A Review of Reviewing

Betty Friedan, American feminist and writer.
Betty Friedan. Image via

In my MBA program at NYU, I got to take two unusual and enlightening classes that changed my outlook substantially. The first was on the issues faced by women and minorities in the business world, taught by famed author and activist Betty Friedan.

The second was a class studying management through reading literature, which taught me an important principle about judging success: you have to know the goals to judge success. Among other things, we read Shakespeare’s Julius Ceasar, looking in it for clues about each character’s intentions and judging from the text how successful they were. [Brutus doesn’t fare too well, from this perspective. While he manages to get rid of Ceasar, the result doesn’t give him the Rome he is after. Instead Ceasar becomes a martyr and Brutus becomes a pariah. The new Roman government fights Brutus’ forces and kills him.]

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Minerva Teichert’s subtle Book of Mormon lessons

The August issue of the Ensign features four pages of photos of Minerva Teichert’s Book of Mormon work. Each work has a caption next to it with the title as well as an excerpt from a Book of Mormon verse. Titled “And Thus We See,” the article states that “lessons learned from stories in the Book of Mormon are sometimes clearly stated after words ‘and thus we see’ … yet other lessons learned from the Book of Mormon may be more subtly taught” (40).

Readers are then urged to “turn to the scriptures for the full account of each story” depicted by Teichert and “identify the powerful lesson each story teaches” (40).

Of the nine works represented in the article, I had only previously seen four of them. I was particularly struck by “The Earthquake” (Alma the Younger and Amulek in prison), “Treachery of Amalickiah” and “Trial of Abinidi.”

The Ensign‘s art direction is sometimes criticized in Mormon cultural circles. Often justly. But I think it should also be applauded when it delivers. Yes, readers are asked to learn lessons from the cited scriptures, but the focus on Teichert’s work is also a powerful reminder that these same words have inspired wonderful art. And this is especially true since her work isn’t necessarily as easy to digest as most of the other paintings that appear in the Ensign. Or at least it isn’t for me.

The August issue hasn’t been posted online yet, but here is a link to Minerva Teichert’s Book of Mormon works (BYU Museum of Art). Note that there are 45 results that come up with that search so hopefully the Ensign does the same exact story in three to four years, but with a different set of paintings.