As a part of the March 2011 Mormon Stories Conference in New York City, author Greg Prince  spoke on the topic of 21st Century Lessons from Three 20th Century Men: David O. McKay, Leonard Arrington and Paul H. Dunn.

Greg Prince is the author of David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism.  He is currently working on biographies of both LDS Church Historian Leonard Arrington and deceased LDS General Authority Paul H. Dunn.


  1. Aaron May 21, 2011 at 4:39 am - Reply

     John, this is excellent.  I have gained a new found respect for Paul H. Dunn.  The “Cat Story” is hilarious.

  2. Pmarsco123 May 21, 2011 at 4:40 am - Reply

     I see so much duplicity in so much of this that I have to relax and let it go while I listen. 

    I still think the first victim of mormonism is truth.

  3. Pmarsco123 May 21, 2011 at 4:47 am - Reply

    Just toggled to Six new members today. When you start hacking at the roots of mormon evil you may start to stem that tide. How long are you going to stay at the leaves ?

    • Joe May 22, 2011 at 9:32 pm - Reply

      Don’t you think you are being a bit harsh? Despite what you may think, there are many good people in the LDS Church. No? 

    • Prudence May 23, 2011 at 8:51 pm - Reply

      Honestly, these kind of negative comments are not helpful to ANY discussion…

  4. Glen Fullmer May 21, 2011 at 8:26 am - Reply

    Being one of those young California young kids that Paul Dunn mesmerized with his war and baseball stories, then later learning that they were lies was a bit disheartening.  To call these lies “embellishments comparable to Jesus’ parables that taught the truth metaphorically” especially when previously talking about President McKay’s integrity, and how important to be open to the truth, no matter where it leads, is a bit disingenuous and hypocritical.

    • Allen May 22, 2011 at 3:14 pm - Reply


      As a teenager I remember attending a fireside where Elder Paul H. Dunn spoke
      about his experiences as a soldier during WWII and as a baseball player for the
      St Louis Cardinals. These same stories appeared in Dunn’s 50+ books and
      inspirational cassette tapes. While reading and listening to many of these I
      remember distinctly receiving several spiritual witnesses verifying that what
      he was saying was true. At least that is how I interpreted it at the time.
      These were among the first spiritual witnesses I experienced as a youth. Elder
      Dunn’s stories elicited very strong emotions within me that set the standard
      for all subsequent “spiritual witnesses” that came later.

      When I learned about Dunn’s contrived stories about three years ago, all sorts
      of questions and thoughts flooded into my mind such as: How could I receive a
      spiritual witness of the truthfulness of a complete fabrication? Was I
      manufacturing my own epiphanies to satisfy my strong desires to fit into a
      social organization? Was I receiving a witness of the principal taught rather
      than the authenticity of the story? Are these “burning-in-the bosom” emotions
      based on one’s desire for something to be true, rather than actual truth?

      Throughout my life I have received the same kind of
      feelings/emotions/spiritual witnesses as those received with Elder Dunn’s
      stories. If I am unable to trust the “feelings” I received with Elder Dunn’s
      fabrications, then neither can I trust those same “feelings” I have received
      since then as far as absolute truth is concerned.  I still believe each individual receives “higher”guidance for them personally, however, it is not to be applied to anyone or anything else. Example:  Because one receives a good feeling that charity is a worthwhile principle, that does not mean that because charity is spoken of in the Bible or Book of Mormon that that is an indication that both those books come from God.  One has nothing at all to do with the other.

  5. Daniel Bartholomew May 21, 2011 at 5:36 pm - Reply

    I absolutely love Greg Prince’s biography of David O. McKay.  Thanks for arranging for this.  I am only twenty-four minutes into this podcast but I just love what I’m hearing here.

