SUPER honored/proud to release my latest interview with Heidi Nielson Packard and Dr. Josh Packard. This powerful, informative, and in-depth interview covers:

  • Heidi and Josh’s very orthodox Mormon upbringing and early years as Mormons. For those interested, Heidi’s brother is Christian Nielson, who is married to Stephanie Nielson of the NieNie Dialogues blog (sister to Courtney Clark Kendrick or CJane)
  • Their faith crisis involving science and LDS history (reading Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling), which resulted in Josh asking to be released from the bishopric,
  • How Heidi and Josh found value in secular humanism as a way to raise their children after Mormonism,
  • How the military community has helped to meet there social needs after leaving Mormonism, and
  • How they overcame early “mistakes” in communicating with believing family, resulting in more loving, respectful relationships with believing family members today.


Part 1: Joshua and Heidi give an introduction:

Part 2: Joshua and Heidi detail their faith crisis

Part 3: Joshua and Heidi discuss healing relationships challenged by a faith transition

Part 4: Joshua and Heidi discuss forming a new paradigm, raising their children, and finding a supportive community

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:


  1. Leah April 5, 2017 at 1:15 pm - Reply

    I respect that he gave her time to think about the church and choose for herself. I wish that for my husband but I also acknowledge that he needs time. Already made the mistake in telling someone who thought they were ready to hear my doubts, but in return, tried to argue against me and give answers on pure speculation on regards to church history.
    My husband grew up with a mother who was inactive for 11 years over church history and thats why he supports my choice to follow my own integrity regarding the church and their false claims of being “perfect and true.”
    I enjoyed these videos and wish them the best.

  2. Mike April 6, 2017 at 1:14 am - Reply

    Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water!

    In this case the baby being: not drinking alcohol.

    When you start using alcohol as a “social lubricant” you’ve got to ask yourself: why can’t I just relax in this situation anyway?

    Maybe there are some underlying issues that need exploring?

    Alcohol is so insidious, what starts out as fun, can, for some physiologies, turn into a crutch.

    • Jeff April 6, 2017 at 2:06 pm - Reply

      Try it first, and then comment.

      I used to fully agree with you–until I had a drink. There’s a pleasant buzz there that I now find one of life’s great pleasures. I don’t like getting drunk, I don’t like how I feel after more than a couple of drinks, but it’s absolutely true that it tends to open things up in social situations–pleasantly, and not to the point of making bad decisions. I think it was Tanner Gilliland who put it most succinctly–“you can have without roller coasters too, but that’s not a reason to avoid all roller coasters.”

      • Mike April 7, 2017 at 2:28 am - Reply

        I drank for 30 years, I live in a culture where almost everyone drinks. Giving up drinking was one of the best things I’ve ever did for my physical and mental health.

        The problem is, for some people, over time, that buzz becomes a need and an escape. And when it’s a social norm, part of the weekend routine, part of having fun, that’s when it gets its nasty little hooks into you.

        All drinking alcohol is ethanol. Ethanol is a neurotoxic, psychoactive, addictive drug.

        It’s a triumph of marketing: selling flavoured poison (“A peaty single malt”). That might sound over the top but make no mistake alcohol can destroy lives.

        I’m not religious and never have been but I think some religions’ take on alcohol is one of the more healthy and wise aspects of their teachings.

        Just be careful, if you ever find yourself not feeling comfortable without having a drink, ask yourself why.

    • Debbie April 9, 2017 at 10:24 pm - Reply

      Mike, you are correct that some people misuse alcohol and other substances, and some can develop serious, life-altering addictions. And, when you feel you “need” something, like a friend by your side, to engage in social situations, you can learn something from examining why you feel insecure or inept.

      I think it is important is to understand the risks and signs of addiction. There is evidence to indicate that risk factors matter, but the great majority of people use alcohol and other drugs, including legal medications, without developing the negative consequences you are concerned about.

