Brian Acord shares a powerful and emotional journey of leaving a high-demand religion. Growing up in Utah, surrounded by Mormons, Brian's life was deeply intertwined with the church. Everyone he knew was a church member, and he felt pressured to conform to its teachings. Brian shares his story of deepening his involvement in the church and eventually questioning its teachings, leading to his departure. After leaving the church, he felt lost and empty and found himself abandoned by former neighbors and friends who were still part of the community.
Brian Acord shares a powerful and emotional journey of leaving a high-demand religion. Growing up in Utah, surrounded by Mormons, Brian's life was deeply intertwined with the church. Everyone he knew was a church member, and he felt pressured to conform to its teachings. Brian shares his story of deepening his involvement in the church and eventually questioning its teachings, leading to his departure. After leaving the church, he felt lost and empty and found himself abandoned by former neighbors and friends who were still part of the community.
“I went into a depression that lasted several years. This is even hard to explain because overnight, I lost my ward family. 350 families. None of them reached out to me. I'm living here. I see them all out my window. Every window I look. And there are people that I coached lacrosse with for eight years that I served on the Bishop Brick for years. And the high priest group leader, I served side by side with them 20-30 hours a week for 10 years. I've never heard from them since then. They live seven houses away, seven houses. I thought we were friends. I thought we had a relationship, a true relationship.”
The conversation delves into the core values that drove Brian's involvement in the church, including a desire to help others and love thy neighbor. This episode offers a candid look at the complex emotions involved in leaving a religious community and finding one's identity outside of it. Brian's story reminds us that it is okay to question the status quo and that our identities are not defined by the communities we belong to. His journey of self-discovery is a powerful example of the resilience of the human spirit and the importance of connecting with others.
Brian hosts his podcast, Strangers You Know, where he aims to give his listeners a window into the lives of people from all walks of life. Through deep and meaningful conversations, he deconstructs various aspects of life, unraveling the complexities of human experience.
Brian is an entrepreneur, educator, coach, and community advocate. He has worked with over a dozen startups, non-profits, Fortune 100 companies, and technology startups. Brian has taught business courses at multiple universities and currently teaches the Everyday Entrepreneur Program to refugees and underserved communities. He is a certified coaching trainer for USA Lacrosse. Brian is also a mentor for several dozen startups and is involved in community organizations such as Common Thread Utah and the Nomad Alliance, where he serves on the Board of Directors and Immigration and New American Integration task force, respectively.
Connect with Brian: https://www.strangersyouknowpodcast.com/
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Hello, my friends. Welcome to the Life Shift podcast. I am here with a fellow podcaster and friend, Brian. Hey, Brian. Thank you for being a part of this.
I know we've been talking for a while about having you on the show, and for some reason, my emails never make them to you. So I'm glad we were able to make this happen. And I think your story is gonna be a really interesting one for me selfishly. I think this will be a learning lesson for me. But I think there are other people out there that have gone through similar situations or are on the edge of going through them, and maybe, they happen to come across this podcast. But, uh you know, so thank you for being a part of this and being willing to share your story. I know you do this on your podcast, which is called Strangers You Know, and you have some really deep conversations about deconstructing a lot of parts of life, right?
You want to tell us a little bit about that podcast just so we have an idea. Yeah. So it kind of came about because of my story. Don't give us all the time. So we're not going to get to the end of it yet. But it basically came down to the idea that we live in a closed-loop society with our social media and everybody you see on your social news feed because of the algorithm, it only shows you people that look like you talk, like you think, like you grew up with the same backgrounds. Um, And you hear that enough, and people think what you see other people say. What are their problems? What are they thinking? Why do they make this? Like those are all good questions.
Can we take a second to ask them and then listen to their response? That's kind of what the strangers, you know, is I like to introduce my listeners to people from all walks of life and just sit down and see the world through their eyes for a minute and probably uncover that the human experience has a lot more commonalities than differences I would imagine. You know, here on this show, the same feeling I get from having conversations with people, even though their experiences are quite different. There are a lot of common emotions, and common feelings towards things and humanity in general that I find very refreshing to your point of the closed loop society and the things that we are either forced to gravitate towards because of the algorithms or things we naturally gravitate towards because we don't like to be uncomfortable in some cases or some people don't like to be uncomfortable. So I think what you're doing, some of those conversations are really fascinating that you have with your guests. So thank you for putting that out.
You know, it's, I love it because it allows me to get outside my comfort zone and people that already know what I know and think what I think and, And I think one of the biggest benefits for me is once you have, once you meet one of these individuals interviewed a 31-year-old homeless man named silence. And everybody has preconceived notions about homeless people, and they don't have many opportunities to sit down and talk with one. And once you hear silence the story, you never look at another homeless person the same way again. You just have that more humanity, more like, wow, they are this close to my life. You know, they were so very close.
My could be, that could be me instead of that person, and what an amazing individual that person is. And it's like, why wouldn't they be? Just because their life is different? They have to be less than, or worse, or wrong.
Yeah, I would agree. Yeah. And you know what I think in a lot of the conversations I have, we talked about how, I don't know who it was, but maybe like society has taught us to judge others in some way and, and maybe it wasn't, maybe it was just something that has been passed down without intention. But I think that is a great example that guess that you had of just like there are people too, you know, they're in different circumstances that maybe we can't understand. But maybe if we sat down with the strangers, we know, you know, and, and have a conversation with them. Well, and I think that segues perfectly into what you're gonna share because I think that there are people that will understand your situation and then there'll be people like me like I don't, I don't get it, you know, I don't understand. So before we get to that very specific trigger, pivotal moment that really has changed the trajectory of your life, why don't you kind of set the scene or paint the picture of what your life was leading up to this moment? And you can go back as far as you need to, to really give us that good picture. Okay. Well, so I was born and raised in, in a suburb in Salt Lake City, Utah, surrounded by Mormons. Um And if you haven't lived in two counties in Salt Lake, you may not have to be aware of what it means to be surrounded by Mormons. Um I'll try to give you a little bit of an idea of that. So I, I think all through elementary, I can't think of a single person that I went to school with teacher or student that wasn't lds.
Now, there might have been someone but they were probably feeling out of it and never let that be known. They just kind of quietly slip by. But literally every kid you played with on recess, anything you were doing on Sunday had to be church related because that's where all the kids were. Um, they don't play sports on Sunday.
