Lance's Reviews > The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance: A Memoir

The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance by Elna Baker
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's review
Nov 30, 2011

did not like it
Read in July, 2011

I'm not sure whether I want to refer to the author as Elna or Sister Baker. On the one hand, referring to her as Elna creates a feeling of familiarity and informality, which in some respects I don't want because we should not be too informal in our treatment of the ideas embodied in this book. On the other hand, if I refer to the author as Sister Baker I could unintentionally create the feeling that the author's actions in the book are representative of young people in the Church, and my own experience doesn't agree all that much with hers.

I certainly don't agree with how she communicates Church doctrine and belief. She seems to have taken it upon herself to explain the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to all of her friends of other faiths. Okay, that's great. More Latter Day Saints need to be more vocal about the beliefs of the Church. In fact, the Church did a survey back in 2009 and found that, while the LDS church is the fourth largest religion in the United States, less than 25% of all Americans actually know anything about what Latter Day Saints believe. That's an incredible statistic. So if the author wants to be a more vocal member missionary, there is a lot of justification for moving in that direction.

But when I look at how she explains the doctrines and practices of the Church, her explanations and descriptions are all skewed. I won't say that they are completely false because there is some truth to what she says. But they are not completely true either. For example, the vast majority of her explanations of belief are based in the physical body. We Latter Day Saints don't do what we do because of our beliefs about the physical body. We do what we do because we have made covenants with God that we want to keep. She completely misses that covenant angle, and it is at the core of what drives truly committed Latter Day Saints to be committed.

And this author is anything but committed to her religion. Hence her constant descriptions of feeling torn between two different directions. Of course she feels torn if she has one foot in Zion and the other in the world. One moment she is describing her struggles to search after spirituality, then the next we see her blatant use of profanity and avid descriptions of her experiences violating the law of chastity. Why someone like that would be the ideal spokesperson for the faith escapes me.

And yet this is where I am torn because I couldn't agree more with her descriptions and condemnation of the subculture within the faith. Yet even in these parts I could not escape the irony. Here was someone criticizing another member of the faith for acting inconsistent with her covenant beliefs, and yet she herself cannot distinguish the culture from the covenant!

From early on the book I could sense that the author was not truly converted to the faith, yet I continued reading because of the hope that she would become converted, that something would happen that would cause her to ask herself what she really truly believes and that the answer would be commitment to the faith. I never found that. Right to the very end I kept hoping and was horribly disappointed to see that in the end she was much too in love with the world and its ways to ever let go of it completely. She feared that by letting go of the world she would not be able to say "Yes" to as many things, that her life would become smaller by surrendering herself to God. And that's the great secret that her skewed vision and inability to focus on the covenant could never reveal to her. By surrendering oneself to God, life becomes much, much bigger.

I will give this book an extra star because, despite the inaccurate and misleading portrayals of Church doctrine combined with the more accurate and yet in some ways still misleading descriptions of the subculture within the Church, the book is very beautifully written. The author clearly has talent. As a reader, I was anxious to keep reading right to the very end, and such a quality is a hallmark of good prose. Yet I was disgusted to see at the end that, when all was said and done, the author was just another member of the Lost Generation. If you have a specific reason for reading this book, such as performing research for a subject treated in the book, it might offers flashes of insight. But even under those circumstances, I can't really recommend this book. There is so much more wrong with it than there is right.
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