MS2015YearInReviewAs parts 3 and 4 in our series reviewing the events of Mormonism in 2015, we assemble another all-star panel including Lindsay Hansen Park, Dr. Gina Colvin, Dr. Kristy Money, and Sean Carter. Some of the topics discussed included:

  • The state of the Mormon Internet (blogs, podcast, social media)
  • Social group formations in progressive and post-Mormonism
  • The state of Mormon Feminism
  • The impact of disciplinary councils and excommunication on modern Mormonism (hint: it isn’t good)
  • The state of Progressive Mormonism
  • Issues of race and multi-culturalism within modern Mormon culture (LDS and post-Mormon)
  • The state of Mormon Studies
  • Retrenchment/leadership crisis/corporatism in the modern LDS Church

We hope you enjoy it!!!!


Part 3:

Part 4:


  1. JT January 15, 2016 at 10:11 am - Reply

    Thank you all. I particularly appreciated the exchange John initiated regarding how one might/should personally respond to harmful or problematical institutional LDS behavior and beliefs.

    It sure feels like a Solomon’s choice – whether to cut yourself off from a loving local community to satisfy an urgently felt (yet rational) need to end your complicity in such mischief, or remove the taint of counterfeit gold plates.

    Obviously, this same choice is more acutely faced within families, and hopefully with even greater reluctance NOT to cut. Of course the LDS Church knows this – it’s “baked into” its doctrine. As do my own “work on myself” this “winter”, I have to acknowledge that I was able to cut myself free from the institution (i.e. formally resign) in large part because I wasn’t so personally attached to my local ward community (or to my Mormon identity). BUT then, I could only do this after it became clear that that cut would not simultaneously sever our family.

    Finally, I also agree with Sean’s insight. Even though I am no longer connected to the Mormon corporate empire, I remain connected to several other myth-laden institutions (and self-identity categories) that ethically taint my existence and which I have yet to seriously challenge or help to reform. So, I take limited pride in my resignation.

  2. AE January 15, 2016 at 2:11 pm - Reply

    Fascinating discussion per always, though I find Sean Carter’s reasoning too apologetic and/or apathetic for my liking. Martin Luther King, Jr. did not suppress or manipulate a population of millions through a blatantly false narrative. Nor was he deceptive in his mission–He believed in a fundamental truth and fought for it. Thinking Mormons must do the same. We can’t sit silent in the pews when the Church leadership is lying on repeat.

    WE may comprehend that doddering old men are doddering old men, but the larger membership reveres the Q15 as anointed megaphones who resonate God’s voice. I was especially grateful that John asked him about their particularly dangerous position re: LGBT. So many members know that the policies are fundamentally wrong, but simply chalk it up as just one more wrong thing (like polygamy, race, sexism, the Book of Mormon, Book of Abraham, etc.) justified by “aw shucks, isn’t the church such a nice place?” or “This really doesn’t affect me directly.” Mormons are olympic champion compartmentalizers, so I get how this dynamic thrives, but it leads to disassociation of self and community.

    I was sad to hear the one African-American voice on this podcast defend an institution that propagates so much untruth; the same kind of untruths that have harmed his own community for so long. Deceit is its own form of oppression, and if 2015 taught me anything, it’s that the Church’s formerly effective tool of deception is losing the battle against informational transparency.

  3. J. Reuben Clerk January 15, 2016 at 5:51 pm - Reply

    The LDS church claims divine authority and divine inspiration for its doctrines, its policies, and its administrative decisions at all leadership levels. Obedience to the high demands of the LDS church is the only institutionally and culturally acceptable option for members. The LDS church does not permit its authority claims and its inspiration claims to be openly challenged from within and harshly punishes and shuns those who do. For at least these reasons, the LDS church cannot be reformed or redeemed, despite the best efforts of those who decide to stay. If this was not clear to me after the policies were leaked last November, it was absolutely clear to me when Russell M. Nelson claimed divine revelation for those policies.

