In this 4-part series we interview Dan Wotherspoon. Dan has a Ph.D. in religion from the Claremont Graduate School, and was Director of the Sunstone Education Foundation and Editor of Sunstone magazine for eight years, and he now serves on its board of directors. In this interview, Dan discusses his early experiences with the LDS church, his early stumbles before his mission, the various crises of faith he experienced during his graduate studies and beyond, and the various perspectives he has gained that have allowed him to put his faith back together again in such a way that he is now fully re-engaged with the church.

Dan is now making his living as a free-lance writer, editor, and manager whose most recent projects include the creation of the website for the Eugene England Foundation ( and serving as director of communications for the Foundation for InterReligious Diplomacy (, including co-writing with its president, Charles Randall Paul, a book titled Fighting about God: Why We Do It and How to Do It Better. From its inception, Dan has also been an active participant in the work and development of the Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology, currently serving on its board, as a secretary for its executive committee, and as an associate editor of Element, the society’s journal.

Dan’s doctoral dissertation deals with theological resources within Mormonism for affirming a robust environmental sensibility. He also has an M.A. in religious studies from Arizona State University, where he focused on world religions and ritual studies, ultimately writing his thesis on theories of ritual empowerment. He also has a B.A. in philosophy with a minor in classical civilizations from Brigham Young University.

Dan and his wife, Lorri, are about to celebrate their silver wedding anniversary. They have two children, Alex (23) and Hope (17), and live in Tooele, Utah. Dan is currently soliciting additional writing, editing, and project management clients. He welcomes you to “friend” and contact him through Facebook.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:


  1. Vin February 16, 2011 at 8:07 pm - Reply

    looking forward to hearing this one…

  2. Hazlojusto9 February 16, 2011 at 9:21 pm - Reply

    I really loved this so much!

  3. Sophshepherd February 16, 2011 at 9:37 pm - Reply

    Wow! Nice to meet you Dan.

  4. Vin February 17, 2011 at 2:39 am - Reply

    Dan, you are such an affable, positive, fun guy. Your fellow ward members are truly fortunate to have you.

    John, thanks for being thorough. I must say that, when you put on your attack dog hat, you’re quite convincing, and if I didn’t know you and Dan were friends, I’d wonder if you despised him ;)

    btw, I’d love to see a podcast dedicated to an exploration of the Atonement along the lines mentioned in this podcast.

    • Anonymous February 17, 2011 at 3:27 am - Reply

      I love Dan…for the record. :)

    • Dan Wotherspoon March 3, 2011 at 5:48 pm - Reply

      Vin, I’d love to get a podcast going that explores the Atonement as a subjective answer to a subjective problem (alienation from ourselves) rather than, or at least more than, an objective one (some sort of metaphysical balancing that only having a perfect being die can solve). Will you add more here about what interests you most, or add as a friend on FB and we can talk through possibilities?

      Until then, here are links to a couple of terrific pieces on the Atonement that move the discussion in this direction:

      Eugene England’s “‘That They Might Not Suffer’: The Gift of the Atonement”

      Lorin K. Hansen’s Dialogue article (Dialogue 27:1), “The ‘Moral’ Atonement as a Mormon Interpretation.”

      If links don’t work, you can access these in the archives sections of http://www.eugeneenglandorg and


  5. Vin February 17, 2011 at 2:39 am - Reply

    Dan, you are such an affable, positive, fun guy. Your fellow ward members are truly fortunate to have you.

    John, thanks for being thorough. I must say that, when you put on your attack dog hat, you’re quite convincing, and if I didn’t know you and Dan were friends, I’d wonder if you despised him ;)

    btw, I’d love to see a podcast dedicated to an exploration of the Atonement along the lines mentioned in this podcast.

  6. Rob February 17, 2011 at 7:10 am - Reply

    I’ve been looking forward to this one. Thanks !

  7. Hazlojusto9 February 17, 2011 at 5:29 pm - Reply

    I don’t know him from Adam but there is something about him that I can relate to. The best way I can describe it is love.

  8. Sophia February 17, 2011 at 11:15 pm - Reply

    Leaning in to Mormonism would be easy, really easy, if you didn’t get told and believe all your life that it is fact, God is A, B and C that we know it all before we were beings and after and eventually then your told at whatever point that you need to change that entire paradigm when you realize it isn’t legit and then go with it out of loyalty or whatever because the alternative is such a pain in the a&$! You think back about all your youth leaders and wonder, how many of them knew what I know now and still cultivated the Wizard of Oz?! I see that it needs be and I understand where ya’ll are coming from but some of us aren’t programmed to just keep going for the sake of the good things when the realization itself opens up an entire world and religions you can draw on freely endlessly the rest of your life is left! Its a beautiful time for some of us who are feeling like we’ve held the iron rod, and got to the end and have enjoyed sinking our teeth in the juicy fruit that is Life.

    • Anonymous February 17, 2011 at 11:50 pm - Reply


      I agree that Dan’s path (or the StayLDS path) is not for everyone.

  9. Major Bidamon February 18, 2011 at 1:11 am - Reply

    I don’t know if I totally understand Dan’s chosen path, but it was a powerful discussion. I almost wept at work when he spoke of being denied ordaining his son (I’m in the same situation). When I came home and recounted the story, I did break down and weep. Thanks Dan for sharing your story.

  10. Brian February 18, 2011 at 4:17 am - Reply

    John: Thank you for the direct questions you ask of those who you are interviewing. Not only do you ask great questions, you don’t let up until you get an honest answer. Hearing real, honest answers to the “tough questions” is a rare treat. Keep up the good work!

    • Anonymous February 18, 2011 at 4:29 am - Reply

      Thanks, Brian! Dan was a good sport, eh?

  11. Flanders February 18, 2011 at 11:29 am - Reply

    I’m sorry, but I didn’t find anything compelling about this guy. I thought his answers to John’s simple but direct questions were cowardly. He was verbose and evasive in what appeared to me to obvious attempts to justify his own cog dis. Someone please tell him that membership in the Mormon church is not a cure for the fearing death.

    • madre February 18, 2011 at 7:47 pm - Reply

      We all come looking for different things, I thoroughly enjoyed Dan opening his thoughts and sharing his experiences!

    • adamf February 21, 2011 at 12:11 am - Reply

      Is cog dis something that must be “justified” to other people?

  12. Madre February 18, 2011 at 7:39 pm - Reply

    Thank you John and Dan! Not all that come here are actually on the roller coaster of a “Faith Struggle” personally, but come looking for understand of the journey of a loved one. This is where I entered mormonstories, and this podcast has been helpful and insightful! There are not many places one can go to try and learn and understand the struggle of someone they love and want to support, but I personally find this helpful, and full of hope, so a big, big thanks! I would love to hear more from Dan Wotherspoon, so keep him around! I appreciate his honesty and sensitivity and his very positive approach. Awesome!

    • Anon February 18, 2011 at 10:44 pm - Reply

      Madre, I applaud you for trying to understand the journey of your loved one. Losing your belief in The Church can be a very difficult and lonely journey; your willingness to understand them shows your love for them. Good luck to you!

    • Anon February 18, 2011 at 10:44 pm - Reply

      Madre, I applaud you for trying to understand the journey of your loved one. Losing your belief in The Church can be a very difficult and lonely journey; your willingness to understand them shows your love for them. Good luck to you!

  13. Ron_Paul_2012 February 18, 2011 at 9:04 pm - Reply

    The Church either is or isn’t based on it’s own definitions of what it purports to be. The whole interview is a Bill Clinton…”It depends on what your definition of the word is, is.” If it’s all about finding the God within, I think there are much better ways than the Mormon schema for it. That said, a lot of people stand to loose so very much if they step out of the Church, so from that perspective, I can understand why people would stay. I would certainly stay if I had not already lost my family in a better divorce. I would stay to preserve important relationships in my life. I could also see staying as a matter of Tradition. I think a lot of people are fearful of loosing their entire identity if they leave, so they stay. I am guessing these are the real reasons Dan stays, even if he hasn’t recognized that in himself.

    • Jan Taylor Riley July 27, 2012 at 6:27 pm - Reply

      How about staying because it is true?

  14. The Squid February 18, 2011 at 10:41 pm - Reply

    As someone who is disaffected and struggling in finding a way to stay…. I’ve got to say that the more I go looking for ways to stay the less I find them. I’m starting to think the disaffected yet longing to stay member’s struggle comes down to simply this: “I’ve lost my ability to believe and I’m looking for someway, anyway, to feel the way I used to feel.” I don’t know, I guess I’m starting to think it’s just not possible.

    I really appreciate this interview, but it’s frustrating that there really is no answer. Did Joseph get gold plates from an angel or didn’t he? Can’t answer it. Hesitation. Talking around it. Why? Honestly, I wonder if it’s because one can’t answer that question without ruining the game….. because answering the question is admitting the emperor has no clothes. And if the emperor has no clothes… why are we standing around to watch the parade?

    Again, I really don’t mean to be insulting. It’s just disheartening that instead of an answer, all I can seem to find is more jargon and fancy talk that doesn’t really solve the problems.

    I know, I know. I’m SOOOO stage 4 and eventually I’ll work my way to stage 5 where I realize that solving the problem isn’t the point. haha. ;-)

    • Jan Taylor Riley July 27, 2012 at 6:26 pm - Reply

      Hey The Squid,

      I can give you an answer. Yes, Joseph Smith really got the gold plates from Moroni, yes he did. No hesitation whatsoever. No talking around it whatsoever. It is a fact. It happened. And for those who claim to be members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and have not yet accepted this fact, they have serious deficits if faith and testimony. These facts about Joseph Smith, the angel and the gold plates are easily received through prayer, study, seeking and obtaining the Holy Ghost, also an intangible but the most profound reality God has given to us. Do not expect to receive assurances of faith by those who struggle. Go to the source, God himself, and obtain the Spirit. And seek your answers from those who have had a sure confirmation who can be encouraging to you and help you along your path to greater faith, so that you can have the same profound assurance/experience. It is real. No emperor’s clothes ending in this story. Joseph Smith told the truth. Believe him.

  15. The Squid February 18, 2011 at 10:41 pm - Reply

    As someone who is disaffected and struggling in finding a way to stay…. I’ve got to say that the more I go looking for ways to stay the less I find them. I’m starting to think the disaffected yet longing to stay member’s struggle comes down to simply this: “I’ve lost my ability to believe and I’m looking for someway, anyway, to feel the way I used to feel.” I don’t know, I guess I’m starting to think it’s just not possible.

