It’s Time to Play: Anti-Mormon… Or Not?


Here’s my crazy theory about the problem with Mormon Literature:

It’s not that most Mormons want to read something “clean” and uplifting. It’s that the folks who want only clean and uplifting reading are so worried about the possibility of reading or supporting something potentially “anti-Mormon” that they’ll avoid LDS-interest publishers or retailers that sell anything with the slightest whiff of crossing that line. Those readers who are a little more daring — who might be interested in works that are positive, critical, neutral, or ambiguous towards Mormonism — are perfectly happy to buy from Deseret Book, but the ultraconservative part will buy their LDS-interest materials exclusively from (church-approved) Deseret Book. So Deseret Book sops up all of what market exists for Mormon-interest materials, and no one else can get a foothold.

It’s hard for a vibrant artistic tradition to thrive under a production monopoly. Ironically, the lesson-manual standard may hinder a great Mormon work — even a great inspiring, faith-promoting work — from being produced and/or finding an audience.

The serious Mormon Lit folks are aware of the challenge and are ready to try every trick in the book to build up a viable market and distribution network. Ergo, this interesting brainstorming post. Naturally, when discussing a grand Mormon-interest book portal, there’s disagreement over what to do about the “anti-Mormon” stuff. MoJo and Katya propose including everything and then using a rating/filtering system to avoid offending the conservative end. Kent Larsen disagrees, suggesting that at least “anything that is clearly meant to lead members away from the Church” should be excluded.

Naturally, I agree with MoJo and Katya about throwing everything into one pot and then rating it. This is not just out of base self-interest. Rather, as somebody who reads a lot of borderland works, I’ll tell you from experience that it’s really, really, really, really hard to pin down precisely where to draw the line between “anti-Mormon” and “questionable-but-not-anti.” Especially since a work can be kind of “anti” in a lot of different ways. Even with Kent’s definition — which seems so simple! — I contend that it’s not simple at all. It may well be easier to draw a dividing line between Sunday-School-approved and questionable than to draw a line between questionable and “anti”.

However, I’m willing to grant that I may be wrong on this. For fun, I’ve compiled a little list of recent maybe-anti-maybe-not works, and I’d like to know which ones you think truly deserve the title “Anti-Mormon.” I hope I can get responses from some faithful Mormons in addition to getting responses from non-believers. I am absolutely not out to trick or mock believers with this — I’m genuinely curious as to which ones of these you’d say are beyond the pale and which ones you’d grant are Mormon works (but perhaps with a warning flag). And please, everyone, write your own answers before comparing with others. We’ll start with the easy ones and it will get harder:

1. The usual suspects: The Proviso (and other works by Moriah Jovan), Angel Falling Softly, Brother Brigham, and Kindred Spirits. These are all written by faithful Mormons from a pro-Mormon viewpoint, but all have been accused of containing too much sex and of teaching wrong, wrong, wrong lessons about the gospel. Kent’s definition technically excludes these works, however, many members would honestly view these as wolves in sheep’s clothing — more threatening than simple unbelief. (see my reviews here, here, and here)

2. Latter-day Cipher: A friend of the bloggers at Mormon Coffee has a novel that was inspired by The Jungle. Only instead of being about the meat-packing industry, it’s about Mormonism. (OK, I may be exaggerating a bit — have a look at the trailer on the author’s site.)

3. Torn by God: The protagonists are (mainstream) Mormons, the villains are polygamists. However, the doctrinal and social connections between the two groups are spelled out explicitly enough that modern P.R.-conscious Mormons won’t like it. Plus, the portrait of Mormon Fundamentalists is not at all balanced — it is entirely negative. A Mormon Fundamentalist reading this work would likely see it as no different than a modern-day “Study in Scarlet.” (see my review here.)

4. The works of Natalie R. Collins, such as Behind Closed Doors and Wives and Sisters. Natalie writes murder mysteries with Mormons as villains. Although she debates Mormons on her blog Trapped by the Mormons, and although her portrait of Mormonism is extremely negative, it’s not clear that the point to her books is to lead members away from the church. It looks more like she’s out to write scary, suspense-filled stories, and — as a born-n-bred Utah Mormon — she works with familiar cultural details. (see my reviews here, here, and here.)

