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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.

 

#239

A ‘divinely inspired’ Constitution — where such talk began and why it matters now | Episode 240

Rusty Bowers, a Latter-day Saint who serves as speaker of the Arizona House, recently captured the attention of the nation when he testified before the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 siege of the U.S. Capitol. The Republican officeholder steadfastly and sometimes emotionally told lawmakers of the intense pressure he received from Donald Trump and his allies to appoint alternate electors in a bid to overturn the lawful results of the 2020 presidential election. Bowers refused. Why? One reason he cited was his faith’s teaching that the U.S. Constitution is “divinely inspired” and that he was determined to uphold his oath to remain true to its principles. Where and when did this belief in the nation’s founding document begin? And what are the implications when current constitutional questions arise? Matthew Bowman, Howard W. Hunter Chair of Mormon Studies at Claremont Graduate University and author of “The Mormon People: The Making of an American Faith” and “Christian: The Politics of a Word in America,” explores those questions and more on this week’s show. ... Read more

29 Jun 2022

30 MINS

30:53

29 Jun 2022


#238

How even a patriarchal faith still can bless women | Episode 239

To many white American feminists, the issue of gender equality is paramount. Naturally, their critique of institutions like The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with its all-male priesthood, is built on women’s lack of decision-making power and absence from the hierarchy. But some U.S. women of color as well as in other countries find liberation and satisfaction in the Utah-based faith — and even in its patriarchal structure. That intrigued historian and researcher Caroline Kline, assistant director of the Center for Global Mormon Studies at Southern California’s Claremont Graduate University. On this week’s “Mormon Land” podcast, Kline shares gender insights she gleaned from scores of interviews with Latter-day Saint women of color in Mexico, Botswana and the United States that appear in her just-released book, “Mormon Women at the Crossroads: Global Narratives and the Power of Connectedness.” ... Read more

22 Jun 2022

27 MINS

27:40

22 Jun 2022


#237

Dustin Lance Black on “Under the Banner of Heaven” | Episode 238

For two months, the FX/Hulu series “Under the Banner of Heaven” has prompted riveting conversations about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints among members, former members and nonmembers. Like the bestselling book of the same name by author Jon Krakauer, the series recounts the murders of Latter-day Saint mom Brenda Lafferty and her 15-month-old daughter, Erica, by brothers-in-law Ron and Dan Lafferty. It also includes flashbacks to violent episodes in Mormonism’s early history and a fictional Latter-day Saint detective — played by actor Andrew Garfield — who undergoes his own faith journey as he uncovers troubling aspects of his religion while investigating the horrific crimes. The writer-producer who put this all together is Oscar-winning filmmaker Dustin Lance Black, who earned an Academy Award in 2009 for his screenplay of “Milk” and was one of the writers for HBO’s “Big Love.” Now that the final episode of “Under the Banner” has aired, Black talks about the project, his artistic decisions, the praise and criticism he has received and what viewers — Latter-day Saints and others — should take away from the show. ... Read more

15 Jun 2022

35 MINS

35:04

15 Jun 2022


#236

MomTok: ‘Soft swinging,’ monogamous intimacy and LDS sexuality | Episode 237

A woman who has been part of the Mormon Moms TikTok network, known as "MomTok," recently told her millions of followers that she was getting divorced. The reason? She said she and her husband had participated in what she called “soft swinging.” Though unverified, the video went viral and has been reported widely — and salaciously — on social media. Many questions remain about the story, but whether true or not, it does shine a light on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its teachings about sexuality in marriage. On this week’s show, Jennifer Finlayson-Fife, a licensed therapist in Chicago who specializes in working with Latter-day Saint couples on sexuality and relationship issues, discusses those issues and more. ... Read more

08 Jun 2022

23 MINS

23:10

08 Jun 2022


#235

Are firearms and gun violence a moral issue the LDS Church needs to address? | Episode 236

In recent weeks, the U.S. has seen two more mass shootings — one at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, and the other at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. Though President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has made at least one comment suggesting that gun laws are too lax and apostles David A. Bednar and Jeffrey R. Holland have lamented the shootings, the Utah-based faith has not made any official statements about these tragedies specifically or gun violence generally. Is it a moral issue for Latter-day Saints? Should it be? What does Latter-day Saint theology have to say about the issue? Discussing those questions and more n this week’s show are Patrick Mason, head of Mormon history and culture at Utah State University and the author or editor of several books, including “Mormonism and Violence: The Battles of Zion,” and “Proclaim Peace: The Restoration’s Answer to an Age of Conflict,” and Janiece Johnson, historian of American religion and the author of books on Latter-day Saint women and the Mountain Meadows Massacre, including the forthcoming “American Punishment: The Mountain Meadows Massacre and Mormon Transgressions.” ... Read more

