I just finished doing last Sunday’s syndicated New York Times puzzle. I’m pretty proud, because it’s only the 2nd Sunday puzzle I’ve ever finished without having to cheat and Google a single answer.
I’ve done dozens of these now, and it still surprises me how stumped I can get by simple answers, just because of tricky clues.
In this one, 14 across was “Where roots grow.” I immediately got it into my head that it was about plants. Five letter answer…SOILS?
It wasn’t until I had a P in the final spot that I realized: it wasn’t about plants, it was about hair. SCALP.
A good crossword puzzle shows us how we make assumptions, and it challenges us to constantly re-evaluate them. This is a mental skill sorely lacking in our day and age.
One of my favorite things about the Book of Mormon is how fully it presents the emotional depth of mature life experiences. It profoundly describes, for example, both the crushing frustration and the soaring ecstasy of missionary work (Alma 31 and Alma 26, respectively), the anguish of parents who worry about straying children (2 Nephi 1, Alma 39), and the utter loneliness of those whose devotion to God has made them outcasts among their own people (Jacob 7:26, Ether 13:13-14, Moroni 1:1-3).
It seems unreasonable to me to think that undereducated, 23-year-old farm laborer Joseph Smith could have fathomed these extreme feelings, much less could have imagined them in rich detail.
Another example: there are three characters in the Book of Mormon who make it their professional business to publicly oppose the work of the Church, arguing that the beliefs of the Saints are wrong (Jacob 7, Alma 1, Alma 30). By far the most fully developed of these is Korihor, the Nietzsche wanna-be in Alma 30. The Book of Mormon presents his rhetoric in ample, sophisticated texture. The prophet Alma ultimately engages him and responds to each attack with withering, syllogistic precision. Their dialogue is worthy of Aristotle’s tales of Socrates. And we’re supposed to believe that this, also, was written by the unlettered and inexperienced Smith?
But most impressive to me of all this, these days, is just how presciently Korihor prefigures the current spate of elite Anti-Mormon commentators who seek to enlighten the unwashed masses about the insane, conniving cultists from Utah in this cultural “Mormon moment.” Continue reading
A pair of recent New York Times features asked political thinkers on both sides of the aisle what the other side gets right. The columns are each fascinating: I enjoyed the recognition of key conservative principles in “What the Right Gets Right,” and I can easily agree with most of “What the Left Gets Right.” Highly recommended.
From “What the Right Gets Right:”
It recognizes “the importance of material incentives in shaping behavior, and the difficulty in keeping bureaucracies under control and responsive to citizens.”
It is skeptical of “the application of social science theories to real world problems” and cognizant of “human fallibility/corruptibility.”
It places a high value on “liberty/autonomy.”
It places a similarly high value on “good parenting.”
It acknowledges “the superiority of market systems for encouraging efficient use of resources.”
From “What the Left Gets Right:”
Liberals are sensitive to the unsettling potential of income disparities. They are attentive to the overreaching of the federal government through its national security apparatus. They are less likely to pretend that scientific questions – is the planet getting warmer, for example, and if so, why? – are really ideological questions. They understand that the legacies of two centuries of slavery and another of Jim Crow are still active and still debilitating. And they are more realistic about the limits of American military power than many conservatives.
In a blog post last week about Mormons and the Civil War–focusing on the relationship between Abraham Lincoln and Brigham Young–the New York Times mentioned this:
Fascinatingly, Joseph Smith had prophesied in 1832 that an immense civil war would someday transform America, and that it would start in South Carolina.
It is fascinating, isn’t it? A couple of commenters noted that there were good reasons in 1832 for predicting such a thing, but that hardly does the prophecy justice. I submitted the following as a comment, but it hasn’t been published yet:
Joseph Smith’s Civil War prophecy is impressive. As Jeff Lindsay notes, in 1832, Smith predicted that:
- The war would begin with the rebellion of South Carolina.
- It would cause the death and misery of many souls.
- The Southern States would be divided against the Northern States.
- The Southern States would call upon other nations for assistance, even upon the nation of Great Britain.
And that, later, Great Britain would enlist help from other nations in wars which would “be poured out upon all nations.”
