywhere.

      Personally, I think one of the best Mormon authors who writes from the perspective Mara and I shared, especially in that first hour, is M. Catherine Thomas – and her best book is “A Light In The Wilderness.” Powerful stuff. She really opened my eyes a lot to be able to understand my own unique experience in the context of the gospel and scripture, and she also brought in enough outside sources where people experience powerful spiritual growth outside the mormon paradigm, that I began to buy a lot of the books she quoted because I was so drawn to how she wrote.

      One of the best of those books is “And There Was Light” by Jacques Lusseryan. I honestly couldn’t recommend it enough. Just for it’s historical value alone as it details Jacques personal role in the French resistance to German occupation during WWII, but primarily for this man’s incredible gift of explaining through his life the role that choosing how you respond to your circumstances is more important in determining your experience of life, than the circumstances themselves. He was blinded at the age of 8, but had a unique gift of learning how to “see” in more of a spiritual sense, and his sight was entirely connected to his personal decision to, from moment to moment, cultivate a state of being that resonated with love, patience, kindness, compassion. When he let jealousy and anger and bitterness creep in in even the smallest ways, his world went dark and gray and cloudy. When he cultivated virtues we associate with God, his world became light. I’m not even remotely doing the book justice. Suffice it to say, there is a lot we can learn about the spiritual path and healing from outside the Mormon lens.

      Delighted to know you’ve found that as well.

  2. Mara and Danny’s story is one of breaking free from co-dependent relationships. My similar journey to wholeness came through the Al-Anon 12-step program and not through my LDS experience, which I walked away from three years ago. Hopefully this interview will give people the hope and courage to seek personal healing via the wellness community outside the Church.

    1. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the learning and growth that happens through the 12 step programs. Though I’ve not participated myself, a big part of me wants to, just because i’ve seen so much similarity between what I learned and what is codified in that 12-step process. I’d love to just go to learn and hear about the healing process in a different context and with different words and phrases, and a different group of people.

      1. I’ve just joined an Al-Anon group (all men) because I needed to talk to someone about my co-dependent situation with my partner.
        She refuses to hear what I really need in our relationship. I’ve used non-violent communication to no avail. I only receive angry tirades that are damaging to my psyche. Try it, you might like it.

  3. Mara and Danny, I discovered your blog about two weeks ago and I’m totally hooked. So happy that you did this interview on top of that, thank you. I actually am in the Brooklyn YSA, though not really active. It makes me sad that I missed all but one of your talks when you were our high council speaker, Danny. Mara, and I’m also from Mesa; your early story reminds me much of my own. You two bring so much hope to me, and clearly to many other people. Plus, your blog is just delightful. Thank you!

    1. Ahhh, how I loved that calling! And I kind of loved that I got assigned to speak in that branch 4 or 5 times in a matter of 7 months. I just hope it wasn’t an overload of me. There are truly good, good people there, people that I love very much.

      Thanks for writing, and glad you’ve enjoyed the blog, even though we’ve been less active on it of late.

  4. My husband texted me today telling me to listen to this podcast because it was so good. It’s on my list of things to do tonight. We have been struggling with our believes in the church and also have had the added stresses of infertility. An earlier comment really spoke to me, that these types of issues aren’t spoken about within the church, yet so many people are plagued with them. I can already tell that this is going to be just the thing I need to help me through such a trying time in my life. Mara and Danny, thank you already!

    1. Kelsey, I’m really delighted that some of the things that we shared in the podcast are resonating with you at this time in your life. And I’m truly sorry that you’ve been tasked with bearing the burden of infertility, as it can be one of those truly heavy burdens in life.

      But, I have a great deal of confidence that you can turn such experiences into the most meaningful and heartfelt reasons to pursue a form of spirituality that truly connects you to God and to healing. Not only has that been my experience and Mara’s, but we’ve received countless emails from others who have experienced the same thing, either before ever hearing about the blog, or after being inspired by some of the things we’ve written on the blog.

      So, please find a way to maintain a spark of hope, that something truly beautiful can and will happen in your life, even if your testimony doesn’t turn out the way you thought it would, or even if, like us, you discover that no matter what procedures you go through, children just might not be in the cards for you.

      I’d really recommend perusing some of the posts on the blog regarding infertility. Here are some of my favorites to get you started:

      https://www.ablogaboutlove.com/2011/10/mothers-day-for-infertile-woman.html – Mara shares a talk she gave on Mother’s Day….I think it is one of the most beautiful summaries of her experience and the joy she found through God.

      https://www.ablogaboutlove.com/2012/05/to-birth-soul.html – how the struggle of infertility was the catalyst for true spirituality

      https://www.ablogaboutlove.com/2013/06/we-found-out-results-of-ivf.html – A post I wrote the night we discovered our first IVF failed. We did a better job of describing the healing process here than we did in the interview with John in the second hour.

      https://www.ablogaboutlove.com/2013/06/choosing-happiness-sunday-sermon.html – I posted this a few days before we would find out the IVF results. It was a transcription of perhaps the most important talk I’ve ever given, and a summary of the greatest lessons I’ve learned through the Gospel about finding happiness amidst trials. I posted it then because I knew it would serve as context and a framework for describing any healing we would experience, were our results to be something other than we desired. I posted it before because I needed the message to get out there before it was framed in the context of having a child or not having one. If the results were positive and I posted it after the results, the message wouldn’t have had as much meaning. I truly mean every single word in that talk. And I love the post of Mara’s that I link to within the post where she describes the same process through a different lens.

