Friday, October 24, 2014

Meet the Muslims


There is far too little understanding of Islam in the West.  

I include myself in this indictment.  It is regrettable that so many of us know next to nothing about one of the world's great monotheistic religious traditions.  Furthermore, what we do know, or what we think we know, is too often informed by the consumption and regurgitation of sensationalized media reports.  If the recent film Meet the Mormons has helped in any way to shed light on the lives and beliefs of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (which I think it has), I can only imagine what a film like Meet the Muslims might accomplish.  

But since, to my knowledge, such a film has not yet been produced, allow me to outline a few resources that may be useful in helping us to better understand Islam and the people who adhere to this widely practiced and vibrant faith.

Rules of Religious Understanding:
The Noble Qur'an
Qur'an and Hadith:


Verbal Description of the Prophet Muhammad
The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH):
Latter-day Saint Perspectives on Islam:
A Few of my own Blog Posts on Islam:

Twin Pillars of Eternal Truth

Christ Stopped at Eboli

Carlo Levi's Memoir in Exile: Christ Stopped at Eboli
Soon after I received the call to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Southern Italy, my dad gave the book Christ Stopped at Eboli as a gift.  I read and enjoyed the book before my mission, but only after my mission could I appreciate it more fully.

Carlo Levi
In 1935, as a result of his political activism, the Italian-Jewish painter, writer, activist, anti-fascist and doctor Carlo Levi, was exiled to Lucania, one of the poorest regions of Southern Italy.  Christ Stopped at Eboli is a poetically written memoir of his exile, the title of which comes from an expression of the people of 'Gagliano' who said of themselves: "Christ stopped short of here, at Eboli."  Levi explained that this phrase "means, in effect, that they feel they have been bypassed by Christianity, by morality, by history itself—that they have somehow been excluded from the full human experience."

Of course Levi -who was also a friend of the Italian writer Italo Calvino- wrote his memoir in Italian, but it has been translated into English.  As an undergraduate student at Brigham Young University, I wrote a brief essay on Levi's memoir Cristo si è fermato a Eboli.  There is also a cinematic adaptation of the book that I recommend to anyone who might be interested.

The film adaptation of Levi's memoir

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Two Gospel Centered Conferences

A Trip to the Not So Local Library

The Vatican Library, Online Edition: https://www.vatlib.it/
Speaking of a time in which hidden things will come to light, it will soon be possible to instantly access more than 4,000 ancient manuscripts from the Vatican Library.  That's right.  The Pope's personal library:

"Formally established in 1475, though in fact much older, it is one of the oldest libraries in the world and contains one of the most significant collections of historical texts. It currently has 75,000 codices from throughout history, as well as 1.1 million printed books, which include some 8,500 incunabula." (Wikipedia)

Look.  Here's an old Bible.  Here's Dante's Convivio.  Here's something on Petrarca, and Boccaccio.
 
Someday perhaps the "Secret Archives" will be available for all, not just the Holy See, to see as well.

Exchanging Gifts in the Vatican

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Mantle of Charity

The Prophet Joseph Smith
"It is one evidence that men are unacquainted with the principles of godliness to behold the contraction of affectionate feelings and lack of charity in the world. The power and glory of godliness is spread out on a broad principle to throw out the mantle of charity. God does not look on sin with allowance, but when men have sinned, there must be allowance made for them. … The nearer we get to our heavenly Father, the more we are disposed to look with compassion on perishing souls; we feel that we want to take them upon our shoulders, and cast their sins behind our backs. …

“… How oft have wise men and women sought to dictate Brother Joseph by saying, ‘Oh, if I were Brother Joseph, I would do this and that;’ but if they were in Brother Joseph’s shoes they would find that men or women could not be compelled into the kingdom of God, but must be dealt with in long-suffering, and at last we shall save them. The way to keep all the Saints together, and keep the work rolling, is to wait with all long-suffering, till God shall bring such characters to justice. There should be no license for sin, but mercy should go hand in hand with reproof." - Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 5:24

