February 5th, 2012
05:33 PM ET

Crossing the plains and kicking up dirt, a new Mormon pioneer

By Jessica Ravitz, CNN

San Diego (CNN) – At a 1950s-style house nestled in a peaceful neighborhood nicknamed “Hanukkah Hill,” a smiling Buddha on the porch greets visitors – his arms raised as if to say all are welcome.

Affixed to the doorpost is a mezuzah, a decorative case holding blessings for a Jewish home. Inside, on the family’s refrigerator, hangs a magnet from the Feminist Mormon Housewives blog that says, “Jesus loves us. Who cares what you think?”

In the kitchen stands Joanna Brooks, an accidental, unofficial and admittedly unauthorized source for all things Mormon. She’s making “funeral potatoes,” a classic Mormon casserole, and heaped on the counter are the ingredients: a not-so-healthy dose of cheese, butter, sour cream, hash browns and chicken soup. Her Jewish husband strolls by, takes a look at what’s cooking, and grimaces. Bespectacled and freckled 6-year-old Rosa, standing atop a chair, proudly announces, “I’m Jewish and Mormon!”

The home and life Brooks has created is the product of a complicated journey.

She cannot separate The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from her identity any more than she can leave cheese out of funeral potatoes. But like her persecuted ancestors who braved the unforgiving plains to reach the promised land of what is now Utah, Brooks, 40, fights for her faith.

The battle has, at times, left her feeling beaten.

CNN's Belief Blog – all the faith angles to the day's top stories

As a young feminist activist, she saw her beloved church excommunicate her intellectual heroes. She’s felt outrage and soul-crushing grief while watching her church mobilize against same-sex marriages. For about 10 years, she walked away.

But today a vintage postcard of a Mormon missionary boarding a plane sits on her desk to inspire. It reads, in part, “Dare to be different.”

She believes there’s room in the LDS Church for loving criticism and candid talk, that Latter-day Saints like her can not just belong but also serve – without fear of being cast out into the wilderness.

She’s staking her claim to Mormonism, writing about it for Religion Dispatches, debunking myths in national papers, speaking up on podcasts, radio shows and from stages, and offering advice in her column and blog, Ask Mormon Girl. She recently self-published her memoir, “The Book of Mormon Girl: Stories from an American Faith” and writes regularly for Feminist Mormon Housewives. Politico has named her, or specifically her Twitter account, one of the “50 Politicos to Watch.” All this while being an award-winning scholar, a published poet and, oh yeah, a department chair and professor of English and comparative literature at San Diego State University.

Click the audio player for a Q&A with Joanna Brooks from CNN Radio's John Lisk
Amid Mitt Romney’s presidential bid, the “I’m a Mormon” ad campaign and the smash-hit Broadway musical “Book of Mormon,”  this Obama supporter has emerged as a refreshing voice for media, hungry for frank discussion about her faith.

Her goal? To be her authentic self and humanize a tradition and people she couldn't love more.

“I just refuse to be ashamed of being Mormon,” she says. “Don’t talk about us like we’re not in the room.”

Embracing her difference

Growing up in California's Orange County, she often was the only Mormon in a room.  She was, she likes to say, “a root beer among the Cokes,” a reference to the caffeine-free drink that her faith permits.

She fantasized about her ancestors on the other side of the veil. Her father, a longtime LDS Church bishop – a volunteer pastor – said they knew her name and that her spirit would join them when she died.

She sang pioneer hymns in church on Sundays with other root beers. She kneeled and prayed to God each night before bed. By the time she was baptized at 8, she’d read cover-to-cover the Book of Mormon, the sacred text Latter-day Saints view as “another testament of Jesus Christ” and study in addition to the Bible.

Brooks, center, and her sisters learned early to be proud of and show off their Mormon pioneer heritage.

She learned to relish being different, even when born-again classmates, taught by their pastors to believe she was in a cult, scrawled warnings in her yearbook. When Marie Osmond, a visible Mormon to the non-Mormon world, winked into the TV camera on Friday nights, Brooks was sure the gesture was meant for her.

Along the way, there were glimpses of the woman she would become. Asked one year in grade school to write two term papers, she chose as her subjects the Equal Rights Amendment and Joseph Smith, the founder of the LDS Church.

“I’m not making this up,” she says, laughing at what some may see as irony. “This is who I am.”

But in her traditional - what she calls “orthodox” - Mormon home, she was only exposed to pamphlets on women’s rights penned by Phyllis Schlafly, a conservative stalwart who railed against the ERA push.

At LDS Church-owned Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, the only college she ever considered attending, Brooks imagined the warm embrace of being among her people. Looking at those around her, at first she worried she was too different. But during orientation, an English professor quoted a verse from the Book of Mormon that she'd carry with her.

He denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.

“I felt the knot of panic in my belly loosen and disappear,” she writes in her memoir. “Deep inside my chest, a door opened. Light and oxygen flooded the room.”

She gravitated to professors who shined the light on possibilities, devouring the words of Mormon poets and feminist historians.

All are alike unto God.

