Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Shack

I finally finished reading The Shack, by William Paul Young. It took me longer to get through than I had anticipated. I also didn't like it as much as I thought I would. Perhaps I had elevated expectations due to all of the praise it has received; perhaps I'm just so used to being spiritually fed from the source of all truth that this book couldn't really hit the mark.

I don't want to say too much in case the rest of you haven't finished (or started) it yet. I did like the plot of the book: a man named Mack, whose youngest daughter was abducted and possibly murdered in an abandoned shack, receives a note purportedly from God inviting him to spend a weekend at that shack. What happens that weekend changes Mack forever.

It's a good storyline. My main problem with the book is theological. While I can understand the 'whys' behind some of the author's characterizations and the ways he presents some of the story, I disagree with parts of it. That's not to say that I found all of the book to be doctrinally false. There are parts that I do agree with from a theological standpoint.

What stands out to me the most is the idea that God never abandons us, even in our deepest, darkest moments of sorrow, pain, or hardship. He is always there; it remains for us to be able to recognize His presence and turn to Him for help. I think The Shack did a decent job of getting that point across. As I was in the midst of reading this book, I came across the text of an address given by Elder Jeffery R. Holland entitled Lessons from Liberty Jail. I think this address makes the same point as The Shack, but in a more concise and concrete way. Just a quick quote:

"...[Y]ou can have sacred, revelatory, profoundly instructive experience with the Lord in any situation you are in. Indeed, let me say that even a little stronger: You can have sacred, revelatory, profoundly instructive experience with the Lord in the most miserable experiences of your life—in the worst settings, while enduring the most painful injustices, when facing the most insurmountable odds and opposition you have ever faced."

For the entire text of the address, click here.

There is no question that Mack went through what for him was a "prison-temple" experience, similar in some ways to the experience of Joseph Smith in Liberty Jail as described by Elder Holland. I think that, for those people who may be unfamiliar with the idea of God being one who truly knows us as individuals and loves each of us immeasureably, this book can be eye-opening and truly moving.

I hope someone else has read it or is currently reading it. I'd be interested in discussing The Shack on a more in-depth level, and I'd love to know what the rest of you thought about it.


Sarah said...

I finally got my copy of the book from the library and am looking forward to reading it, so we can have a more in-depth conversation. I know of lots of people who loooove this book -- but none of them are LDS. I wondered how it would be from an LDS perspective. Can't wait to talk about it!!

Shafer and Lindsey said...

I finished reading it a few weeks ago, so it's not totally fresh on my mind. I too had a few problems with the way the Godhead was characterized. But, that's just because of my personal beliefs. I kind of tried to read from a non LDS standpoint and after that I was able to enjoy the book more. I too loved how the book showed how God is always with us and we just need to recognize His presence. Although my beliefs about who and what God is differ from the book, I really loved how personal God was to Mack (and everyone), I think that aspect was right on. God is there waiting to be close to us and we just need to come to Him! Overall, it was a very uplifting book and I enjoyed reading it.