    I am an active unorthodox member of the LDS church who has a calling and who has paid tithing up until November. I now see the folly in trying to redeem the LDS church. I don’t know how much longer I will remain active. I certainly cannot, in good conscience, pay tithing. And while I understand that (as some panelists noted) that every American organization will have its own problems addressing race, gender, LGBT or other issues, I believe I can find an institution without comparable claims to divine authority, claims to divine inspiration, and demands for obedience. In that sense, the LDS church is NOT just as flawed as alternatives.

    • Dewayne Korth January 17, 2016 at 10:58 pm - Reply

      Amen Brother! You took the words right out of my mouth and gift-wrapped them nicely. The absurdity of the comparisons made this real clear to me.

  4. Goto January 16, 2016 at 8:56 am - Reply

    I was molested by a family member. There is good in him–only because he is human. Since he is a member of my family and he is a member of the human race should I bring my family around this person and chance them being molested too? Maybe a bad analogy but the church has molested us all–not just me, and the panel made comments to the effect that their is good and we should find ways to stay (I simplified their statements). How could I stay after I read the essays? On my mission in the 80’s people told me things that I was taught was anti mormon rhetoric and today the church says the anti mormons told the truth? John was excommunicated and can never return unless he lies to them and answers all the baptismal questions the way the church wants to hear it–he was molested by them greatly and yet how can he find a place in the mormon church as the panelist suggest. The church harms people and when people are being harmed people need to leave. Having said all that I know that I have said is a very biased approach and I really loved the discussion of all 4 episodes! Very powerful conversation and very thought provoking.
    PS–I am not eloquent in speech and I hope anyone who reads this might understand what I am trying to say. Stop the pain–don’t perpetuate the abuse?

  5. Jill Rawstorne January 17, 2016 at 12:29 am - Reply

    I have listened to many of John’s podcasts but this one today really got under my skin and I left feeling depressed. The depressing part to me was when John asked the panel about how they can stay in the church when they have just said they are upset and trying to change in their own ways. They are disgusted by the way women are treated as less than in the church, gays, lesbians and transgender people aren’t wanted in the church (and are committing suicide!) and it sounds like the panel doesn’t even believe the BOM came from God. They are giving their time, energy and efforts to a church that is based on a lie! Joseph Smith plagiarized, made up and had others write a book that this whole church conglomerate is based on! When John asked them about them staying or being worried about excommunication, they all seemed to back peddle a bit. Sean’s analogy of Martin Luther King really bothered me. If I went to a museum about Martin Luther King, Jr., I wouldn’t want to be shielded from the truth! Besides as another person mentioned, he was one human man that did great things but did make mistakes. The Mormon Church has many church leaders taking horrible actions by putting members that are just looking for the truth about this religion. They were previously told a different story about the first vision, Joseph Smith, polyandry , polygamy, etc. etc. I just don’t know how any parent or grandparent would want their daughters especially growing up in the church that isn’t even based on truth let alone give 10% of their income and not ever knowing where the money goes! Really?! Yes, the Mormon church has “good fruit” to partake of as Sean said but so many other organizations and religions have that same fruit. Why not take your family and do good and “work on yourself” in a place that hasn’t lied, killed and continues to hurt people. Why be part of a religion that hurts people?! I left the church about 20 years ago and it was very difficult and continues to be a struggle because I see so many injustices that affect members of my family and friends. I understand the majority of members stay and love it because they haven’t been privy to the things discussed on this and other podcasts. I know many member don’t want to hear the tough stuff. They have told me they are fine the way things are. That is their choice and I have to respect it. I just don’t understand how people can stay that have been educated on church history and support a church that hurts people. Yes, you might lose some friends, family members and clients but I would rather be true to myself and accept the consequences. The only reason I would have stayed was if it would have broken up my marriage, That’s a tough choice I’m sure. Unfortunately, I don’t see the male dominated church changing anytime soon. I would rather spend my time, money and efforts in other places that treat me as an equal and treat all the other people on this world as equals too. That’s just me.

