Episode 119: Levi Peterson

In this episode, Tom Perry and John Larsen interview Levi Peterson. Levi is an award winning author and novelist. We talk to him about two of his greatest works, “The Backslider” and his award winning biography “Juanita Brooks: Mormon Woman Historian”.

Mormon Stories interview with Levi:

You can purchase some of his books:
The Backslider
Juanita Brooks: Mormon Woman Historian

Episode 119

5 comments on “Episode 119: Levi Peterson”

  1. Anonymous Reply

    I’ve been meaning to read the Backslider since I heard Levi on Mormon Stories. I think now I might finally do it. I find myself really liking to Mr. Peterson w/o knowing him. I feel like I can relate to him because of LDS background, his views on belief, culture, guilt, etc.

    Sometimes I feel this love/hate thing about my Mormon upbringing and roots. People like Levi and Juanita Brooks are heroes for me and help me see that there might be a way to make peace with that part of me.

    Thanks to all for another good one.

  2. Navybluesteph Reply

    Great podcast. Though Will Bagley will always be my favorite, I found the historical information and discussion captivating, Loved the Juanita Brooks discussion.

    Tom and John, you guys make a great interview team. Many of my recent favorites feature the two of you working together, a real podcast “dream team”. Keep up the good work!
    Steph (jax)

  3. Wes Cautherrs Reply

    Awesome interview, guys. Levi sounds like a good man.

    Have you wondered why Levi’s “Cowboy Jesus” has such broad appeal?

    Admittedly, I have not read the book, but from what I could gather listening to the inaugural book club podcast about it, I was reminded very much of Jesus as described in the Bible. It makes sense that most people who have read The Backslider come from a Mormon background which also includes a lot of guilt in most cases (both John and Levi claim this as do I and numerous people I have spoken to. I find it hard to believe that those who do not experience guilt in Mormonism are the majority but I accept that there may be some in this category).

    I think Levi’s “Cowboy Jesus” has such broad appeal because he offers something not really found in Mormonism which is grace. As Levi said, “Mormons don’t quite like to believe in free grace, they think you gotta buy your grace tickets by good works.” Ironically, this completely nullifies the whole concept of grace which is defined as unmerited favor.

    When reading about Jesus in the Bible, it seems very hard for me to believe he would have been a fan of Mormonism. For one, he turned several gallons of water into some very potent wine (it was not grape juice as we were falsely told growing up Mormonism. We know this for the following reasons: 1) Grape juice did not exist in the ancient world. 2) Even if it somehow did exist, the thought of serving grape juice at a Jewish wedding feast is ludicrous). Additionally, he had very severe words against the self-righteous religious leaders of his day who were overly focused on keeping rules. He also hung out with people who were considered unworthy, unrighteous outcasts and was thus accused of also being unworthy and unrighteous by the religious leaders he was critical of. Therefore, Jesus seems have very little in common with Mormonism which has a major focus on keeping rules, one of which is not drinking alcohol. Worthiness and righteousness are also necessary requirements for anyone wanting to fully participate in Mormonism and associating with people of ill repute is unacceptable.

    Religion, whether it’s Mormonism, Protestantism, Catholicism or any other “ism” even to include something like Secular Humanism says we are right and everyone else is wrong. We know the right way to live and we approve of you if and when you do/don’t do the things we say are okay/not okay. This is very different from the gospel of Jesus which says everyone is wrong, including those who wish to be his followers both before and after they become his followers. The good news of Jesus (the word gospel means good news) is that even though we are all wrong, God has gone to great lengths to redeem us, including his own suffering on our behalf (Romans 5:8).

    While I liked most of what Levi had to offer, I have to disagree with him that the LDS-run monument for the MMM symbolizes contrition and confession on the part of the COJCOLDS for what happened. The speech made by Gordon B. Hinckley at the dedication to the monument was exremely patronizing and included the following statement: “That which we have done here must never be construed as an acknowledgment on the part of the church of any complicity in the occurrences of that fateful and tragic day.” A statement like that indicates to me the opposite of contrition and confession.

  4. Ms. Robyn Reply

    I absolutely love, love, love Levi! So glad he’d participate and share himself with us here in Mormon Expression land.

  5. Anonymous Reply

    Levi is the most charming apostate ever. I loved this interview.

    I loved the Backslider (as I commented in the live broadcast and on that thread), but I was so glad you also discussed Juanita Brooks. I know about her, but I haven’t read his biography. Now I plan to…

    Thanks for the great interview, Levi!

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