Join us now for our Mormon Stories Podcast series on “How to Survive BYU as an Unorthodox or Non-Believing Student.” We will be interviewing Bradley, Alana, Jared, and Andrew—co-founders of the “BYU Survival Guide”—a survival guide for “Ex-Post-NOM-Never-Mormon” BYU students.

We first interview each former student one-on-one to get a sense of their Mormon story and how their faith changed—inevitably impacting their experience at BYU. We learn how each navigated their unique experience and what advice they have to offer students who are now in similar situations.

Our final episode includes a panel discussion with all 4 students as they share their motivations behind creating the BYU Survival Guide.

Please share this info with anyone who you think might benefit from it, including any past, present, or future BYU-Provo, BYU–Idaho, and BYU-Hawaii students.

Part 1 – Bradley and Alana share their story:

Part 2 – Bradley and Alana share their story, continued:

Part 3 – Jared shares his story:

Part 4 – Andrew shares his story:

Part 5 – Our panel discusses their motivations behind the “BYU Survival Guide”:


Part 1

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Part 2

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Part 3

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Part 4

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Part 5

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  1. Panhandle Rag August 29, 2019 at 5:51 pm - Reply

    This couple of course are like babies to me, being that I am 74 and I might not be interested except as to where they lived in Washington. My wife and I joined the Church in S.E. Idaho two years after we were married in a Presbyterian Church in Granger, Washington. We moved to another place but since my wife’s family was prominent in the eastern part of the Yakima Valley, we would visit often and eventually I would return to teach in Granger. While in the Valley, we resided about 8 miles west of Mabton, meaning that we lived about 18 miles from Prosser. Since we were in the Yakima Stake, Toppenish Ward, we would do things in Yakima rather than in the Tri-Cities. In those days there was no interstate going by Prosser.

    And John, you asked about Centralia. It is on I-5 halfway from Seattle and Portland and before I got old enough to not like driving I would visit my branch president in that area.

    Looking forward to more of the podcast.

  2. Cory Jorgensen September 1, 2019 at 7:22 am - Reply

    You asked if BYU-Idaho has a mascot: no, they don’t now. It used to be the Vikings when it was Ricks and they had sports teams, but now that it is a branch of BYU, there are no sports teams and no mascot.

    As a side note, when we did a campus tour for my daughter and someone asked this question, the tour guide said that the mascot “is the Holy Ghost.” So, “Go, Holy!”???

    • Patrick September 12, 2019 at 12:43 pm - Reply

      The sports teams were the Ricks Vikings but the mascot was actually (ironically) Thor. There used to be a giant Thor statue in the foyer of the Hart Auditorium. The school remodeled the Hart building in 2012 and donated the statue to a local high school. You can find an article about it here

    • Glenn September 17, 2019 at 4:52 pm - Reply

      John I have a question. Is it understood if experiences like a faith crisis, mission trauma or social isolation due to faith transition cause or enhance depression or are they independent of one another.
      Basically if none of this Mormon induced trauma ever happened would a person be mentally more healthy?

  3. Cynthia September 2, 2019 at 12:53 pm - Reply

    The flagrant use of gypsy really shut me down, and them. A longer descriptor would have been better than repeating the term. Hard to know who they meant. Thanks for saying something, John.

    • anonymous March 28, 2021 at 8:38 pm - Reply

      Same as Pish mentioned below, the term gypsy is used among themselves liberally and with pride. It’s a vague description that fits many different groups and cultures, but as mentioned here it’s something those in many countries, and certainly Spain, self identify as and is used like “Latinos” or “African Americans” to describe a people and culture. (Though they suffer a great deal of racism regardless of nomenclature, just like many minorities)

      The only other term I’m aware of is Roma, which is used mostly by those specifically having come from Romania, but is much less pc and accurate to use for all generally.

      Just give a listen to some flamenco for a little ‘gitano pride’

  4. Mark Blanchard September 3, 2019 at 10:33 am - Reply

    As an ex-Mormon who left the Church decades ago after losing his faith on a mission, then had to navigate 2 more years as a non-believer at BYU, I very much identified with these young folks’ stories. I was struck by how much some things have changed and how much some haven’t.

