Mormonism For Beginners

by James Canfield, For Beginners

“Pithy, engaging, transparent, and accessible:  Mormonism For Beginners is all the things that outsiders think Mormonism isn’t. Jett Atwood’s clever illustrations provide the perfect complement to Stephen Carter’s sparkling prose.  Efficiently covering the bases from history to scripture to hot-button issues, this book will give you all you need to know to impress your Mormon friends.

—Patrick Q. Mason, Howard W. Hunter Chair of Mormon Studies, Claremont Graduate University

9781939994523Written by Stephen Carter and illustrated by Jett Atwood, Mormonism For Beginners illuminates both a belief system and a way of life that were born in America but remain little understood to the present day. From the start, Carter lays down a clear foundation of themes and subjects to be covered in the book. He then brilliantly discusses every building block of Mormon belief, practice, history, and lifestyle in terms anyone can understand.

Together, Carter and Atwood present the Mormon faith and LDS Church with the knowledge of insiders but an honesty, objectivity, and sense of humor that well serve the uninitiated reader. Carter presents a succinct, lively history of Mormonism—how it came to be, and how its “organized spirit of cooperation” was the binding force that helped early members endure hardship and persecution, find a home, and settle into communal life. He also discusses LDS scripture, Mormon life and values (their emphasis on communalism, marriage and the family, the Church, and mission work). And finally, it offers candid, balanced discussions of such “hot-button” issues as race and the priesthood, the role of women, and LGBT life. Jett Atwood’s illustrations elevate the text while adding a humorous touch.

A Mormon himself, Stephen Carter takes us on an informative and historical journey, explaining along the way how Mormonism became viewed as not only a religion, but also as a subculture. The entire faith revolves around the teachings of Jesus Christ and emphasizes the importance of following in his footsteps. Mormons commonly serve on missions where they share the word of the gospel as a means of showing and spreading their love for fellow people as well as for their lord and savior.

In the foreword, American writer and editor Jana Riess writes: “Mormonism is everywhere, but reliable information about the religion and its people can be hard to find. Some accounts produced by the LDS Church are glowing propaganda, while some written by outsiders or ex-Mormons are sensationalistic diatribes aimed at discrediting the Mormon faith.” However, “the truth lies somewhere in the middle, which is why you need this book. It joins a growing body of literature about Mormonism that aims to educate you—not to convert (or deconvert) you from what you already believe.”

It may be difficult for some to wrap their heads around Mormonism, however, Carter is able to lead the reader through the typical daily life of a majority of Mormons. There we are able to see the finite aspects of this religion and how they govern daily life. For instance, the Word of Wisdom is a strict dietary code that prohibits the consumption of both coffee and alcohol. Mormonism is a tiny, far-flung community compared with other religious groups, but also it’s a close, tight-knit community with a strong a sense of belonging as well as highly structured beliefs, values, and traditions. While most followers of the LDS Church and The Book of Mormon deviate little from set ways, change has been inevitable and will continue to be. How much and in what ways will Mormonism adapt to changing social mores and the needs of each new generation? Only the future will tell. Mormonsim For Beginners will be a valuable guide for anyone following the story.

Read more about Mormonism For Beginners and visit the For Beginners website to learn more about their titles.

Daring to Be Ourselves!

by Eileen Campbell

It takes courage to be fully human, to wake up to life’s possibilities, and to grow and mature.  We need to be open, yet being open is a risk.  We tend to stay with the known, the familiar, rather than risk the unknown.  Taking risks is scary – we might fail, or experience loss or disappointment, and nothing might turn out as we hope.  Life rarely does go according to plan, but that shouldn’t stop us from moving beyond our comfort zone.  If we don’t take risks life is not being fully lived, and we may experience fear, loneliness and lack of fulfilment.  ‘The day came,’ wrote the author Anais Nin, ‘when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.’

Taking risks means being open to life’s experiences, being curious about what might be if we were to do something different, break away, or speak out and challenge.  Daring to be ourselves and letting people see who we really are requires courage.  Often we play a role, while underneath we’re a bundle of fears, largely because we were never given a sense of unconditional approval.  We see ourselves as separate from everything and everyone, which leaves us with a sense of being incomplete.  Sometimes we reach a crossroads – we sense a need to live differently.  The authentic self is calling us and we need to listen to the whispers coming from our hearts.  We need to find out who we truly are, and what we really want and need for our growth.

