There is no formal training for LDS church leaders, nor are there professional requirements. This limits pastoral perspective, ministering tools, and administrative skills that they can leverage in their leadership roles. Someday, I expect the church to implement a leadership training program. Until then, leaders are on their own.
The following are recommend for LDS Church leaders.
Gospel Topics Essays
LDS Gospel Topics Essays were first issued by the Church in 2013. Leaders and teachers have been advised to become very familiar with these essays and to incorporate the material into lessons.
They are relatively short introductions to important subjects on church history and doctrinal subjects. They provide correction, expansion, and clarification to matters that can be problematic to members and non-members.
Each essay has been composed by scholars, but edited and approved by the Q15. As you should expect, there are ample footnotes, which may deserve some of your attention, but you will need to enable the sidebar when viewing the content online. The “Related Topics” section below each essay contains additional information. Those under the primary plural marriage essay are necessary expansions.
Bridges: Ministering to Those Who Question by David B. Ostler (Also at Kofford Books.)
This is a MUST-READ, because is pulls together much of the content or message in the remaining Leadership Essentials list. It is a relatively small book and covers a broad range of topics. It should be seen as a critical introduction to meeting the needs of a growing segment of church membership that is at risk.
Women at Church
Women At Church – Magnifying LDS Women’s Local Impact by Neylan McBain (Grumpy Review)
This is a MUST-READ, an absolute essential, for any church leader, male or female. All male leadership creates a blind spot that marginalizes more than half of the church. It must, and can be, addressed within the scope of the current “Handbook.”
Voices of Hope: Latter-Day Saint Perspectives on Same Gender Attraction- An Anthology of Gospel Teachings and Personal Essays by Ty Mansfield
Of all of the books that I have read, this was the greatest eye-opener and sets the stage for a church leader to see people differently.
Listen, Learn, & Love by Richard Ostler is a great podcast series that helps listeners understand the human toll of bring gay in the church.
Beyond The Block podcast is also great at exposing our internal biases while also hearing Mormon-related news.
People Who Leave
Keeping people in the church means understanding the pain points and faith struggles.
The Next Mormons by Jana Reiss (Grumpy Review)
Church is always a function of the culture, it must operate within the world where people live. Addressing the church-culture relationship is essential if religion is to remain relevant.
Faith stages or faith journey is a concept that we don’t typically address in a LDS context; faith development is more of a destination, not a journey. The following books are an introduction to this concept and will help leaders understand something about the variety of people under their care.
Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe Is Coming Apart by Kathy Escobar (Grumpy Review)
This will be a hard read for many church leaders, especially if they are firmly entrenched in an early faith stage.
Navigating Mormon Faith Crisis by Thomas Wirthlin McConkie. (Grumpy Review)
McConkie provides a relatively technical, yet practical, look at faith stages in a Mormon context. (BTW, he wrote the book before Pres. Nelson began the renaming effort. So, don’t get offended.)
Faith Is Not Blind by Bruce and Marie Hafen (Grumpy Review)
While Hafen’s approach this from an LDS perspective, I found the book lacking intellectual credibility, especially since it fails to allow for the real difficulties in faith transition. However, it may be an easier read for leaders in an early faith stage (which is probably a majority).
The Crucible of Doubt: Reflections On the Quest for Faith by Terryl and Fiona Givens
It is unfortunate that general conference sermons have literally demonized the word “doubt.” This is a great book and a must-read.
Additional Leadership Essentials
Odds Are, You Are Going to Be Exalted by Alonzo L. Gaskill
A narrow-minded leader focused on exclusivity and truth claims is not helpful to anyone. Gaskill points us to the universalist aspects of LDS tradition that give hope to all.
Other Books I’ve Read
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
** I classify this as one of the most influential books I’ve ever read. It is a
must-read for anyone with a curious mind.
Bathing With God by Glenn Ostlund
The Fifth Way by David Brisbin
Contemplative and instructive. Brisbin shows us how we often invert or misunderstand the lessons of the Bible when we do not understand the linguistic (Aramaic) and cultural context of Jesus.
In the Shadow of the Sword: The Birth of Islam and the Rise of the Global Arab Empire by Tom Holland
While the titular subject is Islam, most of the book describes the formative years of Judaism and Christianity.
Quiet – The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain (Grumpy Review in progress)
Joseph Smith – The Making of a Prophet by Dan Vogel
A thorough biography with emphasis on providing context to Book of Mormon dictation work.
Joseph Smith’s First Vision in Historical Context: How a Historical Narrative became Theological by Gregory A. Prince, Journal of Mormon History, 41(4), 74-94. (Excellent article!)
The Cultural Evolution Inside of Mormonism by Greg Trimble. (Don’t bother. Shallow and uninformative.)
Flunking Sainthood by Jana Reiss
Letters to a Young Mormon by Adam S. Miller
The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis
Evolving Faith: Wanderings of a Mormon Biologist by Stephen L. Peck
The God Who Weeps by Teryl Givens and Fiona Givens
New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton
Brothers Karamozov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life by Richard Rohr (Grumpy Review)
Rhor takes a more mater-of-fact romantic perspective on faith stages.
The Lost World of Adam and Eve: Genesis 2-3 and the Human Origins Debate by John H. Walton
Joseph Smith’s First Vision – A Guide to the Historical Accounts By Steven C. Harper. (Grumpy Review)
Banishing the Cross: The Emergence of a Mormon Taboo by Michael G. Reed (Grumpy Review)
The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate by John H. Walton (Grumpy Review)
Prolegomena to Any Future Study of Isaiah in the Book of Mormon by Joseph M. Spencer (Follow-on Article: Joseph Spencer on Isaiah, baptism, and the Godhead in the Book of Mormon)
As Iron Sharpens Iron: Listening to the Various Voices of Scripture, Edited by Julie M. Smith
Jesus Christ and the World of the New Testament: An LDS Perspective by Richard Neitzel Holzapeel, Eric D. Huntsman, and Thomas A. Payment
Women of the New Testament by Camille Fronk Olson
Temple and Cosmos: Beyond This Ignorant Present by Hugh Nibley
Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling by Richard Lyman Bushman
How Wide the Divide?: A Mormon & an Evangelical in Conversation by Craig L. Blomberg and Stephen E. Robinson
Mormon’s Codex: An Ancient American Book by John Sorenson
The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text by Royal Skousen
Introduction to the Book of Abraham by John Gee
This is an approachable book, but is written with a blatant apologetic intent. Possibility is substituted for probability and good scholarship is ignored.
The Inevitable Apostasy and The Promised Restoration by Tad R. Callister
Shallow book full of rhetorical questions and proof texting of early Christian documents.
A Few Books On The Shelf to Be Read
The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel
The Infinite Atonement by Tad R. Callister
Theosis In St. Augustine by Alvin Rapien
A Convincing Holy Book? Not Possible by Bob Seidensticker
Attendance increasing at theologically conservative churches by Joe Friesen
Joseph Smith and The Problem of Evil by David L. Paulsen
No Religion Is An Island by Abraham Joshua Heschel
MormonLand by Salt Lake Tribune
Mormon News Report by Brandt and Jenny
Listen, Learn, & Love by Richard Ostler
Mormon Matters by Dan Wotherspoon
And others that keep me company on long drives.
Blogs and Information Sites
Ploni Almoni by Stephen Own Smoot
Sic et Non, Dan Peterson on Patheos
My Other Church
Theology on Tap-Logan – A casual group of wonder friends and presenters. Meetings are coordinated on Facebook.