MicahMicah Nickolaisen has been an important participant in the Mormon Internet for the past three years. His activism began in 2012 as co-founder of both the “A Thoughtful Faith” and the “Exploring Sainthood” podcasts/communities – both of which sought to encourage thoughtful and faithful LDS Church activity/participation.

After losing his faith/confidence in the LDS Church in 2013, and in reaction to the Kate Kelly and John Dehlin excommunications in 2014/2015, Micah co-led several projects which sought to bring attention/visibility to problems within in the LDS Church. Micah co-founded the “Strangers in Zion” project, wherein LDS Church members were encouraged to request disciplinary councils (in lieu of resigning their membership). Micah was also a co-founder of the recent “Any Opposed” initiative wherein several LDS Church members expressed vocal opposition to church policies/practices during the April 2015 LDS General Conference.

In this three-part interview Micah discusses his early years of strong devotion to the church. He then discusses his participation as a pro- and then a post-Mormon activist. In the final episode, Micah discusses his newfound interest in the formation of secular communities for post-religious individuals (e.g., Sunday Assembly and Atheism 2.0).



  1. NS April 22, 2015 at 11:24 pm - Reply

    Is he Leonardo Dicaprio’ brother? :-) (Just can’t help it!)

  2. NS April 22, 2015 at 11:26 pm - Reply

    Is he Leonardo Dicaprio’s brother? (Just can’t help it!!) ;-)

    • Micah Nickolaisen April 23, 2015 at 4:03 pm - Reply

      Yes, I get “Fat Leo” all the time :)

      • NS April 24, 2015 at 8:26 pm - Reply

        From listening to your entire interview, one of the most illuminating things to me was your observation and comment on facing the problem with having tried to turn the “ex”-Mormon community into a “post”-Mormon community, in order to recapture the (cultural) Mormon way of life. Even though I do not share (the extend/level of) your enthusiasm for (re)creating a new community comparable to the one of the LDS (with all its good aspects, minus the divine deception and the harmful cultic policy, i.e. apostasy, excommunication, shunning the dissents, etc) because I view that as heavily coming from an LDS nostalgia, I can still agree that it is still a deeply rooted and probably unshakable part of your life/identity and who you are – pretty much the same way we all feel & consider ourselves as an American.

        However, there is one tiny thing I found quite unnerving about your comment that religion must have some useful magic exemplary ingredients to bind people together as a community. It is not that I don’t agree with you (I strongly agree actually, esp about its effectiveness). What bothers me is that those ingredients, as I see them, are nothing more than the carrot-and-stick approach in order to make you stay. There is a beauty in the camaraderie of a community for sure, but under the religious approach/goal/context, the followings are the common things that frequently ensue.

        – According to the Pascal-wager fallacy, if you can’t prove the existence of God & heaven/hell, it is a safer bet to believe than not. Religion exploits that to offer you an unproven promise of an eternal salvation. It becomes even more strongly compelling (and fearsome) when you add your hope for the eternal family reunion thereafter into the wager. In Mormonism, the classification of the Heavens into celestial kingdom, terrestrial kingdom, and so on, unhealthily compels the members to struggle with perfectionism in order to be able to become Gods with their own absolute power to “truly” reunite with their own families (the Evangelical Christians label this as an “impossible/unattainable doctrine”). Several years ago, I attended a self-improvement course and what I learned from it was, in order to powerfully propel your life forward, you need an “infinite”, non-finite goal so big that it will be become an undepletable source of inspiration/energy to pull you forward indefinitely. Exploiting such idea (with an unproven promise of the eternal after-life) under a religious agenda, you cannot make a “genuinely healthy” community. However, taking that as a mere strategy to sustain a goal for success in life in general, that’s not so bad at all, and is pretty intriguing.

        – “We are the (only) one true church” – [The Mormons, Christians, Muslims] Our way is the only way or you face an apostasy & excommunication. Not only will your soul be eternally damned, but your family & community will also shun you. John Dehlin mentioned about an LDS family that purposely withheld helps to their suffering apostate relative so that he/she may be compelled to return after the hardship & loneliness from the exclusion. Or according to the Evangelical Christians, “we still love all our fellow Mormon brothers/sisters. Their eternal salvation is at stake by straying from Christ; therefore, it is our moral obligation to bring them (back) to the Lord so that they can be saved.” (Well, ….talking about Christians uniting the community for a good cause.)

        – “Jesus, take the wheel…because I can’t do it on my own” – You are nothing without us, without the Lord. What would you become, without him? I once heard on TV a Christian lady angrily said to an atheist, “I cannot even begin to imagine how you can possibly be a good person without believing in God”. When hearing that, the first thing cominf to my mind was “if you can’t tell good from bad and right from wrong on your own but need a god’s help, then something is really wrong with you as a person.” Religious community frequently treats its dissents with shunning, and promotes codependent mindset of a victim.

        – John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” This is probably one of the most beautiful expressions in the English language. It comes from Christianity and mistakenly held by the Mormons as “being Christ-like”. However, ironically, as the atheists put it, God simply came down to earth to sacrifice himself, for himself, to protect the sinners from himself/his own wrath. It’s a divine gift but only under one “condition” [?] that you have to adopt him into your life to access that FREE gift. As strictly a metaphorical inspiration to do good, be selfless for the community (be Christ-like), that does not seem so bad but that’s not how the Christians take it. It’s been used by religions as a tool (or sometimes a weapon) to both unify AND divide communities – the one true church from a false church; a true Christianity from Mormonism.

        Going back to the Christian lady’s angry statement that you can’t be good without a god, sometimes I am not sure whether Christians or Mormons help people or are so good and kind to one another because they are truly good & kind from the heart, truly concerned for others by nature (being good for goodness’ sake), or because they are rather concerned with their religious mission/principles (for perfection, to appease/please a god, etc). I think you (a now non-believer) and John Dehlin (an ex-orthodox Mormon) are truly extraordinary human beings, whose life’s calling is great and grand, for serving others for common good/greater good – to me, one of the best examples of the undepletable source of inspiration to powerfully and infinitely propel both of your lives forward.

        Both of your & John’s increasing departures from the Mormon’s orthodox mindset, I see them as a “maturity” – you both have “outgrown” Mormonism and are stepping into new grander unfamiliar territories, already trodden by many great people. It’s an authentic progress. I love your answers “I don’t know” that you gave in the last segment of the interview. It’s a humility and an open-mindedness for new discoveries, and progress as a result, being ready to change your mind as more clarity and information come along – a very scientific approach. Religious people (with the human nature) tend to dwell on a comfort/need of “knowing” for certain, e. g. the so-called Mormon/Christian’s testimonies. In that certainty, a faith (always blind) is also encouraged, or frequently even required. “You have no faith” has such a negative connotation when in fact it’s rather a good thing. We usually confuse “faith” with a much healthier idea like “I have a conviction/trust”, which must be “earned”, not blindly demanded. I am always discouraged whenever I hear a Christian’s or a Mormon’s testimony “I KNOW for certain that X is true because…” because all I hear is a big leap for conclusion. Today, we have a healthier version of testimonies by John Dehlin’s guests bearing their own version of testimonies at the end of the podcasts and also Oprah’s slogan…”what I know for sure” for examples, which are rather a culmination/wisdom from real-life experiences, than a blind unexamined faith.

        From John’s disciplinary-council transcript, Dr. Bryan King pretty much said that one of the reasons he believed in Mormonism being true was because, like so many Mormons, he read the BOM and he “felt good”. Not only is that a huge leap, but also an absurdity to be considered a respectable tool to arrive at a conclusion for the truth of anything – just like what you said so well in the interview, “it’s just all in your head”. He further mentioned that, being a surgeon marveled by numerous extraordinary cases defying possibilities in many patients, he immediately attributed that to miracles…and therefore God. That reaffirmed his belief in God (and miracles as a grace of God). To me, that’s such a disservice to his own profession and a medical progress, also as a scientist, because a good medical practitioner should not stop short/cop out at a mere “awe” at an extraordinary, marvelous incident. A further investigation must be relentlessly pursue for the “whole” truth (a fact) – getting to the bottom of it. There is no medical progress & discovery in attributing anything to God’s miracle. Without an earnest discovery of a fact, we would still be praying in order to cure sickness, for example.

