Thursday, October 3, 2019

Who is the Captain?

William Earnest Henley
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from Pole to Pole,
I thank whatever gods may be,
For my unconquerable soul. 

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud,
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed. 

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid. 

It matters not how straight the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.

Orson F. Whitney
Art thou in truth?
Then what of him who bought thee with his blood?
Who plunged into devouring seas
And snatched thee from the flood 

Who bore for all our fallen race
What none but him could bear--
The God who died that man might live
And endless glory share. 

Of what avail thy vaunted strength
Apart from his vast might?
Pray that his light may pierce the gloom
That thou mayest see aright. 

Men are as bubbles on the wave,
As leaves upon the tree,
Thou, captain of thy soul! Forsooth,
Who gave that place to thee? 

Free will is thine--free agency,
To wield for right or wrong;
But thou must answer unto him
To whom all souls belong. 

Bend to the dust that “head unbowed”,
Small part of life’s great whole,
And see in him and him alone,
The captain of thy soul.

(see also here)

Saturday, September 21, 2019

How Do You Think That Mother Guessed?

Which Loved Best?

"I love you, Mother," said little John;
Then, forgetting his work, his cap went on,
And he was off to the garden-swing,
And left her the water and wood to bring.

"I love you, Mother," said rosy Nell —
"I love you better than tongue can tell;"
Then she teased and pouted full half the day
Till her mother rejoiced when she went to play.

"I love you, Mother," said little Fan;
"To-day I'll help you all I can;
How glad I am school doesn't keep!"
So she rocked the babe till it fell asleep.

Then, stepping softly, she fetched the broom
And swept the floor and tidied the room;
Busy and happy all day was she,
Helpful and happy as child could be.

"I love you, Mother," again they said,
Three little children going to bed.
How do you think that mother guessed
Which of them really loved her best?

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Not a Matter of Opinion

Spencer W. Kimball
"This true way of life is not a matter of opinion. There are absolute truths and relative truths. The rules of dietetics have changed many times in my lifetime. Many scientific findings have changed from year to year. The scientists taught for decades that the world was once a nebulous, molten mass cast off from the sun, and later many scientists said it once was a whirl of dust which solidified. There are many ideas advanced to the world that have been changed to meet the needs of the truth as it has been discovered. There are relative truths, and there are also absolute truths which are the same yesterday, today, and forever—never changing. These absolute truths are not altered by the opinions of men. As science has expanded our understanding of the physical world, certain accepted ideas of science have had to be abandoned in the interest of truth. Some of these seeming truths were stoutly maintained for centuries. The sincere searching of science often rests only on the threshold of truth, whereas revealed facts give us certain absolute truths as a beginning point so we may come to understand the nature of man and the purpose of his life." 

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Nothing this Truth Can Dim

My Life is But a Weaving

“My life is but a weaving
Between my God and me.
I cannot choose the colors
He weaveth steadily.

Oft’ times He weaveth sorrow;
And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper
And I the underside.

Not ’til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Will God unroll the canvas
And reveal the reason why.

The dark threads are as needful
In the weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned

He knows, He loves, He cares;
Nothing this truth can dim.
He gives the very best to those
Who leave the choice to Him.”

Monday, August 26, 2019

Savior, Redeemer of My Soul

Orson F. Whitney
Savior, Redeemer of My Soul

Savior, Redeemer of my soul,
Whose mighty hand hath made me whole,
Whose wondrous pow’r hath raised me up
And filled with sweet my bitter cup!
What tongue my gratitude can tell,
O gracious God of Israel.

Never can I repay thee, Lord,
But I can love thee. Thy pure word,
Hath it not been my one delight,
My joy by day, my dream by night?
Then let my lips proclaim it still,
And all my life reflect thy will.

O’errule mine acts to serve thine ends.
Change frowning foes to smiling friends.
Chasten my soul till I shall be
In perfect harmony with thee.
Make me more worthy of thy love,
And fit me for the life above.

Compact Society is Absolutely Necessary

The Prophet Joseph Smith
"As intelligence is the great object of our holy religion, it is of all things important, that we should place ourselves in the best situation possible to obtain it. And we wish it to be deeply impressed on the minds of all, that to obtain all the knowledge which the circumstances of man will admit of, is one of the principle objects the saints have in gathering together. Intelligence is the result of education, and education can only be obtained by living in compact society; so compact, that schools of all kinds can be supported, and that while we are supporting schools, we, without any exception, can be benefited thereby.

It matters not how advanced many who embrace the gospel, be in life, the true object of their calling, is to increase their intelligence; to give them knowledge and understanding in all things which pertain to their happiness and peace, both here and hereafter.— And it is therefore required, that they place themselves in a situation accordingly.

