Book Review: “Let Your Hearts and Minds Expand” by Thomas F. Rogers

imagesReview of Let Your Hearts and Minds Expand by Thomas F. Rogers.

Part of the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship’s “Living Faith” series.

In his Foreword to this Book, Terryl L. Givens states he wants to “get out of the way and let you the reader get on with” reading the book rather than waste time with an introduction.  I feel much the same way:  Just read this book, and forget about this book review.

However, like Dr. Givens, I will trek on and give a little more than that, since some people might need convincing.  This is a collection of several short essays and other pieces by Thomas F. Rogers, a professor of Russian at BYU, head of the honor’s program at BYU in the 1970s, president of the Russia St. Petersburg mission in the mid-1990s, and a traveling patriarch for the church in the Europe East area of the Church from 2007 – 2014.

That resume alone should let you know he has quite a lot worth saying, as many of his writings here detail events associated with those positions and callings.

He is also a playwright.  His perhaps most famous play, Huebener (about a German LDS youth excommunicated due to anti-Nazi activities during WWII, who later had his membership posthumously restored) makes several showings here (such as an essay he wrote for the cast, and another on why he wrote the play). What is interesting/controversial about this play is that the First Presidency asked for the show to not be performed after its initial run, for reasons never quite adequately explained.  This created something of an uproar, with cries of censorship and whatnot from the usual suspects.

However, Rogers himself, despite quite clearly being more progressive than the average Mormon (whatever that is), makes it clear he has no real issues with this and is more than faintly embarrassed by the cries and complaints of his fellow progressives.  Rogers makes it quite clear he considers his first duty to the gospel, and that includes – indeed, requires – following the teachings and instructions of the leaders of the Church.  He quite often states that if his opinions and the opinions of church leadership disagree or clash, he defers to them because he supports and sustains them as not just inspired leaders, but Christ’s emissaries.

That note of controversy aside, the main theme that I found in this collection is one of charity – the true love of Christ.  Rogers has a unique and clear capacity to find the good in everyone and every situation he encounters, while still being realistic and firm as required. A read through this collection would, I think, inspire any member of the church to be more loving and Christlike in their behavior.

So, that’s as far as I will go.  If you really need more, feel free to ask in the comments below, but I’m ending the review so you can go out, get a copy, and read it ASAP.

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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.

4 thoughts on “Book Review: “Let Your Hearts and Minds Expand” by Thomas F. Rogers

  1. Ivan,
    I associated with Thomas Rogers nearly two decades ago (in a fine arts class), and he is quite possibly one of the most inspirational and positive people I have been around. By several measures, he is quite progressive in his views, but his progressivism flows from his natural optimism about the future, his desire to help and lift people and his ability to hold (simultaneously) to moral absolutes and a love of beauty and humanity. The man loves individuals. He left me with an personalized/autographed copy of Huebener when we parted ways, it is now a cherished possession.

    If LDS liberals and conservatives would take a dose of Rogers’ progressivism, Zion would be a happier place.

    Thank you for the heads up on this publication.

  2. FYI, FWIW, the “ban” on the performances of Huebener was lifted some time ago. I wrote to Professor Rogers some time ago to see if it was available for performance, he wrote back and said that Church leadership had informed him that the request to refrain from performances was temporary, and was no longer in place. I had written him because I had hoped our ward or stake might perform it (I wasn’t able to interest any of the powers that be in our ward or stake). He also wrote that if our ward or stake did perform it, he would fly down to watch it (we are in Phoenix).

    I echo the accolades about Professor Rogers. I was in the BYU honors program when he led the program. I have read many of his plays and other writings and heard him speak at the one SLC Sunstone symposium I attended. He is a deeply thoughtful, authentic, kind, committed, devout, openminded disciple of Jesus and member of the Church

  3. Thanks for the notice of this book! BTW the Hubener story was made a movie in 2002 called Truth & Conviction.

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