In this two-part series on Mormon Stories Podcast we interview the incredibly successful Mehrsa. Mehrsa and her family immigrated from Iran to the United States when she was 9. After joining the Mormon church, Mehrsa graduated from BYU and New York University law school, became law school faculty at both BYU and University of Georgia (where she now works). She is the author of two books:

How the other half banks: Exclusion, Exploitation, and the Threat to Democracy
The Color of Money: Black Banking and the Racial Wealth Gap

In addition to her successful career, she is the mother of three children, and identifies as an Immigrant, liberal, Mormon, Muslim, feminist, lawyer, mother who generally dislikes labels.

Topics of focus for today’s episode include: Race and Mormonism, Mormons and Social Justice, and Tribalism and Mormon Identity.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 1:

Part 2:


  1. Andrew Larsen September 9, 2017 at 12:23 pm - Reply

    Almost no one in the US knows Iranian history. The story of the CIA’s involvement in the removal of Mossadegh should be known, but it is not. Kermit Roosevelt (TR’s grandson) boasted of his success in later years. Unbelievable.

  2. Andrew Larsen September 9, 2017 at 12:31 pm - Reply

    Mosaddegh (sp).

  3. JJ September 9, 2017 at 3:21 pm - Reply

    It was NOT a Muslim ban. Even Matt from IOT (an attorney who analyzed the ban) stated that the media blew it way out of proportion. Certain countries were selected (and Obama passed a similar ban, BTW), and a host of Muslim countries were left out of the ban. Furthermore, the exception clause (possibly the only unconstitutional part of it) was for religious minorities being literally beheaded by ISIS. What concerns me more is that this topic was blithely addressed as a given wrong and just “racist.” With respect, this sounds more like an echo chamber than a discussion involving critical thinking. I think we can do better.

    • Q September 11, 2017 at 2:32 pm - Reply

      Yes, we all need to avoid echo chambers, and the only way we can do that to consider the views of those who disagree with us. If someone born in one of the affected countries believes a policy is racist, have you considered why she might feel that way? What makes you so certain she’s wrong and hasn’t done any critical thinking about this?

    • Norman September 14, 2017 at 1:19 pm - Reply

      During the campaign Trump unequivocally stated that he would be implementing a “Muslim Ban,” so shouldn’t we simply take his word for it that that is what he was trying to accomplish?

  4. Dwayne September 9, 2017 at 4:18 pm - Reply

    How many minorities work for “Mormon Stories?”

  5. Happy in the mountains September 9, 2017 at 9:04 pm - Reply

    Thank you, Mehrsa, so much for this interview. My wife and I, though very active in the Church for over 40 years, were never really a part of the active Mormon tribe. We only had one child, we did not attend BYU, did not go to seminary or serve a mission. But even after 5 years not attending, we still miss the socialization in the tribe.

    Many young people can be sort of part of the ex-Mormon tribe, mainly because of interaction of others using electronic technology, such as Facebook, and we are fairly computer illiterate.

    And, we live in a very conservative, both political and religious, rural community, and so my ideas having changed over the years to believe in evolution, support of LGBT issues, opposed to white supremacy, don’t fit in well.

    Our area is probably one of the most nationalistic, pro-Trump, leaning toward white supremacy, areas in the country as well as in the Church. I used to believe as most tribal members of my area, in a myriad of conspiracies.

    It is also very difficult being out of the tribe because we are both in our early seventies and older folks seem to want to stay in the tribe, and have a tendency to avoid us.

    Even though you are a kid compared to us, I really enjoyed your story since it is probably the closest of any I’ve listened to on Mormon Stories, ( And I’ve listened to and watched many,) to my situation.

    I currently take lots of the Great Courses college courses and that seems to help transitioning out of my tribe.

  6. Jay September 10, 2017 at 12:38 pm - Reply

    Neil deGrasse Tyson makes the case that the introduction of Islam to Persia marked the end of Persia being an intellectual hotbed and leader of the world as it fell in to a world view based on superstition.

    • Coriantumr September 14, 2017 at 3:22 pm - Reply

      Do not believe so. By the time Persia fell to the Islam invasion they were already a spent cause. Their constant rivalry with the Roman Empire [Byzantium] got them to a point of no return. But no worries. They became part of the driving intelligentsia of Islam. In time they created their own mythology and Islamic scholarly tradition from a purely political schism. Sounds like u consider Arab Islam as “retrograde” versus Persia. Islam is NOT opposed to Zoroastrian beliefs because there is unity on Zoroastrian beliefs. As far as DeGrasse , well, for a guy that is an astrophysicist he surely gets out of the trodden path ain’t he?

      • Jay September 17, 2017 at 5:01 pm - Reply

        He’s saying Islam inhibited science in that part of the world.

  7. Kelly September 12, 2017 at 8:44 am - Reply

    I absolutely loved your book How the Other Half Banks and was so surprised to see you on Mormon stories. I’m looking forward to hearing your interview.

