The entire series has been a joy to read. My children and I can't wait for book six to be published! We are dying to find out what happens to the cursThe entire series has been a joy to read. My children and I can't wait for book six to be published! We are dying to find out what happens to the cursed Ashton family. ...more
It's an enjoyable read, but I didn't love some of the messages. The mother was admirable most, I believe, for her ability to stay out of depression inIt's an enjoyable read, but I didn't love some of the messages. The mother was admirable most, I believe, for her ability to stay out of depression in a trying circumstance. American life, whether from the top or bottom of the socioeconomic map, typically revolves around the things money can buy. It's a fact that infects us all, including myself. I realize that the subject of the book is about how the Mother supported her 10 kids, but I interpreted some of the book to be leaning in the direction of materialism.
I believe the author truly intended to write a book about selflessness. Evelyn Ryan was truly a selfless parent and she should be admired for that. Also, the daughter/author did well in the measure of forgiveness shown toward the father in the way the story was written. However, the overall message, to me was not necessarily entirely in the direction of Christlike selflessness. I don't mean to diminish Evelyn's sacrifice as a parent at all, but the bigger picture seemed to fall short....more
I appreciate Susan's wisdom on the complexities of personality. Overall the book manages to be a great contribution to American culture. However, theI appreciate Susan's wisdom on the complexities of personality. Overall the book manages to be a great contribution to American culture. However, the book would be much more effective with a balanced treatment of both extroversion and introversion. ...more
Perhaps the best work on Joseph Smith for the intellectually curious, cautious Christian, and member with unanswered questions (though timing and prepPerhaps the best work on Joseph Smith for the intellectually curious, cautious Christian, and member with unanswered questions (though timing and preparation would be important for those desiring a testimony of Joseph's calling). It's greatest selling point is that it was written for scholarly educational purposes with zero intent to influence the reader to choose to accept or reject Joseph Smith on the basis of his claimed status as a prophet of God. Scattered throughout the book are many page turning--even jaw dropping moments (some wonderful and some unpleasant) for outsiders and insiders alike. However, even the slower sections are well worth the effort. You'll find a generously comprehensive history, but perhaps it could use a sequel as not all topics of interest were sufficiently covered.
In contrast to Fawn Brodie's No Man Knows My History, Bushman's decision to write the book when he did included the context of the age of the internet and the existence of book's like Brodie's already long on the market. I believe that Bushman truly intended to offer a superior alternative, rather than to expose Joseph Smith in a ground breaking tell-all biography. Brodie, on the other hand, clearly came across as an intended whistle blower. Bushman succeeded in offering an excellent alternative to scholarly students of the LDS faith that could hardly be improved upon. This probably explains the reason Bushman was spared the excommunication that Brodie received when she published her disbelief along with unpleasant facts.
As a practicing Latter-Day Saint myself, learning a few more details on the scope of the early church was nothing short of miraculously wonderful. Learning more about the humanity of the early LDS leaders was unavoidably uncomfortable (surprise! They were all human just like the rest of us after all). However, I think that it is an immature faith, whatever your brand of Christianity happens to be, that holds to the fallacy that God has ever sent a messenger without many easily exploitable flaws. We all start with immature faith, but at some point there comes a fork in the road. Various kinds of Christians get too much of a pass when they hammer the LDS faith for it's history. One can only imagine what the internet could do with Moriah and Jericho (had they been recent rather than ancient events), let alone all of the non-faith promoting personal material that was left out of the Bible! It seems a little too convenient to have had the dust settled for many hundreds of years on anything difficult connected to a prophet of God. That scenario doesn't sound compatible with the Bible to me! Tests of faith can actually be interpreted as evidence of the truth at work, as Brigham Young (Joseph's successor) once pointed out. Abraham was commanded to sacrifice Isaac after all--and I don't think Abraham was some special specimen of humanity that had to be tested in a way that none of the rest of us would be. Nope, I'm offered the same eternal existence as he, so therefore I've got to go through the same fire.
I always get a good laugh when a fellow Latter-Day Saint laments that it would be better to hash out all of the unpleasant details of the humanity of the LDS Church (not to mention all of the unpleasant perspectives of immature and mature members alike) and it's history during Sunday School. God, thankfully, is too merciful to burden us with the senselessness that would ensue. In the meantime, we can each learn what we are ready to receive of our own initiative as members or otherwise. Typically, complaints about the quality of spoon fed information in the LDS Church have never been solid. Though, I will concede that it is fascinating that some LDS members made it to adulthood without ever learning of Joseph's polygamy. I don't know how you managed it! I truly do not, but I would be quite interested to know how that was pulled off.
For those outside of the church who are looking for an intellectual education on the facts of Joseph Smith, this is just the ticket. However, if one has a testimony of Joseph's calling, or desires one, this is not the book to read with weak knees. It is always the best plan to focus on the basics of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ FIRST. A sure fire way to put out the fire of a testimony is to throw a massive log right on top of the kindling before it even has a chance to get going. Faith requires an "experiment upon the word" to discover spiritual truths. There is no way around that. Reading a book like this in order to learn spiritual truths would be the equivalent of incorporating doughnuts into a weight loss plan. It's helpful for some possible questions. It's highly educational, but it's not spiritual.
