Sunday, August 14, 2016

Repost of my review of Dancing On the Head of a Pin by Pamela McCreary

Here's another reposted book review.  This one is about Pamela McCreary, a woman who grew up Mormon and decided to leave the faith.  She grew up in Virginia, which is one reason I found this book especially interesting.  I'm reposting this to keep it from disappearing into the Internet hinterlands.

Mormon and eventually decided to leave the faith.
  • Pamela McCreary's exit from Mormonism...

    Review by knotheadusc
     in Books, Music, Hotels & Travel 
      August, 14 2011
  • Pros: Interesting story about a woman who left Mormonism.
    Cons: Author is not always likeable.  May be offensive to Mormons.

    Those of you who regularly read my Epinions book reviews may know that my husband, Bill, is an ex-Mormon.  Though I have never been a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I did witness my husband's exit from Mormonism.  I now find myself attracted to books about people who have left Mormonism.  I also have quite a few Facebook friends who have left the LDS church.  A week or so ago, one of them posted a video by author Pamela McCreary.  In the video, McCreary explains how for the first thirty-five years of her life, she lived "another person's story", then decided to go her own way.  She mentioned that she had published a book, Dancing on the Head of a Pin, that was available on  I am a sucker for Mormon exit stories, so I decided to read it.  
    Who is Pamela McCreary? 

    At the beginning of Dancing on the Head of a Pin, Pamela McCreary establishes that she and her two sisters grew up near Warrenton, Virginia during the 1970s.  Her mother had converted to the church when Pam and her sisters were very young; their less devout father joined about ten years later.

    Always one to march to the beat of her own drummer, teen-aged Pam dreamt of going off to a small liberal arts college in New England to pursue her love of acting.  But Pamela's parents had other ideas about what their daughters should be doing with their lives and declared that they would only offer financial support to them if they attended colleges run by the LDS church.  In the 70s, that meant they had a choice of either Brigham Young University (BYU) in Provo, Utah or Ricks College (now BYU-Idaho) in Rexburg, Idaho.  Moreover, Pam's parents made it clear that they expected their daughters to go to college to find worthy husbands, not to indulge in "silly" fantasies about becoming an actress or launching a career.  Pam opted for Ricks College because she hadn't been a good student in high school and she felt sure BYU would not accept her.  

    There were not very many Mormons in Virginia in the 1970s, so Pamela McCreary grew up with many non-Mormon friends.  Although the LDS church forbids members to smoke or drink alcohol, coffee, or tea, many of Pam's friends indulged in drinking alcoholic beverages and smoking cigarettes or marijuana.  A lot of them were also having sex outside of marriage, another "no no" for devoted members of the LDS church. Nevertheless, Pam tried to be faithful to her religion and spent a miserable year at Ricks College.

    In July of 1974, 19 year old Pam returned to Virginia and decided she would not be going back to Idaho.  Moreover, she spent more time with her non-Mormon friends, who were hanging out in Warrenton or Georgetown, drinking, smoking pot, and dating.  One night, Pam went out with a friend and hooked up with a couple of guys from Warrenton who needed a ride home.  Pam drove her friend home; when her friend got out of the car, Pam was left alone with the two guys she didn't know so well.  One of the men suggested that they smoke pot.  They did, and then Pam wound up being raped by both of them, forever changing her life.

    Pamela McCreary explains how she was traumatized by the rape and tried to hide from the pain of being violated by hiding in the safety of the LDS church.  She repented, went back to college at BYU, got married to a man she barely knew, had three children, and became a housewife.  She was protected from the dangers of the world, yet desperately bored and unhappy.  She yearned to be an actress, yet felt constrained by the LDS church and her role as a wife and a mother.  Eventually Pamela McCreary found her way out of Mormonism and into a life that was more appropriate for her.  But her exit from the church was definitely not without its pitfalls.

    My thoughts

    I found Pamela McCreary's story very engrossing and managed to finish the book within a couple of days.  For the most part, I thought Dancing on the Head of a Pin was well-written, insightful, and interesting.  Like Pam McCreary, I am also a native of Virginia.  I'm pretty familiar with Warrenton, too, having had friends who lived there.  I liked the way McCreary explained the way the LDS church works.  Her explanations will no doubt be very helpful to readers who don't know anything about Mormonism.

