Temples, Abortion, and Becoming Saviors

I just watched a video that was posted on Facebook about abortion survivor Gianna Jensen.  As I watched her story, this occured to me:

What she’s doing for the unborn is like what we do with temple work.  As a Wikipedia entry explains: “When Jesus Christ atoned for the sins of the world, He did for people everywhere what they could not do for themselves….Because of Christ’s Atonement and Resurrection, and through the power and authority of the Priesthood, Mormons can do for the dead, what the dead cannot do for themselves.”

Or, as President Gordon B. Hinckley put it: “I think that vicarious work for the dead more nearly approaches the vicarious sacrifice of the Savior Himself than any other work of which I know. It is given with love, without hope of compensation, or repayment or anything of the kind. What a glorious principle.”

So, if temple work is the closest we come to following Christ because we’re doing for others what they cannot possibly do for themselves, then the work of advocating for the unborn is just as holy.  Truly, they are in need of saving and are completely helpless to do anything about it themselves.  Just as the dead need us to perform ordinances, and the entire human family needs Jesus Christ to save us from death and sin, millions of unborn babies need us to try to save them. 

My Ten Most Influential Books

After reading this great post about the ten books that most influenced an author over at First Thoughts (one of my favorite blogs) a few weeks ago, I’ve been working on my own list.  The list changed drastically over a few drafts, and I’ve been surprised by the final results.

These are not necessarily my favorite books (though many of them are), nor are they what I’d consider the best books I’ve read (though, again, some of them are).  These are the books that have most contributed to who I am today.  For better or for worse, these are the ones that stuck with me, changed me, that left some deep imprint impossible to explain me now without. 

The only caveat here is that I decided not to include any scripture on this list.  For it to be accurate, they should be on here, but I ran into too many problems.  Should I count them all as one monolithic book called “Scripture,” separate them into Standard Works, or separate them even further into individual texts by author?  The more I broke them down, the more I had to wrangle with how to rank them.  It got too thorny, and I just decided to ignore that altogether for this list.

The original list at First Thoughts, along with many of the comments afterwards, cheated by doubling up on books and squeezing more than ten onto these “top ten” lists.  This draft has significantly fewer than my first couple, but I’ve still elected to cheat, also.  My top ten list has twelve titles.  If you really want to be a purist, cut off the last two. 

I’ve listed them here roughly in order of just how much they’ve shaped me, and I’ve included the general period in my life when I read them. 

1.  Hugh Nibley, Nibley On the Timely and the Timeless (college).  This isn’t my favorite Nibley book (his Book of Mormon works or Approaching Zion would probably get that nod), but this “greatest hits” collection deeply impressed me at the time with its range of classical literacy to social criticism to studious, spiritual discipleship.  It was the first Nibley book I read cover to cover, and started me on the path to the rest of his oeuvre.  The way that I read scripture, study history, and understand the practical relations between things ancient, esoteric, and pragmatically modern are all heavily influenced by his life and work (though, since reading his biography–which I took with me to read on my honeymoon because it had just come out and I couldn’t wait to start it–I have attenuated this idolizing a bit and tried to expand my circle of influence).  Undeniably, his books have had more of a profound effect on me than any other.  I bought an old copy from E-bay several years ago…right before it was reprinted in a new edition.

2.  Hopkins and Sugerman, No One Here Gets Out Alive (high school).  I owe this one to my older brother.  Like all boys, I worshipped my older brother, so when I was old enough to emulate his adoration of classic rock, I followed suit.  I came across this biography of Doors frontman Jim Morrison and devoured it.  For a moody, pretentious adolescent, it provided a role model worthy of my own egomaniacal imagination.  This book’s influence reached far beyond my devoted memorizing of every note on the legendary Best of the Doors two CD set.  Even back then, I would read biographies with an eye especially keen for what great people had done at my age.  Morrison had been, above all, a voracious, even a ferocious, reader, and a nascent poet. 

My own forays into poetry reading and writing were not terribly productive (though I still like The Lords and the New Creatures), the titles and authors cited by Hopkins and Sugerman as formative on Morrison–James Joyce, Jack Kerouac, the Romantics and French Symbolists–became my bread and butter for years, and sprouted branches of further influence that still dominate what I read today.  Though I certainly no longer emulate Morrison or his lifestyle, I can’t deny that this book has had a huge impact on me over the years.  Just last week I was flipping through radio stations and heard “L.A. Woman,” and I fondly paused to listen to some of it.  This book may be dormant, but it is in my DNA.  Continue reading

Three Favorite Stories From The Life Of President Hinckley

I read President Hinckley’s official biography, Go Forward With Faith, a few years ago, and it made a major impression on me just how hard he worked and what a great life he lived.  Here are three of my favorite anecdotes from his life:

On living apart from his wife for half a year while he worked for a railroad:

Gordon left almost immediately for Denver to assume his new responsibilities and look for housing, and Marjorie remained behind to find a renter for their home….As the weeks rolled by, Marjorie became increasingly anxious.  She was eager to join her husband in Denver before her pregnancy became so advanced that it was not feasible to make the move, and she did not want to have her baby alone.  While he waited for something to open up, Gordon lived in a small hotel and worked nearly around the clock….There was no such thing as a forty-hour work week.  After putting in a long day at the railroad yard, he rode the trains at night to learn the ropes….Gordon and Marjorie disliked their separation from each other, which stretched to nearly six months….Gordon alleviated the situation somewhat by using his Pullman pass to make the twelve-hour trip home on weekends, catching a train west as early Friday as he could get away and returning on a late-night express Sunday evening.  (pages 130-131)

