Episode 131: Bias, Balance and Objectivity

John Larsen is joined by Glenn Ostlund, Tom Perry, Rich and Heather to discuss issues of bias, balance and objectivity on the podcast.

Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts

Episode 131

92 comments on “Episode 131: Bias, Balance and Objectivity”

  1. Garmageddon Reply

    Great podcast, y’all. Mormon Expression just keeps getting better.

    Here’s my input on the objectivity question: Don’t worry about it. What makes the podcast so good is that the topics are interesting, there is a range of well-informed and articulate opinion, and the participants treat each other with respect and kindness. There are virtually no loaded questions, proof-text battles, or ad hominem attacks.

    Also, thanks for sticking up for Mike. He deserves a lot of respect for taking a stand and defending it in a forum where most of the listeners probably disagree with him. You can’t do that without growing a couple.

  2. Elder Vader Reply

    I just want to go on record saying that this was the worst podcast ever, and I’m not listening anymore.

  3. Anonymous Reply

    At risk of sounding mushy I have to say that I like you guys (girls too) and your podcast. You’re are doing a fine job. Keep it up and don’t sweat the few negative comments.

    Mormon Expression allows discussion of things that cannot really be discussed in and around the Mormon Church. Podcast like this (and John Dehlin’s stuff as well) create a space— a landing pad if you will) for all kinds of Mormons who need something that the Church can’t/won’t offer. For those trodding the lonely road of unorthodoxy, doubt, or disaffection it is a very good thing. It is not only needed….we need many more things like it.

    Mormon Expression has it’s own distinct if sometimes schizophrenic voice and some pretty good chemistry between contributors. I say keep doing what your doing. It’s working for me….Mike Tannehill and all.

    Thanks for your efforts and for helping make my work day go by a little easier.

    • Anonymous Reply

      The bit on this podcast about how there’s no middle-of-the-road Mormon really hit a nerve with me:

      “The type of Mormon who would express a mainstream Mormon view, who could know about and contend with the discussion, and engage in civil dialog. … To be able to take criticism on doctrinal points and hold their own without looking like a fool and feeling embarrassed. … They’re simply not there.”

      I came very close to conversion and baptism in my late teens, under the influence of my girlfriend after she returned from her mission. The eventual deal-breaker was coming to the above realization. I’d been accustomed to having serious discussions with my Jewish or Jesuit friends about their history, philosophy, and dogma. I couldn’t find a Mormon who was capable, let alone willing to have a discussion that ended with anything more substantial than “put your questions on the shelf; when we die God will tell us the answer”. In contrast to other religious communities, the most religious Mormons seemed to be the least interested in having honest, serious discussions about it. The Mormons most interested in having these discussions – the hosts of this podcast for example – seemed the least religious. It seems like it would be better for everyone – believers, unbelievers, lapsed believers, podcast participants, and listeners – if more (or any) mainstream Mormons could rise to this challenge.

  4. Wes Cauthers Reply

    As one who was not a fan of the Gene Sessions podcast, my negative feelings came from the fact that the MMM is something I have had much interest in and I didn’t feel like I learned anything new (but I have studied it a lot so for others it may have been informative). It also really bugged me when he said the MMM was a “complex matter that we really can’t fully understand in 2010” because I completely disagree with that statement. I think my issue was mainly with Sessions’ perspective more than anything and I would like to have seen that perspective challenged more. With that said, I thought the Bagley interview was awesome. It’s obvious that my feelings about both of these reveal my own bias towards Bagley’s view of what happened and my opinion that people like Sessions should be challenged which wasn’t necessarily what ME was going for. No hard feelings against Tom, whose contribution to the podcast I appreciate.

    I agree there is no such thing as pure objectivity and that everyone has a bias. The best that can be done is to allow for a diversity of voices to be heard and then let the chips fall where they may. I think ME does a pretty good job of this. Mutually respectful (or any at all for that matter in some cases) dialogue about these things has been rare in my experience, and I applaud the efforts here towards that end. I think it’s difficult to have respectful conversations about anything where people have strong disagreement and heightened emotions, but the subject of Mormonism among people whose lives are heavily impacted by it makes such conversations infinitely more difficult.

    The issue of integrity was brought up and I think that one is particularly tricky regarding these matters. I looked up the word and here is how Merriam-Webster defines it:

    1: firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values : incorruptibility
    2: an unimpaired condition : soundness
    3: the quality or state of being complete or undivided : completeness

    I thought all the definitions were interesting in light of the subject of Mormonism in general, but the 3rd definition really stuck out to me in light of John’s conflict about wanting to bring down the wrong/fraudulent/psychologically damaging aspects of Mormonism while also allowing people the freedom to believe whatever they want and Glenn’s statement about having one foot in and one foot out. I appreciate Glenn’s concern for the relationships he has with people still fully in the church and his desire not to hit them over the head with a 2×4 of his doubts. Glenn also sounds very lucky to have the bishop he does. Unfortunately, that is not a universal experience in Mormonism and I think it is actually quite rare. It is definitely not the kind of thing we here from the top of LDS leadership which I think is a huge problem. I love what Glenn said about being able to play in this difficult space.

    • Tom Reply

      I really appreciate your thoughts Wes. I have always appreciated what you bring as a listener and contributor to the podcast as well. Thanks.

  5. Flackerman Reply

    I think that getting criticism from both sides is a good sign. It shows that there is at least some ballance.

  6. Anonymous Reply

    I’ve got to admit, I loved this episode. Is that arrogant to say, now that I’m on the podcast? haha

  7. Hollee Tippetts Reply

    Keep the humor and “the balance” going and I’ll keep listening. I think you guys do an excellent job. Thanks for all your work.

  8. Anonymous Reply

    I’d love more discussion on “integrity” as Glenn mentioned.

    I totally get this: sometimes I feel like a coward for staying in and not standing for something. But then it would cause serious heartache to everybody I love in my life.

    So more discussion on this, with several perspectives (balance, even!) would be really, really cool.

    • Glenn Reply

      Well, how about more discussion right here? Why do you think you are not standing for something Andrew? It sounds to me like you are standing up for the people you love.

      • Anonymous Reply

        I “lost” my testimony years ago over the historical issues. I’ve never found it, but I was able to make some sort of peace with it. I’m Mormon through-and-through, it’s where my family is, it’s what my wife wants to do, and I really like Mormon people and the community that Mormonism is so good at creating.

