I’ve got the biggest fish in Mormon podcasting! In this first episode, we’re going to talk to Dr. John Dehlin about his dating an Oscar-winning actress, Renee Zellweger.We’ll talk about John Dehlin’s early years.
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John Dehlin is the grandfather of Mormon podcasting. That doesn’t mean he’s old! He’s just internet-old! His podcast, Mormon Stories, was one of the earliest, and the first attempt to talk about sticky Church topics. We’ll talk about his journey in and out of the Church, his dating an Oscar-winning actress in high school, his dealing with general authorities, how his approach has changed over the years, how he deals with critics, and the difference between apologists and neo-apologists. Does he want people to Stay LDS? Check out our conversation…
John Dehlin’s Oscar-Winning Girlfriend
I am really excited, I’ve got the biggest fish in Mormon podcasting on the show, Dr. John Dehlin from Mormon Stories podcast. Yes, you got it. We’re going to talk a lot about his life, dating an Oscar winning actress in high school. What was that like? We’ll also talk about Mormon Stories, how it’s changed over the years, his interactions with Daniel Peterson and Elder Jeffrey Holland. So, it’s going to be a fantastic conversation. You definitely won’t want to miss this one. Check out our conversation….
John 00:56 Hello, everyone, and welcome to another episode of Mormon Stories podcast. I am both your host and the guest for today’s episode. Here’s what I mean by that. Today we have in studio, THE man, the myth, the legend, Rick Bennett. Hey, Rick.
GT 01:11 Hey, John, how you doing?
John 01:12 Good. For those of you who don’t know Rick, Rick is the host of a really important podcast/YouTube channel called Gospel Tangents. For several years now, Rick has been interviewing what I would say mostly is members of the Mormon Studies scholarship community. He’s interviewed Richard Bushman. He’s interviewed Matt Harris, Shannon Flynn, lots of cool people. It’s a great library, a really important asset. For those who are in the know, even yesterday, in my interview with Thomas Murphy, he mentioned how important Rick Bennett’s stuff is. Steven Pynakker really loves Rick Bennett.
GT 01:52 Steve is definitely a fanboy.
John 01:53 Yeah, and we’re both mutual fans of Steven. Anyway, I’ve also known Rick for many years, kind of on the bloggernacle. He does great work. Rick has wanted to interview me for a little bit. We tried an interview several months ago. When it was done, it was during a really stressful time, where we were getting a lot of attacks. After Gerardo reviewed it, Gerardo said, “I don’t think we should release this.” So, it’s one of those bootleg unreleased interviews. Now, if I went back and watched it, maybe I wouldn’t care. But, anyway, Rick’s back. He’s willing to go one more time and try and interview me. So, Rick going to interview me for this episode. But I may ask him questions back, because Rick is an active believing Mormon. I’m always fascinated to understand how people who know more about Church history than me, in Rick’s case, still remain an active faithful member. So, I reserve the right to return some questions back to Rick. (Rick, pull your mic a little bit closer.) All right. I’ll turn the time over to Rick of Gospel Tangents for what I hope is a fun, edifying interview where I’m going to try not to get too exuberant. So, I’m going to try and be uncaffeinated John.
GT 02:10 You can be exuberant. It’s fine with me. I don’t mind.
John 03:00 Well, thanks for the honor of wanting to interview me.
GT 03:19 Well, thank you. So, John, I’m a little bit different in my style, in that I usually like to go to somebody’s academic history first, and I’m going to go there. But I’ve never met anybody that dated an Oscar winning actress. So, we’ve got to go there first. Who is this person that I’m talking about? Tell that story.
John 03:43 Okay. Well, when I was a freshman in high school at Katy High School in Katy, Texas, which is a suburb of Houston, I met Renee Zellweger at a Speech and Drama tournament. She was into speech and drama.
GT: And still is, I think.
John: Yes, she still is a little bit. She was just this bubbly blonde, vivacious, talented human. We became friends from that moment of my freshman year and we were friends all through high school. We were in the same graduating class. We did date. We used to sing Beatles songs together. We went to Galveston Beach together. We did kiss. I will kiss and tell. But that’s as far as it went. But I consider her one of my closest friends. We were so close that she made my girlfriends kind of jealous.
GT 04:40 I can imagine why.
John 04:41 She was cute and a cheerleader, and she was a basketball player. She was on track. But she wasn’t the most desired girl in the whole high school, but she was up there. But she was different from maybe some of the other more popular girls. She was really classy. She was smart, but she wasn’t like an honor student, but she was smart. But again, she wasn’t the most popular of the girls. So, I’m repeating myself. Of course, as a good Mormon boy, I wanted her to be Mormon more than anything. So, the big story that you probably want me to tell is that, I think it was my junior year, I decided to invite her to a stake dance. So, I invited her to what I remember to be the New Year’s Eve stake dance.
John 05:43 I brought her. I just wore, as I remember, khakis and a blazer and a white shirt and tie. That was my standard outfit back then, as I recall. She wore this lovely velvet black dress that just kind of went off the shoulder, and she’s petite. She wasn’t buxom or anything. So, I didn’t think anything of it. It was certainly modest by my standards, even back then. As soon as we entered the chapel, some of the female leaders just immediately kind of swooped in, pulled me aside and said, “Whoever this is, her dress isn’t modest. She’s either going to need to wear your jacket or go home and change.” And I’m huge. I’m 6’ 6” [tall] by this point. She’s like, five whatever, five and change. I was just shocked. I was just like, “Oh, no, wait a minute. You don’t understand. She’s not a member. Like we don’t want to create this first impression.” I just thought for sure, they would just like buckle and say, “Oh, okay. It’s a nonmember. No problem.” But when I said that, the leaders said, “No, the other girls will be frustrated that we have a double standard here.”
John 07:07 So, I pulled her aside, and I explained the situation and offered to let her wear my jacket. But she started crying and she asked me to take her home. So, I took her home and dropped her off. She didn’t want to do anything. She just kind of cried and went home. I remember going back to the [dance.] Weirdly, I went back to the dance. I remember just going into the chapel and lying down on one of the pews and just staring up at the ceiling just wondering what had just happened and why she was treated this way. It didn’t make me question the Church or anything because that was off limits. But it was definitely sad. We remained very close friends. I had the sense that part of her wanted to go to prom with me, but I wasn’t–I was student body president and on the basketball team, but I wasn’t popular like the football boys were.
GT 08:05 How can you be student body president and not be popular?
John 08:08 I’ll explain. It wasn’t a voted position.
GT 08:10 Oh, really?
John 08:11 So, you got chosen by the students, as I remember you got–well, you had to qualify. So, you had to have served in an office on student council to run for president. So, I had been leader of the safety committee the year before. There was no one else to run against me who had served on the committee who was a senior. So, I ran unopposed.
GT 08:39 Oh, wow.
John 08:40 That was different than class president. The class president was a close friend of mine, and he was super popular, but student body president, student council president, was different. So anyway. I don’t know.
GT 08:52 So, they didn’t vote for student body president at all? There was no vote at all?
John 08:55 It was technically student council president. There was no student body president in my high school. There was student council president and then senior class president. So, I was student council president. My friend, Chad, was the senior class president.
GT 09:11 Okay.
John 09:12 They did vote, but I ran unopposed.
GT 09:15 Okay.
John 09:15 So, anyway, I was popular-ish, but I was a Mormon kid in a Baptist town, kind of goofy. So I was not, and, by the way, football ruled Texas back then.
GT 09:25 It still does.
John 09:26 And it still does. So, yeah, being a basketball player didn’t get me up there with the football players. I was popular, but not that popular. Renee chose to go to senior prom with a football player. I went with a girl I was dating. I think maybe both of us were sad that we didn’t go together. I don’t know. I remember her seeing me dancing with my girlfriend at senior prom, and her like crying and running away from the boy she was dancing with. I never actually talked to her about why that happened. In my mind, I thought it was because she was sad that we weren’t at prom together. But that’s just my high school memory.
John 10:14 We stayed in touch. When I went on a mission, I sent her a Book of Mormon that I signed, tried to get her to join the Church. She wasn’t buying it. Then, after my mission, I got back in touch with her. She was at the University of Texas at Austin. She knew Matthew McConaughey, she said. She had been in a couple Phil Collins–I guess she’d been a couple of music videos. She told me she was going to be an actress. She invited me down to come hang out with her. Her boyfriend had just died by suicide. He was South African Jewish. That’s just what I remember, which was interesting. But I was afraid to go see her. Because I was afraid, I would break the law of chastity if I was with her, and there was a spark there. So, she invited me to go see her in Austin. I didn’t. But she told me she was going to be an actress, which I kind of laughed off and I’m like, “Are you serious?”
She’s like, “Yeah, I’m going to be an actress.” So that was that was last time I talked to her until I was married to Margi, and we were living in Chicago. I saw the trailer to Jerry Maguire. I’m like, holy crap! That looks like Renee, and it was. I didn’t even know that.
John 11:30 I don’t know that I’ve tried to reach out to her since she became famous. She’s never reached out to me. There have been times where like, a couple times she came to Sundance, and I’m like, “I wonder if she’ll reach out.” But she never has. She probably forgot about me the moment she graduated or the last time we talked from Texas. But, anyway, that’s my Renee Zellweger story, and I’m sticking to it.
GT 11:58 Do you have any pictures? I should get a picture. We need a picture for this episode.
John 12:01 We may have a picture together, maybe.
GT 12:06 I’d love to see that, if I could. So ,yeah, that’s interesting.
