In this 4-part series I interview 3 super thoughtful, progressive LDS parents who discuss their perspectives on raising children in a non-traditional LDS home. When we say non-traditional in this context, we mean non-literalistic, non-dogmatic, unorthodox, unorthoprax, semi-believing and maybe even non-believing in some cases.

Over this 3.5 hour discussion we cover topics like:

  • How to handle difficult primary songs and uncomfortable teachings with small children
  • How to deal with baptism and priesthood ordinations as unorthodox members
  • How to work through issues surrounding the young women and men programs
  • How to “innoculate” your children against unhealthy church teachings and history
  • How to handle issues of sexuality, and What to do about missions, marriage and beyond.

Our panelists include:

  • Lee White: Who (along with his wonderful wife) has successfully raised four children within the church as progressive, non-literalistic, non-dogmatic, NOMish church members.
  • Laurie Gallagher: Who no longer considers herself to be a “believer” in the church’s exclusive truth claiMS, but who is finding a way (along w/ her “believer” and totally cool husband) to raise their three children, combining her love for Buddhism and Eastern Spirituality with a progressive approach to LDS activity.
  • Heather Olson Beal: Who comes from a devout yet progressive family background, and who (along with her husband) is finding a way to raise their three children amidst their own faith transition.

Program Notes:

  • Here is the link to Laurie’s wonderful letter to her son (a must read)
  • Here are the words to the poem Laurie discussed on the podcast:

Irish Blessing:
May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of his hand.

May God be with you and bless you:
May you see your children’s children.
May you be poor in misfortune,
Rich in blessings.
May you know nothing but happiness
From this day forward.

May the road rise up to meet you
May the wind be always at your back
May the warm rays of sun fall upon your home
And may the hand of a friend always be near.

May green be the grass you walk on,
May blue be the skies above you,
May pure be the joys that surround you,
May true be the hearts that love you.

Part 1

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Part 2

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Part 3

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Part 4

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  1. Glenn April 19, 2010 at 7:09 am - Reply

    Thirty minutes in, and I am ready for Lee to adopt me. Wish my dad would have responded that way when I brought my cognitive dissonance to him.

  2. George Windes April 19, 2010 at 12:04 pm - Reply

    Half way through the series and ready to share it with every TBM family I know. I love what John shared, that the leadership of the church wants us, even with our disbelief. Yesterday, a man I have issues with, came into my family history class and asked for a printout of genealogy we have. He put his arm across my back. He was our regional representative. He didn’t mention I was wearing (on the Sabbath), blue Levi’s, white tennis shoes, colored shirt and western sports coat. There is hope, IF the church will tone down the same gender hate language.

  3. More MoSto « Barefoot Bhakti April 19, 2010 at 12:06 pm - Reply

    […] interest to my Mormon friends, but probably boring for the rest of y’all! Check it out here: Mormon Stories, or on I-tunes under Mormon Stories […]

  4. chanelle April 19, 2010 at 2:19 pm - Reply

    in part 2, john referenced a general conference story on the importance of a father ordaining his own son. here is a quote from president packer’s saturday morning talk, april, 2010.

    “Another time I was in a distant city. After a conference we were ordaining and setting apart leaders. As we concluded, the stake president asked, “Can we ordain a young man to be an elder who is leaving for the mission field?” The answer, of course, was yes.

    As the young man came forward, he motioned for three brethren to follow and stand in for his ordination.

    I noticed on the back row a carbon copy of this boy, and I asked, “Is that your father?”

    The young man said, “Yes.”

    I said, “Your father will ordain you.”

    And he protested, “But I’ve already asked another brother to ordain me.”

    And I said, “Young man, your father will ordain you, and you’ll live to thank the Lord for this day.”

    Then the father came forward.

    Thank goodness he was an elder. Had he not been, he soon could have been! In the military they would call that a battlefield commission. Sometimes such things are done in the Church.

    The father did not know how to ordain his son. I put my arm around him and coached him through the ordinance. When he was finished, the young man was an elder.

    Then something wonderful happened. Completely changed, the father and son embraced. It was obvious that had never happened before.

    The father, through his tears, said, “I didn’t get to ordain my other boys.”

    Think how much more was accomplished than if another had ordained him, even an Apostle.”

  5. Bill April 19, 2010 at 3:47 pm - Reply

    Regarding talking with our children about problematic history: Our family enjoys reading Dan Brown’s Michael Langdon novels. (Although it was the DaVinci Code that tipped my wife over the edge and into disaffection–but that is another story…!) The latest (The Lost Symbol) is full of great explanations about the Masons and what they are all about. After reading that, I had a much better understanding as to why JS would be attracted to the Masons on many levels. I did not hasitate to have that discussion with my 16-year-old daughter while my 12-year-old daughter listened in. I’m confident that the Masonic issue will not cause either of them trouble later in life. Like so many things, the unknown, rumor and innuendo is much more juicy than the facts!

  6. Aaron April 19, 2010 at 7:49 pm - Reply

    Thanks for these discussions. It gave me a lot to consider. I liked the willingness to laugh once and a while. While I don’t condone rebellion against the system, the story of the young woman’s teacher that tossed the manual aside because she couldn’t in good conscience teach from it made me cheer. Overall, it the conversations made me realize that I do have a place in the Church and can raise children in the Church to where they can enjoy the programs and lessons they learn while having a stable home front, willingness to talk about controversial issues, and ability to hold to some of my own personal values and not make their Church experience turn into “us, the Mormons, vs. the rest of the world.”