    Similar to Jared, my faith crisis happened at the 5 month mark on my mission but in many ways it was LESS traumatic than those described by your panel because I felt my range of choices was narrowed down to only one option — I felt I had to fake it until I got home with honor. Kicking against the pricks or having the courage to come out and declare I didn’t believe were not on the table for me, both would have been cultural suicide. And so with no options seemingly open, I didn’t stew over what to do. I faked it and I was actually very successful in my remaining 18 months, finishing as DL, ZL, and traveling AP. Turns out belief in your product is not essential to success as a salesman.

    After returning home, I then made a big mistake… I should have immediately transferred to the U, and I didn’t. I had a full ride at BYU and I chose to stay for the money. If I had transferred at an early stage, I would not have been so deeply vested and the psychological stress that your panel talks about would not have been allowed to build up to such extremes. I fell for the “sunk costs” fallacy and I stayed. Every semester my stress built and my grades got worse. IMO, the first line of the BYU Survival Guide should be “transfer quickly, if you still have time”. For those Juniors and Seniors who have no choice, the rest of the guide may then come into play.

    John, you were right about the 7th East Press, I was at the Zoo in the early 1980’s when the 7th East Press was active. It was bold, it was scandalous, and we devoured every issue. I was a total non-believer working as a cartoonist for the Daily Universe at the time, getting in minor trouble for drawing satirical cartoons about the football team, but I NEVER once considered outing myself by working for 7th East. My thought was, “The Honor Cops are going to catch them all and throw them all out of school.” We had no bravery like these young folks have today. We would have never dared march in protest against Honor Code Office offenses or publish secret survival guides. We lived in fear of the HCO and we knew that they had spies everywhere… especially among your roommates and ex-girlfriends. The only way to keep a secret was to tell it to no one.

    But at the same time, it was much easier to hide and dodge back then. One ecclesiastical endorsement to get in, and you’re done. From then on you could just ward-hop, no one was taking attendance. If you started ward-hopping right at the beginning of the semester, you didn’t get a calling, and you could skate by the rest of the year. I never once had a bishop’s interview in any student ward I attended so I didn’t have face any awkward questions. I think I attended 2 devotionals my entire time at BYU. If you wanted to fly under the radar back then, you could do so pretty easily. No one ever asked me if I believed in the Church my entire time at BYU.

    The final thing that struck me while listening to your young folks’ faith crises was how frequently issues that I consider to be minor (Church finances) proved to be sore sticking points for them. Frankly, I still couldn’t care less how the Church spends its money. $2 billion on City Creek Center instead of helping the poor? Whatever. Lots of gardening to dress up BYU’s bland, utilitarian campus packed with concrete office buildings? Hell, they have to do something to make it look nice. The things that rocked my faith, the absurdities of the origin story and the lack of historicity of the Book of Mormon, Book of Abraham etc. … are all old, old issues that were obvious to all who looked way before the 1970’s and 80’s when I found them, they didn’t need the CES letter or the Church essays to find their way to the surface. And yet for your young crew they seem to be less jarring to their faiths than some other things that I find inconsequential.

    Which goes to show you can never tell which straw it will be that will break the camel’s back.

  5. pish September 3, 2019 at 10:40 am - Reply

    The contact I have had with the people, they refer to themselves as Gypsies. I think I only hear of racism associated, but I do believe that is the term they would use. I could be wrong, but when we have provided services at weddings they have always referred to themselves as Gypsies.

  6. Laura September 3, 2019 at 3:19 pm - Reply

    The discussion of the topic of suicide (especially the graphic details) needs a trigger warning, and (in my opinion) was treated too casually. I felt one of your “therapist moments” after the attempt in the car was certainly warranted to help this couple and the listeners handle the sudden reveal… just sharing honestly.
    For what it is worth…from a listener who has family members who struggle with depression and suicide ideation from time to time…

  7. D. Kim Croft September 4, 2019 at 3:02 pm - Reply

    The entire run of the 7th East Press is available as a free PDF download from the Signature Books Library.

