Saturday, January 26, 2013

Beware of Those Biceps!

In lieu of recent events, including the second presidential inauguration, a truth has begun to impress itself more persistently upon my mind than usual, and it is this: that the wisdom of men is foolishness.  The word "men" of course refers to both men and women.  In Shakespeare's A Midsummer-Night's Dream the mischievous Puck brings King Oberon to see the spectacle of confused lovers in the woods:

"Captain of our fairy band,
Helena is here at hand,
And the youth, mistook by me,
Pleading for a lover's fee.
Shall we their fond pageant see?
Lord, what fools these mortals be!" (A Midsummer-Night's Dream, Act III, Scene II)

Whereas Shakespeare's Puck and Oberon enjoyed the spectacle of foolishness before them, the Book of Mormon prophet Jacob once lamented:

"O that cunning aplan of the evil one! O the bvainness, and the frailties, and the cfoolishness of men! When they are dlearned they think they are ewise, and they fhearken not unto the gcounsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their hwisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish.  But to be alearned is good if they bhearken unto the ccounsels of God." (2 Ne 9:28-29)

Although I cannot claim to possess the magical perspective of Puck or the prophetic insight of Jacob, I have come to appreciate more fully the following statement by Elder Neal A. Maxwell

"In a very real sense, all we need to know is that God knows all! If one searches for still other reasons as to why the doctrine of the omniscience of God is a stumbling block for some, some of these are attributable to the democratic age in which we live with its inordinate efforts at equalizing everything, rather than achieving justice. The deification of man and the subsequent deep disappointment with man have both happened within decades of each other. It has been a time of terrible wrenching for the humanist and the optimist.  The dashed plans of mankind have led many people to a despair and disappointment with life and with themselves. Mortals then impute their deficiencies, somehow, to Divinity.  Yet was it not God who, from the beginning, reminded earthlings that the wisdom of men is foolishness? We are only discovering, afresh, what He has long told us about all man's puny efforts that do not rely upon Him. Mortals are fretting over the weakened arm of flesh, but God has told us for centuries to beware of those biceps!"

Saturday, January 19, 2013

As a Child

Since this is my 100th blog post on The Good Report, I want it to be special.  As I have reviewed some of the topics that I have chosen to write about, it occurs to me that I have barely begun to scratch the surface of things that are virtuous, lovely, of good report and praiseworthy.  The words of the hymn come to mind:

"1. If you could hie to Kolob In the twinkling of an eye,
And then continue onward With that same speed to fly,
Do you think that you could ever, Through all eternity,
Find out the generation Where Gods began to be?"

That is a good question. It is definitely a question worth pondering, one that the author of this poem, W.W. Phelps, certainly pondered.  It is also question that gives rise to other good questions.  But W.W. Phelps was inquiring, like a child, because he wanted to know the answer.  The poem continues: 

"2. Or see the grand beginning, Where space did not extend?
Or view the last creation, Where Gods and matter end?
Me thinks the Spirit whispers, “No man has found ‘pure space,’
Nor seen the outside curtains, Where nothing has a place.”

3. The works of God continue, And worlds and lives abound;
Improvement and progression Have one eternal round.
There is no end to matter; There is no end to space;
There is no end to spirit; There is no end to race.

4. There is no end to virtue; There is no end to might;
There is no end to wisdom; There is no end to light.
There is no end to union; There is no end to youth;
There is no end to priesthood; There is no end to truth.

5. There is no end to glory; There is no end to love;
There is no end to being; There is no death above.
There is no end to glory; There is no end to love;
There is no end to being; There is no death above." (If You Could Hie to Kolob, Hymn 284, William W. Phelps)

Quite an answer indeed.  Moses was another who, like a child, inquired of God for real answers.  Speaking face to face with the Lord, Moses asked about God's creations:

"And it came to pass that Moses called upon God, saying: aTell me, I pray thee, why these things are so, and by what thou madest them?" (Moses 1:30)

Moses received answers directly from God, and he was bold enough to inquire further:

"And it came to pass that Moses spake unto the Lord, saying: Be merciful unto thy servant, O God, and atell me concerning this earth, and the inhabitants thereof, and also the heavens, and then thy servant will be content." (Moses 1:36)

Like Phelps, Moses inquired of the Lord and received answers.  Joseph Smith was another, who, like a child, was full of questions:

"10 In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be aright, which is it, and how shall I know it?" (JS-H 1:10)

Like Phelps and like Moses, Joseph Smith inquired of the Lord to discover truth.  His humble inquiry opened the way to the restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

These three examples of asking questions remind me that the God also has questions for us, his children (see also D&C 50:40-41).  One author has penned a beautiful meditation on such questions in a book called The Lord's Question.  Among these is the poignant question that the Lord posed to Peter on the shores of the sea of Galilee, one that Elder Holland has recently paraphrased as: "Do you love me?"

Here is the heart of the matter.  Jesus asked Peter this very question not once, not twice, but three times.  This great disciple of Christ was able to answer in the affirmative, not just then, but throughout the rest of his life, with deeper loyalty, and with devotion more dear than his own life.  Certainly, his life was a resounding "yes" to the Lord's question, "Do you love me?"

The examples of Phelps, Moses, Joseph Smith and the Lord as model inquirers lead me to my conclusion.  In my personal library there is perhaps no other book that is closer to my heart than Antoine de St. Exupéry's Le Petit Prince.  Le Petit Prince has been translated into many languages and it has also been adapted to film.  In the dedication of Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince), Antoine de St. Exupéry reminds the reader that "toutes les grandes personnes ont d'abord été des enfants" ("all grown-ups were at first children").  He then writes of an encounter with an extraordinary and extraordinarily inquisitive little boy in the middle of the Sahara Desert.  This Little Prince, as he is called, never gives up on a question once he asks it, and he asks questions because he sincerely wants to understand the answers.

