Wednesday, January 21, 2015

What Are the Best Books?

What are the best books?

How does one propose a definitive answer to such a question?  

Is there a standard by which to differentiate between books that are good, books that are better and books that are best?

Certainly one may disagree with a particular standard of judgment, but a disagreement with one standard of judgment presupposes another.

The Standard Works
In answer to the question, "What are the best books?"  I choose to begin with the standard set forth by the canon of scripture of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, aptly named the "Standard Works" :

As a mortal being, my understanding of this standard is necessarily imperfect, nevertheless it is the standard by which I choose to differentiate between books that are good, books that are better and books that are best.  It is a standard that points to Jesus Christ and testifies of Him.  It is a standard that leads souls to salvation and eternal life.  It is a standard that withstands the test of time. 

These are the best books. The best of these best books, as I understand it, is the Book of Mormon. Concerning this book the Prophet Joseph Smith said: "I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book."  A book that is best, therefore, is a book that is correct, and a book that contains precepts that draw souls closer to God.

The Book of Isaiah
There are even indications of that which is best within this best of best books.  After His Resurrection, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself declared to the Nephites: "And now, behold, I say unto you, that ye ought to search these things. Yea, a commandment I give unto you that ye search these things diligently; for great are the words of Isaiah."  Isaiah is the most quoted of all the prophets of the Standard Works, and his words figure prominently throughout the Book of Mormon.  His words could be considered as part of the best of the best within the best of best books.  

If Isaiah is representative of the best of the best within the best of best books, then what is the best of Isaiah?  It would be difficult to do better than Isaiah 53, the great song of the suffering servant, a chapter that is quoted in its entirety by the Prophet Abinadi in Chapter 14 of the Book of Mosiah in the Book of Mormon, of which one of the best verses could very well be verse 7: "He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb so he opened not his mouth." (Mosiah 14:7)  In one of the best verses of one of the best chapters revealed by one of the best prophets in the best of the best books, the very Best Son of the Best Father remained silent while He endured the worst afflictions and the worst treatment.

Is it ironic that such silence in suffering produced that which is best?




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