Double Book Review: Alma 30-63 and Helaman

This series. I know I keep talking about it, but every single one of them has been incredible. They speak to my soul in a way that’s difficult to describe. I find myself thinking about them for weeks and months afterwards. I keep trying to describe what I’ve learned from them to other people and eventually just say, “Okay, I’m doing a terrible job describing the principle, you have to read them!”

I have to admit that I was a little nervous to read the Alma 30-63 volume of the series by Mark A. Wrathall. I loved the book on the first half of Alma so much I had a hard time imagining how the second one written by someone else about the same prophet could even come close.

However, my fears were completely unfounded. When I finished the last page and closed the book I literally said, “Wow, that is one impactful book!” Wrathall is a professor of philosophy at Oxford and his experience plays a huge part in the way he analyzes these chapters in Alma. Some of my favorite parts include how Wrathall breaks down Korihor’s arguments and his treatment of Alma’s sermon on the seed. Seeing these interactions deconstructed and labeled really helped me to better understand the fundamental teachings in a way that has been so thought provoking.

If you’ve ever wondered how faith and belief are different, this book is for you. If you’ve ever felt frustrated at your lack of knowledge of eternal things, this book is for you. If you’ve ever been frustrated at the tension created by seemingly contradictory doctrines or desires, this book is for you.

The section on tension was particularly powerful to me because it helped me to find peace with a very present tension I’ve been struggling with this week. This book helped me to make some connections that have already made a difference in my life and helped me to understand God’s will for me in a new way. I am really grateful not only for this book in general, but the timing in which I was able to read it.

I highly recommend this book!

I was also able to read the volume on Helaman by Kimberly Matheson Berkey this week. I know it is starting to feel like I’m overselling this series or that this is all hyperbole, but I am completely sincere in all my gushing. This book helped me to see Helaman in a completely new way.

Berkey points out that many of us mentally skip over Helaman as we get excited about Christ’s arrival in 3rd Nephi. I admit that I have 100% been guilty of that. As I read this book I was constantly amazed at how much the things in the book of Helaman are so incredibly important in the context of our lives today. There were so many passages that I read and thought, “Wow! I wish everyone could understand that!”

This book is centered around the theme of sight. It talks a lot about how we can get so distracted by the different masks we wear that we don’t, or can’t, acknowledge our own blind spots.

It actually really reminded me of this chart that is often used by therapists and counselors:

This book encouraged me to take a deep look at myself and evaluate whether or not the weaknesses and pride that is so easy to spot in others is present in my own soul. I found myself wanting to weed out the distractions I use to justify not growing in areas that are hard.

If your relationship with social media or politics sometimes overwhelms you, this book is for you. If you find yourself keeping others at arms length because you are scared they won’t like you if they get to know you, this book is for you. If you want to learn more about how repentance is not just remission of sin but a impetus for righteous change, this book is for you.

Both of these books are relatively short, but they both pack a punch. My only wish is that someday the Maxwell Institute will build on these brief theological introduction books and give us more!

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