The timing worked out for us driving from my work conference in Jackson, Wyoming to our first house sit in Bailey, Colorado, that we had an open weekend. Researching where to go, we came upon a Mormon Stories Retreat in Park City, Utah. It fit our timeline perfectly and also was something that we’ve been interested in for a number of years.
A little backstory, we’re LDS, or Mormon, by way of religion. We were both raised in Mormon families and have been practicing and participating members of the church our whole lives. I even served a mission for the church for 2 years, which I think may have sparked my itch to travel. I was in France and Belgium and talked with many people about Jesus. So, I had to learn French to talk to people and I really enjoyed getting very familiar with a foreign culture.
Slowly over the past decade, we’ve had what some would call a faith transition where for example we don’t take things as literally as we may have before. Mormon stories is a podcast that has helped us make sense of some of the issues we’ve had. It’s aptly named, they discuss stories of Mormons and aren’t afraid to talk about the taboo topics either. It’s part of the Open Stories Foundation, a non-profit, and the family of podcasts and websites has helped us view this transition as more of a journey or stage of adult development, rather than a crisis where everything comes tumbling down and crashing. Founded by John Dehlin, I know, controversial in the Mormon sphere, but seriously, don’t discount him because you’ve heard scary things about him. Take a look and see on the retreat agenda, there is no church bashing or telling anyone to leave. In fact, multiple times he shared the sentiment that “Leaving is not the answer”. Anyways, we’ve been fans for a while and have always been so far from any of the events that it hasn’t made sense to attend, but to have one fit in right when we had time and right in the area we already were was dare I say providential.
The Open Stories Foundation mission is to promote understanding, healing, growth, and community for people experiencing or impacted by religious transition.
The focus of these events is on healing and growth during and after a faith transition. John and Natasha DO NOT bash the LDS church in these events, and all efforts are made to make the conversations “safe” and affirming to believers and non-believers, church attendees and non-attendees. While attendees will sometimes vent their frustrations with their experiences, John and Natasha are fiercely committed to nurturing a constructive and positive environment where all are supported and affirmed.
The atmosphere and topics were very therapeutic and helpful and even healing. There was a large focus on mental health and positivity! We made fast friends with some kindred spirits! We even discussed how interesting it was that perhaps because we were all being totally honest and vulnerable with each other we were quicker to bond. We had a great time attending the presentations and discussions and even singing karaoke! Krista nailed Hamilton with Dr. John Dehlin! I did ok with some Weezer, and we and some other relevant favorites.