Bushman-Richard-L-ed_1As many of you know, Dr. Richard Bushman (LDS patriarch, former stake president, historian, expert on Joseph Smith) recently participated in a fireside wherein the following exchange took place with a participant:

Questioner: In your view do you see room in Mormonism for several narratives of a religious experience or do you think that in order for the Church to remain strong they would have to hold to that dominant [orthodox] narrative?

Richard Bushman: I think that for the Church to remain strong it has to reconstruct its narrative. The dominant narrative is not true; it can’t be sustained. The Church has to absorb all this new information or it will be on very shaky grounds and that’s what it is trying to do and it will be a strain for a lot of people, older people especially. But I think it has to change.

After this video was shared on Reddit and Facebook, rumor and/or speculation began to spread that Dr. Bushman did not believe in the fundamental LDS truth claims.  In response to this rumor/speculation, Dr. Bushman has asked me to share the following letter in its entirety:

July 19, 2016

In the middle of the week last week I began to receive thank you notes from people who had read a statement of mine about the Church’s historical narrative requiring reconstruction. I had no idea what was going on until Dan Peterson wrote about a “kerfuffle”—the word of choice for the occasion—on the blogs. At church on Sunday, D. Fletcher asked me, did you know you were the subject of a kerfuffle. A friend who had been mission president in Brazil sent me a link to a blog in Portugese. Eventually I learned it all began with the transcript of a comment I made at a fireside at Mark England’s house a little over a month ago and posted by John Dehlin.

Sampling a few of the comments on Dan Peterson’s blog I discovered that some people thought I had thrown in the towel and finally admitted the Church’s story of its divine origins did not hold up. Others read my words differently; I was only saying that there were many errors in the standard narrative that required correction.

The reactions should not have surprised me. People have had different takes on Rough Stone Rolling ever since it came out. Some found the information about Joseph Smith so damning his prophethood was thrown into question. Others were grateful to find a prophet who had human flaws, giving them hope they themselves could qualify for inspiration despite their human weaknesses. The same facts; opposite reactions.

The different responses mystify me. I have no idea why some people are thrown for a loop when they learn church history did not occur as they had been taught in Sunday School, while others roll with the punches. Some feel angry and betrayed; others are pleased to have a more realistic account. One theorist has postulated an “emotional over-ride” that affects how we respond to information. But the admission that we ourselves are subjective human beings whose rational mechanisms are not entirely trustworthy does not diminish our sense that we are right and our counterparts mistaken.

As it is, I still come down on the side of the believers in inspiration and divine happenings—in angels, plates, translations, revelations—while others viewing the same facts are convinced they disqualify Joseph Smith entirely. A lot of pain, anger, and alienation come out of these disputes. I wish we could find ways to be more generous and understanding with one another.

Richard Bushman


  1. Carl Jones July 19, 2016 at 1:28 pm - Reply

    And I come down on the side of Richard Bushman. I loved his book, and I like his philosophy.

  2. J. Crown July 19, 2016 at 1:56 pm - Reply

    Thanks, Richard. Although Rough Stone Rolling was one of the things that opened my eyes to my own conclusion that the Church was not “true” as advertised, I value your respectful engagement of the difficult issues, regardless of where one ends up. Your voice is so valuable in this great conversation.

  3. Bob July 19, 2016 at 2:03 pm - Reply

    Boy all of this intellectual blather sure is inspiring and heart warming eh? When I had joined the Church in 1974 the Church was distancing itself from the Catholic Church and referred to it as the Great and Abominable. Also, I’m wondering if he’s speaking as a prophet and representing the hierarchy of the Church? If not, what matter does his opinion make?

    • da July 19, 2016 at 2:18 pm - Reply

      Bob, many people on both sides of the aisle consider Bushman to not only have an unofficial authoritative voice, but consider him to be very level-headed, frank and honest about many shortfalls of the LDS church. One cannot find all of that in one individual very often.

    • rekap July 20, 2016 at 7:24 am - Reply

      I agree with da. Bushman is a nationally esteemed historian that has more balance and intellectual capacity than any 2 two dozen pretended academics. His opinion in historiography is authoritative. By the way, the Church was detaching from the Catholics under Brigham Young. Crosses were found in Salt Lake city and around the necks of faithful Mormons. Brigham needed unity in the Church so he detached from all other denominations in a dramatic fashion especially the Masons and the Catholics. The about the Great and Abominable church being the Catholics was written by a 32 year old 70 and denounced by David O. McKay when the book containing that statement was publish. The Church has never believed that, it is a tradition that was spread because of people that don’t know the difference between tradition, true doctrine and real history. I am surprised you don’t know the difference. You really should not place things on the church when they are not true, and give respect to actual academics like Dr. Bushman.

      • Debbie Shrubb January 21, 2021 at 5:17 pm - Reply

        Personally I think academics like Bushman are compromised. I too appreciate his efforts to cross a divide between faith and rationality but I think their comes a point when faith cannot hold up under burden of proof.
        Much like belief that the earth was flat was superseded by new information so new information has compromised belief in terms of the so called divine mission of JS and the Church.
        Calling into question people’s rationality when presented with information works both ways it seems to me;
        I call into question the academic rigour of historians when they let their religious faith colour the data they present. It discredits their argument.
        Much like the biblical account of angels appearing to shepherds witnessing Jesus birth, asking how many shepherds for example, completely ignores the question: “do entities such as angels exist”?
        As lovely a person as Bushman is, he does his credibility no favours with this well meaning but fudged narrative.

  4. Lefthandloafer55 July 19, 2016 at 2:19 pm - Reply

    I love Richard Bushman, his general philosophy and his book “Rough Stone Rolling -but I find myself feeling pity for him; to know what he knows and yet feels it necessary to revert to a “magic” view of The Church.

    • Rick July 19, 2016 at 3:35 pm - Reply

      Can you not see that your binary view (your perfectly rational and highly informed non-belief, versus “magic”) is actually more limiting and close-minded than Bushman’s view, which is open to knowledge and experience outside of positivism? If you care to understand Bushman’s highly-informed faith, you may want to check-out his book “Believing History.” But something tells me you are not really interested in understanding. Your “pity” for Bushman is the height of arrogance.

      • Jeff July 19, 2016 at 8:02 pm - Reply


        Lefthandloafter said nothing binary, you did. You said: “Can you not see that your binary view (your perfectly rational and highly informed non-belief, versus “magic”) is actually more limiting and close-minded than Bushman’s view.” In that statement you turn one word from Lefthandloafer (“magic”) into a binary statement by adding: “your perfectly rational and highly informed non-belief,” which bears no resemblance to anything he said. By the way, your statement is also a strawman logical fallacy.

        I feel pity for Bushman too. It’s too bad that someone so intelligent binds himself to the belief in angels, golden plates, magical rocks, spells, disappearing treasure, divination and other early American nonsense. It certainly does his credibility as a scholar no good.

        • lefthandloafer55 July 20, 2016 at 3:46 pm - Reply

          Thank you, Jeff. My comments were sincere…and I certainly wasn’t looking to Rick for his approval or judgement.

      • Thomas Davis July 20, 2016 at 2:10 am - Reply

        The time to believe in something existing outside of the natural/physical world is when it is demonstrated to exist. It’s not to say that something outside of the natural/physical world doesn’t exist. It’s just not reasonable to believe that it exists until it has been demonstrated to exist, or at the very least, its existence is demonstrated to be possible.

        Besides, when did Lefthandloafer55 ever say that he believes magic does not exist? It is incredibly typical for theists to state the non-believer’s position as an absolute.

        • Rick July 20, 2016 at 1:34 pm - Reply

          You all have made my point (again). Bushman leaves room for knowledge that is not attainable through positivist/rational means. You all clearly do not, which seems to me to be a less open and more narrow. That’s certainly you’re right to believe that way, but it is still belief. You choose to only believe in that which can be proven scientifically, and believers choose to be open to knowledge outside that realm. Calling it magic or feeling pity for someone who takes the more open-minded route is arrogant and yes, binary in the sense that in mocking the faithful perspective, you are implicitly saying that the only legitimate view is your own (non-magical or scientific, I suppose). I’m open to being wrong, as I’m sure Bushman is. I can honor someone who takes an agnostic or even atheistic stance without denigrating them. I can choose the path of faith and at the same time honor a perspective that doesn’t. Why can’t you do the same?

          • Gary July 20, 2016 at 1:58 pm

            I personally believe that the Unseen Reality is ultimately more real than our 3D, 5-Senses Physical Reality.

