1522-1523: Surviving Purity Culture at BYU-Idaho – Chandler Roberson

Chandler Roberson was raised as a devout Mormon, and always wanted to be the best Mormon she could be. In her teenage years, Chandler had a few abusive relationships with Mormon boys, where she felt forced to “repent” for “sins” she never committed. Her senior year, Chandler felt pressured to break up with a non-LDS boy whom she genuinely loved, to attend BYU-Idaho and follow the ideal Mormon path.

While at BYU-Idaho, Chandler was sexually assaulted by her Family Home Evening “brother,” which led to her leaving school early, ultimately attempting to serve an LDS mission with untreated PTSD and returning home early.

Chandler eventually became a nationally-known fashion blogger at “Days of Chandler.” Later, she  attempted two LDS temple marriages, both of which ended in divorce. In her view, she was too young for marriage, but felt intense pressure from LDS Church members to marry young.

We are super grateful to have Samantha Shelley of Zelph on the Shelf to co-host this interview with John Dehlin.

Show Notes:

Part 1: 

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Part 2: 

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  1. I’m writing this comment as an open letter to Chandler. I’m not sure she will even see it on this website because younger people tend to like other sites better. If there is someone reading who can either send it to her or make her aware that it is on this site, I would appreciate it.

    First, I would like to write that you seem like a really nice, intelligent young woman. My daughters are a little older than you but they are both still relatively young women. I have related elsewhere on this site that my youngest daughter choose an atheist path for a time in her late teens and early twenties. I’m going to try to write this comment with the same gentle tone that I would have used if I was writing to her while she had an atheist worldview.

    The best summation of your present feelings about God seemed to come at about the 2:19:35 time stamp of episode 1523 . . . about the dark side. I wrote down what you said at that point and will write it again in the following sentences. “To me, the idea of God is monstrous. I mean, a God who makes hell and then makes people who don’t do perfectly in life go to hell . . . nonbelievers, or sinners, or whatever. The idea of God is just crazy to me now. It just doesn’t work for me”.

    You also mentioned that God had been silent for years and had left you alone time and time again. My question for you follows. If you were praying to a god who was imagined by Joseph Smith and not the real God of the universe, would you expect the real God of the universe to answer any of your prayers? I know the God of the universe could have answered you, but wouldn’t that have simply strengthened your belief in a false god if the God taught by Joseph Smith wasn’t true?

    As a mainstream Christian, I don’t think the god or Jesus of the Latter-day Saint Church represent the God and Jesus of the Bible. I wrote about that in about the sixth comment down of the Jana Spangler interview (https://www.mormonstories.org/podcast/contemplative-mormonism-jana-spangler/). If you read that comment, you will understand my concerns about the God and Jesus of the Latter-day Saint Church.

    Based on what you said, at this point you are left with a belief that no God exists. I addressed that belief and the belief that it is unlikely God exists in the comment section of a recent Mormon Stories week long Podcast series. The podcast series was about street epistemology (https://www.mormonstories.org/podcast/street-epistemology-and-mormonism/ ). My first comment (about the sixth one down) provides some questions to consider if you hold a worldview that no God exists. If you continue scrolling down, you will find several more comments I made during the week long discussion.

    As you read my comments, consider reflecting on what love is if there is no God. As you move forward, do you want a man to really love you, or do you want a man who is merely “dancing to his DNA”? I think you want real love. I think you deserve real love. I just don’t think you can get it with any worldview that excludes God.

    In addition, even if you don’t have a science background, the comment I made about neurons in the brain should be easy to understand and give you a tiny glimpse into the complexity of your brain. It is a complexity far beyond what the human mind can grasp. I don’t know how much you know about exponential numbers, but the comment I made about the complexity of the brain included numbers that almost certainly suggest some intelligence, that is far beyond human intelligence . . . was and is responsible for the complexity of the human brain.

    One of the main points I was trying to make with the comments on the street epistemology series is that we all need a source of foundational intelligence . . . regardless of our worldview. I based that not just on philosophy, but also on science. As I wrote, I think the God of the mainstream Christian Bible is the best choice as the source of needed foundational and continuing intelligence.

