In September of 2020, professional Mormon apologists Terryl and Fiona Givens were invited to speak at a Mormon church fireside for the Sunderland England Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  During this fireside Terryl Givens was asked to recount an experience he once had with a Mormon missionary woman who was doubting her testimony because of troubling things she learned about Mormon church founder Joseph Smith.  Terryl’s recounting of the story was as follows:

“I was fortunate that there was a mission president in our area who knew us and our work.  And there was a sister missionary who decided that she was going to leave the church.  She was finishing her mission the next week and she’d made the decision to go home and leave.  And her companion of course deeply distraught over this and asked the mission president “Could we go talk to brother Givens?”  And he gave them permission to come and stay as long as they needed so they stayed long into the night.  And I listened to one after another question and then finally it occurred to me to ask this one question.  And I said to her in regard to one question in particular about Joseph Smith, and I said “Sister” I said, “Why does the answer to that question matter?”  And it changed everything.  It just caught her up short.  And she thought for a minute and she said, “I don’t know” (Terryl chuckles).  “I don’t know.”

Many (including myself) were disturbed by Terryl Givens’ story/response – particularly since it was directed at currently doubting Mormon church members.  We were primarily puzzled, shocked, and somewhat disturbed that the Mormon church’s leading professional apologist – who has spent many years writing books for, and speaking/ministering to doubting Mormons – would provide such a seemingly glib and uninformed response.  That said, we understand that belief issues are complex, and take Terryl at his word that he sincerely does not understand why troubling aspects of Mormon history, including newly-discovered details about Joseph Smith’s life, would matter to a questioning or doubting Mormon.

Consequently, I am launching a new social media campaign with which I could use your help.  The goal of the campaign is to help educate Terryl, Fiona, other Mormon Church apologists, and the Mormon church leadership, as to why “Informed Consent” is crucial to both active Mormons and Mormon investigators.

The campaign is entitled “Why Mormon Truth Matters” – and it will involve two parts:

  1. A TikTok and YouTube Video Response Campaign: I am requesting that all doubting Mormons and post-Mormons please record two brief responses to the following questions on TikTok:
    • A 1 minute video responding to the question: “What do I wish the Mormon church had told me?” tagging it: #mormoninformedconsent in the description, as well as tagging @mormonstoriespodcast.
    • A 1 minute video responding to the question: “How did the Mormon church harm you?” tagging it: #mormonharm in the description, as well as tagging @mormonstoriespodcast.
  2. I am considering the possibility of writing and publishing a book about the lack of Informed Consent within Mormonism.  It will basically contain two parts:
    • An exploration of the main pieces of information that have been intentionally withheld from Mormons and Mormon investigators over the years, and
    • All the ways that the Mormon church harmed people, which has been made possible by the lack of informed consent.

Stay tuned for more information about this project.  For those interested, here is a PDF of today’s presentation.

I also feel it important to disclose that Terryl and Fiona Givens have not accepted my invitations to appear on Mormon Stories Podcast since my excommunication.  Before making this presentation I extended an email invitation to the Givens’ to engage in a private/confidential dialogue with me.  I hope that they will take me up on this invitation. I also hope that they will agree to return to Mormon Stories Podcast to discuss both their statement, and the overall state of informed consent within Mormonism.

HUGE thanks to Jonathan Streeter and his YouTube Channel “Thoughts on Things and Stuff” for making this video available!

Download MP3


  1. Ned Scarisbrick July 5, 2021 at 6:01 pm - Reply

    I think that his question to the female missionary was valid. So , if JS did this or that or didn’t do this or that what effect does that have on you? Does that make him a false prophet? Was he once a prophet but fell from grace because of this or that? At what point did he fall and when did his revalations become invalid? Did God really use him to bring forth the BofM or was it all a fraud? I think this line of reasoning is valid. It has nothing to do with sidestepping or trying to discredit her question. He really wanted to know how getting an answer to question “X” would affect her and what value the answer would or could be a contributing factor in her faith.

    • James July 5, 2021 at 10:27 pm - Reply

      Agreed. And well said

    • D. Michael Martindale July 6, 2021 at 4:01 am - Reply

      That’s one of the most dishonest comments I’ve ever read in the context of someone struggling with a faith crisis.

      “Does it make him a false prophets?” The answer is a resounding YES!!!! The answers to the kind of questions someone going through a faith crisis asks most definitely cut right to the core of whether Joseph Smith was a true or false prophet. The answers absolutely will make or break a person’s faith.

      Your response is insultingly condescending for the exact same reasons John Dehlin enumerated in the video. Your response is the equivalent of saying, “Move along. Nothing to see here.” You response is the response of someone who deep down knows he can’t satisfactorily answer the questions. It’s a disrespectful deflection, not a response.

      If you watch the full video of Givens, his reaction to the second question posed to him that does not appear in John’s video is profoundly dismissive. John is exactly right in his perception of what Givens intended with the question he posed.

    • Robert M Hodge July 6, 2021 at 7:53 am - Reply

      Because NED Truth matters, and if you find Smith a liar in any significant way, you may assume that the rest of his narrative is false. Can that be done? Yes, and you don’t need to look to anti-mormon literature or discussions. Turn to BH Roberts “History of the Church” vol 6 at page 411 where he lies about his involvement in polygamy and then ask yourself would a man of God lie about something as important to the church as marriage? Next look to all early editions of the Doctrine and Covenants and find the marriage disclaimer that was published to the world until 1876, an institutional lie that was allowed to stand as was used by others including missionaries until Brother Brigham spilled the polygamy beans officially in 1852. In short, Smith was a liar, and the institutional Church has a well documented history of obfuscation and deception. Yes NED it was a sidestep, playing on the fact that she had apparently not previously thought out the fundamental basis for her decision and wilted in the face of an easily overturned semantic sophistry. But then again, for those like you sir, as Boyd K. Packer said: “sometimes the truth is not very useful.”