      Anyway, truly wish you the best in your journey. Hope these things can help you along the way.

  5. I love your story, thank you for sharing. I’m trying to fully absorb your approach of practicing and seeking virtues in times of trials. I am currently experiencing a crisis of faith and it has been difficult to put it lightly. The fear and doubt and realization that everything I’ve ever turned to for understanding and comfort may not be what I thought it was, is shattering. I look forward to reading more from your blog and gaining insight.

    1. Not to be trite in any way, and I know you’ve only shared a small portion of what your struggle has been….but I can tell you at least from my experience, the shattering feeling you are describing comes from building on something other than “The Rock”. I realize my experience may not be like yours or others, but I have found that every time my world came crumbling down as you described, it was usually because I’d built my house of faith and self worth on something that was never capable of providing the support and stability I was looking to get from it.

      Truly, we all build on Sand in this life. We look to work, to health, to relationships, to the church and its leaders, to circumstance and the behavior of others in order to get our worth and our value in life, and sooner or later those things can and will fail us, in big ways or small.

      I have found, that instead of looking to another person for my worth, including even my very loving and supportive wife, just isn’t capable of providing me the stability I need. Cause she’s human, and she’ll have a bad day, or a short temper for a moment, or some other thing.

      But if I can figure out how to base my worth on something more permanent and unchanging (and for me it is when I refocus on my inherent worth and divinity through my connection to God), in that moment I begin to understand what it means to build upon a rock.

      I could talk about this for hours, and in language much clearer than I’ve managed to do in this post. I simply want to offer the suggestion that when we feel that shattering feeling, it might be cause to look and see what piece of sand I was looking to, pretending it was a rock. Hope that helps. You might be interested in looking at some of the articles posted under the tag “Self Worth” and “Most Important Things I’ve Ever Learned”

      Much love,
      Danny and Mara

      1. It seems odd, and a little un-self-aware, to reply to someone experiencing a crisis of faith by saying they should base their worth in something more permanent like your connection to God. That seems to imply that your connection to God will never change. I suspect that isn’t completely true even for you, I can’t imagine that you’ve never had moments where you felt like God wasn’t very close to you. In any case, many people have had a faith crisis about God, because their conception of who God is and what God does didn’t match up to the reality of life.

        That said, I like a lot of the things you advocate, especially about not putting the responsibility for your happiness on your spouse or anyone else.

        1. Craig, I appreciate your response here, and your willingness to call out something that sounds un-self-aware or odd. And perhaps you are not wrong.

          As I look back at the comment I replied to, I realized I made an assumption that the crisis of faith had something to do, not with God, but with things like “the church” or some other aspect of life. Oftentimes, those particular crises can cause us to also doubt God, and therefore what started as a life trial based on the behaviors of someone else, or of an organization, transforms into a crisis regarding a God that allowed something like that to happen or seems to condone the organizational behavior that is pushing you away.

          Of course, that isn’t the only reason crisis occurs in a life, and I’ve hardly touched on the myriad ways that that pain can manifest. But at the heart, the principles will be the same. They are, however, impossible for me to even try to explain adequately in a comment, and would most likely only do it more poorly than the countless books I’ve read expounding on the experience better than I could hope to.

          The basic principles involves stopping to seek worth from the outside in, and learn what it means to find worth and value from the inside out. As I said “for me” that has happened through turning to truer understandings of God and my relationship to Deity. But I fully understand that for someone else, it will need to be at least initially, and perhaps permanently, be focused on something other than “God”, because at the moment it is “God” that is the problem.

          Ultimately, if nothing else, perhaps we can go back to that most basic expression of what we hope God to be….and that is Love. Our concept of God may not yet include understanding that Love, and we may feel betrayed by it….but we can still unite with the concept of Love anyway….and as we do, we just might find that we come across God anew in our journey, fortified by our turning to Love and the experiences we have abiding in that love, will most likely teach us more about God than any doctrine ever could….and in that sense we might just find one day that our faith crisis has been resolved.

          Anyway, perhaps I’m rambling now…so I’ll stop. Thanks again for commenting, I hope my reply contributed to greater understanding, and didn’t create additional barriers. Truly, soundbites can just never do justice to the topic of healing and connection. Forgive me for my weakness.

      2. The line in this response: “Truly, we all build on Sand in this life”, is amazing, and so frightening. I just recently had this realization on my own, but I am having a crazy hard time figuring out how to build upon the rock. Thank you for trying to share your story of the path to a better foundation.

  6. I’ve been following D&M’s blog for over a year. My life’s trajectory has mostly followed the LDS norm somewhat and so I’ve really appreciated their blog to make me aware of and empathetic to the struggles faced by friends and family. Great blog! I really enjoyed this interview – thanks for doing it!

