Wednesday, September 28, 2016

A Success Story

According to this news story:
"We helped over 100,000 people make advances in jobs and education and in starting and growing businesses" in 2015 alone.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Question about the Exodus

Over at Sic et Non, Michael Hoggan asks the question:
Interesting, I remember reading about the possibility that Abraham wasn't from Mesopotamia several years ago. Since Dr. Gee places Abraham in the 2000-1800 time period, I wonder when he dates the Exodus.
Actually, I place Abraham a bit lower in time. The events in Abraham chapter 1 fit best into the reigns of Sesostris III and Amenemhet III. Conventionally that is dated about 1860-1800 BC. This means that Abraham is dated somewhere in the 1850-1750 BC range.

If we take the reference to Israel in the Merneptah stele as indicative of Israel being established in the land of Canaan, then the Exodus would fit somewhere in the middle of the reign of Ramses II (conventionally about 1280-1220 BC). There are other scenarios that can be entertained, but this is the simplest.

Monday, September 26, 2016

German vs. American Honesty

Last week in Priesthood meeting the topic was honesty. The instructor gave, as example of dishonesty, when an American is asked, "How are you?" and answers, "Fine." Americans see this as being polite. Germans see this as being dishonest or at least insincere. (The same word, Ehrlichkeit, is used for both honesty and sincerity.) Many American value politeness above honesty. Many Germans value honesty above politeness. While I do not want to advocate rudeness, I do note that I can recall more lessons on honesty than politeness.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Just a Nice Old Man who Tells Stories?

A couple of months ago I heard one of these Mormon Studies scholars refer to President Thomas S. Monson as "a nice old man who tells stories" but went on to complain that his messages had no importance. This seems to me at least a debatable proposition. So, I have assembled some of President Monson's messages over the last year and a half.

I plead with parents and leaders of our youth to help them stand firm for truth and righteousness. Help open wide to their view the gates of learning, of understanding, and of service in the kingdom of God. Build within them strength to resist the temptations of the world. Give them the will to walk in virtue and faith, to be prayerful, and to look to heaven as their constant anchor. (First Presidency Message August 2015)

Let us take most seriously the callings, the responsibilities, and the duties which come with the priesthood we hold.(General Conference April 2015)

Before you put yourself and your priesthood in jeopardy by venturing into places or participating in activities which are not worthy of you or of that priesthood, pause to consider the consequences. Remember who you are and what God expects you to become. You are a child of promise. You are a man of might. You are a son of God. (General Conference April 2016)

My brothers and sisters, in our lives we will have temptations; we will have trials and challenges. As we go to the temple, as we remember the covenants we make there, we will be better able to overcome those temptations and to bear our trials. (General Conference April 2015)

There is yet time this year to extend the helping hand, the loving heart, and the willing spirit—in other words, to follow the example set by our Savior and to serve as He would have us serve. (First Presidency Message December 2015)

To be an example of faith means that we trust in the Lord and in His word. It means that we possess and that we nourish the beliefs that will guide our thoughts and our actions. Our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and in our Heavenly Father will influence all that we do. Amidst the confusion of our age, the conflicts of conscience, and the turmoil of daily living, an abiding faith becomes an anchor to our lives. Remember that faith and doubt cannot exist in the same mind at the same time, for one will dispel the other. I reiterate what we have been told repeatedly—that in order to gain and to keep the faith we need, it is essential that we read and study and ponder the scriptures. Communication with our Heavenly Father through prayer is vital. We cannot afford to neglect these things, for the adversary and his hosts are relentlessly seeking for a chink in our armor, a lapse in our faithfulness. (General Conference October 2015)

May we choose to build up within ourselves a great and powerful faith which will be our most effective defense against the designs of the adversary—a real faith, the kind of faith which will sustain us and will bolster our desire to choose the right. Without such faith, we go nowhere. With it, we can accomplish our goals. (General Conference April 2016)

In the Church, the goal of gospel teaching is not to pour information into the minds of God’s children, whether at home, in the classroom, or in the mission field. It is not to show how much the parent, teacher, or missionary knows. Nor is it merely to increase knowledge about the Savior and His Church.

The basic goal of teaching is to help the sons and daughters of Heavenly Father return to His presence and enjoy eternal life with Him. To do this, gospel teaching must encourage them along the path of daily discipleship and sacred covenants. The aim is to inspire individuals to think about, feel about, and then do something about living gospel principles. The objective is to develop faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and to become converted to His gospel. (First Presidency Message March 2016)

Disregard for the commandments has opened the way for what I consider to be the plagues of our day. They include the plague of permissiveness, the plague of pornography, the plague of drugs, the plague of immorality, and the plague of abortion, to name just a few. The scriptures tell us that the adversary is “the founder of all these things.” We know that he is “the father of all lies, to deceive and to blind men.”

