Is it possible to stay active in the LDS Church in 2021 after….
….learning all of the problematic history…
….becoming an ally for LGBTQ Mormons…
…becoming a feminist…
…becoming an “intellectual Mormon”…
and after losing one’s orthodox faith?

More importantly, why would anyone WANT to?

In Part 1 of my two-part interview with dear friend and faith transitions coach Jana Spangler, Jana told us the story of her Mormon faith journey, which includes:
– Battling with perfectionism as an LDS teen and young adult.
– Feeling broken and inadequate as a single Mormon woman attending the University Utah, struggling to meet the church’s standards of “worthiness.”
– Being threatened with an LDS Disciplinary Council be a well-meaning Mormon bishop, and how that actually HELPED turn Jana’s life around at the time.
– Finding and marrying Rob – who “checked all the Mormon boxes” at the time.
– Batting with infertility.
– Experiencing self-doubt and depression as a Mormon Mom.
– How Jana’s passion for self-improvement and retreats/workshops led to a Mormon faith crisis.
– Jana’s shifting views of Christ’s atonement, which include absolute, unconditional love.
– Jana’s courage to share her testimony struggles with her Holladay, Utah ward and stake.
– How untraditional Mormon podcast hosts, authors, and organizations (such as Bill Reel, Gina Colvin, Dan Wotherspoon, John Dehlin, Thomas Wirthlin McConkie, Sunstone, etc.), along with a supportive husband and understanding church leaders, helped Jana find a way to stay ACTIVE in the LDS Church.
– What factors led Jana to decide to stay active in the LDS Church…for now.

In Part 2, Jana provides a more detailed framework for how others can find a way to remain active in the LDS Church if they so desire, inspired by the works of Richard Rohr and James Fowler (among others).

Part 1:

Download MP3

Part 2:

Download MP3


Part 1 Timecodes:
00:03:49 – Jana’s Mormon story begins
00:07:17 – Struggle with “perfectionism” and social skills
00:11:07 – Patriarchal blessing, and how it influenced her
00:16:14 – Growing up with religious pressure
00:19:28 – Moroni 10:4 Challenge
00:22:27 – Attends University of Utah
00:26:58 – Dating and chastity in college
00:29:53 – Bishop Interviews & the “Dual Utility” of Religion
00:41:23 – Disciplinary council experience
00:51:33 – Takes temple endowments
00:56:36 – Moves into Huntington Beach ward, where she meets her husband
01:08:40 – Struggle with fertility & feelings of guilt
01:12:57 – Not well suited to be a stay at home mom
01:16:47 – Struggles in marriage and efforts to fix it
01:19:46 – Attempts to keep her nephew from leaving the church
01:30:03 – Questions beliefs when she feel that Mormonism does not have all the best answers
1:43:58 – Discovered Mormon Education podcasts and communities
1:47:05 – Daughter’s eye injury & difference in support for outward vs. inward pain
1:57:48 – “Plesantville” Analogy
2:08:08 – Attended Sunstone for the first time
2:09:12 – “Falling Upward” by Richard Rohr
2:11:25 – “See everything through a lease of Love”
2:25:06 – Eyes opened to social problems in the church
2:30:26 – How Outside sources (such as podcasts and conferences) gave her a place to feel confidant in her own spiritual journey & why she Advocates for a space like that within the church
2:38:20 – LDS church protecting the 99 over the 1
2:56:07 – Closing questions & remarks

Part 2 Timecodes:
00:04:40 – Why should you give religion another chance after a faith crisis?
00:08:21 – Spirituality vs. Religiosity
00:22:45 – How doubt can support belief
00:28:39 – Continually Seeking Truth in Mormonism
00:31:07 – Book of Abraham, & Book of Mormon
00:41:12 – Jana’s perspective on “scripture”
00:45:09 – Joseph Smith & Polygamy
00:48:47 – “One True Church” claim
00:53:13 – Temple Ordinances & Baptisms for the dead
00:55:37 – Modern Day Prophets
01:01:52 – How is Jana practicing Mormonism?
01:04:01 – Richard Rohr, “Living on the Edge Inside,” & “First Half of Life”
01:17:10 – Jesus Christ & The Atonement
01:28:36 – Hurt & anger in and out of Mormonism
01:33:58 – Why Mormonism over other options for religion/spirituality?
01:42:37 – Privilege of being about to still find a place in the LDS church
01:48:43 – Jana’s Firesides
01:51:21 – “Country Club Mormonism” Analogy
02:05:43 – Recognizing both the good and bad in Mormonism
02:14:54 – Closing questions & remarks


