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Voi. 30, No.+ 

Am I Not a W 

oman and a ^ister? 

Mother's Day 

Spring 20 1 1 



Letter from Our Editors 

Waiting 4 

Lisa Van Orman Hadley 

Identification Card, Please 5 

Pam Lindsay Everson 

Two,Actually 7 

Kirsten Campbell 

Birth Mother 8 

Tamra Hyde 

Emergence 10 

Kendahl Millecam 

Sisters Speak 

Mother s Day. 13 

Dispositions, Inclinations, and 
Underwear 16 

Lesli Smith 


Swinging 17 

Shelah Miner 

Women's Theology 

No Apologies or Apologetics 20 

Elizabeth Hammond 

Never Alone 23 

Margaret Olsen Hemming 

Goodness Gracious 

Daughter s Day 25 

Linda Hoffman Kimball 

Global Zion 

Privilege 26 

Sherrie L. M. Gavin 

Mean Mom 30 

Kylie Nielson Turley 

Poetry 33 

Courtney Cooke 
Judith Curtis 
Dayna Patterson 
Kristine Barrett 
Lisa Van Orman Hadley 

Exponent Generations 

Women and Reproductive Choice. 36 
Ellis R. Shipp 
Emma Lou Thayne 
Galen Smith 

Television Review 

Sister Wives 39 

Alissa King 

Flannel Board 

Deborah Under the Palm Tree 40 

Adriene Cruz 

Co- Ed itors- in - Ch ief 
Aimee Evans Hickman 
Emily Clyde Curtis 

Design Editor 
Margaret Olsen Hemming 

Copy Editor 
Kathleen Gaisford 

Poetry Editor 
Judy Curtis 

Exponent Generations Editor 
Deborah Kris 

Goodness Gracious Editor 
Linda Hoffman Kimball 

Sisters Speak Editor 
Caroline Kline 

Sabbath Pastorals Editor 
Margaret Olsen Hemming 

Awakenings Editor 
Jessica Steed 

Staff: Marci Anderson, Kristy Benton, Sue 
Booth-Forbes, Susan Christiansen, Courtney 
Cooke, Deja Earley, Tresa Edmunds, Lisa 
Hadley, Sara Hanks, Kate Kadash-Edmond- 
son, Sariah Kell, Rachel Jones, Kendahl 
Millecam, Amanda Olson, Elizabeth Pinbor- 
ough, Natalie Prado, Meghan Raynes, Gwen 
Reynolds, Chelsea Shields Strayer, Suzette 
Smith, Heather Sundahl, Brooke Williams 


Barbara Streeper Taylor 

Cheryl DiVito 

Members: Andrea Alexander, Emily Clyde 
Curtis, Margaret Olsen Hemming, Aimee 
Evans Hickman, Linda Hoffman Kimball, 
Caroline Kline, Jana Remy, Heather Sundahl 


Linda Andrews, Nancy Dredge, Judy Dush- 
ku, Karen Haglund, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich 

Exponent II (ISSN 1094-7760) is published quarterly 
by Exponent II Incorporated, a non-profit corporation 
with no official connection with The Church of Jesus 
Christ of Latter-day Saints. Articles published represent 
the opinions of authors only and not necessarily those 
of the editor or staff. Letters to Exponent II or its editors 
and Sisters Speak articles are assumed intended for 
publication in whole or in part and may therefore be 
used for such purposes. 

Copyright © 2011 by Exponent II, Inc. All rights 

Special thanks to Adrienne Cruz, Galen Dara, Sharon Furrier, Leslie Graff, Linda 
Hoffman Kimball, Kathryn Knudsen, Amanda Demos Larsen, Tessa Lindsay, Stepha- 
nie Northrup, Amy Tolk Richards, Sarah Samuelson, and Ann Marie Wliittaker 
for the use of their artwork in this issue. 

Cover art is Klimt's Women by Sharon Furner, Matthews, North Carolina 

Submissions to Exponent II 

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The purpose of Exponent II is to promote sisterhood by providing a forum for 
Mormon women to share their life experiences in an atmosphere of trust and 
acceptance. Our common bond is our connection to the Mormon Church and 
our commitment to women in the Church. The courage and spirit of women 
challenge and inspire us to examine and shape the direction of our lives. We are 
confident that this open forum will result in positive change. We publish this 
paper in celebration of the strength and diversity of women. 

Letter from the Editors 

Years ago, as a woman strug- 
gling with infertility, I hated go- 
ing to church on Mother's Day; 
the sympathy, praise, everything 
anyone said felt like a slap in the 

So, the first year I had a baby, 
I settled in, thinking, "Finally, I 
can enjoy Mother's Day." 

It was then that I came upon 
the sad realization that Mother's 
Day carries baggage for so many 
Mormon women, those who 
are single, divorced, childless, 
estranged from their children- 
even those who look like they fit the ideal. 

There is no way to address the pain and sadness that 
many women endure every Mother's Day, but I wonder 
if it might be alleviated if we expanded the definition of 
the word, "mothering" to focus on the concept of divine 

In the scriptures, I see glimpses of the theological 
concept of mothering. We read passages which provide 
metaphorical images of God and Jesus giving birth, nurs- 
ing, and raising up children. Jesus does this when he says 
in Matthew 23:37, "how often would I have gathered thy 
children together, as a hen gathereth her chickens under 
her wings?" In Isaiah 49: 15, God speaks, "Can a woman 
forget her sucking child, that she should not have com- 
passion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, 
yet will I not forget thee." In both of these examples, 
God and Jesus take acts of mothering: comforting, teach- 
ing, and feeding to show their love for us. 

As Jesus and God embody motherhood through these 
metaphors, I think we all do the same in our daily lives. 
We show our capacity for divine love when we bring a 
meal to a sister who is ill or when we simply sit with a 
friend who is struggling. In those tender acts, I believe 
we are expressing the divine love inside each of us; we 
are mothering each other. 

In this Mother's Day issue, Aimee and I have worked 
to find examples that illustrate how mothering is not 
limited to one type of relationship. We see examples of 
this in Pam Everson's "Identification Card, Please" as 
she and her grandmother struggle with their diminished 
capacities, and in Sherrie Gavin's Global Zion piece, 
"Privilege," as she talks about her struggles with infertit- 

Vol. 30, No. 4 

ily as she travels to a far away 

We also wanted to show the 
variety of difficulties women deal 
with in our attempts to mother. 
My mom once wrote in a Moth- 
er's Day talk she gave, "The crux 
of the difficulty of Mother's Day 
may be that the ideal mother we 
sometimes chose to hold up on 
Mother's Day is not very help- 
ful to those involved in the gritty 
mothering business." We see 
that grittiness in Tamra Smith's 
essay about giving up her baby 
for adoption called "Birth Mother" and in Kendahl Mil- 
lecam's work about healing from her abusive parents in 

And, there is humor in these struggles as Lesli Smith 
shows in "Opposite Day," worrying whether the small 
daily choices she feels ill equipped to make will have 
unforeseen consequences on her children, or in Kylie 
Nelson Turley's proud assertion of herself as a "Mean 
Mom" (right there with you, sister). 

For me, Mother's Day became easier to bear when I 
decided that ultimately, what we are celebrating on this 
holiday is the divine love we have for each other and our 
meager attempts to show that love through acts of moth- 
ering. One medieval mystic, Julian of Norwich, writes in 
a piece entitled "Revelation of Divine Love," 

To motherhood as properties belong natural love, wis- 
dom and knowledge - and this is God. For though it is 
true that our bodily bringing forth is very little, low, and 
simple compared to our spiritual bringing forth, yet it is 
he who does the mothering in the creatures by whom it is 

As we learn to express divine love (whether it be through 
a biological link or a spiritual one) I think we become 
better able to nurture as our Heavenly Parents do. 

Emily Clyde Curtis, Spring 2011 

Have a Letter to the Editors or a submission for 
Exponent II? Email us at 


r iff m A jmf 

>onent 1! 


by Lisa Van Orman Hadley 
Somerville, Massachusetts 

At the end of sacrament meeting, an awkward new 
dad comes to the pulpit and says he needs to make a 
quick announcement. He clears his throat and says, "Um, 
the Elder's Quorum has a little something for all of the 
women in the ward. I'm going to pass this basket of 
treats around and all the women should take one." 
He is trying so hard and I appreciate the gesture, but 
there is no way around it: today is Mother's Day. This 
day was not created for women, it was created for moth- 
ers. And sitting here with my little bag of Hershey's 
Hugs and Kisses is not comforting. It is just another 
reminder of what I am not. 

I remember Mother's Day when I was a kid. My 
mother had to conduct her cacophonous orchestra of 
children alone while my father sat up on the stand. They 
asked all of the mothers to please stand up, and the 
deacons brought around a carnation and baby's breath 
corsage for each woman standing. When my mother 
stood up, I felt proud. I looked forward to the day when 
I, too, would stand up and receive my corsage. 

I'm thirty-two years old and still waiting for my car- 
nation and baby's breath. 

Painting Tulips by Sarah Richards Samuelson, 
Orem, Utah 

The thing about waiting is that 
you have to keep living life while 
you 're doing it. 

If there is one constant about infertility, it is wait- 
ing. Every month you wait to see whether your period 
will come. Every month the timer resets, every month 
another failure. You wait for appointments with your 
doctor — weeks, sometimes months. You wait two excru- 
ciating weeks after an in vitro cycle to take a blood test 
and then wait for the nurse to call and tell you whether 
you're pregnant. And then you wait for your period 
to come, that big red checkmark confirming what you 
already know. You wait for paperwork to be processed. 
You wait for the insurance company to approve another 
treatment. You wait for a birth mother to choose you, for 
a child to be matched to you. Sometimes it feels like put- 
ting coins into a slot machine and waiting for a payout. 
You worry about time running out. You wait and wait 
and wait and wonder if you will ever stop waiting. 

I have been in this holding pattern for four years. 

I remember when I went off birth control. My hus- 
band and I wondered if the timing was right, wondered if 
we should wait a little longer. But I was 28 and tired of 
waiting. We were sure that we wanted to be parents and 
certain that things would happen when they were sup- 
posed to. I figured it might take a few months. If worse 
came to worse, I would have to take Clomid for a month 
or two like my older sister. 

But nothing happened. Clomid, surgery, in vitro 
cycles, adoption sessions, periods, periods, periods. Still 

I've been in a lot of waiting rooms. At the doctor's 
office where I did my first two in vitro cycles, the wait- 
ing room for Infertility was shared with the waiting room 
for Obstetrics and Gynecology. It always seemed like a 
cruel punishment to have to wait with all of those preg- 
nant women, all of those mother geese with their gaggles 
of cooing babies. The flyers pinned to the wall bore 
conflicting messages: a flyer for an infertility support 
group was pasted alongside a poster of a mother holding 
a newborn. 

No one talks to each other in the waiting room. All 
the people on the Infertility side are there for the same 

Exponent II 

Page 4 

Identification Card, Please 

reason, but they don't say anything 
to each other. You flip through maga- 
zines, make judgments about each 
other. Most of the women look to 
me like they're in their forties. They 
wear high heels and pearl necklaces 
and come in with briefcases. I, on the 
other hand, am usually wearing jeans 
and a t-shirt from the grocery store 
where I work. They probably think 
I'm just a kid. I'm 32, but it's not 
uncommon for people to think I'm in 
high school. A few years ago I was 
denied a sample at Costco because 
my mother wasn't with me. I see the 
way these women look at me, like, 
"What's she doing here?" 

Sometimes I wonder that, too. 
Sometimes, actually pretty much all 
the time, I get sick of waiting and 
wonder how long I'll continue to do 

A few months ago I decided I 
was going to try to talk to someone 
every time I'm waiting. I tried it out 
as I was waiting for an ultrasound 
during my last in vitro cycle. I 
started talking to the woman sitting 
next to me. She seemed nervous. 
She told me it was her first in vitro 
cycle, and I told her how things 
worked. She told me how much she 
hated the nurse downstairs who drew 
her blood, and I told her about the 
time that nurse put the needle in my 
ann and forgot to attach anything 
to the other end. We talked until my 
name was called and I found myself 
wishing we could talk longer. For a 
minute, I forgot about waiting. 

The thing about waiting is that 
you have to keep living life while 
you're doing it. You can travel the 
world, live at an artist colony, do 
all the other things you've always 
wanted to do. You can find other 
people who are waiting and wait 
it out together. I've found that it's 
almost always better to wait with 
someone than to wait alone. ■ 

by Pam Lindsay Everson 
Newport Beach, California 

Once again I felt the frustrated 
ambivalence of caring for my grand- 
mother while my mother was tied up 
for the day. When I was a little girl, 
Gam's appearance at our house had 
always been greeted with unparal- 
leled enthusiasm as she transformed 
our otherwise mundane existence 
into extraordinary pleasure. Her 
presence meant the unleashing of 
bright red crabs on the dark floors of 
our dining room where they scuttled 
noisily about before she snatched 
them from their hiding places (and 
our youthful intrigue) and plopped 
them into the fiery cauldrons of the 
boiling water pots. She could do 
anything, and she did. She was our 
leader, our camp counselor, and our 
security when our father disappeared 
from the scene. 

But things were different now. I 
was an adult, and Gam was the one 
who needed shepherding, protec- 
tion, and an infusion of joy that had 
faded with age and infirmity. It was 
my turn to care for her, to give back 
a smidgen of what she'd given me, 
and oh, how I longed to be up to the 

It was nice to have something on 
the calendar that day to get us out 
of the house. It was now difficult to 
plan outings or find ways to occupy 
our time since neither of us could 
drive. Her life had been anything but 
sedentary, and I felt my limitations 
all the more keenly in her presence. 
Today, we were off to the Depart- 
ment of Motor Vehicles, where my 
son had some business to conduct. 
At fifteen, Landon had studied the 
California Road Handbook and 

hoped to obtain his driver's permit. 
My husband, Ken, moved towards 
the car with as much enthusiasm as 
one headed for the dentist's office — 
it was another errand which would 
take a precious chunk of time out of 
his work day. He rolled the car down 
the driveway and backed up right 
alongside the curb. Gam blamed her 
tight skirt for her difficulty in climb- 
ing up onto the high seats of the Sub- 
urban. Never would she capitulate to 
the foibles of old age. She was used 
to driving her own car and being in 
charge in every sense. Sitting next 
to her great-grandson in the back 
seat, she must have felt like another 
charge for the day. She was, but in 
no way a burden or a displeasure to 
have around. 

I loved Gam as much as anyone 
could possibly love her grandmother. 
She had always been my hero. I 
hated the fact that she now had to 
live with my mother and be passed 
to my care like a child. She was not 
convinced that it had to be so, and it 
hurt to see her in such a predicament. 
How sorely she missed her home and 
her dignity. 

Ken was in his own world. When 
could he get back to a phone? Would 
we make it before it closed or would 
this be a waste of time and need to 
be repeated the next day? He turned 
the radio on. When it's quiet, switch 
on noise. He, too, was in a new situ- 
ation, one that he hadn't chosen. His 
way of dealing with it, it seemed, 
was to keep his head down and the 
music up. 

On the drive, Landon looked over 
his sample test. What would he tell 
his friends if he failed? He shouldn't 
have said anything to them. He 
wasn't so sure this permit was go- 

ing to be all that great 
anyway if it meant that 
he'd have to drive his 
mother to the grocery 
store and the depart- 
ment store and shop 
with her for clothes as 
his sister had done. He 
told me as we walked 
through the women's 
shoe department of 
Nordstrom; that he 
didn't know what hell 
was for girls, but he 
thought that this busi- 
ness of shopping with 
his mother might just 
be it for guys. 

No one spoke in the car. I re- 
minded myself again what my role 
was in this excursion. I was there 
primarily to share the experience 
with Landon. Just because I couldn't 
drive him myself to get his driver's 
permit, I could not and I would not 
miss these milestones in his life. And 
I also had my own business to take 
care of at the DMV. I wanted neither 
to think about it, nor to let it cast a 
shadow over his day. But it was time 
to do it — to stop pretending, like 
Gam was, that things weren't really 
what they were. 

We inched our way towards the 
appointment window, this odd family 
of four, each of us wrapped up in 
the anxious concerns of a world all 
our own. Landon was to confront his 
dragon first. Leading his entourage 
forward, he made his play quickly 
and easily. For him, it was going to 
be won or lost in a matter of minutes. 
Effortlessly, he read through the se- 
ries of letters on the eye chart while 
I was still searching in vain for the 
chart somewhere behind the desk. 
He received his test and disappeared 
around the corner. 