Vain are the hopes of those who embrace the gospel, and then suppose, like the ignorant sectarians of the day, they have nothing more to do, but hold on to what they have gotten. Oh indeed! they think, or at least some of them do, that it is very well to have their priest educated, as well as they can; but for the people, they can serve God as well in ignorance as any other way: they can say their prayers, whether there is sense in them or not; and sing Psalms, it matters not whether they are suited to their condition or not; and thus in the most profound ignorance, with a learned blockhead, at their head, blunder on, until they blunder into heaven. But this stupid ignorance cannot exist among the saints.— It will do well enough, for creatures that know not God, and have not obeyed the gospel. But for saints it will not do. The great God when he began to work for his name’s glory, never thought of doing so, by raising up a society of ignoramuses, but of men and women of intelligence; of first intelligence. Of intelligence as high as human nature was susceptable; and by this means glorify himself.

One of the principal objects then, of our coming together, is to obtain the advantages of education; and in order to do this, compact society is absolutely necessary: it cannot be obtained without it, at most only by the few, to the exclusion of the many; which is a principle, at war with the principles of the church of Christ; for the principle of the church is, that what one has, all have; and equal privileges must be granted to all, or else it is not the church of Christ. And if those, on whom the important duty of regulating this matter devolves, should neglect to do their duty in this matter, they will be found transgressors.

We wish the saints then to be apprised of this, that in order to obtain [t]he ends of their calling, they will find [i]t, unavoidably, necessary that they should be gathered into the cities, in as compact order as possible."

- The Prophet Joseph Smith, Elders’ Journal, August 1838

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

A Pair of Scissors

C.S. Lewis
"Handing everything over to Christ does not, of course, mean that you stop trying. To trust Him means, of course, trying to do all that He says. There would be no sense in saying you trusted a person if you would not take his advice. Thus if you have really handed yourself over to Him, it must follow that you are trying to obey Him. But trying in a new way, a less worried way. 

Not doing these things in order to be saved, but because He has begun to save you already. Not hoping to get to Heaven as a reward for your actions, but inevitably wanting to act in a certain way because a first faint gleam of Heaven is already inside you.

Christians have often disputed as to whether what leads the Christian home is good actions, or Faith in Christ. I have no right really to speak on such a difficult question, but it does seem to me like asking which blade in a pair of scissors is most necessary. A serious moral effort is the only thing that will bring you to the point where you throw up the sponge. Faith in Christ is the only thing to save you from despair at that point: and out of that Faith in Him good actions must inevitably come."

Friday, August 16, 2019

I Walked a Mile

“I walked a mile with Pleasure;
She chatted all the way;
But left me none the wiser
For all she had to say.

I walked a mile with Sorrow;
And ne’er a word said she;
But, oh! The things I learned from her,
When Sorrow walked with me.”

Thursday, August 15, 2019

The Voice Like Music Fell

Orson F. Whitney

In solemn council sat the Gods; 
From Kolob's height supreme, 
Celestial light blazed forth afar 
O'er countless kokaubeam; 
And faintest tinge, the fiery fringe 
Of that resplendent day, 
'Lumined the dark abysmal realm 
Where earth in chaos lay.

Silence self-spelled; the hour was one 
When thought doth most avail; 
Of worlds unborn the destiny 
Hung trembling in the scale. 
Silence o'er all, and there arose, 
Those kings and priests among, 
A Power sublime, than whom appeared 
None nobler 'mid the throng.

A stature mingling strength with grace, 
Of meek though Godlike mien, 
The love-revealing countenance 
Lustrous as lightning sheen; 
Whiter his hair than ocean spray, 
Or frost of alpine hill. 
He spake;--attention grew more grave, 
The stillness e'en more still.

"Father!"--the voice like music fell, 
Clear as the murmuring flow 
Of mountain streamlet trickling down 
From heights of virgin snow. 
"Father," it said, "since one must die," 
Thy children to redeem, 
Whilst earth, as yet unformed and void, 
With pulsing life shall teem;

"And thou, great Michael, foremost fall, 
That mortal man may be, 
And chosen Saviour yet must send, 
Lo, here am I--send me! 
I ask, I seek no recompense, 
Save that which then were mine; 
Mine be the willing sacrifice, 
The endless glory, Thine!

"Give me to lead to this lorn world, 
When wandered from the fold, 
Twelve legions of the noble ones 
That now thy face behold; 
Tried souls, 'mid untried spirits found; 
That captained these may be, 
And crowned the dispensations all 
With powers of Deity.

"A love that hath redeemed all worlds, 
All worlds must still redeem; 
But mercy cannot justice rob-- 
Or where were Elohim? 
Freedom--man's faith, man's work, God's grace-- 
Must span the great gulf o'er; 
Life, death, the guerdon or the doom, 
Rejoice we or deplore."

