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.

 

#342

The case for a group dedicated to protecting Latter-day Saint civil rights | Episode 343

For 115 years, the NAACP, the nation’s oldest civil rights organization, has been advancing the cause of justice for Black Americans. For 111 years, the Anti-Defamation League has been doing much the same for Jewish Americans. And for 104 years, the American Civil Liberties Union has been safeguarding the constitutional rights of everyone in the United States. So which group is protecting, advocating and advancing the rights of Latter-day Saints? While The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints certainly looks out for its own interests and apologetic groups defend church teachings, no independent organization is dedicated to civil rights for members. It’s time to change that, argues Public Square Magazine. In a recent staff editorial, the online publication written from a Latter-day Saint perspective, called for the establishment of a civil rights organization to advocate for the rights of members in “political, legal and cultural spaces.” On this week’s show, Public Square Managing Editor C.D. Cunningham and Associate Editor Brianna Holmes discuss why such a group is needed, how it could operate and whom it could benefit. ... Read more

18 Jun 2024

34 MINS

34:00

18 Jun 2024


#341

Why a pastor is teaching evangelicals about the LDS Church | Episode 342

Jeff McCullough took a trip to Utah in 2020, and it changed his life. No, the evangelical pastor didn’t convert to the state’s predominant religion, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and he didn’t launch a virulent campaign to explore what some have seen as Mormonism’s heresies. Instead, he felt a divine call to launch a YouTube channel, titled Hello Saints, to, as he put it, “fight criticism with curiosity.” “Most of my Christian friends didn’t say very nice things about the people from the LDS Church,” McCullough says in his introduction, “and I don’t really like that.” So the 43-year-old Hope Chapel minister from the Bible Belt, who calls himself a “recovering Mormon basher,” set about exploring the beliefs and practices of the Utah-based faith, eager to build bridges between that church and evangelical Christians. McCullough now lives in the Beehive State and has produced more than 90 short videos comparing and contrasting “the lifestyle, culture and beliefs of Mormons and mainstream Christianity,” including questions like these: Are Mormons Christians? What do Christians and Latter-day Saints agree and disagree about? On his journey to familiarize himself and his audience with this unfamiliar faith, he has viewed General Conference, attended Sunday services, read the Book of Mormon and toured a Latter-day Saint temple. His Hello Saints channel, which operates as a nonprofit, has 60,000 subscribers and nearly 7 million views. He is currently hosting a virtual summit with interviews and presentations by Latter-day Saints and evangelicals on topics ranging from Jesus and marriage to politics and heaven. On this week’s show, McCullough discusses his online efforts, his approach and what he hopes to accomplish. ... Read more

12 Jun 2024

32 MINS

32:05

12 Jun 2024


#340

What happened behind the scenes before and after the Black priesthood ban ended | Episode 341

Forty-six years ago this month, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, under then-President Spencer W. Kimball, lifted its prohibition preventing Black men from entering the all-male priesthood and Black women and men from participating in temple rites. This historic shift, the most significant since the faith stopped practicing polygamy, abruptly ended this racist ban, but it hardly ended racism within the church. After all, 126 years of theological justifications for the ban remained, including influential works such as “Mormon Doctrine” by apostle Bruce R. McConkie. Cleanup still needed — and needs — to be done. Building on President Gordon B. Hinckley’s outreach efforts, current church leader Russell M. Nelson has called on members to lead out against racism and has cemented ties with the NAACP. Matthew Harris’ new book, “Second-Class Saints: Black Mormons and the Struggle for Racial Equality,” explores the history of the priesthood/temple ban, from its racist roots under Brigham Young to its removal and its aftermath, with an eye especially on its effects on Black Latter-day Saints. With unprecedented access to the papers of Kimball, McConkie, Hugh B. Brown and Joseph Fielding Smith, Harris offers an insider view of the decision-making process among the church hierarchy regarding issues of race and this momentous move. Join us for this conversation. ... Read more

