One of the most exciting things to witness in the LDS Church is the joy of a new convert. It reignites the spirit and strengthens testimonies. Equally exciting is seeing a member come back after many years of absence. The journey away from and the return to faith is the subject of an autobiography titled "Coming Home: A Mormon's Return to Faith," by Susan N. Swann.
Swann is a former Relief Society president and bishop's daughter who spent 15 years away from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The catalyst for her departure was a stressful marriage and financial difficulties. Swann's world collapsed around her, and she became bitter. She admits falsely thinking life should have been easy because she was making good choices. She explains she made a conscious decision to close herself off from God, denying herself the whisperings of the Spirit.
The author explains that her journey away led her to break temple covenants, but she does not describe any of the thought processes, confusion, justifications and tough choices that led her into temptation. Detailing sin is counterproductive, but it would have been helpful for readers to have a general sense of what Swann dealt with. Two-thirds of the book covers the struggles Swann faced starting a new life, helping her children, working, moving and how much the church she would allow in.
One of the critical factors in Swann's return to the church was her family and friends. Throughout the 15 years she was away, she describes numerous accounts of Mormons showing her love, compassion, service and friendship regardless of her own behavior. Key spiritual events that softened her heart are also present. Swann's detailed memories of the theatrical production of "Light of the World" during the 2002 Winter Olympics was astounding.
The most interesting part of the book is Swann's return to the gospel. She talks about elements that came together to bless her life at the right time. She lists conference talks, inspired thoughts, kind acts and spiritual impressions that made all the difference.
"Coming Home" is produced by a non-LDS publisher, but it remains respectful toward the church. The book would be helpful for someone returning to the church or for those who have loved ones and friends that have left.
Ryan Morgenegg is a multimedia specialist for the Deseret News.