Books Answer "Golden Questions" in Contrasting Styles
by Laurie Williams Sowby
An Open Book (What You Really Want to Know),
published by Ensign Peak, 46 pages in soft cover, $16.99; and LDS
Beliefs, A Doctrinal Reference,
Deseret Book, 688 pages in hard cover, $39.99. Barnes and Noble
and both are available through LDS book outlets.
do you know about Mormons? Chances are, if you’re reading this,
But for those who’d like to know more or would like something
to offer their friends who need to know more, two books recently
published under Deseret Book’s umbrella could come in handy.
An Open Book,
by a Mormon,”
you really want to know.”
The off-putting white cover with absolutely no illustration is a
literal example of the axiom, “Don’t judge a book by its
cover,” for within it is a delightful mix of photos, cartoon
drawings, and explanations in a bright, witty style.
I found myself laughing
out loud as I turned at random to a page with “before”
and “after” photos of the back of a bald man’s
head. The photos illustrate the concept of resurrection explained in
Chapter 10, “The Mormon View of the Afterlife.” The same
page has a QR code which readers may scan to “Meet a Mormon”
[on mormon.org] and hear a wife and mother of five tell how “her
faith in the eternal nature of our spirits has helped her deal with
the tragic death of her four-year-old son.”
The brains behind this
refreshing book belong to seminary teacher Anthony Sweat, principal
at a high school seminary in the Salt Lake City area. (He’s
also on the EFY and Education Week circuit.) His candor and
self-deprecating good humor are all too rare in books explaining LDS
doctrine and beliefs.
The book is divided into
three major sections: Mormon Beliefs, Mormon History, and The Mormon
Way of Life. Twenty-six chapters cover things such as what to know
before meeting a Mormon, what happens inside temples, why we need The
Book of Mormon when we already have the Bible, and Mormon views on
sex, education, and politics.
This book pretty much
covers it all, and does it in a way that communicates doctrines and
beliefs clearly and accurately while not taking the cultural aspects
of Mormonism too seriously. Notes in the back credit every quote,
reference, and bit of art used in the book. Humorous but true are the
chapters titled “Mo-cabulary” (LDS vernacular) and “The
Weird and Wonderful World of Mormon Culture.”
acquainted with Latter-day Saints should welcome this “open
book.” Come to think of it, even if you are
a Mormon and already know plenty, there are probably a few things you
could still learn.
serious, in-depth study and research, there’s the new LDS
Beliefs, A Doctrinal Reference,
by BYU religious education professors Robert L. Millet, Camille Fronk
Olson, Andrew C. Skinner, and Brent L. Top.
This hefty volume serves
as an encyclopedia, with topics listed alphabetically. However,
individual entries are written by only the four authors rather than
by several contributors. The book treats Latter-day Saint doctrine,
teachings, and beliefs from Aaron to Zion in the formal, academic
tone you’d expect of a project of this dimension.
The authors do not
necessarily define a subject but explain it by putting it in context
as it relates to LDS history and practice. The initials of the author
follow an entry, along with sources for its content. An index of
topics at the back also refers readers to other topics addressed in
Entries range from a few
lines to several pages, with the length of any single entry no
indicator of its relative importance. For instance, “Son of
Man” consists of a single paragraph, while “Lectures on
Faith” is discussed for more than six pages, underscoring the
authors’ purpose not to produce an exhaustive encyclopedia, but
add to what’s already available.
reader would do well to start with the introduction in order to
understand the how and why of subjects treated, and how to use the
book. Whether LDS
is used as background for teaching Sunday School or for enhancing
personal scripture reading, there is more than enough reference
material here for several years of gospel study.
Conveying LDS beliefs to
different audiences, both books are definitely keepers.
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