Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Race is not to the Swift

Yesterday I watched a track meet at BYU with my dad and my sister Abigail. Incredible athletes pole vaulted, high jumped, long jumped, triple jumped, hurdled, threw discus and javelin, and raced. A specialist in the mile race attempted to break the four minute mile record, something that has only been accomplished once before in Utah. Although he came in four seconds after four minutes, he made a valiant effort. I enjoyed all the events, but I particularly enjoyed the 100 meter dash. The sheer power and acceleration of the athletes was inspiring.

Later in the evening, I met a young man named Akwasi Frimpong, who is also track star. Born in Ghana and raised in the Netherlands, Akwasi is an Olympic hopeful who now runs for the UVU track team. He is also the subject of a film about his quest to represent the Netherlands in the 2012 Olympic games. More impressive than his recognizable muscular build was his positive attitude and magnetic personality.

The thoughts racing through my mind this morning were also about racing:

"I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the aswift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all." (Ecclesiastes 9:11)

The preceding two verses are perhaps more encouraging, but the truth of this verse has recently been emphasized by President Thomas S. Monson in his talk entitled The Race of Life. In his talk, President Monson cites the apostle Paul, who compared life to a race against sin:

"Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the asin which doth so easily bbeset us, and let us run with cpatience the race that is set before us,
Looking unto Jesus the aauthor and bfinisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him cendured the cross, despising the dshame, and is set down at the right hand of the ethrone of God." (Hebrews 12:1-2)

One last runner who also understood the "joy that was set before" was Eric Liddell, the Scottish Olympic athlete and missionary who is the hero of the film Chariots of Fire. He was known as the "flying Scotsman" and was purportedly complimented by his headmaster at Eltham school as "entirely without vanity."

As the story goes, Liddell, a committed and devout Christian, refused to run in a race held on the Sabbath, a race that was his best event and that he could have won. Later, Liddell ran in the 400 meter race and gained a spectacular victory, for which victory he characteristically gave the glory to God. In the film, Liddell told his sister Jennie: "I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure."

I too believe that God made me, and all of us, for a purpose. God created us each with unique talents, characteristics and attributes. For Eric Liddell, he knew that God had also made him fast, and that by doing his best in running, he could feel God's pleasure.

What are some of the things that you do that allow you to feel God's pleasure? If you could repeat the phrase, but for yourself, "I believe that God made me for a purpose, but he also made me ____, and when I _____ I feel His pleasure", how would you fill in the blanks?



Thursday, April 26, 2012

Happy Birthday William Shakespeare

Many historians believe that April 23 was both the birthday and the death-day of William Shakespeare.

Occasionally, when a Shakespearean verse strikes a chord in my heart resonates in my mind, it moves me to wonder what was the crucible that forged his character? What light of inspiration lit his mind to produce a heroic couplet in a sonnet, the banter between Beatrice and Benedict, or the Tempest?

I think that Marian the Librarian was onto something when she sang:

"All I want is a plain man;
All I want is a modest man;
A quiet man, a gentle man, a straightforward and honest man to sit with me in a cottage somewhere in the state of Iowa.
And I would like him to be more interested in me than he is in himself.
And more int'rested in us than in me.

And if occasionally he'd ponder what makes Shakespeare and Beethoven great, him I could love till I die.
Him I could love till I die."

So, this is one of those times when occasionally I'm pondering what made Shakespeare great. What do you think? What are some of your favorite lines from Shakespeare? 

Rough Stone Rolling: A Review

This hefty tome may not be the ideal supplement for the average Sunday School class, but it could be. No man knows Joseph Smith's history, but Richard L. Bushman comes closer than most. This biography depicts the Prophet as he really was, as he claimed himself to be, and as he was seen by those around him, both friend and foe. From his birth to his martyrdom, Joseph Smith was a rough stone rolling, and still, long after this first generation of latter-day saints, the kingdom that was set up through his instrumentality continues to roll forth as prophesied in the book of Daniel.

