To The Glory of God: Mormon Essays on Great Issues

The Festschrift poses special problems for the reviewer. Should a book made up of the products of many hands be read as a single book or as a multitude of separate works brought together by an accident of binding? To the Glory of God is a memorial volume for B. West Belnap, late dean of the College of Religious Instruction at BYU and contains a dozen essays written by his friends and colleagues. Yet, though the book has no explicit topical focus, the title suggests a singleness of purpose. How are we to take such a high-sounding title? As indicating the wish of the authors and editors to dedicate their labors to the glory of God, or as suggesting that the book as a whole can tell us something about the glory of God or about the nature of religious dedication? Does a common cause produce a common insight?

To a significant extent, I think the answer to this question is yes. Although the essays reflect a wide range of interests and present diverse ideas about the nature of man and the role of divine purpose in the world, most of them cluster around a single theme: the interdependence of man’s spiritual and temporal existence and the necessity of striking a proper balance between these aspects of life if one is to be truly dedicated to the glory of God. Several of the authors approach this theme by way of analogy—or something more than analogy—with environmental ecology. For example, Hugh W. Nibley quotes Brigham Young’s advice to the Saints in the early days of Utah: “You are here commencing anew. . . . The soil, the air, the water are all pure and healthy. Do not suffer them to become polluted with wickedness” (p. 3). In a more explicit comment on the evil nature of pollution, Nibley says, “Why should the enemy seek to pollute? There was an early Christian teaching, reported by Eusebius, that the evil spirits, being forever deprived of physical bodies, constantly go about in the world jealously seeking to defile and corrupt such bodies, glorying in foulness and putrefaction as they ‘move about in thick, polluted air,’ and make charnel houses and garbage dumps their favorite haunts . . .” (p. 5). C. Terry Warner compares man to a tree which requires careful pruning to attain a balance between rank growth and productive fruition. Neal A. Maxwell points out that the “full spirit of stewardship” should make us “concerned about the environment we transmit to our successors,” but he emphasizes that we transmit not only a physical but a moral environment: “The sewage of sin is so devastating downstream in life that it overshadows physical effluence about which we have a right to be concerned” (p. 91).

Published in BYU Studies Quarterly 12:3
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