Monday, June 30, 2014

Missionary Pal

Missionary Pal: Reference Guide for Missionaries and Teachers is a book edited by Keith Marston that contains a compilation of various Gospel topics and then lists scriptures that teach about that topic, especially drawing from the Bible. A majority of the topics listed are connected to the missionary lessons and questions that investigators may have.

In addition to providing scripture references for a variety of topics, it also occasionally includes information not found in the scriptures, but which may be of interest to the reader. For example, it borrows information from Foxe's Book of the Martyrs to give a brief summary of how early church leaders died. It also includes personal testimonies of the Three Witnesses of the Book of Mormon.

My only concern with this book is its editing. Misspellings were frequent throughout the book and sometimes there were repeat scriptures under the same topic, as if someone was just copying and pasting the information and accidentally pasted it twice on the same page. This book is now out of print, but if it were still in print, my suggestion is to have a good editor go through it, fix these minor mistakes, and the book would be a terrific resource tool.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

A Conspiracy of Kings

A Conspiracy of Kings is the most recent book in the series by Megan Whalen Turner. I may have mentioned this before, but I often am left feeling very dissatisfied with the final book of a series. That has been true for a number of books that I have read. Now, I don't know for sure if this will be the final book, but if it is, it is a severe disappointment.

This book hardly focuses on Eugenides at all. It is actually about Sophos, one of Gen's traveling mates in the first book. Sophos is now King of Sounis, a rival kingdom of Attolia. It has been engaged in a civil war and a foreign nation is more than happy to help conquer it. The story is told mostly in first person and it is all about Sophos' rise to power and the challenges he faces along the way.

I was severely disappointed that there wasn't more of the book with Eugenides. He is the character I have become invested in. While Sophos' story is interesting, I did not feel the same connection. The ending of the book was weird and abrupt, although it did contain a resolution. I just wasn't happy with it.

The first three books were great. The fourth is not. The swearing in the last two books picks up a little as well, which I don't really care for. Hopefully there will be a fifth book to redeem the series from this last one.

The Ultimate Missionary Companion

In his book The Ultimate Missionary Companion, Ed J. Pinegar uses years of experience to teach the essentials of missionary work and how to be an effective missionary. When it comes down to the principles of missionary work, many books will probably sound similar because the principles will be the same. In fact, Pinegar even says that the ultimate missionary companion is really the Holy Ghost. However, the way these principles are explained and taught very by each individual, and Pinegar gives some fantastic insight in this book.

The biggest strength a missionary can have is the pure love of Christ. When people realize that you genuinely love them and care about them, they are more receptive to your message. When they are receptive to your message, they allow the Holy Ghost to bear witness of its truthfulness. Once they know it is true, it becomes a natural desire to want to follow Jesus Christ and obey His commandments.Pinegar points out that our love must be visible. We cannot profess to love everybody and then live like a hermit.

Some of my favorite stories from this book include the author's boldness to invite people to be baptized. But he does not do it in an overbearing way that is merely driven by numbers. He demonstrates how to be genuinely loving and to help investigators be confident in that love. If we have a firm testimony of the Gospel and investigators can see our sincere love for them, invitations to accept the Gospel are not seen as threatening, but as a demonstration of our love.

Friday, June 27, 2014

The King of Attolia

In the third book of Megan Whalen Turner's series, The King of Attolia, has a completely different feel to it than the other books. While the book certainly still surrounds the story of Eugenides, it also closely follows other characters. In fact, the majority of the book is told from a limited omniscient view of one of the guards.

Having married the Queen of Attolia, Eugenides now finds himself king of a land that pretty much despises him. They hate the idea of having an outsider for their king. Pranks in the palace on the king are many (and some are rather serious), but eventually Eugenides has to deal with assassination attempts as well. Somehow he needs to find a way to establish himself as king and prove he is more than capable of doing so.

The way that Eugenides does so is really great. As usual, there is a method to his madness that isn't revealed entirely until the end (of course, I'm not going to give away exactly what that is). Eugenides hates being king. He is homesick. But he loves Attolia and became king only to marry her. Throughout the book he demonstrates that love in a variety of ways.

This book made me laugh out loud several times. Eugenides is quite the character and can come up with the funniest things to say! I am looking forward to the fourth book.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Queen of Attolia

The Queen of Attolia is the second book in the series by Megan Whalen Turner. The book begins with Eugenides, the Queen's Thief of Eddis, trying to escape from the kingdom of Attolia. Somehow the guards seemed to know he would be in the palace that night, and somehow the guards manage to capture him. At first the Queen of Attolia sentences Eudenides to be hanged, but her mind is changed by an ambassador from the Medes and she cuts off the Thief's right hand instead. With it being impossible to steal anything with one hand, the Thief is returned to his kingdom.