    • Neil Edward West July 6, 2021 at 11:04 am - Reply

      No truth, no correctness comes from a lie. Lying negates any worth in effort. The effect, for all of us who lie (most of us do) is to continue to lie. JS is no exception. I was tossed from Mormonism for my lie and their view of how important that lie was to the organization. It is implausible that an organization can require more honesty and integrity from its membership than it requires of itself. That question by Givens was gas lighting to an extreme.

    • Fatfinger July 6, 2021 at 4:17 pm - Reply

      Gee, I dunno. We know the question was about Joseph Smith, so in that missionary’s mind (you know, the one whose questions don’t matter even though her faith crisis is such that she’s planning to leave the church when she gets home!) maybe whether or not JS was prone to lies, deceptions and/or cons is relevant to whether or not his claims should be believed. And unlike mister apologist, I do not sidestep questions. The answer is yes, being a liar and a conman would make him a fraud and a false prophet. Just another lie and just another con.

      There, that wasn’t so hard, was it?

    • Jacob Anderson July 8, 2021 at 5:12 pm - Reply

      I agree, I believe Terryl’s words were “Why does the answer to that particular question matter?” We have know idea what this question was. I usually agree with you John but I think you need more context to Terryl’s story to do an entire podcast response to this. I feel like there is a lot of assumptions being drawn about this particular conversation.

  2. James July 5, 2021 at 6:02 pm - Reply

    John I need to be honest with you. I appreciate you and everything you have done with Mormon stories. Sadly I feel like this has just become another dime a dozen ex Mormon podcast. First of all, you didn’t even know what the sister missionaries question was…. so your basing an entire podcast on a theoretical question. You don’t know what she asked. Instead you go off for an hour talking about Joseph smiths misdeeds.

    Second of all, I feel like everyone that comes on your podcast acts like a complete victim. Nobody takes personal responsibility for anything. As a new order Mormon this has been hard to stomach lately. Most of my new order friends have stopped listening. Obviously TBM’s don’t want anything to do with you. So I figure it might be a good time to change the label of the podcast to EX Mormon podcast. The Givens, bushmans, and patrick mason won’t even return your calls or give you the time of day.

    I used to enjoy this podcast a lot, but the credibility is gone and it’s so one sided that it’s hard to stomach anymore.

    • D. Michael Martindale July 6, 2021 at 4:05 am - Reply

      Then stop viewing them.

      You are the one with no credibility. Your praising John in the beginning is clearly disingenuous, an act to come across as a decent person who’s become disappointed with John. Your negative statements are so virulent, they’re comical in comparison to the praise you led with. They make it evident that your true attitude toward him has been the virulent one all along.

    • Robert Hodge July 6, 2021 at 7:57 am - Reply

      So this doesn’t fit so well with your confirmation bias James. I get that. “a new order Mormon”, what is hades is that?

    • VFanRJ July 6, 2021 at 8:48 pm - Reply

      “Nobody takes personal responsibility for anything.” James, I’m not connecting the dots of your assertion. JD’s focus is informed consent. How is the person being lied to not taking responsibility? Especially for those raised in the Church and are taught from a very young age to explicitly trust the Church and its leaders? That its leaders represent god? That’s really your position?

      There are quite large number of data points demonstrating the Q15 hiding damaging information about the Church from the members. Leonard Arrington’s biography bring to light how systemic and intentional this practice is. Boyd K Packer’s talk to CES faculty shortly after Arrington’s firing clearly show the Q15’s motivation and the moral blind spot they carry with them.
      I grow up during the 70s, correlation heyday. Based on that information, I:
      – Worked in a machine shop for a year after high school to fund my mission
      – Served a two year mission
      – Went to BYU and married a women who focus was to have a temple marriage
      – Raised four children in the Church
      – Navigating a mix faith marriage and family relationships

      James, you really don’t feel that the Q15 shouldn’t be held accountable for placing faith in front of integrity. You seem to completely miss the gravity and damage caused by the Q15’s cult like behavior.

    • Old Dog August 4, 2021 at 7:19 pm - Reply

      JAMES, what is a New Order Mormon? Is that different from a Progressive Mormon? Is there a New Order or a Progressive church in the making that is vying to win over followers online?

      There does seem to be more people joining us here on Mormon Stories who are doubting, leaving, or coping with having already left the church, than there are TBMs. TBMs and Believers who want to stay and create changes from within while still retaining the community of support of their friends and family in the church do not flock to discussions with X Mormons. James, where are you aligned along this broad spectrum of Mormon to X-Mormon to anti-mormon thought?

      John seems to be trying to balance the numbers and make everyone feel welcome, but that is pretty difficult. Religious traditions are based on deeply held convictions and the emotional bonds of tribal and family loyalty. Those who have chucked religion altogether usually hold beliefs and make life decisions based on practicality, and they cannot be convinced of something that does not have critical, analytical thinking behind it and tangible evidence to support it. These two different kind of mindsets can coexist in the same space only when both sides listen with respect and treat each other with kindness. Trying to win a debate, prove your point, or prove the other guy wrong, gets us nowhere. It is very hard to create a forum where these disparate kinds of mindsets can find a common ground. I think John is brave to try.

