It’s been on my mind for months now. This change in direction, change in career (and the anticipated change of pace that would come with it) would hopefully give me the time I’ve been craving to get back to expressing my thoughts in writing through blogging. I started this, my first blog, Heavenly Ascents, in 2008, when the Blogosphere was yet young, and blogged here quite regularly for years.

Tonight, when I finally scrounged up the time and courage to sit down at my computer and get onto my old blog, I was more than a bit surprised to find that my last post had been written five years ago. Five years ago? How is that possible? Five years sounds like such a long time. But I also felt a degree of puzzlement to think that I had written several posts that year, with all that I had going on at that time and so long after I had first launched Heavenly Ascents.

Now that my mind has settled a bit after all this contemplating and puzzling, I suppose I am simply content with the thought that I now feel free to express my mind as I wish, with no pressure to please, to impress, to “angle” for employment purposes — it’s just me sharing my thoughts, such as they are, on things that I enjoy talking about.

Let’s rewind a bit here. How do I find myself in my current circumstances — having my mind and keyboard freed up to reopen my blog? And why did I ever stop blogging anyways? I started Heavenly Ascents (if I remember the chronology correctly) about halfway through my Master’s degree program at Marquette University. I was studying Biblical Theology and was super excited to share with the world the amazing things (IMO) that I was learning in my classes — first and foremost, the mind-blowing material I was studying in my Apocalyptic Literature class from Dr. Andrei Orlov. My interest in his writings was one of the main reasons I had chosen to go to Marquette. I found what I was learning to be utterly fascinating and also faith-affirming. Whereas some of my colleagues found the apocalyptic genre to be confounding and essentially useless to their academic goals, I couldn’t get enough of it. Heavenly Ascents became a place to post my class notes, insights from seminars and conferences, and exciting tidbits from things that I was reading.

I continued to blog after I graduated from Marquette and plunged into PhD studies at the University of St Andrews in Scotland. The intense workload of PhD research and writing eventually prevented me from being able to blog so much, although I continued to learn amazing things constantly. I probably owe the fact that I didn’t totally give up on blogging at the time to the great example of my PhD supervisor, Jim Davila, who was (and is) a prolific blogger, a pioneer in the virtual realm of religion/Bible blogs.

After earning my PhD in Divinity/Biblical Studies, I began teaching as an adjunct professor of religion in the Department of Religious Education at Brigham Young University. As I struggled to balance teaching, research, and trying to land a full-time position there, the time I was able to make for blogging increasingly began to wane. I’m sure I’ll write more, at some point, about my struggles to get ahead at BYU as I feel that I have a lot to get out of my system in that regard. It’s sufficient to say now that as fought to figure out what was wanted of me — including what I needed to say or do better, who I needed to please — in that department, to be hired as a full-time instructor, I began to feel that I needed to be more and more careful about what I wrote online, what kinds of arguments and discussions I allowed myself to get into, etc., and even what interests, perspectives, and persuasions I professed. After getting passed up a few times for the position that I had spent years preparing for (and yes, I did make the mistake of essentially putting all my eggs in the BYU basket), I suppose I began to be paranoid about how I was being perceived (but perhaps still not paranoid enough — more on that to come) and that led to me to being more and more conservative about what and how I posted — and I eventually blogged less and less.

After teaching part-time and doing extra research on the side for about four years, I was eventually hired for a full-time position, not as a professor for BYU, but as a research fellow for Book of Mormon Central ( This was in the last quarter of 2015, and by about this time, I had posted my last blog post. I did research and writing for BMC, a wonderful non-profit religious research organization, which I thoroughly enjoyed. But although I loved doing research on the Book of Mormon, a mighty pillar of my personal faith and devotion, my work was often quite distant from the material and interests that got me blogging in the first place. But perhaps more than that, I was so busy and overwhelmed with the enormity of the projects that I began to take on, together with my family (I have five children) and Church responsibilities (bishopric counselor, Sunday school teacher), that I really didn’t ever have time to even think much about blogging. In fact, over the last five years or so, I have virtually withdrawn from participating in any real time-consuming activities on the internet and social media. I felt that my work at BMC and other duties required and consumed any time that could have been spent freely sharing my thoughts about whatever I wanted to online.

Although I don’t yet feel that I have *tons* of time to spend on blogging, there have been some major changes in my life that make me feel that I am arriving at a point where I will have the freedom (of various types) to throw my hat back into the blogging ring. At the end of January of this year, after over four years with them, my managers at BMC let me know that they would not have the funding to continue to employ me. I would have a job until the end of February, but would then have to find something else. Before long, I found that my desperate job search was colliding with a global pandemic that was putting millions out of work and halting hiring processes everywhere I looked. It was quite a scary situation to be in, to say the least. I quickly realized that I had to broaden my job search beyond my chosen career path, beyond academia, and, basically, into the realm of “whatever the heck I can find.” After initially applying to a handful of academic positions, I began to turn to the source that had employed me when I first graduated from BYU, before I went back to school for graduate degrees — the US Federal Government. When so many employers in the private sector had to send people away, the needs of the US government, to a great degree, continued to function and hiring announcements (generally speaking) continued to be pushed through.

In the third month after I had begun my job search, after much prayer and well over 100 applications submitted, I was finally hired by the US Department of Veterans Affairs, as a Legal Specialist in their Benefits Law Group. I would have to pack up and move my family from our home, family, and friends in Utah and make our way to the Washington, D.C. area. But I was grateful to have a good, stable job. I was heartbroken to be leaving the field of religious studies that had been my life for so many years, but also looking forward with hope to new experiences and new adventures that the Lord has in store for me and my family.

Because we decided to settle down in Charles Town, West Virginia, over 60 miles from DC (for various reasons — topic for another day), I knew that I would have a couple of hours each day to read and write as I commuted to work on the train each day. Although that would seem, to some, to be an incredible waste of time, I was excited to finally get some time to read again (whatever I want, which hasn’t been the case for years) and to, perhaps, start blogging again. So far, because the coronavirus is still ravaging the countryside, I have been working from home. I have only taken the train into DC twice in the past month. As a result, my plans for blogging-while-commuting have largely gone unrealized. And with my work schedule plus a myriad of DIY home improvement projects we’ve taken on in our new house, it is only now, on July 20, 2020, that I have found a moment to sit down and create this blog post — and hopefully the first of many to come (although it has turned out to be so rambling and long-winded that anyone who manages to read it very possibly will not be interested in coming back for the sequels). If you have managed to stick with me to the end here, I hope to see you next time. I promise not to make this simply a diary but hope to return to sharing exciting (again, IMO) insights from wonderful things that I am reading and learning. I hope.

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