    It is obvious, you are a very intelligent person. If you believe God is not responsible for your brain, your mind and your intelligence, you need some other reasonable explanation for your mental capabilities. If you have other possibilities for your foundational intelligence that you think are reasonable, I would be very interested in knowing about them.

    In regard to the mind, that is something I didn’t address in my comments on street epistemology . If no God exists, the logical implication is that we are mindless. Only the approximately three pound hunk of meat we call the brain exists. In my opinion, a person who thinks she or he has a mind cannot logically hold a belief that no God exists. A purely naturalistic/atheistic/materialistic worldview eliminates mind.

    I would also like to address your concerns about God and hell. As I understand the Bible, God doesn’t make anyone go to hell. According to Romans 3:23, all of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. God has extended us grace through the person of Jesus. He didn’t die on the cross to merely provide us resurrection from the dead. His death on the cross provided everything we need to spend an eternity with God and Jesus in the one and only highest heaven.

    The mainstream Christian gospel is much simpler than the Latter-day Saint gospel. It is as simple as repenting of, or turning from, our sins and putting our full trust in the finished work of Jesus, on the cross, for our salvation. The evidence we have been saved is that we will then spend the rest of our life trusting God and Jesus for our salvation. Part of that trust will be understanding that we need to do the best we can to follow the teachings of Jesus until the day we die and go to be with Him in heaven.

    There are plenty of good works to be done after a person receives salvation through Jesus, but none of them will ever earn an individual that salvation. The good works are a demonstration of the person’s love for Him because of what He has done for her or him. Part of that includes removing the necessity of having a mediator between the individual and God.

    A bishop isn’t needed and neither is a temple. Jesus Himself is our pathway to communication with God . . . including our confession of sin . . . through the power of the Holy Spirit. We don’t have to live with or worry about unconfessed sin. We can go directly to Jesus whenever we have the need to confess. He is the only one who can truly forgive our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

    For mainstream Christians, a relationship with God and Jesus is much more important than any religious organization. Believers do meet together and enjoy fellowship with other believers, but it is not what gets them saved. That happens solely through having a sincere, trusting relationship with God and Jesus.

    Your interview revealed how difficult things have been for you, Chandler. Brutal and soul crushing are terms I have commonly heard from those who have experienced a Mormon faith crisis. From what others have said, the amount of pain and deep sadness related to the experience cannot be adequately described in words. . I am very sorry you had to experience a faith crisis and the other difficulties in your life. Thanks for your courage in sharing your story with others.

    It takes time to work through everything you have experienced. It is my hope that you will someday find peace, comfort and love through a relationship with the Jesus and God of the mainstream Christian faith. I know you are not ready for anything that has to do with organized religion right now, but that is not what I am suggesting. My suggestion is for a relationship, not a religion.

    If you ever feel led to consider that possibility, try starting with a good, easy to read, version of the Bible. I have suggested elsewhere that biblehub.com is a good place to find multiple versions of the Bible to compare and evaluate for the type of reading style you prefer. The NIV, New KJV and NASB are based on more recent findings than the original KJV and are, in my opinion, much easier to read.

    Wishing you all the best in life.

    Bill McClymonds

    1. Bill- I always find these discussions interesting. Of course you are passionate about YOUR god. Of course you see lots of evidence for YOUR god. Are you just as passionate about Ginesh? Thor? Allah? Ra? A billion Muslims in the world would disagree with your analysis. You and I are almost as atheist as each other–You don’t believe in 9,999 of the deities that have been worshiped by humanity over the course of human history. I don’t believe in 10,000.

      We are hunks of meat and are destined to become worm food. I find that extraordinarily comforting. Much more comforting than the beliefs I had for the 50 years I was a hard-core church goer. Sh** happens. I don’t need to try to figure out why a “Loving” creator would kill a young wife and mother with cancer. THIS life is a wonderful thing–enjoy it–And look forward to the peaceful oblivion that awaits us all!

