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Mormon Land podcast

Mormon Land

Mormon Land explores the contours and complexities of LDS news. It's hosted by award-winning religion writer Peggy Fletcher Stack and Salt Lake Tribune managing editor David Noyce.

Mormon Land explores the contours and complexities of LDS news. It's hosted by award-winning religion writer Peggy Fletcher Stack and Salt Lake Tribune managing editor David Noyce.

 

#261

Is the church shifting on same-sex marriage or stuck in neutral? | Episode 262

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints stunned many insiders and outsiders recently when it voiced support for an amended version of the Respect for Marriage Act, a federal measure designed to codify same-sex marriage while shielding religious organizations from fully embracing such unions. While that exemption allows the Utah-based faith and Brigham Young University, for instance, to continue their present LGBTQ policies, the monumental move nonetheless marked the first time the church has acknowledged the legitimacy of civil same-sex marriage, a practice it has famously preached and politicked against. Many members were delighted; some were dismayed. Either way, the announcement represented a sort-of middle-way path that the church and its top leaders, including First Presidency member Dallin Oaks, have been following and advocating for more than a decade. On this week’s show, Erika Munson, a co-founder of Mormons Building Bridges and currently a board member and co-founder of Emmaus LGBTQ Ministry, and Addison Graham, a BYU student who wrote about the church’s move in The Washington Post, discuss what this shift may mean for the church, its members, its teachings, its policies and its place in society — now and in the future. ... Read more

7 hrs Ago

30 MINS

30:56

7 hrs Ago


#260

Why those ‘I’m a Mormon’ ads worked and how they could help today | Episode 261

In the not-too-distant past, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints proudly wore the “Mormon” moniker. Starting in 2011, the Utah-based faith produced a global advertising campaign, with the slogan “I’m a Mormon.” It included hundreds of 2-minute video or photographic bios of individual members as a way to show outsiders that Latter-day Saints come in all shapes, sizes and colors. That they’re not so different; they’re your friends and neighbors. Soon after current church President Russell M. Nelson stepped into his role as “prophet, seer and revelator” in 2018, though, he mandated that the term “Mormon” be banned from use by members, scholars, outsiders and media alike. He even had it removed from the faith’s world famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir, now known as The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square. In a recent blog post on By Common Consent, Taylor Kerby described feeling nostalgic about the previous ad strategy. He is here via Zoom to talk about what he liked about it, what it did for him and the church and what he misses about it. ... Read more

22 Nov 2022

30 MINS

30:52

22 Nov 2022


#259

Will LDS voters back or buck Trump? Could he chase them away from the GOP? | Episode 260

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have a love-hate relationship of sorts with Donald Trump. Many in this GOP-leaning faith love, first, that he’s a Republican. Some admire his unconventional approach to politics. Some embrace his positions on economic and social issues. Many loathe, however, his abrasive personality. Some cringe at his crude comments about women and immigrants. Some detest his unrelenting and unfounded allegations about election fraud. Now, Trump is seeking a return to the White House. He carried the Latter-day Saint vote before, though by far thinner margins than most recent Republican presidential nominees? But where does Trump stand now with members? Will the love side of their Trump equation again win out over the hate side? Or are Latter-day Saints ready to move on? And could another polarizing Trump run put at risk the GOP’s dominance within this American-born faith? Quin Monson, a political science professor at church-owned Brigham Young University and a partner at Y2 Analytics, discusses those questions and more. ... Read more

16 Nov 2022

33 MINS

33:31

16 Nov 2022


#258

Director of Canadian documentary about LDS finances discusses a church ‘in crisis’ | Episode 259

The financial dealings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints continue to make headlines around the world. We’ve documented its vast landholdings. Its multibillion-dollar reserves. And the ups and downs of its staggering stock portfolio. Now, the latest twist comes from Canada, where “The Fifth Estate,” the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.’s version of “60 Minutes,” detailed how the Utah-based faith funneled $1 billion in the past 15 years to its Brigham Young University campuses in the U.S. Most of that tax-free money came from the tithes and donations of the 200,000 or so members who live in Canada. Although Canada’s laws allow the practice, it nonetheless deprives its treasury of hundreds of millions of dollars that could be used to support services in that country. On this week’s show, Timothy Sawa, the producer and director of “The Fifth Estate” documentary, discusses the expose, how it came about, what else it uncovered, the faith’s financial tangles in Australia, its response and calls for reform and governmental investigations of a church “in crisis.” ... Read more

