Author Spotlight: Craig L. Foster May 03 2018

Conversation with Craig L. Foster

Craig L. Foster earned a MA and MLIS at Brigham Young University. He is also an accredited genealogist and works as a research consultant at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. He has published multiple books and articles about different aspects of Mormon history, including co-editing the Persistence of Polygamy series with Newell G. Bringhurst. Craig is also on the editorial board of the John Whitmer Historical Association Journal.

Q: You have published on a wide variety of topics from Mormon historiography, anti-Mormon literature, politics, and polygamy. What made you interested in writing about Mormon topics?

A: From the time I can remember, I have been interested in Mormon history. While growing up, I was very aware of plural marriage given that my grandmother was from the fifth wife and number twenty-six out of thirty children. So I had an interest in that topic at a very young age. The other topics I researched and wrote about out of curiosity or at the suggestion of others.

Q: With Church-led initiatives such as the Joseph Smith Papers, many say that we have entered into an age of increased openness in analyzing and discussing Mormonism’s past. Some fear, however, that discussing more sensitive topics such as race or polygamy can lead to a struggle with faith. What advice would you give to faithful members who are beginning to look more closely at difficult historical topics?

A: As our own children grew up, my wife, Suzanne, and I would tell them to never, ever put the prophet or any other church leader on a pedestal thinking they were perfect. No one but the Lord was perfect. Joseph Smith made mistakes; sometimes really stupid mistakes. But he was still a prophet of God and that should be a faith-building thing. Heavenly Father works with and through imperfect people to establish and spread His gospel. It gives all of us hope. So my suggestion to others would be the same as to our children. Keep in mind that the early Saints and church leaders were imperfect people trying to build up the Kingdom of God and not always succeeding.

Q: Let’s talk politics. With Mitt Romney announcing his bid for the Senate, we will undoubtedly be hearing much about his Mormon faith in the news once again. Similarly, other Mormon politicians, such as Senator Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) have been in the news quite frequently. Are we experiencing another “Mormon moment?” And what unique values or perspectives should Mormon political leaders bring to Washington?

A: I don’t think we are yet experiencing another Mormon moment. We still could. It all depends upon what happens in the next few years. I think Mormon political leaders could help usher in a resurgence of personal and public morality that we have not seen for some time. But they will need to rise above the simple party politics and the temptation to say whatever they think will help them win. Neither of those are easy. The easier way is to just go along with the status quo. The word courage is bandied about to the point where it is almost ridiculous. But true courage would be for our politicians like Romney, Flake and others to have honor, integrity, and actually stand for something whether or not it is popular. That would make them stand out and I think would certainly bring on another Mormon moment.

Thanks, Craig!

A Different God? Mitt Romney, the Religious Right, and the Mormon Question
By Craig L. Foster

“Foster encapsulates an impressive amount of Romney coverage, which makes the book worth reading for anyone interested in public and media perceptions of Mormonism during Romney’s run. His account also gives readers an idea of what they might expect from pundits, politicians and journalists in the coming election should Romney announce his candidacy.”
— Blair Hodges, 
Life on Gold Plates