About “Nephi’s Courage” by Rory McFarlan::
Genre: Religious fiction, LGBT, Romance, Gay, Uplifting
“Nephi Willard is a practicing Mormon who loves God and his church. He grew up in Happy Valley, the center of LDS life in Utah, and faithfully served a mission.
The perfect Mormon life would be his, if not for the fact that Nephi is gay, putting him at odds with his church leaders. No matter how well Nephi obeys the commandments, he doesn’t seem to fit in at church, and his desire to follow the Mormon rules makes it difficult to fit in with the gay community.
While he tries to reconcile his Mormon side with his gay side, Nephi navigates two worlds in a struggle to understand himself. When a new love interest introduces him to possibilities he never imagined, he must decide whether to embrace his nature or his faith.”
“Nephi’s Courage” is an uplifting story about being true to oneself despite the odds. It explores the warring nature of religious faith vs the LGBT community not from one side alone, but showing multiple angles and experiences. No matter where you fall in the issue, the story is very enlightening.
Although my wife was raised Mormon (though she is now Pagan), I previously knew very little about the religion so I’m deeply thankful for the author’s detailed explanation of the workings of the Church of Latter Day Saints. The details are given in stride so it doesn’t feel like an overwhelmingly boring information dump. As with all reviews of religious books, I will preface by reminding I am not religious.
We’re introduced to Nephi, a thirty year old gay man who has dedicated his entire life to the LDS Church. He’s extremely kind and compassionate and deeply faithful despite his the church doctrine that alienates him for being gay. His sexual orientation is more or less common knowledge that has not hindered his position in the church due to his dedication to celibacy, to not even have a romantic partner in any way.
Diligent prayer and study keeps his absolute faith in a loving God strong, but it also raises some concerning questions. Since he is unable to marry, Mormon doctrine says he is therefore unable to live at God’s side after his death. When voicing this concern with well-contemplated reasons as to his hopes of the church one day acknowledging gay marriage (as doctrine has changed in similar ways before ie with racial equality), he is met with accusations of apostasy.
Fully believing (as some other Mormons have also told him) that God made him gay, he doesn’t understand why the church refuses to allow him to seek marriage (a necessary step in Exaltation- basically to reach Heaven). When he first came out, his relationships with family and friends was dampened to an extent, but with these new allegations, he is now slowly being removed from the grace of the church; starting with being released from his current position.
He decides to venture into the gay community for the first time, only to be met with antagonism for holding onto a faith that deems him an evil sinner simply for being gay. However, he does finally make LGBT friends, including Alex who agrees to teach him more about the community and Bradley, a young Mormon from his church who was recently kicked out of his home and disowned for coming out as gay.
Throughout Nephi’s journey full of prayer, deep contemplation, loss, romance, and many Earthly trials, he adheres to his beliefs regardless of how the church or the rest of the world treats him. He knows God is there. He knows God loves him. He knows God made him gay. And he knows God wants him to be happy and loved on Earth. But will these two seemingly opposing aspects leave him in a life never fully accepted by either side?
Very well written with a well rounded plotted and developed characters, Rory McFarlan’s powerful debut novel “Nephi’s Courage” is an incredible read with a lot of heart. The message of being true to yourself and doing the right thing is empowering for religious and non-religious alike. It is the inclusive story the world needs.
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~Sahreth ‘Baphy’ Bowden