    I really appreciate this interview, but it’s frustrating that there really is no answer. Did Joseph get gold plates from an angel or didn’t he? Can’t answer it. Hesitation. Talking around it. Why? Honestly, I wonder if it’s because one can’t answer that question without ruining the game….. because answering the question is admitting the emperor has no clothes. And if the emperor has no clothes… why are we standing around to watch the parade?

    Again, I really don’t mean to be insulting. It’s just disheartening that instead of an answer, all I can seem to find is more jargon and fancy talk that doesn’t really solve the problems.

    I know, I know. I’m SOOOO stage 4 and eventually I’ll work my way to stage 5 where I realize that solving the problem isn’t the point. haha. ;-)

  16. Eric February 19, 2011 at 1:18 am - Reply

    Excellent interview. Dan is a great interviewer (the atheism podcasts were great!), so it was good to hear him on the other side. And thanks John for not backing down with your questions.

    It sounds like one of the biggest reasons Dan continues to be an active Mormon is because he thinks it’s important for people to be challenged and pushed out of their comfort zones in order to grow. And he accomplishes this through being forced to love his ward members, accept and fulfill callings, etc. I’ve heard this argument from others also. It’s a very Richard Bushman-esque approach to the church and testimony.

    But my question is why not just go straight to the love, service, and sacrifice and cut out the clunky middle man (the church)? Granted, you usually need some sort of organization in order to give service in the community. But there are countless organizations that offer the same types of opportunities to serve and to be thrown into a community that you can learn to love unconditionally. And these organizations do not come with truckloads of baggage attached to them like the Mormon church does.

    Why not donate 10% of your income to a local homeless shelter, go there and volunteer to work every Sunday morning and Wednesday night, force yourself to truly love the homeless people and other volunteers. That seems like it cuts to the core of becoming a better person so much quicker, it provides a much better service to those truly in need, and you don’t have to do the mental somersaults (or however John phrased it).

    Obviously there are so many complex reasons to stay in the church. I just wanted to discuss this one aspect.

  17. Martha February 19, 2011 at 6:15 pm - Reply

    I’m better than half way through the four podcasts, and I have really enjoyed them. Dan is a great interviewee, and I appreciate his ability to work through nuance and come to a comfortable place in his life. Thanks, John. Thanks, Dan.

  18. George February 19, 2011 at 6:51 pm - Reply

    I learned much about Dan Wotherspoon through this podcast. He became almost a shirttail relative. I admire his human persona, his willingness to acknowledge the black marks on his face. I do question his continued allegiance to a fairy-tale (the church). With his bright mind, with decades of life still ahead, I visualize him reaching for the gold ring, and running a deeper spiritual marathon. Do not waste time Dan, because time is what life offers. Should this life be all there is, think as RuPaul states, “Don’t f..k it up”.

  19. George February 19, 2011 at 9:42 pm - Reply

    I reread my comment above and realized I failed to say how very articulate Dan Wotherspoon is. Also what a great job John did on his watch, as chief interviewer and dishwasher… and dish it out he did. Thanks guys.

  20. Ryan February 20, 2011 at 4:56 pm - Reply

    To the question that was discussed in the podcast of weather or not Dan’s type of beliefs and ideals “ring true” to Mormonism, I would say that a Mormonism that is full of complexity and contradiction is the only one that I can see. The great myth in modern mainstream Mormonism is that it’s not complex and there are no contradictions. All you see are neat and simple concepts that tie together from the beginning of time until this day. However, it seems to me that the notation of a “simple” correlated Mormonism within the church is a modern innovation, along the lines of FHE or Hometeaching. Must it stay that way? Will it stay that way? Is it okay to embrace the contradictions and ambiguity, to be comfortable in their presence?

    It is one thing to see the contradictions and to understand the ambiguities in our religion, but is another thing to be able to LIVE with those ambiguities and contradictions. That is a messy and difficult proposition. It is untidy and Mormons are not known to tolerate untidy things. An aversion to “untidiness” has a deep influence the way Mormonism is practiced among the orthodox, but can continue to play a role in the reactions of disaffected Mormons once they leave the orthodoxy. I think it is at the heart of what puzzles certain individuals about Dan’s decision to “stay”.

  21. Odell Campbell February 21, 2011 at 3:53 am - Reply

    I appreciated the pod cast and Dan’s answers to very tough questions. What Dan believes and practices though is something very different from Mormonism. My question to Dan would have been, why find your archetypes in Mormonism? Why not a more accepting religion, if the archetypes don’t matter? Is it because you live in Utah or your extended family is Mormon?

    • Les Gripkey March 2, 2011 at 3:42 am - Reply

      I believe Dan is in good company. The way I read Jesus’ life is that he remained within his Jewish tradition, while remaining true to truth and practice that did not conform to that of the Pharisees and those in leadership who wanted strict adherence to following the letter of the law. Jesus did not leave or resist his tradition, but with a centered love, stepped through the letter of the law and cultural barnacles of his time to reveal (in my opinion) even greater truth and love. This is not an easy path, and I respect those of any spiritual tradition who do so.

      I believe Dan exemplifies being the type of Mormon I think Joseph Smith was…taking truth wherever it may be found, grappling with it, exploring it, wrestling with contractions, and using it to open more fully to God and goodness.

  22. Anonymous February 22, 2011 at 3:32 pm - Reply

    Dan, you have some great outlooks. Unfortunately most of them aren’t anything like the religion you claim to believe in.

    You’re not a Mormon. There might be people out there like you with a breadth of interpretations of Mormon doctrine, but that doesn’t mean Mormonism has a rich diversity. You either believe what the contemporary leaders claim they believe, or you are an apostate. There’s no wiggle room with Mormonism.

    • Brian Johnston February 23, 2011 at 4:58 pm - Reply

      There’s only one way or the other, their way or the highway, no wiggle room, if we believe it.

      • Anonymous February 23, 2011 at 5:29 pm - Reply

        Love it.

  23. kia February 22, 2011 at 4:10 pm - Reply

    John, you have a gift for interviewing people. I respect Dan’s point of view. You describe an approach that can work for those who want to stay in the church but I wonder can this approach and view of the gospel work for a new convert? Dan, what would you advise for someone thinking of joining the church? Once you’ve been in the church I can see how your approach has value but what of those thinking of joining? In your current gospel view, would you participate in speading the gospel and converting our fellowman?

  24. Tim February 22, 2011 at 5:02 pm - Reply

    It strikes me that Dan is “married” to Mormonism but he’s having an emotional affair with Secular Humanism or Universalism. It’s great that he’s keeping up all the appearances of being faithful (attendance, tithing, WoW) but he’s not really loving Mormonism for who she really is. Instead he’s pining away that his “wife” will someday be just like his “mistress”. The only thing that he really loves about about “Mormon” is that she is a “woman” which is just an obtuse way of connecting her to his real love.

    Like all codependent spouses he sticks around, holding fast to the “good ol days” and swearing that he’ll never get hit (just so long as he doesn’t make her angry again). Meanwhile he teaches his “children” (anyone who will patiently listen to him) to love his mistress though he calls it loving his wife.

    He has all the forms of faithfulness but none of the passion there in.

    • Hermes February 23, 2011 at 5:33 pm - Reply

      This metaphor only works if you accept that ideologies control people rather than allowing people to control their ideology. At the end of the day, I think the only position of integrity is to own one’s own beliefs, and hold oneself responsible for the way in which one chooses to express them. “Christianity” and “Mormonism” are empty words, meaningless until individuals give them concrete form. Dan is Dan: because of his upbringing, he expresses himself through Mormon ideology (which apart from concrete instances such as he provides is notionally incoherent, just like every other religion).

  25. Dadsprimalscream February 22, 2011 at 8:39 pm - Reply

    I really enjoyed Dan and I appreciate John for asking some pointed and challenging questions as if he were a more skeptical listener. I think this is the first time I “get it” as far as understanding how and why someone like Dan and John stick with Mormonism. He lives very comfortably in his skin.

    I especially appreciate Dan’s willingness to allow that someone may be best served outside the the walls of Mormonism, even the very loose, transparent walls that Dan has erected. Here’s a question or perhaps a thought that I’d like to hear him address. I hope this doesn’t come across too convoluted…try to follow me here:

    As an analogy, let’s say we were Jehovah’s Witnesses and I needed a blood transfusion. Realizing that I would best be served leaving the JW religion and getting a blood transfusion, I learn to make peace with that decision, but I also see the harm that such a doctrine causes for others who may need a blood transfusion, but perhaps be less willing to challenge their faith. Isn’t sticking with that faith in essence complying with the harmful side effects?

    As a gay man, that’s what has caused me concern when looking at how the Mormon faith treated me and still treats my gay brothers and sisters. As a father, I’m concerned about how my daughters may feel not having the female spiritual leader as a role model.

    I guess what I’m saying is that while Dan may find the growth or a place in Mormonism… isn’t he just complying with the mistreatment? I mean he seems to understand the issues of Prop 8 and such but is satisfied that things are changing, albeit slowly. I wonder if he were gay if that would be enough?

  26. Sundance February 22, 2011 at 9:58 pm - Reply

    Although I can’t even pretend to have the kind of knowledge and insight as Dan, and I feel like in the midst of my awakening still, but I did find solace and wisdom in his over all message, which I think is that you can define it for yourself.

    Lots of people seem to have indicated that Dan cannot define Mormonism anyway he wants because in the reality all us experience each and every Sunday (as well as the other days of the week) we know the real way Mormonism is defined by the vast majority of members and leaders. But Dan seems to be advocating that the core truth of Mormonism is that you are free to accept or reject anything you do not feel as “true” — you may have to bear your own cross with the truths you accept or reject with respect to how your peers may judge you. While Dan may not be an example of how you can “stay lds”, he is an example of someone who is defining how he wants and is actually “staying lds”.

    Although I still cling to a few more literal interpretations than Dan (like I said I’m still feel like I’m in the middle of my awakening), I not only feel like I can define Mormonism for myself but that and I must also allow Dan and Pres. Monson do the same.

    • Rhonda February 23, 2011 at 7:16 am - Reply

      I couldn’t have said it better!

