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 … [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 … [Read more...]

Soccer Dad

I am told that few states in the country have a higher level of participation of girls in soccer than Utah. I don’t doubt it. Every Saturday everywhere in this valley are wide swaths of soccer fields dotted with colored jerseys of girls, and boys, playing their hearts out in front of their parents and siblings. People by the thousands do this all along the Wasatch Front, screaming, laughing, yelling, chatting, enjoying the pleasures of warm sunshine, community, and family pride. Or at least as … [Read more...]

Connecting the Dots on Climate Change

A remarkable alliance of concern about climate change has emerged among the nation’s clergy. Major ecclesiastical leaders in the world, including Pope Benedict, the Patriarch Bartholomew, the Dalai Lama, and many others, have expressed public concern about the moral responsibility of civilization to act on behalf of the planet’s weakening capacity to regulate our climate. One national organization, Interfaith Power & Light, has been leading the way to formulate a religious response to … [Read more...]

Acts of God

Not too long ago Pat Robertson claimed that the increase in tornadoes in the country was due to the fact that people weren’t praying enough. He thought the Haitians deserved their suffering following the recent earthquake too because of a deal he feels they made with the devil when they wickedly decided to overthrow their own slaveowners in the early 1800s. Ken Hamm, the director of the Creation Museum in Kentucky, similarly argues that all suffering is caused by human moral depravity. We … [Read more...]

The Intersection of Poverty and the Environment

Last Saturday I had the privilege of participating in a panel discussion about the intersection of poverty and the environment sponsored by the Episcopal Church. Before our panel discussion, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, The Most Rev. Dr. Katherine Jefferts Schori, gave a stirring sermon on the need for us to give our attention to those who are the most vulnerable to the effects of global environmental degradation. This topic was motivated by one of the five “Marks of … [Read more...]


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