Martha Beck

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Martha Beck
BornMartha Nibley
(1962-11-29) November 29, 1962 (age 57)
Provo, Utah
Occupationauthor, life coach, speaker
Alma materHarvard University
SpouseJohn Beck (1983–2004)

Martha Nibley Beck (born November 29, 1962) is an American author, life coach, and speaker who specializes in helping individuals and groups achieve greater levels of personal and professional success. She holds three degrees, a BA, MA and PhD from Harvard University. Beck is the daughter of deceased LDS Church scholar and apologist, Hugh Nibley. She received national attention after publication in 2005 of her best-seller, Leaving the Saints: How I Lost the Mormons and Found My Faith in which she recounts her experiences of surviving sexual abuse. In addition to authoring several books, Beck is a columnist for O, The Oprah Magazine.


Early life and education[edit]

Martha Nibley was born in Provo, Utah, in 1962, the seventh of eight children of Hugh Nibley and Phyllis Nibley, and raised LDS in a prominent Utah family. Her father was a professor at Brigham Young University. She received a BA degree in East Asian studies, along with an MA and a Ph.D. in sociology from Harvard University.[1][non-primary source needed]


During her academic career, Beck worked as a research associate at Harvard Business School, studying career paths and life-course changes. Before becoming a life coach, she taught sociology, social psychology, organizational behavior, and business management at Harvard and the American Graduate School of International Management. She has published academic books and articles on a variety of social science and business topics. Her non-academic books include the New York Times bestsellers Expecting Adam and Leaving the Saints, as well as Finding Your Own North Star: Claiming the Life You Were Meant to Live, Steering by Starlight, and Finding Your Way in a Wild New World: Reclaiming Your True Nature.

Beck has also been a contributing editor for popular magazines, including Real Simple and Redbook, and has been a columnist for O, the Oprah Magazine since July 2001. Her latest book, The Martha Beck Collection: Essays on Creating Your Right Life, Volume 1, includes essays from her O, the Oprah Magazine column. Beck is president of Martha Beck, Inc., which offers a life coach training and certification program based on Beck's books and experience for individuals looking to acquire life coaching skills and tools. In addition to life coach training, Martha Beck, Inc., offers live events, products, and resources related to life coaching strategies.

Personal life[edit]

Beck met John Christen Beck, a fellow Mormon from Utah, during her undergraduate studies at Harvard. They married in the LDS Salt Lake Temple on June 21, 1983, in Salt Lake City, Utah, and they eventually had three children together.[2]

After the birth of their second child, Adam, who had been diagnosed with Down Syndrome prior to his birth, Beck returned with her husband and children to Utah to be closer to family and support. Expecting Adam: A True Story of Birth, Rebirth and Everyday Magic is Beck's story about her decision to give birth to and raise Adam.[3]

In 1990, soon after the birth of her third child, Beck, as a part-time faculty member at Brigham Young University (BYU) in Provo, Utah, taught a course on the sociology of gender in the Department of Social Science. During her time as part-time faculty member at BYU, five faculty members were excommunicated from the LDS Church as a consequence of public writings that were deemed critical of the church; the group became known as the September Six. She and husband John Beck also made critical public statements about both the excommunications and other church and BYU matters, which led to first John, then Martha herself, leaving the LDS Church in 1993.[1][4]

Since leaving the LDS Church, both Martha Beck and her now ex-husband subsequently came out publicly as gay. In 2003, Beck separated from her husband, divorcing him in 2004.[2] She now lives with her family in Pennsylvania.[5]


Breaking the Cycle of Compulsive Behavior[edit]

Beck's first book, coauthored with her husband, John Beck, Breaking the Cycle of Compulsive Behavior, treated homosexuality as one of several "compulsive behaviors," like bulimia.[6][7] However, both Martha Beck and her now-ex-husband subsequently came out publicly as gay[8] and have stated that they no longer consider homosexuality a form of compulsive behavior.[9]

Leaving the Saints[edit]

