Friday, December 8, 2017

Understanding the Book of Mormon: A Reader's Guide

Understanding the Book of Mormon, by Grant Hardy
Grant Hardy's Understanding the Book of Mormon: A Reader's Guide is a remarkable book.  It is remarkable in terms of Hardy's very close and careful reading of the Book of Mormon, but it is even more remarkable for the way in which it inspires both experienced readers and skeptics alike to take a closer look at the Book of Mormon.  If you think that you have read the Book of Mormon closely and carefully, I encourage you to read Hardy's Understanding the Book of Mormon: A Reader's Guide to catch a glimpse of what you might have missed.

In his article "The Book of Mormon: A Great Answer to 'The Great Question'", Elder Neal A. Maxwell expressed his eagerness to broaden and deepen his understanding of the Book of Mormon: 

"For my part, I am glad the book will be with us 'as long as the earth shall stand.' I need and want additional time. For me, towers, courtyards, and wings await inspection. My tour of it has never been completed. Some rooms I have yet to enter, and there are more flaming fireplaces waiting to warm me. Even the rooms I have glimpsed contain further furnishings and rich detail yet to be savored. There are panels inlaid with incredible insights and design and decor dating from Eden. There are also sumptuous banquet tables painstakingly prepared by predecessors which await all of us. Yet, we as Church members sometimes behave like hurried tourists, scarcely venturing beyond the entry hall to the mansion."

In a similar vein, Hardy has explored many of the towers, courtyards, and wings of the Book of Mormon.  He has entered rooms and found fireplaces, furnishings, panels, decor, and banquet tables that may have escaped the notice of rushed readers.  Hardy ventures beyond the entry hall, into the mansion, and his exploration invites us to do the same.  Whether we have been hurried tourists or skeptics in the past, Hardy's Understanding the Book of Mormon: A Reader's Guide invites us to enter the Book of Mormon mansion with a fresh perspective.  

In some instances, Hardy stretches his interpretations beyond credible speculation.  Nevertheless, for the most part, his study of the Book of Mormon is enhanced by his capacious knowledge of world religions and his keen literary interests.  Throughout his book, Hardy highlights the editorial efforts of the three major prophet-historians of the Book of Mormon, namely Nephi, Mormon, and Moroni.  The result is a panoply of penetrating insights into a book that for good reason members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints regard as a "marvelous work and a wonder."

There is simply too much in Hardy's book, and even more in the Book of Mormon itself, to appreciate in one short blog post.  But it is a such pleasure to read Understanding the Book of Mormon: A Reader's Guide in part because it allows the reader to enter into a conversation with someone who treasures the book enough to read it carefully.  The Book of Mormon is anything but "chloroform in print."  Critics have wrongly supposed that the Book of Mormon is not "one of those books that must be read in order to have an opinion of it."  The Book of Mormon does not easily reward the casual or cavalier reader.  Grant Hardy's Understanding the Book of Mormon: A Reader's Guide demonstrates that the Book of Mormon brims with meaning for those who are willing to pay the price of careful study.  But you don't have take my word for it.







Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Galilee Grill



"I opened Galilee Grill and Bakery to share with our community the wonderful flavors that I grow up with in Nazareth. My family was in the Pita bread business, both in making bakery machines and in running bakeries in Nazareth. I even built some of the machines that we use to make our pita bread in Lehi, from family designs. The pita bread you find at our bakery is almost identical to a pita bread you would buy on the streets of Nazareth. Keeping our food authentic and true to the traditional recipes of the Holy Land has been an important part of our menu choices. Where possible we have expanded to offer as a wider variety as possible from other countries in the Middle East. We even use a more expensive imported brand of Tahini because to keep our flavors as authentic as possible.
I am committed to our guests' satisfaction, we are humans and make mistakes. So if you are not satisfied with your food for any reason, please talk to a manager and they will be happy to do what is necessary to resolve the situation to your satisfaction. If you are still not satisfied, then I am not satisfied. Please send me an email at hello@galileegrill.com.  We do appreciate your business."
Regards,

Ehab Abunuwara

A First Faint Gleam of Heaven

C.S. Lewis
"[To have Faith in Christ] means, of course, trying to do all that He says. There would be no sense in saying you trusted a person if you would not take his advice. Thus if you have really handed yourself over to Him, it must follow that you are trying to obey Him. But trying in a new way, a less worried way. Not doing these things in order to be saved, but because He has begun to save you already. Not hoping to get to Heaven as a reward for your actions, but inevitably wanting to act in a certain way because a first faint gleam of Heaven is already inside you."