In the Student Review, an alternative and unofficial school paper, Brooks poked fun at university policies, interviewed polygamists, wrote about gay issues and simply didn’t shy away from matters most people were afraid to talk about.

While getting ready for church on Sundays, she blared Public Enemy.

Outside her circle of like-minded friends were people like John Dehlin, a staunchly conservative Mormon student who watched her from afar. Whether it was hot-button issues in the paper, pro-choice demonstrations at the state Capitol or night vigils and marches for rape victims, he says, Brooks was always involved.

“She didn't know me, but I knew her. I was torn between being uncomfortable and seeing her as dangerous, and respecting her for her courage and convictions.”

Brooks was riding an optimistic wave of change at BYU, when the tide suddenly shifted.

The early 1990s brought a LDS Church crackdown on intellectuals, feminists and activists who were perceived as being threats.

Professors at BYU lost their jobs. Others walked away in solidarity. In September 1993, six prominent Mormon scholars were excommunicated or disfellowshipped – stripped of certain religious rights, including access to LDS Church temples.

The day Brooks received her diploma, she handed it back in protest.

Wrestling with God

The still-warm funeral potatoes take their place on a picnic table crowded with treats in a La Jolla  park. Milling about are those who've gathered for a monthly meeting, a support group of sorts, under the auspices of an organization called Mormon Stories.

Some, like Brooks, are faithful churchgoing members. Others no longer attend services but long for cultural connections. For at least two of these Californians (one says she is a distant relative of Mitt Romney's), the day church leaders called on Mormons to support Proposition 8 – a 2008 ballot measure to prevent same-sex marriages – was the last time they sat in the pews. One first-time visitor shows up, her crisis of faith new and raw.

“I believed everything until two weeks ago,” she says, her expression one-part grief, the other anger.

Brooks understands those in painful transition. God knows she's been there.

After graduating from BYU, Brooks headed to Los Angeles to get her doctorate in English at UCLA. For about five years, she says she regularly went to church but was still reeling from “the purge” of so many mentors.

She wrestled internally. Each time the LDS Church galvanized its members behind the Defense of Marriage Act or supported initiatives that predated Prop 8, she felt like a cinderblock had been dropped on her heart. If her bishop asked how she was doing, she burst into tears.

“Whenever I went to church, I'd just cry,” she says. “So I just stopped. It was my way of saying 'uncle.' It was too much. I clearly needed time.”

Brooks retreated not just from church, but also from her liberal Mormon peers. She guarded her tongue and emotions around family.

Meantime, her life moved forward in other beautiful ways. She'd fallen hard for David Kamper, then a doctoral student in anthropology, “a sweet and soulful Jewish man from my California hometown: a man who saw no enmity in me, a man who would never put me on trial, a man who would never audit my heart for heresy,” she says in her memoir.

They met at a union party for teaching assistants. About two months into their relationship, she turned to him and said, “You know we're going to get married.”

When they did, some years later, she couldn't have a temple marriage, which allows two Mormons to be sealed for eternity in a sacred ceremony – a rite considered necessary to reach the highest level in heaven. Instead, their unconventional wedding blended their religious backgrounds.

When Kamper stomped on a glass, which marks the end of a Jewish wedding ceremony, Brooks knew she was in some way breaking her parents' hearts.

The oldest of four siblings, all dedicated Mormons, she still attended family events in the LDS Church during those years in self-imposed exile. Each visit made her ache with longing. She tried other Christian denominations, but none felt like home.

It was the birth of her daughters Ella and Rosa, now 8 and 6, that would eventually help bring her back. When she rocked them to sleep, she mindlessly sang a Mormon pioneer hymn, a reminder of those who walked before her.

Her faith journey was shaped, in part, by the birth of daughters Ella -- walking ahead with the family dog -- and Rosa.

She realized she had to be true to her spiritual needs and her legacy, not just for herself, but for her little girls. She began writing the book that would become her memoir, to help her heal and so they would someday understand their mother.

“I am an unorthodox Mormon woman with a fierce and hungry faith,” she writes. “Sometimes even in my own tradition I feel a long way from home. But I will keep on crossing as many plains as this life puts in front of me. I drag along my Jewish husband, my two daughters, and a trunk of difficult questions.”

Finding her way home

Slowly, in 2008, she dipped her cold feet back in the LDS Church waters.

Three months later, like a tsunami, came the push for Proposition 8.

“So I took another few months off. To shake my fist at God,” she wrote in a recent Ask Mormon Girl column. “That's what I did until the vote was over. And then I went back. Again.”

That wasn’t all she did, though. Once, during this hiatus from church, she returned to her childhood congregation for a new nephew’s naming and blessing. She squirmed in her seat as each talk and prayer mentioned the need to protect marriage, she recalls in her memoir.

Using Rosa, then 2, as an excuse, she went for a walk. On a hallway table she spotted clipboards holding data for “Yes on 8” voters, canvassing materials culled through hours and hours of work.

