Abby's Reviews > Leaving the Saints: How I Lost the Mormons and Found My Faith

Leaving the Saints by Martha N. Beck
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's review
Nov 08, 2011

did not like it
bookshelves: currently-reading
Read from November 02 to 08, 2011

I’m a little miffed at this author. This is Hugh Nibley’s daughter (the famous Mormon scholar and apologist) who accused him of sexual abuse, left the LDS church and now is a lesbian somewhere. I’m mad, because the first half of the book she really had me going. I couldn’t imagine that she would make something so bizarre and awful up as what she was telling, and as she told her story of going from a faithful Mormon BYU professor to apostate spiritual guru I even found that I identified with her in some ways. I thought she was being pretty honest, from the descriptions of how nice Mormons are to explanations of how boring our meetings can be. (Which is an example of one of the unflattering things that I had to agree with her on – I’ve been to other churches with paid clergy and they are way, WAY more interesting and fun than listening to the new family from down the street with an inherited fear of public speaking read stories from the New Era for 45 minutes.)

She talked about her wedding day in the Provo Temple, and I had to be honest with myself and agree with her about a lot of her feelings on that day. And truthfully, the Mormon community does have really high standards that everyone shoots for and falls short of, like she said. And she’s right that the average Mormon can’t tell you a lot of basic things, like where the Pearl of Great Price came from or the story behind it. She was right on a lot of things, and I could empathize and even go along with her story. And her dad, Hugh Nibley – honestly, I was introduced to his writings as a freshman at BYU by two guys in my ward who worshipped him. One of these guys was arrested a year or so ago (he was married, still active LDS and going to law school in Illinois) for coming out to Utah to meet a 14 (15?) year old girl for sex. He was 28. The other served a mission in Korea, married a Korean girl from his mission, had a rocky five year marriage to her with at least a couple visits from police at his home, ending in a divorce. He was dating a 19 year old boy the last I heard of him. So yeah, I could even buy into Hugh Nibley being a closet weirdo because the two guys I most closely associated him with were also closet weirdoes.

BUT DANG IT. She is full of crud. Her story sounded fishy here and there, and then by the final ¼ of the book she turned into a lunatic. I don’t believe 90% of what she said, which makes me way, WAY more reluctant to believe any of her ‘recovered memories” of child abuse. I kept thinking, “Wow, BYU was sure different when she was there than when I went.” But then I realized that she left BYU in 1993. I started there the fall of 1999. There’s no way it changed so much in 6 years. She’s just full of it.

I will give you a few examples of her crazy, unbelievable stories. There are so many of them. Perhaps one or two was true, maybe some are partially true – but anyone who is Mormon, has lived in Utah or gone to BYU will raise their eyebrows in a most dramatic and annoyed manner because these are just not real.