            Unfortunately, Joseph lied. And when he was done lying, he lied some more. Virtually everything Joseph Smith was about, was built on a foundation of intentional, premeditated fabrication and deception designed to advance his personal desires, addictions and agenda.

            The Brethren continue the tradition of representing BS as truth.

            There are better ways to discover the Unseen Reality, than from the vantage point of standing on a giant pile of BS.

            A better approach is to climb down off the pile, take your dirty boots off, burn your boots, go somewhere else, don’t look back, and just start over.

            There is an amazing Multiverse out there awaiting our discovery. We were all born with everything we need to go there.

            Unwashing our brains is the challenge.

          • Rick July 20, 2016 at 3:13 pm

            Wow Gary, you sure are certain of your conclusions. It seems to me that your belief in an Unseen Reality would render you a bit more humble or less certain. I think the awesomeness of the multiverse leaves a lot of room for how various religions or belief systems may connect. But I do (sincerely) wonder, for all of you who are so certain that Joseph was a fraud, why bother? Why do you waste your time on blogs like this or anything to do with Mormonism if it is all a fraud? Do you spend equal time with other belief-systems that you are certain are wrong? It never ceases to amaze me how ex-Mormons just can’t seem to let it go. If you are certain it is all false, then why not walk away and never look back? Why not allow Dr. Bushman or anyone else the space to have knowledge of the “facts,” and still choose faith? Is it possible that choosing faith, or not, are both legitimate options? Or is your certain view of reality “it?”

          • Gary July 20, 2016 at 4:37 pm

            Hi, Rick,

            Thanks for your thoughtful comments, well spoken and worth a reply from me.

            First off, I am a 5th Generation Mormon on both sides. I am using present tense even though my name was removed from the membership roles at my request 33 years ago. Mormonism is in my DNA, and will always be there. It does not matter if I have since concluded that Joseph Smith was a pathological liar and world-class con artist. It does not matter that b.i.c. now means “born in the curse” in my lexicon. Whatever it was, I WAS born in it, a fact I will never fully escape. After years of healing and self-discovery, I even embrace my Mormon heritage at this juncture.

            I maintain a natural interest in “things Mormon” because it is a big chunk of who I am. I waste time on blogs like this from time to time because my natural curiosity will never die, and because someone might benefit from some of the BS I write. My BS can be (at times) just as worthwhile as some of the other BS on this and other blogs. Plus, my personal experience certainly qualifies me to have an opinion on Mormonism.

            As far as my belief in the Unseen Reality, that is my personal choice. I will share some of why I believe in the Unseen Reality. One of my most significant post-Mormon discoveries was the books authored by Michael Newton, including “Journey of Souls” and some follow-on titles. He was an athiest PhD psychologist who used hypnosis to help clients with addictions, behavior modification, etc. During one session, a client unexpectedly regressed to a former lifetime and recalled memories not-of-this-lifetime. Intrigued, Dr. Newton “went with it” and witnessed the client behold the death scene, and then followed the client’s account of traveling into the Spirit Realm, including a detailed description of the client’s encounters as a spirit being returning “home” after physical death. Dr. Newton was so impressed with what had happened, that he focused his practice on LifeBetweenLife hypnotic regressions, and ended up regressing over 7,000 clients by the time he wrote his first book. He discovered that the accounts of thousands of clients seemed to form interlocking pieces of a puzzle that painted an expansive and remarkably cohesive view of the Spirit World encountered by his clients after their death.

            Rick, if you have never personally been to (pick a country) Iceland, for example, if you interviewed 7,000 people who have actually visited Iceland, wouldn’t you end up with somewhat of a semi-realistic idea of what Iceland is like?

            Well, that is the feeling about the Spirit Realm that Dr. Newton’s writings engendered in me.

            I did not mention that the thing that picqued my interest leading me to Dr. Newton, was the untimely death of my younger brother, who was my most-beloved sibling. Rather than just assume where he might have gone following his heart failure, I Googled life-after-death and ended up discovering Dr. Newton and a remarkably satisfying answer to my inquiry. I encourage everyone with interest in LifeBetweenLives to check out Michael Newton’s books.

            “The rest of the story” happened just two weeks ago. Last fall while listening to an internet radio interview, I discovered a woman who was born with a very thin “veil” and who offers her skills to others as her life’s work. Her name is Shannon. I had a feeling I should contact her eventually. The opportunity came up for an in-person session with her at a retreat conference over July 4 weekend. The night before our session, I walked out into the night in an empty field, and spoke out loud. I invited my dead brother to “show up” for my session with Shannon. I even used bad language to make sure he heard me. The next evening for the private session, I brought some old family photos to show Shannon as triggers for our discussion. I showed her a black and white snapshot of me with four siblings when I was 5 years. When I pointed to the baby in the photo, Shannon spoke, “He says, ‘That’s me!’ Your brother says that’s him. He is here.” For the next half hour, through Shannon, I communicated with my beloved brother, nearly as if he were sitting in the room with Shannon and me. She described his presentation to her as a “line of energy” somehow in a sitting position. No visible body.

            Based on the all that happened, I believe my brother’s Spirit Entity was indeed present. Although I personally sensed nothing and heard nothing directly myself, my brother was able to hear me clearly, and Shannon relayed whatever she heard my brother say to me. Answers to my questions. Spontaneous comments in conversation with me and Shannon.

            Towards the end, Shannon told me my brother wanted to reach out to me. She said he was standing behind me and expressed with hands on my shoulders that Shannon could see. I tried to feel my brother’s spirit hands, but felt nothing perceptible. Then Shannon told me that his hands were on my chest over my heart. Again, I tried to imagine feeling something, maybe a slight warmth, but maybe not. Shannon then told me it was difficult for Spirit Beings to make contact with the living. Before he went away, my brother left me with some messages for his four children, whom he dearly loves, and who miss their beloved father every day.

            So, Rick. Yes, I do believe in the Unseen Reality. And I have acted on my belief and my faith, if you don’t mind a five-letter-word.

            “A belief in things which are unseen, which are true.”

            The key word there is “true”. For faith to be worth a crap, the stuff you have faith in has to actually exist. That is the missing ingredient in Mormonism, unfortunately. Truth. We have Joseph Smith to thank for that.

            Thank you, Joseph. Thanks for that.

            So, Rick . . . What you just read is what I have experienced so far, and quite recently.

            And . . . I have only just begun.

            Thank you again for your comments.

          • Marissa July 20, 2016 at 4:08 pm


            What kind of psycho, after dedicating his/her entire life to the LDS Church via: Baptism, blessings, mission, wearing garments, temple covenants, eternal marriage, 2nd anointing, callings, tithing, home/visiting teaching, spending 3-10 hours per week at Church, scouting, service, consecrating your entire time 24 by 7 to the Church etc, AND then finding out that it’s not historically true… can just walk away? And say “oh what’s next?” maybe I’ll become a Catholic and Christian or something now, no biggie. I’m not an ex Mormon but I can understand what they’re going through. You can’t just walk away. There has to be a process, not an easy process, takes time.

          • Jay July 20, 2016 at 7:08 pm

            Please, I sincerely want to know how one can gain knowledge outside the natural/physical world. Do you pray and ask god to reveal it to you in the form of “goose bump chills?” The same ones you get when you listen to Metallica? Or is there some other method? Or is this type of knowledge and truth relative and individual. In other words, is it true because your unseen knowledge is “useful” to you?

          • David July 20, 2016 at 8:07 pm

            Also, if you want to know how one can gain knowledge, as you pit it outside this physical plane.
            Think of it this way.
            A transmitter/tower sends digital information through the air, once again on INVISIBLE WAVE FREQUENCIES. The receiver picks up the frequency and transforms it into either audio voice, music, text, pics etc…
            This technology man had built, either from pure genius or by Devine inspiration of God. Wouldn’t you think if man can do this, that the ALMIGHTY can communicate even at a greater level. God being the transmitter, mans,
            Electrically operated brain the receiver?

          • Thomas Davis July 21, 2016 at 6:12 pm

            Rick! No!

            In the words of Matt Dillahunty,

            “There’s philosophical naturalism and there’s methodological naturalism. [Methodological naturalism] is basically the foundation of science, which is, ‘We can only investigate those things within nature. We have no mechanism for investigating things that aren’t natural. And so we are going to confine our methodology to the realm of methodological naturalism. And it’s not a pronouncement that the supernatural doesn’t exist. It’s an acknowledgement that, because we cannot test for or confirm the supernatural, we’re not going to make pronouncements that it is true or isn’t true. We’re just going to keep operating within this framework.’ ”

            If Bushman “leaves room for” knowledge through any sort of supernatural means, he has the burden of proof to show a mechanism by which gaining knowledge through that way is even POSSIBLE. Otherwise, it just makes no sense to believe that it’s possible without confirming that source’s very existence. Bushman is the one who’s being arrogant.

