Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Edith's Story

Author: Edith Velmans
Pages: 239
Rating: PG - Edith never goes to any of the camps and doesn't have to witness many horrors
In 1940, while the Germans occupied Holland, fourteen-year-old Edith van Hessen was filling her diary with the intimate, carefree details of a typical teenager's life — thoughts about boys, school, her family, her friends, her future. By 1942, as Edith was contemplating her first kiss, the Germans had begun to escalate their war against the Jews. Soon this bright, fun-loving girl was grappling with one of the most unfathomable events in human history. Edith's family — assimilated Dutch Jews — were caught in the cross fire of the Holocaust, and Edith began a bitter struggle to survive.

In this extraordinary work, Edith Velmans weaves together revealing entries from her diaries with reminiscences and letters smuggled between family members during the occupation. Edith's Story stands as a profoundly important addition to the literature of the Holocaust, documenting one girl's grief, loss, courage, and ultimate triumph over devastating tyranny and despair. For as Edith is hidden in plain sight by a Christian family, we witness how a young woman must deny, bargain with, and finally face the horrors of war — and how, confronting evil as a child, Edith survives to become an extraordinary woman.

My Thoughts: Edith Van Hessen has been called "The Anne Frank who lived." I felt like this was a very fitting description for her because, like Anne Frank, Edith kept a diary for a large part of the war, and she was also extremely optimistic. There's a quote from Anne Frank's diary where she says something about how she strives to see the good in everything and everyone, and that's very much how Edith was. She did her best to keep a sunny outlook and cheerful disposition, trying to find the best in every situation, no matter how difficult her life became.

I personally loved this book because it was so different from the other Holocaust survival stories I've read. Edith and her familiy had managed to secure visas to America before the Nazis occupied Holland, but they didn't leave because they were unable to get a visa for their grandmother and they couldn't bear to leave her. Edith had two older brothers, and it was decided that the oldest would go. Edith is hidden with a friend's family, in plain sight. She is explained to the neighbors as a family friend who came to visit just for the summer, but then her parents were both in the hospital, so they couldn't bear to send her home. No one suspects a thing, and Edith survives without any difficulties. However, she goes through the guilt and the horror of surviving and living just fine when her family members are having to deal with unkown horrors. She has no idea what is happening to them, and will not find out about it until after the war is over.

I really just enjoyed this book a lot. It was amazing to see how Edith refused to succumb to hoplessness and despair even when everything around her was crumbling. She kept her head up and rarely asked "why me?" It was inspirational.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Odds Are, You're Going to Be Exalted

Author: Alonzo L Gaskill (assistant director of Church history and doctrine at BYU)
Pages: 109
Rating: G
Summary: Many Latter-day Saints worry whether they are capable of reaching the celestial kingdom. Are these anxieties born of a sense of unworthiness or is it just that we just don't think we can "do it all"? Author Alonzo Gaskill believes that such pessimism results from misunderstanding God's great plan of happiness and what it is the Lord actually requires of us.
In this hope-filled book, Brother Gaskill reminds us of God's declaration: "For behold, this is my work and my glory - to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man" (Moses 1:39). He explores the teachings of the scriptures and modern prophets, which testify of God's unfailing love and mercy and of His power and desire to bless His children.
This book is a joyful affirmation of each individual's potential and ability, through the atonement of Christ, to achieve all that God has in mind for us. When our Father in Heaven introduced the great plan of happiness in the premortal world, it's objective was that we might not only be saved from death and sin but also ultimately exalted.

My Thoughts: This is a wonderful book for everyone to read! Sometimes we can get discouraged and feel like the task of making it to the Celestial kingdom is too much. When we ask ourselves if we're going to make it, we feel like maybe we won't. We are trying, but maybe it's not enough. This book uses scriptures and words from modern prophets to give us a good deal of encouragement! We do not need to feel afraid that God will only save a very small portion of his children, or those who have been THE MOST faithful in their lives. Why would a loving God consign the majority of his children to misery? His plan was created so that actually the MAJORITY of his children would return back to him.

The book contains some wonderful explanations on the concept of grace (something I think most Mormons don't fully understand) and the power of the Atonement to overcome all. I love the quote, "We must recognize that grace and works are not opposties, but rather two ends of the same stick; two facets of the same eternal plan; two necessary parts of the same redemptive act - the atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ."

Another great quote I loved, "All too often we assume that only a small, select few will return to the Father's presence, there to dwell with Him for time and for all eternity. Yes, only the select will have the honor and privilege of so doing. But who is it that the Father has selected for this great blessing? Our answer - all  of His children!"

The book also points out that while it may seem that there are very few good people on this earth today, we have to think about all those who have already lived. In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, we believe that those who do not hear or understand the word of God in this life will have the chance to accept it in the next, and thereby still attain their exaltation. We also believe that all children who die before the age of 8 are automatically saved in the kingdom of God. If you look at all of human history, the book states, more than half of the human family has died before reaching the age of 8. HALF! All of them have made it back to God's presence. Then, if you take into account all the mentally handicapped people who have lived on this earth - they also are automatically heirs of exaltation. Just those numbers alone account for billions of people who will be there in the Celestial Kingdom.

If you ever need a pick-me-up, a reassurance that you are doing ok, that you CAN and WILL make it, pick up this little book.