Friday, December 2, 2016

Like Placid Galilee

The Sea of Galilee
While reading, click here to listen to Audrey Assad's beautiful song "Help My Unbelief."

"The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me (Ps. 138:8)."

"There is a Divine mystery in suffering, a strange and supernatural power in it, which has never been fathomed by the human reason. There never has been known great saintliness of soul which did not pass through great suffering. When the suffering soul reaches a calm sweet carelessness, when it can inwardly smile at its own suffering, and does not even ask God to deliver it from suffering, then it has wrought its blessed ministry; then patience has its perfect work; then the crucifixion begins to weave itself into a crown.

It is in this state of the perfection of suffering that the Holy Spirit works many marvelous things in our souls. In such a condition, our whole being lies perfectly still under the hand of God; every faculty of the mind and will and heart are at last subdued; a quietness of eternity settles down into the whole being; the tongue grows still, and has but few words to say; it stops asking God questions; it stops crying, "Why hast thou forsaken me?

The imagination stops building air castles, or running off on foolish lines; the reason is tame and gentle; the choices are annihilated; it has no choice in anything but the purpose of God. The affections are weaned from all creatures and all things; it is so dead that nothing can hurt it, nothing can offend it, nothing can hinder it, nothing can get in its way; for, let the circumstances be what they may, it seeks only for God and His will, and it feels assured that God is making everything in the universe, good or bad, past or present, work together for its good.

Oh, the blessedness of being absolutely conquered! of losing our own strength, and wisdom, and plans, and desires, and being where every atom of our nature is like placid Galilee under the omnipotent feet of our Jesus."

Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Excellency of God

The Prophet Joseph Smith
"Those who know their weakness and liability to sin would be in constant doubt of salvation if it were not for the idea which they have of the excellency of God, that he is slow to anger and long-suffering, and of a forgiving disposition, and does forgive iniquity, transgression, and sin. An idea of these facts does away doubt, and makes faith exceedingly strong."
 
- The Prophet Joseph Smith, Lectures on Faith

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Whole Outfit

C.S. Lewis
"Give me all of you!!! I don’t want so much of your time, so much of your talents and money, and so much of your work. I want YOU!!! ALL OF YOU!! I have not come to torment or frustrate the natural man or woman, but to KILL IT! No half measures will do. I don’t want to only prune a branch here and a branch there; rather I want the whole tree out! Hand it over to me, the whole outfit, all of your desires, all of your wants and wishes and dreams. Turn them ALL over to me, give yourself to me and I will make of you a new self---in my image. Give me yourself and in exchange I will give you Myself. My will, shall become your will. My heart, shall become your heart."

Sunday, November 13, 2016

If You Want to Build a Ship

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
"If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea." - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry


Credit to Nathaniel Hancock for finding this quotation. For the origins of this quotation, click here.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

How Can I Keep from Singing?




"My life flows on in endless song;
Above earth's lamentation,
I hear the sweet, though far-off hymn
That hails a new creation.

Through all the tumult and the strife,
I hear that music ringing.
It finds an echo in my soul.
How can I keep from singing?

What though my joys and comforts die?
I know my Savior liveth.
What though the darkness gather round?
Songs in the night he giveth.

No storm can shake my inmost calm
While to that refuge clinging
Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth
How can I keep from singing?

I lift my eyes, the cloud grows thin
I see the blue above it
And day by day this pathway smooths,
Since first I learned to love it,

The peace of Christ makes fresh my heart
A fountain ever springing!
For all things are mine since I am his!
How can I keep from singing?

No storm can shake my inmost calm
While to that refuge clinging
Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth
How can I keep from singing?"

- Original song written by Robert Wadsworth Lowry, sung by Audrey Assad

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Truth Reflects upon Our Senses

Eliza R. Snow

1. Truth reflects upon our senses;
Gospel light reveals to some.
If there still should be offenses,
Woe to them by whom they come!
Judge not, that ye be not judged,
Was the counsel Jesus gave;
Measure given, large or grudged,
Just the same you must receive.

(Chorus)
Blessed Savior, thou wilt guide us,
Till we reach that blissful shore
Where the angels wait to join us
In thy praise forevermore.

2. Jesus said, “Be meek and lowly,”
For ’tis high to be a judge;
If I would be pure and holy,
I must love without a grudge.
It requires a constant labor
All his precepts to obey.
If I truly love my neighbor,
I am in the narrow way.

3. Once I said unto another,
“In thine eye there is a mote;
If thou art a friend, a brother,
Hold, and let me pull it out.”
But I could not see it fairly,
For my sight was very dim.
When I came to search more clearly,
In mine eye there was a beam.

4. If I love my brother dearer,
And his mote I would erase,
Then the light should shine the clearer,
For the eye’s a tender place.
Others I have oft reproved
For an object like a mote;
Now I wish this beam removed;
Oh, that tears would wash it out!

5. Charity and love are healing;
These will give the clearest sight;
When I saw my brother’s failing,
I was not exactly right.
Now I’ll take no further trouble;
Jesus’ love is all my theme;
Little motes are but a bubble
When I think upon the beam.



Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The White Light of Truth

Harold B. Lee
"We are sending you out as artists, scientists, teachers, and philosophers. Will you never forget the theme of the lesson we are talking about, that you are but branches of a divine tree and that you of yourself, you can do nothing? All truths whether called science or religion, or philosophy, come from a divine source.

You, then, I plead with you, do not in your search for truth, allow yourselves to become severed from the 'vine'. In all your learning, measure it and test it by the white light of truth revealed to the prophet of God and you will never be led astray.

- Harold B. Lee

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

One Silent Student

Leo Strauss
"Almost every year I meet once with the older students of my department in order to discuss with them how to teach political theory in college. Once on such an occasion a student asked me whether I could not give him a general rule regarding teaching. I replied: 'Always assume that there is one silent student in your class who is by far superior to you in head and in heart.' I meant by this: do not have too high an opinion of your importance, and have the highest opinion of your duty, your responsibility."

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Choruses from the Rock

Thomas Stearns Eliot


The Eagle soars in the summit of Heaven,
The Hunter with his dogs pursues his circuit.
O perpetual revolution of configured stars,
O perpetual recurrence of determined seasons,
O world of spring and autumn, birth and dying!
The endless cycle of idea and action,
Endless invention, endless experiment,
Brings knowledge of motion, but not of stillness;
Knowledge of speech, but not of silence;
Knowledge of words, and ignorance of the Word.
All our knowledge brings us nearer to death,
But nearness to death no nearer to God.
Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
The cycles of heaven in twenty centuries
Brings us farther from God and nearer to the Dust. 

The lot of man is ceaseless labor,
Or ceaseless idleness, which is still harder,
Or irregular labour, which is not pleasant.
I have trodden the winepress alone, and I know
That it is hard to be really useful, resigning
The things that men count for happiness, seeking
The good deeds that lead to obscurity, accepting
With equal face those that bring ignominy,
The applause of all or the love of none.
All men are ready to invest their money
But most expect dividends.
I say to you: Make perfect your will.
I say: take no thought of the harvest,
But only of proper sowing. 

The world turns and the world changes,
But one thing does not change.
In all of my years, one thing does not change,
However you disguise it, this thing does not change:
The perpetual struggle of Good and Evil. 


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Religion: "Bound by Loving Ties"

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland
Even "sublime" is an inadequate word to describe this message by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland for the 2016 BYU Education Week devotional. (see here for a brief news article)

A New Form of Paganism

Elder Neal A. Maxwell
"We are now entering a period of incredible ironies. Let us cite but one of these ironies which is yet in its subtle stages: we shall see in our time a maximum if indirect effort made to establish irreligion as the state religion. It is actually a new form of paganism that uses the carefully preserved and cultivated freedoms of Western civilization to shrink freedom even as it rejects the value essence of our rich Judeo-Christian heritage."

Maximum Choice and Minimum Meaning

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks
"What the secularists forgot is that Homo sapiens is the meaning-seeking animal. If there is one thing the great institutions of the modern world do not do, it is to provide meaning. Science tells us how but not why. Technology gives us power but cannot guide us as to how to use that power. The market gives us choices but leaves us uninstructed as to how to make those choices. The liberal democratic state gives us freedom to live as we choose but refuses, on principle, to guide us as to how to choose.

Science, technology, the free market and the liberal democratic state have enabled us to reach unprecedented achievements in knowledge, freedom, life expectancy and affluence. They are among the greatest achievements of human civilization and are to be defended and cherished.

But they do not answer the three questions that every reflective individual will ask at some time in his or her life: Who am I? Why am I here? How then shall I live? The result is that the 21st century has left us with a maximum of choice and a minimum of meaning."

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Just War

David O. McKay
"There are, however, two conditions which may justify a truly Christian man to enter — mind you, I say enter, not begin— a war: ( 1 ) An attempt to dominate and to deprive another of his free agency, and, ( 2 ) Loyalty to his country. Possibly there is a third, viz., Defense of a weak nation that is being unjustly crushed by a strong, ruthless one...

...Paramount among these reasons, of course, is the defense of man's freedom. An attempt to rob man of his free agency caused dissension even in heaven...

...To deprive an intelligent human being of his free agency is to commit the crime of the ages...

...So fundamental in man's eternal progress is his inherent right to choose, that the Lord would defend it even at the price of war. Without freedom of thought, freedom of choice, freedom of action within lawful bounds, man cannot progress. The Lord recognized this, and also the fact that it would take man thousands of years to make the earth habitable for self-governing individuals. Throughout the ages advanced souls have yearned for a society in which liberty and justice prevail. Men have sought for it, fought for it, have died for it. Ancient freemen prized it, slaves longed for it, the Magna Charta demanded it, the Constitution of the United States declared it.

