Dean Hughes: Digging Into Polygamy and Other "Muddy" Issues
When Dean Hughes began writing his latest book, he didn't plan on writing about polygamy but the topic became impossible to ignore. At times, there are things (both past and present) that may affect our beliefs and be impossible to ignore. Dean describes these things as "muddy," but explains that there are faithful ways to approach seemingly messy aspects of our faith or our Church's history.
Find Dean Hughes' new book, "Muddy," here.
3:47-Polygamy—Not an isolated challenge
5:57-Getting historical figures right
10:26- Balancing obedience and agency
17:14-Looking at history through a 2019 lens
23:29- Honoring uncomfortable aspects of our heritage
24:21- Putting historical characters on a pedestal
30:20-An international Church
34:54- Approaching muddy topics today
38:12- What does it mean to be all in the gospel of Jesus Christ?
0:00 Morgan Jones: June was a milestone month for "All In" and we have you to thank. We surpassed 400,000 downloads of the show, we finally made it to 1,000 ratings and reviews on Apple Podcasts. And we just wanted to say thank you. Thank you for listening. Thank you for sharing this podcast with your friends. And thank you to all of you who have taken a minute out of your day to leave us a rating or a review. All of this is thanks to you. And we are just so grateful. We're grateful to everyone who's come on the show, everyone that's listened, and we're grateful that we get to keep doing this, so thank you.
0:35 In the October 1864 general conference, Brigham Young called 183 families to settle a wasteland. It is remembered as the Muddy Mission. But in Dean Hughes new book, "Muddy," he explains that the valley was not the only muddy aspect of life for those early saints. Specifically, Hughes takes a look at polygamy through the eyes of those who experienced it. Do we sometimes feel like the history of the church is muddy? Do we feel ashamed of talking about this or other difficult periods of our churches history? What do we do when something relating to our own faith today feel muddy. Dean Hughes is one of the most beloved Latter-day Saint authors of all time. He published his 100th book in 2014, many of which have been historical fiction novels. He holds a bachelor's degree from Weber State College and Masters and PhD degrees from the University of Washington. He has attended post-doctoral seminars at Stanford and Yale.
1:42 This is "All In," an LDS living podcast where we ask the question, what does it really mean to be "all in" the Gospel of Jesus Christ? I'm Morgan Jones, and I am so so excited to have Dean Hughes with me today. Dean, welcome.
1:56 Dean Hughes: Thank you.
1:57 MJ: Well, as a child, I grew up reading your books. So I am so excited to have this chance to talk to you and today, we're specifically going to talk about your new book "Muddy," which I am around halfway through and I'm loving it. It's so good. So the part of the book that I want to focus on obviously, it's a fiction novel. And so it's based on historical events, but is uses these fictional characters. And so rather than focusing on the characters in the book, I would like to focus on kind of the topic, which it's kind of a heavy topic: polygamy. How did you feel about tackling that topic?
2:46 DH: Well, you know, I didn't exactly set out to write on that "topic." What I was interested in was the Muddy Mission, Muddy River Mission, which was down in Nevada. I had an early relative of mine who was one of the first to go down there. And so I knew it existed, I started reading more about it and decided it would be a fascinating story to tell because of the hardships that they went through. And it was just a tough, tough mission. But what I noticed was that many of the characters who went down there did have plural wives. Some of them left one or more of the wives home and only had one wife there and different combinations. But I decided, you know, there's no way I can write about this without writing about polygamy. And so I started reading lots of books on it and gradually I decided, well it might be interesting if I get my character into this whole story. And so that's how it evolved.
3:43 MJ: And your character's name is Morgan.
3:47 DH: Yes.
3:47 MJ: What a solid name for a character in a book. A Morgan, that's a man, not a woman. But I think, you know, I was just telling someone upstairs, we were talking about your book, she was saying that she had listened to it an audiobook. But I said that the biggest revelation for me, as I've been reading it is realizing that polygamy was not an isolated thing that these pioneers were being asked to do, meaning they were being asked to do all kinds of hard things. And so in the beginning of your book, we see how this boy is asked to not only marry someone within a week, so he has to choose a wife, he has to leave his family with the thought that he may never see them again and go settle this area that he's never even seen before. And I'm like, this is unbelievable that these people were willing to do this.