  1. James Crane February 24, 2021 at 5:14 am - Reply

    The charity people extend to Joseph Smith is incredible to me. Dies Jana extend the same charity to other religious leaders that weren’t part of the cute she was raised in? Is she as charitable to Warren Jeff’s as Joseph Smith?

    Apologists like Jana also frequently attribute unhealthy beliefs like prophet workshop to “We.” Who is she talking about? Who is the “We” that established lds culture? Who is the “We” that maintains church culture? Does she blame North Korean citizens for the state of the North Korean dictatorship?

    What is ” … the divine” you referenced multiple times? What doesn’t help lead to a divine and thus wouldn’t be considered scripture? Is Dyanetics scripture?

    I have a hard time concluding that your admittance that you maintain your oppinion of the book of mormon inpart because of lack of research as “willful ignorance”.

    How is temple work different from netflix bingging?

    In a few months my daughter will be baptized whether she wants to or not because she had been told she is fallen and requires remission from sins. She is a wonderful girl. I reject this idea.

  2. Richard February 24, 2021 at 3:36 pm - Reply

    Jana, You are a beautiful soul. I enjoyed resonating with your story. I personally bookmarked E1 1:50 – Your child’s eye injury is where I am right now. Superbowl Sunday my wife and I walked around the block – no kids just us. I slipped and sighed at seeing cars at her best friends house and our back neighbor. She jumped in with “what do you care – you hate football.” In 5 years we have been to their house 3x – they have been to dinner at ours 1/2x a year. I eventually expressed lack of friends even before faith shift. Rattled off a number of things I did to invite. Then faith crisis and it got colder. She tried to shoehorn a few things but I basically rebutted with – when do they reach out to me? Then two weeks ago I broke my ankle and surgery and wow – tons of ward out pouring to me/us. Mind you she is primary president so our family name is well known in the ward. She looks at me at one point and says – see look how many friends you have. So I smile and say yup. But like you stated at 1:50-ish in your first episode – where these ‘friends’ when I was in the dark night of my soul. Where was the training to help me and they understand the anger phase and help me not burn bridges or them not take things personally. So while you were telling of getting up at F+T meeting I thought – oh I should do that …. when I can walk again …. then you finish that segment with No No I absolutely don’t recommend doing that. Probably smart. Anyway, I hope someday to become a client with my wife. Thank you for your story. This will become a frequent listen – like Anthony Miller and Donna Showalter that I have listened to a few times each.

  3. P. Luke Firestoker February 24, 2021 at 6:16 pm - Reply

    Episode 2 is the first part and episode 1 is the second part.

  4. Kelly Mikesell February 25, 2021 at 1:08 pm - Reply

    I just finished listening to this podcast, and I really loved it! I was truly inspired! I am finding in my journey that it is so easy for me to get locked into the same binary thinking I have been conditioned with, just with a different belief – and with that comes anger and judgement. I found this interview incredibly helpful in reframing religion in general, beliefs in general, faith in general and humanity in general. Thank you for being vulnerable and helping us to see just how complex faith truly is.

  5. Henry Copier February 25, 2021 at 4:46 pm - Reply

    5 stars for Jana and John on this one! What a treat! We joke in the church that the most important thing in a Relief Society lesson is the table cloth and centerpiece, Boy, Jana, did you ever break the mold, and nuke that stereotype in this podcast! I am so impressed by your wisdom, communication skills, and intellect. You added some valuable tools to my faith journey tool box, Thanks for that. I look forward to more of you on Mormon Stories, as John promised. And to you James Crane, thanks so much for your comments. Hearing different angles on issues is so helpful to me, and I’ll bet Jana would say the same! Best to all of you, Henry Copier

  6. Bill McClymonds February 26, 2021 at 6:59 am - Reply

    As I listened to this interview, I thought John Dehlin did a masterful job of both asking tough questions and being sensitive to Jana as she talked about her journey through some very difficult issues. The interview made it clear that Jana is still struggling as she tries to understand life while at the same time trying to help others understand their journey.

