Jana Riess tips us off to an interesting finding in the much-discussed tome, American Grace. She tells us that Mormons are the third-most-hated religious group in America. She sums up the findings: “Mormons like everyone else, while almost everyone else dislikes Mormons.”
But Jana doesn’t stop there. She goes on to chide her co-religionists to change. For one thing, she has already asked the church to change its stance on homosexuality. Now she goes further:
it would help if we stopped regarding ourselves as the finest people on the planet. We ought to take a long, hard look at the fact that we voted our own group tops in this research. It’s one thing to be proud of our religious group and its teachings, but it’s another thing entirely to communicate, as many Mormons seem to, that we feel we have a monopoly on religious truth and strong families. A dose of humility is in order here.
However valid Krakauer’s linkage of past and present, it steepens an already formidable storytelling challenge. The contemporary parts of the book -skipping from the Lafferty case to sketches of two fundamentalist towns to a late-breaking chapter on Elizabeth Smart — can themselves disorient the reader with disparate detail. (From a strictly literary standpoint, polygamy’s main downside is its creation of lots of characters with the same last name.) With long historical sections mixed in, the momentum dissipates further. Almost every section of the book is fascinating in its own right, and together the chapters make a rich picture, but there is little narrative synergy among them.