4:44 DH: Yeah, I think that's one of the hard things for us to think about in our modern terms. And they were called to go places and settle. A lot of the saints who came west were involved in settling Salt Lake Valley. And then just when they got their farm established and got going, then Brigham Young would say, we need a group to go to a certain place. And sometimes they would announce it in conference where they would call people and ask them to go and settle a new place. And remember, a lot of these people were originally from the eastern part of the United States, or they were from England, or they were from Scandinavia. All those places are green. They were used to green places. And now here they are in a desert. When you get down to the muddy river valley, there aren't any trees down there, there's only cactus. And so there's nothing to build with but mud.
5:39 MJ: They're like, We're on an alien planet."
5:43 DH: Yeah. And so they had to build these terrible Adobe places, and, you know, it's a hundred and 20 degrees at times down there. It's not far from Las Vegas. And I don't think they had any air conditioning at that time. Couldn't turn on the AC. So it was tough.
5:57 MJ: I don't know why not? I don't know why that wasn't an option. Well, Dean, I love the note, the author's note that you wrote at the beginning of the book. And so today, if it's okay with you, I kind of just want to take that note, point by point, and address some of the things that you talk about. And then hopefully, my thought is, for me when I read it, I was like, "Oh, now I really want to read the book." And so you begin this author's note by talking about portraying the Prophet Brigham Young, as a person, a human being, not only as a prophet, what kind of research goes into developing someone from history as a character in a book? And what kind of pressure do you feel to get that portrayal right?
6:44 DH: Yeah, that's really important. And it's a lot of fun to try to track down. If you read a history book, a general history of the saints, you get events, and you get a little bit about the people. ...Although the new "Saints" book that has come out, and I worked on that with a lot of other people. It does deal more with people than we've ever done before. But even at that you're dealing with a lot of people, and then you have to keep moving on. So what I was trying to do is find out all I could about Brigham Young's personality. What was interesting to me was that if you read his sermons, especially in the "Journal of Discourses," where a lot of them were recorded, you see a personality of this, this...he says blatant things. He's really, he's sort of an entertainer in a lot of ways. He loves to just, he loves to lay out the doctrine, but he also likes to tell you what you ought to do on your farms and, and all kinds of very practical advice. I brought with me a quote that I think is colorful. This is Brigham Young speaking in conference, and he's talking about how, how people when they donate in kind, you know, they ought to give, if they're going to give an animal they ought to give their best animal not, you know, an old, decrepit one. And so this is what he says. And he's talking about this specific place, "Some were disposed to do right with their surplus property, and once in a while you would find a man who had a cow which he considered surplus, but generally she was of the class that would kick a person's hat off, or eyes out, or the wolves had eaten off her teats. You would once in a while find a man who had a horse that he considered surplus, but at the same time he had the ringbone, was broken-winded, spavined in both legs, had the pole evil at one end of the neck and a fistula at the other, and both knees sprung." He said something like that many times, it was almost a set piece he did.
8:53 MJ: Like a standup routine.
8:54 DH: And he would tell that story but if you if you read right behind what he's saying, he is admonishing the people to to give their best. And he's sort of making fun of the saints for not doing better than they do. And so that's one side of his personality. But he also could get really rapturous about concepts and ideas. And what the gospel really meant and what it meant to be fully committed to it, and so forth. And so he's just a colorful man with a strong voice. And he's a very practical man. He knows what he's doing. You have to remember, yeah, he was the prophet, but he was also the governor when they first got to Utah, he was really operating the whole thing. And so he had to be practical. They had to, they had to build this place and they had to stick. And it was not going to be easy. So he's, you know, he'll tell you how to farm. He knows a lot about farming, but he was also a carpenter, he was a very practical man. He knew a lot of things. And he, for him, it all mixed together. There's another quote I have, he said, "In the mind of God, there is no such thing as dividing spiritual from temporal, or temporal from spiritual, for they are one in the Lord." So he saw life as all fitting together spiritual and temporal. And so he wasn't afraid to talk in a conference talk about both.
