Rock Waterman is a popular LDS blogger who owns and operates the Pure Mormonism blog. In this interview Rock shares some of his backstory, including his “Mighty Change” that shifted his perspectives on Mormonism and ultimately motivated him to start his blog and share his perspective with all of Mormondom.
Rock stands as a unique voice, warning the Saints about relying too much on the institutional church headquartered in Salt Lake City and its administrative leadership at the expense of developing our own relationship with God through scripture, revelation, and the Spirit of God. In the interview, we touch on a few topics including: the error of institutional infallibility and blind obedience, the nature of true revelation mediated through prophets, and how to maintain faith in Jesus Christ independent of religious institutions.
I think Rock’s unique take is an important and desperately needed voice in Modern Mormonism. We have all been taught that the Church and the Gospel are codependent and inseparable. As such, it is common for Mormons who take issue with certain aspects of Church policy, history and perceived past crimes to allow those grievances to influence their relationship to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Rock Waterman’s approach to this situation allows us as Mormons to embrace what we feel is true and right about the Gospel while setting aside aspects of our Mormon experience that are not in harmony with our values and ethics.
We would like to thank Rock again for his willingness to share his experience and perspective with our listeners.
Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought
Strangers in Paradox by Paul & Margaret Toscano
I love you Rock! While I found myself enjoying Rock’s personal history and then nodding as usual with his insights in distinguishing between saying “the church is true” and “the gospel is true, I learned something now obvious that I had not considered and that we suffer from personal and collective Holy Ghost experiences in being so church or human leadership reliant.
However, what really moved me personally was the last twenty minutes of this podcast when Rock shared his personal born again experience. I felt the Holy Spirit just listening and the passion that I share in our “pure” mormonism that binds us together. Thanks Micah for the excellent work. I am a firm believer that the born again experience is the “doing” part of the BOM message.
I was at a Hare Krishna temple yesterday and began reading the Bhagavad Gita and one sentence as stuck out when it stated that a person that becomes transcendent/self-actualized (their word for born again) naturally begins to write and gain their own voice. That is how I see brother Rock.
Finally, if I could make one suggestion, I would suggest someday having Rock back and go further by interviewing him as to the specific posts he has written—a survey of sort because the content is what causes many of us to want to return to his blog anxiously awaiting the next post. thanks again.
My sentiments exactly, Ron. Rock, I enjoyed hearing from you on all the topics that have rotated through my thought processes for the past year or so. What I enjoyed the most was your pure testimony of your conversion while lying on the floor! It made me weep – not because I like to get weepy, but because your spirit genuinely touched mine. It was a spirit to spirit communication. Thanks for that, because today was indeed a dark one for me, as I have grappled with my own testimony and feelings of loneliness in this long and sometimes heart-wrenching journey. Much love to you, my brother. And love to Connie for sharing you with us!
Loved this interview as much as I love reading “Pure Mormonism”, which is a lot!
Three years ago I went through a divorce that totally challenged and changed me. Before I thought I knew the gospel because I had read and re-read all the scriptures and many other books written by latter day prophets and apostles, besides all my over-the-top devotion to the church and all activities. Thankfully, my divorce saved me and through questioning the “why’s” in my life, I was inspired by God to focus on the small and simple things, in particular; faith, hope, and charity.
When I finally discovered the beauty that is “love” (God’s love, the first and main commandment to love God and our fellow-people and all other commandments hang from this, “God is Love”, if we want to be like Him we need to love others, etc) I was struck with such amazement how simple and beautiful the gospel is. I tried sharing my thoughts with others at church but felt very strongly that the law of obedience triumphs in our church. We know the law of obedience too well, but unfortunately we lack knowledge and experience of the law of love.
As I underwent drastic changes trying desperately to re-define myself as a Mormon and as a person, it was wonderful to find “Pure Mormonism”, a blog which speaks as I feel. It cuts through the church’s policies and personal opinions, and searches for the truths of the gospel. I love the gospel, but I don’t always love the church and its leaders, and I’m learning that that’s okay. Even if vocal members in my ward would disagree, I know that I have Rock on my side.
