Mormon Expositor Podcast – A New, Mormon Expression

by: Andrew S

August 1, 2012

This past week, I attended the Sunstone Symposium for my first time. (You can see Mormon Heretic’s recap of his experience at Sunstone here and I too am slowly getting through my own Sunstone experience on my personal blog). In some ways, going to Sunstone was good for me because it allowed me to meet in person many of the people I had only so far engaged online — via blogs and Facebook groups. However, even though I certainly met a lot of fellow blogging folks and Facebook friends — and I was surprised to discover that far more people seemed to know who I was than I would have anticipated based on my most frequent commenters — what struck me was how many people at Sunstone did not blog and did not know about the blogging world.

As I tried to tell people about the panel (“Do Good Online Fences Make Good LDS Neighbors“) for which I would be presenting (which assumed that people would have quite a bit of knowledge about the various Mormon issues blogs), I had to try to translate my topic to analogies they would understand: using Sunstone actually worked pretty well, since by default, everyone at Sunstone knew what Sunstone was…and most of the people there were not unaware that Sunstone has a rocky relationship and perception with several Mormons.

I’m not really here to talk about my Sunstone panel (maybe that will be another post), but the experiences did make me realize that the very emphasis on blogs was a bit myopic. It was a niche topic in an already niche universe. And the thing is…just from knowing my online history, I would have known that even years back, others had already recognized the need to appeal to a wider audience via other media — in my post on John Dehlin as a Mormon Studies “popularizer,” I pointed out that as early as 2004, he was advocating (to Sunstone and the Bloggernacle, no less) the need for thoughtful Mormons to express themselves in new ways:

New Media, New Formats and the Generation Gap: Over the past 35 years, we’ve made some progress with the written word, Internet, and now blogs, but how can new technologies, and new formats, help us achieve 1 & 2 to an even greater extent than it has thus far?  We know that there is a “generational issue” with subscribers and participants in Dialogue and Sunstone being largely “chronologically gifted” (shall we say).  So how do we reach out to the “new generation”?  How do we penetrate not just academics, but college students, and young married couples, BEFORE they stumble on the wrong things and spiral into destruction (as they are doing now in decently large numbers)?  Are there new media, and new formats, that can take the facts and truths behind Sunstone, Dialogue, and the Bloggernacle and blast them into the mainstream?

In some ways, John’s continued attempts at podcast-based and community-based media are his living testament and answer to his own question — from Mormon Stories to Mormon Matters to new podcasting efforts like Mormon Stories Sunday School and the growing number of local communities of support, there is no question that he has captivated a wide segment of the “Mormon issues” market that perhaps the various blogs simply underestimated.

But as with any market and any industry, a “first mover” does not necessarily foreclose the possibility for others to come on the scene.

And so, when John and Zilpha Larsen’s Mormon Expression Podcast entered the scene three years and 213 episodes ago, it was interesting to see what would happen.

I don’t want to go over the history of Mormon Expression Podcast, just to say that one thing I did at Sunstone as well was chair John and Zilpha’s Sunstone session Podcasting from the Edge: 3 years with Mormon Expression. This session, and their 213th episode, cast live from Murray Park, Utah on the Sunday after Sunstone, provided a bit of “closure” for Mormon Expression.

John and Zilpha Larsen, Mormon Expression

Closure for Mormon Expression?

Perhaps it isn’t accurate to say closure. John and Zilpha aren’t cloistering themselves off from the world, and all things Mormon. What they have done is expanded their interests to things like their White Fields Educational Foundation (cue comparisons to Open Stories Foundation?), their intentional community “Living Community” (cue comparisons to local communities of support?), and even in support of new podcasts such as the Feminist Mormon Housewives podcast (!? Maybe Wheat & Tares needs to get on the podcasting action…) and the Mormon Expositor podcast.

From Ex-pression to Ex-position

Mormon Expositor Podcast

The Mormon Expositor Podcast is curiously named. It evokes the eponymous Mormon Expositor (which only had one issue…hopefully that isn’t the fate of this podcast), but probably also evokes the more famous, although slightly less eponymous Nauvoo Expositor (which also followed the trend of having only one issue — although the reason for that paper’s end is a bit different).

So, on the one hand, you have a newspaper that is mostly unknown…and on the other hand, you have a newspaper that is known, but known for being critical. Where does that put the new 21st century version of the Mormon Expositor?

