Elder Neal A. Maxwell coined the phrase “disciple-scholar.” But he said, “In the end all the hyphenated words come off. We are finally disciples—men and women of Christ.” But what does that look like? Hal Boyd says it begins with being consistent and bringing our faith with us wherever we go. 

“When we walk out of our houses of worship and we walk into an academic environment, if we are being genuine, we are the same person and those beliefs inform the way that we read texts, the way that we articulate our views, the way that we approach our scholarship and it should inform all of those things for the better. It should make us better scholars, it should make us better advocates, it should make us better husbands and wives, and teachers and community members, and parents."


Find the Gospel Day by Day workbooks at deseretbook.com and in Deseret Book stores. 


EPISODE REFERENCES:

Article: "Elder Cook Calls on People of Faith to Speak Up in Defense of Religious Liberty"

Link: Public Square Magazine

Article: "Interrupting the Rhythm of Negativity: Announcing a New Venue"

Op-Ed: A Healthy Anxiety for Latter-day Scholars

Quote: 

Abraham Lincoln said in his First Inaugural Address on March 4, 1861, on the eve of our Civil War: "I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field and patriot grave to every living heart and hearth-stone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature."

Quote:

In her 2017 general conference address, Sister Sharon Eubank said, "Use your voice and your power to articulate what you know and feel—on social media, in quiet conversations with your friends, when you’re chatting with your grandchildren. Tell them why you believe, what it feels like, if you ever doubted, how you got through it, and what Jesus Christ means to you.”

Show Notes

00:47- A Deliberate Decision to Stay
3:15- Religion and Academia
9:09- “A Divinity That Shapes Our Ends”
11:18- Different Kinds of Advocates
13:45- Elizabeth McCune and the Public Square
19:38- The Same Person at Church and Elsewhere
22:45- Shaping Public Virtues
26:18- How Jesus Taught Us to Articulate Our Faith
28:45- Finding Your Canvas and Your Voice
33:05- The Biggest Challenges Facing Saints Today?
37:53- Encounters With The Divine: From Agnostic to Advocate
43:53- What Does It Mean To You To Be “All In” the Gospel of Jesus Christ? 

Transcript:

Thank you for having me, Morgan. Glad to be here.


Morgan Jones  

Well, I have to tell listeners before we get started that we have Hal partially to thank for this podcast. Because when I was at Deseret News one day Hal, who was the opinion editor at the time, came to me and was like, "Morgan, I've got an idea for a podcast." And then he said, "And I think you need to host it." And I was like, "What? Like, I don't know anything about podcasting." So first of all, thank you for believing that I was capable of doing something that I did not think I was capable of.


Hal Boyd  

Well thank you, that's generous to say that I had anything to do with it. But if you're sincere, you know, I would willingly accept royalty checks.


Morgan Jones  

I'm still waiting on a royalty check, Hal. But I also want to say, I think that the thing that I've always appreciated that you brought up that day when we talked about a potential podcast, is you said, I think something along the lines of—I'm probably putting words in your mouth—but you said something along the lines of, "I believe that the decision to stay and to remain faithful is just as deliberate as the decision to leave. And that it's actually a very thoughtful thing, that this decision to stay faithful to remain active is very deliberate for many people." And that is something that's always stuck with me and it kind of served as the catalyst as we at LDS Living were brainstorming what we could do for this podcast. So thank you for that.


Hal Boyd  

Yeah, no problem. I think, you know, in our current environment, in the current social context in which we live, faith is increasingly a choice. And that's a powerful thing because it allows individuals to come to a full realization of why they believe and what inspires their faith, and what prompts them to be disciples and to carry on in a world that sometimes can be challenging for believers. And so I think that's actually a great opportunity of this era is to be able to assertively choose faith and understand one's beliefs. And so it's, in some ways, many see it as a difficult environment for believers. But in that sense, it allows individuals to crystallize their faith because it is tried and tested in a way that makes it more profound and more powerful.


