Through Abuse and out: Todd Maxwell Preston’s “Sacred Road”

My father was sexually abused as a boy. I found this out when I was thirty-five years old. Was I shocked? Not really – he was raised with violence and abuse, in a very dysfunctional system. The abuse was accepted as normal, I get that now. The fact that it was treated as normal made it all okay. I’m thirty-six years old as I write my story, it is just a story. I am no longer attached to my story. My story used to be everything, it justified all the anger and rage. I thought that my story was who I was. I offer my story to all who have been abused, also to the abuser, also to those who would like to understand abuse. All who have not yet let go of their story.

That’s Todd Maxwell Preston in his memoir Sacred Road.

His story is a familiar one in ex-Mormon circles. Mormonism is especially attractive to people and families suffering from abuse. People see these beautiful, smiling, perfect Mormon families and think: “If we were Mormon, we’d be happy like that too.”

In such cases, Mormonism isn’t the root cause of the abuse, but can often exacerbate the problem instead of helping. Once the family joins the church, Mormon culture encourages them to cover up the abuse, and only show a beautiful, smiling, perfect exterior. Mormon teachings also often give increased authority to the abuser, teaching the rest of the family be obedient and submissive.

Todd’s story is exceptional, though, in terms of his perspective. I’ve read a lot of memoirs where the author describes having been profoundly hurt, having learned unhealthy relationship models, and passing the abuse along. Generally such stories have an edge of defensiveness, but not Todd’s story. He has taken great pains to understand where he was at and what he and others were feeling that prompted various (often poor) choices. Thus he takes responsibility for his choices and expresses regret at the harm caused by others, but without blaming and shaming. In terms of understanding the cycle of abuse — in order to break it — the story is excellent and exceptional. I’ve never read anything quite like it. And it’s inspiring to see the main character grow into a person who can view his own story in this way.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who would like more perspective on abuse and on how it affects people and families.

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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!!

21 thoughts on “Through Abuse and out: Todd Maxwell Preston’s “Sacred Road”

  1. A huge thank you to Carol for an amazing review on Sacred Road; you captured the very essence of my memoir. Thank you – thank you.

    Todd Preston

  2. Thanks so much for your comments – I hope you enjoy reading Sacred Road; happy reading everyone.

    Cheers

  3. A big thank you to all those that have purchased an ecopy of Sacred Road; thank you – thank you…

    Cheers

  4. Being an abuser of any type is grounds for excommunication from the LDS church. Those who led Mr. Preston to believe that he should cover up his abuse were wrong, and will be held accountable before God. Such misuse of authority within the family should be reported to the bishop (by the family members or someone who is close to the situation) so that the abuser can be dealt with, and stopped!

  5. @10 — yes, but in practice, part of the problem is that LDS bishops don’t typically have any real training in dealing with abuse situations. So whether they end up helping or exacerbating the problem is kind of luck-of-the-draw.

  6. Unfortunately when you are a child you do not know what abuse is – you accept it. Who is going to tell? Your siblings? It is normal to them as well. It took me all the way to 35 years old to actually say that I was abused physically – with a lot of help from a professional psychologist. After 30 years of experience he made it clear that those that have been abused (minimize the abuse) that they experienced. It is a difficult subject for any culture not just Mormon culture. However when a high demand group like Mormons place a greater precedence on image rather than the dirty truth it sadly pre-empts the opportunity to own the truth. Owning our beautiful imperfections is sadly misguided by a society hell bent on perfection – when we embrace our own truth we move closer to freedom.

    Love and Peace Todd

  7. I am a practicing member of the LDS Church. I am 56 years old. I was sexually abused by a cousin several years older then myself when I was quite young. I do not hold anyone responsible for my abuse but the abuser. He made choices that effected my life, although blessed with many gifts, his life was a sad one. I am thankful for the struggles in my life they have taken me down roads that have made me stronger. Would I have chosen them? No! Do I have regrets? Yes! Can I change them? No! I take what I have learned and look ahead. I rely on a God who I know to be kind and loving. I accept the sacrifice of my Savior to forgive my self and others. Am I perfect? No! I am a blessed woman, I can not deny this.

  8. @13 I am very happy for you that you are working through your sexual abuse issues.

    I don’t know whether you intend your comment to be a rebuttal to Todd Maxwell Preston’s book, but if so, please keep in mind that one person’s personal experience does not refute the personal experience of another.

  9. This is one of the most important books I’ve read in my
    entire life. Thank you Todd for breaking the code of
    silence and standing for what is right.
    I was abused too, and it is a long journey into wholeness.
    You are a true winner and a beautiful example to
    anyone who has suffered from personal, family or
    institutional abuse.
    I invite anyone to read my review of this book on
    amazon.com for more details of why I love it so much.

  10. Thank you Linda for your heart felt comments. Your review was so honest and real. I felt the pain and agony in what you shared. Good for you for standing in your own power and sharing your truth. I hope you continue to share your story with others. Your words brought a tear to my eye and reminded me of a favourite quote from an amazing author Natalie Kusz.

    “As I am sure you know… writers are in the business of attempting to expose the human condition in such a way that our description resonates in the souls of other humans, and it is extremely gratifying to hear about the one or two times when something we publish succeeds in this endeavour.”

    You have gifted me with an “extremely gratifying” moment. Thank you – thank you…

  11. Hey Todd I have only recently learnt who you are through meeting your wife last weekend; Where your story was briefly shared. I would like to congratulate you on being strong enough to explain your story in your book Sacred Road, which I’m sure many will benefit and also gain immense strength.
    This is very inspirational.
    Thank You
    Tony Head

  12. Hey Tony that is awesome – glad you enjoyed Sacred Road. My intention was exactly that help others find the joy within them. All the best to you and your family.

    Cheers Todd

  13. I’d like to get in touch with Todd about his book, as I’m working on a book about memoirs by male survivors.

  14. p.s. to my LDS friends:Please don’t get the miriipsessmon from the above picture that this story is going to contain some (potentially inappropriate?) sex story involving LDS missionaries. It doesn’t.The missionary segment of the novel is a story — partially based on accounts people have told me — of being tempted and not giving in to temptation.How (and why) would an exmo write such a story? and see for yourself. 😉 Or wait until I post this segment and read it for free. :DAlso, there’s some discussion of this story .

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