05 Jun 2024

53 MINS

53:10

05 Jun 2024


#339

The surprising news about LDS Church growth | Episode 340

For The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, there is much to celebrate in its latest statistical report: The worldwide growth rate in the 17.2 million-member faith is growing. The expansion of congregations is expanding. And the number of U.S. states with declining membership is, well, declining. East Africa, meanwhile, is booming, the U.S. is rebounding, and many growth measures have met or surpassed pre-pandemic levels. Still, there are causes for concern: West Africa, unlike the continent’s eastern and central regions, has seen its Latter-day Saint growth slow. While the U.S. enjoyed an increase in net membership, it once again had the largest net decrease in wards and branches. California continues to bleed Latter-day Saints and growth rates in Utah, home to the global faith’s headquarters, remain near historic lows. On this week’s show, Matt Martinich, an independent researcher who tracks church movements for the websites cumorah.com and ldschurchgrowth.blogspot.com, dissects all this data and deciphers what the numbers say about the state of the church. ... Read more

29 May 2024

30 MINS

30:55

29 May 2024


#338

What was lost when the LDS Church started emphasizing covenants over community | Episode 339

Since shortening its Sunday services and refocusing its curriculum more than five years ago, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has trumpeted a home-centered, church-supported approach with an emphasis on covenant-making and covenant-keeping. This shift has some members worried about a loss of community. Gone are roadshows, pageants, sports leagues, cultural celebrations and more. While there has been an explosion of temple building, there has been a slowdown in chapel building. The church meetinghouse of today has become just that — a house for staid and stiff meetings, mainly on Sunday — and not the buzzing and bustling community centers of yesteryear. Would a return to some of that past help not only the church’s present but also its future? Candice Wendt, a staff member of McGill University’s Office of Religious and Spiritual Life and a contributing editor at Wayfare magazine, wrote about the church’s evolution from community to covenants in a recent blog post for Exponent II. She joined us for this week’s episode of “Mormon Land” to talk about what she feels is lost in the church’s efforts to emphasize individual covenants over community building. As she put it “I find when community connection and belonging get weak, motivation to be engaged in the faith tradition falters and religious life actually becomes a lot less relevant to people.” ... Read more

22 May 2024

39 MINS

39:05

22 May 2024


#337

The LDS Church isn’t dying in Germany, but it is changing | Episode 338

Born in West Germany, Ralf Grünke has been a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for most of his life. But it was complicated. And, among his Catholic and Lutheran peers, that meant he sometimes keenly felt his “otherness.” Still, being “an ugly duckling between the swans,” Grunke has written, was a “blessing in disguise.” He studied his own faith deeply, reading everything he could find, pro or con, as well as other faiths, and developed a strong foundation spiritually and scholarly. He now enjoys a spectrum of friends and contacts among all religions, while representing the Utah-based church. Grunke is the church’s assistant communication director for Central Europe, headquartered in Frankfurt. He joined “Mormon Land” for a special on-location podcast in Hamburg about the faith’s status on the Continent. ... Read more

15 May 2024

31 MINS

31:41

15 May 2024


#336

Why leaders’ efforts to keep women in the faith could backfire — and what could work | Episode 337

Without a doubt, says writer and scholar Caroline Kline, Latter-day Saint leader President Camille Johnson would have heard former church presidents telling working mothers to “come home” and focus on their families. Instead, she pursued a 30-year career as a corporate lawyer. In this episode of “Mormon Land,” Kline, assistant director of the Center for Global Mormon Studies at Southern California’s Claremont Graduate University, explains just how radical it is that the top brass of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are lauding her as a role model — and why their decision to do so may be a tough pill to swallow for some. The author of “Mormon Women at the Crossroads: Global Narratives and the Power of Connectedness” also breaks down what she sees as an increased anxiety by church leadership over female members’ activity and level of devotion, why their current efforts to reverse worrisome trends could backfire and what they could do instead to make women feel more at home. ... Read more

