Monday, May 04, 2009
I came across a review of Torn By God over at Letters from a broad and thought the book would be interesting. I was not raised a Mormon, but I was raised in a strict religious family and much like Beth, the main character in the story, I didn't know anything outside of that life.
Beth's father becomes convinced that in order to reach heaven with his family he must return to the roots of Mormonism, which includes the practice of polygamy. She watches her parents struggle with the tenants of their faith and their relationship with each other as her mother rejects that belief. Although her father never completely follows through with it, it's enough to tear the family apart, throwing her mother into a deep depression.
Beth and her brother, through the eyes of children, don't understand what's going on. Zoe brings the story out through conversations Beth overhears and her parent's journals.
In the end each family member comes to their own understanding of how to deal with religion in their life, but there isn't a neat answer.
I can relate to Beth because she grew up insulated, accepting her life as normal. And she was a normal child, even if most people outside of her faith would find her beliefs strange. I think all religions are strange to outsiders although most people don't notice it from the inside.
For example, glossolia, or speaking in tongues, is seen by most people as a pretty crazy practice, but growing up it was a normal part of life for me. I only find it odd now because I'm outside of the church.
And just like Beth, I found it difficult to reconcile certain beliefs and actions of the church. For me it was the conflicting ideas in the Bible, the greed of the tele-evangelists, and learning about the world outside the church. For others it's been the pedophilia or other sexual scandals within the church that have been the final straw.
But it's not the sensational that really drives people to doubt their religion. It's the every day small questions.
For a better understanding of Zoe and how the book relates to her life there is an excellent interview at A Motley Vision.