10:26 MJ: Right. Interesting, super interesting. I think it's fascinating to me in the book, to see this boy come in, when he asked him to go down to the Muddy Valley, he, you can tell that the boy just doesn't...he's never been around Brigham Young, really in like a personal setting. And so he's like, what do I think of this guy? You know, and I think that would be a real reaction that someone would feel. You write in this note that "Early church members believed in obedience. But this is the crucial point, then as now, they also defended their right to think for themselves." Later in the note you write, "In any age, people have had to struggle with religious conviction and deep-seated personal standards." These two statements were really fascinating to me. How do we see the balance of that obedience and personal agency play out in your book? And how do you think that we still see that today?
11:32 DH: Well, in the book, I think it comes down to that practical side where Brigham Young had never been to the Muddy River Valley, he only had reports on what it was like. And yet, he was quite specific about some of the things he asked the settlers to do, who went in there. And some of them wanted to go up river to a place that was a little greener than where the other settlements had been. And from Salt Lake, he says, No, I told you not to go there. Now, he had some concerns about some of the Indian tribes in that area. And he didn't want them to spread out. It was right after the Blackhawk War, so you can see where he's coming from. But those who were down there, they're saying that's over. That is not a problem here. We're not concerned about this. This is a better place to farm. Why can't we choose for ourselves? It's only a few miles away. And that's the difficulty, that's some of the difficulty in the novel where, where a young man whose grown up on a farm, thinks he knows how to farm feels like Brigham, you aren't here. Don't tell me how to do this. But he wants to be obedient, right? He wants to be true to the Church. And so he struggles with that, and he, he tends to go to the obedience side, but it bothers him. When you say how does it play out now? The example that I was thinking about, as you said that: When I was in graduate school, we're talking almost 50 years ago, blacks could still not hold the priesthood in our church. And I was called on a stake mission. And that was tough. I was at the University of Washington up in Seattle. And there's a lot of anti-BYU demonstrations going on over this very issue. And it was hard when you start to try to teach people, they would immediately bring up this issue, and I didn't have an answer. I didn't know why blacks couldn't have the priesthood. I wrestled with it. And there were explanations that came out. There were people who theorized and wrote you know, ideas about "This is the doctrine and this is why," and they didn't make sense to me. And here I was trying to be a missionary. And at the same time, feeling really conflicted about this. This issue just didn't ring true to me. Well, in 1973, a man named Lester Bush wrote an article in Dialogue Magazine, and it was about this issue, and he had traced it very carefully, as to how this practice had come into the church was a long, carefully documented article. By the time I finished, I decided that, that this was a policy not a doctrine, and it had come out of a certain time. But it could be and should be changed sooner or later, that (was in) 73. When I said things like that, say in a Sunday school discussion or something, I sometimes was severely reprimanded for not being true to the Church, for preaching false doctrine. It was really painful to me, I had people who thought I was a renegade, and I wasn't. And I just thought that was true. Well, here's my mind and here's my spirit, and I'm trying to bring the two together. 1978, I'm driving down the freeway in Missouri, and the announcer comes on and says, the president of the Mormon church today announced a revelation. What? And he said, they announced that all all males, you know, adult males could receive the priesthood or however, they announced it. And I had to pull off the freeway and, and sit by side of the road and cry. I was so relieved to have this over. When these essays came out, official essays by the Church explaining some of the difficult questions, here's an essay that starts with the idea that this was a policy, not a doctrine, and it, you know, and everything I had said way back then was being verified. So I'm just saying that there's one that played out all the way through in my lifetime. Yeah, there are others around like that, where we're asking ourselves, why is that? What's going to come of that? Is that going to stay the same? Is that going to change?
11:33 MJ: Yeah. How do you, Dean, a question that came to me as you were telling that story, because I do think that there are still things that people are wrestling with right now. When you're in a Sunday school class, and you bring that up, or when that starts being talked about, and you express this belief that it's a policy and you're being reprimanded for it? How do you maintain faith and commitment to the gospel, when you're faced with that kind of opposition?
