Wednesday, June 12, 2013

ExMormon lit: A list of mainstream ex-Mormon media...

I have read and reviewed a lot of books written by Mormons and exMormons, some of whom are posters on RfM.  Today, someone on RfM asked for a list of exMormon books.  It inspired me to post a list of books I've read about Mormonism with links to reviews.  I have reviewed just about all of them on Epinions.com.  Since Epinions could use the traffic, I will link to my reviews with this post and provide a short description of each book in this post.  To find the Epinions reviews, just click on the italicized titles.  ETA: Most of the Epinions links are no longer good.  Some of the reviews have been relocated to this blog, but I haven't had the chance to move all of them.

Books about leaving Mormonism

Secret Ceremonies by Deborah Laake

This is the very first exMormon book I ever read.  I read it the first time in 1994, right around the time it was first published.  When I later mentioned to a Mormon couple that I'd read it, they kind of chastised me and said it was full of lies.  About ten years later, I re-read it with my exMormon husband.  He confirmed that the book is not full of lies.  Deborah Laake committed suicide because she had terminal breast cancer.  Unfortunately, a lot of Mormons claim that her suicide is proof that she was "crazy".  Famous exMormon Steve Benson, who posts on RfM, knew her personally and has said that she was an excellent journalist.



Leaving The Saints: How I Lost the Mormons and Found My Faith by Martha Beck

Martha Beck grew up as part of Mormon royalty, the daughter of a famous Mormon apologist named Hugh Nibley.  She is an ex Mormon and a former professor at Brigham Young University, having left the church with her ex husband, John Beck.  This book is a very well-written, personal, and sometimes funny account of how Beck came to leave the church.  Many people were very upset about this book because Beck accuses her late father of molesting her.  She claims she determined this through repressed memories.  I enjoyed the book when I read it and gave it five stars.  Today, I might not have been as generous with my rating, though I do think it's worth reading.




Expecting Adam: A True Story of Birth, Rebirth, and Everyday Magic by Martha Beck

I was less impressed with Beck's book Expecting Adam, which is basically about how she came to be the mother of her son, Adam, who has Down syndrome.  While Beck's writing in this book is also entertaining, it's also somewhat confusing.  Though this book is not as much about Mormonism as it is about motherhood, Beck does offer some insight into Mormon culture.  





Suddenly Strangers by Brad Morin and Chris Morin

This is a good book written by two brothers who grew up in a large, very LDS family.  They decided the church wasn't true and left the faith.  They were shunned by their relatives, some of whom said they never wanted to see or speak to them again.  Suddenly Strangers is very well-researched, with references to church approved doctrine that led these two brothers to come to the same conclusion.  While the references and research are very useful; to me, what was most compelling were the excerpts from emails and letters written to the brothers.





Confessions of a Recovering Mormon: The Deborah Lucas Story by Deborah Lucas

Deborah Lucas's parents converted to Mormonism when she was very young.  They later divorced, and Deborah lost contact with her father.  Initially, the church had been very "kid friendly" and Deborah loved attending.  As she got older, she felt the church was becoming oppressive.  She eventually left the church because she has a daughter and was concerned that her daughter would face the same oppression she did.  I liked this book and even posted a comment on the author's blog, which I link to in the review.  I'm not sure she still updates it.




Dancing on the Head of a Pin by Pamela McCreary

Pamela McCreary's story of growing up Mormon and eventually leaving the faith.  I was interested in this book because McCreary grew up in Virginia at a time when there weren't many Mormons in Virginia.  I didn't always find her very likable, but her book is intriguing reading.  She claims to be a talented actress and had always wanted to study drama at a small liberal arts college.  Instead, her parents told her they would only pay for schooling at a Mormon university.  She spent a year at Ricks College (now BYU-Idaho) and came home to Virginia, where she ended up getting raped.  The aftermath of the assault and the way church officials handled it eventually led to her exit from Mormonism.




