Saturday, December 28, 2013

Saturday, December 21, 2013

11 Ideals

Recently I have been listening to Truman G. Madsen's lectures on the Presidents of the Church.  These lectures are exceedingly well done, and exceedingly rich in testimony, and true teaching.  

Today I happened upon Brother Madsen's lecture about President George Albert Smith.  When he was 34 years old, George Albert Smith made a list of resolutions that he called his “personal creed”—11 ideals that he committed to live by:

1. I would be a friend to the friendless and find joy in ministering to the needs of the poor.
2. I would visit the sick and afflicted and inspire in them a desire for faith to be healed.
3. I would teach the truth to the understanding and blessing of all mankind.
4. I would seek out the erring one and try to win him back to a righteous and a happy life.
5. I would not seek to force people to live up to my ideals but rather love them into doing the thing that is right.
6. I would live with the masses and help to solve their problems that their earth life may be happy.
7. I would avoid the publicity of high positions and discourage the flattery of thoughtless friends.
8. I would not knowingly wound the feelings of any, not even one who may have wronged me, but would seek to do him good and make him my friend.
9. I would overcome the tendency to selfishness and jealousy and rejoice in the successes of all the children of my Heavenly Father.
10. I would not be an enemy to any living soul.
11. Knowing that the Redeemer of mankind has offered to the world the only plan that will fully develop us and make us really happy here and hereafter, I feel it not only a duty but also a blessed privilege to disseminate this truth.

President Smith lived up to these ideals of a Christ-like life, and has inspired me to strive to do the same.  These are simply excellent guidelines toward developing a Christ-like character.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Glad Tidings of Great Joy

"Now, what do we hear in the gospel which we have received? A voice of gladness! A voice of mercy from heaven; and a voice of truth out of the earth; glad tidings for the dead; a voice of gladness for the living and the dead; glad tidings of great joy. How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those that bring glad tidings of good things, and that say unto Zion: Behold, thy God reigneth! As the dews of Carmel, so shall the knowledge of God descend upon them!" (D&C 128:19)

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

In the Bleak Midwinter

In the Bleak Midwinter

In the bleak mid-winter

Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him
Nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When He comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter
A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty,
Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim
Worship night and day,
A breastful of milk
And a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels
Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel
Which adore.

Angels and archangels
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
Thronged the air,
But only His mother
In her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the Beloved
With a kiss.

What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb,
If I were a wise man
I would do my part,
Yet what I can I give Him,
Give my heart.

- Christina Rossetti, written 1872, published posthumously in 1904

Grandma Hancock's Life History Interviews

Grandma Hancock's Life History Interviews

Part 1: Childhood and Early Memories

Part 2: Growing Up and Meeting Grandpa

Part 3: Family Life to Grandpa's Passing

Part 4: Grandpa's Passing to the Present and Beyond

"Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: / And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse." (Malachi 4:5-6)

Track Summaries:

Part 1: Childhood and Early Memories (Dec. 8, 2013): a. Aunt Maj b. Parents and Grandparents c. Childhood stories, school, teachers, math, friends, drawing/art d. milking the cow, 8th grade, friends, bar dancing, story of lambs, horses, Ernie's death e. family traditions, the Gospel and the Church, pioneer legacy in the Big Horn Basin, people on the ranch f. Cal and Reba, bears, babysitting story g. music, relationship with grandmother, talents, ice skating h. Cowly i. Sue's marriage j. more on Cowly, world events k. basketball, first television l. happiest times of childhood m. shepherding and sheep n. food

Part 2: Growing Up and Meeting Grandpa (Dec. 10, 2013): a. favorite things, play b. social conditions c. Grandma meets Grandpa d. business school e. places, houses, homes f. stories g. activities that Grandpa and Grandma enjoyed together h. bowling i. cream puff story j. money matters k. sicknesses l. last words and counsel m. favorite songs n. first kiss and relationships prior to grandpa p. Shelly runs away q. meeting grandpa (repeated) r. favorite songs (repeated)

