The Complete Christian by Elder Robert S. Wood
This excellent new book by one of our General Authorities is not to be missed. It is very much a call to be actively engaged in the culture war as society sinks into relativism and atheism.
The astonishing thing is the list of footnotes showing his sources. Besides the Bible, LDS scriptures, and the teachings of the prophets, it includes: Plato (the Republic), Thucydides, Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides, C.S. Lewis (a dozen times), John Henry Newman, John Milton, Socrates, Jewish thinker A.J. Heschel (a favorite of mine; see his chapter The Pious Man on my blog), Albert Einstein, Aristotle, Plutrarch, Boethius, Francis Bacon, Henry Ward Beecher, John Lock, Blaise Pascal, Sir Thomas More, and Thomas A Kempis (the Imitation of Christ).
LDS thinkers like Blake Ostler, David Paulsen, and Richard Sherlock will agree that Elder Wood is obviously favorable to the role of philosophers. For example, he says:
As philosophers and prophets alike have declared, incorrect understanding leads to inappropriate actions- which in turn lead to unhappiness … Again, both prophets and philosophers have observed that though all men desire happiness, the acquisition of lasting happiness depends on our understanding, our knowledge of truth, and our obedience. (pages 86-7)
Joseph Bentley has informed me that Elder Wood has been assigned to take a very active role in the Church’s Interfaith Relations efforts.
The Complete Christian
Robert S. Wood, Second Quorum of Seventy
(excerpts from Introduction)
Writing four hundred years before the birth of Christ, the Greek philosopher Plato brilliantly described the nature of a corrupt society. Plato argued that there is an interconnectedness between what he called the constitution or regime of a society and the character of the people who are members of that society. By constitution, he included not only the written or unwritten code regulating power but the general ways in which society is arranged—its ways of persuading, educating, and entertaining; the ways and reasons for which people are rewarded or penalized; the general patterns of influence; people’s expectations of each other; and what is considered shameful or honorable. As he observed, “There must be as many types of human character as there are forms of government. Constitutions cannot come out of stock and stones; they must result from the preponderance of certain characters Which draw the rest of the community in their wake.”3
If the community is corrupted, that corruption will first come from those who are the entrusted leaders and models of the society, that is, those who exercise political and social power and who set the tone and direction of the community. In time, the people as a whole will exhibit the vices of their leaders, for therein will they perceive acceptance and rewards and escape the ridicule of “listening to a different drummer.”
Plato argued that the decline of society is closely associated with changes in the regulation of marriage and childbirth. Elite attitudes, finally reflected in law concerning the family, will powerfully determine the kind of society and the type of dominant personality that emerges. Associated with these transformations will be the rise of artistic expressions—music, drama, comedy, entertainment—that will subject old values to contempt and establish new sets of values. He asserted that artistic expression may be the most powerful tool in shaping the people’s “souls” and the nature of society.”
The deterioration of liberty into license and the collapse of self-discipline leads at last, observed Plato, to despotism. As he wrote:
Law-abiding citizens will be insulted as nonentities who hug their chains…. In such a state the spirit of liberty is bound to go to all lengths…. The citizens become so sensitive that they resent the slightest application of control as intolerable tyranny, and in their resolve to have no master, they end by disregarding even the law, written or unwritten…. The truth is that, in the constitution of society, quite as much as in the weather or in plants and animals, any excess brings about an equally violent reaction. So the only outcome of too much freedom is likely to be excessive subjugation, in the state or in the individual; which means that the culmination of liberty in democracy is precisely what prepares the way for the cruelest extreme of servitude under a despot.’
Mormon, like Thucydides, a commander of his people and the author-editor of the record of their fortunes, writes an even more compelling tale of the rise and fall of civilized life: “0 the depravity of my people! They are without order and without mercy. Behold, I am but a man, and I have but the strength of a man, and I cannot any longer enforce my commands. And they have become strong in their perversion; and they are alike brutal, sparing none, neither old nor young; and they delight in everything save that which is good; … they are without principle, and past feeling.” The most horrendous impact, noted Mormon, was on the family: the suffering of the women and the children was indescribable. He concludes that he could not recommend his people unto God, for he knew, as he wrote, “They must perish except they repent and return unto him” (Moroni 9:18-22).
It must be acknowledged that we stand at one of the great crossroads of history. Given the strength of the adversary, never before has there been such a need for a people “of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). As never before in history, we must strive to know and be sanctified by the truth, to be true and faithful, to edify others and build Zion, and to rest our faith squarely on the Lord of time and eternity. As we do this, we shall, as did Christ, grow from grace to grace. As the Lord declared, “For if you keep my commandments you shall receive of [the Father’s] fulness, and be glorified in me as I am in the Father; therefore, I say unto you, you shall receive grace for grace” (D&C 93:20).
As we contemplate all the times in which we might have lived, I think we would conclude that this is the great season of the earth. C. S. Lewis concluded his Chronicles of Narnia with the book The Final Battle. In a very real sense, we are the warriors engaged in the final battle. Never have the forces of evil been arrayed in such terrifying power, but never has the strength of truth and righteousness been more formidable. The kingdom of God has “come forth out of the wilderness of darkness, and [is shining] forth fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners” (D&C 109:73). The trumpet has never been sounded more clearly. It is now for us to gird ourselves for battle.