book reviews, religion

Repost: A review of Sacred Road: My Journey Through Abuse, Leaving the Mormons, and Embracing Spirituality…

And here is a repost of a book review I wrote on October 29, 2014. It appears here as/is.

Those of you who regularly read this blog– and I know there are a few of you– know that I enjoy reading “ex Mormon lit”.  I have a couple of huge lists of books I’ve already read and reviewed which I’ll link to at the end of this post.  I can’t say that every book about leaving Mormonism tempts me, but many of them do.  I especially enjoy reading books about missionary experiences since I was myself a Peace Corps Volunteer.  While the Peace Corps and a Mormon mission are not really the same things, strange experiences in exotic countries can be somewhat universally appealing.

Anyway, I just finished reading Todd Maxwell Preston’s 2013 book, Sacred Road: My Journey Through Abuse, Leaving the Mormons, and Embracing Spirituality.  This book was not about a Mormon mission experience.  I still found it interesting in a “Peace Corps” kind of way because Preston is not American.  He hails from New Zealand, a place I’ve been wanting to visit for a long time for the scenery and the wine alone! 

At the beginning of his book, Preston explains that his parents were not born Mormon; they were converts.  Preston was born March 7, 1973 in Hamilton, New Zealand, the fourth of ten children.  When he was six years old, his family moved to Utah for the first time.  As he grew up in his large Mormon Kiwi family, they would move back and forth from New Zealand to Utah several times.  As I read about the major moves Preston’s huge family made, I couldn’t help but think about the logistics of it. 

I have lived abroad four times in my life.  The first time, when my dad was transferred to England with the Air Force, I was too young to remember what went into making the move.  The next time, I went to Armenia– just me and a couple of suitcases.  Then there were two moves to Germany.  Each overseas move has been complicated and somewhat difficult, despite the fact that each time, there was a job to go to and logistical and financial support.  From what I gathered, Todd Preston’s family didn’t have that.  Perhaps it makes a difference if you have family to help you, but the cost alone would be daunting for family of Preston’s size.  And add in the fact that Preston and his siblings were school aged, I imagine it was a lot of upheaval and confusion for them, especially since one move to Utah lasted only a couple of months!

Making matters worse was the fact that Preston’s father was very abusive and Preston apparently wasn’t one of his favored children.  Consequently, he was treated very badly by his dad, who insisted that Preston adhere to the many strict tenets of Mormonism and used abusive methods to make sure he did.  I got the sense that Preston was a bit of a free spirit being forced to be a square peg in a round hole.

Preston went to school in Texas to become a chiropractor.  He was not the only one in his family to take this route.  Two brothers joined the profession before Preston did and they had a practice together in Utah.  Preston writes of marrying a good Mormon woman and quickly starting to have kids, perhaps before they were really ready for the job.  Though I got the sense that he dearly loves the four daughters he had with his first wife, I also got the sense that going to school, trying to establish a practice, and living with Mormonism was very difficult and stressful for Preston.  It was so difficult, that Preston finally had to let go of the church, along with his marriage and even his career. 

My thoughts

For the most part, I enjoyed reading Sacred Road.  Given that Mormonism is such an American religion, I was curious as to why it would be embraced by people who come from New Zealand.  I’m not sure Preston answered that question for me, but I did appreciate his very personal story of what growing up Mormon and Kiwi was like.  I wish Todd Preston had spent more time writing about his coming of age years and explained more as to why there were so many moves back and forth to New Zealand. 

Preston’s book seems to be mostly about his relationship with his father and how it affected him and less about Mormonism, although I do believe that Preston’s father used the church to abuse his son.  The fact that the church can be used in such a manner is why I dislike Mormonism as much as I do.  I know that many churches can be used in a similarly destructive way, but the Mormon church happened to personally affect me and, more importantly, my husband.  So I have a lot of empathy for people who have been damaged by it, even as I understand that many people grow up Mormon just fine and happily continue to embrace the belief system.  I think it’s great when people find a belief system that works for them, but I know that not every belief system works for every person… and I appreciate people who are brave enough to write about their experiences, especially when what they have to say isn’t positive. 

