LDS History, Faith, and Culture

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

Eric Samuelsen's "3"

Mar 25, 2014

Wednesday, we're profiling the last play in Plan B Theatre's season dedicated to Utah playwright Eric Samuelsen. It's called 3, and it consists of three one-acts about contemporary Mormon women. Samuelsen's play doesn't follow the headlines of LDS women seeking access to the Church's all-male priesthood, and it's not the satirical characters often found on Utah stages. It's an intimate portrait of women navigating their own culture. He'll join Doug, along with director Cheryl Ann Cluff and cast, to talk about the production.

More Good Foundation, CC via Flickr

Tuesday, we’re joined by Jodi Kantor and Laurie Goodstein, reporters at the New York Times whose recent articles about the role of women in the LDS Church appeared in the paper. Kantor and Goodstein spent months interviewing women around the world about their Mormon experience. We’ll talk to them about what they learned about the evolving role of women in the faith. We’ll also ask how the church is adapting as women wield increasing economic sway and more responsibility in the workplace, and we hope to hear from you.

The Century Monthly Magazine, v. 63, 1901-1902 Nov-April;

When Joseph Smith was assassinated in 1844, members of the LDS Church found themselves without a leader. Brigham Young emerged as the most famous candidate to replace him, but James Jesse Strang was the most prolific. Like Smith, Strang claimed to see visions and translate lost religious texts from buried metal plates. But unlike Smith, his followers declared him King of Lake Michigan’s Beaver Island, enrobed him in red flannel and bestowed upon him a tin crown. Independent historian John Hamer joins us Thursday to talk about James Strang, what drew him to the Mormons, and what the Mormons drew from him.

Minty Shauna, via

Last week, the LDS Church posted a video supporting current Utah alcohol laws to their web site. But political observers say there's a relative dearth of bills aimed at reforming the regulations this legislative session, which left them wondering why the church is taking such a public stance on the issue. Wednesday, we’ll talk to representatives from the church about it. We’ll also hear from a state legislator, and talk with a panel of guests about the LDS Church’s influence in local and national politics.

Polygamy Decriminalized

Dec 15, 2013

Friday, federal judge Clark Waddoups delivered a ruling that essentially decriminalizes polygamy in Utah. It's still illegal to have more than one marriage license, but Waddoups overturned the part of the law that made it a 3rd degree felony to cohabit with someone while legally married to another person.  Attorney for the plaintiffs, the polygamist Brown family of Sister Wives fame, called this a victory for privacy in America. Monday, we're talking about the ruling and what it says about what makes a family.

Monday, Doug's guest is activist Elizabeth Smart. Smart became a household name in 2002 when the then-fourteen-year-old was kidnapped from her Salt Lake City home by self-styled prophet Brian David Mitchell and his wife. Smart endured abuse and deprivation until her remarkable rescue nine months later, and has since transformed herself from victim to advocate for children's safety. Elizabeth Smart has just published a memoir and joins Doug for a candid discussion about her abduction and her journey home.

Ordain Women, CC via Flickr,

Saturday, Mormon women made headlines as they sought entrance into the all-male Priesthood meeting at the LDS Church's General Conference. One-by-one, 130 women organized by the group Ordain Women were turned away. Gender roles were the topic of some talks from the pulpit, but there were also messages of inclusion for those who have left the Church and of compassion for people suffering from depression. Tuesday, we're gathering a panel of observers to talk about the conference – and what it tells us about today's LDS Church.

Black Mormon

Aug 20, 2013

In 1836, Elijah Ables, a man of mixed-race, was ordained to the priesthood of the Mormon Church. He was a committed friend of Joseph Smith, and Ables dedicated himself to the faith. But in his lifetime, he'd see the Church ban blacks from full membership and his adopted home of Utah become a slave-holding territory. Historian Russell Stevenson has written a new biography of Elijah Ables, and Wednesday, he joins Doug to talk about Ables' life and Mormonism's racial history.

Teaching Chastity

May 7, 2013
Seth Youngblood, CC via Flickr,

Last week, Elizabeth Smart spoke at a human trafficking forum about her 9 months as a kidnap and sexual assault victim. She said one reason she didn't run away was a story she remembered that equated a girl that had sex to a chewed stick of gum that no one would want. It's an object lesson on purity that many LDS women recognize and it's sparked a conversation on the language we use to discuss chastity, sex and a woman's worth. Wednesday, Doug is joined by Mormon writer Joanna Brooks and others to talk about it and we hope to hear from you as well.

J. Stephen Conn, CC via Flickr,

Thursday, we're talking about the role of women in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Over the last few years, a movement of Mormon women asserting their rights within the Church has reemerged. They've been asking to pray in general conference and be more involved in day-to-day decisions. Now there is a group asking to be given the LDS priesthood. But why haven't women been given the priesthood? Is it a doctrinal issue or a cultural one? Doug is joined by Mormon women to talk about the history and about what's at stake.