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. FatSean

    These off-shoots of the cult of Judaism just get wackier and wackier.

    February 6, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
  2. Tom

    A weak attempt by Mormons to try to appeal to a broader electorate by trying to paint Mormons as not as irrational and crazy as they really are. They are trying to paint them as regular people, just like you and me.

    However, do not fall for it. Instead, I recommend reading History Of LDS Church on WIKI. It's better than Lord of the Rings.

    And to finish, just because it makes you feel fuzzy inside, just because it is somehow useful to you, it does not make it true.

    February 6, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
  3. Yulick Muhdick

    I here dem mormons be RAYSIS!

    February 6, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
  4. scatheist

    I don't get it. Why bother being a Mormon.

    February 6, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
  5. Marc

    Sorry, but I wouldn't look for the "inside scoop" on any religion from someone who intermarried!

    February 6, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Mormons don't like intermarriage.
      "...your ideas, as we understand them, appear to contemplate the intermarriage of the Neg.ro and White races, a concept which has heretofore been most repugnant to most normal-minded people from the ancient partiarchs till now. God's rule for Israel, His Chosen People, has been endogamous."
      – George Albert Smith J. Reuben Clark, Jr. David O. McKay

      February 6, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
  6. Johnson

    I feel sorry for Mormons. They have been so brainwashed, give so much money upon demand and think they will become Gods if they obey the Prophet (the head of their Church or Cult). Romney not too long ago while Bishop of Boston asked a single mother to give up her baby because the Church does not like single parents.

    February 6, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
    • bananaspy

      All religious zealots are brainwashed. If you actually think believing in a virgin birth, a talking snake, a man living inside a giant fish, a man keeping two of EVERY species on a boat, etc. is somehow less crazy than any of the crap Joseph Smith made up.. I don't know what to tell you.

      February 6, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
  7. John Brown

    She is anything but orthodox.

    February 6, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
  8. Randy

    I don't understand those that claim to belong to a certain religious tradition, but deny some of that group's teachings. That is the same as me claiming I am going to be a doctor, but not follow standard medical procedures. When you claim to be something that was created before you were around, you do so with the understanding that you accept that group's teachings. If you don't accept some or all of those teachings, then you find or start a group that follows the teachings you ascribe to. The Mormon Church will never be open to gay people, nor should they be forced to. She needs create a religious organization that reflects her "kitchen sink" variety of beliefs and not impose those on others. She is doing what she accuses others of.

    February 6, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
    • bob7483

      Sorry, but your current self proclaimed leaders of the Mormon church are wrong regarding their interpretation of scripture. This woman should start her own Mormon church for people who want to practice Mormonism the way God intended.

      February 6, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
    • Ingrid

      She is a total flake. You want a different church....make your own. And I'm not even religious and I find her argument and philosophy irritating. Only CNN, would have the stomach to find and post her story.

      February 6, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
    • Wade

      Very well said

      February 6, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
  9. jo an

    Did you see Bill Maher....on H BO last week...the funniest segment, ever....We need out 'kooky' religions to keep us sane.
    Mormon religion is no stranger then the Christian/Jewish or even the Buddhist.....IF you believe the myths...why not glean the truths and love them...that is what will change the world...Compassion...not Dogma...

    February 6, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
  10. Christine

    Good for her! I'm sure, though, that we won't be seeing her anytime soon on any of the "My name is (blank), and I am a Mormon" commercials.

    February 6, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
  11. Doug S

    I see an interesting distinction in this article – the focus is Ms. Brooks sense of association and belonging to the Mormon Church. She reads the Book and follows the practices in her own ways. BUT that doesn't mean that the Mormon Church accepts or approves of her. Her efforts to find peace in the faith by practicing it "her way" is exactly what the Mormon Church weeds out – they want followers who follow with our question or compromise. So my question is, does the Mormon Church consider her a good member? There are lots of indications throughout the article that she skirts the edges. I see the signals in this article that suggest that in the future either she'll be kicked out, or she will voluntarily part with the Church due to lack of acceptance. Just because I might brag that I am a member of a Country Club doesn't make me a member if I haven't been accepted by them and paid the dues.

    February 6, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • bob7483

      You know, I think it's important for people to create non-bigoted branches of major religions. They create an alternative for people who want to worship without trying to oppress others.

      February 6, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
    • bff

      A good parallel is the 98% of women that use birth control and are catholics. Where does their religion stand on them? These women will not change their position, yet still want to be considered catholics.

