April 4, 2008

"I Have a Dream"

Early morning, April four. Shot rings out in the Memphis sky. Free at last, they took your life, They could not take your pride.*
Dr. Martin Luther King August 28, 1963 Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C. I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation. Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity. But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition. In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the "unalienable Rights" of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children. It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges. But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. *We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by a sign stating: "For Whites Only."* We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until "justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream."¹ I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest -- quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends. And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal." I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today! I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification" -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today! I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."² This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day. And this will be the day -- this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning: My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim's pride, From every mountainside, let freedom ring! And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania. Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado. Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California. But not only that: Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia. Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee. Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring. And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!³ *U2, Pride. I'm not sure why the song refers to the assassination occurring in the "early morning" when it took place at 6:01 PM Memphis time. The only places in the world where it was early morning at that time, it was already April 5. **Text within asterisks was added on 3/31/06. Credit Randy Mayeux for bringing the omissions to my attention. ¹ Amos 5:24 (rendered precisely in The American Standard Version of the Holy Bible) ² Isaiah 40:4-5 (King James Version of the Holy Bible). Quotation marks are excluded from part of this moment in the text because King's rendering of Isaiah 40:4 does not precisely follow the KJV version from which he quotes (e.g., "hill" and "mountain" are reversed in the KJV). King's rendering of Isaiah 40:5, however, is precisely quoted from the KJV. ³ At: http://www.negrospirituals.com/news-song/f...t_last_from.htm Source: http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlkihaveadream.htm

March 31, 2008

Parable of the candlestick

Jedediah M. Grant August 3, 1856 In discussing what makes the LDS Church unique often times the subject of continuing revelation is mentioned. Sometimes arguments are over-simplistic, implying that every other Christian religion denies revelation, or believes that the Bible is perfect, complete, and infallible. In Joseph Smith's day, as well as in our own, there are Christians who believe they receive revelation, and there are some who recognize there are certain errors in the Bible.[1] Still, the majority of Christian denominations believe that despite any errors the Bible is "sufficient" and that no new revelation will be added to the canon. Reformers such as Martin Luther noted differences between doctrines they saw in the Bible and practices they saw in the Church, and thus made corrections as they saw fit. As President Grant pointed out, with Joseph it was not a reformation alone, it was revealed anew. No new wine in old bottles for the Latter-day Saints:

We did not merely have the Bible circulated among us; Joseph Smith did not merely tell us that he was a missionary sent to proclaim that which was proclaimed and believed in the Garden of Eden, or the testimony that was given to Noah before the flood; or that he was sent simply to bring the books of Moses with the writings of the ancient Apostles and Prophets; or alone to inform us of the works of Jesus Christ when upon the earth. This was not alone the work of the Prophet, but it was that he had received a commission from the Almighty, that he had been ordained by Peter, James and John, who were sent unto him as messengers or ministers from the heavens with proper authority, and had given him the legal authority of God—for what? To build up the kingdom of God upon the earth, to organize it and set it in order, and to ordain proper officers to execute the law. This Apostle of Jesus Christ told the people that if they would obey the Gospel, if they would repent of their sins, if they would be baptized for the remission of their sins, they should receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, by the laying on of hands, which he was authorized to administer. Many complied with the teachings of the Prophet, and what was the result? Much the same as we read of in the Bible and the Book of Mormon. The Prophet translated the Book of Mormon, and therein found the subject of salvation set forth as it is in the Bible, only more plainly and fully. The Book of Mormon and the Prophet Joseph taught repentance the same as the Bible, therefore they agreed; and the Prophet never limited that instruction, neither did he limit any of the teachings of the ancients.
According to Latter-day Saints, the Bible is not final and complete. It represents the accounts of those who experienced miracles, visions, and revelations, and the Bible stories are to continue. Reading isn't being or seeing.
If Joseph had merely sold the people the Bible and Book of Mormon, would they have received the gift of the Holy Ghost? It was, and I presume still is, a favorite theme with Mr. Alexander Campbell, of the United States,[2] that “the word is the Spirit and the Spirit is the word,” in short that there is no Spirit to be received separate from the word of God. His logic amounts virtually to this—“Simply preach the Bible, the word of God and salvation as printed in the Bible; and all who purchase the Bible thereby purchase eternal life.” Who that is rational and possessed of a disposition to scan the subject can believe such a doctrine? Doubtless Moses heard the thunder of the Almighty on Mount Sinai, and saw the lightnings, but would you say that I was reasoning correctly, if I were to say that I heard that thunder and saw those lightnings simply through reading the history thereof in the Bible? Again, would I be reasoning correctly to say, because I have read the account of what transpired on the day of Pentecost, when the Spirit was poured out upon the people and Peter spoke as he was moved upon by the Holy Ghost, that I, therefore, have seen the day of Pentecost? That because I have read the history of some of the operations of the Holy Ghost, therefore I have the Holy Ghost? Or that I heard them speak in tongues, because I have read the history of persons speaking in tongues? Certainly not... Brethren and sisters, we understand the difference between enjoying and reading of enjoyment, between the history of a feast and the feast itself; also between the history of the law of God and the law itself.
Joseph Smith had touched on this theme with exactness in an 1832 newspaper editorial called "TO THE HONORABLE MEN OF THE WORLD":
To the honorable searchers for truth: Therefore to be obedient to the precepts of our divine Master, we say unto you--Search the Scriptures--search the revelations which we publish, and ask your Heavenly Father, in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, to manifest the truth unto you, and if you do it with an eye single to His glory, nothing doubting, He will answer you by the power of His Holy Spirit. You will then know for yourselves and not for another. You will not then be dependent on man for the knowledge of God; nor will there be any room for speculation. No; for when men receive their instruction from Him that made them, they know how he will save them. Then again we say: Search the Scriptures, search the Prophets, and learn what portion of them belongs to you and the people of the nineteenth century. You, no doubt, will agree with us, and say that you have no right to claim the promises of the inhabitants before the flood; that you cannot found your hopes of salvation upon the obedience of the children of Israel when journeying in the wilderness; nor can you expect that the blessings which the Apostles pronounced upon the churches of Christ, eighteen hundred years ago, were intended for you. Again, if others' blessings are not your blessings, others' curses are not your curses; you stand then in these last days, as all have stood before you, agents unto yourselves, to be judged according to your works. Every man lives for himself... Wherefore, we again say search the revelations of God; study the prophecies, and rejoice that God grants unto the world Seers and Prophets. They are they who saw the mysteries of godliness... And, fellow sojourners upon earth it is your privilege to purify yourselves and come up to the same glory, and see for yourselves, and know for yourselves. Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.[3]