    • Anonymous February 23, 2011 at 12:33 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Sundance. Beautiful.

    • Ozpoof February 23, 2011 at 2:47 pm - Reply

      Really Sundance? Do you believe a “core truth” of Mormonism is that you can cherry pick the doctrines you like and ignore the nonsense and outright lies? The test would come during an interview where you are asked if you sustain and support the leaders and believe Joseph Smith was a true prophet.

      While Dan may be able to sit in conference and rationalize away his raising his arm to the square in support of the likes of Boyd K Packer, or rationalize away his not raising his hand in opposition to what some of these men say as supposed inspired and Godly messengers, I very much doubt if TS Monson listened to this podcast that he would state Dan is living the Mormon faith and is a true member of the church.

      There has to be a limit as to how far you can stretch the religion to fit your beliefs before you are no longer a believer. Could I believe Mohammed flew to the Dome of the Rock as Muslims do and still call myself a Mormon? Dan seems to believe something very different to the Mormonism I am aware exists today. How then can he still be considered to be a Mormon? Dan is not just accepting and rejecting Mormon dogma, he is creating his own.

      I’m sorry, but to me this so-called Stage 5 level of faith is a point where your pragmatism overcomes your desire for truth. Whether something is true or not is meaningless it seems, so long as it makes me feel OK, and to hell with anyone else who is damaged for life by the dogma I choose to reject. Rejecting such dogma on a personal level while supporting an organization with my attendance etc is disingenuous. I’m gay, so I have a problem with people who know more about Mormonism than they let on in SS class. I’m going to take an extreme example here, but can you imagine saying to a Black friend that you believe they are equal while still attending KKK cross burnings and rationalising this by saying you reject the racism of the organization but attend because you see the ritual as a metaphor and have twisted the actual teachings of the Klan into something so different from the original that you are actually a liberal? You may reject harmful teachings, but you support the damaging and bigoted teachings through attendance and financial contributions.

      If that’s Stage 5, how can it not be described as selling out?

      • sundance February 24, 2011 at 3:36 am - Reply

        The limits are all self imposed – you can actually believe whatever you want and still physically walk through the chapel doors on Sunday and sit down. I totally see your point that at some point the chasm is so great that whats point, but the point I think this podcast makes more than any is that you are free to do it if you want. If you can’t find anything of value there then why bother, apparently Dan can and does.

        As I thought about this more I think the key to Dan’s success is that is actually does still believe in God, and he feels like the Mormon theology is one that allows him to explore and express his spirituality in a way that he feels like he is progressing. He values the Mormon traditions and myths, he just interprets them different than others. He even believes that Joseph Smith was diving inspired in spite his obvious flaws.

        • Dadsprimalscream February 24, 2011 at 4:15 am - Reply

          I think I have to continually catch myself when I submit to the black and white thinking that the stage 3 Mormon theology imposes. I did choose to leave but I don’t necessarily thing everyone HAS to. Like you said, Dan accepts some form of “otherness” whether it be in God or just the unexplained and he feels like he is progressing. I say good for him. Personally I don’t like most Mormons. I feel only conditional love and acceptance. I never felt comfortable in my Mormon priesthood holder skin. I’m gay but the conditional love that I feel extends beyond that fact. I really don’t belong there. I have no problem accepting that SOMEONE does feel like that is the place for them. I don’t think that I would have liked Joseph Smith. There are people who did and I say to each their own. Mormonism may set the standard for a closed minded one-size -fits-all religion but that doesn’t mean that someone like Dan who has different motivations and a different world view wouldn’t find a place there.

          • Ozpoof February 24, 2011 at 2:14 pm

            I guess it depends on how the organisation presents itself to the world. If the “Mormon Church” publicly states that gays do not deserve equal rights, and they tell gay teens that they are evil, choose to be gay, can change if they have enough faith and if they don’t they will spend eternity with murderers and their ilk, then there can be 13 million “Dans” that actually believe something very different, but that doesn’t matter because no one challenges the leadership and remains a member. With Mormonism, what you actually believe is irrelevant. If you make noise you’re out. If you object to the way the church treats people you may find yourself unable to attend a wedding or participate fully. If there are 13 million people who privately believe all people should be treated equally and that human sexuality is not something to be stifled and forced into internet porn addiction, not one of those people matter as long as they keep their mouths shut due to fear, and raise their hands in support of bigots and liars because the ramifications are too great if they actually took a stand and made it known that they will no longer support the twisting of history, and the bigotry of LDS inc.

            I don’t want to offend Dan or anyone else, but I consider anyone who still attends the LDS church despite not supporting their stand on gay and women’s rights, equality, honesty (editing history and punishing those who tell the truth) to be extremely selfish. I assume Dan considers himself a Stage 5. Are those who transcend the nasty parts of their faith equally able to ignore those individuals around them who are ruined by the same faith? That’s numbing yourself so you can cope with where you find yourself.

            What’s more astonishing to me in regards to those who claim to have transcended the inconvenient truths of Mormonism are those who construct an entirely non-Mormon religion just for themselves inside their head (you can’t express such thoughts openly) to the point of not believing very much about Mormonism at all. I mean, if you no longer believe what they are shoveling over the pulpit, what’s the point of attending and paying for the privilege?

            Dan and others may have found a way of coping with their cog dis. Call it stage 5, transcendence, or wearing blinkers so you don’t notice the human wreckage that Mormonism creates, it all comes down to individuals creating a very non-Mormon way of thinking and rationalizing their true beliefs so they can still feel they speak honestly in interviews, all so they can “find a place” in an organisation they don’t even agree with. I’m afraid I can think of a few names other than “Fowler’s stage 5 of faith” for that type of thinking. I really don’t consider such thinking to be healthy at all, and certainly not something to be aiming for.

            If you believe in Christ, you can find your religion – connection to God – within you. That’s what Jesus seemed to be teaching. He certainly didn’t set up Mormonism. Even the Book of Mormon contains very little of the Mormon church which we are taught was the original ancient Christianity. It’s beyond belief how people can make such an effort to remain within the LDS faith, even to the point of literally transcending the doctrines. You do not need to contort your true self so as to find a place in a group you don’t agree with. Why would any rational person do that? Why would you create an environment where you have to pretend to yourself that you aren’t lying when you are asked if you support the “brethren”. This is what me, as a stage 4, should aim for????

          • adamf February 24, 2011 at 6:55 pm

            “I consider anyone who still attends the LDS church despite not supporting their stand on gay and women’s rights… to be extremely selfish.”

            As an “extremely selfish” person speaking, I have to say that this is an intriguing stance Ozpoof. I am curious about what this view does for you. Self-protection from all the stuff being “shoveled” over the pulpit?

            I acknowledge the pain you must have experienced. I have felt some of it second-hand, with a sister who is also gay.

            “Why would any rational person do that?”

            Perhaps belief in a God itself is not rational. THAT is honestly where I feel the most “cog dis.” I think for most people it’s also a matter of ambivalence. There are many profound reasons why they stay, along with many reasons why they might feel better on the outside. Life is full of ambivalence. Let’s not criticize our fellow travelers who choose to deal with their ambivalence or “cog dis” on one side or the other.

            Or maybe I’m just reacting to your comment. Honestly, it triggers a lot of sadness in me… and fear.

          • Ozpoof February 25, 2011 at 7:38 am

            I wonder how “intriguing” my belief that those who support a bigoted organisation would be if this was 1977 and there was the beginnings of pressure being put on the church for its racism towards Blacks. That is why the prophet got his timely “revelation” after all.

            No, we do not construct Mormonism for ourselves at all. That what makes this religion so very different. There are no strains of Mormonism, it’s a worldwide franchise that is identical and correlated. You are questioned on a fairly frequent basis as to where you stand. If you answer honestly, you will be told whether you conform enough or need to change to fit the format. If people stay withing the “church” because they want to keep their families together, and they lie in interviews, I can understand that. However, Dan has been quite honest about his true beliefs, which I assume his family know. I therefore stand by my belief that he is selfish in his continued support of an organisation that teaches and seeks to spread discrimination against women and gay people, not to mention the teachings that people who have dark skin are the ancestors of evil people.

            Belief in God may not be rational, but it is benign as ling as you apply the Golden Rule to others. No one said that belief in God meant you have to support a hate group by way of attendance or financial offerings. There are plenty of outlets for this belief where all people are accepted and loved.

            You know what I fear? Ambivalence towards the subjugation of groups of people that you yourself don’t fall into. That’s happened before and it never ends well for anyone.

          • adamf February 25, 2011 at 1:06 pm

            I totally agree with your last two sentences there. Oz – I’d love to hear more about YOUR experience. Everyone hear knows about all the warts and skeletons and flaws and tragedies, etc. Maybe this isn’t the forum for this, but I’m more interested in your experience than your commentary on other people or the church. What are you protecting? What is underneath all your apparent vigor?

          • adamf February 25, 2011 at 1:07 pm

            here, rather.

          • Ozpoof February 26, 2011 at 2:52 pm

            Mate, I’m gay and my parents are TBMs who believe gay people choose to be gay and need shooting. I could have decades of misery until they die if I didn’t hide. That’s what I’m protecting.

          • adamf February 26, 2011 at 2:55 pm

            Thanks – yes, your words make total sense now. Your parents don’t know? I can’t even imagine that situation. I wish my TBM parents who love and accept my sister who is gay could have a nice chat with your TBM parents.

          • Anonymous February 26, 2011 at 8:33 am


            I empathize with your feelings. Probably more than you know.

            But I think you cross an unnecessary and a hurtful line when you use words
            like “selfish.”

            You don’t know what people are going through in their personal lives —
            which makes the use of that word insensitive and insulting.

            And if you’re going to lob insults like that publicly — at least have the
            courage to post under your real name, and to provide the city where you
            live. Otherwise it comes across as just plain cowardly.

            Anyway, please find a way to share your opinions without insulting my guests
            or other members of my community.



          • Guest February 26, 2011 at 3:35 pm

            You know John, if more Mormons who still attend church yet don’t agree with the church’s stance on Gay rights and sexuality actually stood by their own beliefs and spoke up, I might be able to say here who I am and where I live. It would take a fraction of the courage I would need to come out for people to just say what they believe. I can say I live in Australia, and the city I live in is not heavily populated with Mormons, yet my life would turn upside down if I stated my name here. I was scared to death when I realised that when I made donations to Mormon Stories my full name was sent to you. I am 41, consider myself free of the supernatural fear Mormonism instilled in me, yet I am still afraid. I can’t imagine how someone who grows up gay in UT could possibly make it to adulthood alive.

