Why I Write Books About the Mormon Culture

All of my books with St. Martin’s, WIVES AND SISTERS, BEHIND CLOSED DOORS, and the one I just finished, SAINTS AND SINNERS, are set in the Mormon culture. BEHIND CLOSED DOORS is already generating buzz and controversy because it opens with a scene in the LDS Temple. This, of course, is taboo. I am sure more than one Mormon is waiting for my house to fall down. But this is real. This is the CULTURE. You need to see it to understand it.

I have received lots of emails from Mormons asking why I could and can “not leave the Church” alone. That’s a common phrasing they use. “If you leave the Church, leave it alone.”

Of course, it’s okay if the Church does not leave ME alone. At least in their eyes. They can harass me to high heaven. And they do.

But that’s not the only reason I write about the Mormon culture. I write about it, because IT’S my culture. My father is a descendant of Mormon pioneers. My mother is a convert. I spent every Sunday for all of my childhood sitting in those hard pews. When I began to have doubts about its truth, especially the claims of being THE ONLY TRUE THING, I decided I better research it.

I think if I’m going to say I believe something is NOT true, I need to have proof to back it up. So I did, and the research just confirmed what my logic told me.

But I still live in Utah, and I still deal with Mormons every single day, and most of my family is deeply enmeshed in the Mormon culture and it comes up EVERY SINGLE DAY.

This is what I know.

There are good Mormons, and there are bad Mormons. There are Mormons who believe devoutly with all their hearts, and there are those who don’t really think it’s the “one true thing,” but hey, everyone else is doing it, and it’s what they’ve always known. It’s comforting. And there are those who do it for social reasons, because one can be ostracized if you aren’t believing. My friend Carlene was baptized as a child, because her mother didn’t want her to be left out. As children, we were discouraged from playing with or hanging out with non-Mormons–unless we were inviting them to Church.

I think this is not as big an issue today as it was back then.

Things have changed. And perhaps that is why so many Mormons are in an uproar over the linking of the mainstream LDS Church to the clan of Weenie Rat Face, pervert, pedophile, and evil dictator.

True Believing Mormons today are devout, faithful, and law-abiding. They do NOT practice or condone polygamy. They look with disgust upon those who do. They abhor the practice of marrying off young girls. I can understand why they do not WANT their name associated with Warren Jeffs and the FLDS clan.

My stance in the past few days is NOT one of Mormons are bad. It’s one of reality. Many, many faithful Mormons DO NOT REALIZE how strongly polygamy is enmeshed with their religion. They do not realize that WITHOUT PARTICIPATING IN POLYGAMY, the Doctrine & Covenants and Mormon Prophet Joseph Smith and others after him have said THEY WILL NOT BE ADMITTED into the Celestial Kingdom.

It’s a simple fact. But they don’t know about it.

Not only that, but they don’t KNOW that there has NEVER been a prophecy saying there will be no more polygamy. Oh no. Polygamy is still there. It has just been suspended, if you will, so that they can live the laws of the land.

Mormon polygamy was officially stopped by a manifesto. A manifesto is NOT a prophecy, and Wilford Woodruff was well aware of this.

As were those after him. And as are those presiding in leadership today.

Until there is an official “prophecy” banning it, it can be reinstated at ANY TIME.

Under the leadership of Gordon B. Hinckley, this will never happen. But Hinckley is quite ill.

I do not, honestly, believe that polygamy will be reinstated in my lifetime, at least by the mainstream Church. But it could be.

This, to me, is fascinating, as is the fact that there are more than 100 “sects” of believers in the Book of Mormon. The SLC church is just the biggest and most wealthy.

With the incredible history of Mormonism comes a wealth of intrigue and suspense, and MATERIAL. There is ALWAYS something to write about. I’ve spent my life here. I’ve lived in and among it, and it’s in my blood.

Good, bad, pretty, ugly, it’s all there. And I cover it all. Please don’t tell me there aren’t good Mormons in my books. There are. Do I spotlight abuses? Yes. Please don’t tell me there aren’t abuses. There are.

Don’t send me emails asking me why I don’t write about Catholics. I realize they have their own set of issues. But I did not grow up Catholic, and I am not surrounded by Catholics.