Daring To Be Ourselves

‘Know Thyself’ was inscribed above the entrance to the shrine of Apollo at Delphi, a maxim that was also used in the writings of Plato, Socrates, and Aeschylus, as well as by later philosophers like Hobbes and Rousseau, and poets like Emerson and Coleridge.  When we find the courage to explore the depths of ourselves and make the journey inwards, we develop greater awareness and begin to understand our emotions and thoughts, and have insights as to why they are the way they are.   We need to make time for quiet and reflection and ask for help and guidance.  Meditation, mindfulness, psychotherapy, or counselling can all help us get to know ourselves better.

Gradually we can make changes and adjustments so that our lives seem to run more harmoniously and become richer and more meaningful.  We feel a sense of being connected to something greater than ourselves, yet there’s a softness at the centre that allows us to be more open-hearted – both towards ourselves and others.  We are at ease with who we are.

The Indian teacher Sri Sathya Sai Baba taught that we’re actually three people and suggested that we try to make them one.  ‘There is the one you think you are, the one others think you are, and the one you really are.’  If we can make them one, joy, peace, and bliss will be the result.

Eileen Campbell is a writer of inspirational books, including a successful series of anthologies described by the media as “treasures of timeless wisdom,” which sold collectively around 250,000 copies. She has studied with a variety of teachers from different traditions and brings a wealth of knowledge and life experience to her books. She is known for her pioneering and visionary career as a self-help and spirituality publishers, and has also written and presented for BBC Radio 2 and 4. She currently devotes her energies to yoga, writing, and gardening. She lives in England. Visit her at


10 Brave Acts That Helped Me Transform from Powerless to Powerful

by Michele Rosenthal

At some point every person on earth has an experience that, whether it happens at five months or fifty years of age, teaches the shocking lesson: You possess less power and control than you thought. For me that tutorial happened when I was thirteen years old. In September 1981 in a hospital on the Upper West Side of Manhattan I survived a rare allergic reaction to a medication that turned me into the equivalent of a full-body burn victim. Through indescribable pain and an out-of-body near-death experience I came face to face with the cold hard fact of my own powerlessness.

When I was finally released from the hospital I had changed from a happy child into a terror-stricken adolescent. By the time I was in my late 20s my world was a disaster. Self-destructive behaviors, poor relationship choices, an inability to focus a career or hold a job and frequent emotional meltdowns led to a completely empty, sad and stalled life. Over and over the fact of my powerlessness brought me to a standstill until, perched on the edge of despair, I decided to reclaim control.

So many experiences downshift us from a sense of self-efficacy to a sensation of reduced self-worth, limited (if any) self-esteem and an inability to self-protect. Ultimately, triumphing over these little and big T traumas requires daily choices and repetitive actions that catapult us from powerless to powerful. Anyone can start this process any time.

10 Brave Acts That Helped Me Transform from Powerless to Powerful

If you’re ready to make the shift try these ten ideas; they helped me recreate my whole approach to the world.

  1. Find a reason to believe in yourself: You have at least one good quality that makes you worthy of change. Identify and honor it.
  2. Establish a reason to hope: What’s the reason you think change might be possible for you? Focusing on hope creates an attitude of flexibility that enhances creativity and helps maintain momentum.
  3. Open yourself to change: Imagining success can be challenging; the first step is being receptive to the possibility of it actually happening.
  4. Make a comfortable choice: Reduce the sense of overwhelm. Success happens when you approach change through a process that feels manageable.
  5. Take a small action: Forget the big gesture; small gestures accrued over a period of time lead to greater success.
  6. Build a support system: Having an accountability structure and a feeling of camaraderie makes the tough moments easier to bear.
  7. Identify what you want to change: In personal transformation clarity is a must. The more you can imagine what you want the more your brain starts finding ways to achieve it.
  8. Make a wishlist of desired outcomes: Sustain motivation by keeping your eye on what you will experience when the hard work of personal transformation is accomplished.
  9. Commit to being dedicated and persistent: There will be setbacks and unexpected outcomes; resign yourself to follow through at all costs and despite any perceived obstacles.
  10. Give yourself permission to succeed: You are the only force that can hold you back. Pledge to allow yourself to move forward by deciding you are worth it.

