LDS Books

I was asked to recommend some books.  I am going to first discuss some of what I’ve read over the years.
The first year after joining the church I was eager to learn what the religion was about.  I began reading whatever I could find to inform me about the new faith.  I started with the following, which I obtained from a bookstore inside the home of a woman in the ward: 
A Marvelous Work and a Wonder, by LeGrand Richards.
The Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt
Life of Heber C. Kimball
Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith
Jesus the Christ
Documentary History of the Church by Joseph Smith (all volumes)
I was transferred by the Air Force to Texas, and continued to read there until my discharge from the military.  While there I read the following:
The Life of John Taylor
Comprehensive History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints by BH Roberts (all volumes)
Evidences and Reconciliations
The Gospel Kingdom
Mormon Doctrine
The Promised Messiah
The Articles of Faith
The House of the Lord
The Mortal Messiah (all volumes)
Ensign, Conference Report and Journal of Discourses (not all volumes read)
Doctrinal New Testament Commentary
The History of Joseph Smith by His Mother Lucy Mack Smith
Discourses of Brigham Young
Brigham Young: American Moses
Doctrines of Salvation (3 volumes)
Answers to Gospel Questions (5 volumes)
Gospel Doctrine by Joseph F. Smith
Messages of the First Presidency (6 volumes)
By the time I arrived at BYU, I thought I was beginning to understand the faith, at least as it was taught and understood at the beginning.  There was a debate between BH Roberts and the Chaplin of the United States Senate which I really liked.  It was titled “The Mormon Doctrine of Deity: The Roberts and Van Der Donckt Debate.”  Nibley’s book The Timely and the Timeless came out and I still have my original copy.   During law school I also discovered Hugh Nibley, and found an actual Deseret Book store.  Back then Deseret Book sold doctrine.  In fact, almost everything they sold or printed was doctrine or history.  I bought and read until I couldn’t find an early or contemporary work about church history or doctrine I hadn’t read.  I have acquired a library since joining the church that includes every significant LDS doctrinal book as it became available in print.  I still try and keep up with all the current reading that I believe is worthwhile.  But the new stuff is getting thinner and thinner in material, importance and doctrine.  In fact, it is quite rare that a new book isn’t disappointing to me; particularly when it comes from Deseret Book.  The Joseph Smith Papers project is the exception; however it is coming out under the Church’s new publication arm (a division of Deseret Book.)  A good example of the foolishness to which Deseret Book has descended is that Odds Are You’re Going to be Exalted book that came out a couple of years ago. 
That having been said, I was asked by someone what I thought was absolutely essential reading.  Here’s my list:
The scriptures (first, foremost and without peer)
Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith
Lectures on Faith
Words of Joseph Smith
Approaching Zion, by Hugh Nibley
The Second Comforter: Conversing With the Lord Through the Veil

I think if you study those six books, you will understand the Gospel.

7 thoughts on “LDS Books

  1. Thank you for that list. I’d never heard of the “Words of Joseph Smith” book until now. A quick look on Amazon had the cheapest copy selling for $193 :).

    Could you discuss further the “Odds Are You’re Going to be Exalted” book sometime? It seems like there is some momentum in the church toward acceptance of the fact that everyone is going to be exalted. Those who support this idea have many quotes from church leaders past that would seem to support their position.

    I toyed with the idea for a time, but it became clearer through everything that I was studying at the time that it could not be the case.

    Anyway, I’d be curious to hear your take on this subject.

  2. Thank you for your list. I rarely go to Deseret Book anymore…. they do have some nice cards (for all occassions._ ;)

    I have read most of the list you posted (Not all)…

    I’ve read the last 6 you listed. I’m currently reading “In God’s Image and Likeness” by Jeffery Bradshaw…. it is good.

    I also recently really enjoyed “One Eternal Round” by Hugh Nibley and Michael Roades.

    Another book I’m just about finished with (I jump back and forth between books) is “Dynasty of the Holy Grail” by Vern Swanson. It has been a wonderful read… speculative…. but lots of great footnotes to many of the early brethren teachings.

    I would also recommend “The Last Days–Types and Shadows from the Bible and Book of Mormon” and “The Literary Message of Isaiah” by Avraham Gileadi.

    There are others that I like….but they may be to odd for some….so I will not list them.

  3. My mistake… I have not read “Words of Joseph Smith”… I think I confused it with Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Thank you Russ for helping me see that.

    As I thought about it, I also really like “The Comprehensive History of the Church” by BH Roberts. After reading Truman Madsen’s biography of BH Roberts “Defender of the Faith” I felt almost obligated to read it….. given the sacrifice and effort of Brother Roberts in writing it… I would have felt guilty not reading it. It was wonderful reading.

    Anther work by BH Roberts that had a huge impact on me was “The Way, The Truth, The Life.” He has a couple of speculative chapters which created some “discussion” among the brethren…. I love it and found it very edifying.

    I am so grateful to all those (including you Denver) who have a talent for writing and sharing with us that don’t have that talent or skill. :)

    thank you.

  4. I have it on fairly reliable authority that a new edition of The Words of Joseph Smith is being prepared. I would not purchase it as a used book, because it has become “rare” and therefore quite expensive. I bought it when it was first in print. Wait. It will be in print again soon I think. Also, you can find it as an electronic copy on the LDS Library discs which get sold through Deseret Book from time to time. That, also, is undergoing an update and I’m not sure if they are currently available. But they will be again as well.

  5. Your list of 6 are at the top of my list as well. I hope you are correct about WJS. I get tired of checking it out at the local library.

    I do recommend books by John Pontius (The triumph of Zion and Following the Light of Christ).

  6. Denver, David Christienson my friend first brought your blog to my attention a month or so ago because of that Book of Mormon Geography post, a subject I have studied for many years. And I’ve been pretty impressed so far with your knowledge and your obvious personal acquaintance with the Savior.

    You can reply to this personally to me in an email or post your reply, or you could choose not to reply I suppose.

    Please elaborate on your reasons for saying that the “Odds are you are going to be exalted” book is “foolishness.” I found it ironic that as I was reading your post, I was agreeing with you about everything you were saying at the first of the post about Deseret Book, and the thought went through my mind, “He’s absolutely right, except that book that I found that I thought was so great, that Odds are you will be exalted book.” Then when I came to the end of your post, I saw that the very book I was so impressed with was the one that you chose to call foolishness. I feel I would like to understand precisely why you would say such a thing about that book. I think that it is an important book for many reasons, giving people hope on something that really gives them a lot of anxiety in life.

    Thank you.

    Ed Goble

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