Tuesday, July 21, 2015

A Time to Choose

A Few Choice Gospel Gems from Elder Neal A. Maxwell's Book A Time to Choose
  • "The paths of Christ and the world have always been divergent. Yet this divergence is more pronounced now than fifty or one hundred years ago when there was some kind of loose Christian consensus about man’s identity, immortality, the resurrection, the Lordship of Jesus, and the literalness of his second coming. So far as contemporary American and most western societies are concerned, it is difficult to conceive of any issues around which there could be such profound separation as now exists."
  • "Adults would do well to distinguish between our secular accomplishments and our spiritual commitments.  The former is subject to question- as a possibly atrophying 'arm of the flesh' while the latter is both what we most cherish and what gives us certitude.  A simultaneous defense of the American economic system and the reality of modern revelation is unwise even when we believe in both, because the one is changing and managed by frail mortals while the other is unchanging and managed by God."
  • "We are going to have to do a better job in helping the young to see that there is a connection between the Gospel and the problems of the real world, and that the Gospel does contain the solutions to human problems."
  • "LDS youth can, of course, do what some adults in the Church do, and that is to become modern Jonahs, to prophesy disasters for today's Ninevehs and then run up on the hill, build a shelter, and wait for the cataclysm.  The Lord chided Jonah, lovingly and yet firmly, for having too great an investment in disaster.  We must all work in the Ninevehs of our lives, doing all we can, even though we may have a sense of impending disaster.  We should not desert our post nor can we indulge ourselves in the luxury of wanting disaster, for our goal is salvation, not vindication!"
  • "The doctrines of Jesus Christ by themselves are dangerous, as G.K. Chesterton observed.  Any principle of the Gospel, isolated, spun off, and practiced in solitude, can go wild.  The incomplete insight is not insight at all!  Seeing the landscape of life illuminated briefly by lightning can be helpful, but we walk through a mortal minefield which requires the full steady light of the Gospel in order to survive.  Just as the people of the Church need each other 'that all may be edified together,' the doctrines of the Church need each other."
  • "It is important to understand that obedience is not simply a requirement of a capricious God who wants us to jump hurdles for the entertainment of a royal court.  It is really the pleading of a loving Father for you and me to discover, as quickly as we can, that there are key concepts and principles that will bring happiness in a planned but otherwise cold universe.  We simply have to rely on faith and obedience to carry us forward when our personal experience and knowledge are inadequate."
  • "We must remember that tomorrow exists prenatally in today; the fetus of tomorrow is being formed now, and this is true of nations and individuals."
  • "Although the sincerity of the prescriptions the world offers for mankind's problems are impressive, one can still question some of the secular diagnoses.  The world's approach sometimes fails to diagnose the problem and, therefore, to provide any real and lasting cure.  Wringing one's hands and looking for miracle medicines connotes anguish, but it is not the same as competency.  And being concerned does not necessarily produce insights.  The perceptions necessary for the ultimate diagnosis of human ills are, in my judgment, contained in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Some secular prescriptions, ironically, would amount to giving mankind an aspirin when surgery is required.  What the world often prescribes falls short of real reform simply because the root causes of human misery are not examined."
  • "Discipleship in our day, as in all eras, has as a goal not our being different from other men, but our need to be more like God.  He does not seek to arbitrarily anoint a chosen few; rather, only a few men choose to walk in his path.  A saint is not given power until, among other things, he is full of love towards all men and his motives and thoughts are unceasingly virtuous.  It is then that the disciple receives 'an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth' and 'an everlasting dominion" ... 'without compulsory means.'  How we use our time on earth, therefore, makes all the difference in the world- and in worlds to come."
  • "We cannot help others towards salvation unless we ourselves are on the straight path."
  • "The Gospel is the counsel of a Super Intelligence as to how we can progress in a cold universe which responds only to law.  Man did not get to the moon with random trajectories and with each astronaut 'doing his own thing.'  The price for reaching the moon was obedience to universal law.  In many ways, God has paid man the supreme compliment by believing in him enough to change his behavior, slowly but lastingly, rather than holding man in condescending, cosmic contempt; the disciple can do no less."
  • "Imperfections in predecessors should be expected, but their faults should be seen as an opportunity for improvement- not as damaging evidence."
  • "It is a useful perception in the quietude of our own ponderings to remember that the straight and narrow is a heroic path to travel.  It challenges us to love, and to forgive, to be chaste, to render service, and to focus on basic things.  It isn't heavily populated because most people prefer the foothills; it is not crowded on the west side of Everest.  Many need assistance, and we can help them best by not abandoning our role as guides along the way."
