We are moving on with the second part of our conversation with Michael Wilcox, which we are calling God’s Many Voices. We strongly recommend going back to listen to the first part, released last week as episode #85, if you haven’t done so already. In it, Brother Wilcox shared with us why he’s spent so much time with the ideas and in the holy books of other religions.
This week, we actually got to dive into a few of these sacred texts, which included the Analects of Confucius, the Bhagavad Gita, the Qur’an, the Dhammapada, and the Tao Te Ching. Brother Wilcox shared several of his favorite passages with us which we found incredibly inspiring.
We deeply enjoyed spending this time appreciating the inspiration in these holy texts, as well as some specifics of what Brother Wilcox has learned from his time exploring different faith traditions around the world. We were reminded of Joseph Smith’s words: “one of the grand fundamental principles of Mormonism is to receive truth, let it come from whence it may.”
Michael Wilcox received his PhD from the University of Colorado and taught for many years at the LDS Institute of Religion, adjacent to the University of Utah. He has spoken to packed crowds at BYU Education Week and has hosted tours to the Holy Land, China, Church history sites, and many others. He’s also written several books. He and his late wife, Laurie, are the parents of five children.
Tim Chaves: Hey everybody. This is Tim Chaves from Faith Matters. This is part two of our discussion with Michael Wilcox. We’re calling it, God’s Many Voices. If you haven’t heard part one yet, we’d encourage you to go back and listen to that episode, which was released last week as number 85. In it, brother Wilcox shared with us why he spent so much time with the ideas and in the holy books of other religions.
In this part, we actually got to dive into a few of these books with brother Wilcox, and he shared several of his favorite passages with us. The books we got to spend a little bit of time in were the Analects of Confucius, the Bhagavad Gita, the Quran, the Dhammapada and the Dao De Jing. It was so fun to get to spend this time with brother Wilcox. And here’s some specifics of what he’s learned from faith and wisdom traditions around the world. We were reminded of Joseph Smith’s words. One of the grand fundamental principles of Mormonism is to receive truth. Let it come from whence it may. We’re excited to share the second and final part of the discussion with you. Thanks a ton as always for listening. And with that, we’ll jump into the episode. Our listeners can’t can’t see this, but you brought a stack of books knowing that we were going to talk most of these things.
Michael Wilcox: I brought a stack. Many, many [crosstalk].
Tim Chaves: I mean, and honestly start wherever you want. I know you have some ideas in mind.
Michael Wilcox: I just tried to grab a few things. I’ll end in what I call… I have eight standard works, if it’s not heretical to say that. I have eight of them. The four what I call Western standard works, the Bible and Book of Mormon. Pearl of Great Price, Doc, Covenants. And what I call the four Eastern standard works, one from Buddhism, one from Daoism, one from Confucius and one from Hinduism that have fed me. And the nice thing about the Eastern standard works is that they’re short.
Aubrey Chaves: Oh, really? Short-
Michael Wilcox: They’re little. You can read them quickly, but be fed for a lifetime. But maybe before we look at some of those, I have found wonderful truth in myth. So for instance there’s a beautiful Greek myth about Philemon, which we have a man named after him in the new Testament and his wife Baucis. And they’re probably a middle-aged couple. They love each other very, very much. I’m going to do this really quick. And the gods come down. Two of them, the Hermes and Zeus comes down and visits them. They don’t know that they are gods and they’re so hospitable and they’re so kind, and they’re so nice to them that the gods grant them a wish.
And I like to ask people, if you could ask God for one thing and he would grant it, what would you ask for? It’s a nice thing to ponder. Well, they think, and they say very fitting for LDS theology. We never want to be separated. We always want to be together. So when one of us dies, the other wants to go with them. I can understand that emotion very much, my wife’s gone. And they’re granted that. So they live a long life and they died together.
Now, the beauty of this myth is the visual that comes up out of their graves. So out of a Baucis’ grave, the woman, comes linden tree, and out of Philemon’s grave comes an oak tree. But as they grow, we’ve seen this sometimes in thick forest, the trunks intertwine, and they wrap around one another, as they grow until the barks merge. You can still see the two different barks, but they merge into one trunk and the branches are still linden leaves and oak leaves. And I look at that and say, “That is the perfect visual for eternal marriage.”
Aubrey Chaves: Wow.
Michael Wilcox: Two souls, different, different genders, different individuals, different backgrounds, different personalities. And they become one inseparable and still maintain their individual identities. It’s an image and myth does that, myth gives those images. How our creation story begins with, let there be light, which means intelligence, knowledge, wisdom. God’s going to create the world with his intelligence, wisdom and knowledge. Hindu mythology begins with love. Let there be love. Creation, arises out of love. Polynesian, Maori begins with potential. Let there be potential. Now, if you had to choose, let there be light, let there be love, let there be potential. Which would you say is the best?
Tim Chaves: Oh, man.
Aubrey Chaves: Potential wraps it all up.
Tim Chaves: I feel like love probably for me, but it’s almost like you can’t coexist without each other. They can’t exist without each other.
Michael Wilcox: You don’t need to choose. Okay. See, that’s the beauty of it.
Tim Chaves: It was a trick question.
