Christmas Book Review Series: Letters to a Young Mormon
WELCOME TO THE EXPONENT BOOK REVIEW SERIES AND CYBER MONDAY GIVEAWAY!
Over this week and ending on Cyber Monday, we will share our thoughts on books that we think you should consider as possible Christmas gifts for yourself and others! As in the past, everyone who comments on a post will be entered into the draw to win a copy of one of the books that we have reviewed! (Choice of electronic or hard copies in the domestic US, digital copies outside of this area). Your comment on each post gives you one entry (multiple comments on the same post will not give you additional entries.) This year, we are adding comments on the Book Review posts shared on the Exponent Facebook page in addition to comments on the blog.
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Adam S. Miller’s Second Edition of Letters to a Young Mormon is not quite 100 pages, but it is a slim volume meant for savoring and slow reading. The book is written as a series of letters from the author to his children on topics ranging from temples to agency to hunger. New to this edition are two additional letters on the Sabbath day and stewardship, along with expanded material in the letters on sin, science, and sex.
Miller’s work does a beautiful job achieving his self-stated goal of addressing “the real beauty and real costs of trying to live a Mormon life.”
For me, the subject of keeping the Sabbath day holy has become a bit touchy since we were bombarded with lessons and talks on the topic for months on end over the past year or so. I felt like it had become a virtue contest, a “here’s what you are and aren’t allowed to do on Sunday” righteousness exhibition, and I was very troubled that, in these days of so much injustice and inequity in the world and all-around problematic church policy, our church leaders decided that what we really needed as members was to improve our Sabbath observance. Miller helped refresh my cynical view of Sundays.
In his letter on the Sabbath, Miller introduces the idea that Sundays are “God’s way of interrupting our lives. It’s his way of interrupting time, of breaking its spell.” By keeping the Sabbath day, we are able to be more fully present in our day to day activities.
“Book of Mormon prophets and priests focused on one thing: persuading the people “to look forward as though he already was” (Jarom 1:11). This is a solid, all-purpose description of what it means to be redeemed: we’re redeemed when we look forward to Christ by living as though he had already come again. The only way to look forward to resting in God’s presence is to rest in God’s presence now. It doesn’t matter whether we’re waiting for Christ’s first or second coming. Either way, we enter into the rest of the Lord by practicing a sabbatical way of life. Instead of waiting for Jesus to come and the world to end, we live life out of order… We let the end arrive early every week. We let the millennium begin now. We take the Sabbath as a gate that, every week, lets more and more of eternity stream into time until the whole of life is flooded with God’s rest. In this sense, every Sabbath is a miniature end time, a tiny eschaton, a local second coming where we practice, collectively, living as though Christ had already come.”
For those, like me, who aren’t necessarily young but are certainly still “green in their faith,” Miller’s book is a refreshing take on tired topics. Whether or not you’ve already read the first edition of this book (it was originally published in 2013), I strongly recommend picking up the second edition.
Though “Mormon” has become a bit of a loaded term of late, Letters to a Young Mormon made me want to be a better one.