Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Five Fundamental Principles of Successful Living

As a young man I was captivated by James Allen’s classic little work As A Man Thinketh. I have read it several times since.  Its importance only grows for me. It was produced in 1903. Allen,  a British philosopher who lived from 1864 to 1912,  was a pioneer in today’s popular inspiration and self-help movement.  He also wrote many other things in this genre, all of which are now in the public domain. Recently I read a short essay titled “Right Principles” which I am reproducing for you below.  Allen argues that life, like the ten-based numbering system or the twenty-six letter alphabet from which millions of books have been produced, is built upon simple and fundamental “principles.” Here he discusses briefly the five most fundamental: Duty, Honesty, Economy, Liberality, and Self-Control–the most important of the lot according to Allen. As always, I am interested in your reactions to this very practical philosophy of life.


James Allen
It is wise to know what comes first, and what to do first. To begin anything in the middle or at the end is to make a muddle of it. The athlete who began by breaking the tape would not receive the prize. He must begin by facing the starter and toeing the mark, and even then a good start is important if he is to win. The pupil does not begin with algebra and literature, but with counting and ABC. So in life, the businessmen who begin at the bottom achieve the more enduring success; and the religious men who reach the highest heights of spiritual knowledge and wisdom are they who have stooped to serve a patient apprenticeship to the humbler tasks, and have not scorned the common experiences of humanity, or overlooked the lessons to be learned from them.
The first things in a sound life, and therefore, in a truly happy and successful life, are right principles. Without right principles to begin with, there will be wrong practices to follow with, and a bungled and wretched life to end with. All the infinite variety of calculations which tabulate the commerce and science of the world, come out of the ten figures; all the hundreds of thousands of books which constitute the literature of the world, and perpetuate its thought and genius, are built up from the twenty-six letters. The greatest astronomer cannot ignore the ten simple figures. The profoundest man of genius cannot dispense with the twenty-six simple characters. The fundamentals in all things are few and simple: yet without them there is no knowledge and no achievement. The fundamentals—the basic principles—in life, or true living, are also few and simple, and to learn them thoroughly, and study how to apply them to all the details of life, is to avoid confusion, and to secure a substantial foundation for the orderly building up of an invincible character and a permanent success; and to succeed in comprehending those principles in their innumerable ramifications in the labyrinth of conduct, is to become a Master of Life.
The first principles in life are principles of conduct. To name them is easy. As mere words they are on all men's lips, but as fixed sources of action, admitting of no compromise, few have learned them. In this short talk I will deal with five only of these principles. These five are among the simplest of the root principles of life, but they are those that come nearest to the everyday life, for they touch the artisan the businessman, the householder, the citizen at every point. Not one of them can be dispensed with but at severe cost, and he who perfects himself in their application will rise superior to many of the troubles and failures of life, and will come into these springs and currents of thought which flow harmoniously towards the regions of enduring success. The first of these principles is:
Duty — A much-hackneyed word, I know, but it contains a rare jewel for him who will seek it by assiduous application. The principle of duty means strict adherence to one's own business and just as strict non-interference in the business of others. The man, who is continually instructing others, gratis, how to manage their affairs, is the one who most mismanages his own. Duty also means undivided attention to the matter in hand, intelligent concentration of the mind on the work to be done; it includes all that is meant by thoroughness, exactness, and efficiency. The details of duties differ with individuals, and each man should know his own duty better then he knows his neighbor’s, and better than his neighbor knows his; but although the working details differ, the principle is always the same. Who has mastered the demands of duty?
Honesty is the next principle. It means not cheating or overcharging another. It involves the absence of all trickery, lying, and deception by word, look, or gesture. It includes sincerity, the saying what you mean, and the meaning what you say. It scorns cringing policy and shining compliment. It builds up good reputations, and good reputations build up good businesses, and bright joy accompanies well-earned success. Who has scaled the heights of Honesty?
Economy is the third principle. The conservation of one's financial resources is merely the vestibule leading towards the more spacious chambers of true economy. It means, as well, the husbanding of one's physical vitality and mental resources. It demands the conservation of energy by the avoidance of enervating self-indulgences and sensual habits. It holds for its follower strength, endurance, vigilance, and capacity to achieve. It bestows great power on him who learns it well. Who has realized the supreme strength of Economy?
Liberality follows economy. It is not opposed to it. Only the man of economy can afford to be generous. The spendthrift, whether in money, vitality, or mental energy, wasted so much on his own miserable pleasures as to have none left to bestow upon others. The giving of money is the smallest part of liberality. There is a giving of thoughts, and deeds, and sympathy, the bestowing of goodwill, the being generous towards calumniators and opponents. It is a principle that begets a noble, far-reaching influence. It brings loving friends and staunch comrades, and is the foe of loneliness and despair. Who has measured the breadth of Liberality?
Self-Control is the last of these five principles, yet the most important. Its neglect is the cause of vast misery, innumerable failures, and tens of thousands of financial, physical, and mental wrecks. Show me the businessman who loses his temper with a customer over some trivial matter, and I will show you a man who, by that condition of mind, is doomed to failure. If all men practiced even the initial stages of self-control, anger, with its consuming and destroying fire, would be unknown. The lessons of patience, purity, gentleness, kindness, and steadfastness, which are contained in the principle of self-control, are slowly learned by men, yet until they are truly learned a man's character and success are uncertain and insecure. Where is the man who has perfected himself in Self-Control? Where he may be, he is a master indeed.
The five principles are five practices, five avenues to achievement, and five source of knowledge. It is an old saying and a good rule that “Practice makes perfect,” and he who would make his own the wisdom which is inherent in those principles, must not merely have them on his lips, they must be established in his heart. To know them and receive what they alone can bring, he must do them, and give them out in his actions.