Michael Wilcox: Yeah. It was a trick question in that they are all unique and power and I get them all, you see, And that’s part of the power of myth. I gain wonderful truth in stories. So here’s a little Hindu parable, but other countries parables, again, briefly, a man is in the jungle is sometimes depending on if you’re telling it, you make things worse for him, as you want to make things worse for him. He’s lost in the jungle. A tiger begins to chase him. He runs, he falls into a pit, a well that has bottomless, but there’s a branch and he hangs onto the branch. And so there he is tiger above, darkness below, he’s in this precarious situation, hanging there for his life.
Occasionally, they’ll have two mice now chewing on the tree. There’s different versions. And for people in India, this is the definition of what life is like, we say between a rock and a hard place. Life is just opposition constantly. We find ourselves in difficult places. So what do you do? Sometimes in America, it’s our right to complain. We complain.
In the parable, there’s a hive of bees and a drop of honey has come from the hive above him and it’s sitting on a little blade of grass. So can you picture that little drop of honey hanging on the tip of a blade of grass and he looks at it. And even though his situation is desperate, he holds on with one hand and slowly, slowly, slowly, he reaches out and he takes that drop of honey onto his fingertip, puts it into his mouth and tastes and he says, “How sweet.” Now, that’s what a Hindu in a very difficult life in India is going to teach their children. You always in life, look for what? Always look for the drop of honey.
Tolstoy actually ends one of the great scenes in war and peace with that same truth taught differently. Anne Frank teaches it in the Diary of Anne Frank, same truth. We always look for the drop of honey. I just don’t know an era where it’s taught better than in that Hindu parable.
Aubrey Chaves: Wow. Love those. Yeah.
Michael Wilcox: Yeah. Sometimes you’ll get it in a life of somebody, somebody’s life or a story about their life. I believe Jesus walked on water and Joseph Smith translated to golden plates. So I don’t know why I should hesitate to believe some of the miraculous things of other face that feed me. So here is the Buddha trying to be enlightened. He’s trying to find a answer to human suffering, enlightenment, and he starves himself for the longest time. And the story of the Buddha is a very beautiful story.
But anyway, he finally realizes that self denial is not the solution. So a girl gives him a bowl of rice. He eats it and he’s looking at the empty bowl and he takes it down to the river and he lays it in the water of the river. And he says, “If I can find the key to life, to enlightenment, let this bowl float upstream.” And the bowl swirls in the eddies, moves into the current and floats upstream against the current. Then he goes and sits under the bodhi tree because looking for enlightenment.
Now, that little story, what is it saying? The answer the Buddha is going to give is to remember compassion and selflessness, but living a life totally without ego, without the I, me and mys, totally in compassion for other people is like going against the stream. And what is that story of the Buddha’s life teaching? It’s possible. You can live a selfless life of compassion and empathy.
Aubrey Chaves: Wow.
Tim Chaves: That’s beautiful.
Michael Wilcox: So it’s a wonderful story, but usually what I find the best are in words, it’s the words they leave. Bertrand Russell said and the history is written in three books. The book of deeds, the book of arts and the book of words. And it’s a fun conversation to have with people. Which of those do you think is the most important, which has the most power? Is it deeds, is it arts, or is it words?
Tim Chaves: I’m not falling for this again.
Michael Wilcox: Yeah. No, no, no, no, no. No, I’m not asking you to fall for it. Actually I would say-
Tim Chaves: I’m kidding.
Michael Wilcox: I have people debating this, but that words for me have the greatest impact. In America, we hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are… Those are more powerful than Bunker Hill or Yorktown or Gettysburg. It’s the words that live, the words of Jesus. It’s words we get to section 135, the martyrdom, John Taylor, emphatically tells us Joseph Smith died for words. He died to leave us words. So I just like words. So here’s one from orthodoxy, just where you can see what’s out there.
This is almost 1500 years old. Latter-day Saints think that we’re unique in believing that man’s destiny is to become a God, but the Orthodox have been teaching that for over a thousand years.
Aubrey Chaves: Wow.
Michael Wilcox: So here’s some Maximus the Confessor, he lived from 580 to 662. So he’s living in a long time ago. And he writes this, the word, meaning Jesus was made flesh in order that the whole human being would become God. Jesus came to make men gods. That’s what he’s saying. The word was made flesh in order that the whole human being would become God, deified by the grace of God become man, whole man, soul and body by nature and becoming whole God soul and body by grace. I don’t know that Joseph Smith ever wrote anything.
Tim Chaves: That’s incredible. I’d never hear that.
Aubrey Chaves: [crosstalk].
Michael Wilcox: That’s right up there with Adam, Philemon, might be on there, and then other, he might not actually. It’s just powerful. And the Orthodox would say, Jesus showed you that on the Mount of Transfiguration, he showed himself in glory, not to say I am God, but he showed himself in glory to say, I can make you just like this.
Aubrey Chaves: Wow.
Michael Wilcox: So I go to the Quran. Okay, let me just pull one out of the Quran Muhammad, because a lot of Americans in particular and Christians don’t think Muhammad had much to offer. We’re scared of it. We’re antagonistic towards Islam. And I get to go to the Middle East a lot. And there are a lot of wonderful, wonderful Muslim people. And you’ve got me on one of my favorite topics. So here’s, I don’t think Muslims know this. I once had a conversation in Cairo with a very dear Muslim friend, and I told him, the Quran teaches this principle. He says, “I don’t think it teaches that.” And I say, “Sammy, I’ll show it to you.” So they sometimes don’t even know, just like we don’t even know what we teach.