In 2005, she received national attention for her bestselling[10] book, Leaving the Saints: How I Lost the Mormons and Found My Faith.[1] According to Sunstone magazine,[11] the book may have originally been conceived as a novel, loosely based on her life (with a male main character), but was changed to recount her personal experiences, with the encouragement of her publishers. Ultimately released in March 2005, the book is a narrative in which Beck describes recovered memories of alleged sexual abuse by her father,[7] prominent LDS academician Hugh Nibley; her experiences teaching at Brigham Young University; cultural dissonance and anomalies in Utah; her spiritual journey leaving the LDS Church. It also relates the account of her taking her recently hospitalized father and holding him in a hotel room against his will for five hours, attempting to get a confession of guilt from him.[1]

Articles were published in response to the book, including a critical essay by the Mormon author, Boyd Jay Petersen. Petersen, Beck's brother-in-law and Nibley's biographer,[12] stated: "Throughout this book, as with her other books, it is obvious that she distorts the record as much as or more than she reports it, jumps to conclusions more than provides evidence leading to conclusions, and blurs fact and fantasy."[13] Beck responded to some of these criticisms by stating that she began having memories of her traumatic events prior to the use of any therapy (including hypnosis), that her vagina had scarring that may have been the result of sexual abuse, and that her memories were vivid and intrusive.[14]

Some members of Nibley's surviving family also challenge Beck's allegations by pointing out inconsistencies in her descriptions of events to various media sources[13] and her use of self-hypnosis to intentionally recover the memories.[13][15] Rebecca Nibley, Beck's sister, reported that Marsha Beck encouraged her to attempt to recover her own memories of abuse, without success.[7] Beck acknowledged consulting recovered-memory therapist and self-hypnosis advocate Lynne Finney, although she claimed that she only did it after recovering her memories of abuse.[7] Hugh Nibley's family claimed that Beck's experiences of sexual abuse recounted in her book were false[7][15][16] and expressed "outrage" after the book's publishing.[17][18] They furthermore expressed their dismay that Martha Beck has refused to speak with them, while claiming the reverse was true.[15][19]

Although most of the criticism from LDS church members in support of Nibley centered around Beck's allegations of sexual abuse, a substantial portion of the book involves a discussion of the LDS Church and its policies. BYU professor Robert L. Millet criticized Beck's portrayals of Nibley as "nonsense," "ludicrous," and "paranoia," saying that she "seems to be a magnet for improbable happenings" and "equate[s] weird anomalies in Mormon culture with the norm."[20] Kent P. Jackson describes her description of Mormon culture as "outlandish", saying "Beck's depictions of the church and BYU are so far removed from reality that it is clear that from the start she ruled out BYU faculty, other academics, and informed Latter-day Saints as potential readers. There was obviously no attempt made to establish credibility with those groups. ... this book was written for those who like stories about people victimized by powerful men and powerful institutions. Yet those who really know what she has written about will have a very hard time believing anything in the book."[16] He proceeds to list a number of claims Beck made in the book which he asserts can be verified as false with readily available public information.[16] Dan Wotherspoon, editor of the independent Mormon magazine Sunstone, similarly states "She says a lot of things in there that anyone who lives in Utah will just know is wrong."[18]


  • Beck, Martha Nibley (1994). Flight from the iron cage: LDS women's responses to the paradox of modernization (Ph.D.). Harvard University. OCLC 32034090.

Beck is also creator of a number of non-book products, primarily digital recording services that offer education and various life coaching strategies.

  • The "Wild New You" eCourse - a product based on a four-week live telecourse covering Beck's book, Finding Your Way in a Wild New World.
  • Starlight Seminar-Leading Your Life DVD Set - A five-DVD set of Martha's one-day seminar based on her book, Steering by Starlight.
  • Martha Beck's 'What Do I Want To Be When I Grow Up?' Workbook and CD Set - Set of 5 CDs and a 126-page workbook of Martha's six-week live telecourse of the same name.


