Sunday, October 07, 2007

Great Mormon Literature

Hey folks,

I don't know whether any of you remember me posting around LYMA in the past... I'm a good friend of J.D. Payne, who introduced me to the Church in 2002-2003. I'm now back after serving in the Belgium Brussels / Netherlands Mission.

Now that I've been home for three months, I miss the elevated spiritual atmosphere of missionary life. I've been meaning to get into some good Mormon literature in my limited free time, but I'm not sure what the best books are. So I thought we might use this thread to post brief reviews of great Mormon literature we've read. That could give me, and possibly others, good direction for our free-reading time.

I'll start us off by commenting on the two non-canonical works that have touched me the most.

James E. Talmage's "Jesus the Christ": I'll bet we've all read this one, but I can't say enough good things about it. I read it almost three times through during my mission, and gained a better understanding of and appreciation for the Savior's ministry, especially the portion described in the New Testament. Page after page of profound insights amazed me; the fact that Talmage wrote most of it inside the Salt Lake Temple really shines through.

Richard L. Bushman's "Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling": I imagine that a lot of you have read this, too, but I'll put in my own little endorsement anyway. Bushman is an terrifically gifted historian, with a talent for understanding each development in the Prophet's life in the context of the big (even eternal) picture. I especially liked how Bushman addresses other scholars' lingering questions and concerns, and with calm, even-handed analysis, puts many to rest and sheds better light on others. I could hardly read this book for ten minutes without underlining some new piece of evidence for Joseph's divine calling that I hadn't known before.

So what are your favorites? I know that numerous volumes by Talmage, McConkie, Kimball, Hinckley, and others could be wonderfully enriching, but I want to know what you all have to recommend. What should Chris (this Chris) read?


At 10/07/2007 05:31:00 PM,

I would recommend: Mere Christianity, The Great Divorce, or Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. I would also recommend: Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up, by David W. Bercot.

At 10/07/2007 07:58:00 PM,


Good luck if you can revive us here at LYMA....I really like the following books:

Teryl Givens: "by the hand of mormon" "viper on the hearth"

Bushman: especially "believing history" and obviously "RSR"

Truman Madsen: "five classics"

Kathleen Flake: "The Politics of American Religious Identity
The Seating of Senator Reed Smoot, Mormon Apostle"

At 10/07/2007 09:36:00 PM,

Okay, but what did you like about these books?

At 10/12/2007 10:57:00 AM,

Lengthen Your Stride by Ed Kimball. It's a warts and all biography of his dad that I found powerful. The portions (both in the book and unedited on an accompanying CD) on the 1978 revelation on priesthood were profoundly spiritual for me.

Bushman's RSR diary. It's cheap and short but a must read detailing Bushman's experience on his book tour, how he handled criticism of the book, and how he was spiritually fortified (among other things, he received a blessing from Elder Packer before embarking).

As for Flake's book on Smoot and Given's "Viper"... find a library because they cost an arm and a load.

At 10/13/2007 04:35:00 AM,


Welcome back! I'm glad you found your way back to the blog.

I read the mildly controversial "Under the Banner of Heaven" by Jon Krakauer which has its shortcomings.

However, amid all of the criticism aimed at Krakauer for being a sensationalist outsider with no standing to write such a novel, is a story that really got me to thinking.

With so many diversions, it's hard to remember that the book was inspired by the Lafferty trial (the two brothers that murdered their sister-in-law because God told them to do it). There was a debate during the trial whether the brothers were eligible to be exonerated by reason of insanity. Of course, the brothers denied that they were insane and emphasized they knew exactly what they were doing, knew it was wrong, but were compelled because God told them to. The question arose as to how the idea of "faith" can be incorporated into the courtroom. If faith is believing something you don't see, isn't that the same definition of being insane?

I think the book is worth a read. I wouldn't categorize it as "Great Mormon Literature." It was, however, on the required summer reading list for incoming freshman at Columbia University this past year (under the theme of "books for future presidents").

Those pretentious Ivy Leaguers...

At 10/13/2007 08:33:00 PM,

Just noticed that the price on Flake's book has dropped drastically in the last couple of months... So have at it :P

At 10/14/2007 01:28:00 AM,

I would highly recommend "Approaching Zion" by Hugh Nibley. It is a real eye-opener to the realities that we are facing in the world today. Money seems to be the focus of everyone, and gets them absolutely nowhere. Careerism is the goal of every major academic institution, for what? Have we forgot what we came to this earth to do? Nibley helps to regain our focus on those things that matter. One of the most life-changing books I've read.

At 10/30/2007 12:56:00 AM,

Hi Chris Po.

In the devotional realm, I really like Thomas S. Monson, "Inspiring Stories that Build Faith." It's a collection of short accounts, mostly from general conference talks, about his experiences serving and blessing others. I really enjoy it.

Approaching Zion--I second that one. Really really inspiring.

Terryl Givens--amazing thoughtful.

I didn't check the date of this post; I hope I am not joining this conversation to late.


At 1/22/2008 08:18:00 PM,

"Of All Things" by Hugh Nibley is a favorite of mine.

At 1/16/2009 09:20:00 PM,

Here’s a million dollar question – If you were to die right now, would you qualify for the celestial kingdom? If you’re like many Mormons, you’re not sure. You try hard to be as good as possible, but you still don’t know if you’ve done enough. If the Book of Mormon is really scripture, this hope will always elude you. Alma 11:37 says God cannot save you in your sins. Are all of your sins forgiven? Moroni 10:32 says you must be perfected in Christ, which can only be done by denying yourself of “all ungodliness”. Have you done that? Do you repent on a regular basis? Is so, then it is clear that you sin on a regular basis, since only those who break the commandments need to repent. 1 Nephi 3:7 states that you are able to keep His commandments. In fact according to D&C 25:15, you are required to keep them continually! Since you haven’t done this so far, why assume you will in the future? Of course, we should all try to be holy; but if you think that sinning less will qualify you to live in God’s presence, you are mistaken (Gal 3:1-11). The assumption that good works are required for forgiveness only cheapens Christ’s atonement, making it nothing more than a partial payment. God chooses to justify us by faith. Jesus alone does the “perfecting” (Heb 10:14). God gives peace to those who trust in Him alone. If you don’t have this peace, it’s probably because at least a part of you trusts in yourself. Questions? Visit us at




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