Tag Archives: Review

Review: Escape by Carolyn Jessop

I love reading autobiographies. It’s been a while now since I read the last one I read. I was actually perusing a second hand book shops when I found “Escape” by Carolyn Jessop and bought it on a whim for twelve dollars. Once I began reading it I quickly realised I had heard interviews with Carolyn before and had this book recommended to me by others. Now that I have read it I understand why it has made the impact it has.

Carolyn Jessop was born into a polygamist cult called the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints (FLDS), and she lived the first 35 years of her life with that worldview before escaping with her 8 children. The book depicts life as a woman within this cult, detailing marriage, faith, family and relationships from Carolyn’s perspective.

The FLDS broke away from the Mormon church, holding to the notion that polygamy is a must for anyone who wishing to reach heaven. Men often have a minimum of three wives, and the upper echelons of the cult often have more. The cult leader (a false prophet) claims to receive a message from God about who people are required to marry. Women are treated like products.

After being born into the religion and Carolyn grew up in a community where everyone in the whole town believed and practiced the cult’s beliefs. When she was just eighteen she was made to marry fifty-five year old man named Merril Jessop. She became his fourth wife. He eventually had twelve or more wives and more than fifty children. Carolyn had eight children to Merril. She details in the book that during her fifteen years of marriage to Merril she suffered continuous psychological and physical abuse at the hands of her husband and his other wives. She suggests that this is normal within the FLDS community. Carolyn eventually came to see the hypocrisy and dangers of the cult she was a part of, and decided that she needed to escape it with her children before they were forced to undergo the same life she had (not an easy thing to do). Almost Orwellian in nature, the close community is highly guarded and even the police officers are members of the cult. Carolyn was the first woman to escape the FLDS with her children.

This book is gives an insight into this bizarre cult and it blows my mind that such a community exists in a western country. This is a western country today, not some tribe four thousand years ago, it is still occurring TODAY. The FLDS is one of many cults that treat human beings like commodities. I was shocked at the power over people that the leaders of this religion seem to have.

There are so many fascinating elements of this book including the dynamics within the religion, interactions with the outside world and how religion can be used to manipulate people. Probably one of the most interesting elements of the book for me personally is how something like this cult can occur, along with the abuses that go on within it, without anybody speaking up. In one part of the book a woman is forced to saw a cows head off while it is still alive in front of a group of parents and children, in another part a woman’s hair is pulled from her head as a sermon illustration. Children are married off to elderly men, the colour red is banned, and elderly women or teenage boys are excommunicated and left penniless and education-less on the sides of highways. While the FLDS is an evil, manipulative system and not a religion, the book shows the dangers of one person being in control of many and how power corrupts.

Carolyn Jessop is an incredibly brave woman, and her heroic endurance and escape are a testimony to the love of a mother and will of an independent thinker. I am looking forward to reading “Triumph”, which furthers the story by detailing Carolyn’s involvement with a government raid on the FLDS compound in 2008. I highly recommend “Escape” by Carolyn Jessop as a disturbing eye-opener that shows there is hope for anyone.

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Review: Bible Doctrine by Wayne Grudem

I’ve got a lot of reference books on the bookshelf near my computer desk. Some I haven’t opened for years but keep around just in case, others I can’t go a week without opening. Bible Doctrine by Wayne Grudem is one of the ones I refer to all the time. I have given this book away so many times now I have forgotten how many, for me it is just one of those books. It is my favourite reference book and probably the only reference books I could read cover to cover on an ongoing basis if I had the time.

I first came upon Wayne Grudem by accident because I accidently purchased his book Systematic Theology instead of another book I was looking for with the same title. As a relatively new Christian at the time I was impressed with the understandable style that that book explained Christian doctrines. Wayne Grudem has a core belief that doctrine should be biblical, practical and understandable. He always writes and teaches in a way that embodies this belief. As a busy young person with little time I was delighted when I found out that Systematic Theology had been abridged.

Bible Doctrine is a more condense version of Systematic Theology, making it more accessible which is good for people too busy to wade through the textbook style. Despite its condenseness it maintains its depth and thoroughness. It sets out to introduce and cover essential teachings of the Christian faith for people to study once they have decided to become a Christian. Grudem’s style of writing is a nice balance between clear understandable language and complete coverage of the important stuff. He does not compromise depth for clarity but finds a way to manage both.

