Thursday, June 10, 2010


Dear Children, Siblings, Family - and to whomever reads this message:

Perhaps it's now time to say "good-bye."  I've been given a diagnosis of stage IV malignant melanoma, originating in the rectum and spread to the groin and probably beyond.   It does not show signs of having spread to the lungs or brain, so I've time to fight back---- and I will.   Laurel is helping me.  I've also some time to write, perhaps, so I will continue my writing as long as I can.  But my time may be short, so I'm writing my last testimony first, and will send it out or ask my father or Laurel to distribute it as appropriate.

First, I know that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.  I know this by the witness of the Spirit that burns brightly in my own soul.   He loves you more than you might know.  I know that because I have felt his love.  I have felt his love for some of you, and as a result I have been able to learn to love you more, to forgive, to be more compassionate and less critical.  He is the great Righteous Judge, and judge he will, but he is never critical, always compassionate.   One thing Jesus Christ does that I'm still learning is that he rules only with a gentle, not a heavy, hand.  He only intervenes in our lives when we request it, or when it is necessary for a greater good.  I'm still learning that:  the other day I heard somebody say something I didn't like on the radio and wrote to them critically; naturally enough, my effort was wasted.   The Lord acts decisively but he is patient, and does not waste his effort.  My faith in Jesus Christ tells me that ultimately the meaning of my life will be judged by One who is both all-knowing and infinitely merciful -- now that's reassuring!  May his Kingdom come, may his Will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.  Amen. 

Second, I know that God speaks to prophets.  Last winter I spent a couple of months going through Isaiah with a study guide, Avraham Gileadi.  And my soul thrilled to the message of Israel dispersed and then restored.  I have spent a good deal of my life studying all the prophets with Hugh Nibley, who I'm convinced understood their message to this world as well as anyone ever did.  And God has communicated his mind to many persons not usually considered "prophets," in diverse places and at sundry times in human history, persons who made extraordinary exertions in behalf of the vision of the truth God granted them.  I have spent long hours studying this history with another teacher, Mircea Eliade, and thrill to the message God has given all of them -- that there is a discernable Order in the universe and a comprehensible Meaning in life, that our actions matter because there is a Right and a Wrong, and that striving for the Good as did the Man of LaMancha (sing it!) is the greatest possible kind of life.

Most important are the living prophets.  In my lifetime my soul has thrilled to the messages of many who I know were prophets, from David O. McKay to Thomas S. Monson.  The two great prophetic messages of my lifetime have been that of Spencer W. Kimball on idolatry in June, 1976 and the April, 1989 message on pride by Ezra Taft Benson.  I know with every bone in my body that these two, and many other, messages of living prophets in my lifetime were from God and are precious beyond anything material we could possilby own.

I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet.  In 2008-9 we all read Teaching of the Presidents of the Church - Joseph Smith, and as I read that work weekly, I found in every chapter words which seemed to leap off the page shouting "Truth! Truth! Truth!"  Joseph Smith was a prophet - my last dollar is bet on it.  And the Book of Mormon is true; the Spirit tells me so when I read it.  It also has important messages for our time.  Remember it was the pride of the Nephites which led to their destruction (Moroni 8:27).  Greed, immorality, ignorance, injustice -- all these are bad but it is pride which leads to destruction.  Beware, because we live in a time of increasing pride, a time when swollen egos are willing to appear on TV and radio announcing that they have all the answers to every question and that anyone who disagrees with them is an idiot.  Eschew that kind of pride and cultivate temperance, and respect for others.  Instead of demonizing or ridiculing, embrace the Other.

The fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is defined distinctly in three passages of the Book of Mormon: 
II Nephi 31: 2-21; III Nephi 11:32-39 and 27: 13-21.  I know with all my heart that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is true.  I know this by witness of the Spriit of God in my heart and mind.  And I know it with every rational faculty of my mind.  For those with a philosophical inclination, something I've long had, who wonder how a person can make such knowledge claims, I have written an extended reply in my essay "Science, Zen and Mormonism," which Daniel Peterson has requested permission to post on the website "Mormon Scholars Testify." (   I've made some effort to understand the issue of epistemology, how we may justify knowlege claims, and offer this to seekers and skeptics alike.

I have asked some of my children the question "Would you rather have an undeniable knowledge that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is true, or an unquenchable hope?"  And I have always told them that knowledge is good but hope is better because while knowledge waxes and wanes, hope motivates and "springs eternal."  Today as I stand as it were with one foot in the grave, my heart is full of a fiery hope.  I have faith in the power and love of Jesus Christ, hope that Jesus will guide me into eternal life, and charity for all who read this message -- may the Spirit burn in your bosom, too, confirming that my witness is true.   Mark