Friday, January 31, 2014

Today's Maxwell Quote

From this talk:
So this is a real war—with real casualties—in which there can be no real pacifists. No wonder, brothers and sisters, there’s been such a long shelf life of the wry quip we’ve all heard about “free agency and how to enforce it.” In effect, some seem almost to ask, “Is this gift returnable?”

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Brushing the King's Hair

Sometimes mundane details appear in ancient texts that show how human the ancients were.
Speak to my lord: Thus says Erra-gamil, your servant.

May Shamash and Nergal keep you in good health for 3600 years for my sake!

The king rose early in the morning, dressed his hair, and made his son sit on the throne. But he with his help sets out over and over for Kashir, saying thus: "When they treat my city badly [. . .]

(M. Stol. Letters from Yale [Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1981], 17.)
 Even the king needed to get up and brush his hair.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From this talk:
Evaporated by now is the earlier “no-hands” naïveté about how “I am free to choose.” Still, I am free to choose, even if I can neither be immune from the consequences of my wrong choices nor avoid accountability (see Romans 14:12; D&C 101:78).

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

More on the Death of Humanities

Classicist Victor Davis Hanson demonstrates why humanities used to be a useful education and why it might not always be such now:
When the humanities failed to make the case that its students were trained to be exceptionally good writers, logical debaters, and well informed about the events, people, literature and issues of the past, then the liberal arts no longer were granted immunity from the general reckoning that the university now faces.
Hanson is a good writer, a logical debater, and well informed about the events, people, literature and issues of the past. That many in the humanities no longer are is a shame.

Hanson cites, as an example, how
esoteric university press publications, not undergraduate teaching and advocacy, came to define the successful humanities professor.
I have certainly contributed my share of esoteric university press publications--they have their place--but it has been short-sighted of universities to limit themselves to those publications and say that is all that counts. Academics need to be able to demonstrate that something in their study might prove of more general interest, importance, and sometimes even usefulness than merely to the handful of people who perseverate over the field.

Davis notes that:
The campus exemplar became the grandee who won the most time off from teaching, garnered the most grants, taught the fewest undergraduates, and wrote the most university press books that in turn were largely critical of the subject matter that ensured his university position in the first place.
His remark reminds me of an article written by the biblical scholar, Jon Levenson, twenty years ago that noted the same problem in biblical studies:
After secularism has impugned the worth of the Bible, and multiculturalism has begun to critique the cultural traditions at the base of which it stands, biblical scholars, including, I must stress, even the most antireligious among them, must face this paradoxical reality: the vitality of their rather untraditional discipline has historically depended upon the vitality of traditional religious communities, Jewish and Christian. Those whom [Wilfred Cantwell] Smith termed "liberals'—that is, the scholars who assiduously place the Bible in the ancient Near Eastern or Greco-Roman worlds—have depended for their livelihood upon those who not only rejoice that the Bible survived these worlds but who also insist that it deserved to survive because its message is trans-historical.
(Jon D. Levenson, "The Bible: Unexamined Commitments of Criticism," First Things 30 (February 1993):26.)
The same trend shows up in Mormon Studies too. Hanson has some trenchant commentary on that too:
If the humanities could have adopted a worse strategy to combat these larger economic and cultural trends over the last decade, it would be hard to see how. In short, the humanities have been exhausted by a half-century of therapeutic “studies” courses: Peace and Conflict Resolution Studies, Post-Colonial Studies, Environmental Studies, Chicano Studies, Women’s Studies, Black Studies, Asian Studies, Cultural Studies, and Gay Studies. Any contemporary topic that could not otherwise justify itself as literary, historical, philosophical, or cultural simply tacked on the suffix “studies” and thereby found its way into the curriculum.

These “studies” courses shared an emphasis on race, class, and gender oppression that in turn had three negative consequences. First, they turned the study of literature and history from tragedy to melodrama, from beauty and paradox into banal predictability, and thus lost an entire generation of students. Second, they created a climate of advocacy that permeated the entire university, as the great works and events of the past were distorted and enlisted in advancing contemporary political agendas. Finally, the university lost not just the students, but the public as well, which turned to other sources—filmmakers, civic organizations, non-academic authors, and popular culture—for humanistic study.
Hanson's piece is worth reading in its entirety, as is Jon Levenson's earlier piece in First Things.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From this talk:
I am unresentful of the passage of time and am still well within the sound range of the kettle drums representing the cacophony of mortality. Yet I sometimes seem to hear, ever so faintly, the distant sounds of beckoning trumpets as these waft in upon me.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

What is the Worth of a College Transcript?

Robert Pacquette reports on an experiment he conducted to find out if employers look at college transcripts. Some pay very little heed to them. One
wanted to know what, if anything, the applicant had done during his life to overcome adversity. “The true test of a person's value is not their résumé or performance in school. It is totally their personal value system and character.”
looked at the applicant’s transcript but not necessarily at the GPA. He wanted to know if the graduate had attended “what used to be [called] the standard courses in college (i.e., English, history, math, economics, government, etc.) . . . When I see a resume with a lot of non-standard courses, I am not impressed, and I ask why these more standard courses weren’t available at the college (as if I assumed they would take them if they were offered!) and the explanations I get are amazing and always unacceptable.”
Yet another said that his hiring successes
reduced to a formula he called P-O-I. “ ‘P’ is for persistence, a rugged determination that reflects the [applicant’s] willingness to invest whatever is necessary to develop a strong foundation of knowledge and technical competence. ‘O’ is for originality, the ability to think critically and creatively, to see the patterns and trends and answers that aren't obvious. Original people think and operate laterally and persistent people think and operate linearly. It is rare to find someone who is strong in both categories. ‘I’ stands for impact. Talent and imagination are not everything. You have to be able to perform. Some people have a track record of achievement that is built more on charisma and personal communication skills than raw talent . . . A track record of success in small endeavors is usually a good harbinger of success in larger ones.”
Academics, on the other hand, are fixated on the transcript. Many of them make awards and hiring decisions based largely on the transcripts.

As Nibley noted in the 1980s:
Grades are acquisitive, competitive, and phony; but they are the official legal certificates that everyone must have, issued in fixed denominations on a mathematically graduated scale, to be converted it is hoped hereafter into legal tender of the land—and that is the only thing that interests these young people in the study of religion, of all things! This is no trifling thing; the seeds of such corruption are all-pervasive.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From That Ye May Believe (1992), 102:
Some people want to skip the seemingly plodding "spiritual method." As already pointed out, they are so busy surveying large, intellectual tracts that they fail to cultivate even a small behavioral tract. Theory rich and data poor! Intellectual speculation is easy, and compared to steady, spiritual submissiveness it makes few demands. The speculators end up "looking beyond the mark" (Jacob 4:14), staring beyond the obvious. Jesus confirmed that only if we will "do" will we then "know" (John 7:17).