Part 3: Family Life to Grandpa's Passing (Dec. 12, 2013) : a. to remember b. beautiful things c. the Church and Joseph Smith d. prophet and president e. stories f. meeting Grandpa (repeated), what she admired about Grandpa g. marriage and starting out h. the kids i. the name "Cornel" j. new life on Mercer Island k. vacationing and boats l. bowling m. reading Gone with the Wind n. songs and the clarinet o. Grandpa's character, personality and work p. Grandpa's death

Part 4: Grandpa's Passing to the Present, and Beyond (Dec. 13, 2013): a. kids, oldest to youngest b. story of Grandma getting in a fight c. describing children and grandchildren d. on the importance of family sticking together through ups and downs e. from the time of Grandpa's death to now f. Grandpa Ikey Guthrie g. final counsel

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Monty Python Football

This is easily one of my favorite Monty Python sketches of all time.  Don't miss Socrates' amazing header to win the match. (Special thanks to Bradly Rebeiro for sharing this clip with me.)

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Find Your Family Crest and Coat of Arms

This is a fun website, for those of you who would would like to find your family crest / coat of arms, and the history of your family name.  At least, I can use the ancient crest from the British Isles to design my own modern version someday:

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Oak Tree

The Oak Tree
by Johnny Ray Ryder Jr  

A mighty wind blew night and day
It stole the oak tree's leaves away
Then snapped its boughs and pulled its bark
Until the oak was tired and stark

But still the oak tree held its ground
While other trees fell all around
The weary wind gave up and spoke.
How can you still be standing Oak?

The oak tree said, I know that you
Can break each branch of mine in two
Carry every leaf away
Shake my limbs, and make me sway

But I have roots stretched in the earth
Growing stronger since my birth
You'll never touch them, for you see
They are the deepest part of me

Until today, I wasn't sure
Of just how much I could endure
But now I've found, with thanks to you
I'm stronger than I ever knew

Thursday, December 5, 2013

All Things Denote There is a God

Last night a friend and I attended an Interfaith Panel Discussion at the Springville Museum of Art.  The theme of the discussion was "Art & Worship," and the panel featured representatives from several faiths, including Catholicism, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, Presbyterianism and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  After brief presentations by each of the representatives, the members of the panel answered questions and drew further parallels between worship and the creative arts.

The presentations were instructive and edifying, as was the discussion following the presentations.  At the conclusion of the event, the woman representing the LDS faith made the point that much of the best loved iconography of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been produced by people of different faiths.  In fact, the religious art of Carl Bloch, Heinrich Hoffman, and Frans Schwartz is now on display at the BYU Museum of Art in an exhibit entitled "Sacred Gifts".

As the representatives for each faith presented a brief history and commentary on the role of art in worship, it became clear that each considered God to be the Supreme Artist, and that one of the purposes of art is to glorify the God as the Great Creator of the universe and of mankind.  Although each faith tradition and each individual artist is unique, the process of creation is itself a reflection of divinity.  In the words of the Prophet Alma:

"The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator." (Alma 30:44, see also D&C 88:47)

As beings created in the image and likeness of God, we have been endowed, though currently on a much smaller scale, with the ability and the capacity to create.  There is already much of beauty and wonder that is on display in the universe, and on this earth, but the creations of God are without number and without end:

"And worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose; and by the Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten." (Moses 1:33)

"And as one earth shall pass away, and the heavens thereof even so shall another come; and there is no end to my works, neither to my words.

For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man." (Moses 1:38-39)

After the Lord had created the earth and everything in it, He pronounced it good (Genesis 1:25).  But not until God had created man in His own likeness and image, and woman, the pinnacle of creation, could He pronounce it very good (Genesis 1:31).  And not until the due time of the Lord will His work be finished:

"The Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated
every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done." (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 4:540)
As the Lord declared in the record of Nephi:

"And I do this that I may prove unto many that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and that I speak forth my words according to mine own pleasure. And because that I have spoken one word ye need not suppose that I cannot speak another; for my work is not yet finished; neither shall it be until the end of man, neither from that time henceforth and forever." (2 Ne. 29:9)

Or, as the the Prophet Joseph Smith wrote in his Wentworth Letter:

"We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God." (Articles of Faith 1:9)

In other words, many masters of music, drawing, painting, sculpture, theater, film, literature, poetry and dance have already added their contributions of beauty and truth to the world, and it is well that we study and become familiar with their works.  But, in many ways, the work of creation is just beginning (see The Arts and the Spirit of the Lord).


