Monday, April 27, 2015

The Payson Utah Temple

The new Payson Utah Temple is beautiful.  It is beautiful outside.  It is beautiful inside.  Most importantly, it points to even greater beauty:

"But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him." (1 Cor. 2:9)

In the words of the Crusader's Hymn:

"Fair is the sunshine,
Fairer the moonlight
And all the stars in heav'n above;
Jesus shines brighter,
Jesus shines purer
And brings to all the world his love.

Fair are the meadows,
Fairer the woodlands,
Robed in the flowers of blooming spring;
Jesus is fairer,
Jesus is purer.
He makes the sorrowing spirit sing.

Beautiful Savior!
Lord of the nations!
Son of God and Son of Man!
Thee will I honor, praise, and give glory,
Give praise and glory evermore!

The theme of this temple is the Tree of Life, with leaves cascading down the sides and the windows.

"And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:7)

What is the Most Valuable Substance in the World?

"I want to begin by asking a simple question. What is the most valuable substance or commodity in the world? We might initially think that gold, oil, or diamonds have the greatest worth. But of all the minerals, metals, gems, and solvents found on and in the earth, the most valuable is water."

- Elder David A. Bednar, A Reservoir of Living Water

The Most Valuable Substance in the World... Water

Friday, April 24, 2015

Why Beauty Matters

Does beauty matter?  Philosopher Roger Scruton thinks so, and I heartily agree.  

"In this very short introduction, the renowned philosopher Roger Scruton explores the concept of beauty, asking what makes an object - either in art, in nature, or the human form - beautiful, and examining how we can compare differing judgments of beauty when it is evident all around us that our tastes vary so widely. Is there a right judgement to be made about beauty? Is it right to say there is more beauty in a classical temple than a concrete office block, more in a Rembrandt than in last year's Turner Prize winner? Forthright and thought-provoking, and as accessible as it is intellectually rigorous, this introduction to the philosophy of beauty draws conclusions that some may find controversial, but, as Scruton shows, help us to find greater sense of meaning in the beautiful objects that fill our lives." —BBC
  • "Beauty is the remedy for the chaos and suffering in human life...The beautiful work of art brings consolation in sorrow and affirmation in joy." —Roger Scruton
  • "Beauty can be consoling, disturbing, sacred, profane; it can be exhilarating, appealing, inspiring, chilling. It can affect us in an unlimited variety of ways. Yet it is never viewed with indifference." - Roger Scruton
  • "Beauty is more than subjective; it is a universal need." —Roger Scruton

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Speech of the Unknown Patriot

Even if it is only a legend, it makes for great reading.  If nothing else, the Speech of the Unknown, or the Unknown Patriot will at least bring to our remembrance the high price that was paid for the liberties that we now enjoy.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Fear Not

"Fear not: do not be afraid."

Throughout the scriptures, the Lord and His servants often encourage, strengthen and comfort God's children with these words.

Hopefully the message is clear: "Fear not: do not be afraid."

Monday, April 13, 2015

Path to Sufism

Abū Ḥāmid Muḥammad ibn Muḥammad al-Ghazālī
"Yet I believe with a faith as certain as direct vision that there is no might for me and no power save in God, the Sublime, the Mighty; and that it was not I who moved, but He moved me; and that I did not act, but He acted through me. I ask Him, then, to reform me first, then to use me as an instrument of reform; to guide me, then to use me as an instrument of guidance; show me the true as true, and to grant me the grace to follow it; and to show me the false as false, and to grant me the grace to eschew it!" - Al-Ghazali, Path to Sufism: His Deliverance from Error

This is just one faint glimmer of the gold that you will find in the pages of Al-Ghazali's Path to Sufism

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Equality by Default

In Book VII of Plato's Republic, Socrates presents the allegory of the cave.  As late-modern man reads this allegory, he may feel pity for the people who have been chained to the wall of the cave for all of their lives. Moved by compassion, he may even desire to emancipate these poor souls, dragging them out into the sunlight.

