Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Ranking the Law of Moses

Having discussed the laws associated with various kingdoms, one might wonder where the law of Moses fits into this scheme.

Using D&C 76:103 as a basis, we can examine the law of Moses for its treatment of liars, sorcerers, adulterers, and whoremongers.

The Law of Moses is actually fairly lenient to liars:
16 If a false witness rise up against any man to testify against him that which is wrong;
17 Then both the men, between whom the controversy is, shall stand before the Lord, before the priests and the judges, which shall be in those days;
18 And the judges shall make diligent inquisition: and, behold, if the witness be a false witness, and hath testified falsely against his brother;
19 Then shall ye do unto him, as he had thought to have done unto his brother: so shalt thou put the evil away from among you.
(Deuteronomy 19:16–19)
There are also ways to atone for falsehoods:
2 If a soul sin, and commit a trespass against the Lord, and lie unto his neighbour in that which was delivered him to keep, or in fellowship, or in a thing taken away by violence, or hath deceived his neighbour;
3 Or have found that which was lost, and lieth concerning it, and sweareth falsely; in any of all these that a man doeth, sinning therein:
4 Then it shall be, because he hath sinned, and is guilty, that he shall restore that which he took violently away, or the thing which he hath deceitfully gotten, or that which was delivered him to keep, or the lost thing which he found,
5 Or all that about which he hath sworn falsely; he shall even restore it in the principal, and shall add the fifth part more thereto, and give it unto him to whom it appertaineth, in the day of his trespass offering.
6 And he shall bring his trespass offering unto the Lord, a ram without blemish out of the flock, with thy estimation, for a trespass offering, unto the priest:
7 And the priest shall make an atonement for him before the Lord: and it shall be forgiven him for any thing of all that he hath done in trespassing therein. (Leviticus 6:2–7)

For sorcerers and the like, the law was less forgiving:
Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. (Exodus 22:18)
And the soul that turneth after such as have familiar spirits, and after wizards, to go a whoring after them, I will even set my face against that soul, and will cut him off from among his people. (Leviticus 20:6)
A man also or woman that hath a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to death: they shall stone them with stones: their blood shall be upon them. (Leviticus 20:27)
So sorcery gets the death penalty.

For adulterers, the law was also not lenient:
And the man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death. (Leviticus 20:10)
If a man be found lying with a woman married to an husband, then they shall both of them die, both the man that lay with the woman, and the woman (Deuteronomy 22:22)
Adultery also gets the death penalty.

Whoremongers fair no better than adulterers. One passage suffices to illustrate:
11 And the man that lieth with his father’s wife hath uncovered his father’s nakedness: both of them shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.
12 And if a man lie with his daughter in law, both of them shall surely be put to death: they have wrought confusion; their blood shall be upon them.
13 If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.
14 And if a man take a wife and her mother, it is wickedness: they shall be burnt with fire, both he and they; that there be no wickedness among you.
15 And if a man lie with a beast, he shall surely be put to death: and ye shall slay the beast.
16 And if a woman approach unto any beast, and lie down thereto, thou shalt kill the woman, and the beast: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them. (Leviticus 20:11–16)
Whoremongers also get the death penalty.

So liars are allowed to make up for their lies, but sorcerers, adulterers and whoremongers--all candidates for the telestial kingdom--are not permitted to live. They are not permitted under the Law of Moses. This brings us back to the Doctrine and Covenants:
he who cannot abide the law of a terrestrial kingdom cannot abide a terrestrial glory. (Doctrine and Covenants 88:23)
If the Law of Moses is not a celestial law (D&C 84:19-27), it is at least terrestrial law.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From But for a Small Moment (1986), 48:
The Book of Mormon emphatically declares that the law of Moses was purposefully to point the Jewish people and the world to the birth and coming of the Messiah, Jesus. The Old Testament as we have received it is silent with regard to the specific name of the Savior to come; however, it lists many of his special and sacred titles and sets forth numerous prophecies pertaining to his birth, mortal ministry, crucifixion, and atonement. Moreover, despite the lack of this information in our Old Testament as we have received it, the Book of Mormon prophet Jacob, writing in the fifth or sixth century B.C., stated that "none of the [earlier] prophets have written, nor prophesied, save they have spoken concerning this Christ" (Jacob 7:11).

Monday, December 30, 2013

To Every Kingdom is Given a Law

Beyond Doctrine and Covenants 76, one of the fundamental scriptures for understanding the three degrees of glory is Doctrine and Covenants 88:
38 And unto every kingdom is given a law; and unto every law there are certain bounds also and conditions.

39 All beings who abide not in those conditions are not justified. (Doctrine and Covenants 88:38–39)
So, only those who abide by the conditions of the law of the kingdom can stay in that kingdom.

Each of the kingdoms of glory has its own law:
22 For he who is not able to abide the law of a celestial kingdom cannot abide a celestial glory.

23 And he who cannot abide the law of a terrestrial kingdom cannot abide a terrestrial glory.

24 And he who cannot abide the law of a telestial kingdom cannot abide a telestial glory; therefore he is not meet for a kingdom of glory. Therefore he must abide a kingdom which is not a kingdom of glory. (Doctrine and Covenants 88:22–24)
Doctrine and Covenants 76 details some of the laws because it lists those who will be in the telestial kingdom, that is those who do not abide by either a celestial or terrestrial law. Nothing specifically says that the list is limited to these, but these things are known to be included:
These are they who are liars, and sorcerers, and adulterers, and whoremongers, and whosoever loves and makes a lie. (Doctrine and Covenants 76:103)
A trip to the Webster's Dictionary from Joseph Smith's day shows that a whoremonger was "one who practices lewdness" which includes anything unchaste including adultery, fornication, prostitution, buggery, bawdiness, obscenity, concubines, debauchery, harlotry, immodesty, lechery, libertinism, lubricity, putanism, and sodomy.

Systems of law that permit such behavior are telestial systems. Terrestrial and celestial systems do not permit such behavior.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From We Will Prove Them Herewith (1982), 57-58 :
Moreover, with one group's exception, each of us will go to a kingdom of glory. (D&C 88:24.) Knowing as we do the beauties of this earth, which the Lord described as "good," can we not quiver just a bit in anticipation of those kingdoms that He calls not only good, but also places of "glory"? God is not given to hyperbole!

Thus we shall be filled with everlasting gratitude for that which God in His mercy provides in each of the degrees of glory. We shall not question His justice, for He is perfect in His attribute of justice. Of course, in each of our cases we will perceive what might have been, but even so, we can only be content with our allotment given our "on-the-record" performance on this planet combined with the carryover from our first estate. We will have had our chance "according to the flesh" and "in process of time."

In the sobering events that are impending in the playing-out of human history, we can better understand why this must be so. Even the martyrdom of certain saints has been permitted so that the record can be clear. (D&C 88:94.) If the judgments of God were to come upon mankind in advance of wickedness, then God would not be a just God.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Greek Term for Telestial

Latter-day Saint readers of the Bible are familiar with the passage in 1 Corinthians 15:40 that discusses two of the three degrees of glory:
There are also celestial (ἐπουράνια) bodies, and bodies terrestrial (ἐπίγεια): but the glory of the celestial (τῶν ἐπουρανίων) is one, and the glory of the terrestrial (τῶν ἐπιγείων) is another. (1 Corinthians 15:40)
From this passage we know the Greek terms for celestial and terrestrial. But what about telestial. We would need to have the two terms along with a third one. As it happens, there is a passage in the New Testament that provides it:
10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven (ἐπουρανίων), and things in earth (ἐπιγείων), and things under the earth (καταχθονίων);

11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:10–11)
This passage in Philippians provides us with the Greek term for telestial. The term καταχθονίος means under the earth. and provides the third counterpoint to the terms celestial (of the heavens) and terrestrial (of the earth). It also provides us with the etymology of telestial. The two companion terms come from Latin caelum "heaven" and terra "earth". With a knowledge of the Greek term, it should have some meaning of something under the earth. The best option is Latin tellus "soil, ground."

