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 there 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!