    The Seventh East Press was actually sold in the BYU Bookstore. After a fairly lengthy run, it was banned from being sold on campus, and that led to its demise. The reason for the banning was “officially” stated to be the interview with Sterling McMurrin, where he candidly expressed his views. That, however, was the second to last issue sold on campus. the feature article in the final issue, I suspect, had an even stronger influence on the decision to ban the publication – the article was an in-depth study of BYU faculty salaries, a taboo topic. Anonymous surveys revealed that BYU salaries had actually pretty much caught up with the competition, coming squarely in the middle of the various schools surveyed. I suspect that this article was the actually grounds used to ban the Seventh East Press.

    But the revenge for the banning was a stroke of genius – a final, free, Parody of the Dailey Universe was the final issue published, and it was distributed by leaving stacks in the Dailey Universe slots across campus. It was absolutely hilarious – for example, one of the articles covered the ban of shoe mirrors – and on the following page, the Bookstore add listed a close-out on all shoe mirrors.

    Take some time and peruse the PDF from Signature books – you won’t be sorry!

  8. Mike September 19, 2019 at 10:50 am - Reply

    John, thanks for your incredible, educational podcasts. I, too, was a student at BYU when my faith crisis began. Fortunately, I was able to graduate with my degree before the throes of my crisis reached a depth that I felt I could no longer maintain my integrity in the ecclesiastical endorsement interview. I didn’t experience the level of pain that a lot of these students experience, and I support the aims of organizations trying to influence BYU to allow students who lose their faith to remain at BYU as non-believing students.
    Couple of questions. We know that a student can, essentially, be expelled from BYU for not believing by virtue of losing their ecclesiastical endorsement. There were a couple claims made during these interviews that I have not seen evidence for to date despite searching the internet for quite a while.
    The first is that it would be harder to transfer to another school if you lose your ecclesiastical endorsement due to losing your faith because a note is placed on your transcript that indicates that you left in bad academic standing. What is the evidence for this claim? I have not seen any statements by school officials that say this, nor have I heard any case where a student who lost their faith and their ecclesiastical endorsement showed concrete evidence (note on transcript, statement from BYU records, statement from new school admissions office, etc.) that they struggled to transfer to a new school for this one reason.
    The second claim mentioned, that I have heard quite a bit on social media, is that if you lose your ecclesiastical endorsement due to loss of faith then you can potentially “lose 1 to 2 years of credit”. How does this happen, and do we have any evidence for this claim? Again, specific cases, statements by school officials, etc. are helpful.
    To be clear, I am not saying what was said is not true. I hear some of these specific claims thrown around on social media quite a bit but I have never once seen concrete evidence for them. It seems that BYU, essentially, kicks you out of the university, kicks you out of student housing and any university job, and prevents you from enrolling in and graduating from BYU or any church-owned school. These consequences do not include those two claims referenced above, though.
    If anyone responds to this comment, like I said, concrete evidence (link to document, statement by school official, even a link to a primary source anecdote with as much info as possible, names, dates, etc) would be most helpful. Thanks!

  9. Anonymous January 11, 2020 at 6:47 pm - Reply

    For those looking for an anonymous forum that caters specifically to church school Alumni, and current students that are Exmmormon, non-believing, nuanced in faith, unorthodox in faith, going through a faith/truth crisis, etc, there is a new subreddit that has been created recently called r/BYUExmos. The purpose of the subreddit is to provide Alumni a place where they can provide advice to current students seeking help, participate in the usual subreddit ways, and provide a sense of community. In addition, for current students that count themselves apart of the groups previously mentioned, the forum provides several materials to help understand how to keep them safe from the honor code and to embrace online anonymity to find a sense of community, when a current student at a church school that is exmormon or going through a faith crisis can feel alone, isolated, and afraid. The goal of r/BYUExmos is to be a safe online community that helps mitigate some risk associated with having an exmormon community at a church school.

    Also, this community was created due to the inspiration provided by this specific podcast, so thank you for the inspiration.

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