About

Broadcasting behind Enemy lines, Radio Free Mormon tackles the difficult subjects in Mormonism like no one else.  Dissecting things like a surgeon, RFM gets to the crux of the issue, exposing all the connections and subtleties that lie below the surface.   His unique sense of humor, his knowledge of Mormonism, his displaying of the data.  If you haven’t yet listened…..  You likely could use some Radio Free Mormon in your life.

 

 

 

 

59 thoughts on “About

  1. HI RFM,

    I LOVE every one of your podcasts – and I listen the instant they are posted. I always love your General Conference break down – and would love to team up with you if you want to do a recap together.

    I will be listening to all 5 sessions starting tomorrow – and will be taking notes.

    Maybe we can talk afterward and share thoughts. Let me know what you think.

    Suzette at the Asherah Grove
    703.801.0258

  2. I love every episode I’ve listened to so far. I especially enjoyed “Wrong Roads,” and your recent discussion with Bill Reel about the Saints book and YSA broadcast. I appreciate the time, research and thought that goes into each episode. I really enjoy listening to your take on things! Thanks RFM!

    -Ryan

  3. You are a genius! I love your podcasts! So very articulate , cutting through the crap

  4. Your podcast is the best out there in my opinion. I appreciate the time and effort you put into each podcast and have shared so many. Thank you for what you’re doing to help me de-program the brain washing I developed over 47 years in the TSCC. Can’t wait for your next episode, every time!

  5. RFM, thank you for your analyses on a variety of topics. Your podcast is so interesting and informative.

  6. I have a suggested interview and topic that might be of interest RFM. If you are looking for an after dark interview I think you’d be the perfect interviwer for this “legal” topic that affects each member belonging to a 501c3 “Church”. Also, why did the “C” abandon the Corp Sole or is it still in existence. I have some research or atleast sites where more can be learned and could introduce you to an exoert on the subject (501c3) who has written a book and has another due in about 6 months on this and other interesting Religious topics. She isn’t a member (nor was a member that I know of) so does that eliminate her as being a guest?

  7. Just listened to the disciplinary session recording for Bill Reel. Bill presented his case beautifully. I struggled to hear most of the others, but BRAVO, Bill. From a fellow convert who is no longer a member (resigned), the “spirit” was truly with you. And RFM, the “Are You Man Enough” selection by the Four Tops?…Dayum. Couldn’t have picked a more perfect closing hymn. Huge thumbs up, guys.

  8. RFM, congratulations and thank you for your insights! I’m from Mexico and I enjoy everything you say in these podcasts. I would like to know if you have watched the movie small foot, I think it has strong faith crisis connotations. I´ve been reading a little bit about it, however, I would like to know your opinion. Thank’s in advanced.

  9. I’m listening to your podcast. I believe Article of Faith #9 answers the question and concept you have been discussing “We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.” explains the matters you are discussing completely. The Principles of which you speak have not changed even though the rituals have. The issue of to whom Eve covenants obedience in my opinion finally recognizes a woman’s role as an equal partner with her husband which has always existed. A man and a woman have different roles in the Plan of Happiness. You gentlemen appear sincere but are seriously blinded in your pursuit of logic.

    • How much equality did the Lawrence sisters (aged 16 and 18) have or did Helen Kimball (aged 14) have when Joseph Smith told them that the Lord wanted them to “marry” him or they’d be damned and/or destroyed???? These women could not have more than one husband (unless the second husband was Joseph Smith). Church leaders got rid of the Oath of Obedience for the women because the bullies among the Mormon men were using it for all sorts of Unrighteous Dominion, such as incest, anal sex, all sorts of things. Not every Mormon man, of course not, just thousands of them.

    • Very rarely in the history of the Earth has a society had equality between the sexes. It’s nowhere in church history or Christian history at all, and it certainly isn’t there now. Basic question might be, Are Plural Sealings Still Being Performed in the Temple? Spoiler Alert: yes, they are still being performed. So nope, no equality to be found in Mormonism at the most core rituals or in daily practice. It’s still as sexist as it was back in Joseph’s day.

  10. RFM/Bill,
    Thanks for your efforts and insight into the “Great Mormon Meltdown” that appears to be underway. Upon listening to your podcast episode covering the recent changes in the temple endowment, and recalling Bill’s earlier podcast where he called out a number of predicted changes and announcements coming to the LDS Church in October 18 conference and beyond, I wanted to let you know about an unusual Church project that I was drafted into a few years ago. I think it adds some context to your comments and conclusions about the catalyst for these changes, and provides insight into the mechanisms in use in the modern Church.

    A close friend of mine in Utah Valley who has made a lot of money and who subsequently developed a relationship with a number of Apostles and other GA’s was given a “special calling” along with several other trusted members in Utah, under the direction of Elder Ballard via the local Area Authtority. This program may have been more widespread than that, but if so, they weren’t talking. At any rate, the purpose of the calling was to specifically address the current and growing epidemic of young people going inactive or outright leaving the church. The numbers cited, by the Area Authority, were that over 70% of LDS youth were going inactive by age 21, and even more dire was the fact that the church was losing about 50% of all returned missionaries. The direction given was to spend several months gathering data, where the rubber meets the road, on why this was happening and then to come up with a list of suggestions of how the church might change or take action to turn this around. My friend was admittedly a good candidate for this assignment in that he has an excellent relationship with young people in general and had just finished up as a YSA Bishop at a BYU Ward. He called me and enlisted me as a “consultant” on this project because he knows that I have four kids in the target demographic as well as a lot of experience working with youth and YA’s, in andnout of the church. He also knows that I have a lot of opinions about the shortcomings of the church in addressing critical issues that may well be at the heart of this crisis.
    Long story short, we both did a lot of work researching the causes and possible responses to this harsh reality in modern Mormonism and compiled our findings into a report that was then provided to the Area Authority to present to Elder Ballard. I have to say that I was disappointed in the report that actually made it back to SLC, because it was obvious that although we came up with frank and honest analysis of the causes for the problem as well as very pointed suggestions as to what the church might do to address it, I felt that the report was white-washed and watered down so as to protect the “faithful credibility” of those delivering it and to avoid falling victim to a “shoot the messenger” reaction from Ballard.
    Nonetheless, at the time I felt good about the fact that the project happened at all, and it demonstrated a willingness on the part of Elder Ballad, at least, to listen to the insights of the “little people”. Most of all it showed an awareness of the fact that the church is indeed facing a crisis, the declarations of Elders Cook and Holland notwithstanding.
    Now, two years later, with these fairly dramatic changes being rolled out by the Church on a nearly continuous basis, my friend and I recently had dinner and recalled the details of the report we delivered, and realized that while not everything we suggested has been addressed, every change that has been announced so far was represented in some fashion on our list of suggested changes or actions. It tells me several things: 1. The church is willing to listen to and adopt “bottom up” change, even if it is not necessarily a publicly acknowledged process.
    2. Unless the list was delivered into the hands of Jesus to get the final stamp of approval, policy and doctrine come from a source that may be different than what we have been taught. 3. The leaders of the church are looking at the numbers and are running a little scared. Rather than go on and on here, if you’d like more detail on what our suggestions were, let me know.
    Keep up the good work and don’t get bitter. Always remember that every single one of us is full of shit.

    • You should publish the suggestions as you remember them, if you didn’t keep a copy of it. Elder Ballard lost his grand-daughter due to “Google” (i.e. anti-Mormon or “real” Mormon history). In the 1980s, I remember the Church lost 20% (1 in 5) Returned Missionaries. On my mission, there was so much dishonesty among the missionaries, and the Mission Presidents kept promoting the most dishonest Elders who had the “best numbers” because they were B.S.ers and they baptized street people, addicts, homeless, insane, anybody they could for the “numbers”. That was forty years ago. I came to discover that “problem” is in all the Missions, some worse than others, some much worse than others. Publish the list you gave to Ballard, here, we’d appreciate it.

  11. It was 35 years ago but I believe we were in the same student Ward University Texas when you were there with professor/Bishop seal , David Knowlton was a council in a bishopric

  12. Your podcasts clearly show a passion for knowledge and clear, rational thinking. It seems we both grew up at a time when the Mormon church was at least trying to show that its beliefs were based on good reasons. That’s why I could relate with many of the things you say that those of the younger generation will probably not grasp. Keep up the good work.

  13. “John, at that time, was the only legal administrator in the affairs of the kingdom there was then on the earth, and holding the keys of power. The Jews had to obey his instructions or be damned, by their own law; and Christ Himself fulfilled all righteousness in becoming obedient to the law which he had given to Moses on the mount, and thereby magnified it and made it honorable, instead of destroying it. The son of Zacharias wrested the keys, the kingdom, the power, the glory from the Jews, by the holy anointing and decree of heaven, and these three reasons constitute him the greatest prophet born of a woman.“. From Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. I thought it might be of interest given your thoughts in Phariseeism episode 3 on John the Baptist.

  14. I look forward with giddy anticipation to each of your podcasts, RFM. I’ve encouraged everyone who is traveling this bumpy road to listen in. Thank you for your concise insights, your thoughtful analysis and the subtle humor. I’m delighted to support you on a monthly basis and look forward to hearing more from you in the future. Brilliant!

  15. Collette Larsen again –

    I’m sitting here with my brother discussing your podcasts. He has also become a fan of your podcast – and after listening to your most recent podcast where you mention President Stout…thinks he might have served in Japan with you. Do you remember Elder Randy Larsen? If so, he’d love to connect with you by phone or text. His number is: (801) 787-2141.

    Thanks again for sharing your brilliance.

    Collette Larsen

  16. First-time listener and I am very impressed. You are the 2nd LDS guy I have met in my life who has the honesty to question LDS doctrine as God-given, and the 1st to publish it from within the church.

    I admittedly am not LDS (rejected it after being approached by LDS guy #1, and engaging with him for about 2 years – infinite regression of gods was the death knell…). But I always appreciated his demeanor, which I hear in your analysis and posture. Instead, I turned to the gospel of grace (specifically Molinism’s reconciliation of man’s free-will and God’s sovereign will) and read thinkers like Ravi Zacaharias, who has built some bridges with the LDS church. Keep up the good work. Blessings.

  17. This may be a dumb question. Joseph had visions / visitations how do you differentiate between the two? Did Jesus and the father actually come to Joseph Or was it a vision and does it matter.
    I would like to keep my identity off record at this time.

    • Go ahead and read the material from Grant Palmer, and to summarize, its all in Joseph and his followers heads. Pretty much every time the word “vision” is used, that’s a sign. Further evidenced by a lack of visions (except from loose sources and perpetuating of members belief that there is modern day revelation)after the death of Joseph.

      There’s even speculation Joseph and his family had access to some hallucinogenic stuff on the side too, but its harder to prove that, though really, once you find out about Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, its hard to reconcile what they did and said with what the current Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints teaches.

  18. RFM – It was bugging me while listening to your old TBM recordings, who you reminded me of. You sounded like someone I’d listened to, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I just realized – Steven Anderson, a fundamentalist, hate-mongering pastor in Arizona. If you’re lucky, you haven’t heard him. Though if you want, look for Steven Anderson Pees Standing Up on YouTube.

  19. Hi RFM

    Listener and supporter here, although we’ve never met, and this is my first correspondence.

    I am a Robert Frost fan, and wanted to point out my thoughts on the poem “A Road Less Travelled” which you recently quoted.

    For me, Frost seems to be saying, that choices made early in life are essentially blind. We see the diverging pathways in the woods, but generally the paths look about the same. We only have limited vision about where that path may take us.

    Nevertheless, when old and looking back, many think they took the “road less traveled” when they look back at life, as if they somehow had the wisdom to choose an infrequent path that would bring them happiness.

    I think this poem is mocking people who brag about how they made great choices in their youth, however it is usually quoted in exactly the way Frost wanted to mock “I took the road less travelled and that has made all the difference”…see what you think. You may see a subtle joke in the poem, like I do.

    By the way sincerely thank you for the excellent and always entertaining podcast. We are around the same age, and share common background and interest. If lived near each other I think we would be good friends. You are very special to me, and I wish you the very best,

  20. I think you sound just like Elliot Gould. You know, Ross and Monica’s dad on Friends?

  21. RFM, how can I search your site for something I believe I heard you discuss? Specifically, I’m looking for a discussion you had about Dallin Oaks talking about sister wives in heaven recently, but I’d also like to be able to find other things you’ve discussed in the past. Thanks!

    • October conference,2019. It was some serious dismissal on his part of the question that this woman had. During this conference, both he and Nelson practically bragged about having their plural wives in the next kingdom. It was vulgar, rude, and unconscionable.

  22. I just listened to all 7 parts of your interview on Mormon Stories. I still want MORE!. Love your podcasts, your humor and your knowledge. You’re like potato chip… You can’t just have one!

  23. Hi RFM, how about some content about the early Utah church, Brigham’s rule, Mountain Meadows etc. Or the Reed Smoot hearings…
    Just a couple of ideas. I’m personally getting a little tired of the First Vision accounts. Love your work and look forward to Sunday mornings because of you now!

  24. I have just discovered your fantastic podcast, “Radio Free Mormonism”, by way of “Naked Mormonism” and “Later Day Lesbians”. As such, I am a bit late to the party, but at least I have made it. Currently, I am attempting to catch-up on past episodes. All I can say is THANKS. I really needed to hear what you are saying.

    I just recently heard the episodes on defending the faith, in which you played audio tapes of two classes you taught 30 years ago on defending Mormonism. Have you considered doing an episode where you critique your arguments in defense of the BOM? It appeared that you were using the BOM as evidence for the BOM being true and that you were making several assumptions for which there was no basis.

    Thanks again.

  25. Keep us updated!! Real breaking news & you’ve nothing to say at this time??? Church..whistleblower. If you don’t have it…who does??

  26. Suggest looking into a document, Myths of Ononda, written in the 1880s based on interviews from people there in the 1820’s, by a local amateur historian in Rochester, NY describing treasure hunting in the Rochester area in the 1820s. Led by Zim Allen who used a “diamond” – a stone that he could use to see back through history and describe the early inhabitants of the area who buried gold, had wars of extermination, etc. and that was used to lead the treasure hunters to a location. Using Captain Kidd’s lost treasure as an explanation for why a seer is able to find treasure had to have lost it’s usefulness over time. Ron Walker cites Myths of Ononda as well as Michael Quinn but neither mentions a possible connection between Zim’s ancient treasure and history and Joseph’s telling stories of the BoM peoples to his family and possibly treasure hunters that he may have led using his stone. You can find a transcript here : http://olivercowdery.com/smithhome/smithtrs.htm#1887Harris

  27. I think it would be interesting for you to tackle this..

    Additional Resource Writing about the Prophet Joseph SmithBy President Dallin H. Oaks of the First Presidency
     
    This address was given Friday, March 13, 2020, at the Brigham Young University (BYU) Church History Symposium in the Church Office Building Auditorium in Salt Lake City. See a summary article of his talk.

    President Dallin H. Oaks© 2020 BY INTELLECTUAL RESERVE, INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
    Download Media

    I am pleased to be part of this important symposium sponsored by BYU and the Church History Department. My participation is a review of some of my personal conclusions and experiences, guided by vital inspiration, in writing about the Prophet Joseph Smith in various capacities for more than 50 years. I will present no additional research or even new insights from the treasury of The Joseph Smith Papers. I will reference a book and three articles in professional journals and a published speech at a scholarly conference in Illinois. I have titled my remarks, “Writing about the Prophet Joseph Smith.”

    I. Suppression of the Nauvoo Expositor

    I begin with the Nauvoo Expositor. Under the leadership of Mayor Joseph Smith, the Nauvoo City Council suppressed that opposition newspaper by destroying the press, scattering the type, and burning the remaining copies. That suppression led directly to the arrest and murder of Joseph Smith and is therefore an extremely significant event in his life. He has been roundly criticized for this action against a newspaper, even by Latter-day Saint writers. B. H. Roberts declared that “the attempt at legal justification [for the suppression] is not convincing,”[1] and Professor G. Homer Durham, later our Church historian, referred to this as “the great Mormon mistake.”[2]

    My interest in this subject began in about 1958 with an inspired experience in the library of the law firm where I was employed after graduation. During a rest break, my attention was drawn to the library’s top shelf, which stored legal briefs that firm filed in the famous 1931 case of Near v. Minnesota. There, the United States Supreme Court first applied the United States Constitution Bill of Rights to reverse the action of a state government. Curious, I examined the briefs and learned that the facts of this famous case involved the suppression of a scurrilous newspaper by government action. That was astonishingly similar to the Nauvoo City Council’s suppression of the Nauvoo Expositor. This persuaded me I had to learn more about that Nauvoo event.

    A few years later I became an associate professor of law at The University of Chicago and was expected to do scholarly work. My first publication was a law review article on the suppression of the Nauvoo Expositor.[3] In research for that article I learned that modern criticism of the action of the Nauvoo City Council has been based on the principle of freedom of speech and press embodied in the 14th amendment of the United States Constitution. However, that amendment was not adopted until twenty years after the Nauvoo suppression. The law in 1844, including interpretation of state constitutional guarantees of a free press, offered considerable support for what Nauvoo had done. Even in the similar circumstances of the newspaper suppressed in the famous case of Near v. Minnesota a unanimous Minnesota Supreme Court and four justices in the minority in the United States Supreme Court found no violation of the free press guarantee as understood up to that time. Consequently, my article concluded that “The common assumption of historians that the action taken by the [Nauvoo] city council to suppress the paper as a nuisance was entirely illegal is not well founded.”

    The lesson I drew from this scholarly research and publication has made me a life-long opponent of the technique of presentism—relying on current perspectives and culture to criticize official or personal actions in the past. Past actions should be judged by the laws and culture of their time.

    II. Carthage Conspiracy

    Carthage Conspiracy, my only book on Joseph Smith, was written as a co-authorship with Marvin S. Hill.[4] Our friendship began when we were both students at The University of Chicago in the 1950s. He was working on a Ph.D. in history and I was studying law. In research for his dissertation, Hill learned that nine men were tried for the murder of Joseph Smith. For many years he urged me to do some legal research on that trial, which was then almost entirely unknown in our Church history.

    I was slow to respond, assuming that legal records on that 1845 trial were non-existent. I even assumed that the murderers were punished with horrible deaths such as those recited in the popular book, The Fate of the Persecutors of Joseph Smith.[5] Eventually, I was persuaded to do some preliminary research. Looking back, I believe this was the prompting of the Spirit. Then a law professor, I had time for research, and writing in legal history would help fit my expected scholarly production.

    I drove to the Hancock County courthouse, some 250 miles southwest of Chicago. Fortunately, I gave the court clerks my University of Chicago Law School business card and did not tell them I was a Latter-day Saint. (There was still a lot of anti-Mormon prejudice in Carthage at that time.) They gave me access to a large room, where I searched for an index to the hundreds of records it contained. Miraculously, I was blessed to find an ancient index volume that contained the name of the first defendant in the trial, Levi Williams. Opposite his name was the number 20, which I pursued to a drawer that contained a large packet of papers labeled People v. Levi Williams. It was wrapped with a paper band sealed with paste and apparently never opened.

    I still remember vividly the experience of slitting that paper band with my thumb and having about 50 documents spill out on the table before me. The first thing I saw was the signature of John Taylor on a complaint against nine individuals for murdering Joseph Smith. (Charges for the murder of Hyrum were separate.) Other papers contained the indictment, subpoenas for witnesses, names of the many prospective jurors who were summoned, and the names of those jurors who ultimately served. There was even the written verdict of not guilty. Here was everything but a record of the testimony at that trial. We have a book! I told Marvin Hill, and indeed we did.[6]

    For over ten years, Hill and I scoured libraries and archives across the nation to find every scrap of information about those involved in this trial. We studied the actions and words of Illinois citizens who knew Joseph Smith personally—some who hated him and plotted to kill him, and others who loved him and risked their lives to assist him. Nothing we found cast any doubt on the integrity of the Prophet Joseph Smith.

    Absent from the courthouse files—but essential to a book on the trial—were records of the testimony of the witnesses. This omission was typical in trials of that period. Fortunately, there was so much interest in this trial that several observers, including lawyers, kept notes of the testimony given. Some of these were signed with the observer’s name, but the fullest set of notes, which we found in the Church Historian’s office, was unsigned. We assumed these were the notes of George Watt, the Church’s official scribe, who was sent to record the proceedings of the trial.

    Here occurred another of many miracles we experienced in our research. After our book manuscript was completed and would soon be submitted to the publisher, a strong impression led me to a pile of 50 or 60 books and monographs stacked on the table behind my desk at BYU. Having no reason or special object to search that pile, I nevertheless followed the impression. There I was led to a printed catalog of the contents of the Wilford C. Wood Museum, prepared by Professor LaMar Berrett and sent to me over a year earlier. Flipping through the pages of that catalog I found a description of a manuscript of testimony at the Carthage trial. It was identified as having been purchased by Wilford Wood in his notable gatherings in Illinois and then given to the Church. I recognized that description as the trial minutes we found in the archives and mistakenly thought were those of George Watt. With that clarification, we searched again in the Church records and finally located George Watt’s official and highly authentic set of minutes on the trial testimony. This completed our research of that important subject and significantly enhanced the accuracy of our account of the testimony at the trial.

    To me, that experience is cherished evidence of how the Lord will help us in our righteous professional pursuits, when we seek guidance and are sensitive to the promptings of His Spirit.

    The rest, including the acquittal of the nine individuals by an overly-biased jury, is, as we say, a matter of history. Of current interest is that Carthage Conspiracy is still in print more than 45 years after it was published by the University of Illinois Press. Last year, it sold 324 copies.

    III. The Prophet Joseph Smith’s Bankruptcy and Property at Death

    The most significant of my writings about Joseph Smith began small but gradually expanded into many legal proceedings that illuminated important subjects previously unknown.

    Joseph Smith’s unsuccessful application to erase his debts in bankruptcy had been mentioned in passing by Church historians, but never explored. In 1967, Joseph I. Bentley, a brilliant law student at The University of Chicago Law School, registered for individual research under my direction. I suggested that he look into the bankruptcy proceeding. Bentley’s efforts launched the two of us on a decade of research and collaboration involving many previously unknown legal proceedings in Illinois state and federal courts.

    In those efforts, we first learned why Joseph Smith was never discharged in bankruptcy. We discovered the disposition of his personal property by intestacy. Most important, we discovered why, after his death, the Church received nothing from the Church’s extensive property holdings in Nauvoo. In contrast, Emma Smith succeeded to the largest proportion of what had been Church property. This is how she and her second husband obtained ownership of the Mansion House and other key properties in Nauvoo. Our discoveries offered important insights into the strained relations between Emma and Brigham Young. These are important questions, so it is no surprise that two lawyers wondered why we were the first researchers to seek out these records and write about them.

    The Oaks/Bentley article on Joseph Smith’s bankruptcy proceeding, published in the BYU Law Review of 1976,[7] is 50 pages in length—too long to attempt to summarize here. I will therefore limit my comments to major generalizations from its contents.[8]

    First, Joseph Smith’s bankruptcy application took place only a few months after his extensive efforts—well known in our Church history—to separate his personal property from the property he held on behalf of the Church. If those efforts had been legally successful, they would have prevented the tragic condition of the Church’s legal affairs after Joseph’s death. However, for reasons explained hereafter—notably bad legal advice—the needed legal separation failed to achieve its intended purpose.

    Second, Joseph Smith died without a will. Under Illinois law, his property would therefore be divided, after payment of creditors, among his widow and children. Administrators were appointed to carry out that law, but they determined that the total claims of Joseph’s creditors were about three times greater than the value of the property he owned, so Emma and the children would receive nothing. But before that intestate administration was concluded, it was effectively superseded by a suit filed by the United States, one of the creditors. Jurisdiction then transferred to the federal court in Springfield, Illinois. More on that later.

    Third, fortunately, Bentley and I were able to find in the Federal Records Center in Chicago the voluminous records of the United States creditor’s suit and other federal cases relating to Joseph Smith’s property. We also found correspondence related to the bankruptcy that explained why he and a few others did not have their 1842 debts discharged in bankruptcy. In contrast to about 1,400 successful applicants in Illinois at that time, Joseph Smith was blocked by the objection of the United States, one of his largest creditors. That objection relied on John C. Bennett’s recently published claims that Joseph had fraudulently transferred some of his own property to avoid paying his personal debts. This referred to his attempted transfer of Church property held in his personal name to himself as trustee for the Church. Joseph’s bankruptcy application was put on hold, and that was still the status of the matter when he was martyred.

    Fourth, after a succession of court proceedings covering nearly a decade (because of political reasons not involving the Latter-day Saints, who had long since departed for the West), a federal judge issued a lengthy decree, which we found and studied. The various claims that Joseph had been guilty of fraud in his 1842 conveyances were discarded by the court, which ruled on two other legal theories. The United States prevailed over all other creditors because of the priority of its lien under an earlier default judgment on a debt owed by Joseph Smith and others as sureties on a note given to purchase a steamboat (not the well-known Maid of Iowa). Second, and most important for purposes of Church history, Joseph’s 1842 conveyances of extensive Church properties in Nauvoo from himself in his personal capacity to himself as trustee for the Church were all held to be invalid. This result was required by an Illinois law that should have been known by the lawyers who advised these transactions. Following an ancient English limitation, Illinois law then limited a Church trustee to holding no more than 10 acres of land, but Joseph’s 1842 conveyances in trust involved about 4,000 acres, plus 312 town lots.

    Fifth, as a result of the federal court’s decree, extensive properties assumed to be owned by the Church (and mostly already sold by the Church to individual landowners) were still owned by Joseph at the time of his death and therefore subject to satisfying his debts and the legal marital claims of his surviving widow, Emma. The total value of Joseph’s properties—mostly what was brought back into his estate by the federal decree—was $11,148. The court valued Emma’s dower claim (a life interest in one-third of all Joseph’s real estate) at one-sixth of all the cash in the estate. As a result, Emma Smith Bidamon received $1,809, and the United States government received $7,870. Those distributions, plus costs and expenses of $1,469, used up the property, so the other claimants against the estate, including people who purchased land from the Church, received nothing. The consequence of all that was devastating for the Church: no resources to help with the western move and a final blow to the reputation of the Church in Hancock County.

    As I have looked at this circumstance, I have concluded that the different positions of Emma and Brigham on who should own the properties that Joseph sought to convey to the Church in 1842 can be summarized as follows. In fairness and equity, these properties belonged to the Church when Joseph died. Brigham Young must have felt this. But Emma had a clear legal right under the law of Illinois. She had suffered much deprivation during her marriage and was now left a widow with children to raise. She insisted only on what was legally hers. However, it is easy to see why the Church in Utah was aggrieved when she used that property to secure legal ownership of the Mansion House and other close-by properties for her and her new husband, Lewis Bidamon.

    IV. Library of Congress Speech

    In 2005 the Library of Congress partnered with BYU for a two-day conference on the 200th anniversary of the birth of Joseph Smith. Its stated object was to examine “the religious, social, and theological contributions of Joseph Smith.” Scholars from throughout the United States and some other countries were invited to the library’s Coolidge Auditorium to present papers. I represented the Church and gave a paper on the suggested subject “Joseph Smith in a Personal World.” [9]

    Here are some examples of what I was prompted to say about the Prophet’s personal qualities:

    One of [Joseph’s] personal gifts is evidenced by the love and loyalty of the remarkable people who followed him. . . . [He] had a ‘native cheery temperament’ that endeared him to almost everyone who knew him. We have record of many adoring tributes like that of an acquaintance who said, “The love the saints had for him was inexpressible.”[10]

    I continued with this:

    The Joseph Smith I met in my personal research was a man of the frontier—young, emotional, dynamic, and so loved and approachable by his people that they often called him ‘Brother Joseph.’ His comparative youth overarched his prophetic ministry. He was fourteen at the time of the First Vision, twenty-one when he received the golden plates, and just twenty-three when he finished translating the Book of Mormon (in less than 75 working days). Over half of the revelations in our Doctrine and Covenants were given through this prophet when he was twenty-five or younger. He was twenty-six when the First Presidency was organized, and just over thirty-three when he escaped from imprisonment in Missouri and resumed leadership of the Saints gathering in Nauvoo. He was only thirty-eight and a half when he was murdered.[11]

    I departed from my assigned subject to help the audience understand Joseph Smith as a prophet and his vital teachings about revelation. I said: “Revelation is the key to the uniqueness of Joseph Smith’s message,” adding that “Revelation is the foundation of our church doctrine and governance” and that “Joseph Smith affirmed by countless teachings and personal experiences that revelation did not cease with the early apostles, but that it continued in his day and continues in ours.” “‘The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was founded upon direct revelation,’ Joseph Smith declared, ‘as the true Church of God has ever been.’”[12]

    Like the other Latter-day Saint speakers at the conference (8 of the 17), I also spoke about the importance of the Book of Mormon. I quoted Joseph’s great teaching: “‘Take away the Book of Mormon and the revelations and where is our religion?’” he asked. ‘“We have none,’” he answered.” I explained, “The stated purpose of the Book of Mormon is to witness that Jesus is the Christ.” As Joseph proclaimed, “The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ.”[13]

    As I look back on that event, the thing I remember best is what the nine scholars not of my faith did not say about Joseph Smith’s translation of the Book of Mormon. They concentrated on various subjects in Joseph’s life and his influence, but only one speaker mentioned the Book of Mormon other than by merely referring to it by name. Professor Robert V. Remini, a University of Illinois historian, who also served as the U.S. Congressional Historian, gave this admiring description. Significantly it falls far short of explaining how Joseph produced this central witness of his prophetic ministry.