I was up next. I asked which 
window could help me in obtaining 

Illustration by Tessa Lindsay 
Salt Lake City, Utah 

an I.D. card. "You mean a driver's li- 
cense renewal?" My heart was beat- 
ing hard. How long had I thought 
about this day and put it off, antici- 
pating an emotional outburst. Here 
it was. "No, I've experienced some 
vision loss and need to just get a 
personal identification card instead." 
I said it. Ken was quiet, perhaps sur- 
prised that I was finally making the 
move. It was a token gesture. I 
had given up driving a couple of 
years earlier but clung to that small 
card that made me feel like it really 
wasn't over yet. Now it was. I turned 
myself in and knew I could never 
go back. My chest was tight, and it 
hurt somewhere between my heart 
and my throat. The woman moved 
forward, processing my paperwork 
as if I had just declared a change of 
address. "Take this to window 12 
and wait there to have your picture 
taken." Didn't she recognize how 
tragic this was for me? How could 
she be so nonchalant when I felt like 
weeping, wailing, and rending my 

I moved over to another line and 
tried to hold on while normal busi- 

ness continued about 
me. My face contorted 
as I tried to ward off the 
mounting swell of tears. 
Gam followed closely 
behind me. Did she 
know what was going 
on? I had always fol- 
lowed her around, my 
brave and indomitable 
Gam, and now, here we 
were, quietly suffer- 
ing together. I turned 
and faced her squarely 
for the first time since 
we had arrived. I felt 
her looking back at me 
with an understanding that surpassed 
words. I could no longer see well 
and she could no longer speak well, 
but the lines of communication 
flowed between us with unprecedent- 
ed force. 

With the tight squeezing of my hand 
she told me everything. She told 
me she knew, she knew how much 
I hurt, she knew what it meant to 
lose one's independence, and she 
knew what it meant to live a com- 
promised life. Her eyes told me that 
it wasn't fair that a grown woman 
could not speak for herself, could 
not get herself from one place to the 
next and could never again fully be 
the master of her own destiny. Her 
loving empathy said more to me than 
her pride had previously allowed her 
to express. The only words to pass 
from her lips were, "I know, dear. I 

Landon drove us home that day. I 
gave up my place in the front and he 
moved forward. "Bucks in the front, 
squaws in the back," Ken quipped, 
as we got in. Landon was trium- 
phant, with his permit in his pocket 
and his hands on the wheel. The road 
stretched out before him. This time it 
was I who asked for the radio to be 
turned on. ■ 

Two, Actually 

by Kirsten Campbell 
Granger, Indiana 

When I was in elementary school, 
a kid teasingly asked me how many 
moms I had. I knew enough to know 
that he was poking at polygamy. Be- 
ing one of the only members of the 
church at the school made me a cu- 
riosity, and I had to deal with ques- 
tions. My close friends had asked 
me about polygamy. I had explained 
that Mormons no longer practiced it 
and echoed their disgust at the very 
thought of it. When this kid brought 
up the issue, I decided to answer dif- 
ferently. I felt like shocking him so 
I replied, "Two, actually." His face 
registered a look of amazement and 
smug satisfaction until I finished my 
answer, "I have my real mom and my 
birth mother. I'm adopted." I could 
tell it wasn't the answer he expected, 
and he walked away confused. 

The interesting thing was that at 
that time this wasn't how I viewed 
things. I had only one mother. She 
was the one who dragged me out of 
bed each morning, made my lunches, 
encouraged my piano practicing, and 
laughed at my jokes. She was my 
"real" mom and I bristled when oth- 

ers would say that my birth mother 
was my "real mother." 

I always knew I was adopted. 
My parents had told me the details 
of my arrival story so often I felt as 
if I could remember them myself. If 
anything, I felt animosity toward my 
birth mother. Not out of a sense of 
abandonment, but out of a feeling of 
loyalty to my real mom. To me, sim- 
ply giving birth did not warrant the 
title of "mother." My mom was the 
one who calmed my fears and taught 
me right from wrong. It did not mat- 
ter at all that she hadn't carried me in 
her womb for nine months. She was 
my mother. No one else deserved the 
right to be called my mother. I even 
went so far as to start referring to my 
birth mother as my "birth unit" when 
speaking of my adoption. 

I rarely thought about being 
adopted. Sometimes on Mother's 
Day or my birthday I would wonder: 
Where was my birth mother? What 
did she look like? Did she enjoy 
black jelly beans as much as I did? 

It wasn't until I was 25, married, 
and holding my first child in my 
anns that I awakened to the truth that 
I was adopted. I knew this fact my 
whole life, but sitting in the hospital 

room with my daughter in my anns, 
loving her with a ferocity I had not 
known I could possess, I was over- 
whelmed by the realization of my 
origins. My birth mother had gone 
through the same ordeal I had just 
endured to bring me into the world. I 
was 25 and scared to death — she was 
only 17. As I looked at my daughter 
I could imagine nothing that I would 
not do to protect her. I could not give 
her away to anyone. 

I abandoned the term "birth unit" 
and I embraced the title "mother." 
This transformation came not as a 
result of her physically giving birth 
to me, but rather the act of her giving 
me away to another to raise. I won- 
dered what went through her mind as 
she made that choice. 

The song, "From God's Anns, 
to My Arms, to Yours" by Michael 
McLean helped me identify with 
how she might have felt. The song 
is from the viewpoint of the birth 
mother who agonizes over the choice 
to give her son to another, but de- 
cides that she must put the needs of 
her child ahead of her own desires. 

If you choose to tell him, and if he 
wants to know, 

Pregnant Woman Sits by Stephanie Northrup, Carbondale, Colorado 

How the one who gave him life could 

bear to let him go; 
Just tell him there were sleepless 

nights; I prayed and paced the 


And knew the only peace I'd find is if 

this child was yours. 
And maybe you can tell your baby, 

when you love him so, that he s 

been loved before; 
By someone who delivered your son 
From God's arms, to my arms, to 


I needed to honor my birth mother 
for the choice she made. Doing this 
did not mean that I loved my real 
mother less. It meant that I could 
make room in my heart for my birth 
mother as well. I always felt that I 
was with the family God had wanted 
me to be with — He just had to find a 
unique way to get me there. 

It has been 1 5 years since that 
"awakening." This year I will turn 
40, and my birth mother will be 57. 
I think of her on my birthdays now 
and wonder if she thinks of me. I 
have had the paperwork to begin the 
process of finding her for quite some 
time, and I'm not sure why I haven't 
mailed it off yet. My motivation in 
connecting with my birth mother 
would be to express my gratitude for 
her decision to give me away. I want 
her to know that she made the right 
choice. I had a wonderful upbringing 
and am living a full life. I hesitate 
only because I don't wish to upend 
her current life with something that 
might bring back painful memories. 
And so the forms lie in an envelope 
in my bedside table drawer. 

I rarely get asked about how 
many mothers I have anymore. 
However, if I am asked, I may reply 
just as I did back on that playground, 
"Two, actually. I have my real mom 
and my birth mother. I'm adopted." 
And this time I will mean it. ■ 

Birth Mother 

by Tamra Hyde 
St. George, Utah 

My perspective on Mother's Day 
was permanently altered in May 
of 1996. That year Mother's Day 
fell two days before my son was 
born and three days before he went 
home with his adoptive parents. In 
getting "knocked up" prematurely 
(or immaturely), I certainly wasn't 
alone; in fact, every year in the US 
about a million girls and women find 
themselves in that situation. What is 
unique about my motherhood is that 
I am among the less than 1 % of that 
group who chose adoption. 

My first real Mother's Day fell 
two days before my son's first birth- 
day. As was custom in my ward, all 
the mothers were asked to stand and 
be honored with a carnation. I felt 
a multitude of emotions brought on 
by the last year brimming just below 
the surface, but I was holding it 
together. My sweet teenage brother 
leaned over to me and said, "Tamra, 
stand up." Though touched by the 
gesture, I shook my head no. He 
persisted, "Tamra, you are a mother. 
One of those is yours." 

I've never been one to hide my 
story. I view my experience with 
motherhood as a badge of honor and 
have never thought of it as a scarlet 
letter, but at that time I thought it 
best not to presume to be in their 
ranks, not publicly anyway. I knew 
there might be some members of the 
congregation who would be shocked 
at the audacity of an unwed mother 
with her head held high, but it 
wasn't that idea that held me back. It 
was more that I was only just be- 
ginning to understand who I was in 

my new life. When my little brother 
was convinced that I would continue 
to refuse his prodding, and as the 
carnation bearers were approaching 
our pew, my brother stood up with 
the women, as my proxy, and made 
sure I had my Mother's Day trophy. 
Needless to say, tears flowed. 

In recent years I have hesitated 
to share my feelings about Mother's 
Day (though I'd like to) because my 
experience isn't to anyone else what 
it is to me. I perceive an expectation 
to be "over it." One Mother's Day, I 
overheard someone close to me say 
that I wanted attention. I did! I did 
want someone to take note of what 
Mother's Day meant to me and pay 
attention to the bittersweet emo- 
tions that come with my memories. 
The truth is, when my son left that 
hospital room, I thought the air from 
my lungs went with him. There was 
a literal, physical aching in my anns 
that would come and go for the next 
several weeks. I wanted someone to 
feel it with me. Before I placed him 
for adoption I feared I would be the 
victim of adoption. My son would 
have two parents and be sealed. His 
parents would have the family they'd 
longed for. And I would be broken. 

I'd never known anyone else 
who had been through this. I tried 
to share it with my ex-boyfriend. I 
showed him pictures and told him 
stories about how I knew my son, 
Justin, the first time I saw him. I told 
him about the uncommon sweetness 
I felt for Justin. I tried to describe 
his perfection and the euphoria I felt 
breathing in his scent, how attentive 
and intelligent Justin seemed, how I 
felt there were unseen beings there 
with us. Sensing I was trying to draw 

Page 8 

Exponent II 

something out of him that just wasn't 
there, he said "Tamra, your son has 
never been a reality to me." Even 
though he was one half of Justin's 
biology, he couldn't help shoulder 
the burden. No one could. 

I had joined the ranks of "the 
birth mother." For generations there 
had been no representation for us. 
We had no voice, no face — only 
shame and secrets. We were advised 
to resume normal life and deny to 
ourselves and everyone else that we 
were forever changed. 

But now there is a community — 
the adoption community. When I 
moved out west a couple of years 
after placing my son for adoption, I 
found this community. We are birth 
families and adoptive families. We're 
integrated and united. We understand 
disappointment and loss, and we 
don't give it an expiration date. It is 
little-known outside our community, 
but the Saturday before Mother's 
Day is Birth Mother's Day. 

Over time my heart has healed 
and I have realized that I'm not the 
broken woman I once feared I would 
be. The place my son holds in my 
heart has not diminished, but many 
other things have found a place there 
as well. I am filled with tremendous 
peace and gratitude; I have been so 
tenderly cared for by the One who 
led me to my choice, the One who 
saw me through my decision. He 
has remembered my sacrifice. I've 
been delivered and preserved and my 
life since has been filled with tender 
mercies. I know my little dude has 
the life that was designed for him. 
But I am not "over it." I hope never 
to be. This experience has made me. 
My adoption story is also my con- 
version story — a story of making 
wrong things right and bitter things 
sweet. "Beauty for ashes." Though I 
only had the role of a mother a short 
time, I magnified the calling to the 

fullest. I put my own heart, and my 
instincts on the altar in exchange for 
the life he could have. I would have 
been good for him, but I gave him 
the best. I put his best interest above 
the deepest desire of my heart. I did 
what a mother does and we've all 
been blessed as a result. 

When I was 18, sending the flesh 
of my flesh and bone of my bone to 
his new home and returning to mine 
with empty arms and an empty heart, 
I never imagined that at age 33 my 
womb would remain vacant. I as- 
sumed I'd soon be married and again 
feel the fullness and contentment of 
being "mommy" to someone. I have 
friends who were childless before 
adopting children who had refused 
to go to church on Mother's Day be- 
cause they couldn't bear to watch the 
celebration of what they longed for 
but couldn't conceive. I hope it's not 
presumptuous to say I have a taste 
of that. I attend a family ward, but I 
have no family. I know I'm fortunate 
for the glimpse of motherhood I've 
had but it's hard knowing what I'm 

There is a Mother's Day I look 
forward to with anxious anticipa- 
tion, when I might reunite with the 
mother who adopted my son. She 
whose two pink lines came in the 
form of a phone call, who prayed 
him home, who changed his diapers 
and consoled his disappointments, 
who has given her life to him day 
by day, and who I believe had claim 
to him before he ever came to me, 
is mother to him in a way I would 
never presume to claim. My con- 
nection to him is real. Biology is 
significant, but it's nothing compared 
to the sealing covenant. She is on 
my mind as soon as I wake up every 
second Sunday of May. We answered 
each other's prayers. We are partners 
in a common purpose. I long for the 
day, I hope not too far off, when I 
can honor in person the mother who 
means most to me, second only to 
my own mother. I hope to some day 
give her the hugs and kisses and 
thanks I've been storing up all these 
years. ■ 

Reunion by Stephanie Northrup, Carbondale, Colorado 

by Kendahl Millecam 
Tempe, Arizona 

"When you are struggling to recon- 
struct the truth of your past, espe- 
cially when that truth reflects poorly 
on them, your parents may insist that 

'It wasn 't so bad, ' 'It didn 't happen 
that way ', or even 'It didn 't happen 
at all. 'Such statements can frustrate 
your attempts to reconstruct your 
personal history, leading you to 
question your own impression and 
memories. "' 

It's not like you wake up when 
you're five, or eleven, or nineteen 
and think, "It all makes sense now: 
Mom has borderline personality 
disorder, and Dad is a molester!" It's 
not like you can fathom that your 
parents can't, or won't, love you. 
It's not like you call yourself a 
"victim" while it's happening, either. 
Perhaps time slows down. Or life 
becomes a blur. Sometimes you 
think you deserve it, or that you must 
deserve it because you knew it was 
coming this time. You get used to it. 
For a long time, I thought I invited 
hate and abuse, though I was un- 
aware of how I was doing it. When 
I got slapped for talking back, or 
preyed upon when I was vulnerable, 
or told to stop eating, or told I wasn't 
being righteous, I would think, "Oh, 
that's right, I am nobody. I am an 
appendage to my parents, a player in 
their lives." I would break out, try- 
ing to be a full person, human for a 
moment, only to be reminded of my 

1 Susan Forward, Toxic Parents: Overcom- 
ing Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your 

Life (New York: Bantam Books, 1989), p. 21 

In the process of 
discovering who I am, I 
also discovered who my 
parents are. 

Why couldn't I just remember 
the rules I had worked out to keep 
me safe? Just never be alone, always 
be on the lookout for Dad's mood. 
If he's angry, don't provoke him. If 
he's being affectionate, get the hell 
out of the room. If he's pontificating 
about school or politics, get ready to 
nod and keep your mouth shut. 

At least Dad was gone during the 
day, but I was with Mom more often. 
She was depressed and jealous. Be- 
ing home was like being in combat, 
out in a field waiting for the enemy 
at any moment. I couldn't count on 
anything staying the same. I was 
always on alert for any shift in her 
mood, her facial expressions, or her 
tone of voice. I never knew when the 
emotional landscape might change. I 
had to be ready to defend myself. 

At the same time, I felt like Mom 
expected me to take care of her. She 
was so hurt when I didn't clean up, 
or fought with a sibling, or wanted 
something for myself that she didn't 
want for me. Once on her birthday, 
I bought her a large collection of 
Dickens, and made a promise to her 
that I would make it a daily goal to 
not upset her and to clean my room 
and to handle my younger siblings. 
That way she would have time and 
desire to read for fun. At first, she 
was happy when she opened the gift 
and saw the book, but as I explained 
my plan to her, her face fell. Her 
smile disappeared, and as she set 
the book down, she said she hadn't 

Page 10 

known she was such a burden to me. 
It seemed even my attempts to fix the 
problems at home turned into prob- 

Holidays were a combination of 
joy and escape but also higher stress 
and greater likelihood of conflict. 
My mother took painstaking care to 
prepare properly for each holiday. 
When I was a child, it made life 
exciting. I would look forward to 
decorating, going on doorbell-ditch- 
ing cookie-plate runs, and making 
special cards and food. 

One Valentine's Day, my siblings 
and I woke up to a beautiful table 
set in pink and red, breakfast ready, 
personalized sets of candies on the 
table, all dutifully prepared by my 
mother. I guess we didn't say thanks 
enough, or not sincerely enough, 
because by ten o'clock Mom was 
in tears because we didn't appreci- 
ate her. Worse than tears, after some 
time she turned cold, stating she 
didn't know why she tried to give 
us nice things if we didn't say thank 
you. She couldn't make eye contact 
and wouldn't speak to us for the rest 
of the day, except for short, clipped 

Mother's Day and Father's 
Day were especially confusing. At 
church, parenthood was held up as 
the pinnacle of existence. I could 
never make sense of my abusive 
home life compared to the facade my 
parents put on for others. I started 
to question whether our home life 
was bad at all. Not only did my 
parents act as though it was normal 
and acceptable, the ward members 
would praise them too. I knew there 
were people I should trust outside 
my home — people in my ward, my 
extended family — so I discounted 

Exponent II 

Green Branches by Leslie Graff, Sutton, Massachusetts 

what I knew deep down and believed 
everyone else but myself. 

