I recorded my first podcast in some time last night w/ professor, author and mother Joanna Brooks.  Joanna was a very important figure in the uber-controversial BYU Academic Freedom days of 1990-1993…and is now a writer on Mormon topics for Religion Dispatches (along w/ being the Dept. Chair of English at SDSU).  She was also recently featured on RadioWest to discuss the phenomenon of Glenn Beck.

Joanna has recently started an advice-column blog entitled “AskMormonGirl.com“, and cross-blogs on Mormon Matters.

This is part 1 of a 2 part interview.  Please give a hearty Mormon Stories welcome to Dr./Sister/Mommy Joanna Brooks!

Part 1

Download MP3

Part 2

Download MP3


  1. Oz January 21, 2010 at 2:00 pm - Reply

    You always seem to find the best people at the right time. I was on my mission during the early 90’s and missed all of the BYU fun that was going on at that time, its interesting to hear about it because even after I got home, there was so little insight to what was happening in my area.

    I appreciated hearing Joanna’s feelings about the church now. I am curious as to her approach to her children and raising them in the church or not in the church. What is her family plan? I struggle with this at times, because I want to create some sort of foundation for them, but at the same time be open and honest about our history and doctrine.

    John, thank you for coming back. You have no idea how much your work has saved me from serious spiritual anguish, knowing that I’m not alone through this journey. I have yet to reach solid ground as to my feelings about specific principles, but being able to hear others share their thoughts and feelings makes this journey a little easier. Thank you for your work.

  2. Scott January 22, 2010 at 10:58 am - Reply

    This interview was a perfect segway into “Mormon Stories 2.0” as Joanna put it. She is hilarious, by the way… and although I had never heard of her before this interview, I have a tremendous amount of respect for her and those like her who reach a place of wholeness, whether in or out of the Church, despite the issues that give so many of us difficulties. And to become so involved at such a young age. I’m still young, but feel I’ve missed out on a lot. Very inspiring.

  3. Stone January 22, 2010 at 1:41 pm - Reply

    You are back! Yes! I enjoyed the new podcast and look forward to many more Stories from our fellow Mormons accross the spectrum.

    Thank you so very much!

  4. jackson January 22, 2010 at 4:51 pm - Reply

    Like, Joanna is so cool, heh, ok, like.

  5. Aaron Brown January 23, 2010 at 11:04 am - Reply

    Wow. Just hearing the name “Joanna Brooks” takes me back to the good ole BYU days, circa 1993 or so. Yet I haven’t even run across her name in years. Look forward to listening to this.

  6. Karl Christen January 23, 2010 at 12:22 pm - Reply

    Listened to Part I, fascinating time at BYU. I was at UVSC at the time, I was somewhat unaware of the turmoil that was going on, nor did I care (very TBM) at that time. Would have probably opposed her movement or showed little empathy at the time.

    Years later I’ve changed, one thing I can’t do like her is just brush aside those issues that do not make sense to me in Mormonism. My FIL said I should put my doubts on the shelf and it will all be good in the end. For me though it’s impossible to do so at this time, maybe someday.

    Anyway, great broadcast, will listen to Part II

  7. Katie L. January 23, 2010 at 5:36 pm - Reply

    This rocked. Thanks Joanna for your insight and humor. Loved it. I especially loved what you shared at the end of part two about the Mormonism that allows you go into the woods and get your answers — or out to the plain, pulling a handcart if you must.

    We belong to a beautiful heritage. It’s easy to forget that sometimes. Thank you for the reminder.

  8. Mike M January 23, 2010 at 7:14 pm - Reply

    Easily one of my all-time favorite Mormon Stories. What an amazing woman, and her laugh and personality are so infectous, and her intellect and insights profound. Just a very cool person!!!

  9. Mike January 23, 2010 at 8:33 pm - Reply

    What a great woman! Courageous and willing to reason about anything, able to understand that God and his truths is much more than the modern church we have become. But don’t forget about the great principles we use to live in the early restored gospel! Those prophets were opening the heavens, receiving visions and visitations, giving the church Revelations… must have been something to the higher things they were covenanting to live!

  10. Garth January 28, 2010 at 1:35 pm - Reply


    Glad to see your back. I really enjoy listening to your podcasts and eat up everything I can about the Church and it’s history, no matter how questionable it can be at times. Why does it seem that these people that are such deep thinkers and appear to be very intelligent end up having issues with the Church? It almost appears to me that it’s a curse to be so smart; Paul Descano and his wife, many of the September 6 also appeard to be very intelligent. Just an observation.