'This love of liberty which God has planted in us,' said Abraham Lincoln, 'constitutes the bulwark of our liberty and independence. It is not our frowning battlements, our bristling seacoasts, our army, and our navy. Our defense is in the spirit which prizes liberty as the heritage of all men, in all lands, everywhere. Destroy this spirit, and we have planted the seeds of despotism at our very doors.'"

Friday, August 12, 2016

Submissiveness

34 Gospel gems from Elder Neal A. Maxwell's book Not My Will, But Thine

  • "Faith is strongest when it is without illusions." (p. 4)
  • "The developmental dues of discipleship must be paid before all of the blessings are received (D&C 130:20)." (p. 6)
  • "The combination of life and the light of Christ is designed to help us discern between the real thing and all the clever counterfeits and sparkling substitutes." (p. 10)
  • "Mortality, this precious micro-dot on the canvas of eternity, is such a brief moment. While in it, we are to prepare ourselves for the time when there will be no time." (p. 11)
  • "Those who insist on walking in their own way will find that all such paths, however individualistic in appearance, will converge at that wide way and broad gate - where there will be a tremendous traffic jam." (p. 12)
  • "When Jesus said, 'Come, follow me,' it was an invitation, not a taunt. Moreover, His firm footprints are especially recognizable. They reflect no hesitancy, and no turning aside; they lie in a straight path. The prints are also sunk inerasably deep into the soil of the second estate because of the heavy burdens He bore. A portion of that depth is attributable to us, individually, because we added to the heaviness of His pressing yoke." (p. 13)
  • "The existing scriptures make mention of more than twenty other books that will yet be restored (see 1 Nephi 19:10-16). One day, in fact, 'all things shall be revealed unto the children of men which ever have been ... and which ever will be' (2 Nephi 27:11). Hence the ninth Article of Faith is such an impressive statement, full of promise for the obedient." (p. 18)
  • "Obviously those with the anti-miracle mind-set discount the Book of Mormon because they cannot see the plates from which it was translated. Furthermore, some say, we do no know enough about the actual process of translation. But Moroni's inspired promise (Moroni 10:3-4) concerns reading and praying over the book's substance-not over the process of its production...The reverse approach, scanning while doubting, is the flip side of Moroni's methodology, and it produces flippant conclusions." (p. 25-6)
  • "Thus the Book of Mormon will be with us `as long as the earth shall stand.' We need all that time to explore it, for the book is like a vast mansion with gardens, towers, courtyards, and wings. There are rooms yet to be entered, with flaming fireplaces waiting to warm us. The rooms glimpsed so far contain further furnishings and rich detail yet to be savored, but decor dating from Eden is evident. There are panels inlaid with incredible insights, particularly insights about the great question. Yet we as Church members sometimes behave like hurried tourists, scarcely venturing beyond the entry hall." (p. 33)
  • "What the Restoration brings clearly into our view discloses a many-splendored Savior, not simply a Socrates in Samaria or a Plato in Palestine." (p. 43)
  • "Thus the Atonement may reach into the universe - even as its blessings and redemptive powers reach into the small universe of each individual's suffering. How infinite, indeed!" (p. 52)
  • "There are so many subduing reasons to submit and surrender to Him and to our Father's purposes - not out of intimidation, but out of deep appreciation. Jesus was infinitely obedient, suffering an infinite number of things, yet He made possible eternal life with its promise of eternal increase for the elect.  This is another dimension of the ongoing, infinite atonement's benefits." (p. 53)
  • "Thoughtful observers note how powerful an influence environmental conditions can be - good and bad. Likewise, no wise individual would want  to diminish the shaping significance of an individual's genetic inheritance. Even so, adverse environmental experiences need not be automatically perpetuated. It is possible to break the chain of events by saying, 'Let it stop with me!' Or, with regard to wiser patterns of behavior and living, one can assert, 'Let them start with me!' We see such heroism about us all the time. While we must always begin from where we are, we need not stay where we are." (p. 62)
  • "When we are struggling to learn to love, we can have faith in God's developmental plans for others as well as for ourselves. Then we do not feel threatened by those who are our superiors or who are becoming such. The more unselfish we are, the more able we are to find joy in their successes, all the while rejoicing without comparing. In any case, our only valid spiritual competition is with our old selves, not with each other. True love and friendship enable us to keep that perspective. The things about other people that truly matter are their qualities such as love, mercy, justice, and patience, and their service to others. The things that matter much less - style, appearance, and mannerisms - become comparatively unimportant. Finally, our capacity to be meek and lowly enough to love without requiring reciprocity is enhanced by our coming to know how much we are loved by Jesus, even when we do not return His love as we might." (p. 70)
  • "In a church established, among other reasons, for the perfecting of the Saints - an ongoing process - it is naive to expect, and certainly unfair to demand, perfection in our peers. A brief self-inventory is wise before we 'cast the first stone.' Possessing a few rocks in our own heads, it is especially dangerous to have rocks too ready in our hands." (p. 74)
  • "Our capacity as Church members to love and to forgive will be freshly and severely tested as battered and bruised souls come into the Church in ever-larger numbers. Some come in from the cold shivering. Others are breathless, having caught what was for them the last train out of Babylon. Their own continued process of repentance will be much aided if they see, all about them, more regular emphasis in the lives of the rest of us on faith unto repentance." (p. 74)
