Episode 173: A Critique of the Critics

100 comments on “Episode 173: A Critique of the Critics”

  1. DuzTruthMatter Reply

    This is a fantastic episode!  The fact that you are worried about criticism at all puzzles me, but I give you credit for at least bringing the topic to the table.  For those who think that this podcast is too negative on the mormon church, let them go to Mormon Stories which has gone from a hard-hitting, direct-questioning interview forum off all types of “mormons” to a “how I stay in the church when I don’t believe” forum and should really retitle itself as Mormon Psychology.  Or they can go to Mormon Matters to get their excercise in mental gymnastics and really see how they can bend and shape the mormon church to fit their belief system.  As for me and my house, we shall stay with Mormon Expression.

    As for the one critic Zilpha encountered, my opinion is that “one man should perish (in belief) than that a whole (Mormon Expression) nation should dwindle and perish in (watered-down balanced discussions)”.

    Keep up the good work!!

    • Richard of Norway Reply

      Perfect! Thanks for calling MS and MM out for what they are. I had to stop listening to them a long time ago, when it became far too accommodating of the Mormon church. Opening with prayers, asking interviewees to bear their testimony, going out of their way to word things in a specific way to not offend believers. Ridiculous. I prefer straight talk, and let those who might be offended find other venues.

      • DuzTruthMatter Reply

        Well, well.  It looks like Mr. Dehlin keeps close tabs on this site.  I listened to the marxist professor podcast (James McLachlan).  If you go there and look at the comments, there’s a comment by guest which says comment removed.  This is followed by a comment by Hermes.  I also replied to Hermes and that has been removed.  Then I tried to comment on the open dialogue Mr. Dehlin so piously professes and found that I’ve been banned from commenting on his site.

        The best I recall, my comment was as follows:  WTF!!  “Just because JS chased around 14 year old girls, these ideas are wonderful”.  What if you happened to be that 14 year old girl, professor?  Would you still think these ideas were wonderful?  You are the embodiment of teaching for doctrine the commandments of men. The whole ward shows up to help you move your whole house, so the church is true.  Really!?  You sit on the high counsel but you have to ask Dan to remind you what the temple recommend questions are.  Really!?  And you could be in a position to sit in judgment of someone who might be excommunicated.  What would you use for your criteria to make that judgment, the Communist Manifesto?

        So, I guess open dialogue is dead and buried on MS.  Perhaps Mr. Dehlin thinks these were ad hominem attacks on the good professor, but I just took his words and asked him some questions.  The comment by Hermes makes no sense without the above, so as soon as Mr. Dehlin see’s this, I’m sure that comment will be gone too.

        • Richard of Norway Reply

          Yeah, that’s another reason I love this site and can’t stomach MS. We have never (not once!) deleted a single comment for any reason. Here all comments and points of view are welcome. MS feels too much like a church sponsored website. No thanks.

          However, I do like John Dehlin and think MS has done lot of good for a lot of people. So, although I criticize MS, I do appreciate much of what they do. I just don’t agree with some of their methods.

          • Anonymous

            I think we have deleted 2 or 3 comments that were obvious spam.  But I could be wrong about that.

          • Richard of Norway

            Heather’s right but I guess I don’t count SPAM as legitimate comments. (The SPAM we’ve deleted has been little more than ads for some shopping site or other. Zero substance.)

          • DuzTruthMatter

            I agree with you.  I really do like John Dehlin too.  He’s the one who got me started on my journey.  I was just surprised that he would delete a comment.

          • Jacob Halford

            The fact that John Dehlin deletes comments shouldn’t be that surprising considering the history of the Marlin Jenson incident when he not only closed all comments but actually closed access to the website for his co-bloggers. see here http://www.mormonheretic.org/2010/10/03/wheat-and-tares/ for a list of some articles on and here which gives a bloggers view on the matter http://www.wheatandtares.org/2010/10/04/out-with-the-old-in-with-the-new/ 

            So yes, Dehlin has done some good, but can be some what Orwellian in his management of comments. 

        • KC Reply

          Its clear MS and ME has changed their approach over the past year. I think they have toned things down in an attempt to make it a more palatable place for believers.  I also think that in order to get guests like Terryl Givens and Dan Peterson they feel they must be more accommodating and less direct.  John Delin still asks tough questions and I think he is less a believer than ever but is trying to influence and affect change with the indirect approach.  I think he is a good guy, its just a different approach.  But I have to say I love Mormon Expressions. You are entertaining and funny.  You make me crack up all the time. It’s a little embarrassing as times when in public listening to my ipod, I suddenly burst out in laughter. That’s why I keep coming back. The content is great but when  added to great humor, irony, sarcasm, craziness, (think Mike’s javelin in his wife’s heart), absurdity, bombastic outbursts, it’s entertainment you cant get anywhere else.

        • Richard of Norway Reply

          Wow. I just visited MS and noticed I am now banned from posting comments there too. I take it all back! John Dehlin (or whoever runs that site) is a fucking jerk.

          • Hermes

            I am sorry you feel this way.  I don’t have a testimony of things any more, but I do have a testimony of John Dehlin.  I trust him to have a good reason for what he does, even when he does it differently than I might.  (I don’t know precisely what tightrope he is walking: maybe you would ban yourself, if you knew what he knows.  I blame the COB for everything bad he does: he is trying to maintain a dialogue with them, without giving them the “anti-Mormon” excuse to look the other way.  If he leveled with them a la John Larsen, they would just ignore him.  So he has to walk on eggshells.)

          • DuzTruthMatter

            Sounds like John Dehlin is having to check with the Strengthening the Members committee to see who can and cannot post on his site.  He always mentions having contacts high in the mormon church heirarchy who he can’t name.   It’s just really disheartening that you can’t have a differing opinion than the guests he has on and express it.  It’s a lot like the mormon church itself, you can disagree with the doctrine or leaders but you just can’t express it openly.

    • Buffalo Reply

      Yeah, I understand that Mormon Stories is now headed by a shrink and someone who is almost a shrink, but it really is Mormon Psychology now. Nothing wrong with that in theory, but not all of us are as interested in psychology as the two hosts are.

