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Mormon Land explores the contours and complexities of LDS news. It is hosted by award-winning religion writer Peggy Fletcher Stack and Managing Editor David Noyce.

Peggy Fletcher Stack recounts 30 years at The Tribune | Episode 209

This month marks religion reporter Peggy Fletcher Stack’s 30th anniversary of covering The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for The Salt Lake Tribune.During that time, she has traveled the globe, journeying with prophets and interviewing apostles. She has written about divisive doctrines and inclusive gatherings, emerging trends and groundbreaking shifts, religious eras and “Mormon moments.”Mostly, though, she has written about people — people cherishing faith, people questioning faith, people rejecting faith.On this week’s show, she shares highlights from her remarkable career and answers questions from our Patreon supporters.Listeners will get the scoop on her travels with Gordon Hinckley — including how she got into a meeting with the Latter-day Saint prophet and Ghana’s president — her behind-the-scenes conversations with Marjorie Hinckley and apostle Dallin H. Oaks. They’ll also get her take on what prompted church President Russell Nelson’s remark about knowing her family, how she learned about apostle David Bednar’s hair gel and many other stories.

Nov 242021

Tom Christofferson reflects on the church’s evolution on LGBTQ issues | Episode 208

Six years ago this month, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints instituted a policy labeling same-sex married couples “apostates” and barring their kids from baptism.The policy later was abandoned, but the pain persisted. Since then, there have been highs and lows with the Utah-based faith and its LGBTQ members: an Honor Code about-face at Brigham Young University, the Y lit up in rainbow colors, BYU’s mascot coming out as gay, and apostle Jeffrey R. Holland calling out a college’s valedictorian for announcing his sexual orientation at graduation.On this week’s show Tom Christofferson, a prominent LGBTQ member and author of “That We My Be One: A Gay Mormon’s Perspective on Faith and Family,” discusses the November 2015 policy — how it shook the church, why it was implemented and later scrapped, where the faith sits now on LGBTQ issues and his hopes for the future on the topic.

Nov 172021

Why factions embracing QAnon are springing up among Latter-day Saints | Episode 207

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints considers itself the “restoration” of a complete Christianity that was lost centuries ago after the death of the biblical apostles.Several years ago, Denver Snuffer, a former Latter-day Saint, launched his Remnant movement, preaching that the Utah-based faith fell away from the truth after founder Joseph Smith was killed in 1844 and Brigham Young led his followers West.Now, yet another faction, called The Doctrine of Christ, has emerged. Phil Davis, a Latter-day Saint in Provo, asserts that Young murdered Smith and that Mormonism’s first prophet recently returned to re-restore the church with Davis at its helm.On this week’s show, Cristina Rosetti, a religious studies scholar at Claremont McKenna College in Southern California, discusses these groups, why some Latter-day Saints are joining them, how conspiracy theories play a role, and whether they pose any threat to the mainstream church.

Nov 102021

How the Community of Christ differs from its larger sister LDS sect | Episode 206

After Mormonism founder Joseph Smith was killed in 1844, the largest body of the fledgling faith went west with Brigham Young. But a sizable group, including Smith’s widow, Emma, and her children, stayed in the Midwest and, in 1860, founded another church known then as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, with Smith’s eldest son as president.In 2001, the church changed its name to the Community of Christ to reflect a more mainline approach than their Latter-day Saint cousins.As of 2018, it was reported to have 250,000 members in 1,100 congregations in 59 countries.On this week’s show, Bishop Carla Long, who leads a Utah congregation in Millcreek, talks about her church’s past, present and future. She also discusses how her faith differs from that of the much-larger, Utah-based church, how it views scriptures (including the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants), priesthood, polygamy, the godhead, the afterlife, and why Community of Christ members shy away from the “Mormon” moniker as well.

Nov 032021

"LuLaRich" and why Latter-day Saint women are drawn to multilevel marketing | Episode 205

Women in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are reared to be homemakers, caring for their house and family as a kind of religious obligation, while their husbands work to support the clan.But that isn’t how it works for all Latter-day Saint women in a modern society and economy, which often fall short in valuing the work they do in the home. Many take on part-time employment to bring in extra money, while caring for kids, and that can open up some of them to the false allure of multilevel marketing scams.One of those businesses, LuLaRoe, which sells bold-print clothes and leggings, was started by a Latter-day Saint couple and was the subject of a recent Amazon documentary titled “LuLaRich.”Meg Conley, a Latter-day Saint essayist in Denver and publisher of a newsletter called Homeculture, discusses the documentary, why members may be attracted to MLMs, and what this phenomenon says about Latter-day Saint culture, and the blending of beliefs and business.

Oct 272021

The Genesis Group and how Black members navigate a mostly white church | Episode 204

Fifty years ago this month, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints established the Genesis Group, a support organization for Black members.It came at a time when men and women with African blood were denied access to the priesthood and temple. Genesis served as a quasi-branch of the faith, meeting on the first Sunday of every month. It was like no other church organization — not an auxiliary like the Relief Society but more than a “fireside.”When the priesthood and temple ban on Black members was lifted in 1978, Genesis continued to meet, offering fellowship to Black members, many of whom struggle to this day worshipping in a mostly white church.As Genesis celebrates its golden anniversary, one of its original leaders, Darius Gray, talks about the group’s founding, its purpose and its future.

Oct 202021

Liberals vs. conservatives — the tug of war within the church | Episode 203

When the governing First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints amped up its plea in August for masking and vaccinations, some conservative members who oppose such COVID-19 measures balked.Now they know how it feels, responded many progressive Latter-day Saints, who have found themselves similarly on the outs with top church leaders on a range of issues from women’s rights to same-sex marriage.Such was the setup for a major Washington Post story about the rise of liberal Latter-day Saints, especially among younger members.On this week’s show, author Emily Kaplan joins us to discuss her piece and the tug of war taking place between progressive and conservative forces within the faith.

Oct 132021

What inspired and disappointed at General Conference | Episode 202

The recently completed 191st Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints provided 10 hours of sermons from the faith’s top leaders, including four women among dozens of men.In this fourth straight all-virtual conference, worldwide listeners heard speeches about mental illness, the importance of temples and dissension among the membership. Speakers also focused on the need to hold fast to faith in Christ, use the church’s full name, and take precautions against the coronavirus pandemic.On this week’s show, Emily Jensen, a writer and web editor for Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, discusses the weekend’s sessions — the words, the music, what inspired, what disappointed, and what the proceedings may mean moving forward.

Oct 062021

Is the church in the midst of sea change — and how might it navigate the rocky waters? | Episode 201

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was once known almost as an ethnic group.In the past three-plus years, since President Russell M. Nelson took the helm of the 16.6 million-member global faith, elements of that identity have been stripped away.Statues of the Angel Moroni, a figure from the faith’s signature scripture, the Book of Mormon, are rarely being added to the tops of new temples. The “live” endowment temple ritual, created as a kind of religious theater, has been replaced by a film. Class names for Young Women, including Beehive, Mia Maid and Laurels, have been scrapped. Long-standing outdoor pageants have ended. Nelson has declared that even using the name Mormon is a “major victory for Satan” and has generally prohibited its usage.What’s happening to the Utah-based faith? Is it in danger of losing its identity?Liz Layton Johnson, a Latter-day Saint blogger who lives in Saudi Arabia with her family, discusses those questions and more for a church she describes as “in flux” as it strives to chart a unifying, yet distinctive, future.

Sep 292021

Experts explore Mormonism and sex | 200th episode live

In today’s world, ideas about sex are ever present and often confusing. Sexual relations can bond couples together, or be abusive, manipulative and unhealthy.The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, like most faiths, views the creation of life as sacred, but it also sees sexual intimacy as an expression of love. The Utah-based faith does not preach sex as “original sin,” but it also sometimes sends conflicting, even harmful messages about human desire to members, producing guilt and shame.There are also endless questions about homosexuality and same-sex marriage, the evils of pornography, and what constitutes healthy sexuality.On this week’s show — streamed live Tuesday night to our Patreon supporters — we invited the following panel to explore the wide-ranging issues surrounding sexuality and Mormonism:• Jennifer Finlayson-Fife, a licensed therapist who specializes in working with Latter-day Saint couples on sexuality and relationship issues.• Michael Austin, a university administrator who has a deep interest in Mormon theology, particularly the nature of sexuality.• Jacob Hess, a mindfulness teacher and writer at Public Square Magazine who has explored the problems of pornography.

Sep 222021

The new push to get BYU to trim its beard ban | Episode 199

If Brigham Young wanted to enroll at his namesake university, he’d have to shave his beard. A number of other former Latter-day Saint prophets would have to do the same.Warner Woodworth, an emeritus professor from Brigham Young University, argues that’s just wrong. So he launched a Change.org petition urging the Provo school to end its prohibition on whiskers.Others have tried before to overturn the 1960s-era beard ban but failed. Still, Woodworth is confident this push will succeed.On this week’s show, Woodworth talks about his campaign to “bring back the beard” at BYU.

Sep 152021

The life of a previous professor forced out at BYU | Episode 198

Eugene England was at the center of Mormon intellectual life from the early 1960s until his death 20 years ago. As the founder of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, a popular professor at Brigham Young University, and a widely respected essayist, England was one of the most influential — and controversial — figures in the modern church.He lived in the crosshairs between religious tradition and reform, tackling issues of race, feminism, orthodoxy and the nature of God. He was a devout and believing member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who sustained leaders even as they sometimes chastised him and eventually forced him out of the school he loved.On this week’s show, Latter-day Saint scholar Terryl Givens talks about his newly released biography, “Stretching the Heavens: The Life of Eugene England and the Crisis of Modern Mormonism.” He also explores England’s influential essays (his preferred literary medium), his frequent feuds with church higher-ups (including the late apostle Bruce R. McConkie), his ultimate ouster from BYU (in an era well before apostle Jeffrey R. Holland’s recent speech at the faith’s flagship school), and his lasting imprint on intellectual pursuits in Mormonism.

Sep 082021

How to debunk LDS myths — from Brigham’s temple elevators to Elvis’ Book of Mormon | Episode 197

Did sea gulls save Mormon settlers’ crops? Did Brigham Young mysteriously and miraculously leave a space in design plans for the Salt Lake Temple that later would be filled by elevators? Did Elvis Presley make margin notes in a Book of Mormon? Was Yoda of “Star Wars” fame really modeled after former church President Spencer W. Kimball?Those are just some of the stories that float around Latter-day Saint circles. But are they true?Keith Erekson, director of the Church History Library, answers those questions and more in his new book, “Real vs. Rumor: How to Dispel Latter-Day Myths.” Even more important, he arms readers with the tools needed to discern for themselves the difference between fact and fiction whether in religion, politics, medicine or other fields.On this week’s show, Erekson talks about myth-busting and faith-building. He also answers the most common question he receives: Does the Church History Library have the sword of Laban of Book of Mormon fame?

Sep 012021

How Jeffrey Holland’s talk on LGBTQ issues could have consequences for BYU | Episode 196

Latter-day Saint apostle Jeffrey R. Holland addressed Brigham Young University faculty and staff this week, urging them to be committed to the school’s “unique mission” and the church that sponsors it.He made headlines for criticizing faculty members who challenge teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, including its stance on same-sex marriage. The popular apostle even questioned why a BYU valedictorian would choose his 2019 commencement address to come out as gay.If maintaining the faith’s policies on LGBTQ issues ends up costing the school some “professional associations and certifications,” Holland said, “then so be it.”On this week’s show, Michael Austin, a BYU alumnus and executive vice president for academic affairs at the University of Evansville, a Methodist school in Indiana, discusses the reverberating ramifications of the speech and how it could impact the Provo school’s academic research, professional ties, athletic alliances, classroom interactions and more.

Aug 252021

A Latter-day Saint ICU physician's experience battling COVID-19 | Episode 195

The delta variant of COVID-19 is surging across the country, with nearly half of all Americans still not fully vaccinated. As the enduring pandemic once again grows dire, Utah hospitals have been overwhelmed with mostly unvaccinated patients battling the disease.The new emergency prompted the top leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to issue yet another, even more forceful, message last week to members to wear masks and get vaccinated.Dr. Samuel Brown is witnessing the pandemic’s devastating toll up close, and all too personally, as an intensive care unit physician-scientist at Intermountain Medical Center in Murray.Brown, who doubles as a religious historian, is also the author of a new book, “Where the Soul Hungers: One Doctor’s Journey From Atheism to Faith.”On this week’s show, he talks about his experiences treating COVID-19, his thoughts about fellow Latter-day Saints who choose not to wear masks or be vaccinated, and how the pandemic has affected his faith.

Aug 182021

The latest on Temple Square's makeover | Episode 194

Scaffolding surrounds the Salt Lake Temple. The two visitor centers are no more. The plaza behind the Church Office Building is mainly dirt.Clearly big changes are in store in and around Temple Square, which ranks among Utah’s most popular tourist attractions, drawing millions of visitors from near and far every year.You may be wondering what this place in the heart of downtown Salt Lake City will look like when all the work is done. Where will the Christus statue wind up? Will the sculptures of church founder Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum return? And what about the holiday Christmas lights?On this week’s show, Ben Metcalf, manager of temple visitors centers for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, talks about this massive makeover and what guests can expect when the four-year project ends.

Aug 112021

‘The Mormon Hippie’ sounds off on her faith and its culture | Episode 193

The New York Times recently took up the topic of temple garments in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.The piece focused on Idaho Falls member Sasha Piton, who is urging the church to produce softer, more comfortable and breathable garments, which the faithful wear as a private and personal reminder of their religious commitments.Piton, who posts on Instagram under her moniker, themormonhippie, had shared her concerns about the holy underwear with her more than 25,000 followers. It apparently resonated in Latter-day Saint circles, drawing thousands of comments and private messages.It is just one subject the Mormon millennial discusses on social media. On this week’s show, talks about garments, The Times article and other issues for young members of the Utah-based church.

Aug 042021

An unlikely monastery in Utah and an author's life among Saints and monks | Episode 192

In the 1940s, Trappist monks looked to create new monasteries in unlikely places, places not dominated by Catholics. They found just such a spot in a high mountain valley in Mormon Utah.For 70 years, Holy Trinity Abbey in the scenic Ogden Valley served as a religious refuge, where monks pondered and prayed, worked and worshipped, lived and died.For a young Michael O’Brien, torn by his parents’ recent divorce, however, the monastery and his family’s frequent trips up “Abbey Road” offered a more personal connection as the monks provided spiritual fathering, committed counseling, timely mentoring, religious role modeling and paths to peace.A now-grown O’Brien, a Catholic who works as an attorney in Salt Lake City and often represents The Salt Lake Tribune in legal matters, captures all that and more in his soon-to-be-released memoir, “Monastery Mornings: My Unusual Boyhood Among the Saints and Monks.”

Jul 282021

Why we might need to view Pioneer Day differently | Episode 191

This week, Utahns and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are remembering the 1847 arrival of Mormon pioneers in the Salt Lake Valley.Not everyone, however, believes this epic migration is cause for unmitigated celebration. After all, these settlers ended up displacing Native Americans and transporting slavery to the region.On this week’s show, W. Paul Reeve, head of Mormon studies at the University of Utah, and Elise Boxer, coordinator of Native American studies at the University of South Dakota and a Dakota from the Sisseton and Wahpeton bands, discuss how we should treat Pioneer Day.

Jul 222021

Should post-pandemic Sunday services adopt a new normal? | Episode 190

As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints return to in-person worship after more than a year of COVID-19 restrictions, the question has become: Which pandemic-era changes should stay and which should go?Will members who are homebound or don’t feel comfortable in crowds still be able to watch services via Zoom? Will extra health precautions like hand-washing by deacons continue? Will anyone wear masks again, especially during flu season or when germs are prevalent?Rebecca Jensen, a longtime blogger with By Common Consent, wrote recently about those questions and more. On this week’s show, she talks about post-pandemic Mormonism.

Jul 162021

Puncturing the mystery of Emma Smith, who loved Joseph but loathed polygamy | Episode 189

She was church founder Joseph Smith’s first scribe. She created the first Latter-day Saint hymnal. She was the first president of the women’s Relief Society. She was, indeed, the faith’s first first lady. Yet Emma Smith, beloved wife of Joseph Smith, remains a mystery to many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.Jennifer Reeder, a historian for the Utah-based church, seeks to break through that mystery and the myth in her new biography, appropriately titled “First: The Life and Faith of Emma Smith,” revealing Emma’s undying love for her prophet-husband and her feeling of betrayal at his practice of polygamy, exploring her painful loss of young babies and her lifelong commitment to surviving children, examining her fractious relationship with Brigham Young and the Utah church and her eventual embrace of the Reorganized Church (now called the Community of Christ).On this week’s show, Reeder talks about Emma Smith, the “elect lady” of early Mormonism.

