Smith-Pettit Lecture: Jesus Christ, Marriage, and Mormon Christianities

Saltair Room: 7:00 pm


Marriage has divided Mormons and Christians, and marriage has contributed to divisions among not only Mormons but among many other Christian churches as well. Because marriage occupies such a central place in Mormon history and doctrine, though, changes in marital practices and debates about marriage have proved unusually fraught for Latter-day Saints. Indeed, from scholarly debate about Joseph Smith’s marriages to the angst-filled discussions of same-sex relationships today, conflicts about marriage have torn families and institutions asunder. Certain ideas about marriage thrill some, while repelling others. For this outsider, certain moments in the history of Mormon marriage have repelled, while others have proven attractive. Those moments include the practice of plural marriage at the height of the 1856-1857 Mormon reformation, and also Mormon ritual reenactment of Mary’s anointing of Jesus. Conflicts over marriage have often caused individuals, churches, and families to forget the other things that bind them together. Doctrines, histories, and rituals connect “many Mormonisms,” just as they connect Mormonism and other branches of Christianity.


John G. Turner is a professor at George Mason University in the Department of Religious Studies.

His first book, Bill Bright and Campus Crusade for Christ: The Renewal of Evangelicalism in Postwar America, won Christianity Today’s 2009 prize for best History / Biography. Turner then shifted his focus from post-1945 evangelicalism to mid-nineteenth-century Mormonism. The result was Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet, published in 2012 by Harvard University Press. His portrait of Young emphasizes his early religious experiences (such as speaking in tongues), the transformative effect of Joseph Smith’s murder on Young’s personality and approach to leadership, Young’s outsized family, and his thirty-year battle with the U.S. government for control of the Utah Territory.

After spending several years researching the life and times of Brigham Young, Turner wanted to focus more intently on Mormonism’s place within the broader tapestry of Christianity. Whether reading Mormon scriptures or entering Latter-day Saint chapels or visitors’ centers, one can hardly ignore the centrality of Jesus Christ. At the same time, many Protestants and Catholics consider the LDS Church something other than Christian, and many scholars describe Mormonism as a “new religion.” Turner explores the many ways that Latter-day Saints have described and experienced the Christian savior in The Mormon Jesus, published by Harvard University Press in April 2016.

Turner’s years with the Latter-day Saints have, in a roundabout way, returned him to his roots. He grew up outside of Rochester, New York (not terribly far from where Brigham Young worked as a craftsman).


Moderator: Robin Linkhart


Robin Linkhart is a member of the Council of Twelve Apostles, the leading missionary quorum of Community of Christ.  She is assigned to the North Central USA Mission Field.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016
7:00 pm
University of Utah
Olpin Student Union
Saltair Room