01 Jun 2022

36 MINS

36:50

01 Jun 2022


#234

BYU’s Black Menaces talk about their mission to raise awareness and wipe out racism | Episode 235

Five students at Brigham Young University who call themselves the Black Menaces are on a mission to raise awareness about racism and other challenges facing The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its flagship school. With iPhones in hand, they crisscross the campus, posing provocative questions to the mostly white students about race, LGBTQ issues and marginalized communities. They then post the two-minute clips on TikTok. On this week’s show, two of the Menaces, Rachel Weaver, from Chicago, and Kennethia Dorsey, of Nashville, Tenn., discuss what they have learned, what they hope to accomplish, and what BYU can do to change. ... Read more

25 May 2022

37 MINS

37:32

25 May 2022


#233

How, where and why LDS membership is booming in some places and shrinking in others | Episode 234

Growth in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints bounced back a bit last year after taking a pandemic plunge in 2020. The global faith saw its overall membership rise by 0.8% during 2021 to top 16.8 million. Africa has led the way, accounting for 10 of the 14 fastest-growing nations in terms of Latter-day Saint growth the past two years. In the United States, from the start of 2020 to the end of 2021, membership increased 0.6% to exceed 6.7 million. South Dakota, Arkansas and Tennessee grew the fastest, while California, North Dakota and Washington were the biggest percentage losers. In fact, 21 states plus the District Columbia actually saw their membership tallies shrink. On this week’s show, Matt Martinich, an independent researcher who dutifully tracks these statistics and more for the websites cumorah.com and ldschurchgrowth.blogspot.com, discusses the ups and downs and ins and outs of church growth and how the membership is booming in some places and dwindling in others. ... Read more

18 May 2022

36 MINS

36:31

18 May 2022


#232

How Orrin Hatch transformed the political loyalties of Latter-day Saints | Episode 233

He defeated a popular Democratic senator, arguing that three terms were enough, and then proceeded to serve more than twice as long (seven terms) — longer than any Republican in Senate history. During those 42 years, this conservative loyalist teamed up with a liberal lion, Sen. Ted Kennedy, to create the Children’s Health Insurance Program and the Americans with Disability Act. He eventually became among the staunchest defenders of Donald Trump, shepherding through a major tax overhaul and helping to shape the conservative majority of today’s Supreme Court. These justices appear poised to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, which gave women a constitutional right to abortion. Through it all, Orrin Hatch, who died April 23 at age 88, often touted his membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and championed the cause of religious liberty. In fact, historian Benjamin Park says in a recent Washington Post piece, Hatch helped transform the nation’s Latter-day Saints into one of the most reliably red voting blocs. On this week’s show, Park discusses the late senator, his influence, his politics, his piety and his place in history. ... Read more

11 May 2022

28 MINS

28:41

11 May 2022


#231

Is ‘Under the Banner’ over the top? Religion scholars weigh in. | Episode 232

The FX/Hulu television series “Under the Banner of Heaven” has generated a social media storm among members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as well as former members and religion observers. It tells the story of the gruesome 1984 murders of Brenda Lafferty and her 15-month-old daughter, Erica, at the hands of her husband’s two brothers. The story is built on a bestselling book of the same name by journalist Jon Krakauer, whose thesis is that religion — all religion and especially Mormonism — leads inevitably to violence. Viewers of the first two episodes are debating whether the depictions are true to the faith of the 1980s and whether the actions of the investigators make sense — especially those of the fictional detective, played by Oscar nominee Andrew Garfield, whose faith journey is at the center of the show. Mormon studies scholars, however, may be less concerned with artistic license than with the series’ conclusions. On this week’s podcast, three religion experts offer their views of the show, the book, the history, the premise, the portrayals — what the filmmakers get right and what they get wrong — and how Latter-day Saints themselves can learn from all of this. Join us to hear from Patrick Mason, chair of Mormon history and culture at Utah State University; writer and researcher Jana Riess of Religion News Service; and Janan Graham-Russell, who recently completed a fellowship in Mormon studies at the University of Utah. ... Read more

04 May 2022

44 MINS

44:06

04 May 2022


#230

LDS leaders talk a lot about religious liberty, but is it really at risk? | Episode 231

