Friday, August 26, 2016

Make a Choice

I just finished reading Make a Choice by Jeff Benedict and I found it to be really thought-provoking. This book consists of seven true stories of people who have faced tragic, heart-wrenching experiences and found amazing outlooks on life to get them through their challenges. As the cover says, When we are at the intersection of happiness and despair, we have the power to make a choice.

Benedict begins his book perfectly with a quote from Old Yeller, which he had been reading to his daughter. After Travis goes through the awful ordeal of having to put down Old Yeller, his dad gives him this wise counsel: "It's not a thing you can forget. I don't guess it's a thing you ought to forget. What I mean is, things like that happen. They may seem mighty cruel and unfair, but that's how life is part of the time. But that isn't the only way life is. A part of the time, it's mighty good. And a man can't afford to waste all the good part, worrying about the bad parts."

Commenting on this quote and other tragedies in the world, Benedict makes the point that we never "get over" these things. But we can get through them (his emphasis, not mine). He then goes on to share the stories of people he personally knows and how they got through their difficult experiences (or, for some, are still getting through them).

This book made me grateful for my life, which has been very easy compared to the lives of the people mentioned in this book. Although my challenges are not nearly as great, this book provided me with great insights on how to deal with my challenges, and still choose to keep an optimistic, hopeful attitude throughout my life, no matter what comes my way.

Monday, April 4, 2016

The Washington Hypothesis

I was excited to read The Washington Hypothesis by Timothy Ballard as soon as I learned it was coming out. I really enjoyed his previous work, The Lincoln Hypothesis. This book did not disappoint. I have always loved American history and have always had great respect for our first president. I always knew George Washington was a great man, but reading this book solidified that belief more than ever.

First of all, I had no idea how many miracles were involved with the Revolutionary War. I knew that as a whole it is a miracle that the Americans won against the greatest superpower in the world at the time. But it was fascinating to read about the successes Washington had because of nature (God) working in their favor. It was neat to read how often Washington urged his men to fast and pray and show their devotion to God.

Ballard also makes interesting arguments in favor of Washington being familiar with the American Covenant, an extension of the Abrahamic Covenant that applied to Lehi and that now applies to us. I won't go into detail because I don't want to spoil the book, but it is very interesting to note how the pieces came together for the author.

I don't know what Timothy Ballard will write next, but I do know that I will be among the first in line to read it. His research is fantastic and his passion is contagious. It makes me personally commit to better live the American Covenant.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Fire and Steel: The Storm Descends

The Storm Descends is volume two in Gerald N. Lund's Fire and Steel series. This book mostly takes place in Germany in the aftermath of World War I. The effects of the lost war on the German people are felt strongly in this book, perhaps especially for the surviving soldiers who fought in the war. The government was seen as incompetent with rebellious groups popping up throughout the country to spread radical communist ideas.

Hans Otto Eckhardt finds himself surrounded by this turmoil. Returning from war as a wounded soldier, he finds no benefits awaiting him and a country that looks very bleak. Confronted on all sides by opposition, Hans finds comfort in home and family, and also in a nurse who cared for him while in the hospital. He finds himself wanting their relationship to be more than nurse and patient, and she seems to also want to pursue a relationship with him.

But when Emilee discovers a series of poor choices made by Hans, she struggled to know if she really wants someone like that in her life. She wants a man of character who can weather any storm. Can Hans be that man? When the storm descends, what kind of man will Hans prove himself to be?

I really enjoyed this book and can't wait for the next one!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Westly: A Spider's Tale

Westly is a unique story written by Bryan Beus about a young caterpillar named (you guessed it) Westly. His father is king of the butterflies, and Westly wants to make him proud. He looks forward to emerging from his cocoon as a beautiful monarch butterfly and hopes he will have impressive wings as well as the skills necessary so that the people will want to follow him as a ruler one day.

But something goes terribly wrong when Westly emerges from his cocoon as a spider! In horror, he runs away from home and lives among the "dirt eaters," the inferior bugs that are banned from the butterfly paradise. Westly learns to develop talents as he works among them, forging friendships and and learning the valuable role these insects play in their world. He also gets special training from a Raven that knows all about spiders and is able to teach Westly how to create webs. It turns out that in the end Westly is able to save the day strictly because he is different.

