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‘Mormon Land’: Legendary church educator lost his church job after questioning the former priesthood/temple ban

Humanitarian Lowell Bennion once said, “I used to teach religion; now I practice it.”

(University of Utah) Lowell Bennion, who died in 1996, remains one of the most prominent Latter-day Saint humanitarians.

Lowell Bennion was among Mormonism’s greatest humanitarians, while also being one of its most prominent thinkers and teachers. Indeed, he was among the few non-general authorities or officers ever to speak in General Conferences of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

As the first director of the church’s Institute of Religion at the University of Utah, Bennion spoke powerfully and courageously against the church’s former priesthood/temple ban on Black members and encouraged students to see science and religion as complementary rather than contradictory paths to truth, positions that cost the church educator his job.

While Bennion had powerful allies among the faith’s top leadership, he also encountered his share of influential antagonists in the church hierarchy.

But he did more than teach or preach. Bennion, who died in 1996, created the Community Services Council in Salt Lake City to aid poor and marginalized populations. Eventually, a center for service was created in his name at the U., integrating outreach to the disadvantaged into the curriculum. Of the service he rendered, he once said, “I used to teach religion; now I practice it.”

Yet Bennion’s life and work remain largely unknown to today’s Latter-day Saints.

On this week’s show, George Handley, professor of interdisciplinary humanities at Brigham Young University and author of “Lowell L. Bennion: A Mormon Educator,” discusses the life and legacy of the legendary scholar, considered by many to be one of the founders of Mormon studies.

Listen here: