I will be adding the history in segments as I can find time. Please send comments including edits and or mistakes to email@example.com.
I am telling this story from my prospective. In the past when conflict has arisen and in some cases gone public, I have always chosen to remain silent. I feel that to tell the full story I must talk about people and times where there was conflict. I intend to do this as respectfully as possible. I believe in the end, people want to be good and generally have good intent. I hope that you as a reader will be as respectful as possible to the parties involved. We are all human and all flawed.
Chapter 1: Background
I was a good Mormon from a good Mormon family. I married as a virgin. I didn’t touch alcohol until years after I lost faith. I served a mission and graduated from BYU. Years ago, before I ever started the podcast, an apologist said to me: “the problem with you ex-Mormons is that you take this stuff to seriously.” Have reflected on that for a long time I think he was right. Often the strongest critics of the Church were not the sinners who engaged the faith halfheartedly. They were those who took it literally and tried to make it work. Of course, it works for some and doesn’t work for others. I am one of the others.
Around about 2002 I was inspired to learn more about an ancestor named Vinson Knight. He was the presiding Bishop in Nauvoo and I had recently found a copy of his history written by his daughter. I began researching his life and the life of his widow Martha McBride. It was well known that after Vinson died from malaria in 1842, Joseph Smith married Martha as a polygamist wife. When researching his life I discovered two disturbing facts. First, Joseph Smith married Martha before Vinson died. Secondly, following the death of Joseph Heber Kimball married her as a plural wife. And even thought the renowned Church leader lead a relatively wealthy life in Salt Lake City, Martha died impoverished and alone in Weber county taken care by her son.
Polygamy had always bothered me some, but I decided it was time to really understand what was going on so that it didn’t trouble my faith any longer. Having grown up as a multi-generational Mormon in Utah I knew well that the official story and family and local history didn’t match. But now I wanted to get to the bottom of it.
I began reading source material from the period, anything I could get my hands on. That was the start of a multi-year quest to learn everything I could about Mormon history. Mind you, this was from a faithful prospective. However, following the methodologies of historians, I tried to limit commentary and polarized materials and read source materials or writings by individuals close to the source. For the first few years especially I avoided anything that might be seen as “anti-Mormon.”
I read 100s and 100s of book, articles, and studies of the period. With each new book I discovered more and more that was alarming and contradicted the official story line. But more than that is was just fascinating. I had been fed a sterilized version and to see these men and women come alive in their own hand was amazing and captivating. Between 2002 and 2006 my hobby was Mormon theology, history and doctrine.
In 2003 prior to the birth of my second child, it became clear to me that I didn’t understand Christian theology and the issues that the founders of Mormonism were dealing with. I had only received a character in official Church sources. So I began reading a systematic theology and seminary materials for christian faith. It also opened my eyes as I realized that prior to this, I hadn’t even a basic understanding of the Christian concepts that informed Mormonism. I was just versed in my side of the debate without even understanding what the debate was even about. By this time I knew that Mormonism couldn’t be taken seriously because the indoctrination didn’t match the actual history. I assumed I would progress into becoming a liberal Mormon whose foundation was liberal Christian theology. But in reality Christianity deconstructed before my eyes as quickly as Mormonism was doing the same thing.
By late 2003 I had lost my faith in God. I experienced this as a loss and not as a conscious choice but as an inevitable conclusion to my studies. This best comparison would be someone who discovers their partner is cheating and after the discovery sees the evidence everywhere. However, at this stage I wasn’t ready to through out the baby with the bathwater. I continued to “keep the commandments”, serve in callings and attend Church services through the end of 2005. These two years were my attempt at being a cultural Mormon. I know that some people spend a lifetime doing this but I could only sustain it for a few years. Looking for a faith home, my family and I began attending Unitarian services. In fact, for a year we attended both services.
My historical pursuits continued with full steam until 2006 when I decided to get my MBA. For 2 years I worked full time, went to School full time and attended to my family. There wasn’t much time left over. However, in 2006 I did reach out to ex-Mormons around in an attempt to find support and community which I was dearly missing. In 2006 along with Diane Ormond and Chad Spjut, we formed the Community After Leaving Mormonism (CALM). I started a chapter in Davis County that met at the Layton City Library monthly. We had support group discussions as well as family activities such as picnics in the park. At this time, the online world was still underground and most people used pseudonyms. Facebook had not caught on as a force for connection.
In 2008 I finished my Masters Degree and learned that my job was either going to be eliminated or moved to Phoenix so I began looking for employment. I found a suitable job in Wilmington North Carolina and we moved there to start a new chapter away from the Church. It was there with new time on my hands that I began to cook up what would become the Mormon Expression Podcast.
Chapter 2: The Launch