Elder Petersen’s Mission Memories by Jeff Laver

ELDER
Elder Petersen’s Mission Memories by Jeff Laver
Publisher: Torquere Press
Genre: Historical (1970s)
Length: Short Story (69 pgs)
Other: M/M, Anal Play
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Steve Petersen has been hoping his homosexual feelings are “just a phase.” But as a nineteen-year-old embarking on a two-year Mormon mission in South America, he realizes those feelings are still there, and that he’s attracted to another missionary — the companion he’s been assigned to be with twenty-four hours a day. Set in 1972, less than three years after Stonewall, these missionaries have been taught by their church that homosexuality is an abomination, and those who suffer from those tendencies must repent. Worse, they’re told that with God’s help, fervent prayer, and mind over matter, they can become heterosexuals. Steve’s conflict is real and heart-wrenching; he’s an official representative of his church, but he’s falling in love with his companion. Can he reconcile his church doctrine and the feelings in his heart?

Steve was nineteen in 1971 and a devout Mormon. That summer after finishing high school he studied hard in anticipation of leaving on a Mormon mission. Sent into a new country for his mission and assigned to his new partner/companion, Steve (Elder Peterson) was thrilled to find his partner was Elder Evans. Steve knew Randall from high school. Randall had been a few years ahead of him and very easy on the eye. Missionary life is a lot harder than Steve ever expected, and soon his need for Randall has become one of the most important things in his life.

This is a well written story, akin to a confessional or short biographical tale. Told in the first person, I found myself intrigued by the Mormon lifestyle Steve lived. On a mission in Columbia, in a strange country and feeling very isolated I understood a lot of the problems Steve found himself facing. His sexual attraction to Randall was a slow burn, growing and intensifying over time and feeling quite realistic. The strict and very strong religious beliefs, though, make me think this book definitely won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. The emotions are raw though and I found them very well written.

I really felt for Steve as he tried to sort through his homosexual thoughts and feelings. Particularly given the “historical” (1970s) time setting I can understand how confusing, taboo and difficult life must have felt for Steve. I connected with his character – despite knowing next to nothing about the Mormon religion. There is a non-penetrative sex scene near the middle and finally toward the end a proper, erotic sex scene that is graphic and has a very long lead-up to it. I found it emotional and explicit though very tastefully written. This isn’t a “usual” erotic romance story, but more a coming of age style story about one man discovering his sexuality and his true self in relation to his Mormon religious beliefs. Readers looking for a more regular “guy meets guy and hits it off” story mightn’t find what they’re looking for here, I still am glad to have read this story. It opened a window into a religion and lifestyle I don’t know much about and while I didn’t find it as titillating as some others might, I nevertheless don’t feel my time was wasted.

Well written and interesting, this book will not be every readers cup of tea. But for readers who enjoy coming of age style stories or who are curious about the Mormon religion and workings and don’t mind M/M relationships this might be an interesting book to try.

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