Drafted February 2007 and updated July 2013
We will read and discuss the “great books” of the world—books that are widely considered classics because they contain true and enduring themes, are superbly structured, and speak to us in clear, unique, beautiful diction. We realize that quality literature has been written in recent years and we may, on occasion, choose a modern book to read and discuss, but we also understand that to be a true classic, a book must be able to speak across time and culture. For this reason, we will select most of our books from those that have proved themselves worthy by being in print for at least 100 years.
We will read at least 10 books a year, of which one will be a Church classic, one will be a children’s classic, one may be a history or biography, and one may be a work of science or mathematics. To keep our book selections varied and interesting, we will read literature from a variety of forms, including: article, autobiography, biography, document, essay, novel, play, poem, speech, story, and treatise. For a list of the books we have read, see our Great Books Group Reading List.
BOOK DISCUSSION GUIDELINES:
- We will begin and end each discussion with a prayer.
- We will begin our discussion with a hymn or poem that applies to the book we have read.
- We will discuss at least one scripture that applies to the book we have read.
- Everyone in the group will take turns leading the book reviews.
- The reviewer will follow a prepared, organized outline that may include a brief biography of the author, tidbits on the history and/or culture surrounding the book, the reading of favorite passages from the book, feelings about the book, and, of course, thought-provoking questions about the book regarding its themes, its plot or structure, literary devices the author used, its social and historic significance, and its relevance to the gospel of Jesus Christ..
- We know our study of literature will be enhanced by comparing what we read to gospel truths, but to keep our discussions clear, uplifting, useful, and friendly, we will use care in introducing and discussing ideas that fall into the realm of speculation (See Reference 1). When speculative ideas are discussed, we will address them as such and always defer to the scriptures as the ultimate authority on all subjects.
BOOK CONTENT GUIDELINES:
We will follow the standards regarding media choices taught in the For the Strength of Youth and Let Virtue Garnish Thy Thoughts pamphlets and by the Brethren (See References 2 and 3), and we will use the scriptures as the standard by which we will judge all other literature. Specifically, this means we will:
AVOID content that:
- Contains more than a bare minimum of vulgar and profane language
- Is humorous in a crude way
- Is mean-spirited
- Makes evil look normal, humorous, or exciting
- Does not show the negative consequences of breaking God’s commandments
- Presents immorality or violent behavior as acceptable
- Depicts violence in a glamorous way
- Is pornographic in any way
- Offends the Spirit
EMBRACE content that:
- Gives us good thoughts
- Helps us make righteous choices
- Helps us better live the Savior’s command to love one another
- Brings out the best in human nature
- Gives us hope
- Motivates change
- Gives us courage to face life’s challenges
- Allows us to bask in the sunlight of truth
- Is aligned with gospel standards
- Values chastity, fidelity, and families
- Invites the Spirit
If we consider reading a book that no one in the group has read before, someone will preview it to make sure it meets our standards.
“Neither shall there be disputations among you concerning the points of my doctrine, as there have hitherto been. For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another” (3 Nephi 11:29-30).
From Let Virtue Garnish Thy Thoughts, published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2006:
The adversary tries to thwart the Lord’s plan of happiness by suggesting that physical intimacy is only for personal gratification. Pornography encourages this destructive and selfish preoccupation. Pornography depicts or describes the human body or sexual conduct in a way that arouses sexual feelings. . . . It is a tool of the adversary. . . .
Some materials that are not explicitly pornographic can still fill your life with darkness and deprive you of spiritual strength. Television programs, pictures, movies, songs, and books often treat unchastity and infidelity as common, appealing, and humorous. Avoid anything that drives the Holy Ghost from your life. . . .
As you determine what to include in your life, ask questions such as:
- Does it invite the Holy Ghost?
- Does it make me feel edified or uplifted?
- Is it aligned with gospel standards? (Compare it with the thirteenth article of faith.)
- How are chastity, fidelity, and families valued?
From For the Strength of Youth, published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2001, 2011:
Entertainment and the Media
“If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things” (Articles of Faith 1:13).
You live in a day of marvelous technologies that give you easy access to a wide variety of media, including the Internet, mobile devices, video games, television, movies, music, books, and magazines. The information and entertainment provided through these media can increase your ability to learn, communicate, and become a force for good in the world. However, some information and entertainment can lead you away from righteous living. Choose wisely when using media because whatever you read, listen to, or look at has an effect on you. Select only media that uplifts you.
Satan uses media to deceive you by making what is wrong and evil look normal, humorous, or exciting. He tries to mislead you into thinking that breaking God’s commandments is acceptable and has no negative consequences for you or others. Do not attend, view, or participate in anything that is vulgar, immoral, violent, or pornographic in any way. Do not participate in anything that presents immorality or violence as acceptable. Have the courage to walk out of a movie, change your music, or turn off a computer, television, or mobile device if what you see or hear drives away the Spirit.
Pornography in all forms is especially dangerous and addictive. What may begin as an unexpected exposure or a curious exploration can become a destructive habit. Use of pornography is a serious sin and can lead to other sexual transgression. Avoid pornography at all costs. It is a poison that weakens your self-control, destroys your feelings of self-worth, and changes the way you see others. It causes you to lose the guidance of the Spirit and can damage your ability to have a normal relationship with others, especially your future spouse. It limits your ability to feel true love. If you encounter pornography, turn away from it immediately.
“Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good” (Ephesians 4:29).
How you communicate should reflect who you are as a son or daughter of God. Clean and intelligent language is evidence of a bright and wholesome mind. Good language that uplifts, encourages, and compliments others invites the Spirit to be with you. Our words, like our deeds, should be filled with faith, hope, and charity. . . .
Speak kindly and positively about others. Choose not to insult others or put them down, even in joking. Avoid gossip of any kind, and avoid speaking in anger. When you are tempted to say harsh or hurtful things, leave them unsaid.
Always use the names of God and Jesus Christ with reverence and respect. Misusing the names of Deity is a sin. . . .
Do not use profane, vulgar, or crude language or gestures, and do not tell jokes or stories about immoral actions. These are offensive to God and to others.
Remember that these standards for your use of language apply to all forms of communication, including texting on a cell phone or communicating on the Internet.
President Thomas S. Monson, “Now Is the Time,” Ensign, November 2001:
“Why is the story A Christmas Carol [by Charles Dickens] so popular? Why is it ever new? I personally feel it is inspired of God. It brings out the best within human nature. It gives hope. It motivates change. We can turn from the paths which would lead us down and, with a song in our hearts, follow a star and walk toward the light. We can quicken our step, bolster our courage, and bask in the sunlight of truth.”
Elder Dallin H. Oaks, “Pornography,” Ensign, May 2005:
“Some seek to justify their indulgence by arguing that they are only viewing ‘soft,’ not ‘hard,’ porn. A wise bishop called this refusing to see evil as evil. He quoted men seeking to justify their viewing choices by comparisons such as ‘not as bad as’ or ‘only one bad scene.’ But the test of what is evil is not its degree but its effect. When persons entertain evil thoughts long enough for the Spirit to withdraw, they lose their spiritual protection and they are subject to the power and direction of the evil one.”
This work by Katherine Padilla is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.