Nevertheless, as Philippe Bénéton lucidly illustrates in his book Equality by Default (De l'égalité par défaut), late-modern man may want to begin by shaking off his own chains.  One reviewer of the book explains:

"For most of our contemporaries, to speak of modernity is to think immediately of liberty, equality, and democracy—and to assume that all is well. But things are not so simple. For while the culture of modernity has spread gradually throughout the West for roughly two hundred years, it accelerated in the 1960s in such a way as to undergo a subtle transformation. Hence the paradox of the world we live in: by all appearances the 'rights of man' have emerged triumphant, yet at the same time they have been emptied of substance because of their radicalization. Modern man thus finds himself isolated and ensnared. By right, his autonomy should strengthen him; but in fact, he has been dispossessed of himself. The great artifice of our time is to give conformism the mask of liberty.

Philippe Bénéton, a prominent French religious conservative, has long meditated on Tocqueville, and Equality by Default is Tocquevillian in that it does not offer a partisan polemic, but rather paints a picture of contemporary life—a picture that is also a guide for discernment for those who have a difficult time 'seeing' contemporary liberalism for what it is. Artfully translated by Ralph Hancock, Equality by Default offers a unique and strikingly insightful account of the late-modern mind."   

Bénéton's Equality by Default invites late-modern man to see the cave in which he dwells for what it really is.  More importantly, it invites him to walk toward the sunlight outside of the cave where he can see things as they really are.


Monday, April 6, 2015

The Machine

"The machine is a powerful auxiliary to equality by default; it levels the world.  In so doing, it lifts me up as a spectator in relation to this world put at my disposal.  Seated in front of my screen, I participate in the technological mastery of the world.  I am above it and attend to it as I wish.  My ego finds this quite satisfying.

Unfortunately, man-as-spectator is living an illusion.  He believes that the machine is at his service; he feels more or less consciously that with the help of the machine he is able to raise himself up to a viewpoint superior to the world, when in fact he is falling into a trap: the machine produces alienation.  Thanks to the information machine, the external world no longer stops at the threshold of the home; it penetrates, it resounds, it invades intimacy, and it does so in the form of a scintillating and meaningless spectacle.  Man-as-spectator, who consumes every God-given day his portion of televised news, distances himself from his own world in order to open the door to a foreign world devoid of meaning...

Man-as-spectator becomes blind to living realities." - Philippe Bénéton, Equality by Default

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Learn a Foreign Language

Good morning. Bonjour. Buongiorno. Buenos dias. .صباح الخير. בוקר טוב

Do you enjoy learning languages?  Have you ever wanted to learn a foreign language?

Perhaps the best way to learn a foreign language is by total immersion in the culture of a country where the language is spoken, surrounded by native speakers of that language.

Nothing can take the place of firsthand experience with native speakers of a foreign language, but a good language course can help you learn basic grammar, vocabulary, writing, speaking and listening skills.  Since travel to foreign countries is not always practical (or cheap), there are many online resources to consider.

You have probably already heard of Rosetta StonePimsleur or Berlitz. Have you heard of the Michel Thomas Method, Speed Learning Languages, or Fluenz?  There is also Learn to SpeakTell Me More, Instant Immersion, and Rocket Languages.  All of these may be helpful tools, but they are not free.

Believe it or not, there are also free online language learning tools.  You may have heard of Duo Lingo or Livemocha.  There is also Busuu, Babbel, and Memrise.  For translation, you can try iHandy Translator or Google Translate.  In addition to these, there has been a recent proliferation of MOOC's (Massive Open Online Courses), including online courses with Coursera and edX.

In the not too distant past I worked for Middlebury Interactive Languages, a company that specializes in online language instruction.  I was recruited to help build a Gale PowerSpeak online Italian course, but I also helped edit several other courses.  Naturally, I am partial to these courses, but there are many avenues to explore for learning a foreign language.  You might even try watching your favorite movies, TV shows or YouTube videos in a foreign language.  

It can take a lifetime to truly master a foreign language, but hopefully these websites will at least kindle the desire to get started.  Enjoy!