Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Choruses from the Rock

Thomas Stearns Eliot

The Eagle soars in the summit of Heaven,
The Hunter with his dogs pursues his circuit.
O perpetual revolution of configured stars,
O perpetual recurrence of determined seasons,
O world of spring and autumn, birth and dying!
The endless cycle of idea and action,
Endless invention, endless experiment,
Brings knowledge of motion, but not of stillness;
Knowledge of speech, but not of silence;
Knowledge of words, and ignorance of the Word.
All our knowledge brings us nearer to death,
But nearness to death no nearer to God.
Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
The cycles of heaven in twenty centuries
Brings us farther from God and nearer to the Dust. 

The lot of man is ceaseless labor,
Or ceaseless idleness, which is still harder,
Or irregular labour, which is not pleasant.
I have trodden the winepress alone, and I know
That it is hard to be really useful, resigning
The things that men count for happiness, seeking
The good deeds that lead to obscurity, accepting
With equal face those that bring ignominy,
The applause of all or the love of none.
All men are ready to invest their money
But most expect dividends.
I say to you: Make perfect your will.
I say: take no thought of the harvest,
But only of proper sowing. 

The world turns and the world changes,
But one thing does not change.
In all of my years, one thing does not change,
However you disguise it, this thing does not change:
The perpetual struggle of Good and Evil. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Religion: "Bound by Loving Ties"

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland
Even "sublime" is an inadequate word to describe this message by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland for the 2016 BYU Education Week devotional. (see here for a brief news article)

A New Form of Paganism

Elder Neal A. Maxwell
"We are now entering a period of incredible ironies. Let us cite but one of these ironies which is yet in its subtle stages: we shall see in our time a maximum if indirect effort made to establish irreligion as the state religion. It is actually a new form of paganism that uses the carefully preserved and cultivated freedoms of Western civilization to shrink freedom even as it rejects the value essence of our rich Judeo-Christian heritage."

Maximum Choice and Minimum Meaning

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks
"What the secularists forgot is that Homo sapiens is the meaning-seeking animal. If there is one thing the great institutions of the modern world do not do, it is to provide meaning. Science tells us how but not why. Technology gives us power but cannot guide us as to how to use that power. The market gives us choices but leaves us uninstructed as to how to make those choices. The liberal democratic state gives us freedom to live as we choose but refuses, on principle, to guide us as to how to choose.

Science, technology, the free market and the liberal democratic state have enabled us to reach unprecedented achievements in knowledge, freedom, life expectancy and affluence. They are among the greatest achievements of human civilization and are to be defended and cherished.

But they do not answer the three questions that every reflective individual will ask at some time in his or her life: Who am I? Why am I here? How then shall I live? The result is that the 21st century has left us with a maximum of choice and a minimum of meaning."

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Just War

David O. McKay
"There are, however, two conditions which may justify a truly Christian man to enter — mind you, I say enter, not begin— a war: ( 1 ) An attempt to dominate and to deprive another of his free agency, and, ( 2 ) Loyalty to his country. Possibly there is a third, viz., Defense of a weak nation that is being unjustly crushed by a strong, ruthless one...

...Paramount among these reasons, of course, is the defense of man's freedom. An attempt to rob man of his free agency caused dissension even in heaven...

...To deprive an intelligent human being of his free agency is to commit the crime of the ages...

...So fundamental in man's eternal progress is his inherent right to choose, that the Lord would defend it even at the price of war. Without freedom of thought, freedom of choice, freedom of action within lawful bounds, man cannot progress. The Lord recognized this, and also the fact that it would take man thousands of years to make the earth habitable for self-governing individuals. Throughout the ages advanced souls have yearned for a society in which liberty and justice prevail. Men have sought for it, fought for it, have died for it. Ancient freemen prized it, slaves longed for it, the Magna Charta demanded it, the Constitution of the United States declared it.

'This love of liberty which God has planted in us,' said Abraham Lincoln, 'constitutes the bulwark of our liberty and independence. It is not our frowning battlements, our bristling seacoasts, our army, and our navy. Our defense is in the spirit which prizes liberty as the heritage of all men, in all lands, everywhere. Destroy this spirit, and we have planted the seeds of despotism at our very doors.'"

