Levi Peterson is one of the most important LDS authors of the 20th century. His book entitled “The Backslider” is perhaps the most significant piece of Mormon fiction ever written. This is his story.

Part 1: The Early Years

Part 2: Mom, Mission and School

Part 3: The Fruits of Anxiety

Part 4: The Backslider

Part 5: Cowboy Jesus and Mormon Literature/Art

Part 6: Juanita Brooks, Sunstone and Mormon Liberalism

Part 7: The Chicken Story, Eugene England and Final Thoughts



  1. druid November 21, 2007 at 10:39 pm - Reply

    Great interview of a great hero.

    Nothing against Napolean Dynamite or Nacho Libre, but I agree that Dutcher would probably handle it better. Why don’t you pull some strings, John?

  2. Dathon November 23, 2007 at 9:20 am - Reply

    A wonderful podcast. Br. Peterson is a courageous, thoughtful human being and an excellent roll model for all sorts of Mormons, if mostly for the spectrum of liberal Mormons. Thank you both John and Levi for making time to have the conversation and for sharing it with us.

    There is hope for liberal Mormonism, eventually.

  3. mc November 23, 2007 at 11:14 am - Reply

    I listened to the whole thing and came away disturbed about this point: Mormonism is no more irrational than any other religion. I beg to differ with this position posed by Levi. It was also put forth by Bushman in his interview.

    This statement is a disengenuous manner of blackmailing a believer of any stripe into treating Mormonism with kid gloves out of fear for the implied threat of “tear down my religion and I’ll tear down yours”. I find that position reprehensible. In Levi’s case it’s a bit hypocritical as well since he readily admits that he doesn’t even believe in Mormonism.

    I think it’s well established by the historical record that Mormonism is not what it claims to be from a literal standpoint. It takes a bit more effort to establish the same for Christianity, Islam, and other religions but they are not as irrational because generally their claims are not as outrageous as Mormonism. There are even liberal strains of those religions that are difficult to classify as irrational in any degree.

    As an atheist it strikes me as particularly vile that both men appear willing to tear Christ and the resurrection apart and destroy belief for Christians in their defense of JS, the church, and Mormonism. Nothing could seem less Christ-like to me.

    Levi, and John Dehlin it appears, long for the day when liberals will be allowed to flourish within Mormonism and to some degree affect the course of the church. Until that day Mormonism in its current form is definitely more irrational than other major religions out there.

  4. Kevin November 25, 2007 at 4:30 pm - Reply

    I greatly enjoyed Levi’s story and the conversations that followed. To my way of thinking, regardless of their religious views, self-aware, honest human beings with a sense of humor always make the world a better place.

    As a member of the Church with a traditional outlook I’m intrigued with Levi’s relaxed take on the importance of temple covenants. I suppose if he wants to thumb wrestle God over the matter that is his choice.

    I agree that the Church is richer for the voices of liberal Mormons. The analogy of the little yapping dog and the freight train is priceless. I also concur that the leadership of the Church in fifty years will hold basic beliefs and biases somewhat different from those held today, which I believe is a good thing.

  5. Andrew A November 28, 2007 at 12:30 am - Reply

    Until this podcast I had never heard of Levi Petersen or his novel, The Backslider. I bought the book and read it in four days, which is atypical for me. As someone with distant roots in Southern Utah who makes an annual pilgrimage to the Panguitch/Hatch area, I was delighted to read a novel that so perfectly captures that setting.

    Levi is he Mark Twain of Mormonism. His humorous, entertaining social commentary about some unfortunate strands of Mormon culture is sorely needed, and I’m glad I finally found him.

    Another great interview for John with another fascinating Mormon.

  6. KeithB November 28, 2007 at 3:59 pm - Reply

    I think there was some confusion in the timeline with McConkie’s interaction with Eugene England. McConkie took issue with England’s support of Brigham Young’s teaching of God progressing in knowledge and wrote that arrogant letter that said in part:” It is your province to echo what I say or to remain silent.”
    This was in 1981, the Strengthening Members Commitee controversy was in 1992 and did not involve McConkie, who died in 1985.

  7. Lee December 4, 2007 at 4:18 pm - Reply

    I really enjoyed the interviews. Thank you.

  8. […] Mormon Stories interview with Levi: https://www.mormonstories.org/?p=340 […]

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