  • "Those who discount gospel morality by smugly describing it as old-fashioned, understate: it is actually old-old-old-old-old-fashioned morality - going back to the beginning of time and beyond. In contrast, morality born of majoritarianism is risky, especially in times like those of Noah and Sodom. Our eyes and thoughts are, instead, supposed to be upon a far 'better country' (Hebrews 11:16)."
  • "However great human accomplishments are, they represent but a tithe of what the Lord could help us to achieve on this planet if only we would be meek and lowly, submitting to Him." (p. 88)
  • "One great service performed by prophets is to state the obvious - unseen and unpopular though it may be." (p. 92)
  • "We have no evidence of Jesus' ever reflecting upon or discoursing immodestly upon His masterful performances, such as in the  miracle of the loaves and fishes, in the raising of Lazarus, or in the healing of the ten lepers. He let his deeds speak for themselves, and He always attributed his power to the Father. Dare we do less as regards the much less we have achieved?" (p. 94)
  • "If we know who we are and whose we are, this belonging and acceptance results in much less need for mortal acceptance and acclaim. Indeed, the full giving of self - heart, mind, and strength - to Him leaves us with nothing else to give - no other 'investments' to worry over. This is what the first great commandment is all about." (p. 94)
  • "The more serious the work on our own imperfections, the less we are judgmental of the imperfections in others. Meek Moroni's counsel is so appropriate: rather than condemn parents and predecessors for their imperfections, we can simply learn to be more wise than they have been (Mormon 9:31). There are more case studies available than studies of such cases." (p. 95)
  • "We mortals do not have all the date even on ourselves, let alone on others. But God does. Having faith in Him includes faith in His purposes not only for ourselves but also for others. Only He who carried the great cross can fully compare crosses." (p. 96)
  • "God seeks to give us tutoring experiences so that, if we are submissive, we will have our own first-hand experiences to refer to in the eternities to come. We will have authentic, personal knowledge upon which to rely, no merely accurate abstractions. Since experiential learning is etched deeply into our souls, it is not easily forgotten." (p. 98)
  • "The most striking example of tutorial love is that which the Only Begotten Son experience in carrying out the plans of His perfect Father. Jesus, who had served the best of all, experienced the worst of all. The only sin-free soul suffered the sins of all." (p. 108)
  • "Real faith in God includes faith in His timing." (p. 113)
  • "We should see life, therefore, as being comprised of clusters of soul-stretching experiences, even when these are overlain by seeming ordinariness or are plainly wrapped in routine. Thus some who are chronologically very young can be Methuselahs as to their maturity in spiritual things." (p. 118)
  • "There have been and will be times in each of our lives when such faith must be the bottom line: We don't know what is happening to us or around us, but we know that God loves us, and knowing that, for the moment, is enough." (p. 119)
  • "It is possible to know when, at least basically, we please God. In fact, Joseph Smith taught that one of the conditions of genuine faith is to have 'an actual knowledge that the course of life which [one] is pursuing is according to [God's] will.' We observe that, writing about Enoch, Paul noted that 'before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God' (Hebrews 11:5)." (p. 127)
  • "With increased love for others, a major goal of the true Saint, life becomes larger as one's self becomes smaller in it, for then you and I 'break out out of this tiny and tawdry theatre in which [our] own little plot is always being played, and [we]... find [ourselves] under a freer sky, in a street full of splendid strangers.'" (p. 134)
  • "The world encourages us to pay attention to secular Caesars. The gospel tells us, however, that these Caesars come and go in an hour of pomp and show.  It is God whom we should worship, and His Son, Jesus Christ. They have for us mortals a plan of salvation." (p. 137)
  • "What we will feel on that occasion will be God's and Jesus' perfect love for us - not a scolding sternness but a profound kindness and immense tenderness. As these virtues flow from them toward us, many will feel the scalding shame of not having returned that love. As we feel their perfect love, we will confess that the justice and mercy of God are likewise perfect." (p. 141)
  • "Think of the most beautiful scenery you have ever witnessed, and yet realize that 'eye hath not seen...' Remember the most beautiful music you have heard, sounds which sent feelings soaring, and yet understand that 'ear hath not heard.' Recall the finest moments of friendship, featuring nearly pure love. Reflect on joys, sorrows, and certitude shared. Yet the Creator of worlds, our best friend, has said, 'I will call you friends, for you are my friends' (D&C 53:45). Our best moments of friendship are ahead of us.  Ponder those moments of keen, sudden insight, the flow of pure intelligence, such as Lamoni experienced when 'light infused such joy into his soul' (Alma 19:6). Yet, 'the day cometh [when] ... all things shall be revealed ... which ever have been ... and which ever will be' (2 Nephi 27:11). The mysteries shall be ours, but shall be mysteries no more. Reflect upon the occasions on which your conscience and integrity triumphed when, having done what was right and letting the consequences follow, you had a sure witness flood warmly into your soul and knew, like Enoch (Hebrews 11:5), that you had pleased Father.  Recollect the deepest moments of marital and familial joy, whether in rejoicings, reunions, or reconciliations, when 'because of the great goodness of God' there was a 'gushing out of many tears' (3 Nephi 4:33); when your 'heart [was] brim with joy' (Alma 26:11). Yet this was but a foretaste  of the ultimate homecoming, when our cups will not only be brim but will run over without ceasing." (p. 143)
  • "Our great Example showed us the pattern by His life, and then in his most desperate hour (Luke 22:41-43) summed up in five words for all time the way of both the Master and His disciple: 'Not my will, but thine.'" (p. 144)
Elder Neal A. Maxwell


