MormonStories: Thank you John Dehlin

Brian JohnstonAnti-Mormon, apologetics, Bloggernacle, Mormon, news, questioning 32 Comments

MormonStories, the site that hosted dozens of audio and video podcast interviews, was retired this weekend.  John Dehlin announced he is taking the opportunity to focus his energizes on his family and pursue new opportunities in life.  It sounds like it was a complex and difficult decision for him.  Many people involved in Mormonism on the internet are familiar with his work.  He interviewed prominent Mormon scholars, activist Mormons on the internet, and just everyday members about their beliefs.  The result was a sampling of the colorful rainbow of faith, doubts and hopes in the world of Mormon religion.  He was also noted for his candid treatment of historical topics and issues.  This last part is what a lot of people appreciated — the liberating sense of openness.

I wanted to write a post thanking John for his years of tireless sacrifice and effort.  His work was good, and it helped thousands of people deal with their faith tradition in a positive way.  What I would specially like to do is have people leave comments letting John know how his podcasts helped them keep their faith in the Church, in Christ or in God, even if it was different afterward.  It is an opportunity to say something nice to John and wish him well on his journey.  I want John to know he made a positive difference in the world.

I’ll start.

There are two things that I appreciated a lot.  The first was a simple email John sent me.  I was at a peak in crisis with my overall faith at the time.  John responded to a comment I emailed with a simple, quick note that said I was not alone, and that many others out there before had these doubts and questions.  He also included his telephone number in case I wanted to talk.  I had never met him before, and I was just another anonymous stranger on the internet.  This small act, a brief email, a personal connection, made a big difference.  I had indeed thought I was alone.  Nobody in my normal support network was safe to talk to: not family, not priesthood leaders, and not Mormon friends that I knew.  I don’t want to exaggerate and say this “saved” me.  It helped a lot though.  It made a difference to me at the time.

The second thing was the interviews, most of all the long series with Richard Bushman.  I’m not here to debate that Richard Bushman’s version is the totally right or wrong version of various parts of Joseph Smith’s history, but I had not been exposed before to the existence of various possibilities.  I suffered from an ignorance of history.  Before listening to Richard Bushman, I only knew the overly whitewashed official Church version I had grown up with (and lost faith in), or the worst of the worst possibilities I found in “anti-Mormon” books and websites.  It was only one or the other, and I was not comfortable being caged in by either extreme.  It was important for my faith to hear someone as knowledgeable and educated as Mr. Bushman explain his positive views about the Church while also knowing so much about the history.  Again, I don’t want to debate the views.  The thing that helped me was simply having my mind opened to the fact there are many possibilities in between the extremes.  It was an “ah-ha!!!” moment for me at the time.  I doubt I would have gotten around to reading Rough Stone Rolling if I had not heard the interviews.  The interview made the difference, and it sent me on a journey to educate myself better and form my own opinions.

So thank you John for the work you did with MormonStories!  It was one of several things that helped me decide to stay in the Church.

Anyone else?

Comments 32

  1. God bless you, John. As I am currently experiencing my own “dark night of the soul” and reevaluating where I stand with the Church, your work means more to me than you can possibly know. Hopefully we’ll be hearing more from you before too long.

  2. hey, I’m not LDS (never have been), nor even American, but I join those who mourn the loss of the mormon stories podcast. I’m relatively new, having discovered it just a few weeks ago. But I appreciate the honesty and integrity which John approached his stories and subjects. I was working through some issues in my own church, and because of MS, I’m seeing things now in a different light, and am better off because of it. More at peace.
    I regret I didn’t save or download the podcast on “Why people leave …” The first time I heard it, I was thoroughly captivated and taken aback by John’s honest approach. Sat right through the 40 minutes.
    Stay well, and go well, John.

    “The elegance of honesty needs no adornment.”

  3. Amen and amen.

    Thank you, John. Mormon Stories opened my eyes to the fact that Mormon doctrine and interpretation of historical events are not as clear cut as I had been taught. The wide range of excellent podcasts gave me hope that I could work out my relationship with God within the church.

  4. As an investigator, through the podcasts I gained insight into the extremes on the belief spectrum as well as the vast gray area between them. As one who frequently struggles to get my selves to agree on anything, knowing that many believers see multiple layers of complexity eases my mind. I’m glad I downloaded the files that were most important to me. Thank you, John, for your hard work.

  5. I too want to thank you John. I’m sad I didn’t get to listen to more of the Mormon Stories podcasts now. Perhaps there’s a way of bringing them back? As an archive on Mormon Matters, maybe?

