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.