    • Dewayne Korth January 17, 2016 at 11:07 pm - Reply

      I think and hope what you commented is 2016 . It sounds like to me that a few of the panelists have external motives for staying and aren’t seeing how similar they are to the nazi sympathizers. “Sure there’s some harm, but I’m a good upstanding Nazi”. I’m sure there were plenty of those types in Germany and they all had motives to keeping the party line. This is the question that many will be forced to answer in 2016. These people making use of their skills by keeping people in the NOM group and in the Church will have a rude awakening when the movement moves past them. I think they will be sorely left behind in this great ground swell.

      • Dewayne Korth January 19, 2016 at 9:24 am - Reply

        Maybe I was too harsh. Do people need others helping them into life boats. Maybe that’s hard to do if your not on the sinking ship. Maybe everyone on this panel are serving a function in different capacities and I should not be so irritated by Sean’s comments if he’s someone that can keep creating dissonance in his ward and with his audience. Very hard for to see where he might be helping especially if he’s encouraging people to not get in the life boats and that the good ship Zion is fine.

    • Chuckie January 20, 2016 at 2:04 pm - Reply

      I really appreciated this remark. While I was listening to the podcast and John FINALLY said what should have been said a lot earlier, my thoughts were the same – why hang on to something which is blatantly deceitful, fraudulent, untrue, harmful, judgmental, etc. etc. However, my irritation after leaving the LDS Church after 49 years is that the LDS Church diminishes and demeans Jesus the Christ. I didn’t realize how disrespectful the LDS doctrine is toward Christianity until I left and learned what Christians actually believe. LDS doctrines place the focus of worship on our works rather than on His Grace and LDS doctrines demean Him and His gift – doctrines such as the atonement happened in the Garden of Gethsemane instead of on the cross; Jesus’ sacrifice for us wasn’t enough, we have to do works such as temple rituals, fasting, tithing, having lots of kids, for polygamists having more than one wife, etc.; Jesus was the brother of Satan; Jesus was a polygamist; Jesus’ mother had sex with God the Father rather than being overshadowed by the Holy Spirit; the priesthood had to be restored even though the veil in the temple was torn in half when Jesus died – symbolizing that NO ONE and nothing ever again stands between God and us; Jesus is our brother rather than our creator, etc., It was extremely painful to leave Mormonism since I was born and raised in it, but when I discovered it was all a lie, I was stunned and I had to leave it all behind and I tend to look at it now as dangerous to our physical, emotional, financial, and spiritual health. I’m still suffering from PTSD from my life in Mormonism and it is doubtful at this late date I’ll ever fully recover from it – Such is the journey.

  6. P Jennings January 18, 2016 at 2:51 am - Reply

    Regarding ridding he church of racism, let’s start by not referring to non-white people as “People of Color”, we are all people of color!

  7. Memba January 18, 2016 at 7:11 pm - Reply

    I listened to the panel and felt like it was an interesting, moving discussion. Lot’s of topics that could be commented on.

    I have long been a student of LDS history and issues. I understand many of the problems with the the official LDS line. I have been deeply troubled for years by books like Miracle of Forgiveness (which I could never read all the way through–the most depressing LDS book ever written), Mormon Doctrine, Man, His Origin and Destiny, racist teachings in the Book of Mormon, Section 132, etc. I also attended a high school that had race riots in 1969 and 1970. I was relieved and overjoyed to the point of tears when the church announced the new policy (doctrine? nah!) on blacks and the priesthood and the temple. I felt deeply uncomfortable with that LDS teaching for as long as I can remember.