Only Lovers Know



Princes come,
Princes go,
An hour of pomp and show they know;
Princes come and over the sands,
And over the sands of time they go.
Wise men come,
Ever promising the riddle of life to know,
Wise men come, Ah,
But over the sands.
The silent sands of time they go
Lovers come,
Lovers go.
And all that there is to know
Lovers know;
Only lovers know.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Beholding Beauty with the Eye of the Mind

Plato's Symposium, by Anselm Feuerbach
"He who has been instructed thus far in the things of love, and who has learned to see the beautiful in due order and succession, when he comes toward the end will suddenly perceive a nature of wondrous beauty (and this, Socrates, is the final cause of all our former toils)-a nature which in the first place is everlasting, not growing and decaying, or waxing and waning; secondly, not fair in one point of view and foul in another, or at one time or in one relation or at one place fair, at another time or in another relation or at another place foul, as if fair to some and-foul to others, or in the likeness of a face or hands or any other part of the bodily frame, or in any form of speech or knowledge, or existing in any other being, as for example, in an animal, or in heaven or in earth, or in any other place; but beauty absolute, separate, simple, and everlasting, which without diminution and without increase, or any change, is imparted to the ever-growing and perishing beauties of all other things. He who from these ascending under the influence of true love, begins to perceive that beauty, is not far from the end. And the true order of going, or being led by another, to the things of love, is to begin from the beauties of earth and mount upwards for the sake of that other beauty, using these as steps only, and from one going on to two, and from two to all fair forms, and from fair forms to fair practices, and from fair practices to fair notions, until from fair notions he arrives at the notion of absolute beauty, and at last knows what the essence of beauty is. This, my dear Socrates," said the stranger of Mantineia, "is that life above all others which man should live, in the contemplation of beauty absolute; a beauty which if you once beheld, you would see not to be after the measure of gold, and garments, and fair boys and youths, whose presence now entrances you; and you and many a one would be content to live seeing them only and conversing with them without meat or drink, if that were possible-you only want to look at them and to be with them. But what if man had eyes to see the true beauty-the divine beauty, I mean, pure and dear and unalloyed, not clogged with the pollutions of mortality and all the colours and vanities of human life-thither looking, and holding converse with the true beauty simple and divine? Remember how in that communion only, beholding beauty with the eye of the mind, he will be enabled to bring forth, not images of beauty, but realities (for he has hold not of an image but of a reality), and bringing forth and nourishing true virtue to become the friend of God and be immortal, if mortal man may. Would that be an ignoble life?"

- Plato's Symposium


Sunday, August 7, 2016

A Kingdom of Ideal Beauty

Lucy Maud Montgomery
"It has always seemed to me, ever since early childhood, amid all the commonplaces of life, I was very near to a kingdom of ideal beauty. Between it and me hung only a thin veil. I could never draw it quite aside, but sometimes a wind fluttered it and I caught a glimpse of the enchanting realms beyond-only a glimpse-but those glimpses have always made life worthwhile."

- L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Something There is That Doesn't Love a Wall


Mending Wall

SOMETHING there is that doesn't love a wall, 
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it, 
And spills the upper boulders in the sun; 
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast. 
The work of hunters is another thing: 
I have come after them and made repair 
Where they have left not one stone on stone, 
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding, 
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean, 
No one has seen them made or heard them made, 
But at spring mending-time we find them there. 
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill; 
And on a day we meet to walk the line 
And set the wall between us once again. 
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each. 
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls 
We have to use a spell to make them balance: 
"Stay where you are until our backs are turned!" 
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of outdoor game, 
One on a side. It comes to little more: 
He is all pine and I am apple-orchard. 
My apple trees will never get across 
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, "Good fences make good neighbors." 
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder 
If I could put a notion in his head: 
"Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it 
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know 
What I was walling in or walling out, 
And to whom I was like to give offence. 
Something there is that doesn't love a wall, 
That wants it down!" I could say "Elves" to him,
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather 
He said it for himself. I see him there, 
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top 
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed. 
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees. 
He will not go behind his father's saying, 
And he likes having thought of it so well 
He says again, "Good fences make good neighbors."