  • "Quiet Christianity is a necessary counterpoint to the rumble of the kettle drums and the crash of cymbals of those Christian acts which are, by their very nature, visible and hard to ignore.  We also need the behavioral equivalent of the flute and the violin in order to have the kind of symphony that can make a difference in mortality."
  • "The barbed questions of the faithless do not deserve answers any more than the taunts which Christ himself suffered while on the cross.  The inquiring probes of some nonbelievers are not really questions at all, but simply a reconnaissance aimed at discovering any breeches in the defenses of the believer who holds the fortress of faith."
  • "The true disciple is described as 'good ground' and as being 'fruitful.'  One cannot help but wonder if the key to this member's success is that he gives himself so fully in service to the Lord that his beliefs are reinforced simply as a function of how he lives and by repeatedly witnessing the gospel at work in the lives of others."
  • "Dr. Gregory Zilboorg pointed out that a society which is too absorbed in scientism can develop severe narcissism and an unjustified worship of the human mind.  Worshiping even the idol of the intellect inevitably  will lead to the fall of that idol simply because our finite reason and experience are not adequate to help us function in an infinite universe."
  • "Suffering is the sweat of salvation."
  • "Khalil Gibran observed that the cavity carved out of our soul by suffering will also be the receptacle of our joy.  In this sense, those who have suffered most, and for the right reasons, will have stretched their capacity for joy and happiness."
  • Jesus Christ was "the least appreciated but most beneficial individual in human history."
  • "If we are serious about our discipleship, Jesus will eventually request each of us to do those very things which are most difficult for us to do, just as Jesus challenged the wealthy young man to 'sell all that thou hast and give it to the poor.'  Christ focuses his challenges because he loves us and because real growth is no more random than it is easy."
  • "God is a loving Father who wants us to have the happiness that results from proven righteousness, not from mere innocence.  At times, he will not deflect life's harsh learning experiences that may come to each of us, even though he will help us cope with them.  God is neither a silent, indifferent monarch in the sky, nor is he an indulgent grandfather figure who will give his children the incomplete therapy of partial truth."
  • "The Gospel also permits us to bring knowledge and love together. Gandhi worried about what he called the coldness of some intellectuals- their lack of heart, lack of warmth, and lack of love for the people whom they wanted to help. Commitment to the principle of love would mean, in effect, that our knowledge- as we seek to transmit it and share our insights- is encapsulated in love. This love underlies a kind of brotherhood that can transcend not only nationalism but also the problems of differential economic status. Knowledge is power, but it is a dangerous kind of power without love. We should not seek knowledge to control, to manipulate, or merely to exhibit."
  • "The doctrines which excite us least may be the very ones we most need to incorporate into our lives!"
  • "The repetition of a truth may make it harder to bear, but never makes it false."
  • "We often see those who no longer find pleasure in sin, but who cannot sorrow unto full repentance.  As Thomas Merton observed, it is not enough just to leave Egypt; one must also travel to the promised land.  Too many of us simply leave our 'Egypts,' thinking that is enough, only to find ourselves in a vast uncharted wilderness."
  • "The effectiveness of our communications can be increased by a lifestyle which reflects and openly acknowledges God's goodness to us, rather than resignation or resentment about the injustices of life."
  • "The harsh realities that attach themselves to growth include a willingness to stretch our souls in new adventures which are consistent with the principles of the Gospel.  It is a mistake to assume that the disciple must merely be filled with anxiety for mankind or with holy- but abstract- compassion.  He must increase his competency as well as his concern."
  • "Our best opportunity to develop discipleship is in the home, including the skills needed for communication.  The family is the institution about which few people talk, and about which little is done in America.  Yet we continue to use compensatory educational, economic, governmental, and political programs to solve or treat problems that are actually rooted in the home.  Even though these efforts are sincere and needed, they will never deal fully with the problem of an unloved child who has not learned discipline or work, and the resulting tragedy which so often occurs."
  • "Failure in the home clearly calls for compensatory institutions, but the home lies at the headwaters of the stream of civilization, and we must keep it happy and pure.  When the home fails or is polluted, we must, of course, support 'treatment' efforts downstream.  But we must not become so fascinated with the filtering operation that we ignore prevention and desert our post at the headwaters.  Building a happy home may not seem to have the immediate human impact of counseling in a juvenile detention center.  Both are necessary, but the emphasis should fall on the home if we wish to prevent massive misery."
  • "What the Gospel does is to refuse the luxury of escaping from each other.  It insists that we really see if we have the capacity to grow and to develop; to see if we can do it under the real pressures of life and home, in a family and among friends.  Then, perhaps, we can do more elsewhere."
  • "In the spirit of leveling, we must also learn that while the Lord's teachings are transferable to other individuals and cultures, the testimony which transforms these truths into action is not.  Gospel principles are portable, but the passion that underwrites them must be developed in each new host."