Let's think together again, soon.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Purpose Is the Key to Happiness

 Here is a news report of a speech given at BYU recently by one of their "favored" Catholics, Arthur C. Brooks.  He shared some great philosophy with them. I hope you enjoy it.  Click here:  Purpose Is the Key to Happiness

Monday, September 14, 2015

A Brief Account of Young Michael Faraday’s Successful Quest for Education

[I was greatly impressed with the following story of young Michael Faraday’s successful quest for an education. As a boy Faraday was an apprentice in a book binding shop and allowed to read the books he was working on in his off hours.]
One evening he read an encyclopedia passage on the most recent discoveries of electricity, and he suddenly felt as if he had found his calling in life. ... Somehow, he would transform himself into a scientist. 
This was not a realistic goal on his part and he knew it. In England at the time, access to laboratories and to science as a career was only open to those with a university education, which meant those from the upper classes. How could a bookbinder’s apprentice even dream of overcoming such odds? Even if he had the energy and desire to attempt it, he had no teachers, no guidance, no structure or method to his studies. Then in 1809 a book came into the shop that finally gave him some hope. It was called Improvement of the Mind– a self-help guide written by Reverend Isaac Watts, first published in 1741. The book revealed a system of learning and improving your lot in life, no matter your social class. It prescribed courses of action that anyone could follow, and it promised results. Faraday read it over and over, carrying it with him wherever he went.
He followed the book’s advice to the letter. For Watts, learning had to be an active process.  He recommended not just reading about scientific discoveries, but actually re-creating the experiments that led to them. And so, with Riebau’s blessing, Faraday began a series of basic experiments in electricity and chemistry in the back room of the shop. Watts advocated the importance of having teachers and not just learning from books. Faraday dutifully began to attend the numerous lecturers on science that were popular in London at the time.  Watts advocated not just listening to lectures but taking detailed notes, then reworking the notes themselves–all of this imprinting the knowledge deeper in the brain.  Faraday would take this even further
Attending the lecturers of the popular scientist John Tatum, each week on a different subject, he would note down the most important words and concepts, quickly sketch out the various instruments Tatum used, and diagram the experiments. Over the next few days he would expand the notes into sentences, and then into an entire chapter on the subject, elaborately sketched and narrated. In the course of a year this added up to a thick scientific encyclopedia he had created on his own. His knowledge of science had grown by leaps and bounds, and had assumed a kind of organizational shape modeled on his notes.(1)
Let’s think together again, soon.


1.  Robert Greene, Mastery (New York: Penguin Books, 2012), pp. 96-97.  Watts's book is available for download at the Internet Archive and is available in a number of reprints at abebooks.com.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Why I Believe: Evidence Forty-one: The Withdrawal of the Spirit of the Lord from the World