  6. Nancy May 21, 2011 at 6:14 pm - Reply

    Thank you John, you make me proud and also to Greg Prince for his comments on these 3 men that shaped our lives in so many ways. Nancy 

  7. Ascending the Mountain May 22, 2011 at 12:36 am - Reply

    The closing hymn and prayer was awesome! A perfect ending. I haven’t felt such spiritual power during a hymn in years. I’m currently on deployment in Iraq. While listening to this podcast I felt as if I was with you. I was in tears.

    I’ve experienced a lot of frustration, anger, emptiness, and apathy towards the LDS church during this past five years. This has changed since I discovered Mormon Stories a year ago. I needed an open and honest conversation about Mormonism. I needed to feel like I belonged. Now, I am excited about my church membership. I’m proud to be a Mormon.  I am thankful for this community.
    Thank you for your regular podcasts. The last few months of Mormon Stories and Mormon Matters have been exceptional.

    • Anonymous May 22, 2011 at 4:40 am - Reply

      So glad you enjoyed, brother. Thanks for your service.

  8. Erico May 22, 2011 at 6:05 am - Reply

    Great Q&A session!  Wish I could have been there.

  9. tmac May 22, 2011 at 6:10 pm - Reply

     What a great podcast.  I wish I could have come to the event.  My favorite part of the whole thing was the closing hymn and prayer.  Beautiful. 

  10. Christopher Allman May 23, 2011 at 12:26 am - Reply

     This is probably the best episode of Mormon stories I’ve heard (and I’ve heard all but about 15 episodes). I can’t get enough of insider information about the brethren. And this  episode was very useful in helping clear Paul Dunn’s name. I’m sure I am not alone in now feeling a great deal of like and respect towards him, whereas before I felt little to none. I think this was also the first episode of Mormon Stories that I wished was longer (not that I don’t enjoy the content of Mormon Stories, but by the 3rd or 4th hour I’m usually good). I would love to hear a follow up interview with Greg Prince that lasts 10 hours where he dishes on all his inside information. Plus he seems like a man of great character (to reference the part about David O Mckay) and has a great intellect, articulateness(I wasn’t positive that is word, but my dictionary tells me it is) and charisma that makes it a pleasure to hear him speak.

  11. Christopher Allman May 23, 2011 at 12:28 am - Reply

     And the part about black cats becoming white in heaven was so funny. I wish we could hear humor like that from the pulpit. I think the Church and it’s leaders tend to take themselves and the institution far too seriously and  a little light heartedness would go a long way to help members feel more comfortable and the brethren more relatable.

  12. Paul Belfiglio May 23, 2011 at 1:36 am - Reply

     @ Time: 27:11:

    “The first temple outside of the United States was in Switzerland in 1955.”

    Although some Americans might think otherwise, Canada is most definitely outside of the United States, and the Cardston, Alberta temple was dedicated in 1923 by Heber J. Grant making it the oldest temple ‘outside’ the United States.

  13. Hermes May 23, 2011 at 2:32 pm - Reply

    The story of Paul H. Dunn was really interesting, pointing up one kind of Mormon story we have yet to hear.  Are there no GAs willing to speak openly about the “uninspiring” details of their lives as figureheads for the church?  Will no one talk about the pressure to perform in conferences (cf. the discussion of the dynamic behind some of Paul’s more creative stories), the pressure to convert and re-activate, the pressure to fit in with crazy opponents in high places, not to mention the problem of maintaining a viable relationship with friends and family despite all this external pressure?  It would be great if someone with experience could open up about all of this.  I am sure the story aches to be told in someone’s breast, someone who is holding back for the good of family, friends, the church, God, etc.  I wish these people didn’t feel so cut off from the rest of us by divine calling.  I wish we could just talk to each other like normal people, without ridiculous expectations.  Maybe one day …

    • Anonymous May 23, 2011 at 6:51 pm - Reply

      Amen, Hermes.

    • JackUK May 23, 2011 at 11:28 pm - Reply

      Hermes I think that would make an amazing podcast and narrow the distance between ‘the brethren’ and the rest of us.

