Remembering Clark Goble

This hit my inbox this afternoon:

In case you hadn’t heard, Clark Goble just passed away from a stroke.

As I write this, I only have two contacts on my phone: my wife, and Clark Goble. I had to replace my phone while I was visiting Provo a month ago, so I lost all my old contacts and had to start a new list. I added Clark as we were arranging to meet so I could put a face with the person I had interacted with online.

Clark seemed in good health. For lunch, he ordered only a salad. Trying to get back in shape, he said. We caught up on our professional careers and academic interests and online experiences and family histories. He was excited about his kids, and his business was expanding, but Mormon blogs and Mormon academia were in a weird place right now, he thought.

My contact list is still stuck at two entries, and that is the only time I will meet Clark in this life.

In my online world, Clark leaves a much larger gap that is much more difficult to fill. I have never met anyone who could see both sides and maintain conversation across vast conceptual distances like he could. As I watched him participate in online conversations, sometimes picking up the pieces of a shambles I had created, I was in awe of his seemingly inexhaustible patience and ability to find common ground.

Clark’s patience was all the more surprising because it often seemed like he was the only one who had done the background reading. And that seemed to be true no matter what the topic was – whether philosophy, theology, scripture or church history, both ancient and modern, and much more. And yet it never made Clark arrogant. He would explain, over and over again, that some piece of evidence did not necessarily mean what someone else claimed it must mean. There were other ways to look at things. Clark would show you how.

And Clark loved the church. His posts were regular evidence that seeking out knowledge and thinking deeply could be joyful, not agonizing. Instead of complaining and criticizing, he explored and explained.

The world could use more people like Clark right now. If you would like to try but aren’t sure where to start, pick one:

Climb a mountain
Solve a problem
Start a company
Start a family
Choose the good life over the big score
Start another company
Look at all the evidence
Think of new possibilities
Answer gently
Write what is true

38 comments for “Remembering Clark Goble

  1. Jack
    September 9, 2019 at 12:42 am

    I loved Clark! I didn’t know him personally–but I’ve read a lot of his stuff online over the last 15 years. He was brilliant and faithful. I’ll miss him.

    My prayers go with his loved ones.

  2. Greg Call
    September 9, 2019 at 1:16 am

    Clark was a huge presence in the early days of the “bloggernacle,” and before that, on the LDS-Phil email list. He was smart, measured, open-minded, and full of faith seeking understanding. Sad to hear this news.

  3. Murray Ceff
    September 9, 2019 at 4:42 am

    Very sad to hear. I loved reading his posts and comments on others.

  4. Marc
    September 9, 2019 at 4:51 am

    A gut-wrenching blow. I only knew Clark from our interactions online, including the outsized role he’s played on this blog in recent years, but it was more than enough to leave a distinct impression. For those of mind, you can donate to Clark’s wife and the five young children he left behind here.

  5. September 9, 2019 at 5:55 am

    There was sometimes something disconcerting in Clark’s patient explaining of the evidence in any particular argument as he understood it; it bordered on pedanticism, you sometimes felt. But even more often, as you rightly note, Jonathan, there was something joyous about it. He approached every discussion without guile, or so it always appeared; his questions and observations reflected a deep love for “what is true,” without any positioning or prejudgement. He served his online communities very well, and they are much lessened by his passing. RIP.

  6. Robert Couch
    September 9, 2019 at 6:19 am

    Please consider helping the young family Clark has left behind at the following GoFundMe page: https://www.gofundme.com/f/clark-goble

  7. September 9, 2019 at 7:09 am

    I loved his blogging here. What an amazing model of faithful inquiry.

  8. Wm
    September 9, 2019 at 8:33 am

    I echo the comments that have already been made. Clark was also an active participant in the listerv of the Association for Mormon Letters back when listservs were a thing. As might be expected, he brought a unique, interesting approach to the discussion of Mormon literature. He pushed my thinking forward in several areas, although I’m sure he was also sometimes frustrated by the fact that what little philosophy and theory I had came by way of lit classes and poststructural/postmodern thought.

    He also was the one who introduced me to the world of Mormon blogging.

  9. J. Stapley
    September 9, 2019 at 9:36 am

    Thank you Jonathan, and peace be with Clark’s family. I never met him in person, but have engaged with him countless times over the years. I still don’t think I understand all that much that Clark wrote about at Mormon Mrtaphysics:

    http://web.archive.org/web/20071030030932/http://libertypages.com/clark/

    Clark always took interest in what I had to say, and as a young writer, that meant a lot. He also wrote exhaustively. Inimitable.

  10. Steve J
    September 9, 2019 at 10:20 am

    He was my favorite non-academic blogger by far based on his always top-botch insight, knowledge and tone

  11. Dave B.
    September 9, 2019 at 10:45 am

    This is very sad news indeed. Clark was one of the very first bloggers with his Mormon Metaphysics blog back around 2003. It was very fitting and well deserved that he finally joined up with T&S about three years ago and was able to reach the broader audience of a group blog and enjoy comments from so many readers. Clark was patient and unflappable in his comments and responses, which is almost unheard of in blogging, where participants generally fall into one of two camps: those who get upset frequently, and those who get upset only once in a while. In 16 years online, I don’t believe I ever saw him get upset with anyone.

