This week we celebrate the birthday of faithful Mormon historian and scholar Richard Bushman – author of Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, and former Mormon church stake president and patriarch.

Some of you will remember that I had the privilege of interviewing Richard back in 2007. Most of you probably don’t know that Richard agreed to discuss 10 topics on the series, but quit the interview after only addressing 3 of the 10 topics, which was very disappointing to me at the time. But of course that was his prerogative.

Since our original interview, Richard has declined to appear on Mormon Stories Podcast again – especially after my excommunication from the Mormon Church in 2015.  Still, there are many questions that I would like to ask Richard (or any believing Mormon scholar), if he (they) would allow it. Unfortunately most faithful Mormon scholars avoid any forums where they are asked candid, difficult questions. This is not their fault, of course. It’s the price of doing business with a church that silences and punishes its truth-tellers.

Consequently, I am recording a personal episode where I go ahead and ask the questions I’ve been wanting to ask Richard, along with expressing a few concerns with some of Richard’s public statements over the years.

I hope you enjoy! If you enjoy this episode, I may do something similar a few other faithful scholars/historians/apologists.


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  1. VFanRJ June 23, 2021 at 7:37 pm - Reply

    These questions were right on the mark. They get to the core of many of the issues that exist in Church history and its truth claims.
    JD delivers these questions in the moral context of informed consent, as well as a bright line on the unethical application of persuasion based on a false narrative.
    When I told my wife that I thought that JS was a fraud, she was dismayed. She vocally questioned how this could happen to her. She did everything that Church leaders told her to do and she still ended up in a mixed faith marriage. My response to my wife was because we were both lied to. I’m sure in her mind she dismissed my response.
    Unethical persuasion is not victimless.

  2. Trey June 24, 2021 at 9:20 am - Reply

    John, what is the “new narrative’ he is saying needs to be changed? What is the old narrative, and what would be the new one? Is this surrounding the 1st vision, the plates? What was the old narrative and what is he saying needs to be the new narrative?

  3. Barry Richins June 24, 2021 at 4:31 pm - Reply

    John, I like the idea of your sharing your and other’s questions. Most of us don’t have enough background information on the many things you asked questions about to formulate them ourselves. As a college professor, I found that volunteering to teach a class I had never taught before was good for me if I wanted to know more about a subject. The act of volunteering to teach the class told me that I was committed to do the work to learn enough to satisfy myself about the subject I needed to know to satisfy my integrity to the needs of my students. Today you helped me to be able to formulate questions that I have never considered before, not because I’m not smart enough, but because I’m not experienced enough to know a subject well enough to formulate questions about it. A while ago, my dermatologist friend told me of a man who came to his office complaining of the cost of his last procedure that took only 15 minutes of my doctor friend’s time. The doctor responded, “You do not pay me for what I do, rather for what I know!” Hell, Boy, I watch and listen to you podcasts because of the good questions you ask that elicit responses I can learn from. You have made the effort over the many years of you podcast to learn enough about topics you and your audiences care about. I am a subscriber to the Socratic method. Just by being mortal, we humans are born with rational brains that ask a lot of questions. Oh, how we depend on those who, through experience, may have already asked those questions and received responses worthy of sharing. As I referenced about volunteering to teach a class that I hardly know any thing about, I know how much effort it takes to be prepared to meet my students needs. So I believe that in some way I understand the effort it takes you to learn enough to know the appropriate questions to those you interview to make the time we viewers spend with you and them worth our time.

    Thank you, my vulnerable friend, for your time, effort, and brain work to make our time together worth while!


  4. Shawn G. June 24, 2021 at 5:59 pm - Reply

    Whew! Intense. Powerful. Riveting. Loved it! I frequently fantasize of the day when somebody like Bushman or a top-level authority in the church will honestly answer these questions, and I speculate on the impact it would have on my faithful and believing wife and on our marriage. At this point, we are unable to have any discussion around the truth claims as they are still embraced by her as accurate and anything to the contrary is categorically dismissed as lies and/or anti-Mormon. Any attempt on my part to suggest the possibility of an alternative narrative is met with hostility and quickly devolves into argument. For every book that I’ve read (Brodie, Palmer, Quinn, B. H. Roberts, Hassan, etc) she has purchased apologetic books with which to counter. The result has been that we just don’t talk at all about any of this presently in order to keep the peace. The house is divided into 2 camps; my wife and 13 year old son still attending church and activities in one camp; my 15 year old daughter and I in the other. It is a tough pill to swallow, knowing that my wife views my role as husband and father to now be somewhat diminished as a result of my disaffection with the church and a new world view. We’re trying to work it out and learn to live with our new normal in the circumstances. The fracture could have been avoided and indeed might still be reparable if the church would just get on with it, and tell the truth.

  5. db June 25, 2021 at 12:37 pm - Reply

    John, you really came out swinging on this one. Well done. I prefer frankness and honesty instead of people talking in circles.

  6. Rebecca K June 27, 2021 at 4:22 pm - Reply

    John, your passion is riveting! I am so glad that you now have shrugged off the need to keep saying that we need to be careful as we don’t want to hurt anyone’s testimony. Testimonies based on lies and lifelong harm is what the church has given us and this is what we must rail against because that is where the true harm comes from. I watch many of my family members suffer needlessly and call it God’s will. I hear my sister tell me how much she loves the gospel while she cannot afford a safe car because of the tithing she insists on paying. I hear her say she is comforted by the promise of an eternal family but 3/5 of her children and more than half of her grandchildren do not subscribe to the religion any longer and she cannot see that the gospel is actually telling her she CANNOT be with them! She doesn’t even come close to examining the so called “scriptures” and refused to watch the little video I linked in an email from the gospel topics essays discussing the “seer stone.” What tripe that is! And it’s the church leaders’ own words! She won’t question even the smallest discrepencies while embracing the whole stinking mound of lies.