- She went to get her hair cut short. The hair dresser saw her wedding ring and got the manager, who came and demanded she call her husband to get his permission for the cut.
- A female friend complained to her Bishop that the way the church was set up made her feel like a second class citizen as a woman. The Bishop shook his head and said, “But you see, you ARE a second class citizen.”
- The LDS church started tapping her home phone calls, and the phone repairman came out and told her that her phone wires had been crossed with the local chapel so that they could listen in to their private conversations.
- A colleague of hers was in a panic because he was counseling a young woman who had been molested by someone high up in the church and he was told to diagnose her as (schizophrenic? - something like that) and drug her up and institutionalize her, when he thought she was telling the truth and wanted to help her. They threatened his job if he didn’t do it.
- She moderated a panel on sexual abuse at a Women’s Conference at BYU (that was true, everything else was false – including the identities of the panelists and what they said – which is easily verified and confuses me as to why she would have included it) where she claimed a doctor agreed to speak because he was concerned that 1/3 of the women in his Utah clinic were showing up having been sexually abused. A “midlevel church leader” (who didn't actually exist) said to the large crowd that in every molestation case there are two parties participating and both must accept responsibility for their part of the behavior. Of course, no one actually said that on the panel, and if they had there would have been a riot and he would have been booed off the stage. That goes against everything and anything the church has ever taught about abuse. I'm not so dumb I believe that was said.
- After she and her husband left the church a woman showed up at their door and said to her almost 8 year old daughter, “We’re having a party at the church. There will be balloons, and cake, and friends. Lots of friends. It’s called a Baptism Party, and you can get baptized. Do you want to come to our party? It will be so fun!”
- A returned missionary in her BYU class stood up and said to her, “I hold the priesthood, so I will ALWAYS know better than you.” The entire class “nodded sagely in agreement”. I can’t imagine people not throwing their shoes at that guy, let alone agreeing with him.
- She went to the BYU library and found that every reference to an outspoken Mormon feminist had been completely erased from the microfilms. (I read another detailed review of this book where the author went and looked up this woman and found tons of material in the BYU library, all there since the day it happened and none of it mysteriously vanished. (
- She claims to have gotten threatening notes and letters saying things like “You’ve gone too far. You are the antichrist”. She was terrified for her life. Seriously?
- She would make statements like “Mormon women are reprimanded for working out of the home or consuming caffeine.” Hello? She was working at BYU, employed by the church! And I have never in my life seen someone reprimanded for drinking caffeine, even at a church event. She’s being ridiculous.
- She had a therapist whose giant dog would climb on her lap during sessions, and who would interrupt her sentences to make or take phone calls, like when the author said “I’m having a really rough time. I’m doing worse than ever” and the therapist would say, “Don’t worry about it, you’re much better already. Hang on, I have to call these idiots at Paramount.” And then would make a phone call about a movie right in front of her. Really? She was that bad and yet you kept going to her over and over again for more help, and brought your siblings to see her with you as well?
- When her stake president visits and she says she has questions about why the church is shutting down anyone with questions he puts his fingers in his ears and sings “I can’t hear you! I can’t hear you! I can’t hear you!” What?
- When she called any close personal Mormon friends and told them that she was starting to have flashbacks of abuse from her father, her friends all said instantly “You can’t tell anyone this. It would hurt their testimonies. It’s your calling in this life to be completely silent about this so that it won’t hurt the church.” One ex-Mormon friend said, “They (the Mormon church) are going to kill you.” The Mormon church became the secret police in her mind, with colleagues afraid to talk to each other at BYU for fear of being told on, excommunicated and careers ruined.
- She said that “The Brethren” were pulling in tighter and tighter reins on the BYU professors and would not allow them to research anything that would put the church in a bad light, true or not. That didn’t jive with an article I came across recently about a BYU professor who did a study on homosexuality and concluded from his research it is biologically based. That goes completely against what President Packer said in General Conference. I should check. Did the Mormon hit men get him yet? (Here’s that article: (**)
- Not only does BYU censor everything, but she says that Mormons are discouraged from reading anything about the church that isn't approved by their official panel (The Correlation Committee). Well, having never actually received an approved reading list from my Bishop I can’t be certain, but I don’t THINK this book would have be on the list. Nobody said I wasn’t allowed to read it. I am a pro gay marriage Mormon, which puts me pretty far out there in a lot in that regard, and I have had leanings towards that for several years. I have yet to be called in and reprimanded. So weird.
- Oh yeah – she also talks about the “Danites”, the guys who the Mormon church still has around to go do their dirty work – like how Porter Rockwell would protect and defend Joseph Smith to the death. It's as if the LDS church is the Mafia, and they aren’t about to let you out of their scary cult if you are a threat to them in any way.
- When she was a child in Provo, Utah her teachers pulled her aside and told her specifically not to play with the non-Mormon children. She got away with having a best friend who was Catholic only because of her lineage.

There were just so many of these things – I know I’ve missed some crazy ones. She also talked about trying so hard to be the perfect Mormon. She baked her own bread from scratch, she canned food, she mended clothes, ironed, cleaned, cooked, etc… Problematically, none of these things have anything at all to do with being Mormon. She then let it drop casually that while she was trying so hard to live her religion perfectly she had never really been great at attending all three hours of church on Sunday. Anyone familiar with Mormonism at all would know that the basis of someone’s activity in the church has way more to do with going to your Mormon church meetings on Sundays than baking your own bread from scratch. No one knows who bakes their bread. Everyone knows who does or doesn’t come to church on Sundays. Oh, hell. It's so dumb.

