Book review: 'Are We Special' brings balance to self-identity

By James Holt

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, June 29 2013 5:00 a.m. MDT

"ARE WE SPECIAL? The Truth and the Lie about God's Chosen People," by Jeffrey S. Reber and Steven P. Moody, Deseret Book, $18.99, 266 page (nf)

In "Are We Special? The Truth and the Lie about God's Chosen People," Brigham Young University associate professor Jeffrey S. Reber and Mormon psychologist Steven P. Moody give readers with much to think about. Their book explores who people are, how they relate to the world around them and also to perhaps make changes to the way that they live.

Primarily for an audience who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the authors highlight today's obsession with being special; with being the center of attention. They explore examples from culture such as the rise of celebrity and reality TV shows. It is an interesting commentary on today's world and has applicability beyond the anticipated LDS readership.

The truth Reber and Moody use is that truth that every person is a child of God, and the authors describe "lie" as making people "unique in the world and more important, special and better than everyone else."

Individuals generally fall into four different categories based on acceptance or denial of the truth and lie, write the authors, who combine an LDS perspective with elements of their experience as psychologists throughout the book.

They also suggest that there is a fine line between the truth and the lie. The four categories are:

1. Accepting the truth and the lie that makes people believe they are better than others because they are children of God.

2. Denying the truth and accepting the lie, thus being focused on selfish desires.

3. Denying the lie and the truth, thus making the individual nothing special.

4. Accepting the truth and denying the lie (the preferred mode) by accepting a divine heritage but denying that it makes them better than anyone else.

Reber and Moody explore how each of these approaches may be evidenced in a person's life. Even by knowing about the less-desirable states, readers are able to explore themselves and their motivations to strive to establish an equilibrium in living the gospel of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The path of the disciple as a reflection of the fourth category is explored in great detail and provides a template for being anchored to the gospel of Jesus Christ. In common with other LDS writers, while recognizing that Mormons are not inherently better than those who are not of the LDS faith, the authors rely heavily on LDS authors in building their discussion.

James Holt is a senior lecturer in religious education at the University of Chester, U.K. His email is james.holt@chester.ac.uk

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