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
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