In September of 2020, professional Mormon apologists Terryl and Fiona Givens were invited to speak at a Mormon church fireside for the Sunderland England Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. During this fireside Terryl Givens was asked to recount an experience he once had with a Mormon missionary woman who was doubting her testimony because of troubling things she learned about Mormon church founder Joseph Smith. Terryl’s recounting of the story was as follows:
“I was fortunate that there was a mission president in our area who knew us and our work. And there was a sister missionary who decided that she was going to leave the church. She was finishing her mission the next week and she’d made the decision to go home and leave. And her companion of course deeply distraught over this and asked the mission president “Could we go talk to brother Givens?” And he gave them permission to come and stay as long as they needed so they stayed long into the night. And I listened to one after another question and then finally it occurred to me to ask this one question. And I said to her in regard to one question in particular about Joseph Smith, and I said “Sister” I said, “Why does the answer to that question matter?” And it changed everything. It just caught her up short. And she thought for a minute and she said, “I don’t know” (Terryl chuckles). “I don’t know.”
Many (including myself) were disturbed by Terryl Givens’ story/response – particularly since it was directed at currently doubting Mormon church members. We were primarily puzzled, shocked, and somewhat disturbed that the Mormon church’s leading professional apologist – who has spent many years writing books for, and speaking/ministering to doubting Mormons – would provide such a seemingly glib and uninformed response. That said, we understand that belief issues are complex, and take Terryl at his word that he sincerely does not understand why troubling aspects of Mormon history, including newly-discovered details about Joseph Smith’s life, would matter to a questioning or doubting Mormon.
Consequently, I am launching a new social media campaign with which I could use your help. The goal of the campaign is to help educate Terryl, Fiona, other Mormon Church apologists, and the Mormon church leadership, as to why “Informed Consent” is crucial to both active Mormons and Mormon investigators.
The campaign is entitled “Why Mormon Truth Matters” – and it will involve two parts:
- A TikTok and YouTube Video Response Campaign: I am requesting that all doubting Mormons and post-Mormons please record two brief responses to the following questions on TikTok:
- A 1 minute video responding to the question: “What do I wish the Mormon church had told me?” tagging it: #mormoninformedconsent in the description, as well as tagging @mormonstoriespodcast.
- A 1 minute video responding to the question: “How did the Mormon church harm you?” tagging it: #mormonharm in the description, as well as tagging @mormonstoriespodcast.
- I am considering the possibility of writing and publishing a book about the lack of Informed Consent within Mormonism. It will basically contain two parts:
- An exploration of the main pieces of information that have been intentionally withheld from Mormons and Mormon investigators over the years, and
- All the ways that the Mormon church harmed people, which has been made possible by the lack of informed consent.
Stay tuned for more information about this project. For those interested, here is a PDF of today’s presentation.
I also feel it important to disclose that Terryl and Fiona Givens have not accepted my invitations to appear on Mormon Stories Podcast since my excommunication. Before making this presentation I extended an email invitation to the Givens’ to engage in a private/confidential dialogue with me. I hope that they will take me up on this invitation. I also hope that they will agree to return to Mormon Stories Podcast to discuss both their statement, and the overall state of informed consent within Mormonism.
HUGE thanks to Jonathan Streeter and his YouTube Channel “Thoughts on Things and Stuff” for making this video available!