Monday, January 26, 2015

The Great Charter at 800

This has been linked elsewhere, and although my blog presently resides at the far extreme of obscurity, and therefore is not likely to direct more than one or two internet wanderers to something I regard as very worthwhile, I have decided to also link to it, and in so doing at least register my personal commendation of an eloquent and courageous statement of truth.  It is the transcript of Roman Catholic Archbishop of Philadelphia Charles Chaput's address delivered Friday, January 23, 2015, at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah:




L'Abbazia di Sant'Antimo, Castelnuovo dell'Abate, Siena, Italia
Photo by Belinda Schryver, September 2013

(click to enlarge)





The rebellious shall be pierced with much sorrow ...

A young family in our ward spoke yesterday in Sacrament Meeting.  I was very moved by the talk given by the wife and mother of the family, who spoke concerning the atonement of Jesus Christ, and how, with faith and obedience, its power can transform us from a state of weakness to a state of strength.  In particular, I was struck by a quote she cited from Elder Richard G. Scott's October 2013 General Conference address, entitled Personal Strength through the Atonement of Jesus Christ:


"The joyful news for anyone who desires to be rid of the consequences of past poor choices is that the Lord sees weaknesses differently than He does rebellion. Whereas the Lord warns that unrepented rebellion will bring punishment, when the Lord speaks of weaknesses, it is always with mercy."

I have had much contact in my life with both those encumbered by personal weaknesses, and those who, for various reasons, have willfully entered into a state of open rebellion against God and His Kingdom.  I have consistently found myself filled with indignation towards the rebellious, whereas I am consistently filled with love, compassion, and empathy towards those whose shortcomings are due to simple human weakness.

Our modern scriptures are replete with warnings directed towards the rebellious; warnings of which they would do well to take heed:

D&C 1:3

And the rebellious shall be pierced with much sorrow; for their iniquities shall be spoken upon the housetops, and their secret acts shall be revealed.

D&C 56:1

Hearken, O ye people who profess my name, saith the Lord your God; for behold, mine anger is kindled against the rebellious, and they shall know mine arm and mine indignation, in the day of visitation and of wrath upon the nations.

D&C 64:35

And the rebellious shall be cut off out of the land of Zion, and shall be sent away, and shall not inherit the land. 

Likewise, the Lord has promised that, for those who will humble themselves, and come unto Him, and have faith in Him, He will transform their weaknesses into strengths:

Ether 12:27

And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.



Friday, January 16, 2015

I am [fill in the blank], therefore ...

Speaking of Greg Smith, John Dehlin, and early 21st century Mormon apostate evangelists, I also highly recommend this short blog post logged by Greg about a month ago: "However" organizations versus "therefore" organizations

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Eternity Is You



My wife (Belinda) and I decided to get married on New Year's Day 1982. Now, over thirty-three years down the road, our relationship has evolved to the point where we have become, for all intents and purposes, a single entity. We are, to cite the old cliché, "joined at the hip." We do virtually everything together, whether it is weeding our flower garden, grocery shopping (our weekly "date night"), off-roading in search of landscape rocks, attending plays at the Utah Shakespeare Festival, or walking arm in arm – like Romeo and Juliet – down cobblestone streets in old Verona.

L'Arena di Verona, September 2013
(Click to view full size.)

We are of one mind and one heart. I find it difficult to believe that any man, in all the history of the earth, could possibly have loved a woman with a greater degree of passionate intensity than I do my beloved Belinda. With us, there was never any "seven year itch," or any period during which our love for and devotion to each other has waned. Our romance has been lived in constant crescendo. We are more in love now, after thirty-three years, than ever.

We met as Mormon missionaries in Italy. We loved our time there. One particular experience has always remained with us. It was the summer of 1980. We were, along with a few other missionaries, assigned to the city of Bari, in the Puglia region of southeastern Italy. The apartment in which the sister missionaries lived was in sore need of painting, so we all set aside our proselyting for a few days to join our efforts together to accomplish the task. As we painted, we listened repeatedly to the same small "playlist" of songs that represented the entirety of our music collection at the time. One of the songs was from a Mormon-themed musical that had been popular in the late 1970s, My Turn on Earth.  For the most part, the musical, and its music, were sappy – and we would sing along with the songs more in parody than anything else – with one exception. There was a short little love song on the soundtrack that, for whatever reason, I always found appealing. And given that my romantic feelings for Belinda had their earliest beginnings during those summer days in 1980, I have always associated the song with her:


Here in our love
I feel something of eternity
Looking at you
I can see right through to eternity

Millions of years
Like pearls before us
Wind away
They wind away
Millions of years
Like pearls before us
Yours and mine
Today