        I agree with your concern about dealing with mortality, based on the idea that we have so much to do today to contribute for mankind and the future, while we still have only little time here, on earth. Eastern philosophy (e.g. Zen, Buddhism, etc) suggests that we should become more self-aware of the “here and now” when dealing with or contributing for the future – not getting lost in the “plan/agenda” but to be “present”.

        How many times do we practice “carpe diem” but rather mentally drift in vain into the future (what we still have yet to achieve), instead of being “fully present” at what you are engaging here & now (what we are achieving or about to achieve now)? [Meditation is one of the most powerful tools for a practitioner on being fully present, here & now.]

        • Micah Nickolaisen April 27, 2015 at 10:40 am - Reply

          NS, that was brilliant feedback. Lot’s of food for thought, I really appreciate it.

          • Spotted Leopard May 14, 2015 at 3:23 pm

            This has been a great interview. One of the better ones, I was a MS devotee then , well, Ive vanished from the face of the earth for the forseeable future. BUT… I have had the recent realization of this. The Brethren have been calling people the “Enemies” of the church, for ages, acting as if they are external evil people who are just wicked, and want an end to the lords holy church. They have stuck with that for ages, but as I look at what is going on now, the “enemies” of the church, are their own creation. They spent money, research, propaganda, re writing history, tweaking manuals, and an entire paradigm, to create this very generation. We are the ones they are most proud of, we were there making it all grow, we were going on missions, being good citizens, everything they wanted us to be. We were the largest number of members living this way, we learned what they wanted us to learn, and did what they wanted us to do, said what they wanted us to say. Now it has gotten out of anyones control, they wanted us to be dilligently studying, learning, and believing, but suddenly, we arent learning what they wanted us to, we are learning and experiencing things outside the paradigm, and believe it or not, its not bad or evil. People can drink, and not fall into a horrible lifestyle, people have pre marital sex, and still are happy with eachother, and their own lives in spite of what the church tells them. The church is trying to tell us that what we are experiencing is wrong, and wicked, and will never make us happy, but strangely, more and more of us are. Before when people left the church , they just stopped going cause they didnt care, and are still on the books , just seen by the locals as “less active”. The real problem here is what is alarming to the brethren, those people can stay on the books and not care, Its the people who are actually resigning, signing a letter saying IM OUT, LEAVING , GONE… That has not happened to this level before, and its the very people they were proudest of. This generation they tried to create , the best and brightest, are leaving, resigning, and walking away because they are angry. The thousands sending in their letters of resignation every week, are the ones who were thought of to be the next wave of great leaders in the church. Its we who were supposed to bring the great expansion for the church. All of that is falling to the side, and their damage control is failing . The older generation is going to sit it out for the most part, but the demographic who are leaving in droves, is those of us who were born after 1965. I saw so much of myself in what you said in these interviews Micah, and hearing you and John laugh about it all, its an easiness you both feel that we could sense in listening. I applaud John for sticking with it, knowing he was going to cause a rift, but not just yellign “Movie” in a crowded fire house. The paradigm is that we should be happy with whatever answer THEY (the brethren) give us, and when we dont, and keep asking, it leaves them with two choices, own up to it, answer questions, and lose credibility, OR, kick them out. They said they have no need for us, when the excommunicated John, and Kate, but, with the current numbers leaving, and their actions around it, (nothing) it makes Uchdorfs great “doubt your doubts” speech, nothing more than lip service. Anyway, thanks for the space to talk, Lets all just look for peace , and an end to it all.

  3. HaroldTheCat April 23, 2015 at 2:13 am - Reply

    Great interview — really enjoyed it. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Gary April 23, 2015 at 4:11 am - Reply

    John & Micah, I listened to all three parts yesterday while I was doing some busywork … and enjoyed what I heard. Cudos to Micah for the “All Opposed” stunt. I personally don’t want The Brethren to show any signs of personal integrity or mental health. Not a problem since they are devoid of both. They are operating from their core values, which are the same core values that Joseph Smith exhibited, and they ain’t very praiseworthy or of good report. Keep up the great podcasts! Thanks for making it happen. (I show my appreciation by contributing monthly.)

  5. Phil April 23, 2015 at 6:16 am - Reply

    Now that’s what I call a role model for youth!

    Awesome YouTube clip!

  6. TJ April 23, 2015 at 11:04 am - Reply

    Thank you for your courage and demanding more answers from the ‘Brethren’ than the typical ‘search, ponder, and pray’

    • emmanuel segui April 23, 2015 at 1:36 pm - Reply

      Unfortunately, the “Brethren” don’t care. They think they have it all figure out. Proof is that Uchdorf asked them to see their stake pres. They ask middle management to do the dirty work for them. Ugh!!!!

  7. hope_for_things April 23, 2015 at 11:47 am - Reply

    Thanks for this interview. I’ve been a fan of A Thoughtful Faith, and I always wondered about the falling out, and what happened. As someone newer to a faith crisis/transition, I’ve often wondered if I’m going down a path that will lead me out of the church. There seem to be a lot of voices that would believe that I’m also traveling a path that will eventually lead me out of the church. I frequently ask myself, am I deceiving myself about my trajectory? Will this path lead me out? These are good questions, that I don’t know the answer to, but I’m hoping that the answer is no.

    Here’s why. I think there is value to religion still. Even with all the messed up folklore and traditions that are so prevalent. It’s extremely hard to separate the good from the bad, I get that. Some approaches to this haven’t worked well for me, like the Given’s articulated approach of choosing to believe. I personally don’t think I can choose to believe something that I don’t find believable.

    Instead I characterize my choice as a choice to hope. And I’m not hoping for unrealistic things like hoping the BoM is historical, or that Joseph really was commanded to practice polygamy. I’m just hoping that there is something divine out there in the universe. Something greater than what I can perceive with all my limitations. Something worth gathering people together around a cause to serve others. That’s pretty much the core of my hope for the future with religion and my Mormonism.

    Anyone who’s already gone down this road can tell me if I’m being unrealistic to think that I can continue with my membership in the church with so little core beliefs. Please let me know, because I’m the kind of person that’s always wondering what the future holds. If my path for maintaining my relationship with the church isn’t realistic, please help me now, because I’d love to save myself from disappointment in the future.

    • John Dehlin April 23, 2015 at 11:57 am - Reply


      Enjoy it for as long as it works for you, and don’t let anyone tell you what you should or shouldn’t do. Truth is what works. Enjoy the church for as long as it brings you sufficient joy. It’s as simple as that.

      • Gary April 23, 2015 at 1:37 pm - Reply

        With all due respect, John, Truth is what is True. Period. The scenario where individuals discover the Church’s cartoon version of its own history is falsity and deception … and STILL decide to remain “under the influence” of The Brethren … based on awareness of Truth … Well, maybe that “works” for the time being, but it surely is not Truth.

        I would recraft your statement: “Truth is what works.” to “Truth is the destination; ‘what works’ is the journey.”

        • CR April 24, 2015 at 12:04 am - Reply

          Actually Gary, I don’t think you have it right either.

          I would recraft your statement: “Truth is the destination; ‘what works’ is the journey.”

          To “If ‘what works’ is the journey that is chosen, the destination will fall short of the truth. It is better to seek the truth from the beginning, regardless of how painful it is, rather than defaulting to what seems to work.

          Most people do what seems to be working for them and they are continually having to change course because doing what makes us feel good and what seems to be working, seldom has anything to do with truth.

    • Bill April 23, 2015 at 12:09 pm - Reply

      I cannot tell you how much peace I have found since leaving belief. I spent years trying to justify many things, both Mormon and Christian in general. How much energy is wasted trying to make sense out of things. I find the “Sh** happens” explanation to the problem of evil in the world much more satisfying than any kind of “God loves us but allows bad things to happen” explanation I spent nearly 50 years trying to find peace with. When you die, you are gone, just like everything else in this world. We better use our precious time here wisely and do what we can to leave good memories in the minds of those we leave behind. I find those answers much more deeply satisfying than any answers I looked for in organized religion. Good luck on your journey. You may be surprised where you end up!

