Tuesday, April 14, 2015

To the Rescue: The Biography of Thomas S. Monson

Author: Heidi S. Swinton
Pages: 528
Rating: G

To the Rescue is the much-anticipated official biography of President Thomas S. Monson. Beginning with President Monson's family heritage and his early years in Salt Lake City, it includes his vocational preparation and his career in the world of journalism. More important, this inspiring book recounts his lifetime of Church service. Called as a bishop at the age of twenty-two, as a mission president at thirty-one, and as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve at age thirty-six, he has traveled the globe to minister to the Saints for more than fifty years. This book shares many of his personal experiences, from his visits behind the Iron Curtain to his contributions on the Scriptures Publication Committee and in the missionary and welfare areas; it also provides up-to-the-minute information about his work as Church President. Filled with wonderful photographs and little-known accounts, this biography is a portrait of a leader who ministers both to the one and to the many, and who is completely dedicated to doing whatever the Lord prompts him to do.

My Thoughts: I've been slowly reading this book over the last several months, and finally finished it. SO GOOD. I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about the life of a man I have admired and loved ever since I was a child. President Monson is unique in that he has spent the majority of his life in full-time service to the church. But yet, he has always listened intently to the Spirit, and reached out to individuals. He has never allowed himself to get lost in the prestige of his calling or the importance of his work. He always makes time for the small things, to visit old friends, to make new friends, and to speak at the funerals of the many people whose lives he has touched. He never lets meetings to be run become more important than an individual who may need a minute of his attention.

After reading this book, I had an even deeper respect for President Monson than I ever have before. I would say to anyone who questions the way the church is run, read this book. Once you learn about the kind of man President Monson is, there is no question left in your mind but that he cares for each person individually, and that he is doing his absolute best to run the Church the way the Lord would have it done. He is seriously an incredible man, and I felt inspired as I read it to try a little harder to reach out and show kindness to others. If I have the feeling to do something nice for someone, I shouldn't second guess it or rationalize the thought away, I should just do it. I don't know, maybe that small act is the answer to a prayer.

One of my favorite quotes was towards the end and I think perfectly encapsulates the type of person that President Monson is. "Some people, if they are really prominent, he will treat very kindly but he probably won't visit their homes. But if you are the lowly of the earth, he is likely to drop in any time." He truly cares about each individual he meets. I highly recommend reading this book. You'll want to be a better person, trust me.

Monday, April 6, 2015

The Chronicles of Narnia

Author: C. S. Lewis
Books in Series: The Magician's Nephew; The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe; The Horse and His Boy; Prince Caspian; The Voyage of the Dawn Treader; The Silver Chair; The Last Battle

The Magician's Nephew: On a daring quest to save a life, two friends are hurled into another world, where an evil sorceress seeks to enslave them. But then the lion Aslan's song weaves itself into the fabric of a new land, a land that will be known as Narnia. And in Narnia, all things are possible. (This is the story of how Narnia is created, and also how the white witch came to be in Narnia.)

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe:
Four adventurous siblings—Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie—step through a wardrobe door and into the land of Narnia, a land frozen in eternal winter and enslaved by the power of the White Witch. But when almost all hope is lost, the return of the Great Lion, Aslan, signals a great change . . . and a great sacrifice.

The Horse and His Boy
 On a desperate journey, two runaways meet and join forces. Though they are only looking to escape their harsh and narrow lives, they soon find themselves at the center of a terrible battle. It is a battle that will decide their fate and the fate of Narnia itself. (This one is the most disconnected from the rest of the books, in that it is about a random character who never surfaces in any other stories. But it was still interesting.)

Prince Caspian 
The Pevensie siblings travel back to Narnia to help a prince denied his rightful throne as he gathers an army in a desperate attempt to rid his land of a false king. But in the end, it is a battle of honor between two men alone that will decide the fate of an entire world.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader 
A king and some unexpected companions embark on a voyage that will take them beyond all known lands. As they sail farther and farther from charted waters, they discover that their quest is more than they imagined and that the world's end is only the beginning.

The Silver Chair
Through dangers untold and caverns deep and dark, a noble band of friends is sent to rescue a prince held captive. But their mission to Underland brings them face-to-face with an evil more beautiful and more deadly than they ever expected.

The Last Battle
During the last days of Narnia, the land faces its fiercest challenge—not an invader from without but an enemy from within. Lies and treachery have taken root, and only the king and a small band of loyal followers can prevent the destruction of all they hold dear in this, the magnificent ending to The Chronicles of Narnia.

My Thoughts: I read all the Narnia books back in 4th grade, but barely remembered how they went, so I decided to read them again, this time specifically looking for the religious aspect of the books. Which was a really fun thing to do really. I enjoyed picking out the parallels between Aslan and Christ, each time the great lion shows up in the stories.I personally feel that while each book is a great, adventuresome story, told in a very personal way (Lewis writes as if he is telling each story to you and only you) there really is no way to escape the religious themes of the books. To me, they were SO OBVIOUS! Which is what made the books so fun to read, for me. I would say my least favorite was "The Horse and His Boy" although I still enjoyed the underlying theme of it that Christ is always there helping us along our path, even if we may not realize it.

My favorite book, hands down was "The Last Battle." There is so much based on religion in that book, I can't even begin to start describing it. But it was so good, particularly the end of it. Honestly, while these books were technically written for children, I would definitely recommend them to any adult, especially a religious one. I felt like I learned so many great lessons about faith, loyalty, redemption, and the love of Christ. It was definitely worth the time it took to reread them all.