A MAN WHO “GOT IT”
by Matt Connelly
I first heard Eugene England’s name when I was a young student intern at BYU Studies. I was assigned to help edit an article he wrote about grace, salvation, and the Atonement. His view that “Mormon grace” is an ongoing, divinely-guided transformation rather than an historical event struck me as charitable, expansive, and wise. These attributes, I would later discover, were quintessential Eugene England. They characterized not only his many writings, but also the man himself. Anyone who has read Brother England’s stunning essays in Dialogues with Myself cannot help but glimpse the beauty of an honest, curious, grateful soul.
Mormonism hungers for bright men and women who are willing to tackle the difficult questions in our faith tradition: searching out the rough stones, dusting them off gently, and sizing them up honestly before respectfully returning them to their places of rest—less rough than they were before. Brother England had the courage to publicly discuss difficult issues that few dared touch, but it was the way he approached them that set him apart. In a Mormon culture where our intellectuals sometimes forget their manners, Brother England was the consummate gentleman, showing gratitude and charity toward his religious community even as he picked through its thornier parts.
For me, Eugene England’s most praiseworthy attribute was that he “got it.” Not only did he get Mormonism, but he got life. He was a man who above all loved God and loved people. For him, the world was a giant tent built to warmly welcome people from all its corners: saints and sinners, the sick and the whole, the learned and unlearned, the mainstream and the marginalized. All were loved by Eugene.
Brother England’s untimely passing is a tragedy for those on earth whose lives he blessed. But even though he has left us for a season, his influence continues to inspire, enlighten, and strengthen. Goodness is never extinguished.
God bless you Eugene.