Explore Latter-day Saint history, doctrine, and culture with amazing scholars
Welcome to Latter-day Saint Perspectives Podcast
Welcome to the Latter-day Saint Perspectives Podcast. I’m your host Laura Harris Hales.
I created this podcast over four and a half years ago. As I prepare to shutter the production, I am going to follow the example of fellow podcaster Nick Galieti and post an introductory episode explaining how this podcast got started, what I hoped to accomplish, and what you can expect as you listen.
The story of this podcast began in June 2016. After co-authoring the book, Joseph Smith’s Polygamy: Toward a Better Understanding and the website josephsmithspolygamy.org, my husband and I were asked to speak at a conference held in Sweden.
After our presentation, I was approached by a local member, who mentioned he was grateful my husband and I as well as other conference presenters traveled so far to visit with the Swedish members.
“We don’t have many options when we want to learn about church history,” he said. "Many of the books published in the United States are difficult to get ahold of here,” he continued. “So we are left with only listening to podcasts from antagonistic sources or devotional ones. There is no middle ground.” Then, he looked into my eyes and asked, “Can you help us? Can you give us a podcast that gives us an alternative?”
I was fresh off my experience with compiling and editing, A Reason for Faith: Navigating LDS History and Doctrine. It had been such a positive experience where all of the pieces seemed to fall naturally into place.
So when I returned to the US, I approached this new project with the same fearless gusto. Latter-day Saint Perspectives would interview respected LDS scholars about church history, doctrine, and culture from a faithful perspective.
With new audio equipment and a quivering voice, I taped my first interview with Thomas Wayment, which aired on September 19, 2016. Our topic was the Historical Jesus. It was rough and awkward, but to my great surprise and delight listeners tuned in.
Million of worldwide downloads later, it is with a appreciative heart that I say goodbye to this project.
I am thankful for the man who had the courage to approach me with his request, grateful to the guest podcasters who also shared my vision, indebted to the many outlets among them Meridian Magazine, the Mormon Interpreter, and LDS Living that reposted my material, and forever beholden to the scholars who volunteered to share their knowledge gained from years of study.
When I started this podcast, I hoped to present the most recent academic scholarship to a general audience from a faithful but not necessarily devotional perspective. I also hoped to take a deeper dive into Latter-day Saint topics than listeners could typically find in Sunday School discussions. Through the years, Latter-day Saint Perspectives has done just that. We have interviewed noted scholars about recent works as well as older but influential publications.
I invite those new to the podcast to check out our complete catalog on their favorite podcast application or at Latter-day Saint Perspectives.com. On the website, you can locate additional episodes on similar topics as well as check out a new feature.
While we will not be regularly releasing new episodes (I hesitate to say never here), our newly designed website contains a new feature. Periodically, I will be posting bite-sized blogs about books, podcasts, and video features that promote the best in Latter-day Saint scholarship. If this is something that interests you, then subscribe at latter-daysaintperspectives.com.
I have been the most unlikely of podcast hosts. Not only do I suffer from more social anxiety than average but also my vocal talent...
Learning of Joseph Smith Anew - R. Eric Smith and Matthew C. Godfrey
In this episode of Latter-day Saint Perspectives Podcast, Laura Harris Hales interviews R. Eric Smith and Matthew C. Godfrey about Know Brother Joseph: New Perspectives on Joseph Smith’s Life and Character, the new book that they coedited with Matthew J. Grow.
The Joseph Smith Papers Project has published thousands of pages of transcripts, introductions, footnotes, and supplemental materials in recent years. The project’s print volumes have sold more than 200,000 copies, and last year alone, the project’s website, josephsmithpapers.org, had more than 650,000 unique visitors.
Though the publications are aimed primarily at scholars, these numbers make it clear that Church members are the main consumers. Other recent Church publications, such as Saints: The Story of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter Days, have also made information from the Joseph Smith Papers available to many Latter-day Saints.