        Even as I’ve come to an uneasy peace with the historical issues, I find it increasingly difficult to put up with so much of (what I see as) the cultural garbage.

        All this time, however, the organization has a history of discouraging individual thought and intellectualism, and seems to be upping the ante with the “it’s all true or none of it’s true” messages (e.g., Elder Holland’s gauntlet-throw-down about the Book of Mormon).

        So, while my participation is based almost entirely on social reasons (with belief in God and maybe some hope in JHC, but that’s where my theological similarities end with Mormonism) I’m constantly hearing that my reasons aren’t good enough, or getting the sometimes not-so-subtle message that liberal intellectuals like me just aren’t welcome. And if we’re going to come, we need to keep our mouths shut.

        Here’s where feelings of cowardice make their entry: I don’t believe it, I don’t agree with much of what the organization does politically, I think there are aspects of the culture and doctrine that will be harmful to my daughter as she grows up, I feel like I can’t express my true opinions or thoughts in church, etc. etc.

        But then I think, well, this is keeping the peace (except when I’m bitching about EQ lessons or sac talks), and I’m not breaking my mom’s heart. I can sacrifice my ego, my need to be authentic, my need to be understood, my need to “stand for something,” if it keeps my family from experiencing pain.

        So the question I’m wrestling with is the one you kind of asked: where’s the higher virtue: standing up for something you (dis)believe in, or sticking with something that drives me nuts but is of far lesser importance than my relationships with people I love?

        I totally get why people leave the church, either formally or informally. But I’m so long past being angry at having been hoodwinked about church history, I almost feel like I can’t justify leaving at this point, especially since it would cause familial tooth gnashing.

        • Glenn Reply

          Yeah, that’s a tough place to be in. I have been there. And the thing that scared me the most is having my kids brainwashed against me. I refuse to let that happen, and I have been afraid that if I am too silent, that I run the risk of abdicating control of the messages. My favorite calling last year was being my 10-year-old’s primary teacher. That was the best!

          As for extended family, I guess I am lucky that both of my parents have been pretty accepting of me my entire life being a person who questions things, so I haven’t had to sit in complete silence with them about my doubts, although it hasn’t always been easy, and I have had to learn how to massage the message and stop when I get close to their threshold. But still, I have been able to turn up the volume over time. My mom listens to ME even though she’s still a faithful believer (and even though she thinks that John is pretty much just an angry ex-mormon who has led poor sweet Zilpha down a path that just makes her — my mom — sad). 🙂

          But anyway… my soon-to-be ex-wife/current co-parenting partner has been accepting of the way I express my “respectful dissent” (not why we are getting divorced). And my kids — I think — are getting a good balanced message and will make up their own minds. I see it happening with my 14 year old. She’s smart. They all are. They’ll figure it out.

          So maybe, as Wes has said in another comment, my experience with bishops, etc, is rare. But I have been lucky to be able to stand up and express the things that I both value and question/challenge about the church, and I haven’t been ridden out on a rail for it yet.

          Here are two experiences with both church members publicly and my kids privately within the past six months that I blogged about — maybe you have already read them — maybe you’ll find them helpful — maybe not:



          • Anonymous

            I really liked your “testimony.” The truth is that whenever I’ve been honest (in a testimony or talk or lesson or whatever) the positive reactions have always outweighed the negatives.

            I too have had some great bishops who were compassionate and understanding and not dogmatic types.

            I’ve also had a bishop on the other side of that spectrum.

            For now, I guess I’ll just keep wearing a blue shirt (let them who have eyes to see see!) and reading during sacrament meeting. Until I snap. Then I’ll go Jeremiah on the ward’s ass.

          • Greg R.

            Glenn, I thought quite a bit about your integrity comment as well. I empathize with you and Andrew in pretty much all of your comments on the quandary of family peace vs. speaking up.

            Which virtue is more important: Standing for truthfulness and being honest or loyalty to family and sacrifice of self?

            I think what has given me the most mental anguish was realizing that life was presenting me with a situation where all of my choices had some really awful component. I was experiencing major mental anguish at Church from the rhetoric. I was highly concerned with my family relationships.

            If you are brought up with the mantra “Choose the Right” and you believe it, then smashing up against situations where all the “right” choices contradict each other (and have hugely negative consequences embedded in their rightness) is… painful.

            As I listened to the discussion and thought about integrity, what really stuck with me was the idea that integrity is customized for you. People are built different ways. They value different things.

            If we base our thoughts about integrity on some external definition of consistency, it is simply inconsistent with ourselves.

            So, in the end, I think my integrity is manifest in recognizing where I place the highest value, and being consistent with that.

            My integrity is not compromised when I allow others to do the same.

            I think the question of living a life of integrity IS at the heart of the discussion, but there is nothing that requires those decisions to be the same from person to person in order for all to have integrity.

  9. Eric Reply

    People seem to to think that there are 2 sides to every story. But actually there is only one side to every story and that is the truth. When you present historical facts then there is no bias. When you add your own personal opinions then you start to bring bias into the discussion. The thing that works for this podcast is that you bring different points of view to the conversation.

    Everytime I read something from the Deseret News when they report something about the church I see a bias.

    If people do not like the “bias” of this podcast they should maybe find something else to listen to.

    • Glenn Reply

      One side? “THE” truth? I’m having a hard time swallowing that one Eric. Of course I am no mathematician. Do you think you can convince me?

      • Eric Reply

        Ok Glen maybe that is a little strong. But there are facts. And even with facts people still say well yes but there is this point of view or that point of view. When you present a fact about the Book of Abraham or a fact that horses where not on this continent 600 BC then there that can’t be any debate about that. And if you present these facts then there is no bias. It’s a fact.

        Take evolution for example. There are some people who want to say that evolution is an answer from people who have a liberal bias. But we all know that evolution has been proven time and time again. Evolution is not a bias, it is a fact.

