Sunday in Outer Blogness: Luv edition!!!

I hope you all followed the appropriate guidelines this Valentine’s Day, or at least celebrated polygamist-style. Other options include dancing, falling in love, or sharing secrets of a happy marriage, sentimental songs, and nerd-love poetry and cards. Maybe offer your companion this romantic Doctrine and Covenants Reference Companion!

Sadly, the ladies aren’t feeling much love when it comes to praying in church. (If you missed it here’s an overview.) Perhaps a consolation: it’s not just the Mormons. Next thing you know, the women will be wanting to get an education and equal pay and questioning the cult of motherhood!!!

You may also have heard that the Pope is retiring, due to old age, which has led to much speculation about hidden motives, plus lots of questions about whether the LDS prophet could do the same. Other church items include a helpful graphic to clarify the Word-of-Wisdom clarification, and a metaphor about dogs. Oh, and the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible has arrived — for those of you who’d like to see this impressive volume on your shelf!

Remember that interview that John Dehlin posted on January 28th, that people are still reacting to? Well, John was so dismayed by the negative reaction that he actually traveled back in time to January 27th to apologize in advance before it ever happened.

In faith journeys, Roger Hansen’s real-life travels inspired philosophica musings, again google is more powerful than correlation, and another missionary is disillusioned by representing a corporation. Plus a great story about saying “No” to callings:

I usually said yes, even when it wasn’t a job I wanted or would be good at. At one point, when I was just out of high school, I was called to teach Sunday School to the three-year-olds. I tried to explain to the bishop that I am not good with toddlers. “Oh,” was the reply, “but it will be good practice for when you have your own children.” What I wanted to say was that I had already decided that I wasn’t having any, but that would have not been wise. Good Mormons don’t say no to having children, either. So, being young and inexperienced, I caved and said I’d do it.

I’m not sure why that calling ended, but it didn’t last long. It probably had something to do with the little golden boy in my class whose parents thought he was the be-all and end-all of the universe and, as such, should be catered to at all times. Of course, that meant that he was constantly disrupting class activities and being a general butt. I suspect that Mom and Dad didn’t like that someone was saying no to their little darling and had me replaced. Fine with me.

There was quite an entertaining grap-bag of random topics this past week!! defending the Bloggernacle, messing with facial symmetry makes people weirdly uncomfortable, Dooce writes the most Mormon thing she’s ever written on her blog, gun advocates rewrite history, logically Mormons should be liberals, a new temple for one of the cute little branches of the Restoration, less is more, is death God’s fault?, and commuting by bike!!

At our house, we didn’t exactly celebrate Valentine’s Day, but the good news is that I finished all of those shelves I was building, and now I can finally spread out the books and move the boxes down to the basement, yay!!! Anyway, I have to go get the kids out of the bathtub and make sure they dry themselves off… Ciao, and happy reading!!!

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chanson

C. L. Hanson is the friendly American ExMormon atheist mom living in Switzerland! See "letters from a broad" and the novel ExMormon for further adventures!!

40 thoughts on “Sunday in Outer Blogness: Luv edition!!!

  1. apparently John Dehlin had to run to his bishop and repent because he was at parties that involved

    a small degree of behaviors/activities that were very disturbing to me at the time. To be specific, these behaviors included alcohol and drug use, adultery, and some experimentation with open marriages.

    For many people discovering that Joseph Smith practiced polyandry–a fancy name for 19th century open marriages–raises major questions about his morality and the church’s honesty. So is it really shocking that some people would decide to explore something that Joseph said was both the source of his righteousness and the reward for it?

    then there’s the bit where John ended up at parties where adults were drinking…. Most people in the world drink, and most people manage to be decent people who love their families and do their jobs responsibly despite their use of alcohol. Yeah, it can be shocking for a sheltered Mormon to end up in a situation where booze flows freely. But you don’t really expect someone in his 40s to be so damn sanctimonious and prissy about it.

    There are plenty of lessons to learn from Brother Dehlin’s mishaps. One is that there are people who can lose their Mormon testimony but can’t lose their Mormon judgmentalism or horror of anyone who, whatever their beliefs, doesn’t make the choices you do.

  2. Well, John was so dismayed by the negative reaction that he actually traveled back in time to January 27th to apologize in advance before it ever happened.,

    If “LMAO” ever described an event in my life, it would be in reaction to this.

  3. @1 I hear ya. I only read Andrew’s abridged transcript at W&T, but that’s enough to see that JD’s judgments of other people’s lives were wrong and inappropriate — and were doubly hurtful because they are directed at people who trusted him.

    That’s great that he apologized, but all of the justifications he posted after his apology make it look like he doesn’t really get what was wrong with what he said.

    @2 😉

    But seriously, do you know of any explanation for the dates? If we go with Occam’s Razor and assume he just altered the dates (instead of using a time machine), what would be the purpose? The more recent post shows up first — and wouldn’t he want people to read the apology before listening to the podcast that prompted it?

  4. re 3,

    chanson,

    I wasn’t paying a whole lot of attention to the post in the FB group where John published this apology/clarification so I didn’t notice anything about the dates when it was originally posted (since from my perspective, it came out on Feb 12 because that’s when the FB discussion was started….and even the comments on that article start at Feb 12)…

    …but…to me, this all just seems to be consistent with John’s modus operandi. He says stuff *first*, then does the damage control *later* — with the damage control often involving trying to delete/redo/undo what was controversial. The death throes of Mormon Matters as a blog are basically this: John says something that ends up blowing up, and his attempt to solve it is to wipe it away as if it had never happened.

