The Cultural Hall Podcast: Mormons on Mormons

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Richie T. Steadman delves into the heart of Mormon issues in his podcast, The Cultural Hall. Photo: Melissa Cohn

Listeners of X96’s popular Radio From Hell show are familiar with the dulcet tones of Richie T. Steadman, though he is often unheralded as the fourth member of the RFH team. As an active member of the LDS Church, Steadman provides the show with a unique insight on issues that affect a large portion of Utah’s community, without being a dick about it. In an effort to expand the dialogue about these issues, Steadman founded a podcast called The Cultural Hall, which he hosts along with a cohort of like-minded Latter Day Saints. He was nice enough to take some time out of his busy schedule to talk about the past, present and future of this locally made show.

SLUG: What inspired you to start an LDS-centered podcast?
Steadman: Probably the success of Kerry Jackson’s Geekshow Podcast. I figured that since I don’t know anything about geek stuff, but I know a lot about Mormon stuff, an LDS podcast could work. I also didn’t feel like there was a Mormon podcast that did what I wanted to do—there are a lot of doctrinal podcasts, but nothing about culture and subjects that might be considered taboo.

SLUG: What’s the process for choosing the topics for each podcast?
Steadman: Sometimes it’s determined by which guests we can get to come on the show. For example, we’re going to have Orrin Hatch on soon, so we work our schedule around that. Sometimes it’s about what’s popular in the news. Sometimes we get ideas from listeners, and sometimes I’ll get a good idea in the shower!

SLUG: How does the podcast evolve from an idea to an actual episode?
Steadman: The original idea for Cultural Hall was to talk to famous Mormon people. For the seventh episode, we couldn’t book anyone to interview, and we had to put something out there. So we discussed among ourselves and decided we all know about dating, so we just took it from there. I don’t like to prepare too much in advance—which is probably 50 percent laziness—but I also want to answer questions that I would have as a listener.

SLUG: Has there been a specific podcast episode that has stood out to you as one of your favorites?
Steadman: I think the episode that started to define the podcast was Episode 13, which was about Mitch Mayne, an openly gay member who is serving as the executive secretary in a ward in California. He was willing to talk with us as opposed to a lot of news sources because of what we were. As a result, I thought that maybe this podcast could do some good and create a dialogue for people. As soon as I learned about the “Wear Pants to Church” movement [which encouraged LDS women to wear pants to church rather than dresses or skirts], I was able to talk to one of the creators. Not only was it our most downloaded episode, but we were on the forefront of something. Instead of reporting what was going on, we were part of what was going on.

SLUG: Who is your target audience?
Steadman: Going into this, I would have thought that we’d have an exclusively LDS audience. But I think there are a lot of people who are disenchanted, non-attending or not members, that have either picked us up because of Radio From Hell or have found one of our topics entertaining. I think they’ve stuck around because it’s a way for them to still know what’s going on with the LDS community without having to go to church.

SLUG: Describe the synergy among your hosts. Do they each have areas of expertise?
Steadman: I think of us as examples of certain lifestyles within the whole range of Mormonism. Conservative to liberal, married to divorced, single and older, married and younger—we try to represent what I feel are each of the things that you’d find within the Church, so each person listening has someone to relate to. It promotes understanding.
SLUG: The Cultural Hall has recently discussed some progressive LDS movements, as you mentioned. What are the advantages and disadvantages of discussing these movements within the LDS community?
Steadman: There’s not another place where you have this kind of discussion on this kind of scale. Conversation breeds understanding. It doesn’t have to be agreement, but I feel like having a discussion about different perspectives is immensely valuable. I think that, in that same respect, it can have harmful effects. There are some things that people just don’t want to talk about.

SLUG: What level of objectivity do you strive to maintain? Or is there a transparent liberal or conservative leaning?
Steadman: We’re probably more liberal than conservative—which is not to say that we set out to do that. I think the younger generation of the Church is more liberal than their parents and grandparents, and I think we speak to that generation. I’m sure there are lots of people who listen and think our show is terribly inappropriate, though. That will always exist, but we try to remain objective and seek opportunities for discussion.

SLUG: What can listeners expect from upcoming episodes?
Steadman: We’ll be talking with two women who are both active Mormons and lesbians. We’ve got a whole episode about adoption, and we’re going to explore the ideas around spousal abuse and what to do in an abusive relationship.

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