Theory of Change Podcast With Matthew Sheffield
Encore: How Mormonism has been reshaped by Evangelicalism

Encore: How Mormonism has been reshaped by Evangelicalism

Mormonism occupies an important place in the conservative religious realm and its adherents exercise significant voting power in the Republican political coalition in states like Utah, Arizona, Idaho, and even California. In today’s political media environment, Mormons are influential both as content producers like Glenn Beck and as content consumers, where they share many similar tastes with White Evangelical Protestants.

But the comparative closeness the two fundamentalist traditions have today is a departure from the past. While Mormonism and Evangelical Protestantism were born in roughly the same time period of the mid-19th century, they almost immediately grew apart for political reasons, eventually leading to the largest Mormon sect, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), moving to Utah, which was part of Mexico at the time.

The shared dynamic began changing for the two faiths during the mid-20th century as Evangelicalism adopted many of Mormonism’s “end times” concerns and LDS Mormons became increasingly absorbed into right-wing political media.

One person who saw this happening in real time is Pat Bagley, a veteran editorial cartoonist who has worked at the Salt Lake Tribune newspaper for more than 40 years. Once a devout illustrator of Mormon media, he now follows his own set of rules with regard to both religion and politics. Along the way, he’s become a fixture in Utah and LDS culture, whether they like it or not.

This episode was previously released July 29, 2021. The video of the conversation is available. An automated transcript of the audio follows.


MATTHEW SHEFFIELD: Please join me in welcoming Pat Bagley.

PAT BAGLEY: Hi Matthew.

SHEFFIELD: So Pat, why don't we get started with you telling us a bit about how you got interested in cartooning.?

BAGLEY: So I was attending BYU [Brigham Young University] and it was in this class that was personal finance and it was, just boring. It, was as do dirt. And I used to kind of scribble in my class notes and, do [00:01:00] caricatures and things like that.

And so all of a sudden I had this idea about a talk that was current at BYU at the time. The Department of Justice was going to sue BYU because of its housing policy. And so all of a sudden I did this cartoon in the middle of my class notes, and I thought, that's not bad. So I took it to the Daily Universe, the BYU newspaper, and I thought that they were going to have their cartoonists take my idea and, draw it.

But I showed it to the publisher, Nelson Wadsworth, and he said, do a finished copy and bring it back. So I did a finished copy of that cartoon, and I brought it back, and it ran next day in the Daily Universe. And when you see your stuff in print, it's pretty heady stuff, and I was kind of addicted after that.

But a few weeks later, this is even better. A few weeks later, I was going to work at, I was working at a little graphics shop at BYU and I walk in and the secretary [00:02:00] says, congratulations on getting published in time magazine that what, and she described the cartoon. And as soon as I was off work, I went down and grabbed time magazine.

Sure enough. The very first cartoon I ever did made it into Time Magazine, and since then it's been kind of downhill. But it's been pretty, pretty heady stuff.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah, okay, and so, and that was what, the 1960s roughly was that?

BAGLEY: So I've been doing this for 42 years, so 79?

SHEFFIELD: 79. Okay. Oh, interesting. Okay. So I guess that was around the time when the church was, embroiled, the LDS Mormon church was embroiled in controversy, I guess they had just come out of it though, with regard to their treatment of people of African descent.

BAGLEY: Blacks and the priesthood.


BAGLEY: I was working at the Daily Universe. They actually hired me after I did that [00:03:00] cartoon, and I was working at the Daily Universe when they came out with their announcement. So, 79-80.

I was born in Utah. And when I was 3 years old, family moved to California, so I grew up in Oceanside, California, went to school there, went to high school.

SHEFFIELD: And Oceanside, just for those who are not familiar with Southern California, where is that?

BAGLEY: It's just a little bit north of San Diego. But we'd always come back during Easter to visit family, and we had... lots of family here in Utah, and I thought Utah was kind of exotic. If you grew up in Southern California, the temperature is always the same. nothing ever changes. You don't have snowfall. You don't have leaves changing. And I've come to Utah and I've seen the leaves change and all this kind of stuff.

And I thought that's pretty awesome. And so I was, I love the beach, but I also love, Utah.

SHEFFIELD: And you've lived there since when did you move to Utah to go to BYU?

BAGLEY: Yeah, so I went to BYU, went on a mission to Bolivia, got back, went straight back to [00:04:00] BYU, graduated, and worked a couple of graphics jobs before I got the job at the Salt Lake Tribune.

SHEFFIELD: And you worked, and how long have you worked at the Tribune? When did you get hired on there?

BAGLEY: So it's been, oh, geez, coming up at 42 years. I just, it was before the pandemic that we had this 40th celebration of me being at the Tribune. and it was kind of a big deal, and we had this thing at Rose Wagner, and, but that was 40 years, and that was almost two years ago.