    • Kevin Reply

      The humor of Mormon Expression might also be compared with the humor in This Week In Mormons.  While ME is thoughtful, edgy, and snarky without being nasty, TWIM is light, goofy, and sophomoric. In fact, TWIM may be as humorous as a podcast for believers can possibly be.

    • Jacob Brown Reply

      I like ME, MS, and MM. MS was the first podcast I listened to because some of the episodes are with very influential people, and you can count on John Dehlin to ask the tough questions. ME was too rough for me at first, but I warmed up to it. MM didn’t get turned back on till later, and it annoyed me at first. It felt like a liberal Christian Sunday school lesson (yes, lesson) that blithely dismissed the claims and problems of mainstream Mormonism.

      Now, MS has become pretty sporadic. Episodes are not released regularly and they are of inconsistent quality. That group now seems more focused on facebook communities, hosting conferences, and addressing the psychology of faith transition. ME and MM are very consistent. ME covers Mormon history and theology from a naturalistic (atheistic/agnostic) perspective, and MM covers Mormon theology and politics from an academic liberal Christian perspective.

      I still listen to all three regularly. I’m just glad we finally have a broader and deeper discussion of Mormonism that is not under control of the institution.

  2. Elder Vader Reply

    On the topic of members of the church using kindness as a weapon: 

    If you’re interested,  you should watch sometime the documentaries on youtube about the cult called ‘Children of God’, now called ‘The Family International’. 

    Here’s a link to part 7 of 7 of one of these documentaries.  This guy has driven thousands of miles to reconnect with his mom, and get her take on the religion.  Watch how she turns him down.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xe2aYszwMtw&feature=related  She’s putting loyalty to the religion above her own child, but she does it ‘kindly’. 

    • Anonymous Reply

      Vader, I spent all day chasing cult videos on YouTube today.  They were an odd background music to my work.  haha.

  3. Hermes Reply

    John, I’m with you on the honesty.  What I really like about ME is that people can say whatever the heck they want, and get honest feedback.  Mike can affirm his faith.  Brandt can affirm his (disagreeing with Mike).  Gentiles and apostates can say their piece too, without any of us sulking (too much) or getting overly bent out of shape.  No one has to shut up.  Interviewers don’t have to pull punches.  (It is good that there are venues where interviewers do pull punches, I think, but it is also good to have a place where the gloves come off.)

    You don’t cater to an audience with this kind of stuff, I think.  You just put yourself out there, and those who appreciate you come forward on their own.  There was a time when I was not ready for ME.  Guess what?  I didn’t listen.  Then, my faith crisis punched me in the gut, and this became one of my favorite places.  You’re like an independent rock band: you play the music that speaks to you, that you believe in, and your audience appears (or doesn’t: since you aren’t in it for the big bucks, like some people, it doesn’t matter).

    Authenticity is the most important thing to me right now.  I like it when people level with me, honestly.  I hate it when I get the feeling that I am being handled with kid gloves, seduced into “liking” something because someone else feels threatened by the possibility that I might disagree with them.  While I know there are places to play nice, there definitely needs to be a place where anyone can say what he or she really feels.

    • Hermes Reply

      And I agree with John about the church lacking humor, too.  We need irony.  We need sarcasm.  We need loud laughter.  It is amazing how much better I started feeling when I learned that I could laugh at the church, that I didn’t have to stew in wrath all the time (alternately angry at myself for apostatizing, and at the church for betraying me into apostasy).

  4. Chuck Borough Reply

    Immensely stimulating. I would like to say so much both in support and critical of some of the positions taken here. Should I start, or remain silent?

  5. Hollee Reply

    I love ME.  I’ve been listening for almost 2 years now and I still wake up every Tuesday to download the new edpisode.  I spend the rest of the week hoping there will be a bonus podcast.  Thanks for what you do.  Don’t change, just keep them coming. 

  6. Christopher a Reply

    Great episode. One thing I have noticed about John that I believe applies to this topic is that he tends to be a contrarian, ie. He tends to take a position different than the group consensus or whoever in the group is most outspoken(aside from himself). Back when niles was on the show, this led to John defending the church much more in contrast to niles bombastic attacks. (I don’t mean this in anyway as a criticism of John, his contrariness makes for lively discussions). And it seems that as the show goes on, the other panelists have tended to have a somewhat more…mild approach to discussing the church than earlier panelists had which leads John, in his contrariness to be more negative.

  7. danko Reply

    If people are worried about negativity, just do what my bishops always did. At the end of their tenure they would stand up and say “Please forgive me if I’ve offended anybody during the past seven years.” This always seemed to give them a clean slate in the eyes of the ward. AND, it’s a super easy way to repent, for anything. It’s like a carte blanche confessional–just fill in the blank, in your own minds, about what I should say I’m sorry for. I use this on my wife and kids all the time. No matter what happens, they know I’ll apologize at least once every 7 years 🙂

  8. mono Reply

    It matters not what you say or do, some will take offense. To thine owns self be true. If I wanted the “Church Approved” version, I would go to church. I don’t. I want the truth. Lies aren’t very helpful, the truth is ALWAYS helpful. If God, Jesus, whoever needs people to lie for him/her that deity is corrupt and not worth wasting any of my life energy on. 

    For years I have referred to Boyd as Boyd KKK Packer, but I really liked your reference…maybe I’ll change to your moniker. 

    The Corporation of the President needs to get off their high horse, they have no problem calling all other churches “of the devil”, even though they are backpedaling on that and most other issues. From the beginnings it was “wrong to criticize the brethren” Dallin Oaks reiterated that mantra on the PBS Special “The Mormons”. What puts them above criticism? They can spend upwards of 8 Billion (and counting) on a stupid mall, and you can’t ask “why?” because that would be criticizing the “Brethren”. I can hear the reply, “well, it is not tithing money”. Yea, cause Jesus keeps two sets of books, one must be called God and the other Mammon.

    I listen to ME not because the podcast is a collection of raving anti-mormons, you provide a reasoned and balanced view of the truth. And ME is not dogmatic, if you’re wrong, you say so, wow…honesty…what a concept. Most important: I know I am not alone. Thank you, thank you, thank you. May the cosmic boogeyman never darken your doorway.

    When it comes to the Corporation of the President, I quote Nancy Reagan…”Just say NO!!”.

    BTW, you need to do a podcast on the Mormon Reformation of the 1840’s & 50’s. If that period is not a defacto example of cultism, then I don’t know what is. Yea, get Jeddie Grant and his hammer, haul ’em out in the street, re-baptize everybody drive the sins of the flesh from them and any other sins you can beat out of them to confess. You are all a bunch of sinners!!!!! Vengeance is mine and you’re going to pay (including the compound interest to the perpetual immigration fund as well as the principal). 

  9. RJ Reply

    On the spectrum of regular ME listeners, I suspect that I am one of your more “believing”, church friendly, practicing LDS listeners, though, my beliefs are not orthodox by mainstream standards, of course. I’m certainly not an everyday regular Mormon. I am personally very critical of the Church, aware and frustrated by all the problems. Ideologically, my worldview clashes with church teachings in significant ways. In the end, for very personal reasons, I genuinely love the Church, despite its flaws, and am committed.I’ve been a listener for quite awhile now.  I listen basically because I find the podcast entertaining and I like you guys (most of you guys). I do, however, feel conflicting feelings about the podcast sometimes.  On the question of whether or not John has been more critical or bombastic lately. I’m not so sure he has been. Perhaps, if anything, the difference has been that in the past when John got all worked up, it was directly related to something Mike T. had just said, and therefore seemed instigated, and not a reflection of his general demeanor. Lately, there has been more instances were he gets worked up without Mike pushing him. I’m not saying he is wrong for expressing himself that way, but perhaps that is part of the difference. However, I personally have not noticed that things are any more or less angry lately. As for my conflicted feelings about the podcast, more and more I get the feeling the podcast is (for lack of a better way of expressing it) by exmormons – for exmormons. The general perspective (if there is one) is that of the exmormon. It didn’t quite seem that way in the being. Though it is never said explicitly, the consensus view seems to be that the only healthy and honest way to live, if you are aware of the issues being discussed, is outside of the church.  There is nothing wrong with that take on things, but for that reason I can’t fully connect with the podcast or the group. I can’t help but think that my less absolutist, loosey goosey, take on religion would not be looked on favorably.  Also, I’m rarely bothered by the content of any particular bit of criticism on any subject, but  the general tone or level of hostility does sometimes seem to be out of proportion to whatever offensive thing is being discussed. I think some of that has to do with the combination of panelist that are on the episode.  Each of your contributors has a unique voice and way of expressing their views on Mormonism and religion. Without naming names, a handful of your contributors  are generally much more acerbic and hostile in expressing their views of the Church. However, with the right combination of panelist, all the contributors are totally fine. I think in the end its your podcast and you are fully justified in doing things the way you want to. I just wanted to give you the perspective from one of your fans. Thanks Guys!

    • RJ Reply

      Sorry for the lack of paragraph spacing. I copied and pasted from another format and didn’t notice that the spaces got taken out. 

    • Anonymous Reply

      Hmmmm….. trying to decide if I’m one of the more hostile / acerbic folk.  haha.

      • RJ Reply

        No, not you Heather. You always keep things congenial, even when you’re critical. It’s a good quality.

  10. Wes Cauthers Reply

    Great episode. I’ve been listening since the beginning and I would say there has been a gradual shift towards more honest sharing of true feelings (especially from John). One of the 1st episodes I participated in was #17b in the Fall of 2009, for general conference and I remember feeling hesitant on how honest I should be because the tone of the podcast seemed fairly uncritical up to that point. A few months later I was on #50a for the Spring 2010 conference and then #54 for Struggles in Mormon Marriage and Sexuality and even then I was still a bit hesitant to really speak my mind. However, by the time I did #89 for the 14 fundamentals of following the prophet, I had no reservations on saying everything I thought. While I very much appreciate ME’s reputation for the honest sharing of true feelings about Mormonism, I think there’s definitely an atheist slant that seems to dominate at times but I guess that’s to be expected since most of the voices are atheist ones.

    I wholeheartedly agree with the following statement from Heather: “The church uses niceness, happiness and agreeability as weapons.” Not only is this very much the case, it is also both maddening and insidious. My Dad is more than willing to play the nicey-nice game with me all day long and it makes me want to scream! My apostasy has never been a secret, but rather than have an honest conversation with me about it, we talk about the weather and other riveting subjects. I played along with that for many years (against my gut) for the sake of trying to have some level of relationship with him until recently (about 2 years ago now). I told him that his Mormonism/my apostasy is a huge elephant in the room that continually goes unnamed and prevents us from having any kind of authentic relationship which is something I deeply desire. It was right around the time my 1st child (his 1st bio grandchild) was born and I have yet to receive a reply. Very sad.

    Excellent point about the parallel between anti-mormonism and anti-semitism/bigotry. Of course, the church has no legitimate grounds to make this comparison, especially in light of its own racist and discriminatory doctrines. Beyond that, the term is grossly misapplied to people who have perfectly legitimate problems with Mormonism, like the racist doctrines that have never been renounced. Also, I think it’s safe to say that most people charged with the term do not hate Mormons, while anti-semites admittedly hate Jews.

  11. Kevin Reply

    Excellent podcast. Especially the discussion of how the church hedges, dissembles, and outright lies.

    I think it relates to the issue of authority versus freedom. As anyone — believing or not — will acknowledge, the church as an organization is based on authority. And despite all its tradition of free agency, and also despite the strong strain of freewheeling theological speculation within the church, authority is still not compatible with freedom.

    As Orwell put it, freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two equals four. If the church can get its members to not ony say but to believe that two plus two equals five, then it has truly established its authority. Somebody somewhere — probably in the Church Office Building — thinks that’s a good thing.

  12. Chuck Borough Reply

    “I don’t believe the Church is true.” What does this mean? It’s like asking if a hammer is true. It’s a thing, not a truth. David O. McKay said there is no Church other than the members of it. What are the real Church doctrines? Whatever the people actually believe. How do we tell what the people believe? By what they do, not by what they say. The things that John believes or that I believe; those are part of what the Church doctrine is. If someone writes it down and calls it “official,” that’s just so much bull. What the members do is its doctrine, and the only doctrine that counts. It is not the same for each member. Members are not subjects, but parts. Some members try to subjugate other members; that’s their problem, no matter how high up some “ladder” they happen to be. Those willing to BE subjugated are a bigger problem than the few dictators. Think of Jim Jones; he was just one sick asshole; but many other (nicer) assholes were willing to follow him. He was just one schizophrenic; they made the power. All of us know, those in favor of freedom for gays are winning this battle, for example, and more and more battles are being and going to be won. Dictators are disappearing from the world. In 27 countries, there used to be many in this hemisphere – now only one also soon to be gone. In the other half of the world there are more, but they also are disappearing. More and more people in the Church are disliking the claimed “infallability” of our leaders. That’s going down too.

    • Callma Reply

      Come on, you know what it means. It is a reference to the Church’s truth claims. It means ‘I don’t believe the Church’s truth claims are true’ and I know you know that.

  13. Chuck Borough Reply

    David K. Packer, Boyd’s nephew, was without a doubt the missionary companion I grew the closest to, among twelve companions on my mission. He was much influenced by his uncle (50 years ago) up in a little town in Idaho. Elder Packer (the younger) was starkly conservative and very dedicated to the missionary work in the obedient and prescribed way. It was my second placement. I was a stark raving liberal. We made a hell of a team, and both of us came to value some of what the other had to add to the mix. He was the Supervising Elder, (now called district leaders), and I went to be his companion. There were some tears when I went to my third placement and left the little town he and I had worked in.

    Members change as they are given more and more authority. In particular, I watched Joseph Fielding Smith change when he became the president of the Church. He no longer talked of their being no dinosaurs, etc. If Brother Packer (the older one) lives to see that day, he will change also. I would be interested in what he said that caused the theory that he is a dick. (smile)   Maybe he has a tendency for his whole body to “stiffen” when he feels his authoritarian oats? 

  14. Anonymous Reply

    The question then for the Mormon Expression Board of Mysterious Directors is where in the spectrum of Mormon criticism the podcast belongs. If the panelists want free reign to voice every angry brain dropping, then ME will appeal to all the Ex-Mo’s and Post-Mo’s. The exact rhetoric that anti-Mormon groups have been spewing for years, useless bunk.

    Mormon Expression is better than that.

    John and Zilpha mentioned the stories of trauma that they receive daily from members and former members of the Church. I think Mormon Stories is trying to stop that pain by attacking the issue from a personal angle. I think Mormon Expression can do its part by addressing the history, politics, and culture. But Mormon Expression will never reach the audience that needs to hear the accurate versions if they tune out because of bombastic angry language.

    Mormon Expression is most interesting when it’s a true dialogue between critics and faithful. It has the unfortunate problem that few faithful members are willing to appear on the podcast. That problem will only get worse if ME continues on its angry downward trend. To counter-act this effect, the panelists need to check some of their comments and frame the criticisms in ways that open up discussion instead of creating an echo chamber of how much the Church sucks.The podcast can be accurate & critical, funny and entertaining without being overly negative.

    As John says, Mormonism is full of weird, interesting, and bizarre aspects of faith and culture. Life’s too full of negativism. Save that for the VIP Lounge where it belongs.

    • Fred W. Anson Reply

      And I would say that is equally true of ME’s stance toward mainstream Christianity – no make that ALL forms of Theism – as well. 

      I see ME trending strongly in the direction of all the other Ex and Post Mormon boards and it concerns me greatly.  What appealed to me about ME originally was that it was trying to maintain a more neutral, more positive stance.  However, at some point something changed for – IMO – the worse. 

      It wasn’t this way in the beginning but it sure is now for some reason. And the result seems to be that we have yet another Mormon-centric board that only appeals to Atheist ExMormons – as if the Internet needed yet another one!

      • Richard of Norway Reply

        And I would say that is equally true of ME’s stance toward mainstream Christianity – no make that ALL forms of Theism – as well.

        If by “M.E.” you mean John Larson you may be right. But M.E. is more than just John Larson. It is all of the panelists and guests that appear on podcasts. Mike and Brandt included. They are not hostile towards the church, nor any form of theism (okay, Mike may be hostile towards what he refers to as “Evangelicals” sometimes).

        What appealed to me about ME originally was that it was trying to maintain a more neutral, more positive stance.  However, at some point something changed for – IMO – the worse.

        If you could document that or at least try to be a little more specific (which podcast? or which month?) it may be easier to address.

        Personally (if it matters to anybody), I think the reason for this trend has little to do with John and Zilpha but rather a shift in the panelist members. Tom has quit, and Glenn and George are rarely on any more. They were the three most positive towards the church and religion in general.

        Who’s left from the original team but John, Zilpha and Mike? Pretty much all the newcomers are former Mormons and mostly negative. Heather is probably the exception to this since she tries to keep the tone positive and balanced whenever possible. Brandt is mostly positive.

        It sounds like some listeners would prefer to cut out some of the panelists and try to maintain more of a balanced mix, including Brandt, Mike, Heather, John and Zilpha.

        Does that sound accurate?

        • Anonymous Reply

          Interesting. All three of those individuals are now openly critical of the Church. I wonder if ME is a factory for producing critics. 😉

          • Richard of Norway

            But do you see my point? I think it may be part of the reason some people feel more negativity lately than before.

            For me, I think the balance is perfect but that may be because I’m an exmo and really hate what I experience Mormonism does to so many people.

          • Garen "George"

            To clarify, (a week late, sorry). I don’t think I’ve become more critical of the church than I was in the early days of the podcast. I am still a believer in God and see good in Christianity. For me personally, I’m still on the side where I see good in most organized religions, but I’m more critical now than I used to be. 

        • Anonymous Reply

          I don’t think anybody needs to be cut. I generally like all the panelists. But as the panelists shifted further way from the Church so has the tone.

          I don’t want ME to go down the angry rabbit hole because I, personally, find it very boring. That’s why I jumped on the boards at Post-Mo and Ex-Mo for all of three seconds. How much angry vitriol does it take to make a point.

          John has stated that he wants space between a person’s de-conversion and their coming on the podcast because they’re too angry. Well, since we all hold on to some of that anger, panelists need to be self-aware of when they are being too acerbic and need to tone it down. Otherwise, they sound like a bunch of dicks.

      • Anonymous Reply

        These are valid concerns Fred, and I am glad you are here in the blogs to add the EV viewpoint.