Fantastic interview! Rock is my kind of Mormon. 🙂
Awesome podcast Micah! I appreciate the opportunity to listen in on the discussion and I wish everyone who visits Rock’s blog “Pure Mormonism” could hear him as well, rather than merely reading his words.
Rock’s deep abiding love for the Savior and His gospel is heard in his voice, as is his sweet spirit and his pure intent to challenge all his brothers and sisters to become more fully converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ, thereby sharing his happiness.
I agree with Ron’s suggestion, please go further.
Thank you! So refreshing. The gospel of the “mighty change” and what that means, is missionary work that needs to be done in our own wards, among our own members. As Rock states, it is so sweet to renewing. Here it is under our noses in our precious scriptures and many members are blind to it. This interview is very motivating to to carry on, letting the sweet, pure, powerful love of Christ shine through by loving God and loving and serving all those around us.
What a great episode. This podcast (A Thoughtful Faith) is such a wonderful addition to the growing sources of important perspectives for members of the LDS church. I am so exited to have this resource. I am loving it.
Good work, Micah. I and so many others are hungry for this message. Yes, have him back.
I hope he’s watching this space. Rock, have church leaders ever tried to censure or censor you? Maybe the church is more liberal in California. I’m sure I would land in the bishop’s office within a month if I blogged like that in Utah.
I don’t hear much from ward members, Joseph. I think most members don’t know what to think of me.
Jessica RandallTom came and spoke at a fireside i was perifrmong in last night and he was so inspiring his story is amazing and you can tell that he will do so much good in the church and help many others find the happiness that he found last year.
I apologize for the length of this message. I sent the following as a personal message but was encouraged to post it again here for public view. The important thing I would like to convey is that people who question the role of the institution of the church are not abandoned by Christ. In fact I believe our culture is mostly blind when it comes to recognizing the difference between those who have been divinely touched and those who have a title and fulfill a role of service in the church. After experiencing doubt and disaffection to such an extent that you recognize the church does not, nor ever has exercised any ability to coerce belief from you, you can actually approach the claims again with an honest heart. Despite the lack of confidence we regularly see displayed from our leadership that God can do his own work, the Gospel really does still hold up to the deepest scrutiny in my experience. I consider myself a believer now and although I feel the responsibility to look charitably at the church institution and serve within it, I am very aware of its flaws and limitations. Being aware of weaknesses provokes humility and pretending we have everything we need without God is pride. All the church can really do is invite people to receive more. It is not the source of answers but rather it serves to connect you with the source. The talking points that we use to differentiate ourselves from other religions are superficial but they point us to something that IS substantial. What do we really know about sealing and priesthood and revelation? Is it only enough to claim to have these blessings while other churches do not? DO we have them? Spiritual revelations come personally. We are not in possession of them if we rely on the church to own truth on our behalf. The church should instruct and direct us to receive that personal connection with divinity.
I just listened to your interview on A thoughtful Faith and I wanted to write you and thank you for your blog and your voice within Mormonism.
I’ve been following you for a while now. I discovered your blog at a time when my faith in Mormonism, Christianity and even a knowable God was almost non-existent. I was interacting with the MS community because my spouse had decided to keep the church culture in our lives despite my disaffection which had threatened our marriage. I decided my family was more important than my pride and I continued to try to find something within Mormonism to connect with. I just wanted to not hate it anymore. I had acquired a graceful attitude towards most organized religions but I still could not forgive my own tradition. I felt angry and deceived.
I did not believe it any more. I had long since come to the conclusion that it was a corrupt institution and it’s founding story was a lie. I had new intellectually satisfying explanations for experiences of the spirit (which were a distant memory attached to a more ideal phase as a missionary)I have spent years reading and discussing our historical problems and would be surprised if I haven’t encountered pretty much all of the controversial material against the church.