        • Glenn Reply

          I agree. But then what do you DO with the facts? This is where I think the bias comes in and there is room for interpretation, creativity, imagination. Richard Dawkins, for example, blew my mormon mind a bit when discussing his God Theorum and hypothesizing — rather tongue-in-cheek, I suppose — that in order for there to be an Intelligent Designer, he/she/it would have had to evolve to that position through a process of natural selection, which would have taken billions and billions (to borrow a saganism) of years evolutionary advancement to achieve. So, if that were the case, he/she/it could have not been around at the very beginning to design the whole machine in the first place. Erego, there is no God. That is Dawkin’s bias coloring the facts. What would Joseph Smith’s bias do with those facts? (something about “my work and my glory” comes to mind)

          Both Dawkins and Smith tell a story. Both would use facts to ground it. But is either story THE truth, even if the facts are solid? That is why I challenge what you said about only one side to every “story.”

  10. Persephone Reply

    Just a shout out from one of the loyal listeners who rarely posts. I appreciate the distinct personalities and perspectives, as well as the array of subject matter that is covered on the pod cast. I have laughed out loud, cried, been deeply touched, talked back to the computer screen, done follow up reading, forwarded episodes to friends, and recounted my favorite parts to my spouse who has now started to make his way through the episodes as well. It has been fun to relive many of the highlights through his eyes. This community has been of true value to us. I really appreciate your willingness to take on the challenge of addressing these issues in a public forum.

  11. RJ Reply

    Folks (please excuse this long comment),

    To put my comments in context let me start out by saying I am pretty much addicted to your podcast. I’m a life long Mormon, currently active, and serve as EQ president in my ward. Gradually over the last decade I’ve evolved toward being less literal and much less traditional in my beliefs. However, my overall experience in the church throughout my life has been positive and fulfilling. I’m pretty aware of many or most of the difficult issues. Although I haven’t drawn hard and fast conclusions, I’d say my mind is open to the range of possibilities that the evidence seems to imply. I am “pro-mormon”, not angry, but often feel conflicted. On a side note, I wonder how typical I am of your listeners. Hopefully that will give you some perspective on where I’m coming from.

    Here are some things I like about the podcast. Most of all, I simply think you guys are entertaining to listen to. You take on topics that you don’t often get to hear insiders discuss and the banter is lively and funny. You guys are articulate and smart, and to my ears it seems to come from a place of love and affection (with some exceptions).

    At first there were a few things I didn’t like about the show, but for a couple of reasons they don’t seem to bother me anymore. For one, you guys have grown and improved as time goes on. Second, I stopped expecting things that clearly aren’t your focus. For example, I would enjoy hearing more in-depth and somewhat more serious investigations into certain issues, rather than the quick 1hour round table treatment, but I understand why you don’t

    Regarding the topic of “bias, balance and objectivity”, to me there is as cynical and slightly agitated undertone to the show, which is general balanced out by self-deprecating humor, affection, and devotion that is expressed toward Mormonism. However, there are times things tip more toward the angry and cynical (often for good reasons, due to the topic being discussed). This used to bother me more than it currently does. I think I’ve just acclimatized to it, and I’ve realized that you can’t be all things to everyone.

    For the record, I think Mike is a very import part of the ME dynamic. His views often annoy the hell out of me, but I still love him. Within in the framework of modern mainline orthodox Mormonism, his arguments are as consistent and uncompromised as you can get. Its pretty impressive that he is part of the ME team. However, as far as balance goes, there does seem to be a missing piece, and it’s NOT that you’re missing a “middle of the road” apologetic type perspective. I don’t know the answer, it just seems that you all, except Mike, are a bit too much alike in your views. Also, to me, you seem to be more heavily geared toward the “analytical” side of the personality spectrum, and not as much oriented toward the philosophic or theological (aside from Glean, perhaps). Sorry, that’s not a very articulate explanation; it’s the best I can do.

    Please keep up the good work.

      • Glenn Reply

        I’m not sure what it means to be oriented towards the philosophic or theological side side of things, but I like it. Glad that you enjoy us RJ. Have you ever brought up anything you have heard on the podcasts in any of your EQ discussions or recommended us to any of the other Elders under your stewardship? You have a divine responsibility, you know. 😉

        • RJ Reply

          Glean, 😉
          I’m not sure what I mean by that either, I’ll work on coming up with a better explanation.

          As for Elders Quorum, we did have a lengthy discussion on whether it is moral to drive a javelin through your wife if you catch her in adultery.I’ll think about recommending ME if I ever need convenient reason to be released. JK. There are probably funner ways to get released than that!

        • Kia Reply

          I long for the day when we can freely recommend ME to our brothers and sisters in the fold, without fear of demotion from our callings and odd stares from our priesthood leaders. Seriously though, I bet there are a lot of closet ME fans in our Sunday meetings. I used to abhor sacrament meeting, but now after a healthy dose of ME I quite enjoy sitting there with a smile and giggle. Couple weeks ago EQ lesson was on Word of Wisdom. I actually used a few things from the Word of Wisdom dummies podcast. It was well received. But now I feel guilty I didn’t credit you guys for the information. Sorry. Maybe the day will come when we can source all the great information found here without fear of being labeled a troublemaker.
          Keep up the fine work.

    • Anonymous Reply

      RJ, get yourself Skype capable and call into the feedback show scheduled for this coming Sunday. I think you’ve got some good points that would add to the discussion. : )

      • RJ Reply

        Thanks for the invite. I will seriously consider it. I tend to get anxious when it comes to public speaking, so I don’t know that my comments would make for very good audio. We’ll see.

        • Rich Rasmussen Reply

          I’ll be fielding skype calls sunday and then passing them to John, I won’t bite and it ill give you a minute to settle down…if that helps your anxiety at all, I get how that works :).

  12. cam Reply

    I love mormon expressions and I loved this episode. I sometimes notice a bias that makes me feel like a bit of an outsider even here. I am older (I think) than most of your panelists, I did not go to BYU, and never lived in the morridor (although I have always had family there.) But because you are very direct and honest about your opinions, this doesn’t bother me too much- I’ve always had to correct for this.

    I have stopped listening to mormon stories because they try not to offend tbms to such an extent that it breaches my tolerance level. For example, if you compare your episode on female sexuality in the church with theirs on sex in marriage, the ME panelists were direct and just said what they had to say. I also felt like they could make comparisons between being in the church and not in the church. They were able to represent both sides because they had experienced them. In the MS podcasts ( and I couldn’t make it all the way through) the effort not to offend and to gently describe sexuality resulted in circumlocutions that were painful to me.

