How does an orthodox Mormon wife and mother become a groundbreaking historian?

Join us today on Mormon Stories Podcast as Shannon Caldwell Montez shares with us her journey to become a historian after living an orthodox Mormon life for decades.

Shannon recently obtained a Master’s degree in history from the University of Nevada, Reno. Her Master’s thesis is entitled “The Secret Mormon Meetings of 1922” – which chronicles how Mormon General Authority B.H. Roberts lost his faith in the historicity of the Book of Mormon, wherein he called a multi-day meeting with all of the top LDS Church leadership to inform them of the many, credible scientific problems with the Book of Mormon.

Shannon’s Master’s thesis can be downloaded here.

Shannon’s previous Mormon Stories Podcast interview about the life of B.H. Roberts, and his impact on Mormonism, can be found here.



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  1. Chuck Borough July 14, 2020 at 7:52 pm - Reply

    John –

    Most interesting and brings some real understanding. I also waited outside the temple for all five children when they married. I knew my wife was inside with them, so maybe that made it easier. I do remember thinking of all those good non-Mormons who are continually denied the experience after counting on it for so many years as their daughter(especially the daughters) were being married.

    What continues to amaze me is an obviously logical thought that was given and backed by you also. It was “One dude could not take on twenty dudes. It just does not make sense.” And then still believing that One dude made the freaking universe. Oh – that’s possible? How can we square this?

  2. Donny July 15, 2020 at 5:32 am - Reply

    Thank you Shannon!

  3. Kirsten July 15, 2020 at 11:08 am - Reply

    Wonderful interview!

  4. Molly July 15, 2020 at 12:27 pm - Reply

    Shannon is a badass. I totally relate to her. Loved this episode.

  5. Joe July 16, 2020 at 12:18 am - Reply

    Where can I purchase a copy of your masters thesis, Shannon. I really enjoyed your interview. You must be so proud.

    • Martine July 17, 2020 at 8:16 am - Reply

      Joe, the link is above. It’s free. I downloaded it last night.

    • Anonymous July 18, 2020 at 2:05 am - Reply

      There is a link that John supplied and you can read it at no charge whenever you’d like.

  6. Kent July 16, 2020 at 10:09 am - Reply

    The mockery of the story of Ammon in the book of Mormon as a fiction of human impossibility, is simply wrong! First Class Swordsman in various countries have single handedly defeated entire garrisons on the field of battle. I’ve noted these instances in Japanese History where a lone samurai defeated over 40 – 60 men, Miyamoto Musashi case in point, and Baiken who preceded him, these are matters of public record and historical fact. I’ve practice Japanese swordsmanship for near 30 years and I assure you a sword can cut an arm clean off and the discription in the book of mormon of how it was done, ie when they raised their clubs is exactly how it would be executed. Warriors that specialise in a martial art like fencing are recorded as defeating far greater numbers of less well trained advarsaries, stories abound of this in various cultures and places in the world. The Battle of Stamford bridge where one skilled viking held off the entire Saxon Army 12th century, similiar situation with the battle of thermopylae where 300 spartans in a narrow valley almost defeated a army of 1million men and would of succeeded if the secret goat pass wasn’t divulged, etc allowing the army to get behind them. I do not view the story of Ammon as a God Miracle, there are lots of people that could still do that today, a samurai sword can not only cut an arm off… but tests of cadavers revealed a samurai sword could cut a body virtically in two from the top of the skull to the groin. American Pow’s cadavers were used to demonstrate the fact. Also Ammon’s use of the sling in killing people is also totally normative, still to this day shepards in the middle east are crack shots with slings, many have been found in archaeological digs with beautiful braiding. David killing Goliath with a sling is not a god miracle, neither was it for Ammon, a stone hurled by a sling creates enough extra compound force to go right through a car door, in competitions the stones themselves can go up to 500metres or more that is over half a klm. There are competitions in Israel to this day for the slings, a shepard sitting around all day had nothing better to do than practice…

    • Ricardo Montobon July 16, 2020 at 1:15 pm - Reply

      First slicing a person crown to groin sounds awesome and horrible.
      Ammon collecting a bushle of arms is a fantastic story [not historical] – is it possible. Sure as Kent states. So as Kent states the possible aspect of the story is not the best argument against it. The other point Shannon and John make is better I think. Is cutting arms off the best way for a spiritual person to win the hearts of man. Like the nephi story – really cutting his head off was the best option. Couldn’t have tied him up. Gagged him? Nephi zap shocked his brothers. Maybe ammon could have done that. Moving mountains is talked about a bunch – ammon could have caused a gap in the earth to open. Struck them dumb?

