Join us now as we interview David Ostler, author of the new book “Bridges – Ministering to Those Who Question.” In Part 1 we will hear David’s story – focusing on how he came to write a book in support of disaffected Mormons. In Part 2 and Part 3 we will explore his book, digging into his suggestions for how to minister to Mormons who are struggling with their faith, and how the LDS church can become a more hospitable place for Mormons who question/doubt/disbelieve.

Part 1 – David shares his Mormon background:

Part 2 – We delve into the contents of David’s book:

Part 3 – We delve into the contents of David’s book, continued:


Part 1

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Part 2

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Part 3

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  1. Panhandle Rag September 25, 2019 at 3:31 pm - Reply

    I’m just beginning part 3 where he talks about the amazing Jesus. I know that there are some exes who didn’t just find problems in the BoM and then just accepted the Bible to be true, so I am wondering why David seems to just take all on Bible scripture on face value. The Bible has the same problems with anachronisms as does the BoM. And as we know the Mormon scriptures have been heavily changed since the original, at least we have copies of the originals with which to make comparisons. But there is no original manuscript of the Bible and therefore as talked about by Professor Ehrman on Mormon Stories, there is no way we can verify what Jesus, if he existed, either said or did. If we quote him, we can easily be misquoting him.

    David seems like a mild apologist to me. If the Church hopes to someday explain problems in Mormon scriptures, then why should they teach about Jesus, incorrectly, when there is such a discrepancy regarding the Old Testament verifying Jesus or not. In Gospel Doctrine, I have been taught that Isaiah prophesied the coming of Jesus and then I read why the Jews don’t believe in the Christ, and why that prophecy does not apply. If the Church is based on Jesus, shouldn’t we have proof of his existence. According to many schools of religion, there is no proof. So this realization knocks the church’s claims out of the water. Or does the Church believe in the Bible stories because the rest of the Christian world does?

    When I read the Book of Mormon, I knew it was true, but when I really studied it, I found it to not be inerrant. When I read the Bible, I knew it was the word of God and therefore Jesus was my Savior, but when I really studied it through reading class material of distinguished professors of religion, I no longer felt the Bible to be the inerrant word of God or that Jesus is divine.

    If struggling members read David’s book before they listen to podcasts or read about problems, they will likely keep their testimonies, but not after they read things such as Mormon Think or the CES letter, or listen to MS podcasts.

    • Craig October 1, 2019 at 9:39 pm - Reply

      > If struggling members read David’s book before they listen to podcasts or read about problems, they will likely keep their testimonies, but not after they read things such as Mormon Think or the CES letter, or listen to MS podcasts.

      His book isn’t targeted towards doubting members looking for answers, it’s for believing members who are trying to understand those with doubts or who have left. I read the book, loved it, and have never felt so well understood by someone within the church.

      It’s not an apologetic book. Rather than focussing on specific issues (though it mentions them), it shows believing members the trauma and pain it is to go through a faith crisis, and how to support those on that path. He mentions several times that the goal is to have real understanding relationships not to ‘bring people back’.

      Won’t be for everyone, but it was refreshing to read.

    • Craig Wilson October 1, 2019 at 9:44 pm - Reply

      > If struggling members read David’s book before they listen to podcasts or read about problems, they will likely keep their testimonies, but not after they read things such as Mormon Think or the CES letter, or listen to MS podcasts.

      His book isn’t targeted towards doubting members looking for answers, it’s for believing members who are trying to understand those with doubts or who have left. I read the book, loved it, and have never felt so well understood by someone within the church.

      It’s not an apologetic book. Rather than focussing on specific issues (though it mentions them), it shows believing members the trauma and pain it is to go through a faith crisis, and how to support those on that path. He mentions several times that the goal is to have real understanding relationships not to ‘bring people back’.

      Won’t be for everyone, but it was refreshing to read.

  2. Bill Ramsey September 26, 2019 at 6:46 am - Reply

    John and David thanks for a great interview just a few months ago I went to the podium and for some reason I blurted out that I would have shot Joseph myself just a tiny bit of research on Carthage jail and the council of Fifty and my 54 years as an active ongoing ward council member every calling image able were done the stake president chose to discredit me in public and there has been nothing done to help me through my dark night of the soul it’s still ongoing it’s like loosing my one and only safe space my wife and kids are still very active as are a few of my friends. But no one seems to know what to say or what to do I have a very bad case of spiritual lepracy The five truths speech given by president Nielsen th other day sent me over the edge. I have given my best to this church and for some reason I do not feel alone.

    • David September 27, 2019 at 8:44 am - Reply

      God bless you Bill,

      You are at a stage that you can now create your own personal theology.
      Work that out within your own soul as the kingdom of God is within you.

