To Gain a Fuller Understanding

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For the past few years, I have been reading many books and pamphlets issued by the church in an attempt to gain a fuller understanding of what we believe. In addition, I have attended the Temple at least once a week if not more bringing my own family names for the past nine months. Are there any books you would suggest? Here is a list of what I have read already.


The Book of Mormon (Various Editions)

The Doctrine and Covenants

The Pearl of Great Price

The Old Testament

The New Testament

Revelations in Context

The Work and Glory (All books in the series)

Preach my Gospel

Gospel Principles

Answers to Gospel Questions Vol. 2 by Joseph Feilding Smith

The Holy Temple by Boyd K. Packer

Melchizedek Priesthood Personal Study Guide 2 To Make Thee a Minister And a Witness

Mormon Doctrine 2nd Edition by Bruce R. McKonkie

The Kingdom of God by Oscar W. McConkie Jr.

Endowed from on High: Teachers Manual

The Joseph Smith Papers Revelations & Translations Facsimile Edition

Mormon Doctrine 1st Edtion by Bruce R. McKonkie

Handbook 1 Stake Presidents and Bishops (2010 Editon) (Harold B. Lee Library)

Handbook 2 Administering the Church (2010 & 2019 Edition)

General Handbook of Instructions (1899 Edition) (Harold B. Lee Library)

The Book of Commandments

Journal of Discourses: Volume 1

President Brigham Young's Doctrine on Deity Vol. 1 by Fred C. Collier

Unpublished Revelations Vo1. 1 Fred C. Collier

Homosexuality Second Edition 1981

Understanding and Helping Those Who Have Homosexual Problems Suggestions for Ecclesiastical Leaders 1992


The House of the Lord by James E. Talmage

Journal of L. John Nuttall

Information and Suggestions for Patriarchs (2016 Edition)

Come, Follow Me- For Individuals and Families (2019)

Baptisms for the Dead in Early Christianity by David L. Paulsen and Brock M. Mason

"Temple Pro Templore": The Salt Lake City Endowment House by Lisle G. Brown

'Not to be Riten': The Mormon Temple Rite as Oral Cannon by Kathleen Flake

BYU Speeches, Patriarchal Blessings by James E. Faust

The Development of the Mormon Temple Endowment Ceremony by David John Buerger

The Fulness of the Priesthood the Second Anointing in Latter-Day Saint theology and practice by David John Buerger

The Washing of the Feet by Richard Ware

The Book of Anointings

Temple and Cosmos by Hugh Nibley

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If I remember correctly...Mormon Doctrine 1st edition was the edition that had incorrect doctrine and had to be changed.  Someone can correct me if I am wrong.  Plus I wouldn't use The Work and the Glory as official teachings either.  It's a historical setting with fictional characters so not everything in the books are historically accurate.

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From 1989 through 2011, there was a scholarly effort to review works published on our faith.  If you want a good overview of the criticisms of our faith, and good responses to those criticisms, you can always add the FARMS book review to your list.  23 Volumes, sometimes published twice a year.  Taking a year or two to go through all these would not just deepen your understanding of what we believe and why, it would also arm you with relevant responses to just about every criticism hefted at us by our critics for the first 170 years of our history.  Many continue to heft them at us today, unaware of the responses.



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In no particular order:

Jesus the Christ & The Articles of Faith by Talmage

The Miracle of Forgiveness by Kimball

Our Search for Happiness & When Thou Art Converted by Ballard

Christ and the New Covenant by Holland

A Marvelous Work and A Wonder by Richards

Saints Volume 1, they are also starting to print chapters of volume 2 in the Ensign every month

The Ensign


Spend some time in the Gospel Topics on the church website

The Teachings of Presidents books

Come Follow Me

Teaching in the Savior’s Way

Study helps such as the Bible Dictionary and Guide to the Scriptures have a lot of useful information

The Proper Role of Government by Benson

The Infinite Atonement by Callister

Anything by Neal A. Maxwell and Things As They Really Are in particular

Lectures on Faith

The Lord’s Way by Oaks

Spiritual Patterns trilogy by Bednar

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You have already read more than probably 98% of the membership.