The Wise Lawgiver and Just Judge

The Prophet Joseph Smith
"The great designs of God in relation to the salvation of the human family, are very little understood by the professedly wise and intelligent generation in which we live. Various and conflicting are the opinions of men concerning the plan of salvation, the [requirements] of the Almighty, the necessary preparations for heaven, the state and condition of departed spirits, and the happiness or misery that is consequent upon the practice of righteousness and iniquity according to their several notions of virtue and vice. …

While one portion of the human race is judging and condemning the other without mercy, the Great Parent of the universe looks upon the whole of the human family with a fatherly care and paternal regard; He views them as His offspring, and without any of those contracted feelings that influence the children of men, causes ‘His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.’ [Matthew 5:45.] He holds the reins of judgment in His hands; He is a wise Lawgiver, and will judge all men, not according to the narrow, contracted notions of men, but, ‘according to the deeds done in the body whether they be good or evil,’ or whether these deeds were done in England, America, Spain, Turkey, or India. He will judge them, ‘not according to what they have not, but according to what they have’; those who have lived without law, will be judged without law, and those who have a law, will be judged by that law. We need not doubt the wisdom and intelligence of the Great Jehovah; He will award judgment or mercy to all nations according to their several deserts, their means of obtaining intelligence, the laws by which they are governed, the facilities afforded them of obtaining correct information, and His inscrutable designs in relation to the human family; and when the designs of God shall be made manifest, and the curtain of futurity be withdrawn, we shall all of us eventually have to confess that the Judge of all the earth has done right [see Genesis 18:25]." - Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 4:595–96

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

So Shines a Good Deed

"How far that little candle throws its beams!  So shines a good deed in a weary world." - William Shakespeare



The Power of Kindness

K.I.N.D. = Know, Invite, Now, Do It

"Nothing is so much calculated to lead people to forsake sin as to take them by the hand, and watch over them with tenderness. When persons manifest the least kindness and love to me, O what power it has over my mind, while the opposite course has a tendency to harrow up all the harsh feelings and depress the human mind." - Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 5:23–24

"The best portion of a good man's life: his little, nameless unremembered acts of kindness and love." - William Wordsworth, Lyrical Ballads 

"I have wept in the night
At my shortness of sight
That to others' needs made me blind,
But I never have yet
Had a twinge of regret
For being a little too kind." - C.R. Gibson

"Kindness is powerful, especially in a family setting." - Elder Dallin H. Oaks, Loving Others and Living With Differences





 

Repentance

"Repentance is a thing that cannot be trifled with every day. Daily transgression and daily repentance is not that which is pleasing in the sight of God." - Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 3:379

Sunday, October 19, 2014

My Pioneer Ancestors

My Pioneer Ancestors

William Thomas Higginson
William Thomas Higginson (1835-1914):
  • Parents: Charles Wood Higginson and Mary Ann Bouncer
  • Relationship: William Thomas Higginson, father of George Taylor Higginson, father of Elmo Cassim Higginson, father of Julie Lynn Higginson, my mother.
  • Birth: November 1, 1835, Kenton Hall, Shifnal, Shropshire, England
  • Marriage(s): Elizabeth Jones (October 18, 1857), Christina Young (September 27, 1863), Hattie Jane Taylor (February 10, 1873)
  • Children: 13 - 8 (Christina Young), 5 (Hattie Jane Taylor)
  • Occupation(s): Jockey, Stable Boy, Farm Laborer
  • Fun Facts: His brother George was with Parley P. Pratt when he was killed.  By 1967 William Thomas Higginson had 13 children, 62 grandchildren, 246 great grandchildren, 537 great great grandchildren, 85 great great great grandchildren.
  • Pioneer Company: William B. Preston Company
  • Age at Departure: 27
  • Mission: Northern States, 1899-1900
  • Life Sketch and Other Documents: Short story, Letter Containing Testimony, etc., Same Letter with More Details, Same Letter Complete VersionMission Call from President Lorenzo Snow 
  • Trail Experience: Individual Information, Trail Excerpt 
  • Testimony: "The next morning after I got home, there lay some Milleneum Stars on the table. I
    William T. Higginson and Christina Young
    picked one up and on the front page there was a revelation given to the Prophet Joseph and these were the words I read; 'Thus saith the Lord unto you my servant Joseph', and I asked myself the question, 'can I deny that'? And the spirit of the Lord said unto me, 'No you cannot deny it'. And from that time to this present moment I have never had no doubt in my mind as to Joseph Smith being a true Prophet of God. And after receiving that testimony I tended to the meeting at Astley and got acquainted with our father and mother and other Saints, yet I did not get baptized till July 1855, that was over one year after I received the testimony. I would have got baptized sooner but I was very bashful and did not like to ask for baptism, and as Father and were gong to a meeting we called at Tetley's and he was going to baptize a brother, so he asked me if I didn't want to be baptized. I told him yes, and so I was."
  • Death: November 29, 1914, Hatch, Bannock, Idaho, United States
  • Headstone

