Dialogue is happy to announce its Best of 2011 Awards.
For best Article: Taylor Petrey,“Toward a Post-Heterosexual Mormon Theology”–Winter
For Fiction: David G. Pace, “American Trinity”–Summer
For Poetry: Anna Taylor Lewis, “Dishes”–Fall, Matt Nagel, “Blessing My Son”–Fall, Paul Swenson, “Marginalia”–Spring
For Personal Voices: Scott Davis, “The Fabulous Jesus: A Heresy of Reconciliation”–Fall
and for “From the Pulpit”: Paul Reeve “That the Glory of God Might be Manifest”–Spring
Article: Taylor Petrey,“Toward a Post-Heterosexual Mormon Theology”–Winter
As Taylor’s helpful summary here on BCC explains, this article explores “the ongoing critical evaluation of Church discourse and practice about the issue of “homosexuality” and other relational and identity categories outside modern LDS discursive and juridical norms.Besides providing numerous models within LDS texts and practices for thinking about the possibility of same-sex relationships, ultimately [Petrey suggests] that we think less about the types of sex that people are having, and more about the types of relationships that people are building.”
You can also hear Taylor, Dan Wotherspoon, and me talk about the article on a Mormon Matters podcast.
Fiction: David G. Pace, “American Trinity”–Summer
David Pace tells the story of one of the Three Nephites, grown weary of his immortality and longing for the close relationship he had with Jesus during Jesus’ life. There are funny moments–two of the Three sipping wine and eating oysters, chuckling about the third who is probably out in the desert eating locusts “on principle”–but at its core is a poignant, tragic, and utterly Mormon Jesus, deeply loved and barely understood by his tired disciples.
“American Trinity” also won the Association for Mormon Letters’ Award for the best short story of 2011.
Poetry: Anna Taylor Lewis, “Dishes”–Fall, Matt Nagel, “Blessing My Son”–Fall, Paul Swenson, “Marginalia”–Spring
There was an embarrassment of riches in the poetry sections this year, and we were unable to choose just one poem. Anna Lewis’ poem about Jesus stopping by to wash the dishes now hangs next to my sink and this stanza, particularly, makes me happy every single day:
He rolled up his sleeves to the elbow
and did the pots first.
He splashed water everywhere,
I mean everywhere.
It almost makes you think
that the Flood
wasn’t so much a punishment
as a big accident.
And he sang.
He has quite a good singing voice.
It wasn’t quite what I expected.
After watching him
slap a pot a few times to the beat,
I asked if he was a Southern Baptist.
That really killed him.
He has a laugh like Santa Claus.
He didn’t answer, though.
And Matthew Nagel’s poem about blessing his son recognizes the promised blessings as contingent on his child’s agency, while affirming that their love is not contingent on shared belief:
I will remember that
I am bound to my neighbors by beautiful covenants
and appointments on the damn Cub Scout calendar
but our bond is blood
and ten million minutes together
chasing you chasing me
just to be with you
I don’t care where
just to be with you
I will follow you if you don’t
Sadly, the award for Paul Swenson comes posthumously, as he died earlier this year. Stephen Carter, his nephew (and the editor of Sunstone) wrote a beautiful tribute–go read it. Then read his short, perfect poem, Marginalia (and read it aloud!!):
Does the margin ail you? Scary edge of things,
where fools barely cling to normal, fail
to hug the middle. Do they bug you—out there
on the ledge beyond the pale? Ugly,
should they all at once fall off—or worse,
coerce you to rehearse a crawl toward the brink
yourself. Anxious, on your shelf of false
security, do you think of all the borders
you have crossed, from found to lost,
from large to small, from boss to marginal,
so you no longer were in charge? As the mangy
herd roared by, you ate their dust. Was it
death-lust spurred you back into the chase
to claim your place in the stampede? Bleed a little,
if you must, but from your vantage in the middle,
observe the riders on the edge who turn the herd.
Personal Voices: Scott Davis, “The Fabulous Jesus: A Heresy of Reconciliation”–Fall
Davis’ essay hits the rare trifecta of brilliant argument, vivid metaphor, and deeply personal narrative that has characterized the very best Mormon personal essays, with just the right smattering of wit to make its poignance bearable. It is both an intellectual challenge, and a gift of moral courage and hope.
…through this mixed metaphor of this mixed Jesus, I am telling you something you already know—something I wish I had remembered during those dark and lonely days: All is reconciled in Christ. While these two orthodoxies are defined by what the other is not, Christ is only defined by what is. And God is more nuanced, more complicated, and more complete than either of these orthodoxies can circumscribe.
A good-enough heresy of fends both orthodoxies because it forces each to see itself melded with the other. It forces each to see itself in the other, reconciled with the other, to see that its identity need not be defined by what the other is not, but rather that its identity can be completed only by what the other has. A double heretic embodies a completed orthodoxy. Our heresies complete us.
Jesus wasn’t fabulous but neither was Jesus a twenty-first-century Mormon. It’s hard to tell whether he was even an intellectual. Of the historical Jesus, we know so very little. But what does seem clear is that he didn’t play by the rules. He caused great offense to official authorities—Roman and Jewish. And he attracted a following of not particularly notable people. We are not particularly notable people. But we are people with issues, people who are complicated, people who are torn, people in need of reconciliation.
And so, we can follow Him. And break the rules. And cause offense. And be made whole. Of course, if you’ve read to the end of the book, you know that it’s a rather risky venture. But as Paul taught, the Cross that offends also gives life (Gal. 5:11). “And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ,and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:18).
Sermon: Paul Reeve “That the Glory of God Might be Manifest” (Spring)
Reeve’s sermon, delivered at the funeral of his sister, Roene, is an exquisite tribute to a painful and difficult life made whole and glorious by the love of a family, and a community, and Christ.
One of the most profound ways that I believe Roene fulfilled her calling is through each one of you here today, her community of caregivers….You hugged her and kissed her, talked with her, joked with her, visited her, remembered her birthday, and treated her in every respect in Christlike ways.The fruits of your conversion to Jesus were manifest in the way you treated my sister. I thank you for looking past her differences to see the divine embedded deeply within her soul.
If we are to truly see the works of God manifest in Roene’s life, then we must respond when Jesus calls us to reach beyond ourselves to even greater acts of Christian love. …let us use our ability to recognize the divinity in Roene as a catalyst to see the divinity in all of God’s children.
Roene’s… calling, as I see it, is to witness of the promises of Jesus Christ to us all. In that light, I would suggest that we are gathered here today, not to mourn the passing of Roene, but to glory in Jesus. It is largely because of Roene that I look forward with hope and anticipation to the resurrection. I look forward to the day that I can talk with her, run with her, and kiss her glorified immortal cheek. Through Jesus, I know I’ll have my chance to do so.
The complete collection of The Best of 2011 is available at dialoguejournal.com.