    One of the main questions in the last session was about, how can you stay in the church if you know all these problems about the church? I think the answers to that are complex and are matters of the heart as well as the mind. Intellectually, I know all too well many of the church’s problems. I have known gay people for most of my life and worked with them closely in various jobs. I completely disagree with the church’s new policy on gays. I wondered after I heard about Elder Nelson’s talk if the special moment of spiritual confirmation came before or after they completely backed off from the harshest and least defensible aspect of the policy, and called it a “clarification”. This disingenuous characterization makes me suspect that Elder Nelson is comfortable in the Boyd K. Packer school of teaching that the church isn’t obligated to tell the truth–the mission is to build faith. Of course, the tragic results of that world view are the loss of faith in many members as they find out they were deceived and they know that at some level of the church hierarchy, the deception was deliberate. Certainly Joseph Fielding Smith knew it. I suspect Bruce R. McConkie did too. I think Dallin Oaks and Quentin Cook are well aware of it as well.

    The knowledge of the Lord has flooded the earth, as the Book of Mormon prophesies. But I think the church never anticipated how the knowledge of everything else was also going to flood the earth at the same time because of the technology of the internet. There is no hiding from past misinformation. The essays are a step in the right direction towards acknowledging the priestcraft and unrighteous dominion (LDS concepts) that is inherent in teaching falsehoods to manipulate faith. The intent may have honestly been to build faith, but the end does not justify the means, IMO.

    My view on what keeps people like me in the church and hoping for more spiritual sunshine, despite all the bad spiritual weather, is that I have had a lifetime full of positive experiences in the church. I have known many wonderful people, including Bishops and other leaders, who genuinely, sincerely cared about others. I don’t know if it is legitimate to call this the “fruits” of the LDS teachings? But I do know it is true. I have never had a bad bishop or other church leader at the local level. Even if I didn’t agree with them, I still knew that their hearts were good and they were trying sincerely to act morally and ethically with integrity to their beliefs. These people were great mentors and teachers in my life. Also, there are many amazing women in the church who have set terrific examples for me and have taught me and influenced my life positively–especially my own mother, who might have the best heart of anyone I know.

    So I am stuck in the cognitive dissonance of knowing the church is still spouting a lot of BS and falsehoods. But most of those who do it sincerely believe they are telling the truth. I admit I am more skeptical about the GA’s of the church. They have rock star status in the church that from many members, IMO, borders on idol worship. Seriously, we put pictures of these dudes all over our buildings, but we reject having the cross as a symbol of Christ. I think there are more pictures of GA’s in the buildings than of the Savior. I don’t like it. I cringe when I hear them say how “humbled” they are in the Lord’s service. It often feels like the exact opposite to me. If they were humbler, they would do like the apostles depicted in the temple and go out and sincerely seek to find out what is going on in the world before they go and try to minister as apostles. But they never do this. That white shirt, dark suit and tie thing is a deliberate branding of themselves as the Lord’s “humble”servants, here to tell us what the Lord wants, and never to listen to how the rank and file feel about their callings, their service and about the church’s policies and practices (I am leaving doctrine out of this–there is plenty of the other stuff that are just policies and practices and, frankly, Utah culture). The “Which Way do You Face” talk a few conferences ago epitomized this unbelievable arrogance.

    Does all this make me an apologist like John stated Dan Wotherspoon has become (I disagree about this assessment of Dan)? I don’t know? I just made an argument that part of my staying is based on my respect, love, admiration and great experiences with my local leaders–similar to what Sean mentioned on the podcast. So I guess I am saying that even though the GA’s have made and are making some pretty big mistakes, I still feel like the church at the local level is often wonderful for many of its members. I confess that I am conflicted. And I am scared enough of Big Brother at the church office building that I choose to remain anonymous. So I am a coward, too. But I think that is because I value the church and how it affects my family and me, and despite the problems I find in it, I want to stay in and help change it for good. I don’t think it is reasonable to expect any church to change quickly. I am hoping for progress in the LDS church, even if it is slower than I like.