Lest this seem far-fetched, it should be remembered that the visions of the three degrees of glory ends with an allusion to the passage in Philippians:
109 But behold, and lo, we saw the glory and the inhabitants of the telestial world, that they were as innumerable as the stars in the firmament of heaven, or as the sand upon the seashore;

110 And heard the voice of the Lord saying: These all shall bow the knee, and every tongue shall confess to him who sits upon the throne forever and ever; (Doctrine and Covenants 76:109–111)

Today's Maxwell Quote

From A Wonderful Flood of Light (1990), 78:
Another stumbling block for some mortals is the seeming injustice of God. We naturally recoil from the jarring examples of the human condition with its many injustices, insensitivities, inequalities, and immense sufferings. Surely, however, we dare not assume that our anguish reflects a more highly developed sense of empathy for humanity than God Himself has! Yet the stone of stumbling is there. Says George MacDonald: "I suspect a great part of our irreligion springs from our disbelief in the humanity of God" (George MacDonald, The Miracles of Our Lord [London: Strahan and Co., 1870], p. 265).

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Reverse of Grade Inflation

Courtesy of the BBC, we know one country in the world that is not subject to grade inflation. Not a single one of over 25,000 students in Liberia was able to pass an entrance exam into the universities. Liberia is still recovering from a civil war but while it is discouraging that none of the students was able to pass, at least we know that the universities have not lowered their standards.

I sincerely hope both that the students have better success next year and that the universities maintain their standards.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From For the Power Is in Them (1972), 52-53:
Robert Brustein has brought to our attention a quotation of Plato which seems to appropriate for our time in terms of how the adult generation can unintentionally do the youth a disservice by "throwing in" with them too quickly, too totally, or too carelessly, abandoning the adults' authoritative insights or experience. It is a pattern of some professors in our time. Plato said:
‎"In such a state of society [a state of democratic anarchy], the master fears and flatters his scholars, and the scholars despise their masters and tutors; young and old alike; and the young man is on a level with the old, and is ready to compete with him in word and deed; and old men condescend to the young and are full of pleasantry and gaity; they are loth to be thought morose and authoritative, and therefore they adopt the manners of the youth."

Friday, December 27, 2013

A Phatom Parallel

Oddly enough, the first artifact in the British Museum catalog, The Bible in the British Museum has no real connection to the Bible. It depicts a scene with
a seated male figure, identified by his horned headress as a deity, facing a female worshipper. Both figures are fully clothed.
Its appearance in the catalog is because other have identified the scene as depicting a Babylonian version of the fall since there is a snake behind the female and a date palm between the two figures.
The date-palm between them and the snake may have had fertility significance and there is no reason to connect the scene with the Adam and Eve story. (T. C. Mitchell, The Bible in the British Museum [London: British Museum Press, 2004], 24)
You can see the seal here.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From  A More Excellent Way (1967), 5-6:
Two very significant influences are converging on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in our time when much of mankind seems trapped "between two ages." The first of these is the increasing uniqueness of Church doctrine. This is not because our doctrine has changed but because there is a kind of recessional underway through much (but not all) of Christianity in which some of the core teachings of Christ are being abandoned or revamped in such a way that we may reach a state of relative theological isolation. There are not too many today who would join us in affirming to the world that Jesus Christ is the literal, resurrected Son of God. Some have constructed a "consensus" Christ who is a revered teacher; but to us and others he is certainly much more than a great moral teacher.

Thursday, December 26, 2013


Sometimes government officials assume they have more power than they actually do and forget that their power derives from the consent of the governed. They should consider the case of Adoram. Adoram's case covers but half a verse of scripture but it is still informative:
Then king Rehoboam sent Adoram, who was over the tribute; and all Israel stoned him with stones, that he died. (1 Kings 12:18)
The children of Israel had already specified that they would not accept Rehoboam's policy decision, and even though Adoram had the full weight of the government behind him, it proved insufficient in the end when the people said that they would not accept a government decree that went further than they agreed to go.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From A Time to Choose (1972), 30:
The disciple is also in a position to avoid over-reacting to the fads of his time—intellectually, behaviorally and politically. The disregard of those in Noah's era is a classic example of insensitive preoccupation with things not spiritual. On a much smaller scale, the 1920s in America saw some Americans so busy "doing their own thing" that as a nation we ignored the warning signals which preceded the great depression; we were also unready to face the onrushing realities of Fascism and Communism—whereas today many are blind to the dangers of self-oppression, the chains we put on ourselves, which is the real tyranny of our time. The point is not to suggest that men can be sensitive to all the warning signals swirling about them, but that the disciple, by keeping himself attuned to the Source of information, will know which signals to respond to; inspiration frees him from the limitations of his own experience! In a secular analogy, research has shown that there were many warnings about an impending attack on Pearl Harbor, but the very volume of those indicators virtually insured their being ignored.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas

I hope on this Christmas day that you are spending time with your family and thinking about Jesus rather than surfing the internet.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From this talk:
Even as believers, however, when we are a part of encapsulating events, we can scarcely savor all that swirls about us. It is unlikely, for instance, on that night so long ago in Bethlehem, that Joseph and Mary looked at the newly born Christ child’s feet with the realization that those feet would, one day, walk the length and breadth of the Holy Land. And, further, that, later on, spikes would pierce those feet.

As a loving Mary grasped those tiny hands, and, as in the months ahead those tiny hands clasped her, did she know that those hands, when grown, would ordain the original Twelve or, still later, carry the rough-hewn cross?

As she heard her Baby cry, did she hear intimations of Jesus’ later weeping at the death of Lazarus or after blessing the Nephite children? (See John 11:35; 3 Ne. 17:21–22.) Did she foresee that those baby-soft knees would later be hardened by so much prayer, including those glorious but awful hours in Gethsemane? (See Matt. 26:36–56.)

As she bathed that Babe so many times to cleanse His pores, could she have been expected to foresee that one day, years later, drops of blood would come from His every pore? (See Mosiah 3:7.)

There is such a thing as cheerful, believing participation—even without full understanding—when you and I keep certain things in our hearts and are nourished as we ponder them! (See Luke 2:19.)

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Quick Thought

From A. Dennis Mead, Crisp Musk Hair Oils (Salt Lake City: Media World, 2009), 20:
Old ladle down huff-breath leak hem, house till whee seed Eli
A buff dye deepened ream lass leap thus isle ends tars cope eye.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From Even As I Am (1982), x:
As we examine "this Jesus Christ" (3 Ne. 11:2), most of our information about His life comes through the four Gospels of the New Testament. These priceless texts chronicle that portion of His existence wherein the Savior of all mankind was, so to speak, "in residence." Prior and later, He made important visitations elsewhere, giving corroborating testimony and making additional declarations, such as to His "other sheep," as in the Americas, and, subsequently, to the so-called lost tribes. (See 3 Ne. 15:17, 21.) In these and other visits, He repeated many of His basic teachings and sermons; He also provided additional vital instructions and certain amplifications.

However, there was only one birth at Bethlehem, one period when He was a carpenter's son, one Gethsemane, one Judas Iscariot, and one Calvary. Praise be to those who preserved those precious and singular episodes in our Holy Bible!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Still Impressive After All These Years

He was born 208 years ago today. He had about three months of formal schooling. He lived in poverty, away from most centers of civilization. He was shot to death in jail. The governor expected his death to put an end to him.

And yet . . .

He dashed off a work of five hundred pages in under three months that is still being read 180 years after its original publication.

He correctly claimed, while still a teenager, that his name would be known for good and evil all over the world.

He correctly noted that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.