In addition to the Words of Joseph Smith, The Teachings of Joseph Smith, and other primary sources such as those found in The Joseph Smith Papers, Bushman's chef d'oeuvre provides keen insights, faithful reflections, and intimate details of the life of this great man and prophet of God. Bushman paints a vivid picture of early 19th century America, including the social and cultural forces that contributed to the forging of Joseph Smith's character, as well as the characters of his entourage.

Bushman pulls no punches. From Joseph Smith's charisma to his seemingly angry outbursts, from his deep love for Emma to his adherence to the revealed principle of plural marriage, from acts of courage and bravery to moments of weakness and confession, this book does not shy away from historical realities.

Although many of the stories were familiar, I came away with an increased appreciation for the manner in which the Lord shaped and molded his servant Joseph Smith. The masterful way in which Bushman organized the historical context around the Prophet's words and deeds allows room for interpretation as well as room for the Prophet's voice to be heard.

I particularly enjoyed the early chapter on the Book of Mormon, the later chapter on the King Follett discourse, and the accurate description of the events that lead up to the the Prophet's martyrdom. In light of John Taylor's tribute to Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum that is now canonized in the 135th section of the Doctrine and Covenants, Rough Stone Rolling reveals how an imperfect person can live great and die great in the eyes of God.

I highly recommend this book to all who have not read it, and I re-recommend it to those who have. There are at least two lives that I will not cease to study and to learn from in my continuing quest to know and love God more fully, namely the life of Christ and the life of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Rough Stone Rolling has increased my appreciation for both.

Monday, April 23, 2012

What is the Great Question?

What is the Great Question? There are many great and important questions, not the least of which are questions concerning the purpose of life and of existence, the origin of man, and individual destiny. But these are only ancillary to the Great Question. The Great Question is found in the pages of a book. Which book is an inestimable treasure trove of truth, a fountainhead of faith and a reservoir of love? Which book has merited the divine description of "marvelous"? Which book provides answers to the Great Question? My heart and mind resonate with the following portion of a panegyric to this book:

"For my part, I am glad the book will be with us 'as long as the earth shall stand.' I need and want additional time. For me, towers, courtyards, and wings await inspection. My tour of it has never been completed. Some rooms I have yet to enter, and there are more flaming fireplaces waiting to warm me. Even the rooms I have glimpsed contain further furnishings and rich detail yet to be savored. There are panels inlaid with incredible insights and design and decor dating from Eden. There are also sumptuous banquet tables painstakingly prepared by predecessors which await all of us. Yet, we as Church members sometimes behave like hurried tourists, scarcely venturing beyond the entry hall to the mansion. -Elder Neal A. Maxwell

Although Dr. Seuss' Green Eggs and Ham answers many if not most of life's most perplexing questions, the Book to which I am referring is none other than the Book of Mormon. It is the keystone of our religion, written for our day. As President Benson taught:

"It is not just that the Book of Mormon teaches us truth, though it indeed does that. It is not just that the Book of Mormon bears testimony of Christ, though it indeed does that, too. But there is something more. There is a power in the book which will begin to flow into your lives the moment you begin a serious study of the book. You will find greater power to resist temptation. You will find the power to avoid deception. You will find the power to stay on the strait and narrow path. The scriptures are called “the words of life” (D&C 84:85), and nowhere is that more true than it is of the Book of Mormon. When you begin to hunger and thirst after those words, you will find life in greater and greater abundance."

This is true.  As Elder Maxwell taught: "the Book of Mormon provides resounding and great answers to what Amulek designated as “the great question”; namely, is there really a redeeming Christ? (Alma 34:5–6.) The Book of Mormon with clarity and with evidence says, 'Yes! Yes! Yes!'"

