Friday, September 10, 2010

Are Mormons so Different?

Reviewed by Phee Paradise

For Time and Eternity
By Allison Pittman

For Time and Eternity belongs to the new genre I call “intriguing alternate Christianity.” This one is about Mormonism in its early years. It’s the second I’ve read about polygamy and it treats this strange lifestyle very well. It’s the story of a young girl who marries a Mormon man without understanding how that will change her life. She tells her story in first person and it’s full of her love for her husband and children, as well as her growing faith. Her doubts about Mormonism, her faith in the God of traditional Christianity and her husband’s decision to marry a second wife all mesh together to create a fascinating story.

Seen through Camilla’s eyes, Nathan Fox is charming, upright and a wonderful father and husband. But he has one need she can’t meet. He embraces the Mormon faith and wants to be accepted into the inner circle of leaders of the religion. This means he eventually has to have more than one wife. He assures her he will always love her, but she doesn’t see how he can love someone else as well. Camilla faces this as the end of her marriage, but doesn’t see how she can leave him. As events move forward without her control, she turns to the Bible and the faith she learned as a child. God sustains her and helps her in surprising ways.

Camilla, Nathan and the other characters in the book could be my neighbors and friends. Pittman brings them to life through Camilla’s honest and sympathetic voice. The story is gripping and I had a hard time putting it down. I ached for her, but didn’t see any way out of her dilemma. The solution surprised me, but was appropriate to her place and time – and left me anxiously waiting for the next book in the series.

Pros: A moving love story with strong characters who find themselves with a seemingly impossible problem. God’s love is a strong, but subtle theme.

Cons: The ending is a cliff hanger that might frustrate you.

post signature


Seth R. said...

Sorry to butt in here.

But it needs to be noted that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints (LDS) is the largest faction of the religions that originated with Joseph Smith in the mid 1800s. The LDS faction is the one that crossed the plains to Utah under Brigham Young, is the most numerous, and is the branch most commonly identified worldwide with the name "Mormon."

This church has not practiced polygamy in over 100 years and does not tolerate the practice of polygamy today. If you try to practice it, you will be excommunicated - period.

So this article is misleading. It makes it sound like "Mormons" still practice polygamy (and require it for top leadership), even though the hands-down largest and most influential faction of Mormons does not practice polygamy and in fact, opposes the practice of it.

There are smaller splinter factions of Mormonism that practice polygamy - such as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints (or FLDS). Those were the guys on the Texas compound who got raided a while back, and who provide most of the media headlines. But they are NOT the LDS Church.

It would be like blaming the Lutherans for what the Southern Baptists are doing. Two different religious groups who share similar origins, but that is all.

You need to make it more clear who you are talking about here.

The VAST majority of Mormons do not practice polygamy, and do not even know anyone who does.

Phee Paradise said...

Hi Seth,

Thank you for clarifying the history of the LDS. Although my review stated that the story is set in the early years of Mormonism, perhaps I did not make that clear enough.

The story takes place shortly after Brigham Young led his followers to Utah, and, according to the book, the church encouraged polygamy at that time. Because of the setting, no mention is made of later doctrines that forbid it.

The author explores the difficult situation through the eyes of one woman who faced it. Through several characters she lets us see how a woman might respond to polygamy. I didn't read a condemnation of the LDS in the book, but she did expose some differences in the doctrines of the Mormon church at that time and the doctrines of traditional Christianity.

Seth R. said...

Oh, OK then. Sorry for missing that detail. Thank you.

If you are interested, someone did a podcast with Janet Bennion - one of the foremost anthropologists on American polygamy - about one of the breakaway factions I mentioned that still practice polygamy. Here is the link for anyone who is interested:

Interviewer is a bit awkward at times (being an amateur and all), but the guest was well worth the listen. Fascinating interview about a little-known corner of American life.