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The Secret Lives of Saints Reader’s Guide

By Daphne Bramham

The Secret Lives of Saints by Daphne Bramham


Questions and Topics for Discussion

1. Daphne Bramham makes the comparison between the fundamentalist Mormons and the Taliban. Having read the book, do you think this is fair?

2. What is so bad about polygamy? If people want to live that way, why bother trying to prevent them?

3. The social arrangements the fundamentalist Mormons live under obviously benefit only a few privileged members of the sect. Why do you suppose the others endure these injustices?

4. What looks to some like a religion seems to others to be a cult. What do you think the difference is?

5. Bramham notes that defenders of the fundamentalist Mormons invoke Pierre Trudeau’s famous dictum that the state has no business in the nation’s bedrooms. The fundamentalist Mormons’ practices clearly put this principle to the test. Do you think that at some point the law does have to step into the nation’s bedrooms?

6. Canadians are proud of their tolerance and multiculturalism. What do you think of the fundamentalists’ argument that theirs is just another part of the country’s social fabric, to be celebrated as part of our diversity, rather than "persecuted"?

7. Imagine being approached by a fundamentalist Mormon trying to "convert" you, someone you have no reason to distrust (a co-worker, for example). How might you respond?

8. The fundamentalists seem to place great importance on their texts; important questions are often settled by "studying." What kind of authority do you think they can claim for a religious text that no one outside their sect recognizes? Does this have any implications for other, more established religions?

9. Again and again in this book, the fundamentalist Mormons justify breaking the law by claiming to have some higher religious purpose. Many people feel that their ethics at some point trump the law. At what point do you think it is justifiable to put religious faith ahead of obeying the law?

10. One irony of the Saints’ struggle for what they call freedom is the fact that to do so they willingly put themselves under the yoke of capricious and autocratic patriarchs — surely the opposite of freedom. Why do you suppose the Saints are so keen to submit to the authority of their leaders?

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