Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, “and what is the use of a book,” thought Alice ‘without pictures or conversation?
After many years of working in a library, the most common complaint I would receive from young readers is that they can’t read a book without pictures. So for a little under a decade, I would usher children to my favourite books and help them learn how to make the books come alive. How to imagine the stories as if they were in the book. How to see the pictures roll across their imaginations and immerse themselves in the story.
Why do I tell you this? Apart from pointing out the fact that working in a Library is actually really cool and not quiet at all, I can think of another few books, that don’t have pictures, that can often be forgotten or disregarded, sometimes for the lack of pictures. We are encouraged to seek out of the best books, so what are the best books?
We have heard time and time again that we should be not only reading the scriptures daily, but studying them, engaging with them and immersing ourselves in them. Make them an integral part of your life.
But why? Why are we told to read the scriptures? Why are we reminded in every conference session to read the Book of Mormon every day? Why are we encouraged to participate in Come Follow Me as families, individuals and classes?
In 1986, President Ezra Taft Benson taught: ‘The Book of Mormon will change your life. It will fortify you against the evils of our day. It will bring a spirituality into your life that no other book will.’ The world has changed significantly since this quote was proclaimed from the pulpit, but it’s importance has not faded. We live in the best of times and the worst of times. We have access to the best technology, up to date information and medical procedures, but we also live in a world where temptation is high and spirituality is low.
In his talk, Seek ye of the best books, Elder Adern reminds us that we live in a world that is full of information that can eat away at our spiritual roots. By not only reading, but studying the scriptures, we fortify faith and build our spiritual strength. Reading the scriptures fills our souls and minds with the greatest of knowledge.
Although the scriptures are the best of the best books, there are so many best books we can immerse ourselves into. How lucky we are to live in a time where we have access to a huge catalogue of resources that help us better study the scriptures. From what is available through the Gospel Library online or app resources to the catalogue at Deseret Book, there are so many resources to help us fortify our roots and increase our faith.
But best books doesn’t stop there. For me, best books are anything that helps me understand important and unchanging life lessons. During uni, those best books included my incredibly boring contracts textbook. Now, those best books include Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Nevermoor, the Great Gatsby and To Kill a Mockingbird, to name a few. Later today I will browse my Edmonds cookbook because that is one of my top best books.
The lessons we learn in the scriptures can be reinforced by some of the best books that are published outside of the church. I am not suggesting that we can learn all we need from secular books, but they can help us better understand what we learn in sacred text. We learn leadership from Captain Moroni and Peter Pevensie. We learn about standing up for our beliefs from Esther and also from Katniss Everdeen. We learn to gain knowledge like Joseph of Egypt and Hermione Granger. We can even learn about the word of wisdom from a little caterpillar that was so hungry he ate through quite a bit of food in a week.
Here is my challenge: seek out the best books and consume them. Read them over and over again. Take the time to enjoy every word and appreciate the meaning behind each sentence and word. There is always something new to learn in the scriptures. You may read a verse one way as a child and understand it in a totally different way as an adult. There are many amazing things about the scriptures, but I will highlight just two: first, they apply to everyone, all the time, no matter their age, nationality, political views or life circumstance. Second is that there is only one wrong way to read them, and that is not reading them at all. We are not expected to perfect scholars, just willing scholars. As John Steinbeck wrote in his book East of Eden, “And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.”
We know how important it is to read the Book of Mormon, but just in case we have forgotten, President Nelson reminds us: ‘The Book of Mormon gives purpose to life by urging us to ponder the potential of eternal life and “never-ending happiness”
We were not put on this earth to be miserable. We were put on this earth to find joy and happiness and happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light. May we all turn on our lights and find that happiness, drawing from the best books.