Friday, December 1, 2017

Sehnsucht


C.S. Lewis
What is Sehnsucht?
  • "If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world." - C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
  • "In speaking of this desire for our own far off country, which we find in ourselves even now, I feel a certain shyness. I am almost committing an indecency. I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you—the secret which hurts so much that you take your revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism and Adolescence; the secret also which pierces with such sweetness that when, in very intimate conversation, the mention of it becomes imminent, we grow awkward and affect to laugh at ourselves; the secret we cannot hide and cannot tell, though we desire to do both. We cannot tell it because it is a desire for something that has never actually appeared in our experience. We cannot hide it because our experience is constantly suggesting it, and we betray ourselves like lovers at the mention of a name. Our commonest expedient is to call it beauty and behave as if that had settled the matter. Wordsworth’s expedient was to identify it with certain moments in his own past. But all this is a cheat. If Wordsworth had gone back to those moments in the past, he would not have found the thing itself, but only the reminder of it; what he remembered would turn out to be itself a remembering. The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshipers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited." - C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory
  • "It appeared to me therefore that if a man diligently followed this desire, pursuing the false objects until their falsity appeared and then resolutely abandoning them, he must come out at last into the clear knowledge that the human soul was made to enjoy some object that is never fully given--nay, cannot even be imagined as given--in our present mode of subjective and spatio-temporal experience. This Desire was, in the soul, as the Siege Perilous in Arthur's castle--the chair in which only one could sit. And if nature makes nothing in vain, the One who can sit in this chair must exist. I knew only too well how easily the longing accepts false objects and through what dark ways the pursuit of them leads us: but I also saw that the Desire itself contains the corrective of all these errors. The only fatal error was to pretend that you had passed from desire to fruition, when, in reality, you had found either nothing, or desire itself, or the satisfaction of some different desire. The dialectic of Desire, faithfully followed, would retrieve all mistakes, head you off from all false paths, and . . . to propound, but to live through, a sort of ontological proof. This lived dialectic, and the merely argued dialectic of my philosophical progress, seemed to have converged on one goal; accordingly I tried to put them both into my allegory which thus became a defence of Romanticism (in my peculiar sense) as well as of Reason and Christianity." - C.S. Lewis, Pilgrim's Regress
  • "That unnameable something, desire for which pierces us like a rapier at the smell of bonfire, the sound of wild ducks flying overhead, the title of The Well at the World’s End, the opening lines of Kubla Khan, the morning cobwebs in late summer, or the noise of falling waves." - C.S. Lewis, Pilgrim's Regress
  • "It still seemed to be early and the morning freshness was in the air. They kept on stopping to look round and to look behind them, partly because it was so beautiful but partly also because there was something about it which they could not understand.
  • “Peter,” said Lucy, “where is this, do you suppose?”
  • “I don’t know,” said the High King. “It reminds me of somewhere but I can’t give it a name. Could it be somewhere we once stayed for a holiday when we were very, very small?”
  • “It would have to have been a jolly good holiday,” said Eustace. “I bet there isn’t a country like this anywhere in our world. Look at the colors. You couldn’t get a blue like the blue on those mountains in our world. . . .”
  • Lucy said, “They’re different. They have more colors on them and they look further away than I remembered and they’re more … more … oh, I don’t know.…”
  • “More like the real thing,” said the Lord Digory softly. - C.S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Last Battle

Sanity and Genius

G.K. Chesterton
  • “It is indeed, an absurd exaggeration to say that we are all mad, just as it is true that we are none of us perfectly healthy. If there were to appear in the world a perfectly sane man, he would certainly be locked up. The terrible simplicity with which he would walk over our minor morbidities, or sulky vanities and malicious self-righteousness; the elephantine innocence with which he would ignore our fictions or civilization—these would make him a thing more desolating and inscrutable than a thunderbolt or a beast of prey. It may be that the great prophets who appeared to mankind as mad were in reality raving with an impotent sanity."
- G.K. Chesterton, Lunacy and Letters
  • "Genius ought to be centric. It ought to be the core of the cosmos, not on the revolving edges. People seem to think it a compliment to accuse one of being an outsider, and to talk about the eccentricities of genius. What would they think, if I said I only wish to God I had the centricities of genius."
- G.K. Chesterton, The Poet and the Lunatics

Saturday, November 18, 2017

M.C. Escher: Other Worlds

M.C. Escher, Drawing Hands

Maurits Cornelis Escher was an interesting character.  Like Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and Dürer before him, Escher was left-handed.  He lived in Italy for thirteen years, where he met and married Jetta Umiker.  He developed a fascination with the Regular Division of the Plane after visiting the Alhambra in Spain.  Even though he never claimed an expertise in mathematics, many of his works combine mathematical precision with creativity.  If you have the opportunity, come explore the other worlds of M.C. Escher at the BYU Museum of Art.

