Thursday, October 30, 2014

Loving The English Language

Today I just finished a large tome of Ogden Nash’s (ehem) ... poetry.  Many of today’s generation do not know of Nash, his poetry or his humor.  So, for all those out there who love words, but often bump up against the strangeness of English grammar, here is my small attempt to rehabilitate Ogden Nash to Generations X, Y, and Z, and to lighten your day with a tidbit of humor. 


English is a language than which none is sublimer,
But it presents certain difficulties for the rhymer.
There are no rhymes for orange or silver
Unless liberties you pilfer.
I was once slapped by a young lady named Miss Coringe,
And the only reason I was looking at her that way,
she represented a rhyme for orange.
I suggest that some painter do a tormented mural
On the perversity of the English plural,
Because perhaps the rhymer’s greatest distress
Is caused by the letter s.
Oh, what a tangled web the early grammarians spun!
The singular verb has an s and the singular noun has none.
The rhymer notes this fact and ponders without success on it,
And moves on to find that his plural verb has dropped the s and
his plural noun has grown an s on it.
Many a budding poet has abandoned his career
Unable to overcome this problem: that while the ear hears, the ears hear.
Yet he might have had the most splendiferous of careers
If only the s’s came out even and he could tell us what his ears hears.
However, I am happy to say that out from the bottom of this
Pandora’s box there flew a butterfly, not a moth,
The darling, four-letter word d-o-t-h, which is pronounced duth,
although here we pronounce it doth.
Pronounce?  Let jubilant rhymers pronounce it loud and clear,
Because when they can’t sing that their ear hear they can
legitimately sing that their ear doth hear.(1)

Lets think  together again, soon.


1.     Ogden Nash, Selected Poetry of Ogden Nash: 650 Rhymes, Verses, Lyrics, and Poems (New York: Black Dog & Leventhal, 1995), p. 681.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Why I Believe: Evidence Nineteen: Explaining the Existence of Isaiah in the Book of Mormon

101 Reasons Why I Believe Joseph Smith Was A Prophet

Evidence Nineteen:  
Explaining the Existence of Isaiah in the Book of Mormon©

In our ward I teach the Old Testament in Gospel Doctrine with two other teachers.  Today I taught the fourth of five lessons this year on the book of Isaiah.  It was on chapters 50-53, the last of which is the greatest of all Old Testament prophecies about the Savior’s atoning sacrifice.  The teacher’s manual referred teachers to the Book of Mormon story in Mosiah 14-15 where the great prophet Abinadi is brought before king Noah and his merry old priests.   In the course of Abinadi’s hearing one of the priests asked Abinadi the meaning of Isaiah 52:7-10.  After some explanation, including a recital of the entire 53rd chapter of Isaiah, Abinadi answered the question.

While contemplating that episode an important thought struck me, which I believe is a subtle evidence that Joseph Smith was a prophet.  What I am about to relate, I believe almost every active Latter-day Saint has encountered at some time in the Church.  This will be familiar.

Nearly everyone in the Church knows that understanding Isaiah is quite difficult.  In fact, during the three previous Sunday lessons at least a part of each instructor’s discussion was given over to a consideration of this difficulty.  Everyone also knows about several injunctions found in the scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon, to study Isaiah because of his great importance.  Most knowledgeable Mormons also know that significant portions of the book of Isaiah are quoted within the Book of Mormon, much like the story about Abinadi referred to above.  A large section of 2 Nephi–chapters 7-8,12-24, which are entirely quotations from Isaiah–sometimes prove to be a roadblock for young readers and new converts in reading the Book  of Mormon.  It was so for me at age seventeen when I first read the book.  In my ward, which is an extremely active, committed and interested ward, the people are well educated and prosperous for the most part.  We have lots of experienced and seasoned people.  Among the men we have a large room full of as many as seventy-five High Priests, many former bishops (quite a few serving as bishops of student and YSA wards), a number who have served as stake president or in a stake presidency, and at least four former mission presidents.  Many of the women have similar experience.  Yet, it is these people who are discussing the difficulty of reading and understanding Isaiah.  

