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So You Want to Talk About Mormonism
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So You Want to Talk About Mormonism

Author: Nick Stainback

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A podcast for the curious Mormon.
14 Episodes
Dr. Taylor Petrey is an Associate Professor of Religion at Kalamazoo College where he teaches courses on the Bible and biblical interpretation, early Christianity, ancient Judaism, and theory and method in the study of religion. He is the author of several books and publications and is the current editor of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. He may be best known for his most recent work Tabernacles of Clay: Sexuality and Gender in Modern Mormonism, for which he won the 2021 Best Book Award through the Mormon History Association. In Tabernacles of Clay,  Dr Petrey meticulously documents the changing narratives within the LDS church that have informed and shaped its doctrinal perspectives over a period of decades. Taylor and I will be covering the church’s evolving views on race, marriage, sexuality, and gender in this conversation. You can find his book at the following link:
William Davis is the author of Visions in a Seer Stone: Joseph Smith and the Making of the Book of Mormon published last year by the University of North Carolina Press. It is this book that William and I discuss at length in the podcast today. We try to cover some of the most interesting topics in the book, Joseph Smith’s history with seer stones, his early experiences with exhorting and debate society, and aspects of 19th century sermon culture familiar to Smith that end up within the text of the Book of Mormon. Whether you believe the Book of Mormon is a translation of ancient records, or that Joseph Smith was the author, Davis’ work sheds greater light on the production process. William also spends time addressing common apologetics around Joseph Smith’s level of education and whether he was capable of producing a work like the Book of Mormon naturalistically. You can find the book at the following link:
Emily Kaplan is a writer and journalist whose work has appeared in publications such as The Atlantic, NPR, The New York Times, and The Washington Post Magazine. You can find selections of her work at There, you’ll find that her writing topics range from immigration, to education, to Mormonism. Her most recent piece is titled “The Rise of the Liberal Latter-Day Saints” and has received much attention since its publication in the Washington Post Magazine last week. Today Emily is joining me for a discussion on the topic of Liberal Latter Day Saints, as well as the tensions that arise when a minority faction within a faith becomes larger and more vocal. We’ll also discuss the challenges of expressing spiritual autonomy in a church that puts great emphasis on hierarchal authority. You can find Emily's article at the link below:
Today on the Talk Mormonism podcast I am joined by Konden Smith Hansen, professor of religious studies at the University of Arizona. Konden specializes in American Religious History, with a particular expertise in Mormon Studies. He’s also the author of Frontier Religion: Mormons in America and co-editor of a recently published book titled The Reed Smoot Hearings: The Investigation of a Mormon Senator and the Transformation of an American Religion, available through the University of Utah Press. In this episode, Dr. Smith Hansen and I will discuss one of the most impactful events in Mormon history: the Reed Smoot senate hearings. The hearings have come to be seen by scholars as the catalyst that resulted in a tamed Mormonism-it forced leaders like Reed Smoot and Joseph F. Smith to conform the Mormon identity by making it more in tune with mainstream Protestantism. The Mormonism born out of the Reed Smoot hearings was a faith free of its most distinctive and divisive practices-things like polygamy and theocratic rule. The U.S. senate was left to try and determine whether this form of Mormonism represented by Smoot, Smith, and other Mormon leaders, was an act or the truth.  You can find Dr. Smith Hansen's latest book at the following link:
Today on the Talk Mormonism podcast I am joined by Terryl Givens, popular LDS scholar, and author. He is currently a Neal A. Maxwell Senior Research fellow at Brigham Young University, and author of several noteworthy books on Mormon history and theology. Terryl is known for books such as People of Paradox, By The Hand of Mormon, and the Pearl of Greatest Price. He has also coauthored several books with his wife Fiona, including The Christ who Heals, The Crucible of Doubt, and All Things New: Rethinking Sin, Salvation, and Everything in Between. Most recently, Terryl has authored an expansive biography of Eugene England, one of the most infamous characters in modern LDS history. The book is Stretching the Heavens: The Life of Eugene England and the Crisis of Modern Mormonism available now through the University of North Carolina Press. An intellectual perhaps ahead of his time, England found himself in the crosshairs of LDS church authorities on several occasions for his theological speculations and political activism. Although somewhat controversial for the time, many of England’s positions have shown him to be a visionary who was simply ahead of the Mormon curve. He refuted the idea of a priesthood and temple ban on Black members of the church, critiqued institutional sexism, and struggled with Mormon narratives of prophetic infallibility.    Terryl Givens and I will spend some time reflecting on England’s life: his formative years as a missionary to Samoa, his activism at Stanford, formation of the Dialogue journal, and of course, his notorious conflict with Bruce R. McConkie. We’ll also talk about the social and religious shifts that culminated in what Terryl calls the "crisis of Mormon modernism." You can order "Stretching the Heavens" at the following link: 
Today on the Talk Mormonism podcast I am joined by Colby Townsend, PhD student in English at Indiana University Bloomington, and author of the paper “Translation as Expansion: The Method of Joseph Smith’s Revision of Genesis in Moses 1 and 7.” “Translation as Expansion” was published in the October 2020 edition of the Journal of Mormon History and has been making waves throughout the Mormon studies community ever since. In this interview, Colby and I spent some time discussing the field of literary criticism and the methods used to make sense of texts-in this case scriptural texts produced by Joseph Smith. This topic is understandably controversial within the Mormon community, there seems to be no end to theories and opinions as to what Joseph Smith meant by “translation,” and recent scholarship around this topic has continued to shift the debate in new, sometimes challenging directions. Colby and I discuss his paper, focusing specifically on the production of the Book of Moses, but we also assess the unique predicament facing Mormon scholars attempting to make sense of the term “translation” in light of new scholarship. 
