Sunday, June 30, 2013

Nibley on Rhetoric VIII

Nibley discussing Cicero's complaint about philosophers:
"It [philosophical style] is chaste and upright," he [Cicero] concludes, "an uncorrupted virgin, so to speak." And what was his rhetoric by contrast? (Hugh Nibley, "Victoriosa Loquacitas," CWHN 10:252.)

Today's Maxwell Quote

Rather prophetically from A Time to Choose (1972), 86:
It seems peculiar that advocates of family change become upset with some of us because we are not enthralled with their new labels for old, and unwise, practices. The anti-family proponents have simply relabeled sexual freedom as a chance for meaningful relationships, which is just a cover for fornication or adultery. Rhetoric seems to cover the need for real reform.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Nibley on Rhetoric VII

Cicero's very proper assurance that a rhetor will not hesitate to speak the truth when it serves his purpose is more damaging than any long catalogue of charges brought against rhetoric by its enemies. (Hugh Nibley, "Victoriosa Loquacitas," CWHN 10: 252.)

Today's Maxwell Quote

From Deposition of a Disciple (1976), 31:
Discouragement is not the absence of adequacy but the absence of courage.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Today's Maxwell Quote

From Of One Heart (1975), :
Here what begins as a duty soon becomes a delight. In happiness there is more energy to expend. With misery, there is first a holding back in hesitancy and then a falling back in despair.

Nibley on Rhetoric VI

If nothing is rarer than a good orator, nothing is commoner than bad ones. The rewards of rhetoric are tremendous; are such rewards to be left lying about unclaimed until the perfect orator comes along? As might be expected, the worst people took to rhetoric like ducks to water. For rhetoric preached the gospel of success. (Hugh Nibley, "Victoriosa Loquacitas," CWHN 10:253).

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Nibley on Rhetoric V

Nibley on the honesty of rhetoric:
"We must allow the rhetor to make false, daring, and somewhat misleading and captious statements," Gellius smugly observes. . . .

Such statements as that, meant to be a defense of the profession but actually a rather damaging indictment of rhetoric, proclaim the uneasiness that is never far from the surface of ancient treatises on oratory, the awareness that there is something basically wrong about the thing. No one denied, of course, that rhetoric could be abused --- "cannot any good thing be misused?" asks Anthony, but the question was whether it was bad as such, by nature. That was a disturbing question which could hardly be asked of an honest trade, and the rhetoricians hurt their case by protesting too much, constantly calling attention to the billowing smoke by insisting that the fire was not a serious one. (Hugh Nibley, "Victoriosa Loquacitas," CWHN 10:250-51.)

Today's Maxwell Quote

From Of One Heart (1975), 5:
In our time of increasing perplexity among nations and individual despair, it is important to realize that thousands of people ages ago successfully applied the commandments of God and thereby had great and unparalleled happiness.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Nibley on Rhetoric IV

More of Nibley on rhetoric:
It is not surprising that the orator lives in a world of high-sounding intangibles --- res, humanitas, honores, savitas, officia, gratiae, laus, commendationes, admiratio, and so forth --- which on every page of Cicero's letters turn out to be but a verbal system for a hard and sordid game of exploitation and survival played without scruples and without loyalties. (Hugh Nibley, "Victoriosa Loquacitas," CWHN 10:250.)

Today's Maxwell Quote

From The Smallest Part (1973), 16:
The special, longitudinal truths of the gospel help us to feel more and to see more clearly our circumstance—a vital thing in this secular dispensation of despair. Each of us may begin like the young servant of Elisha who feared for the future until "the Lord opened the eyes of the young man" so that he could see what Elisha saw: celestial cavalry!

‎"And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do?

‎"And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.

‎"And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha." (2 Kings 6:15-17.)

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Nibley on Rhetoric III

More on the history of rhetoric:
With the so-called Second Sophistic the rhetorical schools, having won over the emperors to their program and thereby having gained control of public education, no longer felt it necessary to continue the old lip-service to science and philosophy but openly opposed and bested them at every turn. (Hugh Nibley, "Victoriosa Loquacitas," CWHN 10:247.)

Today's Maxwell Quote

From The Smallest Part (1973), 11-12:
Religion must, therefore, press for an emphasis on the application of truth and have a demonstrated concern for behavioral outcome. Rhetoric is an easy religion, and conversational Christianity makes few immediate demands of us, while permitting us to exclaim and despair over distant wrongs.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Nibley on Rhetoric II

More on the development of rhetoric from Hugh Nibley:
Gorgias shares with his friend Protagoras the glory and guilt of selling rhetoric to the world. Protagoras concluded that he was wasting his time trying to sound the secrets of the universe in a short lifetime, burned his books in the marketplace, and turned to teaching rhetoric, achieving the immortal fame of being the first man to make a hundred minas at the trade. His famous dictum that man is the measure of all things led only too easily to the rhetorical gospel that anything goes, "the Philistine morality" which in the end destroyed Greek civilization. (Hugh Nibley, "Victoriosa Loquacitas," CWHN 10:246-47.)

Today's Maxwell Quote

From A Time to Choose (1975), 67:
Other relevant scriptures tell us that poverty is not good and that sharp economic despair is a major source of sin in the world. We are warned about the greed of the rich, but we are also warned about the greed of the poor. In terms of current concerns, it is almost as though we have now reached the point Dostoevsky foresaw when he said secular sages would say, "There is no crime. There is no sin. There is only hunger." Indeed there is hunger, but there is also crime, and there is surely sin, and we cannot really treat one effectively and ignore the other two.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Nibley on Rhetoric

Hugh Nibley was gifted in using words but despised rhetoric in the sense of "the technique of skill of persuading the many." He wrote a number of critiques of rhetoric, with some trenchant lines:

Philosophy plus rhetoric produces Sophistry. "The Old Sophistic," says Philostratus, "considered rhetoric necessary to Philosophy." The man who first most successfully promoted the formal study of rhetoric was that same Gorgias whom the Sophists hailed as the father of their art. By mixing rhetoric with philosophy he turned it to Sophistry, for which offense Plato takes him grimly to task. The charge is that he is turning his talents from the honest search for truth to the business of cultivating appearances. (Hugh Nibley, "Victoriosa Loquacitas," in CWHN 10:245-46).