Who Does God's Work Will Get God's Pay

Who Does God's Work Will Get
                 God's Pay
Who does God's work will get God's pay
However long may seem the day
However weary be the way
No mortal hand, God's hand can stay
He may not pay as others pay
In gold or skills or raiment's gay
In goods that perish and decay
But his high wisdom knows a way
And this is sure let come what may
Who does God's work will get God's pay

- Dennis McCarthy

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A New Birth of Freedom: Remembering The Gettysburg Address

As you probably well know, today marks the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.  Thousands gathered in Pennsylvania to commemorate the event, and to reenact scenes from the Civil War.

The world will little note, nor long remember what I write here, but that cause for which the brave men of Gettysburg gave the last full measure of devotion was not just a cause for Lincoln's time, nor was it just a cause for the time of the founding in 1776.  The call for a "new birth of freedom" is as urgent now as it was then.

It is well that we commemorate this great speech.  In response to those who would be quick to criticize such a commemoration as an unnecessary exercise in hagiography, I would direct them first toward Lincoln's writings, and then toward Matthew S. Holland's masterful exploration of American History in Bonds of Affection: Civic Charity and the Making of America.  For those who lack the patience to read an entire book on the subject, may I recommend an insightful article on the Gettysburg Address by the same author.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Breaking Good

At church yesterday one of the teachers began a discussion about goodness, and what it means to be good. Various people shared experiences about when they had been good to others or when others had been good to them. It was a great lesson that got me thinking about the Savior Jesus Christ, and His example of goodness. In a time when so many are interested in Breaking Bad, and in a time when good is called evil and evil is called good (Isaiah 5:20), it was refreshing to hear some reflections on goodness.

The scriptures record that Jesus Christ "went about doing good" (Acts 10:38), and yet he was despised for it (see The Living Christ: The Testimony of the Apostles). The scriptures also show the way to determine that which is good: "For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God." (Moroni 7:16)

The word "good" figures approximately 1,000 times in the Standard Works (The Old Testament, The New Testament, The Book of Mormon, The Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price), but these writings point away from themselves and toward Jesus Christ. And even when others used the word "good" to describe the Lord, His response was invariably to deflect and then direct praise toward His Father in Heaven:

"And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? / And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God." (Luke 18:18-19)

Similarly, the Prophet Joseph Smith once stated: “I love that man better who swears a stream as long as my arm, yet deals justice to his neighbors and mercifully deals his substance to the poor, than the smooth-faced hypocrite. I do not want you to think that I’m very righteous, for I am not. There was one good man, and his name was Jesus.” (Documentary History of the Church, 5:401).

On another occasion, a Baptist priest came to Nauvoo to determine the piety of the Prophet Joseph Smith, asking: "Is it possible that I now flash my optics upon a prophet, upon a man who has conversed with my Savior?" "Yes," replied the Prophet, "You've had that privilege. Now, how would you like to wrestle with me?" (Journal of Discourses, 3:67).

If one of the best men who ever lived on this earth said that "there was one good man, and his name was Jesus," and if Jesus himself said that "none is good, save one, that is, God," then at least we can be assured that anything good comes from the one who is good, namely God:

"And now I speak unto all the ends of the earth—that if the day cometh that the power and gifts of God shall be done away among you, it shall be because of unbelief.
And wo be unto the children of men if this be the case; for there shall be none that doeth good among you, no not one. For if there be one among you that doeth good, he shall work by the power and gifts of God." (Moroni 10:24-25)

Friday, November 15, 2013

Vive La Différence!: The Complementarity of the Sexes

Yesterday I attended a lecture sponsored by The Wheatley Institution.  The speaker, Helen Alvaré, delivered an eloquent message of such profound insight and lasting import that she nearly persuaded me to convert to Catholicism.  Hyperbole aside, she certainly convinced me that there is much more to explore in the relationship between Mormonism and Catholicism.  She also made it very clear that the complementarity of the sexes is a truth worth articulating, and a topic worth discussing.

