We’re catching some serious heat over at Latter-day Saint Liberation Front. I must say it’s strange and saddening to be reviled by folks on both sides of the aisle.

I guess what keeps me going is a few friends/supporters on both sides as well.

One thing’s for certain–these are the times when you find out who your friends truly are.



  1. Ronan December 9, 2005 at 10:23 am

    Chin-up, John. Mormon Stories is still relatively new. Keep doing what you’re doing and it will even out.

    Or not. But if you feel good about what you’re doing, then don’t worry.

  2. RoastedTomatoes December 9, 2005 at 10:41 am

    John, don’t worry too much about it! You’re providing a great service to the community — your podcasts probably make a bunch of people’s commutes better, and you bring voices into our discussion that otherwise wouldn’t be here. I’m surprised at the negativity that you’ve encountered, but you’re developing a meaningful audience and perhaps shouldn’t think too hard about what may be the inevitable ruffled feathers.

  3. Dave December 9, 2005 at 10:59 am

    John, I don’t think “the heat” was directed at you. As I noted in a comment to the post you linked to, I don’t have anything at all against your online projects. They seem to be going very well.

  4. clark December 9, 2005 at 11:33 am

    One might say that when a post is directed at your blog and how you do it, you’ve come of age. After all M* got it from Ned last week. (grin) Typically I find that if you can explain yourself, even those who disagree with your methods will appreciated it. I got several emails about my replies to Ned’s comments about comments.

  5. john f. December 9, 2005 at 12:54 pm

    John, like Dave I have nothing against your project. My observation at LDSLF was that in your podcast you appeared to be attempting to lead RT and Serenity to make a clear statement that this cannot, in their opinion, be the one true church. I fail to see how you can feel that this is “heat” unjustly directed at you when you later confirmed over at LDSLF that you were asking them leading questions. It is what it is. You mentioned people trying to point out your “hidden agenda” on that thread, but I didn’t see anyone trying to do that. I would assume you had to have been referring to my comments, but nothing in them implied an attempt to expose a “hidden agenda” but rather merely observing an obvious agenda. No one is requiring you to be objective in your project, and I am not so sure you are actually claiming objectivity (are you?), so there should be nothing wrong with identifying a trend you took in one of your podcasts, right?

    Overall, I wonder if your forum is as open to those who buy the “party-line” as it is to “disaffected LDS folk” as you put it at LDSLF. John, it is no problem if your forum is more geared toward disaffected LDS folk than it is to simple believers, after all, as you point out, you were once (or perhaps still are) a disaffected Latter-day Saint. If one of your main goals is to provide a forum for disaffected Latter-day Saints or ex/anti-LDS to voice alternative views, then that is a laudable goal that you can certainly achieve. The bigger question is whether your efforts here can really build bridges or take down walls with regards to simple or “party-line” believers? It seems from what you have written over at LDSLF that you believe it can. In the second half of your podcast with RT and Serenity, however, it was not only the trajectory of your questions during the last part of the second half leading to a statement that this Church couldn’t possibly be the one true church, which RT was partially resisting, it was also your tone of voice and word choice in formulating the question that revealed your own view that a belief in the Church as the one true Church is absurd. You confirmed over at LDSLF that “I am 100% confident that my podcast reflects my opinions and bias–to deny it would be ridiculous.” Frankly, it was a surprise to me that you seemed to take someone’s pointing that out based on an analysis of the podcast itself to be an undue attack. I wouldn’t have thought you would have reacted that way. I wonder if you realize how that question and method of posing it comes across to the simple believer who does believe the Church is the one true church. If you cannot see how that is alienating to the simple believer and how it seems to endorse the disaffected view over the “party-line” view, then that is a concern. The perception is not ameliorated when you write over at LDSLF that those who believe in the one true church “mantra,” as you call it (I am wondering if you can see how disregarding this belief as a “mantra” comes across to people who have a sincere belief in this doctrine?), do so as a result of “just plain ignorant, sheltered living”–or, conversely, in case I misunderstood you, that “just plain ignorant, sheltered living” results necessarily from adherence to such “mantra.” You are free to have opinions that Latter-day Saints should be disabused of their one true church mentality. There is absolutely nothing wrong with you having your own opinions. The difficulty arises perhaps because you are miscalculating the simple fact that pursuing that goal can hurt the feelings of “party-line” Latter-day Saints and provoke an argumentative reaction. It also raises the question about whether this forum really is “respectful” to those who hold to this belief. It does not have to be; but based on things you have said, it seems like that is your goal. But it might be a miscalculation that ignores the role of human nature when a religious believer finds his or her beliefs discounted or described as harmful.