"All the religious world is boasting of righteousness: It is the doctrine of the devil to retard the human mind, and hinder our progress, by filling us with self-righteousness. The nearer we get to our Heavenly Father, the more we are disposed to look with compassion on perishing souls; we feel that we want to take them upon our shoulders, and cast their sins behind our backs. … If you would have God have mercy on you, have mercy on one another."

- Joseph Smith

(Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1977, p. 241.)

"Ever keep in exercise the principle of mercy, and be ready to forgive our brother on the first intimations of repentance, and asking forgiveness; and should we even forgive our brother, or even our enemy, before he repent or ask forgiveness, our heavenly Father would be equally as merciful unto us."

- Joseph Smith

(History of the Church, 3:383; from a discourse given by Joseph Smith on July 2, 1839, in Montrose, Iowa; reported by Wilford Woodruff and Willard Richards.)

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Platonic Morsels and Tidbits from The Republic

Plato, The Republic

"Well said, Cephalus, I replied; but as concerning justice, what is it?" - Book I

"Listen, then, he said; I proclaim that justice is nothing else than the interest of the stronger. And now why do you not me? But of course you won't." - Book I

"Thrasymachus made all these admissions, not fluently, as I repeat them, but with extreme reluctance; it was a hot summer's day, and the perspiration poured from him in torrents; and then I saw what I had never seen before,Thrasymachus blushing." - Book I

"But whether the just have a better and happier life than the unjust is a further question which we also proposed to consider. I think that they have, and for the reasons which to have given; but still I should like to examine further, for no light matter is at stake, nothing less than the rule of human life." - Book I

"As an epicure snatches a taste of every dish which is successively brought to table, he not having allowed himself time to enjoy the one before, so have I gone from one subject to another without having discovered what I sought at first, the nature of justice. I left that enquiry and turned away to consider whether justice is virtue and wisdom or evil and folly; and when there arose a further question about the comparative advantages of justice and injustice, I could not refrain from passing on to that. And the result of the whole discussion has been that I know nothing at all. For I know not what justice is, and therefore I am not likely to know whether it is or is not a virtue, nor can I say whether the just man is happy or unhappy." - Book I

"Let me ask you now: --How would you arrange goods --are there not some which we welcome for their own sakes, and independently of their consequences, as, for example, harmless pleasures and enjoyments, which delight us at the time, although nothing follows from them?" - Book II

"Then, I said, let us begin and create in idea a State; and yet the true creator is necessity, who is the mother of our invention." - Book II

"Now my belief is, --and this is a matter upon which I should like to have your opinion in confirmation of my own, but my own belief is, --not that the good body by any bodily excellence improves the soul, but, on the contrary, that the good soul, by her own excellence, improves the body as far as this may be possible. What do you say?" - Book III