Today's Maxwell Quote

From A Time to Choose (1975), 64-65:
Over-reliance on reason alone, without the intelligent interplay of experience and inspiration, can reproduce the same skepticism and arrogance that afflicted the Nephite society just before the birth of Jesus. Even when great signs were given in fulfillment of earlier utterances, the skeptics rationalized by saying, "Some things they may have guessed right, among so many." They reasoned impertinently with regard to the promised coming of Christ, "Why will he not show himself unto us as well as to them who shall be at Jerusalem?" Tying their faith to geography, the Nephite skeptics complained about being asked to believe "in some great and marvelous thing which should come to pass, but not among us, but in a land which is far distant, a land which we know not." (See Helaman 16.)

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Pepi II

When I was a graduate student I encountered a theory, told me by one of my professors, that connected the demise of the Old Kingdom with the lengthy reign of Pepi II. The theory was that after Pepi kept on living, and living, and living after completing his pyramid and that the workers had nothing to do and so the country collapsed. This would not, however, explain why the country waited until after his death to collapse.

The basic facts of Pepi's reign are not as clear as other Pharaohs.
Manetho assigns Pepi II a reign of ninety-four years, which would make him the longest reigning monarch of human history. Unfortunately, Manetho lived nearly two millennia after Pepi II. The highest regnal year attested in contemporary monuments is the year of the thirty-third cattle count. The cattle counts were at most two years apart. So that would give a date of sixty-six years at most, which is still a lengthy reign.

That Pepi II came to the throne while still young seems apparent from his preserved letter to Harkhuf where he suggests eager but unwise measures in the treatment of people.

The pyramid of Pepi II is a standard size pyramid. The interior is decorated with many pyramid texts.

That there was a change in Egypt very quickly after the death of Pepi II is clear. Whether that change was a good thing or a bad thing is not as clear. At this point, we simply do not have enough information to tell whether Pepi II reigned too long, but if that is the case, he certainly was not the last to do so.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From Lord, Increase Our Faith (), :
Over the decades, "we have learned by sad experience" that it is better for developing dissidents to be lovingly counseled, and, if necessary, lovingly disciplined "early on." Often, waiting means that any meekness they have vanishes. It is sad that, as their faith shrinks, their circle of influence may temporarily enlarge. From Liberty Jail, the Prophet Joseph, who had known so much betrayal and learned from so much "sad experience," declared his determination thus: "Your humble servant or servants, intend from henceforth to disapprobate everything that is not in accordance with the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, … They will not hold their peace—as in times past when they see iniquity beginning to rear its head—for fear of traitors, or the consequences that shall follow by reproving those who creep in unawares, that they may get something with which to destroy the flock."

Friday, June 21, 2013

Despair Cometh of Iniquity

Some time ago, a friend of mine asked a question about Moroni 10:22:
And if ye have no hope ye must needs be in despair; and despair cometh because of iniquity. (Moroni 10:22)
Her question was that if we were in despair that that necessarily meant that was a result of our own sins. At the time, she was suffering from a number of trials, none of which were of her own doing. I had no answer at the time, but I have thought about it a number of times since.

I note at the outset that the English term despair comes from French espoir "hope" or rather from its negative désespoir "hopelessness." So despair is precisely the lack of hope: if ye have no hope ye must needs be in despair.

When Moroni says that despair cometh because of iniquity, he does not say whose iniquity that is. Certainly despair can come because of our own iniquity, but I have come to learn that despair at our situation can also come because of others' iniquity.

Ultimately, we might "have hope through the atonement of Christ and the power of his resurrection, to be raised unto life eternal" (Moroni 7:41), but proximately there might be little to hope for. Think of Abinadi, condemned to die for pointing out the iniquities of king Noah, or the time when Alma's little band of followers were denied the ability to appeal higher authority by their wicked overseers: those "found calling upon God should be put to death" (Mosiah 24:11). These were times when proximate hope had to be low or non-existent. In one case, earthly deliverance came, in the other, it did not. In both cases the iniquities of others caused hope to dim.

The prospect of others' iniquities can cause hope to fade even among the prophets. As Nephi notes:
I also have charity for the Gentiles. But behold, for none of these can I hope (2 Nephi 33:9).
Here Nephi has despair, a loss of hope, because of the iniquities of others, but his loss of hope is not for himself but for them.

When iniquity abounds, as it surely does in the last days, it is hard to keep one's hopes up. This can be hard, because "the Lord seeth fit to chasten his people; yea, he trieth their patience and their faith. Nevertheless—whosoever putteth his trust in him the same shall be lifted up at the last day." (Mosiah 23:21–22)

Today's Maxwell Quote

From A More Excellent Way (1967), 58-59:
So much depends also on the leader's seeing a restless or rebellious individual with some sense of the person's potential. Pericles urged the ancient Athenians to contemplate Athens not alone for what she was, but for what she had the power to become. Believing in an individual—as he or she may become—may be at times the only deterrent to proximate despair.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Distasteful Reading

In a recent conversation someone bemoaned to me the difficulty of shifting through hundreds of pages of utterly odious material written in unbearably bad prose. I gathered from the conversation that he would rather search the sewer for discarded gems. It reminded me of a similar sentiment expressed by A. E. Housman talking of Kaspar von Barth:
To read 3000 tall columns of close print by a third-rate scholar is no proper occupation for mortals. (A. E. Housman, Manilius [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1937], 1:xv.)

Today's Maxwell Quote

From this talk:
True, the enemies and the critics of the Lord’s work will not relent; they only regroup. Even among the flock, here and there and from time to time, are a few wolves, wearing various styles of sheep’s clothing—ironically, just before the shearing season! A few defectors and “highminded” traitors (2 Tim. 3:4) even go directly to the “great and spacious building” to hire on (1 Ne. 8:26). There recruits are celebrated and feted until—like their predecessors—they have faded into the dark swamps of history. As President Heber C. Kimball said, divine justice will eventually require that they “pay all the debt of [all] the trouble that they have brought upon the innocent” (in Journal of Discourses, 5:94).

