NOTE: The following essay is a Review of The Sound of Gravel, a Memoir by Ruth Wariner, a first cousin of mine.
(“Wariner” is Ruth’s mother’s maiden name. My Uncle Joel LeBaron was Ruth’s father.)
By Stephany Spencer:
I’ve read once, listened thrice to Ruth Wariner’s book/audiobook, The Sound of Gravel. It got higher ratings with each read/listen; so paid to peruse her memoir more than once.
In my first read, the book wasn’t what I expected. I grew up much the same way she had. I had preconceived notions of what it would be about, Ruth being my first cousin; one of my mother’s brother Joel’s daughters. It took going through her memoir a second time, as an audiobook, to be able to say:
You go, cousin Ruth! It’s a well-written memoir that should be read and listened to at least twice by everyone who thinks Mormon cults are “Just people exercising their freedom of religion.“
This well-scripted book gives one a glimpse into what “people just exercising their freedom of religion” do to kids born within Mormon fundamentalist cults. I grew up in, then escaped, the same cult Ruth was raised in.
People brought up in abusive, traumatizing childhoods often split — revert into themselves when things go wrong in their life. I learned from Psychiatrist David Viscott feeling sorry for one’s self is a form of splitting.
Children and adults from abusive backgrounds often do the pity-potty party thing in an effort to protect themselves; and to better handle a bad situation. It only leads to despondency and depression.
Ruth’s Memoir taught me to replace despondent thoughts with the song mantra: “Count Your Many Blessings.” I grew up singing this song. But didn’t realize, till I read and listened to Ruth’s book for the third time, this is what I needed to do to keep a good spirit with me.
Singing “Count Your Blessings” reminds me to start adding up all my blessings, instead of my cursings. I’ve found it’s the best way — the proactive way to avoid depression, negativity, and feeling sorry for myself in the face of traumatic situations: Aging, for example!
Now, whenever dark clouds threaten to rain on my sunshine, I remember to say/sing: “Count your blessings; name them one by one.” There’s no end to the blessings that have been bestowed upon me, despite all the bad things I’ve had “bestowed” upon me.
Though I grew up singing the song, “Count Your Many Blessings,” I hadn’t gotten the lesson Ruth’s mother Kathy taught when she constantly admonished her to “Count your blessings” — no matter how bad things got!
It seemed a silly thing for Ruth’s mom to consistantly say, given the insideous mire and adversity her family incessantly suffered. Now I realize Ruth’s mother had learned from her upbringing a good lesson she wisely passed down to her children.
Counting one’s blessings chases out helplessness, hopelessness, blame, negativity, depression, and feeling sorry for oneself. It turns one’s frown upside down into a smile; and supplants downsides with an upside attitude and action, the best prescription for surviving bad situations.
Ruth passed this lesson on to me, along with other lessons taught through “the blessing” of her memoir — her gift to the world. I’m looking forward to her next book. So write on, Ruth!
*Count Your Many Blessings
1- When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God has done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
*Count your many blessings, see what God has done.
[*And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.]
2- Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
And you will keep singing as the days go by
3- When you look at others with their lands and gold,
Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold;
Count your many blessings money cannot buy
Your reward in heaven, nor your home on high.
4- So, amid the conflict whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged, God is over all;
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.
By Johnson Oatman, Jr., 1897
*(This song is in hymn books and online.)
*The following video gives insight into Mormon fundamentalism and how I and Ruth were raised — and what we escaped.