Indulge me a moment in some reflections on how I think about a portion of my scholarly life and activities in personal, religious terms.
Nearly 40 years ago, Eugene England delivered an address to young BYU students called “Good Books or True Religion? Defining the Mormon Scholar.” In this essay, England lays out a vision of the Mormon scholar modeled on Elder B. H. Roberts:
You must develop your own vision of what, as an intellectual, your contribution to the Kingdom might be, of how you might love the Lord as he commanded-with all your mind, as well as your heart, might, and strength…. [W]ith the courage to go creatively beyond that tradtion in finding a way to be properly loyal to your special gifts and to the Church and the restored gospel….President [B.H.] Roberts, of course, is not suggesting that the intellectual’s task is to create new doctrine, but rather it is to take revealed doctrine and give it new formulations that will relate to the changing world we live in, that will enable us, for instance, to more effectively criticize our flawed social, political, artistic and intellectual environment by using the great germ-truths of the gospel.
My professional, intellectual, and religious life do not intersect in precisely the ways that England hopes of future generations, but much of this call rings true to me today. The work of the Mormon intellectual is thinking about and framing the questions of church teaching in relation to the changing world. Robert’s notion of developing truth, expounding of the message of the gospel, is the central feature of intelligent discipleship.