Lessons from Doc: #4 Learn to like fields, trees, brooks, hiking, rowing, climbing hills.

This might have the appearance as one of the easiest, dare I say natural, aphorisms of Doc’s, since appreciation of this sort would appear easy to come by. I have never met a person who did not have at least a modicum of respect for natural beauty of some kind. So it is curious, then, that much rarer are those individuals whose attachment to beauty is deep enough to forge a lasting commitment to the health and wellbeing of their surroundings. I have said it before, but fierce affection for n … [Read more...]

Lessons from Doc: #3 “Learn to like plain food, plain service, plain cooking.”

Doc loved gardens. He loved weeding and feeding people with the food he grew. I once ate fresh tomatoes from his garden in his kitchen. The Teton Valley Boys Ranch served plain oatmeal for breakfast. At first it made me gag, seeing as how I was 12, but I developed a love for the way it stuck to my stomach. At least that was my theory. I knew it was cheap, easy to make, and good for me, and I did indeed learn to like it.Once again, Doc seems ahead of his time. We know so much more now about the … [Read more...]

Lessons from Doc: #2 “Learn to like reading, conversation, music”

The underlying principle of Doc’s aphorisms seems to be that it matters a great deal how we spend our time and where our deepest affections lie. This matters not only to our character but to the communities, large and small, of which we are a part. As I suggested in my previous post, this is in part because how we spend our time also tends to determine how we spend our money and resources, that is, how we consume. The activities listed here—reading, engaging in conversation, and listening to or p … [Read more...]

Lessons from Doc: #1 “Learn to Like What Doesn’t Cost Much”

“But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain that we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content” (1 Timothy 6: 6-8).Price, of course, is not always a reflection of quality, as I have sadly learned in this economy of increasingly poorly made products. We live in an economy that thrives on obsolescence, so durability is arguably at least one reason to buy what may cost more. As I mentioned in my earlier … [Read more...]

My Debt to Lowell Bennion

In the last few months I have had the privilege of meeting two sons of Lowell Bennion, a man who had a stronger influence on the way that I think (and hopefully someday act!) as a Mormon than anyone else. On the occasion of both of these encounters, I felt overwhelmed with feelings of tenderness and nostalgia for their father perhaps because they held such a close physical resemblance to him but also because they were living out their lives in ways consistent with who he was. I believe that … [Read more...]

“You are everything you feel beside the river”

When I was writing Home Waters, I had to deal with dueling impulses. On the one hand, I felt surges of desire to write that were, at times, almost overwhelming, and it seemed that the only way to deal with them was to get out of the way as much as possible, to trust instinct, and to let myself believe, even if only for a moment, that I was up to the task of giving adequate expression to the totality of what I felt. This is the power of self-confidence, a feeling of plenitude that needs to offer … [Read more...]

Lutherans, Mormons, and the Poor

Community is only as wide as we imagine it to be. Life experiences provide the foundation, but imagination is the alchemy that allows us to understand ourselves as part of a community that is broader than what our one chance on earth as an individual can teach us. I cherish the qualities of local community as much as anyone, but without a connection to the planet and to the broader human family, community is a shallow value. When I meet people who not only care about but work on behalf of … [Read more...]

The Economy of the Creation

(adapted from a speech given at Mormon Scholars in the HumanitiesSouthern Virginia University, May 19, 2012)The LDS account of the creation makes several seemingly heretical claims. I wish to focus on one: that the world is made from pre-existing and unorganized matter. Of all the reasons to call LDS belief heretical, this has to be among the most obvious since both the notion of a pre-existing chaos was shared by pagan narratives of creation and was expelled from traditional Christianity in the … [Read more...]

Upon the Occasion of the 5th Annual Meeting of Mormon Scholars in the Humanities

Amy Hungerford in her book, Postmodern Belief: America Literature and Religion Since 1960, notes that we are caught in America between dual impulses. On the one hand, despite our secular age, we have a “longing for conviction” and the “transcendent purpose conviction brings.” At the same time, however, we are possessed of a “desire for pluralism and tolerance and perhaps even the celebration of endless indeterminacy.” She argues that literature’s decline over the past several decades perhaps has … [Read more...]

This is the Place

Jacob lay down on stones for pillows and slept. And in his dreams he saw a ladder reaching up into heaven with “the angels of God ascending and descending on it.” It was a curious thing, to be sure, to find oneself sleeping on stones only to then discover that, as he says in the morning when he has returned to his natural senses, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not.” Upon further reflection, this causes him to feel overwhelmed by what had once seemed so ordinary. “How dreadful is … [Read more...]