09 Nov 2022

25 MINS

25:15

09 Nov 2022


#257

How modern LDS men view marriage, divorce, sex and more | Episode 258

“The Family: A Proclamation to the World” spells out the central role marriage plays in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Nuances aside, it designates so-called traditional roles, with husbands as providers for their families and wives as nurturers of their children. Yet many if not most, Latter-day Saints don’t live such neatly ordered existences. Their experiences are far more diverse, more challenging, sometimes more messy, often more rewarding and always more real. Getting Latter-day Saint men to open up about their intimate relationships is no small feat. But writer-editor Holly Welker does just that in “Revising Eternity: 27 Latter-day Saint Men Reflect on Modern Relationships,” a collection of personal essays that touches on sexuality, illness, addiction, infertility, infidelity, divorce, sexual orientation, loss of faith, death and much more — all from a male perspective. On this week’s show, Welker talks about what we can learn from these writers who reached beyond the Book of Mormon question of “what manner of men ought ye to be?” and revealed “what manner of men they are.” ... Read more

02 Nov 2022

31 MINS

31:48

02 Nov 2022


#256

The ‘hidden’ wives of Joseph Smith and how they viewed polygamy | Episode 257

The polygamy of Mormonism’s second prophet-president, Brigham Young, is well known. Until the late 1990s, however, many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had no idea that church founder Joseph Smith had taken dozens of women as his plural wives. Unlike with his first wife, Emma Smith, he didn’t live with the women (polygamy was hidden during the early faith’s years in Nauvoo, Ill.) and how intimate he was with them remains in dispute among historians. Scholar Todd Compton was among the first to fully document Smith’s wives in his 1997 book, “In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith.” Now he has come out with a second book, “In Sacred Loneliness: The Documents,” which includes many of the materials he mined to gain a better understanding of the first Mormon’s marital relations. On this week’s show, Compton discusses what he learned about Jospeh Smith, his wives (some in their early teens and some married to other men), what their marriages were like, their level of intimacy, whether any children resulted and more. ... Read more

26 Oct 2022

40 MINS

40:06

26 Oct 2022


#255

Why this LDS-palooza on the screen? ‘Napoleon Dynamite,’ ‘Cheer’ directors weigh in. | Episode 256

In the past year or so, Latter-day Saints have been showcased in a bevy of TV shows and documentaries — from “Under the Banner of Heaven,” about a grisly 1980s murder case, to “LulaRich,” about a pair of multilevel marketers. Recently, moviemakers tackled the purported killings of two children by extremist members in Idaho and a series based on the true-crime documentary “Abducted in Plain Sight.” Why this sudden interest in the church and some of its more bizarre episodes? On this week’s show, Latter-day Saint filmmakers Jared Hess, who co-wrote and directed “Napoleon Dynamite” and “Murder Among the Mormons,” and Greg Whiteley, who directed “New York Doll,” “Mitt” and “Cheer,” discuss the industry and its fascination with Mormonism. ... Read more

19 Oct 2022

33 MINS

33:26

19 Oct 2022


#254

Affirmation leaders discuss the future for queer Latter-day Saints | Episode 255

Launched in the 1970s, Affirmation is the oldest support group for LGBTQ members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The mission, according to Affirmation’s website is to create “worldwide communities of safety, love and hope” and to promote “understanding, acceptance and self-determination of diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions” as members define “their individual spirituality and intersection with [the church.]” Just 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. It hosts annual meetings in several nations. Affirmation recently gathered in Utah for its first in-person conference in three years. On this week’s show, President Nathan Kitchen, Vice President Laurie Lee Hall and board member Melissa Malcolm King talk about the 45-year-old group, its expectations for the future, and how it has changed through the years. ... Read more

