On the Mormon Vision of Language: Ministering Grace with Words

In this week’s ruminations, I springboard off an article about communication that appeared in the August 2013 Ensign and explore what it means to corrupt and to edify with words.

Thoughts? Sound off in the comments.

(Direct link to the audio file.)

(All posts in this series. // All audio files from this series.)

Payday Poetry: “The City of Joseph” by Clinton Larson

This is the first official Payday Poetry post (the prior one was more to) so it seems only fitting to feature something by Clinton F. Larson. Yes, something by Eliza R. Snow or Emmeline B. Wells would also be in order, but I’m going with Larson since he is one of the major, early figures in the modern era of Mormon letters which is AMV’s main focus.

Title: The City of Joseph

Poet: Clinton F. Larson

Publication Info: Ensign, 1984

Submitted by: William Morris

Why?: Because it exhibits Larson’s best and worst (or most difficult) tendencies. Because it’s such a core Mormon theme. Because of phrases like “in the spell of prophecy” and “the whisper of the wagon wheels” and “if not Zarahemla, Deseret.”


Here’s the link to the spreadsheet so you can see what’s already been submitted

“Our Refined Heavenly Home”


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””

Weekend Poetry: “To Eve–with Emapthy across the Years”

This is the first poem I remember reading in The Ensign and liking. It also appears to have been part of the last set of poems for the last year of the Eliza R. Snow contest, which ran during the 1970s and ’80s and ended in 1992. I read this poem as part of a sacrament meeting talk a few years ago.

It’s not the best poem. It contains no amazing images or turns of phrases. It’s structure is simple and rather loose. It ends a bit tritely. And yet even as corny as that ending couplet is, I find it comforting in its patience and surety. And the poem served me well when I was struggling to write a talk on women and sorrow.

To Eve–with Empathy across the Years

By Shirley Adwena Harvey

Ensign, July 1992, 49

You laid the garment aside
And stood to rest stiff shoulders–
How pleased Abel would be
At touch of the soft, supple leather.
From the door you could see the fields,
Quiet in midday sun.
The harvest had been good
And the flocks were fat. Continue reading “Weekend Poetry: “To Eve–with Emapthy across the Years””

The Missionary Christmas

Millennial Star
Image via Wikipedia

I recently prepared a Christmas package for my missionary son and hit upon the idea of searching past Ensign magazines for missionary Christmas stories to add to the package. I’m not sure if these stories are typical of other missionary Christmas stories, but I can say that the stories I found included two broad themes: stories of missionaries caroling (or giving other musical performances) and stories of missionaries overcoming loneliness. [I do believe there are other themes in these stories, I just didn’t come across them in my very limited search.] Continue reading “The Missionary Christmas”

Harvest paintings in Sept. Ensign

I wasn’t planning on doing another post on Ensign art, but the September issue has another four page spread — this one featuring harvest-themed work. What I find interesting is that the feature, which is titled “A Time of Harvest” doesn’t focus on what one thinks it would (or at least what I thought it would). It’s not about D&C 4:4, not about the harvest as missionary work metaphor, but rather it’s actually about the harvest season — complete with quotes from Presidents Monson, Hinckley and Kimball on the joys of growing your own food.

Most of the works featured (7 paintings, 1 sculpture and 1 quilt) are from the Museum of Church History. Three focus on the fruits of the harvest in the home; the rest on the actual action of harvesting.

There is one painting that grabbed me, in particular, and I wasn’t surprised to find that it was by J. Kirk Richards. I have been a fan of his work ever since reading an LDS Today profile of him back in 2003 (although I think that that’s actually a shortened profile and that there was a fuller, earlier one, featuring more of his work, posted on an earlier incarnation of the LDS Today Web site from maybe 2000 or 2001). Continue reading “Harvest paintings in Sept. Ensign”

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.