Books by members of RfM

Heaven Up Here by John K. Williams

This is an excellent book about one man's life as an LDS missionary in Bolivia in the mid 1980s.  Williams has since left the church and now posts on RfM.  He writes expressively and compellingly about his life as a missionary.  Although Williams is no longer Mormon, I didn't get the sense that he was bashing the church.  To me, this book was more about his life experience living and working in a very poor country in South America.



The Passion of Raptor Jesus and the Road to Mormon Apostasy by Raptor Jesus

Raptor Jesus is one of RfM's most beloved posters and he has written a hilarious and poignant book about his exit from Mormonism.  I gave this book four stars, but most of the folks from RfM who have read it have absolutely loved it.  I loved it, too.  This is an unconventional memoir that is very engaging.  It could offend anyone who doesn't approve of swearing, but since I love cussing that was no problem as far as I was concerned.




You Can Smile Now, You're Rid of This A**hole: A Memoir of Abuse and Discovery by Bobbi Botaz

Bobbi Botaz writes of growing up Mormon, having an unsatisfying marriage, divorcing, and then allowing an abusive man she met on the Internet to invade her life.  I have interacted with the author of this book a lot on Facebook and really appreciated her cautionary story of what can happen when you aren't assertive.  I recommend her book.




Books about Mormons and sexuality

Dancing With Crazy by Emily Pearson

Emily Pearson is the daughter of popular LDS poet Carol Lynn Pearson.  She also used to be married to exMormon playwright, Steven Fales.  Both Emily and her mother were married to homosexuals.  Her book is basically her story of being raised by her gay father, who eventually succumbed to AIDS and then being married to her gay ex husband.  It's basically well-written and I was amazed by all Emily Pearson had been through in her life.



Confessions of a Mormon Boy: Behind the Scenes of the off-Broadway hit by Steven Fales

This book was written by Emily Pearson's ex husband, Steven Fales.  It's basically the play, a history of the play, and an introduction and epilogue by Fales.  He also includes correspondence he got from the church, including the letter that confirms his excommunication.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, even though I don't generally like reading plays.  Fales has a lot of charisma and presents his story in a unique and entertaining way.  I think this book would be especially interesting to homosexuals who have been affected by the church.



Goodbye, I Love You by Carol Lynn Pearson

Carol Lynn Pearson is a popular Mormon poet.  She remains a faithful member of the LDS church.  She was married to Gerald Pearson, with whom she had four kids.  They later divorced when Gerald came out to her as a homosexual.  Despite the divorce, they remained good friends and Carol Lynn was at his side in 1984 when Gerald died of AIDS.  This is very moving book and I highly recommend it.



Perfect by Joseph Dallin

This is a book about a guy who grew up a true believing Mormon.  At age 13, he realized that he was attracted to males.  Having been raised Mormon, Dallin believed his feelings were inappropriate and engaged in a battle to suppress them.  He dreamt of marrying a woman and having a family.  At age 18, he met a young woman at Utah State University.  Then he went off on his mission.  The girl at home clearly had hopes of marrying Dallin, but he realized he had too much integrity to marry a woman when he was not attracted to women.  Dallin includes doctrine, including some that sheds light on the church's controversial racist past.  This is another good book, especially for exMormons who are gay.



Playing Dangerous Games: The Personal Story of a Social Scientist Entering the Complex World of Sexual Sadomasochism by DJ Williams

D.J. Williams is an academic who grew up Mormon and left the faith.  While getting post doctoral schooling in Canada, he became acquainted with BDSM.  This book is about his journey into BDSM and exploring his kinky side while maintaining a relationship with his Mormon teenaged daughter.  I didn't find Williams particularly likable, but I give him props for having the courage to write this book.  He comes across as a bit of a dork, though.



Books about Mormon related true crime


Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith by Jon Krakauer

This is a well-known book about a true crime related to fundamentalist Mormonism.  In 1984, two brothers named Dan and Ron Lafferty, who on July 24, 1984, decided that God had commanded them to brutally kill Brenda Lafferty and her fifteen month old daughter, Erica.  As Krakauer relates the story of this true crime, he offers insight into the fundamentalist LDS church, which is not considered the same as the official LDS church.  Well worth reading.