“My heart pounds. I look around. The hallways are clear,” she writes. Brooks snatched those papers and shoved them in her flowered diaper bag. She rushed outside, her heels clicking on pavement. Shielded by cars and with Rosa on her hip, she forced the papers down a metal sidewalk grate. “Still, I feel the weight of the cinderblock on my heart.”

When she could guard her tongue no longer, she decided to speak publicly at a rally opposing Prop 8. She held her breath as she sent her speech to her parents.

The next morning, she opened her e-mail to see this from her father: “ ‘We want you to know we love you. You have wanted a more just and loving world since you were a little girl,’ ” she recounts in her memoir. She then describes her reaction: “Tears drop on my keyboard. My chest heaves.”

Now her father is dying of ALS, an experience that’s made their differences irrelevant.

“My parents are very devoted Mormons, and they didn’t always know what to do with me,” she says. “But there’s nothing like a terminal illness to put things in perspective.”

In late 2009, she began writing about her Mormonism for others. Her first published piece was about raising interfaith children.

Brooks hopes that through her writing and speaking out she can help humanize Mormons, who are often misunderstood.

Perhaps no one was more relieved to see her name than John Dehlin, the BYU student who'd once watched her from afar.

He'd gone through his own faith crisis years after they graduated, and searched online for Brooks. He couldn't find her anywhere. When he saw her byline, he reached out immediately.

“Where have you been?” he asked. “We need you. We've always needed you.”

Dehlin created Mormon Stories in 2005, first as a podcast offering open conversations for those grasping for reasons to stay in the LDS Church, which he has. Now the group also runs conferences and online communities, as well as support groups, which are sprouting up across the globe.

Brooks didn't need Mormon Stories to get back to church. She'd worked through her struggle in her own way and own time. But realizing there were others like her out there – even if they weren't sitting next to her in church – gave her comfort. There's a kinship among those who want and need to speak freely.

The way Mormons show up for one another, she says, is part of what she loves most about her faith tradition. And while her “calling” may not be conventional or church-sanctioned, she's fulfilling a mandate to serve.

By being there for folks who are lost and looking to be found or are desperate to say things they don't feel safe uttering at church or to their families, she attends to those in need.

“Is there space for difference? People are feeling it out,” she says. “No one wants to start a new church. No one wants a schism.”

Some of her friends, especially those not in the LDS Church, have wondered why she didn't just walk away.

That might have been easier, and it's what most of her BYU friends did do. But she's shed tears and worked so hard to maintain her identity, faith and community because, like those who came before her, that's what Mormon pioneers do.

“I know who I am”

Scampering out of the garage, Mosi leads the way. The family dog - her name means "cat" in Navajo - tugs Brooks through the neighborhood on a walk that doubles as thinking time for this busy mother, professor and author.

On this afternoon, she talks about how carefully she must toe a line - one that allows her to be faithful, respectful and gently critical. She's emboldened knowing she doesn't walk alone. There are dozens and dozens like her who - thanks to blogs and social media - are also weighing in.

Brooks speaks on stages and radio programs. She also has been interviewed for documentaries, including one about Mormons in politics.

Not afraid to discuss touchy issues of race, polygamy, or same-sex marriages, Brooks says she's gotten plenty of mail from LDS Church members begging her to stop. They say she's not a spokesperson for the church, and she agrees – she isn't. She's not trying to be.

She believes this cautiousness of fellow Latter-day Saints, this fear of individually speaking up, isn't serving Mormons well. Instead of relying on church officials to read from scripts that sound likes scripts, she says, “People need to see us as human beings.”

The sacrifices of Mormons who’ve spoken out before her also help prod Brooks along. She has to trust that times are changing – that what happened to women like feminist Margaret Toscano won’t happen to her.

Toscano, 62, was excommunicated in 2000 – seven years after her husband. She recalls how the late 1970s Mormon supporters of the ERA were driven underground. She was among those who re-emerged in the late 1980s, only to face a slapdown. She says she personally knows hundreds who’ve walked away from the church over women’s issues.

She watches Brooks and others like her with hope, but not complete optimism. The ability of activists to do what they do while in the church, Toscano says, comes and goes at the whim of whoever is in charge.

Others who watch Brooks may be concerned about the company she keeps.

She knows there are those who fear her association with “apostates,” but she shrugs this off. “It’s not a concern for me. I know who I am.”

Who she is and what she believes rankles Ralph Hancock, a political science professor at BYU who’s taken her on in an LDS blog review called The Bulwark. Simply put, he says in an e-mail, “Joanna thinks or assumes that Mormonism is compatible with (or intrinsically drawn toward?) a contemporary liberal-progressive agenda – and I think not.”

But not all conservatives are bothered by her work.

At the helm of the Foundation for Apologetic Information & Research (FAIR), an organization that defends the LDS Church from detractors, is president Scott Gordon. He may not agree with many of her positions, but he’s glad she’s out there.

She shows the “plurality of thought within Mormonism,” he says, and has taken on characterizations of Mormons in the press in a way that’s made him want to cheer.

LDS Church officials have never contacted Brooks directly, she says. And they wouldn’t comment directly on her or her work for this story.