Monday, January 27, 2014

Today's Maxwell Quote

From That Ye May Believe (1992), 102:
Jacob warned about those who sought for that which they could not understand (see Jacob 4:14). Their zest for exploring and speculating is not matched by their enthusiasm for obeying and doing. Consequently, such individuals do not really come to know for themselves (see Alma 5:45-47). Without that personal witness they are ambivalent and unable to defend gospel truths or doctrines. It is people's incapacity to defend the faith, wrote George MacDonald, which can turn them into persecutors.

Math is Hard

James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal often uses the line "Math is Hard" to point out basic mathematical errors in news stories. The video in this post and the post associated with it demonstrate how all kinds of idiocy can come from people who know a little math. The video purports to show that:
1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 + 6 + . . . = -1/12
Even common sense will correctly tell one that is wrong.

Basically for any series
1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 + . . . + n = n(n+1)/2
Solving this problem was what tipped Gauss's teachers that he was good at math. (Not that he was the first to solve it, but that he figured it out at a young age and so got special tutoring in mathematics.)

The limit of this series as n approaches infinity is not going to converge on -1/12 no matter what crazy proof they talk about in the video. One cannot legitimately treat the various series the way that they do in the video.

Only if one converts the series into a function (and they are not really the same thing) could one argue that the resultant quadratic equation could be solved to show that it equals a particular pair of irrational numbers plugged into the formula could come out with an answer of -1/12. Since they are not integers, however, they do not work for the actual series. There is no valid way for anything in the series to equal -1/12.

Math may be hard but it certainly not that hard.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

To Be Perfectly Honest . . .

The Wall Street Journal had an article on phrases that we say to be polite.
Language experts have textbook names for these phrases—"performatives," or "qualifiers." Essentially, taken alone, they express a simple thought, such as "I am writing to say…" At first, they seem harmless, formal, maybe even polite. But coming before another statement, they often signal that bad news, or even some dishonesty on the part of the speaker, will follow.

"Politeness is another word for deception," says James W. Pennebaker, chair of the psychology department of the University of Texas at Austin, who studies these phrases. "The point is to formalize social relations so you don't have to reveal your true self."

In other words, "if you're going to lie, it's a good way to do it—because you're not really lying. So it softens the blow," Dr. Pennebaker says.
So politeness, being nice, is a form of deception, a way of being dishonest.
"To be perfectly honest…" is another phrase to strike from your speech, she [Ellen Jovin] says. It often prefaces negative comments, and can seem condescending. It signals a larger issue: If you are taking the trouble to announce your honesty now, maybe you aren't always truthful.

"You are more likely to seem like someone who is perfectly honest when you are no longer commenting on it," Ms. Jovin says.
It is a little like statements of loyalty. People who are actually loyal to something or someone have no need to comment on how they are being loyal because everyone knows from their words and deeds that they are.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From this talk:
To begin with, the true believer, notwithstanding his weaknesses, is settled in his basic spirituality. He is settled, to use another of Alma's phrases, in his "views of Christ" (Alma 27:28), so his views of everything else are put in that precious perspective.

There are, of course, other kinds of believers who are not "true believers." In the parable of the seeds, one outcome was when the seed had no root, typifying those who "for a while believe" but who "in time of temptation fall away" (Luke 8:13). Alma warned us (in his own seed analogy) about the withering effect when the "heat of the sun cometh and scorcheth" the undernourished tree of shallow root (Alma 32). Other observations of Jesus add the insight about how tribulation and persecution cause the weak to be offended and to fall away (Matt. 13:6, 21).

Most of us here have had the sad experience of seeing some wither because they cannot stand the heat. They are not likely to acknowledge that as the real reason for their failures but will conveniently choose an issue over which they can become offended. Another dynamic operates, too. In racing marathons, one does not see the dropouts make fun of those who continue; failed runners actually cheer on those who continue the race, wishing they were still in it. Not so with the marathon of discipleship in which some dropouts then make fun of the spiritual enterprise of which they were so recently a part!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Another Take on Leaders and Managers

Tara Burton wonders why American universities are obsessed with leadership.

Hugh Nibley, of course, had a classic essay on leaders and managers. Nibley was both a leader, in his own way, and a lone wolf (to use Burton's terms). Leaders do not necessarily have to be cookie-cutter.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From All These Things Shall Give Thee Experience (1980), 108-109:
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.)

Strange, how often defectors leave the Church, but they cannot leave it alone!

One of the often unappreciated blessings of following the Brethren is that their counsel and direction will spare us the unnecessary disappointments and the anguish of trying to reconcile revealed religion with the ways of the world. Foolish as that attempt is, some try to do it anyway. As Elder James E. Talmage observed: "The reason that there is a lack of spirit and force in the religious teaching of the world is in part because they have tried to harmonize the Christian faith with the foolishness of men; and, of course, it will not harmonize with falsehood and with the doctrines of men." (Conference Report, October 1921, p. 187.)

Perhaps one of the reasons people try desperately at times to effect a "merger" is that they still want either the praise of the world or the ways of the world. They think, somehow, to have them both when, in fact, the essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that we must clearly choose some things and reject others. Mortal philosophies can be mixed and merged with each other almost at will, because they are not totally dissimilar, but we can't weld the Lord's way to the world's ways.

Friday, January 24, 2014

A Pair of Interesting Letters to the Editor

This month's Yale Alumni Magazine actually has something of interest, a brief (too brief) interview with Sandra Boynton, one of the best living writers for children under the age of four. It also contains a telling letter to the editor (buried in here) by Claude Thau, which reads in part:
I think this is my first letter to your magazine, stimulated by what appears to be a disingenuous response by communications director Elizabeth Stauderman to Charles Thomasson’s criticism of redistribution of gifts from one residential college to another.

Ms. Stauderman seems to say that because of the designated gifts to some residential colleges, other normal funding was diverted. The net effect is that the designated funds’ intended impact appears to have been significantly compromised. It seems that the donors wanted to benefit their residential colleges, but Yale is playing an accounting game to replace the donors’ intent with administrators’ goals.

The goal of similar experience for students regardless of residential college is understandable, but that end does not justify inappropriate means. Before doing such redistribution, Yale should secure permission from the donor (or a deceased donor’s representative).
Thau goes on to note that Yale is not the only university to replace donors' intent with administrators' goals. He suggests that there are other ways for a donor to "assure that her wishes are reflected in the use of the money."

