Friday, September 19, 2014

Best Trilogy Challenge


I have had the pleasure of reading some good trilogies, for example: Aeschylus' Oresteia, Dante's Divine Comedy, Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, and C.S. Lewis' The Space Trilogy. I have also had the pleasure of watching some good movie trilogies, for example: the original Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Back to the Future, and The Dark Knight trilogy.  But I recently came across a trilogy that, if read, understood, and applied universally, would completely change the world for the better.

If you are seeking for further light and knowledge, might I recommend to you Elder David A. Bednar's new trilogy: Increase in Learning, Act in Doctrine, and Power to Become.  These three edifying, enlightening, and powerful books build upon each other and reveal a pattern for Christian living.  You may have enjoyed many great trilogies before, but this trilogy has the potential to change your life for the better.  I guarantee that you will not be disappointed.



    


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Crowning Glory of Man



"What is the crowning glory of man in this earth so far as his individual achievement is concerned? It is character—character developed through obedience to the laws of life as revealed through the gospel of Jesus Christ, who came that we might have life and have it more abundantly [see John 10:10]. Man’s chief concern in life should not be the acquiring of gold, or of fame, or of material possessions. It should not be the development of physical prowess, nor of intellectual strength, but his aim, the highest in life, should be the development of a Christ-like character." - President David O. McKay

"When obedience ceases to be an irritant and becomes our quest, in that moment God will endow us with power." - President Ezra Taft Benson

"No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God . . . and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire and which will make us more like our Father and Mother in heaven." - Elder Orson F. Whitney

"We consider that God has created man with a mind capable of instruction, and a faculty which may be enlarged in proportion to the heed and diligence given to the light communicated from heaven to the intellect; and that the nearer man approaches perfection, the clearer are his views, and the greater his enjoyments, till he has overcome the evils of his life and lost every desire for sin; and like the ancients, arrives at that point of faith where he is wrapped in the power and glory of his Maker, and is caught up to dwell with Him. But we consider that this is a station to which no man ever arrived in a moment." - The Prophet Joseph Smith

"When you climb up a ladder, you must begin at the bottom, and ascend step by step, until you arrive at the top; and so it is with the principles of the gospel—you must begin with the first, and go on until you learn all the principles of exaltation. But it will be a great while after you have passed through the veil before you will have learned them. It is not all to be comprehended in this world; it will be a great work to learn our salvation and exaltation even beyond the grave." - The Prophet Joseph Smith

"To get salvation we must not only do some things, but everything which God has commanded. Men may preach and practice everything except those things which God commands us to do, and will be damned at last. We may tithe mint and rue, and all manner of herbs, and still not obey the commandments of God [see Luke 11:42]. The object with me is to obey and teach others to obey God in just what He tells us to do. It mattereth not whether the principle is popular or unpopular, I will always maintain a true principle, even if I stand alone in it." - The Prophet Joseph Smith

"I made this my rule: When the Lord commands, do it." - The Prophet Joseph Smith

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Fulness of Mine Intent

"For the fulness of mine intent is that I may persuade men to come unto the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, and be saved.

Wherefore, the things which are pleasing unto the world I do not write, but the things which are pleasing unto God and unto those who are not of the world." 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

I Pity the Fool!

"An effort must be put forth to learn the gospel, to understand it, to comprehend the relationship of its principles. The gospel must be studied, otherwise no test of its truth may sanely be applied to it. That study must be wide, for the gospel is so organized that in it is a place for every truth, of every name and nature. That study must be constantly continued, for the content of the gospel is illimitable.

It is a paradox that men will gladly devote time every day for many years to learn a science or an art; yet will expect to win a knowledge of the gospel, which comprehends all sciences and arts, through perfunctory glances at books or occasional listening to sermons. The gospel should be studied more intensively than any school or college subject. They who pass opinion on the gospel without having given it intimate and careful study are not lovers of truth, and their opinions are worthless." - John A. Widtsoe

"It is our privilege to be as wise in our generation as the children of this world; and not only so, but it is our duty to be as wise in our generation as the children of this world. We have the true light and knowledge, and we ought to know as much as the philosophical world, or as any other people on the earth. We ought at least to know as much about politics as do the political world, or as do any other people. I expect that we do; and if we only apply our minds in the proper time and channel, we know as much about the Christian world as do any other people, and we ought to know as much about the whole world as do any other people. In fact, we ought to know more upon all those matters than any other people; for we are privileged with far superior advantages, through faith and obedience to the Gospel." - Brigham Young 




Joseph Smith and the First Vision: Transparently Sincere and Matter-of-Fact

This evening some friends and I attended a fireside with special guest speaker Elder Marlin K. Jensen, emeritus general authority of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Church Historian.  His message was of necessity brief, but it was also inspiring and instructive. Drawing from the scriptures, episodes in Church history, and personal experiences, Elder Jensen expounded upon the wisdom of acquiring a broad view, and a godly perspective concerning things as they really have been, as they really are, and as they really will be. (see Jacob 4:13) Although LDS scholar Terryl Givens has stated that, "Elder Marlin Jensen has done more to further the cause of Mormon history than any person of the current generation," Elder Jensen himself modestly confessed that he is "not an expert," and that his own work in field of Church history "comes more from yearning than from learning."  Echoing the advice of other Church historians, Elder Jensen counseled the audience "not to study Church history too little."

Elder Jensen also suggested that the study of Church history is like putting together the pieces of a puzzle, and that a wise assembler of puzzles begins with the corners and the borders.  He cautioned the members of the audience to avoid, as much as possible, the error of presentism, or in other words, the propensity to impose modern day perspectives on interpretations of the past.  He commended the work that is being done in Mormon Studies in places such as Claremont College, Utah State Univeristy , the University of Virginia, and Durham, England, and admonished Church members to trace the origins of their own testimonies of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

As part of this admonition, Elder Jensen referenced the work of the poet, author and former professor of English at Brigham Young University, Arthur Henry King.  In his excellent and edifying book The Abundance of the Heart, King recounted the story of his conversion to the Gospel of Jesus Christ:

"I am glad that the first thing they [the missionaries] did was to give me the pamphlet on Joseph Smith’s vision. The style of the Joseph Smith story immediately struck me. He spoke to me, as soon as I read his testimony, as a great writer, transparently sincere and matter-of-fact. . . . When Joseph Smith describes his visions, he describes them not as a man who feels that he has to make the effort to persuade. He simply states what happened to him, and does it in a way that gives it credence. I am in this church because of the Joseph Smith story; my fundamental act of faith was to accept this as a remarkable document." (Arthur Henry King, The Abundance of the Heart (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1986), 25.

