Help me find “The Best Books”

August 22, 2008    By: Matt W. @ 9:40 pm   Category: Life

So, I have noted that my typical habit of buying books and giving them away has once again depleted my inventory. So I have been shopping the internet tonight, and I started thinking about the fact that I should buy books that help people with their issues, which got me to thinking about what all the issues are that my lds and other friends are going through, and I thought I would posit to the group what the best “faithful”* books are that deal with these issues:

So what is the best book(and you can’t answer the scriptures) that deals with:

The LDS perspective on theodicy? (Suffering)

Women’s issues in the LDS church? (Sexism)

Blacks and the Priesthood? (Racism)

The Atonement?






Mental Illness and Disabilities?

Spousal Abuse?


Seriously, I have a person in mind for each of these issues, and would love to help them.

*-think of Bushman’s ”Faithful History” to get what I am trying to convey here.


  1. I can recommend books for maybe half for your list. The others I have not read up on either because I was not interested or affected by the issues. The first one that comes to mind for the Atonement is The Mediation and Atonement by John Taylor. I have only skimmed it but for womens issues I read a bit of Women of Mormondom by Edward Tullidge. Purpose and Fear makes me think of Key to the Science of Theology by Parley P. Pratt, back in the day it was a missionary handbook.I think it probably even touches on most of your list. Its been a few years since I read it and I should read it again as soon as I get it back from a friend. And yes these are all very old books but just happen to be my favorites.

    Comment by David West — August 22, 2008 @ 11:57 pm

  2. My recommendation for relationship issues is The Anatomy of Peace by the Arbinger Group.

    I love The Peacegiver and Believing Christ for the topic of the Atonement.

    And frankly, I think all of these books are generally good books for a whole host of struggles, because in the end, the answer to our struggles is to turn to Christ and strive to be more like Him. The first book, secular though it is, is one of the best books on agency and love in relationships I have ever read. Such an approach to life opens up the love of God in one’s life. It’s one of those books that to me should be required reading.


    Comment by m&m — August 23, 2008 @ 12:46 am

  3. David: I’ll have to crack open my Pratt, as I definitely didn’t get an understanding of purpose and fear out of it on my first reading.

    I’ll have to check out Tullidge’s book, but I have to admit I am suspect of any book by a man on women’s issues…

    Actually, The Anatomy of Peace and the Peacegiver I’ve bought multiple copies of both, but I keep giving them away for reasons like the above! (I gave Anatomy of Peace away again yesterday). I think I’ve owned at least 10 copies of the peacegiver…

    I’ve never read Believing Christ though…

    Comment by Matt W. — August 23, 2008 @ 7:21 am

  4. An excellent book that I recommend is Bruce Hafen’s Covenant Hearts, published by Deseret Book. This book is perhaps the best LDS book about marriage that I have read. It is good for all Latter-day Saints, but may be particularly good in terms of those thinking about divorce or in instances of spousal abuse (especially infidelity).

    Another book I highly recommend, in terms of same-sex attraction issues (you didn’t directly mention this issue, but it seems to be in keeping with the spirit of your post) is In Quiet Desperation, by Ty Mansfield (and a couple other authors), published by Deseret Book. Mansfield’s portion in particular is such an intriguing and inspiring take on living with this problem, and what it means in terms being an active Latter-day Saint and relying on the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

    Also, there is an excellent two-volume set called Counseling: A Guide to Helping Others, published by Deseret Book. It has multiple authors with chapters on a variety of issues (probably just about all of the issues you’ve addressed). It is edited by R. Lanier Britsch and Terrance D. Olsen. I gave both volumes to my father, and he has said that they have been extremely valuable to him as a bishop.

    And you can’t go wrong with Terry Warner’s The Bonds That Make Us Free, concerning relationship issues.

    Comment by Dennis — August 23, 2008 @ 8:53 am

  5. Theodicy: Ostler, Exploring Mormon Thought

    Blacks/race: older, Neither White nor Black; newer, All Abraham’s Children

    Atonement: McMurrin, Theological Foundations of Mormonism

    Polygamy: Daynes, More Wives than One

    Comment by Kevin Barney — August 23, 2008 @ 1:56 pm

  6. Dennis: I’ll have to check out that Counselling set. Oddly, I’ve never read anything by Hafen, but he is often recommended to me.

    That’s interesting because I’d flip McMurrin and Ostler for Theodicy and Atonement, except that I find Ostler a bit complex for the average layperson.

    I’ve been meaning to pick up All Abraham’s Children for quite some time, thanks for the incentive to do so.

    Comment by Matt W. — August 23, 2008 @ 6:19 pm

  7. How does McMurrin deal with the biblical texts on atonement in comparison to Blake? More so?

    Comment by Todd Wood — August 23, 2008 @ 6:45 pm

  8. McMurrin is dated and problematic.

    Most of the best books for a lot of those topics just haven’t been written yet.

    Comment by Clark — August 23, 2008 @ 7:23 pm

  9. Clark: Maybe we should qualify our best books with “best available” then? I agree that McMurrin does have his problems, especially for any Lay Member who might Google him.

    Todd: I’d Say, in my experience, Jennifer Clark Lane does the best job of dealing with OT texts. Here is an example.

    Comment by Matt W. — August 23, 2008 @ 9:06 pm

  10. Hey, Edward Tullidge is the credited author of Women of Mormondom but I think Eliza R. Snow was the driving force behind it, so its not necessarily a man doing a womans issues books on his own.

    Comment by David West — August 23, 2008 @ 10:29 pm

  11. Matt, I’ve been planning on buying multiple copies of those books, myself. You have motivated me to do that — they are just too good not to share.

    I’ll second any recommendations for books from Elder Hafen!

