My Interview with Dr. Jana Riess

According to Dr. Jana Riess, there were nearly 1,500 responses to her request to interview former Mormons for a research study. Of those, 80 or less were selected to be interviewed. I’m not sure why I was chosen, but I’m grateful. It allowed me to ponder and formalize my thoughts in preparation for the oral interview. I shared that preparation in my four previous posts here on LDC.

However, the actual interview was a surprise to me. Sure, we covered some of the material I had prepared, perhaps ten percent. The surprise was in the things I focused on in my response to her questions. She tells me I will be able to review, edit and approve a transcription of the interview in about six weeks, but I’d like to focus here on an examination of how things came together in what was shared.

As you can imagine, I asked the Lord for his help in knowing how to respond and what exactly to share of all the material I prepared. I’m sure you would have done the same. I don’t pretend to think that I’m anyone important. I don’t think my story is all that unique, but perhaps it is, and I just don’t recognize it. I want to be clear up front that I’m appreciative of Dr. Riess for doing this survey and study.

In case you don’t know, Jana Riess is a well-known, somewhat liberal-leaning (all right, a lot liberal-leaning) columnist for Religion News Service. Her Wikipedia entry points out that her father left the family when she was fifteen. I don’t know why that is a prominent feature of the entry, but perhaps it explains her efforts to be a cheerleader for empowering women. She does a good job of it in her tweets.

Personal Revelation Strengthens Testimony

The interview went well. It started right on time and lasted a full 90 minutes. We did not get through all the interview questions. She said she would like me to respond to the few remaining questions we did not get to in a follow up email. As I noted above, I shared about ten percent of what I had prepared. I was impressed by the things the Lord brought to my mind to share in the limited time we had.

I was also impressed that Dr. Riess typed my responses as I shared them. She could have simply recorded everything and had her assistant transcribe it, but I believe the very act of typing my words as I dictated them allowed her to absorb the intent of what I was sharing and to be involved in understanding my story. I applaud her for doing so. I felt she heard me and got what I was trying to share.

 After reviewing my early childhood experiences with religion, she asked about my missionary experience. As a part of that life event, I felt prompted to share both my revelatory experience at Ricks College, in which I believe I was born again, and my foundational testimony experience of Joseph Smith, which I recounted in some detail. I have rarely felt prompted to share that experience with anyone.

Brigham Did Not Understand Sealings

To her credit, there did not seem to be any judgement, or questioning (wait, are you really saying you heard the voice of Joseph Smith?) but only acceptance and encouragement to go on with the story. As I did so, I realized something I had not recognized before. I felt very strongly about this experience and realized I had lost some of this early surety and confidence that came from this personal revelation.

I also realized why that was. It was because I had accepted, or rather allowed the interpretations of others to sway my thinking about Joseph, especially in regard to polygamy. In other words, I had let the brightness of my testimony of Joseph dim over the years as I studied, absorbed and tried to understand the viewpoints of others in regard to Joseph as a prophet of God, and what he was trying to do.

I also realized I was a little upset with myself for allowing this to happen. After all, I had heard the voice of Joseph, in response to my prayer to the Lord to give me a witness of his servant. He had done so. Other than meeting him in person (which I can’t do in mortality), what more sure witness can you have of the mission and words of a prophet than when the Lord lets him answer your prayer directly?

My Testimony of Joseph Restored

As I wrote in an email to another individual who also interviewed with Dr. Riess that morning: “I liked the questions she asked. She was able to help me pin down what it was that really bothered me and caused me to resign.” This also explains why I was so open to the message Denver presented. I had an early testimony of Joseph that was diluted by the LDS Church teaching that Joseph was a polygamist.

“In addition to feeling that the message Denver delivered was from the Lord, I just realized as she asked her questions, that I was really kind of pissed at the church for deceiving me about polygamy all these years, and causing me to doubt my testimony of Joseph Smith, which has now been restored by Denver’s teachings on the subject and by Whitney Horning’s book on Joseph Smith published in 2019.

That book is “Joseph Smith Revealed: A Faithful Telling – Exploring an Alternate Polygamy Narrative.” I read it, reviewed it, posted the review in my blog and have continued to refer people to it anytime I am asked about Joseph and Polygamy. I think this book is the best book on the subject I have ever read. I had one of those experiences in reading it that I had in reading PTHG: a witness from the spirit.

