Several years ago it occurred to me that filling ourselves with Doctrine might be the most important thing any one of us could do to become better family members. When we understand the expansive goodness of His plan and the personal power of His love, we are likely to be better saints, partners, and parents.

It is amazing how God opens the way for us to accomplish the things He places in our hearts. Ever since I first read the writings of Richard Cracroft, I had been enriched by his honesty, his faith, and his sheer inspiration. So when Richard and I were called to work side by side in a BYU stake, I seized on the opportunity to propose a book addressing how the doctrines found in the scriptures address our personal and family challenges. Richard and I (mostly Richard!) invited respected friends and colleagues to contribute. Thirteen thoughtful latter-day saints wrote about their experiences on the subject of applying the doctrines to life’s challenges. The book was published by Bookcraft in 1999.

I was surprised how difficult the task was for most of the authors. Apparently the powerful truths of the Gospel do not yield up their secrets to casual investigation. Even the minds of the great people who contributed to the book were challenged by the objective.

Since that book was published, I have thought that I would like to take the life and teachings of Jesus and try to mine them for lessons for family life. They could make a great book. I don’t yet know how that dream may be fulfilled. Maybe some faith-filled and wise saint will be moved to do this work.

An important contribution to the LDS effort to connect gospel principles to family realities has arrived in the form of The Peacegiver by James L. Ferrell. His subtitle describes his purpose: “How Christ offers to heal our hearts and homes.” In the book a struggling husband and father is carried across time and space to visit scriptural scenes in order to learn vital lessons for his family life.

In particular Ferrell has taken us to two places: a dusty plain where King David faced Abigail, wife of Nabal and a hillside outside of Nineveh where Jonah grumped that the Lord had spared the inhabitants of the once-wicked city. Ferrell helps us see types of Christ and His mercy in unexpected places. His insights are powerful.

Perhaps my favorite line from the book is: “Being mistreated is the most important condition of mortality, for eternity itself depends on how we view those who mistreat us” (p. 33). Our willingness to forgive others may be the surest sign that we have understood the Doctrine of the Atonement.

The book’s literary device of having Rick Carson time-traveling with his grandfather will work better for some readers than others. My main discomfort with the book was having an almost-omniscient mentor for a mere mortal. Sometimes the mentoring feels somewhat stilted and condescending. Yet the power of the book is in discovering the message of redemption and forgiveness hidden between the lines in great scriptural stories that we have previously neglected.

May the work of mining the scriptures for lessons of family life continue.

James L. Ferrell (2004). The Peacegiver: How Christ Offers to Heal Our Hearts and Homes. SLC, UT: Deseret.

Read Chapter 1 from the book here:

H. Wallace Goddard, & Richard H. Cracroft (Eds.) (1999). My Soul Delighteth in the Scriptures: Personal and Family Applications. SLC, UT: Bookcraft.