It’s in the surah called, The Table. And he starts by saying, Allah is speaking, there is guidance and there is light in the Torah, which we have revealed. So Muhammad is telling his followers Allah is speaking, Allah is always speaking to the Quran. There is light and truth in the Torah.
Aubrey Chaves: Wow.
Michael Wilcox: By it, the prophets who surrendered themselves to Allah, judge, the Jews, and so did the rabbis and the divines. They gave judgment according to all the scriptures, which He had committed to their keeping onto to which they themselves were witnesses. And after those prophets, we sent forth Jesus, the son of Mary confirming the Torah already revealed and gave him the gospel in which there is guidance and light corroborating, that which was revealed before it in the Torah, a guide and an admonition to the righteous. And to you, we have revealed the book, the Quran, with the truth, it confirms the scriptures, which came before and stands as a guardian over them.
Now, I sometimes wonder when that’s in there, why then a Muslim wouldn’t feel absolutely comfortable in studying the gospels. But then he gets really what I call mature religion, really mature religion. We have ordained a law and assigned a path for each of you, had all appleased, he could have made you one nation, but it is his wish to prove you by that which he has bestowed upon you. So vie with each other in good works. Sometimes it’s translated. So compete with each other in good works. My favorite translation is so strive as in a race in all virtues. If you’re going to be at odds with one another, the competition is who can produce the greatest goodness.
Speaker 3: Wow.
Michael Wilcox: Trouble with religion is being right became more important than being good. That’s the problem. And being good is more important than being right in a sense. Being right helps you to be good. And so he’s simply saying, “Quit fighting and arguing with one another, just see who can produce the greatest goodness.” And then he ends with, to Allah, you shall all return. You’re all going to come up to me in the end, all you, Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, Mormons, you’re all going to come up here. To Allah, you shall all return. He will declare to you what you have disagreed about and straighten it out for you.
Tim Chaves: Wow.
Aubrey Chaves: Oh my gosh.
Michael Wilcox: Now that is-
Aubrey Chaves: Wow.
Tim Chaves: That’s amazing.
Michael Wilcox: That’s Quran. That’s high, high religion. The Quran says there is no compulsion in religion. Had your Lord willed, everyone on earth would have believed. Shall you then force people to become believers? All mankind, we created you from a single soul, male and female, and we made you into nations and tribes so that you may come to know one another. God celebrates the differences. Just learn to love one another and to work with one another. You will not attain to goodness until you give of the things that you love. The Quran. Now, I also like to collect what I call Hadiths. These are statements of the prophet Muhammad that didn’t make it in the Quran. But they’re stories and statements.
None of you truly believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself. I think we call that the-
Aubrey Chaves: Golden rule.
Michael Wilcox: … golden rule. You will find it, every single great teacher is teaching it, every single one. I’ll show you a couple others if we have time. This is the one I asked you before that, you’re getting nervous that I’m going to trick you on this.
Aubrey Chaves: You shouldn’t have said it. We’ll know it, we’ll know the answer.
Michael Wilcox: This one you’re going to go get… Yeah. I love this statement by the prophet Muhammad. I just quote it because Islam is perceived as being hostile to women and in the outer layers, you’re going to find it, but we’re looking for the core. The most perfect and faith among believers is he who is, I like to say, fill in the blank. How would you describe the most perfect of believers in faith? And you’re going to get a lot of interesting answers. This was Muhammad’s answer. The most perfect in faith among believers is he who is best in manner and kindest to his wife. You want to see who a true believer is? You watch how he treats his wife. Paradise lies at the feet of the mothers.
And then I love this one, three things can help a person after death, one, charity, which she has given. Two knowledge, which he has taught and prayers in their behalf by a righteous child. They have raised… Now I love that second one, knowledge he has taught. Joseph Smith’s teaches in section 130, that whatever principle of knowledge we get in this life we take with us. And that’s beautiful truth. I have to say loving Joseph Smith, that Muhammad just upped him just a little bit. He just upped him. Muhammad would say, “That’s true. We get to take knowledge with us.” But what really matters is did you share it? Now, of course that’s Latter-day saying we want to share all these things. So that’s a little Islam.
Aubrey Chaves: Oh, love that. Wow.
Tim Chaves: That’s beautiful. Thank you.
Michael Wilcox: And if we go to a little book for those who are watching it’s called the Dhammapada, the Buddha. It’s just like I say, I’ve read this dozens of times.
Aubrey Chaves: I can tell.
Michael Wilcox: I mean, you can see it’s… when I get to it. It’s just underlined everywhere. I just underline it. You can study it for a lifetime, some of his major teachings. I chose a couple because of the atmosphere of the world and how harsh we are in our speaking. We talked a little bit at the beginning in that Eastern religions, the problem is suffering. And the answer is compassion and empathy, Western religion, the problem is sin and the solution is forgiveness and mercy brought by Jesus. But anymore in today’s interaction with people, the answer to sin and human weakness is outrage, we’re always outraged. And we don’t mind speaking it and texting it. So here’s the Buddha speaking to 2021 Americans.
In due season, will I speak because one of the great articles of faith of Buddhism is right speaking, learn how to speak correctly. In due season will I speak, in truth will I speak, gently will I speak, to one’s prophet will I speak, with kindly intent will I speak. And if I can’t speak that way, I will not speak.