  14. Anonymous May 23, 2011 at 8:10 pm - Reply

    I love Greg Prince, but some of his comments about Paul Dunn in his talk were very disingeuous. If he is going to write Paul Dunn’s biography as one of Paul Dunn’s friends, then I can already tell that the biography is going to be lacking in credibility. It sounds like he is taking the stance of guarding the good name of Paul Dunn for Emeritus Dunn’s family. Did anyone else feel like Greg was justifying Paul Dunn’s lies? Yeah, I understand that they may be “little white lies,” but they are still lies. Embellishments are still lies (I know they are because I embellish all the time). The issue that I see is that these “little white lies” and “embellishments” came from a general authority of the Church. These are the same men who preach about the importance of complete honesty. If a lie to a Church leader is tantamount to a lie to the Lord, then what about a Church leader lying to the flock? Paul Dunn was also involved in some pretty shady business dealings with a company by the name of Afco Enterprises (the company was indicted for mail fraud, securities fraud, and bankruptcy fraud). It will be interesting to see if Greg even brings this up in the biography.

    • JCH May 23, 2011 at 10:23 pm - Reply

      I think they are not defendable and that is why he was taken out of circulation.  I think that it is pretty evident that after Paul Dunn the church raised the bar on all general authorities public comments regarding honesty. 

  15. Christopher Allman May 23, 2011 at 10:50 pm - Reply

     I think there is a  difference between defending the reputation of Paul Dunn the man, and Paul Dunn the literal mouth piece of God. This man has had his  entire reputation shattered in the eyes of many because of having exaggerated a few stories, something nearly all of us have done.  If most everything else about Paul Dunn is admirable, as Greg Prince seems to feel, and the worst things he has done is exaggerated a few stories for dramatic effect, so what? I would try and justify them too if I were in Prince’ position. And if one doesn’t see the general authorities as a literal mouth piece for God (which, it seems Greg Prince does not), all the more reason  defend Paul Dunn’s stories. He never said he thinks Paul Dunn should remain an active general authority, (but perhaps implied it when he said that all general authorities are guilty of similar stretches of the truth in story telling.) I wish the worst thing someone could say  about me is that I had embellished a few of my stories of my past. Maybe Paul Dunn has the weakness of stretching the truth for dramatic effect sometimes, but he sounds like a really great guy that most of us could learn a lot from and to judge his entire character on that one, relatively minor issue seems to  bely some other agenda or grievance with the man or the institution he represents. Of course, in a perfect world  these men to remain absolutely factual in the stories they tell (but that would be among the least of the changes in Mormonism if it were a perfect world), but for Prince to try and put Dunn’s stories in context and perspective of the rest of his life and behavior doesn’t shouldn’t make his biography lack credibility, but placing unnecessary emphasis on that small aspect of his life might.  As for the business dealings you mention, I am not familiar with that and would be interested in knowing more if you have some links or something.

    • Anonymous May 24, 2011 at 12:15 am - Reply

      I understand what you are saying, Chris. I do not think that Paul Dunn was a bad person. And yes, I agree that many of his accomplishments have been overshadowed by his later scandal. Regardless of what he later said about his WWII experience, he did fight, in combat, in the war. I also believe that he was a great G.A. in many regards (speaking being one great strength). I don’t want anyone to think that I’m dismissing my respect for the man. However, I have one major problem with Paul Dunn and Greg’s defense of Paul Dunn: both Greg and Elder Dunn compare (and excuse) the lies that were told to the parables taught by Jesus. When Jesus taught his parables, he never taught that they REALLY happened (that would have been lying and a sin). I also think it shows a lack of penitence on Elder Dunn’s part. Don’t try to justify the behavior by comparing it to the teaching of Jesus (how prideful can you get?). As for his business dealings with Afco Enterprises, this was first researched by Lynn Packer (whom Greg mentioned). From what I understand, Lynn Packer lost his job at BYU over the issue. Here is a story, first published by the Tanners (Jerald and Sandra), who reported the finding of Lynn Packer ( Also, I overstepped my bounds in saying that Greg’s biography would be lacking in credibility. I’m sure that Greg will give a fair and objective account of Elder Dunn’s life. I certainly hope he doesn’t hold anything back.