    I would agree that when listeners of ME complain of biases it is a reflection of their own intolerances and personal biases. I think that in mormon culture people are so used to hearing only the party line that they see any other ideas as “anti” and suspicious.

  13. Cincinnati Reply

    Long time listener, first time writer. As someone with no real experience in (or believing in) a church, I really appreciate the diversity of opinion on the show. I think the charge of anti-LDS bias honestly comes from John always asking the room “Who could possibly believe something like this!?” when referring to LDS history. Beyond being insulting, it always shuts down conversation and skews the average opinion in the episode/show way to the anti-LDS side.

    Also, you need to have a Stephanie Meyer/Twilight episode.

  14. Christopherkallman Reply

    One thing I love about Mormonexpressions is how self referential it is. I am the type of person that loves dvd extra features and behind the scenes info almost more than the actual content and Mormon Expressions more than any other podcast I’m familiar with spends a fair amount of time discussing and analyzing itself and I love that.
    It is funny how our culture seems to have contradictory views on the issue of bias. On the one hand we love people who stand by their convictions and who won’t be moved by social pressures and on the other hand we love people who are unbiased. Often, we admire those who stick by their convictions when their convictions are the same as ours and we admire objectivity in those who disagree with us.

    I think one difficulty when discussing Mormonsim and religion in general is that anything that isn’t positive is often seen as biased and inaccurate. The irony is that if one were to create as fair and objective an analyses of Mormonism as possible, it would be perceived by most believers as having a negative bias as was witnessed with ‘Rough Stone Rolling’ and the Pbs documentary.
    One more thing before I get blocked again:

    I love Mike! The fact that he is on this podcast is illustrative of what I love about. He is always super nice despite the hard time he receives and having someone who actually represents the devout believer position adds a great deal of value to this podcast from my perspective. And I loved it when he opened with a prayer.

    But I will say, sometimes I miss Nyal, not because I was that into what he had to say or his approach, but because he took such an extreme position it often caused the other panelists to be more restrained in their approach to counter his over-the-top approach.

  15. Alastor Moody Reply

    I really appreciated John’s comments at the end about balance — in the greater context of the discussion of Mormonism, Mormon Expression helps to balance out all the pro-messages. And as John pointed out, there are many who listen to sources that are pro-their position. Personally, I find Mormon Expression, an all the biases to be a great counter to the painful sloug that I have to sit through every Sunday.

    One thing that I would love to hear is the position of the faithful. Sure, we all know that John and Zilpha are disaffected. With this podcast I was able to understand a little about Glenn and his crisis of faith. But I would love to hear more about the where Mike, Tom and Glenn are coming from. The disaffected biases show through, but not so much on the “faithful” side. Perhaps a discussion between Mike, Glenn and Tom and where they stand in relation to the Church would be most helpful. The same goes for Heather, since she is so new to the show since she said in the Conference session that she is too newly disaffected to be so cynical — that background is amazing.

    I guess what I am hitting at is a request for another round of interviews like were done earlier. Over the last 130 or so episodes, there has been growth and changes. It would be great to hear where people are at in relations to the Church — it helps us listeners to understand the biases of the personalities better.

    • JackUK Reply

      “I find Mormon Expression, an all the biases to be a great counter to the painful sloug that I have to sit through every Sunday”. My feelings exactly Alastor, and I’m a counsellor in a bishopric! I’d vote for another round of interviews in the future too…And get Nyal and Mike on the same show too…

  16. Fifth Columnist Reply

    I really like the show. One thing I thing you would do well to change is stop panelists from calling apostles and prophets extremely derogatory names, especially John. There have been a few times I listened and wondered how anyone who believed in Mormonism could sit and listen to John call Elder Packer a D*** or an a**hole.

    One more thing, please do podcasts on the following topics:
    1. Freemasonry and the Temple (to counter the George Kearney podcast on Mormon Stories). Get George Miller (he posts under that name on some of the boards) and his friend Joe (I think that is his name) to come on.
    2. Chris Nemelka and/or Ida Smith (his most prominent follower). Ida recorded a conversation she had with Elder Holland (without his knowledge) so Chris could use it in a lawsuit with the LDS Church. I would really like to know more about these two.

    • FWAnson Reply

      Actually I wish that in the case of Boyd K. Packer the panelists would call him FAR more derogatory names – though the ones that John has used are certainly appropriate and fitting.

      In fact I think that there’s no greater evidence of the fact that the modern Mormon Church is both apostate, corrupt, and emasculated than the fact that Boyd K. Packer hasn’t been brought up on charges of ecclesiastical abuse of power and disfellowshipped by the Brethren.
      (kinda makes one want to use some less than flattering names to describe them as well, doesn’t it? The p-word comes to mind for example.)

      That “gentleman” (and I’m using the term as an oxymoron in the case of Mr. Packer) shouldn’t be running a sewer treatment plant let alone a major body of power and influence within a church.

      But . . . well . . . come to think of it . . . he’d find a way to abuse his power as a sewage treatment plant manager too (and in ways that are too unthinkable to imagine) – so I rescind that prior statement.

      So, in the end, and at least in the case of Boyd K. “pitbull for the Lord” Packer – keep up the great work John and Company!

    • Natachu Reply

      John, I like it when you call elder packer a dick! Please continue to speak your mind lol.

      • FWAnson Reply

        Ditto! However, if you might want to soften it by saying it in Latin instead for example:

        “Biggus Dickus”

        See? That’s MUCH better isn’t it?
        (with apologies to Monty Python)

  17. james hafen Reply

    Near the end John suggested that people might get their answers and then move on, ME being a thing of their past. Perhaps. But looking at Mormonism from the outside in, or at least from the sidelines is far more interesting than the faith ever was when I was still drinking the kool-aid. My answer(s) came and I am satisfied with my understand of what the church is/is not, but the fascination of the history, the culture, the personalities, the psychology – that only continues to grow. I hesitate to call Mormon faith and doctrine and dogma “deep”, but it is certainly complex. I once told Tom when we were sitting together at a meeting in Orem that I would give up this obsession once I stopped being surprised by what I read or heard or learned. To-date, I am still captive and attentive.

