crop-alexThis is a recording of my interview with Alex Cooper recorded on March 16, 2016 at Velour in Provo, Utah.  Alex Cooper, along with Dr. Joanna Brooks, are the co-authors of the new book Saving Alex.  Alex was accompanied in this interview by her attorney, Paul Burke.  We were also honored to have Tyler Glenn (Neon Trees) perform three musical numbers for us on this special night.

Audio/video from this interview can be found below.

A description of the book follows:

When Alex Cooper was fifteen years old, life was pretty ordinary in her sleepy suburban town and nice Mormon family. At church and at home, Alex was taught that God had a plan for everyone. But something was gnawing at her that made her feel different. These feelings exploded when she met Yvette, a girl who made Alex feel alive in a new way, and with whom Alex would quickly fall in love.

Alex knew she was holding a secret that could shatter her family, her church community, and her life. Yet when this secret couldn’t be hidden any longer, she told her parents that she was gay, and the nightmare began. She was driven from her home in Southern California to Utah, where, against her will, her parents handed her over to fellow Mormons who promised to save Alex from her homosexuality.

For eight harrowing months, Alex was held captive in an unlicensed “residential treatment program” modeled on the many “therapeutic” boot camps scattered across Utah. Alex was physically and verbally abused, and many days she was forced to stand facing a wall wearing a heavy backpack full of rocks. Her captors used faith to punish and terrorize her. With the help of a dedicated legal team in Salt Lake City, Alex eventually escaped and made legal history in Utah by winning the right to live under the law’s protection as an openly gay teenager.

Alex is not alone; the headlines continue to splash stories about gay conversion therapy and rehabilitation centers that promise to “save” teenagers from their sexuality. Saving Alex is a courageous memoir that tells Alex’s story in the hopes that it will bring awareness and justice to this important issue. A bold, inspiring story of one girl’s fight for freedom, acceptance, and truth.

Part 1 – Alex Fights to Survive Reparative Therapy:

Part 2: Alex’s Legal Battle to Gain her Indedpendence

Tyler Glenn (Neon Trees) singing “Rehab” and “Animal”:

Part 1:

Part 2:


  1. William Covington March 3, 2016 at 2:32 am - Reply

    I will definitely buy the book SAVING ALEX.

  2. Erin Jensen March 8, 2016 at 3:06 am - Reply

    I just finished Saving Alex. I was stunned at the cruelty Alex endured in 2010. I had no idea this is how the “boot camps” functioned. As I read I couldn’t help but draw parallels between this, the Kamur Rouge and Hitler’s Germany where obedience and submission were highly valued. What Alex experienced was wrong on so many levels. I do recommend this book–glad I read it. It opened my eyes to atrocities of which I was unaware. Now the next question I have is what can we do to change this?

  3. Wondering Wanderer March 15, 2016 at 6:03 am - Reply

    I am looking forward to this podcast. So much inhumanity is done in the name of god and religions. Voltaire rightly said, “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”

  4. Susan Hardman March 15, 2016 at 3:46 pm - Reply

    This book is incredibly well-written. I started listening to the audio book and could not stop. Highly impactful! Heart-wrenching! Alex, thanks for having the courage to share the intimate details of your story.

  5. Corwin Hudson March 22, 2016 at 11:54 pm - Reply

    This story was one of the most disturbing and heart wrenching I have ever heard on Mormon stories. It sickens me that this could happen today. I really want to go and find that Johnny and give a little Moasic Law of an eye for an eye.

  6. St. Ralph March 23, 2016 at 1:47 am - Reply

    Thank God for people like Paul and Joanna and the people at the straight-gay alliance at the school in St. George. It takes so much courage and persistence to challenge an entrenched oligarchy like the one in Utah (I grew up there). I can’t imagine what it’s like to be in a position like that. Thanks, Alex and Paul, for telling the story.

    That Tyler guy can actually carry a tune. Who’s he again?

  7. Jeff March 23, 2016 at 3:49 pm - Reply

    What an important story. I’m curious, Paul, I know your response may be nothing but speculation, but do you have any insights as to how the arguments that were made in these hearings and appeals, particularly (i) the parents’ argument that they had a right to influence a child’s sexual orientation and/or behavior on moral and religious grounds, and (ii) the classification of certain messages/therapies as abuse, may have influenced the church’s exclusion policy?

