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Book review: 'Dead Wood and Rushing Water' explores unique LDS issues

By Melissa DeMoux

For the Deseret News

Published: Sunday, July 13 2014 5:00 a.m. MDT

"DEAD WOOD AND RUSHING WATER: Essays on Mormon Faith, Culture, and Family," by Boyd Jay Petersen, Greg Kofford Books, $22.95, 234 pages (nf)

As a religious studies professor at Utah Valley University, Boyd Jay Petersen has been exposed to widely varying ideas and conceptions when it comes to spiritual beliefs. An active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Petersen is not afraid to explore difficult topics or intriguing points of view.

In his book “Dead Wood and Rushing Water: Essays on Mormon Faith, Culture, and Family,” Petersen examines his inner thoughts and personal conclusions regarding LDS customs, doctrines and attitudes.

Divided into three distinct sections — faith, culture and family — Petersen shares essays, talks, articles and blog posts he has crafted over the years, each illustrating his thoughtful and sometimes unconventional view of LDS issues.

Petersen’s chosen topics include the struggling faith of emerging adults, ministering angels performing acts of “guerilla charity,” Mormons in politics, gender roles in the LDS Church as well as women and the priesthood. This book wriggles its fingers into many quiet corners of LDS life.

While Petersen has allowed scripture and the words of modern prophets to shape his views and mold his beliefs, his personal insights bring an intriguing twist to this compilation. His struggles with family matters, depression, complex Mormon dogma and his distaste for what appears to be hypocritical behavior of some members of the church each flavor his writing.

Petersen views himself as a log helping to bridge the gap between people of differing religious perspectives. His compositions are well sculpted, meticulous and deeply meaningful to him. Although he does tend to push the boundaries of simple or plain thoughts, Petersen’s work rings with his love of his chosen religion and desire to explore its precepts more deeply.

Melissa DeMoux is a stay-at-home mother of six young children who lives in West Valley City, Utah. Her email is mddemoux@gmail.com and she blogs about her adventures in motherhood at demouxfamily.blogspot.com.

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