16:04 DH: Well, now I teach the Sunday school class, I teach gospel doctrine in my ward so I do bring up some of those things myself, but, you know, I have a testimony, I have faith and then I have questions and I have things I can't answer. And I think that when you've been around for a while, you find that you're always going to have questions. There's never a time when the questions end but if you've had certain experiences in your life that verify your faith, then you rely on those.
17:14 MJ: Yeah, you've write in this note that the book is kind of an effort to help us enter a time machine and see things through a 19th century lens, because it's impossible for us to understand if we view it through a 21st century lens. I thought this was really such a good point because when we interviewed Jenny Reeder and Janiece Johnson, they kind of made the same point that one of the biggest problems that we have when we look at history is that we're trying to view it through our perspective and our perspective is so limited. And so you said you know that this is kind of a time machine, the book is an effort to provide that time machine back into the past. What do you think is the danger of looking at history through a 2019 lens?
18:06 DH: Well, I think I think it's very easy to assume that the way you see things is the way people have always seen things and not to stop and ask yourself, what it would be like to be at that time. There are lots of examples. I mean, we sort of create our narratives after something happens. And a lot of times those narratives are not very helpful. One of the narratives about the Church is that the the pioneers were sort of these noble, perfect people sort of superhuman, and then we say, I could never have done that. So instead of the lesson being: They went through very hard things, and they stuck through them, and they got through them, or at least a lot of them did. Some of them failed. And some of them left the church. And you know, there's no one story about the so-called pioneers, a lot of what we call pioneers are just early members of the church that didn't pioneer anything. But there's no one story. They're all individuals, and some were better than others and they stuck it out in the case of those who came to Utah and settled it. And they went through this hard, very hard thing and got through it. But now we talk about them as though they were so much better than us. And I think, how does that help us? Why not say "They did hard things, I can do hard things." The lesson is they passed that strength along to us rather than they were different from us. But that comes up in all kinds of ways. And I think with polygamy, in the 21st century, we're so oriented towards sexual things, that when we think of marriage, when we think of a life together, so often it's portrayed in our movies and so forth as almost and completely a sexual union, whereas when you read the 19th century, and how they think and talk, it's more about having a family, procreating, having children, it's not sensual in the way that we make it now. And so it I mean, not to say the sex was different, or that it wasn't also a pleasure to them, but they really put a heavy stress on having children. And that that was the joy of life, and to have a big family was good. Because, you know, there were more workers on the farm came along. And so I think we, when we think of polygamy, the narrative outside the church, historically has been these men who created harems and it was all for their own sexual gratification. And they treated these women as though they were slaves, and so forth. And that just isn't at all the case. But I think now, within the Church, we're a little embarrassed by polygamy, we look back and we don't know how to explain it to other people. And so we're sort of hesitant to even talk about it, we don't quite understand it, because we've kind of seen it through that narrative tha people outside the Church have created. Whereas if you read the journals, and the life histories that people at the time wrote, most of them talk about polygamy, as they'll say, "It was the hardest thing I ever did in my life, or it was, it was a burden to take this on. But the Lord wanted me to do it (or in other words, they were often called to do it.) And so we managed it." And sometimes, they never did get to like their sister wife they were living with, or the Sister Wives they were living with. And other times they became bonded, every story is different. But it was not so much the way we think about it. It was there was a woman named Patty Sessions in Nauvoo, who was a midwife. And she kept a really thorough journal as she was crossing the plains. Her husband had married another wife, who was younger than she, probably prettier. Who knows? But certainly younger. And they didn't get along very well. This was this younger woman wouldn't help according to Patty, had a bad attitude, and so forth. And all of that you can imagine how difficult it would be to work things like that out. Family problems, so to speak. But But the moment that is most telling to me was she said, "Tonight, my husband is with her. And I slept alone in the wagon."
22:49 And it wasn't so much that he was with her but that she was alone. And they're out in the plains, crossing the plains. She's got to sleep in the wagon all by herself. And I mean, the loneliness she felt was so powerful. And I think that's the thing, it was balancing this out, how can you be loving and kind to another woman when she's taking my husband away from me? And not thinking of it just as a sexual thing, but as a personal thing, as an intimacy, as losing some part of my husband to someone else. It was tough to do. And we should, we should respect how, how committed they were to be willing and able to do that.