    • C - Bone March 26, 2016 at 12:10 pm - Reply

      I believe Paul only said it was argued the parent has a right to teach what was moral / Immoral. Then dehlin interpreted it as they were allowed to argue the parent can change the sex of the child. But that was a mis-interpretation.

      The state can argue that whether a child is gay or straight the parent has a right to teach how to Morally respond to homosexuality, and that’s probably what those st. George people were saying they were doing. Because remember, the church says now there’s nothing wrong with being homosexual, only how you BEHAVE as a homosexual :/

      I don’t think the state was ever arguing parents have a right to try to change the sexual orientation. It was an argument whether the parent can force how to respond morally to who they are as a child. Because remember , the parents and st. George people were saying she was there be used drugs and insubordination mainly, which was a lie.

  8. Julie Noel March 23, 2016 at 8:37 pm - Reply

    I was blown away by Alex’s story, along with her strength, courage and fortitude. This episode was both deeply disturbing and inspirational at the same time. Disturbing to know that this kind of “therapy” is still going on in 2016! My heart broke as I listened to how Alex was physically, emotionally and spiritually abused, and was angered that this man and woman were able to not only get away with torturing her, but other young people as well. The inspirational part? Alex stopped them! And who knows how many people’s lives will be changed for the better and/or protected in the future, because of her courage, along with help of an incredibly brilliant lawyer, Paul Burke, her two friends, and Dr. Joanna Brooks. Thank you for sharing this story.

  9. Sarah H March 23, 2016 at 11:52 pm - Reply

    Alex amazes me. She seems so forgiving of her parents. I don’t know that I would have had the strength to get myself out of those living conditions. I can’t wait to read/hear this book. Yay Alex!!!

  10. DC in Co March 24, 2016 at 9:01 am - Reply

    It isn’t that surprising the great lengths families will go to in order to save a family member from anything other than the Celestial Kingdom. I’m sure my name has been submitted to the temple and gets prayed on everyday…but it pretty apparent how that’s working out. By the way, pray for word peace or children that have no chance.
    Alex is another example of not fitting into the cookie cutter methodology of Mormonism and shows the cognitive approach to “fix” someone. Its incredibly sad and inhumane. There will probably no data showing the support from members with these types of treatment attempts. These people think they have the truth and will do whatever it takes to save a family member. This radical thinking is no different from the people that strap on a bomb and run into an airport in hopes the people that die are saved.

  11. Troy March 24, 2016 at 9:44 am - Reply


    I cannot begin to comprehend the trauma you must have endured, and I would not wish it on anyone. What a courageous person you are to share your story, and I cannot help but think that it will cause positive change that will help spare others the same trauma.

    I cannot wait to read your book and share with others.

    Good Luck and Happiness!

  12. Susan Nielson March 24, 2016 at 12:18 pm - Reply

    My heart is filled with gratitude for goodness still found in these times of confusion and denial concerning human rights and the Mormon church. Thank you for your genuine care and concern and for your efforts to inspire hope and inclusion through stories presented in your forum, John. Alex’s story is a tough one, but it brings a light to a very dark subject, and light can only lead to the way out for all of us. Thanks to all of you for your courage in sharing with the world, and for allowing love to win.

  13. Charlie Pemberton March 24, 2016 at 9:29 pm - Reply

    I was also shocked at what Alex went through. I was disturbed enough that I felt impressed to leave work early and as fortune had it I sat and talked to a same sex attracted woman. She told me her story and I’m still pretty shook up by what Alex went through. I used to be LDS and was excommunicated back in 1999. I’m very straight; but do not like to see anyone suffer. All I can say Alex that you and your sweetheart may you have a joyful life together. Thank you for the podcast. Charlie P.

  14. Janice March 25, 2016 at 12:48 pm - Reply

    Thank you for sharing your very difficult experience. It takes a lot of courage to stand up to institutions and abusive adults. What an amazing man Paul is to have so generously donated his time and knowledge. By standing by your side he has given you a protected place and an opportunity to have your voice heard in the maize of legal, religious and family noise. By telling your story you have offered a valuable resource for parents and teens to save their relationships and stop abusive treatment in the name of religious conformity. A great contribution.
    May you find much happiness in your life.

