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Digital Works vs. the Hard Copy Books

In the past, some of my students have opted for the Kindle-type digital books instead of ordering and studying the actual paper books. At first, I thought it was a viable option, but as I have progressed in my teaching preferences the last few years, I have evolved to consider only using the hard copies of the books themselves. My reasoning extends to three points:

  1. A serious student will learn to annotate in their books, argue with the author, underline the thesis, the problems, the solutions, and in the margin will write their interesting personal epiphanies from their studies.
  2. A serious student will begin to fill a bookshelf and eventually their little library of the great ideas that have changed their world. Each book will represent to them a turning point of thought, comprehension, and contemplation.
  3. A serious student will return to their books as they add experience and learning and will compare their past annotations to the current thoughts and understanding, thus showing to the student their deep growth and progress.

I am sure Kindle-type digital books have their place. Already I can think of a few reasons why one might want to read digitally. They are handy, searchable, and annotate-able. not to mention, a hundred books or more only weigh the weight of the Kindle Reader. Those are arguably excellent reasons to prefer the Kindle. However, a recent study shows that despite the availability, facility, and lightweight-ness of a Kindle, students comprehend far more from reading and studying a real tangible book.

Still, it is up to you, dear reader, to choose for yourself. The following books are awaiting your decision, whether you wish to purchase digitally or purchase the Real McCoy—The Genuine Article—.  May you enjoy your summer!

1776 The Wealth of Nations, by Adam Smith, selections (video)
1798 Rime of the Ancient Mariner, by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
1815 Emma, by Jane Austen (a book on education, authority, worship, artificial people)
1818 Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
1838 Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville (Volume II, Chapters 1-26)
1850 That Which is Seen and that Which is Not Seen, Frederic Bastiat
1862 Les Miserables (Abridged), by Victory Hugo (used book link)
1848 The Communist Manifesto and Other Revolutionary Writings (Dover Thrift Editions)
1947 Diary of a Young Girl, by Ann Frank
1874-1965 Churchill, by Paul Johnson
1865 Annotated Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll
1910 What’s wrong with the World, by G.K. Chesterton
1922 The Waste Land, by T.S. Eliot
1941 The Weight of Glory, essays by C.S. Lewis, The Inner Ring, Weight of Glory
1953 The Silver Chair, by C.S. Lewis
1954 Lord of the Flies, William Golding
1970’s Essays, A World Split Apart and A Reflection on the Vendee Uprising, and by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
2005 Queen of Katwe, Tim Crothers
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2018-2019 Humanities Scope and Sequence

September

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Sep 4-7

wk 1

Labor Day

First Class-Introduction

Wealth of Nations

Wealth of Nations

Sep 10-14

wk 2

Wealth of Nations

Wealth of Nations

Wealth of Nations

Rime of the Ancient Mariner

Rime of the Ancient Mariner

Sep 17-21

wk 3

Rime of the Ancient Mariner

Rime of the Ancient Mariner

Rime of the Ancient Mariner

Emma

Emma

Sep 24-28

Wk 4

Emma

Emma

Emma

Art—The Sublime is Now

Art—The Sublime is Now

October

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Oct 1-5

wk 5

Art—The Sublime is Now

Art—The Sublime is Now

Art—The Sublime is Now

Frankenstein

Frankenstein

Oct 8-12

wk 6

Frankenstein

Frankenstein

Frankenstein

Frankenstein

Frankenstein

Oct 15-19

wk 7

Frankenstein

Frankenstein

Frankenstein

Paper: ANI chart (Invention)

Paper: Outline, including quotes from readings (Arrangement)

Oct 22-26

wk 8

Paper: convert outline to essay (Elocution) and Submit first draft to 2 peers and/or parents

Paper: work on peer papers and hand back

Paper: retrieve papers back, make edits, polish and submit final draft

Democracy in America

Democracy in America

Oct 29- Nov 2

wk 9

Democracy in America

Democracy in America

Democracy in America

Democracy in America

Democracy in America

November

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Nov 5-9

wk 10

That which is Seen and that Which is Not Seen

That which is Seen and that Which is Not Seen

That which is Seen and that Which is Not Seen

Les Miserables

Les Miserables

Nov 12-16

wk 11

Veterans Day, no homework

Les Miserables

Les Miserables

Les Miserables

Les Miserables

Nov 19-20

wk 12

Les Miserables

Les Miserables

No School

Happy Thanksgiving!

