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Q&A with Anne-Marie Wright Lampropoulos, author of A Vision Splendid: The Discourses of David O. McKay June 14 2022

Q&A with Anne-Marie Wright Lampropoulos, author of A Vision Splendid: The Discourses of David O. McKay

We talked with Anne-Marie Wright Lampropoulos, author of our latest release A Vision Splendid: The Discourses of David O. McKayabout how studying the transcripts of McKay's discourses that her aunt kept while working as his private secretary gave her an appreciation for how the twentieth century prophet wove poetry and prose quotations into his speeches.

Q: The records your aunt, Clare Middlemiss, kept while working as secretary to President McKay are one of the great treasures of recent Mormon history. When did you decide to use them for a book and what directed you towards the topic of McKay's discourses?

A: I have been fascinated by my Aunt Clare’s work since childhood because of the way my family talked about her and her 35-year service with President McKay, and as the only woman to ever hold the position of private secretary to an LDS Church president. She gave my dad the vast collection of records she kept in her spare time, copious records consisting of thousands of pages of speeches, diaries, and scrapbooks. Her collection resided in a closet next to my bedroom after she passed away. My dad, Bob Wright, and his friend Greg Prince wrote an award-winning biography from Aunt Clare’s collection, David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism. As comprehensive as their book was, there was still so much more inside these records. As I read through McKay’s speeches, I noticed how much he relied on beautiful literature and poetry to relay his messages. Gleaning from this treasure trove of material, I have tried to capture the essence of McKay’s inspiration and the remarkable vision he had for the world and the Church he led. Much has been written about McKay’s life and tenure as a Church leader and prophet, but little has been written about his love of literature and his abundant use of beautiful poetry and prose in every address he gave. Study of his speeches provides interesting insight into how he spent his precious free time, the books and journals he read, and the sources he sought for inspiration and understanding.

Q: How did you decide what categories of McKay's discourses should be covered in A Vision Splendid? 

A: As I read through the massive collection of McKay’s speeches, I immediately recognized distinct categories. Some of the speeches were official Church discourses, some of which had been published in various Church publications or covered in the media. But there were so many more that had never been heard or covered except by the people who were in attendance. These speeches were given in various settings, including Rotary Clubs, commencement exercises, building dedications, and my favorite, funeral services. Each category contained universal themes, but each category also contained different tones and messages as well, depending on the setting and the audience. It seemed logical to divide McKay’s speeches into four categories: Church Discourses, Dedications, Civic Addresses, and Funeral Sermons. These categories helped to organize and analyze McKay’s vast discourses and messages to audiences worldwide.

Q: What criteria did you use to select the three or four representative addresses published in full for each type of discourse?

A: From the tens of thousands of pages of material, I tried to select representative addresses for each genre that would give readers a genuine sense of McKay’s style and tone as well as the characteristic poetry and prose he used. No two speeches were ever the same, or even close, which is surprising given the immense numbers of speeches he gave. The discourses I chose to highlight portray good examples of the messages McKay thought were important and the unique way in which he chose to impart them to Church audiences, communities surrounding new temples and church buildings, civic groups, and mourners. Selected speeches were addressed to believers and non-believers, rural folks and city dwellers, Americans and world citizens.

Q: How do McKay's discourses help us understand his place in LDS history? What about his addresses was different from previous church presidents?

A: During his tenure as president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, David O. McKay addressed hundreds of audiences as he presided over unprecedented growth of Church membership worldwide. McKay’s discourses were not typical for an LDS prophet. Many of the words McKay used were not his own – he gathered them from poets and authors, scientists and saints, patriots, and politicians whose words not only add interest and dimension to his discourses, but demonstrate his astoundingly broad interests, his keen intellect, and his desire and ability to glean wisdom from many sources. It is apparent that he read, studied, and memorized from a vast private library and then recited, shared, and extolled his treasures publicly. Pertinent literary passages helped him make sense of the world and helped his followers discover beauty and truth. McKay was much more likely to quote great literature than scripture in his addresses, which is in stark contrast to the speeches we hear from Church leaders today. His scriptural prowess was masterful, of course, but he seemed to favor the scholarly knowledge he gathered from poets, authors, orators, and statesmen when communicating from the pulpit. His messages are more spiritual than scriptural, more universal than Church-centric, making his appeal more broad and widespread. McKay’s sermons are more lofty and literary than both his predecessors and his successors, and it was his unique way of understanding and relating to people that formed the foundation from which he was able to build the burgeoning, worldwide church we have today.

Q: A Vision Splendid comes out almost exactly twenty years after your first book with Greg Kofford Books, A Bundle of Choiceswhich interviewed LDS women about how they balanced their options and priorities. Do you see any connections between your two books? 

A: I believe women will always question or doubt their choices at times. With so many options available to them, the ability to choose is liberating, yet difficult. My two books are related in the sense that I see my Aunt Clare Middlemiss as a fascinating study of a strong, career-oriented woman who was a pioneer. As the only woman to ever hold the position of private secretary to an LDS Church president, I would have loved to interview her about the choices and sacrifices she made to be able to contribute to Church history like she did. I know she would have liked to marry and have children, but without her diligent record-keeping and dedication, we would not know nearly as much as we do about how President McKay made the decisions he did, what pressures he felt, and how the inner workings of the Church operated during a time of tremendous growth. These details and Middlemiss’s work reveal details that may be uncomfortable to some, but shed light on the reality of the time, documented and recorded for us to analyze and learn from. She dedicated her life to supporting President McKay and wanted the world to know of his ‘vision splendid’ for the world and the lasting legacy he made on the Church and the world.

Q: Do you have a favorite poem or quote that McKay's addresses introduced to you?

A: My favorite quote of McKay’s inspired the title of this book “A Vision Splendid.” In some of his discourses, McKay quoted a passage describing John Keats that could easily have been used to describe himself:

So long had his inner eye been fixed upon beauty; so long had he loved that ‘vision splendid,’ so long had he lived with it, that not only did his soul take on the loveliness of what he contemplated, but the very lines of the poet’s face were chiseled into beauty by those sculptors called ‘thoughts’ and ‘ideals.’

To me, this passage embodies McKay as a person, his sense of the world, his optimism for humanity, and his love of beauty and inspiring words and ideals. As he presided over tremendous growth of the Church, he imparted his love of loveliness everywhere he went to every audience he addressed. His vision splendid made a lasting impact on the Church and the world.


Preview A Vision Splendid: The Discourses of David O. McKay May 16 2022


A Vision Splendid:
The Discourses of David O. McKay

Download a preview here or view below.

During his forty-five years as a Latter-day Saint apostle and nineteen years as the prophet, David O. McKay gave thousands of speeches, including hundreds of temple and chapel dedications, civic addresses, funeral sermons, and General Conference and other Church-related talks. Many of these speeches contain some of the same prose and poetry, but no two speeches are the same. All of these discourses were written by McKay himself, and virtually all of them were typed, organized, and kept in large, legal-sized leather binders by Clare Middlemiss, his long-time personal secretary. His choice of prose reveals his favorite authors and literature, a glimpse into his personal library. It also conveys his ideals and his fervent belief in their truth.

Never before, and not since, has The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had a prophet so well versed in secular as well as scriptural prose. McKay’s intellectual and spiritual worlds meshed as he recited with ease the poetry of Edgar A. Guest, John Oxenham, and Joaquin Miller, as well as the patriotic pronouncements of George Washington, Patrick Henry, and Benjamin Franklin. In one speech he seemed to have studied Scottish lore, and in another he effortlessly extolled current US statistics on crime or divorce. He was at times romantic and wistful, and at other times firm and warning.

In A Vision Splendid: The Discourses of David O. McKay, Anne-Marie Wright Lampropoulos culls from the vast records of McKay's discourses that Middlemiss kept and groups certain categories of speeches together: dedications, civic addresses, Church discourses, and funeral sermons. Each chapter broadly analyzes a category and then includes samples of illustrative full speeches. This analysis and compilation illustrates how McKay looked to poignant prose for a sense of his own personal identity and inspiration, as well as the larger identity and inspiration of Church members.




Q&A with Lark Evans Galli, co-author of Under a Leafless Tree: The Story of Helga Meyer, a Mormon Girl from East Prussia April 20 2022

Under a Leafless Tree tells the story of Helga Meyer, a Latter-day Saint who lived in World War II Germany. Helga's memories recently helped reconstruct that era for the newest volume of the official LDS Church history Saints. But before that, Helga had to be convinced by the neighbor she was visiting teaching that her stories from those years would be valuable to anyone. Lark Evans Galli talks about co-authoring Under a Leafless Tree with Helga and what her story means for the present.

How did you first meet Helga? 

I remember meeting Helga and her older daughters when they moved into our neighborhood when I was a young girl. Our parents hired her daughter Heidy to do some ironing for our family and to teach us German over the dinner table. That arrangement didn’t last long, but our love for that family grew, even if our German didn’t.

When did you decide that you needed to record her story?

After decades apart, life brought Helga and me back together again in the year 2000, when I began to realize the breadth and importance of her stories. I frequently urged her to record them, but she was caught up in the business of her life and couldn’t imagine who would find them valuable. When she was called to minister to me as my visiting teacher, we pinned a microphone to her blouse, and fished for stories. I soon realized that she also held the memory of a family and community. She remembered it in vivid detail, with rare photos to match. Nine years later, we had her book!

Can you give a brief overview of Helga's life story and some of the main events covered in the book?

The book begins as Helga is born to a Latter-day Saint family in a small town along the Baltic Sea on the eastern border of Germany in 1920. Her daily childhood adventures intermingle with her country’s march from the aftermath of World War I to the rise of Hitler, sweeping Helga and everyone she knows into the heat of the next war. Before long, that conflict has upended her hometown and killed and displaced loved ones. But Helga continues drawing hope and beauty into her life despite the surrounding calamity. Finally, armed with her faith, she fashions a new life, miraculously realizing her dream of escaping East Germany with her family for America.