So it's been 42, 42 years I've been at the Salt Lake Tribune.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah, and in addition to doing editorial cartoons, you also in the 90s, in early 2000s, you were a bit of a Mormon publishing entrepreneur yourself. You're, why don't you hold up one of your books there for us so everybody can see it.

BAGLEY: Okay, so, I wish I had.

SHEFFIELD: But I've got what's and read the title for our [00:05:00] audio listeners here. Where have all the Nephites gone?

BAGLEY: But the first book was Norman the Nephite.

SHEFFIELD: And that's that little guy with the orange hair there.

BAGLEY: Yeah, it's one of those search and find books where you have all these. It was like Waldo, Where's Waldo? Waldo was a big hit. And so this book came to me and they said, we want to do something kind of like Waldo. And we want to call it find the bishop. I said, nobody wants to find the Bishop, but it came up with this idea of Norman the Nephite, which is kind of a magical character because, nobody really knows what a Nephite looks like and I could go anywhere I wanted with it.

And so they actually took me up on it and he came up with three books. There was Norman the Nephite, Where Have All the Nephites Gone? And the last one was A Nephite in the Works. So I did those books for Deseret Book in the early to mid nineties.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah. And so for people who aren't familiar with Mormon culture, tell us a little bit about the [00:06:00] whole Mormon industry.

Like, it's pretty huge. Wouldn't you say?

BAGLEY: You mean the Mormon industrial complex?

SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Like, what, is it? What is it involved? Tell us, about it. What is it in there? You mentioned Deseret Book and some of the other companies? Who owns Deseret Book, how about that?

BAGLEY: Deseret Book has got a captive audience, and I'm sure that you as a former Mormon heard that the only books that you should ever buy come from Deseret Book. If you can't get it at Deseret Book, then it's probably not okay. So it, they, practice a lot of control, through Deseret Book.

SHEFFIELD: And the church owns the Deseret Book, isn't that right?

BAGLEY: Oh, yeah.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah. and that's something that's kind of interesting about Mormonism, although but not really though, because one thing a lot of people don't know is that a lot of the more, conservative or fundamentalist religions, they actually have these [00:07:00] publishing empires, lots of them do. So the Mormon church, so they've got the Deseret News newspaper. Then they've also got Deseret Book, but then they, and then they also have a whole host of publishing things affiliated with Brigham Young University. And do they have any others that, have or is that pretty much it?

BAGLEY: Well, the KSL, you know, which--

SHEFFIELD: Oh yeah, they own that too. Yeah. Which is a local television affiliate in Utah for those who don't know. And they, oh yeah. And they own Bonneville Communications.


SHEFFIELD: How can I forget that? Bonneville Communications is a, radio and television station ownership group and it owns a bunch of stations around the world. Isn't it? Or is it just in the United States?

BAGLEY: I mean, there's the Liahona, which goes out to South America and Mexico. And here's the thing though, you can be Mormon and never have to be exposed to anything that's not Mormon. they've got you covered, from being a kid.

They've got books [00:08:00] introducing you to the Book of Mormon, when you're two years old and you don't have to be exposed to anything that's not LDS.

SHEFFIELD: The LDS Mormons are not really exceptional in that regard, because there are like the Seventh-day Adventists, they have their newspapers. The Christian Science Monitor, and even more modern publications like the Falun Gong cult in China, they own the Epoch Times, which has become one of the most popular right wing Websites in America, and they've got one in Germany too, apparently.

And it's all designed to promote the religion. But, I guess there are some lighter aspects to that. So, besides the Norman, the Nephite stuff, what else? What were some of the other books you've got? You've got a couple of the other ones there that you made.

BAGLEY: Well, I was kind of on a roll. So, I recommended they do a Book of Mormon timeline. Because you read the Book of Mormon and you have different groups going off in different areas, and then they pop back up and you kind of wonder, well, [00:09:00] wait a minute, do I remember where they came from? And, so the Book of Mormon timeline actually kind of pulls it all together.

We were talking earlier and you said that you can still refer to it because it's accurate because this book is actually pretty good.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah, no, it was a guy on Amazon that he was like, wow, this is the most accurate Book of Mormon timeline I've ever read. And I still buy it. he was, giving you a plug there and you didn't know. And then you had another one, another timeline book too.

BAGLEY: Church History Timeline. and I grew up in a family where, history is important and we like reading a lot of history. And my brother is the leading western trail historian in America. Yeah, he's in lots of books. There was one that was actually, that was reviewed in the Atlantic magazine and it's great stuff.

He did a book called Blood of the Prophets, which was about Mountain Meadows. It is the best book about the Mountain Meadows Massacre. But the narrative, it's just compelling. It's great stuff. [00:10:00] So I'd recommend Blood of the Prophets if you're interested in Utah history.

