Laura Elizabeth Harris Hales passed away on April 13, 2022, from pancreatic cancer. Born August 12, 1967, to Alfred Ray and Margaret Lewis Harris in Madison, Wisconsin, she was the seventh of eight children. For the next seventeen years, her family zigzagged from Minnesota to Michigan and back again until Laura left to attend Brigham Young University. She recalled how, as a teenager, she appeased her boredom by sitting on top of the heater vent, wrapped in a blanket, and reading a delightful novel.
At BYU, Laura met Brian Dursteler, whom she married on April 23, 1988. A few months later, she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in international relations. Together, they moved about the country as he pursued his medical degree and fulfilled his military service. Along the way, they had five wonderful children who each embraced a love for reading. Laura related how, when they lived in Dayton, Ohio, she orchestrated semi-monthly book runs to the Greene County Library. Unfortunately, that library had a ninety-nine-book limit per card, and she was the only family member with a card. They routinely approached the maximum. Sometimes as they checked out their stacks of books, a clerk would ask if they “actually intended to read them all?” They did. After a while, she learned to avoid the raised eyebrows by using the self-checkout machine.
Ultimately, the Dursteler family landed in Phoenix, Arizona, where the couple divorced in March 2005. At that point, Laura moved her family north to Farmington, closer to her siblings, who immediately mobilized their resources to help her through that transitioning time.
In Utah, Laura embraced single mothering while developing her marketable skills, eventually working as a paralegal. While managing their home and working full time, she completed a master’s degree in professional writing from New England College in 2013. Later that year, on September 14, she married Brian Hales, whom she described as “the husband of my heart, mind, and soul” (and he feels the same way about her).
With her new husband’s support, Laura immediately applied her communication skills to her interests in Church history and her love of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Within two years, she co-authored a paperback, Joseph Smith’s Polygamy: Toward a Better Understanding, and updated Brian’s website dealing with the same subject. About the same time, she decided to make up a series of Family Home Evening lessons, each dealing with a controversial historical or doctrinal issue that would inoculate her children against future misunderstandings. That project morphed into an anthology of chapters by expert scholars titled A Reason for Faith, published in 2016 by the BYU Religious Studies Center and Deseret Book.
Laura enjoyed presenting at scholarly meetings like those sponsored by the Mormon History Association and John Whitmer Historical Association. She also contributed to video presentations and conferences by History of the Saints and at FairMormon (now FAIR) conferences in Provo, Italy, Germany, and Sweden.
While in Sweden, she was approached by a Church member who noted that the only podcasts they could access were “from antagonistic sources or devotional ones. There is no middle ground.” Then, he looked into her eyes and asked, “Can you help us? Can you give us a podcast that gives us an alternative?” Energized with a new mission, she created Latter-day Saints Perspectives Podcast. Within a couple of years, she learned every step of the process, from setting up the microphones, doing the interview, editing the audio, uploading the master version to the internet, and building and maintaining the website. Five years later, she retired the project, having posted 130 interviews with top Latter-day Saint scholars with over 3,000,000 downloads (and counting).
Laura’s love of learning continued as she obtained a second master’s degree in North American History from Arizona State University in 2020. Laura might be called an intellectual mountain climber. She constantly sought new projects to complete—new mountain peaks to summit—even while surveying the landscape from the vantage point of a recently surmounted mountain top. She never lingered there too long, pausing just to enjoy the view, no matter how much effort it took to finish that journey.
Laura is survived by her husband Brian Hales, children Greg Dursterler (Kindy), Amy Le (George), Sarah Hatch (Colton), Ethan Dursteler, and Kevin Dursteler; her mother, Margaret Harris; and siblings Kendall (Margret), Jon (Greta), Shauna Mitchell (Vick), Margaret Butler (Steve), Brian (Mary Jane), Dave, and Robert (Lisa).
Laura’s family wishes to thank Drs. Carl Gray, Glynn Gilcrease III, Shane Brogan, and their medical teams for the exceptional care they provided.
Funeral services will be held Tuesday, April 19, 2022 at 11:00 AM at the Hill Farms Ward Chapel, 615 North Flint Street, Kaysville, Utah. A viewing will held on Monday, April 18, 2022 from 6:00 to 8:00 PM at Russon Mortuary, 1941 North Main Street, Farmington, Utah and prior to services on Tuesday from 9:30 to 10:30 AM at the church.
Interment at the Logan City Cemetery.