Silence once more. Then sudden rose 
Aloft a towering form, 
Proudly erect as lowering peak 
'Lumed by the gathering storm! 
A presence bright and beautiful, 
With eye of flashing fire, 
A lip whose haughty curl bespoke 
A sense of inward ire.

"Give me to go!" thus boldly cried, 
With scarce concealed disdain; 
"And hence shall none, from heaven to earth, 
That shall not rise again. 
My saving plan exception scorns; 
Man's agency unknown; 
As recompense, I claim the right 
To sit on yonder throne!"

Ceased Lucifer. The breathless hush 
Resumed and denser grew. 
All eyes were turned; the general gaze 
On one common magnet drew. 
A moment there was solemn pause; 
Then, like the thunder-burst, 
Rolled forth from lips omnipotent-- 
From Him both last and first:

"Immanuel! thou my Messenger, 
Till time's probation end. 
And one shall go thy face before, 
While twelve thy steps attend. 
And many more, on that far shore, 
The pathway shall prepare, 
That I, the First, the last may come, 
And earth my glory share.

"Go forth, thou chosen of the Gods, 
Whose strength shall in thee dwell! 
Go down betime and rescue earth, 
Dethroning death and hell 
On thee alone man's fate depends, 
The fate of beings all. 
Thou shalt not fail, though thou art free-- 
Free, but too great, to fall.

"By three in heaven, by three on earth,-- 
By blood that sanctifies, 
By water of obedience, 
Spirit that justifies; 
By every word of mine and thine, 
Through toil and travail sore, 
Man, God-redeemed, with God shall be, 
As God forevermore."

'T was done. From congregation vast 
Tumultuous murmurs rose; 
Waves of conflicting sound, as when 
Two meeting seas oppose. 
'T was finished. But the heavens wept; 
And still their annals tell 
How one was choice of Elohim, 
O'er one who fighting fell.

A stranger star that came from far, 
To fling its silver ray, 
Where, cradled in a lowly cave, 
A lowlier infant lay; 
And led by soft sidereal light, 
The Orient sages bring 
Rare gifts of gold and frankincense, 
To greet the homeless King.

Oh wondrous grace! Will Gods go down 
Thus low that men may rise? 
Imprisoned here the mighty one 
Who reigned in yonder skies? 
Hark to that chime!--a tongue sublime, 
That tells the hour of noon. 
A dying world is welcoming 
Life--light of sun and moon.

"Peace! peace!"--thy voice, eternity! 
"Peace!" echoes time's false tone. 
"Peace! peace!" Is discord then no more? 
Are earth and heaven as one? 
Peace, peace, where sparkling hosts proclaim 
A monarch manger-born; 
There ruler of unnumbered realms, 
Here throneless and forlorn.

He wandered through the faithless world, 
A prince in shepherd guise; 
He called his scattered flock, but few 
The voice did recognize; 
For minds upborne by hollow pride, 
Or dimmed by sordid lust, 
Ne'er look for kings in begger's garb, 
For diamonds in the dust.

Wept He above a city doomed, 
Her temple, walls, and towers, 
O'er palaces where recreant priests 
Usurped unhallowed powers. 
"I am the way, the life, the light!" 
Alas! 't was heeded not; 
Ignored--nay, mocked God's messenger, 
And spurned the truth He taught.

O bane of damning unbelief! 
Till now when e'er so rife? 
Thou stumbling stone, thou barrier 'thwart 
The gates of endless life! 
O love of self, and Mammon's lust! 
Twin portals to despair, 
Where bigotry, the blinded bat, 
Flaps through the midnight air.

Through these, gloom-wrapt Gethsemane! 
Thy glens of guilty shade 
Grieved o'er the sinless Son of God, 
By gold-bought kiss betrayed; 
Beheld Him unresisting dragged, 
Forsaken, friendless, lone, 
To halls where dark-browed hatred sat 
On judgment's lofty throne.

As sheep before His shearers, dumb, 
Those patient lips were mute; 
The clamorous charge of taunting tongues 
He deigned not to dispute. 
They smote with cruel palm a face 
Which felt yet bore the sting; 
Then crowned with thorns His quivering brow, 
And mocking, hailed him "King!"

Transfixt He hung,--O crime of crimes!-- 
The God whom worlds adore. 
"Father, forgive them!" Drained the dregs; 
Immanuel was no more! 
No more where thunders shook the earth, 
Where lightnings, 'thwart the gloom, 
Saw that unconquered spirit spurn 
The shackles of the tomb.

