PUBLISHING THE EXPERIENCES OF MORMON WOMEN SINCE 1974
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VOL. 32 I NO. 1 I SUMMER 2012
ON THE COVER:
by Ashley Mae
This image is
WHAT IS EXPONENT II:
The purpose of Exponent 1 1 is to provide a forum for Mormon women to
share their life experiences in an atmosphere of trust and acceptance.
This exchange allows us to better understand each other and shape
the direction of our lives. Our common bond is our connection to The
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and our commitment to
women. We publish this paper as a living history in celebration of the
strength and diversity of women.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
THE AIRPORT COUPLE RIDDLE
" 'People should deserve how they ore treated', I thought,
concluding that I nnust hove done something terribly wrong not
to be loved."
MY CIVIL MORMON WEDDING
"I could not Imagine this life In o glont religious family always
being the odd couple out."
REMEMBERING SISTER CHIEKO
A small tribute to Chleko's legacy with stories from those whose
lives have been Impacted by her profound words of wisdom and
CHIEKO'S FUNERAL ADDRESS
"Who would have guessed that a little Japanese girl from the Big
Island could touch, Inspire, and love so many of us?"
POETRY: 'TITTLE GIRL LOST"
A NEW KIND OF PIONEER
"My partner and I serve where we're allowed... It Isn't nearly
enough, though. My heart longs to serve."
POETRY: "MARY'S LETTER TO 19
BOOK REVIEW: PURPLE: POEMS BY 23
MARY LYTHGOE BRADFORD
BOOK REVIEW: THE BOOK OF 24
MORMON GIRL: A MEMOIR OF AN
SjuM Ptdtermrv fmittrwrnih
TWO MORMON FEMINISTS WALK 25
INTO A BAR...
EXPONENT GENERATIONS 30
"Pen and Scissors"
"My Life as a Centerfold"
UtUoraA- durmer Rruy
FRUIT WARS 36
"While extremely frugal in most ways ("I prefer the term 'cheap,'",
my dad says), be has an obsession with buying fruit."
LAYOUT DESIGNER/ EDITOR
SISTERS SPEAK EDITOR
Rachel Albertsen, Emily Benton, Sue Booth-Forbes, Susan
Christiansen, Thomas Clyde, Krisanne Hastings, Margaret
Olsen Hemming, Elisabeth Lund Oppelt, Emily Mosdell,
Dayna Patterson, Elizabeth Pinborough, Natalie Prado,
Chelsea Shields Strayer, Suzette Smith, and Jessica Steed
EXPONENT GENERATIONS EDITOR
BOOK REVIEW EDITOR
SABBATH PASTORALS EDITOR
Emily Clyde Curtis, Emily Gray, Margaret Olsen Hemming,
Aimee Evans Hickman, Denise Kelly, Linda Hoffman Kimball,
Caroline Kline, Jana Remy, Heather Sundahl, Barbara Taylor
Linda Andrews, Cheryl DiVito, Nancy Dredge, Judy Dushku,
Karen Haglund, Deborah Farmer Kris, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
SPECIAL THANKS TO: Stefanie Carson Nickolaisen, Emily Fox
King, Scott Hefferman, Ashley Mae Hoiland, Pat Langmade,
Jessica Steed, Morgan Trinker, and Ellen Williams for the use
of their artwork in this issue.
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 © 2012
by Exponent II, Inc. All rights reserved.
SUBMISSIONS TO EXPONENT II:
We welcome personal essays, articles, poetry, fiction, and
book reviews for consideration. Please email submissions
to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail them to Exponent II,
2035 Park Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21217. Please include
your name and contact information.
Submissions received by mail will not be returned.
We are always looking for artwork and photography
to accompany our writing. Please send jpegs or gifs
of art submissions to our email. If you are interested
in illustrating articles, please contact us for specific
LETTER FROM THE EDITORS
3^ our io^^ rauLeri^'
It's a happy time of growth for Exponent II right now, and to celebrate that,
we've put together this summer issue, full of uplifting and lighthearted pieces.
We have three personal essays dealing with marriage, including Lorraine Jackson's
careful crafting of a civil Mormon wedding ceremony, Mary Clyde's ideas on relationships post-
divorce, and Kelly Montgomery, an excommunicated lesbian, who decided with her partner to be
active members of the Church. While it's been almost a year since she passed away, we wanted
to take the time to celebrate and give Sister Chieko N. Okazaki, an influential Mormon pioneer, a
proper farewell with Carol Lee Hawkin's funeral address and some of our readers' stories about
how Chieko influenced them. We celebrate our foremothers in Brenda Thomas' sacrament talk
about Relief Society and look for a better future for our daughters in this issue's Sisters Speak
and Dana Haight Cattani's "To PEC or Not to PEC." We had fun putting together "Two Mormon
Feminists Walked into a Bar," a humor feature, and we feel like we're on the cutting edge of pop
culture with some Mormon-themed "Hey Girl" Ryan Gosling images, created by members of the
rising generation of Mormon women: Ellen Lewis, Sagan Gotberg, and Whitney Paige, who all
recently graduated from high school.
This issue begins Aimee's and my third year as co-editors of Exponent II. During the first
year, we focused on laying a foundation, finding dedicated and talented editors and
staff members, and adapting to the rigorous pace of hitting deadlines for a quarterly
production schedule. This year has been more fun as we continue to grow at the
organizational level, beyond the publication. We have a new president and treasurer
who are getting our financial situation in order. We've also had a dedicated fundraising
team plan and execute a successful fundraising drive. Finally, we've had a dedicated editor,
Elizabeth Pinborough, who published Exponent N's first book in over 30 years, which we
completely sold out of within days of the first printing.