            I can “leave room for” knowledge through invisible, inaudible, incorporeal fairies that are able to communicate to me. And for good measure, they aren’t made of physical matter or energy of any kind. They are completely undetectable through physical/natural means. And I ASSERT them to be real!

            Is this a rationally justified belief to hold? Oh wait. Rationality doesn’t matter. We need to leave room for attaining knowledge through irrational means. So I’m totally fine in believing in these fairies!

            And holding these beliefs help us find out what is most true about our reality!

          • Thomas Davis July 21, 2016 at 6:22 pm

            Rick! No!

            In the words of Matt Dillahunty,

            “There’s philosophical naturalism and there’s methodological naturalism. [Methodological naturalism] is basically the foundation of science, which is, ‘We can only investigate those things within nature. We have no mechanism for investigating things that aren’t natural. And so we are going to confine our methodology to the realm of methodological naturalism. And it’s not a pronouncement that the supernatural doesn’t exist. It’s an acknowledgement that, because we cannot test for or confirm the supernatural, we’re not going to make pronouncements that it is true or isn’t true. We’re just going to keep operating within this framework.’ ”

            If Bushman “leaves room for” knowledge through any sort of supernatural means, he has the burden of proof to show a mechanism by which gaining knowledge through that way is even POSSIBLE. Otherwise, it just makes no sense to believe that it’s possible without confirming that source’s very existence. Bushman is the one who’s being arrogant.

            I can “leave room for” knowledge through invisible, inaudible, incorporeal fairies that are able to communicate to me. And for good measure, they aren’t made of physical matter or energy of any kind. They are completely undetectable through physical/natural means. And I ASSERT them to be real!

            Is this a rationally justified belief to hold? Oh wait. Rationality doesn’t matter. We need to leave room for attaining knowledge through irrational means. So I’m totally fine in believing in these fairies!

            And holding these beliefs help us find out what is most true about our reality!

            edit: By the way, positivism is an absolute, unwavering position! You have no right to impose that label on other when that is not their position or they have not taken that position! That’s incredibly dishonest!

      • lefthandloafer55 July 20, 2016 at 3:42 pm - Reply

        Rick: I simply expressed my opinion of Richard Bushman and his comments. You’re surely welcome to express your own opinion about these same matters. However dear sir, I did not ask for your critique or judgement of my reasoning or motives. You do not know me “from Adam” and certainly are in no position to judge me. Go ahead and post your opinion but please butt out of mine; you’re simply not welcome.

      • Debbie Shrubb January 21, 2021 at 5:30 pm - Reply

        My understanding of faith is to believe in something that it’s not possible to have knowledge of therefore is it possible to have a highly informed faith?
        Religious faith is in the process of a crash and burn over many things as knowledge (empirical data) disproves the faith narrative (evolution is the obvious example).
        For the LDS church to salvage it’s faith narrative it needs to recognize JS and his claims as the claims of someone with mixed motives and a genius to persuade and lead (and mislead).

  5. Gary July 19, 2016 at 2:58 pm - Reply

    At the end of the day, we human beings believe what we believe because we WANT to believe it. No other reason is needed (or wanted).

    How impressive is our ability to color, spin, warp, twist, minimize, accentuate, disregard, amplify, embellish, resculpt, interpret and ultimately tansmogrify any and all “information” that happens to cross our path?

    Those of us not cursed with self-awareness believe without question that whatever we personally happen to believe is nothing short of God’s Absolute Truth, and all opposing opinions are surely wrong.

    Others of us acknowledge that, despite our best efforts to distinguish wheat from chaff, it is entire possible that 95% of what we think we know is . . . BS.

    One of the stupidest things I could possibly tell myself is: ” Well, if THAT were true, then Me, Myself and I would already know about it!”

    • jack July 19, 2016 at 4:08 pm - Reply

      thank you for your honesty gary. its important to realize that both TBMs and exmormons beliefs are ultimately based on emotion, not logic.

    • Jay the Nevermo July 20, 2016 at 10:40 pm - Reply


      I want to believe that a camel is wearing my underwear. I keep waking up in a cold sweat thinking I’m wrong.

      How do I keep my belief — I want and need it.

      I also want to believe that my cell phone works because I generate power and signal transmission by flushing the toilet. No other reason is needed or wanted. I believe. :)

      • Gary July 21, 2016 at 11:20 am - Reply


        I WANT to believe that God and Jesus hovered in the woods above a 14 year old farm boy and told him to start a multi-billion dollar biz-church.

        I WANT to believe that if I pay, pray and obey, that I will win my very own planet stocked with hot girls without number, all eager to copulate with me.

        Your post is just silly, Jay. Conjecturing about wanting to believe in stupid and useless stuff makes no sense.

        What would a camel wearing your underwear, or a toiled-powered cell phone do for you? You would have to be mentally ill to WANT that crap.

        Instead, why not change your beliefs to something smart and useful, like having your own planet with endless, eternal sex.

        Outer-Space Sex Cult

        Who would not WANT to believe in that?

        • Pink November 8, 2019 at 2:11 am - Reply

          That right there is funny

      • Debbie Allen August 14, 2016 at 3:39 am - Reply

        Sweet. Thanks for the smile! :-)

  6. Draperville July 19, 2016 at 3:06 pm - Reply

    I agree, “a lot of pain, anger and alienation come out of these disputes”. To me, it doesn’t need to be so if the church with its so-called direct and exclusive communication link to God would honestly and clearly just tell the truth. This statement by Bushman, the essays and almost every apologist attempt to clear up these issues usually muddy the water, prolong the questions and make the disputes worse. When I hear these vague, sorta-plausible word games being played, including this statement by Brother Bushman, I get the distinct feeling I am being deceived. If the LDS Church was legitimately God’s one-true-Church in the final dispensation it would not be this contradictory, illogical, mass of confusion and spin.

    • Dottie-Gee July 20, 2016 at 1:15 am - Reply

      Messy, for sure. But if you grow up with church culture, you can more easily accept the myths that are in your DNA. I’d like your comments on this. Personally I converted (for my husband’s sake) and had my own DNA as a catholic, but it started to fall apart when we looked at the priesthood for blacks (which hadn’t been mentioned to me) and I started to question the manual of BY’s Teachings of the Prophets, and it escalated.

      RB, I think, is gently helping members through a very bumpy ride. I chose to throw in my lot with the gay community in Nobember last year when the toxins overcame my sensibilities…..

  7. maddy July 19, 2016 at 3:09 pm - Reply

    I respect Richard Bushman, his integrity and the work he has done. I also respect his continued faith in the historical narrative.
    These are things for which we cannot know for certain. We cannot know for certain if Joseph Smith was a fraud or a prophet and as such we each can make a choice. Some will choose the former, others the latter. I believe both are valid choices–as long as one has taken care to examine reliable sources of information. As for me, I find myself somewhere in the middle–just wondering.

    • Gary July 19, 2016 at 6:18 pm - Reply

      Say what?

      ” I believe both are valid choices–as long as one has taken care to examine reliable sources of information. ”

      Of course, you ARE kidding. Right?

      Why bother with using language at all when definitions of “valid” and “reliable” can apparently mean whatever you want them to mean.

      Is this part of the “Everyone is a WINNER and gets a ribbon!” mentality?

  8. Brian July 19, 2016 at 3:18 pm - Reply

    Let me tell you what is missing from these conversations. Jesus Christ(No, I’m using this as an expletive.) The paramount issue with the Mormon church and Richard Bushman is it’s lack of bringing Jesus Christ into the conversations. My wife and I used to sit through sacrament meetings where Christ was only inferred in the blessing of the sacrament and the closing remarks of a talk, “In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.” In my 30+ years as a member of the church, It was more common than not.

    The Mormon church, it’s members, even it’s former members, and it’s existence is entirely focused on it’s own culture.

    Screw the culture! If you are a Christian church-goer, your only focus should be: Is Christ present here? And if so, is His loving influence affecting the community that gathers in His name in an organic and authentic way?

    There are so many wonderful churches out there that worship/follow Christ that simultaneously allow you to think for yourself–to volunteer where you feel God has compelled you to serve. You’ll be surprised by the beautiful people you meet who have a relationship with Christ and aren’t Mormon.

    Why people strive to hang on to a club/theology/history that has been so obviously debunked is beyond me. Stop justifying.

    • lefthandloafer55 July 20, 2016 at 9:07 am - Reply

      Beautifully said!

