My New Article on Temples and Families in the Bible

The Integration of Temples and Families: A Latter-day Saint Structure for the Jacob Cycle” was published on Friday.  This is my first peer-reviewed, academic article, so I’m pretty excited.  Anyone with an interest in Biblical literature, or its temple and family themes, would likely enjoy it.

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Four Best Places For Your Charitable Giving

We all have things we care about.  We all know of needs we want to help fill.  Likely, we all get frustrated because we just don’t have the resources to do all we want to do.

May I suggest that, if you’re reading this, you would care about the following things, and if more people would focus their charitable donations on these, a great difference for the better could be made.

I’ll propose what I find to be the needs that are the most worthy in the realms of politics, religion & literacy, and living well.

 

In politics, we live in an era where perhaps the greatest political need has arisen from the emergence of a new Puritan class of righteous elites, who set our cultural guidelines and persecute those who dare dissent.  This is a time of stifling conformity, paired with punishment for any who refuse to worship at the right altar.

Free speech is dying.

You might suggest that the physical threat of terrorism, or the more domestic threat of unsustainable debt, for example, are more dangerous than the almost existential desire for free speech.

You would be wrong.  While other issues have massive consequences which can be seen easily, the cowing of individuals portends even more damage in the long run.

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David Grayson’s Under My Elm

elm 1#1162 in Life’s Little Instruction Book says: “Try to find a copy of the book Under My Elm by David Grayson (Doubleday, 1942). You might have to order it.

I did have to order it.  Here are the passages I marked:

 
I don’t know what it is, but there is something about steady manual labor like this, alone in the fields, that gives one a curious deep satisfaction. I like the sense of doing hard work that is also useful work. One’s mind at first drops asleep, except for the narrow margin relating to this or that repetitive process. One lets go, calms down. For hours, sometimes, while at such work, I came near the point of complete mental vacuity. The mind sets itself the minute task it has to do and goes off somewhere to its own high pastures, serene uplands, to rest and play. The hours pass magically: the sun that was low when the work began rides high in the heavens—and suddenly the mind comes home again. It comes home refreshed stimulated, happy. I always know the exact moment of its arrival. Yesterday it did not return until I had nearly finished my work in the field. It seemed to cry out: “What, asleep! Listen to the bobolinks.”
I straightened up quickly and realized that I had been working for several hours without hearing or seeing much of anything—this literally. The whole world now became flooded with delightful sounds, not only the bobolinks, but a hundred other voices both of nature and human nature, so that I had a deep and indescribably friendly feeling towards all things. I thought it good and beautiful to be there and to be alive. Even the grass clinging wetly to my legs as I walked seemed consciously holding me close to the earth; and the shovel held warmly, even painfully in my blistered hands, was proof that I had at last become part of a universal process. These sensations, even as I set them down, seem difficult to express, but they were there, and they were true and sound. (11-12)

 

elm 2Steve had been working all day, harrowing and fertilizing his tobacco land, and should, I suppose, be properly tired. But the weeds in the onions are growing! Down on his knees he went and began weeding. A moment later his wife was at his side. The children cried a little, for they were tired and hungry and wanted to go home, but soon whimpered down. I wondered what an American family I know of, which keeps a nurse for each of their weakling children and a second girl to help the nurses, would say to this way of “raising” children! These two little Poles are magnificent physical specimens, and the boy, when clean, is really beautiful. At eight-thirty when it was too dark to see, the family trailed homeward, Steve carrying the little boy in his arms. Can these people be beaten? (86-87)

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Three Great Writers Have Died Recently, and I Miss Them

Early this week, I heard of the passing of British novelist P.D. James.

Here are my thoughts from reading Death in Holy Orders in 2009.

Here is Mark Steyn reflecting on her dystopian masterpiece The Children of Men.

I’m currently reading The Murder Room, and you should, too.

*****

Just a day later, I heard of the death of Kent Haruf.

This is what I wrote nearly two years ago, when his book Benediction was about to come out.

Now I’m re-reading Plainsong, his magnum opus.  You really should read it, also.  I even liked the Hallmark movie version.

*****

The other great writer who died in the past week is the poet Mark Strand, but I actually didn’t like his work very much–I found it too narrow and self-consciously obscure for my taste.  Still, a great talent who made a major contribution to letters.

No, the third writer who I loved and who we recently lost is the critic D.G. Myers, who died in September.  I found his work A Commonplace Blog years ago, and long treasured his thoughts about writers, especially his fellow Jewish writers–I learned a lot about Saul Bellow and I.S. Singer from him.

Peruse his final months of posts–those from 2014–and you’ll be treated to two posts about his battle with cancer, posts about the best debut novels and the bets novels of the 1940s, and two posts about the degradation of the humanities in the American university.  A 21st century Allan Bloom, he was.  Though his link sat in my sidebar for as long as this blog has existed, I never mentioned him here explicitly, and for that I am sorry.

