Thursday, April 10, 2014

Discovering A Great Mormon Author Of The Past, Part 1

One of the dangers of modern society is that we have been duped a bit by modern technology–that it will do the work for us. We don’t have to learn to read, concentrate, or study with all the grinding work because we can get what we want much quicker if we can watch it or hear somebody else tell us about it or read it to us. If we need information, the thinking goes, we can simply Google it. But that philosophy rests upon several erroneous assumptions. First, information may give us knowledge, but not necessarily understanding or wisdom–two forms of learning which are higher than knowing facts alone. It is much harder to Google for understanding and almost impossible to Google wisdom. Those things come at a greater price of time, desire, effort, dedication, and sweat.  It is a simple fact that not all the best things can be viewed on YouTube or be listened to from I-Tunes or in a TED talk or an audio book. Some of the best things richest in understanding and wisdom are the oldest, or at least older than this modern technology. They must be sought out and actually read, because they are not videotaped or recorded. Many may be found in the Internet Archive or the Gutenberg Project or Google Books and are floating around somewhere in the cloud. In this sense technology gives access to the understanding and wisdom of the ages, but one must still search them out and read and study them by one’s own effort.

The above tirade is a lead-in to something worth sharing. The older I grow the more I realize two things.  Because some of the greatest wisdom comes out of the past, I have to be more aggressive to identify authors and sources of such understanding and wisdom about things that are important to me, but also about things which I have never contemplated before. The second insight is that in our modern world which values the “sound bite” the slogan, and all things “new” there are few if any who are calling our attention to the wisdom of the past.  Sad to say that much of academia now not only ignore this accumulated knowledge and wisdom, but intentionally inveigh against it. Consequently, the thin gruel of modernism has replaced the deep richness given to us by thoughtful and inspired men and women in the past. The passing and forgetting of great minds and spirits of the ages comes at great loss to us individually and collectively. 

So, in one single Mormon example today (there may be more in the future), I am urging a reclamation and restoration of earlier thought. For some time I have developed a growing interest in one Latter-day Saint author who though dead less than 50 years seems all but forgotten. Yesterday while engaging in a favorite pastime of browsing in a used bookstore, I ran across several small volumes of his writings which I quickly snapped up to add to what I have already collected. His name is Richard L. Evans. He was a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was also the voice of the “Music and the Spoken Word” weekly broadcast of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Each week he gave a two-minute sermonette. These talks or parts of them were collected and published in small volumes.

As I have immersed myself in the writings of Elder Evans I have found him to be one of the great Mormon thinkers of the mid-Twentieth Century, and perhaps in the history of the Church all together. He was thoughtful, moderate, wise, and eloquent–a wonderful combination of skills to bring to this task of inspiring a radio audience weekly for decades.  He was a wordsmith par excellence.  So, I am making a plea, especially among young LDS readers to discover the writing of some of our great thinkers of the past, in this case of Richard L. Evans. He needs to be reclaimed and restored as one of Mormonism’s most thoughtful and eloquent spokesman. He will challenge, edify, and inspire you.  

Below I have reproduced several excerpts from his writings specifically about youth and aging that exemplify what I mean and which I hope you will be wise enough to ponder and implement you your life. (1)  I intend to.

Why The Wisdom Of Age May Rightfully Counsel The Ambition Of Youth

The equation of youth and age still plays its part, as it always has in the past.  To youth looking forward, life seems abundantly long for limitless achievement.  To age looking back, the life we know seems all too short for the realization of things hoped for, for the accomplishment of things desired.  And that is why the wisdom of age may rightfully counsel the ambition of youth. No one knows better than they who are nearing the end of the journey how precious are the moments that pass; how utterly lost are the wasted hours, how relentlessly beyond recall are those things which we sometimes do, which, being looked back upon, are a source of regret.  

Living Lives In And Out Of Season

The relentless passing of the seasons finds men quickly growing older. While age holds no remorse for those who have lived their lives in season, many of the disappointed men we see around us are they who have lived unseansoable lives. They have let spring pass by without using the season for its intended purpose, and then, realizing too late the error of neglect, they have tried to do spring’s work in summer, and summer’s work in autumn, and winter has found them with no harvest. By youth, may it be remembered that there are none so hopelessly handicapped as they who have let pass by the time of preparation, and who go forth to live their lives out of season.

The Realization That The World Is No Longer Waiting For You To Prepare

May we say a word to youth?  In every life there comes an awakening, and with it the fading of many dreams. There comes a day when we realize that the world is no longer waiting for us to prepare for life. It is waiting for us to live it–to face its realities, to solve its problems, to improve its conditions, and to do for the next generation what has been done for us.  So comes the awakening that forces us to face realities, and most happy is he who faces them with full purpose. The job is not easy! Who but a weakling would wish that it were? The problems have not all been solved! Who but a dullard would want them to be? The future is unpredictable!  Read your histories! When wasn’t it? The world is so greatly changing! Be thankful for that, so long as principles and ideals and ultimate destination do not change. And so we envy rather than pity youth, for theirs is the future and all that belongs thereto.

Nobody Has Ever Brought Forth A Substitute For A Good Home

But you moderns–with all your creative ingenuity–have never brought forth a substitute for a good home or a virtuous mother.  So long as children are taught truth and honor and reverence by the family fireside, this world we know and love, despite its weaknesses, is safe.  But take from us the integrity of home and none there is who would care to say toward what end our ways would lead. 
In the future I will provide more examples on other topics because this man is so important to me and I hope he will become important to you too.

Lets think together again, soon.

1. All of the quotations are from, Richard L. Evans, Unto The Hills, (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1940), pp. 105-108.


  1. I enjoyed this post. There is so much information and literature available in the world so it is important to "seek...out of the best books words of wisdom" (D&C 88:118) and not fill our time with things that are only in the good and better categories.

    I haven't read anything from Richard L. Evans but I will now put him on my reading list. Thanks!

    1. Much of my intellectual life and time has been expended in seeking out the "best books." I have discovered them to be extremely rare. I classify books as "As", "Bs", and "Cs". One could add, I suppose, Ds and Fs, but for me the As feed the mind and spirit, the Bs feed the mind. There are lots of Bs but only a few As. The hunt has been interesting and challenging, but on occasion disappointing. And as I mention above, much of the best stuff is old and obscure. Outside of the scriptures, I would probably be challenged to come up with more than a dozen or two in the A category.- Shakespeare, Alfred Edersheim's Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, and Hugo's Le Miserables would top my list. I'd have to think on it some as to where to go beyond those.