SHEFFIELD: Tell us about the, for people who are not familiar with Mormon history, what was the Mountain Meadows massacre? What was that?

BAGLEY: So it was the largest white on white massacre in American history. There was a group of 120 to 130 Immigrants coming from Missouri, going through Utah to get to California. And there's a place outside of Cedar City that's called Mountain ,Meadows where they were camping and the Mormon militia in Southern Utah ambushed them.

There was three days where they were shooting at each other. And then the Fanchers, which is the immigrant group decided they would surrender and they surrendered as they were being marched to Cedar city. The Mormon militia, murdered them. Just killed them all, men, women, children.

SHEFFIELD: And what was the reason for that?

BAGLEY: Well, this was when Mormons were [00:11:00] sure that the American government was coming out to, wage war on the Mormons. There was Johnson's army that was, marching to come to Utah to impose order. And so they thought they were... Under threat, and so they, they did the Mountain Meadows Massacre, and it was, they realized almost immediately it was really bad they had done that, and they covered it up.

But at the same time, Mormons have been persecuted. They were run out of Illinois. They were run out of Missouri. They've had a history of persecution. So. If you have a persecute, persecution complex because you've been persecuted, that's understandable.

SHEFFIELD: I think there is an interesting parallel perhaps now with the way that Mormons were feeling at that [00:12:00] time and how white evangelical Christian fundamentalists are feeling now.

Do you think there's a parallel there at all? There seems to be a lot of persecution feelings, on, in that subgroup.

BAGLEY: Oh, yeah. I mean, there's, no question that they feel under threat. They feel persecuted and, but it's just, crazy stuff. I mean, they're comparing wearing a mask to a genocide.

They're comparing getting vaccinated to slavery. And it's just nonsense. But, you ask them about it and they feel it in their bones, they are under threat. This is existential.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah. And actually, that reminds me of a cartoon that you did recently. I'm going to put it up on the screen. So, can you describe it for the listeners, just so they can understand what you've written here?

BAGLEY: Yeah. I mean, there's the grim reaper. And instead of having, the thing that, what is it called [00:13:00] the scythe? Yeah. Instead of a scythe, he's got a golf club and it says 99 percent of COVID deaths are among the unvaccinated. And they're set up on a tee is this golf ball and a red hat, which, automatically identifies them as a Trumper.

And he's saying, no one's going to jab me. Well, he's going to be more than jabbed by COVID because COVID doesn't care what you believe. Believe crazy stuff and then, screw around and find out.

SHEFFIELD: It is such a unfortunate and terrible mentality. I mean, as somebody who's been making cartoon commentary for 42 years. Is that something that you've seen develop over time in the American right? or some people seem to think that this just happened with Trump, but I don't think that's right.

BAGLEY: No, I mean, this has been going on for quite a while and actually you can draw a bright line between the establishment [00:14:00] of Fox News in 1996 and the erosion of trust in the institutions that make us a nation.

 They came out and said, we are fair and balanced. Everybody else is not. They're telling you lies. and they undercut trust in, government. they say the government lies to you. They say the only people you can trust are us, Fox News. So you look at the erosion of what's happened, of where we got here, how we got here.

It started earlier, with Gingrich and, all that, but it was amplified by Fox News. And over the years, they've just gotten crazier and crazier. They got us into a war in Iraq for no good reason. they, were saying in 2008 during the financial collapse, everything was fine. there was no collapse.

It was just okay. they [00:15:00] got us, Donald Trump. And they amplified this whole lie about Obama being a Muslim.

SHEFFIELD: Now, in regards to, I guess your own career trajectory, it is, have, so you're, now, on pre, on the progressive side of the aisle. is that where you started off initially or, have, And if so, we, what was that experience like being a progressive in, in, in Mormondom?

BAGLEY: So I grew up a Republican and this is back in the day where you could be liberal and be a Republican. I mean, there was Rockefeller, there was Percy, there was Hatfield, I think, who were

SHEFFIELD: Eisenhower. Certainly.

BAGLEY: Yeah. George Romney was pretty progressive. He was anti war. He was pro choice. He marched with Martin Luther King. That was back in the day [00:16:00] when both Republican and Democratic parties had left and right wings. People migrated so that the Republican party is completely right wing, reactionary right wing. The Republican party didn't, I didn't leave the Republican party. It left me, and, like, people like you, they ask, well, what was your politics?

