Jim Bennett is the author of “A Faithful Reply to the CES Letter.”  He is also the son of the late Utah U.S. Senator Bob Bennett.

In Part 5 of a multi-part series, I bring to Jim several listener/viewer questions, along with several questions/observations of my own, into a passionate, 4 hour final conversation. If you were frustrated that I gave Jim “a pass” in the previous episodes, you may be more satisfied with this episode.

Also, a HUGE thank you to Jim for facing and thoughtfully engaging the tough questions.

To thank Jim for his participation so far in this series, please email him at: jim@canonizer.com.

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  1. frankbefrank January 5, 2021 at 3:55 pm - Reply

    Isn’t it inherently unfair that some, such as Jim, have these encounters with the Divine but others do not! Jim claims his encounters with the Divine form the basis of his knowledge that the church is what it claims to be. Why was he fortunate enough to have such an encounter[s] while I [and numerous others] have failed to do so in spite of our genuine, sincere efforts to do so. I guess it must come down to the same old reasoning/justification that it must be a question of worthiness. He obviously is, I ain’t, in spite of 85 years of trying!

    • John Dehlin January 5, 2021 at 6:37 pm - Reply

      It’s not fair at all, which is why I’m not a fan of orthodox Mormon epistemology.

    • PHRED January 6, 2021 at 6:51 am - Reply

      Well said. 62 years of trying to get that feeling too…. frustrating.

    • Mark Jensen January 6, 2021 at 12:09 pm - Reply

      I feel that, like Jim, I have had many experiences which I interpret as “encounters with the Divine”. However, unlike Jim, I no longer associate these experiences with an indication that the LDS church is the one true church, or even a church that necessarily helps me, or even that I understand who or what the Divine is. I definitely reject the idea that such experiences have anything to do with worthiness. I have spent a lot of pained and anguished prayer hoping and asking why my own children could never receive divine answers to their sincere prayers about the truthfulness of the LDS church. I’ve since come to realize that if I’m really honest with myself, I’ve never received any divine witness about that either, only strong emotional feelings associated with love for others and love from others. I think it is normal that I would interpret such feelings as Divine encounters, as I think that feeling love is a part of the human experience that feels divine to me. But I now reject the idea that such feelings are an indication of the “truth” of a church or set of doctrines, or predicated upon any worthiness on my part, because that has not been my experience. If there is anything that God or the Divine wants me to know or do, I now assume that I will learn that purely through my own personal experiences rather than by praying about whether I should accept the word or direction of anyone else or any organization.

  2. Lou January 7, 2021 at 12:39 pm - Reply

    Kudos to both John and Jim for the goodwill they’ve established in their forthright and respectful engagement. I watched all the segments so far and was especially moved by Jim’s earnest affirmation of his continued faith, despite all the messiness, and by John’s respectful and supportive response to that affirmation. Watching this has solidified my perception of John as being well-intentioned, and honest in his efforts.

    I came to Mormonism without any social conditioning, almost in spite of the prevailing and foreign culture I found there. I mindfully affiliated myself because, like Jim, I found God there. I experienced Divinity before joining, and even in times of inactivity — when I felt a call to return. All this happened without social or familial pressures to conform to a LDS standard. In fact, my membership in the Church has taken a social and familial toll due to people in my circle rejecting me because of it. In my very diverse society, I have often felt othered when people became aware of my faith; they tried to reconcile their perception of me as being normal, while seeing my religious affiliation as a flag that I lacked the ability to think critically and rationally.

    I think that on the faith-spectrum, I am probably about where Jim is. It has been refreshing to find a fellow traveler. There’s so much I don’t understand, but I am confident in God’s love for me and everyone. I don’t know how to reconcile, as pointed out by FRANKBEFRANK , that some seem to experience this connection while others who have earnestly sought it do not. I see that in the lives of my children and have had to let go of my expectation that all can experience it as I have. This letting go has led me to the kind of universalism and focus on kindness that Jim described. And the idea of eternal progression. This more closely aligns with the loving and patient God I feel I have come to know.