5. Exmormon: The author’s intention is to write stories of the folks who are raised Mormon and stop believing — being human, they have stories too. The novel is also intended to help faithful Mormons understand the experiences of their friends and relatives who no longer believe. Author intentions aside, however, the title is a bit of a red flag for most members (and was deliberately chosen to be one in order to avoid misleading the faithful about the contents since — if it weren’t for the title — you could probably get halfway through the book without guessing that it won’t be faith-promoting). Note that although all of the protagonists leave the church, there’s not much danger of making disbelief seem “cool” since most of the atheist characters are nerds.

6. Always Listen to the Ravings of a Madwoman: This novel is written from an exmo POV and is full of graphic sex. And yet the take home message couldn’t be more orthodox Mormon! It’s all about the family-destroying dangers of porn-addiction. Mormonism is a big part of the setting, but it isn’t the key problem, and, in fact, some of the Mormon characters are easily more sympathetic than the non-Mormons. (see my review here.)

7. My Ex Is Having Sex with Rex: This is a memoir by a lady who married, raised a family with, and eventually divorced a gay man. The couple was Mormon (and eventually left the church), but Mormonism is hardly mentioned in the book because the author didn’t feel that the specific religion was the key point. Still, the church’s former habit of telling gay guys to marry straight women doesn’t exactly come out smelling like a rose. (see my review here.)

8. The Mormon Cult: This one is an interesting case because the missionary memoir at the heart of it is quite complex and nuanced. An opening section exposing Mormonism’s cultish ways (plus the title) were added at the request of the publisher. Why? Because there are two types of stories about Mormons: “with us” or “against us.” You can sell a faith-promoting mission memoir or you can sell an expose of Mormonism — nothing in-between. If I’d been in the editor’s chair (and if we were living in a magical fantasy world where we didn’t have to worry about marketing), the end product wouldn’t have been quite so “anti.” As it is, the story may still be of interest to the open-minded among the faithful who are willing to skip past the background/expose section. (see my review here.)

9. Twilight: Written by a Mormon and superficially “clean,” this novel promotes highly questionable ideas about relationships for impressionable young Mormon girls. It has been called “porn for women” by more people than I can count. (see the discussion here.)

10. In Our Lovely Deseret: Mormon Fictions. This is a collection of short stories “not for or against, but about” Mormonism. It contains some truly excellent work. It seems like a no-brainer that it’s not in the “anti” category, but (to do a little name-dropping) don’t forget that it was publicly denounced by Eugene England himself in Dialogue. (see my review here.)

11. Suddenly Strangers: This one is a personal account of being shunned by family upon leaving the LDS Church. Some Mormons could easily see it as self-serving anti-Mormon propaganda (being as the virtuous, innocent exmos were so tragically mistreated by their faithful Mormon relatives); other Mormons could see it as a helpful cautionary tale of what not to do when your siblings leave the church.

12. Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith. I haven’t read this one, but maybe you guys have heard of it.

13. Leaving the Fold: Candid Conversations with Inactive Mormons: This is a collection of essays/memoirs by lots of famous names in Mormonism, including that Mormon Lit sweetheart Levi Peterson. All of them explaining why they have left the fold.

14. Real-life gay exmo memoirs such as Falling Into Life, Desert Love, and the other stories at Gay Mormon Stories site: These gay folks describe leaving the church as a process of finally finding their true, authentic selves.

15. Caroline Jessop’s memoir Escape, detailing the horrors of life as a plural wife. Like Torn by God, this one is more anti-FLDS than anti-LDS (and we know Deseret Book doesn’t care about offending the FLDS), yet from reading some conversations around the Bloggernacle, I’d say a non-trivial number of Mormons consider this work unfair, one-sided, and anti-Mormon.