  3. sharon sullivan July 5, 2021 at 6:55 pm - Reply

    Its just like a man telling a woman not to worry her pretty little head over things that are inconsequential. Women in the Church are still treated like they are children.

    • James July 5, 2021 at 10:27 pm - Reply

      The chip on your shoulder is not attractive. The church has completely changed its temple ceremony to show women the respect they deserve. If you don’t like they way women are treated them leave and quit complaining

      • Robert Hodge July 6, 2021 at 7:59 am - Reply

        So God has changed her mind on the temple ceremonies?

      • Mark July 8, 2021 at 3:00 pm - Reply

        If the church were actually to change to show women the respect they deserve, they would be ordaining them to the priesthood and allowing them to serve as bishops, stake presidents, apostles and prophets. If the church were actually to change to show men and women the respect they deserve, they would stop teaching that we can only be worthy through a murderous sacrifice of God’s only begotten son and instead teach us that we are inherently worthy. If the church were actually to change to show members the respect they deserve, they would stop teaching us that we can know God through another’s revelation and instead teach us to each find God for ourselves with true freedom to interpret our own experiences as we see fit.

  4. Fatfinger July 5, 2021 at 9:18 pm - Reply

    John. I applaud your diplomacy (after all, it’s just the way it has to work, we feel compelled to kill them with kindness while they respond with hatred and demonization). I understand it, but don’t necessarily like it. Brother Givens deserves no kind consideration here. As you point out, he knew exactly what he was doing. His response served the dual apologetic purposes of not having to provide an answer while suggesting the answer isn’t the problem, the question is. So not only does the apologist get to avoid answering a likely unanswerable question, he puts the issue back in the lap of the poor sister missionary (if there even was one. It’s not like Mormon apologists, like Mormon leaders, are above simply making things up.).

    • James July 5, 2021 at 10:29 pm - Reply

      Once again you just validated my comment about being a victim. When are ex Mormons going to quit crying and take personal responsibility???

      • Randy Brown July 6, 2021 at 7:59 am - Reply

        So you’re going to just run thru all the comments supporting John, and be a douche. Well done.

      • Fatfinger July 6, 2021 at 11:13 am - Reply

        Personal responsibility for what? What are you talking about?

        Are you trying to get me to take responsibility for apologetic drivel?

        The non-answer of asking “does it matter” is absurd. Of course it mattered. She wouldn’t have even thought to use these few precious moments with this high profile apologist to ask the question if it didn’t! Besides, who is he to question whether it mattered? If it mattered to her, it mattered!! Again, all the non-answer did was get the apologist of the hook of providing an actual answer (something Mormon apologists are insanely bad at doing) and give him a chance to act like the question and the questioner are the actual problem.

        By the way, I was NOM for several years and was active on the New Order Mormon message board as InsideLookingOut, before the board disappeared for awhile and came back a shell of it’s former self. I don’t know what it looks like now, I haven’t been back in several months.

  5. Jay Larsen July 5, 2021 at 9:29 pm - Reply

    I believe I cannot describe in few sentences how Mormon church harmed me, without creating background history and parental relationships, because I believe my parents lacked healthy relationship much of it due to mormon upbringing. However, hopefully a short version is the church harmed me from developing healthy loving friendships with girls because of the churches gaslighting, grooming 101, guilting around masturbation. I Just have to say, prior to the church doing all the above when I was naive, innocent 14 year old. That summer I had a fun innocent love friendship with a first love. We walked home from church together, then I would walk to my house thinking about her and those thoughts replaced my desire to masturbate. That ended that fall when the bishop started his grooming 101 around masturbation. From then on thoughts of suicide ocurred when I forced myself for 8 months without wacking-off. or in my case climbing poles to get the effect. I now believe healthy masturbation allows loving relationships to develop organically. This is the really short version; but the long version is even 10 or 20 pages. But needs to be told to put things in context.

  6. Old Dog July 5, 2021 at 9:30 pm - Reply

    It goes without saying that truth matters, especially in a church that has consistently claimed since its inception to be the one, true church on the face of the earth. No amount of evidence will dissuade those who want to believe, and no amount of obfuscation will persuade those who can see through the misdirection, distraction, and half truths of apologetics.

  7. Charlie July 5, 2021 at 10:12 pm - Reply

    James has a valid point here. I too feel that MS is becoming all anti-Mormon of late.

    Then, as Givens noted, those questions don’t matter at all.

    If Joseph was this or that, an adulterer or a criminal, or a treasure digger or gold digger, it doesn’t matter!

    In the church and the gospel, it’s all about the Spirit, the whole Spirit and nothing but the Spirit. Our relationship with the divine is via the Spirit to God the Father and Jesus. Joseph was just some editor or publicist who put some writings together, but if he wrote it all while at home after a treasure digging session or in jail accused of treason? it doesn’t matter. That is why progressive Mormons aren’t listening to you much these days John Dehlin.

    • Robert Hodge July 6, 2021 at 2:40 pm - Reply

      Often when Juries consider the credibility of a witness the court will give them an this instruction before they deliberate. In Latin- “falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus”. If you are not up on your latin, the phrase means false in one thing false in everything. Such matter sir, unless you have an infallible connection to a perfect understanding. And if you think you have that, I am truly sorry for you. Do you have any idea how many christian religion teach the same notion of the spirit? You think you are special… don’t you, don’t you?

      • Fatfinger July 6, 2021 at 4:29 pm - Reply

        Actually, I think ol’ Chuck’s comment may have been a joke.

        I suspect that about 99.999% of all progressive Mormons would say whether or not Smith was an adulterer, criminal, treasure digger, gold digger not only matters, but like that missionary’s sincere question and cry for help, it matters immensely!!!