    You noted over there that you entered the bloggernacle knowing that some conservatives would accuse of you being a wolf in sheep’s clothing. I did not see anyone at LDSLF calling you a wolf in sheep’s clothing. But since you brought it up, it raises two interesting questions for me:

    (1) Why did you think that might happen going in to this endeavor, or what about your endeavor led you to believe, from the outset, that “conservatives” would make this accusation?

    (2) What is your answer to this accusation? If people are making this accusation, what argument are you making that you are not a wolf in sheep’s clothing? (Again, I personally haven’t seen anyone make this accusation against you, but am genuinely curious as to your response).

    I wouldn’t have thought that it would be a fundamental assumption in embarking on this project that conservative LDS would make this accusation. You seem to have harbored that assumption–why?

  6. NFlanders December 9, 2005 at 1:20 pm

    John F.– I find it ironic that you accuse John D. of being disingenuous by asking extremely disingenuous questions.

  7. john f. December 9, 2005 at 1:36 pm

    Ned, can you please clarify?

  8. john f. December 9, 2005 at 1:46 pm

    Besides, I’m not throwing around any accusations. I am discussing some things I have observed with John. I thought that what everyone wanted was dialogue. Well, this is dialogue. I want to hear John out on whether he thinks this project can really build bridges if it treat the views of simple believers pejoratively.

  9. NFlanders December 9, 2005 at 2:00 pm

    Sure. Perhaps it’s not concious, but I think you are coyly hiding your real questions behind some tricky verbiage. If you allow me, I can boil your comment down to a few sentences:

    “I was disturbed by the leading question you posed to RT. I believe it revealed that you are not always objective and that you don’t believe that the Church is the only true church.

    “Furthermore, I feel that your podcast is not friendly to party-line Mormons. At least, it wasn’t to me (a party-liner). Your tone and use of the word ‘mantra’ when talking about one-true-ness alienated me. When you favor your own opinion about the only-trueness of the church, it alienates me.

    “The fact that you brought up the wolf in sheep’s clothing leads me to suspect two things: (1) maybe you are an inadvertant wolf, who doesn’t realize how your podcast will spread untrue ideas and (2) you are biased against party-liners like myself.

    “Sincerely, J. Fowles”

    I have sincerely tried to convey my interpretation of your words.

  10. john f. December 9, 2005 at 2:06 pm

    Ned, very succint. Still, take another look. I was focusing on the goals of this forum as expressed by Dehlin over at LDSLF recently.

    Anyway, if this were an entirely accurate restatement of my comment, how would any of that be disingenuous?

  11. NFlanders December 9, 2005 at 2:11 pm

    I take back “disingenuous.” Perhaps I was reading a tone in your comment that wasn’t really there, but there were a couple red-flags that made me suspect that you were implying something about John D.

    I apologize if that was not your intention.

  12. J. Stapley December 9, 2005 at 2:13 pm

    I don’t know what a “party-liner” is with regards to Mormonism, but if I were to hesitate a guess, John F. would not fall under that appellation. Frankly, I was moved by RT and Serenity’s podcast. I also enjoyed the podcast with Greg Prince. That said, I found the leading questions quite off-putting. It made me really reevaluate John D. If my word-view were limited to CES style correlation, I would definitely have found John D.’s questions, not only off-putting, but pejorative.

    (I hope this doesn’t effect the possibiliey of still scoring that favor John D. [grin])

  13. NFlanders December 9, 2005 at 2:17 pm

    I am surprised at the widely varying reaction to John D.’s questions. I didn’t even notice. It is very interesting.

    Even though the RT podcast doesn’t quite fit in with this, I would expect John to take a slight Devil’s Advocate position during each podcast just as a matter of good interviewing.

  14. john f. December 9, 2005 at 2:27 pm

    J. that is precisely the point I was making. Coming from you, it will have more legitimacy, I am sure.

    In this case, a “party-line” believer is someone who believes that this is the one true Church in the sense that sooner or later everyone will have had to have ordinances performed by the priesthood that exists only in this Church in order to attain exaltation. (This is the only issue that is being focused on as part of this discussion.) Note: being a “party-line” believer for purposes of this discussion does not include the assumption that one condemns all other religions and peoples for not belonging to the Church, but rather that one believes that Jesus made the effort to restore this Church for a reason.