Aubrey Chaves: Wow.
Michael Wilcox: I do love the Buddha. In his teaching, he would attach his messages to common things so that the people could see, “Oh, there’s a cartwheel and a cart.” I know it. Jesus did that. You attach a spiritual truth to a very common object. So the remembrance is always there.
Our life is shaped by our mind, we become what we think. As a man think it, so he is, I think we’ve heard that before. This is 600 years before Christ, the Buddha’s living. Suffering follows an evil thought as the wheels of a cart follow the ox that draws it. Our life is shaped by our mind, we become what we think joy follows a pure thought, like a shadow that never leaves us. He was angry with me. He attacked me. He defeated me. He robbed me. Those who do not dwell on such thoughts will surely become free from hatred for hatred can never put an end to hatred, love alone can. That is an unalterable law. Martin Luther king Jr taught it. Gandhi taught it. They’re getting it out of Eastern religions in a sense. And out of the teachings of the savior, love your enemy.
This is one of my standard works. The Dhammapada, one of my Eastern standard works. If you do what is good, keep repeating it and take pleasure in making it a habit. A good habit will cause nothing but joy for happiness is the accumulation of good. Let no one think lightly of good and say to themselves, “Joy will not come to me.” Little by little, a person becomes good as a water pot is filled by drops of water. A cave in Sri Lanka, I visited Buddhists, the Buddhists like caves, and there was a great big, enormous pot, as is almost big as this table. And there was a crack in the ceiling of the cave where a little drip of water would come down and drop by drop and it’s overflowing. Okay. So these little drops fill this whole pot and overflowing spilling out on the floor as a visual of what he’s trying to say. Now, he also says that evil will do the same thing.
If you cannot find a friend who is good, wise and loving, walk alone, like an elephant roaming in the forest. It is better to be alone than to live with the immature. The Buddha, he never used the word, but rarely, the wicked, the bad, he was always saying, they’re the immature.
Aubrey Chaves: Wow.
Michael Wilcox: We’re arguing about the Trinity and the Buddha would say, “This is not useful. It’s not useful.” We need to always look for what is useful in trying to make us a better people. And if you can’t find that, then walk alone. He ends the Dhammapada with a description of the highest caste in India was Brahmin. And he fought very hard to… he didn’t like the caste system. Him, I call a Brahmin, the highest who is true, ever kind and then this mature sense of religion. He never asks what life can give, only what he can give to life.
Now, religion in its truest, most mature form is giving. It’s a giving thing. So when somebody comes to me and says, “I don’t need an organized religion, I don’t need to go to church.” I don’t argue with them. I would say, “You’re probably right. What does that have to do with anything?” You need it. And God has given you gifts. He’s given us all gifts. And if I go and engage in a religion, because I’m hoping to get something, I undoubtedly going to be disappointed eventually, but that’s not why I engage in a religion. I go to give. And if I get which I’m going to, that’s the bonus. But the main focus is I go because I’m going to give. So that’s a little Buddhism.
Aubrey Chaves: Wow. Yeah.
Michael Wilcox: Do you want a little Hindu?
Tim Chaves: Yes.
Aubrey Chaves: Yeah. Please.
Michael Wilcox: We probably out of time and then you can just add and cut out whatever you don’t-
Aubrey Chaves: But I’m looking at those last two and I don’t want to skip those things. [crosstalk] around.
Michael Wilcox: We can do America. This is the Gita, the Hindus have a very long epic classics. But the one that I would recommend people read is called the Bhagavad Gita or just the Gita. Again, very small, very simple, but you can study it for a lifetime. This is the book that made Gandhi, Gandhi. Now, he also read the Quran and because there’s Muslims in India and he’s… But if you had to say, what is the essence of Gandhi? The essence of Gandhi is the Gita.
And the Gita is a great deal about love. Just pulled a few out. He who delights with the bliss and suffers with the sorrows of every creature within his own heart, making his own each bliss and each sorrow, him I hold the highest. Now, we have as part of our baptismal covenant in the book of Mormon, are you willing to mourn with those that mourn? That’s a little easier. In Buddhism also, you have what are called the immeasurables. This is what you meditate on, where we meditate for our own purposes. Our Americans meditate, not all, I’m making a judgment, I shouldn’t make a judgment. But a lot of meditation is viewed as to calm myself, clear my mind, et cetera.
Meditation, as it was really taught was to try and connect yourself with other people. So one of the immeasurables, meaning there’s no end to it is a meditation called a meditation of compassion. Now, I make your pain, my pain. I try to close my eyes and enter you and understand exactly what you’re feeling so that I know best how to. In Alma 7, Jesus came to sucker that. But then they have another one. And that’s what he’s talking about here, the meditation of joy or a bliss. Now, I’m trying to feel your joy as if it were my own joy. And that’s very hard because we get threatened by it.
So it’s easier for me to say, “I feel your pain as though it’s your pain,” but to feel your joy as though were my joy-
Tim Chaves: That is so true.
Michael Wilcox: … I may be envious or jealous or wonder why I don’t get it. And so here’s the Gita saying, “And the highest is those who can feel the joy of others as though it is your joy also.
Tim Chaves: That’s incredible.
Aubrey Chaves: Wow.