      I'm convinced that there is a unique religion for every single theist in the world, just like no two people are the same.

      February 6, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
  12. Granger

    Leave it to CNN to dig up a gay mormon...Obama supporter...so "Progressive," in her thinking...to somehow create a black mark against Romney. Absolutely pathetic journalism...To have the resources this corporation does, had fully supports all the deviants in the country instead of focusing on the important issues our country's facing....everyday...a story about Gays, how Obama's doing, "Swell," and oh, let's not forget how Islam is a religiion of peace....

    February 6, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • momoya

      How dissimilar is it to Romney's camp "digging up" "cool" mormons for his tv spots? What CNN should be doing is discussing the levels of stupidity and brainwashing that it takes to even consider the mormon faith as more than a silly fairy tale.

      February 6, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
    • Will

      Idiot! She is married to a Jewish man. She's not gay. Just supportive of gay rights. Did you even read the article or are you just too stupid to understand what you read?

      February 6, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
  13. bob7483

    I certainly prefer the feminist, pro gay rights version of mormonism to the so called "official" version.

    February 6, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
  14. us1776

    Seriously religions. The fairy tales are just too much too believe.

    Mormonism: you can yourself become a god and even have your own universe all to yourself. I mean Come On !! What the h*ll was that guy Joseph Smith snorting?


    February 6, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
  15. SupaFlyJedi

    Funny thing is, all the anti-mormon arguments on this comment board have been around and have been answered for the last century and a half, but, to paraphrase Isaiah (not sure of the reference) "thy neck is an iron sinew and thy brow brass". Also, many of the detractors have constipation of the brain and diarrhea of the mouth.

    February 6, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Howzabout the ti/thing?
      Mormons are told: "if a dest.itute family is faced with the decision of paying their ti.thing or eating, they should pay their t.ithing." (Lynn Robbins, General Conference, April 2005).
      To make sure congregants are paying up, each year they must go before a Bishop for a Ti.thing Settlement.
      A member is questioned in a one-on-one interview with the Bishop to ensure the member is paying a full 10%.
      Those members who are not paying a full 10% lose their temple recommendations and therefore are in serious jeopardy of losing their Celestial blessings.
      If a member cannot get into the temple, they cannot learn the secret handshake, secret password, secret "new name" and special “sealings”.
      Without these, the member will be unable to pass Joseph Smith and the angels who guard the entrance to the Celestial Kingdom.
      So, pay up or no eternity for you!
      In Jan. 2006, the Church PR department (Deseret News Publishing Company)said, "that since 1984, the LDS Church has donated nearly $750 million in cash and goods to people in need in more than 150 countries."
      The total of $750 million in 22 years spent in cash and goods to people in need is only 1/4 of what the church is spending on a mall they're building in Salt Lake City.

      $3 Billion on a mall – $750 million on charity.
      The numbers tell us where the church's priorities are...

      February 6, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
  16. William

    It all comes down to what You Believe In, and the Faith you Have and what You are willing to Stand Up For! In other words, If you are an Atheist,a Muslim, a Monk, Hindu, Buddist,Catholic,Luthern,Evolutionist, VooDoo, Satonic, etc.,stand up and be counted with the group you are following. Be firm in your Faith and listento others but do not critize themjust because you do not agree with them. I have always welcomed Mormans into our home and allowed them to educate me about their faith. They ate at our house many times, with many others. One of those who visited us, returned from Idaho one year later with his parents, and we had dinner together. We welcomed Jehova Witnesses into our home and listened to them about their Faith. My wife and I were Foreign Exchange Reps. and have had many young people live with us for up to a year. They came from South America, Asia, Europe, China, Viet Nam,etc. I even wrote them a song for Erickson and Sworanson,at their request, called "The Potato Man and the Milk Man." and sang it at their church. I am a Protestant and I live my life according to the Holy Bible and God's Plan for me. Nobody and no One can take my faith in Jesus away from Me. God gave us his words and commands to live by and the freewill to choose.The Bible says not add nor take away from the His word in the Bible. We can't alter it so we can make escuses to live our lives in an earthly, or of the flesh manner. My Faith is that Jesus is the One and Only Brgotten Son of God, that he was born of the Virgin Mary, that Jesus came to Serve Mankind and Not to Condemn Mankind. Jesus is the Messiah, that the old testament of the Bible or in the Tora of the Jewish Holy Book, described hundreds and hundreds of years before Jesus' Birth. The redeemer was beaten, cursed, whipped, forced to carry a heavy cross a long distance, a crown of thorns was forced upon his head, nailed to the Cross, not given water, except the vinegar water from an old sponge, and left to die. Three days later He was Resurrected and conquered the Grave. Why? For our sins, so we can be reunited with Our Heavenly Father, God, in Heaven. You see, Jesus accepts us unconditionally,just as we are,(like we accept our children unconditionally, just as they are). He suffered and died for each and everyone of us. Ask him to come into your lives and forgive your sins and when you are ready, you'll know when, be baptized as Jesus was baptized by John The Baptist. We can not enter Holy Heaven uncleaned. So by His Blood, Jesus Christ Paid in Full, for Our Sins. We are now clean and children of the Father in Heaven and are Forgiven of Our Sins! Now that We are Reborn Children, with Our Sins Covered and Paid for by the Savior, Jesus Christ, we need to try to live the best we can using Jesus and his teachings as a model to live by. Does this mean that you will not sin again, of cource not, we are al imperfect and born to sin, we just need to be aware of our sins, ask for forgiveness, and live out our lives. So, Make Your Decision and Live your life with Faith that you are correct, It is a matter of Heaven or Hell! Bill