So here is my point.  When the Book of Mormon came off the press in March of 1830, Joseph Smith was not yet twenty-five years old!  He received the plates when he was twenty-one and worked with them for those years, with some significant setbacks as we all know, to produce the book in the spring of that fateful year.  Let me ask you a question.  If you were going to make up a religious history of the early peoples of America with the centerpiece of the story being a visit of the resurrected Christ to them, would you have woven into the narrative repeated and significant references to and quotations from the prophet Isaiah?  How  much could Joseph Smith have known about Isaiah at his age?  Given its difficulty, would not the better part of wisdom suggest to leave it alone–to leave it out?  How much did you know about Isaiah and what he meant when you were twenty-four years old?  Most would say, even those who have been through four years of high school seminary and four years of college institute courses, not much!  Could it have been much different for young Joseph Smith?

It seems to me that given this background the options to explain the presence of the prevalence of Isaiah in the Book of Mormon are not numerous. With the aid of our critics here are the ones that come to mind:
1. Joseph Smith in his ignorant naivete was extremely audacious, over-confident, and foolhardy.  He rushed in where angels fear to tread.
2. He was extremely creative, if not a religious genius, despite his lack of education, so he knew if he was to make his book credible he must include the difficult as well as the easy.  Nevertheless, he was an impostor guilty of transparent plagiarism.
3. He was not the author of the Book of Mormon, but its translator from ancient plates, by the gift and power of God. 
The presence of the difficult writings of Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, with commentary and explanation which demonstrates not only comprehension but deep understanding of the work, is to me another important evidence of the prophetic status of Joseph Smith. 

Thank God for him!

Lets think together again, soon.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Why I Believe: Evidence Eighteen: Joseph Smith And The Free Mind

101 Reasons Why I Believe Joseph Smith Was A Prophet

Evidence Eighteen: 
Joseph Smith And The Free Mind© 
(Updated 26 November 2014)

A week ago I added the article “The Free Mind” to this blog. It contained a couple of quotations from Thomas Jefferson on the subject. Today I want to match that with similar statements by the Prophet Joseph Smith, which bracket his ministry, and which to me are evidence of his inspiration from Heaven and that he was on Heaven’s errand.

In January of 1834, the First Presidency wrote an epistle to their “brethren abroad”–those scattered from their homes in Missouri.(1) The document concerned the “vast importance and responsibility” of their callings as workers in the Lord’s vineyard. Some were misled, they wrote, to believe that in their own time righteousness was increasing and that the “dark ages of superstition and blindness have passed,” a time when only a few knew of Christ and “when ecclesiastic power had an almost universal control over Christendom, and the consciences of men were bound by the strong chains of priestly power....” In other words the dark ages were over. The brethren, however, took issue with this and invited the Church to reflect on whether the principles of the "modern systems" (governmental and religious), their motives and purposes were “the order of heaven or not.”  In this context the First Presidency utter one of the earliest statements regarding matters of religious freedom and conscience in the Church. It has, in effect, been the manifesto of the Church on the subject since then. They wrote:
We deem it a just principle, and it is one the force of which we believe ought to be duly considered by every individual, that all men are created equal, and that all have the privilege of thinking for themselves upon all matters relative to conscience. Consequently, then we are not disposed, had we the power, to deprive any one from exercising that free independence of mind which heaven has so graciously bestowed upon the human family as one of its choicest gifts.... (2)
The declaration that they were not disposed to deprive anyone from exercising this choicest of gifts is not to be taken lightly either by Church members or by opponents of the Church.  Joseph Smith rejoiced exceedingly in the freedom of conscience. As we shall see, he held it dear all his life. On one occasion he spoke of how good it felt not to be “trammelled” by the creeds and traditions which bound so many in the Christian world.(3) It is ludicrous, therefore, to think that he would seek to bind or coerce the mind of any man regarding his religious beliefs. This “free agency” has been one of the hallmark tenets of Mormonism from the very beginning. But as I say, it is not to be taken lightly because with that freedom comes accountability for one's exercise of that agency intellectually, spiritually, and in daily living. If it is one of heaven’s choicest gifts, it also carries with it one of heaven’s heaviest responsibilities.

