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Secret Ceremonies

In reading the reviews on Amazon for Secret Ceremonies which I mentioned in my last post, I discovered that Deborah Laake, the author, had committed suicide in 2000, seven years after the book was published. I remembered thinking as I read her book in the aisles of the library where I worked that God would certainly judge the author harshly for revealing the secrets of the temple ceremony. I mentally consigned her to the telestial kingdom and wondered how she could be so foolish. The leadership of the church seemed to agree with me: she was predictably excommunicated.

Now I see her with much more understanding and nuance. Terry Greene Sterling wrote a piece for Salon depicting Deborah Laake, her colleague from the Phoenix News Times, as a haunted woman who battled with a depression which eventually took her life. Perhaps the Mormon church doesn’t deserve the full blame for her painful life, but I don’t doubt that it exacerbated her problems. That the leadership of the church wouldn’t allow her to eulogize her mother or sit with her family in the front of the church during her funeral (and that her family didn’t insist therefore on holding the funeral elsewhere) is a familiar refrain.

Her book may be skewed—I haven’t read much of the book in a long time—but I think it represents her honest experience of the church. It belies the myth that the Mormon church is a universal good. The church leaders taught and followed precepts which degraded human dignity. They may have thought that they were helping her, but they where blinded by cultural prejudices which prevented them from loving her and find a way to help her. They put survival of the church above the welfare of this human being. I can’t help but wonder if Deborah Laake would have been better off having never set foot in a Mormon church.

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