    February 6, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
  17. NiceLookingSecondWifeMaterial

    Hey she looks smart and very cute. She could be a second wife and be a bread winner too. Sweet Morman Lady....:-)

    February 6, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
  18. Stephen Buck

    There have been some postings here that use Rev. 22:19 to prove additional scripture such the Book of Mormon are not supported by the Bible.
    May I present another way at looking at Rev. 22:19.
    The books of the KJV in the NT are arranged not in the order they were written. Matt. thru Acts are considered historical writings are inserted first. Then we have the writings of Paul. These books are arranged by the size of the books; largest to the smallest. Hebrews is an exception. The books of James to Jude are considered general epistles and then we have Revelation.
    Most scholars say some books accepted as canon were written after Revelation. It is even possible the Gospel of John was written after Revelation. This being the case, according to your reasoning we would have to excluded “John” and a few other books. John 21:25 would be the last words of the Bible. The fact is we can only guess when the various books were written.
    Men and their reasoning ordered the books of the Bible there was no divine decree to place them in the order we now have them.
    In Duet. 4:2 we are taught what we are taught in Rev. 22:19.

    Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.

    In both instances the writers are warning others not to change what they had written. We know from word count studies this happened fairly frequently. Some books appear to be pasted together; a collection of writings by authors we know not.

    We also know from the Bible it’s self some writings of the Apostles were lost or are missing. Examples:1Cor. 5:9; Ep. 3:3; Col. 4:16; Jude 1:3).

    Finally we are taught that an angel will yet fly through the heavens having the everlasting gospel to teach to the entire world. See Rev. 14:6-7.

    This Angel would not have to fly though the heavens; sometime in the future with the Gospel if the Bible was all that was needed.

    February 6, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • Bob

      Cool story bro.

      February 6, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
  19. mcp123

    " that doesn't open her eyes, then I guess she will figure it out when she stands before the judgement seat of Christ."

    Ahhh the token religious nut who doesn't realize everything he believes is bunk...

    February 6, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • Really?

      My oh my, what a miserable existence you must lead!!

      February 6, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
  20. neniatak

    She is very confused. An absolutely beautiful book for her to read is Speaking the Truth in Love to Mormons by Mark Cares. If that doesn't open her eyes, then I guess she will figure it out when she stands before the judgement seat of Christ. God help her. And especially her kids.

    February 6, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
    • The Way


      February 6, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • Jeffrey Root

      I disagree. As an Atheist I wish more religious people were like her. She's open minded and feels that God has a plan for everyone. I would rather have that then someone saying, "God help her. And especially her kids." If you think she is doomed for what she is doing I would want no part in your religion. It sounds like your God is too judgmental.

      February 6, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
    • John Brown

      I disagree. If you are not confused, then God has spoken directly to you and confirmed God's truth. Most of us have not spoken directly to God and so we struggle to trust what dishonest men tell us is truth. If you are not confused then you are a minion of a prophet.

      February 6, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • Jessy the Gnostic

      She is not confused, Neniatak. She knows who she is. Just because she stands with those who are different, doesn't make her less human nor less able to communicate with God than you are. Who are you to judge her beliefs and think that yours are better than hers?

      February 6, 2012 at 4:47 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.