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As “Mormon royalty” within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Martha Beck was raised in a home frequented by the Church’s high elders in an existence framed by the strictest code of conduct. As an adult, she moved to the east coast, outside of her Mormon enclave for the first time in her life. When her son was born with Down syndrome, Martha and her husband left their graduate programs at Harvard to return to Utah, where they knew the supportive Mormon community would embrace them.
But when she was hired to teach at Brigham Young University, Martha was troubled by the way the Church’s elders silenced dissidents and masked truths that contradicted its published beliefs. Most troubling of all, she was forced to face her history of sexual abuse by one of the Church’s most prominent authorities. The New York Times bestseller Leaving the Saints chronicles Martha’s decision to sever her relationship with the faith that had cradled her for so long and to confront and forgive the person who betrayed her so deeply.
Leaving the Saints offers a rare glimpse inside one of the world’s most secretive religions while telling a profoundly moving story of personal courage, survival, and the transformative power of spirituality. 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
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