Actually, church sports was even bigger than community support than city baseball or whatever. The church volleyball and church basketball was much, much bigger because everybody belonged to that same church. Um with the exception of my family, right? So I didn't grow, I grew up pseudo in the church.
My grandparents on both my mother and my father's side have go generations and generations back to the beginning of the church. We had pioneers that walked across the United States, pushing a handcart. Um We had polygamy on both sides of the family. Um We had missionaries, my great, great grandfather, my great, great, great grandfather went on church missions. Um all the way back to the beginning, but not my parents.
My mom was baptized, my grandfather was baptized on my dad's side, but he married a Catholic. And so he kind of like religion wasn't his thing. So he just kind of did everything Catholic. So my dad was never baptized. And so there were some of the few people that I knew in my family we had a very close family.
Um, my family was one of the few people that I knew that drank coffee or alcohol or smoked almost. You don't see that anywhere, anywhere in the neighborhood. It's kind of, it's kind of crazy and we were the outliers for sure. Um, and, um, not so much but, you know, one of the things and this comes back to play later is I met, um, a lot of members in the church think drinking coffee is terrible. I mean, it's one of the worst things you can do, you know, next to, you know, murder and rape and, you know, there are a lot of other things you can do that are worse than drinking coffee. Right. But it's, they're all the same drinking coffee, alcohol, smoking, not going to church on Sunday, not paying your tithing, not dressing appropriately, not all of this is the worst thing you can do. And the people that I knew that were doing it, my family members, they're good people, both sets of grandparents, my aunts and my uncles that weren't in, in the church and they're just wonderful people.
They drink coffee on occasion, they drink alcohol and I had a few that smoked once in a while and I didn't think much of it at the time. I just kind of, you know, they're good people regardless that, like I said, that comes back later. Um, but I didn't really believe in the church. I went to church because that's where my friends were on Sunday. Flash forward a couple of years when I graduate, I go off to college, I joined a fraternity. Um, I'm drinking some alcohol. I'm enjoying life a little bit. 10, gently related to the church. But growing up the leaders would always say they'd always check. Are you going, thinking of going on a mission? And I'm like, yes in the back of my head, finish the sentence.
I'm thinking there's no way you're gonna convince me to give two years of my life to go on a mission. But I just cut it off it. Yes. So no plans of doing that. That wasn't me. All my friends went and I wrote at the time they were allowed to write one letter home a week. Um And on one day a week they could write letters. Um And a lot of them wrote to me and that had an effect.
I was dating um a lady that became my wife. She kind of wanted to marry a return missionary was kind of a big thing for her. She didn't really push. She says now she dragged me into the church.
I'm not sure that was entirely the case. But whatever reason I'm living in the fraternity, I've got uh my bedroom is the size of a shoebox. And for some reason at this time, I, my scriptures were there that my mom gave me when I was a sophomore.
I'd moved several times. I have no idea why I had my scriptures there. I started to read them.
I can't remember why I stopped drinking. Someone handed me a drink and I said, yeah, I don't drink anymore. They're like, since when, and I'm like, since when I didn't realize that. So I get this idea that I'm gonna go on a mission and all my friends are coming home and I turned because you usually go, the men usually go out at 19 and I turned 21 my last Saturday in the United States in the Mission Training Center in Provo before I went on my two year mission to Japan. Wow. And do you think that those letters were also, did you feel that those letters that were coming to, you were targeted to you to get you to try or want to go on a mission?
I don't think there was any of that. I think they were saying how great it was for them and the lives that they're influencing. I don't think that's, and they were friends. They were just friends telling me about their life and they were excited.
I had a friend that lived in Guatemala and he lived in the jungles of Guatemala. That was totally his mission. Indiana Jones stuff, machete on his hip scriptures on the other one. You know, it's kinda is that the skeptic in me of just organized religion in general.
My thought goes to you were asked to send you the letters to convince you to go and then your girlfriend, now wife was also coming from this end. And so you were like, gotta go. I've been pressured into it.
Yeah, it doesn't look like it was the case. I didn't feel pressured into it. I feel like I stepped into it. Even with my wife and my friends, I feel like this is something I started studying church history. It started to make sense to me is the first time I ever really studied, I went to church in primary and Sunday school and young men's and, and all that. But it really started to make sense. And I'm like, no, this is, this is it, this is really and everybody that I was surrounded by that were good, everybody that I was surrounded by. Um they were all members of the church, even the people in the fraternity. Um And um the things, the people that I was drawn to two members of the fraternity that came from outside of the state or they weren't members of the church.
The things that I was drawn to about them were very Mormon esque, um very high sense of values. Um They weren't partiers, they had a strong sense of community. Um And for some reason in my brain that all resonated that that's kind of what the church is about, that's what um people in the church have that and there are people outside the church that have that but there's always this, like, little resonating sound like they'd be better if they were members.
Um, you know, all they need to do is be baptized and they'd be the most wonderful person. I'm thinking, why would they have to be baptized to do that? They're already amazing people. Can't that just be enough? Yeah. Do you think that, like just a byproduct of consistently going to church with your friends as part of that was just kind of like, you know, like they put that idea in your head.
That, that, that's the only way. I mean, even though you see it the only way to get to that level, being baptized in the church and following all the rules. The second, there you go. The second part following all the rules, you don't just get baptized and say salvation. Hallelujah. You have to do all of the things and there are so many things.
Everyone needs to return Mary, a return missionary. Everyone has to get married in the temple. Everyone has to all of these things.
You can't drink coffee, you can't, you must read your scriptures daily, daily, personal and companion and family scripture study. And all these good examples that you're shown all came inside the church and all these bad examples people point out they are outside the church or they have left the church. They used to be here but now they're struggling with addiction. Um You don't hear about the people that are inside the church that are struggling with addiction. You don't hear about the people that are outside the church that have never been addicted.
It's always the messages you get, support the belief system and the structure. And so, um so yeah, I went to, to, to Japan for two years and was converting very few people. Um There's not a lot of interest in Christianity, certainly not Mormonism um on that on that mission. I'm just so curious to me and I've never really investigated or thought about it because it's just not something that is in my, my space, right? And so when you're on that mission, like what is a typical week life like or what are you assigned to do for a week? So you do a lot of finding knocking on doors, hanging out in the parks, talking with people wherever, just starting up whatever conversations visiting some members um asking if they know anybody that are interested in taking the discussions. We taught free English classes at the church and of course, we teach it at the church and people came here. What's this building? It's a good opener.