Friday, August 12, 2016


34 Gospel gems from Elder Neal A. Maxwell's book Not My Will, But Thine

  • "Faith is strongest when it is without illusions." (p. 4)
  • "The developmental dues of discipleship must be paid before all of the blessings are received (D&C 130:20)." (p. 6)
  • "The combination of life and the light of Christ is designed to help us discern between the real thing and all the clever counterfeits and sparkling substitutes." (p. 10)
  • "Mortality, this precious micro-dot on the canvas of eternity, is such a brief moment. While in it, we are to prepare ourselves for the time when there will be no time." (p. 11)
  • "Those who insist on walking in their own way will find that all such paths, however individualistic in appearance, will converge at that wide way and broad gate - where there will be a tremendous traffic jam." (p. 12)
  • "When Jesus said, 'Come, follow me,' it was an invitation, not a taunt. Moreover, His firm footprints are especially recognizable. They reflect no hesitancy, and no turning aside; they lie in a straight path. The prints are also sunk inerasably deep into the soil of the second estate because of the heavy burdens He bore. A portion of that depth is attributable to us, individually, because we added to the heaviness of His pressing yoke." (p. 13)
  • "The existing scriptures make mention of more than twenty other books that will yet be restored (see 1 Nephi 19:10-16). One day, in fact, 'all things shall be revealed unto the children of men which ever have been ... and which ever will be' (2 Nephi 27:11). Hence the ninth Article of Faith is such an impressive statement, full of promise for the obedient." (p. 18)
  • "Obviously those with the anti-miracle mind-set discount the Book of Mormon because they cannot see the plates from which it was translated. Furthermore, some say, we do no know enough about the actual process of translation. But Moroni's inspired promise (Moroni 10:3-4) concerns reading and praying over the book's substance-not over the process of its production...The reverse approach, scanning while doubting, is the flip side of Moroni's methodology, and it produces flippant conclusions." (p. 25-6)
  • "Thus the Book of Mormon will be with us `as long as the earth shall stand.' We need all that time to explore it, for the book is like a vast mansion with gardens, towers, courtyards, and wings. There are rooms yet to be entered, with flaming fireplaces waiting to warm us. The rooms glimpsed so far contain further furnishings and rich detail yet to be savored, but decor dating from Eden is evident. There are panels inlaid with incredible insights, particularly insights about the great question. Yet we as Church members sometimes behave like hurried tourists, scarcely venturing beyond the entry hall." (p. 33)
  • "What the Restoration brings clearly into our view discloses a many-splendored Savior, not simply a Socrates in Samaria or a Plato in Palestine." (p. 43)
  • "Thus the Atonement may reach into the universe - even as its blessings and redemptive powers reach into the small universe of each individual's suffering. How infinite, indeed!" (p. 52)
  • "There are so many subduing reasons to submit and surrender to Him and to our Father's purposes - not out of intimidation, but out of deep appreciation. Jesus was infinitely obedient, suffering an infinite number of things, yet He made possible eternal life with its promise of eternal increase for the elect.  This is another dimension of the ongoing, infinite atonement's benefits." (p. 53)
  • "Thoughtful observers note how powerful an influence environmental conditions can be - good and bad. Likewise, no wise individual would want  to diminish the shaping significance of an individual's genetic inheritance. Even so, adverse environmental experiences need not be automatically perpetuated. It is possible to break the chain of events by saying, 'Let it stop with me!' Or, with regard to wiser patterns of behavior and living, one can assert, 'Let them start with me!' We see such heroism about us all the time. While we must always begin from where we are, we need not stay where we are." (p. 62)
  • "When we are struggling to learn to love, we can have faith in God's developmental plans for others as well as for ourselves. Then we do not feel threatened by those who are our superiors or who are becoming such. The more unselfish we are, the more able we are to find joy in their successes, all the while rejoicing without comparing. In any case, our only valid spiritual competition is with our old selves, not with each other. True love and friendship enable us to keep that perspective. The things about other people that truly matter are their qualities such as love, mercy, justice, and patience, and their service to others. The things that matter much less - style, appearance, and mannerisms - become comparatively unimportant. Finally, our capacity to be meek and lowly enough to love without requiring reciprocity is enhanced by our coming to know how much we are loved by Jesus, even when we do not return His love as we might." (p. 70)
  • "In a church established, among other reasons, for the perfecting of the Saints - an ongoing process - it is naive to expect, and certainly unfair to demand, perfection in our peers. A brief self-inventory is wise before we 'cast the first stone.' Possessing a few rocks in our own heads, it is especially dangerous to have rocks too ready in our hands." (p. 74)
  • "Our capacity as Church members to love and to forgive will be freshly and severely tested as battered and bruised souls come into the Church in ever-larger numbers. Some come in from the cold shivering. Others are breathless, having caught what was for them the last train out of Babylon. Their own continued process of repentance will be much aided if they see, all about them, more regular emphasis in the lives of the rest of us on faith unto repentance." (p. 74)
  • "Those who discount gospel morality by smugly describing it as old-fashioned, understate: it is actually old-old-old-old-old-fashioned morality - going back to the beginning of time and beyond. In contrast, morality born of majoritarianism is risky, especially in times like those of Noah and Sodom. Our eyes and thoughts are, instead, supposed to be upon a far 'better country' (Hebrews 11:16)."