    The problem is that the cleanup is generally pretty sloppy. He’s not as proficient as the church at revising history. So, I think that while the date thing was supposed to make it so that the two posts would be close together (rather than separated by two other episodes…), I don’t necessarily think it was supposed to come before.

    Like, if it didn’t take so much time and energy, I could see him doing like the church did with the Poelman talk and editing the audio…but yeah, that’s too much effort.

    It’s just so tragicomic.

  5. John’s judgmentalism bugs me too. He writes in his back-dated apology (and puts in bold so you can’t miss how crucial it is) that

    I have been fighting for 8 years to dispel the myths that: 1) people leave the church in order to ‘sin,’ or 2) leaving the church necessarily leads to unhappiness. Consequently, to know that some have interpreted my experiences in this way has made me very sad.

    So, by drinking and having sex outside the constraints of Mormon marriage, these people were weakening and undermining his claim that the disaffected don’t leave primarily because they want to sin? Or that the disaffected don’t end up miserable?

    But leaving because you want to sin is not at all the same thing as leaving because you have discovered that the church’s truth claims are false–and then realizing, “Well, I guess I don’t have to keep the word of wisdom now; might as well try a glass of wine” and then discovering that booze and coffee are actually really awesome and not at all destructive if you drink them in moderation.

    Nor are people who end up having unconventional marriages necessarily unhappy. Despite all his protestations to the contrary, John’s not developed enough to do anything but judge them through his traditional Mormon lens of, “Oh, that behavior scares me, so it must be caused by and cause in return unhappiness.”

    The real problem, I think, is that John wants people to do what he does. He wants to guide and shape not just conversations but behavior. He talks about modeling the behavior he wants to see others adopt…. and he’s disappointed that he couldn’t get everyone to make the same choices he made.

    John’s mission has always really been about: getting people to “stay LDS” no matter what their beliefs, to help people make the same life decisions he has and never waver in those decisions, to live like a Mormon no matter what one’s relationship to Mormon beliefs. His comments now reveal pretty clearly that he’s not really comfortable with anyone who has done anything else. Makes it pretty easy to understand why he’s so anxious to live in Utah, and it raises questions about his ability to withhold judgment in a pyschotherapy practice.

    But it also points out one fundamental trait he shares with the church: he’s way more concerned about brand respectability than about people. He’s upset that he can’t control what people think of him or of Mormon Stories. That’s the bottom line in his bolded statement about why he said what he said: “to know that some have interpreted my experiences in this way has made me very sad.”

  6. Oh, and something else: this from John:

    That’s one of the main things I’ve learned… but I was mostly engaging intellectually. I had disconnected emotionally, in many ways, and spiritually, and I said: “What matters is figuring things out in my brain. And I just need to know whether it’s true or false. Whether it’s a fraud or whether the church is what it claims to be. And emotions and spirit need to be put on hold until I can think it through… And that didn’t turn out good for me… there were all sorts of problems with that, but that’s what I was doing.

    It’s hugely problematic for someone getting a PhD in psychology in the 21st century to make a such sharp distinctions between what is intellectual, what is emotional, and what is spiritual. That model has been discredited for all sorts of reasons, including discoveries in neurology. An ability to read and understand the emotions of others is a cognitive or “intellectual” function. In so many ways, for healthy people, those areas are NOT distinct–all your beliefs and opinions are colored by emotions; we have ideas about what our emotions and spiritual beliefs mean.

    Furthermore, these areas are anything but distinct n a faith crisis. Finding out about the church’s dishonestly is emotionally, intellectually and spiritually devastating, and you would think someone who has dedicated the better part of a decade to studying faith crises could recognize this. People feel hurt by the church. People are miserable because setting aside what they know to be true in order to follow the foolish counsel of a bunch of alienated, disconnected, sequestered, privileged sexist, homophobic old gits kills their spirits.

    But for John, the elements of the human pysche can be easily sequestered? He can deal only with the intellectual and ignore the emotional? What is actually “real” or “truth” has no bearing on what is spiritually viable to him?

    Perhaps he’s admitting now that he’s been too damaged and broken to have a healthy, integrated psyche…. but if that’s the case, what was he doing trying to model behavior for others? Why’s he setting himself up as someone in a position to counsel anyone else?

  7. re 5

    Holly,

    While I do think that a lot of the comments John makes across various venues have some sort of judgment baked in them (despite his claims that he’s not being judgmental), I think that this quote in particular comes from a different place (and probably should be associated with a different personal vice of John’s…).

    Like, throughout all the controversy, one thing that John has been saying consistently is, “I have done so much for the disaffected community, yet when I go to church, it’s like no one appreciates all I’ve done anymore.” (Yeah, unpack *that* statement, haha)

    So, the 8 years comment seems to be addressing that: “I can’t believe people are interpreting my story this way; I’ve worked 8 years to dispel these myths.”

    But I think the reason people interpret his story that way is precisely because as you say — John himself seems to just be telling his story through a traditional Mormon lens. Even though he’s trying to say, “This is my story…I’m not trying to generalize,” there’s enough comments that cut against that idea…plus, even if he’s ONLY using his story and talking about himself…the issue is people see John (because he’s more public) and they say, “If John can do it, why can’t you?” So, whether he wants it or not, his actions and comments are going to be generalized.