Like Elder Jensen and Arthur Henry King, I too trace the roots of my own testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the transparently sincere and matter-of-fact account of the Prophet Joseph Smith. On occasions too numerous to mention, the power of Joseph Smith's simple story has penetrated my heart and the hearts of those with ears to hear.  I know that it is true.  In answer to his humble prayer for wisdom, Joseph Smith saw God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ.  After this experience, Joseph Smith wrote of his affinity for the Apostle Paul, who was also persecuted for sharing the story of his vision:

"So it was with me. I had actually seen a light, and in the midst of that light I saw two Personages, and they did in reality speak to me; and though I was hated and persecuted for saying that I had seen a vision, yet it was true; and while they were persecuting me, reviling me, and speaking all manner of evil against me falsely for so saying, I was led to say in my heart: Why persecute me for telling the truth? I have actually seen a vision; and who am I that I can withstand God, or why does the world think to make me deny what I have actually seen? For I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it; at least I knew that by so doing I would offend God, and come under condemnation." (JS-History 1:25)



    

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Christianity and Culture

In a brief and excellent essay entitled Christianity and Culture, C.S. Lewis provides an answer to the question "What is the value of culture?"  Here follow a few highlights from the text to prompt discussion:

  • "If a Christian found himself in the position of inaugurating a new society in vacuo he might well decide not to introduce something whose abuse is so easy and whose use is, at any rate, not necessary.  But that is not our position.  The abuse of culture is already there, and will continue whether Christians cease to be cultured or not.  It is therefore probably better that the ranks of the 'culture-sellers' should include some Christians- as an antidote.  It may even be the duty of some Christians to be culture-sellers." (The Seeing Eye, p. 27)
  • "On these grounds I conclude that culture has a distinct part to play in bringing souls to Christ.  Not all souls- there is a shorter, and safer, way which has always been followed by thousands of simple affectional natures who begin, where we hope to end, with devotion to the person of Christ." (The Seeing Eye, p. 31)
  • "Most men must glorify God by doing to His glory something which is not per se an act of glorifying but which becomes so by being offered.  If, as I now hope, cultural activities are innocent and even useful, then they also (like the sweeping of the room in Herbert's poem) can be done to the Lord.  The work of a charwoman and the work of a poet become spiritual in the same way and on the same condition." (The Seeing Eye, p. 32)
  • "The salvation of souls is a means to the glorifying of God because only saved souls can duly glorify Him.  The thing to which, on my view, culture must be subordinated, is not (although it includes) mortal virtue, but the conscious direction of all will and desire to a transcendental Person in whom I believe all values to reside, and the reference to Him in every thought and act." (The Seeing Eye, p. 35)
  • "The tendency is easily observed among children; friendship wavers when you discover that a hitherto trusted playmate actually likes prunes. But even for adults it is ‘sweet, sweet, sweet poison’ to feel able to imply ‘thus saith the Lord’ at the end of every expression of our pet aversion. To avoid this horrible danger we must perpetually try to distinguish, however closely they get entwined both by the subtle nature of the facts and by the secret importunity of our passions, those attitudes in a writer which we can honestly and confidently condemn as real evils, and those qualities in his writing which simply annoy and offend us as men of taste." (The Seeing Eye, p. 41)
  • "There is no neutral ground in the universe: every square inch, every split second, is claimed by God and counter claimed by Satan."
These are some highlights, but I recommend a perusal of the entire essay.

Christianity and Literature


Perhaps one should not be surprised that even after much searching online, I have not been able to locate the complete text of C.S. Lewis' 1939 essay entitled Christianity and Literature.  However, Walter Hooper reprinted this paper in a compilation of essays to which he applied the title The Seeing Eye.  One should probably be even less surprised that even as a Comparative Literature major at a Christian university, I was never once introduced to this seminal text.  C.S. Lewis' reflections in Christianity and Literature strike me as not only important, but indispensable to the Christian study of literature, as well as to the study of Christian literature.

There are points at which I disagree with Lewis' assertions, but there are far too many gems to extract from this essay to spend too much time in disagreement.  In Lewis' interpretation of the New Testament, Christians are commissioned to become "clean mirrors filled with an image of a face that is not ours," or in other words, pure reflections of the light of the Savior Jesus Christ.  "Applying this principle to literature," Lewis continues, "we should get as the basis of all critical theory the maxim that an author should never conceive himself as bringing into existence beauty or wisdom which did not exist before, but simply and solely as trying to embody in terms of his own art some reflection of eternal Beauty and Wisdom."

From this maxim Lewis keenly discerned and articulated, among other things, the following morsel of eternal Beauty and Wisdom: "The Christian will take literature a little less seriously than the cultured Pagan... But the Christian knows from the outset that the salvation of a single soul is more important than the production or preservation of all the epics and tragedies in the world: and as for superiority, he knows that the vulgar since they include most of the poor probably include most of his superiors.  He has no objection to comedies that merely amuse and tales that merely refresh; for he thinks like Thomas Aquinas ipsa ratio hoc habet, ut quandoque rationis usus intercipiatur (reason itself demands that the use of reason be interrupted at times).  We can play, as we can eat, to the glory of God."

"It is not hard to argue," Lewis concludes, "that all the greatest poems have been made by men who valued something else much more than poetry- even if that something else were only cutting down enemies in a cattle-raid or tumbling a girl in a bed."

