The Book of Mormon Stresses an “Atoning Messiah” Rather than a “Triumphal Messiah”©

101 Reasons Why I Believe Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God

Evidence Sixty-five:
The Book of Mormon Stresses an “Atoning Messiah” 
Rather than a “Triumphal Messiah”©
Revised: 19, 21, 22 January 2020.

In my personal study for this year’s Sunday School emphasis on the Book of Mormon, I’m reading a 2015 book by Brant Gardner, Traditions of the Fathers: The Book of Mormon as History.(1) I am finding it a very thoughtful treatment and came across something this morning that was both interesting and profound.  Let me set his idea up with a little background.

In the period before Lehi left Jerusalem, two kings of Judah initiated religious reforms. The first was Hezekiah who lived about the time of Isaiah. It appears he was trying to eliminate pagan Canaanite influences on Israelite theology, worship, and society, by removing structures that were temple-like or associated with temple worship, largely among rural Israelites. There was a move toward centralization of worship at the Jerusalem temple. His reforms didn’t last long because his son Manasseh restored the old ways after his father died. The second king, Josiah, initiated similar reforms just at the time of Lehi, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and other prophets. Gardner mentions 1 Nephi 13 where there is a discussion of the history of the Bible once it came forth from among the Jews.  It says some plain and precious things were left out or taken out of the Bible.

According to Margaret Barker, British expert on the Old Testament and student of the early "Temple Theology", an important element of the early theology which was absent was the concept of the atonement.  In May 2003 she gave a forum address at BYU.  She answered the question, “What did King Josiah reform?"  She made the following remarks about the atonement:
Atonement is missing from Deuteronomy; the festival calendar in Deuteronomy 16 describes Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles–but no Day of Atonement.  The final form of the Pentateuch, compiled under the influence of Josiah’s party, denies that atonement is even possible.  After Israel had sinned and made the golden calf, Moses went back up the mountain to offer himself as an atonement for their sin.  The Lord said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book” (Exodus 32:33).  Why had Moses thought that his self-sacrifice could have been an atonement for sin?  Presumably there had once been a time when such things were thought possible.(2)
Gardner thinks there were some in Jerusalem who were opposed to certain aspects of Josiah’s reforms which may be hinted at in 1 Nephi 13, and that Nephi stressed this important element of Israelite theology that was being de-emphasized, neglected, or rejected. Here is Gardner’s assessment:
Nephi was not concerned with textual integrity but theological integrity. [He is referring to Nephi’s discussion of what happened to the Bible as recounted in 1 Nephi 13.]
Although we have only this hint of what Nephi thought might have been removed, we do have the testimony of what he wrote. If we hypothesize that he would have wanted to restore that which was missing from the record as it proceeded from “the mouth of a Jew,” we have a clear candidate: Nephi’s very strong emphasis on the atoning mission of the Messiah. This atoning function of the Messiah differs in both time and mission from the end-time triumphal Messiah who comes as King. The atoning Messiah comes to earth in the meridian of time as a humble man who nevertheless performs the ultimate act of atonement for humankind. 
Lehi preached the mercy of God, and Nephi preaches the atoning Messiah. Both do so after a similar vision of the Savior and the twelve apostles. I argue that both Lehi and later Nephi saw the de-emphasis on the atoning mission of the Messiah as an unfortunate result of Josiah’s reforms. Lehi preached against the removal, but Nephi restored it by emphasizing it in his own version of the Tree of Life vision.(3)
I have long believed that one of the major differences between the Palestinian Jews and the Nephite Jews was their different perceptions of the Messiah. The Palestinian Jews looked “beyond the mark” to the Messiah of what Christians call the “Second Coming”–the Messiah who came as a triumphal king. The Messiah was seen as a political king that would save Israel from political enemies dominating it.

A very similar point to this was made by Joseph Spencer in a 2017 article about the historical background of 1 Nephi 1:18-20, which says that the book the angel gave to Lehi “manifest plainly of the coming of a Messiah, and also the redemption of the world.” Jewish reaction seemed strange to Spencer, because verse nineteen also says that the Jews mocked him for testifying of their wickedness, but verse twenty says when he taught them of “a Messiah” they wanted to take his life. Spencer thinks the reactions would normally be reversed, so he asks the question, “Was there anything in Jerusalem society in this period that would have led to such reactions?"

His historical review of the period focuses on king Josiah. In 2 Samuel 7, Nathan’s oracle to David promised an “everlasting dynasty” to the great king. Josiah was the latest king in that dynasty.  The Judaic kings were anointed, which meant they were a messiah. The Davidic dynasty was looked to by the people to deliver them from foreign domination. When he threw off the remnants of the Assyrian yoke in the mid-sixth century B.C. Josiah appeared to be the only one since David who could do so. However, Israel was like a nut in a nut-cracker between Babylon who filled the void of the Assyrians, and Egypt. Unfortunately Josiah was killed by the Egyptians in the battle of Meggido. Spencer hypothesizes that with Jewish hopes dashed and new Babylonian overlords in town, talk of a resurgent messiah would have been extremely dangerous therefore Lehi’s fellow Jerusalemites sought to shut him up.(4)

But the Nephite Jews understood the mortal Jesus as a spiritual Messiah. He was the Messiah during his first coming, not as a political Deliverer, but as a spiritual Deliverer. However, I had not seen clearly the difference which Gardner makes above–that is, that the mortal Messiah, was really the “atoning Messiah", in contrast to the “Triumphal Messiah” of the Second Coming.(5) Of course the Messiah’s most important spiritual duty was his atoning mission. I was 85% there, but just didn’t quite have it clear. My gratitude to Brant Gardner. What a helpful insight.

In the Book of Mormon, Jesus is the Christ, the anointed one. He is the Eternal God “manifesting himself unto all nations.” He is also preeminently an atoning Messiah. We learn more about him and the atonement in the Book of Mormon than any of the other Standard Works, including the New Testament and the book of Romans.

The vast majority of the twenty-six times the word Messiah is used in the Book of Mormon occur in First and Second Nephi.  Examples that illustrate Gardner’s idea may be found in 1 Ne. 1:19; 10:4-5, 7, 9-11, 14, 17; 12:18; 15:13 (2); 2 Ne. 2:26; 25:16, and 18(6). Here are several examples with the connection highlighted in italics:
And it came to pass that the Jews did mock him because of the things which he testified of them; for he truly testified of their wickedness and their abominations; and he testified that the things which he saw and heard, and also the things which he read in the book, manifested plainly of the coming of a Messiah, and also the redemption of the world. (1 Ne. 1:19.) 
Yea, even six hundred years from the time that my father left Jerusalem, a prophet would the Lor God raise up among the Jews--even a Messiah, or, in other words, a Savior of the world.  (1 Ne. 10:4) 
“And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day, according to the commandments which God hath given.” (2 Ne. 2:26) 
And after they have been scattered, and the Lord God hath scourged them by other nations for the space of many generations, yea, even down from generation to generation until they shall be persuaded to believe in Christ, the Son of God, and the atonement, which is infinite for all mankind—and when that day shall come that they shall believe in Christ, and worship the Father in his name, with pure hearts and clean hands, and look not forward any more for another Messiah, then, at that time, the day will come that it must needs be expedient that they should believe these things.(2 Ne. 25:16.)  
Wherefore, he shall bring forth his words unto them, which words shall judge them at the last day, for they shall be given them for the purpose of convincing them of the true Messiah, who was rejected by them; and unto the convincing of them that they need not look forward any more for a Messiah to come, for there should not any come, save it should be a false Messiah which should deceive the people; for there is save one Messiah spoken of by the prophets, and that Messiah is he who should be rejected of the Jews.(2 Ne. 25:18.) 
Note that 1 Ne. 10:4 actually defines the word Messiah as the Savior of the world! This is precisely where the emphasis should be–on the Atonement of Jesus Christ. That speaks well for both the Book of Mormon, and Joseph Smith who translated it. I purposefully chose the language, “the Atonement of Jesus Christ,” to conform to an important observation by President Russell M. Nelson:
It is doctrinally incomplete to speak of the Lord’s atoning sacrifice by shortcut phrases, such as “the Atonement” or “the enabling power of the Atonement” or “applying the Atonement” or “being strengthened by the Atonement.” These expressions present a real risk of misdirecting faith by treating the event as if it had living existence and capabilities independent of our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. 
Under the Father’s great eternal plan, it is the Savior who suffered. It is the Savior who broke the bands of death. It is the Savior who paid the price for our sins and transgressions and blots them out on condition of our repentance. It is the Savior who delivers us from physical and spiritual death. 
There is no amorphous entity called “the Atonement” upon which we may call for succor, healing, forgiveness, or power. Jesus Christ is the source. Sacred terms such as Atonement and Resurrection describe what the Savior did, according to the Father’s plan, so that we may live with hope in this life and gain eternal life in the world to come. The Savior’s atoning sacrifice—the central act of all human history—is best understood and appreciated when we expressly and clearly connect it to Him.(5)
Thus Lehi, Nephi, Moroni, and others in the Book of Mormon continually remind us where our faith should be placed–in the Holy Messiah and his attributes. Lehi testified:
Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah, who layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise. (2 Ne. 2:8, emphasis added)
Nephi taught:
And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save. (2 Ne. 31:19, emphasis added.)
Moroni explained: 
And after they had been received unto baptism, and were wrought upon and cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost, they were numbered among the people of the church of Christ; and their names were taken, that they might be remembered and nourished by the good word of God, to keep them in the right way, to keep them continually watchful unto prayer, relying alone upon the merits of Christ, who was the author and the finisher of their faith. (Moroni 6:4, emphasis added.)
Thank God for the Book of Mormon! Thank God for thoughtful students of that book! Thank God for Joseph Smith!

