Friday, July 3, 2015

Tupelo Honey

For some reason, a song was playing in my mind today.  It's called Tupelo Honey (see also here), by Van Morrison.  I like it.  Bob Dylan once stated that, "Tupelo Honey has always existed and Morrison was merely the vessel and the earthly vehicle for it."  That's a great compliment.  Here is a recording of Dylan and Morrison performing the song together

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Bad, Fat, and Good

Michael Jackson was a talented guy.  Despite being a good singer, dancer and performer, in one popular song he claimed to be bad.  Weird Al Yankovic, on the other hand, claimed to be fat. Not to be outdone, the BYU comedy group Divine Comedy created a parody of Michael Jackson's original song.  It is simply called "Good."  It is good.

Good - BYU Divine Comedy

Monday, June 29, 2015


Do you remember the movie Meet the Mormons? and David Archuleta's song "Glorious"?

If you liked that song, you might like a Spanish rendition as well: "Glorioso es."

If you liked that one, check out Elenyi's new song "Embarcaos en el Servicio de Dios."


Sunday, June 28, 2015

Is Freedom in the Bloodstream?

The Living Christ

"These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)

Jesus Christ will someday return to earth (Isaiah 40:5)
An old army saying reminds soldiers in combat that "The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing."  

But what is the main thing?  As far as faith is concerned, the Prophet Joseph Smith eliminated any doubt as to what the main thing is:

"The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it." (TPJS, 121)

The Prophet Joseph Smith

This was true in Joseph Smith's time, and it is true today.  

On January 1, 2000, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints published the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets concerning Jesus Christ in a document entitled The Living Christ: The Testimony of the Apostles.  

Like the prophetic document The Family: A Proclamation to the World (published in 1995), The Living Christ: The Testimony of the Apostles was prepared ahead of time for when we will need it most. 

Friday, June 26, 2015

Seven Sources on Chastity

"My strength is as the strength of ten,
Because my heart is pure."

Before his conversion, St. Augustine of Hippo famously prayed, "Give me chastity and continency, only not yet." (The Confessions, Book VIII)  In the fifth canto of Inferno in Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy, Dante the Pilgrim asked Francesca of Rimini how she and her lover were lured into the sin of lust.  Francesca's reply (for the original version in Italian, see below*) caused Dante the Pilgrim to faint out of pity:

"And she to me: ‘There is no greater pain, than to remember happy times in misery, and this your teacher knows. But if you have so great a yearning to understand the first root of our love, I will be like one who weeps and tells. We read, one day, to our delight, of Lancelot and how love constrained him: we were alone and without suspicion. Often those words urged our eyes to meet, and coloured our cheeks, but it was a single moment that undid us. When we read how that lover kissed the beloved smile, he who will never be separated from me, kissed my mouth all trembling. That book was a Galeotto, a pandar, and he who wrote it: that day we read no more.’"

The Circle of the Lustful: Francesca da Rimini ('The Whirlwind of Lovers')
by William Blake

In His Sermon on the Mount, the Lord taught:

"Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery:

But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.

And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell." (Matt. 5:27-29)

The Beatitudes Sermon, by James Tissot
In His Sermon at the Temple in Bountiful, the Lord reiterated:

"Behold, I give unto you a commandment, that ye suffer none of these things to enter into your heart" (3 Ne. 12:29)

If a book containing the story of Lancelot and Guivevere plunged the unsuspecting Paolo and Francesca into the second circle of Dante's hell, what might that entail for an entire society whose media, magazines, and mores make Medieval mischief appear immaculate?  If a right eye could offend in 1st century Palestine or Bountiful, what are the implications for a civilization drenched in provacative or pornographic images and themes? 