The Sins of Brother Curtis by Lisa Davis

This is a shocking story about a Mormon convert named Franklyn Curtis who served in church related positions that put him in contact with young boys.  Curtis molested many of the youngsters under his supervision and the church did nothing about it.  In 1991, Curtis molested a boy named Jeremiah Scott.  In 1997, Scott sued the LDS church, alleging that church officials knew about Curtis's penchant for sexual abuse and did nothing about it.  This book is disturbing and includes documents and photographs.  I suspect it will make some readers defensive and uncomfortable, but it's definitely interesting reading.  





The Mormon Murders by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith

This is a true crime book, not written by ex-Mormons, but by Harvard law school graduates and true crime writers who investigated murders perpetrated by fundamentalist Mormons.  In 1985, Kathy Sheets and Steve Christenson were killed when pipe bombs exploded.  The only link between the murders was the fact that both Sheets and Christenson were Mormons.  A third bomb went off, critically injuring Mark Hofmann.  Hofmann was the only one to survive the attacks, so he was questioned.  The police became suspicious when Hofmann answered their questions in an evasive way and they soon realized they were dealing with a con man.  I found this book very compelling; it's all about the lengths the church will go to to suppress documents, even if it turns out they're fakes.  If you're interested in Utah politics and religion, this is a great book to read.





Every Woman's Nightmare: The True Story of the Fairy-Tale Marriage and Brutal Murder of Lori Hacking by Steven Long

This is a typical true crime book written about the case of Mark Hacking, a Mormon husband who fooled everyone into thinking he had gotten into medical school in North Carolina.  When his pretty, pregnant wife Lori found out the truth about Mark, she confronted him.  And then, while she was sleeping, he murdered her in cold blood.  I gave this book three stars.  It's an average true crime book, but may be interesting because of the subject matter.  I'm afraid the review I wrote on Epinions is gone.





Joyce McKinney and the Case of the Manacled Mormon  by Anthony Delano

This is a book that was written in 2009 about Joyce McKinney, a former beauty queen and current eccentric who, back in 1977, went to England to track down a Mormon missionary with whom she was obsessed.  She hired a man to help capture Kirk Anderson, the missionary in question.  Then she held him captive in a cottage, chained him to a bed, plied with alcohol, and attempted to get pregnant.  This book has sort of a "cheeky" mood to it, sort of treating this case as a joke.  It's interesting reading, but really perpetuates the incorrect idea that men can't be raped.  A film called Tabloid was also made about this case.  I had similar complaints about the film.




Doc: The Rape of the Town of Lovell by Jack Olsen

Doc is the story of Dr. John Story, a doctor who served the people of Lovell, Wyoming.  Lovell is heavily populated with members of the LDS church.  Dr. Story was not himself a Mormon, but for some reason, he hated them.  And so under the guise of giving the Mormon women in Lovell gynecological care, he raped them.  This book is pretty incredible and it does give some insight into Mormon culture which shows how grown women can mistake a man's penis for gynecological instruments.  It's out of print, but you can probably find a used copy.





Books about Mormons in politics

The Real Romney by Michael Kranish and Scott Helman

This is a very balanced and comprehensive book about Mitt Romney.  It was published before the 2012 presidential election and offers a even-handed look at Mitt Romney's life.  I gave it four stars.



Books about polygamy and the FLDS sect

Shattered Dreams: My Life as A Polygamist's Wife by Irene Spencer

Irene Spencer was the second wife of polygamist Verlan LeBaron, a polygamist who eventually had ten wives, one who was only fourteen years old.  He had 58 children.  Spencer is the mother of thirteen of those children and eventually escaped polygamy.  I really enjoyed her book, which was originally published in 2007.  I highly recommend it, though it is about the FLDS religion, not mainstream Mormonism.





