Scholars & Saints: The University of Virginia Mormon Studies Podcast

An Education, History and Religion podcast
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On this episode of Scholars & Saints, we're chatting about Mormons and secularism. In his recent book Make Yourselves Gods: Mormons and the Unfinished Business of American Secularism, Peter Coviello argues that early Mormonism resisted the biopolitical disciplines of the secular nation-state, largely because of Joseph Smith's doctrine of human divinization, or what Coviello calls "the radiant body." 
Today on Scholars and Saints we’re talking about the ways in which the American Frontier acted as a kind of religion of “Americanness” in 19th century America. We’ll talk about how Latter-day Saints fit into that American Frontier religion, and how they negotiated and contested the boundaries of Americanness and good religion in their encounters with Protestants. Ultimately, this is a story about secularization, in which we learn that for Mormons, “becoming secular” didn’t mean becoming areligious; secularization was a constant process of creative give and take in an American culture that was learning to tell new stories about itself. 
Today on Scholars & Saints, I’m chatting with Professor Michael MacKay of Brigham Young University and Dr. Mark Ashurst-McGee of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Joseph Smith Papers Project about Joseph Smith and what he termed “translations” of ancient documents. In this episode we review essays by Ann Taves, Michael MacKay, Jared Hickman, Samuel Morris Brown, Mark Ashurst-McGee and others, which bring new methods, including the methods of religious studies to bear on the question of what it meant for Joseph Smith to “translate” and how his translations contributed to the development of Mormon Christianity.
Today on Scholars & Saints, I’m chatting with Professor Ronit Stahl about the US military chaplaincy. During World War I, the unprecedented size of the US military, along with a mandatory draft meant that the military had to contend for the first time with large scale religious pluralism. Over the course of the twentieth century, the military chaplaincy changed both the military and religion. Along with other minority faiths, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints posed unique challenges but also served as a catalyst for change in the ways that the military categorized and interfaced with religion.
Today on Scholars & Saints, I’m chatting with Professor Stephen Taysom about former Latter-day Saint president Joseph F. Smith. The nephew of church founder, Joseph Smith, Jr., Joseph F. Smith witnessed many of the most striking events of early Mormonism from his childhood in Nauvoo, to his adolescence on the Midwestern plains, to the settlement of the Great Basin in Utah, and more. A complex figure, Smith was known as much for his courage as for his temper. He was supremely confident and privately insecure. He was a committed polygamist, and yet he was responsible for transitioning the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints into a new era of exclusive monogamy. In this episode we’ll discuss Smith’s complicated life and reflect on what it means to apply the methods of religious studies to biography. Please note: this episode contains descriptions of domestic violence that some listeners may find disturbing.
The body has always played a central role in Latter-day Saint religious experience: touching, seeing, building, walking, sweating, and even bleeding sculpt the ways Latter-day Saints think about God, the world, and themselves. From the Gold Plates, to the Mormon Trail, to the Salt Lake Temple, Latter-day Saints mark and interpret space in ways that have profound implications for history and memory. Today I speak with Professor Sara Patterson about her recent book, Pioneers in the Attic: Place and Memory Along the Mormon Trail, published by Oxford University Press. 
From the early days of Joseph Smith’s religious movement, Mormons have creatively navigated tensions with American culture and government through political activity. In 1844, Joseph Smith ran for president and even sent out missionaries to campaign for him. In the early 20th century, Apostle Reed Smoot served in the US Senate for many years. Decades later, Apostle Ezra Taft Benson would serve as US Secretary of Agriculture under President Eisenhower. In recent years Harry Reid, a Democrat, served as Senate Majority Leader, and in 2012 Mitt Romney was selected by the Republican National Committee as the Republican candidate for president. Today I speak with Professor David Campbell and Professor Kathleen Flake about Latter-day Saints, American Politics, and the 2020 presidential election. 
In this episode, Quincy Newell joins me to talk about her book Your Sister in the Gospel: The Life of Jane Manning James, a Nineteenth-Century Black Mormon. We explore how Jane James's experiences shed light on race, gender, and religion in the American West of the 19th century.
We explore Mormon ideas about the end of the world. In his recent book, Terrible Revolution: Latter-day Saints and the American Apocalypse, Christopher James Blythe argues that Latter-day Saint apocalyptic prophecy has changed over time. What began as the expectation of an imminent apocalypse in early Mormonism changed in the early 20th century as Latter-day Saints in the United States returned from isolation in the Rocky Mountains to become culturally American again. Dr. Blythe reveals how change and adaptation have been driven by tensions between lay and official prophecy and the relationship between church and nation.
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Podcast Details

Created by
Stephen Betts
Podcast Status
Active
Started
Aug 21st, 2020
Latest Episode
Jan 4th, 2021
Release Period
Monthly
Episodes
9
Avg. Episode Length
About 1 hour
Explicit
No
Order
Episodic
Language
English

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