"Character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next."
- - Ezra Taft Benson
June 19, 2013
New Books Offer Something Unique
by Laurie Williams Sowby

If you’re looking for a readable gift for someone, here are a few to consider, running the gamut from inspiring to entertaining.

Before he passed away in January 2013, former World War II P.O.W. Joseph Banks approved an excerpt from A Distant Prayer (Covenant 2001), the compelling chronicle of his experiences after his B-17 was shot down over Germany on his 49th combat mission. (Fifty meant he could go home.)

The sole survivor of his crew of 10, Banks endured unimaginable treatment in a prison camp yet felt God’s presence throughout the ordeal. Now, the riveting details of the 500-mile march across Western Europe and his miraculous escape appear in a gift-sized 26-page pamphlet, God Remembered Me, co-written with Jerry Borrowman (Covenant 2013, $4.99). It’s the remarkable true story of a truly remarkable man, and it could be the best five bucks and the most uplifting hour you’ve spent in a while.

Elder Richard G. Scott’s 21 Principles: Divine Truths to Help You Live by the Spirit is a small classic (Deseret Book 2013, 105 pages in hard cover, $16.99). Elder Scott sums up the book in the introduction: “As you seek spiritual knowledge, search for principles. Principles are concentrated truth, packaged for application to a wide variety of circumstances.” A true principle makes decisions clear, he says, even in the midst of confusion.

He lays out the 21 principles in the first chapter, then proceeds to illustrate and illuminate each one in three to five pages. Along with his trademark simple, straightforward metaphors and personal stories are a few surprises that add depth and meaning to Elder Scott’s words as we see his life in context.

There are wise gems throughout, such as this: “The Spirit has taught me that Satan doesn’t have to tempt us to do bad things — he can accomplish much of his objective by distracting us with many acceptable things, thus keeping us from accomplishing the essential ones.” This book offers personally applicable true principles in an easy-to-digest format that will appeal to many.

An unexpectedly fun yet well-researched read is Kathryn Jenkins Gordon’s Butch Cassidy and Other Mormon Outlaws of the Old West (Covenant 2013, 182 pages in soft cover, $15.99). True tales about horse-stealing, cattle-rustling, bank-robbing, gun-slinging “saints” who found “total honesty a personal encumbrance” certainly has its appeal.

Going beyond the obvious and separating fact from fiction, the author displays skill and style in engaging narratives of a bygone era. Touches of wry humor punctuate the documented fact and ironies of second- and third-generation Mormons who sometimes used their religious values to prop up their improper (not to mention illegal) activities.

Gordon explores the social climate and isolated geography that allowed a bandit culture to flourish in the latter part of the 1800s. She delves into hideouts and the renegades who made good use of them, including notables Matt Warner, Orrin Porter Rockwell, and Tom McCarty. One chapter is devoted to the lawmen who went after them. Historical black-and-white photos are sprinkled throughout the pages, and endnotes document the author’s sources.

About as far away as you could get from tales of Mormon outlaws is a biography of L. Tom Perry, written by his son, Lee Tom Perry. The subtitle, “An Uncommon Life, Years of Preparation” hints that this is the first of a two-volume set outlining his family genealogy and the formative years in his own family, military and missionary service, marriage, retail business management, and the Church (Deseret Book 2013, 354 pages in hard cover, $34.99). The first volume ends a year after the passing in 1974 of his first wife, Virginia.

Elder Perry is fond of describing himself as being “as common as dirt,” yet the Logan, Utah, native’s forays into the world of business, government, and leadership are anything but ordinary. For instance, Elder Perry’s taking of the IBM computer course for executives, which he took in 1965 — decades before technology became second nature to most of us — has placed him at the forefront as the Church has moved forward with technology.

It is not just the stories themselves but the fact they are told from the perspective of 90 years of faithful gospel living that make this biography significant.


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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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