Far-flashing on its wings of light, 
A falchion from its sheath, 
It cleft the realms of darkness and 
Dissolved the bands of death; 
Hell's dungeons burst, wide open swung 
The everlasting bars, 
Whereby the ransomed soul shall win 
Those heights beyond the stars.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Pure Intelligence

The Prophet Joseph Smith
"The Holy Ghost has no other effect than pure intelligence. It is more powerful in expanding the mind, enlightening the understanding, and storing the intellect with present knowledge, of a man who is of the literal seed of Abraham, than one that is a Gentile, though it may not have half as much visible effect upon the body; for as the Holy Ghost falls upon one of the literal seed of Abraham, it is calm and serene; and his whole soul and body are only exercised by the pure spirit of intelligence; while the effect of the Holy Ghost upon a Gentile, is to purge out the old blood, and make him actually of the seed of Abraham. That man that has none of the blood of Abraham (naturally) must have a new creation by the Holy Ghost. In such a case, there may be more of a powerful effect upon the body, and visible to the eye, than upon an Israelite, while the Israelite at first might be far before the Gentile in pure intelligence." 

Sunday, August 4, 2019

His Glory Still Gleams in Their Eyes

The Children

WHEN the lessons and tasks are all ended, 
And the school for the day is dismissed, 
And the little ones gather around me, 
To bid me good night and be kissed; 
O the little white arms that encircle 
My neck in their tender embrace! 
O the smiles that are halos of heaven, 
Shedding sunshine of love on my face! 

And when they are gone, I sit dreaming 
Of my childhood, too lovely to last; 
Of love that my heart will remember 
When it wakes to the pulse of the past, 
Ere the world and its wickedness made me 
A partner of sorrow and sin,— 
When the glory of God was about me, 
And the glory of gladness within. 

All my heart grows weak as a woman’s, 
And the fountains of feeling will flow, 
When I think of the paths steep and stony, 
Where the feet of the dear ones must go; 
Of the mountains of sin hanging o’er them, 
Of the tempest of Fate blowing wild; 
O, there ’s nothing on earth half so holy 
As the innocent heart of a child! 

They are idols of hearts and of households; 
They are angels of God in disguise; 
His sunlight still sleeps in their tresses, 
His story still gleams in their eyes; 
O, these truants from home and from heaven,— 
They have made me more manly and mild; 
And I know now how Jesus could liken 
The kingdom of God to a child! 

I ask not a life for the dear ones, 
All radiant, as others have done, 
But that life may have just enough shadow 
To temper the glare of the sun; 
I would pray God to guard them from evil, 
But my prayer would bound back to myself; 
Ah! a seraph may pray for a sinner, 
But a sinner must pray for himself. 

The twig is so easily bended, 
I have banished the rule and the rod; 
I have taught them the goodness of knowledge, 
They have taught me the goodness of God. 
My heart is the dungeon of darkness, 
Where I shut them for breaking a rule; 
My frown is sufficient correction; 
My love is the law of the school. 

I shall leave the old house in the autumn, 
To traverse its threshold no more; 
Ah! how shall I sigh for the dear ones 
That meet me each morn at the door! 
I shall miss the “good nights” and the kisses, 
And the gush of their innocent glee, 
The group on its green, and the flowers 
That are brought every morning to me. 

I shall miss them at morn and at even, 
Their song in the school and the street; 
I shall miss the low hum of their voices, 
And the tread of their delicate feet. 
When the lessons of life are all ended, 
And death says, “The school is dismissed!” 
May the little ones gather around me, 
To bid me good night and be kissed!

Monday, July 1, 2019

He Who Reads it Oftenest Will Like it Best

The Prophet Joseph Smith
“Connected with the building up of the Kingdom, is the printing and circulation of the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, … and the new translation of the [Bible]. It is unnecessary to say anything respecting these works; those who have read them, and who have drunk of the stream of knowledge which they convey, know how to appreciate them; and although fools may have them in derision, yet they are calculated to make men wise unto salvation, and sweep away the cobwebs of superstition of ages, throw a light on the proceedings of Jehovah which have already been accomplished, and mark out the future in all its dreadful and glorious realities. Those who have tasted the benefit derived from a study of those works, will undoubtedly vie with each other in their zeal for sending them abroad throughout the world, that every son of Adam may enjoy the same privileges, and rejoice in the same truths.

- History of the Church, 4:187; from a letter from Joseph Smith and his counselors in the First Presidency to the Saints, Sept. 1840, Nauvoo, Illinois, published in Times and Seasons, Oct. 1840, p. 179.

“… He that can mark the power of Omnipotence, inscribed upon the heavens, can also see God’s own handwriting in the sacred volume: and he who reads it oftenest will like it best, and he who is acquainted with it, will know the hand wherever he can see it; and when once discovered, it will not only receive an acknowledgment, but an obedience to all its heavenly precepts.

- History of the Church, 2:11, 14; punctuation modernized; paragraph divisions altered; from “The Elders of the Church in Kirtland, to Their Brethren Abroad,” Jan. 22, 1834, published in Evening and Morning Star, Feb. 1834, p. 136; Mar. 1834, p. 142.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Where is One Like Christ?

The Prophet Joseph Smith
"Who, among all the Saints in these last days, can consider himself as good as our Lord?  Who is as perfect?  Who is as pure?  Who is as holy as He was?  Are they to be found?  He never transgressed or broke a commandment or law of heaven - no deceit was in His mouth, neither was guile found in His heart... Where is one like Christ?  He cannot be found on earth."

- The Prophet Joseph Smith, History of the Church 2:23

Friday, May 10, 2019

The Torchbearer

"The Torchbearer"

The God of the great endeavor 
gave me a torch to bear. 
I lifted it high above me 
in the dark and murky air.

Straightway with loud hosannas 
the crowd acclaimed its light, 
And followed me as I carried my torch 
through the dark and starless night.

Til mad with peoples' praises 
and drunken with vanity, 
I forgot it was the torch that drew them 
and fancied they followed me.

And my arm grew sore and weary 
upholding the shining load, 
And my tired feet went stumbling 
over the hilly road.

I fell with the torch beneath me, 
in a moment the flame was out. 
But lo, from the throng a stripling 
sprang forth with a mighty shout,

Caught up the torch as it smouldered 
and lifted it high again, 
Til fanned by the winds of heaven 
it fired the souls of men.

As I lay alone in the darkness, 
the feet of the trampling crowd, 
Passed over and far beyond me, 
their praises proclaimed aloud.

And I learned in the deepening shadow 
this glorious verity, 
'Tis the torch the people follow, 
who ere the bearer be.

Monday, April 15, 2019

A Little Fighting to Do

Brigham Young
"This evil is with us, it is that influence which tempts to sin, and which has been permitted to come into the world for the express purpose of giving us an opportunity of proving ourselves before God, before Jesus Christ our elder brother, before the holy angels, and before all good men, that we are determined to overcome the evil, and cleave to the good, for the Lord has given us the ability to do so. Consequently, when the evil is present with me, I have a little fighting to do, I must turn and combat it until it is eradicated from my affections, as well as from my actions, that I may have power to do all the good I wish to perform. Every person is capable of this, all can bridle their tongues, and cease from every evil act from this time henceforth and forever, and do good instead."

- Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, p. 70

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Before the Lord Jesus Descends

Bruce R. McConkie
"Before the Lord Jesus descends openly and publicly in the clouds of glory, attended by all the hosts of heaven; before the great and dreadful day of the Lord sends terror and destruction from one end of the earth to the other; before he stands on Mount Zion, or sets his feet on Olivet, or utters his voice from an American Zion or a Jewish Jerusalem; before all flesh shall see him together; before any of his appearances, which taken together comprise the second coming of the Son of God—before all these, there is to be a secret appearance to selected members of his Church. He will come in private to his prophet and to the apostles then living. Those who have held keys and powers and authorities in all ages from Adam to the present will also be present." 

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Know for Yourselves

The Prophet Joseph Smith
"Search the scriptures - search the revelations which we publish, and ask your Heavenly Father, in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, to manifest the truth unto you, and if you do it with an eye single to His glory nothing doubting, He will answer you by the power of His Holy Spirit. You will then know for yourselves and not for another. You will not then be dependent on man for the knowledge of God; nor will there be any room for speculation [. . . ] Search the Scriptures, search the Prophets and learn what portion of them belongs to you." 

- The Prophet Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 11-12.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Genuine Gold

James E. Talmage
“The present is an age of pleasure-seeking, and men are losing their sanity in the mad rush for sensations that do but excite and disappoint. In this day of counterfeits, adulterations, and base imitations, the devil is busier than he has ever been in the course of human history, in the manufacture of pleasures, both old and new; and these he offers for sale in most attractive fashion, falsely labeled, Happiness. In this soul-destroying craft he is without a peer; he has had centuries of experience and practice, and by his skill he controls the market. He has learned the tricks of the trade, and knows well how to catch the eye and arouse the desire of his customers. He puts up the stuff in bright-colored packages, tied with tinsel string and tassel; and crowds flock to his bargain counters, hustling and crushing one another in their frenzy to buy.

“Follow one of the purchasers as he goes off gloatingly with his gaudy packet, and watch him as he opens it. What finds he inside the gilded wrapping? He has expected fragrant happiness, but uncovers only an inferior brand of pleasure, the stench of which is nauseating.

“Happiness includes all that is really desirable and of true worth in pleasure, and much besides. Happiness is genuine gold, pleasure but guilded brass, which corrodes in the hand, and is soon converted into poisonous verdigris. Happiness is as the genuine diamond, which, rough or polished, shines with its own inimitable luster; pleasure is as the paste imitation that glows only when artificially embellished. Happiness is as the ruby, red as the heart’s blood, hard and enduring; pleasure, as stained glass, soft, brittle, and of but transitory beauty.