William Plummer Tippets (1812-1877):
  • Parents: John Tippets IV and Abigail Pierce
    William Plummer Tippets
  • Relationship: William Plummer Tippets, father of Abigail Eliza Tippets, mother of Mary Sophia Tippets, mother of Reba Marchant, mother of Jacquelyn Tebbs, mother of Ralph Cornel Hancock, my father.
  • Birth: June 26, 1812, Wilton, Hillsborough, New Hampshire, United States
  • Marriage(s): Caroline Tippets (July 30, 1835), Jeanette Stebbans (1837), Sophia Burnham Mead (January 1, 1842) 
  • Children: 10 - 1 (Caroline Tippets), 9 (Sophia Burnham Mead)
  • Occupation(s): Farmer
  • Fun Facts: The pioneer company that William Tippets traveled with transported almost 5,000 pounds of freight destined for Brigham Young and Newel K Whitney.
  • Pioneer Company: Edward Hunter Company
  • Age at Departure: 37
  • Mission: 
  • Life Sketch and Other Documents: Building a Log House, Incomplete History, History
  • Trail Experience: Individual information, Trail Excerpt
  • Testimony:
  • Death: March 29, 1877, Cause of Death, Typhoid Fever
  • Headstone
William Marks Miles (1828-1897):
  • Parents: Samuel Miles and Prudence Marks
    William Marks Miles
  • Relationship: William Marks Miles, father of Emmeline Emilia Miles, mother of Jeremiah Hatch, father of Lelia Hatch, mother of Julie Lynn Higginson, my mother
  • Birth: May 28, 1828, Attica, Genesee, New York, United States
  • Marriage(s): Orpha Ann Alexander (1853), Martha Jane Curtis (1859), Margaret E. Lawrence (December 11, 1859)
  • Children: 12 - 3 (Orpha Ann Alexander), 9 ( Martha Jane Curtis)
  • Occupation(s): Farmer, Stone Cutter, "It had always been my ambition to have a good farm and raise horses and cattle.  I, being twelve years old this year, was able to raise a garden and also hire out to do light work in many types of construction. I got what schooling I could along with working long hours to help make a living for my younger brother and sister." / "William Marks Miles, was a stone cutter by trade, even helping with the building of several temples. He was also called by President Brigham Young to be an Indian Interpreter and Peace Maker. The Indians learned to love William and asked him to wear a small bunch of whiskers on his chin to identify him, so that they would not kill him during any of the frequent uprisings. (Although it was customary to wear whiskers in those days, William was always clean shaven.)"
  • Fun Facts: William and his family knew the prophet Joseph. Smith and his contemporaries personally, and resisted mob persecution (his family was once held prisoner by the mobs), and they traveled to Adam-Ondi Ahman and Nauvoo.  He quarried granite from the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon for the construction of the Salt Lake Temple. William also helped build a rock dam in the Cottonwood river.  He was a friend of the Indians. 
  • Pioneer Company: Ezra T. Benson Company, Jedediah M. Grant-Joseph B. Noble Company
  • Age at Departure: 21 
  • Mission: Temple builder, Indian Interpreter and Peace Maker
  • Life Sketch and Other Documents: Autobiography of William Marks Miles, History of William Marks Miles 
  • Trail Experience: "I had gained much experience through my contacts with the captains and wagon masters and working and riding with the guides and frontiersmen the last few years. l learned a lot about the ways of the Indian and learned to talk their sign language. l had become quite handy at driving oxen and pulled many a family out of the mire that were driving horses."
  • Testimony: "Our farm joined that of Dr. Warren Cowdery, he and my father being brothers-in- law. His wife being Patience Simonds, a sister to Father’s first wife, Sarah Simonds, and being a brother to Oliver Cowdery. We early became acquainted with the rise of the church known as Mormons. It wasn‘t till the winter of 1833-34 that the Elders visited the town. Father learned of a meeting to be held in an adjoining town, Farmersville. Father and some of my older brothers attended the meeting held in Ira L. Hatch’s house. After the meeting closed, a few proceeded to a nearby stream where the ice was cut, it being mid-winter, and some baptisms were tended to. In a few weeks our town was visited by Elders John Murdock, Orson Pratt and others. A large branch was raised up. My parents were early baptized. Warren A. Cowdery was appointed and set apart as president of the Branch Other members included Hyman Hyde and family, Thomas Graven, Ira C. Hatch, the Cheaneys, the McPherson family, the Caulkins brothers, Lyman and Israel; Benjamin F. Wheeler and his wife, Eliza, my sister, Isaac Decker and family (they were baptized after moving to Ohio), also my brother. Joel. Mother's brother. William Marks, visited us at this time and attended our meetings. He became a convert to the truth of the gospel and was shortly afterward baptized... l was baptized in March 1836 by Solomon Warner. In April 1836 Father and Mother received their Patriarchal Blessings under the hands of Joseph Smith, Sr., who visited the branch."  His creed was: "Let your conscience be your guide."  
  • Death: July 7, 1897, Moreland, Bingham, Idaho, United States
  • Headstone
Thomas Henry Wright
Thomas Henry Wright:
  • Parents: Joseph Wright, Frances Green
  • Relationship: Thomas Henry Wright, father of Elizabeth Wright, mother of Earnest Wright Marchant, father of Reba Marchant, mother of Jacquelyn Tebbs, mother of Ralph Cornel Hancock, my father.
  • Birth: April 18, 1818, Woolwich, Kent, England
  • Marriage(s): Elizabeth Barrett (March 9, 1846), Caroline Eliza West (February 8, 1869)
  • Children: 20 total - 15 (Elizabeth Barrett), 5 (Caroline Eliza West)
  • Occupation(s): ? 
  • Fun Facts: He had some disagreements while crossing the plains, and he was even accused of murdering a man's wife, but she actually just died of cholera: "I Tho. H. Wright of the Church of Jesus Christ of L.D. Saints do charge Bro. Edward Middlemass With Falsly & Wantonly accusing Me of Killing his Wife & Makeing Me out to be a Murderer When it is Well known she died from the effects of a severe attack of Cholera." / A wagon wheel ran over his daughter's leg, but her leg did not break.
  • Pioneer Company: Seth M. Blair / Edward Stevenson Company
  • Age at Departure: 37
  • Mission: ?
  • Life Sketch and Other Documents: 
  • Trail Experience: Trail Excerpt, Trail Excerpt
  • Testimony: ?
  • Death: May 27, 1881
  • Headstone
Simmons Philander Curtis:

Robert Nish:
Robert Nish
Josiah Howe Call:
  • Parents: Cyril Call and Sarah Tiffany
    Josiah Howe Call
  • Relationship: Josiah Howe Call, father of Lydia Rosetta Call, mother of Alzina C. Loveland, mother of Elmo Cassim Higginson, father of Julie Lynn Higginson, my mother
  • Birth: August 12, 1821 Madison, Geauga, Ohio, United States
  • Marriage(s): Henrietta Caroline Williams (March 11, 1846), Christence Nielsdatter (January 14, 1856)
  • Children: 8 - 7 (Henrietta Caroline Williams), 1 (Christence Nielsdatter)
  • Occupation(s): Farmer, Collier, Sheriff, Alderman
  • Fun Facts: Although he was friendly with the Indians, he was killed by a hostile bunch of Indians.  He fought bravely, like a bear, to preserve his life, but the Indians showed him no mercy: "An Indian, wearing Grandfather's hat, came six months later to the home of my grandmother. Grandmother's six frightened children clung to her apron while he told the story. Grandfather begged for his life. He told them he had six little papooses and a squaw that he would like to go home to; that they needed him, He offered to trade them anything for his life. They refused him. When an Indian says he'll do a thing he usually does it. He told her they took his right arm as a sign of Bravery."
  • Pioneer Company: Allen Taylor Company
  • Age at Departure: 27
  • Mission: Pioneer, Settle Pauvant Valley (Fillmore, Utah), Bishop
  • Life Sketch and Other Documents: A Short Story of Josiah Howe Call, Tell Me a Story, Story by Granddaughter, Indian Massacre
  • Trail Experience: Individual Information, Trail Excerpt
  • Testimony: Josiah and his family heeded prophetic counsel: "Josiah had married Henrietta Williams, March lst, 1846 in Nauvoo, Hancock County, Illinois. Josiah and his brothers and families were part of the first 10 Wagons of Brigham Young's company. They traveled westward and they overtook a 52 Wagon company, and also overtook the George Miller company on the Platte River Where they received instructions July 22, 1846 to go no farther. There Josiah and the others erected 125 cabins to a fort. In February of 1847 Apostles arrived with instructions for these to return to Winter Quarters. Some of the them­ ­weren't in favor of returning te Winter Quarters; but the Call's heeded the instructions and returned to Winter Quarters."
  • Death: October 7, 1858 Chicken Creek Camp, Juab, Utah Territory, United States, Cause of Death: Scalping, shot by Indians, and right arm cut off
  • Headstone
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On Friendship

