Leaving the Saints is an unforgettable memoir about one woman's spiritual quest and journey toward faith. 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-known as the apostles-and her existence was framed by their strict code of conduct. Wearing her sacred garments, she married in a secret temple ceremony-but only after two Mormon leaders ascertained that her "past contained no flirtation with serious sins, such as committing murder or drinking coffee." She went to church faithfully with the other brothers and sisters of her ward. When her son was born with Down syndrome, she and her husband left their graduate programs at Harvard to return to Provo, Utah, where they knew the supportive Mormon community would embrace them.
Home from Harvard grad school after the birth of a Down syndrome son, Beck rebels against the authoritarian Mormon church and recalls past sexual abuse. With a six-city author tour; Beck writes for O Magazine. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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March 01, 2005
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Excerpt from Leaving the Saints by Martha Beck
Room at the Inn
So there he stands, not five feet away from me. He looks almost unchanged since the last time I saw him, ten years ago--fabulous, for a man now in his nineties. His features are still sharply cut, his sardonic smile and turquoise eyes as bright as ever. The only difference I notice is that both his hair and his wiry body have thinned a bit. His trousers (probably the same ones he was wearing a decade ago) are now so baggy he's switched from a belt to suspenders.
A Shakespearean phrase pops into my mind: ". . . a world too wide / For his shrunk shank." From As You Like It, I think. That's something I seem to have inherited from this little old man in his shabby pants: a tendency to produce random literary quotations, from memory, to fit almost any situation. I don't do this on purpose; it just happens to me. The same way it happens to him. Despite the fact that we've rarely had a significant conversation, I know that my father understands the way I think, probably better than anyone on earth.
"Well, well, well," he says heartily, opening his arms. Hmm. This is new. Back when I knew him, my father wasn't the open-arms type. But, then, neither was I. I go forward and hug him. It does feel odd, but I've been practicing hugging the people I love for years now, and I get through it.
"Hello," I say, and stop there, at a loss for words. I can't bring myself to say "Hello, Daddy," but I don't know what else to call him. "Daddy" is the only title by which I and my seven siblings ever addressed him. "Dad" would sound disrespectfully casual, "Father" too formal, his given name completely bizarre. I settle for repeating "Hello," then gesture toward the easy chair by the door. "Please, sit down."