Becoming the Observer 

This failure to believe in myself 
bled into almost every sphere of my 
life. I had no idea that the kinds of 
abuse I experienced were known and 
discussed in the outside world until I 
started paying attention to the news 
and reading books in junior high 
about eating disorders and physical 
abuse. There were other messed up 
people, just like me. This happy rec- 
ognition planted a seed that struggled 
to grow in the hostile environment of 
my mind. 

In college, I was surrounded by 
students who could pay attention in 
class and do their work. I felt per- 
petually confused about why I had 
so much trouble functioning in daily 
life. I made friends who balanced 
work, school, and dating with ease. 
I struggled to wake up to an alarm 
in the morning. I didn't know how 
to study and follow through with a 
class. I made friends, and even had 
boyfriends, but I couldn't really 
connect with anyone without being 

Vol. 30, No. 4 

paralyzed with fear. I was afraid of 
being discovered for what I really 
was — a damaged, scared child. 

It barely even occurred to me 
that there was a connection between 
why I felt so dysfunctional and the 
constant emotional upheaval and 
abuse I grew up with. And being 
sexually abused by my father when I 
was eight didn't automatically tip me 
off to understand my trust issues. It 
seems so obvious in retrospect, but at 
the time, I simply compartmentalized 
my problems as being unrelated to 
my home life, as I had always done. 

I was vaguely dissatisfied with 
life. I was getting bad grades. I 
wasn't sleeping well. I procrasti- 
nated. I had massive mood swings. I 
felt crippled by shyness at times and 
like a social butterfly the next day. 
I would cry for hours if my feelings 
were hurt. I would be silly and jovial 
to a fault. I was exhausted. Finally, I 
went to the free counseling center at 
BYU. I thought I didn't really have 
a reason to be there. All my excuses 
for walking through those double 
doors seemed trite. I knew plenty 
of normal people who felt dissatis- 

fied or got bad grades. But that core 
of low self-esteem, buried so deep 
down, hadn't withered after all. I 
knew that I somehow deserved more. 
I believed I could find the part of me 
that knew how to sleep well, how 
to get good grades, how to respect 

I took color code tests. I reveled 
in finding out about different learn- 
ing styles (I learned that I am a 
visual learner). I took quizzes about 
personality. I went to the library and 
casually walked by the psychology 
section. I whittled my way down 
to the books on sexual abuse and 
checked them out. I kept waiting for 
a strange look from the other patrons 
as I walked out with my stack. I had 
to find out who I really was. 

In the process of discovering who 
I really am, I also found out who my 
parents really are. I graduated from 
self-help books on sexual abuse and 
emotional manipulation to books 
on abusive parents. After I found 
myself, I could respect myself. After 
I could respect myself, I could make 
boundaries. And after I made bound- 
aries, I realized just how abusive my 
parents had been (and still are). 

Connecting the Dots 

After I went through the BYU 
Counseling Center doors the first 
time, I gradually became more con- 
fident that I was on the right track to 
my freed self. I met with several dif- 
ferent counselors, one of whom said 
"You seem fine to me; I'm not sure 
why you think you need therapy." 
Angry at his dismissal of my prob- 
lems, I felt galvanized to find the 
right therapist no matter how long it 

Fortunately, my seed of confi- 
dence and self-respect was alive and 
well. I went back again, requesting a 
new counselor. I settled on a woman, 
Barbara, who validated my decision 

to be in therapy. It was in her of- 
fice where I first talked about being 
sexually abused. It was there where 
she said, "Sexual abuse doesn't just 
happen, it's a symptom of a larger 
family problem." This was my turn- 
ing point. I had permission to look 

My mother, a probable borderline 
personality, lacks the ability to be 
a good mother. She doesn't know 
how to function unless she is with- 
out fault. She is threatened by my 
independence, that I have my own 
desires. She is threatened by my 
unwillingness to tolerate abuse and 
manipulation. She cannot apolo- 
gize, and she cannot remember ever 
hurting anyone. She is consumed 
with her own internal struggle to the 
point where no one can be a com- 
plete person in her life. We are all 
her appendages as she plays out her 
pain and loneliness over and over. I 
cannot change her. 

My mother tries to make me 
disappear. She feels invisible herself 
and is constantly doing the work 
of getting recognition. She doesn't 
know how to love me because she 
can't see me as a person. I don't 
think she really knows how to love 

Now on Mother's Day, I don't 
have to pretend that I am close to my 
mother. I simply acknowledge that 
she is. I am gradually letting go of 
what she should have been for me. I 
allow myself to feel the pain of not 
having a good mother, the pain of a 
practically empty link in my ances- 
tral chain. But I also allow her to be 
what she is. I think of all the other 
women like her, without resources or 
self-awareness, driving their family 
members away. I think of myself; 
I think that every time I choose to 
honor my children's humanity and 
their choices, I break the pattern of 
abuse. Every time I choose to see my 

Page 12 

sons as distinct small people who 
are not my appendages, but fully- 
formed, I break the cycle of dehu- 
manizing ridicule. I think of all the 
other daughters and sons of border- 
line parents trying to piece together 
their personhood in the aftermath. 
I think of other grown survivors of 
abuse who heal themselves and then 
choose to parent their children better. 
Those are my people on Mother's 

My father is nicer and more ap- 
proachable than my mother. He is 
the one that I miss more now that I 
don't speak with my parents. He has 
the self-awareness to be ashamed for 
what he did by sexually abusing two 
of his daughters. He is slightly emo- 
tionally available. But he continues 
to stay tangled up with my mother 
in a codependent mess of mental 
illness. As the survivor of the spec- 
tacular web of lies and secrecy they 
built, I am still far too triggered by 
talking to them to maintain any kind 
of relationship with them. 

On Father's Day I contemplate 

whether to call my dad. He's doing 
well in many ways, faithfully attend- 
ing his group therapy and church 
every Sunday. But he defends my 
mother's behavior and continued 
abuse. I usually don't call. I think 
of all the other survivors of physi- 
cal and sexual abuse. I think of how 
Father's Day must be for them. I like 
to think that my thoughts waft into 
the ether and offer solidarity. 
Someday, I will be ready to sit face- 
to-face with my parents and declare 
the truth. I will have my script, I will 
tell them what happened and how 
hurt I have been, I will tell them 
what kind of relationship I want 
from now on. I will stay calm, and 
I won't feel threatened. The trauma 
of abuse will be in the past. During 
the past year I have been laying the 
groundwork for such a culmination. 
I will be ready someday to get in my 
car, drive to California, and bring my 
life full circle. I will not be a si- 
lenced woman anymore. I will speak 
my truth, own it, and allow them to 
be what they are. And that's okay. ■ 

Undercurrent by Leslie Graff 
Exponent II 

Sisters Speak 

Sisters Speak gives our readers a forum to present their own ideas about a topic of interest to Mormon 
women. The topic posted for the next issue can be found at the end of this column on page 15. We look forward 
to hearing and publishing your own thoughtful response soon! 

Our Sisters Speak question comes from Caroline Kline of Irvine, California: 

Mother's Day is a difficult day at church for many Mormon women. I have mixed feelings about it. On the one 
hand, I think it's refreshing to listen to talks and lessons that focus on women. On the other hand, heroic accounts 
of maternal selflessness, the essentialization of women, and the exclusion (or awkward inclusion) of women who 
are not mothers can be troubling. 

If you could give advice to your bishop, what Mother's Day gifts from the bishopric would you suggest 
for the women? What would you tell him you'd like to hear in Mother's Day talks? What experiences have 
you had with the celebration of Mother's Day in church? 

Whitney Mollenhauer of Dixon, Cali- 
fornia comments: 

I'm not gonna lie. I like getting a 
piece of chocolate at the end of sacra- 
ment meeting, even though I'm not a 
mother (mostly because I get hungry at 
church, and I love chocolate). 

But I don't like the way that saying 
every woman is a mother trivializes the 
hard work and sacrifices of the women 
who actually are engaging in childrear- 
ing. I don't like the way that saying every 
woman is a mother trivializes any other 
valid and important contributions (non- 
mother) women make to the church, to 
their wards/branches, to their communi- 
ties, to their families and friends, and to 
their fields of employment. I don't like 
my whole self being equated with my 
reproductive organs. □ 

Jessica Steed of Mesa, Arizona writes: 

In our ward, the bishopric arranges for 
all of the women's callings to be covered 
by the men for Mother's Day. All of the 
women congregate in the cultural hall for 
appetizers and chatting. The third hour is 
a program prepared by the bishopric and 
youth in the ward. They perform musi- 
cal numbers, read poetry, and share other 
talents. It's a lovely event that includes 
all the women in the ward. I look forward 
to it every year. □ 

You Walk by the River by Ann Marie Whittaker, Salt Lake City, Utah 

Allyson Tarr of Nibley, Utah writes: 

I don't think we should be doing this at church. There's nothing 
wrong with the bishop getting up and wishing people a Happy Moth- 
er's Day, but that's it. No talks about it, nor do I think we should get 
gifts. Give the money to the Young Women's program to help equal- 
ize the spending between the Young Women's and the Young Men's 
programs. Or use it for humanitarian or service efforts. □ 

Page 13 

Amelia Parkin of Salt Lake City, Utah shares this: 

In my last ward, our Relief Society president turned the 
Relief Society meeting that day into an hour-long tea party. 
We'd meet on the lawn and have delicious food and most of 
the women wore hats. The president called it something like 
"Divine Sisterhood Day." She wanted it to be about celebrat- 
ing women as women and sisters, not just about mothers. She 
was aware that Mother's Day was a hard day for many wom- 
en. There was still a lot of schlock and plenty of offensive 
gender stereotyping, but both years I attended, there was also 
talk about our Heavenly Mother, which was wonderful. And 
it was a forum in which, when other women talked about the 
stereotypically feminine attributes of our Heavenly Mother, 
I could speak up and add more stereotypically masculine at- 
tributes, claiming strength and courage for our Goddess. The 
fact that we spoke openly of our Goddess, even if we referred 
to her as "Heavenly Mother," compensated for some of the 
more unpleasantly stifling aspects of the day. □ 

Bright Be Her Branches by Ann Marie Whittaker 

Sherrie Gavin of Australia suggests: 

I say nix the holiday at church. Mother's Day is 
not an international holiday. While national holi- 
days aren't necessarily bad things to incorporate 
into church, this incorporation disregards the at- 
tempts of the Church to define itself as an interna- 
tional church. 

With that in mind, why not have the Church 
embrace International Women's Day on March 8? 
That way, one talk can be aimed at mothers, and 
the other two talks can be focused on women — 
nurturing, healing, leading women, and their 
impact on men, other women, and the world for 
good. That would be so much better on so many 
levels — for the church as an international organiza- 
tion as well as for all Mormon women, regardless 
of maternal status/age/marital category. □ 

P. Anderson of Scottsdale, 
Arizona writes: 

I've always longed for them to 
pass out nice pens for Mother's 
Day. Who couldn't use a nice pen? 
I've also thought that Mother's 
Day is best when talks encourage 
people to focus on respect for their 
mothers (everyone has one, even if 
they don't know her), rather than 
on being a mother. And how can 
you best show respect for your 
mother? By doing her proud and 
being a good person. And that even 
fits in with the pen idea — give a 
pen to everyone and encourage 
them to use it to write a letter to or 
about their moms. □ 

Anonymous shares her experience with sisterhood on Mother s Day: 

At one time, I was in a position where I was providing transportation to a sister and her family to church on Sun- 
days. After I had failed — again — at in vitro fertilization, she offered not to attend on Mother's Day, thinking it would 
be difficult for me. As she was my friend, I wanted to take her and her family to church so that they could partici- 
pate in the program. She went into the chapel before me and refused the flower they offered to her, so I wouldn't be 
the only one who refused a flower. I knew she did it for me. Mid-program, I started having violent cramping from 
the failed IVF, so I excused myself quickly and quietly in a manner that I thought no one would notice. Ironically, I 
went to the empty nursing mothers' room because it had a thermostat and I could lie on my back with feet elevated 
and turn the heat up to relax my abdomen muscles and hopefully not vomit. She followed me a few minutes later 
and insisted we all go home as soon as possible. She insisted on going to McDonald's since the salt in the food was 
balm for my nausea. She then offered to carry a baby for me as a surrogate. That Mother's Day was about sisterhood. 
Beloved sisterhood. □ 

Margaret Peterson of Amherst, New York comments: 

My favorite Mother's Day at church was when the 
Elders' Quorum passed out lovely bookmarks and made a 
donation to the local women's shelter in the name of the 
Relief Society. Sadly, several women complained that they 
wanted more than a cheap bookmark, so the practice only 
lasted that one year. My second favorite treat was a little 
bowl of berries and good chocolates. Whatever the token, 
please, please, put it on a table in the lobby or the cultural 
hall to be taken or not, as each woman wishes. There is 
simply no good way to pass out the gifts without causing 
hurt and pain. □ 

Trudy Rushforth of Freemont, California writes: 

As for a gift, I love the idea of a donation to a local 
women's shelter. I usually skip church on Mother's Day. 
That way, I don't rain on the parade of people it's intended 
to honor, and I don't have to have an honor I didn't earn 
foisted upon me merely by virtue of having a second x- 

Foisting Mother's Day honor on non-mothers cheapens 
the sacrifices of mothers by reducing motherhood to simply 
being female, and it cheapens the sacrifices of non-mothers 
by implying that everything we've done with our lives is 
useless because we haven't managed to reproduce. □ 

Diversion by Ann Marie Whittaker 

Kimberlee Staking of Fairfield, California hopes for a more inclusive celebration of women on Mother s Day: 
Mother's Day at its finest is (or should be) about something much greater than any individual's experience of 
mothering or motherhood. It is about nurturing. When social constructs prevent us from being able to celebrate our 
varied experiences as nurturers, they need to be questioned and deconstructed as the harmful, woman-punishing 
archetypes they are, detrimental to women's abilities to productively self-deteirnine their own futures. Mother's 
Day should be a celebration of the diverse ways in which all women nurture one another and the rising generation. 
As women, we have both the responsibility and the privilege of helping one another do so by patiently hearing one 
another's stories with empathy and charily. Thus, we help each another to see beyond our own sorrows and find the 
ways in which our experiences of nurturing and being nurtured have contributed to our joys. □ 

The next Sisters Speak: Recommendations for Great Books 

I'm always on the lookout for wonderful books that expand my mind, take me into a completely different 
worldview, or challenge my preconceptions. I'm also on the lookout for books that are just great page-turners. 
One of my favorite finds of the last few years was a book called The High Flyer by Susan Howatch. It's a psy- 
chological thriller about a newly married lawyer and her husband who has secrets from his past. It also revolves 
around a charismatic Anglican priest who helps this woman deal with questions of evil, redemption, and God as 
her life breaks down around her. To have the Christian message explained in such fresh psychological and theo- 
logical language gave me a new and absolutely compelling framework through which to look at religion. 

What books have impacted you and your understanding of the world? What books have you just plain 
loved because they were so much fun? Why did they leave such an impression on you? 

Please send your Sisters Speak responses to ■ 

Vol. 30, No. 4 


Dispositions, Inclinations, and Underwear 

by Lesli Smith 
Berkeley, California 

My aptitude test in high school 
said I was creative and liked to work 
with people. I did not, however, 
score as well in the think logically/ 
analyze correctly section. As it 
turns out, I've been a golf-course 
attendant, house cleaner, teacher, 
vegetable garden hoer, rock picker, 
home-health nurse, and even a dental 
assistant for a day. Mother was not 
on the list of job choices on the 
aptitude test, and nobody mentioned 
that my demeanor, while pleasant, 
could be disastrous if I was in charge 
of other people's lives. 

Every day I am faced with a list 
of issues I am supposed to be do- 
ing something about. Should Ellie 
take karate because her friend does? 
Should both kids be taking music 
lessons? How old is too old to wet 
the bed? Should I help with Ad- 
dison's class party or just pretend I 
didn't see the email? 

My tale concerns Berkeley Arts 
Magnet Elementary School. Date: 
January 29. Event: Opposite Day. 

Our after-school routine is pretty 
simple. I walk in the house, kick my 
shoes off, and the kids attempt to 
hang up their bags, then head for the 
fridge. After snack and quiet time 
(defined as any activity that doesn't 
require parents and doesn't do harm 
to the house or another person), 
I get the gumption to go through 
backpacks. I toss out the junk, read 
the newsletters, and hang up the 
artwork. This day, both kids have 
pink flyers announcing an upcom- 
ing spirit-building activity. I put one 
flyer on the fridge and call the kids 
in for today's homework. 

Page 16 

I am his mom, and I know 
this could be a second-grade 

disaster. Just when he is 
finding his place, he wants 
to wear his underwear for 
everyone to see. What-ifs 
start flowing through my 

Mom: It sounds like your school is 
having an Opposite Day. 

Ellie: I don't want to do it. 

Addison: Ellie, this is going to be so 
cool. Remember Crazy-Hair day? 

Ellie: Yeah, that was fun, but Justin 
said he is going to wear his pants 
backward, and I don't want to wear 
my pants backward. 

