Kelly and Kayla Mikesell are a dynamic step-mother/daughter pair. Only recently did Kelly start to investigate the troubling issues with Mormon history that had been eating away at her children. In an effort to learn, love, and empathize with her children, she investigated the church and grew in ways that surprised her and her family.

As Kelly chose love and understanding over dogma and compliance, she was able to open her heart to the members of her family in the LGBTQ community, including her step-daughter Kayla. Teenage years filled with the unimaginable amounts of shame and guilt, Kayla was able to grow into her own independent, confident adult, even winning Miss Salt Lake City and making her platform one of advocacy for the Utah Pride Center.

We are honored to interview two thoughtful, articulate women putting a lot on the line to speak out while Kelly’s husband still currently serves as her bishop!

Warning: This episode contains discussions of self-harm.

Show Notes:


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4:02 Kelly’s Mormon upbringing, struggles with processing emotions
12:05 Family member hinders Kelly’s ambition to be an astronaut
17:16 Discovering the doctrine of plural marriage as a child
28:18 Internalizing Mormon teachings and thought stopping as a teen about god
37:14 Kelly’s experience at Ricks College
41:01 Guarding virtue being the most important thing
50:14 Fighting with husband and self regulating emotions through self harm
54:54 Temple experience and Kelly feeling deeply uncomfortable with the nature of god
1:00:07 Kelly’s naivety coming to a head in her marriage, sexual and otherwise
1:18:32 Kelly’s son born with neuromuscular disorder
1:22:06 Kelly’s brother comes out as gay and her regretful ignorance to LGBT people
1:30:10 Kelly meets Kayla’s dad through the church
1:35:00 Kayla’s parents’ divorce and Kelly marrying her dad in the temple
1:45:05 Adjusting to life as a blended family, Kayla loses her relationship with her dad, has sex
2:06:15 How Kayla’s repentance process made her suicidal
2:11:35 Kayla’s older brother pulling her out of her depression, bringing new boyfriend to church
2:19:43 Going to Asia trip with boyfriend, engagement
2:27:39 Kayla starts to investigate the church’s truth claims
2:39:42 Kayla discovers her bisexuality
2:46:30 Coming out to as bisexual to her family
2:50:29 Kelly being the perfect Mormon mom and caring for her special needs son
3:02:24 A Primary child’s question spurs Kelly to research Polygamy
3:22:00 Kelly’s keeps notes of the questions of her children to research and find answers
3:23:02 Kayla shares some information about Joseph Smith with Kelly that starts her study
3:40:17 Kelly giving her husband an ultimatum when he wouldn’t discuss any church issues
3:48:50 Kelly realizing she had been so deceived
4:00:40 Kelly understanding she isn’t being tempted by satan and letting go of judgment
4:06:04 Family healing by giving up othrodox beliefs, a new parenting approach
4:18:31 Kayla’s involvement in the Utah Pride Center and winning Miss Salt Lake City


  1. Ruth Heath June 11, 2021 at 1:54 am - Reply

    Hi, just wanted to let you know how much this story meant to me – really appreciate the eloquent and thoughtful way they both expressed their pain, anger, growth and journey. We are in the UK so I don’t think I can vote for miss Utah but she’s the winner – virtual sash and crown on its way. Thank you all for your work and kindness. It is incredibly powerful and needed and you are all absolute warriors.

  2. Marlbey June 11, 2021 at 10:50 am - Reply

    Kayla: if I’m hearing you correctly, your high school boyfriend’s mother posed as a minor in order to induce you to send sexually explicit materials to her? That is a federal crime, particularly if she then shared those materials with others, which she evidently did. She could be prosecuted. Your case may be within the statute of limitations if you are interested in making a complaint. You may have a civil cause of action for damages as well.

  3. Patrick of Idaho June 12, 2021 at 12:43 pm - Reply

    After being about 2/3 through this podcast, the name “Mikesell” kept bothering me. Maybe it is a common Mormon name, so I phoned an active member neighbor and she had also heard that name. She remembered that a family by that name, in their early 40’s had lived in our ward in western Idaho but after a time moved to an area where they had to drive a ways to get to another ward, in the same building as mine. II had talked to the husband some who eventually moved, I think, to Canada. This must have been some 15–20 years ago. Either a coincidence or just a common name, but one that made a real bit of history in our area.

    Another good podcast, John and I like hearing from Carrah and like her podcast, too.

  4. Cate June 12, 2021 at 3:53 pm - Reply

    I agree with the comment by Marlbey. If this had been done to my child, I would want the perpetrator to face the consequences.

  5. Steven June 13, 2021 at 12:56 pm - Reply

    Kelly and Kayla, thank you so much for your willingness to be vulnerable and share your journeys! I am currently going through my own faith transition and need all the support I can get. I too feel betrayed by the way the church has falsely portrayed its history. Does anyone have sources where church leaders or official church literature denied that Joseph Smith practiced polygamy? I know the gospel topic essay was the first official admission but were they denying prior to that or just remaining silent on the topic?

    • Kelly Mikesell July 2, 2021 at 10:54 am - Reply

      Thank you for taking the time to listen to the podcast! I am so sorry you are going through a similar painful journey. Know that you are not alone. My heart goes out to you.

      I had referenced numerous times over the years in preparation for teaching Sunday School and Young Women’s. Under the “polygamy” section of the “Gospel Topics” section, it did say that “Joseph Smith never practiced polygamy” and “in fact, the Saints never practiced polygamy until the move west”. I never thought to print that or screen shot it. I never knew I would need to. Had I known that the section on polygamy would have changed so drastically, I would have.

      I am blown away by the staggering number of changes that have occurred and are still occurring in regards to doctrine, policy and practice within the church. I can’t even keep up with all the changes. It’s deeply disturbing.

  6. Steven June 13, 2021 at 1:12 pm - Reply

    Oh, also I want to publicly apologize for a lifetime of being judgemental toward LGBTQIA individuals and toward anyone who has not been part of my LDS church bubble, especially anyone who has chosen to leave. Podcasts like these are helping me become more accepting and Christlike even as I step back from the church.

  7. Victoria Salvucci June 15, 2021 at 10:19 pm - Reply

    Kelly, never say you are not articulate! You are amazing!

  8. Anonymous June 18, 2021 at 4:03 pm - Reply

    Just wanted to comment on sealing between husbands and wives. My ex and I had a sealing cancellation so that he could be sealed to his current wife. I did not have to have a worthy member to be sealed to before this cancellation was completed. I am currently married but not sealed to anyone.

  9. Coley July 3, 2021 at 11:44 pm - Reply

    I actually was so surprised to see this! I knew Kayla in middle school and she was so fun loving and was a great friend to me in the 2 years that I knew her. Our friend group was close knit and we loved being different. I knew that she was mormon and seeing this podcast was very eye opening for me. My partner of almost four years is ex mormon and dealt with a lot of the same struggles and guilt with the church, especially figuring out that they weren’t straight in middle school. These beliefs and view points intertwined with both Kelly and Kayla’s stories were just so well articulated and amazing. I know that many people (including myself) both inside and outside the church can benefit from hearing about your experiences and just know that you guys are so loved!

  10. Han July 16, 2021 at 6:00 pm - Reply

    You were talking about Joseph Smith and I went to the church website (hadn’t been there in a while). It’s interesting – you really have to dig a little bit to even find Joseph Smith mentioned. It seems like the church is subtly trying to distance Joseph Smith by not bringing him up so much. I haven’t been churching for years. Does anyone know if Joseph Smith is still a main focus at church?

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