“Our Refined Heavenly Home”

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Elder Douglas L. Callister of the Seventy wrote a delightful article in this month’s Ensign, “Our Refined Heavenly Home.” I’m ashamed to admit that I might never have read it had not my dear wife told me I should. (I keep saying I’ll stick the Ensign in the bathroom where it will actually get read, but it seems weird to have all those pictures of Jesus on my toilet, Backslider or no Backslider.) The article is adapted from a BYU devotional Elder Callister gave in 2006 which is about 1800 words longer and has even more dandy quotations. (Frankly, it’s tempting to just lift all his quotations and anecdotes and place them here for discussion, but I can’t quite feel good about that.)

The article has three main thrusts, language, literature and music, with an everything-else category to finish things off.

For brevity’s sake, I will take a short excerpt from each section to comment on, but in your comments, feel free to reference any part of his talk. Continue reading ““Our Refined Heavenly Home””

Angela Hallstrom and the Art of Short-Story Arrangement

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Angela Hallstrom just won a Whitney for the best novel by a new writer. The novel that received the award, Bound on Earth, has been the focus of much praise from many sources (here and one and two that popped up quickly on Google, here are 165-and-counting on Goodreads, here is the review from the person who lent me the book, here is my own brief review). So enough with the praise. Let’s dig a little deeper and see what this book is built from.

Bound on Earth is a novel-in-stories featuring over half a dozen points of view, ranging from pioneer times to the very present.

Several of these stories were published as standalones, and, Hallstrom tells me, several more will be.

The novel then is representative of other work its author is engaged in. Angela Hallstrom edits every other issue of Irreantum and is currently wrapping up work on a long-overdo collection of Mormon short fiction that I expect to hold in my hands sometime this fall. So arranging short stories is very much the Art of Hallstrom in 2008/2009.

Continue reading “Angela Hallstrom and the Art of Short-Story Arrangement”

“To Know the Names of All the Vital Things”


As I mentioned a little while ago
, my wife and I were asked to speak in Sacrament Meeting yesterday. At Theric’s request (and because I decided to approach the topic of Latter-day Saints and language and discuss Angela Hallstrom’s Bound on Earth), I’m posting a slightly revised version of my talk here.

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“To Know the Names of All the Vital Things”: On the Virtue of Words and the Word of God

And now, as the preaching of the word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just–yea, it had had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, which had happened unto them–therefore Alma thought it was expedient that they should try the virtue of the word of God. (Alma 31:5)

On June 16, 1844 at a meeting assembled in the grove just east of the Nauvoo Temple, the Prophet Joseph Smith stood to deliver one of his final sermons. Wet with rain, surrounded by apostates, many of whom wanted him dead, and sustained by the saints, he spoke plainly and courageously of the Christian Godhead and “the plurality of Gods,” truths that would in part lead to his martyrdom almost two weeks later.

Yet, his message was no different than anything he’d previously taught: “I wish to declare,” he said, that “in all congregations when I have preached on the subject of Deity, it has been the plurality of Gods.”1 Using ancient and modern scripture to support his reasoning, he took the assembly back to the beginning, showing them the unbroken chain of exalted Beings that extends, Parent to child, across the thresholds of eternity. Pointing to the relationship between Christ and Elohim as his example, he asked, “Where was there ever a son without a father? and where was there ever a father without first being a son? [“¦] [I]f Jesus had a Father, can we not believe that He [Christ’s Father] had a Father also?”2 Continue reading ““To Know the Names of All the Vital Things””