08 May 2024

40 MINS

40:10

08 May 2024


#335

Will a top LDS women’s leader ever again be seen as a ‘13th apostle’? | Episode 336

The role of women in any patriarchal faith is always fraught. It is especially confusing in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which celebrated women who led the charge for suffrage while also practicing polygamy. Past Latter-day Saint women like Eliza Snow and Emmeline Wells held high-profile positions in the hierarchy almost until their deaths — Susa Young Gates, an influential daughter of church prophet Brigham Young, was even dubbed a “13th apostle” — while today’s top female leaders are in and out in just five years. Earlier general presidents of the women’s Relief Society were well known to members and wielded wide personal power, but, like the current high-level female leaders, they never held offices as “general authorities.” Now comes word that, unlike yesteryear, today’s General Relief Society Presidencies don’t even meet weekly with an apostle “liaison” to the governing First Presidency. On this week’s show, April Young Bennett, a blogger and essayist for Exponent II who has seen the evolving changes for Latter-day Saint women, discusses where top female leaders stand in today’s church, what could or should be done to elevate their status, and whether women’s ordination is the only way to truly balance the gender scales in the global faith. ... Read more

01 May 2024

26 MINS

26:35

01 May 2024


#334

How near-death accounts became apocalyptic and why they attract Latter-day Saints | Episode 335

All kinds of believers and nonbelievers have described brushes with death in which they briefly left their bodies to see and feel otherworldly elements. While most scientists say these “near-death experiences” are the product of neurons firing in particular ways under particular stress, many who are religious view them as objective encounters, occurring in space and time. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints seem particularly intrigued by the way such experiences affirm their teachings of the afterlife and have rushed to buy the many books on the topic, including Betty Eadie’s 1992 bestseller, “Embraced by the Light,” and, more recently, John Pontius’ “Visions of Glory: One Man’s Astonishing Account of the Last Days.” While Eadie’s book tapped into New Age Mormonism popular in the 1980s and ‘90s, “Visions of Glory” — and the writings of Chad Daybell, a Latter-day Saint writer in Idaho who has been accused of murder — seems to draw on apocalyptic and political speculations. On this week’s show., historian Matthew Bowman, director of Mormon studies at Claremont Graduate University in Southern California and author of “The Abduction of Betty and Barney Hill: Alien Encounters, Civil Rights, and the New Age in America,” discusses this genre and its implications in Latter-day Saint culture. ... Read more

24 Apr 2024

26 MINS

26:15

24 Apr 2024


#333

What happens inside LDS families when a loved one leaves the faith | Episode 334

Few conversations are as fraught as those among family members who disagree about ideas they hold dear, and none more so than religion. Such exchanges can be especially painful for believers in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a faith that can be all encompassing with strong teachings about here and the hereafter, especially about family relationships, and practices that reflect those teachings. So what happens in families when some hold firm to the faith and others walk away? How do parents, children and siblings respond to those who have chosen a different path? Can they still love one another or does judgment make that impossible? Do they talk about it or do they slink away in silent agony? Utah Valley University’s Kimberly Abunuwara, director of the humanities program, came up with an unusual way to explore these questions. She enlisted a group of students to interview various families about how their attachment to — or distance from — Mormonism affected their connections and communications. The team then staged a performance, titled “In Good Faith,” in which student actors used those firsthand accounts from members and former members to reveal these wrenching experiences. In a special “Mormon Land” episode, recorded live at Orem’s UVU, Abunuwara and two of the student performers — Brielle Szendre and Caleb Voss — are discuss what they discovered, how the experience affected them and what others can learn from this effort. ... Read more