Finally, she is riddled with mental illness. She was depressed, anorexic, suicidal, cut her arms, was an insomniac, suffered from nightmares, and did crazy things – like go outside in the middle of the night during winter to climb a tree in her backyard and hack it with an axe for a few hours until she felt better. At first her craziness made me more likely to believe that she had been abused as a child – few people are as nuts as her without some cause, right? But by the time I realized she was making up pretty much everything in her entire book, I thought of it in reverse- she’s saying these crazy weird things happened to her because she is crazy and weird.

So Martha Beck, yeesh. Be Mormon. Don’t be Mormon. I don’t care. It was interesting learning about how you made the decision to no longer be part of the church you were raised in, and if it hadn’t been so full of made up crap I would have enjoyed it much more. My final opinion is that she’s made up the abuse. Even if she believes it in her head, I think she made it up. I will never know. I just don’t care anymore, though. I’m mad at her for lying to me and dragging me through a whole book before I realized she was nuts.

PS. Nobody likes her! Affirmation – a group for gay Mormons had an article about her and her then husband John that says “In their book Breaking the Cycle of Compulsive Behavior, LDS authors Martha and John C. Beck lumped homosexuality together with alcoholism and drug abuse as “addictions” or misguided compulsive behavior that must be overcome. Since then, the couple have divorced, left the LDS Church, and come out as gay.” She’s just full of inconsistencies. Her ex-husband also says he never saw the threats that she says she received, and all of her seven siblings (some who are also no longer members of the LDS church) say she’s full of it. They lived in a teeny house with ten people, and even the ability of her father to find the private time and space to perform these elaborate abuse rituals on her would be nearly impossible. No one close to her supports her story. Everyone knows she is wacked out. Now I’m in that group too, finally.
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Comments (showing 1-11 of 11) (11 new)

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message 1: by Jeannie (new)

Jeannie What prompted you to read this? How is she related to Julie Beck? I just read the review that includes the Amazon review written by her ex-husband. Let me know how it goes for you. Having grown up here in the South with lots of unfounded prejudice against the Church, I would be interested in knowing how this affects you.For now, because of my own experiences with prejudice against
the Church, I'll just stick with the reviews.

message 2: by Abby (last edited Nov 03, 2011 06:30AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Abby This book was next to Carolyn Jessup's books on the library shelf ("Escape" and "Triumph" - the second of which I'm reading right now, too). I'd heard that Hugh Nibley had a daughter who accused him of sexual molestation, left the church, came out as a lesbian, etc, and so when I saw it I picked it up to see what she had to say. It looked interesting and well written (the content seems to be extremely questionable, though), so I checked it out. I'm about 3/4 of the way through it, and it's hard to put down. If everything she says is 100% true, it's a horrifying story and I can kind of understand her actions. If she's making it completely or partially up, or it's part of her mental illness, it's a tragic shame.

No matter what, it's actually been really interesting to read. And I don't know how she is related to Julie Beck. Is she? Her ex-husband's last name is where the Beck came from, so if they are related they are (were) in-laws. Her husband also left the church, but on much more amiable conditions if I understand right. I need to finish her book. Then I'll have a better idea.

message 3: by Jeannie (new)

Jeannie When you are finished, you might want to take a look at the reviews. Matt Evans' and Beth Pearson's were particularly good. Matt includes the review by her husband. I read all of the reviews on the first page then had to call it quits. There are something like 53 pages of ratings and reviews. Whether she's telling the truth or not, at least she writes well and has people talking and thinking.

I guess what I don't like, whether it is true or not, is that she went public with it. When I was a young school teacher and a VERY young YW president I became acquainted with sexual abuse in and out of the Church. In both cases the girls wanted to keep it private for their own protection, the protection of their families, and the protection of others who knew and admired the accused. Those young ones, even in the midst of their pain, were able to think of the far reaching affects of their accusations.So things were handled as privately as possible until both men made it impossible to keep private. Both families were prominent families--one in my own ward an the other in their own church. And neither girl blamed her respective church. They understood individual agency and choices. Both understandably did struggle with faith issues for a number of years, but now in their early forties they are both strong in their respective faiths and are amazing mothers.

