From her days of feeling like “a root beer among the Cokes”—Coca-Cola being a forbidden fruit for Mormon girls like her—Joanna Brooks always understood that being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints set her apart from others. But, in her eyes, that made her special; the devout LDS home she grew up in was filled with love, spirituality, and an emphasis on service. With Marie Osmond as her celebrity role model and plenty of Sunday School teachers to fill in the rest of the details, Joanna felt warmly embraced by the community that was such an integral part of her family. But as she grew older, Joanna began to wrestle with some tenets of her religion, including the Church’s stance on women’s rights and homosexuality. In 1993, when the Church excommunicated a group of feminists for speaking out about an LDS controversy, Joanna found herself searching for a way to live by the leadings of her heart and the faith she loved.
The Book of Mormon Girl is a story about leaving behind the innocence of childhood belief and embracing the complications and heartbreaks that come to every adult life of faith. Joanna’s journey through her faith explores a side of the religion that is rarely put on display: its humanity, its tenderness, its humor, its internal struggles. In Joanna’s hands, the everyday experience of being a Mormon—without polygamy, without fundamentalism—unfolds in fascinating detail. With its revelations about a faith so often misunderstood and characterized by secrecy, The Book of Mormon Girl is a welcome advocate and necessary guide.
In this enchanting memoir, Brooks, a San Diego religion scholar (American Lazarus), portrays her pious Mormon upbringing in Southern California as both deeply grounding and later stiflingly sexist and politically wrongheaded. The descendant of Mormon "pioneers" who trekked out to Utah to establish their community of separatist believers, and raised among her large family in Orange County, Brooks re-creates with enormous feeling the sense of belonging inculcated by the community of kindly, well-intentioned Latter Day Saints who practiced strict rules about Bible study, baptism at age eight, reading the Book of Mormon, tithing, and keeping pure of mind and body. she and her sister Mormons, vilified by outsiders as a polygamous cult, felt strengthened by their "sparkling difference" from other people, such as in preparing for the end of the world, learning beauty lessons from Marie Osmond, and gaining insights into women's roles from the church sisters while camping at age 15 all of which Brooks treats in charming, discrete short story like chapters. Yet while studying at Brigham Young University, Brooks grew alarmed at patronizing attitudes by male leaders, scandals regarding surveillance files kept by the authorities, and excommunication of feminist critics. Brooks chronicles her painful years of "exile" from her faith and marriage to a Jewish man, culminating in her political opposition to the Mormons' concerted 2008 effort to keep gay marriage illegal in California. Throughout this heartfelt work she remains braced and true to herself.
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Fascinating & Inspirational
I'm not a Mormon and have never really thought much about the faith. This not only brings more understanding to some of the ways of the Mormon church, but it also provides a very inspirational statement to anyone who is resolve the faith you grow up with to modern life.