Here’s another reposted book review, which I originally wrote for Epinions on June 27, 2013. I reposted it on the Blogspot version of this blog, and am now reposting it again, as/is. I used to keep up with “Regina” (a pseudonym), but she has dropped off my radar. I did enjoy her book very much. She wrote a follow up book four years later. You can find my reposted review of it here.
If you regularly read my book reviews, you might have noticed that I love to read true stories. I have read and reviewed many books by people involved with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, especially those who have chosen to leave the faith. I have a blog, and a lot of my blog is about how Mormonism has affected my life. I am not LDS, but my husband was for awhile and his two daughters are Mormons. So I’ve studied the faith and read lots of books, and lots of Mormons and ex Mormons stumble across my blog.
One day, I noticed I had some hits coming from another blogger’s site. I clicked on the link, which took me to Regina Samuelson’s blog in support of her 2013 book, I’m (No Longer) a Mormon: A Confessional. I was gratified to see that she had linked my blog, especially since until very recently, I didn’t tend to advertise it because it’s full of a lot of p!ss and vinegar.
Anyway, after reading some of it, I was intrigued by Samuelson’s blog, so I decided to read her book on my Kindle. I just finished I’m (No Longer) A Mormon and, I have to say, it was a most excellent read. I learned a lot. I enjoyed her writing style. And I could even relate to her, since I get the sense that she’s about my age and living a somewhat similar lifestyle. She’s a stay at home mom and I’m a stay at home wife and “mom” to beagles. Scratch that. I don’t have kids… but I know what it’s like to have left the career track. Before she married, Samuelson was a teacher in Utah. Before I married, I had big plans to be a public health social worker.
Incidentally, the name “Regina Samuelson” is a pseudonym. I’m guessing Samuelson chooses not to use her real name because she doesn’t want to deal with the backlash of being honest. I can relate to that, too… it’s a major reason why my blog was kept relatively on the downlow for so long. I suspect Samuelson’s backlash would be a lot worse than mine would be; most people who know me in person probably already have an inkling of what I think about most things. But who wants to invite unnecessary drama, right?
Samuelson explains that her parents converted to Mormonism in the 1970s. She grew up doing the whole Mormon thing, which culminated in her attendance at Brigham Young University. Despite being LDS, Samuelson was very free spirited and occasionally got into trouble with church officials for being outspoken and/or doing things that were considered wrong. For instance, one anecdote Samuelson relates involves her decision to work in BYU’s art department as a model. She was given a bikini to wear while art students sketched her. Bear in mind that most Mormons are pretty uptight about nudity and the very fact that she was wearing a bikini for legitimate work at BYU might have already been a bit scandalous, though technically legal. The work was easy, paid well, and was somewhat enjoyable. One day, an art professor asked Samuelson if she minded posing nude for some BYU students outside of the university’s art department. Samuelson explains that the money offered was substantially better and art students need nudes in their portfolios in order to have a prayer of finding legitimate employment. Anyway, Samuelson did the nude modeling… and got into trouble. Read the book if you want to find out what happened. Suffice it to say, that if you don’t know anything about Mormonism, a lot of what Samuelson writes might be a bit of a mind blower.
Samuelson’s title, by the way, is based on a recent publicity campaign put on by the church. If you hang out on YouTube, you might see the ads made by “normal” folks who proudly proclaim all the neat things they are doing with their lives and… hey, guess what? They’re Mormons! Samuelson’s title says, “I’m (no longer) a Mormon” and here’s why. She has a lot of valid reasons and explains them all logically and intriguingly.
I really enjoyed Samuelson’s very conversational style and slight irreverence. I got the sense that we could be friends. I also learned some interesting things about Mormonism that I didn’t know. In one interesting passage, Samuelson explains how Johnny Appleseed was indirectly responsible for the creation of the LDS church. She cites a popular book by author Michael Pollan and, in her own entertaining way, describes the chain of events that led to her statement that Johnny Appleseed had something to do with Mormonism. It was a fascinating read. When I mentioned it on an ExMormon group I belong to on Facebook, someone immediately recognized Michael Pollan’s work and suggested the book that Samuelson had referenced. It’s now on my reading list. I think any book that leads to more study is worth reading.
I think another aspect of this book that I enjoyed is Samuelson’s many colorful, witty, and sometimes shocking stories about her experiences in the church. I was particularly interested in her stories about BYU. As I read this book, I realized that Samuelson is a very bright person who uses her mind and powers of logic. By the time I was finished, I really respected her intellect and resolve. I also respected her husband, who was born and raised by a very Mormon family. If you know nothing about Mormonism and what happens when people leave it, you might not understand why I respect him so much now… but if you read Samuelson’s book, you’ll soon get the picture. It can be dangerous to leave the church if you want to keep your friends and family. It can also be risky to stand by a spouse who goes apostate.
I liked I’m (No Longer) A Mormon, and not just because the author apparently has read and enjoyed my blog. I would recommend it wholeheartedly to anyone who is interested in a woman’s personal account of leaving the Mormon church.
Here’s a link to Regina’s blog, although it hasn’t been updated in ages.
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