To say that leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints often talk about religious freedom would be, well, an understatement. It is a common theme from the top apostles on down and appears to be a favorite topic of Dallin Oaks, first counselor in the governing First Presidency and a former Utah Supreme Court justice. Recently, President Camille Johnson, global head of the children’s Primary organization and herself a high-powered attorney, picked up on the theme as well in an address in Iowa. The church has been calling for a balancing of religious liberty and LGBTQ protections. It succeeded in passing such legislation in Utah and has pushed for similar measures in Arizona and Georgia. It also backs the proposed federal Fairness for All Act, which a number of prominent LGBTQ and civil rights groups oppose. So why all the attention on religious freedoms? Are they really under threat? If so, from where or whom? And is compromise not only possible but also preferable? On this week’s show, Sarah Barringer Gordon, a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania and an expert on religious liberty who has written notably about Mormon history, explores those questions and more. She notes, among other points, that the issue has been politicized in the legislative arena and states that while some perceived risks to faith freedoms may be more imagined than real. ... Read more

27 Apr 2022

35 MINS

35:16

27 Apr 2022


#229

The co-founders of MormonLeaks discuss their four-year ride exposing secrets | Episode 230

After bursting onto the scene in 2016 by releasing leaked videos of apostles for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints privately discussing a range of topics — from politics and piracy to same-sex marriage and marijuana — Ryan McKnight, with help from his colleague Ethan Gregory Dodge, set up a website called MormonLeaks, which gave way to the Truth & Transparency Foundation, and began exposing the inner workings of the Utah-based faith and, eventually, other religions. Their goal: Push churches to be more open and honest about their practices. They revealed how much top Latter-day Saint leaders were paid. They uncovered headline-grabbing abuse allegations. And they showed slices of how much wealth the LDS Church was accumulating. Now, they’re shutting down but with one last big scoop: the widest and deepest look ever at the church’s vast U.S. real estate holdings, totaling 1.7 million acres and making the faith the nation’s fifth largest private landowner. On this week’s show, McKnight and Dodge discuss their latest findings, the work of their foundation, what it accomplished, why they’re closing shop and whether they achieved what they set out to do. We want to hear from you! Take our survey here: bit.ly/mormonland ... Read more

20 Apr 2022

40 MINS

40:47

20 Apr 2022


#228

Interview from the Holy Land with the director of BYU’s Jerusalem Center | Episode 229

It’s Holy Week for Western Christians, which culminates Sunday with Easter. The Holy Land is awash with pilgrims and tourists — including members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — who are soaking in the sites of Jesus’ last days. It also signals the reopening of Brigham Young University’s Jerusalem Center for Near East Studies after a two-year pandemic pause. In this special edition of “Mormon Land,” The Salt Lake Tribune’s senior religion reporter, Peggy Fletcher Stack, who is on assignment in the Middle East, talks with Eric D. Huntsman, a religious studies expert and the center’s new academic director, about the coming days, how the facility can deepen spirituality and much more. We want to hear from you! Take our survey here: bit.ly/mormonland ... Read more

13 Apr 2022

35 MINS

35:09

13 Apr 2022


#227

Sonia Johnson and Kate Kelly on their excommunications and the long fight for the ERA | Episode 228

To Sonia Johnson, the effort to pass the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s and ‘80s was more than merely a single political cause. It was a turning point in her life. Leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Virginia excommunicated Johnson from the Utah-based faith in 1979 for allegedly spreading false doctrine and working against them but she always maintained it was for exposing details of the church’s national campaign against the proposed constitutional amendment. The discipline prompted her to evaluate all aspects of Mormonism. It also ended her marriage. At the same time, it propelled her onto the national stage, where the iconic feminist ran for the White House and used her newfound fame on behalf of women’s equality. Some 35 years later, Kate Kelly, a Washington, D.C., activist also was excommunicated — at the same Virginia meetinghouse as Johnson — for her advocacy in pushing to ordain women to the faith’s all-male priesthood. She, too, is fighting for ratification of the ERA and has written a new book, “Ordinary Equality,” about the continuing quest to enshrine women’s rights in the Constitution. On this week’s show, Johnson and Kelly discuss their ousters from their former faith, their current feelings toward the church, their advocacy for the ERA and its prospects, along with other women who have battled for the cause of equality. ... Read more

06 Apr 2022

39 MINS

39:43

06 Apr 2022


#226

Gordon Monson shifts gears, discusses what he likes about the LDS Church | Episode 227

In January, Salt Lake Tribune columnist Gordon Monson stepped away from writing about the WNBA, NBA, NFL, NCAA, MLS, MLB and the alphabet soup of the sports world to comment on another acronym: LDS. A practicing and believing member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he rattled off 20 reforms he’d like to see his faith undertake. Now, Monson again departs from the Utah Jazz stretch drive, college football spring drills and March Madness matchups to offer, in a sort of journalistic makeup call, 20 things he likes about his church — from its lay clergy and meetinghouse basketball courts to its opportunities for service and its emphasis on Jesus. On this week’s show, Monson discusses the positives he sees in the church today. ... Read more