The Pure in Heart Shall See God

I think I recognize I am probably in the minority of people who feel this way. We all undoubtedly have seen the cycle: when a person first gains a testimony of the prophet Joseph, they are impressed by the sure knowledge that comes to their soul in response to their prayer about the Book of Mormon. They know he was a prophet because of the truth of the message he delivered: The Book of Mormon.

However, when they learn of polygamy, they begin to doubt their testimony of the prophet Joseph and of the Book of Mormon. How could this man be a prophet and a polygamist? “Well, you’ve just got to accept polygamy.” But no, I don’t. It’s adultery. So, the church points to Jacob 2:30 and maintains that Joseph was very much commanded to engage in this practice. I’m sorry, I just don’t believe it.

I maintain Brigham was the adulterer, not Joseph. Joseph was a prophet. He was a pure vessel before the Lord. A man can only come into God’s presence if he is pure in heart. Brigham often shared that he never came into the presence of God. Joseph bore witness that he was often visited by the Lord and by angels. I have never read of Brigham having such visits. Brigham was deceived by this practice.

No Evidence of Polygamy by Joseph

Brigham was 41 when he took his first polygamous wife, who was 20. I was 41 once. In many ways, that is considered the prime of life for a man. I have read the story of how Brigham swore he was taught by Joseph that he had to take plural wives. Brigham, John Taylor, Willard Richards, and Heber C. Kimball all married additional wives in Nauvoo. But Joseph never sanctioned these marriages.

In fact, he preached against this wicked and abominable practice from the pulpit. There are those who say he may have done so in public but that he encouraged and taught otherwise in private. They cite the Nancy Rigdon letter as evidence. Never mind that it was denied by Joseph, by Sidney and by Nancy. It was the product of John C Bennett, who had sworn Joseph never authorized polygamy.

Too many people have accepted this “happiness” letter as authentic. Nobody can produce an original. That’s because it doesn’t exist. I am satisfied that Joseph was the husband of one wife, just as he maintained to the end of his days. Emma was emphatic that Joseph had but one wife, in spite of what Brigham and others said. I believe Emma. I believe Joseph. Polygamy was a product of Brigham, not Joseph.

Brigham Young Created a Huge Mess

I didn’t go into this much detail in my interview with Dr. Riess but it was on my mind, having just listened to a podcast on the subject a few days earlier. I also did not fully realize how strongly I felt about the subject until after the interview had completed and I reflected back on my feelings about what I had shared. I told Dr. Riess I felt betrayed by the LDS Church. That’s the first time I had ever said that.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I don’t think the current leaders of the LDS Church are intentionally trying to deceive the saints. They’ve inherited this huge unwieldy beast and are doing the best with what they have. Brigham created a monster because of his insistence that polygamy was commanded of God. Church leaders today don’t even want to talk about polygamy, the elephant in the room.

Nevertheless, there are huge numbers of people heavily invested in polygamy. I get emails all the time from folks asking me if I accept the writings or teachings of so-and-so, one of the offshoots of Mormonism, which just happens to teach and accept polygamy as one of the tenets of their religion. I think many pundits were surprised when Denver dd not embrace it or teach it because, don’t all apostates?

Participating in General Conference

I don’t pretend to be a scholar. Up until a few years ago, I was just a regular member of the LDS Church. I feel blessed for the influence of the church in my life. I owe much to the church for the happiness I feel today. The LDS Church is rather strict, as most of you know. The standards are high. I always felt that I could do better when I was a member, and always made the effort to do so.

In other words, I was strengthened and uplifted by my association with the saints and by giving heed to the words of the apostles and prophets. I listened to their words this weekend. I enjoyed General Conference with Carol. Sadly, she cried several times as the subject of the temple came up. I am not oblivious to her tears. She believes she has lost any promises of being with me in the eternities.

Oh, how I wish I could teach her what I have come to understand that the LDS Church does not have the true knowledge of the temple. What Brigham put into place was not what Joseph intended. It was and is still enough to point us in the right direction, but unless one actually comes into the presence of God, which is alluded to in the temple ceremony, the ordinances are only invitations to rise up.