    “What is truly remarkable—really miraculous—[Professor Remini said] is the fact that this massive translation was completed in sixty working days by an uneducated but highly imaginative zealot steeped in the religious fervor of his age. As a writer [he said], I find that feat absolutely incredible. Sixty days! Two months to produce a work running over six hundred pages and of such complexity and density. Unbelievable.”[14]

    The only other non-LDS comment about the Book of Mormon came from Margaret Barker of Great Britain, a Methodist preacher and authority on the Old Testament. While this statement was not included in the published version of her talk, I am sure I remember her explaining that she was not saying anything about the Book of Mormon because she had no explanation for it.

    V. Legal History Conference in Illinois

    Another opportunity to teach about Joseph Smith came to me in an unusual way. Through their Historic Preservation Commission and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, the Illinois Supreme Court had a program to publicize significant legal events rooted in Illinois. A justice of that court phoned me to ask if the Church would assist them in looking into Joseph Smith’s legal cases in Illinois. Of course, we would. I put her in touch with some of our scholars, who recommended focusing on the three unsuccessful attempts to extradite Joseph Smith from Illinois to face criminal charges in Missouri. So it was that in 2013, the Historic Commission and the Lincoln Library convened a two-day conference in Springfield, Illinois, on those historical and constitutional developments.

    To get the Latter-day Saint background of those events, the first session of the conference was convened the preceding evening in Nauvoo. I was invited to introduce Joseph Smith, the central figure in these extradition proceedings. I chose two subjects for my introduction. First, the background of Joseph Smith, and second, the writ of habeas corpus, which was the legal procedure by which Illinois courts—state and federal—reviewed these Missouri attempts. By “coincidence,” I had a good background on each of these subjects. As a young law professor more than 50 years earlier, I had published three law review articles on habeas corpus, including one on the use of this writ in state courts in the nineteenth century. I won’t bore you with any of that but will speak only of some of the subjects I mentioned in my address to the dignitaries who had driven to Nauvoo, including a former governor of Illinois.

    The Illinois sponsors likely chose a major two-day program on Joseph Smith because Missouri’s attempts to extradite a person of Joseph Smith’s prominence involved key issues in that period of American history. Leading up to the Civil War, the most important legal issues in the United States involved contests between state power and federal power. During our Nauvoo period, the great promises in the United States Constitution were being tested by the often-violent actions of state authorities, such as Missouri’s expulsion of Latter-day Saints and the contested issue of slavery. What could the federal government do about state laws or actions against persecuted persons?

    To make the audience acquainted with Joseph Smith’s feelings about the United States Constitution, I quoted several of his statements.

    The Constitution of the United States is a glorious standard; it is founded in the wisdom of God. It is a heavenly banner.[15]

    I am the greatest advocate of the Constitution of the United States there is on the earth. In my feelings I am always ready to die for the protection of the weak and oppressed in their just rights.”[16]

    I should have continued that last quote with these words he spoke next in his 1843 sermon in Nauvoo:

    The only fault I find with the Constitution is, it is not broad enough to cover the whole ground.

    Although it provides that all men shall enjoy religious freedom, yet it does not provide the manner by which that freedom can be preserved. . . . Its sentiments are good, but it provides no means of enforcing them.[17]

    Joseph Smith loved the Constitution and hoped that its promises could be used more effectively to protect his people. In his extradition cases they were. I gave the audience this summary:

    All three of Joseph Smith’s extradition proceedings had the same result. The judges refused to send him back to Missouri for criminal prosecutions and confinement that would most likely have resulted in his death. In a nation struggling to balance the rights of majority and minority, the courts acted to protect a persecuted prophet from what would probably have been his death in that state.[18]

    I avoided describing the legal technicalities in these extradition hearings, which later speakers explored in Springfield. Similarly here, I will avoid reviewing details known to this knowledgeable audience. Instead, I will mention the prominent participants and circumstances in these three hearings, sometimes with my own summaries and sometimes quoting what I said in Nauvoo.

    Some who participated in Joseph’s hearings later became nationally prominent. The judge in his first extradition hearing was young Stephen A. Douglas, just appointed to the Illinois Supreme Court. Representing Joseph was Orville Browning, who later served as a US Senator and Attorney General of the United States. In his defense of Joseph, Browning told the judge about the sacrifices and horrors of the Later-day Saints’ expulsion from Missouri. He added this about Joseph:

    [A]nd shall this unfortunate man, whom their fury has seen proper to select for sacrifice, be driven into such a savage band, and none dare to enlist in the cause of justice? If there was no other voice under heaven ever to be heard in this cause, gladly would I stand alone, and proudly spend my latest breath in defense of an oppressed American citizen.[19]

    In a later extradition case Joseph was represented by the renowned Chicagoan, Justin Butterfield, then the highest-ranking lawyer in the state, as the US attorney for Illinois. His advocacy included this conclusion:

    I do not think the defendant ought under any circumstances to be delivered up to Missouri. It is a matter of history that he and his people have been murdered and driven from the state. He had better been sent to the gallows. He is an innocent and unoffending man.[20]

    Finally, I quote my conclusion to the conference audience in Nauvoo:

    Joseph Smith’s character was perhaps best summed up by men who knew him best and stood closest to him in church leadership. They adored him. Brigham Young declared, ‘I do not think that a man lives on the earth that knew [Joseph Smith] any better than I did; and I am bold to say that, Jesus Christ excepted, no better man ever lived or does live upon this earth.’ One does not need to agree with that superlative to conclude that the man whose legal contests will be dramatized tomorrow in Springfield was, indeed, a remarkable man, a great American, and one whom I and millions of our current countrymen honor as a prophet of God.[21]

    That statement also serves as my conclusion to this audience, as well as my testimony of the divine ministry of the Prophet Joseph Smith. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

    [1] Roberts, B.H., Comprehensive History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1930, 231-32.

    [2] Durham, G. Homer, “A Political Interpretation of Mormon History,” Pacific Historical Review, 13, 1944, 136, 140.

    [3] “The Suppression of the Nauvoo Expositor,” University of Utah Law Review, 9 (Winter, 1965), 862-903.

    [4] Oaks, Dallin H. and Hill, Marvin S., Carthage Conspiracy: The Trial of the Accused Assassins of Joseph Smith, 1975.

    [5] Lundwall, 1952.

    [6] Throughout our research and writing, Hill and I were surprised that historians had not preceded us in finding the original records and writing about this important event in Church history.

    [7] Oaks, Dallin H. and Bentley, Joseph I, “Joseph Smith and Legal Process: In the Wake of the Steamboat Nauvoo,” BYU Law Review, 1976, 735-82, shortened version reprinted in BYU Studies 19 (Winter 1979), 67-99.

    [8] I omit here Bentley’s significant expansions and clarifications resulting from his further impressive research, published in Journal of Mormon History in 2009.

    [9] The Worlds of Joseph Smith: A Bicentennial Conference at the Library of Congress, Edited by John W. Welch, 2006, 259-60; BYU Studies 44 (2005), 153-72.

    [10] The Worlds of Joseph Smith, 259-60.

    [11] The Worlds of Joseph Smith, 159.

    [12] Id., at 153-55.

    [13] The Worlds of Joseph Smith, 153, 157.

    [14] The Worlds of Joseph Smith, 27.

    [15] Millennial Star 8 (vol. 1, December 1840, 197; Joseph Smith letter to Edward Partridge and the Church, March 22, 1839, Revelations Collection, Church History Library.

