Aug 17, 2008

Leaving the Saints

by Martha Beck

This book is about one woman's search for truth, emotional healing and spirituality. Martha Beck grew up in the Mormon faith, the daughter of a prominent BYU scholar. Much of the book focuses on her family. They were highly intellectual- I enjoyed the many references to Shakespeare and other literary works- but also very dysfunctional. The book is organized in alternating chapters between Beck's drawn-out confrontation with her father in a hotel room, and her slow journey of discovery. Leaving the Saints is a very frank, outspoken insider's look at "Mormon culture." Having grown up in the church, a lot of her descriptions rang absolutely true to me. I laughed out loud at things like how she staved off boredom in sacrament meetings by going through the hymn book and adding the phrase "in the bathtub" to hymn titles ("Behold a Royal Army in the bathtub"). I almost flinched at how openly she described some of what goes on inside the sacred Mormon temples. In the midst of dealing with her depression and facing the sudden revelation repressed memories brought to her, Beck talks about polygamy, feminism, and the questionable origins of some LDS scripture. What shocked me the most was to read of how church authorities suppressed knowledge and heavily censored materials at BYU, where she was an instructor. This book ignited my mind with outrage, indignation and a barrage of questions. I found it rich food for thought, but at the time I read it I had already begun stepping away from my religious upbringing. I would not recommend it to any Latter-Day-Saints who want to avoid an open-minded challenge to their faith.

Rating: 4/5 ........ 306 pages, 2005

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Carrie K. said...

I read this a couple of years ago and found it very informative. Beck had such an insider's perspective.

Janet said...

Sounds like a very engaging book, especially for someone who grew up in the Mormon faith.

verbivore said...

I'd love to give this to a friend of mine, who is Mormon but fairly critical of her faith and the LDS structure, but I'm not sure she would appreciate the gesture so I'll wait. I think I will get a copy for myself first and read it before passing it along.

Trish said...

I saw something similar to this at Barnes and Noble the other day. I had to laugh because they had 4 or 5 LDS books squeezed between Islam and another eastern faith that is escaping me right now. Seemed like strange place for the books. :)

Sounds like an interesting read but probably not much I don't already know. I would be interested in her relationship with her father after "coming out". Even though I haven't practiced in years, my not practicing is a taboo subject with my mother--we never never openly talk about it.