    But I definitely agree with your last paragraph. When he talks throughout the interview about wanting to be “effective” first and foremost, I think it’s very easy to tie this to “brand respectability.” For people who believe change can come from within the church, they have to maintain an appearance of being appropriately within the church. So, I notice that very quickly after all this drama about John returning to church, he went through the process of releasing a followup presentation on why people leave the church. In the early parts of his presentation, he makes sure to advertise in his bona fides that he, of course, has returned to the church and is a reconstructed believer.

  8. @4

    John says something that ends up blowing up, and his attempt to solve it is to wipe it away as if it had never happened.

    The problem is that the cleanup is generally pretty sloppy. He’s not as proficient as the church at revising history.

    the problem is also what you hint at in that last sentence I quote: he’s imitating the church in an action many people find absolutely dishonest, something that makes trust impossible. The people who consider it a deal breaker when the church tries to whitewash its history and erase its mistakes are going to consider it a deal breaker when John Dehlin does it.

    Like, duh.

    That he can’t see this is really disturbing.

  9. Hi Andrew–

    re: 7: I agree that John has remained concerned mainly with a Mormon audience; he’s concerned with how Mormons view the disaffected and HIM. I strongly suspect that the reason he decided to go back to church was that he didn’t want Mormons to think he was so decadent and debauched that he could actually be real friends with people who (!) drank, smoked the occasional joint, or had sex with someone they weren’t married to!

    So, I notice that very quickly after all this drama about John returning to church, he went through the process of releasing a followup presentation on why people leave the church. In the early parts of his presentation, he makes sure to advertise in his bona fides that he, of course, has returned to the church and is a reconstructed believer.

    Noticed the same thing. I was pretty struck by that too.

  10. re 6,

    Holly,

    This is often something I want to point out as well…a lot of people talk about intellectual vs. spiritual/emotional, and I think it’s because the framing is already “against” talking about spiritual/emotional (e.g., the stereotypes “leaving to sin” or “being offended” suggest having spiritual or emotional problems without intellectual substance, so I can see that people want to be clear about the intellectual issues)….but it’s not an either/or thing many times. the two complement each other.

    What I get when I hear John making the dichotomy between spirit/emotion and intellect is that he is not personally affected by the spiritual/emotional effects of the intellectual teachings. And recently, he’s been mentioning briefly that a lot of his enjoyment in church is because he has a privileged position — gender issues in the church is just an “intellectual” thing and not an “every Sunday in church I live this” thing. Same with LGBT issues, priesthood roulette issues, etc., etc.,

    re 8

    One of the most interesting things to me about the latest twist in his narrative is how he compares how he ran MoSto/Open Stories Foundation to how the church is run. So, he seems to have this, “I couldn’t do any better than the church, therefore the church is really doing the best it can.” I mean, I guess since I’ve never created a para-church organization, I can’t really say what I would do in similar situations, but I can say in my few years of blogging, I have never deleted doubleplusungood refs un-post.

    Like, it just seems like that’s something you can always choose not to do if you really wanted to. And maybe, just maaaaybe, if you’re more conscious of the fact that your words are forever (and that trying to make them *not* last forever generally ends up being the worst possible case scenario), then you will be more careful to say precisely what you mean more often.

  11. he compares how he ran MoSto/Open Stories Foundation to how the church is run. So, he seems to have this, “I couldn’t do any better than the church, therefore the church is really doing the best it can.”

    This was part of why I could never see the appeal of the whole Mormon Stories conference thing. I’ve said this before–I might even had said it here–it just seemed like “Especially For Adults,” or “Confused Mormon General Conference.” It was always so clearly modeled exactly on Mormonism’s approach to socializing and interacting and sharing ideas: sedate evening mixers, a morning service project, an afternoon of talks (Talks! not even panels or discussions!), the occasional musical number, then testimony meeting, and then some sermon at some church on Sunday morning.

    YAWN.

    And: Really? That’s the best you can come up with? That’s all the imagination you’ve got? There are countless other models out there…. but you’re sticking entirely with the familiar? The only innovation is the location? Really?

    And then he goes and creates this far too autocratic organization where almost everyone is a volunteer, but the stewards at the top, the pastor in charge of setting the tone, is paid, just like in the church, from funds gathered via donations by members.

    He insists, “I wasn’t at all interested in creating a personality cult or another church.”

    Then why did he model everything on the church? It’s hard to believe that statement, given that everything he did was designed to mimic the organization and format of the church as much as possible–just minus some of the grossest, most offensive, appalling doctrines.

    I frankly hope that John doesn’t really think his experiences somehow show that the church really is doing the best it can, because it raises the question of WHY that’s the lesson he learned and we should all learn as well.

    In other words, if John Dehlin couldn’t do his whole church-substitute shtick better than the church,
    then the church must be doing the best it can,
    because… John Dehlin’s so incredible that he should be able to make the church’s model work far better than the church….?

    He can question the doctrine, he can even question himself from time to time, but he can’t question the model. He’s just too Mormon for that.

    What I get when I hear John making the dichotomy between spirit/emotion and intellect is that he is not personally affected by the spiritual/emotional effects of the intellectual teachings. And recently, he’s been mentioning briefly that a lot of his enjoyment in church is because he has a privileged position–gender issues in the church is just an “intellectual” thing and not an “every Sunday in church I live this” thing. Same with LGBT issues, priesthood roulette issues, etc., etc.,

    In other words, he can talk about empathy–he does that all the time–but if it’s inconvenient or hard, he’s unable/unwilling to actually feel it.