  15. tgo December 9, 2005 at 5:59 pm

    I too am surprised as NFlanders is by the reaction to the RT/SV podcast. As an RM that served in Utah from the the fringes of Appalachia I have seen the party-line culture at work. I frequently speak with my fellow church members about doctrinal issues. When I have said they are towin’ the party-line they did not know what I meant. My experience with the party-liners has shown that they do not know they are towin’ the line. They are unaware of the larger context for the emergence of today’s Mormonism. They usually do not go too far beyond the oft confessed ‘I know the church is true. I love my family. I know Gordon B……”

    I think John D. has done a fabulous job with such little experience as an ‘interviewer’. He prepares for each show as best he can having had established a context for his questions in his own mind prior to the interviews through correspondence with those he will interview.

    I’m all for critical analysis and questioning tone and nuance, but I didn’t and don’t think much about John’s questions being leading RT/SV to say things they didn’t mean. He seems to have known much about their positions and his questions established a framework for their stories so the rest of us could get a better understanding where their Mormonism is coming from.

    John….good job. keep it up. You won’t please everybody, but as far as I am concerned I am sastisfied.

    p.s. What party-liner is really interested in doing a show with John beyond occasionally bearing their testimony in the safe environemt of Fast & Testimony Meeting?

  16. john f. December 9, 2005 at 6:26 pm

    tgo, you might be right that party-liners aren’t interested in doing a show with John, I can’t say. But a more interesting question might be whether John would be interested in doing a show with party-liners. I’m not sure that is something that would be interesting for this project, as party-liners generally won’t voice alternative views of Mormonism or alternative Mormonisms.

  17. Watt Mahoun December 9, 2005 at 7:17 pm

    I think the interview with party-liners took place over on thechurchisNOTtrue.com. ;-)

    But, since the party-line already has an overwhelmingly powerful oulet in the Church, and since John’s purpose is not to watch the border between party-liners and outsiders, but that of people on the way out and outsiders…it doesn’t seem like an interview with a party-liner would be productive or on topic.

    It might be entertaining though…but as I understand John’s approach, he’s not into that kind of entertainment.

  18. john f. December 9, 2005 at 7:25 pm


  19. john f. December 9, 2005 at 7:27 pm

    By the way, Watt Mahoun, “party-line” in the context of the LDSLF discussion and here is meant to refer narrowly to the point about the church being the one true church. Thus, there are many “party-liners” who believe in this party-line despite knowing all about Joseph Smith’s polygamy.

  20. tgo December 9, 2005 at 7:40 pm

    Party-liners aren’t peculiar to Mormonism, of course. I think it is part of the human condition. I am aware of the fact that comfort breeds familiarity which drives much cultural Mormonism. For example, I have been to an anti-Mormon rally at a Baptist church during which the presenter (John Farkas) and his wife fought each other over the nature of God during the presentation (that wasn’t what the Baptists paid for). That congregation didn’t have a problem with such an inconsistent position which is fundamental to their faith, but they sure take issue with the Mormon Jesus. They had a line and were going to tow it regardless of what difficulties arose peculiar to that line.

    Unfortunately in the corporate church ‘marketing is king’ and there isn’t really a place for extra-official conversations inside Sunday School or the Bishop’s office. So, most Saints are not exposed to information critical to a really healthy examination of their faith. Many party-liners are so entrenched in the Mosaic that when non-party information is presented there is nothing for them to do because it is so outside their environment. They do not have a place for it so it is ignored.

  21. RoastedTomatoes December 9, 2005 at 7:43 pm

    Wouldn’t John Lynch from FAIR count as a “party-liner”? If so, as I suspect, then John has already shown himself willing — even eager — to include such people in his show.

  22. tgo December 9, 2005 at 7:49 pm

    I agree with RT, but John Lynch from FAIR would be more of a ‘party-liner activist’.

  23. NFlanders December 9, 2005 at 7:54 pm

    Exactly, RT. I would say that FAIR are the people giving the party, and John D. did a three-part podcast with John Lynch. It is my impression that Mormon Stories is about ALL types of Mormons, not just “questioning” ones.

  24. tgo December 9, 2005 at 8:02 pm

    We would be well served by having more John D’s. He doesn’t get a rise out of shocking the unknowing with difficult historical events, etc. like some disaffected with the church. I think for the most part He’s trying to get along the Mormon path like the rest of us and just wants to talk about it. Wheather it’s cathartic or informative or whatever for the participants, I’m pleased with how things on Mormon Stories have unfolded.

