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Enriching Life Through Good Books

By Richard H. Cracroft, ‘63

LIFE is far more important than reading about it or viewing impressions of it. Still, art and literature and science, secondary to life, enable mortals to understand life better and to live more fully. A good book, or many good books, can expand one’s consciousness, experience, and horizons, and, graced by the Holy Spirit, can raise the reader to higher truths. Let’s look at a variety of good books—nonfiction, fiction, and even poetry—by BYU alumni, mainly, and see if life becomes a bit richer.

Sp02_1181Robert C. Freeman, ’85, and Dennis A. Wright, ’73, in Saints at War: Experiences of Latter-day Saints in World War II (American Fork, Utah: Covenant Communications, 2001; 440 pp.; $39.95), have collected 200 succinct and telling accounts and photographs that capture the lives and faith of LDS veterans of World War II. After reading this book all readers will feel closer to these everyday heroes of what Tom Brokaw has called the “greatest generation.” Among them are men who would later become General Authorities of the Church of Jesus Christ: Thomas S. Monson, James E. Faust, Boyd K. Packer, David B. Haight, Neal A. Maxwell, Robert L. Backman, and A. Theodore Tuttle. I found the book hard to put down, and so will you.

As a gospel doctrine teacher I am finding very useful Latter-day Commentary on the Old Testament (American Fork, Utah: Covenant Communications, 2001; 466 pp.; $39.95), by Ed J. Pinegar and Richard J. Allen, ’62. The authors guide readers through the Pearl of Great Price and the Old Testament in 48 chapters that parallel the 2002 Sunday School gospel doctrine course. In each chapter veteran teachers Pinegar and Allen identify the major themes in the reading and present commentary, pertinent words from modern prophets, “Illustrations for Our Time,” and a summary.

Sheri L. Dew, ’77, in No Doubt About It (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 2001; 246 pp.; $17.95), presents 14 of her lively sermons. Dew, a counselor in the Relief Society general presidency and a vice president of Deseret Book, has a knack for transforming personal experience into apt illustrations of gospel doctrine, which soon turn into telling challenges for her readers and hearers to become doers of the word. Robert L. Millet, ’73, has written a very thoughtful and moving book: Lost and Found: Reflections on the Prodigal Son (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2001; 128 pp.; $14.95), with illustrations by James C. Christensen, ’67. Former dean of religious education and a professor of ancient scripture at BYU, Millet presents a rich and fresh commentary on the parable and offers insightful lessons for life. And Wayne E. Brickey, ’70, in Making Sense of Suffering (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2001; 158 pp.; $15.95), presents 40 brief but profound reflections on providing comfort, consolation, and reassurance to those who are in the midst of adversity.

A remarkable and happy first for the Church in Europe is the publication of Alles über Josef: Auf dem Weg zur Versöhnung von Juden und Nichtjuden (All About Joseph: Religious Insights on the Way to Reconciliation of Jews and Gentiles [St. Gallen, Switzerland: Rad-Mann Verlag, 2001; 629 pp.; 40]), by François L. Radzik. Alles über Josef is a thorough study of Joseph Smith and his importance in the plan of salvation, the Restoration, the building of Zion, and the history, dispersion, gathering, and destiny of the House of Israel. Available only in German (with an English translation in process), this impressive and readable study is all the more remarkable because it comes out of the Church in Switzerland, which has produced thousands of Latter-day Saints but not, until now, a spiritual and scholarly work about the restored gospel. Radzik, a dentist in St. Gallen and a former bishop and stake president, joined the Church in 1971. Es lebe die Schweiz!(Long live Switzerland!)

The many students and friends of the late Arthur Henry King will welcome Conversion: Poems of the Religious Life 1963–1994 (Orem, Utah: Sharpspear Press/Arthur Henry King Foundation, 2001; 342 pp.; $18 [soft] and $40 [hard]). Edited and introduced by Fred C. Pinnegar III, ’74, and with annotations by King and Pinnegar, the volume includes a brief biography of King and an insightful afterword by BYU English Department chair John S. Tanner, ’74, whom King called his “best pupil.” The poems reflect the power of religion and, more specifically, King’s life-changing conversion to the Church in 1966.

Four recent historical novels written by BYU alums may be your cup of Postum latte. In Bound for Canaan (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 2002; 414 pp.; $19.95), book 2 of the Standing on the Promises series, Margaret Blair Young, ’79, and Darius Aidan Gray continue the remarkable saga of devout African-American Saints who made the trek across the plains and took part in building Mormon settlements in the West during and after the Civil War. Young and Gray set these moving stories in a background of well-footnoted history and bring to life the tribulations and triumphs of African-American Saints during a time of religious persecution and racial discrimination. Their well-told stories, redolent with sacrifice, faithfulness, and long-suffering, are “must reads” for every Latter-day Saint.