I plead with you to avoid anything that will deprive you of your happiness here in mortality and eternal life in the world to come. With his deceptions and lies, the adversary will lead you down a slippery slope to your destruction if you allow him to do so. You will likely be on that slippery slope before you even realize that there is no way to stop. You have heard the messages of the adversary. He cunningly calls: Just this once won’t matter; everyone is doing it; don’t be old-fashioned; times have changed; it can’t hurt anyone; your life is yours to live. The adversary knows us, and he knows the temptations which will be difficult for us to ignore. How vital it is that we exercise constant vigilance in order to avoid giving in to such lies and temptations.

Great courage will be required as we remain faithful and true amid the ever-increasing pressures and insidious influences with which we are surrounded and which distort the truth, tear down the good and the decent, and attempt to substitute the man-made philosophies of the world. If the commandments had been written by man, then to change them by inclination or legislation or by any other means would be the prerogative of man. The commandments, however, were God-given. Using our agency, we can set them aside. We cannot, however, change them, just as we cannot change the consequences which come from disobeying and breaking them.(General Conference October 2015)

Some find it difficult to withstand the mocking and unsavory remarks of foolish ones who ridicule chastity, honesty, and obedience to God’s commands. The world has ever belittled adherence to principle. When Noah was instructed to build an ark, the foolish populace looked at the cloudless sky and then scoffed and jeered—until the rain came.

On the American continent long centuries ago, people doubted, disputed, and disobeyed until the fire consumed Zarahemla, the earth covered Moronihah, and the water engulfed Moroni. Jeering, mocking, ribaldry, and sin were no more. They had been replaced by sullen silence, dense darkness. The patience of God had expired, His timetable fulfilled. (First Presidency Message July 2016)

We will all face fear, experience ridicule, and meet opposition. Let us—all of us—have the courage to defy the consensus, the courage to stand for principle. Courage, not compromise, brings the smile of God’s approval. . . .
[May] you have the courage to stand firm for truth and righteousness. Because the trend in society today is away from the values and principles the Lord has given us, you will almost certainly be called upon to defend that which you believe. Unless the roots of your testimony are firmly planted, it will be difficult for you to withstand the ridicule of those who challenge your faith. (First Presidency Message April 2015)

In these messages, we find specific counsel and, in some cases, repeated warnings. Many of these themes were repeated by President Uchtdorf this morning. Now I understand that some of these counsels will not be popular in certain quarters. Some, for example, might want to impress others with their learning and might be offended that President Monson has pointed out that theirs is an inferior goal. They might wish to dismiss him as a nice old man who just tells stories. Yes, he tells stories, but he does much more than just that. To me his counsel is wise and deserves to be heeded.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Today's Quote

From Russell M. Nelson, "Protect the Spiritual Power Line" (October 1984):

"Learning can be misused! A sharp mind, misdirected, can cut into that line of spiritual power. Some 'learned' souls delight in leading others astray, all in the so-called name of learning. Years later their victims may realize that they have climbed their ladder of learning, only to find it leaning against the wrong wall."

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Today's Quote

I witnessed something yesterday that reminded me of a quote by Peter Novick:
"There is nothing more tedious than the spectacle of disgruntled authors complaining that they have been misrepresented or, even worse, whimpering that they have been misunderstood. Academic authors, above all others, should be immunized from such concerns, after years of seeing the versions of our lectures we get back in blue books at the end of the term."
(Peter Novick, "My Correct Views on Everything," American Historical Review 96/3 (1991): 699.)
I have often thought I have been misunderstood. Sometimes I have even felt deliberately misunderstood. When that occurs I often remember this quote.

Alas, authors who pretend to be academic but never teach classes have no such immunization. Such immunization also avails nothing to narcissists.


Tuesday, August 2, 2016

A Metaphor for Apostasy

Psalm 73 in the Septuagint (where it is numbered Psalm 72) contains an unusual metaphor for apostasy:
οτι ιδου οι μακρυνοντες εαυτους απο σου απολουνται εξωλεθρευσας παντα τον πορνευοντα απο σου
For behold those who remove themselves from thee are lost; thou shalt destroy all those who fornicate from thee (Psalm 72:27 LXX).
This is actually a fairly close translation of the Hebrew. In the minds of the ancient Israelites immorality and apostasy are closely linked (see also Hosea).