Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Book of Mormon Girl

A couple of days ago I finished Joanna Brooks's book The Book of Mormon Girl. It was excellent. 

She writes about her experience growing up in the Mormon faith. She focuses on how comforting it was to know that her religion had ready made answers for all the difficult questions of life. Outside of some of the doctrinal differences, growing up Mormon sounded very similar to growing up adventist. One of her special skills as a child was being able to tell which cup of brown liquid was root beer and which was coke, because she wasn't allowed to have the caffeine. I'm pretty sure I know a few people who could identify which casseroles contained cheese as opposed to soy cheese :)

Later, she talks about her experience at Brigham Young University during the 90's when the Mormon church excommunicated many feminists, scholars and intellectuals for questioning the church. She started to see the cracks and shortcomings that all churches and philosophies possess.

"These are the unspoken legacies we inherit when we belong to a people: not only luminous visions of eternal expanses of loving-kindness, but actual human histories of exclusion and rank prejudice. We inherit not only the glorious histories of our ancestors, but their human failings too, their kindness, their tenderness, and their satisfaction with easy contradiction; their wisdom as well as their ignorance, arrogance and presumption, as our own. We inherit all the ways in which our ancestors and parents and teachers were wrong, as well as the ways they were right: their sparkling differences, and their human failings. There is no unmixing the two." Pg. 133. 

She recalls her disgust as her church turned out to support proposition 8(banning gay marriage) by mobilizing a massive grassroots movement and contributing nearly 50% of the $82 million dollars donated to the cause. $82 million dollars that could have provided oral rehydration packets to children dying of diarrhea, the second leading cause of death worldwide, for a decade. 

She asks, "What do we do when we fail to become the adults we dreamed of as pious children? How do we react when we discover at the core of faith is a knot of contradictions?... Throw it out? Do we resent the worry in our friends eyes?... Do we blame ourselves for taking seriously the talk of love, compassion, equality, mercy and justice?"

Things get sticky when the faith that provided so many warm childhood memories and a fulfilling community isn't as bright and shinning as you thought. Anyone who has been in a relationship knows that warm memories aren't enough to create a bright future. 

Her conclusion is that everyone should work to create faith traditions that are big enough for all stories and points of view. Instead of abandoning something so fundamental to your life, accept that it is imperfect, decide how it fits into your story and work for reformation. Do we need to be loyal to faith traditions in an all or nothing deal?

I highly recommend this book to anyone working to decide the role that faith will play in their life and what that faith will look like. I found it very insightful. 


  1. Wow, thanks for this insightful book review, David. I am definitely going to add it to my reading list.

    1. Glad to hear it. I really enjoyed reading it. She gave an interview on the Daily show a couple weeks ago that was good as well.