"Then the good and wise judge whom we are seeking is not this man, but the other; for vice cannot know virtue too, but a virtuous nature, educated by time, will acquire a knowledge both of virtue and vice: the virtuous, and not the vicious, man has wisdom --in my opinion." - Book III

"Yes, we often said that one man should do one thing only. Further, we affirmed that justice was doing one's own business, and not being a busybody; we said so again and again, and many others have said the same to us." - Book IV

"The just man then, if we regard the idea of justice only, will be like the just State?" - Book IV

"And here comes the point: is not thirst the desire which the soul has of drink, and of drink only; not of drink qualified by anything else; for example, warm or cold, or much or little, or, in a word, drink of any particular sort: but if the thirst be accompanied by heat, then the desire is of cold drink; or, if accompanied by cold, then of warm drink; or, if the thirst be excessive, then the drink which is desired will be excessive; or, if not great, the quantity of drink will also be small: but thirst pure and simple will desire drink pure and simple, which is the natural satisfaction of thirst, as food is of hunger?" - Book IV

"Then clearly the next thing will be to make matrimony sacred in the highest degree, and what is most beneficial will be deemed sacred?" - Book V

"I said: Until philosophers are kings, or the kings and princes of this world have the spirit and power of philosophy, and political greatness and wisdom meet in one, and those commoner natures who pursue either to the exclusion of the other are compelled to stand aside, cities will never have rest from their evils, --nor the human race, as I believe, --and then only will this our State have a possibility of life and behold the light of day. Such was the thought, my dear Glaucon, which I would fain have uttered if it had not seemed too extravagant; for to be convinced that in no other State can there be happiness private or public is indeed a hard thing." - Book V

"Whereas he who has a taste for every sort of knowledge and who is curious to learn and is never satisfied, may be justly termed a philosopher? Am I not right?" - Book V

"Inasmuch as philosophers only are able to grasp the eternal and unchangeable, and those who wander in the region of the many and variable are not philosophers, I must ask you which of the two classes should be the rulers of our State? " - Book VI

"And have we not a right to say in his defence, that the true lover of knowledge is always striving after being --that is his nature; he will not rest in the multiplicity of individuals which is an appearance only, but will go on --the keen edge will not be blunted, nor the force of his desire abate until he have attained the knowledge of the true nature of every essence by a sympathetic and kindred power in the soul, and by that power drawing near and mingling and becoming incorporate with very being, having begotten mind and truth, he will have knowledge and will live andgrow truly, and then, and not till then, will he cease from his travail." - Book VI

"The true lover of learning then must from his earliest youth, as far as in him lies, desire all truth?" - Book VI

"And the philosopher holding converse with the divine order, becomes orderly and divine, as far as the nature of man allows; but like every one else, he will suffer from detraction." - Book VI

"Nay, I said, ask if you will; but I am certain that you have heard the answer many times, and now you either do not understand me or, as I rather think, you are disposed to be troublesome; for you have of been told that the idea of good is the highest knowledge, and that all other things become useful and advantageous only by their use of this. You can hardly be ignorant that of this I was about to speak, concerning which, as you have often heard me say, we know so little; and, without which, any other knowledge or possession of any kind will profit us nothing. Do you think that the possession of all other things is of any value if we do not possess the good? or the knowledge of all other things if we have no knowledge of beauty and goodness?" - Book VI

"And which, I said, of the gods in heaven would you say was the lord of this element? Whose is that light which makes the eye to see perfectly and the visible to appear?

You mean the sun, as you and all mankind say.
May not the relation of sight to this deity be described as follows?
Neither sight nor the eye in which sight resides is the sun?
Yet of all the organs of sense the eye is the most like the sun?
By far the most like.
And the power which the eye possesses is a sort of effluence which is dispensed from the sun?