Your responses…? (If you’re feeling really ambitious, you could try Katya’s ranking system, linked above.)

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chanson

C. L. Hanson is the friendly American ExMormon atheist mom living in Switzerland! See "letters from a broad" and the novel ExMormon for further adventures!!

42 thoughts on “It’s Time to Play: Anti-Mormon… Or Not?

  1. I have read _Under the Banner_ and I thought it was a fair book. While it did go into the origins of polygamy and aspects of mormon history (like MMM), it also clearly explained that that Lafferty’s were a splinter group.

    In the end, I personally can’t tell if something is pro or anti – I believe it’s arbitrary based on whether or not something is published by Deseret book. FWIW – that’s my perception – I’m not sure there is a better line than that.

  2. Aerin — That’s interesting that it’s clear that it’s about a splinter group. The buzz seemed to be that Under the Banner of Heaven was an “anti-Mormon” book, but since the mainstream Mormons and the fundamentalists hate each other, one might think that the mainstream LDS would like a book explaining how bad the other guys are. Perhaps (despite their disagreements) those sorts of books hit too close to home…?

    I wish I had an example of a book that’s the flip-side of this problem: a story that’s essentially mainstream LDS faith-promoting, but has Mormon fundamentalist characters who are portrayed in a positive light. I wonder if that would be more or less “anti”…

  3. .

    I’ve read four of these books (Proviso, Angels Falling, BBrigham and Twilight) and I have to say that it is extreeeeemly problematic, trying to rank anything on pro/anti that isn’t clearly one of the other. Of course, the hope is that a moderated crowdsourcing could make it work, but it’s hard to say how well it would then be respected. Perhaps an ‘irrelevant’ option would be good as well…..

  4. The problem with “anything meant to lead people away from the church” is that one could be a complete contrarian and find the opposite to be true, i.e., anti-Mormon ramblings foment some curiosity that leads to investigation and possibly conversion.

    The other thing is that the book world is abuzz with the extremely rapid changes in technology that make so much possible, and the big publishers are unwilling or unable to deal with. The buzz phrase of the past couple of weeks of book conventions, expos, and conferences has been “collection” and “curation” to deal with what is becoming, essentially, the internet slush pile.

    To exclude *any* works involving Mormons (whether written by or about) in a catalog (collection) and rate it specific to the needs of our subculture (curate) is disingenuous.

    Aside: What’s different about my and Eugene’s and Chris’s and Martindale’s (I guess; haven’t read it) is that we’re writing sex WITH a pro-Mormon (or at least not anti) message. Genre romance has its share of LDS women who write hawt, and they would have their place in a catalog such as this, too.

  5. Latayne — Of course I’d be interested in reading it. I gather you’re writing from an exmo-Christian perspective, right? I don’t think I’ve read a novel yet from that perspective, and I’d be curious to see how it goes. I’ll email you my details for the review copy.

    Th. — I think a five-point scale might actually work. I’d start by asking the publishers to rank the books, though. The publishers really don’t have any incentive to pretend that the book is somewhere else on the pro-anti spectrum than where it really is. Then add customer ratings, especially for those that don’t have info from the publisher.

    MoJo — That’s absolutely true that the most hostile “anti” books might make people curious to read what the other side has to say. My great-grandparents converted to Mormonism largely due to curiosity generated by the buzz from some local “anti-Mormons”. My brother wrote a post about their conversion for BCC (it turned out that the anti-SLC-Mormon who inspired them to investigate the church was an Elder in the RLDS church). If you’re worried about the portal leading good members to “anti” books, might the same trick not work the other way — people who are looking for an “anti” book they’ve heard of might easily find some interesting faith-promoting works…?

