Friday, November 14, 2014

The Friday Four, Part 92


A while back I checked Steven Pinker's The Better Angels of Our Nature out of the library.  I was interested in its premise that violence has declined and we are today living in the most peaceful time of history.  Unfortunately, I didn't get very far into the tome (800 pages of tiiiiiiny print) and couldn't renew it because of the long list of requests, but the statistics I've seen and what I've read from other sources is compelling.  Someday I'll get back to the book and finish it off.

I don't know about you, but I hear a considerable amount of doom and gloom about how bad the world is and how it's trajectory is going downhill fast.  There are definitely horrible things going on all over, but this week I saw this article titled "It's a cold, hard fact: our world is becoming a better place" and I appreciated the perspective.

Life expectancies, literacy and education are way up, violence and poverty are down. Democracy is gaining ground all over the world.  Of course, there's still a lot of work to be done, but it's good to be reminded that there are wonderful reasons to be optimistic.  (Make sure you click through to the "Our World in Data" presentation with all the data.  It's fascinating!)


Speaking of our changing world, I linked to this presentation by BYU history professor Craig Harline almost a year ago, but I love it so much I'm going to link to it again!  "What Happened to My Bellbottoms?" traces the process of change throughout history, particularly with things that were previously thought to be immutable, and how earlier generations react to the changes that occur in younger generations.  I especially appreciate his perspective on change from an LDS angle:
Speaking as a historian, change seems to be one constant we can count on. Speaking as a believer, maybe that's the way it should be. How dull it would be and how little we would learn if the point of life was only to jump through hoops already set up for us rather than for us to help create life. There's nothing wrong with having a system of right and wrong, obviously, and old systems should be casually discarded just because they're old. There's nothing even wrong in liking our particular system or disagreeing with others over what changes should occur, but seeing the big picture of change over time should make us more inclined to disagree humbly with an attitude that we might be wrong and others right rather than with so much certainty that we're right...

Mormons don't officially believe in inerrancy and change doesn't necessarily mean errancy anyway. In fact, the belief in continuing revelation could make Mormons in theory more radical believers in change than most others. But even to us change can feel threatening as was evident in probably our two most radical changes: the ending of polygamy and the priesthood ban.
Professor Harline goes on to tell his personal experiences with the priesthood ban as well as President Spencer W. Kimball's process toward issuing the second Official Declaration extending priesthood and temple blessings to worthy members of African descent.
President Kimball was the hero in this whole matter not because he stood up for his beliefs but because even at his age he reconsidered them.  Unlike the cardinal who wouldn't look through Galileo's telescope, President Kimball was willing to look and to ask.  He later wrote about the incident, 'Revelations will probably never come unless they are desired.'
Really a fabulous talk.  Take 45 minutes to listen it!


My ebook copy of Altered Perceptions from Robison Wells's indiegogo project just arrived!  I'm glad to have been able to contribute to a worthy effort and I can't wait to dig in!


On Monday, the New York Times published an article about the essays that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been posting on for the past year or so.  I had several people ask for my take on both the NY Times article and on the essays themselves, so if you'd like to read what I have to say, go check out my post at SpokaneFAVS.

Of course, there's a whole lot more to say and discuss on each of the essays than I could fit in a blog post of reasonable length, but I think the key with all of them is to read, study, learn, pray, ponder, and - most of all - be patient and kind with yourself and with others.  Reactions to these often difficult topics run the gamut and everyone's emotions - both positive and negative - are valid and deserve to be treated with respect.

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