  8. Gabriel bon Himmel September 12, 2017 at 1:48 pm - Reply

    Great conversation with Mersha. What a Lively vivacious person –– what a great personality; her Persian legacy is in evidence, It’s been my experience, Iranians are not well served by its leadership and that is laid at our feet.
    We have done the Persian a disservice thanks to our meddling for oil–lust.
    There are a few benefits from our interference in the in the destiny of other nations, Mersha is but one.
    When dealing with tribalism –– cast a wider net and we see the sapient sapian is indeed a better animal.

    Thanks John, you still can put it out.

  9. Liberal white woman September 12, 2017 at 2:16 pm - Reply

    As a convert raised by liberal Democrats I always felt like I never quite fit in even though all the boxes were checked (BYU grad , temple marriage, full tithe payer) I was othered mainly by having a career. I feel like Mehsra in that I realize I will probably never have a “tribe “but that’s ok. There were so many cultural nuances people born into the church “get” that I never did and that often caused problems for me. It’s a relief to be out. I really am hesitant to find another tribe because I believe tribes can exclude people in unhealthy ways.

  10. Shawn September 14, 2017 at 6:19 pm - Reply

    It’s ironic that much of the discussion revolves around tribalism by this motivated, high IQ, beautiful, self described women of color. The majority of the underclass, regardless of race have the opposite traits of Mrs. Baradaran and Mr. Carter. If you continue parroting back the politics of race from your tribe, the politics of race will again assist in getting the man child Trump re-elected. How did Mr. Carter and Mrs. Baradaran rise above institutional racism? Please before the next election expand more on that part of their stories.

  11. Ben September 14, 2017 at 8:16 pm - Reply

    I will start by saying that I’m your typical straight, white, middle class, politically indifferent male. I was extremely impressed with everything about Mehrsa. Her approach to religion, to breaking down tribal barriers, and sense of purpose are truly inspirational. I found myself wishing as I was listening that I could vote for someone like her to be president. I wish that interview could’ve gone on a lot longer.

    Mehrsa, if you read this, thank you for helping me to see the issues facing people different than me without an “us vs. them” mentality.

  12. Shawn September 14, 2017 at 9:08 pm - Reply

    On your top ten concerns for the church to be worried about there was no mention of intolerant violent islam. Would it at least be in the top twenty? I understand not wanting to be shunned from your tribe, but I would have expected at the very least a generic, “intolerant violent extremists”. This attempt to appear tolerant at the expense of at least a nuanced truth is what has in part elected the very under qualified commercial brand, Trump.

  13. cl_rand September 17, 2017 at 10:17 am - Reply

    For any MS listeners still struggling to understand why America is great, and has been for quite some time now, they need look no further than Mehrsa Bararadan’s story to the power of 100. Imagine the loss we as a nation would/will suffer if we forsake the very foundations of our success with ill conceived blanket bans on immigration. Thank you Mehrsa for sharing your story; I’m so happy your family found us.

    • Gabriel von Himmel September 19, 2017 at 6:14 pm - Reply

      Trumpublicanism is tribalism, where do we go to shield ourselves in defilade.
      Tribals unite to gather for more shunning of the other whether in thought or color.
      The Anthropecene is upon us and yet we steel ourselves from the raw data that closes the loop.
      We see he/she is us, the enemy tribe is a social fabrication.

  14. Mary September 18, 2017 at 4:57 pm - Reply

    I haven’t been this moved for a while now. I am a former Mormon, mixed-race, teacher, mother, wife, and friend(how’s that for my labels😉).
    I appreciated her insights on tribes and finding our place. Being of mixed race, I often feel lost for a tribe. Thank you for this perspective that reminded me to broaden my horizons and find a tribe in the human race. Well done!

  15. anewearth September 19, 2017 at 5:24 pm - Reply

    I consider this podcast to be one of the very best of Mormon Stories. It was a real delight to hear Mehrsa’s personal story. She was so very articulate and passionate. I agree…we, as a society, need new myths that can unite, instead of separating groups into “us” and “them.” I love the idea of being “soft” on people and “hard” on institutions. I do believe that literalism is the fundamental cause of much of the religious violence we have seen throughout the world. With that being said, I have learned that we cannot change another person’s mind by belittling or shaming them. I hope that we will see more real debate and less name calling in our national dialogue. Thank you for an amazing podcast!

  16. Tracy Austin September 20, 2017 at 10:07 am - Reply

    Absolutely how I feel as a non US convert, Mehrsa confirms how I feel about many aspects of the tribe. Great podcast.

  17. Karin Berg September 20, 2017 at 8:33 pm - Reply

    My favorite MS….because this expands me far beyond Mormonism and into the world that we all need to be empowered to make a difference in. Talk about enlightening in a spectacularly mind blowing way. Thank you for bringing us Mehrsa, John. I’ve learned so much tonight.

  18. Dodger September 22, 2017 at 6:53 pm - Reply

    As an ongoing member of the church I find the whole idea of tribalism misguided and wrong headed. The organization at its core is stubbornly individualistic, gathering only as a means to an end, that being to take and give account for the things going on for which there is no common agreement or consensus. The folks pushing handcarts etc. we’re not taking one for the team. They were rugged individuals committed to life on their terms. The over abundance of theocratic thinking among the tribespersons of today misses that undergirding reality.