101 Reasons Why I Believe Joseph Smith Was A Prophet

Evidence Forty-one: 
The Withdrawal of the Spirit of the Lord from the World© 

Accurate and fulfilled prophecies are evidences for the presence of the gift of prophecy.  Many such evidences exist showing that Joseph Smith enjoyed this gift. Today’s blog selects one very interesting and important example.  Late in August of 1831 the Lord told Joseph, “I, the Lord, am angry with the wicked; I am holding my Spirit from the inhabitants of the earth.”(1) Eighteen months later, on 4 January 1833, the Prophet wrote a letter to a newspaper editor in which he referred to this revelation and briefly cited some evidence for its fulfillment. He wrote, 
The Lord declared to His servants, some eighteen months since, that he was then withdrawing His Spirit from the earth; and we can see that such is the fact, for not only the churches are dwindling away, but there are no conversions, or but very few: and this is not all, the governments of the earth are thrown into confusion and division; and Destruction, to the eye of the spiritual beholder, seems to be written by the finger of an invisible hand, in large capitals, upon almost every thing we behold.”(2)
Recently I encountered another powerful example of the spirit of prophecy which gives further insight into this phenomenon. This statement, by Elder Charles W. Penrose in 1859, explains one reason for the withdrawal of the Lord’s Spirit and gives an expanded list of effects. Read it and see if you don’t agree that it was almost as if he was describing what this world has been experiencing the past 30 to 50 years, much of it very recently.
On the other hand, through the rejection of this Gospel, which “shall be preached to all the world as a witness” of the coming of Christ, the world will increase in confusion, doubt, and horrible strife. As the upright in heart, the meek of the earth, withdraw from their midst, so will the Spirit of God also be withdrawn from them. The darkness upon their minds in relation to eternal things will become blacker, nations will engage in frightful and bloody warfare, the crimes which are now becoming so frequent will be of continual occurrence, the ties that bind together families and kindred will be disregarded and violated, the passions of human nature will be put to the vilest uses, the very elements around will seem to be affected by the national and social convulsions that will agitate the world, and storms, earthquakes, and appalling disasters by sea and land will cause terror and dismay among the people; new diseases will silently eat their ghastly way through the ranks of the wicked; the earth, soaked with gore and defiled with the filthiness of her inhabitants, will begin to withhold her fruits in their season; the waves of the sea will heave themselves beyond their bounds, and all things will be in commotion; and in the midst of all these calamities, the master-minds among nations will be taken away, and fear will take hold of the hearts of all men.(3) 
The obvious relevance which these statements have to events which most of us have witnessed, suggest to me that Joseph Smith and Charles Penrose were actuated by the same spirit of prophecy when they spoke of the withdrawal of the Lord’s Spirit from the earth. To be warned by prophecy is to be exhorted to repentance and preparation and to be edified and comforted.(4)

Thank God for the spirit of prophecy.  Thank God for the Prophet Joseph Smith!

Let’s think together again, soon.


1.  D&C 63:32 (32-33), emphasis added.  

2.  Joseph Smith, in Joseph Fielding Smith, comp., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1967), p. 16, emphasis in the original.

3.  Charles W. Penrose, “The Second Advent,” Millennial Star 21, no. 37 (10 September 1859), p. 582, emphasis added. Compare 1 Ne. 7:14 where the withdrawal is associated with rejecting the prophets, and Hel. 13: 14, 24, 26, 33.  One important result of the withdrawal of the Spirit as noted by Elder Penrose is "frightful and bloody warfare."  This is born out in the chronicle of the demise of the Nephite civilization found in the early chapters of the book of Mormon, where near the end Mormon acknowledges that "the strength of the Lord was not with us; yea, we were left to ourselves, that the Spirit of the Lord did not abide in us...."  Mormon 2:26.  Thus it is that "by the wicked that the wicked are punished." Mormon 4:5.   He also reflected upon the state of the Lamanites and their descendants.  "For behold, the Spirit of the Lord hath already ceased to strive with their fathers; and they are without Christ and God in the world; and they are driven about as chaff before the wind."  Mormon 5:16.  Interestingly, Penrose's prediction preceded by several years the outbreak of modern conflict which we know as the Civil War, the bloodiest in America's history even to this day; two World Wars to follow that, and innumerable conflicts along the way.

4.   1 Cor. 14:3, 31.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

God’s Method of Revealing Himself to Mankind is Simple so All Men May Know Him©

I inherited a small book from my grandfather Bachman, which over the years I have felt numerous promptings to read, but have not followed. This morning I finally picked it up. It was apparently a gift to him from someone, perhaps a missionary companion, from where he served for three months in the Swiss-German mission.  He was there from 1909 to 1912, and the inscription is dated 3 June 1912. The book? Ah, it is The Pocket Ruskin. According to Wikipedia  “John Ruskin was the leading English art critic of the Victorian era, also an art patron, draughtsman, watercolourist, a prominent social thinker and philanthropist.” As a collector of great quotations I have encountered his name frequently, so I have been curious about him for a long time.  

