Conversations about the religious and spiritual life on the other side of fundamentalism
117: Jana Riess: The Roots of a Vibrant Faith Life

117: Jana Riess: The Roots of a Vibrant Faith Life

Jana Riess needs little introduction.  She has been a prolific author, memoirist, scholar and writer on American religion and Mormonism.  A convert to the LDS churchScreen Shot 2015-09-21 at 11.00.11 AM as a young adult Jana gave up her aspirations to pastor her own congregation.  Her affiliation with the church required significant personal sacrifices, few of which she regrets.  Yet Jana is by no means an apologist and continues to provide strong and sometimes critical commentary particularly about Mormon cultural practices.

At heart Jana is a theologian and is at home speaking of our discipleship as being the ‘hands and feet of Christ’.  Jana joins me to discuss the roots of her faith life and what being a Mormon means to a woman whose formative religious training at the best divinity schools in the US has been broad and deeply ecumenical.



  1. A Happy Hubby

    I just switched over to an iPhone earlier this year. I just happen to come to this web page and noticed that this instance still isn’t showing up in the iPhone podcast. I have received all the other podcasts the last few months except this one.

    I am very excited to listen to this podcast.

      1. A Happy Hubby

        Looks like you did as I see the podcast on my iPhone! Thanks. And I listened to this last night and really enjoyed it.

        What an interesting path Jana has walked. Very enjoyable to listen to her perspective and I always love to read her blog.

  2. Jesse

    Great interview. I don’t know if you can get Jana to respond, but I wonder if she would be willing to elaborate on what she believes are the central truth claims of mormonism? I’m speaking particularly of the ones she says are necessary to keep her in the church.

  3. Lois Clark

    Gina–great interview–you really excel at interviewing and drawing people out.

    Jana, it was great hearing your story. Aside from your impressive accomplishments, despite significant adversity, I’m impressed you are not burdened with the “baggage” some of us carry–not fitting into the “cookie-cutter” mold so many church leaders and members strive to create.

    One thought on the lack of diversity among General Authorities, sometimes I wonder if it is because there is a such a tremendous need for good local leaders in some areas of the world. But what we need are leaders who leave the “flock” of stalwart, “cookie-cutter” admirers to seek after those who have been marginalized by society–(including LDS society)–and who strive to meet people where they are. I am also amazed that while we send young women and men all over the world, there seems to be a huge lack of cultural awareness, acceptance and diversity within this American-created church.

  4. Marilyn T. Hadd

    I have always wondered what would happen if an bib-overall-wearing man who spent his extra time ministering in a prison were called to a high pulpit position. Or a high school teacher. Or a truck driver who picks up hitchhikers. The profile of these men is always so predictable.

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