Yesterday, I introduced a famous political poem by the Syrian writer Nizar Qabbani, written in response to the catastrophic 1967 Six Day War between Israel and several Arab states.  But I didn’t actually cite the poem.  Here it is (at least in part):   Friends, The ancient world is dead. The ancient books are dead… Our poems have gone sour. Women’s hair, nights, curtains and sofas Have gone sour. Everything has gone sour. My grieved country, In a… Read more

    A few years ago, a certain Ms. Eliza Wood posted an extraordinarily inept entry on Huffington Post entitled “Are Mormons Closer to Muslims or Christians?”   Her answer is “No.”   But a walk down memory lane will illustrate how, at least with some folks, ignorant anti-Mormonism harmonizes very nicely with anti-Islamic prejudice.   First of all, of course, Ms. Wood’s question is misconceived.  It’s rather like asking whether Fords are closer to automobiles or water buffaloes.  Fords… Read more

    I just found the following comment on my blog.  It was apparently sent (by somebody calling himself “Jon”) at around the time that I left for the Middle East, about — what was it? — three weeks ago.  A reader evidently marked it as “spam.”  (Not I.)  It’s referring to my April Ensign article about Islam:   It is evident you presented an overly optimistic, politically correct, non-offensive, one-sided version of Islam seen through “rose-colored” glasses. I wonder… Read more

    Another small dose of The Manuscript:   Since 1948, of course, there have been other wars, in 1956, in 1967, and 1973, and a state of almost permanent tension and fre­quent military clashes between Israel and her neighbors. After the fighting of 1948 came to an end, the new Israeli state signed armi­stice agreements with Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Egypt. But the Arab states did not consider the war to be over. In their view, this was merely… Read more

    Another selection from The Manuscript:   The sense of loss among Arabs was powerful and profound. A poem by Abdul Wahab al-Bayati, “The Arab Refugee,” gives voice to this. Notice its lament over the lost Arab town of Jaffa, whose orange groves, now in Jewish hands, supply Europe with a substan­tial proportion of its fruit in the winter. Notice, too, the memory of Arab greatness symbolized by the illustrious anti-Crusader hero, Saladin. This memory is only the more… Read more

    Sometimes, traveling in the Holy Land reminds me how very much I miss Truman Madsen.   He was a huge influence on me at a pivotal point in my life, and he ultimately became a friend.  He was the director of BYU’s Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies during the nearly six months in 1993 when I served on its faculty.   When I was just beginning to come into activity in the Church as an early teenager,… Read more

    “Humans think they are free, conscious beings, when in truth they are deluded animals. At the same time they never cease trying to escape from what they imagine themselves to be. Their religions are attempts to be rid of a freedom they have never possessed. In the twentieth century, the utopias of Right and Left served the same function. Today, when politics is unconvincing even as entertainment, science has taken on the role of mankind’s deliverer.”   (John… Read more

    A few more notes:   On 14 May 1948, David Ben Gurion (after whom Israel’s national airport is now named) proclaimed the indepen­dence of a new state of Israel. (It is said that he had not decided whether to call the new country “Israel” or “Zion” until scarcely minutes before he stood up to make his official announcement.) The five Arab states that attacked the new country the next day suf­fered a humiliating defeat. Indeed, Israel managed not… Read more

    It’s a limited point — it proves no point of anybody’s religious doctrine true — but it’s a point that sometimes needs to be made.   So, as further evidence of the fact that first-rate scientific competence and understanding isn’t intrinsically incompatible with thoughtful religious faith, I offer the example of Charles H. Townes, who shared the 1964 Nobel Prize for Physics and who died in 2015, just a few months short of his hundredth birthday.  (How many Nobel… Read more

    Some out there seem to hold to the notion, so far as I can decode it, that, while human understanding of science, history, and other areas is constantly in flux (and, we hope, fairly constantly improving), human understanding of scripture and revelation is perfect, set in stone, beyond refinement, and as deep and as subtle as it can ever be. At least, it is for believers.  Or, to put it in cruder terms that sometimes seem to me… Read more

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