At the beginning of the year, I was struggling with a long plateau in my scripture study. I was still reading, but I felt disconnected and uninspired. I continued to read partly out of habit and partly out of faith that if I kept trying I would eventually feel renewed again.
Then I stumbled across the Brief Theological Introduction Series published by the Neal A. Maxwell Institute at BYU. Don’t let the word theology intimidate you, it just means “the scholarly practice of exploring a scriptural text’s implications and its lens on God’s work in the world” (p. viii of all the books in the series [yeah, that’s not a very scholarly reference, deal with it]). In words that are more familiar, theology means to use our life experiences, knowledge, and perspectives to “liken all scriptures unto us, that it might be for our profit and learning” (1 Nephi 19:23).
There are 12 books in the series covering each major book (some of the smaller books are combined and there are two for Alma) each written by a different author. I have read the first six and I have been amazed at what I’ve learned. This series has without a doubt been one of the highlights of my 2020. Along with some other resources, this series has not only helped me to feel connected to the scriptures again but has helped me to really see the people in the scriptures.
I most recently finished Alma 1-29 written by Kylie Nielson Turley The story of Alma as seen by Turley is touching, empathetic, emotional, and very real. She highlights his wickedness, the depth of his repentance, the consequences of his choices that haunted him throughout his life, and the faith and devotion he developed in Jesus Christ. Though the stories were all familiar, Turley helped me to feel the stories.
By far, I was most impacted by her perspective on Alma and Amulek’s experiences in Ammonihah. Before I read the book I had listened to a couple of interviews Turley did (like this one and this one) so I had some idea of what to expect, but I was absolutely gutted as I read about it in the book. I’m not going to spoil it by giving you some watered down recap of it, so you’ll have to discover it for yourselves, but it has impacted me deeply. I have been thinking about it ever since I heard the first interview months ago. The woodcut pictured below is a perfect visual representation of how it felt to read the chapter.
A quick aside: I read the first 5 books in the series on my kindle. The Maxwell Institute was kind enough to send me this book and the book on Helaman in print and I had completely underestimated the impact the visual and tactical elements of the print copy added to the experience. They are gorgeous.
I am more aware of Alma’s wickedness and mistakes, but instead of making me like him less it helps me to relate to him more. I discovered a man whose gifts have been used for both evil and good. I discovered a man who did his best only to have everything turn out terribly. I discovered a man who was pushed to the limit in his discipleship. I have felt those things too. I now see some of myself in Alma.
I really struggle to communicate the depth and range of feelings this book brought out in me. However, Turley unsurprisingly summed it up well:
GIVEAWAY – CLOSED
I cannot recommend this book and all the books in the series enough. If you’re torn about whether or not you want to read it, listen to or watch one of the interviews linked above, which are both free. I really, really want more people to read it and so I’ll help someone get started: Leave a comment on this post and I will send one person a physical or digital copy of this book (though you know which I would recommend).
Giveaway will close Wednesday, December 16h, 8:00 PST.
(And I’ll just give you a hint: Since I’ve majorly neglected my blog over the last few years, I will likely not get very many entries and you have an excellent chance of winning!)