    I think you’re also right about the danger of excluding anything. Some work that is potentially interesting could easily get excluded because of one person’s negative impression, while other similar-level works are allowed in by another (more lenient) LDS curator. And if the work is excluded entirely, there’s not possibility of objectively re-evaluating it…

  6. BTW, I’m a little disappointed that no one so far has even attempted to categorize them, just for fun!

    I think a five-point scale would definitely work better than a black/white division. I went back and reviewed Katya’s scale, and unfortunately I don’t think it can be used as-is since assumes that pro-Christian works are automatically less “anti” than atheistic ones. Sorry, but some of the most vehemently anti-Mormon books are pro-Christian (eg. The Godmakers, and whole outreach ministries — with publishing arms — specifically devoted to saving Mormons from Mormonism). Even if Mormonism and evangelical Christianity are historically related (just like the LDS and the FLDS are related) it doesn’t mean they like each other.

    I propose a scale where the alternate (non-Mormon) viewpoint of the work is not taken into account — neither points nor demerits given for being written from a mainstream Christian perspective as opposed to being written from a Buddhist, Wicca, atheist, etc. perspective (or for not specifying an alternate viewpoint).

    1 = Totally positive towards LDS Mormon belief and practice. OK to quote at Sunday School.
    2 = Challenging or critical points are treated, but (on balance) LDS Mormonism belief and practice are treated as a good thing.
    3 = Neutral, balanced.
    4 = A complex treatment of LDS Mormon belief and practice, but on balance Mormonism comes off negative and/or some other belief system is presented as better.
    5 = Explicitly argues that LDS Mormon belief and practice is bad, wrong, or harmful.

    I’ll post my rankings of the above works soon!

  7. OK, here are my answers. Don’t forget to write your own answers — using the scale above — before reading mine. 😀

    1. 2
    2. I haven’t read it (yet), but I expect a 4 or 5.
    3. 3
    4. 4, maybe 4.5
    5. 4
    6. 3
    7. 3
    8. 5 (but, as I stated above, it could easily have been a 4 if the pre-publication editing had gone differently).
    9. 2
    10. 3
    11. 4 (maybe 5 — I read it a long time ago, so I don’t remember whether it has a “why Mormonism is wrong” chapter or not…)
    12. I haven’t read it, but it sounds like a 3 or maybe 4.
    13. I haven’t read this one either, but I would guess it’s probably a 4, or perhaps a 3.
    14. 5
    15. Again, I haven’t read it, but it’s probably a 3 or 4.

  8. FWIW, the feeling I was trying to express on AMV was that those works that are explicitly anti-Mormon should be excluded — i.e., category 5 in your scheme above. To be honest, the only work from the list of 15 you gave that I would exclude is #8, The Mormon Cult, because of the evidently explicit introduction.

    What I have in mind excluding is not the kind of works you have listed here, but the “How to Witness to Mormons” works I see from evangelical publishers, along with works by anti-Mormon crusaders like Richard Abanes.

    Personal memoirs of how I got from point A to point B in life really don’t seem like they are explicitly advocating leaving the Church (although you would have to read them to know for sure).

  9. I should add that I see value in personal memoirs of the “how I left the LDS Church” variety, because they can show a lot of the places that we as a Church have gone wrong in how we treat people. I’m not saying that people leave the Church solely because they were treated poorly, but it is often a contributing factor, and it wouldn’t hurt more members of the Church to realize what they do unconsciously, and even consciously at times.

  10. Kent — That makes sense; you’re probably right that it’s not too hard to identify the category #5 works.

    Still, if you’re compiling a huge list anyway (including personal “why I left the church” stories), I feel like you might as well keep a list of the category #5 works too, while you’re at it.

    Here are my reasons:

    1. It’s interesting and useful to know what the “How to Witness to Mormons” works are saying, even if it’s lies and/or nonsense.
    2. If someone who doesn’t have a background in Mormonism is looking for anti-Mormon works (for whatever reason), it’s very possible they’ll also have a look at the case for other side if they’re conveniently grouped in the same place.
    3. The stuff in categories 2 – 4 is actually probably more dangerous to one’s testimony than the blatantly hostile stuff in category #5.
    4. It’s possible to accidentally exclude a work that shouldn’t be excluded, and if you drop it from your list entirely, it won’t ever get re-evaluated.