    1. Tracie, thank you for that comment. I think what you describe is one of the steps to developing genuine compassion for others, even when you may not truly understand their experience, you can see them through eyes of greater understanding and love. Glad to have you as a reader.

  7. It was good to hear Danny and Mara’s story. Their worldview is a little too “new age-y” for me, in that some of their message seems lacking in substance (no offense). Buzz words like “wholeness” and “healing” didn’t really ring with me because they lacked definition. I also think it’s okay to suffer, be angry, sad, depressed, and even hateful after going through a divorce (and especially infidelity). Maybe Danny and Mara purposely glossed over that, but that is an essential level of ultimate acceptance–and those emotions are okay within reason. If your spouse cheats on you, it’s not healthy to go straight to this “higher spiritual plane.” You just hold stuff in that needs to get out. Anyway, just my own thoughts from my own experiences with similar situations.

    That said, more power to you Danny and Mara. Good luck on your journey together!

    1. Socry, I understand your complaint and respect your opinion. It might sound more new agey because Mara’s spiritual growth didn’t get started through the Mormon church, or through Mormon Doctrine. It got started because someone gave her Eckhart Tolle and led her through the healing path in the context of those kinds of definitions.

      One regret I had as I listened to the interview is that we never got to really discuss some of those same concepts through a much more Mormon/scriptural lens, and so in that sense it only tells half the story. I don’t tend to use the same language that Mara does, because I ended up experiencing the process directly through the mormon lens, and only later discovered some new age principles aligned 100% with my own experience.

      But for me, it is the Gospel, as explained by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, that is the heart of pretty much everything I believe. I posted above a link to a talk I gave that uses less “new age” and more scripture. https://www.ablogaboutlove.com/2013/06/choosing-happiness-sunday-sermon.html You might like it better.

      And, I also understand your complaint that it might not be healthy to go straight to the “higher spiritual plane”….but that was my experience, and I’ve had multiple opportunities to put it into practice since then. I have no complaints, nor judgement, for someone who goes a different route. But eventually, if they are ever to experience healing, they’ll end up doing the same kinds of things that I did, even if it’s five years later. One thing my experience has taught me, at least as it applies to myself, is that healing and peace is as close as I’m ready for it to be. Sometimes people aren’t ready, and they’ll continue to struggle for years until they are ready. But finding peace almost ALWAYS is the process of letting go of past anger, resentment, bitterness, pride, fear, hatred, etc….in other words getting rid of the natural man, and turning to Christ, and to his way of living.

      Though most of us will not (including myself) jump straight to a “higher place”, I still believe that is what the example of Jesus, and his teachings, is showing us we CAN do. What is it that would allow a man to be hung on a cross, mocked by those who are doing so, hated, betrayed, and despised….and still say the words and mean them “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do”? My guess is it would be someone who had not based their worth or value as a human being on circumstance or the behavior of others, but had learned to base it 100% on things within and from above, from God. Only when person realizes their worth isn’t actually threatened by the betrayal of someone close to them, are they able to skip the angry stage and go straight to the compassion and love and forgiveness stage.

      I believe that is the message of the Gospel. I believe Christ is trying to help us understand what it means to build on a Rock, to get our worth from Him and Him alone….so that when others hurt, harm, or disappoint us…we can respond in the same manner that he did.

      Which is why Christ utters these beautiful words “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you. Not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Therefore, let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” Perhaps he could have gone on and said “let them not be angry, or impatient, or bitter” or whatever else. And the reason you don’t need to be any of those things, is because peace sought in and through Him can replace all of the needs to find and seek it in someone or something else. Truly, the house built on His Rock, cannot fall, nor be swallowed up in the gulf of misery and endless woe.

      I don’t intend to suggest that anger is not okay, nor a normal and healthy part of the human experience. It is. The question is what do you do with it after it comes. You can hang on to it for a long time, and let it poison all sorts of things in your life, or you can “turn it over” and experience healing. The choice is and always will be yours.

      Forgive us if our words are not adequate at explaining the process, or the power of the Gospel message. That is our own weakness in words.

      Good luck to you too in your journey!

        1. You got it John! I’ll email you to set up the details, and I think the parts left unsaid would fill in some of the gaps people have rightly addressed in some of the comments.

  8. I went to high school with Danny. He was then, and still is today, one of the most genuinely kind and sincere people that I have ever met. It has been well over a decade since we last spoke but what a treat to hear about his, and her, unorthodox journey and what a pleasure to listen to this. While I did not agree with everything that he and his lovely wife outlined, better yet, I should give them the benefit of the doubt that I may not have fully understood, I will say that I appreciate and embrace their sincerity and their passion. It is contagious and inspiring. Danny and Mara, thanks for sharing the love. -Adam

    1. Adam! Truly great to hear from you, even if it has to be through a Mormon Stories podcast. Not only were we high school friends, but we played Zelda together at a mutual friends house when we were like 8 or something. Talk about bonds of brotherhood.

      Thanks for the compliments and kind words. I wouldn’t expect you to agree with everything I said for two reasons: 1) I’m still and always will be learning, and 2) I’ve come to realize that words are such a poor way of communicating things that happen in our souls. It may be that our views on things are closer than we imagine, but that we use very different ways of describing it because some words mean different things to us due to our unique experiences in life.