With this in mind it is significant that the Mormon conversion experience is shaped around personal revelation, dialog with Deity. Every person is encouraged to ask God for enlightenment, and promised that after careful pondering, with real intent, the truth will be manifested (see Moroni 10:3-5). This process is sometimes referred to as "Moroni's promise," and is found at the close of the Book of Mormon. Terryl Givens points out this experience of revelation is "vouchsafed in a private, rather than public manner...Personal revelation in the Book of Mormon's model had the advantage of following upon, rather than substituting for, thoughtful consideration of the book." Givens noted how this approach was not seen by early converts as hostile to rationalism. This is involved revelation, and it doesn't rely solely upon the word of others. Each is asked to ask.[4] Jedediah took this general argument and formed it into a succinct parable:
Should you light a room with gas, and should an artist take a sketch of the light, and some author write a history of the affair, and at a subsequent date some other man writes history, and should the two accounts be placed together, describing the beauty thereof and benefit thereof, would the history of the light and the benefit that had been derived therefrom, and the abundance of that light that was said to have existed, light up a hall? If it would, do not buy any more candles, but read the history of candles, and stick that history in your candlesticks; read the history of oil and wick, and stick that in your lamp, and see how much light you will get.
The restored gospel invites all to experience the light for themselves without eliminating prophets and leaders from the equation. Joseph Smith's revealed views establish the principle of authority while still maintaining the agency of each individual. Obedience to leaders can confidently occur when individuals receive personal revelation confirming the inspiration of direction.
You have the history of the light, and you have received the virtue and power which are in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and it is for you to obey your leaders and the intelligence which is in you, which may the Lord grant, in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Footnotes: [1] Sometimes the belief in personal revelation is defined differently, however. Most Protestant denominations view the Bible as complete; that no scripture will be added to the canon. The Catholic faith couples "tradition" with the Bible. Tradition includes the correct interpretation of the scriptures and is not seen as "adding to" the Bible. [2] Alexander Campbell was a contemporary preacher who held some similar restorationist views. Alexander followed his father Thomas from Scotland to America in the early 1800s. After being dismissed from the Presbyterian ministry Thomas formed the "Christian Association of Washington" in 1809 with the purpose of restoring "simple original form of Christianity." The Campbell's joined the Redstone Baptist Association in 1813, though eventually they split from the association and held to their restoration ideas throughout. While acknowledging that error had crept into the Bible, Alexander still held that it was sufficient and that no new revelation would be added. Among Alexander's followers was Parley P. Pratt and Sidney Rigdon. See Milton V. Backman, American Religions and the Rise of Mormonism, 211-217. [3] This editorial was printed in the Church organ, the Evening and Morning Star in 1832. This excerpt was drawn from HC 1:282-283. [4] Terryl Givens, By the Hand of Mormon, 238. [5] The sketch of the candle is from Harpers Weekly, March 16, 1861. "Major Anderson's Candlestick." It has nothing to do with the rest of the post, I just thought it was a nice image.