    My own opinion – the episodes where Mike (can’t stand him) goes divinely nuts or John rants are the ones with the most appeal. To see the fringes, just a bit, to hear a perspective that is well thought out, (in the case of John) or completely discombobulated (in the case of Mike) generally invokes the most thought and questions of my own. Don’t attempt balance, offer perspective and opinion even if is risks offending.

    • Glenn Reply

      James — I completely agree. In considering another aspect of balance, however, I often wonder with the Mike fringe if moderation isn’t key. If you tuned in every week and heard Mike and John squaring off, do you think it would get old and tiresome quick? It seems to me like that should be spaced out the way that John does it to keep it somewhat fresh and keep things from becoming too much of a sideshow. What do you think? (an open question to anyone else, by the way)

  18. Gail F. Bartholomew Reply

    I am not sure the right question is if you are none biased. I think the question is how well you fill a niche. If you read my comments you can tell that I do not agree with everything that is said on this site, and that I have an ax to grind. But for me this site fills a very specific niche in the Mormon biosphere. For me I no longer feel welcome to discuss my views at church or with my active Mormon family without pissing off or getting pissed off. On the other end exmormon foundation which has some really good info but seems to have no room to honor a that part of myself that is Mormon and will always be. By the same token Mormon stories is a place with lots of good info, and some could argue they fill a similar niche, but they do not feel as comfortable as you do. In a way I can not really explain I feel at home here where I do not any where else. I think you have created a culture that honors Mormonism and honors critical examination of it. So please keep on doing what you are doing. Please keep your biasism, it works.

    • FWAnson Reply

      I agree with you Gail. I’ve abandoned Mormon Stories because I couldn’t stomach it’s deferential stance toward Mormon dogma and personalities. Yes, I realize that one must be polite and deferential toward one’s guests (or you won’t get many more guests) but personally I think that John Dehlin has taken “nice” a bit too far.

      Personally I find Mormon Expression to be FAR more balanced.

      And the addition of Mike Tannehill and Bridget Jack Jeffries to the roster was genius – pure genius.

      The fact that ME gets criticized by BOTH sides for it’s lack of balance tells me that it’s right where it should be – thought provoking and on the edge.

      • JB Reply

        I’m with you. I still regularly subscribe to Mormon Stories, but I almost never listen to it. It’s not so much the conciliatory tone – I don’t mind that all too much – but seldom do I have the time to work through a four-part series on something. On the other hand, I listen to every new Mormon Expression episode the day it gets released, except sometimes for the conference reviews.

        And yeah, having Mike and Bridget on the podcast makes it all the more fantastic. I think it’s extremely important on a podcast like this to gain some balance with both secular voices (like perhaps most of the panelists) and religious voices, both Mormon and non-Mormon. The balance isn’t quite perfect yet (an additional believing religious voice could probably bring it closer), but it’s way better than the vast majority of podcasts out there, and that’s an impressive accomplishment. I love ME.

  19. Priss Reply

    I hope John will continue to say what he feels and thinks, whatever that is. There have been plenty of times that he’s been positive about the church and certainly plenty of times he hasn’t. That’s what I enjoy, hearing his honest feelings. The balance comes in that not everyone on the show feels like he does and everyone gets to express their feelings and thoughts. If John tries to be always polite, like John Dehlin, then Mormon Expression will lose a lot of what makes it special.

  20. Vicki Reply

    I give a thumbs up for Mormon Expression in General. This podcast helped me reflect on why I have become so attached to ME and why I look forward to every Tuesday (and the several bonus Thursdays). Whenever someone is strongly rooted in their convictions it seems that it is hard for them to even comprehend a different opinion. Therefore, I can see why so many people feel like there is a bias in ME if they are TBM because the majority of what is debated and discussed tends to rock their world and their defense mechanism is to tune it out and blame it on the bias that they feel is coming from disaffected people.

    Because I seem to fall in the category with Glenn and Tom where I have one foot in the chapel door and another foot outside digging up any information that I can find, I think the podcast has great balance and I do not see an extreme bias in any direction. I feel like ME is my home that has helped me thru a period of discovery and even though I personally do not know one person on the podcast, I feel like they are my friends and I can truly relate to somebody besides all the utra-TBM’s around me.

    I have several reasons that I gravitate towards ME more than Mormon Stories. To list a few: Shorter podcasts (truly MS are way too long), Personalities (I love the interactions), Transparency (they always say it just how they view it, nothing is sugar coated)

    Keep up the great work. You are definitely making a difference in so many people’s lives. I know you have in mine.

    • Glenn Reply

      Thanks Vicki. If you are on facebook, look for the Mormon Expression Podcast community. John started it this past weekend, and one participant recently commented that it is like a live ME episode 24-7 with all of the interaction you are talking about above. I don’t know if I’d go THAT far, but it has been a nice way to get to know people a little better and interact. So here’s an open invitation to everyone. Come join the group. You don’t even have to get wet.

  21. Christophr Allman Reply

    I think our love of ‘objectivity’ is often a myth. It seems that people tend to prefer the appearance of it over actual objectivity. For example, if someone were talking about rape or slavery in an entirely objective way, many people would feel upset that the author didn’t take a stand of condemnation. We value objectivity, but only so far. Our interest in objectivity often conflicts with other values such as ‘being true to yourself’ or ‘sticking to your convictions’. Many people (but certainly not all) value objectivity only when it serves their position, for example, when someone they disagree with acknowledge the value of their position that person might be praised for their objectivity, but when the author sees the world in the same way we do, people prefer the author/speaker to take a firm stand and are admired for staying true to their convictions and any attempt at objectivity might be viewed as being weak-willed or waffling. (I personally don’t feel that way and like when people make an attempt towards objectivity even when talking about ‘settled’ issues like slavery)

  22. Brian D Reply

    Just a quick Thanks for doing the podcast. I really do like the mix of people. Mike is a great addition. I admire that he has the cahoney’s to get in the ring and go a few rounds. I usually think he is off in left field, but I respect the fact that he believes sincerely enough to subject his views to criticism. Speaking of balance, one thing I really miss is the token non-liberal little m mormon. Yes, I am talking about the great Nyal. I recognize it is hard to get everyone together because of scheduling issues, but I really like the libertarian flavor he added to the soup. By the way John, I like the balance of fairness and politeness you mix with really sharing your opinion.

    Bravo Zulu guys and gals.