My politics is. Eisenhower republicanism, I believe in expanding education, I believe in infrastructure. there are a lot of good things that, oh, Eisenhower also expanded the social security net. So, I'm an Eisenhower republican.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah, and in that case, you deserve to be canceled, by conservatives. Which, isn't that, there, there isn't that just so hypocritical and ironic that they're constantly complaining that everyone wants to cancel them. But they cancel people like you guys decades and have continuously done it. [00:17:00]

BAGLEY: Well, they came up with the term Rhino, Republican in name only. And that means that if you're identified as that, then you're kicked out. You're expunged. it sounds a lot like the communist party, where, you see, see who's on the top of Lenin's tomb and see who's been erased recently. So yeah, they're really into that whole cancel culture stuff. It's projection. It's just pure projection.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah. now I guess within, I think, the same thing also is kind of happened in Mormonism as well. So in Utah in the 70s, and early 80s, it was not uncommon to have statewide officials who were Democrats. The governors were Democrats, for a bunch of years in the 60s and 70s. But so what do you think happened to Mormonism, over time? Something similar?

BAGLEY: Oh, it was probably Ezra Taft Benson, who said,

SHEFFIELD: And who was [00:18:00] Ezra Taft Benson?

BAGLEY: Ezra Taft Benson eventually became the president of the LDS church, but he was famous for saying, I don't see, I don't see how you can be, how you can be a good Mormon and a Democrat.

And the LDS church didn't used to be so in line with evangelicals, evangelicals hate Mormons, but they used to be kind of their own things. And now Republican ideology, Mormon political ideology follows in line with evangelical political ideology. They're, bedfellows right now. And I think it's bad for Christianity,

by mixing politics and religion, they've done a disservice to both. It's, just debased both. the Christianity that it espouses is pretty awful. it used to be you would keep your politics and your religion [00:19:00] separate. I remember going to see Goldwater when I was a kid. My dad took me to see him on one of these train stops when he was campaigning.

And... I remember thinking, wow, this is kind of cool. This guy could be president. And he was one of those people who said, you've got to maintain this. Division between religion and politics, and he said, if these TV pastors ever get ahold of the Republican Party, like they're trying to do, that's going to be really bad. And here we are.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah, he was right. Although I guess you could argue that he kind of encouraged that and maybe that's why he said that later. He kind of regretted what happened.

BAGLEY: Yeah, I mean, he was for his time. He's pretty far, right? But, you look back on him and he wasn't that bad. I mean, he was.

Fine with gays in the military. He was fine with, choice, abortion choice. compared to the people we have now. He was kind of moderate.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Well, and it's interesting, you had mentioned [00:20:00] in Mormonism about abortion and positions on that, being more kind of up in the air or, on one side or the other that also happened within white evangelism as well.

So, like, the Southern Baptist convention used to be pro choice and used to not think that abortion was a sin. And so, yeah, so a lot that's kind of become the story of the Republican party is how religion was used to get people to vote for them. Because, when you look at polls of Americans and even Republican voters, they don't agree with Republican economic.

viewpoints, they don't want to cut social security. They don't want to privatize Medicare or things like that. And so they got to have a reason to vote for them. Seems like.

BAGLEY: Well, the Republican party is really good at riling people up with the cultural wars so that they don't have to give people, anything, [00:21:00] I mean, I sometimes put this out there, what have the Republicans done for ordinary Americans over the last 40 years? And people really strained to find anything that the Republican Party is actually material, materially done to benefit ordinary Americans, over the past decades.

Because they haven't, but they have given them this red meat culture war stuff, about abortion, about cancel culture, about, I mean, it's led to QAnon, complete crazy nonsense. But if you, like you're saying, if you do look at the policies that people like, it's actually pretty in line with today's Democratic Party.

SHEFFIELD: And, this whole cancel culture stuff is so ridiculous. Somebody who I'm sure you probably know, Steve Benson, who worked for a long time for the Arizona Republic as a cartoonist and was also a member of the LDS faith, can you tell the audience a little bit about what happened with him and [00:22:00] why he eventually separated from Mormonism?

BAGLEY: I've known him since BYU. When I was hired at the Daily Universe, he was the other cartoonist. They actually had two cartoonists. There's me and Steve Benson. And I got to know his family pretty well. I actually met Ezra Taft Benson once. He took me up to his apartment.

SHEFFIELD: And he was Steve's grandfather.

BAGLEY: Steve's grandfather. And he was the president of the LDS Church. He was very gracious, when he met me. And I could tell he was working on something. He, I said, what are you working on? And he said, I'm working on blah, blah, blah. And I said, well, I just read this article by Alexander Schultz Nissen about that very same thing.

And he goes, I read that too, but I'm kind of worried that he's a plant. My mind went to the green leafy kind of plant, but he was actually talking about Alexander Solzhenitsyn being a Soviet agent. So Ezra Taft Benson was, what's the name of that [00:23:00] group? The Birch Society. he was definitely part of that.