      Learning the david and goliath story better that david was the sharp end of the stick actually – changed so many things for me. It came up in a conversation where this member said nelson was guided by god and miracles in his surgeries. I replied stating the D+G story is miss told story. David was the sharp end of the stick. Highly skilled with his sling. Goliath was an over grown duns that couldn’t see well and had to be guided down the hill. Nelson was a highly skilled top of his field surgeon – thats not a miracle – I finished with Ive never held a scalpel – if I did the surgery on you and you lived or came out better – THAT is a miracle – not russell.

    • Martine July 17, 2020 at 8:30 am - Reply

      Kent, honest question, I’m just trying to understand. So, such a sword can cut thru an arm in one motion, including cutting thru bone? It is like in a cartoon or would it require several strokes? Again, I’m not mocking, I don’t know. BoM makes it sound like Nephi cut off Laban’s head in one fell swoop and, of course, a well-executed decapitation with an axe works that way, but with a sword and the individual not being in the ideal position, I imagine it wouldn’t be so easy.

  7. Dennis July 16, 2020 at 10:52 am - Reply

    Such a great interview. So sad how the church can hurt good honest people who has the integrate to follow truth. Shannon is my hero. Is it possible to post the letter Shannon wrote to her Bishop and Stake President.

  8. Timo July 16, 2020 at 2:09 pm - Reply

    I’m going to be a pedant on the Ammon story, but only because I love history and material culture, so I just think factoids about it are fascinating.

    First off, the overall critique of the Ammon story is correct. My two cents has to do with swords, since I study Historical European Martial Arts and have a lot of exposure on their efficacy as a result. So the comment about swords not being able to chop off arms is inaccurate. They definitely can, and we have a lot of extant textual and artistic evidence of this in addition to experimental archeology that supports this. Cutting off forty arms in a row? The issue here probably (because nobody has tested this, so we can’t be sure) has more to do with the sword user’s fatigue, and subsequent loss of proper form and edge alignment then loss of edge integrity.

    This is of course supposing Ammon had an advanced high carbon steel sword, technology that would not be available until over a millennium after his death. Still, even some swords of the classical world would probably have been able to achieve this. However, since there is no steel from the period in the Americas, I’m going to go off on a tangent that apologist’s surely would: the macuahuitl. I don’t know if these existed during the BoM, but they are the “swords” the Aztecs used against the Spanish, so at least they’re new world. These “swords” are really just hard wood clubs with obsidian chunks inserted in the edge to form a blade. There is at least one account of a two handed variant decapitating a horse, so it’s chopping power is sufficient. However, because of the hard and brittle nature of obsidian, the edge of the weapon frequently breaks, and new obsidian chunks have to be inserted. Experimental archeology has found that these weapons are actually much better at tearing flesh than chopping through limbs. Such wounds could tear ligaments, incapacitating enemies without killing them outright. This fit the Mesoamerican style of war since the goal was to capture opponents so they could later be sacrificed.

    So armed with one of these, Ammon could’ve possibly maybe chopped off someone’s arm. But forty in a row? Impossible.

  9. James Sneak July 16, 2020 at 4:55 pm - Reply

    John, love the homage to “Miami Vice”/Deseret Industries with the pink shirt and palm trees. As Troy Williams says: “fashion before the revolution”.

  10. Martine July 17, 2020 at 9:01 am - Reply

    Well, that was 7 hours very well spent. Long drives thru the Uintahs and up to Cache Valley! We—DH and I—listened, didn’t watch.
    Shannon, that was awesome and I can’t wait to hear you discuss your thesis. I downloaded it last night and will start reading today.
    I shook my head and shouted “yep, felt that,” “yep, did that too,” “yep, I’ve said that.”
    Most impactful and emotional statement.: “He chose me!” Sobbing with you there. Kudos to Dave!
    On God’s most inefficient way to spread his (eternal) life-saving plan! I’ve said that for years too. Missionary work by 12 yr olds now—sorry, they look 12 to me. You want your children to get back to you and you set up the most inefficient system to accomplish your goal? I’ve been told that god can use the weak to do his work. Sure, but how is it working out so far?
    I’m 65, married at BYU in ‘74 at age 19 and 363 days! The pressure to marry and have kids right away was great. The shaming for not being pregnant asap was ever present. I identified with “if we put it off we’ll get “lesser” spirites.” Paraphrasing here. Although I gave birth 9 ½ months after marriage, it was not a planned pregnancy—we had wanted to wait but I wasn’t on the pill—and my first child was born with a severe, terribly painful skin condition which took his life four months later. I felt an enormous burden of responsibility for him being born that way, like it was my punishment for not having wanted him. The whole Plan of Salvation teaching really messed me up. “Poison!”
    I’m surprised that, in ‘95 you fell the same pressure, I thought those teachings were less prominent by then. But you were at Ricks and, well, Ricks/BYU-I is worse. My son started BYU-P in ‘94 but didn’t get married til 2005–after he left BYU.
    So much love and empathy for you as you were excluded from your daughter’s wedding! You described well the attitude of “friends” and family who bypassed you on their way to her sealing. The Church does take good people and makes them act badly. No empathy. Basically, “you could if you wanted to. Just believe, humble yourself.” The day the church announced that civil marriages were allowed in the U.S. and Canada without the one-year penalty—still under strict local leaders control though—I sobbed because I wouldn’t have to miss my 3 granddaughters’ weddings—and we went out to lunch and I ordered wine! I generally only drink wine or beer when I’m with family in Belgium. Doing so has helped rebuild birth-family connections.

