Book review: Confessions of Joanna, or towards a Mormonism Lite

By Ralph C. Hancock

For the Deseret News

Published: Thursday, April 5 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT

Beneath the bluster, however, the reader can perceive in Brooks' autobiographical account moments of self-doubt and thus of openness to a truth above her own passionate political commitments. The teachings of Brooks' parents have not lost all their force. What stands in her way of a commitment to the teachings of her childhood is an unshakeable faith in "liberalism" and "feminism" in the radical forms in which these are now understood by her generation. From her early days at BYU, Brooks has been powerfully attracted by the possibility of a Mormonism that would be fully compatible with a practically limitless application of the idea of equality or non-discrimination. She has hoped that the statement "all are alike unto God" might become by itself the touchstone of all religious and political truth, thus making it possible to avoid the choice between, on the one hand, accepting the Lord's invitation "to come unto him and partake of his goodness" and, on the other, embracing a limitless "tolerance" that shades into relativism.

In a recent interview in which her charm, generosity and winning sense of humor were fully in evidence, Joanna Brooks acknowledged, with some sadness in her voice, that she had not embraced the full blessings of the gospel to which we gain access through temple ordinances.

"But life is long — who knows?" she added, poignantly.

Let us wish her a long life.

Ralph C. Hancock (Ph.D., Harvard) is professor of political science at Brigham Young University, where he teaches the history of political philosophy as well as contemporary political theory. He is also the president of the John Adams Center for the Study of Faith, Philosophy and Public Affairs. His most recent book is "The Responsibility of Reason: Theory and Practice in a Liberal-Democratic Age."

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