"I dusted off my scriptures and let them fall open on a whim of 1% hope and 99% cynicism. My eyes were drawn to 14 words - no more no less - and they were "Ye have not applied your hearts to understanding; therefore, ye have not been wise." Which stunned me and struck me very powerfully. I pondered on that and let that work itself through me. That softened me and opened the door to saying, OK I will go to my family's ward."

‎Come Back Podcast on Apple Podcasts
‎Religion & Spirituality · 2023
Come Back Podcast
Sharing stories of coming back to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. If you have a story of coming back, email me at ashly.comebackpodcast@gmail.com.




I'm so excited to have you on the podcast.  I think that your story – just from the little that I know about it –is one that people really resonate with.  I think a lot of people are struggling with similar things, and so to have somebody's experience of coming back from that is really, really important.  And it's kind of a guiding light for a lot of people in these situations.  I'm so happy that we were able to get in touch.  And we'd love to just start from the beginning and you’re your story.




Okay, well, I'm a little bit older than some of your other guests, -- I guess I'm in a similar age to Leo and the other guys.  20s and 30s is, I think, a more common age to be struggling with this right now.  Anyway, let me step all the way back. 


So, I grew up in a very faithful home:  both parents engaged and totally committed to the gospel, and they raised eight kids.  I think a lot of us are tripped up and struggle and leave for some of the same reasons.  So, the departure is very common, it can be a very common story, but the return can be very unique.  And that's why I think what you're doing is really good, because to share the stories of how and why people are coming back, I think is important and will be helpful to people. 


I grew up in a very gospel-focused family, both my parents were converts as teenagers.  But we were all born in the Church and very good parents.  To this day, I have no complaints.  My dad in particular, was a priesthood leader.  And he worked for the Church Educational System, CES.  Seminaries and Institutes.  And, as a result, he was very educated.  I mean, he studied church history in scripture, history, and ancient religions, and so forth.  So, we got a lot of that in our upbringing, a lot of scripture-based learning, which was good. 


Anyway, so I pursued the typical route that you've heard a million times. I went to college and went on a mission, served an honorable mission, as they say. Went to Italy, wasn't perfect, but did the best I could.  Came back, went to BYU.  In my studies, I was very focused on the quantitative type stuff, very measurable, true or false, kind of things.  Numbers and facts and statistics, and so forth.  So that became a focus and how I tried to deliberately train my brain to focus and approach things that way. 


And then I remember very clearly at about age 26/27, reading a book by some local guy, but at this point, my wife and I at the time lived in Utah County.  And I think it was called “Mormon Polygamy”.  And I just picked it up and read it.  And I remember being exposed for the first time, to what were said to be some facts around Joseph Smith and polygamy.  And I remember being just absolutely stunned, like a kick to the chest.  Almost losing my breath.  Everything I had ever believed in and built my life around was challenged in that moment.  Because it just seemed impossible that a supposed prophet of God would behave as alleged in the book, right? 


So, that triggered my appetite and interest, I had to get some kind of resolution.  And this was in the mid-90s, and so we didn't have access to the internet like we do today.  But we had a thing called public libraries.  And so, I was working full-time, but I would literally spend hours and hours every weekend, sometimes evenings at the library, first at my closest library, and then up and down the Wasatch Front, looking for more materials, and I just consumed it at a high rate. 


And then, I can't say exactly when, but it's very strange and very hard, I believe, to maintain an objective point of view, like a really honest truth pursuit.  And we all tell ourselves we are.  But I think it's very hard, because we have so much invested one way or another.  But at some point, it turned to -- instead of trying like I'd been trained to do to see all the evidence -- , it became just the opposite. 


And like so many people, I was still going through the motions early on.  So, I remember going to church and going to Sunday school, and literally taking notes down about why I didn't believe and why this was ridiculous, and why that was ridiculous.  But sitting in church and doing precisely the opposite of what I had done before that, I think that's an important point:  how difficult it is to find good sources and to maintain an honest, sincere perspective.  We're all emotional beings.  And we're affected.  And like I said, I was really affected by my first encounter.  That was a very significant moment, a turning point, even though I can't remember exactly when that was. 


But through this, and this is an important part of my story, I had decided that I had to approach things very rationally, logically, and almost quantitatively where things had to add up.  And if they didn't add up in my brain, then it wasn't good enough.  It wasn't going to survive.  It was strictly an intellectual pursuit.  And it failed.  In my view, everything I had been taught, just fell apart.  And I've described it this way:  it's like this edifice or fortress I built, I took apart, brick by brick by brick by brick. 