  25. Serenity Valley December 9, 2005 at 10:40 pm

    If I’d had access to LDS media of John D.’s sort, I might have been able to come to terms with the church while still a member of it, rather than leaving and rejoining. He asks real questions, and expresses real anxiety, but he still wants to belong to our church; he supports and even affirms others’ faith, even if he does play devil’s advocate, and he is willing to accept those with doubts and anxieties. In my experience–my own life and my friends’ lives–the thing that really clinches many disaffected folks’ problems with our church is that when they express confusion about faith or doctrine, or worse yet, when they share their doubts and fears, they are met not with loving-kindness and acceptance but with anger and revulsion. So they decide that our loving Heavenly Father must be elsewhere.

    John is an example of applied Christian love quite as much as he is an example of LDS heterodoxy, and that’s a good thing for all of us. Keep it up, John.

  26. Geoff J December 9, 2005 at 11:26 pm

    I think the simple answer for those that do not share John D’s perspective and would have asked interview questions differently is to create your own podcast. I’m considering it myself. John has almost a monopoly on podcasts right now (along with Dallas I guess) but I think they have proven that there is a real market for LDS podcasts. Further, it appears to be a largely separate market from the regular bloggernacle participant crowd. I suppose that if I still commuted to work 30-45 minutes each day I would download and listen to podcasts too…

  27. Bookslinger December 10, 2005 at 10:58 pm

    tgo: The idiom is “to toe the line”, as in standing at the line with your toes touching it, with everyone “all lined up.”

  28. Bookslinger December 10, 2005 at 11:17 pm

    John D:
    I didn’t see the comments over on LDSLF as heat being applied at you, unless you consider yourself among those who think the church isn’t true.

    I thought your primary raison d’etre of this blog and your podcasts was that many of the reasons people leave the church don’t need to be deal killers. But I also assumed you believed the church to still be true in spite of human shortcomings, apparent contradictions, and lack of physical world “proofs” of Book of Mormon historicity.

    I prefer reading to listening to podcasts, but this has got me interested in listening to your podcasts with Roasted Tomatoes and Serenity Valley.

    I now honestly wonder where you do stand and what concrete goals you’re trying to accomplish or promote. Are you trying to encourage doubters to become “new order mormons”, or assure people it’s okay to have some doubt, or are you actually trying to resolve doubts about the authority of the church?

    Personally, I’m of the opinion that doubts can either be answered or safely “put on the shelf.”

  29. tgo December 11, 2005 at 4:18 am

    Bookslinger: Ah. I stand corrected and am the better for it. I too suffer from the common corruptions of our language I often see and try to avoid. I blame my chance birth in a palce not commonly known for its familiarity with phrases commonly understood in the 19th century (the fringes of Appalachia). I do seem to have been understood though I will in the future I will change my use of the idea.

  30. RoastedTomatoes December 11, 2005 at 9:56 am

    Bookslinger, the “putting it on the shelf” solution really only works for some personality types. For others, such an approach feels like a lack of integrity. Hence, some people think it is an exercise of faith not to worry about polygamy, say, or how Joseph Smith produced the Book of Mormon text. Other people, by contrast, feel that it’s a sign of greater faith to actually tackle the best available evidence, work through the problems, and see where you end up on the other side. The faith here involves Christ, and the trust that He wants only the best — and the most truthful — for His children. Hence, open-ended inquiry can be a way of expressing the same faith that, for other people in other circumstances, is expressed through the decision not to ask.

  31. Ann December 11, 2005 at 3:03 pm

    There’s also the concern about how much weight your shelf will hold before everything on it comes crashing to the ground.

  32. John Dehlin December 11, 2005 at 3:24 pm

    John F.,

    Would you be interested in recording a podcast this week with me, where we can discuss these issues, and get your perspective?

    Let me know. I’d love to have you.


  33. john f. December 11, 2005 at 8:57 pm

    That sounds like an interesting idea but this week would be really hard. But seriously, John, it would be VERY uninteresting. I don’t have a controversial view on a single point about the Church.