“Happiness is true food, wholesome, nutritious and sweet; it builds up the body and generates energy for action, physical, mental and spiritual; pleasure is but a deceiving stimulant which, like spiritous drink, makes one think he is strong when in reality enfeebled; makes him fancy he is well when in fact stricken with deadly malady.

“Happiness leaves no bad after-taste, it is followed by no depressing reaction; it calls for no repentance, brings no regret, entails no remorse; pleasure too often makes necessary repentance, contrition, and suffering; and, if indulged to the extreme, it brings degradation and destruction.

“True happiness is lived over and over again in memory, always with a renewal of the original good; a moment of unholy pleasure may leave a barbed sting, which, like a thorn in the flesh, is an ever-present source of anguish.

“Happiness is not akin with levity, nor is it one with light-minded mirth. It springs from the deeper fountains of the soul, and is not infrequently accompanied by tears. Have you never been so happy that you have had to weep? I have.”

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Knowing Who You Are

President Kevin J. Worthen

It is important to remember who you are.  Yesterday, BYU President Kevin J. Worthen gave an excellent BYU devotional address on the topic of "Knowing Who You Are."  I commend it to your attention.

Monday, January 7, 2019

True Greatness

Joseph F. Smith
"Those things which we call extraordinary, remarkable, or unusual may make history, but they do not make real life.

After all, to do well those things which God ordained to be the common lot of all mankind, is the truest greatness. To be a successful father or a successful mother is greater than to be a successful general or a successful statesman."

- President Joseph F. Smith ("Juvenile Instructor," 15 Dec. 1905, p. 752.)

Sunday, January 6, 2019

A Pleasant Privilege

Russell M. Nelson
"Keeping the garden of marriage well cultivated and free from weeds of neglect requires the time and commitment of love. It is not only a pleasant privilege, it is a scriptural requirement with promise of eternal glory" - Russell M. Nelson (in Conference Report, Apr. 1991, 28; or Ensign, May 1991, 23).

Saturday, January 5, 2019

The Land of Beginning Again

Louisa Fletcher

I wish that there were some wonderful place
Called the land of Beginning Again,
Where all our mistakes and all our heartaches
And all of our poor selfish grief
Could be dropped like a shabby old coat at the door,
And never put on again.

I wish we could come on it all unaware,
Like the hunter who finds a lost trail;
And I wish that the one whom our blindness had done 
The greatest injustice of all
Could be at the gates like an old friend that waits
For the comrade he's gladdest to hail.

We would find all the things we intended to do
But forgot, and remembered too late,
Little praises unspoken, little promises broken,
And all of the thousand and one
Little duties neglected that might have perfected
The day for one less fortunate.

It wouldn't be possible not to be kind
In the land of Beginning Again;
And the ones we misjudged and the ones
Whom we grudged
The moments of victory here
Would find in the grasp of our loving handclasp
More than penitent lips could explain

For what had been hardest we'd know had been best
And what had seemed loss would be gain;
For there isn't a sting that will not take wing
When we've faced it and laughed it away;
And I think that the laughter is most what we're after
In the land of Beginning Again.

So I wish that there were some wonderful place
Called the land of Beginning Again,
Where all our mistakes and all our heartaches
And all of our poor selfish grief
Could be dropped like a shabby old coat at the door,
And never be put on again.

- Louisa Fletcher, in The Land of Beginning Again

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

The Super-Substantial Nourishment of Man

Jacques Maritain
“Poetry (like metaphysics) is spiritual nourishment; but of a savor which has been created and which is insufficient. There is but one eternal nourishment. Unhappy are you who think yourselves ambitious, and who whet your appetites for anything less than the [divinity] of Christ. It is a mortal error to expect from poetry the super-substantial nourishment of man.”

- Jacques Maritain, Frontiers of Poetry [New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1962], p. 132.)

The Disciple-Scholar

Learning in the Light of Faith: The Compatibility of Scholarship and Discipleship
What is a disciple-scholar?  Elder Neal A. Maxwell exemplified both discipleship and scholarship in his life, and he explains the concept here.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

The Sun Looks Down

C.S. Lewis
“As long as we are thinking of natural values we must say that the sun looks down on nothing half so good as a household laughing together over a meal, or two friends talking over a pint of beer, or a man alone reading a book that interests him; and that all economies, politics, laws, armies, and institutions, save insofar as they prolong and multiply such scenes, are a mere ploughing the sand and sowing the ocean, a meaningless vanity and vexation of the spirit. Collective activities are, of course, necessary, but this is the end to which they are necessary.”

C.S. Lewis, “Membership” in The Weight of Glory

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

What is the Question?

