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Blog Update: December 2015

Note: I haven’t given a “blog update” in a long time. And, in actuality, this is going to be a more personal update than anything else. I don’t normally share a lot of personal details on this blog, but the past 2 years have marked an important turning point in my life, and it is something I need to share. As will be evident, it does have some relevance to this blog.

It was the Best of Times, it was the Worst of Times

As the year 2015 winds down, it is a little hard to believe the journey I’ve been on. If anyone had given me a glimpse of now a year ago, I would’ve thought they were crazy. Those close to me know that 2014 was a difficult year. It began with shocking disclosures from my then-wife, which led to a tumultuous 9 months until the divorce I did not want became final. As 2014 rolled into 2015, I tried to hope for happier times, but I honestly was not optimistic. The best I could do was survive another day; day after day, week after week, and month after month.

Nothing about the first part of 2015 was really all the that bad. It was, for all intents and purposes, fairly ordinary life. I found a job at Greg Kofford Books, a local publisher of books on Mormon history, doctrine, and scripture. Although I was just doing inventory and shipping, it was still a good opportunity. Kofford’s audience is somewhat different than that of FairMormon and Interpreter, and so working at Kofford allowed me to make new connections within the Mormon scholarly community. I also dated a girl, although it was only half-heartedly. But adjusting to being in my late 20s, single, and living in my parents’ basement was not easy.

During much of this time I tried to keep myself distracted from my present reality by burying myself in research and writing. I made considerable progress on a book-length manuscript I’ve been working on, and between March and August I got 5 papers published in Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture. By mid-year, though I was largely doing better emotionally, I was nonetheless frustrated with where I was at. I had started attending the singles ward around April, was still struggling to fit in by the end of the summer. By mid-July, I was no longer dating anyone, felt out of place at church and at home, and was haunted by a lingering sense of loneliness and emptiness. 

It was in August that things began to change. After the FairMormon Conference came to a close on Friday, August 7, I had a meeting with Kirk Magleby, who had been trying to reach me for a few months at that point. We had talked on the phone in April, and that was when I had first heard about Book of Mormon Central, and agreed to help out with the project anyway I could. In August, I learned that the scope of what they hoped to accomplish had expanded considerably and they were looking to hire several people for full-time positions. In essence, I was being given the opportunity to work full-time researching and writing on the Book of Mormon.

I was somewhat reluctant to leave Kofford Books, since I was just getting the hang of my job there, and because I committed in January to work at least a year. After a month, however, it had become evident that doing both was not really feasible, and Book of Mormon Central was offering full-time work with salary and benefits. I informed my supervisor at Kofford, and made myself flexible to leave on a time table to worked for them. By the beginning of October, I was working full-time at the Book of Mormon Central office in Springville, and had secured a contract for a basement apartment in south Provo.

Meanwhile, I had finally started to find a groove in the singles ward. I got a calling as a Sunday School teacher and threw all my passion for teaching and the gospel into it. I started to make friends with some guys, and even started to talk with girls (a big step for me, let me assure you).  Despite moving down to Provo, I have continued to choose to spend weekends at my parents’ home in South Jordan so that I continue to attend that ward. In October, I decided it was time to try dating again. I asked out an absolutely amazing girl who is not only attractive, but impresses me in a number of other ways. We went out and had a really great time. I’ve since been on a number of dates with several different girls. I am really dating again now.

The last couple of months have not exactly been sunshine and rainbows—I’ve had my ups and downs in November and December—but it is where it has all put me now that matters most. I have a job that is, for me, a dream come true, and it pays well. I am living on my own. I am comfortable and even thriving in my ward. I’m enjoying dating and getting to know some really cool people. And while we are just friends, I’ve nonetheless managed to cultivate a close personal relationship with a wonderful young lady—something I never really thought I’d be able to do again. The contrast from where I was a year ago is startling.

Going forward into 2016 will no doubt be filled with many new and difficult challenges. I’m still not expecting sunshine and rainbows, at least not without some rainstorms in between. My life is certainly not perfect, but the events of the latter half of this year—which I am certain were guided by a divine hand—have filled me with a hope I long thought was lost.  A future that once seemed bleak and dismal is now filled with optimism and possibility.

I have been greatly blessed this year, although I have hardly deserved it. That, of course, is one of the key messages of the season though—God the Son came down to save us not because we had somehow merited saving, but rather because he loved us enough to want us saved. The Lord’s love has been extended to me this past year, even as I deliberately tried to pull away from it at times. Moving forward, I hope to better embrace that love, and to find ways to extend that love to others who may need it more than I do. Love given freely without expectation has the power to change hearts, but often times it requires persistence. The Lord was persistent with me, and I pray that I may be patient and persistent with others. I trust that as I do that, the rainstorms will eventually clear and sunshine and rainbows will return.

The Future of this Blog

With all of that said, I’ve felt somewhat at a crossroads with this blog. While my personal future feels full of hope, I’m a little uncertain about what my blogging future will look like. I started this blog about 6 months into my marriage so I could have a place to put ideas down, rather than trying to keep them all in my head.

On the one hand, I have plenty of other outlets at this point, all of which garner greater attention, and carry more reputability, than this blog. Between Book of Mormon Central, Interpreter, FairMormon, and the Book of Mormon Archaeological Forum, I have plenty of places I can share my thoughts and ideas. As such, over the last year or so, I have frequently wondered whether this blog is worth continuing to maintain. In some ways this blog has come to feel a bit like a relic from a past I am trying to move forward from; something I no longer need, which has become entwined with memories of a life I need to leave behind.

On the other hand, there is a freedom and flexibility that comes with having your own space to share. I don’t need to make sure my thoughts are fully developed before I throw them on to this blog. Nor do I need to get them vetted by others. I can just suggest whatever little nugget has come into my head, and let whomever cares to read and comment do the vetting. This is something that would be lost if I stopped blogging here altogether.

I am still feeling very conflicted about how and even if to move forward with this blog. 2016 could see a significant reduction in the number of posts I do here as I focus my time and energy on writing projects that will appear in other venues. Then again, the nature of my work at Book of Mormon Central makes it entirely possible that I could be posting here very frequently using this blog as a platform to promote the frequent KnoWhy publications we will be doing. I suppose only time will tell.

If you have made it this far in this post, then I thank you for your patience. As always, I am every grateful for all those who choose to spend some time here, reading and considering my point of view. For now, I do think I will continue to use this blog in some capacity. However I decide to move forward, I do hope that I may continue to offer worthwhile content here and elsewhere, regardless of how frequent such content may appear.


Thanks for reading! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Comments

  1. Neal,
    I was not aware of your personal turmoil over the last year or so but I have enjoyed reading your blog. Thank you for the thoughts you have shared I look forward to continuing to see your work where ever you wish to publish. I have started a blog about a year and half ago for much the same reasons. It is nice to occasionally just get thoughts down and preserved. Best of luck to you.

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  2. I have empathy for what you have been going through. Thirty years ago, I found myself unexpectedly (and against my own wishes) single at age 32, a development that was emotionally devastating and that left me feeling like a failure. Indeed, it took a few years (and a remarriage) before I felt as though I could offer any comments in Sunday school or priesthood lessons regarding how to make a marriage work.

    The good news was that I remarried to a wonderful woman who herself had been through an unexpected/unwanted divorce, and we are still madly in love all these years later. Hang in there.

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  3. Real life is when you put all the things you are learning from the scriptures into practice. I'm sorry for your challenges, but as you learn how to navigate with the help and guidance from the Lord, you will lift others. You have a gentle "voice," and I hope you continue writing.

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