Church News

‘Saints’ Podcast Dives Into Church History, Impacts Tens of Thousands

The podcast has had over 1.2 million listens and tens of thousands of monthly listeners

Saints podcast
Co-hosts Shalyn Back and Ben Godfrey and producer Curt Dahl pose for a picture in the studio for the “Saints” podcast. The podcast has had over 1.2 million listens in total and tens of thousands monthly listeners. Photo by Matt Mangum, courtesy of Church News.All rights reserved.
                                        

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By Eliza Smith Driggs, Church News

The “Saints” podcast is a deep-dive resource for those interested in delving into stories of people, places and events of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ history.

In each 30-minute episode, co-hosts Shalyn Back and Ben Godfrey explore a chapter of “Saints: The Story of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter Days” with Church history experts.

Since its first episode in July 2018, the weekly podcast has generated 1.2 million listens and tens of thousands of monthly listeners. The 35-episode first season discusses volume one of “Saints,” while the 46-episode second season goes through volume two.

The co-hosts recommend listening to the podcast while reading the book “Saints” to learn from additional insight and context provided by the experts. Topics addressed in the podcast include plural marriage, the move west and the tensions with the United States government in the late 19th century.

“In history, I feel like voices of women aren’t as prominent,” said Back, a former social media and email marketing team manager for the Church. “But in ‘Saints,’ there is an incredible balance of bringing in women’s voices and experiences parallel to the leaders of the Church and the other missionaries that we hear of.”

Godfrey, currently a product manager in the Church History Department, said he gets excited as he prepares for the podcast interviews, thinking about the questions he can ask the experts about specific topics. “I haven’t spent my whole life researching that one topic, but I know they have. It’s really fun to have my own personal chance to ask my questions.”

Speaking with experts on the topics has helped Back tackle “difficult subjects” and develop a desire to learn more. She said this was her “first exposure to such a deep dive of many of these topics.”

Saints podcast
Co-hosts Shalyn Back and Ben Godfrey pose for a photo with guests on the “Saints” podcast. From left to right are Curt Dahl, podcast producer; Shalyn Back, co-host; Darren Parry, Tribal Council Chair of the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Tribe; Ben Ellis Godfrey, co-host; and Scott R. Christensen, historian, Church History Department. Photo by Matt Mangum, courtesy of Church News.All rights reserved.
                    

Connecting Cultures

The history of the Church is told through the stories of individuals, said Back. Their trials of faith “are related to the trials of faith that we are having today.”

One podcast guest was Darren Perry, the tribal council chairman of the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation.

During the interview, Perry discussed the Bear River Massacre and eventual conversion of the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone people. The Bear River Massacre occurred in 1863, when United States Army colonel Patrick Edward Connor ambushed Shoshone territory near current-day Preston, Idaho, killing around 400 Shoshone adults, children and infants.

Godfrey learned in the interview that Perry’s great-grandparents were Moroni Timbimboo and Amy Hootchew Timbimboo. Moroni was the first Native American bishop of the Church and grandson of Chief Sagwitch, who as an ally and friend to the Saints in the mid-to-late 19th century and who was committed to living in peaceful coexistence with the Saints.

Much to Godfrey’s surprise, Moroni was also a friend of his grandparents Anna and Newell Nish. After the interview, Godfrey dug through a photo album and found a 1969 photograph of his grandparents with Perry’s great-grandparents.

“It was a sweet connection for me,” said Godfrey. “Miracles of faith continue to happen throughout the Restoration, just like they did in the scriptures.”

Saints Podcast
“Saints” podcast co-host Ben Godfrey’s grandparents with podcast guest Darren Perry’s great-grandparents on July 4, 1969, in Plymouth, Utah. From left to right are Anna Goddard Nish, Amy Hootchew Timbimboo, Moroni Timbimboo, and Newell Ancel Nish. Photo courtesy of Ben Godfrey, courtesy of Church News.All rights reserved.
                  

Triumphs and Tragedies

From a financial crisis in Kirtland, Ohio, to untimely departures of handcart companies, Church history contains examples of missteps and mistakes. Godfrey argues it’s OK — even healthy — to understand and learn from both the good and the bad.

“We are OK with reading the scriptures and knowing that there was good and bad, right?” asked Godfrey. “We’re OK with [the Apostle] Peter being ‘the rock’ and also denying Christ three times before the cock crowed.”

But as the timeline gets closer to the present day, “it becomes less comfortable that people made mistakes.” That is, some may be more forgiving of ancient prophets than they are of modern prophets and Saints.

Godfrey spoke specifically of the Mountain Meadows Massacre, when 50 to 60 southern Utah militiamen, aided by American Indian allies, massacred roughly 120 emigrants on their way to California in 1857.

Learning from both the triumphs and tragedies is critical to not repeating the tragedies again, Godfrey said. He quoted Doctrine and Covenants 93:24, which says, “Truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come.”

Saints Podcast
"Saints" podcast co-hosts Shalyn Back and Ben Godfrey in the recording studio. The podcast has had over 1.2 million total listens to date and tens of thousands of monthly listeners. Photo by Matt Mangum, courtesy of Church News.All rights reserved.
                

Impact on Listeners and Contributors

Back said being part of the podcast has done more for her spirituality than she ever could have imagined: “Learning from each of the early Saints and their stories has been so inspiring.”

Godfrey agreed. “Hosting the ‘Saints’ podcast has been a joy for me. … Seeing how the Restoration unfolded, and continues to unfold, gives me hope that the Lord has a place in his plan for everyone, even for someone like me.”

Recently, the co-hosts exchanged what Godfrey called a “virtual high-five” when they received an email from a listener that “perfectly sums up our goals for the podcast,” Back said. The listener wrote he was “inspired to elevate his commitment to the gospel.”

After reading each chapter in “Saints,” Bishop Gérald Caussé, Presiding Bishop of the Church, said he typically listens to the related podcast.

“It is always a gratifying experience,” he said. “Each podcast is full of additional insights and perspectives, which have expanded my love and gratitude for the early Saints and strengthened my testimony of the Restoration.”

Despite the cultural and economic changes over the generations featured in the first two volumes of “Saints,” Back said the gospel remains unchanged. “It doesn’t matter who we are, it doesn’t matter when we live — the doctrines are the same and the principles are the same. And we can be blessed when we follow that.”

The “Saints” podcast can be found on many podcast-distributing platforms, including iTunes, Spotify and the Latter-day Saints Channel.

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