In this gripping interview on Mormon Stories, we interview Jen and Todd who share their personal experiences when bringing issues of abuse to the attention of Mormon bishops.  Throughout her life, Jen suffered through periods of abuse that greatly impacted her physical, emotional, and spiritual health, including severe bouts of anorexia.  In this interview, we learn of the failures to deliver the help Jen needed from some Mormon bishops, but also the success of another Mormon bishop, Todd.  We learn how Todd helped Jen during her darkest time, and what tools Jen used to begin living her best life.


Part 1: Jen shares her abuse story and the impact it had on her life

Part 2: The abuse continues into her marriage, and Jen details her unsupportive experiences with Mormon bishops

Part 3: Jen finally has a positive experience with a Mormon bishop, Todd.  We also explore Todd’s experience losing his faith


Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 1

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Part 2

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Part 3

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  1. Jen May 10, 2018 at 12:30 pm - Reply

    This is Jen. The one thing I wish I had done different was give a better list of what Todd did as my bishop that was helpful. I’m more accustomed to writing than talking, so here is the list that I came up with on the way home from the studio.

    He believed me. He told me he didn’t understand, but he would listen to me as long as I wanted to talk, and he would do his best to understand.
    He apologized when he said things that were uneducated or not helpful, and he didn’t say those things again.
    He told me NOT to serve more, but instead to take care of myself. He told me I needed to do less to try to prove my worthiness and more to find true recovery.
    He asked me if I wanted him to call the police (on abusive husband).
    He helped me find a therapist that was outside LDS Family Services and specialized in Eating Disorders and a small specialty in trauma. (I think most eating disorder therapists work with trauma patients. They usually go hand in hand.) Eventually, I would find a more trauma specialized therapist, but I wasn’t ready for her quite yet back then.
    He made me feel loved and seen and like I mattered. He never once told me I was crazy, instead he told me my behavior made sense with all that I had been through.
    He studied PTSD and eating disorders and sexual abuse. He started with church sources and when those failed him, he scoured the internet.
    He read about abuse and how to get out of abusive relationships. He read about how to support someone who is in an abusive relationship.
    He shared some of his trials and struggles with me.
    He told me to stop coming to church because it was too triggering for me. (I didn’t listen to him. I waited until the next bishop said the same thing, and listened to him.)
    He sent me texts during general conference telling me, “That talk is not for you. Don’t listen to him.”
    He gave me a place to stay when I couldn’t go home anymore.
    He sat with me while I was in pain. He tried to fix it with priesthood blessings, but when that didn’t work, he just was there with me. His presence made me feel safer.
    He helped me research different treatment options, and constantly told me he trusted me to tell him what I needed (instead of telling me what to do).
    He didn’t stop caring just because he got released.
    He spent three hours telling the next bishop about what I was struggling with, so I didn’t have to try to explain to him. He also talked to the next bishop a few more times when I was struggling to get new bishop to understand. (New bishop was worried about me breaking up the marriage, and wanted to get me to move back in with husband as quickly as possible. I couldn’t explain to him why I just couldn’t yet.)

  2. Dave May 10, 2018 at 1:04 pm - Reply

    Sounds like you both scored big time in the end. Cheers!!
    May it all work out in the end, and if it hasn’t well it’s not the end.

  3. Sandra Phillips May 10, 2018 at 8:36 pm - Reply

    After 30+years of marriage, I finally was at the point in Spring 2015 that I had to leave or die. I totally relate to fantasizing about the relief death would bring, while I was daily eating myself to an early grave. Left the Church a few months later, because that was also a toxic relationship. Life is so much better now! I am happy, getting healthier each day and healing from years of abuse. Jen and Todd, thank you so very much for sharing your stories. I wish you peace and a joyful life!!

  4. Rukie May 11, 2018 at 12:18 pm - Reply

    Thank you , Jen. I really needed to hear that I matter and don’t need to prove my worthiness.

  5. Chowder May 11, 2018 at 2:40 pm - Reply

    John, you are an amazing interviewer.

    What a twist in the story where these two individuals ended up together. I’m not sure what to make of it.

    Also, this was valuable as I can’t relate to abuse. I do wonder if in some cases, not saying this one, some are too focused on labels, and not just the reality that life has challenges and success often requires living in the present, rather than the past.

  6. Karen R. May 12, 2018 at 11:56 am - Reply

    I’m many years out from my own recovery now, and it has been a while since another’s story triggered my own stuff. Jen’s story did that in one area (her abuse was far more severe than my own, but we do share some features). I consider this a good thing. Opportunity for more healing.

    Thank you, Jen and Todd, for sharing your stories. I wasn’t surprised to learn of Jen’s great strength and resilience. I’ve encountered this a lot in females (because females are the majority of those I encountered in sexual abuse recovery). Todd’s story, though, amazed me. I don’t think I’ve encountered another male as steadfast and true. The word “abide” came to me as they related how, when he didn’t know what to do during her pseudo seizures, what he did was he stayed. Can’t tell you how deeply that touches me.

    My best wishes to both of you. And thanks, John Dehlin, for another great interview.

  7. Mary May 19, 2018 at 11:28 pm - Reply

    Jen and Todd, thank you so much for the generosity in sharing your story. Fascinating. Jen, our stories are SO similar. I too am twice divorced because of abuse, and diagnosed with anorexia nervosa in 2015 and still struggle with the disease. I have 3 minor children to care for, as I get no child support whatsoever. My consistent experience with Bishops has been the exact opposite of the amazing person Todd is. I’ve walked into church with black eyes and weighing less than 100 lbs and not once has a Bishop shown concern for my welfare. They are always willing to offer callings to make sure i was doing my VT to make sure they had the names and phone numbers and temple recommends of the witnesses at my daughter’s baptism; however, no personal interest or concern for me. I am a full tithe payer, temple recommend holder, I fast and pray, never asked for any monetary or counseling supplement. But you’d think I had the plague. If you are willing I’d love your email. The loneliness is painful at times.

    • Jen May 21, 2018 at 12:36 pm - Reply

      I’m so sorry you’re going through all of that. That’s how I felt from bishops before Todd. I’d given up on getting any help from anyone.
      You can email me at everettelyse @ gmail . com

      I’d love to be a support.
      Sending love,

  8. beth bunnage May 20, 2018 at 7:05 am - Reply

    Thank you for your openness and sincerity about your story, l wish you all the best in your spiritual and personal journey, god bless you for you integrity and honesty, Thanks John for a great interview.

  9. Ryan June 6, 2018 at 8:25 pm - Reply

    Thank you, your story is helping my process my own trauma and abuse. Thank you for your courage, honesty, and vulnerability.

  10. Abigail January 2, 2019 at 5:12 pm - Reply

    I wasn’t expecting it but it made me really happy that Todd and Jen ended up as partners! Made me smile!

  11. Lisa March 9, 2019 at 2:53 pm - Reply

    J Dehlin, in part one of the podcast near the end asks Jen, “what prevented you from having a conversation with your husband about sex” as in how often, don’t like pillows on the face, etc. Jen struggles to explain it, “I didn’t know what the options were…” Basically, in addition to lacking the vocabulary to negotiate sex as Jen explains (because you’re a virgin, and also you’re not supposed to talk about it prior to marriage), WE DON’T KNOW WHAT FEELS GOOD BECAUSE WE DONT EVEN KNOW OUR OWN BODIES!!! As Mormons, you’re are forbidden to masterbate EVEN AFTER MARRIAGE (it’s a sin). How can you negotiate with someone when you lack basic knowledge about your own body? How do you give someone permission to your body when it’s not yours to give?

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