Review: First Principles and Ordinances: The Fourth Article of Faith in Light of the Temple by Samuel Brown


Sam Brown has written an important and beautiful book. Every Mormon serious about deepening their understanding of their most fundamental commitments should read it, and any Mormon who feels adrift in the institutional church will find resources sufficient to stoke the fires of faith anew. It is also a fantastic introduction to the fundamentals of the Mormon faith for anyone new to Mormonism. … [Read more...]

Mormonism, Cosmology, and Environmental Stewardship


I just returned from a marvelous gathering at the Yale Divinity School where scholars and theologians met to discuss the story of the origins of the universe and of life on earth, as told by contemporary science, and its impact on and relevance to Christian belief. More specifically, it was a series of responses to the project called Journey of the Universe that includes a book, a documentary film, a DVD series of interviews, and a website. You can read more about the conference here. I have … [Read more...]

Why I Am A Mormon, Part IV (Temples)


When I was in my last year of graduate school at Berkeley, I was given the opportunity to teach a class I had designed on the various meanings of genealogy in American literature. I was intent on showing how important genealogy was to the formation of identity in American experience and yet how antithetical and even oppositional American experience can be to the task of preserving genealogical memory. As part of the class assignment, I required the students to write a family history that … [Read more...]

Why I Am a Mormon, Part III (Missionary Work)

n1387087958_152597_9306 - Version 2

It is fair to ask why a religious conviction needs to be expressed and shared publicly. Why can’t it simply be a private and personal matter? Given the world’s long history of religious intolerance and violence too, it would seem to be a safer bet to stay at home and stay quiet about religious convictions. I have spent a great deal of my education learning about the pitfalls of religious intolerance, and I have been pained beyond my capacity to express by the atrocities of violence that have bee … [Read more...]

Why I Am A Mormon, Part II (Revelation)


To continue from my previous post, I want to focus on three areas of my belief that are central to why I am a Mormon. I want to clarify again that I am not interested in making arguments against other beliefs, nor am I trying to defend what I believe. I only intend this to be an explanation of what informs my own belief and religious experience.  … [Read more...]

Why I Am a Mormon, Part I


This is an attempt (in four installments) to explain a few things about what might be called my spiritual autobiography. I have felt compelled to write something like this for some time, but I haven’t always known how to write about such a personal subject for a wide diversity of friends for whom I have great love and respect let alone for unknown readers. My intent is not necessarily to persuade but to share what it feels like to be inside of my belief a little bit. I always felt that this was t … [Read more...]

Religion, Conservation, and Community


I have had a rare and unusual opportunity this week to spend a few days with leaders from The Nature Conservancy and from environmentally active religious communities representing many different faith traditions. The Nature Conservancy is an organization for which I have a great deal of respect and to which I am in debt since they helped support a faculty effort to enhance environmental education at BYU several years ago. I have written earlier about my experiences with them. … [Read more...]

The Theology of Climate Change Denial


Let me say outright that I am not interested in this post in trying to prove climate change to anyone. I frankly find such debates exhausting. If you want to know what I think of climate change, you can find some of my posts here and here. And if you want to read a more serious and academic version of these arguments, you can read an essay I published in Interdisciplinary Studies of Literature and the Environment. More importantly, if you want a primer on the science from a reputable resource, … [Read more...]

The Spiritual Value of Reading Secular Literature


I recently gave a presentation at Education Week at BYU on this topic. I offer here a brief summary of my lecture. It builds on a theme of a number of my previous posts about reading. … [Read more...]

Seeing Through A Glass Darkly


I have learned by happy and sometimes sad experience that the mind is a changeable thing and not always the most reliable filter by which to perceive reality. I recognize, of course, that this is somewhat of an odd statement, since it is hard to imagine how else we might be able to perceive reality except through the mind. One of my favorite paintings is by Rene Magritte, called The Human Condition. In it he thematizes the paradox of trying to see the world beyond the constraints of how our eye … [Read more...]