Much like “apologetics” isn’t about “apologizing” (in a modern sense), the Mormon Expositor claims to be about “exposition,” rather than “exposing.” As they define on their About page:

ex·po·si·tion (n.)
1. A setting forth of meaning or intent.
2a. A statement or rhetorical discourse intended to give information about or an explanation of difficult material.
2b. The art or technique of composing such discourses.

The Mormon Expositor is a biweekly podcast leveraging a panel discussion format and focusing on Mormon doctrine, practices, culture, and history. Our regular panel / board of directors is made up of both believers and non-believers. We value honest and frank discussions that entertain and enlighten while remaining respectful. Additionally, we strive to present accurate information supported by reliable and accessible sources.

Stay a while, listen to some episodes, and consider scattering some type! (That’s our tongue-in-cheek term for leaving a comment.)

The first full episode (posted after several short “teasers”) on Folk Doctrines and Fringe Beliefs went up earlier this morning (and so I was up at 4AM listening to it.) The main sense I got from the podcast is the sense of friendship and camaraderie among the podcasters (who are across the belief map.) It’s true that other podcasts have used a panel discussion format, but from the first episode, this podcast captures the feel of being something that the panelists did at one of their homes for an evening. This is in decided contrast to the interviewer-meets-interviewee format of Mormon Stories or the main-host-meets-guests-of-the-week format of Mormon Matters.

I find this panel discussion quite refreshing, if only because I would like to imagine that these sorts of conversations-between-differently-believing-friends can happen more broadly, and that this is just the glimpse into one such friend circle.

And, at around an hour and a half, the first episode may be on the longish end of reasonable, but at least it’s not a multi-hour behemoth.

Concerns for inter-faith dialogue, intra-Mormon style

The process leading up to my Sunstone panel made me very well aware that even though we may like to have an “inter-faith” discussion within Mormonism with everyone on the Mormon map being invited to sit at the discussion table, there may be some who are uncomfortable or in disagreement with the entire enterprise. I don’t want to say that faith is so fragile or the faithful are so thin-skinned that it and they can withstand no criticism, but I can understand that anyone — faithful or otherwise — can be battered by constant criticism.

Mormon Expositor advertises its diversity of panelists and directors. It advertises, as many sites do, that it values “honest and frank discussions that entertain and enlighten while remaining respectful.” But if there’s been one thing that we have been learning from Wheat & Tares, it’s that a stated intention for honest, frank, and respectful discussion is not enough…it’s a tricky question of how to turn intentions into results, especially when things like “frankness” and “respect” will look different to different people.

Anyway, if you have some time, check out the first episode of the podcast, and perhaps answer some of these questions (but don’t feel limited to just these questions!):

  1. Do you listen to any Mormon-related podcasts? Do you prefer blogs over podcasts, or vice versa?
  2. If you do listen to Mormon-related podcasts, which is your favorite Mormon-related podcast and why?
  3. What do you think about the difference between podcasts as a medium and blogs as a medium?

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21 Responses to Mormon Expositor Podcast – A New, Mormon Expression

  1. Jon on August 1, 2012 at 10:48 AM

    1. Yes.
    2. Probably Mormon Stories, but some of the episodes I don’t like. I enjoy the interview style and learning tidbits of history I would have never known before, like cutting marks in the garments the first time you go to the temple, and the reaction of one temple worker when he found out that the garments were getting shorter.
    3. Podcasts are nice because I can listen to them while doing other things. It is a bit more taxing for blogs, just not enough time to read them all.

    I would have to add I do not like “Mormon Expression” podcast. I found their attitudes distasteful, disrespectful, and prideful. I also found their logic (when they try to use it) is lacking. Although some of the topics are fascinating the unprofessional behavior of the hosts has turned me off to them and I no longer listen.

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  2. John Hamer on August 1, 2012 at 11:13 AM

    Does anyone do a Mormon podcast aggregator site like Mormonblogs and MormonArchipelago for blogs? As you say, there seems to be a lot more of these nowadays.

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  3. brandt on August 1, 2012 at 11:27 AM

    @John Hamer (#2) – I don’t think there’s one out there, and, frankly, I’m shocked that there isn’t. Just do a quick search through iTunes and, after sorting through the podcasts put out by the LDS Church, you’ll find a ton of them, some that are pretty frequently updated.

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  4. Andrew S. on August 1, 2012 at 11:38 AM

    re 1

    Jon,

    Thanks for answering.