Be Thankful to our Heavenly Father for this Free Country and its bounty!

Nov 26-30

wk 13

Les Miserables

Les Miserables

Les Miserables

The communist Manifesto and Other Revolutionary Writings

The communist Manifesto and Other Revolutionary Writings

December

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Dec 3-7

wk 14

The communist Manifesto and Other Revolutionary Writings

The communist Manifesto and Other Revolutionary Writings

The communist Manifesto and Other Revolutionary Writings

The communist Manifesto and Other Revolutionary Writings

The communist Manifesto and Other Revolutionary Writings

Dec 10-14

wk 15

Diary of a Young Girl

Diary of a Young Girl

Diary of a Young Girl

Diary of a Young Girl

Diary of a Young Girl

January

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Jan 7-11

wk 16

Diary of a Young Girl

Diary of a Young Girl

Diary of a Young Girl

Study Day

Written Final

Jan 14-18

wk 17

Oral Finals Study

Oral Finals

Oral Finals

Churchill

Churchill

Jan 21-25

wk 18

MLK day—May you celebrate civil rights, kindness, and liberty today

Churchill

Churchill

Churchill

Churchill

Jan 28 – Feb 1

wk 19

Alice in Wonderland

Alice in Wonderland

Alice in Wonderland

Alice in Wonderland

Alice in Wonderland

February

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Feb 4-8

wk 20

Alice in Wonderland

Alice in Wonderland

Alice in Wonderland

What’s Wrong with the World

What’s Wrong with the World

Feb 11-15

wk 21

What’s Wrong with the World

What’s Wrong with the World

What’s Wrong with the World

The Waste Land

The Waste Land

Feb 18-22

wk 22

President’s Day—No homework today

The Waste Land

The Waste Land

The Inner Ring

The Inner Ring

Feb 25- Mar 1

wk 23

The Inner Ring

The Inner Ring

The Inner Ring

The Weight of Glory, Lewis

The Weight of Glory, Lewis

March

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Mar 4-8

wk 24

The Weight of Glory, Lewis

The Weight of Glory, Lewis

The Weight of Glory, Lewis

Paper: ANI chart (Invention)

Paper: Outline, including quotes from readings (Arrangement)

Mar 11-15

wk 25

Paper: convert outline to essay (Elocution) and Submit first draft to 2 peers and/or parents

Paper: work on peer papers and hand back

Paper: retrieve papers back, make edits, polish and submit final draft

The Silver Chair

The Silver Chair

Mar 18-22

The Silver Chair

The Silver Chair

The Silver Chair

A World Split Apart

A World Split Apart

Mar 25-29

wk 26

Spring Break

April-May

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Apr 1-5

wk 27

A World Split Apart

A World Split Apart

A World Split Apart

Lord of the Flies

Lord of the Flies

Apr 8-12

wk 28

Lord of the Flies

Lord of the Flies

Lord of the Flies

A Reflection on the Vendee Uprising

A Reflection on the Vendee Uprising

Apr 15-19

wk 29

A Reflection on the Vendee Uprising

A Reflection on the Vendee Uprising

Queen of Katwe

Queen of Katwe

Queen of Katwe

Apr 22-26

wk 30

Queen of Katwe

Queen of Katwe

Last Day of Class

Study day

Study day

Apr 29-May 3

Written Finals

Oral Finals

Oral Finals

30 Weeks

How to Know, Understand, and Act in Basic Gospel Doctrines

We celebrated a dear Uncle’s life yesterday as he has passed from his mortal life. I was asked to deliver the doctrinal speech.