12 Oct 2022

39 MINS

39:30

12 Oct 2022


#253

Are top LDS leaders simply getting too old? | Episode 254

All would agree that, at age 98, President Russell M. Nelson, leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, appears to be in incredible health. Still, even this famously fit former heart surgeon made a concession to advancing age during the past weekend’s General Conference, delivering all three of his speeches while sitting on a stool at the podium. “Sometimes even small adjustments, such as a chair,” he stated on social media, “help those of us who ‘age on stage.’” But do the ages of the global faith’s senior leadership pose a bigger problem? After all, two of the three First Presidency members (Nelson and Dallin Oaks) are in their 90s and the third (Henry Eyring) will join them next year. Among the 12 apostles, M. Russell Ballard turns 94 on Saturday, three others are in their 80s, and, starting next month, five will be in their 70s. While this multilayered hierarchy makes allowances for the occasional incapacitated authority, does this collective “gerontocracy” give rise to a stagnant, intractable, out-of-touch leadership? Would switching to a system that brings younger blood into the leadership invigorate the global faith of 16.8 million? Historian Gregory Prince has thought and written about these issues. He joins us today via zoom to talk these, frankly, age-old questions. ... Read more

05 Oct 2022

30 MINS

30:55

05 Oct 2022


#252

What Joseph Smith looked like and why it mattered to his followers then and now | Episode 253

In the days and weeks after the reported discovery of the first known photograph of Joseph Smith, a debate erupted: Is this really him? Here’s why it could be; here’s why it couldn’t be. Underneath all the chatter lurked some fundamental questions: What do we know about what the Mormon founder looked like? Why does it matter? Will we ever know if this tiny locket image shows one of America’s most influential religious leaders? Historian Benjamin Park, an associate professor at Sam Houston State University, explored those topics and more in a recent piece for The Salt Lake Tribune. Park, who also is writing a history of Mormonism, discusses the big questions surrounding this small photo. ... Read more

28 Sep 2022

31 MINS

31:52

28 Sep 2022


#251

A special dispatch from Spain: How religious freedom is at risk around the world | Episode 252

The International Center for Law and Religion Studies is a global academic leader in the field of religious freedom. Founded in 2000, the center is part of the J. Reuben Clark Law School at Brigham Young University, the flagship campus of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Religious freedom has long been a key concern of the Utah-based faith. So the BYU-affiliated center’s mission is to “help secure the blessings of religious liberty for all,” through scholarship, networking, educational activities and legal reforms. Scholars at the center who specialize in comparative and international law concerning religion have provided advice to dozens of civil and governmental bodies in more than 50 countries, eager to implement safeguards on religious freedom. Brett Scharffs, the Rex E. Lee Chair and professor of law at J. Reuben Clark Law School, is the center’s current director. In this special “Mormon Land”, Scharffs speaks from Cordoba, Spain with Peggy Fletcher Stack, where he is presenting several papers at a European meeting of legal scholars on the topic “Human Dignity, Law and Religious Diversity: Designing the Future of Intercultural Society.” ... Read more

21 Sep 2022

27 MINS

27:04

21 Sep 2022


#250

All about Brigham Young’s most famous daughter — writer, suffragist, dynamo | Episode 251

Susa Young Gates, the daughter of one of Brigham Young’s many plural wives, may have been just one child among the Mormon pioneer-prophet’s vast brood, but she eventually would stand out among all his offspring. Although gifted at music, she made her name as a writer and editor. She founded the Young Woman’s Journal, became the first editor of the Relief Society Magazine and published a biography of her famous father. A go-getter, she labored for women’s suffrage and rubbed shoulders with Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and other leading feminists of the day. She suffered through a painful first marriage and rejoiced in a happy second one. She delighted in doing genealogy but also endured the deaths of eight of her 13 children. Even though her name appears prominently in the pages of Mormon history, few Latter-day Saints know much about her. Romney Burke, hopes to change that with his new book, “Susa Young Gates: Daughter of Mormonism” — an exploration of her personal, professional and religious life. On this week’s show, Burke notes, among other things, that Susa Young Gates had notable clashes with her distinguished dad but remained devoted to him and spent much of her life trying to please him. She defended the faith’s — and her father’s — practice of polygamy but never entered a plural marriage herself. Though she pushed for women’s right to vote, she was less keen on women running for office. She opposed birth control and was an early proponent of a concept that lives on in some Latter-day Saint cultural circles — that women have motherhood and men have priesthood. ... Read more

14 Sep 2022

25 MINS

25:28

14 Sep 2022


#249

Why a racist past haunts BYU and the LDS Church — and what can be done about it | Episode 250