Another letter writer, Leight Johnson, questioned Yale's use of funds:

Browsing through my alumni magazine the other day, I learned that Yale had recently renovated the president’s residence for 17 million dollars. I recognize that the leader of a prestigious university deserves first-class living quarters, and that he probably does a lot of entertaining, but I find it hard to imagine what must have been done to the building to cost that much. The United States Supreme Court building was constructed in the 1930s for less than 10 million dollars. The Empire State building, 102 stories high, was built for just over 40 million (land included).

After thinking it over, I carefully tore up the check to the Alumni Fund that I had just written. It seemed the right thing to do.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From All These Things Shall Give Thee Experience (1980), 36-37:
In this third category of suffering and tribulation, believers sometimes suffer "for righteousness' sake" and "because of the word." (Matthew 5:10; 1 Peter 3:14; Matthew 13:21.)

We also sometimes suffer for the "name of Christ" and "as a Christian" and, ironically, for "well doing" and "for the cross of Christ." (1 Peter 4:14, 16; 1 Peter 3:17; Galatians 6:12.)

Our very blessings contain within them some of our tribulations. President Joseph F. Smith observed that there never was a people who were guided by revelation, or united of the Lord as His people, who were not persecuted and hated by the wicked and corrupt. (Gospel Doctrine, p. 46.)

It appears to be important that all who will can come to know "the fellowship of his sufferings." (Philippians 3:10.) At times, we are taken to the very edge of our faith; we teeter at the edge of our trust. Perhaps, even as Jesus did on the cross, we in our own small way may feel forgotten and forsaken. To go to the very edge is possible, of course, only when we believe in an omniscient and omnipotent God. When we understand that all things are present before His eyes and that He knows all things past, present, and future, then we can trust ourselves to Him as we clearly could not to a less than omniscient god who is off somewhere in the firmament doing further research. (D&C 38:2; Moses 1:6.) "The Lord knoweth all things from the beginning; wherefore, he prepareth a way to accomplish all his works among the children of men; for behold, he hath all power unto the fulfilling of all his words." (1 Nephi 9:6.)

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Trusting the Arm of Flesh

In the Book of Mormon, Nephi states:
I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm. (2 Nephi 4:34)
The university, like most human institutions, can be an arm of flesh. Those who put their trust in such things will, sooner or later, be disappointed. Such appears already to be the case in some quarters. In a recent article Harry R. Lewis of Harvard talks about how universities have operated on a system of trust but their actions have undermined that trust. He focuses on one aspect, the behavior of those ostensibly leading the university.
Many colleges and universities are losing it [trust] because their leaders seem more interested in fame and fortune than in education.
Lewis sees an example of this in the high salaries paid to university administrators:
This year the Brandeis campus was staggered by the news that its former president, having made drastic budget cuts while in office, was by prearrangement paid $600,000 a year in retirement, for doing little or no actual work.

The University of Chicago, Northeastern, Marist College, Columbia, Tufts, and Penn, all institutions with their own financial challenges, paid their presidents more than $2 million per annum. Students would be justified in doubting that these leaders can credibly preach to them about the nobility of self-sacrifice, the honor of public service, or the need to balance the pursuit of the almighty dollar against their civic and moral responsibility to improve the world.
The high level salaries and perks wear away the trust of administrators not just with their superiors but those they supervise as well.
The arrogance of power has brought down several high-profile presidents in recent years, presidents whose boldness was not backed up by the reserves of respect and trust they needed to be granted the benefit of the doubt. John Sexton of NYU, Graham Spanier of Penn State, Summers of Harvard, and serial president Gordon Gee come to mind as men whose abuses of power eventually caught up with them.
Lewis concludes with a sober warning:
The erosion of trust in higher education, arguably well-deserved given such excesses, is not a small matter, because the pursuit of the truth is not a small matter. As [former Harvard president Derek] Bok writes in his book [Higher Education in America] (pp.356-57), “A democratic society badly needs credible, unbiased information from highly knowledgeable people in order to enlighten decision-makers and inform public debate. Thus, the country has much to lose if the objectivity of academic researchers can no longer be taken for granted.”

He was referring to the need for faculty to disclose their financial conflicts of interest more routinely than is current practice in most fields, but his point has much larger relevance.

If the public comes to assume that colleges and universities are like any other businesses, to be suspected of ulterior motives in everything they and their members do, then support for their activities will collapse.
As someone deeply invested in higher education, if support collapses much good will go but those who abused the public's trust will have brought it upon themselves.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From All These Things Shall Give Thee Experience (1980), 17:
If God did not know our predilections and our choices even before we made them, and had not planned accordingly, we might well have ended up having Joseph Smith born in Manchuria and the Book of Mormon plates buried in Belgium! A less than omniscient god would be more like the earnest but fumbling Caesars who dot the landscape of history than a living, all-knowing God.

Though His plans are known to Him, there is no premature exposure of the Lord's plans. This could bring unnecessary persecution upon an unready Lord's people. Further, a premature showing of His power and strength in support of His Saints could cut short the trial of our faith.

Where God has immersed His people for His purposes in larger events, we do not, therefore, always see secular history that confirms spiritual happenings. (See D&C 121:12.) For instance, there appears to be no conclusive secular record of Moses and the Exodus in Egyptian history. There is even some disagreement among scholars about which pharaoh was the pharaoh of the Exodus.

Human history has its limitations, but obscurity its usefulness.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

If You Have Not Seen the Bureaucrat

I thought this post was funny. It is just as funny in Arabic.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From Things As They Really Are (1978), chapter 5:
Just how effectively the devil can mount a two-front war against us is seen in the words of the Lord wherein he speaks of "the fear of persecution and the cares of the world." (D&C 40:2.) If our appetites can be directed in such a way that we are caught up in the cares of the world, and if we are then also afraid of persecution because of doing what is right, we have been acted upon and are doubly deterred from discipleship. Some who might not fear persecution by itself do not choose to cope with the double load of persecution plus the cares of the world. Some for whom the cares of the world would not be sufficient to draw them away finally yield because of the fear of persecution.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Thin Veneer of Civilization

A thoughtful essay from Victor Davis Hanson on the thin veneer of civilization. Hanson appreciates, the way that many do not, how thin a veneer civilization is.  In the 1970s, the two bright spots of civilization in the Middle East and the Soviet block were Lebanon and Yugoslavia. They were comparative islands of peace and security among tumultuous neighbors. Within twenty years they were ripped apart by civil war. We assume that our civilization is stable, but we may only be looking at the veneer. Hanson's essay is worth the read.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From Things As They Really Are (1978), chapter 5:
Just how fashionable it can be in some seasons to persecute the saints of God is seen in the words of Nephi when he says some of the churches of the world and some of the gentile nations that "slayeth the saints of God" actually do it "for the praise of the world . . . and bring them down into captivity." (1 Nephi 13:9.) Even today, those who turn against the Church do so to play to their own private gallery, but when, one day, the applause has died down and the cheering has stopped, they will face a smaller audience, the judgment bar of God.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Where Your Treasure is