17 Apr 2024

54 MINS

54:39

17 Apr 2024


#332

A conversation about General Conference | Episode 333

The recently completed 194th Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints may merit no more than a mere mention in the history books of Mormonism. There were no theological breakthroughs, no major policy changes, no sweeping shake-ups among the top echelons. But the sessions did feature significant speeches, memorable moments and notable nuances. A British church leader delivered his debut conference sermon as an apostle. A longtime apostle returned to the conference pulpit after an extended absence. A Black general authority rose in the ranks to a historic level. Speakers publicly addressed the private wearing of so-called temple garments by the faithful. And the church’s aging senior leadership, led by a prophet-president inching ever closer to the century mark, made conspicuous accommodations to conference procedures. On this week’s show, Emily Jensen, web editor for Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, and Patrick Mason, head of Mormon history and culture at Utah State University, look back at the conference and what it may mean to the church and its 17.2 million members moving forward. ... Read more

10 Apr 2024

47 MINS

47:13

10 Apr 2024


#331

Who should decide when, where and how often Latter-day Saints wear temple garments? | Episode 332

Latter-day Saint leaders seem to be concerned about what they believe is the causal, even “cavalier” wearing of religious underclothing by devout members. Indeed, in a recent speech, a general authority Seventy reportedly condemned women who wear temple garments only on Sunday and to the temple and the rest of the week can be seen in “yoga pants.” He warned that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was planning to issue stricter rules about the wearing of garments. The standard instruction has essentially been for women and men to wear them “day and night.” According to a recent survey, though, some women are donning them when and where they want — and they don’t, it seems, view that as disobedience or inappropriate. At the same, it is getting tougher to find clothing, especially for women, that completely covers garments. On this week’s episode, author Kristine Haglund, former editor of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, and Laura Brignone, a Latter-day Saint research analyst at Sacramento State University, discuss the challenges in wearing garments, what some members are choosing, and what it means for their faith. ... Read more

03 Apr 2024

45 MINS

45:25

03 Apr 2024


#330

What LDS women want — in the wake of a controversial ‘priesthood power’ speech | Episode 331

A decade after the Ordain Women movement within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints made national news, another feminist issue is getting lots of media attention. During a March 17 meeting to celebrate the creation of the church’s Relief Society, J. Anette Dennis, first counselor in the faith’s global women’s organization, declared that “there is no other religious organization in the world that I know of that has so broadly given power and authority to women.” Dennis went on to say that “other faiths ordain women to roles like priest or pastor, but those individuals represent a small minority when compared to the total number of women within their congregations.” In the Utah-based church, all women “who choose a covenant relationship with God in the House of the Lord are endowed with priesthood power directly from God.” It is a sentiment that has been expressed previously by Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the church’s governing First Presidency, and by Sheri Dew, a former counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency. But when the church posted Dennis’ quote on Instagram, a flood of responses from women ensued — more than 15,000 comments. And, in an unusual acknowledgment, the church’s social media team promised to share the “thoughts, feelings and experiences” with the faith’s leaders. On this week’s show, discussing this speech, the overwhelming response it generated and the role of women in the church, are Julie Hanks, a Latter-day Saint therapist in Utah, and Amy Watkins Jensen, a Latter-day Saint middle school humanities teacher in Oakland, California, who created the Women on the Stand letter-writing campaign in the wake of women’s leaders being removed from the stand at worship services in the Bay Area. ... Read more

27 Mar 2024

34 MINS

34:40

27 Mar 2024


#329

Preserving the Kirtland and Manti temples — through the eyes of LDS historians | Episode 330

In the past, historians and preservationists were not always pleased with how The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints treated its treasured buildings. Bulldozing Utah’s Coalville Tabernacle and gutting the Logan Temple led to cries of anguish from insiders and outsiders alike. These days, though, the same groups are lauding the painstaking and resplendent renovation of the faith’s pioneer-era Manti Temple, which is now open to public tours. And they are reassured by the Salt Lake City-based church’s plans for its recent purchase of Mormonism’s first temple, in Kirtland, Ohio. On this week’s show, Matthew Grow, managing director of the church’s History Department, and Emily Utt, a curator of Latter-day Saint historic sites, discuss these preservation efforts. ... Read more

20 Mar 2024

32 MINS

32:15

20 Mar 2024


#328

A look at the Kirtland Temple’s past and its future under a new owner | Episode 329

