In this Mormon Stories Podcast interview we interview Liz Layton. Liz has experienced much accomplishment and tragedy in her life as a millennial post-Mormon. This includes becoming a professional dancer for the Utah Jazz, but also includes the loss of her orthodox Mormon faith, two divorces, and the death of two of her siblings due to suicide.

Part 1 – Faith Crisis and Sister’s Death:

Part 2 – Divorce:

Part 3 – Utah Jazz Dancing:

Part 4 – Another Sibling Death:

Part 1

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Part 2

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Part 3

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Part 4

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  1. Freedom West May 30, 2019 at 9:45 pm - Reply

    I am only part way through part 3, but I really want to thank Liz for her words. You are fortunate to have gone through the transition at an early age. My wife and I were free for 2 years before we joined so we experienced the drinking, partying, and premarital sex, but the Church put a lot of restrictions as to what a married couple should do in the bedroom, putting me on a guilt-trip for many years.

    John, I really agree on the firearms. There is way too much of a gun culture in this country and gun are too accessible. And a child who may be depressed can easily discharge a firearm when not really trying. Firearm culture is a political issue and we might find that many school shootings are actually a shooter hoping he will die after killing people. My wife’s schizophrenia has made me realize that I should keep guns out of easy access, and I do being a trained tactical shooter who understands guns.

  2. Roger Taylor May 30, 2019 at 10:16 pm - Reply

    Thank you for this interview. It helps me understand the feeling that I have because of my cousin, to whom I was very close, killing herself and killing her daughter. Tell Liz 444 for me.

  3. Tiffany May 31, 2019 at 11:08 am - Reply

    I am so in awe of Liz. Her strength, her wisdom, her candor, all of it. Wow, wow, wow. Thank you, Liz for sharing your story and your experience. Wishing you all the best.

    • Debbie June 1, 2019 at 9:21 am - Reply

      Couldn’t agree more with Tiffany!

  4. Debra Skomer June 1, 2019 at 9:17 am - Reply

    I am presently at the end of part 3 and beginning part 4. I appreciate this interview, and find it particularly powerful and unique. Unique because of Liz’s many life-defining and life-altering experiences at a very young age, and powerful because of her honesty and clarity of thought. Her lack of pretense is particularly refreshing.

    I was “inspired” to write because something was said beginning at 15’15” on part 3 (Episode 1118) that angered me. John compared religion to “no-religion” at 15’30”, and characterized no-religion as “…having no community, and no sense of purpose, and no morality and feeling alone and isolated …”

    I’m tempted to just leave this alone, but I can’t, because it is a constant refrain that I am increasingly irritated by. Blanket statements about people that do not practice or affiliate with a religion can be ignorant and cruel, and always result in prejudice and sometimes in outright discrimination. Replace “no-religion” with the name of any other marginalized group, and you will quickly walk away with the realization that you have unfairly judged the non-religious around you (including those in your own family). It is as wrong as non-Mormons assuming that all TBMs are brainwashed … or assuming that all active Mormons are in fact living lives filled with purpose, “morality”, and that they are surrounded by beneficent community.

    Of course “we” who are non-religious have purpose, morality, and community!!!!!

    It is willfully ignorant to assume otherwise, and repeating this lie, over and over and over and over again, does the same damage as repeating the lies about LGBTQ folk … like, “It’s a choice”, “It’s only about sex”, “Same-sex parents can’t be good parents”, “Trans people want access to the gender-appropriate bathroom because they are sexual predators”, etc.

    Every single one of us is born into a family, a neighborhood, a community, and yes, a multitude of religions (and levels of observance), that inform us about right and wrong, and what constitutes a “good life”. We are taught what we should value, or not, and instructed about what we might or should aspire to. Along the way, our choices are prescribed, or limited, or, perhaps even expanded by new experiences.

    I prefer to start with the fact that all human beings have a sense of right and wrong, and that they grow in their understanding and sophistication over time. When you question who you are, and what you are doing, you make decisions about the meaning of life, and your place in it. The religious are prone to think God creates your purpose – demands it, I suppose? – but I see us all creating our own purpose, even if it is choosing to live according to the prescriptions of a religious community. I also observe that EVERYONE has community. We are social creatures, and we find friends and associates and like-minded companions and organizations. Yes, there are some wonderful short-cuts provided by school, sports teams, dance troupes, places of worship… but those living beyond the embrace of YOUR religious community are not without community.

    So, I think what John is alluding to, is that we, as human beings, have basic needs, and we are amazingly similar across cultures and centuries … so that we are indeed searching for purpose, meaning, community, and if we are at all inquisitive and observant, we struggle with personal and social ethical dilemmas (daily!). I think it is important that we have the tools to make the best decisions, the best choices, as we travel a multitude of paths through this life. If we are not encouraged to engage in moral reasoning as children, we are impaired later in life.

    I know, with all my heart, that John is not trying to suggest that the non-religious are amoral. But I also realize that his ability to throw around the most hateful comments about non-believers is only possible because these kinds of comments are so casually repeated, and even seriously taught, within religious communities. WE are right, THEY are wrong. WE have the truth, THEY do not. WE value everything that is good and holy, THEY do not.