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Did I Read that Right?

From this article:
some of the factors contributing to educational decline — shrinking budgets, entrenched poverty, classroom crowding and increasing diversity (emphasis added)
So increasing diversity leads to educational decline? Did I read that correctly? Did the reporter read it correctly? Yes, he did. This is the executive summary of the original report:
There’s no shortage of factors for America’s educational decline: budget cutbacks, entrenched poverty, crowded classrooms, shorter school years, greater diversity of students than in other countries. (emphasis added)
But the full report tells a different story. Buried in the report are complaints that the prospective teachers need to be more diverse and that they would be better simply by changing their ethnic and racial composition. What the report fails to do is lay out a case for why education would be better or worse with more diversity. Instead, there is simply the common mantra that more diversity (except in opinion or thought) is better. It is amusing, however, that the reports authors have garbled their real argument in their summary.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From But For a Small Moment (1986), 127-128:
Joseph's enemies were in some respects less troublesome than former friends. "Mormon dissenters are running through the world and are spreading various foul and libelous reports against us thinking thereby to gain the friendship of the world. . .; they [the world] make a tool of these fellows. . . and after that they hate them worse than they do us" (Writings, p. 379; see also D&C 121:20).

Yet the Prophet was assured that the people of the Church would never be turned against him by the testimony of traitors (D&C 122:3). Nevertheless, traitors would have sufficient influence to cast him into trouble (D&C 122:4).

Perhaps those now in watchcare roles in the kingdom can learn from Joseph in yet another way. Again, from Liberty Jail: "Your humble servant or servants intend from henceforth to [disapprove] everything that is not in accordance with the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ... They will not hold their peace as in times past when they see iniquity beginning to rear its head for fear of traitors or the consequences that shall flow by reproving those who... seek to destroy the flock." (Writings, pp. 405-6.) Earlier identification and quiet redemptive remonstration are to be preferred to delayed, embittering, public showdowns.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Onchsheshonqy 8/8

There is no one who will not die (P. Onch. 8/8).
The statement in Onchsheshonqy seems banal enough but it plays an interesting role in Onchsheshonqy. The frame story of Onchsheshonqy is all about death. It begins with an assassination plot against the Pharaoh. The plot goes awry and the conspirators are executed. Onchsheshonqy, however, is not put to death because he was not involved in the plot. His friend, however, is already dead and while he has not been killed yet, there is a chance that he will still be executed. So death lingers in the background against which the sayings are written down. Even the king, who decrees life and death, is mortal.

Death actually played a much larger role in ancient Egyptian society than it does in ours. A third of all babies born would die before reaching their first birthday. A quarter of those left would not make it to puberty. While people could live as long as they do today (Shenoute, for example, lived to be more than a hundred), it was much rarer for them to do so.

Onchsheshonqy's warning is actually more needed in our day than it was in his.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From But For a Small Moment (1986), 14:
In a March 15, 1839, letter sent from jail Joseph made significant linkage with his prophet-predecessors: "[but trials] will only give us that knowledge to understand the minds of the Ancients. For my part," wrote Joseph, "I think I never could have felt as I now do if I had not suffered the wrongs that I have suffered." (Writings, p. 387.) It is a rare person who can appreciate such lessons while the lessons are in process; it takes special perspective.

Monday, June 17, 2013

German Education Today

Some time ago I was notified of this article (in German) that bemoans the situation in German universities:
Universities today are a hostile environment for thinkers.
This is an arresting opening line, but the author, Klaus P. Hansen, bemoans the demise of thought in German universities because they are trying to imitate American universities through what is known as the Bologna process (which comes out of meetings held in Bologna that called for all European universities to adopt standards and programs based on American universities):
Previously, before Bologna and excellence initiatives, almost all professors were intellectuals. Today they are bureaucrats, mangers, international figures, competitors, and moderators, who woo the favor of the public.

Most of my European colleagues that I have spoken with abominate the Bologna process. Imitating American universities, whose methods are usually seen as second rate, includes imitating their vices, including competition, giving up learning something in depth, and an emphasis on empiricism.

Hansen notes the increase in anthologies, which he sees as problematic:
These anthologies in the meantime make up the lion's share of the academic book market, but real paradigm changes have never been encountered in specialized essays or anthologies, rather they are made through real books, and also through monographs, which are the work of individual intellectuals. Simply put: progress in knowledge is made only through book readers and book writers.
I might quibble with this or that in his article, but he has some interesting points worth considering. If you read German, you might find it worth your while to read the whole thing.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From But For a Small Moment (1986), 13-14 (describing Joseph Smith's experiences in Liberty Jail):
The Prophet may have recalled Judas, too, for he observed that "Mormon dissenters" were being used "against us, because such misguided souls were "thinking thereby to gain the friendship of the world." Ironically, those of the world who used such dissenters would end up, said Joseph to the Church in this epistle, hating "them worse than they do us because they find them to be base traitors and sycophants" (Writings, p. 379). This was a foreshadowing of verses to be received several months later: "those that shall lift up the heel against mine anointed [saying] they have sinned when they have not sinned... and those who swear falsely against my servants . . . , they themselves shall be despised by those that flattered them" (D&C 121: 16, 18, 20). Judas knew what it was to be used and then despised (see Matthew 27:3-5).

Sunday, June 16, 2013

A Stake Conference Question

Last night in Stake Conference, one of the speakers wondered aloud whether in Matthew 5:16 the word "so" in "let your light so shine before men" should be understood as "in this manner" or "to a great extent." He examined both for a bit and said that he preferred the latter.

