Ever wondered what it’s like to grow up Mormon? This entertaining memoir is a look inside Mormonism in the 1950s when the most pressing concern of boys everywhere is who would get to be Roy Rogers and who would be Gene Autry in schoolyard games. Later, going on a mission is the pre-ordained destiny of 18-year-old boys regardless of their inclination toward missionary work. The author’s tumultuous years at Brigham Young leads to a poignant end to the first part of his life, and a shaky new start to the second.
Virtue Is Its Own Punishment is the story of a boy’s journey of growth and discovery from childhood through college at Brigham Young University. It is not about religion so much as it is a story of growing up in the culture of small town, Utah, Mormon society. The author is a wry social commentator whose humorous depiction of coming of age will appeal to Mormons, ex-Mormons, and other participants in restrictive cultures. Highlights include full-immersion baptism, beliefs about Heaven, avoiding missionary work, and learning about girls and technical virginity.
This is a story of innocence preserved and paradise lost—written by one of America’s funniest writers. Encouraged as a boy to be perfect, the narrator finds the path to perfection to be a bumpy road. Which isn’t to say he doesn’t give it a shot, foreswearing alcohol, tobacco, coffee, and even cola drinks in order to curry favor with his elders, friends and neighbors in the LDS community, and especially with girls. Alas, in college the road only becomes bumpier as romantic fantasies remain just fantasies and the chastity belt begins to feel more like a straitjacket. Without really wishing for it to happen, the young author eventually finds himself on the outside of the institution looking in, a reluctant heretic. But not all suffering is for naught. In fact, when it comes to raw material for an inventive, insightful and irreverent memoir, Mormonism proves to be a real treasure trove.
“Reading books should be fun, and Growing Up Mormon is sensitive, insightful, and hilarious. Suppose Tom Sawyer had been a Mormon? Suppose Huck Finn’s evil Pap was really Bishop Snarr? Suppose the author of this delightful book really harbors, down deep, a bit of fondness for the quaint and curious church he left many years ago, and has written this delicious book to show he feels a tug of sympathy for the crosses Mormons have to bear? Religions have absolutely nothing to do with logic, so when an individual chooses to be logical, he isn’t wanted, and usually separates from his church. In his charming, heart-warming memoir about a Mormon boyhood, author Richard Menzies does so. But he doesn’t go far. He still lives among the neighbors he grew up with.”—William Childress, author, two-time Pulitzer Prize nominee, former editor-writer for National Geographic.
“Rarely does a square peg climb out of a round hole with so little rancor, so much humor, and such a great heart. I fell in love with Richard Menzies’ take on the world in Passing Through: An Existential Journey Across America’s Outback, and Virtue Is Its Own Punishment makes me an even more passionate fan.” —Teresa Jordan, author of Riding the White Horse Home.
“Richard Menzies’ Virtue is Its Own Punishment is a rollicking ride through his youthful years growing up in Mormon-centric Utah. Menzies is a reluctant Mormon who tries to no avail to become part of something he wants no part of. His clever and engaging stories are full of heart and humor, from his accounts of everyday life to his disastrous attempts at finding a mate-able girl. The only thing better than reading Virtue is Its Own Punishment would be to be sitting around a campfire out under the vast blanket of Western stars listening to Menzies telling his tales out loud. Richard Menzies is truly a master storyteller. Highly recommended.”—Douglas Keister, author of Heart-Land: Growing Up In The Middle Of Everything.