        I would counter that I believe that most of the non-Mormon content concerning Mormons is produced by Evangelical “ministries”. It is true that our approach is from a secular point of view, but I think for those trying to produce serious content, that puts us in the minority.

        As to maintaining a positive stance: I have read your posts, so I am not sure that a positive stance towards Mormonism is really high on your agenda. Or are you talking about my negativity towards Evangelicalism?

        Anyway, thanks again.

        • Fred W. Anson Reply

          First, thank you for the kind words.  I appreciate them. 

          And, you’re correct, I am an admittedly open critic of Mormonism. However, what you all don’t see much here because of the hostility toward mainstream Christianity is that I’m also an open critic of modern Christianity – the American Church in particular. Oddly this site has forced me into an Apologetic stance that irritates me as much as it seems to irritate you all. 

          However, with no other voice to speak and everyone else either parachuting out or afraid to post here because of the vitriol that they know is inevitable should they post anything positive about mainstream Christianity what other choice do I have – other than parachuting out myself? 
          (which frankly has been a frequent temptation lately) 

          I don’t mind the challenges, I don’t mind the arguments, but I do mind the unrelenting bludgeoning of theists – Mormon in person and Christians in absentia – that goes on here and on the podcasts much of the time. 

          If you guys want to turn ME into just another Atheist ExMo site that’s fine but I think that you’ll find yourselves just talking to yourselves – as happened at other such sites that I could mention. 

          I think that ME could be more than it is right now but, frankly and IMO, the bullying and repetitive bludgeoning of non-Atheists views is holding it back from what it could become.

          • Anonymous

            Fred, are you claiming we bully Christians or Christian theology? 

          • Anonymous

            Once you’ve deplugged from the Mormon Matrix, atheism is a natural enough consequence.  If the God that Joseph Smith saw doesn’t exist, and the relationship I had created with that God turns out to be something I feel I self-created entirely–like Tom Hanks emotional connection to a volleyball..then I really really find myself wary of trying to put the add out on craig’s list: ” God wanted.  Must demonstrate strong evidence of his existence and let me drink coffee”    

            That being said, I’m always open to an idea to support why I should believe in God.  Just haven’t heard one that’s honestly convincing yet.  You yourself were an atheist once, so certainly you understand.  If we ask for reasonable evidence, and you can’t provide any, why do you take it so personally?  

            And what would you recommend ME do?  Come out and say “Don’t speak freely?  Don’t ask such and such questions?  Don’t talk about God existing or not existing, that’s off limits?”   

            You are yourself a featured player here.  I respect you and read your blogs and comments with great attention.  You are definately one of the good guys. Are you saying that you feel yourself being portrayed any differently, somehow not respected for your ideas?    Doesn’t seem to hold water but I’d love to hear more.

        • Kevin Reply

          Speaking as a non-evangelical Christian (a Catholic, to be specific), one of the things that appeals to me about ME is that no reasonably articulated points of view are off limits. These include Mormon, non-Mormon theist, and athiest points of view.

          One of the factors that makes for shallow dialogue between Mormons and non-Mormon (alternatively, you may insert the word “other” here if you wish) Christians is that almost all of it consists of either proselytization or discussions of social issues. What about us poor “nevermos” who find Mormonism interesting from a theological, psychological, and historical point of view? For that matter, what about us believers who use the perspectives of former believers to gain a better understanding of what and why we believe?

          Any limit on “negativity” is bound to limit the conversation’s ability to probe deeply, and would impoverish the podcast. After all, a negative perspective toward one truth claim is generally part of a positive perspective toward the inverse truth claim.

          For me, ME’s appeal is not a negative or positive attitude. I listen because ME’s panelists are knowledgeable, thoughtful, critical, sincere, edgy, funny, and kind. What else does a good podcast need? 

      • Anonymous Reply

        The majority of people who participate on Mormon Expression ARE atheists.  It would be disingenuous of us to be positive and promoting of a viewpoint we don’t hold.  But John is always willing to consider new panelists.  So if you want the pro-Christianity voice heard, step up Anson!  :^)

      • Hermes Reply

        I’m sorry for being part of the problem, Fred.  For what it is worth, I probably come off harsher in comments than I would in person, and I think you are a good person.  I think your heart is in the right place, and I am one of those “soft atheists” who thinks that there is definitely a good place for religion (including Christianity) in the world (and on the Internet).  I still identify myself in some measure as both Christian and Mormon (something that may make you scratch your head: I hope it doesn’t make you too mad!).  I just don’t see God the way I used to, at all.  Religion is not dogma for me: it is poetry, which can be written in any language (not just the one true one), and its subject is humanity (writ large in societies and small in each one of us).  It does not give us absolute truth, but (like any language) it includes a whole lot of relative truth (which is not inherently less useful for being irrelevant to historical research or even empirical truth: it is only problematic when we insist that it tell us what it cannot, i.e. the one truth about how everything is, was, and ever shall be).  If we could treat religion more like a fun game than a solemn ceremony, it would go over a lot better, in my opinion.  We should laugh at it, and ourselves, freely–rather than getting up in arms over the nature of God (which we are never going to agree upon, even if we all meet him in person: remember the dwarves in C. S. Lewis’ Last Battle).

        I am not Sam Harris.  I see value in what Sam Harris does.  I cheer for him in debate sometimes, but I think eliminating entirely the superstitions of our fathers would ultimately just make us fall harder for the new ones we are currently inventing.  I prefer to transform the old (including Christianity and my parents’ Mormonism) by seeing it in a new light (sometimes a painfully radical one).  I guess you might say that I am an iconoclast who respects the idols that he smashes, and is aware that he himself is constantly constructing new idols to occupy the position once granted to the old.  We do not build for eternity.  We are just drawing pictures in the sand on the beach.  Some of the pictures are beautiful.  Some are goofy.  Some are hideous, and some of us use them to do awful things (unfortunately).  But any sand-painting tradition that has been around a while has something good in it, something worth preserving and sharing with the larger community of sand-painters (which includes guys like Sam Harris and the people on this board, too).

        I guess what I am trying to say, Fred, is that I believe in you, even if I sometimes think that your God is bunk.  Whatever happens in future, know that I respect you, as a human being–and even admire you, as a human being who does his best to live well.  Your personal authenticity gives you street cred with me, even when I think you are crazy. 