Don't get me wrong, I don't believe that anything in this book needs to be censored. I periodically teach my young kids about all of the challenging aspects of LDS history. I see no benefit for later troubling surprises. However, I don't mindlessly talk to them about Joseph's gold digging and translations from a hat. When they are doing well spiritually I thoughtfully include some challenging facts into our family discussions and scripture time when I feel confirmation from the Spirit that it's the appropriate time. This is intended as preparation, but also to eventually reach mature understanding.
An analogy for outsiders on why Richard L. Bushman is a good source on the LDS church: When I set out to study Catholicism (I am LDS) I knew I wouldn't benefit from reading anti-Catholic material covering only targeted doctrines for the purpose of persuading me to believe Catholics were idolaters or anything else. Instead, I decided to read the Catechism and figure it out for myself. In addition, I read from a revered "cradle Catholic"(Patrick Madrid), a respected convert (Scott Hahn), a trusted scholar (Hillaire Belloc), and a notable author on the basics (Kevin Johnson). I also attended mass twice, and had online and neighborhood conversations with Catholics about questions I had. I found endless admirable things about the Catholic church, and I was deeply impressed by the reverent atmosphere of their beautiful worship services. I feel confident, having actually read authoritative and apologetic material from the very most fervent believers, that I have an excellent grasp on the "universal church".
When I came across critiques of the Catholic Church I was never persuaded to believe that they would educate me as well as the horse's mouth (or educate me at all for that matter). I sought a real education on Catholicism from solid sources, and I got one. IMO you must go to authoritative sources and unofficial insider narratives with heavy favorable biases to get to the bottom of any religion. You get the latter with Richard L. Bushman.
While opponents of the LDS Church often have had deep exposure to the church, their lack of belief makes them less likely to be well-versed in authoritative sources as the very most ardent believers. A skeptic simply cannot have a comparable understanding of a religion as a member who spends hours a day not only studying, but experimenting upon that word as well. There are of course exceptions of sorts, but I have yet to see a true antagonist of the LDS Church that is also deeply educated. I know of one young CES (church educational system teacher) brother (male LDS member) who left and got on the internet to criticize (in a somewhat benign way), but he conceded that there were others with deeper gospel knowledge than his own who managed to maintain their faith. This is a fact to be reckoned with for those who have felt that "the rug has been pulled out beneath them" in the LDS Church.
When it comes to Jesus is my Savior and Joseph was sent to testify of that fact, my faith is dormant. I independently know that those two things are true, but that doesn't mean I know everything about them. Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, overall, did little else but strengthen my faith. The chapter on the cities of Zion was especially inspiring. I am left with an even more intense, though perhaps more solemn, "Praise to the Man" sentiment. I understand that reading a frank historical treatment on Joseph may not pan out for others as it did for me. Again, timing and spiritual preparation are important.
At the moment the LDS Church is being targeted on the "not all truth is useful" theory. This, I believe, is a simplistic dilemma to focus on. The truth is that there are complexities here to consider. Ignorance among every last member, including Joseph Smith himself, has had to be a major factor in the LDS narrative. Just look at how much control Joseph simply handed out and failed to amass for himself. It just never was a situation of the highly controlled information that antagonists claim it was. Also, respect for God's anointed surely inspired members and leaders to simply take some things for granted without stopping to question.
Regardless of any imagined scenarios polygamy was going to be rough if God was going to command it at any time. This idea, that learning more about the details of early LDS polygamy suddenly throws it into question for some reveals that those individuals never really thought it through in the first place. I can't imagine a male who was really up to the level of selflessness required to be Christlike to multiple wives. No, instead I picture good, even great men, really failing in a colossal way. Women as well seem entirely inept to handle it. It's simply way way way above our ability to even dream about managing. The very essence of it would require perfect beings--beings who never lusted, envied, and were never selfish. Polygamy, by it's very nature, would magnify all human weaknesses. You take that reality and combine it with Joseph's unique circumstances. It makes sense that he blew it (he has a lot of good Biblical company to stand by him there). Personally I believe the overall failure to manage that law fits into God's plan Again, I also believe Abraham's command to sacrifice Isaac also fit into the plan-- Impossible tests fit into the plan. I'm not suggesting that we take a harsh approach to understanding the history of LDS or Biblical polygamy, but the accusations--especially by other Christians and former Latter-Day Saints--are frankly often off base. Like it or not, practicing Latter-Day Saints accept the history of the law, and yes it's eternal existence because they accept that ultimately anyone living that law eternally will have a mandatory and essential requirement--They will have to become like Jesus Christ. Envy, lust, selfishness, and all the rest of our sins would have to be completely obliterated. In which case, there would be no problems left to make the law miserable as it is inevitably in a sinful world. For Latter-Day Saints, heaven (or to be more precise the highest degree of heaven) requires eternal marriage, and unless we have exact equal numbers of men and women, monogamy isn't going to be sufficient to let all who fully accepted the grace of God in. Joseph Smith or no Joseph Smith this is a reality to be reckoned with. Either marriage ends at death, or monogamy will not be eternally sufficient. I don't mean to disrespect men at all, because I actually quite admire the opposite gender, but the fact is that more women want and choose to bear the responsibilities of marriage and family then men do. It is common sense that there will be a shortage of worthy men in heaven. In my book, if all husbands are precisely like Jesus Christ in heaven--sign me up no matter whether it's polygamy or monogamy. Polygamy in this life? I'd rather be stripped naked and drug through a field of broken glass, thank you very much.