The book is filled with a remarkable number of photographs from Helga's life in East Prussia. How were these preserved through time and war? 

 From Helga’s earliest years, her young uncle “Heini” loved following the family around and snapping photos with a camera similar to the cheap “Brownie” cameras available at the time.  Branch activities were sometimes photographed by American missionaries, who often had cameras and a little more time than current missionaries do. Teenaged Helga had a cheap “idiot box” camera that she loved taking along on outings. During the War she prioritized preserving her photos by carrying them in and out of cellars and bunkers during every air raid. After the war, she inherited the photo albums of her aunts Gretel and Lusche, rounding out her collection.  Photos of her town of Tilsit were generously shared by the Tilsit City Organization. Helga’s collection of original and rare photos is astonishing.

How did Helga's faith support her during the global and personal crises she lived through?

By the time World War II arrived, Helga had found joy in her faith and fellowship with those in her small branch. She had learned to lean on her Father in Heaven in times of persecution, and already recognized a family gift of inspired dreams. She had been taught the gospel by her convert mother, grandmother, and aunts, as well as by her branch president and other church leaders. She seemed to gain faith as hers was challenged, as disheartening as those times were. During the war, she observed examples of kindness and strength in the lives around her; in particular, her Aunt Lusche, whose faith and compassion inspired many in and out of the church. Helga saw the Lord’s hand in situations as awful as the deaths of her dearest loved ones. Even then she recognized some small miracle.

The world faces multiple refugee crises, including a new one in Eastern Europe as a consequence of Russia's war on Ukraine. How can Helga's story from the past help us better understand similar trials in our own time?

When I think about Helga’s life, I remember that though the world may be in turmoil, we can continue serving, caring, and praying as she did. Helga saw miracles even when her most fervent prayers were unanswered. It is easy in hard times to assume that our lives have been ruined because they have been greatly changed. Life seems to have taken a horrible detour. Like millions from Ukraine today, war forever separated Helga from her home, her family, and her friends. And yet she saw beauty in life, even when she was injured in a bombing. She believed that God was with her because she had proved Him over and over. She trusted His promises, and up to the end of her life continued finding meaning in her prayers, her scripture studies, and her connections with fellow saints.


Q&A with David B. Ostler, author of Bridges: Ministering to Those Who Question April 05 2022

Q&A with David B. Ostler for the second edition of his book Bridges: Ministering to Those Who Question

We catch up with David B. Ostler on the occasion of the newly-released second edition of his book Bridges: Ministering to Those Who QuestionOur first Q&A with David can be found here.

Q: It's been nearly three years since Bridges first hit shelves—three very eventful years that have seen new divides form between people. Has your understanding of how best to minister to those experiencing a faith crisis changed in that time?

A: Over the last three years, I have come to believe even more in the principles I outline in Bridges. I think they are universal in our ability to maintain strong relationships with people who think, believe and experience life differently. We need to listen to them, try and understand, show respect for them even when we disagree with them, and show love. In those three years, many leaders have reached out to me with their own recognition of challenges in their ward or stake, wanting to find ways to respond to these newly understood needs. It’s encouraging to see so many wanting to find ways to help people feel they can trust the Church and its leaders, to let all participants feel they can belong, and to provide a deeper and broader dialogue around issues that are meaningful to our members. I have also talked with members who identify as having experienced a faith crisis thanking me for telling their story, with hope that leaders and family members can better understand their sincere efforts to find faith and meaning in their lives. Sadly, I continue to see people vilify, wrongly judge, blame and attack those who have honest and sincere concerns about their place in the Church.

Since publishing Bridges, I've found that leaders often wouldn’t know what specific steps they should take. So, I created a Leaders Guide that focuses on the key issues with possible questions they can use in their presidency or council meetings. They can choose questions they think are most important to address based on their own member needs and then discuss these issues with other leaders to help them receive inspiration. One can find a download link on www.bridgeslds.com 

Q: The expanded edition includes a new chapter on mixed-faith marriages and families. How did you come to decide this topic needed its own chapter? How do you hope it will help readers navigate the unique challenges that come with these relationships?

A: After the original publication, I had a number of people ask about how faith crisis and religious disaffiliation affect marriages and families. I realized I had missed a very important part, perhaps the most important part of the story. Everyone who has a faith crisis and everyone who disaffiliates belong to a family. They are a son or daughter, or perhaps they are married and have a believing spouse. As difficult as these issues are in a ward or branch, they are far more intense and consequential in a family. It took me time, but it was an essential addition to the original book. Through the research I did, I realized that almost every family in the Church faces the challenge of having different beliefs about God, spirituality, and the Church. For many, a mixed-faith family is full of pain and challenge, particularly when it is precipitated with a sudden faith crisis and transition. Marriages are broken up, parent-child relationships fracture, and there is a lot of suffering and wondering about how to maintain strong and loving relationships. I hope this chapter will ease the pain of so many and provide thoughts and suggestions to find love and connection in mixed-faith families.

Q: What responses have readers had to the book?

A: I received feedback from two groups of people. First, leaders and parents looking for ways to change how we respond when people have questions, share concerns, or even disaffiliate. They are sincere and humble and many realize that they have made many mistakes. This is very encouraging for me. Second, I heard back from individuals that felt heard by what I wrote. Some have left, some stay and have found a way to make it work, and some are still working to reconstruct their faith and how they want to participate. But they felt they weren’t alone, that someone had seen their situation, and that using the book could help their family or leaders better understand them and their situation.

Q: Can you describe the resources you offer at www.bridgeslds.com and how they build off the book?

A: The book focused on how to navigate difference in faith. But we have lots of differences in our world and we often fail at understanding and relating to those who are different. It’s clear that over the last 10 years, we have become a more divided people. The pandemic and our current American political divides highlight how divided we are. Some want to escape these divisions, but they are there in our families and communities. Others want to fight through the divisions and prove that their side is right. But neither of those ways work. We need to develop the skills to navigate our differences and to engage on the essential questions in our families, faith and communities in a way that creates respect and understanding. Not that we will agree with each other, but that we will understand where people are coming from and maintain connection. 

My website, www.bridgeslds.com presently highlights an approach to talking about important topics in a structured way that develops curiosity and our listening skills. It respects difference. I call these Circles. I, and others, have held hundreds of Circles to talk about issues of faith and community. I have found new skills in listening and understanding and know other participants have as well. My website will change from time to time as I find new ways to create settings for understanding and develop the skills that we need so we can talk and listen with others, even when they believe or live differently.


Q&A with Richard L. Saunders, author of The 1920 Edition of the Book of Mormon February 22 2022

Available Now

 

Q: Can you give us a brief background to this project? How did it begin?

A: Ebay. This all got started ten years ago in an online discussion with a seller over a book I wanted to return. The seller charged me a high price for a book that they asserted was one book but turned out wasn't what they claimed. As someone who works in book history, I get frustrated when people make claims about things they are trying to sell based on factors they don't understand. For instance, it is frustrating that many sellers fail to understand that a copyright date is not a publication date, or that an error in the book is only rare if it isn't in every copy printed. Initially I wanted to nail down publicly the evidence about the entire edition that would put those points to rest. I did that, and then it sort of grew and got more complicated from there, as projects do. Plus it was lots of fun, a puzzle with a large number of unknown pieces, some of which are still missing. My mom was stunned that so much could be said about merely one book. I have to say, I agree.



Q: Apart from its recent centennial anniversary, what drew you to the Book of Mormon's 1920 edition specifically? What makes it an important moment in the book history of this scripture?

A: Oh—where to start? On one level, this edition is significant because it is the one with which the Church began reclaiming publication of its central work of scripture. Up to this point mission presidents often ordered a printing without approval of any sort. For a couple of decades before this edition appeared, about the only copies of the Book of Mormon actually printed in Utah were vest-pocket editions sold by the Deseret News. Virtually all other copies of the book were produced in the Midwest or the East and shipped to the Great Basin (actually, the 1920 edition was too, until about 1927). The ones for the British Mission were printed there independently in England. Regaining ecclesiastical control of the text, printing, and creating a standard edition (in English, at least) were two reasons this edition is important. It's also important because it was the first edition to carry a fully developed study apparatus—notes and cross references. Orson Pratt's edition in the late 1870s was much less substantive. The 1920 edition was intended as a study edition.

On another level, I was fascinated because the edition is the product of an obsolete and nearly extinct group of technologies. Books themselves are so common in our world that they are virtually transparent—we take their existence for granted without noticing that they represent an enormously intensive series of creative processes. The production processes which made the 1920 Book of Mormon have virtually disappeared, except for the work of a few purists. Like railroad and automobile enthusiasts, a fascination with traditional letterpress printing is just emotional. Hot-metal type and letterpress printing exist in another time, but they are the manifestation of mechanical genius. One cannot appreciate hot-metal typesetting until you get some time to just watch a Linotype machine work, or watch print instantly appear as a press platen kisses the sheet. I've called the Linotype the most elegant mechanical device ever built. A Rolex watch just doesn't hold a candle to the poetry of engineering that is a Linotype machine.

Q: Can you briefly introduce book history as an overall discipline to readers who might not be familiar with it? What do book historians focus on and what methods do they use?

A: Book history works backwards: with a book in hand, it looks at how how they are made, working back to understand the processes that bring things to that point. In a large sense, it's a branch of history that looks at objects to infer activity in the world that produced them. Book history in the US exists as sort of an ignored step-child among scholars of the recent past, but it is very significant to early modern European history. For instance, I recently listened to a fascinating three-part presentation tracking physical details in the sheets of paper bound into late-medieval manuscripts. The scholar explained how physical details help generate a clearer picture of the scope of paper production and trade relations for paper distribution through Europe before printing.

Book history of the twentieth century tends to focus on the business of publishing or the sociology of reading. That's a bit different than what I've done in this book. Rather than look at the way the Book of Mormon is used or understood, I've tried to figure out how the copies were made. Once the contexts of production and distribution are better understood, they become a basis for understanding how print fit into missionary work and the emerging global church. Remember that most social organizations like churches rely on printed material not only to teach doctrine, but also to encourage social cohesion, especially among people living beyond core populations. Both those points were reason for publication of the Millennial Star early in the British Mission history, and for virtually every other mission publication up until the consolidation of church magazines in 1972. Print matters.