  6. Are John’s videos still on Youtube? Are the MP3 (audio only) files on a free hosting/archive service like itunes? Or can the MP3 files be converted into a video and stored/archived on Youtube?

  7. I stumbled on “How to Stay in the Church…” and at the time felt like it was a direct answer to all of my prayers. I had no idea who the man was who wrote it but it spoke to my soul. Since that time I have read many of John’s comments with interest. Thank you for being the voice for so many who are searching for further light and knowledge.

  8. I maintain, and the audio podcasts with him in it are still up by following the links from that site. John, do you expect to take down that feature as well in the future?

  9. Post

    #8: It’s my understanding that the YouTube videos have also been taken down. I am not sure about availability of the podcasts on iTunes.

    edit: Ok. I just checked at YouTube. It looks like only the “Why people leave” and “How to Stay” videos were taken down. I saw interviews with various people.

  10. I’m not sure if John will reply here so I will say this on his behalf:

    Each episode of MS podcast had John’s voice, personal feelings, email address, and call for donations. John is looking to be taken out of that loop altogether. What a lot of people don’t realize is that as random people from around the world have found the podcast in a time of need, they often email John and many of those emails are incredibly personal cries for help. We are talking about over 5,000 emails in 3 years (and that is in Gmail which counts replies as part of the same message). Simply overwhelming. I’ve worked very closely with John both professionally and on Mormon stuff for over a year and I am a witness to his burden. Its just too much for one person.

    The difficult thing about leaving the podcasts up on archive is that in their current form John cannot be removed from them. Technically they have been in an inactive archive state since early 2008, but people still email him all the time for counseling. The only way MS could live on is for someone to use the interviews as raw audio from which you would edit out only the responses from the guests and put them into a new product, like in a documentary. If someone is willing to create a new podcast with John removed, he has expressed a willingness to allow that.

  11. Re: the podcast.
    I loved it, and will never be able to succinctly communicate how important to me and my spiritual life it was. I am glad I caught it when it was “live” and followed it from episode 1.

  12. I love my Uncle John!

    He inspired me to create Linescratchers, and to interview members of the Church, but for me I’m more interested in Mormon artists and musicians, the emotional side of the Gospel, the artistic side of the Gospel…

    John’s a brilliant, funny, good-natured, loving person, and I can speak from the experience of being his nephew…

  13. re: archive or a new version of the podcast

    I’m willing to do the audio editing to remove Bro. Dehlin, but I can’t do a quick turnaround (job, family, church, my own podcast, etc). It’d be a long term project. If there are original source files with John on separate track than the recorded guest, it’d be fairly trivial, and turnaround faster. If there is only a mixed down version, it’ll take more work.
    Email me at the address I post under, and maybe we can work something out.

  14. Thank you John for the great service and your dedication. Some of my favorite audio on my iPod about Mormon things come from your caring and perceptive interviews. Mormon Stories will be missed.

  15. Post

    I don’t so much want to start a discussion about how to solve particular problems here with this post, just give people a chance to thank him. That’s it.

  16. I don’t so much want to start a discussion about how to solve particular problems here with this post, just give people a chance to thank him. That’s it.

    Then feel free to delete my comment about helping out, and this one of course.

  17. Thank you, John, for creating Mormon Stories. I found it at a time when i thought the grass looked greener outside the church. Mormon Stories helped me realize why I love the church despite it’s faults and challenges. Thank you for being willing to ask the questions that nobody else was. Thank you for providing a forum for helping me find answers to questions I’ve always had, but had nowhere to ask them. Thank you for providing a loving and constructive environment for discussing the intricacies of LDS history and theology.

    I can’t say I would have left the church if not for Mormon Stories, but I can say that I was thinking about it, and that I decided against it in part because of Mormon Stories. Mormon Stories gave me the strength to move forward within the LDS tradition. Listening to Mormon Stories has been an incredibly faith-affirming experience.

    Thank you, John, for the time, money, and effort you have expended on behalf of others. I understand, respect, and support your decision to cease the distribution of Mormon Stories. You have helped me, my family and my testimony through difficult times.

  18. To me, John articulated how to be a cafeteria Mormon better than anyone else and gave many people tools they needed to deal with staying that nobody else could quite match.
    He was clearly a man with a mission from above, a man far ahead of his time.
    I believe that many will be very grateful to him in the life to come for having been an angel sent from above in a place that nobody else could fill.