I remember your blog was one of the first faithful perspectives that I had respect for. I thought you must be a little nutty for standing behind such a flawed religion but you were unapologetic and your confidence left an impression. I remember commenting on one of your posts that you actually managed to make Mormonism cool again for me. I meant it. You provoked new curiosity in me and I wondered if I had missed something. At the time I was just supportive of seeing a paradigm within Mormonism that was emotionally healthy and liberating and not blind and authoritarian. I thought your beliefs could do no harm in this world and if Mormonism worked for you I would not judge. I did wonder what could possibly keep you rooted when you had so many criticisms or challenges to the way the current system was running. Most people lose confidence and leave when they become exposed to the vulnerable side of their traditions. I occasionally returned to your blog and always really enjoyed it.
It was meaningful to me to hear you speak of your baptism by fire experience because about 5 months ago this is exactly what happened to me. It was quite unexpected. It was the most miraculous occurrence of my life thus far. The story would take a while to explain but in short, somehow I was mercifully broken down to a state where I could actually receive an answer. My restructured belief system fell out from under me and I was left in a state of Nihilistic despair. For the last decade I have been consumed with spiritual questions. I had worshipped at other churches, I had delved into Eastern philosophy, I had read many of the books by the New Atheists, I had studied books critical of Christianity and I was exhausted. I didn’t know why I couldn’t just stop caring when I knew I would not receive any answers.
I eventually had a very meaningful experience of deep honesty where I just meditated and observed my situation. The realization came into my mind that I was incapable of crossing this barrier. I was a glitch or a mistake in the universe. I felt I should not be looking out into the world and recognizing my limitations. I surrendered to the idea that I would die never knowing what the hell happened here and why I should be conscious enough to witness this short life. Why could I only see enough to know that I am powerless and blind? Something physical happened at this time (which I did not look at as being meta-physical) To me it was the bitter truth and it destroyed me. It can be described as being left out in the cold to die. It was a physical feeling that seemed to enter my body. It left me cynical and bitter and deeply wounded. I actually cried silently in bed several nights because of the overpowering disappointment. Everything had failed me and I was robbed of my peace.
It was around this time when I was exposed to Denver Snuffer’s podcast on MS. Intellectually it just frustrated me because I wanted to like him but I couldn’t get past the gutsiness of his claim to have received literal divine manifestations. It almost offended me. I thought that this must be what’s wrong with the world. How can someone so down to earth give such a destructive false hope? It angered me but at the same time I kinda liked the guy. I wrote him a few times and decided to read his book The Second Comforter. It was here that I began to be exposed to many pure doctrines that I had never received my entire life in the church. Something amazing started to happen in my life. Almost like lightning, a spiritual feeling powerfully came upon me. It was so startling I just stood there like I was dumb and wondered and felt while it came upon me again and again. For days it remained. Throughout my work day in my office when I would only start to think about these doctrines and ideas about Christ I was immediately overpowered with confirmation delivered in a spiritual language I could never adequately describe. I was surrounded by co-workers and felt something with such intensity that I almost thought they should feel it as well.
What I DID know is that it was real, unprovoked, and external. It was miraculous and it was by all accounts enough to completely transform me and convince me of God’s existence and character. A weight was lifted from my shoulders and in that moment I broke a sweat as though I had a fever break. Along with these experiences came a feeling that many changes needed to happen in my life. There was a step by step process that occurred and with my obedience came a greater down-pouring of enlightenment and validation. I was filled with an insatiable desire to know the scriptures. I wanted to know what was happening to me. I began to direct question after question to God with faith and reverence and within days or even hours I seemed to receive understanding about doctrines I was previously unfamiliar with. When I asked God if this was the Baptism by Fire I read about in scripture I was given an amazing answer to the positive.
This is a very simple gloss-over of these experiences and they went on for days and weeks. They are not as strong now but I have not ceased praying many times throughout the day since that time and often times my evening prayers are quite powerful. My life has been filled with a daily spiritual vitality that I could never dismiss.
The strange thing is that no one really understands what has happened to me. Even after giving one of the gutsiest testimonies of my life at church, I have been largely ignored by my Bishop and collective Ward. A once inactive member immediately returns to full fellowship and no one has ever said anything to me. It is frustrating how dumb I am when it comes to relating these things but they are the most valuable experiences I have personally encountered.
