In a familiar, but stunning and beautifully spun story, An American Fraud: One Lawyer’s case against Mormonism is part memoir and part sharp, well-researched criticism of the LDS Church. Author Kay Burningham opens the book with her personal journey and documents the mistreatment, sexism and misogynistic management she faced being raised Mormon and living the standards of the Church.
“I had always kept notes about my life and story, but it wasn’t until I was representing a client in a fraud case in front of the Utah Supreme Court that it hit me,” Burningham said. “This Church is not just silly or bizarre, the leaders have committed a tort against the people who are in the Church. Legitimately, there is a case to be made against the Church. I think it will happen. They committed fraud, and should have to face the consequences.”
An American Fraud is a methodical approach to the case against the Mormon Church and the chapters detailing the specifics of the falsity of the religion are simple to read and easy to understand, even for those that have no legal training.
“There is overwhelming evidence that the Church has misrepresented the true source of Joseph Smith’s writing, collectively the origin. All extant evidence proves that Smith dictated The Book of Mormon with his head in a hat containing a seer stone – no plates were used,” the book states. “Over time, the evidence to prove most facts disappears – it is destroyed, lost or altered.”
The detail with which she explores the exact specifics of fraud and falsity is impressive and it becomes immediately apparent that hours and hours of exhaustive and meticulous research were performed. And even if that’s all the book contained, it would be a remarkable feat and a very interesting read.
But Burningham doesn’t just leave her comprehensive research on the blank pages and walk away. The most compelling part isn’t the portions discussing how intellectuals were excommunicated from Brigham Young University or Joseph Smith’s apparent sex addiction. The most gripping and page-turning aspects were her own struggle with identity and personal involvement with her Mormon beliefs. When giving up her Mormon faith, Burningham wasn’t just doing a 180 on everything she knew to be true as a child, but she’s rejecting a way of life.
“A spiritual union of souls might be desired, but the church controls to the point that many Mormons relinquish themselves to their leaders, its organization, programs and rituals, until in some cases, it, Mormonism, envelops them and becomes their entire identity,” she said.
The captivating chronicles of her life tell the story of an intelligent and driven woman who joins the military, goes to law school and pursues a successful career, despite the constant pressure to be a subservient wife. The experiences are especially relevant to women who struggle to find their identity in the Mormon Church, but it also applies to those that are seeking some form of validation regarding their sexual identity.
“There is so much repression of sexuality in the Church. I was so repressed until my 30s. It took me so long to figure out that I was supposed to enjoy sex, that it wasn’t a bad thing,” she said. “The Church controls so much of everyday life; from who you love to what underwear you’re allowed to have.”
The book is especially relevant this year, with two Mormons in the race for president and one likely to land the Republican nomination; it’s vital that the country be aware of the true nature of the Mormon faith, she said.
“I am not entirely sure how a Romney administration would play out, should there be one. But I have wondered about the logistics. How would he go to the temple, like a good, faithful Mormon?” she said. “I think that Mormons can be categorized into two groups: the deceivers and the deceived. Romney was a leader in the Church; while I suspect he is more of the former type, I don’t want either sort of person to run the country.”
An American Fraud is a lightning-fast and surprisingly smooth read that explores the relationship of one woman with the faith she was taught to love while documenting her methodical and pragmatic approach to the unraveling of a great lie.