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Eremite, Talk Fahrenheit, because Love's not Time's fool

Drawing upon celestial imagery, first Keats and then Frost elucidate different aspects of a love that Shakespeare once described in Sonnet #116 as the "star to every wandering bark." Keats poem inspired a film, and Frost's poem, a song. Shakespeare's poem, if permitted, may inspire the same kind of love that "is never shaken." Here are the poems, first Keats, then Frost, then the Bard of Avon.

Bright star, would I were steadfast as thou art —
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like Nature's patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth's human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors —
No — yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow'd upon my fair love's ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft swell and fall,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever — or else swoon to death.

-John Keats, 1819

O Star (the fairest one in sight),
We grant your loftiness the right
To some obscurity of cloud --
It will not do to say of night,
Since dark is what brings out your light.
Some mystery becomes the proud.
But to be wholly taciturn
In your reserve is not allowed.
Say something to us we can learn
By heart and when alone repeat.
Say something! And it says "I burn."
But say with what degree of heat.
Talk Fahrenheit, talk Centigrade.
Use language we can comprehend.
Tell us what elements you blend.
It gives us strangely little aid,
But does tell something in the end.
And steadfast as Keats' Eremite,
Not even stooping from its sphere,
It asks a little of us here.
It asks of us a certain height,
So when at times the mob is swayed
To carry praise or blame too far,
We may choose something like a star
To stay our minds on and be staid. 

-Robert Frost, 1947

Sonnet #116

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

William Shakespeare, 1609


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

May his tribe increase: a Favorite Poem

Abou Ben Adhem

Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw, within the moonlight in his room,
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
An angel writing in a book of gold:—
Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
And to the Presence in the room he said
"What writest thou?"—The vision raised its head,
And with a look made of all sweet accord,
Answered "The names of those who love the Lord."
"And is mine one?" said Abou. "Nay, not so,"
Replied the angel. Abou spoke more low,
But cheerly still, and said "I pray thee, then,
Write me as one that loves his fellow men."

The angel wrote, and vanished. The next night
It came again with a great wakening light,
And showed the names whom love of God had blessed,
And lo! Ben Adhem's name led all the rest.

-James Henry Leigh Hunt

Monday, April 16, 2012

Praise in Poverty: A Choir in the Congo

This is beautiful, although I am not at all surprised that something so great came out of Kinshasha in the Congo. In fact, I suspect that there are many other great and beautiful things to be discovered in Africa, as well as in the Middle East, Asia, and other areas. I received word of this music from a friend who is serving a mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The people and the voices are beautiful. How refreshing to hear the beautiful voices praising God with a joyful noise! especially when so much that is portrayed in media is degrading and demoralizing. I found it ironic that the advertisements interspersed throughout the report, aiming at a materialistic society, speak of science and progress, when the real gem is found in an area of abject poverty. I'm certainly not opposed to free market capitalism, but all the so called science and progress in the world can't buy something this beautiful and transcendent. Thanks for this good news!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

No Compulsion in Religion

One of the most celebrated verses of the Qu'ran addresses the essential nature of religious freedom: "There is no compulsion in religion, for the right way is clearly from the wrong way. Whoever therefore rejects the forces of evil and believes in God, he has taken hold of a support most unfailing, which shall never give way, for God is All Hearing and Knowing." (Qu'ran 2:256)

In the late 17th century, John Locke delivered a less subtle rebuke of the use of force in religion. At this time, some were beginning to fear that Catholicism would overtake England. In a letter addressed to an anonymous friend, Locke set forth a new understanding of the relationship between religion and government while emphasizing the importance of religious toleration:
"Since you are pleased to inquire what are my thoughts about the mutual toleration of Christians in their different professions of religion, I must needs answer you freely that I esteem that toleration to be the chief characteristic mark of the true Church. For whatsoever some people boast of the antiquity of places and names, or of the pomp of their outward worship; others, of the reformation of their discipline; all, of the orthodoxy of their faith — for everyone is orthodox to himself — these things, and all others of this nature, are much rather marks of men striving for power and empire over one another than of the Church of Christ. Let anyone have never so true a claim to all these things, yet if he be destitute of charity, meekness, and good-will in general towards all mankind, even to those that are not Christians, he is certainly yet short of being a true Christian himself."

Locke's reasoning was influential in the American founding, which in turn paved the way for religious revivals such as the Great Awakening. During the Second Great Awakening, another letter emerged that defended the same principle of tolerance. In 1842, Joseph Smith, Jr. wrote a letter to John Wentworth that included a brief history of the church and thirteen articles of faith. The call for tolerance in the eleventh article of faith is remarkably similar to both Locke's letter and the Qu'ranic declaration:

"We claim the aprivilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the bdictates of our own cconscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them dworship how, where, or what they may." (Articles of Faith 1:11)

In many ways, our modern society is no different from late 17th century England or early 19th century America. Just as the British feared encroaching Catholicism, and early Americans engaged in a war of words and a tumult of opinions, some people today are wary of the looming threat of theocracy, and are eager to combat the seemingly imposing power of religion in the name of tolerance (see Ironically,  that very principle of tolerance is found at the core of the western philosophical tradition, the Judeo-Christian heritage and even in the Qu'ran. Freedom is the basis of religion, and religion helps to form the basis of freedom. John Locke's letter continues:

"If, like the Captain of our salvation, they sincerely desired the good of souls, they would tread in the steps and follow the perfect example of that Prince of Peace, who sent out His soldiers to the subduing of nations, and gathering them into His Church, not armed with the sword, or other instruments of force, but prepared with the Gospel of peace and with the exemplary holiness of their conversation. This was His method. Though if infidels were to be converted by force, if those that are either blind or obstinate were to be drawn off from their errors by armed soldiers, we know very well that it was much more easy for Him to do it with armies of heavenly legions than for any son of the Church, how potent soever, with all his dragoons... The toleration of those that differ from others in matters of religion is so agreeable to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and to the genuine reason of mankind, that it seems monstrous for men to be so blind as not to perceive the necessity and advantage of it in so clear a light." (John Locke: A Letter Concerning Toleration)

I have attempted to trace a theme through the centuries and through various traditions, but this theme, that there is no compulsion in religion, is even deeper, even wider, more over-arching and at the same time more specific than history or the pen can tell. Nevertheless, perhaps better than most, an anonymous poet has captured essence of the freedom of religion:

"Know then that ev'ry soul is free,
To choose his life and what he'll be;
For this eternal truth is given,
That God will force no man to heaven."
(Hymns of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, no. 240)

What is freedom?

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints freedom is often defined in terms of agency. Agency is the ability and privilege granted by God for an individual to choose and to act for himself or herself. Agency is a gift linked inextricably to the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
In the first place, God granted agency to man. As Adam and Eve exercised their agency to partake of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, they faced the consequence of being cast out of the garden of Eden. As Adam and Eve then received the gospel by exercising faith in Christ, repenting of their sins, being baptized, and receiving the Holy Ghost, they were blessed with the joy and happiness that was promised to them on condition of their obedience. By choosing to follow Jesus Christ, they received great blessings.
Jesus did always the things that pleased his Father. After granting forgiveness to a woman accused of adultery, Jesus taught the people on the Mount of Olives about true freedom. Jesus taught: And ye shall aknow the btruth, and the ctruth shall make you dfree. (John 8:32 ) He also taught:  If the Son therefore shall make you afree, ye shall be free indeed. (John 8:36) For this teaching, the people were ready to stone him, just as they were ready to stone the woman whom Jesus forgave. 
Similarly, the apostle Paul taught the Corinthians that, "where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." (2 Cor. 3:17) The principle of agency issues from and is dependent upon the foundational doctrine of Christ, namely, the Atonement. In other words, the life, message, mission and sacrifice of Jesus Christ are what make the exercise of agency possible. Thus, in a very real sense, freedom is not free. It was granted as a gift, and redeemed by an infinite and eternal sacrifice.
In the premortal world, the sons and daughters of Heavenly Father convened in a great council. Heavenly Father presented his great plan of happiness, the plan of salvation, and Jesus Christ was chosen as our Savior. We shouted for joy (Job 38:7). But there was a war in heaven. Satan rebelled against Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, seeking to destroy the agency of man (Moses 4:3). A third of the hosts of heaven followed Satan. They were cast down to the earth (D&C 29:36–37, Rev. 12:4, 7–9) to tempt and to try man.
Here we see the basic opposition between the Lord’s way and the way of the devil. Jesus Christ gave his life so that all could be free to choose, whereas Satan employed coercion and compulsion. Jesus Christ gave all glory to the Father, whereas Satan desired all glory for himself. Jesus Christ’s Atonement makes agency possible, whereas Satan’s lies inhibit agency.
Michael and his angels were victorious over Satan in the war in heaven (And they aovercame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their btestimony; and they loved not their lives unto the cdeath. Rev. 12:11). But the war continues (And the adragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make bwar with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. Rev. 12:17, see also The victory will be won in the same way on earth that is was in heaven, namely, by being valiant in the testimony of Jesus, and by obeying all of God’s commandments.
From the example of Jesus Christ we learn that agency, the privilege and ability to choose, is expanded and augmented by obedience. Indeed, Jesus Christ submitted fully to the will of his Father and Heaven, and by so doing, marked the path to true freedom. Agency is precious. It was given as a gift, and purchased by the ultimate sacrifice. If a war was fought in heaven over this precious gift, is it any wonder that the same war continues today? The victory in heaven was won through Jesus Christ. That same victory will be won on earth through Jesus Christ.
The Spirit of the Lord creates the conditions that foster true freedom and liberty. Thus, the terms “freedom” and “liberty” are expressions of the principle of agency, which principle is dependent upon the Atonement of Jesus Christ. (see also,

Friday, April 13, 2012

I had loved before

When Joseph Smith first taught Parley P. Pratt the doctrine of eternal families, Pratt later wrote:

“It was at this time that I received from him [Joseph Smith] the first idea of eternal family organization, and the eternal union of the sexes in those inexpressibly endearing relationships which none but the highly intellectual, the refined and pure in heart, know how to prize, and which are at the very foundation of everything worthy to be called happiness. …

“It was from him that I learned that the wife of my bosom might be secured to me for time and all eternity; and that the refined sympathies and affections which endeared us to each other emanated from the fountain of divine eternal love. It was from him that I learned that we might cultivate these affections, and grow and increase in the same to all eternity; while the result of our endless union would be an offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven, or the sands of the sea shore. …

“I had loved before, but I knew not why. But now I loved—with a pureness—an intensity of elevated, exalted feeling. … I felt that God was my heavenly Father indeed; that Jesus was my brother, and that the wife of my bosom was an immortal, eternal companion; a kind ministering angel, given to me as a comfort, and a crown of glory for ever and ever.” 6

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Neal A. Maxwell Lecture

Tonight I attended the sixth annual Neal A. Maxwell Lecture for the Neal A. Maxwell Institute ( Daniel Peterson presented the speaker, Alan Ashton, who spoke on Christ and sanctification. The title of his speech was: "Oh How Surely Christ Sanctifies His Own." He provided a hand-out of nearly 40 pages with a list of Names of Jesus Christ that are found in the standard works. It may not be a complete list, but it is the longest list of the sort that I have seen. In a way, it is reminiscent of the 99 beautiful names of Allah.

In any case, the speech centered on Christ and the process of sanctification, and made several references to Elder Maxwell's teachings on desire (e.g. It was an evening of edification, both spiritually strengthening and intellectually enlarging. In order for it to be character building, I will make a point of studying the names in order to retain them in remembrance and to center my desires more on the Savior Jesus Christ and the will of God.

The Things of my Soul

This morning I read a selection from the Psalm of Nephi:

And upon these I write the things of my soul, and many of the scriptures which are engraven upon the plates of brass.  For my soul delighteth in the scriptures, and my heart pondereth them, and writeth them for the learning and the profit of my children. Behold, my soul delighteth in the things of the Lord; and my heart pondereth continually upon the things which I have seen and heard. (2 Ne. 4:15-16)

A search for the word "delight" in the standard works produced 103 results. I was pondering that in which the Lord delights. Nephi's soul delighted in the things of the Lord because his soul delighted in the same things in which the Lord finds delights. Jacob also delighted in the things of the Lord, so much so that he could say without any compunction: "come unto the Holy One of Israel, and feast upon that which perisheth not, neither can be corrupted, and let your soul delight in fatness." (2 Ne. 9:51)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Good Judgment and Common Sense

This is a pearl of wisdom that my friend shared with me. Henry Eyring expounds on the meaning of diligence and temperance. He reveals the sure antidote to pride, and gives examples that inspire good judgment and common sense. This is a gem that fits in perfectly with the purpose of this blog. Thank you!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter Reflections

It seems as though many conversations with adults can be categorized by the following theme: “Who is the greatest?” For example, in a conversation today about the greatest prophets, mention was made of Abraham. Luke recorded one occasion when the Lord taught that, “Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” (Luke 7:28)

All this talk of greatness reminded me of an ESPN documentary on the top 100 tennis players of all time, a list that included Rod Laver, Mats Wilander, Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, Bjorn Borg, Rafael Nadal and Pete Sampras. Novak Djokovic is another. My personal favorites have been Andre Agassi and Roger Federer – Agassi for his heart, perseverance, and determination, and Federer for his seemingly effortless style, God-given talent, consistency, and class. Federer would have my vote as the greatest tennis player of all time. He was simply born to play tennis.

You may ask, what does this have to do with Easter? My thoughts turned from prophets and tennis to Jehovah, the great I AM, who taught Abraham face to face:

And the Lord said unto me: These two facts do exist, that there are two spirits, one being more intelligent than the other; there shall be another more intelligent than they; I am the Lord thy God, I am more intelligent than they all. (Abraham 3:19)

During his mortal ministry, the Savior taught his disciples another lesson on greatness:
At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the agreatest in the kingdom of heaven?
And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them,
And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little achildren, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Whosoever therefore shall ahumble himself as this little bchild, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
And whoso shall receive one such little child in my aname receiveth me. (Matthew 18:1-5)

When I returned home from church today, I picked up my sweet little niece Lelia. As I held the precious child in my arms, and as she gazed around her in wonder, pointing to the sunlight, to her brothers and sisters, and laughing and smiling, I felt a great desire to become as a little child.

I am grateful for Jesus Christ, the greatest of all, who rose from the tomb, who ministered among the Nephites and blessed their little children. The Resurrected Lord later taught the Prophet Joseph Smith and a few of his close associates through revelation that:

He that is aordained of God and sent forth, the same is appointed to be the bgreatest, notwithstanding he is the cleast and the dservant of all. (D&C 50:26)

Like my cousin blessing his child in church today, I can imagine the Savior blessing us:
 aFear not, little bchildren, for you are mine, and I have covercome the world, and you are of them that my Father hath dgiven me; (D&C 50:40-41) Happy Easter, one and all.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Always maintain a true principle...

“To get salvation we must not only do some things, but everything which God has commanded. Men may preach and practice everything except those things which God commands us to do, and will be damned at last. We may tithe mint and rue, and all manner of herbs, and still not obey the commandments of God [see Luke 11:42]. The object with me is to obey and teach others to obey God in just what He tells us to do. It mattereth not whether the principle is popular or unpopular, I will always maintain a true principle, even if I stand alone in it.” -Joseph Smith

Anxious to bless the whole human race...