The effects of a reported racist outburst at a Brigham Young University women’s volleyball match continue to ripple across the country. A week after a Duke player said she was repeatedly called a racist slur at the match with the flagship school of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the coach of South Carolina’s defending champion women’s basketball team pulled out of a home-and-home series with the university. BYU officials say they believe the Duke player and continue to investigate the incident but have so far been unable to find the culprit. Other schools and teams have had racist episodes at athletic events, so why has the Provo incident touched so many nerves? On this week’s show, BYU alum Darron Smith, who teaches sociology at the University of Memphis and is the author of “When Race, Religion & Sports Collide: Black Athletes at BYU and Beyond,” talks about the volleyball match episode, the resulting fallout, the school’s history with Black athletes, and why BYU and Latter-day Saint leaders need to do much more to combat racism on campus and within the faith — starting with an apology for the church’s former priesthood/temple ban for Black members. ... Read more

07 Sep 2022

35 MINS

35:32

07 Sep 2022


#248

BYU’s rough week: what does it mean now and what might it portend for the future? | Episode 249

An administrator at Brigham Young University removes thousands of LGBTQ resource pamphlets from welcome bags intended to go to new students. Faculty and staff recoil as the school adds language explicitly requiring new hires to waive clergy confidentiality on matters related to employment standards. And, finally, an investigation continues after reports that a Cougar fan repeatedly hurled racist slurs at a visiting Duke volleyball player, igniting a media firestorm. The flagship university of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has found itself at the center of a number of unwelcome headlines in recent days — surrounding topics ranging from race and LGBTQ issues to religious freedom — prompting many to ask: What’s going on in Provo? How has this spate of news affected BYU’s reputation? Are these isolated occurrences or part of a larger movement? If the latter, who or what is driving this trend? And what might be the ultimate aim? Address those questions and more on this week’s show are Patrick Mason, a BYU alum and chair of Mormon history and culture at Utah State University, and LaShawn Williams, a Duke graduate and faculty member in social work at Salt Lake Community College. ... Read more

31 Aug 2022

37 MINS

37:59

31 Aug 2022


#247

Expert sees a better approach than the church’s abuse ‘help line’ | Episode 248

Ever since The Associated Press published its explosive account of an egregious case in Arizona — where a Latter-day Saint father sexually abused his young daughters for years, even after counseling with his bishop — social media has been lit up by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, asking one another how this could have happened and what, if anything, the church could do to ensure it never happens again. Many commenters have focused on the faith’s “help line,” which bishops can call to find out how to safeguard the victims and what legal obligations the lay leaders must consider. Critics say the help line should focus more on the victims and not legality management. Some members, though, see other areas that could be improved to help victims. On this week’s show, Laura Brignone, a Latter-day Saint visiting scholar at the University of California, Berkeley, where she studies technology and interventions for domestic violence and sexual assault, discusses how the church could partner with existing help lines to assist abuse victims and offers suggestions for enlarging the group of helpers and the way they are trained. ... Read more

24 Aug 2022

24 MINS

24:19

24 Aug 2022


#246

The reporter of ‘Spotlight’ fame discusses his exposé on sex abuse in the LDS Church | Episode 247

Earlier this month, an Associated Press investigation of several child sex abuse cases, including a particularly horrific one in Arizona, revealed that the much-debated “help line” supplied by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for its lay leaders failed to protect the victims. The exposé brought responses of dismay, disgust and anger from insiders and outsiders alike — and the reverberations are still being felt. On this week’s show, AP journalist Michael Rezendes, who previously earned a Pulitzer Prize with The Boston Globe for uncovering the Roman Catholic Church’s pattern of covering up clergy sex abuse while part of the team dramatized in the Oscar-winning film “Spotlight,” to talk about his latest story, how came upon it, how he reported it and how it compares to his previous reporting on this sensitive subject. Rezendes also talks about an astonishing amount of document shredding on sexual abuse — for instance, all records of calls to the help line, he reports, are routinely destroyed — within the Utah-based faith and points to a lack of transparency surrounding its handling of these cases. ... Read more

17 Aug 2022

26 MINS

26:58

17 Aug 2022


#245

A law professor explains “temple divorces,” and how they changed through the years | Episode 246

Marriage in a Latter-day Saint temple is called a “sealing,” which is believed to stretch beyond death into the eternities. So what happens when a couple split up? Well, for devout members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, that’s much more complicated than a governmental divorce. In today’s world, that is something called a “sealing cancellation.” But there are different rules for women and men. Men can be sealed to more than one woman without any cancellation, but women can be sealed only to one man so must obtain a cancellation. And rules about who can be sealed to whom in the hereafter via proxy rituals are different from living couples. Many believe this confusion reflects remnants of polygamy. But does it? On this week’s podcast, Nathan Oman, a Latter-day Saint law professor in William & Mary in Virginia, who has been researching the history of the faith’s modern sealing rules, tells how he discovered some startling facts. In fact, sealing cancellations and their gender differences arose in the early 20th century, well after the church officially had abandoned the practice. And Oman speculates about why it happened. ... Read more

