by Scott Heffernan:
Jerry Seinfeld helped familiarize us with the concept of a non-sexual crush. And we thank him for it. The last two years I have shared my Mormon Crushes. A Mormon Crush is a passionate respect for the way one approaches Mormonism and faith. I like the term crush because it captures the fleeting attraction I sometimes feel after hearing someone speak or reading their words.
I used the same criteria as past years:
• They must be somewhat of a public figure.
• They must be living.
• No general authorities at or above the level of seventy.
Here are the people who caught my attention in 2013.
Among other notable accomplishments, Neylan McBaine is a writer and public commentator who has made a name for herself addressing women’s issues in the church. She is the founder of the Mormon Women Project, a fantastic website featuring a growing library of interviews with strong and diverse LDS women. To get to know her, I recommend reading her 2012 talk at the FairMormon conference and her guest blog post at Feminist Mormon Housewives. You can also listen to her interview on A Thoughtful Faith. I appreciate Neylan's pragmatic approach to Mormonism. She has a calm and wise demeanor and a restrained confidence that seems very effective in getting things done.
Terryl Givens is a professor of literature and religion and author of several books about Mormonism.
Although most of his books are more academic (usually published by Oxford University Press), he recently coauthored The God Who Weeps with his wife, Fiona (who is equally as impressive!). This book explores Mormonism’s teachings that connote a sympathetic and compassionate God. It's getting lots and lots of praise. Additionally, he and Fiona have been giving a series of firesides on the subject of faith and doubt. Listen to his interview with John Dehlin on the Mormon Stories podcast if you want to be inspired and encouraged (one of my all time favorite episodes). I don’t know that I’ve seen someone better able to balance intellectual honesty and faithfulness to the Mormon narrative and institution at the same time.
Charles Randall Paul
Charles Randall (Randy) Paul is founder and president of the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy, an organization dedicated to fostering friendships between people with fundamentally differing worldviews by facilitating robust conversations around religious issues. We featured two fascinating interviews here on MMM about Randy's work. He is also an early mentor to one of last year’s crushes, Dan Wotherspoon. You can listen to him on a plethora of Mormon Matters podcast episodes. This quote from his page on Mormon Scholars Testify sums up what I love about him: “Strong believers (some of them secular humanists) who desire to improve the world by open persuasion without coercion are my favorite godlike subjects, no matter their brand of salvation.”
The common theme I see in this year's picks is that of moderation. We live in an age where it seems the only way to get attention is to take the most extreme position and speak in the most provocative manner. It's refreshing to see rational and moderate personalities still able to have voice and command attention. Some may find these individuals too unorthodox, while others may think they are too apologetic. I've often found that when you're drawing fire from both sides—that's when you know you're doing something right. People who live in that place of tension, who are able to embrace paradox and become comfortable there, seem to develop a dynamic inner balance that I think we'd all do well to pursue.
Scott Heffernan is an artist, designer, and photographer living in Seattle. He works on the creative team at Archie McPhee, doing all manner of strange things. He grew up a child of the 80s in Salt Lake City and loves skateboarding, toys, and thrifting. He served a mission in England/Wales and has a degree in American Sign Language from the University of Utah. He has one wife and two kids. Twitter: @ScottHeffernan. Tumblr: ScottHeff.tumblr.com.