The Challenge of Honesty


The Challenge of Honesty: Essays for Latter-day Saints

September, 2013

A collection of essays examining the tension in Mormonism between intellectual honesty and the desire to protect cherished beliefs.

SKU: 978-1-56085-225-4 Categories: , , Tags: , Author: Dan Wotherspoon, Frances Lee MenloveProduct ID: 1297


In the inaugural issue of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought in 1966, Frances Menlove bravely wrote: “The very nature of the Church demands honesty, which is inherent in its mission to seek truth. What are the motives behind dishonesty? Perhaps it is the desire in everyone to protect that which they love. If one admits to past disasters, misdirection, failings, then it is possible to wonder if the Church is not in some way faltering now. But if we believe that truth and knowledge have limitations, we must welcome diverse opinions, even criticisms. Only by honestly receiving and scrutinizing all positions can we come close to an understanding of the truth.”

These words remain as fresh and bracing today as they were nearly fifty years ago. The fifteen other essays and sermons, some published here for the first time, are equally bold, exposing injustice masked as God’s will. Yet, there is an underlying theme of personal integrity and striving for spiritual transformation. As an example, Menlove prays that an intersexed child will not be coerced into gender conformity because of faith commitments but rather that we try to stand perceived wisdom on its head, as the scriptures so often do. Readers will want to share many of these essays with family and friends but will also find the concepts occupying their own private thoughts.

Frances Lee Menlove holds two academic degrees: a PhD in psychology from the University of Michigan and a MDiv from the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley. She was manuscripts editor on the founding staff of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. She serves on the board of directors of a small Oregon non-profit called Peace Village, which since 1996 has been teaching non-violence to children in interfaith settings. She also volunteers with the American Red Cross, offering counseling services during national emergencies.

Dan Wotherspoon holds a PhD in religion from Claremont Graduate University. He is a past editor of Sunstone magazine and is active with the Eugene England Foundation, Foundation for Religious Diplomacy, and Society for Mormon Philosophy & Theology. He hosts the Mormon Matters podcast.

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5 reviews for The Challenge of Honesty

  1. Marcus J. Borg

    “Combining memories, conversions, and convictions, filled with wisdom and insight gleaned from a lifetime of joy, discovery, and discipleship, this remarkable book will be enjoyed and valued by many.”

  2. Joanna Brooks

    “Come listen to the wise and knowing voice of a Mormon progressive foremother. Frances Lee Menlove reminds us that seeking and questioning have always been part of the Mormon experience and that none of us is alone in our seeking. Nor are we the first!”

  3. Rev. Charles Busch, founder of Peace Village

    “Open Frances Menlove’s The Challenge of Honesty and be reminded that the warmth of the smallest act can change a life, perhaps the world. Hear the call to conscience in her essay on religion and politics. Feel the lift of her voice when she says, ‘We are a marvelous mixture of dust and divinity.’ Join her at home in the Mystery.”

  4. Kristine Haglund, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought

    “The pieces in this collection beckon the reader to join the author’s adventure. And not just any adventure—this one will require the full engagement of mind and heart. The gentle tone of the invitation to follow her through new paths of thought does not suggest the boldness and courage required on this journey. Fortunately, the guide is sure. She lays down elegant sentences, offers oases of wisdom and poetry, and occasionally hammers in a well-­formulated aphorism as a toehold on the steep slope of a difficult idea.”

  5. David M. Morris, International Journal of Mormon Studies

    The Challenge of Honesty, by Dr Frances Lee Menlove is a thought provoking and intellectual examination of what it means to be honest, both with self and others (but more likely the institutional LDS Church). It is a compilation of the author’s writings, however, it is less about controversy but more about reconciliation of difficult theological\moral issues and a less judgmental Mormon mindset.

    The first thing that strikes the reader is the clarity of Menlove’s messages, perhaps it is indicative of freeing oneself of lifelong dilemmas, or simply being conscience led rather than blind obedience to a given faith. The essays and devotionals are well argued and call more for understanding and empathy rather than condemnation. Even if you disagree with the premise of the discussion, or segue to subjects that most Mormons seem uncomfortable with, LGBT (“The Unbidden Prayer” and “Walking the Road to Emmaus.”) / Women and the Priesthood, to name but two, you still feel compelled to consider the arguments and their implications. Rather than being a contentious rant for change, it is well argued and supported by the source literature including New Testament sources demonstrating Dr Menlove’s professional training. The overarching sentiment is one of compassion and understanding and a call to remaining true to oneself.

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