Here are seven sources on chastity to help us pluck out offending the right eye:

7. The Plan of Happiness, President Boyd K. Packer

"E quella a me: «Nessun maggior dolore
che ricordarsi del tempo felice
ne la miseria; e ciò sa 'l tuo dottore.
Ma s'a conoscer la prima radice
del nostro amor tu hai cotanto affetto,
dirò come colui che piange e dice.
Noi leggiavamo un giorno per diletto
di Lancialotto come amor lo strinse;
soli eravamo e sanza alcun sospetto.
Per più fiate li occhi ci sospinse
quella lettura, e scolorocci il viso;
ma solo un punto fu quel che ci vinse.
Quando leggemmo il disiato riso
esser basciato da cotanto amante,
questi, che mai da me non fia diviso,
la bocca mi basciò tutto tremante.
Galeotto fu 'l libro e chi lo scrisse:
quel giorno più non vi leggemmo avante»." (Inferno V:121-138)


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Cokeville Miracle

It's not often that a movie moves me to tears.  I'm not really the sentimental type.  The Cokeville Miracle, however, is a good film.  It is spiritually edifying (in some ways reminiscent of the 17th chapter of Third Nephi in the Book of Mormon), and worth watching.  I heartily recommend it.

Monday, June 22, 2015

The Nature of God's Word: Encouragement to Study the Holy Bible

"We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God." Articles of Faith 1:8

"The nature of God’s word is, that whosoever read it, or hear it reasoned and disputed before him, it will begin immediately to make him every day better and better, till he be grown into a perfect man" (in S. Michael Wilcox, Fire in the Bones: William Tyndale—Martyr, Father of the English Bible [2004], xv).

"This Great Book … is the best gift God has given to man. All the good the Saviour gave to the world was communicated through this book. But for it we could not know right from wrong (Abraham Lincoln, Speeches and Writings, 1859–1865 [1989], 628)."

"Honest, diligent study of the Bible does make us better and better, and we must ever remember the countless martyrs who knew of its power and who gave their lives that we may be able to find within its words the path to the eternal happiness and the peace of our Heavenly Father’s kingdom." - Elder M. Russell Ballard, The Miracle of the Holy Bible

"There are no people on earth who hold the Bible in such high esteem as we do. We believe it, we read and ponder its sayings, we rejoice in the truths it teaches, and we seek to conform our lives to the divine standard it proclaims." - Elder Bruce R. McConkie, The Bible: A Sealed Book

"We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God." Articles of Faith 1:8

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Profile of a Prophet

President Hugh B. Brown
On October 5, 1955 President Hugh B. Brown delivered a speech at Brigham Young University entitled The Profile of a Prophet.  In this speech, President Brown recounted the story of his interview with a prominent English statesman on the topic of Mormonism.  At the conclusion of the interview, the English gentleman exclaimed:

"Mr. Brown, I wonder if your people appreciate the import of your message. Do you?  If what you have told me is true, it is the greatest message that has come to this earth since the angels announced the birth of Christ."

I recommend this speech to you.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

She is Like the Stars

Claudie Fritsch-Mentrop, also known as Desireless, is a French musician whose 1986 song "Voyage, voyage" became a world wide hit. I like many of her songs, but her 1989 song "Elle est comme les étoiles" (with lyrics written by Jean-Michel Franck Riva) just might be my favorite. (see here also)  I couldn't find an English translation of the lyrics online, so I decided to translate it myself:

"She is Like the Stars"

Dedicated to my mother

Some speak to the crowd
Other speak to the desert
Only words flow forth
About the weather about money about war
Some speak of the Orient
And others of the USSR
Of the Bible or the Koran
Of paradise of a quick fix
Some speak of borders
And of hope
My mother
Makes the silence speak.

She is like the stars
She understands it all but says nothing
She is like the stars
She gives her light
And demands nothing in return

Prophets on the front page
Make and unmake destiny
The elected on the platforms
Always have a formula for tomorrow
Some speak of the earth
Of non-violence
My mother
Makes the silence speak.

She is like the stars
She understands it all but says nothing
She is like the stars
She gives her light
And demands nothing in return

Some abandon you
Others come and desire you
But as soon as one loves a man
The most beautiful is impossible to say
Some speak of love of tolerance
My mother
Makes the silence speak.

She is like the stars
She understands it all but says nothing
She is like the stars
She gives her light
And demands nothing in return

En français

"Elle est comme les étoiles"

Dédié à ma mère

Certains parlent à la foule
Et d'autres parlent au désert
Que de paroles s'écoulent
Sur le temps sur l'argent sur la guerre
Certains parlent d'orient
Et d'autres d'URSS
De la bible ou du Coran
De paradis de bonheur express
Certains parl' de frontières
Et d'espérance
Ma mère
Fait parler le silence.