Still, it is undoubtedly the case that the majority of Church members have not spent time in the Joseph Smith Papers. This is certainly understandable, given the scholarly format and the sheer number of pages.
Enter Know Brother Joseph, a new collection of short essays on Joseph Smith designed to bridge that gap—to share information from the Joseph Smith Papers and other recent works of scholarship with a general Latter-day Saint audience.
The three coeditors, all of whom are general editors of the Joseph Smith Papers, invited more than 40 historians and other scholars who have spent years thinking about the founding prophet to provide insights into his history, teachings, and character attributes.
The writers were asked to share historical perspectives in a faith-promoting way, similar to how they might present information in a fireside. Some essayists also chose to discuss how something from Joseph’s experience had personal relevance to them. The result is a collection of brief, informative, inspiring essays that all Latter-day Saints can read and enjoy.
Some essayists explore familiar topics but in new ways. For example, writing on the First Vision, Robin Jensen of the Joseph Smith Papers discusses why Joseph might have waited twelve years before first writing down what he had experienced. Kathleen Flake, a professor of Mormon Studies at the University of Virginia, examines how the coming forth of the Book of Mormon and the restoration of priesthood authority solved the “problem” identified in the First Vision, namely, “Where is the power of salvation to be found on earth?”
Essays with personal details include those from Eric Smith and Elizabeth Kuehn. After relating episodes showing how Joseph Smith responded to adversity, Eric shares how Joseph’s example has given him strength to bear up against challenges in his own life. Elizabeth, a historian with the Joseph Smith Papers, discusses some of Joseph Smith’s character traits that she has been drawn to. She writes, “Spending the last several years immersed in Joseph’s history has brought him to life for me in ways I would never have imagined. It has made him become someone I feel I know.”
That writers selected their own topics allows personal enthusiasm and expertise to shine through. For example, the essay from Scott Hales, lead writer for Saints: The Story of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter Days, looks at how Joseph Smith chose to tell his own history. This kind of “meta” analysis—with one writer of history examining another—is a unique way of approaching Joseph Smith.
Essayists did not shy away from potentially challenging subjects. Chapters discuss, for example, Joseph’s evolving views on race, an altercation he had with his brother William,
What is the Restoration? with Patrick Q. Mason
About the Interview:
Celebrating the two hundredth anniversary of the Restoration has proven to be one of the few highlights of 2020 for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In commemoration, the First Presidency and Twelve Apostles issued a Bicentennial Proclamation that boldly affirmed beliefs in a restored church, restored priesthood authority (including priesthood keys), restored revelation through living prophets, and a restored fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This declaration affirmed church leaders’ consistent message regarding the importance of past revelations and the Latter-day Saint Church’s future path.
President Russell M. Nelson and other apostles have repeatedly reminded members of the church that God’s work of restoration began with Joseph Smith, but it didn’t end with him. We believe in an “ongoing Restoration”—an organic, dynamic process by which God continues to breathe life into both the church and the world not just yesterday but today and tomorrow and always. As Latter-day Saints, we hold it as an article of faith that God has much work yet to do, and many things yet to say, in the gradual unfolding of his kingdom in these modern times.
There are indeed many things that needed restoration: the fulness of the gospel, the priesthood, the church, covenants, ordinances, spiritual gifts, and so forth. We call this whole package “the restoration of all things.” But I would suggest that God isn’t concerned with restoring “things,” no matter how important, so much as he is with using those things to restore what matters most.
And what is that? Nephi explained that the restoration of the various branches of Israel—the Jews, the scattered tribes, and the remnant of Lehi—would all be accomplished not just for their own sake but as part of something bigger. What could be more significant than the gathering of Israel? The work of salvation, reconciliation, and healing whereby God will “bring about the restoration of his people upon the earth.”
In other words, “the restoration of all things” is designed with one grand aim in mind: to restore God’s people—our Father and Mother’s children, their eternal family—to wholeness.
Those of us in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints aren’t the only ones called to restore God’s family to wholeness—the work is too big, as 0.2% of the world’s population, to do by ourselves. But we are called to do some very special things. We are called to lives of holiness—that through the gift of the Atonement the title “saint” becomes less aspirational and more actual each day.