I just think it is really selfish to destroy the lives of others in an effort to gain a cathartic relief. Let me know what conclusion you come to.

message 4: by Abby (last edited Nov 03, 2011 10:12AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Abby To the credit of the author, if things happened the way she says they did, she talked to her mother after her flashbacks began and her mother agreed with her that the abuse had happened. A few days later she denied that they'd ever had that conversation. Whether her mom was telling the truth or not, the author says she didn't have intentions of making anything public, but that her mom began a phone campaign calling everyone they knew to tell them that Martha had gone crazy and started accusing her father of abuse.

If that IS true, and Martha Beck's mother did spread the word to everyone they knew that Martha was crazy before she said anything herself, then she isn't guilty of initially trying to publicize or sensationalize what happened to her (whether it really happened or it was just in her head).

I have absolutely no idea what is true and what isn't with this situation.

message 5: by Jeannie (new)

Jeannie I don't think anyone can ever really know what is true in situations like this. The best we can do when a situation is this public and brings this much negative attention to the Church is try to discern with the Spirit and gently correct the things that we know for sure aren't true--like some of her representations of the Church in general. It's all a tough call. Trying to handle it as we think the Savior would is the most we can do. That's why I liked Beth's review so much. She was honest but didn't tread too heavily.

From what I've seen in the reviews, however, Ms. Beck makes some pretty wild claims about the Church and BYU. I was there when Sonjia Johnson was creating havoc. (I'm 52 now, with 2 children out there.) Nothing was hidden from us and we discussed the situation openly on campus and in our wards. I was watching General Conference when Sonja and her companions shouted their opposing votes against President Kimball during the sustaining of the General Authorities. It was a heartbreaking scene--not for the Prophet, but for what those women had just done to themselves in front of the entire world. They weren't strong enough to disrupt the Spirit for more than a fraction of a moment, but it still made us all cry. If I remember correctly, it was Elder Bruce R. McKonkie who went out to meet with them. Then Conference went forward as usual. President Kimball handled it all with his usual tenderness and dignity. It made us love him even more. I cannot believe that BYU would censor Ms. Jonson's drama when so many of us watched it play out for weeks on national television. I can't believe that they would censor anything other than those things that just shouldn't be there. I was an English major and that department was full of young rebels trying to find their ways. And from what I hear, it still is. That department alone is proof that there is no censorship at BYU. It is where I learned to choose well--because the choices were never denied us.

But the real issue here for all of us to remember is what the Prophet Joseph said in the preface to the Articles of Faith: "The Standard of Truth has been erected. No unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing [whether that unhallowed hand is a prominent member who appears to have gotten away with something or a bearer of falsehoods trying to cover their own tracks]...the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, independent...till the purposes of God shall be accomplished , and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done."

In the end, that's all that really matters because God will tend to situations like this. He will wipe all of the tears away and mend the broken hearts and spirits. We just have to ask ourselves whether we are helping the work move forward or getting left behind as it moves without us. Situations and books like this one give us the opportunity to look inside of ourselves and find out where we need to improve. (I need more patience with people who air their private lives and/or spread falsehoods in the public arena...along with so many other things...)

I just hope that if she and/or Brother Nibley have lied that it is due to mental illness so that their accountability is significantly reduced.

message 6: by Jeannie (last edited Nov 03, 2011 06:55PM) (new)

Jeannie Abby, My husband corrected me on the Conference thing. He remembers it well, too (better than I do, apparently). There was pain in his face as he remembered their shouting in opposition. He said, "Poor President Romney [he was conducting and he was so old and beginning to be frail]. He was so flustered and it was good that Elder McKonkie stepped up to the podium and said,'Those opposed may meet with me at (he then named the place) after the meeting.'" Then it was over and Conference continued. Wouldn't it be nice if everything was that easy?

