In Memoriam: Jonathan Langford

We are shocked and saddened to hear that our friend Jonathan D. Langford passed away on March 31 at the age of 55, apparently suffering a sudden heart attack. Jonathan has been the coordinator for this blog since 2010, soon after its founding. Jonathan was also an author, editor, and a key leader and participant for many years of the Life, the Universe, and Everything conference, The Leading Edge magazine, and the Association for Mormon Letters. The funeral will be held Saturday, April 8, at the LDS Church at 545 Stageline Rd in Hudson, WI. The viewing will be at 1 pm and the funeral at 2 pm.

Jonathan grew up in western Oregon. His first published work was a poem which appeared in The Children’s Friend when he was 8. He enrolled at Brigham Young University as a 16-year old in 1978, intending to study politics. During the Winter of 1980 he became involved in Quark, a science fiction club at BYU that was less than a year old. From 1981 to 1983 he served a mission in Italy for the LDS Church. “One of the many insights on my mission”, he wrote, “had been the realization that while in Italy, I’d had no problem setting aside my interest in politics—but that everything I saw made me think of art, literature, and culture in general. And so I decided I should follow my love, and go into literature.”

Returning to BYU in 1983, Jonathan became a leader of what might be called the “second generation” of student science fiction efforts in Provo. He got involved in the BYU-student run speculative fiction magazine The Leading Edge, serving as Executive Editor for issues #6 through #11, from 1983 to 1986, and continued to help in minor capacities for the next two years. In 1986 and 1987 he was the chair of the 4th and 5thLife, the Universe, & Everything” science fiction symposiums, held on BYU campus. He was also an active member of the Xenobia writing group. Dave Wolverton (AKA David Farland) credits Jonathan for bringing him into Xenobia, which played a major role in directing him towards a career as a nationally known fantasy author.

Jonathan wrote about this period, “My work on The Leading Edge was without question the most influential—and positive—experience of my college career. As I mentioned above, as a result of insights about my own character and interests while on my mission, I’d decided that I was going to major in literature—English. A big part of the reason for that was my interest in writing. It was my TLE experience that gave me an outlet to start doing something with that interest. After I started working on TLE, I completed what was essentially the informal equivalent (at that time) of what would later become BYU’s editing emphasis, serving as an editorial intern with BYU Studies and the Humanities Publications Center, taking the editing course taught by Linda Adams.”

One commentator wrote that he strove to, “give the magazine a strong semi-professional edge . . . [He] emphasized that the magazine was not simply being produced for the benefit of the staff and contributors, or even solely readers at the university, but for the wider world . . . Thanks to Langford, The Leading Edge had acquired a new generation of staff and volunteers which gave the magazine added momentum. It also became financially more viable with a significant increase in subscriptions. An annual contest was established for sf and fantasy artwork. . . . Above all, new manuscripts flooded in.” (Mike Ashley, Science Fiction Rebels: The Story of the Science-Fiction Magazines from 1981 to 1990. Liverpool University Press, 2016, p. 207-208).

In 1987 Jonathan married Laurel, who he met through their involvement at the BYU Quark club. From 1987 to 1990 Jonathan pursued a Masters Degree in the BYU English Department. His thesis was “Pathways into Maturity: Coming-of-Age among Hobbits in the Lord of the Rings.” The thesis argued “that for some of us, stories like Tolkien’s become an important part of our own development — a ritual of sorts, in which we vicariously experience the main characters’ coming-of-age and are thereby assisted in our own. ”

Jonathan wrote, “While working on my master’s degree, I got a job with an educational software company writing and editing teacher’s manuals, training materials, and online educational activities. After completing my master’s degree, I began a doctoral program at the University of California at Riverside, with a focus in medieval literature, where I did well and completed my coursework and exams. Over time, however, I came to realize I was better suited to expository writing and editing than to teaching and research, and so I returned to work in the educational publishing industry.” Jonathan and his growing family moved to western Wisconsin, and he worked as a freelance writer and editor from that time. He also taught freshman composition part-time at the university level. He and Laurel, a mathematics professor at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, were blessed with three children, Nathan, Rowan and Michael.