    She, like me, was married off young and denied a real education. Each of my siblings, male and female, have failed to reach their potential by miles, because of this bloated, rotten, outrageously wealthy, outdated religion. I believe in pulling down walls and letting the bright light of day in for all to see these things! Thank you for your professional integrity exhibited here. And don’t fear for a minute that you will have to shut down your podcast. Nobody in leadership will do a single thing to bring out the truth in our lifetimes.

  7. Robert Hodge June 28, 2021 at 6:31 pm - Reply

    John. With this you have done a masterful job of pointing out the manifest hypocrisy (my term not yours) of Bushman when it comes to the truth narratives and claims commonly accepted by the LDS Church, its leadership and general membership. But in Bushman’s defense, I would point out that he is a product of an longstanding repetitive institution wide effort at systematic programmed ecclesiastical brainwashing. For those born into the church this happens cradle to grave. For those who are converts, it starts with the missionary discussions with a sole objective of getting them into the water while at the same time holding back information that could be viewed as not faith promoting. Notwithstanding the considerable evidence of fraud, It should therefore not be surprising that Bushman would not seek a further public discussion with you. He has too much to lose, and in his view, truth must take a back seat to orthodoxy. As you know, the die was cast when Boyd Packer counseled Mormon historians to only write “faithful history” because, as he said, “sometimes the truth is not very useful.”

  8. Rex Shupe June 29, 2021 at 11:54 am - Reply

    Damn John, Nice!! I love this strong and direct side of you. Never stop, and quit apologizing for husking this cob. Superfluous abounds around these subjects, and nobody ain’t got time for the dance. This is drilling down to the bounty, where the answers are really, after all the fluff, yeah yeah and nay nay.

  9. Brad June 29, 2021 at 4:40 pm - Reply

    John, these are all valid questions. However, (and this is coming from a solid apostate) I think a lot of these questions are directed to the wrong person. Of course Bushman’s beliefs are valid points to question. And if he has shown some deception depending on whom he is talking to, then that is also certainly fair game. But when you question his intelligence because he believes in at least some of the divinity of the church, I believe that is misguided. In my opinion, Bushman was unfairly propped up as the saint of all things progressive LDS. He, like many other intelligent members, has faith in the ‘truthfulness’ of at least a part of the church. Faith is completely separate from reason, and his intelligence shouldn’t be questioned because he chooses to exercise it. I know it is jarring to consider that he still believes in the truthfulness of the church given the things he has written and said. But it is pointless to attack faithful expression, even in people whom we believe should ‘know’ better. Faith is inextricably tied to the human condition, and will be for quite some time. Questions that directly attack the historical claims of the church really can only be answered by the official church. Everyone has a right to maintain a nuanced faith, Bushman included.

    Relatedly, Bushman doesn’t need to answer for the sins of the church against LGBTQ members. And that is also true for any member of whatever activity level. It would be interesting to know his thoughts on this, and it is fair game to ask anyone their opinion about it. But again, this has to be done with empathy towards a person’s level of faith. I certainly have a hard time understanding why more members do not resign because of this single issue. But Bushman (and many others) hold the opinion that the church is a net good in their lives. As wrong as I may think that this is, it is what it is. Until any member comes face to face with the damage the church causes to these marginalized members, it is difficult to detach themselves from the good the church gives them. I would guess that Bushman is still in this category. I think it is unfair to lay at the feet of him and other active members the sins of the church. There is only one person/organization that should be held accountable for this; Russel M. Nelson and the rest of the general authorities.

    Anyways, my two cents.

    • Katie November 23, 2022 at 12:10 pm - Reply

      @brad I agree with what you have said about Bushman is not responsible for the sins of the church, the church leaders are.
      @john I would also like to add that I am curious to know where the thousands of LGBTQIA+ suicide numbers came from. I thought it was under 100 (that we know of). Thanks!

  10. Gianni June 29, 2021 at 5:58 pm - Reply

    And exactly how much experience do you have as a mental health professional?

  11. John June 30, 2021 at 3:59 pm - Reply

    I am sorry you are sad but, JHC, get a life! Better yet, use the same time spent and monies received from MS towards eliminating the misery in the world. Who gives a damn about Mormon false narratives and those of all religions?

  12. Frankfurt August 31, 2021 at 10:05 am - Reply

    John, I appreciate that you want to get to the bare knuckle truth about things, but of all the podcasts I’ve listened to, this was the hardest.
    As someone who found out the real history just a few months ago, I felt like you were almost angry and Richard bushman, which is understandable.
    However, I felt that rough stone rolling is a perfect Segway to go from dwindling faith, to finding truth.

    After rough stone rolling I’ve delved much deeper.
    But it was good to try to look at it from a more faithful perspective.

    I do appreciate all your doing, and would highly recommend Jordan Peterson YouTube lectures on the psychological significance of the Bible stories. I think many members who are losing faith in the church would benefit drastically from those lectures by knowing there’s at least a psychological significance.

    Wish you well, and thank you.

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