Jul 072021

The NAACP president and the unlikely alliance with the LDS Church | Episode 188

In an unexpected and bold move, President Russell M. Nelson announced a partnership with the NAACP in 2018 — just days before The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints celebrated the 40th anniversary of the end of its centurylong priesthood and temple ban on Black members.In recent weeks, the Utah-based faith elevated this unlikely alliance with the nation’s oldest civil rights organization by unveiling nearly $10 million in scholarships and humanitarian aid.On this week’s show, NAACP President Derrick Johnson talks about how the former foes — the church once barred Black members from holding its priesthood or entering its temples —became friends, why this evolving relationship is important, and where it is headed.

Jun 302021

What it means for the church that more than a fifth of young members are queer | Episode 187

A recent U.S. survey found that more than a fifth of Gen Zers who self-identify as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints say they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or other.Nearly that many millennials (19%) do as well.That is almost double the 10% that researchers Jana Riess and Benjamin Knoll found in their 2016 Next Mormons Survey.On this week’s show, Knoll, an associate professor of politics at Centre College in Kentucky, and Calvin Burke, an openly gay senior majoring in English at Brigham Young University and a media manager for Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, discuss these latest findings and their implications for the Utah-based faith now and into the future.

Jun 232021

Historians gather to discuss polygamy, the Hofmann bombings and church historic sites | Episode 186

The Mormon History Association’s just-completed annual conference offered the usual smorgasbord of delectable scholarly presentations relating to Mormonism.The 2021 theme for the hybrid in-person and online meeting in Park City was “Restoration, Reunion and Resilience.”There were sessions on polygamy and early Latter-day Saint experiences in Nauvoo, Ill., and Kirtland, Ohio, along with discussions of race, LGBTQ issues and the Mark Hofmann bombings. The historians also recognized that they were gathering in the ancestral lands of several northern bands of the Ute Indian Tribe.In addition, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced plans to rehabilitate the Hill Cumorah, the Manchester, N.Y., spot where founder Joseph Smith said he unearthed gold plates that contained the faith’s signature scripture, the Book of Mormon.On this week’s show Barbara Jones Brown, the association’s executive director, and Jenny Lund, this year’s president and director of the church’s historic sites, share highlights and insights from the conference and plans for the future.

Jun 162021

Why Joseph Smith ran for president and how his platform still resonates today | Episode 185

Editor's note: Due to an error in postproduction, we've replaced a previous version of this episode.Late in 1843, top leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sent letters to the five leading candidates for the U.S. presidency, asking each what he would do, if elected, to address the persecution the faith had suffered and to protect it from future repression.Unsatisfied with the responses, they turned to a new candidate: their own prophet, Joseph Smith.Thus began the church founder’s quixotic quest for the highest political office in the land that ended with his assassination five months later.While Smith’s short-lived, long-shot bid for the White House focused on securing the constitutional rights of religious minorities, he campaigned on a host of other issues as well, including the abolition of slavery, the expansion of the nation’s borders, the reestablishment a national bank and the elimination of prisons.Spencer McBride, associate managing historian of the Joseph Smith Papers project, explores that 1844 campaign, including the tug of war between federal power and states’ rights, on this week’s show and in his new book, “Joseph Smith for President: The Prophet, the Assassins, and the Fight for American Religious Freedom.”

Jun 092021

Why so many Latter-day Saints believe in QAnon | Episode 184

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sprang from a young boy’s quest for religious truth, so it may seem strange that sizable numbers of its members are falling for political claims that stretch so far from the truth.A recent survey shows, for instance, that 46% of Latter-day Saints believe the “big lie” — that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump.Another poll lists Latter-day Saints — along with white evangelicals and Hispanic Protestants — as the most likely to believe in the far-right QAnon conspiracy theory, alleging that the world is run by a shadowy cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles.Why are so many members and others embracing these outlandish tales? What’s the appeal of such conspiracy theories? Are these strictly about politics or could more be at play?Matthew Bowman, head of Mormon studies at Claremont Graduate University who will be teaching a class on conspiracy theory in America this fall and who just completed a book about UFO belief for Yale University Press, discusses those questions and more.

Jun 022021

Religious scholar explains why the church should stick with the word ‘Mormon’ | Episode 183

As we approach the third anniversary of President Russell M. Nelson’s plea for members, media, academics and all others to start using the full name of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and stop using the term “Mormon,” an outside religious scholar is suggesting a, shall we say, different approach. In fact, an opposite approach.Peter Thuesen, in a recent blog post, says the church should instead lean into the Mormon moniker. Use it. Admire it. Embrace it.A religious studies professor at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, Thuesen explains his reasoning and why the church should reconsider its well-known nickname.

May 262021

How modern missionary work is changing | Episode 182

Proselytizing has been a hallmark of Mormonism since its founding. It has become common to see pairs of young men, called “elders,” or young women, dubbed “sisters,” sporting black nametags and talking to people about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.In recent years, however, the faith’s global evangelizing program has shifted in tactics, especially during the pandemic, with less emphasis on so-called tracting (spreading the word from door to door) and more on technology (seeking and teaching converts online).On this week’s show, David and Kathleen Cook of Rochester, N.Y., talk about innovations they enacted as mission presidents in Chile from 2013 to 2016, their work today as service missionary leaders and the ever-evolving nature of proselytizing and humanitarian service.

May 192021

A Unitarian pastor reflects on his 34-year ministry in Salt Lake City | Episode 181

For 34 years, the Rev. Tom Goldsmith of Salt Lake City’s First Unitarian Church has been a prominent presence on Utah’s religious landscape.At the helm of his left-leaning congregation, Goldsmith championed social justice causes like immigration reform and climate change.He has shaped his congregation into a refuge for believers who do not feel at home in more conservative faiths, including the LDS Church.Now he is retiring and will give his final sermon Sunday.On this week’s show, he reflects on his ministry, including his dispute with Salt Lake City after it sold a chunk of Main Street to the LDS Church, congregant Tim DeChristopher’s monkey-wrenching of an oil and gas lease auction, and his church providing sanctuary to a Honduran immigrant.

May 122021

How to teach kids about Heavenly Mother and why it matters | Episode 180

In recent years, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has more fully embraced its teachings about Heavenly Mother, but she has been a part of the faith since virtually the beginning.She has long been celebrated in song and verse, but now members and leaders have begun to openly discuss her and debate her qualities.Two Latter-day Saint women, McArthur Krishna and Bethany Brady Spalding, have written a handful of children’s books about women in scriptures — poets, priestesses and prophets as well as judges and generals — but their most recent works are about Heavenly Mother herself.On this week’s show, Krishna and Spalding discuss their two latest books, “A Girl’s Guide to Heavenly Mother” and “A Boy’s Guide to Heavenly Mother.”

May 052021

Remembering D. Michael Quinn — his contributions, his conflicts and his legacy | Episode 179

D. Michael Quinn, the noted historian who died last week at 77, had an outsized impact on academic explorations of the church’s past.He was a prodigious researcher, who wrote 10 books and numerous essays. Though a believer in the faith’s founding events, Quinn resigned from church-owned Brigham Young University under pressure and subsequently was excommunicated from the faith in 1993 as part of the famed “September Six” for his writings about women and the priesthood, as well as about post-Manifesto polygamy.On this week’s show, Ross Peterson, retired professor of history at Utah State University and former editor of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, discusses Quinn’s life and work.

Apr 282021

Latter-day Saint therapist discusses the sexuality issues that Natasha Helfer tackled | Episode 178

Natasha Helfer, a licensed sex therapist and member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, faced a disciplinary hearing Sunday on her membership status.She was accused of apostasy for her public stances on masturbation, same-sex marriage and pornography, positions she says are consistent with the consensus in the mental health community.Due to procedural differences, Helfer wound up not attending the hearing, so the council took place without her.On this week’s show, Latter-day Saint sex therapist Jennifer Finlayson-Fife and a friend of Helfer, discusses those topics and the effect this move by church leaders may have on mental health professionals and their Latter-day Saint patients.

Apr 212021

Richard Turley and the life of Dallin H. Oaks | Episode 177

His father died when he was 7 years old. Raised by his mother and his maternal grandparents, he committed himself to hard work and diligent scholarship.He became a star student, earned a degree at one of the nation’s most prestigious law schools and launched a legal career that would see him rise to the Utah Supreme Court with whispers that he someday could land a seat on the country’s highest court.Then, virtually overnight, Dallin H. Oaks changed his life’s trajectory, trading his career in the law for a commitment to his Lord. He accepted a call to be an apostle in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a lifetime appointment in which he now stands as the top counselor to President Russell M. Nelson and next in line to assume leadership of the global faith.On this week’s show, historian Richard Turley, talks about his recently released biography, “In the Hands of the Lord: The Life Story of Dallin H. Oaks,” which documents the personal journey of a church leader known for his devotion to religious liberty, his doctrinal dissections and his pointed preaching from the pulpit.

Apr 142021

General Conference recap with Jana Riess | Episode 176

General Conference for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was, for the third straight time, all-virtual due to the pandemic. That didn’t stop it from being timely and topical.Those who tuned in heard about Christ and the resurrection (especially on Easter Sunday), the faith’s international footprint, repeated recognitions that most of the 16.6 million members are single, condemnations of cyberbullying and racist attacks, and an extensive exploration of the Constitution and the bounds of partisan politics.And only two women spoke.On this week’s podcast, Religion News Service columnist Jana Riess, author of “The Next Mormons: How Millennials Are Changing the LDS Church,” looks back at the highlights, lowlights and memorable moments from conference and what some of them may portend the church’s future.

Apr 072021

The Huntsman suit, the church’s $100B account and the state of LDS finances | Episode 175

James Huntsman, a member of a prominent Latter-day Saint family, recently accused The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints of fraud and sued to recover millions of dollars in tithing.Huntsman alleges that the global faith has “repeatedly and publicly lied” about its use of billions of dollars in member donations solicited to pay for missionary work, temple-building and other educational and charitable operations.Citing a whistleblower’s much-publicized IRS complaint about the church’s $100 billion “rainy day” fund, Huntsman’s federal lawsuit states that millions instead went toward commercial enterprises.On this week’s podcast, Sam Brunson, a Latter-day Saint and a tax law professor at Loyola University in Chicago, talks about the lawsuit, the church’s investment reserves, its tax implications and the faith’s finances.

Mar 312021

Why Latter-day Saints should back universal health care | Episode 174

For the past year, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, like others around the world, have dealt with a health care crisis that is both personal and societal.Even without the coronavirus pandemic, however, members face moral choices about medical issues throughout their lives. They must decide whether to continue a doomed pregnancy, whether to test a fetus for a genetic disorder, whether to vaccinate their children for sexually transmitted diseases, or whether to discontinue treatment of a dying parent.As they grapple with these personal questions — as well as the ethical questions surrounding health and healing in society at large — many people look to principles spelled out in their religion to provide answers and moral guidance. Latter-day Saints may turn to their 96-year-old prophet-president, Russell M. Nelson, who is a former heart surgeon with respect for medical and scientific wisdom.On this week’s podcast, Courtney Campbell, a philosophy professor of religion and culture at Oregon State University and author of the recently published “Mormonism, Medicine, and Bioethics,” examines these medical topics — from abortion to birth control to vaccines and end-of-life care — and makes his case for why Latter-day Saints should support universal health care.

Mar 252021

What the Salt Lake Temple loses with renovation | Episode 173

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has announced that it will discontinue the “live” presentation of a religious ritual known as the “endowment” in its iconic Salt Lake Temple.Instead of members acting out the scripted roles of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, for instance, a film version used in other temples will be shown.The faith’s governing First Presidency also said that historic wall murals, which help set the tone and understanding of the ceremony, had been removed.Similar changes are planned for the Manti Temple, which houses a Mormon masterpiece by artist Minerva Teichert. The moves sparked an outcry from preservationists and many church members. Here to talk about the changes is Jody England Hansen, who served as a volunteer worker in the Salt Lake Temple before it closed to undergo renovation.

Mar 172021

'Murder Among the Mormons' co-director Jared Hess on the Mark Hofmann bombings | Episode 172

A new documentary, “Murder Among the Mormons,” has become a big hit this month on Netflix.It recounts the 1980s story of document forger Mark Hofmann, who tried to upset the traditional historical narrative regarding the founding of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by producing fake artifacts.When he got entangled by his own financial double-dealing, Hofmann attempted to cover up his counterfeiting by setting off separate bombs that killed one of his clients, Steve Christensen, and Kathy Sheets, the wife of Christensen’s former business partner. He then injured himself in a third blast.The three-part series offers not only a riveting whodunit dissection of deadly crimes but also a fascinating exploration of Mormon history.On this week’s podcast, co-director Jared Hess, of “Napoleon Dynamite” fame, discusses the documentary, the haunting footage the filmmakers found, the phony discoveries Hofmann pulled off (including the big one he was plotting to peddle before his crimes unraveled), the callous calculations revealed in the mind of this killer, and the lessons Latter-day Saints and their leaders can take away from the whole sad saga.

Mar 112021

A deeper look at BYU’s report on campus racism and how the school can fix it | Episode 171

Brigham Young University released a 64-page report from a faculty committee last week on “Race, Equity and Belonging” at the Provo school.It exposed widespread and significant concerns about the mistreatment of minority students who attend the private university owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.Many students of color end up transferring or dropping out as a result of experiences that “left many disillusioned, brokenhearted and struggling.” The report noted that “current systems at the university are inadequate for coordinating services for students seeking assistance with challenges related to race” and recommended 26 changes as “first steps” toward addressing the problems.On this week’s podcast, BYU law professor Michalyn Steele, the committee’s only Native American, discussed the report and why she remains optimistic that meaningful changes will occur to make the school a better place for all.

Mar 032021

They're engineers from NASA and the Navy, these Black converts now lead an LDS mission | Episode 170

Michelle and John Amos are both converts to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Both are graduates of Southern University, a historic Black college. And both are high-powered engineers.Michelle worked for NASA for 30 years, including as part of the team that developed the Mars 2020 rover. Her husband, John, after a 21-year career with the Navy and Navy Reserve, became an engineering director at the global company Siemens Energy.Now the Amoses are overseeing more than 200 young Latter-day Saints as they lead the church’s Louisiana Baton Rouge Mission.During this last week of Black History Month, the couple talk about their conversion, their careers, their mission and their perspectives about racial issues in their faith.

Feb 252021

Robert Kirby reflects on his career as a religion humorist | Episdoe 169

For more than a quarter century, Salt Lake Tribune columnist Robert Kirby poked fun at Mormon history, practices, culture and members themselves, including one particular member: Robert Kirby.His brand of comical commentary brought not only winces and complaints but also personal insights and even community healing. He reached out to crime victims and those who had lost loved ones. He officiated at LGBTQ weddings. Mostly, though, his musings elicited laughter. He brought a lovable irreverence to reverent things.A former police officer, he joked about being a beat cop in the Celestial Kingdom. He boasted that he could “beat up”an aging Gordon B. Hinckley. And his piece about “five kinds of Mormons” is seen as a classic of Latter-day Saint satire. Now, after thousands of columns and millions of chuckles, Kirby is calling it quits. He’s retiring. So brace yourselves, listeners, as he joins us today via Zoom from his holding cell in Herriman to talk about his career as the nation’s only religion humor newspaper columnist.

Feb 172021

He’s devout. And he’s gay. Now he’s sharing his personal journey. | Episode 168

For the past 25-plus years, it has been the policy at Brigham Young University that it is OK to be gay, but not to act on it.That echoes the position taken by the school’s owner, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.There are clearly BYU students who are open about their LGBTQ identity while living the church’s standard of celibacy. But what about faculty and bosses?Ben Schilaty is a licensed therapist and BYU Honor Code administrator who has written his story in a newly released book titled “A Walk in My Shoes: Questions I’m Often Asked as a Gay Latter-day Saint,” put out by the church’s publishing house, Deseret Book.In this week’s show, Schilaty — who co-hosts with former Cougar mascot Charlie Bird the “Questions From the Closet” podcast — talks about coming to terms with his sexual orientation, his falling in love with another man, his commitment to living as a devout Latter-day Saint, the evolution of church LGBTQ policies, BYU’s short-lived Honor Code change, and his work at the faith’s flagship school.

Feb 112021

A deeper look at #DezNat tweeters | Episode 167

In 2018, John Paul Bellum came up with a Twitter hashtag, #DezNat, which stands for Deseret Nation, to help like-minded conservatives within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints find one another on social media.Bellum said he was hoping to rally members willing to defend the faith, its leaders, its history, its doctrines and especially its teachings on the family — all of which he saw as under attack online.Since then, #DezNat has been used in hundreds of thousands of tweets, including some with memes threatening violence toward perceived critics.On this week’s podcast, researcher Mary Ann Clements, who has tracked and written about #DezNat for the Latter-day Saint blog Wheat & Tares, discusses this internet movement, its origins, its purposes, its evolution, its ideas about race, its place in online Mormon culture, the fears some of the posts engender, and the LDS Church’s response to these messages.