What we consider valuable might vary with the culture. Consider the following Old Babylonian letter coming from what is now Iraq (about 1800-1600 B.C.):
Speak to Belshunu: Thus says Shamash-hazir.
May Shamash keep you in good health! I write to you time and again and you do not pay attention to my words. They are wasting wood and dung, so that you (must) be very alert. With respect to the wood I will treat you like an enemy of Marduk! Let the door of the staircase be sealed. Do not give one single piece of wood, apart from the one . . . that you give each time as a funerary offering. Take care of the matter of the wine, and if there is barley in the hand of the gardener, receive it from him. If not, have him brought in and confine him to the house.
(M. Stol, Letters from Yale [Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1981], 15-17.)
For us, it is easy to envision wood as a valuable resource, over which careful stewardship was expected. It is harder to envision dung as a valuable resource to be watched and warded, but even it was not wasted in the ancient world. It had its uses: fertilizer, fuel, filler in pottery, and so on. Sometimes what ancient people valued is by us counted but dross and refuse.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From Things As They Really Are (1978), 14:
One could scarcely expect a proud world to understand, let alone approve of, those who refuse its ways. Hence the scorn and the shame that we must all come to "despise," or care so little for, that it does not deter us from doing that which is right.

The crunches are apt to come when, because of discipleship, men persecute us, revile us, or misunderstand us. According to the Savior, some may actually go so far as to separate us from their company, holding us in disregard because of our discipleship. On occasion, sadly, competent disciples will not be chosen for certain professional chores of the world because their peers will see them as being incapacitated to perform fully because they are disciples. The only Roman "club" to which early Christians obtained admittance was the Coliseum, and, unfortunately, other guests—four-legged and hungry—had been invited too.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Feeding the Hungry

The following is not an original insight to me, but I cannot remember where I first heard it.

The human baby is completely helpless. Unlike some mammals, which can walk within hours or days of birth, for almost the first year of its life it cannot walk. It is incapable of fending for itself for several years after birth. If it is to be fed, watered, or clothed, someone else must do it.

Considered in this light, the following scripture provides an interesting light on the work of parenting and how God views it:
31 ¶ When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:
32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:
33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. (Matthew 25:31–41)

Today's Maxwell Quote

From Things As They Really Are (1978), 13:
Paul describes the enemies of the cross of Christ as being those individuals whose God is "their belly" and who mind earthly things. (Romans 16:18.) Some people revel in the unrighteous life but still hold those who lead the righteous life in contempt and shame. President Joseph F. Smith said that a people so set apart are sometimes easy to set upon; "I do not believe there ever was a people who were guided by revelation, or acknowledged of the Lord as his people, who were not hated and persecuted by the wicked and the corrupt." (Gospel Doctrine, p. 46.)

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Flashback from Twenty Years Ago

This recent article seems like it came from twenty years ago. At least it was true twenty years ago. It is more true today. Graduate programs have been expensive for years and even twenty years ago those in the humanities could easily accumulate more debt than they could repay with academic wages when they got out. Some graduate programs would insist that the students would have to take out the maximum about of student loans before they would consider providing any help to the student. Back then, a year of graduate school was at least as expensive as a year's salary for a graduate employed in the field. I wonder if it is in the news now because baby boomers, who had ceased paying attention to the situation in graduate school after they left, are realizing what it is like now that their own children are in it.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From this talk:
I stress that I come neither as an alarmist nor as a pessimist, but as one who seeks in his gentle way to remind us of this reality lest we be struck "with wonder and astonishment" and become dismayed and dislocated by difficulties that emerge when "all hell is moved," because the restored kingdom is really rolling now. We may never become accustomed to untrue and unjust criticism of us but we ought not to be immobilized by it. Neither should we be surprised at the proximity of such protagonists and the falsity and the fury of their pronouncements. President Joseph F. Smith said, "there are those—and they abound largely in our midst—who will shut their eyes to every virtue and to every good thing connected with this latter-day work, and will proud out floods of falsehood and misrepresentation against the people of God." President Smith, who endured so much of that proximate persecution, did what we must also do. He said of such detractors, "I forgive them for this. I leave them in the hands of the just Judge" (Gospel Doctrine, p. 337).

Friday, January 17, 2014

What to Buy for a Wedding Gift?

The custom of giving wedding gifts stretched back into antiquity. Here is an example from the Old Babylonian Period (about 1800-1600 BC) from Mesopotamia (modern Iraq):
Speak to Sin-eribam: Thus says Shamash-magir.

May Shamash keep you in good health for 3600 years for my sake! I will give my daughter to a husband, but I do not have anything that I can give. Now I have dispatched to you Shamash-hazir, Sin-malik and Bitum-rabi together with Puzur-Ishtar. On the day that you see their faces, take the silver (that is) on hand, and buy and send me two slaves (and) three slave-girls; please!
(M. Stol, Letters from Yale [Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1981], 7.)
It gives new meaning to the saying that if you don't know what to give someone, give of yourself. I guess in this case, if you don't know what to give someone, give someone else.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From Wherefore, Ye Must Press Forward (1977), 81:
Recall how a young Joseph Smith was puzzled as to why he, in his youth and obscurity and poverty, "should be thought a character of sufficient importance to attract the attention of the great ones of the most popular sects of the day, and in a manner to create in them a spirit of the most bitter persecution and reviling." (Joseph Smith 2:23.) Well, so it is (and will be) with us, collectively, especially as the Church is brought forth out of obscurity. If the Church were not true, our enemies would be bored rather than threatened, and acquiescent rather than anxious. Hell is moved only when things move heavenward.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

I Have Your Back

Ancient correspondence is both fascinating and frustrating: Fascinating because it tell interesting parts of stories, and frustrating because the stories are fragments and the correspondence is often one sided. AbB 9:6 is one such case. It comes from the Old Babylonian period (about 2000-1600 BC) from Mesopotamia (modern Iraq):
Speak to Sin-iddinam: Thus says Marduk-mushallim. May Shamash and Marduk keep you in good health! As you know, Silli-Shamash, the head of the Sutians, (is a man) who acts in my interest. Whenever I write to him, he acts very much according to my wish. Let him file his complaint before you, and give him a fair trial according to the regulations of my lord.
(M. Stol, Letters from Yale [Leiden: Brill, 1981], 5.)
A couple of things are interesting in this letter. One is that Marduk-mushallim is not necessarily asking Sin-iddinam to decide the case in Silli-Shamash's favor, only that it be conducted justly or normally (išariš). Apparently juridical proceeding were not always so conducted. The other thing is the way that Marduk-mushallim expresses his trust in Silli-Shamash. He finds him trustworthy because he can ask him to do something and it will be done.