Let’s think together again, soon.


1.  Brant A. Gardner, Traditions of the Fathers: The Book of Mormon as History.  Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2015.

2.  Margaret Barker, “What Did King Josiah Reform?” in Glimpses of Lehi’s Jerusalem, edited by John W. Welch, David Rolph Seely, Jo Ann H. Seely, 533-34.  Provo, UT: FARMS, 2004.

3.  Gardner, Traditions of the Fathers, 73, emphasis added.

4.  Joseph M. Spencer, “Potent Messianism: Textual, Historical, and Theological Notes on 1 Nephi 1:18-20,” in A Dream, a Rock, and a Pillar of Fire: Reading 1 Nephi 1, edited by Adam S. Miller, 47-74.  Provo, UT: Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, Brigham Young University, 2017.  See especially pp. 57-67 for the ideas I have described. Spencer is a philosopher and the last third of his paper explores in arcane philosophical language and idea, what a “potent Messiah” is and does. Unfortunately, he never seems to grasp Gardner’s point about an atoning Messiah. He interprets the phrase at the end of 1 Ne. 1:19, "also the redemption of the world," as a political term and does not consider its religious connotations, which seem to me to be obvious when read in conjunction with the other statements about a Messiah found in 1 and 2 Nephi, which I have quoted above.

5.  Interestingly, in an article published in 2004, David Seely refers to “the Messiah and his atoning mission,” and earlier in the article says “Lehi and Nephi both prophesied of the coming of the Messiah. Lehi received a knowledge of ‘the coming of a Messiah, and also the redemption of the world” (1 Nephi 1:19) and prophesied “a prophet would the Lord God raise up among the Jews–even a Messiah, or, in other words, a Savior of the world” (1 Nephi 10:4),” but he does not develop these ideas further than to refer to subsequent prophets in the Book of Mormon who spoke of the atoning mission of Christ. None of this is said in reference to Josiah’s reforms. See, David Rolph Seely, “Sacred History, Covenants, and the Messiah: The Religious Background of the World of Lehi,” in Glimpses of Lehi’s Jerusalem, edited by John W. Welch, David Rolph Seely, and Jo Ann H. Seely, 381-420, especially 415 and 419.  Provo, UT: FARMS, 2004.  Further note that Margaret Barker’s BYU Forum address, “What Did King Josiah Reform?”and Kevin Christensen’s, “The Temple, the Monarchy, and Wisdom: Lehi’s World and the Scholarship of Margaret Barker,” appeared in this same volume. The latter is a lengthy article but it’s emphasis is on the temple and it does not deal with an “atoning Messiah” even in the brief discussion on “Sacrifice and Atonement,” found on pages 475-77.

6.  Russell M. Nelson, “Drawing the Power of Jesus Christ into Our Lives,” Ensign (May 2017): 40, emphasis added.

“Complexity and Accuracy in the Book of Mormon, Despite the Amazing Speed of Translation”©

101 Reasons Why I Believe Joseph Smith Was a Prophet of God:
Evidence Sixty-Four:
“Complexity and Accuracy in the Book of Mormon, Despite the Amazing Speed of Translation”© 

Today I want to acquaint you with a wonderful article that was published about a year ago regarding the time it took to translate the Book of Mormon and some of the interesting insights that knowledge brings to us. It was written by John (Jack) W. Welch. He is the Robert K. Thomas Professor of Law at the J. Reuben Clark Law School at BYU. He was editor of BYU Studies Quarterly for thirty years, discovered chiasmus in the Book of Mormon, and has been a major influence in the Church to promote ongoing Book of Mormon research and writing. His article is: John W. Welch, “Timing the Translation of the Book of Mormon: ‘Days [and Hours] Never to be Forgotten,’” BYU Studies Quarterly 57, no. 4 (2018):11-50. 

Professor Welch has long been interested in the length of time it took Joseph and his scribes to translate the Book of Mormon. This study brings the major findings of that ongoing work together for the Church. He of course also utilizes the research and writing of a number of others in the field, particularly the three-decade-long work of Royal Skousen, who has been working on what is known as “The Critical Text Project,”–Skousen’s effort to produce an accurate and critical (meaning annotated) text of the Book of Mormon.

Professor Welch is only one of many over the years who has tried to pin down how long it took Joseph Smith to translate the book, and he briefly reviews that information at the beginning of his article. So the reader will understand, although Joseph Smith received the plates from Moroni in September 1827, the bulk of translation took place much later. That is because he originally translated 116 pages, but that manuscript was apparently stolen. So the work resumed in earnest in the months of April, May, and June of 1829. Joseph and Emma were living in Harmony, Pennsylvania at the time. Emma’s parents lived in Harmony and the couple lived with them for a time before purchasing a small home. Emma helped translate just a very few pages. But Oliver Cowdery arrived on 5 April 1829, offering to help. He and Joseph began translating on 7 April 1829, and the project was finished at the end of June that same year.This is well known information, so most researchers have begun with this base of approximately 85 days or nearly three months as the period when the book was translated. Although others have whittled the time down some, Welch has studied the period extensively. He knows the days Joseph was traveling, engaged in other business, and otherwise preoccupied. Consequently he subtracts eleven days from the total, leaving seventy-four for actual translation. However, he adds “there must have been many days during that time period that were only partially available for translation work.”(1) So, it may have been significantly shorter than seventy-four days.

The next important fact and question is, how long was the book and could Joseph have accomplished this task in that short time? The original 1830 Book of Mormon was 269,510 words long, on an estimated 608 pages of manuscript. [“Estimated,” because only 28% of the original manuscript is still in existence, the remainder was destroyed by water damage, or is unknown.] To translate those 269,510 words, averages out to about 3,743.2 words a day for 74 days. It turns out that many words occupies about eight pages of the printed book, so Joseph would have to produce eight to nine pages of manuscript each day.(2) Welch asks, is this possible?  

Here is how the process worked: Joseph would read about 20 words at a time to Oliver Cowdery, who then wrote the dictated portion. When he was finished, he read it back to Joseph. In the process corrections were made–and there were many–mostly errors related to hearing the text articulated, such as the difference between chaste and chased, or leaving off an s in a word that was supposed to be plural.(3) Grant Hardy observes:
It appears that Cowdery was listening intently to Smith’s dictation and corrections, while Smith was equally attentive to Cowdery’s reading the words back to him, enough so that both men were catching differences in plurals and verb endings. Evidence from O [original manuscript] suggests that they were expending considerable effort to get the words exactly right.(4)
With the corrections made, the process continued.

The intricacy with which Welch works out the various possibilities of translating 10, 15, or 20 words a minute, over 3 to 8 hours per day, shows the general feasibility of the task within the time period. However, when experiments were tried with adult classes, they quickly discovered the mental difficulty of close attention to listening, writing, reviewing, and correcting over long periods and came away with a greater appreciation for the diligence and stamina of the brethren even if they translated as little as three or four hours a day at a slow pace.

We are also fairly certain of the order in which the Book of Mormon was translated. The lost 116 pages were taken from Nephi’s abridgment of Lehi’s story, which was apparently part of the Large Plates of Mormon, which also included the books of Mosiah through part of Mormon. So, when Joseph and Oliver resumed translating in April 1829, they almost certainly began with Mosiah and translated the goodies on the Small Plates of Nephi during the end of the translation. Knowing the order of translation, the approximate number of days to translate, and having some idea that it required about eight pages a day, Welch can provide an educated guesstimate of what materials were translated when and provides a helpful day-by-day chart in the article. Interestingly, the content of the material being translated matches up well with several known dates where something in the Book of Mormon influenced external events such as the baptism of Joseph and Oliver, and their reception of the Priesthood. The content also matches up reasonably well with some of the phraseology and thought content of the thirteen revelations which were given to Joseph Smith during the period of the translation. That is, some things in the Book of Mormon are reflected in those revelations.(5)

Given this background I want to share, just one more of the many significant insights growing out of this important study. “Knowing how quickly it was dictated,” Welch writes, “amplifies the significance of many kinds of details, helping astute readers notice and value literary features that would otherwise go unappreciated.”(6) Here is his example: Alma 36:22, Alma quotes exactly twenty-two words from Lehi as found in 1 Nephi 1:8.  Knowing that the passage in Alma was translated in Harmony [Pennsylvania] in April, perhaps about April 24, while the Lehi text was not supplied until June, perhaps about June 5 in Fayette [New York], might be relevant to how those passages and many other instances of complex intertextuality are read.(7)
I think Welch understates his case. My goodness, talk about complexity and accuracy despite the amazing speed of translation! In late April 1829, the story of Alma quoting exactly twenty-two words from Lehi is placed in the book more than a month earlier than the translated account of Nephi actually giving those words. Yet, to the reader of the Book of Mormon the 1 Nephi material appears before Alma and the sequence is chronological and feels natural. However, the translation of these two texts was exactly the reverse! Dan Peterson’s recent reaction was, “Not bad for a 'writer' who is said never to have consulted the material already produced before he commenced a new day of dictation.”(8)

But the evidence grows, because you have nearly the exact case with material in 3 Nephi 8. Here the story describes the destruction which occurred at the time of the Savior’s crucifixion. And according to the account it fulfills some prophecies of Nephi found in 1 Nephi 19. The Nephi material was recorded a month later that the 3 Nephi 8 text!  