        Or should we believe what all liars, adulterers and money diggers say if they told if we close our eyes and count to twee we might get a warm fuzzy when they say it?

        • Charlie July 7, 2021 at 7:01 am - Reply

          I consider myself to be a “progressive Mormon”. I’ve been listening to John Dehlin since the days he only had a list of some 11 podcasts in a basic webpage (or was it a blog?, can’t remember now, it’s been so long). I also enjoy Bill Reel/RFM’s podcast now and then. And FMH. These issues interest me. But what all those podcasters/communicators of anti-Mormon topics are missing is that HG part and the part it plays in a progressive Mormons testimony or belief system. Sure, some progressives have lost that holy ghost or don’t remember it today. But belief is all about the HG and what it tells you, what he speaks to your heart, deep down where no one else can reach. So then an adulterer or a prisoner doing life or even pres Nelson can come and speak to me, but if the HG isn’t there testifying that what they say is true…..well then it is not. And conversely, if that influence of the HG is there when they speak, well then I take it to be true. As before, it’s all about the HG and what it testifies to us. Without it, at best, we have a history lecture or philosophical discussion.

      • Charlie July 7, 2021 at 6:48 am - Reply

        Infallible is what comes from God via the Holy Ghost. So yes, we could argue that we have an infallible connection to a perfect understanding, (ie in God) which is what the Holy Ghost blesses people with. Joseph Smith doesn’t play a part in that anymore. Well, actually he never did. He only wrote the visions he saw and the impressions he felt. It’s up to each of us to work out if they are true or not -via the holy ghost. And if they came from God, also via the holy ghost. So, again, the Holy Ghost is the important part here and we’d do well to find him, for today and all eternity.

        Again, if JS was a treasure digger, it doesn’t matter. If he was an adulterer, it doesn’t matter today, …Actually, I stand corrected, it matters to JS and JS only since he would have to pay for that sin just like King David had to. But I doubt he was an adulterer, it doesn’t add up overall. Same with treason, seeing they broke IN to the jail to kill him. They just wanted him dead. And they all got away with murder!

        And yes, most Christian religions will teach about the holy ghost, it is in the new testament. Jesus left to heaven and in his place, the holy ghost stayed with us.

        (by the way, the church and religion, in general, is not a court of law where “falus in uno” can be used, since it’s all about the spirit, the whole spirit and nothing but the spirit -so help us God )

        • Robert Hodge July 8, 2021 at 7:42 am - Reply

          You really have a perverted view of credibility. “It doesn’t matter that Smith committed adultery, or was a deceiver”, (or ordered the murder of a Governor). Of course it matters. When evaluating Smith’s truth claims, historical facts certainly matter. You are just side stepping the issue by making the assertion (unprovable) that the Holy Ghost and time passing makes all that irrelevant . This is a defense of the willfully ignorant. Your spiritual defense is just vaper gone with the wind.

          • Charlie July 8, 2021 at 10:18 am

            Willfully ignorant, Nice!

            Spiritual defense is all there is in the long run. I hope one day you will realize this , before it’s too late.

  8. VFanRJ July 5, 2021 at 10:47 pm - Reply

    This year, more than ever, you’ve really honed your talking points about the moral obligation the Church has to stop hiding information from its members:
    – Informed consent:for as long as I can remember the Q15 has been laser focused on getting the youth entrenched in the faithful path of going on a mission, temple marriage, having children. Their focus on this strategy of creating lifelong Mormons has blinded them to the moral implications of requesting such deep and life defining commitments based on partial information. This discussion segues into the concrete talking points of…
    – Unethical persuasion: Currently, Church apologists feel that the end justifies the means. Look at the countless Mormons who feel lied to, who experience conflict and divorce over disjointed belief systems, who fee defrauded of substantial time and money donated.

    Such a worthy project.

  9. Tom Knudsen July 6, 2021 at 1:11 am - Reply

    People like Terryl keep preaching that faith is a choice. I get so frustrated with this statement. As a 64 year old who has been taught from my youth that JS was a prophet and that we have been lead by a prophet ever since his death, this is offensive. When I left for my full time missionary in 1978, I believed that Jesus himself lead this church. Spenser Kimball told me that it was my responsibility to serve a mission by direct commandment from God. Don’t now tell me that Faith is a choice, as if all the issue with Mormon history can just be sweep under the rug. I taught lessons to investigators that were not based in truth. If I still had my color coded lessons I would revise them with truth, just to go back to many converts to see if they would still have joined the church?

  10. Thomas Knudsen July 6, 2021 at 1:12 am - Reply

    People like Terryl keep preaching that faith is a choice. I get so frustrated with this statement. As a 64 year old who has been taught from my youth that JS was a prophet and that we have been lead by a prophet ever since his death, this is offensive. When I left for my full time missionary in 1978, I believed that Jesus himself lead this church. Spenser Kimball told me that it was my responsibility to serve a mission by direct commandment from God. Don’t now tell me that Faith is a choice, as if all the issue with Mormon history can just be sweep under the rug. I taught lessons to investigators that were not based in truth. If I still had my color coded lessons I would revise them with truth, just to go back to many converts to see if they would still have joined the church?

  11. GaryC July 6, 2021 at 2:25 am - Reply

    Hey John!