      I remain open to all wisdom, to correction, to learning, and to better understanding a path that leads to a genuine faith and experience with God and with my fellow man.

      Thanks for being one of those good people and friends in my life.

  9. Thank you so much for recording this podcast. My wife and I have struggled with infertility for years and we appreciated others being willing to share their thoughts and experiences. It’s also helpful to share with those who haven’t gone through this same experience so that they have a better idea what it’s like. This is an issue that’s difficult for people to understand who haven’t been through it. Thank you all again for your efforts and for the interview.

    1. Thank you BK. Our hearts truly go out to you and your wife. And yes, it truly is difficult for others to understand, and I’m glad that Mara and I have been in a place to try to discuss openly what it has been like for us. I do not assume that our experience has been like others, nor that their experience need look exactly like ours.

      But perhaps, we can all inspire each other to make the very best with what has been given us, and find joy in life even when things don’t work out like we want.

  10. I am totally on board for a part two because I would love to get more substance. I don’t by any means want to revel in anyones pain, but it would be nice to get a better more organic feel for the darkness you experienced because I feel it would give me a better understanding of the light you both experienced.

    I think it’s hard sometimes when you are experiencing light, like you both are, because it’s like you have left the darkness behind and you almost don’t want to delve into it, so it makes sense why you both just sound so glowing in this podcast. So, I don’t want to push you to delve into something you have tried to leave behind, but I feel it would give me a better sense of your experience. I have learned some valuable nuggets in this podcast. Thank you for taking the time.

    1. Thanks Lance….I would love to give some more substance as well. Though, I’ll admit, it might not be so much on the side that you’re discussing. I don’t know that it is because we have tried to leave it behind that we don’t delve into it, nor do I think at this point that getting even nittier and grittier with it would actually cause pain to re-enter in our lives in any significant way.

      I think the hardest reason to truly go deep into the pain side of things, is because we both feel so much healing…that the best I can do with some of those past experiences is try to remember what it was like.

      The substance that I would hope to go into more is the spiritual practice of it all. If you want a shortcut (and don’t want to wait until we can schedule this), I’d suggest listening to the 2nd hour of Phil McLemore’s Mormon Stories podcast (and actually hrs 3 and 4 as well)….because he describes extremely well the kind of mindset that one develops, or needs to develop, in the process of experiencing true healing. I’ve listened to that podcast 3 or 4 times, because I just loved how he put it into words (through a Mormon/Buddhist perspective). Hour 1 is great too, but is mostly intro, and doesn’t get into the deeper aspects of healing and discovering how to truly understand the concept of worth from a spiritual standpoint.

      Thanks for your interest in hearing more!

  11. Loved this podcast. What a great couple! It sounds like a whirlwind courtship that started with love at first “email”. ;-) Curious to know how long Danny and Mara dated before they married???

    1. Hey Kiley – yes it was a whirlwind courtship. You can even read some of the emails on the blog, if you so desire. There is a tag called “Love Story”. It was just over 6 months of dating :)

  12. This podcast really resonated with me right now. The idea that our happiness is something that belongs to us and not our experience (or our partner) is wonderful to me. I especially loved the focus on deliberateness and consciousness in this podcast, because I have seen the power of this concept in my own life over and over. I understand why some have called this new-agey and gimicky- but it was obvious to me during the interview and in the comment threads that followed- Mara and Danny clearly make every effort to dwell in their truth, and allow others the same. I found this interview to be graceful and incredibly encouraging, and I will absolutely continue to ponder and examine these concepts in my own life, especially in my marriage. Thank you.

    1. Bailee, a sincere thank you for sharing what you feel you gained. It is true, Mara and I do try to dwell in that truth. And yet of course, we often struggle to do it like we’d want to. Every time we veer off course, we try to double down and return back to principles that have been tried and true, and every time we are humbled that the transformation is always available.

      I wish you the best in your marriage, and hope you find strength and deeper meaning in your pursuit of practicing whatever resonated with you from the interview.

  13. I liked this interview quite a bit and thought Danny and Mara had a lot of useful and wise things to say. However, I can’t help thinking that they are advocating yet another “this is the one path to happiness” type of thing. I certainly wouldn’t discourage anyone from trying the things they talk about, and I think they will probably help a lot of people. Certainly for myself, they talked about some things I already practice, and other things that I will be happy to try out. But I’m very skeptical that there is any set of practices that will work to lead absolutely everybody to happiness. There are just too many different types of people and different sets of life experiences. One area of concern in particular is that I don’t think these techniques would necessarily work for someone with serious mental illness. If someone with depression due to a chemical imbalance tries to overcome their feelings of hopelessness by practicing hope or love, it might very well backfire. Techniques that can be incredibly empowering for most people might end up being harmful for a minority. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should stop spreading the things that have helped you, but a recognition that not everything works for everybody goes a long way.

    1. Craig, as above, I thank you for your critique. I think what you say here has a lot of merit, and shows a lot of sensitivity, especially to those who suffer with mental illness. I appreciate that. Your concern is evidence, as I mentioned above, of just how difficult it is to express something in soundbites…even if those soundbites last for 2 hours, or a couple of paragraphs in a comment section.