            John, I would be ruined financially since I have sunk money into family assets that I will not inherit if I had the “courage” to tell my family that I am gay. Believe me they would find out if I said my name here. I would never see my nephews and nieces again. I would have to scramble for a place to live since the home I live in is a family owned home. Yet at least I have come to terms with the lies I was taught as a kid about gay people. I no longer want to kill myself, but there are kids doing that all the time because of the church and because of the complacency of members that seem to be focussed very much on themselves.

            My comment wasn’t meant as a personal attack. I consider anyone who ignores the human misery an organisation causes * unnecessarily* so they can be comfortable in that organisation to be the same. I really don’t know what other word I could have used. I didn’t think of it as an insult, just a way of saying that they are focussed on themselves.

            I did think I got a fairly good impression of Dan’s standing with the church and his wife from this podcast. Dan had no problem stating many beliefs publicly here that counter Mormon policy and doctrine. I just wish he and others who still attend could do that at church. I’m not sure what he would lose. His beliefs are available here for anyone to listen to.

            I’m sorry if Dan or anyone else was offended, but I chose a word I thought was not offensive yet reflected how I felt.

            Thanks for letting me explain.


          • JT February 26, 2011 at 5:28 pm

            Oops, I should have replied here and to you directly.


            I’m sympathetic to your comments and became more so as I followed the string. I don’t think you crossed a line with the term “selfish,” though qualifying it with the term “extremely” was, perhaps, hyperbolic … because you are referring to the behavioral norm.

            I’m not up of Fowler’s Faith Stages, but it comes up a lot in Mormon Stories. And, indeed, it came up in your comment:

            “Are those who transcend the nasty parts of their faith [Stage fivers] equally able to ignore those individuals around them who are ruined by the same faith?”

            That motivated me to look up Fowler’s Stages. I found the following detailed outline:


            I skimmed it and, with your comment fresh in my mind, ran a search on several words.
            Here are some that are NOT found.


            Love (except Stage 6, “[my] Life is both loved and held loosely)






            Fowler’s stages appear to me quite – dare I say – selfish?

            Faith … my faith … my church … my testimony …my life … my exaltation … my oh my oh my…

            I wish you the best.


          • Ozpoof February 27, 2011 at 8:48 pm


            Thanks for the thoughts and support.

            I recently listened to the early podcasts dealing with Fowler’s Stages of Faith again, which is why they are on my mind as I comment on other podcasts such as this on. Something didn’t sit well with me when the concept of perceiving others who are at different stages was discussed. It was said that people in Stage 3 consider those at Stage 4 to be behind them because they can only comprehend life through their belief system. They therefore consider anyone outside that belief system to be “behind” them in regards to faith. People in Stage 4 have moved through the blind acceptance of Stage 3 and have found or seek further knowledge that forces them to confront their own faith. Stage 4 people are less inclined to rely on faith alone and seek to prove (disprove) what they believe. I can see why Stage 4 people consider Stage 3 to be behind them.

            Then when Stage 5 was described I had a difficult time understanding how it could be better or “in front” of stage 4 because it seemed to me like it was reverting back to a form of denial. The self described Stage 5 guests made the point that people see each stage as beneath the stage they are currently at, so I thought that’s what was happening, since I am quite sure I am a Stage 4, I would consider 3 and 5 people as less ………..I want to say honest, but I then thought that Stage 3 people who are ill informed are probably fairly honest with themselves, and again I see Stage 5 as less than honest. Wow, I just saw Stage 5 as less admirable than Stage 3. Yes. Stage 5 people know more than those at Stage 3, yet they choose to ignore the nasties. I don’t think that’s admirable at all. The link you provided noted this about Stage 5:

            “Its danger lies in the direction of a paralyzing passivity or inaction, giving rise to complacency or cynical withdrawal, due to its paradoxical understanding of truth.” I believe it was described that a “truth” which is not actually true but provides a lesson that can learnt and applied as a truth is this paradoxical understanding of truth. Maybe its because I’m Stage 4, but this just sounds like so much BS to me! A “truth” that is not true? Christ didn’t claim his parables where real events.

            Another attribute of Stage 5 according to your link is that they can appreciate symbols, myths and rituals. So can I, but I don’t believe it is healthy to treat myths as fact, or to engage in ritual that may contribute to social cohesion (control) but achieve nothing more. Many Mormon rituals seem to have a high ratio of cost to benefit when you consider the time and money spent on and in temples. There are plenty of win/win social rituals that provide social cohesion but where skills are learnt and people helped. Lately it seems these are being phased out more and more in Mormonism. To me and my Stage 4 way of thinking, I see many rituals as superfluous and wasteful, while myths are useful so long as it is made clear they are myths. Lessons can be learnt without having to teach that the parable really happened. Why not be honest?

            More from your link about Stage 5: “[a]live to paradox and the truth in apparent contradictions, this stage strives to unify opposites in mind and experience.” Don’t “opposites in mind and experience” contribute to cognitive dissonance? So by unifying these dissonant cognitions, aren’t Stage 5 individuals rationalizing the problems with what they believe, often by ignoring them or “transcending” them? If that is the case, they aren’t unifying these opposites at all. They are ignoring the problematic myth (perhaps the myth that gay people made a choice to be gay), ritual, or symbol and not dealing with the fact that it is not the truth, or not applicable or necessary to your life, or may harm others. Rising above (or stepping over) something doesn’t eliminate it unless you take action. It’s still there, tripping people coming behind you.

            This is denial and not a stage I would ever wish to find myself. It’s not honest, lacks empathy towards those who are being adversely impacted by myths and rituals accepted as truths, lacks integrity, compassion towards those who need to be told “hey, it’s not true”. Why does a kid who believes she/he will spend eternity apart from her/his family because she/he is gay need to go through that mental anguish when there are people who might be Stage 5 around her/him who see this belief as a myth and understands the degrees of glory metaphorically? (God only knows what the lesson from such a metaphor could be)

            I really don’t think I see Stage 5 as a more problematic way of thinking than Stage 4 because of relative perception between stages. If the impact on other people is taken into consideration, the more honest and confronting Stage 4 causes less damage than the complacency and “paralyzing passivity or inaction” of Stage 5 people. There are situations when passivity is not a noble trait.

            Truth and facts should be paramount. There are few instances of cognitive dissonance that can’t be resolved by simply eliminating the belief in something that contradicts known facts. There is no need to “unify” these two opposites, especially when by doing so you no longer see where a belief is hurting others.

          • JT March 3, 2011 at 12:55 am


            I just read your comment through … need to reread it … some good questions here that deserve thoughtful resposes.

            I tend to be skeptical about such classifications schemes (let me show my bias hand) … reminds me of the Kubler-Ross stages of grief which did not stand up to scientific scrutiny. It has intuitive appeal in places but strings together stereotypical rationalizations and does not pay attention to unconscious processes that likely dominate “faith” experience and behavior. In other words, is may not be tethered empirical understandings derived from modern psychology. But I remain open minded – I have not investigated this Fowler stuff … but, again, it sounds to me like “pop” spirituality/psychology.

            On the matter of your family’s intolerance: I am reminded of the insights of psychologist Jonathan Haidt who studies human innate (unconscious) moral intuitions. His theory recognizes moral dimensions beyond the most obvious harm/care and fairness/reciprocity. These are ingroup/loyalty, authority/respect, and pureness/sanctity.

            I mention this because an understanding of the deep unconscious emotions that lie at the heart of allegiance and devotion to religious groups that practice various forms of discrimination draw on these latter dimensions in powerful ways. In particular, the pureness/sanctity dimension of innate morality plays into all of the church’s intense pre-occupation with sex.

            Obviously, these insights cannot solve the problem for you – but perhaps better understanding will provide some comfort, or, as Haidt alludes to, avenues of better communication.

            For a video of Jonathan Haidt talking about these moral dimensions see:


            For a paper see


            Request the paper: “Haidt, J., & Joseph, C. (2007). The moral mind: How 5 sets of innate moral intuitions guide the development of many culture-specific virtues, and perhaps even modules. In P. Carruthers, S. Laurence, and S. Stich (Eds.) The Innate Mind, Vol. 3.

            Best wishes,


          • Mormonstories February 26, 2011 at 6:13 pm


            Thank you so much for the thoughtful response. Please understand that I’m not questioning your decision to protect your identity. By all means stay anonymous for your health and safety! I’m also not questioning your path out of the church. It seems clear that your path has led to greater health for you, which I TOTALLY applaud.

            I’m not even questioning your frustration with the church or its members – virtually everything I do w/ Mormon Stories, etc. is partially born out of these same frustrations.

            I guess all I’m saying is….this most recent explanation that you just offered came from your heart…is both compassionate AND compelling….and I believe is ultimately going to be MUCH more affective at “winning hearts and minds” to our mutual cause than the previous comment (where you used the word selfish).

            So all I’m saying is…if you can (and I know this is very, very hard given all you are going through…..)….try to have your comments come from the latter place when you can….and I swear that you’ll only win more hearts and minds over to your (our) side. Plus, people won’t feel judged, criticized, or alienated (kind of like your family is making you feel given your sexual orientation).

            Anyway…I know this is tough stuff, brother. Just know that you have our love and support…and that really…we are on the same team (at least I feel like we are).

          • sundance February 27, 2011 at 4:30 pm

            I’d had been trying articulate some response, but I think the one above was better than anything I could come up, and tootally echo what he/she just said.

          • Ozpoof February 27, 2011 at 9:26 pm


            I appreciate your reply. JT (above) noted that I used a hyperbole with “extremely selfish”. He’s right. It’s difficult to keep a lid on it sometimes.

            I hope you read my comment to him. I’ve been thinking about Fowler’s and how he assigns an approximate age range to each stage. It seems that Stage 5 is a ‘shoulder shrug’ of sorts. It’s as though the fighting spirit of Stage 4 has gone, and the blinkers come out again. It’s knowing the problems and shelving them as a way to cope and fit within the belief system. At least that’s how I perceive it. I can see this “beaten down” look in my father when I bring up problems with the church. I can see he has heard some of the things I mention to him, but he sort of shuts down and won’t discuss it any further. It’s exactly how it is described in JTs link – “paralyzing passivity”, although I’m sure he hasn’t passed through stage 4. I don’t see dealing with inconvenient truths by ignoring them or trying to gain a metaphorical lesson from them as healthy. Isn’t it better to be as honest as possible?