"In friendship...we think we have chosen our peers. In reality a few years' difference in the dates of births, a few more miles between certain houses, the choice of one university instead of another...the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting--any of these chances might have kept us apart. But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking no chances. A secret master of ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples, 'Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,' can truly say to every group of Christian friends, 'Ye have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another.' The friendship is not a reward for our discriminating and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each of us the beauties of others."

Friday, October 17, 2014

Millions Shall Know Brother Joseph Again

"He called me by name, and said unto me that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God to me, and that his name was Moroni; that God had a work for me to do; and that my name should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people." (Joseph Smith-History 1:33)

Joseph Smith is a true prophet of God.  The Holy Ghost has testified to my heart and confirmed in my mind on occasions too numerous to count that Joseph Smith saw God the Father and His Beloved Son Jesus Christ, that he was the chosen instrument for the Restoration of the Gospel, that he translated the Book of Mormon by the gift and power of God, and that he lived great and died great in the eyes of God and his people.  I echo the testimony of his close friend and fellow servant:

“I testify before God, angels, and men, that [Joseph] was a good, honorable, [and] virtuous man— … [and] that his private and public character was unimpeachable—and that he lived and died as a man of God.” - John Taylor (see also D&C 135:3)

Joseph Smith himself declared: "I shall speak with authority of the Priesthood in the name of the Lord God, which shall prove a savor of life unto life, or of death unto death. . . . If you wish to go where God is, you must be like God, or possess the principles which God possesses, for if we are not drawing towards God in principle, we are going from Him and drawing towards the devil. . . . Search your hearts, and see if you are like God. I have searched mine, and feel to repent of all my sins."

How well do you know the Prophet Joseph Smith?

The following resources may be helpful in your quest to know the Prophet Joseph Smith better, and to better understand the marvelous work and a wonder that the Lord brought about through him:


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

What is Political Philosophy?