      Nor will I pretend that if you heard all my beliefs and experiences on the matter, that you’d suddenly find us in agreement, or that I’d even be right. I have much to learn, and look forward to being that eternal student.

      I recognize what I’m about to say is largely anecdotal, and it should be noted it is such….but I’ve found that the principles can still apply, even if it needs to start in a different place, perhaps something smaller to try to exercise choice over, due to someone’s individual capacity at that point in their lives. This is something Mara and I have heard from countless readers who frequent the blog, and have expressed their gratitude, coming from exactly the kind of position you describe. That still doesn’t mean we have it all right. And I’m sure we could improve the way we communicate it in a way that is more sensitive to those that struggle. It is also worth mentioning, that although Mara does not have any clinical depression or mental illness, the place that she describes in the interview is one where she was in absolute and total despair. He statement that she thought one day she just might die of grief is not an exaggeration. It was a reality, and it was one that she’d lived for a quite a while. I know that is not the same as clinical depression and genetic mental illness, and yet it also shows what focusing on personal choice and love was able to do for someone so terribly distraught.

      One way of looking at things, is to pretend that there is a scale from 1 to 100 regarding a fulness of happiness. Some people, all by their nature and genetics may be born with a natural disposition of 20, and some people may start at 65. Then enters “nurture”, and the kind of environment people are raised in, which will further influence the direction and the rate of movement someone experiences along this imaginary scale.

      I think an important thing for anybody, is to quit worrying about what it would take to get to 100, or even defining what happiness at 100 is like, and to instead focus on what it would take to reach one single degree of happiness greater than they currently enjoy. I hope someone at a 20, who perhaps suffers from mental illness of some kind that offers serious impediment to their movement along the scale, is at least willing to believe that they can go from 20 to 21. And if they can reach 21, perhaps 22 is possible. And onward. I’m not convinced it is important that they reach 100…only that they discover within themselves the things they CAN do in order to move one tiny degree, or one fraction of a degree, at a time.

      I happen to believe that the principles that move us in a direction of greater happiness, are fairly universal, no matter where we are on the scale….but our ability to implement them will be different. And that’s okay. In our world’s way of judging things, it won’t seem okay. And we will automatically be tempted to compare one position with another and determine value based on that….but that would be folly.

      I do not advocate the need for everyone to experience 100! I do not pretend to experience 100 myself. I am interested in what it takes for someone, including myself, to move even one degree. I’m interested in them doing it without comparing themselves to someone who is naturally at a totally different place on the scale (doing so would be a return to basing your worth on others…or in other words comparing yourself with others and determining whether or not that means you have true worth or potential).

      I do feel that a fundamental part to growth, is taking wherever you currently are, and discovering what way you can love just a little bit more. Or what way your personal power of choice or agency can be exercised just a little bit more. It doesn’t need to look like the kind I described in the first hour….it can look like whatever you are ready to experience. And it will often require someone who is experienced in working with people at that given level you find yourself. Sometimes that is a pastor or bishop, but not always. Sometimes that is a psychiatrist or doctor, but not always. Sometimes it is some blogger that articulates a place that they once were, that you identify with and relate to. But not always. Sometimes it will be an atheist, sometimes a Buddhist, sometimes a Mormon.

      All different groups will use a different language of healing, influenced by their own experiences, with those experiences therefore coloring their every attempt to describe it, and possibly limiting the ability of another who has not shared those experiences and background to understand it.

      One thing that I’ve found common to the healing language in every tradition I’ve studied, is the pursuit of and experience of Love, and the focus on personal agency.

      1. I really like that metaphor of a 0 to 100 scale, and I think that’s a great way to think about it. To clarify my earlier objection a little, my main concern is trying to avoid people internalizing a failure of the method to achieve a desired outcome as a personal failure. To use a common religious example, let’s say someone is taught that if they have faith and follow the commandments, their prayers will be answered. Then they pray for something really important to them and they don’t get it, so they then infer that they must not be sufficiently faithtful or righteous (I realize this is not the model of prayer that you have, but it is one that you run into quite a bit). But I think viewing it in terms of relative improvement does a lot to mitigate that danger by adjusting expectations in a good way.

        1. Great point Craig! And I couldn’t agree with you more. In fact, this is the very paradigm that Mara confronted in her youth that led her to back away completely from the church.

          Whether it is a matter of faith, as you gave an example above, or happiness or wellness or whatever else, it really is always such a sensitive matter and can so easily cause the kind of situation that you described.

          We try very hard to be sensitive to that, as it is something we’ve both seen and experienced personally. But I fully recognize that we most likely will not always succeed at framing it in the best way.

          Thanks for your sensitivity to that kind of issue.

  14. I had stopped listening to Mormon Stories a few months ago because it had veered off onto a weird path and made me feel brooding and cheerless after listening to each episode. For some reason I gave it another chance today and heard this really magnificent interview with Mara and Danny. What a day-brightener! It reminded me of what good things happen when we look down upon the splendor of our lives from a heavenly perspective. Listening to this podcast was like seeing a movie with a really happy ending that lifts your soul. Bravo, Mara and Danny… I will treasure many of the things you taught me today. John D: more of these, please!

