Report from the Belly of the Beast

Yesterday I had lunch with Chris Smith, Mike Reed, and another guy named Steve, whom I had not met before. They are attending a Maxwell Institute seminar on the cultural history of the golden plates, or something like that.

Anyhow, I had to ask Chris where the NAMI is located, as I’d never been there before. It was fun to drive past the horrible basement apartment my wife and I lived in as dirt-poor newlyweds 24 years ago, and then I pulled into the 30-minute space in front of the building.

The seminar was still going on in the center’s library, so I sat on a couch and perused some of the publications sitting on the coffee table (I always wonder if such a table at BYU can properly be called a “coffee table,” but I digress).

I looked in the small window of the library door, and the only two people I recognized were Chris and Mike, but I learned later that Richard Bushman was in charge of the thing (I think he must have had his back to the door).

While I was sitting there, an older man with white hair and glasses meandered in and out of the lobby. I recognized him as Louis Midgley. He didn’t seem all that scary to me, for some reason. I’d been led to expect a raving lunatic with blood dripping from his sharp teeth, but he looked pleasant enough. I said hello, but I did not otherwise engage him. Who knows what he might have done with an apostate like me? 🙂

The student behind the front desk encouraged me to read whatever I would like. It’s too bad that I didn’t notice Brian Hauglid’s book on the display shelves until I was heading out the door. So, I ended up reading Dan Peterson’s “Unapologetic” piece in the FROB, which was sort of vaguely depressing to me. There seemed to be a subtext that suggested that, as an ex-Mormon, there is something wrong with me, at one point that “something” being compared to a fatal illness. It didn’t offend me, but I thought how different my worldview is to that attitude these days.

To my surprise, Terryl Givens came in the front door looking a bit flustered and then entered the library. A woman stood by the partially opened door watching a couple of small children play in the lobby, as I sat and tried to hear what they were talking about (couldn’t make it out).

Lunch was great, and once again I am impressed by the quality of people who are involved in these programs. Chris, Mike, and Steve are all extremely intelligent, educated people of integrity, though they come from different backgrounds (Chris never-Mormon, Mike ex-Mormon, and Steve an active high priest).

During lunch, Chris asked me if I had stopped to see Dan Peterson while I was in the NAMI offices. I hadn’t realized that’s where his office was, or I would have done so. Next time I’ll drop by, Dan.

Anyway, I just thought I’d write down my impressions from my first visit to the Maxwell Institute.

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