So Steve grew up in this family that was a very interesting family. he was the oldest son of the oldest son and was kind of the crown prince. They were looking to him to kind of, go into church leadership at some point, Steve had other ideas. He liked cartooning. And so he started cartooning and he got the job at the Daily Universe.

but he was very right wing and he actually ratted out one of his political science professors because of political science professor bought, brought people in with different. And he actually brought a communist in to explain to the class about communism, which is what you do in college, you get exposed to different ideas.

And I watched Steve's progression, from being very right wing to, questioning, to, wondering about things, to [00:24:00] coming out against the church and against what they did to his grandfather. The story that he tells is there was a general conference where Ezra Taft Benson was presiding, but he wasn't all there.

He had dementia and was kind of losing it, but there was, they propped him up, in front of the masses. And there was somebody who actually behind the scenes took his arm. It did this so that it looked like he was waving to the, and Steve was behind the scenes and he saw that, he goes, that's it, I'm done.

And so Steve, his journey has been from being very right wing to being pretty progressive and, it's hard on his family because family is very LDS and very, I don't know, but, it was brave of Steve to do what he did. It was courageous.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah, there's that movie [00:25:00] Weekend at Bernie's that's basically what they were doing where they were propping up a person who could not You know do anything in function and pretending that he could and telling people that he was in charge. It was pretty-- and they never apologized or even admitted that they did it even though it's obvious Yeah, so at the same time, so, I mean, I mean, you've talked about the LDS church having become a lot more right wing because of and people in his orbit.

But more recently, they've been going through a lot of changes as well, and I don't know fully what's going on. Why don't you tell us about some of these changes and whether you think they mean anything?

BAGLEY: A couple of things that I've noticed that are kind of worrisome, because the LDS Church is kind of a moderating influence on the membership.

They came out and they said it's okay to be a Democrat, you can be a Democrat or a Republican. You don't campaign in churches. They've said get vaccinated, [00:26:00] definitely get vaccinated, get, the vaccination. And so they've been pretty moderate. In fact, they're more moderate than the, Utah legislature.

But the thing that I've seen recently that is worrisome is there are a lot of Mormons who watch Fox News every single day and they go to church once a week. And the influence that they are following is the Fox News stuff, and the counseling that they get from church leaders, they're starting to ignore it.

it's pretty clear that the LDS church has told the membership to get vaccinated. But it's also clear that Mormons are the most vaccine hesitant group in the country. Even more than evangelicals. I think if I, recall right, they're 50% of Mormons who say, Nope, not going to get the vaccination, just won't do it.

And that's [00:27:00] flying in the face of what they've been told from the pulpit. And I, like I say that, that's kind of troubling.

SHEFFIELD: I've seen a lot of articles and TV segments recently about, oh, if Donald Trump will come out and say, to tell people to get vaccinated, then people will do it. And it's like.

You don't know these people. Well, there's a reason that's the reason that Trump doesn't do it. because he thinks it would harm his brand if he were to do that.

BAGLEY: I said earlier that you could be LDS and not have to be exposed to anything outside of LDS culture, you can watch your LDS news and get your LDS newspaper, you can get your LDS books and you're never exposed to anything outside of that.

That's the same thing that's going on with evangelicalism. So even if. Trump came out and said, get vaccinated. And I think he has, yeah, People are living in these shells that are impermeable. You just can't get through to them. And, even though you [00:28:00] tell them something that's absolutely true, the vaccine is safe and it's effective.

99 percent of people that were dying are unvaccinated facts. You can tell them that, and it makes no difference. That to me is kind of worrisome.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah. So as somebody who is stating inconvenient truths like this to the public, I mean, how does the Utah audience respond to you? Do you have a lot? You have a lot of fans who love you desperately and probably a lot of people who hate you as well, right?

BAGLEY: Yeah. Yeah. it used to be that. I was tolerated because Mormons believe that, people have their callings and, my calling was to be, the bird in the saddle. and they were kind of okay with that. But the, sense I get of people out there now is that it's becoming incredibly radicalized and it is worrisome to me.

I went to a [00:29:00] cartoon festival in France, I don't know, five years ago. Six years ago, and I met the, creators of this magazine, humor magazine, and this little humor magazine that was not doing very well, it's called Charlie Hebdo. And so I met these people and they're nice people and inoffensive.

And then three months later, somebody breaks into their offices and murders five of them cartoonists and I used to go into work and not have to worry about any of that. Now I do worry for my personal safety that things are getting that bad. I mean, look what happened on January 6th. People attacked the Capitol.

And had they got a hold of a Congress person, who knows what they would have done. they were out for blood.

SHEFFIELD: In regards to Utah and the Intermountain West, there, and there definitely is a metastasizing radicalism or growing radicalism. [00:30:00] The Bundy family, who attracted national attention for, invading federal property and trying to occupy it, they're Mormons.