            Maybe the frustration of endless attempts at opening some discussion with my parents about church issues (never about homosexuality), or having debates shut down by a mother who sees ideas she doesn’t like as “contention” and “cold pricklies” manifests itself in my comments.

            I’ll take what you said on board. Yes, I do think we are on the same team, and I appreciate what you are doing here.

            Thanks again.


          • Anonymous February 28, 2011 at 3:10 am


            I do believe that it takes a ton of courage to leave the church, and to
            speak out.

            I also believe that some people either can’t find a better situation for
            themselves than what the church provides, or they simply don’t have the
            desire or resources to make a big change.

            I think that we do our best work when we continue to speak our truth, and to
            follow our bliss — but show compassion and respect for the decisions of
            others. This just feels like the most enlightened path to take.

            If you want to help others — blaze new trails, and let your light so shine.
            That will be the strongest testimony of all for your cause. If you “go
            negative,” you simply validate the existing, negative stereotypes that allow
            them to dismiss you as “dark” and as “evil.”

            That’s what I’m trying to do, anyway. But I know that it’s not an easy
            road, and I don’t mean to dismiss your pain at all. I feel it too.


          • sundance February 25, 2011 at 4:13 am

            Well I guess that’s why I still attend church then because I don’t have a problem with the “Mormon Church” support of prop. 8., nor do I have a problem with the Mormon’s who were against it. As for the gay debate, its probably a healthy one to have. To my knowledge, which I’ll admit to not being an expert on, is the science and psychology of homosexuality appears to making headway on, but most of the advancements appear to be rather recent, and from what I gather there is still a few missing pieces. I listened to the Dr. Bradshaw podcast and seemed to categorize it as being a very difficult and confusing scientific issue.

            While I’ll concede the point that often times it does seem that people’s staunch views of their faith does cause harm to others, especially within their own family, but that can happen with or without faith and that can easily be viewed as a misapplication faith. There are plenty of statements within the Christian theology that speaks of loving the sinner and not the sin that negates the argument your making there. Doesn’t mean its always followed, but that’s the ideal anyhow.

            We all construct Mormonism for ourselves. You have your view of it, others have a different view. Your inability to see how anyone can view the church except how you view it reminds of a typical TBM.

          • Ozpoof February 25, 2011 at 7:52 am

            I may be misinterpreting you, but did you just tell me a prophet of God who claims to have DIRECT communication with Jesus Christ is waiting until human science cracks the gay gene before they can reveal to us that gay people aren’t pretending to be born gay? If a church claims such authority and communication, no issue is “difficult and confusing”. Where’s your faith? I think it’s been discussed before here or elsewhere, but it appears that many of those who leave the church are the ones who had the most faith in it. The people who believe they can fit Mormonism to suit their beliefs – even if those beliefs oppose Mormon doctrine – are among the ones who stay.

            You can view the church any way you like Sundance. That doesn’t alter the reality that as far as Mormonism is concerned they only view you two ways – active/inactive, sustaining/apostate. You may believe there are tunnels under the SL temple where the Prophet meets with leprechauns. That doesn’t make that part of Mormonism.

          • sundance February 25, 2011 at 2:25 pm

            You got it right, I think 1977 revelation was one that had to earned. If and when another one comes it will be when we have finished all the leg work. God appears to be an SOB when it comes to things like that. He isn’t just up there dolling out blessings and revelations that make it easy for us, we have to do all the work and then give him all the credit.

            You keep saying that you can’t view the church anyway you want, and yet we just listened to someone who is very active in the church that does view it differently. Your right when you say just because someone believes in something that isn’t true that it doesn’t necessarily become part of the official doctorine, but it does make it part of Mormonism. In fact, I know of lots of myths and stories that are told within our culture that are completely fabricated and yet people believe them. I just did a quick google search and found lots of email myths that I bet are still currently believed by MANY members — these hoaxs are now part of Mormonsim. ( And I think a few of them even find their way into the Sunday School manuals :)

          • Ozpoof February 26, 2011 at 2:59 pm

            He revealed the dimensions of Joseph Smith’s house in Nauvoo. Surely letting the leadership of the church know they need to stop persecuting gays for something they cannot help is more important than that, especially when there are kids knocking themselves off left and right because of it.

            I said you CAN view the church any way you want, but you won’t stay Mormon for long if you make those views too public. Don’t get me started on myths.

          • Froggy March 2, 2011 at 5:51 am

            I lost my bisexual daughter to suicide about 7 years ago now. I watched a horrific struggle within her for 6 years. I am sure she came out to her bishop before she came out to me. She had to meet with him every Sunday and would come home crying. I told him that if it happened again, I would not allow her to go to church anymore. She started cutting, drinking, smoking, and doing hard core drugs. Seems like a pretty self-destructive path. I think maybe she didn’t like herself. She begged me to let her die. It took 10 days and as much vodka as she could drink until she started throwing up her liver.

            She was a kind, gentle soul who was always a champion for the underdog. And, the world is not as good a place without her.

            Ozpoof, when you speak, you speak for us. I am glad you are angry some days, because I am too tired to be angry. Mostly I am just sad.

            I can understand if a white, straight, male is attracted to the LDS church. He is represented well. He is the standard. He has the keys to the kingdom. From his eyes, which I call selfish, it would be a great place to be. But, for the others, they have to deny who they are and what they want in life in order to fit in.

          • Anonymous March 11, 2011 at 12:18 pm

            Your post made me cry. I hate the church so much sometimes.

        • JT1492 February 26, 2011 at 5:18 pm - Reply

          I’m sympathetic to Ozpoof’s comments and became more so as I followed the string. I don’t think he crossed a line with the term “selfish,” though qualifying it with the term “extremely” was, perhaps, hyperbolic … because he is referring to, sadly, the behavioral norm.

          I’m not up of this Fowler Faith Stages, but it comes up a lot in Mormon Stories. And, indeed, it came up in Ozpoof’s comment:

          “Are those who transcend the nasty parts of their faith [Stage fivers] equally able to ignore those individuals around them who are ruined by the same faith?”

          That motivated me to look up Fowler’s Stages. I found the following detailed outline:

          I skimmed it and, with Ozgood’s comment fresh in my mind, ran a search on several words.
          Here are some that are NOT found.


          Love (except Stage 6, “[my] Life is both loved and held loosely)






          Fowler’s stages appear to me quite – dare I say – selfish?

          Faith … my faith … my church … my testimony …my life … my exaltation … my oh my oh my…

  27. Anonymous February 23, 2011 at 3:58 pm - Reply

    Thank you Dan and John for another outstanding episode of Mormon Stories! I appreciate these personal tales especially.

    I wanted to make a comment regarding Dan’s analogy of the sandbox and cat crap. Great analogy. I would like to use it further in making the case for those who aren’t able to step back into the sand.

    Sometimes when we see one “turd” in the box, there happen to be others, so many so that it becomes unhealthy to step in and wallow around in it too much. Most responsible individuals are going to dig around a bit, and with the church’s sandbox, it turns out the sand is a litterbox, a minefield of poop. We find it very problematic to then let our children in to play in the sand, especially when we know they are likely to dig in with both hands and even injest some of what they find. We can’t step in and pick up the mess, either, because we have a PH leader or prophet saying the poop has to stay in there until the prophet decides to take it out. This is where I find myself in the analogy.

    I would also like to know if Dan feels he has a higher degree of “buy in” with mormonism, spirituality, mythology, and metiphorical thinking because his training, education, and work are all centered on philosophy and religious studies? It seemed like Dan had a hard time accepting the atheistic worldview of his previous interviewees because it strikes hard against everything he has spent his life working on. Listening to Dan during this interview, I almost felt like he should go out and get his license to be the minister of his own church, and I sincerely don’t mean that in a disparaging way. The mormonism that he espouses might work for him, but it will have little influence on anyone else within or without the church, and that is a sad thing to consider in many ways.

    For those of us who lean toward rejecting the supernatural worldview, and make science, rational thought, and humanism our new worldview, we have a sweeter fruit to know good works by. The best in the world’s progress isn’t coming from the chapels and temples of the world’s faiths, it is coming from the institutions of learning and scientific discovery. I prefer to place my hope and “pitch my tent towards” those places that are doing the most to benefit mankind.

    • JT February 24, 2011 at 7:13 pm - Reply


      If I can extend the sand box/cat poop metaphor one cynical step further. The smartest of those motivated to harmonize their faith with modernity do find ways not to wallow in the poop. They use its adhesive properties to make impressive shapes from the sand that sticks so well to it.

      Still, I do want to affirm Dan’s (via Eugene England’s) comment about religion providing structure and motivation for people to help (and learn to love) those they normally would not give the time of day to. It’s a shame that the United States does not provide as good a social safety net for people in need. As you probably know, mostly western european countries do a much better job, which is, perhaps, one reason they are mostly atheistic.

      I too was puzzled about Dan sticking with Mormonism when it seems he would find more like-minded people among the likes of the Unitarians. Despite these episodes being titled “Mormonism Broad and Deep” found them neither broad nor deep. For instances, Dan’s references to events and experiences that were “out of blue” or “just sort of happened” etc. suggested a person who has not plumbed his own depths. The nervous giggles that attended every mention of a belief that countered Mormon orthodoxy suggests a persistent inner turmoil. But I’m no psychologist (though John Dehlin is getting there). This was a Mormon story barely scratched the surface – a lot of life facts left unaddressed.

      Perhaps I flatter myself when I count myself among those secular humanists who you describe as “[having] a sweeter fruit to know good works by” – that I do not look toward religious dogma or tradition or authority to validate my moral sentiments or motivate my acts of compassion. That’s liberating and good for others, so it seems.

      But I am reminded of the work of the psychologist Jonathan Haidt who studies human innate (unconscious) moral intuitions. His theory recognizes dimensions beyond the obvious harm/care and fairness/reciprocity. These are ingroup/loyalty, authority/respect, and pureness/sanctity. I mention this because an understanding of the deep emotions that lie at the heart of allegiance and devotion to religious groups draw on these latter dimensions in very powerful ways. This helps us understand the desire some people have to make fancy shapes out of sand-infused-poop in the sand box of their arbitrary faith – and that it’s not all bad.