  3. square peg April 6, 2017 at 10:56 am - Reply

    I wish that my extended family had the desire to engage in conversation with me over why I left. It has remained awkward and tense for all the years since I left. It hurts me deeply that they don’t even seem to care about why I left or why I’m hurting. It just feels like my feelings are required to be put on the back burner and that their feelings and beliefs take precedence for some reason. I feel obsessed with wanting to be understood or seen in a good light. As John calls it, I guess I am suffering from a fierce case of the “Nephi Complex.” On Facebook my relatives can post religious memes and scriptures and ensign article links. They are free to have their voices, but if I try to do the same with information like CES letter or Mormon Stories, I get called out on it. I am not one who likes to be controversial, so I have tried very hard to suppress all of my feelings, emotions, articles, etc. I feel like I have a volcano inside of me that wants to erupt, but I can’t because I don’t want to make waves or hurt their feelings. Yet I feel angry because they never seem to even attempt to have the same consideration towards me! That really makes it feel like somehow their opinions are more valid and somehow more important than mine are. I want them to understand that I left for LEGITIMATE reasons(I wasn’t sinning), but I am not willing to make them all angry at me by doing so. So I try to hold it all in and feel very resentful and angry that they can have a voice, but I can’t. I have struggled with significant depression throughout this. I feel very isolated and I often feel that they assume I’m depressed because I’ve “lost the spirit”, instead of realizing I am depressed that I can no longer communicate in the deep ways that I have always enjoyed. I don’t feel connected to them anymore and I am a person who can’t thrive with superficial relationships. My husband has remained in the church and I have often said too much to him on too many occasions because I was so desperate to get things out that I couldn’t get out to anyone else. But I cannot talk to my son who still is in the church or to my parents or my brother or any of the other relatives that I still want to have a meaningful relationship with. It is great to hear that some families are willing and able to do the hard work that is required to put the relationship first and to willingly engage in active listening. I don’t think that scenario will ever be mine, but I am happy to hear that once in awhile people are able to heal some of the relationships that became so strained once a family member becomes disaffected. Thanks so much for sharing your story. I enjoyed it very much.

    • Heidi Packard April 6, 2017 at 6:09 pm - Reply

      I sympathize with your feelings of wanting to be heard and to be able to express your opinions and beliefs without feeling like your family is attacking you. It is a very difficult place to be in, and I’m so sorry you’re going through that right now.

    • Debbie April 9, 2017 at 10:29 pm - Reply

      Dear Square Peg,

      You are exactly the kind of person I like to spend time with. I think the journey you are on is amazing. I am simply unable to have the kinds of conversations I want to have with certain family members. But, I realize now, that they will simply rain on my parade… I want to enjoy the parade, and I have had to seek out new friends to share with. One group I’ve been part of is a “Recovering from Religion” group. and I’ve also been very involved in humanist and atheist meetups/chapters. In these meetings I can be myself… honestly. But… I do miss being on the same page with people I dearly love… :-( I have stopped agreeing to read yet another Christian apologist book until they read one of my books. Period! Fair is fair!!

  4. ECH April 6, 2017 at 12:33 pm - Reply

    Enjoyed listening to the podcast. However, if there is no afterlife, why don’t we all then ignore the Ten Commandments and make sure we don’t get caught.

    • Heidi Packard April 6, 2017 at 4:20 pm - Reply


      We didn’t really have the time to touch on this during the podcast, but there are many books, podcasts, and articles that explore your question in depth. The short answer is: there is very little evidence to support the claim that morality comes from a supernatural being. More likely, human morality is rooted in our evolutionary history, since altruistic behavior gives species, groups, and even individuals an evolutionary advantage.

      One of the most helpful books for me on this subject, was Jonathan Haidt’s book “The Righteous Mind.” He synthesizes much of the current research on morality and how it influences the way we think. Also, Richard Dawkins’ book “The God Delusion” addresses the question pretty well. These are just two examples that come to mind, but there are many more out there if you are interested.

    • Debbie April 9, 2017 at 10:33 pm - Reply

      It feels totally awesome to be a GOOD person. To be worthwhile, to be in service to others, to love and care about others, and to have them love and care about me. So… I do what I can to avoid hurting others… and myself and the planet. Simple.