    • Mike Tannehill Reply

      I’m sure you meant to say “Right Field” Brian. : )

      • Anonymous Reply

        LoL! I thought the same thing when I read Brian’s post, but I’m glad you said it first! 🙂

  23. Tim Reply

    Glenn, you questioned your own integrity at one point in the episode. As far as I can tell (random stranger on teh intrawebs), you’ve shown the most integrity of anyone I’ve seen who has lost faith but remained active.

    • Glenn Reply

      Thanks Tim. I appreciate it. I wasn’t really questioning my own integrity. I was questioning everybody else’s. 😉

  24. Erica Shirts Reply

    I want to start by saying I think that you guys should make the podcast whatever you want it to be. Right now, I think it is (overall) a really interesting look on the not-so-public-or-talked-about controversial aspects of the church. I like critical thinking (in a scientific way), but I get the sense that ME is more often than not critiquing the church, which is fine if you guys want to create a space where you can do that.

    In my opinion, I’d like Mormon Expression to reflect it’s title better by representing a perspective spectrum. As John said, he doesn’t like the polarizing, so-called “balanced” discussion, but I think that’s often what ME podcasts become. I grew up in the heart of Utah Valley, but I don’t think Mike adequately represents the average TBM. I think there are A LOT of Mormons who are believing in Gospel principles, but have a lot of problems with the church, or would like to learn about the not-so-flowery back story that we don’t hear in conference. And I think those people are often turned off by the polarizing talk (1 radical defender vs. 3 ex-Mormons).

    I like hearing from those perspectives, I personally want more people in between; and I know they exist. I am one, and I’m friends with a handful of them. People complain on here because they don’t hear their opinion represented. And so here I go: I don’t hear from the politically liberal/progressive Mormon, who is believing, but has problems with the structure of the church. But I’d like to. Thanks for the introspective podcast though. I thought it was great.

    • Anonymous Reply

      Erica, take John up on his offer. He’s said numerous times that Mike is on the podcast because he’s willing to do it. If you don’t feel that Mike is a fair representation of believers, then talk to John about being on the podcast. Or invite one of your friends to consider doing so.

      • Erica Shirts Reply

        Thanks for your comments, Heather and Richard. I’m actually good friends with Glenn and have talked with him about collaborating with ME in some way. I’d be totally willing. Or I have several people that would probably also be willing.

        • Glenn Reply

          See, the cool thing is that she said “good friends” as opposed to “Glenn is my hometeacher” — but both are true.

          I do think that the environment of Mormon Expression is difficult for believers, regardles of political orientation. And the more I trhink about it, the more it is making me wonder about objectivity for the podcast. Is it possible to be objective AND a believer? At the same time, is it possible to be objective and a non-believer?

          Heather made an excellent point during our discussion about what it means to be an adult — that people have to realize and accept that others do not have to like everything about you. She used Twilight as an example, but you could just as easily substitute any church-related discussion.

          As I listened back and reflected on this, I thought there is second even more grown up step to this, and that is thr realization that we are not the things that we like. We are not Twilight — we are not Bertha or Edmund or Jacob — so we shouldn’t take it personally whether people like the things we like or not. And we can substitute any church-releated discussion in for that as well.

          So to tie this back to this question of objectivity with believers — it has been my experience that believers, for the most part, are more closely tied to their beliefs than non-believers are tied to their beliefs (in the things that they blieve that they non-believe in). There isn’t as much psychic distance between believers and their beliefs to really be able to step back and examine those beliefs as an actual object of inquiry, the way they could if it was someone else’s belief that they had no investment in whatsoever. Questioning the ultimate truth value is too threatening. Saying that any aspect of the church may not be TRUE is like saying that some aspect of themselves may not be TRUE. Maybe there are some non-believers who are equally as dogmatic with science and facts, but I think they are more the exception than the rule. I have found them to be more open-minded and understanding of other perspectives — more able to examine their own assumptions — than believers.

          That said, I hear what you are saying, Erica, about the tone of the podcast and Mike misrepresenting the typical mormon voice that you would like to hear more from. We didn’t talk about things like tone or creating a “safe space” for believers and non-believers a like. But I did consider that there would be people thinking that they might fill the description that John was describing about believers not able to engage in the discussion. Maybe you could be one of them, (but you will have to read Rough Stone first!) 😉

          It’s cool that you’re getting invovled. I like it. I’ll encourage that. I’ll encourage Jake as well. Maybe I’ll count it as my monthly visits (actually, I haven’t reported any of my other visits, so why start now?) You guys are both very cool. Almost as cool as as pretending that you don’t really know the names of the main Twilight characters 😉

    • Richard of Norway Reply

      I appreciate your thoughtful comment Erica. I agree with what Heather says, if you think a certain type of voice is missing (I presume you miss one with views more representative of your own?) then why not volunteer to be that voice? If not you, then who?

      I think Tom, George, Glenn and a few others closer represent “politically liberal/progressive Mormon” than “ex-Mormons” as you insinuated. The only questionable part would be if they are actual “believers” but at least they attend and are temple-recommend-holders (as far as I know).

    • Kia Reply


      Your points about hearing from someone more between, to the left of Mike and right of the others is well taken. When I first found ME I also felt like this. But, as I have listened to many of the podcasts now and through my own journey I have often asked myself (I am active member, and teach gospel doctrine) what would my middle of the road position on this or that issue be. The truth is, in light of the tremendous orthodoxy view of the truth claims held by the church and its leaders it is very difficult to be middle of the road on the foundational truths claims of Mormonism. Yes, you can be in the middle on say caffeinated drinks, maybe even justify some teas here and there (as they are actually pretty healthy) , but on the major stuff, truthfulness of Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith visions, inerrancy of the other mormon scriptures, priesthood line of authority, prophet directly talks to Jesus and gives us our “marching orders” etc. etc. Yes, you can have a progressive opinion of some issues like gay marriage but not on the fundamental doctrines.

      If you do take a public position against the orthodoxy you will not be considered a ‘faithful’ mormon. You will probably not be considered for leadership or presidency positions. When considering couples to serve as Ma’s and Pa’s for our upcoming pioneer youth Stake trek they explicitly would only consider “faithful” temple recommend holders.
      So I’m just saying its fine to take a more liberal position privately but publicly is a different matter. There will be consequences and loss of opportunities if you are active church going. If you take a position at odds with the foundational truths of the church you face being labeled.