Joseph expressed similar sentiments almost two years later during the midst of a very important event in his life.  In mid-December of 1835, he had a serious argument and physical altercation with his younger brother William.  William was conducting a school to teach debate and one evening Joseph attended with, he said, much support and high expectations in his heart. During the course of the debate Joseph felt that William unnecessarily gave offense to fellow apostle William E. McLellin, so he spoke up.  This enraged William; an argument and a scuffle ensued. During that argument William forbade Joseph to speak in his house. Days later William wrote a letter of confession and asking forgiveness of the Prophet.  Joseph accepted his confession and granted forgiveness, but said his duty was to correct error and unrighteousness and he would continue to do so. He concluded with this remarkable and powerful statement:
And if at any time you should consider me to be an imposter [sic], for heaven’s sake leave me in the hands of God, and not think to take vengeance on me yourself. Tyranny, usurpation, and to take men’s rights, ever has been and ever shall be banished from my heart.(4)
Joseph was committed to his duty, even among his family.  If fulfilling it should lead William to conclude he was an impostor, Joseph could live with that possibility, but he also ask William to abide by a higher principle that he (Joseph) cherished and lived by. That was, that he allow Joseph his "rights" and not take vengeance like a tyrant, something his opponents were not always willing to allow him.  The rights and freedoms which, by principle, he granted to others he wished for himself; but it was not to be as we would learn on a sultry June day in Carthage, Illinois.

Most of a decade later Joseph addressed the Saints at a meeting in the “Grove” near the Nauvoo Temple then under construction.  In that sermon he once again voiced the principle:
The inquiry is frequently made of me, “Wherein do you differ from others in your religious views?” In reality and essence we do not differ so far in our religious views, but that we could all drink into one principle of love. One of the grand fundamental principles of “Mormonism” is to receive truth, let it come from whence it may.
We believe in the Great Eloheim who sites enthroned in yonder heavens.  So do the Presbyterians. If a skillful mechanic, in taking a welding heat, uses borax, alum, etc., and succeeds in welding together iron or steel more perfectly than any other mechanic, is he not deserving of praise?  And if by the principles of truth I succeed in uniting men of all denominations in the bonds of love, shall I not have attained a good object?
If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No. I will left them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way. Do you believe in Jesus Christ and the Gospel of salvation which He revealed?  So do I. Christians should cease wrangling and contending with each other and cultivate the principles of union and friendship in their midst....(5)
Would to God that confidence that “truth will cut its own way” was a major tenet of American life and of her institutions, especially her churches, schools, and political institutions. We do not need thought police, anti-Mormon abuse bordering on persecution especially from self-righteous and contentious religious zealots, threats from radical Islamists, political correctness, hyper-sensitivity regarding thought and speech, and free speech zones on college campuses--imagine the hypocrisy of that--and many other ways thought is conscripted in our beloved country.

Thank God for Joseph Smith.  We need more like him.  The world needs more like him.  

Lets think together again, soon.


1. See the note of B.H. Roberts, in HC 2:4.  

2. “The Elders of the Church in Kirtland, to Their Brethren Abroad,” Evening and Morning Star 2, no. 17 (February 1834): 135.  See also, HC 2:6-7; TPJS, 49, emphasis added.

3. HC 5:340.

4.  HC 2:343, emphasis added.

5. Joseph Smith, sermon of 9 July 1843,  HC 5:499, emphasis added.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Free Mind

Here is an item from Thomas Jefferson which invites contemplation on the part of radical Islamists who issue Fatwas for the death of those who criticize their prophet or their religion or force conversion on others. It also applies to those who would impose “political correctness” in thought, speech and action; to academicians who set themselves up as thought police; or anyone who would otherwise seek in all its variations to impose conformity of thought and expression on others.
Almighty God hath created the mind free, and manifested his supreme will that free it shall remain by making it altogether unsusceptible of restraint; that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments, or burthens, or by civil incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meaneness, and are a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, who being lord (sic) both of body and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his Almighty power to do, but to extend it by the influence of reason alone.(1)
He also famously said, "I have sworn upon the altar of god eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind  of man.(2)

We need more like him.  The world needs more like him.  Thank God for Thomas Jefferson!

Lets think together again, soon.

1. Thomas Jefferson, “A Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom,” 1777, cited in James H. Huston, ed., The Founders on Religion: A Book of Quotations, (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005), pp. 135-136.

2.  Ibid, p. 136.