      • Christopher Allman May 24, 2011 at 12:50 am - Reply

        Yeah, I can agree with you there. There is certainly an important distinction between a story that is openly intended as a parable and one presented as fact that when later exposed as false is likened unto one of Jesus’ parables. And thanks for the link, I’m looking forward to reading it.

        • Christopher Allman May 24, 2011 at 3:23 am - Reply

          Although I think a certain comparison can still be made in terms of the facts presented not being the important part of the story, but rather a mere vehicle for a message about how to live our lives. But in regards to the moral aspect I mostly agree.

        • Ben May 24, 2011 at 4:32 am - Reply

          Of course, what if Christ never actually taught all of the parables.  Or he taught them differently and they were changed over time….does that lesson their value to us?

          • Christopher Allman May 24, 2011 at 6:15 pm

            As someone who does not believe in the divinity of Christ, I don’t really put much stock in Jesus’ parables in the first place, so for me, no it doesn’t lessen their value because I already value them so little. But to someone who otherwise believes? I think it should lessen their value because something that comes directly from the mouth of God seems like it would  probably be of greater value than something which comes rumors and scribes and the like. But it isn’t really my place to tell others what value to place on particular stories.

  16. Anonymous May 24, 2011 at 4:27 am - Reply

    I don’t understand why it’s necessary to drudge up and dwell on “little flecks of history” like Paul H. Dunn.  Can’t we just sweep him under the Emeritus Status rug where he belongs?

  17. Jrnilsson May 24, 2011 at 4:57 pm - Reply

    Paul Dunn, as humane and gracious as he may have been, personally profited from the sale of his stories in book and cassette form.  That alone makes it despicable to do what he did. 

    The lessons taught by his stories were also usually reprehensible.  Active LDS servicemen will be spared death in combat because of the priesthood, etc.  Both the substance and form of the stories are false to human experience.

    • Chrisallmanlovesyou May 24, 2011 at 6:22 pm - Reply

      On of my favorite writers, David Sedaris (and probably many to most other memoirists) is known to exaggerate many of his stories for the effect of creating a better narrative or to be more humorous and he also profits from this. I guess you feel he is also a despicable person? While the message of Paul Dunn’s stories might be unpleasant for a person like you or I,  within the frame work of his belief system they make sense and probably reflect how he perceives reality to function.  To criticize him based  on having a worldview consistent with the organization he belonged and believed to be true seems unfair.   

      • Introverticle August 1, 2011 at 6:39 am - Reply

        Once again, most readers know that David Sedaris’s writing is, to a greater or lesser extent, fiction, whereas P. H. Dunn’s stories were delivered from pulpits and presented as truth. 

  18. RC May 24, 2011 at 5:28 pm - Reply

    I would love to hear more about how Greg Prince reconciles his vast knowledge of actual church history, its theology and doctrines with his high council calling.  I just cant see him ever being called in my stake.  I wish we had more Greg Prince’s in leadership positions but in my area anyone who does not outwardly tow the party line would never be considered.  Im genuinely interested how guys like Prince compartmentalize all the problems of church history, doctrines, and  failings of general authorities (that we are told are called by the Lord himself) and yet still can actively participate in an organization that maintains exclusive truth claims. Is there a point where it just cant jive anymore, where the cognitive dissonance is to much?  I struggle to find a way to teach my Sunday school class with some semblance of integrity, how does Prince deal with much weightier issues as a high councilman that would seem to require much greater adherence to orthodoxy?

  19. Hazlojusto9 May 24, 2011 at 7:16 pm - Reply

    Dehlin is my prophet!