Addison: No, Ellie, you can do tons 
of things — dress like a boy, socks on 
your head, anything. 

Ellie: What are you going to do? 
(Addison leaves the room and comes 
back minutes later with his under- 
wear over his clothes.) 

Mom (not computing her son is seri- 
ous): That is definitely opposite of 
your usual dress. 

Addison: It is going to be perfect. 

Mom (realizing that her son is seri- 
ously considering this outfit): I sort 
of don't think that is a good idea. 

This is exactly the sort of thing I do 
not want to decide. I have no idea 
what is appropriate. I am pretty sure 
that he is the only student who has 

interpreted Opposite Day in this way. 
My other problem is that he is deter- 
mined (like didn't-eat-candy-for-a- 
year-to-prove-he-could determined). 
I am his mom, and he really wants to 
do it, and he is sure it is the perfect 
thing to do. 

But then again, I am his mom, 
and I know that this could be a sec- 
ond-grade disaster. He had a rough 
first grade, and now just when he is 
finding his place, he wants to wear 
his underwear for everyone to see. 
What-ifs start flowing through my 
head. What if everyone laughs? 
What if he is cited for public lewd- 
ness? (Not all that likely in Berkeley, 
but still a possibility.) What if he is 
called Underwear Boy for the rest 
of his time at school? What if, by 
letting him do this, I ruin his chance 
of just being a regular kid, because I 
didn't have the guts to tell him it was 
a bad idea? 

So I tell him it is a bad idea. 
Actually, I say it is a great idea — be- 
cause I believe in being positive — 
but not a good idea for school. I give 
alternatives: pants backward, shirt 
backward, dress like a girl, etc. He 
listens, almost, and he says flat out 
that I am wrong. He isn't worried 
about it. This is, after all, Opposite 
Day, and he will be doing the oppo- 
site of what he usually does. 

I try not to make every decision 
for him. I want to respect him as an 
individual and let him take risks. 
Should I let him? Maybe it isn't that 
big of a deal. Maybe lots of kids will 
be doing it. Maybe he will change 
his mind in the morning. 

January 29, 9:05 AM - 1 drop the 
kids off. Addison marches proudly 
through the front gates as if he had 
the world by the tail. I hope to see 

Exponent II 

the same face when I pick him up 
this afternoon. I comfort myself that 
I did eventually talk him into also 
wearing undies underneath and con- 
vinced him that boxers were better in 
this case than briefs. 

2:25 P.M.: I head to the kinder- 
garten yard to pick up my daughter. 
Elbe's teacher is waiting with a 

"Addison was really rockin' his 
outfit today." 

"Yes, he was pretty excited about 


"We noticed." 

Three of Elbe's classmates pro- 
claim they saw Addison's underwear. 
I'm not sure what to say, so I just 
mumble, "Have a good weekend," 
and we hightail it out of there. I am 
convinced that this was exactly the 
worst idea I have ever let pass. 

We make our way to the big yard 
where the rest of the school is re- 
leased. I try to act busy with the baby 
and not talk to any other parents. 
Lines of students make their way on 
the asphalt. A few wear shirts that 
are inside out or backward, and some 
have socks on their arms. None wear 
underwear outside of clothing. 
Bungalow B-2's door swings open 
and out he bounds. Addison is smil- 
ing. He can't wait to tell me that his 
teacher said he was the only one in 
the whole school to have that idea. 
All of the teachers talked to him, 
even ones he didn't know. He is 
practically a Berkeley Arts celebrity. 
He has conquered Opposite Day. 
And while I highly doubt anyone 
will imitate his costume next year, 
no one has really given him a hard 

Maybe logic and analytical 
prowess are overrated. Maybe I am 
a great mom. We walk home, and I 
give the kids an extra-long quiet time 
to celebrate. ■ 



by Shelah Miner 
Salt Lake City, Utah 

With the three older kids out 
front and the door locked tightly 
behind them, I have just enough time 
for one big sigh before I turn my 
attention to Maren. I scoop up our 
coats, backpacks, and lunchboxes, 
and announce in a cheerful voice, 
"It's time for school." She's quiet as 
I button her into the coat and take 
her hand, and we walk under a gray 
sky to the minivan. I'm halfway 
down the block before she pipes up 
from the back seat: 

"I'm too scared to go to school." 

I try reasoning with her: "You 
always have so much fun there." 

"I'm too scared to go to school." 

I try distraction: "Look at the 
pretty leaves on that tree, Maren." 

"I'm too scared to go to school." 

I try a bribe: "I'll get you a 
Happy Meal for dinner if you don't 
cry when I drop you off." 

"I'm still too scared to go to 

Luckily, the drive to Maren 's 
school is so quick that she hasn't 
worked her way up to full-fledged 
crying by the time we pull into the 
parking lot. I unbuckle her from the 
booster seat, take her into my left 
arm, and gather up her pink back- 
pack in my right. My guilt weighs 
more than she does, even with the 

They Did All Eat by Amanda Demos Larsen, Brooklyn, New York 

When I open the door to the 
school, the heavy smell of Clorox 
wipes, Diaper Genie, and Sloppy 
Joes hits us. Maren sniffles as she 
hangs up her backpack, then clings 
to my legs as we look for her teacher. 
Miss Needra, a sixtyish Sri Lankan 
woman, holds out her hand, "Let's 
go look for a book, Maren." 

I walk toward the door. My baby 
turns to watch me go as tears fill her 
eyes. I'm free. But my eyes are full 

My older kids also started pre- 
school when they were three. The 
difference is that they went for two 
hours at a time, which gave me 
almost enough time to nurse the 
baby and make a quick run to Target 
with one less child to contend with. 
If they threw a huge fit about school, 
which rarely happened, I'd keep 
them home with me. Maren is in 
preschool for 23 hours a week, in- 
cluding two seven-hour days; if she's 
having a rough time, she gets pushed 
through the classroom door anyway. 

And it's all my fault. When I ap- 
plied to graduate school last year, I 
did it on a whim. My friend Dee was 
applying for BYU's MFA program, 
and she convinced me to do it too. I 
reluctantly assented. "I won't get in 
anyway," I told myself, "But at least 
this is a step in the direction of what 
I want to do in a few years." 

I was flying home from Hawaii 
on the last day of February when I 
got a text from Dee. "Wait-listed," it 

There was an envelope waiting 
for me too. 

There have been times in my life 
when I know I should have prayed 
for direction, but I wanted what I 
wanted more than I wanted inspi- 
ration. It seemed like everyone I 
knew at BYU had some story about 
praying to know if they should marry 
their boyfriend/girlfriend and a feel- 

ing of peace/dread/joy/confusion 
washed over them and they knew 
what to do. When Eddie came home 
from his mission I knew two things: 
I loved him, and I'd been twiddling 
my thumbs for the last two years 
waiting to marry him. I didn't want 
anyone, even God, telling me not to. 
So I didn't ask. Fourteen years later, 
we're happy. Marrying Eddie was a 
good decision, but sometimes I won- 
der if having a confirmation from the 
Spirit would provide reassurance. 
I didn't ask when the acceptance 
letter came in the mail either. All I 
knew was that I was going back to 
school, and if other people in my 
family had to sacrifice, then so be 
it. Eddie's work schedule wouldn't 
allow him to pitch in reliably, but if 
I stayed up later at night, woke up 
earlier in the morning, and became a 
little better at multitasking, it would 
all work out, wouldn't it? 

A few days later, I stood in the 
unseasonably warm winter sunshine 
of my back yard with the phone 
cradled under one ear, talking to 
my friend Michelle, while I pushed 
Maren on the swings. Michelle, a 
mom of six who has managed to bal- 
ance successful freelance writing and 
photography projects with driving 
to soccer and cello lessons, told me 
flat-out that I was crazy. 

"There's no way I would even 
allow myself to want to go back to 
school right now," she said. "My 
kids need me too much." 

"I'm going to be smart about 
this." I assured her. My arms were 
tired, but every time I stopped to 
give them a rest, Maren complained. 

"Don't you worry about what 
will happen if you're an hour away 
and one of them gets sick? Or if you 
have a class on a night when one of 
the kids has a band concert?" 

I had worried about all these 
things, and more. But I worried more 

about what would happen to me if 
I didn't at least try. Still, I gave her 
the answer she wanted to hear, "I 
can always quit if it's too hard on the 

I had Bryce, my first baby, when 
I was twenty-five. Compared with 
many of my peers from BYU, I got 
a late start. I'd worked for three 
years after college and completed all 
of the coursework for my master's 
degree. I thought we'd waited long 
enough, even though Eddie would 
have gladly deferred parenthood 
until I'd finished a PhD and he had 
medical school behind him. I thought 
I was an adult, fully formed, ready to 
embrace parenthood. I was eager to 
put aside school and work, to do the 
right thing and stay home. 

Mostly, I knew I wasn't going to 
be the same kind of mom my mother 
was when I was a child. She hid out 
in her bedroom, sewing or painting, 
and often went out to take a walk as 
soon as my dad walked through the 
door. I would get on the floor and 
play with my kids. I would read their 
board books as many times as they 
asked. I wouldn't slave over Hungar- 
ian goulash or perfect omelets filled 
with bananas and sausage, then fume 
when the kids wouldn't eat them. I 
would push them on the swings, I 
would never pull my girls' hair until 
they cried as I made picture-perfect 
French braids. Most of all, I would 
never ignore my kids. My mom 
always loved us, and we knew it, but 
it was equally evident that she did 
better with small kids and in small 

I did read, and play on the floor, 
and build wooden puzzles until I 
could do them blindfolded in my 
sleep. My kids have grown up on 
kid-friendly meals of quesadillas, 
chicken nuggets, and almost no 
vegetables. My girls' hair is short 
and usually combed. For most of a 

decade, I couldn't have 
a conversation with my 
friends longer than a few 
sentences without say- 
ing, "Hold on just a sec, 
needs some- 
thing." Most of the time, 
I loved what I was doing. 
The competitive side of 
me, the side that spurred 
me on to graduate as my 
class salutatorian and 
landed me a presidential 
scholarship, had a hard 
time overcoming the urge 
to live through my kids' 
developmental milestones, 
but I found that obsessive- 
ly running/baking/mommy 
blogging/decorating my 
houses helped. I tried to eke out a 
few minutes each day for myself, 
and if I was overly competitive in 
trying to lower my half-marathon 
time, at least I was only competing 
with other women in my age bracket. 

Then I had Maren, my last child. 
I'd watched Bryce, Annie, and Isaac 
grow, knowing I couldn't loosen my 
grip on the iron rod of motherhood 
for even one second; fearful that I 
might never find my way again in 
the mists of darkness, lethargy, bore- 
dom, or ambition. But with Maren, 
I finally exhaled and allowed myself 
to relax, seeing rays of light beck- 
oning from the end of the tunnel. I 
let her watch cartoons until she had 
her fill; we sat on the front porch in 
the long afternoons, me reading in a 
chair while she climbed on my legs 
and watched for her brothers and 
sister to come home from school; 
I indulged her incessant thirst for 
grape juice and swinging. I started to 
look towards a future where I didn't 
have small children and I worried 
about what my place in that future 
would be when the kids didn't need 
me every day. I worried that I would 

Afraid to Look by Amanda Demos Larsen 

start to cut my ties before they cut 

I knew I didn't want to end up 
like my mother, who floundered 
for half a decade after my youngest 
sister went to college. Her career as a 
stay-at-home mom was over, and she 
didn't know how to feel needed. I 
may have ended up with the opposite 
problem. As the semester progressed, 
I feel too needed — by my homework, 
my responsibilities, and my kids. My 
schoolwork has even taken over my 
sacred Sunday mornings. Maren just 
came up to my bedroom, begging for 
a drink and some mediation with the 
older kids, who have taken over the 
television. Mediation is about all I'm 
good for these days — I banish the 
bigger ones to the basement, turn the 
channel back to Nick Jr., and return 
to the bedroom. 

The other kids have adapted 
to our routine pretty well. They're 
in school all day and they like our 
babysitters well enough. When I 
come home from school at nine 
o'clock, they shove papers in my 

direction for signature 
and have me quiz them on 
their spelling words. They 
don't miss me too much. 
But Maren, who relies on 
me for her nightie/tooth- 
pink nightlight/doorknob- 
touching-the-wall routine 
each evening, always finds 
her way into my bed on the 
nights when I'm not home 
to tuck her in. I cuddle her 
just long enough to get 
her back to sleep, and then 
scoot over to the edge to 
sleep in my own space. 
She balks at going to 
school the next morning. 
A few days ago, a 
night class ended unexpect- 
edly early. I parked my car and 
walked up the driveway to the back 
yard, where the boys jumped in twilit 
leaf piles and Annie sat with our 
teenage babysitter, sharing between 
them earbuds from the yellow iPod. 
Maren was on the swings. I was sure 
that she'd see me and ask for a push. 
Then I noticed she was airborne, her 
legs moving back and forth. 

"Look at what Miss Needra 
taught me," her voice sang out across 
the yard. 

For just a second, my stomach 
lurched; I should be the one teach- 
ing her how to swing. But maybe 
it's not such a bad thing that I've 
relinquished some control over her 
life. Maren doesn't need me to push 
her — someday, she might even stop 
crying when I drop her off at pre- 
school. But I hope that even if I'm 
not home with her like I was for 
Bryce, Annie, and Isaac, the steady 
stream of Mommy-love is something 
she wants only from me, her selfish, 
imperfect, striving mother. ■ 

Women's Theology 

No Apologies or Apologetics: A New Sunday School 

by Elizabeth Hammond 
Cambridge, Massachusetts 

As a teenage convert I was 
overwhelmed by the task of try- 
ing to "catch up" to my LDS peers 
in scriptural knowledge. I became 
enthusiastic to learn all I could and 
eventually ended up with a degree in 
Near Eastern Studies. Along the way, 
I had opportunities to visit Jerusalem 
and study scripture at both BYU and 
Cornell. These universities' differ- 
ent approaches to scripture study 
exposed me to a diverse range of 
perspectives. I found that my class- 
es — secular and religious — were 
supremely spiritual and enlightening. 
However, I started to dread Sunday 
School, which, I felt, did little to 
increase my scriptural under- 

In seeking the source of my 
growing frustration with 
my Sunday School expe- 
rience, I realized these 
feelings stemmed from a 
failure in Sunday classes 
to dig into the scriptures. 
Most of our class time 
was spent discussing 
broad religious themes 
barely related to the text, 
and drawing modern conclu- 
sions which rarely reflected an 
cient authors' intent. I was hungry 
for teachers to share outside informa 
tion that would provide context and 
bring these stories to life. 

Some Mormons often assert that 
incorporating material from outside 
the manual is pridefully "intellec- 
tual" rather than humbly "spiritual." 
Such claims were completely con- 

trary to my own spiritual experi- 
ences. I found that literary analysis, 
as well as deeper understanding 
of history and culture, contribute 
significantly to scriptural under- 
standing, and that oversimplifying 
the scriptures often cheapens their 
spiritual value. 

The question of using outside 
material in Sunday School should 
not be seen as a choice between 
"spiritual" and "intellectual." Rather, 
the tension lies between two differ- 
ing devotional approaches to scrip- 
ture. To me, the issue is whether it is 

Nineteenth century American folk art 

better to teach Sunday School as a 
class in which context is given for 
scripture and its interpretive history 

(I call this a Contextual Devotion 
approach), or as a call-and-response 
exercise void of historical context 
and meaning (Noncontextual Devo- 
tion approach). 

In light of the manifest impor- 
tance of scriptural knowledge, I sug- 
gest that a Noncontextual Devotion 
approach actually limits the ability 
of our membership to learn scripture. 
This approach can end up pridefully 
"reading into" the scriptures what 
we already think is there. In literary 
criticism terms, this "reading into" 
a text — having preconceived ideas 
and using a text to uphold them, 
or using a text to say something it 
was never meant to say — is called 
eisegesis. It is as if we are telling 
Isaiah what he means, instead 
of listening to what he says. 
We risk putting words in 
the prophets' mouths when 
we teach scripture for 
thematic convenience. 
The alternative to this is 
trying to "dig out" mean- 
ing from the writ itself. 
Exegesis plumbs the text 
for original meaning and 
intent. Does exegesis have 
limits? Of course it does, as 
one would expect. We can- 
not fully recreate the Biblical 
world or the original intent of the 
writers, but we should try. We should 
employ every tool at our disposal, 
after which the Spirit takes over. 

Noncontextual Devotion and 
Contextual Devotion as Teaching 

A class employing a Noncon- 

Page 20 

Exponent II 

textual Devotion approach might 
proceed as follows: the teacher 
asks a question that is not intended 
to extract knowledge but to elicit 
a specific response. Typically, it is 
a question almost everyone in the 
room can answer and has probably 
heard before. Answers are offered by 
students with a voice inflection that 
makes the answer sound obvious. 
People usually nod or expand on the 
answer with a personal experience 
that illustrates the theme. People talk 
about their feelings. The class pat- 
tern is that the teacher asks, students 
answer, and everything that is said 
reinforces what we all have heard 
before. It is possible to have spiritual 
experiences in this kind of context, 
especially in sacrament or testimony 
meetings. It is not, however, the only 
way to feel the Spirit or (especially) 
to learn scripture. 