The Greek is:
οὕτως λαμψάτω τὸ φῶς ὑμῶν ἔμπροσθεν τῶν ἀνθρώπων
Those who can read Greek will have noticed that the equivalent of "so" in Greek is οὕτως which means "in this manner." The fact does not particularly make the point he was trying to make, but his query is at least an answerable question.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From All These Things Shall Give Thee Experience (1980), 115:
Following the Brethren can be more difficult when in some settings wolves are sent among the flock. False prophets will arise, enticing some to follow them, and by their evil works they deceive careless observers into discounting any and all who claim to be prophets. Satan's order of battle is such that if it is necessary to encourage a hundred false prophets in order to obscure the validity of one true prophet, he will gladly do so.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Elijah's Return in the Targums

Joseph Smith records that when the angel Moroni visited him, he quoted the final verses of Malachi a little differently. So do the Targums:
Will I not send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the future day for the coming of the great and dreadful presence of the Lord? He shall turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers lest it be revealed and I find the whole earth in sin and I smite it with utter destruction.
A number of differences between the Targums and the Hebrew text are telling. In the Hebrew text the day of the Lord is great and dreadful, in the Targums, it is the presence of the Lord that is great and dreadful. In the Targums, God will find the world in sin if Elijah does not turn the hearts of the children to the fathers or the fathers to the children.

In both cases, the consequences of not turning the hearts is utter destruction, though this is clearer in the Targum than in most English translations.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From "A More Determined Discipleship," Ensign (Feburary 1979): 70:
Before the ultimate victory of the forces of righteousness, some skirmishes will be lost. Even in these, however, let us leave a record so that the choices are clear, letting others do as they will in the face of prophetic counsel.

There will also be times, happily, when a minor defeat seems probable, but others will step forward, having been rallied to rightness by what we do. We will know the joy, on occasion, of having awakened a slumbering majority of the decent people of all races and creeds which was, till then, unconscious of itself.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Amenemhet I

The conventional wisdom on Amenemhet I is as follows:

  • He was the vizier of Mentuhotep IV (or Mentuhotep III by some reckonings).
  • He ascended to the throne after the mysterious disappearance (death?) of Mentuhotep.
  • He was assassinated just before his jubilee year.
  • His assassins were part of the palace hierarchy.
  • Some people think that his own vizier was part of the assassination plot though since the evidence is not very good this is disputed. If true it makes a nice historical symmetry: others did to Amenemhet I what he had done to others.
  • Though he seems to have set Egypt on a new course, little survives from his long reign.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From For the Power Is in Them (1970), 8–‎9:
That others may be so offended is not reason for us to reduce such righteousness as we have, of course, but awareness of this irony is a reminder for us to be sensitive to the needs and feelings of others who can be greatly inflamed with resentment. The tale of Aristides the Just is ancient Greece is another reminder of this paradox.

Aristides encountered an illiterate citizen who was struggling to make out his ostrakon (the periodic way in which ancient Greeks could, with sufficient "votes," exile an offending countryman). When Aristides inquired as to whether or not he could help this man mark his ostrakon, the man said yes and asked, not knowing who his helper was, to have the name of Aristides put on the "ballot" as deserving of ostracism. Aristides, wisely seeking feedback, still did not identify himself but asked why the man wished this fate upon Aristides. The man said it was because he had grown tired of hearing incessantly how noble and how just Aristides was. There was, apparently, an intrinsic resentment of Aristides' image of nobility.

It is not necessary to be able to account for, or to analyze, all the psychological variables involved in such situations in order to know that in human affairs the "Aristides factor" often does operate. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Three Envelopes

A number of years ago, Dallin Oaks told the following story (reprinted here):
I begin with a story I heard many years ago at the inauguration of a university president. It illustrates the importance of timing in university administration. One university president had come to the end of his period of service, and another was just beginning. As a gesture of goodwill, the wise outgoing president handed his young successor three sealed envelopes. "Hold these until you have the first crisis in your administration," he explained. "Then open the first one, and you will find some valuable advice."

It was a year before the new president had a crisis. When he opened the first envelope, he found a single sheet of paper on which were written the words "Blame the prior administration." He followed that advice and survived the crisis.

Two years later he faced another serious challenge to his leadership. He opened the second envelope and read: "Reorganize your administration." He did so, and the reorganization disarmed his critics and gave new impetus to his leadership.

Much later the now-seasoned president encountered his third major crisis. Eagerly he opened the last envelope, anticipating the advice that would provide the solution for his troubles. Again he found a single sheet of paper, but this time it read, "Prepare three envelopes." It was time for new leadership.
Elder Oaks, who had himself been a university president, recognizes the situation that university administrators find themselves in, and mentions the typical ways that they try to survive. (One does wonder about Elder Oaks telling this story about a year before the university president was changed at the university where he gave his talk.) But if after blaming others for your own failings does not work and shuffling the cabinet does not work, perhaps it is best for everyone for you to resign. After all, the problem just may be you.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From this talk:
The holy scriptures represent mankind’s spiritual memory. And when man’s connection with scripture is severed, mortals are tragically deprived of an awareness of spiritual history, blinding the eyes of faith. Thereby shorn of true identity, mortals keep their legs intact, but each walks in his own way. Their arms are acquisitive, but do not reach out in an understanding embrace of life. Their ears function, but they no longer hear the word of the Lord. Though created in God’s image, those thus severed soon forget their Maker. Yet it is not surprising, “For how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served, and who is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart?” (Mosiah 5:13).

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Ether's Cave

I am pleased to announce a new blog devoted to Book of Mormon research: Ether's Cave. A variety of studies have been posted initially and more will be added on a regular basis.


The Greek word for offense is σκάνδαλον which is the origin of the English word scandal. Scandals are things that we find offensive, often for good reason, sometimes less so. We can, for example, be offended at something good.

The word σκάνδαλον appears in the New Testament fourteen times, almost half of those in the mouth of Jesus. He notes that "it is unavoidable that scandals not come but woe to those through whom they come" (Luke 17:1), or as Matthew puts it: "Woe to the world because of scandals; it is necessary that scandals come but woe to the man through whom the scandal comes" (Matthew 18:7). At one point, Jesus tells Peter: "Go behind me, Satan, for you are a scandal to me because you consider not the things of God but the things of man" (Matthew 16:23).