    Since I started hanging out on the Recovery from Mormonism Web site, I've read a lot of exit stories written by formerly comitted members of the LDS church who, for whatever reason, eventually decided to leave.  The social and familial pressures to remain a faithful member of the church can be overwhelming.  Pamela McCreary's crisis of faith came about not just because she felt stifled, but also because she had done a lot of reading about the LDS church's history.  She includes quotes from official church sources.  Some of the more damning passages, helped in her decision to stop believing in Mormonism.  As she quotes from some of these official church sources, McCreary states outright that her book would not be approved reading for true believing Mormons.  Members of the church are discouraged from exposing themselves to anything that would shake their faith.  That includes stories about people who have left the church, even if they were led out by the church's own verifiable history.

    Pamela McCreary's story is compelling, but this book is not without flaws.  There are a couple of minor editing glitches.  McCreary is occasionally redundant and there are a couple of instances where I had to figure out how some of the people she writes about fit into the story.  Sometimes her story seems a bit glossed over; she mostly skips over her husband's and children's reactions to her apostacy while including some very simplified stories about relationships she had after her first divorce.

    I also found McCreary slightly boastful and self-centered.  She often harps on her acting talent and sometimes makes it sound like she's God's gift to the theatre.  Toward the end of the book, she writes about finally telling her mother about the rape, as her father was dying of cancer.  In the course of that confession, McCreary writes that she confronted her mother about how she had never felt accepted for who she is.  While I applaud McCreary's decision to confront her mom, I was kind of appalled at her sense of timing.  I can only imagine how I would feel if I were a dedicated member of the LDS church; my daughter was an apostate; and to top it all off, as a teenager, she was raped by two men and never bothered to tell me about it until my husband was on his death bed!

    I really liked McCreary's story, but if I'm honest, her description of that incident did not make me like her very much.  Fortunately, McCreary implies that the confrontation eventually led to an epiphany of sorts, which was very healing to the relationship.

    Pamela McCreary's "I'm an Ex-Mormon" video    

    At the beginning of this review, I mentioned that I found out about Pamela McCreary by watching her "I'm an Ex-Mormon" video.  That video was just one of many presented by ex-Mormons as an answer to the recent "I'm a Mormon" ad campaign being run by the LDS church.  You can find them on YouTube and, if you are the slightest bit interested, I highly recommend watching them.  Some of the videos are very touching and uplifting and all of the ones I've seen have been well done.

    This is a link to Pamela McCreary's video.


    I am glad I read Pamela McCreary's book, Dancing on the Head of a Pin, even though I think it could have been better edited.  I would recommend it to anyone interested in stories about people who have decided to leave the LDS church.

    For more information:


  1. I've read so many exmo bios that I'm starting to get them confused, but I don't believe I've read this one. I'll have to read it.

    My favorite "I'm an exmormon" video was probably the one done by Emily Pearson, although it's tough for me to imagine how she got herself into the situation of marrying aa guy who tuned out to be gay after having a father who had been gay. I guess it's tough to understand when one has not been there, and I also suppose there's some truth to the idea that often we marry a version of our opposite-sex parent, although I certainly have no plans to do so.

    1. Bill has some things in common with my dad. He's not entirely like him, though. I read Emily's book, as well as her ex husband's.

  2. didn't know the ex had a book. i'll have to look into thqt one. I read her mom's book (Goodbye, I Love You; I know she's written more, but none seemed that appealing yet) and liked her mom more than I though I would. It just seemed as though if you had a gay parent, you'd be all the more attuned to the signs of any other many being gay, but apparently not.

    1. It's been said that a lot of people end up marrying people like their parents. In a few ways, I did. Bill shares some things in common with my dad. Fortunately, he's not all like him.

      I am in a hotel this weekend with Bill and the dogs. As usual, I think I will have some funny stories from this trip.

    2. The Pearsons are an interesting family.


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