    Seriously expecting the Mormon Church to disclose the “inconvenient truths” about Joseph Smith’s shocking behaviors to prospective members (b.i.c. 8-year-olds and adult investigators) is patently absurd for two reasons:

    1. 8-year-olds are way too young to understand … let alone meaningfully process … this subject matter. In fact, it would be abusive to expose children to most of this information. Mormon kids are taught a whitewashed cartoon version of Church history … and their idyllic, imaginary future growing up LDS and living happily ever after. At age 8, they are … in reality … joining a cartoon Church that does not actually exist as depicted in the cartoon story downloaded into kid brains from birth.

    2. If prospective adult investigators were given full disclosure of what The Brethren do not want them to hear (for obvious reasons), virtually NOBODY who is not mentally ill would EVER agree to be baptized and become a Mormon.

    John, your statement saying it’s fine with you if someone STILL wants to join the Church … AFTER full disclosure … hits me as quite disingenuous. The only people who would voluntarily join such a morally bankrupt organization would be doing so for some ulterior reason … like, for example, to marry someone who will otherwise dump them if they don’t convert, etc.

    Your invitation to Terryl Givens to be interviewed again on Mormon Stories … AFTER your thorough evisceration of the long list of Truth Claim Fails … naming them in detail … one-by-one … comes across as an intelligence test for Brother Givens. On the other hand, you demonstrated with Jim Bennet (MS#1377) that you are indeed capable of a mutually respectful and civilized conversation with a faithful TBM … so if Brother Givens is feeling brave, courageous and bold, he could accept your invitation and put his apologetic muscles to the test. I doubt he wants that level of challenge, particularly when he has to know on some level that Richard Bushman spoke the truth … that the correlated narrative is on thin ice … on account of its foundation of falsehoods.

    Kudos for embracing TikTok with Cara’s guidance! I’m following your installments … checking in often for new content.

    I am a stalwart MS donor, and I encourage others reading this to step up and chip in a few bucks a month. It would be a tragedy to lose John Dehlin’s massive ongoing contribution to the Plan of Eternal Progression … including the highest and best path forward … to escape the real, here and now Spirit Prison before you die.

  12. D. Michael Martindale July 6, 2021 at 3:48 am - Reply

    Why are you forcing us to have to register with TikTok to engage with you? Many of us have serious security issues with that service. That’s a deal breaker for me to contribute to your projects.

  13. Philip McLemore July 6, 2021 at 7:38 am - Reply

    John, I agree with your approach. Truth matters. There is obviously an attempt here to smear you with the anti-Mormon label as if you have gone “too far” and can now be disregarded. It is not your fault that the deeper one searches for truth in Mormonism, one finds a bigger and nastier mess of problems. Press on.

  14. Randy Brown July 6, 2021 at 8:02 am - Reply

    Keep up the good work, John. Many of us are silenced trying to maintain healthy relationships. We need you. The truth does matter.

  15. frankbefrank July 6, 2021 at 10:58 am - Reply

    I believe a legitimate response to Terryl might be, “why does it not matter, Terry”? Could it be that like Hugh Nibley, you know who butter’s your bread? I was told by a former BYU professor, a friend of mine, that Hugh told him the church was not what it claimed to be, but that he knew who buttered his bread. Is that the case with you Terryl. Perhaps a better legacy would be that of Sterling McMurrin who left his church employment rather than compromise his integrity. That is also what my referenced friend did, sought employment elsewhere rather than continue the farce! I admire him greatly for that decision!

  16. Bill McClymonds July 6, 2021 at 5:25 pm - Reply

    Yes, Joseph Smith was a polygamist and practiced polyandry . . . but why was he so successful at the practices? What allowed him to manipulate relationships with all those women and the husbands of the already married women and the parents of young girls?

    In my opinion, the most basic and sinister deception of Joseph Smith was his significant misrepresentation of the God and Jesus of the Bible. That allowed him to establish a new religious system within which he could manipulate female relationships. His fabricated God and Jesus allowed him the freedom to establish a new understanding of heaven, which included ways to enter into exaltation in the celestial kingdom. The resultant promise of families forever and other celestial blessings seems to me to be the tool he used to coerce many women into relationships with him.

    If my understanding is correct, I think it would be extremely important for a young woman to understand more about Joseph Smith and the way he used the system to manipulate women. I agree with John Dehlin that the comment of Terryl Givens was dismissive of a legitimate question that demands real answers. So, why does the answer to the question about Joseph Smith matter? The answer is that it does not matter . . . unless the person asking the question values the truth. In that case, it matters a lot.

    The lies about and misrepresentation of God and Jesus started at the beginning . . . with the First Vision. I wrote more about the subject when I commented on the Mormon Stories Podcast interview of Jana Spangler. I will link the interview so anyone interested can read my comment in the comment section of that interview.

  17. Walt July 6, 2021 at 6:09 pm - Reply

    I think this and the Bushman podcast are missing the point of what they are trying to do. Based on what I have read from the Givenses and Bushman, I think the point is NOT to pretend that Joseph Smith didn’t do all of the things listed here (although there certainly is room for healthy historical debate on some of these issues). But rather to suggest that we have constructed a set of cultural assumptions about what a prophet is and is not that we then use to judge JS. (Much of this is a product of whitewashed church history that individuals such as Bushman have worked to correct.) I don’t personally see them as trying to gaslight or deceive, but instead see them as suggesting that faith doesn’t have to be abandoned in the pursuit of historical accuracy. We can use history to inform our assessment of JS (and other church leaders), but deciding whether or not he is a prophet is a theological question more than a historical one. By this logic, a lot of it comes down to how we think a prophet should or shouldn’t act, and recognizing our own biases and assumptions about what constitutes a “prophet” is, I think, at the heart of Givens’ response to the young missionary. (We don’t have the full context, so I could be wrong.) This isn’t to say I completely agree with Givens, but I think his point still has some value — especially when it comes to reconstructing a Mormon theology for the twenty-first century.

