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...]

The Biggest LDS News of 2013


It has been an eventful year in the LDS community and in Utah. I think it is healthy that we are engaged in a robust discussion about the definition of marriage. I have seen some promising signs that we are listening to one another with greater compassion. I like that the church has helped clarify our unequivocal opposition to racism and has helped to open the door for a more direct confrontation with our history. I would like to believe there is more room in the church today than there was a … [Read more...]



Let us suppose that the rich young man who came to Jesus to ask what more he could do to inherit the kingdom of God represents you. At first you might protest either because you do not think of yourself as rich, as young, or as sufficiently in charge of your own material possessions. Or perhaps you don’t see yourself reflected in his story because, unlike him, you have not always obeyed the commandments since your youth and you still feel that, before you can start giving away everything you h … [Read more...]

Why Working For Conservation Is Good For Democracy


Today it was my immense honor to receive the Nature Conservancy of Utah's Conservation Partner of the Year award. I am posting here the remarks I gave at a meeting of the board held at the University of Utah. **** I admire the work of the Nature Conservancy as an effective model for environmental change. I know there are those who prefer a more combative approach not just by disposition but because they see the environmental crisis in perhaps more urgent relief. I have no strong disagreement … [Read more...]

Grateful To Be An “Unworthy Creature”


As usual at this time of year, I find myself reflecting on the blessings of life. I have already elaborated on them here, and not much has changed since last year. I still recognize how profoundly undeserving I am of the good fortune I have enjoyed in my life. I don’t know why, but it feels good to repeatedly say out loud what my blessings are but also to repeatedly say out loud that I haven’t earned any of them. … [Read more...]

The Poetry of Everyday

The view from Derek Walcott's home in St. Lucia.

I remember my daughter, Camilla, all of six years old when we were on a hike in southern Utah. She was a quiet and meditative child, one not prone to outbursts of excessive zeal, and she was squatted down at the edge of a stream bed in the dry sand. She scooped red sand repeatedly into her hand and let it sift slowly through her fingers. And then she said, with a maturity beyond her age, “I love the desert.” Sometimes I think that if it weren’t for children, our capacity to appreciate the gifts o … [Read more...]

The Quest for Great Mormon Literature


When I was in college, I had the privilege of listening to a reading by the great writer Wallace Stegner. He came to a student dorm and did a reading from his novel, Wolf Willow. In my family he was a revered name. He wrote some of the American West’s greatest novels, he understood Western history and the need for a stronger environmental ethic, and he wrote compassionately about Mormon history as someone who had spent part of his youth in Salt Lake City where he attended activities with a local … [Read more...]

On Science and Religion


The great artist Andy Goldsworthy in the documentary about his work, Rivers and Tides, is seen gathering roots and twigs at the base of a tree in his home in Scotland. He stitches these small pieces of fibrous matter together to form a beautiful man-made web that hangs precariously from the branch of a tree. What this signifies to me is the power of the imagination to make order out of chaos, to bring objects, discrete “things” into relationship in order to convey a sense of wholeness and mea … [Read more...]

There Are Many Gifts


The requirements of gospel living are really very simple. Jesus taught us that it boils down to two things. The first is to love God with all our heart, mind, might and soul. God wants the affections of our hearts, the best of our mental energies, and the steadiness of our determined will. And then all he asks is that we extend this same love toward each other. He is not asking us to love selectively, like we do in romantic love or in our social circles. He is asking us to love everyone as he … [Read more...]