Book Review: I was a Born-Again Mormon

McCraney, Shawn A. I was a Born-Again Mormon: Moving Toward Christian Authenticity. 2nd Printing (Edition). Alathea Press. 2007.

I enjoyed reading this book, despite several obvious deficiencies. At first glance, the book has several distracting elements: spelling errors, incorrectly used words, gramatical errors, constant idioms, and unrealistically simplified analogies. These shortcomings make the reader constantly aware that the book is amateur at best. Page margins are wonky, the chapters are unnumbered and grouped in “Sections,” there’s no table of contents or index, and I’m told that the first edition didn’t even have page numbers.
In the book, the author describes his personal religious journey – he was an active member of the LDS church, serving in various capacities including serving a full-time mission, Seminary teacher, Bishop’s Counselor, and Young Men’s President. But his religious journey eventually led him to have a “born-again experience.” Although he considered himself a born-again christian, he continued to worship and serve in the LDS church for several years before requesting excommunication. The most interesting and valuable part of the book was his discussion of his experiences being a member of the LDS church while not believing many core LDS teachings. He gives well-reasoned, pragmatic advice for others in similar situations.
The book’s most valuable contribution is his narrative describing his own personal thoughts, feelings, experiences, and anecdotes about his spiritual journey. In general, I found them thoughtful and faith-promoting. In some ways, the amateur deficiencies I described earlier may actually help the author make his point more powerfully because the reader knows the text has not been professionally edited or extensively revised. Instead, it contains raw text directly from the author to the reader – and since one of the author’s main theses is that all humans are inevitably flawed, it is fitting that the book itself contains obvious errors.
Unfortunately, McCraney devotes a large portion of the book to discussing the history of the LDS church and LDS theology. Much better discussions of both of these topics can be found elsewhere, so I recommend readers skip these portions – especially readers with a basic understanding of LDS history and theology. It’s not necessarily that anything he says about them is incorrect – it’s just that other authors have done a much better job with these same topics.
I decided to read this book after listening to audio-casts of the author’s weekly television program, Heart of the Matter. Although both the book and TV show share common themes, there are significant differences as well. On the TV program, McCraney is loud, brash, argumentative, and downright rude, but the book portrays a much softer, gentler side of the author.
Much can be said about the book regarding the subtitle: Moving Toward Christian Authenticity. One of his basic theses is that the LDS Church can and should join mainstream Christianity by placing greater emphasis on the Grace of Christ. He even discusses how he believes the LDS church could join mainstream Christianity without losing some of the most unique LDS teachings.

2 thoughts on “Book Review: I was a Born-Again Mormon”

  1. I'm impressed with how you spend your leisure time. I appreciate your book reviews…and perhaps someday I will make time to read a book myself. Perhaps….SOMEday.

    Anyway, were you reading this book when you shared the bit about religiosity vs spirituality vs righteousness a while back? Did you notice that theory playing out in this man's experiences?

  2. SimplySarah, No, I hadn't yet started reading the book, but I think you're right – that theory does seem to play out in McCraney's experiences. In the book, McCraney goes into detail about how he was doing everything the church expected of him, but it wasn't fulfilling for him. It does appear that he had to leave the church (religiosity) before he could find God (spirituality).

    Have you ever seen his TV show? (you're in Utah, right???)

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