  15. ps March 26, 2016 at 12:42 pm - Reply

    Aw man, Tyler singing Amy Winehouse’s Rehab is crazy, funny, and sad in a million different ways. How many ways can our parents mess us up? At least this one had a good ending, and kudos to Alex for being so positive towards her future and her parents. And extra kudos to Jason and his high school activism! Seriously, if like to hear a podcast with that seemingly wise-beyond-his-years kid.

  16. Susan M Blake March 26, 2016 at 7:21 pm - Reply

    Thanks so much for this. What a wonderful celebration of beautiful, courageous people. I wish each participant a happy, fulfilling life.

  17. Rudger March 27, 2016 at 10:11 pm - Reply

    As I watched this interview unfold I was reminded of a recently released horror movie called The Witch about a family of Puritans in New England exiled to the forest. The movie is noteworthy for attempting to re-create the mindset and context of the Puritans in the 1600s that could result in the mother accusing her own teenage daughter of being a witch.

    The world in which Alex found herself is not unlike that world—deep-seated beliefs based on fear leading to bizarre behaviors on the part of the adults. The good news is God manifested in Alex’s story in the form of remarkable friend and allies and Alex herself.

    Works of darkness were committed against you, Alex. Until we learn that you decided to get on with your life and forgo sending your torturers to prison, I was all ready to write something caustic, dismissive and derisive against the LDS church, the Utah legal system and the abusing couple. So much evidence we’re in a telestial place. You chose the way of Jesus Christ, however. Love is more powerful than the forces arrayed against you. Peace and much joy to you, Alex, Joanna, Paul and John.

  18. Ken March 28, 2016 at 1:03 am - Reply

    John or anyone,
    Does anyone have the contact info for Stephanie Larsen (sp) who spoke at the end of the event? I’d like to reach out to her. thanks!
    Thank you all for sharing this story.

  19. Mormon X March 28, 2016 at 10:17 am - Reply

    Have these sick members been disciplined by the Church for abusing this poor girl?

    • Julie January 27, 2020 at 6:50 pm - Reply

      Who cares if the church disciplined them. I hope the law disciplined them!

  20. Ken March 28, 2016 at 3:01 pm - Reply

    Can someone post the contact info for Stephenie Larsen? (she spoke at the end of the event about the Provo LGBT crisis center)
    And thank you for posting this event!

  21. Jonathan Alston March 28, 2016 at 5:46 pm - Reply

    The perfect word to describe Alex’s story is ‘Kafkaesque’ – I found this definition online: “is when you enter a surreal world in which all your control patterns, all your plans, the whole way in which you have configured your own behavior, begins to fall to pieces, when you find yourself against a force that does not lend itself to the way you perceive the world. You don’t give up, you don’t lie down and die. What you do is struggle against this with all of your equipment, with whatever you have. But of course you don’t stand a chance. That’s Kafkaesque.”

    What a brave and amazing young woman! Thank goodness she found a friend, teacher and lawyer to help bring her out of that hell.

  22. Sal March 31, 2016 at 5:14 am - Reply

    It deeply bothers me that other people saw problems and did nothing. We all like to point fingers (at the parents, the couple in St. George, the LDS church, the state of UT etc.). But, we are all complicit with abuse when we do not actively engage a problem. My mother always said when we point a finger there are four more pointing back at ourselves. I never saw Alex being abused. But, what have I missed because I was not aware of the people around me or active enough to defend people who are not near by?

  23. St. Ralph April 1, 2016 at 1:04 pm - Reply

    Yeah, when Alex talks about people in St. George (which is heavily LDS) ignoring her public outbursts when she was trying to escape her abusers, it kind of shakes your faith in the whole “family oriented,” “one true church” Mormon paradigm thing, don’t it? The “Christianity” part is getting kind of hard to see there.

  24. emmi May 19, 2016 at 10:31 am - Reply

    I feel like there needs to be a followup book entitled Saving Alex’s Parents. They are damn lucky she decided they were worth redeeming. Their journey to getting their heads out of the sand and realizing there is a big beautiful world out there would be useful for other parents at the same fork in the road.

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