Q: Where does your new book fit into the existing landscape of Latter-day Saint book history?

A: There really isn't a Latter-day Saint book history—yet.  There are good examples but coherence and conversation has yet to emerge.  Most present scholarly attention is either theological or historical, and popular writing leans heavily toward either study or inspiration.  There are checklists like A Mormon Bibliography, 1830-1930; and there are marvelous historical studies, like Dale Morgan's historical bibliographies from the 1940s, and the three magisterial volumes of Peter Crawley's Descriptive Bibliography of the Mormon Church.  Hugh Stocks' dissertation on the Book of Mormon and David Whittaker's work on pamphleteering are probably the first real studies qualifying as book history.

Q: Were there any misconceptions you came into this project looking to correct?

A: If there was a misconception that needed to be resolved, it is that the Book of Mormon is divine dictation in the sense claimed by Muslims about the Qur'an, that is, that the text is inherently pure and that not a single character can be changed. The Book of Mormon has never been a single, unchangeable text. In fact, in the introduction I remind readers that I am looking at the Book of Mormon—the mortal embodiment of the book's “spirit” or text. In this book history of the Book of Mormon, I look at remarkably small details—the way printed paper is marked and folded, for instance—to understand how the Book of Mormon was produced, and then what that production implies about the books' distribution among the Latter-day Saints in the US.

Q: How is the book organized?

A: The book divides rather neatly into three parts. The first part is a straightforward exploration of Latter-day Saint publishing practice leading up to the twentieth century, and why there was a new edition commissioned in the first place. Then it walks through the editorial and book-production processes leading up to release of the new edition. I used to work in publishing myself, so readers get the benefit of an insider's knowledge of what is involved in making a book. A late chapter in this part carries the book through reprints and what that tells us about the changing nature of Church's business organization. 

The second part is mostly definitions and illustrations needed to describe physical elements of the books themselves. It provides context to understand the details explored minutely in the third part, but if one doesn't understand the terms, the second half of the book won't make sense.

The third part is a simplified form of traditional descriptive bibliography, a catalogue of details describing one book from another. Each identifiable printing between 1920 and 1948 is described in terms of its paper, printing, collation (folding), binding, ornamentation, and errors and flaws. I catalogue differences and similarities, including as much of the known and inferred story about that particular printing or binding of the book as I can muster. Sometimes we have a pretty good idea of what was going on with a book, but sometimes the best we can do is infer what may have happened based on changes we can identify. It is pretty technically specialized, but I've written it for people who really want to get into the weeds. Collectors will find the details essential, while casual readers will be interested mostly in the notes. I don't expect very many people will read every word, and that's fine.

Q: The first part uses the 1920 edition's creation, production, and replication as a case study that shows how the LDS Church operated as an organization during the early twentieth century. What's something that surprised you when researching this process?

A: That “the Church” was so informal in producing printed work through the nineteenth century and into the twentieth century in the first place. Publishing was largely in the hands of private individuals like mission presidents, and the auxiliary organizations. In my opinion this mostly reflects the nature of communication and transportation well before things were instantaneous. Only when Heber Grant became president did the Church (at his instruction) begin to pull things together and evolve a modern corporate structure for the sake of efficiency. Publishing was only a small sliver of that process, but it was an important one. The Church's global printing and distribution operation really effectively began only with Grant and Talmage in 1919. Coordination was the initial step, taken well before correlation.

Q: Do you have any favorite details to point out about this edition of the Book of Mormon?

A: Yes, certainly. I have three of them, and we know only half the story of the first one. In July 1920, James Talmage put together a list of 99 textual changes he felt needed to be made in the first half of the book. Unfortunately the list for the second half doesn't survive though we know there was one. None of Talmage's recommendations involve doctrine; in fact, most of them reflect little more than shifts in English grammar. Even so, the six apostles of the Book of Mormon committee did not make changes on their own initiative, even when acting unitedly as a council. The combined Quorum of Twelve Apostles and First Presidency discussed every one individually. They were serious about the text as a text without being obsessively literal about its state as a historical document.

My other favorite is the missed hyphen in 1 Nephi 10:18. As I note, despite two other typographic errors being corrected, this one was carried carefully through the entire edition, then through two more editions of the Book of Mormon, though probably no one knew why. It was not corrected until the 2012 edition—ninety years after being made. I like the story of that particular error because first, it reminds me that no human enterprise is entirely flawless—even in the Restoration.  That point relates closely to the second reason: it reminds me that God uses flawed people to do marvelous things. It was an error in scripture, but even then for two more generations an error in scripture was evidently not significant enough that God took any notice. He just let it sit there and worked with what people could offer.

The third point is that the entire edition—from first concept to bound book—took merely nine months. That's just remarkable.

Q: What do you hope readers will take away from this book?

A: How much effort and how many fascinating stories there are in everyday things. There are few human creations more intentional than a book (though maybe architecture or airplanes would qualify). Scriptural texts do not merely appear in multiple copies. I find that investment and intentionality wonderful to contemplate and hope other folks begin see that book history as a rewarding puzzle.


Preview Method Infinite: Freemasonry and the Mormon Restoration February 18 2022


Method Infinite:
Freemasonry and the Mormon Restoration

Download a preview here or view below.

While no one thing can entirely explain the rise of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the historical influence of Freemasonry on this religious tradition cannot be refuted. Those who study Mormonism have been aware of the impact that Freemasonry had on the founding prophet Joseph Smith during the Nauvoo period, but his involvement in Freemasonry was arguably earlier and broader than many modern historians have admitted. The fact that the most obvious vestiges of Freemasonry are evident only in the more esoteric aspects of the Mormon faith has made it difficult to recognize, let alone fully grasp, the relevant issues. Even those with both Mormon and Masonic experience may not be versed in the nineteenth-century versions of Masonry's rituals, legends, and practices. Without this specialized background, it is easy to miss the Masonic significance of numerous early Mormon ordinances, scripture, and doctrines. Method Infinite: Freemasonry and the Mormon Restoration offers a fresh perspective on the Masonic thread present in Mormonism from its earliest days. Smith's firsthand knowledge of and experience with both Masonry and anti-Masonic currents contributed to the theology, structure, culture, tradition, history, literature, and ritual of the religion he founded.




New Year's Ebook Flash Sale December 27 2021

As we welcome 2022, we are pleased to offer discounted prices on select ebooks on scripture and doctrine. This sale runs from January 1–7 and is available for Kindle and Apple ebooks.

Sale ends Friday, Jan 7.

 

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2021 Holiday Gift Guide November 19 2021

This holiday season, we are focusing on themes of scripture and doctrine. Below is a holiday buyer's guide highlighting a few of our most popular titles.

To see our Black Friday Sales, click here.

Scripture

With the Old Testament being the focus of Latter-day Saint scripture study in 2022, there is no better place that volume of scripture than than the beginning. Authoring the Old Testament launched our Contemporary Studies in Scripture series, which utilizes the best tools of biblical scholarship to speak to a Latter-day Saint audience. Authoring the Old Testament introduces Latter-day Saint readers to the documentary hypothesis and offers a faith-affirming approach to Hebrew Bible authorship in line with contemporary scholarship.

Continuing with the Old Testament, there is perhaps no book of scripture that has been misunderstood more than Job. In Re-reading Job: Understanding the Ancient World’s Greatest Poem, author Michael Austin shows how most readers have largely misunderstood this important work of scripture and provides insights that enable us to re-read Job in a drastically new way. In doing so, he shows that the story of Job is far more than that simple story of faith, trials, and blessings that we have all come to know, but is instead a subversive and complex work of scripture meant to inspire readers to rethink all that they thought they knew about God.

One of our most popular titles! The Lost 116 Pages does more than tell the history behind the missing manuscript pages from the early translation of the Book of Mormon, it also uses the best scholarly tools available to analyze internal and external evidence and piece together what may have been in the lost pages. The result tells us as much about the existing Book of Mormon as it does the lost pages. Perfect for those who enjoy taking deep dives into scripture and history!
The Second Witness series by Brant Gardner is lauded as the most comprehensive Book of Mormon commentary in existence. Brant uses his extensive knoweledge and backgroud into Mesoamerican anthropology and intertextual studies to bring the Book of Mormon to life for modern readers. Second Witness can be purchased as a set or individual volumes. A must have for the serious student of the Book of Mormon. The entire series is 60% for Black Friday.
Continuing with the Contemporary Studies in Scripture series, The Vision of All by Joseph Spencer has been a consistent top seller. The Vision of All analyzes Nephi's use of Isaiah writings in the Book of Mormon, offering a reader-friendly explanation of these challenging prophetic passages. Perfect for readers who want to understand more about Isaiah's writings as well as Nephi's inclusion of them in the Book of Mormon.

 

Doctrine

Important to studying the Old Testament is to learn from those who brought us this volume of scripture. The Learning of the Jews turns to the wisdom of Jews and Judaism to inform, inspire, and enhance the lived religious experience of Latter-day Saints. By bring together fifteen scholars, seven Jewish and eight Latter-day Saint, readers will not only learn a great deal about Judaism and the Jewish experience but also use what they learn to enhance their own cultural and religious experience.
Considered a classic examination of Latter-day Saint doctrine by many, This is My Doctrine by Charles R. Harrell looks closely at the development of key Latter-day Saint teachings and the ongoing conversation between ancient belief and modern-day revelation. This book challenges its readers to see God's hand at work in the evolving nature of doctrine. The perfect book for those who enjoy studying Latter-day Saint doctrine and belief.
Blake T. Ostler's Exploring Mormon Thought series is the first series ever published by Greg Kofford Books and is still considerd the standard by which faith-affirming Latter-day Saint philosophy is measured. For readers interested in deep philosophical questions regarding the nature of God, human agency, mankind's divine potential, and the problem of evil and suffering in the world, this is the series to get!
Perhaps of all questions asked about Latter-day Saint doctrine and history, the historic practice of plural marriage is the most divisive. Brian C. Hales's Joseph Smith's Polygamy series is the most in-depth source of research avaiable on the origins of polygamy. Joseph Smith's Polygamy: Toward a Better Understanding, condenses this research into a reader-friendly format. This is essential reading for those who want to better understand the topic of plural marriage while affirming their belief in Joseph Smith's prophetic calling.