  34. john f. December 11, 2005 at 9:20 pm

    ok, that sounds pretty contradictory. What I mean is it is an interesting offer and, sure, I would be interested, but honestly I don’t think listeners would find it interesting. I don’t have any alternative views. Any doubts I have live with me as part of the human condition (more theodicy-based than LDS-specific doctrinal or truth-claim quibbles), and are not intellectual hang-ups with whether Joseph Smith lied or not. Moreover, I am no apologist, even if I do love FARMS. Thus, I would not be interesting to listeners on that basis. I would highly recommend Ben S. as someone whose views I fully endorse but who is much more informed about not only detailed apologetic arguments but also with the anti-arguments that are the reasons that any apologetic arguments exist in the first place. He would therefore be much more interesting.

  35. SpeakTheTruth December 12, 2005 at 12:46 am

    John Dehlin,

    A friend told me about your podcasts about a month ago. We’ve listened to all of your available ones.

    I am very open to being interviewed. I would very much consider myself a party-liner, but I do not believe it would be boring in the least. I am NOT an apologetic either, but I am well versed in the Bible.

    I am an RM, but that was over 2 1/2 decades ago. I have assisted many people find the truth since then.

    I would be willing to tackle the Polygamy issue, the Joseph Smith mistakes issue (the fallability of prophets), whether the church is the one true church or not, or any other topic.

    My only request, is that you also get to answer the same questions you ask me about my faith and belief in the church, so that everyone can find clarity on your purpose. This is not meant to be a witch-hunt by any means. I know from experience that if you do not address this, it will continue to haunt you.

    Is this something you are open to?

  36. Ann December 12, 2005 at 9:55 am

    John F., I think you should do it.

  37. Serenity Valley December 12, 2005 at 11:24 am

    John F.,

    The point of John D.’s podcasts is for all of us to hear each other’s stories. You have a life story, you’re a Mormon, and I for one would be interested in hearing you talk. Just for the sake of getting to know you, you know?

  38. SpeakTheTruth December 12, 2005 at 11:24 am

    John F.,

    How about doing with me?

    You, me and John Dehlin.

    You can speak as little or as much as you want.

    Speak the Truth

  39. RoastedTomatoes December 12, 2005 at 12:31 pm

    John, man, you could tell us how you came to the sense of clarity that you routinely express online. I’m sure it wasn’t born in you; the story of where it came from would be interesting to a lot of people.

    Just because you imagine your life experience to be that of a prototypical Mormon (who used to be a skater kid and has a thoroughly internationalized outlook on the world!) doesn’t mean that people don’t want to listen to and learn about that experience. Everybody has a story and people are usually interested in hearing those stories. Just look at a good fast & testimony meeting!

    Besides, you do have an outlook of real value to add to John Dehlin’s discussion: you’re a “party-line” Mormon (in your terms) who is quite uncomfortable with the degree of uncertainty that some kinds of Mormons are willing to live with — but who is nonetheless personally warm and open towards the very people that you sometimes feel uncomfortable with. I can offer a personal testimony that not everyone in the church is like that, and any thoughts you have to offer about how you approach “people like me” (whatever that means) would be of real value, at least to me.

    Besides, I bet John Dehlin has a secret goal of collecting interviews from every single William Penn Elementary alum who subsequently lived on whatever floor of W Hall at BYU… Don’t you think?

  40. john f. December 12, 2005 at 6:35 pm

    well, i never said i wouldn’t do it–just that i predict it will be boring for the listeners! i am cool with the idea, but john d. might want to do mark of speakthetruth first because my schedule is too crazy this week to do this.

  41. SpeakTheTruth December 12, 2005 at 8:19 pm

    John F.,

    I would rather have a good Podcast then one that was thrown together in a haste.

    Let me know what works for you, and I’m open to doing it together at that time.

    I’ve already emailed John Dehlin about it, so hopefully he’ll reply and we can set it up for next week or whenever you are able.

    If you want to talk about topics in the meantime, you can email me at TruthInScripture@gmail.com.


  42. John Dehlin December 13, 2005 at 1:55 pm

    John F.

    A podcast takes about an hour, to an hour and a half. We can do it over the phone, or over broadband if you have a good headset/microphone. I’ll do it as soon as you can…just name the day/time. I’m very confident it will be interesting to my listeners. You can feel free to ask me any question as well. We can do a 1/2 and 1/2 type of thing….

    Mark….I’m open/interested in talking to you, but I’d like to get to know you a little better first. I’ve met John, and followed his postings a bit, so I have a comfort level with him…and would like to use a podcast w/ him to discuss openly some of the issues he’s raised.

    I’m totally open and interested in a podcast w/ you, but let’s figure out how to get to know each other a bit better first….let me know if you have ideas. Are you ever in Logan?


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