"Character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next."
- - Ezra Taft Benson
April 10, 2013
Small Books, Big Ideas
by Laurie Williams Sowby

Good things come in small packages, the saying goes. Here are some relatively short reads worth a serious look.

The pocket-sized Sermons in a Sentence, Powerful Sermons in Five Words or Less, departs from John Bytheway’s familiar storytelling format. Crediting five words that changed his life – “We read scriptures too fast,” spoken by Joseph Fielding McConkie -- the religious educator and popular speaker succinctly explores the deeper meaning in one brief word or phrase, from single words such as repent, remember, and rejoice to phrases involving two to five words (“Fear Not,” “Thou Art Able,” “Are We Not All Beggars?”). He quotes General Authorities past and present, as well as other scriptural passages. It’s barely 100 pages, but there’s a wealth of thought in this tiny treasure (Deseret Book 2012, $9.99).

W. Craig Zwick of the Seventy and his wife, Jan J. Zwick, have written some key experiences to share with their own posterity and in so doing have created a compelling read as well as encouragement for the rest of us. More to Your Story: Powerful Experiences You’re Already Having underscores the value of passing what some significant experiences have taught us on to future generations. The Zwicks combine anecdotes from their own lives with a testimony of true principles, showing how those “powerful vignettes” can teach. Their telling is by turns amusing, touching, and spiritual. The final chapter offers some how-to’s to begin sharing those much-needed stories that give meaning to facts. Don’t think angelic visitations, they urge. “Anything that strengthens our testimonies or shapes us or our families” is worth recording and sharing. (Deseret Book 2012, 152 pages in hard cover, $19.99.)

Who hasn’t wished for a second chance? Lloyd D. Newell, BYU professor and familiar voice of the Spoken Word assures Latter-day Saints that hope is never lost in The Gospel of Second Chances (Deseret Book 2013, 134 pages in hard cover, $18.99). Using scriptures and concrete, contemporary examples, Newell conveys hope and encouragement to try again and keep trying. He reminds us that we can become “new creatures in Christ” as we acknowledge the need for and possibility of change, and rely on the Savior. Such hope can provide a second chance for all of us as we forgive others and ourselves. A key chapter is “Making the Second Chance Last” by remaining obedient and avoiding tempting places and situations. Good notes and index follow the text in this slim, readable volume.

An older book (2003) is worth a second look as Church members study the Doctrine and Covenants this year. Stories from the Life of Joseph Smith, by Richard E. Turley Jr. and Lael Littke, is written especially for young readers (reading level 5-7). It has only a few black-and-white drawings to illustrate the engaging, true stories from the Prophet’s life, but it’s the words that matter. The collaboration by a Church history expert and longtime children’s writer assures accuracy along with descriptive writing that gives young readers a sense of time, place, and action in vocabulary they can read and understand. The well-paced narrative in 34 chapters ranges from Joseph Smith’s childhood illness to his martyrdom at Carthage and burial in a secret grave. Older readers may learn something as well. (Deseret Book, 184 pages in soft cover, $17.95.)

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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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