Morgan Jones  

Yeah. I do think—I was just thinking about this this morning that I don't know—I remember being younger and hearing people talk about the pioneers and thinking, "Man, I would never want to trade places with them." And still, I don't think I was cut out to push a handcart. But I was thinking this morning about how it's hard for me to imagine a time when it's harder to remain faithful. It just feels like we're being attacked from all sides. But as a result of that, I hope that my faith is stronger. 


Hal, you are—let's start here—you're a graduate of Yale Law School. And it's interesting because you're an advocate for higher education. We've had conversations about this in the past, but you've also expressed the bias against religion within the academic sphere. You once wrote, "The academics I know tend to be thoughtful, well-meaning types who on the whole, expand knowledge and aspire to foster a pluralistic vision of society. But as New York Times columnist, Nicholas Kristof has observed, 'the one kind of diversity that universities disregard is ideological and religious.' He continues, 'We're fine with people who don't look like us, as long as they think like us.'" Why have you felt the need, Hal, to kind of speak out against that bias?


Hal Boyd  

Well, I will say that the norm is not the bias, the norm is, at least in my own personal experience, has been very welcoming environments in which faith is embraced and faith is included at the table in academic discussions. And that is, that's the norm. And it's very positive and something that we should be grateful for, that we're in an environment where individuals of diverse cultures and religious traditions are able to participate in a robust conversation within the higher education, within the Academy. However, there are situations in which there can be ideological biases within the Academy. And I think one of those tends to be with regard to individuals who have traditional religious perspectives or identify with religious traditions. And this can have the reason to speak out for this the reason to talk about it, it certainly doesn't help anyone to have a persecution complex. I don't think that serves anyone well, particularly one that isn't reflective of the much good and the way that many religious people are treated quite well within the Academy. But there are some human consequences, there are some disadvantages that people from religious backgrounds can encounter within the so-called "ivory tower" of higher education, and that's something worth talking about. It's something worth trying to work through and improve that situation. 


So from just a Latter-day Saint perspective, and I know this is just because of my membership in the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints, I maybe have more Latter-day Saint examples, but of course, there are I'm sure examples of other faith traditions I can imagine. But I've heard of at least just two that I've kind of reported on anecdotally. One, a university president who had been the president of a PAC 12 school, who was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, back in my reporting days, had communicated to me that, you know, he wasn't for sure, he didn't have concrete evidence, but he was almost certain that at least one job, he was passed over for one job specifically because of his affiliation with the Church. Another example, a judge, a very distinguished judge, who himself is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, received an application for a clerkship from a student. And part of those applications for clerkship, judicial clerkship, involve an endorsement from professors from your law school. And one of the professors who had endorsed this candidate to be a clerk for this judge, the professor had noted, you know, the many qualities of this individual that they're hard-working, etc. But then came to a point within their endorsement where they said, "but I should tell you that this person is a Latter-day Saint," I think they use the term "Mormon." And said, "In my experience, I've found that Latter-day Saints lack the intellectual creativity. However, they have a very strong work ethic." Interesting comment, it happened that the judge receiving this comment was himself a Latter-day Saint. 


Morgan Jones  

Oh, goodness.


Hal Boyd  

So of course, he wondered, you know, "would this professor feel the same way about me, perhaps?" And so, you know, let that pass. And then sometime later, this judge received a subsequent application from a different candidate several years later. And the same Professor sent a recommendation. And yet again, brought up the fact that the candidate was a Latter-day Saint and made the same comment about Latter-day Saints. And so I think there are human consequences to having these biases, unfounded biases, with regard to religious individuals and individuals of any sort of background to have sort of a, you know, maybe a misguided stereotype with regard to—it's a harmful thing. I think we as a society have generally recognized that, and it's certainly the case with regard to biases against religious individuals. And so very much an advocate for higher education. I believe, on the whole, it is a welcoming environment to people of diverse cultures and ideological commitments and has been an immense boon in my life. And something that I think, culturally hopefully as Latter-day Saints, as members of the Church, we embrace the immense benefits of higher education and the aspirations to learn and to truly grasp the understanding that the glory of God is intelligence. And that these institutions are producing knowledge and disseminating knowledge and benefiting the world. But yet we can be clear-eyed about some of the challenges and difficulties and how to improve them.