Feb 032021

How the LDS Church can adapt as it enters its third century | Episode 166

In his new book, “Restoration: God’s Call to the 21st-Century World,” scholar Patrick Mason explains how 16.5 million members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can — with help from the billions of others across the globe — “renovate the world.”Mason emphasizes that while Mormonism’s “ongoing restoration” is more about looking forward than backward, the church and its members must discard some historical and cultural baggage, including racism, sexism and colonialism, to reach its ultimate destination.He also calls on Latter-day Saints to take up the cause of the “Messiah of the marginalized” and lift all the children of their Heavenly Parents.Mason, head of Mormon history and culture at Utah State University, joins this week’s podcast to talk about his book, these topics and more.

Jan 262021

Former Sen. Harry Reid on the Capitol riot, impeachment, and the Biden presidency | Episode 165

As it prepares to welcome a new president, the United States, a land of prophecy and promise to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, stands at a momentous moment.A defeated, disgraced and divisive president has become the first commander in chief to be impeached twice. A violent mob has desecrated the People’s House, eroding the very foundation of democracy. And, amid threats of more unrest, a shaken nation tiptoes into the future with as much trepidation as hope.One Latter-day Saint who, perhaps more than any other, can bring insight to this turbulent time is former Nevada Sen. Harry Reid. The longtime Democrat served in Congress for 34 years, including eight years as Senate majority leader, the highest federal office ever achieved by a Latter-day Saint, before retiring in 2017.On this week’s podcast, Reid recounts his early days as a Capitol Police officer, the pain he felt seeing the place he labored for so many years being ransacked, and why he believes top church leaders, perhaps the governing First Presidency, need to warn members to beware of aligning with “fringe” groups and causes, adding that Latter-day Saints who take part in this insurrection are giving the faith a bad name.

Jan 142021

Historian Richard Bushman explores faith, doubt and feminism | Episode 164

In a wide-ranging interview published in Sunday’s Salt Lake Tribune, revered Mormon historian Richard Bushman, author of the acclaimed Joseph Smith biography “Rough Stone Rolling,” talked at length about his childhood in Oregon, his mission in New England and his education at Harvard, where he wrestled with his faith in God.He also discussed the mystery of the gold plates, from which the Book of Mormon sprang, his understanding of truth, and his perspectives on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — its past, present and future.Bushman discusses those topics and more on this week’s podcast.

Jan 072021

Recapping 2020 for the LDS Church | Episode 163

This year’s global pandemic brought extraordinary actions inside The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.Worship services were halted. Temples were closed. Missionaries were released, recalled and reassigned. Humanitarian outreach reached record levels.And there was much more: Major denunciations of racism were given. Changes to church practices and parlance were announced. A new symbol and proclamation were unveiled.Patrick Mason, head of Mormon history and culture at Utah State University, discusses the year in Mormonism on this week’s show and what it all may mean moving forward for the global faith.

Dec 302020

Is confronting church critics through satire effective or offensive? | Episode 162

The group FairMormon is dedicated to defending The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from critics and rebutting falsehoods about the faith’s history and theology.FairMormon is particularly concerned about the influence of a 2013 volume called the “CES Letter,” which provides a long list of what it sees as problems with the church’s descriptions of its past, including founder Joseph Smith, his “First Vision,” translation of the Book of Mormon and polygamy.So FairMormon enlisted a handful of Brigham Young University actors and writers to produce satirical videos with essentially a twofold mission: Tear down the “CES Letter” and build up these younger members.Will the mocking nature of these videos work? What is the best way to tackle controversial aspects of Mormon history?On this week’s shows, Michael Austin, a Latter-day Saint writer, BYU alumnus and executive vice president for academic affairs at the University of Evansville, where he works every day with college students, addresses those questions and more.

Dec 232020

The Atlantic’s McKay Coppins on the LDS Church’s quest for approval and its future | Episode 161

In a lengthy essay in The Atlantic posted online Wednesday, reporter McKay Coppins explores The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its history as “The Most American Religion.”In a subtitle, the article states: “Perpetual outsiders, Mormons spent 200 years assimilating to a certain national ideal — only to find their country is in an identity crisis. What will the third century of the faith look like?”Coppins’ piece looks backward and forward, not as a dispassionate observer, but through his own lens as a practicing Latter-day Saint. He talks with scholars and politicians, insiders and outsiders, leaders and laypeople, even church President Russell M. Nelson.In this week’s podcast, Coppins talks about the path Mormonism has followed and what steps the Utah-based faith could — and should — take as it treads into its next hundred years.

Dec 162020

Are Latter-day Saint anti-maskers guilty of not ‘following the prophet’? | Episode 160

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints posted a video this week from apostle Dale G. Renlund in which he pleaded with members to put on masks and put off assembling in large gatherings in response to the coronavirus pandemic.“Wearing a face covering,” he said, “is a sign of Christlike love for our brothers and sisters.”Renlund, a former cardiologist, emphasized that he was speaking not as a physician, but as an apostle, a position of great respect within the Utah-based faith. His words were just the latest in a series of statements and actions by top church leaders in support of public health guidelines. Still, they triggered strong debate between Latter-day Saints who support mask-wearing and those who don’t.A key question: Are so-called anti-maskers among the church’s membership guilty of not following their prophet?The short answer is yes, according to Latter-day Saint writer Emily Jensen, the web editor for Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. Jensen discusses that question and the wider implications for the church in this week’s podcast.

Dec 092020

Latter-day Saints and their love-hate history with vaccines | Episode 159

In the not-too-distant future, the United States and other nations will have a vaccination available, thankfully, for COVID-19, which has killed more than 1.5 million people and altered millions of more lives.But besides the issue of who will get the vaccination first looms another question: Who will be willing to get it?Debates about the value and efficacy of vaccines — as well as the socioeconomics of those who will get them and those who won’t — have raged throughout the 20th century and into the 21st.Such a debate took place in the early 1900s in Utah over the smallpox vaccine, dividing prominent community members, leaders and Latter-day Saints, including top church authorities and the editor of the church-owned Deseret News.On this week’s podcast, Ben Cater — who teaches history at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego and has written about the religious politics at play in public health during the Progressive Era in Utah — revisits that period and how it may parallel our current times.

Dec 022020

Why giving thanks is healthy — even amid COVID | Episode 158

As a global faith leader, President Russell M. Nelson urged members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints last week to “flood social media” with posts about gratitude — even as he acknowledged the pain of the coronavirus pandemic that has plagued the world.In response, throngs of Latter-day Saints have done so. Some might even see it as a religious obligation. But it’s not just a good religious act. Therapists see the expression of gratitude as good for mental health, too.On this week’s show, Marybeth Raynes, a licensed clinical social worker and therapist in Salt Lake City, discusses the benefits of giving thanks.

Nov 252020

One of Wyoming’s ‘Black 14’ on his story and new partnership with the LDS Church | Episode 157

In October 1969, 14 African American players for the University of Wyoming planned to sport black armbands in a football game against Brigham Young University to protest the then-priesthood/temple ban on Blacks in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (that ban ended in 1978).Their coach booted them off the team hours before kickoff.Now, more than 50 years later, the “Black 14,” as they have been called, are actually teaming up with the LDS Church, to bring 180 tons of food to people in need in nine U.S. cities stretching from Maryland to Wyoming.On this week’s podcast, Mel Hamilton, one of the original Black 14 whose son actually converted to Mormonism, talks about the experience, past and present.

Nov 182020

Did Latter-day Saint voters help Biden win Arizona? Will they stick with the GOP? | Episode 156

Before the presidential election, some pollsters and pundits suggested that members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints might play a key role — despite their relatively small numbers.Indeed, many members became actively involved on one side or the other, forming groups like Latter-day Saints for Trump and Latter-day Saints for Biden. They seemed especially visible in Western swing states like Nevada and Arizona.So, for instance, did Latter-day Saints help turn the traditionally red Grand Canyon State blue? Quin Monson, a Brigham Young University political science professor who also is a partner at Y2 Analytics, gives a “qualified yes” to that question. He offers more insights on Latter-day Saint voters and how their partisan leanings have changed — and may change — on this week’s podcast.

Nov 112020

Reflections on 12 years as an LDS bishop in the United Kingdom | Episode 155

Most bishops of a Latter-day Saint congregation give the church five years of their lives as they shepherd the spiritual and even temporal well-being of hundreds of families and individuals in their area.Because they are volunteers, that means they do this while holding a full-time job as well as taking care of the needs of their own families and loved ones.Ross Trewhella, however, served his Latter-day Saint parishioners in Cornwall, United Kingdom, for 12 years — almost unheard of for a bishop in modern Mormonism.In this week’s podcast, he reflects on the highs and the lows, the challenges and the rewards, the members and the memories after more than a decade of service — and how he feels now about relinquishing his seat at the front of the chapel.

Nov 042020

Ezra Taft Benson and his influence on Latter-day Saint politics | Episode 154

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints used to be more evenly split between the two major political parties, even supporting Democrats Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson for U.S. president.But something happened in the 1960s. Latter-day Saints began moving to the right and eventually became a reliably Republican voting bloc, a trend that continues to this day.Though there were many social factors behind this shift, one high-placed church leader may have helped shape Mormon political views for decades. His name: Ezra Taft Benson.A Latter-day Saint apostle and onetime church president, Benson held political positions that went further right than mainstream Republicans. He spoke out against communism — even calling Dwight D. Eisenhower and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. “Communists” — considered running on a presidential ticket with ardent segregationist George Wallace, and wanted to name a member of the right-wing John Birch Society to the faith’s top quorums. But he got plenty of pushback for linking politics and religion from other church leaders including David O. McKay, Gordon B. Hinckley and Boyd K. Packer.Matthew Harris, author of “Watchman on the Tower: Ezra Taft Benson and the Making of the Mormon Right” and a history professor at Colorado State University in Pueblo, joins us today via Zoom to talk about Benson and his influence on Latter-day Saint politics. Matthew, welcome.

Oct 282020

How abortion and the Supreme Court might affect Latter-day Saint voters | Episode 153

For many voters, including a number of Latter-day Saints, this year’s presidential election comes down to one issue: abortion.They may not like Donald Trump’s style, but they believe he will support the cause of protecting the unborn.At the same time, many other voters, including, again, a number of Latter-day Saints, have a more complex view of abortion, with some pointing to the more nuanced stance of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints itself on that topic.So how might this debate play out among Latter-day Saints, especially in Utah, in this election? And how might the current battle over the Supreme Court — and talk of toppling Roe v. Wade — affect the outcome?Morgan Lyon Cotti, associate director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah, discusses this and other issues dividing Latter-day Saint voters in 2020 and beyond.

Oct 212020

McKay Coppins on the role LDS voters may play in the election | Episode 152

McKay Coppins wrote recently in The Atlantic that President Donald Trump publicly praises evangelicals, prosperity preachers and other religious conservatives, including members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, while privately mocking them and belittling their beliefs.Coppins, a Brigham Young University alumnus, joined this week’s podcast to talk about the presidential candidates, the state of this year’s White House race, how the Biden and Trump campaigns are courting members, and whether Latter-day Saints — and the issues they care about most — could help determine the outcome in swing states.

Oct 142020

How founder Joseph Smith may have translated the Book of Mormon | Episode 151

Early members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe the ability to translate was one of the spiritual gifts mentioned in the New Testament.Church founder Joseph Smith said he translated the faith’s signature scripture, the Book of Mormon, “by the gift and power of God” from ancient writings found on gold plates.So, if Smith used this gift to translate the Book of Mormon, as he asserted, how might he have done it? Was there more to this mystical process? What role might a so-called seer stone have played? And what should members and outsiders alike keep in mind when considering the birthing of this global religion’s foundational text?Latter-day Saint physician Samuel Brown, a religious historian and author of the recently released “Joseph Smith’s Translation: The Words and Worlds of Early Mormonism," addresses those questions and more on this week’s podcast.

Oct 072020

Matthew Gong discusses his LGBTQ journey with his faith, his family and himself | Episode 150

Many gay Mormons have a story about their experience in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.Though all the narratives stand on their own, most involve these members recognizing their attractions, trying to reconcile what they are feeling with what the Utah-based faith is teaching about homosexuality — that it is not a sin, just acting on it is — coming out, what they hope for the future, and how their family and friends respond.On this week’s podcast, Matthew Gong, who works in artificial intelligence, discusses his unique journey with his faith, his family, his friends and himself.

Sep 302020

How the media use the church's preferred name | Episode 149

In August 2018, President Russell M. Nelson urged the media to use the faith’s full name, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and to stop employing the terms “Mormon church” or “LDS Church” — indeed to cease using “Mormon” altogether, even when referring to members.A year later, Public Square Magazine, published from the perspective of Latter-day Saints, decided to survey whether various national news outlets — including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, The Associated Press and CNN — had complied and how it affected their coverage.On this week’s podcast, Public Square Managing Editor Christopher Cunningham discusses the results, along with the challenges journalists face in heeding the church’s preferred style and the implications their word choices carry.

Sep 232020

The thousands of LDS women united to clean up politics | Episode 147

In 2017, after the election of President Donald Trump, several female members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, distressed by the increasing political polarization and eroding ethics in government, formed Mormon Women for Ethical Government.The group, which is not endorsed by the church, is dedicated to seeking a peaceful, just and ethical world with a pledge to be faithful, nonpartisan and proactive, along with a commitment to civility.In a few short years, its membership has ballooned to more than 7,000.Now, with the nation in the midst of another deeply divisive presidential race, the organization’s executive director, Emma Petty Addams, and Christie Black, an engagement director, joined this week’s podcast to talk about their group and its goals.

Sep 162020

Affirmation and support for LGBTQ Latter-day Saints | Episode 146

Launched in the 1970s, Affirmation is one of the oldest support groups for LGBTQ members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.As the Utah-based faith has evolved in its understanding of and approach to its LGBTQ members, Affirmation has expanded as well — across the country and around the world.For the next four weekends, the organization will host a virtual international conference, complete with live and recorded workshops, speakers and discussions.On this week’s podcast, Affirmation President Nathan Kitchen discusses the conference, the group’s widening reach, and the challenges LGBTQ Latter-day Saints face from Arizona to Argentina to Australia — and across the globe.

Sep 092020

Finding Mother God with poet Carol Lynn Pearson | Episode 145

In 2015, the church issued a short essay matter-of-factly affirming its belief in a Heavenly Mother. It was only six paragraphs, barely 600 words.That left the subject wide open to imaginative exploration with more and more leaders and members embracing the idea and mentioning Heavenly Parents in writings and sermons.Latter-day Saint poet Carol Lynn Pearson insists the world “needs” to find, or rediscover, Heavenly Mother, arguing that bringing her back “is not just cosmetic, it is cosmic” and can help bring peace, justice and harmony to the planet.She undertakes that quest in her new volume of verses, “Finding Mother God: Poems to Heal the World,” and discusses it on this week’s podcast.

Sep 022020

Latter-day Saints make the case for Trump or Biden | Episode 144

As the U.S. presidential race heats up, Latter-day Saints, like all Americans, are starting to choose sides. And both campaigns have begun courting members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, especially in battleground states with significant LDS voting blocs.In recent decades, Latter-day Saints have overwhelmingly cast ballots for Republican candidates, though their support of Donald Trump in 2016 was not nearly as enthusiastic. Four years later, both camps see a chance to win over church members, asserting that their presidential nominee and party best represent Latter-day Saint values.On this week’s podcast, Utah Rep. Kim Coleman, a member of the advisory board of Latter-day Saints for Trump, and Scott Howell, a former state senator who heads up the Joe Biden campaign in Utah, discuss faith, politics and why Latter-day Saints should vote for their candidate.

Aug 262020

Therapist discusses what’s right with bishops’ interviews | Episode 143

The long-standing practice of having lay bishops interview teens and ask them questions about their faith and their lives, including any sexual activity, has come under fire in recent years.A group called “Protect LDS Children” urged the church to stop the practice, citing examples of bishops who were insensitive and even abusive. Church leaders made changes, allowing, for instance, those being interviewed to have a second adult with them in these conversations. But critics and some mental health experts maintain the sessions should cease altogether.Jennifer Roach, a therapist, recent Latter-day Saint convert and a victim of clergy abuse herself, believes the interviews serve a vital purpose. She shares her views on this week’s show.

Aug 192020

Rabbi Sam Spector on life in an LDS Zion | Episode 142

Rabbi Sam Spector of Congregation Kol Ami in Salt Lake City has been in Utah a little more than two years but has already built strong relationships with members and leaders of the state’s predominant faith, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.Just last week, the 30-something rabbi was on hand to oversee a group of Latter-day Saint volunteers who spent five days working alongside Kol Ami congregants to xeriscape the synagogue’s six-acre plot.On this week’s podcast, the young and energetic rabbi discusses coming to Utah, meeting a Latter-day Saint apostle named “Jeff,” traveling to Jerusalem with Brigham Young University professors and engaging in an interfaith dialogue that doesn’t tiptoe around big differences. He also addresses why Christians doing Passover Seders can make him uncomfortable and who uses the term “Zion” more — Latter-day Saints or Jews.