It is my pleasure to honor John Louis Marsh today. Some of you know that as a young single adult, just out of high school, I went to live with his family to care for and help Aunt Ann as she was struggling with MS and carrying her first child after over twelve years of marriage. I cherish the time I spent with John and his family. Though, I am not sure the children appreciated me pushing them to eat their vegetables. John was very good to me. He offered me a job working at Spotlight video where cousins Donna, Mark and Linda, Aunt Janet, and Grandpa Rex worked. I have some wonderful memories there.

Although abrupt and frank, Uncle John loved me in his own way. He was generous, kind, and thoughtful, but you always had to look beyond his roughness. I knew he loved me.

Uncle John loved the Gospel. His testimony of the Savior and the Plan of Salvation was a pillar in his life. I remember many talks with him and Aunt Ann on the couch after the children had gone to bed. He was concerned that I knew what was good, true, and right.

As I have been pondering on my memories with Uncle John, I have felt strongly to talk about how each of us can know for sure what is good, true and right; each of these stands upon the pillars of the basic Gospel Doctrines.

We obtain power when we not only understand doctrine but when we act in it. “The doctrine of Christ is so pure, so obtainable, and so necessary to us becoming who He needs us to be. Further, we live in a world that claims a Christ that is permissible and accepting of all behaviors. While Christ’s love is ‘perfect, infinite, enduring, and universal’[i] his laws and standards cannot be violated if we”[ii] really want to know and act in what is good, true, and right.

Ultimately, we know that “when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.”[iii] “I the Lord am bound when you do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.”[iv] Additionally, the Lord has said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”[v]

As we make efforts to understand His doctrines, we are empowered against the false ideologies of Christ. Understanding His doctrines will refine and perfect us in this life and the life to come.

It is not given to us to be commanded in all things, we should not rely on the Church to teach us all we should know, but it is our responsibility to obtain knowledge for ourselves, understand how to use that knowledge, and develop our spiritual strength and stamina to stand firm and strong. Rather than tell you the golden answer as many have already expounded to you in the past, I wish to teach the method by which one can find out on their own. First, we need to differentiate between Doctrines, Principles, and Application. Elder David A. Bednar has laid out a methodology using Doctrines, Principles, and Application to help us seek for and understand for ourselves God’s doctrine.

Doctrines are unchanging eternal truths. They are those essential things that point us in the direction of Jesus Christ. Doctrines are very few in number—only about nine. Some of them are the Godhead, the Plan of Salvation, Prophets and Revelation, Ordinances and Covenants, the Family, and the Commandments. Doctrines answer the question WHY.

Gospel principles, different than doctrines, are also unchanging, are guidelines “for the righteous exercise of moral agency. Principles are subsets or components of broader gospel truths . . . Correct principles always are based upon and arise from doctrines.”[vi] They advise us HOW to use the doctrine. Principles answer the question WHAT. Here is an example: “The Word of Wisdom is a principle with a promise which helps us to honor our bodies. The doctrine of the body is central to the Plan of Salvation. We utilize our agency to live the principle so that we can be healthy and free from bad habits and addiction. Honoring our body helps us to feel and experience the doctrine of the Holy Ghost more profoundly in our lives. The Spirit helps us to prepare to live with God again.”[vii] Just in that principle alone, I enumerated 7 additional principles!

Now, applications vary as widely as the men and women in this chapel. Each seeks guidance from the Holy Spirit to know HOW to use the Principles in order to act in Doctrine.

Now that we have discussed the different roles of Doctrines, Principles, and Application, let us consider how to increase our learning in these Doctrines, Principles, and Applications.