"This volume provides an unequaled introduction to the thought of chief contributors to the Western tradition of political philosophy from classical Greek antiquity to the twentieth century. Written by specialists on the various philosophers, this third edition has been expanded significantly to include both new and revised essays." - The History of Political Philosophy

"There is no inquiry into the history of philosophy that is not at the same time a philosophical inquiry." - Leo Strauss

What is political philosophy?  This is as good a place to start as any.  (The Leo Strauss Center)



The Whole Future of Civilization

10 Blessed Blogs





Here is a short list of virtuous, lovely, of good report and praiseworthy blogs from which to gain edification, inspiration, instruction and enlightenement:


1. LDS Newsroom
2. FAIR Mormon Blog
3. The Soul and the City, Ralph Hancock
4. Sic et Non, Daniel Peterson
5. Mormon Scholars Testify
6. Forn Spǫll Fira, John Gee
7. Ether's Cave, Matthew Roper
8. Enigmatic Mirror, William Hamblin
9. Sixteen Small Stones, J. Max Wilson
10. The Millenial Star

Monday, October 13, 2014

Loeb Classical Library

Loeb Classical Library
Just as I was beginning to think that the everything virtuous, lovely, of good report and praiseworthy on the internet had already been mined and synthesized onto this blog, my dad informed me that the Loeb Classical Library is now available online.  Amazing!

“Here is 1,400 years of human culture, all the texts that survive from one of the greatest civilizations human beings have ever built—and it can all fit in a bookcase or two. To capture all the fugitive texts of the ancient world, some of which survived the Dark Ages in just a single moldering copy in some monastic library, and turn them into affordable, clear, sturdy accurate books, is one of the greatest accomplishments of modern scholarship—and one of the most democratic.”—Adam Kirsch


The Sura of Light

"God is the light of the heavens and the earth. A metaphor for His light is a niche in which there is a lamp placed in a glass. The glass is like a shining star which is lit from a blessed olive tree that is neither eastern nor western. Its oil almost lights up even though it has not been touched by the fire. It is light upon light. God guides to His light whomever He wants. God uses various metaphors. He has the knowledge of all things." - The Sura of Light, Qur'ān 24:35

A lot could be written about this verse, and much ink has already been spilt in reference to this verse. In fact, the Persian mystic theologian and philosopher Al-Ghazali wrote an entire book based on the ideas expressed in this verse.

The Sura of Light

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith

"To the youth listening today or reading these words in the days ahead, I give a specific challenge: Gain a personal witness of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Let your voice help fulfill Moroni’s prophetic words to speak good of the Prophet. Here are two ideas: First, find scriptures in the Book of Mormon that you feel and know are absolutely true. Then share them with family and friends in family home evening, seminary, and your Young Men and Young Women classes, acknowledging that Joseph was an instrument in God’s hands. Next, read the testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith in the Pearl of Great Price or in this pamphlet, now in 158 languages. You can find it online at LDS.org or with the missionaries. This is Joseph’s own testimony of what actually occurred. Read it often. Consider recording the testimony of Joseph Smith in your own voice, listening to it regularly, and sharing it with friends. Listening to the Prophet’s testimony in your own voice will help bring the witness you seek." - Elder Neil L. Anderson 

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Meet the Mormons


Have you seen Meet the Mormons yet?  If so, what did you think?  If not, when will you see it?

After watching, and enjoying the film tonight, it occurred to me that I had just met (on the screen at least) some exemplary and exceptionally talented members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  And this is as it should be.  There are certainly many exemplary and exceptionally talented Mormons.

Without going into too much detail, the film Meet the Mormons is a Christ-centered, family focused, service oriented, and genuinely edifying production.  It is simultaneously warm, inviting, light-hearted and humorous.  The testimony of Christ, the Book of Mormon, and the basic doctrinal components of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were all unabashedly present throughout the film, though mostly implicit in the lives of the six families represented.  In short, however it may be received by national or international audiences, Meet the Mormons is a wonderful montage of biographies that pays homage to the vitality and vibrancy of a growing faith.

