kirk caudleKirk Caudle, known for his Mormon Book Review podcast (which was, at one time, officially affiliated with BYU’s Maxwell Institute), made headlines over the summer when he resigned from the church after working as an online religion instructor for BYU-Idaho. However, he still attends church regularly and maintains strong ties to Mormonism.

In this two-part episode, cross posted with our sister site A Thoughtful Faith, James Patterson sits down with Kirk to talk about his life growing up in Mormonism, his background and education in religious studies, his experience working for BYU-Idaho, and his resignation from that position and the church

He also talks about starting the Mormon Book Review and his experience working with BYU’s Maxwell Institute, as well as his outlook on a number of different Mormon topics.



  1. square peg October 21, 2014 at 12:01 pm - Reply

    I enjoyed a lot of the interview. But at the very end when he started talking about his views on polygamy, I felt myself not as engaged. Polygamy and polyandry is what unraveled my belief in the first place. I will NEVER find the “beauty” as he called it in polygamy, and I do not believe that monogamy is rooted in selfishness. But whatever. I have always been miserable when I was taught to assume that was “God’s” way. If it is, I don’t want it. It never ceases to amaze me how different personalities are affected to such varying degrees on the same topics. What one person finds beautiful and comforting, another find traumatizing and too heavy to reconcile.

    • Allison October 22, 2014 at 12:27 pm - Reply

      I agree with square peg. For me, the belief in and practice of polygamy is one of the most hurtful things about the Mormon faith. On monogamy: I’ve been married for 21 years and in my experience, I don’t care how awesome your partner is, monogamy is anything but selfishness.

    • Octagonal Peg October 22, 2014 at 6:22 pm - Reply

      I am on the same page as square peg. He lost me at exactly the same place. Much else to like; Thanks Kirk for taking the time to share your experience with us. Good luck on your journey.

  2. kinglamoni October 21, 2014 at 11:44 pm - Reply

    Great interview. I valued hearing Kirk’s feelings around the Book of Mormon (second half of the second interview.) and how it has value even if it might not be historically true. I liked the articulation around what he doesn’t believe Joseph Smith was (a con-man, gold digger.) It is all to easy to simplify who Joseph was by saying he was ether all good or all bad. Joseph Smith, like most people was complex. The insight given on polygamy was interesting. Thanks for sharing your story Kirk.

  3. Scott Roskelley October 22, 2014 at 11:42 am - Reply

    After listening to this podcast it is really depressing that at BYU-I a religion professor can be fired for sharing information on polygamy or succession after the death of joseph smith from a BYU Studies article, the Encyclopedia of mormonism, the maxwell institute, or from the journal of mormon history. It has been my experience that very few stake presidencies, bishoprics and others have ever even heard the word “polyandry”. I recall the confused look our stake Relief society president gave me when our stake president replayed in a stake council a video with a rant by Lawrence O’Donnell on Mormonism and somehow I brought up the name “Fanny Alger”, Oliver Cowdery, the accuracy of the list of wives by Fawn Brodie, and so forth. She had no idea who “fanny alger” was and I was really concerned that my comments may have hurt someone’s faith. With what Kirt is sharing, it looks like there are actually words, names and facts that if shared with students will get you fired. Truly sad. If a student reads rough stone rolling, and asks a question in class about seer stones for example, the teacher has to deflect the question, and likely can’t even acknowledge that there is a footnote [20] in a church published essay.

    • Eric November 6, 2014 at 2:20 pm - Reply


      I agree that it is bizarre that a BYU-I professor can be fired for teaching truths. Kirk did mention that the issue with his discussion with students wasn’t the information but rather the “tone”.

      “Tone” seems to be a big issue in the Church right now.

      It’s too bad that the video in question was removed from the BYU-I website. Is there a way to request it from the vaults?

  4. David Macfarlane October 22, 2014 at 2:35 pm - Reply

    Thanks, Kirk, for sharing your perspective and experiences. After listening, I have two thoughts I’d like to share.