Then the sun is not sight, but the author of sight who is recognised by sight. " - Book VI

"True, he said. And this is he whom I call the child of the good, whom the good begat in his own likeness, to be in the visible world, in relation to sight and the things of sight, what the good is in the intellectual world in relation to mind and the things of mind." - Book VI

"And the soul is like the eye: when resting upon that on which truth and being shine, the soul perceives and understands and is radiant with intelligence; but when turned towards the twilight of becoming and perishing, then she has opinion only, and goes blinking about, and is first of one opinion and then of another, and seems to have no intelligence?" - Book VI

"Now, that which imparts truth to the known and the power of knowing to the knower is what I would have you term the idea of good, and this you will deem to be the cause of science, and of truth in so far as the latter becomes the subject of knowledge; beautiful too, as are both truth and knowledge, you will be right in esteeming this other nature as more beautiful than either; and, as in the previous instance, light and sight may be truly said to be like the sun, and yet not to be the sun, so in this other sphere, science and truth may be deemed to be like the good, but not the good; the good has a place of honour yet higher." - Book VI

"In like manner the good may be said to be not only the author of knowledge to all things known, but of their being and essence, and yet the good is not essence, but far exceeds essence in dignity and power. Glaucon said, with a ludicrous earnestness: By the light of heaven, how amazing!" - Book VI

"Whereas, our argument shows that the power and capacity of learning exists in the soul already; and that just as the eye was unable to turn from darkness to light without the whole body, so too the instrument of knowledge can only by the movement of the whole soul be turned from the world of becoming into that of being, and learn by degrees to endure the sight of being, and of the brightest and best of being, or in other words, of the good." - Book VII

"The process, I said, is not the turning over of an oyster-shell, but the turning round of a soul passing from a day which is little better than night to the true day of being, that is, the ascent from below, which we affirm to be true philosophy?" - Book VII

"I am amused, I said, at your fear of the world, which makes you guard against the appearance of insisting upon useless studies; and I quite admit the difficulty of believing that in every man there is an eye of the soul which, when by other pursuits lost and dimmed, is by these purified and re-illumined; and is more precious far than ten thousand bodily eyes, for by it alone is truth seen. Now there are two classes of persons: one class of those who will agree with you and will take your words as a revelation; another class to whom they will be utterly unmeaning, and who will naturally deem them to be idle tales, for they see no sort of profit which is to be obtained from them. And therefore you had better decide at once with which of the two you are proposing to argue. You will very likely say with neither, and that your chief aim in carrying on the argument is your own improvement; at the same time you do not grudge to others any benefit which they may receive." - Book VII

"These and other kindred characteristics are proper to democracy, which is a charming form of government, full of variety and disorder, and dispensing a sort of equality to equals and unequals alike." - Book VIII

"On the other hand, every one sees that the principle of knowledge is wholly directed to the truth, and cares less than either of the others for gain or fame." - Book IX

"The philosopher, he replied, has greatly the advantage; for he has of necessity always known the taste of the other pleasures from his childhood upwards: but the lover of gain in all his experience has not of necessity tasted --or, I should rather say, even had he desired, could hardly have tasted --the sweetness of learning and knowing truth." - Book IX

"What classes of things have a greater share of pure existence in your judgment --those of which food and drink and condiments and all kinds of sustenance are examples, or the class which contains true opinion and knowledgeand mind and all the different kinds of virtue? Put the question in this way: --Which has a more pure being --that which is concerned with the invariable, the immortal, and the true, and is of such a nature, and is found in suchnatures; or that which is concerned with and found in the variable and mortal, and is itself variable and mortal?

Far purer, he replied, is the being of that which is concerned with the invariable." - Book IX

"In the next place, he will regulate his bodily habit and training, and so far will he be from yielding to brutal and irrational pleasures, that he will regard even health as quite a secondary matter; his first object will be not that he may be fair or strong or well, unless he is likely thereby to gain temperance, but he will always desire so to attemper the body as to preserve the harmony of the soul?" - Book IX

"In heaven, I replied, there is laid up a pattern of it, methinks, which he who desires may behold, and beholding, may set his own house in order. But whether such an one exists, or ever will exist in fact, is no matter; for he will live after the manner of that city, having nothing to do with any other." - Book IX

"Well, I will tell you, although I have always from my earliest youth had an awe and love of Homer, which even now makes the words falter on my lips, for he is the great captain and teacher of the whole of that charming tragic company; but a man is not to be reverenced more than the truth, and therefore I will speak out." - Book X