  • "However great human accomplishments are, they represent but a tithe of what the Lord could help us to achieve on this planet if only we would be meek and lowly, submitting to Him." (p. 88)
  • "One great service performed by prophets is to state the obvious - unseen and unpopular though it may be." (p. 92)
  • "We have no evidence of Jesus' ever reflecting upon or discoursing immodestly upon His masterful performances, such as in the  miracle of the loaves and fishes, in the raising of Lazarus, or in the healing of the ten lepers. He let his deeds speak for themselves, and He always attributed his power to the Father. Dare we do less as regards the much less we have achieved?" (p. 94)
  • "If we know who we are and whose we are, this belonging and acceptance results in much less need for mortal acceptance and acclaim. Indeed, the full giving of self - heart, mind, and strength - to Him leaves us with nothing else to give - no other 'investments' to worry over. This is what the first great commandment is all about." (p. 94)
  • "The more serious the work on our own imperfections, the less we are judgmental of the imperfections in others. Meek Moroni's counsel is so appropriate: rather than condemn parents and predecessors for their imperfections, we can simply learn to be more wise than they have been (Mormon 9:31). There are more case studies available than studies of such cases." (p. 95)
  • "We mortals do not have all the date even on ourselves, let alone on others. But God does. Having faith in Him includes faith in His purposes not only for ourselves but also for others. Only He who carried the great cross can fully compare crosses." (p. 96)
  • "God seeks to give us tutoring experiences so that, if we are submissive, we will have our own first-hand experiences to refer to in the eternities to come. We will have authentic, personal knowledge upon which to rely, no merely accurate abstractions. Since experiential learning is etched deeply into our souls, it is not easily forgotten." (p. 98)
  • "The most striking example of tutorial love is that which the Only Begotten Son experience in carrying out the plans of His perfect Father. Jesus, who had served the best of all, experienced the worst of all. The only sin-free soul suffered the sins of all." (p. 108)
  • "Real faith in God includes faith in His timing." (p. 113)
  • "We should see life, therefore, as being comprised of clusters of soul-stretching experiences, even when these are overlain by seeming ordinariness or are plainly wrapped in routine. Thus some who are chronologically very young can be Methuselahs as to their maturity in spiritual things." (p. 118)
  • "There have been and will be times in each of our lives when such faith must be the bottom line: We don't know what is happening to us or around us, but we know that God loves us, and knowing that, for the moment, is enough." (p. 119)
  • "It is possible to know when, at least basically, we please God. In fact, Joseph Smith taught that one of the conditions of genuine faith is to have 'an actual knowledge that the course of life which [one] is pursuing is according to [God's] will.' We observe that, writing about Enoch, Paul noted that 'before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God' (Hebrews 11:5)." (p. 127)
  • "With increased love for others, a major goal of the true Saint, life becomes larger as one's self becomes smaller in it, for then you and I 'break out out of this tiny and tawdry theatre in which [our] own little plot is always being played, and [we]... find [ourselves] under a freer sky, in a street full of splendid strangers.'" (p. 134)
  • "The world encourages us to pay attention to secular Caesars. The gospel tells us, however, that these Caesars come and go in an hour of pomp and show.  It is God whom we should worship, and His Son, Jesus Christ. They have for us mortals a plan of salvation." (p. 137)
  • "What we will feel on that occasion will be God's and Jesus' perfect love for us - not a scolding sternness but a profound kindness and immense tenderness. As these virtues flow from them toward us, many will feel the scalding shame of not having returned that love. As we feel their perfect love, we will confess that the justice and mercy of God are likewise perfect." (p. 141)
  • "Think of the most beautiful scenery you have ever witnessed, and yet realize that 'eye hath not seen...' Remember the most beautiful music you have heard, sounds which sent feelings soaring, and yet understand that 'ear hath not heard.' Recall the finest moments of friendship, featuring nearly pure love. Reflect on joys, sorrows, and certitude shared. Yet the Creator of worlds, our best friend, has said, 'I will call you friends, for you are my friends' (D&C 53:45). Our best moments of friendship are ahead of us.  Ponder those moments of keen, sudden insight, the flow of pure intelligence, such as Lamoni experienced when 'light infused such joy into his soul' (Alma 19:6). Yet, 'the day cometh [when] ... all things shall be revealed ... which ever have been ... and which ever will be' (2 Nephi 27:11). The mysteries shall be ours, but shall be mysteries no more. Reflect upon the occasions on which your conscience and integrity triumphed when, having done what was right and letting the consequences follow, you had a sure witness flood warmly into your soul and knew, like Enoch (Hebrews 11:5), that you had pleased Father.  Recollect the deepest moments of marital and familial joy, whether in rejoicings, reunions, or reconciliations, when 'because of the great goodness of God' there was a 'gushing out of many tears' (3 Nephi 4:33); when your 'heart [was] brim with joy' (Alma 26:11). Yet this was but a foretaste  of the ultimate homecoming, when our cups will not only be brim but will run over without ceasing." (p. 143)
  • "Our great Example showed us the pattern by His life, and then in his most desperate hour (Luke 22:41-43) summed up in five words for all time the way of both the Master and His disciple: 'Not my will, but thine.'" (p. 144)
Elder Neal A. Maxwell