      Work out a personal theology that works best for you and that allows you to effectively mingle among those you associate with (the whole world).

    • John oreilly October 5, 2019 at 4:25 pm - Reply

      Spiritual lepracy what a fantastic description for us

  3. Del R Thornton September 27, 2019 at 1:48 am - Reply

    The biggest problem revolves around the church’s reliance upon using the power of shame and the use of the place that anyone who disagrees with a church authority that any person must repent. Until they change those basic beliefs the leadership will continue to struggle with relating people. Brother Oster has so real answers here. Have little faith that any real church leadership will listen

    • John oreilly October 5, 2019 at 4:33 pm - Reply

      I agree somewhat but i also believe the brethren will never understand its people . Why ?
      Because they exist in an uphoric bubble in an ivory wealthy tower . Do they desire to do good yes . They are well intended men . But if you notice the patern.. they will only change things when pressure build and they start loosing members ( tithing ) … remember the blacks and the priesthood … civil rights pushed the envelope . Would the blacks have the priesthood if the civil rights movement failed . Not according to Bruce R McKonkies revelation …. and now women can witness at baptisms .. ???
      to sum it up ..the brethren stuff a lollipop pop into the mouths of their winging child to quiet them . That is what I see .

  4. Peter September 27, 2019 at 11:19 am - Reply

    It’s been very interesting seeing David Ostler pop up around the internet these last few weeks. I’ll be very eager to see where his journey takes him over the coming years. Hopefully his book will be able to help reduce the pain for those making a religious transition or having a faith crisis. Cheers to that!

    One thing that I’m curious about is the use of the term “dark night of the soul.” It seems to be used in a Latter-day Saints context differently than I’m used to. The context that I most usually hear the term comes from Carmelite nuns and monks in the 1500s like John of the Cross and Terese of Avila. In that context a “dark night of the soul” refers to “spiritual dryness,” generally during prayer, and is related to growing spiritual maturity where one has a sense of emptiness without any spiritual “feel good” moments. This type of dark night of the soul is viewed as necessary in spiritual growth and can last either a long or short time since, according to the scholars I’ve hear speak of it, humans are called to move beyond spiritual “treats” and move towards a deeper understanding of their faith.

    I realize that this definition for a “dark night of the soul” would not work within a Mormon context since Mormonism closely connects feelings with truth (which I know doesn’t mesh well with most of the other groups in the broader Judeo-Christian world). It seems like within Mormonism this term is used to describe a faith crisis/collapse and the resulting existential crisis. Just curious of the root of the Mormon “dark night of the soul” which seems so different from the term from the 1500s. Maybe the definition has just grown over the years and I need to get updated or it’s just a coincidence that Mormons and Catholics are (once again) using the same word to mean two different things.

    • Dewey September 27, 2019 at 3:55 pm - Reply

      I’m with you Peter. This is the first time I’ve heard “dark night of the soul” used in an LDS context, and it seems John and David are using it as another term for “faith crisis”.

      Catholics use “dark night” to describe a general lack of communication from God (God goes dark on you for a while). I experienced this for 13 years myself as a mormon. I haven’t found an equivalent LDS term for this experience, seeing as how we associate most positive feelings with the spirit as you mentioned.

      • Peter September 27, 2019 at 6:50 pm - Reply

        Dewey, how fascinating. That must have been a real challenge to go through. I hope you weren’t viewed negatively by your ward or family. As you seem familiar with the Catholic use of the term, I hope that means that you were about to lean on other theological and intellectual traditions for help/spiritual guidance or direction during that part of your journey.

        And, I agree with your second comment, hearing the story of a Mormon who has gone through this type of “dark night” would be very thought provoking! I wonder how common it is.

        • Dewey October 10, 2019 at 11:24 pm - Reply

          It was quite a challenge Peter, and I’ve got 13 years of confused journal entries to show for it. And as you mention ward and family, the feeling of being abandoned by God is compounded by mormon views on the gift of the holy ghost that more or less state that you only lose the spirit by sinning. So the people I went to for guidance could only assume I had sinned God out of my life.

          I unfortunately didn’t learn of the Catholic’s understanding of this situation until recently but, regardless, things turned out better than I could have expected. Although by the end of that 13 years I had lost 90% of my LDS beliefs, I now understand the meaning of my “dark night” and count it as one of the most profound and positive experiences of my life.

    • Dewey September 27, 2019 at 4:30 pm - Reply

      I would be very interested to know how many of your listeners have had a Catholic style “dark night of the soul” faith crisis, John. I haven’t heard you interview anyone like that yet.

