Conversations about the religious and spiritual life on the other side of fundamentalism
136-137:  Russ Osmond:  Changing the Way We Think About Mormonism

136-137: Russ Osmond: Changing the Way We Think About Mormonism

Screen Shot 2016-02-15 at 2.24.57 PMRuss Osmond shares his unique perspective on the current cultural state of the church. Russ was adopted into the Mormon Church as a baby.  Though his behaviour  got him thrown  out of the church building as a child he has always remained faithful to the LDS Principles – with a style of his own!  Russ served a mission in Chile in 1964 and was educated all over the country receiving his PhD in International Relations at Syracuse.  He served as an LDS Chaplain in the USAF for 22 years. More recently he serves as the Director and Founder of Change Strategies International and has much to say about personal and institutional motivation.


  1. Cliff Bentley

    Wow. Wonderful. Russ, in only one or two sentences, helped me understand what I’ve struggled to understand for decades, regarding the Church’s choice to step away from mysticism / public displays of the gifts of the Spirit.

    Loved both halves of this interview, but the second was especially helpful for me. Way to go, Gina!

    1. I very much disagree. I heard absolutely no bitterness or condescension in his criticism. I do know, however, too many people deem it impossible to offer objective criticism without bitterness when the Church is concerned.

      Such a mindset is unfortunate in that it can only hurt the process of cultural self-improvement.

      1. A Happy Hubby

        I didn’t hear any hatred. I think he did say there was lots of “posturing” between Mormon dynasty families. I grew up a Mormon thousands of miles from SLC and married into a family with pioneer stock. I am constantly struck with some of what he mentions. Case in point. I think it was like 2% of pioneers crossed with handcarts. My stake (far away from SLC) has it as a REQUIREMENT that we do a trek every 3 years and all the kids spend several hundred dollars in “period” clothes. To me, I admire and respect the pioneers, but I also admire those that came in wagons or on the train. Look at “17 miracles.” It seems to glamorize one of the saddest tragedy (in my opinion “a tragic and deadly mistake”). I respect my parents that burned family bridges to join the church. The pioneer thing does not resonate with me. It seems cultural. So maybe if you swim in that every day, you don’t even notice it just like a fish in water.

  2. A Happy Hubby

    Russ and Gina. This is GREAT. I not only did Russ have some really insightful things, but it was great to see the interplay between you guys. Gina had an equal to have a verbal wresting match – not one of these uneven interviews like the 2014 Superbowl blowout (oops – there I go with my ‘mercan-ism 🙂

    I liked it so much, I am going to listen to it again.

    Russ – when is the book going to come out? Think about it a bit. 😉

  3. A Happy Hubby

    During my exercising today I was able to listen to much of this again.

    I do have a question of Russ. Russ mentioned that he has faith that several of the top leaders of the church “get it” and are working. Why is it hard to see this down in the trenches? I can’t see it. I honestly don’t think they get it. I see more of “you need to have faith” than, “Yes, there are some hard things to swallow.” And if some do get it, are they more protective of keeping all visible unity within like the Q12? It feels to me they value never saying anything even slightly detracting from one of their peers much more than they care about how those disagreements hurt people down at my level. It feels more like an institution protecting its leaders than helping those that are suffering. I for one am just right at my breaking point for walking away from 50 years of very dedicated church service. The last 5 years have just torn me up emotionally. Spiritually I feel closer to God and it is just killing me being bored for 3 hours each Sunday (plus 1.5 hour meetings on each side) when I would rather be serving in a soup kitchen and doing something to help someone.

  4. monkeyking

    Just got around to listening to this podcast.

    Certainly is now in my top 10 Mormon Podcasts. His analysis of the church and its members is insightful and helpful to those who find ourselves off-brand or perhaps even one-off Mormons without denigrating the doctrines or leaders. Something that I can recommend to main-liners without fearing to offend them.

  5. Anders

    Great episode. Loved the four-category system, good model for illustrating different ways we make meaning.
    Russ’s use of the word “mysticism” struck me as a bit odd. I think he might have been looking for a different word. The gist of what I got from him was that he doesn’t like ambiguity or vagueness in religious practice, there can’t be room for plausible deniability. In recent years the Church has been vague with certain teachings and official statements that in turn leaves the interpretation up to the member who receives it, and as we know there’s usually an expected reaction to those ambiguous teachings. For example, when the Church says something like “We love all children of God, and we love marriage between a man and a woman” in response to, oh, let’s say the Supreme Court ruling last summer, we know that it’s really the Church planting its feet firmly in opposition to same sex marriage. To go further, when it released the letter and guided discussion points in response to the same ruling, it wanted to send the message that a good member of the church should only be asking certain questions about this gay marriage business and should be satisfied by the approved answers to those approved questions, end of discussion.
    Sorry. I was in the MTC during the supreme court ruling and I get riled up about it.
    When Russ denounces mysticism and refers to it as plausible deniability, I think he means the Church’s way of officially bringing forward these vague and ambiguous teachings reflected in their official statements that infer an expected response from members.
    Just a thought. I’m big into Christian history, particularly mystic thought, and I think Russ was looking for a different word. He seems like a guy who values rationality, which is respectable. I think many members who are struggling with the Church right now might benefit from a little mysticism in their lives, it might refill their spiritual cup, so I think we should use the word properly.
    Again, not a shot at Russ. I love his ideas and he needs to write a book about the four categories.

  6. Canadian Mormons aren’t like Utah Mormons. Maybe Southern Alberta Mormons are, but that’s only 20% of the Mormons in Canada. This is from someone who has lived in Southern Alberta for 18 years, Vancouver for 9, and Saskatchewan for 16.

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