Episode 155b: Annual Essay Contest Part 2

Zilpha hosts the listener essay contest.

Essay Information

Episode A
1. Blinking In the Starlight: Jesse
2. I Am Pro-Polygamy: Seth
3.Thoughts on his 30th birthday about leaving his 20’s: Gardener
4. I want a Disney Romance, Not Polygamy!: Kate
5. Word of Wisdom?: Roger
6. An Outsider In Our Lovely Deseret: Travis
7. Thinking And Reasoning, Mikey!: David

Episode B
8. Not So Drab: Lauren
9. I Was Offended Vignettes: Anonymous
10. Polygamy and shifting beliefs: Jonathon
11. Allegory of the Campfire: Bryan
(Non-entry: Revealing your loss of faith to loved ones – Richard)
12. I Live in Questions: Elliot
13. Somebody Dunn Me Wrong: Tony
14. Bag of Gifts: Sara

Episode C
15. It’s Not Working Because She’s Gay: Gail
16. Mormon Temples are Not for Gays: Timothy
17. Special Conference at the Morley Farm: One Who Watches
18. Movies and Flies in Milkshakes: Alyssa
19. My Mission: Jacob
20. Walter’s Journal

Episode 155b

13 comments on “Episode 155b: Annual Essay Contest Part 2”

  1. AR Reply

    What audacity for Paul H. Dunn to go to St. Louis and falsely claim to have played for their professional baseball team. I sometimes wonder how Joseph Smith could have been so bold to make the claims he did, but maybe it isn’t so hard when you have a crowd that believes your words.

  2. Jacob Brown Reply

    I remember those sisters in the MTC who wore jumpers. My wife was definitely one of them. It was even gray! You totally got to see the picture!

    Anyway, she freaked me out once when we were leaving the temple together. She saw a couple young missionaries and started jumping up and down all excited. She had to go over and talk to them. I was like, “honey, they’re just regular people. Why are you getting all excited?” She seriously had no idea who they were, but she just got excited. It was really really weird.

  3. guest Reply

    Hermana Lauren thank you so much! I loved your story, it is so much like my own! I’m glad you were able to find your own path 🙂

  4. Buffalo Reply

    Man, these are all great. My favorite has to be the Campfire parable, though. It rings very true to me. 

  5. Buffalo Reply

    Man, these are all great. My favorite has to be the Campfire parable, though. It rings very true to me. 

  6. JT Reply


    Thank you for your essay.  Your words spoke strongly to my own experiences over the last 27 years of “living in questions.”

    Perhaps it’s a bit hyperbolic to say that the Church’s “families-are-forever” doctrine creates a Solomon’s choice for the conscientious apostate spouse and parent.  I can “hear” the “still small voice” of the monolithic Church: “One false move and we’ll cut your family right down the fault line your hardened heart has created.”

    However exaggerated this may sound, it does capture the fear that makes attempts to “answer questions with the actions they deserve” so difficult.  For me, the term “deserve” now simply means “do (or allow) less harm than good” which is what you so elegantly communicated also.  This has also translated in my default practice of keeping my thoughts about Mormonism to myself (unless posting anonymously).  In my uncertainty I could not (and still cannot) in good conscience do otherwise. 

    Another metaphor is that of a mine field.  LDS doctrine pulls the family into the church (or “Rapunzle tower”) and then mines it’s perimeter with ideas of a dark and dreary world ready to explode their exaltation hopes.  As you describe, it is not seeing a “safe place” (and safe path) out of the church that seizes us in those moments of greatest exasperation.  And, as you also described, the many positive things about the day-to-day praxis of Church membership make it nearly impossible to calculate a net balance, positive or negative.  The balance seems to shift from day to day!

    Part of my difficulty is that my “safe place” is unthinkable for most others.  In this I speak of my naturalism/agnosticism with its accompanying acceptance of no afterlife and little social support.  This is a tough world view to sell, and certainly not one to impose on the disinclined.

    The Mormon Church exploits, at least intuitively, the institution-serving power of doctrinally appropriating nuclear families.  This seems one of its greatest religious innovations, which like others, sells it as a person-centered blessing.  But as many have experienced, when the doctrine is found to be supported by demonstrable falsehoods, the suffering IS entirely person-centered, with the victims left to sort though the wreckage largely for themselves, whether that means a broken family or merely attenuated relationships. 

    I have come to accept that the LDS Church will never take responsibility for such outcomes.  As the self-appointed proxy for God it simply can’t.  And indeed, it has provided itself with an effective response to its doctrine-induced collateral damage.  They can plot eternal Plan B courses for apostate abstracted families using temple ordinances.  But I do not believe this really helps very much – not deep down – not for the husband, wife and child lying awake late at night.