Morgan Jones  

Yeah, I love that you point out that this is not something that's just unique to members of our faith. This is kind of believers across the board. Hal, you have a fascinating background to me. You were working for the Church, you went to Yale Law School, came back and worked as the opinion editor at Deseret News. And then for the Church again, you told me once, in essentially the same position you had been in before. What led you to kind of take that route?


Hal Boyd  

Yeah, I would say, you know, for those of us who are believers, we, you know, think there's something of a divinity that shapes our ends, that we aren't totally the masters of our own career trajectories in some ways, or the trajectories of our lives. I think most of my plans haven't really come to fruition, how I mapped them out. I'm just grateful to have been able to have opportunities to, number one, be able to have adequate employment to provide for the basic needs of life and to hopefully contribute to my employers and to my community, where I can, and obviously my family and faith. But yes, I think there have been instances or opportunities where I felt like the Lord had moved me in certain directions where I could be uniquely helpful. And I think we all hopefully feel that in some way, whether it's in our specific church calling, or our life circumstances, that there are ways in which we are uniquely fitted to contribute to a particular environment, particular time, a particular setting, particular community. And I hope that, myself included, that we're all attuned enough to know where those contributions can be. And where we can make them the most effectively. I now am teaching down at Brigham Young University in the school of family life, teaching family law and family policy and engaging in public scholarship efforts down there. And so that's—I'm very excited about that. I feel like that's a unique opportunity to contribute not only to the betterment of students at BYU, but also hopefully, to contribute a bit more to the public discourse in a positive way.


Morgan Jones  

I love that you're back in the academic space, because I think that you have so much to offer students and the rising generation. I am curious how having gone to law school and having been in that kind of academic space that we talked about before, how do you feel like that changed you, shaped you, and allowed you to come back and be even more of an advocate for our faith?


Hal Boyd  

Yeah, well, you know, certainly law school is a place where you learn advocacy, and there are different kinds of advocacy. In the legal environment, I think most of us traditionally have a picture of an attorney who is in a courtroom making an argument for someone who is on trial, either as the defense or the prosecution. But advocacy can transcend the courtroom and can enter in many different realms. I think it's important, you know, every person should be an advocate in some sense, for themselves, for their communities, for the things that they deeply care about. And I think advocacy can come in all sorts of different forms. Much in the same way we think of an artist as having different canvas, some will be more inclined toward watercolors, others will use oils, some will engage in sculpting, some might use design. And just as there are different formats I think for art, there are different ways of advocating. And it doesn't need to be just purely the purview of sort of our traditional, maybe shrill attorney out in front of the cameras making some sort of press statement. But it can be just individuals who are communicating within their own sphere of influence about things that matter to them. And it doesn't need to be in a way that comes across as salesmanship or badgering in any way, but can be just a genuine or an authentic voice with regard to deeply held convictions. And so hopefully I can do that and in my own realm, in my own way, to individuals for whom it may be beneficial and for whom I may have a particular resonant voice in some way.


Morgan Jones  

Yeah. One of the things that you're working on at BYU, you've been involved in a joint project between the Elizabeth McCune—am I saying that right, McCune Institute? And the John A. Widtsoe Foundation. You helped create a website called "Public Square Magazine." First of all, Hal, can you tell us kind of the idea behind this website and what inspired you all to start it?


Hal Boyd  

Sure. So first of all, Elizabeth McCune, some may not know that name. Elizabeth McCune was a figure in the late 19th century, early 20th century, who lived in Salt Lake City. Her husband was a noted industrialist here in Utah and she was a very active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Her husband, maybe not quite as much. But she lived in the noted McCune Mansion, which overlooks Temple Square. If anyone's been on Temple Square, they'll see the McCune Mansion sort of looming over on Main Street. And she had the opportunity, I believe, if I recall the story correctly, when her son was serving in a mission in Europe, she went over and took a trip to Europe. And during that time, there was a particular book that was out that didn't paint Latter-day Saints in perhaps the most flattering light. And there's an individual who had been a former member of the church who had written this book, and it kind of been selling it around town. And one of the main sort of points of the book was that people who are listening to the Latter-day Saints in Europe should discount their message because of the way that the church in Utah treats women. And this is, you know, post plural marriage in the state of Utah. But nonetheless, this was the argument that this former member of the Church was making. 


