“The Power of Boundless Compassion”

“The Power of Boundless Compassion” March 3, 2024


BY w/LW for 6DIA
Brigham Young in a discussion with Elder Lyman Wight, as depicted in the Interpreter film”Six Days in August,” which is currently in production.  Photograph by either James Jordan or Russell Richins.

My wife and I have belonged for many years to a monthly reading group — its formal name is The Gadianton Polysophical Marching and Chowder Society — that I’ve mentioned here at least once or twice before.  Tonight, we were the leaders of a discussion that was centered on a book that we had chosen for the group:  Boris Johnson, The Churchill Factor: How One Man Made History (2014).  I enjoyed the book very much, and I thought that our group would, as well.  To my pleasure, they did.  I commend it to your attention.  It’s clearly an admiring book, but it’s definitely not uncritical.  Churchill was a genuinely remarkable human being.

I’ve proposed a topic for the 2024 FAIR Conference.  It will be held Thursday, 8 August 2024, and Friday, 9 August 2024, in Salt Lake City, Utah.  More details will follow.  What is my proposed topic?  I’ve suggested the title “Appreciating Brother Brigham.”

LAX airport restaurant
The iconic theme restaurant at my former hometown airport, LAX, aka Los Angeles International.  (Wikimedia Commons public domain photo). Decades ago, at least, this place featured the best Eggs Benedict on the planet.

During our flight from Honolulu to Los Angeles late last week, I read a book that recounts a story almost entirely set in Los Angeles.  Specifically, it’s set in the neighborhood known as Boyle Heights, an area that is located east of the Los Angeles River.  Having grown up eastward of Los Angeles in the San Gabriel Valley and spent a lot of time on the west side of the city (including graduate school at UCLA), and with my parents later moving to Whittier, I’ve been driving through Boyle Heights since before I can remember and more times than I can possibly count.  In that sense, the area is very familiar to me.  But it’s also quite foreign; I’m not sure that I’ve ever exited the freeway there.

Anyway, the book that I read on the Honolulu to Los Angeles flight was Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion, published in 2011 by the aptly but coincidentally named Jesuit priest Gregory Boyle.

I loved it.  It reminded me strongly of the Other Side Academy, with some of whose personnel my wife and I recently traveled to Egypt.  It’s a true record of great moral heroism, Christian service, and compassion, and If the account is true, I find it difficult not to think of Father Boyle as a genuine saint.  He loves the people with whom he works, and he works in an area that is absolutely riddled with violent street gangs.  It’s an often horribly sad story.  Many of those with whom he works die sudden, violent, and senseless deaths.  But it’s also a beautiful book, and sometimes a very funny one.  I’ll offer a couple of specimens of Father Boyle’s humor here:

I always tell those to be baptized that they have little to do and should leave all the heavy lifting to me.

I tell this one homie, before his baptism at a probation camp, “All you have to say is your name when I ask for it. Then I’ll ask, ‘What do you ask of God’s church?’ and you just say, ‘Baptism.’ ”

When the moment arrives at the beginning of the rite, I can tell this kid is in trouble. He’s hyperventilating, and his constant jig suggests he didn’t visit the men’s room before.

“What is your name?” I ask, and the kid booms back at me,


“And what do you ask of God’s church, Jose?”

He stands erect, and his whole being wants to get this one right. “I WANT TO BE A BAPTIST.”

I suggest he walk down the hall to the Protestant service.

Once, as I am about to baptize a kid at a probation camp, I ask him to incline his head over this huge pan of water, and he looks at me with shock and loudly asks, “You gonna WET me?”

“Uh, well, yeah . . . sorta the idea.”  (84)

Here is another example:

One day, I have three homies in my car as I am headed to give a talk. While there, they will set up a table and sell Homeboy/ Homegirl merchandise. Our banter in the car spans the range of bagging on each other. We laugh a lot, and I am distracted enough not to notice that the gas tank is on empty. I lean into JoJo, the homie occupying shotgun.

“Oye, dog, be on the lookout for a gas station.”

He doesn’t seem to wholly trust my judgment. He leans toward the gas gauge and dismisses my call.

“You’re fine,” he says.

“Cómo que I’m fine—I’m on ÉCHALE, cabrón.” Waving at him, I say, “HELLO, E means empty.”

JoJo looks at me with bonafide shock.

“E means empty?”

“Well, yeah, what did ya think it meant?”

“Well, what did ya think F stood for?”


After I thank him for visiting our planet—I realize that this is exactly how the dismantling process has to play itself out. Homies stare into the mirror and pronounce “EMPTY.” Our collective task is to suggest instead “ENOUGH”—enough gifts, enough talent, enough goodness. When you have enough, there’s plenty

Or if their verdict is “FINISHED,” we are asked to lead them instead to “fullness”—the place within—where they find in themselves exactly what God had in mind. It would be hard to overstate how daunting it is to conjure new images and reconstruct messages.  (193)
The Constitution's author
An illustration, dating to 1892 or before, of Alexander Hamilton writing the first draft of the Constitution for the United States 1787.
(Wikimedia Commons public domain image)
When a man unprincipled in private life, desperate in his fortune, bold in his temper . . . despotic in his ordinary demeanour — known to have scoffed in private at the principles of liberty — when such a man is seen to mount the hobby horse of popularity — to join in the cry of danger to liberty — to take every opportunity of embarrassing the General Government & bringing it under suspicion — to flatter and fall in with all the nonsense of the zealots of the day — It may justly be suspected that his object is to throw things into confusion that he may ‘ride the storm and direct the whirlwind.’  (Alexander Hamilton)

My attention was recently drawn to this quotation from one of America’s Founding Fathers, and I thought it worthy of sharing here.



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