Part 1:

Part 2:


In this episode we assemble an all-star panel to discuss the events of Mormonism in 2015.  Panelists include Dr. J. Nelson Seawright, John Hamer, Jamie Hanis-Handy, and Marisa Calderwood.

Topics discussed include:

  • The impact of Kate Kelly’s excommunication on Mormon feminism and the events of 2015.
  • The increase of excommunications for apostasy, including those of John Dehlin, Rock Waterman, and Marisa and Carson Calderwood.
  • CFyX5d1VAAIvaHGNewsroom_President PackerThe death of three LDS apostles, including Boyd K. Packer.
  • The release of the LDS Gospel Topics essays, and their impact on LDS activity/inactivity/apostasy
  • The November 2015 LDS policy change naming same-sex married individuals as mandatory apostates, and preventing their children from membership in the church.
  • President Russell M. Nelson’s recent talk, naming the 11/2015 LGBT policy changes as revelation.
  • The status of Mormon apologetics.
  • The status of progressive Mormonism.



  1. J. Reuben Clerk January 12, 2016 at 3:45 pm - Reply

    I wonder if the policy change about same-sex-married couples being apostate was to avoid having to change the language in the temple ceremony and/or temple recommend interview. I haven’t been recently, but the definition of the law of chastity in the temple was sexual relations with only your husband or wife to whom one is lawfully wedded. They probably didn’t want anyone who could pass a temple recommend interview under that definition. By making them apostates, someone married to someone of the same sex would fail the interview.

  2. Lisa January 12, 2016 at 5:04 pm - Reply

    I love listening to your voices of reason! Thank you!
    I have a few additions to the podcast.
    In Mrs Nelsons talk she spoke of being desperate. She said “Perhaps you have been desperate to have someone really understand you to truly love you.” I found this statement so hurtful. Where is the real understanding and loving of the LGBT people and their children. There is no understanding and love in the new policy change she so readily sustains. She went on to be even more abrasive when she said we should “ask for the gift to have our sexual feelings be in harmony with eternal laws.” I am 58 years old and to this day I have never met a LGBT individual who did not ask, plead, pray, fast, serve, bargain etc… for this to be taken from them! As the mother (and Mamma Dragon) of a gay son I can only imagine the desperation of those LGBT people in the congregation and those hearing this address worldwide.
    The line has been drawn in the sand. If you do not believe and follow the prophet you are of no worth. Mr. Nelson confirmed this when he said “Spend more time with the friends who are seeking to have the spirit with them”. Which obviously is not me since I 100% support gay marriage and have lost my testimony. Now I am even labeled as a “servant of satan”. Who I do not believe in by the way.

  3. Phil January 13, 2016 at 10:50 am - Reply

    Speaking of excommunications, how is that Cliven Bundy and his offspring haven’t been excommunicated after all their gun toting shenanigans and racist comments?

    • Brent January 15, 2016 at 3:24 pm - Reply

      Amen! I sent an email to the Church PR asking about this… of course, no response.

    • Alan January 23, 2016 at 2:41 pm - Reply

      Because they’re not openly gay. The new policy makes it clear that just being a legally married gay couple makes you worse, as a member of the ‘church’, than being a rapist, child abuser, murderer, law breaker or anything else. How people can continue to believe this church is anything but a bunch of old white men heading a multi-billion dollar corporation, with a bunch of blind, bigoted followers, just boggles my mind. There is nothing Christian about the LDS corporation and there never was.

  4. Meldrum Klackey January 13, 2016 at 12:10 pm - Reply

    Having heard this address live and knowing that there are many struggling LGBT students at BYU Hawaii, let me just say that as bad as Elder Nelson’s talk was, Sister Nelson’s talk was simply appalling. This is not “virtuous, lovely, praiseworthy, or of good report.” This is hateful and cruel, and done with an eye not towards serving God, but towards protecting the assets of a large corporation. It pains me to say this, but I believe it to be true.

    When a self-proclaimed apostle of Jesus Christ has the chance to address such a huge, at-risk audience of members, and this is the message, it strains credulity that the deity of this earth, in the midst of chaos and suffering and pain of His children, would choose to communicate something so alienating.