    It was so evident from his friendly engagements online that he was a kind and decent man and a good Latter-day Saint. We will all miss him.

  12. September 9, 2019 at 10:56 am

    I came here, long after I’ve left the LDS church, long after I’ve had much of any interest in LDS blogs, to state that Clark was an amazing person, interlocutor, and thinker, who was extra willing to patiently indulge my comments on his blog while I was in one of the worst times in my life, trying to decide whether to leave the LDS church. I never felt pressured or bullied. Never felt those awful feelings I got from more traditional LDS apologetics. Despite the fact that I left for Orthodoxy my appreciation for his kindness and patience is enormous. Especially someone I never even met in real life. I am truly sad that he is gone so prematurely.

  13. jimbob
    September 9, 2019 at 11:02 am

    I can’t tell you how many times I read a Clark Goble exchange with someone and thought to myself, “Clark, he’s not looking for common ground with you. You can’t reason with angry.” And yet Clark did it, again and again, often with much better results than I would have expected. I’ll miss him.

  14. Sam Brown
    September 9, 2019 at 11:07 am

    A terrible tragedy; we donated. Clark did a great job of expressing his love for truth, goodness, and Gospel. He was a warm and thoughtful presence. A minor medical note, an aneurysm is not a stroke–might be worth a correction in the interest of the accuracy that was so important to Clark.

  15. September 9, 2019 at 12:22 pm

    Thanks, Jonathan. I’ve only known Clark a couple year but enjoyed our conversations a great deal. He had an inquisitive mind, and worked hard to facilitate civil conversation in the T&S comments. He had just finished up dealing with a fire at his store and planned to dive back into blogging with more frequency. I was shocked and saddened to learn of his passing. He will be missed.

  16. John Mansfield
    September 9, 2019 at 12:25 pm

    It seems that it was Clark who sent the first personal e-mail I received, the first that I can remember that wasn’t some quick note from someone down the hall, but instead was a letter of thoughts without any immediate purpose from a friend who was in another town, the same sort that you would seal in an envelope, stick a stamp on, and drop in a post box. That would have been the fall of ’92. One summer he sublet a room in my six-bedroom on 36th Street in Los Alamos, One night etched in memory everyone else was out for the evening, and Clark and I sat in our dark living room and talked the night away. More accurately, Clark talked and I said enough to keep him going, which was what I was in a mood for. After an hour and half Clark noticed and commented on that.

    Thirteen years ago I managed to visit at the Orem chocolate factory, the last couple hours I had with him in person. Clark was physically vigorous as a young man. My sense of his path this past quarter century is that circumstances were often not ideal, but he didn’t demand that they should be, and he worked through them as he should.He exercised faith in a spiritual dimension of existence and purpose which he felt connected with.

  17. September 9, 2019 at 12:53 pm

    He was one of the earliest participants on Latter-day Saint sites on the Internet. Yesterday I saw an email message from him on Mormon-l from 1994! So he was active online in LDS forums for half of his life.

    Influence is often not a single stunning event. More often it is consistent and continuing effort. Clark represents that.

  18. Nate GT
    September 9, 2019 at 1:52 pm

    In shock. My heart goes out to his family. May he rest in peace. So many conversations with Clark over years. He had a passion for thinking and engaging people on a wide variety of topics. The bloggernacle will feel different without him.

  19. John Mansfield
    September 9, 2019 at 2:14 pm

    Before Clark Goble came to Los Alamos, I worked in a group with a geophysicist named Carl Gable. it took active attention to not accidentally call him Clark. Then Clark Goble came to town, and with a second almost Clark Gable in the vicinity of my life, I had to increase my efforts. I failed a couple times.

  20. Benjamin J Peters
    September 9, 2019 at 3:25 pm

    This is a tragedy. I don’t know Clark personally, although I’ve learned to respect his enormous care for both evidence and logical possibility. I am heartbroken at his loss.

  21. September 9, 2019 at 6:01 pm

    Very sad to hear this news. I always found Clark to be a wonderful presence in any discussion.

  22. A Turtle Named Mack
    September 9, 2019 at 9:06 pm

    Such sad news. I have made numerous dumb comments here, and Clark was insufferably kind, patient, and generous in his responses. So much respect.

  23. chris g
    September 9, 2019 at 10:03 pm

    I think Clark’s mormon online activities go back even further than most remember. He was pretty active back in 1984 when the first mac came out. That was on a 2400 bod (bit not byte) modem. Before that he had been discussing theology and philosophy since he was 14 (1981) on the local Use-net groups through Dal’s university. It was during those old days that he brushed his teeth on the futility of Bible Bashing. He made a very concerted effort during that time to be rhetorically and factually prepared for his mission. But, I think it only took a few months till he learned the futility of that approach. A shotgun or two in his face may have helped out too….