Here are some thoughts about him from some other prominent thinkers and writers.

*****

The work of all three of these writers were essentially conservative.  James was celebrated in some circles; Haruf and Myers were under-appreciated.  All three are worthy of your time.

The New Star Wars Trailer–A Cinematic Appreciation

The best thing about the new Star Wars teaser trailer is how thoroughly cinematic it is.  Most trailers, especially teaser trailers, are just a lazy mess of spotlighted clips.  This one, though, was clearly constructed with a specific narrative arc in mind.

It naturally falls into three acts:

Act I: Establishing character and setting

First we see Tatooine, then we see a hero.  The hero is tired, sweaty, and scared.  And alone.  That’s how we know he’s a hero, despite the Stormtrooper uniform–villains never appear so beleaguered in Act I.

The soccer ball droid reassures us that two big mainstays of the series are still present: innovation and whimsy.

The next shot reaffirms the first: a panicked, lone hero in a hurry.  No coincidence here: clearly, we’re meant to know that this film will show our new protagonists in a fractured, oppressed state, desperate to escape a threatening presence.  This, of course, is highlighted by the gravelly voiceover.

The fourth “scene” reaffirms the second: a reassurance here, not of innovation and whimsy, but of action and equipment.  Few series are so rooted in their weapons and vehicles as Star Wars, and this part of the trailer shows us J.J. Abrams doing what he did with Star Trek: preserving the bets of the old while updating its peripheral elements.

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Light and Color in Layers at Red Rock Canyon

Took several of my children hiking at Red Rock Canyon this morning.  My favorite pictures of the landscape are these two, showing mid-morning sunbeams streaming down over a lush desert vista, rolling out in layers.  This view is facing southeast from the highest point of the Keystone Thrush Trail.

 

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Of course, the whole family’s favorite view of the hike was this little critter.  I’ve lived here my whole life, and this is actually the first tarantula I’ve seen out in the desert:

 

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Favorite Quotes from Brigham Young

Finished the second volume in the Teachings of Presidents of the Church series: Brigham Young.

Here are my favorite quotes from volume 1: Joseph Smith.

These are the passages I marked from Brigham Young:

“Mormonism,” so-called, embraces every principle pertaining to life and salvation, for time and eternity. No matter who has it. If the infidel has got truth it belongs to “Mormonism.” The truth and sound doctrine possessed by the sectarian world, and they have a great deal, all belong to this Church. As for their morality, many of them are, morally, just as good as we are. All that is good, lovely, and praiseworthy belongs to this Church and Kingdom. “Mormonism” includes all truth. There is no truth but what belongs to the Gospel. It is life, eternal life; it is bliss; it is the fulness of all things in the gods and in the eternities of the gods (DBY, 3).

Chapter 2: The Gospel Defined

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Everything About The Book of Mormon

Here’s everything significant I’ve ever written here about the Book of Mormon:

1 Nephi

Recommended: Jeremiah

2 Nephi

The Psalm of Nephi: Strength and Peace Through God’s Love

The Nephi Complex

Illustrating Jacob’s Definition of Easter

“Truth comes from the earth”

Jacob

Jacob’s Temple Sermon

Enos-WoM

200 Years For Three Generations

Book Of Mormon In New York Times Crossword!

Mosiah

The Complicated Book of Mosiah

Testifying of Testimonies

Spoiled Brats

The Relationship Between Discipleship and Love

King Benjamin On Happiness

A Book of Mormon Verse Endorsing Welfare

Alma

Sacrament Talk: Pioneer Faith Yesterday, Today, And Tomorrow

Answering Alma’s Questions

Linguistic Links Unlock Alma 13

Missionary Reality Check

The Book of Mormon and Agnostic Prayer

The “Gift” Of Faith

Helaman

A Homily on Helaman: Choosing Faithfulness in a Changing Church Culture

Chiasmus in Helaman 13:29-39

Ayn Rand and the Book of Mormon

3 Nephi

The Sermon on the Mount and the Temple Endowment

On America’s Future

Jesus Christ Teaches Us How To Minister

Ironic Rhetoric Advances the Book of Mormon’s Thesis

Notes On The Ministry And Character Of Jesus Christ

Ether

The Mysterious Religion of the Jaredites

The Book of Ether and “The Power Cycle”

Moroni

“Let Us Labor Diligently”

Whole Book

The Book of Mormon as Clickbait: 10 Awesome Examples That Will Totally Blow Your Mind Forever!

