Last Sunday, I had a guest post titled “Gay and/or Mormon: A Storyteller’s Perspective” published at Segullah (description: “Mormon women blogging about the peculiar and the treasured” — and no, I have no idea where the name came from, though it’s a great blog that you should definitely check out, even if you aren’t a Mormon woman). It got some good and positive responses — though not as many, I can’t help but notice, as several other recent posts, such as one about divorce (titled “When Eternal Marriage Isn’t”) and one about the ambiguous nature and possible value of sin (titled “To Not Have Sinned”).
Archive for the ‘Homosexuality and Mormonism’ Category
I’ve had another positive review of No Going Back from a non-LDS reviewer. Heather at Buried in Books wrote in part:
I was immediately gripped by the story of Paul a sophomore in high school who knows he is gay, but also knows it goes against everything his religion teaches…. What religion? Mormon which I knew nothing about and still know only a very small part of it. But Paul is very proud of his faith and very faithful and wants to stay true to his vows to the church…. The things [Paul] reveals to [Richard, his bishop], feels comfortable telling him, feels like he has to tell him, and the way the Bishop helps him, I have to say, I’d lie like hell. Nope nothing to confess here. I’ve been very good. Never done one thing wrong. Don’t need any help at all. Especially when I’d have to face him every time I went to my best friend’s house. My sex life in my high school years was definitely my own business and I’d never have discussed it with the minister at church. It’s a very different religion than what I grew up with…. This book is not filled with religious doctrine and preachy. Not at all! I would have returned it and said I just couldn’t read it. I have my own personal religious beliefs and I’m still trying to work a few things out so anything very preachy is a big turn off to me…. Towards the last few pages, the tissue box came out. I tried to be quiet because it was 2:00 am and everyone was sleeping, except me the insomniac or reader with a great book. Mr. Langford develops the characters so well, you feel exactly what they’re feeling and at the end you can’t help but cry with Paul and the bishop as he talks to Paul from his heart. It was gut wrenching, bittersweet, you don’t want that to be the solution…. It is not the type of book I’d usually go for, but I found so much to recommend about the book. The extremely well developed characters, their growth, the various relationships and how they grow, and how faith, in something bigger than yourself, can carry you through, guide you, help you make decisions, shape you, for better or worse. I’m not sure I’ve ever had such a deep faith in anything, like Paul. I hope I do someday.
I really couldn’t hope for a better response than that — particularly from a reader who doesn’t share Paul’s faith (and mine).
One of the best parts of having written No Going Back has been the chance to have conversations with readers of the book: Mormons, non-Mormons, ex-Mormons; literary readers, nonliterary readers, occasional readers; those with firsthand experience of homosexuality, those with secondhand knowledge, and those with little direct knowledge. Partly that’s because I think the themes of the book are important, and I like talking about them. And partly it’s because I find it fascinating — and instructive — to find out what my own writing looks like through other people’s eyes.
A few days ago, I had occasion to talk to a long-time friend (non-LDS, gay, and a literature professor) about his reaction to No Going Back. What, he asked, was the significance of the title, in my opinion? Which led to possibly a longer answer than he had anticipated…
I suppose I should include a spoiler alert here. So, here goes. If you keep reading, you’ll find out about things that happen toward the end of the book. Selah.
Several years ago, prompted by a non-Mormon friend, I read Angels in America, a set of two plays set in New York City in the mid-1980s, written and performed in the early 1990s, that won multiple awards (including a Pulitzer). The play is largely about homosexuality, AIDS, and political conservatism. Several of the characters are Mormons, though Tony Kushner (the playwright) is not.
My reaction (which I initially posted on AML-List, and which was later published in more polished and expanded form in Irreantum, the journal of the Association for Mormon Letters) was that despite the Mormon characters and some Mormon iconic symbology, I didn’t really feel that the play was about Mormons or Mormonism in any meaningful way. At the time I wrote my reaction (2003), that was a perspective I didn’t see reflected or even much addressed in discussions of the work — bafflingly so, considering that 3 out of 9 main characters are supposedly Mormon.
So I wrote my response, which I’ve decided to repost below, in the hopes that perhaps this will prompt a little more discussion or at least awareness on this issue.
One of my main motivations in writing No Going Back was to stimulate discussion, both about the book itself (hey! I’m an author, I like feedback; live with it) and about the topics it addresses.
Over Christmas break, I drafted a set of questions that I thought might help prompt interesting discussions among readers of my book. Sadly, the notebook where I wrote down my ideas disappeared… So here’s Take 2 at some “official” No Going Back discussion questions. Please feel free to post responses, additional suggested questions, etc. (more…)
On Dec. 4, Rex Goode — a friend of mine from AML-List, who started the conversation years ago that ultimately led to No Going Back — posted a review/essay on his blog about my book and why he’d encouraged me to write it and then endorsed it after it came out. It’s a positive review, and some of the reasons he gives for endorsing the book have a lot in common with my reasons for writing it. And then, poking around his site, I found another essay titled Not Ashamed that I think may speak even more directly about ways that we Mormons need to change and how I hope my book might help that change.