Aug 122020

The lesser-known legacy of Emmeline B. Wells | Episode 141

A few weeks after The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints published the sermons of Eliza R. Snow comes the online release of additional diaries by a lesser known, but no less influential, female leader in the faith’s history.Emmeline B. Wells packed a lot into her 93 years of life. She was a three-time wife, mother of five daughters, a writer, editor, longtime Relief Society record-keeper, Relief Society general president, and, perhaps above all, a zealous advocate for suffrage and women’s rights.Her diaries reveal much about her efforts to, in her words, “advance women in moral and spiritual as well as educational work.”On this week’s podcast, Cherry Silver, a co-editor of the online publication, and Kate Holbrook, the managing historian for the church’s History Department, discuss the project, Wells’ life and her writings.

Aug 052020

Latter-day Saints and the end times | Episode 140

Amid a global pandemic, civil unrest, a presidential election and — in Utah — a string of nerve-rattling earthquakes, many biblical believers are thinking anew about the so-called apocalypse.For members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, though, the end times have always been a part of their theology. After all, the latter days are referenced in their faith’s official name.There also is buzz in pews and on porches about the “White Horse Prophecy,” Mormon politicians, and church President Russell M. Nelson, who frequently warns about preparing for the Second ComingScholar Christopher Blythe, author of a soon-to-be released book, “Terrible Revolution: Latter-day Saints and the American Apocalypse,” joins the podcast this week to discuss, well, the “end of the world” or, at least, Mormonism’s ties to the prophecies, predictions and passions surrounding it.

Jul 292020

Mette Ivie Harrison on the ‘five doctrines of ex-Mormonism' | Episode 139

Utah author Mette Ivie Harrison has been writing about her transition away from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.Besides opposing some of the faith’s policies, practices and doctrines, Harrison also has cited the restrictive views held by some members. In a recent column, however, she notes that she again finds herself bumping into rigid thinking — this time coming from former members.In this week’s show, Harrison discusses her spiritual journey and the “five doctrines of ex-Mormonism.”

Jul 222020

Church historians discuss the legacy of Eliza R. Snow and her 1,200 sermons | Episode 138

Eliza R. Snow ranks as the most influential Latter-day Saint woman of her time and after Emma Smith, wife of Mormon founder Joseph Smith, perhaps the best-known woman in the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.Snow was a poet and a preacher, a plural wife of prophets and a defender of polygamy, a leader of the Relief Society and a champion of women. Still, there is much Latter-day Saints don’t know about her.That may change now that the church has launched a new website, called The Discourses of Eliza R. Snow, that brings together her sermons, nearly 1,200 of them.On this week’s podcast, two of the forces behind the massive project — historians Jennifer Reeder and Elizabeth Kuehn — discuss how a reluctant public speaker became a powerhouse at the pulpit, how she viewed Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, and how she traversed the Utah Territory, building up the faith’s women and rebuilding the Relief Society.

Jul 152020

How Mormonism embraces the Founding Fathers | Episode 137

As Americans tune into the movie version of the Broadway megahit “Hamilton” amid a national debate about the virtues and vices of the nation’s framers, the question arises: How do and should Latter-day Saints view them?Mormon scriptures prophecy that the Americas would sprout a place of “promise,” a “land of liberty.” Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are taught that God “raised up” these “choice spirits” to establish a divinely inspired Constitution and a Declaration of Independence that proclaims “all men are created equal.”Yet many of the founders embraced slavery; others enabled it.On this week’s podcast, Benjamin Park, an assistant professor of history at Sam Houston State University and author of the recently released “Kingdom of Nauvoo: The Rise and Fall of a Religious Empire on the American Frontier,” discusses these principles and paradoxes.

Jul 082020

How views on sexuality and gender evolved and what that might mean in the future | Episode 136

Perhaps no issues have roiled members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints more than questions about race, gender and sexuality.Scholar Taylor Petrey offers an original exploration of these topics and how they connect and intersect in his new book, “Tabernacles of Clay: Sexuality and Gender in Modern Mormonism.”On this week’s podcast, Petrey, the current editor of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought and an associate professor of religion at Kalamazoo College, examines how the Utah-based faith’s views have shifted, especially since World War II, and what that evolution may portend for the future.

Jul 012020

BYU activists discuss why the Smoot Building needs a new name | Episode 135

Amid the nation’s reawakening on the issue of systemic racism, Brigham Young University’s president has conceded that “there is work to do” on the Provo campus.Many students and alumni agree, and some of them have called on officials to rebrand the administration building, given that it bears the name of Abraham O. Smoot, a former benefactor who owned slaves.On this week’s “Mormon Land” podcast, two of the activists behind this effort, Tristan Quist and Cole Stewart-Johnson, discuss why they are targeting the Smoot Building and how a name change may help make the university a more welcoming place for all. They also share their views about the monikers on other BYU buildings, some of which are named after past leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and about the school’s name itself.

Jun 242020

Joanna Brooks on past LDS leaders’ racist views and how white supremacy took root | Episode 134

In 1852, Mormon pioneer-prophet Brigham Young put The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on a path toward a racist practice barring blacks from the priesthood. Some 126 years later, in 1978, church President Spencer W. Kimball ended the policy.But racist doctrines and white supremacist views from Mormon pulpits and within Mormon pews hardly started with the priesthood ban and certainly didn’t stop with its removal.Scholar Joanna Brooks, a professor of English and comparative literature at San Diego State University, explores these uncomfortable teachings and the sometimes-ugly undercurrents in her new book, “Mormonism and White Supremacy: American Religion and the Problem of Racial Innocence.”In this week’s podcast, she discuss how coming to terms with the past and present could help the church and its members build a brighter, more inclusive, more equitable future.

Jun 172020

LDS historian Ardis Parshall shedding light on souls lost during a previous pandemic | Episode 133

With the world in the grips of COVID-19, which has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives, Mormon research historian Ardis Parshall has been posting photos and vignettes of Latter-day Saints who died during the Spanish flu of 1918-20, which claimed tens of millions across the globe.By doing so on her blog, keepapitchinin.org, she is putting a human face on what too often can appear in history books as cold statistics.On this week’s podcast, she touches on some of the souls who were lost during this previous pandemic, discusses why she launched the heartfelt, yet heartbreaking, project, and reveals how this labor of love actually has helped her and others cope with the current crisis.

Jun 102020

What society and the LDS Church can do to erase the sin of racism | Episode 132

George Floyd’s death — as just the latest example of a black person dying at the hands of law enforcement — has shaken, angered, agitated and, some say, awakened the nation, setting off waves of sometimes-violent protests against racism and police brutality.Days later, Russell M. Nelson, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a faith with its own racist history, took to social media, condemning prejudice, calling racists to repentance and decrying the lawlessness that has erupted.Two African American Latter-day Saints join this week’s “Mormon Land” podcast to discuss systemic racism, protests and the church’s delayed response.Both LaShawn Williams, an assistant professor of social work at Utah Valley University, and Kimberly Applewhite, a psychologist with the Utah Center for Evidence Based Treatment, say society, the nation, their church and individuals can and must do more to wipe out the sin of racism.

Jun 032020

BYU professors discuss gender research and how to elevate women’s voices in the church | Episode 131

Women are gaining a higher profile in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at both the local and general levels. But having women in the room — and usually vastly outnumbered by men when issues are discussed and decisions are made, often by the faith’s all-male priesthood — doesn’t necessarily mean these women are being heard, let alone heeded.New research from three Brigham Young University professors — Olga Stoddard, Jessica Preece and Chris Karpowitz — sheds light on these group gender dynamics.On this week’s podcast, two of those researchers, Preece and Karpowitz, discuss their findings, and how women’s voices and views can be elevated not only in business, government, politics and academia but also in the LDS Church.

May 272020

A Latter-day Saint artist on the church’s move to display more paintings of Jesus | Episode 130

A week ago, top leaders in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints directed that all displays in foyers and entryways in the faith’s meetinghouses across the globe be reserved exclusively for artwork that depicts Jesus. They even included a list of 22 paintings for such use.While the push to focus on Christ won wide praise, some observers questioned the approved pieces, suggesting they lacked gender and cultural diversity while offering only a narrow, Eurocentric vision.In this week’s show, Utah artist Brian Kershisnik, whose works have become increasingly popular in Latter-day Saint circles, discusses the church’s directive, the difficulties in depicting Jesus, and the role of art in sacred spaces.Kershisnik says would like to see the church draw from a wider palette of paintings from across the world and across generations, including pieces that challenge as much as comfort their viewers.

May 202020

College administrator examines BYU’s Honor Code reversal on LGBTQ issues | Episode 129

Back in mid-February, Brigham Young University set off shock waves when it quietly removed from its Honor Code the section forbidding “homosexual behavior.”Many students believed — and had been told by school officials — that the shift meant the prohibition against such actions as same-sex hand-holding, kissing and dating was no longer in place. The LGBTQ community and its allies celebrated.Two weeks later, however, the Church Educational System, which oversees all BYU campuses for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, did an about-face, stating that “same-sex romantic behavior” remained incompatible with the school’s rules.The reversal resulted in anger, frustration, protests and questions about what may happen to LGBTQ students when classes resume on campus.Michael Austin, a BYU alumnus and executive vice president for academic affairs at the University of Evansville, a Methodist school in Indiana, discusses the issue on this week’s podcast.

May 132020

A graphic designer who worked on a previous church logo evaluates the new symbol | Episode 128

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints unveiled a new symbol last month as part of President Russell M. Nelson’s continuing efforts to emphasize — to insiders and outsiders alike — that the faith is centered on Jesus Christ.Does this logo, from a design perspective, help accomplish that aim?Yes, says Randall Smith, a Salt Lake City graphic designer who helped craft a previous logo for the church. But the new symbol, while “safe and expected,” he adds, is “not very progressive” and its complexity may make it difficult to use in some mediums.Smith discusses the new logo and his work for the church on an older one, which began springing up as part of the “welcome” signs now found on Latter-day Saint meetinghouses across the globe.

May 062020

Mountain Meadows, Mark Hofmann & more: Historian Richard Turley reflects on his career | Episode 127

Richard E. Turley Jr. retired recently after nearly 30 years working for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, most of that time in the History and Family History departments.He has co-written or penned several books, including the acclaimed “Massacre at Mountain Meadows: An American Tragedy” and “Victims: The LDS Church and the Mark Hofmann Case.” Most recently, he served as the managing director of the faith’s Public Affairs Department.He reflects this week on his career, the highs, the lows, the memories and the milestones.

Apr 292020

Neylan McBaine discusses blessings, sacrament and how COVID-19 is changing LDS worship | Episode 126

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recently released guidelines to help members and lay leaders navigate various religious rites during the coronavirus pandemic.Virtual sacraments are out, a decision that has deprived some women and other members of regular communion. Baptisms, where permitted, are in. Priesthood ordinations and baby blessings still can take place. Temple recommend interviews can be conducted via video, even though the temples themselves remain closed. As for online worship services, well, some areas are holding them; others have been instructed not to.On this week’s podcast, Neylan McBaine, founder of the Mormon Women Project, discusses how these functions of faith are operating amid all the COVID-19 restrictions and how some changes could boost the equity and efficacy of Latter-day Saint worship. McBaine’s 2014 book, “Women at Church,” challenged members to think outside the box when it comes policies and practices within the faith — something a lot of leaders now find themselves doing.

Apr 222020

Expert discusses where LDS church is growing fastest, who is getting temples and why | Episode 125

During its recent General Conference, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reported that its global membership has topped 16.5 million, with nearly 249,000 new converts in 2019, a substantial increase from the previous year.Here to help drill down on those numbers — and other recently released church statistics, including country-by-country breakdowns — is independent researcher Matt Martinich, who tracks church growth on his website, ldschurchgrowth.blogspot.com, and is project manager for The Cumorah Foundation.

Apr 152020

A look back at General Conference | Episode 124

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints just concluded one of the most unusual General Conferences in its history.Due to crowd restrictions imposed during the coronavirus pandemic, the sessions took place in a small auditorium in the Church Office Building in downtown Salt Lake City. While no more than 10 people were in that room, the conference may have never had a larger audience — transmitted online and on TV to millions around the world, many of them forced to hole up in their homes and eager to view a gathering that church President Russell M. Nelson long had promised would be unlike any other.Nelson marked the bicentennial of founder Joseph Smith’s “First Vision” with a new proclamation. He unveiled a new church symbol. He announced new temples, including firsts for the Middle East and mainland China. And he called for another worldwide fast to pray for relief from COVID-19.On this week’s podcast, Joseph Stuart, a doctoral candidate in history at the University of Utah and a contributing editor to the Juvenile Instructor, a Mormon history blog, discusses the conference, its impact, its memorable moments and how it ultimately will be remembered.

Apr 092020

LDS scholar examines the coronavirus’s effects on the global church | Episode 123

It’s been several weeks since our latest “Mormon Land” podcast. Thankfully, not much has happened in that interval.OK, let’s just say the world has turned upside down.For The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, its fundamental operations, programs and plans have been upended by the coronavirus. Services have been canceled. All temples are closed. And tens of thousands of missionaries have been recalled, released or reassigned. All of this coming in front of an online spring General Conference that will mark the bicentennial of Mormon founder Joseph Smith’s “First Vision” but will have no public attendance.Here to sort through these astonishing developments and look forward to this weekend’s conference is Patrick Mason, head of Mormon history and culture at Utah State University.

Apr 012020

A deeper look at the new handbook | Episode 122

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints made a major shift recently when it published online, in full, its updated General Handbook, which spells out policies, practices and procedures in the worldwide faith.Previous handbooks were for leaders only. Now rank-and-file members and even outsiders can be on the same page when it comes to church governance. The guidelines include, for instance, new nomenclature for church discipline and a new section on transgender individuals. It even urges Latter-day Saints to “partake” of the sacrament, or communion, “with their right hand when possible."Discussing these developments and other changes in the new handbook is Jonathan Stapley, a scientist and historian whose recent book, “The Power of Godliness: Mormon Liturgy and Cosmology,” won top honors from the Mormon History Association. He also is a popular blogger for By Common Consent.

Mar 042020

Secret polygamy, female dissent and Nauvoo’s place in the past and present | Episode 121

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints may think they know all about Nauvoo, the Illinois city on the banks of the Mississippi River that blossomed into their faith’s headquarters from 1839 to 1846.There, Mormons built a fast-growing city-state that rivaled Chicago. There, they established a militia. There, they built their second temple. And there, they buried their beloved prophet.But few know that during those Nauvoo years, church leaders worked to rewrite the U.S. Constitution even as Mormon founder Joseph Smith ran for U.S. president. Few know how polygamy emerged even as Smith worked to conceal and control it and how he struggled even mightier to win converts to these unorthodox unions, especially in his own household. His brother Hyrum, who was slain with him at Carthage, for instance, went from a vehement opponent of plural marriage to a zealous proponent almost overnight, while Joseph’s first wife, Emma, only occasionally veered from her disdain for the practice.Historian Benjamin Park, author of the newly released “Kingdom of Nauvoo: The Rise and Fall of a Religious Empire on the American Frontier,” sheds new light on those subjects and more in this week’s podcast.Listen here:

Feb 262020

Columnist Jana Riess on where the Sunday school curriculum measures up and falls short | Episode 120

A printed Sunday school manual for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints contained a disavowed racist teaching that referred to “dark skin” in the faith’s signature scripture, the Book of Mormon, as a “curse” from God.The church has acknowledged the error and corrected it in the online manual. But is that enough? Some Latter-day Saints say it isn’t. They want the faith’s top leaders to issue a statement to members worldwide and use the mistake as a teaching moment to help combat persistent bouts of racism.And what about the overall curriculum? Does it fulfill its stated goals of helping members “deepen [their] conversion” and “become more like Jesus Christ”?Religion News Service senior columnist Jana Riess addresses those questions and more in this week’s podcast.

Feb 192020

Polygamy, priesthood ban and more in latest church history volume of ‘Saints’ | Episode 119

In September 2018, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released its first authorized, in-depth look at the faith’s history in nearly a century.The four-volume set, known as “Saints,” will explore Mormonism from its humble birth to its current global presence. The first volume, “Saints: The Standard of Truth,” examined church history from 1815 to 1846. The second book, “Saints: No Unhallowed Hand,” which came out Wednesday, covers 1846 to 1893. It includes, for example, Brigham Young’s presidency, polygamy, the priesthood ban, the Mountain Meadows Massacre and lesser-known but equally meaningful moments in church history. The 700-plus-page volume ends with the Salt Lake Temple dedication.Discussing the project this week are Matthew Grow, managing director of the church History Department and general editor of the Joseph Smith Papers, and Angela Hallstrom, a writer in the History Department and literary editor for the series.Listen here.