      • emmanuel segui April 23, 2015 at 1:35 pm - Reply

        I totally agree with you bill. I spent so much energy trying to be this perfect priesthood holder. constant shame and guilt because you never know if you’re good enough. All these hours spent trying to figure things out like a loving god letting babies die of hunger, sexual abuse, terror every single day but “saving” a mormon because he has his garments on. It’s just a waste of time. An overwhelming peace came when I stopped believing in the mormon church. I’m so thankful for these essays that opened my eyes to more reflection and research and eventually my disaffection. My bishop actually told me I seemed more social. Heck yeah, I was constantly comparing myself, trying to be this great priesthood holder, feel of guilt all the time, instead of being me, perfectly imperfect. ugh!!!! what a suffocating culture.

    • Gary April 23, 2015 at 1:25 pm - Reply

      hope_for_things, As you know, it’s complicated. As I read your post, the following popped into my head: It’s possible to survive while consuming contaminated water. The microbes you ingest that take up residence in your body might not kill you, but they certainly will sap your energy and compromise your life force. They WILL make you sick: in subtle ways you may not notice, and at other times cause you great suffering. It’s one thing to drink diseased water ignorantly, but once you know your source is tainted, you get to decide to continue poisoning yourself intentionally, or find a clean source of water. It is nearly impossible for long-time Church members to accurately, fully self-assess the negative effects of the Church “soup” you live in. It’s like breathing stale air indoors for a long time. You don’t realize how bad the air was until you step outside and inhale clean, fresh air. You then wonder why you waited so long and regretfully mourn all thoee wasted years. All the best to you on your journey, whether it leads you out to fresh air and clean water … or not.

      • hope_for_things April 24, 2015 at 8:10 am - Reply

        Thanks, but I don’t agree with the contaminated water analogy. I see what’s bad in the church and I believe that I can navigate around the more dangerous elements. Good and bad exists everywhere in the world. Staying in the church is more of a cost/benefit proposition in my mind. As long as I’m aware of the costs and the benefits, I can choose to navigate these waters with awareness of the dangers around me. There are also many elements that are good that my family would lose by leaving.

        Thanks everyone for the thoughtful responses, I appreciate them.

    • Alexa April 23, 2015 at 3:05 pm - Reply

      You voiced the thoughts in my own head/heart so clearly and I don’t know where my road will take me either yet. I think the key is to enjoy the journey–take it a day at a time, allow for and anticipate that your thoughts/feelings will change over time and don’t judge yourself for it. Your journey is your own. I’ve thought sometimes that maybe this whole faith transition can be a means for me to learn how to just let things go and to not have to have control over everything in my life and always know what lies ahead in my future. Good luck in your journey!

    • Micah Nickolaisen April 23, 2015 at 4:05 pm - Reply

      I would echo what John said. You’re in charge now, enjoy the journey and don’t worry about where it leads you. You’ll be fine.

      • jeremy cloward May 14, 2015 at 11:20 am - Reply

        Listening to your podcast right now. You and John asked us to come and check in, … Im checking in, we are still here, and listening.

    • kinglamoni April 23, 2015 at 11:29 pm - Reply

      I hear you hope_for_things. I have been in this situation of not believing every thing the church shovels and staying active. Garments, tithing, callings, not shopping on Sunday, home teaching, and the whole nine yards, I do it. The church has as much to do with us staying as we our selves do. I believe John (I cant speak for him, just my opinion) probably would have stayed along with many others if the church where more open and inviting to those with differing views. I think if the church was stronger and more robust it would be able to with stand different of opinions of its members. I am just commenting to say that some of us are doing it. Your not alone. Continue to have hope. Have hope in all that you wish to have hope in. I hope for much as well. I hope the church will grow and be more inviting to all who wish to be a part of it.

    • cl_rand April 25, 2015 at 9:59 am - Reply

      Hello hope_for_things,

      Although your request for advice has been amply fulfilled I’m going to throw my 2 cents worth at you and I’m borrowing one of the pennies from someone who took the journey ahead of me. While nobody but you can say where your journey will lead there is one principle that has served as a beacon of light to literally millions before you. Simply stated it is this. The truth matters. It’s rarely easy to delineate and usually leads to more questions than answers but the truth does matter. As my father put it, “Education is the process whereby we go from cocksure ignorance to thoughtful uncertainty.” The truth matters. There, in a nut shell, is my free advice but please remember the old adage, ‘you get what you pay for’and act accordingly.

    • donna ryan June 9, 2015 at 7:17 am - Reply

      Dear Hope, I don’t understand “cultural Mormons” because I was a convert to the Mormon Church so leaving (my husband and I uncourageously left while moving from one city in Texas to another) was quite easy. I have returned to mainstream Christianity. I did not forsee that leaving the Mormon Church (my husband left, too) would result in divorce and the breakup of my family. (It shows how the fear of eternal something if one breaks the Temple marriage covenant is pretty powerful.) I have returned to mainstream Christianity and find it very satisfying. Best wishes, Donna

  8. Mike April 23, 2015 at 12:57 pm - Reply

    A question for John. Why not hook up with White Fields and push the “recovery agenda”? Your background in all things Mormon and psychology would seem to fit the goal of counseling and working through so many of the issues we face as we morph from and through Mormonism. Just a thought.

  9. emmanuel segui April 23, 2015 at 1:15 pm - Reply

    I’ve watched this video many times and after listening to you, I’m thinking that opposing once takes an enormous amount of courage, like crazy shit courage. but three times in a row. I just have to applaud you. I can barely breathe thinking about opposing in public among 20,000 TBMs. That’s just amazing. Thanks for your example. I opposed yes also at home, emailed my stake pres and went to see him yesterday.

  10. Alexa April 23, 2015 at 3:07 pm - Reply

    Loved the interview John–and appreciated all the context/history, really interesting stuff. Thanks for having so many great interviews back to back.

  11. Krystal April 23, 2015 at 6:12 pm - Reply

    Prop 8 was pivotal for me, too. I’m in Texas, and I couldn’t wrap my brain around how the church could rationalize essentially campaigning during Sunday School and that they obviously didn’t understand the principle of separation of church and state. I have never been a fan of legislating morality, regardless of how I felt about any given issue. It’s just not the government’s business.

    As far as creating a community…doesn’t sound much different than book clubs or lodge meetings? Did you guys see the post over on the exmormon subreddit about Myers-Briggs personality types? A whole lot of us are INTJ. We don’t need communities. At least not the whole social thing. I’m not sure there is a big of a need as you might think? IDK

  12. kinglamoni April 23, 2015 at 11:42 pm - Reply

    LOL, comparing the church bureaucracy to Verizon? Shouldn’t it be Comcast?

  13. Aaron April 24, 2015 at 1:33 am - Reply

    Wonderful podcast, I love the deep dives!

    John, when you were excommunicated, about 500 of us watched it live-streamed on video. We were all commenting in the chat box in real-time, strangers brought together to form a wonderful impromptu community around a common belief. It filled me with so much hope and joy to be suddenly participating, in real-time, in the type of community I long for.

    Probably the biggest problem is that we are a relatively small group, and spread out geographically. I think there are definitely ways to achieve the community we’re looking for, the internet and communications technology just need to catch up and mature enough to make it possible.

  14. Julienna Viegas-Haws April 24, 2015 at 3:55 am - Reply

    Thank you for this great podcast!

    In relationship to the “Universal Secular Community” that should be built. My husband and I have often talked about this idea. We are both he born and me raised in the Church, return missionaries, graduated from BYU, etc. and at different stages of our faith crisis. I thought this Jonathan Haidt lecture was very relevant to the discussion
    Keep the brainstorming going!

    • Julienna April 24, 2015 at 10:45 pm - Reply

      The first part of the Jonathan Haidt lecture is most relevant to the conversation…

  15. Snj April 24, 2015 at 4:51 am - Reply

    This was a wonderful interview. I had never heard of Micah before the podcast but will certainly go and listen to some of the podcasts he performed. It was so interesting to hear the behind the scenes story of any opposed.

    Thanks for the continuing high quality content of mormon stories.

