I’m not particularly sorry to have seen the end of 2012. It was a remarkably, unexpectedly, bad year.
The train of bad events began with the sudden passing of my brother on 23 March. This has hit me really, really hard. I still wake up most mornings hoping it’s been just a bad dream. I can’t believe he’s gone.
I watched the Rose Parade this morning, as an act of nostalgia. My family always watched it on New Year’s morning, and we often drove over to look at the floats after the parade was finished. Three or four years ago, my brother got excellent seats for his wife, his children, their spouses, and his grandchildren, and for us, on Colorado Boulevard, and we watched the parade comfortably, in person. (I’d only seen it in person once before, and hadn’t much enjoyed the ordeal.) I’m the last one left, now, from my little southern California family, and — oddly, perhaps — I felt a curious obligation to watch it on their behalf.
The bad events continued, big time, with my expulsion from the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, the ramifications of which continue to unfold in distasteful and personally harmful ways. The purge was not only publicly humiliating and hurtful to me but, much more importantly, signaled the beginning of a “new course” for the Institute under its new regime — a course that, in my judgment (and not only in mine) represents a betrayal of those who founded and built the Institute (including its earliest form, as FARMS), volunteered for it, wrote for it, led it, and funded it for more than three decades.
In the spring of 2004, Elder Maxwell, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, addressed the closing luncheon of the President’s Leadership Council at Brigham Young University. I was there. He was fatally ill. It was, as it turned out, his final visit to the University. He spoke, to a surprising extent, about what was then known as FARMS but would eventually, with the approval of the leaders of the University and the Church, be renamed after him — something he would not have permitted during his lifetime.
“In a way,” he said, “LDS scholars at BYU and elsewhere are a little bit like the builders of the temple in Nauvoo, who worked with a trowel in one hand and a musket in the other. Today scholars building the temple of learning must also pause on occasion to defend the Kingdom. I personally think this is one of the reasons the Lord established and maintains this University. The dual role of builder and defender is unique and ongoing. I am grateful we have scholars today who can handle, as it were, both trowels and muskets.
“Our scholars’ work must be respectable, and it must be effective over the long haul. In the revelations it is clear that the Lord is concerned about the ‘rising generations.’ So whatever is done today in the Church is done in goodly measure for those who will follow. The rising generation needs to be, in the words of Peter and Paul, ‘grounded,’ ‘rooted,’ ‘established,’ and ‘settled.’ BYU and its scholars have a role to play in this effort. Of course testimonies are a gift of the Spirit, but the youth of the Church are blessed by what happens here.
“I’ve thought several times in recent years: Who would have ventured to say 30 years ago that BYU would become a focal point for work on the Dead Sea Scrolls? And who would have guessed 30 years ago that we would have a key role with regard to certain Islamic translations? Who would have foreseen the extensive work we do on ancient texts?
“I do not think anybody would have guessed that all that is happening would happen so quickly and so demonstrably. The Lord’s hand is in it. I do not presume to know in all its dimensions or implications, but it is not accidental.”
I don’t believe that it was accidental, either. Fortunately, many of the people who created FARMS and the Maxwell Institute but who have, effectively, found themselves dismissed, exiled, and marginalized from the organization they built, have now regrouped to launch The Interpreter Foundation. This is a genuine ray of light amidst the gloom.
Finally, the last major bad event of 2012, from my perspective: Faced with the opportunity to elect as their president one of the best and most competent men ever to have been nominated for the office, Americans chose instead to bestow four more years in the White House on the most arrogant, ideologically rigid, leftist, and unqualified president we’ve ever had — presumably because of his enormously successful record during his first term. (For the Beatles’ prophetic take on Mr. Barack Obama, see here.)
As far as I’m concerned, good riddance to 2012.
- Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
- The flying cloud, the frosty light;
- The year is dying in the night;
- Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.
- Ring out the old, ring in the new,
- Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
- The year is going, let him go;
- Ring out the false, ring in the true.
- Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
- For those that here we see no more,
- Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
- Ring in redress to all mankind.
- Ring out a slowly dying cause,
- And ancient forms of party strife;
- Ring in the nobler modes of life,
- With sweeter manners, purer laws.
- Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
- The faithless coldness of the times;
- Ring out, ring out thy mournful rhymes,
- But ring the fuller minstrel in.
- Ring out false pride in place and blood,
- The civic slander and the spite;
- Ring in the love of truth and right,
- Ring in the common love of good.
- Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
- Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
- Ring out the thousand wars of old,
- Ring in the thousand years of peace.
- Ring in the valiant man and free,
- The larger heart the kindlier hand;
- Ring out the darkness of the land,
- Ring in the Christ that is to be.