On holding two very difficult callings at the same time for a few months:

Four days later, President McKay set Elder Hinckley apart as an Assistant to the Twelve….He would travel extensively–something he endured rather than enjoyed.  And his young family would have to adjust to his frequent absence….Because he continued to serve as executive secretary of the Missionary Department, his office wasn’t even changed.  Neither were circumstances adjusted immediately in the East Millcreek Stake, where he continued to serve as stake president.  He worked by day as a General Authority, held stake meetings on weekday evenings, and divided his time on weekends between his own stake and assignments to attend conferences in other areas….After a couple of months of doing double duty, Elder Hinckley called to the attention of President Joseph Fielding Smith the fact that he was holding down two very demanding jobs….Finally, on August 17, 1958, four and a half months after being sustained as a General Authority, Elder Hinckley was assigned to assist Elder Harold B. Lee in reorganizing the stake…  (pages 196-200, emphasis added)

On humility and loyalty:

For some time it had been hard for President Hinckley to avoid comments from individuals, even colleagues, who spoke openly about what they considered to be inevitable–that it was only a matter of time until he became President of the Church.  President Hinckley was impatient with (and sometimes upset about) such comments and innuendos, and he routinely cut short any conversations headed in that direction.  When Elders Faust and Ballard approached him in late February 1995 about the script for a video about his life that the Church wished to produce, President Hinckley was uncooperative.  “I told them that I would not go along with any such thing at this time,” he recorded.  “It would be totally unfitting, inappropriate, and counter to my feelings…”  (page 503)

What a hero.  I only wonder why Presidet Monson has been in office for a year and a half now and yet there’s still no authorized biography of him available. What’s the hold up there, people?

Notes on Gordon B. Hinckley’s Standing For Something

In a little over a week, it will be a year since the passing of Gordon B. Hinkcley, 15th president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  At that time, considering the growth of Church membership, he had been the only prophet that about a fourth of all living Mormons had ever known.  As I joined the Church in 1993 but wasn’t very active until 1996, that includes me. 

When he died, I finally pulled my copy of Standing For Something: 10 Neglected Virtues That Will Heal Our Hearts And Homes off the shelf.  After I’d read the first twenty pages or so, I found myself wanting to keep track of all his many offhand references.  Even as I just kept a brief mental tally of his sources, I was impressed that he had such a broad store of resources available.  It’s not like he was writing a scholarly tract, but if he had been, this wouldn’t have been a bad start.  The book reads very comfortably, and is very friendly to the reader, some of it coming across as spontaneous, and some parts clearly taken from his own library of sermons.  I don’t think he must have done much research, then, but actually had most of this material in his mind (including, this English teacher hastens to add, references to four of Shakespeare’s plays).  Putting all of this in such a simple little book might make it harder to detect his achievement. 

By the time I’d finished the book, my notes were twleve pages long.  At the end, I summarized what I thought I could surmise about President Hinckley’s life just based on those notes, sort of as a guide for emulating him.  The best part is that I’m pretty sure I missed some things: some of his references must have escaped me.  Feel free to point out any I missed:


Standing for Something—Quotes, references, statistics, etc.


1.Henry Van Dyke, “America For Me”—introduction xii

2.Edwin Markham on love, “Outwitted”–ch 1, pg. 9

3.Longfellow on honesty, “The Ladder of St. Augustine”–ch 2, pg. 26

4.James Russell Lowell, “The Vision of Sir Launfal”–ch 4, pg 58

5.Robert Browning, “Rabbi Ben Ezra”–ch 8, pg 94

6.Joaquin Miller, “Columbus”–ch 10, pg 111

7.Elizabeth Barrett Browning—Marriage, pg. 142

8.Emerson, “Voluntaries III”–Epilogue, pg 177


Historical References

9.Mayflower Compact (quote)—introduction xiv

10.Declaration of Independence (quote)—introduction xv

11.Preamble to the Constitution (quote)—introduction xvi

12.War hero statue in Trafalgar Square–ch. 1, pg. 8

13.Athenian oath of citizenship—ch 2, pg. 19

14.Anecdote about Lincoln’s honesty—ch 2, pg 26

15.“Heroes” list: Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Lindbergh, Byrd, Hopkins—ch 3, pg 38-39

16.George Washington’s 110 “rules for civility”–ch 4, pg 53

17.1979 centennial of electric light—ch 5, pg 67

18.Lee’s surrender at Appomattox—ch 6, pg 76

19.Vikings—ch 7, pg 81

20.American West—ch 7, pg 81

21.Israel—ch 7, pg 81

22.American WWI cemetery in France—ch 8, pg 92

23.Korean War—ch 8, pg 92

24.Vietnam War—ch 8, pg 92

25.United Kingdom in WWII—ch 9, pg 102

26.Mikhail Gorbachev’s speeches—ch 9, pg 103

27.Letter of an 1872 Colonel who visited Utah—ch 10, pg 118

28.Story of the Roman Gracchi—Family, pg 152


Quotes and Allusions

29.William Gladstone on U.S. Constitution—introduction xvi

30.Margaret Thatcher on declining religiosity—introduction xvii

31.George Washington on public religiosity—introduction xix

32.Shakespeare on honesty (Othello)–ch 2, pg. 17

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