  9. Lane July 19, 2016 at 3:29 pm - Reply

    Almost every aspect of the gospel I was taught is not the truth. I am grateful to all who are honest or even almost honest in telling the true narrative. It is sad to realize, churches lie for money, governments lie for money, corporations lie for money,it’s not good. I believe in honesty! Honestly, what happened to “We believe in being honest, true……………?

  10. Dottie-Gee July 19, 2016 at 3:33 pm - Reply

    I am so grateful for RB’s thoughtful, respectful and enlightening presentations. Joseph Smith only became a real, rollicking man to me after I read RSR. Up until then, he was a cut-out, one-dimensional, soppy sort of a boy. I liked him better after the RB treatment, because I could place him in his time, and his behaviour in the context of his culture and his family. I felt he was far more interesting and I also,enjoyed getting to know Emma and the scribes and other characters coming and going in the Mansion House.

    I like that he’s never defensive, and his respectful, responses to questions impressed me. His integrity and humility shine through,,and I hope we get to,do more AMA with him. We always run out of time.

  11. Robert Hodge July 19, 2016 at 4:04 pm - Reply

    Funny how often mysticism trumps reason. Reason can be tested and often is. Mysticism cannot and must be swallowed whole..

    • Donna Ryan July 19, 2016 at 4:47 pm - Reply

      I cannot imagine LDS people continuing to “hold onto the faith” in light of all that is known about Joseph Smith as a liar, adulterer, cheat, and (you can fill in the blank). I left the Church 31 years ago when there was no Internet. Since I was a convert, I had no problem (except for losing lots of friends) with leaving. When I learned that I could resign, I did so. But I did not have all of that Mormon family baggage! I imagine it would be difficult, but still can’t fathom why people continue going and contributing to the Mormon Church.

  12. Shawn July 19, 2016 at 6:16 pm - Reply

    Although the super-duper nuanced sophisticated and complicated narrative that Bushman adopts just doesn’t work for me personally, I still have immense respect for him and hope / wish the top level leadership of the LDS church becomes more like him.

    • Paula July 19, 2016 at 7:57 pm - Reply

      Well said, Shawn.
      I no longer believe in the church’s truth claims , but I continue to have immense respect for Richard Bushman

      • Marissa July 20, 2016 at 4:21 pm - Reply

        That’s right Shawn and Paula, the Church has to be “historically” and “spiritually” true to be “TRUE” and to be the only true Church on the earth. That has been the pitch for hundreds of years. Switching to a Magic or call it “inspiration” narrative only… is not going to work in my opinion. That just doesn’t make any sense to me.

      • Frank, be frank July 21, 2016 at 7:31 pm - Reply

        It is difficult for me to express that level of respect for a person I believe chooses self delusion over obvious truth.

  13. Christopher King July 19, 2016 at 7:46 pm - Reply

    “I still come down on the side of…” doesn’t feel like a strong endorsement. Regardless, it seems to me that most non-members exposed to the more complex narrative Bushman is referring to would not give the church a second thought. In the end, what sways him and others who retain their testimonies in light of the facts is a determined desire to believe.

  14. Jeneil Oxley July 19, 2016 at 7:48 pm - Reply

    I would love to read your comment concerning Richard Bushman’s letter. I honor you in your fight for equal rights for all people. You have inspired many and I am impressed how you & your family have handled your struggles with Mormonism & religion in general. Just want to thank you & your wife for all you have stood for.

  15. p July 19, 2016 at 9:03 pm - Reply

    “We are but visitors on this rock, hurtling through time and space at 66,000 miles an hour, tethered to a burning sphere by an invisible force in an unfathomable universe. This most of us take for granted … ” (X-Files-Syzygy).

    I’m not sure that what Bushman believes is stranger or less plausible than this, our reality.

    • Jeff July 19, 2016 at 9:18 pm - Reply


      I *am* sure that what Bushman believes *is* stranger and less plausible because we stand on the rock, we can measure space and time, we can measure our speed, we can see the burning sphere, we can measure and see the effects of that “invisible force” and we can see the unfathomable universe. But there is no evidence that angels, and gold plates, and magic rocks existed anywhere but in Smith’s head.

  16. Chuck July 19, 2016 at 9:46 pm - Reply

    Bushman: “The different responses mystify me. I have no idea why some people are thrown for a loop when they learn church history did not occur as they had been taught in Sunday School…”

    Umm, what? You have no idea why some people are upset when they go to church and Sunday School trusting and expecting they are being taught THE TRUTH––TRUE HISTORY, only to find out 30 years later that a lot of it was deceitful and white-washed. I respect Bushman, but this statement caught me off guard and made me lose of bit for him. I think he knows how much pressure is on him from both sides. If he is truly honest he knows hundreds will follow him out and he doesn’t want that responsibility. If he stays, he is in a safe spot as always.

    • Frank, be frank July 21, 2016 at 7:35 pm - Reply

      That is the kind of honest and sensible statement I admire and can support!

    • Anon March 28, 2019 at 10:54 am - Reply

      I don’t think he was saying he doesn’t understand why some people are thrown for a loop; if you’d included the whole quote, I think it becomes apparent that he’s confused by the contrast between those that ARE and those that AREN’T.

  17. Dallin July 19, 2016 at 10:40 pm - Reply

    “I have no idea why some people are thrown for a loop when they learn church history did not occur as they had been taught in Sunday School, while others roll with the punches.”

    Seriously Brother Bushman? You have “no idea” why many of us are pissed off and “thrown for a loop” after discovering that the church we dedicated our lives to has been deceiving us the entire time?

    I have no idea how others can simply “roll with the punches”. (At least you admit that we’ve been lied to and “punched”)

    • rekap July 20, 2016 at 7:35 am - Reply

      Bushman never says we were lied to or punched. He says some feel that way. How could we have been lied to when no one else knew about several of these facts because the sources were not available, or the sources were half-truths? The history has not changed, our view of it has and interpretations have changed because we are discovering new things. All history is a lie, at least by your definition of history and a lying. We have zero proof that Washington used boats to cross the Delaware. We can’t find the boats and the accounts are memories at best. Washington was not rebellious and Lincoln was a fanatic. Maybe we should all scream and shout that we have been lied to. No, people like you pick on the Mormons because they are an easy target. If you are going to complain about being lied to in history, you have to blame all that have lied to you, that would be everyone. I’m sure you have lied about your own history so you could look better to your posterity, and you know better! At least all these other histories were told in ignorance.

      • Fatmormon7 July 20, 2016 at 12:38 pm - Reply

        You are changing the facts. Church historians lost their jobs for bringing forth information that was deemed too honest by the top of the LDS church, at least one prophet ripped pages from journals, non-flattering evidence was locked in vaults that only the top could access, the LDS church spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in tithing money to purchase forged documents in an attempt to keep them out of the public eye. Members were actively told they would be deceived by Lucifer and lose their testimonies for doing anything other than reading approved materials about the church. The approved materials whitewashed history that was available at the time of printing (things people were printing 20+ years ago that let do excommunications are now readily admitted by the church). The church commissioned and/or used artwork that inaccurately portrayed events. There was (and likely still is) a systematic attempt to keep members in the dark about the facts.

        Even Bushman admits that were were taught lies about the history.

        I won’t stand by and watch the church spend the next decade “inoculating” young members and claiming that they were always forthright about the facts. If it wants to admit that it had the facts wrong and present the new facts, fine. But to spin this narrative to the next generation is not ok and too many of us in the 30+ age group know exactly what we were taught in church vs. what was known by historians and the church at the time. You are not going to rewrite history on my watch.

    • Fatmormon7 July 20, 2016 at 8:03 am - Reply

      His point was not that he doesn’t understand how your or I are thrown for a loop. His point was that he doesn’t understand what differentiates those like us and those who continue to have faith anyway. Why do two people hear the same information and head in completely opposite directions?

      Personally, I think it is the brave types that are willing to be thrown for a loop. It is painful, uncomfortable, and has significant social impact. But the truth matters to some of us more than staying in a warm comfortable blanket. That is the difference. Even Bushman, who I respect, is willing to forgo following the truth to it most logical conclusion because he enjoys the “good” that comes from the church and that it has done for him personally (this was my take from his interview on Mormon Stories some time ago).

      I had to comfort by 14 year old daughter last night while she cried about the possibility of losing family members at some point and not knowing if she would see us again. That was painful and terrible. I love her so much and to know I could have kept her in the warm comfortable blanket and saved her this particular pain was hard. But, in the end, truth and logic and history matter. She will be better off for it in the long run for the many reasons most of you know. But it takes strength to go down this path.