After moving to Wisconsin, Jonathan continued to stay active in the LDS science fiction community, often participating in the LTU&E symposiums. He also became an active participant in AML-List, an email discussion list of the Association for Mormon Letters. He eventually became moderator of the list, around the years 2000-2003. This helped lead Jonathan to become a critic of Mormon literature, often writing book reviews and essays on literature for AML-list and other outlets. In 2000 he began several years of service on the editorial board for Irreantum, AML’s literary magazine.

Jonathan wrote of this period, “For creative stuff, I participated on AML-List, wrote Christmas newsletters (I’m told that my “future projections” newsletter — describing the accomplishments our family would like to be able to brag about in the coming year — is a classic of its kind), and produced various other musings for the amusement of my family and friends. When that wasn’t enough, I cooked (and gained weight). And the thought of creative writing receded further and further into the background. And then I woke up one day — strangely near my 40th birthday — and it was like a timer had gone off. “Ding! Okay Jonathan, time to write. Frankly, it scared me out of my mind. There’s something to be said for starting one’s writing career during the first flush of youth, when one is too stupid to know just how bad one’s writing is. Then too, there’s the particular pressure that comes of knowing that one ought to be able to write well: as a professional writer, a wide reader, a trained critic, a careful researcher, an experienced critiquer, I really should possess most of the component skills of successful creative writing. Except, maybe, for the plotting and storytelling part. How hard could it be? Answer: very hard. For me at least.”

Jonathan chronicled his experiences and wrote about the process of writing in a series of blog articles, “The Writing Rookie” at the A Motely Vision Mormon literature blog.

Jonathan wrote, “Back about 2002, there was a conversation on AML-List about homosexuality and Mormonism. Rex Goode, an AML-List member who is also one of the relatively small number of Mormons who is both an active member of the Church and open about his same-sex attraction, made the interesting point that those in his situation — those who experience such attractions but are committed to staying in the Church — typically aren’t understood or accepted terribly well either in the Mormon church or in the gay community . . . Thinking about all of that gave me the idea for a short story that might start with a teenager coming out to his best friend and end with him being publicly outed. Basically, I had the front end and back end of what eventually became the novel. I didn’t try to write it at that time, though. Fast-forward six years to Christmas 2007. I’d decided to put more effort into my creative writing, and was thinking about several stories that had been sitting in the back of my mind. One of them was the gay Mormon teen coming-out story, as I thought of it. Suddenly the idea occurred to me that the gay teen’s bishop might be his best friend’s father. More ideas flowed from there, and soon I realized I had the makings for a novel . . . My primary intended audience for this book is believing Mormons who are doctrinally orthodox but relatively liberal in their reading tastes and tolerances. I’m hoping the book will appeal not only to those with connections to gays (e.g., family members who are gay) but also to those (bishops, other leaders, and just ordinary folks) who may wonder about the kinds of challenges that those who are same-sex attracted face in the Church and how the rest of the LDS community can help support them.”

No Going Back, Jonathan’s 2009 novel, broke new ground in Mormon fiction–an honest but recognizably “Mormon” depiction of male homosexuality. It was one of five finalists for the 2009 Whitney Award for Best General Fiction.  Author and WiDo editor Karen Jones Gowen wrote, “I found No Going Back to be a deeply spiritual, faith-affirming story that is neither contentious nor agenda-driven. In fact, it’s a refreshingly honest look at all sides of this issue. Paul’s dilemma and his subsequent pondering of what this means for his life now and in the future touched my heart and soul . . . The character development is incredible. Read it if only to see the artistry with which Langford creates his cast of players. Even minor characters come to life on the page . . . No Going Back is a fast read, even quite funny in places. I could hardly put it down. It is richly layered and complex, thought-provoking and heart-wrenching, a finely written tale of depth and meaning.” William Morris wrote, “By telling the story simply, tying it to a particular time and place, and focusing on the teenage protagonists, Langford is able to confine the discussion of this issue to a manageable narrative–and a compelling one. The approach Langford takes is genius. I love the way he threads the middle of American Mormon mores, doctrine, and practice in a way that is in some senses mundane–this is basically a domestic drama–but also incredibly radical . . . Any discussion of same-sex attraction makes a lot of Mormons uncomfortable. But the novel is thoroughly orthodox. Its characters are orthodox Mormons. Its tensions and ultimate solutions and resolutions are firmly rooted in active LDS life–prayer, scripture study, repentance, the priesthood, love, charity, hope, the family.”

