At last a Latter-day Saint book that really says something! Carrying the momentum of Dialogues with Myself into fields where no one else is walking, Eugene England has given us some stereoscopic views that take us out of our intellectual flatland and find us room to turn around in, breathe deeply, and do some exploring.
The Church, we have been told, has at times been "under condemnation." But how could the gospel be under condemnation? Unthinkable—they are not the same thing at all, right? Wrong, and England will show you just how wrong and misleading that assumption can be. The gospel and the Church: we call one the plan and the other the work. The plan looks to the eternities and must necessarily be perfect; but the work is right here and is anything but the finished product. Yet the two are inseparable! "To bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man" is the plan; to carry it out, "this is my work and my glory"—the glory is in the work. We are permitted to take part in the work, to participate like eager but bungling children in the kitchen or the shop—dropping things, doing it all wrong, quarreling, getting in each other's way, trying the patience of indulgent elders. What a headache! Yet such is the best and happiest arrangement for all concerned, everybody having a wonderful time—and it is found only in the restored Church, where the plan and the work are equally exhilarating and equally sacred. England shows us for the first time what a truly astounding phenomenon the Latter-day Saint Church is, "as true as—that is, as effective for salvation as—the gospel."
Yet the plan does not suffer fools gladly. If its object is perfection—eternal progression, no less—nothing could be more retrograde to it than the easy self-congratulation, shallow learning, vanity of office, quest for wealth and recognition, the futile ambition and careerism that characterize our present society. England calls upon the singular eloquence of Brigham Young and Spencer W. Kimball to affirm the values on which the Church was founded. That means seeking and finding, never hesitating to question, for there are answers awaiting those who question. We are here to take advantage of all the facilities provided, and the early Saints knew that the treasures of the race, especially Shakespeare, were not to be neglected. Professor England bids us carry on the careful study which hard necessity denied our yearning ancestors. It is the schoolmen and the fundamentalists who stop the process with final answers, satisfied with what they have. Too often the mere fact that the teaching and history of the Church raise unanswered questions is taken as proof positive that something is seriously wrong. And it is wrong if we ever stop seeking. The author understands perfectly well the position of the disillusioned and the paradoxes of a world where evil is suffered to exist. Who else would head a chapter "The Trouble with Excellence"? England does not apologize for preaching when that cuts through the underbrush, and he spares the tenderest plants while vigorously raking out a lot of dead stuff.
But it is the stereo effect, bringing a third dimension into bold relief, at which Eugene England excels. The cumulative effect as one reads along is the emergence of a perfectly matter-of-fact realization that the other world does exist. He takes you there with people whose stories would be quite incredible were their deeds not equally incredible and undeniable. You must discover for yourself some of those electrifying insights that shock with originality and unexpectedness. (Hint: Look for Eden!)