057: Women and the LDS Church Part 3 — An Interview with Dr. Claudia L. Bushman

Today we hear from one of the foremost voices on Women’s Issues within Mormonism: Dr. Claudia Bushman.

Dr. Bushman is a historian by training, and has taught at Columbia University for many years. She is the author of several books and articles, including: “Mormon Sisters: Women of Early Utah” and “Mormon Domestic Life in the 1870s: Pandemonium or Acadia“. Perhaps most significantly, Dr. Bushman is one of the founders of Exponent II, a Boston-based magazine and now blog focused on feminism and women’s issues within Mormonism. She is also one of the early contributors to the now famous “Pink Issue” of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought — which was a pivotal work dealing directly with Mormon women’s issues.

In this interview with Dr. Bushman, we learn what she means when she describes herself as a Mormon Feminist. She also recounts her involvement in the formation of Exponent II, as well as in the broader area of women’s issues in the LDS church. To conclude, Dr. Bushman discusses her views on the critical role of women in the church today — and how we, as a church, might work to better accommodate, and better utilize women in the 21st century.

I would also like to express my deep gratitude to Melissa Wei-Tsing Inouye, who conducted this interview for Mormon Stories podcast. Melissa is completing her Ph.D . at Harvard University, and specializes in the history of China’s Christian communities.

To participate in a discussion about this episode, check out the Exponent II blog.

Also, to hear more of Skye Pixton’s music (as featured on this episode), check out: http://skyepixton.com

What is Mormon Stories Podcast?

For those who are curious (and since many are asking), Mormon Stories is a blog and podcast (think radio show) dedicated to encouraging more open discussion, more knowledge, and less pain within Mormonism through the sharing of stories. We share stories in audio, video, and written format. We have interviewed Mormons of all types on the show — from conservative to liberal, from active to former Mormons. We have covered many of the tougher topics within Mormonism, including faith and belief, the life of Joseph Smith, the Mason/Mormon connection, polygamy, race, gender issues and homosexuality.

Need Help on My Next Interview(s) for Mormon Women


Over the next 2 weeks, I desperately need to either:

….that covers the following topics:

  • “Prominent or Significant 19th Century Mormon Women”
  • “The Involvement of LDS Women in the Suffragist Movement”
  • And more generally, “10 Mormon Women Everyone Should Know”

Please, please, please help if you can….and please spread the word.  These are big holes in my agenda for this series.

056: Women and the LDS Church Part 2 — The Three Waves of Feminism in the USA

Any discussion of women in the LDS Church would be incomplete without first understanding a bit about the history of women more broadly within the context of 19th and 20th century America. Consequently, in part 2 of this multi-part series on Women in the LDS Church, we will hear from an LDS woman who also teaches women’s studies at a division 1 university in the US. She will discuss the 3 major phases of feminism in the United States, trace its history from the mid 1800s to today, and will conclude with her own reflections about being an LDS woman in 2007. We hope that this will set the stage for the rest of the episodes on LDS women, and most importantly, we hope that you enjoy the discussion.

To comment on this episode, please check out Zelophehad’s Daughters.

Episode 1 of New Podcast — Mormon Matters — Now Up!

Episode 1 of our new podcast — Mormon Matters — is now up.

Check it out here.

Panelists: Julianne Hatton, J. Nelson-Seawright, Ann Porter, John Hamer, and John Dehlin (Moderator)

Topics: An introduction to Mormon Matters, PBS’s “The Mormons”, and an Ensign Article entitled: A Firm Foundation in a Shaky World.

Also, a big thanks to Skye Pixton for providing the music for this episode.

You can download it directly, or subscribe via iTunes. We hope you enjoy!!!!

055: Women and the LDS Church Part 1 — An Introduction

To keep this podcast alive, please consider donating to Mormon Stories by clicking on the “Make a Donation” button at the top right of this blog.


To access this interview, subscribe via iTunes, or click here to listen to the audio directly.

The text of this introduction is (roughly as follows):

In 1789, the United States of American entered its first official year of operation. To many, the US represented a shining, new symbol to the world of Liberty. Equality. and Freedom. And rightly so.

Notwithstanding, for the first 82 years of its history — the nation born under the ideals of “no taxation without representation” and “of the people, by the people and for the people” — denied voting rights to over 50% of its adult population — including blacks, and women. Some of the founding fathers, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, were themselves slaveholders.

