Mormon Stories: An Unabashed Love Letter

Am I just slow on the uptake here? I went to Mormon Stories today and found to my surprise, that it had been retired.

This is a great loss in my opinion. I really don’t blame John for setting down the torch. I tried to do a podcast once and only made it through four of them before real life set in (read: I graduated).

John Dehlin really started something magnificent. It seems to me that he managed to talk, for a brief time, to a larger spectrum of Mormons than I think has ever been contacted by a single person. We know from reading his blog that he had everyone from TBMs to exMos participating. That wouldn’t be so amazing, except for the fact that he was getting kudos from all sides.

For example, at the time he started his endeavor, I was visiting a discussion board that was a meeting place for people who were finished with Mormonism. John showed up and supplied a link to a little movie he had made about the relationship of the Church with African Americans. The response was hugely supportive. Everyone on the board was amazed to see a practicing Mormon willing to delve into these things publicly.

I think John was very brave in what he did, even though what he did was very simple. He was willing to let people tell their stories. Though I sometimes thought he tried to squeeze an orthodox interpretation out of some of his subject’s stories, I still had to admit, he let the stories be told. And that was very significant because, to me, stories have much more power than principles do.

When one preaches a principle, one tries to cast the world in a mold. When one tells a story, one opens up a world of interpretation. Stories are pregnant. They give life. Principles (though we need them) only control.

Why does everyone love John? Because he listens.

In a way, John is one of the most subversive Mormons on record. And in a way, he is the most constructive. Simply because he let the stories flow.

At church, I don’t feel like I can tell my stories. They’re messy, they don’t submit to easy interpretation (at least, I won’t let them). If I told them, I feel like I would be judged and found wanting. I’d like Church to be more like Mormon Stories, where we can find out who our brothers and sisters are. Where we can watch each other be beautifully messy and complex.

Thanks John, for what you did. Let’s hope you’ve started a revolution.

12 comments

  1. I’m obviously way behind. “Mormon stories” is the very idea that makes the most sense to me. And only now do I learn there has been a blog site of that title? Let us not lose our true listeners–there are so few. Will someone please tell me more about what I’ve just missed?

  2. John Dehlin says:

    Hey Stephen and Jana,

    Thanks so much for your kind words. I feel like I’m leaving an internal organ behind, but I gotta do this.

    Knowing that maybe I helped things a bit really does deaden the sting. ๐Ÿ™‚

    And I really do look forward to seeing what grows out of the fertile soil we’ve all been tending……

  3. Well said, Stephen.

    The end of Mormon Stories is definitely something to mourn. I’ve been wearing black all week. As I told John, “Why didn’t you take on a partner or two!?!?! I knew you would burn out!?!?!” Aaaahhh!

    John and I parked our cars in the Sheraton parking lot for the 2005 Sunstone Symposium at about the same time. For each of us it was our first SSS. We struck up a conversation on the way into the hotel. He was the first Sunstoner I met; and I was his (I think). That Sunstone Symposium galvanized us both, but I was absolutely shocked(!!!) six or seven months later to see that he had created Mormon Stories, not just a blog, but a resource for important podcasts, etc. It also appeared that he already pretty much knew everyone there was to know in Mormon Intellectual circles. In any case, I was amazed… like John, I wanted to make a difference, but was too timid and unsure of myself to do anything… when I saw Mormon Stories, I thought, “How in the world did John do all of this? What, did he just start calling people up and asking to interview them?” Pretty much, I guess. The speed and degree to which John blew through town and made a difference is pretty impressive. The Bloggernacle is a great place, and there are a ton of people who have made important contributions, but no one has spoken to as diverse an audience, from TBMs to EXs, and with as open and friendly and inclusive an attitude as John. To be sure, Mormon Stories wasn’t for everyone, but with its demise I think it leaves a pretty big hole in the Bloggernacle, and in the greater Mormon Internet World in general.

    R.I.P. Mormon Stories, 2005-2006.

  4. Matt, those changes aren’t aliases–they’re growth ring morphs. That’s what you-all get by really getting to me where I live at my inner roots! I know that doesn’t make any sense, but, Hey, most who really know me realize I’m a bit off–but they love me anyway. For that I’m grateful. It’s the only thing that makes real sense.

  5. Rob says:

    Lst December John recorded phone interviews with Mike RIchan and I on the history and doctrines of Reform Mormomisn. The questions that John asked us, his attitude, etc. were so refreshing! Here was a gentleman who truly grasped Mormonism in its broadest sense. Unfortnately, some technical problems with the conference call system used in recording the interview rendered the final product unusable. John was quick to assure us that he wanted to re-record the interview. Alas “Mormon Stories” is no more. Tthose familiar with these outstanding pod-casts do indeed have something ovr which to mourn!

  6. diamond says:

    John, thanks very much, sincerely. I have felt nourished by listening to your approach. You seem to have understood that only taking the time to understand actually helps people. I pray there might be a way for you to continue…and I’m sure you’ll find it. You know that this will always be a part of you, a part that you will need to share. It will not rest, and ought not to. I look forward to your third comeback. Don’t keep me waiting for too long!

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