Checklist of 18 Gospel Study Resources from Elder Ballard in December 2016 Ensign

In “By Study and by Faith,” an article based on an address by Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Twelve Apostles, in the December 2016 Ensign, he urges church members to study a number of resources until we’re familiar with them.

Some of these resources are already common, like the scriptures, and others were only vague categories, like “the works of recognized, thoughtful, and faithful LDS scholars,” but he also mentioned 18 specific online resources by name, each of which was linked in the church web site’s version of the article, with each carrying a specific injunction for us to keep in mind as we read.

If it helps anyone to follow up and actually look into these great resources, here they are in a simple checklist:

ballard

May We Take The High Road

Despite the hope implied in the masthead of this blog–“The rebel of the 21st century will be old fashioned”–I don’t know if there’s really a resurgence of conservative culture on the rise, especially since so little of what is coming into power now is actually conservative.

However, if the Right is about to enjoy a cultural moment of influence, some seem keen to abuse it…or at least are enamored of the fear that it might be abused:

Back in 2009 when Nancy Pelosi and the proggies were ramming ObamaCare down our throats someone opined that they were acting like they’d never lose another election. Since then they’ve spent eight years weaponizing the federal government. Now they’ve handed all that power over to The Donald and the Republicans and they’re terrified that we’ll do to them what they wanted Hillary to do to us. They’re looking under their beds and in their closets, terrified they might find the monsters of their own creation. The monsters they thought they’d control.

But monsters, once created, are notoriously difficult to control. You’d think all those English Lit majors would have remembered that, and we should remember it too…

This will be a chance to prove ourselves to posterity. Now we will see if we truly live by values, or if we will succumb to the growing temptation to be populist fascists. For example, I agree entirely with this:

Conservatives have understandably felt for decades that the higher education establishment is indifferent or hostile to their interests. The number of right-of-center faculty has dwindled to the point of disappearance; Republican speakers are regularly shouted down; campus speech codes and harassment policies seem designed to disfavor conservative points of view. Now that the cultural wind is at their backs as never before, some on the Right may be tempted to be vindictive, and to do to college liberals what college liberals have done to them. Ben Carson, currently being considered for a Trump Administration cabinet position, suggested during the primaries that the government should police colleges for liberal bias.

Needless to say, such efforts would be deeply destructive. If Orwellian left-wing speech codes are wrong, then McCarthyist speech codes are wrong as well. If the principle of academic freedom requires the protection of conservative scholarship, it requires the protection of liberal scholarship, too. The aim of genuine defenders of the liberal tradition must be to promote tolerance and open-mindedness, not to replace left-wing academic hegemony with a right-wing version.

Two wrongs don’t make a right, and two wrongs don’t make the Right.

Patrick Stewart Performs Shakespeare’s “This Sceptered Isle” Speech

I like each of the four versions in this video, but the final one–starting at 5:35 and delivered by Patrick Stewart, from the Richard II segment of The Hollow Crown–really gives me chills.

My Favorite Scene From It’s A Wonderful Life

My favorite scene from It’s A Wonderful Life; a great–but tough and sobering–lesson is taught here:

“Your brother, Harry Bailey, broke through the ice and was drowned at the age of nine.”

“That’s a lie! Harry Bailey went to war! He got the Congressional Medal of Honor! He saved the lives of every man on that transport!”

“Every man on that transport died. Harry wasn’t there to save them, because you weren’t there to save Harry.”

Face Melting Bagpipes

I took my family to Celtic Thanksgiving IV on Saturday. Among other great acts was bagpiping stud Stuart Liddell (pronounced like the children’s book mouse), and this guy was AWESOME. I’ve never seen such blistering shredding! He has a bunch of videos on YouTube; here’s a good one:

Excellent Audio Bible on YouTube

There are a lot of audio Bibles on YouTube, for various translations, but some are better than others. I just finished one of the more dense sections of the Old Testament by reading along with the excellent dramatized audio at the minimalist-named Biblical channel. I’m surprised they have so few views–it’s really great work.