Michael Wilcox: There is a definition in the Gita of a persons who has tendencies towards the divine. So Joseph Smith thought we can be eternal. We can be god. And they’re teaching that also in the Gita, and it gives you a list. Now, a lot of them we would agree with. He controls his passions. He’s charitable, he’s straightforward, he’s truthful. He’s not greedy. He’s gentle. Okay. We’re not going to argue, but there’s some here that I really like, for instance, this one, he or she abstains from useless activity. I can’t tell you how that sentence hanging over my head has made me wonder about my life. He abstains from useless activity. And then this very positive statement, he or she has faith in the strength of his higher nature. I have faith that there is something in me that leads me upwards, such is their birthright.
Aubrey Chaves: Yeah. I love that.
Michael Wilcox: And then he ends the Gita, because it’s love. All mankind is born for perfection. A lot of Christians needed it. There was a pretty harsh Christian doctrines that need to be mellowed with that truth. All mankind is born for perfection and each shall attain it. Will he, but follow his nature’s duty. You just follow what is in you. You will attain it. And what is the main thing you have to follow? Totally free from the sense of ego, tranquil of heart. That man is ready for oneness with God, calm in mind regarding all men with equal acceptance. This is the one who loves me most dearly for to love is to know me, my inner most nature, the truth that I am. Through this knowledge, one enters at once into my being. You want to know God, even layman’s got that one right.
Tim Chaves: Yeah.
Aubrey Chaves: Yeah. Right.
Michael Wilcox: To love another person is to see the face of God, the man who loves me and teaches my devotees. This supreme truth of the Gita, love will certainly come to me. So that’s India. That’s my two standard works from India. Now I have two from China. One of them is Confucius and he wrote a little book called The Analects, and you can go and get, Penguin Classics, and they will help you with these things. So in Confucian thought in China, the translation is a gentleman. And Confucius is… this is 600 years before Christ, is saying it isn’t birth. It isn’t wealth, it isn’t land, it’s the quality of your character. Section 121, the last part of section 121 is really Confucian. If I were ever to teach the gospel in China, one of the first things I would teach people would be the last part of section 121.
Tim Chaves: That’s so interesting.
Michael Wilcox: Many are called, the few are chosen because they can’t acquire the qualities and then they give a list of qualities. And that’s what Confucianism is basically about. Here are the qualities we’re trying to acquire in life. And as we said, benevolence is one of the lead one. So I just picked a few. That’s the essence of it. There are other things in the document. Section 93 is really good Hinduism. The old sage is predating the Buddha would love section 93. The Orthodox would love section 27.
So a part of my faith in Joseph is that he just hits them so many times, these eternal principles and truths. So we have a lot of, again, problems in our world, the divisions, and everybody wants to fix the world by fixing everyone else. And Confucius and Mencius, and some of the others say, “No, you fix the world by fixing yourself, quit worrying about fixing everybody out there, fix yourself.” This is one of the great Confucian Classics, called it from the great learning. The ancients who wished to bring order to their states, want to bring order to America, would first regulate their families. China’s big family.
Those who wish to regulate their families would first cultivate their personal lives, rectify their minds and make sure their intentions were sincere. Only when the personal life is cultivated, the family will be regulated. And when the family is regulated, the state will be in order. And when the state is in order, there will be peace throughout the world. So we would say, what is the adversary trying so hard to do? From a Chinese Confucian perspective said, “Destroy the family.” Cause people to constantly look at everybody else and say, “You’re the problem. You’re the problem. You’re the problem.” Instead of looking at themselves. And I got the best way to worship in the temple from Confucius.
Aubrey Chaves: Really?
Michael Wilcox: From The Analects. So here’s this little thing. The master went inside, the grand temple and there, he asked questions about everything and someone remarked, “Who said that Confucius understood the rights? When he went in the grand temple, he asked questions about everything.” The master on hearing this said, “The asking of questions is in itself, the correct worship or runnings of [inaudible].”
Aubrey Chaves: Wow.
Michael Wilcox: So Confucius would say, “You know what? The first time I went to the temple, what was I doing? Oh, I was looking around as my mind was going racing. Why are we doing that? What’s that about? What’s …” Which is exactly what God wants us to do.
Tim Chaves: Wow.
Aubrey Chaves: Right.
Michael Wilcox: As soon as we stop asking questions in the temple, we’ve stopped worshiping. It’s one of the major ways we worship, but I got it from Confucius. I didn’t get it from a conference talk. I got it from The Analects of Confucius. Written 600 years before Christ. So I just picked a book. It’s in little books like chapters. Okay, so you can see what mine looks like.
Here’s just a little bit of a flavor of The analects. Benevolence is the high principle. All life must be right. The master said, “Of neighborhoods, benevolence is the most beautiful. How can the man be considered wise who, when he has the choice does not settle in the neighborhood of benevolence?” Why would I choose to go in some contentious environment? But the benevolent man is attracted to benevolence because he feels at home there. And Confucius say, “Wherever a man feels at home, you’ll know something about him.”
Tim Chaves: Oh my goodness.
Aubrey Chaves: Wow. Oh, that’s so good. Yeah.
Michael Wilcox: Is there a man again, they’re all the great sages and prophets, and they’re always positive about man. They’re not negative. It’s one of the things, if I see a writer or somebody that’s putting down too much, I get a little nervous about him.