While Brooks will speak openly about the church she loves, warts and all, she has limits. She refuses to feed the uninformed, broad-brush sensationalism so many use to paint her often misunderstood faith. That's why she graciously turned down a recent request from a History Channel producer who, among other things, hoped Brooks could show how she uses a “seer stone” – a prophetic tool used by LDS Church founder Joseph Smith.

“Are you kidding me!” Brooks says, remembering what went through her head but never came out of her mouth. “That's like asking David [her Jewish husband] if he knows how to sacrifice animals.”

Back from the walk, she rounds up the family to head out to dinner.

Over pizzas at a long table in the Blind Lady Ale House, her husband joins friends in sharing tastes of microbrews. Brooks didn't always follow the Mormon rules to abstain from coffee, tea and alcohol. But with her renewed commitment to the church, she does now.

Among her friends here are two women with whom she leads a Girl Scout troop. Giggling at the far end of the table are their daughters, members of what they like to call “the rogue Brownie troop.”

More important to them than competitive cookie peddling are missions these moms can get behind: a tour of an organic farm, an environmental cleanup activity and a food drive for AIDS patients.

Leaving the other adults to their beers, Brooks heads outside with the four girls. Soon the little ones are marching up and down the sidewalk, arms linked, shouting something that leaves passersby smiling.

“One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight! Schlemiel! Schlimazel! Hasenpfeffer Incorporated!”

Brooks has spontaneously taught them the intro to the television classic “Laverne & Shirley.”

She hooks her arms with them as they scream, “Again! Again!” She coaches their footwork and matches their youthful enthusiasm. She wonders, as an afterthought, if she’s got that “hasenpfeffer” word right.

Reaching into a pocket, Brooks pulls out her smartphone and says with a sheepish grin, “Let me check my seer stone.”

On white people, lipstick and the sacrament

It's a Sunday morning, and the family is getting ready for church. Kamper serves up pancakes before racing off to change. Ella and Rosa look over their visitor to make sure she's dressed appropriately. Modest skirt and sleeves? Check.

“Church is a good place,” Rosa says. She bounds past a globe of the world and a child-sized drum set to grab a book from the playroom shelf.

“Read this,” she orders, handing over “How Does the Holy Ghost Make Me Feel?” “This'll teach you about church.”

Rosa shows off their food storage, recommended by the LDS Church in case of disasters.

In the kitchen, Brooks holds up the New York Times Sunday Review and rails against Lee Siegel's Mitt Romney-related opinion piece, “What's Race Got to Do With It?

“ 'Mormonism is still imagined by its adherents as a religion founded by whites, for whites, rooted in a millenarian vision of an America destined to fulfill a white God's plan for earth,' ” she reads aloud. And then, swatting the paper with the back of her hand, she asks, “Is there fact checking involved?”

She knows of the millions of LDS Church members dotting the globe in Africa, Asia and Latin America. And the Japanese-American, Filipino-American, black and Hispanic members in her own ward, or congregation. Later that night, she'll write her response. In this moment, Ella turns her attention to the diversity of American Girl dolls.

Scattered across a sofa are Rebecca, a Russian-Jewish girl from New York; Kaya, a Native American from the Nez Perce tribe; and Kirsten, who wears a bonnet.

“Mommy,” Ella screams, racing out of the room, “Did you know Kirsten's a pioneer girl?”

With her daughters loaded in the Prius, Brooks takes the wheel and tunes in Bob Marley. The girls start rifling through her purse in the backseat. They gob on her lipstick.

“Great,” she says, peering in the rearview mirror. “They're getting tarted up for church.”

Lipstick wiped off, they stroll inside. Brooks takes a seat in the back, and the girls dart up the aisle to sit with friends.

Who Brooks is outside of church is of no consequence. If anyone does follow her work, she says, “No one is up in my grill.” When she's here, she's here for spiritual sustenance – to pray, take the sacrament, and connect with and serve her community.

Bags crowding her feet hold the coffee cake she'll take to the Sunday school class she'll teach later, the Jeopardy-style game she's devised for today's lesson, and reading materials and toys to keep kids occupied.

The LDS Church's children's magazine features a story about Mormons in Tonga. Brooks spots her visitor reading it and whispers, “See how focused we are on white people?”

A little boy scoots a toy car along the floor. Stacked on a chair above him, next to hymnals, are “Curious George” books in Spanish.

Her husband sits down beside her, his arm around her shoulder. Kamper shows up because who she is, what she needs for herself and their kids, matters to him. Her acceptance of his Judaism, the fact that she's never suggested he convert, has helped him get over what the couple jokingly refer to as his “Jesus allergy.” He doesn't take the sacrament when it's offered and admits he sometimes passes on saying “amen” to church prayers.

“They don't know what the hell to make of me,” he says. But ever since he fell in love with Brooks, this trained ethnographer has been a close observer of Mormons. He feels embraced by her parents now, but that took time. Her father once challenged Kamper to read the Book of Mormon and accept the missionary lessons, visits from LDS teachers. Kamper figured it was the least he could do, but it didn't lead him into a baptismal font.