Let me tell you about the building and I don't feel like I ever pushed it on them. But if they showed any inkling at all, we were gonna start teaching them discussions and we can still teach them English one way or the other. But Um so there are very strict, the strictest of guidelines go to missionaries and we have this little white handbook that you carry around an underline and go backwards and forwards and you're up at six, it tells you every minute of the day, what you're doing until you go back to bed at 10:30. How much study time, what you're studying, they give you the manuals, they tell you what time you leave the apartment, they tell you how do you have all these rules? And you're, it's like a soldier, right?
There's not like, well, you just join the army and then just kind of go do things. No, you're here. You do it all the time. We transfer you, you're always with the companion. You're right home once a week. Um Was any part of you?
Were you all in where it was like 100% like, Oh, this is this, you were, this makes sense to me. I should definitely should follow this because I was there was that drive because you knew that was the only way that you were going to End up where everyone promises you end up. Oh yeah, the celestial. Absolute. Yeah. There are 3° of glory and you can't know there's no shortcuts and the Japanese have a saying that say that says there are many ways to the top of Mount Fuji. And I used to say no No, no, no, no.
There's one God, there's one heaven, there's one path to get there. I don't believe that anymore. But everybody has their own path.
That idea just seems so hokey. It's like, oh, that's so, that's so flimsy. That's just, oh, we can just do what everyone and nothing really matters. Just be a good person and everything will be fine.
No, there's a path. There's a destination. Yeah. You, and there's, well, they'll show you every step you take to get there. And as a missionary is your role. Did you have like a quota?
I mean, that's a silly question. But did we set goals? We were, we were asked to set goals. Um And it's very much, there's a reason why, why all the multilevel marketing companies are based in Utah that it's multilevel marketing for Mormons.
You come back and change it to Sensi or two. Um, whatever else you've got whatever. They're all right there in Mormon Central. That's all of the multilevel marketing. You gotta build your down line, right? Gotta get baptisms. Gotta, how do you get that? You teach lessons? How do you teach lessons? You find people? How many people are we gonna find this week? How many lessons are we gonna teach this week? How many baptisms are we gonna have? And you just kind of set that base and we didn't have a lot of baptisms in Japan, but it's all very sales based. And there there's the path, there's the process.
Less than one you start with, less than one and it's taught a certain way and listen to and it's a certain way. And I was all in, I mean, so consider, I left the middle of my fraternity halfway through my college, all of my friends at, at the fraternity. They don't know what to think of me all of a sudden now all the Sunday, Mormon, um, I kind of just kind of like a, I wasn't at all. I mean, there were some people at the fraternity that were shocked when they found out that I was going on a mission because I didn't know you were L D, I didn't know you were LDS. Surprise turns out I am is that, I don't know, this is gonna sound really ignorant but is because there's a lineage of fundamentalist Mormons in your family. Is there like a legacy that you like your autumn you're like, automatically in? No? Well, so you're, most Mormons are baptized at the age of eight is when they choose to get baptized. What are you choosing at the age of eight? What do you mean? Exactly. And when you get baptized you get candy. So you go along and you're baptized and, yeah, so we'll come back to that.
I have to make a note on that. So we'll come back. Um, okay, so I come back from my mission.
We can talk about that whenever you want, by the way, two years left, all of my family, we get two phone calls a year, one on Christmas and one on Mother's Day. Those are the only time you can call home. Everything else is letters one day a week and that one day is also when you do all of your shopping, all of your laundry, all of your, anything, your bike maintenance, whatever it's done on those eight hours, six hours really? On your P day and the rest of the time you are out either studying or teaching or it's a lot of work. It's a lot of work. Nothing. You pay your, you pay your own way, you save up money so you can buy your flight over and yeah. So again to Japan, yeah, which is one of the most expensive, expensive missions in the world at the time. Um and I had a unique experience because of that because it was so expensive. Japan is one of the few missions that has four missionaries in the apartment.
Most of the places you go around the world, there are two and your, with your companion 24/7 for up to 36 months. If you don't like that person, you literally have no one else to talk to your living in the jungles with that guy for three months anyway. So yeah, that's, that's dedication, right?
I mean, it is, it's crazy. It's interesting that you either, you know, I could understand if you didn't get paid. But if they paid your way, that would make more sense to me or some kind of incentive to do it. But I guess if, if, what you're sold as the end goal is, is, you know, where you're gonna end up when everything is done here on earth, I guess that is you're paying to get into that. So you did that for two years and you came back and transferred down to BYU. So double down. And so that kind of becomes the theme for the next several years is I just kept getting further and further and there were times where we were a little less active where we went to like half the meetings on Sunday.
You know, we didn't like ever missed like two Sundays in a row. That's just crazy thinking. Um came home. Yeah. Yeah, that was just dirty, just less than human. Um And so my wife at the same time because I went later, uh at that, at that time, women went on their missions when they were 21 and they only stayed out for 18 months. Um so she went on a mission to Germany while I was in Japan.
I got home in August. She got home in September. We were married in January, which is probably the best decision I've ever made. Um Still really young, still really fast.
We dated long enough when we got home to realize we're the same person because, you know, people change in two years when you haven't talked with them. Um, so saving people. Yeah. And so we, um, got married, both went to BYU a couple years later we started having kids like we're supposed to.
Oh, so we were married in the temple, which means my parents couldn't go to my wedding because they're not allowed in the temple. They're not card carrying. Right. And so my sisters and my brother was that they couldn't go so half the family stays outside, which is a real shitty thing to do.
Um, they can, can they stay, they just stay outside on the steps. Are they allowed on the property? There's, there's a little waiting room indoors but then you take, you take the celebration outside and, and whatever. But yeah, so it kind of became my, my family, my identity.
We went, moved out of state to go back to grad school. And nice thing about it is everywhere you move, you can meet the Mormons. They're all right there.
You find your new ward, you have immediate friends and connections to the community. They can show you where to shop and all of the good stuff. So that's kind of a nice connection anywhere around the world, whether you're visiting or whatever you move in you the first Sunday, you know, you have family.
Yeah, you're close loop. You find your closed loop. Exactly. Get you right back into that Exactly.
Um, so I went to grad school, went to Orlando worked down there for a little bit, but the church kind of becomes your identity while we're outside of the state, it certainly became our family. Um, and we're as close as close family can be. Everybody knew everybody's birthday.