Is there a man who for the space a single day is able to devote all his strength to benevolence? Can you spend one whole day purely in benevolence? I like to ask that and say, “But how do you think he’s going to answer that question?” And we might say, “Well, I don’t know. That might be really hard.” To the whole day totally in benevolence. But he says, I have not come across such a man whose strength proves insufficient for the task. There must be such cases of insufficient strength, only I have not come across them. So what he’s saying is it is absolutely possible to live an entire day in bene… “I’ve never met a man who couldn’t do it.” It’s what he’s saying.
Tim Chaves: Wow. I want to try it.
Michael Wilcox: In his dealings with the world. I’m still just in chapter four. The chapters are very small, couple of pages. In his dealings with the world, the gentleman is not invariably for or against anything. He is on the side of that which is moral. I look at politics and sometimes I… Politics is a nasty business in a lot of ways, but sometimes I just think, “Could you just not always be for party? Party, party, party, party, party and pretend that you’re for morality.” And occasionally when I see somebody that I really feel standing up for morality, I just tip my hat. Still in chapter four, just a few others. There is, is there one single thread binding my way together? One thing that would link everything I’m teaching. This is the core of Chinese thinking right here. It appears often in The Analects. The master said, “The single thread consists in doing one’s best and in using oneself as a measure to gauge his behavior to others.” We call that the golden rule.
Aubrey Chaves: Again. Wow.
Michael Wilcox: There it is. Now, he says that specifically… I marked it here because I just said, “I’ll just go and to do one chapter.” He was once asked again, is there a single word which can be a guide to conduct throughout one’s life? The master said, “It is perhaps the word Shu,” in Chinese, which means to use yourself as a measure for others. But then he clarifies it. Do not impose on others what you yourself do not desire. Now, Jesus is going to make it positive, do unto others as you’d the others…
Tim Chaves: And I just want to point out as I’m able to see this, and for our listeners, the books that you’ve been reading out of… And I saw the inside of your book of Mormon here as well, it looks just the same.
Michael Wilcox: Yeah. There’s some fact that pages [crosstalk]. I’ll mark them with a red pencil and then… Yeah. I like to reread them every now and then because they make me want to be a better person. And because I see God’s footprints, I can see God saying, “Mike, is this persuading and enticing and inviting you to be good?” I’m say, “It certainly is.” “Then what do you know about it? What do you know about Chinese wisdom?” “It’s from you.” “So stretch your foot out and encompass it and bring it in and maybe quote it a little bit to your other Latter-day sites.”
The way of the… Okay. I love this. When you meet someone better than yourself, turn your thoughts to becoming in his equal. When you meet someone not as good as you are, look within and examine your own self.
Aubrey Chaves: Oh my gosh. Wow.
Michael Wilcox: So we say, when you look at somebody who’s not as good as you, condemn them, or feel good, “Oh, I’m glad, at least I’m not that bad.”
Aubrey Chaves: Pat yourself on the back.
Michael Wilcox: And he’s saying, “No, when you look at the other people’s faults, turn yourself inward and ask yourself, Lord, is it I?” My favorite story of Joseph Smith is just that thing when a woman comes to him and complains about someone gossiping about her. And he says, “Well, let me give you my system of dealing with people who say things that aren’t kind and nice about me,” which he had a little bit of experience with. He says, “I let my mind go back to the time and the circumstances and the place and ask myself if in some way, unconsciously, I laid the foundation for the problem that troubles me. And if I find I can, then in my heart, I can forgive that man or that woman for warning me of a weakness I did not know I possessed.”
Then he said to the woman, “Would you do the same?” And she thought and she said, “Yeah, I think I’d probably, in a small way, small way, maybe I’m partially to blame for this.” And he said, “Then in your heart you can forgive this good brother who risked friendship to give you this clearer view of yourself.” And that’s what he’s saying. He’s saying, “When you see the weaknesses in other people, examine yourself and see.” One last one, the gentleman helps others to realize what is good in them. He does not help them realize what is bad in them.
Aubrey Chaves: Oh, I love that one.
Michael Wilcox: The small man does just the opposite.
Aubrey Chaves: Oh, that’s so good.
Michael Wilcox: The thing that really got me onto Confucius in the first place was this. I can’t remember how I found it, but I think about it when I think about our striving for perfection or our learning. And he said, “Learn or strive for perfection. Learn as though you were following someone you had no hope of catching, but were afraid of losing sight of.” It’s what I feel about Jesus. I follow him as though… He says, “Follow me.” And I say, “Lord, I have no hope of catching up with you, but I’m afraid of losing sight of you.”
Well, the most difficult, that’s why you save it for last. If you’re going to read the four standard works, maybe I’ll get in trouble for using that phrase of them, but the great, I call them my Eastern standard works. The Dao De Jing by a man named Lao Tzu, Lao-Tze, is how they say it in China, which means old man. His story is he just got so fed up with people. Sometimes people can be annoying and this is the great Daoist Classic. And Daoism is about harmony with nature.
Confucianism is mostly harmony with people. And Mengzi and all the Confucian sages would say, “We live with other people. We have to learn how to live with them.” So develop benevolence and courtesy and respect within family and practice in your family how to treat each other, so when you go out in the world, you know how to treat other people. The family is a school room for all of society. The Daoists are more likely to, “Well, let’s go out and contemplate nature. Let’s go out and be in solitude and feel that.”
And so Lao Tzu was a little tired of people. And we probably all feel that way, don’t we?