    First, it’s great that you get such a charge out of wandering the theological maze and considering what Joseph Smith might have been thinking, how that relates to the teachings of Jesus Christ and what that may mean to mere mortals here in earth. But it creates, especially among those who look to religion for certainty and security, a Gordian Knot; unable to unravel the mystery or cut the knot in half, so many are forever resigned to clinging without knowledge or understanding. I like that you said the gospel may be unknowable–I think any form of universal truth is inherently elusive–but that is a poor foundation for any monotheistic religion that inserts itself between divine and mortal.

    Second, I appreciate very much that you concluded by simply asking us to be nice to one another. Indeed, I think that is all we can do and all we can know. Per Reverend John Watson: “Be kind. Everyone you meet is carrying a heavy burden.” When compared with that, I feel, lengthy discussions on God’s purpose for the restoration of polygamy is nothing but bilge water sophistry.

  5. Sander October 22, 2014 at 9:20 pm - Reply

    I found your candor and insights refreshing, Kirk. Your parting experience with BYU-I makes the administrators involved seem petty and provincial. It’s a pity our tithing money funds such nonsense. They’re doing the kids no favors by insisting on bowdlerizing the history of the Church™.

    Your inclination towards polygamy is fascinating. Polygamy as championed by Brigham Young is odious. It’s close to the nastiness Jacob condemned the members of the Nephite church for. Have you ever run across the story of the polygamous Cochranites in Saco, Maine in the early 1800s? Brigham Young and other Mormon missionaries were introduced to polygamy during their months-long stay there.

  6. Gail October 23, 2014 at 3:24 pm - Reply

    BYU-I has always been trying to create Zion. It sounds like this behavior of firing Kirk is just more of the same. Better off not there than working in an environment that is more tolerant of diverse beliefs.

  7. Gail October 23, 2014 at 3:26 pm - Reply

    I don disagree with his views on Joesph Smith and Polygamy. Dont think that the BOM is literal.

    • Anonymous October 23, 2014 at 11:32 pm - Reply

      I appreciated Kirk’s imterview until he got to the polygamy part. It’s beyond me how ANYONE can support Joseph Smith knowing the facts. To each his own, but Kirk sounds like he wants to practice it ultimately.

  8. Mike October 24, 2014 at 12:55 am - Reply

    sounds like he was really enjoying his teaching job. someone makes a complaint and he ends up fired. this job tied him to the church and when this tie was “loosed” he didn’t see a reason to stay since he didn’t really have a testimony of the institution of the church. as he said he has a testimony of the book of mormon and joseph smith but no burning testimony of the LDS church or that Thomas Monson as a prophet.

    i found the reason why he was released from his job rather trivial and overly reacted by those in charge.

  9. bobbie October 24, 2014 at 4:41 pm - Reply

    Interesting interview but I started creeping out with the polygamy stuff as well. As a returned missionary daughter of a former LDS fundamentalist who was excommunicated for polygamy and apostasy it sounded Way too familiar. The rhetoric… polygamy is beautiful, it’s a higher law of consecration, it’s about sharing your love… blah blah blah. It does nothing but wound women and their children, however compelling it may sound philosophically. Joseph Smith’s polygamy is why i finally had to leave. There is no beauty in using multiple women for sex and ego boosting. Not in 1840 and not in 2014. No offense Kirk, but you fit the profile of all the Fundy leaders I’ve known (and I’ve known quite a few) . Smart, charming and gifted teachers, mostly unappreciated by lay church leaders and intoxicated by the “mysteries” of godliness and sex. I did however, love how you ended the interview and almost regret that I am not being kind here but polygamy is a trigger of mine and hearing it lauded by yet another Mormon Man was a bit much for a friday night. ☺ best of luck to you in your future (hopefully Monogamous) pursuits.