      For a video of Jonathan Haidt talking about these moral dimensions see:

      For a paper see

      Request the paper: “Haidt, J., & Joseph, C. (2007). The moral mind: How 5 sets of innate moral intuitions guide the development of many culture-specific virtues, and perhaps even modules. In P. Carruthers, S. Laurence, and S. Stich (Eds.) The Innate Mind, Vol. 3.


  28. Adam February 23, 2011 at 8:27 pm - Reply

    John and Dan, I really appreciated the podcast. This is the exact type of story that is most beneficial to me right now in my current journey. I especially appreciate the willingness of both of you to ask and try to answer the very difficult questions. As John alluded to, its these types of questions that trip people like me up.

    I certainly don’t fault anyone for leaving mormonism and believe that is the best choice for many. For me personally, I still feel like leaving would be more disruptive than staying so I am still trying to find a happy home there. It seems to me, that the only way I would ever be able to be at peace in mormonism is to develop an approach similar to Dan’s. His beliefs, and mine, are obviously not representative of mormonism. Somehow Dan (and others like him) have managed to feel comfortable with that and truly feel that mormonism allows us to define it for ourselves. I am still not at that place. I’m still pulling my hair out after church on Sunday (as Dan was years ago).

    As was mentioned above, it seems that people that are in a comfortable stage 5 mormonism have completely let go of caring about what is really true, and are much more pragmatic. For me this has been difficult. I think I attribute that to the fact that I felt like “truth” was the main thing that was shoved down my throat my entire life. It was “truth” that I preached for 2 years as a missionary, and its “truth” that I seem to hear at church every sunday.

    Anway, I really appreciate hearing from people like Dan and how they are able to do and think the way they do. I’d love to be able to meet and talk to more people like that.

  29. JT February 23, 2011 at 8:52 pm - Reply

    I found the two “anchoring” spiritual experiences Dan described as occurring on during his mission intriguing. I excerpt below key portions of his descriptions that run between 33 min, 35 seconds and 42 min, 55 sec below. I follow with a brief comment and video reference that may provide some insight into such experiences for those interested.


    “What happened to me at that moment was … like every … every separation I felt from these people or from any person on the planet sort of went away… and I, and I, just … you know… my language back then was, “I felt exactly how God felt about these people” … you know? … they were just … you know … perfect, wonderful, amazing beings …you know? Who are pure and good and God sees them only as fully whole, and all the different things … and I just like … Wow … just … I got a peek that felt like that lasted for twenty or thirty minutes of … expansive view of people and who they really are deep down. And of course the power of that was just incredible. For the next several weeks I was still feeling the effects of seeing people through this sort of light.”

    “10 days before the end of my mission … we go to house of a woman who basically was nice to us, but she said she was not interested … [as we walked away] … I got like wacked with such a feeling of love for her and a sense of importance of the message … I seriously … it sounds stupid … I quaked and I trembled … somehow or other I stepped into that space … of feeling … of loving people enough that your heart ached … My companion [said], “what is going on with you dude… I was freaking … I could hardly talk … that feeling through the rest of my mission was constant with me …”

    “I’m not embarrassed by it … the experience happened … I was in a new kind of relationship with everybody in the world around me … of course that slowly fades as you step away from the experience … where I hesitate … I don’t know how to interpret those things anymore … I know that I touched something different from ordinary life … I’ve have other experiences since then … that make me feel that I am more than just my body.”


    In this video excerpt from the documentary Secrets of the Mind, Neuroscientist V.S. Ramachandran interviews a young man, John Sharon, who describes experiences that parallel Dan’s. Sharon’s experiences are connected to his temporal lobe seizures. Perhaps Sharon’s experiences are a more extreme form of what Dan experienced, but perhaps has a similar anatomical basis. The brain is an amazing organ and among its amazing abilities and inner workings are not open to introspection.

    • Ozpoof February 24, 2011 at 3:01 pm - Reply

      Did this kid sound like a prophet to you? The behaviour of Joseph Smith points to him having some psychological issues. Narcissistic personality disorder comes to mind, and he seems to exhibit some psychopathic attributes, when the lives of those who stood in his way could be ruined with no remorse.

      Add to this, the fasting and use of certain drugs by early Mormons. There are many psychoactive drugs used by Native Americans. The link below has some experiences of people who smoked plants with the active ingredient DMT (N,N-dimethyltryptamine) which is found in many different plants all over the world. Some experiences include “visitations” by entities. One could interpret these any way you wish – angels, demons, Gods.

      • JT February 24, 2011 at 6:17 pm - Reply

        And some have speculated that Sidney Rigdon’s religious zeal was caused by a nasty bump on the head when he fell off a horse as a kid.

        One may speculate about such things but will not find in them debate-ending proof. The point behind my post is that genuine truth seeking is inconsistent with casting about for supernatural hypotheses when more plausible natural ones are a Google- or Amazon-click away. In other words, seeking knowledge about how humans “tick” should not be confused with personal meaning making – especially when such meaning making relies on chronically available religious concepts and pseudoscience (“all spirit is matter), both of which depend on vague metaphors untethered to objective reality.

        The brain science that accounts for profound emotional experiences has now reached the level of general readership. Ignoring it represents willful ignorance for anyone with a decent education who is his humble enough to count themselves no more exceptional than anyone else.

        Science continues to squeeze theology into ever narrowing gaps of the yet unexplained. It’s unfortunate that most humans must depend on religion to create meaning, purpose, and community, and to salve their fear of death. When will people realize that their brief existence in this grand Universe is a broad enough platform for constructing a meaningful life?

        • adamf February 24, 2011 at 11:18 pm - Reply

          “Science continues to squeeze theology into ever narrowing gaps of the yet unexplained”

          So you think that if something is explained by science there is no more reason for religion or spirituality? Or rather, are religion and/or spirituality only for the unexplained? I’m curious, because that seems kind of like the “God of the gaps” argument that many believers promote and nonbelievers criticize.

          • JT February 25, 2011 at 4:53 pm


            In response to your questions … first, thanks. I enjoyed the chance to think through these as its getting me through a boring conference.

            Q1. So you think that if something is explained by science there is no more reason for religion or spirituality

            This is a deeper question than I initially thought. My first thought was no, reasons remain for religion and spirituality. However, strong scientific explanations provide reasons for not appealing to those things for support. Therefore, an appreciation for science might lead to a less fundamentalist, rigid, and exclusivist faith. Examples are easy to identify.

            On a second level, one could say that if science explains the reasons that one maintains his religious commitments and beliefs (e.g. by identifying and manipulating the neural circuity that produce feelings of meaning and conviction) then the believer, in the face of this knowledge, would have to figure out what to do with it. My guess is that many people would still find ways to keep believing. They would find some gap in the science – some type of work around.

            When it comes to explanation it is possible to distinguish proximate explanations (immediate causes) with ultimate explanations (involving intent and purpose). This distinction can provide wiggle room for “nuancing” faith in face of modern reductionist science. A great example is the famous Biologist Kenneth Miller who is a staunch Darwinist and a devout Catholic. His God let’s nature take it’s course, but allows for God’s interventions by allowing that God can make His interventions perfectly hidden (untouchable by science and therefore allowing the full expression of faith) by quantum indeterminacy. Little sub-atomic nudges that precipitate divine goals.

            But, if you don’t feel forced to go that far, then scientific explanations (actual and anticipated based on it’s track record) at least make rejecting religion and spirituality intellectually justified.

            Q2. Or rather, are religion and/or spirituality only for the unexplained?

            Along with its social functions, religion and spirituality provide frameworks for explaining and imbuing meaning at the same time. The two are tied together (this is important). The meaning-making aspect motivates biases that foreshorten considerations of naturalistic alternatives or, just as critically, corresponding explanations of other religions.

            In other words, a religious world view supports the “argument from incredulity.” This argument, which to a large degree is unconsciously generated, plays out something like this:

            1. I just witnessed an event that produced this emotionally powerful feeling in me (a beautiful mountain range, the complexity of the human eye, a fortuitous coincidence, a brilliant metaphor, a “connection” with a charismatic person, a ghost, an impression, a spontaneous healing, a face in the clouds, a bleeding statue…).

            2. I cannot identify a mundane proximate cause or explanation for it. Rather, I just can’t imagine that any mere natural process could be responsible for such a wonderful thing. The very thought diminishes it’s meaning for me – it would “harsh my buzz.” I have no motivation to pursue any alternative explanation – this is something I can share with my family and congregation and that will be rewarding and draw me closer to them – perhaps add to my prestige – and cold hard science is JUST not the answer. I trust that this feeling of incredulity in the face of natural explanations – the spiritual or divine essence of it is undeniable.

            3. Therefore it IS divine and my recognition of this constitutes a deep insight. (Deep means …? Insight means…?)

            Can you see potential problems with this mind-set if truth is the top priority and when the context in which it plays out is a world with 4000 religions all claiming some form of exclusive insight or connection with the divine? Can you see the problem when indoctrination makes religious explanations so much more accessible and salient than scientific ones?

            Perhaps the most glaring modern example of both a religious argument from incredulity and a religious belief moving into a gap of the yet unexplained is the Book of Mormon. The argument from incredulity recently spilled out of an Apostle (Jeffrey Holland) who spoke to it’s complexity and hebraisms (and called naturalistic theories as pathetic). In the mean time LDS apologists are compelled by the evidence into enter the gap of limited geography. Their apparent end game is to create a plausibility argument that is unfalsifiable. They want their cake (empirical basis of belief) and they want to eat it without the burden on positive evidence.

            Here is a final related thought/example:

            At what point along the spectrum of private voices in one’s head, from some persistent angry voice to a still small voice, does one lean toward a naturalistic explanation (psychopathology) versus a spiritual one (Holy Ghost). Why has the dividing line between leaning one way or the other shifted since ancient times (when it was all good and bad spirits)? And why does the leaning depend on whether the person who hears the voices is a high status individual of one’s own religion or that of another?