We got together three or four times a week, um, for all kinds of social reasons all day along on Sundays. Um, everybody has a calling, it's not paid. So everybody has some function, some role to fill within the church. And you're never allowed to think that if the church, you pick the parts that work for you in the, in the high demand religion, you are all in accepting all of it or you're not in at all. And so when you're living out in the mission field, like outside of Utah, they call that the mission field. So when we lived in Virginia and Florida, there weren't really any Jack Mormons or Partial Mormons.
They were either all in or they weren't, nobody even knew who they were. If you didn't want to be in the church, don't. But in Utah, you really never had that. So Jack Mormon, you had to pretend because I mean, the world that I live in now It's three blocks long by two blocks.
There are 350 houses in here when we moved in. And when I was very active, there were, I could count on one hand, the number of houses that weren't lds, Think about that three blocks by two blocks. All but five houses, 350 houses, five of them were not LDS. The church buildings here outnumber the gas stations, 5-1 and there are three wards that meet in every one of those buildings.
They have three different meeting times so they can go through all three of their meetings every Sunday. So I'm assuming there's like a kind of like a magnet in each state or each city, like you have your kind of like drawn towards that close. Yeah, there they have boundaries and their award, the smaller awards and then they have a stake that is over that and they have an area and so they have leaders at all these different levels that manage different, you know, different things. So interesting. Is it like, so in this what you call mission fields? Because like you're bringing more people in the field, is it different than in, in, in Utah? Is the land owned by the church that people live on or is it just the buildings which there are a lot of them? Right? But the church is only not like people's houses and stuff. Okay. So fast forward again, we had all of our kids. Um we became pillars of the ward.
We moved back here in 2000. My youngest daughter was born here. We have four kids and I've lived in this house since 2000.
My daughter was born while we lived here and she's about to graduate college. So this, this is our family, this local 350 houses that, that's our ward. Um Yeah, and I keep doubling down. Um and I keep getting higher level of callings and so I've been in this ward. Uh and I know every family that moves in and out, you meet them the day they move in, you help them the day they move out.
I mean, you know, everything about everybody, you're probably the people that you serve within my calling. I served in a couple of Bishop Bricks. I was the high priest group leader for seven years. And so you get to know a lot of these different areas. Um And I kept doubling down and keep getting deeper and deeper into the church.
All four of my kids graduated from seminary, which is a, well, it's like a seminary but you go to um all through junior high and high school, they have a separate building that's just barely off campus. But right next to every junior high in high school and they take one class a day to go over to seminary and study Mormonism and get their heads filled with and, and it's just right there and of course, there are kids that don't do that, but they're kind of on the outs. But you can tell because they show their shoulders when they dress if they're girls or they get to have more than one piercing in, in their ear, you know? Or, yeah, know they're riding their skateboard on Sunday or they're just throwing frisbee in the park. I mean, straight to hell.
Um, let me ask you about the callings. Is that a sign? Is that like something that they're like, this is what you need to do and you're told what your calling is. Yeah. So you get asked, you get extended a calling. And I remember when I was in the Bishop Brick, we extended 10 callings a week even to the youth. Like so they have these little group that youth award.
The young men and young women have their own group. They're broken up by age. Each one of them has a class presidency, kind of like a bishop Brick kind of like a stake presidency, kind of like the first presidency and the prophet of the church and the first area presidency.
It's all the same structure just repeated on a micro level. So you get the young men and the young women lead the young women's group and the young men um lead the young men's group and there are four people that run each group. So almost everybody has a leadership role um at some point throughout the youth um and then the adults oversee that. And then there are the Bishop Brick oversees the whole ward and a lot of them are, I wouldn't say made up colleagues because people make them really busy, but they have a primary chorister and they have someone that leads music in Sacrament and that's their only role. And then all of the teachers and the young men that they end out here, the young men's program was synonymous with scouting. If you were in the young men's program, you were also a scout. Can you say no to the calling suggestion? You can. Um Most people don't. I never did. Most people I know, never did fear of saying no, it's not the fear of saying no, it's like this is what God must want because God has led the bishop to ask me to serve in this capacity. Um and I want to do something. Everybody has a calling.
You can't just say no and sit back and crack open a beer and enjoy your Sunday. That's never gonna happen. Or coffee. Yeah. Yeah. Or energy drinks or yeah. Yeah. I was leading the charge.
I was giving the callings. I was lining up all of the meetings that we were planning for camps. We were doing all this stuff. I mean, honestly, in the bishop break, it probably takes on an average week. It takes probably 20-25 hours on an average week. Life. You got a job and I coached hockey and I coached lacrosse and I had a family and, but there were some people that were so involved and some say that it's by design. Um I've had several people that I've talked with said I never knew my dad. My dad belonged to the church.
He was the bishop. He was the state president. He was, he was everybody else's dad.
I never saw him. I never had a relationship with my dad the whole time growing up because he was a good stalwart Mormon fulfilling his callings and doing a lot of good and wonderful people. But his own daughter feels like I never even knew him. He was, he was that busy. So you don't have friends outside of that.
You don't get to spend time with your family all your time is here. This, this is everything. So now we're kind of getting to my little bit my shift. Yeah, let's get you there. So I'm in this Bishop Brick and I'm serving.
It's probably my 10th straight year in a very visible leadership position. Um And when I look back on it, people say, well, when did it start for you? I look back on it and see instances of it three years before or even more, even before I was in my last Bishop Brick when I was a high priest group leader. Um This thing started to bother me. So you've got the first two commandments which is love God and love your neighbor.
I totally buy into the love your neighbor. I'm not sure why we have a commandment that we have to love God. Does he need us to love him? Is us being a good person.
Our way of showing love to God. I never quite could figure out the first one but two is love your neighbor. I'm all down with that. Um And then you get into like the 10 commandments and then you get into what the prophet is currently teaching and all the doctrine and the white handbook for the missionaries and the, and the stake presidency handbook and the Bishop Brick has their own own handbook and the youth have their own handbook and all the way down to the very end. And so four times a year, the young women have to be taught about modest clothing that they can't have spaghetti straps, they can't show their shoulders, they can only have one piercing in each year and then that's it. Um And I'm like, we really nailed the love your neighbor part because looking around it doesn't feel like we've really nailed that, but we're really set on something clear at the other end of the spectrum.
