The Book of Mormon Girl, by Joanna Brooks
Title: The Book of Mormon Girl
Author: Joanna Brooks
Originally Published: 2012
Format I Read: Paperback
Publisher: Free Press (Simon & Schuster)
The Book of Mormon girl is Joanna Brooks. She was raised as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – also known as the Mormons. (Disclosure: I was also raised and currently practice as a Mormon.) Brooks was raised in California in the Mormon culture, which she fully embraced. She even went to one of the Mormon church’s universities: Brigham Young University. (Disclosure: I did too. In fact, I spent seven years and got two degrees there.) At BYU, she was mentored by a number of feminist professors who ultimately found themselves at odds with the university and the church with respect to their published views. This experience caused Brooks to question what she had always accepted without question.
This book is both the act and result of what Brooks calls a faith transition. She agonizes over what it means to be a Mormon woman and what it means to be a religious person today. Her voice is readable. Her experiences, while specifically Mormon, are also human. If you have ever struggled with your culture or religion, you will likely find some insights here.
No one should be left to feel like she is the only one broken and seeking. (144)
Reading this book was actually a deeply personal experience for me. I, too, have been struggling to fit my child-like ideas of religion with my adult person and views. It is not an easy task, particularly as a woman. And it was helpful to have the words of a woman who had gone through something similar, who had found a way to mesh her personal ideals, morals, and code with the demands of her religion.
For years, I cried every time I set foot in a Mormon ward house. . . . Ridiculous. Is this how God wanted me to spend my Sundays, lonesome among my own people, obvious, angry, and humiliated?
You can’t go on like this. How badly I wanted to belong as I had when I was a young Mormon girl, to be simply a working part in the great Mormon plan of salvation, a smiling exemplar of our sparkling difference. But instead I found myself a headstrong Mormon woman staking out her spiritual survival at a difficult point in Mormon history. (149)
What will I leave my own daughters, my own granddaughters? What stories will accompany them across the miles they will travel in their lifetimes? For their sakes, finally, I decided to stop feeling like a bad daughter in my own tradition. For their sakes, I decide I must make and tell my own version of the Mormon story. (156)
Some criticisms of the book have revolved around the fact that she does not really get into Mormon doctrine or what the Mormons believe. Her crisis was (at least as presented in the book) principally a crisis of culture and that is what the book addresses. I personally feel that the cultural (rather than doctrinal) focus served the book well and will make it resonate with more readers. It definitely resonated with me.
The Book of Mormon Girl, by Joanna Brooks [rating:4]
Sophisticated Dorkiness: “I learned a lot about the Mormon Church in reading the book and would recommend it as a fair and entertaining look at the complicated relationship that develops with faith as we age.”
Bermudaonion’s Weblog: “I had mixed feelings about this book. . . . I do think young people who are struggling to make peace with the church of their childhood will enjoy this more than I did.”
The Blue Bookcase: “I was blown away by how Joanna balances honesty about certain less savory aspects of LDS history and culture with a profound love and respect for the religion and its heritage.”
Reading with My Eyes Shut: “[I]f you’ve ever questioned how you fit into the religion, culture, or tradition that you belong to then what Brooks has to say will resonate with you.”