      In addition… may I point out that the “ten” commandments are not all about being a good person. Nothing in there about treating men and women equally, or taking special care of the vulnerable, like children. We can all think of ways to improve upon the ten commandments.

      But hey! If you need to believe that “God will get you in the afterlife” in order to not rape, rape and pillage… then please… keep on believing! PLEASE!!

  5. square peg April 6, 2017 at 3:05 pm - Reply

    I also think that it is much easier for couples who both end up leaving to move forward. If you have one in and one out, you both end up feeling stuck. The active one feels they can’t move forward fully without their spouse on the gospel path with them. The spouse who is out is trying to redefine their identity outside of the church, but isn’t able to fully do so when they still feel like one foot is in the church because they know that their spouse still sees them and views their loss of faith through the church’s lens. It makes very difficult dynamics for both. So I am envious of couples who are able to leave together. However, I am deeply in love with my husband-for who he is as an individual-not for who he is because of the church. He is trying very hard to be respectful of me and love me for who I am, instead of who the church now assumes I no longer am because I left. But it is still very difficult for both of us to straddle the divide of two people who believe so differently. We are both desirous to be respectful of what the other believes, but it does too often feel unbalanced-with one feeling superior (even if it’s subconsciously)and the other feeling their beliefs are looked down upon. I know it can be done, but I still will always wish (as does he) that we could be on the same page.

  6. Deven April 6, 2017 at 3:06 pm - Reply

    Great podcast! I really enjoyed hearing from the Packards, they are a lovely couple. One question I was hoping would be in the podcast and that I am always self evaluating with is “what if Im wrong” (How will I react? How much being wrong can I handle? Am I respectful/Brave enough as a human to be true to being wrong?) How do you guys apply this question? Im not implying anything one way or another here. Towards the end of the interview you explained your current state of mind, it seemed to be grounded on facts. So much more information and new information through new technology often times changing what we thought we knew about something. It seems this question is what lead you out of the LDS church, So how does this apply to your paradigm now and perhaps in the future? To what extent is this relevant?

    • Heidi Packard April 6, 2017 at 4:05 pm - Reply

      Hi Deven, thanks for listening.

      I think your question is a great one and extremely relevant. I think it’s important for all of us to question our beliefs from time to time. I have absolutely considered the idea that I might be wrong, and I’m very open to changing my mind, in light of new evidence. And I expect (and hope!) that I will change my mind as I continue to grow and learn and mature.

  7. Nancy Melendez April 6, 2017 at 9:34 pm - Reply

    Thank you for sharing your story. You are very lucky you made this journey together and I appreciate that you did it both in your own way and time but fairly close in proximity. I am interested in hearing much more detail about the children. How did each one react? How did you all stop attending – cold turkey or over time? How did the kids deal with that life change in habit and belief? Did the kids experience any fall out from losing friends or such – you mentioned moving so perhaps that wasn’t really an issue for the kids either? It would be fascinating to have an interview with the children! I am very interested in the conversation you mentioned you had – or at least you mentioned when Josh told them – but how do you even begin such a conversation? How do you explain that something you have taught them and based your whole family life around, you don’t believe anymore? Again, very interesting, thank you!

  8. M+R April 7, 2017 at 2:45 pm - Reply

    What a great episode! I really enjoyed hearing your perspectives and experiences, but above all, I value hearing about a couple that has gone through a faith transition together and are doing well! I feel like our story has a lot of similarities to yours – husband doubting and out first, wife following at her own slow pace (I’m still active right now, and so very conflicted). Our kids are even between the ages of 5 and 12. I worry most about how this impacts our sweet kids, especially our oldest who just started in YW this fall. Okay, and my other worry is – since my husband left the church first, I feel this added pressure from our parents to stay active and keep the kids in. Did you feel that pressure? It’s hard knowing I have the potential to double-hurt our parents for leaving – it’s a double let-down since not only would I be leaving, but I was their best hope to keep our kids in the church and hopefully bring hubby back in too…. Anyway, leaving the church is not easy. I’m glad for a great husband and support and glad to hear about other couples and families coming out the other side in tact and happy.

