I am guilty of waiting. For much of my career I have shyly waited for people to ask my religion, waited for the subject to come up, waited to share what I hold most precious.
Because I enjoy weaving spiritual themes into my signings or during more formal speaking engagements, often someone will approach and ask what church I attend. I love the conversations that follow. Frankly, there isn’t much I’d rather talk about than the faith that in many ways defines me.
I am a Christian. I am an imperfect follower of a perfect Savior. I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Or, if you prefer the nickname sometimes used to describe members of the church, I am a Mormon.
If you’ve read any of my novels, you know that I do not write books specifically about my religion. I write stories that contain the flavor of faith but do not promote one religion over another. I write about broad themes important to all of us, no matter what church we call home.
I write about Christmas, forgiveness, redemption, family, marriage, charity, miracles and life after death. Admittedly, I’ve learned and grown more from writing my own books than anyone ever will from reading them.
When I began my career as an author I was involved in frequent discussions about how prominent I should make my religion. Should we mention Brigham Young University in my bio? Should I reference my two-year mission to Brazil? Should we advertise that one of my two publishers is Salt Lake-based, home to LDS Church headquarters and a high concentration of Mormons?
Five years and seven books later, I am ashamed those debates ever took place and I accept that the blame rests on my shoulders alone. I am embarrassed that for years I simply wanted to be a New York Times best-selling author who you may or may not find out later just happens to be a Mormon. How shallow that I allowed the small percentage of consumers who won’t buy a novel by a Mormon to dictate how I was introduced to readers.
Recently I stumbled across a blog that inferred a number of Mormon authors, including me, had been deceitful. The blogger complained that he never would have bought our books had he known we were members of the LDS Church. He even expressed pride at having uncovered the secret through a series of online searches and a complicated game of connect-the-dots. A modern-day Sherlock Holmes, no doubt.
This blogger’s theory was that books like mine by Mormon authors, especially in the genre of inspirational fiction, are just thinly veiled attempts to spread our faith. He’s half-right, at least in my case. I do hope my books spread my faith that God lives, that he loves us and that the challenges we face everyday are universal and the occasionally painful lessons absolutely necessary to our growth.
But I also hope they are good ole fashioned page-turners that entertain and beg a second reading. If a reader wants to find inspiration and faith, that’s wonderful. If a reader wants nothing more than to sit in a comfortable chair and escape life for a few hours, I’m just as thrilled.
In either case, in the future this well-meaning though misguided blogger won’t have to don a black deerstalker hat to uncover my religion. I’ve added my faith to my website biography and press kits.
I wonder if this blogger or anyone else who won’t buy a work of Christian fiction by a Mormon knows just how much I appreciate his or her own religion. I have dear friends from all corners of religious faith, and two of the most trusted people in my day-to-day career are Catholic and Jewish. One is my editor, the other my agent. I trust them both. I love them both.
I wonder if this blogger or anyone else who won’t buy a work of Christian fiction by a Mormon knows how many churches have invited me to speak in their chapels, sanctuaries, etc. Just this month alone I will speak in two Methodist churches and at Trinity Ecumenical Parish, a combined congregation of Episcopalians, Lutherans and Presbyterians. Next month I’ll speak to the Knights of Columbus, and in years past I’ve spoken to Baptists, Catholics and many more. I cherish those experiences more than any other.
Naturally it is important to know that I am not just a Mormon. I am proud to be a brother, husband, father of four, volunteer, neighbor and friend. I am also a son of a loving Heavenly Father and the son of earthly parents who raised me to embrace my faith and to love the Lord and follow his example.
Perhaps I owe this blogger a thank you for jarring me from my quiet complaisance and for reminding me just how proud I am of my heritage, my faith and the church I love so dearly.
So, if you’re reading this column and thinking, “I had no idea he was a Mormon,” I sincerely apologize.
If you’re reading this column and want to know more about what I believe, ask me. I’d love to tell you.
Finally, next time you’re in a bookstore and you see a book with my name on the cover, it’s buyer beware from this day forward: I am a Mormon.