John Larsen is one of the most influential and well-respected figures within Modern progressive and post-Mormon communities.  John (along with his ex-wife Zilpha) was the co-host of Mormon Expression podcast for several years, and he is an occasional host of Sunstone Podcast.  He has appeared on Mormon Stories Podcast several times over the past decade.

In today’s episode I bring John Larson back, and we discuss several topics, including:

  • Divorce after a faith crisis.
  • Raising children with mental illness after a faith crisis.
  • Alcohol and drug use after a faith crisis.
  • Non-monogamy/swinging after a faith crisis.
  • The LDS Church’s response to the COVID pandemic.
  • The impact of the QAnon phenomenon within the United States, and within the LDS Church.
  • How political polarization within the U.S. is tearing apart some Utah wards and families.
  • What it would take to bring John Larsen back as a podcaster.
  • The need for kindness within both political and religious discourse, and how challenging this can be.

John Larsen is one of my favorite thinkers in modern Mormonism, and is a fantastic guest.  you will not be disappointed with this episode.


Some of the Mormon Expression episodes mention in this episode include:

John’s past Mormon Stories Podcast episode include:



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  1. Danny Larsen January 29, 2021 at 9:32 pm - Reply

    Great interview. Correction – Church President Joseph F. Smith died in 1918 of pneumonia resulting from pleurisy. Because of the Spanish Flue pandemic a graveside service was held instead of a public funeral.

  2. Michael Carpenter January 30, 2021 at 4:16 pm - Reply

    Great episode. I’ve missed John Larsen. I listened to every Mormon Expression podcast and I think John is a smart guy. I always learn something from him.

  3. Kevin Grimmett January 31, 2021 at 1:07 pm - Reply

    John Larson’s intelligence and insight is stunning! His description of becoming an ex-exmormon is right-on.

  4. Rich Finlinson January 31, 2021 at 10:17 pm - Reply

    Please consider using cuts rather than dissolves in your video editing. Dissolves are like using the wrong punctuation in a sentences. Dissolves are associated with time passing. It’s somewhat analogous to using ellipses instead of periods to punctuate sentences. For example: “John speaks. Guest speaks. John asks question. Guest answers question.” Now see what happens to the sense of order and rhythm when: “John speaks…Guest speaks…John asks question…Guest answers question…” Ellipses don’t work as well as periods. They suggest something’s been left out, like video dissolves suggest that time has passed. Take a look at the late night talk shows or 60 Minutes or Meet the Press. They all use cuts not dissolves. It’s a kind of video syntax. Please consider using it. Thanks!

  5. Keith Blonquist February 2, 2021 at 1:27 pm - Reply

    Church members supporting Bill Clinton in the 1990s were “morally corrupt”. Church members supporting Donald Trump in 2020 are the “defenders of liberty”. I would be tempted to call this delicious irony if it wasn’t such disgusting hypocrisy… I’m anxious (in both a scared and a curious way) about where the far-right wing of the Church (and the country) is headed. By comparison, I think the majority of the far-left wing of the Church left a long time ago.

  6. Sarah Smith February 2, 2021 at 9:11 pm - Reply

    He is so full of Leftist ideas, and thinks anyone that doesn’t believe like him is a right-wing Trump loving Republicans. The answer is not for everyone to all go join the Demarcate party, and worship Mother Nature.

    • Jeff Salisbury February 11, 2021 at 3:23 pm - Reply

      Sarah, Will you please list a few of his Leftist ideas that stood out to you?

      • KND March 24, 2021 at 1:58 pm - Reply

        End of the world because of climate change
        Trump and Mormons support of QAnon
        Mormon covering up BSA and molestation.
        I could list more.
        I agreed with most the stuff Larson says but he is a bit of a left wing extremist. Not much different from what extreme right wingers say on their side.

  7. LongTimeMSPfan February 9, 2021 at 10:20 am - Reply

    I enjoyed hearing the two Johns sit down again. It’s actually refreshing to hear that JL has really moved on, while JD is still furiously wrapped around the axle. I lament that JD used to be a voice from within, bringing on insiders like Givens, Bushman, Mason, etc. Now he never misses a chance to mock and scorn the ‘neo apologists’ as he’s called them. I think this is unfortunate. I’d LOVE to hear any of them on MSP again, but I imagine that it’s become way too toxic of a place now for anyone like that to come on. The Mormon community needs those types of discussions to happen. Members who are still ‘in’ like me for mostly social and familial reasons need a podcast that they can direct their traditionally believing friends and family members to that won’t scare them away or be immediately written off as ‘anti.’ I feel like MSP used to be that.