Catholic Scholar at First Things Gives Book of Mormon Backhanded Praise

Explaining the Book of Mormon

The Condensed Book of Mormon, In 15 Verses

The Exodus Pattern In Scripture And History

Apologetics / Evidence

God’s Gift to Atheists, Agnostics, and Skeptics

The “Racist” Book of Mormon

Top 10 Book of Mormon Evidences

The Moon Landing and The Book of Mormon As Hoaxes?

Volcanoes and Lightning

The Book of Mormon and Gulliver’s Travels As Hoaxes

Ironic: Current Anti-Mormons Just Copying Anti-Mormons in Book of Mormon

Defending Internal Book of Mormon Evidence: The Lesson of Proto-Indo-European

Book of Mormon Birthers

The Secret Book of Mormon

A Silly Test of Book of Mormon Authorship

Faith and Teachings

Lehi, King Benjamin, and President Monson On Why We Follow the Prophet

Spiritual Lessons From Difficult People

The Book Of Mormon and the Heart On the Window

Death and Perspective

Worshipping Through Prayer, Singing, and Fasting

I Give A Morningside At Seminary

Disciples Of Jesus Christ Are Ministers

On The Virtue Of A Soft Heart, Despite Discouragement

Ten Conservative Principles Endorsed By The Book Of Mormon

“Classic 1988″

I just read a student’s book report where one paragraph began: “This book is a classic because for one, it is an old book published in 1988.”

Another student, writing about the same book, agreed: “This book is really old, and there’s not much difference in the feelings that people had in 1988 vs. today.”

 

UPDATE 10/28/14: And today in another class a student gave a speech that included a reference to the Tom Hanks movie Big.  “Now I know that’s a really old movie…” he said.  Big, of course, came out in 1988.  What’s with kids all thinking that’s ancient history now?

Linguistic Links Unlock Alma 13

Alma 13:1-20 may be the most linguistically and theologically dense section of the entire Book of Mormon.  The first half–about ordination to the high priesthood–has been considered in pieces such as this, and the second half–about Melchizedek–has been analyzed in works such as this.

I see these as part of a whole–a single sermon where Alma not only elucidates several tough ideas in a masterful lecture, but does so in a way that was appropriate for the context and powerfully motivates us to act on the implications of his teachings.  This is actually part of a longer work I’m drafting about Alma’s standard teaching template, where his unique pedagogical paradigm in the Book of Mormon–establishing authority, delivering content, and inspiring with a challenge–is briefly repeated towards the end of each of his sermons.

The colors, italics, underlining, etc. in the chart given here are meant to connect the many words and phrases that are identical, or at least synonymous.  Just glancing at this arrangement shows how dense the concepts are, especially in the first half of the pattern.  We see priesthood, discipleship, and Atonement themes discussed here, and this colorful arrangement shows how they are entwined in Alma’s sermon.

As the punctuation was not part of the original translation, I’ve taken some liberties with it here, modifying it as needed to clarify the meaning of the passage.

I hope this helps demystify a difficult passage for Book of Mormon students.

 

Alma 13

 

 

Alma 13

“We Real Nerds”

A wonderful parody, posted here.

 

Today’s poem is by David Hernandez

We Real Nerds

We real nerds. We
Love words. We

Break lines.We
Trim vines. We

Craft poems. We
Tall gnomes. We

Can’t dance. We
Hold stance. We

Reread. We
Wear tweed. We

Small herd. We
Tenured. We

Got smarts. We
Fat hearts. We

Prolong. We
Live long.

Life and Learning Happen Most in the Margins

Last month as I was walking across the UNLV campus one afternoon, a former high school student of mine crossed my path and stopped to chat.  She got excited and said she was happy to see me because she wanted to thank me.

For some amazing lesson we’d once had in class?  No.  That Spring I had been doing some decluttering, and had brought several boxes of old books to class.  I told the students to just take what they wanted.

She took a few books and promptly forgot them in some hidden corner of her room.  She found them over this last summer and read them.  One in particular became her favorite book, an energizing window into a great new branch of literacy for her.

The book was W. Sommerset Maugham’s The Razor’s Edge, by the way.  It’s one of my favorites, too, and we talked about it for a while.

Funny how often the biggest effects we have on people’s lives are from the little extra things we do.

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The Relationship Between Discipleship and Love

I’m not a people person by nature.  I can enjoy company, but I don’t often seek it out.  Usually, I try to avoid it, though I’ve been working on this.

Yesterday I re-read something that had jumped out at me when I read it earlier this year.  Actually, I’d read this many times before, but it was upon this reading that something new struck me.  Such is the experience of those who study the Book of Mormon.

I’d often wondered how to increase my capacity for charity–the inherent desire to know people, to love them, to want to help them.  I’ve prayed for growth in this capacity, but I still have a long way to go.

But then I read these verses:

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