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From an active member: Pretty accurate but has its bias
on April 7, 2005
If I could I would give this book 3 ½ stars. Johnson is a decent (albeit verbose) writer, and her story is gripping. Once you pick up the book it is hard to put it down. Though she occasionally tries to explain Mormon colloquialisms and customs in layman's terms for non-Mormons, she writes from a profoundly Mormon experience, and I think it would be hard for a non-Mormon to fully appreciate the cultural subtleties in some of her stories.
Pros: Johnson's writing is illuminating. I was surprised at how something as simple as putting the shoe on the other foot made me consider in a new light traditions I had taken for granted. E.G., What if male missionaries could not baptize the people they converted and had to ask a woman to do the baptizing for them? How would men feel if the Church openly worshipped Heavenly Mother but only rarely spoke of the existence of a Heavenly Father in hushed and demurred tones? How would single men react to the Relief Society patronizing them with a speech assuring them that female leaders knew that some of their hearts yearned to be married and that if they were not fortunate enough to marry and sire children in this life they would have the opportunity in the hereafter, contingent upon their righteousness? Anyone with half a brain would concede that men would not like it one bit! Neither does Johnson; neither do I.
Cons: Johnson suspects sinister motives of most men in and out the Church, but considering the conspiring cabal that worked to excommunicate her, who could blame her? I personally think that most men are simply oblivious to the adverse effects of patriarchy and don't honestly intend to insult women. Many male church members are sincerely trying to comfort a single, 40-year-old woman when they tell her that she will find a soulmate in the afterlife if she doesn't find one on earth. These men don't realize that the reason they are even in the business of "comforting" this woman is that they themselves created a system that allowed (nay, encouraged!) this woman to pin all of her hopes and happiness, all of her dreams and desires, upon being someone else's wife and someone else's mother, rather than becoming a strong individual herself. Furthermore, some of what Johnson describes as her haze of living under patriarchy seems like severe depression. The Church has never embraced psychology, even openly telling its members that if you pray and fast enough God will help you through any trial. This ignorant mentality was even worse in the late 1970s. Clearly, injustice is prevalent in the Mormon Church; however, I think Johnson sometimes blurs the lines between her anger at Mormon injustice and her own mental anguish.
To me, the most disturbing part of the book (besides the cheeky confrontation between a hotheaded Orrin Hatch and a composed, coolheaded Johnson) was the detailed account of the Church organizing lobbying groups and political action committees to campaign against the ERA under direction from current Church President, Gordon Hinckley. The Church has recently engaged in similar tactics in promoting anti-gay marriage legislation, and the secrecy with which the Church organizes is unnerving. While many other churches are aboveboard and openly announce their political involvements, the LDS Church claims to shy away from politics while sneakily orchestrating supposedly "grassroots movements," which it tries to pass off as mere groups of "concerned citizens" banding together.
Overall, a compelling read. I was, however, left with a strong feeling that "the bigger they are, the harder they fall." I think that because Johnson wholly bought into patriarchy as a child and young woman the more disillusioned she became when she exposed its faults.