The Contextual Devotion model 
assumes that Sunday School is for 
learning the scriptures. We try to fig- 
ure out what they actually say. Other 
forms of worship — such as "learning 
our religion," having emotional dia- 
logues, and "applying the gospel" — 
happen in other church venues. 

In the Contextual Devotion mod- 
el, one can apply many disciplines, 
including history, languages, politi- 
cal science, and economics. Context 
provides a framework in which we 
may see scripture more clearly, much 
as we better understand Doctrine and 
Covenants because of the headings 
at the beginning of each section. 

To illustrate the benefits and limi- 
tations of each method, consider the 
story of the Good Samaritan. In the 
conventional call-and-response class, 
we might read a few passages from 
Christ's parable of the Good Samari- 
tan, link them to a theme (generosity, 
charity), reinforce the theme with a 
few general authority quotes ("visit 
the sick and needy"), and share an 

experience about someone helping 
us when we needed it. We end by 
testifying that we feel happy to be 
part of a group of people who take 
care of each other. Warm fuzzies 

A Contextual Devotion lesson 
would look at the same story and 
consider how the Jews and Samari- 
tans each saw the other group as a 
fallen people and themselves as the 
true covenant people. By teaching 
the background that a Levite is part 
of the hereditary priesthood line and 
therefore high in the Jewish religious 
echelon, we would have the context 
to better understand that his com- 
munity would view him as ritually 
unclean if he touched the person 
broken on the roadside. We would 
understand that a temple priest per- 
forming a simple and needed act of 
service would be forced to undergo 
extensive purification to practice in 
the temple again, thus incurring a 
huge personal cost. 

This parable delineates that the 
most unrighteous class from the 
ancient Jew's perspective a Samari- 
tan better fulfills God's purposes by 
serving the person in need than does 
the high priest who practices in the 
temple. The contrast is jarring. If we 
know that Christ's audience greatly 
esteemed their priests and had great 
pride in their Levite heritage (much 
as we esteem our church leaders and 
are proud of our pioneer heritage) the 
story is suddenly personal in a more 
penetrating way. We call ourselves 
righteous? Did we pass by anyone in 
need on the way to church? Did we 
soil our garments in reaching out to 
help the impoverished, the beaten, 
the dirty, in order to serve our God? 
It is important to know that Christ 
gave the parable in answer to a 
question,"Who is my neighbor?" but 
that it ultimately answers a preced- 
ing question: "How can I inherit 

eternal life?" The original intent 
of this story is arguably not about 
generosity, but is a call to awaken, 
and a warning against pride given 
specifically to a covenant people. 
Suddenly we're not thinking we're 
the good Samaritan. Instead we won- 
der if we are the priest or the Levite, 
and we recognize that as a covenant 
people we can easily fall from grace 
if we misunderstand God's priori- 
ties in our efforts to worship Him. 
With such historical, cultural, and 
literary context, we hear the parable 
more closely to the way that origi- 
nal listeners did — as a rebuke from 
the God we worship. We may even 
respond as they did, with a little bit 
of miffed pride, shame, sadness, and 
a yearning for the Savior not to pass 
us by when we lie broken on the 
side of the road. With context we are 
empowered to liken the scriptures to 
ourselves because we can become 
better attuned to that ancient audi- 
ence by sharing their perspective. 

Contextual Devotion confounds 
our assumptions, whereas Noncon- 
textual Devotion can leave us feeling 
comfortable and affirmed. Contex- 
tual Devotion requires grappling, 
honesty, and introspection. Non- 
contextual Devotion can make one 
feel uplifted, but also complacent. 
Which approach changes people's 
lives for the better? While I cannot 
assert that the "struggle" approach 
always trumps the "uplift" approach, 
I can affirm that it is a valid path to 
exploring spirituality and that it is 
likely to result in a more in-depth 
knowledge of the scriptures. Our 
Church history clearly demonstrates 
that we progress more as a people 
when we ask questions with heartfelt 
intent. Perhaps Sunday School isn't 
supposed to give us answers, but 
rather to offer questions so we can 
pray about answers. Perhaps Sunday 
School doesn't need to wrap things 

The Good Samaritan, altered nineteenth century magic lantern slide 

by Aimee Hickman, Baltimore, Maryland 

up in neat little packages or pat us on 
the back, but instead invite us to gain 
greater knowledge and spirituality 
through our own striving. 

Contextual Devotion, I as- 
sert, leads to more robust scripture 
mastery and spiritual growth. Just as 
importantly, I believe it also avoids 
a commonly recurring problem in 
LDS practice of employing scrip- 
tures primarily to bolster thematic 
affirmations of the modern Mormon 
worldview. One of the risks of mod- 
ern revelation is a body of saints less 
engaged with scripture — after all, 
one could argue that these sometimes 
opaque and complicated scriptures 
lack the accessibility and ease of lis- 
tening to a modern prophet. In addi- 
tion, with a belief that we are living 
in the last dispensation of time, it can 
be easy to think we are also the pin- 
nacle of God's efforts on the earth. 
Contextual Devotion, by contrast, 
respects the ancient as well as the 
modern take on scriptures. Adam and 
Eve's altar, the Tabernacle, Solomon, 
even the churches of Paul — these 
were "old versions" of our "fuller" 
faith tradition. The scriptures do 
more than just corroborate the new. 
It takes humility to listen to a poor 
man who scratched on vellum 2000 
years ago and seriously believe he is 
a spiritual mentor who can teach us 
something about the gospel we don't 
already know. 

Why Study Scripture? 

People keep records for a reason. 
They not only validate us, they save 
us from ourselves. It would be easier 
to discuss religion without context 
and talk only about things as we see 
them, convinced we are right. But 
records show us the fallacies and the 
tragedies that people inflict on each 
other when they have a worldview 
that they think applies to everyone. 
Conference talks come and go, a few 

Page 22 

quotes survive, but most are forgot- 
ten a few decades later. On the other 
hand, God goes to a lot of trouble to 
ensure that scriptures survive over 
millennia, and He commands that we 
study them. 

I see the "true church" as alive, 
not stagnant. We should not cry, 
"a bible, a bible, we have a bible," 
closing ourselves off from further 
knowledge by claiming we already 
have it all. The people of the Abra- 
hamic covenant were the ancient 
"true church." The animal-sacrificing 
ancient Israelites were the "true 
church" of that age. The Pauline 
church was "true." The church of 
the Restoration is "true." Each truth 
built on the other, and they were all 
"true," but none was the end point of 
Truth. The status quo is not superior 
to the reality of what is to come. 

We don't need a comfortable, 
oversimplifying form of Sunday 
School to give us all the answers and 
digest the gospel for us. Rather, we 
need to come to the banquet, banter 
with our friends about the meal, and 
swallow the bitter herbs along with 
the cream. We need members who 
can question the Lord about what 
they do not understand and be stron- 
ger as a result. We are but a pinprick 
on the great arc of spiritual truth. 
When a critical mass of members 
need guidance on an unexplained 
point of truth, when enough people 
ask for answers, we eventually get 
a response from on high. We need 
not shy away from seeking greater 
understanding. . . and it all can start 
with the questions — not necessar- 
ily the answers — we find in Sunday 
School. ■ 


Never Alone 

by Margaret Olsen Hemming 
Baltimore, Maryland 

On a warm spring day in Michi- 
gan, the first day in many months I 
could walk barefoot out on the deck, 
my mother hauled the wooden dining 
room chairs outside and scrubbed 
them down. With five children of her 
own and a passel of kids from her 
in-home day care center, my mother 
had quite a job before her. Stickiness 
and grease had accumulated on the 
chairs over the winter. With a bucket 
of soapy water she started scrubbing. 
At one point, she stopped, looked me 
straight in the eyes, and said, "The 
reason that you get an education is 
so that you will never have to be 
alone. There will always be someone 
in your head, ongoing conversations, 
that you can take part in, even when 
you're scrubbing chairs." 

Those words stuck in my brain, 
possibly because I had never before 
considered the reason for going to 
school. In my family, education was 
assumed, and had been for genera- 
tions in my mixed-politics, mixed- 
religion family. In fact, we probably 
take the value of education to an 
extreme. When my family played 
the game of Life for family home 
evening, it was not an option to 
start a career before going to col- 
lege, even though the kids all knew 
that strategically, it might be better 
to get a financial head-start by go- 
ing straight into a career. My father 
simply changed the rules of the game 
so that we all had to start out with 
college. My parents accumulated 
degrees like over-eager Boy Scouts 
achieved merit badges. And in my 
family, education was never about 
the money (my father is an anthro- 

Vol. 30, No. 4 

pologist/librarian, and my mother is 
a social worker). 

So when I started looking at 
feminist issues as a young adult, I 
was surprised that getting an educa- 
tion was so often stressed as impor- 
tant for financial independence. I had 
not been raised with the idea that an 
education resulted in higher pur- 
chasing power. The value of educa- 
tion, to me, was that a person could 
take part in the conversations of the 
world — the ones that began with 
philosophers thousands of years ago 
and have continued with thought- 
ful people all over the world ever 
since. An education allows a woman 
to have something just as important 
as financial independence — mental 
independence. She can think her own 
thoughts, disagree with others, and 
have confidence in her own capabil- 
ity to read and process information 
and arguments. 

The high value placed on educa- 
tion in my family did not begin with 
my parents. My great-grandmother, 
Mary Emma Patton, was born 
in 1898 on a farm in Oklahoma. 
Though Mary Emma's older brothers 
were able to attend the University of 
Oklahoma in Norman, when Mary 
Emma and her sister Patti came of 
age, money was tight on the farm, 
and it was not considered appropriate 
for two young women to live alone 
far from their family. My great-great 
grandparents, Jeremiah and Mary 
Kinkade Patton valued the education 
of their daughters so much that they 
decided to sell their farm and move 
to Norman so that their daughters 
could attend college. 

It was a major sacrifice and not 
a sound investment at a time when 

land was precious and women's 
minds were undervalued. Mary 
Emma went on to teach math at a 
high school and raise five children; 
Patti never married and became a 
university librarian. Both women 
benefited financially from their 
education (and Patti could be en- 
tirely independent because of it), 
but that was never the point of the 
story when I heard it. The lesson 
my parents emphasized was that the 
development of Mary Emma's and 
Patti 's minds gave them the gift of 
freedom and independence, gave 
them the mental conversations that 
would mean they never had to be 
lonely, even if they were alone. 

C.S. Lewis said, "We read 
to know that we are not alone." 
Reading allows us to share in the 
experiences and emotions of oth- 
ers. We learn that our thoughts are 
not wholly our own but built on a 
worldwide community of thinkers, 
artists, and scholars who have gone 
before. I think we also read so that 
we can be alone without fear. With 
a book in my hand and skills gained 
from an education, my mind is not 
dependent on anyone else. I always 
have conversations to join and issues 
to dig into. 

My education was in government 
and international conflict resolution. 
Now at home with my toddler, I soak 
up the news eagerly and fit it into the 
theories and frameworks I learned 
in school. I had to laugh when my 
daughter recently cooked me a 
plastic meal from her play kitchen, 
sat down next to me, and opened a 
nearby copy of The New York Times. 
She has already picked up my habits. 

Recently my thoughts have been 

filled with the unfolding 
events in Egypt. While I 
sing "Eensy Weensy Spi- 
der," my mind is on the 
NPR news story in the 
background, following the 
developments of the day. 
While I am cleaning, I 
review various theories that 
would explain the eruption 
of nonviolent action from 
long-simmering unrest in 
Egypt. John Burton and his 
discussions on how un- 
met human needs relate to 
violence, Gene Sharp and 
his historical examples of 
nonviolent movements, and 
Kevin Avruch and his pro- 
posals of how culture might 
affect ideas of human rights 
in the new Egyptian constitu- 
tion — all these float through 
my head, adding their contri- 
butions to my mental dialogue. No 
words are spoken aloud, but these 
scholars are dear friends of mine 
and fill the empty room with good 

Just as important to me have been 
the classes that were outside my 
field. My horticulture class has been 
invaluable as I review the cellular 
process of sexual reproduction in 
a flowering plant while I weed my 
garden. My art history class gave 
me entirely fresh conversations 
about symbolism in images of the 
Madonna that I continue to enjoy 
while I fold laundry. These ideas, 
gained from fulfilling the require- 
ments of my university, have been an 
unexpected saving grace for me in a 
demanding time of parenting. 

My great-grandmother, Kathryn 
Martin, understood the freedom that 
comes from having confidence when 
picking up a book. At the end of a 
poem she wrote about learning to 
read, she said: 

Page 24 

Writer s Inspiration by Stephanie Northrup 
Carbondale, Colorado 

/ was never a beggar again, 

Running to lean on the knees 

Of my three older brothers 

Or on my father, or even on you, 

Begging to hear 

The mysteries between covers. 

The words came to my eyes 

Like opening leaves, 

The alphabet danced in designs, 

The doors and windows opened 

On endless new worlds, 

While the dolls looked on, 

Staring and dumb, patient because 

They were not alive. 

I thrill at those words, the con- 
nection they bring me to a woman 
who was my namesake. Kathryn 
Martin knew that an incredible 
moment of liberation had occurred 
when literacy eliminated her depen- 
dency on others. As a single mother 
and teacher, she understood that 
while her education made financial 
independence possible, her mental 

independence made life full. 
It decreased her fears and it 
opened her eyes. Kathryn 
passed along to her son, my 
grandfather, the joy she found 
in reading. In turn, he found 
great personal satisfaction in 
chemistry and set an example 
for his daughter of the sacri- 
fices one ought to make for 
education. My mother, Vivian 
Martin Olsen, grew up to be a 
librarian, then a stay-at-home- 
mom, and then a social worker. 
She filled her children's lives 
with books and pushed us 
toward college. Four genera- 
tions, four people linked by the 
legacy of education, which 
gave us the skills and confi- 
dence to grow into individuals 
very unlike one another. 
As much as my mother's words 
struck me as a child, I did not re- 
ally take them to heart until I was at 
home with my own child. Suddenly, 
with a baby at home and a husband 
working overtime as a medical 
resident, I was very much alone. One 
evening, while attempting to clean 
up from the whirlwind of mess my 
daughter had left behind her, the full 
force of what my mother had said 
that day hit me. The months of de- 
pressing Michigan winters, constant 
demands from her children, never- 
ending dirt and mess in the house 
must have been a heavy burden at 
times. But she understood that she 
had an escape, and she grabbed it 
with both hands. She was grateful in 
that moment that she was not lonely 
in a moment of being alone. In a 
minute that she had to herself, she 
was not thinking about chairs or dirt 
or children. She was thinking about 
something higher, that her children 
could not yet even understand. And 
she was thankful that she could. ■ 

Exponent II 

Goodness Gracious 

Daughter's Day 

by Linda Hoffman Kimball 
Evanston, Illinois 

Knowing this Exponent II issue 
addresses the topic of Mother's 
Day I decided to write not on being 
a mother, but on my experience 
having my particular mother. That 
makes this more a "Daughter's 
Day" piece (which may just be a 
Mother's Day piece in disguise). 
My earliest memory is of being 
held on my mom's lap in a dark 
room while she sang me a lullaby. 
How is that for sweet and embrac- 
ing? I belonged; I was cared for; I 
was safe. This was a very nice way 
to start life. 

Fast forward to age four when 
I managed to lose one shoe while 
playing. I can't remember Mom's 
exact words, but I recall the feeling 
of being yelled at. Not so sweet or 
embracing. I was learning that my 
mistakes affected other people and 
that navigating all of those unpre- 
dictable ramifications was tough. 
I can see that little girl and want to 
swaddle her up and welcome her to 
that condition we call human. I can 
also see the frazzled mom and want 
to forgive her, too, for not being 
able to manage one more hassle 
that day. Such perspective helps me 
forgive myself and learn from the 
occasions when I barked at my kids 
for infractions. (Once, after I loud- 
ly lamented that my three-year-old 
had chipped a sizeable portion of 
stucco off the living room wall, my 
little guy sobbed "You broke my 

My teen years fell in the trippy, 

libidinous era of the late 
1960s. A number of my friends 
were "turning on, tuning in, 
and dropping out." Boys I 
knew were serving in or avoid- 
ing the war in Vietnam. While 
the country was quaking my 
parents were facing serious is- 
sues of their own, physical and 
mental health woes and finan- 
cial challenges. They weren't 
the go-to examples for facing 
these new frontiers. 

It was also during these 
turbulent years that I became 
a Mormon, much to my moth- 
er's dismay. She once admitted: 
"At least you chose the Mormons 
for your adolescent rebellion. I 
should be grateful you didn't run 
off and join the Hare Krishnas." 