  24. September 10, 2019 at 7:08 am

    It’s been about 36 hours for me and my mind will not accept that Clark is gone. I think he would disagree that minds can be so fallible. Clark Goble is one of the fixtures in my life-as-it-is. Although I mostly remember disagreeing, I also remember that it was 80% agreement, debate on the margins, and always agreeable. I am already missing Clark Goble.

  25. Dsc
    September 10, 2019 at 8:22 am

    What a loss. He will be missed by this community, and I can only imagine how much more so by his family. He never expressed a thought that he hadn’t already considered from just about every possible angle, and did so in the most respectful way I could imagine. Godspeed, Clark.

  26. Steve Evans
    September 10, 2019 at 11:42 am

    Clark was a kind and thoughtful man, in person and online. I will really miss him. His patience and good faith were legendary. God be with his family.

  27. SDS
    September 10, 2019 at 12:40 pm

    I knew Clark only from his contributions to T & S, and yet I had developed a real admiration for him. His posts seemed to me to manifest a rare combination of impressive erudition and insight with more Christian virtues of charity, faith, and patience. So news of his death came as a shock, almost like losing a personal friend. He will be missed.

  28. Blake Ostler
    September 10, 2019 at 8:17 pm

    Clark was a friend and always intelligent and charitable interlocutor. I well remember the tour we took of his chocolate enterprise and the pride and enthusiasm he felt at creating and making available artisan chocolates. Now chocolate should be a universal that we can agree makes the world a better place. Clark’s unique background in both physics and philosophy was always a useful touchstone for me to assess my views and sharpen them with his insightful critiques. I am shocked and saddened by his passing and my sense of loss at losing a good friend leaves me looking forward to when we are reunited and can again share our mutual enthusiasm for all that matters most in the total scheme of things.

  29. Larry Anderson
    September 10, 2019 at 8:53 pm

    I knew Clark from his online presence, first in the Bloggernacle, and years later on social media, where I got to know him much better. We frequently disagreed on a variety of things, but Clark was unfailingly courteous, polite, and considerate. He was the kind of man with whom you could really have an in-depth discussion that never veered into personal criticism or ad hominem attacks, something increasingly rare in our polarized world. I respected him greatly, and the world is a poorer place without him. May his memory be eternal.

  30. September 11, 2019 at 1:02 am

    I am so sorry to hear this.

  31. Jeff D
    September 11, 2019 at 9:11 am

    I am shocked and saddened. While I never got to meet him in real life, he and I had a special online connection that goes back almost 15 years. He was easily one of my top 3 interlocutors in the ‘nacle and I will miss him and his magnanimous mind dearly.

  32. DD
    September 11, 2019 at 11:43 am

    I knew Clark from our time in the physics study room at BYU, but I have not seen him in a long time. I am so sad about this. His kindness and intelligence will be missed. I will pray for his family.

  33. Ivan Wolfe
    September 11, 2019 at 2:15 pm

    I never met him in person, but I did correspond (quite sporadically) with him. He even generously agreed to be an early reader on an essay I wrote once (his suggestions for revision were all excellent). I quoted one of his blog posts in my first professional publication.

    I could always tell he was one of the best people on the planet.

    As for this: “Mormon blogs and Mormon academia were in a weird place right now, he thought.”

    Yep. Very weird. His influence could have helped a lot, but I guess there are higher plans out there.

  34. Randall Paul
    September 12, 2019 at 12:33 pm

    Thanks to Clark for his intrepid leadership as a disciple of Jesus. The Spirit World’s gain is our loss.

  35. Stephen Fleming
    September 12, 2019 at 2:02 pm

    Very sad I never got to meet Clark in person. He was definitely the person I interacted with the most in the Bloggernacle and will miss that very much.

  36. p
    September 13, 2019 at 8:04 pm

    “ He was the kind of man with whom you could really have an in-depth discussion that never veered into personal criticism or ad hominem attacks, something increasingly rare in our polarized world. I respected him greatly, and the world is a poorer place without him.“ (Larry Anderson)

    I second that emotion.

  37. sjames
    September 15, 2019 at 12:10 am

    Dear Clark – always generous with his comments and thoughts, polite and engaging – am saddened by this news.

  38. Michelle
    September 17, 2019 at 3:21 am

    Thank you for this tribute. I’m also one who never met him but was impressed with him and his way of interacting that transcended most of what I have experienced in the ‘nacle, including my own weak ways.

    And I said this at Keepa but I’ll say it again here — I think of him every time I pass the artisan chocolate section in our local store. Again, even though we’d never met, it was as if we had, and that his success felt like the success of a friend — something that always made me smile inside.

    I am so sorry for this loss, especially for his family. But it’s clear he left a mark and that he will be missed in a broad way by many.

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