Unethical Baptisms in Guatemala
Dr. John Dehlin served a mission in Guatemala back in about 1990. He was distressed to discover that missionaries often baptized young children without parent’s consent, people with mental disabilities, and other unscrupulous baptisms. He’ll share his experiences, including notifying the mission president about this and being punished for pointing it out. Check out our conversation….
GT: You kind of mentioned your mission there. I don’t usually talk about people’s missions, but you have quite a mission story. I think it was in one of your very first episodes of Mormon Stories, like 15 years ago [that you talked about your mission.] So, there’s probably a lot of people who haven’t heard that story. So, talk about your mission to Guatemala.
John 12:36 I didn’t ever try alcohol in high school. I didn’t try smoking. I didn’t try drugs. I was a virgin when I graduated. I was seminary president and like, really in the Church. So, I was really orthodox, I believed, in my mind. I was really faithful and got called to Guatemala and did two months in the MTC under, I think it was Ed Pinegar.
GT 13:05 Ed Pinegar, right.
John 13:05 It was in 1988-90.
GT 13:08 I was under Durrant. I was before you.
John 13:11 Yeah. So, Ed Pinegar, Guatemala City North mission, and long story short. I went to Guatemala and immediately noticed that we were baptizing people that probably didn’t have any business getting baptized. [We were baptizing] drunk people, people with Downs syndrome, people who didn’t have all the discussions, people who hadn’t been to church. There were some companionships that were starting to baptize 10, 20, 30 a month. There was one zone in particular, the La Laguna zone, where the zone leaders had over 40 baptisms in a month. The zone had like over 100 baptisms in a month, with like four or five companionships. So, several of the companionships had like 20-30 baptisms in a month. I’m like, there are only 30 days in a month. How do you have 40 baptisms in a month? And the whole zone’s doing it? So, I talked to a friend who was in that zone, and he’s like, “Oh, yeah, dude, it’s crazy. Like, we’ll goof off all week long. We’ll swim, we’ll go to movies. It’s a party. But then on Saturdays, we’ll go to a soccer field and gather as many young, poor children as we can. We’ll go to the poorest area of town, play a soccer match with as many young kids as we can. Then, we’ll invite them all back to the chapel to cool off, and we’ll have the baptismal font filled, and we’ll baptize eight or 10 at a time,
GT: These are just kids.
John: These are all like just little kids, barefoot, poor, in the worst slums of Guatemala City, zone 15, La Lagune.
John 13:11 He even told me that kids were doing cannonballs in the baptismal font because there’d be no leadership at the baptism. The missionaries had the key to the chapel, and they would just baptize like 10 at a time.
GT 15:16 There was no service. There was no talk about baptism, the Holy Ghost.
John 15:20 I mean, they may have done all that, but there was certainly no ward mission leader there, no Bishop, no primary president, no parents. There were no discussions.
GT 15:28 No signed consent form.
John 15:29 No consents.
GT 15:32 These are just kids that are eight to…
John 15:36 Seven. They actually baptized seven-year-olds.
GT 15:39 Oh, wow.
John 15:41 From what I remember. But, then, the mission president loved it. Gordon Romney was my mission president, and he loved it. He made those zone leaders APs. Then, they would travel around the mission and teach these techniques to other missionaries. So, early in my mission, I talked to President Romney about it, because I was a Fleche, an arrow. I was an obedient missionary, and it seemed like a perversion of God’s holy ordinances. So, I talked to Gordon Romney about it. He’s like, “Elder, don’t worry.” He said that even if we just give them a Book of Mormon, that then there’ll be a Book of Mormon in their home. But once they’re baptized and have the gift of the Holy Ghost, even if they fall inactive, it will give them a spiritual leg up for the rest of their lives. If they have the gift of the Holy Ghost, it may awaken later. I’ll never forget this, he ended by saying, “And even if they are never active again, we want them to do their work for them when they’re dead.” They will have had their work done.
GT 16:52 That’s the benefit.
John 16:55 So, I had been taught exactly obedience by Elder Pinegar, and that was the way the mission worked. So, I just, “Okay, I guess that’s the way it’s done.” I didn’t do that, ever, on my mission. Like that felt wrong to me. But I was just a few months into my mission at the time. So, he made me a branch president and a zone leader early on. I was branch president twice and zone leader for most of my mission. But towards the end, we had a month where the mission president had made a goal that every companionship would have a baptism in the month. And because we had had a really good month before, the pipeline in my zone was kind of down.
John 17:42 So, we got to the end of the month, and they were two companionships, in my zone, a zone leader that didn’t have a baptism yet. So, I got a call from President Romney. He seemed disappointed. He told me the night before, “Fill up your baptismal fonts in the two areas. Frijanes and one other area. Fill up the baptismal font. The APs are going to come pick you up tomorrow morning, and they’re going to show you how real leaders in the mission manage their zones.” So, he picks me up, they picked me up in their Toyota Forerunner, Frontrunner, or whatever it was, Land Cruiser, I don’t remember. They pick me up, take me to the first area, which was Frijanes. They pick up the missionaries. They’re like, “Alright, take us to whoever you’re investigating with. We went to one guy, and they offered him gum and ice cream. They’re like, “Hey, any way we can get you to get baptized today?” He’s like, “Nah, I’m not. I’m not feeling it. I’m not ready.”
John 18:45 So we left and they’re frustrated. So, literally, they start driving around the town, and they go to the poorest part of town, drive up to the shack, and they find this 80-year-old woman who was toothless. They had a hut, dirt floors, like laminate. They’re just, like, super impoverished. They’re like, “Hey, Hermana, “Quieres segura Jesu Cristo pasado.” He said, “Do you want to follow Jesus and get baptized?” She’s like, half sane, half senile, and she’s like, whatever. So, they walk her down to the nearest creek, where women are washing their clothes in the creek. She’s praying to Mary on the way down.
John 19:33 There were no discussions, no interview that I remember, [she’s] never been to church. They literally baptized her there in the creek or the stream. Then they said to the missionaries, “Hey, can you make sure and confirm her with the gift of the Holy Ghost? We have to get to the next area.” So, we didn’t even wait for her to get confirmed with the gift of the Holy Ghost. We go back up, drive to the next area and do something very similar, pressure someone else who’s not ready to get baptized.
John 20:09 Then I’ll never forget. On the way home, and this is Elder Peterson and Elder Cruz, like I totally remember their names. I mean, memory is weird. So, they stop at a payphone and they call President Romney. They say, “President Romney, we witnessed a miracle today,” and they told him that the two areas had gotten a baptism. That felt dishonest. It felt like a desecration of the Lord’s holy ordinances. It felt deceitful. I felt really gross and sick inside.
John 20:48 So, at the next zone leader conference where other zone leaders would come receive instruction, I had my interview with President Romney. I told him what had happened, because in my mind, kind of naively, [I thought] he would never be okay with this if he knew.
GT 21:04 Right.
John 21:04 So, I told him, and weirdly, he started yelling at me, telling me that I was kicking against the pricks, that I was opposing priesthood leadership, and that if I ever did something like that, again, he would demote me.
John 21:20 This is the second time I’d brought it up to him. Then, even though my companion had more time in the area than I did, I was transferred to Uspantan Quiche, which was like, as I remember, like a five-hour bus ride to the nearest telephone, and like an 11-hour bus ride to the mission home. I was banished, basically, for questioning my priesthood leadership.
John 21:49 It was there–I’d had asthma problems [in the past.] It turns out, I was allergic to dust mites in Guatemala. So, I had been in areas that were less dirty, before. The President knew this [and] sends me to the dirtiest, filthiest, one of the dirtiest, filthiest areas in the mission.
GT 22:09 He knew that you had asthma.
John 22:10 Oh, yeah, for sure. Yeah. He sends me to one of the dirtiest, filthiest areas in the mission, Uspantan Quiche, look it up. There wasn’t even a telephone in the town, imagine. You know, this is 1990, no telephone?
GT 22:26 Right.
John 22:28 I got so sick that I called him after a month. I just said, “I can’t breathe here.” He says, “Come home, come back to the mission home.” So, I get on the bus, come back to the mission home. The next day, he had me on a plane flight home, sent me home. There was only four months ago on my mission. So, I was kind of confused. But I interpreted that as him wanting to get rid of me, because I was questioning. By that point, we were the second highest baptizing mission in the world. According to my president, the only other mission that had more baptisms than us was the Chile Vina del Mar mission, which had over 1000. I just think he didn’t want me ruining…
GT 23:11 Per month?
John 23:11 Yeah, 1000 per month, and I think he didn’t want me ruining his good thing. So, I got sent home honorably. They offered me a release four months early, and I’m not ending my mission four months early. So, I asked them to reassign me. They reassigned me to the Arizona Tempe mission. I served my last four months there. They made me a zone leader immediately when I arrived. So, there was no question about my worthiness. He must have not spoken ill about me, which I was grateful for. I served the last four months over the Spanish speaking missionaries in the Arizona Tempe mission.
GT 23:12 And you were a zone leader in Gilbert, right?
John 23:16 Yeah, I was zone leader over the Spanish speaking missionaries in Gilbert, Chandler, Tempe, Queens Creek, kind of that area. I actually, while I was there, Durrel Woolsey was the mission president. He had just been called as a general authority or an area authority to go work in the Philippines. So, I told him everything that happened to me, thinking that President Romney was just rogue. So, he said [that] well, he’ll deal with it. He’ll go report it to Church headquarters. Then, he left the mission and Elder Bailey, David Bailey replaced him.