Sherlock and The X-Files

untitledI’ve seen a couple of episodes of BBC’s great Sherlock series with Benedict Cummerbatch, but now I’ve been watching them all on Netflix. As I watched the pilot, “A Study in Pink,” I realized that this show is built on the same dynamic as The X-Files.

Each show is about a man who already investigates mysteries. The man is a social outcast because of his peculiar interests and obsessive personality.

Each series starts with a new partner teaming up with him. The partner is much physically smaller than the man, and has a much more reserved personality. Clearly, the two main characters are foils.

The partner is a medical doctor.

Throughout the series, each character grows by becoming just a little more like the other.

Their adventures are complicated by powerful behind-the-scenes interests who alternately help and oppose them.

It’s a great foundation for any high-energy mythology. Surprising it isn’t used even more often.

Nephi Really Loves The Bible!

Today is International Day of the Bible, and that got me thinking about Nephi and his love for the Bible. Not only does he absolutely adore Isaiah–he cites, paraphrases, or comments on nearly a fourth of that prophet’s book–but consider this:

In 1 Nephi 17, he tries to teach his brothers about faith, essentially–he corrects their complaining about their lot in life by comparing it to previous precedents. Notice how detailed his metaphor is–Nephi clearly believes their situation is deeply analogous to that of their ancestors’.

Not only does he make several specific references to Old Testament material in one place, he writes that all into his record for future readers, for us–he expects us to be well versed in Bible stories, too!

Here are six references in 1 Nephi 17 to specific stories from four different books of the Bible, with the Biblical books to which he refers added in red:

 27 But ye know that the Egyptians were drowned in the Red Sea, who were the armies of Pharaoh. Exodus 

 28 And ye also know that they were fed with manna in the wilderness. Exodus and Numbers

 29 Yea, and ye also know that Moses, by his word according to the power of God which was in him, smote the rock, and there came forth water, that the children of Israel might quench their thirst. Exodus and Numbers

 32 And after they had crossed the river Jordan he did make them mighty unto the driving out of the children of the land, yea, unto the scattering them to destruction. Joshua

 40 And he loveth those who will have him to be their God. Behold, he loved our fathers, and he covenanted with them, yea, even Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and he remembered the covenants which he had made… Genesis

 41 And he did straiten them in the wilderness with his rod; for they hardened their hearts, even as ye have; and the Lord straitened them because of their iniquity. He sent fiery flying serpents among them; and after they were bitten he prepared a way that they might be healed; and the labor which they had to perform was to look; and because of the simpleness of the way, or the easiness of it, there were many who perished. Numbers

The Weight of Time

I turned 39 years old last week. While a lot of people my age are freaking out about being 40 soon, I couldn’t be happier. I love getting older. Every year is better than the one before.

I like the feeling of memories, and the growing accumulated weight of experience that aging gives. Every adolescent seems to enjoy posing as a wise old sage, but to actually have those things that come only and naturally through the measured passing of many calendars…there’s a sense of being in harmony with life just by participating in so much more of it.

Remembering things that are only history to the younger people I work with–that’s a good feeling. It’s warm.

Having actual nostalgia for decades long since disappeared–that’s also its own special experience.

I like watching public figures I care about getting older with me over the years. I like seeing  those figures from earlier generations in their past work and realizing just how young they  truly were then.

It seems like all the most beautiful women, for example, are all about 40 now. I suspect that in another 20 years they’ll be the 60 year olds. That’s fine by me.

Aging is like a heavy cotton comforter. You can wrap it around you and feel its solid weight. Youth–that ephemeral idol of our society’s worship–is just a light, silky blanket by comparison. There’s no real substance. I like substance. I prefer the comforter.

I realize, too, that this pontificating is coming from someone who still isn’t really old yet, but that’s just it. I know that. I don’t dread it. Of course I don’t look forward to the aches and pains, the diminished physical capacity that aging brings, but the increased store of memory and experience makes even that worth it to me.

I can’t wait to be in my 40s. I’m sure that my 50s will be even better. Decades of joy are still ahead.

