Leaving the Saints by Martha Beck

Subtitled “How I Lost the Mormons and Found My Faith”, Beck’s memoir begins with her wedding to John in the Salt Lake City temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. One can only enter the temple if they have a card assuring the gate keeper of their good standing within the church, and what occurs in the LDS (Mormon) temples alludes non-Mormon writing about the religion.

But Beck isn’t one to spill the beans; she offers more information than other nonfiction books but references blood oaths and mock deaths for her hesitation in sharing the details of temple ceremonies. She sounds almost meek and scared of these oaths, but her tone turns gossipy and condescending when she focuses on other aspects (special underwear and movies, for example) of the ceremony.

The rest of the book alternates between Beck’s move to Provo, Utah from Harvard University in Massachusetts after her son is born with Down Syndrome (a decision she says was made because Mormons would be more accepting of her special needs son than her Harvard colleagues) and her confrontation with her father, a Mormon historian, in a hotel room over the sexual abuse her inflicted upon her. Her recollection of this abuse is spurred by the clashes between her and the administration of Brigham Young University over feminism and her interactions with BYU students.

I think it’s incredibly important to bring to light abuse (sexual, physical, or emotional) committed and/or covered up by religious organizations whether that be the LDS (Mormon) Church or the Catholic Church or any other religious body. Beck makes the claim that the LDS Church continually tries to shift the blame for abuse from the perpectrator to the victim; she uses a panel discussion on domestic violence and abuse during a conference for Mormon women at BYU as example of this. I find this blame game (whether committed by a religious organization or a politician or anybody) to be reprehensible, and I appreciate the fact that Beck published her account.

But I didn’t enjoy the book. This is a rambling narrative, and I hated the structure of the book. Reading about her confronting her father about the abuse before she even realizes it for her self made for a very confusing read.

Others’ Thoughts:

Book Mentioned:

  • Beck, Martha. Leaving the Saints: How I Lost the Mormons and Found My Faith. New York: Crown Publishers, 2005. Print. 307 pgs. ISBN: 0609609912. Source: Library.
Book Cover © Crown Publishers. Retrieved: June 11, 2011.
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