There’s no delicate way to put this: if you’re not listening, you should be. Blair Hodges is an excellent, thoughtful interviewer who invites really smart, thoughtful people on the show. He talks with his smart, thoughtful guests about really interesting religious topics, which sometimes touch on Mormonism, but more often, introduce listeners to religious thought that isn’t Mormon-specific.
Don’t know where to start? I haven’t listened to all 55 (so far) episodes, but I haven’t heard one I wouldn’t recommend. That said, if you’re paralyzed by choice (or even if you’re not), I’d really recommend his most recent, an interview with Thomas W. Simpson. Dr. Simpson recently wrote American Universities and the Birth of Modern Mormonism, 1867-1940.
I can’t review the book (yet), because I only heard of it yesterday on the podcast, though it has fallen somewhere in my to-read list. In his book, Dr. Simpson details the history of the Mormon church setting apart and sending (some of) its people to secular universities out East (and, eventually, also to Stanford) to allow them to get training in especially law and medicine, but also in a wide array of other subjects. He talks about how that helped connect Mormonism to the broader culture, rather than staying self-contained in Utah. He also talks about how education, while helping to form a people, also introduced fissures and conflict into Mormonism.
This episode may have resonated especially strongly with me, since I left the West (California, not Utah) to go to New York for law school, and have since bounced around on the East Coast and in the Midwest, where I teach at a (religious, though it’s Jesuit, not Mormon) school. Even though I left for New York 60 years after the book concludes, there’s at least some resonance there.
But even if the subject matter doesn’t directly reflect your experience, you need to listen to this episode. Dr. Simpson is almost giddy as he talks about this history—researching and writing the book either was or became a labor of love for him. (An unexpected one, to be sure—as he tells Blair, he didn’t initially see himself looking at Mormonism, and he may now be going off in other directions, writing-wise.) There’s no way not to get caught up in his excitement.
And when you’re done listening to this one, there are another 54 episodes you can choose between, with new ones popping up about every two weeks.