Of Making Many Books There is no End

by Tari Cartwright

An excerpt from
Eternal Harvest, An LDS Perspective on Homeschooling
and Accelerated Learning

Teaching one another words of wisdom demands that we study and seek out of the “best books”

Hugh Nibley wrote: “We are commanded to build a house of study [in which] people are to “seek . . . out of the best books words of wisdom” (D&C 88:118). A list of the best books had not yet been supplied. We must find these ourselves by diligently searching. If the scriptures bind the worlds together, the writings of man bind together the generations and the dispensations” (Approaching Zion, p. 296; D&C 109:14-16, given at the dedication of the first temple, the great temple of Kirtland, which was to become a house of learning, a house of prayer).

Books that contain eternal values and truths, books that teach and exemplify truth are the “best books”. Ezra Taft Benson said: “With the abundance of books available, it is the mark of a truly educated man to know what not to read.”

Of making many books there is no end.
~~Ecclesiastes 12:12~~

In your reading you would do well to follow the counsel of John Wesley’s mother: “Avoid ‘whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, takes off your relish for spiritual things, [and] increases the authority of the body over the mind.” (from Teachings, pp. 304-305.)

In a positive light, then, the “best books” are to be chosen that strengthen reason, enlarge the tenderness of conscience, enlighten the sense of God, create a relish for spiritual things, and increase the authority of the mind over the body.

We can find these books in the study of history, sciences of all categories, literature and several other fields. Joseph F. Smith also admonished students to “seek out of the best books knowledge and understanding. Read history. Read philosophy, if you wish. Read anything that is good, that will elevate the mind and will add to your stock of knowledge, that those who associate with you may feel an interest in your pursuit of knowledge and of wisdom”. (C.R., 1903, p. 98.)

Libraries and bookstores may have hundreds of choices but few may be categorized as the “best books”. Books that “elevate the mind,” “enlarge conscience, enlighten a sense of God”, “create a relish for spiritual things”. Ezra Taft Benson acknowledged that popularity is not an indicator of a worthy publication. He taught: “The fact that a book or publication is popular does not necessarily make it of value. The fact that an author wrote one good work does not necessarily mean that all his books are worthy of your reading. Do not make your mind a dumping ground for other people’s garbage. It is harder to purge the mind of rotten reading than to purge the body of rotten food, and it is more damaging to the soul.” (as quoted in In His Steps, Teachings, p. 304-305.)

Latter-day prophets teach about the importance of creating a home library for our families. A tour of the Beehive House reveals part of the private library belonging to Brigham Young which is very impressive. Brigham Young’s advice about choosing good books is memorable. He said: “I would advise you to read books that are worth reading; read reliable history, and search wisdom out of the best books you can procure…We should not only study good, and its effects upon our race, but also evil, and its consequences. All men should study to learn the nature of mankind, and to discern that divinity inherent in them. A spirit and power of research is planted within, yet they remain undeveloped.” (Discourses, p. 257.)

What about the reading of novels? Some haven’t time for novels and others insist that novel reading is a waste of time. Brigham Young said this: “Novel reading-is it profitable? I would rather that persons read novels than read nothing.” (Ibid.) Spencer W. Kimball said he had over a thousand books in his home library (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 256).

Home libraries are becoming more and more necessary as classical literature and history are taught less in government schools and it has become vogue to change history in the name of entertainment. Public libraries may contain more popular selections than classics. Parents are obliged to search in other places to create a library that contains books with moral and ethical values to be imprinted upon young minds. Parents, be aware that many classics published after 1960 have been changed from their original format to more “politically correct” versions. Even long time favorites have been changed in the reprinted editions. A suggested reading list is supplied at the end of this chapter. This list is a list of personally preferred books. It may be used as an introduction to classics as the family begins it’s own book list.

My children and I love to go to thrift stores and look for classic books to add to our collection and to shop on Internet auctions for book bargains. We have also downloaded books off of the Internet for printing at home and have bought book collections on CD to print out at home. As always, prayer and study are required in choosing books for your own children and I would not assume to know the mind of the Lord in this matter.

The scriptures of course come first in any family’s library. Each child requires a complete set of scriptures as soon as possible after the age of around four years old. When the child starts to read he may enjoy reading the Book of Mormon to the parent each day. What better reader can a child have? The spirit that the Book of Mormon brings is indispensable for the family to function in love each day. Ezra Taft Benson said, “Every Latter-day Saint should make the study of the Book of Mormon a lifetime pursuit. Otherwise he is placing his soul in jeopardy and neglecting that which could give spiritual and intellectual unity to his whole life.” (The Book of Mormon Is the Word of God, Regional Representatives Seminar, Provo, Utah, 4 April 1986.)

To reiterate, President Benson is saying that it is necessary to study the Book of Mormon each day. This edict includes a blessing (“spiritual and intellectual unity to his whole life”) and a punishment (placing the soul in jeopardy” and neglecting the blessings).

He continues: “Unless we read the Book of Mormon and give heed to its teachings, the Lord has stated in Section 84 of the Doctrine and Covenants that the whole Church is under condemnation: ‘And this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all.’ (D&C 84:56.)…The Lord continues: ‘And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written.’ (D&C 84:57.)…Now we not only need to say more about the Book of Mormon, but we need to do more with it. Why? The Lord answers: ‘That they may bring forth fruit meet for their Father’s kingdom; otherwise there remaineth a scourge and judgment to be poured out upon the children of Zion. (D&C 84:58.) We have felt that scourge and judgment!

“The Prophet Joseph said that ‘the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than any other book.’ (Book of Mormon, Introduction). The Book of Mormon has not been, nor is it yet, the center of our personal study, family teaching, preaching, and missionary work. Of this we must repent.” (C.R., April 1986, bold and underling added.)

Ezra Taft Benson strived to emphasize the eternal ramifications of Book of Mormon studies when he repeated again and again that “We need to read daily from the pages of the book that will get a man ‘nearer to God by abiding by its precepts than any other book.’ ” (C.R., April 1986, p. 14, C.R., Oct. 1988, p. 8, Ensign, April 1988, Church News, June 25, 1988.)

If daily reading and study of the Book of Mormon will get us nearer to God than any other book and will bring us spiritual and intellectual unity, it seems clear that if we are wise we will utilize the Book of Mormon as the basis for teaching our children. The Lord states: “And again, the elders, priests and teachers of this church shall teach the principles of my gospel, which are . . . in the Book of Mormon, in the which is the fulness of the gospel.” (D&C 42:12.) Our first duty of teaching is to our own families, we have been organized by the Lord into families first. It is a wonderful calling to teach and bless people of the world but each parent has been given a special calling and assigned pupils, our children. These are our first priority. And as we read and teach, we are to liken the Book of Mormon scriptures unto us “that it might be for our profit and learning” (1 Nephi 19:23). (The Book of Mormon Is the Word of God, Regional Representatives Seminar, Salt Lake City, Utah, 4 April 1986.)”