LDS History, Faith, and Culture

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

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.

When she was 22 years old, Judith Freeman was struggling. Having abandoned her family’s Mormon faith, she was in the process of a divorce and having an affair with her son’s heart surgeon, a married father of three. In the midst of this turmoil, Freeman resolved to become a writer. Well, she did. Her seventh published book is a memoir, called The Latter Days. It’s about that pivotal, trying time in her youth. Freeman joins us Tuesday to talk about her story of resilience, forgiveness, and self-discovery.

Thursday, we’re talking about the controversial career of Mormon historian Leonard Arrington. Arrington was the first professional head of LDS Church History, but his academic rigor and candor didn’t sit well with everyone in the hierarchy. Within a decade, he was removed from office and a number of scholars would eventually face Church discipline. Biographer Greg Prince joins Doug to explain how Arrington changed our understanding of Mormonism and how his legacy is felt in LDS scholarship today.

The First Vision

May 16, 2016
CC via The LDS Life on YouTube

Joseph Smith claimed that God and Jesus appeared to him in 1820 to tell him all churches were wrong, which led him to found the Mormon faith. Late LDS President Gordon B. Hinckley once said the Church’s “whole strength rests on the validity of that vision.” Smith told multiple versions over the years though, and critics say discrepancies are proof he made it all up. Monday, we’re talking about the “First Vision,” the role it’s played in Church history and what it reveals about Mormonism today.

Saving Alex

Mar 31, 2016

Alex Cooper was 15 when she told her Mormon parents she was gay. She knew that it would be difficult, but she couldn’t have expected what happened next. They sent her stay with a couple in St. George who promised to “save” Alex from homosexuality. What the “treatment program” relied on though was verbal, psychological and physical abuse. Thursday, our guest is scholar Joanna Brooks. She co-authored Alex’s memoir, and joins us to talk about how this happened and what it really took to save Alex.

  Utah Senator Steve Urquhart says the LDS Church “effectively snuffed out” his bill to strengthen the state’s hate crime laws. Last week, the Church criticized any legislation that would upset the “careful balance” Utah achieved between LGBT rights and religious liberty with last year’s anti-discrimination law. Wednesday, Urquhart and others will join us to talk about the timing of his bill, what balance should look like it, and why proponents argue the state’s current hate crime law falls short.

Last week, an advocacy group made headlines when they said there’s been a startling increase in suicides among LGBT Mormon youth. They blamed LDS Church policy which labels members in same-sex marriages as apostates. It’s hard to get a line on those statistics though, and while the anecdotal numbers are problematic, they still raise serious concerns. Tuesday, we’re asking what we know about depression and suicide in gay Mormons and whether the Church’s vocal stance contributes to that risk.

Bundy-style Mormonism

Jan 14, 2016
Gage Skidmore, cc via Wikipedia

Thursday we’re asking if the occupation of a federal office in Oregon is a Mormon enterprise, and if so, what kind of Mormonism? The Bundy brothers leading the group are LDS, and they use Mormon theology to talk about motives and dealing with “tyranny.” The Church has condemned the tactics, and while the Bundys’ views aren’t mainstream, historian Patrick Mason says they didn’t come out of thin air. He and others join us to talk about the groups’ politics and faith in relation to Mormon orthodoxy.

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