  19. John, you have been an answer to prayer for thousands. As bluntly as I can put this, your name never comes up in lists of influential/important Mormons, but it should – and closer to the top than to the bottom.

    I love you, man – and I hope the editing mentioned here is done. It would be so appropriate if it happened through a connection made here on this site.

  20. John,

    I came to Mormon Stories at the recommendation of a good friend who felt like I might find a way back to church after becoming disaffected. He had made the leap and hoped I could too. John, your insights and wiliness to address touch issues while still maintaining a connection to the church was a great example to me. You showed many of us that you could find good in the church despite it’s rather dirty laundry from the past. Don’t underestimate the value of that effort! Most of us were well on our way out after discovering the “uncorrelated history”. Many of us felt so alone in our quest to discover the truth about our religion. You did a great job of showing there was another option to throwing in the towel.

    I lurk over at FLAK quite often and read your thoughts about getting out of the business. I’m not trying to minimize your pain, but please understand that for a good many of us listeners, you didn’t expose us to the touch issues of church history. (We did that all on our own by reading books and searching out historical information on the internet.) Your site provided a place to freely talk about those issues in a non-threatening environment with a whole spectrum of people from the very believing to the atheist. For me it was a breath of fresh air at a time when I felt so overwhelmed with anger and frustration at my church.

    Today I still support my wife in her callings and attend meeting with her. Without your help, I am quite sure I would be out of the church now and divorced. So, like it or not, your site helped me deal with my lack of belief in a positive way and helped my wife understand that her husband wasn’t some sinful apostate needing to escape. I don’t think I’m alone here, many others feel the same way.

    I totally understand why you feel the need to move on. Hopefully, in the not too distant future, someone will pick up the torch and provide a similar place for disaffected people to find some understanding and perhaps that elusive middle way of Mormonism. Without it, I fear most will simply fade away into inactivity or resignation.

  21. Thanks so much to you all. I’m obviously very touched by these generous expressions.

    I hope to come back (eventually) with something better than Mormon Stories. It just might take me a little while. In the mean time, I hope to maintain the wonderful friendships I’ve made w/ all of you.

    Please do keep in touch.

  22. John, Thank you for all the preparation and work that you dedicated to “Mormon Stories” podcasts and webcasts. Both helped me to feel less isolated in my spiritual journey and I look forward to upcoming projects that you launch. I do hope this break provides you with a sense of ‘renewal’.

  23. I hope Mr Dehlin has a good rest and puts it back again. Im worried about people polarizing to far too far to the left and too far too the right- either way is dangerous. Mormon Stories Rocks and we want it back please!!

  24. i’ve just joined and might possibly be the youngest geezer on here. but i have to say from what i know thus far you are the rockinist rocker ever!

  25. There are many who benefited from Mormon Stories. Its detractors were a vocal minority with no empathy for the real target audience. Those individuals on a mission to shrink the tent of the church do not own the church despite their belief to the contrary.

  26. John’s Podcasts were HUGE for me. It was like eating a meal at the end of a 24 hour fast.
    I couldn’t get enough of them.

    Thanks for everything John.

  27. John, Thank you so much for the work you have put into all your podcasts. I still struggle with the desire to leave the church but then I go back to some of your podcasts and refocus on the positive good things in the church. Your podcasts have been a Godsend in my life as I am sure countless others would agree. Thanks again.

  28. John, your work hss meant the world to me. I can’t pass up an opportunity to express my sincerest gratitude. Your work is meaningful and blassing to so many in this world. I have been profoundly affected by your healing approach. I wish I could hug you man! You are amazing.

  29. John, I too appreciate your work and thank you for your efforts. I just have one question, your site was very helpful why take it down? It can’t be about the cost. Someone else could manage it for you. I know its your baby but there was so much info available. I must say I am struggling with my belief system. I have been a member since 1986 and my struggle is how can I speak the truth without hurting so many people that I care about. The very Church I have come to love is not what I have been led to believe or I could just say I have been lied to. In Gods kingdom do I need to rationalize away my belief system? I don’t think so. Whats wrong with standing up for the truth. The truth is you can’t speak the truth because you will be labeled an apostate and delt with accordingly. Its ironic how I can be excomed from the church for just speaking the truth, When there’s Ommision in Chuch leadership. When Jesus said the truth will set you free, it is true. I guess its just gona hurt alot. PS Im not going to leave the Chuch I love but If they throw me out so be it. PS agian sorry for the rant.

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