Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Book of Mormon Girl

Do you all know Joanna Brooks? She blogs at Ask Mormon Girl and regularly contributes to Religion Dispatches and the Washington Post, among other things. Most importantly, she was interviewed by Jon Stewart last year, so...she's legit. Anyway, I read her memoir, The Book of Mormon Girl, awhile ago and I just wanted to share my thoughts about it here.

I love Joanna Brooks for her courage, both to question AND to embrace Mormonism. It seems like most Mormons choose one or the other: criticism or total endorsement, rejection or complete acceptance, bitterness or unquestioning devotion. I'm so happy--and encouraged--to have a Mormon voice to unite those of us who cannot accept all of Mormonism, and yet want it to be a part of our lives. Because, as Brooks points out, it IS a part of who we are, regardless of how we react to it.

On page 159, she talks about her grandmother, who grew up in Garland, Utah, in a Mormon environment where her parents had a coffee pot on the stove and "people weren't as strict about rules or doctrine, but still taught the gospel as it should be taught, and who else were they to be anyways but Mormons? Who else in all the world were we supposed to be?" As someone who spent six years away from the church, all the while missing it and loving it but finding myself unable to reconcile my own beliefs with it, this really spoke to me. Who else in all the world am I supposed to be but a Mormon girl? For orthodox Mormons, this sounds bad, but most of me wants Mormonism simply because it is MY tradition. It's what I was born into. It's the culture I know. It's not something I necessarily believe is "true". But I don't care about that. It makes me happy. Belonging to it makes me happy.

The first part of the book was a fun read for both myself and my jack Mormon husband. We had a great time reliving the Mormon quirkiness that defined our upbringing. The second half is just heart breaking. But I love that Brooks has found a way to make this thing work for her. It's a process I have been through myself (though my own issues with the church may not be exactly the same as hers).

Oh, the last chapter. So lovely. "What do we do with ourselves when we find we have failed to become the adults we dreamed as pious children?....How do we react when we discover at the core of faith a knot of contradictions? Do we throw it all out?....Do we blame our parents?....I don't want to blame anyone. I want to do what my ancestors did: look west and dream up a new country for my children. I don't want to blame anyone. I just want to tell my story. Because the tradition is young, and the next chapter is yet to be written. And ours may yet be a faith that is big enough for all of our stories."

I think all of us unorthodox Mormons NEED to tell our stories. We need to have the courage to be honest about our testimonies (or lack thereof), so that everyone out there who has similar concerns or reservations or the same lack of testimony will feel like there is room for them in this tradition, instead of walking away because they can't give everything to it. We can embrace the church even if we can't embrace it all at once.

1 comment:

  1. Really, really love your blog. Thank you so much for telling your story.