23:29 MJ: Yeah. So at the end of this note, you kind of touch on this Dean, and you say, "When it comes to polygamy, our life experience actually works against our understanding, we must be ready to grant the faith and religious devotion that lay behind the practice, we must cast away the shame many people today feel that our church once authorized and encouraged that kind of life. Importantly, we need to look to our own heritage. Like many modern saints, I am the descendant of polygamous families, they made hard choices and lived a difficult law as best they could. It's time that we honor our heritage rather than duck our heads and change the subject." Why do you think that it's important that we honor the heritage of something that we're uncomfortable with? And how do we do that?
24:21 DH: Well, I think we do it, first of all, by learning more about it. So that was some of my goal in writing the book is to humanize it, to show what it was actually like, as opposed to this, as I said, the narrative that the people outside the Church put upon it. You know, we honor our, we call it...we talk about the pioneers on the 24th of July, we honor them for crossing the plains. That was actually not as hard as we make it sound. The first spring when they left Nauvoo, a lot of people died in Iowa before they got to to winter quarters, but not very many actually died crossing the plains, some did. But it was not as awful. I mean, we're so used to getting on a plane and flying, that it's hard for us to imagine taking, you know, 20 miles a day all the way across the, you know, from the middle of the country to the west. And so it sounds really hard to us. But I don't think the crossing of the plains was nearly as hard for individuals, as well, for one thing, getting here and actually trying to build up a place in a desert, which I talked about earlier. But also this doctrine, everyone who was called to it would talk about how at first they were just sickened by the idea. It ran against everything they had done all their lives. They weren't. I mean, you just didn't marry more than one person.
24:21 MJ: And in that way, they are like us right?
24:39 DH: Yeah, exactly. And so they had to say, "Well, this is from God. And I've been called to enter into this." And not that everybody was called because you could also decide you'd like to marry another person. But you did have to get permission. You didn't just marry someone, you had to get permission. But when people first entered into it, almost all of them talk about it being extraordinarily difficult. Well, if we honor them for doing a difficult thing, then this plays right into that, this is another difficult thing that some of the early saints did. And so I look at my family. And some of my lines come directly down from these people. And I, you know, I often...people talk to me about, because I've written so many books, they talked to me about how disciplined I must be and I am. That's one thing I am—more disciplined than talented. I can sit there and work on a book all day and go back and rewrite it and rewrite it and rewrite it. Is some of that part of my DNA that came down from what it took to cross the plains, what it took to inhabit a desert, and to live this this law. So I think I think there's every reason to feel like we have a noble heritage we can be proud of.
27:13 MJ: Yeah. So I think one thing, Dean, that we're seeing today is kind of this desire to erase some parts of history. And I don't think that this exists solely in the Church, I think it extends outside of the Church as well. And I'm curious for you, why do you think that it's important that we recognize history, that we study it, learn from it, rather than trying to erase it from the record?
27:43 DH: Yeah, I think, you know, it is what we've been talking about, that these narratives we create. You know, we talk about George Washington with these little stories that aren't even true. We know they're not true, but it's as though he was the most noble human being who ever lived. Well, he, I think he was fine man. But we make him into something more than he was. And we do that with certain characters. And then we, you know, do the opposite with others, we vilify people because we create these narratives. For instance, World War II will often...we talk about the Holocaust. And we talk about this was the war to free these Jews from the Holocaust, we didn't even know much about what was going on in terms of the killing of the Jews during most of the war. And there was a lot of anti-semitism in the United States. And, when the Jews were trying to get out of Germany, the United States was not very willing to take them. And so we now know the end of the war. And then we went into all these, these horrible camps and saw what had been done to the Jews. And now that's the main thing we remember from it. We've created almost a nobility that I'm not sure was entirely there. We do that with all kinds of things. It's just, we want to think the best of ourselves, I guess. And, and so if it's our history, we'll make it look as good as we can. And I just think it's, it's better to know that human beings did all this stuff, that the whole history of the world was done by regular people. And that I'll bet, I'll bet someone like George Washington would be astounded by how we talk about him now.
29:34 MJ: He's like, "Who is that you're talking about?"