  18. Mithrilsilver July 19, 2016 at 11:53 pm - Reply

    This sounds like an awful hedge. As an historian, Dr Bushman must know the origins of the Book of Mormon and yet he is now compelled to back track now that his positioned is questioned . I don’t believe him. I think like most , he has more to loose than gain by coming all the way out.

  19. Emma July 20, 2016 at 5:33 am - Reply

    John could you please set up a discussion with bushman and a reputable historian who is as knowledgeable but believes ithe lds church is not true
    Would that be Dan Vogel or Mike Quinn ?
    Let them talk about specific Historical issues/facts about Joseph Smith and the church that are so disturbing to most people who hear them
    I would like to hear bushman’s response when confronted by a nonbeliever with the specific facts
    Does he agree these facts are true??
    It is been extremely painful for me to accept the disturbing historical facts– words and actions of Joseph Smith, doctrine, and scriptures etc
    But to be honest with myself I realized it could not be from God –as I said it is extremely painful and difficult to admit to one’s self and other members That the church is not from God
    It is clear to me that bushman’s social and emotional connection to the church prevents him frim being honest with himself. It would also be hard to give up the status and respect even fame within the church, as well as the financial benefits of selling his books to believers
    But we need to talk more about the disturbing facts………. Because I cannot comprehend how one could believe the facts and still think the church is from God.
    It takes courage to be true to oneself
    Back to the facts ………

    • Gary July 20, 2016 at 1:00 pm - Reply

      Let’s make it simple.

      Truth is usually uncomplicated.

      Ever heard of The Simple Truth?

      Richard Bushman is a VERY smart/intelligent gentleman. He has carved out a “nice ride” for himself as a Mormon Luminary/Celebrity/Authority/Thought Leader.

      What would happen to his “ride” if that critical synapse in his psyche turned left instead of right?

      Richard clearly WANTS to believe, or at least publicly represent, that the Church is true. It’s in his best self-interest to do so.

      I wonder if Richard Bushman is filling the role vacated by Hugh Nibley.

      Typical TBM thinking to self: “Richard Bushman is very smart and educated and has done tons and tons of historical research. He knows more about Joseph Smith than virtually anyone else on earth. >>>AND<<< Richard Bushman is still a member. Therefore he has a Testimony. He thinks the Church is true. If someone as learned and accomplished as Richard Bushman believes the Church is true, then that's plenty good enough for me. I don't even have to read his book. I can confidently continue believing the Church is true because Richard Bushman believes it's true. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen."

      I think Richard Bushman does a better Hugh Nibley than Hugh Nibley ever did. I doubt that Richard has faked any of his footnotes or grossly misrepresented his references. Rather than do that, he apparently twists and turns his brain and his readers' brains into an impressively convoluted Möbius loop, neural pretzel knot in an elaborate and often successful attempt to hide The Simple Truth from clear, unobstructed, unoccluded view.

      Readers get to decide if Rough Stone Rolling is The Simple Truth or A Complicated Obfuscation.

      At the end of the day, the reader believes what the reader WANTS to believe . . . whatever is in the reader's best self-interest.

      PS – How simple is The Simple Truth? Two words sum it up: Joseph lied.

      • Draperville July 20, 2016 at 1:48 pm - Reply

        Joseph Smith lied, and lied continually about important stuff. Using it’s own definition of “honesty”, it is now obvious that the LDS church, it’s leaders, authors and apologists have supported and expanded a very “dishonest” historical and doctrinal narrative for almost 200 subsequent years. In the age of ready information, LDS church members (like me) have been in a fog of confusion and dissonance because our leaders cannot or will not simply tell the simple truth. When someone like Richard Bushman, uses careful words to let just a portion of the cat out of the bag, it just comes across as tortured.

        • Xposit July 21, 2016 at 7:49 am - Reply

          Tortured is an excellent description of it Draperville.

  20. EET July 20, 2016 at 7:49 am - Reply

    So many great comments….the best of which was by Richard Bushman, “The dominant narrative is not true: it can’t be sustained.” Thank you Richard Bushman for your research and book, and perspectives, and speaking up to encourage church leaders, to correct this “false narrative”.

    The sad part in the big picture of this whole problem is why, did we need a “false narrative” in the first place? If a message is worth “shouting from the rooftops”, why does it result in”half truths”, or “milk before the meat”, or now, the need to be “inoculated” in regards to “plain and precious truths”….or have our seminary teachers and church educators told “sometimes the truth is not so useful”? Why does truth require “temple preparation class”…and after going through the temple, why must we speak in hushed voices about that experience, or not speak about it at all, while we speak openly each Sunday, about the most sacred part of the gospel, the Atonement, that all can participate in (the Sacrament) including non-members? When it comes to learning physics and math, I can see the need for “milk before the meat”, but not in regards to the essence of the gospel.

  21. Chad July 20, 2016 at 10:02 am - Reply

    Brother Bushman:

    You are right, these reactions should not surprise you.

    These are not minor ‘kerfuffles’ as Dan “the man” put it. These are not mere frailties of humanity which is intended to bring endearment. You see, many such as myself view what has happened here as something significantly more than mere ‘errors’, which is an interesting term diminishing relevance. You see, for many such as myself, we have *significant* relevance. That is the difference. One may ask, is any of this *really* relevant? Well to some, the practice of taking another man’s wife (polyandry) may be deemed extremely relevant. To others, the wide scale unrepentant equivocation & prevarication is what is relevant. I could go on & on with other issues, the commonality being, these issues are *not* minor or insignificant. There are reasons for this which can be dismissed as some irrational emotional override.

    Your ‘error’ comment, along with that of many apologists, dismisses all relevance, and in the process, impugns integrity while enabling church leaders to continue skirting accountability. Respectfully, these are not helpful, they are hurtful comments. These are viewed as equivocations and prevarications. Again, all of which serve nicely to catastrophically impugn the honor and integrity of the senior church leaders. Please please understand that the pain associated with this sense of betrayal is very real and *very severe*. If anyone takes my wife, there is going to be an “emotional over-ride.” Is this response unjustified, irrational, or amoral to such an event of this severity? Does anyone know how Parley P. Pratt was killed? Was he simply just murdered on his mission to the Southern States or was there something about his 14th wife being another man’s wife? C’mon… I don’t know whether to laugh or get angry. These are relevant!

    For me personally, my pain is directly proportional to my conviction, and I was very loyal and devoted having bought into this faith, and having sacrificed tremendously based in part on multiple false narratives I was reared on. I can’t emphasize enough, so I’ll say it again, statements which seek to diminish this relevance hurt *significantly* anyone such as myself in the betrayed camp. As a result of all this, we feel burned, betrayed, and scammed as if we were investors in Bernard Madoff’s funds.. I’m outright embarrassed and ashamed at my membership in this church as a result of the brethren’s past & continued prevarications, equivocations, and duplicity (deception).
    I would humbly suggest to the Senior Church Leadership, who should be addressing these issues themselves directly, to take full ownership and *accountability* for their actions, for the doctrine & faith promoting narratives which they have stewardship, and for all the multiple ‘errors’ committed by their past leaders from whom they claim a literal Priesthood lineage (authority). Clean it up! Address it head on like men with honor, valor, and integrity!!! Else, they’ll continue to be exposed as frauds.

    Accountability is key. Accountability to God should be interpreted as accountability to us all. Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of these the *least* of my brethren, ye have done it unto me. This is true accountability.

    You know the history better than most. Perhaps you may be in a position to tell the brethren to come 100% clean or it is likely over by a slow death by a million paper cuts. Since I have zero faith the brethren will take any ownership by demonstrating meaningful accountability and perhaps more transparency, I left the church. I’d be shocked if they took meaningful ownership.

    These are hard words to write, and even harder to post publicly, they are genuine and sincere. Consider what is cause, and what is effect.



    • Draperville July 20, 2016 at 12:09 pm - Reply

      The current church leaders absolutely have a responsibility to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
      Why don’t they own up to that responsibility instead of outsourcing Truth to fall guys, like Brother Bushman?