And so Elizabeth McCune, who was visiting from Utah who was a native of Utah, and a prominent woman of some noted reputation for philanthropy and I believe participation literary circles. She was on tour and was asked to give a lived experience testimonial with regard to her life experience as being a Latter-day Saint woman in Utah. And what that was like and what are the real facts of how women are treated within the community. And so she was able to get up in an environment in which there's a sizable crowd of both members of the Church and non-members of the Church, in which she gave sort of an authentic testimonial of being a Latter-day Saint woman in Utah. And she was so effective and so compelling as a speaker and both as an inauthentic voice of someone who actually had the facts, who was living the reality of being a woman in Utah. And she communicated the opportunities that are afforded women, the life of the mind that women were engaged in at the time in Utah, and her station of being sort of equally yoked to her husband in responsibilities and opportunities. And it was such a compelling testimony that I believe if I'm getting all the facts right of the story, that the presiding authority who was present made a request to Salt Lake City to send sisters out to the area because they were so effective at communicating the gospel. And this, as I'm told, sort of began the nascent stages of sister missionary work in the church. 


And so a group of individuals kind of got together and have been engaged in starting the McCune Institute and then along with the John A. Widtsoe Foundation, which is based out of University of Southern California, as starting this publication, "Public Square Magazine." It's a bit of homage to Elizabeth McCune in a way of saying this is a space in which individuals from different walks of life who are believers, who are people of goodwill, people of conscience, can participate in the public square—hence the name, "Public Square Magazine"—and do so authentically, or at least authentic to their faith traditions, their lived experience, to their deepest core convictions. And so this is kind of the effort we've been engaged in there. And we've really enjoyed a lot of the contributions that have come, and unexpected individuals have sort of come out of the woodwork and written very thoughtful essays on a variety of topics that weave faith and contemporary life in ways that are quite rich and nuanced and inspiring. And so it's a great project that I've been blessed to participate in in a small way, although there are many others who are involved and deserve credit for all they've contributed to that thus far.


Morgan Jones  

Yeah. Well, I think it's such a great idea. And I think it shows that there are many different schools of thought surrounding believers. That it doesn't mean—one thing that we've loved about this podcast is that it's shown how many different people with different life experiences and different thoughts can all participate in the same faith. And I think that "Public Square" is trying to do the same thing in showing that this is actually a very thoughtful thing, belief is thoughtful. 


One thing I loved in an op-ed that you wrote for Desert News, you quoted Elder Holland, and Elder Holland was talking about Neal A. Maxwell, who was being recognized for his scholarship. And obviously this is after Elder Maxwell had passed away. But he says, "The wonderful thing with Neil and the thing I want for us is that it didn't have to come down to a choice between intellect and spirit and a consecrated soul. They would be aligned beautifully, a perfect fit, a precise overlay." And I think that's kind of what you all are trying to do, correct me if I'm wrong, but I think it's kind of showing that overlay of intellect and spirit and how those two things together can create like this beautifully consecrated soul. Would you agree with that Hal?


Hal Boyd  

Oh, certainly. I think our President Abraham Lincoln, echoing the New Testament and Christ's words said, "A house divided, cannot stand." And so if we bifurcate ourselves, you know, here's my academic self and here's my spiritual self. Or here's my salsa dancing self, to throw a reference to Sean Spicer in there, and here's my, you know, business self. I don't think that is particularly healthy. I mean, I think we have different ways of presenting ourselves and different ways of communicating in different arenas and that's perfectly fine. But ultimately, we are one person. And when we walk out of our houses of worship, and we walk into an academic environment, if we are being genuine, we are the same person. And those beliefs inform the way that we read text, the way that we articulate our views, the way that we approach our scholarship. And it should inform all of those things for the better. It should make us better scholars, it should make us better advocates, it should make us better husbands and wives and teachers and community members and parents. And so I think it behooves us to allow faith to suffuse all that we're engaged in, particularly in the life of the mind. As we kind of talked about earlier, you know, the glory of God is intelligence. I think God wants us to have that marriage—that welding of the life of the mind and the life of the spirit, as they ultimately become one as he says, you have disciple-scholars, but in the end, the hyphens come off, and it's just disciple.


