Why I Am a Mormon (Book Review)

Why I Am a Mormon: My Explanation by Alan Cotton

I checked this book out of Amazon’s Kindle library because (1) if I didn’t check out a new book by the end of the month, I’d lose out on my free checkout opportunity and (2) the excerpt I had downloaded was reasonably entertaining. The author wrote the book to offer a different perspective from those found in the plethora of ex-Mormon narratives out there. He’s a British guy who converted with his wife and kids 13 years ago:

“[I] got baptized because my wife was, and I did not want to be left behind. I knew that once she had tasted the love and caring offered by the church, what I had would be insignificant. … I arranged to be baptized for all of the wrong reasons, and though I do not suggest that as a method, it worked for me because I wanted what I could see the other members had got. Smiles and happiness, and I want that for you.”

The book is written in a breezy, conversational style. It’s an extremely quick read — unless you’re a stickler for punctuation, in which case you might find your self stopping several times a paragraph to roll your eyes at inappropriate comma usage and fragmented sentences:

“The church asks you for money, it uses this money to help others who are struggling regardless of colour, race, creed or any other badge you may want to stick on anyone. If they are in dire straits they may very easily get help from the church. Be it entire nations or the humble member who has lost his job and can no longer pay his rent. Nobody is too big or too small to ask them for help, and for me, I am happy to be part of an organization that shuns greed and self interest for the greater good. Anyway, an honest tithe is 10%, now you know. As a ‘by the way’ of sorts, if you pay your tithing with a happy and cheerful heart, somehow the karma of the universe, or the grace of God, take your pick, ensures that you will gain other rewards, financial or otherwise. That is what I believe anyway. … I know that the church is run by honest and trustworthy men, every last one. If I gave them my cash it would be used for good causes and not a cent wasted. … The funny things is this, that when I do pay tithing I feel richer for paying it.”

If you want deep discussion of doctrine, this book is NOT for you. It hardly talks about doctrine at all, because doctrine doesn’t seem to be a major motivator for this guy’s staying in the church. (And sometimes when he talks about doctrine or church structure he gets things not quite right, apparently because he just doesn’t pay a lot of attention to those sorts of things.)

Cotton describes himself as among “the tag-along types who try to keep a low profile” who is there in large part because of the social support found in the church — the parties, barbeques, talent nights, campouts and social groups. He likes the church because the people are nice, they support each other, and they’ve helped him to be a better husband and father:

“The Mormons believe that a family is paramount in God’s plan, they believe that the family is the center of your lives. Jobs come and go, but you will never be fired by your family, no family ever laid off its mother to save money for other projects and no family is so worthless that a round of golf is more important. They go farther than that. Part of their core belief is that families should plan to be together forever, that is forever in all eternity. A lovely concept to imagine. … I have found that this church has stuck my family together like glue. The eldest lad became inactive, but he still has what the church call ‘home teachers’ every now and again.”

For Cotton, the Church is about love first and foremost. He tells a touching story of an alcoholic friend who attends his ward. Even though drinking and smoking prevent the friend from being baptized, the ward has become a family for him:

“This guy comes to church every Sunday, even though he has to ‘top himself up’ before he leaves his home and has to go outside of the church grounds between every lesson for a cigarette. He know that he is a slave to his addiction, it has put him in the hospital, and on several occasions, an ambulance has been called out as he has had seizures and collapses to the ground. … It pains me to say this, he will die from what he is doing to himself, but he comes to church, and this has two points in itself, firstly, he knows that it is a good place to come, it has become the high spot of his week, and secondly, at no time has anyone judged him, despite the fact that he will turn up in his dirty cloths [sic] and smelling of smoke and drink. He is accepted as a brother who is struggling with addiction. This acceptance is what he has told me he likes. It helps him to feel OK about himself, while others in his life are not so forgiving.”

I don’t know if all wards are this accepting, but certainly Cotton’s ward has lots of members who understand the true meaning of Christian love.

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