I need to preface this review by saying that I inherently distrust those who who attempt to make money off their Mormonism. This includes, but is not limited to, those who sell things under a company name with a Mormon buzzword, those who are career Church speakers, those who create the kitschy crap we see in every Mormon home in Utah (that was mean, and I apologize. Your “all because two people fell in love” wall decal is definitely not tacky. ugh I’m still being mean. PEOPLE ARE ALLOWED TO LIKE WHAT THEY LIKE AND I SHOULD NOT JUDGE THEM FOR IT HAVE I LEARNED NOTHING), and lastly, those who write the vast majority of books found in Deseret Book.
I probably shouldn’t have volunteered to do this.
But I can be objective. When I offered/was asked to write a review of Robert Reynolds’s book Unstuck, I was confident that I could get over my prejudice against celebrity Mormons telling us how to Mormon better and read it with an open mind. I was prepared to either eat my words and write a rave, or to be righteously indignant and rant about the balls it takes to tell people your way of understanding the Atonement is the right way all because you’re a lawyer and you manage The Killers and Imagine Dragons.
But *sigh* the result was neither.
Unstuck isn’t an amazing book, but it’s also not that problematic. It’s just…beige. Reynolds begins by acknowledging that he’s a sinner, and spends the next 156 pages outlining the process of the mighty change of heart and regurgitating every conference talk you’ve ever heard. We get plenty of classic scripture references, but we also get to read such gems as the “boiling a frog” analogy and the currant bush parable, in case you hadn’t already heard them a hundred thousand times. The steps he suggests taking to truly repent and overcome your specific temptations aren’t wrong, but they also aren’t anything new. You’ve been taught them before and you will be taught them again. Because it’s repentance.
The good things: Reynolds doesn’t condemn any specific sins as being more serious or abominable than others. He doesn’t preach any specific agenda or alienate any demographic. He avoids suggesting that his own standards of commandment keeping are the right ones (Sabbath observance, modesty, WoW, etc.). There is no Miracle of Forgiveness nonsense.
The bad things: Reynolds uses extremely simplistic vocabulary and sentence structure, which, combined with the second-person format, feels a little condescending at times. He repeats himself constantly, which makes you feel like you’re reading in circles. For example–he spends an entire chapter, “The First Prerequisite: Strong Humility,” talking about humility, and then in the next chapter, “The Second Prerequisite: Firm Faith,” he goes back to talking about humility in a subsection called “We Receive the Gift of Faith through Humility.” Doesn’t the fact that humility is the first prerequisite and faith the second suggest that you need one to develop the other? Holy hell. (I want to have a chat with his developmental editor, because there are some real structural issues.) He also has more than a couple anecdotes about his interactions with the homeless and the drug-addled. While his intentions I’m sure were pure, the stories reek of privilege. Speaking of privilege, he also mentions how the Lord guided his mother to her lost diamond. Come on, man. Also he has too many mission stories.
Conclusion: Unstuck is fine, but it’s not breaking down any barriers or saying anything new. Those looking for dish on the rock bands he manages will be sorely disappointed.
Alright that’s it. You can give this wealthy, good-intentioned celebrity Mormon 15 of your hard-earned dollars, or you can show your spiritual autonomy by, umm, applying things you already believe (or don’t believe) to your own life, counseling with your Heavenly Father, and expanding your knowledge of the Atonement yourself. May God guide you on your quest.