If that "something else" happened to be, as Paul extols in his first epistle to the Corinthians, that which ought to be prized above all else, imagine the poems that might still remain to be written!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

There is No Death


I had thought to end my reading of visionary accounts written by those who have had near death experiences until my mom told me about a book called There is No Death.  After reading it, there is nothing in the account that would cause me to think that its author, Sarah LaNelle Menet, was at all dissembling or prevaricating.  In fact, considering the striking similarities between There is No Death and Visions of Glory,  I am inclined to believe that both authors were telling the truth.

If this is indeed the case (and I'm persuaded that it is), we have much to learn from those who have temporarily departed this life and returned to tell about it.  I enjoyed Menet's account because of its simplicity and straight-forward message.  Her perspectives on life and the after life contain lessons and warnings that would prove valuable to anyone who reads them.  If you, like me, are a mortal being subject to pain, suffering, and death, I surmise that this brief book might contain potentially life changing material.

Menet endured very difficult trials early in her life, and she experienced tribulation throughout her life. Much of her history was painful just to read. But her descriptions of the world of spirits and the future are powerful and captivating.  If Menet's story is true (and I'm persuaded that it is), there is trouble ahead, but there are also great blessings to be enjoyed.  Her list of lessons that she learned in the spirit world is beautiful and inspiring, a testimony that good triumphs over evil because God is in control.

I have yet to read the final chapter in which Menet responds to commonly asked questions, but after reading up to this point, I am persuaded that every human being could profit from considering the valuable insights that this book contains.  But you don't have to take my word for it.  


Monday, September 1, 2014

Signs of the Times



Signs of the Times

"Events or experiences that God gives to people to show that something important in his work has happened or will soon happen. In the latter days, many signs for the second coming of the Savior have been prophesied. These signals allow faithful people to recognize God’s plan, be warned, and prepare."

2 Timothy 3

- perilous times shall come
- men shall be lovers of their own selves
- covetous
- boasters
- proud
- blasphemers
- disobedient to parents
- unthankful 
- unholy
- without natural affection
- trucebreakers
- false accusers
- incontinent
- fierce
- despisers of those that are good
- traitors
- heady
- highminded
- lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God
- having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.
- creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts
- ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth
- resist the truth
- men of corrupt minds
- reprobate concerning the faith
- evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived

Joseph Smith - Matthew

- deceivers shall come claiming to be Christ
- true disciples of Jesus Christ shall be delivered up to be afflicted and killed
- true disciples of Jesus Christ shall be hated of all nations
- many shall be offended
- many shall betray one another
- many shall hate one another
- many false prophets shall arise and deceive many
- because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold
- the Abomination of Desolation (Daniel)
- the destruction of Jerusalem
- great tribulation on the Jews and the inhabitants of Jerusalem
- false Christs
- false prophets
- signs and wonders to deceive (if possible) even the elect
- wars and rumors of wars
- elect gathered from the four quarters of the earth
- nation shall rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom
- famines
- pestilences
- earthquakes
- the Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in all the world
- the destruction of the wicked
- after these tribulations, the sun darkened, the moon shall not give her light, the stars fall, the    
  powers of heaven shaken
- heaven and earth shall pass away
- then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven
- the tribes of the earth mourn
- they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory
- whoso treasureth up the word of God shall not be deceived
- the parable of the fig tree
- no one but God himself knows the time of the second coming
- it will be as the time of Noah
- watch, be ready
- ever be found doing the work of the Lord

D&C 38

- powers of darkness prevail upon the earth
- the enemy is combined
- mystery, a thing which is had in secret chambers, to bring to pass even your destruction in process
  of time, and ye knew it not
- the enemy in secret chambers seeketh your life
- ye hear of wars in far countries, and you say that there will soon be great wars in far countries, but   ye know not the hearts of men in your own land
- if ye are prepared, ye shall not fear
- go ye out from among the wicked
- be clean

D&C 45

- temple in Jerusalem destroyed
- Jews scattered
- times of the Gentiles shall be fulfilled
- Jews shall be gathered again
- wars and rumors of wars
- the whole earth shall be in commotion
- men's hearts shall fail them
- men shall say that Christ delayeth his coming until the end of the earth
- the love of men shall wax cold, and iniquity shall abound
- a light shall break forth among them that sit in darkness, the fulness of the Gospel
- an overflowing scourge, a desolating sickness shall cover the land
- true disciples of Christ shall stand in holy places, and shall not be moved; but among the wicked,
  men shall lift up their voices and curse God and die
- earthquakes in diverse places
- many desolations
- men will harden their hearts against the Lord
- men will take up the sword, one against another, and they will kill one another
- be not troubled, parable of the fig tree
- signs and wonders, in the heavens and in the earth
- blood
- fire
- vapors of smoke
- sun shall be darkened
- moon turned to blood
- stars fall from heaven
- the remnant shall be gathered
- Christ shall come in the clouds of heaven, clothed with power and great glory
- saints that have slept shall rise up to meet the Lord
- the arm of the Lord shall fall upon the nations
- the Lord shall set his foot upon the mount and the mount shall cleave in twain
- the earth shall reel to and fro
- the earth shall tremble
- the heavens shall shake
- the Lord shall utter his voice, and all the ends of the earth shall hear it
- the nations shall mourn, they that have laughed shall see their folly
- calamity shall cover the mocker
- the scorner shall be consumed
- they that have watched for iniquity shall be hewn down and cast into the fire
- the Jews shall meet the Lord, and weep because of their iniquities, and because they persecuted
  their king
- the heathen nations shall be redeemed
- Satan shall be bound, he shall have no place in the hearts of the children of men
- the parable of the ten virgins shall be fulfilled
- they that are wise and have received the truth, and have taken the Holy Spirit for their guide, and
  have not been deceived... shall not be hewn down and cast into the fire, but shall abide the day
- meek shall inherit the earth
- Lord will be in their midst as King and Lawgiver
- wars in foreign lands
- wars in your own lands
- repentance declared
- New Jerusalem

