LDS Scholars Salute 

Author C.S.Lewis At BYU Conference

BY ALF PRATT

         Sunday, December 6, 1998

SPECIAL TO THE TRIBUNE

PROVO -- A deceased Anglican author may seem like an odd reading favorite for  members of the Mormon faith, but a favorite he is.

Elder Neal A. Maxwell, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as well as LDS scholars and theologians from across the country joined this weekend at Brigham Young University to salute C.S. Lewis, the British Anglican professor of literature for his insights into Christianity, suffering, discipleship, family relations and steering clear of hell.

Although there are obviously things about Mormonism that would irritate him, Lewis -- who died in 1963 -- offered spiritual insights that good people across the world should welcome, according to Andrew Skinner of BYU's department of religion. ``Lewis was a keen observer of the human condition and an astute social critic.''

``From the standpoint of LDS doctrine we have good reason to trust many of his insights,'' Skinner said at the conclusion of the two-day conference. Skinner's comments were among those of 13 presenters, including Maxwell, who has quoted or paraphrased Lewis in his sermons and writings more than any other LDS Church leader.

``C.S. Lewis has given us such valuable insights to help us in the journey of Christian discipleship,'' Maxwell said. ``For this I publicly thank him, and hope to do so personally one day.''

Speaking to more than 2,000 persons at the Harmon Center, Maxwell admitted, ``I'm here not in robust condition,'' but praised Lewis for his skill in describing the exacting standards of Christian discipleship from a tutorial God lovingly encouraging the attributes needed in ``a composite Christian character.''

Lewis, whose writings were influenced by the early death of his wife, helped teach that ``God is serious about joy,'' Maxwell said. Indeed, ``Adam fell that men might be and men are that they might have joy. But there is neither cheap joy nor cost-free discipleship.''

Robert L. Millett, dean of religious education at BYU, said that Lewis' popularity in LDS culture, as with a broader Christian readership, is related to the fact that he does not come across as denominational or wedded to any particular religious persuasion.

``In his adherence to `mere Christianity', he seems almost to be every man's preacher, every woman's scriptural exegete, the thinking Christian's supreme apologist,'' Millett said.

Skinner said that of Lewis' genius as expressed in children's book and a variety of other publications including The Screwtape Letters was his ability to reduce the complex to the understandable. His life has been popularized in the movie ``Shadowlands.''

``Lewis was able to elucidate the gospel of Jesus Christ as he saw it from both his reading of the Holy Scriptures and from his own life experience.''

In his Going to Hell: C.S. Lewis Style, His Views on Sin, Temptation and the Devil, Skinner said the intent of all of Lewis' writings was to aid the Christian in his daily living and to point to the love and redemptive power of God.

Terrance D. Olson, a professor of family life at BYU, described the harmony between Lewis' work and the features of self-deception in family relationships.

In his opening remarks, Millett said it was not the intent of the conference to contort Lewis into a Latter-day Saint.

``We cannot read his mind; nor can we come to know assuredly what he meant by what he said. But then, neither can anyone else who reads him unless they were intimately acquainted with him during his life.''

Copyright 1998, The Salt Lake Tribune

 

(This article was originally found on http://www.sltrib.com/1998/Dec/12061998/utah/65273.htm. Unable to find it with the original address, this is a copy of the one taken off that URL in 1998.)  

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