The prevalence of a spirit of contention amongst a people is a certain sign of deadness with respect to the things of religion. When men's spirits are hot with contention, they are cold to religion. - Jonathan Edwards “The Book of Mormon does not supplant the Bible. It expands, extends, clarifies, and amplifies our knowledge of the Savior. Surely, this second witness should be cause for great rejoicing by all Christians.” - Joseph B. Wirthlin

Monday, February 27, 2023

Bible in schools - 1806 observation

An excerpt from the 1806 book Beauties of the Bible by Ezra Sampson, which was sold in the Palmyra bookshop in the 1820s. This excerpt is timeless; it is as relevant today as it was when first published over 200 years ago.

That a book of this kind is necessary will be generally allowed by Christians of every denomination, who have thought carefully on the subject. Time was in our country, when the Bible was almost the only school book. By frequently reading the sacred writings in schools. a large portion of the doctrine and precepts of our holy religion was imperceptibly lodged in the memory, and often continued there through life, as the seed of piety, and as a happy preventive to error and vice. 

At length, objections were started against the use of the Bible in schools. Other books were introduced, and the sacred writings for several years past, have been almost totally excluded from having any share in school instruction: and by reason of this almost total disuse of the bible in schools, thousands of children have grown, and are growing up in gross ignorance of the contents of that sacred book. 

It is an astonishing thought and should be humbling to Christians, that while we have neglected to make the knowledge of the bible any part of the school education of our children, the Mahometans have been teaching their children the Alcoran [Koran] with most diligent care. Will not Mahometans rise up in judgment against us and condemn us? 

- * While men slept the enemy came and sowed tares.” Besides innumerable other books of pernicious tendency, it has been asserted that twenty thousand copies of what some have called "Thomas Paine's bible” were imported into this country as one time. They have been distributed over the country, and have been read with eagerness: their poison has struck deep, particularly into those minds which had not been sown with the seeds of religious instruction. 

Thus an altitudes have been desperately wounded, not indeed by the paw of the lion, but by the sting of the despicable asp.

- * As we sow we may expect to reap.” If the bible should continue to be excluded from schools, and the religious instruction of children be neglected, the bitter fruits will be experienced in the demoralized condition of all classes of people. 

To obviate, in some degree, this threatening evil, is the object of the present publication....

It is further hoped, that some who are not incompetent judges may think this to be an advantageous method of defending our holy religion, and guarding inexperienced minds against the attacks of infidelity. If one should deny that this world were made by a wise and good Being, because of the defects which appear upon it, and the confusion that seems to reign in it, there might be an impossibility of answering all his quibbling arguments. 

The shortest and surest way would be to point out a number of the most striking beauties; the marks of wisdom and design, and the displays of goodness which appear on the face of the earth; observing withal, that seeming deformities may be “beauties in disguise.” 

Or, if a man who had been long shut up in a dark room should deny that the sun is the fountain of light, and pretend that it had no better title to that distinction than his own glimmering lamp : you would not undertake to confute all his quibbles, but rather bring him out to the open day, and show him the sun in its meridian glory, and let him then compare his lamp with it. 

In like manner the most striking beauties of the bible, drawn together and presented in a single point of view, may go further to convince some people of the divine excellency of that book, than a whole volume of accurate and learned reasoning in its favour.

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Five great signs of intelligence:


Prof. Richard Feynman
Five great signs of intelligence: • You're not afraid or ashamed to find errors in your understanding of things. • You take mistakes as lessons. • You don't get offended with accepting the facts. • You are highly adaptable and very curious. • You know what you don't know.

Friday, February 10, 2023

Strong vs weak leaders

 From Twitter:

Strong leaders ask for critics and make themselves stronger. Weak leaders silence their critics and make themselves weaker.

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

world is not collapsing

Today at breakfast (we're in Fiji) we sat next to two Australian college students. We had a long conversation about lots of things. Although they now live in Sydney, one was born in South Africa and the other to Russian parents who emigrated to Australia about 20 years ago.

The South African commented that it seems like the world is collapsing with all the problems of the war in Ukraine, the disintegration of South Africa, covid, climate change, etc. 

I told her that the world is much better than when I was her age. We had Vietnam, the Cold War, apartheid, the 1973 war in Israel, the oil embargo, etc. The Russian agreed that things had improved substantially in Russia (until the Ukraine war). She's been to Russia many times to visit family, etc. She's studying communications and psychology and several times pointed out how what we think is driven by what we're told.

Her grandmother also emigrated to Australia but she doesn't speak English well, so they set her up to watch Russian TV over the Internet. Now she strongly favors Putin and the war in Ukraine as a result of decades of Russian propaganda. The student and her parents hate Putin and the war. Her father's friends in Russia are all having to fight in the war.

They said around 90% of the students at their university are Chinese, because Chinese pay full tuition and basically finance the Australian universities. The Russian had to do a presentation to her classmates, none of whom spoke English well enough to understand her. During covid, the universities lowered admission standards because the Chinese couldn't come, etc.

Hopefully they left with more optimism for the future. College students (and students at all levels, apparently) are being fed an unending stream of doomsday fears (climate change), woke ideology, and despair for the future.


This all reminds me of conversations I've had with young missionaries. Few if any of them believe Joseph Smith used a seer stone in a hat to produce the Book of Mormon, despite the efforts of LDS intellectuals and apologists to mainstream SITH. Most of them don't even realize that the whole Mesoamerican setting is based on the "Two Cumorahs" theory, which they think is ridiculous.

Hopefully at some point the Church History Department will stop misleading the Latter-day Saints for their ideological purposes. All Latter-day Saints would benefit by learning what Joseph and Oliver actually taught, along with the evidence that corroborates and supports their teachings.

Time will tell...

Monday, February 6, 2023

consensus worse than discord

From the WSJ:

Mr. Will’s belief in the old “liberal” ideals of free speech and the settling of disputes by compromise has a corollary: He’s suspicious of too much concord. “On policy,” he says, “I’m much more alarmed by the consensus than the discord.”

Thursday, February 2, 2023

World Interfaith Harmony Week

Comments from D. Todd Christofferson for World Interfaith Harmony Week.

 It’s World Interfaith Harmony Week, and I’ve been reflecting on the positive contributions that people of faith make in society. I hope that no matter what faith you choose to follow, you will be fully involved and strengthen those around you.

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

The Church in NZ - South Island

Although we're staying on the South Island, the big news from New Zealand is the flooding in Auckland and other parts of the North Island. Just Serve is organizing assitance.

Other news involves the rededication of the Hamilton temple in October.

We attended a delightful ward here in Dunedin last Sunday. They had two confirmations of new adult converts. The missionaries told us these were the first such baptisms in that ward in many years. The ward also had "Soup Sunday" after church during which everyone shared a lunch of soup and bread. Just an overall awesome experience.

The chapel houses two wards. It's on a hillside overlooking the city.

The Dunedin stake was created in April 2016 and covers the southern part of the South Island. The Dunedin District had been created back in 1892. 

In NZ overall, the average membership per unit is 508, which includes about 177 wards and 51 branches. The ward we attended had about 100 people in attendance, and the missionaries told us this was higher than usual because of the confirmations. We've attended other branches here in NZ with fewer than 20 members, which gives us an idea of the activity rates.

There are 6 wards and at least 2 branches in the stake. Here are photos of the branch in Queenstown.