 


Q&A with Joseph M. Spencer, author of The Anatomy of Book of Mormon Theology November 14 2021

 
Available paperback and ebook November 16, 2021

 


Q: Can you give us a brief background into this project? How did it begin?

A: Well, in a lot of ways, to answer that question would be to tell you my whole story! The two volumes of Anatomy collect essays I wrote between about 2008 and about 2018, a decade of work on the Book of Mormon. The earliest several were my very first forays into writing theologically about the Book of Mormon. Other essays came at different points over the course of a decade. Taken together, they punctuate the story of my own coming of age as a Book of Mormon scholar. When I set out to write about the Book of Mormon, I don't think it could be said that there was such a thing as Book of Mormon theology---certainly not as a recognizable field! Ten years later, I could say I had an intellectual home as a Book of Mormon theologian. It was while I was writing that this approach to the Book of Mormon began to take shape. I watched that happen, contributing what I could. And so Anatomy is something like an archive that documents one scholar's perspective, witnessing something new be born.

That's not it, though. What I slowly figured out how to articulate for and to myself over the course of that decade was what it means even to speak of Book of Mormon theology. What does it mean to do theology with the Book of Mormon? My earliest essays found me beginning to work out an answer to that question, even though I didn't know I even had that question. As time went on, and as I found myself with a variety of interesting interlocutors (not all of whom were doing theology, to be clear!), the question itself, along with my answer (or answers!) to it, became clearer to me. And so Anatomy is divided up into essays I wrote that help to articulate the various ways one might go about doing theology with the Book of Mormon.

Q: Can you explain what you mean by “the anatomy” of Book of Mormon Theology?

I settled on this title only eventually, but I hope it captures something important. I like the idea that Book of Mormon theology is a living thing, with a lot of deeply interconnected parts. The word "anatomy" is privative—that is, the "an-" at its beginning means "not." The word applies to things where it's inappropriate to speak of smallest units, of "atoms" (in a sense different from the way we talk about atoms in modern physics, obviously). Anatomy is at issue wherever we can't break something down into fully separable building blocks, where there's something organic about the thing that requires us to see how a massively complex living thing can't be taken apart without depriving it of life. Book of Mormon theology feels to me like that. It isn't the sort of thing we could just break down into a few fundamental topics (the nature of God, how the Spirit works, what salvation means, etc.) or a few fundamental approaches (philosophical theology, pastoral theology, historical theology, etc.), hoping then to put them back together into some kind of whole.

It's for this reason precisely that it's useful simply to look at a dossier of theological essays, a set of productions emerging on so many different occasions over the course of a decade. I couldn't ever have begun with some overarching vision of what all had to be done, theologically, with the Book of Mormon and then simply executed the program. Different interests and various concerns had to draw the theological relevance of the Book of Mormon out of me while the project was feeding, breathing, growing. But looking back over things after ten years of work, I find it possible to start to give names to different systems of thought---to different organs in this living body, so to speak---and so to make some sense of things. It becomes especially clear to me where the center of the body lies, where the heart is that's pumping life-giving oxygen to everything else. And that's something I hope comes clear to every reader of these volumes.

Q: For those less familiar with theology, can you offer a basic definition?

I'm always hesitant to give theology a strict definition—for all the reasons I've been talking about already! At the very least, though, someone does theology when she takes the demands of reason as seriously as possible while nonetheless always ultimately submitting them to what God reveals. When someone does theology with the Book of Mormon, then, she has to do a number of things. She can't just read the Book of Mormon quickly, assuming that she understands the meaning of the text. She has to do (or at least borrow from) intense interpretive work, sorting out the way the book is organized, how its story unfolds, what its various prophecies and sermons and narratives have to say, and so on. She also has to do (or at least draw on) good philosophical work, of a sort that probes beneath the surface of things and makes them more interesting than we often take them to be. With the real depth of the Book of Mormon on display, and with the best thinkers as her interlocutors, she might begin to let the Book of Mormon speak in a richly theological way.

That's not very basic, I'm afraid. It's also probably the best I can do. It's no simple thing to do theology, and to do it well. We have to get far more serious than we usually are about what the Book of Mormon itself has to say, in its own name. And we have to get far more serious than we usually are about ideas in general. Then theological work on this sacred text begins in earnest. And I should note, then, that doing theological work on the Book of Mormon is rather different from studying the book doctrinally or with an eye to application, although it's related to both of these things. To study the Book of Mormon doctrinally is to look at how the book clarifies the official doctrines of the Church. To study the Book of Mormon with an eye to application is to ask how its words might immediately shape my everyday life. These are questions I might be asking when I do theology as well, but they don't need to be.

Q: How are the two volumes organized?

The first volume of Anatomy gathers essays that I think fit most easily into traditional notions of what it would mean to do theology with a book of scripture. It's worth saying that, along with a handful of colleagues, I labored over the years covered in these two volumes on developing a rather novel approach to doing theology with scripture---and with the Book of Mormon in particular. We didn't set out with the idea of doing any such thing, but that's what indeed happened. Along that peculiar pathway, however, I took plenty of opportunities to write more traditional theological essays as well. It's those that make up most of the first volume of Anatomy. That first volume comes, in fact, in four parts. The first handful of essays represent my earliest forays, which I gather under the title "Halting First Steps." A second handful of essays explore a variety of resources for doing theology in whatever fashion. These appear under the title "Running toward Theology." And then there are two gatherings of essays titled "Traditional Theology": a first gathering of essays specifically focused on the atonement of Jesus Christ, and a second gathering of essays focused on a variety of theological topics, approached in a way anyone might expect.

The second volume of Anatomy turns to the kinds of theological work I and others developed over the course of a decade. It opens for that reason with a transitional essay, a reflection on theological method. There then follow two gatherings of essays in each of two novel theological styles, to which I give the respective names of microscopic and macroscopic theology. Most of the examples of microscopic theology grew directly out of my work with Adam Miller and others in the Latter-day Saint Theology Seminar (what used to be called the Mormon Theology Seminar). There we forged a style of excruciatingly acute analyses of scriptural texts, put in the service of theological and philosophical reflection. The examples of macroscopic theology all touch on what's been a central point of interest in my work from the beginning: the status of Isaiah in the Book of Mormon. A further section in the second volume of Anatomy includes my theological responses to others' work on the Book of Mormon, and then the volume concludes with a kind of bonus essay, one that examines the Book of Mormon in film (including Napoleon Dynamite).

Q: What developments have you seen in the field of Book of Mormon scholarship over the past decade?

In my view, contemporary Book of Mormon studies began with the publication of Terryl Givens's By the Hand of Mormon in 2002. That book is an astonishing thing, a masterpiece. I think it's safe to say that it placed a capstone on the two decades of work dominated by FARMS (the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies), largely by announcing that that project had fulfilled the measure of its creation. That created enough breathing room to allow for other approaches to the Book of Mormon to gain a place alongside traditional apologetics. Over the two decades or so since Givens published his book, I'd say that three emergent approaches have emerged and gained serious traction. Obviously, the one that interests me the most is the theological angle, the one I've tried deliberately to help craft and to which I've most consistently contributed. (Even when I've approached the other emergent methods, I've consistently put them to theological use---sometimes to the consternation of those working on the Book of Mormon in other ways!)

The other two emergent approaches, though, deserve a great deal of attention. I have nothing but good to say of them, even if I always find myself wanting to push their insights over into the realm of theology. One of these is the project of placing the Book of Mormon within the category of world scripture and so of approaching the book from within the discipline of religious studies. This approach is best represented by Grant Hardy. For a time, it looked as if Hardy was pushing for a literary approach to the Book of Mormon---he himself put it that on occasion---but over time it's become clear what he's after, and the results are spectacular. The other emergent approach is in fact literary, and it's best represented, I think, by Elizabeth Fenton and Jared Hickman. The angle here is to ask about how the Book of Mormon functions in the historical flow of American literature, in which context it presents itself as a fascinating point of resistance to the domination of secularity. There's much to learn from this sort of work, work that's beginning to proliferate, even if it sometimes asks questions that understandably make believers squirm.

Q: Where do you see the field of Book of Mormon scholarship going in the future?

It's always hard to predict what's coming, of course. Rather than guess at what might or will come, then, I'd prefer to say something about what I hope will come, about what ought to come, in my humble view. With growing interest in the Book of Mormon from a variety of disciplinary angles---and let's be clear that historical work will continue, and that there are other less dominant approaches I haven't mentioned in these brief answers!---there's much need right now for basic resources for research. Royal Skousen has done essential work on establishing the text of the Book of Mormon; Grant Hardy has labored to put basic study resources in the hands of average readers; Nick Frederick has developed an aspiringly comprehensive list of interactions between the Bible and the Book of Mormon; Brant Gardner has sifted the Book of Mormon scholarship of the twentieth century in his commentary; and the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies has begun publishing bibliographies and reviews of literature to sort out what's going on right now in the field. These are, though, just the beginning of what's needed for Book of Mormon studies to flourish.

I'd like to see dictionaries and analytical concordances, full-blooded commentaries written from a variety of methodological approaches, a robust conversation about the critical text of the Book of Mormon, annotated bibliographies of the best work from the past and from the present, handbooks to guide research on specific subjects or particular books within the Book of Mormon, outlines of Book of Mormon reception history, and other things of this sort. Amy Easton-Flake has recently argued that we're currently in a period that's strikingly similar to the late nineteenth century when it comes to the Book of Mormon. The last quarter of the nineteenth century saw the first student-oriented edition of the Book of Mormon (Orson Pratt's 1879 edition), the first dictionaries and concordances for the book (George Reynolds's work), the first survey treatments of the narrative (the work of George Reynolds and Janne Sjodahl), and the first efforts at systematic commentary (especially by Janne Sjodahl). We're again in such a period, and if that kind of thing continues, the next generation of Book of Mormon scholars will have plenty to work with as they move forward.