It took time for me to use these steps to perfect my personal transformation, but the effort and ups and downs of self-creation were well worth it. At the end I shot forth from the process like a cannonball with a sparkly fuse: I was forty years old and finally fearlessly engaged in creating who I wanted to be, how I wanted to live, and identifying what I could do that would make a difference in the world. Almost a decade later, those intentions and choices continue to guide my professional and personal lives.

We don’t have to live a “less than” life; we simply have to choose to create a different way of showing up every day. For too long I turned inward toward pain and fear; I allowed powerlessness to dictate who I was and how I lived. Now I reach out, connect, transform and create with people around the world. I am worthy. I matter. I love. I live with a strong sense of calm, confidence, meaning and control. So can you.

Michele Rosenthal is a popular keynote speaker, award winning blogger, award nominated author, workshop/seminar leader, and certified professional coach. She hosts the radio program, Changing Direction, and is the founder of Michele is a trauma survivor who struggled with PTSD for over twenty-five years (she is now 100% PTSD free). She is the author of Before the World Intruded and Your Life after Trauma (W.W. Norton).


A Conversation with Stephen Dinan

Looking to learn a bit more about Sacred America, Sacred World? Check out the conversation below with Stephen Dinan.

What do you mean by Sacred America?

Sacred is a word that binds us together in the mystery of life and links us into a single human family. In a truly sacred world, no one is ultimately our enemy. A sacred worldview leads to a life filled with respect and reverence.

We then connect the term “sacred” to America. America means many things to the world, ranging from a shining city on the hill that flies the flag of freedom to a feared military empire. Much can be said about the current state of America’s character, but perhaps the most essential is that America has a pioneering spirit, always experimenting to find something that works better, never resting for long on our past, always seeking the next higher possibility or the newest frontier. We are not a country that stagnates for long; America is a roaring engine for evolution.

It is that spirit of innovation, adventure, and possibility that needs to inform this exploration of what happens when “sacred” and “America” come together. Sacred America is a call for us to reach for our highest destiny as a country. I believe our truest destiny is not built on our desire to be number one, but rather a humbler sense of calling, animated by a spirit of global service. We are called to explore new frontiers politically, economically, and even spiritually, not just in service to our own citizens, but in service to the world.

What are we shifting towards politically?

I believe that we are transitioning to a truly global era in which we will, once and for all, eradicate war and unite as a human family as never before. We see this happening remarkably rapidly in the realms of technology, travel, and business. But it’s also happening with our consciousness and our politics. We’re increasingly becoming global citizens first, national citizens second. I believe America simply must play a leading role in this transition, embracing it as the path beyond the waste and tragedy of war and towards real health, sustainability and prosperity for all. I believe the pathway forward requires the best of both progressive and conservative values and a collaborative style of politics that seeks higher ground. Global accords and councils will replace the endless posturing of the military era.

You say that you are a progressive who has learned a lot from conservative values? Say more.

I used to be a more strident progressive who would see conservatives as the problem rather than part of the solution that represents a complementary value system. Conservatives tend to focus on preserving what has worked in the past, which is a useful function.

In the human body, we have strong elements required for health that basically protect our homeostasis. Too much change happening too quickly is dangerous for our body and for life. Conservatives often play the same role in a society, minimizing the risk of chaotic change and preserving core values, commitments, and culture. Having a strong foundation actually allows us to grow further and so I have evolved to see and honor conservatives for their role in maintaining traditions and American character even while I still focus on the ways we are naturally evolving to another level— a “more perfect” union.

I’ve found conservative values and perspectives a good cross-training in my role as a spiritually-based CEO, where it’s imperative that I not risk everything on each new idea. The Buddha taught the Middle Way as the more enlightened path and that also applies to drawing upon the best of conservative perspectives while opening to new possibilities for innovation and cultural expression, which tends to be the focus of progressives.