And I remember, again, still going through the motions, sitting in, for example, sacrament meeting, looking around at the congregation, and thinking, “wow, I can't believe people still believe this.  You know what it is?  I think I know something.  This is it.  I know something these people don't know.  I just know too much.”  That was kind of my thinking.  “I know too much to continue to believe in this.”  That’s an important point, and I think I'll get back to that in a bit.  But these people, clearly, they're either not that bright, or there's just things they don't know.  Otherwise, it's just not possible to continue.


So, I completely lost all faith and all belief.  And as you hear very often too, you pull that thread, that strand, and it further unravels everything.  To the point where you don't believe in God.  I did not believe in God, I was 99% sure that everything was bogus, everything spiritual, everything religious I’d been taught, along with every other religion, was just as wacky to me.  Because, again, it had failed my rigorous, intellectual examination, which I came to find is a very silly way to approach things. 


Now, throughout this time, remember, I mentioned my dad was a Seminaries and Institute guy and a very well-researched scriptorian.  And so, not right away, but within a year or so, I was very honest with him, and told him where I was.  And I was the only one –I'm in the middle of the eight kids – I was the only one to leave.  And I never took my names off the records.  I didn't see the need; it's kind of a social thing; and I'd like to continue to see my family.  And that was important.  We still had a very good relationship through all that.  And there are lessons to be learned from that, in my view. 


Throughout all this, I would speak regularly to my dad who lived in California.  At least probably weekly phone calls.  And I would pose questions to him, and there was no better source to get answers, if you really wanted answers.  But again, I think I wasn't really looking for answers.  I was looking to knock down anything that could tell me I was on the wrong path.  But I remember saying to him some important phrases, some important words.  And he had this hope and faith that one day I'd come around, but I thought that was totally condescending.  That part bothered me.  I remember telling him “Dad, there's just too much contradictory evidence.  There's just a mountain of evidence between me and every scene through this mountain, let alone getting around it or ever getting through it to come back to sort of faith and particularly the temple.  Not in a billion years would I think I'd ever go back to the temple again.”  I just said “it's impossible.  The mountain of garbage that I can't get through.  It's just impossible.” 


Well, through this, as a parent would, he did the best he could, but he told me several times, “if you continue on this path, you are going to lose everything.”  And I hated that.  That really bothered me because it kind of rattled around in my head.  I hated to hear that, it really was irritating and again condescending.  It's like “Why? I see countless people who live secular lives and do their own thing.  And they do just fine.”  But his position was “No, where much is given, much is required, and you're gonna lose everything.” 


Long story short, the Book of Mormon tells us a lot of people come to humility on their own.  Others have to be forced there.  I was one of the latter, and he was exactly right.  My life, my small family – I had three kids – I was doing well professionally.  It all absolutely collapsed.  I lost my family through divorce.  Financially, I was devastated.  And this went on for some period.  And at that point, I was living – by force – around my family in the same town.  They happened to be in the same geographic ward as my dad who was a bishop at the time.  So, he was technically my bishop.




Quick question for you.  What was your now-ex-wife, what was her thought?  This whole time you're going through this, was she on the same train as you?  What was that like?



She was not especially engaged.  She kind of followed my lead in it.  She didn't have the same kind of hang ups I did, intellectually.  I'm sure she was weakened by me, in whatever way I had strengthened her prior to that in the first years, I unraveled all that and undermined all of that.  And to this day, this is years, a couple decades later, she's still not part of the Church.  So, she kind of followed me up and down. 



Got it.  Okay, so, you move back into your dad's ward.



So, life was very hard, and the grind-iest, most torturous period of my life to that point.  Living with my kids, but then alone, and just having an awful time of it.  But again, close to my family, which in retrospect, was a huge blessing. 


And I remember being asked, “Do you want a priesthood blessing?”  But at some point, I had to move, and I came across my old scriptures, a quadruple, I think it was a four-in-one.  And they were scriptures I hadn't touched in years.  So, kind of dusted them off, so to speak.  And I said, on a whim, you know, 1% hope, 99% cynicism, just, “why not?”  I plopped them open and I read 14 words, my eyes were drawn to 14 words, no more, no less.  And they were, “you have not applied your hearts to understanding, therefore you have not been wise.” Which stung me, struck me very powerfully.  But I left it at that.  And I just pondered on that and let that kind of work itself through me.  “You have not applied your heart to understanding.”  No, I've applied my brain to understanding.  Things have to stack up, they have to add up.  “You have not applied your heart to understanding, therefore you have not been wise.”  Well, I knew I hadn't been wise, because you don’t end up in those situations unless you've been unwise. 