The beautiful scenery and the variety of personalities in the film accentuate the beauty of the subject matter.  From Alabama to Maryland, from Costa Rica to Germany, from Nepal to Utah, Meet the Mormons invites audiences to take a glimpse into the lives of some ordinary people, who, by small and simple things, have begun to make an extraordinary impact for good in the lives of others.

Meet the Mormons emphasizes the common ground that members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints share with people of all races, ethnicities, religions and backgrounds without sacrificing the unique aspects of the faith.  It shows that each of us has an important piece to play in the symphony of life, and that each of us, with God's help, has the potential to play that piece inspiringly well.

Go see Meet the Mormons.






Friday, October 10, 2014

Mormonism, Liberalism, Conservatism

Mormonism, Liberalism, Conservatism
A Discussion with R. Davis & R. Hancock
BYU 250 SWKT


Which way?

R. Hancock

Introductory thoughts on The Liberal Soul: Applying the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Politics

The Meaning of “Liberal”
· Moral virtue, self-mastery, moderation
· “Liberality” expansive, open to others, communal

Liberalism in American Tradition combined these: Moral Self-Government

Moral self-government depends on shared morality of larger community
· Freedom requires limits, moral framework
· Freedom without limits is not freedom, but radical individualism

Conserving Liberalism
· American Liberalism became its own worst enemy by rejecting defining limits of liberty
· Liberal generosity of spirit severed from traditional moral foundations
· 2 rejections of the limits of liberty – limited constitutional government sacrificed to boundless confidence in bureaucratic state
· Liberty as moral self-government
· Relativism

Bob Dylan: “A self-ordained professor’s tongue…(Eric Clapton)”

The Reign of “Equality”
· Pierre Manent (the adjective “equal” has overwhelmed the noun “liberty”)
· Equality as spiritual ideal = perfect community, ZION?
· But removed from moral & religious context, equality has no content, no rudder

Liberalism as Equality minus Moral Liberty
· Modern liberalism vs. limited constitutional government
· MODERN LIBERALISM PROMOTES BOTH EXTREME INDIVIDUALISM AND EXTREME STATISM
· Zion grounds equality equality in moral & spiritual UNITY: ZION works from the inside out (the state works from the outside in)

Critique of The Liberal Soul
· Challenge is not that we have too much confidence in traditional morality
· Counsel from Apostles and Prophets clearly contradicts the New Liberalism
· E.g. Family Proclamation, Elder Oaks, Elder Christofferson, etc.
· “A God who makes no demands…” – Christofferson

To love liberty truly is to embrace the true boundaries... To love liberalism well, one must love it conservatively

R. Davis

(For a prior discussion of his book, see here.)
Practical Political Scientist
Practical, Welfare, Economic State Liberalism – In Line with the Gospel
Church’s mission: “Care for the Poor and the Needy”
Government as a supplement to caring for the poor and the needy / Government is a tool
Church welfare system vs. Government welfare system - Complementary
Family and Community Resources / Church welfare system is a supplement
Enormous burden to the Church without the government
Goods: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Grants, Loans
Embrace economic liberalism rather than opposing it
Ezra T. Benson (speaking as an individual, not espousing Church doctrine) / Cleon Skousen
We accept services from the government, but say that government is bad
Social Justice = Idea that we treat other people at an equal level, considering those who are most vulnerable to get the most attention, women, religious minorities, racial and ethnic minorities, homosexuals (LDS were considered a persecuted minority before)
How will government policies help the poor?  How do we balance the playing field?
“I am not being dogmatic… I have seen the opposite though.”
Diversity, celebrate political and other aspects of diversity
“Be sensitive” to those who are liberal
“Tone” – venue, time for political discussions
The Liberal Soul is an attempt to fill a hole… to show that there are other people that think differently (Left) – open discussions

Hancock and Davis

- Shared truths, common ground
- Both against extremist economic libertarianism (Glenn Beck, Cleon Skousen, etc.)
- Democratic Party and Republican Party (economic, and political)
- How can you be a Democrat and be LDS? (A question that Davis responds to in his book)
- Social issues
- Self-Reliance, moral self-government cannot be taught by government (Hancock)
- LDS are much too complacent about the pursuit of wealth as a way of life