This book would appeal to young children, especially those who may feel they are different from "normal" kids. I had a little trouble understanding exactly where this was taking place. They described themselves living inside an atrium with a locked door, but then also hinted that it was the butterflies' ancestors who created this haven. But this explanation seems impossible. I would have liked some more back story with this. But this is me, a thirty-year-old talking. I am sure that young kids reading this book probably won't think twice about it and will enjoy the story for what it is.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

How to Be Like Walt

Recently my boss let me borrow the book How to Be Like Walt by Pat Williams. Hands down, this is THE BEST book on Walt Disney that I have ever come across. The book is a biography that follows Walt's life in chronological order. However, Williams ends each chapter with a lesson we can learn from Walt based on that period of his life that will help us be more like him. Here are a few nuggets I particularly enjoyed:

Towards the beginning of the book, Pat Williams gives his first lesson as a way to NOT be like Walt--don't smoke! He talks about the start of Walt's smoking habit and how it eventually killed him.

Walt Disney liked to do the impossible. He was constantly ridiculed, but he always proved them wrong. The author states that the world could do without a thousand critics and not miss them, but it would be a whole lot different if it lost one Walt Disney.

Walt was a great salesman. A true salesman is a noble profession. He (or she) acts with high integrity, believes in his product, is passionate about it, and establishes great relationships. That is exactly the kind of man Walt was.

Walt's name was slandered by disaffected employees. He was called anti-semitic, a womanizer, and other things. These rumors were lies. Walt's favorite composers, the Sherman Brothers, were Jews. Other important people that he loved and trusted were also Jews. He was also fiercely loyal to his wife. He once said to Ken Anderson, complaining that some of his staffers spent their evening womanizing, "Boy, I just can't understand that, Ken. It's like women are their hobby." Ken Anderson noted that Walt could not imagine how a married man could be unfaithful to his wife.

Walt's vision for EPCOT was to create a true Utopia, but after the death of both him and his brother Roy, this final dream of his was forgotten and Epcot became another theme park. Walt wanted it to be an actual community where people could live, and where new technologies could be tested to solve the many problems facing society. Sadly, his dream will have to wait.

This book was such a joy to read. I laughed out loud. I eagerly followed Walt's adventures. And I confess that when I read about his death, I cried real tears. Everybody who knows me knows that I love Disney. But most of all, I love the man that started it all and gave it his name. Reading this book is the closest I've been able to come to know the inspiring man that is Walt Disney.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Answers to Gospel Questions Vol. 4

Volume Four of the Answers to Gospel Questions series continues to look at answers from the scriptures for questions submitted to Joseph Fielding Smith. A lot of the questions I already knew the answers to, but it was still interesting to read President Smith's responses.

My favorite part of this book was a comment that the author made about divorce on page 200: "There never will be a divorce among those married in the temple if both of the parties, husband and wife, are living their religion; they will never separate. How can they if they keep the commandments of the Lord?"

In some of his responses, President Smith seems to express frustration that the inquisitor did not take the time to study the scriptures to find the answers on their own. He emphasizes that if we desire exaltation in the life to come, we need to put forth more of an effort now to diligently apply ourselves to study and learning.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff

The fourth President of the Church was Wilford Woodruff. I thoroughly enjoyed reading more about his life and teachings. He was the last President of the Church who personally knew Joseph Smith and he is able to offer a unique perspective.

On page 33 President Woodruff says, "The Lord is with this people, but as Latter-day Saints, I do not think that we always prize our privileges." He uses that phrase a few times, and I really like it. It makes me reflect on how I can do better at prizing my privileges.

Page 61--"There was one of the leading Elders of the Church who went before the people and undertook to preach certain principles. Joseph heard of it and desired him to present the doctrine to him in writing. He wrote it, and when he completed it read it to the Prophet. He asked Joseph what he thought of it. "Why," said Joseph, "it is a beautiful system, I have but one fault to find with it--" "What is that, Brother Joseph?" Joseph said--"It is not true." We need to be careful to always teach truth and not things that appeal to our emotions.

Page 105--"Do you suppose these devils are around us without trying to do something? Are they asleep? Have they not a work to perform? I say to my brethren who bear the Priesthood, we have got a mighty warfare to wage with these spirits. We cannot escape it." A great reminder that there is a spiritual battle we fight every day.

Page 112--"The head of the family should not do all the praying himself, but should call upon members of his family to pray, and to ask the blessing at [the] table." Good counsel to let each member of the family have an opportunity to grow their relationship with God.

Page 129--"I would advise you to get all of your blessings written and preserve them... I do feel to enjoin it upon you to make a record of every official act of your life. If you baptize, confirm, ordain, or bless any person or administer to the sick, write an account of it...If the power and blessings of God are made manifest in your preservation from danger... you should make a record of it. Keep an account of the dealings of God with you daily." I need to be so much better at doing this. God really does bless us so much and all to often we don't recognize his blessings, nor do we remember them.