In relating the parable of the wheat and the tares, Jesus notes that both the wheat and the tares grow together, and they are hard to distinguish, but in the end, "the Son of Man will send his messengers and they will gather out of the kingdom all the scandals and those who work iniquity" (Matthew 13:41).

So for Jesus, seeking after the things of the world and working iniquity are scandals that merit being cast out of the Kingdom.

The verbal form---meaning to scandalize, cause a scandal, to cause offense, and in the passive often shades into meaning to apostatize---appears more often, thirty times in the New Testament, twenty-six of them in the mouth of Jesus.

Jesus says that those who cause a scandal should be cut off and cast off (Matthew 5:29-30; 18:8-9); he says this more than once, one of those in the context of immorality but not the other. In giving the parable of the sower, Jesus notes that some receive the word gladly but they are temporary and have no roots in the gospel; the minute that affliction or persecution come, they are scandalized (Matthew 13:21). Jesus said the words "A prophet is not without honor except in his own country" to his brothers who were scandalized by him (Matthew 13:57). Jesus's disciples noted that the Pharisees were scandalized by the things that he said (Matthew 15:12). He also warned those who scandalize those who believe that they will be held accountable for it and that they would actually be better off dead (Matthew 18:6). Jesus tells his disciples that in the last days "then they will betray you to affliction and kill you and you will be hated by all nations because of my name, and then many will be scandalized and betray each other and hate each other and many false prophets will arise and deceive many" (Matthew 24:9-11). Therefore, he said, "Blessed is he who is not scandalized by me" (Matthew 11:6).

So Jesus says quite a bit about scandals, and especially warns about those who cause scandals among believers because they seek to be accepted of the world, or are immoral, or betray and hate the believers. In the end, Jesus will get rid of the scandals and those who cause them. In the end, tares will not be able to pretend they are wheat.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From this talk:
Do not, if you have been offended, recall that while you may have been bumped by an ecclesiastical elbow, the chip was on your shoulder long before the elbow appeared.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Prophets and Whistleblowers

Megan McArdle has an interesting analysis about whistleblowers. She notes that whistleblowers are unusual:
Whistleblowers are almost definitionally not normal people.  When the spotlight shines on their lives, the glare makes every irregularity evident.   What whistleblowers do is usually moral.  A free society depends on people who are willing to go public when they see wrongdoing.

But there are good reasons that whistleblowing behavior is actually pretty rare. 
She argues that whistleblowers are wierd:
They have to be in order to be willing to violate the trust of their group in order to protect a principle.  . . . They come off as rigid, idealistic, a bit self-righteous, and more than a little naive.  Those are not characteristics that make you fit in. 
In many ways her description of whistleblowers is similar to descriptions of Old Testament (and other) prophets. They have to go against the grain of the group in order to protect a principle. Others depict them as rigid, idealistic, self-righteous, naive. They were ostracized (think Jeremiah and Elijah) and killed (think John the Baptist).

Prophets have to be willing to be unpopular in order to point out that different actions, often taken by those in power but sometimes standard practices of the community, are wrong or evil. As a result, they cannot afford to worry about whether others like them.
After all, if he cared about people liking him as much as the rest of us do, he probably wouldn't have been able to do with [sic: what] he did.
As Jesus put it:
Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. (Matthew 5:11–12)
For Christians it can, at times, seem like persecution is hardly a blessing. But Jesus also noted:
If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.

If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. (John 15:18–19)
Whistleblowers, prophets, and Christians have to risk being hated.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From We Will Prove Them Herewith (1982), 4-6:
Since, for example, almost all individuals have a tendency to abuse power and authority—not just a few, not even a mere majority—how are the relevant lessons about the righteous use of power to be learned except in this laboratory setting? Could we have truly experienced the risks and opportunities of power merely by attending some pointed lectures or doing some directed reading during our first estate? Was it not necessary to experience, "according to the flesh," what it is like to be on the receiving end of unrighteous dominion? And the necessity of repentance when one has been on the giving end? The very absence, for instance, on the human political scene of attributes such as genuine humility, mercy, and meekness is a grim reminder about how essential these qualities are to the governance of self or nation.

. . .

Moreover, even when we fail to develop an eternal attribute sufficiently, our mortal experiences will nevertheless have shown us just how precious that attribute is. How much easier, later on, to accept with appreciation the righteous dominion of those who have so progressed. Again, could such appreciation and acceptance have been generated in the abstract?

Monday, June 10, 2013

Two Story Cakes

I was intrigued by this description of business in the twenty-first century:
For, in the 21st century, a prosperous American business is a soaring 2-storied cake: 1 management layer at top thick with perks, golden parachutes, stock options, and a total disregard for those beneath them; 1 layer below of increasingly foreign workers (If you’re lucky, you trained these people before you were laid off!), who can’t even depend on their jobs because as we speak, those sameself consultants – but no one that we know of course — are scouring the globe for the cheapest labor opportunities, fulfilling their promise that no CEO be left behind.

Above all of this, the frosting on the cake,  the nec plus ultra of evolutionary corporate accomplishment: the Director of Social Media.  This is the 20-year old whose role it is to “leverage social media to deliver a seamless authentic experience across multiple digital streams to strategic partners and communities.”  In other words, this person gets paid six figures to send out tweets. But again, no one that we know.
I thought that was just academia.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From this talk:
A coalition of consequences is emerging. As prophesied, the love of many waxes cold (see Matt. 24:12). Even those affectionally secure themselves can sense the chill in the air. The loss of hope sends selfishness surging, as many turn, even more intensively, to pleasing themselves. The diminished sense of sin diminishes shame, that hot, sharp spur needed for repentance. Shame is often replaced by the arrogance of those morally adrift, including strutting celebrities whose outer boldness camouflages their inner emptiness.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Elder Maxwell on D&C 121:43

Elder Maxwell had a significant amount to say about reproof. I will not cover everything here, but some of his interpretation of D&C 121:43 deserves examination. The basic scripture is:
Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy; (Doctrine and Covenants 121:43)
In 1987, Elder Maxwell observed the following of the passage:
There are, for instance, a number of words in the scriptures that we assume we know the meaning of, but in our casualness we fail to search them. One such word occurs in the revelation given to the Prophet Joseph Smith in Liberty Jail. It declares that true leadership requires "reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy." (D&C 121:43. Italics added.) Most of us casually assume the word betimes means "from time to time," or occasionally. Betimes actually means "early on."