Questions from the audience

- White middle class – tendency toward Republican party?
- Church welfare system is so effective, why? More effective than overarching welfare system by the government, too large, detached?
- Transparency in government?
- What do you think that the government or Church welfare systems could change to improve the care of the poor?
- Do you know of any particular points in the Republican platform that go against Church doctrine? Davis' response = Gun control, Republicans are willing to be neglectful of the poor

A couple of thoughts from Church Leaders that came to my mind:

- "Now, lest I be accused of proposing quixotic global social programs or of endorsing panhandling as a growth industry, I reassure you that my reverence for principles of industry, thrift, self-reliance, and ambition is as strong as that of any man or woman alive. We are always expected to help ourselves before we seek help from others. Furthermore, I don’t know exactly how each of you should fulfill your obligation to those who do not or cannot always help themselves. But I know that God knows, and He will help you and guide you in compassionate acts of discipleship if you are conscientiously wanting and praying and looking for ways to keep a commandment He has given us again and again." - Elder Jeffrey R. Holland
- “Even with the universally accepted desire to help the poor and needy, the Lord concurs in our goal but warns, “But it must needs be done in mine own way” (D&C 104:16). Otherwise, in our efforts to help, we may actually hurt them. The Lord has taught us the need to promote self-reliance. Even if we are able to help, we should not give or provide what they can and should do for themselves. Everywhere it is tried, the world learns the evils of the dole. Truly God knows best.” - Elder Stanley G. Ellis
- “This peer pressure tries to change a person’s attitudes, if not behavior, by making one feel guilty for giving offense. We seek respectful coexistence with those who point fingers, but when this fear of men tempts us to condone sin, it becomes a “snare” according to the book of Proverbs (seeProverbs 29:25). The snare may be cleverly baited to appeal to our compassionate side to tolerate or even approve of something that has been condemned by God. For the weak of faith, it can be a major stumbling block.” - Elder Lynn G. Robbins

See here for Professor Richard Davis' follow up response in the Deseret News.

Concluding thoughts:
-A lot depends upon one's view of human nature
-For an interesting prophecy from a non-authoritative source, see here

Hanging by a thread?

A Play Proposal

The young C.S. Lewis
"One might imagine a play in which the dramatist introduced himself as a character into his own play and was pelted off the stage as an impudent impostor by the other characters.  It might be a rather good play; if I had any talent for the theatre I'd try my hand at writing it.  But since (as far as I know) such a play doesn't exist, we had better change to a narrative work; a story into which the author puts himself as one of the characters.

We have a real instance of this in Dante's Divine Comedy.  Dante is (1) the muse outside the poem who is inventing the whole thing, and (2) a character inside the poem, whom the other characters meet and with whom they hold conversations.  Where the analogy breaks down is that everything the poem contains is merely imaginary, in that the characters have no free will.  They (the characters) can say to Dante only what Dante (the poet) has decided to put into their mouths.  I do not think we humans are related to God in that way.  I think God can
The not as young C.S. Lewis
make things which not only--like a poet's or novelist's characters--seem to have a partially independent life, but really have it.  But the analogy furnishes a crude model of the Incarnation in two respects: (1) Dante the poet and Dante the character are in a sense one, but in another sense two.  This is a faint and far-off suggestion of what theologians mean by the 'union of the two natures' (divine and human) in Christ.  (2) The other people in the poem meet and see and hear Dante; but they have not even the faintest suspicion that he is making the whole world in which they exist and has a life of his own, outside it, independent of it.

It is the second point which is most relevant. For the Christian story is that Christ was perceived to be God by very few people indeed; perhaps, for a time only by St Peter, who would also, and for the same reason, have found God in space.  For Christ said to Peter, 'Flesh and blood have not taught you this.'  The methods of science do not discover facts of that order." C. S. Lewis, The Seeing Eye, pp. 231-232