      LDS Gospel Principles Manual, Chapter 31, Honesty

      “Lying is intentionally deceiving others. Bearing false witness is one form of lying. The Lord gave this commandment to the children of Israel: “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour”. There are many other forms of lying. When we speak untruths, we are guilty of lying. We can also intentionally deceive others by a gesture or a look, by silence, or by telling only part of the truth. Whenever we lead people in any way to believe something that is not true, we are not being honest. The Lord is not pleased with such dishonesty, and we will have to account for our lies. Satan would have us believe it is all right to lie. He says, “Yea, lie a little; … there is no harm in this” (2 Nephi 28:8). Satan encourages us to justify our lies to ourselves. Honest people will recognize Satan’s temptations and will speak the whole truth, even if it seems to be to their disadvantage.” https://www.lds.org/m…/gospel-principles/chapter-31-honesty

      • Collin July 20, 2016 at 10:24 pm - Reply

        They aren’t historians and they didn’t “outsource” anything to Bushman. Bushman did his own biography which probably has its own flaws. Maybe he was even TOO HARD on Joseph Smith. Did you ever consider that?

        As Michael Otterson put it, it wasn’t like the brethren have had a huge searchable PDF with all of the troubling stuff at hand ready to to go and they were just suppressing it. They were busy with the day to day affairs of the church. And it IS true that many people have lied about the history of the church to make it sound worse than it really was. It was not unreasonable for the brethren to sometimes be distrusting of negative information. That’s a completely understandable reaction. We can judge, but should we judge harshly?

        • Xposit July 22, 2016 at 9:06 am - Reply

          Gee Gary, when you’re running all over the planet claiming to be the “one and only true church” with the “one and only keys to salvation” with the “one and only” pipeline to the almighty then you should probably expect to be judged harshly, don’t you think?

          • Xposit July 22, 2016 at 9:08 am

            Excuse my misstep. The above comment was directed at Collin not Gary.

    • Gary July 20, 2016 at 1:27 pm - Reply


      Thank you for your authentic, empassioned expression of the raw betrayal you personally suffered when the Colossal Fraud that IS the Mormon Church came into sharp focus for you.

      I will echo a dose of reality with your comments.

      Fantasizing about The Brethren “coming clean” and accepting accountability for the Colossal Fraud that puts food on their tables, buys expensive suits and haircuts, pays their chefs, gardeners and housekeepers, and keeps their milk at the correct temperature, is precisely that: Pure Fantasy

      Ain’t gonna happen. Not now. Not ever.

      You did express your “zero faith” in the fantasy. And you don’t have to be worried about feeling shocked if they took meaningful ownership.

      On a positive note, what The Brethren did to you pales in comparison with what OTHERS have done to you since before you were even born. This production is over 3 hours long, and worth every minute if you want to know what is going on around you.

      • fatmormon7 July 21, 2016 at 11:33 am - Reply

        Thanks for taking credibility away from the exmormon community with this ridiculous video [sarcasm]. We are looking for truth on the exmormon side and this doesn’t help our cause. Of course you have the right to post crap like this, but I have the right to point out I don’t agree with it and you lose credibility with this junk. I want to be clear that you are the minority here and this has no relation to the false narrative the LDS church has perpetrated for 200 years.

      • Chad July 24, 2016 at 12:12 pm - Reply

        Thanks for the kind words Gary, I have one remark regarding Bushman’s comment below:

        “The different responses mystify me. I have no idea why some people are thrown for a loop when they learn church history did not occur as they had been taught in Sunday School, while others roll with the punches”

        Punches? Interesting choice of word, and an accurate choice..

        When one is punched to the nose, there is a good chance that person will bleed. Yet there are those who express shock & surprise, there are those who are “mystified” that one would bleed from a punch to the nose? Some would even go so far as to question whether or not the nosebleed is warranted! They done see themselves as throwing punches, as continual enablers to harmful policy, activity, and behavior. No accountability whatsoever.

        What a toxic mess, this is why I’m out of the church & off their records,. For me, there was no other option.



        • Gary July 24, 2016 at 3:53 pm - Reply


          Thank you for your additional insights about RB’s wonderment about the polarities of reactions to discovery that The Brethren have knowingly and deliberately lied to the membership for generations.

          This question (different reactions to Church Truth discovery) has been percolating on the back burner of my psyche, and the thought occurred to me that maybe it boils down to an individual’s deepest core values, and how much RAW INTEGRITY is found there.

          I thought of Hans Mattson’s gut reaction to the Swedish Rescue debacle. His was not a measured, thoughtful press release after careful consideration of the implications (costs and benefits) of crying Foul.

          Hans Mattson’s reaction was

          WTF IS THIS!

          OMG . . . WTF JUST HAPPENED?

          I think the explanation is pretty simple. Hans Mattson’s deepest core values hold a critical mass of that commodity that’s nearly extinct in Mormon Culture = Basic Integrity

          Hans is a convert (I think … maybe not), and was not continuously steeped in a multi-layered soup of ubiquitous lying and deception like most of us b.i.c. babies were. Basic integrity is hard to come by for multi-generation Mormons. (It’s why the state sport of Utah is MLM swindles.)

          Thank God that we are combinations of Nature and Nurture, and that the Nature we bring with our Spirit Soul has the potential capacity to override the Nature that gets corrupted and infected from the moment of conception by the Lying Legacy of Joseph Smith. For b.i.c. Mormons with some intact integrity left after the 24/7/365 brainwash, it is still possible for us to muster the Hans Mattson gut response when we behold the clear evidence that, not only did Joseph Lie, but The Brethren are a shameless pack of equally self-serving liars as well.


          As for moderate ex-Mormons, like John Dehlin, who express that Mormonism is fine and good if it works for you . . . ?



          Hopefully over time and more experience, John and others will slowly realize that sprinkling spiritual poison on otherwise nourishing food is not a very good recipe for health and strength. It’s slow death.

          Eventually, saying NO to the poison is better than deluding yourself into believing it’s really not that bad.

          Sometimes, what doesn’t kill you does NOT make you stronger. Especially it it’s killing you so slowly you think you are OK, until your time is up. Then you die.

          I do acknowledge that the Mormon Church serves an apparently much-needed purpose. Looks like many of us needed the experience of surrendering our personal power and the ownership and control of our God-given life force, time and energy to a self-serving Band of Opportunistic Parasites.

          Graduating eventually from the Mormon Experience as a Lesson Learned is probably the single, healthiest thing we ex-Mo’s ever did for ourselves.

          Sooner is better than later. Later is better than never.

    • lefthandloafer55 July 20, 2016 at 3:38 pm - Reply

      Very nicely done, Chad. Now there’s some solid reasoning I can embrace. My compliments.

  22. p July 20, 2016 at 10:43 am - Reply

    Those of you who have now concluded that the Church was constructed from lies should probably go a few steps further back and read Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan (spoiler alert: he was an itinerant preacher, that’s all). Most of the Brethren we criticize as devious & designing were taught those old stories, too, just like us, but those stories didn’t begin in the early 19th century but 25,000BC. They are primal and just as true as this absurd universe. I also take great comfort in positivism, it’s good to know what keeps the jet aloft, but that’s a dead end, too, isn’t it? (see 2nd Law of Thermodynamics). We don’t know enough.

    • Draperville July 20, 2016 at 1:51 pm - Reply

      It seems like our species like some others are just prone to following along smelling each other’s butts for truth.

      • lefthandloafer55 July 20, 2016 at 3:44 pm - Reply

        Ha!. What a great observation.

  23. Barnabas July 20, 2016 at 11:48 am - Reply

    RB’s words reveal a wonderfully tender heart. How the discussion could advance to benefit the many if his attitude infected the many.

    But my immediate impression after reading his last paragraph was that this is his best attempt at a testimony right now. I imagined that it was his honest attempt to respond to the wider query of the ‘kerfuffle’, “Brother Bushman, have you lost your testimony?”

    • p July 20, 2016 at 12:02 pm - Reply

      The word “testimony” as applied to the LDS belief system is obsolete.

      • Gary July 20, 2016 at 3:28 pm - Reply

        I disagree that the word “testimony” is obsolete.

        “Testimony” is the linguistic wrapper encompassing the intangible blob of beliefs, thoughts, facts, myths and feelings that result in a conclusion that “The Church is True”.

        If you believe that The Church is True, you have a Testimony. If you lose it (“I had it a minute ago. Where did it go?”), the Church stops being True.

        If this sounds simplistic, don’t forget that Mormonism is designed for 8-year-olds. (I doubt that very many 8-year-olds have read RSR, which might interfere with their rote memorization of the simple cliche’s that define the Mormonism we b.i.c. babies grew up ingesting. My great great great grandfather wrote “O How Lovely Was The Morning”. He was a great guy, to be sure!)


        All of the above exists purely within the psyche of the beholder, both what “Testimony” means and does not mean, and what “True” means and does not mean.

        There are as many different experiences of Mormonism as there are Mormons, with a similar and varied assortment of Testimonies.

        “Testimony” means whatever the owner/bearer wants it to mean, or thinks it means, which makes it ultimately meaningless.