Feb 122020

Latter-day Saint women were the first to vote in the U.S. Who knew? | Episode 118

Next week, Utahns will celebrate the Beehive State as the first place an American woman voted under equal suffrage laws.Feb. 14 is the 150th anniversary of that first female vote, cast by Seraph Young (Brigham Young’s grandniece).Discussing the suffrage movement, what led up to the vote, and the role of Latter-day Saint women in the effort is Katherine Kitterman, co-author of a book with Rebekah Ryan Clark that has just been published by Deseret Book called “Thinking Women: A Timeline of Suffrage in Utah.”

Feb 052020

Historians examine Joseph Smith’s ‘First Vision’ | Episode 117

This week’s podcast takes listeners to the early days of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In fact, it travels back to the earliest day, the moment that gave birth to the Mormon movement.Latter-day Saints know it as the “First Vision,” in which church founder Joseph Smith said he saw God.As members around the globe prepare to mark the bicentennial of this event this spring, the “Joseph Smith Papers” project has released a series of six podcasts that explores this reported 1820 encounter with deity through the eyes of historians.Discussing the “First Vision,” which gave rise to a world religion of more than 16 million members, and the various accounts Smith and others gave of the experience are Matt Grow, managing director of the church History Department and general editor of the “Joseph Smith Papers,” and Spencer McBride, a historian with the project and the host of the “First Vision” podcasts.

Jan 292020

Native American law professor discusses the ‘curse' and how to view troubling scripture | 116

This year, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are studying the faith’s signature scripture, the Book of Mormon.A printed Sunday school manual accompanying the course caused a stir recently when news broke that it contained outdated teachings about “dark skin” referred to in the text as being a “curse” and a sign of divine disfavor.The church corrected the reference in its digital manual and an apostle even told a Martin Luther King Day gathering of the NAACP that he was “saddened” by the error. But the uproar has revived questions about race in the Book of Mormon and the Utah-based faith as a whole.Discussing those issues on this week’s podcast is Michalyn Steele, who teaches at Brigham Young University’s law school and is a member of the Seneca Nation of Indians. She grew up in a small Latter-day Saint congregation on the Cattaraugus Reservation in New York.

Jan 222020

Scholar Richard Bushman discusses those mysterious gold plates | Episode 115

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are studying the Book of Mormon this year. This has focused renewed attention on the faith’s signature scripture and how it came to be — with stories of angels and gold plates and rocks called “seer stones.”Discussing the text’s origins is Richard Bushman, author of the highly acclaimed Joseph Smith biography, “Rough Stone Rolling.” He is working on a book about the gold plates, which Latter-day Saints believe tell the religious history of peoples in the ancient Americas and which Smith said he translated into English. That translation now is known as the Book of Mormon.

Jan 152020

Church has $100B in reserve, but one historian says its global expenses are steep | Episode 114

Questions persist inside and outside The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints about the $100 billion reserve the faith has amassed in an investment account.In this week’s “Mormon Land” podcast, historian D. Michael Quinn says the church’s reserves are actually much steeper than has been reported. But, he adds, so are its expenses, especially in supporting its global presence.Quinn, a scholar who has done the deepest dive to date into the history of Latter-day Saint finances — his 2017 book, “Mormon Hierarchy: Wealth & Corporate Power,” remains the definitive volume on the subject — discusses the issue.

Jan 082020

Baptist preacher and civil rights legend recalls his 50 years serving in Mormon Land | Episode 113

Nearly 50 years ago, France Davis arrived in Utah, where he became the pastor of the state’s most prominent black congregation.For 46 years, he led Calvary Baptist Church. But Davis is more than a preacher. He’s an educator, who has taught communication and ethnic studies at the University of Utah; a civic activist, who has served on numerous boards and commissions; and a civil rights icon, who marched for voting rights from Selma to Montgomery.During his decades in the Beehive State, his words have carried a resounding moral clout and clarity that belie his small stature and soft-spoken nature.As Davis retired at year’s end from the pulpit, he joined the podcast to talk about his time leading a Baptist church in the heart of Mormondom.

Dec 312019

Law professor discusses the history of LDS Church finances | Episode 112

Recent news reports of a $100 billion investment portfolio amassed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have focused attention once again on the subject of Mormon wealth.Whether the Utah-based faith may have violated tax laws — as some allege and church officials deny — is just one issue. The deeper questions may be: How much is too much for a church to hold in reserve? How much should members and others know about the faith’s finances? And should all churches be required to be more open about their money?Nathan Oman, the Rollins Professor of Law at William & Mary Law School who is writing a book on Mormon legal history, addresses those questions and more in this week’s podcast.

Dec 262019

Gayle Ruzicka on how her faith informs her conservative activism on a range of issues | Episode 111

When Utahns recently rallied for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, there was Gayle Ruzicka vowing to oppose it.Considered one of the most powerful people never to have held elected office, Ruzicka, the conservative activist and president of the Utah Eagle Forum, can be counted on to be in the midst of high-profile fights — from abortion to sex education, gay marriage to conversion therapy, hate crimes legislation to medical marijuana.She talks about her activism and how her Latter-day Saint faith informs her lobbying — even when it stretches beyond the church’s positions.

Dec 192019

Are recent changes taking Latter-day Saints away from their communitarian roots? | Episode 110

From its earliest days, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has emphasized community. But the global faith of 16.3 million members may be shifting somewhat from that collective approach.Sunday services have been trimmed from three hours to two with a new emphasis on home-centered, church-supported gospel study. Scouting is on the way out, replaced by a more individualized program for young children and teens.By most accounts, members are excited about and eager for the new direction, but could something be lost in the process? Matthew Bowman, head of Mormon studies at Claremont Graduate University, discusses that question and more in this week’s podcast.

Dec 112019

A look back at a year of change | Episode 109

This has been a remarkable year of change in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.It started way back on Jan. 2, with the introduction of gender-inclusive temple ceremonies, and continued throughout the year.The about-face on the LGBTQ policy, a widened stance on civil weddings, weekly calls home by missionaries, female witnesses at baptisms and temple sealings, a new program for children and youths — and that’s just the beginning.Blogger Jenny Dye, co-host of the “Mormon News Report Podcast,” has been tracking and commenting on the developments. She joins this week’s show to talk about the deluge of church adjustments, announcements, rescissions and reforms.Listen here.

Dec 042019

Zandra Vranes on Latter-day lingo | Episode 108

Latter-day Saints pride themselves on being a “peculiar people,” and they have their own peculiar parlance to reinforce that image.Stake centers, active, inactive, investigator, Primary, callings, sealings, fast Sunday, Word of Wisdom, baptism for the dead, garments, manifesto, the block. These terms all have specific meanings for members but can be head-scratchers for outsiders.Zandra Vranes, co-author of "Can I Get an Amen?,” was raised in the church but is comfortable in black denominations, where women wear big hats and shout out their “amens.”She joined this week’s podcast to talk about Latter-day lingo — how it can be funny, unifying, confusing, misleading, even off-putting.Listen here.

Nov 272019

The play focuses on a big question: What if the LDS Church brought back polygamy? | Episode 107

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints expressly forbids polygamy and has done so for more than a century. But plural marriage remains a part of its theology, enshrined in its scripture and practiced, at least through so-called sealings, in its temples.Add to that the renewed chatter about legalizing polygamy in the U.S. and the question becomes: What if the church reinstituted plural marriage?Melissa Leilani Larson, who wrote the screenplays for the movies “Jane and Emma” and “Freetown,” explored that notion in her play “Pilot Program.” She discusses that play, her views about polygamy and its place in the Utah-based faith’s past, present and future in this week’s “Mormon Land.”

Nov 202019

How Latter-day Saint polygamists ended up in Mexico | Episode 106

When nine U.S. citizens were killed in a brutal attack in northern Mexico last week, much of the world learned for the first time about that area’s past and prevailing ties to Mormon polygamy.Those ties include a complex cast of characters and creeds — both mainstream Latter-day Saints and breakaway believers.Helping to untangle and understand this web is historian Barbara Jones Brown, executive director of the Mormon History Association who has studied and written about post-1890 Mormon plural marriage.

Nov 132019

The LDS Church is growing — but not like it used to | Episode 105

A recent Pew Research report reaffirmed a rising trend: Americans, especially younger ones, are abandoning organized religion. It’s a phenomenon that cuts across denominations and is expected to continue.But what about in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? How is this missionary-oriented faith faring in its efforts to recruit and retain members?Turns out, says independent researcher Matt Martinich, the Utah-based church is still growing, though the rate has been dropping for decades. He says the faith continues to boom in West Africa, for instance, but growth is stagnating in Northern Europe.Martinich’s latest survey shows retention of new converts is improving — 50% in the U.S. and 49% outside of it — but country-by-country rates vary wildly, ranging from 80% in Congo to 33% in Uruguay.Martinich discusses those findings and more in this week’s “Mormon Land.”Listen here:

Nov 062019

Psychology professor discusses conversion therapy, sexual fluidity and more | Episode 104

Individuals with same-sex attractions certainly can — and do — sometimes choose lives of celibacy to adhere to religious convictions, but, without an intimate partner, says a University of Utah psychology professor, they may find those lives lacking.Lisa Diamond, an expert on gender issues, discusses that issue — along with questions of sexual fluidity and gender identity — as Utah regulators consider rules banning conversion therapy for minors — a proposal that, in its current form, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints opposes.Listen here.

Oct 302019

TV journalist Jane Clayson Johnson talks about her battle with depression | Episode 103

During the recent General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Reyna Aburto, a high-level women’s leader in the faith, gave a widely praised sermon about depression, anxiety and other forms of mental illness that has members talking more openly about those issues.Jane Clayson Johnson has contributed to that conversation. A journalist known nationally for her work at CBS News, ABC News and NPR, she faced her own battle with clinical depression.In her book, “Silent Souls Weeping: Depression — Sharing Stories, Finding Hope,” and in this week’s podcast, she describes her own experience as well as what she learned from more than 150 other Latter-day Saints who have dealt with depression.Johnson emphasizes why these stories must be told and how Mormonism poses some distinctive challenges for those suffering emotional afflictions.Listen here:

Oct 232019

The life and legacy of Jane Manning James | Episode 102

When historian Quincy Newell was researching 19th-century African American Mormons, one name kept popping up: Jane Manning James.This African American convert, who worked in church founder Joseph Smith’s household and eventually was “sealed” to him as a “servant,” probably still ranks as the most famous black female member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints this side of Gladys Knight.So Newell wrote a full-fledged biography of this pioneering black woman. Titled “Your Sister in the Gospel,” it was released earlier this year by Oxford University Press.Newell, associate professor of religious studies at Hamilton College in New York state, joined “Mormon Land” this week to talk about the remarkable life and legacy of Jane Manning James.Listen here:

Oct 172019

A look back at General Conference | Episode 101

This week we revisit and discuss — what else? — the recently completed General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.Besides the usual prayers, songs and sermons, the weekend’s sessions included, as church President Russell M. Nelson promised, a number of momentous changes.There were overhauls to programs for the Young Men and Young Women (with a heavenly, gender-inclusive twist in the latter’s theme). Eight new temples, including two more in Utah, were announced. Newly tweaked temple recommend questions were unveiled. Historic and memorable talks (such as the first by an African American general authority) and another controversial speech by Nelson’s first counselor were delivered.Examining these events and the impacts they may have on the faith are Emily Jensen, a Latter-day Saint writer, editor and blogger, and Joseph Stuart, a doctoral candidate in history at the University of Utah and co-chair of the Mormon History Association’s 2020 Program Committee.Listen here.

Oct 092019

The Russell Nelson Era | Episode 100

To mark the 100th episode of our “Mormon Land” podcast, an expert panel will discuss how a 95-year-old leader is reshaping The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, overhauling prominent policies and sacred ceremonies, loosening some rules while tightening others, even changing how people refer to the religion.

Oct 042019

Sexual assault survivor behind ‘Debbie’s Law’ talks about her faith | Episode 99

Debbie Cole was sexually assaulted in 1989 at age 19.Thus began a 30-year emotional and spiritual odyssey for this Irish Latter-day Saint — days of agony, anger, reconciliation, recovery, resolve and reform — all which culminated earlier this year with the passage of “Debbie’s Law,” which allows for tougher penalties for repeat sex offenders.Cole discusses her journey and how her faith helped see her through it.Listen here.

Sep 182019

Latter-day Saints in Russia | Episode 98

The Salt Lake Tribune just concluded a special three-part series on the challenges Western faiths, including The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, face in Russia — a nation dominated by the Russian Orthodox Church. One of the biggest — if not the biggest — obstacles is the government’s ban on public proselytizing by these so-called outsider religions. Latter-day Saint missionaries, for instance, are called “volunteers.” Here to talk about the status of Mormonism in Russia is David Stewart, an independent demographer who co-founded The Cumorah Project, which tracks, among other things, Latter-day Saint growth around the world. Stewart also served a mission in Russia. He joins us today from his office in Las Vegas.

Sep 112019

Lee Hale discusses his new ‘Preach’ podcast and his own ‘evolving’ faith | Episode 97

Award-winning KUER reporter Lee Hale said his new religion podcast, called “Preach,” would be a “different kind of faith conversation.”A two-minute promotion for the show, which debuts Friday, Sept. 6, provides a clue. It begins with Hale briefly describing his time knocking on doors in Minnesota as a Mormon missionary and how, a decade later, he finds his own beliefs are “evolving.”Yes, Hale is opting to be open about his identity as a Latter-day Saint. He talks about that choice and his podcast, which will focus on, in his words, “the messy middle” of faith on this week’s “Mormon Land.”

Sep 042019

Lolly Weed talks about how LDS theology encourages mixed-orientation unions | Episode 96

Child-safety advocate Ed Smart recently came out publicly as gay and revealed that he and his wife, Lois, are divorcing.Such announcements from prominent newsmakers make headlines. But what about the straight spouses left behind? Some say they are the forgotten ones — that when their partner comes out of the closet, they go in.Lolly Weed knows about this experience personally and professionally. A marriage and family therapist associate, she and her gay husband, Josh, ended their 15-year marriage last year, something they talked about on a previous “Mormon Land."She returns to this week’s podcast to talk about the challenges these straight spouses face — the heartache, the betrayal, the damage to their self-esteem, the faith trials and, for Latter-day Saints, the reality of a Mormon theology that, in essence, continues to encourage mixed-orientation marriages, no matter how misguided.

Aug 282019

’Saturday’s Warrior’ and ‘Book of Mormon‘: A look at the faith's tie to musical theater | Episode 95

The Tony-winning “Book of Mormon” musical is in Utah’s Zion for the third time, bringing its own brand of raunchy, raucous, yet oddly reverential satire back to the Salt Lake City stage.But there may be more at play than meets the ear and eye when Elder Price joyously sings about getting his own planet and Elder Cunningham lovingly lies his way to convert after convert in the jungles of Uganda. In fact, Mormonism’s ties to musical theater — both from within the faith and without — run deep.Jake Johnson, an assistant professor of musicology at Oklahoma City University, explores those connections in his new book, “Mormons, Musical Theater, and Belonging in America.” He shares his insights this week on “Mormon Land.”

Aug 212019

LDS women are fighting for the ERA. The church is no longer fighting against it. | Episode 94

ERA.Forty years ago, those three initials set off strong conversations and sparked national headlines. The Equal Rights Amendment — the proposed constitutional measure guaranteeing equal legal rights regardless of sex — fell short of ratification among the states.Now, it’s back, and, by some counts, needs just one more state to reach ratification and become the law of the land.So where does the church — which vehemently fought the ERA for years — stand on it today? It isn’t saying. When asked earlier this year by The Salt Lake Tribune, the institution declined to comment.Some advocates say church leaders have told them the faith is now neutral on the issue, emboldening their push for ratification. Anissa Rasheta, a national organizer for Mormons for ERA who is pushing for ratification in her home state of Arizona, discusses the measure — the need for it, the status of the fight and the reception it is getting from today’s Latter-day Saints, young and old, male and female, leaders and laypersons.Listen here.

Aug 132019

General authority talks about race, Joseph Smith’s polygamy, the LGBTQ policy and more | Episode 93

For nearly two decades, Elder Steven E. Snow has served as a general authority for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.The past seven or so years, he has been the church historian, overseeing the faith’s history department. During that time, he has led the release of “Saints,” the first in a planned four-volume narrative history of the church, and the production of landmark essays that tackle some of the pricklier points of Latter-day Saint history and teachings.Snow, who is poised to receive official emeritus status in the coming fall General Conference, talks about his tenure and some of the issues he confronted, including:• How to explain Brigham Young’s role in the former race-based priesthood ban.• How to detail the early days of Mormon polygamy and Joseph Smith’s plural wives, including one who was 14.• The much-publicized news conference showcasing the so-called “seer stone” that historians say Joseph Smith used to translate the Book of Mormon, the faith’s signature scripture.• His reaction to the controversial 2015 policy on LGBTQ couples and their children, and the subsequent reversal.• His relationship with former Church Historian Marlin Jensen, a fellow Democrat in a religion dominated by Republicans.• His commitment to the environment and his hopes for more eco-friendly policies from the faith.• His excitement over the dynamic changes taking place under church President Russell M. Nelson.Listen here.

