In today’s Daily Unifarce, I mean… Universe, buried in the back (on p.11) was an interesting article about how LDS college age students don’t buy, and therefore must not read, Gospel-topic literature from places like Deseret Book. It also includes in a side bar the top 10 suggestions for which books are the most influential among Mormons and which are considered required reading in religious circles. Yeah, this is going to be good.
The article centers around an interview with a college student working at Deseret Book and with the Chair of Church History and Doctrine, Arnold Garr. The top 10 list comes from Garr’s own research and was published in 2002 in BYU Studies (sorry no issue reference). The participants were identified as professors and CES instructors.
Our DB employee is a bit back and forth on the issue about why college age students don’t buy religious books. First she says that “(f)or most students, you’ve got to decide whether the latest book from President Hinckley is as important as paying the rent. Unfortunately for most of us, paying the rent takes first priority.”
However, she also goes on to chide her fellow college students, saying that they only come in to buy books about marriage/dating or a set of scriptures. “I really wonder whether people know how to read,” she wonders.
Brother Garr is much more positive about the situation. He’s sure that this generation is more familiar with the scriptures than any previous. He sympathizes with the reading demand on college students and doesn’t blame them for wanting to spend their time watching television, playing video games, and the such. He cites a recent Discovery Channel poll naming the greatest Americans in history, which included Mark Twain as the only author and writer on the list, as demonstrating people’s move away from reading. It’s not only an LDS phenomenon is what he’s driving at, it’s a cultural phenomenon.
His top 10 list of books appears as follows:
10. Doctrinal New Testament Commentary
9. Messiah Series
8. The Miracle of Forgiveness
7. The Articles of Faith
6. Gospel Doctrine
5. Encyclopedia of Mormonism
4. Doctrines of Salvation
3. Jesus the Christ
2. Mormon Doctrine
1. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith
I’m not impressed with our DB employee’s ambivalence toward the situation but Bro. Garr’s positivity and understanding is commendable (I know Bro. Garr personally, not a nicer man on the planet). But the situation is puzzling. Just because LDS college students aren’t buying church books from DB, does that mean that we aren’t reading them? I’m not sure that this follows. I am an exception to the rule most probably but I buy religion books all the time. I don’t get to read as many of them as I’d like but I do read some nearly all the time. I get my books from cheaper places than DB. DI, the Internet, even clearance sales at the BYU Bookstore are better and cheaper places to get my books from than DB.
I am also disturbed by the list presented. When is “Mormon Doctrine” going to stop being must read literature? I loved “Jesus the Christ” on my mission but now I know that it is very out of date on some important issues. Isn’t their a modern replacement with better scholarship and equal faithfulness? And is McConkie so important that he needs three nods in the top 10? How many books published in the past 25 years deserve to be here but aren’t? Where is Robinson’s “Believing Christ?” Where is “Jesus Christ in the World of the New Testament?”
How do you all feel about this list? Any that you think are ranked too high? Any left out that should be included? Any other thoughts or comments?