    I have a prayer that the church leaders will somehow be able to empathize with the person who faces LGBT issues, and with the parents and family members who love these people and want them to be part of their eternal family. I hope we will focus less on judgment and being “watchmen”, and more on loving our fellow brothers and sisters with great kindness, tolerance, forgiveness, mercy and humility. I hope we will respect and love those who aren’t as “perfect” as our leaders seem to think they are, and try to make our tent bigger and welcome individuals with love, respect and understanding. If we “ex” people, let’s kick out the child molesters and murderers. Let’s not label those who struggle with gender issues “apostates”. At worst, they are sinners just like all the rest of us. God help us all to be the Church of Jesus Christ–the one that strives to follow the Savior in love and with the same judgment we want meted out to ourselves. Jesus fulfilled the Law of Moses. Let’s not make it our mission to try and bring it back!!!

    • Fellow Philly Saint January 21, 2016 at 8:23 am - Reply


      Thank you for your comments. Everything you said resonates with me. I’m an active member with a church leadership callling. I love so much about the Gospel and yet my eyes have been opened and I realize the church as an institution is broken. Your desires align with mine. You are not alone.

  8. BCD January 18, 2016 at 9:52 pm - Reply

    As a long time listener I really enjoyed this podcast. It’s refreshing to hear ideas so well expressed that have been developed after what is obviously a lot of time and probably exhausting deliberation. It was an in-depth discussion moderated skillfully.

    Personal reformation is essential as we grow as human beings.That is always a given as far as I’m concerned. I can understand working for organizational reformation as far as one’s “village” is concerned. I admire the diligent efforts of the panelists who are working to improve the status quo in the church. However, after listening to the entire podcast I was left thinking that if perhaps the Book of Mormon isn’t at the core of Mormonism and literal translation and historicity aren’t deal breakers – according to a few of the comments – then how do the panelists define what “Mormonism” actually is.

    What distinguishes Mormonism from other Christian religions? Is it the saving ordinances? What does Mormonism come down to? What are progressive Mormons holding on to that they want to save? I’m trying to understand what is left of Mormonism after the reformation of current views regarding women, polygamy, LGBT issues, corporate management, racism etc. and the view of the family is re-imagined. Is Joseph Smith and his view of the eternities what make it distinctive? Are we clinging to tradition and nostalgia wanting to see the good things continue for our children? What are the specifics that make Mormonism different and worth fighting for? Do people project their own ideals onto it or are there commonalities and “articles of faith” for everyone? I would sincerely like to hear how the panelists would define their Mormonism and what it looks like after the “Mormon Spring” arrives. If continuing to call oneself a Mormon, why is it a better place to be than any other group where people are seeking safety, love and a common interest in personal and community growth.

  9. seasickyetstilldocked January 21, 2016 at 2:19 pm - Reply

    I would love a podcast where the discussion remains focused on the topic of whether or not the church is worth redeeming. Yeah I was born in the early 70s. Yeah I did roadshows and pageants. Yeah I like funeral potatoes and have some Mormon pioneer heritage. But a lot of non Mormons have pioneer heritage and everybody pretty much has immigrant ancestry stories etc. Can we honestly compare Mormonism to Judaism? Mormonism is not even 200 years old. For it’s entire history, the Mormon tradition has been racist, misogynist, homophobic and deceitful. The entire tradition is based on a con man and a fraudulent book. The Mormon church is based on lies and deception. Why can’t the church be dismissed as a backwoods con religion……as a religious experiment gone bad? Because the church has so much money?

    I took my family so a Methodist church for xmas eve because my wife wanted to sing some songs. The female pastor spoke about having a real problem with Santa as a Christian because his gifts are conditional. She then spoke about how the gift of Jesus was free and unconditional and how to access this gift you just had to………….get ready for this………………..just let Him into your heart. Now I’m an atheist but my head snapped up and I was like wait what?!!!!! You mean you don’t have to take discussions with missionaries, attend a minimal amount of services, be interviewed by someone who has exclusive authority and answer a set of questions correctly…..just to get baptized? ( and when you do, you better go all the way under or it’s do over time) You mean you don’t have to then have to pay a full tithe for a year, get interviewed again by a man, again correctly answer a set list of questions…just to get access to the next level of Christ through the temple?….which then you have to go through without even knowing what you are promising before you are asked to promise EVERYTHING , your time, talents, money, kids…not just to Jesus but to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Then you have to memorize words you can’t forget….memorize a new name you can’t say and remember handshakes at the right time…all of this and MORE just to access the full measure of Christ? Really? Is this a religion worth preserving? Is this religion even based on Christ? Or maybe there is something else going on. Is this really worth preserving? My son left the xmas eve thing at the Methodist church and said, “you know, that was better than any of my Mormon church experience” I wonder why. Jesus is free. You don’t have to feel guilty about all these rules and go through men to get forgiveness or advice and everything else.