Unable to play an official role during Mormon family ceremonies, like baby namings, he accepts his job as the designated microphone holder. Someday he'll tell his nephews, “If you get busted and go to jail, call Uncle David.”

Here in church, his role is supportive husband. Kamper strokes Brooks' back when she weeps. Tears fall when her eyes close in prayer.

In a small classroom afterward, she meets with four high school students, three of whom are heading to BYU in the fall. When she meets with them, she says she sees herself at their age.

The Book of Mormon, the introduction of an additional scripture, “was a bold claim,” she tells them. “I think that's why Mormons are bold. We're OK being different.”

Trusting God’s plan

The girls plop down at the kitchen table, feasting on leftover funeral potatoes. They start humming the “Muppet Show” theme song and then, after rattling off some of their favorite Simon and Garfunkel titles, bust into the chorus of “Mrs. Robinson.”

And here's to you, Mrs. Robinson,
Jesus loves you more than you will know,
Wo, wo, wo.
God bless you, please, Mrs. Robinson,
Heaven holds a place for those who pray,
Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey.

Each night at dinner, the girls lead the family in prayer. Sometimes their words are inspired by their Mormonism; other times they honor the Jewish side of themselves.

They're being raised to be part of both religious traditions. They celebrate Christmas, Easter and Pioneer Day, which marks the day in 1847 when Mormon pioneers first entered now-Utah. The family also observes Hanukkah, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Passover. Because Kamper likes to host a big Passover seder each year, Brooks decided the family would also host a Mormon seder on Pioneer Day, featuring her favorite recipes, including her “Green Goddess” Jell-o salad.

One month the girls attend Sunday school at church; the next they can be found in Hebrew school.

“It can be challenging because I have to learn one thing and then another thing,” Ella says. “But it can be fun, too, because I know I'm special.”

Brooks doesn't worry about their kids. All she can do is be responsible for her own choices and give them a rich spiritual life, she says. They'll be free to decide what path they want to travel. “God has a plan for everyone, and everything is going to work out,” she says. “I'm not afraid for them.”

Nor is Kamper, though he admits he's starting to realize some rabbis might balk if the girls want bat mitzvahs.

Ella describes how she feels in church.

“I feel comfortable because I'm in God's house. And I also feel comfortable because I know lots of people love me,” she says.

Her parents smile at each other. They want to know if she feels like she's in God's house at synagogue.

“No, but I feel like God's watching over me,” she answers.

Ella then offers to share a typical prayer she and Rosa might recite.

“We fold our arms and close our eyes,” she instructs. “Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for this food and this family. Please bless those who are sick... And if I was going to sleep,” she decides to add, “Please help me so I won't have nightmares. And if I do, send the Holy Ghost down to comfort me. I say these things in Jesus' name. Amen.”

Seconds later, she and her younger sister switch gears.

“Shema, Yisrael. Adonai Eloheinu. Adonai echad,” they sing, the translation being, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one.”

Across the kitchen, their mother’s voice rises in perfect Hebrew, too.

It's a Jewish prayer sung by a faithful Mormon who believes “all are alike unto God.” And she sings it with every bit of her pioneer spirit.

- CNN Writer/Producer

Filed under: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints • Judaism • Mormonism • Politics • Same-sex marriage • Women

soundoff (1,778 Responses)
  1. fsmgroupie

    someone opened the magical underwear's trap door !

    February 6, 2012 at 8:09 pm |
  2. JustMe

    One thing those Mormons are good at is making jello salads. I went to a wedding once and when we woke up from our sugar coma it was a new week. .

    February 6, 2012 at 8:04 pm |
    • just wondering

      was that to the first, second, third or tenth wife?

      February 6, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
  3. MJT4

    If people are trying to better their lives, regardless of their religion, what does it matter? We are the only people in our neighborhood who are Mormon. Our neighbors treat us with the greatest of respect, and we do the same for them. I love living in a place were we are all different, believe differently, but can still be kind and friendly to one another. I would never say anything negative about another religion. We are actually taught that in church. Please stop bashing what I believe to be true.

    February 6, 2012 at 8:02 pm |
  4. noolibs

    I am waiting now for these good people to be called terrorist because they stock food for themselves in case this country fails by the Odopy boys and they are arrested by the military for no reason...they are not on food stamps and that drive the libs nuts and the part of that gays should be looked at as people also and we all should just understand and get along...well that is the lib take on this to pervert the Mormons faith...problem is cnn and libs don't know the truth about anything...

    February 6, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      See my post on the next page noolibs.

      February 6, 2012 at 8:38 pm |
  5. noolibs

    I am waiting now for these good people to be called terrorist because they stock food for themselves in case this country fails by the Odopy boys and they are arrested by the military for no reason...they are not on food stamps and that drive the libs nuts and the part of that gays should be looked at as people also and we all should just understand and get along...well that is the lib take on this to pervert the Mormons faith...problem is cnn and libs don't know the truth about anything.

    February 6, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
  6. A.S.