Morgan Jones  

Yeah. One thing that I, well, I want to touch on a few things—if it's okay with you—that were written. Did you write this piece that kind of explains "Public Square?" That introductory thing?


Hal Boyd  

Yeah, I was one of the writers.


Morgan Jones  

Okay, so I'm going to talk as if you wrote it, but we will just go ahead and establish multiple people—


Hal Boyd  

Cannot confirm or deny.


Morgan Jones  

Perfect. Okay, so, you talked about a theologian who suggested that Christians lost the 1970s debate around abortion because they didn't participate sufficiently in the larger public conversation about sex and related topics. And thus, by "by seeding the terms of the debate the debate got framed in ways that made the failure of conservative Christianity a foregone conclusion." Into that kind of vacuum, it's been far too easy for terms of public conversation to be established in a manner that occasionally paints faith as incomprehensible or even threatening, rather than as an essential aspect of life for most of humanity deserving of studied consideration. Hal, why do you think it's important for us to engage in conversations surrounding these kinds of hot topics and what are the most important topics facing believers today?


Hal Boyd  

So I think it's important to engage in these topics because the public square has traditionally been an arena where individuals come to exchange ideas and communicate, and exchange goods and all sorts of other things, but it has been the creator of norms. And so, Aristotle, the philosopher, Aristotle, talked about different kinds of knowledge and different forms of wisdom. And one of them he talks about is called "practical wisdom" or phronesis. And he says that individuals come to the city center, they come to the public square, they come to Athens in his world, and they engage with one another. And from engaging with one another, and learning of each other's stories and hearing different perspectives, we shape sort of public virtue. And those values, the public virtues are what we aspire toward. That's what we aspire toward politically, that's what we aspire toward personally. And so if religious individuals vacate that space, decide to stay home, whilst others are engaged in the public square, whilst others are having the conversations in the Athenian town square, then essentially, the part of defining virtue is lost. A part of defining what are our moral paragons is lost. A voice is missing in that discussion, in that virtue shaping. And so I would hope that we would all want to, in a reflection of Lehi's dream of partaking of this wonderful fruit from the tree and wanting to share it with others, that we want to go to the public square. And we want to say, you know, what we have something that is is remarkable and worthy of sharing and worthy of discussing and we want to be there, we want to participate, we want to be able to communicate that with others. And that will help shape, that will help frame the terms of the debate, I think in a way that will live in society, will improve society, will lift it, will "appeal to our better angels" to keep quoting Lincoln today. But I think that's why it's so vital, it's so important, why I care deeply about trying to encourage myself where possible to engage in the public conversation.


Morgan Jones  

Yeah. So Hal, I imagine that some people are probably feeling like me right now where they're like, of course, you should engage in the public square because you are brilliantly smart, very articulate. I, on the other hand, kind of an idiot. And so I think that one thing that maybe keeps people from engaging in these conversations and participating, is that they may feel inadequate. What is your advice in how to better work to articulate our beliefs? How can we become better and more comfortable and confident in that?