    [16] Sermon on October 15, 1843, Joseph Smith history, 1838-1856 (volume E-1), July 1, 1843-April 30, 1844, 1754, Church History Library.

    [17] Sermon on October 15, 1843.

    [18] “Behind the Extraditions: Joseph Smith, the Man and the Prophet,” address at Historic Nauvoo Visitors’ Center, Nauvoo, Illinois, September 23, 2013; see https://newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org/article/-elder-oaks-joseph-smith-law-address.

    [19] “Behind the Extraditions,” 2.

    [20] “Behind the Extraditions,” 6.

    [21] “Behind the Extraditions,” 22.

    Additional Resources

  28. In your recent podcast, “General Con McNuggets – Part 4,” you talk about the opening of the YW theme. You pose that “Heavenly Mother” is only included by “implication” when it reads, “I am a beloved daughter with Heavenly Parents.” I don’t even think SHE is implied. That is to say, there is not ONE “She”. Therefore, the only reason “Heavenly Mother” is not named specifically is because that would imply singularity. Only ONE mother in the equation. As Heavenly Father is THE one father . Terming it “Heavenly Parents” therefore allows room for multiple mothers (as per the “not emphasized” doctrine).

    • I think you make a good point here, Emily. I can only imagine the kind of discussions that go around the room when the MEN are deciding exactly how to phrase these things and what the implications might mean if they go one way or the other. Thanks for listening!

  29. RFM,

    My wife and I recently left the church, and your podcast has been a saving grace. We love how deeply you elaborate on each point that you make, this has helped us to solidify our decision and find comfort in it. We are both returned missionaries, and we were talking the other day about preach my gospel, and how manipulative it teaches missionaries to be. I’m not sure if you have done a podcast on it or not, but we would love to hear your thoughts on it.

    Thanks,

    • Thanks for the supportive words, Mitch!

      Yes, the missionaries are trained to be manipulative. Which is to say they are trained in common sales techniques to get people to be baptized.

      What else can you say about a lesson plan that encourages missionaries to commit investigators to baptism as early as the first lesson, before they have any earthly idea what they are signing up for.

      Even though Elder Ballard recently said he had no idea where the missionaries got that idea . . .

      But really, investigators have little idea what they are signing up for even after they have heard all the lessons.

      Thanks for your suggestion!

      RFM

  30. Dear RFM: My wife and I greatly appreciate your podcast and the tremendous effort that it requires of you. I’m a retired law professor (and know several of your old professors at UT.) I thought I would like to offer an additional comment about the use of the Matthean material known as “the Sermon on the Mount” in the Book of Mormon.

    I think it is helpful to consider the provenance of the KJV and Book of Mormon materials side by side. The biblical material is almost universally agreed by scholars not to represent a single sermon by Jesus, but rather is drawn from a collection of “sayings” that were collected by some previous author from oral traditions and then adapted by the author of Matthew. We can make the following generalizations about this material:
    1. It was almost certainly not a single continuous sermon.
    2. It (or its components) would almost certainly have been originally delivered in Aramaic, since that was the common language of the residents of first century Palestine.
    3. It’s doubtful that there would have been any stenographic record of these sayings, and later compilations almost surely had to depend on the memories of those in the original audiences.
    4. The Aramaic material must have subsequently been translated into Greek (although we don’t know by whom), since that is the language in which the author of Matthew wrote. (There’s an argument that the author originally wrote in Hebrew, which was subsequently translated into Greek, but we have no Hebrew manuscripts which purport to be original.)
    5. The Matthean text was copied and recopied multiple times to produce the Greek manuscripts from which the KJV translators worked.
    6. The KJV translators, of course, rendered those Greek manscripts into English.

    By comparison, if we assume the historicity of the Book of Mormon:
    1. The original sermon would have been given in some form of Hebrew — A derivation of the Hebrew of the 6th century BCE, with extensive evolution over the centuries among the Nephites.
    2. It’s unclear whether any stenographic record was kept, or whether and to what extent the BofM record depended on oral transmission.
    3. The Nephite oral or stenographic record was presumably translated into “Reformed Egyptian” by the relevant Nephite recordkeepers.
    4, Joseph Smith rendered the Nephite “Reformed Egyptian” record into English.

    When one considers the completely different routes by which these two versions of the Sermon on the Mount come down to us, it it simply absurd to imagine that they would be virtually identical in their English versions. The vagaries of multiple copyings and translations would surely have produced English tests at considerable variance with one another. The conclusion is obvious: the Book of Mormon version is not a translation at all, but is simply a wholesale plagarism from the KJV. The high degree of correspondence (or “intertexuality”) between the KJV and BofM simply can’t be explained in any other way.

    • Thank you so much for your contribution to the discussion, Dale! Or should I say, Professor Whitman? ;^)

      You make excellent points. I try to be as gentle as I can in the language I use on the podcast, which may come as a surprise to some, but you are absolutely correct there is no reasonable or rational way to make the argument that the Sermon on the Mount just happens to be Jesus giving the same sermon to the Nephites as he gave in the Old World.

      On point after point, as you so ably illustrate, that dog won’t hunt.

      Thanks so much for listening!

      RFM

  31. Hello RFM, and greetings from Boston. I have been listening to your podcasts for a while and thoroughly enjoy them. So many realizations come to mind when you say enlighten us, so thank you for all you do. I get so mad when church apologists lie about information being readily available to everyone. There was no way for me to find sources that would have enlightened me, growing up. Thank you for shedding light on so many things. I had a thought about something apologists like to play up, namely the use if chiasmus in Joseph Smith’s writings. Smith was no dummy. I wonder if he could instinctively have adapted a writing style that sounded like earlier texts. Same goes for artists and musicians. Composers still embrace a lot of old techniques in their compositions, and I wonder how many of them are created subconsciously. I am a musician, hence my musical example. A lot of baroque techniques, for example, appear in Robert Schumann’s music. I think that, after having studied baroque music for a long time, several elements become part of your being, and begin to appear naturally. Rather than Smith artificially creating chiasmus, it could be quite possible that it had become natural instinct. Alas, that’s all I wanted to share and perhaps get your thoughts on. I assume you keep plenty busy 🙂

    • Thanks for your comment, Robert. I appreciate your insight.

      Yes, it is definitely possible that Joseph Smith picked up on literary forms from his reading of the Bible.

      Anything is possible. And I always have to avoid judging others by what I can and can’t do.

      All I know is I don’t think I would ever have come up with chiasmus on my own without having been introduced to it by other scholars.

      So if I were Joseph Smith, I would say no way in a million years would I have come up with that on my own.

      But I am not Joseph Smith.

      And hence I have to say it is possible.

      I love some classical music myself. Not lots and lots. But some of the more famous works by the more famous composers.

      You know. Bargain basement classical music.

      That’s where you’ll find me!

      I play some every Sunday morning while I am busy not going to church.

      Thanks for listening!

      RFM

  32. Howdy RFM–

    I’ve been a devoted listener for some time now. I love your insight, knowledge and unique perspective on all things Mormon.

    I was a convert at a young age (my parents joined when I was 4) and was a die-hard, black-and-white-thinking member my entire life, but my shelf broke a few years ago, and even so, thinking outside the automatic Mormon box now is sometimes still a struggle.

    That’s why I love your podcast–you help me make sense of things that were once so concrete in my mind, then turned to Jello when my world upended.

    I also love your movie/tv references and your closing music. So inspired! You’re brilliant!