Don’t suggest I write about the Scientologists. Tom Cruise gives me hives.

I live here in Utah. I write about Utah Culture. All of it. I am well aware that “all of it” is not faith-promoting. That is not my concern.

Reality is rarely white, fluffy, happy and one non-stop party. Life is hard. People are weak. Human beings make mistakes. And human beings learn, too. And grow. And become real.

The Mormon world view is often narrow and the teachings are sexist and in the past, racist. I take issue with that, and I reserve my right to address it.

I also reserve my right to spotlight good Mormons, like my mom. I don’t always agree with what she does, and vice versa, but she is a good person. She does the best she can to live her religion in a tough world.

We’ve had some tough times, my mom and I, because my religious views do not align with hers. And she has always been taught that this affects MY eternal salvation. She wants the best for me. I don’t agree with her take on it. I don’t see her “best” as the reality and the right thing.

I remember once, when my father was admonishing me to return to the Mormon faith, he likened the religion to a Cadillac. “There are lots of cars out there,” he said, “but I want the best for my kids. I want you to have a Cadillac.”

One man’s Cadillac is another man’s Pinto.

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About Natalie R. Collins

Natalie has more than 30 years writing, editing, proofreading and design experience. She has written 20 books (and counting), has worked for the Sundance Film Festival, and as an investigative journalist, editor, and proofreader. She embraces her gypsy-heart and is following her new free-thinking journey through life. Follow her as she starts over and learns a bunch of life's lessons--some the hard way.
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18 Responses to Why I Write Books About the Mormon Culture

  1. Howy says:

    WRITE ON!

    Like

  2. wings says:

    Bravo! Thank you for beautifully putting pen to paper describing the continued practice of eternal polygamy. It most certainly is the “Hotel California”. I love my Mormon family, I detest their religion. I share your multi generational history. Leaving was difficult, pretending I believed was impossible.

    Like

  3. Cele says:

    Well said Natalie. Well said. Gosh, I wish it would make a difference.

    Like

  4. Kris says:

    Well written. There are just those of us who feel as adamant about our position as you do about yours. You feel you are right in your convictions, others theirs. It is the way the world works.

    K.

    Like

  5. Natalie says:

    Hey Howy and wings, Thanks. I’m not sure it makes a difference, but I have spent a lot of years trying to find middle ground with my parents. I don’t want to ruin that, but I also refuse to be ignored or not heard. My POV is valid, too. Cele, thanks. not sure I am making a difference. But I do try.

    Kris, I understand your position. Thanks for being such a good sport about all of it. I never spotlighted you on my blog to ridicule you. Rather, it was more about showing your viewpoint as opposed to mine. I’m sure we both felt frustrated, but we managed to get through it without throwing missiles. I think that, ultimately, could save the world. Just a few small steps. You have your views, I have mine. Yet we can meet in the middle.

    Like

  6. Deborah W. says:

    Natalie:

    I just read Wives & Sisters, (all in one sitting!) You do wonderful work! It was a spellbinding read that I couldn’t put down. I also think you provide a valuable service.

    I’m not LDS, nor have I ever been. I don’t even know a member. Yet, with all the publicity lately, I wanted to learn something of the mainstream church. I wanted to know if some of the more unusual things I’d heard about were true. (garments, Temple ordinances and such) I quickly noticed that “official” information available online was sparse and evasive. Places like lds.org didn’t tell me any of what I wanted to know.

    I have since learned why that is. I have to say, it’s books like yours (although fiction) as well as the many non-fiction works out there that help “gentiles” like me put a real face to the religion. It will also increase the chances that the next person to find missionaries on their doorstep will have some knowledge of what they could be getting into.

    Thank you , and KEEP WRITING!

    Deborah

    Like

  7. Karen says:

    Hi,

    I enjoy your blog. Did you see this? I thought you might find it interesting.