    Another relationship book that I have found helpful is Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend. Not LDS, but Christian, and really well founded in good principles, and I liked how they used most of the scriptures (always will be one or two things I don’t agree with in a Christian book, but this one was a good one for me).

    One more is Crucial Conversations.

    Comment by m&m — August 24, 2008 @ 12:19 am

  12. One more on mental illness is by Alexander Morrison. The title slips my mind, but this gives an overview.

    Comment by m&m — August 24, 2008 @ 12:21 am

  13. p.s. the overview is of what kinds of things he talks about…not saying that is an overview of the book. Sorry. Late.

    Comment by m&m — August 24, 2008 @ 12:21 am

  14. Matt, m&m, and Dennis, it’s good to meet fellow agentivists! There’s more where that came from.

    Comment by Eric Russell — August 24, 2008 @ 4:57 pm

  15. Eric, I have a big stack of documentation from arbinger at home. I think the anatomy of peace does the best job of Summing it all up in a palatable format. I started out with leadership and self-deception, which I think I liked better, except the ending was such a commercial.

    I have been meaning to do a post on the atonement as put forth in the peacegiver, but haven’t had time to give it the attention I think it needs

    Comment by matt W. — August 25, 2008 @ 7:31 am

  16. Matt W: “I agree that McMurrin does have his problems, especially for any Lay Member who might Google him.”

    I must be a little slow this Monday morning. What’s the problem with the Google search for McMurrin you linked to?

    Comment by Randy B. — August 25, 2008 @ 8:13 am

  17. Randy: Top two links are to a book “Matters of conscience” Where McMurrin expresses his disbelief in many of the fundamental tenants of Mormonism, and to an interview in which he very publicly said disparaging things about general authorities. These sorts of things are typically problematic to the average lay member.

    I personally think McMurrin was wrong about quite a few things, but I appreciate his writings on the strengths mormon teachings on our existance comparitively can have in regards to many thelogical issues we are faced with.

    However, I wouldn’t present him as a source to a friend struggling in their faith without expecting to get back the ultimate result that they looked him up and were discouraged that he “didn’t believe”

    Comment by Matt W. — August 25, 2008 @ 8:53 am

  18. For women’s stuff, I’d pick _Sisters in Spirit_, Anderson, Beecher, eds. I think it’s fair without being apologetic, it acknowledges problems without drowning in them. Laurel Ulrich & Emma Lou Thayne’s _All God’s Critters Got a Place in the Choir_ is also good. (Women of Mormondom is interesting as a historical piece, but I suspect it would be frankly horrifying to anyone seriously struggling with the place of women in the church).

    Comment by Kristine — August 25, 2008 @ 1:28 pm

  19. Kristine:

    Thanks, I was thinking Women of Mormondom was a bit dated, and was quite worried at the lack of responses. I was actually rooting around in my Wife’s Aunts library for ideas last night (she has all the Women’s conference books, etc) and was getting frustrated.

    Comment by Matt W. — August 25, 2008 @ 2:12 pm

  20. While we could talk “best available” the problem is that there are some huge gaps here. For instance for LDS philosophy and theology Blake’s book is best, except that he’s not interested in discussing what theology is in the community. He’s interested in pushing his own view which, however skillfully argued, is a rather idiosyncratic one that most Mormons wouldn’t agree with I think. (i.e. he downplays or eliminates a lot of traditional doctrines) It’s also technical and quite long. (3 large volumes and counting) That’s not to downplay the place of Blake in all this. Just to note that I think he’s books are better for eliciting thinking rather than summarizing issues or acting as an introduction.

    Or take polygamy. Van Hale is probably the best short book and it’s a great overview but completely neglects the issue of what it means theologically. But there isn’t a book dealing with polygamy theologically. The closest we have is the introduction to Sacred Loneliness where Compton takes a pretty negative view and sees it as uninspired. There are others but miss out on key aspects (such as Compton’s dynastic thesis)

    Comment by Clark — August 25, 2008 @ 2:20 pm

  21. On sickness/suicide/death/mental illness, I recommend Lester Bush, Health and Medicine among the Latter-day Saints. On women’s issues, I think Kristine is right about Sisters in Spirit (though I think it has some flaws as well. Perhaps also Women of Covenant. I’ll follow Kevin on polygamy and race issues.

    Comment by J. Stapley — August 25, 2008 @ 2:50 pm

  22. On all issues except for polygamy: The Brothers Karamozov.

    Comment by Blake — August 25, 2008 @ 8:21 pm

  23. Racism, Blacks and Priesthood: “Blacks and the Mormon Priesthood” by Marcus Martins. This is the best I’ve read on this topic.

    The same publisher (Millenial Press) has a book on Polygamy. I haven’t read it, but it may be worth checking out.

    “How to Hug a Porcupine” by John Lund is a great book for dealing with toxic personalities, especially within our own families. The book is not written from an LDS perspective, but the author is LDS.

    As for the mental and marriage issues, I don’t have a list of “faithful” books, but there are lots of great books backed by solid research.

    “The Female Brain” by Louann Brizendine deals with the birth to death of the female brain. Outstanding, and I would argue necessary reading for both men and women.

    “Spark” by John Ratey discusses the impact of exercise to brain development, including impacts to learning, stress, female hormones and disabilities such as depression, anxiety, and addiction. If there is such a thing as a miracle drug, you’ll be convinced by the end of this book that it’s exercise.

    “Why Marriages Succeed or Fail” by John Gottman deals with years of research about marriage and divorce. A must read for anyone married, getting married, and especially anyone thinking about divorce. He also has a book called “The 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work” that I would recommend.

    Comment by Darin W — August 29, 2008 @ 8:48 am