A MORMON BOOK REVIEW
One of the purposes of this column is to, from time to time, review LDS products, especially books.
Sometimes I’ve felt that written commentary on these various products are more advertisement than honesty. In some situations, you see websites accepting money to advertise an LDS book or movie, and then writing a glowing review of the product.
That’s never struck me as right, or as particularly credible.
My view is that somewhere between a half and two-thirds of books for the LDS market are nothing but fluff, more useful at making money for publishing companies and authors than at inspiring faith for readers.
I don’t have much interest in making money for publishing companies and authors. But I very much appreciate those books which build faith and teach gospel truths. Those books are noble and useful, and I am eager to draw attention to them.
So when I come across an LDS book that I think does that, I’m going to write about it. Who knows, if we celebrate the worthy a little bit more – and are honest about the dross – maybe we’ll one day have less dross and more worthy.
This is my first review and recommendation, but it’s for an old book, not new. It’s for a book you can usually find in hardcover for $2 at Deseret Industries. I’m talking about “A Marvelous Work And A Wonder.”
One of the great classics of Mormon writing, it has passed from prominence among this generation of readers.
And that’s too bad.
Because after the scriptures and “Jesus The Christ” – and perhaps “The Miracle of Forgiveness” – this is the book that every believing Latter-day Saint should read. It has information, attitude and testimony that are part and parcel of what it means to be Mormon.
Written by Presiding Bishop LeGrand Richards in 1950, “A Marvelous Work And A Wonder” was intended to help missionaries and members teach the gospel to their friends and investigators. It was a one-volume course in the theology of the restoration, with a particular eye toward teaching and preaching.
Originally a work in shorter form put together by LeGrand Richards when he was a mission president, this book shouted the testimony that the church is true and that the Bible can be used to make that case.
It is in part a product of its time. In that era and before, preaching the gospel from a foundation of biblical proofs was common and expected. Today that is far less the case. That is because of change among both the LDS people and the larger non-Mormon population.
Mormons today are less doctrinally confrontational than they were in the past. In an effort to avoid contention, they also tend to avoid confrontation. Today, LDS people typically share the gospel through a passive assertion of faith, instead of through an affirmative assertion of doctrine.
The greatest change, though, is among non-Mormons. In 1950, the average church-going American had a clear understanding of his denomination’s creed and doctrine. He also tended to have a good grasp of the theological and scriptural underpinning of that creed and doctrine. In the years since, the beliefs of most mainstream Christian churches have changed, sometimes dramatically. Further, the members of those churches often don’t know what their denomination stands for any more, and are far less attuned to the biblical or theological underpinnings of their own personal faith.
“A Marvelous Work And A Wonder” was written for Mormons eager to talk about the teachings of their church with biblically knowledgeable non-Mormons. Today, Mormons are less eager to talk about the teachings of their church, and non-Mormons are less apt to be biblically knowledgeable.
Yet the book is still a jewel.
For any person wanting a rock-solid scriptural explanation of what Mormons believe and why, nothing surpasses “A Marvelous Work And A Wonder.” It is a college course in belief, a face-to-face visit with the principle doctrines of the restored gospel. It combines scholarship, testimony and the boundless optimism and missionary zeal of the great LeGrand Richards.
It is the meat of the gospel. Not the arcane conjectures and obscure quotes of those who love mysteries for mysteries’ sake, but rather the documented and scripturally supported rock-solid truths shouted from the opened heavens.
Many LDS books of today are spiritual milk, written for a general audience that may be new to the church and its teachings. They are faith promoting, but not doctrinally deep. LeGrand Richards seems to have written from the perspective that if God has revealed these truths in our day then we are responsible for knowing them – and being able to teach them.
LeGrand Richards never made a dime off this book. He refused to take any money. Instead, he said, he wrote it for and dedicated it to the great missionary work of the church. He wrote it to convert Mormons and non-Mormons alike. And some 60 years after its initial publication, it is still ideally suited to that task.
“A Marvelous Work And A Wonder” makes a perfect study guide for individuals, couples or families. It is easy to read and understand. It is an excellent reference book. It is a gift from yesterday to today.
So I recommend it.
Read it if you haven’t. Read it again if you have.
- by Bob Lonsberry © 2010