I’m happy to be part of the tour for Mormon Diaries. Due to my Kindle worries, I haven’t been able to read the entire book, which the author kindly provided, but what I’ve read so far has kept me riveted to the pages.
Mormonism is one of the newest religions on the landscape in Jamaica, so of course, I was interested in knowing more about it. To be honest, I've wondered why any black Jamaican would be part of a religion that is reputed to look at Negroes as unworthy. Still, Mormonism has taken root on the island.
I now invite you to take a peek at aspects of Sophia Stone’s spiritual journey. I haven't heard from her yet, so I'm hoping she's safe and sound after Hurricane Sandy.
What does the ornament on the cover stand for?
As a child I was taught that the only way I could experience true joy was by living the Gospel of Jesus Christ as found in Mormonism. The ornament is symbolic of that joy. Or, more particularly, what I feared I’d lose if I ever stopped believing in The Church.
How is your family coping with this? Do they support you?
Well, it depends on what part of my family you’re talking about. My kids have been great, but they’re pretty young. I’m continually amazed by the open mindedness and trust of small children. I really think Jesus knew what he was talking about when he said that unless we become as little children we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.
My husband, on the other hand, is having a really hard time. We’ve had to do some negotiating about the kid’s religious education. He wants them to believe in Mormonism and is very much attached to the outcome. The thought of his kids choosing to leave the LDS church is absolutely devastating to him.
There are certain things that (for him) are non-negotiable. The kids WILL get baptized at age eight whether I want that for them or not. The kids will continue to go to the Mormon church each Sunday until they turn twelve. (He’d said eighteen originally, but has since softened). 10% of his income will continue to go to The Church whether or not I agree with that particular donation. We’re a single income family so that’s a pretty big deal, but he’s frightened, truly frightened that if he stops paying a full tithe, he’ll lose his job.
Although, in fairness, he say it has nothing to do with fear. Rather, he has faith in the principle of tithing. God will bless him for his financial sacrifice.
As for the rest of the family, my mother is struggling, the brother just younger than me acts as if he doesn’t know, my older brother has been accepting, and my sister is unpredictable. I’m not even sure how to characterize that relationship at this point. So overall it’s been a mixed bag where tolerance is concerned. As for support—no, I do not have family support. Nor is it something I can reasonably expect.
How do you get someone who thinks you’ve been influenced by Satan to consider your point of view?
Short answer: you don’t.
Long answer: It’s odd to be on the other end of the “hate the sin, love the sinner” rhetoric. I always considered myself a fairly good, honest person. And I have to admit that I don’t feel like a different person just because I don’t believe in Mormonism like I used to. Certain things just don’t change, you know? I still like chocolate milk shakes. I still like people. I feel, in many ways, closer to God than I did a year ago. So it’s been kind of shocking to have people who always trusted me assume the worst.
How has writing about your struggles helped you?
There’s a saying that writing is cheaper than therapy, and I can attest to that. There’s no time limit on how long I can type away on my keyboard when I’m having a bad day. I don’t have to worry about the paper judging me. Plus, it’s helped me to put things in perspective.
What kinds of reactions have you had from your Mormon author friends?
This has been similar to my family response—lots of condemnation, lots of avoidance, lots of judgment, and lots of gratitude. Yes, I know, it seems odd that I’d hear gratitude from LDS author friends who are faithful in the church. But apparently there are people who struggle in silence, unable to tell a soul how they feel without losing those most dear to them. That’s the reason the Disaffected Mormon Underground (DAMU) exists. It fills a palpable need.
Who should read your book?
Anyone who wants to understand Mormonism. Please don’t misread that to mean my book is factually perfect. It’s not. It is based on my experience, and everyone’s reality is different. But I stand by my claim that people who leave Mormonism are often in an isolating place. It’s hard for an orthodox believer to understand why anyone would leave. It’s hard for those who’ve never been Mormon to understand why leaving is such a big deal. To both these groups, I’d say, “please read this!” Understanding is vital.
Brought up in a religious home, Sophia believes the only way to have a forever family is by following church leaders and obediently choosing the right. She goes to the right school, marries the right man in the right place, and does the right thing by staying home to raise her children. But when she starts asking questions about grace, love, and the nature of God, she realizes her spiritual struggles could rip her family apart.
What people are saying about Mormon Diaries…
“Sophia Stone has a fine eye and a searching heart. Her story of growing up in and reaching through her Mormonism for a deeper, more authentic spirituality reflects all the ways that religion can both keep us satisfied with easy answers and push us to more difficult and complicated realizations. We need a hundred more books like this one . . . “ –Joanna Brooks, author of The Book of Mormon Girl
“Sophia Stone captured my attention from the beginning. This collection of personal essays, about questioning the legitimacy of Mormonism after having faith in the religion for the first 30-something years of her life, is not just a controversial quake to a reader’s heart and soul. Stone’s voice is brave, bold and intriguing. And surprisingly relatable to someone who is not religious.”—Jessica Bell, author of String Bridge