Q: How does The Anatomy of Book of Mormon Theology enter into the scholarly conversation?

Well, in a lot of ways, Anatomy is meant to plant the flag of the theological approach squarely in the sand. I and a handful of others have been doing theology with the Book of Mormon for years, but it's only in the last couple of years that the stakes of what we've been doing have become clear---even to us! In some sense, then, Anatomy is meant to be a kind of announcement that something has been happening. It's meant to give a name to an event that's been unfolding for some time. And it's meant to gather an archive that can illustrate just how the various sequences of that larger event have followed one another. I might mention that each essay in Anatomy opens with a couple of paragraphs in which, looking back, I comment on what triggered that particular contribution, thus telling the story of Book of Mormon theology's emergence in bits and pieces. This is, I think, profoundly needed.

Of course, someone might naturally object to what I've just said by pointing out that a far more visible flag of this sort was planted last year, when the Neal A. Maxwell Institute published its twelve-volume Brief Theological Introductions series. I wouldn't at all disagree with that. (And I should probably note between parentheses that I was heavily involved in that series---not only authoring a volume in it but serving as one of the series editors.) I think the Brief Theological Introductions very much announce that something has been stirring. What they don't do, however, is sort through the process of Book of Mormon theology's emergence. They put on display some of the fruits that the theological tree now bears. Anatomy goes back to look at the planting of the seed, at the work of caring for the sapling, and at the labor involved in picking the fruit that has eventually come. 

Q: What are some of the key questions tackled in these volumes?

I outlined the contents of Anatomy above, but I might note some of the most prominent themes among the many essays gathered here (there are thirty-eight of them!). As I've already indicated, readers can expect to encounter a lot of Isaiah---in treatments that go beyond and in other directions than my books on that subject. I've also already mentioned that there are several essays on the atonement of Christ, but it's worth specifying that there's an emphasis in those essays on the idea of grace, a theme that naturally recurs in essays in volume two where I interact with the thought of Adam Miller. There's frequent reflection also, though, on gender (a subject of current research for me), as well as on the nature of time as the Book of Mormon conceives of it (always a point of interest for me). There's a stronger emphasis on pneumatology (the study of the Holy Ghost's nature) than readers might expect, and on the body and materialism in various ways. Drawn by the interest of Hardy and others (especially Jad Hatem) in putting the Book of Mormon in conversation with world scripture, there are several places in these volumes where I ask questions about the Book of Mormon and other religious traditions (especially Hinduism).

Above all, though, what every essay in these two volumes shares is an investment in what it means to read theologically. Many essays ask questions about where other approaches to the Book of Mormon end and theology begins. How might theology be relevant to the apologetic enterprise, and how might apologetics be relevant to theology? How might theology be relevant to literary work on the Book of Mormon, and how might literary work be relevant to theology? How much exegesis---that is, how much labor just on making the basic meaning of the Book of Mormon text clear---is necessary before theological work can begin in earnest? What themes from traditional theology and from the philosophical tradition might be useful in doing theological work on the Book of Mormon, and where do such themes actually stand in the way of doing theology well in this case? These questions I'm asking at every turn in this book.

Q: What do you hope readers will gain by reading these volumes?

Above all, to be honest, I hope readers will simply begin to get a sense for how much remains to be done with the Book of Mormon. One danger in traditional apologetics---despite all the good it has done and can still do, to be clear!---is that it can give the impression that all the hard work is done once we feel like the Book of Mormon is intellectually defensible. The very real need we feel to defend the Book of Mormon against its detractors lends intensity and urgency to apologetic labor, and then it can feel as if every other sort of work on the Book of Mormon is simply unimportant or simply devotional. I hope, though, that the kind of work I've done in these two volumes---pressing in all kinds of directions at once---shows that there's a great deal of serious work to do on the Book of Mormon that's valuable and of intense interest in its own right. It's crucial to make clear that we aren't fools to give our faith to this book. But it's crucial also to make clear to ourselves just what this book we believe in actually has to say.

My heart skips a beat when I think about the Book of Mormon, and I hope these essays, taken together, show my love for the book, and maybe show what it means to love the book well. I'm thrilled by the efforts being made to show the Book of Mormon's relevance in the fields of literature and religious studies, and I've long kept a close eye on the labors of those defending the book's claim to antiquity. But there's another way of loving this book intensely, and of talking to one another about its truth and depth. I hope that's clear in The Anatomy of Book of Mormon Theology. We can love this book theologically, just as much as we can love it in other ways.

 

Joseph M. Spencer, November 2021


Preview The 1920 Edition of the Book of Mormon: A Centennial Adventure in Latter-day Saint Book History November 03 2021


The 1920 Edition of the Book of Mormon:
A Centennial Adventure in Latter-day Saint Book History

Download a preview here or view below.

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints tend to see the Book of Mormon through the lens of personal use, as a single textual and scriptural monolith—the Book of Mormon. That is somewhat natural, since we tend to have at hand and in-use, only the copy or version in our language needed to study it for inspiration. In the process, the point tends to get overlooked that while we may accept the text as inspired, the physical embodiment of that text—the Book of Mormon—is a mortal reality. The Book of Mormon, while it has a “spirit,” also has a mortal “body” (or rather, bodies) existing in space and time. As such, it has a history—and because it comes to us in the form of a book, it also has a book history.

This study is divided into three parts. The first part is a straightforward history of the edition’s editing, production, and manufacturing processes. It examines key points in the reprint history of the book, following important factors in the subsequent impressions of the work across nearly thirty years of re-impressions, corrections, transfers, and one new format. The narrative crowded into chapters one through four together leave Part II to catalogue the bibliographic minutia that is the beating heart of analytic book history and which provides entertainment for true-blooded bibliophiles. The details contained in the production and manufacturing contracts and coupled to the typographical evidence explained in Part III, together resolve once and for all the question of what constitutes the 1920 edition and what does not.




Preview The Anatomy of Book of Mormon Theology, Volume Two November 03 2021


The Anatomy of Book of Mormon Theology,
Volume Two

Download a preview here or view below.

Few scholars of the Book of Mormon have read this volume of scripture as closely and rigorously as Joseph M. Spencer. And of those, none have devoted as much time and effort as he to a theological reading of that sacred textthat is, as Spencer writes, “how it might shape responsible thinking about questions pertaining to the life of religious commitment” (p. 1:173.)

The Anatomy of Book of Mormon Theology divides into two volumes exploring and thinking about these pertinent questions. Whereas the first volume principally contains essays that deal with relatively traditional theological questions and concerns, the essays in this volume ask about what new worlds might be discovered in doing theological work on the Book of Mormon, focusing on what Spencer calls “microscopic” and “macroscopic” theological readings of the text. Essays in the first set examine no more than a verse of the Book of Mormon—more often just a single phrase or two—to see what theological implications lie within the details of the text. The second set of essays ask questions about the shape and intentions of the whole of the Book of Mormon, as this can be discerned through the ways it deploys biblical texts—and especially the writings of Isaiah. A third set of essays follows the two on microscopic and macroscopic styles of theology and are invitations to blur the boundaries that separate different styles of Book of Mormon scholarship. These final essays call on Book of Mormon scholars to move closer to theology and calls on theologians to move closer to the Book of Mormon.




Preview The Anatomy of Book of Mormon Theology, Volume One October 19 2021


The Anatomy of Book of Mormon Theology,
Volume One

Download a preview here or view below.

Few scholars of the Book of Mormon have read this volume of scripture as closely and rigorously as Joseph M. Spencer. And of those, none have devoted as much time and effort as he to a theological reading of that sacred text—that is, as Spencer writes, “how it might shape responsible thinking about questions pertaining to the life of religious commitment” (p. 1:173.)

The Anatomy of Book of Mormon Theology divides into two volumes exploring and thinking about these pertinent questions. Each concerns a different part of the defense of the claim that theology is and ought to be particularly important for Book of Mormon studies. In this first volume, Spencer gathers early essays in which he gestures toward theological interpretation without knowing how to defend it; essays about why theology is important to Book of Mormon scholarship and how to ensure that it does not overstep its boundaries; and essays that do theological work on the Book of Mormon in relatively obvious ways or with relatively traditional topics. The last category of essays divides into two subcategories: essays specifically on the central theological question of Jesus Christ’s atonement, as the Book of Mormon understands it; and essays on a variety of traditional theological topics, again as the Book of Mormon understands them.




Q&A with Trevan G. Hatch, co-editor of "The Learning of the Jews": What Latter-day Saints Can Learn from Jewish Religious Experience August 03 2021

 
Available paperback and ebook August 10, 2021

 


Q: Can you provide a little background about the editors and your decision to do this project together?

A: I participated with Leonard Greenspoon in several Jewish Studies seminars in Chicago from 2012 to 2018. In 2016 I approached him about getting Jewish scholars and LDS scholars together for this writing project. As a prolific scholar in Bible and Jewish Studies for forty years, Leonard has participated in these types of interfaith interactions many times, but never with Latter-day Saints. Leonard and I then contacted several scholars to participate. Many of the Jewish scholars were excited to write essays due to the unique nature of the project.

Q: What makes this book unique among interfaith dialogues? 