D&C 101

- jarrings, contentions, envyings, strifes, lustful and covetous desires, slow to hearken unto the
  voice of the Lord
- gathering
- veil of the temple removed, all see the Lord together
- corruptible things consumed
- elements melt with fervent heat, all things become new
- enmity shall cease
- Satan bound
- millennial promises, no sorrow, no death, all things revealed, parable of the watchmen
- redemption of Zion
- parable of the woman and the unjust judge

D&C 133

- the Lord will come to His temple and make bare his arm
- saints go out from Babylon, gathering of Israel
- Judah flees to Jerusalem
- the Lamb shall stand upon mount Zion, and 144,000
- the Lord shall speak, mountains crumble, islands become one land, Savior shall reign on earth
- north countries, ice flows down, highway, blessings on Ephraim, blessings on House of Israel
- Gospel preached to all the earth
- The Lord appears in red apparel and in great glory
- Enoch, Noah and other prophets present
- graves open, saints arise, weak things of the earth thresh the nations
- day that burns as an oven

(These are just a few of the things that have been recorded, and there are many others, such as those found in Moses 7MalachiDanielIsaiah and Revelation)

Thursday, August 28, 2014

How to Write an Introduction to a Book Worth Reading

Now this is how to write an introduction to a book worth reading!  Here is an English translation of Al-Ghazali's introduction to The Incoherence of the Philosophers:

"We ask God in His majesty that transcends all bounds and His munificence that goes beyond all ends to shed upon us the lights of His guidance and to snatch away from us the darkness of waywardness and error; to make us among those who saw the truth as truth, preferring to pursue and follow Its paths, and who saw false as false, choosing to avoid and shun it; to bring us to the felicity He promised His Prophets and saints; to make us attain that rapture and gladness, favored bliss and joy (once we depart from this abode of delusion) from whose heights the greatest ascents of the understanding stand low and from whose distanced stretches the utmost reaches of the arrows of the imagination waste away; to grant us, after arriving at the bliss of paradise and emerging from the terror of the judgment day, “that which neither eye has seen nor ear, heard, nor occurred to the heart of men,” and that He may bestow His prayers and His assured peace upon our prophet, the chosen, Muhammad, the best of men, and upon his virtuous family and his companions pure, keys of guidance and lanterns in the dark."

A Professor in a Garden Relaxing

Today a professor in a garden relaxing 
Like Plato of old in the academe shade
Spoke out in a manner I never had heard him
And this is one of the things that he said:

Suppose that we state as a tenet of wisdom
That knowledge is not for delight of the mind
Nor an end in itself, but a packet of treasure
To hold and employ for the good of mankind.

A torch or a candle is barren of meaning
Except it give light to men as they climb,
And thesis and tomes are but impotent jumble
Unless they are tools in the building of time.

We scholars toil on with the zeal of a miner
For nuggets and nuggets and one nugget more,
But scholars are needed to study the uses
Of all the great mass of data and lore.

And truly our tireless and endless researches
Need yoking with man’s daily problems and strife,
For truth and beauty and virtue have value
Confirmed by their uses in practical life. 

[Anonymous] (another reference to this poem

Friday, August 22, 2014

Mortality

In regards to a poem entitled Mortality, Abraham Lincoln once remarked that, "I would give all I am worth, and go in debt, to be able to write so fine a piece as I think that is."  Lincoln memorized the poem and recited it so often that some people thought he was the author.  Of course there have been poems written about Abraham Lincoln, and Lincoln also wrote his own poetry, but this particular poem was composed in 1824 by the Scottish Poet William Knox.  The poem was included in a collection of poetry entitled The Songs of Israel.  

Mortality

By William Knox

Oh! why should the spirit of mortal be proud?
Like a swift-fleeting meteor, a fast-flying cloud
A flash of the lightning, a break of the wave
He passeth from life to his rest in the grave.

The leaves of the oak and the willow shall fade,
Be scattered around, and together be laid;
And the young and the old, and the low and the high,
Shall moulder to dust, and together shall lie.

The infant a mother attended and loved;
The mother that infant's affection who proved;
The husband, that mother and infant who blest,--
Each, all, are away to their dwellings of rest.

The maid on whose cheek, on whose brow, in whose eye,
Shone beauty and pleasure, -- her triumphs are by;
And the memory of those who loved her and praised,
Are alike from the minds of the living erased.

The hand of the king that the sceptre hath borne,
The brow of the priest that the mitre hath worn,
The eye of the sage, and the heart of the brave,
Are hidden and lost in the depths of the grave.

The peasant, whose lot was to sow and to reap,
The herdsman, who climbed with his goats up the steep,
The beggar, who wandered in search of his bread,
Have faded away like the grass that we tread.

The saint, who enjoyed the communion of Heaven,
The sinner, who dared to remain unforgiven,
The wise and the foolish, the guilty and just,
Have quietly mingled their bones in the dust.

So the multitude goes -- like the flower or the weed
That withers away to let others succeed;
So the multitude comes -- even those we behold,
To repeat every tale that has often been told.

For we are the same our fathers have been;
We see the same sights our fathers have seen;
We drink the same stream, we view the same sun,
And run the same course our fathers have run.

The thoughts we are thinking, our fathers would think;
From the death we are shrinking, our fathers would shrink;
To the life we are clinging, they also would cling; --
But it speeds from us all like a bird on the wing.

They loved -- but the story we cannot unfold;
They scorned -- but the heart of the haughty is cold;
They grieved -- but no wail from their slumber will come;
They joyed -- but the tongue of their gladness is dumb.

They died -- ay, they died; -- we things that are now,
That walk on the turf that lies over their brow,
And make in their dwellings a transient abode;
Meet the things that they met on their pilgrimage road.

Yea! hope and despondency, pleasure and pain,
Are mingled together in sunshine and rain;
And the smile and the tear, the song and the dirge,
Still follow each other, like surge upon surge.