  12. everything he did was designed to mimic the organization and format of the church as much as possible—just minus some of the grossest, most offensive, appalling doctrines.

    I’d always had the impression that that was the main draw. Different people have different aspects of Mormonism that they like, and some people really like being part of this very structured, leaders-at-the-top organization — and would love to still be there if it weren’t for the grossest, most offensive, appalling doctrines (and/or because the truth claims aren’t true). That’s who “Stay LDS” and “Mormon Stories Foundation” are for, aren’t they?

    People who like more free-form socializing when talking with others about their Mormon experiences can always join a post-mormon chapter. Our Switzerland group had a great Christmas party (everybody loved your pumpkin curry soup, BTW), and we’re planning to try to make a trip to London to see “The Book of Mormon”.

    I agree that John Dehlin doesn’t seem to get that it’s OK for different people have different components of their Mormon experience and culture that they want to keep (respectively reject). For a lot of people, this rigid, structured approach to life is as much a problem (or more) than hearing about Joseph Smith’s underage wives, etc.

  13. Actually, I feel like this discussion sheds some light on one of my earlier objections to John Dehlin’s “Why Mormons Leave” survey:

    As I recall, the survey gave a list of issues (historical problems, etc.) and asked people to rate or rank their importance with respect to the survey-taker’s decision to leave the church. I felt like the survey kind of railroaded people’s experiences into a model of “everything was fine at church until I discovered these issues, and then my integrity forced me to leave,” while ignoring the bigger picture of why these issues are worth leaving over (why not stay and try to fix things, what motivated you to start questioning, etc.).

    Now I’m getting the picture that perhaps JD thinks it’s a virtue to want to be part of a hierarchical organization, either as a sustainer (like most of the members) or as a General Authority (like JD himself). So he figures he’s paying people a compliment by implying that they didn’t want to leave the church. The problem with that reasoning is that not fitting into Mormonism’s obedience-and-conformity-centric culture is not the same thing as wanting to take the easy road and sin, “trading down,” “throwing away your morals,” etc.

    (Aside: maybe it’s mean to turn this into “armchair psychoanalyze John Dehlin day”. But… so. tempting…. so. much. fascinating. material…)

  14. So he figures he’s paying people a compliment by implying that they didn’t want to leave the church.

    Oh, absolutely. It shows so many good things: that you care about morality; that you care about “truth”; that you care about your family; that you care about meaningful social ties; that you care about creating a place where children can learn about morality and truth and family and meaningful social ties. In short, it shows that you were a good person. It shows that that the church should be sorry to lose you.

    The unspoken assumption from Mr. Dehlin and his Open Stories Foundation (which is so damn closed about so many stories–the irony of that name never fails to amuse me) is that if you didn’t NOT want to leave the church–if you were happy to cut your losses and go–you really weren’t a very good person. No one really has to worry about you, and your departure wasn’t much of a loss for the church.

    The polyandry thing is a case in point for me. I learned about that in seminary as a freshman in high school. What bugged me as a prudish Mormon teen was not the actual information that Joseph slept with women who were married to other men–try as I might, then and throughout my life, I really couldn’t see the big deal about women having sex with more than one man if men were having sex with more than one woman. It was the way the lesson was presented: that this was an acceptable way to test members’ obedience and commitment to the church. And even as a 13-year-old reading D&C 132 by myself, I was horrified at the way Emma was discussed there, at the basic inequality of how women and men were treated.

    It took me a very long time to leave, and it was very hard. I didn’t want to leave. Especially when I was young, I believed enough to worry about eternal punishment, even as I thought so many of the doctrines were bullshit that SHOULDN’T be true, though I accepted, somehow, that they were, even if I didn’t like them. I worried about losing the love of my family. I worried about a lot of things. As I say, I didn’t want to leave. But that didn’t mean that I wanted to stay.

    Here’s how I’d sum up the real problem: the church makes it impossible to want to stay, then makes leaving as painful and costly as possible.

    Which to me is a basic characteristic of an abusive relationship.

    So that’s part of the problem I’ve always had with John: he’s being trained as a psychotherapist. he should recognize certain dynamics. So when he trumpets that for the sake of their kids and family, people should “Stay LDS!” even once they learn Joseph Smith was a fraud and the church is dishonest about all sorts of things and see that the church’s treatment of LGBT people makes them commit suicide and that women are treated unfairly, I hear the same rhetoric as when someone tells an abused wife that she should stay with her lying, controlling, abusive husband for the sake of her kids and the rest of her family. (After all, he’s a great provider! She’d probably have to get a job if she left him, and then when would she see the kids? And everyone knows how hard divorce is on children. So he hits her every now and then–it’s not that often and it’s not that hard. So he controls her access to money. So he’s jealous of her other relationships–all of them. She made a promise, in the temple! And what would people think of the entire family if she left?)

    It tells people their own unhappiness isn’t really important (not that they’re even registering unhappiness, because to hear John tell it, the matter of religious fraud and cruelty to people who aren’t as privileged as him is just “intellectual”) and that they can’t maintain important relationships if they try to live authentic lives.

    And now, all these people who thought that he was helping them to admit that their unhappiness mattered and that they COULD maintain important relationships AND have a more authentic inner life, see him repudiate that.

    And because he’s made such an example of himself, TBM family point to him and ask their apostate loved ones, “If he could come back, if he could stay in this abusive relationship, WHY CAN’T YOU.”