Christian Harrison, a gay Mormon, wrote about reading the book in a review in Dialogue, “Five hours later, I was still there, wrapped up in a story both familiar and foreign — each character flawed yet sympathetic, and the whole story infused with a gentle warmth…. Langford doesn’t just put his cast in a real place and time but surrounds them with actual events and everyday brands — gracing the story with a certain authenticity. And it doesn’t end with references to video games and rainy weather. It’s in the sometimes-awkward teenage dialogue — and the different, yet somehow still imperfect dialogue of the grown-ups. It’s this candor, I suspect, that will give the story a solid shelf life…. Every reader will likely take something different away from the book. But each, I suspect, will leave feeling a little more hopeful. And if they’re anything like me, they’ll also have wept a little more than they’re willing to admit.”

In 2010 Jonathan was asked to be the webmaster and coordinator of Dawning of a Brighter Day, the Association for Mormon Letters blog. He continued as the coordinator ever since, although Elizabeth Beeton came on midway through to take over the blog’s technical aspects. He worked hard to recruit columnists and guest posters and moderate the discussions. He tried to give thoughtful comments to almost every post. He also continued to write book reviews for A Motley Vision and other periodicals.

Jonathan did several projects with Christopher Bigelow. He helped with Irreantum in the years that Christopher was the editor of that Mormon journal. His novel No Going Back was published by Zarahemla Books, a small Mormon publisher created by Christopher. Jonathan and Christopher co-edited two coffee-table books, The Latter-Day Saint Family Encyclopedia (Thunder Bay Press, 2010), and Mormon Wisdom: Inspirational Sayings from Latter-Day Saints (Skyhorse Publishing, 2015).

Jonathan’s final major project was co-editing a collection of essays by the retired BYU Russian professor and playwright Thomas F. Rogers, entitled Let Your Hearts and Minds Expand:  Reflections on Faith, Reason, Charity, and Beauty (Neal A. Maxwell Institute, 2016). Jonathan co-edited the volume with Linda Hunter Adams, his editing mentor from BYU, who herself passed away in 2016. Jonathan had first met Tom Rogers when Rogers was his Branch President at the MTC. Mahonri Stewart, in a review to come out in an upcoming issue of Dialgoue, wrote, “Editors Jonathan Langford and Linda Hunter Adams have scoured Rogers’ very active and varied writing life and chosen from a huge spectrum of various different types of genres and subject matter. Essays, poems, reviews, personal letters, speeches, journal entries—Langford and Adams had a whole literary cornucopia to choose from, having been given access to a treasure trove—as eclectic as it is—of a rich and long lifetime of writing. Although that does make for a slightly cafeteria-like experience—you’re able to sample a little bit of this, a little bit of that—I, for one, have always enjoyed diversity on my plate.” Reviewer Douglas F. Christensen wrote, “Rogers provides a lifetime of critical thinking to address a contemporary culture of religious questioning and angst, not by pontificating, but by sharing his own questioning and religious angst. What emerges is a thesis of reassurance that through patience and candid investigation his readers can find answers to difficult questions or at least consolation in the face of holy mystery.”

We are heartbroken to lose our friend, but we rejoice for the time that we got to share with him. We ask for a blessing on his family, who he dearly loved.

Jonathan Langford Bibliography

Non-Fiction

“The Great Shift from Science Fiction to Fantasy.” Leading Edge, no. 11 (winter 1985): 35–39.

[with Nancy Lynn Hayes and Steven C. Walker] “Mooting of the Minds: Why Fans Enjoy Tolkien.” Leading Edge, no. 9 (winter 1985): 78–84.

“Report from ConFederation.” Leading Edge 12 (fall 1986): 87–89.

“Pathways into Maturity: Coming-of-Age among Hobbits in the Lord of the Rings.” Master’s thesis, Brigham Young University, 1990.

“The Scouring of the Shire as a Hobbit Coming-of-Age.” Mythlore 18 (fall 1991): 4–9.