Elle est comme les étoiles
Elle en sait long mais ne dit rien
Elle est comme les étoiles
Elle donne sa lumière
Et ne demande rien

Les prophètes à la une
Font et défont le destin
Les élus sur les tribunes
Ont toujours la formul' pour demain
Certains parl' de la terre
De non-violence
ma mère
Fait parler le silence.

Elle est comme les étoiles
Elle en sait long mais jamais elle ne dit rien
Elle est comme les étoiles
Elle ne demande rien

Certains vous abandonnent
D'autres viennent et vous désirent
Mais sitôt qu'on aime un homme
Le plus beau est impossible à dire
Certains parlent d'amour de tolérance
Ma mère
Fait parler le silence.

Elle est comme les étoiles
Elle en sait long mais jamais elle ne dit rien
Elle est comme les étoiles
Elle ne demande rien

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Good Infection

C.S. Lewis

"Now the whole offer which Christianity makes is this: that we can, if we let God have His way, come to share in the life of Christ. If we do, we shall then be sharing a life which was begotten, not made, which always existed and always will exist. Christ is the Son of God. If we share in this kind of life we also shall be sons of God. We shall love the Father as He does and the Holy Ghost will arise in us. He came to this world and became a man in order to spread to other men the kind of life He has — by what I call "good infection." Every Christian is to become a little Christ. The whole purpose of becoming a Christian is simply nothing else."

Friday, May 22, 2015

Lehi's Dream

"Behold, I have dreamed a dream; or, in other words, I have seen a vision" - Lehi

Much ink has been spilt on interpretations of Lehi's dream in the Book of Mormon.  

For example, Daniel Peterson has surmised that there is a connection between Asherah, the chief goddess of the Canaanites, the sacred trees of rabbinic literature, and the tree of life in Lehi's dream.  Charles Swift has interepreted Lehi's dream in light of the tradition of visionary literature.

In the most recent general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Elder Kevin W. Pearson taught that "Lehi’s vision of the tree of life is a powerful parable on enduring to the end."

Not long ago, President Boyd K. Packer taught "You may think that Lehi’s dream or vision has no special meaning for you, but it does. You are in it; all of us are in it."

He continued, "Largely because of television, instead of looking over into that spacious building, we are, in effect, living inside of it. That is your fate in this generation. You are living in that great and spacious building."

Elder David A. Bednar also recently provided an interpretation of Lehi's dream in which he invited the reader to consider a searching question: "What lessons can and should I learn from Lehi’s vision of the tree of life and from the principle of continually holding fast to the rod of iron that will enable me to stand spiritually strong in the world in which we live today?

Much ink has been spilt on interpretations of Lehi's dream in the Book of Mormon.  Many lessons may be gleaned by carefully studying the vision, pondering the symbols, and applying the principles it contains.


Monday, May 18, 2015

Both Sides Now

Socrates may be more famous for avowing ignorance ("what I do not know I do not think I know"), but I like Joni Mitchell's (and Judy Collin's) confession better:

Both Sides Now (lyrics)

Rows and flows of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere
I've looked at clouds that way

But now they only block the sun
They rain and snow on everyone
So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way

I've looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It's cloud illusions I recall
I really don't know clouds at all

Moons and Junes and Ferris wheels
The dizzy dancing way you feel
As every fairy tale comes real
I've looked at love that way

But now it's just another show
You leave 'em laughing when you go
And if you care, don't let them know
Don't give yourself away

I've looked at love from both sides now
From give and take, and still somehow
It's love's illusions I recall
I really don't know love at all

Tears and fears and feeling proud
To say 'I love you' right out loud
Dreams and schemes and circus crowds
I've looked at life that way

But now old friends are acting strange
They shake their heads, they say I've changed
Well something's lost, but something's gained
In living every day

I've looked at life from both sides now
From win and lose and still somehow
It's life's illusions I recall
I really don't know life at all

I've looked at life from both sides now
From up and down and still somehow
It's life's illusions I recall
I really don't know life at all

Plain and Precious Things

Most people, it seems, have at least one thing in common: the desire to be happy.