His Favorite Wife: Trapped in Polygamy by Susan Ray Schmidt

Susan Ray Schmidt was also married to Verlan LeBaron; she was his sixth wife and quite a bit younger than her sister wife, Irene Spencer.  This is a good book to read in conjunction with Shattered Dreams, since it overlaps somewhat with Spencer's book and includes different perspectives of the famed LeBaron polygamist family.





Colorado City Polygamists: An Inside Look for the Outsider by Benjamin Bistline

This is a rather dry book about polygamy.  It's well-researched and has a good layout, but I found the writing a bit on the dull side.  Benjamin Bistline is now an active mainstream Mormon, but grew up FLDS.  His book offers a unique and accurate look at fundamentalist Mormonism.




God's Brothel: The Extortion of Sex for Salvation in Contemporary Mormon and Christian Fundamentalist Polygamy and the Stories of 18 Women Who Escaped by Andrea Moore-Emmett

This is a fascinating, well-researched, and revealing book, mainly about Mormon fundamentalism, even though it also mentions Christian fundamentalism.  Moore-Emmett is an award winning journalist.  She is also a former member of the mainstream LDS church.  Well worth reading if you are interested in learning more about Mormon fundamentalists.




Polygamy Under Attack: From Tom Green to Brian David Mitchell by John R. Llewellyn

Llewellyn is a retired police officer who has had a lot of dealings with FLDS church members.  I gave this book three stars because I felt it needed editing and, in 2008, was a bit on the dated side.  In 2013, it's even more dated.





Stolen Innocence: My Story of Growing Up in a Polygamous Sect, Becoming a Teenage Bride, and Breaking Free of Warren Jeffs by Elissa Wall and Lisa Pulitzer

This is an excellent book that relates Elissa Wall's experiences growing up in Warren Jeffs' polygamous sect and being forced to marry her cousin, a man she hated.  She was ultimately able to break free of the sect and, with help from ghost writer Lisa Pulitzer, write her story of escaping the cult and bringing Warren Jeffs to task.




When Men Become Gods: Mormon Polygamist Warren Jeffs, His Cult of Fear, and the Women Who Fought Back by Stephen Singular

This book came out at about the same time Elissa Wall's book did.  I thought it was a good book, though it can't really compare to a book by someone who was actually living the lifestyle.  I think Singular was a victim of bad timing in terms of the fact that his book came out when Wall's book did.  On the other hand, it was published right around the time the Yearning for Zion Ranch was raided in April 2008... so I'm sure that helped him sell books.  Worth reading, though I would not recommend reading this right after having read Wall's book.





Escape by Carolyn Jessop and Laura Palmer

This is a fascinating book about how Carolyn Jessop, ex-wife of high ranking Jeffs polygamist Merril Jessop, managed to escape polygamy with her eight children, one of whom had serious medical problems.  It really offers a compelling look at what it was like to live in Jeffs' polygamist group before it was raided in April 2008.  Jessop was one of the few women in the group who was permitted to go to college.  She offers a particularly intellectual look at fundamentalist Mormonism.




Triumph by Carolyn Jessop and Laura Palmer

A follow up to Escape, Triumph is the continuing story of Carolyn Jessop and her eight children.  This book is worth reading because it expands on Carolyn Jessop's story, though I did find that parts of it repeated Escape.  I wouldn't recommend reading this right after reading Escape because it may feel a bit redundant.





Prophet's Prey: My Seven Year Investigation Into Warren Jeffs and the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-day Saints by Sam Brower

Sam Brower is a private investigator and Mormon convert who got involved with the FLDS church in 2004 when a family asked for his help extricating themselves from Warren Jeffs' cult.  This book is well-written and well-researched by a man who has actual first hand dealings with the FLDS sect.  Highly recommended.





Books about Mormon Culture

Mormon America by Richard and Joan Ostling

A book written by non-Mormons, Mormon America is about the Mormon phenomenon and why the church has become very popular in recent years.  Basically well-written and respectful.