    (Personally, I think that deserves some armchair psychoanalyzing.)

  15. And because he’s made such an example of himself, TBM family point to him and ask their apostate loved ones, “If he could come back, if he could stay in this abusive relationship, WHY CAN’T YOU.”

    Andrew made a reference to this as well @7, and it appears that there was at least one case of it posted to the reddit:

    After some back and forth, she says “If John Dehlin, who knows the problems with the church better than you, can come back to the church to save his marriage and to baptize his son, why can’t you?”

  16. Yes, I read the reddit post, and I have at least one friend who has had a similar experience. It’s easy to imagine that there are more.

  17. Holly
    ” talk about empathy”
    Maybe it’s the Uriah Heep effect. But when someone talks about their humbleness, they aren’t.
    When someone someone says, “you can trust me”, –Don’t.
    And as a general rule, not applying it to any particular person( but maybe a religious corporation), when someone goes on about empathy… they sound like a used car salesman. Some nice person is about to be manipulated into way over paying for a junker.

  18. OK, one more bit of armchair psychoanalysis. I would just like to explain my objections to what I consider to be the most offensive paragraph in the transcript:

    But the third thing that’s been really hard is to keep witnessing what happened. And people ended up leaving the church. People that had been believers weren’t, and then got divorced, and again, what would happen after these conferences? In some of these communities, they would hold parties, and they’d smoke weed and wives would make out—and I never watched people doing sexual things, but I’d hear about a lot of behaviors that felt dangerous—and I don’t judge that… I don’t look at those people as bad, and I don’t enforce my morality on others, and I’m not morally perfect at all, but I just sat and said, “I’m glad that people are getting together, and I’m glad that they are having a good spiritual experience… but I worried that they’ve traded down. That yeah…there are problems with the church, but there are lot of problems with trying to have an open marriage, and to be honest, I’d probably pick the problems of trying to be the church over the problems of trying to navigate an open marriage, or becoming addicted to drugs, or committing adultery…and it just seems like naturally the outgrowth of so many of these communities”

    When you say “I’d hear about a lot of behaviors that felt dangerous—and I don’t judge that…I don’t look at those people as bad, and I don’t enforce my morality on others, and I’m not morally perfect at all,” you are equating others’ behavior with your moral imperfections. That’s not not judging. That’s judging.

    Not judging would look something like this:

    I saw some behaviors that made me uncomfortable, but I don’t have enough knowledge of the particulars to judge whether these people were acting responsibly or whether they were doing something harmful. They know better than I do what is best for their own marriages and families. I don’t know whether leaving the church caused them problems that might be diminished by going back to the church — or vice-versa. I don’t know whether they are happier, more responsible, or more ethical than I am, or than they would be if they’d stayed in the church. Therefore, I will focus my discussion of my choices on how they affected me and my family, instead of focusing on unwarranted judgments of others’ choices.

    And here’s the part of his apology where he demonstrates that he doesn’t get it:

    when a spouse comes up to you and says, “My spouse met their lover at a Mormon Stories conference, and that was the beginning of the end of our marriage — so thanks a lot.” or “My spouse started drinking heavily once he started hanging around folks from the Mormon Stories community.” even though this was super rare for me…it had an impact on me nonetheless. It felt awful.

    If your connection with person X is distant enough that you have to take X’s spouse’s word on it that X started drinking heavily, then you certainly did not cause X to start drinking heavily. And do you seriously think that other marriage would have been fine if only you hadn’t tempted that one spouse with sexy Mormons telling stories?

    Early in the apology, John says that there were “hundreds (and maybe even thousands) of struggling Mormons” involved in Mormon Stories. If incidents like the above are “super rare”, then it would be more logical to observe that when you’re interacting with hundreds (or thousands) of people, particularly people going through a significant belief transition, you’re going to see a wide range of life changes.

    It’s a great impulse to take responsibility for your actions, but it’s weirdly egocentric to feel responsible for things you obviously didn’t do or cause.

    Overall, I’d have more respect for John’s decision to return to the church if his reasoning didn’t depend so heavily on negative judgments of people whose choices he’s not qualified to be pronouncing on. But he appears to have some difficulty grasping that other people’s life decisions aren’t about him.

  19. Great comment, Chanson.

    It’s a great impulse to take responsibility for your actions, but it’s weirdly egocentric to feel responsible for things you obviously didn;t do or cause.

    It’s not weirdly egocentric. It’s actually classically codependent. Check out the list of “Common characteristics of Codependents” found here:

    http://interventiontreatmentrecovery.org/education/codependency/

    In other words, to use a metaphor that has been invoked on MSP before, John and other codependents think it’s their obligation to put on their own oxygen masks last, because no one else is really really smart or responsible enough to manage their own oxygen masks–John has to do it for them. If at some point he does put his own oxygen mask on, it’s to model for others the proper way to do it–not to make sure he’s actually breathing in the chemical human lungs need.

    And as Andrew noted above @7

    Like, throughout all the controversy, one thing that John has been saying consistently is, “I have done so much for the disaffected community, yet when I go to church, it’s like no one appreciates all I’ve done anymore.” (Yeah, unpack *that* statement, haha)

    John wants praise for trying to manage everyone else’s oxygen masks even on flights where the masks never dropped and he never got to show off how good he is at being In Charge of Everyone Else.