  7. George Windes April 19, 2010 at 9:33 pm - Reply

    I did hiccup when John mentioned that porn was evil. Porn is found on the walls of ice age caves. It was/is in every culture know to man. In fact, porn is probably one way in which young males visualize what is expected of them in intimate relationships. I don’t like porn, but I know that many people in our society say it’s no big deal. Utah has the highest rate of internet porn viewing in our Nation. Like masturbation, the church needs to lighten up on this, or lose
    many of its young people. I remember reading a great book, The Naked Ape, years ago. We humans are part of the
    animal kingdom, we shouldn’t forget that. Shalom.

  8. Michael April 20, 2010 at 9:44 am - Reply

    Just finished the podcast this morning. It was fantastic! It is definitely one that I am going to listen to many times in the future. My oldest son is about to turn 4, and he already learns and remembers a good amount of what we tell him. I was thinking if I would be able to follow through and teach him the good parts of the gospel without turning him off to the church. I also loved the part of the discussion about priesthood ordinances and what is required for someone to feel comfortable doing those for their kids. So many great points by the three guests, and I am almost excited to go through the process of teaching my kids as they continue to grow and mature.

    Thanks John! I really needed this podcast and the timing was fabulous for me personally!

  9. Michael April 20, 2010 at 9:50 am - Reply

    George said: “I did hiccup when John mentioned that porn was evil. Porn is found on the walls of ice age caves. It was/is in every culture known to man. In fact, porn is probably one way in which young males visualize what is expected of them in intimate relationships.”

    I think this is a really interesting point. If we could make the ‘ideal’ society, does anyone honestly think that never being exposed to anything sexual other than the rudimentary drawings in a children’s book when mom and dad give the ‘birds and the bees’ explanation, that young men and women will just naturally have sexual desires? In this regard, I think even porn and the forbidding of porn make young people more interested in sex, and in Mormon culture, interest in sex will be integral in deciding to pursue marriage. So it isn’t absolutely, unquestionably evil, in all respects. I recognize, however, that addiction to such things can cause a lot of evil.

    • Duke July 19, 2011 at 4:46 am - Reply

      You have a good point, however, with some caveats. 1) Porn is different now then it has been in the past. Much of today’s porn creates unrealistic and unhealthy attitudes such as rape scenes, minors, and dominionism/ownership vs. relationship. 2) Porn in too many cases IS addictive and destructive not only to the viewers but especially to the people depicted. 3) I think teens would be interested in sex and have sexual desires regardless of porn. It is as innate as hunger and breathing. But YES, the over discussed messages of ‘Thou shalt not look at porn or anything like unto it,’ definitely peeks their interest. It is almost like saying, “don’t look at porn because you might really, really like it; so much that you’ll want more of it.”

  10. RK April 20, 2010 at 12:11 pm - Reply

    A great podcast! I don’t know how you could have found three better people to articulate the things you were discussing! Well done everyone. My believing wife and I (no longer believing) very much enjoyed listening to this podcast together and had some very good discussion. This is something that has not come easy for us and I can’t thank John enough for making a place that helps us to have these discussions. I will listen again and again. You panelists have a wonderful take on parenting and I hope this will be heard by a growing number of people, as the word spreads about Mormon Stories. I just turned my brother-in-law who is a bishop for the 2nd time on to this site and I will continue to tell every Mormon I can about it. Thanks John, again!

  11. Tim April 20, 2010 at 8:01 pm - Reply

    A great podcast. John I found interesting your reference to the high level church official who said that there was a place in the church for those who hold unorthodox views even to the point of non belief. However what I find more telling is that even this person who I assume is in a position of some authority feels the need to be anonomous in his expression of support. If he fears going public what hope does the average NOM have of being truely accepted in the greater community. Maybe if this view was expressed openly by the church leadership I might have considered remaining.

    I appreciate folks like you and your panelists who have decided that the best thing for you and your families is to remain involved with the church. I arrived at a different conclusion but hopefully your continued participation will make the church a more open, tolerant and honest organization and that can only be a good thing.

  12. Amy April 20, 2010 at 10:46 pm - Reply

    I think these episodes are some of my favorite! I loved them. When all of you were talking about going to interviews WITH your kids, I remembered something E. Bednar said when he visited this area. He and his wife went with their kids–don’t know if they went inside, but I loved that idea. I appreciated advice–our are young, but not too young that we haven’t had certain issues come up. I believe we should teach truth as we know it, the best that we can, in whatever form it may come. Thank you for this podcast. I want to listen again already!

  13. Heather April 21, 2010 at 9:31 am - Reply

    I was VERY nervous about putting myself out there like this, so I’m happy to read that some of you enjoyed it and felt that some of the things we said might be beneficial.

  14. Anonymous April 21, 2010 at 12:03 pm - Reply

    To John Dehlin:

    In the first segment you stated firsthand knowledge from a high-ranking church authority that there IS a place in the church for those who do not believe all the doctrine of the church [loosely re-stated; my apologies if I didn’t get it quite right]. While the unidentified church authority may have been making a true statement from his perspective, I, based on firsthand experience, know that this sentiment comes with several caveats.

    Caveat #1: Keep your opinions, facts, questions, and comments to yourself. A doubter is welcome to stay in the church and attend meetings as long as that person keeps quiet. (I have heard that there are a few wards and branches out there that tolerate some descent, but in all the places I’ve lived in the U.S., I’ve never lived in one.)

    Caveat #2: Pay a full tithe. I believe the church in general may be willing to waive Caveat #1 in proportion to the dollar figure associated with Caveat #2. (I know this sounds cynical and somewhat bitter, but who among us is not able to recognize some nugget of truth in the church’s desire to collect tithes from all its members?)