81 years later, in 1870, the 15th amendment to the United States constitution was ratified — guaranteeing (at least in theory) the right to vote to black men.

Many of the women who played pivotal roles helping to free the blacks were hoping that they, too, would benefit from this new era of electoral openness — but it was not yet to be. Once black men got the vote, it took another fifty years — or until 1920 — for women, of any color, to obtain the same voting rights as these male, former slaves had received.

That’s 131 years from the time the country was founded.

fMhLisa of Feminist Mormon Housewives Interviewed on “Radio Ritas”

For those interested, and as part of my focus on Women in the LDS church over the next month or so, I’d like to share with you fMhLisa’s interview from the Radio Ritas podcast.  For those of you who don’t know, Lisa is the Founder of the Mormon blogging juggernaut that is Feminist Mormon Housewives.

Please go here to comment about the interview….

You go, Lisa!!!!

Any Graphic Designer Fans? Need Help w/ New Podcast: Mormon Matters

Hey!!! I’m teaming with some friends to start a new podcast called Mormon Matters (without interfering w/ Mormon Stories, of course). It’s intended to be a weekly audio program/panel reviewing the latest issues within Mormonism. The panel will rotate from week to week.

The goal is to have representatives from across the idealogical and theological spectrum…from traditionalists to liberals…discussing interesting Mormon things. Maybe even non-Mo’s from time to time.

Anyway, since iTunes has already accepted our feed, we need a podcast graphic PRONTO.

Are there any Mormon Stories fans out there who are also graphic designers — who would be willing to throw together a quick 300×300 graphic for our podcast? If so, please let me know.

Thanks in advance!!!

Please Help Me Select Some Seminal Past Sunstone/MHA Presentations on Women’s Issues

Mormon Stories Listeners,

I have a few good interviews in the works, so things are really starting to move. As always, thanks for your patience.

As a supplement to this series, I’d love to highlight (and maybe even distribute) some of the “seminal” Sunstone/MHA presentations on Women’s issues in the church.

If you have some time, please help me peruse the Sunstone archive for important presentations. You can search by topic (Women, Women’s Studies, Feminism, etc.) presenter (Claudia Bushman, Cecelia Farr, etc.) , or by symposium date/location — so hopefully it will be easy enough for you all.

Please reply here (via comments) w/ your favorites.

Thanks! More very soon!!!!

Mormon Stories Stats

One of the the many things that has been delaying my latest burst of podcast productivity is my final effort to complete my Masters degree at USU in Instructional Technology. My primary “to do” has been finishing a project report on the Mormon Stories blog and podcast.

I have gathered a bunch of data for the past 21 months, and for fun (and to avoid actually FINISHING my paper), I thought I would share the results with you (5 charts included below).

But don’t worry! Much new podcast goodness really is on the way! In the mean time, enjoy the stats that YOU have made possible!!!!

Quick Update on Women Series: New Collaborators, Martha Bradley and MHA

A quick update on the Women in Mormonism series. I have not forgotten about you!!!

First off, my interviewee for Episode 1 has been swamped, so we’re still in a holding pattern until the semester ends. I hope to do the recording within the next week and a half (at the latest?).

Also, I have been contacted by a few new collaborators — one of which has direct contact w/ Claudia Bushman and Laurel Thatcher Ulrich. I’m really crossing my fingers w/ those two. If any of you have relationships with either, I’d love for you to put in a good word (if you’re comfortable/able). Same with Martha Bradley. If any of you would be willing to ping her about doing an episode on her recent book, I’d be pleased as punch. Tell her that our listener base has swelled to over 5,000 downloads per episode, so maybe we can help her sell a few more books. 😉

Finally, we may try to pull off a few “in person” interviews at the MHA conference next week. If any of you have ideas about Women interviews at MHA (and would like to be an interviewee), please let me know. I’d LOVE to have a few producers pull off some quality interviews for me.

More soon! Thanks for your patience!!!!

Why Am I Now Pink?

Why is Mormon Stories pink all of the sudden?

As promised, I have committed to dedicate the next 5 episodes of Mormon Stories Podcast to LDS Women’s issues.

