"When Grandma spoke of God and Jesus, it all seemed much simpler. She didn't have a basement stocked with supplies; hers was a Jesus of whom you could talk, rejoice, preach, and prophesy... If I loved Jesus, I loved him in the way I loved my mother's family: from a distance, out of duty. I didn't dare admit it... but what was there to love in a Christ who would destroy the world?"
-Katie Langston, "Sealed"
Katie Langston's memoir "Sealed: An Unexpected Journey into the Heart of Grace" (Thornbush Press, April 2021) is a story of the dynamism of faith. Describing Langston's upbringing in a conservative Mormon family, the memoir recounts what it was like to grapple with doubts and uncertainty in a culture that tolerated neither.
"Sealed" is not the only story I have recently read of a conservative Mormon family. Like so many others, I recently read Tara Westover's explosive memoir "Educated."
But if the power of Westover's memoir came from shocking events and profoundly unique characters, the power of Langston's memoir emanates from its relatability. Langston's is a story of what it is like to navigate family conflict, of what it is like to wrestle with the tensions between the simplicities of childhood faith and the complexity of lived experience.
So many spiritual stories end with deconstruction and fragmentation. It seems like much of what has been written about the Mormon tradition depicts an abandonment of the faith.
But "Sealed" is unique in that it ends with a reconstructed spiritual identity that affirms what remains useful, even enlightening, from one's past. It is a book that invites us not to critique, but to connect, a book that reminds us that the life of faith is not about categorical breaks with one's past, but about continuously hearing God's irresistible and ceaseless call. Affirming the simultaneous gifts of tradition and of transformation, Langston's memoir is a thought-provoking read for those who want to understand the complex, evolving, and perpetually moving journey that is the life of faith. It is an important contribution to understanding America's dynamic spiritual landscape.
@ryanpanzer is the author of "Grace and Gigabytes"