29:37 DH: Yeah. And so I think it's better to say, real people tried to solve real problems. They weren't super human. And they made mistakes, and we can look at their mistakes and learn from them, and move forward. But we don't have to have this perfect narrative, that everything that came down to us was always done exactly. right.
29:55 MJ: Yeah. That reminds me of the quote by Jeffrey R. Holland where he says "imperfect people are all God has ever had to work with."
29:55 DH: That's right.
30:05 MJ: And I do think you're right. I think we put people up on such a pedestal that it seems like "Oh, well, I'm never going to be capable of living up to that." But there's a reality that sets in when you do look at people through a human lens.
30:20 DH: And I think one of the problems in the Church now is that the Church has become so big compared to what it was in those early days I've been writing about, that we we don't know the president of the Church or the apostles. I mean, some of you have met them, and some might have been your neighbor at some point. But generally speaking. I mean, when I was a kid, we would have four conferences, four stake conferences a year. And I don't remember, but I think two of them they had general authorities there, that kind of thing. They were just general authorities were around a lot more. And so now, we kind of talk about general authorities as though they are perfect. I don't think that's healthy, either. And that's what I think Elder Holland was trying to say is that we're all, I mean, if I got called to be an apostle, (that would not be a good plan but I'm just saying) I would have to go to that job with my imperfections and do the best I could. And that's how every one of the apostles I'm sure feels, "Oh my goodness, why did they call me? I'm not good enough for this." And when they first get called us what they often feel and later say.
31:31 MJ: You bring what you can to the table. That reminds me of, and I think that this story strikes an interesting balance in those two things, because I think we need to recognize that they are human, but also respect the calling that they're in. When I was younger. I grew up in North Carolina and my great grandpa, he was a member of the Church his whole life. And we were staying...there was a regional conference. And we were staying in the Marriott. And we found out that President Monson, who at the time was first counselor in the First Presidency was staying in our hotel, and someone told us, you know, he's going to be coming through here in the morning, if you want to see him, you know? And we're like, "Are you kidding me? We'd love to see him." We're so excited. So we get up the next morning and it's a Saturday morning. So we're not in like our Sunday clothes or anything. But my great grandpa the night before he had said to us, he said, "You know, this really isn't that big of a deal." He's like, "When I was younger, we had apostles come stay at our house," and just kind of downplayed the whole thing. But who was up the next morning at 6 a.m. in his suit, waiting in the lobby? My great grandpa, and to me, it was like, yes, he recognized that, like, we were probably making a bigger deal out of it than it was. But he also had a reverence and a respect for that calling. And he was going to be there in his suit. We were all in jeans, you know? And so I think that that, for me, it was a really awesome example of of striking that balance.
33:11 DH: Yeah, that he did respect. And I think one of the interesting things about the early Church was, "Yes, you've lived in the same town as Brigham Young, or with Joseph Smith, and he was around and you saw all sides of them. And so it was easier to think of him as a human being. But you do see all the signs of respect at the same time. But one of the things about the change is the Church now is so worldwide, that you can't make pronouncements that won't apply everywhere. For Brigham Young, to say,I want you to settle this area, or I want you to grow this crop or that sort of thing. Even even a few years back, there was more talk of, you know, President Kimball used to say, keep your yards up and paint your barn. And you know, we've always been told to store food and so forth. But we're getting more and more generalist in general conference now because we have to say things that apply to the whole world. And so that's one of the differences when Brigham Young was speaking so practically, it sounds funny to us, because we can't imagine President Nelson standing up and giving us advice about what crops to farm or, you know, there's one time when he was telling people about how to kill off a certain moth that was, you know, causing problems on their farms. And he was telling it in general conference!
33:21 MJ: That pesky moth.
34:45 DH: Yeah. And so it's hard for us to imagine that. And that's part of what we've been talking about. It's just, it was a different world for them then.
34:54 MJ: Yeah. In the author's note, you also say, "In each age, we have to decide how deeply we are committed to obedience, and what part of ourselves we cling to and hold as untouchable. Sometimes those decisions can feel a little muddy," which obviously alludes to the Muddy Valley and the title of your book. But are there any examples that you can think of, in our current age, that get a little bit muddy? And what would be your advice, as you've studied this history, what would be your advice in how we as Latter-day Saints approach those muddy issues?