      The church doctrines are polarizing. I can make an effective argument to stay in the church and for the good and positive aspects of the church. But I just couldn’t honestly argue for the historical truthfulness of the book of mormon or so many of the foundational truth claims of Mormonism. So if I did engage in the ME podcast with the best of intentions, I think I would have a difficult time maintaining a centrist position and would either fall into an apologist position or a critical position. Darn, guess that puts us back where we started. Like President Hinckley said, either its true or it’s a fraud!

      • Erica Shirts Reply

        Hi Kia,
        Thanks for your comments; I really can relate to them since I have taught gospel doctrine for a couple years too (I love being able to control the conversation 🙂

        I think what you’re “able” to do depends a lot on your ward and your friends. While I definitely don’t feel like I can express every qualm with the church that I have, I feel like I can express many of them and not be shunned. I want to believe that one can have problems with aspects of the church (patriarchy/priesthood, aspects of the temple…) and still be accepted. Maybe I’m wrong.

        I don’t know if there is a person with a middle-of-the-road stance on everything, but there are certainly members, active and not, that believe and have faith in certain fundamental principles of the church, but don’t believe in others; people who are apologists about some issues and critics of others. And that’s who I’d like to hear from. Personally, most aspects of the gospel of Christ really resonates with me, but I don’t really relate with the structure and culture of the church. So I do my socializing on the edge of it, if that makes sense. That’s where I find balance. Let me know your thoughts!

        • Kia Reply

          I think your right, much depends on your ward and stake and you’re correct that people pick and choose their issues. I wish the environment was such that people could express their doubt with some of these issues within the church but the culture is antithetical to this. As you know the lesson manuals stay far away from potential controversies and we label disagreements as the “spirit of contention”. But I would like to see your typical church believing member on ME that does not come across as a kool-aid drinker. May be you’re that one.

  25. Jacob Brown Reply

    I’m one of those people that complains from time to time. I just have to say that because y’all are concerned about bias, balance, and objectivity I think y’all are awesome. You’re even more awesomer because you took the time to do a podcast about it. What a wonderful transparent community! Keep it up!

  26. Pollz05 Reply

    I just want to say I like having Mike on ME. I don’t agree with him in the least, but I’m glad he is here and I want to tell the haters to stop hating. I’d miss him if he left. There is a place for everyone.

  27. Anonymous Reply

    Good pow-wow folks. I enjoyed listening to a behind the scenes dialogue.

  28. Anonymous Reply

    And on another note. I have come to my decision, I am an atheist, and I am out to my family about my non-mormoness and I still listen 🙂

  29. Mike Tannehill Reply

    I just want to say thank you for all the kind words that have come my way both on this episode and in the comments. It means alot, thanks.

    Also this was just a fun episode to listen to. There was some great chemisty among the participants and some real insight into the individuals in regards to who they are and why they are.

    • FWAnson Reply

      Mike, you bring an important voice to the proceedings. Thank you for your continuing participation.

      Besides if you’re weren’t there to cue up the straight lines our punchlines wouldn’t work nearly as well!


      But I DO miss Nyal so . . . those podcasts that included BOTH of you two crazy kids were THE best! There’s nothing quite like watching two feisty boys wrestle all that nervous energy out of their system down there on the carpet!

      But seriously Mike, thank you for playing an important and vital role in making ME all that it’s become and is yet to be.

      Stick around eh?

    • Anonymous Reply

      Despite the fact that I disagree with most of what you say, and that you might consider my criticisms of your views to be rather harsh, you can count me among those who do not hate you or resent your participation on this blog. I hope you realize that 🙂

    • Anonymous Reply

      Mike – I’m glad your a regular guest (and occasional host) on ME. It’s a better podcast for your participation. Although you’ve had some bombastic moments, you generally present the faithful point-of-view quite well. And it’s clear that you’ve spent a good deal of time looking into the matters at hand.

      I disagree with much of what you say. But it’s a fun reminder into how I used to view things (which is jaw-dropping to me given where I am now) and a good insight into the worldviews of many friends, family members, and ward members.

  30. Nathan R Kennard Reply


    I may be a bit late to comment on this podcast. I like it and continue to have many questions in my mind.

    At one point you spoke about ‘integrity’. I also proposed a definition of integrity ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yfdRtCoc_34 ). In that brief discussion I state ‘My decision to leave the [Mormon] church has not always been easy for my family to deal with and yet its a reflection of my sincere belief that a person should have integrity, their actions should match their words.’ Does this description of integrity fit with any of the definitions you speak about? To me, if a person’s actions sometimes do not match their words, those actions are driven by something different than integrity (as I have understood it). Perhaps their primary motivation in those actions is a concern for other people or some other value. From your point-of-view, how does a perspective like mine, fit into your view of ‘integrity’?


    • Glenn Reply

      Yeah, I like it Nathan. You mention sincerity, and you mention that action matches words. I think that is the key to integrity. So then I guess the question I would ask, once someone comes to a realization similar to so many of us here — is there only one option? If we realize that the church is not what we were taught that it was — either in part or in whole — does that mean that we have to leave it? Are there other ways to find a sincere value in it? Other ways to find inspiration? Is it possible to have a respectful dissent and be semi-active — willing to accept the consequences in a Martin Luther King “Letters from Birmingham Jail” civil disobedience kind of way? Is it possible for a guy to sit in silence and sacrifice for his family, where his actions matches his heart (non-words)? I just think there are options, and no one holds the corner on integrity. But I do not question your integrity at all. And I totally dig your glasses.

  31. Ozpoof Reply

    I loved when this podcast went off track and people really started to talk about how they feel. I was waiting for Glenn to say something more. I felt he wanted to say something, but checked himself.

    Glenn, I’m not sure if you pay tithing, but when I choose to give money to an organisation I check them out pretty well, and that’s for just $50. I can understand how people who believe in the church 100% and eat up correlated Mormonism with a spoon can give unquestioningly. However, I know by many of your appearances on these podcasts that you are aware of some of the history of the church that the church leadership not only conceals, but outright lies about. You know therefore that the men who claim to speak with deity, and who say they are inspired, are often liars and manipulators. I would go so far as saying that there are many more examples of these men lying than there are of exclaiming inspired revelation.