When I was in youth ministry I would often use this book to “check” my doctrine as I prepared bible studies or messages. I would use the application questions and review questions and adapt for use in the group studies I ran, and I memorised the memory passages at the end of each chapter. I honestly believe I could give this book to my pastor or to high school students and they could both benefit from it.

It is clear that Grudem ascribes to a reformed position of theological issues, although he is not shy to challenge things like infant baptism. Although he does offer various perspectives on issues that have caused divide within Christendom, he is willing to state with authority his own conclusions on the matter. He is able to do this because he teaches from the Bible, using it as his primary source, a radical and refreshing decision for a modern Bible teacher to make.
I love this book. I would recommend it to anyone and everyone but especially to Christians looking for clear communication of core doctrines in a practical but reverent way. As I have mentioned I have given it away countless times, and the price makes it easy to do that. I would suggest getting this book and reading it cover to cover as a study guide and using it as a reference after that. Having correct doctrine is important and Wayne Grudem gives you a passion to study and learn more about the Bible.

Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem – The unabridged version (1264 pages). A serious reference book for teachers and preachers, and laypeople who want to go deep deep deep.

Bible Doctrine by Wayne Grudem- Abridged version of Systematic Theology (528 pages). A great reference book for teachers and preachers, and laypeople of all ages and backgrounds. Great for giving away to serious people who are passionate about learning more about doctrine. Very recommended and probably one of my favourite books.

Christian Beliefs: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know by Wayne and Elliot Grudem- very concise, backpocket version abridged from Bible Doctrine (160 little pages). Great for giving away to anyone, and anyone should be able to read it in one sitting or as twenty short daily devotions. I have given away lots of these.

PS – While I am talking about Wayne Grudem, and plugging him really, I might as well mention he has a free teaching podcast where he teaches through the Systematic Theology book. You can find that on iTunes HERE.

Review: “Basic Instructions” by Scott Meyer

My wife and I have both enjoyed the web comic “Basic Instructions” by Scott Meyer for a few years now. There are feeds that pop up in your RSS reader which you skim read or browse on occasion, and other feeds that you read instantly the moment they are updated. “Basic Instructions” is one of the feeds you read instantly. Quite a lot of times now I have shared a particular comic from the series with a friend printed or via Facebook, and even sent one out as a bulk email which is something I hardly ever do. It is an extremely clever and funny comic.

Written and drawn in the style of airline safety cards, “Basic Instructions” dispenses advice, techniques and tips broken down for the layperson. Each comic is a simple guide that is humorous because it is about a relatable situation that most of us experience in our everyday lives. Some of the situations include: How to buy a car, how to apologise without accepting blame, how to display your baby and how to fake a smile (which is for some reason my all-time favourite). The tone of the comic narration is deadpan no matter how absurd the situation. Each comic uses tongue in cheek wit to illustrate the narration, with each individual panel being funny unto itself while being built upon by the next for a final payoff funny at the end.

Often with web-comics I like, I subscribe to them for a while and then move on, replacing them with other subscriptions. However, “Basic Instructions” by Scott Meyer is one that I have to keep getting updates for because it is so gosh darn funny. I would say they are the smartest-funny-webcomic I have read. As I have enjoyed the comics for free for so long, I felt compelled to purchase the books so that I can have a physical copy for myself as well as support this artist who I have enjoyed for a few years now.

I recommend checking out the website for “Basic Instructions” and reading a few from the archive. If you like the sarcastic-geek type of tone then I recommend purchasing the books which are made up of comics from the website. They are very well priced on Amazon (Volume 1: Help Is on the Way or Volume 2: Made with 90% Recycled Art) or you can get autographed copies very cheap on the “Basic Instructions” website.

I’m not sure if you call this a review for the web-comic or for the books, but it doesn’t matter because both get five out of five spuds from me.

My Escapade – Of A Future.

If you haven’t checked out the band My Escapade yet then you really really need to do that immediately before you do anything else. They have a new single (Of A Future) out and its rad. The film-clip for the song is incredible too.

The song is off their upcoming EP which will be released March next year.

Hit this LINK RIGHT HERE for more info. You will not regret it.