Although my mom died in 1994 
thinking I had become Mormon 
because I was "overly influenced 
by those young missionaries," she 
had received much Mormon com- 
passionate service when my father 
died in 1973. Her lessons of loving 
me even when she had limited ap- 
preciation of choices I made have 
served me well over my own years 
of mothering. When my daughter 
decided as a young adult to at- 
tend a church that better suited her 
spiritual needs, who was I to thwart 
her, given my personal history? It 
wasn't an easy adjustment for me, 
but I haven't been snarky like my 
mom was toward me. 

One day stands out as a particu- 
larly vivid day of both mothering 
and daughtering. My youngest son 



The author with her mother and sisters 

would soon head out on his mis- 
sion. We went to the temple togeth- 
er. Following my son's endowment, 
we went immediately to a sealing 
room where a good friend knelt as 
proxy for my mother while my son 
knelt as proxy for my dad. I laid 
my hands on theirs, and through 
the sealing ordinance became a 
daughter for all time. 

It's a tough but valuable exer- 
cise to examine the circularity of 
being a mother and a daughter. As 
an adult and a mother, I can empa- 
thize with my mother for the times 
she clearly flubbed. At the same 
time I am protective of the little 
girl I was who was trying to make 
her way in a confusing and some- 
times painful world. Forgiveness 
and compassion seem to be the 
skills to take to this mothering task 
from both directions. 

Gee, I hope I taught my kids 
that! ■ 


bl. 30, No. 4 


Global Zion 

The experiences of Mormon women traveling, working and living outside the United States. 

by Sherrie L. M. Gavin 

It was late when we arrived at 
Mumbai International Airport after 
a long day of travel from Australia, 
arranged by the clinic, a man named 
Mowji met us outside customs and 
showed us to a taxi. It was not dif- 
ficult for him to recognize us among 
the crowded passengers clamouring 
for the exit; as far as I could tell, we 
were the only fair-skinned couple 
there. As we rode in the taxi, Mowji 
explained some of the basics to us: 
Do not look beggars in the eye. Do 
not eat any fresh produce. There 
are delicious vegetarian foods to 
eat when fully cooked. When a car 
blows the horn, it means that you can 
cross. If they do not blow the horn, 
they cannot see you. Almost every- 
one speaks English, you will be fine. 

Mid-May is winter in Australia, 
but sweltering pre-monsoon season 
in India. We smelled the aromas of 
sweet fruit, hot asphalt, sour flowers, 
and exotic spices. It made a bizarre 
perfume that was sometimes a 
luxurious scent, other times a stench. 
By the time we reached the hotel, I 
was ill with heat and exhaustion. We 
were shown two rooms, neither of 
which were anything I would choose 
in Australia, but I understood this 
was privileged accommodation for 
India. Before he left, Mowji noted 

that we would be served as soon as 
we arrived at the clinic, whenever it 
suited us. 

Even before marriage, I knew 
we could not have children in the 
traditional manner. My body just 
wouldn't. While other couples 
discussed honeymoon plans, we 
discussed adoption strategies. Aus- 
tralia is a difficult place to adopt. Its 
history included the forced removal 
(kidnapping) of children from 
single-parent and Aboriginal homes. 
In what might be described as an 
overcorrection, adoption in Australia 
is now a highly regulated, invasive, 
and expensive nightmare. We esti- 
mated it would cost us an amount 
equal to four years of the average 
Sydney-area household income and 
seven years' minimum waiting time 
to adopt. Even then, the odds for us 
to be childless were high: less than 
20 adoptions were finalized in Aus- 
tralia in the year we married. In other 
words, the adoption rate was literally 
less than one in a million. 

Following an advertisement on 
the Church notice board, we con- 
sulted LDS family services. The 
counsellor at the appointment yelled 
at me. "We're not even a licensed 
agency!" He shouted, "Australia 
prefers abortion to adoption! There 
is nothing we can do! Those notices 
are useless!" We had similar, though 
less aggressive, results from adop- 

tion agencies in each of the Austra- 
lian states. Adopting from overseas 
was equally disappointing. Countries 
like Guatemala, Russia, and China 
have adoption laws geared toward 
American couples. Australia is rarely 
a preferred country of placement. We 
found LDS information and adop- 
tion literature both sappy and biting, 
making adoption sound easy... if only 
we were Americans who prayed hard 

Finding Australia void of options 
for adoption, we decided to try our 
luck in the United States through 
LDS Family Services. As per their 
recommendations, we made a video 
of ourselves and submitted it to LDS 
Family Services. The caseworker in 
Utah was immediately dismissive of 
our application. "I don't think any- 
body is going to want to place a baby 
with foreigners," he said, shaking his 
head. "I'm not sure why you came 
here." He finally took the video and 
application from us. He still has not 
responded to our emails or calls. 

It was apparent to us that we 
needed a miracle, but we also needed 
money. If we were to have a family, 
we needed money for administra- 
tion, travel, and medical fees and 
we needed to prove that we could 
provide a home for a child. My 
husband was already working six 
days a week, and I began a series of 
part-time jobs. We lived on a self- 

v ^ ^ ^ ^ r 7)m\ 

Page 26 

Exponent II 

imposed, extremely frugal budget. 
Movies and eating out were already 
off the list, but we trimmed even 
further. We wore donated clothes. 
We ate only marked-down food. We 
asked to be released from any call- 
ing that required us to donate paper, 
craft materials, or food items. This 
meant we were no longer involved 
in Young Men's, Young Women's, or 
Primary. I didn't go to Enrichment 
activities that required purchasing 
craft materials or donating food, 
even though I used to love crafts. I 
wanted a child a million times more 
than I wanted a wall hanging or a 
conversation about wheat grinding. 

Serving at church became dif- 
ficult. Even as a Sunday School 
teacher, parents seemed confused at 
my refusal to donate food, materials, 
or money to enhance the lesson. I 
perceived that without the expense of 
parenthood, they thought we should 
give all of our time and money to 
other people in the church who were 
more deserving because they had 
children. They failed to understand 
that we were desperately saving 
money for our own family. Like- 
wise, when I missed or was late for 
meetings, they were perplexed that I 
wasn't more determined to do what 
they thought was important 

I saw this as a double standard. 
People with children are able to use 
their children as an excuse for being 
ill-prepared or missing meetings. In 
providing for their children, they are 
doing what they are instructed to do. 
I understand and support that. But, 
if I was poorly prepared or missed a 
church meeting to work late or be- 
cause I was in the middle of negoti- 
ating an emotional adoption contract, 

Vol. 30, No. 4 

I was labelled as selfish. 

Mother's Day was especially 
difficult. The typical Mother's Day 
meeting in my Australian ward 
started with the Relief Society 
presidency dispensing lapel flow- 
ers to all women as they entered the 
chapel for sacrament meeting. The 
Mother's Day program consisted of a 
Primary song and blubbering female 
speakers who waxed on about bear- 
ing children and the ensuing joys of 
motherhood. At least one speaker 
would inevitably add the requisite 
belittling of "worldly women" who 
refused motherhood. I wondered if 
those women ever realized that their 
assumptions were wrong and their 
words were swathed in cruel conde- 
scension. Rather than spending the 
day ignored or pitied in my margin- 
alised state, I liberated myself from 
the experience. 

What lies at the heart of my 
Mother's Day angst is the profound 
divide between Mormon families 
who are focused on an earthly and 
spiritual methodology for the devel- 
opment of an eternal family, while 
childless Mormon couples who are 
focused on earthly and spiritual 
methodology for creating a mortal 
family. As a result, our interpreta- 
tions of "maintaining and strengthen- 
ing the family" are not equal. Child- 
less couples are in the process of 
strengthening themselves in order to 
obtain a mortal family, while child- 
filled families are in the process of 
strengthening themselves in order 
to build an eternal family. These 
competing ideas result in a caste 
system in which childless couples 
are stigmatized, or at least may feel 
like lesser spirits who were not al- 

lowed earthly children. Escape from 
the lower caste can only be achieved 
by becoming parents, or in death ("in 
the next life you'll have a family"). 

My husband and I grew tired of 
feeling like lesser souls at church. 
We still wanted to serve, so we 
signed up to work with volunteer 
organizations that wanted only our 
time. We volunteered to host ex- 
change students and discovered that, 
having passed every known govern- 
ment background check, we were 
a preferred couple for such place- 
ments. We trained dogs for disabled 
individuals. I became a volunteer 
ESL (TEFL) teacher. Outside of 
work and volunteering, I began read- 
ing every book I could, Mormon or 
otherwise, about how to work with 
and raise children. 

Finally, after failing at a number 
of attempts to adopt or become preg- 
nant, we took what few funds we had 
and went to India for an aggressive 
infertility treatment. We chose India 
because a clinic there advertised 
larger doses and longer courses of 
fertility medications than are allowed 
in Australia, at a substantially lower 
cost. We opened up about our deci- 
sion to a few select people, including 
the bishop. He did not oppose our 
choice, but I felt he was not com- 
fortable in supporting us, either. We 
prepared as best as we could, and 
went to India. 

On the drive to the clinic, every 
level of economy was on display. It 
was clear that the largest percentage 
of residents were living in extreme 
poverty. Entire families lived on 
small sections of sidewalk that they 
territorially claimed. On the earlier 
flight, an attendant had advised us to 

Page 27 

Outside the fertility clinic 

visit the expensive Taj Mahal hotel. 
"They will let you in. It will give you 
a break from the people of Mumbai," 
he said. "It can be overwhelming." I 
disregarded him at the time, thinking 
his advice ethnocentric. But he was 
right. The poverty and underlying 
caste system were overwhelming. 

Even though the medical clinic 
was on a city street, a dirt path with 
chickens and a stray dog graced its 
entrance. Inside, the clinic was west- 
ernized, complete with a western 
toilet and toilet paper. The female 
workers wore colourful and deco- 
rative saris on the street, but once 
inside the clinic they changed into 
white nursing uniforms complete 
with bobby-pinned white caps that 
made it seem as if they had walked 
out of a 1970s American soap opera. 
When not wearing a sari, many 

Indian women wore a Punjabi 
salwar kameez, which consisted 
of a bright and modest tunic 
worn over colourful loose pants 
that matched a scarf draped 
around the front of the neck. 
This clothing style was beauti- 
ful, and I envied how comfort- 
able and colourful the women 
looked, compared to me in my 
dull trousers and t-shirt. 

I began a series of injections. 
These were intense doses of 
hormones meant to force my 
malformed reproductive sys- 
tem into action. Although I am 
normally not squeamish and 
previously had experienced hor- 
mone treatments, I found these 
injections lengthy and painful. 
We would travel to the clinic 
daily for tests, injections and scans. 
We then rested, spending the heat 
of the afternoon in the hotel room. 
On especially hot days, we snuck 
into fancier places, including the Taj 
Mahal Hotel, to swim in the pools. 
In the evening, we ventured out to 
night markets, Buddhist temples, 
and the Haji Ali Mosque. We were 
charged more than 
locals for the items 
we bought. "You are 
of privilege," the 
shopkeepers would 
tell us when we 
protested the higher 
bartering rates. "You 
must pay more." We 
accepted this, and 
openly chatted about 
our family plans and 
baby names. 

At many of these 
places, well-to-do 

Indians would force their children 
on to me, insisting on a photograph. 
Pale skin was considered good luck, 
so the children would be told to 
shake my hand and touch my skin 
as though my hands were Buddah 
bellies filled with good luck. I was 
thrilled to hold the gorgeous, dark 
babies that were bejewelled in infant 
saris and laden with bracelets, ear- 
rings, and bells. I sometimes offered 
to let them touch or comb my light 
hair, which they did with delighted 
awe. It was strange to be considered 
a token of good luck, since I have 
always felt unlucky. In Mormondom, 
I felt like a social outcast: different, 
pitied, and labelled worldly. In India, 
I was the opposite. I was desired 
because I was different and this 
might bring others good luck. It was 
a strange and beautiful feeling to be 
appreciated for existing. It brought 
a joy to me that I had never before 

Within a week, however, it was 
clear that my treatment was not 
working. Dosages were increased, 
medications were changed. I was 
struggling spiritually, emotionally, 

The author with nurses at the clinic 

Page 28 

Exponent II 

and physically because 
of the chemically- 
induced hormonal 
changes and the ines- 
capable poverty we 
passed on the way to 
the clinic. I cried daily, 
sometimes hourly. 

Added to this was 
my awareness of an 
orphanage a block 
from the clinic. There, 
if someone had a child 
they no longer wanted, 
they could dispose of 
the baby in a bassi- 
nette that hung by the 
front gate. Ringing the bell beside 
the gate ensured that someone from 
the orphanage would retrieve the 
baby, no questions asked. Yet cul- 
ture and religion had combined into 
law that forbade us from taking an 
abandoned baby home. Mowji had 
pointed out the orphanage location 
as an irony, "so close to the infertil- 
ity clinic." Increasingly aware of it, I 
felt my sanity being stretched. I con- 
stantly begged God to not allow the 
orphanage bell to ring when I was 
there. I could take more injections, 
but I could not handle the idea of 
another abandoned baby, a baby that 
I desperately craved to take home. 

After three weeks, it was clear for 
us that there was no hope. My blood 
tests showed that I should be ovulat- 
ing, but I wasn't. My body was not 
responding, and I was in pain. We 
would not be going home expecting 
a baby. I stopped the injections and 
was unburdened of the chemically- 
induced depression and hormonal 
baggage that had slowly begun to 
crush our marriage. We found our- 
selves as failed and alone in Mumbai 
as we were in Mormondom. 

The author and her husband 

With a handful of days remain- 
ing, we did our best to become 
tourists. I had a pedicure, and Bruce 
had a traditional shave and haircut. 
Women at a beauty salon dressed 
me in a sari and added a red mark to 
my forehead signifying my married 
state. We took a day trip to Elephanta 
Island, where even more children 
were pressed upon me to obtain good 

In the predawn of our departure, 
we took clothes and food and left it 
with a homeless family we had given 
food to every day during our time 
there. I cried as I walked to the taxi. I 
felt as though I was abandoning this 
family in the same way that God had 
forsaken my womb. 

The flight home was a breath of 
fresh air. We found ourselves being 
served fresh fruit and even laughing 
at the in-flight movies. It was good 
to laugh. It felt like I hadn't laughed 
in years. With that, I began to pick 
up and realign myself spiritually. I 
knew that God loved me. I knew that 
my husband loved me. I know that 

both God and my husband 
carried the weight of the 
desire of my heart, and 
of my mortal limitations. 
They also knew that I 
did everything I possibly 
could do to become a 
mortal mother. Although I 
had failed again at obtain- 
ing motherhood, both 
God and my husband still 
loved me. I also knew that 
God had blessed me. 

The gospel is price- 
less knowledge, but 
equally priceless was the 
understanding that, despite 
infertility and despite the familial 
Mormon caste system, I retain privi- 
lege beyond measure. The emphasis 
on creating a child-filled, two-parent, 
"sealed" family is incontestably 
entrenched as the highest level in the 
Mormon caste system. But any caste 
system wherein individuals have 
a presumed status based on mortal 
limitations, church titles, or other 
worldly differences, is inherently 
in opposition to the gospel of Jesus 
Christ. My privilege is in knowing 
how decadently I am blessed, even 
if I am not the typical "Mother in 

What's more, I understood that 
God loves and carries the weight and 
desire of the hearts of the millions 
around the world who are lonely, 
hurting, imperfect, downtrodden, 
hungry, or unable to obtain worldly 
preferential status. My own pre- 
sumptions of meekness made me a 
party to the Mormon caste system. 
In India, I recognised my spiritual 
shortcomings. I understood how 
blessed I am. Most of all, no matter 
how imperfect our lives, I could see 
that we are all children of God. ■ 

Mean Mom 

by Kylie Nielson Turley 
Provo, Utah 

I am a Mean Mom. This is 
something I admit with hesitancy 
because — just in case you have 
not heard — meanness is distinctly 
unfashionable. Think of your worst 
fashion faux pas (e.g., 1980s pink 
neon), and you will know what I am 
talking about. Mean Moms have no 
place in modern life other than as the 
rare spectacle, which is highly un- 
fortunate for me, since I discovered 
as soon as my firstborn reached the 
age of — oh, say — two, that mean is 
natural for me. It's like walking, eat- 
ing, breathing. Apparently, I possess 
a gift for heartlessness. 

My talent is likely genetic. I 
come from a long line of Mean 
Mothers. Indeed, I first set my sights 
on developing my inherited mean- 
ness at my great-grandmother's 
funeral. Grandpa Ard regaled the 
crowd with stories of arm-hauling, 
pinching, and spanking episodes in 
which his mother, Ethel, played star- 
ring role. Her approach to correct- 
ing him did not stop when he was 
young. As a sixty-year-old mission 
president, he came home to find his 
construction company on the verge 
of bankruptcy with the Church play- 
ing no small part in the matter. He 
sunk into a depression, turning to his 
mother for comfort. Her verbal swat 
is recorded in family lore: "Arden," 
she told him unsympathetically, "the 
Lord's just testing you. Stand up and 
show him what you're made of." He 
did and later thanked his mother for 
the shake-up. 