Books about Mormonism that I gave low ratings to

Faith and Fortune: A Mormon Family in Hollywood by Kimball Jacobs and Shane Lester

This is a terrible book, written by the father of three 80s era child actors who happened to be LDS.  I read it because I remembered the actors, having grown up watching shows like Diff'rent StrokesGrowing Pains, and Gloria.  It's self-published and seems to be a shameless attempt by a father who was cashing in on his kids' successes in show business.  Kimball Jacobs is still a devout Mormon and, as far as I know, so are his kids.





The God Makers by Ed Decker and Dave Hunt

This is a classic anti Mormon book written by conservative Christians.  Though Ed Decker does know a lot about Mormonism, he sensationalizes it in this book.  I don't recommend it unless you read it with a big grain of salt.  It basically tries to convert readers to his brand of Christianity.





Out of Mormonism by Judy Robertson

I read this book in 2006.  It basically about a couple who decided to become Mormons because they were offended at their regular church and knew some Mormons who had impressed them.  They were Mormons for some time before they determined the church wasn't true.  They are now "Concerned Christians".  I didn't like this book much and only gave it two stars, but parts of it are interesting.  It's a look at Mormonism in the 1960s and 70s.



Bringing Elizabeth Home by Ed and Lois Smart and Laura Morton

This book is all about Elizabeth Smart's kidnapping and rescue.  It is the official version of Elizabeth's story as authorized by the Smart family.  I panned it because it was somewhat poorly written and includes a lot of preaching.  I also thought the book was a bit sanitized and didn't include much information that wasn't already reported by the media.



Videos- (I'm going to keep these brief.  Click the link to the review if you're interested.)

Banking on Heaven- Fascinating look at fundamentalist Mormonism.  I own a copy of this film and found it very informative.






Tabloid- Documentary about the very bizarre case of Joyce McKinney and the "Manacled Mormon".





On The Way Home- LDS propaganda starring Robert Pine of CHiPs.





Mobsters and Mormons- Mobsters end up as fish out of water in Utah.  I actually liked this film.





Hell Bengt- Bengt Washburn- Hilarious Mormon stand up comic.





There are probably more, but I've spent hours on this post already.  I will add to it if I run across other items of interest for exMormons.

ETA: Please click this link for a list of more ExMormon lit.





6 comments:

  1. I've read several of these, but there are some I haven't come across that piqued my interest.

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  2. Bringing Elizabeth Home, Stolen Innocense,Secret Ceremonies, Under the Banner of Heaven, Leaving the Saints, Expecting Adam (more bizrre than Mormonism itself IMO), His Favorite Wife, The Mormon Murders, Goodbye, I love You,
    Shattered Dreams, Escape, and something by Flora Jessop, the name of which I vannot recall (I borrowed it but don't own it.)

    I've seem The Godmakers and Mormons and Mobsters.

    I haven't researched this, but do you know if books have been written about Dr. Parkinson (next to Manson, Jeffrey Dahmer,and a few other infamous murderers, one of the most evil men to walk the planet IMO) the Fairfield Ca doctor who was a bishop and Stake Prez who was mlesting women, LaVar Withers, the Rexburg pervert who was doing the same, though at least he wasn't a stake pres, and was therefore a little easier to bring down without so many threats of intimidation, and Cecil Jacobson (or sen) the DC-area gynecologist and fertility specilist who was impregnating women with his own sperm. The weird thing about Dr. Jacobsen was that he had an unusual eye condition that was hereditary, so that when women came back for follow-up appointments or for whatever reason, often they brought their young children with them, there would be waiting room full of children and babies with coke-bottle-lens glasses, yet no one put two and two together for quite some time.

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  3. Weird! No, I didn't know about the others. Now I'm intrigued.

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  4. 3 1/2 years later. Any more updates? Since the Leah Remini book coming out, it's gotten me interested in finding out more. I'm learning other religions. Not saying it's the same though.

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    Replies
    1. I have updated twice. At the bottom of this post, there's a link to part 2 and on part 2, there is a link to part three. You can also check the tags.

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