Even if you do not think Joseph Smith was a prophet, that is pretty impressive.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From One More Strain of Praise (1999), chapter 5:
One important way, therefore, in which the Church is to be "independent" involves distancing ourselves from the philosophies and persuasions of men, and from the encompassing and enveloping ways of secular societies (D&C 78:14). Secularism recruits so easily, because so many mortals "will not endure sound doctrine," but come to prefer the easier and more fashionable "commandments of men" (2 Tim. 4:3). But, of course, the fashions of the world will pass away. (See Matt. 15:9.) It will be interesting to see, for instance, how long America can sustain an inspired and constraining Constitution, if more of the people it governs become persistently permissive. Will what is now the "lesser part" reach a critical, negative mass? (See Mosiah 29.)

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Hard to Say I'm Sorry

Ronald Alsop has an interesting report on the BBC on apologies by management and the effect that it has.
Honesty clearly is the cornerstone of trust, and that includes owning up to mistakes and apologising. Some respondents to the UK study said they would admire leaders if only they admitted their mistakes.
This is what is Alma calls "acknowledg[ing] your faults" (Alma 39:13). It is part of the repentance process. And interestingly, those who repent by acknowledging their faults receive and increase in trust, that is faith.
Beyond engendering trust, acknowledging an error and making amends can encourage greater openness throughout an organisation.
But this greater openness comes from not only acknowledging errors but making amends. It is what Alma called "repair[ing] that wrong which ye have done" (Alma 39:13) and is the other half of the repentance process.

And what happens when this is not done?
Failing to apologise can cause more damage than loss of trust.
What sort of damage can occur?
The refusal to ‘fess up to mistakes can poison the relationship between supervisors and their subordinates to such a degree that it may even contribute to depression. A study in Denmark found that it isn’t a burdensome workload, but rather feelings of injustice that lead to depression.

 “An important element of what we call relational justice is when supervisors treat employees with consideration and truthfulness,” said Matias Brodsgaard Grynderup, a researcher who works in the public health department at the University of Copenhagen. Consequently, he believes admitting mistakes and apologising would make the workplace seem more just.
This is in line with Moroni's observation that "despair cometh because of iniquity" (Moroni 10:22). Despair can come not just because of one's own iniquity, but also because of iniquity in general. And we should remember that the term iniquity originally came from a term for being unequal or unjust.

Failure to apologize not only destroys the trust of those directly affected:
“When a leader makes a mistake like lying or taking credit for another employee’s idea and doesn’t apologise immediately, it begins to chip away at the trust the employee feels towards them,” said Andrew Graham, CEO of Forum. “This is true even if the employee observes this behaviour in his or her boss and isn’t the direct victim of the incident.”  
On the other hand, apologies can help rebuild eroded trust.
Apologies can help restore a manager's credibility after a damaging error, and they also can inspire greater trust in management at a time when many workers are feeling disillusioned with employers.
So with all the positive benefits of apologizing, one would think it takes place frequently.

How common are apologies from bosses? It depends on whom you ask. Many employees believe managers don’t take responsibility for their screw-ups and don’t express regret. Only 19% of employees said their managers often or always apologise.
Even more managers think they apologize (87%) than employees think they don't (81%). This illustrates a disconnect between what managers think they are doing and what they are actually doing.
It’s also wise to apologise clearly and sincerely — but concisely.

Since when employees observe management making mistakes which are not apologized for immediately it erodes the employees' trust in the management, one wonders if it is possible for managers to reach a point where it is impossible to regain the trust of the employees.
Employers also shouldn’t expect apologies to work magic in every situation. They may not be very beneficial when office relationships were already badly strained before the mistake occurred.
Is it possible for efforts to be a little too little, a little too late?

Today's Maxwell Quote

From A More Excellent Way (1967), 128:
Inaccurate feedback (supportive or critical) is more apt to be accurately evaluated by a person whose home has given him experience in feedback which can prevent overreaction, relying on false assurances, and too much dependency on others for direction. Feedback, in the broad sense, will be an aid to achievement in life with employers, professors, and peers. Repentance can take on practical and rewarding connotations rather than the stereotyped "Elmer Gantry" view of repentance. Future bishops are most apt to have access to and impact on the individual who is concerned with his behavior.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Defining Apostasy

Via Markus Oehler comes this definition of apostasy from a work by B. J. Oropeza
The phenomenon that occurs when a religious follower or a group of followers turn away from or otherwise repudiate the central beliefs and practices they once embraced in a respective religious community.
The Greek term apostasia simply means rebellion, revolt, and it was not necessarily religious. There is much, however, to commend this definition.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From A Time to Choose (1972), 86:
We must search the scriptures regularly. Unstudied, unapplied, dormant doctrines will seem to shrink in importance and relevance, for this is the atrophy that precedes indifference or apostasy. According to Alma, keeping the tree of testimony alive requires "faith . . . diligence . . . patience, and long suffering."

Friday, December 20, 2013

Today's Maxwell Quote

From Things As They Really Are (1978), 41:
Concerning the power of the devil we read how inequalities among men come because of sin. (Alma 28:13.) Has the reader seen any marches and placards lately protesting the inequalities arising out of sin? Do not stay at your window waiting for that parade!

Will BYU Boycott Itself?

The American Studies Association has passed a resolution stating that "the American Studies Association (ASA) endorses and will honor the call of Palestinian civil society for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions." BYU is an institutional member of the ASA. It also runs the BYU Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies. Does the ASA require BYU to boycott itself? If so will BYU do so?

I generally think that academic organizations are prone to engage in this sort of stunt without bothering to think through the rationale for doing so or to spend the least bit of thought about what the consequences will be.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Penetrating Glimpse into the Obvious

From an actual scientific study with a whopping one example:
The availability of unbridled power adversely affects the quality of life of those on the receiving end.
I think any historian or student of totalitarian regimes could have come up with that conclusion and been able to provide many more examples.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From If Thou Endure It Well (1996), chapter 4:
God loves all His spirit children. How could it be otherwise, since He is a perfect Father? In that sense His love is universal and everlasting for all of His children. But He does not and cannot love our wickedness: "For I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance" (D&C 1:31). He does not and cannot approve of the things we do that are wrong, nor will He say on Judgment Day, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant" to those who have been wicked or who have been poor performers. His perfect integrity and His perfected attributes of truth and justice would not permit it. Nor can our Heavenly Father reward us evenly, because our deeds and our degrees of righteousness are so very uneven. Of necessity, therefore, we are told there are "many mansions" in His house, and only of the comparative few can it be said, "all that my Father hath shall be given" (John 14:2; D&C 84:38). It is especially of such faithful that Paul writes: "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? . . . Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:35, 39.)

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

On Integrity

A number of years ago Cecil Samuelson, the president of Brigham Young University, gave a talk on integrity. He said a number of things that are worth rereading, and touched on only a few aspects of integrity, but a few of them are worth reviewing here:
It does seem to me that the issues of integrity are particularly important in the university setting and all the more so at BYU. We are here to seek knowledge and wisdom. We make clear statements to ourselves and to the world that we live in an environment that not only encourages but demands that what we do is in the context of our faith and best efforts to live gospel principles. Indeed, our final article of faith begins by stating, “We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men” (Article of Faith 1:13; see also HC 4:535–41). In other words, we believe in integrity and all of its meanings—particularly the three definitions I mentioned that include soundness, completeness, and adherence to a code of values. At BYU we believe in the Honor Code. We preach it, we teach it, and we must practice it with soundness and completeness.
President Samuelson went on to enumerate a number of integrity issues that apply at BYU:
Résumé Padding

Sadly, I believe résumé padding is a fairly recent term that is now widely understood. Some believe that it may be worth a calculated risk to suggest achievements not attained or other misrepresentations of a personal record. What is not always appreciated is that in doing so, a different record is being made that will follow the offender throughout life. Not only have people of prominence and others lost coveted jobs, they have been branded forever as people without integrity. That is a heavy but probably fair burden.
President Samuelson was talking about including items on a resume that the individual actually has not done. One wonders whether including items of dubious quality or planned projects that have not been completed count. Surely, after a decade in the field one's track record either shows that one can produce or that one cannot; there should be no reason to pad a curriculum vitae with unaccomplished accomplishments or purportedly forthcoming publications.