Sp02_1182In Rebekah (Salt Lake City: Shadow Mountain, 2001; 413 pp.; $22.95), Orson Scott Card, ’75, has done it again! In this second (after Sarah) of his Women of Genesis trilogy, Card turns loose his gifted pen and fertile imagination on the sparse scriptural details about Rebekah, to bring to life a beautiful, bright, and resourceful daughter of Bethuel, wife of Isaac, and mother of Jacob and Esau. In this well-crafted novel, Card examines the various motivations that shaped biblical events and shows how God used Rebekah’s strengths to bring about His purposes. Chris F. Heimerdinger, ’90, in Warriors of Cumorah (American Fork, Utah: Covenant Communications, 2001; 394 pp.; $14.95), reunites the Tennis Shoes Adventures children of Jim Hawkins and Garth Plimpton in their eighth exciting trip back in time to hair-raising adventures in ancient lands and cultures. Marsha Dahl Newman, ’68, and Buddy Youngreen, ’64, in writing Joseph and Emma: A Love Story, volume 1 (Salt Lake City: Wellspring Publishing, 2001; 424 pp.; $23.95), have melded Youngreen’s decades of study of the Smith family with Newman’s literary skills to craft a historical narrative that recounts the love story of Joseph Smith Jr. and Emma Hale Smith. Joseph and Emma follows the couple from Harmony to Kirtland, telling how they met, fell in love, married, and then worked together to complete the work Joseph had been called to do.

I’ll finish with a potpourri of four very different but intriguing books: Historical Recipes from the Pure Food Club of Jackson Hole and More (Jackson Hole, Wyo.: Teton Views Publishing, 2001; 88 pp.; $12.95), by Judy Strange Clayton, ’71, features a history of the Pure Food Club of Jackson Hole and some tasty, fun, and unusual recipes. Gary L. Bunker, ’60, a BYU professor emeritus of psychology, has written a fascinating book, From Rail-Splitter to Icon: Lincoln’s Image in Illustrated Periodicals, 1860–1865 (Kent, Ohio: Kent State UP, 2001; 387 pp.; $55). This copiously illustrated history traces the development of world opinion about Lincoln, American politics, and the Civil War. And Jan Shipps, the Latter-day Saints’ non-Mormon scholarly advocate and congenial interpreter, recounts inSojourner in the Promised Land: Forty Years among the Mormons (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2000; 400 pp.; $34.95) her intellectual autobiography and considers, as an inside-outsider, the changes she has observed as the Church has expanded from a provincial to an international religion. Finally, Being Different: Stories of Utah’s Minorities (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2001; 243 pp.; $21.95), edited by Stanford J. Layton, features 14 interesting essays from the Utah Historical Quarterly about minorities in Utah. Two of the essays are by authors with BYU ties—William A. “Bert” Wilson, ’58, a professor emeritus of English, and Albert L. Winkler, ’82, manuscripts cataloger at the Harold B. Lee Library.

Good reading!


For more information on books reviewed in “Enriching Lives Through Good Books” see the links below:

Covenant Communications; www.covenant-lds.com:

• Robert C. Freeman, ’85, and Dennis A. Wright, ’73, Saints at War: Experiences of Latter-day Saints in World War II

• Chris F. Heimerdinger, ’90, Warriors of Cumorah

• Ed J. Pinegar and Richard J. Allen, ’62, Latter-day Commentary on the Old Testament

Deseret Book, Bookcraft, Eagle Gate, and Shadow Mountain; deseretbook.com:

• Wayne E. Brickey, ’70, Making Sense of Suffering (Deseret Book)

• Orson Scott Card, ’75, Rebekah (Shadow Mountain)

• Sheri L. Dew, ’77, No Doubt About It (Bookcraft)

• Robert L. Millet, ’73, Lost and Found: Reflections on the Prodigal Son (Deseret Book)

• Margaret Blair Young, ’79, and Darius Aidan Gray, Bound for Canaan (Bookcraft)

Kent State University Press; www.kentstateuniversitypress.com:

• Gary L. Bunker, ’60, From Rail-Splitter to Icon: Lincoln’s Image in Illustrated Periodicals, 1860–1865

Rad-Mann Verlag; www.josefheute.org:

• François L. Radzik, Alles über Josef: Auf dem Weg zur Versöhnung von Juden und Nichtjuden (All About Joseph: On the Way to Reconciliation of Jews and Gentiles)

Sharpspear Press/Arthur Henry King Foundation; 801-225-5401:

• Arthur Henry King, Conversion: Poems of the Religious Life 1963­1994. Ed. Fred C. Pinnegar III, ’74

Signature Books; signaturebooks.com:

• Stanford J. Layton, ed., Being Different: Stories of Utah’s Minorities

Teton Views Publishing:; www.tetonviews.com:

• Judy Strange Clayton, ’71, Historical Recipes from the Pure Food Club of Jackson Hole and More

University of Illinois Press; www.press.uillinois.edu:

• Jan Shipps, Sojourner in the Promised Land: Forty Years among the Mormons

Wellspring Publishing; 1-800-231-2905:

• Marsha Dahl Newman, ’68, and Buddy Youngreen, ’64, Joseph and Emma: A Love Story