    Guess I’m glad that I stopped at a B.A. Ha Ha!!!!

  11. Kevin Quinn February 5, 2010 at 12:48 pm - Reply

    Great interview! It’s funny that you say, “So you’re writing the Great Mormon Novel,” because since my BYU days–about the same time as yours–I’ve thought that if The Great Mormon Novel were ever to be written, it’d likely be Joanna who wrote it. Now that I’ve discovered your site I’ll get busy listening to the 111 previous stories.

    • Tbabbel January 18, 2011 at 1:41 am - Reply

      hi kevin. this is tamara babbel. i listen to mormon stories all of the time. i saw your name and i know this must be the kevin quinn. hi!

  12. a random John February 5, 2010 at 2:38 pm - Reply

    “Save yourself some heartbreak and go to Stanford.”

    YES! I wish we would encourage our brainy Mormon kids to go places other than BYU, or at least not make them feel guilty about choosing to not go to BYU. Stanford is a great place for Mormon undergrads. LDS students should go to the university that is the best fit for them, be that BYU or otherwise.

    I have never felt more at home in a ward than I did in the Stanford student ward. On top of that I’d say that the Stanford Institute under Alonzo Gaskill was a great experience and nearly the only positive experience I’ve have with CES (now SIR.) I will admit that 4 months out of my 4 years of high school seminary were worthwhile.

  13. Matt February 16, 2010 at 11:35 am - Reply

    I’m a little late getting to this one. John, first of all, thanks for bringing Mormon stories back online.

    With respect to Dr. Brooks . . . by all accounts she’s brilliant, she has a stellar academic records, and (as is the case with many of the guests on Mormon Stories) while I don’t agree with everything she says, I’m grateful for her perspective. Thanks to both Dr. Brooks and John for taking the time to complete and post this podcast.

    But, having said all of that . . . this podcast was PAINFUL to listen to. I have never heard an interview in which the phrases “like” and “you know” were used so many times. Dr. Brooks, if you see this, just a friendly suggestion to be aware of the frequency with which you use those terms when you are speaking. The overuse of those phrases really did, at least for me, make it difficult to listen to the entire podcast.

  14. California Condor February 24, 2010 at 12:50 pm - Reply


    Um, no. People with personality use slang when they speak. And it works.

  15. Chris April 13, 2010 at 9:14 pm - Reply

    Joanna, I enjoyed this interview so much. I share John’s amazement that you never went through the same type of faith crisis that so many others do but your approach to faith seems very new to me. You are one of those brave people who is unafraid to take ownership of the positive aspects of Mormonism and just have a sense of humor about all the “weird stuff.” That reaction seems to be very uncommon.

    I feel I can relate to much of your story. I remember having powerful spiritual experiences even as a child when I would pray. I was so touched by Joseph Smith’s story. It was so empowering for me as a child to know that God saw the potential and recognized the honest desires of even a kid like me.

    I have to credit Mormonism for teaching me this way to pray. It is much more than basic instruction (Thank, Ask, etc.). There is a whole story and culture that informs the way I was taught to pray. Joseph’s story made me believe that I could receive answers in a way the bible alone never would have been able to. Whether Joseph’s claims were true or not it created something unarguably positive within me, something that I want to hold on to.

    Years later I am so different. I have questions on questions on questions and most of that idealism I had when I was younger is gone. I have, at times, wondered whether my new interpretation of spiritual experiences requires me to somehow downplay or discredit those experiences which were some of the most profound moments in my life. When I hear your interview I am struck with how easy it seems to have been for you to hold on to those truths. These experiences may not be god’s rubber stamp of truth as I was taught but they were beautiful and insightful and good.

    It seems like nothing you might hear that is negative about Joseph or any other prophet could really effect the reality of what you have personally discovered. That’s not easy to do. It gives me confidence that I can work things out for myself in a similar way. When I went through my faith crisis I felt I lost it all. I was absolutely heart broken because I thought these new ideas were telling me that the comfort I have felt so many times was really a creation of my mind.

    Thank you for your story Joanna. Your optimism is very reassuring!