    Much love to you, Shannon. You are a ROCK STAR! Your future is bright!

  11. cl_rand July 17, 2020 at 5:24 pm - Reply

    What a wonderful story Shannon. Congratulations on finding your way out of Mormonism’s slurry into the fresh air of reality. Even though you won’t be spending the eternities making spirit children as a godess at least you are now free to do as you see fit with this existence; the only thing we can be sure of. My mother was a devoted lifelong member who divorced my father on the advice of her bishop when he lost his faith. She then married a devout Mormon man whose self righteous piety contributed to the chronic depression she suffered from for the rest of her life. I have no doubt her depression was due to many of the same reasons you outlined in your story but she was simply too afraid to question church teachings and practices. Your husband must be a very smart guy because he chose you, and hell, over the church. Then again, based on what I’ve learned about you over the last 6 hours of Mormon Stories, only a fool would have let you go so maybe he’s only as smart as me.

    Your discoveries about B.H. Roberts are fascinating. It sounds like that period truly was a crossroads in church history that could have made the church a much healthier institution today but, as per usual, the leaders took the wrong road. The church is literally steeped in secrecy cloaked as the sacred. It’s a very effective way to quash discussion. Like John stated much of what we are learning today has been dragged out into the open, kicking and screaming, by the information age. I hope you continue to pursue your work in this area and sharing it publically.

    I am a bit surprised that out of this 3+ hour interview, with so many chilling betrayals and heartwarming twists, a discussion about whether or not Ammon could have performed the feats ascribed to him is what sparks discussion in the comments. The bom is a whole cloth fiction. Ammon is a fictional character in that work so I suppose he could do anything the author said he did just like Harry Potter can do whatever Rowling say’s he can. But who cares?

  12. Richard Thompson July 18, 2020 at 11:39 am - Reply

    John, you need to go back even further to Edward Tullidge, whose histories were suppressed by John Taylor in the 1880s.

    His history has also been whitewashed by the church as well.

  13. Barry July 18, 2020 at 3:16 pm - Reply

    Shannon, maybe the best ever Mormon Stories Podcast! Thanks so much.

  14. Doug July 19, 2020 at 1:40 pm - Reply

    I just wanted to tell you what a great job you did in your interviews, both the first on BH Roberts and this episode!

    As someone who raised his kids in Kaysville before leaving the Church, I can totally relate to the extra dose of fear that was instilled in you regarding chastity, dating, etc. While I think the way you thought about these things as an LDS kid is common, high-percentage LDS areas like good ole “K-Town” have unique cultures that amplify things, and I recognized it all too well in your voice and description of how you were taught to think. It’s as-if Kaysville has its own calling card.

    To illustrate….

    My wife and I were both raised in the Church in the Pacific Northwest. When I took a job after grad school that took us to Kaysville, one of the first experiences we had in our Ward was to be asked to sit on a panel at a Youth Fireside with another couple, to answer questions about dating, morality, etc.

    One of the very first questions the kids asked was whether we thought it was ok to kiss before marriage. Now, growing up LDS in the PNW that was the silliest question I had ever heard. It sounded soo extreme compared to how I was raised LDS outside of Utah.

    To hear a bunch of teenagers worry about whether they should even kiss someone before they got married out of fear it would directly lead to sex, someone losing control, or that it was breaking the Law of Chastity was immediately brought back for me when I heard you describe your thinking as a youth.

    Not long after we moved there, my oldest started high school at Davis High and we started to learn about the “Virgin Lips Club,” which is an extreme form of purity pledge LDS kids take there, promising to never kiss before they get married, and wearing these commitments on their sleeves as a badge of honor.