President Samuelson also mentioned another problem:
Giving False Information

All of us misspeak on occasion. In our case, I hope it is because of an honest mistake or a faulty memory. When unintentional, we hope for correction or the opportunity to set the record straight as soon as we recognize the error. Of much, much greater concern is the intentional communication of false information. Most of you are regularly interviewed by your bishops and less formally, but often more directly, by your parents. Although it is tempting to misrepresent the truth in some circumstances, a lie is a lie. More than 30 years ago, President Dallin H. Oaks told a BYU devotional audience, “A lie is not always told in so many words. It may be a creature of concealment or a misrepresentation by action or a half-truth” (30 January 1973, “Be Honest in All Behavior,” Speeches of the Year, 1972–73 [Provo: BYU, 1973], 89). He then went on to quote Elder Richard L. Evans, who said:

Truth or untruth is not always altogether a matter of literal language, but often of implication, of inflection, of innuendo, of subtle suggestion. A clever person intent on being untruthful can give a false impression, even when his literal words can little be called into question. [The Spoken Word, “Neither Lie One to Another,” Improvement Era, November 1961, 854]
A billboard currently on the road to Salt Lake says "Partial honesty is the worst policy."

In some ways, though, integrity is not all that hard to figure out.

Let's suppose that you are offered a job for the summer. You will be paid $1000 to feed a couple's cat for the summer. They will also leave $10,000 to pay for cat food. You can have integrity either accepting or declining the job. If you have integrity and do not think you can feed the cat, you decline the job. If you accept the job, you must feed the cat or forfeit your integrity.

Perhaps you are only taking the job because you are in dire circumstances and need the money to feed your family. Still, you must feed the cat or forfeit your integrity.

Maybe the cat is old and on its last legs. All the same, you must feed the cat or forfeit you integrity.

Perhaps the cat is mean and nasty. That may be true, but it is irrelevant. You must feed the cat or forfeit your integrity.

Surely, the cat does not need all $10,000 for cat food for a summer. That may be so, but you cannot spend the money on something else and keep your integrity.

Perhaps you have a dog that you love very much. If you feed the dog rather than the cat you forfeit your integrity.

Perhaps your dog is poorly fed. If you think so, feed him from your own money. If you use the couple's money to feed the dog you forfeit your integrity.

Perhaps you think your dog is more deserving of food than the cat. That may be true, but if you feed the dog rather than the cat you forfeit your integrity.

Perhaps, after a couple of months, you think that the couple trusts you. If you have integrity they should; if you do not they shouldn't.

Perhaps you think that they will never notice something missing. That may be so, but if you spend their money on something else, you forfeit your integrity.

President Samuelson closes with the following story:
Many years ago I was faced with what I considered to be at the time a serious professional dilemma. In reality it was more like the need to choose between two very attractive alternatives with respect to my future career. I thought and prayed about the matter a great deal and discussed it thoroughly with Sharon, my wife. I frankly wished that I could have had the steady counsel, experienced frequently over the years, from my father about this matter, but he had died the year before. Because the decision facing me potentially had some implications for my Church service, I sat with a senior, respected Church leader and sought his counsel. I weighed with him my alternatives and all of the potential considerations in detail. I waited for his direction or questions. After a moment he looked me in the eye and said, “Above all else, you need to protect your integrity.” That is all he said, and it didn’t initially seem to be responsive to my questions. As I thought about it, however, it almost immediately became clear what my best alternative was, and the test of time has proven it to be so. . . . Let my advice to you be that which I received from my trusted mentor: “Above all else, you need to protect your integrity.”

Today's Maxwell Quote

From A Time to Choose (1972), 83:
The disciple must always allow for the fact that this is a divine Church full of imperfect people. Indeed, "the net gathereth of every kind." Some among us have an exclusionary condescension; some display a passivity toward others; others, fortunately, have a quiet certitude which causes them to serve, for service is but one dimension of testimony in action. The Spirit has witnessed to the latter, and they witness to others in order to maintain their integrity, leveling by telling the truth about salvational things "as they are, as they were, and as they are to come."

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Work and Happiness

The reliable Arthur Brooks has an article about what it takes to be happy: Faith, family, community, and work. Much of the article is devoted to the surprising presence of work on the list.

Brooks observed:
one survey recently made headlines by reporting that fewer than a third of American workers felt engaged; that is praised, encouraged, cared for and several other gauges seemingly aimed at measuring how transcendently fulfilled one is at work. 
His observation reminds me a recurrent theme in Elder Maxwell's writings, perhaps most fully explained in A More Excellent Way (1967), 91-92:
Superficial commendations generally leave the receiver flat, because he is not sure what is meant, if anything. A general or superficial compliment given in a ritualistic way not only may fail to help the receiver, but it also may hinder him or her, since general compliments may convey false reassurance as to the adequacy of the receiver's performance. General compliments may even be heard as a negative reaction to a performance—simply because they are not specific, leaving the receiver with the feeling that nothing specific was said, only because there was nothing worth specific praise. A performance or act sometimes deserves no praise, and the individual often knows in his heart that what he has said or done does not really deserve any praise. Phony or general praise can cause the receiver to lower his regard for the giver of such praise and perhaps lessen later receptivity when a deserved compliment is forthcoming. Most individuals—even though at first it is painful—would rather have honest relationships with other individuals. Most followers ultimately like a leader who makes reasonable demands of them, who expects performance and who praises and reproves accordingly. Of course, all of this must be done in the spirit of real love. Paul prescribed ours as the task of "speaking the truth in love." Jesus praised and reproved specifically as well as regularly.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From All These Things Shall Give Thee Experience (1980), 89-90:
Let us in our ministry be nondiscriminatory in the giving of commendation. True, he who is downspirited needs to be lifted up. True, those who are fledglings in the faith may need extra encouragement and deserved, specific praise. But meanwhile, let us not forget the often unnoticed, faithful veterans, lest, like the son who stayed loyally at home and saw the banquet and benefactions given to the prodigal son, the faithful wonder if they are truly appreciated. Let us not assume that another has no need of commendation. Let us give it even if the other does not seem to need it, for we need to give commendation in any event.

The giving of commendation keeps us alert and noticing of the good deeds and qualities of others. It permits us to be more concerned with them and less with ourselves. As long as we avoid artificiality and generality, commending is one of the great dimensions of brotherhood and sisterhood. Let us never unwittingly turn others in the direction of the praise of the world merely because they are so starved for the praise of the righteous!

Monday, December 16, 2013

More on Grade Inflation at Harvard

I thought this was funny.

Interesting Report of Scandal

Professor Paul Caron reports an interesting development in higher education. The report is about a wider field, non-profits, but a number of the mentioned institutions are universities, including:
  • Columbia University
  • Drake University
  • Georgetown University
  • New York University
  • St. John's University
  • University of Miami
  • University of Pittsburgh
  • Vassar College
  • Wesleyan University
  • Yeshiva University
What these institutions have in common is that they all report a "'significant diversion' of assets." Accountants and lawyers might recognize what that is immediately, but here is a translation for the rest of us from the Washington Post:
A Washington Post analysis of filings from 2008 to 2012 found that ... more than 1,000 nonprofit organizations that checked the box indicating that they had discovered a “significant diversion” of assets, disclosing losses attributed to theft, investment fraud, embezzlement and other unauthorized uses of funds. The diversions drained hundreds of millions of dollars from institutions that are underwritten by public donations and government funds. Just 10 of the largest disclosures identified by The Post cited combined losses to nonprofit groups and their affiliates that potentially totaled more than a half-billion dollars.
The Post contiunes:
The Post found that nonprofits routinely omitted important details from their public filings, leaving the public to guess what had happened — even though federal disclosure instructions direct nonprofit groups to explain the circumstances. About half the organizations did not disclose the total amount lost.