We're making sure that any time somebody wears a prom dress, it's commented on, oh, what a modest dress you have, you have such a modest dress. You had such a modest dress. You, I hope you had fun, but I did see your shoulders in your prom dress. So you're probably going to hell and she's not thinking that she's 15 or 16. And she's thinking, I like the color. I mean, I just so, and so you're in your life was, I mean, that neighbor part is interesting to me to, is it love your Mormon neighbor or is it love all?
Well, so the church would say it's everybody but you don't really know anybody else. You don't have enough time to know anybody else you only have. Um, and I'll come back to that in a bit too. Um So the love your neighbor part II started saying when I was in the bishop brick, this has been bothering me for so long.
We should give every calling we ever get or every assignment we ever give to talk or every lesson we ever assigned to teach should be your assignment is to give a talk on, love your neighbor through modest, dressing, through dressing, modestly. Let's start everything with, love your neighbor until let's make sure that that's why we're doing all of this. And if we can't find a way for whatever this small little topic is to fit in to love your neighbor, let's not do it. And I really kind of got on that horse for a bit and really started pushing that and everybody's like, okay, that's kind of all right.
Nobody else really said anything. They didn't act like there was anything wrong with it. I think they just kind of felt this fell outside of the manual, right?
This, there's nobody's ever said this, none of the profits have ever said we have a ton of training for leaders and nobody's ever talked about this. So that was kind of my first thing. And then um And that was like three years of that. Yeah, it was probably three years of, of just kind of, yeah, there's something there that didn't bother me. And then I noticed that the leaders, especially the profits.
The first presidency, Jeffrey R Holland had to talk specifically where he mentioned you. We need to take up, he's, he's telling the membership, we need to defend the family Proclamation. And if necessary. And he uses figuratively taking up the Musket to defend the family um system. And that just immediately hit me wrong for a number of reasons. One, they had several shootings inside of L G B T Q nightclubs and whatever. So the idea of taking up a musket for anything is just atrocious. Second. A musket is not a weapon of defense, right?
That would be a shield. That would be saying your prayers that this is a weapon of attack that you're suggesting, even if it's just figuratively, it's still. And, and thirdly the L G B T Q community, they're not attacking you, they're just being themselves, you're seeing it as an attack because you're so homophobic that it's ridiculous. Yes. And, and this was a leader that I used to love.
I, he was always the most heartwarming and friendly and genuine person. And I'm like, not you, you're not, you're not the lawyer that's demanding the letter of the law that's talking about Old Testament crap. You're the loving one. You're, and you're telling us to take up arms against the L G B T Q community. I happen to know several people in there and they're really good people.
As a matter of fact, the first one became my very first conversation on my podcast was Jackson. Um I had coached him and lacrosse for a number of years until he came out and I have lunches with him and he was telling me his story and I'm like, people need to hear how hard this has been for you. He's going on a mission. He's queer, he's, he's trans, he has his patriarchal blessing and everything that he knows that would make his parents happy and the church and he was going to BYU and just the conflict that was going on in his head.
It's like, I don't think people realize what, what, what they go through. So that became the last thing and I did the complete unthinkable. Um I asked to be released. I just from, from all of you and that's kind of what it was. I didn't know what was going on at the time with me. I just know I can't carry the water for an organization that says to defend the family by taking up Muskets figuratively against this L G B T Q community or any community. And that just would love your neighbor. How is that? Loving your neighbor is the antithesis of loving your neighbor. What it means? We know that love your neighbor means love the people like you that are following the same rules as you. But I don't even think that's what scholars of the scriptures would say that that was intended. But yet that's the way. And so I fell into this depression.
I had several people that I mentioned that I knew that were L G B T Q that we're queer. And one of them grew up in our neighborhood. His dad is the nicest person you'll ever meet but is also toeing the line as bishop and stake president, just the sweetest kindest, most loving individual and his son came out as gay and got married. Um And I just remember thinking if God has a problem with Adam, that God is an asshole, I don't want to have anything to do with that. God, Adam is his, his son is just like his dad.
The most loving, wonderful human being you could ever meet. And we're taking up muskets against Adam against Jackson against this can't be it. And I won't get into all the truth claims because I started doing some more research and figure out all these things, why the church can't be true and all of these things that are out there, there are other websites to talk about that. But I went into a depression that lasted several years. I, um, this is even hard to explain because Overnured I lost my, my word family. 350 families. Yeah. None of them reached out to me. I'm living here. I see them all out my window.
Every window I look. And there are people that I coached lacrosse with for eight years that I served on the Bishop Brick for years. And the high priest group leader, I served side by side with them 2030 hours a week for 10 years.
I've never heard from them since then. They live seven houses away, seven houses. I thought we were friends.
I thought we had a relationship, a true relationship. It was all the church and I don't believe that. So you make up stories in your head, right?
How do you explain that I'm a pariah here and I get, I'm the one that left. I get, they don't understand that I get that they don't and have that same experience. But was there nothing that carried over? Right. Well, I think that, I mean, unfortunately tells you other things that probably led you into other research and, and whatnot. But I'm curious before you go into that depression piece when you decline the calling or whatever the terminology is at that moment, is that like, is that just cutting the cord or is that you kind of stepping down? Does that create does that make you a pariah in that space by?
I don't, I don't think that in and of itself would have. Um, I have been, like I said, I have been serving 30 40 hours a week for a decade plus, Um, and coaching, which is another 30 hours a week and my job and my family and I think people would have understood that, but I also no longer felt comfortable going to the church. And I started to hear little daggers of releases from the prophet um talks that were given across the pulpit. Little things friends would say on social media.
I would just really just hit me so hard and they just became such triggers. And I'm like I, and so I just, I had no intention of walking away from the church. I just said, I can't do this anymore right now.
I can't sit here and be expected to meet with a young man or young woman or grown adult and have them tell me that they have um that they may be queer knowing that my role is to follow the handbook that says, well, you need to pray, you need to study your scriptures, you need, I'm like that is not what they need. They need someone to say I love you. What can I do to help? And they're not gonna get that here. And me staying here is a sign that of who I am to them. And I don't want to be that person. And then it also hit me, how many times in the past decades have I been that person? And not even realized it? And that hurt, that hurt how many times when someone came to me who just needed some help and wanted someone to listen and accept them for who they are and love them as their neighbor. And I gave him some bullshit statement about accepting a calling or studying their scriptures or being more diligent in this, that or the other. And I'm like, that started to weigh on me more than anything. And then the truth claims came in. And so, but that wasn't really it for me, the biggest problem became, I didn't know who I was. So several times on your show, I've heard people talk about, they've lost their identity.