Tim Chaves: Yeah.
Michael Wilcox: The commandment specifically is love your neighbor. I wish so many times God had said, “Love humanity.” I would say, “Lord, I can love humanity because they’re out there. But when you tell me, I got to love my neighbor, his dog just pooped on my front yard. It’s my neighbor that I have difficulty.” And he doesn’t say, I suggested to you, he’s thou shalt. It’s the neighbor. So Lao Tzu got a little tired of nobody listening to him and just the world was a chaotic mess. And so he gets on a water Buffalo as the story goes and rides out of China. I’m out of here. I have a little statue in my home. I could have brought it of Lao Tzu on his water Buffalo-
Aubrey Chaves: Oh, wow.
Michael Wilcox: … to remind me, because the Dao De Jing next to the Bible is the most red book on earth.
Aubrey Chaves: Really?
Michael Wilcox: Very small, you can read it in an hour. Very esoteric, very difficult. It will cause you to think forever because he’s giving these cryptic little things like, “The greats square has no corners.” How do I say, well… The great square has no corners. Now, what he is saying is we would say it this way, “Don’t box yourself in.” The more you put limits, your politics puts a corner. Well, you’re constantly putting corners. And he’s saying, “You want to keep all the options and the possibilities open. Don’t restrict yourself as much as we restrict ourselves.” It’s simplified is what he’s saying with that. So there’s all kinds of those things. So you really have to ponder.
And then this one, I’m constantly writing in English, in my language what I think he’s saying. So as he reaches the gates of the frontier of China, the gatekeeper says, “You are this great sage, you have this great wisdom. You’ve lived your whole life. Don’t leave without giving us something. Write down something for us.” Remember words are the greatest things that you can leave. And so he sits down there at the gate and he writes the Dao De Jing.
Aubrey Chaves: Oh, wow.
Michael Wilcox: With all his wisdom in very cryptic, short, a lot of things that you have think about. I didn’t pick a lot of it though, I just picked a couple that are not cryptic.
Aubrey Chaves: Oh, thank you.
Michael Wilcox: And one of them that you will recognize because most people can quote at least one thing from the Dao De Jing. So here is an easier one. But again, when I think of, there is no danger greater than having too many desires. There is no disaster greater than not being content. There is no misfortune greater than being covetise. Hence in being content, one will always have enough. That’s Daoism, is trying to live life in a little bit ease, a little bit simplify. When we say, “Go with the flow,” that’s Daoism. Just go with the flow, that’s a very Daoist idea. Now he says, when walking on the great way, in China, we call it the straight narrow path and in China, it’s called the Dao, the way. Just the way things go, the way that the universe flows and I got to get in that flow and just go with the current, it’ll take me where I need to go. That’s what we’re looking for out, fixed foot. Allah, too would say, “Well, stick your fixed foot in the way.”
Where I possessed of the least knowledge, I would when walking on the great way, fear only paths that lead astray, the great way is easy to walk yet people prefer the by-ways. We just won’t stay on the path. Will we? And of course, it’s always harder to walk the other ones. I’ll quit with this and then we should conclude with just a little story that-
Aubrey Chaves: Great.
Tim Chaves: Great.
Michael Wilcox: Hopefully we didn’t burn all your time.
Tim Chaves: This is great.
Michael Wilcox: Even on splitting into two. Well, wherever we look, we always want to find the core of all cores. We always want to find the two great commandments. Love God and love your neighbor as yourself. You’re always going to find them. I would rather stand before God and have God say to me, “Mike, you, Latter-day Saints, were all wrong. Your documents were all wrong. Your ordinances were wrong. Your forms of worship were all wrong. However, you were the most kind, loving, forgiving, tolerant, inclusive, open, charitable, empathetic people on earth. Come into heaven in a couple of hours I’ll straighten out all your doctrines for you.”
Tim Chaves: I love that.
Michael Wilcox: That easy. I’d rather him say that to me than say to me… of any religion. And I will go, “You Catholics, you Buddhist, you Evangelicals, you Methodists,” whatever, you just fit your own thing in there. I’d rather him say that to me than to say “You Mormons, you Latter-day Saints, you Catholics, you Orthodox, you Muslims,” whatever, you fill in the blank. “Your doctrines were all correct. Absolutely correct. I can’t find a jot or tittle that’s not right. Your ordinances were correct. Your doctrine, your creeds were right. However, you were the most self-righteous, condemning, judgmental, priggish, intolerant,” did I say judgmental?
Michael Wilcox: People on earth. I can’t help you with that. I can’t help you with that. I can strain your doctrine, which is basically what Muhammad is saying when I read that. He’s basically saying that you live your religion and don’t argue, try and see who can be the best people. And when you get up here, I’ll work your doctrines out. Now doctrines do influence behavior. They do. We want correct doctrines. We want the fixed foot in the best doctrines because that’ll help produce the best people.
Aubrey Chaves: Yeah. But we do treat it sometimes with rightness. Sometimes we want that rightness so much.
Michael Wilcox: It is in almost all religions. It is more I to be right than to be good. And sometimes I’ve said occasionally people who are quoting the Bible, some, “You know what the Bible says.” And I’ve sometimes said, let better that the Bible or your interpretation of the Bible be wrong and God good.
Aubrey Chaves: Oh, yes.