    That’s just one example of many I could probably think of to describe the environment there in Kaysville, and I just want to validate you. As you know, your fear of dating, boys, etc. was all manufactured by the Church and exacerbated by the unique culture of the town in which you were raised. These small, homogeneous LDS towns are where intensified versions of Mormonism flourish.

    • Charles September 21, 2020 at 3:37 pm - Reply

      I grew up in several non-Mormon cities and towns before 18. We kissed and fooled around to going all the way between grade school to high school and many suffered pregnancies and abortions and std’s we laughed about. And you appear to find offence for ridicule that kids would do to the opposite end? Really? ….lol That’s sad.

  15. Booker July 26, 2020 at 7:38 pm - Reply

    I just finish reading her paper…You have got to have her back!!!

  16. Shelley Walker July 28, 2020 at 3:50 pm - Reply

    Dear Shannon, Thank you for sharing your story. I am also a woman who grew up following the LDS program for women’s happiness and was miserable. My story is very similar to yours, listening to you brought back so many feelings and memories. If you ever wish to speak with someone else who has come through the rabbit hole feel free to reach out.

  17. Tom Batty August 10, 2020 at 1:10 pm - Reply


    Amazing(and true life) story. I feel like this could be an episode of Dateline or 20/20. This is eyeopening and entertaining to people in and out of the TSCC. I can almost hear metaphorical shelves breaking already. The truth to TBMs is out there, spread the good news of freedom, we desire all to receive it.

  18. Felicity September 26, 2020 at 8:34 pm - Reply

    Thank you for sharing your story! I can relate and experienced so many of your thoughts, feelings, struggles and experiences. Your inability to follow the checklist and the struggles with ADHD and frustrations surrounding that is more than relateable. I can also relate to being the young bride, giving and ignoring my own needs and feelings, and struggles with finding balance in implied gender roles and motherhood. My story ended in divorce though and I found my eventual voice through that! Once I found my voice, I had strength to be authentic and found peace in my choice to leave the church. So much joy has followed and my voice is strong and I have found strength through my journey. Thank you for sharing, your story is amazing!

  19. Mark LeBaron October 15, 2020 at 12:22 am - Reply

    That part when you guys discuss the Ammon story…. I laughed out loud like a crazy person as I walked our dog around the neighborhood. 😂

    Had to share several parts of your story with my wife; as I heard you voice so many of the same feelings and frustrations I’ve heard her bring up.

    Heartbreaking wedding story. I’m sorry you and your daughter had to go through that.

  20. Laura Debenham November 8, 2021 at 3:36 pm - Reply


    You are amazing. Thank you! I am an instructor at UNR and we need to go to lunch. I also included you in a tribute to brilliant Mormon (use to be) women who were thinkers and writers. Here you go:

    Praise to the Women
    (Sung to the tune Praise ro the Man)

    Praise to the woman
    who researched her religion
    Fawn Brodie wrote as
    had not been done before
    Early in life she was
    bright and precocious
    Finished her book while
    her country was at war

    Hail to the women
    who made such a difference
    Writers who dared to speak
    out against the manly mormons
    Mingling with Brontë sisters
    Thanks for the research
    You will live on in
    our libraries and brains

    Juanita Brooks
    Was another great hero
    Brilliant, hard working
    She studied and she taught
    She grew up listening
    to stories of the massacre
    Raised a large family
    While writing what she thought


    Sandra M. Tanner
    Descended from Brigham
    As a young teen she
    Questioned what she knew
    Met Jared, married and
    Prolifically published
    True pioneers shining
    Light with all they do


    Martha Beck caught
    the attention of Oprah
    Cleverly recorded the
    story of her life
    Sharing her insights
    along with her memories
    Harvard with her husband
    Now she has a wife


    Carol Lynn Pearson
    Beloved by her husband
    He loved her writing,
    her poetry and wit
    She nursed him, loved him
    though he died from HIV
    Rights for the marginalized
    She stands up for it


    Shannon Caldwel Mortez
    is a gem of a scholar.
    Passionate and curious
    About history
    Researched and wrote about
    All things BH Roberts.
    Divulged secret meetings
    For the world to see


    Tara Westover
    was raised on the mountain
    Kept ignorant of
    the world on the outside
    Abused and neglected
    she craved education
    Self-taught, determined
    To Oxford a free ride


    Young Alex Cooper
    was sent far away to
    Live in a home where
    she could be straightened out
    There she was tortured
    for her way of being
    Living her truth
    magnified her every doubt


    I’m also a relative of Richard and Amy Lyman. Thanks for the clarification! Send me an email!


    Laura Lyman Debenham
    October 17, 2021

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