    • Kevin July 6, 2021 at 9:24 pm - Reply

      Well, yes, if you think a prophet can be a lying, cheating, scoundrel, in any cultural or historical context, go right ahead and believe that God choose him to be the prophet of the restoration and the greatest second only to Christ. I’ll pass.

      • Walt July 7, 2021 at 1:11 am - Reply

        I actually don’t disagree with you, Kevin, but my point was to suggest that they are talking past each other. I don’t see this as leading to much dialogue because both sides are engaging with the issues in different ways. I think Givens and others such as Bushman and Mason can still see JS as a theological genius despite these numerous issues. And I don’t think this is an irrational conclusion, even though many of us view it differently. I just feel like this wasn’t a very sincere attempt at trying to understand what Givens really meant, leading to a lot of mischaracterizations that don’t represent his larger body of work. I hope that Terryl and Fiona come on MS again, but worry that segments such as this will further prevent that from happening.

        • Bill McClymonds July 7, 2021 at 8:38 am - Reply

          I understand your concerns, Walt. They are legitimate concerns. My question for you would be the following. Do you think the real “theological genius” of Joseph Smith was in establishing a theological system in which people could worship God or do you think his real genius was more along the lines of establishing a religious system in which he could take advantage of women? Some would call that an evil or criminal genius. His system seemed to provide him with a significant number of female companions. Whether that was his plan from the beginning or just something that developed along the way is not clear to me but the end result was the same.

          If you read my prior comment, you will have a better understanding of why I am asking the question. If your answer is that Joseph was more interested in women than religion, do you think Terryl Givens and others in the Church who study these matters should also be aware of the situation? It seems to me that the conundrum apologists face is that if they reveal the entire truth about the matter, there is a significant likelihood any woman inquiring about the matter will be devastated by the answers she receives. That, in turn, might influence her decision to leave the Church.

          As always, I try to write with gentleness and respect. I think you have made some good points. I am not disagreeing with you, only asking questions.

          • Walt July 8, 2021 at 9:44 pm

            Thanks for the respectful response, Bill. To clarify, I wasn’t saying that I think JS was a theological genius, but that this tends to be the position of individuals such as Givens. I’m not a scholar of early Mormonism but i think it is probably fair to say that while we know a lot about JS and the early church, we are also missing a lot of data points that prevent us from reconstructing a 100% objective portrait of JS. All history relies on both historical sources (which reflect the biases of the authors of said sources) combined with the subjective interpretation of the biographer or historian. This leaves a lot of room for disagreement among even the most intelligent and honest of scholars. Givens and Bushman see JS differently than John, but that doesn’t invalidate their work or mean that they aren’t willing to tell the “truth.” It just means that their interpretation of the data is different. I think it is also possible to use that data to construct a nuanced view of JS as someone who created a religious tradition that is at different times outstanding and horrific. My guess is that this is how Givens and Bushman see things.

            I obviously think members need to learn everything they can about church history. At the same time, the reasons why members choose to stay engaged after learning the history varies considerably. Does learning about JS mean that someone has to abandon their faith or involvement in the church? Perhaps another way of reading Givens response is to say that the answers to any given question are as important as what we choose to do with those answers. Informed consent is really important. So is recognizing that not everyone who stays in the church does so out of some romanticized view of church history — or ignorance of said history.

            So I guess my point is to say that I think it is unfair to critique Givens and Bushman for 1) not seeing JS in the same way that we do, and 2) expecting them to criticize JS and the church in the same way and with the same tone as Mormon Stories. Bushman, Givens, and Mason are doing a ton to help transform Mormon theology and the church. My fear is that episodes such as this will only drive a deeper wedge between both those in and out of the church that are striving for change. We need more dialogue and collaboration. We need Mormon Stories alongside individuals such as Givens working within the church. What we don’t not (in my opinion) are these kinds of quasi ad hominem attacks that impede progress. I would love to hear your thoughts!

    • NED WINFIELD SCARISBRICK July 6, 2021 at 10:45 pm - Reply

      Well said. I think that you, James and I are on the same page concerning this matter. We DON’T know what were the details of this conversation that Givens had with this sister missionary and he was ‘possibly’ trying to get to the heart of the matter in her concerns. Along with James it seems to me that Dr. John is moving in almost always a negative direction with Mormon Stories. Definitely not fair and balanced. It is his program and can do as he sees fit. This is one of the freedoms that the United States of America offers to it’s citizens. We are not forced to agree with or listen / watch his productions. What I would like to see and would recommend is to put forth a plain agenda that defines the programs focus. A predetermined message would help those who might be interested in a positive back and forth dialogue determine if the show is for them or not. 97.68% negative is not conducive to open discussions.

  18. Farlocarlo July 7, 2021 at 2:42 pm - Reply

    “ The stream of truth flows through its channels of mistakes”

    JD, I appreciate what you are doing, there are so many people who are strengthened and made better on both sides of this paradigm from someone like you and someone like Terryl Givens. I would think that your audience here is very comfortable with your stump speech on Joseph Smith infallibility, like a warm blanket or your favorite comfort food, just can’t resist wrapping up in it once you get it going. The lack of context is a big problem, maybe you don’t see it that way and perhaps that is just as big a problem. Calling Terryl the most visible paid apologist in the church is pretty interesting coming from you. The label is perfectly appropriate if we wanna use it that way, can we turn your lens back on itself or is that an irrelevant question?