The findings are striking because organizations are required to report only diversions of more than $250,000 or those identified as having exceeded 5 percent of an organization’s annual gross receipts or total assets. Of those, filing instructions direct nonprofits to disclose “any unauthorized conversion or use of the organization’s assets other than for the organization’s authorized purposes, including but not limited to embezzlement or theft.”
John Koskinen, the man nominated to be the new IRS commissioner, vows to investigate diversion of assets by non-profits. The Washington Post's reports deals mainly with examples of theft and embezzlement but the significant diversion also includes the "use of the organization's assets other than for the organization's authorized purposes."

The Post quotes Reverend Raymond Moreland of the Maryland Bible Society, a victim of a diversion of assets:
You go out of your way to trust a nonprofit. People give their money and expect integrity. And when the integrity goes out the window, it just hurts everybody. It hurts the community, it hurts the organization, everything. It’s just tragic.
People who donate to a non-profit for a specific purpose expect their money to be used for that purpose. If you donate your money to an organization called Save the Skunks for the purpose of protecting Mephites mephites you might not appreciate the organization using the funds to breed and feed Bubo virginianus, no matter how noble that goal may be.

Because the Post's reporting was simply based on tax forms which often do not provide details about what the significant diversion was, it is hard to say what happened at the universities listed. My guess is that most of them are the unfortunate victims of theft, fraud, or embezzlement.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From A Time to Choose (1972), 63-64:
Jacob urges each of us: "Think of your brethren like unto yourselves, and be familiar with all and free with your substance, that they may be rich like unto you." The principle of imparting of our substance after we know what others specifically need is a concept that ought to be operative in our lives. Nor is our "substance" limited to material goods. As President Harold B. Lee has counseled, others often need fellowshipping more than food, and rapport with another human more than raiment.

The size and compartmentalization of our social environment often result in our touching others without feeling them. It is an environment in which indifference is institutionalized, and we often know others only as functions. It is, therefore, easy for us to fulfill one of Moroni's prophecies when he asked why we let those with obvious needs "pass by you, and notice them not." It is a special challenge for a Mormon in megalopolis to notice his brothers and be familiar with their needs. We so often depersonalize our assistance to others that we might be called "checkbook Christians." We pay our taxes and offerings and unintentionally move away from the personal acts of brotherhood which Jacob and Mormon prescribed.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Dragons Again

J. R. R. Tolkien describes the dragon, Chrysophylax:
For though the oaths he had taken should have burdened his conscience with sorrow and a great fear of disaster, he had, alas! no conscience at all. (J. R. R. Tolkien, Farmer Giles of Ham.)
As the people of Ham discovered, it does little good to negotiate with someone who has no conscience.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From this talk:
Strange, in a time otherwise obsessed with entitlements, how little concern there is over our becoming entitled to the blessings of heaven. Instead, a declining belief by some in ultimate immortality has only intensified proximate immorality, “leading away many … telling them that when a man was dead, that was the end thereof” (Alma 30:18). A Japanese thinker, looking at our pleasure-centered Western society, said, almost confrontingly:

‎“If there is nothing beyond death, then what is wrong with giving oneself wholly to pleasure in the short time one has left to live? The loss of faith in the ‘other world’ has saddled modern Western society with a fatal moral problem” (Takeshi Umehara, “The Civilization of the Forest: Ancient Japan Shows Post-modernism the Way,” in At Century’s End, ed. Nathan P. Gardels [1995], 190).

Therefore, being good citizens includes being good, such as in knowing the clear difference between lusting after a neighbor and loving one’s neighbor! Matthew Arnold wisely observed that while “Nature cares nothing [for] chastity, … human nature … cares about it a great deal” (Philistinism in England and America, vol. 10 of The Complete Prose Works of Matthew Arnold, ed. R. H. Super [1974], 160). To which I add: divine nature cares infinitely more!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Corrupting Composition

Jeffery Zorn has a long and depressing narrative about how university level English Composition programs across America were corrupted by academics so that they do the opposite of what they were supposed to be doing.

George Leef has a shorter piece on the upshot of this: many students are not articulate enough for anyone to want to hire them when they graduate.

I have some rather depressing stories about these topics which I do not have the heart to tell right now.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From A Time to Choose (1975), 68-69:
Those caught up in faith as a fad often display contempt for those who do not believe in the "doctrine" of the day. John Lukacs, in The Passing of the Modern Age, observed that, in some respects, the opening of windows to the world can result in "letting in neon light rather than sunlight, gasoline fumes rather than fresh air, the din of publicity rather than the harmonies of nature."

Friday, December 13, 2013

No Room for an Inn Again This Year

[I published this last year, but it seems appropriate to publish it again.]

An entire folk tradition has sprung up based on the translation of Luke 2:7 which explains that Jesus was laid in a manger “because there was no room for them in the inn” (KJV). The King James translators did not invent the phrase. Tyndale rendered the passage as “because there was no roume for them within, in the hostrey.” Both translations match the Vulgate, which says “non erat locus in diversorio” and a diversorium is an inn. Thus nativity plays will often include an innkeeper and his wife and other parts derived from this particular phrase in the scripture. Sometimes in flights of artistic fantasy Joseph wanders from inn to inn seeking lodging only to find them all full. Bethlehem was a small town when Jesus was born. How many inns did they have? In the scriptural accounts, it is in the singular; Bethlehem could not have had more than one. One suspects it did not have that many.

But there is something wrong here. Joseph and Mary came to Bethlehem because of the need to register for the census which was made for taxation purposes (Luke 2:1). If it was simply a matter of registering for the poll tax, the tax that Rome levied on its subjects simply for drawing breath, then they could register wherever they were. They could certainly register in Nazareth without having to travel to Bethlehem. The reason that they would have to register in Bethlehem is if they owned property there.[1] But if they owned property in Bethlehem, why were they staying in an inn?

The Greek word translated as “inn” is καταλύματι, the dative form of καταλύμα. What is a καταλύμα? It “designates the residence of the king or the general when he is staying outside” his normal residence.[2] It can also refer to an assigned lodging for a soldier or functionary.[3] It can also refer to an inn.[4] Thus a καταλύμα is “a lodging where one goes, where one stays for a time. The temporary character is constant.”[5]

Thus the word designates wherever Joseph and Mary were staying temporarily. Since Joseph either wholly or partly owned property, he would have either been staying with the relatives who occupied the property (in the case of part ownership) or with the tenants who were renting (in the case of whole ownership). As houses tended to be on the small side, the couple perhaps might have felt that there was more privacy with the animals. By the time the wise men visited, they were back in the house (Matthew 2:11).

A careful reading of the nativity story indicates that there is no room for an inn.

[1] Sherman L. Wallace, Taxation in Egypt from Augustus to Diocletian (New York: Greenwood Press, 1937), 98-104.
[2] Geneviève Husson, OIKIA: le vocabulaire de la maison privée en Égypte d’après les papyrus grecs (Paris: La Sorbonne, 1983), 133.
[3] Husson, OIKIA, 134.
[4] Husson, OIKIA, 134-35.
[5] Husson, OIKIA, 135.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From A Time to Choose (1975), 8:
We are going to have to do a better job in helping the young to see that there is a connection between the Gospel and the problems of the real world, and that the Gospel does contain the solutions to human problems. The over-used word relevance is still at issue since young people must come to see that the Gospel is something we do, not simply something we talk about. The relevance of the Gospel, in terms of how it can solve the real human problems, needs to be borne home more consistently, more artfully, and more spiritually than has been done in the past.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Who Deserves the Blame?

Occasionally the news media will report something outrageous of some diva (whether male or female), thinking that the world revolves around her whims. This behavior is old indeed, and particularly unbecoming when involving someone with power. Jared Miller provides one such ancient story that accompanied an instruction by means of explanation:
Furthermore, you who are water carriers, you must be very careful concerning the water, and you must always filter the water with a sieve. One time I, the king, in the city of Sanhuitta, found a hair in the washbasin, and (my), the king's ire was raised, and I became enraged at the water carriers (and said): "This is disgusting!" Arnili (responded) so: "Zuliya was the overseer!" And the king (continued) thus: "Zuliya shall go through the river(ordeal)! If he is (shown to be) innocent, then let him purify his soul. But if he is (shown to be) guilty, then he will die." So Zuliya went through the river(ordeal), and he was (shown to be) guilty. And they "dealt with" him in the city of Suresta. (Jared L. Miller, Royal Hittite Instructions and Related Administrative Texts [Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2013], 17)
Miller also notes that there is another version of this story in which Arnili is put to death as well.