    • Brett December 1, 2014 at 4:35 pm - Reply

      Bobbie – I couldnt agree more with you. I could not believe it when Kirk said polygamy was beautiful, especially for someone so knowledgeable of LDS history. Polygamy is and was a legacy of abuse, neglect and misery. Because Joseph Smith could not contain his libido and delusions of grandeur, hundreds of thousands of people have suffered and had their lives ruined. Polygamy is the foul fruit of Mormonism and it’s harm outweighs any good. I also had the same thought about Kirk – to worship Joseph Smith and his teachings knowing all the history and to love polygamy are certainly prime requirements for someone that wants to start their own little pliggy cult. There is truly something wrong with Kirk.

  10. Mary Shaver October 25, 2014 at 6:41 pm - Reply

    Thank you for this. Both of you are absolutely refreshing, and your honesty is heart warming. Thanks again!

  11. Manda October 29, 2014 at 2:15 am - Reply

    Wow. I read the comments. People really hate polygamy. Jeeze. I am a convert of any a couple of years and that always confuses me. That is all the more reason that it should be discussed in my opinion.

    You cannot deny how important it is to Mormon history. It also boggles my mind that something that was at one time critical to the faith has been forgotten and treated as a sin. : / As I convert who always knew about Mormonism and polygamy I do not understand that.

    If Joseph Smith was a prophet (and I believe that he was) then did God just up and change His mind? How convenient that it was so that Utah could become a state. It seems to me – from all that I have read in the Bible about God and how He works with His people in the face of adversity…He doesnt command for them to give up commandments or go back on belief in what is true to get along. He instead protects people and gets them through.Somehow.

    I dont believe that the reversal was from God. I believe that it was political. God would have had them face adversaries or moved them somewhere else. Nowhere in the Bible does He have those that follow Him just blend in by their behavior. God’s people are always different.

    The reversal-as it is claimed to be of God-goes completely against His character.

    I really loved the interview though! Just surprised by all the negative comments when it came to Kirk’s comments on that subject is all.

  12. Rude Dog October 29, 2014 at 8:33 am - Reply

    Thanks for the comments. Sounds like I’ll skip this one.

  13. JT October 29, 2014 at 12:58 pm - Reply

    I found Kirk’s views refreshing. In particular I was impressed with his “unapologetic” stance toward the Book of Mormon. He said:

    “I believe the Book of Mormon is historical in some fashion … Nephi was a real person … [T]he only reason is what I believe the Holy Spirit has told me. I readily concede that I could be wrong … but at the same time I am not really concern with such questions, because … to me [historicity] has no bearing on it being scripture to me … [it] does not change the way the text moves me in my life … [it] tells me stories and puts life in a context that I can start … coming to answers [about] things in life and things in eternity, the nature of God.”

    I connected this stance to Kirk’s earlier discussion of Mormon apologetics, which, under the name Mormon Studies, is moving away from defending literalism – a program which, I think, inadvertently discounts faith with its positivist-like pretensions. Perhaps this is the very thing that motivates Mormon Studies scholars, if not simply recognizing more fruitful areas of research.

    This interview brought to my mind the 2011 Mormon Stories interview with Grant and Heather Hardy. In the end, both affirmed my desire to work harder to look past the Institutional Church when I engage with faithful members who are simply “moved” in positive ways by their Mormon “stories,” without having to validate them at every turn with literalistic interpretations or exclusive claims to authority. In other words, being more accepting of faithful Mormons who remain “in the institution” (unlike Kirk) without being “of it” (As Kirk never was.



    P.S. James, you are a superb interviewer.