  3. Amy Richards January 7, 2021 at 5:12 pm - Reply

    I made it all of the way through this awesome interview, and I was engrossed the whole time. It is such a valuable conversation witnessing both perspectives of the “stay/leave the LDS church” argument. Thank you for emphasizing to Jim the importance of apologists making it clear what their biases are and what they have to lose if they leave the Church. That’s so necessary for anyone to do when they have influence upon others. I have decided to leave the Church (the first one in my family), and this discussion taught me better approaches to having mature and respectful conversations and how to peacefully agree to disagree with others. I am going to refer everyone who has questions or doubts to watch this, as an excellent resource for how to be civil in having discussions with those who disagree, and also for ways of seeing various perspectives as equally valid. I have shared with my family of origin that I have left, and they are unconditionally loving, but sad. I have not yet told my in-laws (my husband agrees with everything I have problems with, but is staying in the Church, as he feels he can do more good within rather than outside of the Church) and dread doing so, as they are super conservative. I can not be an authentic person pretending to believe in things I do not believe in. Does that make me immature, being binary? Dr. Julie De Azevedo Hanks says that members can take the middle-ground approach and believe whatever they want to, but I don’t think I can take that approach. She could be a great person to interview, a therapist and wife of an LDS Bishop. Oh, it looks like you did interview her in 2017. Do you have any episodes about how to “break the news” about leaving the Church to people who will not approve and will passive-aggressively judge and torment?:) No pressure, but thank you again, and I would definitely love to financially contribute to the amazing sanity-providing work you are doing. I am hopefully entering an MSW degree soon, having been motivated by the unhealthy LDS Church culture that I’ve almost always been bothered by, hoping to assist. I look forward to seeing what you and Jim possibly come up with to provide support to people in faith crises. And I am presently looking around for internship opportunities, so if you need any assistance or know of anyone in the therapy field who is looking for assistance, feel free to contact me:)

  4. Jessica January 8, 2021 at 1:20 pm - Reply

    It is interesting to me when someone’s belief in the divinity of the Book of Mormon is one of the main reasons they stay in the mainstream LDS church. There are so many branches of Mormonism, many of which more closely mirror the church as instituted by Joseph Smith. I think you can use your belief in the Book of Mormon to support a belief in Joseph Smith as a prophet, but not to support a belief in the mainstream church. For that you need to explain away the problems with Brigham Young’s “transfiguration”, John Taylor’s alleged polygamy revelation, etc. The current priesthood keys of the LDS church depend not only on Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, but on an unbroken line of legitimate successors up to Nelson. Why should Jim Bennett’s belief in the Book of Mormon not as easily lead him to join a different branch of Mormonism?

    • Stanophilus Zerafelinsir June 12, 2021 at 3:26 am - Reply

      I couldn’t agree with you more. In my exalted and most felicitous opinion, he should join a polygamous sect and marry Molly, Polly, Dolly, and Floppytail, giving to each of them their own hobbit hole and at the least one good nickel. At least one, come on now, please. Please! He could offer a discount for only $14.95 plus sales tax and shipping and handling for incredible new Ronco products he invented while balancing one finger on a wobbling, striped umbrella while he sips mocha and whipped cream. Why, yes, he should. I mean, is there any good reason on green’s God earth why he should NOT? Daresay no, daresay no, sir, it is disruptive and rude to suggest otherwise. I once suggested otherwise, and what did it get me but that which a hen might lay in a soft, fetid barn? Yet so soft, softer than you can imagine. It might be wise to consider that I should like for each of his wives to have a different kind of dress, something funky, spunky, clunky, and most of all, monkey. Alla en el rancho grande, alla donde vivia!! Lieutenant Uhura, there will be no ice cream for you tonight.

  5. Goodtimes January 9, 2021 at 11:50 pm - Reply

    Same ole same ole. Some people simply want to believe and will find any justification to do so despite all evidence to the contrary. If it enriches their lives I guess good for them. I just wish they wouldn’t take the attitude that it’s THE truth and necessary for everyone else (not saying Jim does this) and then judge other people accordingly. Ultimately what I got from Jim is what I got from a Stake President, two Bishops and my ex wife which is this: I know there are issues that don’t have great answers but ultimately I’ve felt God in my life and the Church blesses my life so I believe. Fine but it doesn’t make it true.