Aug 072019

How to reach out in love to members who are questioning, or have left, the faith | Episode 92

Stories of members walking away from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are legion. And plenty of books have been written in recent years documenting and addressing the concerns of these disaffected members.But what can loved ones and leaders still in the faith do to help, to serve, to embrace these onetime believers?That’s what David Ostler explores in his new book, “Bridges: Ministering to Those Who Question.” A retired business executive, Ostler, who has lived on several continents and has served as a bishop, stake president and mission president, discusses his findings in this week’s “Mormon Land” podcast.

Jul 312019

Nelson didn’t apologize for past racial ban, but actions matter as well, professor says | Episode 91

Russell M. Nelson, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, addressed the NAACP’s national convention this week.His appearance came in the wake of a new partnership formed between the church and the country’s oldest civil rights organization and a year after the faith celebrated the 40th anniversary of the end of its centurylong ban on blacks holding the priesthood and entering temples.No, Nelson did not apologize for that prohibition. Such words could have been a powerful moment, said LaShawn Williams, an African American Latter-day Saint and an assistant professor of social work at Utah Valley University. But actions count for something, too.So what did this event signify, and what is the state of race relations within the Utah-based faith?Williams addresses those questions and more. Listen here:

Jul 252019

After nearly a year, is Nelson’s campaign to erase the church’s nickname succeeding? | Episode 90

It has been almost a year since Russell M. Nelson, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, launched his push to get members, the media, scholars and others to stop using the nicknames “Mormon” and “LDS” when talking about the faith and its followers.Since that time, the Utah-based church has made a number of changes. Some have been high profile, renaming the renowned Tabernacle Choir, for one; others have been less noticeable, like rejiggering website domains.Historian Matt Bowman, the newly installed Howard W. Hunter Chair of Mormon (there’s that word again) Studies at Claremont Graduate University shares his thoughts on the progress of this sweeping campaign.

Jul 172019

How LDS art can enhance worship for individuals and the overall church | Episode 89

Retired Columbia University professor Richard L. Bushman is best known for his biography of Mormon founder Joseph Smith and as an expert in early American history.In the past few years, though, he and his historian wife, Claudia Lauper Bushman, have taken a keen interest in the arts — specifically those associated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.This week, the two talk about what prompted them to help organize the Center for Latter-day Saint Arts in New York City, which just completed its third annual festival, and what they see as the faith’s aesthetic.

Jul 102019

How persecuted faiths helped shape ‘America’s greatest export’ — religious freedom | Episode 88

Best-selling author Steven Waldman calls it “America’s greatest export."Russell M. Nelson, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, discussed it in March with Pope Francis in their historic meeting at the Vatican and again this week with visiting Catholic Cardinal Timothy Dolan. It has become practically the go-to subject for Nelson’s first counselor, Dallin H. Oaks, a former Utah Supreme Court justice. And it was a major force in the so-called Utah compromise, which brought housing and employment protections to LGBTQ individuals.That topic, of course, is religious freedom, and Mormonism’s role in its evolution is part of Waldman’s new book, “Sacred Liberty: America’s Long, Bloody, and Ongoing Struggle for Religious Freedom.”As the nation celebrates its independence this week, he sheds light on the issue in this week’s “Mormon Land” podcast.

Jul 032019

A conversation with a Latter-day Saint attorney who makes her living defending Muslims | Episode 87

With foundational beliefs in prophets, modesty, fasting and family values, Islam and Mormonism share some deeply rooted faith traditions.And this week’s guest, Carolyn Homer, knows more than a little about both religions.Homer is a civil rights attorney with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and an active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Jun 252019

A historian looks back at a pageant that united a Utah town for 52 years | Episode 86

For 52 years, the Mormon Miracle Pageant has been a dramatic staple in central Utah, drawing tens of thousands of visitors to the grounds of the historic Manti Temple.But come Saturday night, when the spotlight goes dark, it will mark the last time the pageant will ever light up the summertime night.This week’s guest, Merilyn Jorgensen, sang in the choir at that first performance in 1967 and eventually became the official historian, even compiling a 600-page book about its history.She discusses the pageant’s roots, its memorable moments, its evolution, the sadness of seeing it fade away, and the tiny “miracles” behind the Mormon Miracle Pageant.

Jun 192019

LDS scholar Melissa Inouye on building a global religion & addressing gender issues | Episode 85

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has more than 16.3 million members worldwide, but it still is seen by many as an American, even Utah, religion.How does the faith become truly global and allow cultural differences in its congregations and worship while still maintaining unity?Latter-day Saint scholar Melissa Inouye not only thinks and writes a lot about that challenge, she has lived it as well.A teacher of Asian studies at the University of Auckland, Inouye has lived in Taiwan, China, Japan, Hong Kong, Southern California, Boston, Utah and, of course, now, New Zealand, so she knows a thing or two firsthand about how Mormonism functions in the world.She addresses that topic, the place of women in the patriarchal faith, church as a “safe setting,” LGBTQ issues and more in this week’s “Mormon Land” and in her new book, “Crossings: A Bald Asian American Latter-day Saint Woman Scholar’s Ventures Through Life, Death, Cancer and Motherhood (Not Necessarily in That Order).”

Jun 122019

The ins and outs of the church’s nuanced policy on abortion | Episode 84

Abortion — always a hotly disputed, highly divisive topic — is back in the headlines.Several states, including Utah, have passed laws severely restricting the procedure in hopes of setting up a showdown in the U.S. Supreme Court, where a new conservative majority would have the chance to strike down the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.Where does The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints officially stand on the issue? Is it more “pro-life” or more “pro-choice.” And do rank-and-file members understand the nuances in their faith’s position?“I hear a lot of rhetoric from church members … who I don’t think are giving an accurate view of what the church’s actual stance is on abortion,” says Angela Clayton, who recently wrote about the issue for By Common Consent.The church’s policy, she argues is “enabled by Roe v. Wade,” and those Latter-day Saints who call abortion murder are resorting to a “theological hyperbole” that stretches beyond the faith’s doctrine.Clayton discusses those issues and more in this Tribune story and on this week’s podcast.

Jun 042019

New LGBTQ play explores struggles of Mama Dragons as they balance faith and family | Episode 83

A little more than five years ago, the Mama Dragons burst onto the scene. Since that time, the group has grown into a respected and vital support organization for families and their LGBTQ loved ones, especially in the Latter-day Saint community.Now, a new play — titled “The Mama Dragon Monologues: Mormon Mothers of LGBTQ Kids Speak Out" — chronicles these women who often are torn between devotion to their faith and love for their queer children.As Utah celebrates Pride Week, Sue Bergin, who co-wrote the play tapping the real words of Latter-day Saint women, discusses the budding production, which has already had a staged reading in San Jose and is scheduled to have another next month in New York.

May 292019

Why the LDS Church uses ‘specialists’ to help members become more politically active | Episode 82

The Hinckley Institute Morgan Lyon Cotti discusses why the LDS Church is using “specialists” to help members become more politically active.

May 232019

An ER doc and a hospice chaplain discuss the afterlife and near-death experiences | Episode 81

As Salt Lake City prepares to host a June 6-9 Afterlife Awareness Conference — “where shamans break bread with scientists” — we focus on end-of-life care and research along with near-death experiences.Our guests are Jeff O’Driscoll, an emergency room doctor, author and Latter-day Saint who talks about his observations and insights, and Terri Daniel, a hospice chaplain, ordained interfaith minister and grief adviser who founded the annual Afterlife Awareness Conference nearly a decade ago.

May 152019

Why the temple marriage change is the right move toward more inclusion | Episode 80

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints took another giant leap toward inclusion this week, eliminating the yearlong waiting period between a civil marriage and a temple “sealing.”This means couples can marry civilly and invite all their loved ones to witness the wedding and then be sealed in a private temple ceremony without a long delay.Until this change, which took effect immediately, practically every Latter-day Saint family has had to exclude at least someone from a temple wedding, leading to awkward explanations and hurt feelings that sometimes last for generations.Crystal Young-Otterstrom knows that firsthand from her family. She joins the “Mormon Land” podcast to talk about her experience and share her thoughts on this historic change.

May 082019

2018 grad discusses the challenges and fears he had as a transgender student at BYU | Episode 79

Matt Easton made headlines around the world after stating during his recent valedictory speech at Brigham Young University that he is “proud to be a gay son of God.”The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its flagship school aren’t the easiest places to be an LGBTQ member and student. Belonging to those institutions can be especially challenging for transgender individuals, for whom the rules are even muddier.Andy Winder knows that firsthand. He started undergoing hormone-replacement therapy during his sophomore year and lived, worked and studied in near-constant fear that he would be expelled.Winder made it to graduation — in 2018 — but the path to a diploma didn’t come without bumps and bruises, twists and turns. The 21-year-old writer discusses his journey on this week’s “Mormon Land” podcast.Listen here:

May 012019

A Latter-day Saint therapist on why sex isn't just about making babies | Episode 78

Latter-day Saints are taught time and time again that sexual relations are absolutely forbidden — before marriage. But after couples wed, all that changes, immediately. Sex becomes not only acceptable but also encouraged, even exalted.Making that transition isn’t always easy for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.That’s where Jennifer Finlayson-Fife steps in. A Chicago area Latter-day Saint and a licensed therapist who specializes in working with member couples on sexuality and relationship issues, she joins the podcast to talk about, well, sex in Mormonism.

Apr 242019

Renovating Mormonism’s ‘Notre Dame’ and preserving historic LDS buildings | Episode 77

The world watched in horror this week as Notre Dame burned.Now, with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints poised to announce Friday the details of a massive renovation project for its iconic Salt Lake Temple, perhaps Mormonism’s Notre Dame, thoughts turn to the Utah-based faith’s sacred structures.Allen Roberts, a Utah architect who specializes in preservation, including work on Latter-day Saint chapels, tabernacles and temples, discusses the church’s historic buildings, their place in the design world and the faith’s high points and low points in preserving them.

Apr 172019

The LDS Church’s LGBTQ policy: How it came to be and why it went away | Episode 76

Nearly 3½ years ago, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints stunned insiders and outsiders with a new policy labeling same-sex married couples “apostates” and generally barring their children from baptism until they turn 18.Last week, Latter-day Saint leaders delivered another shocker by reversing those rules.What happened? And why? And where does the Utah-based faith go from here?Discussing those questions and more about the church’s evolution and, some say, devolution on LGBTQ rights is historian Gregory Prince, author of the newly released “Gay Rights and the Mormon Church: Intended Actions, Unintended Consequences.”

Apr 102019

How should missionary program be rebuilt and where might new temples go up? | Episode 75

After surveying thousands of returned missionaries, independent researcher Matt Martinich decided “urgent reform” was needed to help The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints achieve real growth.He offered his suggestions in a recent post on his website, ldschurchgrowth.blogspot.com, and discussed them further in a Salt Lake Tribune story and this week’s podcast.

Apr 032019

Former model Rosemary Card talks about life as a young single woman in the faith | Episode 74

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches that the ultimate ordinance is eternal marriage between a man and woman. It preaches the importance of rearing righteous children. It even published a proclamation to the world extolling the virtues of the so-called traditional, nuclear family. Although many, if not most, members do not have that at home, it still is pointed to as the “ideal.”So it’s not the easiest faith in which to be single.Rosemary Card, who worked as a teenage model in New York, later graduated from Brigham Young University and served a church mission, addresses that topic and more in her book, “Model Mormon: Fighting for Self-Worth on the Runway and as an Independent Woman.” She also is the founder of Q.NOOR, a temple dress company for Latter-day Saints.Listen here:

Mar 272019

Therapists unite in a quest for common ground on divisive LGBTQ issues | Episode 73

The recently completed session of the Utah Legislature appeared poised to ban so-called conversion therapy, barring therapists from trying to change the sexual orientation of minors. The bill had not one but two Republicans championing it and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — seen as a potential stumbling block — had taken a neutral stance on the measure. But conservatives hijacked the bill and watered it down beyond recognition.The clash highlighted once again the divisions on LGBTQ issues.Discussing those issues on this week’s podcast are psychologist Lee Beckstead, a gay former Mormon who testified against conversion therapy in a prominent court case, and therapist Ty Mansfield, an active Latter-day Saint who has written about his same-sex attractions and his marriage to a woman.Both Beckstead and Mansfield are involved in a united undertaking known as the Reconciliation and Growth Project, a joint effort that includes a far-reaching study, to find common ground within the LGBTQ community.

Mar 202019

What President Nelson’s meeting with Pope Francis means for Latter-day Saints | Episode 72

Thirty-three minutes. That’s how long President Russell M. Nelson’s private audience with Pope Francis lasted at the Vatican.But the first-ever face-to-face meeting between a Latter-day Saint prophet and a Catholic pontiff was months — if not longer — in the making, and its impact might be felt for years to come. Or will it? Was this historic encounter more about symbolism than substance? Or is that symbolism, ultimately, more important than any substance?Patrick Mason, head of Mormon studies at Claremont Graduate University, discusses why this meeting and the recent events in Rome mean so much more to the 16 million-member Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints than the 1.2 billion-strong Catholic Church.Listen here:

Mar 132019

A new discovery sheds light on early black converts and the subsequent priesthood ban | Episode 71

Knowing who ordained whom to the priesthood in the early days of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is seldom of interest to anyone beyond curious descendants and detail-obsessed researchers.But a recent discovery solving the mystery surrounding the ordination of Elijah Able (sometimes spelled Abel), one of the most famous black converts in the faith’s fledgling years, excited historians and helped shed additional light on a religion with a tortuous track record on the issue of race.W. Paul Reeve, professor of Mormon studies at the University of Utah and author of the award-winning book “Religion of a Different Color: Race and the Mormon Struggle for Whiteness,” documented the discovery and discusses what it means and why it matters.

Mar 062019

Jana Riess talks politics, LGBTQ issues and her landmark findings on LDS millennials | Episode 70

For months, Latter-day Saint leaders, scholars and rank-and-file members — not to mention a fair share of outside observers — have looked forward to the release of Jana Riess’ book about her groundbreaking Next Mormons Survey, a sweeping study of 1,156 members and 540 former members, young and old, male and female, across the U.S.Well, that day is near. Her book, “The Next Mormons: How Millennials Are Changing the LDS Church,” comes out next week.Riess, a Religion News Service senior columnist, discusses her findings — covering everything from changing orthodoxy, shifting politics, softening LGBTQ views and a surprise or two (think coffee) — on this week’s “Mormon Land” podcast.

Feb 252019

Missionaries can call home more often now, but will it make a difference? | Episode 69

This week, Latter-day Saint parents got an early Christmas — or Mother’s Day — gift: The chance to talk to their missionary daughters and sons outside of those two holidays.These young sisters and elders now can call, video chat or text their families weekly in yet another major cultural shift under the administration of Russell M. Nelson, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While you can imagine the rejoicing among missionaries and their families, some fear the relaxed rules go too far.On the latest podcast David Cook, a former mission president in Chile, and Susie Augenstein, whose son is serving in Poland, discuss the change.

Feb 212019

Would yesterday’s pioneers recognize today’s temple ceremonies? | Episode 68

Latter-day Saint temples have been in the news a lot lately. New temples are opening. Some older ones are closing for renovation. And groundbreakings are taking place around the globe.Capturing the most attention were the recent changes that brought more gender equity to the religious rites that take place inside these temples.So how has temple worship evolved throughout the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? Historian and author Devery Anderson, who edited the volume, “The Development of LDS Temple Worship," shares his insights.

Feb 132019

Would Utah's birth certificate bill “erase transgender people from existence?” | Episode 67

A state lawmaker is proposing a measure that would prevent Utahns from changing the sex designated on their birth certificates.Such a move would set a “very dangerous” precedent, argues Laurie Lee Hall, a former stake president and temple architect who was excommunicated from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for living as a transgender woman. “ … It would ultimately wind up, without hyperbole at all, erasing transgender people from existence.”Hall, who appears on this week’s “Mormon Land” podcast, also notes that she has no issue with the faith’s so-called family proclamation, which declares that “gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose." She “relates” to it. After all, Hall says, she always has been — and forever will be — a woman.“But I don't seem to relate to that in the way that most in the church interpret it,” she adds. “What they're really thinking, I think, when they read that is that biological sex determines who you are and that at the end of the day you will always be whatever your biological sex was.”Hall shares her thoughts on the proposed bill, President Dallin H. Oaks' October sermon on gender issues and more.