      • Anthony Miller September 27, 2019 at 9:39 pm - Reply

        A divine absence, “God leaving the corner of the room where we once knew Him, the experience of the heavens closing, and essentially, the “Dark Night of the Soul”, seems to be more common among those who experience an acute crashing of past constructs of how we interpret spiritual experiences.

        At least, that was my experience. My interview was in August.

        • Peter September 29, 2019 at 8:35 am - Reply

          Hi Anthony! I believe that the challenge between distinguishing between the Catholic use of the term “dark night of the soul” and the Mormon use of the term is that a lot of the descriptors sound familiar. I think the biggest difference is that this Mormon dark night you’re referring to would be part of a faith crisis and the crashing of assumptions. In the Catholic context, a “dark night” would never be related with a collapse or crisis of faith. The experience that Catholics identify with as a “dark night of the soul” is actually fairly positive in that it is viewed as an experience associated with being drawn closer to God to the point that the person begins to understand how unnecessary “feel good” spiritual experiences actually are in the grand scheme of things and is able to much better turn themselves outward towards others through agape (self-giving/self-sacrificial) love.

          I don’t think that I’m doing a good job expressing the Catholic use of the term “dark night of the soul.” :) The challenge with such a complex Catholic theological term (which I admit, I have a far from perfect understanding of) is that the more I study the more I’m struck that Catholic theology seems to be the antithesis of LDS theology. Even when Catholic and Mormon theology comes to the same (or at least similar) conclusions, the way they get there is completely different. Even the way of determining truth (reason/discernment vs. feelings/burning in bosom), meaning of life (moving from selfishness to love vs growing in worthiness for exaltation), etc. are so different that Catholic terms like “dark night of the soul” seem to be stacked upon so many assumptions about God, life, love, etc. that it’s hard to even frame in an LDS perspective. I’m still learning myself!

          It might be better to actually read John of the Cross’s Ascent of Mount Carmel and The Dark Night, but here are some high-level descriptions that I found online about the concept.

    • John oreilly October 5, 2019 at 4:44 pm - Reply

      Your completely right peter about the dark night of the soul . And yes it has been plagerised .
      Trouble is there is little hope of renewal or resurgence of faith in the Mormon DNS . Eventually we continue on with the pattern of study and discovering deception in all scriptural and religious avenues like Sherlock Holmes and a magnifying glass . The result is a complete lack of trust and believe in any man made religion or faith or cult .
      I’m thinking (as dramatic as it may be ) we should call it Dark Death of the soul …

      • John oreilly October 5, 2019 at 5:07 pm - Reply

        Earlier I mentioned dark night of the soul should be Called death of the soul I hope not to have made this sound like there is no hope what I actually meant was death of faith in men made religions it is still very likely that we have a soul

  5. Rex September 27, 2019 at 1:21 pm - Reply

    Yeah, unsatisfying interview. It seems as though David, although seemingly kind and loving, just brings another unclear and flowery apologetic, without settling down to the real problems and disconnect that would be present after any Gospel Doctrines class on any given Sunday. The disconnect about the reality of post Mormon and the everyday Mormonism is stark when one attends their meetings and absorbs the messages of Mormon Leadership. Nelson’s call for obedience first, seeking truth as given through the hierarchy is the message, and members are absorbing and entrenching in the face of loved ones presenting compelling reasons for exodus.

    David’s list of why people leave; History, GLBTQ issues, gender roles, feelings of judgement and anxiety, concerns of prophetic leadership and revelation, cultural language issues, political conservatism, mental and emotional challenges, and mellenial concerns. Most of that list still smacks of “leaving because they’re offended” tropes, and John hit it when he mentioned that history and the empirical evidence against the big issues, BoM historicity, (yes, DNA is huge) BoA historicity, the translation process, the issue of Adam and Eve, Abraham, Moses, Noah, the flood, the Tower of Babel, are fictitious events and people, are glossed over and not given the gravity they deserve, especially in the minds of Post Mormons who’ve moved on, and the fact that Given’s and other accommodating apologists who write about such things are completely unsatisfying.

    Good luck with the Book, and your message is positive for the most part I’m sure, but like a mist that never settles down, I don’t think a flowery language will reach many who have legitimate concerns about the facts of history. It’s been said that one does not need their faith to be completely proven right, but one does need a faith that is not completely falsifiable. What’s left are the universals, and really, isn’t that most new-apologists are going? And before we throw the “Only true church” meme under the bus, don’t forget that this is a restorationist church which claims that the lost priesthood was restored, and that the saving ordinances can only be validated through this priesthood, making the Mormon baptism and other saving ordinances the only valid ordinances, and we all know what the Bible says about being born of the water and the spirit. The entire ethos of our church revolves around this restored tradition, and the “only true and living” church statement has to be the correct assumption. But silly me, attending GD class and all,

  6. Bruce September 27, 2019 at 5:04 pm - Reply

    John, during the interview, you mention in passing that one of the current presidents of the 70 has lost his faith. Did I hear that right? I would imagine that you cannot mention his name, but if true, you’ve narrowed the list down quite a bit!

