Monday, December 15, 2014

Book Review: The Hero's Journey of the Gay and Lesbian Mormon by Carol Lynn Pearson

In The Hero's Journey of the Gay and Lesbian Mormon, with her own unique, yet quintessentially Mormon style, Carol Lynn Pearson expresses the struggle of gay and lesbian Latter-day Saints to find their place in a community that is just beginning to figure out how to welcome and embrace them.  Knowing some of Carol Lynn's history makes her words all the more meaningful.

Drawing heavily on Joseph Campbell's Hero with a Thousand Faces, Carol Lynn uses powerful poetic language to illustrate the steps in this hero's journey and reframe the experiences of gay and lesbian Mormons in a positive, uplifting, and affirming way that eventually has the power to elevate the entire community.  Some may find this very short allegory - I read it completely through twice in less than an hour, taking my time on the second go-around - trite or hokey.  I found it moving and emotionally potent.

So many of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters face isolation, stigmatization, pain, and fear within their own "Tribe."  Despite efforts to ignore, repress, or change this integral part of themselves, as part of this hero's journey they often "continue to feel different and a strong force pulls them] to the new path."  Fellow Tribe members don't always know how to act and their reactions hurt deeply sometimes:
Some members of the Tribe send you off with an embrace, but many in the Tribe turn away, sad or angry or confused or repulsed.  Even your own family is divided. You can hardly bear to see the pain on faces that you have loved so dearly.
"You are giving up your eternal exaltation!" says your father.
"Leave, before you pollute my children!" cries your sister.
Your mother holds you tight and says, "I don't understand, my child. But I believe in you. Believe in yourself."...
As you go to pack your knapsack with a few precious things, one of the Elders quietly approaches you and says, "You are not the first. We have lost too many like you. There are many great and important things that we have yet to understand. Please help us." He gives you an embrace and you set off on your journey.
Carol Lynn also uses the imagery of our common pioneer history as Mormons: "Your ancestors set out for a new land.  They sailed oceans, and then step by step they traveled plains. They were reviled, but they pressed on to create a new life. The talisman of their blood is within you. Their courage can be your guide. And you have been assured since you were small that the Spirit of God abandons no one."

The path requires faith and courage and great reservoirs of strength. And eventually, a return to the original Tribe to share the lessons learned.  "No learning is for yourself alone.  It is for all."  The allegory also includes assurance that everyone's journey is his or her own and finding the answers is a personal experience that allows for individual variation. "You have all traveled much the same terrain, but you have arrived at different points with different experiences and different decisions."

The ultimate answer, the goal of the journey - the Elixir - is, of course, Love.

While this short book is written directly to gay and lesbian Mormons - the use of the second person "you" throughout makes that clear - it is also carries pointed lessons for the rest of us.

We have lost too many.

There are many great and important things that we have yet to understand.

We need to acknowledge and understand the sacrifices that are asked of our brothers and sisters and do what we can to embrace them whole-heartedly with love and support.  The Hero's Journey of the Gay and Lesbian Mormon outlines their noble and difficult journey, but not all the work is theirs to do. We must do our part, as well.

The Hero's Journey of the Gay and Lesbian Mormon
by Carol Lynn Pearson
ISBN: 9780963885272
Buy it from Amazon here: (ebook)
Look it up on Goodreads.
Check it out at your local library (find the nearest one here).

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