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Leaving the Saints: How I Lost the Mormons and Found My Faith

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  3,713 ratings  ·  449 reviews
As “Mormon royalty” within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Martha Beck was raised in a home frequented by the Church’s high elders in an existence framed by the strictest code of conduct. As an adult, she moved to the east coast, outside of her Mormon enclave for the first time in her life. When her son was born with Down syndrome, Martha and her husband l ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published April 25th 2006 by Broadway Books (first published January 1st 2005)
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Average rating 3.81  · 
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 ·  3,713 ratings  ·  449 reviews

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Jun 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I'm sitting here typing and untyping (that would be known as deleting, I guess), which is what happens when there's something important and true and hard for me to write.

Of all the books I've read about living well after having been violated sexually as a child, this one is best.

Martha Beck and I both come from religious fundamentalist families; we both come from families that were and are highly dysfunctional. She has been branded a liar for remembering what happened to her; I have been called
Sarah (Presto agitato)
Jul 01, 2012 rated it liked it
Recommended to Sarah (Presto agitato) by: Emily
Shelves: religion
In Leaving the Saints: How I Lost the Mormons and Found My Faith, Martha Beck recounts her experiences in the Mormon church. As the daughter of a highly respected Mormon apologist, the Mormon faith played a foundational role in Beck’s life. She left Utah to study at Harvard, then moved back to teach part time at Brigham Young University while completing her doctoral dissertation in sociology. She returned in part because she found the Mormon community to be more accepting of her young son with D ...more
Apr 28, 2009 rated it did not like it
To know, first off: I am a fully active Mormon. Someone suggested I read this book because Martha's experiences reminded this person of my own experiences in the church. We will leave it there. Review follows.

I picked up and put down Leaving the Saints on the same day. I got about 30 pages into it. Here are some of my very limited opinions on the book.

1 - The pursuit of truth (and anything else, really) if not tempered with tolerance, love, and respect is almost worthless. I think, reading fro
Matt Evans
Jul 09, 2008 rated it it was ok
Both stars are for the quality of writing. Martha Beck is a very funny and good writer. I might even add one more star for controversy, as Martha's husband, John, has given her a 1-star Amazon review (and a surprising revelation: they're divorced). As far as anti-Mormon books go, I've read much better. Reading this novel is an exercise in unreliable narration, which may sound like criticism but in my world it's something that I thoroughly enjoy. Anyway. Here's John's review. Caveat Emptor:

Beth Pearson
Apr 05, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This was a tough book to get through...At times I was very sorry I picked it up and started it.

Why did I start it? Because I read and was fascinated with Martha Beck's "Expecting Adam" and even more so after finishing the story and realizing that I actually knew of the parents she speaks of so much in telling the tale of her pregnancy of her 2nd child....A boy known to have Down Syndrome before he was born. I've never forgotten some of the amazing spiritual experiences she recounts in Expecting
May 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I started this book two days ago, and completed it just last night. This book is an amazing story of the daughter of the most prominent Mormon (LDS) apologist, Hugh Nibley. She discusses some of the horrific events of her childhood, her strained relationship with her father, and her tenure as a professor at BYU.

It is important to note that this is not a trashy anti-mormon book, although some LDS members will certainly perceive it that way. It is not an expose of Mormon temple rituals, nor is it
Nov 02, 2011 rated it did not like it
EDITED in 2019:

I read this book years and years and ago. Somehow it's been sitting on my Goodreads bookshelf as never having been finished, and I was just putting it on the "read" bookshelf. It was interesting to read this review again because of that.

In the past 8 years, I've become friends with one of this author's siblings. Like I would have expected, she told me that Martha Beck never talks to any of them, and they all think she's nuts. (My words interpreting her facial expressions, not the
Sep 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This book had a long history for me. Years ago I read Expecting Adam and loved it. A friend I loaned it to was skeptical however, and did some research. In retrospect that must have been about the time Leaving the Saints was hitting the Mormon community like a flaming bag full of poo. There were plenty of people to be found online claiming that Martha Beck was a compulsive liar who'd made up half of the details in a book she explicitly labeled a true story (Expecting Adam), and that much of the ...more
Aug 23, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir
Martha Beck was an atheist-inclined grad student when miraculous happenings during her second pregnancy reawakened her interest in spirituality. After moving back to her hometown of Provo, she embraced her childhood religion in effort to deepen this newfound faith. She writes with lucidity and humor about how she instead discovered the dark side of the Mormon church, including fundamental beliefs that contradict known fact, a culture that stifled intellectual exploration, and a suspected relatio ...more
She's a fun writer--little twists of language and imagery that creates a wonderful voice. She brings up an important topic: child abuse perpetuated by unexpected persons, especially the ostensibly pious. My concern? Unreliable narrator. She stereotypes the Mormon community just as she stereotyped the Harvard community in her previous book --if I remember correctly, almost every Harvard character was intellectually insecure, overly demanding, rather cruel, and a bit out-of-sync with reality. In t ...more
Jan 02, 2009 rated it it was ok
We ran across this book in the bowels of a used book store in New York (Strands) and were surprised to find it was just published in 2005.
Not to be read by the faint of heart or one who has a shakey testimony.
She wants to document that she was abused by her famous father at the age of 5. the family fireworks that followed her acusations were horrendous, with accusations against her also. She claims that her father's footnotes are mostly false (Hugh Nibley). she left the church, her family, and c
Oct 04, 2007 rated it really liked it
This book was not what I expected. I can't say as I entirely followed all the spiritual experiences, but Beck is an excellent writer, and it was a much deeper treatment of Mormon beliefs and culture than in "Secret Ceremonies".