            It is very difficult to appreciate something that you remain ignorant of. Not knowing what you don’t know can have consequences. I’ve spent the last three years scratching the surface of social psychology, cognitive science, neuroscience, and behavioral economics. What I have learned, in all its tentativeness and incompleteness, far outweighs the argument from incredulity I entertained when I first contemplated the First vision story amidst the influences of a charismatic older brother, encouraging ward members, and my ignorance of a whole lot of science and history.


          • adamf February 25, 2011 at 6:08 pm

            JT, thanks for the comment – I really can’t do it justice in a response right now, but I just want to say that I have had many of the same thoughts on some of these things… I will have to think more though!

  30. Ozpoof February 24, 2011 at 2:46 pm - Reply

    Perhaps one day a cure for religion may be found if the gene for it is isolated.

  31. madre February 26, 2011 at 10:33 pm - Reply

    I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of different paths through or in Mormonism, and I ran across this quote which I found interesting and helpful….for what it’s worth.
    “…Tied to this misconception is the erroneous belief that all members of the Church should look, talk, and be alike. The Lord did not people the earth with a vibrant orchestra of personalities only to value the piccolos of the world. Every instrument is precious and adds to the complex beauty of the symphony. All of Heavenly Father’s children are different in some degree, yet each has his own beautiful sound that adds depth and richness to the whole.” ~ Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin,5232,49-1-851-6,00.html

  32. Glen Fullmer February 28, 2011 at 12:13 am - Reply

    I really appreciate John’s interview with Dan and appreciate Dan’s honest responses to tough questions and his quest to remain faithful to his Mormon tradition. Also, I appreciate Dan’s interview of atheists who left Mormonism. However, I disagree with Dan’s characterization of black and white thinking being not appropriate at some level and John brought that out when he asked questions like, “did the plates exist”. There are some questions that have a yea or nay answers. Determining what level those yea/nay questions are to be asked is the art in the science.

    I wish John would asked Dan more questions of what he believed rather than what he didn’t, however, some of it came out in the interview. I “Stand all amazed” at the fact that Dan, and for that matter John, can stay in a Church that teaches so much in which they don’t believe, and also with the openness that Dan has in answering these questions and will be amazed if, after this interview, Dan isn’t asked to attend his own Church court. ;-)

    Can you really belong to the Church of Jesus Christ and believe that Jesus was not who He said he was? Paul was not alone in declaring Him as the Savior of mankind. Jesus was close to being stoned to death when He declared “Before Abraham was, I AM”, or when He told Philip “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father”.

    One of the reasons I left the Church was because members professed things they didn’t really believe, as indicated by their actions. Are Dan and John like these people? No, because they are honest about their struggle with the facts vs the story. However, it must, as seen in this interview, take a lot of rationalization to remain active members. It has been a long time since I have been to a temple recommend interview, but don’t they ask if you believe in Jesus CHRIST? It must take a lot of rationalization to answer that in the affirmative if you believe He was only a man.

    I appreciate Dan’s telling about the Buddhist teaching that a “finger pointing” at the moon is not the moon. All the symbols of religion are just pointers – even the words. Experimental knowledge is so much more powerful than any symbol or words. Maybe there is a lot of “finger pointing” here, mine included, however, I think we will be all surprise at some level what awaits us after death at least as much so as we are sometimes surprised here. Thanks again, John and Dan, for the interview.

    Just as a side note, John, you as a psychologist must know that 90% of communication is non-verbal and I enjoyed those interview with video. Is that possible for future ones?

    • Anonymous February 28, 2011 at 3:11 am - Reply


      2 quick things….

      1. I’m not active in the church right now…and I don’t know if I ever
      will be again (doubtful, but possible I guess).
      2. I’d love to do more videos, but my video volunteer dropped out. I
      could theoretically do more video, but I’d need more financial support to
      pull it off.

      Thanks for asking!


      • Glen Fullmer March 12, 2011 at 9:01 pm - Reply

        Cheap technology exists to capture all of your Skype video conversations when you are using that technology. On your MS interview with Dan, John, Joanna Brooks, and Heather Olson-Beal on Mormon Matters, I would have liked to have seen Dan’s face when his voiced “quavered” when announcing the title “Sex in the Mormon Church Especially among Mormon Singles” and when he was called on it. Who called him on that? Joanna or Heather? ;-)

        • Heather April 5, 2011 at 4:33 pm - Reply

          Joanna. ;)

      • Ryan Rebalkin March 18, 2011 at 12:10 am - Reply

        Hey John,

        Is there a story in this? I know you have been back and forth a couple of times. Is there an upcoming Podcast that discusses your journey to inactivity?


      • Guest April 3, 2011 at 4:20 am - Reply

        I’d be curious to know more about #1. John, do you discuss this in more detail anywhere? I haven’t had a chance to listen to many of the recent podcasts.

  33. Dan Wotherspoon February 28, 2011 at 3:30 pm - Reply

    Thanks to everyone for the lively conversation John’s interview with me has generated. In the earliest few days of comments, my thinking was to not jump in so those of you who listened can have your own experience with it. You are all bringing up interesting issues, valid critiques, and representing a wide variety of ways to meet the world with integrity, and I’m grateful for all of your perspectives. Another part of my hesitation to dive into the conversation, however, also has to do with the frenetic pace of my life right now. As a freelance writer and editor, the projects I work on tend come to me at irregular intervals—and lately I’ve been really scrambling to make ends meet, being forced to combine a bunch of smallish projects rather than having a couple of big ones to work on that represent predictable income. Anyway, given the time your comments deserve, plus the energy I know I’d spend not only writing responses but letting approaches to the issues you raise percolate in my mind and heart during the times I need to be fully concentrating on these projects, I’ve not tried to engage you yet. I will soon (I think I’ll have some time tonight), however, and I hope we can have great exchanges. I don’t know exactly where I’ll begin, but I WILL dive in somewhere.

    Thanks, again!
    Dan Wotherspoon

  34. George March 1, 2011 at 3:58 am - Reply

    Dan, I so look forward to you diving in. I also send affirmations (wishes), that many juicy moderate projects will roll in your direction. Moderate because I seek your presence here at MSP, yea, I presto demand it! You Dan W, are one in a million (thirteen million if certain PR gurus are to believed). Shalom

    • Dan Wotherspoon March 1, 2011 at 11:08 pm - Reply

      Thanks, so much, George! With an advocate like you, how can I not get the projects that will both excite and pay well!

  35. Thomas Gail Haws March 1, 2011 at 7:28 am - Reply

    JT and All, I can totally relate to a sense of determination not to succumb to the danger of Stage 5 “in the direction of a paralyzing passivity or inaction, giving rise to complacency or cynical withdrawal, due to its paradoxical understanding of truth.” But with increasing familiarity and fatigue, complacency looks increasingly attractive. Of course the only antidote is love, as some of you have said.

    I stay LDS because I am LDS. I have not the least compunction in saying that any church or no church at all would do just fine. I don’t currently have a temple recommend, I don’t attend my home ward, and I don’t give much of my tithing to LDS funds. But I’m LDS, and nothing is going to change that fact. I generally look, act, and sound like a (monkish) Mormon boy, and that will likely never change.

    You can tell me I’m responsible for the sins of the church. You can tell me it’s a scandal for me to affiliate. You can tell me I’m a wolf in sheep’s clothing. You can tell me I don’t belong. You can excommunicate me, scold me, or berate me. But I’m still LDS, and all I can do is my best to stand for my personal burning testimony of the Real Way Things Are as I see them. Oh, and to give all the free hugs I am able to give. Tee hee hee.

    • Cliff B March 17, 2011 at 4:56 pm - Reply

      Hey Tom, love ya! Good comments.

      I believe that the different between Understanding and Wisdom is that Wisdom knows when to act, and is compelled to act. I seek wisdom!


  36. karlg March 4, 2011 at 9:46 pm - Reply

    Dan Wotherspoons interview was very interesting but not particularly inspiring or enlightening. I have enjoyed speaking with Dan several times. He is a very engaging person. However, I don’t believe his spiritual journey represents someone making progress or moving upwards. He is definitely not a Fowler Stage 5 Mormon. We will have to look elsewhere for a good example of a Stage 5 Mormon. He seems the opposite of someone following in the path of a Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr. His lack of integrity is breathtaking in its audacity. If he answered the temple recommend interview questions with his stake president the way he did in the interview, he would not have a temple recommend or his church job as a priesthood instructor. His spiritual development seems to be progressing sideways at best, or more probably in reverse. His response to the Church seems highly pragmatic. It reminds me of Stan Larsen’s account of Thomas Ferguson’s response to the Church after his disillusionment with the Book Of Mormon. I can dissemble or prevaricate to the Church and pretend to be faithful because the Church has dissembled or prevaricated to me. Neither the Church’s position or Dan’s position seems truthful or admirable. Both are just game playing. Does lying for the Lord by the Church justify lying to our fellow man about our true beliefs? Dan’s mental gamesmanship reveals a chameoleon par excellence. Even so, I believe I am trying to hold Dan to too high of a standard. He has found a way to be happy in a very imperfect church. He is choosing happiness for himself and his family, rather than choosing to be right. Real life is very messy. I am now concluding it is impossible for Mormonism to produce a genuine Stage 5 spirituality. Mormonism is deeply flawed and contaminates the spirituality of anyone associated with it.

    • Cliff B March 17, 2011 at 5:00 pm - Reply


      When we find Truth and it claims us and we embrace it, what it says to us then is that the key to All is Love.


  37. Dan Wotherspoon March 5, 2011 at 4:00 am - Reply

    In one of the early comments, “Flanders” brought up the idea that the key impetus for my staying in Mormonism must be a fear of death. I think it’s fair to say that he or she is likely making this a centerpiece of his or her critical view of religious paths in general as nowhere in my interview is the question of death or what’s after life raised, and I think my comments on the Atonement as subjective and the goal is growth not being “saved” in heaven should indicate that this summary of my reasons are a swing and a miss in my case. So putting the specifics of my journey and motivations aside, let’s assume Flanders was conveying this as an attempt at a devastating critique of religion and a reason for dismissing religious paths as simply motivated by one of the very lowest (on any of a bunch of different maturity scales out there) levels of human motivations there is. Fear of death as basis for religion in the first place and why it hangs on even today in this Enlightened age is certainly a theory that’s out there, even getting a boost recently by Ricky Gervais’s making it central to his film, The Invention of Lying. Popular though it may be, it certainly isn’t a theory that is persuasive to me.