  14. Jasmine8 October 30, 2014 at 12:05 pm - Reply

    I think the polygamy Kirk is advocating (maybe that’s too strong a word). But from What I understood from what he said, is that the direction joseph smiths polygamy was going was more of a big love or an open love. To me it seemed like he was advocating women holding the priesthood and that sealings should NOT be through a patriarchal lineage but more a web where women could have multiple husbands, men multiple wives, women can be sealed to women, men sealed to men with the hopes that we will all be sealed to each other. His polygamy ideas seemed really liberal to me–sounded like a free love hippie commune. On the other hand, the adoption sealings to strengthen community bonds (like getting sealed to the bishop before you move out of the ward), just seems like having a ceremony to say, “yes we are friends” or like asking someone to be your god father, and in navoo it did seem like a few sealings were of that sort, but that sort of challenges how we now traditionally view sealings. I feel like kirk’s view of Joseph smith is that Joseph viewed sealings more as communal and sex was more for fun and not sacred. Whereas now, sealings are very intimate, sex is a sacred part of it, and sealings are for marriage and children only not for communal bonds. (At least that is what I think he was trying to explain, so sorry Kirk if I misunderstood you). With this free love polygamy/polygyny it does not discriminate against women or homosexuals because it goes all ways. But for me, I prefer the intimacy of one spouse, and I chose not to marry in the temple for some feminist reasons, but mostly because I don’t need an “official” ceremony to prove that my husband and I love each other. I guarantee that our marriage is just as sacred, that we take it just as serious, and we love our children just as much as people who marry in the temple. Religions get into trouble when they push and push god’s rules and requirements. Mormonism is beautiful and ugly because of its specificity. It says yes, you can be together forever with your loved ones–beautiful. Yes a widower can spend eternity with both of his wives, but no a widow cannot spend eternity with both of her husbands–ugly. So much of mormonism I love, but its really hard to not throw out the baby with the bath water when the most important part of mormonism (eternal marriage) is so harmful for women.

  15. Jay October 31, 2014 at 6:37 pm - Reply

    Kirk seems like a nice guy. He doesn’t seem guarded or defensive. One of the few mormons I could enjoy discussing mormonism with. I love how he’s just created his own sense of mormonism. He’s thrown out historical truth, he doesn’t care if the book of mormon was completely fabricated. He thinks its a great book and a starting point to think about life. He acknowledges he could be completely wrong about what he does believe. He acknowledges that there is no evidence for what he does believe, that his beliefs are just based on a feeling.

    I think that is a good starting point to thinking about life Happy trails Kirk.

  16. Vickie Duncan November 22, 2014 at 2:29 pm - Reply

    Now that the new Essay on polygamy has hit media and church members..I believe the church owes a huge apology to those who taught the truth to begin with and exed or disfellowshiped. Something else is going to have to give here in order for the PR to work.

  17. UncleRalph November 25, 2014 at 10:27 pm - Reply

    Concerning polygamy, I’ve never heard anyone discuss the inevitable inbalance of married to unmarried males in such a society. Seeing as how nature provides a human male/female ratio of very nearly 1:1, on average, if some men take two, three or forty wives, the inevitable result is that some men, maybe many men, will have no wives. What does the LDS church say is to become of the extra men in the society, especially in light of the “commandment” to take more than one wife? Where do these extra guys fit in? I have never heard this discussed by anyone.

    • JT November 26, 2014 at 9:07 am - Reply


      A 1:1 ratio is beside the point to the selfish genes of alpha-males. I sense in Brigham Young’s bravado such a simian vibe – echoing our evolutionary heritage – that once in charge left him aching to exploit Joseph’s lady-lovin’ theological stylings to start his own silver back kingdom 1000 miles removed from civilized Homo sapien competition. And perhaps such a deep evolutionary-psychological intuition was driving Joseph.

      On the other hand, I read somewhere where religion-endorsed monogamy evolved to provide successful mating strategies for wimpy males. Let me go find it …

      Oh yes, Douglas Kendrick!

      And pushing it back further into evolutionary history – Sergey Gavrilets:,0,7040060.story

      So, two opposable thumbs up to our wimpy male ancestors and the females who found their exclusive devotion more adaptive, however long they had to sneak past the general alpha-orities to transform into humans.

      And thumbs down to encrusted institutions that provide a vehicle for perpetuating the misandrist and misogynistic remnants of monkey-mating strategies.

      • UncleRalph December 12, 2014 at 2:15 pm - Reply

        Very interesting. Thanks. It escaped me that the fact there is roughly a male for every female doesn’t necesarily mean they were all meant to mate successfully. The plan may only be to make sure there are more than enough males to service the extant females—like when bees or ants swarm; most of the drones don’t mate successfully, they just insure that all of the females do. I find it a depressing thought, but nature is full of stuff like that.

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