After hearing your interview I understand now what it is that keeps you rooted despite all the conflict and contradiction. It’s the same thing that now keeps me rooted as well. My concerns (and there was A LOT of them) seemed to fall through my fingers like sand within moments after encountering this voice from God. I am left with no answers to give my skeptical brainy friends. I cannot explain why I have instantly become a believer and I have great empathy for anyone who struggles with the LDS church claims because I still don’t have the answers myself. I just know God responds when he is approached with deep humility. I did not know Joseph. I don’t understand what was going on with him or why it had to look so unfavorable to history but the doctrines he revealed have profoundly impacted my life. I will NEVER look at the BOM in a casual way again. I have experienced such knowledge from it. The voices within it have come alive for me. I don’t know how or where these people existed but I can tell these words come from real, thinking, feeling, sincere souls. I have found nothing better to understand my experience through.
Rock, you have helped me to understand our current situation. It is not easy to see, especially when people either dismiss too much about religion or they are so easily threatened by the invitation to think in a new or unorthodox way about our faith. To be honest it is quite lonely. I relate to aspects of my traditional believing friends and family and I also admire the desire to seek for truth no matter the risk from my questioning, doubting friends. There are very few I have found that are aware of this middle ground where following that voice of Christ is the number one priority, even greater than the counsel of the brethren. I cannot describe the depth of loyalty I feel to that voice. The “spirit” feels to me like a presence, and I associate that presence with Christ. I have felt it in my home. I have felt it physically near me. I just know that it is him. I recognize the signature. There have also been others.
Anyway, thank you. I never thought I would find myself on the same page as Rock Waterman but I think I kinda get you now man. I hope one day I can have the pleasure of meeting you but for now I will settle with your brilliant blog. You are a talented and entertaining writer but best of all, you are able to get to the essence of our current challenges in the church. You help those of us who are less academically-minded to access these difficult issues. Your effort has served to educate many people. I sincerely appreciate your contribution to the discussion of Mormonism. Thank you!
Thanks anon. I appreciate your testimony. I too am wondering what I believe, is there a God? The most basic question that is assumed. Between your testimony, Rock’s, and Eldon Kartchner’s (did a Mormon Stories podcast recently) it is hard for me to know what is truth. I think I desire that God is real, because the alternative is sad, but my main objective is to know the truth, wherever it may lead. So, it is nice to read testimonies like yours since they plant the seed of doubt in my mind about atheism.
I have to say in all this podcast was great and I think Rock has many valid points. That being said, the thing that annoys me about him is the fact that he doesn’t hold Joesph Smith to the same standard that he does to modern leaders. I’ve studied the ma and I know he was just as vulnerable to speak opinion and make mistakes. I agree that separating a marriage from it’s sealing would help a lot of heart ache and Dustin of family members. It was a good opinion, but that as I’m concerned was Joseph’s opinion – not revelation. And at the end of the day I have to say that revelation is fully human awe well as divine. It’s a collaborative work. The recipient puts the impressions in his own words
I am aware of course, of Joseph Smith’s human shortcomings; in fact one of the things I admire about him was his willingness to openly publish accounts where the Lord firmly chastised him for his failings.
I do not believe that Joseph’s every utterance came directly from the mind of God. But as the founder of the faith, the doctrines he taught should remain the rule unless superseded by additional revelation. As I think I opined in the podcast, many modern policies in operation within the institutional Church are harmless, many more are quite beneficial. A few have proven to be detrimental. The main thing is to remember we should not elevate policy statements to the level of divine revelations unless they are specifically noted as such.
I agree fully that no policy should supersede actual canonized revelation unless it is an actual new revelation that sheds more light on a given point, and I agree that we see it happening where policy with no apparent appeal to revelation does supersede canonized revelation. I appreciate your blog, Rock. I hope you didn’t see malice in my comment. Policies regarding word of wisdom, tithing, sealing s
Law of obedience, etc, bother me, too. They are real stumbling blocks for people and hinder real growth…
Goodness no, Josh; I read no malice into your comment.