We are called to extend that holiness beyond our personal lives into our communities, thereby working toward the establishment of God’s social ideal, which we call Zion. We are called to proclaim the name and gospel of Jesus to every corner of the world. We are called to seal together the whole human family, alive and dead, in one great web of mutuality.
But if we are to fulfill our mission, we cannot be content with restoring things, no matter how powerfully those things work in our lives and our world. We are called to restore God’s people. We do so in imitation of Jesus, who loves all humanity but whose heart beats in sympathy with the oppressed and marginalized children of God. When he first proclaimed his messiahship, he did so by quoting Isaiah, the great prophet of Israel’s scattering and restoration:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised.
The poor. The brokenhearted. The captives.
The Kinderhook Plates with Mark Ashurst-McGee
Mark Ashurst-McGee discusses the story of the translation of the Kinderhook Plates by Joseph Smith, a curious episode in Latter-day Saint history.
From Conflict to Closeness with Emil Harker
About the Interview:
Many relationships may be improved simply by practicing good communication skills.
In this interview, Emil Harker discusses a program for improving our ability to communicate well in crucial conversations.
Over the past 20 years, he has counseled thousands of couples on how to improve their marriages by applying 7 critical skills:
Assuming Good IntentDefining and Accepting RealityCommunicating with the Desired Outcome in MindClear, Direct, and Sensitive CommunicationKilling CriticismsFencing ConflictDisarming Landmines
Listen as Emil Harker discusses how we can improve our most important relationships.
You can receive a free book by here on Emil's website: emilharker.com.
About Our Guest:
Emil Harker graduated with a master’s degree in family and marriage therapy in 1999 from Utah State University. He is a popular speaker for public and professional organizations and companies as he teaches his innovative communication and conflict resolution strategies from his book “You Can Turn Conflict into Closeness”: 7 Communication Skills of Successful Marriages.
Complaining Quick Reference Card
Fencing Conflict Quick Reference Card
Workbook for 7 Communication Skills
Complaining Quick Reference Guide
Fencing Conflict Quick Reference Guide
Latter-day Saints and the American Apocalypse with Christopher J. Blythe
About the Interview: The mayhem of 2020 has brought the Apocalypse to the forefront of many people’s minds, but for Latter-day Saints, this kind of thinking is nothing new. Christopher J. Blythe describes in his new book, Terrible Revolution: Latter-Day Saints and the American Apocalypse, how apocalypticism has presented itself throughout the church’s history.
Blythe notes, “Latter-day Saints of the nineteenth century belonged to an apocalyptic tradition. Their very identity was entangled with the belief that society was headed toward cataclysmic events that would uproot the current social order in favor of a divine order that would be established in its place” (p. 8). Nearly 200 years later, that tradition is still alive within Latter-day Saint culture.
In this episode, Christopher J. Blythe discusses how end-times narratives have evolved and been perpetuated not only through official Latter-day Saint leadership channels but also folk traditions and lived religion.
About Our Guest: Christopher James Blythe is a faculty research associate at the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship at Brigham Young University, as well as the coeditor of the Journal of Mormon History. He completed a PhD in American religious history from Florida State University, an MA in history from Utah State University, and BA degrees in religious studies and anthropology from Utah State University and Texas A&M University, respectively. He was a documentary editor at the Joseph Smith Papers between 2015 and 2018. Blythe lives in Springville, Utah, with his wife and three boys.
Terrible Revolution: Latter-Day Saints and the American Apocalypse
Not perfect, but worth listening to
As the hosts and guests seem to say so often about the church, its leaders, and its members, I’ll say about this podcast: “Well, it’s not perfect, and the hosts and guests certainly have their faults and don’t always get it right, but overall I enjoyed it, and I listened to almost every minute of each episode.”
My favorite LDS podcast
Why aren’t there anymore new episodes?
So many outstanding guests!