Sunstone Podcast

Sunstone & John Larsen

Turn a spotlight on all the newest thought and scholarship in Mormon studies. Hosted by John Larsen.

All Episodes

In 2019, Kyle Ashworth released the “On the Record” project (lattergaystories.org/record), a detailed chronology of quotes and messaging about LGBTQIA+ issues from the LDS Church. In this episode, Ashworth takes us on a whirlwind tour of that history. Recorded at the 2021 Sunstone Summer Symposium.

Nov 16

1 hr 19 min

Most discussions about faith transitions center on adults. But what about the children of these parents? After his own faith transition, Jon Ogden wrestled with how he and his wife could best raise their kids — particularly while living in Utah County. In this episode, recorded at the 2021 Sunstone Summer Symposium, Ogden shares lessons …

Nov 11

31 min 32 sec

Many people who transition from orthodox Mormonism to either post or nuanced positions often look back on their sexual journey and feel that a lot of their decisions were co-opted by the Church. And now they’re dealing with grief, anger, feelings of betrayal, and the “what if?” syndrome. This episode addresses some of the common …

Nov 2

45 min 37 sec

To believe is to be human. But belief has a price—one that has risen higher and higher in recent years. Can we afford it anymore? That’s the question Stephen Carter asks as he explores Amanda Montell’s book “Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism.”

Oct 25

40 min 17 sec

“Queer polygamy” is probably one of the most provocative phrases you could throw into an LDS conversation. But Blaire Ostler thinks it can open up constructive new ways of reimagining the ways we relate to each other. In this episode, Ostler and professor of religion Taylor Petrey unpack this phrase and explore its possibilities.

Oct 12

1 hr

The idea that our spirits are the literal offspring of heavenly parents is found nowhere in LDS scripture or the writings, sermons, and contemporaneous teachings of Joseph Smith. In fact, the theology of Smith’s King Follett Discourse undermines the doctrine. Drawing from LDS scripture and Smith’s famous sermon, Rob Lauer presents a Mormon theology that …

Oct 5

49 min 9 sec

Liz Brown MacDonald interviewed fifteen young adults from rigidly religious homes who had left the LDS Church and was amazed by how many similarities their stories had. For example, the lengths the children would go to to cover up their disaffiliation with the church; the way their parents would blame themselves for the children’s disaffiliation; …

Sep 21

52 min 45 sec

Displays showing the remains of Native Americans were pretty normal in LDS museums for many decades. In this episode, Thomas Murphy gives a brief history of how these displays came to be, who protested them, and why repatriation is finally starting to happen. This episode is from the 2021 Sunstone Summer Symposium.

Sep 14

43 min 43 sec

Is an LGBTQ worldview more Mormon than Mormonism these days? After reading Blaire Ostler’s book “Queer Mormon Theology,” Stephen Carter thinks so. In this episode, Stephen follows some of Ostler’s concepts to discover some startling compatibilities between the LGBTQ and LDS worldviews.

Sep 1

36 min 44 sec

The LDS Church used to run on belief. But things have changed so drastically in the past five years that Stephen Carter believes only doubt can save it now. But it must be a very deep kind of doubt. One that would change the church forever.

Aug 17

32 min 9 sec

It’s incredibly frustrating when groups construct a version of history that ignores documented facts. Why do we do it? Stephen Carter analyzes a recent article from the Atlantic showing why the descendants of Confederate veterans, Mormons, and the rest of us ignore facts.

Jun 1

32 min 12 sec

In his new book, Patrick Mason argues that the best way to move the Restoration forward is to start … the Renovation? In this episode, Stephen Carter delves in to Mason’s ideas to see if a renovation will be enough to move Mormonism forward, and, if so, how we might actually go about it.

May 4

46 min 26 sec

One of the biggest stars of the Netflix documentary “Murder Among the Mormons” is Shannon Flynn, who was Mark Hofmann’s close friend. In this episode, Bryan Buchanan and Lindsay Hansen Park talk with Flynn about his relationship with Hofmann, and Flynn’s behind-the-scenes role in the making of the documentary.

Apr 14

56 min 48 sec

Mormonism has long been suspicious of the concept of grace, choosing to focus instead on worthiness. But worthiness culture was toxic for Katie Langston. During a 10-year spiritual journey, Katie learned about, experienced, and finally embraced grace. Stephen Carter talks with Katie about her journey and the book she’s publishing about it.

Mar 29

48 min 12 sec

Interviewed by Jimmy Rex, Sunstone gathers some of the people who appeared on the Netflix documentary “Murder Among the Mormons” to talk about what it was like to be there during the time of Mark Hofmann’s forgeries and bombings. Panelists include Brent Ashworth, Curt Bench, Brent Metcalfe, and Sandra Tanner.

Mar 23

1 hr 13 min

How do you go about making a movie about the notorious bombings committed by Mark Hoffman? Especially when Mormons are not your audience? Lindsay Hansen Park talks with Jared Hess and Tyler Measom about how they went about making the Netflix documentary “Murder Among the Mormons.”