  16. […] Some of my biggest lady crushes are Joanna Brooks (mother of 2, professor, religion scholar, and Mormon feminist), Lisa Butterworth (mother of three, founder of Feminist Mormon Housewives), Margaret Toscano […]

  17. […] about a year ago Shelah gushed to me about Joanna Brook’s fantastic Mormon Stories Podcast.  I’d never heard of Joanna Brooks, but I downloaded it imediately because Shelah is […]

  18. Lizanell Boman May 11, 2011 at 12:51 am - Reply

    @JoannaBrooks:disqus Has the piece that you read in the second half of the podcast been published anywhere? I would love to have a copy of it, so powerfully beautiful.

    • Anonymous May 11, 2011 at 1:23 am - Reply

      Totally agree. Beautiful.

  19. Joanna Brooks May 11, 2011 at 4:18 pm - Reply

    Hi @0f32f5dfae6cc0301de61dafefa3919d:disqus : Thank you so much. Email me at jb@joannabrooks.org and I’ll send you a copy. I think it may appear in a forthcoming book of essays on Mormons and Marriage being edited by Holly Welker.

  20. Anonymous May 29, 2011 at 6:33 pm - Reply

    I just finished listening to the first part of this podcast.  For the most part, I enjoyed it and I want to say that I respect Joanna Brook’s right to still believe in the truthfulness of the church and remain an active member.  BUT, in my own mind, I find it very difficult to have much intellectual or moral respect for someone who claims to be so informed and then can just brush aside the ugly history of the church (especially regarding polyandry and polygamy).

    Brooks claims to be such a feminist and one who cares so much about women’s rights, but then she hasn’t even studied or researched how horribly her own church founder (who she believes is a “Prophet of God”, no less) abused women, teenagers and orphans placed in his care.  He sent faithful, obedient men off on missions and then married and slept with their wives behind their backs while they were gone.  He married teens as young as 14 years old (this is documented and even the church has had to admit this now).  He treated women horribly and he was most especially disrespectful and deceitful with the treatment of his own wife, Emma.

    So, I have a difficult time having much respect for Joanna Brooks when she still chooses to be faithful and obedient and active in a church having a foundation such as this. 

    I ask Ms. Brooks:
    – Have you even studied the true history of the church you remain active in?
    – Why do you just brush aside the words, “polygamy” and “polyandry”, like what?  Oh, those “silly” words or parts of mormonism’s past!
    – Have you studied what has been documented about the complete lack of evidence supporting the historical accuracy of the Bof M?
    – Have you studied the Book of Abraham?

    If you have, how on earth can you still believe in the truthfulness of the Mormon Church?

    I could go on and on. 

    I will listen to the second part of the podcast and do my best to give Ms. Brooks the benefit of the doubt here.  But my initial reaction is that for a woman who appears to be extremely intelligent, her actions and choices in staying active and supportive of the church are anything but morally or intellectually sound.

  21. Charlie66 May 29, 2011 at 10:52 pm - Reply

    I am left asking the same questions that Alan asked below.

    I tried to keep going to church after I learned the hidden events and doctrines from the history of the Mormon church, but in order to remain true to my personal integrity, I just could not sit there each week in silence.  I felt that simply by my attendance, I was showing support to a very dishonest organization.  The very founders of the church and early leaders did much to harm and suppress the voice of women.  I do not understand how Joanna Brooks can proclaim out of one side of her mouth that she is all for women’s rights, but out of the other side of her mouth, proclaim that she supports and loves a church that continues to mistreat women.
    I did enjoy this podcast and I loved hearing about Joanna’s days at BYU.
    However, I am disappointed that she hasn’t chosen to have the moral courage to take a stand, do what is right and also make sure her own kids are taught the truth.
    Are you really THAT afraid of church leaders and TBM family members?  

  22. Madeleine October 9, 2011 at 2:31 am - Reply

    Joanna, this is amazing stuff. When you read the piece you wrote about the emotions and thoughts about marrying your husband, my heart just stopped. I’ve spent the last year and a half with the most amazing guy, one who I can be totally myself, one who is not afraid of my “inner Mormon turmoil”, one who causes me to want to explore life even more. What did I get from my parents? The monthly “Mormon” talk, the promise to find me a nice Mormon guy … and the unabashed joy when the relationship ended (for reasons unrelated to religion). 

  23. Taarome Ioobi2 October 22, 2011 at 8:36 pm - Reply

    This is a very interesting story I’ve ever read. It is a good story. It have many lessons. Ireally like this story a lot.

  24. Becky Edvalson December 20, 2011 at 11:00 pm - Reply

    Thank you, Joanna.

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