  20. Anonymous May 24, 2011 at 8:33 pm - Reply

    Excellent Podcast!  Thank you John (and Greg Prince)!  Extremely interesting and it’s worth anyone’s time to listen to this….I highly recommend it.

  21. Velska May 24, 2011 at 9:50 pm - Reply

    “The fact that we started ordaining black men did not close the door on racism in the Church” was one of the favorite arguments.

    I agree that our temple sealing policies make for a delayed polygamy. But no-fault divorce makes for a kind of a “serial polygamy”.

    I also am with Greg on the First Vision stuff.

    Dunn most likely didn’t teach false doctrine, so if you felt the Spirit when Dunn was speaking, I’d say it’s pretty much like when you feel good about Jesus’ parables. Yes, it seems bad for him afterwards that he was telling his stories as true stories. Then again, they were embellishments rather than outright lies, or let’s say they might have been well-meaning lies…

    I think that as far we’re talking about making church more engaging, it’s a lot about the teachers and how they are trained, and that’s up to the local level, not the correlation committee.

    I also agree with the idea that all the Church members are humans, who screw up from time to time. Also, seeing other fallible humans sometimes rising above their weaknesses gives me hope that I can also sometimes rise above my weakness.

  22. Jason May 26, 2011 at 1:41 am - Reply

    Paul Dunn’s stories set himself up as a hero. Jesus Christ’s parables did not. It is on that basis that I cannot compare the two.

  23. New2podcasts May 26, 2011 at 10:07 pm - Reply

    This was interesting and informative on the events historically told from first hand data. Just because someone has found a softer view still does not prove the truth of the Church Corporation. General Authorities are supposed to have seen and talked “face to face” with God. All the evolving of events and constant changes of doctrine and policy of which Greg mentioned only describes an ever changing whimsical God. With the claim that the church is the one and only true church of God why do outside every day folks have to interpret and make it true through these conferences? The podcast and its content was good in a feel good gathering more information sort of way. I found the reason that Greg Prince stays in the church very interesting. Because he finds a home in trying to stay beside the herd and tries to push for change. My experience with authority is those that claim it are addicted to authority and the power it yields. Thanks for the open candor even with its bias for calling black white. heehee 

  24. Jeff May 26, 2011 at 11:55 pm - Reply

    If you study the portion of psychology that deals with memory(fascinating, by the way), you will see that NEWLY ACQUIRED knowledge and experience(and in Joseph’s case theology) can cause memories to be changed and re-remembered in an altered way.  I can accept that this could have happened, for example as to the “why” he went to pray in the first place.  However, I don’t believe the change in his theology over the years could have had such a dramatic affect as to change the quality and quantity of beings he saw in the First Vision.  For example, in 1832 he says Jesus alone appeared.  In 1834 he says an angel appeared.  Finally, in 1838 he says God the father and Jesus appeared.  It just seems like too far a stretch as to be covered by changing theology.

  25. bean May 27, 2011 at 3:24 pm - Reply

    One area I think that Prince sidestepped and didn’t get addressed thoroughly is that he allows for the church leadership to ‘good men’, ‘trying their best’, ‘human and prone to mistakes’ etc – and that would be so nice and quaint if that were all how they were presented either by themselves or by our own culture – instead they themselves proudly proclaim exclusive divine relationship (as far as leadership and administration goes) yet the fruits rarely follow. That’s the crux of the issue in my mind – I can allow them all the latitude in the world for their mistakes and shortcomings – but I allow them much much less when they claim such high position and demand such high respect for their teachings and leadership.  Its hypocrisy and worst and at best dishonestly.  If in the business world I represent myself to a potential customer as being able to provide specific products and services, require payment upfront (in this case in the form of allegiance, loyalty, obedience etc) and then I can only provide 10% of the service I claim, or a sub par product – and do this again and again and again for years and year and years – with no end in sight – wouldn’t the customer have the right to make the determination that I was either not what I said I was? That I was dishonest or at least lazy and negligent in my trade?  This is a point which I’m sure Prince doesn’t want to address on record – but its one which should be addressed in our discussion. 