30 Mar 2022

34 MINS

34:41

30 Mar 2022


#225

A look back at scholar D. Michael Quinn and his devotion to honest LDS history | Episode 226

Almost a year ago, noted Latter-day Saint historian and prodigious researcher D. Michael Quinn died at age 77. Quinn, who retained his belief in the founding events of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints until his death, was pressured to resign from Brigham Young University and subsequently 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. For the past 11 months, friends and fellow academics have discussed the scholar’s legacy. On March 25, many of them will gather at the University of Utah for a one-day conference to examine and celebrate Quinn’s life. In addition, Signature Books recently published a new biography of Quinn by historian and archivist Gary Topping. Titled simply “D. Michael Quinn: Mormon Historian,” the book helps flesh out the multiple aspects of Quinn’s identity as queer, Chicano and fiercely independent. Meanwhile, Barbara Jones Brown, Signature’s new director, is researching Quinn’s unpublished memoirs, discovered by his children after his death. On this week’s show, Topping and Brown examine Quinn’s life and legacy, his battles with the faith’s hierarchy and with his own identity, as well as his unwavering commitment to an honest telling of Mormon history and how he was ahead of his time. ... Read more

23 Mar 2022

32 MINS

32:13

23 Mar 2022


#224

When righteousness becomes a debilitating obsession | Episode 225

Taylor Kerby persistently feared he would fall short of God’s love — no matter how many prayers he offered, no matter how often he read or recited scriptures and no matter how pure he kept his thoughts. Growing up in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Kerby fixated on living every commandment, avoiding a hint of anything that could be termed a sin. Righteousness was not a desire or a goal or a pursuit. It was life, and it was crippling him. He suffered from “scrupulosity,” an obsessive-compulsive disorder that focuses on moral rectitude and brings with it pathological guilt. As a teenager, this religious mania “was all-encompassing, flowing into every aspect of my life and informing the most insignificant decision,” Kerby writes in his new book, “Scrupulous: My Obsessive Compulsion for God.” On this week’s show, he talks about what that was like, how he learned to deal with it and where his faith is today. ... Read more

16 Mar 2022

44 MINS

44:19

16 Mar 2022


#223

Going to bat for Biden in a church that swings Republican | Episode 224

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-days Saints across the United States overwhelmingly lean Republican, vote Republican and identify as Republican. This week’s guest is not one of them. As national director of Latter-day Saints for Biden-Harris, Robert Taber strives to swing more members toward a different direction by campaigning for the victorious Democratic ticket before the election and lobbying for the administration’s proposals afterward. He recently endorsed Judge Katanji Brown Jackson’s historic nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, for instance, and urged the Senate to confirm her as the country’s first Black female justice. On this week’s show, Taber discuss his partisan preferences, the issues of the day, the intersection of politics and faith, and his hopes for converting more Latter-day Saints to a new way of viewing the governmental landscape. ... Read more

09 Mar 2022

35 MINS

35:54

09 Mar 2022


#222

The stories of Latter-day Saints in Ukraine | Episode 223

The world watched last week as Russian troops invaded Ukraine. Caught in the crosshairs were more than 11,000 Ukrainian members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In this special episode, Salt Lake Tribune journalists spoke with Latter-day Saints across Ukraine — and some fleeing the Eastern European nation — to learn about how they were faring, as well as how their congregations have banded together before and after the bombs started to drop. ... Read more

02 Mar 2022

35 MINS

35:17

02 Mar 2022


#221

The feds have cleared BYU, but is BYU in the clear? | Episode 222

Coming into 2022, Brigham Young University faced a federal investigation about its discrimination against LGBTQ students, allowing heterosexual couples to exhibit “romantic behavior,” while forbidding the same for same-sex couples. Eventually, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights dismissed the investigation, saying the Provo school, owned and operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is exempt from federal laws prohibiting gender-based discrimination. These exemptions began in 1976 under then-BYU President Dallin Oaks. Other issues have since surfaced at the faith’s flagship campus — such as canceling gender-affirming voice therapy for transgender clients, placing stricter limits on protests, and dealing with fallout from a controversial speech by religion professor Brad Wilcox. On this week’s show, Michael Austin, a BYU alumnus and executive vice president of academic affairs at the University of Evansville, a Methodist school in Indiana, talks about the challenges facing BYU and its academic standing. ... Read more

23 Feb 2022

38 MINS

38:30

23 Feb 2022