Perhaps this is one reason why the Lord commands everyone to repent and to become as a little child.


Monday, January 14, 2013

An 80's Flashback

Do you ever have an 80's flashback?  That happened to me today.  I was thinking of break dancing, parachute pants, the Chicago Bears in the Super Bowl, and how Betsy beat me in the school spelling be when I couldn't spell the word "calendar".  She was a good speller that girl.

The following songs are not necessarily the best songs of the 80's, but each one brings a flood of memories.  There are a lot more that I could list, but for some reason, these are a few of the songs that I was thinking of:

The Cure - Love Song

The Cure - Just Like Heaven

Bon Jovi - Llivin' on a prayer

Def Leppard - Pour Some Sugar on Me

Michael Jackson - Billie Jean

Guns n' Roses - Sweet Child of Mine

U2 - With or Without You

A-ha - Take on Me

The Police - Every Step You Take

Bananarama - Cruel Summer

Young MC - Bust a Move

Paula Abdul - Straight Up

REM - Losing my Religion

Men at Work - Down Under

Fleetwood Mac - Everywhere

Howard Jones - Everlasting Love

Saturday, January 12, 2013

What is compassion?

Only Jesus Christ truly understands what compassion is, since only he is capable of pure and perfect compassion.  Owing to his lineage of an immortal, and perfectly compassionate Father and a compassionate mortal mother, the Lord was the only one capable of accomplishing the mission of being our Savior and Redeemer. He is the only one who descended below all things and thus comprehends all things.  All other compassion is but a small reflection of the Lord's perfect compassion.

Then what exactly is compassion?  The word compassion is derived from the Latin "com" meaning "together" and "pati" meaning "to suffer" or "to endure". Thus, compassion literally means "to suffer with" or "co-suffering".  True compassion inspires a sincere desire to alleviate suffering and to act for the benefit and welfare of others.  There is no greater example of such compassion than the Lord Jesus Christ.  His divine compassion has also been described in scripture as "succor" (e.g. see Alma 7:11-12).  To succor literally means "to run to".  Throughout his life and ministry, Jesus Christ succored and had compassion upon his mortal associates.

There is perhaps no greater story of compassion than that recounted by the Lord in the parable of the Good Samaritan.  It is interesting to note the circumstances that gave rise to this parable, as well as the ways in which the Good Samaritan is a symbol of Christ himself, and of his atoning sacrifice.

After calling, empowering and instructing the seventy, the Lord rejoiced that His Father had hidden certain truths from the "wise and prudent" and "revealed them unto babes" (see Luke 10).  Then a lawyer tried to tempt the Lord by asking the question, "What shall I do to inherit eternal life?"

The Lord responded with another question: "What is written in the law, how readest thou?"

The lawyer answered, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself."

Jesus responded, "Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live."

The lawyer would have been wise to accept this answer, but instead he tried to justify himself by asking, "And who is my neighbor?"

This follow-up question elicited the parable of the Good Samaritan:

 30 And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and awounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.
 31 And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.
 32 And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.
 33 But a certain aSamaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had bcompassion on him,
 34 And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took acare of him.
 35 And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the ahost, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.
 36 Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?
 37 And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.
Not long after teaching this parable, the Lord himself went down to Jericho (Mark 10:46Luke 18:3519:1).  Near Jericho, Jesus showed compassion on a blind beggar who was on the side of the road, much like the wounded man in the parable.  Where many a priest and Levite had probably passed by, Jesus paused to heal and bless the beggar. He showed true compassion.

Of course it is also significant that the one who showed compassion in the parable was a Samaritan, a person who was supposed to be a bitter enemy of the Jews.  Like Jesus, this good Samaritan did more than feel compassion for his wounded neighbor.  He bound up his wounds, poured in oil and wine, and provided transportation, lodging, money and merciful attention.

In another sense, the wounded man in the parable could be seen as a symbol of Christ.  After all, not long after leaving Jericho, the Lord would descend into Gethsemane.  He would be scourged and stripped of his raiment.  He would be wounded for our transgressions and lifted up upon the cross. Through the incomprehensible suffering of the Atonement, Jesus Christ is able to feel and demonstrate perfect compassion for all of his creations.  Thank God for this compassion, for no one is exempt from trials, suffering and afflictions.


Friday, January 4, 2013

A Brief Tribute

Today I wish to pay tribute to a few people whose exemplary lives and individual desires to do God's will have inspired me to become better. 

Elder Anderson:

"The more I learn about the wisdom of God, the more I believe I am only at the beginning end of wisdom. It humbles me as I realize how much I have to learn. Today, I hope to increase our desire to acquire wisdom and specifically the wisdom of God."  (From the recent Ensign article, Reverence for God is the beginning of Wisdom)

"For the fulness of mine intent is that I may apersuade men to bcome unto the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, and be saved.
Wherefore, the things which are apleasing unto the world I do not write, but the things which are pleasing unto God and unto those who are not of the world." (1 Ne. 6:4-5)


"Behold, I am Moroni, your chief captain. I aseek not for power, but to pull it down. I bseek not for honor of the world, but for the glory of my God, and the freedom and welfare of my country. And thus I close mine epistle." (Alma 60:36)

Jesus Christ:

"Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do anothing of myself; but as my bFather hath ctaught me, I dspeak these things.
And he that asent me is with me: the Father hath not left me balone; for I cdo always those things that dplease him." (John 8:28-29)