Back in Nov 2020, I sat down over Zoom with Richie T Steadman of The Cultural Hall Podcast. He asked about my background.
Richie: Rick Bennett is one of those names that I’m like, I feel like I know 10 Rick Bennetts. Right? Like it’s a common name or like, you know, like, you could say out loud. Hey, you know, Rick Bennett? And I could affirmatively say yes, knowing that somewhere in the combination of people that I know, there has been a Rick Bennett, but this particular Rick Bennett, he is the host of the Gospel Tangents podcast, so I’m sure we’ll talk a little bit about that. He’s a church history nerd. So we’ll try and avoid getting really deep into that stuff. He and I but I also want to get a chance to get to know him. Welcome to the Cultural Hall. Rick,
GT: I’m glad to be on the show. This is great. By the way, I’m the second Rick Bennett in my family. I am not unique.
Richie: Are you a junior? Is that how that works?
GT: I am a junior. Yep, that’s right.
Richie: So, is there a third?
GT: By the way, there’s a BYU professor named Richard E. Bennett. So, I call him my much shorter twin. He’s a lot shorter than I am. He’s from Canada, though. My dad’s from New Jersey.
Richie: Born in the USA, that’s what you are. Now let me ask you this. Is the Richard E. Bennett at BYU, is he a history or religion professor? Does it get crowded or complicated as far as that goes?
GT: Oh, yes, he’s actually–I’ve interviewed him on my podcast, believe it or not. He’s a big time church history nerd, like me. Even more of a history nerd than me, probably.
Richie: I hope that that episode was called Richard E. Bennett squared. If it wasn’t, you missed a great opportunity on that.
GT: I need to have you helped me title my stuff.
Richie: You can call me anytime, people know that. Now, let’s get to you. You said Jersey-born. So, how do we get from New Jersey to here?
GT: Well, you’re talking about my dad. So my dad grew up in New Jersey, non-Mormon, really rough life. He joined the Air Force at 17, forged his dad’s signature to get in. He met a Hawaiian girl in South Dakota, believe it or not.
Richie: Oh, that’s how you do it.
GT: She introduced him to the Church. Then, after he got on the Air Force, they said, “Well, where do you want to live?” He said, “Well, now that I’m a Mormon, I’ll live in Utah.” So, that’s where he met my mom, and that’s how we got to Utah. I grew up in mostly in Utah. I lived about four years in New Hampshire. My dad took a job back East. So, I got to see the east coast a little bit, and then South Carolina on my mission. So, I’ve been kind of on both coasts, but mostly Utah.
Richie Steadman of The Cultural Hall Podcast asked me more about some Mormon groups. We’ll talk not just about some old Mormon groups, but discuss MHA, Sunstone, and the JWHA.
Richie: The other thing I want to ask you is you said you became a member of the Mormon History Association. Where do I pay my dues? Do I get a patch? Is there a summer camp? Is that a thing that anybody can be a part of? How does that whole thing work?
GT: Yeah, absolutely. So, they typically meet in June, usually about every two or three years they meet in Utah, because that’s where the majority of the members are. But, they try to travel around. This past June, it was supposed to be in Palmyra, but ended up going virtual because of the pandemic. I actually interviewed Barbara Jones Brown. She is the executive director for the Mormon History Association. She asked me to film an interview she did with Richard Turley, who had just recently retired. He used to be the…
Richie: I know who he is. He’s been here in the Cultural Hall. You don’t have to…
GT: Oh, has he? Oh, wow.
Richie: You don’t have to church-splain to me who these people are.
GT: Okay. (Chuckling) So, anyway, I filmed that. I’m going to be re-releasing that on my podcast here in about a month or so. I can’t remember where it’s supposed to be next year. I think next year, they’re trying to get it back in Palmyra. But, they usually have it in Salt Lake every two or three years, for convenience, but they also try to hit other sites. To register, go to Mormonhistoryassociation.org. You can sign up to be a member. They’ll send you, if you sign up, they’ve got a quarterly magazine, basically, that has a lot of very scholarly articles that will whet your appetite. But, the funnest thing is to do the in-person meetings. Because, now, there’s three meetings that I typically try to go to. Mormon History Association, by far is the best scholarly one you’ll see. John Whitmer is probably a close second. I went to my first one that was also in Palmyra two years ago, so that was fun. Sunstone is the third you know, Sunstone. I like Sunstone a lot. You’ll get a lot of scholarly people there. You’ll get a lot of not scholarly people there. You’ll get people who love the church. You’ll get people who hate the church. Yeah, so it’s a little bit more of a mixed bag. I’m usually a little bit more picky about who I go to see. But you know, like Matt Harris goes to Sunstone, Newell Bringhurst, Brian Hales has been to Sunstone. So you’ll get some fantastic people there. And you’ll also get some people that have a bone to pick and I usually try to avoid those.
GT: You’ll get some weird stuff. I did attend one that was a stripper that attended the Gospel Principles class, and she was going to get a temple recommend. And you just kind of raise your eyebrows and go, Wow, that’s kind of an unusual lifestyle.
Have you attended Sunstone, JWHA, or MHA? What are your thoughts? Do you listen to the Cultural Hall Podcast? What are your favorite podcasts?
Instead of answering your stated questions I’m going to ask one myself: is a BYU professor from the religion department who covers Church history primarily a (a) history professor (b) religion professor or (c) COJCOLDS employee? I vote for C.
I’m not saying that said professor is a bad person. I’m not even going to declare that he or she is dishonest. I’m simply saying that byu students need to know what they are getting and from whom they are getting it when they enter a byu religion class.
One of my daughters, who attended The University of Virginia, took a class from Kathleen Flake, head of the Mormon studies program at UVA. This daughter learned more about real Mormon history in one class than I learned in 4 years at BYU.
Richard Edmond Bennett (born 1946) is a professor of Church History and Doctrine at Brigham Young University (BYU). Prior to joining the faculty of BYU Bennett was the head of the Department of Archives and Special Collections at the University of Manitoba from 1978 to 1997. Bennett has served as president of the Mormon History Association.
Bennett is a native of Sudbury, Ontario, Canada. He served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) in Texas from 1967 to 1969. He has a master’s degree from BYU where he wrote his thesis on early 19th-century missionary activities of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Ontario. Bennett has a Ph.D. in United States intellectual history from Wayne State University. He is currently the Church History Editor for BYU Studies and was previously Associate Editor of the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies.
Bennett is the author of “The Nauvoo Legion in Illinois: A History of the Mormon Militia, 1841–1846,” ; “We’ll Find the Place: The Mormon Exodus, 1846-1848, “and “Mormons at the Missouri: 1846-1852.”
In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Bennett has served as president of the Winnipeg Manitoba Stake starting in 1987. He served a mission for the church in Texas. In 2020 Bennett and his wife were called as directors of the church’s historic site at Winter Quarters, Nebraska.
You can never have enough Rick Bennetts around.
Josh’s comment may not apply to Richard B, but it applies to the university he worked for. Apparently now in order to work in the religion department, you have to have CES experience. The university and Church seem more interested in doctrinal purity than true learning. It’s time for BYU’s religion dep’t to move off campus like LDS Institute classes at other universities. And no university credit be given for the doctrinal classes.
Church leaders have a poor understanding of the what a university should be. This was highlighted by a recent address by Elder Holland where he told staff to tow the Church line on LGBTQ issues. Ironically, Holland is a past president of the university.
Roger Hansen: My comments are about BYU generally, not RB specifically. Your post made me realize I should clarify that.
As I’ve heard many times from many college football pundits, if you have two Rick Bennetts, do you have one Rick Bennett?