The Quest for Great Mormon Literature


When I was in college, I had the privilege of listening to a reading by the great writer Wallace Stegner. He came to a student dorm and did a reading from his novel, Wolf Willow. In my family he was a revered name. He wrote some of the American West’s greatest novels, he understood Western history and the need for a stronger environmental ethic, and he wrote compassionately about Mormon history as someone who had spent part of his youth in Salt Lake City where he attended activities with a local … [Read more...]

On Science and Religion


The great artist Andy Goldsworthy in the documentary about his work, Rivers and Tides, is seen gathering roots and twigs at the base of a tree in his home in Scotland. He stitches these small pieces of fibrous matter together to form a beautiful man-made web that hangs precariously from the branch of a tree. What this signifies to me is the power of the imagination to make order out of chaos, to bring objects, discrete “things” into relationship in order to convey a sense of wholeness and mea … [Read more...]

There Are Many Gifts


The requirements of gospel living are really very simple. Jesus taught us that it boils down to two things. The first is to love God with all our heart, mind, might and soul. God wants the affections of our hearts, the best of our mental energies, and the steadiness of our determined will. And then all he asks is that we extend this same love toward each other. He is not asking us to love selectively, like we do in romantic love or in our social circles. He is asking us to love everyone as he … [Read more...]

Fishing for Metaphors


Fishers are compulsive storytellers. Maybe it is because they have spent so many hours for just a few minutes of excitement and this is their way of justifying this profligate expenditure of time. In my experience, it just feels selfish to keep a miraculous experience to oneself. One wants to spread the joy.In fishing as in life, one learns that getting the right results comes after careful preparation, knowledge, skill, planning have done all they can do. Then something extra kicks in, … [Read more...]

Mental Illness and the Atonement


Inspired by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s masterful talk on mental illness, I have been reflecting on the great hope that is in Christ’s suffering on our behalf. I don’t want to repeat myself, but as someone who has been touched in the most personal and painful way by the effects of mental illness on a brother who took his life many years ago, I simply want to reiterate the truthfulness of his words. … [Read more...]

Bishops, Lay Clergy, and the Quest for Community


Several experiences lately have caused me to reflect on the nature of a lay clergy in the LDS church and the duty that we all share to sustain each other in our various responsibilities. It might be true that familiarity breeds contempt, as the saying goes, but familiarity is also the only way to test and develop true love. Religion is shallow if it only fosters love of strangers, of mythic heroes, or of extraordinary people. The great test of gospel living is to see and hear God in those we … [Read more...]

On Poetry and Politics, or Why We Can’t Seem to Stop Fighting


In honor of Seamus Heaney’s life so well lived, I revisited one of my favorite essays of his, “The Redress of Poetry.” What Heaney addresses in this essay is the age old question of the role of art in the polis and the role of imagining alternative worlds within the context of lived experience. To what extent does art offer a frivolous and perhaps meaningless alternative reality to the concerns that press hard upon us each day? When, on the other hand, does it offer an alternative world we can im … [Read more...]

On Music and Community


Last night I had the unusual opportunity to hear James Taylor sing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. I have seen JT in concert many times. If I remember correctly, that was my fifth. And I have seen the choir perform many times too, of course. I love choral music, especially sacred music, but I also love the gritty voice of a balladeer, someone who sings from the rooted individual experiences of loss, error, political and social disappointment, and personal redemption. My love for both kinds of … [Read more...]

Science, Faith, and Policy


Living in Utah provides interesting up-close observations of tensions that are being worked out within Mormon culture on a public stage. One tension that is not unique to Mormonism but is nevertheless persistent in our history is the strained relationship between faith and science. Take, for example, the recent news that Rep. Chris Stewart is challenging the science behind the EPA’s enforcement of clean air policies. It turns out that the science he is criticizing is, in part, produced by a BYU p … [Read more...]

Reading Literature as a Religious Practice


 A course devoted to reading the Book of Mormon as literature made headlines recently. As happy as I am to see such a course, I don’t really see why this should be news. I guess maybe it is news because it implies, for some people, that the book has somehow been demoted from its sacred status. I don’t see why or how this is the case. In my mind, to read something “as literature” can only mean reading it with careful attention to what it seems to be saying by paying attention to how it sa … [Read more...]