In the context of biblical servants such as Moses, it's not hard to see the safety in giving prophets the benefit of the doubt. Take a glance at the Israelite's sojourn in the wilderness and explain to me how that example would not apply to modern prophets. You have people who questioned Moses literally dying left and right as a direct consequence. How is it that one can accept looking past problems with Moses, or Jacob for that matter, but then turn around and say but those days are gone and humans are different now. That is a tough sell. I understand that many critical of Joseph are also of the Bible, but there are many others who fail to see the conflicting problems in their perception of the Biblical record when they contrast it to the claim of the existence modern prophets. There are some seriously troubling conflicts that appear to be off the radar for many. How one can gloss over the sordid tales of matrimony in the Bible and then come up in arms at Joseph Smith--I will never know. That's quite the tightrope walk some are making.
Overall, I will admit that it may very well have been a mistake to not elaborate on much of the unpleasantness of LDS history. The intent, no doubt, was to protect faith. (Or at the very least, to avoid speculation) Devout Christians would not promote the idea of tell-all biographies of John the Baptist, Moses, Abraham, and Joshua, etc. They wouldn't think it wise to go into the details of whatever qualified them to be far less than the Deity who called them as messengers. Christians by and large, I would expect, view the issue as David viewed the weaknesses of his King Solomon. God's message was to be respected by not magnifying the humanity of the representative.
IMO, virtually all parents make significant mistakes, but they are spared the scrutiny of high profile church leadership. Nevertheless, God placed them in a position of remarkable authority. If one accepts this to be a true principle from God, then accepting flawed messengers of God resonates with equal wisdom. It may not be any easier to stand by Joseph than it was to be Joseph, but personally I choose to trust that when faith is placed directly on God the mistakes of men will be fully compensated for. The scriptures speak of a restitution of all things. I have faith in that, as I do in Joseph's calling from God to be the prophet of the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ--with the mistakes of men and all. ...more
The first time I read it, the internet was not yet being used as the source of all information. I loved it and was always anxiously reading ahead abouThe first time I read it, the internet was not yet being used as the source of all information. I loved it and was always anxiously reading ahead about what was going to happen. During the 2 following pregnancies I still depended on it, as it wasn't until about 2008 that we had an internet connection at home. Wow, life is different that is for sure. Now, it's easier to just google "pregnancy week 13", and I don't think I'd have the patience to sit down and read this entire thing again....more
Missionary work is now a sustainable and realistic part of my life thanks to Christensen's wise observations and reflections. I'll never be much of aMissionary work is now a sustainable and realistic part of my life thanks to Christensen's wise observations and reflections. I'll never be much of a Deseret Book Fan. I like to stick to the standard works and church materials for the most part. It seemed that I picked this one up by chance, but OH! What insight!
It was no surprise to me when Elder Ballard quoted from this book, describing this author as a successful missionary(he served as an area seventy), in the October 2013 General Conference. Here is a humble brother who gained a testimony of the power of everyday missionaries. I am so grateful that he decided to share the testimony he gained with all of us who struggle with envisioning ourselves as powerful missionaries.
I love how practical and specific this book is. It has changed my life, and I expect that it will continue to do so....more
Listened to this one online. Not something to go through once. It's worth years and years of study. I exaggerate not. Already, I have changed the wayListened to this one online. Not something to go through once. It's worth years and years of study. I exaggerate not. Already, I have changed the way I do some things for the better.
I was able to listen to the entire book while painting my dining room. Shockingly, I'm still not done with my dining room even after that. One can only imagine the amount I might get through by the time I've painted the entire house. It's an inspiring, sobering, and depressing thought all at the same time....more
This has been my greatest experience by far with the series. I knew very little about Pres. Snow before, but I feel like I've been able to come to knoThis has been my greatest experience by far with the series. I knew very little about Pres. Snow before, but I feel like I've been able to come to know him somewhat. I hope to continue to read and listen to his words of wisdom. I have progressed in understanding through his teachings as they have inspired me greatly. The Lord communicated high levels of intelligence through him. I learned why President Snow saw and spoke with the Savior in the Salt Lake Temple in 1898. He had given up All of his sins, and had great faith comparable to the brother of Jared in the Book of Mormon. I can appreciate the fact that he could not be kept within the veil. It would be impossible to speak the words that he did with hypocrisy. ...more