Latter-day Student on Harvard Panel Takes on Hard Questions with Excellence From the Editors

A few months ago a panel representing a variety of religious outlooks was convened at Harvard and moderated by The Washington Post’s, Sally Quinn of the On Faith blog.

On that panel was Harvard junior, Rachel Esplin, from Blackfoot, Idaho, president of the Latter-day Student Association on campus and a member of the Interfaith Council.

Seasoned journalist, Sally Quinn is a tough questioner and asked Rachel questions about whether the Church was a cult, were women treated unequally, why the secrecy surrounding the temple and much more.

What is fascinating about this video is the aplomb with which Rachel answers the questions, neither shrinking nor apologizing before Quinn’s questions, and feeling free to assert her testimony, a remarkable quality in one so young put on the spot.

As Latter-day Saints, especially following the avalanche of misconceptions that were passed on by the media in the last two years, we have been advised to step up and help clear the ignorance and misunderstandings so many people hold. Rachel is a good example of doing just that.

She is doing just what pollster Gary Lawrence suggests in his book How Americans View Mormonism. See Meridians articles about this book and his suggestions for talking to others about our faith part 1 and part 2.

The viral nature of a popular online video was not on Harvard undergraduate Rachel Esplin’s mind when she participated in a campus panel discussion in September about faith.

A high school background in speech and debate, a service trip to Mexico last spring with Jewish campus organization Harvard Hillel and experience on Harvard’s interfaith council are among the experiences that made Rachel very comfortable accepting Hillel’s invitation to participate on a student panel moderated by The Washington Post’s Sally Quinn, a co-moderator of the blog “On Faith.”

The 20-year-old junior from Blackfoot, Idaho , signed a media release and knew the panel was being videotaped. But she gave little thought to that as the moderator’s questions started coming — about the church, missions, garments, religious diversity, the priesthood and the church’s view on women. For more than 20 minutes, Rachel’s delivery was as unstoppable as the incoming tide.

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