I notice that some reviewers have panned Sacred Road because they think Preston confuses his father’s abuse with church abuse.  It’s true that even if he hadn’t grown up Mormon, Preston very likely would have been abused by his father.  However, Mormonism made an effective tool for abuse, particularly since Preston’s dad seemed hellbent on rising through the ranks and attaining status and power within the church. 

While I’ve never been LDS, I have discovered through several different sources that it’s really hard to rise to the higher echelons of the church if you’re a convert, which Preston’s parents were.  But that doesn’t stop people from trying.  Mormons are expected to do a lot, give a lot, and pray, pay, and obey a lot.  Those who can’t or won’t get with the program are definitely subjected to pressure.  Add that to the stress of living with an abusive parent and you have a very difficult situation which leads to trouble down the road.  And indeed, Preston does write about his trouble– a failed marriage, a crisis of faith, temporarily losing his career and the financial stability that comes with that, and, I suspect, damaged relationships with his children and other family members.  The book ends before readers find out what’s at the end of Preston’s “sacred road”, though a note at the end of the book reads that he moved back to New Zealand, remarried, and had at least a couple more children.

I think Sacred Road could have been better than it is, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t like the book or get anything of value from Preston’s story.  I think it helps to know something about Mormonism before you read this, since I don’t think Preston really explains much about what Mormons believe, nor do I think he explains enough about why being Mormon factored into his journey.  Overall, I would recommend this book to interested readers.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

Standard
book reviews, homosexuality, LDS

Repost: A review of The Gate and The Garden: The Apostate Journals of a Gay Mormon Missionary in Japan

Here’s another reposted book review. This one was written October 18, 2017, and appears as/is.

After some concerted effort last night and an early bedtime, I finally managed to finish Corbin Brodie’s 2016 book, The Gate and The Garden: The Apostate Journals of a Gay Mormon Missionary in Japan.  I downloaded this book in 2016, less than a month after it was published.  I just got around to reading it this month.  Sorry to be so slow, but I have a whole stack of books to be read and I keep finding more.

Although I have read and reviewed quite a few exmo lit books, I had kind of gotten out of the habit.  I enjoy a good story about what it’s like to be Mormon, especially when the person is an ex Mormon.  There tends to be a lot less testimony sharing in books by the exmos.  Corbin Brodie (a pseudonym, as are all the names used in this book) is no longer LDS, but he did serve a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when he was a young lad.  In those days, missions for the guys started when they were nineteen years old; since 2012, the age limit has been set at eighteen.  I am not exactly sure when Brodie served in the Sapporo, Japan mission, but it must have been before 1991, since he makes references to the Soviet Union.

Corbin Brodie grew up in Canada.  He has a younger brother named Duncan and mentions his mother was a very faithful member of the LDS church.  Brodie and his brother were raised to be as faithful as their mother was.  Although I get the sense that Brodie wasn’t exactly TBM (true believing Mormon) from the get go, he agreed to served the expected mission.  His book mostly consists of journal entries he wrote during his time abroad and while he was at the Missionary Training Center.  It also includes a few short stories.  I gather that, like me, Brodie has an impulse to write.  I’m sure writing has saved his sanity more than a few times, especially when he was living in Japan.

By his own account, Brodie got off to a good start at the training center.  He was made a leader during his weeks in Provo, learning Japanese and the missionary lifestyle.  He adjusted to life as a missionary and went to Sapporo, where over the course of two years, he went through a series of different companions.  Brodie seemed to have an affinity for Japanese and picked it up early.  In his journal, he uses a number of Japanese words for church terms.  For example, he doesn’t call his companions “Elder” lastname, as Mormon missionaries call each other, Brodie calls them “Choro”, which I gather is the Japanese term.  He refers to other church officials and the mission home by their Japanese terms, too.  I’m pretty sure that the missionaries in non English speaking areas do use the local terms instead of Elder, Sister, or President.  Anyway, I kind of liked that he used those terms because I enjoy picking up foreign words, even if I don’t necessarily enjoy learning other languages.