Ethel was strong and sassy, with 
a flaming, red-headed temper and 
willpower as deep as the ocean. She 

yelled at her father-in-law for his 
rude comment to her brother (punc- 
tuating it with a few choice swear 
words), and she let the entire family 
know in a loud voice that she did not 
appreciate her father-in-law's temper 
and his disrespect to the women in 
his family. Given the early twentieth 
century's traditional family hierar- 
chy, I can barely believe Ethel had 
the nerve to do such a thing. But 
nerve was not something Ethel was 

I think I would have liked Ethel, 
but by the time I came along, she 
was a shadow of her former self, a 
forgetful and paranoid centenarian 
who insisted on dying her hair red 
but could not remember the children 
who respected her. She sat around 

in an armchair, her young-girl spunk 
bubbling up through the fog of age 
as she repetitively demanded that all 
of us around her, "Get up and make 
something of yourselves!" 

Even at 101, she was as unlike 
a Mother's Day Mom as powdered 
milk is from fresh. You know the 
Mother's Day Mom I am talking 
about — the luminary of Sacrament 
Meeting talks, the one who "had 
eleven kids and never raised her 
voice," the one who "joyfully ironed 
and starched" her sons' white shirts 
so she could "honor the priesthood," 
and the one who "happily got a PhD 
in diapering and an MA in laundry." 

Just in case you were wondering, 
I am quoting from two real Mother's 
Day talks given right here in my 

Marriage Quilt by Kathryn Knudsen, Provo, Utah. 
Details of this piece can be found in the following pages. 

Page 30 

Exponent II 

Provo, Utah, ward. I sat 
there digging my nails 
into my hands, pinch- 
ing my lips together, 
and raising my eye- 
brows at my husband. 
He shifted the baby to 
his other side, patted 
my clenched hands, 
and whispered oh-so- 
solemnly, "I just love 
Mother's Day, don't 
you? It's so uplifting." 
Really cute, sweetheart. 

My five kids will 
never be able to give a talk for 
Mother's Day, because I began rais- 
ing my voice on the days they were 
born (natural childbirth). Moreover, I 
firmly believe my husband and sons 
can iron their own shirts if they want 
the wrinkles out. And last, but not 
least, studying for my MA degree 
in American Studies made me far 
happier than doing the laundry ever 
does, though I concede that the smell 
of Downy detergent on a fresh warm 
towel beats sitting through a hot, 
boring graduation ceremony. 

I have considered protesting 
Mother's Day. I could picket my 
Sacrament Meeting, forcing my 
five children to carry signs that say, 
"Mean Mothers Unite" and "A Loud 
Voice Gets Results" while I yell 
directions over the chaos. Of course, 
all my kids will be present at the 
protest because Mean Moms do not 
really believe in agency, at least not 
when it comes to Church attendance. 
Here's your choice in our family: 
You go! Ethel raised six amazing, 
mission-serving, temple-marrying 
kids, one of whom is my grandfather, 
and she will no doubt haul them by 
the arm or kick them in the seat all 
the way to the Celestial Kingdom — 
from the other side of the veil, if 
necessary. How can you not admire 

Luckily, I have not had to resort 
to extreme physical measures to en- 
sure Church attendance, except with 
a few unruly two-year-olds. I picked 
up the wriggling child, hauled him or 
her into the chapel, and plunked him 
or her onto the bench. My husband 
had to carry a crying, squirming 
six-year-old who did not believe his 
parents would, indeed, make him 
go to Church in his pajamas if he 
refused to get ready. It turns out that 
blue footsie pajamas are modest and 
effective, if somewhat embarrassing 
to the one zipped inside. A month 
of warnings and cajolings could not 
accomplish what one pajama wear- 
ing did: My son has dressed himself 
without a fuss for going on two years 

You probably think I am kidding, 
that this essay will come around 
at the end when I realize that "a 
soft answer" really will turn away 
"wrath," and that timeouts (not 
swats) are nearer to godliness. You 
probably think I will come to repent 
of my snappy retorts and not-nice 
attitude, letting sweetness overcome 
my sins. I admit that a part of me 
wants you to be right. I feel a twinge 
of guilt every so often and determine 
never to yell at, "flick," or "bop" my 
children. But all too often sweetness 
becomes saccharine, and kindliness 

slides into manipula- 
tion. Not that that is 
any excuse, but I am 
just saying that some- 
times nice is not all 
it is cracked up to be. 
Sometimes, in fact, it 
looks more like mean in 
sheep's clothing. 

You see, there are 
plenty of days when it 
crosses my mind to give 
in and "just be nice." I 
am tired. I do not feel 
like magnifying my 
talent at meanness. If I were nice, I 
could sit in my comfy rocking chair 
and read my newest book while my 
kids did whatever it is that they want 
to do instead of practicing the piano, 
scrubbing toilets, and doing home- 
work. I would never have to hear 
about how I am the Meanest Mom 
because "I am the only one without 
a cell phone" (this from my high- 
school freshman daughter); "I am the 
only boy I know who has to clean 
bathrooms" (my middle-school son); 
"Other kids don't have to eat fruit 
and vegetables and have 'pleasant 
conversation' at every single meal" 
(my fifth-grade son); and "None of 
my friends still have to use a booster 
seat" (my second-grade son). If I 
were nice, I would smile and simply 
say "Yes" to iPhones, Game Boys, 
Wii's, fruit-less meals, and friends 
coming over before jobs are done. It 
would be so much easier. 

Alas, I find I cannot. My mean 
streak flares because — in my heart 
of hearts — I believe my children will 
be better, happier, more functional 
adults if they are responsible enough 
to clean up after themselves; if they 
are polite eaters, no matter what is 
served; and if they can buckle down 
and work before playing. And the 
way I know to achieve that is the 
way I was raised. It seems safer, if 

infinitely more difficult, to make 
them toe the line, even if it requires 
a smooth pinch to a soft, fleshy spot. 
It is tiring, but we all must work to 
magnify our talents, mustn't we? 

Okay, okay. I admit that my 
children are growing up, and pinch- 
ing and swatting are quickly fading 
to the background. It has been a darn 
long time since I have felt the need 
to pinch anyone but my husband. 
And sometimes the tried-and-true 
"What would Jesus do" mantra 
makes me wonder if all my methods 
are entirely up to snuff. But, like I 
said, I blame my mean tendencies on 
my heritage. 

The fault really lies not just with 
Ethel, but also with Mary Ann and 
Olive, with Villa, Doris, and Yvonne. 
My entire family tree is packed with 
role models who are strong, feisty, 
God-loving women of piety and 
resiliency. In a world where so many 
women are understandably conflicted 
about their own mothers, I have no 
such problem, and I am grateful. 
I feel no need to examine how I 
"learned" to eat cooked mushrooms, 
spinach, and asparagus. My inner 
child is not upset that I had piles of 
my junk thrown on top of my bed 
every Monday until I learned to put 
it away. I am not worried about my 
sister who had to 
walk home on a 
brisk Wyoming 
evening when she 
"said that one more 
time." I have plenty 
of reasons to talk to 
a psychologist, but 
my mother is not 
one of them. And it 
is not just because 
I make my chil- 
dren eat food they 
don't like; throw 
their junk on their 
beds on cleaning 

day; and try as hard as I can to make 
realistic threats and follow through. 
It is because I feel quite unequivocal 
about my mom: I adore her. 

I adore all of my mothers. I 
dream of having Ethel's audacity and 
bravado. She knew what was right 
and took no nonsense — not from her 
kids, not from her husband, not even 
from her father-in-law. When my pa- 
ternal great-grandmother, Mary Ann, 
was asked during her last days if she 
ever considered divorcing my tem- 
ple-and-stake-president great-grand- 
father, she announced "Divorce? 
No. Murder? Yes!" And, of course, 
everyone knew she was mostly kid- 
ding. My maternal great-grandmoth- 
er, Villa, was a brave single mother 
when such things just weren't done, 
especially not in church, and Doris, 
Villa's only child, left her abusive, 
alcoholic father decisively in her 
past to marry in the temple and raise 
seven children in the gospel. Every- 
one who met her knew that my pater- 
nal grandmother, Olive, was the true 
source of my grandfather's interna- 
tional business success; there were 
audible laughs at Olive's funeral 
when my aunt eulogized, "Grandma 
always knew her place was just one 
step behind her husband." And my 
mother, Yvonne? I can only hope to 

raise my five children in the same 
firm style in which I was raised. She 
absolutely loves me — of this I have 
no doubt — and I did not get away 
with anything. Ever. 

My mothers anchor me. When I 
think I just cannot stand one more 
misogynist moment, I picture Ethel 
and Mary Ann, women who did 
not apologize for who they were as 
women, mothers, wives, and daugh- 
ters. When Mother's Day speakers 
say silly things and make me doubt 
a woman's place in the Gospel of 
Jesus Christ, I think of Villa and Ol- 
ive, who made their own niches and 
influenced all around them as well as 
children for generations. When I feel 
pressure to be sappy and agreeable, 
to be pleasantly nice, or to smooth 
things over instead of standing 
resolute and determined, I picture the 
tough women who came before me, 
and I feel powerful enough to say 
what I really think. 

It may not turn out the same for 
my children. Maybe they will hate 
how they were raised, resent me, and 
need years of counseling. It's a pos- 
sibility. I read on the Internet that my 
boys may turn into down trodden, 
spineless men, and my girls may 
become domineering, bitter women. 
Then again, perhaps my boys and 

girls will turn out like 
the men and women I 
know who were raised 
by strong women; 
perhaps they will be- 
come like my father, 
my brother, my hus- 
band, my mother, my 
grandmothers, and my 
That's a possibility I 
like. So at this point 
in time, I'm holding 
the course. I think 
the world needs more 
Mean Moms. ■ 

Page 32 

Exponent II 



by Dayna Patterson 
Nacogdoches, Texas 

When the pediatrician came 

into the dim 
hospital room, 
she called you parasite. 

I scoffed, shocked. 

Months later, I hear truth in an 
ugly word. 

Not only do you eat me ounce 
by ounce, 

sucking calcium from my 
own bones, 

you swallow my sleep, 
hour by hour. 

You consume my free time, 
leaving hungry crumbs in 

the cracks 
of my days. 

You soak up my light moods, 

my dreams, 
with your needs. 

You even steal my smell and 

replace it 
with your own — the reek 
of puked milk and feces. 

As a parasite, there's no room 

for doubt — 

you do your job well. 

Still, I would not trade you 
for a tapeworm. 

And you are a universe cuter 
than a fluke. ■ 

Mother and Child by Amy To lk Richards 
Provo, Utah 

Holy Sonnet for Mother's Day 

by Judith Curtis 
Phoenix, Arizona 

No need to pierce my side with soldier's 

Or bleed from every pore as in Gethsemane; 
Designed by Thee to shed blood naturally 
Cycling with the menstrual moon. Lord, 
In accordance with Thy holy word 
This fragile body, too, is offered freely 
To give others life. Speak to me, 
Banish fear, let me be assured 
As I descend to Death's dark realm 
And drink the solitary, bitter cup 
That I will be filled with peaceful, healing 

And, at last, with Thee be lifted up. 
I give birth to you, my brother, 
And in return am born of Thee, Christ, 
Mother. ■ 

The Well 

by Courtney Cooke 
Boise, Idaho 

I cradle you, 
plastic in hand 
next to flesh that 
once you pawed 
like a baby kitten. 

I feel a loss. 
An emptiness 
that hurts you 
but you do not see. 

I grieve 

for the string that broke. 
Physical connection 
is replaced with 

We use 

a different material 
to bind us now. 

When once my well 
flowed free, 
it is now 

The spring that was 
sacrificed to a river, 
opened up to give 
new life. 

And I am 
still sad 

that I can no longer 
feed your mouth. 

But I am 

to feed your soul. ■ 

/ol. 30, No. 4 


To Mother in Heaven 

Remembering Eden 

by Sarah Richards Samuelson 


by Kristine Barrett 
Sterling Park, Virginia 

The flowers you left for me 
I found and pinned them to 
my hair upon my wedding 
day. And under a mountain 
in Africa was found 
the diamond you buried. Of 
the gold of south America 
was pressed the band I wear. 

I think of you often. 

I walk along the beach 

and do not find your footprints. 

But the shards of sun 

you sowed, I follow towards 

the veiled horizon. 

I drove once through Wyoming 
and saw how you had matched 
the sage and mustard flowers 
pretty little violet 
wilds. It was lovely. 

Your letters haven't yet 
been found and bound. 

black seeds lie upon 
white snow or flocks aflight 
embroider dawn, I look 
for your writing. 

At pollinating time 
last year, close by the honey- 
suckle, I breathed the air 
of your perfume and 

if you had come perhaps 
and I had missed you. 

I try to remember what you 
look like. Some nights 
through my 

reflection in our high window 
I see the stars and think 
I see strung diamonds plaited 
in your hair. I think 
if I could look into 
the sun, I would see your 

I want to know your name. 
I know it is livelier than 

or Sarah or Eve. Can you 
please whisper it to me? 
What is your name? ■ 

To Mother in Heaven was previ- 
ously published in Exponent II, 
Vol. 7, No. 2 (Winter 1981). 

by Lisa Van Orman Hadley 
Somerville, Massachusetts 

My mother and I have the opposite problem. 

She kept having babies each year until 
she figured out that you can, in fact, get 
pregnant while breastfeeding. 

But I have a dead sea in me. My fallopian tubes 
are closed off and bursting 
from their casings like a pair of sausages. 

She had no time for herself. 

And I have all the lonely time in the world. 

Mother was previously published in Opium Magazine 

Page 34 

Dad s Zinnias 

by Sarah Richards Samuelson, Orem, Utah 

Exponent II 

Exponent Generations 

In 1872, our foremothers began publishing The Woman's Exponent (1872 to 1914). One hundred years later, 
their spiritual granddaughters formed Exponent II (1970s to present), and thirty years after that, a new generation 
launched The Exponent blog into the digital realm (2006 to present). By reprinting thematically linked articles from 
these three different publications, we hope to pay homage to this chain of sisterhood. 

Women s bodies and their reproductive choices: In this edition of Generations, enjoy an 1896 article by Dr. Ellis 
Shipps, a female physician who urged all women to be schooled in basic obstetrics and who advocated for more 
female medical professionals to support women s health. One hundred years later, Emma Lou Thayne weighs in on 
the abortion debate and what it means to be "on the side of life. " Fast forward twenty more years for an intimate 
glimpse at one woman s decision to remain a "one-child family. " 

The Woman 's Exponent: Woman, Know Thyself 

by Ellis R. Shipp 
Pleasant Grove, Utah 
January 9, 1896 

In these days when schools, sem- 
inaries, colleges and universities are 
being established to propagate the 
wealth and wisdom of the world, let 
us not overlook a school for women 
wherein they can obtain a knowledge 
of themselves and the great scientific 
laws that govern their physical orga- 
nization. This indeed should be made 
a point of every woman's education 
to fully qualify her for the crowning 
mission of life, that of motherhood. 

The old maxim "Man know thy- 
self is equally applicable to woman. 
The ideal education fits and prepares 
a woman, or man either, for the prac- 
tical duties of life. Therefore, they 
should make a serious study of life; 
its origin from its very incipiency, 
that intricate problem which can only 
be solved by inspirational genius; in- 
deed, she should go back of this and 
consider well the potent influences 
of heredity, its bearing upon the 
physical, mental, and moral develop- 
ment of posterity. Of hygiene she 
should be a very master. She should 
study well the constituent elements 
of air, food and drink, clothing and 
exercise, their chemical and organic 
properties and their physiological 

Vol. 30, No. 4 

effects upon the human organization. 
If the mother recognizes the normal 
standard, how readily will her quick 
eye detect any deviation therefrom, 
when simple remedies promptly ap- 
plied will often prevent more pro- 
tracted and serious maladies. These 
subjects should engage the attention 
of every woman whatever her life 
or vocation may be. And should 
she possess any desire to become a 
professional nurse or efficient ac- 
coucheur, still greater is the need of 
the knowledge. If any one doubts the 
ever present and growing demand 
for skilled help for suffering women, 
especially in our distant towns and 
villages, that one should sojourn in 
those districts beyond the reach of 
competent physicians, and listen as 
the writer has listened, to the recitals 
of suffering caused through a lack 
of skill and knowledge. Also notice 
the results in the failing health, the 
loss of strength, the shortened lives 
of the masses of women, with the 
broken homes, the lonely firesides, 
the motherless children. Then can 
we fully sense how precious are the 
lives of wives and mothers, and how 
all-important it is to prolong those 
lives in health and vigor. 

In many places women are 
through sheer necessity forced to 

practice, because in the kindness of 
their heart they desire to benefit their 
fellow creatures. All unmindful of 
personal comfort, they answer these 
untimely calls night or day, rain 
or shine, ministering to their sister 
women with all the inherent gentle- 
ness of their sex, and all too often 
without the least remuneration for 
these wearisome services. That this 
mission is one of philanthropy and 
unselfish love no one can gainsay, 
and had she been prepared for this 
labor of mercy by thorough educa- 
tion in the science of obstetrics, how 
much greater would be the good 
accomplished; then could she meet 
every emergency that might arise. 

How much more fitting that 
woman should receive these delicate 
attentions from one of her own sex, 
if one can be secured who is quali- 
fied for such offices. 

Knowledge and skill are the great 
prerequisites, for occasions not in- 
frequently arise when life is in great 
peril and there is no time to send 
miles away for competent assistance. 
Thus is emphasized the necessity of 
skilled help in every town and vil- 
lage. Truly the educated nurse and 
obstetrician should be co-eval with 
the race and found wherever there is 
habitation of man. □ 


Exponent II: On the Side of Life 

by Emma Lou Thayne 
Salt Lake City, Utah 
Vol. 15, No. 4 (Fall 1990) 

Our fourth daughter called two 
days ago after her visit to her obste- 
trician. "The baby's dropped, Mom, 
everything's perfect — in position, all 
set... Be ready to come!" 

What could be more exciting? . . . 
The new mother and father would 
welcome that first baby like little 
else they had ever welcomed. . .And 
we would be grandparents relishing 
this stage of baby-loving in a far- 
from-empty nest. 

At almost the same hour a 
friend's daughter had a baby girl 
with spina bifida — a spinal column 
unclosed. It was the first child for 
the daughter, a first grandchild for 
my friend. Three weeks and three 
operations later, my friend wept into 
the phone, "How can we stand to see 
that little baby suffer any more? The 
little thing cried so much she hardly 
had a voice when she came out of 
that operating room with tubes ev- 
erywhere. And no matter what they 
do, the doctor tells us she'll never 
be functional — in fact, she'll be a 
vegetable. And so much pain." 

Still another week later, "Her 
own doctor, who's a stake president, 
says for my daughter to go ahead and 
get pregnant again, as soon as they 
can, and hope for a well baby. But in 
the second month they can tell if it's 
spina bifida and can abort. He said 
that no one could think it anything 
but merciful." 

The mysteries. The contradic- 
tions. The claims and counterclaims. 
The personal experience together 
with the marches, the declarations, 
the court decisions. . . The question 
of when life begins is a new variety 

Page 36 

of hype that has divided [this] coun- 
try as few issues have. 

All this in the midst of the first 
widespread concern about the 
emotional and physical welfare of 
women betrayed by ill-conceived, 
ill-fated motherhood. It is a time for 
thoughtful weighing of old values 
against new possibilities. 

And what sense can I make of it? 
What might I do if placed in a situ- 
ation similar to my friend's daugh- 
ter's where my unborn child might 
face a life of tragic deprivation? In 
confrontation with such sprawling 
questions as abortion presents, I pray 
for understanding, kindness, and the 
wisdom to follow Matthew l:\-Q.: 
"Judge not, that ye be not judged: 
and with what measure ye mete, it 
shall be measured to you again." 

Not judging does not mean indif- 
ference, indecision, or disengage- 
ment, but being consciously on the 
side of life, in each instance strug- 
gling to affirm life and at the same 
time honoring the gift of agency. . . 

Was there ever an issue to be 
given more thoughtful, prayerful 
consideration? An issue closer to our 
center of feeling? 

Twenty-seven years ago I was 
happily pregnant with that fourth 
daughter, the one now about to have 
her first baby. In the playroom where 
her three older sisters — still little 
girls — were watching, I was trying 
to put a new lining in the old family 
cradle, laughing because I was so 
out of sorts trying to make the sides 
fit the pink satin. Not my line of 
work, and we all knew it. I'd always 
had two dispositions: normal, and 
sewing. I turned on the TV to help. 
To Channel 7, PBS, and ironically 
to the story of Margaret Sanger. The 

impact of the documentary has never 
left me. When I tuned in, Marga- 
ret, a nurse in a Brooklyn tenement 
around the turn of the century, was 
trying to save the life of a woman 
who had tried to abort herself with a 
coat hanger. Bleeding to death, the 
woman wept to the nurse who held 
her, "I tried to tell him where they 
came from [pointing to what seemed 
like a room for children in that sad 
one-room apartment], but he says 
I'm the only thing he has — and what 
could I do?" 

I watched the film to the end, saw 
Margaret Sanger struggle to educate 
those tenement women, fight for 
them in court, get sanction for them 
to take some reasonable control of 
their lives before they lost them. I 
saw Margaret, in her willingness to 
love mercy, become the subject of 
scorn, harassment, and threats. She 
had to defend herself in court and on 
the streets because she was an advo- 
cate of birth control for the poor. 

All the while I poked my needle 
through the stiff old wicker to the 
soft satin of the cradle that had 
rocked three generations of wanted 
babies to well-fed sleep, thinking, 
"There but for the grace of God go 
I," the outrageous grace of the God 
I so wholly believe in as the giver of 
the life I love and want so much to 
pass along. Complicated, that giving 
of life, and the giving and taking of 
the quality of life. I never felt more 
humble, never more passionately 
wished that the grace that came to 
me and my happy children might 
also extend to all women, and all 
their children. 

Four years later, I had a fifth 
baby, with complications enough 
that I had to have a tubal ligation 

Exponent II 

after she was born, miraculously 
well, even beautiful, in spite of much 
difficulty. Demerol, the drug given 
to me over and over for gall bladder 
pain that repeatedly triggered labor 
in the last trimester of my preg- 
nancy, preserved her by allowing me 
to carry her into the eighth month 
of pregnancy. But it took me three 
agonizing months after her birth to 
regain myself after addiction to the 
drug. In spite of it all, we survived, 
both of us, and gained new strength, 
as she became the family plaything, 
happiness for us all. 

For six years of her growing up, 
I, as a member of the General Board 
of the Mormon Church's youth 
organization, wrote lessons and gave 
Standards Night talks on chastity, 
temple marriage, the challenges and 
joys of mothering. At the same time, 
as a part-time member of the board 
of Odyssey House, a drug rehabilita- 
tion center, I saw pictures of children 
born to prostitutes addicted to drugs 
not unlike the Demerol that caused 
me such agony. Many of these chil- 
dren were born addicted and were 
sold into the sickening, burgeoning 
business of child pornography. I 
shudder now remembering pictures 
of those children. I wonder how it 

was for the mothers who bore them. 
For both mothers and children, the 
daily horror or bleakness of life with 
quality totally absent. Every morn- 
ing each child faced such an uneven 
destiny that no two circumstances 
could possibly be equated. . . 

In the past three years I've sat 
on the lay advisory committee to 
the OB/GYN department at the 
University of Utah Medical Center. 
We've heard experts talk about in 
vitro births, artificial insemination, 
methods for sustaining fragile preg- 
nancies. We've listened to ecstatic 
couples who have carried babies they 
would earlier have lost to miscar- 

At the same time, a year ago, I 
spent five weeks at an artists' colony 
where four of the seven residents — 
painters, writers, composers — had 
chosen not to have children. These 
were concerned people, informed 
and aware of inequities, over-pop- 
ulation, starvation, of a world that 
needed careful attention to its wel- 
fare. Nevertheless, they reveled in 
hearing every detail about my family 
and even smilingly put up with the 
snapshots of them and lines from 
their letters. Each of us was enriched 
for respecting choices not our own. 

Photo by Cia de Foto, Creative Commons license from 

Complicated indeed, this busi- 
ness of having babies — or not. Per- 
sonal, private, often excruciating the 
choices, the eventualities. And who 
could possibly decide whose choice 
is what it should be? I'd hate to be 
the one to judge. In fact, the longer 
I live, the more convinced I become 
that it's all I can possibly handle just 
to try to come to grips with what 
besets my own life, to try to make 
sense of my own sense of mortality. 
I think often of the admonishment of 
David O. McKay, the prophet of my 
growing-up years, that such deci- 
sions be the private affair of a couple 
and the Lord. 

Two weeks ago I sat with my 
fifth daughter far away from home. 
That Sunday we were across the 
continent visiting in a fundamentalist 
church. We listened with distress and 
despair to the head of that church as 
he made blanket condemnations of 
"those murderers who take the life of 
a fetus." Women, medical people, all 
were collectively damned. I wonder 
how that judgment would feel to the 
frantic, pregnant woman in Margaret 
Sanger's arms, to Margaret Sanger. 
To me, who after the birth of my 
youngest daughter had elected to end 
my child-bearing potential. I lived in 
a world in which such a choice was 

I sat in that church and remem- 
bered sitting two years ago in a Teen- 
age Pregnancy Conference at the 
YWCA where I was to be a speaker. 
Though thinking myself fairly well 
informed, I trembled in hearing a 
judge, a counselor, the director of the 
home for pregnant adolescents, tell 
of thirteen-year-olds keeping their 
babies "for companionship" and then 
abusing or abandoning them because 
they felt sapped of their girlhood, 
their chance to be young and free. 
And at the same time hearing of 
fifteen-year-olds having their third 

Vol. 30, No. 4 

Page 37 

and fourth abortions. Every "case" is 
different, no two answerable to the 
same solution. Reverence for life? 
Whose life? What life? 

All I could think then, pray now, 
is this: Dear Lord, give me the heart 
to understand, the wisdom not to 
judge, the loving kindness to know 
what the poet Gwendolyn Brooks 
meant when she wrote, "That even in 
my deliberateness I was not deliber- 
ate." All I could do was think that 
if my daughter's friend chooses a 
different destiny for another spina 
bifida child, I will love them both for 
their likeness to and their difference 
from me. 

Where do I stand on abortion? 
On the side of life. For the mother as 
well as the child. Not bewildered by 
not deciding exactly where I stand 
except in reverencing both the life 
and the agency that the Lord alone 
gives to decide anything at all. 

And I go gratefully, ecstatically, 
to welcome in another grandbaby of 
my own. □ 

The Exponent Blog: Baby Clothes on the Goodwill Pile 

by Galen Smith 
Tucson, Arizona 
July 3, 2009 

We did some spring cleaning a 
while ago. Made a nice big pile of 
stuff to go to Goodwill. I tackled our 
son's room and decided that all the 
baby stuff we had been holding onto 
needed to go. I'm not planning on 
having another child — let's free up 
some shelf space. When DH came 
in to take the pile out to the car and 
saw all the baby stuff I had put on it, 
his shoulders slumped a bit. "Oh" he 
said. "This makes it feel so final." 

It's not something that comes up 
too often, but I know that my hus- 
band would like more children. Just 
when I get feeling at peace with my 
family planning decisions, I realize 
that it's my peace and my planning, 
but it's not the decision that my 
significant other would make. So, 
not family planning but selfish-me 

A one-child 


It would 
only take one more 
child to appease his 
disappointment. A 
sibling. So our son 
would have someone 
to share with, grow 
up with, grow older 
with. And this is 
where my insecurity 
about my family- 
planning concerns 
really hits a tender 
spot — what is best 
for my son. I'm tor- 
mented by anecdotes 
about the lonely only 
child, about what my 

not having any more children will 
mean for him in his life. I cling to 
stories about normal healthy people 
who were only children. 

Fecundity and procreation are all 
around me. At church on Sunday it 
seemed the bellies of every woman 
under the age of forty were blooming 
with newly implanted life. At church, 
in my neighborhood, among family, I 
feel like such an anomaly. An ovar- 
ian freak of nature deaf to the call of 
"multiply and replenish." 

I'm okay being a freak. 

Occasionally I get twinges of 
guilt or sadness over my husband's 
regrets about our family. However, 
what really gets me is the doubt, the 
worry about what possible harm I 
am inflicting upon my son by my 
unwillingness to give him a sibling. 
(Mom guilt. We will never be good 
enough. We will always be the cause 
of so much harm.) Sometimes, just 
for that, in insecure moments, I 
waver: Okay, Yes! Fine! Let's make 
a sibling! 


I keep a stash of pregnancy tests 
in the bathroom. Sometimes I get 
this wave of terror that my birth 
control has failed and I am pregnant. 
I rip out another stick to pee on, 
praying to my goddess Mirana that it 
isn't so. She has not failed me so far. 
I should just get my tubes tied. 
But then. . . 

I see the slump in his shoulders. 
"This makes it seem so final." 

"Well," I say, "If we have another 
baby we can just get new stuff." 

[Meanwhile, the clock ticks 
away....] ■ 

Heart and Womb by Galen Dara, Tucson, Arizona 

Page 38 

Exponent II 

Media Review: Sister Wives on TLC 

by A lis s a King 
Laguna Hills, California 

I am a bit of a reality TV junkie. I 
like the crab fishermen, the roommates, 
the chefs, and the wanna-be singers. So, 
of course, I was intrigued when I saw 
the promos for Sister Wives, a program 
that follows Meri, Janelle, and Christine 
as their husband, Kody, courts a fourth 
wife, Robyn. All of this takes place 
amongst their sixteen children and under 
the pictures of Joseph Smith that hang on their walls. 
How could I not watch?! 

I'd seen a few episodes of the HBO drama Big Love, 
and it simply wasn't for me. I know enough about what 
Hollywood thinks polygamy looks like behind closed 
doors and wasn't interested in another fictionalized ver- 
sion. As an outsider, polygamy has always struck me 
as world of secrets, repression and domination. Having 
grown up in Utah, I had always wondered what a "mod- 
ern" polygamist family was really like. 

From the first episode of Sister Wives I was hooked. 
The brutal honesty of Meri, Janelle and Christine was 
startling to me and seemed to offer a transparent view 
of the delicate negotiations that go on between family 
members in this "lifestyle." In Sister Wives we see how 
polygamy is not just about sharing a husband, but it's 
also carving out your space in the household; it's moth- 
ers making sure their children get time with their dad; 
it's about who works and raises babies; it's about who's 
having the babies. 

For example, Meri, the first wife, had always wanted 
a big family but was only able to bear one child. Meri 
says gratefully that because of her lifestyle she has been 
able to have years filled with babies and children that she 
gets to help parent. Thinking about shared motherhood 
in this way was one of the more eye-opening moments of 
this show for me. 

But the main event of the first season was the fam- 
ily's courtship of a new sister wife, Robyn. All of the 
wives were in on (and even helped orchestrate) this new 
relationship. The jealousy her arrival aroused was some- 
thing I expected but not in the way it manifested itself. 
I was surprised by how women who were comfortable 
sharing a husband could still be hurt by the discovery 

that Kody had kissed Robyn 
before they were married 
and then secretly helped her 
pick out her wedding dress. 
Understandably, they made 
comparisons between how 
Kody had treated them during 
their courtships with how he 
was carrying on a new one. 
But perhaps more astonishing 
was that the wives' collective 
jealousy did not push Robyn 
out of the picture. Instead, they wanted to get Robyn 
married into the family as quickly as possible in order 
to strengthen the family. In their view, a new wife in the 
family is a contribution, a girlfriend is a distraction. 

When I started watching the series I was shocked that 
a woman in her right mind would want to join a fully- 
formed polygamist family with three children from her 
previous marriage in tow. By the end of the season I was 
surprised that I was beginning to understand what could 
draw Robyn to this family. I was struck by the dedica- 
tion of these five adults to the happiness and success of 
their family and the fact that they weren't ashamed to 
show how they accomplish that. Such dedication some- 
times meant going toe-to-toe with each other, including a 
painful confrontation between Meri and Kody about the 
disproportionate amount of time he was spending away 
from his existing family (and their twenty year marriage) 
as he courted Robyn. Robyn's willingness to have dif- 
ficult conversations with her future sister wives regarding 
her religion, her children, and her feelings for Kody also 
created conflict. 

The same curiosity that draws me to Sister Wives is 
also the part of me that is drawn to the pages of Exponent 
II. I enjoy an opportunity to find a new way of looking 
at something I thought I understood, and this program 
offers a new perspective on something that people have 
generally only been able to fictionalize or splash on the 
cover of a newspaper when it goes especially awry. The 
women in Sister Wives are not submissive caricatures of 
polygamy: they are spunky and spirited wives, moms, 
and sisters. Though I still cannot relate to choosing this 
lifestyle, I better understand the cost of the choice, and I 
think I see the rewards differently too. ■ 

Flannel Board 

Deborah Under the Palm Tree 

"And Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, she judged Israel at that time. 
And she dwelt under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Beth-el in 
mount Ephraim: and the children of Israel came up to her for judgment. " 

(Judges 4:4-5) 

In Sunday School lessons, we often see the same handful of women in the scriptures depicted over and over again: 
Mary, Mary Magdalene, and to a lesser extent Eve, Esther, and Ruth. This problem is compounded by the fact that 
these women are always depicted as being white. This piece has been a favorite of our Exponent staff for a few 
years now, and we thought how wonderful it would be to publish this picture in the magazine in a format that would 
allow people to use it as a Sunday School visual aid. Adrienne Cruz, an Oregon-based artist, has graciously given us 
permission to use her beautiful interpretation of the Deborah story in Judges 4-5 . ■ 

Page 40 

Exponent II