About Ivan Wolfe

Ivan Wolfe teaches rhetoric at Arizona State University. He has a PhD in English from the University of Texas - Austin, and a BA and MA in English (with minors in Classical Greek, Music, and Philosophy) from BYU. He has several credits on various Christmas albums aimed at the LDS market, several essays in Open Court's Popular Culture and Philosophy series, and various book reviews in academic and popular venues. He also competes in Scottish Highland Games and mud run/obstacle course races, and he can deadlit over double his bodyweight (his last PR was over 500 pounds). He is currently married to Lisa Renee Wolfe. He has six kids and four stepkids.


In The Art of War, Sun Tzu offers some very relevant advice on retreating.

Paraphrased, he states that when attacking an enemy, you should leave them a way to retreat.  This has two advantages – if planned right, you can set up an ambush on the retreat path.  However, if you can’t do that, it’s best to allow them some means of escape, lest the enemy, knowing they must either fight or die, rise to heroic actions and do serious damage.

Similarly, if your army is hemmed in with no mean of retreat, let your soldiers know this, so that they might rise to heroic actions and perhaps even pull off a win.

It seems to me these principles have relevance to several current battles in the “culture wars.”

Rudyard Kipling, updated.

(the following doesn’t quite scan, compared to the original.  This is on purpose).

Take up the Liberal Mormon’s burden, Send forth the best with degrees
Go risk your fates to excommunication, to serve your lessers’ needs;
To wait in heavy harness, On un-nuanced folk and mild–
Your orthodox, hide-bound Mormons, Half-devil and half-child.

Take up the Liberal Mormon’s burden, In patience to abide,
To veil the threat of Peterson And check his show of pride;
By open speech and academic, An hundred times made nuanced
To seek progressive profit, And work against the prophet
Continue reading

Religion Courses at BYU: embrace the change!

The Mormon blog sphere (I’ve decided there’s no real “Bloggernacle” anymore, it’s too divided and Balkanized to have such a unifying name anymore) has been abuzz about the recent changes at BYU for the religious class requirements. Generally, the consensus has been that this is a bad thing – even those not totally shocked have only offered a very qualified “wait and see” approach.

I, however, think the changes are (probably, likely) a good thing.

For those who came in late: Continue reading

Book Review: “How Do I Know If I Know?” by John Byetheway.

Title: How Do I Know If I Know?How Do I Know_f
Author: John Bytheway
Publisher: Deseret Book
Genre: Devotional
Year: 2014
Binding: Softcover
Number of pages: 138
ISBN: 9781609079215
Cost: $9.99

Reviewed by Ivan Wolfe for the Association for Mormon Letters

John Bytheway has made a fairly nice niche for himself writing books aimed at Mormon youth that do quite a few things well: He doesn’t talk down to them, he avoids overly complicated language, and he presents the ideas straightforwardly.

I could see a complaint that his writing is too simplistic in handling controversial aspects of the gospel (his work is not at all like Adam Miller’s recent “Letters to a Young Mormon” which does tackle hard issues). However, such a criticism would be missing the point. Continue reading

Bigots and Fanatics

In the most recent conference, Elder Oaks said:

“today, when [followers of Christ] hold out for right and wrong as they understand it, they are sometimes called bigots and fanatics.”

I expect that from the world.  What most depresses me is that too many of those calling Mormons bigots and fanatics are, well, other Mormons.

[I also find it interesting how Oaks and Packer have switched places recently among the more progressive set of Mormons].