Thursday, August 11, 2016

An Ancient and Inspired but Unknown Guide to Parents for Educating Children©

Continuing to Reap Success* 11 August 2016
"An Ancient and Inspired but Unknown Guide to Parents for Education Children"


We all learn “line upon line and precept upon precept.” Some of the brighter among us learn paragraph upon paragraph and the really keen like Joseph Smith learn page upon page and chapter upon chapter.  The Savior I imagine, learned book upon book. The less keen may learn word by word. I seem to fall into this category all too often.  Today’s blog is an example.  

In my morning reading I came across what I consider an amazing set of ideas, the knowing of which some fifty years ago, would I believe, have made a significant difference in my activities as a father. Today, I learned that the Biblical book of Proverbs is something of a handbook to guide parents in training children!(1) Ho, ho, ho, wouldn’t that have helped if had I known and understood that as a young parent? Unfortunately I am learning it too late to benefit my own children and I’m also learning it too late to help them help many of their children–some of whom are now in middle adolescence and early adulthood.

So I am sharing this for my younger friends, most probably those who served in the California Roseville Mission when I presided there. They are in their early and mid-thirties and in the thick of raising young families.  I hope this may be of some benefit to those who are wise enough to give this information the consideration it merits. And, if there are a few others out there–parents and grandparents who can pass it along to young people who may take their advice seriously, so much the better. There may even be some young people whom I do not know that are frequenting this blog.  Maybe it will help them as well.

I am reading an article about “Marriage and Family in Ancient Israel,” and the following excerpts are from a section about the status of children in the Israelite home. The author Daniel I. Block, begins the discussion by pointing out that the book of Proverbs is a handbook for parents. He next turns to a discussion of the disposition of the book of Proverbs toward youth by an analysis of the terms the book uses to describe them.This section may make some readers uncomfortable because it portrays youth in fairly negative terms.This seems like a contradiction to our notion that youth do not reach accountability until age eight, and that they are basically good. But, if the reader will not over react, I think he/she will see that the descriptions fit many of the situations parents encounter in raising children.  In other words, the book of Proverbs is taking a realistic and practical view of the condition of children rather than perhaps a theological view of them. Here is the first assessment:

How Proverbs Characterizes Children
Cast as a manual for the instruction of a young man, the book of Proverbs offers a clear window into the ancient Israelite disposition toward youth. It is especially instructive to note the specific words used to refer to and characterize the person addressed. (1) Ben is an expression capable of a wide range of meanings, one of which was equivalent to “student,” under the tutelage of a “teacher,” referred to as his ab, “father.” In Proverbs the word denotes a young man dependent on and accountable to mother and father. (2) Na’ar is a late adolescent in need of training as he prepares for adulthood. (3) Peti (plural petauim / peta yim), is from a root pata, “to be simple, open (minded),” hence a simpleton, a gullible person, one easily seduced or taken in by ideas of any kind, whose mind is untrained to discern truth from falsehood, hence in need of guidance. (4) lis/les is a fundamentally flawed scoffer, mocker, who arrogantly displays his corruption by holding wisdom and instruction in derision and is in need of humbling. (5) Kesil is a shameless, stupid and insolent person, disinterested in wisdom and incorrigible in his ways. (6) Haser leb is a mindless and heartless person, one who lacks sense and needs discipline. (7) Ewil is an idiot, a morally stupid and thick-brained person, virtually indistinguishable from the kesil.  Both are characterized by ‘iwellet, “moral corruption, folly,” and both respond to discipline and correction with contempt. (8) Siklut/sakal means stupidity/ and obtuse and stupid person, without any necessary moral connotations.(2)
The solution: Effective Parents

