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Leaving the Saints: How I Lost the Mormons and Found My Faith Hardcover – March 1, 2005

3.7 out of 5 stars 293 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

When graduate student Martha Beck’s son Adam was born with Down syndrome, she and her husband left the chilly halls of Harvard for Utah and the warm, accepting embrace of the Mormon community. Determined to assimilate back into her childhood faith after years of atheism, Beck’s disenchantment resurfaced when censorship from the church heavily influenced the curriculum at Brigham Young University where she taught part-time. More disturbing was Beck’s eventual belief that her father, a virtual celebrity in the Mormon Church, had sexually molested her as a child.

Beck frames her narrative around a conversation with her aged father, dipping in and out of stories of her childhood, marriage, third pregnancy, and teaching. She contrasts her perceptions of the leadership of the institutional church as controlling and patriarchal with stories of the warmth and generosity of her Mormon community. Beck unfolds her search for identity, forgiveness, and a personal faith in competent prose, punctuated with surprising dark humor and glimpses into her anorexia, suicidal obsessions, and alleged abuse. Although she leaves readers with many unanswered questions after the last page is turned, one thing is clear: Beck believes that "no matter how difficult and painful it may be, nothing sounds as good to the soul as the truth." --Cindy Crosby

From Publishers Weekly

Beck follows her bestselling spiritual memoir Expecting Adam with this shocking accusation of sexual abuse and betrayal. The book is full of Beck's laugh-out-loud hyperbolic wit and exquisitely written insights, but it also has a hard, angry edge. She asserts that after returning to Utah in the early 1990s, she began to recall horrific memories of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of her father, well-known Mormon intellectual Hugh Nibley. Although all her immediate family members vehemently deny her claims (and one has already published the positive full-length biography Hugh Nibley: A Consecrated Life), some readers will find that Beck builds a compelling case. She questions the legitimacy of Nibley's prolific apologetic writing and attributes his abuse in part to the pressures he was under to defend the faith even at the expense of truthful scholarship. Although marred by shallow, formulaic anti-Mormon criticisms and an exaggerated description of the LDS Church that will sound foreign to Mormons outside the insular culture of Utah, the book also describes how institutionalized religion can do terrible wrong to some adherents while still being a force of good for others. It will devastate faithful Mormons, satisfy disenchanted ex-Mormons and offer hope to those who believe they have suffered from ecclesiastical abuse. (Mar.)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 607 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; First Edition edition (March 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0609609912
  • ISBN-13: 978-0609609910
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.4 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (293 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #165,896 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By M. Padro on March 3, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
When Martha Beck published this book in 2005 and "murmurings" the story of her childhood abuse spread across the intellectual and religious circles of Utah I decided to not read this book. I had already stopped believing in the church and was not interested in reading yet another bitter tirade against a religion that many find fulfilling and many others find destructive.

Eight years later and a second of my three sisters came out with suppressed memories of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of a man inside of our family, at my grandparents. The second sister was able to remember the attacker, my grandfather, a priesthood holder and the family patriarch. I had hoped that my family would respond rationally, considering how well my sister could remember and describe the events, how well my grandfather fit the profile for a sexual predator and considering the inexplicable damage to her perineum that doctors felt was caused by sexual abuse, considering her personal psychological problems (consistent with those of victims of sexual abuse) and considering that even I was able to remember the semen stains on my sister's teddy bear as a kid, Also considering that all of my aunts and uncles were aware that my uncle molested my mother as a child (they were witnesses) and then allowed him to become a school bus driver for the local school district, I assumed this would be a moral no-brainer. Forgiving him once was stupid, ignoring the current situation with yet another victim and another predator in the family would require a level of corruption and self delusion a nominally sane person wouldn't be capable of. I thought that everyone would at least respect my sister's search for justice and recognition, even if they weren't willing to believe her.
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Format: Hardcover
By the top of page 4, I knew who Martha is and who her father was. I was raised in the church and served a mission to Japan in the late 1970s with one of Martha's brothers.

Martha's book is the most honest and even-handed account of the church and its doctrinal dilemmas I have ever come across. Most accounts are either for or against the church and seek only to destroy other viewpoints. I didn't get that feeling from Martha's account at all. It's clear that most of those condemning this book haven't read it. Ignore them and read it yourself.

I grew up reading every LDS Church book I could get my hands on. I pored over them, practically memorized some of them, and read the Book of Mormon and other scriptures daily and prayed with all my heart. I was the kid who always loved to go to church; no one had to drag me there. After a great deal of soul-searching over many years, I left the LDS church about 20 years ago, at the age of 27. I didn't experience the kind of sexual abuse Martha went through, and my heart goes out to all who have suffered so, but I could relate 100% to her descriptions of the Church, the doctrines, the good people who try so hard to be perfect, the yearning for God, the incredible mental efforts to try to make sense out of the nonsense, the secrecy and obsession with control of the leadership. I'll never forget how disappointed I felt when I first put on the temple garments and went through the endowment ceremony at the Oakland Temple.

I first became aware of certain issues about unsavory behavior by some of the leadership while on my mission, and it left a terrible taste in my mouth.
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Format: Hardcover
I'm going to make this review annonymous, because I am a Mormon who is strongly considering leaving the church and I do not want any retalitation. I'm not ready for it yet.

This book was very interesting and I know that there is a lot of debate as to whether or not Martha is telling the truth about her father. I don't think anybody has any right to say whether she is telling the truth or not because no one was there except Martha and her father. Therefore the only two who truly know the truth are Martha and her father, and of course God. I can tell you that here where I live there was a big discussion one night after fireside about this book, and all the people at my church who are devout Mormons strongly accuse Martha Beck of being a liar. I asked them just casually if they had read her book. They all claimed they would never touch it. That's what made me (secretly of course) obtain a copy of her book and read it.

I'm glad that John Beck has not suffered any loss of friends or relationships because he left the church. But I can tell you that if indeed that is true, that John Beck has a had a very rare experience. The vast majority of Mormons who leave the church suffer a lot of judgement and loss of relationships. When you leave the church you are an apostate and according to Mormon doctrince, have no chance to get into heaven. It's only outer darkness for the apostate unless the ex-Mormon rejoins the church and gets re-baptized.

I am very confused because I know the evidence that Joseph Smith was a very deceitful con man is black and white. There is no arguing it.
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