      • Martin Jacobs Reply

        If I can make an observation as a “guest”, it is that boards like these naturally tend towards negativity, and they tend to harden in their positions. It’s very difficult for the moderators and contributors to hold back the tide.

        The reason is that they become the void into which people pour their angst. With Mormonism (and other authoritarian religions) there is much to complain about, and it’s easier to complain about how wrong someone else is than to build up a picture of how it should be. The latter creates a fixed target, which is easier to shoot down, but the former means that the snipers don’t need to break cover.

        Anyway, your experiences here are similar to mine on another board in which I found myself targeted by some merciless Biblical inerrantists. I bailed because I felt that that board had hardened on that position, and I could no longer write what I wanted to write about and discuss – the Bible.

        Ironic, isn’t it!

        I hope you find a way to keep the board “open”.

    • Anonymous Reply

      I am not sure what you mean by the Board of Mysterious directors. The BOD is for White Fields Educational Foundation which owns Mormon Expression. We are a corporation and have a legal board of directors. The names of all of the individuals are on file publicly with the State of Utah. We meet once a quarter and discuss the overall business needs of the non profit.

      What part of this is mysterious? It seems rather main stream to me. If you would like to contact any of these individuals, I would be happy to provide you their contact information.

      However, you should know that I find that accusation very strange and sort of paranoid, frankly.

      • Anonymous Reply

        “Board of Mysterious Directors” is nothing more than my attempt at poor humor. 

        Truthfully, every organization needs shadowy figures pulling strings, right? If everything is out in the open how would that contribute to the vast conspiracy machine? Water coolers around the nation need gossip fodder.

  15. Steve Kimball Reply

    Nice!  Uhm we all know of another site that went soft.  Sure that is where the money is but what you guys do is more honest then that.  Keep up the good work(s).  

  16. Robert Reply

    John: I need a priesthood blessing
    Robert: what’s the problem?
    John: my wrist is bothering me and I can’t call out anymore
    Robert: okay are you ready
    John: yep
    Robert: God is happy that through your faith you have reached out to him for this blessing, he loves you and cherishes your belief, John at this time I bless you with counsel from on high yea from the heavens above directly from the almighty, he knows your concern and now says this will be a small moment of discomfort but it will pass according to your faith and God’s will, it would be wise to seek medical help as well, for God will not give what we can get on our own, listen to the doctor carefully, also try to limit as much as possible daily actives that might acerbate the current condition, only perform actives that are completely necessary for a time being but through faith and the power of God all will be set right, give praises to God , read your scriptures  and be of good cheer, i leave this blessing now and any other blessing God sees fit for you to receive at this time….

    This is why I’m on the fence…because anybody the minute they here about a problem can do this but my words came from my mind not from God… I didn’t edit or even look back at what I typed I just thought of a common problem and used thoughts that seemed to rush to my mind for counsel…

    I jotted this down  becuase I’m Mormon and still attend the church and the temple but things are not adding up anymore…I have received counsel that was supposed to be from God but never came true and put me in danger financially….    

  17. Chuck Borough Reply

    I got a kick out of the phrase “terd polishing.” It caused me to do a gedankin. In it, I imagined trying to polish one of my dog’s terds, and found the attempt fully unsuccessful. Sugar-coating the little gem, however, was quite easy. It looked a bit like those powdered sugar doughnuts.

  18. Buffalo Reply

    I think it doesn’t matter that you’re sometimes very negative. I think that’s great and it keeps it interesting. The important thing is to keep trying to include SOME sort of believer on your podcast. You’re right, you’ll never get “normal” Mormons on there. They have no stomach for listening to any criticism of the church, no matter how polite, and normal Mormons aren’t informed on the issues you discuss. Still, I really appreciate Mike’s presence. Sure, he’s extreme, but he keeps things interesting. I really like the debates between John & Mike.

    IMO, it’s not being too critical that is problematic. It’s the echo chamber effect that is problematic (problematic because it’s not as interesting as a debate).

    Oh, and Glenn’s right. You should publish more after show stuff. Call it a bonus show if you like.

  19. Alyssa Reply

    Re: the church using sneaky SEO practices to get to the top of the iTunes podcast search for the word “Mormon”…

    If a lot of your listeners give Mormon Expression a positive review on iTunes, that will should bump it back up to the top. So… maybe you could tell your listeners at the beginning of the podcast to write a positive review on iTunes. For people who don’t have the finances to contribute to ME financially, that can be a great way to help out the podcast.

  20. Fanson Reply

    Yes that sounds accurate.

    However, Brandt rarely says anything – I think for fear of being bullied and bludgeoned – and Mike is nuts even by TBM standards.

    Would any sane person go on a show where the hosts and other guests are known to bully the panelits?

    • Fred W. Anson Reply

      I did that on my tablet and it landed in the wrong place  – my apologies. 

      (the mobile version of Disqus leaves much to be desired – one of which being I can’t go back and edit my posts after they’re posted) 

      It was in reply to Richard’s assessment of my earlier comment. 

      And of course, that last line SHOULD have read, “Why would any sane person go on a show where the hosts and other guests are known to bully the panelists?”

    • Anonymous Reply


      You mean bullied and bludgeoned like the way you treat Mormons who like to say they are Christians? As a regular panelist for the blog, you are just as much a part of ME content providers as anyone. Maybe you should check out the beam in your own eye.

      You can ask Brandt if he feels bullied or not.

      • Fred W. Anson Reply

        John, I will admit – and publicly no less – a propensity toward bullying and bludgeoning. It’s a habit that I’m trying to break.  So, yes, I’m perfectly aware of the beam in my eye.* 

        Can you say the same?  

        And as long as Mormons public claim to be Christian and ExMormons back this ridiculous deceit I will challenge it publicly.  If it that offends you I’m sorry. 

        * This is now the second time is two days I have admitted here on ME.

  21. Chuck Borough Reply

    The people who participate here tend to be of high intelligence. That can be a problem when (I’ll say we) expect all other people to be equally intelligent. It’s an unreasonable expectation. We don’t believe little children who believe in the tooth fairy are “sick” in any way. Why can’t we just feel the same about adults who believe a guy put the universe together? The important things are what people do with their beliefs. The anti gay civil stuff – yes – that has to go, but there is so much good going on in the Church. We don’t have to keep the baby and throw out the bathwater if we don’t want to, but isn’t it reasonable for many others to do that. We need more people in the Church, really in it, who are willing and able to argue and make improvements. If we were more complimentary for some of these, we might get some active members participating. We need more liberals to perculate to the top, like Hugh B. Brown. If all the liberals leave the Church, it will just get worse and worse. There are other institutions that need more conservatives – we all need both.