We will go on
Building upon eternity
Growing with you
Flowing into eternity

Suddenly hours and days are spinning
Suddenly heaven is beginning
Suddenly now the veil is thinning
In a place or two
Suddenly now I see
Eternity is you


And now, all these years later, as I look into her eyes, the words were never more true: eternity is you.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Reply to Mark Wright, Associate Editor of the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies

A few days ago, BYU Professor Daniel C. Peterson posted, on his blog, Sic et Non, a comment that ended up being rather controversial, at least in the relatively small sphere of those who pay attention to what is going on in the world of Mormon studies.  The blog post was entitled Recovering, at long last, from the plague of Mormon exceptionalism.  It was a commentary on a book review authored by University of Missouri Professor Benjamin E. Park which was published in the most recent issue of the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies.  The book review focused on two recently published works: David F. Holland’s Sacred Borders: Continuing Revelation and Canonical Restraint in Early America (Oxford, 2011) and Eran Shalev’s American Zion: The Old Testament as a Political Text from the Revolution to the Civil War (Yale, 2013).  Professor Park is an associate editor of the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, which is published under the auspices of the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship at Brigham Young University.

In response to the controversy that erupted in the comments section of Peterson's blog post, one of Park's fellow editors from the Maxwell Institute, Mark Wright (a very personable fellow with whom I am somewhat acquainted), posted a comment in response to some criticisms I had made of the "new" Maxwell Institute.

In reply, I posted the following:

Mark Wright wrote:

"I hope you know that I really do love your soul, Will."

I genuinely appreciate this sentiment, Mark, and I appreciate the general tenor of your post from yesterday from which this quote is drawn. I read your post shortly after it was logged, and have been pondering it since then. It is, therefore, after much serious reflection and deliberation that I now offer to you (and any others who continue to follow this very interesting comment thread) my reply to your comments in said post.

You wrote:

"As for the precarious middle ground I navigate, it stems from my heartfelt desire to actually follow the Savior; to love my neighbor, to be a peacemaker, and to build Zion."

Your statement above appears, from my perspective, to constitute a specimen of non sequitur, in that it seems to draw a logical connection between navigating "precarious middle ground" and a "heartfelt desire to actually follow the Savior, to love [one's] neighbor, to be a peacemaker, and to build Zion." All of these things are certainly commendable desires, but it seems to me that all can be just as easily pursued—and perhaps more optimally—from a more explicit posture of belief vis-à-vis the fundamental truth claims of the Restoration.

It also occurs to me that not all conflicts are amenable to the kind of peace-making you appear to be advocating. And, in any event, I am reminded of the sobering statement of the Savior himself:

"Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.

For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.

And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household."

The specific contexts under which this concept finds applicability are not explicitly stated, but it is clear that the Savior understood that his doctrine could be, in at least some respects, so divisive that it would "set a man at variance against" even members of his own family. So it is also, I am persuaded, when it comes to the doctrine of the Restoration as set forth by the Prophet Joseph Smith and his successors.

"Contention" may be of the devil, but it is clearly not his exclusive province. Even as it warns the Saints against the danger of those who would attempt to destroy the Church from within, the largely neglected Epistle of Jude exhorts its readers to:

"… earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints."

With these things in mind, then, I say that I love peace, and I commend the peacemaker. But neither can I neglect to recall from the Book of Mormon the numerous examples contained therein of how the peace of the Saints was destroyed by the systematic distortion of the doctrines of salvation by those who had chosen to see things through a "different lens" and then went about:

"… causing much dissension among the people …"

In your post from yesterday, you continue:

"I love … all those who ardently support the historicity of the scriptures (as do I). But I also genuinely love those who want to use a different lens to look [at] the Book of Mormon, who raise questions or offer interpretations that I had never considered. I may not always agree with their conclusions (and I typically don't), but I love that they are actually reading the book and taking the text seriously (even if they question its origins). Regardless of whether a scholar is out to prove the Book of Mormon true or not, the end result is that they are proving it interesting and worthy of study, and that, to me, is a worthwhile endeavor."

Fair enough. I, too, have made it a point in my life to read many of the things written about the Book of Mormon by people who "question its origins". But I do not believe any such things should be published under the auspices of Brigham Young University, and least of all by the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship.

Those who desire to advocate such interpretations of the Book of Mormon should band together and publish (via Signature Books or any other willing press, of which there are many) New Approaches to the Book of Mormon, Volume 2 (3, 4, 5, etc.).

In any case, understand this: those who are earnestly contending for the faith that was once delivered to the Saints by way of the Maxwell Institute are prompted to do so precisely because of the fact that its original mission has now been corrupted, and to the extent that your statement I have cited above is consistent with the guiding editorial philosophy of the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies and the Mormon Studies Review, then the Maxwell Institute has become unquestionably complicit in the act of:

"…stealing away the hearts of the people; causing much dissension among the people; giving a chance for the enemy of God to exercise his power over them."