Because of the trust, Marduk-mushallim is willing to act for Silli-Shamash by asking that he be treated fairly.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From Wherefore Ye Must Press Foreward (1977), 53-54:
It is clear in the revelations that we are to cope with trial and tribulation. There are no special techniques given to us, no easy ways to cope with it. We are simply to cope. In the Book of Mormon the persecution upon members of the church "was a cause of much affliction to the church; yea, it was the cause of much trial with the church."

Significantly, in the midst of such pressures, "the hearts of many were hardened." The prophet further observes, "Now this was a great trial to those that did stand fast in the faith; nevertheless, they were steadfast and immovable in keeping the commandments of God, and they bore with patience the persecution which was heaped upon them." (Alma 1:23-25.) Suffering separates the hardy from the frail.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A Great Agraphon

The agrapha are sayings attributed to Jesus that were not recorded in the four gospels. This agraphon is clever and witty and Jesus probably never said it, but it is funny nonetheless. It is attributed to Jesus by the Muslim intellectual al-Ghazali:
Jesus (peace upon him) said: "Even though I managed to raise the dead, I have never been able to cure an idiot!"

(in Bradley J. Cook, Classical Foundations of Islamic Educational Thought [Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 2010], 103)
Parents and teachers can sometimes relate.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From Deposition of a Disciple (1976), 90-91:
The very book of the Acts of the Apostles is like a display window. It compresses two or three decades of history. In it we read of the glorious growth of the church and of major spiritual outpourings, heroism, and persecution of the faithful. But we also see individuals growing. All the confrontations were not with the Sanhedrin; some were like the impasse in the companionship of Paul and Barnabas. Some members failed to live the law of consecration. We see young Paul "cloakholding" at Stephen's stoning. We see initial and deep resistance by some members (and some leaders) to the taking of the gospel to the gentiles. Imperfect individuals were caught in the collision of cultures, etc. So much is there, showing the soul-stretching that went on. Learning, then as now, was sometimes painfully public. But notwithstanding such weaknesses, members overcame, grew, and developed, collectively and individually. That is an important message for us now.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Systematic thoughts

A couple of months ago, I noted an observation by Scott Adams that goals are for losers and what is really needed are systems. I ran across another quote that emphasizes the same thing, only this one is thirty years old:
Corporations don't need projects, they need systems. As he [Robert Block] eloquently points out, projects are a short-lived, artificial anomaly within the organization; they are tolerated only as long as the customer -- the person or group who ultimately pays for the whole things -- has faith that all of the strange people, and all of the strange jargon, and all of the computer equipment, and all of the money will eventually lead to something he wants. If he loses faith, the project dies. Period.
Ed Yourdon, "Foreword," in Robert Block, The Politics of Projects (New York: Yourdon Press, 1983), xiv.
Do all the strange people and strange jargon actually lead to something we want?

Today's Maxwell Quote

From Deposition of a Disciple (1976), 54-55:
Herman Wouk said of God's choosing of the house of Judah that they were "elected to special duties and disciplines." Incidentally, the act of being chosen in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints often means giving up 15 percent or so of one's gross income and a significant portion of what might be called one's "free" time. Being chosen also means being subject to derision and the amusement of others, and sometimes even persecution. Further, being chosen requires one to swim against the cultural stream as often as not. Being "chosen" is an unattractive designation for anybody but those who sincerely seek to do the will of our Father in heaven, since it often includes obscurity of sorts.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Psalm 3

Psalm 3 is supposed to have been written by David during his flight from the revolt of his son Absalom. (Harem conspiracies are not just an Egyptian thing.) What is interesting about the Septuagint version (which is the ancient Greek translation) of the Psalm is that salvation is equated with the destruction of his enemies (in this case his son). In Greek, salvation is a many faceted concept and the destruction of enemies is certainly one of the facets.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From That My Family Should Partake (1974), 82:
God gave to mankind through a young man, Joseph Smith, the ultimate and immense truths of the gospel in this, the last dispensation. This young man who had no social status to protect, no private theology already worked out for God to endorse, and who had loving and listening parents, could report that theophany honestly and cling tenaciously to the truth of that first vision in the midst of great persecution. A sophisticated man who had community status to protect and his own ideas about what kind of religion the world needed—even though a good man—would have been sorely tempted to have traded off truth for the praise of the world. Paul reminded us that "the friendship of the world is enmity with God. . . ." (James 4:4.) Could any but a humble non-linguist have gone to the Hill Cumorah and, under the direction of an angel, be shown ancient records and be told, so boldly, that he, personally, would be the unlettered instrument in translating these for the benefit of all mankind, and still have believed all that—and helped such a marvel come to pass without wanting somehow to possess the plates rather than share their wisdom or to add his own mortal touches and flourishes to the manuscript?

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Hints of What We are Missing

Friedhelm Hoffmann and Joachim Quack in their invaluable collection, Anthologie der demotischen Literatur, spend some time reconstructing what we know of Egyptian narratives that appear only in scattered fragments but do not have enough material for contiguous translation. Among these collections they note a particular interest in narratives circulating in the Greco-Roman period (332 B.C.-A.D. 314) about events in the Middle Kingdom (2000-1800 B.C.) One of these narratives has Sesostris (which?) invading Arabia, "India, Libya, Ethiopia, Asia, and even Europe." (p. 177). We have no contemporary records of any of these conquests, but they seem to have been considered history in the Greco-Roman period. These fragments provides hints of the literature that circulated in Egypt and their own memories of their glorious past. It provides us with a sense of the immense amount of material about the past that we are missing.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From That My Family Should Partake (1974), 27-28:
There is a reason for developing not only commitment but also capacity to spread and to defend the faith. George Macdonald warned that "it is often incapacity for defending the faith they love which turns men into persecutors." Even those, said Lehi, who have "tasted of the fruit" (the love of God) can yet fall away into forbidden paths and be lost. Why? Lehi says that some believers become "ashamed because of those" who scoff at them. Apparently the inability to defend the faith while under peer pressure may not only cost the soul of the uncertain onlooker, but the hesitant, inarticulate believer as well. No wonder Peter was desirous that believers "be ready always" to give answers to those who ask us reasons for our faith and hope. Austin Farrer counseled, "Though argument does not create conviction, . . . the lack of it destroys belief . . . what no one shows the ability to defend is quickly abandoned. Rational argument does not create unbelief, but it maintains a climate in which belief may flourish."