"At all events we are well aware that poetry being such as we have described is not to be regarded seriously as attaining to the truth; and he who listens to her, fearing for the safety of the city which is within him, should be on his guard against her seductions and make our words his law." - Book X

"At her love of wisdom. Let us see whom she affects, and what society and converse she seeks in virtue of her near kindred with the immortal and eternal and divine; also how different she would become if wholly following this superior principle, and borne by a divine impulse out of the ocean in which she now is, and disengaged from the stones and shells and things of earth and rock which in wild variety spring up around her because she feeds upon earth, and is overgrown by the good things of this life as they are termed: then you would see her as she is, and know whether she has one shape only or many, or what her nature is. Of her affections and of the forms which she takes in this present life I think that we have now said enough." - Book X

"And here, my dear Glaucon, is the supreme peril of our human state; and therefore the utmost care should be taken.Let each one of us leave every other kind of knowledge and seek and follow one thing only, if peradventure he may be able to learn and may find some one who will make him able to learn and discern between good and evil, and so to choose always and everywhere the better life as he has opportunity. He should consider the bearing of all these things which have been mentioned severally and collectively upon virtue; he should know what the effect of beauty is when combined with poverty or wealth in a particular soul, and what are the good and evil consequences of noble and humble birth, of private and public station, of strength and weakness, of cleverness and dullness, and of all the soul, and the operation of them when conjoined; he will then look at the nature of the soul, and from the consideration of all these qualities he will be able to determine which is the better and which is the worse; and so he will choose, giving the name of evil to the life which will make his soul more unjust, and good to the life which will make his soul more just; all else he will disregard. For we have seen and know that this is the best choice both in life and after death. A man must take with him into the world below an adamantine faith in truth and right, that there too he may be undazzled by the desire of wealth or the other allurements of evil, lest, coming upon tyrannies andsimilar villainies, he do irremediable wrongs to others and suffer yet worse himself; but let him know how to choose the mean and avoid the extremes on either side, as far as possible, not only in this life but in all that which is to come. For this is the way of happiness." - Book X

"And thus, Glaucon, the tale has been saved and has not perished, and will save us if we are obedient to the word spoken; and we shall pass safely over the river of Forgetfulness and our soul will not be defiled. Wherefore my counsel is that we hold fast ever to the heavenly way and follow after justice and virtue always, considering that the soul is immortal and able to endure every sort of good and every sort of evil. Thus shall we live dear to one another and to the gods, both while remaining here and when, like conquerors in the games who go round to gather gifts, we receive our reward. And it shall be well with us both in this life and in the pilgrimage of a thousand years which we have been describing." - Book X

Monday, July 6, 2015

When is the Second Coming?

Will no man know the day or the hour of the second coming?

"Christ says, 'No man knoweth the day or the hour when the Son of Man cometh.' . . . Did Christ speak this as a general principle throughout all generations? Oh no; he spoke in the present tense. No man that was then living upon the footstool of God knew the day or the hour. But he did not say that there was no man throughout all generations that should know the day or the hour. No, for this would be in flat contradiction with other scripture, for the prophet says that God will do nothing but what he will reveal unto his servants the prophets [ Amos 3:7]. Consequently, if it is not made known to the prophets it will not come to pass."

- The Prophet Joseph Smith, Commentary on the Bible,112 (see also here)

Friday, July 3, 2015

Tupelo Honey

For some reason, a song was playing in my mind today.  It's called Tupelo Honey (see also here), by Van Morrison.  I like it.  Bob Dylan once stated that, "Tupelo Honey has always existed and Morrison was merely the vessel and the earthly vehicle for it."  That's a great compliment.  Here is a recording of Dylan and Morrison performing the song together

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Bad, Fat, and Good

Michael Jackson was a talented guy.  Despite being a good singer, dancer and performer, in one popular song he claimed to be bad.  Weird Al Yankovic, on the other hand, claimed to be fat. Not to be outdone, the BYU comedy group Divine Comedy created a parody of Michael Jackson's original song.  It is simply called "Good."  It is good.

Good - BYU Divine Comedy