  16. tired April 24, 2015 at 7:33 am - Reply

    John, Thanks for all the wonderful work you do! The past several years I have been struggling with where I fit in the church and what I believe. My husband is in the bishopric, my son just received the priesthood, another son just got baptized, and I continue to be so conflicted. I found your podcast just last Spring, and it has been very comforting to have a safe place to come where I can be with like-minded people and not feel so alone. Thank you for creating this safe place, it has truly been life saving for me.

  17. Monica Hymas Rasmussen April 24, 2015 at 12:43 pm - Reply

    Wow guys, what a powerful podcast. The last installment especially. Thanks for thinking so massive and being visionary about the future.

    I think about this stuff a lot–how to retain the positives of religion going forward in a secular world. As a musician, I’ve spent essentially my whole life studying the greatest works of hundreds of composers. Since I grew up Mormon, one of my biggest points of cognitive dissonance was “Why doesn’t Mormonism have their own Bach and Mozart and Brahms, etc.?” As I’ve transitioned out of Mormonism, husband and I have joined an Episcopal choir, where, finally I am allowed to use so many of these absolute masterpieces for their original intent, in a worship service. Centuries of the world’s most inspired music was written for religions. I have such a hard time thinking of starting over and reinventing the wheel. I’m much more inclined to start with the most open-minded religions (the Anglican communion being one) and not scrap them, but reform them. Modify them to meet our existing needs. Your thoughts about “the inner–what is it?” (Rilke), the mysterious power that religions seem to have to pull people together and elevate them, seem worth seriously reflecting on, and incline me to keep at it, in a tradition that speaks to me and doesn’t harm me.

    Despite being firmly agnostic at this point, I still experience elevation when I compose a choral setting of one of the psalms. That feels mysterious to me as well, and I feel ok not understanding that mystery, but going with it anyway. I would love to see religions be successful at using their power of community to start solving climate change, income inequality and racial and gender inequality, to name a few big ones. And from where I stand, we have a good start!

    Anyway–thanks for this. And John, I still listen religiously!! To every last minute of every marathon podcast! Thank you!

    • Stacey April 24, 2015 at 1:54 pm - Reply

      I always hated how I had to get music approved and the great classical musicians rarely were. As a pianist Mozart is still my favorite to play and Chopin always moves me. When I was a child, I was part of a children’s chorus and we sang in all different churches. I learned songs in Latin and other secular music and I have always missed that aspect of musical worship in the LDS church.

    • Doubting Thomas April 25, 2015 at 6:57 pm - Reply

      May I ask what is it like to worship in the Anglican Church? What do you like about it? Dislike about it?


    • EET May 1, 2015 at 7:46 pm - Reply

      Great question Monica…I too, have pondered those thoughts. This subject could make a great episode on Mormon Stories. Mormon Stories could take a break from “Crisis of Faith” stories, and talk about a crisis of culture, a crisis of the arts and developing your own talents, within church culture. All the concern about what to replace for church culture, for those that leave. One just has to “awake” (“the power is in us, when we are agents unto ourselves”)and discover what is waiting for us. Regardless of whether or not a person is trying to decide to stay in or out of the church, there should be no doubt about embracing the good things in life! There is a whole world and community waiting for us, beyond the walls of the church and our homes. It takes some personal initiative and thinking on our own, along with some passion to learn new things, and get out there and do our best.

      In the church meetings, we do miss out on remarkable opportunities of “spiritual experiences” through music. Maybe there should be more music “firesides”, where youth could participate and perform, as well as guest performers. We had one such event at a stake level, and it was quite a hit. One of my daughters performed a wonderful piece on the piano. She has since graduated in Music Performance (piano), and is teaching at a music academy in Detroit.

      Here are some of my own thoughts about your question. To become great at anything, a person must have an intense passion for that interest…be it music, fine art, literature, science, sports, etc. Finding a passion or passions in life, is a big missing part of the puzzle for happiness in life. For many growing up in the church, our passions seem to be channeled towards church activities and goals, such as missions and Temple Marriage(and all live happily ever after), and raising a family and preparing for eternal bliss. More concern about “life after death”, than “life before death”. Our potential talents and abilities are never discovered or nurtured, and instead we are “busy bees” building up the kingdom…while our individual abilities are pushed to the side. We will occasionally hear a talk about “Finding Joy in the Journey”, but those talks are rare.

      Even with fine art, we miss the boat in so many LDS homes. It wasn’t like this when I was growing up (I’m 63), but now it seems that much of the art on the walls in many LDS homes, is right out of Deseret Book Stores…prints of “Oh Jerusalem”, pictures of Joseph Smith, the Temples, etc….even figurines and mini sculptures, not to mention all the church literature. Its quite a market for this, and it is being bought. Where is the real art? We are even told or asked to consider to have a picture of the Temple in our homes, by some. This is a situation, up with which, I cannot put!(a little English lingo).

      So many church members forget about the 13th Article of Faith…we really don’t “seek after”, with passion, so many of the other wonderful things this world offers. This is a tragedy, for those that neglect this opportunity….an opportunity worth “shouting for joy” for.

      We must do our best to expose our children to these other inspirations of music, art, nature, literature and science. That is what my parents did for me, and I am lucky, that I had such parents.

      So, Monica, thanks again for your question, and hopefully John can have a good guest that could discuss these things….a great church artist or musician. It could be part of the solution to the “crisis of faith”. Keep listening to all the great music!

  18. Crystal April 24, 2015 at 1:16 pm - Reply

    I love that he met with his stake president and the SP had no idea what he was supposed to do! That is a hoot!!

  19. Ephima Morphew April 24, 2015 at 1:59 pm - Reply

    Micah, John and choices
    Your sensitivity brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for the bump up, I needed it.
    John this has been one of the most constructive discussions I have heard on Mormon Stories.
    I can hear the wheels turning –– hoping for the better person, looking to the greater sum of our parts, keeping humanity alive when we face the potential for utter destruction of our own making.

    Are the terrors of being damned really the only way to motivate the Sapient Sapien, Really?
    There is more to existence than living for another life in the here-after.

    The sphere we occupy is reason enough to strain with religious fervor to preserve this most fragile space known, this planet –– reason enough to gather a tribe to care for what’s left –– and the afterlife be damned.
    We as humans must rally to pursue the lighter touch; we now know we are the only chroniclers of our fate.
    We have only one shot to be and that is the sum of the event known as our life, life here and now.
    You have the material to make a better reality.
    We have the spiritual strength to face who we are.

    A great meeting of minds.

  20. Stacey April 24, 2015 at 2:14 pm - Reply

    I think the need for community is an interesting one. As a newly exiting Mormon, I find that sense of community slightly repulsive because my experience in it has been mostly religious. Yet I also find an intrinsic need for it. I think people do search for community in ways they often don’t realize. My husband likes to say that most people attend church “for the cupcakes.”

    When I began blogging 7 or so years ago, I discovered this need for community among mothers online. The sense of seclusion as a stay-at-home mother can be especially stifling because we no longer have sewing circles etc. like our ancestors did, which gave women that sense of community while raising their family. Interestingly enough, the internet has provided some of that via mom blogs, which is why they are so popular. Mothers from all walks of life have a sense of belonging and camaraderie that feels necessary as you are going through the grueling process of birthing and raising people.

    I find the same to be true as you exit religion and probably why the post-mo groups have minimal success, yet as you suggested, at some point they lose their usefulness as people begin to move on. There is nowhere to regroup or to find that sense of belonging because suddenly you no longer belong. That feeling of seclusion comes heavily into play when you no longer subscribe to the tribe anymore.

    I have a large family and am desperately wishing there was a sense of community I could provide for my teens outside of the church. Unfortunately, in the area we live, their social lives are heavily predicated on their activity in the church. It’s a struggle for us for sure.

    It seems that Micah is looking for that “missing piece” and I’m wondering if some of that could be the sense of direction and purpose that religion provides. I know in my life, especially in my younger years, I made many, many choices solely based on religion. I got married young, I multiplied and replenished. I don’t know if I would have made those same choices without the heavy influence of the LDS church in my life at the time. Secular groups and “book clubs”, if you will, don’t provide a sense of direction or purpose. They are the “cupcake” portion of community. And yet, I balk at the idea that I will ever accept anyone telling me I should make a decision because of any other reason than I want to. However, I do wonder if that element is what is missing from these secular groups. The sense of purpose and direction religion provides, albeit riddled with guilt and shame, is often the driving force behind many people’s choice making. In some weird way it seems to be the glue. The group is working towards a similar goal and supposedly supporting each other in the process.