    Basically, he was in a codependent relationship with the entire Mormon Stories Community–not each individual within the community, but the whole idea of the community, with its flaws (which he didn’t judge!) and undesirable variations (which he’s totally cool with!)

    Or to change what I said @5

    The real problem, I think, is that John wants people to do what he does. He wants to guide and shape not just conversations but behavior. He talks about modeling the behavior he wants to see others adopt…. and he’s disappointed that he couldn’t get everyone to make the same choices he made.

    It’s actually more that John wants to make other people’s choices for them.

    And when he found that he couldn’t, he had to walk away from the whole organization and make it seem so tainted and twisted that no decent person would want to be affiliated with it.

    Classic codependency. Textbook case. THAT is what John has really been modeling.

  20. You’re right, that’s characteristic #1 in the codependency characteristics list you linked:

    Codependents feel responsible for others’ actions, feelings, choices and emotional well-being.

  21. Thanks for this interesting discussion. I have been watching this drama from the side lines for a few years now. Watching JD’s journey in and out of a ctivity and wondering why I’m so facinated with it. Maybe it captures my attention because of this codependent angle. I’m a bit codependent so I guess his actions and words do not look good to me but they have a familiar feeling.
    I have a feeling this is not the end of this story.

  22. Hi Kathy–

    glad you’ve enjoyed the discussion. I agree that this is not the end of the story; it will be interesting to see where he ends up in five or ten years and if he manages to keep a lower profile. I can also say with certainty that this is not even the full story right now, but there’s no reason for Mormon Stories to air all its dirty laundry in public when JD has made the whole business lurid and sordid enough as it is.

  23. If at some point he does put his own oxygen mask on, it’s to model for others the proper way to do it—not to make sure he’s actually breathing in the chemical human lungs need.

    After thinking some more about this point (I know, I know, gotta stop contemplating John Dehlin, but…) it hit me that that’s exactly what’s wrong with this part of the transcript:

    But I also want to validate this: that I know many Mormons who get to the place where when their faith unravels, they start to question their love for their spouse, they start questioning the importance of keeping the family together, and most importantly, they might find another woman that they think might be their soulmate, or they start looking at a lifestyle outside, where they say, “I wouldn;t have married this person, I wouldn’t have made these choices, and all this other stuff now looks like what I was called to do. This person might be my soulmate or this life will be the true authentic life.” And it can feel very real and compelling and enticing, and it can feel like it’s what you were meant to do…to cast off the shackles of all these bad decisions that you made in association with the church and then go live this true authentic soulmate life, possibly with someone else.

    What I just wanted to also go on the record with saying is that can be a mirage, and it is also very possible that the love you’re seeking, the emotional connection you’re seeking, the emotional and intellectual and even sexual fulfillment that you think will be found by taking this completely different path can be unearthed and discovered and enjoyed right in the place where you’ve been for 5, 10, 15, or 20 years, if you’re willing to not engage the world purely with your intellect, but you’re willing to say emotion matters as much as intellect, and spirit matters as much as emotion and intellect, and love and listening and connection matters as much as intellect and integrity…you can find and discover depths of emotional intimacy and connection and love and fulfillment that you would have thought was not possible where you were

    What if he would simply turn this around and direct it inward rather than outward? (Which I think is warranted, given what he said in part 2.)

    I got to a place where my faith unraveled, where I started to question my love for my spouse, I started questioning the importance of keeping my family together, and most importantly, I found another woman that I thought might be my soulmate. I started thinking about my life and said, “I wouldn’t have married this person, I wouldn’t have made these choices, and all this new stuff now looks like what I was called to do. This person might be my soulmate and this life will be the true authentic life.” And it felt very real and compelling and enticing, and it felt like it’s what I was meant to do…to cast off the shackles of all these bad decisions that I made in association with the church and then go live this true authentic life.

    But I found that it was a mirage. I found that the love I was seeking, the emotional connection I was seeking, the emotional and intellectual and even sexual fulfillment that I thought would be found by taking this completely different path could be unearthed and discovered and enjoyed right in the place where I’ve been for 20 years. I realized that my marriage and family are wonderful and worth reaffirming. I found that when I focused on the parts of my faith that are edifying to me, my issues with the church seemed less important. Worrying too much about church problems was a stumbling block preventing me from listening and feeling love and making a connection. I found and discovered depths of emotional intimacy and connection and love and fulfillment that I had thought were not possible where I was.

    See how much more powerful that is? Just show others your example and trust that they can figure out for themselves whether and to what degree it might apply to their own lives.

  24. See how much more powerful that is? Just show others your example and trust that they can figure out for themselves whether and to what degree it might apply to their own lives.

    Provided that is indeed what happened, for JD to write that, he’d have to admit, explicitly, not just that he found other women sort of generally attractive (as he does in the section I quote below), but that he’d found another woman he thought was his soulmate, etc. That would raise all sorts of unsavory speculations as to who the woman was and–especially if her identity was ascertained–how things with her went awry. The most he can do is hint at it, as in this:

    I started seeing people—and I was doing it—there’s this weird thing that happens when you lose your faith in Mormonism…you immediately start questioning your morality. Wow! I’ve never had sex before I was married…Ive only had sex with one person…like, I don’t know anything! What if sex is way better with other people or in other ways…or, what am I missing? Is alcohol cool—like I’ve still never tried alcohol—but what if that’s really fun and interesting? And I just started saying: there;s this whole world out there that I haven’t experienced, and maybe I wouldn’t have married Margi if I had to do it all over again…maybe my family would be better off if Margi and I were to split, because…we’ be getting along better. (Why weren’t we getting along? Because I was totally emotionally disconnected.)

