Life's Lessons Learned, by Dallin H. Oaks. Deseret Book, 2012, 165 pages,
Looking for a spiritual boost?
Elder Dallin H. Oaks, a familiar face and voice in the Quorum if the Twelve
since his call nearly 20 years ago, offers sound advice and common-sense
principles in his book Life's Lessons Learned. The compilation -- some of it
material from earlier talks -- serves as"an autobiography of learning and
application rather than a compendium of doctrine," as he states in the
But the parts that stand out for me are those "personal reflections" promised
on the book's cover, "some things of the heart not previously shared," including
his widowed mother's mental struggle to care for her family after her husband's
death, his call to the Apostleship in 1984, and how he dealt with his wife
June's death and was later able to remarry and move on with his life.
In the acknowledgements, he first credits "my foremost teacher … the still
small voice and feelings communicated by the Spirit of the Lord."
The book, divided into three sections as his early life, marriage, and career to
1971; years as president of BYU, and call and service as a General Authority, is
a relatively quick read. Some "chapters" are comprised of only two or three
pages. Each is followed by a succinct one- or two-sentence summary of what
he learned. An index makes the book useful for future reference.
He admits the most difficult part of writing the book was deciding what to
exclude; what's here are principles he could illustrate with his own experience.
The lawyer in him asks the reader to "remember that this is an account t of
what I have learned, with no representation that I have always practiced this
learning as I should."
Elder Oaks tells how he was a reader of leaders' biographies as a teenager and
young law student and devotes a short chapter to a list of qualities he has
observed in effective leaders. He talks of the law as a "blunt instrument" ("We
should do all that we can for ourselves and through private organizations
before seeking to solve problems by law or other government action") and
speaks about learning to separate respect, affection, and policy as a Utah
Supreme Court justice.
Some other insightful words: "Contrary to my legal training, I have come to
realize that feelings are often more important than facts."
One compelling chapter is "Transition to the Apostleship," where Elder Oaks
concludes that a call to a Church position should focus our efforts on what we
are called to be rather than what we feel qualified to do. The next chapter
outlines his strategy for kindly but firmly saying "no" to requests that come
inappropriately and often to a man in his visible position.
More excellent advice comes for dealing with life's uncertainty and questions.
The reader can imagine a slight smile on Elder Oaks' face when he quotes his
great-grandmother, Hanna Seely, who was uprooted with her husband and
children from a fine home to a dirt-floor cabin following a prophet's call to
settle desolate eastern Utah in 1879. "The first time I swore was when we
landed here," she wrote in her one-page, hand-written history.
Elder Oaks continues quoting her exact words, then observes, "Some may
wonder why I find those words so faith-promoting. They speak to me of a great-grandmother who did not deny her very mortal emotions but nevertheless went
forward in obedience to do what she was called to do."
Her great-grandson apparently learned that lesson well, and it served him well
in preparing for and living life. The lessons he's learned are thoughtfully shared
in this book.
Laurie Williams Sowby has been writing since second grade and getting paid for it since high
school. Her byline ("all three names, please") has appeared on more than 6,000 freelance articles
published in newspapers, magazines, and online.
A graduate of BYU and a writing instructor at Utah Valley University for many years, she
embraces all, having had her five children and their spouses all graduate from universities of
various colors. The oldest of 18 grandchildren (so far) begins the cycle again this fall.
She and husband, Steve, have served three full-time missions together, beginning in 2005 as
proselyting missionaries in Chile at the same time their youngest son was serving in Germany.
The last two times, they've served in Washington, D.C. (South and North missions) as young
adult Institute teachers. In D.C., they found it much easier to teach in English and enjoyed
having heat in the winter.
During her years of missionary service, Laurie continued to write about significant Church
events, including the rededication of the Santiago Temple by President Hinckley and the
groundbreaking for the Philadelphia Temple by President Eyring. She also was a Church Service
Missionary, working as a news editor at Church Magazines, between full-time missions.
Laurie has traveled to all 50 states and at least 45 countries (so far). Home is American Fork,
Utah. She serves on the board of the Timpanogos Symphony Orchestra and loves good music,
good books, and good chocolate.
Laurie is currently serving with her husband in an MTC branch presidency