For those who think this was a lucky guess based on 1832 politics, one would be hard pressed to explain why the opinion wasn’t common, and why Smith repeated the claim eleven years later, in 1843. The original prophecy is in a Mormon scripture called Doctrine and Covenants 87; the reiteration is found in D&C 130:12-13.
Not only did Smith predict the war, but he even foresaw details like the South calling on Great Britain, which it did (this fact is even mentioned in the second National Treasure movie).
There are plenty of other instances of recorded prophecies by Joseph Smith which came true: http://www.jefflindsay.com/LDSFAQ/FQ_prophecies.shtml
I’m looking for a big theme to this General Conference, and I’m wondering if it’s our duty to stand as visible, public representatives of Christ and His church. That seemed to be the thrust of President Monson’s remarks in the priesthood session last night, President Eyring this morning, and Elder Ballard this morning (and, to a degree, President Monson again this morning).
Full disclosure: I missed most of the first two Saturday sessions.
It was interesting to see how the two talks by President Monson that I’ve seen this weekend were not only remarkably similar (resist the tide of declining moral standards in Western societies), but each was introduced with a reference to a newspaper article he’d read recently: in the priesthood session, it was from the New York Times; this morning, it was from the Wall Street Journal. President Monson appears to do some seriously bipartisan news reading.
In Tuesday’s New York Times, Thomas Friedman goes on about our supposed over-extending of natural resources and calls his piece, “The Earth Is Full.”
How right he is! About the title, at least:
For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare; yea, I prepared all things, and have given unto the children of men to be agents unto themselves.
Therefore, if any man shall take of the abundance which I have made, and impart not his portion, according to the law of my gospel, unto the poor and the needy, he shall, with the wicked, lift up his eyes in hell, being in torment. Doctrine and Covenants 14:17-18
Of course, the Lord uses the same phrase as Friedman’s title not to fret about scarcity, but to reassure us that He’s filled the Earth with enough to always provide for humanity. Friedman might like the follow-up that we’re obligated to use that abundance to care for those in need, though.
Instapundit linked to this interesting piece in the New York Times today about economic stagnation in Mexico, despite positive improvements in recent years.
I’m no economist, but my initial reaction would be to add that Mexico may not be making much more progress yet because they had gone so far down into the doldrums of socialism. I don’t think most of us Norteamericanos realize just how leftist Mexico has traditionally been.
A few years ago, my wife and I got to go on a short cruise, which stopped for a day in Mexico. We did the tourist bit, even going on a bus tour of local civic landmarks. At one point on the tour, the guide pointed out the sign by a gas station and crowed about how cheap gasoline was in Mexico, compared to the United States. She explained that this was because the Mexican government had nationalized that industry and controlled the prices to keep them low.
It was deeply worrisome just how many of the people in our tour group oohed and ahhed over that little tidbit. Maybe they were the beneficiaries of rent control or some other such similar scheme in the U.S. The problem, of course, is that such artificial control is profoundly unnatural, and ultimately does far more damage to the larger economic engine than good.
Gas might be dirt cheap in Mexico, but look what their socialist philosophy has done to the country as a whole. If anything, that big picture should be a stark cautionary tale for Americans who favor the steps we’ve been taking in that very direction…
Last night before an English 101 class, I grabbed a complimentary copy of USA Today off of a newsstand. I thought I’d have a few minutes to kill near the end of class while the students did some peer editing, and I wanted to do a crossword puzzle. The newsstand was out of the New York Times.
But when the time came and I was looking for the puzzle, I never got to it. I found an article instead about a new Web site that had just launched. I went to check it out and was both amused and impressed.
Our hostess is a quirky, perky, goofy, nerdy young lit major named Jenny, who takes viewers on a whirlwind tour of classic literature in a series of bite-sized videos. The site, 60secondrecap.com, is a Cliff’s Notes for the text messaging generation. They just got up and running, so their library will start building over time. I looked at two of The Great Gatsby videos last night, and liked them enough to plan to use them in my high school classes for a fun review (if the overzealous school district server doesn’t block it first). Hopefully she’ll get The Scarlet Letter and Lord of the Flies up by the time I’ll need them in a few weeks.
And Jenny, since your site says you take requests, any chance you’d consider doing something by Cormac McCarthy?