    A fundamentalist breakaway Mormon sect in Colorado City, AZ, is being overtaken by a rare birth-defect brought on by inbreeding. The cult’s leader arranges all marriages between community members, who are descended from two founding families. The cult’s members view the severe disabilities brought on by the inbreeding as a test from God, and those who question this are excommunicated and thrown out of the community.

    http://www.boingboing.net/2006/08/31/inbred_fundamentalis.html

    Like

  8. azteclady says:

    Yep, it’s the FLDS church indeed. Following assorted linkage, I found this blog with some interesting reports: http://vegasblog.latimes.com/vegas/

    Like

  9. Natalie says:

    Yes, I’ve long known about the devastating effects of inbreeding. My daughters went to school with two little Kingston boys who were proportional dwarves. Their mother was a Kingston. She left the cult when she discovered that she had INADVERTENTLY caused their problems because she was married to her (I believe, it’s been a while) half brother.

    This MUST stop. It is so wrong on so many levels.

    Like

  10. Natalie says:

    Deborah,

    Thanks for your kind words on my book! I’m so glad you liked it. My next one comes out in January and it promises some eye-opening experiences as well!

    Like

  11. mommysix says:

    So refreshing to read from someone who researches, believes in herself and knows what she’s talking about. You are right on. Love your blog – your insight and those of your guests are very insightful, funny and at times a little heart warming. Please, keep writing – you have what I wish I could have had years ago and saved myself and my children lots of grief.

    Like

  12. Natalie says:

    Wow, thanks mommysix! There are times when I think “Why am I doing this?” And, as Cele reminded me, it’s people like you. Everybody deserves a voice. And I refuse to just say something isn’t true without having the information to back it up.

    Like

  13. Crankmama says:

    Ah, sister! A fellow ex-mo. Stories we could share! My poor atheist (2nd) husband is truly bugged by the missionaries that show up constantly on our doorstep. And who can blame him? Thanks for being here…

    Like

  14. Keep writing Natalie. I am looking forward to reading your other books. And, I think the mainstream LDS church (with the older families) are having inbreeding problems too. I have encouraged my brothers to look outside the church for wives… or at least look outside their race if they are going to marry in that church.

    Cyn

    Like

  15. Cele says:

    So Weenie Rat Face has his first day in court, KUTV has video posted

    http://kutv.com/topstories/local_story_249162308.html

    I was kind of surprised that he didn’t fight extradition to Utah and it was so nice to hear he can’t get bail and run away. And Voila’ la… look at the picture of Weenie Rat Face II Jeff Johns, now that is one seriously, scary looking dude.

    Like

  16. Maria says:

    From one exmo to another… Thank you so much for your hard work. I admire your perserverance.

    Like

  17. Ted says:

    Here I am over a year later.
    I do not understand something about Mormon critics. Why is it such a common practice to label or degrade the entire Church based on something that an LDS member, or a several members did wrong. Your article is full of this.
    For example, “Of course, it’s okay if the Church does not leave ME alone. At least in their eyes. They can harass me to high heaven. And they do.”
    FACT: The LDS Church does not harass you to ‘high heaven’. There may be some members who wrongfully harass you, but the Church does not. The Church very vocally condemns such action. Refer to any Ensign magazine ever published, or talks from any General Conference ever held for countless examples. Its all available on the Church website at lds.org .
    Your article implies that the LDS Church must publish official prophecy condemning polygamy before you will acknowledge that it is a dead practice among the Church. If you demand official declarations from very official sources such as prophecy, then why not stick to official declarations and official sources to attack, instead of obscure actions of people who just happen to be LDS?
    I personally attended the LDS General Conference in SLC, October 2007. As I waited to enter the building I was subjected to listen to Mormon critics loudly blaspheming and harassing all who waited to get in. Once I was inside and in my seat, a very calm, clear voice came over the speaker system. I remember word for word what was said.
    “We are aware that there are those outside who would try to interrupt this meeting. We ask that you show them respect.”

    Which I did.

    Like

  18. Jessica says:

    Thank you for speaking your truth. My mom, who has been an inactive Mormon for years (ever since I was a little kid), was nonetheless disappointed when I resigned my LDS membership. However, when I was able to let her peek into the book “Secret Ceremonies”, by Deborah Laake, she was fascinated (“I always wanted to know what the temple ceremony involved!) and she finally understood my decision. I’m looking forward to reading your books!

    Like

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