Speakers at the 2012 Boston Regional Mormon Stories conference were asked to address the topic of: Using personal narratives to create spaces where Mormons of all levels of orthodoxy can interact authentically.

  • Part 1: Dr. Laurel Thatcher Ulrich discusses the importance and of history and personal narrative within religious traditions and John Dehlin discusses the evolution of Mormon Stories and the role it plays in the lives of listeners and community members.
  • Part 2: Joanna Brooks talks about changes in spiritual narrative scripts over time and how telling personal stories affects community development. Conference attendees share their personal stories in an open-mic format.

Dr. Ulrich is a historian of early America and the history of women and a university professor at Harvard University.  Ulrich’s innovative and widely influential approach to history has been described as a tribute to “the silent work of ordinary people”—an approach that, in her words, aims to “show the interconnection between public events and private experience.”  Her books include: Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History (2007), Yards and Gates: Gender in Harvard and Radcliffe History (2004), The Age of Homespun: Objects and Stories in the Creation of an American Myth (2001), All God’s Critters Got a Place in the Choir, a collection of essays coauthored with the Utah poet Emma Lou Thayne (1995), A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard based on her diary, 1785–1812 (1990), and Good Wives: Image and Reality in the Lives of Women in Northern New England, 1650-1750 (1982).

Joanna Brooks is a national voice on Mormon life and politics and an award-winning scholar of religion and American culture.  The author of The Book of Mormon Girl:  Stories from an American Faith, she is a senior correspondent for the on-line magazineReligionDispatches.org and has been named one of “50 Politicos to Watch” by Politico.com.




  1. Utahhiker801 May 10, 2012 at 9:36 am - Reply

    About 17 years ago while attending Weber State University, Dr. Laura Thatcher Ulrich spoke for the English Dept about her experiences writing A Midwife’s Tale. I really enjoyed it. She said that she was originally scheduled to speak at BYU but was later told that she would only be allowed to speak to the faculty and not the students.

    After she finished speaking at WSU, the discussion was opened for questions. A student asked her why BYU wouldn’t allow her to speak to their students. Dr. Ulrich said she had no idea and that she actually called her Stake President to see if there were any worthiness issues she should be aware of. He wasn’t aware of anything either. If I recall correctly, she ultimately canceled her appearance at BYU and instead came to Weber State, and we had the incredible opportunity of hearing from a Pulizter Prize winning author.

    I feel I should apologize because I find far too much joy in sharing that story with friends who attend(ed) BYU. Thank you Dr. Ulrich.

  2. Dean Scott May 10, 2012 at 10:37 pm - Reply

    Excellent. One of my favorite classes at the U of Utah was Family History, taught by Dr. Davis Bitton. Family stories told by the surviving children provided most of the information for my project, but they were supplemented by newspaper articles due to my grandpa’s work and political activity. I had also some of grandpa’s journals and ledgers.

    The children were all active in the church. Many of their stories were faith promoting. Grandpa was not a church member. A few of his journal excerpts reveal some tensions over that issue. I think the history I wrote is accurate but incomplete because I could not get enough of Grandpa’s perspective.

  3. Whit Rose May 12, 2012 at 9:49 pm - Reply

    Beautiful! She captures my own love of history so perfectly. It is something to discover, to learn from and to share. Fascinating information on some of the previous faith backgrounds of the early saints. Thanks Laurel Thatcher Ulrich!!

  4. Jay May 15, 2012 at 10:08 pm - Reply

    I really enjoyed the open mic portion of the conference. I especially like the last two, I got choked up. There is such a spirit of love and understanding at these conferences. I wish testimony meetings in our chapels were as uplifting.

  5. Kevin May 20, 2012 at 4:06 pm - Reply

    A big hug after the fact to everyone at the conference. Attending the Mormon Stories conference in Boise, Idaho was a big treat for my daughter and I and a couple of good friends.

    There is an extraordinary synergy between the remarks of Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, Joanna Brooks and the comments shared during open mic time. From my first exposure to Mormon Stories I felt that John was on to something important but I could never quite put it into into words. Laurel’s and Joanna’s talks on spiritual narratives combined with the stories of the good folks who shared have brought clarity on the matter.

  6. Joseph_P May 20, 2012 at 7:42 pm - Reply

    John, I was touched by your talk here. I’ve heard you say similar things in multiple podcasts, but this time was special. Not sure why. Any thoughts on that you’d like to share? Thaks again for the work you’re doing.

  7. Craig May 20, 2012 at 7:45 pm - Reply

    This entire conference was wonderful. John’s remarks about the purpose of Mormon Stories were so heartfelt and really hit close to home, I loved how Laurel’s and Joanna’s talks really worked well to me, and the open mic time was just incredibly authentic and uplifting. I want to echo Jay in saying that I wish our testimony meetings could be like that. I want to thank John and everyone involved for making these meetings possible. I’m very much looking forward to attending the Salt Lake Conference next month!

  8. reformer1 May 23, 2012 at 11:09 pm - Reply

    I’ve only listened to Joanna and the testimonies so far but I need
    to comment right now. First time I’ve heard Joanna; now a huge fan. The “open mike” sharing was off the charts. How possibly
    could everyone be that profound?? My deepest prayer is that the
    top leaders of the LDS Church will hear this and feel the power,
    the transformative power. The unconditional love from a Mormon

    The Church leaders are wise and loving men. They don’t have to be
    prophets. I think they’ll feel the spirit and realize the time
    for dramatic change in the Church is here. What form that will take, I don’t know. But please Leaders, come through for us!

  9. Jen May 31, 2012 at 2:54 pm - Reply

    Is there any way to get transcripts of parts of these programs? Specifically John’s talk in the first episode of this presentation. I would absolutely love to be able to hand his talk to people to explain to them how I feel and why I have been inactive for the last few years, specifically since Prop 8 served to fully open my previously half-closed eyes to these issues.

    John, I cannot thank you enough for what you’re doing. I know you said you feel your biases show through, and you regret that. But I have to say that your fairness, good heart and intention shine through even more. I love what you are doing through these podcasts and now conferences. You have helped ease the pain of facing the difficult truths that I did not think I could face, and therefore did not really want to know.

    My goal now is to attend a conference as soon as I am able. Thank you, again, so much!

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