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by Gordon B. Hinckley
Simon & Schuster, 2002
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D. on Dec 13th 2002

Way to Be!

In this book aimed at young people, Gordon Hinkley, president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who has lived for more than nine decades, offers Christian advice about how to happy.  This advice consists of 9 "Be"s.

·       Be thankful

·       Be smart

·       Be involved

·       Be clean

·       Be true

·       Be positive

·       Be humble

·       Be still

·       Be prayerful

I should preface my comments by noting that I am neither a practicing Christian nor a young person.  When I was a young person, I was not much inclined to take the advice of my elders, and now that I am in my middle years, I am not inclined to give advice to others.  I am, however, interested in the question of whether it is feasible to teach other people to be happy. 

Hinkley tells stories from his long life.  Hinkley extols the virtues of being neat and well groomed.  He says, "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy and Jill a dull girl."  He says the world is full of filth and sleaze, and he recommends staying away from it.  He condemns the use of tattoos, citing St. Paul as justification, and predicts that anyone who gets a tattoo will regret it.  He condemns the use of body piercing.  He says, "Stay away from pornography as you would a serious disease."  He condemns the use of all drugs, predicting that their use will lead inevitably to addiction.  He condemns sex outside marriage.  He says that one should be happy, and ironically he gives the example of Winston Churchill during the Second World War as someone who kept a positive attitude.  He makes no mention of Churchill's "black dog" – the great politician actually experienced severe depression, and thus was often unable to simply be happy.  Hinkley insists that one cannot cope on one's own, but that one needs God's help and that God answers one's prayers.

The advice offered by Hinkley is mostly conventional Christian conservatism.  Hinkley justifies his views by appeal to his personal experience, but this gives no good reason to think that his advice is good.  Indeed, any self-respecting young person reading this book who has a healthy sense of rebellion should want to take drugs, use pornography, and engage in promiscuous sex.  Even those young people who are practicing Christians are likely to find that Hinkley's advice has little to teach them that they haven't already been told, and I would hope that they would seek out more thoughtful and probing sources of advice about how to live a good life. 

The abridged audiobook is read well by Robb Webb. 


© 2002 Christian Perring. All rights reserved.

Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is editor of Metapsychology Online Review. His main research is on philosophical issues in psychiatry. He is especially interested in exploring how philosophers can play a greater role in public life, and he is keen to help foster communication between philosophers, mental health professionals, and the general public.