    I just dont get it... she keeps going back to the church, even though she doesn't agree with most of their rules, and within a few months, just winds up being hurt all over again because of policies they back. It almost sounds like a woman in an abusive relationship. If they don't really represent you anymore, don't go back. It sounds like you have a sense of community in others who have found the church no longer represents them. She says the church is something that defines who she is, even though in many aspects, it's asbolutely appalling to her. Sounds like she needs some serious therapy work to get the peace she is looking for.

    February 6, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
    • momoya

      Religion can be a very, very hard habit to kick. It's got a lot of hooks in you.

      February 6, 2012 at 8:04 pm |
    • QS

      Well said! Nothing like watching the fallout that inevitably shows up in good people who try to conform to a bad ideology.

      February 6, 2012 at 8:22 pm |
  7. Anon

    Was anyone able to get through the entire article of this sanitized pile of garbage designed to say "look at me, I am like you"? Without integrity you mean? Willing to sell your self in order to be acceptable to those who deem you unacceptable, until the next "undesirable" comes along... What a crock. None of us are required to "fit in", get used to it! Some of us still have integrity and will stand tall whether you like it or not!

    February 6, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
  8. William B.

    It's too bad a beautiful white (mormon) girl married a non-white (jew). What a waste.

    February 6, 2012 at 7:53 pm |
  9. AnnusRegina

    Am I the only one who sees Judaism and Christianity to be mutually exclusive as it applies to an individual? I mean, how does one be a Mormon, believing in Christ as their Lord and Savior, a cornerstone of the faith, and be a Jew, rejecting the divinity of Christ and believing the Messiah is yet to come? Believe what you want but COME ON, at least teach your children to have at least a VENEER of logical progression in their belief.

    February 6, 2012 at 7:52 pm |
  10. PAT

    The Mormon Church is not a true church but a corporation, living off other people's hard earned money. None of them work for a living. They want a "free ride" is why they join the Mormon Church.

    February 6, 2012 at 7:52 pm |
    • noolibs

      And you think you know this...how? your just a moron with nothing better to do but put people down of a different Christian faith...prove me wrong.

      February 6, 2012 at 8:00 pm |
    • Marky

      I am not a Morman, but every one of them I know works for a living and one is a doctor. I have seen their social service system at work, and was absolutely amazed. I knew a family who was in deep distress–mom very depressed, dad was a hoarder, and the kids were even missing school because they had so many problems. When the Church found out, they galvanized a group of men and women who came to help and in one weekend they completely renovated the house (after they removed all the excess stuff) and even redid the kitchen and bathrooms. The children were back in school, and the parents received weekly counseling to make certain they didn't continue to have the problems that started the mess. Of course, they would have been in big trouble with the church if they didn't maintain what had been done, but they had support to help them do so. I belong to a church which looks at Mormons askance for sure, but I've never seen anything like what they accomplished in 3 days with that family! I agree their basic beliefs are not mine, but most people could learn from the way they help each other without reservation. And before the Mormons jump all over me, my husband's GGG
      uncles were Peter, Christian, Jacob and John Witmer (Whittmer)who witnessed the gold tablets, according to the BOM.

      February 6, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
    • amang

      I would like to know what oyu are basing this on?

      February 6, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
  11. Hallie

    How convenient for Ms. Brooks to "take a few months off" from the Mormon church while they poured millions into their campaign to ensure that GLBT citizens don't get equal rights, only to come back when it was over and the damage was done. She certainly is progressive.

    February 6, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
    • noolibs

      And your a liberal terrorist freak! and a pervert to boot.

      February 6, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
  12. Pibblelover

    So much hate here. Most of you spewing this anti-mormon hate are probably the same people that preach equality. Personally, I think most religions are silly, but most (excluding the extremists) aren't hurting anyone. Who cares if they think we're all going to hell? As long as they're not trying to personally send us there, let them have whatever beliefs they want as long as they keep it away from us. And to the pro-mormons that are also spewing hate, don't judge others unless you want to be judged yourself. I feel bad for those of you that can only see the world in black and white. You're just choosing to remain ignorant to the rest of us that live in the grey area.

    February 6, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
  13. PAT

    Why does one of the wealthest men in this world, Mitt Romney, only donate his money to the Mormon church when there are so many people suffering in one way or another who truly need help. The Mormons are one of the most uncaring, selfish, self-absorbed people in the world. What do the Mormons do for people besides the Mormons. Nothing.

    February 6, 2012 at 7:49 pm |
    • grinder

      they only do for others when the goal is to convert them to their stupid sh!tty cult

      February 6, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
    • Abinadi

      When you donate to other charities, 90% often goes to overhead. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is all volunteer from their pastors and teachers down to their missionaries – all serve for free. When you donate to the Mormon church 100% goes to charity.

      February 6, 2012 at 7:53 pm |
    • Mary

      Wow, you should check your facts before-hand. Who is one of the first groups to make it to any natural disaster in this world and donate large sums of what is needed?? The LDS church. Think what you want of them, but you CANNOT say they are selfish, uncaring, self-absorbed with any truth behind it. Learn a little from real resources and not the fiction you are obviously getting your facts from.

