The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors (halfshellvenus) wrote,
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors

Books What I Have Read

I'm still working on My Favorite Band Does Not Exist. Once again, the fact that this is a bedtime book with smaller print (*koff* Boy, I hate admitting that's a factor) slows things down.

I'm about 1/3 of the way through One Of Our Thursdays Is Missing. How much do I love the reference to "Lost Positives"? I've said many times that when I'm disgruntled... I need some new gruntles. Looks like Fforde has had similar thoughts. ;)

I finished Twilight Watch, and enjoyed it BUT felt that Anton should have been a little more pained by how things turned out. Pained on a personal level. :(

I also finished Under The Banner Of Heaven, by John Krakauer. This book is on the history of the early Mormon church, and the many current fundamentalist offshoots of Mormonism. Krakauer tries to be as fair as an outsider can, including providing context. There was a lot of distrust and bloodshed both from and toward Mormons in the Church's first fifty years or so (unfortunately consistent with much of the U.S. as a whole). Krakauer discusses Smith's desire to broach polygamy to his young church, which caused problems then and since. I pity Smith's wife, who went from having to endure her husband's philandering to having to house his paramours under her own roof!

Interestingly, Smith's support of polygamy and his doctrine of personal revelation (a hallmark and special attribute of the religion) sowed the continual problem of fundamentalist splinter groups. Polygamy, and the subjugation of women, is very appealing to a lot of men. The early church offered both of those, as well as a very clear sense of separation from the rest of society. Several men have felt themselves called by revelation to become leaders of new (fundamentalist) sects of the church, and voila—yet another splinter group.

This is utterly maddening to the official Mormon church, but there isn't a lot that can be done.

Krakauer's book follows the thread of two brothers who murdered a young mother and her baby in the furtherance of "God's will," based on a revelation that one of them had (a revelation rejected by the leaders of the brothers' sect, and one which marked not people who were thwarting the sect's future but who had thwarted the elder brother's individual happiness). The final chapters of the book get into the details of the trial, and the expert testimony used to draw a distinction between mental illness and spirituality. That part is especially fascinating, because it is a slippery slope to call one person's unfavorable beliefs "crazy" when the beliefs stem from faith-based thinking, especially ones well-rooted in the person's particular church. The trial managed to delineate the difference very well, I thought.

In the afterward, Krakauer mentions a former B.Y.U. history professor, Michael Quinn, who has written books disagreeing with the church but who is still very much a believer. Quinn has been excommunicated from the church for apostasy, which is probably readily evident in the quote below. But as an agnostic, I found this a wonderful description of how an intelligent, logical person maintains his faith against the "defects" in the faith's history/doctrine/etc:

"The writers of the Old Testament presented the prophets as very human vessels, warts and all. Yet God still chose them to be His leaders on earth. That's how I see Mormonism: It is not a perfect church. It has huge flaws, in both the institution and the people who lead it. They are only human. And I have no trouble accepting that. It's all part of my faith."

I mentioned this book to my Dad, though it's on a touchy subject (my Dad was raised in a Mormon family, and his ancestors were among the early Mormons, though he never believed any of the teachings himself). He asked me to hang onto the book for him, which I couldn't do because it's a library book.

Segue: this summer, my Dad mentioned that he has never had a library card. Never. He grew up during the Depression, in a small town outside of Salt Lake City. I ask you, how is it smart NOT to have a library card? Even now, he and my mother buy books they haven't read and movies they haven't seen. My mother boxes up books she's read to ship off to a friend in Florida, who does the same. They have this whole trading system worked out, and what boggles me is that there is already an existing system that achieves that quite well.

Needless to say, my Dad never used the video store or Netflix system either. I find the whole thing mystifying, not to mention pack-rattish…

Tags: books

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