If Francis Ponge, the French minimalist, can wring a long poem out of something as simple as "soap," I figure I can get a column out of the word "O" — especially because I'm finding it's one of the most used and least appreciated words in the Book of Mormon.

I'm not talking about "Oh" with an "h." That word is an exclamation of surprise. But "O," on the other hand, is always filled with longing and hope, wonder and awe.

And it appears, it seems, at almost every turn in the Book of Mormon.

It's there in the sacrament prayers.

It's there in Alma's famous "O that I were an angel …"

It's part of the cry of the heart in "O ye fair ones …"

And the word drives the grand litany of God's virtues listed in 2 Nephi 9:

"O the wisdom of God …

"O how great the goodness of our God …

"O how great the plan of our God …

"O the greatness and justice of our God …"

In fact, if you can believe Brian D. McLaren, the author of "Naked Spirituality: A Life with God in 12 Simple Words," the word "O" can change the way you live.

McLaren came to fame as the author of "A New Kind of Christianity." Since then, he has continued to stretch people's minds and push new frontiers. And in his new book, McLaren claims that "O" is not just a word; it's a "way of life." It's the calling card of jubilation.

"This shortest of all words," he writes, "turns out to be one of the most amazing because it can express the widest range of emotion."

He says the word erupts from within us almost without warning. It can appear with feelings of gratitude, it can signal relief, it can stand for pure awe. It can even express agony.

McLaren quotes from several psalms to show why he likes to link the word with great joy — "O come, let us sing to the Lord," for example, from Psalm 95.

The form of the letter itself, he says, is an empty circle that cries for us to fill it with our feelings.

I would add that it is also the shape of an open mouth.

And it is the shape of the sun, moon and stars.

It is celestial.

It is eternal — holding an eternal "roundness."

It is the wedding band between God and the world.

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McLaren concludes his thoughts by saying, "Let your mind ponder good and great and wonderful things, things you love. As each comes before you, simply hold it in a spirit of wonder, in the simple word 'O' … let your O resound to God — silently, or aloud as a groan or shout or a song.

"And if the urge strikes you, put on some music and dance!"

I probably won't be dancing.

But I will be seeing the word "O" with more awareness from now on.

Jerry Earl Johnston shares his take on the Mormon experience in his column “New Harmony,” which appears on MormonTimes.com on Wednesdays and Sundays.

Email: jerjohn@desnews.com