    Do I look fondly back on singing “give said the little stream” and having friends in the ward building the members built in the 70s? Sure. But I also remember being taught how to identify and evil spirit and singing “book of mormon stories” and carrying around the BofM with the gold cover with the bs writing on it. And of course I was too young to remember that the church I went to was racist and was working or defeat ERA. Do you have to excuse the religion and find creative apologetic ways to preserve it just because you have some nice memories of growing up mormon?

    I always laugh when NOMs defend their “faith tradition” by saying things like don’t listen to the old men or by actually saying that the BofM is not historical. Great. Keep that up and you have redefined the Mormon faith tradition out of existence. Which is exactly where I think that church needs to go.

    • Jill Rawstorne January 21, 2016 at 5:11 pm - Reply

      Great comments! I think the members just go about their daily lives and not even think about all the time, money, and efforts they just give to the church. It’s been ingrained in them just like was! Sure I liked the roadshows, ect. but that part was just one more way to keep me involved in the fold.

  10. Mark Hudson January 21, 2016 at 3:40 pm - Reply

    To my understanding, this is how the process works. In order to retain control over the members, the LDS prophet and apostles claim that policies are backed by revelation. Then later when they are forced to change the policy, they say that it was just an opinion or theory, but certainly not a revelation. I won’t bore you with the details, but just read about the church’s racist past if you need an example. For more than 100 years every general authority defended the policy that denied the blessings of the temple and the priesthood to an entire race of people, saying it was based on revelation. Now the modern church says it was all based on human error, and all the explanations made by church leaders were just opinions and theories. Russell Nelson is now saying that the recent policies regarding gay marriage are backed by revelation. Here they go again.

  11. beth January 24, 2016 at 9:27 am - Reply

    Hi jon, thank you and all the panel for all your interesting comments, l do feel it is so important for us to be able to air what we feel and speak our truth, l am so pleased to hear you feel able to speak out about your truth jon and we all must be allowed to express ourselves and our doubts and confusions whether it’s just to get it off of our chests or to really look for and find out truth, thank you all, thank you jon for speaking out right what your heart is telling you.

  12. Cheryl Kosmo January 24, 2016 at 12:09 pm - Reply

    I am not a Mormon, but I find your conversation fascinating. For my two cents I agree with John that the gender issue affects more people and is not addressed as directly by progressive Mormons as the race and LGBT issue. I think that if you do address the gender issue head on and get more decision making power into the hands of women you will make more progress with the other two issues. So while I know a black in a top leadership position would be huge, I also feel a woman in that position would be an agent for transformative change. Kind of like in the bigger world in general. You have to have all of the people represented if you are ever going to achieve a fair and balanced perspective.

  13. Bryan J January 25, 2016 at 8:50 pm - Reply

    I think this was a great panel discussion. I don’t want to sound rude, but I have REALLY hard time relating with Sean’s comments, like the one about the Martin Luther King museum not telling the bad about him, or his example that members of the church should not listen to “crazy grandpa” when talking about Elder Nelson (I listened to it a few days ago so I cannot remember exactly, or more examples). While I do admire him for trying to make changes within the church, I find him VERY apologetic, and I do not relate with him like I have with every other guest on the podcast.

    I am not trying to be mean… just providing feedback.

  14. charlie January 30, 2016 at 6:25 pm - Reply

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