John 24:02 I never heard from Woolsey what happened. But I followed up with Bailey and President Bailey, who’s still alive, he said, “Yeah, did hear back from them, and what they said is that he’s only got a few months left on his mission.” They didn’t want to cause a big stir. So they’re just going to let him finish his mission, Gordon Romney. So, that was in summer of 1990. He gets released, I get released, go to BYU. I find out later he was called to the missionary committee for the Church, to serve on the missionary committee for the Church. And he was called to lead the Church’s sesquicentennial committee, which led me to believe that the Church was okay with what he was doing. That was the first time I wondered whether the church–whether the fish rotted from the head, you know what I mean? I didn’t lose my testimony. But it was the first time I’m like, “Wow, something’s wrong at church headquarters.”
GT 24:35 Let me make sure I understand, so who is leading–I know, you said it was the sesquicentennial mission.
John 25:42 No, this there was a sesquicentennial, like, celebration for Joseph Smith’s death or something or the Church’s founding or something.
GT 25:49 I don’t know, okay.
John 25:50 But Gordon Romney, I was told, was called to lead that committee.
GT 25:56 Okay. That’s what I wanted to make sure. I couldn’t tell if it him or Woolsey. But yeah, it was Romney.
John 25:59 Not Woolsey, it was Romney. So, when I find out Gordon Romney might be a general authority, like literally in my mind, I thought, missionary committee, sesquicentennial. This guy may make general authority. And if he does, I don’t know that my testimony could withstand that. You know what I mean? So, I’m starting to feel like really–and I worried about what damage he could do. So, I ended up reaching out to some professors at BYU while I was there, Ted Lyon, Bill Bradshaw, LaMond Tullis. I just told them the situation. It was LaMond Tullis who said, I think, “I’m friends with Elder Oaks.”
John 26:43 LaMond Tullis, interestingly, was part of the committee that Leonard Arrington selected to write that set of books…
GT 26:57 In the 70s.
John 26:58 In the 70s, that Richard Bushman ended up writing, Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of early Mormonism. LaMond Tullis was asked to write the book on the history of the Church in Latin America, because LaMond Tullis had served I guess, his mission in Latin America. He was a political science professor, a Harvard guy, brilliant. I think he may be still alive. I don’t know. He said, “I know Elder Oaks,” for whatever reason, “I’d be willing to put a cover letter on a letter that you wrote to Elder Oaks.” Because I was thinking about going to Nightline. I wanted to be heard about this because, I literally took the gospel so seriously. I felt like it was an abomination, again, to the Lord’s holy ordinances. So, if the Church was going to just blow it off, I was going to do whatever I could to make the Church fix this problem before Gordon Romney was made a general authority.
John 27:55 So, I wrote a big letter. Bill Bradshaw, Ted Lyon, who is the son of T. Edgar Lyon, who was an important Church historian, back in the day, and LaMond Tullis all reviewed my letter. I think it was LaMond Tullis who put the cover letter on it, sent it to Elder Oaks. Then, while I was doing Washington Seminar for BYU, back in DC, doing a congressional internship on Capitol Hill, I was in my apartment, and I got a call. It was, literally, Church headquarters. “Can you hold for Elder Oaks, please?”
GT 28:30 Wow.
John 28:32 Elder Oaks called me, and I talked to Elder Oaks. He asked me a bunch of questions. He asked me if I was still active. My memory is that he asked me if I still had an active temple recommend, which I did. I was still worthy. I was a faithful member at BYU. I didn’t mess around. My memory is that he apologized for the experience that I had. I don’t know if he used the word I apologize, or if he just expressed regret. But what he did is he told me that he was going to be drafting a speech for the upcoming mission president and wives training that they do every year, and that he was going to address this issue of like using sales techniques, and high-pressure techniques to baptize people. Because also on my mission, if you got seven baptisms in a month, you’d get a certificate with your name on it, and you’d get to stand up in front of the group and the President would hand you your certificate.
John 29:41 If you got 10 baptisms a month, you’d get a Janice Kapp Perry Serving With Joy cassette tape, and then you’d also get a special lunch with the mission president and his wife. So, they had all of these incentives to get as many baptisms as possible. In Oaks’ speech that he gave to the mission presidents and their wives in training, he discouraged the use of sales techniques and high pressure techniques, and sent me a copy of that speech after he gave it. That saved my testimony for at least another 10 years, I think, just to feel heard, to feel that direct reaching out, and to see that the Church was going to maybe try and do something about it. Unfortunately, I would talk to missionaries from that point further whenever I could. And I heard about baseball baptisms. I learned about the baseball baptisms in the UK, in the early 60s, which Jeffrey Holland and Quentin Cook were a part of, by the way. I learned about the…
GT 30:46 What do you mean, they were a part of it?
John 30:48 They were in those missions.
GT 30:50 As mission presidents?
John 30:51 No, as missionaries.
GT 30:53 Okay.
John 30:53 My understanding is Quentin Cook and Jeffrey Holland were missionaries when T. Bowring Woodbury was mission president over the British Isles in the early 60s. Now, I could have that wrong. But that’s my memory.
GT 31:09 Okay. But they were essentially doing the same things. “Hey, let’s play baseball. Hey, let’s go get–let’s go cool off in the pool.”
John 31:17 Yeah. It turns out the Church has this long history of these techniques. It started with the baseball baptisms in the early 60s.There’s an amazing Sunstone article about baseball baptisms that Michael Quinn wrote for Sunstone. It’s really good. The PDF is available online. We should include it in the show notes.
GT 31:35 Yeah.
John 31:35 But then there were Japanese baseball baptisms that followed the same pattern. And again, they had to excommunicate thousands of British converts, because they were filling up all the rolls. American baseball was popular back then, post war, UK, America was great, because they’d helped save the British from Hitler. But they were filling up all the rolls with all these young men that had no interest in actually being Mormon. But there was no way to remove them from the rolls without excommunicating them. So, all these missionaries had to do this cleanup, where they’re excommunicating. I don’t even think they had them attend a disciplinary council. They just kind of, as I understand it, had to just excommunicate thousands of converts, because they were all baptized for the wrong reasons.
John 32:27 I learned about cheeseburger baptisms in North Carolina, where they would give poor people cheeseburgers. I heard about missionaries getting names and dates off of tombstones, which made no sense to me. The Church has never stopped this problem. It culminated in Elder Holland being sent to Chile for three years to try and clean up the mess there. I did an interview with Ted Lyon, son of T. Edgar Lyon, on Mormon Stories, where he acknowledged that this happened, because he was a mission president in Chile. He was an MTC president and a temple president there. He was Elder Holland’s personal interpreter, when Elder Holland went down to Chile. Elder Holland ended up closing 30 stakes, while he was in Chile. He had to collapse them, because the country, the Church was dying in Chile, because they had expanded wards and stakes based on the numbers. But there was no leadership substance behind it. It turns out Philippines has had the same experience. Elder Oaks was sent to the Philippines for the same reasons. What years were these where Holland went to Chile and Oaks went to the Philippines?
John 33:37 I don’t know. I’m rusty on that.
GT 33:39 Within the last 20 years?
John 33:41 I would say late 90s, early 2000s.
GT 33:43 Okay.
John 33:44 Because when I met with Elder Holland, for the two lunches that I had with him, let’s just say around 2009-2010, I talked to him about his time in Chile. He acknowledged all of this, including the 30 stakes. He said [that] there were people protesting, you know, the area offices. There were like parents protesting the area offices in Chile, because their kids had been baptized without their consent. He said, it was a public relations fiasco for the Church, and just the vitality of the wards in and the units and the members there.
John 34:18 So, that’s a lot. You asked, that’s a big question. But, anyway…
GT 34:22 I knew it was.
John 34:24 That was the beginning of my real questioning about the Church, was just to see a problem so big be generally ignored or downplayed, to experience ecclesiastical abuse firsthand, to be punished for doing what was right. And then to see the top leadership bungle it and really not be able to fix it. I talked to Elder Holland about this. He said to me, and my brother was there. He said to me, “People think that if you’re an apostle, you can just change the Church.” He’s like, “Number one, if you’re a junior apostle, you’ve got 14 other people to contend with. The leadership of the church is run by unanimous consent.” So, nothing gets done, if there isn’t unanimity in the quorum. And until you work your way up in seniority, you’re just one of like, 15 voices, anyway. “Then, even if you tell the Church what to do,” he made it sound like that doesn’t mean the Church members are going to do what you tell him to do.” Then, he also talked about this mid-level management, that it’s hard to manage these mid-level managers.
John 35:46 My sense from him is that these mission presidents and area authorities, they’re bucking to become General Authorities or apostles. So, sometimes they’ll engage in shenanigans, that it’s just hard to manage and control when you’ve got so many around the world. So, he actually said to me, “Who are the brethren?” Because I refer to the brethren as like the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve. He kind of made the joke like, who are the brethren? Like, we’re just a bunch of individuals. That’s the sense I got that we’re just a bunch of individuals trying to do our job. And if you think that one apostle can make substantive, meaningful change in this Church–he just kind of laughed at that idea, not expressing doubt. I think he’s a sincere believer, but he’s just like, it’s way more complex than anybody would ever guess. So anyway, that’s my story.
John 35:56 No, that’s really interesting. Do you think it’s still going on today?
John 36:44 Oh, yeah, all the time.
GT 36:45 You still think it is?
