As with having a prophet, the modern Church has the same organizational leadership structure as the ancient Church. That means we have apostles just as the ancient Jews and Nephites did. While only the senior apostle can exercise all of the revelatory and administrative keys for the Church, the apostles are also prophets, seers, and revelators. Even when not acting in an official capacity, it is worth listening to their counsel. In One More Strain of Praise (ISBN: 1-57008-679-6), Neal A. Maxwell offered some of just that type of counsel. Elder Maxwell briefly recounted some of the experiences of his life, including his battle with cancer, because he thought they had taught him something and made him a better person. He explained that he was able to better comprehend and understand Christ's atonement, His infinite love, and the interplay between mercy and justice. He explained how this critical understanding helped him and can help all people be happier, be more grateful, and share both the message of the atonement and the accompanying joy through loving service.
I am typically not one to delve into the world of Mormon literature. I find that most of it underperforms. I firmly believe that supporting something just because a member of the Church created it or because, at the very least, it complies with our standards is poor policy. If artists and authors want my support, they must create great works that also comply with my standards. Neal A. Maxwell's book was a little different in that it was a memoir and a doctrinal discussion rolled into one and did not really try to be art, but was much more factual in its presentation. I thought the format worked well, but then, like he expressed in the beginning of his book, I believe one must apply the scriptures to oneself to get anything out of them. I think that the overall message of happiness, hope, and gratitude helped make the book enjoyable and worthwhile. More so because those personality traits are more easily cultivated when based on gospel truths than when based on anything else. In a world where there is so much going on around us that would be easy to be depressed and overwhelmed by, it is nice to be reminded by one who was an apostle, a special witness of the reality and divinity of a resurrected Jesus Christ, that there are real reasons to not despair, not be troubled, and in direct opposition to those feelings inspired of the devil, there are real things we can do to cultivate positivity in ourselves and others. I appreciated the uplifting message of the book and am glad that I overcame my disdain for Church-related publications that are not official Church works, picked up this short, easy-to-read book, and was reminded of things that I should be doing to make myself and those around me happier and more grateful.
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