Saturday, January 11, 2014

New Mission Presidents

The Church just announced the new mission presidents who will serve starting this year. I actually know two of these men. I would be happy for any of my children to serve under them. I would even be happy to serve under them myself (in one case I did). I assume the other mission presidents are of the same caliber. The missionaries are in good hands.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From That My Family Should Partake (1974), 2:
All parents should be grateful for those models about us of parents who, though they have other church, civic, and community roles that matter, show us by their words and actions that they know they have no more important assignment under heaven than as parents. Yet too much multiplication of other roles can divide our effectiveness at home.

We should be grateful not only for living models, but also for model families in the past, such as that of Joseph Smith, Sr., who, along with his wife, Lucy Mack Smith, gave a boy prophet love, leadership, example, and support. Suppose, after walking back from that theophany at Palmyra, young Joseph Smith had encountered task-oriented ("Get the chores done!"), nonlistening parents? Or a jealous older brother? With all else he had to meet in the way of ridicule and persecution, could that lad have done his special work without the love and courage of a family that quietly, uncomplainingly agreed to share in his work and in his fate?

Friday, January 10, 2014

Thoughts on the Outlaw Campus

Victor Davis Hanson has a thoughtful take on university life in his essay, The Outlaw Campus. He notes ten areas that need to be reformed. Some of his suggestions are intriguing. He suggests that administration should be outsourced the way that teaching is to adjunct faculty. He suggests employing adjunct administrators:
Why should those who dreamed up exploitative part-time teaching positions be exempt from their own logic? Private enterprise could supply all sorts of part-time administrative clerks to the university at a fraction of the present in-house costs.
Why indeed?

There are a number of wonderful administrators, but there are also cases where the exploits of the administrators are far worse than those of the faculty. At least poorly performing adjunct administrators would be easier to rid oneself of.

Hanson's ideas deserve careful consideration. I suggest reading the whole article.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From Wherefore, Ye Must Press Forward (1977), xi:
Whether one is newly baptized, reactivated, or already about his Father's business, he faces two challenges: remaining true to the decisions and covenants that have brought him thus far into serious discipleship, and then, both progressing and enduring in his discipleship.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Nibley on Korihor

This passage from Nibley created something of a stir for a short time when Nibley first uttered it but has since been largely forgotten:
Korihor, a contemporary of Alma, rallied the people of property to free themselves from the oppressive restraints of sacral government, "foolish performances," he said, by which "this people bind themselves . . . that they might not lift up their heads" (Alma 30:23). Thanks to the government, said he, people "durst not enjoy their rights and privileges." in particular, "they durst not make use of that which was their own lest they should offend their priests" (Alma 30:27-28); his appeal was for freedom from restraints "laid down by ancient priests" (Alma 30:23), freedom to follow the natural order in which "every man prospered according to his genius, and that every man conquered according to his strength; and whatsoever a man did was no crime" (Alma 30:17). The bottom line was the common-sense creed, "when a man was dead, that was the end thereof," all accounts settled, all charges dropped, all moral objections canceled. This was good news to beautiful people," causing them to lift up their heads in wickedness," enjoying unlimited criminal and sexual license, "leading away . . . women, and also men, to commit whoredoms" (Alma 30:18)--a plain but discreet way of hinting at rampant homosexuality. (CWHN 8:509-10.)

Today's Maxwell Quote

From this talk:
Alas, it may be true that those who do not believe in God, who is a loving parent and who is the Father of the human family, will also never be able to accept the eternal importance of the institution of the family, except as something that is socially useful—little wonder we arrive at different conclusions or that we have different priorities. How important, therefore, it is that we remain at our posts as sentries over doctrines and teachings like that concerning the family, even if the world in its mistaken, but sincere way, seems to be headed in entirely different directions. The Latter-day Saints ought to understand, for instance, that the wars of tomorrow are this day being forged in the overheated families of today. How many dictators or assassins do we need to study in order to understand the consequences of distortion in the home? How many more examples do we need, including the energy crisis, where a few control the resources needed by many, before realizing that food and fiber are not the real challenge? Rather, it is selfishness and our human delivery systems. And where, indeed, can one learn, first-hand, selflessness and sharing? In the home, where such skills and attitudes tend to be learned, if they are learned at all. 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Interconnected Ancient World V: The Uses of Fish Gall

In his discussion of Norse magic, Stephen Mitchell brings up an example of Nordic "magic" from "medieval Nordic leechbooks":
One recommends that the gall of a black dog, or of a particular kind of fish, be burned in a wooden vessel and used as a remedy against witchcraft and diabolical influences. A Danish formula against wantonness calls for a potion made of the leaves of a plant mixed with liquid, although what makes it stand out is the instruction that the brew should be blended while the Pater noster is being "read." Modern readers naturally assume that recipes of this sort are a form of magic.

But how would medieval users have understood such practices? If a petitioner were to intone phrases invoking a pagan god or the Christian deity while burning the fish gall, for example, would we understand it as a religious practice? Or if the fumes of gall were believed to have a specific chemical or pharmacological purpose, should we then understand this practice as a kind of primitive science? And are the answers we give to these queries merely elusive matters of perspective, or are they in fact hard and fast conclusions, as true in the modern context as they would have been in pre-Christian Scandinavia?

(Stephen A. Mitchell, Witchcraft and Magic in the Nordic Middle Ages [Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011], 25-26.)
Mitchell brings these examples of Nordic medicine up to raise the point of whether they constitute "magic." The question he does not raise is whether they are Nordic. I have my doubts about whether this is particularly pre-Christian Nordic because it appears elsewhere in a standard version that was known in Scandinavia among the Christians.

Burning the gall of a particular kind of fish to drive out demons is found in the book of Tobit. The book of Tobit is considered one of the apocryphal books because it is found in the Septuagint but not in the Hebrew Bible. It was, however, considered biblical in the Catholic church in medieval times. The modern Icelandic version of the passage in question (Tobit 6:7-9) is:
Og ungi maðurinn sagði við engilinn: “Bróðir Asaría, til hvers er hjartað, lifrin og gallið úr fiskinum?” Og hann svaraði: “Hjartað og lifrin eru til þess, að ef ári eða illur andi þjáir enhvern, þá á að brenna því sem reykelsi fyrir manninum eða konunni, þá verða þau ekki framar þjáð.”
(Those looking for a translation can see here.) Here the angel specifically says that if someone is suffering from a demon or evil spirit that burning the guts of a fish in front of the afflicted man or woman will drive away the demon. (It worked in Tobit's case.) Here we see a Hellenistic Near Eastern folk practice becoming a medieval Scandinavian one.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From this talk:
If you prefer a different analogy, we are witnesses to a rather bizarre game of human chess in which there is strange value placed on the various pieces on the chess game. The kings and queens, the parents, are thought of as being inconsequential; the castles, or homes, get traded off for pawns with great casualness; the bishops, which might represent religion, remain largely unused in responding to the challenge. Yet, in the midst of this strange pattern of play, the world wonders why it cannot checkmate human misery.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

What is a Word?