If we both identify a need early and are moved upon by the Holy Ghost to act before pride has hardened our attitudes, we have a greater likelihood of success. Our effectiveness in working with others depends not only upon our meekness but also upon theirs, and mutual meekness is more apt to be present "early on" rather than later. (Meek and Lowly, [1987], 40.)
His observation about betimes meaning early would be an observation he would make on multiple occasions.

Elder Maxwell does not deal much with the meaning of sharpness. In Joseph Smith's day sharp could mean:
With keen perception; exactly; minutely
So reproving with sharpness meant reproving with exactness and keen perception, not necessarily severely. Still he was aware of the general need. He wrote in 1967:
One of our needs in Church leadership is to legitimatize the necessity of giving specific reproof and commendation. (A More Excellent Way [1967], 90.)
He elaborated on the need for specific reproof a few pages later:
If we seek to administer reproof properly, we must also be willing to listen and to respond after we have issued our reproof. The receiver will often need some time to test the accuracy of our reproof and the implications of that reproof. He needs to reassure himself that we care for him, that he is still safely within our circle of concern. Thus even when we give deserved specific criticism in the spirit of love we must be willing to take added time, if necessary, to do some "maintenance" work, another reason why timing and setting are so crucial at times in the administration of reproof.  (A More Excellent Way [1967], 94.)
He illustrated the concept with examples:
Joseph Smith knew what it was to be corrected by the Lord (see D&C 10:1-3). So did Oliver Cowdery (see D&C 9:7). Their reproofs were not vague but very specific: the Prophet Joseph Smith's for not following original instructions concerning the Book of Mormon manuscript, and Oliver Cowdery's for not continuing as he had commenced and for thinking he merely needed to ask for revelations without making intellectual effort. (Wonderful Flood of Light [1990], 113.)

One of Elder Maxwell's concerns was the second part of the verse:
In the 121st Section of the Doctrine and Covenants we are all given clear instructions in this regard. When we are reproving betimes with sharpness, clearly he who is the reproof-giver has the responsibility to demonstrate an increase in the love shown for him who has been reproved. So many times as leaders we give out criticism without providing even the basic reassurances, to say nothing of the need to give added assurances. Those we seek to lead will venture more in testing and developing their strengths and skills, if the climate we provide is one in which our love and trust is clear, and the risks of their losing our love are low. (A More Excellent Way [1967], 40.)
Elder Maxwell also took note of the motivation for the reproof:
But sharp reproof should come as a matter of inspiration, not to meet an ego need which requires putting someone else in his place! (A Time to Choose [1972], 78.)

So, for Elder Maxwell, D&C 121:43 means that reproof should be early, specific, inspired, and accompanied by credible reassurances.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From The Smallest Part (1973), 27:
It is easier nowadays, for instance, with secularism's softened morality, for the adulterer to say that his impulse was simply unmanageable and that his behavior was so profoundly natural that he is not really accountable. Even more subtle is the rationalization of those who are immoral, but manage to create an aura of nobility around their acts, so that the sinner is the one who is terribly misunderstood and who is, therefore, somehow heroic. The trick apparently is to divert compassion from those who have been wronged to those who have wronged them.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Onchsheshonqy 7/20

The great man who is humble is widely praised.
This line is opposite the previous line.

Great men (or rich men) who consider themselves ordinary people are actually a pleasure to be around.

On the other hand, this recent analysis suggests that corrupt culture flows from corrupt leaders. In some ways it is a variation of the great man theory of history that says that great men are responsible for the changes in history. This is one reason why a great man who considers himself just like every one else should be widely praised.

Steven Law notes that in investigating Enron:
What we found was a small circle of certifiably bad actors who acted without regard for the law or for anyone else. Surrounding this inner circle was a culture that gave these employees tacit permission to run roughshod over others and break the law.

While lower-level Enron employees did their jobs honorably, senior management cultivated a malignant esprit de corps that corroded the company's ethics. The C-Suite view was that no one was smarter, faster or more aggressive than these executives. Mortals couldn't possibly understand what they did. That belief created its own closed-system logic, leading to deceptive accounting schemes, self-dealing and, ultimately, a battery of criminal convictions for Enron's top brass.
This is Onchsheeshonqy's vulgar men puffing themselves up.

So the tone gets set at the top and corruption in the top rots out the heart of an organization.

Today's Maxwell Quote

 From Men and Women of Christ (1991), 76-77:
Deeply despondent as sorrow may make us, however, self-pity is not the same thing as godly sorrow. Soaking in the hot tub of self-pity does not do for us what godly sorrow does—namely, brace us! Godly sorrow is like going from a sauna into a snowbank; it produces a tingly, spiritual stimulation. Unchallenged luke-warmness and apathy, on the other hand, leave little room for bringing about improvement: "I would thou wert cold or hot," the Lord said (Revelation 3:15). Dissonance has its dangers, but apathy surely does not bring about "a desire to believe."

Friday, June 7, 2013

From the Mormon Odditorium

From this week's Mormon Odditorium, the ever quotable Brigham Young:
What is our duty? To promote the kingdom of God on the earth. Every person that confines his thoughts and labours to happifying his own family and immediate friends will come far short of performing the duties devolving upon him. Every sentiment and feeling should be to cleanse the earth from wickedness, to purify the people, sanctify the nations, gather the nations of Israel home, redeem and build up Zion, redeem Jerusalem and gather the Jews there, and establish the reign and kingdom of God on the earth. Let that be the heart's desire and labour of every individual every moment. (Brigham Young, 12 June 1860, JD 8:294).

Today's Maxwell Quote

From All These Things Shall Give Thee Experience (1980), 108:
The Prophet Joseph spoke of how apostates often bring severe persecutions upon their former friends and associates. "When once that light which was in them is taken from them they become as much darkened as they were previously enlightened, and then, no marvel, if all their power should be enlisted against the truth, and they, Judas like, seek the destruction of those who were their greatest benefactors." (HC 2:23.)