    Plus, you can still get a bit of a gray area between category 4 and category 5. For example, if I understand correctly from the author’s site for #2, she actually has written whole books for Christians on how to witness to Mormons (to save them from Mormonism). Yet her novel might not technically fall into category #5 even if it was written with the express intention of saving Mormons from Mormonism…

  11. What I have in mind excluding is not the kind of works you have listed here, but the “How to Witness to Mormons” works I see from evangelical publishers,

    Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

    I find the membership generally woefully ill informed (and cringingly naive) at how we are seen by the evangelical population. Stuff like this (if they dared read it; indeed, if they knew it existed) might shed some light on it. Having all titles like that clustered in one place would open a few eyes, I’m sure.

    In any case, it’s instructive and it’s topical, so I don’t see any reason it should be excluded.

  12. The only other book of the bunch I’ve read is 5.Ex-mormon, and I believe it’s a 4. I would almost call it a 3 – neutral and balanced, but that’s from my own perspective. I can see where some believing mormons might not agree after reading.

  13. Hey Chanson,

    I wasn’t intending for pro-Christian to automatically mean somewhat pro-Mormon. (I’ve come across plenty of “How to save your Mormon neighbor from an eternity in hell”-type Evangelical books.) My intent was to find a place where a lot of the Christian classics could reside — books that promote a worldview generally in line with Mormon theology, but may differ in some areas of doctrine.

    You’re right that it’s worded ambiguously, though.

  14. MoJo — Exactly.

    Aerin — Thanks, I’d be tempted to call it a 3 myself, but to be safe I’d go with 4.

    Katya — I kind of see what you’re getting at: like MoJo’s second comment, I immediately thought of C. S. Lewis. But the thing is that even if faithful Mormons like C. S. Lewis and hate Christopher Hitchens (your other example), now you’re starting in on a different question: the difference between Mormon-specific works as opposed to more general works about religion.

    But honestly, because of Mormonism’s proximity to protestant/evangelical Christianity, the pro-Christian stuff contains both some of the most Mormon-friendly and some of the least Mormon-friendly themes. It’s kind of like the polygamy question: You can’t say that something that is pro/anti-polygamy will be automatically pro/anti-LDS-Mormon. I think it’s more reasonable to have a ranking system that doesn’t give an automatic advantage or disadvantage to any particular non-LDS-Mormon worldview, but rather judge each work on its own merits.

  15. now you’re starting in on a different question: the difference between Mormon-specific works as opposed to more general works about religion.

    Agreed. I think, to be most effective, the boundaries of “Mormon” versus “Christian” must be clearly delineated. Deseret Book, Zondervan’s, and Amazon take care of C.S. Lewis. For a Mormon lit database to do it would be redundant and inefficient.

  16. (Caveat: I am Mormon, but not active.) One of my major problems with the Mormon Church is its paternalism. And that extends to what members think that they are allowed to read and what they cannot read. Most members will refuse to read anything of a religious, philosophical, mythological, mystical or controversial nature or anything that touches on Mormonism however tangentially unless it is ok’ed by the Church or published by Deseret.

    The idea of rating books such as those mentioned into some hue of anti or pro Mormonism simply feeds the beast of self censorship. Even if for fun, the concept of rating these books along those lines exposes the inherent fear of “maybe” being exposed to something that will challenge one’s comfort zone. For God’s sake, just pick up the book and read it for what it is without a prejudged rating of 1 to 5 or whatever.

    Let’s get a life here. How about critiquing the book on its merits, not on its perceived anti or pro Mormon slant. Let’s tone down the paternalism and grow up.

  17. Greg — I’m certainly not trying to tell Mormons what they can and can’t read. I would prefer it if more Mormons were OK with reading something outside their comfort zone about Mormonism. But there’s not a lot I can do to change the minds of most Mormons on this point, and, really, it’s their own business what they choose to read — I have not interest in trying to trick people into reading things they didn’t want to read. I’d rather see useful listings that help find books they do want to read. A ranking system is a simple way to make sure the list is helpful both to those who want to stay in their comfort zone and those who don’t.