      February 6, 2012 at 8:03 pm |
    • Long Live Chick

      Actually Pat, Mormons are renowned for their humanitarian efforts, one of the largest world-wide efforts from any organization. You can specify on your donation to allocate to the humanitarian fund, which I'm sure Mitt does plenty of. In addition, you know it will be used efficiently and directly for that purpose, unlike many charitable organizations who take a good portion of the money for their administrative efforts. By allocating your donations to humanitarian, you know 100% of that donation will be used for that. Because of that, many NON-LDS people choose to contribute to that fund.

      February 6, 2012 at 8:44 pm |
    • amang

      The LDS chursh is one of the leading humanitarian groops in the world. check your facts.

      February 6, 2012 at 8:58 pm |
  14. vw


    February 6, 2012 at 7:48 pm |
    • rick

      if that were true, there would be more converts

      February 7, 2012 at 8:09 am |
  15. Sandra

    Have you read "Under the Banner of Heaven"? These people are whack jobs!

    February 6, 2012 at 7:48 pm |
  16. grinder

    anyone who is a mormon is the bottom feeder of all cults because even though all of those cults are made up the mormon cult is by far the most retarded work of fiction ever by a con artist and so obviously fake only retards would believe in it

    mormons have a problem with pedos in their church more than stupid christians

    February 6, 2012 at 7:46 pm |
    • walkmaster

      It is so obvious in reading many of the posts here that our country is full of hateful people. Many of the posts here exemplify traits that are akin to racism when it comes to the Mormon church. People in the U.S.A. have a right to worship as they see fit, and to do so without persecution.

      February 6, 2012 at 8:21 pm |
    • Marky

      And anyone who uses the word "retard" is an idiot with nothing valid to say, period!

      February 6, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
  17. Abinadi

    It is the Protestants and Catholics who have changed the true doctrine. A good example is the Nicene creed. The Nicene Creed is nowhere in the Bible. It was totally fabricated by Constantine and his council of pagans, Capadocians, Nicenes, Gnostics, Arians, Apolinarians, Greek mystics and others who had an agenda. Constantine didn't know any doctrine. He just wanted peace in his empire from all the factions who were fighting over doctrine. He just settled for the first thing that the majority could agree with. The sad thing is that there were probably people there who knew the truth, but couldn't prevail over all the other factions – doctrine by committee! Paul would not have approved of the mess christianity is in. He said, "5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism," (Ephesians 4) Obviously, there can not be more than one true church or more than one true doctrine. The question is, which one? We invite all to visit mormon.org for the answer. Christ taught the true doctrine of the Godhead when he suffered himself to be baptized by John. In Luke 3:21,22 we read, "21 Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened,
    22 And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased."

    This is the true doctrine of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost which was taught by the Bible – that the Father and Son are two separate beings. Funny, the smartest religious leaders have been reading the Bible for 2000 years but it took a 14 year old boy to point out the obvious!

    February 6, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
    • grinder

      and the book of mormon was fabricated by a con artist that got what he deserved in the end

      history and reality trumps your worthless cult

      February 6, 2012 at 7:48 pm |
    • Jerry

      The book of Mormon is nowhere in the bible either and neither are any of your other books you live by.

      February 6, 2012 at 7:50 pm |
    • Mark

      You are correct that there can only be one true faith as stated in Ephesians. I have been approached by Mormons at my apartment twice now. Both times were by two Mormon women who were very nice and friendly women. They were missionaries. However both times they did not have bible with them. The second set of women even posed the question to me "How can we know that our religion is true unless we understand the bible". It was something like that at least. And I agree with her 100%. Unless we know the truth from the bible we can not know if our religion is true. And the bible also said there would be an Apostasy after the death of the Apostles at Acts 20:29-30 and 2 Thessalonians 2:3. My question is where in the bible does it say that we should believe anything from the book of Mormon? As a Mormon I am sure you have been shown scriptures like Galatians 1:6-9 and Revelation 22:18, 19. The book of Mormon fits exactly with those scriptures. Nowhere does the bible say that we should believe in another book claiming to be inspired by God, but it does warn us of them. In 2 Timothy 3:16, 17 it is clear that the bible is complete. There are also Thousands of copies going back thousands of years so we can scrutinize and make sure that our current bibles are intact. Can anyone say that about the book of Mormon? The golden plates were taken by the angel after they were translated. In other words nobody can scrutinize them. The bible however has been available down through history for all to look into and decide for themselves if it is Gods word. And one last important thing is at Alma 7:10 in the book of Mormon. It is in direct opposition to the bible. It states that Jesus was to be born in Jerusalem. The bible says that Jesus was to be born in Bethlahem Ephrathah at Micah 5:2. I have showed this to Mormons before. It is not in agreement with the bible yet Mormons claim to believe both are true. So on the subject of where Jesus was born which is true?