      1. Thanks for the reply, Bill. You are right. I am passionate about what I believe. On the other hand, I think I have reasonably good cause to think what I believe is true. I am curious. Did you read all my comments on the street epistemology discussion (https://www.mormonstories.org/podcast/street-epistemology-and-mormonism/)?

        If you read those comments, you will understand that we wouldn’t be having this conversation if I had been convinced what you believe is true. I would be worm food. I would have committed suicide years ago.

        We have differing opinions. I have no problem with that. As I mentioned, I would probably hold the same view you do if I has been a longtime believer in Mormonism and then found it wasn’t true. Something I really appreciate about what you wrote is that you are consistent in your worldview. If what you believe is correct, your conclusions are logical and rational.

        As far as all the different gods are concerned, it really comes down to the resurrection of Jesus. If Jesus really did rise from the grave, it is a no brainer to put ones faith in Him. It also eliminates all the other gods and religious beliefs you mentioned. I think there is plenty of reasonable evidence for the resurrection. I have previously mentioned Mike Winger, Mike Licona, J. Warner Wallace (a former atheist cold case detective) and Gary Habermas as sources for information about the resurrection. Of course, you don’t have to believe those individuals or think they make reasonable cases for the resurrection. I, on the other hand, think the cumulative case for the resurrection is reasonable.

        In case you missed it in my comments, I am a mainstream Christian. I do not believe in the god and Jesus taught by the Latter-day Saint church. Their god and Jesus are very different from the God and Jesus of mainstream Christianity. I linked why I think they are so different in my comment to Chandler.

        The other point I tried to make through comments on the street epistemology podcast had to do with foundational intelligence. I have difficulty understanding how the intelligence of the human brain originates if you take a naturalistic (atheistic) perspective. If you have any appreciation of exponential numbers, you will understand my comment about the protein-protein interactions in a neuron that are occurring in every neuron in your brain as you read this sentence. The atheist, or naturalistic, worldview offers no reasonable mechanism or explanation for how the correct protein-protein interactions could occur given the sea of potentially incorrect interactions. The combinatorial space is immense and the interactions are occurring in milliseconds.

        In addressing your concern about God killing a young wife and mother with cancer, I think I understand your concerns pretty well. My wife died of cancer five years ago. There are tears in my eyes as I write this reply. I loved her very much. Our children are older but my wife was strong and healthy three days before the cancer hit. She died within two months of being diagnosed with T-cell lymphoma of the small intestine. In addition, she had significant pain during the entire time. How could a loving God let that happen???

        The wife of a close friend of mine also died of cancer about the same time my wife died. He was extremely angry with God for years. We have had numerous conversations about the difficulty of what we both experienced. I wouldn’t pretend to tell you I have all the answers to why things like cancer happen in the world. You and I both know life isn’t fair. In the next paragraph, I’ll write what makes the most sense to me. Once again, I don’t pretend to understand why all of this happens, It is just the best way I can understand why things like the loss you mentioned occur. If the young mother was a person close to you, I am very sorry for your loss.

        I’ve related this story before. It is the story of a small bird that flew to the top of Mount Everest. The bird picked up a small pebble in its beak and flew out to the ocean where it dropped the pebble. The bird then returned to the top of Everest and got a second pebble. If flew from Everest to the ocean and once again dropped the pebble in the ocean. The bird continued that task for its lifetime. When the bird died, a second bird took up the task, and when that bird died a third took over. Eventually, a long series of single birds picking up pebbles and dropping them into the ocean flattened Mound Everest into a plain.

        As I first heard the story told, all the time it took all those birds to flatten Everest was equivalent to only the first moment of eternity. As I understand the Bible, we will spend an eternity with God. Life is not fair during this brief blink of time we spend on the Earth, but I think God will make everything right and we will understand His reason for allowing the things He has allowed once we are in His presence for eternity.

        Thanks once again for your comment, Bill. I do sincerely wish you all the best.

        Bill McClymonds

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