      • Draperville July 20, 2016 at 5:26 pm - Reply

        I agree. For 60 plus years, I have been embarrassed when children testify over the pulpit as that testimony is whispered in their ear by their parent. It occurs to me now that all our Mormon testimonies are just repeats of what others have taught us. It’s disorienting to learn that what has been whispered to us is false.

  24. J July 20, 2016 at 4:51 pm - Reply

    We are all on this blog reading comments for some sort of therapy. Isn’t that sad? Fatmormon7, I’m sorry for what you are going through now. Nobody wants their 14 year old to cry, especially over church matters but you are brave for seeing the truth now and GETTING OUT of the church. If you chose to bury your head in the sand (like most of us do for along time), your child will learn the truth down the road and it will only be more hurtful. The church is creating a web of lies to save itself from losing droves of members, eventually truth prevails. Richard Bushman is a very smart individual. I think he knows deep down that the church is not true but as someone stated above, he has a lot of weight on his shoulders. Many would leave if he left. I think he is softly telling us that “the dominant narrative is not true” now but may come around to full disclosure as he gets older. If he did that, he would save so many people the anguish from carrying on this façade another generation.

  25. Robert Hodge July 20, 2016 at 5:56 pm - Reply

    I guess Bushman doesn’t want to change the Mormon narrative that much.

    • dlb July 20, 2016 at 6:08 pm - Reply

      I think you are correct, sir!

  26. Mormonologist July 20, 2016 at 8:41 pm - Reply

    One of the things that is not addressed, is asking who created a dominant Misleading Narrative for the church which is causing and caused horrific damage to the faith of the Latter Day Saints? Who created the false propaganda that is taught in Sunday Schools, the answer is Simple, the churches leadership is %100 responsible there is no ambiguity here. Why do people forget who constructed and created this problem? Church Leadership, are the authors of this mess. Are they responsibly cleaning up the mess they have created? If Church leadership over decades have created this monumental mess, can they be trusted to clean it up? Are they doing a good job? We need to point the finger at those that created and manufactured this historical Sunday school and ward propaganda that is not reflected in the historical records of the church, unless we acknowledge the cause we cannot fix the problem. I wish the Leadership would stop hurting the Church, and it’s members, I hope they will be held accountable for distorting church history in the after life. Much like corrupt scholastic monks or Sir Francis Bacon manipulating the Bible in the translation process , hopefully they will be held accountable in the after life. (Sir Francis Bacon, was a mystic Rosicrucian, Freemason, Scholar Giant who had the final edit on the Current King James Version of the Bible)

  27. C T July 20, 2016 at 9:26 pm - Reply

    I’m interested when he says that he is surprised when people find out that the reality of the history is different that what is taught in sunday school. Why haven’t they just taught the truth from the get go? Why was it flawed, and for what reason? Even I, at 55 years old was surprised as to what bushmans book said about JS and the history. He was right, it wasn’t even close to what they taught me in SS. As a prophet whom god gave direct revelation, why so many problems, why so many mistakes. Why the polygamy, changes in the BOM, why the banking problems– I dont understand. When do I know JS was acting as a man and when was he acting as a prophet? — there is a large grey area that can be changed by modern men to fit some mold they want by discounting history- thats not right, not right at all? I think that mormonism in my mind is dead. I refuse the “faith” statement that gets thrown around and choose the “reality” of it all over that. Carl Sagan summed up mormonism– “If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. it is simply too painful to acknowledge — even to ourselves — that we’ve been so credulous.” (So the old bamboozles tend to persist as the new bamboozles rise.) [Carl Sagan, The Fine Art of Baloney Detection]

  28. Xposit July 21, 2016 at 7:44 am - Reply

    “I have no idea why some people are thrown for a loop when they learn church history did not occur as they had been taught in Sunday School, while others roll with the punches.”

    Really? At the risk of being impertinent that seems to be a rather careless statement coming from someone who has given the subject so much thought. To be kind about it, there is little doubt that the church has been less than forthcoming concerning most of these issues until recently when the internet and social media forced their hand. Most folks are “thrown for a loop” upon the realization that they have been purposely deceived by anyone let alone trusted religious leaders claiming to have exclusive and direct authority from God Almighty. Of course much depends on an individuals’ capacity to abide uncertainty, moral, emotional and otherwise, but there are a few of us who believe that it is the truth, in fact, that actually matters regardless of where it leads.

    Conversely, it comes as no surprise that once any given belief system has been taken up, whether through indoctrination from birth or through the myriad prescriptions for conversion, i.e., fasting, praying, reading, self flagellation, chanting, rosary beads etc., it can be next to, if not impossible, to dislodge those heartfelt beliefs through a simple examination of fact. Fact, data and “truth” then become subjective in nature and take a back seat to the dictates of faith and personal mysticisms where anything might be possible and nothing can be nailed down; the very ester in which religious conviction incubates and thrives. This is indeed, far and away, the more common expression of the human condition and while it may be disappointing to some there is nothing surprising about it.

    People arrive at divergent conclusions using the self same facts because they approach the information looking for different things in the first place. In its’ simplest form, some seek the truth and are willing to live with the uncertainty that inevitably comes with that endeavor while, more commonly, others seek validation and will inevitably find it wherever they look. I don’t see it as mysterious at all but rather a rudimentary characteristic of the human condition.

    • p July 23, 2016 at 9:41 am - Reply

      Eric Dietrich – Excellent Beauty: The Naturalness of Religion and the Unnaturalness of the World

  29. Rico July 21, 2016 at 8:17 am - Reply

    Bushman said:

    “The reactions should not have surprised me. People have had different takes on Rough Stone Rolling ever since it came out. Some found the information about Joseph Smith so damning his prophethood was thrown into question. Others were grateful to find a prophet who had human flaws, giving them hope they themselves could qualify for inspiration despite their human weaknesses. The same facts; opposite reactions.

    The different responses mystify me. I have no idea why some people are thrown for a loop when they learn church history did not occur as they had been taught in Sunday School, while others roll with the punches. Some feel angry and betrayed; others are pleased to have a more realistic account. One theorist has postulated an “emotional over-ride” that affects how we respond to information. But the admission that we ourselves are subjective human beings whose rational mechanisms are not entirely trustworthy does not diminish our sense that we are right and our counterparts mistaken.

    As it is, I still come down on the side of the believers in inspiration and divine happenings—in angels, plates, translations, revelations—while others viewing the same facts are convinced they disqualify Joseph Smith entirely. A lot of pain, anger, and alienation come out of these disputes. I wish we could find ways to be more generous and understanding with one another.”


    The only question all these “angels, plates, translations, revelations” add up to is this: Was Joseph Smith an honest person? Was his life story a story of credibility and integrity? If Jesus is the “Truth”, do we see this Truth reflected in the life of Joseph Smith?

    Suppose he was a con man in his youth, do we see him later repenting and abandoning deceitfulness in the things he said and did until his dying day? Do we see a man who turned away from the sins of dishonesty? Unfortunately, we don’t. And this really matters. If this doesn’t disturb Bushman, we should be disturbed about Bushman.

    This is the Mormon Church’s gravest problem: It sends missionaries to the world to call the Gentiles, aka, non-Mormons to repent and believe the Mormon gospel even though Joseph Smith was no credible example of how repentance should work in one’s life. The whole Mormon institution seems to be blind to this glaring hypocrisy.

    Contrast that with the true Church of Jesus founded on the apostles in the First Century. Saul the Pharisee who was a notorious persecutor of Christians repented, turned around, and became its most influential missionary. That is how true repentance works. You stop doing the sins you love doing and start hating them. And that is precisely why the writings of Paul the Apostle have “street credibility”, an ingredient that is just plain absent in the writings of Joseph Smith. This is why Paul’s vision in Damascus is more believable than Smith’s First Vision. We see the fruits of repentance in Paul. Therefore, Paul the Apostle can call sinners to repentance while Joseph Smith does not have that moral high ground.

    And if Joseph Smith doesn’t have it, neither does any Mormon who wants us to repent because of Joseph Smith. Unfortunately, that includes Bushman. After all, what is God’s ultimate concern with man?

    “Say to them, ‘As I live!’ declares the Lord GOD, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel?’ (Ezekiel 33:11).

  30. Doubting Thomas July 21, 2016 at 11:46 am - Reply

    What is an honest thoughtful man to do? Dr. Bushman has nowhere to go. He throws out tidbits of hope to those with doubts while feeding TBM’s with his other hand behind his back. He reminds me of the Givens, Adam Miller, etc. He’s the new flavor of apologist riding the fence of faith. They say things to small audiences of friends or influential members that they would never say in public.

