On Reading and Language (or, notes on what I have learned from literary theory)


There are at least two very important things that I learned from literary theory, especially the sometimes infamous deconstructionist variety. The first is the value of very close readings. There is nothing like a close reading to bring out the richest and fullest range of possibilities in a text. It is really only a means to an end, however, even though it is often assumed, wrongly, by deconstructive readers that a close reading that merely complicates an oversimplified interpretation of a text … [Read more...]

Nearing Fifty


I guess it must be the approaching milestone of turning fifty, but I am in a meditative mood these days about life.Well, the truth is, I think I have always been a meditative type. I used to write bad poems when I was a teenager that were ridiculous attempts at philosophizing about life (no, I won't share them) and later in my twenties and my thirties I dabbled in journal writing but it was usually the kind of stuff that now provides almost no window at all into my life. They are really only … [Read more...]

Waiting on the Lord


The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him.            Lamentations 3:25For I have learned, in whatsoever state I am in, therewith to be content. I know how to be abased and I know how to abound: everywhere and in everything I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and suffer need.            Philippians 4: 11-12There is scarcely a moment in life when we cannot identify something that needs to change. I don’t imagine that we … [Read more...]

The Blessings of Service: Lessons from Guatemala


Service opens the world to us. That, anyway, is what I have experienced in Guatemala where for the past 17 years I have joined a team of eye surgeons about every other year to work in a remote hospital in the highlands among people who are among some of the most underserved by modern healthcare in our hemisphere. I have no medical expertise, although I grew up wanting to become a doctor, but I do have Spanish language abilities that have allowed me to be of service as an interpreter and as an … [Read more...]

Anger, Forgiveness, and Community


 I have been blogging here for two years, and throughout this time, I have been chiefly interested in the quest for community. I understand community to be something that is achieved when we find “unity with” (as the word implies) others, be they family and friends, strangers and foreigners or even enemies, as well as unity, or at least harmony, with place and within our ecological context. Unity is achieved when we overcome selfishness and enmity, when anger is replaced with love in our … [Read more...]

Agreeing to Disagree: Political Differences in a Community of Faith

Sometimes it is helpful to follow in others' footsteps. Sometimes it is exciting to forge your own path.

Can people of faith be one even or especially if we aren’t in agreement on politics? In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul exhorts us to be worthy of our vocation as Christians. We do this, he says, by “endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” This unity comes with work, “with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love.” For Paul, at least, it is not only possible, but requisite as Christians, to find unity despite those differenc … [Read more...]

Mormons and Public Transportation

max bus

Recently an article in the Salt Lake Tribune raised the timely question, Is air pollution a moral issue? In it faith leaders from a variety of communities in Utah answered the question from their particular perspective.This is what the LDS church said:“While LDS Church leaders have not spoken specifically to issues of air quality in Utah, the church teaches that all humankind are stewards over the Earth and should gratefully use what God has given, avoid wasting life and resources and u … [Read more...]

Chile Journal #5: The Hope of Nature


Pablo Neruda once said that if you didn’t know southern Chile and the Chilean forest, you didn’t know this planet. He wasn’t the first great poet to be guilty of bioregional chauvinism, of that kind of local pride that tends toward exaggeration and overstatement. But then again, having been here a few times and explored the area, I am not about to tell you he is wrong. As I have written before, I believe every place, just like every person, deserves a lover given to rapturous praise.The novel … [Read more...]

Chile Journal #4: What Courage Looks Like

Tito, in front of his childhood home where his parents were arrested.

"Why were they imprisoned, your parents?" I asked my new friend, Tito, who was introduced to me through a mutual friend, someone in fact who had baptized him into the LDS church some twenty-five years ago. … [Read more...]

Chile Journal #3: Serendipity and Second Chances


Twenty-six years ago, I was a student in a study abroad program in West Berlin. This was in the spring and summer of 1988, one year before the Berlin Wall came down. Before I left, I had told one of my Spanish professors of my intention to go to Berlin, and he told me that I should look up his close friend, Antonio Skarmeta, a Chilean novelist of considerable fame (most known for his novel that was the basis for the award-winning movie, Il Postino, about Pablo Neruda and the military coup of … [Read more...]

Chile Journal #2

From the Wall of Memory in Santiago

It has been an overwhelming week thus far, and it will be hard to summarize the extent of what I have learned and experienced. As I mentioned, I am here to research the context of the period of the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet who governed Chile from 1973 until 1990. During this period, thousands of individuals were disappeared, executed, tortured, or forced into exile in order to silence political opposition from the left. At the conclusion of Pinochet's rule, Chile entered a period of … [Read more...]

Chile Journal #1


I am currently on a research trip to Chile for a novel that I am writing. It is a story about a young LDS Chilean woman, an MFA student at BYU, who was raised in Utah but who in 2002 returns to her birthplace in Chile to seek the story of her missing father. It is also the story of an unlikely friendship between her and a wise and cranky and lonely older Utahn man who hires her to paint wildflowers for his magnum opus, a field guide of Wasatch wildflowers. There you have it in a nutshell.  … [Read more...]