Best Books for New LDS Converts

September 13, 2004 | 17 comments
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I live in a relatively mission-field ward, which has a lot of new members. Several months back, one member asked about reading material. I happened to have an extra copy of Truth Restored on the shelf, and it seemed like a good new-convert book, so I gave it to the new member. It was a big hit. Now, in interactions with other new members, I’m thinking I should get them some reading material. But where to start?

A glance at the bookcase suggests a number of books that are probably not good new-convert gifts. Bushman, Quinn, Compton? Yeah, that’s what we want the new member asking the bishop about. Mormon Doctrine? It has, shall we say, certain issues. Nibley? Hah! Can you imagine the new member who cracks open Approaching Zion?
Some other choices are possible, but may be a little tricky: The Miracle of Forgiveness, Faith Precedes the Miracle, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Lectures on Faith.
The obvious candidate is the missionary reference set. Articles of Faith, Jesus the Christ, Marvelous Work, Truth Restored, Gospel Principles, and Our Search. Lots of bite-sized, not-too-controversial Mormon ideas.
The Book of Mormon Reference Guide? Comes to mind, but I found it to be overpriced and under-useful. (Maybe it’s more useful for a new member?).
What are some other candidates?

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17 Responses to Best Books for New LDS Converts

  1. Kevin Barney on September 13, 2004 at 11:28 am

    Rex Lee, What Mormons Believe.

    If they’re interested in Church history, Allen and Leonard, The Story of the Latter-day Saints.

  2. John S on September 13, 2004 at 11:31 am

    I am a convert of about a year and a half.
    Not including Talmages works , I found Stephen E. Robinson’s ‘Believing Christ’ and ‘Are Mormons Christian’s’ the most helpful. He does a good job of using standard works to disprove standard evangelical criticisms.

  3. William Morris on September 13, 2004 at 12:14 pm

    I haven’t read it, but I’ve heard very good things about Kathy and Clark Kidd’s A Convert’s Guide to Mormon Life — especially since, at least in my experience, what many converts have the hardest time with or feel the most unsure about is not doctrine, but all the other stuff that comes with Mormonism — the structure and culture of the Church. From what I understand, this books really helps explain all that stuff.

  4. John H on September 13, 2004 at 1:17 pm

    I think Kevin’s suggested two great ones. If they aren’t a convert, but are a non-member just interested in information, I’d recommend “Mormon America,” by Richard and Joan Ostling.

  5. Jeremy on September 13, 2004 at 1:34 pm

    I think Coke Newell’s Latter Days, published by St. Martin’s press, is an extremely readable and unimposing, yet engaging, introduction to the church — and the fact that it’s put out by a non-LDS publisher lends it some legitimacy in the eyes of curious non-Mormons. Plus, how can you not like a primer on Mormonism with this paragraph in the preface:

    Professionally, I’m on the inside of this tale: a card-holding Mormon high priest employed by the church as an international public relations officer at world headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah. A returned missionary. Married in the temple. But historically and conceptually, I’m a convert to the faith, straight out of the rock-and-roll, vegetarian, whole earth, and homeschool, homeopathic Colorado mountains. And still into most of it… I can talk Lynyrd Skynyrd and Ram Dass and Morther Earth News with the best of ‘em. Though I have a reserved seat four feet away from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, my idea of sacred music tends more toward Loreena McKennitt and Nightnoise (“The Cricket’s Wicket” will be playing when I enter heaven or I’m coming back for the CD.)

  6. Clark Goble on September 13, 2004 at 4:57 pm

    I’d probably agree on what to avoid. McConkie, as much as I love his writings, is just too dogmatic and speculative. The Miracle of Forgiveness, while a great book, can be a little *too* guilt entailing. Plus it has that goofy Cain story. I rather like Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Of course that assumes they are spiritually mature enough. i.e. probably not for the new convert but definitely yes for a convert of a year or a convert more “mature” in their testimony.

    FARMS has some reprints of essays which don’t have all the ad homen and asides that some of their other writings do. They’re great introductions to apologetics and can give a convert a recognition that there are people out there faithfully thinking about these issues. I’d suggest Book of Mormon Authorship Revisited or Reexploring the Book of Mormon. There are others. I have to admit I’ve not kept up on a lot of the apologetic writings the past few years. Sorenson’s Setting is always good, if getting a little long in the tooth. There are more recent books covering the same stuff. If you caution the members about the speculative nature of them, I think they can be very good for avoiding certain readings of the Book of Mormon.