At 19 years old, Brodie is now living in an environment where he is surrounded by guys his age, some of whom he finds attractive.  Given that he’s a Mormon, at his sexual peak, and serving as a missionary, being gay is, to say the least, a special challenge.  Although it’s not considered a sin to have “same sex attraction” (as the Mormons put it), it is considered sinful to act on that attraction.  So, I can only imagine that as difficult as being a missionary must have been, it must have been even more difficult to be a gay missionary.  Add in the fact that Brodie didn’t seem to enjoy Japan that much (he mentions not liking the food), and probably would not have had a whole lot of time to enjoy it even if he did, and you have two challenging years.

Brodie is musical and creative, but listening to music that isn’t church approved is forbidden.  Still, he manages to play the piano sometimes.  He seems to have some good experiences with Japanese locals, many of whom don’t want to be church members, but are okay with simply being friends.  He has some good companions who are friendly and some who are “hardasses” bucking for rank or simply people with whom he has nothing in common.  Through it all, though he serves faithfully, Brodie realizes that he doesn’t really believe in Mormonism.  It’s getting harder and harder for him to pretend to have a testimony.  Finally, during his second year, just four months before he’s scheduled to leave Japan, he has a crisis of sorts.  He makes it known that he wants to leave Japan.

Brodie’s leaders do all they can to convince Brodie to stay in country and finish his mission.  They tell him if he leaves early, he’ll be on the hook for the $2000 plane ticket.  Brodie realizes he’ll have to work a long time to be able to pay off that debt.  I actually had to laugh at this, not because it’s funny, but because essentially Brodie was kind of being “trafficked”.  It doesn’t sound that different than the women who are brought into foreign countries and forced to work off the price of their plane tickets.  Also, while I’m still not sure what years Brodie was serving, $2000 must have been an astronomical amount of money at that time.  It’s a lot now.

Brodie also considers his mother, a very faithful TBM who is in school earning her social work degree.  He doesn’t want to disappoint her or his brother, who has also put in his papers to go on a mission.  Eventually, he is convinced to stay and sent to the mission home to finish out his last four months.  The mission home is less onerous, except that Brodie chafes under the rules, including the one that doesn’t allow him to cross the street to buy a candy bar without a companion with him.

Brodie’s story ends rather abruptly.  There’s no neat wrap up at the end of his journals, although he does provide an interesting afterword.  He’s now living in the United Kingdom and has a son, although he is no longer romantically involved with his son’s mother (she’s a dear friend).  He’s still gay.  After he returned home from Japan, he took about three months to break it to his mother that he didn’t want to be LDS.  And his mother, to her great credit, eventually accepted it, although it was very hard for her.

Although I don’t remember if he mentioned it, I got the idea that Brodie’s mother must have been from Scotland.  He writes of going to Edinburgh before the mission and missing Scotland.  I can relate to how much he misses Scotland, since it’s one of my favorite places.  I also got the sense that even if Brodie hadn’t been homosexual, he would have left Mormonism.  It seemed to me that his intellect was too sharp to accept what the church teaches wholesale.  He couldn’t make 2+2=5, like some people can.

My one criticism about Brodie’s book is that it’s very long.  Although his writing is very good and engaging, it was tough going getting through this book, particularly with the inclusion of the short stories.  I realize that he basically published his journals as he wrote them, but personally, I think this book would have been stronger if it had been abridged somewhat.  The short stories were of good quality, but they kind of took away the flow of Brodie’s missionary story.  I love a good short story, but I don’t like to be distracted when I’m reading.  I felt the fiction pieces were somewhat a distraction.

I do think this book would be well-received by ex Mormons, especially male homosexuals who have served missions.  I think they will be especially able to relate to Brodie’s experiences.  I was happy to read that as hard as the mission was, it didn’t seem like the whole thing was a waste of time.  He did seem to come away from the experience with friends, some of whom I hope remained friends after he left the church.

Anyway, if I were going to assign a rating, I think I’d give The Gate and The Garden: The Apostate Journals of a Gay Mormon Missionary in Japan a solid four stars out of five.  It’s well worth reading if you’re interested.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

Standard
book reviews, LDS

Repost: Buttprints: The Thing that Wouldn’t Leave… (a review of You Can Smile Now You’re Rid of This A**hole)

Here’s another reposted book review. I read and reviewed this book on Epinions.com December 12, 2012. The author, who uses a pseudonym, has become a good Facebook friend of mine. We “met” on RfM some years ago. She’s really witty and funny, although her story is scary and cautionary. I am reposting it as/is.