On a lighter note, those of us who are old enough to remember these great men still enjoy quoting them and trying to match the tone and inflections of their voices. My husband still does a pretty good Elder McKonkie imitation. :)

message 7: by Abby (new) - rated it 1 star

Abby So, I started getting towards the end of this book last night and this morning, and while I had been feeling compassion and understanding for her feelings until this point, she's started to go off the deep end and suddenly she's sounding nuts. Like saying in Provo she wasn't allowed to get a haircut without them asking her to call her husband for permission. Or that the Mormons have henchmen that will come after you and kill you if you talk bad about the church.

She should have stopped while she was ahead. Now she sounds like a nutcase to me.

I had never heard of Sonjia Johnson until this book. The author said that every single reference or news article about her had been cut out and erased from the BYU library materials. That sounds totally different from what you said, but I can admit it's possible some nutty library aid decided to order them all removed. It's possible that some of the crazy things she said happened, happened. Dumb people are out there. But taken all together, it's starting to seem like too much. This is making me really doubt her stories of abuse, which are on the same lines of crazy as the other things she's bringing up. (And that was one reason I was originally starting to believe they may have happened, because how could she have thought up something so absurd?)

message 8: by Jeannie (new)

Jeannie I picked up on this stuff from the reviews I read. The haircut and henchmen things are waaaay out there. So I imagined that there is more--especially from what people said about the abuse allegations.

Yeah, the Sonjia Johnson thing could be true, but then Ms. Beck and Ms. Johnson are both on the more extreme end of feminism and this could be a way to get people to look up Ms. Johnson's tale of woe. Her big deal was that women don't hold the Priesthood. She chained herself to the gate at Temple Square and finally convinced someone, I think it was her husband, to "ordain her to the Priesthood" right there in front of the temple. Dang, she really didn't have to go to all that trouble and get herself excommunicated. All she had to do was leave our Church and join the Reorganized Church. I have some really close friends down here that I met through Scouting that go to that Church and their women can be ordained if they so wish. Or not. We have enough in common to be really great friends and we just don't discuss the sensitive and sacred issues.

You know, Abby, I had forgotten about both of these women. Now that I'm quite a bit older I can look at it all with less horror and more compassion and pity. No one forces us to believe what we believe and live the life we live. We are free to come and go as we please. My own take is that some people just can't let go and come to terms with their consciences. The last time I visited with our former Stake President before he passed away, he taught me that when we aren't living according to what we know is right and true it will drive us crazy, and to avoid that people will make those who are living and loving well look as bad as possible and really begin to believe the accusations are true. It helps them to not have to deal with their own pain and guilt. Learning this gave me a lot more compassion for people who seem to have to do these things.(Still working on the tolerance--especially when they come after me.)

I may read the book now, but I'm not sure. I have so many already sitting here on my desk. But I'll send the kid to the library to see what she can find on Sonjia Johnson. That is if she isn't too busy with the new, sweet boyfriend. . .

message 9: by Jeannie (new)

Jeannie Abby, you write great reviews! I love your passion and your honesty. And your
research helped move your point forward. You really should consider writing for a career. No, I won't wast my time reading the book. You convinced me. I was going to read it to give it the chance that you did. You nearly had me convinced before you wrote this. Great review! :)

message 10: by Abby (new) - rated it 1 star

Abby She wrote another book about having a baby with down's syndrome and her experience with intense spirituality during her pregnancy with him (that many people at Cambridge University encouraged her to abort). I think she's an interesting author, and her stories about her son Adam totally captivated me during this book. I wanted to read her other book and hear about her pregnancy in more detail, but dang it - I would assume that 90% of everything she says in the book was fiction. I just couldn't swallow it after I know how much she lies. Bleh. You know more than enough about her and her story from reading these reviews, although it was an interesting and thought provoking read in all other ways.

Oh, it's so annoying to have been taken for a ride by her!

message 11: by Jeannie (new)

Jeannie I just finished reading Taggart's review at the Maxwell Institute. Yeah, Martha Beck is nuts. Not only that but I keep thinking,"Can anyone say,"Sold her soul for fame and wealth?'" Just thinking...and I can't think of any other reason for a person to write something so obviously fabricated. Thanks for posting the link to Taggart's review and for telling me not to bother reading Beck's book.

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