Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Magician's Nephew

Alright! Time to talk about my favorite books of all time! The next seven weeks I will talk about each book from C. S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia. I love these books so much, and I have ever since I first read them as a kid. The Magician's Nephew, while not the first book C. S. Lewis wrote for the series, is a wonderful introduction to Narnia, mostly because it is the book where Narnia is created.

C. S. Lewis includes a lot of Christian doctrine in his books. This book talks about the Creation and fall of man. The Savior is depicted by Aslan, the great and mighty lion. He creates Narnia by singing, and you've never heard of a voice so rich and beautiful as his. Once Narnia is created, he calls forth to him Digory Kirke, one of the two main characters of this novel. Digory has brought the evil queen and sorceress Jadis to Narnia, infecting the new world with evil at the dawn of its creation. Aslan says, "Evil will come of this evil . . . and I will see to it that the worst falls upon myself." This is foreshadowing his sacrifice, symbolic of the Atonement.

I love the symbolism of Aslan and the Savior. Aslan talks to the Cabby who came with Digory and says, "Son, I have known you long. Do you know me?" The Savior has also known us long, and asks if we know Him. If we are like the Cabby, we will answer that we have not met in the ordinary way, and yet it seems that we have met before. After the Cabby is declared the first king of Narnia, Digory is asked to fulfill a quest that will protect Narnia from the witch for hundreds of years. Before Digory leaves on his quest, he bursts into tears and pleads, "But please, please - won't you - can't you give me something that will cure Mother?" Digory's mother at that exact moment was dying in her bed. I love the part that follows.

"Up till then he had been looking at the Lion's great feet and the huge claws on them; now, in his despair, he looked up at his face. What he saw surprised him as much as anything in his whole life. For the tawny face was bent down near his own and (wonder of wonders) great shining tears stood in the Lion's eyes. They were such big, bright tears compared with Digory's own that for a moment he felt as if the Lion must be sorrier about his Mother than he was himself." Digory was focusing on the justice of the Lion (the Savior), but when he looked up to see his face, he found compassion. The Savior does not joy in our sorrow. He knows our sorrow. C. S. Lewis does a remarkable job of capturing the love of the Savior and how He knows each person intimately. Even though I have read these books several times, they still bring tears to my eyes as I read about the love the Savior has for each of us.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Odds Are You're Going to be Exalted

This book by Alonzo Gaskill is a remarkable book that clarifies why the Plan of Salvation made each of us shout for joy when the Father presented it to us. We generally think that very few people will enter the Celestial Kingdom. Brother Gaskill says he cannot picture our Father saying, "I have a plan that will allow only a handful of you to return and the rest of you will be damned." He especially cannot imagine our reaction being shouting for joy. No, the Father presented a plan that would give us very good chances of returning to Him.

First, the author talks about those who die before they turn eight. As we know from the Doctrine and Covenants, any who die before the age of accountability are automatically heirs of the Celestial Kingdom. The author estimates that about half of the people ever born on the planet died before they turned eight. That means billions of people have automatically been guaranteed a return to our heavenly home. Then he talks about those who die without a knowledge of the Gospel. He uses scriptures and quotes from General Authorities to show that the majority of these people will accept the Gospel in the Spirit World and thus be granted exaltation as well. Indeed, the numbers are stunning of how many will be able to make it back.

The author then states that at times it might not seen fair to us. We didn't die before becoming eight-years-old. We know about the Gospel now. So how is that fair? That is where the Atonement comes in. God is so incredibly generous with His forgiveness and has made it so available that our part seems really small. The Savior has done most of the work for us. We just need to follow in His footsteps. He also argues that since, "Unto whom much is given, much is required," so likewise "Unto whom much is required, much is given." Because more is required of us than those who die early or without a knowledge of the Gospel, we are more abundantly blessed. Not only are we blessed in this life, but even in the next life we will have more experience to help us in our eternal progression. In the end, it all evens out. The majority of our brothers and sisters will indeed return to the Celestial Kingdom. Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, the way is paved before us and our own exaltation is highly achievable, so long as we strive to remain on the path and consistently repent of all our sins.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

In His Steps

This is a book that every Christian needs to read. I don't care what denomination of Christianity you are from, Charles M. Sheldon's book will help you evaluate your life and your dedication to the Lord. This book explores the question, "What would Jesus do?" and takes it to a whole new level of meaning. The book begins with a pastor who is preparing his sermon. He is focusing so hard on what will please his congregation and make him look good, that he neglects to help a homeless man. This man arrives at his church the next day and speaks to the congregation before dying. His words have a strong impact on the pastor. At the next service, he issues a challenge to his members to always ask what Jesus would do and then do it. A select group take him up on his offer, and the rest of the book follows their choices. Some give up fame in order to serve. Others lose money. Many of them are rejected, ridiculed, and despised. Yet they continue in their quest to live as Jesus would have them live.