The Medieval Muslim philosopher al-Farabi wrote an entire treatise on The Attainment of Happiness, and "the pursuit of Happiness" is one of the unalienable rights listed in the United States Declaration of Independence.

The Prophet Joseph Smith
"Happiness is the object and design of our existence," the Prophet Joseph Smith taught, "and will be the end thereof, if we pursue the path that leads to it; and this path is virtue, uprightness, faithfulness, holiness, and keeping all the commandments of God." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, [1976], 255–56).

"Adam fell that men might be," the Book of Mormon Prophet Lehi taught his son Jacob, "and men are, that they might have joy." (2 Ne. 2:25)

Through ancient and modern prophets, God has revealed His great plan of happiness, or the plan of salvation.  God loves and blesses all of His children, and His earnest desire is for each of us to be happy and to experience joy.

It is little wonder therefore that Satan desires exactly the opposite.  He seeks to make all men as miserable as he is. (2 Ne. 2:27)

C.S. Lewis
"What Satan put into the heads of our remote ancestors," wrote C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity, "was the idea that they could 'be like gods' -could set up on their own as if they had created themselves-be their own masters-invent some sort of happiness for themselves outside God, apart from God. And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human history-money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery-the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy."

Lewis elaborated:

"The reason why it can never succeed is this. God made us: invented us as a man invents an engine. A car is made to run on gasoline, and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.

God knows better than we do what will make us happy, but Satan works relentlessly to destroy God's plan.

Elder Neal A. Maxwell
"The precious perspective that the gospel gives us and that is a part of the faith we need to develop," wrote Elder Neal A. Maxwell, "is bound up in the plan of salvation. This perspective, which the adversary so strongly resists our having, is precisely the one-dimensional view of life that clearly undergirds so much of agnosticism, whether ancient or modern.  Hearts that are stolen away from eternal perspectives inevitably become fixed and set upon the immediate and upon the things of this world. Time-transcending truths that tell mortals who they are and why they are here are the very truths the adversary most resists and fears. Hence his scoffing is so severe when things messianic are mixed with a foretelling of the future."

One way to understand how persistently Satan has attempted to thwart God's great plan of happiness is to consider how, under his influence, time-transcending truths were removed from the Holy BibleThe Prophet Joseph Smith declared: "I believe the Bible as it read when it came from the pen of the original writers. Ignorant translators, careless transcribers, or designing and corrupt priests have committed many errors" (TPJS, p. 327)

What were these errors?  What are some of the vital truths that had been eliminated from the Holy Bible?

While working on a retranslation of the first six chapters of the Book of Genesis in the Holy Bible from June of 1830 until February of 1831, the Prophet Joseph Smith received revelations that are recorded in the Book of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price.  These revelations (along with the revelations contained in the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, the rest of the Pearl of Great Price and the Joseph Smith Translation of the Holy Bible) restored many crucial, time-transcending truths that had been lost or removed from the Holy Bible.  The Book of Mormon describes these truths as "plain and precious things."

Here is a brief list of critical, time-transcending truths (plain and precious things) that were restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith and recorded in the Book of Moses (see also The Articles of Faith):

1. The Plan of Salvation
2. God the Eternal Father
3. Jesus Christ
4. The Holy Ghost
5. Forgiveness of Adam and Eve
6. Atonement
7. Laws and Ordinances
8. Faith
9. Repentance
10. Baptism
11. Eternal Life
12. Priesthood
13. Genealogy
14. The Fall
15. Zion
16. New Jerusalem
17. Resurrection

In summary, God the Eternal Father created a plan for us, His children.  His Son Jesus Christ is the most important part of this plan.  Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ want us to be happy and to experience joy in this life.  Latter-day scriptures, including the Book of Moses, complete, verify, and testify of the truth of the Holy Bible, restoring plain and precious things that lead to lasting happiness and joy in this life, as well as salvation and eternal life in the future.