Normal Mormons.

My friend Nikki, who grew up in Idaho, once told me I am a “normal Mormon.” This was the moniker given to LDS kids at her school who were really quite good Mormons, but not judgmental or exclusionary.

I’ve been listening to a podcast series from MormonStories.org, celebrating the life of Eugene England. I took two classes with him while I was at BYU, right around a time of incredible discord in the English department. I was oblivious to what was going on at the time, but in hindsight, I realize why my Comp Theory professor (who was not Professor England) was so nervous about my choice to research and write about the work of Margaret Atwood.

As I’ve listened to the first couple of podcasts about Eugene England, I am encouraged at his life. He was a tireless academic who wrote intensely personal essays in addition to the expected scholarly work. He served in a variety of church callings, including as bishop. He organized and improved study abroad programs at BYU, and when BYU forced him into retirement, Utah Valley State College (now Utah Valley University) grabbed him and he built a study abroad program there, too.

He did so much, and yet even as his daughter and granddaughter talk about his life in this 5-part podcast, the unifying thread is his faith. He wasn’t pushy about it, but he wasn’t silent, either. He was a Normal Mormon–perhaps the original one at that.

Whether you are Mormon or Lutheran or atheist or agnostic, you should glance at his work. It is uplifting and thought-provoking, and I can’t wait to sift through it all.

2 Comments

  1. hi there,
    i popped over from segullah and have been enjoying some of your posts. EE was my favorite teacher at BYU. i didn't realize at the time what a gem of an experience having him was…but he changed my life with small bits of feedback.

    i could frame the paper that started me on my current path. I misspelled his name on the title page as “Eugeen”. When he handed our papers back, in red ink he circled that type-o and wrote “This could fail you” (I already expected a bad grade…it was my first personal essay). I opened it to see an “A” on the top of the next page, followed by a suggestion I'd never considered before: “Get It Published”.

    I loved that man. I'll have to find these podcasts you mention. Once upon a time I had high hopes that my husband would follow in the same path as Gene did with his faith questions. I felt like Gene and he had much in common, only Gene managed to retain his faith throughout his life, whilst my spouse stopped believing in faith as a reliable source of information 20 years ago. Maybe he will again someday!

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  2. Thanks for reading! I wish I had stayed at BYU and taken more classes from him.

    I've crossed your path in the blog world before, and you are one of the LDS women that I look up to, so I really am a little starstruck that you took any time at all to read my silly blog. I'm glad to have found your blog again!

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