That's how they define who they are. Um This not only was my identity, but I lost my community almost every relationship I've had, even with the referees and hockey that I know they're lds and, but it's also my entire belief system, right? It's what you've been living for years. Where do we go when we die?
I can't say that I know anymore. And I've, and I almost threw out God before I threw out the Mormon church because I started to think if God has a problem with these individuals, I don't want to have anything to do with that God. And if heaven if eternity means spending time with God, I don't want to be there. If that's what the heaven is, the way you're defining that. I don't wanna have anything to do with that.
I'll go wherever Jackson's going. I'll be fine with that. Yeah, because you were, you were focused on the people, you were focused on the loving your neighbor. And how did, how did you know when you told your wife and your family? What was that? Like, how did that? So let me, let me get to that in just a second.
Um, so I became angry when I looked at the truth claims pissed me off. All people have known this. This is ridiculous and it's like, well, they didn't really, you know, maybe they didn't know any of it any better than I did. Um, but the depression, um, I didn't have anybody to turn to, especially since I'm a man. So few close male relationships.
We don't talk about things like this. We talk about sports and business and how are you feeling? I, I don't even know what to do with that.
Yeah, just push it down. It will go away. It's a good thing about feelings. They'll just go away.
Um, but then I also have this reputation of like, well, now they're all seeing me is I'm a pariah, all the work that I put in to try to be the good person to do the right thing and carry the water and be obedient. And now they're just like, I'm a cautionary tale. I'm like, well, he was just lazy.
He lost his testimony. He, he didn't doubt his doubts. He um um but I also honestly didn't know me, didn't know who I was.
I don't know what my favorite food is. I never really even considered that. And I think part of that is birth order in my family of origin. I'm third. And so what I wanted never really mattered there.
What I wanted never really mattered with the church. Who I was, didn't matter to anybody. I had never really thought about it. I just accepted what I was told and did what I was told to be who I was told to be. So, yeah, I didn't know who I was. So one of the things you mentioned is relationship with my spouse.
I had the world's softest landing when I left the church. My wife left probably a year or so before I did, didn't officially leave. But she had some concerns. My son, my oldest child is my only boy.
He served a mission in Africa and he had already left the church when he came back. He's and he struggled with that for a long time. He doesn't not like what he did in Africa. He doesn't mind being there and helping people, but he does not like the proselytizing part of it. And that became a bothersome with him and he had a lot of triggers early, early, earlier on than I did. Um, my daughter was married in the temple. Um, and we were all present and even my son went at the time.
My next daughter told us when she was 18, I'm not going back to church anymore. I'm an adult. I don't want to do that. But we, we've known that since she was 12. So she's like, I'll do it because you're really good people and you want me to. And I'm your daughter.
I mean, she's amazing that she just okay. We knew from her young, young age, she didn't buy any of this. Um And then my youngest daughter was still kind of in church and she was kind of thinking about going on a mission. But my wife, um, when she kind of floated the idea that she was leaving, we have these long conversations in our drives and she was saying, so I've been thinking a lot about and she'd bring up a topic and I could just tell it was hard for her to bring up because I was in it.
I was still in it. I was in the bishopric. I'm leading this charge.
Um, and she was kind of done with it and I've seen what that does to families. Fortunately when I left, I was the last person in my family to leave my parents. Um, they were never in the church, they never judged me for that. I think they saw awarded as a badge of pride um that I served a mission and all these other things, but they weren't really buying into the system. But I know family who half of them left one spouse, couple of the kids, none of the parents. So they are ostracized in their own family. Family. I didn't have that. And what if you can't have conversations with your own Children?
I had somebody that I was talking to that says, I didn't realize that when you left the church, the church keeps your family and like that's just heartbreaking after being told that that's the most important thing. Family is the most. We're gonna defend it with muskets when we need to. Yeah. But you can't, you can't be with your family now. Yes. And your family protected you because they had done the things and you were so very lost in that moment like you didn't have, who am I? You didn't have the answer to that? You didn't know. How did you said it was a while? You said it was a couple of years of, of like spiral kinda. Does this feel like like emptiness? Is that like, would you describe it as like a lost kind of emptiness?
Yeah, I feel like I had done my whole life building this beautiful garden and with these beautiful walls and plants and colors and just it was gorgeous year round and all of a sudden, I'm in a vacuum. Not, not a sound, not a smell, not a sight, nothing. And part of me is like, well, who, who are you? And that would be the only thing that echoed. I, How do you say? You don't know, how are you? 50 years old? And you don't know who the hell you are, right. But did you have the logical part of your mind that, that kind of takes over? And it's like, well, you were following all these rules, they were defining who you were. And like, but then your emotional center was, was very much kind of like, what do I do now? Because I feel like the reason I ask that is because like when I, there's nothing like your experience, but like when I lost my mom and, and grieving and then when I got older, I was like, I logically knew what I needed to do. Like I logically knew what was happening.
I logically knew the way out, but I couldn't do it. Like my emotional center was just like, no, we're still really, were really messed up right now. Just let that happen. Did you have this balance or was it just total blankness? It was, it was um so you have all the emotions involved in it, Of seeing your neighbors that you thought you were really good friends with and them not seeing and seeing them on a regular basis.
We still live in the same place I'm surrounded by people that don't know me. Like, you know, me, I've been here 20 years. I'm still me not having any of that. And there have been a couple of exceptions to be fair.
I'm not, I don't want to say that there haven't been and I didn't do a very good job when I left about explaining myself to the people that I would have considered friends because I didn't think that they would understand it. I've got my reasons for not doing it. I'm sure they have theirs and they're equally valid. They're good people. Um, and I don't like throwing rocks at the church because it just hits all the nice people inside.
There's some great people in the church, they just don't know any better. They're in the same situation that I was in. Um, but the intellectual side as well.
Um, I mean, there's no God, I mean, imagine tomorrow Matt you woke up and you knew for sure. There was a God. I, okay. So you did, he visits you, you know, for a fact. How does that going to affect your, your life from that point on?
You'd have to, you'd have to reconfigure every thought relationship. Your favorite movie that swears it takes the name of the Lord in vain. That what you, all this stuff that you're like, okay, whatever I can see how that's offensive but it doesn't bother me. What? Now it needs to.