Importantly, though Proverbs sees the flaws in youth, it provides for a solution through learning–education. Notice the number of Hebrew words that are found in Proverbs related to teaching children. The emphasis is on parents teaching and training children, preparing them for a life as a responsible adult and even for roles of leadership. Many would agree I’m sure, that this is not happening as well as it should in our schools.  Proverbs emphasizes teaching youth wisdom, self-discipline, understanding, prudence, discretion, perception, insight, and listening.
This vocabulary and the manner in which the words are used demonstrate that from an intellectual, moral and spiritual standpoint, Israelites believed persons in their youth were fundamentally flawed. According to the opening thesis statement of Proverbs (1:2-7), the answer to this problem is reflected in a rich vocabulary of learning: hokma, “wisdom”; musar, “discipline, training”; bina (cognate to tebuna found elsewhere), “understanding”; da at, “knowledge”; orma, “cleverness, smarts:’ mezimma, “discretion, prudence”; leqah, “perception, insight:’ and tahbulot, “fundamentally “the art of steering a boat” but idiomatic for “leadership skill.” Elsewhere one encounters the noun sekel, “insight, prudence,” and a series of verbs for learning sama’, “to listen,” especially to fathers and instructors, and hitteth ‘ozni, “to incline the ear” to teachers (Prov 5:13); lamad, “to learn” (Prov 30:3); hanak, “to initiate,” that is, “bestow the status and responsibilities of adulthood.”(3)
The Goal: Preparation for life

Block tells us that the goal of Proverbs is not just to produce intelligent adults, but to “prepare the young person for life.” This is to be done by parents teaching a wide range of “practical and pragmatic subjects.”  I suggest wise parents may pause here and consider the suggestion that it would be a good project for them to read Proverbs and make a list of these practical and pragmatic subjects it teaches parents to teach their children. Many things may be added to Block’s list found below.  With the list in hand, parents could then begin to plan ways to teach, emphasize, and reinforce lessons on those subjects. When children are old enough to understand it would also be good to sit down with them and begin reading Proverbs together to highlight and extract these important issues. Done properly, parents could read this book together with their children several times during their formative years. This would not only give parents multiple opportunities to teach, but would also acquaint the children with this great book and its value in their lives and for their use as parents in the future.
From the preamble and the book as a whole, it is evident that the goal of learning is not merely to produce an informed and intelligent adult but to prepare the young person for life. The dimensions of this learning are encompassed by the single word hokma, which at base means skill in a craft (Ex 35:30-35) but by extension refers to intellectual acumen (1 Kings 4:9-14 [Eng. 29-34]), shrewdness (Ex 1:10), literary appreciation (Prov 1:6), ethical and moral integrity (Prov 1:3), and an understanding of the mysteries of life (Prov 30:11-33). Accordingly, the book of Proverbs covers a wide range of practical and pragmatic subjects, including personal etiquette, discipline and self-control in the face of inevitable sexual temptation, the importance of hard work, the importance of right speech, and other social skills, needed not only to get along with the rest of the household (Prov 6:16-19) but also to accept the responsibilities of adulthood in the broader community. To achieve these goals, stubborn wills needed to be broken, gullible minds needed to be given a framework for evaluating ideas, hard hearts needed to be softened, and self-centeredness needed to be replaced by a sense of membership in and obligation to the community. But underneath it all is a profound theological conviction that “The fear of Yahweh is the first principle of wisdom.” [Prov. 1:7; 9:10; 15:33; Job 28:28; Ps 111:10; Eccles 12:13]. If a young person does not learn this, he or she remains a fool, and a society of fools cannot stand, let alone prosper. Accordingly, the task of training children and preparing them for mature adulthood fell not only to the child’s parents but was deemed to be the responsibility of the community as a whole.(4)
Parents will need to study Proverbs carefully and be sure they understand how its teachings coincide with those of the Gospel as Latter-day Saints understand it. Doing that, I believe they will find many things that will help guide them in teaching and preparing their children for life.