    I look forward to seeing what you both come up with. This is something that interests me greatly. Great interview!!

  21. BW April 24, 2015 at 2:46 pm - Reply

    I really enjoyed this podcast, my thoughts and past kind of run parallel to what Mica is experiencing. I was raised Mormon is a small farming town in Cache Valley, went to church faithfully, felt remorse and fear when I committed a so called sin, but after I graduated High School I had doubts that God existed. I got married and never went to church, did not believe in the restoration, never attended even when my children were blessed. I cannot say that I was happy or content with my lifestyle, as my marriage ended in a divorce.
    Second Stage: Married again to a Catabolic Girl, moved to SLC and struggled financially to the point of going to the church for help, and guess what! Yes we ate very well thanks to welfare square! There was one catch, my wife would have to take missionary lessons, which was fine with me, long story short they converted both of us. I got a good higher paying job in construction; we purchased a home in Kearns, and became very active in the ward there. I was put in charge of getting the adult members of the Aaronic Priesthood active, as I could relate to them, our success rate was very good, I was happy doing what I was doing, until one of the members I was working with brought up the Mounain Meadow Massacre, I had never of it, and said that I would try to get him an answer. I approached my Bishop about it, his response was it was all lies, and don’t get into these types of discussions, in other words don’t talk about in or read any more about it, forget about it, it never happened. And yes I bought into this kind of passive answer. Later on I gave up construction work and became a insurance salesman, this brought me in contact with a lot of the business leaders in the Salt Lake City area, most were good Mormons, Bishops, Stake Presidents etc. my experience with these people was very disappointing, they are not the same during the week as they are on Sunday. I lost all respect for many of the leaders that I had previously admired. I received a call from my Stake President calling me to go on a Stake Mission, and I refused, I told him that I was not worthy, why he said, I had to make some excuse so I told him that I started drinking Iced Tea, we can work around that he said, but I still refused.
    I guess I need to back track a little, going through the Temple back in the sixty’s left a scary feeling with me, the oaths were something I had never heard of before, and I have taken them, wow! What do I do now I was told in my Temple introduction that the garments were only to be removed when showering, you have to were them even when having sexual intercourse, now my wife said they never told her that, well maybe they just left it up to the Priesthood member to make that decision and let the wife know that is the way it has to be. Well after denying a calling I knew I was losing faith I ask my wife about how she felt about removing her garments, and she excitedly agreed, flesh to flesh for the 1st time in six years.
    Stage 3: Still a member 40 years later, still inactive, have been to church a few times but don’t feel the spirit there, living for the past 20 years in Michigan it is a small branch, and my home teacher bring the missionaries with him for his partners, I make my self vocal to them about my stand on Women having the priesthood, and same sex marriage, I have my laptop sitting by my chair and connected to the TV so I can bring up all these truths and show them where Joseph Smith through the second anointing made my great great grandmother a Priestess and she was doing blessings and anointing the sick. Someday!! They will see the light.
    Stage 4: Just a thought, maybe Micha as he said that he will miss the symbols and tokens etc. might give reincarnation a whirl, it just might satisfy the wonder about what happens after death. I really believe that was the original intent of Joseph’s until polygamy got in the way. I have found solace in it! Astrology might help him with the symbols, as Joseph studied it also he died with a Jupiter Talisman in his pocket! I am a beliver in both, Instances in my life leaves no doubt that I have been in a place before in a past life, Nauvoo Ill was one place when I visited there in 1972 I told the people I was with that I had lived there before, my cousin was with me that day, and he said that he saw the Temple, and how beautiful and peaceful he felt looking at it. It was not even built back then, these are things that helps me believe in reincarnation. If you read about Orson F Whitney and his belief in reincarnation you will find that there was a secret movement to make it part of doctrine of the church. Maybe it’s time has come!
    Just a Thought!

  22. MARTIN April 24, 2015 at 3:34 pm - Reply

    Why in the world would you want to go to General Conference and oppose the brethren if you don’t actually believe in the church anymore? The egotism of Micah is anoying, Micah really…. after all the talk on A Thoughtful Faith you go out and do this… for what means? As if they would stop GC to listen to you whine. I was waiting for you to answere why but you never really did, the only logical answere to this then is how important you THINK you are. It’s not about you. If you were a believer who did it to make a statement than it would be one thing,but it’s clear your not anymore so you must of done it out of spite or seeking recognition, probably both, and that’s where you went wrong. \

    John, I love mormon stories but as of lately those of us who have followed, supported and listened intently for answeres and thoughtful perspectives because we do recognize problems in the church but love it for all it’s goodness are starting to fade away because lately your post are so negative and destructive. Where are the Phillip Barlows, Givens and the like that brought so much richness and inspiration to the podcast? Lately you seem to only want to vent or bash on mormonism and it turns off those of us who want to make it a truly better place while knowing all of it’s troubles. True heros don’t leave the village in it’s time of need, they run into it and do all they can to make it a better place, not for the fat cats and mayors sake but for the love of the common people.

    • Micah Nickolaisen April 24, 2015 at 9:03 pm - Reply

      Martin, you raise some valid concerns, but you are obviously making a lot of assumptions about my motives. If you are genuinely interested, I would point you to the episode that the Any Opposed founders did with Infants on Thrones where we dive into this specific concern:


    • Anon 23 April 27, 2015 at 7:24 pm - Reply


      Many people who don’t believe in the Church anymore would still ‘vote to oppose’ as a service, to try to wake other members up to their awful situation and to the problems and to start them thinking that maybe not all is well with the leaders or the Church.

      The more people oppose & speak out about church leaders & the problems, the more people will awake. So it’s a huge service and a courageous one at that, to stand & oppose in GC. I commend Micah for his courage and willingness to be such a great example & light to others, even though most probably don’t realize the worth of his vote of opposition.

      Those who don’t see how huge the problems & evils are in the Church probably won’t appreciate Micah’s & John’s efforts. I don’t agree with everything John stands for either, but I believe he is alot closer to the whole truth then most active members of the Church are.

    • Robert Hodge May 3, 2015 at 8:23 am - Reply

      Martin, there are some that just cannot bear to leave their heads buried in the sand. If you think you can make it better, more power to you. But from long experience I think you will be banging your head against a stone wall.

  23. iDontMindLongEpisodes April 24, 2015 at 4:54 pm - Reply


    In these episodes you inquired as to whether or not people were listening to these long and or/multi-episode episodes.

    I listened to all three of these episodes. Loved it.

    I don’t mind long and/or episode episodes.

    Keep up the great work!

  24. Chris April 24, 2015 at 5:10 pm - Reply

    The thing to replace religion with is a community built around the magic of science. There are amazing things in astronomy, biology, human history that could be the basis of ‘sunday school’. It could be that science is not that explicit, and there is more comedy and music than lecture in any sunday meetings; even so science is one great foundation.

    • BW April 24, 2015 at 7:39 pm - Reply

      I also like the idea of the changing from a 3rd dimension world to a 4th, 5th or even more dimension’s.

    • BW April 24, 2015 at 7:55 pm - Reply

      I wanted to explain something that I feel strong about concerning the reincarnation theory. Say we have met our karma on this life, mostly empathy and charity, then our rebirth would be to a higher dimension on our path to becoming worthy to become gods of our own planets and so on up the ladder, leaves no fear or damnation we will all get there in the end, just takes longer for some than others. It cannot be done in one life, totaly impossible.

    • Jyjor April 29, 2015 at 1:51 pm - Reply

      Totally agree with you Chris. I started watching Cosmos every 6 months over conference weekend. Both take 10 hours to watch, Cosmos is much more inspiring.

  25. Francine Johnson McGee April 24, 2015 at 7:40 pm - Reply

    For the Humanist community to survive, to everything I heard you talk about, sense of belonging, ritual, shared myths, and on and on, and many other benefits I heard you talk about, and I could have missed this one thing I didn’t hear, I am only Human(ist).

