"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Book of Mormon Girl

So, I just finished reading The Book of Mormon Girl by Joanna Brooks last night. I'd seen it mentioned by a few Mormon bloggers, most recently by Sarah, so I checked my library and saw it was on the New Books shelf. I had to return a book for Andrew so I picked it up that afternoon, and read it within a day of finishing Rachel Held Evans' A Year of Biblical Womanhood.  I enjoyed learning about the typical Mormon childhood - or, at least, the cultural one for many of those growing up in the western United States.  I laughed at some of her memories. The bits about church camps, and Marie Osmond's make-up and fashion tips were especially good.  Here are other things that took my attention.


"No, no, we Mormons were taught that our works must carry us there, that our works would make us perfect enough for God to finally recognize us as worthy of His love."  (pg. 63)   This contrasts to my own faith where we stress the grace and mercy of God, and His reaching down to us while we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8).



One chapter is "mormons vs. born-agains" because where Joanna Brooks lived, there were apparently enough of both groups to have some conflict between them.  Maybe both groups were competing for the same souls.  (The born agains were the bad guys in case you were wondering.)  I know my own personal experience with Mormons growing up was meeting exactly one when we were pages for the NC House in Raleigh for four days when we were sixteen. Stephanie and I ate lunch together and I remember she had a houseful of siblings all with S names. We got along well.  Likely we gravitated to each other because we were not exactly like the other teens serving as pages that week. I can't recall. I just remember her name and what she looked like, and that we talked over lunch.  I'm not in a place where many Mormons live - we do have an LDS church or two around so I guess they exist. I've only ever seen the missionaries riding bikes or shopping the dairy section at Walmart.

Anyway, she writes about those California born agains -- "Had they disciplined their minds for the possibility that God would ask them to take a second wife into the family in order to get to heaven?" (pg. 80)

Uh, that would be a big fat NO. Again, we don't believe God requires us to do a whole lot to get into heaven. We believe Jesus did it for us. That's why HE is the Savior. Not us.  And we don't believe in heavenly marriages most especially not polygamous ones. I have enough trouble with Islamic heaven which doesn't sound like heaven to me AT ALL what with men having access to 70-some perpetual virgins according to some interpretations.  (I personally love the feminist interpretations that those houris are really raisins!  Haha...)

I didn't realize how important marriage is to Mormon beliefs. While I'm married, I can't help but feel sad for the many who are not. Are they doomed to lesser heavens simply because - like the apostle Paul or Jesus - they never married? 

Brooks didn't mention the need for children, but I'm guessing my choice of not having children isn't a popular one in Mormon circles.  (Truthfully, it's not exactly popular in evangelical circles either, but we aren't doomed for a lesser heaven for it that I'm aware of.)  Sorry, but the thought of "eternal pregnancy in the company of plural pregnant wives" in order to populate "the highest realms of heaven" with "spirit children" is not my idea of heaven. (pg. 97)  I really did understand more why gay marriage is such a threat to many Mormons.  You can't procreate naturally with two men or two women.

Something I wondered: can Mormon women remarry if they are widowed?  I see where Mormon men who lost a first wife can be sealed to a second wife for eternity as well. (pg. 87) She didn't mention women. Is heavenly polyandry OK in this case? This reminds me of the conversation Jesus had with the Sadducees about marriage at the resurrection. 

Never realized Mormons had to confess to a bishop when they did certain sins.

The Mormon preoccupation with the dead is interesting if not a bit creepy with all those files. I do think it's cool that they are interested in where they came from, and trying to save their ancestors by doing things for them now. Dedicated people.  For me, it's more interesting on the level that I sometimes wonder about those people who make up me. Really have you ever stopped to think how many thousands of people contributed to who you are today?


I am glad I married within my faith. I'm glad it works for Joanna Brooks and her husband, but it would be difficult for me, I think, to have a husband who is allergic to Jesus since Jesus is so central to my faith.  She said she doesn't even celebrate Christmas much any more.