Jan 302019

Former practitioner of ‘reparative therapy’ discusses his coming out as a gay man | Episode 66

For years, David Matheson, a Utahn who was raised in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and married to a woman, was a prominent advocate and professional practitioner of so-called “reparative therapy,” an effort that essentially seeks to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.Matheson came to renounce that type of treatment and instead focused on therapies intended to reduce, in his words, the “shame, anxiety and effects of trauma” experienced by LGBTQ individuals in society.Now, Matheson is divorced and making news by coming out as a gay man seeking a male partner. He also is expressing remorse for the pain he may have brought to men he was trying to help along the way.Matheson discusses his past, present and future on this week’s “Mormon Land,” especially now as he strives to navigate a new place for himself in the faith he loves.

Jan 242019

Why there are fewer litmus tests for what makes a ‘real Mormon’ outside of Utah | Episode 65

Latter-day Saints are full of jokes, jabs and judgments about so-called “Utah Mormons” — how church members who live in the heart of the faith are somehow different than those who live elsewhere.New survey findings from writer-researcher Jana Riess show that’s true, especially when it comes to orthodoxy and some cultural influences.Latter-day Saint scholar Patrick Mason, who grew up in Utah but has lived in the Midwest, Eastern Europe and now Southern California, has noticed the differences, too. For instance, in those places away from the Intermountain West’s Mormon Belt, he said, when members attended church, it didn’t matter how they were dressed."The overwhelming feeling, at least that we experienced, was ‘thank goodness you’re here,’” Mason said in this week’s “Mormon Land” podcast. “Who cares whether you’re wearing a dress or pants or what you think about the Book of Mormon? If you’re willing to walk in that door, you know, thank you for being here.”There were, he added, “fewer litmus tests for what makes a ‘real Mormon.’”By the way, Mason, head of Mormon studies at Claremont Graduate University, soon will become a “Utah Mormon” again. In July, he takes over as the Arrington Chair of Mormon History and Culture at Utah State University.He said his family values diversity and “a lot of things that we found outside of Utah. But ... I was raised there, and I’m I don’t think I’m too screwed up. ... I can’t wait to get back there.”

Jan 172019

What do recent temple changes mean for women, men and the wider LDS Church? | Episode 64

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints made historic changes last week to its temple ceremonies, drawing widespread attention and praise, especially from women, for its use of gender-equitable language.Neylan McBaine, author of “Women at Church” and founder of the Mormon Women Project, joins this week’s podcast to discuss what these changes mean for women, men and the wider church.

Jan 092019

A look back at the church’s headline-making year | Episode 63

If The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints seemed to be dormant during the waning years of enfeebled President Thomas S. Monson’s tenure, that inactivity ended in 2018.After Monson’s death at age 90 two days into the year and the ascension of apostle Russell M. Nelson to the presidency, the deluge of changes, adjustments, announcements, rescissions and reforms came at a dizzying pace and show no signs of letting up.We recap the historic headline-making year in this week’s podcast.

Jan 022019

How do Latter-day Saints and Catholics view Mary? | Episode 62

In Christian homes around the world this holiday season, families have dusted off their Nativity sets and carefully arranged the pieces in their living rooms. There are wise men, shepherds, barnyard animals, Joseph, perhaps an angel, all paying homage to the baby Jesus. But what about one woman in every Nativity: Mary.Where does the mother of the Lord fit in Latter-day Saint theology and the wider Christian world?Cristina Rosetti, a doctoral candidate in religious studies at the University of California Riverside and an expert on the intersection of Mormonism and spirit communication, examines that question and more. A convert to Catholicism, Rosetti, who is a also an archivist at Sunstone and a former Mormon studies fellow at the University of Utah, explains the prominent role Mary plays in Catholic worship and her more-subdued part in Latter-day Saint teachings, along with the doctrine of Heavenly Mother and how together they affect women’s places in the world of faith.

Dec 192018

The potential positives and negatives of an increasingly non-LDS Salt Lake County, Utah | Episode 61

Salt Lake County is home to the headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It also boasts the faith’s famous tabernacle and its landmark temple.But the county is no longer populated mostly by Mormons. The latest membership numbers, supplied by the church itself, show that Utah’s most populous county is now 48.91 percent Latter-day Saint.In fact, the Latter-day Saint tally statewide has fallen below 62 percent.This continuing demographic shift is more than a statistical footnote. It carries with it sweeping implications for schools, politics, neighborhoods and the church itself.Jim McConkie, a Salt Lake City attorney, former Latter-day Saint bishop and an ex-congressional candidate, has witnessed this transformation and sees opportunities for the area to become more cohesive and inclusive even as it grows more diverse and increasingly becomes a place for non-Mormons.

Dec 122018

The Atlantic's McKay Coppins talks about Prop 2, Mitt Romney and more | Episode 60

Two days before Election Day, Marty Stephens, a Latter-day Saint stake president and the church’s chief lobbyist on Utah’s Capitol Hill, took to the pulpit and urged his congregations to “Follow the prophet” and, in so many words, vote against the ballot measure legalizing medical marijuana.Although most Utah voters ultimately bucked the church’s position and approved Proposition 2 anyway, Stephens’ sermon and the public and behind-the-scenes actions of Utah’s predominant faith during the campaign have revived questions about the separation of church and state and whether Latter-day Saint authorities wielded inappropriate influence on politicians, policymakers and rank-and-file church members.McKay Coppins, staff writer for The Atlantic and a graduate of Brigham Young University, shares his views on Prop 2, the midterm elections, Mitt Romney, the church’s forays into public policy, its clout in Utah and Washington and the intersection of religion and politics.

Dec 052018

Eco-activist explains why her fellow Latter-day Saints should be environmentalists | Episode 59

The federal government recently released a sweeping scientific report filled with dire predictions if climate change is left unchecked, but President Donald Trump is doubting his own administration’s findings.The White House’s perplexing response set off fresh conversations this week about the perils of a warming climate. As that debate, like the planet itself, heats up, we invited Ty Markham, a co-founder of the Mormon Environmental Stewardship Alliance, to discuss her grass-roots activism and how her Latter-day Saint faith informs it.

Nov 282018

Funeral potatoes, green Jell-O and the Word of Wisdom — they're all on the menu | Episode 58

It’s Thanksgiving week, and Americans’ thoughts — and stomachs — turn inevitably to food.What better time, then, to explore whether Latter-day Saints have any special connection to food or, at least, certain foods? After all, we’ve all heard about funeral potatoes and green Jell-O. But the faith also has a health code that counsels members on what they should and should not eat or drink. What role does it play?Here to discuss this topic is Christy Spackman, who holds a doctorate in food studies and teaches at Arizona State University’s School for the Future of Innovation in Society.

Nov 212018

What is Middle Way Mormonism? Are all members essentially middle wayers? | Episode 57

So-called Middle Way Mormonism is generating a lot of chatter online, in homes, at churches and elsewhere. While a clear definition of the term remains elusive — even among self-proclaimed middle wayers — this approach is gaining traction, especially among millennial members, more and more of whom are seeing themselves as neither all-in nor all-out of the faith. By Common Consent blogger Sam Brunson argues all members, at some level, are middle wayers.

Nov 152018

Are LGBTQ relations within the Mormon church deteriorating? | Episode 56

Three years ago this month, word leaked out of a new policy from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, one that deemed members who enter a same-sex marriage “apostates” and barred their children from baptism and other religious rituals until they turn 18.The policy made international headlines, setting off a wave of protests and rallies, public resignations and private resentments.That furor has faded but, for many, the questions and the pain, like the policy itself, persist.So, three years later, what is the state of LGBTQ relations within the faith?Kendall Wilcox, an openly gay Latter-day Saint filmmaker and co-founder of the group Mormons Building Bridges, would like to see improvement, but under the church’s new leadership of President Russell M. Nelson and given recent sermons by his first counselor, Dallin H. Oaks, he isn’t hopeful.He talks about that and more on this week’s podcast.

Nov 072018

The end of the Hill Cumorah Pageant | Episode 55

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints surprised many when it announced that large church pageants are now “discouraged.”That same day, leaders of the mother of all Latter-day Saint pageants, the Hill Cumorah Pageant, said that it would end its 81-year run after the 2020 season.On this week’s podcast, Gerald Argetsinger, who served in the pageant presidency for 12 years and worked as its artistic director for most of the 1990s, laments the loss of this iconic piece of Latter-day Saint dramatic history, discusses the pageant’s storied past and highlights the impact the show had through the decades on members and nonmembers alike.

Oct 302018

Utah professor reveals the history — and debunks the myths — of Latter-day Saint women | Episode 54

For several decades, Colleen McDannell has taught religious studies at the University of Utah. She has written books about heaven, Catholic reforms and Christianity’s place in popular culture.In her latest volume, she turns her attention to the faith that calls Utah home with “Sister Saints: Mormon Women Since the End of Polygamy," which punctures the stereotypes attached to Latter-day Saint women and reveals them as, at times, outspoken and progressive and, at other times, as insular and conflicted.Either way, McDannell writes, “it will be women who determine whether the next generation remains committed in their faith — and precisely what shape that faith will take.”

Oct 242018

British bishop talks about youth interviews, the faith’s future in Europe and more | Episode 53

It’s the toughest assignment a member can get in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — bishop.It’s a lay calling that brings with it no pay but heavy demands. The bishop is responsible for the spiritual and even temporal well-being for hundreds of families and individuals in his area. All of this on top of the needs of his own loved ones and full-time job.Ross Trewhella has been serving in this taxing but rewarding task for nine years, shepherding his Latter-day Saint flock in Cornwall, England. Hear his thoughts on the shift coming in January from three hours of Sunday services to two hours, the appeal to stop using the word “Mormon," the challenges his faith faces in the United Kingdom and more.

Oct 172018

Here's what did — and didn’t — happen at General Conference | Episode 52

President Russell M. Nelson and his colleagues did it again. They pulled off a momentous General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.They shortened Sunday worship services. They announced a dozen new temples. They gave sermons that made news. They even have members and outsiders talking about how they are supposed to be referring to members and their faith.For this week’s podcast, Patrick Mason, head of Mormon studies at Claremont Graduate University, and Emily Jensen, a Latter-day Saint writer, editor and blogger, discuss what did — and did not — happen at the two-day gathering and what its impact will be.

Oct 112018

Is ‘correlation' helping or hurting the modern faith? | Episode 51

In some respects, the Church Office Building in downtown Salt Lake City is a 28-story monument to a program called “correlation.”In the 1960s, authorities in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints introduced in earnest a more consistent approach to the faith that came to be known as correlation. The sweeping effort attempted to make every congregation, class and calling the same across all regions, climates and cultures.These days, critics see correlation as a hinderance. It made the church more patriarchal, they argue, and more bureaucratic. Supporters counter that the undertaking helped the church achieve and accommodate phenomenal growth. It did more to unite the members than divide them, they say, and the fruits of it will be evident at this weekend’s General Conference.Few historians know as much about correlation as Matthew Bowman, an associate professor of history at Henderson State University and author of the critically acclaimed “The Mormon People: The Making of an American Faith.” Bowman, who is researching a new book about correlation, discusses his findings on this week’s “Mormon Land.”

Oct 032018

The gossip you might not have heard about General Conference | Episode 50

Mormon Land is alive with the sound of rumors.Probably the only thing on the Latter-day Saint calendar as reliable as General Conference is the buzz, the chatter, the leaks in the weeks before about what will happen at the upcoming sessions.On this week’s podcast, we’re going to unashamedly indulge the love for such gossip and talk about what members are talking about. Latter-day Saints may not know what’s going to occur at the Oct. 6-7 conference, but that never stopped an entertaining debate about the possibilities.Is the three-hour block toast? Will temple changes be announced? What about the missionary program, medical marijuana, women’s issues, the church’s name and more?Here to help us with this conversation is Mormon writer, editor and blogger Emily Jensen.

Sep 262018

What writer Jana Riess' landmark study says about Latter-day Saint women | Episode 49

In March, Religion News Service senior columnist Jana Riess joined us to talk about Latter-day Saint millennials, part of her groundbreaking multigenerational survey of Mormons and former Mormons.Now, with her new book — “The Next Mormons: How Millennials Are Changing the LDS Church” — due out in less than six months, she’s back with us to discuss more specifically what her research revealed about women in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Sep 172018

Sam Young discusses his stance on youth interviews and his possible excommunication | Episode 48

Sam Young is a Mormon on a mission.He wants bishops’ one-on-one interviews with Latter-day Saint youths to end. He wants the sometimes sexually explicit “worthiness” questions they are asked in these private sessions to cease. To propel his cause, he formed a group, Protect LDS Children, launched an online petition and led a march to church headquarters to deliver tens of thousands of supportive signatures. He even staged a three-week hunger strike to draw attention to the issue.This past Sunday, however, this former bishop appeared at a “disciplinary council” before his local lay leaders, who argue his actions have crossed a line by opposing not only church policy but also church policymakers.As he faces the prospect of excommunication, the question now is: Will Sam Young remain a Mormon on a mission?In this week’s podcast, Young discusses what took place at his hearing, how the accusations against him, to his mind, misinterpret his actions, why he undertook this fight, and why he will continue to work for change, preferably with the church’s help, whether he is in the faith — which is his hope — or out of it.

Sep 122018

Independent historian examines church’s new official history book, ‘Saints' | Episode 47

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints made history this week — with its own history.For the first time since 1930, it released an authorized, in-depth book that explores the faith’s past. “Saints: The Standard of Truth" is part of a four-volume set that will explore Mormonism from its humble birth to its current global presence.On this week’s “Mormon Land” podcast, Benjamin Park, who is a Latter-day Saint and a history professor at Sam Houston State University, discusses this first installment, its strengths, its weaknesses and its potential to shape members' views about their own religious heritage.

Sep 062018

Why the Mormon church's push against medical marijuana might or might not work | Episode 46

Soon after The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced its opposition to a Utah ballot initiative on medical marijuana, emails began appearing in the inboxes of Mormons across the state. In them, the church stated that while it “does not object to the medicinal use of marijuana,” it is dead set against this particular ballot measure.Will the church succeed in defeating what, to this point, has been a popular proposal? Will the email blast prove effective or could it backfire? If the initiative passes, is it evidence of the church’s waning influence in Utah? If it fails, would it reinforce the notion that the state is essentially a theocracy, governed not by elected leaders but by a sustained religious hierarchy?Morgan Lyon Cotti, associate director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics, discusses those issues and more on this week’s “Mormon Land” podcast.

Aug 302018

Former Utah lawmaker says prophet is preparing for Christ’s Second Coming | Episode 45

Russell M. Nelson, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, issued a one-paragraph statement last week directing members, the media and others to use the full, formal name of the Utah-based faith and urging them to do away with the shorter but more widely known terms “Mormon” and “LDS.”His statement totaled only 71 words, but it prompted tens of thousands more to be published on the topic because the implications could be wide-ranging and long-lasting.In this week’s podcast, Latter-day Saint scholar Richard Bushman looks back at the historical uses of the term “Mormon” and the evolution of the church’s name along with the opportunity members now have to engage in a deeper conversation about their religion. And Stuart Reid, a former Utah lawmaker who used to work in the church’s public affairs department, discusses the reasons for this and past naming campaigns but with a particular focus on the future. In short, he says, Nelson is preparing the church and its followers for Christ’s eventual return.

Aug 222018

‘Jane & Emma’ filmmakers discuss Mormonism's first lady and a determined black convert | Episode 44

Emma Smith stands alone as the most famous woman in Mormon history. The wife of church founder Joseph Smith is mentioned in histories, journals, even LDS scripture.Less known is her enduring and endearing friendship with the early church’s most noted black woman, Jane Manning James.A forthcoming film, titled “Jane and Emma,” documents and dramatizes that friendship.The movie’s director, Chantelle Squires, and its screenwriter, Melissa Leilani Larson, discuss the film, its title characters and their hopes for what it might do for race relations within — and without — the LDS Church.

Aug 162018

A Q&A with MormonLeaks officials and their quest to expose the faith’s secrets | Episode 43

You probably read about a woman who secretly recorded an interview with her former Missionary Training Center president about alleged sexual misconduct he committed. Or maybe your heard that Mormon general authorities are paid more than $120,000 a year in salary. Perhaps you wonder about the LDS Church’s vast wealth. You swear you’ve seen that it has at least $32 billion in stock holdings.Well, if you know those newsy nuggets, it’s probably because of a website called MormonLeaks, which posts documents, recordings and videos secretly provided by church leaders, employees, sources, whistleblowers or other moles from within the Utah-based faith.So how did MormonLeaks get its start? What is its goal? Which leaks have been the biggest? And how does it navigate often-tricky ethical waters?We put those questions and more to the forces behind the website, Executive Director Ryan McKnight and technical director Ethan Dodge.

