Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Book Review of Dear Jeff: Candid Advice from an Older Brother on Preparing to Enter the Temple


 From time to time, we may know someone who is about to go through the temple for the first time, or someone who has just received their endowments.  Aside from the individual taking a temple preparation class, is there anything we can do for them to help them be more ready?  Now there is.   We can buy for them a copy of this book DearJeff: Candid Advice from an Older Brother on Preparing to Enter the Temple by J Washburn, which I am about to review for you. 

But before I start talking about this book, I have to tell a story about my first experience at the temple.  (cue the harp music and the wavy picture)

When I was young there came a time when I began to realize that what went on in the temple was very sacred, so sacred that the people I loved and respected in the church would hardly say anything about what went on there.  This bred a deep curiosity in me to find out what I was not being told.  I knew better than to look to sources that profaned the temple, but my curiosity caused me to listen more carefully whenever other members talked about the temple to see if I could pick out from their conversation something more about went on there.  It was like looking for little pieces of a gigantic puzzle.  Everything said could have been part of the puzzle, so I thought about all of it. 

When it came time to go through the temple and receive my endowment for the first time in the Chicago Temple in 2001, I was very excited, but I was also terrified.  I had gone through a temple prep class, but I still didn’t feel like I knew what to expect.  I was afraid I wouldn’t be up to whatever it was that would be revealed to me.  I remember sitting in my dressing room before my initiatory and crying, I felt so intimidated.  My mother (who was to be my escort) found me crying and compassionately explained to me it would help me if I saw the initiatory as ceremonial preparation for becoming a queen and priestess.  That extremely brief explanation established some badly needed context for me, enough for me to dry my tears, hush my fears, and then go through my initiatory and receive my endowment.

When I finished, I saw I had known some of what was in the endowment already because of reading the scriptures, but I hadn’t known what I knew because hardly anyone had mentioned what could be found there.  Suddenly phrases all over the scriptures began to acquire new significance to me because I knew they were in the endowment ceremony or they reminded me of it in some way.   Part of me wonders why some of these things couldn’t have been pointed out to me (or people like me) before.

Here’s where this book comes in--Dear Jeff: Candid Advice from an Older Brother on Preparing to Enter the Temple.  I really REALLY wish I had this book to read before I went through the temple for the first time.

Washburn goes through elements of temple preparation, initiatory, and endowment piece by piece, yet still keeping sacred things sacred.  This will help members new to the temple gain a little more specificity about what happens and in what order.  Here more pieces to the puzzle are at least presented in order, if not as a complete picture. 

Dear Jeff is fairly conversational and informal, in the sense that Washburn tries to explain things simply to a younger audience.   Along with quoting prophets and scriptures, to further reach the minds of the reader, Washburn uses fairy tales and pop culture icons.  You will find references to Jedi masters, Da Vinci Code characters, and Indiana Jones’ hat.  This could easily have felt irreverent or jarring, or a wrong mix between fiction and a sacred topic, but thankfully, Washburn handles it very well, using it to increase the reader’s readiness to learn.  Washburn is to be commended in that he never allows the cultural references to detract from points about the temple that he wants to make.  In some ways, his explanations have a beauty to them that remind me of C.S. Lewis’s well-loved essays and lectures on Christianity. 

Washburn also includes little personal experiences from himself, his grandfather (who was once president at the Las Vegas temple), and other siblings to help establish useful angles for looking at principles and events of temple worship.

Washburn has a few digressions as he discusses what it means to be a pilgrim or wanderer, a soldier of Christ, and a knight errant for Christ.  This may give the impression that these things are explicitly mentioned as part of the temple, even though they are not, but they will help long term in setting up larger themes that can be detected in certain parts of the endowment narrative and will be most easily recognized by people familiar with temple ceremonies. 

Throughout the book, I noticed it had a charitable tone exhibiting love for the reader without sounding condescending.  The book is written to Washburn’s younger siblings, so occasionally the reader feels a little like an eavesdropper, but there's also some fun in that.  It is also gives a tender sense of the love the Washburn has for his younger siblings in wanting to prepare them for their first temple experience.

While this book does not claim to present everything there is to know that can respectfully be said about the temple, it is an excellent read for anyone about to go through the temple for the first time.  I would not say that it would replace taking a temple preparation class, but it would be an excellent supplement to it.  Also, temple patrons who have gone through many times will find that it will broaden their perspective and give some ideas for deeper learning.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog.  The opinions expressed are my own, and I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


Anonymous said...

Very well said. This book also made me want to be a better person and rededicate myself to living the gospel. I hope those who are in need of this book find it!