Thursday, June 6, 2013

More from the Mormon Odditorium

This is from last week's Mormon Odditorium:
Many have tried to penetrate to the First Cause of all things; but it would be as easy for an ant to number the grains of sand on the earth. It is not for man, with his limited intelligence, to grasp eternity in this comprehension. This is an eternity of life, from which we were composed by the wisdom and skill of superior Beings. It would be as easy for a gnat to trace the history of man back to his origin as for man to fathom the First Cause of all things, lift the veil of eternity, and reveal the mysteries that have been sought after by philosophers from the beginning. What, then, should be the calling and duty of the children of men? Instead of inquiring after the origin of the Gods--instead of trying to explore the depths of eternities that have been, that are, and that will be,--instead of endeavouring to discover the boundaries of boundless space, let them seek to know the object of their present existence, and how to apply, in the most profitable manner for their mutual good and salvation, the intelligence they possess. Let them seek to know and thoroughly understand things within their reach, and to make themselves well acquainted with the object of their being here, by diligently seeking unto a superior Power for information, and by the careful study of the best books. (Brigham Young, 9 October 1859, JD 7:285).

Today's Maxwell Quote

From Time to Choose (1972), 18-19:
In the fourteenth chapter of Exodus the Children of Israel chide Moses for taking them to the Red Sea with the Pharaoh's armies at their heels. They did not expect to see a narrow path created for them. But it happened! The real choice the Children of Israel faced at that moment of truth was whether or not they would follow Moses between those immense, terrifying walls of water. They were hardly in a position to argue with their Benefactor or to call for a different exit from Egypt, for impotence cannot dictate terms to Omnipotence; it must ‎have been painfully clear to them that there was "none other way." Man is in the same relationship with Jesus Christ, who has ransomed us and identified the solitary, salvational path.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Why You Should Be Grateful for the Cistercians

There are those who argue that religion has produced only evil and that no good has come from it. Such a position is not really tenable, but consider this:

It was the Cistercian order of monks in the eleventh century who, following St. Benedict (AD 480-543), insisted on the self-sufficiency of the monasteries. But they moved away from population centers to marginal land. To achieve this, they kept records of what worked and exchanged information with other monasteries. So successful were they that by the end of the twelfth century, they had 530 houses, each a factory, all over Europe. They help spread waterwheels and were especially expert at sheep herding and wool production. This helped improve both commerce and the quality of life in Europe. James Burke (Connections, 89-113) shows how the development of the computer was dependent on the works of the Cistercian monks. If you are reading this, you can thank the Cistercians.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From Lord, Increase Our Faith (1994), 6:
There is no way to move in those much-desired directions, however, if at the same time we are pandering to the praise of the world. The natural man listens with such a thirsty ear for the approving roar of the crowd. He needs no encouragement to be "of the world," because he is already so much "in the world."

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

A.D. 356

A.D. 356 is one of the traditional dates for the death of Saint Anthony. Anthony, you may recall, is considered the father of monasticism. He was celebrated as such by Anthanasius, who wrote his hagiography.

Athanasius's hagiography divides the live of Anthony into various parts. Anthony was born an Egyptian Christian. Athanasius claims that he was uneducated and unsociable. After his parents died, about the time that he was nineteen, he heard Matthew 19:21, about selling everything and giving to the poor, read in Church and decided to do just that. He did so and fled into the desert. This was a typical anachoresis practice. Roman tax burdens being what they were, many people found that they could not really make ends meet after taxes and so fled the country (the Greek verb for that was anachoreo).

Anthony spent years in the desert fighting demons, but also growing his own garden, free from the encumbrances of the state and its taxes. It would not be the last time that someone was lionized for going Galt.

Athanasius takes pains to present Anthony as someone respected by the emperors, and rejecting those Athanasius despised: the Manichaeans, the Miletians, the Arians, the pagans. Athanasius spends no time describing Anthony's rebuffing of the Manichaeans or the Miletians, but quite a few on Anthony's apologetics against the Arians and the pagans.

By the time that Anthony died, a whole generation had grown up, raised children and were seeing grand children since Constantine had made Christianity legal. Even though Christianity had supposedly triumphed, there was still a need to defend the faith.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From Lord, Increase Our Faith (1994), 6:
The quiet and steady decrease of faith leads to a surrendering to the world. When that happens there are no white flags or formal, public ceremonies marking such subjugation. The adversary cleverly does not insist on these ceremonies so long as the results are what he desires.

A few "sell out" directly, like Judas. Thirty pieces of silver are not necessary if a little notoriety will suffice.

There are many more who are honorable individuals but are simply "not valiant" in their testimony of Jesus.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Harun al-Rashid

The fifth Abbasid caliph, Harun al-Rashid (786-809) achieved legendary status. His name translates out to Aaron the Righteous. In the Thousand and One Nights he is depicted as wandering about the country in search of adventure. In one of these, the Tale of the Three Apples, he says to his vizier, Ja`far:
I wish to go into the city to find out what is happening and to question the people about the conduct of my administrators, to that I may dismiss those of whom they complain and promote those they praise.
Historically, al-Rashid seems to have been not as competent or as caring as he is depicted in literature. But it is interesting to note what later people thought to have been a righteous ruler. A righteous caliph was one who knew that his administrators were not always righteous, or at least as righteous as they depicted themselves. A righteous caliph was one who knew that the common people were better judges of the administrators than the superiors the administrators might toady to. A righteous caliph was one who rooted out corruption in his administration.