Hal Boyd  

Okay, well, first, let me dispel the notion that you're not articulate and shouldn't participate in the public square because that's not correct. But in terms of how individuals can participate, I would say, you know, the example of the master, of Jesus Christ, is a great, as as an all things, is our paragon here, the individual we should look to. And the way He communicated truths, the way He communicated His gospel and the things that are important, essential for us to participate in the Plan of Salvation fully and to live the Christian virtues. He did so in ways that were very applicable to the people of His time, and the audience to whom He was speaking. So He spoke in parables, He talked about sheep and oil and He talked about lilies and wheat and tears and things that were seeds, and were very applicable to the individuals of their time that these were germane topics to their lived experience. They were part of the cultural milieu in which they existed. An individual who was of the Philosophical class or the Lorilee class, or the governmental class, it was accessible to them as the popper, as the person begging in front of the temple. And so He was able to communicate things that were widely discernible, and people could grasp them and use them. And there were layers to them, "those who had ears to hear," so there are multiple ways to understand them. So I mean, He is the true master in terms of how to communicate one's faith, how to communicate one's core beliefs. But I think each individual, you know, we don't all have the gifts of Jesus Christ—that none of us have the gifts of Jesus Christ. And so we have to look to what are our specific spiritual gifts, what are our unique ways? And for some people, that participation the public square may be their incredible gift of song or of, you know, of music, of playing the violin or the piano. For another person, it will be being able to articulate stories and parables and talk in narrative form. And then of course, there will be some who will maybe have the ability or the specific voice to be able to articulate beliefs in what we might traditionally think of as public discourse arena, in which there may be writing op-eds or essays or articulating their views on CNN or MSNBC. 


And so I think looking for what is your specific voice and what is the audience that resonates with that voice? It may be that writing a blog about your parenting of a child and taking really interesting pictures of the various foods that you eat and the shoes that you buy becomes a means of communicating and participating robustly in the discourse and reaching people for whom you have a specific gift and a resonant voice. And for others, it may be something completely different. It may be your ability to quilt and that you have a community around quilting or something else. And so I think, thinking through what are my unique spiritual gifts and what is my voice and how does that voice resonate? And then thinking about the canvas, which is your canvas of choice. You know, are you an oil painter or are you a watercolor kind of a person? And then trying to leverage that voice in a way that, again, is done in a manner that is appealing rather than shrill. There's a great story from, I believe from President Packer, in the book "Teach Ye Diligently" in which he talks about giving an example to young missionaries about sharing the gospel. And he says, he uses this example I presume, I think he actually did use this example where he would bring out a platter of cake at a missionary zone conference, if I'm getting the story correctly, and he would ask, "Who wants some cake?" And when someone would raise their hand, he would then take a piece of the cake and throw that at them. And you know, people were very shocked, this is not a very—


Morgan Jones  

Not super conventional.


Hal Boyd  

Not conventional, not what you might expect. And then he'd bring out another cake on a platter with utensils and a very well adorned, and say "Okay, now who wants to eat this cake?" And so he then would make sort of the obvious point that well, boy, the cake is the same, it has the same ingredients but it sure is more pleasant to receive a cake on a platter than receive it thrown at one's face. And so I think, you know, the message can be many ways similar, one of hope and one of charity and Christian goodwill at a time of division. A message of resilience through the gospel of Jesus Christ when we see so many falter who need help and ability to reach out and to try to lift at a time when there are many whose arms are hanging down. And that hopeful message, that that message of Jesus Christ can resonate not only because of substance of it is so powerful and so alluring, but also that we as messengers can provide an adequate vessel so that that message is received, rather than being felt as though cake is perhaps thrown at us.


Morgan Jones  

Yeah. I love what you said about how, you know, people have different gifts and being able to communicate the things that they believe in being able to reach people. And I think that sometimes we view our gifts as less than, I think it's kind of like how we're our own worst critic. We view our gift as "Oh, well all I can do is sew quilts," or whatever. But to somebody, that may be exactly what they need. And so I love that you touched on that. 


Hal, I asked this earlier, but I didn't get your answer. What do you think are some of the most important issues? I think religious freedom, obviously a big one. But what are some of the most important issues facing us as believers in Jesus Christ today?