  22. Fred W. Anson Reply

    Sorry, have to post up here to Heather’s post due to the Disqus problem.  And this will be it for me for the rest of the day – we’re hosting Thanksgiving and I have too much to do. Sorry. 

    “Fred, are you claiming we bully Christians or Christian theology?”

    You can’t bully theology. 

    And, Richard – you’re A-OK mate!  😉 

    Later gang – I’ve got too much to do and not enough time to do it all in.

    • Anonymous Reply

      Can you give me some examples?  I really honestly want to understand what bullying you’re talking about but I’ve got to be honest, I’m kinda baffled.  I don’t recall John (or anyone) ever calling anyone a douche bag or a dick to get compliance out of them.  When have people been bullied?  Who?  What episodes?

      The only thing I can come up with that you’re possibly referring to is to the recent spate of drama with Mike.  I’ll fully admit to being harsh toward Mike and I don’t apologize for it.  But that didn’t happen on the podcast.  That happened on Facebook and I’ve been clear with those involved that if I end up on episode with Mike that I’ll be civil.

      Outside of that, I can’t think of one single instance of  what you keep insinuating.  Help me out.  What bullying am I blind to?

  23. Adam taylor Reply

    Great podcast guys.  I generally don’t like the podcasts that talk about the podcast but this one was enjoyable.  I don’t think the podcast is too critical.  Although there are certain panelists that get a little to negative for my tastes.  But I don’t have a problem with John’s rants.  John’s rants make me laugh. 

  24. Anonymous Reply

    I loved this episode. Chalk up yet another exMormon trait the LDS church should learn from – introspection.

    John, PLEASE don’t change. Someone has to call BS when BS is flying around, especially when it’s being flung by people who claim moral superiority.

    If you’re offended by the truth you’re immature and probably still a believing Mormon. Here’s some truth. The Mormon cult is a racket. They promise happiness and threaten eternal misery if you don’t pay money and recruit more suckers. They lie, and lie about lying. 

    As far as I know, ME participants tell the truth when discussing the church. Mike chooses to omit truths he finds uncomfortable. That just highlights who’s more ethical. To ‘pull punches’ is allowing the perpetuation of lies and is dishonest. Anyone who feels uncomfortable with the truth needs to check their ethical standards and grow up. This isn’t a podcast that discusses Santa Claus in a way a listening child could still believe. There are people out there killing themselves because of what this church claims is truth. There are people going hungry so they can pay tithing. This is life and death. There is no room for pussy-footing around important issues so those who are a little sensitive can bear to listen.

    If they want to live the lie and listen to fluff and pablum, they can download conference talks.

  25. Chuck Borough Reply

    “There is no Church anymore.” But there never was a Church, other than just its members. They still exist, and that’s the only church that ever did exist. Any other church is just a metaphor. Paraphrasing Pogo, “We has found the Church, and he is us.”

  26. Bryce Reply

    I haven’t noticed a negative turn, but maybe that says more about me than the podcast.

    It’s got to be pretty hard to have a long-term, balanced relationship with faithful members in  a public form.  I perceive a lot of energy goes into the boundary maintenance by constructing a wall between insiders and outsiders.  A wall that we must crawl over under or around to get to the other side — no bridges, tunnels, or doors there!  

    Unfortunately, I think the boundary policing goes beyond separating the sheep from the goats as it were – There
    is this false construction of a “TBM.”  I haven’t met one, and I
    don’t think one exists.  Even the most deeply believing people I’ve spoken with have a few unorthodox beliefs.   But it’s dangerous to expose those unorthodox (or esoteric) beliefs.Then, of course, there is what “critical” and “positive” to the church really means.  To be “positive,” from a rational, scientific perspective, I suppose you could do it in terms akin to the economic concept of positive externalities, but I suspect that sort of approach wouldn’t sound very positive to the faithful.Last unhitched thought: I love the humorous and sometimes irreverent exchanges, and you aren’t close to chasing me away, yet.

  27. Cwald71 Reply

    Great podcast. 

    For what its worth, I agree with the comment about how the podcast took a “turn” after the Fall 2010 conference.  It seems that not only John became a little more “open,” or “course” if you will, but also Glenn and George.  I think the 14 Fundamental podcast with was a turning point, and still today that is my absolute favorite podcast, and even though I like some of the newer voices, I really miss the banter that George, Glenn and Mike T brought to the show. 

    Thanks ME folks and keep up the good work. 

  28. ward in BC Reply

    Great podcast.. love the show.. I have listened to everyone!   I like the negativity. the church deserves it all.  They lie and I wasted two years on my mission.  John you have a great radio voice and I can hear the intelligence in it!  keep it up..   Give em hell!

  29. Chuck Borough Reply

    We need this so-called negativity on the inside. Making critical analyses down is always accepted (being called to repentance) – it’s the upward critique that is looked upon as negative. It is about the opposite in the sciences. If we can bring light to bear on the accepted, we win Nobel prizes. We need this badly in the Church. The leaders should appreciate critical thought and discussion. It’s the life blood of any institution that wants to progress.

    The problem, it seems to me, is that conservative organizations sometimes think improvement is not a good goal; they are already perfect after all. That’s easy enough to understand, but we (The Church) should not be a conservative organization. Jesus himself was about as liberal as humans ever become. Imagine, asking for no revenge toward one convicted of a capital crime of the day.

  30. Gail F. Bartholomew Reply

    I think it is great that you ask these questions, but I hope you don’t try to change any of it.   You will change and have change, but like I have said before you fill a niche that no one else does. I listen to several pod casts.  I happen to like yours best.  I feel at home here.  I think that there are other pod casts that are have more bias towards the church, John Delin, and the there are those more biased against the church, ex Mormon foundation.  By the way I John’s contribution to the ex-Mormon foundation.  I have sometimes believed that Mormon expression have been too kind to the church and there have been times I have thought that you have been too tough on the church.  That said.I like what you do.  The past year seems to have changed because you are including more and more people.  I remember the first time I found Mormon expression and reading something to the affect of “We think Mormonism is interesting and we are going to talk about it.” I believe you have remained true to that ideal.  I love that you try to involve as many different Mormon view points as possible.  Admittedly most of the Mormon view points are very similar to my Mormon view point.  That is why I like this place to discuss Mormonism on the internet best,  Please keep up the good work.  Thanks for keeping me sane.   

