Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Power of Words

We just read a wonderful book for Book Club and had a great discussion to go along with it. The Book Thief gives an entirely different perspective on the Holocaust than I have ever read (the main characters are German, law-abiding, and Nazi-supporting--if only to prevent getting in trouble--yet still find it in their hearts to hide, shelter, and nourish a Jewish man who is in danger of being sent to the camps), It is told from an unlikely yet extremely pleasant narrator--Death--who offers perspective and insight as only Death could do. I loved the beautiful writing style and so many things about this book--themes of hope, resilience of the human spirit, sacrifice, love, service, selflessness, and so much more.

One of the themes that has stuck with me in the last few days is about the power of words. Liesel (the heroine of the story) discovers a book, and takes it, as her brother is buried and her mother leaves her with a foster family and is presumably taken away for being Communist. Her circumstances are far from ideal, but with the book she has stolen (from the snowy ground) she learns to read and opens up a love for words and learning. She develops an unbreakable bond with her foster parents and friends that helps her through the uncertainty of life in Germany during the war. During the tumultuous times of WWII she is educated about the power of words and is taught from her Jewish friend Max that is hiding in their home, that much of the horror that took place for the Jews and so many others happened because Hitler used words to twist ideas, thoughts, and prejudices to the point that as a country, Germany was willing to exterminate a people. I've heard people say they thought the book was depressing, but I thought it offered so much more than just a glum look at the Holocaust. I loved this book and recommend it highly.

The idea that words are so powerful (for good or evil) has been floating around in my head a lot lately. Today I taught Relief Society--it was the talk given by Neil L. Andersen of the Seventy Presidency last General Conference called "You Know Enough." In so many ways it was just what I needed to learn about. With the theme of words being powerful stuck in my mind, there were some phrases that I shared and that we discussed as a group. I won't give much in the way of explanation, but I wanted to post these words for you to think about.

First, I shared a list of the phrases he used to describe being in a spiritual funk. I know that each of us has found ourselves in that frame of mind at different times of our lives. Maybe we are now, or maybe someone we know is. I believe that everyone goes through cycles where they are strong and sure in their faith, and other times where things are hard and doubts creep in. Anyway, here are the "spiritual funk" phrases from his talk:

  • Challenges
  • Unbearable sorrow
  • Shattered hopes and dreams
  • [Feelings of being] inadequate and uprepared
  • Doubt
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty finding spiritual footing
Do any of those things sound familiar? Contrast that list with the gems of wisdom and strenth that peppered his talk:
  • Revelation
  • Spiritual power and confirmation
  • Foundation of faith
  • We treasure [gospel] principles and ordinances
  • Commitment to prayer
  • Priceless spiritual knowledge
  • Willingness to be obedient
  • Ongoing witness of the Book of Mormon
  • [Being] steady and patient
  • Spiritual balance
  • Simple, pure faith
  • Faith is not just a feeling, it is a decision
He spoke of taking our moments of spiritual power, inspiration, and revelation and sinking them deep into the chamber of our souls, preparing our spiritual home storage, and settling it in our hearts. The idea that there are times to build our spiritual reservoirs with patience and steadfastness and other times to draw on that which we have stored is comforting to me.

We discussed at length the gospel truth that God loves us, and that we can gain that knowledge through prayer. Sometimes we (or loved ones) aren't in a position that we (they) desire to pray for that confirmation, and we (they) may not even recognize that they lack the knowledge that God loves them. Sometimes we (or someone else) can share that knowledge, simply by saying, "God loves you."

I don't know everything, or even most things (contrary to what I've told my children), but I do know ENOUGH. I know that God loves me and loves each of you. With all of the other challenges and uncertainties that swirl around us, it is enough to know that.

**Have you read (or do you plan to read) The Book Thief?
**What do you believe about the power of words?
**How do you get yourself out of a spiritual funk?


Tim Harper said...

Hey there! Thanks for this book review - I saw a lot of hype about this book at the library last year, and the advertisement was "what book would you want to steal?" Unfortunately, that ad turned me off to the book and made me think "what a stupid sounding book".

Your review has caused me to reconsider :)

Yoga Girl said...

I've heard so many people say how great this book is. It's next on my list. I love that you found such a positive thing in a seemingly negative setting. Lisa, you are just awesome! Thanks for sharing ;)
Oh, I made your Awesome Bread Recipe....(I think that's what you called it) anyway, we loved it :)

Janene said...

This is coming up in our book club in a couple of months, it was one I was rooting for when we chose our line-up. So I sortof skipped that part of your post....

I remember this talk from conference. It was right on the mark for how some days feel, like I'm just barely holding onto the "enough."

emilyw said...

I gave the same lesson in RS a few months back. I LOVED that talk! It's great to see it from another teacher's perspective. We can all learn different things from the spirit and I believe that each RS teacher teaches what their ladies need to know. Thanks for sharing! I'll also have to check out the book recommendation!