    Thank you SO MUCH for preparing a daily podcast during this national disaster. You have kept many of us sane (well, less nuts anyway), and I realize this is a huge sacrifice on your part in time and effort. It doesn’t go unnoticed or unappreciated.

    Thank you again, and blessings on your head, Mazel Tov, Mazel Tov,
    Ellis

    • Thanks so much, Leah!

      Glad you are enjoying the show!

      And thank you for your very kind words.

      I always have trouble arguing with somebody who calls me brilliant.

      I consider it a personal failing.

      ;^)

      RFM

  33. Dear RFM,
    I remember how I first found you. It was September of last year. For the past summer I had been lost and confused. I didn’t really understand what this was all coming to. There was just a general sense of unease that had bubbled up under the surface for me. I had learned about polygamy from my seminary teacher in April or May of that year. I remember reading over that section of the Doctrine and Covenants and asking myself, “How could God have let his chosen men become so bankrupt?” I remember feeling something else. I remember feeling a sense of anger. I was angry that the church refused to own up to Joseph’s mistakes and they kept throwing the women he married under the bus. It was a difficult feeling to let myself experience. I had never felt it before at the church and it felt wrong in a way. I was cautious in letting myself feel it. It had to be restrained because I wasn’t allowed to get mad at the leaders of the church. They were apostles of God after all.
    Then I remember Oaks coming to speak at a temple devotional in May. I was interested in what would be said. But I was also slightly cynical. However my eyes widened as I listened in horror while he railed against the outside world and its morality. He talked about how things were getting worse for people. Then he complained about the “prevalence of gay and lesbian lifestyles.” I couldn’t believe that an authority of God was saying such things at a temple devotional. At that time I knew I had to get out of the room. I got up and couldn’t stop muttering to myself in shock and disbelief. I knew that the leaders were homophobic but there was just something different about being so up close and personal to such a thing. “Why would he say these things?”
    Over the summer I was pretty intensely questioning the idea of God. I also found myself bothered by the culture of restriction that the church pressed onto its members. I didn’t want to get married young, which is something that church leaders want you to do. But so much of this was under the surface and hard for me to see. These were more feelings rather than conscious thoughts. I knew something was wrong but I didn’t know what it was. It was like being on a train that was accelerating imperceptibly. I didn’t realize that I was going anywhere because the change in velocity was so subtle.
    Then I remember going back to school after the summer. I saw an episode on one of my favorite podcasts about Joseph Smith and the Mormon church. I wasn’t sure if I should listen to it. It was “anti-mormon” after all. But the train was going too fast already. Too much momentum had been built up. I began listening to it. And I was shocked as I listened to them expose so much about Joseph Smith. There were so many things I didn’t know about. I didn’t know he was a treasure digger. I didn’t know about the heartbreaking ways he treated Emma. I didn’t know about his dishonesty. There were so many things that I just didn’t know about. The train had crashed. What now?
    At this point my faith was tenuous at best. I remember that I googled, “I don’t want to be Mormon anymore.” I was confused and angry. I found the exmormon subreddit and after browsing through it I found a reference to your podcast. In a way I felt like Neo in the Matrix. I knew something was wrong. I just didn’t know what. It felt like I was standing on the edge of the ledge in the beginning of the movie and was too afraid to climb down. But you were like Morpheus.
    You had reached out to me from outside of the Matrix and put a comforting hand on my shoulder as I stood half in and half out. I still was not completely sure what this all was going to lead to but I had ripped down some of the veil that surrounded me and you had given me a hand to clasp onto. I listened to your episode called “The Prophet who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.” This episode was when it all completely came crashing down. I remember when you criticized Nelson, I alternated between flinching in fear to cackling maniacally as I realized how dishonestly he had tried to defend the November policy and its rollback. I was instinctively afraid of the bullets he had shot at me but you taught me that there was no need for fear. You taught me that “there was no spoon” (a reference to the Matrix). I realized that the bullets were in my mind. There was no reason to be afraid of criticizing Nelson. He was just like the rest of us. I smiled in relief as my entire worldview came tumbling down. You pulled me out of a hall of mirrors and illusions. You woke me up from a dream. Yes, that’s it, I was dreaming. I didn’t realize it at the time but it was . I was caught up in a dream so real that I was “unable to wake from that dream.”
    For the next week, every other thought was about the church. I remember that this was a roller coaster of emotions. I went from seething anger to tranquil peace. I went from the depths of despair to absolute depression. God was gone. Everything I had thought was gone. I felt betrayed by my community. I felt separated from them. I could talk to very few about this. I felt constrained as I attended seminary and priesthood and Sunday School lessons. I felt like I was trapped in an invisible cage and it felt as if I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t talk about any of these things openly.
    But at the end of the day you were always there. You were a true friend throughout all of this even though you don’t know that I exist. I feel like I know you so well that you should at least know a little about me and my journey.
    Now I have been telling everyone about my true belief and I no longer feel constrained. I can fly. But this flight comes at a cost. I can no longer go to Sunday School or priesthood. The church is not built for me. My bishop has been kind enough to create an extracurricular study group in which I can participate in and be open about my true beliefs. However, normal worship services are essentially closed to me unless I keep my mouth shut and don’t talk openly about what I believe. I can’t do that anymore. I have been a good Mormon for the past nine years. I’ve served in leadership positions in all of my quorums. I’ve given talks. I’ve been the first to get an Eagle Scout in my ward in 10 years. But despite all this I am not allowed to be open about my true beliefs in worship services. This is the tragedy of the church.
    But you have always been there and you will be here hopefully for years to come. I appreciate all the work you’ve done. I hope that I can be a friend to you as you’ve been a friend to me through these dark times. Thank you for helping me escape gravitational fields.
    Sincerely,
    Josephine

    P.S. I’m trans so some of the activities I’ve described doing in the Mormon church, such as getting an Eagle Scout or participating in Priesthood sessions don’t match up with my gender. Just hope that explains the apparent inconsistencies.

    • Dear Josephine,

      Just read through your entire message. Thanks so much for writing me and sharing your story with me!

      I have printed it out and hope to read it during one my podcasts this week.

      I wouldn’t want to do that without your permission, though.

      Could you go to my Facebook page and send me a PM and let me know?

      Or you could reply to this message here.

      Whichever you prefer.

      Thank you again so much for letting me know what has been going on with you!

      Isn’t it wonderful to be able to fly!

      I mean, after you have been told your whole life in the church that you were flying when actually you were chained in a cage?

      RFM

      • Absolutely! I’d love it if you were to share it on your podcast!

        It is great to be able to fly.

        By the way, and this is a tangent, if you haven’t listened to Mahler’s 2nd symphony I think you should. A lot of the knowledge I got about the movements come from these two sources: https://stickynotespodcast.libsyn.com/mahler-symphony-no-2-part-1 and https://www.modestosymphony.org/mahler-symphony-no-2-program-notes

        It’s called his “Resurrection” symphony It’s such a great song and I think it represents a faith crisis so well. Mahler says that the second symphony is for the “hero of my First Symphony, whom I bear to the grave and whose life I can see reflected in a pure mirror…” I’m sure we can all relate to being the hero. We all were good Mormons once.

        Mahler says this of his first movement: “We stand by the coffin of a well-loved person. His life, struggles, passions and aspirations once more, for the last time, pass before our mind’s eye. And now in this moment of gravity and emotion which convulses our deepest being…our heart is gripped by a dreadfully serious voice… What now? What is this life – and this death? Do we have an existence beyond it? Is all this only a confused dream, or do life and this death have a meaning?”

        This movement is so full of rage and tension but also desperation that just so perfectly represents what it feels like to lose your faith. It’s almost schizophrenic in the ways that it switches back and forth between desperation, tranquility, and rage.

