3 out of 4 stars
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“Please don’t judge me because I sin differently than you. And don’t assume that you know my sins. Remember that God will judge us the same way that we judge others.”
Nephi has spent his entire life trying to be a good Mormon, adhering to the strict doctrine and devoting much of his week to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Still, he feels a deep void in his heart, and this emptiness is perpetuated by continually repressing his feelings for the same sex. After expressing his questions and concerns to Bishop Thompson, he feels better. Still, the respite is short-lived when his church begins giving him the cold shoulder.
Meanwhile, Nephi’s exposure to the online dating world is met with challenges. Due to his inexperience, it is tough to find a compatible date. While using a dating app, he meets Alex, who is also gay, and they form a purely platonic relationship. Alex begrudgingly accepts Nephi’s choice to be a practicing Mormon. He makes it abundantly clear to Nephi that the gay community will likely shun him. Nephi feels like he right in the middle of a tug-of-war. How can he embrace his identity when being Mormon and gay are two things that can never co-exist?
Nephi’s Courage by Rory McFarlan is a heart-wrenching book about self-discovery, discrimination, and maintaining faith through the darkest of times. The book is comprised of approximately three hundred pages and is written from the third-person perspective. It follows Nephi Willard as he begins to embrace a side of himself that's been repressed for his entire life. His journey is met with opposition and incorrigible anger from individuals who see homosexuality as a sin.
This book was a massive eye-opener for me as I come from a place that has always fostered love and acceptance. I guess my liberal upbringing had me seeing things through rose-colored glasses. Nephi’s Courage was a harsh but much-needed dose of reality. My family and circle of friends come from all walks of life, and many are proud members of the LGBTQ community. Still, while reading this book, I was able to put that aside and immerse myself in Nephi’s plight.
The author couldn’t have created a better protagonist to root for; Nephi’s honestly and relentless positivity was delightful. I admired how he was able to remain hopeful for a bright future, regardless of the deplorable way others treated him. His bother, Jacob, often threw disparaging comments Nephi’s way. He said, “Nephi, you just need to humble yourself, repent, and stop flaunting your gayness. Think about the family for once.” There was also Brother Hanson, whose comments were the most shocking of all. He said, “Why don’t you understand that you don’t fit in? You are an abomination.” While these opinions saddened Nephi, he never once gave up on being true to both his sexuality and his faith.
While the book had its fair share of characters that harbored hateful attitudes, two characters showed Nephi unconditional love and acceptance. Stacy was Nephi’s childhood best friend, and she supported him unequivocally from the beginning of his coming-out journey through to his plan to finally embrace it. Although she had a husband and small children to worry about, she made sure Nephi knew she was only a phone call away. Alex was another character who showed immense love for Nephi, but his friendship came from a place of understanding. As a gay man, he could relate to Nephi in a way that no one else could. Alex introduced Nephi to the unpredictable world of dating, and his life experience became a beacon of hope for Nephi.
Overall I adored this book; the only thing that I found off-putting was the religious aspect. While I know that understanding the Mormon doctrine was crucial to the story, at times, I felt like it was too much information thrown at me. Other than that, I have no complaints. The book was professionally edited, and I chose to give it a rating of three out of four stars.
For readers who appreciate books that are heavily based on character development, this book is for you! Nephi’s story brings up important issues such as social injustice and discrimination, and I think this is an essential read for all human beings. For readers who are sensitive to death by suicide, I would dissuade them from reading this book as it may be a trigger.
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