However, I need your help. I cannot do this alone.  Specifically:

  • What stuff should I read before conducting the interviews?
  • Should I team up with a woman to conduct the interviews? Better yet, should I ask a woman (or women) to conduct the interviews without my participation? If so, who?
  • What should the 5+ episodes entail?
  • Who should I interview for each episode?
  • What should be covered in each episode?

Please don’t answer any of these questions here. I will create a blog post dedicated to each of these questions. In the mean time, I have created a wiki page for collaboration on these topics. Please check it out here, and feel free to help me enhance/augment. You can do so by registering, or anonymously.

I very much look forward to working with you all to knock this series out of the park. This may be the most important thing I do with Mormon Stories.

Approaching Mormon Doctrine: A Press Release

(From my buddy KC)

For me, this is an historical press release. There is so much in here — I could write a book. We should all print this out, and keep it with our scriptures, and quote from it regularly in church.

To editorialize for a minute, this makes me very, very happy.  I witty commenter mentioned to me, “By the definition of “doctrine” in the press release, this press release does not qualify as doctrine.”  Well, though that might be technically true, it’s doctrine to me.  🙂

I look forward to the discussion.

SALT LAKE CITY 4 May 2007 Much misunderstanding about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints revolves around its doctrine. The news media is increasingly asking what distinguishes the Church from other faiths, and reporters like to contrast one set of beliefs with another.

The Church welcomes inquisitiveness, but the challenge of understanding Mormon doctrine is not merely a matter of accessing the abundant information available. Rather, it is a matter of how this information is approached and examined.

Where are the New Mormon Stories Podcasts?

I just wanted to give a brief update regarding the blatant dearth of new podcasts, because people are asking (and it’s killing my conscience).

Here’s the scoop: As some of you know, I was hired by MIT OCW a few months ago to direct the OpenCourseWare Consortium, and was immediately put in charge of this big conference in Santander, Spain that takes place next week. (Here’s the agenda, for those interested).

Anyway, planning this event, along with writing this long-requested essay, have sucked up all my time, but the long “nightmare” will soon be over. After next week, I’m coming back to the podcast with a real vengeance, starting w/ my long-promised “Women in Mormonism” series (Women—please start your engines!!!).

So that’s the scoop! Please bear with us, and know that your appetite will soon be over-saturated.

Thanks for your interest, and mostly for your patience.

Thomas B. Marsh’s Story: A More Accurate Version of Why He Left the Church

In Richard Dutcher’s comments last week about leaving the LDS Church, he mentioned the traditional legend we hear in the church — that Thomas B. Marsh left over a milk dispute between his wife and some else’s.

In my Elder’s Quorum lesson for today, I was asked to teach on Elder Bednar’s recent talk entitled, “And Nothing Shall Offend Them.” (Incidentally, some of you may find it interesting to note that Elder Bednar perpetuates the same myth in this talk as well.)

Anyway, this made me want to read more on Brother Marsh, so I went to his Wikipedia article, and got a pretty good explanation on the events leading to his disaffection. I thought you might enjoy reading it, so here is the part about his falling away:

In April of 1838, Church President Joseph Smith and his first counselor Sidney Rigdon moved to Far West, which became the new church headquarters. Although disfellowshipped, David and John Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery, W.W. Phelps and other former leaders (who were known as the “dissenters”) continued to live in the County. By early June, some of the more zealous Mormons, led by Sampson Avard, formed a society which came to be known as the “Danites.” According to Marsh, these men swore oaths to “support the heads of the church in all things that they say or do, whether right or wrong” (Document, p. 57). According to Reed Peck, two of these Danites, Jared Carter and Dimick B. Huntington, proposed at a meeting that the society should kill the dissenters. Marsh and fellow moderate, John Corrill, spoke vigorously against the motion (Peck, pp. 22-23). On the following Sunday, however, Sidney Rigdon issued his “Salt Sermon” in which he likened the dissenters to salt that had lost its savor and was “good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men” (Van Wagoner, p. 218). Within a week the dissenters had fled the county.

Richard Dutcher Explains Why He Left the LDS Church

UPDATE! – Watch our interview with Richard Dutcher (10/03/2010)

It’s no secret — I’m a huge Richard Dutcher fan. Of course I’m sad that he’s taking some time off from the LDS Church, perhaps permanently. But he’s still very Mormon. And he still will be making Mormon movies (as I define them) — just, perhaps, no longer geared towards an LDS audience specifically.