    Thank you for sharing your story!

  9. Getting better every day April 8, 2017 at 9:43 am - Reply

    I, too, enjoyed the podcast. I dropped out 5 years ago and although relations have improved with our only child, I only communicate with grandkids once a year. Things just aren’t the same as when we were in the Church.

    Speaking to ECH on the Ten Commandments and the afterlife, there are many good Buddhists, Hindus, and the followers of other non- Bible based religions, who lead good moral lives and they don’t follow the ten Commandments. But, since no one has the original manuscripts of the Bible, and the ones we do have have been hand copied and hand copied for over thousands of years, we don’t even know whether those words were even written by a god. And though many mainstream Christians seem to think that God forced all those manuscript copiers to write his words (even though few manuscripts agree), Latter-Day Saints believe in agency not force.

    Before I joined the Church, I was raised in a family where my mother and I would occasionally go to church so I was taught the Ten Commandments. But after working summers in Alaska, I developed the habit of drinking. I had pre-marital sex and I was rather dishonest in some ways. In my more than 40 years in the Church I changed into a good person. I am still very honest and I am faithful to my wife. Right after I quit going, I purchased a case of beer which I have not consumed in these five years. I drink coffee, but medical research says it is a good preventative of cancer and diabetes, so I certainly don’t feel guilty. I am thankful that the Church kept me from becoming an alcoholic like my dad was. The LDS Church is a good church but it is definitely not what it says it is–the only true church, and its history is a real white-wash job.

    But I, too, did as Josh did. I tried to tell all my close friends what I had found out. I thought that they loved me enough to be able to help me in my faith crisis, but Mormons only say they love people. When it comes right down to it, few really do. I have only kept one friend. I had a few friends who were as close as brother–sister, but many will not even talk to me. I don’t look at ex-Mormon sites anymore, but I do go to Mormon Stories often. Thanks John!

  10. Michele April 9, 2017 at 12:24 pm - Reply

    I enjoyed listening to your story, and especially the analogy of barriers – being important, but that it doesn’t need to be a brick wall. I found that your white picket fence with yellow roses type of barrier as the best that I’ve ever heard. It shows kindness and good manners, both very important to me. Thank you!

    • Debbie April 9, 2017 at 10:36 pm - Reply

      Well said Michelle.

  11. beth bunnage April 11, 2017 at 4:58 am - Reply

    hi Heidi and josh, thank you for a really interesting podcast, l would recommend you listening to heart of the matter with shawn macraney, he is truly inspiring to me, l believe that the evidence of Mormonism speaks for itself in the fact that the root of Mormonism isn’t really biblical and so much of the book of Mormon has been plagarised from the bible, we now know that the book of Abraham is not what it claimed to be and the book of Mormon itself is more inspired work from joseph than anything else, in fact there were no gold plates at all, is that not true, so it just seems to me to be pretty self evident, thanks again jon Heidi and josh for a great interview, keep them coming, would love to see an interview with Donny Osmond and betty eadie, god bless.

  12. Jen April 12, 2017 at 3:58 am - Reply

    Thanks for sharing! Our family of 5 recently left and it is so great to see a family that has good relationships with tbm relatives and that has kids who seem to be turning out well. I don’t know you, but I think you’re my new role model. Thanks and best of luck in the future!

  13. ps April 14, 2017 at 6:24 am - Reply

    Usually when I listen to these transitions podcasts, it’s the people leaving that behave the best. But, this was interesting in that it was the still-believing family members who were trying their best to keep the relationship and the couple who made mistakes. Kudos to the Packards for being humble enough to share their story.

  14. Melissa D April 15, 2017 at 7:49 am - Reply

    I identified with their story so much. I had similar experiences as well. I love the metaphor of the kite and bird in the last part. I really feel so much happier and at peace in this life. I dont have to let things work themselves out in a hereafter I can just, enjoy life right now.