Again, in a methodological process, we increase our learning through three steps: Knowledge, Understanding, and Intelligence. In a nutshell, we assign knowledge to the head, understanding to the heart, and intelligence to a personal righteous application. Elder Bednar teaches that not all knowledge is equal. He says, “A hierarchy of importance exists among the things you and I can learn. Indeed, all information and knowledge are not equally important. The Apostle Paul taught this truth in his second epistle to Timothy as he warned that in the latter-days many people would be ‘ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:7)

Knowledge pertains to facts, information, and abilities obtained through experience and education. Knowledge gained is stored in our heads, our brains. As we gather knowledge, we increase the ability to reason, reflect, and examine. Our Heavenly Father instructed us to gain knowledge, “It is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance.” (D&C 131:6)

Therefore, in the acquisition of knowledge, it is essential that we take that knowledge from our heads and drive it down to our hearts, where we understand. In Proverbs, it says, “And with all thy getting get understanding.” (Proverbs 4:7) In the scriptures, understanding is repeatedly compared to the heart. Two examples are: in Proverbs 2:2 “So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding” and in Mosiah 12:27, “Ye have not applied your hearts to understanding; therefore, ye have not been wise.”

Clearly, we must use our minds to gain knowledge and we don’t usually apply our minds, but our hearts when seeking to understand. It is in the heart where we feel. It is in the heart that “we begin to understand the knowledge and experience a mighty change of heart as testimony and conviction move from our heads to our hearts.”[viii]

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Now, once we have gained knowledge and driven it deep into our hearts for understanding, we are ready to apply what we know according to our understanding. “Intelligence is the righteous application of knowledge and understanding in action and judgment.”[ix]

The following scriptures give us a picture of how intelligence or acting rightly comes directly from a sound understanding of the heart. “But a man of understanding walketh uprightly” (Proverbs 15:21). “Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart” (Psalm 119:34). “Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way” (Psalm 119:104). “[The sons of Mosiah] had waxed strong in the knowledge of the truth; for they were men of a sound understanding and they had searched the scriptures diligently, that they might know the word of God. But this is not all; they had given themselves to much prayer, and fasting; therefore they had the spirit of prophecy, and the spirit of revelation, and when they taught, they taught with power and authority of God” (Alma 17:2-3).

Intelligence is always linked to righteousness. In D&C 130:18-19, “Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection. And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come.” Note in that scripture, knowledge comes before intelligence and each is linked to the respective following principle: knowledge requires diligence and intelligence is linked to obedience. Additionally, in the 88th section, verse 118 we learn that to increase our knowledge and intelligence we must “seek learning, even by study and also by faith.” Again, we link knowledge with study and intelligence with faith.

British novelist and Christian apologist, C.S. Lewis, understood the process of increasing our learning through knowledge, understanding, and application using different words, but similar meanings. In his book, Abolition of Man, C. S Lewis taught three leading principles which give men their identity as human beings. Intellect is the head, he says, the heart is the chest and the belly is the instinct. He says using only our head and belly we become and are animals, however, when we add in the chest, the head begins to govern the belly through the chest.

Lewis believed that “…the traditional moralities of East and West, the Christian, the Pagan, and the Jew…” share similar beliefs between what is good and bad, right and wrong, and true and false. He calls this belief the Tao, which, in the Taoist, means the ultimate ‘way’ or truth in reality and human conduct. Any other path than the Tao, he says, would be creating men without chests or men without a heart, who are not really men at all; men who are unable to discern the truth from the false; men unable to recognize what they ought to do from the things they perceive.[x]

The Lord warned that in the latter days, “All things shall be in commotion; and surely, men’s hearts shall fail them; for fear shall come upon all people” D&C 88:91. In our day, and as Lewis projected in his Abolition of Man, there will abound men without chests. Mankind will increase in knowledge, but not in understanding, unless they return to the Doctrines and Principles of the Gospel through careful study and faith in Jesus Christ.