“Science Fiction and the Marvelous: Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun and Roger Zelazny’s This Immortal.” In Deep Thoughts: Proceedings of Life, the Universe and Everything XII, February 16–19, 1994, ed. Steve Setzer and Marny K. Parkin, 35–58. Provo, Utah: LTU&E, 1995.

“Sitting Down to the Sacramental Feast: Food and Cultural Diversity in The Lord of the Rings.” In Food of the Gods: Eating and the Eaten in Science Fiction and Fantasy, ed. Eric Rabkin and George Slusser, 117–41. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1996.

Why the Academy Is Afraid of Dragons: The Suppression of the Marvelous in Theories of the Fantastic.” In Science Fiction, Canonization, Marginalization, and the Academy, ed. Gary Westfahl and George E. Slusser, 51–64. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2002.

Novel

No Going Back. Provo, Utah: Zarahemla Books, 2009.

Short story

[with M. Shayne Bell, Nancy Lynn Hayes, and Lareena Smith] “Shadow Walker.” Leading Edge, no. 7 (1984): 90–91.

“The Garden.” Leading Edge, no. 9 (winter 1985): 26–30.

Poetry

Home 2180 A.D.” Leading Edge, no. 7 (1984): 89.

[as Neil J. McMichaels] “Elegy for a Childhood Friend.” Leading Edge, no. 11 (winter 1985): 47

Reviews

“Not About Mormons: A review of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America” Irreantum, Winter 2003/Spring2004, pp. 135-138.

“Will the Real Coke Please Stand Up: On the Road to Heaven, by Coke Newell.” Sunstone Magazine, Feb. 2009.

Destiny, Demons, and Freewill in Dan Wells’s John Wayne Cleaver Books”. Irreantum, 14:1, 2012, p. 115-120.

“Mormonism from Varied Fictional Perspectives: William Morris. Dark Watch and Other Mormon-American Stories.” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. 49:2. Summer 2016.

Web writing

Jonathon’s Blog.   Jonathan’s web page.

The Writing Rookie series at A Motley Vision.

His A Motley Vision articles and reviews.

His Dawning of a Brighter Day columns.

(Thanks to Marny K. Parkin and her “Bibliography of Mormon Speculative Fiction” for many of these references.)

 

For more about the growth of a speculative fiction community in the Utah Valley in the 1980s, see:

Lee Allred. “Nobody Here But Us Orcs . . .: An Incomplete History of Life, the Universe, and Everything.”

Barbara R. Hume. “Strange Bedfellows—A History of Science Fiction in the Corridor.” In Washed by a Wave of Wind: Science Fiction from the Corridor. Signature Books, 1993.

Jonathan Langford. “The Leading Edge—Thoughts and Memories Jonathan Langford, December 2011.”

Joe Vasicek. “The Class That Wouldn’t Die. Mormon Artist, 2010.

14 Thoughts on “In Memoriam: Jonathan Langford

  1. Andrew Hall on April 3, 2017 at 3:05 am said:

    Tom Rogers asked me to add his thoughts:
    I first met Jonathan at the Provo MTC when he was a fledgling missionary bound for Italy and I his branch president there. Upon his return to BYU, I engaged him to assist freshman Honors students as a writing specialist. I was also privileged to represent his father as a witness on the occasion of his and Laurel’s sealing. For a good three years—among their last, as it turned out—both Jonathan and his and my publications mentor, Linda Adams, devotedly and assiduously brought together and helped refine my past essays for what proved to be a final ‘labor of love’ on the part of both—Provo The Neal A. Maxwell Institute: Let Your Hearts and Minds Expand, 2016. Linda and Jonathan were superb editors, both thoughtful and meticulous. It’s a shame that neither can be present next month when, as I’m told, the book—our book—will receive a special award.

    Beyond that, Jonathan regarded me as his surrogate father—an unexpected role to which I did inadequate justice. No one ever doubted Jonathan’s gifts as a writer. I was not into the science fiction of which he was himself an expert. But there have been few novels so poignant and candid as his No Going Back, which I was pleased to extoll on its dust cover. Most important of all, throughout his life,Jonathan remained a loving and committed eternal companion to Laurel, parent to their children and devoted Latter-day Saint. Those of us whose lives he touched and whom he so generously served have been immensely blessed for knowing Jonahan, and I especially to have him as a ’son.’

