Sunday, January 13, 2008


We should not only study good and its effects upon our race, but also evil and it's consequences [Brigham Young]
I am enrolled in Honors 292R "Progressing Through Honors" this semester (which in reality is a lot of technical hub-bub for "a lecture class.") Last semester, Roommate took the course and would come home ebulliently chatting about how great that day's lecture had been and this really made me want to enroll for Winter.

Our first lecture was given last Thursday by Dr. Sowell, the head of Honors Program. I think he's brilliant. And not only that, he's an entertaining lecturer and has the perfect nutty professor attire complete with a large plaid bow-tie. Upon settling myself on the upper floor in the Maeser Building lecture hall, I felt like I had finally arrived at my college experience. It was all too perfect.

What he spoke about really struck me and sent me into a whirl of thoughts all day long. His topic was "Moral lessons from immor(t)al Tales" and focused on literature that is morally sub-par but is enriching and important in not only a secular, but spiritual education. He asked us what the best books are. Are they simply those that withstood the test of time and are on some "Classics" booklist? Are they those that exalt goodness and ignore evil? He argued that books which teach us the bad, the evil and the ugly are not to be looked down upon, but studied. The study is not for the purpose of immersing ourselves in darkness or getting ideas about an alternative lifestyle, but to make us aware. After all, without pondering the world around us in all its faults and fallacies, as well as its feats and triumphs, wouldn't we be all the poorer intellectually?

I thought about the Bible which includes stories like Lot and his daughters, Sodom and Gomorrah, Samson and Delila, David and Bathsheba. . . Does not the mature believer study these stories with the same fervency that we study and believe Joseph of Egypt, Moses and the Israelites, Noah and the ark? Dr. Sowell made the point that it is not only important to expose ourselves to moral lessons gleaned from immoral tales, but it is essential to be able to learn from them. He said "Great literature seldom moralizes" although it has a moral base. The sacred and the profane are often intertwined to contrast and bring to light the virtue at the core of the story. Even the atonement can become meaningless without the repentant sinners.

It reminds me of books I've read that have sometimes been uncomfortable or unpleasant to digest, but ended up fortifying my beliefs, rejuvenating my spirit and teaching me invaluable truths. The Color Purple, Crime and Punishment, The Scarlet Letter, Dante's Inferno are just a few that, although aren't considered banners for righteous living or moral thoughts, have been critical in my scholastic progress. Even reading The Screwtape Letters has been an interesting, enlightening experience that has taught my mind to morph in order to get itself around the ideas and fully understand Lewis' intent.

Immediately following this lecture I went to English where we discussed an article written by A. LeGrand Richards which considered the spiritual verses secular education approach. So often at BYU I hear, "I'm so grateful I can merge my spiritual and secular education. . . blah blah blah" which is sweet and all, but Richards put this trite phrase into words that resonated within me. He said it is "an attempt to learn the temporal in an eternal context." One boy commented that he was hesitant to come to BYU because he was concerned about receiving a limiting, biased, conservative education steeped in religious diatribes and guilt-tripping peers. He argued against the spiritual approach of BYU, saying that we need to get out and experience the world if we are to reach out and understand those around us who we are trying to bring into the fold. He had a point, but I was armed with an hour of lecturing about this very topic and was ready to bring the heat.

The purpose of BYU is not the shelter us and keep us from knowing what the "real world" holds in store, but to prepare us, fortify us, and ready us for the future so we can ultimately devote our lives to serving those around us and furthering the work of the kingdom. What better way to do so than "studying the temporal in the context of the eternal" just like Richards said?

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...