Giving Thanks


 In the midst of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln promoted the holiday of Thanksgiving. In the proclamation, Lincoln wrote of the nation’s blessings and then said:“They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my … [Read more...]

Faith and Scholarship

I am a scholar but I am also a believer in religion, my LDS religion in particular. For some, that might seem like a contradiction or a serious compromise of my intellectual integrity or, for that matter, of my religious faith. I see no contradiction whatsoever. I like a guideline a leader in the LDS church, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland provides for parenting that has relevance to scholarship: … [Read more...]

Exploring Environmental Stewardship at BYU


In a recent post, I described the general questions that would be explored at the symposium at BYU, “Conservation, Restoration, and Sustainability: A Call to Stewardship.” I wish now to provide some perspectives on the symposium, which was in my opinion a great success, with papers from plenty of participants from nearby but as far away as Japan, the UK, Australia, and Canada. All papers will be online in either podcast form or in video before too long. I will be sure to post a link when it is av … [Read more...]

A Podcast of a Recent Interview

Below is a link to a recent interview I gave for Kirk Caudle at Mormon Book Review, a new site that promises to provide interesting and valuable reviews of books published in Mormon Studies. We explored some aspects of Home Waters not normally treated, especially the issue of mental illness.Have a listen!  … [Read more...]

Conservation, Restoration, and Sustainability: A Call to Stewardship

EEI Conference

This is the title of an upcoming symposium on November 8-10, free and open to the public at the Hinckley Center on campus at Brigham Young University. This symposium is devoted to exploring the interdisciplinary dimensions of environmental stewardship in literature and the arts, law, philosophy, science, and religion. We feature papers that critique, develop, and enhance conceptions of stewardship that are grounded in current scientific and cultural understanding of environmental problems. We … [Read more...]

Faith and the Origins of Prejudice: A Sunday Sermon

Belief in God would seem to be a straightforward matter.  You either believe or you don’t and you either try to obey Him or you don’t—in cartoon terms, you are either a good guy or a bad guy. However, the scriptures seem to suggest that it is entirely possible to believe in God and draw little or no value from that belief.  It can even lead to our condemnation. I am convinced that the only effectual belief is belief in a living God who has the knowledge and power to promote spiritual change and d … [Read more...]

What are the Environmental Humanities?

Environmental humanities is a new term that we see increasingly used at universities to describe the particularly cultural dimensions of environmental issues and problems. Examples include the Environmental Humanities Masters degree at the University of Utah or the Environmental Humanities Center at the University of Nevada, Reno. It appears that such a center might be in the works at UCLA. At first glance, environmental humanities would appear to be a subfield of the humanities, a kind of … [Read more...]

What value are the humanities?

It is not uncommon these days to hear doubts expressed about the value of a humanities education. In difficult economic times like these, there is increasing pressure to convert that value into monetary terms. Will they or will they not make a difference in employment after graduation? … [Read more...]

Prejudice and its Discontents


I recently traveled to Germany, a country where I spent six months of my life when I was in college in 1988. I had not been back since. Any trip to Germany inevitably raises the specter of Germany’s shocking and sickening past. My son Sam and I went to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin, and as we wandered through the museum and saw fragments of faces and letters, snapshots of individual lives and families in particular contexts, the weight of the entirety of those murdered a … [Read more...]

The Enchanted Landscape


The sociologist Max Weber once described scientific understanding as leading to a disenchantment of nature. This is a paradox, of course, since a sense of amazement is vital to an ethic of care and preservation, and yet we cannot expect to take proper care of land without understanding it works. Weber’s point was perhaps overly simplified, since as writers such as Annie Dillard and Marilynne Robinson have made clear what we gain in understanding about the workings of the world can help to in … [Read more...]