What are your interests?

What areas do you think you are lacking?


I didn’t see much on Joseph Smith in your list, so:

Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling

The link below is a PDF version of one of my favorite books.  Words of Joseph Smith.  It contains a full collection of Joseph Smith’s Nauvoo discourses in the mature and climatic years of his life.  Of particular note is the so-called King Follett Discourse.

Lectures on Faith


And of course classic conference, or devotional talks - Many of which are better than books, and considerably cheaper.  

I should make an extensive list of my favorites, but here are a few that I recently reviewed and liked.


Raising Your Ebenezer: A Monument to Remember  -  7/13  BYU Devotional  Curt Holman


Spiritual Crocadiles  -  4/76

Boyd Packer


Our Great Potential - 1977

Spencer W Kimball


Willing to Submit - 4/85

Neal A. Maxwell


But for a Small Moment  9/74 BYU Devotional 

Neal A. Maxwell


Plow in Hope - 4/01

Neal A. Maxwell


The Other Prodigal 4/02

Jeffrey R Holland


You can search for Saints favorite Conference talks like


My advice would be to read that PDF version of the Words of Joseph Smith first, then knock yourself out with classic conference talks.


I personally enjoy some of Cleon Skousen’s works (But many of the Saints hate his stuff, so you have been warned)

The First 2,000 Years was instrumental in my understanding of how to read scriptures, ponder, and draw conclusions.

Days of the Living Christ Vol 1 & 2

I enjoyed the above considerably more that either Talmage’s Jesus the Christ or McConkie’s Messiah series...

Edited by mikbone
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Temple endowment


Is a 1994 book version, 200+ pages, extension of Buerger’s article you already read.


Also since the endowment is heavily influenced by the Pearl of Great Price, 



As per the spirit world, any commentary on Section 138


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I'm a little late to this party, but I am amazed at how much you have read. I exactly agree with mikbone:

On 7/2/2019 at 8:04 PM, mikbone said:

You have already read more than probably 98% of the membership.


On 7/2/2019 at 9:42 AM, JosephCyrus said:

For the past few years, I have been reading many books and pamphlets issued by the church in an attempt to gain a fuller understanding of what we believe.

You are obviously beyond the basic "Sunday School" level in your learning. I'm going to offer some of my ideas. I'm not a scholar, but I've been in the church all my life and I like to learn. What follows are of course my opinions from my own limited perspective.

"What we believe" is an interesting concept for us LDS. We believe in continuing revelation, so we don't yet know all that we believe. Also, it seems to me that some things we have believed in the past we now no longer believe in the same way. I think as we grow in understanding, we are ready to move from "milk" to "meat" (D&C 19:22).

I have always loved this quote by Brigham Young:

"'Mormonism,' so-called, embraces every principle pertaining to life and salvation, for time and eternity. No matter who has it. If the infidel has got truth it belongs to 'Mormonism.' The truth and sound doctrine possessed by the sectarian world, and they have a great deal, all belong to this church. ... All that is good, lovely, and praiseworthy belongs to this church and kingdom. ... 'Mormonism' includes all truth. There is no truth but what belongs to the gospel."

Joseph Smith made similar statements. All truth belongs to us in this church, wherever it may be found.


As far as my recommendations, I would say use the 1) four standard works of scripture and the 2) current prophet as the surest guide to what we believe.

The farther you get from those, the more you will be into the realm of opinion or the gospel from someone's limited perspective (all humans have limited perspective).

My own core short list, which I see you and others have already mentioned:

Current prophet's teachings
Current 12 apostles' teachings
Gospel Principles
Preach My Gospel

These alone are enough to keep someone busy their entire lives. The simplest doctrines such as faith and love are so deep you could study them forever.

However, I'm not saying stop with this short list.

Some other books I like:

"Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith," by Joseph F. Smith. 
This is being superseded by more accurate documents coming out now, as I see you have already discovered with the Joseph Smith Papers.