  1. ^ a b c d Beck, Martha N (2006). Leaving the Saints: How I Lost the Mormons and Found My Faith. Three Rivers Press. ISBN 978-0-307-33599-9.
  2. ^ a b Martha Nibley Beck v. John Christen Beck, FC 2003-006435 Superior Court of Arizona Maricopa County (2003).
  3. ^ Beck, Martha N (2001). Expecting Adam. Platkus Books. ISBN 978-0-7499-2190-3.
  4. ^ Tanner, Jerald and Sandra (November 1993). "Mormon Inquisition? LDS Leaders Move To Repress Rebellion". Salt Lake Messenger (85). Utah Lighthouse Ministry. Retrieved August 18, 2013.[unreliable source?]
  5. ^ "Bio - Martha Beck". Martha Beck. Retrieved March 3, 2016.
  6. ^ Beck, Martha Nibley; Beck, John C (1990). Breaking the Cycle of Compulsive Behavior. Deseret Book Company. ISBN 978-0-87579-290-3.
  7. ^ a b c d e Wyatt, Edward (February 24, 2005). "A Mormon Daughter's Book Stirs a Storm". New York Times. Retrieved April 7, 2017.
  8. ^ Beck, Martha. "Discussions with Martha Beck: What Comes Next". Leaving the Saints Book Website. Archived from the original on July 2, 2005. Retrieved April 7, 2017.
  9. ^ Clark, Jason (February 27, 2005), LDS Couple Who Dubbed Homosexuality "Addiction" Come Out, Affirmation: Gay & Lesbian Mormons, archived from the original on July 24, 2012, retrieved April 24, 2007
  10. ^ "The New York Times Books Best-Seller Lists—Hardcover Nonfiction". March 27, 2005. Retrieved April 19, 2011.
  11. ^ Lyon, Tania R (2005). "An Exhaustive Memoir of Reading "Leaving the Saints"" (PDF). Sunstone Magazine. pp. 70–75. Retrieved August 20, 2013.
  12. ^ Peterson, Boyd Jay (2002). Hugh Nibley: A Consecrated Life. Greg Kofford Books. ISBN 1-58958-020-6.
  13. ^ a b c Peterson, Boyd Jay (2005). "Response to "Leaving the Saints"". FAIR: Defending Mormonism. Archived from the original on March 18, 2005. Retrieved April 7, 2017.
  14. ^ Beck, Martha (2005). "Setting the Record Straight: Physical Evidence & Memories From My Childhood". Archived from the original on July 2, 2005. Retrieved April 7, 2017.
  15. ^ a b c Nibley, Paul; Mincek, Christina Nibley; Nibley, Tom; Nibley, Michael; Nibley, Alex; Nibley, Rebecca; Petersen, Zina Nibley (February 22, 2005). "Nibley family response to Martha Beck's Leaving the Saints". Archived from the original on March 1, 2005. Retrieved April 7, 2017.
  16. ^ a b c Jackson, Kent P. (2005). "Leaving the Facts and the Faith" (PDF). FARMS Review. 17 (1): 107–121. ISSN 1550-3194. Retrieved April 7, 2017.[permanent dead link]
  17. ^ Lythgoe, Dennis (February 5, 2005). "Nibley siblings outraged over sister's book". Deseret News. Retrieved April 7, 2017.
  18. ^ a b Reid, T. R. (May 8, 2005). "Daughter's Denunciation of Historian Roils Mormon Church". Washington Post. pp. A03. Retrieved April 7, 2017.
  19. ^ Peterson, Boyd Jay (August 6, 2005). "As Things Stand at the Moment: Responding to Martha Beck's Leaving the Saints". FairMormon. Retrieved April 7, 2017.
  20. ^ Millet, Robert L. (July 1, 2005). "They Leave It, But They Can't Leave It Alone: The memoir of a disaffected Mormon". Books & Culture. Christianity Today. Retrieved April 7, 2017.

External links[edit]