  19. Sean September 23, 2017 at 1:51 pm - Reply

    I’m going to express my frustrations with Mehrsa’s theories and proposals concerning the availability of credit and financial services in minority communities.

    For 30 years I have worked in the financial services industry as a lender to consumers and small business owners. I have been in both the banking and credit union worlds. The proposition that credit and banking products are not available to minority communities is absurd. There are programs galore that exist to address the lack of access to personal loans, mortgages, business loans and deposit products. From the SBA, Dept. Of Agriculture , FEMA, State Agencies, Community Development Corporations, and a myriad of smaller organizations, the amount of outreach is tremendous. Banks have CRA programs and low-income offerings. Credit unions specialize in providing no fee products to help the disadvantaged.

    I invite Mehrsa to spend some time with me and discover what is offered in the real world. The availability of credit is not the issue. The challenge is with determining the allocation of those monies to credit worthy individuals, projects and companies. Even when the underwriting standards are very liberal, it is necessary to make a judgment on each and every request to determine if the credit will be repaid. To ignore this part of the process is to advocate for a foolish and idiotic misuse of the monies provided by the government, financial organizations and non-profit groups. At the end of the day, the monies need to be repaid. That requires getting into the trenches and doing the challenging and frustrating work of determining which credit requests are viable and which ones are merely charity contributions to irresponsible persons.

    It is easy to pontificate from the sidelines. It is easy to advocate for the creation of a grand program using post offices as new resources to combat the deep challenges these communities face. But until one is forced to make daily judgment calls and to take responsibility for collection of the debt when it goes bad, all theories and proposals lack credibility.

  20. Jeanne Aldrich September 26, 2017 at 5:35 pm - Reply

    Oh – I loved this interview. She is so brilliant and alive with knowledge, wisdom and eloquence that all should listen and learn. There is hope in this crazy maniacal world as long as there are minds and hearts as bright and kind and wise as Mehrsa. I’m headed to Amazon to hang on more of her words by buying her book. It’s so refreshing and heartening to hear such truth spoken with such honest eloquence. May she live forever and run for President and save us all. Or someone just like her – since she is far too smart to do something so inherently soul bending. I could listen to her for so many more hours.

  21. Isaac Mathews September 30, 2017 at 11:09 pm - Reply

    Wow, patriarchal blessings BLUNDER! Lol, her mother was “blessed” in her patriarchal blessing to be of the tribe of Esau? Seriously?
    Esau is NOT a tribe of Israel! I know this was only one tiny part of the interview – a great interview too! – BUT think of how significant that is! I have heard of so many weird things in patriarchal blessings. What does this mean? Would God inspire such things?

    These patriarchal blessings have effected the lives of so many Mormons. The Mormon culture holds patriarchal blessings like a psychic reading or a mystic prediction/divination from the magical oracle. I know so many Mormons who have based life decisions on their patriarchal blessing. Kinda scary actually.

    Mormon Stories needs to do a show about patriarchal blessings – from the 1830s to the present! It would be fascinating to see how many patriarchal blessings have contained huge contradictions, inconsistencies, and errors with church doctrine …etc.

  22. Cheryl October 4, 2017 at 7:42 pm - Reply

    She is brilliant. She is articulate, and she is not threatened by the constrictions of some parts of her life. She has transcended them and developed her own identity. You can tell she feels comfortable and confident with her convictions and decisions a she moves forward on her life’s journey. Great interview.

  23. Laura October 5, 2017 at 7:57 am - Reply

    Very inspiring. She is articulate and has such a good and pure soul. I hope we can all watch this and strive to be more like her. Super cool chick!!

  24. Larry Ballard February 15, 2020 at 1:06 pm - Reply

    Is TRIBALISM a software package that has been downloaded in to us, a part of our evolutionary past of survival within a group—any group making it part of our genetic nature or is it a way of thinking, feeling and then behaving that actually keeps us separated, divided, classified and disconnected? In any case, are the social constructs of society based on tribalism leading us towards less suffering, cognitive dissonance and ……well….division? Is Myth the aspect of Tribalism that leads to the glues that bind us in to groups that do not allow us to express the TRUE CARE that does not create and perpetuate OTHER? Have we become true believers in the tribal dialectics that can be controlled and manipulated as Edward Bernays describes? Let me simply suggest that this lady has processed her education and lived experience in to a most profound wisdom. My heart filled with emotion that flowed in to my mind to reason out the WISDOM of her concept. Yes, we have been habituated to tribal thinking and feeling and consequently behaving. How is that working out? Yes, we are attached with those “at home feelings” of what we have been processed through. But, is it not time to really focus on her thoughts. What if we changed the 500 tribe ethic that existed in the Americas when the Europeans ventured here, to the mantra….”WE ARE ALL ONE TRIBE.” Religion separates us. Politics divides us. Wealth and even Education classifies us. Race disconnects us. Sexism….well…you get the picture. How about we begin to get out of DULL CARE and open and expand our minds and hearts to begin to create new myths based on TRUTH, even if the discovery of truth has to begin apophatically with what is NOT true, and begin the path based on love and not fear of TRUE CARE. WE ARE ALL ONE TRIBE!

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