  2. I always enjoyed Jonathan’s contributions to the former AML-List and was the recipient of his generous and sincere support during my participation there. When he approached me with his ideas about _No Going Back_, I was happy to provide my insights as a gay man who is staying with the Church. It was a great honor to review it before publication and I still feel it was one of the best things to happen for gay Latter-day Saints in recent years. I always hoped he would have time to do a sequel and I hope he’s working on right now so I can read it when I see him again.

  3. My heart goes out to Jonathan’s family. It’s is indeed a shocking and sad thing.

    I have much to say, but I’ll start with this:

    1. One thing I will miss is Jonathan’s laughter. He was never stingy with it, it was infectious, and being around him always put me in the mood to try for wit (or at the very least a good bad joke/quip).

    2. One could not ask for a more interested, generous, but also honest reader–one who was aware of his own tastes and biases but also not afraid to express those. I’m very luck to have had Jonathan be willing to respond to my writing, both formally and informally.

    3. I agree with Rex. No Going Back is an important novel for Mormon culture. It’s also one of the most radically balanced works to be published for a Mormon audience. It’s very important, even singular in its tackling of being young, gay and Mormon. But that’s not all it does. I’d say that it’s also an achievement in its depiction of Mormon bishops, Mormon family life, and male friendship.

    4. Some of this was mentioned in Andrew’s in memoriam, but Jonathan has been behind the scenes of the success of so many of the Mormon culture endeavors and many of the Mormon authors that we know/take for granted today. He was very generous with his time. I know that he was sometimes conflicted about it–he had his own fiction projects he wanted to tackle (and had made some progress on them in recent years), but he also always saw the potential in the work of others and wanted to see them reach it.

    5. Jonathan was a great conversationalist, whether in person or via email or web comments. My correspondence with him began via email many years ago, and then it was my pleasure to move more of that to in-person conversation when I moved to Minnesota almost 10 years ago.

  4. Lee Allred on April 3, 2017 at 12:56 pm said:

    Jonathan was one of the first people I met when I discovered the BYU science fiction community. He was working on his Masters at the time and I saw him frequently in the Publications office deep in the basement of the old JKHB Annex.

    If Jonathan was part of the second wave in BYU sci-fi, I was tail-end of the third. Jonathan just had begun to slip into the role of “elder brother” — an informal mentor and advisor for both The Leading Edge and the LTUE symposium, although he was still a somewhat active participant in both.

    I was immediately struck by his immense intellect, his good humor, and his boundless enthusiasm for his personal interests. He was someone whose counsel and advice I took to heart, especially when I followed in his footsteps as a symposium co-chair years later.

    Following in Jonathan’s footsteps is something I found myself doing a lot — in the campus science fiction organizations, in the Xenobia writing group, in the AML litcrit field, and even at work. We worked closely together at the same educational software company. I pre-pressed those training manuals he wrote and edited. Sometimes he even made do with me as his sounding board as he thought his way through some difficult stretch of a manual.

    One of my most vivid Jonathan memories is how, in mid-conversation, he would suddenly stop as a radically new direction of thought struck him. He would place his balled-up fists near the back of his scalp and vigorously rub up and down. And then off he’d go on a completely new tangent of conversation. Like shaking an Etch-A-Sketch screen clean and starting a whole new drawing!

    When he left to pursue his doctorate, we still kept in touch — mainly through the AML-List but also the occasional email. Alas, those emails became all-too-infrequent, mostly on my part.

    Jonathan was an early proponent of my first professional work, and I owe him greatly for that. He certainly had more faith in my early work than I did, and his boosterism helped finally build self-confidence. I can never repay him for that.

    Perhaps the last time I saw Jonathan face-to-face was the most vital; on one of his occasional trips back to Utah he met me for lunch in Provo at La Dolce Vita. I was about to make a big career decision — a wrong one — and he ably talked me out of it. If for no other reason, my life is infinitely better now because of that hour spend with him then.