So, either we are making a case for the phenomenal memory of Joseph Smith with two very similar examples, or we are seeing a translation in the manner in which Joseph Smith described it –“by the gift and power of God.”(9)

Here is a gem from Jack Welch summarizing the perspective this kind of information gives to the student of the Book of Mormon:
At the same time, the feat of bringing forth the Book of Mormon within its tight time frame increases appreciation for the achievement of the Prophet Joseph Smith, which can, in turn, increase awe and reverence for God and the word of God. As Elder Maxwell once observed, “One marvel is the very rapidity with which Joseph was translating.” I would add that we should note the marvel of perceiving and vocalizing the text, line after line, with no time for research, for collocating scattered scriptural phrases, for keeping track of numerous threads, for developing an array of characters and their stylistic voices, or for composing coherent accounts.”(10)
I say, Amen, and thank God for Joseph Smith.

Let’s think together again, soon.


1.   John W. Welch, “Timing the Translation of the Book of Mormon: ‘Days [and Hours] Never to be Forgotten,’” BYU Studies Quarterly 57, no. 4 (2018):32.  Regarding possible translation between the loss of the 116 pages and April of 1829, Welch writes, "There is no indication from Joseph Smith that he translated anything besides the lost manuscript pages before April 7."  [Welch, 13, n. 5.]

2.  Welch, “Timing the Translation,” 22, 31, n. 51.  Dan Peterson going with a 60 day translation period, writes: “Using the figure of sixty dictation days, my calculation:  269,510 words / 60 days = approximately 4,492 words dictated per day.  Nearly nine pages in the current standard English edition of the Book of Mormon daily — 8.85, to be precise.

3.  Grant Hardy, “Textual Criticism and the Book of Mormon,” in Foundational Texts of Mormonism: Examining Major Early Sources, edited by Mark Ashurst-McGee, Robin Scott Jensen, and Sharalyn D. Howcroft, 45-6, 52, 57, n. 39.  New York: Oxford University Press, 2018.

4.  Hardy, “Textual Criticism,” 57. Hardy points to another “interesting evidence for oral dictation” of the manuscript and brings two important things to light.  He gives one instance found in a quotation from the Biblical book of Isaiah. It occurs in P [printer’s manuscript] at 2 Nephi 23:14.  “Cowdery apparently copied P directly from O (which is no longer extant for this passage) where he had transcribed a phrase from Isaiah 13:14 as “it shall be as the chaste row.” At some later point Cowdery realized his error and after crossing out chaste, inserted chased above the line.” What is striking to me is that here in an Isaiah quotation, which anti-Mormons claim is evidence of plagiarism on the part of Joseph Smith, we find evidence the manuscript was dictated rather than copied from the Bible.  See Hardy, 57, n. 39.

5.  Welch, “Timing the Translation,” 33-37.  I shared this data with an 82-year-old friend of mine who is a pretty sharp cookie. He almost cut me off to ask, “How important is all this information relative to the life changing message and doctrine in the book?” I think he was a bit surprised to hear me say, “In that light it isn’t important."   "However," I went on, "I believe knowing these kinds of things may help us appreciate and value the book and its message even more." He understood my point and my interest.

6.  Ibid, 41.

7.  Ibid.

8.  Dan Peterson, “Notes from 'Timing the Translation of the Book of Mormon' (1)" 4 January 2020, on Peterson’s website, Sic Et Non, at:

9.  Welch, “Timing the Translation,” 42.

10.  Ibid., 44.

“The Complexity and Consistency in the Accounts of Alma’s Conversion”©

101 Reasons Why I Believe Joseph Smith Was a Prophet of God: 

Evidence Sixty-Three:
 “The Complexity and Consistency in the Accounts of Alma’s Conversion”© 
Revised 18 January 2020

The complexity of the Book of Mormon is an idea that has grown in importance with me as I continue to study the gospel in my retirement. It is one of the evidences of the divine origin of the book and of Joseph Smith’s calling as a prophet of God. One can approach the complexity of the Book of Mormon in many different ways, and I hope to share more as we go along. Today’s column is devoted to a discussion of the three separate stories of Alma’s conversion. The Prophet Joseph is often criticized because of differences in his several accounts of the First Vision. There are three versions of Paul’s conversion in the New Testament. It is helpful to study these renditions, not only for their differences, but for the insights which may be gained as one studies and gives thoughtful analysis to them as professor Jack Welch of BYU law school does below with Alma’s thrice telling of his conversion.
Not all readers are aware that the Book of Mormon contains three accounts of the conversion of Alma the Younger.  Mosiah 27:8-37 gives a contemporary account of how Alma had agitated against the church of God and of his extraordinary conversion. In Alma 36:4-26 and 38:6-8, Alma twice recounts his conversion story as he blesses his sons Helaman and Shiblon. Interesting results come from a careful comparison of these three texts.

It is apparent that these three accounts all originated from the same man. For example, in Mosiah 27, Alma used many distinctive phrases as he described his conversion. He said, “The Lord in mercy hath seen fit to snatch me out of an everlasting burning, and I am born of God. My soul hath been redeemed from the gall of bitterness and bonds of iniquity. I was in the darkest abyss; but now I behold the marvelous light of God. My soul was racked with eternal torment; but I am snatched, and my soul is pained no more” (Mosiah 27:28-29). The emphasized terms here are just a few that could be mentioned.

Years later, Alma again used these same phrases.  In Alma 36 he said, “God did rack my soul” (Alma 36:14) “with eternal torment” (Alma 36:12). “I cried ... have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness” (Alma 36:18). “I could remember my pains no more” (Alma 36:19). “What marvelous light” (Alma 36;20).  “I have been born of God” (Alma 36:23).

Likewise, Mosiah 27:11 describes the voice of the angel as “a voice of thunder, which caused the earth to shake upon which they stood,” while Alma 36:7 states: “He spake unto us, as it were the voice of thunder, and the whole earth did tremble beneath our feet.” See also Alma 38:7; compare alma 29:1: “O that I were an angel ... and [could] speak ... with a voice to shake the earth.”

There are many other such phrases that run in parallel, but not identically, through these three accounts. The repetitions show that a single person was the author of all three and suggest that Alma had told his story many times and had grown accustomed to using these characteristic words and phrases. 
Furthermore, it is impressive that the specific details in the accounts remain accurately consistent. For example, all five of those present feel to the earth before the angel, but only Alma was told to “arise” (Mosiah 27:12-13; Alma 36:7-8) and to “remember the captivity of thy fathers” (Mosiah 27:16; Alma 36:2, 28-29), precisely the same in both accounts.
Alma 36 and 38, however, show signs of thoughtful reflection, of years of thinking about his momentous conversion. For instance, in the later accounts Alma has placed his words into the context of his religious tradition.  Instead of thinking only about the deliverance of his father from the land of Helam (as the angel mentions in Mosiah 27:16), Alma now speaks of older parallels of the deliverance of Lehi from Jerusalem and, beyond that, of the Israelites from Egypt (see Alma 36:28-29).  And in Alma 36:22, Alma has incorporated twenty-one words that are quoted verbatim from the vision of Lehi (see 1 Nephi 1:8). He has also applied his spiritual experience to his reader’s daily religious practice, drawing lessons about trusting in the Lord throughout one’s trials, troubles, and afflictions (see Alma 36:3, 27; 38:5), and about living a moral, righteous life (see Alma 38:9-15).

To coincide with this thoughtful development, Alma’s accounts have evolved structurally as well. The abrupt antithetical parallelisms in Mosiah 27:29-30 (“I was X, but now I am Y,” repeated four times) have been rearranged into one masterfully crafted chiastic composition in Alma 36:1-30. It centers on the turning point of Alma’s life, which was when he called upon Jesus Christ for forgiveness, and groups the negative attributes from Mosiah 27:29-30 into the first half of the chiasm and their positive opposites into the second half.
The three accounts also consistently reflect different vantage points in Alma’s life.  In Mosiah 27, Alma is a young man, spontaneously overwhelmed by the power of the angel and terrified by the prospect of the day of judgment (see Mosiah 27:31). Later in Alma’s life, it is clear that the older man has faithfully and successfully served his Lord and his people all the rest of his days (see Alma 36:24-26) so that he now emphasizes his longing to be present with God (see Alma 36:22).

Despite the fact that Mosiah 27 is separated from the accounts in Alma 36 and 38 by the many words, events, sermons, conflicts and distractions reported in the intervening one hundred pages of printed text, these three accounts still profoundly bear the unmistakable imprints of a single distinctive person, who throughout his adult lifetime had lived with, thought about, matured through, and insightfully taught by means of his powerful and beautiful conversion story.(1)
Professor Welch’s tight analysis is surfeited with at least half a dozen major and very critical insights derived from this story, all of which point to an unusual integration of the three versions, highlighting its complexity as he does so. Welch points out the similar yet unique use of language in each reiteration by Alma, which raises interesting questions about Joseph Smith’s role in producing the Book of Mormon. Are we to believe that Joseph Smith made up the Book of Mormon and was skillful enough to go back to Alma’s earlier accounts to make sure he used the same phrases and concepts in subsequent reiterations of the story? As smart as I think Joseph Smith was, when I consider that the book was produced over a ninety-day period in one manuscript essentially clean of any evidence of reworking, rewriting, proof reading, or assistance from other previously written sources, then the complexity and intricacy of this one story told three times as laid before us by professor Welch, taxes my credulity about Joseph Smith’s alleged authorship. Joseph’s own explanation of translating “by the gift and power of God” is much easier for me to believe. And when this one example is added to virtually scores, hundreds, and even thousands of additional examples of the complexity and consistency of the Book of Mormon the possibility that Joseph Smith wrote it by himself in the manner just described, drops infinitesimally close to zero. 