    Heartbreaking. I can’t wait to get out, and many, many others I know feel the same way.

  5. Joy January 13, 2016 at 4:26 pm - Reply

    John mentioned his observation that the outrage engendered by the policy change was stronger because straight children would be excluded. When discrimination only involved gay members, then it didn’t matter. I have a similar observation in another context. Men have been justifying and/or ignoring the church’s checkered past relative to polygamy, and patronizing towards women’s pain, when it was only a man with multiple wives. As soon as it came out that there was some polyandry involved, then suddenly that was too much to tolerate.

  6. Les January 14, 2016 at 8:25 am - Reply

    Please give your participants instructions on how to mute their mic so we don’t need to listen to their hacking cough. I normally enjoy your podcasts John, but I had to turn this one off.

    • John Dehlin January 14, 2016 at 8:41 am - Reply

      We ended up muting the cough…if you can hang in there a little bit longer. :)

      But sorry about that, Les!

  7. Eric January 14, 2016 at 12:28 pm - Reply


    Sister Wendy Nelson begins her comments at 1 hour, 50 seconds into the video.
    Russell Nelson starts at 1 hour 11 minutes, 44 sec in.

  8. OldFriend January 14, 2016 at 8:31 pm - Reply

    John made a wonderful observation in this episode about the status of Mormon apologetics with the loss of many faculty members of the Maxwell Institute (with the retirement of Gerald Bradford as Institute Director, Daniel Peterson’s exit etc..), FAIR being less vocal, and the rise of the Richard Bushman, Teryl Givens era on the current forefront of Mormon apologetics. The ensuing discussion was excellent, but I believe it lacked one important point, perhaps because all members of the discussion have a very long view in the development of anti-Mormonism and apologetic discussion and have been familiar with the topics of Mormon critique and apologetic response for a long time.

    I believe this shift in the tone and approach of apologetics is because they now face a new era of more palatable Mormon critique – something I believe is embodied works such as in the CES Letter, the Brother Jake YouTube videos and Mormon Think. These critics don’t present their work with the same harsh tone seen in earlier works like The Godfathers, No Man Knows My History or The Mormon Delusion series by Jim Whitefield. They explain concisely the historical (and sometimes cultural) issues within Mormonism in a tone of one honestly seeking understanding of complicated historical and doctrinal issues. Additionally, these resources (especially the CES Letter) are somewhat ‘comprehensive’, in that they are able to summarize decades of Mormon critique in a very easy to read and digestable resource.

    Again, I believe the reason for this shift in apologetic approach is not because the topics of these resources are new. It is because they are now free, concise and easily accessible. The response from apologetics (including the LDS church vis a vis the Gospel Topics Essays) is entirely appropriate because they now have a very different type of problem.

  9. Brenda January 17, 2016 at 4:57 am - Reply

    I honestly believe that the Brethren didn’t expect the November policy to go viral, and that it was manipulative in design. The Church leadership had put out many messages that where very publicly tolerant of the LBGT community. I had no false pretenses that they would welcome them into the church with open arms within in the next 5 years or so, but the rhetoric was softened and seamed to show a willingness to coexist. Then they tried to slip in that new policy in under the radar. The whole thing looks and feel like a cloak and dagger operation to me. I think that they thought that the LBGT rights protecting law deal they struck, and got passed in the state would protect them and give them free passage to make these policy’s, and any other policy they wanted. They were concern with protecting themselves from the part of the world that doesn’t acknowledge their claim of authority that is only answerable to god, and that they are a select few who are privy to what that is, that It didn’t even occur to them that retribution could come from within their own members. I also think that they also had a false sense of security that church member’s loyalty was more blind that it really is. I believe that the nature of the Church leadership has always been dichotic. Its one of the most powerful tools in their arsenal, and they are skilled masters of it. The Word of their message is love and kindness. Christ like virtue, but deep within the construction of the words are a completely different message that is only implied and is deciphered through the inconsistent hypocrisy of the churches nature. I think that this time the message of the words is what found its way into most people’s hearts, and the intended implied did not.

