Richie T. Steadman, co-host of BYU Radio’s The Lisa Show and creator of The Cultural Hall podcast, once found himself in a situation he never could’ve imagined: excommunicated from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was an unexpected note in the life of someone who had otherwise been a devoted member of the Church his entire life. But even while he worked toward being re-baptized, Steadman never missed a Sunday of church.
In a recent interview on All In, Steadman shared some of his memories and feelings from when he was excommunicated—a term that has since been replaced in the Church with “withdrawal of membership”—and why he was committed to going back.
The following excerpt has been edited for clarity.
Morgan Jones: So Richie, take me back to that day that you’re in the car. And you are having this kind of wrestle with yourself. And I would say kind of a wrestle with like the natural man versus the part—the Richie that you are, which is you are a disciple of Jesus Christ. How did you rally and end up in church that Sunday?
Richie T. Steadman: Well, I almost didn’t, if we’re being 100 percent transparent with one another. But I remember … and as I think about it, I can see the parking lot and I can even see that dumpy old car that I was in, in my mind. And I just remember the oomph that got me to take the seat belt off, to get out and to go into the church was I had the very clear distinction that if I didn’t get out of the car that day, I probably wouldn’t go back.
And I think, you know, to the other part of your question [of my] going to church—every Sunday, even on vacation, even in other places of the world—[the reason I] would seek out a church to be able to worship in that time of excommunication was because I really felt so committed to continuing on the path because of the choice that I made that one day in that parking lot.
MJ: That’s remarkable. So you mentioned earlier that you feel like the way that you’re able to reconcile all of this in your mind is that it’s what God knew that you needed. How did that experience change you in that time in your life?
RTS: Well, one of the things that I feel like I’m able to do now is I feel like there’s zero barrier to entry with me. … When I can engage with people that are no longer members of the Church, and you know, I’m surrounded by those in my neighborhood and in some of the things that I pursue interest wise—when I’m surrounded by members of the Church, like, I am who I am, and I'm able to say, “Where are you?” “Oh, I get it. I’ve been there. I can experience that with you.”
There isn’t any sort of pretense that comes with me. And really just being able to connect in a way that because of all of those experiences, coming through it and feeling at times like I was judged, I never want to do that to anyone. And so I try and offer that with anyone who I’m able to interact with. And so think about it—if you know that you can interact with someone that isn't going to judge you, that just wants to know you, and really believes that you have something not only to contribute, but maybe a story … a perspective, something that can be gained from that interaction, I mean, you give to that person.
And I’m really grateful to be able to have those types of interactions with people. People will comment to me, “How long … have you known that person?” if they're out with me when I'm visiting or if I have someone in the studio and there happens to be another person here. And I'm like, “Oh, I've never met them before. That was the first time.” And they would absolutely say, “No way. I cannot believe that.” It’s just because of an absence of judgment of pretense. And just to be able to say, “Yeah, come on, what do you got? Whatever it is, it’s great and I love it.”