Michael Wilcox: Better that Paul missed it or that we’re not reading it right, but for heaven’s sake, let’s always let God be good.
Aubrey Chaves: Wow. Yes.
Michael Wilcox: Because all of us probably insult him a few times by saying, “You don’t know me. You don’t know me.” When you teach that, “You don’t know me.” Okay. So here we are. I don’t know how I got off on that one. Do good to him who has done you an injury. Again, centuries before Christ. This is pure Jesus right here. Well, we’d say, “Well, how come Lao Tzu be teaching that? Where did he get it?” Well, he got it from the same place Jesus got it. Same father.
Aubrey Chaves: Amen.
Michael Wilcox: Do good to him who has done you an injury. Now, that’s difficult. And so he tells us difficult things in the world, must needs have their beginnings in the easy and big things, must needs have their beginning in the small. So if we’re trying to do good to those who’ve done us… at least start a little easier. When somebody’s really done you an injury, isn’t the time to start practicing that. You start practicing that when it’s not so difficult. Deal with a thing while it is still nothing. Keep a thing in order before disorder sets in.
And then one of the great passages that the Dao De Jing gives, a tree that can fill the span of a man’s arms grows from a downy tip. A terrace nine stories high rises from hodsful, a little shovel full of earth. And then you can finish this, a journey of a thousand miles starts from beneath one’s feet. So as we strive to gather all the good, the reason we want to reach out with the searching foot is all of life is to try and be good. Being and becoming is the critical thing, and truth and goodness and beauty, wherever I find it will make me persuade and entice and invite me to be a better person.
And Mormonism has a lot of that. Oh, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint isn’t.
Aubrey Chaves:That’s good.
Michael Wilcox: It has so much goodness and so much truth, not all. It has very mature truth. Others have in areas, greater maturity. So I fixed that, but I am in such need of perfecting that I need all of it to perfect me. I don’t think if I were Catholic, just Catholicism would do it, or if I was as Islam, just Islam would do it, or I’m a Latter-day Saint, just as Latter-day Saintism, would do it. I’m a hopeless case. I have a long way to go and I need all the goodness and inspiration and goodness that I can find to get me where God needs me to go.
So I’ll conclude with just this one thought, maybe that’s a good place to conclude. I was in China teaching Chinese wisdom with a guide for two or three weeks we were together. Lovely man, just really, really, and for a while, communism, Mao and his following, they pushed down centuries of Chinese wisdom. Chinese wisdom, they never had a dark ages. They had dynasties rise and fall and civil wars. They never had a dark ages. They never lost, it was always there.
But he didn’t know some of these things. And so he’s drinking in his own culture from a westerner of all people. And when I got done, I try to do this in every country I visit. I try to find a person of that country, of that religion, of that culture and thank them. And I said, “Bing, I just want to thank you as representative of your people, your culture, your wisdom, your religions for enriching my life and making me a better person. I am a better person because of what your nation produced.” And I would do that in France or Germany or Saudi Arabia or whatever. Polynesia, they all have things that give.
And at the end, he gave me the highest compliment I have ever received in life. He reached out and he patted my heart. He just patted my heart like this. And he said, “Chinese, Chinese.” And I would like to live and I would encourage all of us to live so that whatever the other is, we have a problem with otherness. We want to solve the problem of otherness. I think God made otherness to see how we deal with it.
And we don’t always deal with it very well, but hopefully I’ll come to the point in my life where the Frenchmen and the Italian, the black, the Polynesian, the Orthodox, the Muslim that wherever the otherness exists, that that person could look at me because of how I’ve acted or what I’ve said or what I’ve tried to learn about what they have to give that all of them would reach out and pat the heart and say, “Chinese, Irish, Polynesian,” whatever, because I feel when I get all that, goodness in me, all that truth, then God will reach out and pat my heart and say, “I’m here, godliness, godliness. I’m here. You’ve put me in your heart. You found me everywhere I was.” And that’s what we want. And I never have to move my fixed foot. I get to keep it right there. I don’t have to be nervous about it. Anyway, thank you very much.
Tim Chaves: No, thank you [crosstalk].
Michael Wilcox: It’s been fun to chat with you. Hopefully I didn’t go too far.
Tim Chaves: This has been absolutely inspiring.
Aubrey Chaves: And it feels like a beginning, it feels like a real invitation to search, I think, to start looking. So thank you so much.
Tim Chaves: It’s truly expansive. And I think it really illustrates what we hope for Faith Matters generally. So [crosstalk]-
Michael Wilcox: I come back from it, loving Joseph Smith more. I really do, and Jesus. Every time I come back amazed at what Joseph Smith didn’t talk. Like I say, I’ll say, “Oh, there’s Confucius right there.” He amazes me when I come back to him.
Aubrey Chaves: Well, thank you so much for your time-
Tim Chaves: Thank you.
Michael Wilcox: You’re welcome.
Aubrey Chaves: … and for all your work, we’ll link to all of this that you’ve mentioned for sure.
Tim Chaves: Okay. Thanks a ton for listening. And we really hope you enjoyed this concluding part of the conversation with Michael Wilcox and as always, if Faith Matters content is resonating with you and you get a chance, we’d love for you to leave a review on apple podcasts or whatever platform you listen on. It definitely helps get the word out about faith matters and we really appreciate the support. Thanks again for listening. And as always, you can check out more at faithmatters.org.