The prophets and apostles, the true Watchmen on the tower, have seen our day and clearly teach us to be ever vigilant, ever seeking the truth, and acting on the truth. In recent years, President Eyring warned, “The spiritual strength sufficient for our youth to stand firm just a few years ago will soon not be enough. Many of them are remarkable in their spiritual maturity and in their faith. But even the best of them are sorely tested. And the testing will become more severe.”[xi]

Our Spiritual learning enhances Secular learning. Elder Eyring taught, “If we will keep spiritual learning in its proper place, we will have to make some hard choices of how we use our time. But there should never be a conscious choice to let the spiritual become secondary as a pattern in our lives. Never. That will lead to tragedy. The tragedy may not be obvious at first, nor may it ever be clear in mortal life. But remember, you are interested in education, not just for mortal life but for eternal life. When you see that reality clearly with spiritual sight, you will put spiritual learning first and yet not slight the secular learning. In fact, you will work harder at your secular learning than you would without that spiritual vision.”[xii]

Elder Eyring continues, and keep in mind the pattern of taking the knowledge deeply into our heart to make a lasting change and then acting on the knowledge and understanding. He says, “The purpose of God’s creations and of His giving us life is to allow us to have the learning experience necessary for us to come back to Him, to live with Him in eternal life. That is only possible if we have our natures changed through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, true repentance, and making and keeping the covenants He offers all of His Father’s children through His Church.”[xiii]

Let us return to Doctrine, which you know is a pillar of eternal truth upon which rests all the Plan of Salvation.

Let us focus on the Doctrine of Jesus Christ and particularly his Second Coming and our preparation to meet him. Jesus Christ is the “firstborn of the Father in the spirit and is the Only Begotten of the Father in the flesh. He is Jehovah of the Old Testament and the Messiah of the New Testament. Jesus Christ lived a sinless life and made a perfect Atonement for the sins of all mankind. His life is the perfect example of how all mankind should live. He was the first person on this earth to be resurrected. He will come again in power and glory and will reign on the earth during the Millennium.”[xiv]

Our principal goal here, right now, at this moment, is to become like him. We can do that if we know Him, understand Him, and act in His name. Although we may not know when he is coming, He has admonished us to prepare now. “Our decisions determine our destiny,” said President Monson.

Dallin H. Oaks said, “While we are powerless to alter the fact of the Second Coming and unable to know its exact time, we can accelerate our own preparation and try to influence the preparation of those around us.[xv] He goes further to warn us “The good, the true, and the beautiful are being replaced by the no-good, the “whatever,” and the valueless fodder of personal whim.[xvi] It is time to increase our learning, understand doctrine and use the principles to act in righteousness.

In a recent email to all the youth of the Church, President Nelson told them:

I am deeply impressed by your goodness and potential. As we prepare the world for the Second Coming of the Savior, I want you to know that you have a personal role to play!

To help you gain a vision of who you truly are and understand your role in the latter days, my wife, Wendy, and I will share a special message with you on Sunday, June 3.

We have a role to play in preparing for the Savior to come again.

“My people must be tried in all things, that they may be prepared to receive the glory . . . of Zion” (D&C 136:31) Nephi said, “Blessed are they who shall seek to bring forth my Zion at that day” (1 Nephi 13:37). Christ reveals through Joseph Smith in the 105th section, “And Zion cannot be built up unless it is by the principles of the law of the celestial kingdom; otherwise I cannot receive her unto myself . . . and inasmuch as they follow the counsel which they receive, they shall have power after many days to accomplish all things pertaining to Zion” (D&C 105:37).

It is wise to fill our lamps with oil, wise to repent, wise to Know Jesus Christ through personal study of the scriptures, through ordinances performed for the living and the dead; through a deep study of secular and spiritual knowledge with the sole purpose of becoming like Jesus Christ. Filling our lamps with oil like this will precipitate the loving call, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Matt. 25:21)

Enoch learned that the last days would be much like his own day in two respects: first, “the heavens shall be darkened, and a veil of darkness shall cover the earth” (Moses 7:61); and second, there would be “great tribulations among the wicked” (Moses 7:66). In addition, Enoch “saw the sea, that it was troubled, and men’s hearts failing them, looking forth with fear for the judgments of the Almighty God, which should come upon the wicked” (Moses 7:66).