The Electoral College Stops The Hunger Games From Coming True

panemAs usual, we’re hearing about how unfair it is that the popular vote doesn’t always win. *sigh* No, that’s what does keep the system fair.

The Founders cared about making sure everyone’s rights were protected; that’s reflected, for example, in the division of Congress into two houses, chosen in different ways and balancing priorities–the Senate to represent states equally, and the House to represent people based on population.

The Electoral College does the same job. It gives everyone, everywhere, a fighting chance of having their voice heard. Without it–if our elections were purely popular–we would have merely mob rule. Really.

The few dozen largest cities in America have large enough populations that the rest of the country would be completely disenfranchised by their ideologically monotonous monopoly. The Electoral College ensures that nobody is simply a serf serving the giant cultural centers. Look at the red and blue election map in this post, breaking down the country by county. See all those red areas? With no electoral college, they would be forever locked out of public life. Is that what you want?

Compare this to the Hunger Games trilogy. The books never give exact populations for the districts, but clearly the Capitol has far more people–and money–than any other location. In fact, with districts spread out in area and population, the Capitol might have more people than the districts put together.

So the districts serve the Capitol, which keeps them in check by force. Might makes right.

Trying to ban the electoral college is akin to trying to chain up all but those who live in a coastal metropolis, so those redneck rural rubes can forever enable the wealth of the elites. The Electoral College does exactly what the Founders wanted it to do, something liberals should love–it protects the dignity of minority populations.

The Best Used Book Store In Las Vegas

Dead Poet Books closed last year, but as great as it was, it wasn’t the best spot in town to find cheap used books. It’s not the also-awesome Amber Unicorn, either, or any of the few other decent such stores.

It’s Savers, the thrift store. Yes, most thrift stores are full of junk and the used book section is a waste of time (I’m looking at you, Goodwill), but Savers gets the job done.

There’s a location near the school where I work, and I drop in sometimes to check in on the inventory. It rotates pretty quickly–a good sign. I could tell about plenty of great finds there, but here’s the most recent one:

Last week I went in with three things in mind: I’ve wanted to read Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth for years, but it’s long enough that I would want to own a copy so I could take my time. Ditto for James Michener’s Alaska, which I started three years ago and really liked, but couldn’t finish before I had to take it back to the library. Also, I’ve wanted to read Edward Rutherford’s London ever since it came out when I was in college. I’ve been keeping an eye out for good used copies of each for a long time, and they were all on my mind when I stopped in there last week. I decided ahead of time to buy a copy if I should see one of them.

They had all three. Six bucks well spent!

Here’s another example: a couple of years ago, when the Dragon Tattoo trilogy was super popular, I went looking for them in paperback for a friend. Found all three of those there, too.

Yes, it’s also full of Dean Koontz and John Grisham stuff, but the variety and quality of books there has never disappointed me.

 

 

Notes on the 2016 Temple on Mount Zion Conference

I’m live blogging this conference at BYU today–this post will be updated throughout the day, after each address.

TEMPLE ON MOUNT ZION CONFERENCE, sponsored by the Interpreter Foundation

Saturday, November 5, 2016
Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah

 

9:30 – Jeffrey M. Bradshaw: “By the Blood Ye Are Sanctified”: The Symbolic, Salvific, Interrelated, Additive, Retrospective, and Anticipatory Nature of the Ordinances of Spiritual Rebirth in John 3 and Moses 6

Temple themes in Joseph Smith’s translation of Moses 6:59-63 and Genesis 17:4-7. Jesus and Nicodemus–a change of heart is needed to see the kingdom of God. “Marvel not” isn’t a scolding, but an invitation to greater spiritual learning. “Born again” can mean “born from above.” Double meanings–the serpents in Moses’s staff story to heal bitten people represent sin and salvation. “No man cometh to the Father but by me,” like the seraphim who guard the gate to the temple or to heaven.

Jesus was “lifted up,” and we can and should be, too, in resurrection and ascension (3 Ne. 27). “Second birth from above” is reflected in some early Jewish thought (see also Ezekiel 37 and 16–temple imagery).