And. They are some of the, as I understand it, I guess Ammon Bundy, who is named after a Book of Mormon character, is, says he wants to run for governor of Idaho. And, he's very anti vaccine and tells people not, and anti mask and. Are there any Mormons out there that you know, who have privately said to you, Pat, I used to think you were all, you were crazy, but now I'm wondering if maybe you were right.

Has anybody ever said that to you?

BAGLEY: No. Oh, wow. Congressional delegation said that, and I think we have some fairly good people. I think that Governor Cox is doing a fairly good job. But even he came out against right wing [00:31:00] media as far as vaccination goes. He says that, the reason people aren't getting vaccinated is because of the stuff they hear on.

Fox News and OANN and, because you got to stop listening to that stuff, but he, no, he called me an idiot. So, no, he's not going to.

SHEFFIELD: All right. Well, so now your, I guess, personal perspective on Mormonism has changed over the years. Can you talk about that a little bit as well?

BAGLEY: Yeah, so my Odyssey out of the church quite a while and it was one thing after another until I realized I just don't believe these precepts anymore.

But if you grow up LDS, it's in your blood, it's tribal. And when people ask if I'm a Mormon, depending on the circumstances, I'll say, yeah, because I was born Mormon. I was raised Mormon. Still know all this stuff from the Book of Mormon. I read the [00:32:00] Book of Mormon 25 times. I can say Mohenroi Moriankomer, then I have to trip over my tongue saying it.

And the stuff that you learn young kind of stays with you. It's in my DNA, even though I don't practice the religion anymore, it certainly had a lot to do with how I turned out with, what a way with what it made me.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah. and to go back to something you said earlier, I think that, because it is an institution that actually does have to function around the globe and outside of.

The pulpit with all their massive investments, they actually have to be more grounded in reality compared to, let's say the, Pentecostals or something like that.

BAGLEY: They're just fairly good about the immigration and immigrants. they've put out statements saying that we should welcome these brothers and sisters and, the [00:33:00] fleeing.

bad situations and, let's welcome them, let's be Christ like and welcome them. But that flies in the face of what you're getting from Fox News and right wing media, which is, these people are, what did Trump say, they're murderers and rapists and they're coming to take your jobs.

So there are two messages there. One is fairly accepting from the church, and again, they have to be because they are an international church.

SHEFFIELD: I guess it's, been kind of interesting. So I lived in Missouri for a number of years and the Mormon branch that, or the Mormon sect that is the biggest out there is the former reorganized church, or reorganized church of Latter day Saints.

And now they call themselves the community of Christ. and they, it seems to some degree that the LDS are kind of making a slower version of. Of what happened with the humanity of Christ. Do you think that's true? [00:34:00]

BAGLEY: Oh, the LDS church has been incredibly successful and the church is this big and this powerful with that much money, you usually have scandals like the Catholic church and the pedophile priests.

And there've been minor scandals with the LDS church, but it's been able to avoid scandals and schism for a long time.

SHEFFIELD: I mean in the sense that the Community of Christ, when we're gradually backing away from the Book of Mormon for a number of decades, and then finally formally came out and said, all right, yeah, our church historians don't believe that this was a real.

Thing that, the Nephites didn't exist, sorry, Norman, and, they were, and they never existed in the Lamanites are not out there somewhere. and we think it was an inspired book, but it's not, a work of history and they formally said that.

BAGLEY: Yeah, I don't, see the LDS church going that route. They're pretty committed to the Book of [00:35:00] Mormon and to Joseph Smith as a divine prophet although they have been a little more forthcoming about things like the peep stone and Joseph Smith being involved with women as young as 14 years old. But I don't see them really saying, Yeah, we're just going to do the New Testament because I think they're committed.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah, I mean, I think that's very possible. I think, yeah, organizationally, they probably never will, but they, the BYU actually just recently published a paper that noted how Joseph Smith had, basically plagiarized a lot from, this, Bible commentary by a guy named Adam Clark. And this was published in a BYU paper.

They were saying that this is something that was done in the, In his Joseph Smith version of the Bible, and I don't think that's something that would have happened, like even, let's say, 20 years ago.

BAGLEY: The church is kind of surprising. I [00:36:00] learned evolution at BYU, and the teacher was not having any of the stuff about, the earth being six thousand years old.

He said, nope, you do that, you're going to fail this class. I remember going through the BYU bookstore and there was No Man Knows My History by Fawn Brody, the history of Joseph Smith, and it was being sold in the bookstore. So you do have these flashes of intellectual freedom that they still allow people to have in the church.

But as far as-- I don't know what's going to happen to the church. I really don't. I think it's kind of interesting. I think these changes about how the membership views the leadership, is kind of big. And I don't know where that goes, though.

