Monthly Archives: August 2008

Karen Kwiatkowski on Learning: Something to Think About

Observe an interesting quotation from a fascinating article.  The article is libertarian in nature, but the quotation is not:

I read somewhere recently that in the age of Shakespeare, most people in England were unable to read, illiterate. To broadly share information and ideas, the preferred medium was audible, spoken, and theatrical, and in fact, nothing else worked. For writers to complain that “people don’t read anymore” is not only untrue, it is parochial thinking – something we have to get over. It is about learning – not necessarily reading.

(This is from a column she wrote earlier this summer based on a speech she gave called “Tolstoy’s Majority.”)

How do we learn?  Is reading as essential as we sometimes think it is?  Are there other forms of media as legitimate and intellectually compelling as print?  Or does this type of thinking lead to increased intellectual laziness?

(I’m ignoring here the spiritual role of words, as scripture and revelations have long been recorded in written language, and probably will ever continue to be so.  But even here, there is room for other media.  Consider the Church’s use of DVDs, for instance, or video clips on its website.)

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Filed under Learning, Social Commentary

Alma 28: Mormon Corrects Our False Notions on Violence

When we look around, we see violence celebrated (or apathetically discussed) all about in our media: in film, in television, in books, in music, and in video games.  But for most of us, this has almost no reflection on reality.  Violence is so often glamorized and glorified, distorting its true nature and tragic effects.

Alma chapter 28 sets us doctrinally straight on violence.  It is an inspired record and commentary regarding “A tremendous battle (Alma 28:2).”  The Nephite general Mormon explains what he means by “tremendous”: “Yea, even such an one as never had been known among all the people in the land from the time Lehi left Jerusalem; yea, and tens of thousands of Lamanites were slain and scattered abroad.”

This battle started when, as near as we can tell, the Lamanites tried to chase the converted people of Ammon when they were fleeing to Nephites for protection.  The people of Ammon were safe.  The Nephites protectors and Lamanite aggressors were not.

Mormon goes on: “There was a tremendous slaughter among the people of Nephi; nevertheless, the Lamanites were driven and scattered, and the people of Nephi returned again to their land (Alma 28:3).”

Awesome, right?  Must have been great.  All that destruction and death.

But Mormon, one of the great Nephite military leaders, says otherwise: “There was a great mourning and lamentation heard throughout all the land, among all the people of Nephi–yea, the cry of widows mourning for their husbands, and also of fathers mourning for their sons, and the daughter for the brother, yea, the brother for the father; and thus the cry of mourning was heard among all of them, mourning for their kindred who had surely been slain.  And now surely this was a sorrowful day; yea, a time of solemnity, and a time of much fasting and prayer (Alma 28:4-6).”

Notice the widespread effect: Mormon says the lamentation was heard throughout all the land, among all the people.  No exception was noted.  And yet today, do we lament and mourn for the dead lost in war, for the costs of war itself, and for the tragic nature of it all?  Or are these confrontations met with a shoulder shrug?  Do we find ourselves lamenting the effects of violence, or do we find ourself cheering on the next cinematic gunfight, the next “entertaining” explosion, remembering with fondness hours of computerized decapitation?

Violence is tragic, and such a lesson we should learn from Mormon in Alma chapter 28.

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Filed under Book of Mormon, Mormonism, Personal, War