35:34 DH: When my wife and I first got married, there was a lot of talk about how many children you should have. And there was always the implication sometimes from the pulpit, that a bigger family was a better family. And yet, each of us has to decide, and you take health into effect and all kinds of things. But sometimes we judge each other, you know, "Oh, he has eight children. He's a wonderful Latter-day Saint," and "How come you only have three?" some people said to me, and we knew why we made those decisions. And we weren't ready to make excuses or say, or try to say, "Oh, well, I have to explain to you," you know? And I think there are lots of things like that going on. Our cultures are changing quickly. The attitude toward lesbians and gays is changing very fast in our world. And we're seeing changed attitudes in the Church. And I think that's that's one of the muddy issues for us right now. Gay marriage is one thing, how we treat gays is another thing. And yet it gets a little muddy as to how we feel about that. Abortion, right now, we in the church, our official position is that we do allow for exceptions, or in other words, some people say we believe in abortion if we allow exceptions. So how far should the exceptions go and I know people who've been in situations where they've had to make decisions about the mother's health, for instance, where that's not always clear cut as to what the situation is with mother's health. And so yeah, those are, I think, two of the muddy issues right now, where we're seeing a lot of change, and a lot of debate, and a lot of political entry into the issue. And those are all things that we're going to have to work out.
37:26 MJ: Dean, I'm curious, after having written this book, and you said that in the beginning, your intention was not to write a book about polygamy. But as you've written this book, How did it affect the feelings that you have, and maybe the respect that you have, toward these people who lived this principle?
37:46 DH: Oh, I just gained so much more respect than I ever had before. And I think I understood more what the challenges were, and how, how deeply personal those challenges were for each individual. And I just, I just feel a need to honor the people who were able to live that way.
38:03 MJ: Yeah, that's been my feeling too, as I read the book, which I think you did a great job helping me see that so thank you for that.
38:12 DH: Thank you.
38:12 MJ: In conclusion, Dean, what does it mean to you to be all in the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
38:19 DH: Well, you know, as you can tell, as we talk, I'm sort of a born questioner, and I'm a trained skeptic. I majored in English and literature, but I minored in philosophy. And I took logic classes, and it's been very damaging to me. (Laughs) I've spent my life sort of always questioning everything. And I just don't accept things on face value, I'm always looking underneath them. And I'm really quite analytical. And yet, there's this other side of me—this faith that I have, and some of it is based upon experience, specific spiritual experiences, and some of it is based on the idea that when you live the gospel, you will know that it's true. And that's what I've often turned to is just that idea that if you would know the truthfulness of what Christ taught, then live the gospel and you will know it and and that's probably my most basic principle. I have friends who are like me, who got to a point where they couldn't do it anymore. And they've become, I would say, cultural Mormons. And we don't say Mormons anymore. But you know, that's what they would refer to themselves as cultural Mormons where they like the church, they like to be around it. They even like to have their kids in the church and so forth. But they don't truly believe it anymore. I can't do that. I cannot do that, I have to be all in or not. And so I defer to my faith when I don't know the answer to the question. And I feel like I'm always going to have questions but I committed to the gospel. And that's where I'm going to stay.
40:02 MJ: Thank you so much. It's interesting to me to hear you say that, when I was a missionary, I became really fascinated by the idea of experiences and how it's by, it's like the scripture in Malachi where he talks about tithing and it says, prove me now herewith, and, to me, that's so true. It's like, just try to live it and see if it doesn't bless your life. And when you do, the more that you have those little experiences, the more it's hard to deny it. And that for me has been part of my all in experience as well. So thank you so much for sharing that.
40:41 DH: Thank you.
40:44 MJ: A huge thank you to Dean Hughes for joining us on this week's episode, you can find "Muddy" in Deseret Bookstores now. I also want to take a quick second to give a shout out to someone who often doesn't get a ton of recognition on this show, but absolutely did deserves it and that's our sound tech, Derek Campbell, of Mix At 6 Studios. Derek, we appreciate you and could not do this show without you. And to you the listener, thank you again for being here with us and we'll look forward to being with you again next week.