We Bore Their Teaching Within Us

Marcel Proust
“All that can be said is that everything in our life happens as though we entered upon it with a load of obligations contracted in a previous existence. There is no reason arising from the conditions of our life on this earth for us to consider ourselves obliged to do good, to be tactful, even to be polite. … All these obligations whose sanction is not of this present life, seem to belong to a different world, founded on kindness, scruples, sacrifices, a world entirely different from this one, a world whence we emerge to be born on this earth, before returning thither, perhaps to live under the empire of those unknown laws we have obeyed because we bore their teaching within us without knowing who had taught us.” (Marcel Proust, La Prisonniere, as quoted in Homo Viator by Gabriel Marcel.)

Friday, December 21, 2018

When They Are Near

What is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense
"In a mobile age, people want continuity. Our spouses — permanent breakfast partners, reliable sources and objects of interest and affection — anchor us. What we do alone has less verve than what we share. Spouses are witnesses to our adulthoods; they are our living and dynamic diaries. We want knowing consolation and informed advice: Spouses have license to plumb our past and present and our most private ambitions. We want the security of a first responder in emergencies, ready counsel in distress, company in defeat, and, for every personal victory, a two-way tie. Spouses typically provide all these goods.

Besides, marriage itself is a school of virtue. As fear gives way to surrender, as the exhilaration of surrender gives way to laboriousness and then to the serenely familiar, we mature. Stretched across another life’s peaks and troughs, our ego is unraveled. What we want from our spouses, we learn ever more to give. In vacations and bedside vigils, grand projects and modest self-denials, our spouses call forth in us new excellences, somehow making us feel all the while that we are most at ease, and most ourselves, when they are near."

- Ryan T. Anderson, Robert P. George, and Sherif Girgis, "The Marriage Debate" (and What is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense, pp. 88-89)

Sunday, December 16, 2018

He Was Ever Master

Jesus the Christ
"The incident of Christ’s forcible clearing of the temple is a contradiction of the traditional conception of Him as of One so gentle and unassertive in demeanor as to appear unmanly. Gentle He was, and patient under affliction, merciful and long-suffering in dealing with contrite sinners, yet stern and inflexible in the presence of hypocrisy, and unsparing in His denunciation of persistent evil-doers. His mood was adapted to the conditions to which He addressed Himself; tender words of encouragement or burning expletives of righteous indignation issued with equal fluency from His lips. His nature was no poetic conception of cherubic sweetness ever present, but that of a Man, with the emotions and passions essential to manhood and manliness. He, who often wept with compassion, at other times evinced in word and action the righteous anger of a God. But of all His passions, however gently they rippled or strongly surged, He was ever master. Contrast the gentle Jesus moved to hospitable service by the needs of a festal party in Cana, with the indignant Christ plying His whip, and amidst commotion and turmoil of His own making, driving cattle and men before Him as an unclean herd."

- James E. Talmage, Jesus the Christ, p. 158

Monday, November 26, 2018

Make No Little Plans

Daniel Burnham
"Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will never die, but long after we are gone be a living thing, asserting itself with ever-growing insistency. Remember that our sons and our grandsons are going to do things that would stagger us. Let your watchword be order and your beacon beauty."

- Daniel Burnham

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Thanksgiving Day Proclamations

This is a list of Thanksgiving Day Proclamations by presidents of the United States from 1789 to the present.  It includes proclamations from Washington, Adams, and Madison to Lincoln, and from Lincoln to Coolidge and Reagan.  Lincoln solidified the tradition, and each of Lincoln's successors has issued an annual Thanksgiving Day Proclamation.  Like every president before him, President Donald Trump has also issued Thanksgiving Day Proclamations. (see here, and here)

Happy Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

We Are Not Bound to Say All We Think

The 2018 Neal A. Maxwell Lecture with Elder Jeffrey R. Holland
I just returned from the 2018 Neal A. Maxwell Lecture for the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship at BYUElder Holland addressed members of the Maxwell Institute directly and specifically, and the administration, faculty, and students of Brigham Young University more generally.  The theme and the title of his address was "The Maxwell Legacy in the 21st Century."

Elder Holland began his address with four caveats to explain the context and the audience for his remarks.  He mentioned that he was speaking on behalf of the leadership of Brigham Young University.  He spoke of the challenges and opportunities of the Maxwell Institute, and he spoke specifically to the Maxwell Institute, and to BYU.  He expressed love and appreciation for every good thing that the Maxwell Institute has accomplished in seeking truth and in building faith in Christ.

Elder Holland recounted his first encounter with Elder Maxwell, then commissioner of Church Education, and he credited Elder Maxwell for providing much direction in his life as a disciple of Christ and as a scholar and a teacher.  Elder Holland made it clear that the mission of the Church and of BYU, though not the same, must be as closely aligned with each other as possible, and that the same thing must be true of the Maxwell Institute.  He challenged the Maxwell Institute to be among the best in faith promotion and world class Gospel scholarship.