    Caveat #3: Don’t let your doubt infect others, even your own family members. (I believe this speaks for itself. The last thing the church needs is a membership full of doubters in spite of what facts or truth may speak contrary to the “official” church narrative.)

    Caveat #4: Give up a portion, however great or small is necessary, of your will and free thinking in order to accept that the general authorities of the church are the “authority” on all things spiritual. Get with “the program” so that “the program” can shape you into the pious image we (the general authorities) feel is right for you. (I know this statement has a hard edge to it, but I believe we all are able to point to examples of where the church requires unreasonable conformity for the sake of “unity” or dare I say “control”.)

    I am currently a member (in name only) but I am looking for the exit. My family bonds are making those waters extremely difficult to navigate. I just don’t see any reason to waste precious life moments on an organization that cannot deliver on the promises it hands out.

    John, the email address I used to produce this message is bogus. If you would like to respond to this post (and I am genuinely interested in your perspective) please do so within this forum.

    Thank you for your work. Mormon Stories is very useful.

  15. John Dehlin April 21, 2010 at 12:14 pm - Reply


    Based on my discussions w/ folks at CHQ:

    1) You are correct that they do not desire folks to be disruptive in church settings, though I think that they realize that eventually we need to nurture an environment where tougher topics can be thoughtfully discussed, in the “house of faith”

    2) I do believe that they want folks to pay tithing, but I believe that they sincerely see tithing as a commandment from God, and as essential for the church to function. I think they also realize that many will not pay a full tithe, and I think they accept them as members as well, though obviously not in full standing. Someday I hope they figure out a better way to deal with this than excluding folks from marriages, etc.

    3) Yeah…I don’t think that they want folks sewing the seeds of doubt. True. That said, the seeds of doubt are blowing everywhere with the Internet, so it’s only a matter of time before the chickens come home to roost in this regard.

    4) Yea….we definitely are (at times) the “Church of Exclusive Authority and Good PR” first and foremost. There is clearly a desire to control folks within the church.

    I totally understand why folks choose to leave.

    The purpose of this podcast is just to let folks know that, if it is their desire, there are also ways to stay….regardless of what the “brethren” think.

    But many are not gonna want to stay. That’s just the reality.

    Hopefully, someday, we can find a better middle ground.


  16. Anonymous April 21, 2010 at 12:30 pm - Reply


    Thanks for the reply. Based on all the Mormon Stories podcasts I’ve listened to (and that’s most of them) I probably could have guessed your answers.

    I would have to say, at this point in time, I have much less anger towards the church and towards the situation I find myself in than I did three years ago when the walls of Mormonism came crashing down. Now I find myself trying to figure out how I communicate to my older children some of the more troubling things having to do with church history.

    I want to be the one to bring them the information so they don’t repeat the experience I’ve been through. I am also able to identify with the sentiment from this podcast where I don’t want them to resent me for not telling them when I had the chance. I want them to get the information in a safe environment and be able to talk with me about the issues surrounding the facts vs. the official narrative. I don’t want them to feel isolated–as I have felt isolated because I don’t have anyone with which I am able to talk with about these things.

    As far as leaving is concerned, I have not been to a church meeting in four weeks and with the exception of general conference, I have rarely felt more peace in my life. Going to church seems to fuel my fire. I know your mission is to help people stay–about a year ago I read your essay on the matter. I admit you make a number of good arguments for developing a “strategy” to stay in the church. I guess with me, it just comes down to integrity and not wanting to support an organization that wants to hold its members to a standard of honesty (“Are you honest in ALL your dealings with your fellow man?”) that they themselves ignore.

    Thanks again for all you do. In some ways I wish there was more value in it for me personally.

  17. Laurie Gallagher April 21, 2010 at 12:36 pm - Reply

    I agree about “the church’s” desire for doubters to stay or not stay. They want us to stay on their terms: not make a big fuss (asking big questions in class), not expect change, go along with the program. That’s why in the podcast, I shared that it’s not really about what the church expects. To me, that gives them way too much power over my internal life. It’s all about where I want to be, and do I accept the church – not the other way around. I’m not even going to give “the church” (cue the ominous music!) that kind of power over me.

    Truthfully, living this way has been incredibly challenging and very rewarding. I’ve learned to stay in my own story, rather than in someone else’s and it’s been a great opportunity for personal growth. I feel much more centered now.

    I also feel that the people in the church who matter most to me are my peers, my Mormon friends. They could all give a rat’s ass (can I say that here?) whether I pay tithing or ask honest questions, and seem to appreciate that I’m a free-thinker and that I don’t give up my will. I suspect it helps them feel less judged and opens the door for them to do the same. I’ve been very surprised that when I navigate honestly within the church social system I am hugely accepted. I have found that the only time people get less accepting of me is if I am embodying frustration or judgment of something they believe is sacred. It’s taken a lot of maturity to learn to attend church and not share everything on my mind. For me, attending in a respectful way has been a mutual gift of love and respect for my LDS friends. If it were different on the social/tribal front, I would not interact any more.

    It’s a frustrating situation. If all of the free thinkers and cool cats leave the church because they can’t take it anymore, then the programs and perspectives will just get more close-minded and frustrating. On the other hand, dealing with it in the trenches and in callings is a head-banging experience. I find myself somewhat grateful that my husband is still committed so that I can still keep some connection without feeling too invested.

  18. AO April 21, 2010 at 2:33 pm - Reply

    I would have liked to hear more of the reasons why John, Heather, and Lee decided to stay in the church. As my husband and I listened, we were discouraged at how complicated and “tough” it seems to deal with all these issues (in regards to raising children in the church). Wouldn’t it just be easier to find another church or community? What makes it worth it to stay with the church (for you)? Is it because learning a new “language” is too difficult?
    Would really like some feedback.

  19. Aaron April 21, 2010 at 2:33 pm - Reply

    This goes out to anonymous,
    While I probably shouldn’t suggest going inactive, it does seem like something you need at this point in life. The advice I was given when I had a crisis of faith was to go inactive, practice a spiritual forum of Mormonism on my own time (not literal truth claims), and do the research from all sides of what is troubling me. If after a year you still feel you want to leave, then you are probably making a wise choice based on thinking things through rather than on emotion. Again, if going to the sacrament meetings and classes is making angry, do not attend them for a while. Also, and I have heard John Dehlin mention this (as I am sure you have), do not stay simply to maintain family ties…. your happiness and spiritual outlook should never be compromised in order to please others. Good luck to you!

  20. John Dehlin April 21, 2010 at 3:51 pm - Reply


    Have you had a chance yet to listen to the recent Brian Johnston interview? Or the Stages of Faith episodes earlier in the the Mormon Stories playlist? If not, that might be a good place to start. Or you can check out, specifically this essay:

    I’m not an overt advocate for this approach any more…I’m content to know that it works for me (right now), but I know it only works for some….so it’s something you’d have to decide for yourself.

    Let me know if that helps at all.


  21. In The Back April 21, 2010 at 5:36 pm - Reply

    Loved the podcast, thank you for tackling this topic. I also had the thought shared by AO above which is, man this seems like a lot of trouble. Shouldn’t religion be a source of happiness and peace? It seems, if we remain active, we are heading for a lifetime of “debriefing” frustration and vent up emotion and anger. We are willing to give it a try but my general thought at this moment is that church is going to become a net negative for me and my family.
    I would love to hear a follow up to this podcast with a panel of those that do not think it is a good idea to raise your children in the church when you are a non believer. I know I have heard Bob Mcue comment on this as well as several posters over at NOM.
    Thanks again.

  22. Heather April 21, 2010 at 8:20 pm - Reply

    AO & In The Back, I’d like to respond to your question re: why I stay (I can’t speak for Laurie or Lee). I stay because I love the church and its members. I love the way my life has proceeded up to this point because of my participation in the Mormon church. Denying or rejecting my Mormon-ness would be like denying my gender or my American-ness or my Texan-ness. ;) It’s part of who I am. It’s my heritage. It’s the ties that bind my family together.

    Furthermore, I have zero interest in trying to find ANOTHER faith community that would suit me better. I know this position frustrates some disaffected members (for lack of a better label), but it’s my position nonetheless. At this point, I’m definitely in the “I don’t know what the heck I believe about religion/spirituality/God,” but I’m more comfortable with what I know (the LDS church) than something I don’t know. Yes, I speak this language. It’s been mine since birth. The thought of joining another church just makes me tired. This is who I am. I’ll stay until I get pushed out.

  23. Travis April 21, 2010 at 9:49 pm - Reply

    Loved the podcast! I felt like I was a part of the conversation.

    Lee mentioned a talk by Henry Eyring concerning polygamy. I was wondering if you could post a link to it? I am interested in reading it if it is possible.

    I also discussed, with a friend, the part about the interview question Lee experienced about the farm animal question. My friend had the same experience. We laughed for several minutes about his own interview. Hence the need for continuing revelation.

    Thanks to all of you for your time and sharing your experiences with me.

  24. Buckley Jeppson April 22, 2010 at 10:25 am - Reply

    I knew that the hardest part of coming out of the closet years ago was that I would someday give up the opportunity to witness my only child’s temple wedding. I knew the rules of the country club, so I waited outside with temple-worthy friends who flew across the country to be there with me and assure me that I was still a valuable person. I married a man legally in Canada and remain a High Priest in good standing in the Church. I attend my local ward, contribute, and am welcome. But even with my official, on-the-books standing, I was unable to get permission to stand in the circle when my two grandchildren were blessed. The Handbook was unclear so the bishop asked the stake president. I was denied. So on two different occasions I watched as other far less “worthy” straight men stood in the circle alongside strangers and fringe relatives who seldom attended Church, to bless my only grandchildren.

    Whether it’s policy or not, imperfect men with their own bias and ignorance are the gatekeepers to the rituals and milestones of our forever families. No matter how hard we try as parents, we can’t fix that reality. So the best we can do is teach our kids context, reason, and the worth of all souls from the earliest age so they are not damaged by others as they grow. It may sound cynical, but it’s my experience.

  25. In The Back April 22, 2010 at 11:56 am - Reply

    Thanks Heather. I understand your reasoning and I think we share a lot of it with you. In fact I think what you said is why we are willing to give it a try instead of bolting. I just see the writing on the wall of how confusing and difficult this is going to be for my wife and I but more importantly for my kids. If we ever start to feel that the church is nothing but a positive for my kids we are done. To be honest I cannot see how the constant contradictions and debriefings can turn out to be a positive for them but we will give it a try.
    Forcing my kids to go to church and listen to teachings I know to be untrue just because I had some ancestors that bought the Joseph Smith story and walked across the plains does not seem right to me. I understand heritage, tribe and all that stuff but that same argument could be made by the Branch Davidians or Fundamentalists living in Colorado City. Sometime I think it may be better to admit our ancestors made a mistake and bought into a story that we now know was false and break the chain. Perpetrating that on our children does not seem to be the answer and definitely does not seem like it will be healthy for them. But we shall see.
    Thank you so much for participating on the podcast.

  26. Heather April 22, 2010 at 2:46 pm - Reply

    Buckley, I was not happy to read your response. I think the church does a great job of strengthening families as long as all parties are active, TR-holding members. Once one person does something to step outside of that realm, then the church seems to actually do harm with things like you mentioned. I am able to continue in my current state because I have not had to deal with such things as temple weddings, ordinations, baptisms, etc. (Well, I don’t have the priesthood, so there’s no issue with me ever being able to actually participate in any of those . . .)

    In The Back, I totally see where you’re coming from. Personally, I find value in religious participation even though I’m wary of truth claims. What does it mean that something is “true,” anyway? How might I go about judging whether something spiritual is “true”? I’m not criticizing your perspective at all–just blathering, trying to explain myself. ;)

  27. Clay Painter April 23, 2010 at 7:18 am - Reply

    Awesome, Folks!

    My kids are still young, but this gave me plenty of ideas to think about. I feel like your approaches are just excellent.

  28. Michelle April 23, 2010 at 9:36 am - Reply

    Just finished listening to the podcast. Lee White’s oldest daughter is one of my very favorite people in the world. You would be hard-pressed to find someone who does a better job exemplifying Christ-like characteristics. She’s loving, kind, empathetic, generous of heart and time and substance. She radiates sunshine and love wherever she goes. She is one of the most loving, patient mothers I’ve ever known. She’s open-minded, a voracious reader, a deep thinker, and a seeker for spiritual truth, for goodness and wisdom wherever it can be found. She is the epitome of all the best of Mormonism. Thank you, Lee (& his wife), for raising her. I was fascinated to hear about your parenting approach, and would have happily listened to many more hours of your thoughts on raising children. I would be thrilled beyond belief to raise kids of such caliber. (I don’t know the other White kids quite as well, but I’m blown away by their overall level of awesomeness, and would really love to get to know them better!)

    Fascinating podcast, and lots to think about. Thanks for putting this together.

  29. Christopher April 23, 2010 at 3:11 pm - Reply

    Stay or go, I think we are all looking for something real and significant in our lives. My strongest desires are to be honest with myself and to interact with a loving community that is interested in sharing what they know and who they are. Often I resent the church for claiming to be a place where these significant interactions are supposed to occur when all I get every week seems superficial and unsatisfying.

    I think the answers to what is really causing us to suffer will be found within ourselves. Laurie’s attitude resonates with me as being a truly healthy approach in this regard. I like how she mentioned being accepted as an open-minded person even within member circles. Why do I not embrace that sort of a role? I feel judged before anyone has even spoken with me.

    I find that I am the one who tends to put up walls and push other members away rather than give them a chance to react to my ideas and true personality in their own way. When I listen to you all speak it really makes me realize that no one is going to interact with us in any significant way if we don’t open ourselves up. I feel very validated by this discussion.

    I want meaningful interactions in my life and if the problem is me it is still going to be me in another church or in Atheist circles. After you get over all your anger about church history etc. you can see clearly where you are and you might realize that Latter Day Saints have as good of hearts as anyone in any other community. Even if their myths are weird, their hearts are trying to be good. Why not give them a chance? You may not find absolute truth but there is certainly collective wisdom to be had from the LDS community.

    Unfortunately, it does seem that sometimes people who think this way are still bullied out of the church by high ups, but I tend to think that the average member would welcome a fresh perspective (or at least a genuine friendship) from an honest seeker of truth.

  30. Danko April 23, 2010 at 7:32 pm - Reply

    Staying in the church might be easier if we all adopt the original attitude of Mormonism, which is that we are ALLOWED to believe anything we want, and not that we are required to. Joseph Smith taught that men were never damned for believing too much. He also taught that men should be free to believe and teach whatever they want. This type of freedom will always leave room for religious kooks and superstitious beliefs, especially when the gift of revelation is given to each member. Sometimes strange beliefs even become doctrine and practice within the church. But this is the risk of having a theology that is truly free and flexible. We see the same types of risk in democratic societies. When people are given true freedom there will always be side effects, because the lack of regulation increases the amount of deviance and experimentation. It’s a price that we are willing to pay in exchange for the freedoms we enjoy.

    Another thought: John Dehlin made the comment that inspiration exists in the church. I have to agree with him. Is this because the church is great or because God is great? I believe it is both. The church is great because it teaches us to seek the spirit, it gives us noble reasons for following the spirit, and because its leadership strives to receive inspiration on all matters of church governance. I believe that this attitude can, over time, lead us to a purer form of Mormonism, as we gradually shed the non-essentials and false teachings. I believe that God is great because he can work with any organization, even those founded on lies, especially if the organization is diligently seeking his will through prayer and inspiration. God can turn lemons into lemonade, and he can do it more quickly when the lemons are willing. But until that happens completely, I we can still come to know God, even while carrying some erroneous and dysfunctional beliefs. As Rumi said “God accepts counterfeit”. It’s the only fair way, considering that all religions are a mixture of truth and error. The LDS’ advantage over many other religions is the belief in continued revelation.
    The question is whether the church will have the strength to let go of false traditions. It used to bother me when the church changed its positions on key issues. Now I wish they would change more things, and do it more quickly. The willingness and humility to change is to be admired not scorned. I thank StayLDS for their efforts in this regard.

  31. Swearing Elder April 24, 2010 at 9:16 pm - Reply

    I could (probably) continue going to church if my wife could take this sort of unconventional approach. But for her it’s “the right way or no way.” She’s a True Believer to the core. I can’t say anything about the church without her interpreting it as critical. So, I’ve just stepped away from it altogether.

