Conversations about the religious and spiritual life on the other side of fundamentalism
162:  Suzy Benson Gillies:  After the Shelf Broke – Divorce, Transition and Rediscovering Self

162: Suzy Benson Gillies: After the Shelf Broke – Divorce, Transition and Rediscovering Self

suzy-benson-gilliesFor Suzy Benson Gillies everything about her Mormon life seemed perfect and right.  Her family was ‘that’ family.  Stable, happy and devout.  When a belief crisis struck their family everything that gave her meaning and confidence collapsed.  She found herself negotiating a divorce, reconsidering her relationship with the church and wondering what gifts she had to offer the world without the stability of her once cherished faith.

Suzy has gone through the long process of reassembling herself and has found meaning, new forms of compassion and connection in her work as founder of the African Promise Foundation and the African Promise Expeditions.   Love and concern for others has been the bedrock of her recovery.  Now she approaches her Mormonism with clarity, her family life with purpose and her charity work with meaning.

Suzy shares her story about recovery and growth, and the fulness that was waiting for her on the other side of suffering.


  1. Becky Ransom

    Absolutely loved this podcast and love Suzy! I was really touched when she talked about her dad not being active in the church. I spent two weeks with him in Uganda and was so touched by his generosity. He is simply an amazing man, and one of the most Christ like people I’ve ever met. It’s tragic that we are conditioned in the church to think of him as “less then” because he isn’t active. I hate this culture of no matter how good a person is they are not quite good enough if they aren’t active in the church, and the dangerous flip side to that- if someone is active they are automatically assumed to be a good and safe person. Suzys parents are two of the most wonderful people I know- I love and admire them!

  2. Bill Kinney

    Thanks Suzy…I listened to the entire interview. First, you are absolutely a dear, dear person. You have a giant heart….for people! Compassion, love, caring, and service are foremost in your DNA. THOSE are Christ-like virtues.
    What stands out most in this podcast are the issues of shame, guilt, embarrassment, and the fear of being judged “unworthy”. The LDS Church, frankly, should bear the shame and guilt; their leadership trickle-down control is often the cause of family break-ups. And they have failed to provide the forum, the space, the freedom where one can significantly disagree, question, explore, roam, or wander…..safely. It truly IS black and white, as you say. Individual faith chrisis? No, it’s rather a Mormon church truth chrisis. Just sort of getting around to admit Joseph had about 40 wives….acknowledging finally that the Book of Abraham is not really a translation. Still keeping secret the revenues and expenditures in SLC, yet demanding one’s full tithe for temple access….and much more. It’s so exciting to hear of your achieving authenticity, which is genuinely YOURSELF. Fantastic! As for the “Church”, your past trying and effort and faith is duly noted….but perhaps your zeal is worthy of a better cause. Love to you……Bill Kinney

  3. David

    Some inactive people need to come back to church, you are describing a very different church from the type that I witness. Leadership is changing attitudes, albeit in some place not fast enough, but in general you will find kind loving people at church too.

    No doubt, there is good people inside & outside the church, and members of the church are realizing this. One can be active in church and yet inactive in the Gospel & vice versa.

    1. Gina Colvin

      Hey David. I’m wondering if you listened to the podcast? Because Suzy’s staying and leaving is neither here nor there. It wasn’t about what’s wrong with the church as much as it was about how we negotiate the harder aspects of the church and find meaning in life.

  4. Suzy,
    It certainly sounds like you have landed on your feet after leaving the church. So glad to hear these happy transitions. Except that I know the transition must have been terribly painful with the break up of the family.

    My daughter served in a Ugandan orphanage last summer for 3 weeks, teaching school. She seemed to have a great experience. You mentioned that there was something that you don’t like about the orphanages there. I’d love to understand your concerns.

  5. I think some people may not understand, I have not left the church. I navigate the church differently now. I go to church when it works for me. Mormonism will always be my tribe and I don’t intend on removing my name from the records or anything like that. I have active children and as long as they are attending, I will support them when it feels right for me.

  6. Suzy: I feel so sad that your teacher INCORRECTLY told you that “your dad will go to the telestial kingdom, and that you’ll be able to go visit him, but he won’t be able to visit you.”

    That is not right. I’m so sorry that you had to go through that.

  7. Bill B.

    It’s a revelation when a person realizes that the church can only get them to a certain point spiritually, and that they must stuggle in a different way than they are used to to get to the next point along the path of spiritual development. You seem to be negotiating this particular transition better than most. Keep growing.

  8. The Burns Family

    We love you Suzy, and are so sorry to hear about the recent sadness in your life. You bring joy to so many. We hope it is returned, and you are always surrounded by loving people. After two trips to Europe with your parents and a trip to Africa with you and your Mom, we think you are an absolutely amazing family. If I was trying to show Lindsay the embodiment of true Christian love, you and your parents are some of the first people I would think of. We hope the future holds great things for you. We know you’ll continue to be focused on how to create great things for others. You are a special person.

  9. AG

    Thank you for this, it was something I really needed to hear today. Suzy, you are inspirational. I would like to speak with you on a more personal level. I will send you a message on Facebook and hope that you see it.

  10. Nancy Weaver

    Happy to hear you haven’t left the church. You’ll find your way it may not be the traditional way but it sounds like you still have the faith and that’s the most important part. Life is hard.

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