    That one magic piece we may have have missed, as the glue that holds a social network together, beyond a crisis, may be the feeling of accomplishment and maybe pride, that a person and/or community has when they are working together to do a GREATER GOOD to help society, either as a whole, or an individual.

    Their are a lot of groups that survive over time, OVER A CAUSE OR NEED, that benefits individuals, society as a whole, or even whales, AND that need never goes away. There will always be poverty, starving in third world countries, inner city communities that can be beautified with art murals, artistic graffiti, teaching sustenance gardening. I can think of a million little charities that try and do these things. Learn from the organization of the Mormon and other churches and take what is good and apply those good things to bind humanists together to do those things charities and churches do.

    Helping other people in a measurable way, starting within our own community, and spreading out to the world is what could bind us together.

  26. Julienna April 24, 2015 at 10:44 pm - Reply

    Related to the 3rd part of the podcast –

    I also thought of the fact that HUMANITY transcends RELIGION.

    Our family currently lives in Switzerland and in our little village people are fairly close. They are from different walks of life, with a religious affiliation or none. People in our village will easily join together about once a month or so to provide service to the community, participate in some interesting event together, etc.

    I think that SERVICE to the the local and global community has proven to be a great gathering force for many. Focusing on something greater than our individual self can give a sense of well being/connectivity and a concrete contribution to better the world we live in.

    Just like in any institution/organisation, there will always be a need for a solid core of organizers pulling others in – If done successfully the action can be repeated multiple times and grow over time.

    Building on a positive foundation will go much further than on a negative one (ie: disaffected Mormons) like you all mentioned.

  27. Janice April 24, 2015 at 11:19 pm - Reply

    Thank you for the very heartfelt sharing of your experiences. It is obvious that you feel things deeply and desire to act in integrity with your inner guidance. John’s interview with you covered a lot of topics which other posters have addressed.
    In watching the video on your standing and stating verbal opposition in General conference, by the way well done!, I noticed that no one seemed to turn around and look at you. I found that peculiar. Couldn’t they hear you?
    Also about the secular communities. Good food for thought, Anyone has who spent years of their lives as active mormons understands that it is all encompassing lifestyle. From your underwear to what you do with your time, money and thoughts. The list is endless. This depth of control and conditioning in people’s lives give a warped impression as to how a different community would even feel. I know I would never want to go back to that crazy not enough time in the day type of life where you are constantly reminded that your life and resources are owned and your energy is exhausted. But I suppose different people have different needs, I like the idea of community where speakers share topics say a couple times a month. But really like the idea of a place where people can safely transition. Every city already has numerous communities covering all sorts of topics and all you have to do is show up and maybe pay a fee. They do not have to be a life commitment. Just allows for development in various areas. Definitely encourage you to attend your Star Trek Convention. Lol

  28. AnsweringTheCall April 25, 2015 at 3:25 am - Reply

    Dear John!!!

    I couldn’t help but shout YES! YES! I think the answer is so close to what you were speaking about near the end of the podcast. Did you notice how excited and inspired you got when talking about Steve Jobs and what he accomplished. Perhaps the key is Passion. There are people who have devoted their lives to a belief and are yet secular. I would call these people activists. They have tapped into that “missing ingredient” that Micah was speaking about. When we speak of the beauty of our shared humanity and what we have achieved it is truly amazing. These achievements were only possible when the importance of failing was accepted. and also the necessity of faith. Faith is our potential as human beings, and in the bond we share as common inheritors of this world. I am almost ready to leave the church. I am first building my new community based upon what I am passionate about and I seek out those who are like minded and join my passion and faith with theirs to make my community better. I don’t think the answer lies with creating a new organization and bringing people in, but in going out and bringing our passion and faith to those around us. I think you have already arrived John and you don’t realize it. You have already gone out and shared your passion for helping those in faith transitions. That has created a community of people who share your passion and faith for the beautiful potential of a human soul. Not because of how they are defined by others, but by how they will define themselves. You invite others to come out of a box and stretch their wings. There are few things more beautiful than seeing a soul learn how to soar. Thank you John for carving this path for the rest of us!

  29. Preston April 25, 2015 at 10:08 am - Reply

    I really loved part 3 of this interview. In regards to wanting to build something that could fill the hole created by leaving religion I’m curious to know if Micah has had any experience with the Unitarian Church; that is if there is one in Phoenix?

  30. Jerome April 25, 2015 at 10:42 am - Reply

    Looking back, the most interesting part of this podcast was the end where John and Micah reveal how much Mormonism still shapes their thinking. Mormonism creates a hole in the individual so that it can fill it. Most people who were never members of the church or a similar “community” don’t have such a hole to begin with. As recent former Mormons, you feel lost, without a community, but most of the world already has communities since time immemorial. You don’t need to go creating them. Artificially built communities, as opposed to organic ones, are how cults get created.

    I heard elements of apocalyptic thinking, that the world is sick or in trouble and needs help “ISIS,” “global warming,” “income disparity,” etc. To paraphrase what I heard, we humbly acknowledge that we may not be the ones to save the world, but we want to be a part of a yet to be created movement that will.

    Even though you’ve left the mass movement, you’re still conditioned to think like true believers. People can’t truly leave Mormonism or its equivalent until they come to realize that the world doesn’t need them to save it. Yes, the world has real problems, including the ones mentioned in the podcast, but humanity has never had it better. Apocalyptic thinkers from the iron age would look at our time and think that the golden age is here.

    • John Dehlin April 25, 2015 at 11:46 am - Reply

      Jerome – You make important points. Still, I wonder if you are de-valuing or underestimating the importance of community in your comments.

      • Jerome April 25, 2015 at 1:54 pm - Reply

        Then I should clarify. Community is as vital as food and water. Mormonism didn’t create our need for community, but it conditioned us to experience most of the world’s communities as alien. Even though I live in the country of my birth, and even when I lived in Utah near my family, I never felt at home after I stopped believing. Always a stranger in a strange land. That contributes to the hole that we feel when leaving the church. Most people outside the church never experience that. They don’t have that hole to fill. They don’t experience their native country as alien.

        If I could summarize my earlier comments in a more palatable way, it would be to suggest that our community doesn’t need to be a mass movement.

        • Jay April 26, 2015 at 8:44 am - Reply

          Boom! Nailed it.

          A nevermo here. Community is everywhere. Incredible, positive, encourage, supportive, inspiring community. Post-Mormons are stuck in this idea that Mormon community and/or culture must be preserved because it’s so amazing – humans need it. LOL.

          What do you think non-Mormons have been doing all these years? Sitting home alone being miserable?

          But Mormons do need a place to recover so they can move on and join the amazing communities the rest of us have been enjoying.

  31. Kelly April 25, 2015 at 4:58 pm - Reply

    Great podcast. I really enjoyed the interview, especially the last session on what we do next. I’m in davis county ut and have been trying to find a post mormon community, but I can’t find anything. All of the meetings (like CALM and exmormon, etc) were last posted a few years ago. There really isn’t anything face to face for my family and I to attend. I know Micah is hoping for something profoundly deep and meaningful which would be great, but I think any offline group would be a step above the mormon stories Facebook page–right now that’s all I have and it’s just not personal enough for me. If anyone in davis county wants to meet once a month and have a spiritual discussion or a scientific discussion or a philosophy discussion and then a fun activity, I’m game. It could be like book club. Any takers? Even though there is a lot of great support through mormon stories, etc. I still feel isolated and lonely without real human interaction.

  32. […] Here are Dehlin’s conversations with Micah Nickolaison of Strangers in Zion on his transition …. (If you want to skip all the background story, go directly to part 3. But if you want to hear a gifted interviewer do his thing, listen to John lead Micah through in parts 1 and 2) […]

  33. Mike April 26, 2015 at 9:06 am - Reply

    What I think is needed for a unorthodox Mormon is the Community of Christ approach with the addition of the temple work. That would combine the best of both worlds of service to the world and self-work.

  34. Michelle D. April 26, 2015 at 1:24 pm - Reply

    John – I love the long interviews. They are in-depth and awesome! Please continue. :)

  35. Ruthie April 26, 2015 at 4:57 pm - Reply

    Loved this. Yes, I listened to all three episodes.