Elder Holland shared many gems from the treasure trove of Elder Maxwell's teachings.  For example, Elder Maxwell taught that:

"There is as much vastness in the theology of the Restoration as in the stretching universe. 'There is space there' for the full intellectual stretching of any serious disciple. There is room 'enough and to spare' for all the behavioral development one is willing to undertake. No wonder, therefore, personal wholeness is required in discipleship. Genius without meekness is not enough to qualify for discipleship."

Elder Holland reminded his audience that discipleship precedes and informs scholarship, or, in Elder Maxwell's own words: "Though I have spoken of the disciple-scholar, in the end all the hyphenated words come off. We are finally disciples-men and women of Christ (see 3 Ne. 27:27)."  He also reminded his audience of Elder Maxwell's memorable metaphor that critics of the Church should not be allowed any "uncontested slam-dunks."

Elder Holland taught that faith requires an explicit defense, and that the foundational documents of the Church and of BYU ought to be defended by the Maxwell Institute.  In light of President Nelson's recent counsel, and with good humor, Elder Holland stated that centers for "Mormon Studies" will need to find a new name.  He also referred to a personal email that he received from President Nelson in which he was encouraged to help the members of the Maxwell Institute understand who they are  and why the Maxwell Institute exists.  Although "Mormon Studies" may be a part of the Maxwell Institute, the mission of the Maxwell Institute remains separate and distinct from that of institutions for "Mormon Studies."  The Maxwell Institute is set apart from the secular premises and even the religious "richness" that is supposed to characterize institutions for "Mormon Studies."  

Why?  Elder Maxwell taught that: "A few hold back a portion of themselves merely to please a particular gallery of peers. Another might hold back a spiritual insight from which many could profit, simply wishing to have his or her 'ownership' established. Some hold back by not appearing overly committed to the kingdom, lest they incur the disapproval of particular peers who might disdain such consecration. In various ways, some give of themselves, even extensively, but not fully and unreservedly."

Elder Holland then addressed the problems inherent in "bracketing" truth claims or "bracketing" one's faith.  There are more limitations than virtues in "bracketing" one's faith or the truth claims of one's faith.  Common ground is not found on neutral ground, and "bracketing" costs credibility.  In fact, to paraphrase Elder Maxwell, we are not really learned if we neglect education in eternal truths and Divine data.  

Elder Holland suggested some topics of study for the Maxwell Institute, including the importance of family life and kinship in early America, ordinances for the dead, holy spaces, and selections from The Joseph Smith Papers.  If we err, Elder Holland taught, we must err on the side of our covenants.  

Elder Holland provided counsel regarding ways to maintain a balance with academic excellence, appropriate tone, and constant vigilance.  The Maxwell Institute cannot simply be synonymous with "Mormon Studies."  Instead, it must follow the example of the Scottish pastor George MacDonald who asked and answered his own question:

"Is every Christian expected to bear witness?  A man content to bear no witness to the truth is not in the kingdom of heaven.  One who believes must bear witness.  One who sees the truth must live witnessing to it.  Do we carry ourselves in bank, on farm, in house or shop, in study or chamber or workshop, as the Lord would, or as the Lord would not? Are we careful to be true? Do we endeavour to live to the height of our ideas? Or are we mean, self-serving, world-flattering, fawning slaves? When contempt is cast on the truth, do we smile? Wronged in our presence, do we make no sign that we hold by it? I do not say we are called upon to dispute, and defend with logic and argument, but we are called upon to show that we are on the other side. But when I say truth, I do not mean opinion: to treat opinion as if that were truth, is grievously to wrong the truth. The soul that loves the truth and tries to be true, will know when to speak and when to be silent; but the true man will never look as if he did not care. We are not bound to say all we think, but we are bound not even to look what we do not think."

Elder Holland also recalled that Elder Maxwell was fond of quoting Gandalf from J.R.R. Tolkien's appropriately named book The Return of the King:

"It is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule."

Finally, Elder Holland reminded his audience of Elder Dallin H. Oaks' clear instruction that the Maxwell Institute have no obsessions or cheering constituencies because the institute belongs to God.  I'm not sure why it is so difficult to find this particular speech online, but Spencer Fluhman has the full transcript of these remarks in his possession.  Here, at least, is an excerpt from that speech:

"The work of the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship must be genuine and pervasive—as broad as the spiritual interests of the children of God, as faithful as eternal truth, and as bright as the light of truth within us."

That is a great challenge for all of us, but it is a challenge that particularly pertains to the members of the institute that bears the name of Elder Neal A. Maxwell.