I let that kind of work on me for a bit.  It did soften me a little bit.  I think that just opened the door, just a half inch of daylight.  So, I say, “I'm gonna go to church.  It's my dad's ward, it's my family's ward, my parents' ward.”  And the night before Saturday night, trying to fall asleep, I had this feeling, “faith precedes the miracle.”  And in so many ways, I was looking for what would amount to a miracle.  Getting some kind of rescue financially too, because I was sitting still, at that point, I had effectively lost my employment and was just spending down savings.  It was very stressful. 


And as I tried to go to sleep that night, I thought of that “faith precedes a miracle” and then a thought came to me, “you have to pay tithing.”  I was like, “no, not yet.  I don't know.”  Then again, “You have to pay tithing.”  And I kind of wrestled with that, and I couldn't go to sleep, and I said “okay, okay.  Well, when I get another job, I'm going to pay tithing.  Okay, so when I earn some money, I'm going to pay tithing.”  I satisfied myself without that and tried to go back to sleep.  And I couldn't. “No.  Faith precedes the miracle.” and the thought came to me, “one comes before the other. You have to pay tithing before.  You have to pay tithing before you receive blessings.”  And I thought “I can't.  I have a finite amount of savings.  I'm burning through it every day.  That's the most painful thing I can think of.”  But the thought wouldn’t leave me alone. 


So, I determined seriously in frustration, “All right, I'm going to write a check.  I'm going to hand it to the bishop, my dad, tomorrow.”  A further thought came to me, “you need to think about the new position (I was in finance and tech a little bit) and what kind of job do you want?  How much is it going to pay?”  And so, I said, “it's going to pay this amount.  And so, my monthly tithing will be this amount.”  And so, I wrote a check for that amount, the monthly tithing calculation, and I gave it to my bishop, and I'd been trying for four months to find a new job because the tech bubble had just popped. 


Well, long story short, the following is all true.  That Monday, I got a call from someplace I'd forgotten about, a tech company in Seattle, that asked me if I could fly out the next day for an interview.  And great, I hadn't heard any positive responses, so I went back up, did the series of interviews, came back down.  And by Wednesday, I had an offer for the new job at exactly the amount of salary that I had calculated that would necessitate that tiny amount. 


And I was very much humbled at that time.  And I'm sure I was cheerful.  And it was somewhat of a step up for me too, even from my past.  And I was just overwhelmed.  And then they told me there would be a signing bonus, and some other things I didn't expect.  And then I got a call that Friday, it was an administrator from the new company, and they said, “where do we send the wire?”  I said, “What wire?”  “Well, in addition to the signing bonus, we just pay you a fixed amount of move bonus too.  It's going to come again.”  I was surprised and kind of overwhelmed.  And the scripture came to me that the windows of heaven would open and it would be more than you can receive, or at least more than you expected for sure.  And that definitely was the case. 


Now, obviously, there's a lot more to the story, a lot more details.  But this was a period that kind of tenderized me.  It had been years.  I had been away intellectually for sure, and spiritually a non-believer, for six years at least, maybe seven. 


And so, this period continues, and I put one baby step in front of the other.  And so often you end up taking steps more quickly than you want to, or bigger leaps than you want to.  But after a year or two, this is where my conversations with my dad come in, the scriptures have far more meaning than we could possibly imagine.  That's always the case.  But also, we can be taught so much from them.  I read in the New Testament in Matthew, like I had so many times before, a scripture of Jesus himself speaking. 


But before I share that, I failed to kind of characterize how I think I grew up in those days in the 70s and 80s and stuff.  We had a superhuman view, about what a prophet is.  Very immature, even as a young adult, almost like a comic book hero.  They can leap a building in a single bound, faster than a speeding bullet, those sorts of things.  And that's why it was so devastating to see that Joseph Smith was just a human.  But I'd always heard the notion “even if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can move mountains.”  That's the word:  move.  Move mountains.  But at the time, whenever that came, I thought “wow, that's kind of cool.  That's like faster than a speeding bullet.  I can move them out and show the world.”  But it occurred to me, “Why in the world would you need to move a mountain?”  Again, this is in the arena of superheroes. 