    My most recent comment, prior to this one, is in the comment section of the latest John Hamer podcast interview . . . In that comment I wrote that I was writing a short article about the way I understand the difference between the Latter-day Saint god and Jesus and the God and Jesus revealed in the bible. I am going to try to paste that article along with these additional comments if it is not too long for the comment section.

    As a mainstream Christian, I know I don’t fully understand things in the same way a current or former Latter-day Saint would. For that reason, I would appreciate any constructive criticism of what I have written in the article. The other thing I would appreciate is that anyone wanting to provide constructive criticism will at least read my prior comment in the comment section of the John Hamer interview.

    What I am trying to do through this comment and the article I will add is to bring a little clarity to the differences Latter-day Saints and Christians have about who God and Jesus really are. For some reading, much of what I have written will be obvious. Others might get a little different perspective from a mainstream Christian point of view. Between what I have written and any constructive comments made to correct misconceptions that I might have about the Latter-day Saint god and Jesus, I hope we can all come to a better understanding about the differences between the God of the Bible and the God taught by the Latter-day Saint Church.

    What I heard Jana expressing during the interview seemed to be what I would call a hybrid belief system. She seemed to be taking parts from Mormonism and parts from mainstream Christianity. That is very understandable. Jana is trying very hard to find what makes the most sense to her.

    From my perspective, a hybrid approach might work for a little while but there is so much difference between what the Latter-day Saint Church teaches and what the Bible teaches that both positions can’t be true. At some point, I think a decision will have to be made. Was Joseph Smith right or is the Bible correct . . . or . . . are both of them wrong (please read all of my linked comments from the John Hamer interview if you think the Bible is wrong ).

    As I see it, those are the three options. I don’t think what Joseph Smith taught about God and Jesus can be reconciled with what the Bible reveals about the personhood and character of God and Jesus. In my opinion, the difference between the two is irreconcilable. It is either one or the other.
    Before I add the article, I would like to thank Jana for her courage in giving the interview. I also wish her the very best as she continues her journey through life.

    The Latter-day Saint god and Jesus

    As I understand the teachings of the Latter-day Saint Church, the Church teaches a different god and Jesus than the God and Jesus of mainstream Christianity. The god and Jesus taught by the Latter Day Saint Church are different persons than the God and Jesus of the Bible. It is very clear from the 1838 First Vision Account that the two personages seen by Joseph Smith during his vision held the Bible and the teachings of the Baptist, Methodist and Presbyterian churches of that time in utmost contempt. Those two personages are said to be the Heavenly Father (God) and Jesus of the Latter-day Saint Church.

    The personages who appeared to Joseph Smith told him not to join any of the churches of his day because they were all wrong and their creeds were an abomination. The creeds those churches were teaching had to do with the essential Biblical teachings about God, Jesus and the Gospel. They are essentially unchanged in the mainstream Christian churches of today. Both personages in the First Vision Account of 1838 seemed to agree that the Biblical teachings (what the Baptist, Methodist and Presbyterian churches of that day believed) about God, Jesus and the Gospel were an abomination ( a very serious condemnation).

    I spoke to an Elder from the Latter-day Saint Church who told me he loved the Bible. He and his companion Elder also told me they worshiped the personages who spoke to Joseph Smith in the 1838 account of the First Vision. Since it was apparently Jesus who spoke in that particular First Vision account, I could not understand why the Elder loved the Bible that the Jesus of the 1838 account of the First Vision seemed to view with contempt. Why love a book your Jesus told Joseph Smith was essentially deceiving all of the Bible believing churches of his time. The churches of his day were preaching and teaching from the Bible but Joseph’s Jesus condemned them for their teachings
    To mainstream Christians, the God of the Bible is an unimaginably great being. He is the eternal creator of the entire universe. He is Spirit. He does not have flesh and bone. Neither God nor Jesus had to earn exaltation. Both existed as God from eternity past. According to God Himself, as revealed to the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 43:10, “I am he: before me there was no god formed, neither shall there be after me.” I think that quote from Isaiah clearly states the position of the God of the Bible.