“Love is one of the chief characteristics of Deity, and ought to be manifested by those who aspire to be the sons of God. A man filled with the love of God, is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race. This has been your feeling, and caused you to forego the pleasures of home, that you might be a blessing to others, who are candidates for immortality, but strangers to truth; and for so doing, I pray that heaven’s choicest blessings may rest upon you.” - Joseph Smith

Drinking into One Principle of Love: Islam and Mormonism

A couple of days ago at the symposium of the Wheatly Institution at BYU "Empowering Moderate Islam" Dr. Douglas M. Johnson distributed an important flyer with this introduction:
"In November of 2004, H.M. King Abdullah Il bin Al-Hussein of Jordan issued the Amman Message (  to 'declare what Islam is and what it is not, and what actions represent it and what actions do not,' and to clarify to the modern world the true nature of Islam and and the nature of true Islam.'" (

Johnson continues, "In 2010, following his work on the Amman Message, King Abdullah approached the United Nations with the idea of creating a World Interfaith Harmony Week ( Quoting the associated website:

'The World Interfaith Harmony Week, like all the previous endeavors of HM King Abdullah, is not a call to water down one’s faith, but rather it’s a call to respect our differences and personal beliefs and to unite around the basic principles that people of all beliefs agree upon and to understand that harmony can only come if we build upon a solid foundation of dialogue that has “Love of God and love of the neighbor or, love of Good and love of the neighbor” as its core principle for engagement.'"

The solid foundation of dialogue and the core principle for engagement of The Good Report is the same, love of God and love of neighbor. It finds eloquent expression in the words of the Prophet Joseph Smith:

“The inquiry is frequently made of me, 'Wherein do you differ from others in your religious views?' In reality and essence we do not differ so far in our religious views, but that we could all drink into one principle of love. One of the grand fundamental principles of ‘Mormonism’ is to receive truth, let it come from whence it may.” Joseph Smith, quoted in History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2nded. (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1949), 5:499.

On another occasion Joseph Smith also taught that "Friendship is one of the grand fundamental principles of 'Mormonism'; [it is designed] to revolutionize and civilize the world, and cause wars and contentions to cease and men to become friends and brothers" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 316).

With these principles in mind, I hope to engage not only the great religious traditions of the world, such as Islam, Judaism and Christianity, but also to engage the great literary and philosophical traditions of the world. The purpose of The Good Report is to discover and publish the good that I find in this journey and to invite others to do likewise.

Publishing Peace

On more than one occasion I have been impressed by the use of the word "publish" in the scriptures. For example:

And ablessed are they who shall seek to bring forth my bZion at that day, for they shall have the cgift and the dpower of the Holy Ghost; and if they eendure unto the end they shall be flifted up at the last day, and shall be saved in the everlasting gkingdom of the Lamb; and whoso shall hpublish peace, yea, tidings of great joy, how beautiful upon the mountains shall they be. (1 Ne 13:37)

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of Him who is the author and finisher of our faith. Two millennia ago Jesus Christ published peace and brought tidings of great joy in the land of Palestine. At His birth the angel of the Lord declared to the shepherds:

Fear not: for, behold, I bring you agood tidings of great bjoy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is aborn this day in the city of David a bSaviour, which is Christ the cLord. (Luke 2:10-11)

The inspiration for this blog comes from the need, as I see it, to focus on the good news of the gospel, to be of good cheer, and to publish peace and tidings of great joy. Perhaps in some small way it may strengthen others in the desire to live the great commandments more fully, namely, to love God and our neighbor. The purpose of The Good Report is therefore to glorify God and to do good to all men. 

As we collectively seek for all that is virtuous, lovely, of good report (hence the title) and praiseworthy, we will certainly find greater happiness and joy. Whether it be music, film, literature, art, or any other genre, contributions are welcome. It could come from a book you read. It could be a story you hear, a concert or song you listen to, a film or painting you see. Whatever it is that inspires joy in your heart, brings light to your mind and edifies your soul...  it can be part of The Good Report. Let's get the ball rolling...