  18. p.s. I’m totally down with critiquing LDS-interest books on their merits, as you can tell by my list of book reviews (some of which I’ve linked about). But many Mormons are wary of listening to (or linking to) an atheist like me. Honestly explaining where the books stand with respect to the LDS faith is part of my attempt to compromise: offering my opinions and POV to those who are interested without imposing on those who aren’t.

  19. Greg,

    The intent with a database such as this is to *eventually* turn it into a bookstore that actually sells these works. We don’t know if the market is there, but a bunch of us suspect it is.

    Deseret Book and Seagull are the only game in town. Are people going to DB/Sg and buying because they’re conditioned to or because there are no other readily available OR VISIBLE alternatives?

    The fact of the matter is that the books Chanson listed are filling a hole (heh). Some people may not like that hole, but some people might. We don’t know who would or wouldn’t because there is no other test case. WE are the test case.

    Are we rating books to fulfill some vague drive for paternalistic decisionmaking? No. We’re rating books for the sake of future customers and good customer service.

    Are we doing this for fun? Absolutely not. We’re filling a badly needed market and I think there’s money to be made in it. Can you see the $$$ signs in my eyes? Look closer.

  20. Are we rating books to fulfill some vague drive for paternalistic decisionmaking? No. We’re rating books for the sake of future customers and good customer service.

    Exactly (and again expressed more concisely than my version 😉 )

    Are we doing this for fun? Absolutely not.

    Actually, I’m doing it for fun. (I mean the whole talking-to-people-about-books thing.) But that’s just me. Carry on.

  21. MoJo: I certainly agree that there is a need for an alternative to Deseret and Seagull (Although I am not familiar with Seagull; and I am new to this blog.) Maybe I’ve been away from the Church too long, or maybe I’m just too cynical. I have only recently been exposed to this world of “open-minded” and “free-thinking” Mormons as I get more involved in the social networking sites and as I have begun to write on my own. If the rating system is designed as a tool for those more liberal Mormons who are predisposed to reading “non-sanctioned” works, then I am sure it will be a useful tool and a help.

    I must confess, I am a seventh generation Mormon and I still carry some of the deep-seeded pain and resentment toward the Church and the deception I felt which led me to stop attending. It’s a long story, but I still battle those feelings from time to time. I find my writing on the subject to be quite therapeutic.

    I certainly hope that the idea of the alternative bookstore grows and that, perhaps, it develops into a sort of coop publishing company. Greg

  22. I certainly hope that the idea of the alternative bookstore grows and that, perhaps, it develops into a sort of coop publishing company.

    Well, I have no plans for that. I have a pub company and a separate imprint someone else runs, so…

    As for “open-mindedness,” I just think the time came that authors got fed up with the restrictions of Deseret Book standards, which are arguably more stringent than the church’s. I was not fed up, though. I had a story to tell and I needed to tell it–whether it fit anywhere or not. I suspect a majority of the other authors in chanson’s list would concur with that.

  23. Oh, also, MY publishing goals are not strictly LDS. What I’m looking for is provocative stories with spiritual aspects and that could be any faith. I have a friend (Catholic) working on something now that’s just incredible. It was a story she had to write and she knew she wouldn’t be able to sell it nationally. That’s what I’m looking for. The other imprint is, I think, intended to be strictly LDS.

  24. I must confess, I am a seventh generation Mormon and I still carry some of the deep-seeded pain and resentment toward the Church and the deception I felt which led me to stop attending. It’s a long story, but I still battle those feelings from time to time. I find my writing on the subject to be quite therapeutic.

    Well, you’ll certainly fit in here at MSP if you choose to stick around. Our particular niche is neither therapy nor attacking Mormonism (those niches are well-covered elsewhere), but all “cultural Mormons” (believing or no) are welcome. We’re shooting for civil discussion of LDS-interest issues from a range of perspectives.