One thinks of the variety of jokes about a hair (or fly) in one's soup:
Man: Waiter! What is this fly doing in my soup?

Waiter: It looks like the backstroke to me.
In the case of the Hittite king, however, it was more serious, deadly serious. Depending on which version you read, one or two individuals lost their lives over something as trivial as a hair. The problem with tyrants is that one never can be sure ahead of time, what will set one off, or what their reaction will be.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From A Time to Choose (1975), 14:
The insensitivity of the people at the time of Noah could give us some interesting insights and parallels to our own time, if we had all the sociological and political data. The insensitivity was gross and widespread, and it probably lasted until the great rain began. Similarly, when the Church expresses concerns through its contemporary prophets, it is trying to guard against our being encrusted with the kind of insensitivity that leads to widespread tragedy. Otherwise, we may be like Louis XVI who, standing on the scaffold, reportedly said, "I have seen all of this coming for ten years. How was it possible that I never wanted to believe it?"

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Today's Maxwell Quote

From A More Excellent Way (1967), 30:
Focusing on the mechanics of leadership, which are certainly necessary, could ignore the underlying skills and traits that rest on fundamental concepts without which no system of techniques, procedures, mechanics, and follow-up can possibly work. It does very little good, for instance, to develop elaborate organizational and flow charts if the people who inhabit the real world symbolized by these charts do not trust each other or really communicate with each other. It does little good to strive to achieve goals if we allow ourselves, as leaders, to be too much at the mercy of our moods so that we are experienced by followers as ambivalent administrators whom others find unpredictable or capricious concerning the goals we espouse.

Has It Come to This?

James Taranto, of the Wall Street Journal, was discussing a cartoon kerfuffle at a university and had occasion to make the following comment:
So there are decent people among the administrators of America's institutions of higher learning, even if their existence at Auburn is, at this juncture, a speculative proposition. (If you're at Auburn and fit the bill, we'd love to hear from you. . . .)

But too many administrators, and not a few faculty members, are petty tyrants.
This elicited the following comment from professor Glenn Reynolds:
But as Taranto goes on to demonstrate, not all college administrators are idiots. Which, these days, seems like news. . . .
I have known a number of former university administrators who were decent, wise, kind, intelligent, thoughtful, generous, and well-informed people. I think it sad that so many college administrators behave like tyrants and idiots that some who are not make the news.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A Follow-Up on Grade Inflation

As a follow-up to my report on grade inflation at Harvard, I see that the reliable Mark Bauerlein has a proposal for flagging grade inflation. It would not necessarily curb it but would provide a reliable way to spot it. He proposes that transcripts provide not only the grade students received in the course but also the average grade received in the course. Prospective employers and admissions committees can see that a student who receives a B+ when the average grade is a C is preferable to one who receives an A- when the average grade is an A.

Of course, it is perfectly possible that in a small upper division course where all three students are bright and hard-working that all of them might deserve their A grades. This proposal would not help them as they would look almost the same as the overflowing introductory course for college athletes (what they called a "gut" course at Yale) where students receive an A for enrolling. Still, it might be helpful and can be done with only additional computer coding by the registrar's office. It is a practical approach to a perennial problem.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From The Christmas Scene, p. 4:
God's gifts, unlike seasonal gifts, are eternal and unperishable, constituting a continuing Christmas which is never over! These infinite gifts are made possible by the "infinite atonement."

Monday, December 9, 2013

Psalm 2

The Septuagint version of Psalm 2 offering a slightly different understanding than the Hebrew text. It breaks into several sections.

The first part sets up the scenario as a dialogue:
1  ἵνα τί ἐφρύαξαν ἔθνη καὶ λαοὶ ἐμελέτησαν κενά
2  παρέστησαν οἱ βασιλεῖς τῆς γῆς καὶ οἱ ἄρχοντες συνήχθησαν ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτὸ κατὰ τοῦ κυρίου καὶ κατὰ τοῦ χριστοῦ αὐτοῦ

1 Why do the nations behave wantonly, and the people strive for that which is empty?
2 On account of this the kings of the earth and the leaders gather together against the Lord and against his Christ.
Then comes the speech attributed to the kings and leaders:

3  διαρρήξωμεν τοὺς δεσμοὺς αὐτῶν καὶ ἀπορρίψωμεν ἀφ' ἡμῶν τὸν ζυγὸν αὐτῶν

3 We will rip open their bonds and cast away their yoke from us.
The bonds of the Lord and his Christ are not something that these leaders want to submit themselves to.

4  ὁ κατοικῶν ἐν οὐρανοῖς ἐκγελάσεται αὐτούς καὶ ὁ κύριος ἐκμυκτηριεῖ αὐτούς
5  τότε λαλήσει πρὸς αὐτοὺς ἐν ὀργῇ αὐτοῦ καὶ ἐν τῷ θυμῷ αὐτοῦ ταράξει αὐτούς

4 He who sits in the heavens will laugh at them and the Lord will mock them.
5 Then will he say to them in his wrath and trouble them in his anger.
The speech of the Lord is set up as rejecting the leader's argument in anger.

6  ἐγὼ δὲ κατεστάθην βασιλεὺς ὑπ' αὐτοῦ ἐπὶ σιων ὄρος τὸ ἅγιον αὐτοῦ
7  διαγγέλλων τὸ πρόσταγμα κυρίου κύριος εἶπεν πρός με υἱός μου εἶ σύ ἐγὼ σήμερον γεγέννηκά σε
8  αἴτησαι παρ' ἐμοῦ καὶ δώσω σοι ἔθνη τὴν κληρονομίαν σου καὶ τὴν κατάσχεσίν σου τὰ πέρατα τῆς γῆς
9  ποιμανεῖς αὐτοὺς ἐν ῥάβδῳ σιδηρᾷ ὡς σκεῦος κεραμέως συντρίψεις αὐτούς

6 I set up the king under him on Zion, his holy mountain,
7 promulgating the decree of the Lord. The Lord said to me: Thou art my son; today I have begotten thee.
8 Ask me and I will give thee the nations for thy inheritance and the ends of the earth as thy possession.
9 Herd them with an iron rod; as a potter's vessel smash them.
Then comes the conclusion.

10  καὶ νῦν βασιλεῖς σύνετε παιδεύθητε πάντες οἱ κρίνοντες τὴν γῆν
11  δουλεύσατε τῷ κυρίῳ ἐν φόβῳ καὶ ἀγαλλιᾶσθε αὐτῷ ἐν τρόμῳ
12  δράξασθε παιδείας μήποτε ὀργισθῇ κύριος καὶ ἀπολεῖσθε ἐξ ὁδοῦ δικαίας ὅταν ἐκκαυθῇ ἐν τάχει ὁ θυμὸς αὐτοῦ μακάριοι πάντες οἱ πεποιθότες ἐπ' αὐτῷ

10 and now, O kings, understand; learn all who judge the earth.
11 Serve the Lord in fear and rejoice in him with trembling.
12 Serve the Son lest the Lord be angry and you will be destroyed from the way of righteousness when his anger is quickly kindled; blessed are all who trust in him.
(Psalms 2:1–12)
In the Septuagint, this psalm explicitly identifies the Christ with the Son of God. (The Christians did not invent that idea.)

One of the things that intrigues me about this psalm is the imagery and promises are very similar to the promises that the gods make to the Egyptian kings. In the Egyptian temples, the Egyptian gods often promise the Egyptian king that he will rule over everything that the sun encircles. Other nations are promised as the king's inheritance. The king is designated as the son of the god. The gods are to be feared and reverenced or they will be angry and burn their foes. Smashing pottery vessels as a means of cursing enemies is actually a ritual for the ancient Egyptians.