        The second movement is supposed to be you looking back at memories of your life. It’s a very melancholy look back at your memories. I can relate to this so much as I look back at the memories I’ve formed with my congregation but I also know that those are in the past.

        The other parts are also very interesting but I don’t think you want to keep listening to me rambling about music and you should interpret them the way you feel is right for you. The final movement is when you are supposed to be resurrected. I’m sure we all will come to the point where we have fully recovered from the devastation of a faith crisis.

        Here are some of my favorite lyrics from the last movement:
        O believe:
        You were not born in vain!
        You have not lived, suffered in vain!
        What came into being, it must cease to be!
        What passed away, it must rise again!
        Stop trembling!
        Prepare yourself to live!

        Oh grief! You all-penetrator!
        I am forced to you
        O death! You all-conqueror!
        Now you are defeated!
        With wings that I won for myself
        In fervent pursuit of love
        I will waft away
        To the light that no eye has penetrated
        I shall die in order to live.

        I would highly recommend listening to the symphony. Here’s a link to the best version in my opinion: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0-_CdYvJ6t4

        The song really is a spiritual experience.

        Also I posted my letter here on Reddit. I thought you might like to just read some of the responses to it. A lot of people love the work you’re doing:
        https://www.reddit.com/r/mormon/comments/gmi2x2/a_letter_i_wrote_to_radio_free_mormon/

        • Thanks for your permission, Josephine!

          (And for your suggestion about Mahler’s second!)

          Just wanted you to know the podcast just went up!

          And I dedicate the outro song to you!

          Thanks so much!

          RFM

          • Thank you so much! I really did enjoy the outro song. I also felt like I could relate to that poem so much. I’m going to save this episode forever. I’ll probably replay it a few hundred times in the next week. I’ve sent it to some of my friends to listen to as well.

            You gave me the wonderful opportunity of trying out a new name. I think I like it. Especially when you say it. But we’ll see. You’re a great friend. I hope that sometime I can meet you in person.

            P.S. And the first thirty seconds of the 5th movement of that symphony really do feel as if you’re meeting God. Here is a link to that movement if you don’t want to listen to the whole symphony: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5eozfct_AwA

            😉 I know I’m obsessed with it.

          • So glad you liked the episode, Josephine!

            As you know, Mormonism is all about new names! ;^)

            All the Best!

            RFM

  34. RFM, I’ve been listening to your podcast for the past few months and love your research, thought, and wit in presenting helpful information. Can’t continue to be blessed by your podcast without supporting it thus, I just became a monthly donor. I Was active LDS for 60 years before truly being born again. I’m actually re-reading the Book of Mormon again and finding the same indicators of salvation as you presented in your most recent podcast “Born Again Book of Mormon.” I don’t know if you would be willing to share the paper you wrote and read in this podcast. If not I understand. If so, I’d love a copy of it. Thank you, so much and God Bless you! Danny Larsen

    • Hi, Danny!

      So glad you liked today’s podcast.

      It is definitely a lot of information boiled down into a thirty-minute episode!

      Thanks so much for your support, too!

      If you would PM me at my Radio Free Mormon Facebook page, I can probably get you a copy of that paper . . .

      Thanks for listening!

      RFM

  35. Subject: “On Bullshit”

    Thank you for all the time you have spent to release a new episode each day during the pandemic. I used to look forward to my Monday commute so that I could listen to your new episode of the week. For the last nine weeks I had that feeling every day! As someone who has been transitioning out of orthodox Mormonism and into the uncharted territory of a mixed-faith marriage and raising four kids in a home packed with nuance your straight-forward, fun, optimistic outlook on heavy topics is exactly what I need.

    Now, onto the purpose of this email – as a member of the Bar, I thought it would be useful to read a manual on what I do everyday, so I found a short book titled “On Bullshit” by Harry G. Frankfurt, a renowned philosophy from Princeton. This book is actually a useful primer for anyone trying to understand the difference between complete honesty, nuance, persuasion, and bullshit. In the book, Frankfurt provides one definition of bullshit with etymological roots from the word “humbug”, defined as, “deceptive misrepresentation, short of lying, especially by pretentious word or deed, of somebody’s own thoughts, feelings, or attitudes.”

    This definition is probably the most succinct descriptor of Joseph Smith’s ministry, LDS Church history, Church teachings, and Church policies that I have ever read. It is a useful prism in which to view almost any controversial issue in the Church. In recent episodes you have dispelled the prevarications that are so ubiquitous in the Church whether it be the Adam-God theory, grace in the Book of Mormon, the amorphous “revelation” concepts, Elder Ballard’s description of the Joseph Smith story, etc. etc.

    In each of these instances, and in myriad more, I’ve realized that the Church has absolutely mastered the art of bullshitting. And you have mastered the art of calling them on it. That is why the clarity you provide is a lifeline for so many who are drowning in bullshit and don’t even know it.

    Please keep up the good work!

    Much love,

    John

  36. RFM,
    I am unable to find your podcast “Death March” wondering if you can help me out. Thanks for all your awesome words of wisdom keep up your great work.

  37. RFM Choro.

    You and I have been to a few meetings together as missionaries. While I don’t remember anything specific about the meetings, or anyone there, including you, I entered the MTC one month after you did and lived in the same building. We most likely went to the same sacrament meetings a couple times and the big ones, the Tokyo Temple dedication and the area conference in the Budokan in October of 1980.

    I just want to say that your podcasts regarding Christmas were two of the earliest ones that I listened to and I remember watching the movies at the MTC that you referred to. I’ve been a fan of your podcast since then.

    I and my darling wife have been out of the church since January of 2011 and officially off the rolls since soon after the famous “Revelation”-turned-reversed-policy of November 2015 when the church attempted to punish Gay parents through their children.

    I’ve wanted to say hello for a few weeks, but finally decided I had to after hearing your recent podcasts, “The Illusion of Free Agency”. Your pun, Jesus of Gnaturus made me laugh, but mostly I wanted to let you know that I find myself thinking in similar ways to your off-the-wall theory about the gnat being a gnat savior that died and was resurrected. I would add that the resurrection occurred after 90 seconds; 30 seconds of gnat time is equal to 1 day of human time.

    Anyway, keep up the good work and thank you for your efforts.

    Brent Hale
    Layton, UT

  38. Jesus of Gnatzareth is what I meant to type. I must have been drunk at the time.

  39. Dear RFM,

    Thank you for what you do. I started to have questions about tithing about 2 years ago, found a way to make peace with those questions and shelved them. about 6 months ago my brother started asking me about those questions I had and we started reading stuff and sharing between ourselves. After reading the CES letter and a bunch of other stuff I happened upon your podcast and have now binged almost all of your content and I really appreciate the informed and intelligent fact driven content you put together. my brother, wife and I now listen to your podcasts and discuss them on a weekly and daily basis. I after learning what you share and my own reading and research i’ve determined to remove my name from the church. I just can’t support men that lie to their lessers. as Simon Sinek puts it, the leaders are the Alphas and we are the Betas, and they aren’t doing their job in the social contract, if your interested, check out his discourse about “Why Leaders Eat Last”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ReRcHdeUG9Y

    Thanks again and keep it up, I’ll try to do my part to help you continue “broadcasting behind enemy lines”.

    Regards,

    Will Cherry

    PS. I tried to create a login for your site, i guess i figured i needed to create one to post comments but the reCAPTCHA for your site isn’t working. in any case, Thanks again for all you do to shine a light in the darkness.

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