Another critical insight for me is that the stories in Mosiah 27, Alma 36, and 39 are separated by 100 pages of text yet remain consistent while at the same time Welch shows they evolve structurally and conceptually as Alma more clearly sees the importance and meaning of his conversion over the years. Not only to himself personally, but for its lessons for his sons and the church. Wouldn’t you agree this is a pretty subtle thing for twenty-five-year-old Joseph Smith to include--one which took more than a century and a half before professor Welch brought it to our attention?

In conclusion, I should also note an interesting study by S. Kent Brown. Unlike Welch’s which analyzes the three conversions stories of Alma, Brown looks at elements of the conversion story which show up in seven of Alma’s discourses scattered throughout the book of Alma.(2)  He found that “Alma’s memory of that remarkable ordeal remained with him to the point that all his sermons are infused with allusions to it.”(3) He lists six elements of the conversion story, some of which are mentioned or alluded to in Alma’s sermons. They are: 1) “emphasis on God’s deliverance of his people”; 2 ) “emphasis on God’s deliverance of the individual soul from the bondage of sin”; 3) a “set of expressions which describe Alma’s own troubled and sinful state before he received forgiveness of sins”; 4) “indescribable joy and enlightenment at receiving forgiveness of sins through Jesus’ atonement”; 5) “persistent description of his experience as being ‘born of God,’ a phrased distinctive to Alma among Book of Mormon authors;” 6) “his actions as a preacher of salvation, which followed his extraordinary experience, bringing others to taste ‘as I have tasted’ and to see ‘eye to eye as I have seen.’”(4) Even so, according to Brown, “Perhaps the element most often alluded to is the appearance of the angel of the Lord.”(5)

Together the studies of Welch and Brown are complimentary, both highlighting the phenomenal conversion story of Alma, and at the same time adding depth and breadth to our understanding of the complexity and consistency of the Book of Mormon.

I say, thank God for Joseph Smith.

Let’s think together again soon.


1.  John W. Welch, Reexploring the Book of Mormon: The F.A.R.M.S. Updates.  Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1992,150-153, emphasis in original.

2.  S. Kent Brown, “Alma’s Conversion: Reminiscences in His Sermons,” in From Jerusalem to Zarahemla: Literary and Historical Studies of the Book of Mormon, 113-27.  Religious Studies Center Specialized Monograph Series 13.  Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1998.

3.  Brown, “Alma’s Conversion,” 114. The only exceptions were Alma’s long prayer in Alma 31:26-35 and his final words to Helaman in Al. 45:2-14.

4.  Ibid, 114-15.

5.  Ibid, 126.

Why Nutrition Family Meals Together Offers Serious Health Benefits

Back-to-college season method juggling homework and in advance bedtimes. So lengthy, relaxed summer evenings that linger with friends and ice cream cones. Now that you have to face reality, it's far the ideal time to develop a addiction of ingesting dinner together. The medical literature strongly factors to the academic, social, mental, and bodily fitness blessings for children and young adults from ingesting meals circle of relatives meals. Even if you don’t have young children inside the house, own family meals offer a steady space for connecting and bonding in a time in which all people is outwardly glued to their gadgets. Family food are a time to unplug and capture up with the ones we adore.

When it involves parenting kids of every age, there’s possibly nothing more magical and extra impactful than family food. Because sitting down at the identical time encourages dialogue, kids are capable to talk about their day and their emotions. This lets in closer relationships and less emotional and behavioral problems. In truth, children that engage in everyday family food have higher academic overall performance, better vanity and resilience and decrease danger of substance abuse and teenager being pregnant. These are just a number of the advantages of family food.

It’s not sudden that families that consume together help foster higher consuming conduct. Studies show that children a long time 9 to 14 who've normal own family meals have average more healthy eating patterns. This consists of consuming extra fruit and vegetables, eating less saturated fat and trans fat, choosing fewer fried foods and sugar-sweetened drinks at the same time as getting more nutrients and minerals. Kids who enjoy ordinary circle of relatives meals have fewer weight issues and a decrease fee of ingesting issues.

It’s clear that own family meals have huge paybacks, however they're not continually sensible. First, aligning all and sundry’s time table to consume together can be a undertaking. After-faculty hobby schedules, school work, past due conferences and site visitors all compete for valuable evening time. Plus, there’s the query of what to eat thinking about all and sundry’s special meals choices and health wishes. Although these are the real-existence hurdles to implementing family mealtime, you can start small and develop from there.

Here are some ideas that will let you acquire own family mealtime success.

Plan Meals Ahead

Find a time to sit down down and meal plan for the week beforehand. You may even use a calendar or dry erase board to write the weekly menu for a visual cue. This may be a good time to contain different household individuals to gain buy-in and fit up schedules. For busy families with extra night sports and past due work shift, planning for and wearing out one or two family meals in line with week may be a massive fulfillment.

Set Expectations

It can take effort and time to create new conduct, in particular while there are more than one human beings worried. Communicate your expectation for family meal participation. Create a positive surroundings by encouraging upbeat, mild and optimistic communique while eating. Family meals can serve a tranquil space for every person to unwind together after a long day.

Unplug and Connect

Screens of any sort for the duration of mealtime are a distraction from playing each the meals and the organisation. Plus, this distracted consuming can lead to overeating and unwanted weight advantage. Since the primary aim of circle of relatives meals is to revel in being with a loved one, you may set the proper tone with the aid of shutting off the television and setting away your cellular smartphone.

Fitness Is About Health and Staying Healthy Is About Good Body Maintenance

Some are born with an built in know-how of what one's frame wishes. Others are without problems erroneous and led through style, popularity, and peer pressure into matters that ought to be averted. There is likewise the our bodies willingness or in any other case to partake of harmful materials. In my case my body couldn't tolerate chemical substances or whatever that affected the brain. This become guided by way of my eager desire for understanding and making my intelligence primary.

The training discovered are that what we do when we are young has an impact on growing old and on what sicknesses and handicaps we can face because the years pile up. Good body upkeep is set avoiding some thing toxic and that consists of even dangerous rides at carnivals.

The trendy fad is to take rides on motors that cause a drop and unexpected stop, as in a few crazy fairground roller coaster adventures. Watching one of these currently it turned into difficult for me to believe that human beings no longer best placed their own bodies at threat however that in their youngsters within the call of getting fun. The human brain is smooth and really without problems broken.

The frame warns of forthcoming threat thru the adrenalin glands and the sensation that many locate addictive. As adrenalin flows it will increase the heart charge and gives us with a flight or fight revel in. In different phrases, it prepares for recuperation from damage.

As the body jerks right into a sudden forestall the cranium and brain collide. This reasons a degree of bruising and can even result in loss of life or paralysis. But that doesn't ought to appear right away as delayed reaction may also see the consequences of concussion numerous hours or maybe an afternoon after the event.

Headaches; nausea; dizziness; memory issues; irritability; in addition to balance and napping difficulties may additionally comply with. Look at these symptoms and compare them to the ones of Alzheimer's or dementia patients. With the latter there are massive modifications in mind capabilities that consist of reminiscence loss.While there's no verified correlation to help the linking of the 2 it does not suggest it isn't always accurate.

Drugs also affect the mind and taking drugs on a ordinary basis can also be leading to the onset of Alzheimer's or dementia. While there are no studies to show this is the case it is still a matter of not unusual sense.

If one is seeking out a fitness regime then begin with the mind and all different matters will definitely comply with. It has the capability to tell us when we are going incorrect. Drugs, however, intrude with that aspect of nature. We teach the brain via what we do to our bodies. If we stuff ourselves with such things as goodies and alcohol, and inform it that the odd adrenalin rush is OK, then modifications in that critical organ will impel us to take greater of it.

Mind Power and Habits - Noom Diet Can Be the Game Changer in Your Weight Loss Mission

One of the biggest challenges you face at some stage in your weight-reduction plan is to live stimulated.It takes place due to the fact you do no longer want to change your behavior, or honestly put, you do not need to apply your mind energy to attain your purpose. Using the electricity of mind can be the actual recreation changer in your challenge to fats loss or full health. It isn't as difficult because it seems to be, in case you understand a way to trick your mind into believing that precise conduct are the key to achievement in fighting obesity.That is what Noom diet does.

Cliched tricks that paintings- Simple matters are not easy

You ought to have heart or read that to be able to gain any large intention, you ought to set smaller goals first. Once you start attaining small desires, you set the pace for higher dreams and subsequently attain the final purpose. This age-vintage information nonetheless holds genuine no matter what your intention is. As a long way as weight loss is concerned, putting dreams is even less difficult than selecting small steps for other desires such as financial, profession related or some other unique purpose. However, simple matters are often now not easy. For example, waking up early is easy, however no longer clean. Quitting smoking is simple, however is it sincerely easy? No.

Quitting terrible behavior is easy but now not clean- Don't be a slave to your conduct

It is going with out announcing that you frequently comply with your routine eating habits, slumbering patterns and fashionable life-style. That is what makes attaining your weight reduction intention hard. You are unknowingly a slave in your behavior or horrific behavior to be specific. Those who can break their awful conduct and choose up healthful habits fast, are those who gain their desires effortlessly and fast. When it comes to changing conduct, your mind power plays a awesome position and boosting your thoughts power turns into the real mission. That is whilst you want something or someone to keep you motivated.

Changing conduct with era

The second we talk about era, we often consider computer systems, mobile phones and apps, don't we? Yes this is actual.So, why now not use generation to break loose from awful ingesting habits that make you obese, fats and complete of health troubles? There are diverse health apps that provide you assistance and help for fitness. Some of those apps also provide private instruct so you can get customised eating regimen plans and workout packages to suit your actual needs, frame type and basic way of life.