M.C. Escher, Hand with Reflecting Sphere

Friday, November 17, 2017

The King's Singers

The King's Singers
Last night I had the opportunity to attend The King's Singers concert at BYU.  It was a celebration of the 50th anniversary of The King's Singers, featuring a wide variety of songs, all of which were superb.  

The first song, A Prayer of King Henry VI, was hauntingly beautiful and it set the tone for the rest of the concert.  They sang Claude Jeune's Revecy venir du Printans, Les Marins de Kermor, a beautiful song about French mariners, and even a few songs by The Beatles (I'll Follow the Sun, And I Love Her, Honey Pie).  After standing ovations, The King's Singers treated their Mormon audience with a medley of primary songs.  It was simply stupendous.  (Thanks to my parents for the tickets.  For more songs by the King's Singers, click here, and for a bonus song, click here). 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Hours Never to Be Forgotten

John W. Welch

Last night I had the opportunity to attend the biennial Laura F. Wilkes Book of Mormon Lecture.  Professor John W. Welch delivered a fine lecture about the timing of the translation of the Book of Mormon.  Welch explained many meticulous details about the translation process, including estimates of the time that was spent to complete the work of translation.  According to Welch, the maximum number of possible days available for the translation of the Book of Mormon from April 7 to June 30, 1829 is 74 days, but it is possible that Joseph Smith and his scribes accomplished the work of translation (269,510 words) in as few as 58 days. (see also here)  Welch's research on the Book of Mormon translation timeline is also available in the second edition of his edited volume Opening the Heavens: Accounts of Divine Manifestations, 1820-1844

Welch's lecture was insightful and faith promoting, but I was particularly impressed by the events that inspired his meticulous research.  In 1985, Elder Neal A. Maxwell posed a simple question to him: "How long did it take Joseph Smith to translate the Book of Mormon?"  Welch interspersed a few other noteworthy statements by Elder Maxwell throughout his presentation:

"These were days never to be forgotten—to sit under the sound of a voice dictated by the inspiration of heaven, awakened the utmost gratitude of this bosom! Day after day I continued, uninterrupted, to write from his mouth, as he translated with the Urim and Thummim, or, as the Nephites would have said, ‘Interpreters,’ the history or record called ‘The Book of Mormon.’

To notice, in even few words, the interesting account given by Mormon and his faithful son, Moroni, of a people once beloved and favored of heaven, would supersede my present design; I shall therefore defer this to a future period, and, as I said in the introduction, pass more directly to some few incidents immediately connected with the rise of this Church, which may be entertaining to some thousands who have stepped forward, amid the frowns of bigots and the calumny of hypocrites, and embraced the Gospel of Christ.

No men, in their sober senses, could translate and write the directions given to the Nephites from the mouth of the Savior, of the precise manner in which men should build up His Church, and especially when corruption had spread an uncertainty over all forms and systems practiced among men, without desiring a privilege of showing the willingness of the heart by being buried in the liquid grave, to answer a ‘good conscience by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.’

After writing the account given of the Savior’s ministry to the remnant of the seed of Jacob, upon this continent, it was easy to be seen, as the prophet said it would be, that darkness covered the earth and gross darkness the minds of the people. On reflecting further it was as easy to be seen that amid the great strife and noise concerning religion, none had authority from God to administer the ordinances of the Gospel. For the question might be asked, have men authority to administer in the name of Christ, who deny revelations, when His testimony is no less than the spirit of prophecy, and His religion based, built, and sustained by immediate revelations, in all ages of the world when He has had a people on earth? If these facts were buried, and carefully concealed by men whose craft would have been in danger if once permitted to shine in the faces of men, they were no longer to us; and we only waited for the commandment to be given ‘Arise and be baptized.’

This was not long desired before it was realized. The Lord, who is rich in mercy, and ever willing to answer the consistent prayer of the humble, after we had called upon Him in a fervent manner, aside from the abodes of men, condescended to manifest to us His will. On a sudden, as from the midst of eternity, the voice of the Redeemer spake peace to us, while the veil was parted and the angel of God came down clothed with glory, and delivered the anxiously looked for message, and the keys of the Gospel of repentance. What joy! what wonder! what amazement! While the world was racked and distracted—while millions were groping as the blind for the wall, and while all men were resting upon uncertainty, as a general mass, our eyes beheld, our ears heard, as in the ‘blaze of day’; yes, more—above the glitter of the May sunbeam, which then shed its brilliancy over the face of nature! Then his voice, though mild, pierced to the center, and his words, ‘I am thy fellow-servant,’ dispelled every fear. We listened, we gazed, we admired! ’Twas the voice of an angel from glory, ’twas a message from the Most High! And as we heard we rejoiced, while His love enkindled upon our souls, and we were wrapped in the vision of the Almighty! Where was room for doubt? Nowhere; uncertainty had fled, doubt had sunk no more to rise, while fiction and deception had fled forever!