While delirious with pain and sickness, not to mention being sunk in deep depression over the loss of his hand, Eugenides remains in his room, oblivious to the fact the Eddis and Attolia are engaged in war against each other because of him. Sounis, the third kingdom in the realm, also joins the war. Everyone fears the Mede ambassador, who seems to be preparing to land his troops on Attolia ground, preparing for an invasion of all three kingdoms. Only Eugenides might be clever enough to outwit the ambassador and save all three kingdoms.

The book was really good, and it is shocking when you realize what Eugenides has planned, and how far in advance he has planned it. It is also interesting to discover with him that the gods are more involved in his life than he originally thought. My only complaint with this book is how the plot seemed to drag for a bit. After Eugenides returns to Eddis, terribly ill and suffering from the loss of his hand, there are at least 100 pages of the book dedicated to his moping and depression. It got tiring after a while. But overall, the book was great and the ending made the rest of the book worth it.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Thief

While talking to a co-worker about how much I enjoyed The False Prince series, she recommended to me a book called The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner. She told me it was the same genre, so I decided to give it a try. Overall I liked the book. I don't think it is on the same level of The False Prince, but it was still very enjoyable.

The story is about a thief named Gen, short for Eugenides. He was named after the god of thieves. Claiming he could steal anything, he steals the king's ring and ends up imprisoned after bragging about it. He is released months later by the king's magus in order to steal an object buried in myths and legends. Skeptical about the reality of the ancients gods, Gen has no choice but to join the expedition or be killed. His comrades are a magus-in-training, a son of a duke, a seasoned soldier, and the magus himself.

Traveling into enemy territory to find a mysterious artifact that has been lost for centuries may be daunting enough, but Gen knows that if he can't find someway to outwit his companions, his very neck may be on the line. And then there are the strange recurring dreams he has of a beautiful woman in an ancient temple. Perhaps the ancients gods aren't mere myths after all. And if they aren't, does he really dare take an artifact out of one of their temples?

The story contains some fun twists and surprises and Gen is a very likeable character. The story starts a little slow, but by the end I was involved in the story and could hardly wait to see what would happen next. My biggest complaint with this book is that there is some swearing. It is mild PG swearing, but it is there nonetheless.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Dare to Prepare

Dare to Prepare is a book by Lyman Rose that is written as if it were a personal mission preparation class between the author and reader. Throughout the book the author asks the reader to do certain assignments, and he often even tells the reader not to continue with the book until the assignment is completed. Some of these assignments have a powerful impact if done the same way the author asks you to do them. It makes me think it would be fun to be in one of his classes.

The portions of this book that I enjoyed the most were the parts where the author shares experiences from his own mission. Some experiences he shares are examples of what he did right, and others are examples of what he did wrong. All examples he shares are effective to teach certain principles. I especially enjoyed his personal examples of learning to recognize revelation and when the Spirit is speaking.

Perhaps the best part of this book is the author's enthusiasm for missionary work. It often made me think of my own mission and how much I loved it. This book teaches that missionary work really is work, and it takes work just to unlock our potential as missionaries. But if we do, we will become powerful instruments in the Lord's hands.

Monday, June 9, 2014

No One Can Take Your Place

No One Can Take Your Place by Sheri Dew is one of my wife's favorite books and she was eager for me to read it. The book was quite enjoyable. Many of the themes and messages of the book are repeated in her other two books that I have read, but each book has a unique way of looking at these messages.

The title of this book actually comes from the last chapter, which is probably my favorite chapter of the book. The author tells the story of her experience at BYU in the 1970's. She wanted to try out for the basketball team, but when the time for tryouts came, she paced up and down the hall until tryouts were over. She was haunted for years by wondering whether or not she would have made the team. Then, 30 years later, she was speaking to a group of BYU athletes and shared this story. To Sheri Dew's shock and dismay, after she told this story the coach of the women's basketball team told her that that same year she had this experience was also the only year in her career at BYU where they were one person short on the team. She couldn't find anyone to join the basketball team. If Sheri had tried out, she would have made it!

The point of this story is that there is a need for each of us, and we each have something to contribute. Nobody can take our place. Sure, somebody else can try to fill in for us, but nobody can replace us. Each of us was born to this earth with a divine and specific mission. The Lord is expecting each of us to fulfill our missions because nobody can take our place. The Lord needs all of us who have been called to carry His work forward.

I really loved this concept, and I strongly believe that it is true. The book is full of many principles that we need to stand for and defend, not leaving the task to someone else. Of the three Sheri Dew books I have read so far, this one is probably my favorite.