I mean, it's all become so part of the religious deconstruction. And I have these deeper conversations with people that have had religious deconstruction. Deconstructs everything because they're just like, well, if we're gonna rip it apart, let's take it all down to the, to the bones. Right. Um, so they deconstruct everything but you have to decide what, you smash it all to pieces and then you pick up each piece and you have to look at it again and say, what's it?
Love your neighbor thing. I kind of still feel like that resonates with me. I, but I just don't like the way and I hear a song that is a famous primary song or something that I've been singing for decades. Such a huge trigger. It's just about loving your neighbor. Is it or is it indoctrination that we're giving to three year olds?
I don't know what to do with this piece. Is that who I am? What? Um And it just takes a long time, lots of anger and a lot of people that leave the church for a long time consider themselves post Mormon or ex Mormon or whatever. But I've also learned that you have to deconstruct being lds or religious and then you have to deconstruct being ex religious.
Don't just be let what you're not define you anymore. You've got to get past that part, right. I'm not ex Mormon anymore. That's not who I am. Who am I? It's taken a while. And I found some wonderful new friends and connections.
I feel like I'm a better human being, even a better Christian. Although I don't believe in that than I've ever been. I, the work that I'm doing, I work with refugees.
I work with the homeless. I work with, um, troubled teens. Um, and what's so been so eye opening to me is the LDS church, which is huge around here and has more money than any other organization on the planet. They do nothing to help those people. I mentioned silence. I met him. He lives on the streets or he did, he doesn't any more.
Um, and was addicted. And the church all this, I asked him what made the difference for you to be able to turn around and do all this stuff. And he gave me five or six things that has helped him so much in his life that he's been able to get back on track.
Not one of them had anything to do with the LDS church. They do not help the homeless, they don't open their church doors when it's freezing outside. All the other churches do. All the other churches have ways of really getting involved with these individuals. The LDS church sends people on missions and collect things and makes big donations, big splashes. But it's less than 1/10 of 1% of what their holdings are. So much free labor. And if they actually decided they wanted to end homeless in America. It would be done tomorrow. It will be done. Yeah. And as it is, they're not giving them a single meal. Mm. It sounds like you've kind of gravitated to helping the people that were not served by that.
Don't help the organization that says that they're doing it. Just go to them, ask them what, what do you need? How can I help? Because, and, and I would imagine there's a lot of that stem from that empty period in which you were trying to search of like who you were and how can you, is there a part of you that thinks, how can I like mend this? Not mend it? But how can I make up for this?
Um, no, I think part of it was, I mean, I, I'm still looking at mending relationships with people that are here. I don't know how to do that. I've been very tentative, they've been very tentative. I don't want to do it wrong. I hope it happens. But this has been several years that I've been clearly out and adjusted and still nothing has happened.
I haven't reached out, they haven't reached out. But I think, I mean, in your, I mean, in your own sense, yeah, I make up for going down this road. Is there a part of you that thinks that I've always like my core value is love, the love your neighbor part, I'm all about that. And when I served in the Bishop brick.
I could walk into any house at any time and say, hey, I hear you're struggling. What can we do to help you? And all of a sudden I couldn't even, I didn't even talk with those people anymore.
I still did some coaching a little bit. Um But it's like, but how do I help people? I thought that's what I was doing and I really wasn't looking at none of that got through to people that mattered is heartbreaking. So it's taken a while and, and a lot of the thinking is what do you like to do? What are you good at? How can you help people the most? What if we made that a full time position? What if we figure out a way to do that? And I'm not getting paid for all of that. Um I do some teaching basically what I do right now and unfortunately, in a situation where I can do that and I have that time, but I think it was just me saying I need that human connection. Um And I become a huge, I didn't realize I was a huge feminist. I'm huge L G B T Q advocate. Um I'm huge with immigration and New Americans and refugee reforms. Um And so I've been getting involved a lot of really neat things with a lot of really neat people. And it turns out that I kind of felt like I was doing that all along. But that wasn't what it was at all.
I was literally carrying the water for this organization that is poisoning everybody every drop. But you are still good human. And so now you have this opportunity to be a good human on your own terms, on the terms that you create for the world and for you and the people around you.
You know, you're, you know, it's not necessarily that you're a feminist or you're, you're just a pro human. Like you, you want, you know, you want people to have a good life and you want to help them if you can and you've learned a lot in this kind of tragic experience, right? You know, like you did a lot of good, I'm sure in those years that you were with the church, sure you were carrying the water. Sure it was, you know, that was just part of the role you were playing, but I don't doubt that you didn't do good work.
You know, so there's that piece that kind of just stayed along and then you were able to uncover it and use it in a, in a positive way. Or at least that's how I see it because the way you talk about helping these other people and the people that are not in the closed loop that are not in this space that's familiar with everyone else. I mean, it just shows the type of human that you are and probably always were because that love thy neighbor was still, you know, but there's part of me that gave all that attribution to the fact that I was Mormon. It's like, no, no, that's, that's who you were, but that was dripped into your water since you were a child.
So, you know, that it's not like a fault of you if that's all you knew, you know, and that's really sure you saw other things, but you were always brought back to like, no, don't do those other things because X Y Z C this is how you're going to get there. So I mean, you're not the only person that's ever been a part of something like that, you know. So and as difficult as it is, it's an interesting, it's a really interesting gift to be, to find out that I was so phenomenally wrong about something that was so important to, to my core that I would just smash it into pieces and then decide how I wanted to build it myself. And I think that's been very difficult, but it's also been a really beautiful um journey. Yeah, it's like that I wouldn't wish on any one of the hardest things that anyone can do is to shatter everything you ever knew and believed and followed through with. What would you say is uh the biggest difference between that version of you and this version of you and what's the most similar? So I think the biggest difference would be that before I would do everything that was expected of me and that was laid out in front of me.
All of the programs which are good programs are designed to be good. Um And now, but even, even serving your neighbor, you get assigned people in your neighborhood that you're like their home teacher and their two families that you go visit. Every member has this, every adult is either a home teacher if you're a man or, or, or a visiting teacher.
If you're a woman, there are two other families that live in your area that you're responsible for, that, you go visit with them and just check in on them and whatever. If you get a new assignment as a home teacher, you don't go visit your old person anymore, you go visit the other person because you got a new assignment. You're helping people, but you're helping everything by assignment. And I think the biggest change now is I just go look for people who need it and say, what can I do to help?