I could never align myself with a church or any organization that keeps files on dissenters with the threat of excommunication and so forth. I like my freedom too much, and suppose I'm not real big on accountability.  God keeping a book about my life is one thing. A group of church leaders is quite another. I find God often is much more merciful than we humans are to one another.


Brooks talked about Mormon defensiveness. Probably because of posts like this. I really don't mean it in an evil born-again way.  I was just pointing out things that took my attention as one outside the faith.  Overall it was nice reading about growing up Mormon and how her path has differed from her more orthodox family and friends. 

One last thing...I had to smile at the couple of recipes shared in the book as they are two I'm very familiar with.  I like seeing what we have in common. Most Mormons I've met - which is online usually - seem like really, really wonderful people if not a bit cliquish. But I understand better why they are this way, and I'm thankful for the ones who let me butt in with my comments on their blogs and take the time to answer my questions. To you: thanks much!

15 comments:

sanil said...

I really don't mean it in an evil born-again way.

Can I just say I love this sentence? :D Also, that you are basically the least offensive person I have ever met and still you're basically apologizing for any accidental slights that probably aren't even there. You're so nice!

I wonder what Mormons would have to say about things like the Romans verse you quoted. Obviously there's a reading of it that still allows for works-based salvation, because there are protestants who also teach some version of that. It's just not that common, and I've only ever known people who argue against that stance, I've never had it explained by someone who actually believed it. Hmmm.

I really did understand more why gay marriage is such a threat to many Mormons. You can't procreate naturally with two men or two women.

I wonder if people with infertility issues have a lower status in the Mormon faith. But I'm guessing the book didn't go into that at all, since you said she didn't really talk about not having children.

I'm not sure if I missed it or if you didn't mention it. Is the author married to an atheist or something? Is she still Mormon?

Susanne said...

Sanil, thanks for your thoughts! I know people read things differently, and being a sensitive soul myself, I often read offensives into posts and articles that the authors may never have intended. So, I figure if enough people are like me, they will do the same. Therefore, I didn't want to have some Mormon read this and think I was making fun of their faith or them. But I figured as I read this book that I'd make note of things that either I never knew (like the confession thing)or that seemed different from how I believe. Just for the sake of taking notes and remembering them for myself. I did this with the Quran when I read it a couple years back. It's the way I learn and remember. :)

Yes, I know there are Protestants who stress works, and I see that from James because "faith without works is dead." I just believe when we are in Christ, we work. Not to earn salvation or somehow become worthy of it, but because someone in Christ does good things (just as an apple tree produces apples and a potato plant produces potatoes). If someone says "I'm saved," but they have no works, then that is dead faith. Or that's how I understand it. I'd like to hear the Mormon version. Actually they don't believe the Bible is correctly translated in places so maybe Paul is one who gets quite a few things wrong!

Yes, I wondered about infertile couples as well. No,she doesn't really go into having children except for what I quoted about populating the heavenly realms with spirit children.

She is still a Mormon and she blogs and writes articles. She married a Jewish man, and they raise their daughters in both faiths. She's the one who mentioned her husband being allergic to Jesus. That seems strange for someone in a Church of JESUS CHRIST to put up with, but it works for her. I might find that harder to deal with. And her husband seems like a really great guy.

Thanks for your comments! I've missed your blog lately!!

Amber said...

Another book that's on my list!

I didn't realize that there was such an emphasis on works in Mormonism.

*laughs* 'Mormons vs. born-agains' - given that I think of 'born-agains' as evangelicals in my head, my first thought was 'And I just back slowly away from them both...'

We have Mormon missionaries around here. They don't often come out to where I live though. Most people have guns, dogs and gates so it makes it sort of pointless for them I guess.

"Had they disciplined their minds for the possibility that God would ask them to take a second wife into the family in order to get to heaven?"

Not to get into heaven, but I'd like a couple of wives, personally.

And we don't believe in heavenly marriages most especially not polygamous ones.

Some people do believe that they'll be reunited with their spouses in heaven. I'm not sure if they're thinking that they'll be *married* to them or just get a reunion kind of thing going on.

