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...]

If Truth Were A Child


We live in the age of polemics. Choices are presented to us as mutually exclusive, and you are not given the time to listen, to be reflective and careful in your judgment, or to acknowledge nuance and the validity of different points of view. You are supposed to pick your enemies, not consult with them. Instead, you are asked to make a choice and a quick one at that, one that binds you to one camp that is defined by its opposition to another. And it’s all about identity. You are what you think, w … [Read more...]

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)

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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...]