    Again, i agree that the pressure to raise my daughters so they follow the same path I followed is gone now. I am at peace letting them choose the path they want to go

    Living a secular life is the way to go!

  15. Lori April 15, 2017 at 10:14 am - Reply

    I really loved this podcast. The Packards are a cute, sweet couple with lots of great advice! Thank you for sharing your story.

    There was just one message from John I thought was a little troubling. John said that people who leave the church should submit to the unfair and hurtful treatment they receive from TBM family if they want to preserve the relationship. John said people who leave should not try to share why they left, which is a natural and reasonable thing to do. Just like Josh, anyone would want to share the real reasons they left because of the silly and insulting reasons a mormon always learns at church. Many times family relationships are so intertwined with the church that it is impossible to avoid the hurtful conversations that result from someone leaving. What kind of relationship is preserved if the participants cannot or do not discuss one of the most important parts of their lives, or one of the most profound changes in someone’s life? For me, very impersonal and shallow relationships with family struggle along because we cannot and do not communicate about this topic. It is not the fault of the person leaving that their TBM family members cannot receive information and communicate like adults about the mormon church. This is the fault of the church that conditions its members to put the wall up in a relationship when someone leaves or even questions. As Josh’s story demonstrates, his relationship with his family did not improve until his TBM family learned how to communicate and treat him fairly on the topic of the church. Kudos to his parents for being willing to do whatever it took to improve their relationship!

    I know that many members will not be able to do what Josh’s parents did, but there has to be a better way than remaining a victim to this terrible organization. I think people who leave and know from others’ stories that unloading on their TBM family will not be productive should absolutely be sensitive and reveal information judiciously. I don’t think they should have to hold their tongue forever more and cater to the hurtful tactics mormons are conditioned to dish out just so their family will speak to them. TBMs should be treated like the adults they are who can see unfairness in relationships based on any other topic. Sometimes TBM family demand to know why someone leaves and then will not tolerate hearing the reasons why! This is not right and anyone, including TBMs, should know this. I think gently pointing this out and continuing to try to have a REAL relationship may be a better way for everyone. Holding TBMs accountable for their behavior in a relationship, while recognizing the conditioning they have received, does not seem out of bounds to me. Struggling along being someone else other than you are to “preserve the relationship” doesn’t feel like much of a relationship at all.

  16. Emma April 17, 2017 at 12:15 am - Reply

    Thank you all for sharing
    But I think we need to remember that it took them years to transition out of the church Their pain and the grieving were touched on only lightly

    We meet them at a certain point in their post mormon life . After grieving and now enjoying the freedom

    But it is the shock of discovery and the grieving and the loss that we all have in common…..and we need to talk more about those things– how the church affected us and how difficult it was to leave it

    That is the common experience we share

    The choices they’ve made since leaving the church are simply an expression of their freedom and right to choose what they feel is good for them

    we need to realize that all of us who leave the church now experience our own unique way of seeing life and what we think will make us happy

    …… we are all very different in those choices

    I respect their right to choose to be atheist and drink alcohol — but there are many of us who leave the church who still believe in God and may not drink alcohol–this is just as an example of the different choices we make

    I respect their choices now—and not see them is right or wrong — just different than mine

    We all share that grieving and pain and we all share that freedom and joy to choose

    On another note —–John You said you encourage people to be careful and even withhold their personal feelings and thoughts about the church—if there is a chance they will be rejected and they want to maintain relationships

    But I know you experienced the same thing we all do—-The deep pain of being lied to and now being rejected because we see the truth

    It’s really such a personal thing and each relationship might be different–

    It is natural for us want to share with our loved ones our deepest feelings–we want them to know who we are —because that is part of having a close relationship–why can’t we respect their beliefs and they respect ours

    We shouldn’t be ashamed or fearful for sharing honestly truth that we have found
    At the same time we have to face the reality that we may be rejected by judgmental –close minded —self-centered —fearful people. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that the people who love us the most won’t hear our deepest feelings