Our task is to become like Enoch’s people who “were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them” (Moses 7:18). And there shall God make his abode forever (see Moses 7:21).

It is my prayer that we may look deeply at our lives, the choices we are making, the education we are seeking and make necessary changes that will literally bring us to Christ as we prepare for his Second Coming. May we increase in our learning by knowing, understanding and acting in the Doctrines and Principles of the Gospel.

 

 

[i] Russell M. Nelson, Divine Love, Ensign, February 2003

[ii] Jennifer Brinkerhoff Platt, As I have Loved You, Love One Another, BYU women’s conference, May 2018.

[iii] D&C 130:21

[iv] D&C 82:10

[v] John 14:15

[vi] David A. Bednar, Increase in Learning, Deseret Book 2011, pg. 154

[vii] Jennifer Brinkerhoff Platt, As I have Loved You, Love One Another, BYU women’s conference, May 2018.

[viii] David A. Bednar, Increase in Learning, Deseret Book 2011, pg. 67

[ix] David A. Bednar, Increase in Learning, Deseret Book 2011, pg. 70

[x] C.S. Lewis, Abolition of Man, Men without Chests,

[xi] President Henry B. Eyring was a member of the First Presidency when this article was published. Address at the Church Educational System Scripture Conference at Brigham Young University on August 14, 2001, published in Religious Educator 2, no. 2 (2001): 1–11.

[xii] Henry B. Eyring, Education for Real Life, General Conference October 2002

[xiii] Henry B. Eyring, Education for Real Life, General Conference October 2002

[xiv] Basic Doctrines, https://www.lds.org/manual/basic-doctrines/basic-doctrines?lang=eng

[xv] Dallin H. Oaks, Preparation for the Second Coming, General Conference, April 2004

[xvi] Dallin H. Oaks, Preparation for the Second Coming, General Conference, April 2004

Positive Movement

“We are kept keen on the grindstone of pain and necessity,” wrote H.G. Wells.

Just a few months ago an aching lower back pain woke me up to the awful fact that something was wrong. I made an appointment with the local chiropractor, who took and examined an X-ray of the lower vertebrae. The visual result showed a deteriorating disk which was causing two vertebrae to gradually conform to the collapsing cartilage, causing pain and discomfort. I asked the doctor how this could happen! I was surprised that with all the healthy food and lifestyle I subscribed to I would have such a problem. He asked if I were sitting much. It dawned on me that I had not been moving frequently, but had been sitting most of the day to read, study, write curriculum and rest. My exercise program had all but gone out the door and I was stationary most of the day. He confirmed the future verdict. I would soon be experiencing more and more pain and possibly surgery if I did not change my ways and improve my movement. He taught me that the disks do not inherently receive nourishment through the skeletal system on their own. When the body bends, the vertebrae squeeze nutrients into the disk, which strengthens it. With a lack of movement, the disks receive little to no nutrients and they begin to shrink. Vertebrae, then, grow closer to each other and can eventually fuse together causing excruciating back pain. My eyes were open as my mind exploded with images of walking canes, walkers, wheelchairs, and hospital beds. No, this was not the path I desired to tread. A change would happen. The Chiropractor prescribed frequent daily movement besides special stretches and regular exercise. I purchased a Fitbit Charge 2 from Costco and began my regimen, but that was not all. I began contemplating the significance of all aspects of personal improvement.

While pain and necessity tend to furnish powerful wake-up calls, some people choose the easy path of medical assistance, while others go about setting goals and continue moving toward the accomplishment of those goals. It would seem that the consistent goal for personal happiness consists of good health and well-being physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Admittedly, differing opinions may feel that bodily degeneration is part of life and generally accepted, for instance, the ubiquitous handicapped sign. Nevertheless, The obvious goal for personal happiness, which consists of good health and well-being, is that a person should continually be moving and improving the character, the body, and the spirit.