    When speaking of integrity, I would consider those who feel they can no longer offer financial support because of the behaviour of the church leadership alone to have this quality.

    When you consider the examples of demonstrably damaging edicts and statements made by these leaders, a person who believes these men have caused harm might have the integrity to say so, as you said you do, but why would someone who understands the suffering Mormonism causes so many continue to support the organisation financially? Would such a person have integrity?

    One definition of Integrity is a “concept of consistency of actions, values, methods, measures, principles, expectations, and outcomes. In ethics, integrity is regarded as the honesty and truthfulness or accuracy of one’s actions. Integrity can be regarded as the opposite of hypocrisy, in that it regards internal consistency as a virtue, and suggests that parties holding apparently conflicting values should account for the discrepancy or alter their beliefs.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Integrity

    In Mormonism, once you stop paying money, or have the honesty to tell your immediate leaders that you no longer believe certain aspects of LDS doctrine or the “faith promoting” history, red flags go up. It is very difficult to be an authentic person who knows the church projects a considerably inaccurate version of its history as factual, and who realises many supposedly inspired stances made by church leaders have gone on to be extremely damaging. How does someone remain active in a religion that demands you ignore the knowledge you have, or may actually punish people who state facts that show the church has misled its members? Could someone with integrity as defined above continue to support this religion. Wouldn’t tacit or financial support when not actually believing be considered hypocrisy, and therefore (according to the above definition) be lacking in integrity?

    Now when you think how church leaders have opposed every move (I know of) by the secular world towards empathy, equality, acceptance and tolerance of others – Black people, women, gays – and how these decisions have later been shown to be uninspired (to say the least), the question has to be asked by a person with integrity – ‘does this organisation that I support through donations, time, attendance and work, stand for the same values I stand for?’

    Backs and the priesthood, the ERA, shock treatment for gays (Monson knew of this), telling gays to marry with the associated trauma and misery that instruction brought, gay suicides, women who are unable to cope with the Mormon life without medication, guilt and depression by youth who masturbate or think of sex, teaching lies to kids in seminary, sacking those who will not tell kids lies, the time away from kids performing ritual and endless meetings, punishing those who tell truth! Does this religion deserve your support? Aren’t there many, many organisations out there that actually make all members feel good and do good for non-members too?

    I don’t want to preach, but I felt inspired to say something to you Glenn. You really sounded to me like you were coming to a realisation of something profound.


    • Glenn Reply


      You are talking big macro-church. My participation is small micro-ward. And you are making a lot of assumptions. It’s a good definition of integrity though. I submit that there are many different ways to live up to it. I like to think that I arrived at the profound a while ago. But perhaps I do still have a ways to go.

      • Ozpoof Reply

        Macro or micro Glenn, Mormonism is the McDonalds of religion. There’s no escaping the franchise. It’s micro controlled from the macro level. If you pay and obey, you’re propping up the likes of Boyd Packer.

        Take care.

        • Glenn Reply

          There you go with those assumptions again — not thinking outside the McDonald’s happy meal box. 😉

          Two words: respectful dissent

  32. Ozpoof Reply

    It’s difficult to be considered objective by anyone who is TBM since anything other than correlated Mormonism is automatically seen as a biased attack.

    Since so much of correlated Mormonism is “faith promoting” (read BS), when actual facts are presented, a TBM may consider these to contribute to bias. This is how distorted the thinking can become. Historical facts are neutral. They are what they are.

    Personally, I LOVE it when people tell it like it is. John is great at this. If you want to hear one TBM speaking and crickets – because everyone else either looks at the floor and bites their lip or sits there nodding like a bobble head dog – go to EQ meeting on Sunday. THAT’S real bias.

  33. Carson N Reply

    Okay look. Heather, I completely 100% disagree with you about how Mike is representative of mainstream Mormons. I spent my entire life in the church, including a full-time mission and graduation from BYU, and I have never seen any TBM say the things that Mike has said in the past. I’m not saying that your experience isn’t valid, I’m just adding my own experience here.

    I think this podcast is incredibly awesome, and you guys should just keep doing what you’re doing. A lot of people seem to get a big kick out of Mike, and that’s fine. There were a few podcasts that I’ve listened to in the past that seemed like they had a lot of potential to discuss and critique some interesting aspects about whatever the subjects were, but instead there was a back and forth with Mike that would proceed as follows: Mike would say something crazy, then everyone would be like, “Wha?! But Mike, what about ____?” Then Mike would respond with some other crazy thing that was irrelevant to the topic and did not really answer the question, and then everyone would be like, “Wha?! But Mike, what about _____?” This cycle continues until someone cuts it off completely and introduces the next topic. This seems like a sideshow to me, and it is not interesting. But hey, nobody is forcing me to listen to the podcasts with Mike, and you guys put out so many awesome and interesting podcasts that it really isn’t a big deal. I don’t know how many people think the same thing I do, but I just thought I’d put that out there.

    • Anonymous Reply

      The comments I made regarding Mike in this specific podcast were in direct reference to the Abrahamic Covenant episode. I will grant you that there are other times in other podcasts when he’s said things that I think are completely out of line with what mainline Mormons think or do. (Example: The priesthood being able to cure homosexuality — I don’t think most Mormons would agree with him on that.) He’s definitely on the far out edge of TBMs in some aspects. But I think he also represents TBM thought on MANY other issues. The Abrahamic Covenant is a great example, in my opinion. If he’s wrong about that — then what is the purpose of the temple? Show me where mainstream Mormons think differently on this one. I’d love to know because I sincerely don’t understand why everyone kept attacking him.

    • Anonymous Reply

      The comments I made regarding Mike in this specific podcast were in direct reference to the Abrahamic Covenant episode. I will grant you that there are other times in other podcasts when he’s said things that I think are completely out of line with what mainline Mormons think or do. (Example: The priesthood being able to cure homosexuality — I don’t think most Mormons would agree with him on that.) He’s definitely on the far out edge of TBMs in some aspects. But I think he also represents TBM thought on MANY other issues. The Abrahamic Covenant is a great example, in my opinion. If he’s wrong about that — then what is the purpose of the temple? Show me where mainstream Mormons think differently on this one. I’d love to know because I sincerely don’t understand why everyone kept attacking him.

  34. Pingback: Episode 131: Bias, Balance and Objectivity – Mormon Expression | My Blog

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