  6. Derin January 16, 2021 at 12:47 pm - Reply

    John, another great series. Much respect for both you and Jim. It pretty well summarized the divide between active (including nuanced) Mormons and former/ex-Mormons. Toward the end John you became clearly agitated that the stuff that so obviously bothers you, doesn’t bother Jim. It almost reached a tantrum pitch, like, “Jim there is no way you can’t agree with the points I’m making. You have to concede this stuff to me”. I think that’s very frustrating for both sides. Religion and faith at their very core are based on feeling and emotion (not solely but largely). That drives non-believers nuts! I think it equally drives believers nuts that their divine experiences are completely dismissed (elevation emotion) by some scientific explanation of how they’ve been tricked into their spiritual experience. Why can’t it be both? Science and the Spirit? Why can’t the Muslim’s spiritual experience and the Mormons spiritual experience BOTH be legit from two different texts. Why wouldn’t a loving creator, universe, God, call it what you want meet/reciprocate the earnest seeking of any human being on grounds that best connect with them (fill in whatever sect or no sect at all that you want). And then, why couldn’t the pleasure centers of the brain light up for joy when the Spirit touches a soul. So what if it also lights up when they find pleasure in other forms (drugs, sex, friendship, etc.). Does the fact that we can scientifically identify when our brain experiences pleasure (elevation emotion) negate the reality of the heavens/universe connecting with us?

    Of course there’s no tangible proof that those “feelings” are truly the Divine communicating with us. Of course signals can get crossed and feelings can get misunderstood (9/11 terror attacks). Again though, does the fact that some of these “spiritual manifestations” lead to horrible things negate the possibility that other spiritual manifestations are the real deal?

    Jesus, whatever you think of him, masterfully addressed this in my opinion by teaching that the surest way to “know of the doctrine” is to literally apply the scientific method. In other words test the doctrine and see what fruit it bears. This is why I am no longer able to fully practice Mormonism (because some of the doctrine doesn’t bear fruit in my experience) but also why I still fully believe in “spiritual things” and a higher power. Not prophets and dogma, but sacred and unique connections with a universe that does know me and is interested in my development to “higher light and knowledge” and glory etc.

    Things of the Spirit are real. Because they trigger an area of the brain during a scan doesn’t negate their real source. Of course this is just my opinion.

    Again, thanks to both John and Jim. Two men I have a ton of respect for. Same age as these two brothers and very similar life paths as both. Probably squarely in the middle of both of their interpretations of it all.

  7. Martine Smith February 12, 2021 at 11:55 am - Reply

    Still 2 hours to do but getting there! Great interviews. I go from being sympathetic to Jim’s experience to totally frustrated by his evasions when faced with John present him him facts he prefers not to deal with. At that point he pivots to a variation of “oh, that’s not important to me,” or “oh, that’ not important to God.” That latter one he used when John brought up the importance of “blood” or “tribe.” “No, God cares about covenants.” “Being of the blood of” or “such and such a tribe” even by adoption was certainly taught for the entire life of the church.

    Husband “S: and I mostly listen to podcasts while driving around the Wasatch Front and Back. With the series we looked like candidates on “Family Feud” as we constantly raced to the “pause’ button to interject every time Jim misspoke. One particular argument he made—I think in his episode—is that pretty much every educated member will not disagree on the age of the earth today. S is a scientist and very much disagree that his fellow -former—high priest—comrades, 90% of whom in my ward have advanced degrees, including 8-9 M.D.s believe in an older earth. Try expressing views on the correctness of evolution in HP group or SS and get rebuffed and thereafter regarded with suspicion. One M.D., an ER specialist, highly regarded and honored at Utah’s most prestigious hospital groups recently taught that when it comes to the age of the earth, “science hasn’t caught up with God/religion yet.” No one offered a contradicting view—husband has given up at this point. This is on Salt Lake’s East Bench, as I said, a ward full of highly “educated” members, both men and women.
    Oh, Jim also says he’s had lot of conversations with bishops, SP and higher ups regarding his views and he’s never gotten in trouble for them. I believe him. Behind closed doors, many leaders will agree, or give a member a pass. But try it in SS or PH and watch a couple of class members run to the bishop’s office and complain about brother so and so teaching “progressive” idea. And watch same bishop release the teacher in many instances.
    My husband, a former bishop in our current ward, never got to finish a HP lesson on why young adults leave religion, in general. This was not even directed at Mormon YA, but a single complaint to the bishop won over the group overwhelmingly asking for Part II, because they had kids who’d left the church. In the great majority of wards in the church you can get away with crazy conservative interpretation of teachings/doctrines/policies—no bishop will come in the next Sunday to set members straight— but you get publicly censured —or released—for a more generous/liberal interpretation.

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