Improving the character requires tenacity and diligence to prune the weaknesses and build the strengths. Aristotle teaches the idea of potentiality and the movement towards what we are capable of learning and doing. He uses the Greek word energeia to describe the potency, or potential, of something or someone. In his translation of Nicomachean Ethics, Joe Sachs describes how to understand this energeia as “being-at-work-ness.” Aristotle believed that a human was always tending toward either improvement or degeneration depending on whether or not he was being-at-work to improve. Essentially, if one is to improve their character, one must exert effort and energy to swim upstream against the strong current of apathy and complacency. President Gordon B. Hinckley said, “Rise to the great potential within you.” It is a privilege and a divine decree to become what one was created to become. Margaret D. Nadauld invited the women of the LDS church to rise up, “Women of God can never be like women of the world. The world has enough women who are tough; we need women who are tender. There are enough women who are coarse; we need women who are kind. There are enough women who are rude; we need women who are refined. We have enough women of fame and fortune; we need more women of faith. We have enough greed; we need more goodness. We have enough vanity; we need more virtue. We have enough popularity; we need more purity.” It is not enough to sit motionless where one now finds herself. In fact, it is a nontruth to sit motionlessly. One seems always to move, either forward or backward, but the only movement which requires effort is to move in a positive advancing direction. Set goals; move forward.

Improving the physical body similarly requires persistent daily movement and proper nourishment. Although nourishing the body is of considerable importance, I will focus on movement. The most beneficial is the non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) throughout the day. It involves the regular movement around the home or office, climbing the stairs, doing tasks, walking from the car to the store, standing up, reaching for things, etc. The vertebrae and disks benefit the most from NEAT and stretching. I can vouch for it as my back has fully recovered from several months of daily movement and stretching. A Fitbit or other exercise tracking device is useful in reminding one to stand up hourly and move. Making time each week to exercise aerobically improves the heart and alternating with strength training strengthens the muscles and increases stamina in the overall body. The trick to continued physical improvement ultimately depends upon the automaticity of daily movement, or as Aristotle would teach, the being-at-work-ness, of building the strength of all bodily functions.

Finally, the third area of improvement toward happiness is strengthening the spirit. Knowing one’s divine nature as a child of God does more for the spiritual energeia, than anything else. Both improving Character and strengthening the physical body boost the spiritual capacity. By enlightening the mind to truth and nourishing the lifeblood, one looks upward to their Creator with an intense desire to come closer to Him who heals, comforts, blesses, and guides. Being-at-work-ness looks like a person who studies the scriptures, communes with God through prayer, sing hymns of praises, repents often, makes and keeps sacred covenants in the temple, prepares himself weekly to take the Sacrament and improve his soul through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

There are those that believe it is easier to coast, not worrying about self-improvement. What good can come from exerting effort in something so difficult when it is natural to drift along where life is taking them? No doubt these are the people who perceive there is no great reward in swimming upstream or possibly those who place the victim hat upon their head who feel they are behind in the race and cannot compete with those who are trying. In the short-term cruising along appears easier, but in the long run, their character, physical body, and spirit will certainly degenerate.

Other naysayers feel that no matter what they do to improve, that degeneration is inevitable. They feel that they have tried but to no avail. They are bombarded with setbacks and obstacles. For them, there is no point in improving self when the tide is strong against them. They are correct that obstacles stand in the way, that vicissitudes riddle life’s opportunities, but to them, I say they are denying agency and effort. They are denying their responsibility to improve self and society. They are ultimately denying the greatest happiness that comes from mastering oneself. What would have happened if Mother Theresa would have been overcome by her poverty and stopped her devoted service that saved hundreds? Great men and women let nothing shroud or impede their goals, but they face every deterrent, every obstacle, every hurdle and eventually their weaknesses become strengths.

