Flunking Sainthood


People in my congregation sometimes make reference to the idea that the LDS Church is the “only true Church” on the face of the earth. Such formulations nearly always make me uncomfortable. As I’ve stated here before, I’m basically a failed saint. My faith is as characterized as much by doubt as it is by certainty, and more by a hopeful desire to serve Jesus than confidence in my specific means of doing so.

But in at least one way I am sure we Mormons get it right: I am forced, every week, to go to church with people I wouldn’t otherwise go out of my way to befriend. One of them is someone who drives me up a tree. And like it or not, that is the gospel.

Mormonism operates under a strict “parish model”–kind of like Catholics used to, but on steroids. We don’t get the luxury of shopping around for the ward with the nicest building or the most established youth group or the coolest bishop (which incidentally happens to be mine, at least in the last point).


This week’s Twible readings cover the Bible’s finest bromance: the love between David and Jonathan.

The Bible doesn’t spill the exact details of how they met, but it’s clear that they’re kindred spirits from the start. Jonathan’s heart is “knit” to David’s (18:1), and he immediately gives David his own clothes as a token of his love–robe, armor, belt, weapons, the works. In the following chapter, Jonathan warns David that King Saul (who’s going a little mental; see last week’s soap opera report) is plotting to kill him. Jonathan risks his father’s love–and, it should be pointed out, his own chances to be king someday–by defending David and helping him escape. He “loved David as he loved his own soul.” (20:17)  Sweet.

At first, you think that this is going to be one of those unrequited crushes that’s absolutely devastating for the person in love and seriously awkward for the object of his affection. But David’s got feelings too. He and Jonathan make a covenant, and there’s clearly deep affection on both sides. They weep and kiss each other when they have to say good-bye–“but David more so.”

girl_who_kicked_hornets_nest.jpgApparently in Sweden, everyone who works in counter-intelligence drives a neutral-colored Volvo. Even when you’re engaged in international espionage, it’s vital to stay safe.

That’s one of a number of important lessons I learned from reading The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, the third in Stieg Larsson‘s trilogy of potboilers. Potboilers are important to publish in Sweden because apparently it gets quite cold there.

Those of you who have read my personal book review blog know that I was not crazy about the second book in this series, which was a testament to the importance of good editors. The first hundred pages had absolutely no relevance to the rest of the book. They should have been cut. Or better yet, put into a separate novella about “Salander’s lost months” so that the publisher could rake in a kajillion more kronor. But where was the editor? AWOL.

Thankfully, the third book is much better, even though the injured Lisbeth Salander doesn’t really get her mojo back until nearly halfway through the novel.


Donna Freitas (FRAY-tus) has carved out a career as a religion scholar focusing on young adults’ spirituality and sexuality (Sex and the Soul, Oxford). But in her other life, she’s also a YA novelist whose first book, The Possibilities of Sainthood (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), got starred reviews pretty much every place that fiction reviews can be starred: PW, SLJ, Booklist, and even snotty old Kirkus.

In her new novel This Gorgeous Game, Donna’s telling a darker story for YA readers. Olivia Peters is a rising high school senior who is stalked by a priest. Although at first she’s flattered by his attention to her writing and his belief in her literary talent, it isn’t long before she realizes that his unwanted attention is inappropriate. But what can a 17-year-old do when her stalker is a famous author and universally beloved Catholic priest?

FS: Why did you want to follow up the happy-go-lucky novel The Possibilities of Sainthood with this more serious story?

Donna Freitas: It’s not so much that I decided to follow up my shiny happy novel about a girl looking for her first kiss with a sad novel. For me, writing fiction is more about voice, and following the voice that shows up in your head. Olivia’s voice was the next one to show up, so hers was the story I decided to follow. And it happened to be really sad and dark.