12 Purposes of Life: A Down-to-Earth Guide for the Mortal Traveler, The
Jay A. Parry
Deseret Book , 2005. Hardcover:
Suggested retail price: $18.95 (US)
Parry's newest book is an easy to read, and clearly written, blueprint forthose wishing to find the key to a richer and fuller life. Using theScriptures and the words of the General Authorities, he provides a uniquelyMormon approach to a topic recently popularized in the evangelical bookThe Purpose-Driven Life by Rick Warren.
I call it "uniquely Mormon" because it views life and purpose in a widersense than is generally understood by other Christians. Indeed, the "Planof Happiness," as spoken of by Mormon writers, encompasses the full span ofour lives, from the pre-existence, to the post-mortal kingdom. As such, itentails a different path, a larger vision:
We were created to be happy...
We can find happiness here as he walk God's path. It is a spiritualgift that comes to those who fulfill the twelve purposes of life withtrue and honest hearts....
Our success in this life depends to a great degree on our understandingof why we're here. A Primary-level understanding isn't enough. Ourmortality has deep and significant meaning. That meaning has beendefined by God himself... (p. 3-4)
So what are these purposes?
Purpose One is "To Gain Mastery in a Temporal World." Beginning with ourcoming to earth to gain mortal experience and testing, Parry reminds usthat this enfleshment comes with a stewardship, not just to grow, but to beresponsible for the keeping of our bodies, our planet and our time.
Purpose Two is "To Be Tested." He discusses the various ways in which weare tested in this mortal life -- not just by the devil, but by God and bylife itself! It encourages us to come through these tests victoriously.
Purpose Three is "To Discover the True God." He explains that fullsalvation requires a knowledge of who God really is. This understandingcomes after a process, part of an ongoing education. He isolates sevensteps in our development, from our existence as intelligences to ourresurrection, the final uniting of body and spirit. On page 65, Parrymakes the kind of statement Rick Warren would never make:
"We are of the species of the gods."
This is a powerful statement, marking the divine heritage of every person.
Purpose Four is "To Develop a Relationship with God, Our Father." Itfocuses on the areas of prayer and worship.
"We must know God with our minds and feel him with our hearts." (p. 84)
It also charts the path from trust to obedience, an important part of our relationship with HeavenlyFather.
Purpose Five is titled "To Learn How to Grow in Faith." It is afascinating look at a subject that is often treated superficially, althoughdiscussed widely in Sacrament Meeting talks and magazine articles. JosephSmith's definition of "faith" and his teachings about faith and power havealways fascinated me. Quoting from "Lectures on Faith" (and I acknowledgethat authorship of this work is currently in dispute):
Faith is the "first great governing principle which has power,dominion, and authority over all things; by it they exist, by it theyare upheld, by it they are changed, or by it they remain, agreeable tothe will of God. Without it there is no power, and without power therecould be no creation nor existence." (p. 102)
The chapter also includes hints on how Saints can grow their faith. Thesuggestions are practical and clear.
Purpose Six is "To Receive the Spirit." The Mormon teaching of the "lightof Christ" is unique in its universal application and availability. HereParry discusses the nurturing of that inner light, learning to recognizeand follow the spirit. Reflecting on the life of the Prophet Joseph Smith,the author shows how great things can be done when one is awakened to thatinner call.
Purpose Seven utilizes a familiar phrase to all Latter-day Saints: "To Comeunto Christ."
We are invited in the scriptures to "come unto Christ." I used tothink that simply going through the motions of Church activityautomatically brought us unto Christ. After all, if you are baptized,partake of the sacrament, go to the temple, and remain active in theChurch, what else are you doing?
Unfortunately, it is possible to do all those things without comingunto Christ. To come unto Christ is to do all that and more. It is togive him our whole hearts, our lives, our plans and hopes and wishesand dreams, our devotion. It is to establish a relationship with theFather and the Son. It is to always remember our Savior, letting himbe the focus of our thoughts and the object of our deepest, mostcherished feelings. (p. 145)
Parry invites the reader to enter into a deeper, more personal relationshipwith Christ. He emphasizes prayer and participation in the ordinances ofthe gospel.
Purpose Eight is "To Live by the Gift of Charity." Here Parry discussesthe profound influence, on ourselves and others, of the transforming powerof love. He focuses on the need for each of us to be a conduit of God'slove to others, learning to love them as we love ourselves.
Purpose Nine is titled "To Obtain an Ever Deeper Knowledge of Truth." Heexplores the various ways in which we obtain knowledge -- through study,from discussions with other seekers, and through revelation. He argues forthe importance of knowledge as a way of coming into a deeper relationshipwith God.
Purpose Ten, "To Seek to be Perfected in Christ," addresses the importanceof developing a godly character. Some folks tremble when they see the word"perfect" in a religious context. It's a goal that simply cannot bereached. Much discussion has been carried on over the years as to themeaning of the word "perfect," but Parry takes it quite literally. He seesperfection as being attainable as one garners benefits from the atonementof Jesus Christ.
Purpose Eleven is "To Find Your Personal Mission in Life." He offers thefamiliar triad of "proclaim the gospel, perfect the saints, redeem thedead," as guidelines for each member to find his or her special mission.He also emphasizes that each person may, by study and by personalrevelation, know his or her particular purpose in life. It is a challengefor each member to discover God's plan for their lives.
Finally, Purpose Twelve is "To Help and Teach Others in All These Things."Parry wants his readers to internalize what they've learned from his bookand carry out these goals in their lives. He offers a nice bottom line tothe story:
We can bring together the powerful combination of love and the Spiritin all our efforts to help and bless others.
The scriptures teach that a key to our ability to do all the Lord wantsus to do is to increase in our love for God and man. The more weexperience godly love, the more we will have the inner drive to blessothers.
The scriptures also teach that a key to growing in love is to seek itas a gift of the Spirit -- and then obey what the Lord tells us to doin order to qualify for the gift. (p. 276)
A brief Epilogue contains twelve powerful promises to help us along theway.
Readers will find the structure of the book to be very helpful. Eachchapter, each "purpose," is divided into subtopics, each having a set ofdiscussion questions at the end. Inset boxes bring out key thoughts. Thereading, then, can be done on a gradual basis, good "bite-sized" chunks forthose wanting to use that as a resource for, say, Family Home Evening.
However one uses the book, Parry wants above all to challenge us to entermore fully into our relationship with God, to sort through the variouspressures coming at us from all directions, and to discern our personalmission in life.
This book will be helpful for those experienced in the faith, and even morefor those new to Mormonism. While it likely won't sell as many copies asRick Warren's book, it does offer the Latter-day Saint a focused andunderstandable approach to nurturing and developing a Christian character.
Jeff Needle September 12, 2005
© 2005 Jeff Needle