The Joseph Smith Lecture on Religious Liberty

Every fall, the UVA Mormon Studies program sponsors a lecture centered around the topic of religious freedom, featuring distinguished guests from varied fields. Past lecturers have been a U.S. senator, a Pulitzer Prize winner, and a human rights authority. View the Joseph Smith Lecture Archives.

Support the Joseph Smith Lecture Series by making a gift to the Mormon Studies Program Fund.


The 2022 lecture will welcome William Eskridge, Jr., John A. Garver Professor of Jurisprudence at Yale Law School. His lecture is entitled, “Mediating LGBTQ Equality & Religious Liberty Clashes: the Role of Statutory Principles.”

Dallin H. Oaks delivered the 2021 Joseph Smith Lecture on Religious Liberty on Friday, Nov. 12, 2021 at 7:00PM. His lecture was entitled, “Going Forward with Religious Freedom & Nondiscrimination.”

Senator Tim Kaine delivered the 2020 Joseph Smith Lecture on Thursday, Nov. 5. This program was jointly hosted by the University of Virginia’s Department of Religion and the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy. Batten School Dean Ian H. Solomon provided introductory remarks, followed by a lecture from Senator Kaine and questions from the audience. Bushman Professor of Mormon Studies Kathleen Flake served as moderator.

Senator Jeff Flake delivered the 2019 Joseph Smith Lecture on Religious Liberty on September 13th. His lecture was entitled “Searching for the Better Angels of Our Nature.”

2018 Lecture: Dr. Douglas Laycock

Dr. Douglas Laycock was our Joseph Smith lecturer. His theme was  “Liberty and Justice for All? What the Supreme Court Did in Masterpiece Cakeshop.” Read more about this event.

2017 Lecture: Dr. Katrina Lantos-Swett

In September 2017, our guest was Katrina Lantos Swett, President of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice and former Chair of the U.S. Commission on Religious Freedom. Her lecture was entitled “Keeping Religion Free in a Time of Radicalization.” See the Archives for this event.

2017 Additional Panel: Religion and State Cooperation

Our 2017 pre-event panel addressed cooperative relations between religion and the state in refugee aid and resettlement. The panel comprised Barbara Day (U.S. State Dept.), Sharon Eubank (LDS Charities), Michael Kessler (Georgetown U.), and Anwar Khan (Islamic Relief) See the Archives for this event.

2016 Lecture: Dr. Alan Taylor

On September 9, 2016, Professor Alan Taylor, the University of Virginia’s Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation Professor of History, spoke on the experience of religious minorities in the Early Republic, with an emphasis on Mormonism. See the Archives for this event.

2016 Additional Panel: The Council of Fifty Minutes

The panel commented on “The Council of Fifty Minutes,” the first volume in the Joseph Smith Papers’ Administrative Papers Series, which was published the week of the Lecture. The panel included Richard Bushman, Richard E. Turley, Jr., Matthew J. Grow, Nathan B. Oman, and Kathleen Flake. See the Archives for this event.

2015 Lecture: Senator Harry Reid

The inaugural Joseph Smith Lecture on Religious Liberty in 2015 featured an open conversation between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Professor Kathleen Flake, with audience questions. See the Archives for this event.