      February 6, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
    • Abinadi

      Actually, Jerry, the Book of Mormon IS in the Bible. Ezekiel 37: "16 Moreover, thou son of man, take thee one stick, and write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions: then take another stick, and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions:

      17 And join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become aone in thine hand.

      18 ¶And when the children of thy people shall speak unto thee, saying, Wilt thou not shew us what thou meanest by these?

      19 Say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel his fellows, and will put them with him, even with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they shall be one in mine hand."

      Christ even spoke of the people of the Book of Mormon and prophesied that he would visit them, "16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd."

      February 6, 2012 at 8:23 pm |
    • Mark

      My previous post is not designed to inult. It is designed to get everyone to really see what the bible says. God wants us all to do our due dilegence and really search for the truth. erik0163 at yahoo. He doesn't want us to find something that appeals to our individual taste, but to really see what the bible teaches vs what people say. Romans 3:4; Proverbs 14:15.

      February 6, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
    • Abinadi

      Mark, to me little quirks like that actually prove the Book of Mormon in my mind. This speech was by Alma, a man who lived in Central America in 83 BC. He had never been to the Old World or seen it. He did not know the geography of the Holy Land. The Nephites ancestors had come from a place called Jerusalem, though, and so they were well acquainted with that name. He was speaking to a band of people extemporaneously, off the top of his head, and a scribe wrote down his words. If the Book of Mormon is about real people, I would expect to find little quirks like that.

      February 6, 2012 at 8:39 pm |
    • Jerry

      Abe: That section of Ezekiel has nothing to do with the Mormon church. If you continue reading that chapter you will see that Ezekiel's prophesy is about God reuniting the land of Judah with the land of Israel into one land, under one King. That King will be a decendent of David; the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I know that Mormons point to that section as proof of their existance, but that has nothing to do with Mormonism.

      February 6, 2012 at 8:45 pm |
    • Abinadi

      Jerry, you know who the Jews are, but where is the tribe of Joseph? You have no idea, do you? You have no idea what you are talking about, Jerry.

      February 6, 2012 at 9:26 pm |
  18. PAT

    Mormons claim to believe and love Christ but they have one practicing Mormon running for President who spews lie after lie after lie ever time he open his mouth. That tells me the Mormons must not love Christ since they support a man who sins or maybe he donates so much of him money to them that they could care less what he preaches. Maybe the mormons should drop the bs and learn that all humans are saints and sinners, themselves included, and stop loving all humans, including people of other faiths.

    February 6, 2012 at 7:43 pm |
    • Abinadi

      So, let me get this straight, the evangelicals support an admitted adulterer. So, how wonderful is that?

      February 6, 2012 at 7:49 pm |
    • An inconvenient truth

      Mormons do not follow the true Christ but a man made misrepresentation patterned to fit within the false teachings of Joseph Smith, convicted con man , liar and false prophet. Mormons are not Christians

      February 6, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
    • Jerry

      Abe: Joseph Smith married and copulated with a 14 year old girl. Do you have a problem with that?

      February 6, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
    • AnnusRegina

      not sure if troll or unable to string a coherent sentence together...

      February 6, 2012 at 7:59 pm |
    • noolibs

      Prove he is lying and yes Mormons are Christians despite what you libs think...

      February 6, 2012 at 8:13 pm |
  19. Terri

    I don't know what anyone else thinks, but looking at the pictures, unless they were staged for the camera (likely), the photos leave me thinking only one thing. That this woman...as good as her intentions may be...is a little obsessed with her own religion. I am a religious person but I will not have my home completely covered in Bibles and photos and quotes...my home is a place to rest and enjoy my family and friends. I imagine that if I walked into this lady's house, and saw all of the religious material there, I would turn around and leave. Don't push religion down my throat. Let all of us worship in whatever manner we choose. I had a neighbor who was a member of the LDS but not once did he even attempt to get us to convert to his religion. Sad to say, he passed away from a heart attack. We are keeping an eye on his home until it can get through probate...when we went in to help sort things out, there was very little out in the open about his religion. I respected him from the minute we met. And will continue to as he rests wherever he may be. And his not having those things out everywhere told me that he respected other people as well. There was LDS materials in cabinets and such. Good luck to this person and her religion.

    February 6, 2012 at 7:41 pm |
    • JustMe

      How can you say what people display in their own private, personal residence is 'putting it in your face'??? That is HER home, she has a right to decorate and display however she wishes. That is NOT shoving it down your throat, unless you plan to be a squatter there.

      February 6, 2012 at 8:08 pm |
    • noolibs

      What this womne does in her own home is her business not yours you know it all liberal freak!

      February 6, 2012 at 8:14 pm |
    • noolibs

      What this woman does in her own home is her business not yours you know it all liberal freak! You are not a religious person by the way...your a commie.

      February 6, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
  20. scientificpoetry

    The Mormon faith is evidence that many human beings are dumb enough to believe anything.

    February 6, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
    • noolibs

      You believe in your god Odopey...so you are partly correct...you will believe anything huh boy...

      February 6, 2012 at 8:11 pm |
    • mlichti

      The very concept of "faith" is irrational by definition, and should be classified as a mental disorder.

      February 6, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.