John 36:46 Every, I mean, what I got a sense for is that a mission will be sagging, and so they’ll call a mission president that’s like a military guy or a corporate person, and they’ll go and they’ll ramp up the baptisms. Then it’ll get out of control, and there’ll be complaints and they’ll have to tamper it down. Then when they call the next mission president, it’ll be someone who goes in to clean it all up, who’s more low key, who’s not about the numbers. Almost every missionary I’ve talked to, there’s been that kind of cycle within the mission. But if you go to, I mean, if you go to Latin America, or the Philippines, and you look at the rolls, unless they’ve been purging them, the activity rates in Latin America and the Philippines are like 10%. There are wards with 1000 members on the rolls, and like 50 people are attending. Like, it’s crazy. They’ve been collapsing wards and stakes to try and fix this problem. But it’s undeniable. Yeah, how would you stop it? Unless they put into the missionary training, never baptize someone, ever, without multiple times attending church and all the six discussions and a really good sense that they are…
GT 38:08 That’s how it was on my mission.
John 38:11 But that wasn’t in the white handbook. That wasn’t in the missionary training.
GT 38:16 Teach all six discussions and go to church?
John 38:19 You think that was a rule?
GT 38:20 It was a rule in my mission.
John 38:22 But was it a rule in the white Bible? And was it a rule in the training curriculum? I would be willing to bet $100, that that was not a stated rule in the missionary curriculum, that you had to go to church at least twice and receive all discussions before baptism. I’d be willing to–it may have been a mission specific rule. But I would be almost willing to bet a large sum of money that it was not a global policy.
GT 38:52 Well, I agree with you that it probably wasn’t a global policy. But like, that was a big deal. I went to South Carolina. So, I was American. But, yeah, that was a big deal that they had to come twice. You had to teach all six discussions.
John 39:08 I would be curious to see if what happened was a previous mission president, things had gotten out of control, and so they called your mission president in to clean it all up. I’m not saying that’s what happened, but that’s a pattern that I’ve heard about over and over and over again. But if you talk to almost any missionary, especially in Latin America, or the Philippines, they’ll have stories about how either things were out of control when they were there or they were in areas where things had been out of control before, and they had to be cleaned up.
GT 39:37 It seems like I’ve heard those stories. It seems like it happens in Latin and South America a lot more.
John: And the Philippines.
GT: Until I heard your stories I didn’t know about Japan or the UK or anything like that. I mean, that was back in the 60s, I guess.
John 39:51 It also happened in Southern California. Also, I guarantee it’s happening in Africa, right now. I guarantee it. The one thing, have you ever had Matt Martinich, is that his name?
GT 40:06 I don’t know who that is.
John 40:07 So, there’s a guy that has a website called the Cumorah Project where he tracks LDS statistics in detail.
GT 40:14 I thought that was Cragun,
John: Ryan Cragun is a scholar, but he doesn’t do the Cumorah project. The Cumorah project is done by this guy named Matt Martinich. Peggy Fletcher often uses him as a source for her articles on Church membership and growth. But check out the Cumorah project. Just talk to anyone in the know. Whenever they do a census in like Brazil or Argentina or Chile or Mexico, the number of people who self-identify as Mormons is literally a fraction of the number of people that the Church claims on the church membership rolls. That’s because of all these people that were baptized as an eight-year-old or a 10-year-old, that never went to Church, never had a testimony. And they’ve never identified as Mormon, but the Church keeps them on.
GT 41:05 Oh. They may not have even known they were baptized.
John 41:07 A lot of them wouldn’t even remember it. It was just something that happened when they were a kid right.
GT 41:11 Right.
John 41:11 Yeah. So, that’s why I’m sure your listeners/viewers know that the Church boasts 17 million or 16.8, but there’s probably only 3 to 4 million active members across the world right now. This has been true for many, many years, as I understand it.
GT 41:32 Yeah.
John 41:32 [You should] have Matt Matinich on your podcast.
GT 41:35 Yeah, I’ll have to check him out. I knew about Cragun, but I didn’t know about him.
John 41:39 Cragun is ex-Mormon.
GT 41:41 Yeah, but he does stuff on–because I swear, he was just on Peggy Fletcher’s Mormonland podcast.
John 41:48 He’s brilliant, and he does social science. Yeah. But this guy, Matt Martinich is [a] different [person.]
GT 41:55 Okay. We’ll cool.
John 41:58 I hope that didn’t take too much time.
GT 41:59 No, no, this is why we’re here.
John 42:01 This was my very first episode of Mormon Stories.
GT 42:04 Your first?
John 42:05 Where I tell this, yeah. My very first episode.
GT 42:08 There’s probably a lot of people that haven’t heard this. So it’s probably good.
John 42:11 Oh, for sure.
GT 42:11 So, it’s been 16 years, or I don’t know how long.
John 42:13 About 17 years, and I don’t think I’ve ever recorded it on video in this depth. So, thanks for asking.
GT 42:20 Yeah, no problem.
From Faithful to Loss of Faith
After leaving BYU, Dr John Dehlin talks about his time as a seminary teacher in Washington, and his loss of faith while working at Microsoft. Check out our conversation….
GT 42:22 So, let’s dive into your academic history. I usually do that. I know you went to BYU. So, what can you tell us there?
John 42:34 Yeah. So, I graduated like 11th in my class in high school. I was a late bloomer, academically. But I did get a two-year scholarship to BYU, academic. I was able to keep a 4.0-ish GPA and renew it. So, I had an Edwin Hinckley scholarship for my last two years at BYU, which was a full ride and full tuition and books. I decided to study political science and international relations. I had a great GPA. I graduated with a 3.96 GPA, summa cum laude.
GT 43:12 Wow!
John 43:13 I did Washington Seminar, got into BYU law school, got into University of Texas law school, got waitlisted at Harvard, but didn’t get in Harvard. Those were the only three law schools I applied to. But I didn’t know anyone who loved their job as a lawyer. So, I didn’t want to just go to law school and then hate my life. I was really a believer that you had to love and believe in what you do as a career, because you only live once. You can’t take it with you, as they say. That was a film, I watched a movie by Frank Capra called You Can’t Take it With You, where that was the theme. It was at a BYU film class that I watched that movie. It just sold me on the idea that you don’t just go for the money, go for a fulfilling, meaningful job.
GT 43:58 So why did you choose political science? Did you want to become a politician?
John 44:02 I chose political science before. I thought, yeah, I thought I might want to be a politician. But then I went and worked on Capitol Hill and just got disillusioned with all the graft and with all the special interests and the way Congressman could be bought off and I was just disillusioned.
GT 44:24 So, that was after you graduated from BYU?
John 44:28 That what?
GT 44:28 That you started working in the Capitol.
John 44:30 No, it was during Washington Seminar between my junior and senior year.
GT 44:33 Okay.
John 44:34 Which was the same time Elder Oaks called me.
GT 44:36 Oh, okay.
John 44:38 But then I was stuck with my degree because I couldn’t go back at that point. So, I finished political science, applied to law school, but by that point, I knew I didn’t want to be a politician. I just was unsure about law as a career [that] I would enjoy.
GT 44:54 Okay, so you graduated and then, well you ended up at Microsoft somehow. I don’t know if you can tell us about that.
John 45:06 Yeah, so what happened was I got married in the DC temple to Margi. And my first real job was with Bain and Company, which was Mitt Romney’s company. So, I was at Bain when Mitt Romney was a Bain.
GT 45:22 Did you know Mitt?
John 45:24 No.
GT 45:24 Is he related to Gordon Romney?
John 45:26 Yeah. Mitt Romney and Gordon Romney were cousins for sure.
GT 45:29 Okay.
John 45:30 Yeah. So I went to Bain Dallas. Mitt was at Bain Capital in Boston. I was at Bain Dallas. Bain is a management consulting firm that helps turn around fortune 500 companies. So, I did that. But that’s when the internet first emerged. So, this is around 1994. I first saw my Netscape Navigator and the internet being used. I was just like, “Whoa, this is going to be big.” So, I left Bain and went to Chicago to work for Arthur Andersen, which was the number one accounting firm at the time. They were big into tech. My brother had worked there, before he left for Microsoft. I went to Arthur Andersen, started to learn computers. I eventually became a programmer, did computer programming for a few years, including…
GT 46:27 Arthur Andersen, I always thought of them as like an accounting firm.
John 46:30 Yeah, they were an accounting and audit firm. They were the largest one in the world, based in Chicago. But they were cutting edge with tech. So, I went there as part of their tax and technology group, so I could learn computers. I didn’t need an accounting degree, to be able to help them run their computers. It was just like a bootcamp. It was like a tech bootcamp.
GT 46:53 So, they just trained you to become a programmer, essentially?
John 46:56 No, they trained me to be like an IT systems guy. Then, I left after only a year and then I joined a tech consulting firm called Parian, where I taught myself to program. I mean, there was so much of a demand for programmers that you could literally bring a programming book to work, set it there on the table, ask them what they needed, and you could learn on the job, studying the manual and programming. I did some self-study, took some exams, got hired on Parian as a computer programmer in Chicago, and just started programming.
GT 47:01 You just taught yourself how to program.
John 47:18 Yeah.
GT 47:20 What did you use? I’m a computer science guy.
John 47:40 So what programs?
GT 47:40 Yes.
John 47:42 Okay, so I started doing Visual Basic for Applications.
GT 47:47 Okay, I know a little bit of Basic.
John 47:48 VBA, so, I did that in Excel and in Access. So, I learned Access as my database, VBA as my programming language. Then I learned Visual Basic 4 and then slowly, I learned SQL server so I could do Enterprise back end.
GT 48:07 Because Access wasn’t big enough.
John 48:08 Yeah, exactly. Yep, and I love Access to this day.
GT 48:12 I do, too.
John 48:13 I still use it to do my donor statements at the end of the year. Yeah, so I was a VB/SQL server programmer, for the most part. I did that.
GT 48:21 Sorry we got a little nerdy there, but…
John 48:22 Yeah, I love it.
