George B. Handley, author of Lowell L. Bennion: A Mormon Educator, answers questions on his new book.
Q: Why did you decide to write this book?
I was personally familiar with Bennion when I was young. He had been a professor of my parents, but more importantly I attended his boys ranch as a young man and then served as a counselor there in my early adulthood. I read his books with great interest in my formative college years, and they had a tremendous impact on my moral outlook. This was a labor of love. I owe the man a great deal.
Q: What is the most interesting discovery you made while researching and writing your book?
I hadn’t realized how much of an influence his own father was in his life. His father, Milton, was a leading educator in the state of Utah and had influence on the curriculum of the LDS church as well. He was a strong and early advocate of ethics in Christian life. I was also not aware of how conversant Bennion seemed to be with the intellectual trends of his time in the broader fields of theology, education, and sociology.
Q: What myths do you hope your book will dispel or what do you hope your book will help readers unlearn?
Bennion was far more than a humanitarian. He was an outstanding intellect of the first order, even if he refused to write in an esoteric vein. He is too easy to underestimate as a thinker because of his exceptional career as a humanitarian.
Q: Which part of the publishing process did you find the most interesting?
I loved the research into the intellectual historical context of his time. I learned a great deal about American religious thought as well as LDS church history that I was not familiar with.
Q: What is your advice to scholars/authors who want to take on a similar project?
Read broadly in and around the time frame of a given author and you will find a number of serendipitous parallels. Let others read and give suggestions about drafts. Don’t be afraid to expose your ignorance.
Q: What do you like to read/watch/or listen to for fun?
I love reading poetry and fiction, theology, and anything about the environment. I listen to books, read them on Kindle on my phone, and in hard copies. Multiple formats help me read much more.
George B. Handley is a professor of interdisciplinary humanities at Brigham Young University. His books include The Hope of Nature: Our Care for God’s Creation.