It appears that at least some of the authors of the Thousand and One Nights tried show what rulers could be like rather than what they were like.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From Things As They Really Are (1978), 55:
Simplicity requires plain language; and the more eroded and less precise language becomes, the less it communicates. Bureaucratic language in modern government is a classic example of this. When we don't like to face up to hard facts, we use soft words. We do not speak about killing a baby within the womb, but about the "termination of potential life." Words are often multiplied to try to cover dark deeds.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Today's Maxwell Quote

From this talk:
The inconsistency of immorality with caring about other matters may be illustrated thusly. What if our increasing care and concern for the environment of nature around us were applied to human nature? Anyone about to commit adultery or fornication or a homosexual act would first be required to submit an environmental impact statement. The rippling consequences of what was about to be done would be assessed and set forth beforehand so the predatory and the misled could at least contemplate, in part, what they are about to inflict on themselves and others.


Terms for covenant in various languages say something about how they are understood.

The Hebrew term is berit which is cognate with Akkadian birit "between" showing that it is an agreement between two parties.

The Aramaic term is qeyaym from qum "to set up" and related to words meaning "eternal" or "enduring."

The Greek term is diatheke from diatithemi meaning "to manage or dispose" showing that a covenant shows how to manage certain affairs.

The English term comes from the Latin verb convenio meaning "to come together, or agree" showing that both sides should agree on the covenant.

There are other languages whose word choice might provide meaning about covenants other that they are enduring agreements between two parties about how to manage their affairs. These provide plenty of reasons to take our covenants seriously.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Less Fun with Logic Problems

There is an old logic problem about a farmer who, for whatever reason, is transporting a wolf, a goat, and a cabbage and comes to a river. Fortunately, there is a boat to cross the river. Unfortunately, the boat is only large enough for the farmer and one other object at a time. If the farmer leaves the wolf and the goat alone, the wolf will eat the goat. If the farmer leaves the goat an the cabbage alone, the goat will eat the cabbage. How does the farmer get all three objects safely across the river?

This is considered an elementary logic problem. There are two solutions, which are variants of each other. Still, it is a useful exercise to consider how to order things so that predators are not allowed to be alone with their prey.

The Boy Scouts of America have recently proposed another logic problem, which is not elementary.

In a recent meeting the Boy Scouts of America made a change in their membership rules to allow homosexual scouts. They apparently did so without realizing or without caring about the logic problem that it creates. For purposes of this analysis, we are considering only the scoutmaster's point of view. Scoutmasters' concerns are similar to but not identical with parent's concerns.

In order to reach the lowest rank in scouting, Tenderfoot, one must go on a scout campout. Another is required for the next rank, Second Class, and a third to reach First Class. So scouts, if they are to be involved and advancing in scouts, are required to go on scout campouts. Any parent can see that that creates a problem.

Every scout on every scout activity has to have a buddy. It is for the scout's protection. If you are injured or hurt you want to have a buddy who can go for help.

Let's suppose that we have a homosexual scout, call him A(lbert). Let's call his buddy B(ob). Albert and Bob can hike together, cook together. That is wonderful and what scouts do. But Albert and Bob have to share a tent and sleep together and dress together. This is a nightmare. To see why, suppose that instead it was Alfred and Barbara. Would anyone think that Alfred and Barbara sharing a tent was a problem? Of course they would. Having boys and girls sleep and dress together is widely seen as inappropriate. If we know that Alfred is sexually attracted to girls and Barbara is a girl, then we do not want them sharing a tent on a campout. We may not want them sharing a campout even if they are not in the same tent. Likewise if we know that Albert is sexually attracted to boys and Bob is a boy, we do not want them sharing a tent on a campout. It is like leaving the wolf with the goat or the goat with the cabbage. Perhaps nothing will happen, but do you risk it?

Because Albert and Bob are "buddies", however, they have to share a tent.

Perhaps one of the scoutmasters could share the tent and act as a chaperone. Alas that is specifically forbidden by scout Youth Protection rules. Scoutmasters cannot share a tent with the scouts.

The logic problem the Boy Scouts of America have left the scoutmasters is: How do you protect Bob? The scoutmasters can be following all the guidelines, but if something happens to Bob, they are the most likely to get sued. The guidelines leave them with no options.

Scouting's Youth Protection Program is laudable and works to protect the youth because it assumes that scoutmasters cannot be trusted even though the vast majority of scoutmasters are honorable men who would not dream of harming the youth in their charge. The policies in place are designed assuming the worst and having the scoutmasters protect the youth from the other scoutmasters. No guidelines on these new scenarios, which will occur, has been forthcoming.

At the minimum, these are the conditions:
  • The youth have to go on campouts.
  • Adults may not share a tent with youth.
  • Individuals should not be sharing a tent with those to whom they are sexually attracted.
  • Every youth has to have a buddy.
  • Everyone has to share a tent with their buddy.

So the Boy Scouts of America have come up with a difficult and high-stakes logic problem and left it up to the scoutmasters to try to find a solution.

Scout executives will not even admit what they have done. Here is Cory Maloy sticking his head in the sand. Here is Jason Wright doing the same. Here is the Utah National Parks Council avoiding the issue. The unaddressed concern is not Albert's feelings but Bob's safety. In many, perhaps most, instances nothing will happen, but Youth Protection is not about the majority of cases where nothing happens but about preventing the tiny fraction of cases where something does. With an individual group of ten scouts nothing might happen, but with millions of scouts something is virtually certain to happen. After all, an estimated one percent of men in the military were sexually assaulted last year. (If you are wondering what the ancient angle is on this, then you need only read Xenophon, which until the twentieth century was required reading for admission to college.) The question is not should the youth be protected but how? Until Scout executives tackle the logic problem, however, the youth will be vulnerable.

The Church has said:
We trust that BSA will implement and administer the approved policy in an appropriate and effective manner.
One should be curious about how BSA will solve the logical problem. They have thus far shown no interest in doing so. Michael Otterson, the head of Church public affairs ends his statement saying:
Let’s remember, it has always been – and should always be – about the boys.
Yes, it should be about the boys, and that includes protecting Bob.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From Look Back at Sodom (1975), 19:
In Sodom, the wicked craved that all be wicked in the same way, even as the wretched desire that all be wretched in like manner. Men entangled in sin (taking what little pleasure they could from adultery, fornication, and homosexuality) were firm in the determination that all should do even as they did. Once each man who lived was himself and not another. Then all men became like unto one another, for sin strikes all men with the plague of sameness.