Rock, this is off topic but for some reason I just thought of it and since it appears that you comment here, I’ll leave this here for you.
On November 16, 2010, you asked me in a comment, “Anarchist, can you provide a link to that Bruce DePalma piece on Enterprise Mission? A Google search doesn’t seem to provide me with anything.” This was in response to what I wrote here.
Well, I finally found that link and posted it in a comment on August 10, 2012, which you can read here, but since you didn’t respond, I figured that you probably never saw the comment I left with the link. So, I’m just now remembering to bring the comment and link to your attention.
Sorry for going off topic, but such is how my mind works…
Love the beard, Rock! You need to replace your picture on you blog with the one above.
What, replace the fat guy with “The Most Interesting Man in the World”? Seems kinda gentile.
You’re a man for our season, Rock. Thank you for following the truth where ever it leads you. Surely yours is not an easy message for leadership to hear. If you’d been in business back in the early 90’s you might have been caught up in the purge along with the Toscanos to make it the September Seven.
Your enthusiasm for Nauvoo caught my ear. The opinions of your fellow Thoughtful Faith interviewee, John Sorenson notwithstanding, a growing number of folks are embracing Joseph Smith’s belief that the Book of Mormon took place in the heartland of America. Rod Meldrum makes a strong case for the Iowa side of the Mississippi River across from Nauvoo having been the site of Zarahemla. If that is so when you were standing in Keokuk gazing longingly over at Nauvoo you would have been standing on Nephite turf. http://www.bookofmormonevidence.org/
Kevin, I also embrace the Heartland model of the Book of Mormon. As much as I loved listening to John Sorenson’s findings, I think he and those like him who cling to the Central and South American model are simply refusing to look at the evidence that places these events in North America. Since Joseph Smith himself confirmed repeatedly that Ohio, Pennsylvania, Missouri, and the Great Lakes were the actual locations, I think we should look for evidence there, rather than in South America.
I understand that since large civilizations were uncovered in Meso-America decades ago, there was a temptation to assume that was the place. But now that we are discovering evidence of a North American Model, it shouldn’t be dismissed by those who have a vested interest in the other.
Marsha KellerMany, many things iinspred me. There were so many halmark talks, that I notated at least a half dozen to study further. What I did this morning however, was a short recap of all the MUSIC. It was incredible how the choir has grown and the sound they now produce. I loved the messages, and in a short-hand, capsulized some of my favorite messages. Guide Us, O Thou Great Jehovah ~ Mormon Tabernacle Choir- We are weak, but thou art able; Hold us with thy pow’rful hand.Let Zion in Her Beauty Rise ~ Mormon Tabernacle Choir~Dear Lord, prepare my heart To stand with thee on Zion’s mountWe Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet ~ Mormon Tabernacle Choir~We doubt not the Lord nor his goodness. We’ve proved him in days that are past.Put Your Shoulder to the Wheel ~ Congregation~The Church has need of helping hands, And hearts that know and feel.Tell Me the Stories of Jesus ~ Mormon Tabernacle Choir~I shall imagine his blessings resting on me;Words full of kindness, deeds full of grace, All in the love-light of Jesus’ face.The Morning Breaks ~ Mormon Tabernacle Choir~The clouds of error disappear Before the rays of truth divine;Come, Ye Children of the Lord~ Family Choir from Stakes in Draper and Sandy~ When all men from sin will cease, And will live in love and peace.Beautiful Zion, Built Above~ Family Choir from Stakes in Draper and Sandy~Thither I press with eager feet; There shall my rest be long Lord, I Would Follow Thee ~ Congregation~ In the quiet heart is hidden, Sorrow that the eye can’t see.Home~ Family Choir from Stakes in Draper and Sandy~Home is where the heart is And warmth and love abound.Hark, All Ye Nations! ~ Priesthood Choir from Provo MTC~ Chosen by God to serve him below, To ev’ry land and people we’ll go,Go, Ye Messengers of Heaven~ Priesthood Choir from Provo MTC~ Go, ye messengers of heaven, Chosen by divine command;High on the Mountain Top ~ Congregation~ We’ll now go up and serve the Lord, Obey his truth, and learn his word.Called to Serve~ Priesthood Choir from Provo MTC~ Far and wide we tell the Father’s story, Far and wide his love proclaim.Truth Eternal ~ Mormon Tabernacle Choir~Truth shall triumph as the light, Chases far the misty night.Jehovah, Lord of Heaven and Earth ~ Mormon Tabernacle Choir~ In thy new kingdom may they stand, And own thee God and King;I also do a quote from many of the speakers that I just love. .. it helps me remember and review.