    1. Dan, glad to hear the podcast was a “day-brightener” for you. And for what it’s worth, your comment reminded me of one of my favorite animated movies – The Prince of Egypt. There is a lot of beauty in that particular movie. Anyway, Mara and I were watching it a year ago, and a reader had written with a very difficult life circumstance and was asking for advice as she struggled with her self worth. As we were watching and listening to the song “Through Heaven’s Eyes” I really identified with the overall lyrics and appreciate the path that Moses follows in the movie.

      The truth is, the ability to look at our lives with a heavenly perspective is one of the great keys to meaningful peace and tapping into the healing power of the atonement. There can be, and truly is, joy in the journey.

  15. I’ve been reading A Blog About Love for a few years and have benefitted from Danny and Mara’s message. That being said, I would love to hear more about how they approach their spiritual practice within Mormonism, if that makes sense. I was raised mormon but never really connected at all to the “traditional” mormon way of spirituality. In my experience it has been infused with a lot of very toxic things like fear, guilt, and shame that through my life experience I have come to realize are extremely harmful. There is a part of me that wants to leave Mormonism and another part of me that wants to just define my own spirituality within the bounds of Mormonism. But I feel stuck. I don’t know how to do it! I have been trying to be very mindful, particularly as I parent my young children to not use fear and shame as manipulative tactics for getting my kids to do certain things. I feel like I need to expand my own spirituality not only for me but so I can be a better guide and help to my kids as they set out on their own spiritual path but I don’t know where to start outside of the “tools”I have been given that I have not connected with. I think what it boils down to is I value many things within Mormonism but I don’t want my children to have the mormon upbringing that I had….fear, shame, excessive guilt, very conditional love from my parents depending on how well I was adhearing to “the path”. Ah! It’s complicated. Anyway, long story short I would love for there to be a part 2! Thanks for this interview. I enjoyed it.

    1. James Patterson

      Thanks, Sarah. Much love and support to you in your faith journey. And we’ll work on getting a Part 2 lined up!

    2. Great comment! And I do hope that is something that we are able to touch on in some way or another. I think you’re right, that too often this faith that has the potential to be so vibrant and powerful, is instead infected by control and manipulation and fear. And of course, it isn’t just our faith that does that, it is all organizations of all kinds…showing that it isn’t necessarily the fault of the religion per say, but a common weakness in man that we seem to get a strong warning of in D&C 121.

      Realizing just how common this way of being is among people and the organizations they belong to, has helped me step away from some things that I see as merely cultural, and draw closer to fundamental principles that are uniquely mormon and uniquely beautiful.

      And as content as I often feel in my faith and in active participation in that faith, I can understand how a parent of young children might feel differently. It is one thing for me, an adult with a mind of my own, to hear something I disagree with in church and more or less ignore some deliberate or innocent attempt to exercise control by fear….but it would be entirely different were those same things directed toward my children who might not yet have a full “mind of their own” and an ability to distinguish those kinds of things that so easily enter into our worship. I feel i’d possibly be a lot more protective and concerned then I am when it’s just me and my wife.

      That being said, you could argue that it would be those very moments where someone used a fear based approach, that you would have the best opportunity to really teach the Gospel, Sermon on the Mount style, and have it resonate with your children in a very practical and applicable way. I’ve heard of families that successfully do that, and the areas which provide cognitive or spiritual dissonance are the very areas the family then discusses together to try to instill truth.

      So, I think there is still a great deal of hope for families like yours. And there is so much to me that is so very beautiful about this faith, that I’ve been more than delighted to continue full fellowship and diligent service, even when I see others around resort to tactics I disagree with and seem at odds with the Gospel message.

      Anyway, good luck in navigating that, it is difficult waters for sure. But perhaps, as I believe Mara said in the interview, you can turn even this into a “spiritual practice” that generates in you not additional fear, but compassion; and not bitterness of any kind, but forgiveness; and not judgement, but mercy. In that sense, the ways you may find yourself at odds with the religious culture may be the very reason you learn to love and to develop virtues that will finally connect you with God more meaningfully than any tool previously could have.

      I think that is truly possible.

        1. Happy to Aron. Though I might just direct you to something I’ve written elsewhere, rather than expound all over again.

          Please read this talk i posted on our blog called “Choosing Happiness”. In there, I use scripture to describe what my experience has been in discovering the importance of aligning myself with virtues like kindness, love, hope, charity, patience, gratitude, etc…instead of succumbing to the opposites of anger, fear, doubt, bitterness, etc. I believe this concept is at the heart of the Gospel and the key to unlocking the power of the atonement.

          You can read here – https://www.ablogaboutlove.com/2013/06/choosing-happiness-sunday-sermon.html

          You can also look at something else I wrote here – https://www.ablogaboutlove.com/2011/11/from-danny-peace-is-closer-than-we.html

          And finally, here is a practical application of doing exactly what I am writing about and the results – https://www.ablogaboutlove.com/2014/04/true-love.html

          Aron, I am all too mindful of just how easily these things can be misunderstood, or misapplied. I’m also all too mindful of just how easy it is to think that you succeeded in choosing a virtue like kindness, when in reality you chose passive aggressiveness that had the veneer of kindness. It will take a great deal of introspection and time and practice to discover the power….and no amount of my writing about it or describing it will be able to replace personal experience that is hard won.