  26. Gabriel June 13, 2011 at 5:27 am - Reply

    True, this was another interesting podcast. I understand that John doesn’t see his role as inquisitor, but there are a couple of things I would have liked to hear Bro. Prince pushed to address. First, he was so close to Dunn and such a “fan,” I wonder how he could even pretend to the objectivity necessary for an honest biographer. The line (from Simpson?) about how all GA’s embellish their stories was a pathetic justification for the self-glorifying lies told by Dunn. And when did the “everyone is doing it” defense suddenly become acceptable in LDS circles? I wonder if I am the only one who still remembers (if imperfectly) the controversial involvement of Dunn in the AFCO debacle? For those who weren’t around, Grant Affleck was a developer who raised funds for his project by soliciting ordinary folks in Utah and encouraging them to mortgage their homes for investment funds with the assurance of a handsome return on investment. I believe Dunn was a Director for his company, AFCO, and drove an AFCO-furnished Cadillac. I recall from newspaper reporting at the time that when AFCO representatives made their pitch to prospective investors, they opened the session with prayer and used a flip chart that included a quote from Dunn personally endorsing Affleck. When it all came crashing down and people were losing their homes, Affleck was indicted for fraud. When the trial came around, he wanted to call Dunn as a character witness, but the Church conveniently had him out of the country and unavailable during the trial. It was a sleazy affair with Dunn in the center and caused embarrassment to the Church. An honest biographer would surely have included this episode along with the Dunn’s “embellishments.” 

    • Christopher Allman June 17, 2011 at 12:56 am - Reply

      I think Prince has already proved himself to be an objective biographer with the David O Mckay book. Sure Dunn is his friend and perhaps someone Prince admires, but McKay was his prophet and, I suspect, someone he had far more respect and admiration for than Paul Dunn, yet he clearly did an outstanding job with McKay’s biography and I don’t know if anyone would claim it lacks objectivity.

  27. brick June 19, 2011 at 2:11 am - Reply

    I enjoyed the first part of the podcast. But when he started
    in on Paul Dunn he lost me. I realize that none of us are perfect. But to go on
    about how Paul was talking in Metaphors when he told all those made up stories makes
    me kind of sick. Paul was after one thing and that was to make himself look
    good. I guess we now are all free to use this as an excuse when we are caught stretching
    it. I can think of a thousand things that I could use this logic on, from my
    job, my marriage and even my church jobs, especially home teaching.  

    • New2podcasts June 26, 2011 at 6:47 pm - Reply

      For the most part in this and the majority of the issues these podcasts try to address is ignored. Either these men speak for God and represent God or they do not.  God stretches stories and uses excuses or he doesn’t.

  28. SMSmith July 16, 2011 at 3:18 am - Reply

    I came to this podcast somewhat belatedly, but it sparked a flood of thoughts and questions that could not be adequately contained in a comment.  I have posted my contemplations elsewhere at .  SMSmith

  29. Living and Learning July 19, 2011 at 11:30 pm - Reply

    Greg, thanks for the wonderful work in Mormon biography.  I look forward to the  Arrington and Dunn books. 
    I especially appreciate the insight into Paul Dunn’s life and legacy.  I have fond memories of Paul in my parents dinning room, after a long conference, alert and  ready to engage into further conversation with me (a misdirected and squirrelly youth).  
    I also have a new perspective on what some have condemned him with.

  30. […] knowledge, thoughtful tact, and raw honesty. At this point in the conference (about 1:35 in the audio podcast), the interviewer, in front of an audience very well educated in all the most problematic areas of […]

  31. […] knowledge, thoughtful tact, and raw honesty. At this point in the conference (about 1:35 in the audio podcast), the interviewer, in front of an audience very well educated in all the most problematic areas of […]

  32. J.Evenson October 25, 2011 at 6:12 am - Reply


Leave A Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.