“Born again” isn’t ended with baptism, just started–the goal is exaltation.

Moses 6:60–three clauses: water, spirit, blood.

WATER: baptism, sacrament blessing. “Stage 1” of temple (1st floor in SLC)= Moses 4 themes, 2= Moses 5, 3= Moses 6. Circumcision is close to baptism in JST Genesis. Genesis 17:3-7 in JST re: Abel and ordinances, clarifies doctrine, has ancient parallels. See David A. Bednar on priesthood ordinance being salvific, interrelated, additive. Truman Madsen: washing and anointing is like a patriarchal blessing on the body itself.

SPIRIT: D&C 20:37 explains that the Spirit cleanses, not baptism itself, which is symbolic. Justification and sanctification are twin blades of scissors–C.S. Lewis. Telestial room / baptism = justification, terrestrial / additional ordinances & consecration = sanctification, celestial = exaltation. D&C 20:30-31 teaches that justification and sanctification both come from the grace of Christ. Blood / anointing makes one both our and royal in ancient settings. British ceremony to initiate a new monarch has echoes of all this old temple symbolism. C.S. Lewis–become “a little Christ.”

BLOOD: Exodus 24 shows symbolism of blood needed to sanctify. Isaac is a substitute king before the ram–a symbol of a symbol. Neal A. Maxwell–we must put the animal *in us* upon the altar and burn it. Endowment depicts multiple births through the grace of Christ. C.S. Lewis- God turns tools-servants-friends-sons. Psalm 2:7 reflected in Moses 6 with Adam. Mosiah 2-5 has same symbolism–disciples are to become “little Mosiahs.” Alma 13 teaches high priest is symbolic of Christ. Moses 6, last verse also teaches of exaltation, leading to Enoch’s ascension in Moses 7. Nibley: scriptures aren’t platitudes, they’re things of eternity. Water in sacrament goes beyond beginning discipleship to a consecrated life: accepting prior blessings and continuing to exaltation; like Christ, must suffer, even unjustly, to serve others and lead to God.

Continue reading

The Aeneid

51euqycb-gl-_sx333_bo1204203200_

The Aeneid

I liked the rest of The Odyssey more than the part with all the monsters; I liked The Iliad more than The Odyssey; and I liked The Aeneid even more than The Iliad. In fact, I love how The Aeneid is clearly structured as a condensed complement to the earlier epics:

chaisticstructure.png

I’ve now read all three in the excellent recent translations by Robert Fagles (I like that he produced these works in chronological order, but The Aeneid was the last major translation of his long and storied career; he died only two years after publishing it, in 2008). My overall reactions to The Aeneid fall under three headings:

Fathers and sons

The first thing that struck me about The Aeneid is its focus on duty and family–themes that resonate strongly with me. I posted about one such passage on another blog.

At the end of book 2, Aeneas faces a choice–take revenge on the villainous Helen, or rescue his family from the crumbling, flaming ruin of Troy? In cinematic fashion, the scene cuts from his enraged face struggling with this decision to him running through the bowels of the city, young son in his hand and elderly father on his back.

In fact, I see another structure here: the first half of the book focuses mostly on his loyalty to his father, looking to the past, and the second half focuses on his loyalty to his son, looking to the future.

Indeed, the end of book 6–his visit to his father in the underworld, and the unveiling of his divine new shield, with its illustration of his people’s glorious destiny–is the perfect transition between the two. The quote below comes right at the midpoint of the tale, and gives me goosebumps.

book8.854-858.png

Book 8, lines 854-858

Of course, the little boy from the beginning of the story grows up over the years, and by the great battle at the end, he is a young man fighting at his father’s side.

Continue reading

“St. Matthew Passion”

Today I’ve been listening to a wonderfully simple, old fashioned performance of Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion.” It’s perfect for a cool, cloudy, windy Sunday in October; and this recording even provides English subtitles of the scriptural text. (I mentioned another performance of this oratorio back in 2009.)