          One final recommendation….I’m currently reading a book by the Arbinger Institute…they have built an entire consulting business on teaching organizations and families and individuals many of the same principles that I’ve found so important in my life. I’m reading “The Anatomy of Peace”….in it they teach using a fictional narrative which allows them to bring all the common objections that I hear regarding practicing this kind of path…and I think they do a fabulous job of providing answers to those common and understandable objections that help deepen what it is they truly are suggesting.

          I’ve said this above, but reading a few posts that have a specific topic is never going to be sufficient to convey what I’ve experienced in this path, nor is listening to 2 hours of an interview. There is so much that you cannot cover adequately, and there are so many unique things that would only be understood one on one as we look into the unique situation of the individual.

          Based on your comment above, you will be learning many of the concepts I’ve tried sharing through your Al-anon group. The Arbinger Institute also takes many cues from the wisdom of therapy groups like that as the platform for how to describe peace and healing.

          I hope that, despite your very difficult situation, and the toxicity that it can bring to you and to your household….that you are able to, bit by bit, tap into a greater understanding of the atonement and the peace that it offers. My prayers are with you.

          1. I’ve been making use of Mindfulness practice for 15 years and it’s been invaluable for insights into myself.

          2. Aron, that’s really awesome! Mara and I are actually going to a Vipassana 10 day silent meditation retreat next week specifically to learn more about and practice deeply the mindfulness meditation.

            It is something that I’ve done to some extent…if anything I’m better at doing what some call “walking meditation” which doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with walking, but means that you are turning whatever activity you’re doing into a meditative/mindful practice.

            However, truly shutting myself all the way down and having deep focused prayer has not been a strength of mine, and I’m excited to have this opportunity to practice it more.

          3. Danny, so happy to hear you’re going on a Vipassana retreat. By now, you may know that Vipassana means insight. You’re going to be looking at yourself (Mindfulness practice), what’s going on in your mind and body, in silence, for 10 days. By the sound of things, you’ve already learned a great deal about “letting go”. Believe me when I say there’s a lot more to learn about yourself. After 15 years and at age 70, an insight has arisen that has begun to explain something that developed when I was a child. It’s too long a story to explain it here so I’ll try and briefly describe what’s happening now. I am a co-dependent in a mutually co-dependent relationship. I can’t begin to say how much stress this has caused me and my partner. And, as I look back at my life, she wasn’t the only relationship where I was in a co-dependent relationship. It’s like a chain that began in childhood and has been affecting my life until now, all of it boiling down to a tons of stress. My intention is to stop this vicious cycle so I’ve joined an Al-Anon group for help.

  16. Danny and Mara helped heal me through their message of love (especially their love story – what a treat!) after an engagement ended in infidelity.

    I didn’t know that it was going to end, or that anything was amiss, as I flew out to Texas to see my fiancé. I had stumbled across the blog and ended up spending hours upon hours reading. When my fiancé told me of her infidelity, all I could do was pray to know what to say. I believe God used Danny and Mara’s message to help me in that moment and I simply hugged her and said, “I am sorry it had to end this way.”

    After that, I returned to the world of dating with ablogaboutlove advice in my pocket — choosing to date someone who isn’t needing another mortal to complete them, or is at least on the path to that state.

    I loved the podcast as much as I do the blog. Thank you Danny, Mara and John for putting this together. I look forward to part two ;)

    1. Thanks Jaxon, I think it’s safe to say that for some time now you have been one of our most vocal male supporters. We appreciate your enthusiasm, and it is great to heat how some things we shared inspired you, in a moment of great difficulty, to follow a path of compassion and kindness instead of anger and bitterness.

  17. I loved this interview. Just bookmarked the blog and look forward to reading. I’m only commenting to ask that you do another interview with John. I loved that you draw some of the best universal messages out of Mormonism, but I’d like to hear more about both of your beliefs and relationship with the church. Loved the positive energy I felt after listening to the podcast. You two are really special people.

  18. As a long-time reader of your blog, I just loved this. I hope if you do another interview, you will delve more into the actual Mormon church. I like to hear as many sides as I can (as everyone on MS does), and I am so interested to hear your take on it. The church is so good, and I have had such profound deeply spiritual experiences. But it is also so black and white. And when the black and white comes crashing down, it’s hard to find myself a midst the rubble. This is the story of everyone here, I know. Basically, I don’t think I’m exuding love very much in my trying to piece the church back together. I feel hurt and frustrated I can’t talk to anyone. So I think I’m just advocating for change (which is a good thing, right?) by braving up and sharing how I think it’s wrong that there is shame in struggling with difficult church issues. Please someone (TBM’s which is basically my whole family and neighborhood), don’t you see that? People are suffering, because of the Mormon, “We’re right, you’re wrong” mentality. So I brave up and say it, but it never ends well. No one wants to hear it, so it becomes contentious, and I become frustrated, and love goes out the window. I have oh so much more love for people who have left the church. I didn’t know how judgmental of them I was. But I’m finding it hard to find love when I am feeling controlled, judged, silenced, and misunderstood all the while trying to make sense of this whole “mess.” Is it a mess? I am still so confused. The church is beautiful and messy all at the same time. I have truly been baptized by fire, but in the name of truth and God, I have to acknowledge that it may have been my mind and will. But more likely I see it as God respecting religion, and speaking to us from whatever direction we are inquiring of him from. But it’s so hard to think that way in our black and white church. What do I teach my kids? Is it true? Do I tell them to go on missions? And yet, I can’t just ask you to answer these questions. I have to do it for myself. Let’s just say I hope at some point you share your beliefs. This was blabbing, sorry.