There's no assignment here. Yeah. And I, and they're all kinds of places to find them. But I think when people are assigned all of these things and they have all these programs, one, they're spending a tremendous amount of time doing it. And two, they don't bother actually looking for any of it on their own because they know on Wednesday night at young women's, they're going to do a service project and they know on Sunday they're going to be, you know, so they just allow that to happen and kind of get dragged along with it. But they're really missing the people who need help.
Yeah, that's, I mean, so now you're leading with your heart and not by assignment, even though you're still, you know, using your heart in those assignments. Now you're, you're choosing by, but what feels the best for you? What's the most similar or is that also similar?
I think the similar thing is that I love to help people. And I think that the reason it's different is before I thought I, I like to help people because you were supposed to and the church let you know that was, that was the, the spirit telling you that that was a good thing. And I'm like, no, that's just who you are inside the church, outside the church. You just like to help people.
Yeah, I can see it. I can see it. I can hear it in your podcast episodes when you're talking to your guests and having these really deep conversations that go into areas that people don't talk about. But now I kind of notice the guests that you do have and why you choose those guests or why they choose you and why they trust you to have these conversations and kind of deconstruct some of the beliefs that they may have and why do they have them?
I like to kind of wrap up the calls with the question and you've probably heard it on other, on other episodes. But I'm wondering if you could go back to the version of you heading off to Japan as a missionary with what, you know, now, is there anything that you could whisper in his ear or something that could maybe trigger a change earlier or a different or getting you closer to this version of you earlier in your life? Yeah. Um, I mean, it really kind of comes down to one question to me.
Um, and I don't know if I would have been smart enough to answer it at the time. What do you want to do? What do you want to do?
You would have been smart enough to answer it. But I think your answer would have been related to what you have been told. I want to go on a mission. No, no, no, no. What do you want to do? Why do you want to do that? You want to help others, help others? Do you think that version of you, ah, made his own decisions or were the decisions very much influenced by whatever was you were brought up to believe or feel? And I don't know how to ask that question in the way I want to. But I think, you know what I mean? Yeah. So, I mean, I've had this discussion of a couple of different people and it's, it's a little, it's, it can be seen a little aggressive but it's also very, um, it's true. I mean, is the LDS church a cult, right?
So, you look up the definition of what it means to be a cult and you look, you read those questions and they're like nine for nine. Um, and which is so weird because if, if Mormons were reading another cults handbook or learning about another cult thing, they'd say that's a cult. It's like, well, but if you're brainwashed, would you know it, the answer is no, you wouldn't. Um You don't know that you've surrendered control until you've stepped away and you can learn about that group from a different perspective. So, was that person caught up and able to make all of their own decisions? Absolutely not. I don't think anybody in the LDS church has said that I said I would come back to this.
You're baptized when you're eight, you made the choice to be baptized. They always say you made the choice to be baptized there eight. They didn't make the choice to be baptized. But now I've heard church leaders say, can you walk away and they'll say no, you can't because at the age of eight, you dedicated yourself to. And I'm like, whoa, you never have the chance to walk away. I've interviewed a friend that is a third generation ex Scientologist. She left Scientology. So much similarity between the two, she signed 1000 year contract when she was 14. What? And to me that's like, that's a cult. That's absolutely crazy. Yeah, we did the same thing when we were baptized at eight, we had a party and cake afterwards. So it didn't seem so bad. But, yeah, I don't think that's all too different from other religions as well with the baptisms and, and, uh, what's the other thing called?
I can't think of it. I'm such a bad thing or maybe a good one. Yeah, I find my own path and, you know, I think you were, I think going back to that original question, I think you were making decisions that you thought were your own, but they were heavily influenced by what you were told and, and kind of brought up to do which we all are religious or not.
Your, your family of origin, the community that you're in. If you're from the south, you're gonna believe this way you're going, you know, if you're in a big city or East Coaster Red Blue, you've got all these things around you that you don't even realize. Well, I think that, you know, I think that the final message here is really like, listen and talk to each other, learn from each other, help each other to your point, love thy neighbor and the people around you, they're not going to be exactly like you. And that's good. That's good. We should have different perspectives, conversations. Yeah. And you're doing that with your strangers, you know, podcast.
I just, I love hearing some of those conversations and like, wow, people's lives, the things we don't know about the people that are all around us and you're providing that for all of us. So I just appreciate that you took this time and really, like, educated me on kind of this experience within a church that, you know, is, is seemingly doing good things in the, in the world of, of their church. But how it can affect someone when you get really ingrained in that and lose sight of what's around you. So just thank you for being a part of this. Thank you, man. I really appreciate it. Like I just want to say to that um You're very kind to my past self. Um I with religion, you get caught up in a lot of guilt and shame and I look back on that past person and say what an idiot, what how could you know, you have in all of your episodes?
You're very kind to the past versions of, of people and understanding that, you know, that was what you best you knew at the time. And it took me a long time to come to that awareness and to not be mad at that version of me. Um that should have known better, should have known sooner, whatever. Um But thank you for that, that is, makes it uh makes it a lot more palatable and um makes me feel better about it. And thank you for allowing me to take the time to share my story.
Yeah, stories are so important and you're right. I think we were our worst enemies. I mean, that's just a known thing like we, we just like take that shame and, but sometimes we just have to go through these, these moments in our lives. And this is just kind of like what's happening. But what you're doing with your awakening moment is what matters.
Now, you're teaching other people, you're helping other people, you're doing the things that the earlier version of you thought they were doing right. You know, and now you've just had this new awakening. Uh and you're better because of that experience, you know, you are doing better things than you could without those experiences.
I, I believe so. Thank you for doing that for the world and the people around you and, and what you're gonna be doing in the future I think is, is going to be fascinating and we will share the link to your podcast and your website in the show notes so that people can connect with you and, and just be a part of your world. So thank you again. Thank you. I, I would love, I, I know my use my listeners, we have fairly similar um goals in our podcast, which is kind of what drew me to, to you in the first place.
So, um thank you for doing what you're doing as well. I love hearing the stories and hearing how people take these life shifts and uh move forward with their lives and be and get the most out of what they've been and what they've experienced and move forward with the best of it. So, thank you. Thank you for saying that and if you are listening and you feel the same way, uh No, Brian agrees with this, but we would love five star ratings and reviews on Apple Podcast. If it does nothing else, it makes us have a, have a good day whenever we see that. So thank you for listening and we'll be back next week with a brand new episode.