    Of course, plenty of people DO worry about death and other unknowns and therefore take refuge in comforting religious ideas. But does that mean fear of death is the origins of religion and the prime reason for its persistence? Hardly.

    The theories I find most persuasive are rooted in the notion that “myth” (story, explanation, theology, doctrine, etc.) followed “ritual” (actions that often produce certain types of experiences that people find deeply compelling), not the other way around. I said “followed” to indicate a speculation about its origins among early human beings, but I also believe these types of experiences, more than fear of death or other scary things, are STILL the reason for the persistence of religion and spiritual pathways. When you’re centered in experiences that tell you there’s more to you than what science, language, reason, and all the left-brain tools you can ever touch, the approaches that tell you you’re so much less than that amazing being lose their persuasive power; it becomes easy to recognize that their tools and approaches capture everything.

    I recognize it is a dangerous example to use (as it may look like I’m identifying those who argue that we as human beings are not deeper than what our amazing bodies make us as being representatives of Satan, which I’m not), but it’s akin to an experience attributed to Moses in Moses 1 of the Pearl of Great Price. (Disclaimer: Nothing I say here means this scripture story has to be taken as literally having happened. It’s got plenty of truth power even if there never was a Moses and there is no Satan. I think my interview makes it clear that I’d not need to believe this story is literally true to still honor it as powerful and insightful.) In the passages I’m talking about (versus 1-22), Moses has had majorly compelling experiences with God, and then Lucifer comes along and wants Moses to worship him. Moses basically responds that there’s a huge difference between his experiences with God and his experience of Satan, who has no glory around and about him. And then, following this encounter and rejection, Moses is then granted even deeper vistas into the nature of the universe, etc.

    This is the reason religion will always persist. Its deepest impulses are based in experiences with Spirit, in people having taken expeditions into the nested realities in which the material level is just one part. When someone wants to explore the reasons many people do stay with particular religions and pathways, etc., you absolutely can get some traction with the idea of fear as a primary motivator, but don’t think because you’ve seen a movie or heard the Four Horsemen and others throw out and universalize this piece of tripe that you’ve boxed all of religion up. Flanders note didn’t sum me up, and I’m guessing it also doesn’t fly for many, many people who regularly tune into Mormon Stories.

    • Dan Wotherspoon March 5, 2011 at 4:05 am - Reply

      Spotted an big omission of a word at the end of third paragraph. Last line should read, “it becomes easy to recognize that their tools and approaches DON’T capture everything.” A bit of a difference there! Sorry.

    • Cliff B March 17, 2011 at 5:25 pm - Reply

      Excellent because you agree with me, Dan. And I think we’re both right! Loved your interview. Love the decades of study you & I have both put into religion & God, and the net result. :-)

      Joseph Campbell, Bart Ehrman, Karen Armstrong, Ken Wilbur, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Joseph Smith, John Meier, Wayne Dyer, William James, William Dever, Juanita Brooks, Leonora Leet, Lon Milo Duquette, Richard Bushman, Carl Jung — I love ’em all!

      Soon: Dan Wotherspoon! :-)


  38. ao March 7, 2011 at 6:34 pm - Reply

    I just barely listened to this podcast and don’t have time to read through all the comments (forgive me if someone’s already asked this)- I’m wondering if Dan still has the same level of spiritual benefits through mormonism as when he was a true believer – or do these experiences only come through believing the religion literally?

    • Cliff B March 17, 2011 at 5:44 pm - Reply

      I’ll be bold and reply to you, ao.

      Can’t answer for Dan personally, so I’ll move on to my view of general experiences in religion respecting literal belief vs. a nuanced belief.

      Literal belief does cause a restriction of other beliefs and/or viewpoints, thus inhibiting a fullness of Truth, yet this is not necessarily a negative depending on one’s goals. For example, St. John of the Cross’ restrictions in “Ascent of Mt. Carmel” open one up to a numinous experience with Christ. If that is one’s goal, then his methods are beneficial.

      I do not believe the benefits between the two are of the same nature, yet I do believe that benefits can exist on both sides. And there is clearly some overlap. This has to do with the operation of the subconscious mind and its interaction with not only the conscious mind, but also the “divine”.

      I will not define “divine”. I cannot be held liable, etc. etc. ;-)


  39. dadsprimalscream March 12, 2011 at 12:11 am - Reply

    I discovered a fascinating article that would be good for additional reading “Preachers who are not Believers”

    It’s not just Mormons who process such thoughts and there are as many way of dealing with it as there are people.

  40. Bill March 24, 2011 at 1:33 pm - Reply

    As I listened to your discussion of your pre-CES experience @ BYU I remembered an experience I had in that same class (late 80’s) that made me realize that I was definitely NOT CES material. Bro. Packer was telling us that during the summer he worked on a road construction crew to make ends meet. One summer he announced to the crew that his wife was pregnant again (5th or 6th child, I don’t remember). One of the men on the crew made the comment “Well Rand, there are things you can do to keep that from happening!” Bro. Packer was absolutely incensed that a person could be so evil as to dishonor and trivialize the scarifices his wife made in bringing spirits into the world with such an insensitive comment such as that. I was chortling in my seat because I thought the comment was pretty funny! I made a mental note to remember it and use it some day! At that very moment, I realized that I was not the type of person that would be happy at CES!

  41. Anonymous April 13, 2011 at 5:28 pm - Reply

    Understanding Ozpoof’s situation ought to give us a better sense of the stresses felt by marginalized members. Sometimes it just makes us really ornery. We have every reason to expect to be treated in the church with an extra measure of kindness, tolerance, and fellowship, but find in constant subtle and sometimes insensitively direct ways genuine intolerance, persecution, and willful ignorance. Who could blame a person for considering leaving the church when genuine understanding can only be found outside, and the members have not lived up to their potential. Are we truly brothers and sisters of a loving Heavenly Father? Can we show that in our thoughts and deeds? That may be too much to ask of an adulatory membership led by Elder Packer. Sorry if I seem irascible, I’ve just had another posting erased from Deseret News.

  42. Mz.Liz May 26, 2011 at 4:54 pm - Reply

    I loved this interview! Great job John and Dan!

  43. Dbl_zout September 16, 2011 at 10:11 am - Reply

    Dan, I appreciate your honesty and willingness to share.  I think you’re a good man.  I couldn’t help but notice that quite a few of the questions posed to you by John were difficult to answer, which is evidence to me and hopefully evidence to you that what the Book of Mormon is is still a pretty profound mystery.  I have had my moments, horrifying moments, where I thought that the whole of Mormonism was just a big myth.  My way of dealing with it is to frankly admit to myself that I don’t know, and then to take it slowly.  I honestly can’t come up with a reason yet that it can’t be true.  When my doubts have been greatest I realize that I have sometimes set up straw men for myself.  This is a tendency that I see in both you and John. 

    For instance Priesthood Authority; we are taught that it is to be found only within the church.  So then we ask how could a loving God exclude and deny others the blessings of priesthood power?  But see that’s the straw man.  No one is denied anything.  Every sincere prayer and every sincere effort has it’s own blessing and power.  Priesthood is an official prescription.  Any ordinance is just a prescribed way of making covenants with God.  And why shouldn’t God lay out such prescriptions?  We learn from them.  Is He allowed to do anything officially?  Should we really roll our eyeballs at anything purporting to be official?

    In politics we can always tell what side of the political aisle a so called reporter is reporting from by the way they word things.  It only takes seconds.  A reporter will say “He used the issue to try to appeal to his base” and hope that we will ignore whatever the “issue” is and figure that it’s enough that we know what he was trying to do.  Phycologists love to use the word “cling” to disparage and “explore” to ennoble.  Am I clinging or exploring?  Well both.  Here is the takeaway:  Correlation is not causation.  The writers of the new testament or the old testament or writers of anything obviously had agendas, motivations, opinions, cultural biases and on and on.   Of course scriptures can be explained away in cynical terms.  Writers can “appeal to the base”.  Believers can “cling”.  Ulterior motives can motivate.  And the message can still be true.  The church can be True because correlation is not causation.  I think that the correlating stuff accounts for a lot of straw men.

    The “Stages of Faith” I think, have a very sneaky way of leading you to think that once you admit to yourself that you don’t really “know” anything you are destined to realize that you can never go “back” to believing in anything.  I say “sneaky” because everything you come to see in yourself and in others is probably entirely true, and your newly acquired beliefs are going to be more genuine.   But again it’s a straw man.  Twelve million clinging simpletons is not an argument against the church being True.  Without question, I’m a clinging simpleton and I know it.  I’m not comparing myself to others you understand, I mean ultimately!  We are all going through a process here, obviously, so I can forgive so many faults of the church and still see a divine hand in it.  I can still consider it “official” and a beacon.  Intellectually I haven’t been forced away.

    I have so much more to say, but alas it’s 3am.

  44. thingsIthink January 22, 2012 at 12:01 am - Reply


    You have moments of lucidity where you recognize mormonism for what it is.  You acknowledge where the evidence points.  And you can clearly explain the problems.  Then you have moments where you want to believe.  You don’t explain this well at all.  These moments have nothing to do with evidence.  It sounds like an “I don’t know” so it could be true.  I don’t know if I’ve ever heard someone talk for so long about a subject they know so much about and sound so conflicted.  It’s like you’re wrestling with an imaginary ape and you can’t stop.

  45. Emily September 20, 2012 at 4:48 pm - Reply

    Dan! I feel like I finally understand you more. I have been listening to mormon matter forever but only now listened to you story on here. I love what you said about how people universal powerful experiences as in “my wife is my soulmate,” and “this is the only true church.” I have definitely done that- after a powerful homebirth experience thinking “this is the one way to give birth.” and only later have I come to the realization that just because it was amazing for me does not make it right for everyone. Yay for letting go of black and white thinking and acknolwedging experiences for what they are- profound and powerful. You make me want to be a snowflake and add my voice to future positive changes and to look into the sand and not just the cat crap :)

    I do have a question (not sure if you still follow these comments or not!) but I have been quite interested in near death experiences lately. I find them to be fascinating and they strengthen my faith. Are you familiar with these types of stories and how do you frame them to make sense with your beliefs? I love how you look at things and am simply curious as to if you have thought about them and what your thoughts are.

    Thanks for sharing your perspective!

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