I conclude by repeating Block’s very important observation, “If a young person does not learn this, he or she remains a fool, and a society of fools cannot stand, let alone prosper.” That is the Biblical view. In fulfilling their responsibilities correctly, parents are also fulfilling an important duty to society. A nation of fools cannot stand or prosper. With the current condition of so many of our children being raised in single-parent households and that single parent is often a poor, uneducated or poorly educated woman, and the seminal father is nowhere to be found. He is very likely in bed with someone else carelessly perpetuating the spiraling cycle. The result? America and many other nations around the world are rapidly becoming nations of fools.

Let’s think together again, soon.


*Some years ago I promised returned missionaries from the CRM, that I would occasionally write some editions of our mission publication “Continuing to Reap Success.”  Here is a new installment. 

1,  Daniel I. Block, “Marriage and Family in Ancient Israel,” in Marriage and Family in the Biblical World, edited by Ken M. Campbell.  (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2003), 33-102.

2.  Ibid., 89-90, emphasis in original.

3.  Ibid., 90-91, emphasis in original.

4.  Ibid., 91-92.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Recent Studies Suggest Health Benefits of Reading©

This morning while listening to my favorite “classical music” radio station out of London the DJ mentioned a recent study that suggested that the elderly (50 and over), who read books tend to live longer. As a reader this caught my attention and I searched for the study.  Apparently there are several studies pointing to health benefits of reading. I found two that interested me and which I thought may interest readers of this blog.

The first was done in 2013. It looked at the effects of novel reading on the short- and long-term effects on brain connectivity and found evidence in brain scans for both.(1) The second study, and the focus of this blog was done in 2015 by three researchers at Yale University. They were interested in the possible effects of reading on the length of life compared to the non-reader. The study involved a large population which make the results somewhat more impressive. It included 3,635 men and women, age 50 and over, for 12 years. Two statements from the abstract of the article convey the essence of the findings: “Book reading contributed to a survival advantage that was significantly greater than that observed for reading newspapers or magazines” and “These findings suggest that the benefits of reading books include a longer life in which to read them.”(2)

Just how much of an advantage did reading give the reader vs. the non-reader? Well, compared with adults who did not read books, those who read books for up to 3 ½ hours each week were 17 percent less likely to die over the 12-year follow-up, while those who read for more than 3 ½ hours weekly were 23 percent less likely to die.  
This study found that those who read books for an average of 30 min per day say, a chapter a day showed a survival advantage, compared to those who did not read books. The robustness of our findings suggest that reading books may not only introduce some interesting ideas and characters, it may also give more years of reading.(3)
Incidentally, as mentioned above reading books was better than reading newspapers and magazine articles.  The authors had some reasons why.
Reading books tends to involve two cognitive processes that could create a survival advantage. First, it promotes “deep reading,” which is a slow, immersive process; this cognitive engagement occurs as the reader draws connections to other parts of the material, finds applications to the outside world, and asks questions about the content presented. Cognitive engagement may explain why vocabulary, reasoning, concentration, and critical thinking skills are improved by exposure to books.Second, books can promote empathy, social perception, and emotional intelligence, which are cognitive processes that can lead to greater survival. Better health behaviors and reduced stress may explain this process.(4)
The results of this study led the authors to make some suggestions for older readers.
Individuals over age 65 spend an average of 4.4 hours per day watching television (Bureau of Labor Statistics (2014)). Efforts to redirect leisure time into reading books could prove to be beneficial in terms of survival for this population. Also, participants in the study spent considerably more time reading periodicals than reading books; since the survival advantage is significantly stronger for book reading, switching from reading periodicals to books, or adding book reading to daily activities, might be worthwhile.(5)
There is one other bit of good news for book lovers and readers which I encountered in this search. That is, that the number of published hard-copy books sold has risen from about 559 million in 2014 to  571 million sold in 2015.  This compared to the rather static market for e-books.(6)

So, all around good news for older readers.  

Let’s think together again, soon.