Monday, July 25, 2016

Beautiful Recollections from Plato's Phaedo

  • "Cebes added: Your favorite doctrine, Socrates, that knowledge is simply recollection, if true, also necessarily implies a previous time in which we have learned that which we now recollect. But this would be impossible unless our soul had been in some place before existing in the form of man; here then is another proof of the soul's immortality."
  • "Phaed. Often, Echecrates, as I have admired Socrates, I never admired him more than at that moment. [89a] That he should be able to answer was nothing, but what astonished me was, first, the gentle and pleasant and approving manner in which he regarded the words of the young men, and then his quick sense of the wound which had been inflicted by the argument, and his ready application of the healing art. He might be compared to a general rallying his defeated and broken army, urging them to follow him and return to the field of argument."
  • "Well, he said, then I should like to know whether you agree with me in the next step; for I cannot help thinking that if there be anything beautiful other than absolute beauty, that can only be beautiful in as far as it partakes of absolute beauty—and this I should say of everything. Do you agree in this notion of the cause?"
  • "But then, O my friends, he said, if the soul is really immortal, what care should be taken of her, not only in respect of the portion of time which is called life, but of eternity! And the danger of neglecting her from this point of view does indeed appear to be awful. If death had only been the end of all, the wicked would have had a good bargain in dying, for they would have been happily quit not only of their body, but of their own evil together with their souls. But now, as the soul plainly appears to be immortal, there is no release or salvation from evil except the attainment of the highest virtue and wisdom. For the soul when on her progress to the world below takes nothing with her but nurture and education; which are indeed said greatly to benefit or greatly to injure the departed, at the very beginning of its pilgrimage in the other world."
  • "Wherefore, Simmias, seeing all these things, what ought not we to do in order to obtain virtue and wisdom in this life? Fair is the prize, and the hope great."
  • "But I do say that, inasmuch as the soul is shown to be immortal, he may venture to think not improperly or unworthily, that something of the kind is true. The venture is a glorious one, and he ought to comfort himself with words like these, which is the reason why I lengthen out the tale. Wherefore, I say, let a man be of good cheer about his soul, who hast cast away the pleasures and ornaments of the body as alien to him, and rather hurtful in their effects, and has followed after the pleasures of knowledge in this life; who has adorned the soul in her own proper jewels, which are temperance, and justice, and courage, and nobility, and truth—in these arrayed she is ready to go on her journey to the world below, when her time comes."
  • "Crito, I owe a cock to Asclepius; will you remember to pay the debt?"
- Plato, Phaedo


Monday, July 11, 2016

God only is Wise


"And I am called wise, for my hearers always imagine that I myself possess the wisdom which I find wanting in others: but the truth is, O men of Athens, that God only is wise; and by his answer he intends to show that the wisdom of men is worth little or nothing; he is not speaking of Socrates, he is only using my name by way of illustration, as if he said, He, O men, is the wisest, who, like Socrates, knows that his wisdom is in truth worth nothing. And so I go about the world, obedient to the god, and search and make enquiry into the wisdom of any one, whether citizen or stranger, who appears to be wise; and if he is not wise, then in vindication of the oracle I show him that he is not wise; and my occupation quite absorbs me, and I have no time to give either to any public matter of interest or to any concern of my own, but I am in utter poverty by reason of my devotion to the god."

- Plato, The Trial and Death of Socrates, Apology, p. 24

Socrates (The Death of Socrates, by Jacques-Louis David)
"This is the examination, men of Athens, from which I have incurred many hatreds, the sort that are harshest and gravest, so that many slanders have arisen from them, and I got this name of being 'wise.' For those present on each occasion suppose that I myself am wise in the things concerning which I refute someone else, whereas it is probably, men, that really the god is wise, and that in this oracle he is saying that human wisdom is worth little or nothing. And he appears to say this of Socrates and to have made use of my name in order to make me a pattern, as if he would say, 'That one of you, O human beings, is wisest, who, like Socrates, has become cognizant that in truth he is worth nothing with respect to wisdom.'"

Sunday, June 26, 2016

A Little Learning

Alexander Pope

A Little Learning


A little learning is a dangerous thing ;
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring :
There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
And drinking largely sobers us again.
Fired at first sight with what the Muse imparts,
In fearless youth we tempt the heights of Arts ;
While from the bounded level of our mind
Short views we take, nor see the lengths behind,
But, more advanced, behold with strange surprise
New distant scenes of endless science rise !
So pleased at first the towering Alps we try,
Mount o’er the vales, and seem to tread the sky ;
The eternal snows appear already past,
And the first clouds and mountains seem the last ;
But those attained, we tremble to survey
The growing labours of the lengthened way ;
The increasing prospect tires our wandering eyes,
Hill peep o’er hills, and Alps on Alps arise !

- Alexander Pope

Friday, June 24, 2016

An Interview with Steven Demetre Georgiou

Cat Stevens
This is a great interview with the great Steven Demetre Georgiou, also known as Cat Stevens, also known as Yusuf Islam.  Two near death experiences, a faith transition, and many years later, Cat Stevens is still making music.  For those with eyes to see, his fondness for the story of Joseph in the Qur'an makes sense, and his work to help refugee children is commendable.

