Richard Turley spoke at today’s BYU-Idaho forum in an address titled, “Joseph Smith: Teenage Prophet.”
Turley is currently the managing director of the Communication Department for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He also previously worked as the managing director of the Church’s Public Affairs Department, Historical Department, Family History Department, and the combined Family and Church History Department.
In an interview with BYU-Idaho Radio, Turley said he developed the idea for the topic as he traveled with general authorities around the world to visit missionaries. Turley said he wanted to find a subject that would interest the young elders and sisters.
“I began to take details from the life of the prophet Joseph Smith that I had learned that reflected his life when he was closer in age to these missionaries,” he said.
Turley said he was able to garner more interest from young people by taking this unique view of the life of Joseph Smith. That’s what motivated him to speak again on the topic today at BYU-Idaho.
The talk covers the life of Joseph Smith from his birth until his interactions with the angel Moroni in his bedroom. Turley looks at an aspect of the prophet’s life that isn’t often considered.
“I think often we treat the Prophet Joseph Smith as though he were a full-grown, very mature, seasoned 21st century adult when he had the First Vision,” he said. “He had a lot of concerns that are common to teenagers.”
Turley explained his talk especially portrays what life was like for the young Joseph from the ages of 14-17. He said many are able to recognize parallels between the challenges of the prophet’s young years and their own.
Turley hasn’t had a routine career path to where he is today. It’s certainly not been one he or anyone else could have anticipated.
He started as an English major at Brigham Young University, followed by law school and an early job placing in Salt Lake City with a firm out of Chicago. “I assumed I’d be there the rest of my life,” he said.
Turley received an unexpected phone call from a then-new member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Dallin H. Oaks, who asked him to serve as the managing director of the Church History Department.
He then worked as the managing director of the Family History Department before going on to be assistant church historian. Turley then transitioned to the communications field as the managing director of the Church Public Affairs Department, which eventually morphed into the current Church Communication Department.
Turley has been involved in many well-known church projects during his career. Recently, he was the genesis and leader of the “Saints” book project, which covers the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in a four-volume series.
In his time in the Church History Department and as the assistant church historian, Turley has been able to expand his knowledge and passion for church history. “Saints” was a project that grew out of that passion.
“For me, church history has been a quest for seeing the big picture,” Turley said. “When you look at the picture as a whole, it’s an extraordinarily beautiful picture.”