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Mormonism for Dummies, which I believe was endorsed as a missionary book by the DesNews' review.

I've sent all my brothers out with a sprial-bound book of articles and reproduced book chapters of things they'll inevitably want to know about, so they have good sources to do so.

My youngest brother is about to start at BYU, go on a mission in January. He's read his brothers' bound books, lots of Stephen Robinson, How Wide the Divide, some Bart Ehrman, some Church History, Robert Millet's book from the Evangelical press, and some other stuff. I'm wondering if and how it will make a difference, depending on where he goes.

Assuming the prospective missionary has read the Book of Mormon, I suggest his time is better spent reading the New Testament the Doctrine in Covenants, in full and at least twice before pursuing any other books. Genesis, Exodus, Deuteronomy, and the Old Testament prophets should also be read at least once, and the Pearl of Great Price.

After that, I suggest the next most useful book is Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Closes the ambiguities in the shared understanding of LDS doctrine and theology more than any other non-canonical book.

"Religions of the World: A Latter-day Saint Perspective", by Spencer J. Palmer, or something comparable would be my next choice, followed by a decent introduction to ecclesiastical history, something that covers the theological disputes immediately prior to and after the Protestant Reformation.

"Eternal Man", by Truman Madsen is an excellent introduction to the issues of LDS theology in a wider theo-sophical context, if a bit brief.

And last, "Church History in the Fulness of Times", the Institute manual. More than adequate for missionary purposes. Story of the Latter-day Saints is informative, but *dull* - reads like a chronology without a soul.

The missionary can read Articles of Faith and Jesus the Christ on his or her mission, although I think the former is more relevant than the latter. In other words, I do not think JTC teaches anything that the New Testament doesn't teach better. A good modern book on the LDS approach to the controversy over grace vs. works would be good, but I do not know one off hand.

"and the Doctrine and Covenants"

I'd suggest, if they are going to a foreign mission, that they find time for a book on the history of the country they'll be going to.

My dad recommended the Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt to me before my mission.

While in the MTC, I actually read the entire "Missionary Library" - a set of about four uniformly colored paperbacks:

-A Marvelous Work and a Wonder, LeGrande Richards

-Jesus the Christ, Talmage

-The Articles of Faith, Talmage

-Truth Restored/Gospel Principles, Gordon B. Hinckley


I know the scholarship is dated in the Talmage and Richards books, but I actually think these aren't bad books for a missionary to read. The logic fits pretty well with the mental paradigm a young missionary is already operating under. Besides, I think that it's mandatory for any aspiring Mormon scholar or advocate to be at least well-grounded in some reliable old warhorse apologetics from the turn of the century, even if he or she ultimately discards them as innacurate. It's a part of our culture doggonit!

You need to read Talmage's take on Josephus and others, regardless of accuracy.

Besides, it's not like your standard investigator, even in the Bible Belt, is going to have the scholarly ammunition to take on Talmage anyway. So it's perfectly adequate and I actually don't think the current offerings are really lacking.

And I have to say Dave,

If a young missionary has read the "Missionary Library" outlined above, and the entire standard works (yes, you have to finish the Old Testament), he'll be head and shoulders above about 80% of the missionaries going into the field if my experience in the early 90s is any guide.

I'll second Capt. Jack's suggestion to read up on the history of the country you're going to. I'd also suggest trying to find a classic novel from that country in translation and read it as well.

I think the fact that missionaries can come out of four or five (a year of institute) years of CES with so little information is impressive. I don't blame the missionaries as much as I blame CES. I remember sitting in seminary in high school watching my teacher act like a clown because he thought that was the way to keep the students' interest and turning to the person next to me and saying, "This is why seminary is a waste of time." The teacher heard it and talked to me after class about it. I told him that if I was going to spend hours and hours in seminary I would rather learn something than sit and play games and watch him act out. He admitted that many students could learn a lot more but that he was aiming for the lowest common denominator.

In another incident with the same teach we were discussing OD2 and he denied in front of the class that BRM had ever taught anything racist or that he had taught that black people had been less valiant in the pre-existence. I was dumbstruck. Again he took me aside after class and admitted that he had lied to the whole class but that you couldn't discuss stuff like that.

Some of these kids were leaving on their missions in less than six months and a frank discussion about OD2 is off limits???

I also found it odd that all my seminary teachers had physical education degrees, and many of them were doing graduate work in that field of study. One did get an MBA. None had degrees that had anything to do with religion or even philosophy or history.

I will admit that most of my first year of seminary was excellent and the last three years of institute were amazing. Of course those three years were after my mission and since then the institute director had to leave the position because CES refused to pay him a living wage. Oddly his replacement is reportedly not nearly as good but makes several times more money.

Steadfast and Immoveable by Robert Millett and Reaching for the Invisible God, by Phillip Yancey (which I have just discovered to my great dismay is missing from my shelf), and Les Miserables, the unedited version.

I tend to agree that few learn too much from Seminary. On the other hand I'm not sure that kind of learning is necessary. I'm a big proponent of ignorance sometimes helping as it forces you to draw on the spirit. Not all missionaries do that, of course. But I think they tend to do it more than those who might be able to debate more academically. Further I think that the number of people, as a practical matter, who are convinced by academic debate is limited in the culture at wide. Those who do demand that kind of evidence aren't apt to be convinced by Mormons producing such arguments anyway. (i.e. they demand a kind of public evidence I just don't see religion being able to provide)

It's hard for me to judge too much since I never attended release time seminary in Utah or Idaho. More the "dang that's way too early" classes at 6:30 in the "frontier" where sometimes your instructors weren't exactly that up on the scriptures or history themselves. And can anyone remember anything at 6:30 anyway?

Some of you are being too hard on LDS youth and their level of education.

Any of you watch Jeopardy?

Me and my siblings used to (we were in about High School and Junior High at the time). We'd smile every time the topic "The Bible" came up as a category. Because we new every single answer while the adult contestants would frown and look at the lecturns in silence.

Mormon kids already have a level of scriptural comprehension that is far and away superior to your average American.

So cut our youth some slack will ya?

Aside from obvious doctrinal books.. the most valuable book a Missionary could read is Dale Carnigie's (sp) "How to Win Friends and Influence People" It teaches you how to do small talk, how to become interested in other people's lives, so you can more effectively teach them. It is not flashy, and kind of old-school.. but it has very helpful stuff in it.. especially when you consider that on a lot of missions 90% of the time interacting with people informally, and maybe 10% formally teaching. Learning skills for use in that "informal" time can be very valuable.

While in Japan, I read "Dragonball" comics fairly religiously (haven't been smitten yet, but I'm waiting for it). The third grade reading level worked well for me and actually improved my Japanese quite a bit.

Of course, an unfortunate result was that I was able to say "DIE you @#$%#&!" more fluently than "God speaks to us through prophets" ...

Oh well, you can't have everything, I guess.

I called up a RM from Japan before our last trip to Disneyland and asked them how to say "excuse me" in Japanese, because of what had happened the years before.

I ended up saying "excuse me" in Japanese to a lot of Korean and Chinese people, which bothered them a great deal. But I did say it correctly and loudly.

I think Porter's right, also maybe they should read something to help their self esteem, since they'll be going to that boot camp known as the MTC.

[edited]

You're better off not trying to guess what nationality an ethnic "Asian" is.

Generally speaking, they all sorta hate each other. So a Korean is going to be really torqued off if you imply he is Japanese.

I'm actually pretty good at spotting a Japanese face and distinguishing it from a Chinese or Korean face (they are actually very different). Usually, my first guess is correct. But even I don't try to guess a stranger's ethnicity. You're better off just asking if you really need to know.

I read several books re Taiwan/China during my mission to Taiwan. I read two or three novels by Pearl Buck, including The Good Earth. Read a couple of famous Chinese novels translated into English. I read works on Confucious. Taoism. Some general histories on China. One book entitled "My Country and My People" particularly stands out.

You've made some good suggestions. I'd recommend "Stages of Faith" by James Fowler.

Remini is good. I read it in two days. I still think Bushman is better, despite its denseness.

I have to repress my urge to recommend "full disclosure" books, or books that will challenge their faith. Such books are important, but probably better left for after a mission. I stumbled upon Fawn Brodie at a college library in Taiwan (had never heard of her before), read a chapter or so, and was pretty shaken for a couple of weeks. A mission is probably not the place to engage in a full scale, in depth analysis of Church History.

Any book that focuses on Christ, or any book that helps narrow the gap between "us and them" is a good book "in my book".

US missions: Martin Marty, Pilgrims in their Own Land: 500 Years of Religion in America (Penguin, 1984)

Foreign missions: Roger Keller and Spencer Palmer, Religions of the World: A Latter-day Saint View (BYU, 1990)

GA title: Hinckley, Gospel Principles

General: C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

The Book of Mormon on Trial by Milton Rich is available at miltonrich.com.

What did you guys edit? Not mad, just curious, I'd forgotten about my comment.

I've spoken Russian to many different nationalities of people and if they're not Russian, they're not insulted. They think it's cool that I even know the cyrillic alphabet at all.

I think there's something there that I don't understand.

I would suggest to any missionary to familiarize themselves with the history and geography of the country they're going to, or the state. People of other countries don't think Americans care about them and when we express interest and even the most elementary knowledge of their country, they're gratified.

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