So this particular psalm has a clear ancient Near Eastern background, but since it was quoted half a dozen times in the New Testament, it was seen as a particularly Christian psalm.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From Meek and Lowly (1987), 112:
It is sobering to contemplate the adversary's "order of battle" and that upon it he focuses his fire power in order to keep us from learning of Jesus. (Matthew 11:29.) Any gain in any sector, on the part of the Lord's army, is cause for gladness. These points, however, which feel the adversary's most sustained and massed assaults, are instructive for us to contemplate. Issues pertaining to families, temples, prophets, and scriptures are those real pressure points. For instance, the adversary is not shelling the Church's athletic program nor is he inciting complaints over the Christmas lights on Temple Square. However, hell still rages against what is taught in temples.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Two Ways

Psalm 1 contrasts the two ways, the way of the sinners (ὁδῷ ἁμαρτωλῶν) or the way of the impious (ὁδὸς ἀσεβῶν) with the way of the righteous (ὁδὸν δικαίων). There are thus two ways. One can choose which to follow.

The Septuagint version of the first Psalm, however, through its choice of words sets up an interesting dilemma. In the fifth verse, it says, οὐκ ἀναστήσονται ἀσεβεῖς ἐν κρίσει (Psalms 1:5). There are two ways of interpreting this verse. The first is, "The wicked shall rise up in judgment." The second is, "The impious shall not be resurrected in the judgment." Fortunately John 5:29 (ἐκπορεύσονται, οἱ τὰ ἀγαθὰ ποιήσαντες εἰς ἀνάστασιν ζωῆς, οἱ δὲ τὰ φαῦλα πράξαντες εἰς ἀνάστασιν κρίσεως. They shall go forth, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.) rules out the second interpretation. Though the vocabulary is the same the interpretation is not the same.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From We Will Prove Them Herewith (1982), 30:
To see things as they really are before that solemn but joyous day when our perspective will be pure is such a blessing. Meanwhile, can we not understand why events that are understandably unwelcome in some ways are, nevertheless, welcome in other ways? A man whose wife lies near death has a precious chance, perhaps for the first time, to put his business—which may have assumed too much size—in proper perspective. It is not a matter of abandoning or devaluing entirely his worthy business but, rather, of putting things in that proportion which comes with being settled—when the objects on the landscape of life assume their true proportion.

If, for instance, next Christmas were to be the last for Grandmother, would we not, without suffocating sentimentality, let some of the Martha-like tasks go undone in order that, Mary-like, Grandmother could be subtly put at the center of things for the last time here?

The Martha-like things chosen are not always the bad part—merely lesser choices. The Savior did not say that the cares of the world were not cares. But this world will pass away, and its cares with it. The things really worth caring about will still be around to be cared about forever. The other things are like last week's firewood, useful to warm a needed meal, which, in turn, helped to sustain the body. But to what end? Only His gospel gives us ultimate reasons. Without such perspective, we would be like astronomers who have never seen the stars.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Masters in this Hall

One of the minor characters so well-drawn in Tolkien's Hobbit is the Master of the Town of Esgaroth. We first meet him in the tenth chapter when Bilbo Baggins and the dwarves enter a big feast which the Master is holding. His first reaction is one of surprise:
The Master of the town sprang from his great chair.
When the elves accuse the dwarves of being vagabonds and escaped prisoners, the Master's reaction provides a glimpse of a cynical character:
"Is this true?" asked the Master. As a matter of fact he thought it far more likely than the return of the King under the Mountain, if any such person had ever existed.
When presented with two competing claims,
the Master hesitated and looked from one to the other. The Elvenking was very powerful in those parts and the Master wished for no enmity with him, nor did he think much of old songs, giving his mind to trade and tolls, to cargoes and gold, to which habit he owed his position.
But the popular clamor takes over while the Master dithers and events are taken out of his hands.

When the dwarves leave,
the Master was not sorry at all to let them go. They were expensive to keep, and their arrival had turned things into a long holiday in which business was at a standstill.
In the fourteenth chapter, when the Master appears again, he is shown as a coward. When the dragon attacks, one of the fighting men
ran to and fro cheering on the archers and urging the Master to order them to fight to the last arrow.
The Master, however, has other concerns.
The Master himself was turning to his great gilded boat, hoping to row away in the confusion and save himself.
After the defeat of the dragon, the townsmen want to have the dragon-slayer be their king. The Master objects:
In the Lake-town we have always elected masters from among the old and wise, and have not endured the rule of mere fighting men.
His argument backfires, though he holds on to power temporarily.

Tolkien does not spend much time on this particular character. He does not even give him a name. But in a few words, concentrating mainly on actions, he is able to evoke a character type that anyone can recognize.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From A More Excellent Way (1967), 17-18:
The Book of Mormon also reminds us that man is by nature "carnal, sensual, and devilish." (Mosiah 16:3.) Man even seems at times to seek to escape from the burdens of responsibility and freedom. Eric Hoffer sees the masses as being vulnerable to manipulation in connection with mass movements because where people lack hope but are not willing to work for gradual progress they seem willing to sublimate themselves to a leader or a cause which purports to offer sudden, spectacular change.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Grade Inflation at Harvard

A certain item hit the news here, here, here, here, here, and here. It concerns a request by the distinguished Harvard University professor Harvey Mansfield. He asked at a monthly meeting of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard.
“A little bird has told me that the most frequently given grade at Harvard College right now is an A-,” Mansfield said during the meeting’s question period. “If this is true or nearly true, it represents a failure on the part of this faculty and its leadership to maintain our academic standards.”

[Dean of Undergraduate Education Jay M.] Harris then stood and looked towards FAS Dean Michael D. Smith in hesitation.

“I can answer the question, if you want me to.” Harris said. “The median grade in Harvard College is indeed an A-. The most frequently awarded grade in Harvard College is actually a straight A.”

Harris said after the meeting that the data on grading standards is from fall 2012 and several previous semesters.

In an email to The Crimson after the meeting, Mansfield wrote that he was “not surprised but rather further depressed” by Harris’s answer.

“Nor was I surprised at the embarrassed silence in the whole room and especially at the polished table (as I call it),” Mansfield added, referencing the table at the front of the room where top administrators sit. “The present grading practice is indefensible.”
Mansfield is not the only faculty member concerned.
Classics Department chair Mark J. Schiefsky, who was in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting, said he was surprised by how high the median grade was.

“I don’t know what should be done about it, but it seems to me troubling,” Schiefsky said. “One has a range of grades to give and one would presumably expect a wider distribution.”

Schiefsky said Harris’s comment raised a number of questions about the distribution of grades and that he would appreciate more discussion about the topic.
Harvard is not the only ivy-league school to have a problem.
In a review last spring, [an ad hoc Yale] committee found that 62 percent of grades awarded at Yale College from 2010 to 2012 were in the A-range.
The problem is not limited to the ivy leagues, but general throughout higher education. Mansfield has an interesting interim solution.
Mansfield said the issue of grade inflation, while not new and not isolated to Harvard, has become routine and has an adverse effect on standards and on the most talented students, whose merit goes unrecognized.

Mansfield described how, in recent years, he himself has taken to giving students two grades: one that shows up on their transcript and one he believes they actually deserve.

“I didn’t want my students to be punished by being the only ones to suffer for getting an accurate grade,” he said, adding that administrators must take the lead in curbing the trend.
In grading, as in so much else in this life, we do not always get what we deserve.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From this great talk:
The theme of my address comes from a prophecy in President George Q. Cannon's speech given in the Tabernacle in May of 1866. President Cannon spoke of the generations that had passed before the restoration of the gospel during which the adversary was indifferent and unconcerned with regard to the fractious religious movements among mankind which were not based upon the fulness of truth. However, President Cannon observed that the movement of the Holy Priesthood of God and the Church were restored, "then all hell is moved." He catalogued the forms of resistance that can be expected when "all hell is moved."