  7. Nathan September 29, 2019 at 7:29 am - Reply

    Dear John and David, Thank you for the interview. I sincerely appreciate the tone of kindness between you during your discussions.

    I enjoyed hearing about the process of finding a publisher and why Deseret Book chose not to publish David’s book. When the book was released I was grateful that the publisher was not Deseret Book. As a young man I enjoyed collecting church books (including Church President biographies) but I now somewhat avoid purchasing books from Deseret Book. I don’t want to give the church more money if I can avoid it. They are starting to publish books by the Givens that have more nuance and push back against some of the dominant narratives of church culture. That is good but I still have the impression that much of their content contains ineffective apologetics. What I have read of Fair Mormon’s apologetics concerning Book of Mormon historicity doesn’t resonate with me. I feel the church relies on such apologetics to make gray areas to answer members’ questions without having to really take a stand.

  8. Marcus Lee September 30, 2019 at 10:03 pm - Reply

    Really enjoyed this one, loved the tone. I’ve met several Ostler’s over the years, I’m also fb friends with David’s brother (Richard) highest regards to this family! I served a mission in New Hampshire so can relate to some of the remarks in regards to the region. I’m most fascinated by intelligent people that are well read that remain in the Church. I just can’t seem to find a way to process the information I’ve learned in recent years any differently. While in the Church I use to think I knew something none of my non-member friends knew. Now on the other side of the fence, once again, I think I know things very few of my member friends know. I watch my member friends tilt their head at me and hear their subtle remarks. I actually admire, what I perceive as, naivety. Sometimes I wish I knew less, there was a certain peace that I now can’t seem to find. I also know (idiom) I can’t put the genie back in the bottle. I know what the Church response to my comments will be… Maybe I have lost the Spirit, I get it! I wish it was that simple. How do I get the Spirit back without unlearning what I now know?

  9. Kent October 7, 2019 at 2:02 pm - Reply

    I just finished the three hours of interviews with David Ostler. I have been studying most of the big questions raised by this book for the last 64 years, beginning when I was 14. I think I finally have most of it figured out. The next question is how put some of that research to work. I am impressed that David Ostler made this leap toward a solution. I’m hoping that my practical and theoretical studies could mesh with his statistical studies and leadership experience and result in some program plans. I have ordered his book, but I haven’t received it or read it yet, although the interviews covered many of the topics.

    I have yet to find a person who can handle the truth of what is actually going on, but perhaps David Ostler and John Dehlin are such people. I intend to remain cryptic at this point, since most people are so clueless as to what is going on, and it would take at least one large book to begin to explain all, but the key concept has something to do with charity — THE critical issue in the New Testament. Perhaps this blog comment will serve as a way to create a “bridge” to one or both of these men, and they will contact me. I might try a few other routes as well. Gospel studies should not have to be reduced to a tense “spy versus spy” environment to make any progress, as we see with the “Democrats versus Trump” farce which plays out every day, but perhaps that is part of the new reality.

  10. WOMAN'S VOICE January 2, 2020 at 9:38 pm - Reply

    I’m trying to stay. I think that the more fundamentally one was raised, the more painful the deception is. My husband is a true believer, so it’s complex and painful. I don’t think I could stay married to him, if I thought that he couldn’t get over judging me and thinking I have “spiritual leprosy.” Though my faith journey of 8 years, I have found a place that works for me at church. It took a long time for me to “come out” to my bishop. But it felt really good to do so. The entire bishopric came to my house and I talked about my faith journey. They listened. My bishop didn’t know what an apologist was, so I’m quite sure he had never even questioned anything. But he was very kind. Allowing me to talk and them to listen meant so much to me. It probably saved me from leaving completely. After, we all knelt down and in the prayer I was blessed that I would get my faith back. Ha! But it was still said with a good heart. I wanted to tell them that they should pray for themselves, and that they could learn to accept me just the way I am. David, I ordered your book. I intend to read it to my husband and then pass it on to my bishop. Thanks for a good podcast.

  11. Richard MORGAN August 25, 2020 at 1:30 am - Reply

    For generations you have been gas-lighting us, lying to us, manipulating and controlling us, taking our money and our time and now you think you are in a position to minister to us?
    Thanks, but no thanks.
    I can imagine nothing more grotesque than the abuser “ministering” to the abused.

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