Well, the scripture that I read, apparently for the first time or somebody had changed, was Matthew 17:20, and I'm going to read it to you real quick, if that's okay.  It's Jesus speaking about that mustard seed.  And unlike what I thought it had said, this is Matthew 17:20, It says, “And Jesus said unto them, ... verily I say unto you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you shall say unto this mountain remove hence to yonder place and it shall remove, and nothing shall be impossible unto you.”  And again, my plea or my claim to my dad was “there is a mountain between me and ever believing again.  It’s impossible.  That's impossible.”  But Jesus said, “You will remove, and it will be possible, everything will be possible.”  And so, I asked today, “why in the world would you ever need to remove a mountain?”  And I know why.  I'm one person who knows why that scripture is super meaningful.  I don't know why it says in the Topical Guide, it says move.  But that was significant to me and was very meaningful, obviously, for those reasons, because all my conversations with my dad and my family were very sharp and vivid in my memory.  So, that was a big deal. 


I came to some conclusions that I think are helpful.  And, like you, I've tried to be open and talk to people, and especially younger people, my kids’ generation, my nieces and nephews.  There are a lot of them, and a lot of them have struggles like this.  And so, if you don't mind, I'll share a couple of observations.



I would love that.  Please do.




Imagine for a second you encounter, or you hear of a music expert, and he knows everything there is to know about Mozart.  He knows Mozart like nobody else on the planet.  He knows everything about his personal history, about him as a human being, about his intellect, about his musical style, everything about his music, how it came to him, how he composed it, how he expressed it on paper.  He knows how many measures, how many notes, everything there is to know about Mozart, he is the expert.  He spent his life in that pursuit.  He knows all there is to know.  And then you ask him, “Okay, listening to Mozart, what's your favorite symphony?”  And you come to find out he's never listened to a single note, he's never listened to Mozart, never heard it, never experienced.  What would you think of this expert?  Does he really know Mozart?  Of course not.  He doesn't know Mozart.


In my pursuit and really trying to get to the truth of things spiritual and eternal and transcendent, I had taken the same route as this hypothetical Mozart expert.  I knew everything there was to know, but I knew absolutely nothing. 


And that's where that kind of pursuit took me: to an absolute dead end that disconnects you from all the good stuff, everything that's meaningful about the gospel.  It's a total contradiction.  It makes no sense. 


Another analogy I use, you talk to a guy with a metal detector, one of the old guys on the beach who goes through the sand looking for valuables.  And he comes back to you, and he tells you conclusively that there's no plastic under the sand.  You say, “well, okay, but you're using a metal detector.”  “Yeah, my metal detector is this brand, and it is so powerful.”  “Okay, but it's the wrong tool for your pursuit.”  It wouldn't be compelling.  So, that's how I feel so much now when I hear, and I engage with a lot of people who have a lot of knowledge they’ve accumulated about church history and doctrine and stuff.  Because I did too.  Yeah.  Yeah, you're right.  You're right, but it doesn't make you an expert. 


I think that's a really important reminder, at least for me and people like me, you have got to have the right tool for the right application.  And the old expression, “if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail” so you misuse the hammer.  You can't worry, this is not an arena where you can use that particular hammer.  And I think somebody in one of your other podcasts said the same thing.  Maybe it was the church historian, Dan. 


What I've told young people that I've talked to these days is “that's great, you know a lot, but your problem is still you don't know enough.  You know just enough to basically do yourself damage, but there's so much more to know.’  And I'm able to testify basically that I felt like I knew a whole bunch about Joseph Smith.  He was the focus and everything you've heard around it, the CES Letter, everything, that's all around what I covered in a different way, and I know far more hopefully just by passage of yours, right?  Far more than I did at 30.  Yet, somehow, someway, I have never been more convinced that Joseph Smith – for everything he was –was actually also a prophet.  He was, clearly to me, a prophet.  I've never been more convinced of it.  How is that possible?  I know today, far more of the details, not all of them pretty, you know?  So somehow, someway, you're on this journey.  There's more to know. 


Another observation, if I may.  Again, focused on prophets, and how that really hung me up.  That was just so brittle.  It was like my testimony was brittle like you ding a piece of glass and the whole thing shattered.  So that was my problem, I've come to a completely different conception of what a prophet is.  Again, I talked about this so naively, as kind of a superhero character.  Fortunately, with the passage of time, we get older, and we experience more, and we see things, and we realize that everybody is human.  Everybody's on their own mortal journey, scraping and scrapping and fighting just to survive in this mortal world spiritually and figure out inspiration, and overcome themselves and their natural man.  Maybe that's how prophets are too? 