    I definitely think that a major concern with some of these podcasts (especially Mormon Expression) is with potential tone and attitude. OTOH, I have heard some folks say that Mormon Stories seems too “soft,” so they like Mormon Expression because it is often more blunt. It will be interesting to see how Mormon Expositor differs from Mormon Expression, since while some of the panelists are the same, the main hosts are different.

    P.S., everyone, it appears that the Mormon Expositor has exceeded its bandwidth on its very first day…while that’s a good problem to have, hopefully they can get that fixed…

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  5. Andrew S on August 1, 2012 at 11:46 AM

    re 2, 3

    John, Brandt,

    A podcast aggregator definitely seems like a no-brainer, and it shouldn’t be too theoretically difficult since podcasts post with RSS as well…

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  6. mh on August 1, 2012 at 1:28 PM

    I listen to Mormon stories, Mormon matters, and Mormon expression pretty regularly. I just discovered the cultural hall podcast. FAIR has a podcast, but out isn’t as interesting as others. Mormon expression seems to have some fantastic podcasts interspersed with rants, making three podcast a real mixed bag.

    I enjoy blogs and podcasts. Podcasts are nice to listen to during my commute, and blogs are nice for interaction. That is the biggest difference, IMO. I think Mormon stories I’d best, followed by Mormon matters.

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  7. The Mormon Expositor Podcast on August 1, 2012 at 2:28 PM

    FYI – The Mormon Expositor Podcast is back online. Thanks everyone for bearing with us!!!

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  8. Howard on August 1, 2012 at 3:09 PM

    I like podcasts when they have something well thought out to say and they aren’t too wordy or repetitive about saying it. I’ve been listening to Mormon Stories and some of it is very good, for example the interviews with Michael Quinn and Daymon Smith were very well done! But some of it reminds me of wading through the 3 hour block looking for a few good nuggets to justify the time spent listening. I suppose at their worst they could end up like open mic life-a-monies. John would do well to record a disclaimer boiler plate separately and simply refer to it briefly at the beginning of a sensitive podcast. Editing helps and a bullet point written summary would also help one decide to invest their time listening or not.

    Podcasts represent more of a monolog than blogging does and keeps the direct quote cut & paste criticism down generally requiring paraphrasing. Blogs are probably better suited to trial balloon one’s ideas expecting critique.

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  9. prometheus on August 1, 2012 at 3:50 PM

    I read more than I listen – reading is just faster for me.

    I do listen select Mormon Stories podcasts, mainly the ones to do with theology / scriptures. Loved the interviews with Terryl Givens, Brant Gardner and Jared Anderson.

    I can’t quite put my finger on the difference, although there is one.

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  10. Jon on August 1, 2012 at 4:22 PM

    @Andrew,

    To each is own. That was my perception of Expressions. A real turn off. Which was disappointing to me, since they do have some good material. Just couldn’t stomach it after a few episodes though.

    I downloaded the Expositor podcast. I’ll see if that one is of good caliber.

    @All

    The reaction by FAIR podcast to Dr. Coe’s interview with John was good. It would be even better to have something more in depth, maybe an interview on Mormon Stories or something would have even been better.

    Has anyone else been experiencing trouble with their RSS feed to Mormon Stories?

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  11. Jon on August 1, 2012 at 4:25 PM

    @prometheus,

    I speed my podcast up 30% with the free tool Audacity (which it let’s me batch the files at once and let’s me program the settings I want to manipulate the files). When I put them on my MP3 player I speed them up again, I’ve found that I can listen to them faster when they are high pitch, so they sound fairly normal after I speed it up on Audacity, but high pitch after I speed it up on my MP3 player.

    I’m a slow reader so I get through podcasts much faster.

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  12. prometheus on August 1, 2012 at 6:00 PM

    Thanks for the tip, Jon. I had never thought of doing that to a podcast before, although I have done it to tons of music. So simple I might just have to give it a whirl. :) (Plus, I hadn’t realized that you could batch files with Audacity either – neat!)

    Also, one other thing that I have noticed – I actually listen to substantially more non-LDS religious podcasts than LDS ones. Coming back to the difference thing, I guess I react to tone more strongly with audio than with the written word. I am also not a fan of the tone of Mormon Expressions because of the tone. The podcasts I do listen to (on whatever topic) are all the same in that I like the interviewer’s personality and tone, although they vary in their bluntness and approaches.