    Talmage’s Jesus the Christ is always a great one, in my opinion. They used to give A Marvelous Work and a Wonder out a lot, but I think it quite dated now and probably inappropriate. Symbols in Stone by Brown is very good and a great preparation for temple worship. Once again not necessarily great for the just converted, but probably for a little later. If they are planning on going to the temple then I’d definitely suggest it and perhaps one of Mircea Eliadi’s books to give them an idea of what is going on. But that also really depends upon their inclination. It may be boring or overkill for many people. But if they’ve read, for instance, that Da Vinci code they might like those for something with a bit more meat. (I *hate* the Da Vinci code, btw)

    I think collections of “the best of” for recent apostles and prophets are always safe a good. Pres. Hinkley’s recent book, for instance, is good and always a safe bet.

  7. Beau Sorensen on September 13, 2004 at 5:38 pm

    I wouldn’t give any new converts Marvelous Work because the tone is far too confrontational and it slips into a lot of non sequitur fallacies along the lines of “listen to this old indian talk – it sounds like it may be referring to something that happened in the Book of Mormon. Isn’t that marvelous? Isn’t this work therefore a Marvelous Work AND a Wonder?!”

    Stephen Robinson’s books are excellent introductions into gospel doctrines as well.

  8. Julie in Austin on September 13, 2004 at 8:30 pm

    I would vote ‘no’ on Talmage’s _Jesus the Christ_. For the investment of time it takes to make it through that book, I think a newish member would be better served by just reading the Gospels. Elder Talmage relied, understandably, on the scholarship of the period (no longer current) and on some suppositions that don’t seem warranted.

    I would encourage new members just to focus on the scriptures. And, if they positively begged for supplements, I would mention the new edition (not the old!) of the seminary students books, which are available online, and are a lot better than one might think.

  9. Kristine on September 13, 2004 at 8:43 pm

    I think (though I haven’t reread it in a while) that Truman Madsen’s _Christ and the Inner Life_ might not be bad. His essay on Joseph Smith from _Four Essays on Love_ is also great.

  10. Kaimi on September 13, 2004 at 8:48 pm

    I’m surprised that no one so far has suggested The Work and the Glory. Or a Jack Weyland box set. :)

  11. Clark on September 13, 2004 at 9:36 pm

    Not really a book, but the Truman Madsen audio tapes on Joseph Smith are always a big hit.

  12. Julie in Austin on September 14, 2004 at 12:59 am

    On a more positive note, I would probably recommend the biographies of recent prophets (Pres. Kimball, Benson, and Hinckley, particularly). I also liked the Pres. Lee bio and Arrington’s Brigham Young.

  13. VeritasLiberat on September 14, 2004 at 7:31 am

    “I’m surprised that no one so far has suggested The Work and the Glory.”

    Well, they want the converts to stay converted.

  14. Chris Grant on September 14, 2004 at 9:15 am

    Besides what’s already been mentioned, I’d suggest However Long and Hard the Road and On Earth as it is in Heaven by the Hollands. I really enjoyed A Thoughtful Faith: Essays on Belief by Mormon Scholars, but a copy may be difficult to acquire. Get them C.S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters, if they haven’t already read it. (Are non-Mormon authors allowed?) Finally, build them a book of your favorite BYU devotional addresses (Hafen, Cracroft, whatever) by going here.

  15. John S on September 14, 2004 at 11:02 am

    I read the King Follett discourse almost a year after being baptised and believe that it should be given to all converts around the time they go for their endowments. It was a very spiritual and eduational experience. However, I’m sure glad I didn’t read it before I was able to grasp what was being taught.

  16. Lawrence on September 17, 2005 at 12:19 pm

    Though probably not available, except rarely in used book stores, Lowell Bennion’s “An Introduction to the Gospel” would be excellent for the new convert. It was originally written as a Sunday School text in 1955. My copy which I have loaned to some who were new in the church was well regarded. I still refer to from time to time.

  17. Travis Robertson on January 9, 2006 at 2:53 pm

    As a missionary I found our search for happiness the most useful for a few reasons.
    1) It does not require the investigator to have any previous knowledge of Christian doctrine or the scriptures to understand what is being taught. (served in Japan so this was especially helpful)
    2) It is small enough that I don’t believe new converts will be overwhelmed. Tossing Jesus the Christ in front of a new member can easily have that effect on some people (Don’t get me wrong I love the book, but I don’t believe it is the easiest for a new member to get into and understand right from the get go)
    3) It is written in a conversational tone rather than in the form of a sermon which makes the text very inviting to the reader (does that make sense?)