SHEFFIELD: My thought is that they're headed for a schism in some sense. It seems that way because, although on the other hand, I mean, you look at the Roman Catholic Church, they've essentially managed to create parallel worlds within their realm [00:37:00] where if you're like a lot of people in the Jesuit orbit don't really believe a lot that's in the Bible.

And they still identify as Catholic and nobody is able to do anything. The more rabid, traditionalist kind of Catholics are, they, they hate that. And they're constantly trying to go after them, but they can't do it. So I wonder if, to some extent, that It seems like something like that is happening within Mormonism, with some of their newer apologetic writers coming out and saying, yeah, Joseph Smith.

Yeah, he wasn't a translator. There's this guy named, I think his name is, Terrell Givens came out and said, Joseph Smith was engaging in bricolage. which for those, not familiar with the R term, that's taking a bunch of stuff from places and gluing them all together. And that's what the Book of Mormon was. It wasn't really a translation. And this guy, he literally works for the church and he's saying that. Yeah.

BAGLEY: But, the one [00:38:00] thing that Mormons can't ever get away with is questioning the leadership. I mean, the last thing that kind of fell away, for me, where I made the final break was deciding that I didn't want to be part of Bruce R. McConkie's militia. I wasn't going to be a follower.

SHEFFIELD: And who was Bruce R. McConkie for those who don't know?

BAGLEY: Bruce R. McConkie was an apostle who wrote some books that were-- it's called Mormon Doctrine, and he proposed to lay out the whole Mormon doctrine, and it's pretty toxic stuff.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah, it's incredibly racist, among other things.


SHEFFIELD: Well, and it's, and his faction did, they're, they took over the church, with Ezra Taft Benson, and, um, it's, yeah, it is, it, Mormonism is definitely in a very strange place right now.

BAGLEY: Yeah, yeah, but it, it's the same authoritarianism, because you never question the prophet, follow the prophet, [00:39:00] kids sing songs about following the prophet.

And that's the one thing that, that, I think is unchanging with the LDS church. And if they start to lose members who are listening to Glenn Beck rather than the prophet, that's, that, that's bad for the future of the church. I don't know where that goes.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Well, I guess maybe Glenn Beck can have a vision and see Jesus.

that one's coming, Pat. All right. Well, so, some of the, over the years, let's talk about your cartoons a little bit more. what kind of, what are some of the cartoons you've done that have had the biggest responses nationally that you can think of, or that are memorable in that regard?

BAGLEY: So I should have sent you this cartoon. There's a cartoon of Malala, the girl who the Taliban tried to assassinate in Pakistan. they shot her, but she recovered and she, the reason they wanted to kill her in the first place is because she was a proponent of education for [00:40:00] women and the Taliban doesn't believe that women should be educated and she was, I think, 14 at the time.

And so they shot her, she recovered, it seemed to make her even more resolved to, promote education among women. She won the. Nobel Prize a couple of years ago for her activism, and I did this cartoon that shows her with a book and it says, see if I can remember the thing that religious fundamentalists hate more or fear more than American bombs and bullets and tanks is a girl with a book, and on the book, it says knowledge, and that got tremendous response.

All of a sudden, it's showing up, they're sending me emails, and it's been translated into Italian, into Russian, into Arabic, and it went [00:41:00] all the way around the world. It went viral, as they say, and it probably was shown tens of millions of times. so that's been my biggest hit, was that one, cartoon.

And when you do a cartoon, you have no idea. I had no idea that it was going to, people are going to respond to it like they did. but it took off. Other times you think, oh boy, this is really going to get so and so, or some, people are going to get upset about this, and you cricket, so you hear nothing.

SHEFFIELD: So, you never know. the editorial cartooning industry itself has really been under a lot of negative pressure. talk about that.

BAGLEY: You spoke to a couple of my colleagues. And I'm sure they've said the same thing. When I started doing this, one time ago, there were probably a couple hundred newspapers that had their own cartoonist.

And now there are probably less than 20. So I'm kind of a dying breed. And it's not because, I get, [00:42:00] this from people all the time. So you guys are so left wing, that's why, newspapers are failing. That's absolutely not the reason. The reason newspapers are having a hard time is because it's advertising.

Back in the day, the Salt Lake Tribune would come out seven days a week, and there'd be two, sometimes three sections of nothing but classifieds, and classifieds weren't cheap, but that was if we were printing money in it, and it was a good business model, but then along came the internet and things like ksl.com and Craigslist, and it's infinitely easier and better because it's free, reaches more people. And it undercut our entire business model. And so we started to lose it, we lost that overnight. And then we've slowly been losing advertisers. And so a lot of newspapers have folded, which is really bad for democracy.

And it's bad for politics. there have been studies that show that communities that have lost their newspapers actually pay more because of [00:43:00] corruption. And if they had kept the newspaper, people have paid a subscription to keep it going in the solid. Tribune recently went to a nonprofit status that were the first paper in the country to do that.