Hal Boyd  

You know, I think, I mean, there's certainly a lot of political things that one could talk about. But I think, at least personally, and I assume this might apply to others, I feel as though perhaps one of the most pressing issues with regard to contemporary Christianity in the West in the United States, in particular, for those for whom their basic needs are met, and they're able to have a modicum of comfort with regard to some of the elements of life, and that they're not going hungry. And they're not having to toil in a manner that may be detrimental to one's health, such as to provide the necessities of life. For those individuals, the challenge is living up to, I think the moral expectation that one has if those needs have been met. So in other words, in previous epochs, many Christians have had to either face persecution, pretty substantial persecution in the case of Latter-day Saints, the pioneers. We think of the pilgrims as being religious exiles having to go into the western reaches of the worlds that they understood and knew, and having to be in pretty dire circumstances in which many of them would pass during their time in the first years of being in New England. And we think of those types of sacrifices and those types of toils and they're pretty significant. And so once those necessities of life, if you have general protection from the elements, and you have your necessities met in terms of not going hungry, well then as a Christian, you have a high moral obligation not just to watch Netflix or now Disney Plus I guess. But to strive to contribute to your communities in ways that are reflective of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the example of the master. And I think that is a pretty tall order and a pretty high expectation that we all as believers or as self-described Christians must live up to. And it can be quite hard to do that. And I think that it wears on our conscience, as a community, as individuals and I would say, as a nation when we don't achieve that. When, perhaps instead, we use the immense advantages that we've been given to perhaps just binge one more show or taken, you know, one more luxury cruise, perhaps rather than engaging in the hard work of being disciples who are contributing to the world and our communities and our families in ways of befitting the Christian tradition. And this is certainly something that I grapple with. I'm not saying that I've somehow achieved that high moral apex, but I think it's something that we're all struggling with, both individuals, as a community, and then as a nation. Now, with that said, there are many, many Christians for whom there are other much more pressing circumstances that they have to deal with the lived realities of trying to provide for their own families, survive day to day, live in circumstances where there are high levels of persecution or high levels of instability. And there are many lived realities that aren't as comfortable. And so I think it's the acute, the pressing issues for Christians or for believers of many different stripes are going to depend on the particular circumstances. But I feel like for those for whom they have maybe a stable living and some stable circumstances, and we all face various challenges, that's a pressing issue, is to live up to the immense blessings and privileges and have our gratitude express that gratitude through our actions as Christ admonishes to feed the sheep. Once we realize who Christ is, He tells us to feed the sheep, that's what He tells Peter three times. And so are we living up to that? Are we feeding the sheep? Or are we feeding ourselves in many ways, and enjoying the technological advances and modern accouterments, or are we using those to more fully live as Christians? And I certainly don't think I've lived up to that, but hopefully, striving to a little bit each day.


Morgan Jones  

Yeah, thank you. Hal, why are you grateful to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?


Hal Boyd  

Well, I think my faith, my membership in the church is perhaps slightly less orthodox, if I can use that term, in the sense that I grew up sort of in a more agnostic kind of a situation. I saw that my parents were believers, but I thought, you know, say it's 50/50 on whether this is you know, this is true or not. And so I'll just try to appease my parents and live a good life and that way I can, you know, get by okay in my adolescence, and I won't lose my allowance or something, so to speak. I don't remember if I had allowance, but the general idea was, I could get by okay if I  toed the line more or less, and then was able to live the way I wanted to, without really much thought toward weightier matters or weighter or questions. And I generally took sort of an agnostic position, maybe more leaning toward a hedonistic, atheistic perspective of it's unlikely that there's a god or a personal god. But I didn't put, I don't think, the substantial thought that such a question would warrant at that age. 


But I think coming from that as a basis point, and this is not to say that I wasn't brought up in the faith, or my parents didn't do everything, you know, I mean, they were remarkable parents and very faithful. And I had a grounding and understanding of the religious tradition, thankfully, because of the goodness and the sacrifices of my parents and my family. But that was sort of my general sort of position as an adolescent. But over time, there were things that would chip away at that perspective. So you would have encounters with the divine, and they were initially very small, but enough to get me out to Brigham Young University for a summer term instead of going to another university, which was a good university, but probably had a different cultural context. And then from that, to get me on to a mission. And then you have these daily encounters—and I don't want to treat them lightly—which are so significant with the divine that there's no, I mean, I would even say rational explanation other than a benevolent Heavenly Father who is engaged and touching the lives of individuals and working through me, working in my life to bless the lives of others, and blessing other lives and helping other lives to bless my own. And when one encounters that, when one encounters miracles—and I don't use that term lightly—one can't help but then to fully divest themselves of the prior perspective and sort of shed the scales of their eyes to see that in fact, yes, shockingly, yes, this is, this is true. And that these things, miracles are reality and that the basis for belief is rooted in kind of a what we would call it theological terms, incremental Fideism, where faith supersedes rationality in some cases. But does so based on encounters with the divine, divine evidence that one feels through their lived experiences by encountering God's love and encountering the miracles that He puts in our path. 