And so again, logic doesn't have to be thrown out the window, you got to apply logic.  So, even look at it cynically, even say, “Joseph is making it all up.”  Okay.  What was the first thing the prophet introduced us to?  Go back to the first Book of Mormon chapters.  Lehi, supposedly a prophet, he gets this fantastical inspiration, that his family has to leave and go on this hard journey.  I joke often and identify with Laman and Lemuel because we forget how hard it was. These guys were leaving their inheritance.  “We gotta get up and go, and you guys, whatever you've anticipated your whole life?  Sorry.  We're going into the wilderness.”  “Okay, dad, this is such a good sacrifice, but we'll trudge along or pack all our stuff, we’ll go.”  I think like 100 miles on foot or whatever. 


And they get there.  And then dad, within a few days, says, “Hey, boys, you know, you got to go back because we need the scriptures.”  “Dad, why didn't you tell us?  Okay, this is really hard, but we're gonna do it.”  And it was a bumpy road, so to speak, going back and everything they went through with Nephi and being kind of humiliated by him, I think, on occasion, and doing that whole horrible thing, and then coming back, “oh, we survived.  Yeah, our dad’s a prophet.”  And then he has another realization, “Guess what?  We need you to go make that round trip again that's brutal.  You gotta have wives in the wilderness.”  I can imagine thinking, “You're a prophet.  You didn't see this from the beginning?  Prophets know stuff.  A prophet, dad, would have known when we left to go negotiate the plates, go talk to Ishmael, whatever you think we're going to have to have?  Why didn't you do this in the first place?  What kind of prophet doesn't have his ducks in a row and can't see these simple things?”  That's the question.  My answer is “a real one, a human one.  One that has his own struggles and had to talk his wife and to convince his wife and the other kids and get past his own desires, and stumble and really get to the core of what's inspiration.  Am I kidding myself?”  A real prophet, that's the answer.  A guy with all the flaws that we have who's trying to work out his own salvation. 


Anyway, that's a tiny example.  There's lots more about how I had to change my thinking.  I think we all should think of what a prophet is.  He's in this journey with us doing the best he can.  And like I said, I hated being condescended to by people patting me on the head saying, “we always knew you'd come around.”  Right?  So, that's an aversion I had.


Another example:  we expect prophets to know everything.  Sorry, they don't.  They know what, I think they're inspired and receive revelation on a need-to-know basis.  I think of attorneys and doctors.  And when you're a naïve, young kid, you think, “Oh, he's an attorney.  He knows everything there is to know about the law.”  If there's anybody to try that, go ask an attorney an obscure question about tax law or whatever, they will have no idea.  Why?  Because they don't need to know.  They know what they need to know.  Same thing with a doctor.  Typically, they specialize.  Go ask a doctor some obscure, unrelated question to what his narrow focus is.  The odds are, he'll have no idea. 


Similarly, President Nelson's call, he doesn't have to know everything about everything.  They have to know what they need to know.  And on top of that, they're human beings.  And like we see, from Joseph's very first presentation of what a prophet is, just like the rest of us, there's trial and error, there's zigging and zagging, there's doing the best they can and figuring it out. 


I’ve decided, I'm going to have faith, and I'm going to go with it.  I'm going to stick with the prophet.  I'm going to follow his lead.  You're far better off.  I am far better off to hitch myself to the prophet, once I know he's a prophet, and stick with him.  And not worry about the little details that we can quibble about.  And sometimes who knows, you might be right.  Like I said, I think they were right at times.  Who cares?  I also compare my relationship sometimes with the gospel, or at least the church, to a marriage, where a lot of your criticisms may very well be true.  But, so what?  Do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy?  Do you want to progress?  You want to have fulfillment?  You want to be saved?  You want to be exalted.  I try to reframe my thinking in that way.  Sure, there's gonna be things to complain about.  But just like in a marriage, whatever you focus on, is amplified.  As you know, it's magnified.  And we're all human beings on this mortal journey.  And so, it's so important where we place our focus. 


One more observation.  In my day, there was a sense of, “oh, that's anti-Mormon information, don't go there.”  Right?  You can't do that.  I think that may have had some merit to it back then because it was so hard to get information. In those days, it felt like you were kind of grabbing me by the back of the collar and pulling me back.  “Don't go there, go here.”  Instead of doing that, metaphorically, I would suggest putting our arm around them saying, “Okay, let's go look at that.  Let's go further.”  Don't just stop there and get tangled up in this.  Let's use this information.  We're trying to use information to get through.  But there's always more to know, there's always more to the story.  There's always more context, figuratively putting our arms on their shoulders and saying “yeah, that's troubling, or that's hard to figure out, let's do it together, let's push through.  There’s a mountain of good stuff, too.  Let's go.  Let's go through it.  And I encourage you to get more information, not less.”  And so much of what I see online and elsewhere, is that we're all just human, but you do get a certain sense of pride, of debate. 


