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Hi I'm Val Larsen

I 'm a college professor, a motorcycle rider, an ultralight and light sport aircraft pilot, and I'm a Mormon.

About Me

I am the husband of one and father of three. I love to learn and spent most of my first 40 years in school.  After completing a B.A. with a double major in Philosophy and English, I earned a Ph.D. in English from the University of Virginia and a Ph.D. in Marketing from Virginia Tech. I now teach marketing at James Madison University. I commute to work year round on my motorcycle and, in my spare time, sightsee the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia from the ground on my motorcylce or from the air in my light sport aircraft, a Buckeye Dream Machine powered parachute.

Why I am a Mormon

I was born into the Church as were my parents and their parents and their parents and some of their parents. While I have a Church heritage that goes back four generations on every line and as many as six generations on some lines, I am a Mormon because I have received multiple personal spiritual witnesses that this is God's work, witnesses that have come in prayer, while reading scripture, while listening to sermons and lessons and music or while watching Church videos. In addition to those spiritual witnesses, I have the witness of many closely observed happy lives lived in harmony with the principles taught by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The fruits of those lives well lived are an empirical evidence of the truthfulness of the gospel, the kind of hard, pragmatic evidence of a pragmatic truth that convinces the rational mind and adds dept to the total conviction that God's hand guides the Church and the lives of its faithful members.  My testimony of this gospel has been greatly strengthened by the literary power of the Book of Mormon. It contains sermons, history, lyric poetry, all woven together with a literary sensibility that bears testimony of the Savior not only through the words by also through the structure of the work. Parallel narraives, e.g., that contrast Mosiah I, Benjamin, and Mosiah II with Zennif, Noah, and Limhi, illustrate the consequences of following or rejecting the leadership of prophets and accepting salvation through Christ.

How I live my faith

For the past 11 years, I have taught a weekly religion class that focuses on closely reading the Book of Mormon. Over the course of those six years, we have read about half of the book. To prepare for the class, I spend several hours each week absorbed in reading the Book of Mormon much as Robert Alter reads our other great volume of scripture, the Bible, i.e. with special attention to its literary power. As a trained literary scholar, I have been deeply impressed by the intricate plotting, the rich mix of genres, the dense intertextuality, and the luminous symbolism of the Book of Mormon. As Grant Hardy has observed, the Book of Mormon deserves more attention from members of the Church and non-members alike because it is an impressive and influential work of literature. We Mormons love it above all because of its spiritual power. But all who give it serious attention can come to love it for its literary richness and literary power. I illustrate the literary richness and power of the Book of Mormon in an article that discusses one small section of the book. Published in the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies in 2007, the article is entitled "Killing Laban--The Birth of Sovreignty in the Nephite Constitutional Order." It's available at this URL: http//maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/jbms/?vol=16&num=1&id= 430 So in part, I live my faith through study. The fruits of that study have been a deeper love of the Book of Mormon and of Jesus Christ, the Savior who is the protagonist of this still newer Testament which adds its witness of Christ to that of the biblical Old and New Testaments.