Which is your favorite Cat Stevens song?  Here are a few of my favorites:




















Saturday, May 28, 2016

George Washington on Religious Liberty

George Washington
"While all men within our territories are protected in worshipping the Deity according to the dictates of their consciences; it is rationally to be expected from them in return, that they will be emulous of evincing the sanctity of their professions by the innocence of their lives and the beneficence of their actions; for no man, who is profligate in his morals, or a bad member of the civil community, can possibly be a true Christian, or a credit to his own religious society.  I desire you to accept my acknowledgments for your laudable endeavors to render men sober, honest, and good Citizens, and the obedient subjects of a lawful government."

- George Washington, To the General Assembly of Presbyterian Churches, 1789

"For you, doubtless, remember that I have often expressed my sentiment, that every man, conducting himself as a good citizen, and being accountable to God alone for his religious opinions, ought to be protected in worshipping the Deity according to the dictates of his own conscience."


"Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice ? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle."


Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Inner Ring

C.S. Lewis
  • "Until you conquer the fear of being an outsider, an outsider you will remain." 
  • "To a young person, just entering on adult life, the world seems full of 'insides,' full of delightful intimacies and confidentialities, and he desires to enter them. But if he follows that desire he will reach no 'inside' that is worth reaching. The true road lies in quite another direction."

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Revelation

Flannery O'Connor
"All my stories are about the action of grace on a character who is not very willing to support it, but most people think of these stories as hard, hopeless and brutal."—Flannery O'Connor

One such story about the action of grace is "Revelation," in which the character Mrs. Turpin learns a valuable lesson about heaven.


Tuesday, March 29, 2016

A Big Worm of Truth from the Ground of the Gospel

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. The talks for this week were given during the Saturday afternoon Session of the April 1972 General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Enjoy.

The talks:
Commentary:


The future prophet Gordon B. Hinckley poses the question: "What will the Church do for you, a man?"  He responds with six specific things that the Church will do for a man:

"1. First, it will bring you into the greatest fraternity in the world.  
2. Second, active membership in the Church will motivate a man to clean up his life, if that is necessary.
3. Third, activity in the Church will afford you growth through responsibility.
4. Fourth, membership in the Church and active participation therein will give a new dimension to your life, a spiritual dimension that will become as a rock of faith, with an endowment of authority to speak in the name of God.
5. Fifth, it will assist you in the governance of your home.
6. Finally, the Church makes it possible for you, a man, to bind to you for eternity those you love most."

Elder Hinckley relates a few stories to illustrate his points, including a story about a man and his wife who, with the help of the Church, overcome marriage conflict resulting from financial troubles, and a story about a drunk Japanese man who changed his life through his conversion to Christ.  I couldn't help thinking of what the Gospel could do for Mr. Miyagi and Danielson:


Elder Hinckley teaches of the growth that comes through stretching service:

"Robert Browning said, 'A man’s reach should exceed his grasp.' Growth comes as we constantly seek to achieve that which is just beyond our immediate capacity. One of the noteworthy aspects of the Church program is that it constantly motivates men to stretch themselves, to reach a little higher."

The following remark is also worth pondering:

"I should like to suggest that every man who holds and magnifies the priesthood may have within him 'light and understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods.'"


Elder Henry D. Taylor uses Cain's question "Am I my brother's keeper?" to teach a lesson.  The short answer to this question is, of course, "yes."  Those who are their brothers' keepers include welfare project laborers, home teachers and visiting teachers, temple workers, missionaries, foster families, and the good Samaritan.  A particularly good example of a man who was his brother's keeper was Willard Richards.  Elder Taylor recounts the moving story:

"One of the most beautiful and tender accounts of brotherly love, concern, and devotion took place in Carthage Jail on the afternoon of the martyrdom. 'The afternoon was sultry and hot. The four brethren [Joseph and Hyrum Smith, John Taylor, and Willard Richards] sat listlessly about the room with their coats off; and the windows of the prison were open to receive such air as might be stirring. Late in the afternoon Mr. Stigall, the jailor, came in and suggested that [in view of threats made by the radical and bloodthirsty mob] they would be safer in the cells. Joseph told him that they would go in after supper. Turning to Elder Richards the Prophet said: 'If we go into the cell will you go with us?'

Elder Richards answered, 'Brother Joseph, you did not ask me to cross the river with you [referring to the time when they crossed the Mississippi, en route for the Rocky Mountains]—you did not ask me to come to Carthage—you did not ask me to come to jail with you—and do you think I would forsake you now? But I will tell you what I will do; if you are condemned to be hung for ’treason,’ I will be hung in your stead, and you shall go free.'

With considerable emotion and feeling Joseph replied, 'But you cannot,' to which Brother Richards firmly replied, 'I will.'" (B. H. Roberts, A Comprehensive History of the Church, vol. 2, p. 283.)

