Bishops, Lay Clergy, and the Quest for Community

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Several experiences lately have caused me to reflect on the nature of a lay clergy in the LDS church and the duty that we all share to sustain each other in our various responsibilities. It might be true that familiarity breeds contempt, as the saying goes, but familiarity is also the only way to test and develop true love. Religion is shallow if it only fosters love of strangers, of mythic heroes, or of extraordinary people. The great test of gospel living is to see and hear God in those we … [Read more...]

On Poetry and Politics, or Why We Can’t Seem to Stop Fighting

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In honor of Seamus Heaney’s life so well lived, I revisited one of my favorite essays of his, “The Redress of Poetry.” What Heaney addresses in this essay is the age old question of the role of art in the polis and the role of imagining alternative worlds within the context of lived experience. To what extent does art offer a frivolous and perhaps meaningless alternative reality to the concerns that press hard upon us each day? When, on the other hand, does it offer an alternative world we can im … [Read more...]

On Music and Community

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Last night I had the unusual opportunity to hear James Taylor sing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. I have seen JT in concert many times. If I remember correctly, that was my fifth. And I have seen the choir perform many times too, of course. I love choral music, especially sacred music, but I also love the gritty voice of a balladeer, someone who sings from the rooted individual experiences of loss, error, political and social disappointment, and personal redemption. My love for both kinds of … [Read more...]

Science, Faith, and Policy

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Living in Utah provides interesting up-close observations of tensions that are being worked out within Mormon culture on a public stage. One tension that is not unique to Mormonism but is nevertheless persistent in our history is the strained relationship between faith and science. Take, for example, the recent news that Rep. Chris Stewart is challenging the science behind the EPA’s enforcement of clean air policies. It turns out that the science he is criticizing is, in part, produced by a BYU p … [Read more...]

Reading Literature as a Religious Practice

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 A course devoted to reading the Book of Mormon as literature made headlines recently. As happy as I am to see such a course, I don’t really see why this should be news. I guess maybe it is news because it implies, for some people, that the book has somehow been demoted from its sacred status. I don’t see why or how this is the case. In my mind, to read something “as literature” can only mean reading it with careful attention to what it seems to be saying by paying attention to how it sa … [Read more...]

An Appeal To Those Concerned But Not Yet Alarmed By Climate Change

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(This is cross-posted at http://earthstewardship.org/)According to a recent study done at Yale University only 13% of Americans are alarmed about anthropogenic, or human-caused, global warming (AGW), while on the other end of the spectrum 10% are adamantly dismissive and another 15% are at least doubtful about it. Interestingly, the majority of Americans are either concerned (26%) or cautiously concerned (29%) about the theory. If the political culture of my home state is any indication, the … [Read more...]

A Mormon Sense of Place, as Seen by a Non-Mormon

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Mark Twain was perhaps the first of outside visitors to Mormon Utah, arriving with pen in hand, eager to give account of the strangeness and oddity of Mormon community life. For a Mormon writer like myself who was born in Utah but raised and educated on both coasts, I can sympathize with the difficulty of penetrating such peculiar communities that are seemingly out of sync with mainstream America. Living as I do in a city that is the third largest in the state of Utah and yet close to 90% LDS, I … [Read more...]

Love and Losses

I recently had the unique opportunity to hear recordings made on cassette tape over thirty years ago, recordings that my mother carefully preserved until she recently transferred them to CD. These included tape recordings that my family and I sent back and forth to each other during my two-year mission in Venezuela in 1985 and 1986. It is a bit surreal, not to mention highly sentimental, to hear your mother's voice speaking with love and concern for you when you are hundreds of miles away with … [Read more...]

Why I Am A Christian

“The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way.”

The first and most obvious answer to the question is that I am a Christian because I believe in Christ as the redeemer of the world. I believe in the reality of Christ’s redemptive powers because of the ways in which devotion to and trust in Christ has helped me to have more love for others, more forgiveness toward those who have hurt me, more patience in suffering, and more hope for humanity. Most importantly, this faith leads me to repentance of my sins, whenever I become aware of them, and it … [Read more...]

Great Lovers… of Places

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William Wordsworth wrote an important book that during his life time vied for the most popular work he ever published. Nowadays it is much less well known. It is called Guide to the Lakes, published first in 1810 and then later expanded in 1835, and in it he provides an elaborate description of the now famous Lake District in England so as to lead his reader into what he hoped would be proper aesthetic appreciation of the area’s qualities. More importantly, he hoped it might be preserved, maybe e … [Read more...]

Gardens and the Art of Self-Reflection

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Inspired by my recent travels in the UK, including several visits to some of its most outstanding gardens, I have been thinking about the role a garden can play in teaching us about ourselves in the world. A garden is a literal walk through a figurative world or perhaps it is a figurative walk through a literal world. We can never be sure. It is real but artificially designed. It is nature yet very much a manifestation of culture and values. There is no escaping culture in a garden, but it is … [Read more...]

Balancing Intellect and Faith

I spoke last week to a group of LDS students at Oxford University about the challenges and opportunities of reconciling faith with intellect. I have written about this before, especially as it relates to the question of scholarship. While there is much to say on the topic, I would like to summarize a few points briefly. … [Read more...]


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