LDS History, Faith, and Culture

A collection of RadioWest conversations about LDS history, faith, and culture.

Historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich grew up in Sugar City, Idaho, and in the late 50s, she figured she would just “get married and have children.” So it may surprise you to hear that she coined the phrase “well-behaved women seldom make history.” Ulrich is a Mormon, a feminist, a Harvard professor, and a Pulitzer Prize-winner. She’s dedicated her career to telling the stories of early American women and helping modern women find their voices. She’s in Utah, and joins Doug on Monday.

19th century Utah photographer Charles Ellis Johnson was a son-in-law of Brigham Young with access to the state’s elite. He trained his camera on the LDS Temple and leaders like the prophet Wilford Woodruff. So what should we make of his brisk mail-order business of “spicy girls”? Art historian Mary Campbell says at a time when most Americans thought of the Saints in terms of the “barbarity” of polygamy, Johnson’s erotic photography helped make Mormons mainstream. Tuesday, she joins us to explain.

When the Mormon Church’s LGBT policy made headlines last November, it shocked a lot of people. Most mainstream Mormons have worked through it with official clarifications, but faithful LGBT members are still in pain and struggling to understand their place in the LDS Church. Critics say it’s also led to increased youth suicides, broken families, and mass resignations. Thursday, we’re talking about the effect of the policy at its one-year anniversary.

Last November, the LDS Church made policy changes that deeply affected LGBT members and their families. It labeled people in same-sex marriages as apostates subject to discipline and said children living with an LGBT parent would be barred from sacred rituals like baptism. Wednesday, in the first of two conversations on the policy’s anniversary, we’re asking how these changes came to be, why they took so many people by surprise, and what it says about LDS leadership and faith today.

Of the major U.S. religions, the LDS Church is the only one whose top leader serves until he dies. That wasn’t an issue in the 19th century when medicine rarely prolonged life after a serious illness. But today, researcher Gregory Prince says that as Church presidents live longer, they’re more likely to experience age-related conditions like dementia. It’s something he explores in a forthcoming article, and Tuesday, he joins us to explain what this “gerontocracy” means for the future of Mormonism.

The LDS Church ended the practice of polygamy more than a century ago, but author and activist Carol Lynn Pearson says the idea is “alive and unwell” in Mormon theology. According to doctrine, a man can still be spiritually sealed to multiple wives and those plural marriages are a reality in heaven. Pearson has gathered stories from more than 8000 faithful and former LDS Church members, and joins Doug Tuesday to explain why she says polygamy is still haunting Mormons today.

Monday, we're joined by University of Utah professor Paul Reeve to talk about his book Religion of a Different Color. In it, he explores how America's Protestant white majority characterized Mormons as racial outsiders in the 19th century. Protestants were convinced that members of the country's newest religion were not merely a theological departure from the mainstream, they were racially and physically different. Medical doctors even supported the claim. Reeve says the LDS church responded to those attacks with aspirations for whiteness that may have been a little too successful. (Rebroadcast)

The Mormon Jesus

Jul 14, 2016

Did you know that in the 1850s some Mormons argued that Jesus was married and had children? Or that even today, there’s LDS theology around Jesus Christ that leads Evangelicals to say The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints isn’t really Christian? Thursday, scholar John Turner is Doug’s guest. He’s written a book called The Mormon Jesus and he joins us to discuss how the LDS concept of Jesus Christ has changed over time, and what it reveals about Mormonism in American religious life.

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