Are they doomed to lesser heavens simply because - like the apostle Paul or Jesus - they never married?

*raises hand* But can we prove that Jesus never married? We only get snapshots of his life in the Bible after all.

I really did understand more why gay marriage is such a threat to many Mormons. You can't procreate naturally with two men or two women.

Only is 'spirit' procreation all that 'natural' in the first place? Really? So why can't the spirit of one spouse get the other spirit spouse pregnant regardless of their gender? Not a question I expect you to answer, btw. Just a thought.

Something I wondered: can Mormon women remarry if they are widowed? I see where Mormon men who lost a first wife can be sealed to a second wife for eternity as well.

I want to say yes, they can remarry but they can't be sealed for eternity to the second husband. So when they get to heaven they'll be with the first, eternal husband and the second husband will be s.o.l. unless he got sealed to someone else for eternity. Or something. I don't know why I think this, I just think I remember reading it somewhere so I could be *completely wrong*.

Baptism for the dead bothers me, not gonna lie. *flails around* Hands off my ancestors! But that's probably (I've been told) not a rational reaction.

re: the file keeping: I just assumed that all churches did that. Don't they?

Susanne said...

"*laughs* 'Mormons vs. born-agains' - given that I think of 'born-agains' as evangelicals in my head, my first thought was 'And I just back slowly away from them both...'"


We'll get you, my pretty, and your little dog, too! *wicked witch cackle*

Susanne said...

Amber, I didn't realize they had such an emphasis on works either because they will say Jesus is the savior,but it seems he's not really if they are working for acceptance. This sounds a lot like Islam to me.

True, we don't know that Jesus married, but I suppose most Christians believe he was not (Says one speaking for 2 billion Christians. *ahem*) The same for Paul,I suppose. I've heard someone say maybe he was married before he was a missionary. Perhaps widowed.

Yes, I think we can be reunited with spouses in heaven (which is when I wondered about divorced couples and how that will work - will the exes get along there?), but I don't think we will live together as spouses any more. Maybe I'm wrong though! I don't think my faith teaches that we will populate the heavenly realms with more children or maybe I missed this or it's not stressed in the churches i've been in. Have you heard it in your circles?

Maybe all churches keep files of some sort, but the way she described it, it sounded weird and not something i would choose to be part of.

I enjoyed your thoughts on the remarrying and all of it really. Thanks!

Sarah Familia said...

It's funny, I was surprised at how defensive I felt when I was reading your review, even though I feel the same way you do about many of the things Joanna talks about. I guess it's harder to take criticism from the outside. But I loved reading a non-Mormon perspective on Joanna's book.

Infertile Mormon couples generally get a lot of sympathy (along with some cultural pressure to adopt children), although Mormons who are childless by choice often feel significant social pressure to have children (we are specifically taught to NOT judge people for how many children they have, but the very fact that it needs to be explicitly stated that we are not to judge one another about something is evidence that we have a problem with doing just that).

We are also taught that everyone will have a chance to marry and have children in the eternities if they don't get the opportunity to do it in this life and are otherwise worthy.

And yes, women can officially only be sealed to one man while they're alive, but she can remarry civilly if he dies (or can get a sealing cancellation if they divorce and she wants to be sealed to someone else).

Interestingly enough, once all the parties are dead, a woman can be sealed to all the men to whom she was married in life. That's how we do proxy sealings for our dead ancestors: we seal both men and women to all the spouses that they were married to during their lifetimes.

As far as the grace vs. works thing, there is a verse in the Book of Mormon that says, "By grace we are saved after all we can do." A common interpretation of it is that we do everything we can to follow the commandments, and then Jesus makes up the (very big!) difference between what we've done and what's required to go to heaven. Or basically, that the way we show him that we've accepted him and his atonement is by our works. There are differing views in LDS thought on what is the exact interplay between grace and works. Some very nearly approach a more protestant understanding.

Anyway, thanks for your thoughts!

sanil said...

