Short chapters are more readable

Carol and I recently finished reading Sheri Dew’s new book, God Wants a Powerful People. We bought it when it first came out in October but only finished it just before Christmas. The reason it took so long is that I read it out loud to Carol a few pages at a time each night before retiring. In fact, I can honestly say that I put Carol to sleep each night by reading Sheri Dew.

We enjoyed the book immensely. It is an enlargement of a previous talk she gave on the same subject, which we have on a CD and have enjoyed several times on various trips to visit far-away family. Sheri makes excellent points and illustrates many of them with great stories. I confess that I wish there were more stories because she really tells them so well.

I have only one complaint about Sheri’s writing style: Her chapters are sometimes too long. I like to read in small ten minute bursts – that’s about all I get before Carol falls asleep. I think about five or six pages per chapter would be just about right. That way, reading aloud at two minutes per page gets you through one chapter before calling it a night.

Carol knows I like books so she gave me a couple more for Christmas. We just started reading Gerald Lund’s new book, Hearing the Voice of the Lord. I immediately liked it as we started reading it aloud on Christmas night. Of course Elder Lund is a popular author with his Work and the Glory and Kingdom and the Crown series. But I compare this one to his earlier works.

The Coming of the Lord by Brother Lund is a classic which I have read and referenced many times over the years. There are many other works that present the events of prophecy of the latter days, most notably Duane Crowther‘s Prophecy: Key to the Future. However, I have always felt that Brother Lund’s book is ‘safer,’ leaving some of the interpretation to the reader.

Now if you really want to read some interesting books about the events of the last days, pick up the Prophecy Trilogy by Anthony E Larson – “And the Moon Shall Turn to Blood”, “And the Earth Shall Reel To and Fro”, and “And There Shall Be a New Heaven and a New Earth.” Now that has some great stuff that I’ve never read elsewhere about world-end cataclysms.

But I digress…The point of this post is the offering of unsolicited advice and feedback for church authors from this particular reader. Make your chapters shorter. It makes for easier reading, better comprehension and especially discussion or pondering. Of course, this is all personal opinion. I also hate long paragraphs so take my advice for what it is – my personal preference.

Gerald Lund’s new book follows this pattern. The first few chapters are about five pages each. Then he begins to lengthen some of his chapters to ten, fifteen or twenty pages at the most. But most of them are in the five to ten page limit. I like that. I can handle that. It gives me time to digest and ponder what I have read before going on to the next concept in the next chapter.

What do you think? Do you like short chapters and short paragraphs? If so, why or why not?

Standards make so much more sense now

When I was much younger and first heard the word ‘standards’ used in the church I confess that it sometimes had a negative connotation for me. It used to be that when I thought of standards I would think of commandments and then I would think of ‘things I can’t do’.

In Mutual we had ‘standards night’ in which we were reminded again of the need to watch the way we talk, the kind of music we listen to, the movies we went to see, our language, hemlines, necklines, tight-fitting sweaters, pornography and of course strict observance of the Word of Wisdom.

I never used to associate standards with safety, security, confidence and happiness, all words that come to mind today. Perhaps I can provide an example that will help explain how living certain standards contributes to true happiness. It has to do with my personal experience in listening to a certain kind of music when I was a teenager. I hope it is not offensive to anyone.

When I was about 11 years old, my brother went in the Marines. I think the discipline of the military helped him a lot in his life and allowed him to succeed in areas which he needed help. One of the things he enjoyed for the first time in his life is a regular paycheck and no major expenses. So my brother invested in cameras, stereos and a large collection of music.

When he went overseas he needed a place to store all his stuff and it ended up in my room. So I inherited an eclectic collection of music that was way beyond my own limited exposure at that point in my life. One of the types of music he had that I began to listen to was heavy metal, now a standard part of rock but new in that day (late 1960’s and early 1970’s).

My family did not like the music so I began to listen to it on headphones. I can tell you from personal experience that it is not good for a 13 year old boy to listen with headphones to Black Sabbath songs like War Pigs, Paranoid and Iron Man. It does weird things to the spirit. It’s difficult enough that the hormones of puberty were setting in at that age.

I was too young to recognize it but my family did. I began to be depressed and angry at the same time. I was no longer the sweet young boy I used to be and I couldn’t figure out why. It’s easy to see now in hindsight that the music I listened to then played a big part in my misery. I wish I had heard and understood Boyd K Packer’s talk on worthy music and worthy thoughts.

“Young people, you cannot afford to fill your minds with the unworthy music of our day. It is not harmless. It can welcome onto the stage of your mind unworthy thoughts and set a tempo to which they dance and to which you may act. You degrade yourself when you identify with those things that at times surround extremes in music – the shabbiness, the irreverence, the immorality, the addictions. Such music is not worthy of you.”

Today we are blessed with clear and concise direction from prophets and apostles on the standards we should use to guide our lives. The booklet, For the Strength of Youth, give sage advice, “Choose carefully the music you listen to. Pay attention to how you feel when you are listening. Don’t listen to music that drives away the Spirit, encourages immorality, glorifies violence, uses foul or offensive language, or promotes Satanism or other evil practices.”

Sometimes I wish I could give my learning experience to young people who I see going down the same road I did with the wrong kind of music. But I guess some people just have to learn for themselves after sad experience. But will it be too late when they finally recognize and accept what the prophets have taught us and what so many of us, now older and wiser, understand? There is no doubt in my mind that doom metal and death metal are not helpful to our purpose.

What do you think? Is there anything you can do to help a young person who doesn’t believe or accept prophets and apostles understand how such music can affect their spirit?