Only Lovers Know

Princes come,
Princes go,
An hour of pomp and show they know;
Princes come and over the sands,
And over the sands of time they go.
Wise men come,
Ever promising the riddle of life to know,
Wise men come, Ah,
But over the sands.
The silent sands of time they go
Lovers come,
Lovers go.
And all that there is to know
Lovers know;
Only lovers know.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Beholding Beauty with the Eye of the Mind

Plato's Symposium, by Anselm Feuerbach
"He who has been instructed thus far in the things of love, and who has learned to see the beautiful in due order and succession, when he comes toward the end will suddenly perceive a nature of wondrous beauty (and this, Socrates, is the final cause of all our former toils)-a nature which in the first place is everlasting, not growing and decaying, or waxing and waning; secondly, not fair in one point of view and foul in another, or at one time or in one relation or at one place fair, at another time or in another relation or at another place foul, as if fair to some and-foul to others, or in the likeness of a face or hands or any other part of the bodily frame, or in any form of speech or knowledge, or existing in any other being, as for example, in an animal, or in heaven or in earth, or in any other place; but beauty absolute, separate, simple, and everlasting, which without diminution and without increase, or any change, is imparted to the ever-growing and perishing beauties of all other things. He who from these ascending under the influence of true love, begins to perceive that beauty, is not far from the end. And the true order of going, or being led by another, to the things of love, is to begin from the beauties of earth and mount upwards for the sake of that other beauty, using these as steps only, and from one going on to two, and from two to all fair forms, and from fair forms to fair practices, and from fair practices to fair notions, until from fair notions he arrives at the notion of absolute beauty, and at last knows what the essence of beauty is. This, my dear Socrates," said the stranger of Mantineia, "is that life above all others which man should live, in the contemplation of beauty absolute; a beauty which if you once beheld, you would see not to be after the measure of gold, and garments, and fair boys and youths, whose presence now entrances you; and you and many a one would be content to live seeing them only and conversing with them without meat or drink, if that were possible-you only want to look at them and to be with them. But what if man had eyes to see the true beauty-the divine beauty, I mean, pure and dear and unalloyed, not clogged with the pollutions of mortality and all the colours and vanities of human life-thither looking, and holding converse with the true beauty simple and divine? Remember how in that communion only, beholding beauty with the eye of the mind, he will be enabled to bring forth, not images of beauty, but realities (for he has hold not of an image but of a reality), and bringing forth and nourishing true virtue to become the friend of God and be immortal, if mortal man may. Would that be an ignoble life?"

- Plato's Symposium

Sunday, August 7, 2016

A Kingdom of Ideal Beauty

Lucy Maud Montgomery
"It has always seemed to me, ever since early childhood, amid all the commonplaces of life, I was very near to a kingdom of ideal beauty. Between it and me hung only a thin veil. I could never draw it quite aside, but sometimes a wind fluttered it and I caught a glimpse of the enchanting realms beyond-only a glimpse-but those glimpses have always made life worthwhile."

- L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables