Words to Live By

1 April 2011

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By Elouise Bell

The problem with Nice isn’t that it’s sometimes wimpy; the problem is that Nice can be dangerous. More crimes have been committed behind the mask of niceness than behind, all the ski masks worn to all the convenience store stickups ever perpetrated.

I don’t actually intend to talk about literal crimes here, but as long as the subject came up, it’s worth mentioning that until the roof caved in, everybody said Utah corporate conman Grant Affleck was a really nice guy. (Nice cuts both ways in giving Utah its title as Fraud Capital of the nation: we produce con men so nice they can’t be doubted, and victims so nice they “can’t say no.”) Documents forger and bomb killer Mark Hoffman, they said, was nice. Likewise convicted child sex abuser Alan Hadfield—so nice that an entire community rose up to vilify the victims and slander the messenger rather than accept the verdict on their nice-guy neighbor. And, apparently, Ted Bundy was as nice as they come.

I first identified niceness as a culprit with the help of a colleague, Karen Lynn. I told Karen that some of today’s college students seem pleasant enough, but somehow unpleasantly resistant at the same time, in a way that was unclear but very real.

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Who Are We?

25 January 2011

C.S. Lewis was one of the great thinkers of the last century. This is one of my favorite quotes because in his words here he really gets it.

“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would strongly be tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.

Nations, cultures, arts, civilisations — these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whome we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit — immortal horrors or everlasting splendours. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously — no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner — no mere tolerance or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment.” – C.S. Lewis

Here is another by President Brigham Young as quoted in The Radiant Life by Truman G Madsen:

“If that dissatisfied wife would behold the transcendent beauty of person, the Godlike qualities of the resurrected husband she now despises, her love for him would be unbounded and unutterable. Instead of despising him, she would feel like worshipping him. He is so holy, so pure, so perfect, sofilled with God in his resurrected body. There will be no dissatisfaction of this kind in the resurrection of the just. The faithful elders will have then proved themselves worthy of their wives, and are prepared then to be crowned gods, to be filled with all the attributes of the gods that dwell in eternity. Could the dissatisfied ones see a vision of the future glorified state of their husbands, love for them would immediately spring up within you, and no circumstance could prevail upon you to forsake them.” – Brigham Young

I think it is pretty clear that as Paul said to the Romans, “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” – Romans 8:16-17

We are more important than we know and our lives have much greater value than we now can comprehend. But as we are diligent in hearkening to the Spirit and heeding the words of Christ then these great mysteries will begin to be unfolded before our eyes.

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