What do you see as some of the most significant shadow issues that America hasn’t faced?

There are many interrelated shadow issues that America is often reluctant to face but I think at the root is an unwillingness to see ourselves as the aggressor and victimizer. Ultimately, this stems from never being able to face the Native American genocide and African enslavement that formed the twin sins of our early history.

If we undertake a much deeper healing of these wounds, which will require humble
contrition and an inventory of our shadow side, it becomes easier to see the ways that we are still perpetuating injustice and oppression in the world.

We can all do outreach and healing work ourselves and ultimately it’s helpful to have a kind of national healing and reconciliation, with public apologies the way Australia did with their native peoples. If we’re in denial more generally, it’s hard to own the specifics now.

We also have a large shadow issue around unaccountable forces exerting a lot of power domestically and internationally, from finance to covert operations.

Why do we move beyond Washington gridlock?

I don’t see the answer as simple but it begins with seeing the intrinsic, sacred value in other perspectives, even ones we strongly disagree with. When we start identifying only with one group “against” another, we slowly start turning them
into caricatures and demeaning them in various ways. This process of polarization has gone on for a long time with political parties. So I think the ultimate solution is very personal; it’s about building bridges of curiosity, respect, and understanding, and recognizing that true, lasting solutions to extremely complex problems require the best thinking of both parties and ideologies so that some hybridization of solutions is going to be best.

We may not come to consensus on major issues but we can come into deep dialogue and human exchange. Reaching out a hand of friendship across the aisle is ultimately one of the most important things we can do as citizens. The women members of the Senate have been a great example in that regard, often creating breakthroughs through their very personal connections with members of the other major party.

Stephen Dinan is the CEO of The Shift Network and a member of the prestigious Transformational Leadership Council and the Evolutionary Leaders group. As the former Director of Membership and Marketing at the Institute of Noetic Sciences, he was the driving force behind the Shift in Action program. He also directed and helped to create the Esalen Institute’s Center for Theory & Research, a think tank for leading scholars, researchers, and teachers to explore human potential frontiers.


Sacred America, Sacred World Book Trailer

Stephen Dinan discusses his book, Sacred America, Sacred World in the book trailer below. Enjoy!

Stephen Dinan is the CEO of The Shift Network and a member of the prestigious Transformational Leadership Council and the Evolutionary Leaders group. As the former Director of Membership and Marketing at the Institute of Noetic Sciences, he was the driving force behind the Shift in Action program. He also directed and helped to create the Esalen Institute’s Center for Theory & Research, a think tank for leading scholars, researchers, and teachers to explore human potential frontiers.


Pray for Someone Else

by Rick Hamlin

It will probably come as no surprise to you that I think of myself all the time.  I worry about myself and my family.  I wonder when I’m going to die.  I wonder why I don’t find much peace of mind when I’m  working so hard at being responsible and good.  I become anxious about the future.  I start obsessing about some physical symptom, the slightest headache perhaps that probably hints at a life-threatening illness.  I fight against trusting in hope too much.  I try to imagine what it will be like when I accept the National Book Award or the Oscar for Best Screenplay or the Nobel Prize for Peace.  I become tiresome even to myself.

If I’m by myself I find the only recipe for this closed circuit of self absorption is to pray for someone else.  Lots of someone else’s.  “The person wrapped up in himself is a very small package indeed,” goes an old saying.  And if I were praying for myself it would be a prayer of becoming someone big and generous and whole-heartedly involved in the world and the concerns of others.  I’d like to be a big package.

Pray for Someone Else

I have learned to become very deliberate in my prayers for others.  There have been times when I’ve simply closed my eyes and waited for a name or need to come to me.  I’ve gone through letters of the alphabet, finding someone for each letter.  Or I’ve imagined myself going through space at the office and praying as my mind has passed by cubicles and offices and conference rooms.  I’ve even looked to pray for others by sending myself on a magic carpet ride across the planet, pausing at cities where I know someone and saying a prayer there.