Rock such a good podcast. Thank you very much!! I have been to your blog many times and love your insight.
I heard Rock’s podcast on ATF recently and I was excited to hear someone else articulate some of my thoughts about the Church. I am a convert to the Church since 1968. I have served as a Branch President, EQ President, HP Grp Leader, High Councilman, and as 1st Counselor in a stake presidency. I have also served as an Ordinance Worker in the Temple and recently completed a 2 year welfare Services mission. I have grave concerns as to where the institutional church is headed. I did not join the Mormon Church. I am not a Mormon. Mormonism is made up of myths and fables mingled with scripture. I am a Christian, A Latter-Day Saint and a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only doctrine I try to follow. Rules, regulations, policy and etc. can derail one if they are not careful. Obedience is great when it is directed toward Christ. Blind obedience is self-defeating behavior. I don’t live in Utah so I am not plagued with the Mormon Culture problem. I am seeing more members who are beginning to start thinking for themselves. This will go a long way to strengthening Christ’s Church. I love the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I love the Book of Mormon and know it is true. I believe we need to do those things that please the Lord rather than those things that please the institutional church. These are exciting times and we must all stay the course. Thanks again Rock.
I found your comment interesting. I am also a lifelong member with a list of callings somewhat similar to yours. I live in Arizona and am plagued by the Mormon culture problem you mentioned. I’m wondering if one has the “freedom” to feel as you do about the institutional church outside of the Mormon culture belt being that the Institutional Church is run by our authorities in SLC, not just dictated by Mormon Culture. The reason I ask is I’m ready to leave it all behind for the sake of having the freedom to practice what I feel is pure Christianity and not be hassled and judged for it. –Mary
There seems to be little emphasis (or at least an anemic emphasis) on seeking the Holy Spirit to find answers and inspiration in our lives. I agree that the main emphasis seems to be (if you query talks in church or conference) on following Church leaders. Thank you for your kindred insights Brother Rock.
An interesting study of our theology is the selection of scriptures in the New Testament for “scripture mastery.” Somehow the words of Jesus of Nazareth in Matthew 22:37-40 didn’t make the cut?
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important commandment. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commandments”
Anyone know when and who came up with the official list? How did they leave this out?
OCA, that is astonishing that they would put together such a list and leave out that most primary of Christ’s teachings.
Sigh. Was does this kind of thing not really surprise me?
Risking being obnoxious, John 14:15 did make the cut…
“If ye love me, keep my commandments.”
A narrative (you might even say bias) emerges when you look at scriptural selections.
Of course they’d include that one. It suggests obedience, which to the corporation is the end-all be-all of the gospel.
I noticed an inrteesting contrast almost as if there were two distinct messages being delivered in different words. Probably to two different groups of people.The dominant message I noticed was that we are accountable for our own growth in the gospel, and if that growth isn’t happening, we have no one to blame but ourselves.The other message was a sweet message of gratitude, and it’s inseparable relationship from true love. Hearing that message, I’m able to see that many of the good people in the Church must be feeling starved for appreciation even though they are prepared to proceed without ever receiving a word of it. And while I never thought of gratitude as being a means of protection from Satan’s deceptions, it seems really clear to me that grateful Saints don’t need to be warned about pride and apostasy. The very thought of it causes their souls to quake and tremble.The mental image that comes to mind to see those two contrasting thoughts is the wheat and the tares. It would appear as though the Lord is sorting out His faithful. How else do you explain a mighty voice of rebuke coming over Elder SCOTT, of all people? That was surprising.