And they talked to the publisher. Paul has been a couple of weeks ago about it. And he seemed pretty upbeat. He seemed to think that things were going pretty well for us. So maybe that's a model. That will help other communities keep their newspapers.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah, I, yeah, I think that is the model of, it's the model that we pursue at Flux, the website that I just recently launched that, Theory of Change is part of the, podcast network.

And the advertising as a, It is cancerous, on, quality journalism, in my opinion, because you constantly are having people being compromised by it, trying to get advertising or trying to pander to advertisers and, [00:44:00] it's, not good. And, I mean, you can see the ultimate. And for that type of thing, when you know, look at people like Steve Bannon, like on his pocket, this guy is constantly going around the world, desperately trying to find people dumb enough to give him money and, and he keeps embarrassing them and humiliating himself and, but he's always got to find finding another more ridiculous mark one after the other.

But people, yeah, people need to understand that quality information, quality analysis has to be paid for because stuff that you pull out of your ass, well, that's free and it doesn't, and it belongs in the toilet.

BAGLEY: Yeah, I mean, it's been pointed out that places like Fox News and OANN and, Breitbart and these other right wing sites, it's all free.

It's all out there free, but if you want to read really good journalism, like the New York Times, Washington Post, Salt Lake Tribune, [00:45:00] there's a paywall. You have to pay to get good journalism and crap is free. And that's part of the problem with America right now, is that the disinformation and the lies. Oh, somebody said, maybe Mark Twain, the truth is barely putting on his pants.

Well, a lie goes halfway around the world. that's, why lies are getting such press these days because it's exciting stuff.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Well, and it's--

BAGLEY: It's going to be reinstated back in, in that. August. That's wow if true.

SHEFFIELD: Well, and it's, it is comforting to believe lies. The QAnon movement got started, not related to elections or anything like that. It got started as a way of convincing gullible people that Donald Trump is secretly working with Jeff Sessions and Bob Mueller to take down pedophiles. He's actually in league with Mueller and the real point of this is not to [00:46:00] investigate Russia. No, it's to have a massive arrest of child abusers.

BAGLEY: And, you, hit that button. You hit that button with people that, children are at risk. Children are being abused. Children are being sexually abused and sacrificed and eaten. And who wants that? Geez, nobody. And that's how they, draw these people in because they're trying to save the children.

SHEFFIELD: I don't know if you remember, but in the 80s in Mormon culture, there was this obsession with satanic cults in the 80s. Do you remember that?

BAGLEY: Yeah, there was some episode in, I think it was Lehigh or down in Utah Valley, where it was a preschool. And there were accusations of satanic, weird sexual stuff going on.

And it's straight out of the Salem Witch Trial, where, stories start to get told, and they get embellished, and the community gets, upset, and worried, and frightened, and they do crazy stuff. [00:47:00] Yeah, I do remember that. I think it was Lehigh. I'll have to check on that.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah, it was northern Utah County, because I remember, I, I was living in Pleasant Grove, and I was in, I think, third grade or something, and my parent, my, my mom was always telling me to be careful of the devil worshippers that were out there, and supposedly they had, they were kidnapping people. area cats and sacrificing them. Although we had a cat and nobody ever kidnapped our cat.

BAGLEY: Yeah the satanists always get the cat!

SHEFFIELD: Yeah. All right. Well, so I, yeah, this has been a treat for me, Pat. I, when I was a kid, I read your Norman, the Nephite books, and my mom bought those for us to look at during our church services instead of paying attention. Thanks. But, yeah, so you're, you are on Twitter at Pat Bagley. That's B A G L E Y and you are on the Salt Lake Tribune, [00:48:00] which is sltrib.com. Do you have any other online platforms that you're using nowadays? Or is that it?

BAGLEY: So there's. Facebook, Twitter, that's most of it, so.

SHEFFIELD: Okay, cool. Alright, well thanks so much for joining us today, Pat. And we'll look forward to continuing to see you producing work for the Tribune as long as you want to.

BAGLEY: Well thanks for this, Matthew. This was a lot of fun.

SHEFFIELD: Just as a bit of housekeeping for the audience here, Theory of Change is part, as I mentioned during the show, of the Flux. Community Network. And Flux is a website that is a non profit. We're working to bring deep coverage to the larger trends in politics and religion and technology and getting people to understand how they all intersect.

So if you can be sure to visit the site, it's flux.community. And we also have a Patreon. If you like what we're doing here with Theory of Change, just go to patreon.com/discoverflux. I'm Matthew Sheffield, and I will see you guys next time.

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Theory of Change Podcast With Matthew Sheffield
Lots of people want to change the world. But how does change happen? Join Matthew Sheffield and his guests as they explore larger trends and intersections in politics, religion, technology, and media.