  19. Bill McClymonds July 9, 2021 at 8:14 am - Reply

    This comment is a reply to the comment Walt made on July 8, 2021 at 9:44 PM. Since there was not an option for a reply to that comment, I will paste my reply here.

    Thanks for the response Walt and for the tone of your comment. It is written in the manner of a person who is a peacemaker. I admire the type of response you gave. People like you have considerable value in discussions about matters relating to the difficulties many people see with the Latter-day Saint Church. As I understand your comments, you are trying to provide a voice of reason that comes from a position of love and concern for others.

    If you read my prior comment and followed the link I gave, you know I am a mainstream Christian. For that reason, I probably know far less about Mr. Givens than you do. I do not know where he is coming from when he makes a statement or writes an article or comment. Personally, I would have a great deal of difficulty not concluding that Joseph Smith was a scoundrel of the first degree based on what is known of him from history. Assuming Terryl Givens has at least as much information about Joseph Smith as I have, it is difficult for me to think that he would not have reached the same conclusions I have reached.

    The word church is used quite a bit when referring to the Latter-day Saint organization. It is kind of a nebulous word. The real power behind the word church is people. Terryl Givens is one of the people who is a voice of the “Church”. He is a real flesh and blood person who represents the organization. For that reason, I think he should represent Church history fully and accurately. My difficulty is that I hear from others who have been in the Church that they feel significantly betrayed when they discover the true history of the church.

    So, the question becomes the following. Is Mr. Givens doing everything in his power to honestly and fully answer all questions posed to him by other members of the Church . . . or . . . is he intentionally holding back information in order to protect the organization from legitimate criticism and the resultant membership loss? You would be a better person to answer that question than I would be. I am concerned that the problem with the Church runs very deep. To me, the Church seems to have been built on a foundation of sand rather than rock. Once the foundational truth is fully revealed to many people who had been active members, the faith that had been built on that foundation collapses.

    I don’t know where you stand at the present time, Walt. I don’t know if you are still in the Church or now out of it. What I do know is that the faith transition journey is, in the words of John Dehlin, a brutal experience. You have my sympathy for whatever you have experienced and will experience during your personal journey. As a mainstream Christian, I have encouraged and will continue to encourage you and any others to follow the true Jesus as revealed in the Bible alone. The tone of your comments seems to already reflect that tendency. Thank you once again.

    • Fatfinger July 9, 2021 at 1:25 pm - Reply

      While I am not very good at it myself, I too can appreciate the calmer tone of some of these comments. So my thanks to all that taking that approach.

      What I do not understand about the James’ and Walt’s and other believers/nuanced believers is how and why they feel the need to continue trying to rebuild the dyke when that is such a common traditional role in religious history.

      What I mean by that is, sure, if you really want you can find ways to excuse Joseph Smith for his foibles (or sins or crimes, or whatever) and claim that God could still work thru such a vessel. But if you actually want to be honest, you then have to make the same claim for pretty much any and every other “prophet” or religious leader out there, past or present. Your excusing or understanding of Smith’s doings or any of the other problematic areas of Mormon history is no different from Jehovah’s Witness or Seventh Day Adventist doing the same for their leadership. So your church (JW) said that Jesus would return on multiple different dates, and it never happened? No worries, you just announce that he really did arrive on that last date, but just in spirit . So it’s all good. Voila, you’re a progressive Witness! Your church’s past is messy and entirely inconsistent with it’s claims and it’s supposed role in the world, but hey, you found a way to excuse it and make it all okay. And not only that, but you felt good about the conclusion you reached, so clearly the HG was there to confirm the truth of it to you!

      Versions of that scenario can take place for nearly all religions in all times and in all places. If you feel the need to believe a certain way, you can make it work, and again, if it feels right, say the HG was there to confirm it. Just like a JW can do that with their church history, a Catholic can do the same with former pope issues, and on and on it goes for one sect or theology after another. The problem I see with that (besides the obvious “anything can be true if you want it to”) for Mormonism is that Mormonism makes some of the most profound and specific truth claims, many of which are the most profoundly falsifiable of any ever put forward. I mean, if it takes a world of excusing and rationalization to uphold the Book of Abraham and Book of Mormon as the word of God as claimed, why do it? Why not put those issues together with the other mass of problems with Mormon truth claims and just accept the very uncomfortable and unfortunate, but very obvious answer to the problem? In other words, why not put on your big kid pants and just deal with the inescapable reality that stares you in the face? If you need to rationalize, excuse, and nuance so you can keep faith in God’s one true church, is it really God’s one true church? Or is God the source of all truth and light, yet somehow a deceiver at the same time, whose church can only be “true” if truth itself is redefined as, well, not necessarily “truth” truth, but whatever we want truth to be? If that’s what you have to do to make it work, guess what, your religion is no different from any other. They can all do that.

      • Walt July 10, 2021 at 12:16 am - Reply

        A couple of quick thoughts and clarifications.

        I think it is unfair for John to call into question Givens’ intellect and integrity by implying that Givens doesn’t care about truth. I agree that the story Givens tells doesn’t look good, but to use this (unfortunate) exchange to characterize his scholarship and integrity is, I feel, disingenuous and unfair. (Am I repeating myself? I think I’m repeating myself.)

        But more to your comment, I’m not that interested in “rebuilding the dyke.” I’m not interested in dogma and neither are a lot of other millennials that I have interacted with both in Utah and in other parts of the US. I’m not interested in fundamentalist approaches to viewing Mormon history and theology. Heck, I don’t need JS to be a prophet to find deep meaning and purpose in my involvement with the church. I recognize that this isn’t the orthodox position of the LDS church, but I think it increasingly characterizes how a lot of the younger generation thinks and how they approach their relationship with religion.