Are app based weight reduction packages powerful?

Does whatsapp or uber app paintings? Yes, they paintings due to the fact you operate them the manner they're speculated to be used. You can nevertheless use conventional techniques to ship messages or book a cab over the phone, however you operate the app for these purposes. The equal is true for health apps and applications. However, you must select a software that is sponsored by a qualified human group to provide you persoanlised support. One such application is Noom.

Joseph Smith, Principles and Meeting the Dilemma of the “Growth of Ignorance”©

101 Reasons Why I Believe Joseph Smith Was a Prophet of God: 

Evidence Sixty-Two:
“Joseph Smith, Principles and Meeting the Dilemma of the “Growth of Ignorance”© 

I have opined about the hubris of modern youth in the face of their pervasive ignorance. Several years ago at a family reunion I took the opportunity one afternoon to gather my grandchildren and teach (well ok, lecture them) that they really didn’t know very much. I explained that they were born totally ignorant. Yes, they could cry and suckle, but beyond that they were pretty much a blank slate.  Given that, to think that a few classes in the basics in elementary and middle school, and deeper study in high school that they knew very much when compared to all the knowledge available in the world, was monumental hubris and stupidity. And it didn’t get much better after earning a bachelor’s degree.  I asked them–most in middle and high school–what any of them knew about how the atom bomb works, why the world considers William Shakespear’s plays or Leonardo’s Mona Lisa, great art. I ask what any of them knew about astrophysics, the history of Europe, molecular biology, or even how their smart phones worked. My motives were pretty good, but my method was probably pretty lousy–at least my oldest son thought I could have done better, and though my sweet wife didn’t say anything, her silence made me suspect she agreed with him.

Recently I encountered an idea that builds upon this gloomy notion of how much we really know–or rather don’t know. In the last quarter of the last century a Nobel Prize winner in economics named Frederich Hayek, though talking about economics, made an interesting point in several of his writings about the subject. He argued that with a rapid, almost exponential expansion of knowledge, one person cannot know much, and in fact, the percentage of what one can know in this period of rapidly growing knowledge, is actually getting smaller.(1) This phenomena is what some have called the “growth of ignorance.” Introducing this subject in his recent book, George Will said, “Everybody knows almost nothing about almost everything.”(2)

This epistemological issue raises an interesting problem for modern man. That is, what is mankind to do in the face of this “growth of ignorance”? Hayek suggested that individual men can do little.  Perhaps he may become an expert in a given slice of the total watermelon of knowledge but it is a losing battle given what appears to be mankind’s limits on learning, and even in interest.The expansion of human knowledge is not an unmitigated blessing. Though one must acknowledge the near miraculous things that have been achieved from the time of World War II, that and more recent conflicts demonstrate what President Hugh B. Brown once taught: “With every gift of power that comes to us, there comes a temptation to dishonor it, abuse it.”(3) So, how does the average citizen of the world deal with this dilemma of ever increasing knowledge and his own limited interest and capacity? If one is forced to set priorities on what to learn, how does one go about doing that?

Enter Joseph Smith, and other wise men. The Prophet Joseph Smith made many important statements about the importance of knowledge and man’s responsibility to learn. Among them are two that I believe give us a clue to the problem of the “growth of ignorance.” John Taylor, a close associate, reported that the Prophet Joseph said when asked how he governed the Latter-day Saints in Nauvoo: “I teach them correct principles and they govern themselves.”(4)  In a sermon in Nauvoo in 1842 Joseph spoke of “certain decrees” of God “which are fixed and immovable” and he was talking about the commandments of God.(5) In October of 1843, in a funeral sermon he returned to this idea.  He said:
We are only capable of comprehending that certain things exist, which we may acquire by certain fixed principles. If men would acquire salvation, they have got to be subject, before they leave this world, to certain rules and principles, which were fixed by an unalterable decree before the world was.(6)
Here the prophet speaks of both rules and principles which are fixed by an “unalterable decree,” and it is necessary to know and be subject to these in order to “acquire salvation.” It appears from these two important statements that the Prophet believed that some knowledge was more important than others. “Correct principles,” “fixed” “immovable” principles, established by an “unalterable decree” before the world was created, are essential for self-government, order in society, and salvation.

What are principles? An online dictionary defines principle as: “a fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behavior or for a chain of reasoning.”(7) Another online dictionary adds these ideas: “a fundamental, primary, or general law or truth from which others are derived;” and “a fundamental doctrine or tenet;” “a basis of conduct or management.”(8) Elder Packer gave the following definition:
A principle is an enduring truth, a law, a rule you can adopt to help you in making decisions. Generally principles are not spelled out in detail. That leaves you free to adapt and to find your way with an enduring truth, a principle, as an anchor.(9) 
Elder Richard G. Scott add these important insights:
Principles are concentrated truth, packaged for application to a wide variety of circumstances. A true principle makes decisions clear even under the most confusing and challenging circumstances. It is worth great effort to organize the  truth we gather to simple statements of principle.(10) 
John Silber, formerly president of Boston College agrees about the nature and importance of principles in daily life.
It is the nature of general principles that their application to particular cases differ with circumstances. Specific requirements of justice or duty may be dramatically different in different cultures, just as Newton’s general statement of the Law of gravity (still sound for objects in space neither too small nor too large) must be applied differently as variables in equations are given specific values. Although the application of fundamental ethical principles differs depending on contingencies, the principles themselves are universal.(11)
In 1956, the editor of the newsletter of the Royal Bank of Canada wrote:
Some people confuse principles with rules. A principle is something inside one; a rule is an outward restriction.To obey a principle you have to use your mental and moral powers; to obey a rule you have only to do what the rule says. Dr. Frank Crane pointed out the difference neatly: "A rule supports us by the arm-pits over life's mountain passes; a principle makes us surefooted."(12)
Some years ago, before he was president of BYU, professor Kevin Worthen related a story that gave BYU students an elevated view of principle. He told of “a rather ordinary 40-year-old Catholic priest,” who was living on an estate in Cuba in 1514. His formidable name was Bartoloméé de Las Casas. Though a prosperous university graduate, Las Casas showed little interest in academic things, but by the time of his death over fifty years later, he was “one of the greatest scholars of the Spanish empire.” He had written thousands of pages on history, law, political theory, anthropology, and theology. In 1550, Spain convened a conference to consider “the most pressing issue of the day”– how the Spanish should deal with the indigenous population in the New World–and Las Casas was one of two scholars invited to debate the matter. Clearly, he was a bright and wise man and near the end of his life he wrote something that itself exudes light and wisdom: “For forty-eight years I have studied and sought to make clear the law; I believe, if I do not deceive myself, that I have penetrated to the pure waters of principle.” Ah, “the pure waters of principle.” That is what Joseph Smith was after. Professor Worthen concluded the lesson with a question: “How many of us can say that we have worked hard enough on a subject that we have penetrated to "the pure waters of principle"? If we have not, perhaps we need to work as hard at acquiring more charity as we do at gathering more factual data.”(13)

Collector and publisher of literary wisdom, Samuel Smiles, also spoke of the importance of principles in positive terms:
Without principles, a man is like a ship without rudder or compass, left to drift hither and thither with every wind that blows.He is as one without law, or rule, or order, or government.  “Moral principles,” says Hume, “are social and universal. They form, in a manner, the party of humankind against vice and disorder, its common enemy.”(14)
President Wilford Woodruff counseled the young, 
Therefore neither you nor your parents can be too careful to see that your young and fruitful minds are fed and stored with good principles. You want to learn that which is true–when you learn anything about God, Jesus Christ, the angels, the Holy Ghost, the gospel, the way to be saved, your duty to your parents, brethren, sisters, or to any of your fellow men, or any history, art or science...
President Woodruff emphasized knowing “true” principles because they would have an important effect in the future of the youth he addressed:
I say when you learn any of those things you want to learn that which is true, so that when you get those things riveted in your mind and planted in your heart, and you trust to it in future life and lean upon it for support, that it may not fail you like a broken reed.(15)
William Elery Channing saw Christianity,
not [as] a system of precise legislation, marking out with literal exactness everything to be done, and everything to be avoided; but an inculcation of broad principles, which it intrusts to individuals and to society to be applied according to their best discretion. It is through this generous peculiarity, that Christianity is fitted to be a universal religion.(16)
In 2009, Elder Dallin and sister Kristen Oaks, observed in an article entitled “Learning and Latter-day Saints,” that in modern society we are “bombarded by popular talk show hosts, television psychologists, fashion magazines, and media commentators”–pundits all–“whose skewed values and questionable practices can drive our opinions and influence our behavior.” They went on to point out that this environment in which, as Ephesians 4:14 says, we are “tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine,” can lead to confusion and discouragement and the erosion of faith. The solution?
Not influenced by popular opinion, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches principles. The difference is profound. Trends, fashion, and pop ideology are fleeting and ephemeral. Principles serve as anchors of security, direction, and truth. If we fix our ideals and direction on doctrine and principles, such as faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and following the prophet, we will have a totally reliable, unchanging guide for our life’s decisions.(17)
Much earlier, Apostle John A. Widtsoe, gave the young some very sage advice about understanding the difference between principles and their varying and possibly changing applications over time and in various circumstances.
...two principles ... are fundamental in Mormon thinking. First, that there are certain changeless principles upon which the whole structure of Mormonism is built and second, that the application of these principles in human life change as human needs change. That is, the Gospel, as understood by the Church, is an unchanging system of truths ever changing in its application to the ever changing conditions of life.
Young college students frequently fail to make the discrimination between foundation principles and their application; between primary principles and derivative functions.
You draw some illustrations from the field of science. There we have the same distinction: facts of observation, correct as far as human powers go and inferences or the explanation of these facts changing with the increasing knowledge.(18)
Elder Scott gave further counsel about the importance and the challenge of inculcating true principles into one’s life..
Principles are anchors of safety. They are like the steel anchors a mountaineer uses to conquer otherwise impossible cliffs. They help you have confidence in new and unfamiliar circumstances. They will provide you protection in life’s storms of adversity.
... While easy to find, true principles are not easy to live until they become an established pattern of life.  They will require you to dislodge false ideas. They can cause you wrenching battles within the secret chambers of your heart and decisive encounters to overcome temptation, peer pressure, and false allure of the “easy way out.” Yet, as you resolutely follow correct principles, you will forge strength of character available to you in time of urgent need. Your consistent adherence to principle overcomes the alluring yet false lifestyles that surround you.(19)
Elder Scott’s counsel is similar to that given by the editor of the newsletter of the Royal Bank of Canada cited earlier. He noted “that there are three great questions in life which [one] must answer over and over again: is it right or wrong? is it true or false? is it beautiful or ugly?” He continued:
In answering these questions a man will find principles of far more value to him than a library of books, or a den decorated with diplomas. The principles contribute to his maturity by enlarging his thinking, by helping him to avoid confusion, by rescuing him from prolonged debate. They give him a base for decision and action. They are like the north star, the compass and the lighthouse to a sailor: they keep him on his course despite winds and current and weather.(20)
Elder Dallin H. Oaks, taught that there is an important distinction between choices governed by principles and those by personal preference.
In our personal choices we should be conscious of the important difference between choices that should be governed by principles (including the commandments of the Lord) and choices that can be based on personal preferences. How to recognize and apply this difference is something we learn by experience. The result of this learning is wisdom, which the scriptures teach us to learn and seek (Alma 32:12; D&C 6:7).
He went on to provide several interesting examples such as, 1) the distinction between family rules based on principle and those on personal preference; 2) dressing and grooming for the temple based on principle rather than personal preference; and 3) that if the same distinctions are considered when a young couple marries and melds two different family life-styles it will save them difficulty and heartache.(21) Author Tom Morris reminds us that “Aristotle once said that it is advantageous to anyone to come to know the most universal principles, because this puts us in the best position for specific applications anywhere.”(22)

