My Journey as a Scholar of Faith, Part III


I wouldn’t have gone to Stanford, majored in Comparative Literature, or taken my career path as a professor without my brother Bill’s example, encouragement, and brilliance that lighted every step of the way for me through my education. He was and is my intellectual soul-mate. My freshman year at Stanford included a year long dorm-based intensive course on the Western tradition, perhaps the single-most valuable educational experience of my life. In the haIlways and in class, we debated the mea … [Read more...]

My Journey as a Scholar of Faith, Part II


My first experiences with criticism, compassion and charity were in family life at home. As Mormons, we lived as a very small minority outside of New York. We were taught to love human diversity and that God must too. Dinner table conversation at my home was free-flowing, covering politics and culture and the church. We went to concerts and museums in the City and we hosted friends of other faiths at our home. I was the youngest of three brothers, and the older two were exceptionally bright and … [Read more...]

My Journey as a Scholar of Faith, Part I


I was invited by the Faculty Center to share my journey as a scholar of faith. I share here, in three parts, the content of the talk. I have wrestled with my feelings these past few weeks because I am not sure how much of my experience is applicable to others nor am I entirely sure that I have enough wisdom. I do know that I want to communicate honestly and, most importantly, I want to edify and strengthen your faith. The challenge is that my journey is idiosyncratic. However, I take comfort in … [Read more...]

Led by Revelation


It is a clear and central tenet of Mormon belief that we are led by revelation, by living prophets. It is less clear perhaps to everyone what this means. I know it probably baffles many of my academic colleagues. I would like to suggest here, however imperfectly and briefly, what it means to me.My understanding is no doubt incomplete, not only because I am learning and growing in my own ability to receive personal revelation but because I am not privy to the process at the highest levels of … [Read more...]

On the Spiritual Joy of Academic Work

(Adapted from comments I shared recently with the College of Humanities at BYU)Grading, I am convinced, is a circle in hell. And maybe an even deeper circle in hell is dealing with student complaints and anxieties about grades. But as much as we professors like to moralize about this, we all know that we have helped create the problem by being part of a system that treats students like rats in a maze, chasing the elusive cheese. To try to direct my students’ anxieties away from their GPA, I a … [Read more...]

The Quest for Renewal and the Religious Life


There is a paradox at the heart of the practice of religion. Religion is designed to produce rich experiences of spirituality both individually and in communities—experiences that are often characterized by their renewing power—but it relies on repetition, ritual, and habit in order to produce such results. My LDS religion provides a variety of stratagems and exercises to assist me in cultivating the discipline and practice of such spirituality. For example, I am encouraged to pray and read the s … [Read more...]

The Sabbath Day and Earth Stewardship


The LDS Church has recently rolled out new training for members about the central importance of the importance of observance of the Sabbath Day and of the sacrament. My thoughts here are inspired by this training, which I find to be wonderfully focused on the fundamental covenant we make at baptism and which we renew each Sunday to take upon ourselves the name of Christ and to keep his commandments.We are to keep the Sabbath Day holy, but it is also clear that setting this day apart is not … [Read more...]

Theology, Ecology, and the Word: Notes from Halki Summit, Part III


The Halki Summit ended after a provocative and fruitful discussion of the role the arts can play in helping religious cultures to address climate change. I still think the most impassioned and well reasoned explanation about how theology, art, and the environment intersect was offered by Father John Chryssavgis at the outset of the summit. He articulated an understanding of the relationship between science and religion that allowed for their differences and for the mysterious nature of creation … [Read more...]

Theology, Ecology, and the Word: Notes from Halki Summit, Part II

The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew delivers his welcoming address

I have a few things to report that deserve commentary from the Halki Summit II co-sponsored by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of the Orthodox Church and Southern New Hampshire University. It is an extraordinary privilege to be a part of these conversations. … [Read more...]

Theology, Ecology, and the Word: Notes from Halki Summit, Part I


I have arrived this week for the Halki Summit II, a meeting co-sponsored by the Patriarch Bartholomew and Southern New Hampshire University at the island of Halki off of the coast of Istanbul. The topic of the summit is “Theology, Ecology, and the Word: A Conversation on the Environment, Literature, and the Arts.” You can read more about the summit here. I intend to provide some observations about it as I attend. … [Read more...]

The Hope of Stewardship: A Review of Joseph Spencer’s For Zion: A Mormon Theology of Hope


There are those who are infected by nostalgia and yearn for a nineteenth-century Mormonism because, I suppose, they imagine that the prophets then seemed more willing to condemn capitalism or to preach environmental stewardship and that Mormons were more communitarian, less materialistic, and more obligated under the law of consecration to work to eliminate poverty. And there are others who are disgusted with the wickedness of this world and pine for the world to come, a time when poverty, … [Read more...]

Experience and Understanding


Two friends recently independently mentioned to me that it seems that at every turn, their friends and family, many of whom have left or are leaving the church, are expecting them to have an answer for every major issue facing the church in recent months. I wonder how many members of the church feel the weight of this pressure to have an answer for everything. I wonder too why anyone should believe that they need to have answers for everything. I don’t much respect faith when it leads a person t … [Read more...]