Coptic (for those who do not know) is the ancient Egyptian language written in Greek characters. The earliest dated Coptic inscription dates to 200 B.C. It mostly died out by the ninth century but there was a revival and late flourishing in the thirteenth century A.D.

Those who read Coptic manuscripts (and Coptic is not the only language whose manuscripts have this characteristic) know that Coptic manuscripts do not put spaces between words. Published versions of Coptic manuscripts put spaces between the words, but those spaces are not usually found in the manuscript. So a non-trivial problem is how do we know that a space should go between letters. Different editors solve this problem differently. How would we know where an ancient Coptic speaker would divide the text into different word units? The ancient Coptic scribes actually left some clues but these clues are often either ignored or reinterpreted (and sometimes misinterpreted) by modern editors.

This is just one of the many problems that confronts an editor the minute he or she undertakes to edit a text. Modern writers tend to give it no thought whatsoever. For us, the problem has already been solved.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From this talk:
I am grateful for the faculty and students alike at this University, who understand the tandem relationship between theology and identity, between family and eternity. At this University there is coequal concern with that nutrition pertaining to the body and that nutrition pertaining to the spirit. We certainly share with the secular world concern over diets required for our physical health, but we also assert to a sick and undernourished world that a divine diet has been prescribed for the soul of man, and further, that the primary source of his succor should be the family.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Onchsheshonqy 8/9-10

Do not follow a scribe who has been taken to prison, follow him after he has been taken to the tomb. (P. Onch. 8/9-10)
While the  general gist of the saying seems fairly certain, the exact idiom translated follow is unusual and is imperfectly understood. The idea is that while an intellectual (here a scribe) might have good things to say, those sayings can often get him in trouble. It is often not politically safe to follow someone who is in trouble and thus in the house of detention. Once he is dead, then he is no longer seen as a political problem.

The irony in this is that Onchsheshonqy is a scribe who is in prison. Perhaps Onchsheshonqy is simply warning his son not to follow in his footsteps until after he was dead.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From this talk:
Meanwhile, did not Jesus tell us what to expect by way of heat in the final summer? Did He not also say that He would prove our faith and patience by trial?

Did He not provide needed proportion when He spoke of the comparative few who will find the narrow way leading to the strait gate? (See Matt. 7:13–14.) Did He not also say that His Saints, scattered upon all the face of the earth, would, in the midst of wickedness, commotion, and persecution, be “armed with righteousness and with the power of God,” for He is determined to have “a pure people”? (1 Ne. 14:12–14; D&C 100:16.)

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Feeding the Hungry

Sometimes in the midst of ephemeral arguments, a little gem of an argument shows up. Here is one such example, found in this other piece (which may or may not be worth reading):
Cooking is an act of love, an act of service to others.  It is an opportunity to care for others in a very fundamental way, to literally nourish them through the work of your own hands.
 This is another way of putting a scripture (and notice what comes first):
Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. (Matthew 25:34–40)

Today's Maxwell Quote

From this talk:
We may experience hunger, for instance, but if so, we can still respond as did the widow who used the last of her meal to feed Elijah (see 1 Kgs. 17:8–16). Such sharing amid real deprivation and poverty is always touching. Earlier in his life, a wonderful bishop of my youth, M. Thirl Marsh, repeatedly tried to be hired at the mines during the Depression. Being underage but large of stature, he persisted and was hired, but several friends were not. Apparently, on more than one occasion after his hard day’s work, generous young Thirl shared his earnings equally with these friends until they, too, were hired. No wonder he was such a caring shepherd of the flock later on.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

AbB 9:1

Troubles that seem very modern are actually nothing new. This is an Old Babylonian letter written in Akkadian written in what is now Iraq about 1600 B.C. It is now in the Yale Babylonian collection (YBC 4519). It provides a window into the politics of petty tyrants three and a half millennia ago:
Speak to Sin-magir: Thus say Ipqu-Ishtar and Sin-ituram your colleagues.

May An and Inanna, Shamash, Iggalla, and Amurrum, your god, keep you in good health forever for our sake!

Concerning the report that was, in your words,
"Because Hadi-amer-Shamash has taken an oral promise to somebody else upon himself, he is keeping me waiting":
do not be slow always to stand firm against him. You tell him this, as follows:
"The fact that you speak in a decietful way is an insult to me. People will say
'Hadi-amer-Shamash has removed him from that office, even though he was trustworthy'.
What did you think that I was that you have given my office to somebody else in my absence?".
Thus speak to him and he shall answer you immediately.

And now Nabi-ilishu's intentions are prone to unseemly things in that he wants to oust the honourable . . . Apil-Sin from the temple of Enlil. If this is proper, tell him that he must not seek out complaints. But don't you know that Apil-Sin is ours? Do not be negligent about this!

May An and Inanna, Shamash, Iggalla, and Amurrum, your god, keep you in good health forever for our sake! (M. Stol, Altbabylonische Briefe 9: Letters from Yale [Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1981], 3, format altered).
The letter shows that the ambitious jockeying for position is nothing new. It is as despicable now as it ever was.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From this talk:
The philosophy of ritual prodigalism is “eat, drink, and be merry, … [and] God will beat us with a few stripes.” This is a cynical and shallow view of God, of self, and of life. God never can justify us “in committing a little sin.” (2 Ne. 28:8.) He is the God of the universe, not some night-court judge with whom we can haggle and plea bargain!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Moses 5 in the Mailbag

A query from an astute reader has been passed on to me. The query is whether in Moses 5:51 the verb knew should be understood carnally. Here is the relevant passage:
51 For, from the days of Cain, there was a secret combination, and their works were in the dark, and they knew every man his brother.
52 Wherefore the Lord cursed Lamech, and his house, and all them that had covenanted with Satan; for they kept not the commandments of God, and it displeased God, and he ministered not unto them, and their works were abominations, and began to spread among all the sons of men. And it was among the sons of men.
53 And among the daughters of men these things were not spoken, because that Lamech had spoken the secret unto his wives, and they rebelled against him, and declared these things abroad, and had not compassion;
54 Wherefore Lamech was despised, and cast out, and came not among the sons of men, lest he should die.
55 And thus the works of darkness began to prevail among all the sons of men. (Moses 5:51–56)
I had always understood the phrase "they knew every man his brother" to mean that every man in the secret combination recognized his brother and was cognizant that he was a confederate in iniquity. This alternate reading is certainly intriguing. There is a simple way to test it.