        I probably come across as overly defensive because I still feel deeply connected to a lot of the great aspects of Mormon culture and theology. I agree that there are a lot of terrible parts of our culture that need to be gutted (racism, homophobia, sexism, …). I think cultural changes are trending in the right direction — although it obviously isn’t moving quickly enough. For many, leaving is still the best decision. But I’m not convinced that the solution is to burn the whole thing to the ground. I personally hope that doesn’t happen.

        I don’t see the LDS church falling apart anytime soon. And while it is still here, I hope it becomes a healthier space for everyone. Mormon theology has been constantly evolving since JS and will continue to evolve. I applaud the progress that has been made and I think individuals such as Givens and Bushman and Mason are doing a ton in this regard. For example, Bushman has done a lot to promote greater transparency with our history. The Givenses have provided subtle but strong criticisms of our views of Jesus, sin, salvation, and the atonement. They have critiqued our culture of shame and guilt and instead proposed a theology centered on love and mercy. And Mason has most recently argued that we need to move away from the notion of the one and only true church, instead embracing the idea of particularism rather than exceptionalism. While I don’t agree with everything they say, I think their work is helping the church move in a healthier direction.

        And for the record, I’m not opposed to a lot of negativity and criticism, so long as it is pointed in the right direction. And in my mind, this and the Bushman episode raise a ton of important issues and questions that are aimed at the wrong individuals.

        • Bill McClymonds July 11, 2021 at 6:07 am - Reply

          Walt and Fatfinger,

          Thanks to both of you gentlemen for keeping the conversation friendly during this discussion. Obviously the two of you have very different perspectives. Like Walt, I am going to repeat myself to a certain degree. Even though I can see all of the problems with the Church that Fatfinger has pointed out, I also appreciate the point Walt is making about the changes the Church is making as it goes forward. One of the biggest changes that seems to be occurring is a move away from an emphasis on Joseph Smith and toward Jesus instead. While that seems to be progress, the doctrine of exaltation and the possibility of becoming gods remains.

          The link I gave in my first comment in the comment section of this podcast explains in greater detail why I think the doctrine of men becoming gods is so foundationally incorrect. It is part of the reason I wrote that the foundation of the Church is a sandy one. It was originally built on the teachings of Joseph Smith instead of the rock foundation of Jesus Christ. That is why I do not think it will stand up to the test of time in the same way that the worldwide Christian church of mainstream believers has done.

          This paragraph is for Walt. I want to write it gently but with concern. If you are a person who thinks you will become exalted as a god someday and be worshiped by others, I think you will be in real danger when you face God on the day of judgment. It is my personal opinion that he will not see that position favorably. If, on the other hand, you are now trying to follow Jesus alone without aspirations to become a god, why not just join a Bible believing mainstream Christian congregation or simply sincerely repent of your sin, accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior, read the Bible, worship God in nature and pray as you are led by the Holy Spirit. In addition, start giving your tithing money to an organization that will use that money wisely to help others in need instead of giving it to a hoarding organization.

          The following two paragraphs are for Fatfinger. Based on what you wrote, it seems that you have little love for organized religion. After watching numerous Mormon Stories Podcasts, I understand and empathize with your perspective. I have written previously in comments on other podcasts that I probably would hold that same perspective myself if I had been an active believing member of the church and felt betrayed when I fully learned about all the problems you mentioned.

          On the other hand, I have a strong interest in neuroscience. I am not a neuroscientist but I have studied the brain at the cellular level. I am convinced by what I have learned that the complexity of the brain at the cellular level demands an intelligence of some kind. It is my personal opinion that the intelligence responsible for the function of every neuron in your brain is God. Researchers studying the protein-protein interactions within yeast cells estimated that all the possible or potential protein-protein interactions in a single yeast cell of the type they were studying was ten to the power of seventy nine billion (10^79,000,000,000). If you know anything about exponential numbers, you will understand that the number is unimaginably large. Since researchers have estimated that average neurons have about 49,950,000,000 more proteins than average yeast cells, you can easily understand that there is unbelievably complexity within just the protein-protein interactions alone within each neuron in your brain. When you add in all the other inter and intra cellular molecular and neurochemical interactions within the brain, the human mind cannot comprehend that complexity.

          For both Walt and Fatfinger, I would like to suggest a book by Michael Kruger. Dr. Kruger is now a New Testament scholar. As a freshman in college, his faith was significantly challenged by a professor he had for a religion class. The name of his professor was Bart Ehrman. Bart is now well known for his very liberal interpretation of the Bible. Since Dr. Kruger recently had a daughter entering college, he wanted her to be better prepared for the questions about religion that she might have while she was in college. The book is written in a loving manner as letters from a father to a daughter. The name of the book is Surviving Religion 101. It is a very easy to read book that addresses the majority of issues that have been raised by many guests and others who comment on the Mormon Stories Podcasts.

          Thanks to both Walt and Fatfinger for the cordial conversation. We three have very different perspectives but I think it is good that we can discuss these important issues with a softer tone. I do wish each of you the very best as you continue your journey on a life path that sometimes doesn’t have all the answers. In spite of that, we each have to face hardships and make decisions as we travel. Sometimes facing those hardships and making those decisions is not easy. Personally, I prefer to travel the journey of life with the God and Jesus revealed in the Bible alone. It is what makes the most sense to me.

          • Fatfinger July 11, 2021 at 9:21 pm

            Thanks Bill.

            I appreciate your comments and perspective.

Leave A Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.