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October 22, 2014
Latter-day Books
New Books Aid Focus, Perspective
by Laurie Williams Sowby

For people with questions, the Church seems to have plenty of answers — and plenty of books to find them in. Books by familiar authors, particularly General Authorities, publish frequently and sell well, but some by newer authors also deserve time and attention.

A bit more challenging read is The Crucible of Doubt: Reflections on the Quest for Faith, by Terryl and Fiona Givens, whose scholarly approach and deep discussions will likely have value for those who question the Church or their own testimony.

Using an extensive vocabulary and complex ideas, the husband-wife team encourages not simply abandoning the Church, but taking a fresh look at accepted paradigms that may not necessarily be what people — even faithful members — have assumed they were, then rethinking and reshaping distorted views.

“We are all prisoners of our preconceptions and faulty models,” they write. “Those are frequently the problem in faith crises — not the questions that arise from them.” Further, “the unexamined paradigms with which we begin can negatively affect a healthy propensity to question. They can point us in the wrong direction, misdirect our attention, or constrain the answers we are capable of hearing.”

The authors reexamine paradigms “that may make the quest for faith and the path of discipleship more painful and torturous than it needs to be,” including the fallibility of leaders, the supposed monopoly on truth, hero-worship, human evil, and a host of current topics that may cause members to stumble.

Their thoughtful, intelligent discussion referencing literature as well as scriptures, scholars, and Church leaders is a stimulating and timely addition to Mormon thought (Deseret Book 2014, 168 pages in hardcover, $19.99; the authors previously published The God Who Weeps: How Mormonism Makes Sense of Life).

The next book reviewed here is more along the lines of the standard how-to. President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve celebrated his 90th birthday this year, and he’s still calling it as he sees it.

His words continue to direct and inspire an increasingly complex world in A Refuge from the Storm: The Priesthood, the Family, the Church, new from Deseret Book. (It follows closely the format of In Wisdom and Order, released a year ago, with a similar collection of talks and excerpts from talks.)

By his own description having lived a long time and traveled widely (2.5 million miles) across the world, he echoes a familiar refrain that harks back to the home and the way priesthood and church are intertwined with family.

Briefly referencing scriptures, Church history, and a few personal experiences, President Packer typically but unapologetically offers more counsel than narrative in these 24 chapters under the three headings outlined in the subtitle.

Although most of the content comes from General Conference talks (all are noted on the first page of each chapter), the book also includes the occasional talk given at a training session or BYU Women’s Conference. An index provides a good topical guide (2014, 210 pages in hard cover, $25.99).

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