I guess I should consider myself very lucky.  I met my beloved husband of ten years, Bill, on the Internet.  We did not meet on a dating site, though.  In fact, we started out as casual friends, having first “met” in a chat room based on a mutual interest.  Over the course of about three years, our casual internet friendship bloomed into love.  I have no regrets over having met my spouse online; though I do know that others haven’t been as lucky as I was.

I just finished reading You Can Smile Now You’re Rid of This A**hole: A Memoir of Abuse and Discovery by Bobbi Botaz (2012).  The title of this book, which I downloaded for my Kindle, pretty much says it all.  Like me, Bobbi Botaz got friendly with a man she met online.  Like me, she met her online boyfriend in person and ended up living with him.  Unlike me, she has many regrets for having met “Rick Doubledee” offline and allowing him into her life.

Botaz grew up Mormon, though she was definitely not one of the faith’s most devout followers.  She explains her upbringing as the book begins, perhaps shedding some light on why she has had such terrible luck with men.  It starts with unsatisfying high school dates, continues with a brief, loveless marriage that produces her son, Eric, and ends with Rick, the so-called “thing that wouldn’t leave”.  After a flowery and romantic online courtship, Rick moves from Pittsburgh to “Goldeneye”, a pseudonym for the Colorado town where Botaz was living in the late 1990s.  From the get go, it’s pretty clear that he’s not the man Botaz thought he was as he shows up in a beater of a car, stuffed to the gills with his worldly possessions.  Botaz and her son are both immediately repulsed by Rick’s slovenly appearance; yet incredibly, she lets him move in with her, where he lives and freeloads for the next two years.

I was astonished as I read about the things Botaz and her son put up with when Rick was living with them.  He was chronically unemployed and always had an excuse as to why he couldn’t support himself.  He claimed to be sick, yet had no issues eating Botaz out of house and home or smoking cigarettes.  Rick was a very “talented” con man.  Despite the fact that Botaz didn’t particularly enjoy her loser house guest’s company, she continued to let Rick live with her as she financially supported him, even when it became clear that he was dabbling in some risky behaviors that could have put Botaz and her son in grave danger.  As time went on, Botaz realized that not only had she put herself at tremendous risk, she had also put Eric at risk by letting Rick live there.   

As I read this account, I couldn’t help thinking to myself that something like this would never happen to me.  And yet, I have to wonder if maybe I could have been victimized as Botaz was.  Thankfully, she does eventually find the courage to give him the boot.  As he leaves her life, he says “You can smile now.  You’re rid of this a**hole”, gifting Botaz with the perfect title for her book about their miserable life together.  Unfortunately, his butt prints were still left in her sofa long after he’d gone.      

Full disclosure here.  I have interacted with the author of this book on the Recovery from Mormonism Web site and Facebook.  I think that gives me a bit more insight into her story than others might get just from reading You Can Smile Now.  Botaz has a wry sense of humor that comes through in her writing.  While I couldn’t help shaking my head in dismay as I read about how she allowed Rick to take over her life, I also felt relief that she and her son survived the ordeal.  Maybe Botaz wasn’t the most street smart Internet user in the world back in the late 1990s, but she did at least learn from her mistakes and is willing to share her experiences.  She also takes responsibility for her choices, which I think is very refreshing.  A lot of people would simply blame Rick for being an a**hole, but Botaz seems very cognizant of her part in this fiasco.  And again, she’s learned from her mistakes and seems determined to be smarter in the future. 

I think Bobbi Botaz has guts to put this story out there for the world, since I expect some readers will judge her.  But if her story serves as a warning for just one person– male or female– I think it will have been well worth the effort to read it.     

I recommend this book to anyone who has ever been tempted by an Internet romance and needs a cautionary tale.  I also recommend this book to people who like true stories about real people.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

Standard
book reviews, LDS

Repost: How blogging led me to discover excellent exMormon literature (reviewing I’m (No Longer) a Mormon)

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.

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. 

Overall

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.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

Standard
book reviews, religion

Repost of my review of Lynn Wilder’s Unveiling Grace.