Mar 16

1 hr 10 min

In this recording of a Sunstone UK Fireside, Jane Christy talks about the difficulties and rewards of being an active member of a small LDS ward while being a feminist and bi-sexual.

Mar 2

55 min 30 sec

Why is the doctrine of eternal polygamy so painful to so many Mormon women? Stephen Carter turns the question around, exploring why eternal polyandry would be a painful prospect to Mormon men. The answers lie in the limbic layer of the brain, which has a lot to teach us about the delicate workings of love.

Feb 16

42 min 14 sec

In this recording of a Sunstone U.K. fireside, Peter Bleakley argues that the LDS Church should be “rocking the 21st century”—but that it absolutely isn’t. Bleakley presents his ideas on how the LDS church could both change and make use of its strengths to reignite the spiritual passion of the many young people leaving the …

Feb 8

1 hr 10 min

We may think that American politics is simply going nuts, but what it’s actually doing is turning into religion. In this episode, Stephen Carter argues that Mormonism had a big hand in turning politics into religion—and that, ironically, this shift is biting the Church hard.  

Jan 18

39 min 40 sec

Mormonism is all about goals, growth, and progression. But Abinadi and Joseph Smith threw some serious monkey wrenches into the definition of those words. In this episode, Stephen Carter proposes a new approach to the Mormon obsession with progression. And it’s kind of dark.

Jan 4

33 min 20 sec

Charles Dickens is often credited as being the man who invented Christmas with his story “A Christmas Carol.” And the story bears a striking resemblance to a psychedelic trip, which has profoundly affected the way we celebrate Christmas, whether we are religious or not. Join Stephen Carter on this trip through history, culture, religion, and …

Dec 2020

34 min 31 sec

A few weeks ago, LDS social media feeds exploded with #givethanks. But something about it seemed … off. Stephen Carter digs into the oddities of Mormon gratitude in this episode of the Sunstone Podcast.

Dec 2020

27 min 7 sec

After a two-year break from church, why in the world would you want to go back to Sunday school? Stephen Carter had a few strange reasons, none of which will ever be quoted in General Conference. Listen to the harrowing story of his first virtual Sunday school class.  

Nov 2020

31 min 54 sec

Forget the pandemic, the truly earth-shattering thing about 2020 is that people from Sunstone, Dialogue, and Exponent actually liked Dallin Oaks’ October conference talk! And was this the official anti-DezNat general conference? There are plenty of surprises in this analysis with Heather Harris-Bergevin, Jim Bennett, Emily Jensen, and Stephen Carter.

Oct 2020

51 min 35 sec

This panel discussion from Sunstone Birmingham features current and ex-Mormons telling the story of their faith journeys. Moderated by Mark Johnson, the panel includes Deborah Squires-Coleman, Debra Edwards, Mark Lake, and Lauren Richardson Alcock.

Oct 2020

58 min 7 sec

Kristine Haglund, Karin Peter, and Stephen Carter scoured the 2020 Democratic National Convention transcripts for signs of Jesus’ teachings. What they found (and didn’t find) gave them new insight into what Jesus’ politics might have been.

Sep 2020

55 min 20 sec

The Lamanites in the Book of Mormon were presented as the ancestors of the American Indians by early LDS Church leaders. But how plausible is that connection? In this episode, John Larsen and Christopher Smith dig into the difficulties. Listen to this episode here. 

Sep 2020

1 hr 19 min

What if a voice started talking to you while you were all alone, soaking in a nice, warm bath? What if that voice told you that everything is a fiction — and that fictions are the single most important innovation in the history of humanity? What if you debated and argued with this voice until …

Aug 2020

1 hr

The LDS Church is more enmeshed in white supremacy that most Latter-day Saints realize. Education professor Roni Jo Draper talks with co-host Blaire Ostler about how systemic racism shows up in Mormon conversations about education and how we can start to dismantle it. Listen to this episode here. 

Aug 2020

1 hr 8 min

The Book of Mormon is simultaneously the most central and the most problematic part of the Restoration movement. In this episode, John Larsen introduces a new series in the Sunstone Podcast where he will be exploring various approaches to the Book of Mormon, revealing both its problems and its power. Listen to this episode here. 

Aug 2020

35 min 25 sec

As Ijeoma Oluo wrote, “White people, talk about race with other white people. … Take some of the burden of racism off of people of color. Bring it into your life so that you can dismantle racism in the white spaces of your life.” But how do white people talk constructively about race amongst themselves? …

Jul 2020

1 hr 5 min

Christian and LDS doctrine both teach about the resurrection of the dead. But how will that resurrection occur? Lincoln Cannon, Jordan Roberts, and Blaire Ostler have a theory that it will be accomplished through technological means. How does new technology and old scripture support their assertion? And what complexities does their theory pose? Listen to …

Jul 2020

1 hr 25 min

LeiLoni Lee grew up as a Black person in a small, largely White Utah town. She loved her experience in the LDS Church until the day a “trusted adult” told her that her dark skin was the sign of a curse. Then, at age 12, she began to realize that she was Queer. Blaire Ostler …

Jun 2020

1 hr 6 min

With the advent of COVID-19, physically going to church has taken on the aura of a life-and-death proposition. Jana Riess and Stephen Carter discuss how we may have reached a historic period where the way we worship changes forever. Listen to this episode here. 