    According to the teachings of Joseph Smith (initially presented in the King Follett Sermon), the god of the Latter-day Saints has a body of flesh and bone. According to Latter-day Saint Church teachings, Jesus previously existed as a spirit child as a result of the physical sexual union of Heavenly Father and one of his wives. The Latter-day Saint Church teaches that everyone who ever previously lived or does currently live on the Earth was once a spirit child who was conceived in the same manner as Jesus. Satan and the fallen demons are also taught to have originally been spirit children. Satan is therefore a spirit brother of Jesus and the rest of humanity.

    As also first noted by Joseph Smith in the King Follett Sermon, or Discourse, men can become gods just like their Heavenly Father. Men who are now members of the Latter-day Saint Church are taught that they have the same opportunity for progression and exaltation as the personage they now worship as their Heavenly Father. In my opinion, this teaching of the Church is one of the most harmful things that it teaches. The teaching runs clearly contrary to the position the God of the Bible holds about Himself.

    In fairness to the teachings of the Latter-day Saint Church, the Church does not teach that men who become gods will replace the god they now call Heavenly Father. That god will continue to progress in his current position. As I understand it, men who progress to become gods will have a separate world in which to produce offspring with their own goddess wives.

    Since I am a mainstream Christian, I could misunderstand Latter-day Saint teachings. In order to provide support for my understanding of Latter-day Saint teachings about their god, I will provide a quote from someone who identified herself as “From Joseph to Jesus”. This comment was made in the comment section of a Sean McDowell YouTube video discussion with an active Latter-day Saint. The title of the YouTube video is: Are Mormons Christian. The quote follows in the next three paragraphs.

    “I grew up LDS being taught clearly, that Heavenly Father was a man of flesh and bones, who was once a mortal man, who went through the same steps of obedience to his own god, who needed a savior himself and who, by his own works of righteousness, earned his own exaltation meaning, earned his own godhood. He sexually procreated with his celestial wife/wives to give birth to our spirits; he then sent us to this earth, and here the cycle began again, the making up of the next generation of gods.

    All LDS men have as their ultimate goal, to become gods themselves, who will repeat this process: create new worlds and be worshipped as gods by the people in their planets, who will pray to them and call them their “heavenly father”.

    Once I began studying the Bible apart from Smith’s interpretations, I saw how eternally devastating such gravely erroneous doctrines truly are, as they could never be reconciled with what God has already revealed of Himself in both Testaments. To the biblical God, Smith’s conception of deity is an extreme abomination, as he attempted to reduce the One who always was, is and forever will be God, into man, whom He created.”

    I think the preceding three paragraphs are a pretty good summary of what the Latter-day Saint Church teaches about God . . . from a former Latter-day Saint. It is very clear that the god taught by the Latter-day Saint Church is not the same God who revealed Himself in the pages of the mainstream Christian Bible. The former Latter-day Saint described Joseph Smith’s conception of deity as an extreme abomination. She also said Smith attempted to reduce God into man, who was a creation of God.
    I absolutely agree that Joseph Smith tried to reduce God from His Biblical position of unimaginable greatness and glory to a much lower position of being an exalted man. In my opinion, that is a severe and significant insult to the God of the Bible. It is also my opinion that Latter-day Saints who aspire to be gods or goddesses themselves could be putting themselves in a position of significant danger.

    If you are a current Latter-day Saint reading this article, I would ask you to very seriously think about how the God of the Bible would view a belief that lowers His standing as God and elevates yours as a man or woman. Do you think the God of the Bible will be pleased that you are viewing Him as a lesser god and viewing yourself as someone who can achieve near equality with Him?

    Part of the reason I am writing this article is to warn Latter-day Saints to think very carefully about how they might be judged by the Biblical God if He thinks they are trying to achieve a very similar status to the one He holds. Even if they are not trying to replace the God they worship, they do expect to become gods and goddesses themselves and to be worshiped and prayed to . . . at least according to the former Latter-day Saint I quoted.