Going back to my day, I didn't actively wage an anti-Mormon battle at all, because I really love my family.  That was huge.  And we maintain a great relationship through it.  And lessons from them too, there's some accounting for that.  But fortunately, today, I'm grateful I never had my name removed, my records.  I'm glad I didn't actively campaign against the Church, at least.  But I did in my heart, I did in my mind, I did on a small scale to those around me. 


Believe it or not, a person who's questioning needs more information, not the first stage.  But more information is actually super helpful.  And it's necessary, if you're in that place.  It is necessary.  And like I said earlier, I do admire people like my wife.  Today, for example, she has a beautiful faith.  It's not ignorant, it's not naive.  She's just smart enough, I think, not to worry about the small, dumb stuff, you know?  And that's not to minimize it.  Because for her, it's small, dumb stuff.  Right?  To maybe you and me and others, it's not.  When you're kicked in the solar plexus, like I said, well, that became important. 


Okay, so there's a balance to be had there too.  So, somebody back then when I was 26/27, and reeling from that had said, “well, that's not important.”  That wasn't gonna work for me.  We all pursue truth in our unique ways.  We’re made differently, and that has to be respected.  But I think for somebody who may be a little bit prideful – definitely I was prideful – who's thinking that they're just in possession of next level information, you can't dismiss it.  You can't say it's not important. 


I have another analogy that helps me as relates to this. 



You've got good analogies. 



Well, my wife, I'll be honest, she sometimes hates my analogies, especially if we ever argue, so we try not to argue. 


But there's a linguist kind-of-philosopher guy named Steven Pinker out there who in the secular world, brilliant Harvard guy.  And he talks about the acquisition of knowledge how, at some levels, it's actually counterproductive.  You hit dead ends because you don't go to the next level.  And he uses the example in grammar, and it is as follows:  I remember as like a 4th grader saying to a friend, “hey, you and me should go play after school, you and me.”  And your fourth grade English teacher would teach you, “No, say you and I, you and I”.  “Oh, okay.”  I don't know if that's fourth grade or fifth grade or whatever.  But you slowly start to learn it.  I'm going to get more sophisticated, my language, my grammar, so “you and I”, okay.  Well, for a lot of us, that's the end of the lesson.  Bang, you're there.  And this is what Steven Pinker talks about in one of his books.  I don't remember which.  But there's a next level beyond that.  And so, picture this, today, you'll hear people say, “yeah, just between you and I” because he says, “they remember that lesson.”  They remember that additional information.  And they even take a little bit of comfort and pride that they didn't foul it up and say it like I would have been fourth grade.  I said, “you and I”, because the truth is, it's actually “you and me. Just between you and me.”  Point is there's a next level.  And unfortunately, so many of us, I know I was at that level with respect to church history, and “I figured it out.  And you guys are wrong to say, ‘you and me’.”  There's a next level.  And unfortunately, so many of us for a time, stop at that level.  And I see that in play in people researching the Church: they just learned enough to say, “you and I.”  And that's right, I guess it's right.  It is right in a lot of instances, but it's not the whole story.  There's so much more to that. 


What compounds the problem is there's also a little bit of pride taken.  I said, “you and I because I learned, I haven't forgotten what I learned in school, you don't say you and me.”  That's kind of how I see it.  That's an analogy for me of how I see that there's more to it, we can push through it.  In truth, you don't see, don't cap yourself.  Don't put a lid on your knowledge because it can totally turn things around.  It really did for me.  But I enjoy learning.  Richard Bushman’s “Rough Stone Rolling” about Joseph Smith was a really good one for me, even as I was coming back.  And I know some people thought, “Oh, don't read this.  There's too much information” basically, is what they were thinking.  But it's totally different.  Once you think of them as you and me, when you think of Joseph and those around them, like all that imperfections strangely make me even more convinced of these Prophet given what he did with his flaws. 


Not only that, if God can accomplish so much through an individual like Joseph, -- and this is not to say all the charges against him are true.  Some of them are, lots aren't.  Lots of unfair criticism.  But I'm sure there's a lot of legit stuff, right?  I've come to realize, or I've concluded if God can accomplish so much through Joseph Smith, which is my testimony, and my faith.  Wow, I guess that means that opens the door for all of us.  That opens the door for me because I remember being really hamstrung and handicap like all of us in my sense of inadequacy and unworthiness as a teenage boy.  “I can't be inspired, I can't pray.  I'm not where I'm supposed to be.”  Of course, you're not, but it doesn't matter in the most important sense that God's still there, and God can still work miracles for you and through you, for others.  That's the lesson I take from all of his imperfections.  And it's super compelling to me.  It's super encouraging to me, and it's a cheerful message. 