10 Aug 2022

39 MINS

39:58

10 Aug 2022


#244

What a cartoonist learned about Joseph Smith and his own childhood faith | Episode 245

Joseph Smith once famously said, “No man knows my history. I cannot tell it: I shall never undertake it.” But Noah Van Sciver did, and the result is his new graphic novel, “Joseph Smith and the Mormons.” In it, the acclaimed cartoonist aims to tell “a more complete story” of the enigmatic religious leader — from his early days as a so-called treasure seeker to his reports of angelic visitations, the unearthing of gold plates, the founding a restorationist faith and his ultimate assassination at the hands of a mob. And while completing the project took more years — and pages — than he originally intended, Van Sciver, who grew up as a Latter-day Saint, said conducting the research for his latest opus helped him come to terms with his religious roots. On this week’s “Mormon Land,” he discusses his work, what he learned, how he feels about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints now, and what he hopes members and others take away from his book. ... Read more

03 Aug 2022

26 MINS

26:42

03 Aug 2022


#243

Historian explains why he is convinced the Joseph Smith photo is for real | Episode 244

Historians with the Community of Christ (formerly the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) recently made a stunning announcement: Daniel Larsen, a descendant of Mormonism’s founder, Joseph Smith, had discovered the only known daguerreotype of his famous ancestor in a locket passed down in the Smith family. The emerging image was startling to many, who know Smith only from a portrait that was painted of him in 1842, and the photo appeared distinctly different from that. The finding led to a nationwide conversation among members of the larger, Utah-based, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and those in the Community of Christ, which was launched in the 1860s by the founder’s family. Viewers were asking: How do they know it is really him? Lachlan Mackay, a Community of Christ apostle who directs that church’s historic sites in Nauvoo, Ill., and another descendant of Smith, helped analyze the locket, trace its ownership, and research the daguerreotype’s likely history. On this week’s show, Mackay answer questions about the photo, the process historians used to authenticate it and why is convinced it is an image of Joseph Smith. ... Read more

27 Jul 2022

38 MINS

38:46

27 Jul 2022


#242

Why kids leave the faith and how parents can respond with less guilt | Episode 243

Few Latter-day Saint families remain untouched by the experience of a loved one who chooses to step away from participation in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And many parents blame themselves for their kids’ choices, asking themselves what they could have done better, how many more trips to the temple they should have made, how many more prayers they should have offered, or how much more they should have read the scriptures. “Feeling like we have failed as parents, that our families should feel ashamed of those who left, or that the very idea of someone leaving the church means we refuse to have openhearted conversations about it and instead cast blame, is fear, plain and simple,” Emily Jensen writes in a recent post on By Common Consent. The web editor for Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought and her 17-year-old daughter, Cecily, join this week’s show to discuss the issue of parents and their children’s church choices, including: Why young Latter-day Saints leave the faith, how parents should react, and what the church is or could be doing to help. ... Read more

20 Jul 2022

32 MINS

32:19

20 Jul 2022


#241

How new monuments to Black pioneers may help heal LDS racial divides | Episode 242

Green Flake, an enslaved worker and Latter-day Saint, arrived in the Salt Lake Valley with two other Black pioneers July 22, 1847 — two days before Mormon prophet Brigham Young reportedly declared, “This is the right place.” Flake, Hark Wales and Oscar Smith scouted the valley, tilled the ground, planted crops and laid down a trail for their enslavers and vanguard wagons that soon would arrive. The three are memorialized at This Is the Place Heritage Park, near the mouth of Emigration Canyon in the eastern foothills, as “colored servants.” They were, in fact, slaves. And this month — on the 175th anniversary of their arrival — new monuments to them will be unveiled in the same park. This is due largely to the efforts of Latter-day Saint filmmaker and music promoter Mauli Junior Bonner. On this week’s show, Bonner — writer, producer and director of the film “His Name Is Green Flake” — talks about why he launched a drive for the memorials, what it took, and how the effort may help bring healing to racial divides within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. ... Read more

13 Jul 2022

25 MINS

25:43

13 Jul 2022