Actually they don't believe the Bible is correctly translated in places so maybe Paul is one who gets quite a few things wrong!

Wow, I did not know that. Interesting. When I was at school and had a few roommates, one of them liked talking to Mormon missionaries who would come to our apartment. I only stayed for the first time (she did this for months), and in that one they were very vague about everything and insisted they followed the Bible exactly the same way any other Christian would and thought it was all true. I'm not saying they were being dishonest, I can see how that could be interpreted to allow for the bad translation viewpoint. And of course they're going to want to minimize the differences and not set people on alert right away, I'm often vague about my beliefs too. Actually, I mostly just think it's interesting that I took them at their word and assumed that was the whole truth, because usually I assume everyone's lying a little when I first meet them. :D Apparently I gave the missionaries special status without realizing it!

Amber said...

So here's a thought I had: does it perhaps only seem that they emphasise works over faith to you because you come from a faith where faith is emphasised to the point where works don't really enter into the equation? (And of course that's my outside view of your faith so I could be taking that wrong too and this is why there are no simple religious conversations...)

True, we don't know that Jesus married, but I suppose most Christians believe he was not (Says one speaking for 2 billion Christians. *ahem*) The same for Paul,I suppose. I've heard someone say maybe he was married before he was a missionary. Perhaps widowed.

I assume that they were all married and either widowed or left their wives behind or hey, maybe the wives travelled with them in some instances? We know that there were women followers of Jesus so it's not entirely out of the question.

*gets on tiny soapbox* Maybe it's just the people that I speak to but I find that the emphasis on Jesus being unmarried, on being a virgin his entire life, reflects an attitude that sex and procreation are somehow degrading to humanities true core. It's a similar attitude to what I find in some people who are adamant about Mary having remained a virgin her entire life and having been born without sin herself. Why? What could be the actual, real purpose/need for Mary to have been born without sin? Could God not have made Jesus' mortal flesh sinless anyway? Or wouldn't Jesus being God infuse the flesh he inherited from Mary and cause it to be sinless? Assuming the Western view on Original Sin in these cases, of course.

Yes, I think we can be reunited with spouses in heaven (which is when I wondered about divorced couples and how that will work - will the exes get along there?), but I don't think we will live together as spouses any more.

I've never really thought about it. The Bible says that there will be no marrying or giving in marriage in heaven, so I agree that we won't be attached to our spouses in the same way we are here on earth. 'Til death do us part' and all that. But I've never considered how we would react to multiple deceased spouses in heaven. Maybe we'd all be so consumed by the presence of God that it wouldn't even cross our minds?

Maybe I'm wrong though! I don't think my faith teaches that we will populate the heavenly realms with more children or maybe I missed this or it's not stressed in the churches i've been in. Have you heard it in your circles?

Nope. It's not a teaching in any Christian circle I've ever been involved in.

Maybe all churches keep files of some sort

Or it could just be that I'm paranoid. That's an option too. :)

Amber said...

Sarah, you said:

once all the parties are dead, a woman can be sealed to all the men to whom she was married in life. That's how we do proxy sealings for our dead ancestors: we seal both men and women to all the spouses that they were married to during their lifetimes.

*raises hand* I have a question!

Does that mean that there's the possibility for a woman to be polyandrous in the afterlife? If multiple of her husbands were/become (because that's the point of the posthumous baptisms, yes? to give people the chance to become Mormon that didn't have that chance in this life?) Mormon then she could have multiple husbands for all eternity?

Susanne said...

Sarah, thank you for your comments! I was really hoping to hear from you as I value your input. Thanks, too, for sharing more about your faith and clarifying some things for me. It's helpful learning from people on the inside rather than just reading books and making assumptions based on things we've heard. The grace and works thing, and verse from the Book of Mormon was especially interesting to me!




Sanil, that's interesting. Well, I guess not all Mormons are the same, and I only heard that within the last year by Mormon bloggers. So maybe it's not wide-spread or maybe I just understood it all wrong. Thanks for sharing that. Samer met some Mormon missionaries in Germany and hung out with them for awhile listening to their perspectives. I always found it fascinating to hear what they told him when he asked questions. :)

Susanne said...