Thus, a wise young person will place a high priority in discerning, learning and applying principles because they will guide how he lives, and become the superstructure upon which all other knowledge may be placed in building one’s physical, social, intellectual, and spiritual life.

One-time General Relief Society General President, Barbara Smith, counseled the students at BYU about living by principle. 
We rarely succumb to temptation in one overpowering moment. The strength of living by a principle is built line upon line, time upon time, of facing a moment of challenge and responding appropriately. Every important choice is the inevitable result of a hundred earlier choices.(23)
A very recent example of the Church’s ongoing emphasis on governing one’s life by the Lord’s commandments and true principles, may be found in the most recent edition of the Missionary Handbook issued to mission leaders in June 2019, and announced to the Church in the 17 November 2019 Church News. The Church News, general authorities, and authors of the book all mention the principle based nature of the handbook. The Church News characterized it as a “move from a rules-base manual to a principles-base one.” When mission leaders reviewed it in June, some were concerned about the nature of the change. The response, according to the Church News was “That’s what a disciple has to figure out,” said Elder Brent H. Nielson, executive director of the Missionary Department, “That will be a big change for us.  But I think everyone loves the overall principle-based concept.” The goal is to assist young missionaries to become life-long disciples of Christ by inculcating true principles into their lives. Elder Nielson said this change is one with other recent changes instituted such as the “ministering” concept, and home-centered Church-supported emphasis on worship and gospel study.(24)

Finally, I note that President David O. Mckay once gave a simple outline of four principles which he said will guide one to the realization of a higher life:
The guiding principles to the realization of the higher life are not many or complex. Indeed, they are few and simple, and can be applied by everyone in any phase of life:
1.  Recognition of the Reality of Spiritual Values
2.  Sense of Obligation to the Social Group
3.  Resultant Self-Mastery
4.  A Consciousness that the ultimate purpose of life is the perfecting of the individual(25)
That Joseph Smith stressed the importance of fundamental principles is not unusual among the wise men of the world and of itself only sets him apart from others because such understanding is rare. Nevertheless, from the numerous quotations cited above it is evident that he established the Restored Church of Jesus Christ upon fundamental principles and he instructed his leaders to do so. They took him seriously. That the present leaders continue to do so goes a long way in strengthening one’s view of him as an inspired prophet. And for this author, even more inspiring is the fact that Joseph Smith excelled in seeing and in elucidating fundamental religious principles, including important principles about principles! These concepts contribute greatly to my faith and conviction that the was a Prophet of God.

Let’s think together again, soon.


1.  See for example, Frederich Hayek, “The Use of Knowledge in Society,” The American Economic Review, 34, no. 4 (4 September1945): 519-30; “The Pretence [sic] of Knowledge,” remarks when he received the Nobel Prize, 11 December 1974, available online at:;  and The Constitution of Liberty: The Definitive Edition. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2011, 78.

2.  George F. Will, The Conservative Sensibility. New York: Hachette Books, 2019, 244.

3.  Hugh B. Brown, The Abundant Life. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965, 126.

4.  John Taylor and George Q. Cannon, “An Epistle of the First Presidency to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in General Conference Assembled,” published 17 May 1886.  See, James R. Clark, Messages of the First Presidency. 6 vols. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, Inc., 1965, 3: 54.

5.  Joseph Fielding Smith, comp., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1967, 197.

6.  Ibid, 324.



9.  Boyd K. Packer, "The Unwritten Order of Things," BYU devotional address, 15 October 1996, unpaged Internet version.  Available in several locations on the Internet.

10. Richard G. Scott, 21 Principles: Divine Truths to Help You Live by the Spirit. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2013, 1-2. 

11.  John R. Silber, Seeking the North Star: Selected Speeches. Boston: David R. Godine, 2014, 137.

12.  “On Being a Mature Person,” Royal Bank Letter, 37, no. 12 (December 1956): 3.

13.  Kevin J. Worthen, “On Knowing and Caring,” Brigham Young University 1997-98 Speeches.  Provo, UT: Brigham Young University, 1998, 316-317, emphasis added.

14.  Samuel Smiles, Happy Homes and the Hearts that Made Them. Chicago: U. S. Publishing House, 1889, 65.

15.  Wilford Woodruff, in G. Homer Durham, ed., The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff.  Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1946, 266. Regarding the “truth” of principles, Elder Richard L. Evans offers the following scriptural test: “ proof of any principle is what it does for people in their search for the ultimate objective of happiness. Significantly was it said by our Savior: ‘ their fruits ye shall know them.’ After this is the demonstration of all truth–in science, in business, in education, in religious conviction, in political philosophies, in life– ‘by their fruits ye shall know them.’ And of everything that is offered, we should know what it does for human happiness, what it does for personal peace and progress–what it does, not only what it promises or what it purports; not theories that won’t work or convictions that crumble at the first obstacle, or philosophies that fall with the weight of reality, or beliefs that won’t stand the test of life, or weak resolution that straddles every issue. If a man thinks he has a superior faith or philosophy, a superior theory, a superior plan or process or program or purpose, let it be asked what it does, where and when has it worked? Let the fruits of the formula be judged by what it has done for people in terms of personal peace or real progress or enduring happiness. [Richard L. Evans, “The Triumph of Principles,” Improvement Era ,(September 1952): 693.]

Unfortunately, in today’s world the notion of truth, especially absolute truths, is under attack among intellectuals on college campuses and elsewhere. The concept of relative truth has filtered in to many areas of our social, cultural, and political philosophy. These ideas have been around a long time.  In 1998,Marianne Jennings, reports, “Another survey conducted by the Lutheran Brotherhood asked, “Are there absolute standards for morals and ethics, or does everything depend on the situation?”  Seventy-nine percent of the respondents in the 18-34 age group said that standards did not exist and that the situation should always dictate behavior. Three percent said they were not sure.” [Marianne M. Jennings, “The Real Generation Gap,” Clark Memorandum, (Winter 1998): 20.]

16.  William Elery Channing, in Ella Dann Moore, Life Illumined By Some of the Leading Lights of Literature. Washington, D.C.: Ella Dann Moore, 1908, 290. Channing’s remarks echo those of President John Quincy Adams to his son: “It is essential, my son, in order that you may go through life with comfort to yourself, and usefulness to your fellow-creatures, that you should form and adopt certain rules or principles, for the government of your own conduct and temper. Unless you have such rules and principles, there will be numberless occasions on which you will have no guide for your government but your passions. ... you must soon come to the age when you must govern yourself. You have already come to that age in many respects; you know the difference between right and wrong, and you know some of your duties, and the obligations you are under, to become acquainted with them all. It is in the Bible, you must learn them, and from the Bible how to practise [sic] them. Those duties are to God, to your fellow-creatures, and to yourself.” [John Quincy Adams, Letters of John Quincy Adams, to His Son, on the Bible and Its Teachings. Auburn, NY: Derby, Miller, & Co., 1849, 17-18.] In a later letter Adams returned to this subject, this time contrasting the effect of Biblical principles on ancient Israelite society and those of the larger society around them. He said his motive for doing so was “to present to your reflections as a proof–and to my mind a very strong proof-of the reality of their divine origin....” [Pages 66-67.] Likewise, Elder Marion G. Romney of the First Presidency, taught, “the scriptures have been written to preserve principles for our benefit.” [“The Message of the Old Testament,” The Third Annual Church Educational System Religious Educators’ Symposium: A Symposium on the Old Testament. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1979, 3.]

