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A few weeks ago, a very close friend of mine named Russell mailed me a CD full of his favorite Sunstone Symposium MP3s. While several of struck me as profound, one presentation in particular was groundbreaking, and almost breathtaking to me.

It was a presentation delivered in a 1992 “Pillars of my Faith” session by J. Bonner Ritchie — a former BYU Professor of Organizational Behavior. Brother Ritchie obtained his PhD from UC Berkeley, and served for many years both in the church, and on the Sunstone board of directors (where he continues serving to this day). As an expert in both organizations and conflict resolution, Brother Ritchie even served as a mediator between the Palestinians and the Israelis during the 1970s, including at least one meeting (and perhaps several) with Yasser Arafat himself.

In this presentation, brother Ritchie thoughtfully discusses the nature of both organizations and individuals — and how there must needs be a natural, and even healthy tension between the two. He discusses the importance of paradox in a mature and faithful world view — and provides invaluable tips on how to healthily remain a member of the church — in spite, or even because of the inevitable challenges that will continue to arise.

To me, this presentation represents some of the finest thinking and feeling — along with hope — that will ever be offered to struggling and thinking Mormons, who wish to remain members of the church.

I truly hope you enjoy this presentation. Thanks again for listening.

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  1. Wes February 16, 2007 at 3:46 pm - Reply

    Mr. Ritchie’s candor is very refreshing and I appreciate it. I do have some 1st hand experience with this gentleman that is noteworthy. About 7-8 years ago I attended a fireside in which this man was the keynote speaker. He spoke about the Mideast conflict. John D. referenced his work with Yasser Arafat in the introduction. What disturbed me greatly was Mr. Ritchie’s shameless heaping of praise on Yasser Arafat. I remember being dumbfounded that I was hearing this kind of talk in a chapel about a cold-blooded, murdering thug like Yasser Arafat. As many of you know, Arafat was terrorist that should have been at the end of a hangman’s noose instead of the receiving end of a Nobel Peace Prize. I, along with others present, were disgusted at the glorification of a terrorist by Mr. Richie. Just thought this should be known.

  2. DJ February 17, 2007 at 12:23 pm - Reply

    Anybody who knows a shred of history about the Middle East knows that Arafat has a sordid past.

    However, the man was a symbol of hope for millions of Palestinians. Hope that one day the world would accept their right to exist side by side with the Israelis as sovereign, unoccupied people. Before Arafat, few if any cared or paid attention to what was going on the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

    So, I don’t condone some of Arafat’s past sins. However, I am equally disgusted when I hear President Bush or church members praise certain Israeli leaders of “men of peace” (i.e. Ariel Sharon). Try reading about Sharon’s role in the Qibya massacre of 1953 or Sabra/Shatila in 1982.

    The point is that all these men have blood on their hands. Terrorism is absolutely carried out at times by militant Islamic groups such as Hamas AND the Israeli government. I’ve seen it with my own eyes.

    So, my hope is that you are equally disgusted by all Middle Eastern (or any other) leaders who perpetrate acts of terrorism.

  3. Russell February 17, 2007 at 2:43 pm - Reply

    Thanks for sharing this recording of Dr. Ritchie. It is amazing. I appreciate all the time and work you put into your podacasts.

  4. John Dehlin February 17, 2007 at 3:48 pm - Reply

    Russell. Thank YOU for bringing this to light.

    And thanks for the friendship.

  5. GDTeacher February 18, 2007 at 9:04 pm - Reply

    Bonner was one of my OD profs in grad school at BYU. He was a very interesting professor. He didn’t fit my Mormon stereotype of a Mormon, let alone a Mormon professor. I was genuinely impressed with his different approach. I wish I would have insightful enough to take advantage of the time that I had him as a professor. It was 16 years later before I came to my “crisis of faith.” I appreciate the access to this type of work. Thanks John.

  6. someone February 20, 2007 at 5:23 am - Reply

    We should have learned reading/listening to this blog that that world isnt that black and white.
    Israeli-Palestine conflict is very complicated.
    Thanks for your comment though.

  7. danithew February 20, 2007 at 12:16 pm - Reply

    Wes, this time period, in which Bonner Richie was praising Yasser Arafat, may have been the same time period in which Yitzhak Rabin was making the point that “you make peace with your enemies.”

    I’m not trying to defend Yasir Arafat. As I heard one person say, he succeeded as a symbol but failed as a leader.

    I’m just saying that sometimes people are optimistic and positive despite their knowledge, because they are trying to make the world a better place.

  8. Wes February 20, 2007 at 3:24 pm - Reply


    I know the conflict is not black and white and I am by no means a black and white person. I learned through painful experience in Mormonism that everything is not black and white and the mantra “follow the prophet” can be dangerous. However, I have studied this issue in depth, ad nasuem, and know a great deal about it. I admit I probably don’t know as much as Mr. Ritchie does, but I know enough. And when it comes to the cold blooded murderer Arafat, who did not hesitate to murder or order to be murdered women and children, you have to call a spade a spade. Arafat was a revolting human being and to defend him or glorify him is incomprehensible.

  9. Clay February 20, 2007 at 3:30 pm - Reply

    Perhaps the root message of Wes’ comment is that we should be wary of any wisdom we might gain from Bonner Ritchie since he demonstrated a flaw of some sort by advocating a position or person that we disagree with.

    In that vein, what happens when we apply that same kind of process to Brigham Young? For any faithful LDS who thinks they don’t disagree with BY, read his comments on blacks and the priesthood, and compare them to President Hinckley’s comments on racism in last year’s general conference.

  10. John Dehlin February 20, 2007 at 3:38 pm - Reply


    My concern w/ your comments it that you’re not seeming to acknowledge all that has been done on the Israeli side of the conflict. The assassinations. The collective punishment. The torture.

    Everyone I’ve spoken with say that it’s a 2-way street. So I’m cool w/ you denouncing Araft, as long as you acknowledge the terror and cruelty on the Israeli side as well. Is an F14 bomb more humane than a suicide bomb?

  11. Richard uk February 23, 2007 at 2:18 am - Reply

    I got halfway through this podcast on the bus in to work this morning and can`t wait for the day to finish to get to the other half.
    Theres a huge number of concepts and revolutionary thoughts in there thats going to take some serious processing.
    I had another of those increasingly common moments of realising my ignorance where I wonder how I`ve gotten to this stage in my life and have never heard of J Bonner Ritchie before!

    Does anyone know if there is a transcript available for this talk?

  12. John Dehlin February 23, 2007 at 8:34 am - Reply

    I’m willing to pay someone $50 if they are willing to transcribe.

  13. StephenJ February 25, 2007 at 6:58 pm - Reply


    I’ll transcribe the talk.

  14. Blake September 3, 2012 at 9:29 pm - Reply

    Wow, what a great speech. Thanks for sharing John. I’m going to listen to it again.

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