  32. Heather April 25, 2010 at 3:10 pm - Reply

    Swearing Elder, I’m sorry to read this. It’s so hard when couples who start a marriage with both partners being active, “true believers” and then one couple begins shifting away from that position. I think some people, when confronted with that shift, begin to batten down the hatches, so to speak. They dig in their heels, thinking that if they could only be BETTER Mormons, the now less-believing spouse will see the error of his/her ways and come back around. I sympathize and empathize with this sentiment. It’s a tough place to be in–for both parties.

  33. Terry April 26, 2010 at 9:32 am - Reply

    Hey, you have to meet this guy, I just joined this great church and the leader is fantastic.

    Really, who is he?

    Oh, man let me start from the beginning; he was first a young treasure seeker and would spend months searching for lost gold. In fact, just a few years ago he led an expedition to Salem to find buried treasure to help fund the church.

    Wow, how much gold did he find?

    Well, he never found any.

    Oh, well, that’s cool that he did that. I guess.

    Yeah, it is. Ok so after he did that he started this community where everyone gave their belongings to him and he dispersed them as he saw fit. Oh, and he started his own bank, where people put up their property and any money that they still had left and he gave them his new bank notes.

    Wow, he started his own bank. That sounds pretty cool. So did they all become wealthy?

    No, actually the bank collapsed and the people who trusted in him lost everything.

    That sucks, did they still believe in him.

    Well some did, but most of the people ran him out of town and left.

    Yeah I could see why.

    But get this, when he gets to his new town he starts taking all these women, and some of them are as young as fourteen. He even takes a few men’s wives for himself. He says an angel commanded him to do it, or else he would kill him.

    Now that sounds pretty cool except for the fourteen part, but don’t you think he will get in trouble. I mean isn’t that against the law?

    Yeah it is, but he keeps lying to everyone, so he won’t get caught. Only a few of us really know what is going on. What do you think, want to join?

    No thanks man that guy seems a little out there.

  34. Swearing Elder April 26, 2010 at 3:22 pm - Reply

    Heather: Yep, she’s become more dogmatic in reaction to my heresy/apostasy. Way more dogmatic.

    One more general comment: The discussion of porn was worth the price of admission. The church needs to calm the hell down on that topic. Same with masturbation: Leave the teenagers (and adults) alone!

    Can either or both of these get out of hand (ahem, so to speak)? Sure. In that case, seek some professional help. But otherwise, let it go already.

    Imagine this: Take your favorite form of service (feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, you know that stuff of “pure religion”). Now substitute that issue every time you see a reference to porn or playing with your little factory. Imagine what the church would be like if instead of trying to stop people from doing those things (“thou shalt not”) you had positive messages (“love thy neighbor”). Boy, what a difference it would be!

  35. Heather April 26, 2010 at 3:33 pm - Reply

    Swearing Elder, yeah, it’s kinda crazy at times. You’ll never find me defending the porn industry, but I think the emphasis modesty/sexuality/chastity get in the YW/YM program is totally over the top. My daughter went from 11.99 and having primary lessons about helping in the family and being nice to turning 12 and having lessons on chastity/modesty. She didn’t even know what the word “chastity” meant. After a few months, she asked why they have to talk about chastity/modesty every week. Now, perhaps that’s hyperbole; I don’t actually know that this comes up every week, but in her mind, they talk about it ALL THE TIME. It’s totally overkill.

    She was also weirded out when she had her first temple recommend interview and the member of the bishopric asked her whether she knew what chastity meant. And so was I! It seems benign enough, but if you’re a 12 year old girl, that’s a pretty awkward place to be in. I felt sorry for her and disappointed in myself for allowing her to be put in that position.

  36. Marshall Bond April 26, 2010 at 5:12 pm - Reply

    Wow, so much insight packed into this episode. Thank you, John and panelists! I’m going to re-listen and take some notes. My new catchphrase, adapted from Lee, is “Get used to ambiguity.” (In my mind, spoken like the Man in Black from “The Princess Bride,” when he tells Inigo during their swordfight, “Get used to disappointment.”)

  37. Karin Olson Williams April 27, 2010 at 10:25 pm - Reply

    Interesting. I would not know how to define or label myself if I had to–just a member of the church trying to keep the commandments and share my faith with my family. Probably traditional to some (?) and something else (?) to others. I am fortunate to live in a unique ward where people largely mind their own business about these things. I think it is unique and refreshing–a model ward in East Texas. We just have to remember that when we decide not to teach “superiority” to our children, we cannot allow ourselves to feel superior to members of the church who seem to us to be more traditional or less tolerant of the diversity we embrace. We are all children of our Heavenly Father, and he loves us ALL the same–even the people who drive us nuts and don’t seem to “get it.”

  38. John Dehlin April 28, 2010 at 6:05 am - Reply


    Those are great points. I totally agree.


  39. hkobeal April 28, 2010 at 7:14 am - Reply

    Karin! ;)

    Yes, I agree that your ward is unique–and surprisingly open and tolerant of viewpoints/beliefs/behaviors along a wide spectrum. I’ve often wondered about why that is. It’s been like that for a long time. How did that ward culture get created? Who/what is responsible for it?

    And you are totally right that we have to be careful not to place ourselves in a superior position to others who are more traditional/less tolerant. Gulp.

  40. Joseph April 28, 2010 at 8:13 am - Reply


    I agree with your point about the power of suggestion (whether positive or negative). We should focus on the good that we want to develop in our lives rather than the evil we want to root out. Focusing on the evil just makes us worse. This is true for the church also, and is the reason why some people should leave rather than stay: if church makes us focus on evil (by throwing it constantly in our faces with the command to repent and/or be disgusted), then our interaction with it becomes destructive. Only those with the power to find good ideals to focus on within the church should stay, because only they are actually benefited and empowered by their relationship with the church.