  10. Timothy Birt January 18, 2016 at 2:37 am - Reply

    Thank you for this session. I want to especially thank J Nelson Seawright’s concluding comments on finding or creating ones own space in Mormonism away from an restrictive true / not true dichotomy. So many members of the LDS Church seem to internalize an absolute truth / falsehood construct into their experience and participation in religious and cultural Mormonism and thus if they find themselves questioning their absolute truth narrative, they may feel they have to abandon nearly everything related to religion, spirituality, culture, and community that “big tent” Mormonism can entail and find themselves blown about having no rudder and no port as a home. He encourages Mormons of all types and experiences in 2016 to seek to find or create places for themselves to affirm the Mormon aspects of themselves where they feel comfortable and to embrace rather than abandon the valuable aspects of culture and community. I loved how he suggested that the true/not true is the wrong question.

    This is so refreshing and valuable, in my opinion, as so many episodes in these podcasts seems to focus on the experiences of Mormons whose belief system seemed once focused upon issues related to LDS Church truth claims and who have faith crisis become disillusioned not only with the LDS Church, but also with religion, belief, spirituality, community, and Mormon culture in general; and when so disillusioned the seem to advocate departure from the Church as an appropriate response and then often are baffled by how others continue to find value in aspects of faith, community, culture or spirituality stemming from their Mormon restoration cultural background.

    There is room for all and places within the big tent of Mormon/restoration influenced culture and community for us despite vast varieties in our experiences and beliefs.

    I agree that this has been a difficult year for most all the reasons discussed. This discussion shows we can have difficult discussions on painful issues together and also find and extend support to others across the continuum of Mormon experience.

  11. Gail January 18, 2016 at 5:45 pm - Reply

    I just want to note that the policy wording still is not changed even though the leaders explained what they meant. Since the wording is still the same all the explaining is worthless.

  12. Big M January 18, 2016 at 10:02 pm - Reply

    Maybe this is not an original thought, for that I apologize. One thing I find very interesting is that the “declarations” and “proclamations” are claimed by some including the GAs as being revelations. (The latest “policy” on LGBTQ per Russ Nelson is a revelation now from what I heard on the podcast.)

    If they are truly revelations I want so know what the Lord said. I want it written as scripture, not just a commentary. I was taught as a missionary to read the word of the Lord and avoid commentaries but with the declarations, policies, and proclamations they are merely commentaries, not the words of the Lord. We have the Lord quoted and prophecies throughout LDS scripture using the language of the King James Bible. So what did the Lord say exactly about blacks, LGBTQs, polygamy and the family? Why in D&C 121 is the Lord speaking in the language of the KJB but none of the recent statements in that language?

    • Wedgie January 21, 2016 at 12:23 pm - Reply

      I think Mr. Nelson is either trying to create his own legacy here, or perhaps trying to “channel” Boyd K. Packer, since he’s not currently around to do the damage he’s been doing for half a century. I’m absolutely sure that Monson’s supposed “revelation” will never be written down, as it never actually happened. Someone would have to craft it after the fact. Plus, a written “revelation” would formalize the policy far too strongly for the company lawyers to approve it. The lawyers and accountants are running the church these days.

      Also, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some “rogue” aspects to Nelson’s talk. I certainly bet it created a stir at the next Q 12 meeting following the event. I honestly don’t believe all of the Q12 think that way. But they don’t have seniority . . . and Nelson does.

  13. J. Crown January 21, 2016 at 1:43 pm - Reply

    I enjoyed this episode a lot and appreciated all of the panelists. I will say that in every Mormon Stories episode I’ve listened to that included J. Nelson Seawright, he has never failed to elucidate something in a new way for me, or otherwise failed to put the exact point that needed to be put on a particular idea. So, I’m especially grateful for the thoughtfulness he puts into his appearances, if for no other reason than that his words resonate with me so frequently.

  14. Tracy February 21, 2016 at 10:22 am - Reply

    I, for one, was among the thousands MORE that resigned in late 2015. Living in Belgium, I couldn’t attend the mass resignation in SLC. Someday I hope to attend one. I’m pretty confident that there will be many more.

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