Two recently published books written by Mormons have received extremely negative reviews. One book was savaged on the bloggernacle and on amazon.com; the other pissed off Church authorities and they guillotined the author, who is now an ex-Mormon. Ironically, the former is likely to do more damage to the Church than the latter. (Alert: I have not read either book and have no desire to.)
The Not Even Once Club, written by Wendy Watson Nelson, wife of apostle Russell M. Watson, is a book for very young children about a boy who desires to join a select Mormon club. He is offered rewards (eg. junk food) in exchange for never breaking the WoW, lying, cheating, doing drugs, intentionally watching pornography, bullying, dressing immodestly, or breaking the law of chastity. Critics complain that the book is long on absolutes and punishment, and short on teaching unconditional love, forgiveness and the Atonement. And that the intended audience for the book is way too young for a discussion of pornography and chastity.
The book received scathing reviews on amazon.com, with many of the reviewers purporting to be Mormons. Out of a possible 5 stars, the book averaged a mere 1.4 stars, with one reviewer complaining that if he had been given the option, he would have given it no stars. Sixty-six out of 75 raters gave the book one star. Kristy Straubhaar, in her amazon review, wrote the following:
As an LDS clinical psychologist I strongly recommend you steer your children away from this book. This teaches children all the wrong messages from authority figures whose time would be better spent teaching them about unconditional love and forgiveness.
The book is allegedly so bad that LDS blogger Edward Jones is spearheading a petition drive to have Deseret Book, the publisher, remove it from shelves and inventory. This snafu may be the biggest wacky event since the infamous “testimony glove.” Does Deseret even have an oversight board? Do they even have publishing standards?
Passing the Heavenly Gift, written by Mormon convert Denver C. Snuffer Jr., is a book (for adults) that alleges that the Church has been in an expanding state of apostasy ever since leaving Nauvoo. (Obviously it was not published by Deseret Book.) The author claims that the church founded by Joseph Smith bears little resemblance to today’s Mormonism. He further alleges that every Mormon prophet since Smith has yielded to social, political, and legal pressures so as to better accommodate American society. According to Snuffer’s Stake President, the “book’s thesis is in direct conflict with church doctrine.”
Church officials requested that Snuffer pull the book from publication and quit his speaking tour. When the author declined their request, he was summoned to an ecclesiastical court. Because his family wasn’t allowed to attend, Snuffer chose not to join in the proceedings. In abstentia, he was excommunicated. Ironically, he was axed 40 years–to the day–after his baptism.
On amazon.com, his book received generally favorable reviews, averaging 4.2 out of 5 possible stars, with 22 raters. While most of the things that seem to interest Snuffer, don’t interest me in the slightest, his premise that the Church has changed dramatically over the years is certainly true. I guess you can argue about whether the change has been good or bad.
In any case, I do have serious doubts that whatever Snuffer wrote justified excommunication. But again that was not my decision. The LDS Church would have been better off to ignore the book.