    Despite my sardonic descriptions, I continue to support my wife in her many church callings, but only with the same enthusiasm as I do for her gardening – which means it is directed toward her alone. Supporting my three children in their church activities, which they have always enjoyed (partly as a sanctuary for the real crap their peers get into), has been a greater struggle.  But the verdict is pretty much in for me.  I recently completed my 7-year stint as their early morning seminary driver and saw our youngest daughter off at the BWI airport for her turn at BYU.  

    I privately contemplate hoped for pathways through the mine fields to “places of safety.”  In the meantime I hope that my benign example triggers inclinations already in them.  At their ages it’s their turn to think for themselves – and I think they still can.  They have better access to information than I did as well as complete access to a non-pontificating, non-intrusive nonbeliever father who is ready to tell them where to find “JT.” 

    I want to add that it is possible to avoid a complete capitulation.  I no longer “straddle the line” – I am no longer a member of the LDS Church.  However, I have to credit my wife’s willingness to sacrifice our ethereal eternal bond for our tangible temporal one as my own 23-year unobtrusive leave-taking.   It also helped that we both grew up and live as minority Mormons on the East Coast.  In other words, I recognize that every contemplating apostate approaches these “cross roads” with a different set or circumstances that produce greater or lesser uncertainties.

    Elliott, my best wishes go to you and to all of us who are making such sacrifices for our families. That is, for all of us for whom blood is thicker than sacrament water.  Thank you for sharing your insights.  I believe they can help many of us navigate these mine fields and, hopefully, help others better appreciate the challenges.  I wish that all Church leaders could listen to your essay without hardening their hearts.   It could be consciousness raising.


  7. Daniel Shirley Reply

    There have been so many wonderful, beautiful, devastating stories in the 1st  two thirds.  But Sarah’s touched me the most, so far.  I immediately recognized the third road – the one Robert Frost failed to notice – the one you would never choose – as a path I have spent much time walking these past couple of years.  And at the same time, I could visualize my wife on this road, walking alone, struggling to understand what happened when I lost my faith.  And my sons, sitting in future priesthood meetings without their father, trying to navigate alone a path he can not walk with them.  Trying to reconcile how they feel about him with what they’re taught to believe about him.  Trying to interpret the conflicting signs they will get from their church, from their mother, and from me.  We all are struggling to navigate the vague signs; trying to find that place, that moment when you step out of the woods and are no longer lost.  And my heart breaks for all of us.

  8. Verminpants Reply

    Awesome, wonderful, outstanding! I don’t shed tears easily but I did today listening to these three podcasts. It is truly a revelation when someone comes along and crystalises your own feelings into a few words or maybe a story. Thankyou, clever people, for giving a dumb ass like me a break.

  9. JT Reply


    Thank goodness for your “gift” that doesn’t remain trapped in a bag of beliefs.

    And thanks in particular for …

    “I read, shuddered and knew.  And all the world’s stationary objects in silence moved to take up new positions …”   

    and for Frost’s “limited” dichotomy – your acknowledged reality of 

    “… the third road, the road you’d never choose, has also taught me everything I know about strength, compassion, and honesty.”

    Aren’t these three gifts ones that need not be carried in “exquisitely wrapped boxes”?

    Thanks again.  Best wishes.


  10. Richard of Norway Reply

    Wow, what a surprise it was to finally listen to this and hear my own voice in one of the entries! 😉

    For the record (or as an excuse to why mine is of such poor quality compared to the others), my entry was actually just an e-mail to John and Zilpha for the Mistakes were made podcast done over a year ago. It was not intended as an essay or even for anybody else to hear, except maybe as excerpts in that podcast. I think John said the recording didn’t reach him in time for that podcast (before they started recording) so I ended up calling in instead. I figured the recording was forever lost, or would just be deleted if ever found.

    Thanks for adding it though Zilpha. It was a pleasant surprise. 🙂

    PS. I was intending to enter the contest this year but wanted to do another song, kind of like my entry last year. Unfortunately though, I ran out of time and didn’t get around to it before the deadline. Maybe next year! 🙂

  11. sara Reply

    Daniel and JT, 
    Thanks for your kind words–I’m glad my thoughts resonated with you.  While listening to the essays    I kept thinking about how easy it was to identify with the other writers’ thoughts and experiences and how infrequently that occurred when I was sitting in church or chatting with women at Homemaking.  I always felt marginalized…different,,,and that my mind made me incompatible with my religion.  BTW, the “read, shuddered and knew” quote is from Charles Mudge and has been on my fridge for over 20 years (my kids probably haven’t even read it)  🙂

  12. Fred W. Anson Reply

    Based on the most single most common recurring theme in the entries thus far I can’t help but wonder why the Mormon Church hasn’t canonized the entire Disney film library yet.  It seems to have had as much influence on members as the Standard Works have! 

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