Individual improvement begins with a desire, a goal, and the determination to be continually at-work-ness. It is a repetitious and habitual pattern of becoming. The consistent goal for ultimate happiness, which consists of good health and well-being should be that a person continually be moving and improving. Improvement builds an honorable character, movement builds a strong back and body, and both inspire lasting spiritual health. The daily practice of setting and achieving goals is to greatness as the moving and bending of the vertebrae is to a healthy spinal disk. The Good Life depends upon it.

Family History and the Lost Art of Cursive

Does the old-fashioned cursive writing bring any sort of advantage in our modern age? Why are the schools not teaching it anymore? Is it true that no reason exists to continue learning it? Although some experts believe that cursive should be taught in the schools, Dr. Morgan Polikoff, an expert in K-12 education policy states, “The fact is that cursive isn’t used in the vast majority of professions or day-to-day activities for the vast majority of people, so it’s hard for me to see how learning cursive conveys any sort of advantage.”

While the conventional methods of printing or keyboarding are more popular in our schools today, children should first learn cursive handwriting for various reasons, but before going into the rationale, consider a compelling reason for learning cursive. In the recent 2018 Rootstech Conference in Salt Lake City, one of the popular speakers discussed the long-term risks of not teaching cursive in our public schools. Cursive is like a passenger train traveling into the vast and exciting unknown, it connects the dots for transcribing historical records. With the advance of technology, along with an army of indexers spending nearly 15 million hours in 2016 alone, full-time missionaries and volunteers indexed 274.8 million records.  The key to indexing is understanding how to read in cursive. For centuries the vital records have been completed in cursive handwriting. Anyone interested in their family history will encounter the cursive writ in cards and letters, marriage licenses, birth certificates, draft records, pensions, diaries, etc. Even the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are written in cursive. How will people understand the documents if they never learned cursive? Cursive is the connecting key to unlock the mystery of genealogical records.

Before learning to print, school children should first learn cursive handwriting for three reasons, it is easier to learn than print, can be more legible than print, and especially, for the purpose of this article, grown children can eventually interpret and be inspired by centuries’ worth of historical documents to not only further the cause of family history, but gain a sense of family unity.

Schools and parents should be teaching their children the art of cursive from the beginning stages of education simply because it is far easier to learn than printing. Only three main strokes make up the letters, whereas print requires six.  Writing in cursive implements skills and patterns since each lowercase letter begins at the bottom line and moves upward while printing is more chaotic. In printing, one must start at different points depending on the letter.

Additionally, cursive writing can be more legible than print. In cursive, the pencil flows continuously and orderly and leaves less chance for errors, including too much spacing between letters or no distinction between the end of a word and the beginning of the next.

The most compelling reason for learning cursive, however, is to read, understand, and interpret historical documents, which lead to a deeper understanding of familial bonds. As family history research is becoming more popular among the millennials, they and subsequent generations will face cursive writing in the profusion of vital documents needed to verify their research. Researching family documents are an important part of gaining self-confidence. The youth in families who enjoy meals together and who research and discover their family stories have more confidence to face adversity and misfortune. A New York Times article stated, “The single most important thing you can do for your family may be the simplest of all: develop a strong family narrative.” Family stories give individuals a sense of being part of a larger family. Imagine the confidence gained in reading about both the joy and the sorrows in the journals of ancestors who crossed the Atlantic, served as indentured servants and crossed the plains to come west.

In a changing world that demands new methods and styles, and while it is necessary to keep up with the times, it is not a good idea to throw the baby out with the bathwater. The knowledge of cursive is to the historical records as pepper spray is to the Doberman Pincer. Children ought to be learning the art of cursive at the beginning of their education and contrary to popular opinion, cursive is easier to learn, can be more legible than print, and most importantly, is essential for reading, understanding, and connecting with family through historical documents. It matters to each and every one of us particularly in the current age of broken homes, broken souls, disharmony and disunity. The study of our heritage empowers us to connect, and cause us to have, as Mormon said, “many mighty miracles” among men.