  31. Fence_Sitter Reply

    Always enjoy John, Zilpha, and Heather, but I was very impressed by Gale.  I’d like to hear him on more often.

  32. Tbuzleski Reply

    Ok, first time poster here. I say you guys are just fine. The problem with having a TBM counter influence is that they could most likely not be able to engage in any constructive/honest dialogue without pulling the supernatural/magical card as a way of supporting their beliefs. I am no atheist, attend church every week, am a non-traditional latter day saint. Keep on doing what your doing!

    • Chuck Borough Reply

      WIthout “magic,” there is no god. The whole idea is to conceive a person able to do things (like organize or even make a universe), without needing to explain “how.” In science, if the experiment is not repeatable, it’s results are generally not accepted by the community. On the other hand, science does not make a very good religion. Nobody, among all my science friends, cares enough about my kids to give them much time. I will not play the supernatural card, because there is nothing outside of nature, but I will play the “useful” card. Many things not true are still useful. What say you?

  33. John Moore Reply

    My advice is to stop worrying about having an “unbalanced” podcast.  The LDS Church has a billion dollar megaphone (and they are doing harm with it), so don’t give them half of your microphone too.

    I stopped listening to MM and MS when they interviewed that apologist dude.  I gave more to Mormonism in my first 30 years than anyone should for a lifetime.  I need a place where I can undo what I did for all those years, not a place where I’ll hear the same tired old arguments.  If you bring on apologists, this turns into a place where people debate the morality of Mormonism, but if you don’t, this can be a place to heal from Mormonism.

    Thank you for what you’re doing.  Keep it fun.

  34. xolotl Reply

    I can’t understand the negativity complaint. It would be nice if some of those complainers could provide some examples rather than say ME is not favorable towards Mormonism or theism. The tone I think has remained the same. Credit and criticism have been given when and where it is due. The fact that there is so much to criticize about Mormonism isn’t a reflection of a negative panel, but the awful state Mormonism is in. 

    I can’t understand complaints about bullying either. It would be great if those making those complaints could provide some specific examples. I have a hard time believing any of the panelists have ever been bullied. Perhaps they have felt uncomfortable at times, but hardly bullied.  I think its even more telling that some panelists that were once quite positive of the church and were very forgiving of things have moved away from that tone in many respects. The problem is hardly ME.While I still listen to MS when I have the time, i think it is a shame that the tone seems to have shifted from genuine, open and honest dialogue to a tone that panders to and shelters still believing Mormons in an attempt to not seem too critical, but rather accepting and all encompassing. If Mormons have a hard time facing criticism towards their theology, history and organization then the problem really lies with with their unwillingness to address it rather than the fact that the criticism actually exists. Sure It would be nice to have more believing and orthodox Mormons become regular panelists… I would love it, but their absence and unwillingness is probably a reflection of ignorance to the criticisms being addressed or the fact that stupid smoke screen apologetics won’t be tolerated.I feel ME has remained pretty consistent in tone and in intentions. That more believing Mormons are unwilling to participate is a reflection to how well ME panelists are dealing with Mormonism. After all I can think of plenty of other podcasts where over enthusiastic apologists/missionary minded defenders have dived into waters that were not only the most hostile, but intended to be absolutely hostile and negative. Keep up the good work and for you believing Mormons that want to make a change, go give it a shot, open your mouths and fear not what man can do, for the Lord is with you… At least that’s what is taught in your scripture 🙂

  35. Anonymous Reply

    What’s the deal, Fred?  I dare ask you for clarification and you de-friend me on Facebook AND block me?  Classy.  Very classy.  Also shows reasonableness and willingness to dialog on your part.  Merry Christmas!  :^)

      • Fred W. Anson Reply

        However, I will state publicly that my trust in the Mormon Expression principals was already at an all-time low and your post certainly doesn’t inspire me to move the bar in the other direction.  

        In fact, it validated a few things that I had suspected were the case. So in that way it was actually helpful so I suppose I should actually thank you for it.

        • Anonymous Reply

          I’m sorry I posted this, Fred.  I meant it to be more snarky and teasing rather than rude.  But I can see how it DIDN’T come across that way. 

          Anyway, you’re not on my friends list anymore and I can’t find you in a search.  The only explanation is that you’ve blocked me.  And that’s fine.  I should have just kept my surprise to myself. 

          I think it’s too bad that you suddenly have such a negative opinion of us but you’re completely unwilling to actually address it.  What happened?  Who was mistreated?  Why are you insinuating these things but refusing to give specifics?  I was ACTUALLY interested in your perspective.  I was ACTUALLY wondering who you felt we’ve bullied.  But you won’t tell me.  So what am I supposed to do with your accusations? 

          • Fred W. Anson

            Heather if you’re truly sorry then why hasn’t the original post been deleted or retracted?  

            All I wanted was to be left alone, undisturbed to reflect and sort some things out and your post was NOT helpful in any way – other than to confirm some of my worst suspicions of the ME principals as I have already stated. 

            So if you’re truly sorry, let’s see the fruit – either delete your original post and the accompanying comments. OR if you can’t delete it, retract it.  If it’s the latter, I shall do the same with my posts. 

            And then I would like to be left alone. 


  36. Daniel Reply

    I love Mormon Stories, I love Mormon Matters and I love Mormon Expressions. Each bring a different approach, caters to a different audience, and contributes to the dialogue. In the beginning a couldn’t stomach  Mormon Expressions, and I found Mormon Stories and it helped me immensely, now that I’m further in my faith journey I love and enjoy Mormon Expressions, and can enjoy all three for what they bring to the table at and can listen to any of them and enjoy it , depending on what of mood I’m in. I think we put John D or MS or Dan and MM down because at the moment they might not suit your currently sensibilities. These podcasts serve people at different stages in their search and each is a voice.

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