What happens when a High Priest becomes addicted to crack cocaine? Is Heavenly Father guilty of abuse and neglect for the way He parents His children? Should an unemployed bank teller take in a homeless protestor from the Occupy movement? Do gay people have positive near-death experiences or unhappy ones? Is there a way to splice the empathy gene into the genome of every human? Can a schizophrenic woman on anti-delusional drugs keep her belief in an intangible God? Will a childless biochemist find fulfillment by taking part in a mission to Mars? Not every Latter-day Saint has a mainstream story to tell, but these soul-searching people are all still more than the marginal Mormons headquarters would like to believe.

An irreverent, honest look at life outside the mainstream Mormon Church.

Townsend’s timely book presents a number of touching vignettes focused on quirky characters struggling to reconcile their own beliefs with the rigid doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He focuses much of his attention on the struggle between homosexuality and acceptance within the faith, providing a number of stories focused on gay men who have fallen away from the church. These men have been excommunicated because of their lifestyle, yet they find themselves unable to completely cut ties and walk away from the belief system in which they’d spent years being indoctrinated. Other characters are also struggling with alternate life choices that have placed them outside the mainstream faith. Read more

Big, bright smiles and perfectly-matched Sunday outfits as a row of beautiful children pile out of their mini-van — followed by the proud mom and dad — on their way to perform a string ensemble at the front of the chapel. Every Mormon can aspire to have a family like that, but not everyone can achieve it. And while the photogenic, coiffed, and modestly-yet-attractively attired set may be the face of Mormonism, they’re not the only denizens of Mormondom.

In his book Marginal Mormons, Johnny Townsend puts the focus on the fringes of the Mormon congregation — on the people squeezing themselves into Mormonism, even when it doesn’t fit, sometimes eventually leaving Mormonism behind them. Read more