Anyway, Richard has written a follow-up to his “Parting words” essay, explaining why he left the LDS Church (Full text included below). He has posted it as a comment to my good friend Serenity Valley’s post on By Common Consent.

Please check it out, and if you feel so inclined, give Richard your love and appreciation.



Thanks so much for your beautiful essay. I was very moved by it. As you can imagine, I’ve been dropping in on various internet sites and reading the discussions. Perhaps it would be in my best interest to simply disappear without another word, but out of respect and affection for my friends and for those who have been generous in their support (including yourself), I’ve decided to address a few of the statements that have been made about me and my decision to leave the Church. I’d appreciate it if those who read this message would send it along to other internet sites. I’d like it to be read.

A First Draft of an Essay: “How to Stay in the LDS Church After Becoming Disaffected”

I get asked several times weekly via email, “John — how in the world do you remain active in the LDS Church after all you know? How do you keep from going insane? How do your raise your children, etc?”

I have finally written out a very rough 1st draft of our approach.

I would love to share it with those of you who sincerely self-identify as one of the following:

  • Seriously struggling to remain active in the LDS Church, and currently considering leaving
  • Have gone inactive or have left completely, but would seriously consider returning, if you could just figure out a way

If I already know you well (and your situation), just email me and I’ll provide a link.

If I do not know you, I will need you to write me enough about your story so that I can ensure that you indeed qualify given the conditions above. Again, just email me, or (if you don’t mind sharing) post your story here.

If you do not qualify under the conditions above, please act on your honor, and do not request this link. I would never, under any circumstances, desire to discourage people from leading a literalistic, strictly obedient LDS life if that is their smallest inclination. This essay is only for those who would otherwise abdandon the church altogether.


John Dehlin

Mormons Heighten Public Relations Efforts

Politico: Mormons Heighten Public Relations Efforts

By: Andrew Glass
April 9, 2007 04:20 PM EST

Amid heightened scrutiny because of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney’s White House bid, the Mormon church is raising its public relations profile, making moves that reflect deep concerns over widely held myths about the faith and internal anxiety over the need to convince outsiders that it will remain neutral as a Mormon runs in the 2008 contest.

“We have to walk a very fine line to stay away from political issues,” said Michael Otterson, media relations director for the 12.6 million-member worldwide Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “But it is clear that the profile of the church will be raised during this (campaign) period. All of the things that are going on will serve as catalysts to raise questions about us and who we really are.”

On Truth, Reconciliation, Humanity, and Ubuntu

The conversation we had last week on my personal blog about Askgramps.org, testimonies, and faith really got me thinking (so a huge thanks to Matt Evans, Michael, Eve, Trevor, Kaimi, Bored in Vernal, Kaimi, Jimbob, Ann, Steve M, RT, Hueffenhardt, Nee, A. Nonny Mouse, DavidH, and the others for inspiring me).

This morning I was listening to another amazing “Speaking of Faith” interview by Krista Tippett — this time about South Africa’s “Truth and Reconciliation” initiatives that followed Apartheid.

Within the interview, for me, were the most amazing of insights (audio available here — beginning around the 8:15 mark):

Dr. Villa-Vicencio: Look, I think the notion of truth has always been a contested concept. For me, theologically speaking, truth is something that one aspires after. It’s something that you reach towards. And I think religion generally, and Christian theology in particular, is at its all-time low and most oppressive when it has a decisive interpretation of truth, in the sense of a dogma, and says, “This is the truth.” And to the extent that you deviate from this, you know, you’re not a Christian, you’re a heretic or something like that. And pastorally speaking, if you like, what the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has done is that its opened a space within which people—we like to use the word, don’t we, ordinary people, rank-and-file people—have an opportunity to speak their truth. Subjective truth may not always stand up to the cross-examination of a court of law. It may not be the forensic truth. But if that is that person’s experience of what happened, we, as Christians, above all, need to listen.

Mormon Stories Picked up by 610 AM KVNU Radio in Logan, Utah

Hey! I should have mentioned a few weeks back that Mormon Stories podcast has just been picked up by KVNU radio station here in Logan, UT (thanks to my very good buddy Tom Grover, host of KVNU’s For the People).

We’re on Sundays at 10:35 AM, and then again at 7:35 PM.