1.  Gregory S.Berns, Kristina Blaine, Michael J. Prietula, and Brandon E. Pye.  “Short- and Long-Term Effects of a Novel on Connectivity in the Brain,” Brain Connectivity 3, no. 6 (2013): 590-600.
Available online at:

2.  Avni Bavishi, Martin D. Slade, and Becca R. Levy, “A Chapter a Day: Association of Book Reading with Longevity,” Social Science & Medicine 164, (September 2016): 44-48, emphasis added.  I do not know if this article is available for free online.  I accessed it through a paid online service.

3.  Avni Bavishi, et al., 47, emphasis added.

4.  Avni Bavishi, et al., 44, internal references omitted.

5.  Avni Bavishi, et al., 47, emphasis added.

6.  Hillel Italie, “From Coloring Books to Harper Lee, a Good Year For Paper,” AP The Big Story, 16 December 2015.  Online at:

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Our Great Hope Lies in American Ideals©


Most of my life I have been dismayed at the liberal propensity to loath America because of her failings.  This began for me back in the 1960s as I was arriving at adulthood. The late 1960s were a very difficult time for America, largely because of the opposition to the Viet Nam War.  Liberal ideals were in the ascendancy it seemed to me then, and they were epitomized by the famous trial of the “Chicago Seven,” led by arch-Liberal Abbie Hoffman who advocated “revolution.” Since then there has been a continual parade of liberal American self-loathing.

In writing this, I am not blind to America’s faults. But I believe America to be the greatest nation in the history of the world and it is largely due to her ideals. Sure, she falls short of her ideals, but what person, what city, state, or nation does not? Generally only those who do not profess ideals at all. 

Many young people today, nurtured on three generations of this self-hate and woefully ignorant of American’s great history and legacy, seem ready to throw over American ideals which they neither know or understand. Thus the popularity of the “Bernie” socialistic philosophy. He however, is at the far left of a far left liberal political movement and many if not most liberals promote many different forms of socialism which are inimical to the original American ideals which are so endangered.

Clarence Thomas on American Ideals

So, I now turn the microphone over to a black American man of some character, wisdom, judgment, and good common sense, to speak in behalf of American ideals for a moment or two. Read carefully, there are several really important gems in what he says below.

“Throughout my youth, even as the contradiction of segregation persisted, we revered the ideals of our great nation. We knew, of course, that our country was flawed, as are all human institutions. But we also knew that our best hope lay in the ideal of liberty. ...

I often wondered why my grandparents remained such model citizens, even when our country’s failures were so obvious. In the arrogance of my early adult life, I challenged my grandfather and doubted America’s ideals. He bluntly asked: “So, where else would you live?” Though not a lettered man, he knew that our constitutional ideals remained our best hope, and that we should work to achieve them rather than undermine them. “Son,” he said, “don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.” That is, don’t discard what is precious along with what is tainted.

Today, when it seems that grievance rather than responsibility is the main means of elevation, my grandfather’s beliefs may sound odd or discordant. But he and others like him at the time resolved to conduct themselves in a way consistent with America’s ideals. They were law-abiding, hardworking, and disciplined. They discharged their responsibilities to their families and neighbors as best they could. They taught us that despite unfair treatment, we were to be good citizens and good people. If we were to have a functioning neighborhood, we first had to be good neighbors. If we were to have a good city, state, and country, we first had to be good citizens. The same went for our school and our church. We were to keep in mind the corporal works of mercy and the great commandment: “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” Being wronged by others did not justify reciprocal conduct. Right was right, and two wrongs did not make a right. What we wanted to do did not define what was right–nor, I might add, did our capacious litany of wants define liberty.   ...
America, was founded on the idea that liberty is an antecedent of government, not benefit from government.”(1)
Where would you rather live?  Where is there a higher ideal of government, ensconced in a constitution?  I'm with Clarence, we should "work to achieve" those ideals "rather than undermine them."

Let's think together again, soon.


1.  Clarence Thomas, “Freedom and Obligation–2016 Commencement Address,” 14 May 2016 at Hillsdale College, in Imprimis 45, nos. 5/6 (June 2016): 4, 5, emphasis in original.