The only danger with any of these methods is that I will forget someone whose need is particularly pressing.  I will sacrifice urgency for the imaginative freedom of traveling where my mind takes me.  That’s probably okay.  I must stress that I think prayer should be the freest of exercises.  To become too critical of your methods of prayer is to become too self-conscious which is to become simply un-prayerful.  To try to pray is to pray.  Any prayer is good.  All honest prayers are acceptable.  All prayers are right.

I don’t believe in that hoary let-it-all-hang-out line that “There are no dumb questions.”  There are some truly stupid questions.  But there are no stupid prayers.  Just look at the psalms for models.  If the psalmist could pray about smashing his enemies’ babies brains to bits, well, you can say anything in a prayer.  Say the worst if you have to.  God has probably heard much worse.  And he’s already heard you think it.

I have come to write down the names of people I’m praying for just because it helps me keep focused.  I don’t look at the list but I think of it.  And as I go through those names, I think of those people.  Many of them have trials much worse than ones I’ve ever faced.  Many of them have needs that far exceed mine.

Of course, I come back to “me” in my prayers.  I might even start with me.  Sometimes things are so pressing I can’t unload them fast enough.  But praying for others is my recipe for sanity.  If I am at all generous as a person and am able to think of others and quiet the inner tapes, it is through this wonderful method that we were given when we were given prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer is in the first person plural.  Plural.  Me and you.  Us.

Rick Hamlin is the executive editor of Guideposts magazine, where he has worked for more than 25 years. His spiritual memoir, Finding God on the A Train, was a Book of the Month Club alternate selection and a selection of One Spirit Book Club. He lives with his family in New York City.



We Don’t Need to Be Perfect!

by Eileen Campbell

Many of us as women try too hard to meet impossible standards of perfection.  We always want to know the answers, do everything right, and never make mistakes.  We try to look well-turned-out, stylish, and attractive, to be professional and efficient in our careers, to be good mothers, considerate partners, dutiful daughters, pillars of the community, etc.  We’re so busy trying to be perfect and hold everything together, we become rigid and inflexible, losing touch with what we’re thinking and feeling, and less able genuinely to connect with others.

The problem is we’ve been conditioned to be perfect and are afraid of getting it wrong.  We’re less likely than men to take risks, believing that we’re not good enough.  Over thousands of years women have been conditioned to feel that their role is secondary to men’s,  and so it’s hard to break out of the mould.  Fear drives us – those subliminal whispers make us doubt our capabilities and tell us we’ll be found out as not up to the task in hand unless we do something perfectly.  The competitive society in which we live can sometimes make us feel envious of others’ seeming good fortune – their looks, their wealth, their success etc. – and we compare ourselves needlessly.

We Don't Need to Be Perfect

For young women, with the pressures from social media, it can be particularly difficult – not only should they be having the most thrilling and perfect time of their lives, but they also have to have a successful career, be getting married, buying a house, and having children.  Sometimes lives can spiral into chaos, when feelings of inadequacy and failing to make the grade become overwhelming, resulting in stress, anxiety, and depression.

We’ve got to learn to be comfortable with imperfection.  We’re human, with all our faults and flaws.  We’re not perfect and our life is a work in progress.  Instead of beating ourselves up for failing to meet the high standards we demand of ourselves, we need to congratulate ourselves on what we’ve achieved.  We need to be kinder to ourselves.  Self-acceptance is one of the most important factors in producing a consistent sense of well-being.

Instead of being afraid that we’re not good enough, we need to learn to be braver and take more risks.  That becomes easier when we feel at ease with who we are.  We need to take care of ourselves in the fullest sense, by slowing down and turning inwards.  When we appreciate who we are, where we are, and what we have in our lives, we can let go of the need to be perfect.

Eileen Campbell is a writer of inspirational books, including a successful series of anthologies described by the media as “treasures of timeless wisdom,” which sold collectively around 250,000 copies. She has studied with a variety of teachers from different traditions and brings a wealth of knowledge and life experience to her books. She is known for her pioneering and visionary career as a self-help and spirituality publishers, and has also written and presented for BBC Radio 2 and 4. She currently devotes her energies to yoga, writing, and gardening. She lives in England. Visit her at