    An additional reason I wrote this article is to allow former Latter-day Saints to see that the god they worshiped and prayed to while active Latter-day Saints is not the god of the Bible. Since it is my understanding that many former Latter-day Saints are now atheist or agnostic, I want those people to know that the god and Jesus they worshiped as Latter-Day Saints are not accurate representations of the God and Jesus of the Bible. For that reason, any unanswered prayers to god made while still a believing Latter-day Saint were not prayers to the real God of the universe. While God is not a genie in a bottle who answers every prayer in the exact way we want it answered, He does answer prayer. I just don’t think it is nearly as likely to have god answer prayer when the prayer is addressed to one of the personages who appeared to Joseph Smith in the 1838 First Vision Account.

    I did not write the prior paragraphs to be mean spirited. I have spoken at length with many people who are active Latter-day Saints. In all my conversations, I tried to speak with gentleness and respect. I really care deeply for those I have met and have spoken with. I am not writing the words in the prior paragraph out of hostility or anger. They are written out of Christian love and concern for a group of people who I think have been deceived. The words are written as a warning . . . just as I would warn someone in the path of an oncoming vehicle to get out of the way. They are intended to be words of help, not words of hurt.
    For those who have left the Church and no longer believe in God, I agree with you that the god taught by the Latter-day Saint Church is not worthy of worship. On the other hand, I think it is extremely reasonable to worship the God of the Bible.

    Joseph Smith taught the following about his god in the King Follett Sermon. ” . . . If you were to see him today, you would see him like a man in form — like yourself in all the person, image and very form as a man . . . ” . In an email communication I had with a Latter-day Saint, I was told the image of god the person had been taught about was a six foot three inch tall white male with a white beard. That is just the kind of god Joseph Smith seemed to be describing in the King Follett Sermon. Someone just like you and me.

    In order to get some clarification about the God and Jesus revealed in the Bible, let’s look at some Bible passages that describe times when God or Jesus appeared to men. Of course, Jesus appeared as a man while He was incarnate on the Earth but things were different after he ascended to heaven. He did initially appear to the disciples in the form of a man so He certainly could appear that way . . . but that was not the only way He appeared after his resurrection.

    Two other appearances of Jesus after he ascended to heaven, one to an enemy and one to a friend, are described in the Bible. The first appearance was to an enemy of the newly established Christian church that was forming after Jesus died. It is recorded in Acts chapter 9. The enemy of the church was Saul, who later became known as Paul. When Jesus appeared to Saul, there was no talking as a man talks to another man. When Jesus appeared in the form of heavenly light, Saul fell to the ground. When he got up, he was blind. Saul and Jesus spoke but it was not some easy going, friendly man to man conversation.

    The appearance to a friend was to the apostle John. It is found in the first chapter of the book of Revelation. Verses 12 through 15 describe the appearance of Jesus. The description is probably not a literal description since Revelation is written in an apocalyptic style of writing. Whatever the actual appearance of Jesus it was that John saw, it caused him to fall at Jesus’ feet as if dead.

    Remember, this was the same John who probably reclined next to Jesus as they ate the Last Supper together (my understanding is that they did not use chairs). He was one of Jesus’ closest friends while Jesus was on the Earth in the form of a man. In spite of their close relationship while Jesus was alive on the Earth, seeing Jesus in a glorified form knocked John off his feet. In order to comfort John, Jesus laid His hand on him and said “fear not”. I understand that to mean John fell down in fear. The appearance of Jesus frightened him significantly.

    My point in these relating these two appearances of Jesus is to show that Jesus can now appear in a magnificent and glorious form. The vision of a glorified Christ caused both enemy and friend to fall down because they seemed to be afraid of what they were experiencing. These two interactions were not the type of man to man interaction Joseph Smith spoke about when he gave the King Follett Sermon. Jesus is no longer a man like us. Even though He chose to make a number of appearances to His disciples and others in the form of a man, shortly after his resurrection, He also appeared in a much more glorious form on at least two other occasions.

    The two dramatic appearances of Jesus show clearly that He is not the man like us god that Joseph Smith claimed. It is my opinion that if Jesus appeared to you or me today, we would also be unable to stand in His presence unless He strengthened us as He strengthened John when He appeared to His close friend and disciple.
    There are also a number of instances of the appearance of God in the Bible that terrified the men who experienced His presence. The experiences of Moses, Job, Isaiah and Ezekiel are all recorded in the Bible. All of them experienced a presence of God that frightened and amazed them. Once again, the God they experienced was not even close to Joseph Smith’s man like us god. That god is an idol of Joseph’s imagination. It does not represent the God of the Bible.