Jesus the Christ & The Articles of Faith by Talmage
These have already been mentioned. If you didn't know, a BYU scholar has come out with a revised edition of Jesus the Christ, to update the scholarship: "Jesus the Christ: With Revised and Updated Notes" by Thomas Wayment, Gaye Strathearn, et al. , 2015

"Wrestling the Angel: The Foundations of Mormon Thought: Cosmos, God, Humanity," by Terryl L. Givens, 2014
This is like a graduate class in the gospel. I'm still working my way through it. Lots to think about (and lots of academic terms to look up). There are additional volumes of this coming out now too.

All of Nibley's works I love, for his maverick but highly learned viewpoint, and most of all his entertaining writing style. Be aware, though, that current Mormon scholars will tell you that much of his specific research is a bit out of date. I have learned so much from Nibley. Be sure to check out his video "Faith of an Observer." He says nothing really matters down here in this life except forgiving and repenting.

A few talks that have been most influential of my understanding of the gospel:

"Beware of Pride," Ezra Benson
After this talk, I feel like I understand how the world works and what I need to do every day.

"In the Strength of the Lord," David Bednar speaking at a BYU devotional before he was called as apostle.

Thomas Monson talk a few years ago, where I finally got it, that the gospel is about loving God and your neighbor - the rest is details (and don't forget your saving ordinances along the way). Sorry, I don't know which talk.

Talk - I think it was by Dallin Oaks called "To Have and To Be" but I cannot find this anywhere, so I must be mistaken about the title. But the point was: Getting into heaven is not about racking up brownie points, or adding enough good deeds into a heavenly bank account. It's about becoming a Celestial person who will be happy being around other Celestial people and living a Celestial lifestyle. The church and the gospel exist to help us grow to become this kind of person. In short, learn to love God and your neighbor.


As far as the spirit world, I would love to know more about this too. The best two sources I know are:

D&C 138

"Three Degrees of Glory" by Melvin J Ballard
I don't know how official this doctrine is, but it's definitely something you should check out. Elder Melvin J Ballard, an Apostle of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints gave this discourse in the Ogden Tabernacle on September 22 1922. It was published under the direction of the Mount Ogden Stake Genealogical Committee. I believe is has been published since by Deseret Book.


Be aware that some books are more "doctrine" than others. For example Mormon Doctrine by Bruce R. McConkie is no longer sold by Deseret Book, as far as I can find out. My personal opinion is that this book was very valuable and helpful at the time it was published, but its time has passed.

Also, I don't believe many LDS scholars would recommend the works of Cleon Skousen. However - I heard a mind-blowing talk by him on the Atonement that has forever changed the way I think. I would say take it with a huge grain of salt - some scholars have written rebuttals. I think this may be the one:


I recommended the scriptures above all. However, there are many books that will help you understand the scriptures better. For example, the following by BYU scholars are excellent introductions to the Bible:

Jesus Christ and the World of the New Testament: A Latter-Day Saint Perspective, by Richard Holzapfel, 2006

Jehovah and the World of the Old Testament Hardcover, Richard Neitzel Holzapfel et al., 2009.

The King James Version is highly problematic. Read about it, if you don't know why; I won't go into it now. So check out reputable modern translations. The standard version used by Bible scholars is the New Revised Standard Edition. There are also recently great translations by BYU professors.
The NRSV is free on the web, including here: Do an experiment - compare some of Paul's epistles in the KJV and the NRSV. The NRSV has made it possible for me to actually get through Paul...


As you learn, you will have questions or run up against anti-Mormon or just "WHAT THE--??" information.
The LDS Gospel Topics Essays are the place to start.

Then, check out

In general, when I come across something like this, if I don't freak out but instead research it more, I find there are answers and reasonable explanations out there. And the church and gospel are still true, but they may not be exactly the church and gospel I thought they were. It appears we have many simplistic and naive understandings of things. Sometimes, you will just have to hang on in faith until you discover the answers you want. I'm still looking for many answers or explanations....

If you start to get more into history, scriptures, scholarship, other questions the publisher Greg Kofford has many reputable books:


Most importantly - In addition to studying, even more important is to live the things you have learned. Also, gaining spiritual knowledge is based on your obedience, as the D&C says. In other words, try to love God and your neighbor foremost in your life.

Edited by tesuji
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