    I have a suggestion. If you think “secular humanism” is simply another term for “amoral atheist”, please read the Humanist Manifesto III which I have pasted below. This well describes what I aspire to, and believe. (Thanks in advance…. and I’ll sign off here.)

    “Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without supernaturalism, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity.

    The lifestance of Humanism—guided by reason, inspired by compassion, and informed by experience—encourages us to live life well and fully. It evolved through the ages and continues to develop through the efforts of thoughtful people who recognize that values and ideals, however carefully wrought, are subject to change as our knowledge and understandings advance.

    This document is part of an ongoing effort to manifest in clear and positive terms the conceptual boundaries of Humanism, not what we must believe but a consensus of what we do believe. It is in this sense that we affirm the following:

    Knowledge of the world is derived by observation, experimentation, and rational analysis. Humanists find that science is the best method for determining this knowledge as well as for solving problems and developing beneficial technologies. We also recognize the value of new departures in thought, the arts, and inner experience—each subject to analysis by critical intelligence.

    Humans are an integral part of nature, the result of unguided evolutionary change. Humanists recognize nature as self-existing. We accept our life as all and enough, distinguishing things as they are from things as we might wish or imagine them to be. We welcome the challenges of the future, and are drawn to and undaunted by the yet to be known.

    Ethical values are derived from human need and interest as tested by experience. Humanists ground values in human welfare shaped by human circumstances, interests, and concerns and extended to the global ecosystem and beyond. We are committed to treating each person as having inherent worth and dignity, and to making informed choices in a context of freedom consonant with responsibility.

    Life’s fulfillment emerges from individual participation in the service of humane ideals. We aim for our fullest possible development and animate our lives with a deep sense of purpose, finding wonder and awe in the joys and beauties of human existence, its challenges and tragedies, and even in the inevitability and finality of death. Humanists rely on the rich heritage of human culture and the lifestance of Humanism to provide comfort in times of want and encouragement in times of plenty.

    Humans are social by nature and find meaning in relationships. Humanists long for and strive toward a world of mutual care and concern, free of cruelty and its consequences, where differences are resolved cooperatively without resorting to violence. The joining of individuality with interdependence enriches our lives, encourages us to enrich the lives of others, and inspires hope of attaining peace, justice, and opportunity for all.

    Working to benefit society maximizes individual happiness. Progressive cultures have worked to free humanity from the brutalities of mere survival and to reduce suffering, improve society, and develop global community. We seek to minimize the inequities of circumstance and ability, and we support a just distribution of nature’s resources and the fruits of human effort so that as many as possible can enjoy a good life.

    Humanists are concerned for the well being of all, are committed to diversity, and respect those of differing yet humane views. We work to uphold the equal enjoyment of human rights and civil liberties in an open, secular society and maintain it is a civic duty to participate in the democratic process and a planetary duty to protect nature’s integrity, diversity, and beauty in a secure, sustainable manner.

    Thus engaged in the flow of life, we aspire to this vision with the informed conviction that humanity has the ability to progress toward its highest ideals. The responsibility for our lives and the kind of world in which we live is ours and ours alone.”

  5. James June 1, 2019 at 8:35 pm - Reply

    I don’t see the tragedy of suicide or death in general. I don’t conclude that an old person’s has more value than a young person’s life.

    Death is part of the human experience. It comes to all of us.

    • Bill McClymonds June 4, 2019 at 5:55 am - Reply


      Your comment does not match my personal experience with the death of a loved one. I have experienced deep pain and sadness after the death of those who were close loved ones. Yes, death is part of the human experience, but it is not an easy part of that experience. Liz said that there are a lot of complicated emotions following death. I could not agree more with her assessment. The loss of a close loved one is a very personal event that we all experience in different ways and for different periods of time. It may be a part of the human experience, but it has not been easy or routine when I have had those experiences.

      Having written these things, I will also note that the experience of the death of a loved one has been much easier for me because of my faith. As a mainstream Christian, I have confidence that I will be able to see my loved ones again someday. For me, that is a very reassuring and comforting thought.

  6. Anne June 10, 2019 at 10:59 am - Reply

    The conversation regarding “authenticity” could be longer, I feel. I would love to listen to an entire podcast, perhaps paneled, on this question of the meaning of “authenticity”, and it’s manifestations.

    Understandably, the word is getting a bit thin for those who hold fast to conventional beliefs, and conventional norms. The word gets tossed around a lot by those in the latter stages of faith crisis, so for the bystanders wondering what is happening, and feeling their own beliefs a little less validated by numbers, it’s taking on a scary connotation.

    In conventional, conservative arenas, (like the LDS church, for instance) authenticity is held in suspicion, because it’s anathema to conformity, of course. “Authenticity” is becoming code in those arenas for, “selfish” or “weak-minded”. A word describing a lack of willingness to pull up one’s bootstraps and get on with the good work. It can be a trigger word for friends and family who are threatened/confused by the shifts occurring in the person in a faith crisis.