The book of Moses uses the verb to know in both carnal and intellectual senses. Bracketing the phrase in question, lets look at the other uses by category.

In the following instances, the verb to know is used in the intellectual rather than the carnal sense:
all things are present with me [God], for I know them all. (Moses 1:6)
I [Moses] know that man is nothing (Moses 1:10)
they are mine and I [God] know them. (Moses 1:35)
the name of which shall not be known among the children of men (Moses 1:42)
This I [Adam] know now is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh (Moses 3:23)
he [Satan] knew not the mind of God (Moses 4:6)
God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. (Moses 4:11)
they [Adam and Eve] knew that they had been naked (Moses 4:13)
the man is become as one of us to know good and evil (Moses 4:28)
I [Adam] know not, save the Lord commanded me. (Moses 5:6)
Were it not for our transgression we [Eve and Adam] never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient. (Moses 5:11)
they [Adam and Eve] made all things known unto their sons and their daughters. (Moses 5:12)
Who is the Lord that I should know him? (Moses 5:16)
Now Satan knew this, and it pleased him. (Moses 5:21)
this that thy father may not know it (Moses 5:29)
I [Cain] know not. Am I my brother’s keeper? (Moses 5:34)
and Irad, the son of Enoch, having known their secret, began to reveal it unto the sons of Adam (Moses 5:49)
God hath made known unto our fathers that all men must repent. (Moses 6:50)
they taste the bitter, that they may know to prize the good. (Moses 6:55)
it is given unto them to know good from evil (Moses 6:56)
[the Comforter is] that which knoweth all things (Moses 6:61)
Enoch knew, and looked upon their wickedness (Moses 7:41)
thou art God, and I know thee (Moses 7:59)
he shall know that all flesh shall die (Moses 8:17)
The following are passages where the verb to know is used in the carnal sense:
And Adam knew his wife, and she bare unto him sons and daughters (Moses 5:2) 
And Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bare Cain (Moses 5:16) 
And Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bare Enoch (Moses 5:42)
And Adam knew his wife again, and she bare a son (Moses 6:2)
This lengthy listing shows that in most cases when the object of the verb to know is used of a mortal person, it is used in a carnal sense; there are, however, two exceptions:
And death hath come upon our fathers; nevertheless we know them, and cannot deny, and even the first of all we know, even Adam. For a book of remembrance we have written among us (Moses 6:45–46)
In this passage, the two uses of to know are clearly of an intellectual nature not a carnal nature because they are known through a book.

This would argue that the suggested reading in Moses 5:51 of the verb to know in a carnal sense can be a valid reading of the text but it cannot rule out the other reading. There are some interesting implications of the new reading which I leave to the reader.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From this talk:
To compose a symphony, to win a battle, or to save a company—each can be a commendable and worthy entry in the book of life, but these do not fully compensate for breaking the seventh commandment. In the arithmetic of heaven, several commendables do not cancel out one inexcusable!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

We're #7? Seriously?

BYU ranks seventh in happiness according to here, here and here (at least this week). The methodology used and the rationale for the ranking are never explained. I guess it has something to do with freshman retention rates and the rating of the health center. (I thought that health centers were best avoided. At one of the universities I graduated from I cannot remember if I even knew where it was.)

Today's Maxwell Quote

From Wherefore, Ye Must Press Forward (1977), 11:
Once the gospel grove sheltered by tall and stalwart redwoods has been abandoned, where will society seek shelter from the storms? In the sagebrush? In the reeds of rationalization? Hypocrisy at least is an attempt to hide shame, but today the very flaunting of certain behavior indicates that our deterioration is reaching some advanced stages. Boldness is not always courage, and when some things come out of the closet, they bring the darkness with them.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Degrees of Glory and Tolerance

The Doctrine and Covenants is explicit that certain forms of conduct are not allowed in certain degrees of glory:
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)
21 And they who are not sanctified through the law which I have given unto you, even the law of Christ, must inherit another kingdom, even that of a terrestrial kingdom, or that of a telestial kingdom.
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 88:21–24)
In the degrees of glory, actions against the law of that kingdom are not tolerated. Those who commit them cannot remain in that kingdom. This means that in the three degrees of glory there is only limited tolerance. The more tolerance displayed, the lower the kingdom of glory. This argues that tolerance is not a celestial virtue but a telestial one.
For I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance; (Doctrine and Covenants 1:31; cf. Alma 45:16)
The more like God we are, the less we will tolerate sin. He does not tolerate sin and so if we are like him, we will not either.

It is in the telestial kingdom that all manner of sins are permitted and tolerated. One reason we may have to tolerate sins in a telestial world is to give others what the Book of Mormon calls "space for repentance" (Alma 42:5; cf 12:24). If others give up their sins, we do not have to tolerate them anymore. We cannot, however, keep our sins and expect them to be tolerated in a celestial realm.

We might think that God is being exclusionary in not tolerating our sins in the celestial kingdom, but that is not the correct way to view the situation. As Moroni explains:
3 Do ye suppose that ye shall dwell with him under a consciousness of your guilt? Do ye suppose that ye could be happy to dwell with that holy Being, when your souls are racked with a consciousness of guilt that ye have ever abused his laws?
4 Behold, I say unto you that ye would be more miserable to dwell with a holy and just God, under a consciousness of your filthiness before him, than ye would to dwell with the damned souls in hell.
5 For behold, when ye shall be brought to see your nakedness before God, and also the glory of God, and the holiness of Jesus Christ, it will kindle a flame of unquenchable fire upon you. (Mormon 9:3–5)
God's exclusion of sinners is not intolerance, it is mercy.

Today's Maxwell Quote

From That My Family Should Partake (1974), 41:
Whether we make a resolution to improve in a family council or privately, sometimes sharing our resolve can give us the advantage of our pride in wanting to carry out that resolution successfully and the loving support of other members of the family. In one sense, their stake in our success is personal in that if we improve they will benefit. In another, larger sense, however, because the members of our family love us, they are sincerely anxious for us to succeed in a way that may not always be true of other associates. Even false starts and transitional failures are better understood by the members of the family. Neither will members of the family be as likely to be offended by, or scoff at, the seeming smallness of some resolution on one's part. This is so precisely because in the family life the little things are the big things.