So, in a strange, counterintuitive way, his imperfections reassure me, comfort me, and inspire me.  He was another Lehi or Moses or Abraham making mistakes along the way.  Can you believe it?  I can't.  What kind of prophet does this and that and the other?  What kind of prophet has to zig zag?  A real one, a mortal one.  So, that's been my message to, again, the young people I talk to.  Don't give up the pursuit.  Not all information is accurate and true and allow for that.  But there's good information out there that can be helpful.  And don't ever get to a place where you're so confident that you didn't need to know more.  That's where some of the most important information is, some of the most important revelations for you.  So, that's really a testimony without




I love it.  I think it reminds me of what Leo said in his episode, and he said, “If God can work miracles through somebody like me, Leo, or me, Ashley or me, whoever, He can work miracles through people like Joseph.”  I think that's so incredible, and that analogy with Mozart was so profound, that is such a great analogy.  I love that so much. 


So, what advice would you have for somebody that is in that place where you were where you had the 1% of hope when you opened your scriptures, and it's like 99.9% is, “hey, this is all baloney.”  What advice would you have for somebody in that situation?




I have come to find that being in motion, not sitting still, not closing doors, is the key to everything in life and those who struggle with like mental health and depression, the worst thing for you to do is to stop, is to say no, is to close in on yourself, to close doors to possibilities. 


That's the way, that's the only way, anything works, not just God reaching into your life, but any things coming to any happy experiences or opportunities in mental health and other things.  And inspiration.  You have to be in motion. 


And so, for me, I would encourage them, I'm sure you say this.  “We don't condemn.”  I mean, I don't condemn anybody no matter where they are on this.  To me, in fact, it's encouraging that people care.



It’s their journey.  It's a journey and it’s who they are, and it gives them their experiences.



Exactly.  It's why we're here.  And we've heard this said recently, I don't remember at some conference or what, but questions are critical.  That's how the church was restored through Joseph's questions, right? 


And I intimately understand the heartache, and the trauma, and the struggle, and the depression that that brings on.  I don't dismiss anybody where they are in questioning and feeling hurt. 


I get it, I absolutely get it.  But my encouragement to them is just leave a little crack open, never say never.  Of all the souls out there, I was truly approaching my mind and my arrogance, how magnanimous He is, to reach and when we're so undeserving.  I was not deserving.  I was very prideful, very ungrateful.  But I found a way to allow for that 1%. 


And you don't have to conquer it all in a day.  For me, it didn't change overnight.  There were some critical moments, as I explained, but I was willing to open myself that 1%, and then maybe 2%, and then maybe 3%, and so on.  Maybe God is operating in my life.  It was hard to believe, because I knew I wasn't worthy.  And I wasn't all those things that I thought you had to have sewn up when I was a kid. I thought I had to have that buttoned up and have all your ducks in a row before you approach God.  It's just wrong.  We know that's wrong.  I should have known that’s wrong.  Nobody told me that.  That's just how I interpreted it.  Allow for the possibility, anything like that.  Look for the good and things.  I was so tired, just as a human being, I was so tired of being a wet blanket.  The guy in the room who was a cynic, pessimistic, and even though I thought I was smart and got the upper hand, it still doesn't feel good, there's still kind of a yuck to it to, to having brought people down.




We interviewed Terrell Givens who wrote The Crucible of Doubt, and that's one of the things that he said.  One of the pieces of advice he had was, “look for the good.  Look for the beautiful things in the world, and focus on the positive and the good, amazing things out there and not so much focusing on the criticisms and the ‘what if this and what if that’ and assuming that people are out to dupe you.”  He obviously said it a lot more eloquently than I am right now, but it was so profound, and so that's kind of what I hear you saying is focus on the beautiful thing.



Again, it's kind of like a marriage.  Being right so often, sometimes it's counterproductive, right?  It's not as important.  Again, when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.  I had trained my brain to look and use the scientific approach.  That's misguided in that arena for happiness.


Kind of related to this is to look for the good in people and savor the good and people around you.  And as I said before, I believe that my family, especially my parents, and all my siblings, served as a kind of a safety net or a firewall for me.  Because so many people end up thinking, “boo, there's malicious intent, or there's fraud.”  I knew firsthand, I knew from these people, and as a missionary, I had an opportunity to spend time with General Authorities and others.  They were authentic people.  Say what you will, during my six years, I just thought they were misguided, or something went wrong, and maybe silly and naive in places.  But I knew their hearts were good.  And that really came out of my family because they were just as good to me, if not better, than ever, when I hurt them the most.  Right? 