It is Not Good for Man to be Alone

I anxiously await further light and knowledge on the subject (and no, I’m not referring to the writings of James Harmston – the True and Living Church …). I am convinced there will yet be a temple built in which we can go and receive the sealing ordinance of marriage that will ensure we can be together in the eternities if that is what Carol wants. However, I doubt she will ever accept this as binding.

Dr. Riess was careful to ascertain that Carol and I had been married in the temple. This is an important consideration in LDS culture. It is promoted as being the top, the highest pinnacle of what we should strive for in our worship and our belief. In other words, if you have been married in the temple and you remain true and faithful to each other, you have the promise of eternal life, united as one forever.

I love Carol. I want to be with her together forever. But she believes we have lost that promise when I resigned from the LDS Church. She believes she will find someone else in the next life, someone more faithful to the church than I have been. I do not believe that, but it is her choice. I believe the LDS Church is wrong in teaching this false belief. The Lord can seal us together in the heavens.

Technically, we do not need a temple. We simply need to come into the presence of the Lord together. Of course, I need to lead the way in so doing. Besides those in the city of Enoch, I suppose there have been very few who have risen to this point, where together, they have entered into the presence of the Lord and He has sealed them as one. For the man, without the woman, can never be exalted.

Pondering the Return of the Lord

At the conclusion of our time together, Dr Riess simply said, “that’s quite the journey.” She thanked me for my time, as I did hers. She made little comment on what I had shared. I do not know if she will use any of my material in her book, but it doesn’t matter. I grew from the experience and appreciate what I learned as a result of my responses to her questions. I feel much more focused now.

I’ve thought a lot about this interview. I appreciate how it caused me to ponder and pray about what I believe, where I’m at on my journey and what I hope will happen in the next few years. I’m 63 years old. I hope I will live a few more years, perhaps as many as twenty. After all, my father lived to be almost 88 years old. Do I believe the Lord will return sometime in the next 25 years? Actually, yes, I do.

But if not, and if I enter the spirit world without coming into the presence of the Lord, I will be grateful for my life’s experiences so far. I am grateful I have been allowed to live in this day and age. In spite of the terrible uncertainty of the world around us, I know the Lord lives, that he loves us, and is guiding each of us who submit ourselves humbly to Him in prayer and supplication to walk in the light.

We Live in Tumultuous Times

I used to have thousands of readers. According to the numbers, I still do. But not as many as I did when folks seemed to be wondering what Tim would do after being introduced to the writings of Denver Snuffer back in 2012. I do not regret that I resigned from the LDS Church in September of 2014. I wish I could have been more involved in the fellowship meetings of the restoration movement.

We live in tumultuous times. Nobody needs to tell you that. I simply point out that we could be in for a big upset in the near future. I’m not sure it will make a difference who is elected President of the United States next month. I am not a prophet. I can’t tell you what’s going to happen. I only know it’s obvious that the spirit of the Lord is being withdrawn from the earth. We all can clearly see it.

God bless us each to make greater efforts to come unto the Lord and to respond to what He is inviting us each to do. I know He is aware of each of our individual circumstances and works with us accordingly. I know He lives. I know He loves us. I feel His love. He helps me every day. I believe he helps you as well. So many of you have told me so. Thank you so much for sharing, both publicly and privately.

Here is a link to the final edit of the interview with Dr. Riess

7 thoughts on “My Interview with Dr. Jana Riess”

  1. Cindy Macdonald

    The History of the Reorganized Church by The Prices called, “Joseph Fought Polygamy’l is quite telling of Brigham Young’s malfeasance, and His own flavor or malpractice of spiritual wivery As John C. Bennett deviously called it.

  2. Brother Tim,

    Jana Riess is wise in recognizing your perspective as valuable for her book. Nevertheless, our Lord is orchestrating this collaboration, and I predict ‘good fruit’ as Jana’s audience discovers your spiritual journey. Tim, thank you for answering our Lord’s call early in your life; you’re a fine ambassador of truth.

    Roy Moore

  3. Some of us already knew Joseph was not a polygamist and that Brigham Young was a joke. Most of YOU that talk this big talk and say you know really do not.

    Micheal Tollis ________________________________

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