"Character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next."
- - Ezra Taft Benson
September 26, 2012
Compelling Essays Tell Why I’m a Mormon
by Laurie Williams Sowby

With the growing awareness of the Church and its members this U.S. presidential election year, Latter-day Saints have another ally and nonmembers have another resource in Why I’m a Mormon, edited by Joseph A. Cannon (Ensign Peak, 2012, 360 pages, $19.99 in paperback).

Cannon’s preface comments on the growth and “tectonic change” that has taken place in the Church since “the great coming-out party at the 1964 World’s Fair” in New York City, not just in numbers of members( from 2.25 million then to the current 14.4 million) but where they live, in countries around the globe.

Although most of the book’s writers are from the U.S., a handful of Church members from far-flung parts of the globe are included. And while some names are familiar (Steve Young, Aex Boye, David Archuleta, Jon M. Huntsman, Sr., Matthew S. Holland, “Bill” Marriott, Jane Clayson Johnson), there are a few lesser-known people among the 53 here who tell their notable stories.

In ways it’s an uneven compilation, ranging from briefly-borne testimonies and “lists” to inspiring conversion stories and thoughtful, thought-provoking essays. Many are rife with examples of feeling the Lord’s hand in their lives. (The book is arranged alphabetically by author; unfortunately, there is no index to find those specific examples in the future.)

Although many walks of life are represented, this volume tends to be heavy on sports figures, business executives, government and Church leaders, and well-knowns in the communications field. Several essays are by spouses and other members of the same family. Women’s voices are the great minority here.

The book’s weaknesses are outweighed by its strengths, however.

Historian and author Richard L. Bushman gives a compelling account of how he came to a conviction of The Book of Mormon and the Prophet Joseph Smith based on faith. Boston Temple President Robert S. Wood explains well how being a member of the Church gives his life meaning, purpose, perspective, joy and support. Newly-called Seventy Larry Echo Hawk engages the reader as he relates his experience as a high school football player and how he found his Pawnee roots in The Book of Mormon, the first large book he’d ever read cover to cover. New York CFO Peggy Meade Cowherd, a relatively new convert, tells how she’s learned to stay close to God and let Him direct her life.

The practical application of gospel principles stands out. Many-times CEO Mark Willes shares how confirmation of the Spirit served of prime importance in his duties as a mission president. Harvard Business School professor Clayton M. Christensen outlines how giving service allows Latter-day Saints to use the attributes of being loving, selfless, and competent, which are found in many faiths, “to serve, rather than to be served.” (Gotta love that mental image of him serving in the nursery!)

Some of the stories by members from outside the U.S. are most memorable, such as an engaging one by Samoan-born mural artist Mataumu Toelupe Alisa. He tells of his building-missionary father, called as Toelupe chief, eschewing the traditional chief’s tattoo and dressing in white pants, white-long-sleeved shirt, and a black bow tie, sitting in a circle with other men in lavalavas in the round meetinghouse guarded by village men with clubs.

World champion surfer Joy Monahan tells how she’s learned to set priorities and deal with failures. “I don’t let being a surfer define who I am,” she writes. “I am a Mormon because every time I have followed correct principles, I have seen God’s hand revealed in my life.”

That pretty much sums up the overall tone of Why I’m a Mormon, a volume worth reading and sharing.

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About Laurie Williams Sowby

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 proudly claims all five children and their spouses as college grads.

She and husband, Steve, have served three full-time missions together, beginning in 2005 in Chile, followed by Washington D.C. South, then Washington D.C. North, both times as young adult Institute teachers. They are currently serving in the New York Office of Public and International Affairs

During her years of missionary service, Laurie has 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). While home is American Fork, Utah, Lincoln Center and the Metropolitan Museum of Art have provided a comfortable second home.

Laurie is currently serving a fourth full-time mission with her husband in the New York Office of Public and International Affairs. The two previously served with a branch presidency at the Provo Missionary Training Center. The oldest of 18 grandchildren have been called to serve missions in New Hampshire and Brisbane, Australia.

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