Obedience as Gratitude

(This is a talk I gave at this year’s Women’s Conference at Brigham Young University.) For Thanksgiving each of us in the family has to make a pie—because you can never have too many pies—and this year I tried for the second year in a row to make a banana cream pie. My pie the [Read More…]

Literature and the Art of Friendship

I didn’t ever expect that in 2016 we would be struggling as a nation with the very idea of the universal brotherhood of God’s family. Of course, I expected that we would still have difficulty rising up to the standards such an idea implies, but we are seeing such naked and bald assertions of hatred [Read More…]

On Disagreements at Church

Tone can make a great difference in how effectively we communicate, especially when we are trying to offer correction or criticism. We might be right and we might have the truth on our side, but if we don’t have love and we don’t have the trust of the one we wish to correct, we are [Read More…]

The Gift of Friendship

I can remember my mother’s boisterous laugh when I was a little boy. I can remember my older brothers teasing me at the ripe age of five about a girl I liked who lived next door. I remember us wrestling with our dad in his bed on Saturday mornings. I remember the sycamores that lined [Read More…]

My Journey as a Scholar of Faith, Part III

I wouldn’t have gone to Stanford, majored in Comparative Literature, or taken my career path as a professor without my brother Bill’s example, encouragement, and brilliance that lighted every step of the way for me through my education. He was and is my intellectual soul-mate. My freshman year at Stanford included a year long dorm-based [Read More…]

My Journey as a Scholar of Faith, Part II

My first experiences with criticism, compassion and charity were in family life at home. As Mormons, we lived as a very small minority outside of New York. We were taught to love human diversity and that God must too. Dinner table conversation at my home was free-flowing, covering politics and culture and the church. We [Read More…]

My Journey as a Scholar of Faith, Part I

I was invited by the Faculty Center to share my journey as a scholar of faith. I share here, in three parts, the content of the talk. I have wrestled with my feelings these past few weeks because I am not sure how much of my experience is applicable to others nor am I entirely sure [Read More…]

Led by Revelation

It is a clear and central tenet of Mormon belief that we are led by revelation, by living prophets. It is less clear perhaps to everyone what this means. I know it probably baffles many of my academic colleagues. I would like to suggest here, however imperfectly and briefly, what it means to me. My [Read More…]

On the Spiritual Joy of Academic Work

(Adapted from comments I shared recently with the College of Humanities at BYU) Grading, I am convinced, is a circle in hell. And maybe an even deeper circle in hell is dealing with student complaints and anxieties about grades. But as much as we professors like to moralize about this, we all know that we have [Read More…]

The Quest for Renewal and the Religious Life

There is a paradox at the heart of the practice of religion. Religion is designed to produce rich experiences of spirituality both individually and in communities—experiences that are often characterized by their renewing power—but it relies on repetition, ritual, and habit in order to produce such results. My LDS religion provides a variety of stratagems [Read More…]

The Sabbath Day and Earth Stewardship

The LDS Church has recently rolled out new training for members about the central importance of the importance of observance of the Sabbath Day and of the sacrament. My thoughts here are inspired by this training, which I find to be wonderfully focused on the fundamental covenant we make at baptism and which we renew [Read More…]

Theology, Ecology, and the Word: Notes from Halki Summit, Part III

The Halki Summit ended after a provocative and fruitful discussion of the role the arts can play in helping religious cultures to address climate change. I still think the most impassioned and well reasoned explanation about how theology, art, and the environment intersect was offered by Father John Chryssavgis at the outset of the summit. [Read More…]

Theology, Ecology, and the Word: Notes from Halki Summit, Part II

I have a few things to report that deserve commentary from the Halki Summit II co-sponsored by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of the Orthodox Church and Southern New Hampshire University. It is an extraordinary privilege to be a part of these conversations. [Read more…]

Theology, Ecology, and the Word: Notes from Halki Summit, Part I

I have arrived this week for the Halki Summit II, a meeting co-sponsored by the Patriarch Bartholomew and Southern New Hampshire University at the island of Halki off of the coast of Istanbul. The topic of the summit is “Theology, Ecology, and the Word: A Conversation on the Environment, Literature, and the Arts.” You can [Read More…]