17.  Dallin H. and Kristen M. Oaks, “Learning and Latter-day Saints,” Ensign (April 2009): 24.

18.  John A. Widtsoe, in Alan K. Parrish, John A. Widtsoe, A Biography. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2003, 573-574.  Elder Widtsoe was responding to a letter, and his subsequent remarks are reminiscent of things that are often said today about some academicians: “Mormonism invites examination, but it knows quite well that if friend or foe really wants to understand the restored Gospel he must look for its truths and not for its weaknesses in proclaiming or using that truth. The men within my acquaintance who, with academic training have drifted away from full practice of Church principles, have seldom thought the matter through. They have splashed about on the surface until the beauty of the depths have become obscure. As for myself, once having been established within my own mind the certainty of the fundamental principles of Mormonism I prefer to follow the Church.”

19.  Richard G. Scott, 21 Principles: Divine Truths to Help You Live by the Spirit. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2013, 1-2. 

20.  “On Being a Mature Person,” Royal Bank Letter, 37, no. 12 (December 1956): 3.

21.  Dallin H. Oaks, Life’s Lessons Learned. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2011, 133.

22.  Tom Morris, True Success: A New Philosophy of Excellence. New York, NY: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1994, 25-26

23.  Barbara B. Smith, “‘...For Such a Time as This,’” devotional address, 16 February 1982, in Brigham Young University Fireside and Devotional Speeches. Provo, UT: University Publications, 1982, 92.

24.  See two separate articles by the same author: Scott Taylor, “New Missionary Handbook Focuses On Joy, Discipleship,” and “How the New Handbook Differs from the Former,” both in the Church News, (17 November 2019): 4-6.

25.  David O. McKay, Pathways to Happiness. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft Inc., 1957, 89-90.  Note, the four principles listed are highlighted by President McKay and discussion follows each one. I have only listed them for brevity sake. The reader is encouraged to study his teachings on these points. 

Evidence Sixty-One: Joseph Smith Gets All the Vital Little Things in the Story©

101 Reasons Why I Believe Joseph Smith Was a Prophet of God:

Evidence Sixty-one:
“Joseph Smith Gets All the Vital Little Things in the Story”© 

Recently I added some new quotations to various files. One stood out that morning. Joseph Fielding Smith was explaining that when Jesus Christ appeared to the Nephite people in 3 Nephi, he had his leaders baptize the people and later after the Church was organized among them, they were rebaptized.  The reason?  President Smith explained that there are two purposes for baptism; to receive the forgiveness of sins and to become a member of the Lord’s Church. Their first baptism brought forgiveness of sin, but the church was not yet organized.  So, when it was they were rebaptized.

President Smith went on to explain that a similar thing occurred in the early history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Aaronic Priesthood was restored to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery by the ministration of the ancient prophet John the Baptist on 29 May 1829. Following his conferral of the priesthood on both men, they were commanded to be baptized by this authority. But, the Church was not yet organized. That took place almost a year later on 6 April 1830. As in The Book of Mormon, those who were baptized before the organization had to be baptized again to become members of the Church.

These stories are well known and the parallels are interesting from both a historical and theological perspective. However, it was not the history or the theology that caught my attention in President Smith’s remarks. It was a simple observation he made at the end of the recital that became a big insight to me. He said in reference to Joseph’s having those already baptized to be rebaptized after the Church was organized:
Suppose Joseph Smith had overlooked that. It is just a little thing, but how vital it is. You will find all through the ministry of Joseph Smith that all these little things are there: not a thing is overlooked that is vital to the story.(1)  
“You will find all through the ministry of Joseph Smith that all these little things are there”!  “Not a thing is overlooked that is vital to the story.” Though I had noticed that phenomena many times through my long teaching and study career, the formulation of that truth never reached a conscious and verbal level. When I read it in this statement, its truth was more than evident to me; reading it also impressed upon me the importance of the idea–nothing vital, no matter how small, is overlooked in the Restoration!

Indeed, I have to say that one of the enjoyable results of detailed study of the scriptures Joseph Smith produced and of his writings and teachings is the frequent discovery of innumerable details which, upon closer examination, prove to be of vital significance. If one were to go back and review the first sixty essays in this series, one would discover that many of the evidences which I have written about are in fact vital little things that have not been overlooked. However, I do not see this phenomena as a result of the watchful eye of a young genius-prophet. I attribute the vast majority of these things to the inspiration and revelation that was a near constant in his life. Instances of vital details included in the story can seemingly be multiplied infinitely.  This idea also gives added dimension to the meaning of the "fullness of the Gospel."

Here is one simple example. In the Sermon on the Mount at Mt. 6:33 Jesus said, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”  This passage did not escape the eye of the Prophet. He rendered it this way in the JST: “Wherefore, seek not the things of this world but seek ye first to build up the kingdom of God, and to establish his righteousness.” Concern for the kingdom of God as expressed in the Sermon on the Mount is consistent with a similar interest expressed in the Lord’s prayer found in the same sermon.  In Mt. 6:10 the Savior teaches his disciples to pray, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” Doing the will of God on earth as it is done in heaven surely is seeking to establish the Lord’s righteousness.

One can seek the kingdom in several ways. First, one can seek for the kingdom, in the sense of desiring it to come.  Second, one can look for it, try to find it, and become part of it when one does. Third, once one has found the kingdom and become a part of it, he can then seek to make the growth and welfare of the kingdom a priority. A final way, is to live in such a way that one is constantly seeking to be prepared and worthy to eventually inherit the kingdom of God in the Celestial Kingdom.

In the JST the emphasis is to seek first “to build up the kingdom of God.” That clarification in emphasis is one of those details that is vital to the story. Jesus brought the kingdom of God to the earth in the meridian of time.  Once there, the emphasis is not on its coming, but on building it up.  A little thing in some ways, perhaps. But isn’t it interesting that when you look at it carefully, the sequence is correct.  Even in the little change of a word here and there note how many of them become vital to the story?  Those things are evidence of inspiration to me.

One might think this insight of President Joseph Fielding Smith is a little insight, but to me it takes on greater and greater significance the more one thinks about it and gathers evidence of its truth. The fact that the Prophet Joseph gets all the details, the little things, the little vital things that need to be in the story, that he gets them in the story, is, to me, a very big thing and one of the reasons I believe he is a prophet of God.  

What little things have you found that he has not overlooked, but which are part of the great story of the Restoration?

Let’s think together again, soon.


1.  Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1955, 2:336.

A Clarion Call for Free Speech and Freedom of Religion©

Today I’m doing something unusual for me. I’m reproducing nearly en toto the remarks of Mike Bloomberg, Mayor of New York City at the time, when he give this great talk at the 363rd Commencement Ceremony at Harvard University on 29 May 2014. I believe it deserves to be reproduced because it is a great, even masterful call for freedom especially on college campuses. It is a call to both liberals and conservatives to abandon the repression of views inimical to their own, and to promote free speech, freedom of religion, and free exchange and exploration of ideas, in the great tradition of American colleges and universities.  Enjoy!


Michael Bloomberg:

[I have edited out his introductory remarks which were not relevant to his message which begins here:]

"But the good news is, Harvard remains what it was when I first arrived on campus 50 years ago: America’s most prestigious university. And, like other great universities, it lies at the heart of the American experiment in democracy.

Their purpose is not only to advance knowledge, but to advance the ideals of our nation. Great universities are places where people of all backgrounds, holding all beliefs, pursuing all questions, can come to study and debate their ideas – freely and openly.

Today, I’d like to talk with you about how important it is for that freedom to exist for everyone, no matter how strongly we may disagree with another’s viewpoint.

Tolerance for other people’s ideas, and the freedom to express your own, are inseparable values at great universities. Joined together, they form a sacred trust that holds the basis of our democratic society.

But that trust is perpetually vulnerable to the tyrannical tendencies of monarchs, mobs, and majorities. And lately, we have seen those tendencies manifest themselves too often, both on college campuses and in our society.

That’s the bad news – and unfortunately, I think both Harvard, and my own city of New York, have been witnesses to this trend.

First, for New York City. Several years ago, as you may remember, some people tried to stop the development of a mosque a few blocks from the World Trade Center site.

It was an emotional issue, and polls showed that two-thirds of Americans were against a mosque being built there. Even the Anti-Defamation League – widely regarded as the country’s most ardent defender of religious freedom – declared its opposition to the project.

The opponents held rallies and demonstrations. They denounced the developers. And they demanded that city government stop its construction. That was their right – and we protected their right to protest. But they could not have been more wrong. And we refused to cave in to their demands.

The idea that government would single out a particular religion, and block its believers – and only its believers – from building a house of worship in a particular area is diametrically opposed to the moral principles that gave rise to our great nation and the constitutional protections that have sustained it.

Our union of 50 states rests on the union of two values: freedom and tolerance. And it is that union of values that the terrorists who attacked us on September 11th, 2001 – and on April 15th, 2013 – found most threatening.

To them, we were a God-less country.

But in fact, there is no country that protects the core of every faith and philosophy known to human kind – free will – more than the United States of America. That protection, however, rests upon our constant vigilance.

We like to think that the principle of separation of church and state is settled. It is not. And it never will be. It is up to us to guard it fiercely – and to ensure that equality under the law means equality under the law for everyone.

If you want the freedom to worship as you wish, to speak as you wish, and to marry whom you wish, you must tolerate my freedom to do so – or not do so – as well.