GT 48:24 I’m sorry, to the audience. They’re probably like, “What are they talking about?”
John 48:27 There’s always somebody who’s like, “I love VB! I’m a Client-server programmer.” I did that for a couple of years. One thing that people always like to hear the story of is after I worked at Parian for a bit, we wanted to move back to Salt Lake. So, around 96-97, we moved here to Salt Lake in Cottonwood Heights, and I got a job at Church headquarters. So, I worked one year at Church headquarters during their Y2K initiative.
GT 48:54 Oh, I remember that.
John 48:55 They were converting DataEase, these are DOS based databases, DataEase databases into Access databases. And because I had programming with Access, they brought me on. The coolest thing I did for the year I worked at the Church was I worked on a general authority candidate tracking system where in Access, they had a database, where they would track mission presidents, temple presidents and stake presidents. Whenever area authorities or general authorities would go out to stake conferences to interview all these people, they needed kind of like a knowledge management system to track the progress of these potential general authority candidates over time. So, they’d ask them questions about their financial situation. Did they have any debt? How was their wife? How were their kids? Were there any members of the family that had mental illness, and other impressions, and they would track these candidates for general authorities until they selected them. So, that was the coolest thing. I think Greg Brown was working in the presidency of the Seventy office at the time. That was my coolest assignment while I was at Church headquarters.
GT 50:14 So, if somebody had mental illness in their family, they were disqualified?
John 50:18 Well, I can’t say how the final decision was made. I’m sure nepotism was highly involved in that decision. But that was a factor. Yeah.
GT 50:27 Wow.
John 50:28 I mean, you can imagine if there’s a family member who would be very embarrassing to the Church, once this person started rising in the ranks of leadership, they would want to screen for that.
GT 50:41 Like a Billy Carter with Jimmy.
John 50:43 Exactly, like Billy Carter. Yeah, like a wife with a drug addiction or alcohol addiction, you know, whatever, right? A gay son.
GT 50:54 Right.
John 50:54 Heaven forbid.
GT 50:55 Well, that’s not a problem anymore, is it?
John 50:59 I mean, we’ve come a long way.
GT 51:03 Any other insights into your year at the Church there?
John 51:06 No. I mean, it was just super bureaucratic, nice people. It was super inefficient, bureaucratic. Super inefficient. It was there that I got hold, I wish I had this information. It was there, because of my experience on my mission, I wanted to know what the activity rates were for the Church. And because I did some consulting for the building construction department in the Church, for constructing chapels, I was able to get the data for total membership per ward, or branch, and then active membership per ward or branch in the Church. I imported all that in Excel or Access, and I crunched the numbers. I found like a 1/3 activity rate, globally, back then. At the time, I would never have shared that. I didn’t want to violate confidentiality. So, I don’t have that data, and I didn’t publish it. But that’s when I was like, “Whoa, it really is low.” And I thought, “It really is around a third.” So, a third of the people the Church claim are active. A third of the members that the Church claims are actually active. I think it was only a third of those were temple recommend holders. So, anyway, that was interesting.
GT 52:30 Interesting. So, your brother used to work at the Church, right? Did he help you get that job? And does he still work at the church?
John 52:36 He had nothing to do with me getting the job for the Church, because he was at Microsoft at the time.
GT 52:40 Okay.
John 52:41 I worked at the Church before he did. But while he was at Microsoft, he helped me find leads to apply. It took me seven times to get hired, seven formal interviews over multiple years to get hired at Microsoft. This is the time where if you got hired at Microsoft, you’d get stock options, and within five years, you’d be a millionaire. There’s just what happened. So, it was really hard, really competitive to get it. It took me seven tries. But eventually, I got in around 97-98, I got hired at Microsoft, while my brother Joel had been there for several years. That’s when we moved to Seattle, left working for the Church. I did seven years at Microsoft in Redmond.
GT 53:25 And you got stock options and you’re a millionaire now?
John 53:27 I got stock options. But, no, I left. Between the appreciation on my house and the vested stock options, and us paying down our mortgage, I left Microsoft with like, $240,000. We used that to buy our house in Logan with cash, so that we wouldn’t have a mortgage.
GT 53:50 Wow. That was nice.
John 53:50 So, Microsoft was a great career. I met Bill Gates twice. I presented on stage with Steve Ballmer, the CEO, who was the owner of the Clippers.
GT 54:02 Right.
John 54:02 I had a really rapid ascent. I did demos, technical support for the salesforce, speech writing for executives, and then business management for VPs. But I was always depressed, because I had my faith crisis at Microsoft while I was teaching seminary for the Church in my Issaquah ward. I just got super depressed. So, for the last three or four years of my time at Microsoft, I was like unshaven, wore Birkenstocks.
GT 54:34 Wow.
John 54:35 Just depressed, because I studied the seminary and Institute manuals, that’s where it started. I got Church History in the Fullness of Times, that dark green manual and learned a bunch of stuff and that was troubling. Then, I read Bushman’s book, Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Early Mormonism. I read about Leonard Arrington and Lowell Bennion and then, eventually, I went to Michael Quinn.
John 55:10 I read Simon Southerton, Losing a Lost Tribe. I read Eugene England and Lowell Bennion biographies, and then eventually I read Fawn Brodie, No Man Knows My History. That’s what kind of, well that and Bushmans book. It was a one, two punch. It was Fawn Brodie’s, No Man Knows My History, but then Bushman’s book confirming basically all the stuff that I read in No Man Knows My History, knowing that he was a Patriarch and a stake president and a faithful Mormon. I could always discredit Brodie as having an axe to grind and as not being credible. But once I paired Bushman’s confirmation with Brodie’s history, it’s like, “Well, this is true. He was a folk magic treasure digger, and he was a polygamist and he lied about it.”
John 56:05 One of my friend’s named Paul at Microsoft, introduced the term polyandry to me, because I thought it was the polygamy that was disturbing. But he’s like, “Have you ever heard of the polyandry?”
I’m like, “What’s that?”
Because this is back in 2001, 2002. There’s no podcasts. There’s no Facebook. Theres no Instagram. There’s no CES Letter. There are just books. There’s not even a website. It’s like Sunstone barely had a website, and all it did was release like the September 6 anniversary videos and even Sunstone’s weren’t online yet. So, how would you learn about the Church, except through books? And none of the books mentioned the word polyandry, by the way, that I’m aware of.
GT 56:43 I thought Rough Stone Rolling did, but I…
John 56:45 Rough Stone Rolling came years later.
GT 56:47 Okay.
John 56:47 So, I’m talking about 2000, 2001.
GT 56:49 Okay.
John 56:50 I think Rough Stone Rolling was released in 2004, 2005.
GT 56:53 Okay.
John 56:53 But does the does the word polyandry appear in Rough Stone Rolling? I’m not sure.
GT 56:59 I think so. It’s been a long time since I read it. I mean, that was really troubling to me. I’ll tell you that.
John 57:08 Yeah. But it doesn’t appear–like Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism, because it was part of that Leonard Arrington series, it only covered like, pre-Joseph Smith’s ministry to the founding of the Church. So, it didn’t talk about polygamy at all. So, there wasn’t Rough Stone Rolling, yet.
GT 57:28 But you were bothered by the treasure digging in Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism.
John 57:33 I was bothered by it all. I was bothered by the treasure digging, the peep stone in the hat. I was bothered by the Kirtland Bank scandal, by Mountain Meadows Massacre, and that the fact that the Church would teach about Hawn’s Mill in its curriculum, but I could never find any, any teachings about the Mountain Meadows back then. So, why would you make us feel sorry for you with Hawn’s Mill massacre, but never take ownership of Mountain Meadows? That’s just my memory of how the Church handled those types of things. But then I was troubled by the polygamy, by the cover-up, by learning what actually happened in Carthage Jail, where Joseph Smith was basically killed for lying and for his polygamy and oh, and just the whole head of the Nauvoo Legion and like marching soldiers into neighboring towns and the way he manipulated the political parties in Illinois and kind of deceived them, and was just kind of.. Then, the Council of Fifty, and the Danites. All that stuff was just like, “This guy was crazy. This guy was completely out of control. He lost his marbles, and he’s cheating on his wife, calling it polygamy from God and lying about it to almost everybody. I just couldn’t square that with–and I never…
GT 58:59 So, you felt this way back in the late 90s?
John 59:03 Early 2000s.
GT 59:04 Early 2000s.
John 59:05 Yeah, for sure.
GT 59:07 I just remember when you started Mormon Stories. It seemed like you were a lot more neutral. But you were pretty much a disbeliever?
John 59:22 Okay, you’re raising a really important point. So, let me go back.
GT 59:25 The thing is, I don’t want us to take where you are today and then say, “That’s how I was in 2000,” or whatever. I’m trying to get your mindset.
John 59:33 Yeah, this is a really useful line of questioning. There’s some ethical stuff there that I always had to kind of struggle with. So, let me go back. While I was at BYU, the September 6 were excommunicated. So, I was at BYU in the fall of ’93. I went to a press conference held by Paul Toscano and several others, at a local hotel there in Provo, where they’re like doing a press conference about their excommunication.
GT 1:00:01 So, you’re still in college. You’re a political science major.
John 1:00:05 Yeah. One thing I didn’t mention is that…
GT 1:00:07 You’re still a believer.
John 1:00:08 Yeah.
GT 1:00:09 Okay.