  41. Laurie Gallagher April 28, 2010 at 8:46 am - Reply

    John (commentor above, not John D),

    I love what you said about people being empowered by their relationship with the church. Whether we leave, or stay, or stay somewhere in-between, this is what I hope all Mormons and post-mormons find. A recognition of their own power and a healthy relationship with the church – whatever shape that takes. IMO, this will go farther with our kids than anything we could possibly tell them.

  42. John Dehlin April 28, 2010 at 8:52 am - Reply


    Amen, brutha. Very true.


  43. N. April 30, 2010 at 8:57 pm - Reply

    I just finished listening to the episode(s), and two things jumped out at me in the last part:
    1. Re: how to teach “nonstandard” church history to the children if you have a “believing spouse.”
    The presupposition behind this was striking. It assumes that if someone “believes” that person would not want to teach hard facts of church history to his or her children. I find this to be preposterous. The idea that more traditional Mormons are anti-historical (or somehow unwilling) is to me as laughable as it is condescending.
    2. Re: building a religiously tolerant home/life/child/etc
    In a (vaguely) “unitarian” philosophy, there is an assumption that all expressions of religious faith, spiritual insight, communion with God, etc are all great and equally effective, so “who’s to say if *my* way is right, as long as everyone is happy where they find happiness.” This perspective, as shown in the panel, also carries with it the (usual, and logically necessary) devaluation of any faith model that is less “unitarian.” It usually goes along the lines of “well someday, I hope that people can grow up and leave behind their claims, and embrace my claim that all their claims aren’t valid (which my claim by the way is that they are all valid).”
    Philosophically, you can’t make a claim that “everything can be Truth, because no one has an exclusive Truth” without being the one who is claiming an exclusive Truth. This is also the crux of my issue with other discussions of Fowler’s Stages. They have a heavy presupposition of an exclusive universal Truth which is succinctly: “everyone’s Truth has to be wrong except my universal one, and I’m am so much happier now that I know everyone else is wrong.”
    This dissonance/paradox/whatever is glaring. And for a group of people who are generally dismissive of the constant (grating even) claims of exclusive truth by “believing” Mormons, you are quick to take up that banner yourself.

  44. Heather May 1, 2010 at 9:46 pm - Reply

    N, thanks for your feedback. It’s always good to have your beliefs questioned and have to re-evaluate them. It’s been about a month since I did the interview, so I honestly can’t remember what was said that would lead you to conclude that we were claiming to possess any kind of “Truth.” I feel like I was pretty clear about saying that I DON’T know . . . I’m definitely not convinced that my way is better/easier/more “truth”-ful and hope I didn’t say anything that would suggest otherwise.

  45. Laurie Gallagher May 2, 2010 at 1:37 am - Reply

    N – I probably am the one to whom you are addressing your second comment to?

    It’s a challenging thing to explain, this concept of non-dualism. In the podcast, I mentioned that in order to really find deep peace, I had to come to understand that Mormonism is a viable path to god. I wasn’t giving that lip service. I truly believe that to be true. I believe that one can hold that idea as truth – Mormonism is a viable path to god – as well as simultaneously holding the idea that other belief systems are viable ways to god. Equally, no one path can encompass or accurately conceptualize that which we call god. The more I understand that conceptual lack, the more gentle I am toward religion in general. Part of our humanity is this conceptual filter that we use to function, and depending on which angle we are looking at our belief system from, all angles are true. (and all angles are false) In the end, it comes down to what construct resonates within us as OUR viable path in this life time. I know that seems insane!

    The more we see that both are true and false, the less it is about universal truth, and the more it is about understanding how to work with our limited mind constructs, and constantly working to open our minds up and be willing to throw out our current construct at any moment. I try to remember that any given moment, I may just be full of sh–, and I pray to be called out on it. What a great and kind gift! It is, perhaps what keeps us from picking up a banner of any kind?

    Rather than just creating a home where my family is tolerant of one other, I hope to create a home that is enthusiastic and supportive of the many different spiritual directions the five of us will travel. God is after all, a great adventure. I really enjoy the ride.

  46. M.R. 2 May 2, 2010 at 5:46 pm - Reply

    I thoroughly enjoyed this podcast. As one who is not married but is already concerned about the future possibilities of raising a child without a strict Mormon code of beliefs and ethics, I found this podcast very inspiring.

    Although I have lost my “traditional” belief system I still very much believe that I am a Mormon and desire to hold onto some piece of what has made me who I am today. This podcast has helped me better understand how this might be possible.

    I thank everyone who was involved.

  47. Vin May 4, 2010 at 4:38 pm - Reply

    o_O still in awe about the farm animal thing

  48. Natasha Helfer Parker May 12, 2010 at 8:45 pm - Reply

    This has been one of the most useful things I’ve listened to in a long time!! Thank you all for sharing your personal experiences, thoughts and ways you think through these amazing issues.

  49. Natasha Helfer Parker May 12, 2010 at 9:08 pm - Reply

    On a total side note: I think it’s really important to delineate the difference between pornography and erotica. I wouldn’t consider ice age cave painting as pornography – I would consider it erotica. And erotica is a healthy part of the human experience. We can’t expect a major part of humanity to not be addressed in venues such as song, art, literature, academia, etc.

  50. Todd Traader June 25, 2010 at 5:16 pm - Reply

    I would like to thank you, John and the panel, for some very insightful thoughts. It was very good to hear from people whom now don’t believe 100% in the church teachings and how they want to raise their children.
    I would love to hear from the other side, the people that still believe in the church and how they raise children with someone that is now a non-believer. What I have seen with my spouse is that many of the things that I still hold on to are very insulting and come with negative response. I would love to know how these men and women teach their kids their values and beliefs without stepping on the spouse’s new beliefs that left the church.
    Thanks again for the podcasts…. They mean a lot to me.