A: Traditional interfaith dialogues are very common. So why do I call this project “unique”? Customarily, the purpose of interfaith dialogue is for two groups to come together and discuss commonalities. The “Kumbaya” nature of these interfaith dialogues serve to foster understanding and empathy. This project is unique because we did NOT want to follow the typical style of each group learning from each other. In other words, we did not want to tell Jews that Latter-day Saints want to learn from them, but that they must learn from Latter-day Saints as well. Christians have forced Jews for 1,500 years to learn about Christianity (or even convert to Christianity). In this volume, we sought to give Jews “the microphone” so-to-speak and let them talk about their own experience without imposing an agenda on them. Our intent was to discuss and examine Judaism on Jewish terms (as best we can) and subsequently wrestle with how Latter-day Saints might benefit from 3,000 years of the Jewish experience. Our purpose is not to suggest that Latter-day Saints must adopt various Jewish practices and beliefs. Rather, we hoped that the discussions in this volume may assist readers in adopting strategies, mentalities, and approaches to religious and cultural living as exemplified by Jews and Judaism. The chapters are meant to serve as catalysts for further introspection and learning, not as the end-all-be-all for how Latter-day Saints might learn from Jewish religious experience.

Q: How is this book organized?

A: This volume brings together fifteen scholars, seven Jewish and eight Latter-day Saint, with a combined academic experience of over four hundred years. We have structured the volume around seven major topics, two chapters on each topic. A Jewish scholar first discusses the topic broadly vis-à-vis Judaism, followed by a response from a Latter-day Saint scholar. These Latter-day Saint scholars are trained in various fields of study and disciplines including history, sociology, family studies, religious studies, biblical studies, and literature. This wide array of experience and training illustrates the various approaches and perspectives of learning from another group. With the primary purpose of this volume being for Latter-day Saints to learn from Jewish religious perspectives and experiences, the essays are generally different from what you might expect in an interreligious dialogue. For the most part, the Jewish essays were not written with Latter-day Saints in mind but are simply broad overviews that could be helpful for any non-Jewish readership. Likewise, the Latter-day Saint responses are not trying to find commonalities as the primary goal; rather, their purpose is to explore any strategies, mentalities, motives, etc., of Jews that might serve as a catalyst for Latter-day Saints to look introspectively and enhance their own lived religious experience.

Q: Can you highlight some of the main topics discussed in the book? 

A: The seven topics include scripture, authority, prayer, women and modernity, remembrance, particularity, and humor. Most of these topics are salient in Jewish discourse today. It so happens that Latter-day Saints focus on several of these topics with a great amount of zeal, especially scripture, authority, prayer, and women & modernity.

Q: What are you hoping that readers will take away from this book?

A: We hope that the reader will not only learn a great deal about Judaism and the Jewish experience while reading this volume, but also use what they learn to enhance their own cultural and religious experience. 

Trevan Hatch, August 2021

 

 

 


Preview Under a Leafless Tree: The Story of Helga Meyer, a Mormon Girl from East Prussia June 28 2021

 

Under a Leafless Tree:
The Story of Helga Meyer, a Mormon Girl from East Prussia

Download a preview here or view below.

Helga's story is featured in the forthcoming Saints, Vol. 3, Boldy, Nobly, and Independent, 1893-1955

Imagine if the world you grew up in ceased to exist. In her own words, Helga Meyer tells of the disintegration of her hometown in Tilsit, East Prussia. From an idyllic childhood to persecutions for her curious, new faith, to the challenge of saluting Nazi troops while quietly befriending Jews, and suffering wounds in one of many, daily bombing raids, Helga reveals intimate details about coming of age in a world that is quickly falling apart.

Too soon, Helga’s teenaged friends, brothers and cousin are facing death in the bitter fields of France and Russia. Amidst fellow refugees, Helga finds her natural optimism challenged by increasing and very personal heartbreak. Alone in a foreign land, Helga struggles to find refuge and braver still, a chance at romance. Led by a prophetic dream, she devises a means of escape in order to begin a new life in America.

Revealing previously unknown details of women’s experiences during World War II and the lives of early Latter-day Saints in East Prussia and East Germany, this engaging account promises to be a valuable addition to the growing collection of World War II memoirs. A richly-layered story, weaving together both personal and historically significant events, Under a Leafless Tree is an unforgettable, true story that stays with the reader.





Preview “The Learning of the Jews”: What Latter-day Saints Can Learn from Jewish Religious Experience June 28 2021


“The Learning of the Jews”:
What Latter-day Saints Can Learn from Jewish Religious Experience

Download a preview here or view below.

This volume is about Latter-day Saints learning from Jews and the Jewish experience. This book is unique. It is not a traditional interfaith dialogue where the goal is to learn from each other. Rather, Latter-day Saints seek to give Jews the microphone, so to speak, and let them talk about themselves on their own terms. Only then do Latter-day Saint respond, and not with the goal of establishing areas of agreement or disagreement but as an opportunity to learn from Jews. This book turns to the wisdom of Jews and Judaism to inform, inspire, and enhance the lived religious experience of Latter-day Saints.

“The Learning of the Jews” brings together fifteen scholars, seven Jewish and eight Latter-day Saint, with a combined academic experience of over four hundred years. The volume is structured around seven major topics, two chapters on each topic. A Jewish scholar first discusses the topic broadly vis-à-vis Judaism, followed by a response from a Latter-day Saint scholar. The seven topics include scripture, authority, prayer, women and modernity, remembrance, particularity, and humor. The intention is that the reader will not only learn a great deal about Judaism and the Jewish experience while reading this volume but also use what they learn to enhance their own cultural and religious experience.




Women's History Month Sale March 02 2021

During Women's History Month, we are pleased to offer 30% off select titles on Latter-day Saint women's history, social topics, and personal essays!

Sale ends Wednesday, 3/31/2021* 

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New Year's Ebook Flash Sale December 29 2020

As we welcome 2021, we are pleased to offer discounted prices on select ebooks on scripture, doctrine, and community. This sale runs from January 1–4 and is available for both Kindle and Apple ebooks.

Sale ends Monday, Jan 4.

Doctrine​
Scripture

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2020 Holiday Gift Guide November 11 2020

This holiday season, we are focusing on themes of scripture, doctrine, and community. Below is a holiday buyer's guide highlighting a few of our most popular titles.

To see our Black Friday Sales, click here.

Scripture

With the Doctrine & Covenants being the 2021 focus for Come Follow Me, Mark Lyman Staker's award-winning history, Hearken, O Ye People, is the perfect gift for those interested in the historical context behind the revelations Joseph Smith received in Ohio. A perfect compliment to your Come Follow Me study.

One of our most popular titles! The Lost 116 Pages does more than tell the history behind the missing manuscript pages from the early translation of the Book of Mormon, it also uses the best scholarly tools available to analyze internal and external evidence and piece together what may have been in the lost pages. The result tells us as much about the existing Book of Mormon as it does the lost pages. Perfect for those who enjoy taking deep dives into scripture and history!
Award-winning Book of Mormon scholar, Brant Gardner, looks at Joseph Smith's translation process of the Book of Mormon. The Gift and Power analyzes not only the mechanics of the translation process, but also asks how closely Joseph Smith followed the original Nephite writings. This is the perfect book for those interested in how the Book of Mormon was produced, affirming that it is an ancient text miraculously brought forth by the gift and power of God.
The Second Witness series by Brant Gardner is lauded as the most comprehensive Book of Mormon commentary in existence. Brant uses his extensive knoweledge and backgroud into Mesoamerican anthropology and intertextual studies to bring the Book of Mormon to life for modern readers. Second Witness can be purchased as a set or individual volumes. A must have for the serious student of the Book of Mormon.
Authoring the Old Testament launched our Contemporary Studies in Scripture series, which utilizes the best tools of biblical scholarship to speak to a Latter-day Saint audience. Authoring the Old Testament introduces Latter-day Saint readers to the documentary hypothesis and offers a faith-affirming approach to Hebrew Bible authorship in line with contemporary scholarship.
Continuing with the Contemporary Studies in Scripture series, The Vision of All by Joseph Spencer has been a consistent top seller. The Vision of All analyzis Nephi's use of Isaiah writings in the Book of Mormon, offering a reader-friendly explanation of these challenging prophetic passages. Perfect for readers who want to understand more about Isaiah's writings as well as Nephi's inclusion of them in the Book of Mormon.

 

Doctrine

Blake T. Ostler's Exploring Mormon Thought series is the first series ever published by Greg Kofford Books and is still considerd the standard by which faith-affirming Latter-day Saint philosophy is measured. For readers interested in deep philosophical questions regarding the nature of God, human agency, mankind's divine potential, and the problem of evil and suffering in the world, this is the series to get!
Perhaps of all questions asked about Latter-day Saint doctrine and history, the historic practice of plural marriage is the most divisive. Brian C. Hales's Joseph Smith's Polygamy series is the most in-depth source of research avaiable on the origins of polygamy. Joseph Smith's Polygamy: Toward a Better Understanding, condenses this research into a reader-friendly format. This is essential reading for those who want to better understand the topic of plural marriage while affirming their belief in Joseph Smith's prophetic calling.
In For Zion, Joseph M. Spencer, assistant professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University, picks up where Hugh Nibley's Approaching Zion left off. In this approachable and inspiring text, Joseph expands the concept of consecration beyond the material and economic into one of transformation of the human heart. An excellent book for those who enjoy Latter-day Saint teachings about the promise of Zion and the writings of High Nibley.
Considered a classic examination of Latter-day Saint doctrine by many, This is My Doctrine by Charles R. Harrell looks closely at the development of key Latter-day Saint teachings and the ongoing conversation between ancient belief and modern-day revelation. This book challenges its readers to see God's hand at work in the evolving nature of doctrine. The perfect book for those who enjoy studying Latter-day Saint doctrine and belief.

