I highly recommend the book.
Yes, this is a book with an agenda: the defense of traditional marriage. I admit that I groaned when I heard about the book, not having listened to or watched the talks (which you can do here). I groaned not because I don’t believe in Defending the Family, but because as LDS right now we hear the message of traditional marriage ALL THE TIME, and the theological substance behind the message is simply not there . We get directives and marching orders, but we don’t get much in the way of theological underpinnings or complex scriptural analysis. That’s not to make light of the Proclamation on the Family, for example but I personally find that document is not a particularly complex or theologically engaging: it is a straightforward statement of how things ought to be, with only a very light treatment of the reasons why. Some of you may disagree, finding deep wells of knowledge therein. I envy you. But I am trying to explain why the subject matter of this book was enough to make me not want to read it.
I’m glad I read it, though, because I found wisdom and thought about families that I had never before considered. The rich intellectual traditions of other faiths, Catholicism and Judaism in particular, were highly engaging when brought to bear on topics concerning the family. Jonathan Sacks, for example, gave an address outlining seven primary moments in history, specifically how the bringing together of man and woman are central to history and to our relationship with divinity. Sacks’ exegesis of Genesis was revelatory. Similarly, Cardinal Gerhard Müller explored the complementarity of man and woman, not in a simplistic “one is not whole without the other” sense, but in terms of how male and female aspects help us find deity:
The union of male and female is complementary not in the sense that from it ensues one complete in himself or herself, but in the sense that their union demonstrates how both are a mutual help to journey toward the Creator.
The talks were generally very thoughtful and worth careful consideration. The talks were also an interesting cultural exploration as speakers were represented from around the world. Perhaps more interesting was to read the various addresses as the intellectual and oratorical fruits of the various faith traditions. There is some staggering complexity in the Roman Catholic tradition, for example, that compares quite starkly to evangelical preaching. Elder Eyring’s address similarly gloried in plainness compared to other addresses (see below for the video). This is not to consider them as inferior, but rather to say that this is a book that presents a variety of approaches to questions of traditional marriage. The LDS approach is representative and consistent with our tradition, just as Rick Warren or N.T. Wright’s talks seemed very consistent with their well-known styles. Ultimately the reader can judge as to which approach is most coherent or persuasive. But I enjoyed the book’s interfaith perspective, its international perspective and the positive, affirming messages of how desperately men and women need each other in order to fulfill the destiny laid out for them by our creator. It gives me something meaty to chew on while I consider the place of families in contemporary society.
Not Just Good, but Beautiful: The Complementary Relationship between Man and Woman. Steven Lopes, Helen Alvaré, Editors. 2015: Plough Publishing House.
 That’s not to say that there aren’t some very thoughtful treatments on the topic. I think Sam Brown’s book, while not explicitly about traditional marriage, lends itself to a Mormon reading on the topic. But by and large most of the deep thinking on the topic has not come out of the Ensign.