  19. I also want to add, I’m feeling particularly frustrated tonight as I chatted over fb with her about the church and in a nutshell she said, “The truth is hard to hear. President Benson is my favorite Prophet because he didn’t worry about offending others. He said the truth and that was that. Maybe you should start reading more uplifting stuff like…. I don’t want my kids to see my example of me questioning my church. I had a much harder childhood than you did, and I still believe. I’m sorry you haven’t had the witness I have had, I hope you do, I really hope you do.” This was a long conversation, so I’m picking out the more offensive things she said, but I am not exaggerating them. How do I struggle with my own belief and exude love? If I’m struggling in my own belief, I feel I am already not whole. I am broken, and dependent. How do I become confident enough in myself, a midst uncertainty, to exude love when I’m having a blasted faith crisis? I believe in love, and I believe it is not dependent on the Mormon church at all. But this faith crisis really sucks, and has shaken me so much. I was well respected in my ward, and I’m feeling very insecure losing that respect from people. I am guessing you have these feelings, too, Mara and Danny. I have read comments on your blog when you admit to things like standing by Kate and John and marching in the gay parade. How do you take it and not let if effect you – especially if you are uncertain yourself? Or maybe you are not. Thanks again!

    1. Pippy, This is late in coming but I just listened to this and noticed your comment. I feel for you and am sorry you are struggling so. It is hard isn’t it? If you go to Faithagain.org, the last speaker to our group was Bob Rees. I posted some essays towards the bottom of his bio that he wrote. You may find them helpful. He is also the editor of a fine book called “Why I stay.” He’s working on another. And I’m sure by now you’ve heard of the Given’s book “The Crucible of Doubt.” I highly recommend that also. I have met and spoken with all three of these individuals and they model well ways to navigate the challenges you speak of.

      I can say, having just been recently released as young mens president, and also having walked in the gay pride parade, that it can be challenging to balance all this at church. I’m still working on that, but I do know that those times I manage to speak with love and empathy to my fellow saints, they are more receptive and I feel less like I’m doing harm. I thought in many respects as they did once. Most of us did and so I should be able to understand and be gentle. Easier said than done though. We are all learning and together we can help each other get to a better place. We can help the church in its restoration. We can focus on the love of God as so well taught and exemplified by Jesus. I loved what Danny said about judgement. While my marriage didn’t end in divorce I feared it would due to me having some of the same unbeknownst to me, behaviors of manipulation and judgement. It also helped immensely when I dropped judgement of my children. Bless their little rebellious hearts–they kind of forced me into it. And that was a blessing for me at least. And my wife. They and their wives are atheists but we love them and respect them and they know it. I’m not worried about their salvation. God is mighty to save. I just need to worry about learning, loving and doing no harm.

      I wish you the very best. Vaya con Dios!

  20. I’ve seen so many couples where only one person was really optimistic or spiritually and mentally healthy. It’s a wonderful thing to hear stories like this of two hopeful, loving people working through difficult life experiences and coming together to create a union that is this amazing. Hearing your story is incredibly inspiring and provides an illuminated perspective on my life and struggles. I want to work so much harder to make sure that I’m the type of person who loves and lifts, wherever or whatever the circumstances are. Thank you for caring enough to go plow through your challenges with your gazes lifted, and for caring enough to share yourselves with us.

    Thanks John for bringing this beautiful couple to us, I personally could stand for a lot more of these types of stories.

  21. I am not Mormon but have listened to Mormon Stories for a few years now. I listened all the way through this interview and found it thought provoking. But I came away with one question that was not addressed. Have Danny and Mara’s considered adoption? What are their thoughts on it? This seems like a very obvious question to me but I am wondering if perhaps there is something in the culture of which I am not aware that makes this a non-question or so obvious that there was no point in addressing it.

  22. John, I loved this interview. I wish you’d do more like this. Truly useful and constructive. I am not currently in faith crisis but have experienced it more than once. I am in constant evolution though and so my heart and mind are always open to further light and knowledge. It’s obviously an uncertain state of being. And that helps me be more meek. At least that is my hope. The theme of love is also where I’ve landed. A fundamental and transforming truth. Thanks for working lately to include more positive takes on the Mormon church. It’s helpful not just to hear stories of those who have left or are on the far edge but also to hear from those who have stayed and have found new ways of living their faith.

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