    But you start thinking these things, and you start wondering—wow! these other women are attractive…or experimenting sexually…and you start thinking about this whole world and you see these people…it sorta reminds me of Lehi’s dream and the great and spacious building and you start seeing this stuff and it’s enticing and it looks fun. But the good Mormon boy in me and the angel on my shoulder would always say: “That’s dangerous; that’s scary…you don’t want to go there.” And you don’t want to lead people there, and that’s what I felt like was happening…all these people were just checking out of the church and then they were dropping their spouse and they were sleeping around and drinking and doing drugs and doing all this scary stuff and I just felt irresponsible…I felt like that was irresponsible.

    Notice what he does in that first paragraph: “there’s this weird thing that happens when you lose your faith in Mormonism…you immediately start questioning your morality.”

    Sure, a lot of people do that, but not EVERYONE does, and not everyone does it IMMEDIATELY. For some people it takes years to get around to even trying a cup of coffee. Some people never try alcohol. There are many, many people who NEVER consider leaving their spouse as part of their disaffection with Mormonism.

    But John has to project what HE did onto EVERYONE. He stands in for everyone, and what happened to him is OK in the long run because it happened to EVERYONE else too. He can’t take responsibility for what he himself did in his own personal life.

    Instead of dealing with his own actions as individual, he moves immediately to his fears about his role as leader: that he is LEADING people to do these things which he says “you immediately start doing when you leave Mormonism,” whether you leave in the context of Mormon Stories or in your own solitary, single way, far from the Mormon-Stories-testimony-bearing crowd.

    I don’t want to imply that he shouldn’t have concerns about his position as leader, the influence and responsibility that gives him–of course he should; every leader should.

    But in this case, he totally missed that people who trusted him would feel betrayed when he publicly announced, without any reason except a desire to justify his own crappy behavior, how much their irresponsible behavior horrified him, to the point where he had to leave the organization he invested so much time and energy in.

    In the final analysis, the way JD tells it, it wasn’t that his own behavior horrified him, in and of itself. It was that the irresponsible behavior of others horrified him, and the fear that he might actually end up like them was so abhorrent and scary and gross that he reversed course and went as far as he could back in the opposite direction, to the loving, waiting arms of his family and the church.

    He turned Mormon Stories into a cautionary tale about his narrow escape from the irresponsible worldly illusions of sex and drugs and free thought, all of which clearly lead to misery and ruin–even though he’s totally sure that there are some people who are completely happy with the empty, sordid, meaningless, irresponsible lives they’ve chosen! He wouldn’t, after all, want to judge.

  25. one more thing: it occurred to me that the ellipses in the passage I quote– “there’s this weird thing that happens when you lose your faith in Mormonism…you immediately start questioning your morality”–might mean that something important was cut there. so I listened to that section. Turns out, nothing was cut; that’s just a pause.

  26. Provided that is indeed what happened, for JD to write that, he’d have to admit, explicitly, not just that he found other women sort of generally attractive (as he does in the section I quote below), but that he’d found another woman he thought was his soulmate, etc. That would raise all sorts of unsavory speculations as to who the woman was and—especially if her identity was ascertained—how things with her went awry.

    True, and I don’t want to be speculating about his personal life, but I don’t think it’s fair of him to be projecting this model onto other people without it being OK to ask whose experience his theory is based on, and whether he is, perhaps, talking about himself here.

    Sure, a lot of people do that, but not EVERYONE does, and not everyone does it IMMEDIATELY. For some people it takes years to get around to even trying a cup of coffee. Some people never try alcohol. There are many, many people who NEVER consider leaving their spouse as part of their disaffection with Mormonism.

    Right, that’s why I think it’s wrong for him to present this experience as if it were the general case (with the correct solution) instead of simply presenting it as his own personal experience.

    I think there are insights one can glean from John’s experience, but they get stuck behind the obvious questions: “Is that really the standard experience? That didn’t happen to me when I stopped believing, or to any of my friends. Who’s ‘you’ in this story? You?”

  27. that’s why I think it’s wrong for him to present this experience as if it were the general case (with the correct solution) instead of simply presenting it as his own personal experience.

    I agree. Despite what he says about not wanting to be the focus of Mormon Stories, if he presented his experience as simply his experience instead of the way it pretty much always happens, people might not feel quite such an impulse to look at him as an example.

    To support my point, I’ll mention Joanna Brooks. Joanna wrote a memoir, with the fairly expansive title Book of Mormon Girl! But she makes it clear that she doesn’t expect anyone else to follow her example, and she’s sure as hell not selling any sort of orthodoxy. She married a Jewish intellectual and plans to give her daughters both baptisms and bat mitzvahs.

    Whereas John is totally selling orthodoxy. There’s a Mormon Stories orthodoxy and people deviated from it and he’s not going to judge but those deviations are irresponsible and scary and a mirage and he had to get the hell away from them, FAST.

    Who’s ‘you’ in this story? You?

    That’s not just an obvious question but a fair one. And the dances he does to deflect that question raise further questions in turn.

  28. re 25,

    Holly,

    I definitely don’t know anything about transcripting interviews, so it took me a couple of go-throughs to realize that I should probably use a different marker for pauses than for editorial cut outs (so I think I used “snip” when I cut anything other than “uhs” or “ums” out, and just used ellipses for pauses, but I also probably missed changing a few of those).