Amber, I have a comment for you, but it's not accepting it because of some HTML error when I wasn't even trying to use HTML. *hmph*

If I send it to you by Facebook maybe you can post it for me. Hmmm?

Amber said...

Posting for Susanne because she's having some trouble posting:

Part 1:

Amber, lots of interesting thoughts and questions from you! Thanks!

I really didn't think they stressed works THAT much until I read Joanna's statement. Put in black and white like that, I was a little shocked to be honest. I've heard Mormons compared to busy bees, but I just figured they were - I don't know - working for a better position in heaven not to be found worthy of God's love. That just sounds so contrary to everything I've ever been taught about God loving us while we were still sinners, and His reaching down to us to save us while we were totally unworthy. I mean look at the thief on the cross. Why would Jesus promise paradise to him when he was being crucified for crimes he'd done? Had he made his case for the worthiness of God's love or did God in his mercy save Him because God is merciful and loving and forgiving? What's great about grace if you earned it? When you look at the Old Testament, God tells Israel that they have been chosen NOT because they are good or anything, but due to God's choosing them for His own reasons. I know God gave them rules and punished them when they did not obey, but their being his chosen - supposedly - had nothing to do with their being good people who always did pleasing things. Interesting thought though...glad you asked.

I don't think anything is wrong with getting married and having children. I've never heard that as a reason for saying Jesus never married. I didn't know people thought Mary was sinless and always a virgin until recent years. Obviously that's not a teaching the churches I've been part of. We think Mary was human like all of us although she had a heart for God, and God chose her for whatever reason. We also think when the Bible talks of Jesus' brothers and sisters, they are the children Mary had with Joseph.

Amber said...

Part 2:

As for Jesus being single,I guess we figure the Bible didn't say so, so he must not have been married. Of course I believe he is God in the flesh and God came to earth for a purpose of showing humanity the Way. He didn't come to marry, have children and then leave them when he being God knew he was going to die in his thirties. I don't think it shows marriage and children in a bad light. Only that it wasn't his purpose, his reason for coming to earth. He didn't come to earth to show us how to have the perfect marriage although Paul did refer to the Church as the Bride of Christ!

I think marriage and children are pretty important in the Bible, but I think examples of single people are also good so those people (I know several) don't feel like they are weird or something if they don't marry or have children. You can find fulfillment and a different calling in life because God doesn't require all of us to do the same thing in that regard. (I hate when people are made to feel marriage is an obligation...like "half their deen" when they have no desire to marry. It's a big step especially when you bring children into the world and aren't happy with this thing you were required to do.)

"What could be the actual, real purpose/need for Mary to have been born without sin? Could God not have made Jesus' mortal flesh sinless anyway? Or wouldn't Jesus being God infuse the flesh he inherited from Mary and cause it to be sinless? Assuming the Western view on Original Sin in these cases, of course."

Your questions reminded me of something I read in the past. Can't remember where now, but someone said the seed of man is where sin comes from so Mary being born without a man being required, well. Maybe these people really think sin is passed from one person to another like DNA. Haha...seems funny writing about that.

"Maybe we'd all be so consumed by the presence of God that it wouldn't even cross our minds?"

Yeah, that's what I've had to conclude. That or we will forgive them for whatever since I assume past grudges and bad marriages will be a thing of the earth and all will be great there. It's just something that's crossed my mind from time to time when couples break up.

Amber said...

I mean look at the thief on the cross. Why would Jesus promise paradise to him when he was being crucified for crimes he'd done? Had he made his case for the worthiness of God's love or did God in his mercy save Him because God is merciful and loving and forgiving? What's great about grace if you earned it?