One thinks of Paul on the road to Damascus with one paradigm and thinking that they're aligned and doing God's will by persecuting the Christians, the followers Christ. And Paul then has a quite abrupt 180 when he encounters Christ on the road to Damascus. And we may not all have the same encounter with Christ, but we all have our moments where we encounter the divine. And those do provide a basis for faith and our testimonies are bolstered by the encounter with the holy spirit in which we feel in profound ways and sometimes ineffable ways, divine love that transcends and anything we can compare it to in our normal everyday lives. 


And so these things become profound building blocks for our faith. And so for me, you know, many there are some who kind of have faith journeys where they are "all in" so to speak from the beginning, and have been brought up in a particular way. And then they encounter something that then they are forced to grapple with and that becomes something that chips away at their faith. My experience was quite the opposite. Whereas I sort of came from a basis of non-belief or sort of, you know, I don't want to discount the great faith that was instilled in me from parents and from other religious leaders. But there was sort of a robust skepticism, I guess, from a young age to where that skepticism was slowly chipped away, by showing forth moments of faith in which that faith was then confirmed through remarkable experiences. And that builds the foundation of faith where one has a deep dedication and conviction. And one that I think hopefully is something that others can feel and hopefully, I can, in some way, try to encourage others to seek that sort of feelings out of. By no means would I say that I have all of these things figured out, but I'm trying my best. And I do feel very blessed to have had a testimony. And I think many religious believers have that as well through their own encounters with the divine. And the Lord communicates sort of in unique ways to unique individuals and their circumstances and in their language and in the things that resonate with them. And that's certainly been the case for me.


Morgan Jones  

Thank you so much for sharing that. I never knew that about your growing up. So that's really interesting. As we wrap up, I just want to read one, well, I guess two quotes from this "Public Square Magazine," and then I'll let you have the last word with our "all in" question. But you said, "Despite evidence of the social benefits of religion to society, it's not entirely uncommon to hear assertions that faith communities are little more than modern barriers to progress, or that religion is already too prevalent an influence in society. We reply that you can never have enough tolerant and reasoned voices, sharing what they believe to be true and beautiful. You can never have enough souls striving toward the divine." And then later you say, "The body of believers must now, more than ever put pen to paper, click conviction into every keystroke, stand athwart history and belt, "Come, Come Ye Saints" until in fact, all is well." Hal, what does it mean to you to be all in the Gospel of Jesus Christ?


Hal Boyd  

Well, I think being all in, to me, means stumbling, making mistakes, maybe having a faltering, but learning from those experiences and using those experiences to propel us to become more like our Savior Jesus Christ. And to have a greater appreciation for the ways, the benefits of the gospel of Jesus Christ in our lives. One thinks of Peter, who had his moments of failure, of faltering, but those moments were used to crystallize a more firm foundation, were used to propel a more compelling Christian voice, even the rock upon which the kingdom would be built and led. One thinks of Paul who was again leading the charge to persecute the followers of Christ. And yet, his experience with the divine was able to alter his life circumstances such that he would dedicate the rest of his days to preaching the gospel he once persecuted. And so I think being all in means that we're willing to recognize our fallibility and also recognize our faith and the realization that we can be made strong, that our flaws can be purified and can be refined through the gospel of Jesus Christ. And so, I hope when we feel like we're all out, rather than we're all in, that we can still come to a greater communion with the divine and allow that to be the fire, the fuel for our faith. And so I guess that's how I would define being all in. 


Morgan Jones  

Thank you, Hal.


Hal Boyd  

Thank you.