Jun 2020

1 hr 3 min

In her new book, “Mormonism and White Supremacy: American Religion and the Problem and Racial Innocence,” Joanna Brooks reveals uncomfortable truths about how White supremacist attitudes were built into the LDS Church—and how they still function today. Joanna Brooks and Mica McGriggs talk with Stephen Carter about how racism became part of the Church’s structure …

Jun 2020

1 hr 18 min

Taylor Petrey, author of the new book “Tabernacles of Clay: Sexuality and Gender in Modern Mormonism” talks with Ben Park and Lindsay Hansen Park about the many ways LDS teachings on gender and sexuality have shifted since World War II. Listen to this episode here. 

Jun 2020

58 min 35 sec

Every great book has a great backstory,” says the blurb on the back of “Writing Mormon History: Historians and Their Books” Editor Joseph Geisner and contributor Daniel Stone talk with Lindsay Hansen Park and Josh Allred about their journeys of writing books that have influenced our understanding of the Mormon past. Listen to this episode …

May 2020

1 hr 12 min

LDS Churches have been closed for two months now, which means we can only talk about religion online. And often our attempts at discussion blow up in our virtual faces. This panel explores how to discuss religion constructively online. Panelists include Gina Colvin, Michael Austin, Blaire Ostler, and Stephen Carter. Listen to this episode here. 

May 2020

1 hr 9 min

We live in unprecedented times, with unprecedented problems, that demand unprecedented solutions—solutions that only a prophetic people can provide. But what does being prophetic even mean? And when is a person being prophetic? What stops Mormons from being prophetic, and what can help them? This panel discussion includes Mica McGriggs, Daniel Carter, Lindsay Hansen Park, …

Apr 2020

1 hr 18 min

The COVID-19 pandemic has upended normal life the world over. And things will likely be very different after the pandemic subsides. This panel discussion explores the kinds of changes the LDS Church might go through, including in its temple worship, and what theological possibilities the pandemic could spawn. Panelists include Blaire Ostler, Carl Youngblood, Michaelann …

Apr 2020

1 hr 7 min

In this episode, Sunstone assembles a panel from across the belief spectrum to help us dig in to not only what happened at this most recent conference, but also what happens at General Conference … generally. Panelists include Lindsay Hansen Park, John Larsen, Blaire Ostler, Jaxon Washburn, and Stephen Carter. Join us for a vigorous …

Apr 2020

1 hr 21 min

From Zion’s Camp to the Willie and Martin handcart companies, the LDS Church is great at retelling tragedies as triumphs. In this episode, Stephen Carter talks about how every group does the same thing, and how it can actually create even more tragedy. Listen to his episode here. 

Apr 2020

26 min 45 sec

When it comes to religion and politics, it seems like everyone is talking in a different language. What if that’s a good thing? Stephen Carter reinterprets the story of the Tower of Babel to show how the “Babel Cycle” has spun out of control, and how harnessing it again could help heal the political and …

Mar 2020

27 min 19 sec

As LDS wards look for ways to “have church” during social distancing, the question comes up: “Why in the world have we never ever streamed sacrament meetings?” In this episode, Stephen Carter answers that question with his own personal conspiracy theory, supported with dozens of rolls of toilet paper. Listen to this episode here. 

Mar 2020

23 min 17 sec

George R. Compton believes that the eventual legalization of polygamy is inevitable, and the Utah legislature recently took a giant step in that direction by voting to stop prosecuting polygamy as a felony. In what ways would the legalization of polygamy be useful to current American culture? This episode presents Compton’s fascinating article as narrated …

Mar 2020

21 min 28 sec

For more than a century, Mormonism has been married to the Republican Party, conservative political values being preached unapologetically from both the general and ward pulpit. But a rift seems to be occurring between the two, as evidenced by LDS senators Mitt Romney and Mike Lee voting on opposite sides of the recent impeachment. In …

Mar 2020

54 min 48 sec

Brittney Hartley sees a huge gap between the colorful world of Mormon academia and the average church member. In this episode, Jaxon Washburn talks with her about the book she published to fill that gap and how it can steer LDS Church members away from fundamentalist thinking. Listen to this episode here. 

Feb 2020

47 min 54 sec

Ryan McKnight and Ethan Dodge believe that the LDS Church would be a better place if it were transparent about its finances and policies. Toward that end, they have established MormonLeaks which releases internal documents and recordings from the LDS Church. John Larsen interviews McKnight and Dodge about some of the surprising results of their …

Feb 2020

1 hr 10 min

During his years of watching the ex-Mormon community, John Larsen has seen an interesting pattern. As they leave the LDS Church, ex-Mormons often accidentally deprive themselves of emotional and psychological benefits to which Mormonism doesn’t have exclusive claim. What are these benefits, and how can ex-Mormons reclaim them? Listen to this episode here. 

Feb 2020

54 min 20 sec