Just my take on it but the story of the thief on the cross is an example of God's mercy, of course. The fact is that God could 'save' everyone in an instant if he so chose. But he doesn't. He requires an initial act of faith and then continual acts of faith from us throughout the rest of our lives. The thing with the thief is that he didn't have that much life left to live. His was sort of like the ultimate death bed conversion. If he had been a spectator who had seen Christ on the cross and said, 'I believe!' that single declaration of faith wouldn't have been all that was asked of him. He would have had to live a Christian life and I think we all agree that that does include 'works' that show Christ living or working through you, yes? I don't know anything, really, about Mormon theology so I can't comment of whether or not they really believe that they can 'earn' their way into this or that heaven but I've never heard a Christian say that they can do that, even in Catholic or Orthodox circles where acts of faith, 'works', are expected. The works aren't believed to 'save' you, but to a) help you keep Christ and the Christian life in your day to day life and b) to express the Spirit that dwells within.

I also don't think that Muslims think they can earn their way into heaven either. Okay, somewhere there are people of *any* religion who think they can earn their own way into heaven. It's just statistics. But *in general* and in their own theology...no. My understanding of 'salvation' in Islam is that you strive to be the best person that you can be, to follow the commands passed down through the Qur'an but you know that you are never going to be perfect and that it is only through the mercy (grace) of Allah that you are accepted into heaven. Which... doesn't sound all *that* different to me from Christian theology on salvation.

I don't think anything is wrong with getting married and having children. I've never heard that as a reason for saying Jesus never married. I didn't know people thought Mary was sinless and always a virgin until recent years. Obviously that's not a teaching the churches I've been part of. We think Mary was human like all of us although she had a heart for God, and God chose her for whatever reason. We also think when the Bible talks of Jesus' brothers and sisters, they are the children Mary had with Joseph.

No, no, not everyone thinks that of course. It's just an attitude that I've noticed in some circles/people. :) It's not something that's out and out stated but more of an undercurrent of thought.

And I was raised with the understanding that Mary was a virgin her entire life. Ah...High church vs. you guys! ;p Mary's perpetual virginity doesn't make her inhuman or superhuman or anything, by the way. Just...like a shrine. She'd carried God in her womb so how could that be 'defiled' by ordinary use? It all ties in to the typology of Mary as the new Arc of the Covenant.

Amber said...

As for Jesus being single,I guess we figure the Bible didn't say so, so he must not have been married. Of course I believe he is God in the flesh and God came to earth for a purpose of showing humanity the Way. He didn't come to marry, have children and then leave them when he being God knew he was going to die in his thirties. I don't think it shows marriage and children in a bad light. Only that it wasn't his purpose, his reason for coming to earth. He didn't come to earth to show us how to have the perfect marriage although Paul did refer to the Church as the Bride of Christ!

The Bible doesn't contain a whole lot of things. Doesn't mean they aren't important. But Christ being married vs. single isn't a salvation issue so I understand why it could be left out as being unimportant.

Christ was God, but he was also man. And mankind has natural, biological needs. If he was fully man he would have had those as well. He either mastered them in the way that all celibate people do (somehow, don't ask *me*, I'm not a nun) or he was married. And if he was married and we had textual proof of that it might have cut short some of the later arguments about celibate vs. married life.

but I think examples of single people are also good so those people (I know several) don't feel like they are weird or something if they don't marry or have children.

How many examples of a good single life are there in the Bible? You know me and my late coming questions, oh knower of these Biblical things!

(I hate when people are made to feel marriage is an obligation...like "half their deen" when they have no desire to marry. It's a big step especially when you bring children into the world and aren't happy with this thing you were required to do.)

Absolutely. And I'm the last person to make the argument that everyone has to get married.


someone said the seed of man is where sin comes from so Mary being born without a man being required, well. Maybe these people really think sin is passed from one person to another like DNA. Haha...seems funny writing about that.

No, no, the Immaculate Conception doesn't mean that Mary was born without a human father (or mother). Mary was conceived in the usual way *ahem* but, in this thinking, God preserved her from inheriting Original Sin from her parents. So she becomes the 'new Eve', resetting the female back to before Eve ate the apple and, in contrast to the first Eve, Mary proceeds to make all the right choices.