'Tis the wink of an eye -- 'tis the draught of a breath--
From the blossom of health to the paleness of death,
From the gilded saloon to the bier and the shroud:--
Oh! why should the spirit of mortal be proud?

A Proverb


"The light of the eyes rejoiceth the heart: and a good report maketh the bones fat." Proverbs 15:30

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Share Goodness

"The building up of Zion is a cause that has interested the people of God in every age; it is a theme upon which prophets, priests and kings have dwelt with peculiar delight; they have looked forward with joyful anticipation to the day in which we live; and fired with heavenly and joyful anticipations they have sung and written and prophesied of this our day; . . . we are the favored people that God has [chosen] to bring about the Latter-day glory." - The Prophet Joseph Smith
In 2009 Elder David A. Bednar spoke to the youth of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on the topic of technology and Things as They Really Are.  As a follow up to that talk, Elder Bednar recently called for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to assist the Lord in sweeping the earth with truth and righteousness.  It is an inspiring and an uplifting message that I would like to include in my blog, The Good Report, because it is good, and because it expands upon the purpose of this blog in a way that only an ordained Apostle of Jesus Christ could do. Enjoy!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Stories of Glory


"There are among us many loose writings predicting the calamities which are about to overtake us. Some of these have been publicized as though they were necessary to wake up the world to the horrors about to overtake us. Many of these are from sources upon which there cannot be unquestioned reliance. We need no such publications to be forewarned, if we were only conversant with what the scriptures have already spoken to us in plainness." - President Harold B. Lee

There has been a lot of buzz lately among certain members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints about a strange book that was published not too long ago, a book that recounts one man's out of body experiences and his visions of apocalyptic events.  The book itself is quite fascinating, but the most curious thing about the book might be how it has been received.  I have spoken with those who come close to esteeming Visions of Glory as another volume of scripture, and with others who consider it to be a dangerous tool of deception.  My first inclination was to ignore the book, since those who were eager to present it to me seemed to be lacking in judgment, but then I stumbled across an article in Meridian Magazine that, for all intents and purposes, excoriated the book.  Naturally, this further piqued my curiosity.

The reports that I received of this book came from three main sources: 1. eccentric individuals who had read the book and considered it to be a sacred new record, 2. less eccentric individuals who had read the book and considered it to be misleading, and 3. even less eccentric individuals who had not read the book, but who did not need to read it in order to have a negative opinion of it.  None of these sources seemed right to me, so I decided to go directly to the original source to find out for myself.

Fortunately the FAIR Mormon website contains a much more exhaustive review of John Pontius' controversial book.  I admit that I was less troubled by the eccentric individuals who revere the book as scripture, and even less troubled by the fantastic claims made in the book itself, then by those who discouraged a reading of Visions of Glory altogether.  Although I wouldn't necessarily recommend this book to others, I certainly hope that the average member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is intelligent and perceptive enough to discern between truth and error, and to judge for himself or herself if their is anything of value to be drawn from it.

While translating the Old Testament, the Prophet Joseph Smith arrived at the portion of ancient writings called The Apocrypha, and he inquired of the Lord what was to be done.  The Lord revealed to Joseph Smith that it was not needful to translate The Apocrypha, but that those who were enlightened by the gift of the Holy Ghost could obtain benefit therefrom.  Visions of Glory is not the same as The Apocrypha, but at least those who are enlightened by the gift of the Holy Ghost won't be deceived by anything it contains, nor will they be intimidated by the varying reports of the book. The Book of Mormon clearly teaches that "by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things." (Moroni 10:5)  Think of that.  The truth of all things.

Of course Jesus Christ is "the way, the truth, and the life."  But such understanding does not release us from the duty of seeking out truth where ever it may be found.  Elder Orson F. Whitney, an early apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was fond of repeating the couplet: "Truth is truth where'er 'tis found / On Christian or on heathen ground."  "Mormonism is truth," declared the Prophet Joseph Smith, "The first and fundamental principle of our holy religion is, that we believe that we have a right to embrace all, and every item of truth, without limitation or … being … prohibited by the creeds or superstitious notions of men."

With an understanding that Jesus Christ is the Truth, and that the gift of the Holy Ghost as manifest through the teachings of his prophets and apostles, both ancient and modern, constitutes the bedrock of truth, it is not difficult to discern that which may be of value in John Pontius' Visions of Glory.  I particularly enjoyed the first portion of the book, as well as the peculiarly descriptive details throughout the book.  There were many thought provoking passages, especially in the beginning of the book, but I found that the author's increasingly dizzying and questionable depictions of the last days actually made the simple, correct doctrine of the Standard Works and the living prophets all the more appealing.

In sum, Pontius' stories of glory should be neither feared nor revered.  And should any of us be granted our own true visions of glory, I hope that we will have the good sense to keep such things sacred.  As the Prophet Joseph Smith once taught:

"The reason we do not have secrets of the Lord revealed unto us is because we do not keep them but reveal them; We do not keep our own secrets, but reveal our difficulties to the world, even to our enemies, then how would we keep the secrets of the Lord? I can keep a secret till Doomsday."





  

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Boys from the Mountains

Here is an interesting tidbit from the journal of Mosiah Lyman Hancock, Mormon pioneer and son of Levi W. Hancock:

"The next day the Prophet [Joseph Smith] came to our home and stopped in our carpenter shop and stood by the turning lathe. I went and got my map for him. "Now", he said, "I will show you the travels of this people". He then showed our travels through Iowa, and said, "Here you will make a place for the winter; and here you will travel west until you come to the valley of the Great Salt Lake! You will build cities to the North and to the South, and to the East and to the West; and you will become a great and wealthy people in that land. But, the United States will not receive you with the laws which God desires you to live, and you will have to go to where the Nephites lost their power. They worked in the United Order for 166 years, and the Saints have got to become proficient in the laws of God before they can meet the Lord Jesus Christ, or even the city of Enoch". He said we will not travel the shape of the horse shoe for there we will await the action of the government. Placing his finger on the map, I should think about where Snowflake, Arizona is situated, or it could have been Mexico, he said, "The government will not receive you with the laws that God designed you to live, and those who are desirous to live the laws of God will have to go South. You will live to see men arise in power in the Church who will seek to put down your friends and the friends of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Many will be hoisted because of their money and the worldly learning which they seem to be in possession of; and many who are the true followers of our Lord and Savior will be cast down because of their poverty. There will be two great political parties in this country. One will be called the Republican, and the other the Democrat party. These two parties will go to war and out of these two parties will spring another party which will be the Independent American Party. The United States will spend her strength and means warring in foreign lands until other nations will say, "Let's divide up the lands of the United States", then the people of the U. S. will unite and swear by the blood of their fore-fathers, that the land shall not be divided. Then the country will go to war, and they will fight until one half of the U. S. army will give up, and the rest will continue to struggle. They will keep on until they are very ragged and discouraged, and almost ready to give up--when the boys from the mountains will rush forth in time to save the American Army from defeat and ruin. And they will say, 'Brethren, we are glad you have come; give us men, henceforth, who can talk with God'. Then you will have friends, but you will save the country when it's liberty hangs by a hair, as it were".

A Comedy of Terror

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Measure for Measure

Last weekend a friend, a few relatives and I had the privilege of attending a riveting performance of William Shakespeare's Measure for Measure at the Cedar City, Utah Shakespeare Festival.  As the play bill presents it: "Can goodness survive in a corrupt society? Can evil be meted out, with justice and mercy? Can chaste, innocent Isabella endure the foul machinations of those around her? Shakespeare, in this seldom-produced but daring 'dark comedy,' tests integrity and decency to their limits. But, in the end, Isabella remains virtuous, and truth proves stronger than swords and evil men."  Of course, there is much more to it than that.  If you have some leisure, and you seek wisdom's treasure, with pleasure I endorse Shakespeare's Measure for Measure. (Click here for the audio, here for the BBC film)

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Ancient Sacrifice

RecessionalRUDYARD KIPLING


1897

God of our fathers, known of old,
Lord of our far-flung battle-line,
Beneath whose awful Hand we hold
Dominion over palm and pine—
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

The tumult and the shouting dies;
The Captains and the Kings depart:
Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,
An humble and a contrite heart.
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

Far-called, our navies melt away;
On dune and headland sinks the fire:
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

If, drunk with sight of power, we loose
Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe,
Such boastings as the Gentiles use,
Or lesser breeds without the Law—
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

For heathen heart that puts her trust
In reeking tube and iron shard,
All valiant dust that builds on dust,
And guarding, calls not Thee to guard,
For frantic boast and foolish word—
Thy mercy on Thy People, Lord!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Greatest Salesman in the World


A friend of mine recently mentioned three titles that rank at or near the top of his list of favorite books: 1. How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie, 2. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen R. Covey, and 3. The Greatest Salesman in the World, by Og Mandino.  Having read the first two, and finding them to contain much good and useful information, I concluded that the last might also contain something worth reading.

For readers who are unfamiliar with these three books, one thing that they each have in common is a strong emphasis on principles of self-improvement.  As someone who has not attained perfection quite yet (shocking, I know), I find such principles not only appealing, but worth exploring (and especially worth applying.)  Another theme common to these three books is that of success, particularly financial success.  As to this last point, Dale Carnegie, Stephen R. Covey and Og Mandino were unquestionably three very successful men.

I admit that it has been quite some time since I last sampled the works of Carnegie or Covey, but Mandino's book struck me as unique in at least three different ways.  First of all, Mandino's The Greatest Salesman in the World is much shorter than the other two.  Second, The Greatest Salesman in the World is a work of historical fiction, set in first century Palestine, that takes it bearings from the birth, life and crucifixion of Jesus Christ.  Third, Mandino's slim publication concludes with a symbolic denouement, and a surprise visit from an exceptional character.  There are many other distinguishing features of Mandino's work, but these three differences strike me as particularly noteworthy.

In The Greatest Salesman in the World, and through three different characters, Mandino weaves a tale of ten secret scrolls that contain the wisdom of the ages.  I won't dare tell you everything that is written on the ten scrolls, nor will I give away the surprise ending (which was by far my favorite part of the whole book), but I will record one important passage from the scrolls that resonates with me:

"And most of all, I will laugh at myself for man is most comical when he takes himself too seriously... Never will I allow myself to become so important, so wise, so dignified, so powerful, that I forget how to laugh at myself and my world.  In this matter I will always remain as a child, for only as a child am I given the ability to look up to others; and so long as I look up to another I will never grow too long for my cot... Only with laughter and happiness can I truly become a success."


 
 
  

Thursday, July 3, 2014

God in America


Tomorrow we celebrate Independence Day for the United States of America, and it is well that we recognize and pay tribute to the roots of our independence.  The United States of America was built first and foremost upon the principle of the freedom of religion, a blessing enshrined in the First Amendment of The Constitution: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

As we celebrate faith, family, and freedom with barbecues, festivities and fireworks, may we remember the roots of our liberty, and the source of all blessings, namely Almighty God.  In anticipation of this great celebration, a couple of educational resources may be of interest to those who would like to learn more about the foundations of freedom:



  • The PBS special God in America traces the history of the intersection between religion and politics in the United States.
  • The Miller Center at the University of Virginia has organized a Presidential Speech Archive that contains some of the most important Presidential Speeches in American history, complete with transcripts.  Some of the speeches are available in their entirety in audio and video.  



Enjoy!  Happy Fourth of July!

Is Scripture Relevant?


"Is scripture relevant?"  Such was the theme of a panel discussion that took place last night at the opening of Zion's Books in Provo, Utah.

The Panelists for this discussion were Joseph Spencer (author of An Other Testament: On Typology and For Zion: A Mormon Theology of Hope), David Bokovoy (author of Authoring the Old Testament: Genesis-Deuteronomy), and Adam Miller (author of Rube Goldberg Machines and Letters to a Young Mormon).  Janiece Johnson (a BYU-Idaho professor of religion) moderated the discussion.