    But one thing that I would really say doesn’t get captured in the transcript (and it might be worth listening to the time stamps of the selections that were transcripted) is the tone. There are some points where the tone really adds some edge to some of the things John is saying.

    re 27,

    One thing that I think is tough (regardless of the problems John had from generalizing — or at least giving the impression of generalizing — what really is not a generalized experience) is that even if John had put this as being only his experience and no one should universalize or generalize anything from this necessarily…there would still have been people who will still read that into any message or action.

    As has been mentioned before, there are people who say, “If John could return, then why can’t you?” It doesn’t really matter if John would be saying, “going back to church was something that worked for me, but no one else should be held to those expectations.”

  29. Andrew @28:

    I don’t mean to criticize your transcribing skills. I actually thought you did a pretty great job.

    Re: the tone: yeah, it was pretty darn pronounced, and definitely flavored the comments.

    even if John had put this as being only his experience and no one should universalize or generalize anything from this necessarily…there would still have been people who will still read that into any message or action.

    I can concede this. I tried to structure my assertion @27 as an assertion, something that needed support to be believed and still might not be true in all circumstances. But I still think that his insistence that certain elements of his experience WERE universal exacerbated the situation.

  30. p.s. I especially appreciated the time stamps you included in your transcript. Made a huge difference. It’s not a big deal to check the recording for things that the transcript might not capture if you can find the exact spot in the recording pretty easily.

  31. I find it interesting that rats will help free trapped rats.
    Human rats, however, pass judgement(or critical observations) on those whose behavior trapped them.
    And those trapped, pass judgement on those running free. They are object lessons on the perils of running free. If only they’d stayed safely in the cage, could they have found deep meaning and happiness of being in the trap.
    Some argue that only humans have empathy. And would only accept it in rats, if it could be demonstrated that some rats manipulated pro social rats into behavior that benefited the manipulators.

    So press the magic button and hand over the chocolate chip.

  32. This thoughtful conversation has really made me think about why I am so fascinated with this Journey.
    I think not only do I see parts of myself good and bad but the words and actions do not seem to go together or make sense. I want stuff to make sense.
    Yes I did feel that by pointing out flaws in others who you don’t know well you mostly are just pointing out your own flaws. I knew it was more personal because early on he talked about having to protect himself from having an affair, Mormon stories 027 about 6 1/2 minutes in. While that may explain some of it his marriage is really private and not my concern.

    I liked the codependent angle that may illuminate why feelings were expressed the way they were, but now I’m wondering about ambition. Is that part of this story? Mormon culture politicking for a higher office is frowned upon, at least doing it openly.

    I did not know that about rats—I had to google that, who knew they help each other.

    so facinated

  33. his marriage is really private and not my concern.

    Yes and no. The right to privacy is not absolute, and it becomes more limited as someone becomes more and more of a public figure. It’s been years, and I may misremember the details, but I remember a lawyer telling me that public figures do not have the same right to privacy when it comes to things like their sex lives that regular people do, and they’re not protected by laws governing libel and slander in the same way. That’s one reason they can be mocked so mercilessly on cable television.

    John Dehlin has made many details of his marriage a matter of public record and therefore public concern (at least, insofar as anyone chooses to be concerned with what he says on any topic at all). Obviously people don’t want to get really prurient–at least, you hope not–but if he has announced explicitly at least once and hinted repeatedly that he had problems with fidelity, no one should be surprised when people discuss what that means in terms of JD’s overall story and overall position in contemporary Mormonism in ways they wouldn’t for people who have chosen not to discuss the details of their marriages in podcast after podcast.

    but now I’m wondering about ambition.

    Given how often he stated that he thought he was saving the world, I think that is an appropriate thing to wonder about.

  34. Suzanne: perhaps rats want out of traps more reliably than human beings do and accept help more readily. If some of those rats refused the help they were offered, the other rats might sit around the treat dispenser and wonder what on earth might be wrong with them.

  35. I agree he put his relationship out there. I guess to be honest his relationship is a bit interesting and part of the whole story, but I am a bit uncomfortable talking about it. It feels like it should be private, that’s my hang up because I’m not a very open person.

  36. While other cultures have rumspringa, mormon youth run around on missions.
    Mormondom has no saturnalia. No All fools day. No Mardi Gras.
    Instead, there’s refraining from loud laughter. And plenty of dire warnings, that leaving the safety of rigid Mormonism will lead to really wild behavior like double piercings and tea drinking.

    Personally, I don’t see what’s so awful about going to Carnival. Or maybe a few feast days.

  37. No Mardi Gras… Personally, I don’t see what’s so awful about going to Carnival.

    Was just discussing this with someone recently in terms of our annoyance with Mormons who give stuff up for Lent. I find it so irritating and sanctimonious. The other person pointed out that Mormons don’t even go out and party for a day or three before they give something up for 40 days. Nope, they just increase their level of self-denial, with no indulgence or fun to balance or justify the denial, nothing to mark the periods as different. They don’t understand the psychology of pleasure and purification; they just love abstention.

  38. @38 True, it’s funny that of the whole liturgical calendar, Lent is the part that makes Mormons go “I want to get in on that action!” lol

    That said, the person I linked to in the latest SiOB for giving up individual car travel for Lent is a friend of yours. And giving up individual car travel is more pleasure than burden if you live in a place with good public transportation, so I like to encourage people to try it out! 😀

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