Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Following Christ

Since Following Christ is a companion to Stephen E. Robinson’s other book, I decided to read this next. From the very beginning, the book hooked me as a reader and really made me ponder about what it means to endure to the end. Robinson discusses a common belief in the Church that we are enduring to the end to try to qualify for the Celestial Kingdom. Using several analogies, he explains that after baptism and confirmation, we are already in the kingdom unless we choose to live it. We don’t have to be perfect right now to qualify for it. What matters is that we are faithfully striving towards perfection through Christ, while remaining perfect in Him.

God knew that we would still make mistakes after baptism. That is why He has provided the sacrament. If I were to die right now in good standing with the Church, being truly and genuinely converted and active in the Gospel (not just pretending to be), then I can be assured that I will inherit the Celestial Kingdom, even if I’m not completely perfect yet. The Kingdom of God on earth is the Church. If I qualify for the Kingdom of God here, then I also qualify for the Kingdom of God in heaven.

This is what the scriptures try to teach when they say we must have faith, hope, and charity. If we have faith in Christ, if we have entered into His covenant of baptism, then we must have hope that we will make it to the Celestial Kingdom, rather than live in constant worry about qualifying. And if we have this faith and hope, then we must endure to the end by having charity, learning to love as He loves, and letting that love govern our actions. I really enjoy how Robinson is able to simply explain these doctrines. His book also contains warnings that I thought were very profound and important. This is another book that I think every member would do well to read.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Believing Christ

After several deep, thought-provoking books, I decided to go out of order on my bookshelf and read a much smaller, simpler book. Thus I chose Believing Christ by Stephen E Robinson. Although the book is small and simple, it was VERY thought-provoking.

Robinson discusses how even members of the Church don’t understand Christ’s role as the Savior. We have an easier time believing IN Christ than we do just believing Him, or trusting Him. This is due largely to the fact we are very aware of our weaknesses and our inability to do everything we want to or know we should. Robinson points out that we will come up short. That is a fact we need to get used to.

The good news is that even though we are not perfect by ourselves, we can be perfect in Christ, as Moroni teaches in the Book of Mormon. We have a limited deficit, but Christ has an infinite amount of grace. No matter how bad our deficit (number of sins), when we partner with Christ, His abundant grace is enough to allow us to still enter the Celestial Kingdom. This is what the scriptures mean when they use the phrase, “His grace is sufficient.” The truths taught in this book were very simple, but pure and simple truths are the best kind, because the Holy Ghost can easily testify of them.

Doctrine and Covenants and the Future

I received a copy of Doctrine and Covenants and the Future by Roy W. Doxey from my friend Zachary Soard, one of my good missionary friends. I had mentioned this book to him one day because I had read a really interesting excerpt. My friend surprised me a few days later with the book, which has been out of print for quite some time.

Ironically, the excerpt I read that made me want this book is also in Life Everlasting. There was very little new material in this book that I have not already read. I do find it interesting, however, that so many authors of the same faith can write about the same doctrine and yet have different viewpoints or emphasis. This really illustrates the need for living prophets who can give us the pure, undiluted truth.

The doctrine I am referring to is the doctrine of salvation—who will be saved in the Celestial Kingdom and who won’t. On this specific subject, all authors I have read agree. However, some say that very few will be saved in this sense, while others declare most will be saved (see my post for Odds Are You’re Going to Be Exalted. I may re-read this book again and add to my earlier post).

However, there is one part of Doxey’s book that I really enjoyed, and I wish to share it here. He is quoting William Jennings Bryan: “Must we understand [our food] before we eat it? If we refused to eat anything until we could understand the mystery of its growth, we would die of starvation. But mystery does not bother us in the dining room; it is only in the church that it is a stumbling block.”

Even though we don’t understand all aspects of the Gospel doesn’t mean we should refuse to live it. We have the promise that when the Savior returns, He will reveal all things. In the meantime, we can study the Gospel to try to learn it better, but we must also remember and trust in the promise that we will receive no witness until after the trial of our faith (Ether 12:6).

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Life Everlasting

This is the modern cover of the book
During my time working at Deseret Book, I have noticed that Life Everlasting by Duane Crowther is a classic bestseller. I assumed the book talked about exaltation and the blessings thereof. Apparently, that only covered one chapter in the book (the very last chapter, I might add). As a whole, Crowther's book deals with the journey that begins beyond death--a subject he was inspired to pursue when his daughter was dying of Leukemia.
The first half of the book deals specifically with the spirit world. I found this part of the book absolutely fascinating! The content came from scriptural passages, statements by Church leaders, and actual experiences of latter-day saints. There were many times where I felt great comfort and peace as I read different accounts. Many questions I had were answered, although I admit that new questions came up, and some old questions still remain. To me, the entire book is worth reading just for this portion alone.
The book goes on to explain the doctrines of resurrection, the final judgment, and the different rewards available afterwards. This part of the book felt a little more tedious to me than the rest, but it was still good. I really liked how the author will flat out state that his opinion is not doctrine, but then he explains through scripture and quotes from general authorities why he carries that opinion.
During the entire reading, I noticed two or three times where the author did not get a fact straight. However, I read the copy given to my Grandpa Wanlass in 1968. There is a good chance that these few small errors have been corrected in more recent editions of this book. I really loved this book and I strongly recommend it.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Divine Center

I cannot say enough good things about The Divine Center by Stephen R. Covey. I consider this book to be a classic, and I recommend it for every LDS home. In this book, Covey explains that each individual views the world through a personal lense. We all base our understanding of the world on our perception. This book requires the reader to evaluate his/her perception and how we center our lives and our focus.

Throughout the book, Covey reminds the reader that celestial principles cannot be effectively taught in a telestial manner. Likewise, they cannot be truly implemented with a casual effort. If we spend months and years to learn skills in sports, music and academic learning, then surely we need to apply the same diligence to becoming converted and placing God at the center of our lives.

This book has awakened a deep longing inside me to be better connected to my Heavenly Father. It has reminded me of many of my faults and has brought to my memory many times in my life where a situation could have turned out much better if I had my life properly centered where it should have been. But this book has not filled me with discouragement, but rather with inspiration and eagerness to be better.

Again, I highly recommend that every latter-day saint read this book. So far, this is the best book I’ve read this year. It is definitely the best book I’ve read in the month of January.

Mormons and Masons

I purchased Mormons and Masons by Matthew B. Brown quite a while ago because of my interest on the subject. My curiosity on the subject began during the semester I spent in Nauvoo, and it has only grown from there. When I read this book, I was very impressed with the author’s depth of study, his explanations, and his courtesy.

I read the book because I wanted a better understanding of fact vs. fiction regarding this subject. To my surprise, he didn’t really address this until the last chapter of the book. Brown spends a great deal of time discussing the history of freemasonry, and its history certainly is fascinating. The research dispels many rumors and fantastical notions regarding this organization.

One of my favorite parts of this book was where the author shows how the Lord began restoring principles pertaining to the temple as early as 1823. The details he cites both from historical accounts and from the Doctrine and Covenants really made me appreciate how perfectly the Lord was preparing Joseph Smith and the world for the restoration of temple blessings. Overall, I found this book very uplifting and satisfying to read.