It grieves me deeply that this is so, as it also grieves me to see so many of my fellow Saints so blindly bewitched by the sophistries that, as ever, issue forth from the "Scholars' Suite" of the Great and Spacious Building.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

I Lost the Words

I've just come to realize that over two years have passed since my last blog entry.

Funny how the time slips by so swiftly, and before we know it, we are surrounded by the stalking wolves of our own encroaching mortality.

At any rate, I suppose it should be confessed that this period of silence owes itself not only to the universal principle of tempus fugit, but also to a certain slothful malaise; a sort of demoralized disillusionment in which I have alternately wallowed wistfully and thrashed desperately.

Some call it "writer's block."  

Some lose hope and walk away.  

Some finally come to see they simply have nothing to say.

For me, it's been some of all these things, but be that as it may …

I have, over the course of the past three years, along with my wife, become somewhat inexplicably obsessed with the great Italian singer/songwriter Luciano Ligabue.  Indeed, this entirely unprecedented obsession has been such that, over the course of little more than a year, we've traveled twice to Italy to see him live in three packed stadium shows (in Verona, Rome, and Catania), and then, just a few weeks ago, on the occasion of his first ever performances in America, we made a long road trip from Cedar City to Los Angeles to San Francisco, and back, in order to see him in small clubs, where we were still the only "real Americans" in the crowd (virtually everyone else had either come from Italy specifically to see him in a small venue, or were Italians now living or working in America).

Anyway, that is the subject of a much longer story I hope someday to tell in all its fascinating detail.

For now, I merely want to share a single Ligabue song to mark the resumption of my blog posting career.  

It's called Ho Perso Le Parole.  (Link is to a live performance of the song.)  

Here are the lyrics, with my own English translation:

Ho Perso Le Parole
(I Lost the Words)
Luciano Ligabue
(Translation by William Schryver)

Original Italian
English Translation
Ho perso le parole
eppure ce le avevo qua un attimo fa
dovevo dire cose
cose che sai
che ti dovevo
che ti dovrei
Ho perso le parole
può darsi che abbia perso solo le mie bugie
si son nascoste bene
forse però, semplicemente, non eran mie

Credi
credici un po'
metti insieme un cuore e prova a sentire
e dopo, credi
credici un po' di più
di più davvero

Ho perso le parole
vorrei che ti bastasse solo quello che ho
io mi farò capire
anche da te
se ascolti bene, se ascolti un po'
Sei bella che fai male
sei bella che si balla solo come vuoi tu
non servono parole
so che lo sai
le mie parole non servon più


Credi
credici un po'
sei su radiofreccia
guardati in faccia
e dopo, credi
credici un po' di più
di più davvero

Ho perso le parole
oppure sono loro che perdono me
io so che dovrei dire
cose che sai
che ti dovevo
che ti dovrei
Ma ho perso le parole
vorrei che mi bastasse solo quello che ho
mi posso far capire
anche da te
se ascolti bene, se ascolti un po'

Credi
credici un po'
metti insieme un cuore e prova a sentire
e dopo, credi
credici un po' di più
di più davvero
Credi
credici un po'
sei su radiofreccia
guardati in faccia
e dopo, credi
credici un po' di più
di più davvero
I lost the words
Though I had them here a moment ago
I had things to say
Things you know
That I owed you
That I should
I lost the words
Could be I only lost my lies
They're hidden well
Perhaps they were simply never mine

Believe
Believe a little
Fashion a heart and try to feel
And afterwards, believe
Believe a little more
More truly

I lost the words
Would what I have were enough for you
I will make myself understood
Even by you
If you listen well, if you hear a little
You're beautiful when you hurt
You're beautiful when everything
Is dancing to your beat
Words mean nothing
I know you know
My words serve nothing anymore

Believe
Believe a little
You're on a big stage
Look yourself in the face
And afterwards, believe
Believe a little more
More truly

I lost the words
Or they lost me
I know I should say
Things you know
That I owed you
That I should
But I lost the words
Would what I have were enough for me
I can make myself understood
Even by you
If you listen well, if you hear a little

Believe
Believe a little
Fashion a heart and try to feel
And afterwards, believe
Believe a little more
More truly
Believe
Believe a little
You're on a big stage
Look yourself in the face
And afterwards, believe
Believe a little more
More truly


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Maybe the guy's a Republican ...

On the lighter side of things: this is one of my favorite scenes from Kelly's Heroes -- a 1970 film that, if the director had cut out at least 30 minutes of totally unnecessary fat, could have been a real classic rather than merely "pretty good."  Same director of Where Eagles Dare (155 minutes!) which was almost ruined by the same directorial idiocy.

Both Telly Savalas and Don Rickles were great in their day.