    Tough. Very tough.

  31. b July 31, 2016 at 6:40 am - Reply

    Hi Jon, thank you for this video of Richard bushman, l think he is a good guy and should be respected for trying to give all sides of the story, l too would like to see Richard bushman in an interview with Sandra tanner or grant palmer or a highly valued historian, who is now left the church but would be able to give a good argument on both sides of the scale. l recorgnise just how difficult it is for people to come to their own conclusion of what’s really truth and what’s not, but there does seem to be such a lot of evidence to prove that the plates did not exist and different accounts of the first vision, that what are you supposed to believe, anyway an interview with some good well know historian’s and Richard would be enlightening and interesting especially who are now left the church, thanks again jon, your doing a great job as is Richard bushman.

  32. Nancy August 3, 2016 at 11:32 pm - Reply

    Really Mr Bushman? You don’t understand why people are thrown for a loop? All the time I was a Mormon I saw nothing but pictures of Joseph Smith translating the plates in a traditional way, only to find out he never used them and instead used a rock in a hat? Excuse me but I don’t think it should be a mystery why some people expect the truth from an institution that claims to be the one source of truth and also infallibility of the leaders???? Oh well just more Mormon gaslighting. I should not be surprised.

  33. Klaus Lindgren August 10, 2016 at 2:25 am - Reply

    “The different responses mystify me. I have no idea why some people are thrown for a loop when they learn church history did not occur as they had been taught in Sunday School, while others roll with the punches. Some feel angry and betrayed; others are pleased to have a more realistic account. One theorist has postulated an “emotional over-ride” that affects how we respond to information. But the admission that we ourselves are subjective human beings whose rational mechanisms are not entirely trustworthy does not diminish our sense that we are right and our counterparts mistaken.” – I don’t usually call people names online, but for a smart person you gotta be pretty dumb not to see the reason people are upset about being lied to.

    • Gary August 10, 2016 at 3:46 am - Reply


      Thank you for your comments.

      Clearly, Brother Bushman is not dumb. On the contrary, he is an extremely intelligent, creative and resourceful historian who happens to also be a devout Mormon with no plans to turn in his Temple Recommend anytime soon. You have cited the evidence demonstrating that he has consciously subordinated his formidable, cognitive powers of logic and perception in service of a Higher Priority Agenda that compels him to write the best credible sounding justifications he can muster in support of his stunningly irrational conclusions. The fact that his justifications are pure nonsense is unavoidable collateral damage. He had to pretzel his brain into strange and disturbing convolutions to write that he was mystified, instead of stating the plain and simple conclusions that are instantly obvious to far less intelligent observers. He hopes his TBM readers will read about his “mystification” quandary and then bow their heads and say, “Yes. Thank you, Brother Bushman, for giving us permission to similarly pretzel our own brains as you have pretzeled yours so we can dismiss and ignore the otherwise shocking and disturbing stories about Joseph Smith you divulged in your book that we never heard in church. ”

      No, Brother Bushman. It is WE who are mystified that YOU seem to experience difficulty comprehending that some people will feel deceived and betrayed to discover that the wonderful, magical Restoration Story we were taught all our lives is in reality a whitewashed cartoon of what actually happened. The revelations in your book are tantamount to a child discovering that Jolly Old Saint Nick does not actually deliver gifts from a reindeer sleigh on Christmas eve, but instead drives an old van and spends his time offering candy to children walking home from school.

      • Klaus Lindgren August 10, 2016 at 7:13 am - Reply


        nicely put. I like.

  34. Bev September 11, 2016 at 9:38 pm - Reply

    I believe that telling a half truth is the most dangerous type of lie that can be told. Offer people enough of the truth in hopes they will accept the lie. I’m not impressed with Mr. Bushman. I’m not impressed with Mr. Bushman’s claim that as long as you have faith in Christ you will be okay. I personally believe that Joseph Smith, rocks in hats, different versions of the first vision, magic, polygamy, polyandry and the breaking of the guidelines provided in the D&C , disqualify Joseph Smith as a prophet of God. I personally don’t care what degree someone holds or how much research they’ve done, truth is truth isn’t it? I trust Mr. Bushman has studied the teachings and life of the Savior as much as he has the life of Joseph Smith. I’m not trying to be disrespectful but to be a Mormon you need to accept Joseph Smith as a prophet of God. If there was only the one story, no rock, no hat, & no taking of married men’s wives whether for this life or the next, I could understand how people could believe. I won’t even go into the banking scandal, the lying, etc. Yes, I’m an ex-Mormon of 3 years now and a senior citizen who was born in the church and active my whole life. I don’t need a degree to know that the history I was taught was deliberately distorted and falsified. I too started to do my own personal research. Just call me simple minded. I gained a testimony of Christ while in the Mormon Church but knowing what I know now, I could never bare testimony that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. For myself, giving up associations, some friends, and the respect of others was necessary to keep my integrity. I’ve had to overcome the emotional turmoil this created in my life. I’ve now chosen to focus my study on the teachings of the Savior. I trust Him.
    I’m glad Mr. Bushman and others encourage the church to be more open and honest about their history. I look forward to hearing the missionary discussions showing the picture of the rock in the hat published recently in the ensign. I think it’s great that investigators will be taught the hand written copy of the first vision (hidden for years by the church) and the other versions as well. I endorse the intention of the leaders to honor all of Joseph’s wives not only Emma but the Lawrence sisters, Helen Mar Kimball, Zina Huntington and at least 30 other women in Relief Society Lessons. I think something can be learned from each of them. How open is open for Mr. Bushman and others? I think we all know that only principals are going to be taught in church not history. Someone I’m acquainted with has been playing basketball with the missionaries and has had them over for dinner several times. Funny, when we talked he had no idea of any of these things. It’s not what the missionaries are providing potential converts. Yes, he did his own research even used the link I provided to the church essays. Needless to say he is very unimpressed with what he considers deceit. Does open and honest mean the church will print their beliefs but individuals must search for them? Missionaries are teaching it’s about Christ but it’s really about believing the bible is corrupted and to rely on the teachings of Joseph Smith. If the teachings of Christ & Joseph differ trust Joseph he has modern revelation. The excuse that Joseph was only human falls short for me. The activities I find so deplorable were committed after Joseph was called as a prophet. In my opinion, Mr. Bushman underestimates our Heavenly Father and His righteousness.

    • Collin September 12, 2016 at 3:34 pm - Reply

      Bev, I hear what you’re saying. You make some important points.

      I’m wondering how you feel about God commanding Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. Or Moses killing Israelites who profaned the Sabbath?

    • Gary September 12, 2016 at 4:45 pm - Reply


      Kudos to you for holding a clean mirror up to Brother Bushman’s face and inviting him to take a look at himself.

      And even more kudos for your personal integrity and courage to call-it-as-you-see-it and just-say-no to nearly a lifetime of partial truth, mostly lies and consistent deception … all intended to keep you in the dark as you paid, prayed and obeyed … not knowing you were being played like a violin by professional con artists and mind control experts.

      Brother Bushman wrote his book because The Brethren needed someone one who is not a congenital idiot (like the luminaries at FARMS, FAIR, etc.) to craft a volume of apologetics for smart people. He succeeded, all things considered. The collateral damage of readers sporting a dangerously high dipstick of personal integrity waking up and leaving the Church was unavoidable.

      Thank you again for your eloquent post. I respect you. Bev. You are a keeper.

    • L.J. September 12, 2016 at 6:46 pm - Reply

      Bev, A slowwww clap, clap, clap, ending in a standing ovation for speaking up! I’m a senior too and I’m pulling my hair out much of the time because the TBM Mormons my age WILL NOT EVEN READ THE ESSAYS! Seniors have all this information just a Google away on a computer, ipad or smartphone. On a road-trip, we just listened to a 20 hour Audible Book on Brigham Young from our phone through our car speakers while driving through Oregon and Washington. It would be promising IF those of us born BIC in the 40s and 50s, who are retired with a wealth of discretionary personal time would consider backing away from the TV and the golf clubs a bit and simply learn some Mormon history even just to comfort our own minds. Holy Hooper, if the church isn’t true, wouldn’t you want to know? Wouldn’t you want to at least help your kids and grand kids to a heads-up? A generation up the road, if this LDS house of cards collapses, wouldn’t you want your grandchildren to remember you as the ancestor with integrity that saved your family. I think seniors can make a difference. At the very least we can speak up like Bev and raise a flag from time to time.

    • Xposit September 12, 2016 at 7:09 pm - Reply

      Great post Bev! I’m sure many here can relate to your experience. I know I sure can.

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