After over 1,000 hours of interviews, it is fitting to finally feature the story of Nan Parkinson McCulloch—John’s Mom.

I am so super proud to release this Mormon Stories Podcast with my brilliant, wise, strong, courageous, still-believing, 84 year old mother. Other than the fact that I dearly love this amazing woman, perhaps my favorite aspects of this interview are how my dear Mom models:

1) Thoughtful, nuanced Mormon faith, including a willingness to either: a) believe differently than Mormon orthodoxy, b) say “I don’t know,” or candidly admit c) “That is not important to me,”

2) Unconditional love for her non-believing children (“Relationships are more important than beliefs.”), and

3) Direct, candid, respectful dialogue with a disbelieving family member (even when I push her a bit).

I hope you enjoy this interview, and I hope that you are as inspired by this brilliant, beautiful, amazing woman as I am.

In Part 1 of our time with Nan, we learn about her mother’s experience growing up as the daughter in a polygamous family, and we discover the Mormon Church of her youth and her life growing up in Preston and Franklin, Idaho. We also reminisce on her love of the culture and arts that her Mormon community brought into her life, including and especially road shows and plays that she wrote and directed for her local community.

In Parts 2 and 3 of this interview with Nan, John and Nan discuss her eventual divorce and remarriage, her faith evolution, her reflections on John’s podcast and on his excommunication, and on her beliefs about life after death.

Part 1 – Nan recollects the Mormon Church she grew up with:

Part 2 – Nan reflects on her personal evolution in the Mormon Church:

Part 3 – Nan shares her thoughts on John’s faith journey:

Part 1

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Part 2

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Part 3

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  1. DAVID LARSON March 11, 2019 at 5:38 pm - Reply


  2. Fan of John March 11, 2019 at 8:39 pm - Reply

    John I though your questions are just what I would have wanted to ask my Mom. I loved her responses
    It was interesting to see how she had chosen to deal with truth in a pragmatic way . I personally was more of a black-and-white right and wrong thinker. In a world of deception and ugly reality that has not always served me well.

  3. Adam March 12, 2019 at 9:56 am - Reply

    Enjoyed it! The questions were tough, and I occasionally cringed but those are the questions that need to be asked. I think a lot members of the church never go through the exercise of thinking about those questions and seeing how irrational and illogical their world view/beliefs are. Shocking to some of us that many are this way, but it is so incredibly common and widespread.

    What a wonderful mother/lady. I too have parents with irrational beliefs, but have been super lucky that they have always loved me and their other “apostate” children more than their cherished beliefs. Its great to have parents that love unconditionally!

  4. Glen March 12, 2019 at 1:30 pm - Reply

    I’m sure there are many many people out there who feel exactly like Mom does. They prefer not to think too deeply about ‘issues’ and remain comfortably steeped in the traditions of their ancestors.
    Thank you to Nan for answering according to her own very personal beliefs. This podcast has strengthened my own beliefs and doubts and given me comfort to know that I am not alone in my thoughts.
    Great interview, John!

  5. Amy March 12, 2019 at 6:32 pm - Reply

    This was such a lovely interview. I enjoyed her reactions and honesty so much. Thanks to both of you.

  6. Jim March 12, 2019 at 7:27 pm - Reply

    Marvelous, wonderful lady. Her comments made enormous sense.

  7. Lincoln March 12, 2019 at 10:37 pm - Reply

    I had a lot to say about this but because I feel my deeper thoughts on this interview would be harsh on a wonderful mother so I will say just one thing. “I don’t know” is not an honest answer. It is a conditioned response for (1) when someone is embarrassed by their answer or for (2) when what someone really means is ‘my answer is contrary to your view so, in the interest of avoiding conflict, I will refuse to answer by saying “I don’t know”‘. I wish she would have been able to have given honest responses despite her incredible love for her son, John, who’s views she obviously knows are often diametrically opposed to her own. Sad. But on the other hand, beautiful. Great to see love for her son be more powerful. Reminds me of the way my mother responded to and about me; refusing to say anything that she thought might possibly offend me. Mothers’ love is more powerful than anything. Nothing non-imagined compares.