What I do may offend you. You may find my actions immoral or unjust. But attempting to restrict my freedoms – in ways that you would not restrict your own – leads only to injustice.

We cannot deny others the rights and privileges that we demand for ourselves. And that is true in cities – and it is no less true at universities, where the forces of repression appear to be stronger now than they have been since the 1950s.

When I was growing up, U.S. Senator Joe McCarthy was asking: ‘Are you now or have you ever been?’ He was attempting to repress and criminalize those who sympathized with an economic system that was, even then, failing.

McCarthy’s Red Scare destroyed thousands of lives, but what was he so afraid of? An idea – in this case, communism – that he and others deemed dangerous.

But he was right about one thing: Ideas can be dangerous. They can change society. They can upend traditions. They can start revolutions. That’s why throughout history, those in authority have tried to repress ideas that threaten their power, their religion, their ideology, or their reelection chances.

That was true for Socrates and Galileo, it was true for Nelson Mandela and Václav Havel, and it has been true for Ai Wei Wei, Pussy Riot, and the kids who made the ‘Happy’ video in Iran.

Repressing free expression is a natural human weakness, and it is up to us to fight it at every turn. Intolerance of ideas – whether liberal or conservative – is antithetical to individual rights and free societies, and it is no less antithetical to great universities and first-rate scholarship.

There is an idea floating around college campuses – including here at Harvard – that scholars should be funded only if their work conforms to a particular view of justice. There’s a word for that idea: censorship. And it is just a modern-day form of McCarthyism.

Think about the irony: In the 1950s, the right wing was attempting to repress left wing ideas. Today, on many college campuses, it is liberals trying to repress conservative ideas, even as conservative faculty members are at risk of becoming an endangered species. And perhaps nowhere is that more true than here in the Ivy League.

In the 2012 presidential race, according to Federal Election Commission data, 96 percent of all campaign contributions from Ivy League faculty and employees went to Barack Obama.

Ninety-six percent. There was more disagreement among the old Soviet Politburo than there is among Ivy League donors.

That statistic should give us pause – and I say that as someone who endorsed President Obama for reelection – because let me tell you, neither party has a monopoly on truth or God on its side.

When 96 percent of Ivy League donors prefer one candidate to another, you have to wonder whether students are being exposed to the diversity of views that a great university should offer.

Diversity of gender, ethnicity, and orientation is important. But a university cannot be great if its faculty is politically homogenous. In fact, the whole purpose of granting tenure to professors is to ensure that they feel free to conduct research on ideas that run afoul of university politics and societal norms.

When tenure was created, it mostly protected liberals whose ideas ran up against conservative norms.

Today, if tenure is going to continue to exist, it must also protect conservatives whose ideas run up against liberal norms. Otherwise, university research – and the professors who conduct it – will lose credibility.

Great universities must not become predictably partisan. And a liberal arts education must not be an education in the art of liberalism.

The role of universities is not to promote an ideology. It is to provide scholars and students with a neutral forum for researching and debating issues – without tipping the scales in one direction, or repressing unpopular views.

Requiring scholars – and commencement speakers, for that matter – to conform to certain political standards undermines the whole purpose of a university.

This spring, it has been disturbing to see a number of college commencement speakers withdraw – or have their invitations rescinded – after protests from students and – to me, shockingly – from senior faculty and administrators who should know better.

It happened at Brandeis, Haverford, Rutgers, and Smith. Last year, it happened at Swarthmore and Johns Hopkins, I’m sorry to say.

In each case, liberals silenced a voice – and denied an honorary degree – to individuals they deemed politically objectionable. That is an outrage and we must not let it continue.

If a university thinks twice before inviting a commencement speaker because of his or her politics censorship and conformity – the mortal enemies of freedom – win out.

And sadly, it is not just commencement season when speakers are censored.

Last fall, when I was still in City Hall, our Police Commissioner was invited to deliver a lecture at another Ivy League institution – but he was unable to do so because students shouted him down.

Isn’t the purpose of a university to stir discussion, not silence it? What were the students afraid of hearing? Why did administrators not step in to prevent the mob from silencing speech? And did anyone consider that it is morally and pedagogically wrong to deprive other students the chance to hear the speech?

I’m sure all of today’s graduates have read John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty. But allow me to read a short passage from it: ‘The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it.’

He continued: ‘If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.’

Mill would have been horrified to learn of university students silencing the opinions of others. He would have been even more horrified that faculty members were often part of the commencement censorship campaigns.

For tenured faculty members to silence speakers whose views they disagree with is the height of hypocrisy, especially when these protests happen in the northeast – a bastion of self-professed liberal tolerance.

I’m glad to say, however, that Harvard has not caved in to these commencement censorship campaigns. If it had, Colorado State Senator Michael Johnston would not have had the chance to address the Education School yesterday.

Some students called on the administration to rescind the invitation to Johnston because they opposed some of his education policies. But to their great credit, President Faust and Dean Ryan stood firm.

As Dean Ryan wrote to students: ‘I have encountered many people of good faith who share my basic goals but disagree with my own views when it comes to the question of how best to improve education. In my view, those differences should be explored, debated, challenged, and questioned. But they should also be respected and, indeed, celebrated.’

He could not have been more correct, and he could not have provided a more valuable final lesson to the class of 2014.

As a former chairman of Johns Hopkins, I strongly believe that a university’s obligation is not to teach students what to think but to teach students how to think. And that requires listening to the other side, weighing arguments without prejudging them, and determining whether the other side might actually make some fair points.

If the faculty fails to do this, then it is the responsibility of the administration and governing body to step in and make it a priority. If they do not, if students graduate with ears and minds closed, the university has failed both the student and society.

And if you want to know where that leads, look no further than Washington, D.C.

Down in Washington, every major question facing our country – involving our security, our economy, our environment, and our health – is decided.

Yet the two parties decide these questions not by engaging with one another, but by trying to shout each other down, and by trying to repress and undermine research that runs counter to their ideology. The more our universities emulate that model, the worse off we will be as a society.

And let me give you an example: For decades, Congress has barred the Centers for Disease Control from conducting studies of gun violence, and recently Congress also placed that prohibition on the National Institute of Health. You have to ask yourself: What are they afraid of?

This year, the Senate has delayed a vote on President Obama’s nominee for Surgeon General – Dr. Vivek Murthy, a Harvard physician – because he had the audacity to say that gun violence is a public health crisis that should be tackled. The gall of him!

Let’s get serious: When 86 Americans are killed with guns every single day, and shootings regularly occur at our schools and universities – including last week’s tragedy at Santa Barbara – it would be almost medical malpractice to say anything else.

But in politics – as it is on too many college campuses – people don’t listen to facts that run counter to their ideology. They fear them. And nothing is more frightening to them than scientific evidence.

Earlier this year, the State of South Carolina adopted new science standards for its public schools – but the state legislature blocked any mention of natural selection. That’s like teaching economics – without mentioning supply and demand.

Again, you have to ask: What are they afraid of?

The answer, of course, is obvious: Just as members of Congress fear data that undermines their ideological beliefs, these state legislators fear scientific evidence that undermines their religious beliefs.

And if you want proof of that, consider this: An 8-year old girl in South Carolina wrote to members of the state legislature urging them to make the Woolly Mammoth the official state fossil. The legislators thought it was a great idea, because a Woolly Mammoth fossil was found in the state way back in 1725. But the state senate passed a bill defining the Woolly Mammoth as having been ‘created on the 6th day with the beasts of the field.’

You can’t make this stuff up.

Here in 21st century America, the wall between church and state remains under attack – and it’s up to all of us to man the barricades.

Unfortunately, the same elected officials who put ideology and religion over data and science when it comes to guns and evolution are often the most unwilling to accept the scientific data on climate change.

Now, don’t get me wrong: scientific skepticism is healthy. But there is a world of difference between scientific skepticism that seeks out more evidence and ideological stubbornness that shuts it out.

Given the general attitude of many elected officials toward science it’s no wonder that the federal government has abdicated its responsibility to invest in scientific research, much of which occurs at our universities.

Today, federal spending on research and development as a percentage of GDP is lower than it has been in more than 50 years which is allowing the rest of the world to catch up – and even surpass – the U.S. in scientific research.

The federal government is flunking science, just as many state governments are.

We must not become a country that turns our back on science, or on each other. And you graduates must help lead the way.

On every issue, we must follow the evidence where it leads and listen to people where they are. If we do that, there is no problem we cannot solve. No gridlock we cannot break. No compromise we cannot broker.

The more we embrace a free exchange of ideas, and the more we accept that political diversity is healthy, the stronger our society will be.

Now, I know this has not been a traditional commencement speech, and it may keep me from passing a dissertation defense in the humanities department, but there is no easy time to say hard things.

Graduates: Throughout your lives, do not be afraid of saying what you believe is right, no matter how unpopular it may be, especially when it comes to defending the rights of others.

Standing up for the rights of others is in some ways even more important than standing up for your own rights. Because when people seek to repress freedom for some, and you remain silent, you are complicit in that repression and you may well become its victim.

Do not be complicit, and do not follow the crowd. Speak up, and fight back.

You will take your lumps, I can assure you of that. You will lose some friends and make some enemies. But the arc of history will be on your side, and our nation will be stronger for it.

Now, all of you graduates have earned today’s celebration, and you have a lot to be proud of and a lot to be grateful for. So tonight, as you leave this great university behind, have one last Scorpion Bowl at the Kong – on second thought, don’t – and tomorrow, get to work making our country and our world freer than ever, for everyone.

Good luck and God bless.”


Let’s think together again, soon.