John 1:00:09 Yeah. So back during those days, BYU had this Honors Program at the Maeser building, which was freaking amazing. They had these types of courses called Honors Colloquium, where they would group your general education courses up. What you would do is you would sign up for Honors Colloquium. That was a six-credit hour commitment each semester for a full year. You’d be in this big cohort of like 60 students, who would all meet at the Maeser building for two hours a day of coursework instead of one. And in my case, there was Ted Lyon, Lynn England from sociology. So, Ted Lyon was Spanish literature. Lynn England was sociology. Then Clayton White was an ornithologist in the biology, bioscience department. He was a hawk expert.
GT 1:01:09 Bird guy.
John 1:01:09 Bird guy. So, they would group teach you and they would integrate science with literature with social studies. You would have this big cohort of the most intelligent students on campus, and it would cover a full year. Four of your GEDs you would knock out all at once through this integrated experience with this cohort of brilliant honor students. So, most students took that as a freshman. I didn’t mention, when I was a freshman, I was in the Honors dorm and Mary Holland, Jeffrey Holland’s daughter was in our ward. So, I got to date Mary Holland, as a freshman at BYU.
GT 1:01:55 Wow.
John 1:01:55 And I got to play tennis with Elder Holland once because Mary set up a tennis match. I beat him like 6-0. But he had just ruptured his Achilles and was healing from that. So, I did play tennis with Elder Holland once and I did date his daughter, Mary. Then, she Dear John-ed me, so to speak, not literally, but she married a doctor while I was on my mission, or aspiring medical student.
GT 1:02:19 Well, your name is John, so, you would get Dear John-ed, no matter what.
John 1:02:23 But I was in the Honors dorm my freshman year, but I wasn’t in the Honors Program, really. So, I didn’t do colloquium as a freshman, but when I got off my mission and met Ted Lyon, he encouraged me to join honors colloquium, so I did. So, I was a sophomore in the Honors Colloquium program at BYU. It was there that they would like, bring in Van de Graaff to talk about evolution. They would bring in scientists to talk about the global flood. They would talk about abortion, and they’d bring in Bill Bradshaw to talk about in vitro fertilization and the implications of abortion as it related to spirits and spontaneous abortions and fetuses. It was like professors that were Sunstone and Dialogue readers at BYU, in this course, where they would tackle head-on all of the most controversial issues in the Church, including feminism, while the September 6 are getting excommunicated.
GT 1:03:30 Was Eugene England at BYU at that time? Do you know?
John 1:03:32 Yeah, Eugene England was but this is Lynn England.
GT 1:03:35 Are the brothers or something?
John 1:03:37 No.
GT 1:03:37 No, just not related.
John 1:03:38 Different. But Eugene England was there. I never took a class from Eugene England, but I think my wife Margi did. But, this is really interesting because I was exposed, as a sophomore, to–I mean, I had doubts growing up. The one true church thing always felt weird to me. Polygamy always felt weird to me, and the black priesthood ban always felt weird to me. I was surrounded by Baptists in Katy, and they had watched the GodMakers. So, I was familiar with rumblings about Mormonism and stuff, and critics of Mormonism.
John 1:04:17 So I read the Book of Mormon from cover to cover as a junior in high school, prayed, did follow Moroni’s promise that I never got the answer. I actually prayed twice that night, or morning, and never got the witness that my seminary teacher sort of promised me that I’d get. I struggled with that. So even up through the MTC, I couldn’t say that I knew the Church was true. I believed it was true. I loved it. I was obedient to it. I was one of its best spokespeople where I grew up, but I couldn’t say I knew it. All I could say is I hoped it, or I believed it. So, on my mission, I just said, “I’m going to just tell people I know, when I don’t, and just hope that the testimony follows, saying you know.” So, yeah, I served a successful mission, had that problem, but I always had cracks/questions in my mind. I once divided, as a high school sophomore, I think, I divided the number of Mormons in the world by the total number of people in the world, and it was less than one half of 1%. I’m just like, “Really Heavenly Father? That’s the best you can do with your one true church is like, less than one half of 1%. That seems really inefficient.” But I just I put those things on the shelf. When I was at BYU, as a sophomore, I took this Honors Colloquium class, got exposed to all the controversial issues, and learned about Sunstone and Dialogue. But I also learned about Lowell Bennion.
GT 1:04:17 When was the message about, warning about symposia? What year was that?
John 1:04:57 I mean, it was all leading up to those September 6 excommunications.
GT 1:05:36 Was it 1993? So, you were learning about Sunstone from BYU professors who were going to Sunstone. Is that right?
John 1:06:13 Or they were reading Sunstone, but may have been afraid, by that point, to actually attend. But they were certainly plugged in, because Eugene England had started Dialogue back in the 60s. He was a BYU professor, still.
GT 1:06:27 Right.
John 1:06:29 Yeah, this is during the time where, and it was probably a little bit before ’93 hat that warning on symposium came out. But they basically warned about, study groups in the years prior and then they warned about Sunstone or symposia.
GT 1:06:44 Yeah.
John 1:06:45 Then, the crap really hit the fan when the September 6 were excommunicated. But that wasn’t the only controversy. While I was at BYU, there was a big Mother in Heaven controversy, where Cecilia Konchar Farr, who was a feminist professor, English department at BYU, and Gail Houston, also a feminist, English department person at BYU. They were talking a lot about Mother in Heaven, and praying to Mother in Heaven. Then, David Knowlton, who’s still alive, if you haven’t interviewed him yet, you really should. He was a BYU professor, sociologist, that was talking about the Church missionary program in Latin America, and the CIA. He did an article in Sunstone about Phallic symbols in Mormon architecture. He was also gay. But several professors at BYU were kind of let go or denied continuing status because of their publishing in Dialogue or Sunstone. So, that was happening, Gail Houston, Cecilia Farr and David Knowlton were all let go. David Wright, who is a historical criticism guy that inspired David Bokovoy, he was excommunicated and let go from BYU around this time. Then, the September 6 stuff happened. So, all that’s happening, and Joanna Brooks is leading feminist marches at BYU as a fellow student. I didn’t know her, but I would see her, and I’d be like, “Wow, that’s, she’s impressive.” All of that was going on while I was a BYU student.
GT 1:08:20 Those were the liberal days of BYU, apparently.
John 1:08:23 I mean, yeah, I mean The Student Review, which was an alternative newspaper, you could read the Daily Universe, or you could read the Student Review, which would talk about all the controversies. There was the 7th East Press before Student Review.
GT 1:08:36 Right.
John 1:08:38 So, yeah, there was a lot of intellectual fervor, and liberal and conservative kind of stuff going on at BYU. My saving grace was Bill Bradshaw, who believed in evolution was probably pro-choice, but he had served as a mission president in Vietnam and as a stake president, and was faithful. He had been to Harvard but was faithful. Ted Lyon and Lynn England and Clayton White, all presented as faithful. And they introduced me to Eugene England, Lowell Bennion, Leonard Arrington. [There was also] the book, A Thoughtful Faith that was edited by Phil Barlow, which was this collection of essays of people like Richard Bushman, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, and many, many other faithful Mormon intellectuals and scholars.
John 1:09:33 So, I read A Thoughtful Faith and I’m like, “Oh, wow! You can stay in the Church and still have doubts or questions or even be a semi-believer. You can be a buffet Mormon, but still stay in the Church.” And the same thing with Lowell Bennion, like that dude is freaking amazing. He was able to stay in the Church, Eugene England, Leonard Arrington. I’m like, I can do this. You can stay in the Church as a liberal, but still be faithful. So, that got stuck in my brain by the time I graduated from BYU. Now the reason I went back…
GT 1:10:05 So, did you identify as a liberal at this time?
John 1:10:08 Probably.
GT 1:10:09 Okay.
John 1:10:10 Yeah, as a liberal Mormon, maybe. Yeah.
GT 1:10:14 It wasn’t a curse word?
John 1:10:15 Well, I don’t think so. The other really important essay that I was introduced to is Richard Poll. It’s spelled Poll, but it’s pronounced Paul. His essay, What the Church Means to People Like Me, and he introduced this concept of a Liahona Mormon, versus an iron rod Mormon, in the essay. An iron rod Mormon is like a closed minded, dogmatic, Orthodox Mormon, that closes their eyes, holds on to the rod and does what they’re told, believes what they’re told. A Liahona Mormon is somebody that–the Liahona only worked when you asked questions, and it would respond, but it took faith. You didn’t know where you were going to go, and you had to use your own thinking and process. The essay introduces this idea of, you can be a liberal, progressive Mormon, and you don’t have to believe everything or follow everything.
John 1:11:05 That just blew my mind open, because I had not been raised that way. Then, Eugene England had this essay, What the Church Means to People Like Me, where he talked about the Church being good. It’s a place where you can practice Christianity. And the ward setting is a place where you can express Christianity and the flaws or the bugs are features, because you learn to be a better Christian by all the imperfections in the Church. It was this type of liberal, progressive Christianity Mormonism that I was inoculated with as a BYU student. So, I leave in ’93, go to Bain, go to Parian, work for the Church, end up at Microsoft, lose my faith, fully…
GT 1:11:54 Because you were a seminary teacher.
John 1:11:56 Yeah.
GT 1:11:58 Early morning, that sucks, right? Oh, you’re more of an early morning person than me, I think.
John 1:12:02 Oh, yeah. I get up at four or five, most of the time, without an alarm clock. But, yeah, so a year and a half into my seminary, I lose my faith fully. This time, it was fully, because I didn’t know all this stuff. I learned all that Sunstone-y stuff, but I didn’t really learn about the stone in the hat. I didn’t learn about the polyandry. I didn’t learn about Joseph Smith lying. I didn’t know all the details about it, because I’d never read No Man Knows My History. I had only seen Hugh Nibley’s pamphlet, No, Ma’am, That’s Not History, mocking No Man Knows My History. I thought, “Well, that’s dangerous. I can’t read that. That’s apostate kind of stuff.” So, I was okay with Sunstone and Dialogue, not okay with Fawn Brodie.
