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Monday, September 9, 2013

Underlined 3: The Best of Lowell L. Bennion, Eugene England

by Seattle Jon (bio)

Underlined is a series where contributors share what they underlined while reading books. Today's book is Eugene England's The Best of Lowell L. Bennion: Selected Writings 1928-1988.

The Place of a Liberal in Religion (1969)

"A liberal is not dogmatic but open-minded, eager to recheck his thinking, to change and enlarge his view of religion as he increases in experience ... He feels free to question interpretations of religion that run counter to his knowledge, experience, and inspiration. (I think it was John Taylor who said that he would not be a slave to God Almighty.) ... a liberal's religion has strong human interest ... A liberal does not reject theology or scripture; he simply believes that they must be interpreted and used in ways that will serve the divine purpose in human life."

For By Grace Are Ye Saved (1966)

"No longer do I believe that a person must earn forgiveness. If he had to, then only justice and reciprocity would prevail in relationships between man and man and man and God. But "give" is the main root of the word forgiveness. And there is grace operating whenever anyone is forgiven.

Man is asked to repent to receive forgiveness, I believe, not because the Lord is not forgiving whether we repent or not, but because he knows that man cannot accept forgiveness and renew his life without himself taking some steps to change it."

Good Teaching and Leadership (1962)

"As a lad of fourteen I went to work on a ranch. One day the boss sent me up into the mountains with a man twice my age to change the course of a mountain creek. We were losing the water as it came down the old channel in the valley, so we decided to bring it to the ranch in a newly constructed canal.

With the enthusiasm and folly of youth, I jumped into the creek and proceeded to dig a channel that would lead to the newly made canal. I began to shovel out gravel and dirt from the bottom of the creek with vigor. My older and wiser co-worker tapped me on the shoulder and said, "Son, just pick up the larger rocks and let the water do the rest of the work. It will wash the dirt and fine gravel with it.

This was my first lesson in working with nature. I learned that life is much easier this way. One's strength can be used to accomplish much more if one works with, rather than against, the laws of nature and life."

Faith: Values and Limitations (1959)

"Faith should not be considered a substitute for knowledge. Whenever knowledge is available, it should be used. For it is generally better to live by knowledge in particular things than by faith, if knowledge is available. A man would rather know that he has money in the bank when he writes a check than to write it in the faith the money is there. It is better for a man to know that his bride-to-be has a good character than to marry her without knowledge of this fact. It would be better to know the cause of cancer than merely to have faith that by refraining from eating certain foods one would not become a victim. An appreciation for the great role of faith in life should never deter us in our search for knowledge. It is knowing the truth that makes men free."

Seek Ye Wisdom (1968)

"Just one more thought, brethren. By encouraging its youth to gain an education, to study at universities, the Church is encouraging our young people to think, and to think critically. Parents, church leaders, and even some of our students are afraid that in the process of learning, and of learning to think critically, some of our students will lose their faith. I must confess that some Latter-day Saints, college youth, do lose their religious faith as they encounter secular learning. However, I believe that this is not due primarily to their thinking. Some of our youth who do not go to college also lose their faith.

There are a hundred and one reasons why young people lose faith. Some who do go to college leave their religion behind at a very shallow level while they proceed to work on their PhD's. Some discard religion before they have ever known it, before it has taken root in their lives. Others lose faith because they cease to practice religion and study it and live it. Still others lose faith because we their parents and teachers and leaders have not listened to their questions, have been too quick to condemn, have not respected their free agency and their honest thinking. Some lose faith because they do not distinguish between gospel principles and the actions of men. I recall a girl who lost her faith because a returned missionary asked that his engagement ring be returned. People live lives as a whole, and many factors influence their faith."

What It Means to Be a Christian (1987)

"I have five reasons why I think it’s foolish, unwise, unchristian, almost, to seek perfection as a goal in this life.

The first reason is that I don’t think we know what perfection is. I associate perfection with God and Christ but I don’t understand them fully and so I don’t really know what overall perfection is or what perfection in anything is.

Secondly, I think you are bound to fail if you try to be perfect as a human being. You will have a sense of guilt and a sense of shame. You will be burdened with failure.

Thirdly, you might mistakenly think you are succeeding. Jesus tells the parable of the two men who went out to pray, the publican and the Pharisee. The Pharisee said, I thank thee God that I am not as other men are. I fast twice in the week and give alms to the poor. I’m not even as this publican here. But the publican would not so much look unto heaven. He beat upon his chest and said, Lord have mercy upon me, a sinner. Jesus said the latter was justified and he that exalteth himself shall be abased and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted (Luke 18:10-14).

The fourth reason for not seeking perfection is that wonderful Mormon doctrine of eternal progression. Progression means the act of stepping forward, eternally. I think that is the vision of Mormons, that we may grow eternally under the tutelage of our Father in heaven and Christ and enlarge our lives forevermore. This is certainly true in this life and I hope in the next.

Finally, people who strive to be perfect put themselves at the center of things; they are too conscious of themselves. I had a fine student who spent half his time keeping track of himself. He had three big loose-leaf notebooks and jotted down every thought he had and every feeling. He reduced his life to his own parameters. I am very fond of Jesus’ wisdom when he said, He that shall save his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it (Matt. 10:39)

I think the only time you experience life as a whole and all of its potentiality is when you give yourself to a cause that’s greater than yourself, that’s outside yourself."

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