    It is not an easy choice–and it does take a lot of courage to speak the truth in the face of rejection. it’s difficult to hide our true thoughts and feelings –sometimes we feel as though we’re not being true to ourselves–cognitive dissonance

    So I have spoken out to some of the people I knew would reject my experience and choices
    At the same time there are others in my family who I have not spoken out because I know they don’t want to hear it

    Although I did say something like …..”there are many things I found out about the church that concerned me and I would like to share them with you when you’re ready”

    But I think there is a great yearning and Need to be understood by those we love–especially as we begin our transition

    We have been hurt deeply and want those that we love to understand—

    And also we don’t want to be treated as though we are weak or sinful or being led away by Satan–because in reality Were trying to find truth and follow what we know is right–basically we are still good people

    What do you all think?

  17. Sarah H. April 20, 2017 at 4:57 am - Reply

    Heidi I was so interested to hear your story. I am a Mesa girl too. I had the luck to attend some of those fun parties at la casa de Nielson. Great house. Great family. #TeamSteve thank you for sharing your story.

  18. KG April 21, 2017 at 4:49 am - Reply

    This was the first podcast of Mormon stories I made it all the way through all episodes because your story resonated so similarly with our situation. From being ultra-faithful… going to medical/dental school and residency… moving and finding large groups full of transplanted young LDS families forming book clubs, study groups etc… starting life in the military and adjusting to that culture… feeling a lack of answers/fulfillment from church activity… finding happiness through serving the country while raising a family…

    I like how you talked about the military aspect. It reminded me of an experience I had in Japan a few years ago. The Area President was Elder Stevenson (now Quorum of 12). Upon visiting a military mormon congregation for the first time he was amazed there were mostly families there. He said he thought LDS military congregations consisted mostly of 18-22 year olds who didn’t listen to the prophet by choosing military service instead of going on a mission. (face palm!) Among other things, it showed there is a general lack of knowledge about what it is like to be LDS in the military.

    Thank you for telling your story which in many respects is also “our” story.

  19. Mellissa Mabey May 16, 2017 at 2:42 pm - Reply

    Heidi and Josh, thank you so much!! My husband and I just transitioned out of the church (few months ago) and your story has been most inspirational to us! My husband is an anesthesiologist resident, and I’m a SAHM with 6 children. My oldest two are in college and one of them is a RM. I’m trying to create a new identity and you give me so much hope! I want to know more about your feminism awakening and how you came to be an atheist? I have so many questions for you!! Is it possible to get in contact? Thank you again for being so brace and sharing your story!

  20. Sue May 21, 2017 at 12:06 am - Reply

    I get the impression that John thinks the most common reaction of TBM families to someone leaving the church or having a faith crisis is to distance from them or worse. Perhaps John is just coming across those who have bad experiences, by virtue of his particular career and also the demographics of this forum. Two of our four children have been alienated from the church because of historical issues, and it hasn’t negatively impacted our relationship with them at all. We are sorry that they don’t attend any more, but they are adults, and we certainly respect their right to self determine on their beliefs. They are good people, and that hasn’t changed. We would be unwilling to give up our relationship with them, because they are too important to us…and vice-versa. An increasing number of our friends seem to be in the same boat with one or more of their children, and I can’t see that any of them have given up on their close family relationships in any regard. Just wanted to put that out there to add some balance to the discussion. Thanks.

  21. Protagoras July 14, 2018 at 8:50 pm - Reply

    Protagoras found this pod cast very interesting

  22. Barry Bowers September 6, 2019 at 9:34 am - Reply

    Hey John.
    One comment I have when couples like Heidi and Josh start to talk about how they will not be together in the next life, that is only according to Joseph Smith. It’s a tactic he invented to manipulate his followers to conform. Many non Mormon couples believe that their love and their commitment to each other is forever. JS and his church, are the only ones disputing that idea. The idea that families and husband and wives will be together in the next life, exists outside of Mormonism. Please remind listeners and those you interview of this fact.

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