It turns out that 610 AM KVNU has pretty decent geographical coverage in Utah, so if you’re in the area, please check it out (for fun, if for nothing else) — and then come back and let us know that you heard it.

Who knows — maybe other radio stations will become interested as well!!!

And thanks again to Tom Grover and KVNU radio stations for making this all possible.

An Arab American Mormon Comedian? — Aron Kader and the Axis of Evil Comedy Tour

I was minding my own business, listening to Terry Gross’ Fresh Air — and what to my surprise did I discover?

There is a new comedy troup running around called the “Axis of Evil Comedy Tour“.

What’s even more interesting (to us, at least) is that one of the comedians was introduced by Ms. Gross as the “son of an Arab father and a Mormon mother.” Turns out it’s Omar Kader’s son (who is also Mormon by the way, or at least was).

This may be old news to all of you, but it’s new news to me.

When I was studying Political Science at BYU I once heard Omar Kader speak, and was greatly influenced thereby.

Anyway, check it out! It’s kinda funny. If any of ya’ll can help me w/ a contact, I’d love to add him to my interview que.

April 2007 LDS General Conference Statistics: No Unhallowed Hand Shall Stop the Work from Progressing

LDS Church stats for 2006 are out, and the story to me is: growth is strong.

  • 44 new stakes
  • 3 new missions
  • 388 new wards and branches
  • 307,737 more members
  • An increase in 29,737 more convert baptisms than in the previous year
  • 1,104 more missionaries than we had last year
  • 5.1 baptisms per full time missionary — an increase over 4.7 from the previous 2 years.
  • A few other stats listed below.
  • Raw stats can be found here.

Finally, I do wish that they would publish activity rates. I also wish that the church would allow external auditors to publish public financial reports. But that’s just me.

Anyway, enjoy!!! Feel free to discuss at T&S, or at Mormon Mentality or here.

An Illustration of Why I Do Mormon Stories Podcast : Anti-LDS DVDs in Arizona

For the last year or so, I’ve had 3 primary goals for all I do with Mormon Stories Podcast:

–More Knowledge within Mormonism
–More Understanding/Empathy/Compassion within Mormonism
–Less Pain within Mormonism

When I conduct an interview, it is always with these 3 goals in mind.

Recently I’ve had to discuss and justify (in a friendly setting) the costs/benefits of what I do (which is a very healthy exercise, I might add). Clearly I feel like what I’m/we’re trying to do is a good thing, but sometimes it’s hard to articulate.

Perhaps this recent news article I stumbled upon today helps to illustrate this a bit.

Today, It’s a Wonderful Life

I have so many reasons to count my blessings this week…so bear with me as I mention a few….

  • The very generous and supportive letters I received last week (both as comments to the post, and in private) in response to my call for help were more than I coud have ever hoped for. Thanks to all of you from the bottom of my heart. To me, this was my Jimmy Stewart/Frank Capra moment — and it will remain with me always. Rest assured that these letters were put to very good use, and that they made a huge difference.
  • A few dear friends (you know who you are) took the time to counsel me on how I might approach things today, and their counsel was dead-on. I do have a tendency to get all defensive, paranoid and apocolyptic (which can often lead to self-fulfilling prophecies) and your temporing advice was exactly what I needed to ensure that things stayed productive.
  • A few dear ones even offered to fast and/or pray/meditate on my behalf. Given all the suffering and pain in the world — I scarcely feel worthy. Nonetheless — I was very grateful for this, and I do believe it helped.

How did it go? It was wonderfully splendid. It feels a bit inappropriate to go into detail here, but I will write up an account and send it privately to all those who either commented, or sent me email. Give me a day or so to do this, if it’s ok.

If I have one thing to leave you all with — it’s this: I did not go in there alone. In my mind, and in my heart — as insignificant as this all all may seem and likely is — I felt that each of you was in there with me. In some small way I felt that you were behind me, and that I was trying my best to represent you — and in the end, love, understanding and support (with a small measure of caution) appear to have prevailed.

Thanks so much for your letters, thoughts, prayers, and support. Sometimes there’s sun. Other times, there’s rain. But today — it was a wonderful life. And I felt you there with me. I hope you can, in some strange and miraculous way, feel it too. There really is hope, and if the stars align — hearts can unite in Christlike understanding and even support.