    Jonathan Langford was many things to me. Colleague, co-worker, advisor, mentor, co-religionist, friend. But the one to which I aspired and never quite managed to accomplish — for who could ever match that great mind and great heart? — was peer. He was always a generation ahead.

    He will be sorely missed.

    • Nathan Langford on April 6, 2017 at 2:40 pm said:

      Hi,

      We’re putting together a book of memories of my father. I loved this comment and was wondering if I could put it in the book.

  5. I am stunned and saddened at my friend Jonathon’s passing. My heartfelt condolences go to his family and friends. I’m so sorry for their loss most of all.

    I will miss his sense of humor, his insight, and his passion for all things having to do with the written word. I saw him last at the Purple Turtle in Pleasant Grove where he met with Scott Parkin’s and me to discuss writing. Our conversation veered across the landscape of Jonathon’s interaction with writers spanning years of involvement Mormonism’s literary movers and shakers. He was a delightful conversationalist and a pleasure to be around, and his knowledge of the world of science fiction and fantasy and the people involved in it’s creation was .

    His direct influence on my own writing has been profound. For the last several years we were in a writing group together and would meet over Skype to discuss our works, argue and debate literature and share ideas, but mostly to critique each other’s work. Jonathon’s insights as a writer were always spot on, helpful, and kind—in a brutally honest way. He always sent detailed notes on where he felt like things had gone astray and offered ideas on how to fix things. His influence on my writing has been profound. If you look at any of the short stories I’ve published in the last four or five years or so, Jonathon’s footprints are all over it (and likely some boot marks from an occasional swift kick) and quite likely there is an MSWord version of the manuscript covered in Jonathon’s notes, advice, and corrections. He will be so missed. I’m aching that he will no longer be there.

    In addition to the hole he leaves behind as a wonderful person, family member, and friend, the literally world will be a poorer place. He was working on a wondrous novel, called ‘The Candle Makers Apprentice.’ It was an epic fantasy constructed with all the magic and wonder that only Jonathon’s life associated with that genre could bring. While he was only into the opening few chapters, its shape and dimensions portended something magnificent. My hope is he’s working on it somewhere, getting Tolkien and Lewis’ opinion on it even, and engaged in world building at its finest. Jonathon you will be missed.

  6. Andrew Hall on April 3, 2017 at 9:41 pm said:

    Laurel Langford wrote this:
    http://langfordmath.com/misc/Jonathan-Memories.html

    Jonathan left me, and I hope you, with a lot of good memories. I’d like to collect a small book of memories that family and friends would like to share. If you would like to write a page of memories to share I would appreciate that (it seems like the sort of thing Jonathan would do.

    I’d like to keep each entry to about a page, and I’d like to be able to put this together in time for the funeral on Saturday, so if you can send something on Wednesday, that would be wonderful. Please send it to Nathan: nlangfor@gmail.com. These will probably be lightly edited by Nathan (Jonathan probably would do that), and assembled into a small book to share and give to his friends and family (Jonathan would do that). If you can’t come to the funeral, and you’d like a copy, please send me an email, and I’ll do my best to get you a copy in the next year. You can reach me via email at laurel.langford@uwrf.edu or ltflrf@gmail.com.

    If as many of Jonathan’s good (writer) friends help me out as I expect will, I’m thinking this might cost a more to print than the newsletters did (maybe $2 each). Anyway, if you’d like to contribute a few dollars towards printing costs, that would be welcome. If you do, I’ll try hard to get you a copy…but if you ask for a copy and don’t donate I’ll probably try to get you a copy anyway. If I get extra money, I’m not going to hunt you down to give it back, I’ll probably just buy pizza. Anyway, if you’d like to contribute to the printing and pizza fund, you can use the paypal donate button below. [The button is at: http://langfordmath.com/misc/Jonathan-Memories.html ]

    Thank you for being great friends. I love you. Jonathan loves you. Be joyful.
    Laurel

  7. Harlow Clark on April 4, 2017 at 3:27 pm said:

    The Friday before I post I usually get a note from Jonathan, “You’re up for Tuesday.” Instead, Friday after work I opened up my email and saw a whole bunch of letters with the ominous subject line “Jonathan Langford.” My phone shows the first few words of each letter below the subject line, so I saw the word heartbroken in Margaret Young’s letter, which confirmed the omen. I’ve been thinking about Jonathan off and on all weekend, and into the week. On the bus Monday morning I realized I’ve probably also been waiting for someone to say, “April Fools.”

