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Hi I'm Ben

I grew up in Las Vegas. I have a wife and four children. I am a professor of rhetoric. I'm a Mormon.

About Me

I am a lucky man. I have a remarkable wife and four beautiful young children. I do not feel like I deserve the life I enjoy, but I embrace it every day. From the time I was a teenager, I've wanted to be an academic, spending my life studying, teaching, and writing. So I didn't complain as I slogged through college and graduate school. I now happily go about each day with students, colleagues, and plenty of reading and writing. I love it. When I am not at school or home, I enjoy playing basketball with some friends. We thought we were pretty good. Then we joined the interfaith league here in town and proceeded to lose eight games in a row. Watch out though. As of this writing, we are on a three-game winning streak. I also enjoy playing the drums in a casual little band with other friends who teach for a living. We play a blend of rock and Americana. We don't take ourselves seriously, and we only gig once in a while, almost always for free, but we have a great time. A typical evening, however, doesn't include basketball or music. It consists of a marathon-like effort with my wife to get the kids ready for bed and the kitchen cleaned. Then, after books are read and prayers are said, the two of us find a good show on Netflix and decompress for a while before turning in - usually much later than we planned.

Why I am a Mormon

I was born into the church, but I went through a period of skepticism and questioning as a young adult. I overcame my concerns, not because I was able to conceal them in a cloak of naiveté, but because I used them to motivate me. I believe questions and even doubts can push us to locate more honest and powerful answers when life gets difficult, answers that add layers of authenticity to our relationship with others and the Divine. I always knew that my personal faith was essentially good, even if it was not perfect. The Book of Mormon prophet Alma clarifies: “Faith is not a perfect knowledge.” He says it may be as small as a “particle,” or a “seed.” And if it is good, it ought to be nurtured. That "goodness" permeates the faith tradition to which I am proud to belong. All around me is goodness. I see examples of service and support that I simply don't see in other traditions. I know Mormons whose cultural backgrounds, political views, tastes, traditions, and standards do not mirror my own. We are united by a gospel that empowers us to receive our own divine guidance as we strive to reach a sublime potential. So I try imperfectly to live my life in accordance with these gifts. I also believe these gifts are not mine uniquely. They belong to everyone. The Book of Mormon prophet Nephi offers this reminder: "and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile."

How I live my faith

I live my faith by making it part of my daily life. I pray a couple of times each day. I try to have a conversation with God rather than just go through the motions. I read scriptures with my family several times each week. I attend church and perform service at least once per week. Still, my faith is imperfect, just like anyone else's. As a professional critic, I cannot help but be skeptical of, well, everything. Nevertheless, I have found time and again that the relationship I developed with my Heavenly Father as a child and young adult continues to serve me well. I feel as if I live with powerful spiritual allies - a Heavenly Father, a Savior, and a Holy Spirit who push me, comfort me, and encourage me as I try to embrace life fully. I participate in my faith, because the rituals, challenges, supports, and opportunities it provides make my life rich and rewarding beyond anything I could have created alone. My perspective is broader and deeper. My potential is more capacious. My fear is less crippling. My love and empathy for others is more authentic.