Here’s another exMo lit book review I’m trying to preserve.  This one is about a former Mormon BYU professor who leaves the LDS religion and becomes a Christian.  It was originally written November 25, 2013 and appears here “as/is”.

If you’ve read many of my book reviews, you may know that I often read what I refer to as “exmo lit”– that is, books written by people who are former members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons).  I became interested in exMormons because my husband is one.  He converted to Mormonism with his ex wife, then left the faith a few years after they divorced.  Watching the aftermath of that decision has led me to discover a couple of online exMormon communities.  I’ve made new friends, many of whom are very interesting and intelligent people and I’ve read lots of books about the “exmo experience”.  Of course I’d want to read Lynn K. Wilder’s 2013 book, Unveiling Grace: The Story of How We Found Our Way Out of the Mormon Church.  I downloaded it to Kindle and finished it over several hours in one sitting. 

Who is Lynn K. Wilder and why did she write a book about qutting Mormonism?

Dr. Lynn K. Wilder is currently an associate professor at Florida Gulf Coast University, where she teaches courses in education.  Prior to her work at Florida Gulf Coast University, Dr. Wilder taught at Mormon owned Brigham Young University and was on track to become a full professor.  She and her husband were raised as mainstream Protestants, then converted to Mormonism in 1977.  They raised their three sons and daughter in the faith, first in Indiana, then later in Utah, when Wilder was hired to teach at BYU.

In her book, Unveiling Grace, Wilder explains what about Mormonism attracted her husband and her to the faith.  Much of it seemed to have to do with coincidental “miracles” that coincided with good and bad events in the Wilders’ lives.  Dr. Wilder was a teacher who worked with kids with special educational needs.  But she longed for a family.  It was challenging for her to sustain a pregnancy; she had at least a half dozen miscarriages at around sixteen weeks before her first two sons, Josh and Matt, were born.  Her next son, Micah, and daughter, Katie, rounded out the family.  Having the children was difficult and she relied a lot on prayer and good works through the LDS church to win favor with God…  or at least that’s what I got from her story.  She explains that for thirty years, she attributed her eventual success to Mormonism instead of traditional biblical Christianity.

It was her son, Micah, who facilitated her family’s exit from Mormonism.  Micah was always a very devout Mormon and had dutifully applied for a mission when he was about to turn nineteen.  He was originally supposed to go to Mexico City, but a medical emergency during his training necessitated a change to Orlando, Florida.  While he was in Florida, Micah and his missionary companion tried to convert a black Baptist preacher, who apparently convinced them that Mormonism is a false religion.  Micah got in touch with his mother just as he was exiting his mission and very soon, the rest of the family followed Micah out of the church.  The entire family, apparently to include the young women who married Wilder’s sons, are now “biblical” Christians.

My thoughts

To be honest, I have mixed feelings about Unveiling Grace.  I am not a particularly religious person myself, so I wasn’t reading this book looking for a faith promoting story.  Wilder, like my husband, is an exMormon.  Those who have never been exposed to Mormonism may not know that it’s usually a very big deal to leave the LDS church if you have other family members in the faith.  Wilder is very fortunate that she and her husband were converts and everyone in their family was willing to leave the church.  I know of many people who have lost contact with siblings, parents, and children because they quit Mormonism.  My husband is, in part, estranged from his daughters because he’s not LDS anymore.  The LDS church can make a very effective alienation tool, since it requires everyone to pray, pay, and obey before everyone gets the promised blessings.

Wilder does a good job illustrating some of the less appealing aspects of being LDS, especially for women who have career aspirations.  She writes that she was expected to be involved in several time consuming “callings” within the church.  Perhaps the most demanding role she was pressured to take on was presidency of the Relief Society.  Every LDS woman over the age of 18 is a member of the Relief Society; it meets every week on Sunday and one evening per week.  Being president of the ward’s (congregation’s) Relief Society was a very large commitment and required Wilder to be an example to other women in the church.  But Wilder had decided she wanted to pursue her doctorate and, besides taking care of her four kids, was also working outside of the home.  Wilder explains that the church’s prophet at the time had asked all the women to quit working outside of the home and be homemakers, tending to their husbands and children.  She also explains that her decision to work went against the prophet’s words, which put her at odds with local church leaders.