Aug 072018

Breastfeeding mom speaks out, says she’s reached a ‘compromise’ with her LDS bishop | Episode 42

The northern Utah mother at the heart of a spat about public breastfeeding has reached a “compromise” with her LDS bishop: She’ll now wear two tops to help hide her breast from above and below while nursing her 19-month-old daughter at her Mormon meetinghouse.But the dispute isn’t dead. The woman is “not quite ready,” she said in her first audio interview on the matter, to meet with the LDS leader who denied her a “temple recommend” unless she covered up.“I would like to see [LDS authorities] put out a policy worldwide, throughout the whole church, to protect mothers, to make it so that women can breastfeed their babies however is comfortable for mom and baby — whether that’s covered or not covered,” the woman said Wednesday on The Salt Lake Tribune’s “Mormon Land” podcast.The woman, who agreed to go by the initials S.D. because she hopes to resolve the impasse with her clergy, also addressed misinformation that has sprung up in the viral venting since her story surfaced.“[One misperception] is that … as soon as [my daughter] is done nursing, I leave my breast hanging out for the world to see, which is, again, completely inaccurate,” she said. “As soon as my daughter unlatches, I put it away immediately because I don’t want people seeing my breast. The only person I want seeing my breast is my husband.”Carrie Stoddard Salisbury, the Exponent II blogger who exposed the controversy, said on “Mormon Land” that hundreds of women have agreed to write letters to the faith’s top female leaders calling for a consistent, female-friendly policy on breastfeeding.

Aug 012018

Brigham Young, sea gulls and hardships — separating LDS pioneer myths from reality | Episode 41

This week, Utahns are celebrating the 1847 arrival of Mormon pioneers in the Salt Lake Valley.By all accounts, the Mormon migration from Illinois to the Great Basin was a monumental journey, one that helped shape the LDS Church and the American West.But, as with many historic events, the truth about the trek can get twisted and turned through the years. Did Brigham Young, for instance, really say “this is the right place”? Did sea gulls save crops from marauding bands of crickets? Did no handcart pioneer ever leave the faith?In this special Pioneer Day edition of “Mormon Land,” LDS historian Ardis Parshall helps separate the fact from the fiction.

Jul 232018

Is LGBTQ support group Affirmation getting too tight with the Mormon church? | Episode 40

The LDS Foundation recently made a historic contribution of $25,000 to Affirmation. That sum may not be a big amount, but symbolically it is huge.It marks the first significant collaboration between the Mormon church and the independent LGBTQ support group.President Carson Tueller and Executive Director John Gustav-Wrathall discuss that donation, the resulting fallout, their group’s diverse membership and whether Affirmation is getting too cozy with the LDS Church in the latest edition of “Mormon Land.”

Jul 182018

A weekend of artistic expression — with a Mormon twist | Episode 39

Art expresses and evokes deep human emotions, which makes it intimately connected to spirituality. It makes sense, then, for LDS artists to explore their faith through their creativity. In 2017, such links prompted a group of Latter-day Saints in New York City to launch the Mormon Arts Center Festival, which LDS author Terryl Givens called "a seminal event in Mormonism's coming of age artistically."A year later, the festival has grown larger and even more international, says one of the organizers, Richard L. Bushman, the famed Mormon scholar and emeritus history professor at Columbia. Before the festival gets underway on June 28, Bushman explains why a rigorous look at Mormon arts is crucial to the Utah-based faith.

Jun 272018

A new hymnal is coming. Which songs should stay, and which should go? | Episode 38

For years, a standard Mormon refrain has been “give us a new hymnbook.” Well, the pleadings from that chorus have been answered.The LDS Church has announced that it is developing a new hymnal for use by Mormons across the globe along with a new songbook for children.So which hymns should stay? Which should go? And which new ones should be added?Writer Kristine Haglund, a former editor of Dialogue and a self-professed “serious amateur” singer and musician, discusses those questions and the vital role music plays in LDS worship services in the latest edition of “Mormon Land.”

Jun 202018

Can’t we all just get along? Muslims and Latter-day Saints seem to have found a way. | Episode 37

Islam and Mormonism share some religious traditions. Both have histories rooted in a prophet. Both tout modesty and family values. And both embrace fasting and shun alcohol.As we approach the end of Ramadan, we explore those Muslim and Mormon ties with Shuaib Din, imam at the Utah Islamic Center, and Kristen Ullrich Hodges, a Latter-day Saint who last year organized an iftar, or break-the-fast meal, for her LDS and Muslim neighbors on the latest edition of “Mormon Land.”

Jun 122018

Who actually banned black Mormons from the priesthood? | Episode 36

On the latest episode of “Mormon Land,” University of Utah professor Paul Reeve offers insight on where the LDS Church's ban on giving black men and boys the priesthood and black women and girls entrance into temples originated.

Jun 062018

Cathy Stokes talks about her conversion and her life as a black Mormon | Episode 35

In the latest episode of “Mormon Land,” Cathy Stokes describes her conversion to Mormonism, what it means to be a black Latter-day Saint and what's next for the church after it celebrates its 1978 decision to end a centurylong ban on black men and boys being ordained, and on black women being allowed in Mormon temples.

May 312018

Author Rachel Hunt Steenblik discusses the Heavenly Mother's role in the LDS Church | Episode 34

In 2015, the LDS Church issued a short essay matter-of-factly affirming its belief in a Heavenly Mother. Some argue whole books should be written about her. And that’s precisely what Rachel Hunt Steenblik did with her volume “Mother’s Milk: Poems in Search of Heavenly Mother.” She discussed her writings and research on the latest “Mormon Land” podcast.

May 242018

Scouting will survive without the LDS Church, but it will change, says Scout executive | Episode 33

This breakup is sure to have a profound impact not only on the faith — which was Scouting’s largest chartering sponsor, especially in Utah and the Intermountain West — but also on the longtime youth organization itself.How much smaller will Scouting get? Will LDS boys and girls stick with or join the program? How much will it cost? What happens to all those camps? Will Scouting even survive?Mark Griffin, a Scout executive with the Great Salt Lake Council, answers those question and more on this week’s “Mormon Land.”

May 172018

LDS mission presidents are in the news, but what do these church leaders do? | Episode 32

They decide which Mormon missionaries should be teamed up together. They make sure the young proselytizers stay healthy and safe. They shepherd these eager elders and sisters through any faith, physical or emotional crisis. In the end, LDS mission presidents can rank among the most influential church leaders in individual lives.This week on “Mormon Land” — and in the wake of recent revelations about misconduct by a couple of former mission presidents — Jim and Jeanne Jardine, who oversaw the California Sacramento Mission from 2008 to 2011, discuss the roles of LDS mission presidents.

May 092018

Author Neylan McBaine discusses feminism, Ordain Women and the Mormon #MeToo moment | Episode 31

In her 2014 book, “Women at Church: Magnifying LDS Women's Local Impact,” Neylan McBaine examined the roles of Mormon women in their congregations and suggested paths toward more gender equity within the global faith.Why not, for instance, have teenage girls hold the microphone at testimony meetings? How about letting young women take part in what was then called visiting teaching? Why shouldn’t mothers be allowed to hold their infants during formal baby blessings at church? And why aren’t husband-and-wife teams who oversee LDS missions co-presidents?Well, some changes have occurred since her book’s release. Lots of others, McBaine says, are needed. Hear her thoughts on feminism, Ordain Women, the Mormon #MeToo moment and more in the latest edition of “Mormon Land.”

May 022018

Social worker and therapist Marybeth Raynes on apologies and forgiveness | Episode 30

On the latest installment of “Mormon Land,” Clinical social worker and therapist Marybeth Raynes discusses the relationship between apologies and forgiveness — both of which were discussed at the latest General Conference.

Apr 182018

Matt Martinich discusses the international growth of LDS communities | Episode 29

On this episode of “Mormon Land,” independent demographer Matt Martinich discusses how the LDS Church is faring in the countries Mormon President Russell M. Nelson plans to visit on his international trip.

Apr 122018

Historian Matthew Bowman reflects on the latest Mormon General Conference | Episode 28

In the latest edition of ‘Mormon Land,’ historian Matthew Bowman reflects of the changes announced at the most recent Mormon General Conference.

Apr 062018

LDS relationship and sexuality counselor Jennifer Finlayson-Fife on the MTC assault | Episode 27

In the latest episode of “Mormon Land, ” LDS relationship and sexuality counselor Jennifer Finlayson-Fife discusses the repercussions of the latest sexual abuse scandal to hit the Mormon church.

Mar 282018

LDS professor discusses the challenges in raising kids to overcome gender stereotypes | Episode 26

LDS professor Andrea Radke-Moss discusses her own experience with raising a young son and daughter to overcome gender stereotypes — especially within the LDS Church.

Mar 142018

Researcher Jana Riess discusses survey that reveals why young LDS members leave | Episode 25

In this edition of “Mormon Land,” author, scholar, researcher and senior columnist for Religion News Service Jana Riess discusses a massive survey she did of current and former Mormons.

Mar 072018

BYU biology professor Steven Peck on evolution | Episode 24

In this edition of ‘Mormon Land,’ BYU biology professor Steven Peck discusses why all Mormons should believe in evolution.

Feb 282018

Former Utah Supreme Court Justice Christine Durham | Episode 23

One of the nation's most respected legal scholars, former Utah Supreme Court Justice Christine Durham talks about her Mormon faith, the intersection of law and religion, and her relationship with LDS apostle Dallin H. Oaks. The Salt Lake Tribune's Peggy Fletcher Stack and David Noyce host.

Feb 232018

What counsel, if any, should LDS bishops give to spouses in abusive marriages? | Episode 22

Mormon bishops and the counsel they give spouses in abusive marriages are in the news.What should — or should not — these lay leaders say and do in these confidential conversations?David Cook, a former LDS bishop, stake president and area Seventy, and Alice Faulkner Burch, president of the all-female Relief Society for the Genesis Group of black Mormons, discuss those questions and more in the latest edition of “Mormon Land.” Listen here.

Feb 142018

Josh and Lolly Weed on yearning for a ‘romantic attachment’ they never had | Episode 21

If any gay man and a straight woman could make a marriage work, Josh and Lolly Weed could. But after 15 years, the two are divorcing. In this edition of “Mormon Land,” Josh and Lolly Weed discuss their divorce and how it will affect their family dynamics and their relationship with the LDS Church.

Jan 312018

Liz Layton Johnson's 95 Theses for today's Mormon church | Episode 20

Drawing inspiration from Martin Luther's action 500 years ago, Mormon blogger Liz Layton Johnson recently wrote 95 ways to improve her church. Johnson joined Tribune senior religion writer Peggy Fletcher Stack and managing editor David Noyce to talk about her wide-ranging, practical ideas.

Jan 262018

Exploring the woman's role in the Mormon church | Episode 19

Mormon historian Ardis Parshall sits down with The Tribune's Managing Editor Dave Noyce and Senior Religion Reporter Peggy Fletcher Stack to discuss the woman's role in the Mormon church and the new First Presidency.

Jan 192018

Genesis Group and black Mormons | Episode 18

For 22 years, Don Harwell served as branch president of the Genesis Group, a support group for black Mormons. Don and his wife Jerri Harwell visit with Salt Lake Tribune senior religion reporter Peggy Fletcher Stack and managing editor David Noyce about the group, race in the church and President Monson's special relationship with Genesis.

Jan 152018

Adam Miller on faith and doubt | Episode 17

What is the relationship between faith and doubt? Author Adam S. Miller describes his take on reconciling personal belief with LDS Church doctrine in a new edition of his book, "Letters to a Young Mormon." He talks with Salt Lake Tribune senior religion writer Peggy Fletcher Stack and managing editor David Noyce.

Jan 112018

The life and legacy of Mormon prophet Thomas S. Monson | Episode 16

How will LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson be remembered? Salt Lake Tribune senior religion reporter Peggy Fletcher Stack and managing editor David Noyce discuss Monson's 50-year imprint on the faith with Henderson State University history professor Matthew Bowman, author of "The Mormon People: The Making of an American Faith."

Jan 032018

Hong Kong's all-women LDS branch | Episode 15

While reporting in Hong Kong, Salt Lake Tribune senior religion reporter Peggy Fletcher Stack discovered a Mormon congregation that only serves domestic workers. Stack spoke about the group with a woman known as Ling Ling, a former Relief Society president of the Everyday Branch.

Dec 232017

How Mormons celebrate Christmas | Episode 14

BYU religion professor Eric Huntsman describes Mormon history, cultural tradition and his personal observance of Christmas with Salt Lake Tribune senior religion reporter Peggy Fletcher Stack and managing editor David Noyce.

Dec 192017

The bishop's interview | Episode 13

How much does a Mormon bishop need to know about a person's sexual behavior during a worthiness interview? Former LDS bishop Richard Ostler and therapist Julie de Azevedo Hanks discuss the issue with Salt Lake Tribune reporter Peggy Fletcher Stack and managing editor David Noyce.

Dec 122017

Trump's visit to Utah | Episode 12

President Donald Trump plans to visit with Mormon Church leaders when he comes to Utah on Monday. Morgan Lyon Cotti, deputy director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics, and BYU political science professor Kelly Patterson join Salt Lake Tribune senior religion writer Peggy Fletcher Stack and managing editor David Noyce to talk about LDS encounters with U.S. presidents and why many Utah Mormons still like Trump.

Dec 022017

Utah's Refugee Justice League | Episode 11

Jim McConkie, co-founder of the Refugee Justice League which provides pro bono legal help to Utah refugees, explains how his Mormon faith influenced this effort to Salt Lake Tribune senior religion reporter Peggy Fletcher Stack and editor Jennifer Napier-Pearce.

Nov 282017

Peggy Fletcher Stack reports on Mormons in southeast Asia | Episode 10

Salt Lake Tribune senior religion reporter Peggy Fletcher Stack talks about Mormon life, practices and cultural influences in Indonesia, Vietnam and other southeast Asia sites she recently visited.

Nov 202017

Fiona and Terryl Givens on "The Christ Who Heals" | Episode 9

Authors Fiona and Terryl Givens argue much of contemporary LDS thought has been contaminated by Protestant rhetoric and is inconsistent with the theology articulated by Mormon founder Joseph Smith's original vision. They discuss their new book "The Christ Who Heals" with Salt Lake Tribune senior religion reporter Peggy Fletcher Stack and managing editor David Noyce.

Nov 142017

Mormons in today's Vietnam | Episode 8

Salt Lake Tribune religion writer Peggy Fletcher Stack interviews Lewis Hassell, an LDS mission president based in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Nov 062017

Tribune columnist Robert Kirby on new Mormon missionary questions | Episode 7

Salt Lake Tribune humor columnist Robert Kirby says he lied in order to serve a Mormon mission years ago. Now he offers his take on the LDS Church's new set of questions for prospective missionaries.

Oct 302017

D. Michael Quinn on LDS Church finances | Episode 6

Historian D. Michael Quinn discusses money and finances throughout Mormon Church history and theology with Salt Lake Tribune editor Jennifer Napier-Pearce and managing editor David Noyce.

Oct 252017

Laurie Lee Hall's journey from LDS stake president to transgender woman | Episode 5

Salt Lake Tribune senior religion reporter Peggy Fletcher Stack and managing editor David Noyce talk with Laurie Lee Hall about her transition from a former stake president and LDS temple architect to a transgender woman.

Oct 172017

Coke at BYU and the Word of Wisdom | Episode 4

Mormon Church-owned Brigham Young University recently changed its policy to allow Coke to be sold on campus. Salt Lake Tribune senior religion reporter Peggy Fletcher Stack and managing editor David Noyce talk about the reversal and the Mormon health code called the Word of Wisdom with Philip Barlow, Arrington Chair of Mormon Studies and a Religious Studies professor at Utah State University.

Oct 092017

Peggy Fletcher Stack on 26 Years on the Faith Beat | Episode 3

Salt Lake Tribune senior religion reporter Peggy Fletcher Stack talks about her fascinating career, from encounters with Mormon prophets to the Dalai Lama. Recorded before a live audience at the City Library in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah.

Oct 062017

October 2017 General Conference Wrap-Up | Episode 2

Blogger Steve Evans of By Common Consent and Darius Gray, former president of Genesis Group, join Salt Lake Tribune managing editor David Noyce and senior religion writer Peggy Fletcher Stack to discuss October 2017 General Conference.

Oct 042017

Tom Christofferson on being Mormon and gay | Episode 1

Tom Christofferson describes his life as a gay man, his complicated relationship with the LDS Church and the unwavering love of his parents and brothers in his new book, "That We May Be One: A Gay Mormon's Perspective on Faith and Family."Each week, Mormon Land explores the contours and complexities of LDS News. Award-winning Salt Lake Tribune religion writer Peggy Fletcher Stack, managing editor David Noyce and editor Jennifer Napier-Pearce host.

Sep 242017