 

Community

One of our most popular titles, Bridges by David B. Ostler, speaks to faithful members about the topic of faith crisis. The book takes an empathetic approach, teaching its readers how to build bridges of compassion and understanding with those whose faith has been challenged by historical or social issues within the Church. Read widely by teachers of Church Seminaries and Institutes, Bridges is a must-have for anyone who knows of family members, friends, or ward members who struggle with faith.
Miracles Among the Rubble by Carol R. Gray is one of the most loved books by reviewers. In heart-wrenching and inspiring chapters, written with her poetically unique style of expression, Carol shares her experiences of organizing and transporting relief aid for victims of the Balkan War during the early 1990s. Her stories are a testament to the extraordinary achievements of an ordinary mother, who was able to do remarkable things with nothing more than unwavering faith, the help and guidance of the Holy Ghost, and her relationship with the Savior.
A best-seller, Women at Church by Neylan McBaine has been passed along to numerous local ward and stake leaders who seek ways to more fully include women at the local level. This eye-opening book is perfect for anyone who would like to better understand why many Latter-day Saint women feel marginalized in church settings and what can be done to improve women's visibility and voices in wards and stakes without challenging current doctrine or policies.
Whom Say Ye That I Am? by James and Judith McConkie utilyzes up-to-date historical scholarship to explore Jesus in the context of first-century Palestine and Jewish culture. This book helps Latter-day Saint readers better understand the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth, and how he responded to social institutions and issues in his day, all of which is still relevant to a modern audience. Perfect for readers who enjoy historical Jesus scholarship.
Although united in faith, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are diverse in their cultural, social, and political perspectives. Common Ground—Different Opinions offers a collection of essays on varying topics from same-sex attraction, femisim, and race, to political partisanship, war, human evolution, and more. This is the perfect book for readers who like to carefully consider arguments from both sides of complex social issues in a ways that maintain civility, respect towards faith, and commitment to the Church.
The Garden of Enid Vols. 1 and 2 collect Scott Hales's much-loved coming-of-age comic series about fictional teenager, Enid Gardner, as she explores her faith and questions in light of personal and cultural challenges. Funny, charming, sincere, and moving, The Garden of Enid is perfect for teens or anyone who remembers what it was like to be an akward teenager wondering where they fit into the world and the Gospel.

Q&A with Blake T. Ostler, author of Exploring Mormon Thought, Vol 4: God's Plan to Heal Evil October 23 2020

 
Exploring Mormon Thought, Vol 4: God's Plan to Heal Evil is available paperback, hardcover, and ebook

 


Q: For those unfamiliar with the Exploring Mormon Thought series, can you give us a general overview of the previous volumes?

A: Exploring Mormon Thought is an exploration of the philosophical and theological implications of various views entertained in the Mormon tradition. The first volume, The Attributes of God, addresses the attributes of God from a Mormon perspective. I argue that God cannot know what acts a person will freely do in the future. I also assesse the attributes of divine power, divine mutability, divine pathos (or emotions and feelings), divine temporality, and human and divine nature. The first volume also expounds a Mormon Christology or theory of Christ as both fully human and fully divine at once.

The second volume, The Love of God and the Problems of Theism, addresses Mormon soteriology or theory of salvation. I address whether God's love can be properly called "unconditional" in Mormon thought. I also address the problems of petitionary prayer—why would we ask God to do anything when God is already committed to doing what is best and knows far better than we do what is good for us? I develop a theory of ethics based upon a modified agape (love) theory of ethics and address and critique salvation by grace and predestination in classic Christian thought.

The third volume, Of God and Gods, addresses the relation of the Israelite council of gods, the early Christian view of the Godhead and the angel of Yahweh, and finally analyzes the Mormon view of the Godhead as a social trinity that reconciles these views.

Q: The fourth volume is titled God’s Plan to Heal Evil. Can you briefly describe what you mean by that?

A: In the 4th volume I review numerous approaches within the traditional Judeo-Christian-Muslim theism to the kinds of moral and natural evils that plague us. In light of these attempts to explain how evil is consistent with God's existence, I present at length an explanation of how God's purposes for us—framed within what Mormons call "The Plan of Salvation"—places our experience of evil into a context that not merely justifies God's permission of evil (a standard theodicy) but how evil functions in our lives to fulfill God's plan. The answer to the problem of evil is not as much a defense of God, but an insight into how evil works to refine us and give us the opportunity to learn to love in the way that God loves us, and in so doing to heal the evil so that it serves a redemptive purpose.

Q: Can you give us a brief overview of how this volume is organized?

A: The 4th volume begins by looking at what I consider to be the best responses to the argument from evil against God's existence. I conclude that the fact of the amounts and kinds of evil that we experience show that the omni-God in the Calvinistic and Molinist traditions does not exist. I then look at Open Theism and present a new argument based on the option that God had to create virtually omniscient creatures that Open Theism cannot answer. I then develop finitist and process theodicies based on views held in the Mormon tradition and conclude that they are live options but are not persuasive. I then present a view of God's purposely using evil as a part of his plan to achieve His purposes to bring us to the status that we can love as He does and to be fit for a relationship with the persons of the Godhead that fully deifies us.

Q: For readers unfamiliar with the problem of evil from a philosophical perspective, can you briefly explain it

A: The problem is evil is both a philosophical and an existential problem. How can we believe that God exists when such belief entails that God is all powerful and therefore can have a world without evil, is all-good and therefore desires a world without evil, and we are then led to ask: why is there evil? The further question arises that even if we could show that belief in God is logically consistent with the fact of evil, how could we trust in God when he leaves us subject to evils like the Holocaust or murder, rape, and child abuse?

Q: Can you briefly describe the Christian theological frameworks you address in this volume?

A: I discuss the issue of evil from the perspective of those who believe in an all-controlling God (e.g. Calvinsts, on some interpretations Thomists and Muslims), a God who exercises meticulous providence or that can create any feasible world (e.g. Molinists and Open Theists), a limited God who is like a super-advanced scientist (Finitism), or a God who can influence everything but not unilaterally control anything (Process thought), and a God who can control whether there are natural laws but not what those natural laws shall be if He chooses to have an ordered world (the Relational Agape view of God).

Q: You argue in the fourth volume that a God who creates ex-nihilo does not exist. Can you give us a taste of your support for this argument?

A: If God creates ex nihilo (out of nothing) then He can have a world without moral evils and diseases and the best explanation for how that could be is that we do not have sufficient cognitive grasp to judge God's purposes. However, such a view entails that everything must be for the best and so we can just allow anything at all to happen and be satisfied that it is all for the best. Given such a view, personal moral decisions and acts are never necessary. But no Christian, Jew, or Muslim could accept that. Or, in the alternative, God could have created us virtually omniscient so that we could rid the world of many natural evils that occur such as infectious diseases. God's failure to do so shows that God is not all-good because He did not avail himself of morally superior options.

Q: Does Mormonism add anything new to the problem of evil?

A: Mormonism makes possible a view that God must work within a pre-existing natural framework that explains why God has to deal with just the kinds of natural laws and persons who actually exist and how we are not thrown into the world against our will and can consent to confront the kinds and amounts of evils that actually occur. Most importantly, Mormonism explains how confronting a world with the kinds and types of evils that actually occur is worth it in light of the fact that it is the only way to achieve the superlative and crowning good of participating fully in the relationship of loving divine unity—the greatest possible good. Mormonism provides a framework where evil can be the mentor of Gods by being redeemed through learning to love one another because we live in a challenging world.

Q: What are you hoping readers will gain from reading this volume?

A: A theodicy is an explanation of how it is possible that there is genuine evil in the world if there is a loving God. There are several live options for viewing God's permission of evil in the Mormon tradition. However, the Relational Agape theodicy suggests that the world is lovingly ordered to serve us to learn to be as God is by learning to love as God does. The world is not hostile to us but serves as an environment suited to mentoring gods. The people in our lives are loving angels who serve us, even when it appears that they are doing evil to us and it is really difficult to deal with them. The evils that we experience are a call to redeem evil by healing it through love—even (or especially) when it is gut-wrenching and doing so goes against our set human nature. The Agape theodicy is a recognition that love is the greatest power in the universe.

Blake T. Ostler
October 2020


Preview Exploring Mormon Thought: God's Plan to Heal Evil October 07 2020


Exploring Mormon Thought: Volume 4, God's Plan to Heal Evil

By Blake T. Ostler

Download a preview here or view below.

The problem of evil is perhaps the greatest challenge to belief in a loving and personal God. The challenge naturally leads us to ask, “Why, God, has this happened to me, to my loved ones, to my enemies?” Or, to ask with the Psalmist, “Where art thou God?” Or, to perhaps echo Jesus, “My God, my God, why hast thou abandoned me?”

In this fourth volume of the Exploring Mormon Thought series, God's Plan to Heal Evil, Blake T. Ostler examines how others in the Christian and Mormon traditions have attempted to provide solutions to this challenge and the shortcomings they contain. Ostler then looks to Mormon theology to offer what he calls the Plan of Agape, or what is perhaps the most robust explanation of how belief in a loving, personal God can be had in light of all of the suffering that exists in the world.




FLASH SALE: Award-winning Latter-day Saint books — 30% off retail prices! September 23 2020

We are proud of our authors and books! Expand your collection of biographies and narrative histories, anthologies and personal essays, and scripture scholarship with these award-winning titles below. Now 30% off through the end of September.

Sale ends Wednesday, 9/30/2020* 

2020 Best Biography, JWHA

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2018 Best Anthology, JWHA

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2017 Best International History, MHA

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2016 Best Literary Criticism, AML

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2016 Best Religious Non-fiction, AML

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2016 Best Biography, JWHA

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2015 Best Religious Non-fiction, AML

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2011 Best Book Award, MHA & JWHA

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2007 Best Book Award, JWHA

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Q&A with Samantha Richardson, co-editor of Miracles Among the Rubble September 08 2020

 
Miracles Among the Rubble is available paperback, hardcover, and ebook

 


Q: For those unfamiliar with Carol Gray, what can you tell us about her? 

A: Carol Rosemary Gray was born in Sheffield, England, to parents Rosemary Addis, born in Glasgow, Scotland, and James Addis, born locally in Sheffield, England. 

Carol met Stuart Gray at church in Sheffield when they were 16 or 17 years old and a few years later they married and were eventually blessed with seven children. Sadly, because of illness, my Nana was never able to have more children, so Mum remained an only child. Mum always said that when she started her own family, she would fill the house with children. She loved babies and loved to love; being a mother made her so happy. 