Joseph Spencer, a student of philosophy at the University of New Mexico, began the discussion with some prepared remarks on "Scripture and the Structure of Religious Life."  His short response to the question "Is Scripture Relevant?" was "yes," but his longer response to the question was "let's see." Spencer compared the structure of religious life to a game that is somewhat like chess.  His careful consideration of the question "Is Scripture Relevant?" led him also to reflect on the question "What makes scripture scripture?"  In brief, his conclusions were that "good religious living" requires repentance, that "scripture gives life to religion," and that the key to reading scripture is to "begin with structure."  In his estimation, the Book of Mormon shows that one of its early prophets, Nephi, was "learning to play the game" that is part of the structure of religious life.  Even though Nephi "turned his brothers irreparably against him," his work was that of "reconciliation."

Next on the panel, David Bokovoy, an Associate Instructor of Languages and Literature at the University of Utah, spoke on the topic "'I Will Tell You in Your Mind and in Your Heart': Reading the Bible Critically as a Believing Latter-day Saint."  In answer to the question "Is scripture relevant?" Bokovoy jokingly claimed that certain religion professors threatened to punch in the face anyone who dared to answer "no."  Bokovoy's remarks focused on higher criticism and prophetic limitations.  He pointed to instances in the scriptures in which prophets failed to correctly interpret the Divine will.  He also emphasized moments in which the direct voice of God accomplished its immediate purpose ("Let there be light") in order to distinguish such efficiency from moments in which imperfect prophets spoke, and their predictions failed, or were delayed.  "Prophets don't always get it right," he observed.  For example, according to Bokovoy, the prophet Jonah projected his own weakness and imperfections into his attempts to call the people of Nineveh unto repentance.  As another example, the prophet Lehi uttered words of consolation to his wife, but Sariah was only consoled after the return of her sons from Jerusalem.  Bokovoy referenced a few common interpretations of prophecy: 1. unrealized prophecy elicits apocalypticism, 2. the realization of prophecy depends upon obedience, and 3. prophecy is discounted as false predictions. He then posited a fourth possibility: 4. "Revelation is part human and part divine," because "no one is all knowing."  Bokovoy cautioned that one must exercise humility in the attempt to speak for Divinity.

Finally, Adam Miller, a professor of philosophy at Collin College in McKinney, Texas, spoke on "Reading Scripture: Continuing the Work of Translation."  He introduced his book Letters to a Young Mormon, and described how reading scripture is itself an act of translation.  Miller alluded to the fact that Jesus Christ quoted scripture, as did Moroni, Joseph Smith and others.  According to his answer to the question "Is scripture relevant?" the process of "translating" the scriptures is an ongoing process in which the best translations lead one to repentance.  Miller jested that he had many years of experience in "treating the scriptures lightly" (see D&C 84:54).  Nevertheless, the scriptures indicate that we, like Oliver Cowdery, are commanded to "say nothing but repentance unto this generation." (D&C 6:9)

The moderator of the discussion, Janiece Johnson, then opened the panel to questions.  One member of the audience asked, "How do you open up the possibility of scripture?"  The panelists responded by returning to the idea of "translation," authorial intent, focusing on what the scriptures actually say, getting rid of pet interpretations, understanding the processes of canonization and de-canonization, and recognizing the directions of scripture as history and in shaping history.

Another intrepid audience member wanted to know, if the mingling of the philosophies of men with scripture is bad, then why do we do it?  One of the panelists observed that everyone mingles the philosophies of men with scripture, but the difference is that philosophers recognize what is being mingled.  In other words, the study of philosophy is helpful in sorting out the philosophies of men from the actual scripture.  Everyone is, in a sense, as one of the panelists asserted, a philosopher, as everyone is also a sinner.

Another question that was posed was, "What is the difference between scripture and literature?" One of the panelists argued that one of the main differences between the two has to do with the process of canonization.  Scripture is the product of a community, he asserted, whereas literature is generally the work of one person.  One of the other panelists disagreed with this argument, contending instead that anything has the potential to be scripture as long as it deepens and individual's connection to that which is spiritual.

Yet another audience member, noting how Joseph Smith had produced more than 800 pages of canonized revelations whereas there are only 13 pages of post-Joseph Smith canonized scriptures, asked, "Why has the process of canonization slowed down?"  To this question, Adam Miller responded that one should pay more attention to the mundane, everyday kind of revelation instead of only recognizing the flashier revelations.  Another panelists remarked that new revelations don't necessarily carry as much weight as the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants.

The panelists fielded a couple other questions fielded before concluding, questions such as "How does one apply higher criticism to the Book of Mormon?  To this one of the panelists responded that the Book of Mormon has a 19th century setting that points to Joseph Smith as the original author, and it answers the religious questions of that time period.  Smith's translation of the Book of Mormon, he argued, contains material that would make sense to a 19th century audience.  Therefore the modern reader of the Book of Mormon needs to learn how to separate the translator's voice (Joseph Smith) from the editor's voice (Mormon), and the voice of the original author in order to understand the political and religious background of the text.

One of the last questions posed was, "How do I reconcile tensions in what the scriptures are saying to me personally with the current things that are being taught?"  The panelists responded that, on the whole, these tensions are present in both ancient and modern scripture, as well as in that which is taught from the pulpit.

In sum, the panel discussion presented some interesting perspectives and ideas regarding the relevancy of scripture, and the overall answer to the question "Is scripture relevant?" seemed to be "Yes."

Certainly the panelists and other participants could have provided other interesting answers to the provocative question "Is scripture relevant?" but the answers to such a question seem to depend, as Spencer noted earlier, upon answers to the preliminary questions "What is scripture?" and "What does it mean to be relevant?" In fact, one might ask, "Is the question 'Is scripture relevant?' relevant?"  Or, "Given that scripture is relevant, why is it relevant?"