  51. Caryn Colton January 28, 2011 at 8:57 pm - Reply

    Recognizing that previous posts are quite old, I just finished the podcast and had a question for whoever is still interested in replying. What is it that makes part or non believers stay with the church and desire to raise their families there? It seems we speak of so many things that are taught in the church that we are uncomfortable with. Why go through so much effort to correct, or re-teach what our children learn at church? Wouldn’t it be easier, and perhaps better for our children, to simply leave the church and not spend our lives worried about the things they are being taught to believe as fact that we don’t believe? If we are so concerned about our teenagers being asked inappropriate questions in worthiness interviews and being taught almost continually about chastity and about avoiding pornography, masturbation etc, why not remove them from that harmful situation altogether? What value does it have for the child to have them learn at their church that you have to go to the temple to be with your family together forever and then tell them that is not really true when the get home? Why have them learn it in the first place?

    As one whose world is just recently being turned completely upside down by new, truer education about my church, I have found great solace in listening to Mormon Stories podcasts. Thanks John!

    • Heather March 31, 2011 at 4:20 am - Reply

      Great question–one I have asked myself many times and anticipate continuing to ask myself. ;)

      Quite simply–Mormonism is part of who I am. I do not wish to try to walk away from it. Contemplating doing so seems like contemplating trying to walk away from being a woman, or an American, or a Texan.

      And then there’s the part of me that wants to dig in my heels and say: “Hey! This is my religion, too!” and try to create space for myself and my kids to enjoy what’s good about Mormonism.

      Sometimes this seems like an attainable goal. Other times, not so much. ;)

  52. Madeleine July 27, 2011 at 3:17 am - Reply

    Thank you so much for this topic. I’m not yet a parent, or even married, but have often thought about the challenges of raising children given the disjoint between the way I was raised / parent’s emphasis on everything-Mormon-to-the-last-detail, versus how I wished my parents had raised me (i.e. room for discussion, open-minded, etc.).  I want to create a home in which my (future)-family can enjoy all the good I see in Mormonism, without the persistent heartache I felt growing-up / now. After listening to this discussion I once again have faith that I can.

  53. Kris December 13, 2011 at 6:06 am - Reply

    I just finished listening to these podcasts (oddly enough, on my way from driving my son to seminary at 6:00 am!!!), and they were some of the best, most refreshing, insightful panel discussions I’ve ever heard on Mormon Stories!  Absolutely loved them, and had my husband listen to them as well!  Can’t thank you enough.  I left the podcasts wishing that Laurie was my neighbor, wishing that Heather was my best friend at church (we could snicker through Relief Society together), and wishing that Lee was my bishop.  I can always dream…

    These sorts of panel discussions with a variety of people within and outside of “true belief” are gold — and so necessary to people like me, who are active attendees but have basically checked out spiritually and intellectually.  Church is positively painful for me to attend now, because the belief system that I previously held now seems ridiculous.  I love the members of my ward, but I also shake my head at them.  I wonder how I managed to believe all of this stuff previously.  I see no value in attendance, and spend most weeks being angry (and not attending Relief Society at all) – and I’ve been disaffected for a couple of years now.  We currently go regularly because we have one last teenager who needs the socialization provided at church.  But the fact that we have a Nazi-like bishop who puts other Nazi-like members in leadership positions makes for a very sterile, unwelcoming ward.  When this bishop is replaced, maybe my NOM-like status won’t feel so uncomfortable.

    But again, thank you for making me feel like there are others out there who THINK.  Not necessarily always think as I do, but who THINK.  It’s refreshing, and encouraging.

    • Anonymous December 16, 2011 at 6:03 am - Reply

      So happy to hear from you, Kris.


  54. Heather December 13, 2011 at 7:18 am - Reply

    Wow, Kris.  Thanks for this message.  I loved participating on this panel and felt similarly to you–wishing I could be backyard neighbors with Laurie and Lee and John!

    Hang in!

  55. David March 19, 2012 at 5:48 pm - Reply

    I am glad I listened to this podcast.  I wasn’t even sure if it would be valuable since I don’t have kids but there were a lot of interesting topics.  The third section about interviews and masturbation made me realize I just cannot raise my possible future kids in the church.  It brought back a lot of bad memories and I don’t want my kids to go through that. 

  56. Mother December 12, 2018 at 7:40 am - Reply

    I absolutely loved this podcast. My husband and I’s faith transition was fairly resent and so many of our concerns were touched on here.

    I do want to add my two cents on one thing. John asked how they all felt about the policy of men being/ not being able to teach primary. Everyone seemed to think it was great. I just have to say I couldn’t disagree more. We have 8 children and come Sunday, I’m starving for adult interaction and personal spiritual nourishment. We are asked to sub in primary about 75% of the time. I get it, we have many of our own children in primary and they desperately need help. I want to help. But, honestly, it feels me with absolute dread (not the actual act of doing it, but the fact that I have to give up 2 of my favorite hours of the week to do it). My husband, however, has no issues subbing primary. He is fine missing hours 2 and 3. But church policy mandates men can’t sub alone, or even with another adult female (unless it’s his wife). As if some kind of sexual abuse (or whatever extremely far fetched safety precautions they’re thinking about) is gonna go down in a room full of crazy kids and another adult. He can only help if I’m with him or another man is also there (never happens). It’s ridiculous, and in my opinion does nothing but further oppress women, who will always be the ones stuck doing it.

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