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Posted 24 Feb 2001   For week ended November 03, 2000
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News about Mormons, Mormonism,
and the LDS Church
Sent on Mormon-News: 31Oct00

By Kent Larsen

Phoenix Journalist Says Laake Blamed Mormons for Her Mental Illness

PHOENIX, ARIZONA -- In a tribute to Mormon journalist Deborah Laake, who committed suicide earlier this year, Phoenix journalist Terry Greene Sterling says that Laake blamed her clinical depression on "Mormonism and the men in her life." Laake was the author of the controversial tell-all "Secret Ceremonies," which detailed LDS Temple ceremonies and led to her excommunication from the LDS Church.

Laake's book was published in the spring of 1993 and became an immediate success, appearing on the New York Times' bestseller list for 15 weeks. Laake went on to appear on talk shows, fielding questions about the book and trying to explain why she claimed that her religion nearly destroyed her.

But Sterling says that she didn't realize the extent of Laake's mental illness, which Sterling says she saw as early as 1989. That year Laake won a top Arizona writing award for her work as a journalist on Phoenix's alternative New Times. Laake ordered an assistant to bring a dozen long-stemmed American Beauties to the ceremonies, so that the roses could be given to her at the award ceremony, at which Laake gave "an offensively self-congratulatory acceptance speech." According to Sterling, Laake remains the only recipient to demand roses. Sterling also says that Laake picked fights with other editors and writers on the New Times' staff who she perceived as a threat

Sterling reads "Secret Ceremonies" differently than most Mormons, calling it a "fascinating and compelling read about Laake's struggle to survive waves of self-destructive depression." She says Laake blamed Mormonism and the men in her life for "terrible dark spells that followed giddy manic highs."

After writing Secret Ceremonies," Laake developed breast cancer, and blamed the side effects of chemotherapy for preventing her from writing again. "I often wondered whether she was actually paralyzed by depression," says Sterling. Laake then moved repeatedly between Phoenix and Charleston, South Carolina. Sterling says she last saw Laake after her mother died. During dinner with friends, she fell apart and cried over the refusal of local LDS Church officials to let her give a eulogy at her mother's funeral or sit at the front of the church with the family. According to Sterling, Laake couldn't understand that her attack on Mormonism in "Secret Ceremonies" was the reason.


Secret grief 27Oct00 P2
By Terry Greene Sterling


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See also:
Secret Ceremonies
More about "Secret Ceremonies: A Mormon Woman's Intimate Diary of Marriage and Beyond" at

Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 Kent Larsen · Privacy Information