John 1:12:43 Fast forward to my time at Microsoft. I lost my faith fully. But then Leonard Arrington, Lowell Bennion, Eugene England were there to catch me. Even though it was a dark night of the soul for me, I thought, “No, but let’s keep the spirit of Lowell Bennion, Eugene England. Let’s keep the spirit of them alive. So, I wrestled for a few years trying to figure out what to do. Then, I said, “I’m going to leave Microsoft. I’m going to quit this dream job making a couple hundred thousand dollars a year, stock options, no Bill Gates. I’m not trying to brag, rising star in the company in many ways. I’m going to leave it all behind. Because life isn’t worth living, if you don’t love and believe in what you do, and I’m not getting fulfillment, helping Microsoft sell more boxes of software. This is my calling. I don’t know how I’m going to be a help, be a solution to this problem. But I’m going to do my best.
Starting Mormon Stories (History of the Bloggernacle)
Dr. John Dehlin started the Mormon Stories podcast over a decade and a half ago. What were his motivations? John will answer that, and we’ll get a tour of the bloggernacle circa 2004-5, when he started Mormon Stories. Check out our conversation….
John 1:13:44 At the time, 2004, iPods were in beta. I’m not talking about iPhones. I’m talking about iPods. I’m not even sure the first iPod had really come out yet. Bluetooth hadn’t really been implemented. Certainly, podcasts were not a thing. So, I leave in 2004, I get a job at Utah State in a PhD program where I could work with MIT. I started in this field called instructional technology that tried to marry education with technology. But I got to work with MIT. So, I’m like, this seems like a cool landing spot to try and figure out what my next steps would be to help solve this faith crisis problem. Because at Microsoft, I had met a lot of Mormons who are closeted non-believers at Microsoft, who are gay, but they didn’t want to tell their spouse; or they got caught masturbating by their spouse and now were like in the doghouse or they lost their faith. But they couldn’t tell anyone and they were all like depressed and broken or divorced from faith crisis stuff, all at Microsoft. I’m like, there’s no help for these people. And I’m struggling, and it’s just unacceptable that the Church has no support for people like me, for people like my friends at Microsoft. So, I left Microsoft, came to Logan, got in the Ph.D. program, went in instructional technology. During that first year, 2004 to 2005, I attended my first Sunstone. Dan Witherspoon was the executive director. I met the Dialogue crowd. I discovered the bloggernacle. So, right then in 2004, I discovered…
GT 1:15:36 What was on the bloggernacle back then? There wasn’t much, was there?
John 1:15:40 There was Times & Seasons.
GT 1:15:41 Okay.
John 1:15:41 And Feminist Mormon Housewives, around then, and By Common Consent, and Millennial Star. So, there were at least four prominent blogs. That’s where all the action was happening. That, plus there were some–there was an internet forum called New Order Mormon, that was basically advocating for what’s called a middle way, where you could be a non-believer or buffet Mormon, but still say faithful. It was called New Order Mormon. I’m super bummed that that website doesn’t exist anymore. So, you could go on there and chat with all these people that are making the Church work, even though they don’t believe anymore. Then, there were some ex-Mormon, there was the ex-Mormon forum by that point, exmormon.org is probably still around. Then there was like Zion City Limits, or ZLMB, View From the Foyer, there were these other forums. They’re like chat forums, bulletin boards, where you would have these really in-depth arguments by text about the Church and its history, and its truth claims and current events.
John 1:16:43 So, between the bulletin boards and forums, and the blogs, there was a lot. And Sunstone, there was like this rich, Mormon intellectual discourse that I got introduced to in 2004. I went to Dan Wotherspoon. I’m like, “Dude, you need to get with the internet, because the internet is going to be big.” At some point, he brought me on, they made me executive director of Sunstone. I created the first I created the Sunstone Podcast.
GT 1:17:21 You were the Lindsay Hansen Park of Sunstone?
John 1:17:23 I was the Dan Wotherspoon, Elbert Peck, Peggy Fletcher Stack, Lindsay Hansen Park of Sunstone.
GT 1:17:28 Wow, I didn’t realize that.
John 1:17:29 Yeah, I was on the Sunstone board. Then, they made me executive director. I created a podcast called Sunstone Podcast. I did a few episodes. I interviewed Armand Mauss. I interviewed a few other people, Richard Dutcher.
GT 1:17:42 I’m bummed I never got Armand on my podcast. He passed away. I won’t get him.
John 1:17:45 I’ve got an episode where I interviewed Armand.
GT 1:17:47 I remember that. It was a good one.
John 1:17:50 So, I tried to help Sunstone come into the internet age. Dan and I didn’t see eye to eye. I love the guy. But I resigned from Sunstone, because [there was] just too much tension with Dan on where to take Sunstone. He was still stuck in the publication magazine mode. I helped with the digitization of Sunstone Magazine, to put it on the web. I was proud of being involved in that. I tried to start a Sunstone podcast, but that, I wasn’t going to leave my job with MIT to argue with Dan Wotherspoon about the direction of Sunstone.
John 1:18:30 Sunstone was dying. It was hemorrhaging. The magazine was losing subscriptions. They were tanking in revenue, and I wasn’t going to risk leaving MIT to have to pull Dan Wotherspoon along. I love Dan. He’s a brilliant person. But I just had to resign from that.
GT 1:18:48 So, you were working at MIT, Massachusetts Institute of Technology for those who don’t know what that stands for, while living in Logan.
John 1:18:56 Yep.
GT 1:18:56 And you started Open CourseWare? Is that right?
John 1:19:00 Yeah, I was the executive director of MIT’s international open courseware consortium.
GT 1:19:06 We actually used that at Western Governors University. So, I’ve used that.
John 1:19:13 Fun.
GT 1:19:13 You basically wrote the code for that or…
John 1:19:15 No, what my job there was. Well, I helped. Utah State had a team that built some software to support the releasing of course materials online for free. But my role was director of the International Consortium. So, I would go to universities in Japan and China and in the United States and teach them about Open CourseWare and try and get them to commit to releasing their course materials online for free, and then to join the consortium where we’d meet, once a year, every other year, twice a year, whatever, and try and grow a movement of universities sharing their education materials for free.
John 1:20:00 So, I got to go to Spain and Japan and China, all as the Director of the Open Courseware Initiative. I was told I was MIT’s only employee west of the Mississippi.
GT 1:20:27 Cool.
John 1:20:28 So, yeah, that was a cool thing. I named the Open Stories Foundation, inspired by the open courseware. So the open courseware Consortium was inspired by the open source software movement.
GT 1:20:39 Right.
John 1:20:40 Then, I named my nonprofit, the Open Stories Foundation, inspired by those two things. So, yeah, so parallel to working with Sunstone, while I was in that USU program, in 2004, I learned about blogs, I learned about wikis, and I learned about this thing called podcasts. I had an iPod before iPhones even came out and I downloaded iTunes.
GT 1:21:11 Was that contraband at Microsoft? I guess you’re out of Microsoft by then.
John 1:21:15 Yeah, Microsoft, and Bill Gates wasn’t a big fan of the Internet back in the day, believe it or not. So, Microsoft was resisting all this web stuff.
GT 1:21:22 Neither was Novell. I was a big Novell guy. I don’t know if you knew that.
John 1:21:25 Oh, yeah, of course. I worked for WordPerfect.
GT 1:21:28 I don’t like WordPerfect, but I thought Novell had some amazing networking software.
John 1:21:34 Yeah, well, I worked for WordPerfect after Novell had bought WordPerfect.
GT 1:21:36 Okay.
John 1:21:37 So, I worked for that. Anyway, so, in 2004, all the blogs are happening, wikis, but there were only a couple of podcasts. There’s one called Catholic-Mormon.
GT: I remember that one.
John: And there was one–Mike Norton had a podcast called The Church is Not True, very subtle, very subtle-named podcast, with this person that he co-hosted with this guy named Mike. And there was maybe one other, This Mormon Life, I think it was called. Dallas Robbins, Yeah. I’m like, podcasting is going to be huge. You know what I mean?
GT 1:22:22 Did you start Mormon Matters before Mormon Stories?
John 1:22:25 No, Mormon Stories was first.
GT 1:22:26 Oh, it was, okay.
John 1:22:27 Yeah. I almost named Mormon Stories, A Thoughtful Faith. In fact, the first name I decided on was A Thoughtful Faith. But then I attended a storytelling, digital storytelling course in Hawaii at some Instructional Technology Conference, where I learned about digital storytelling. I just got converted to the idea that stories were the most powerful way to communicate with people. So, at the last minute, I changed the name of the podcast from A Thoughtful Faith, inspired by Phil Barlow’s book, to Mormon Stories, and I released it in 2005. That first episode was about my mission. While I was still trying to work with Sunstone and Dialogue, I was trying to consult Dialogue. I met with Dialogue, I met with the Dialogue board, tried to convince the Dialogue board to partner with Sunstone, to partner with me and Mormon Stories. Steve Evans ended up creating By Common Consent, and there was a relationship between By Common Consent blog and Dialogue for many years.
John 1:23:28 But that’s when I became friends with Greg Prince. He was on the Dialogue board, and he was the first person I interviewed for Mormon Stories, after my solo episode. I interviewed Mike Norton’s partner–I’m forgetting what his fake name was at the time. In 2005…
GT 1:23:50 Roasted Tomatoes, was that it?