  8. Nathan Langford on April 4, 2017 at 9:36 pm said:

    This is great. I love it. It’s very thorough. I also love all the comments people have posted.

    If I could offer one minor correction, however: my dad never actually knew Stephenie Meyer. She might well have worked on The Leading Edge, but it certainly would have been after dad left (she graduated in ’95 and my dad left BYU in ’90).

    • Laura F Nielsen on April 5, 2017 at 9:17 am said:

      I hadn’t gotten the impression that Jonathan knew Stephanie Meyer personally. We had a snarcky email conversation before No Going Back was published about whether the book would sell better if the main character were a Gay Mormon Vampire, but we decided that a propensity to bite one’s friends, drain their blood, and leave their lifeless corpses behind was too much of a relationship ender.

  9. Andrew Hall on April 5, 2017 at 2:01 am said:

    Thanks Nathan, and thanks for the correction on Stephenie Meyer, I removed it.

    Jonathan and I got to know each other on AML-List. When he became the moderator of the group (roughly 2000), he asked me to be an assistant moderator, helping him make decisions on how to keep the conversation focused on literature. Jonathan was careful to make sure everyone felt welcome, and so he could be quick to douse conversations with politically charged commentary, or non-constructive and angry criticism of the Church or anyone. I remember around 2002 the conversation was getting heated about race and the priesthood, probably stemming from Margaret Blair Young/Darius Gray Standing on the Promises series. We decided to create a temporary period suspending the rules, and allow everyone to go ahead and state their positions on race and Mormonism, and then once the period was over, ask everyone to see where the conversation could then inform our literary interests. I thought it went quite well.

    Then in 2010 he became the webmaster/coordinator of this blog. I had been doing my “Mormon Literature Year in Review” columns for AML-List, and then for a couple of years at A Motley Vision. He asked if I would do a weekly version of it for the blog. It has since turned into an (at best) monthly endeavor. I have basically been acting as his (and Elizabeth’s) assistant on running the blog for the last few years. We had a great working relationship, we often turned to each other for help with our other projects. The last thing Jonathan did for me was to write up the citation for an award we will be presenting to Orson Scott Card at the AML Conference on April 22.

    It is a funny thing, since I never met him in person, and I am not very effusive online. We hardly talked about or knew anything about each other’s real lives, but whenever I saw an email from Jonathan (which was frequently), it would be the first I opened. Now it seems silly, if I valued his friendship so much, why didn’t I try to really get to know him outside of our shared passion for Mormon Literature? I hope attending the AML conference more in the future will help me really get to know more of you, and not waste that chance.

  10. David Doering on April 6, 2017 at 8:18 pm said:

    Jonathan for me was always irreplaceable. That he has left so soon only suggests how much a backlog of training materials and biographical essays lie in wait on the other side for the Master’s Touch only he could give them.

    Even though I have known Jonathan for over 35 years, I cannot add much beyond what others before have said. Yes, his humor was infectious. Yes, he was always upbeat and filled with compelling anecdotes. Yes, he was a brilliant writer. What was so critical for me was his timeliness on the scene for the newborn Leading Edge and Life, the Universe, and Everything.

    For it was Jonathan that gave these the polish they both so desperately needed. A polish that would take them to the next level. That made the Edge a true semi-pro magazine. That made LTUE into an impressive professional development conference with a delightful lemon twist of quirkiness.

    Anecdotes? There’s the immortal image I have of him crossing the BYU quad with his ever-present Gandalf staff. Another time, Iate at night in Dunkin Donuts off-campus. my fiancee and I had just finished a long session working on the Leading Edge. Jonathan came in to the shop carrying a hefty tome of Chaucer or Shakespeare. Immersed as he was in his musings, he not only missed seeing us, but also our calling out to him “Hello, Jonathan! Hello!” He managed to retrieve his donuts and left. Now that is focus.

    I remain now still pained by his passing. To borrow a colorful term we both shared, the idea of going forward now without him seems almost “ludicrous”.

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