I was born into a Mormon family and raised in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Throughout my youth, my involvement in the Church was simply grounded in my parents’ commitment to it. As a teenager, I kind of got the idea that I knew pretty much all there was to know about the Church, due to the catechism-style of youth seminary and other Church lessons we were taught.
In 1977, I began to serve a two-year mission for the Church in Colorado (scarcely an exotic locale!). This was good for me, because I promptly found out that I didn’t know a blessed thing about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Knocking grapefruit-sized softball questions out of the park in youth Sunday School was one thing, but facing legitimate questions from skeptical non-LDS was something else entirely. I was shocked by how ill-prepared I was for that experience. To add to that, I first encountered antagonistic anti-Mormon literature in the form of a Walter Martin tape, which my very first investigator’s sister had sent her (she eventually was baptized, the tape notwithstanding).
One of the things that I quickly realized I had never done was to try Moroni’s promise from Moroni 10:3-5. No one had ever suggested to me that I should do such a thing; I don’t recall even encountering that scriptural passage as a child or teenager. I figured that if I were going to be asking people for the next two years to take that challenge, I needed to do it for myself first. So one of the first things I did as a young missionary was to read the Book of Mormon all the way through, reflect upon what I was reading, and then pray about it. I experienced a deep feeling of peace, which remains the ground for my testimony of the Book of Mormon to this very day.
But I had no interest in simply resting upon that laurel. I got tired of just saying “I don’t know” all the time, and so my desire to study and learn more about the Gospel became overpowering. In addition to studying the scriptures themselves, I discovered religious scholarship (initially in the person of Hugh Nibley), and began to plow into it. Before long I had a big trunk of books that I would lug around when I was transferred to a different area.
After my mission, when I returned to college, I began studying ancient languages. Although I ended up majoring in classics, a large part of the motivation for these studies was to provide myself with the tools necessary to study the scriptures in a serious way. Eventually I began to research and publish journal articles, mostly focused on subjects relating to ancient scripture.
As my knowledge of the Gospel has deepened, the nature of my faith has gained nuance. Mine is not the simple faith of a child; it is a complex faith, which acknowledges the human hand in Church history, doctrine, scripture, and practice. But I have never had fundamentalist tendencies; for me to acknowledge the human has never interfered with my ability to similarly perceive and acknowledge the hand of the divine.
My serious studies of scripture, religion in general, and Mormonism in particular have never provided an insuperable challenge to my faith. To the contrary, they have deeply enriched my testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ, a testimony which I am happy to reiterate in this forum.
Kevin L. Barney was born in Logan, Utah, in 1958. He grew up in DeKalb, Illinois, prior to serving a mission to Colorado from 1977-1979. Upon his return from his mission he resumed his studies at BYU, where among other things he studied Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and Coptic.
From 1982 to 1985 Kevin attended law school at the University of Illinois, after which he moved to Chicago, where he practices public finance law (currently with Kutak Rock LLP). In 1990, Kevin also earned a Master of Laws degree from DePaul University.
Kevin has published a couple of dozen articles, mostly relating to ancient scripture, in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, The Ensign, Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Sunstone, FARMS Review, and BYU Studies, as well as a forthcoming publication in the Journal of Mormon History. He also edited the two-volume work Footnotes to the New Testament for Latter-day Saints.
He serves on the boards of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought and the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research (FAIR), and also blogs at bycommonconsent.com.
Kevin is married to the former Sandy Lothson and has two children, Emily and Grant.
Posted January 2010