Mrs. Alvaré entitled here remarks Equal Partners: The Salience of Roles in Marriage and Family.  She took as her main texts (in addition to multiple scholarly works) Pope John Paul II's 1988 apostolic letter MULIERIS DIGNITATEM: On the Dignity and Vocation of Women and a verse of scripture from the Apostle Paul concerning Christ: "who, existing in the form of God, counted not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped" (Phillipians 2:6Mrs. Alvaré proceeded to delineate commonalities between the Catholic understanding of the family and the understanding of the family as set forth in The Family: A Proclamation to the World.  As a backdrop (and sharp contrast) to this comparison, Mrs. Alvaré laid out a summary of secular feminism over the last 50 years since the sexual revolution.  The result was a scintillating statement, not only on the complementarity of the sexes, but also on the very nature and meaning of love.

As Mrs. Alvaré correctly indicated, society often tends to place high value on power and public achievement (not to mention prominence and possessions) as opposed to service and the home.  She outlined some of the common adjectives that have been used to describe differences between male and female characteristics, words such as active vs. passive, hierarchical vs. relational, and strong vs. weakShe noted that much of this modern terminology, even the word "roles," has been taintedMrs. Alvaré also demonstrated that modern feminism has created a separation between sex and marriage, and sex and babies.  This separation has occurred in part as a result of the emphasis placed on erasing differences between males and females, and the attempt to favor autonomy and individual sexual expression above relationships and the family. 

The question that she posed at the beginning of her lecture was "Are there really important differences between men and women?"  The question may seem banal, but the strident claims of some feminists has made it necessary to respond to such questions.  Mrs. Alvaré provided ample statistics and anecdotes to support her thesis that men and women have complementary natures and that this complementarity is necessary for the kind of success that matters, namely, the capacity to live and love well.  In fact, one of the definitions that she gave for what it means to love is the ability to "capacitate who the other was meant to be."  

As beings created in the image of God, both males and females have unique gifts to offer each other.  Mrs. Alvaré explained that part of the feminine genius is the natural ability to teach the husband not to lord over her, but to enable him to give his unique gifts to his wife and his children.  The feminine genius includes a relational instinct and a capacity for collaboration, as well as the attributes alluded to in Mulieris dignitatem and The Family: A Proclamation to the World.  Mrs. Alvaré lamented that not enough has been done to articulate the genius of men (a project that I would happily allow women of her caliber to advance), but she did suggest six points of action to foster healthy relationships between the sexes: 1. eschew tainted vocabulary such as "roles" in order to employ terms such as male and female "capacities" and "fields of action" 2. understand the gifts that men and women have to offer each other 3. reject the idea that silencing religion and denying differences between the sexes is the path to caring for women, helping the poor and vulnerable, or aiding children 4. enable women to actively advocate for religious freedom and to have their voices heard in the public square 5. emphasize the fact that, on the whole, women want to be married and to bare and rear children, and 6. remember that women are excellent communicators.

Mrs. Alvaré's lecture was illuminating, edifying and instructive.  She called for a renewed understanding of the complementarity of the sexes, inviting her audience to eliminate gender mistrust by focusing on the questions "What do women admire about men?" and "What do men admire about women?"  She invited the younger generations to lead a conversation about complementarity and to foster a correct understanding of love that will counteract the contamination of a culture that produces rants against both men and women.  In summary, Helen Alvaré may well be at the forefront of a revolution in the understanding of complementarity between the sexes, if not at the forefront of a revolution in the very understanding of the meaning of love.  Vive La Différence!