I found out that the author and her husband subsequently divorced and both indicate that they are actually homosexuals. It gets stranger because prior to leaving the Mormon church they authored a book together about how to suppress one's homosexual tendencies.
Feb 02, 2008 rated it did not like it
Fiction. The definition of memoir is consistently debatable. But according to her husband at the time this is probably along the lines of a million little pieces fiction masquerading as memior.
Aug 14, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: J.K. Rowling.
Even though I highly doubt much of the content of this book, I found it extremely entertaining and enjoyable to read. I took a class from her brother-in-law who would occasionally mention this book and how hurtful it had been to him personally. Aside from the main point, of her having been molested by Hugh Nibley as a child, he felt the majority of the books details did not reflect actual events and were unnecessarily hurtful. All of her siblings were interviewed together on public radio, severa ...more
Feb 22, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2005
The author was raised in a strict Mormon home in Provo, Utah, her father one of the church's high authorities. When their son is born with Down syndrome, Martha and her husband leave their graduate programs at Harvard to return to the supportive Mormon community that raised them. The years that follow (which are the years covered by this book) are tumultuous as Martha begins to recognize how the church silences dissidents and begins to confront her own history of sexual abuse by her father. I fo ...more
May 11, 2009 rated it really liked it
I read it about the same time I read John Krakauer's book "Under the Banner of Heaven", so a comparison of the two always stands out in my mind. Under the Banner of Heaven gives us a look at the beginnings of the FLDS (and LDS) church and also some information about some current FLDS sects. But it's written from the perspective of an outsider looking in. This book is written from "an outsider's perspective" who used to be an "insider". I find it sad that the author of this book has undergone mu ...more
Jul 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I really and truly enjoyed this book. It was funny as hell, and I really related to her struggle to leave the faith that she was raised in. I feel like a learned a lot about Mormonism, the good things like the kindness and charity, and the bad things like the cracked out history and the desire to treat women (particularly those who have been abused) like shit. For what it is worth, I believe her stories of sexual abuse wholeheartedly since they are very similar to the stories of many other abuse ...more
Jun 29, 2010 rated it did not like it
Shelves: memoirs
I understand the personal struggle any person can have when wrestling with the challenges of leaving their religion of origin. However, I take issue with calling out the legitimacy of any religion based on the behavior of one or two clergy men.

Additionally, Beck exaggerates the extent in which the L.D.S. church will go to "protect itself" to such an extreme that it is hard to believe any of the other accounts in her story.

