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Secret Ceremonies Mass Market Paperback – March 5, 1994

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Laake's heartfelt account of her strict Mormon upbringing and two disastrous Mormon marriages includes new material. Literary Guild selection in cloth.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

A candid, often startling memoir of the author's life as a Mormon wife. Though Laake is now a professional journalist, she was raised in a Mormon family and sent to Brigham Young University with one paramount aim: to find and marry ``a faithful Mormon man.'' Without such a marriage, plus the guidance that only a devout husband could provide, she would ``be denied access to the highest level of Mormon heaven''--just one of the many unusual aspects of the emphatically patriarchal religion that Laake reveals here. Moreover, the author intended to wed not any man but ``the One''- -the marriage partner predestined by God--and when she began to doubt that one narrow-minded but extraordinarily persistent suitor, Monty Brown, was the One, Monty and Laake's own brother rushed to her side to exorcise ``the devil'' that had invaded her soul. Laake married Monty in an arcane ceremony whose esoteric details are zestfully described here; pledged to wear ``garments'' (a kind of sanctified nightgown) for the rest of her life; and began what most Americans would consider a bizarre life that included the recycling of condoms through vigorous washing. Within nine months, the naturally free-spirited author asked for a divorce and began--under the close (and, by her account, sexually obsessed) scrutiny of male church authorities--a painful odyssey of self-liberation that included two further marriages, two nervous breakdowns with hospitalization, and the slow recognition of her worth as a woman. Throughout, Laake tends toward emotionally colored, often awkward, writing (``on her first engagement: ``Soon we had created a huge, gay, snowballing ritual of congratulations that sometimes shouted down my fears'') that admirably avoids rancor but that evinces few good words for the church (``the hollow moan of dogma'') she's left behind. By no means objective, then, but, still, an affectingly personal look into the well-guarded citadel of Mormondom. (First serial to Cosmopolitan) -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Island Books; 1st edition (March 5, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0440217806
  • ISBN-13: 978-0440217800
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 4.5 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (130 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #615,890 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

65 of 74 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 29, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I would imagine that like me, many LDS women and men have felt prohibited from talking (and even thinking) about how the temple rituals differ so profoundly from the rest of the LDS experience. My own less-than-positive reactions to the temple ceremonies were validated by reading Deborah's book. If the book (and Laake's excommunication) can encourage people to take a hard look at how the temple experience really affects them, then I think it has served a valuable purpose. But the believing LDS reader must be willing to take the leap of faith that it's worth it to read something that will make them feel uncomfortable and has a slightly smarmy, tabloid-style feel to it.
I connected on the temple stories. I would encourage anyone who is thinking about attending the temple to read her book, to realize that it's a subjective response to the temple, but also to understand that at least two people (and probably countless others, considering the book's success) did not find what we hoped for. She got ex-ed for writing about it, but you might want to take advantage of the "advanced preview" she has provided for you.
Even though I couldn't relate to much of Laake's biography, I was willing to accept her version of the facts. I wish she had explained her mental health issues better, because I think she left herself open to criticism that her experiences within the church were blown out of proportion. I connected when she described the odd preoccupation with sex that creates feelings of guilt and pleasure in the LDS person. Some people will feel she provided too much autobiographical information on sex, and I suspect that the people who wrote the negative reviews found this to be one of the big reasons they found her book offensive.
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93 of 108 people found the following review helpful By No longer brainwashed by Mormon church on June 29, 2006
Format: Hardcover
If any Mormon tries to deny what Deborah Laake wrote about that goes on in the Mormon church, than they are LYING. Any person who has been through the temple and been a Mormon can tell you the exact same thing. Yes, the Mormon church used to require its patrons to take blood oaths by demonstrating their throats being slit, their hearts being cut out, and their bowels being spilled from their guts. I have to admit I was one of those devout Mormons who very quickly denied it if anyone revealed anything about the church - even if it was completely true! I like most Mormons felt the need to defend the church, and I like most Mormons was deeply embarrassed when someone would ask me about the secret temple ceremonies. And even though I no longer deny it, I know I should not get mad at those who do lie and deny it because I used to do it myself. I understand the position they are in.

I know it's hard on the Mormon church when someone writes a book like this because it messes up their public relations plans to make Mormonism look like just any Christian religion. That is a relatively new strategy that the Mormon church is taking because when I was young it was quite different. The Mormon church used to pride itself on being different than the "so-called Christians" (as BYU religion professor George Pace used to call them almost daily to us students). Ever since the invention of the internet, all the the weird and disturbing history, doctrines, and practices were being exposed and were causing the church to stop growing so rapidly.

I have done about two years of research, and all I can say is it shows how amazing human beings are that anyone can believe in this religion.
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74 of 86 people found the following review helpful By Roy W. Huffman Jr. on November 26, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
A few years ago, my mother in-law sent me the hardcover version of "Secret Ceremonies," wanting to know how I, as a former Mormon, felt about it. While I found parts of it "inaccesible," others were certainly resonated with my experiences as a woman in the LDS church.
My husband thought my own stories might be slightly exagerated, until we went to Utah for a wedding and he had difficulty finding a place where he could get a cup of coffee. We finally found a tiny coffee house, reminiscent of a prohibition-era "speak-easy," owned and patronized by the town's few defiant java-loving rebels. He was also amazed as we stood outside the temple, watching couples and families swarm in and out, "like a marriage assembly-line," as he put it.
In my opinion, the LDS "perfection is not only possible in this lifetime, but expected" doctrine, as well as the minute demands on every aspect of one's life, contributes to serious problems for a significant portion of its membership, particularly among those who are perceived as "different" in any way. this includes strong-willed women, who are seen by some LDS men as needing to be "broken".
In spite of these things, I don't generally reguard Mormons as "bad" people. Rather,(again, "in my opinion") many of them are caught up in thier doctrinal and cultural views to such a degree that they are incapable of understanding how insensitive, unreasonable and offensive their behavior can seem to "outsiders."
If you're a "recovering Mormon," you might find "Secret Ceremonies" worth reading, even healing. If you have little or no experience with the LDS church, it could provide an alternate, "unauthorized" glimpse into a very different American culture. If you're a practicing Mormon you'll likely only be upset by this book, so my advice would be to spare yourself the pain and anger.
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