Fortunately, as I'm sure the panelists and participants are well aware, scripture itself has a lot to say on this topic.  Drawing from Adam Miller's remarks concerning the process of translating scripture, I wonder if it could also be said that, when best translated, scripture actually translates us.  In other words, the Spirit of the Lord that infuses each verse of scripture has the power to translate that which we bring to the table by way of life experience, desire, charity, humility, preparation, attributes, knowledge and so forth, and to communicate to our understanding that which will draw us closer to the Savior Jesus Christ.  Seen in this way, the Word of God as contained in the scriptures has the power to translate us, which is to say, to transform, or convert us, into more Christ-like beings:

"The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple." (Psalms 19:7)

"But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." (Matt 4:4)

"Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me." (John 5:39)

"For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope." (Romans 15:4)

"But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them;

And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works." (2 Tim. 3:14-17)

"For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." (2 Peter 1:21)

"And we had obtained the records which the Lord had commanded us, and searched them and found that they were desirable; yea, even of great worth unto us, insomuch that we could preserve the commandments of the Lord unto our children." (1 Ne. 5:21)

"And I did read many things unto them which were written in the books of Moses; but that I might more fully persuade them to believe in the Lord their Redeemer I did read unto them that which was written by the prophet Isaiah; for I did liken all scriptures unto us, that it might be for our profit and learning." (1 Ne. 19:23)

"And upon these I write the things of my soul, and many of the scriptures which are engraven upon the plates of brass. For my soul delighteth in the scriptures, and my heart pondereth them, and writeth them for the learning and the profit of my children." (2 Ne. 4:15)

"I say unto you, my sons, were it not for these things, which have been kept and preserved by the hand of God, that we might read and understand of his mysteries, and have his commandments always before our eyes, that even our fathers would have dwindled in unbelief, and we should have been like unto our brethren, the Lamanites, who know nothing concerning these things, or even do not believe them when they are taught them, because of the traditions of their fathers, which are not correct." (Mosiah 1:5)

"And now, it has hitherto been wisdom in God that these things should be preserved; for behold, they have enlarged the memory of this people, yea, and convinced many of the error of their ways, and brought them to the knowledge of their God unto the salvation of their souls." (Alma 37:8)

"Yea, we see that whosoever will may lay hold upon the word of God, which is quick and powerful, which shall divide asunder all the cunning and the snares and the wiles of the devil, and lead the man of Christ in a strait and narrow course across that everlasting gulf of misery which is prepared to engulf the wicked—" (Helaman 3:29)

"And behold, ye do know of yourselves, for ye have witnessed it, that as many of them as are brought to the knowledge of the truth, and to know of the wicked and abominable traditions of their fathers, and are led to believe the holy scriptures, yea, the prophecies of the holy prophets, which are written, which leadeth them to faith on the Lord, and unto repentance, which faith and repentance bringeth a change of heart unto them—" (Helaman 15:7)

"These words are not of men nor of man, but of me; wherefore, you shall testify they are of me and not of man;" (D&C 18:34)

"And gave him power from on high, by the means which were before prepared, to translate the Book of Mormon;

Which contains a record of a fallen people, and the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles and to the Jews also;

Which was given by inspiration, and is confirmed to others by the ministering of angels, and is declared unto the world by them—

Proving to the world that the holy scriptures are true, and that God does inspire men and call them to his holy work in this age and generation, as well as in generations of old;

Thereby showing that he is the same God yesterday, today, and forever. Amen." (D&C 20:8-12)

"And the Book of Mormon and the holy scriptures are given of me for your instruction; and the power of my Spirit quickeneth all things." (D&C 33:16)

"And whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by theHoly Ghost shall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation." (D&C 68:4)

"And whoso treasureth up my word, shall not be deceived" (JS-Matthew 1:37)

"But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves." (James 1:22)

The Life of Muhammad

Preach My Gospel, the Guide to Missionary Service for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,  contains a chapter entitled "What Do I Study and Teach?"  This chapter outlines "the essential doctrines, principles, and commandments" that missionaries (and all members) are to "study, believe, love, live and teach."  It includes lessons on "The Message of the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ," "The Plan of Salvation," "The Gospel of Jesus Christ," "The Commandments," and "Laws and Ordinances."  Preach My Gospel is an excellent tool for helping missionaries and other members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to be better prepared and more persuasive teachers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

As missionaries are sent into many different regions of the earth, the chapter on "The Message of the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ" also contains brief summaries of lives of "Reformers and World Religious Leaders" whose examples and teachings have greatly influenced the world. These "Reformers and Religious Leaders" include John Wycliffe, Martin Luther, William Tyndale, John Calvin, Buddha (Gotama), Confucius and Mohammed. Missionaries are instructed to use this background information only when needed.

The brief description of the life of Mohammed as contained in Preach My Gospel is as follows:

"Born in 570 A.D. in Mecca. Orphaned in childhood. Lived a life of poverty. Gained reputation as a trusted peacemaker. Married at age 25. In 610 prayed and meditated on Mount Hira. Said the angel Gabriel appeared to him and delivered a message from Allah (God). Claimed to receive communication from God through Gabriel from 620 to 632. These communications, which he recited to his disciples, were later written in the Koran, the sacred book of Islam."

This is a concise and accurate summary of the life of Mohammed that will be helpful for missionaries or for those who are unfamiliar with the religion of Islam.  For those whose curiosity concerning Mohammed runs deeper, PBS has produced an excellent primer on the prophet of Islam entitled "The Life of Muhammad."  This enjoyable television series contains three segments: "The Seeker," "Holy Wars," and "Holy Peace," each of which is skillfully crafted and highly informative.  

For those whose interest in Islam runs deeper than a television production, there are plentiful biographies about Muhammad.  Professor Daniel C. Peterson has written an excellent biography of this very influential leader entitled "Muhammad, Prophet of God."  

For those whose desire to understand Islam and the Prophet of Islam (PBUH) runs even deeper, please learn Arabic and read the Holy Qur'an.  If you approach the task with a sense of wonder and of "Holy Envy," you won't be disappointed.