Wilder repeatedly writes about how prestigious and excellent Brigham Young University is, and yet it’s a university that almost lost its accreditation in its School of Education because there were too few professors working there who had gotten their degrees at universities other than BYU. Another complaint was that the student population was not diverse enough. When BYU did start taking students who were more diverse, some of whom also had disabilities, Wilder claims that some professors openly wondered how some of the students had gotten into “their” program. It seems to me that any university that has that much “group think” and lacks diversity can’t be a real beacon for higher thinking.

Years later, when Wilder was a professor at BYU and determined that she no longer wanted to be LDS, she also realized that if anyone in the church found out about her disbelief, she would lose her job.  Her work at BYU required that she be an active Mormon who believed in and promoted “the gospel”.  The fact that Wilder’s disbelief in Mormonism seriously threatened her job at BYU is a sign that the school is not as excellent as it is purported to be.  If anyone should be at liberty to think freely, it’s a college professor.  And yet apparently most professors at Brigham Young University (the ones who are LDS, anyway) are not allowed the freedom to think freely about religion and other subjects.  Deviating from Mormonism means losing their livelihood, which to me, seems counterproductive in a university environment. 

Dr. Wilder was one of the few education professors at BYU who had been entirely educated at other universities and was also a convert.  She writes that she encountered some discrimination in Utah for being a convert and having a career.  One would think that Wilder would be more logical, given that she was educated at secular universities outside of Mormonism.  However, Wilder seems to rely a lot of feelings and “signs” when she is presented with a dilemma.  She presents several instances in which opportunities seemed to “fall out of the sky” and claims that they were signs from Jesus rather than recognizing that they could have come from something else.

Wilder writes one story about wearing a cross and having to hide it under her clothes, since Mormons don’t revere the cross the way other faiths do. She lost the cross while working and went to the lost and found at BYU, where the girl working the desk told her that they wouldn’t have any crosses there. It turned out several had been turned in, though none were the professor’s. As she was walking away, the lost and found girl ran after her and said someone had just turned in Wilder’s cross. Wilder took that as a “sign” from God rather, than considering that she might just have been lucky.

Dr. Wilder writes about how her sons had each gone on missions– all three originally were assigned missions abroad, which supposedly means that they were “more impressive” than other Mormon missionaries.  Let me state for the record that I don’t know if the missionaries who go to foreign countries really are better or more impressive than other missionaries are.  Wilder mentions that common belief in her book, that those who are called to foreign countries, especially in Europe, are somehow more prestigious than those who end up in the United States.  She is obviously very proud that her sons got called to Russia, Denmark, and Mexico (then Florida, but only because of the medical issues).  And yet, it doesn’t seem to occur to her that all three young men, who each served “honorably”, were out spreading what she later calls a “false religion” to innocent people around the world.  In fact, her youngest son, was actually led astray by someone he was trying to lead to Mormonism.  I’m not disappointed that Wilder’s son’s beliefs changed, though I don’t think that his mother is as “recovered” from Mormonism as she seems to think she is.

This book also rambles a bit, which makes it hard to follow sometimes.  Wilder starts in the recent present, introducing readers to her family and explaining how her sons were all different, yet amazing people.  In 2006, her third son, Micah, had an epiphany that changed everything.  Then she abruptly goes back to 1977, when she and her husband decided to convert.  From there, the book skips around somewhat, rather than progressing in one direction.  If you aren’t paying close attention, it’s easy to get lost.

Overall 

I think this may be good reading for Christians, especially those who are former Mormons.  Many parts of Unveiling Grace are interesting and it’s basically a well-written book.  Wilder does bring up several aspects of Mormonism which can be problematic for those who can’t entirely buy into the belief system. 

On the other hand, I get the feeling that Wilder still has some recovery to do.  Some of her faith promoting thoughts seem to be the same kind of thoughts Mormons have, only rebranded as evangelical Christian.  She seems to rely a lot on feelings and “signs” as to what’s right, rather than rational thinking and logic.  Given that she’s a college professor, I find that a little troubling.

For more information about Lynn Wilder…

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

Standard