    I think it would be a very useful conversation, to tease out the subtle but powerful implications underlying this (perhaps over-used) term. Might help those in the process of discovering their own “authenticity” to:
    1. clarify and work with the process in themselves with greater awareness
    2. articulate what they’re learning and discovering more clearly and calmly with their peeps

    And, in that spirit of clarity; what I mean when I speak of authenticity, is to find and learn to be guided by my internal sense of integrity, as opposed to influences that come from outside of that integrity. The way I’ve learned to discern the difference is simple, but not always easy; when I’m feeling some version of fear pushing me in a certain direction, that alerts me that I’m listening to a source other than my own purest intelligence. Also, I’ve found that going towards that which arouses my fear is often the most efficient route towards peace.

    It’s simple, but challenging. Not least because the church, and this culture, teach us to listen to our fears, by first listening to our parents and teachers fears for us. Very early in life, most of us get very confused about what is our inner truth, and what is not. We’re told to obey, do as we’re told, avoid mistakes, be “good”, be “smart”. All as defined by others. Authenticity, in a sense, could be defined as rediscovering what we knew about ourselves at birth, but have forgotten in our efforts to get stable connections with the people in our lives. At least, that’s my quick-summary take on it.

  7. Grammabd June 15, 2019 at 2:21 pm - Reply

    Just finished episode 1 – come on John, you asked Liz why she didn’t get up and leave the temple endowment??? We all KNOW why! Just like she said, you don’t know ahead of time what you are committing to! I wanted to get up and walk out when I heard I was to go along with it being ok to slit someone’s throat! But, just like Liz, I had so many people there that loved and cared about me – I was just plain chicken! And the church will NEVER put the promises before the raising of hands to commit to them – no one would stay and the temples would be empty. Besides, it was such a beautiful, clean, quiet building and I loved being there with my dearest friends!
    OK, I’ll comment more after I finish the other episodes!

  8. Grammabd June 15, 2019 at 3:31 pm - Reply

    Just finished listening to episode 2 – OMGosh, I could talk a couple of hours about my own divorce and 2 marriages; and I do agree with living together BEFORE marriage – because you just don’t know each other in a daily way until you live together. That said, I do believe you should marry before having children and make sure you are having children for the right reason – not to “fix” a bad marriage! I married at 17, had my first baby at 17 and second at 19. Even that young, I wanted my marriage to last through growing old together. I stayed in a mostly bad marriage for 14 years – for the kids! Now, looking back that was the worst reason ever to stay together. One of the reasons I joined the LDS church is because I wanted my children to be in a strong family oriented home. My present husband was my live-in-boyfriend when the missionaries found us and HE asked them in. We took the lessons for a year; found out we couldn’t get baptized if we weren’t married, so we married. I was LDS for 35 years and then turned in my letter to leave. Marriage is never guaranteed whether you are the same faith or not, but is based on honesty and give and take on both sides. It is NOT a 50/50 deal – it is a 100/100 deal. So glad Liz didn’t stay in a marriage for years and years unhappily.

  9. Grammabd June 15, 2019 at 5:31 pm - Reply

    I found this third episode enlightening on suicide – my almost 18-year-old son – committed suicide in 1983 by shooting himself. I could not understand some of the comments that ward members thought they were helping me with by saying odd things – one elderly lady said that God uses all sources to make sure his plan is achieved, therefore, my son shot himself to fulfill God’s plan for him to die at this predetermined time in the spirit world! Is this really something that old folks were taught? My son had been baptized at 12 years old, so he was Mormon, but we don’t live in Utah so we can’t add him to those statistics! My personal feelings are that we need to let our preteens/teens know that it is normal to have those feelings of just leaving this world to end their pain. I think Liz and John both discussed this topic very well. I enjoyed the information about Liz’s dancing and all that is involved in being a Utah Jazz dancer. It will make me be more aware when I watch them in the future!

    And for James’ comment of “I don’t see the tragedy of suicide or death in general. I don’t conclude that an old person’s has more value than a young person’s life.” I started having the pain of the death of loved ones when I was 7. I’m now in my 70’s – I have gone through the normal deaths of grandparents, parents, friends; but death of your children is different. I agree that death is a part of the human experience and comes to us all. I look forward to death as my body no longer works for me the way it did when I was young. But for you to say you don’t see the tragedy of death in general – I’m wondering if you have buried a young child? I have buried 3 of my 6 children – it was a tragedy for me and yet I know that we all have to die!

    Episode 4 – Liz is so wise on what is needed by her from others on her brother’s death. And how each person is going to need something personal. One thing that I liked – in addition to “just being there” for me – is to let me talk about him and to share stories with me of my son with that person. John is right, pain and suffering is definitely different. Thank you so much, Liz, for sharing your life up to now, with us!

    • T Martin December 24, 2019 at 1:02 pm - Reply

      Thank you for that beautiful post. Your words deeply touched me.

  10. Kate July 28, 2019 at 11:09 am - Reply

    I have been trying to Google the treatment program Liz entered when she was critically depressed. Wasn’t it called “Impact”? I can’t find any information on it. Could someone please post a link to the website?

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