    The King James Version states the following in Proverbs 9:10. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding”. The New King James uses the term holy one instead of just holy. In other words, fear God and know Him in order to understand who He is. My understanding of the word fear in regard to this verse would mean a deep reverential respect. In order to have knowledge and understand God, it is necessary to read the accounts God has given of Himself in His word . . . the Bible.

    For active and former Latter-day Saints, you have a choice. You can either believe what God has revealed about Himself in the Bible or you can believe what Joseph Smith said about Him in the King Follett Sermon. Either the Bible is right or Joseph Smith is right. They both can’t be correct.

    If you decide Joseph Smith was right, don’t forget that he also married the wives of other men (polyandry), used a stone in a hat to translate the Book of Mormon and clearly had no idea that the Egyptian papyrus he was trying to translate for the Book of Abraham was nothing more than an Egyptian funerary (funeral) document. All of these things and much more can be found in the official Church Essays.

    In conclusion, I think there is a significant problem with the Latter-day Saint Church teachings about God and Jesus. I think the problem exists because Joseph Smith created a god and Jesus in his own mind who were very different from the God and Jesus found in the pages of the Bible. If you want to know the God and Jesus of the Bible, you will have to read the Bible with as few Latter-day Saint preconceptions as possible. Only then will you be able to more fully comprehend how much the God and Jesus of the Bible were misrepresented by Joseph Smith.

    Thank you for taking the time to read what I have written. I hope you will find it helpful. There is much more I could write about this subject but hopefully anyone reading will have a better understanding of why I think the god and Jesus taught by the Latter-day Saint Church are so different from the God and Jesus revealed in the Bible.

    Bill McClymonds

  7. Louisa June 16, 2021 at 10:41 am - Reply

    This interview was extremely helpful for me. At the moment I am torn between staying in or leaving the church. I am trying to decide where I can do the most good. I have a strong sense of social justice and inclusion, but do not want to hate or condemn the church based on my own sense of hurt. I have never been a black and white thinker, so Jana’s perspective was so refreshing and supportive to me in my faith crisis. Terryl and Fiona Givens’ ideas are hopeful, but I didn’t find the same peace that I found by listening to this interview. This interview simultaneously condemned harmful church practices and supported the goodness still found in the church and its people. On a personal note, I recently signed myself up for counseling and the first meeting did not go well. This video, on the other hand, helped me so much more than the counseling session. Thank you for recording this. I enjoy hearing from educated, kind, openminded and honest people who don’t have an agenda to “be right”. I know that Jana is saving lives. This is a much higher calling than any literal or pharisaical reading of her patriarchal blessing.

  8. Curtis C Davis July 30, 2021 at 7:12 am - Reply

    What I love about Joseph Smith and what I learn from him is that unlike other religious founders (Mahomet for example) he didn’t say in essence “I have seen God, follow me”. But he said “I have seen God, let me show you how you can see God for yourself”. “Thy mind Oh man…must stretch wide as all eternity”.

  9. Curtis C Davis July 30, 2021 at 8:11 am - Reply

    Additional observations. Regarding the marriage of young women among early church members, a common error of modern liberals is to judge earlier marriage practices by modern western urban cultural norms. Worldwide in traditional cultures, girls are considered women once they menstruate and modern ageist prejudices were not existent. To judge correctly one should judge actions from their practices not current cultural norms. Also in worldwide traditional cultures, polygamy was the norm though restricted to the upper class of the society, and Greek monogamy was the aberration. “They would shatter like glass because of their traditions”. This propensity of humans to be influenced by their cultural world view is as relevant now as it was then and it is as difficult to accept truth that doesn’t agree with our modern traditions now as it has always been.

  10. Trisha Paul March 12, 2023 at 2:33 pm - Reply

    Thank you for this episode. I relate so much to Jana and feel like our journeys have been so similar. I hope to stay in the church but am struggling to find my way. This conversation was so helpful and validating. Thank you!

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