July 19th, 2012
Walter Kirn has an extraordinary essay in the latest New Republic. I cannot recommend it highly enough. About his life in (and out) of the Mormon church, it is by turns wistful, haunting, touching, and beautiful. It’s both a plain-spoken account of a man losing his faith and a powerful act of witness on behalf of that faith.
As you may have noticed, I have neither a talent nor an appreciation for autobiography. But Kirn’s mini-memoir is shorn of vanity and, more importantly, yoked to the service of something larger. So much so that it feels more like art than essay; as if Paul Simon had spun it during his middle-age.
Wow, that was quite powerful.
So I get the email notice from TNR about that essay and I open it up expecting the worst…another attack piece on Mormons and the Mormon religion.
And then I read it all the way through, because I can’t put it down.
Everything you say about the piece is spot on and then some. I was particularly drawn to the tension that Kirn acknowledges between his loss of faith in Mormon beliefs and his acknowledgement that those beliefs (and the communities they sustain) are the main thing that have helped him achieve spiritual happiness, and sense of inner peace.
The only time I winced was the reference to Mormon support for Prop 8 in California (oh no, Mormons share Christian beliefs on traditional sexual mores!) Otherwise, the essay was as close to perfect as I imagine a piece like that can be.