Confessions of a Latter-day Virgin by Nicole Hardy

Monday, September 23, 2013

***EDIT*** After stepping away from this for a while, I realized some of the things I wrote were not very clear and could be misconstrued. So just to clarify. The LDS church believes in following the law of chastity. What I mean by differences in lifestyle versus doctrine is variations in how many children a couple have, or whether or not the wife works, or if they are nomadic types that travel the world, etc. We believe that there are nonnegotiable commandments, but some people think that matters of opinion like those lifted above determine whether some people are better than others and use those things to judge others. Just to clarify. If there are any questions I will respond to comments. Thanks! *** END OF EDIT***

When I saw Confessions of a Latter-day Virgin on NetGalley, I was immediately intrigued. As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (more popularly known as "Mormons"), I tend to be drawn to books written about or by members of my faith. In addition, the book sounded like it was a perspective on life outside the mainstream culture of the church, which also interests me. It also leads me to make a quick clarification: there are certain LDS doctrines -- truths that we believe are from God and that cannot be compromised. There are also elements of Mormon culture -- things that tend to show up in the church and its members but that are not necessarily of God or even religious. When you have a group of people living in a unique way, additional quirks are going to arise. For example, BYU, a Mormon university, has some bizarre dating rituals, because a) we are taught to be abstinent until marriage, b) we don't drink alcohol, meaning the nightlife is a little different there, and c) we believe that marriage is one of the most important things you can accomplish in life, and some people take it as a challenge to get married ASAP.

I'm getting ahead of myself with those disclaimers. In a nutshell, Nicole is an LDS woman who goes to college at BYU. Like most young women at BYU, she expects that she will find love and get married in or after college. However, as she experiences BYU she a) doesn't find love or marriage and b) takes issue with many of the attitudes of her classmates. However, she believes in the doctrines of the LDS faith and spends her adult life fighting to remain a virgin despite her growing feelings of repressed sexuality. Eventually, she comes to a point of decision -- continue on with a lifestyle that feels hopeless and miserable to her, or break with the belief system that she has relied on her entire life?

I loved reading Nicole's story and getting inside her head as she shares her struggles. I think, as an LDS woman myself, it is important to understand those who are not in the traditional LDS mold of getting married young, being a stay-at-home mom with lots of children, etc. Being slightly outside that mold myself with my full-time job, I can appreciate the loneliness that comes with it and the frustration when people make judgmental remarks, whether or not they are intended to wound. Her honesty was refreshing, poignant, and at times heartbreaking. There were people who made very ignorant, unkind comments to her, questioning why she was still single, and I felt myself bristling with indignation at them. She also writes very beautifully, drawing on stories from her childhood to illustrate her present situation, which made the writing more relatable and powerful.

Because this is Nicole's story, I can't say I disliked it because I disagreed with her ultimate actions. The ending was frustrating to me because I felt that she took the thoughtless unkindness of some and turned it against the entire church, letting it color the religion that she believed for so long into something ugly and dark. Some of her actions at the end of the book seemed inconsistent with the hopes she expressed at the beginning, such as permanence in a relationship whether or not it was a temple marriage. While I hoped to see the book end in another way, I know that life isn't always that simple, and her experience definitely informs both my sensitivity to others who may be feeling as she does. It was a reminder to not be judgmental and to remember what are commandments from God and what are lifestyle quirks that Mormons tend to exhibit. Confessions of a Latter-day Virgin was not always an easy book to read, but it did cause me to evaluate the way I treat others and to remember that everyone carries a different burden.

I felt like this book was unrateable for the reasons lifted above, so it has ? stars. :)

Warnings: Language, moderate sensuality, one detailed description of the items in an adult store

1 comment:

  1. I recently read a book review of this on Slate or New York Magazine or something (now I honestly have no idea where it was). I've been intrigued for a few weeks, so I like hearing your opinion.

    Also, related tangent, I have come to the conclusion that personal circumstances make living the gospel infinitely more complex than we ever imagined it to be growing up (or even in college). Because of this I have been trying significantly more to be careful about what I say. It is not any of my business why someone else chooses to work / not work, have kids / not have kids, get married / not get married, etc., etc., etc.


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