  36. BJones April 26, 2015 at 8:48 pm - Reply

    Great interview. Micah, you really have been an inspiration. It was great meeting you in Phoenix over the winter and now following what you have been doing lately. Keep up the good work. It really makes a difference to those of us who find ourselves floundering after exiting the Morg.

    My favorite comment out of all of this was the idea that what I know most surely is I exist right now. That’s what matters. I don’t know what happens after this life. But I know I’m here now and I need to make the best of it. Great stuff.

  37. David Palmer April 27, 2015 at 8:21 am - Reply

    Thanks the stories! I listened while getting lost in the slot canyons nr Kanab. Many more please!!

    The secret sauce. Musings.

    1. Amongst chimpanzees mutual grooming floats their boat, or otherwise puts them into the “zone” of social bond.

    2. Putting people into fMRI who are mutually engaged in making music together shows the different parts of their brains light up in synchronicity. ==> put the god helmet on each member of a group at same time to stimulate the temporal lobe and have them sing kumbaya.

    3. A bonobo howdy-do involves slap tickle n copulation, with each of the tribe dozens a time during the day. My ancestors Patty Bartlett and her so-called cuckold David Sessions. But really because of Joseph’s divinely inspired marriages to Patty and her dau, all made one. Too soon gone, but had he lived we could have expected more outré revelations building upon polygamy. Extrapolation would include polyamory, homo on homo, hetero on homo and on. Oh my, when shall we see his like again

    4. White innocuous tablets have a small placebo effect. Smaller blue placebo pills stamped with a letter have more effect. Placebos given hyperdermically have the most effect. The bigger the deception in scope and back story, the more gullibility of the mark

    5. Patience, the needle swings wide.
    A. Many animals, including kitties have a very short period when bonding with other animals is possible. Miss it, and kitty is foevere wild.
    B. In China, servitors of the emperor would buy up children when small, place them in large mishapen porcelain jars, leave for a number of months, and out would pop the new crop of emperial playthings
    C. In Ancient Greece before writing and before poets, when the grandees of the village married, they would take a small boy and have him eat the rich foods, and witness the rich clothing, which person danced with who, etc. then they would throw him into a deep and furious river where he almost drowned. Years later he could be depended upon to recount the wedding in detail
    D. The Mormon mission experience, Micah’s trek, yes, but it needs be much more. Life death supernal in scope, Lord of the Flies, but more.
    E. Band of Brothers, Vietnam Vets, but .., During WW2, the japanese rounded up the expats in HK and put them into Stanley Prison on the south of the island. By and large, after they were released some 4 yr(?) later, there were two groups. 1) those who had gone in as adults and came out again to resume adult life. And 2) those who went in as children or teenagers, grew up in the prison, and on release.., were lost. The world they knew gone. They became failed adults, alkies, embittered divorcees, petty thieves, and the like.

    6. To create social bonds, community, shared heritage, legacy. I muse:
    A. Snatch a group of disparate 18 yr olds, temporarily sterilise, and with no explanation drop them on a deserted island. Let sit. Games, quiditch pig hunts, Roman orgies ensue. Time passes
    B., the Garuda, the mother ship, or deus ex machine appears in unimaginable glory. Exalted ones guide the innocencti thru the God helmet and distribute the host, body of the God, melange of dune, puréed ancestor of Stranger in a Strange Land, or better. The ritual ends with the Rwandan cure for depression, chicken blood and a mass pile on.
    C. When they awake, each of them have been unexplainedly dropped separately in the badlands of utah’s escalante, with just a little food and water. Let ponder. Say 40 days. Give them someway to find their way out but which they will believe was their own discovery.
    D. They one by one gather at a point from which their is no escape. They discuss, mix, argue, and finally create their own religion in attempt to explain the unexplainable (ineffable) and which will never happen again.
    C. Unecpectedly their enforced encarceration gives way. They go home, have children and propagate the shared story.

  38. Irene April 27, 2015 at 1:37 pm - Reply

    Good grief! Just attend the Unitarians!

  39. Andy Anderson April 27, 2015 at 3:19 pm - Reply

    I think that the “Secret Sauce” Micah discussed but couldn’t finger in the interview is the church’s claim to exclusive authority. Without this claim, the church is just another organization. With it, they can control everything.

  40. John Scott April 28, 2015 at 2:25 am - Reply

    Leaving (church, job, country, marriage etc) can place one in a void. Often, in trying to fill the void, one returns to or try’s to create a familiar and possibly similarly toxic environment one made such an effort to leave. The transition zone we find our selves in can be uncomfortable at the same time as wonderfully liberating.
    It would be nice to belong to a secular group that presses all the buttons. But one doesn’t exist. Not here in NZ anyway.

    Perhaps, because I too, like a previous poster, am an INTJ the desire to herd myself into a regular group again alludes me. However, during my transition when my children were at home and were preteen and teenagers our family attended The Religious Society Of Friends (Quakers). I found it generally a safe place, they accepted and even encouraged us to be true to ourselves and one could be nontheist without much bother. It helped hanging out in an outfit that was not gripping to dogma and had a healthy attitude and approach scholarship. They were even interested in Truth from wherever. Nevertheless, I took some of my LDS baggage with me which wasn’t helpful. For some of us I guess it can take a while to detox.
    Thank you Micah for your open honesty in sharing your story.

  41. Cory April 28, 2015 at 2:25 pm - Reply

    “Bishop, are you the principal?” Priceless!

  42. Melanie April 29, 2015 at 3:55 pm - Reply

    Thanks John and Micah for doing this series. I LOVED hearing about Micah’s journey and I really related to it. I wanted to tell you both that the thing you describe as a place for Mormons who leave is something my family has found with the Unitarian Universalists. They have music and inspirational talks and visiting afterwords and that special missing thing that Micah mentions in my opinion is something they do as well. It is their work toward social justice. They are an amazing group of people doing wonderful things to make this world better for all who inhabit it. From equality issues to earth care they are heavily involved in making a difference. So if yu want to re-in vent the wheel so to speak, go ahead but it does exist already at the UU?
    Thanks again for this type of podcast!

  43. tropical animal April 29, 2015 at 7:32 pm - Reply

    Micah, John and others in their posts, talked about forming of a group or community.

    An awesome idea. Believe me, it could go viral and start a behavioral revolution. Our civilization needs it. Why? Because our civilization wiped out the grouping system we are genetically programmed to live. Thus, today we are living totally out of the ball park in which we are genetically programmed to play the game of life.

    For years,I have researched and studied bringing back the group we humans evolved to live in. In fact, for awhile, I organized and facilitated a successful group called the Neo-Tribe.

    Indeed, we are a group animal without a group. We are mammals searching for our group but can’t find it. We still have its behavior patterns in our genes, but we can’t find it in our civilization.

    We evolve as group animals and for millions of years, we live as group animals. And we are still group animals.

    Then suddenly, in the last tick of our historical clock, the explosive rise of our BRIEF civilization wipes out the grouping system we evolved to live, leaving us living alone, lonely and isolated. Today, we live as strangers (despite our electronic communications devices) in uncaring MASS society.

    The communities we live in today are not really communities, but are

    Thus today, we are living a fake existence, in fake communities. Even the psychology we use to try to solve our problems, is a fake and incomplete psychology. Today, without our group, we are sick. We are bored, lonely, stressed out, without emotional support. We have lost the essence and meaning of what it is to be humans.

    Human groups evolved as SMALL groups, around a hundred and fifty people. Larger groups didn’t work because they out-grazed their survival resources. And also because group bonding doesn’t occur in large mass non-communities.

    The small group, made up of people who believe in LOVE, if it gets together frequently, so that members can have REPEATED AND FREQUENT PLEASANT ACTIVITIES with each other, will develop group bonding and love for each other.

    Loving people who meet together often in small groups, will activate their own love-creating, love-driven, bonded community. Bonding is facilitated by pleasant group activities–activities that create PLEASANT sensory experiences–pleasant touch, body contact, activities which stimulate the release oxytocin, the bonding hormone. Activities might include any pleasant activity or ritual–women and their awesome life-renewing characteristics, music, dancing, trance dancing, games, eating together, doing projects together, simply relaxing as a group, emotionally-driven uncensored dialogue.

    Human behavior does not work too well without our group and its cross-family, cross mating activities, its multiple role models.