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  13. Jon on August 1, 2012 at 6:05 PM

    @prometheus,

    Yeah, Audacity is great. Just do File -> Apply Chain. You’ll have to figure out your settings first though, so File -> Edit Chain will work. If you want it to always choose one file you have to import and export a single file, kind of a pain, took me a while to figure that out since I’m always working with multiple files. Let me know if you are interested in my settings that I use, might help you with a starting point.

    What other religious podcasts do you listen to? I enjoy listening to a wide range also, the most religious ones I’ve listened to are from my classical education podcasts.

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  14. Andrew S on August 1, 2012 at 7:09 PM

    re 6:

    mh,

    I’ve actually listened to the FAIRCast a few times, and it’s sometimes interesting, especially when its episodes about gay folks (e.g., the two gay men who are living together as brothers in the gospel, but who definitely are celibate and not in a relationship).

    re 11,

    Jon,

    I have heard (vaguely) that iTunes can play podcasts at varying speeds…I don’t know if that’s just a rumor though…Audacity is pretty cool though.

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  15. Jon on August 1, 2012 at 8:22 PM

    @Andrew,

    Yeah, that would be nice, if you are sitting at your computer and listening. I don’t normally do that though. VLC media player will let you play audio and video at different speeds, which is nice if you want to get through a bunch of youtube videos, just download the youtube video and watch at high speed!

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  16. [...] let’s get back to the rest of the Internet! There are some interesting updates in LDS-interest podcasting. John and Zilpha (who organized the mass resignation) have a new project: the White Fields [...]

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  17. prometheus on August 2, 2012 at 4:20 PM

    I used to listen to Ss Peter and Paul Parish Online Ministry quite often – pretty good sermons (depending on who was preaching, of course – some were better than others), part of the Assyrian Church of the East. I still often listen to the Prayer from the Taizé Community. Super podcast – singing, scripture readings and whatnot, excellent for preparing one’s mind for study / prayer. Currently listening to the End of Religion podcast – Bruxy Cavey, the author of the book of the same name, contends that Jesus intended to break down religion as a means to access God and replace it with himself, as direct access without limitation. I am finding Cavey’s analysis pretty compelling. Not finished yet, but well worth a listen, even if only for the stark criticism of contemporary Christianity that he provides.

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  18. Heber13 on August 2, 2012 at 4:49 PM

    1. I listen to a few and prefer podcasts over blogs, since it is easier to do while traveling or multi tasking.

    2. My favorite is Mormon Stories and Mormon Expression, in that order. JD tries to be more fair and balanced, although I can see his personal journey coming through on how he handles guests. JL is funny, which makes it entertaining, but is too negative for me many times as I see his personal journey loud and clear against the church. I have listend to FAIRcast and found some fairly interesting but bland and sometimes machine-gun-style questions, and less a conversation that was less entertaining to listen to. I listen to ESPN podcasts and others and see a trend that the sound quality and personalities of those on the podcast are as critical as the subject matter.

    3. blogs as a medium seems to me to be more time consuming and more thought provoking for me. Good and bad to it. I personally think there are places for both, for different people and different moods I’m in.

    I will check out the expositor podcasts.

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  19. Trev on August 4, 2012 at 12:22 PM

    I read the lists of episodes on podcasts like Mormon Stories (probably my favorite Mormon one I’ve listened to), but I just don’t have the patience to devote the time to listen to them. I am bad at multitasking. If I listen to a good podcast I want to concentrate on it–either I’ll “look up” from what I’m doing and realize I haven’t actually been listening, or I’m so intent on what’s being said and thinking about it that I cannot effectively do whatever it is I’m trying to simultaneously do.

    I hate having to “wait” to watch or hear a whole video or audio segment. I find myself ignoring videos people post online, even when the topics look really interesting, just because I don’t have the patience. If they had transcripts, though, I’d read them. For that reason (the time investment for me), I prefer blogs, but I like the idea of speeding up the playback of the podcasts. I’ll have to try that.

    Also, Mormon Stories needs to be edited. I agree with whoever above was saying they are too long and comparing them to the three-hour block (Howard, I believe). Yes, they are too long. A lot of some of them could be cut out or re-ordered or otherwise improved.

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  20. [...] the way, have you seen my latest post at Wheat & Tares on the new Mormon Expositor podcast? As John and Zilpha dial back their involvement with Mormon Expression, many of the Mormon [...]

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  21. [...] I mean, podcasts…we’ve gotten Mormon Expositor, which I wrote about before at Wheat & Tares, and then there is Infants on Thrones as [...]

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