And so, look for that.  Don't be so easily convinced that there's malice.  So often there's not.  And so again, my family served as the prime example.  And that's why I never took my name off records to the jury, and never wanted to hurt them publicly.  Because I knew they're practicing their faith and their most authentic belief.  I knew that was real.  I’m grateful I never doubted that.  If I did doubt that I understand where that would take me, where that would take you to real animosity, and a real campaign to set the record straight, to bring justice or whatever.  And I'm grateful for that. 


So, if you can find a way to see the good in the faith.  And some people did.  A lot of people try that, I think.  I see that too.  As you I'm sure you do.  They try.  They just think they're silly and fooled.  That's better than thinking they're out to deceive you.  I don't believe that for a minute.




Yeah.  And that kind of leads me to my next question, which is, “is there anything that your dad did that helped you leave that door open for you to come back?  Or is there anything that, as family members, we can do to either leave the door open or just not encourage the door to shut?



It's so important to have patience.  Everybody knows that.  But with respect to those that we love, who are questioning and leaving.  My mom who I haven't talked enough about, she's amazing.  They had just amazing patience, and kindness, and were gentle about it, and accepting.  As much as it hurt.  It's so hard to be kind and gentle when you're hurt, isn't it?  I mean, we all behave our worst when we're hurt.  And the gospel is everything to them.  And my family, the rest of the family. 


But his example of long suffering, tried to be more like the Savior and God the Father is long suffering and patient.  And so, what he did –to answer your question—is held the door open for me.  He had that crazy weird, but mature, and wise optimism, knowing the following when my heart aches, to see children, adult children, disbelieve and, leave or whatever, and nieces and nephews and others is we have to have faith and trust in God's goodness, like I described before.  At every turn, if our eyes are open to it, we will be amazed. 


But also, not only that, but to remember, to remind ourselves, God has infinite love, and to a degree patience, but also infinite resources and infinite time.  And we know in the scriptures, what His work in His glory is.  And Paul says in the New Testament somewhere that He would that all men and women would be saved. 


Here you have these absolute very clear objectives of God the Father, and all His resources, and His infinite time.  And we get trapped into thinking about our mortality in these short, tiny timeframes.  I really believe that.  I believe that He has all these resources, and He's gonna see to it that all those who are willing, somehow, someway, are exalted to the degree they choose. 


And so, I remind myself of that.  He's got every resource in the world, and I know what He wants.  It takes agency and we have to submit and choose it.  And that's awesome.  That's wonderful.  And that's really encouraging for me.  The Big Picture.  So often, we think, “Oh, they're lost in mortality, they're lost.”  Well, I believe this is my sense of things.  So that person you think is just totally lost or is given all the experience he needed to get here, but it's not lost.  It's just all you see right now.  Don't lose faith in that.  Eternity is a really long time.  And God's love is pretty massive, and pretty enduring.  I find that very helpful. 


The other thing for those of us who get really discouraged and sad about maybe the numbers we see these days.  For me, it's again, it's kind of paradoxical.  But it's encouraging too, because this was always going to happen.  We know we're up against the end of days, things are hastening.  And of course, people are challenged.  Of course, people are stumbling.  Of course, people are zigging and zagging.  That was always going to happen.  That's evidence to me that it's true, that we're approaching. 


And again, this is against the backdrop.  God's magnanimous, and it's all going to work out in His plan, and He loves every individual, no matter where they are.  Where I was 20 years ago, where this person I love is today.  So, it's evidence to me that we are where we're supposed to be and things are happening the way they're supposed to happen against the backdrop of them being in God's hands.  And it's gonna work out for them, no matter how much it kind of hurts us in the short term.  Don't lose faith and hope.  There's a far bigger picture than we can appreciate right now. 


But I have been assured in my heart through the Spirit, that those I care about who are off the path, hope is far, far from lost.  I mean, it's all there.  It's working out.  It has to work out in certain ways.  That has helped my faith.  Everything is possible.




Yeah, I got a comment from somebody on Instagram and they said “your podcast is helping me to know that it's not if they come back, but when they come back.


Thank you for taking the time to be on the podcast.  This has been so amazing, and I know everyone's gonna love your story and love to hear this.  So, thank you so much for taking the time.



I am very happy to talk to you. Like you, I really want to see people see the light as they can, and as each of us can.  and I'm very hopeful.  And I want to encourage other people, as well, just like we discussed.  So, I'm glad.  Thank you for having me.