I love this story.  It brings to mind the words of one of the Prophet Joseph Smith's favorite hymns, "A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief":

"In pris'n I saw him next, condemned
To meet a traitor's doom at morn.
The tide of lying tongues I stemmed,
And honored him 'mid shame and scorn.
My friendship's utmost zeal to try,
He asked if I for him would die.
The flesh was weak; my blood ran chill,
But my free spirit cried, 'I will!'"


Elder S. Dilworth Young teaches why missionary training begins early, drawing upon the example of 
Russell Nelson Jr. and his father.  Incidentally, my own father was just about to embark on his full-time mission to Paris, France, and the following counsel concerning mission preparation would apply to both of us: "He will play basketball to develop wind and limb to serve the Lord."

Like my dad, I received a lot of basketball training before my mission, and a lot of reading traing as well, although I was unfamiliar with one of the books that Elder Young recommends: The Trail of the Sand Hill Stag.  Thankfully, I have experienced the joy that comes from missionary work:

"The Lord has said that to bring one soul to him brings joy and that to bring many souls gives proportionately greater joy. The prepared youth will find that joy on his mission. It will sustain him through his life."

Salvation and ExaltationTheodore M. Burton

To declare that one has been saved, Elder Burton teaches, is to teach only an insidious partial truth.  There is a conditional salvation that depends upon grace as well as obedience.  Elder Burton fondly recalls the question that his cousin once asked him:

"If you had your heart’s desire and could take it with you out of this world, what would you take?"

Elder Burton's reply was obvious to him: "'My family and loved ones!' I can take them with me through obedience to God’s laws. Only through obedience to gospel law is that higher degree of salvation possible which will include both me and my family."

Full salvation means exaltation and eternal life:

"Thus, full salvation in its true and full meaning is synonymous with exaltation and eternal life. This inheritance within the actual family of God the Eternal Father, through Jesus Christ, is the burden of the scriptures and should be the goal of every man, woman, and child born upon this earth. This full salvation is obtained only in and through the family unit preserved throughout eternity."

Man’s Eternal HorizonJoseph Anderson

"Our philosophy of life contemplates an eternity of life—life without beginning before we came here, life without end hereafter. Our happiness here and hereafter depends upon our actions here. We should therefore seek the finer things of life. The road leading to eternal life must be paved with obedience to the commandments of the Lord."

Take the long view.  Try the experiment of faith.

"It is reported that on one occasion when Sir Isaac Newton was thinking seriously concerning the nature of light, he cut a hole in a window blind and a ray of light entered his room. He held a triangular piece of glass in the range of the light, and there were reflected in great beauty all the colors of the rainbow. And for the first time man learned that all of the glorious colors of the universe are locked up in a ray of white light."


Voilà a couple of highlights from Elder Bennet's talk: 
  • "The words of President David O. McKay came to mind: 'The purpose of the gospel is to make bad men good and good men better—to change men’s lives.'"
  • "First, members of the Church everywhere should remind themselves that the gospel is to be preached and taught by example and not just by word of mouth. The lives of all Church members should be shining examples of the gospel of Jesus Christ in action."
  • "Second, as members of the Church, it is our responsibility to assist the missionaries in finding investigators to whom the message of the gospel can be taught. The missionary program needs the help of all of us—young and old—and it needs our help now."
Elder Bennett also recounts some of his great missionary experiences, in battle, on a plane, etc.


This was my favorite talk.  The future prophet Howard W. Hunter recounts the following simple story:

"Observing the clock, I fold the notes that I have prepared and place them in my inside pocket. But let me take just a moment to mention a little incident that made an impression upon me when I was a boy. This came to my mind when it was mentioned that there are with us this afternoon a large group of dedicated people who teach our youth.

It was on a summer day early in the morning. I was standing near the window. The curtains obstructed me from two little creatures out on the lawn. One was a large bird and the other a little bird, obviously just out of the nest. I saw the larger bird hop out on the lawn, then thump his feet and cock his head. He drew a big fat worm out of the lawn and came hopping back. The little bird opened its bill wide, but the big bird swallowed the worm.

Then I saw the big bird fly up into a tree. He pecked at the bark for a little while and came back with a big bug in his mouth. The little bird opened his beak wide, but the big bird swallowed the bug. There was squawking in protest.

The big bird flew away, and I didn’t see it again, but I watched the little bird. After a while, the little bird hopped out on the lawn, thumped its feet, cocked its head, and pulled a big worm out of the lawn.

God bless the good people who teach our children and our youth, I humbly pray, in Jesus’ name. Amen."

It is a simple story, but I felt as though Elder Hunter, like a large prophetic bird, drew a big worm of truth from the ground of the Gospel to show to me.  Metaphorically speaking, he flew up into the tree of life and brought back a big bug of beauty to show me.  God bless him for that.
A Missionary and His MessageHugh B. Brown

Missionary work, Elder Brown declares, is the first love of his life.  It is mine as well.