Today on the Talk Mormonism podcast I am joined by Dr. James Simeone, professor of political science at Illinois Wesleyan University and author of The Saints and The State: The Mormon Troubles in Illinois. It feels like we’ve been well supplied with scholarship around the events of Nauvoo recently, following the work done by the Joseph Smith papers project, books by Benjamin Park, Spencer McBride and others have helped shed more light on this era of Mormon history. The Saints and the State is an important addition, it’s not just a straightforward telling of historical events, it’s more of an analysis of the political and social system that created the Nauvoo situation. In the book, Dr. Simeone paints a vivid picture of Antebellum America, with its developing democracies, frontier justice, and rising religious pluralism. It was circumstances like these, and other factors that combined to create the tension between Illinois settlers and the Mormon refugees. You can find The Saints and the State  at the following links:,The%20Saints%20and%20the%20State%3A%20The%20Mormon%20Troubles%20in%20Illinois,)%20Hardcover%20%E2%80%93%20May%205%2C%202021&text=Find%20all%20the%20books%2C%20read%20about%20the%20author%2C%20and%20more.&text=A%20compelling%20history%20of%20the,American%20democracy%20and%20religious%20tolerance.
Today on the Talk Mormonism podcast, I am joined by Bryan Buchanan. Bryan is the co-host of the Sunstone Mormon History podcast, employee at the renowned Benchmark Books in Salt Lake City, and now, editor of a collection of essays titled: Continuing Revelation: Essays on Doctrine. In our interview, Bryan and I discussed several topics including: the role of continuing revelation in a traditionally conservative church, the struggle to define Mormon doctrine, and the LDS church’s complicated relationship with theologians. His book is available through Signature Books and on Amazon at the following links:
Today on the Talk Mormonism podcast I am joined by Dr. Cristina Rosetti, author of a recently published paper for the July edition of the Journal of Mormon History titled: “Hysteria Excommunicatus: Loyalty Oaths, Excommunication, And the Forging of a Mormon Identity.”  Cristina holds a PhD in religious studies from the University of California Riverside, and come fall, she’ll be working as a visiting assistant professor at Claremont Mckenna College. Her research focuses on the history and lived experience of Mormon fundamentalists in the Intermountain West. She’s also working on an upcoming biography of Joseph W. Musser, the man some refer to as “the Father of the Fundamentalist Mormon movement.”In our interview we covered the tumultuous period in LDS history in which the practice of polygamy, aka the new and everlasting covenant of marriage, was being phased out under the direction of President Heber J. Grant. We’ll talk about the stigmas, loyalty oaths, and excommunications that helped forge what Cristina Rosetti calls “a new Mormon identity.” 
Today on the Talk Mormonism podcast, I am joined by retired Brigham Young University professor Charley Harrell. He is the author of “This Is My Doctrine: The Development of Mormon Theology,” a massive exposition of just about every fundamental Mormon doctrine. In our interview, Charley and I discussed the process of writing the book, some of the pushback he received from BYU administration prior to publishing it, and how he feels about its impact now ten years after its publication. We also spent some time talking about the development of certain doctrinal topics in Mormonism, primarily the Godhead, priesthood, and the Mormon concept of “restoration.” You can purchase Charles Harrell's book at the following link:
Today on the Talk Mormonism podcast, I am joined by University of Utah professor Dr. Paul Reeve. Paul is the author of an award-winning book titled "Religion of a Different Color: Race and the Mormon Struggle for Whiteness." We discuss the history of race in the LDS tradition, the implications of prophetic infallibility, and the ongoing process of racial reconciliation in modern Mormonism. You can order Dr. Reeve's book here:
Today on the Talk Mormonism podcast I am joined by Brooke LeFevre, author of a recent paper published in the Journal of Mormon History titled: "I Would Not Risk My Salvation to Any Man": Eliza R. Snow's Challenge to Salvific Coverture. We explore Eliza R. Snow’s feelings about Mormon patriarchy, the early saints understanding of “salvation,” and whether salvific coverture is alive and well in Mormonism today. 
Today I am joined by Katie Langston, author of the recently published memoir Sealed: An Unexpected Journey into the Heart of Grace. Katie is a writer, preacher, evangelist, and digital communications specialist. She’s the Director of Digital Strategy for Luther Seminary’s innovation department, where she oversees digital projects aimed a cultivating vibrant Christian spirituality in a post-modern, post-Christian cultural context. She writes and speaks to Christian audiences about Mormonism and to Mormon audiences about Christianity, and is a popular blogger, podcast guest, and presenter. She is a pastoral intern at a redevelopment congregation in the greater Twin Cities metro and is preparing for ordination in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.Her book is available for purchase at the link below:
Today on the Talk Mormonism podcast I am joined by Dr. Matt Harris for a conversation around the topic of the priesthood and temple restriction on Black Mormons. Dr. Harris is a professor of history at Colorado State University-Peublo. His book, The Mormon Church & Blacks: A Documentary History, is available for purchase at the link below:
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