The recent acquisition by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints of Mormonism’s first temple — in Kirtland, Ohio — along with historic buildings in Nauvoo, Ill., similarly tied to founder Joseph Smith and his band of believers thrilled the global faith’s members. For followers of the Community of Christ, formerly known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and the longtime diligent, devoted caretakers of these properties, the sale, which that faith’s top leaders acknowledged was “painful,” brought sadness, heartache and tears. While grateful for the good the $192 million purchase price will do for the Community of Christ’s future, they lament losing ownership of these cherished pieces of their past. On this week’s show to discuss that past and that future is David Howlett, a Community of Christ historian, visiting religion professor at Smith College in Massachusetts and author of “Kirtland Temple: The Biography of a Shared Mormon Sacred Space.” ... Read more

14 Mar 2024

25 MINS

25:20

14 Mar 2024


#327

The Huntsman case, ‘copycat’ tithing lawsuits and expanding LDS Church wealth | Episode 328

Money talks. It makes headlines, too. Just ask The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Utah-based faith’s finances have become a source of discussion, debate and, yes, dissent among insiders and outsiders. In recent weeks, the church’s chief investment arm, Ensign Peak Advisors, has seen its publicly reported stock portfolio shoot past $50 billion, helping to propel the global faith’s total wealth to an estimated $265 billion. Days ago, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals handed the church a mini-victory, agreeing to rehear the fraud lawsuit brought against it by a prominent Utahn, James Huntsman, who has accused Latter-day Saint leaders of misleading members about how the faith spends tithing funds. In addition, the church has been targeted in at least five states by a string of what it has called “copycat” tithing lawsuits seeking class-action status. On this week’s show, Salt Lake Tribune reporter Tony Semerad, who has been tracking the church’s finances and legal entanglements for a number of years, helps sort out all this money maneuvering and courtroom drama. ... Read more

07 Mar 2024

27 MINS

27:50

07 Mar 2024


#326

BYU’s racial history | Episode 327

Even in the 19th century, Brigham Young Academy (later Brigham Young University) welcomed students of both sexes, all nationalities, religions, races and colors. Nearly from the start, it included women, which made it distinctive among other American higher-education institutions. And the school — owned and operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — had a small but consistent nonwhite student population. That included the school’s first Black graduate, Norman Wilson (not a Latter-day Saint), who earned his degree in 1939. Grace Ann Soelberg curated a BYU exhibit honoring Wilson. She also explored how Black students were treated at the school, and how they were depicted, including examples of blackface, in its yearbooks from 1911 to 1985. On this week’s show, Soelberg, now a graduate student at the University of Utah, discusses her findings. ... Read more

28 Feb 2024

25 MINS

25:25

28 Feb 2024


#325

The life and legacy of historian D. Michael Quinn | Episode 326

What most Latter-day Saint historians and other scholars know about D. Michael Quinn is that he was, by all accounts, a remarkable researcher who could assemble disparate dots into a colorful mosaic. They may know that he was excommunicated from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as part of the “September Six” for his discussion of post-Manifesto polygamy and other controversial topics or that he was an expert in the faith’s financial dealings and hierarchy. But now, nearly three years after his death at age 77, the public will hear for the first time of his inner struggles as a gay man in the church that for most of his life preached that homosexuality was a sin. Signature Books has now published Quinn’s heartbreaking autobiography, titled “Chosen Path: A Memoir,” described as a “relentlessly episodic” look at the deeply personal agonies and ecstasies of his life and work, while offering his perspective on significant church events that occurred while he was writing about Mormonism. Three themes are thread through his entries: his relationship with himself as a closeted gay man, with his oft-absent and secretive father, and with his church. On this week’s show, Moshe Quinn, his son, who wrote a foreword, and Barbara Jones Brown, who edited the volume Quinn gleaned from his multiple journals, discuss the revelations in his memoir. ... Read more