  25. Thanks for the comment chanson. I am looking to channel my thoughts into an objective discussion of Mormonism without being overly critical and turning off those members who are otherwise predisposed to listening/reading. I am looking to shift into the artist realm as I believe that communication on issues as volatile, personal and ingrained as religion, and particularly Mormonism, is often best tackled in story, allegory and fiction. The nuances of artistic expression often reach the target audience in ways that are sometimes unexpected and rewarding.

    As for the “long story,” it is coming. I intend to stick around at the few “better” blogs and sites, including this one.

  26. Greg — Sounds good, keep us posted. If you’re interested in doing a guest-post here at MSP, email me: chanson dot exmormon at gmail dot com.

  27. You’ve left off so many interesting works that fall into that middle space. A few that spring to mind: Levi Peterson’s novels and short story collection, Rob Van Wagoner’s Dancing Naked, Maureen Whipple’s The Giant Joshua, Brady Udall’s The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint, most work by Brian Evenson and selected things of Walter Kirn, which often at least brush up against Mormon culture. I think that sometimes the “inbetween” space is not very widely known, because there’s no one out there promoting it, since many Mormons find it disturbing and most non-Mormons find it too topical.

  28. Robert, would you be so kind as to send a list to me? moriah at moriahjovan dot com ?

    I’m taking notes. :)

  29. Robert — So true. I’ve been trying to promote the works in this space through writing reviews, but I’ve never tried to research or compile a complete list. My list is just stuff I happened to hear of through reading hundreds of LDS-interest blogs over the years.

    But if I were trying to compile a complete list, you’d be the first person I’d think to ask for directions. And then perhaps Holly and Joanna Brooks. I’d start by cribbing from their list, even though they appear to be discriminating by gender. 😉

  30. I wouldn’t mind getting a copy of that list too, Robert, or from you MoJo or chanson, if you compile it. zoemurdock at yahoo dot come.

    I’m enjoying this discussion.

  31. The buzz seemed to be that Under the Banner of Heaven was an “anti-Mormon” book…

    As I recall, that buzz was started by the church protesting the book before it was released. The subtitle of the book is “A Story of Violent Faith.” This is certainly demonstrable in the stories that Krakauer tells–the Laffertys and also Mountain Meadows among other things. The church chose to read that as, more or less, “A Story of ‘A’ Violent Faith” and complained that mormonism itself was being tarred as being a violent religion.

    Krakauer grew up in Oregon and did some book lectures in my small town here at the request of a high school friend of his who now lives here. His comments were that he was very disappointed that the church made very public and negative comments about his book before it had even been released. His assertion (and, having read the book, I agree with him) was that he was not writing a screed against mormons (his interest in mormonism initially came from close childhood friends who were mormon) but a more nuanced look at how religion can turn violent, using mormon examples.

    The FLDS do not come off well in Krakauer’s book, but I don’t think, really, that mainstream LDS vs. FLDS is at all the point of the book. My personal opinion about the “anti-mormon” label that was slapped on the book by the church, even after publication, is the fact that the Laffertys were mormon and are identified as such. Their psychosis was peculiarly based in mormonism in that the dysfunctions of an abusive family were justified in terms of mormonism. But also, and I think most significantly, Krakauer extensively treats the Mountain Meadows Massacre. I think his account is pretty complete, accurate, and even-handed. But the institutional church is obviously very touchy about Mountain Meadows and I think any sort of mention of it gets them up in arms.

  32. Belaja — Thanks for the details! Now it all becomes clear.

    From Aerin’s description, it didn’t sound particularly anti-Mormon, so I wasn’t sure where this idea came from.

    It’s true that organized religion can be used to justify abuse. One reader sent us an example from her own life, which we posted and discussed here. That’s already threatening enough to the mainstream church, and then if you throw in discussion of MMM and the fact that the Laffertys were believers in the Mormon tradition (even if not mainstream), I can kind of see why LDS Inc. wouldn’t like it.

    Still, railing on how anti-Mormon the book is means essentially acknowledging that a book about these extremist offshoots is a book about Mormonism.

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