As the years went by and her children grew, mum felt a niggling sense that she had another purpose, which at this point she could not articulate. She was not aware of how strong her desire was to fill this purpose until she saw the atrocities on television of the war in the former Yugoslavia in the summer of 1992. The day my mother was galvanized into action was after watching a news report where a mother, running like a terrified rabbit and clinging to her three young children while dodging an onslaught of army vehicles, bullets, shells, and fire, tried desperately to get them to safety.

Q: Can you give us a brief overview of Carol's humanitarian work?

A: The death of Yugoslavian President Josip Tito in 1980 ended a six-decade-long coalition between the republics of Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, Slovenia, Macedonia, and Montenegro. In 1991 Serbian nationalist groups called for independence in Croatia and Slovenia, leading the Serb - dominated Yugoslav army to lash out in both countries. The ensuing civil war soon engulfed the whole region spilling over into Bosnia. In 1995 NATO intervention brought the war to an end, which divided Bosnia into two self-governing entities—a Bosnian Serb republic and a Muslim-Croat federation.

At the height of the war in late 1992, mum and I joined a mile-long aid convoy to Zagreb, Croatia, in what would be the first of many convoys to these devastated regions. During the following three years, Carol took convoys to Croatia and Bosnia more than twenty times, visiting refugee camps and orphanages, rebuilding schools and hospitals, and clearing the land of mines to allow people to plant donated seeds, using donated shovels. In Karlovac, Croatia, Carol took much-needed aid to orphanages. On the Dalmatian Coast of Croatia, she and other convoy members rebuilt a school in Rovanska and delivered supplies to suffering civilians on the front line in Zadar. In Sarajevo, Bosnia, she delivered surgical equipment to a hospital. Also, in Sarajevo, her convoy members renovated and furnished a school for orphans. In Kupres, Bosnia, Carol’s convoy worked with locals to clear the city of trash and renovate the hospital. Impressive as the work projects and donations were, Carol maintained that the most important service she and other convoy members gave was their love, manifested through hugs, and a readiness to listen. 

After the war in Bosnia ended in December 1995, Carol carried on taking convoys of hope. With her last convoy in 2001, she had been to Croatia and Bosnia more than forty times. 

Q: You accompanied your mother on some of her humanitarian trips. What are some of your memories from these trips?

A: As I reflect on the aid trips I undertook with mum, there are a number of experiences that stand out. I’m not sure whether it was naivety, ignorance, or that part of me that yearns for adventure, but I never gave it a second thought when mum and I had a discussion about how to get the aid to those who needed it most, which meant going to the front lines of the fighting. Getting the aid into the country was one thing; getting it to front line crisis areas in Croatia to make sure it was delivered directly to those in desperate need was another thing entirely.

On one occasion, as I drove the truck to the next village where we were to deliver aid, we could hear gunfire and explosions close by. As we passed homes and buildings in ruins, the destruction, devastation, and the residents’ heart-wrenching pain at the loss of their loved ones clawed at our hearts and followed our every move. Mum felt very nervous and worried about my safety. I wore a hat constantly, so I didn’t stand out so much because of my long blonde hair. On one occasion we stopped at a village that had its own soldiers, feeling we had some protection. We delivered the aid, told stories, and hugged a lot. What small rations of food they had they gladly shared with us. The soldiers invited us to see their home and ushered us to a bedroom shutting the door behind us. Just as I was about to react in defense, the soldiers noticed the shock and worry on our faces and started to laugh. They reached for the weapons they had hidden away. All they wanted was to show us the weapons they had used to defend their village. They were proud of what they had achieved. The Serbians had tried to occupy their land but were not successful. As they told their stories, gradually mum and I began to relax and joined in the laughter as we quietly listened to their tales of heroism.

There were moments where we laughed so hard at the silliest things, which brought small moments of respite and healing. On our return home, we had 1500 miles to drive to reach a comfy bed and normal food! We had delivered all our aid supplies, so the van was empty. Mum was exhausted and for the first time in days had managed to get a few hours of sleep in the back. As I drove, I noticed we were nearing the Croatian/Slovenian border. I called out to mum that the ID checkpoint was coming up. She jumped up half-asleep, diving around the back of the wagon like a crazy person, wobbling around because—surprise, surprise—she had lost her small backpack, which contained all our money and her passport. I pulled up to the border window while mum was still in the back frantically looking for her ID. To my astonishment, they just waved me through without checking. Breathing a sigh of relief, we realized she now couldn’t join me in the front seat—they might think I had a stowaway. As I drove on, I heard mum giggling and squealing in the back as she swung from side to side and rolled around, falling over, her legs in the air, then her behind, lunging back and forth. I couldn’t drive in a straight line as tears of laughter filled my eyes. When we were far enough away from the border, I stopped to let mum out so she could sit with me in the front. Shortly after we got underway, something hit me on the back of the head—it was mum’s missing bag.

Q: How did Carol raise the money and donations she used for humanitarian relief? 

A: Initial donations came from Carol’s appeal to local church members from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. What started out as a local project soon turned into a regional effort, which then grew into a national humanitarian project. The national newspapers, moved by the idea of a mother of seven spearheading such a project, became involved. Nationwide appeals went out on television inspiring others to donate in any way they could. 

As the project grew, Carol traveled throughout the United Kingdom and the United States, devoting her time tirelessly to speaking at conventions, colleges, and other events in order to raise funds for the convoys. She was met with such generosity and was so grateful to all who gave of their substance and to those who donated anonymously.

Q: When did you decide that you wanted to publish her personal writings? What was the process of putting them together and seeking publishing? 

A: Mum spent many years writing a manuscript by hand that she eventually wanted to publish. Sadly, her illness took hold and in 2010 she was taken from us. A year or so later, my father gave me a typed draft of the manuscript, along with many handwritten notes and additional writings, and asked if I would take this on as a project. Having never before published a manuscript, I was nervous and procrastinated, unsure where to start. However, the real reason I held off moving forward with the manuscript was my inability to read through more than a few pages without tears rolling down my cheeks. I could hear her voice in every word I read. I finally chided myself and was able to move through the book with a sense of purpose, one of a longing to bring mum’s manuscript to life and fulfill her desires for it to be published. Around the same time, I received a call from my co-editor Rebecca Johnson asking if she could assist with editing. Having Rebecca to assist me spurred me on and I began searching for a publisher. I researched publishers that might be interested in taking on the manuscript and was delighted to find that Loyd Ericson from Greg Koffords Books knew of my mother and, after reading our proposal, was happy to assist me in preparing the manuscript for publishing. 

Q: What do you feel your mother's legacy is?

A: One could say that my mother is a bit of an anomaly—she was strong but also vulnerable. She was never judgmental and had a courageous naivety that allowed her to seemingly float past danger. As a consequence, many doors opened up for her that otherwise may have remained closed. 

My mother called herself an ordinary woman, but she would demonstrate time and again that her spirit and determination could move mountains. She believed unflinchingly that any one of us is capable of effecting change and can achieve anything they put their mind to.

My siblings and I always say that mum had a super glue effect with everyone: she had charisma, was fun, and just drew people toward her like a moth to light with her healing hugs. Most importantly, and in simple terms, my mother (indeed, both my parents) left a legacy of love for others. 

Q: What do you hope readers will gain from reading this book?

A: Carol had a huge heart—she loved openly and generously shared that love in many ways. Her hugs had the power to heal. She was deeply grateful to her Heavenly Father and threw herself into serving others, promising that she would give a portion of herself “to provide a listening ear, an understanding heart and hands, and feet that would not weary in service.” We cried together, we laughed together, we hugged and consoled others, and our hearts ached for the families who had lost so much. We fell to our knees and prayed together, we faced down many frightening challenges together and rejoiced with grateful hearts at coming out the other side alive. Each convoy presented the volunteers with opportunities to overcome new challenges, experience amazing moments of learning, and discover along the way how truly capable and extraordinary we can all be. I hope readers will believe they too have a tremendous capacity to effect change, whether in their own lives or in the lives of others. Many of us, particularly women, can feel reticent to make the leap into the unknown, afraid to take that first step beyond our comfort zones. This book shows what incredible personal growth could be waiting for us if we take that leap of faith.

Samantha Richardson
September 2020


Preview Miracles Among the Rubble: Bringing Convoys of Humanitarian Aid, Hugs, and Hope to a War-torn Region August 10 2020


Miracles Among the Rubble:
Bringing Convoys of Humanitarian Aid,
Hugs, and Hope to a War-torn Region

By Carol R. Gray
Edited by Samantha Richardson 
and Rebecca Johnson

Download a preview here or view below.

“All those years ago, feeling totally overwhelmed by what I saw of fear and destruction, I turned to the Lord with a yearning I could not understand. Still to this day I do not understand why a dear and loving Heavenly Father prepared the way for me, Carol Gray, an ordinary English wife and mother, to dare to believe that in my small and humble way I could possibly make the difference to a war-wearied country.”

Carol Rosemary Gray was a British mother and homemaker of seven children who became a recognized humanitarian leader in Europe and Africa. After receiving the all clear from her first battle with cancer at age 29, she made a promise to her Heavenly Father that she would live every single day to the fullest. This promise was exemplified years later when she began by organizing and transporting relief aid for victims of the Balkan War during the early 1990s, returning more than 34 times in the following nine years. She then went on to found Hugs International TLC, which, through Carol’s efforts, funded the construction and operating of homes, a school, dormitories, a medical center and a sports field in Ghana for the next 10 years. Carol passed away in 2010 at age 66.

This volume comprises a selection of heart-wrenching and inspiring experiences told in Carol’s poetically unique style of expression. Her stories are a testament to the extraordinary achievements of an ordinary mother, who was able to do remarkable things with nothing more than unwavering faith, the help and guidance of the Holy Ghost, and her relationship with the Savior.





Pioneer Day FLASH SALE up to 70% off retail prices! July 22 2020

Spend some time in pioneer history with this amazing offer. Discounts from 40%–70% off select titles in print and ebook. Running Thursday, July 23 through Monday, July 27 only! 

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