21 Feb 2024

39 MINS

39:45

21 Feb 2024


#324

Finding love in today’s Latter-day Saint dating scene | Episode 325

Ah, Valentine’s Day, a holiday full of hearts and hopes, cards and candy, roses and romance. It’s a time couples seek their favorite table at their favorite restaurant and view their favorite rom-com from their favorite couch. What does it mean, though, for young members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? Are they on the lookout for more than gestures — indeed, eternal marriage — or do they just want to have a good time? On this week’s show, two young single adult Latter-day Saints, Sara Sumsion, who is working on a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy at Northwestern University, and Matt Judd, a health statistics consultant, discuss what the Latter-day Saint dating scene is REALLY like. ... Read more

14 Feb 2024

25 MINS

25:40

14 Feb 2024


#323

How Latter-day Saints can add other Christian traditions to Easter | Episode 324

Easter is the most significant holiday on the Christian calendar, celebrated in solemnity and song, pageantry and prayer, rituals and rejoicing, “hosannas and hallelujahs.” While members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe deeply in Christ’s resurrection, they have not participated as a church with the rest of Christendom in immersive traditions like waving palms on Palm Sunday, washing feet on Maundy Thursday or carrying a large cross for Good Friday. So, many Latter-day Saints have joined with other Christians on these holy practices. Last year, though, top Latter-day Saint leaders encouraged members to find ways to better commemorate the sacred moment when they believe Jesus rose from the dead. Eric Huntsman, a Brigham Young University professor of ancient scripture, has spent his career reading biblical texts in their original languages. Last year, Huntsman, who is currently on hiatus from his position as academic director at BYU’s Jerusalem Center, co-wrote a book with Trevan Hatch, “Greater Love Hath No Man: A Latter-day Saint Guide to Celebrating the Easter Season.” As many Christians prepare for next week’s Lent, Huntsman offers other tips on how Latter-day Saint individuals and families can better remember the “climax of the gospel story.” ... Read more

07 Feb 2024

33 MINS

33:55

07 Feb 2024


#322

Abuse and forgiveness — How gender imbalances sometimes protect LDS predators | Episode 323

Chelsea Goodrich was a returned missionary pursuing a graduate degree in California when she came forward with allegations that her father, John Goodrich, had molested her throughout her childhood. (In a statement to The Salt Lake Tribune, John Goodrich has denied the accusations of sexual assault.) The alleged abuse, the subject of a recent Associated Press investigation, is not the reason, however, that Chelsea, now a 38-year-old licensed counselor, no longer identifies as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She attributes that shift to the response she received when she tried to protect children. Friends and family, many from the tightknit Latter-day Saint community of Mountain Home, Idaho, where she grew up, discouraged her from continuing to press the matter, urging her instead to forgive her father. In this week’s episode, she joins Deidre Nicole Green, a Latter-day Saint and theologian at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, Calif., to discuss how church leaders, members and others sometimes “weaponize” forgiveness, silencing survivors and preventing justice. ... Read more

31 Jan 2024

41 MINS

41:10

31 Jan 2024


#321

Why can’t Latter-day Saint girls pass the sacrament? | Episode 322

Every year, a new crop of young Latter-day Saints turning 12 by December will graduate from Primary, the faith’s program for children. The boys will get a new title — “deacon” — and start passing the bread and water of the sacrament (known as Communion in other Christian faiths and mostly distributed by priests and pastors), while the girls will start attending the Young Women’s program and get no new identity. Why is there such a gender difference around the sacrament in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? Tradition, says Sam Brunson, a Latter-day Saint tax attorney in Chicago who often writes about church issues on the blog By Common Consent. Or, in other words, “policy choices that church leaders made decades ago.” Yes, the church has an all-male priesthood, but is passing the sacrament really a priesthood function? And if the Utah-based faith allows young women to carry those trays, does that mean they have to open up the priesthood to women? On this week’s show, Brunson talks about how such differences came to be in the church and why he thinks some of them could be revised — without formally giving women the priesthood. ... Read more

24 Jan 2024

26 MINS

26:27

24 Jan 2024