Sometimes it is hard for me to imagine what Jesus would do because it is hard to imagine him doing modern things, such as watching TV, or going to Disneyland. This book succeeds in trying to put Him in a modern setting. For example, one of the people owns a newspaper. Now, I personally can't imagine the Savior printing newspapers all day long. But this man was able to think, "If the Savior were in the newspaper business, what stories would he print?" He then chooses not to include stories that every other newspaper was printing. As time went on, he began to publish more and more stories that recognized the good in the world. It helps me to think, "If the Savior were a custodian, what would He do? If He were an employee at Deseret Book, what would He do?" Following this will make me a better person. The book gives examples of many, many sacrifices that had to be made, but the people found a deeper happiness than anything else could have offered.

I hope that in my life I can do better to follow "in His steps" and live as Jesus would live if He were in my position. I highly recommend this book. It will make you think about your life in a way you've never thought of it before.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Hard Times and Holy Places

All of us suffer from trials in this lifetime. Some suffer more than others. Kristen Warner Belcher has certainly had her share. In her lifetime, she has had to have both eyes removed and has also suffered from multiple medical complications. Although she does not deny that she has been through some very bitter times, she has learned how to turn her hard times into holy places. These holy places can be on a hiking trail, in a hospital bed, or in the scriptures. However, the holiest place of all is found in the Savior Jesus Christ.

Reading this book helped me realize just how small my trials are. Honestly, I have nothing to complain about. I was really touched when I read about the operation that led to the removal of her second eye. Going into the operation, nobody thought her eye would have to be removed. She last saw her husband, merely a silhouette, as she was being led into the operation. To her terrible dismay, she found out later that she would never see again. Without warning, she would never be able to look at her husband or two children. She was devastated. I would be as well if I were in her situation. However, through the love of the Lord, she has been able to learn to enjoy life again. Although she still has some down days, she has found ultimate peace from the Savior. She also acknowledges that although the Savior did not always heal her (though in some instances he had), He did give her the strength to endure the challenges.

The book is very easy to read. I almost felt like I just sat down with the author as she told me about her life. Her humor is also very evident in the book and I laughed at a couple of her jokes. I really appreciated reading about somebody else's trials and how I can improve my reaction to the trials I experience, which do not compare to hers. I highly recommend this book.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Behind Every Good Man

This last week I finished John Bytheway's newest book: Behind Every Good Man. I actually started reading it because of the store meeting I had at Deseret Book last week. It sounded good and I like John Bytheway, so I picked it up. Even though I'm not yet married, I learned a lot from it that will help me while I am dating.

The book is geared to improve marriages and is mostly written for women. It is designed to help women understand how men think and how to help them progress without criticizing them or nagging them, since both methods are very ineffective. However, being a guy, I was able to learn more about how women think and react based on the issues that the author addresses. I also learned ways that I can improve myself.

My favorite part of the book talked about the need to see one's spouse through Heavenly Father's eyes. Sometimes we, as mortals, tend to focus on the negative and on the lack of improvement. We need to take a step back and see the value that the person has in our Father's eyes. The author suggests that the best way to do this is to read your spouse's patriarchal blessing. He quotes someone else who said that you will never find a patriarchal blessing that says, "I'm sorry. You're a loser." The author said that whenever he reads his wife's blessing he always thinks, "Wow! I married someone really special!" I really liked this part. Whether or not I am in a position where I ought to read someone else's blessing, I want to do better at seeing what the Lord sees in the person.

This book is very easy to read, has John Bytheway's typical humor, and is also very thought provoking. Whether your marriage is strong or needs improving, whether you are male or female, I think this book could prove to be very beneficial. Even as a single man, I still gleaned a lot from it to help me.