Monday, October 10, 2022

Q&A with Diana Cannon Ragsdale




Diana Cannon Ragsdale is the author of the new memoir Loose Cannons: A Memoir of Mania and Mayhem in a Mormon Family. Also a retired physical therapist and a mental health advocate, she lives in Salt Lake City, Utah.


Q: At what point did you decide to write this memoir, and how long did it take you to write?


A: Since birth, my life has been riddled with chaos and dysfunction, and writing my memoir was a process of organizing the chaos and making sense of it all. It finally all feels real! It took seven years to write.


Q: What impact did it have on you to write the book?


A: The biggest impact it had on me was that by talking about all of the traumatic things that had happened over the first 50 years of my life I was able to let go of all of the shame and guilt I had held on to for so long. It’s been very cathartic and freeing.


Q: How would you describe your relationship over the course of your life with the Mormon Church?


A: I would describe it like a carousel ride, jumping on and off until I decided to leave for good.


Early on, I had good experiences with the church although I didn’t start attending until I was 10 years old. A little background: Before I was born, and up until I was 10, my parents were smoking, drinking, inactive Mormon swingers.


When my mother abandoned us in 1966, my father turned right around and married my mother’s sister who was staunch Mormon. That’s when my siblings and I became immersed into the religion. I loved it, because I finally felt more approval from orthodox family members, we had a better social structure, and healthier role models.


I was never truly “all in” regarding church doctrine, in fact, to this day, it bores me to tears. But, socially, it was my whole world and I had no other exposure to other religion. We lived in a very tight Mormon bubble, where there is tremendous pressure placed on generational Mormon families.

Even though my parents strayed for a while, we were all born into a Mormon dynasty as direct descendants of George Q. Cannon; anyone who strayed or became inactive was messing with the plan of eternal salvation.


After my first divorce at 28 years old, I thought I was out of the church for good. I felt I was happier and more at peace to be rid of all of the unattainable goals for perfection. But when my second marriage failed and I was on my third to a Mormon guy, I gave it another shot, only because I thought it would prevent another divorce. It didn’t.


But, once I stepped away for good, and met other non-Mormon people, I was able to search for more perspective. It helped me realize I was not a bad person and that I deserved to find my own happiness. I finally officially resigned from the LDS church in 2016, but had not been involved since my last disastrous divorce in 2009.


In the end, I decided that the church was hindering my own personal journey of growth, discovery, and contemplation.


Q: What do your family members think of the book?


A: I am grateful, because I have had a ton of support from family. This book has been a collaboration of efforts especially with my siblings. I was able to interview my stepmother, aunts, uncles, and cousins to tap into their memories.


With the members of my family who are still very active in the Mormon church, there have only been a couple who have expressed hurt by what I expose about family and the parts of the Mormon religion they feel are sacred.


While inextricably linked to the church (because of my family history), writing this book is not an attack on the LDS church at all. There are plenty of other places to go and read attacks on the church. That is not me or my story or my intention.


I grew up in secrets and fear – both in my family and in religious life. This book peels back the layers of the secrets and fears and, in doing so, I tell my story and I share my experiences and my firsthand observations. I know I expose a lot, but it’s important to me to talk about difficult things, rather than hold them inside.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I am working on promoting Loose Cannons, and enjoying learning all that I can about the process. Now that the book is published, I’ve been reading any memoir I can get my hands on, spending time with kids and grandchildren, and lowering my handicap in golf.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Just how grateful I am for this interview opportunity! Thank you very much!


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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