This story felt irresponsible and sensational. This is highly problemati
May 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2007
Beck is another gutsy lady who had the courage to stand up for herself and think for herself. Her experience with being ostracized from the Mormon church says more about the church than her. I admire her for speaking out against what she thought was wrong.
May 15, 2010 rated it it was ok
Ok, the author of this book is a totally annoying hippie dippy LOON. I kind of wanted to punch her, more than once. She acts like all Mormons are exactly the same and horrible terrible people who only care about what "The Church" thinks about them. My mother and Aunt ex-communicated themselves from the Mormon church when they were in their early 20s, do my Mormon grandmother and grandfather ignore them and act like they aren't a part of the family? Of course not! My husband ex-communicated himse ...more
May 05, 2016 rated it did not like it
Here we have a woman who - among other things - believed that God communicated with her during her pregnancy, via the Downs syndrome child she was carrying. She claims her father, a famous Mormon apologist, sexually abused her as a child, despite the denial of her eight siblings and both her parents. The memories of abuse came to her through "regression therapy" — previously she had never mentioned it. This is the therapy that lies behind the (false) Satanic Ritual Abuse allegations in the 1980s ...more
May 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
I seem to be reading all of Martha Beck's books now. This one really tests her sense of humor as she describes some horrific childhood memories that resurfaced as she was conducting sociological research at BYU, made even more horrifying by the fact that the Mormon church tried to suppress not just her personal story but her academic work. It's like Communist China up Utah way, strangely, and I learned a lot about the Mormon church, good and bad, from the POV of an apostate. She went through hel ...more
Nov 20, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Mary by: "Not New But Worth a View," at the library
Shelves: memoir
The wonderfully written story of a woman who bravely left the Mormon Church because of many reasons, including sexual abuse. I hadn't realized what a complete package Mormonism is. Since she left it, neither her 7 siblings nor her parents have had any meaningful contact with her. (Maybe saying hi at a funeral.)That must be painful. But she stayed true to her feelings and her truth. Many intellectuals who taught at BYU were told to completely water down their teaching to the point of idiocy. She ...more
Nov 28, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This is a hard book to review. The writing is very good, especially about Beck's spiritual experiences, which may come across to some (which even she acknowledges) as "woo woo," but still read as true. She also is very funny and self-deprecating.

The veracity of her story of being abused as a child has been challenged by her family. I have no idea whether or not it's true, but believe she believes it is. It is horrific and disturbing to read (cost me some hours of sleep one night), and her writi
Jun 24, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoirs, adult
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 26, 2008 rated it really liked it
Having read the thought provoking Under the Banner of Heaven, I was not sure what to expect. But Krakauer is viewing it from outside. Martha Beck's view is from the core and it is very personal. Having left Utah for an academic life in the Ivy League East, we find out why she goes back and what awaits her. At times gut-wrenching, it gives a chilling portrait of what she finds both at BYU and in her personal history. Highly recommended.
Mar 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kindle
I’d like to start this review with reassurances to my Mormon friends and relatives that I did not choose to read this because I have any interest in trying to discredit your faith. Rather, I chose to read it as one of many stories of spiritual journeys. These have included Mary Karr’s journey through alcoholism to Christianity, Sara Miles’ journey from atheist to Christian, Lauren Winner’s journey from orthodox Judaism to Christianity and later, through divorce and doubt and back to faith, and R ...more
Tamara York
Jul 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Having lived in “Happy Valley” (Orem/Provo, UT), with a Mormon ex as a Non-Mormon, I found this book very interesting. The details of the LDS Church, it’s formation, beliefs, history, and structure are so bizarre. The more you learn and the digger you dig, the weirder it gets. Yet, I found the LDS people to be super nice, like living in a Disney movie. The author manages to share her experience and detachment from the Mormon faith while still maintaining a love for LDS people. This is not a bitt ...more
May 12, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: audiobooks
Leaving the Saints included many facts regarding Mormonism and was helpful as I study more about this religion to understand the ins and outs of it's beliefs and believers. However, I would not recommend this book strictly on this merit alone due to the author's strong New Age beliefs as this overwhelmingly flavors the book.
Mar 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I'm sure this was situational, but I thought this book was a marvel. I was visiting Salt Lake City for the first time, staying not two blocks from the Mormon church headquarters (incl Temple Square) while I attended a conference at the convention center. For whatever reasons, I felt like the air was thick with... *something* that made me feel vaguely yet definitely uncomfortable, and QUESTIONS kept arising to interrupt my conversations with my husband, who had lived there for two years while stu ...more
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I grew up wanting to be an ecologist or a professor. However, after bearing three children while acquiring three Harvard degrees, I decided I’d rather just lie down for a few decades. During that time I became an author and life coach. My books include Expecting Adam, Leaving the Saints, Finding Your Own North Star, The Joy Diet, Steering By Starlight, Finding Your Way in Wild New World, and The M ...more

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There's something great about a paperback book: They're perfect book club choices, you can throw them in your bag and go, and they've been out in...
27 likes · 5 comments
“Silence comes in two varieties: One that nourishes and comforts; another that chokes, smothers, and isolates. Solitary confinement is the worst kind of imprisonment we can inflict on fellow humans, and if you are forced to keep silent about some dark secret, you live in solitary confinement. Without the bridge of communication connecting you to other human beings, you can’t share your burdens, can’t receive comfort, can’t confirm that you still belong. Silence is the abyss that separates you from hope.” 9 likes
“Memory…is not the mechanical recording device people often think it is. Memory is anything but constant, anything but indubitable. It shifts and fades, blooms and dies, steps out for a cigarette and blows tendrils of information and emotion back under the door.” 7 likes
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