  8. Ham Sarris February 12, 2021 at 11:47 am - Reply

    Dear Dr. Dehlin,
    What a lovely discussion between 2 people wanting to do the right thing. Thank you John D., for everything you do. I am amazed that John Larsen has shown the way to so many folks in this space – by walking away. Which is the only real way to arrive at the truth. So many of us imagine that we are defending the truth by defending our own petty interests and helping others to come to the same conclusions and opinions that we’ve arrived at. Once you leave Mormonism you won’t have arrived at the truth. And that’s because arriving at the Truth isn’t done by verbalizing the right beliefs, and it’s not read, and it’s not a formal set of beliefs. It’s just unselfish thought and conduct – being at peace with everyone, and looking on everyone with love, patience, and kindness. John, you shouldn’t worry about folks like Michael Quinn or others that have been silenced. It’s not what truly matters. It’s just the way that John Larsen said: “Are you unselfish? Are you at peace with your neighbor?” Then you are approaching the truth – whether you are a Mormon, an Atheist, a Republican or Democrat. Let’s not confuse our opinions with the Truth. You worry that after Mormonism that folks will fall prey to QAnon, Trumpism or Alcoholism. You can fall prey to these opinions no matter if you are a fundamentalist or if you read Richard Dawkins every morning. Don’t believe me? Pick out 5 guys that are Mormons and another 5 that are Atheists and look at their lives. You will find some of them addicted to drugs and porn and every unhealthy behavior under the sun. And some of them will be wonderfully honest and kind. Proving that your opinions about God or QAnon really have nothing to do with whether you’re a good person or not. The only error is selfishness. And in the end, the comparison should be between selfishness and Truth. Not between our religious, or political opinions and Truth. John Dehlin, you will have taken a real step to becoming a Truth warrior when you step away from Mormon Stories and let it be. That’s where Larsen is ahead of you. Your body of work is enough – and continuing to pump out more episodes is just an exercise in unending, enervating edacity. You’re already at “Joseph Smith level” for the Ex-Mormons. 100 years from now they will say that John Dehlin has done more than any man save Jesus for the salvation of folks caught in the spell of Mormonism, that his name cannot be slain, and that in the short space of 20 years John Dehlin has brought forth the truth on 4 continents… I kid, but it seems true to me. You won’t be outdone by anyone else. ;) But even if you walk away from it today you still won’t be a Truth Warrior until you realize that the only indication of the possession of Truth is unbroken sweetness of conduct in the face of all outward antagonism. And from what I can see of your character and personality you are right there. But as long as you tie yourself to Mormon Stories you are pushing “a leaner” in the grocery store. I think that’s very obvious to all of us whose livelihood isn’t tied to producing podcasts about the Mormon church. All that being said, I know you can’t walk away from it. And that’s why – John Larsen – don’t let Dehlin try to flatter you back into podcasting even if his intentions are pure! You’re free, go make food with your friends and sing. I’m making Tacos at my house tonight and singing with my wife and son. It will be glorious. I’m free dammit! Love both of you and thanks again for everything you’ve done for me. I owe both of you years worth of lunches.

  9. Nancy February 13, 2021 at 12:28 pm - Reply

    My comments today will be directed toward John Larsens remark on how the LDS church is a sex cult. I don’t feel like enough time was spent on how church teachings and policies reflect that. The church uses sexual feelings like a faucet : To be totally shut down before marriage and turned on to full blast after. Except for humans sexual behavior is learned by experience. Yes the feelings are innate but the expression of them is learned. Boys are shamed about not only premarital sex but also about masturbation and pornography. The church only teaches shame and abstinence. Nothing positive. Women are taught they’re responsible for men’s lustful thoughts if they don’t dress the way leaders tell them to. Never mind that the concept of modesty is highly culturally dependent. And nobody is responsible for other’s feelings. Not only that but suppressing dating until post mission deprives teens of valuable social development. Dating isn’t all about sex. So there are all these immature young men post mission with little or no dating skills all of a sudden pressured into marriage as soon as they get home. You get infantilized adults with zero sexual skills making an eternal commitment. What could possibly go wrong?

  10. VFanRJ February 14, 2021 at 7:54 pm - Reply

    I really appreciated this Mormon story interview with John Larsen. I especially loved his perceptive observations about the state this earth is in today and the urgent need for environmentalism and conservation. You can really see John Larsen grow over the years.

    During his podcast years, John delivered a lot very interesting and perceptive insights. I think that I’ve listened to most all of them, but my favorite podcasts of his are the one he did about Masonry. I enjoyed these immensely:
    Episode 145a: Mormonism and Masonry: Into the Restoration Part 1
    Episode 145b: Mormonism and Masonry: Into the Restoration Part 2
    Episode 144b: Mormonism and Masonry: The Background Part 2
    Episode 144a: Mormonism and Masonry: The Background Part 1

    I listened to them a half dozen times each.

    All the best

  11. Kelly February 15, 2021 at 7:13 pm - Reply

    Really miss John. I really miss Mormon Expression. Mormon Expression helped me let go of my guilt for leaving the church because it pointed out the nonsense so well.

  12. Sandra Flynn March 27, 2021 at 10:35 am - Reply

    This is actually one of my most favorite podcasts I’ve listened to in a while. So smart and interesting. Thank you so much for such a good conversation to both Johns!

  13. Andi Anderson June 3, 2021 at 4:57 pm - Reply

    OMG it’s so hot when you say the Mormon church needs to shut the **** up and deal with their own problems. You are utterly accurate with the numbers of sexually assaulted children and how many devout adults knew all about it. You’re honest and in your face, and people don’t want to hear their church is outdated and irrelevant, but I agree with that. The church should stop hoarding billions of dollars and funding the old, rich men in their leadership positions and feed the people. WWJD? Probably not join the Mormon Church.

    I really enjoyed this podcast! My sister has always said the devil is clever, and disguises itself as religion.

  14. Jimmy J July 21, 2021 at 8:41 pm - Reply

    I’m a John Larsen fan and really like his Mormon Expression podcasts. He had, and still has, the best intro theme song of all the mormon related podcasts.

    I noticed in this interview that he has progressed far in his post-mormon thinking. I noticed the same thing with Zelf on the Shelf and Benji Schwimmer in their recent interviews. They all seemed to have moved on from mormonism. Which is great they have! But, I think I relate more to their earlier interviews when they were just making their way out of the church. I had more in common with their experiences exiting the church and could relate more to those experiences, than I do with their current thinking.

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