    To activate the caring, loving community, group experiences are pleasant. This creates a positive conditioning effect and stimulates the release of oxytocin, the bonding hormone. Bonding among women is especially important, as one woman mentions in her post. And indeed, this is women’s nature. Women’s hormones are especially adapted to do this.

    Indeed, we can do this. We can intentionally, activate our own loving communities (plural). The small communities would be organized within a larger federation of small communities. This would give the bonding and loving power of the small community, while the federation would give us the power of massing our resources to do larger projects.

    I would enjoy working to create such a group based on research and experiment, NOT revelation. The problem with revelation is that its leaders develop the illusion that they are prophets and therefore, their information and practices are unchangeable. This type of a group is based on the dogma that somebody we don’t even know, generations ago, received a message for us. And that we must conform to this message at our peril, or get Xed. Really, rather ridiculous, when you think about it.

    Love you all.


  44. tropical animal May 1, 2015 at 5:01 pm - Reply

    At the beginning of the “COMMENTS,” NS summarizes Micah’s desire “to turn the “ex”-Mormon community into a “post”-Mormon community, in order to recapture the (cultural) Mormon way of life.”

    An awesome idea, Micah. I think it can be done.

    The reason the loving emotional climate and feelings
    develop within the Mormon community, is not due to the
    verbal repetition of Mormon doctrine. Rather it comes from the emotional conditioning and bonding that takes place.

    When talking about community, SMALL is not only beautiful,
    it is better. In fact, small is essential.

    We are talking about the small loving group, a small
    face-to-face, on the ground repetitive neighborhood community.

    We are group animals, tribal humans, and the SMALL LOVING community is how we evolved to live and survive.

    The small community is essential for developing healthy personalities, developing self-image and feelings of self-worth. It is the small community which develops emotional sensitivity, feelings of caring. It is the small community which develops bonding, group love, group caring, group support, group guidance. close friends. .

    Large groups, like in the mass society we live in now, are emotionally dysfunctional, emotionally non-functional. Behaviorally, this means sick. They don’t work.

    The love-creating, love-driven community must be SMALL
    in order for the group dynamics to work, in order to develop the love-creating, love-driven individuals which motivate and power the love-creating, love-driven community. To develop health, happiness, multiple friendships, love and bonding, forget LARGE.

    Hunter-gatherers lived in small groups. Their community had to be small. A large group would quickly overuse and deplete the survival resources of the immediate habitat.

    Indeed, a modern example of the small loving group, are the Mormons.

    Mormons are forced out of the United States by vigilante mobs. They flee west. They survive in small groups spread out over the inter-mountain frontier. The Mormons, still today, are made up of SMALL groups spread out around the World. And when a group grows too large, the group is split again.

    The Mormons have a working community role model already rolling. But there are problems. The Mormon system does not allow for criticism, change and improvement based on critical thinking. Nor, as we have seen, the Mormon hierarchy doesn’t want critical thinkers. The Mormon system has little space for for human diversity.

    But one awesome characteristic of the small, love-creating, love-driven community is the reason it works.


    It works, regardless of belief system.

    Consider for example, the thousands upon thousands of small indigenous tribal groups, with there many different belief systems. Across time, beliefs, cultures and geography—they have lived this pattern for ages.

    Thus, the small, loving group and its activating principles is
    NOT dependent upon beliefs.

    This pattern is in our genes. It comes from our nature. It is based on, created by, and driven by, the highest of survival emotions—-the love and bonding activated within the small continuing loving group.

    Because this pattern is not based on belief, but unfolds from our genes, both true believing Mormons, ex-Mormons and atheists could participate in this community together. Indeed, the diversity would make the community more interesting.

    To get back to Micah’s original idea. Ex-Mormons and true believing Mormons could participate together in this community which would “recapture the (cultural) Mormon
    way of life” and more.

    And Micah, you wanted motivating symbolism and ritual. Think of the awesome ritual that could be created outside the Mormon box.

    Further, to be an activist for this system, need not challenge Mormon doctrine at all, so if you are TBM, you could participate without being Xed.

    Love you all.

  45. Robert Hodge May 3, 2015 at 7:48 pm - Reply

    Identity is defined by membership in some community? What did God say about that? He said his name was “I am that I am”. Sounds to me like the ultimate individualistic label.

    My first thought….

    John, I don’t personally agree with some sour grapes criticism that I have read about your “real” objectives, but as you go forward to create or support the creation a new “community” of shared experience – and this interview sounds like that might be a course you take – you can expect some to charge that you are really just all about creating your own following, not unlike many of those that broke with the church in the 19th century. I certainly don’t see you as a 21st century Strangite, but there might well be some that do.

    My second thought…if some see you as I think they might…so what?

  46. Larry Martin May 6, 2015 at 5:23 pm - Reply

    I have enjoyed this all of the many other podcasts, in this forum and many others, and wish in my humble way, to add my two cents to the volume. I have read with interest the many diverse and thoughtful comments herein contained, and appreciate you all for just opening up and sharing.

    My words are these: All wished for and hoped for groups-of-common-bond in my view, are motivated and even are and must be bound together by a common belief. This belief through the ages has been in something not seen, not touchable, not “in-the-room” so to speak. We “follow” (in common) a leader who has seen and/or experienced something unusual, something we have not experienced, and who promises us that we can also experience this good fun thing by believing in him or her, and by doing what he or her says or writes. By so believing and doing, we can experience more happiness here, and even great happiness here after, is usually the promise. That promise binds us and pulls us in.

    Without that “promise”, that hope, that “belief”, in something beyond real, there is no common bond among us that will keep bringing us together over time. The common bond, the community, the oneness is not sustainable without the mythical, the mystery, the untouchable. The “Good Feeling” may or may not be continuing without the hope for more than this, the today “this”. But the “Good Feeling” is achievable in many, many ways.

    What we are left with in reality, without the religious “promise”, is the realness of ourselves; we wake up daily and we are. And we are what we are. And around us there are others, and we can make their life better, or more enjoyable by our actions and our words. It can be family, neighbors, teams, community, nation, causes, charities, and on and on. But one must act on this alone. There need not be the belief that there is more to it than the present life and what life today has to offer. The joy, the reward comes from participating in the here and now.

    I at one time believed. It motivated me. It gave me goals, rules, rewards, connection. Now, I don’t believe. But I still have goals, rules, rewards, and connection. I set them myself. I follow them because I want to. I smile because I am. And even though I am old, I am not frightened. I do not fear death, nor do I know what death is. When death grabs me, I will then know what is next, or I will cease knowing. I do not fear either of these possibilities.

    My reward groups now do not “meet” on Sunday, nor do they demand a tenth of my money for the ultimate reward of belonging and being assured. I don’t have to eat or not eat certain things, memorize certain things, participate is certain tasks, refrain from other stuff. My groups now are simple, lunch with a neighbor, a call to a friend,a chat with my spouse, or relative, a gathering of family, or team or community, a visit to an unfortunate. My group now is the cause, the charity, the team, the neighborhood, the nation, etc., all of which seem to enjoy my time and input (at least I think they do), and from each I find fulfillment. This is my day; my life, my joy, my fun, my reward, my time (now winding up). I look for nothing else than this.

    I try to be good to people.

    Without a belief in the mythical, this is it, and “THIS” is just fine by me. :)

  47. Old Dog June 6, 2015 at 3:15 am - Reply

    I have found that the most fun, motivating, and rewarding activities are those involving joining with others on service projects. Just going to a church-like meeting on Sunday or socializing would not cut it for me. In every neighborhood and town, there are needs and there are public and private service organizations aware of the those needs and trying to meet them. Volunteers are always needed. The great camaraderie among volunteers, and the great sense of fulfillment in giving my time to a worthy cause motivates and uplifts me. That is what would bring me out. It is also a great thing to get your kids involved in with you. Check out volunteermatch.com in your area, and take your pick. There are one-time events or projects, and there are needs for regularly scheduled things. Get some x-mormons interested in a common cause and volunteer as a group, or create your own projects.

  48. Old Dog June 6, 2015 at 4:15 pm - Reply

    Correction: the website for finding volunteer opportunities is volunteermatch.org

Leave A Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.