President Cannon, who knew that the adversary regards this telestial turf as his own, said that Satan will vigorously resist all rezoning efforts because this is his world. President Cannon further observed that the Saints—meaning you and I—must not make the mistake of assuming the existence of any truce between the forces of Satan and God. To believe so, said President Cannon, is "a very great delusion, and a very common one."

President Cannon then warned that the forms of resistance to righteousness will strike us "with wonder and astonishment." This, he said, would occur because "the war" which was waged in heaven has been transferred to the earth," and that this conflict, he said, "will [come to] occupy the thoughts and minds of all the inhabitants of the earth" (Journal of Discourses 11:227–29). Brothers and sisters, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will be at the epicenter of all that.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Credit Where it is Due

Jared Miller's new book on Hittite instructions begins with a text classified as belonging to the Old Hittite Empire. This is a harangue of officials who have been doing less than stellar work. This bit gives a feel for the problem.
When my father calls together the assembly he will investigate among you for corruption, not (among) your pack bearers (saying): "You constantly oppress your own pack bearers, and you repeatedly cause the king aggravation." (Jared L. Miller, Royal Hittite Instructions and Related Administrative Texts [Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2013], 75.)
The text deals with various types of corruption, including irregularities in both treatment of personnel, and use of funds. While human corruption is spread throughout history, one of the interesting things about this text is that it focuses on the leader, not the underlings. The writer (whose identity is lost in a break in the table) recognizes the likely source of the problem.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From We Will Prove Them Herewith (1982), 92-93:
A narcissistic society in which each person is too busy looking out for "number one" can build no brotherhood; it will finally be shattered against its own selfishness. Had God's Firstborn looked out for Himself first, there would have been no Gethsemane or Calvary—and no immortality!

Secular standards so often constitute a naive Maginot-line morality that is quickly outflanked by the reality of what occurs when men and women try to live without God in the world. Over four decades ago, the lights began to go out all over Europe. Extinguished were the lamps of God's commandments, including the sixth commandment. In the resulting darkness, the genocide of millions of Jews occurred.

The greater the darkness, the more enormous the errors. In that darkness, some said they did not know about concentration camps; the darkness made it easier for others who did know to ignore what was underway. The time may well come when the enormity of widespread and unnecessary abortions of today (one legal abortion for every three live births in the United States in 1978) will be looked upon with at least some of the shame with which we now view Dachau and Buchenwald.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A.D. 538

In A.D. 538, Liang Wudi (梁武帝), the founder of the Liang Dynasty, ruled China. Liang had been an official during the Qi Dynasty, but took the throne after the emperor Hedi was killed by his own guards. The guards preserved Hedi's head in wax and sent it to Wudi as a gift. (Imagine opening something like that this Christmas!)

Liang Wudi was at first an able administrator, both diligent and frugal. Unfortunately, however, he tolerated corruption in his family members. By 538, Wudi had entrusted much of the government to Zhu Yi and He Jingrong. But He Jingrong was politically incompetent, and Zhu Yi was corrupt and inclined to be very jealous. Zhu Yi would eventually be dismissed because of corruption, but it was several years later.

Liang Wudi simply reigned too long and grew tired of ruling. The conflicts of the later years devastated the kingdom. The capital, Nanjing, was besieged and only a tenth of the defending army survived. Eventually (in 550) he was overthrown by his son, Jian Wendi who disapproved of his father's Buddhism. The Liang dynasty limped along for another eight years before being consigned to the dustbin of history.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From Men and Women of Christ (1991), 52:
At times we may feel overwhelmed by our callings and circumstances. Then we genuinely need vital perspective and reassurance about what matters most--which is keeping our covenants.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

An Amusing Typo

Typographical errors are extremely easy to make and nearly everyone makes them. Sometimes, however, the results can be amusing.

At the top of the copyright page of Maarten J. Raven's book, Egyptian Magic: The Quest for Thoth's Book of Secrets, Raven (or his publisher) thanks various publishing establishments for permission to quote from various translations. One author mentioned is a certain J. K. Ritner. I wonder if someone confused R. K. Ritner with J. K. Rowling? Both can write well, and both write about magic, but I doubt that anyone who knows either would ever confuse them.

More on Repentance and Forgiveness

Hannah Bird has some interesting thoughts here about repentance and forgiveness. She argues that unless a person takes responsibility for their actions and repents, they cannot be truly forgiven even if others say that they forgive them. Without repentance they cut themselves off from real forgiveness.
It might be worth rereading Greg Smith's observations on false forgiveness, and on the abuse of forgiveness.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From Time to Choose (1972), 24-25:
The disciple must signal anchorless souls drifting on the "gulf of misery and woe," even though the signal may not be seen. It was in this spirit that our ancestors flashed us the experiential distillation of their discipleship, ". . . writing upon plates diligently." They were probably as busy as we, but were "willing to communicate."

Engraving on the plates was difficult. One can imagine the countless ways in which this arduous, meticulous, regular task of writing for an unborn audience could have been easily set aside to give attention to other pressing tasks. Since only a small degree of knowledge could be transmitted, it is sobering to note what they chose to place upon the plates: genealogy, exhortations about chastity, prophecies about Christ, and testimonies about the reality of resurrection and judgment—all simple, unvarnished Gospel truths! Although they were city builders, there were few details about cities or urban-planning, probably because these people who lived in perishable places had their eyes on a continuing city, ". . . a city . . . whose builder and maker is God." (Hebrews 11:10.)

Monday, December 2, 2013

Today's Maxwell Quote

From Deposition of a Disciple (1976), 23:
Every true disciple really wants to give persuasive testimony. Sometimes prophets have been forbidden to write certain things. (Ether 13:13; 3 Nephi 27:23.) Alma wished that he could leave an angelic affidavit, with power and force. Other times we cannot speak but "the smallest part" that we feel. But we are weak. I will, however, concede cleverness to the world and keep my gaze fixed on correctness of concept. Cotton-candy concepts are soothing to the taste, but there is no nourishment in them.

The "commandments of men" dissolve as soon as they are touched by a little heat and pressure. So many secular solutions are really soothing slogans; there is no real substance to them.

The Best Manuscript Fallacy

Recent perusing of a pretentious periodical reminded me of A. E. Housman's line about those who "employ language less as a vehicle than as a substitute for thought." The full quote, however is about textual criticism:
Those who live and move and have their being in the world of words and not of things, and employ language less as a vehicle than as a substitute for thought, are readily duped by the assertion that this stolid adherence to a favourite MS [manuscript], instead of being, as it is, a private and personal necessity imposed on certain editors by their congenital defects, is a principle; and that its name is "scientific criticism' or "critical method.' (A. E. Housman, M. Manilii Astronomicon, [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1937], 1:xxxii.)
Housman is one of the most readable authorities on textual criticism and actually knew how to write. It is a shame that the pretentious periodical had no memorable prose to match Housman's.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Someone Sounding Like Elder Maxwell

Every so often, one runs across a sentiment that strikes a chord that someone else said elsewhere. A week or so ago, I ran across an informative article (well worth the read) that echoed something Elder Maxwell once said. Here is the article's version:
In well run organizations, information runs from the top down and from the bottom up.
Here is Elder Maxwell's version (from All These Things Shall Give Thee Experience (1980), 77-78:
We ought to listen as carefully to those we supervise as to those who supervise us. You and I are usually pretty good at paying attention upward, but we are not nearly as good at
heeding that which comes from other directions.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From Deposition of a Disciple (1976), 23:
Incidentally, those who say dogmatically that morality can't be legislated turn about and say dogmatically that total welfare can be legislated! In the long run, the welfare state operates against human welfare, particularly our precious agency, but the pathology may take a few decades to become visible. I'm reminded of the vaunted guns of Singapore, which "guaranteed" the security of that port city. The trouble was, the guns fired seaward only, and Singapore was taken by land. Such myopia is not the exclusive property of military planners, but among all planners without principles.