But, dear brother, think, further think for a moment, what joy filled our hearts, and with what surprise we must have bowed, (for who would not have bowed the knee for such a blessing?) when we received under his hand the Holy Priesthood as he said, ‘Upon you my fellow-servants, in the name of Messiah, I confer this Priesthood and this authority, which shall remain upon earth, that the Sons of Levi may yet offer an offering unto the Lord in righteousness!’

I shall not attempt to paint to you the feelings of this heart, nor the majestic beauty and glory which surrounded us on this occasion; but you will believe me when I say, that earth, nor men, with the eloquence of time, cannot begin to clothe language in as interesting and sublime a manner as this holy personage. No; nor has this earth power to give the joy, to bestow the peace, or comprehend the wisdom which was contained in each sentence as they were delivered by the power of the Holy Spirit! Man may deceive his fellow-men, deception may follow deception, and the children of the wicked one may have power to seduce the foolish and untaught, till naught but fiction feeds the many, and the fruit of falsehood carries in its current the giddy to the grave; but one touch with the finger of his love, yes, one ray of glory from the upper world, or one word from the mouth of the Savior, from the bosom of eternity, strikes it all into insignificance, and blots it forever from the mind. The assurance that we were in the presence of an angel, the certainty that we heard the voice of Jesus, and the truth unsullied as it flowed from a pure personage, dictated by the will of God, is to me past description, and I shall ever look upon this expression of the Savior’s goodness with wonder and thanksgiving while I am permitted to tarry; and in those mansions where perfection dwells and sin never comes, I hope to adore in that day which shall never cease."—Messenger and Advocate, vol. 1 (October 1834), pp. 14–16.


Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Keep Moving Forward

Abebe Bikila

Abebe Bikila
When I was very young my mother told me the story of Abebe Bikila.  The only thing that remained in my memory was his name, and the way that my mom would repeat the name.  Abebe Bikila!  Who was Abebe Bikila?  During the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, Abebe Bikila won the marathon and set a world record.  What is even more remarkable, however, is that he won the marathon and set a world record while running barefoot.  (It sounds better in Italian though.Bikila went on to beat his own world record in the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, this time with shoes on his feet.  He was the first man to win the Olympic marathon twice.  He ran 16 marathons and won twelve of them.  The rest of his life story is remarkable as well.  Abebe Bikila!  


(Thanks to my brother Nathaniel for reminding me of this story, and for sharing the link in Italian)
   

Saturday, October 28, 2017

A Grand Night of Opera


Last night I was delighted by "A Grand Night of Opera" in the de Jong Concert Hall of the Franklin S. Harris Fine Arts Center at Brigham Young University.  The BYU school of music, accompanied by the BYU Philharmonic, presented two operas by Giacomo Puccini for the price of one: the tragic Suor Angelica and the comic Gianni Schicchi

Suor Angelica had a tough life.  She had a child out of wedlock, and as a punishment she was sent to a convent where she was forced to sign away her inheritance.  The other nuns in the convent didn't always treat her well.  After many years in the convent, she discovered that her young son had died. Her tender heart was rent with anguish, whereupon she concocted and drank a poisonous potion in order to join her son.  She realized too late that it was also mortal sin to take her own life.  There are many beautiful songs in the opera Suor Angelica, but in the final scene the music and the drama reach a poignant climax as she pleads for forgiveness and then expires.   

The BYU School of music's production of Puccini's Gianni Schicchi had the entire audience in stitches. (See here for a plot summary)  It was as funny as Suor Angelica was sad.  Puccini is better known for his operas Madame Butterfly, Tosca, La Bohème, and Turandot, but his trittico, or his three one act operas, Il tabarro, Suor Angelica, and Gianni Schicchi (the last of which features the famous aria "O Mio Babbino Caro"), are not to be missed.


Thursday, October 26, 2017

The Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village


Several months ago I had the opportunity to visit the largest indoor-outdoor museum complex in the United States, namely The Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village.  Although I still haven't seen Rosa Park's bus, John F. Kennedy's limousine, or Abraham Lincoln's chair from Ford's theater, I did get to see Thomas Edison's laboratory, the Wright Brother's bicycle shop, Robert Frost's home, Noah Webster's library, and much more.

Check out Edison's laboratory...





He had a jar for every element...









Check out these machines...










Robert Frost's home was cozy...




 Webster's library had some fascinating artifacts...






Beautiful gardens...



Plaques...


Statues...


Trains...






Like the Louvre and other museums, there was too much to see in just one day.