What do you think?  Are there differences between the sexes?  What do women admire about men?  What do men admire about women?  Discuss.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Simple Request

I have landed over 21,000 page views on this blog, The Good Report, since it's inception in January of 2011.  That's roughly 7,000 views per year.  I assume that this means that people have been reading some of the things that I have posted, although I'm not absolutely certain of this, since the blog does not currently use the open comments feature.   For all I know, there is a hyperactive lab monkey in Botswana that randomly clicked on the link 21,000 times, or there were 7,000 3-legged gerbils who scurried across keyboards and clicked on the link once with each one of their little clawed feet. (I'm sure a trained scientist could come up with a better explanation)  The other more likely possibility is that actual human beings have read what I have written.

I began this blog for the express purpose of seeking to glorify God in a quest for goodness, light and truth, and to communicate such findings in writing.  Heaven knows that I fall far short of this lofty goal, but I still endeavor to seek after and record those things that I find uplifting, inspiring, thought-provoking, edifying or, for lack of a better term, good.  In other words, in contrast to much (though of course not all) that can be found on the internet or in the media, I try to seek out and write about that which is virtuous, lovely, of good report and praiseworthy... hence the name The Good Report.

As I near the three year anniversary of the beginning of The Good Report, and after a recent conversation with an insightful friend about the nature of blogging, I have decided to get to know my audience better (whether said audience consists of lab monkeys, gerbils, or human beings).  This way, I may gain greater insights into what sort of topics to write about and how exactly to best express my thoughts in writing. 

Therefore, I proceed to make a simple request.  If you have read my blog, The Good Report, or if you are reading it now, please click the like button underneath this post on my facebook page, and feel free to include a thought or two about what you like or dislike about the blog, your favorite or least favorite posts, ways to improve the blog, possible topics to address in the future, or anything else that you consider relevant to the project at hand.  If we are not yet friends on facebook, feel free to add me, or comment on this post (which I will open up for comments).  Please keep in mind that although I am sensitive to criticism, I would much rather work on improving and ameliorating cyber space where I can, and therefore all viewpoints are welcome.

Thank you for visiting The Good Report!  I hope to have in some way brightened or enlightened, or at least entertained your day! :)  As for you gerbils, scurry along now, and lab monkey, get back to work.



Plato and the Man of Steel: What Superman Says about our Humanity (article by Peter Augustine Lawler)

What does Plato have to do with Superman?  A lot. (article by Peter Augustine Lawler, professor of government at Berry College)

Friday, November 8, 2013

French and Italian Cinema

I had a great experience as an undergraduate at Brigham Young University.  It was so great in fact, that it took me five years to graduate.  For the most part, my undergraduate experience was a spiritual and an intellectual feast, and in the words of Isaiah, I delighted in fatness (Isaiah 55:2).  Although film was not the main focus of my undergraduate studies, one class that I especially enjoyed was French and Italian Cinema, taught by Professor Daryl Lee.

In Professor Lee's class we read a couple of books on the art of film, watched a lot of great films, wrote essays, and then discussed them in class.  I would have to sift through my files to find the syllabus, but I can still recall (with the help of the miraculous internet) some of the films that we watched for the class, as well as some others that I have seen. (Disclaimer: This is not meant to be an exhaustive list, and I would happily add more to the list as soon as I watch them)

French Cinema  

L'Arrivée d'un train en gare de La Ciotat
Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory
A Trip to the Moon
Un chien andalou     
La grande illusion  
The Fanny Trilogy   
Hiroshima mon amour   
400 coups 
A bout de souffle       
Le retour de Martin Guerre   
Jean de Florette  
Manon des Source 
Au revoir les enfants  
La gloire de mon pere 
Les Choristes
Italian Cinema

Roma: Citta aperta
Ladri di biciclette 
La strada 
8 1/2   
Blow up 
Romeo and Juliet 
Gesù di Nazaret  
Cinema paradiso  
Il postino   
La vita e bella