John 1:23:52 Roasted Tomatoes was J. NelsonSeawright at the time. He and his wife Taryn were bloggers. They had a podcast called, like, Latter-day Liberation Front, but I think they also blogged for By Common Consent.
John 1:24:08 But that was…
GT 1:24:09 This is a good history of the bloggernacle.
John 1:24:11 That was the first mixed faith couple or couple that I interviewed on Mormon Stories, really early on. Roasted Tomatoes and Serenity Valley were their fake names from the blogs. Anyway, that was a really, really long way of talking about what my motives were when I started Mormon Stories. You asked, an hour ago, what my belief status was when I started Mormon Stories. I absolutely knew that the Mormon Church was not what it claimed to be, that the truth claims would not, could not hold up, that the Book of Mormon was not historical, that the Book of Abraham was a problem, and the Church wasn’t the one true church for sure. I had been inoculated with enough progressive Mormonism, by that point, that I believed all we needed was sunshine, that if we could talk openly about the Church’s problems and the truth claims, talk openly about the racism, the homophobia, the sexism, feminism and the administration problems, that somehow, we could find a way to have thoughtful faith, integrated progressive faith.
John 1:25:26 So, my explicit intention of Mormon Stories was to keep people from leaving the Church, because I thought that was a bad thing. I thought people shouldn’t leave the Church, because I felt like the Church was the best way to live. [I thought it was] the best way to raise your kids, the best way to be a moral person, the best way to find community and spirituality. I felt no one should leave the Church. But everyone should talk openly about the problems and together as a community, as we confront the problems with the internet, with podcasts, with blogs with open discourse, the Church will improve, and we’ll all move together towards a Zionist state. Or I would get excommunicated, one of the two.
GT 1:26:12 So, you knew that was a possibility.
John 1:26:14 I mean, I had lived in the September Six era at BYU, so yeah, when I bought that first microphone, and published that first episode on my mission story, I said, this could very well into me being excommunicated. But the Church had taught me,
do what is right
let the consequence follow.
They had taught me
Dare to do right,
Dare to be true.
There’s a work that
No other can do,
That honesty is super important. And,
Oh, say what is truth
is the fairest gem
that the riches of men can produce
and priceless the value of truth
will be when the proud monarch’s
costliest diadem is counted
but dross and refuse.
Like, truth matters.
GT 1:27:02 That’s a hymn, for those of you who don’t know.
John 1:27:04 Yeah, Oh Say What is Truth. Oh, say, what is truth (singing). So, for me, I learned too well, that honesty and truth mattered. I’d seen the cover ups on my mission. I’d seen a bunch of scholars be excommunicated, unfairly. I’m like, maybe this time with the Internet, we’ll try an experiment. We’ll do faithful, thoughtful, honest discourse, transparently. It was just an act of faith that the Church would support that if I worked really hard. So, I had a couple of rules. Never criticize the brethren directly. So, in the several first years of Mormon Stories, probably until 2013, you probably won’t hear me criticizing the brethren a lot. You can discuss truth claims, but never, like, openly express disbelief about truth claims. So, even early on, when my friend Paul interviewed me, the guy who introduced me to polyandry, he interviewed me on Mormon Stories, like episode 30 to 33. Even then, I’m questioning. I’m questioning the atonement a little bit. I’m questioning this idea that God had to kill his son, that sort of thing, to make everything right, and that we needed a Savior at all.
John 1:28:31 But, generally speaking, yeah, that was my motive. It was a naive, idealistic attempt at encouraging open, honest, thoughtful, transparent discord within Mormonism. I knew that either the Church would change in very positive ways, or I’d be excommunicated. But, at that point, truth mattered so much and by then, I was aware of the LGBT problems. I had learned about Stuart Mattis and his death by suicide on the steps of his local Mormon church building. I’d become an LGBT advocate by 2004-2005. I had become a feminist. I felt like the priesthood ban was not of God. So, I just said, “I’m going for it, and I don’t know if it’s going to peter out and die. I don’t know if this podcasting will take off. I don’t know if anyone’s ever going to listen. But this will be this is my calling.” Like for my whole life, even at Microsoft, I’d be like, “What am I supposed to do? What am I supposed to do with my life? I’m supposed to have a meaningful job, a meaningful career. Being rich and working in Microsoft wasn’t fulfilling. I couldn’t be a lawyer, couldn’t be a politician. Business is empty. I felt like I’d found my calling.
John 1:30:09 So, 2005 was when I launched the podcast. Really early on, I learned that a couple of people had either lost their faith or even had gotten divorced after listening to Mormon Stories, and it really freaked me out. I felt like, “Oh my gosh, I’m the reason why people are losing their faith and leaving the Church. Sometimes, I’m the reason why some people got divorced.” My parents had been divorced, and so I was really wanting to prevent divorces with Mormon Stories, that were unnecessary. I even took Mormon Stories down a few times prior to my Ph.D. program. Once or twice, it was out of sadness for seeing that some people would cite Mormon Stories when they lost their faith or divorced. But then also, it was just getting overwhelmed by the responsibility of it all and wondering about whether I was doing good. So, that happened. But overwhelmingly, the feedback was, “You’re helping me stay in the Church. Thank you for Mormon Stories. Now, I see that there’s a middle way. Now, if you, John, can be accepted in the Church, I think maybe there’s a place for people like me in the Church. And I just I love this open discussion, it renovates my interest in Mormonism.” So, I would get, for every one person who left the Church, citing Mormon Stories, I’d get 1000 emails from people saying that it helped them stay in the Church.
John 1:31:49 And even during those first several years, where my bishop might call me in and question me about Mormon Stories, I would just go to my listeners and say–there’s a blog episode where I’m like, “Hey, my bishop’s giving me a hard time. He’s worried that the Mormon Stories is causing people to leave the Church.” Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people emailed me or sent me letters where they would bear witness that Mormon Stories was helping them stay in the Church. Then I printed them all out and bound them and brought them into my bishop. I said, “Hey, Bishop, here’s several hundred people saying Mormon Stories helped them stay in the Church. He’s like, “Alright, you’ve got my blessing. You can keep doing Mormon Stories.” So there were at least two formal inquiries by my bishop into whether or not Mormon Stories was an excommunicable offense, prior to my ultimate excommunication, where I was exonerated.
GT 1:32:44 Where do you think that pressure came from? Was the bishop just really worried? Or was it from higher than that?
John 1:32:50 Well, I do think there were members of the ward that might have expressed concern. No one would have ever told me that. Later, there were definitely ward members that were out to excommunicate me. But I think most ward members didn’t know I had a podcast, because they just weren’t on the internet and weren’t paying attention. Remember, podcasts didn’t get big for another 7, 8, 9, 10 years. Like it’s 2022 now. Podcasts have really come on in the past five years. Well, I was doing more a podcast 10 years before that.
GT 1:33:24 So, you weren’t advertising your podcast at your church, or anything.
John 1:33:29 No, I was working really hard to be honest, and give honest elders’ quorum lessons that touched on the issues, but it was in the context of faith, and not to proselytize my podcast.
GT 1:33:43 Because you were a elders’ quorum teacher, if I remember.
John 1:33:45 Yeah, for the first three years, I think in my ward, in North Logan, I was elders’ quorum instructor.
GT 1:33:52 So, you really weren’t a believer, but you were still teaching elders’ quorum?
John 1:33:55 Well, I thought of myself as a progressive believer. So, I wasn’t a believer in the one true church. I wasn’t a believer that this is exclusive authority. I didn’t believe that. The way I would phrase my belief back then is, “I don’t know what God is. It’s hard to believe that God’s anthropomorphic, but there’s something, I’ll just call that God. And I don’t know if the atonement, worked the way that we were taught. But I believe in Jesus’s teachings. I’m a better person when I follow them. Something happened. Was there a resurrection? I’m not sure. But I’m comfortable saying I’m a Christian, because I follow the teachings of Jesus. I had learned enough nuance about Scripture, and I learned enough about the problems of the Bible, to where I knew the Bible had as many historicity problems as the Book of Mormon.
John 1:34:47 So, for me, I redefined scripture to just be wisdom, myths, teachings, moral teachings, and so I could bear testimony that the Book of Mormon was scripture, just like the Bible was scripture. But then I would say Eckhart Tolle is scripture. You know what I mean? I had a very nuanced testimony. I even could go through the temple recommend questions and feel good about answering them all in the right ways. Did Thomas S. Monson or Gordon B. Hinckley have the keys to lead the Church in the restoration? Yeah, something got restored. I don’t know exactly what that was. But the current president of the Church is the guy who runs the Church, and in that sense, has the keys. So, I even got to the point where I could justify answering the temple recommend questions, and I even created a website called StayLDS, where I wrote like an 80 page manual in 2007, on how to stay in the Church as a nuanced progressive believer. I still thought of myself as a believer, just as a more progressive type, which is, Patrick Mason, Spencer Fluhman and everybody now who’s still a faithful Mormon scholar would probably identify as a progressive Mormon. Plates, who knows? One true church, I’m not big on that, but we have something to contribute, Terryl Givens, Richard Bushman, like that seems to be in vogue today. And that’s how I felt back then.
[End of Part 1]
 Renee Zellweger is 5’ 4”.
 Elder Christopherson is an apostle despite the fact that his brother is gay.
 While the word polyandry is not in Rough Stone Rolling, Bushman stated on page 439, “Within fifteen months of marrying Louisa Beaman, Joseph had married eleven other women. Eight of the women were married to other men. All of them went on living with their first husbands after marrying the Prophet.”
 It is no longer active.
 Episodes 27-29.
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