I did not start at the beginning. I turned toward the back to the section on “Man and His God.” The very first article taught me something important about Ruskin. I found him to be not only a deep and clear thinker, but also a religiously inclined man. I want to reproduce for you an excerpt about how God reveals himself to mankind which I think will touch you as it did me. The quotation is preceded by an explanation that mankind may be misled by misinterpreting some scripture which would lead one to believe God is so transcendent and removed that we end up with the “dim and distant suspicion of an inactive God, inhabiting inconceivable places, and fading into the multitudinous formalisms of the laws of Nature.” If I read him correctly, this misconception leads to looking upon God as little more than Nature and her laws–the Deistic deity who wound up the Universe and without any interest in mankind, lets it run down. Ruskin has something important to say in reference to this erroneous view. He would teach us that God, transcendent as he is, nevertheless, has made it possible for all his children to know of him.
All errors of this kind–and in the present day we are in constant and grievous danger of falling into them–arise from the originally mistaken idea that man can, ‘by searching, find out God–find out the Almighty to perfection’; that is to say, by help of courses of reasoning and accumulation of science, apprehend the nature of the Deity in a more exalted and more accurate manner than in a state of comparative ignorance; whereas it is clearly necessary, from the beginning to the end of time, that God’s way of revealing Himself to His creatures should be a simple way, which all those creatures may understand. Whether taught or untaught, whether of mean capacity or enlarged, it is necessary that the communion with their Creator should be possible to all; and the admission to such communion must be rested, not on their having a knowledge of astronomy, but on their having a human soul. In order to render this communion possible, the Deity has stooped from His throne, and has not only, in the person of the Son, taken upon Him the veil of our human flesh, but, in the person of the Father, taken upon Him the veil of our human thoughts, and permitted us, by His own spoken authority, to conceive Him simply and clearly as a loving Father and Friend; a being to be walked with and reasoned with; to be moved by our entreaties, angered by our rebellion, alienated by our coldness, pleased by our love, and glorified by our labour; and, finally, to be beheld in immediate and active presence in all the powers and changes of creation. This conception of God, which is in the child’s, is evidently the only one which can be universal, and therefore the only one which for us can be true. The moment that, in our pride of heart, we refuse to accept the condescension of the Almighty, and desire Him, instead of stooping to hold our hands, to rise up before us into His glory–we hoping that by standing on a grain of dust or two of human knowledge higher than our fellows, we may behold the Creator as He rises–God takes us at our word; He rises, into His own invisible and inconceivable majesty; He goes forth upon the ways which are not our ways, and retires into the thoughts which are not our thoughts; and we are left alone. And presently we say in our vain hearts ‘There is no God’.
Let's think together again, soon.

Source:  John Ruskin, in Rose Gardner, ed., The Pocket Ruskin, (London: George Routledge & Sons, n.d.), pp. 278-279, emphasis in the original.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

An Open Letter to My Grandchildren©

Dear Ones,

It has been my habit the past two years to write you an open letter of advice.  This year’s letter is very short, but it is also very, very important.  It consists of one quotation.  It is from the father of our country, George Washington, who was a very wise man.  He was writing to a young person like you. I urge you to think and pray about what he said and try to live up to it in your life, because it is even more true today than it was when he said it many years ago. He is trying to help you understand how you live as a young person will influence your entire life.
Good moral character is the first essential in a man [and woman], and that the habits contracted at your age are generally indelible, and your conduct here may stamp your character through life.  It is therefore highly important that you should endeavor not only to be learned but virtuous.(1)
I love you,

Grandpa Bachman

Vocabulary helps:

moral = living by principles of right and wrong

character = traits of your personality

essential = something necessary, vital or required

contracted = developed, made, acquired

indelible = something that lasts or is permanent, that does not fade

stamp = impress, alter, change, effect

endeavor = work, try, 

learned = become knowledgeable

virtuous = live a good moral life 


1.  George Washington, in Gordon Leidner, ed., The Founding Fathers: Quotes, Quips, and Speeches (Naperville, IL: Cumberland House, 2013), p. 88.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The High Importance of the Example of Every Person

In a previous post I have mentioned the wonderful discovery of Swiss philosopher Henri-Frederic Amiel. Here are some of his musings about the importance of the example of every person which reminds me very much of things President David O. McKay used to say. I thought readers of this blog would find it thought provoking.
Every life is a profession of faith, and exercises an inevitable and silent propaganda. As far as lies in its power, it tends to transform the universe and humanity into its own image. Thus we have all a cure of souls. Every man is the center of perpetual radiation like a luminous body; he is, as it were, a beacon which entices a ship upon the rocks if it does not guide it into port. Every man is a priest, even involuntarily; his conduct is an unspoken sermon, which is forever preaching to others; but there are priests of Baal, of Moloch, and of all the false gods. Such is the high importance of example. Thence comes the terrible responsibility which weighs upon us all. An evil example is a spiritual poison: it is the proclamation of a sacrilegious faith, of an impure God. Sin would be only an evil for him who commits it, were it not a crime toward the weak brethren, whom it corrupts. Therefore, it has been said: “It were better for a man not to have been born than to offend one of these little ones.(1)
Let's think together again, soon.


1.  Henri-Frederic Amiel, The Journal Intime of Henri-Frederic Amiel, trans., Mrs. Humphrey Ward, Project Gutenberg online version, under date of 2 May 1852, pp. 51-52.