Jealousy, the green-eyed elf

Beware of jealousy, the green-eyed elf,
That makes the food on which it feeds itself;
And scorn hypocrisy, the infernal bane,
That prays like Abel and performs like Cain.

from “Address by E. R. Snow Smith” (1844), in Eliza R. Snow: The Complete Poetry, Brigham Young University Press, p. 1012

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Exercising faith means acting on our impressions

“…every time you try your faith, that is, act in worthiness on an impression, you will receive the confirming evidence of the Spirit. Those feelings will fortify your faith. As you repeat that pattern, your faith will become stronger. The Lord knows your needs. When you ask with honesty and real intent, He will prompt you to do that which will increase your ability to act in faith. With consistent practice, faith will become a vibrant, powerful, uplifting, inspiring force in your life. As you walk to the boundary of your understanding into the twilight of uncertainty, exercising faith, you will be led to find solutions you would not obtain otherwise. I testify that I know that is true.”

Richard G. Scott, “The Sustaining Power of Faith in Times of Uncertainty and Testing,” Liahona, May 2003, 75–78

Helping those who cry out to us

Often we live side by side but do not communicate heart to heart. There are those within the sphere of our own influence who, with outstretched hands, cry out, “Is there no balm in Gilead?”

I am confident it is the intention of each member of the Church to serve and to help those in need. At baptism we covenanted to “bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light.” How many times has your heart been touched as you have witnessed the need of another? How often have you intended to be the one to help? And yet how often has day-to-day living interfered and you’ve left it for others to help, feeling that “oh, surely someone will take care of that need.”

We become so caught up in the busyness of our lives. Were we to step back, however, and take a good look at what we’re doing, we may find that we have immersed ourselves in the “thick of thin things.” In other words, too often we spend most of our time taking care of the things which do not really matter much at all in the grand scheme of things, neglecting those more important causes.

Thomas S. Monson, “What Have I Done for Someone Today?,” Ensign, Nov 2009, 84–87

Precision and range in thinking and expression

The essential, indispensable means to education is literacy – not the mere functional literacy of the ability to read and write but the high literacy of precision and range in thinking and expression. Great teachers do not tolerate the least technical flaw in students’ expression, and neither do superior students. Here is the reason why. A mutual relationship exists between language and thought. It is a relationship that is often recognized but more often ignored. George Orwell once observed that language “becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, [and] the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts” (“Politics and the English Language,” Horizon 13, no. 76 [April 1946]: 253; also in Shooting an Elephant and Other Essays [New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1950], 77). This was written before the dominance of television and film, which has given us more reason to ponder his forebodings. It does not require too much effort to see that we are living in a world in which the image on the screen threatens to displace the written word.

Now the image is important and rightly powerful, and our emotional and aesthetic lives would be much poorer without it. But there is a differential limitation and strength between the image and written language. What I mean can be understood as we remember that communication functions by arousal, expression, and statement. The visual image, being denotative, is powerful as a means of arousal. Its expressive potential is less reliable. Its capacity for statement, unaided by language or contextual code, is very low, immeasurably lower than words. Arousal and limited expressiveness is common to all functioning animals, but the ability of words to make statements is distinctively human. I might exaggerate if I were to say that if you cannot write it you do not know it, but I am painfully accurate in saying that the weakening of written language through displacement by the image is a fundamental threat to virtually everything that is distinctively human, especially knowledge and intellect. Reliance on the image is a threat to the extension and development of the human capacity for precision of thought and for the ability to creatively manipulate connotative structures. Sophistication in languages is the fundamental trait of the true intellectual. The mind of Brigham Young’s excellent university will be characterized by genuine literacy, by precision and range in language and thought. This bears sibling relationship to what Brigham Young meant by “learn everything that the children of men know, and be prepared for the most refined society upon the face of the earth” (JD 16:77).

Larry H. Peer, BYU Devotional, 2 December, 2003