  8. Victoria Prunty March 13, 2019 at 1:55 am - Reply

    I loved this interview! As an agnostic-atheist, who believes that we will never know for certain what occurred in church history, or what awaits on the other side, I agree, it doesn’t really matter. I also agree with finding the right support system in this life, and it being different for everyone. I am so grateful for this interview. Thank-you!

  9. Mark Lee March 13, 2019 at 6:45 am - Reply

    This interview helped me in regards to understanding my wife. I’ve pressed my wife on many of these same questions and have gotten a similar response. My logical approach to questions shouldn’t supersede my wife’s altruistic approach to the same questions.

  10. Kim Barker March 13, 2019 at 1:33 pm - Reply

    OMG I LOVE HER! My mom was born in 1929 and was raised in Midway, Utah. Nan is very much like her. I lost her 5 years ago, and listening to Nan reminds me of her. John, you are so very fortunate to have this recording of her voice and her face. I WISH I had my parents’ voice recorded. It is what I miss the most.

    Love to you and you mom.

    • Lisa March 18, 2019 at 11:30 pm - Reply

      I wish that I had an interview as well with my parents. Nan is similar to how my mom would have answered, pretty sure. Especially the part of loving me no matter what. She is so darling and classy!

  11. Elias March 15, 2019 at 5:01 pm - Reply

    Wonderful interview made me cry! She was very smart and respectful in her answers. Great questions too John. I m being inspired to show parts of the interview in our Sunday school class next time I teach. Members need to see this. She is a prophetess no doubt! She spoke truth worth sharing in church thank you.

  12. Bernard March 19, 2019 at 8:03 pm - Reply

    His mother is wonderful – I really respect her.

    I thought John was unfair in his questions. Only asked mom, in the third interview, questions that fit his negative point of view. To be fair – he could have asked her the positive side of the word of wisdom, the bishops storehouse, the emphasis on education, focus on developing loving families…. why not ask 3 questions on race and the priesthood, difficult aspects of Joseph Smith, and troubling issues like MMM – and then 3 questions that portray the church in a positive light. When mom refused to agree with him – he merely restated the negative question again and again and again – boxing her in. He could have just said “thank you mom for your answer” when she didn’t take his bait. But he didn’T like her answers. Mom clearly felt strongly about many many positive aspects of the church but John only asked about the ones that fit his critical views. Even when mom answered his questions – he came back at the same negative slant again and again and again … in a way he belittled her strongly held beliefs.

    Mom did great – John was defensive.

  13. Garth from Alaska March 20, 2019 at 8:55 pm - Reply

    I just want to say how much I’ve appreciated these episodes. So nice to witness how a mother and son can communicate about difficult issues in a healthy way. It brought tears to my 65 year old eyes several times. Thanks to both of you!

  14. Doubting Thomas March 20, 2019 at 10:14 pm - Reply

    I loved seeing Nan give John the “look of death” with some of his questions. He laughed at one point signaling he knew what he was doing. (I’m sure he’s been pulling her chain since he was able to talk.)

  15. Kathleen April 3, 2019 at 10:13 am - Reply

    Nan and John, my grandfather was friends with Nan’s grandfather, Dr. William Parkinson. Wondering if there is a family history of his life that you could share. There is a book of my grandfather’s family history that I would like to share with you if you are interested. He was also a doctor and there are several references to his friend, Dr. Parkinson!

  16. Grammabd June 14, 2019 at 5:07 pm - Reply

    Nan, you are GREAT.

    John, I enjoyed the full interview, even the “I don’t know” answers – I could see myself saying that too. My oldest son, age 60, died in Dec 2018 and I would LOVE to have had a recording of him talking to me just like this! When I converted to LDS, he was already grown and had his own ideas about God and religion. When we discussed religion we always respected each other’s viewpoints just as you and Nan do. I could see how much you enjoyed pushing Nan – just a little – but she didn’t give in if she didn’t agree. This interview was FUN to listen to. Thanks, John and Nan for sharing!

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