The second edition of Habits of Being: Mornnon Wonnen's Material Culture will be available
on our website as a hard copy and as an e-book by the time you receive this issue. And,
we're looking forward to reading the submissions for our upcoming political issue during
this Mormon Moment in the United States' history.
Right now. Mormon feminism is producing plenty of powerful work through a variety
of mediums. It's exciting to be on this journey, and we celebrate what an exciting
time it is to be a Mormon feminist. Come continue the celebration with us this
fall at our annual Exponent retreat with keynote speaker and Exponent founding
editor, Claudia Bushman, and a line-up of workshops that has me positively
tnu£^ Ci^d& Cw^tiA
# or a time after my divorce, airports unnerved me. I was
\J miserable in their long, anonymous corridors packed
with ordinary couples. For me, each couple I passed posed an
unsolvable, nagging riddle: How do couples remain couples?
What fate or magic or knowledge or assets— what, what did the
simple married folk do? Regardless of whether they seemed
particularly happy or well suited, unmistakably, they were
together, sitting knee-to-knee eating Wendy's hamburgers or
standing side-by-side trying to decipher the departure schedule
monitors. Their pairings seemed as unlikely and logic-defying
as continental drift or as the magician sawing his assistant in
half without dismembering her. But in the case of the couples, it
was their staying together that baffled me. I recall a New Yorker
cartoon of a magician's assistant's grave with two mounds,
marked by separate headstones: top and the rest. That seemed
an apt metaphor for me. Divorce was more than losing a
husband; it was losing who I was.
Most confusing, even now, I'm not entirely certain how I
became that stupidly stigmatized label: a divorcee. Many years
ago, when my then-husband announced— with the sober calm
of an auto mechanic diagnosing worn brake pads— that he
wasn't sure he loved me, my first reaction was to try to explain
to him that of course he loved me. I believe I said, "It's me. It's
Mary." As if his loss of affection was a case of mistaken identity.
Temple covenants, five children, and 26 years of marriage.
Wasn't that love?
But the passing days and weeks revealed the truth of his
confession. He didn't love me. In my fretful examination of
our marriage, I experienced bouts of utter conviction of my
innocence, alternating with suffocating certainties of my
guilt in the failure of the marriage. Evidence of my minor but
systematic wrongdoings presented itself like pesky computer
graphics, relentlessly surfacing to disrupt my fragile peace.
Vigilantly, I whacked the thoughts back, but increasingly they
took a terrific toll. "People should deserve how they are treated,
" I thought, concluding that I must have done something terribly
wrong not to be loved. I began to lose and gain weight like a
divorced character in a short story I'd written and published
years before. I pondered the story's eerie prescience. Had I
understood something about divorce even then? It crossed my
mind to worry that I'd been insensitive to my fictional divorcee's
suffering. I wanted to apologize to her. But then, I longed to ask
'People should deserve how they are treated/
I thought, concluding that I nnust have done
something terribly wrong not to be loved/'
By Mary Clyde ■ Phoenix, Arizona
the entire world for forgiveness
Surely, I had failed everyone.
As a subject, divorce
seemed as routine
and baffling as, say,
ice formation, and
Indeed, what did love
have to do with it-
marriage or divorce?
I seemed to love and
be loved by small children, big dogs, and
gay men, but the man who'd promised to love me eternally did
not. And what would the dissolution of our marriage do to my
children? I loved them fiercely, but I couldn't love them enough
to make their father care for me, and my love for him began to
appear shabby and shop-worn, insufficient for the monumental
task of keeping a marriage together.
I approached a beloved uncle for advice. My uncle radiates
Jesus' love in his blue eyes. He kindly asked me thoughtful
questions and spoke with gentle intensity, explaining what he'd
learned from years of counseling people about marriage. Simply
stated, he said that if both partners decide to work on the
marriage, it will succeed. If neither will work on the marriage, it
is doomed. If either wife or husband tries to save the marriage,
it will succeed about half of the time. This sounded sensibly
mathematical. I could work. I would try.
Then my uncle said something that I almost lost sight of in the
difficult months that followed. He said, "Mary, if you try to save
your marriage, you will be blessed."
I tried. My attempts may have been pathetic; obviously, they
weren't successful, but they were sincere and continued for
several months. Nevertheless, a few days after my husband,
who was the second counselor in the bishopric, told me firmly
that the marriage couldn't be salvaged, I walked into Sacrament
Meeting shamefaced and aware that I was an unwilling
participant in a small-scale scandal. I thought. So this is how that
feels. I admired the courage of others who'd squinted in the glare
of unwanted scrutiny. I tried to smile, and my tremulous smile
was returned by the ward members with genuine affection. No
one— except me— looked away. Friends whispered that they
loved me. I was hugged and passed from person to person
like a bucket in a fire brigade. I experienced the equivalent of a
standing ovation for what I saw as the ultimate failure of my life.
Understand this. If, as a culture, Latter-day Saints seem fixated
on marriage, that doesn't have to stop us from rushing to
bandage the wounded when the institution explodes in divorce.
A good marriage may reveal the largess of an individual's love,
but divorce can uncover a broad swath of communal caring.
It wasn't just my dear friends; an army of angels ministered
to my broken heart. In the months that it took to finalize the
divorce, as I grew more disheartened, the ward was my Balm of
Gilead. At a time when I'd whisper to my reflection, "I hate you,"
ward members supported me in a stirring manifestation of the
baptismal covenant: They mourned with me; they comforted
me. They reached out to my children. They
carried us along: ball games. Eagle Scout
Projects, and wedding receptions.
Alas, I never solved the airport couple riddle.
I still only have a cursory understanding of
how couples remain couples. I theorize that
every woman everywhere commits offenses
that a man could single out as a reason for
divorce. Aren't we all at times petty? Self-
righteous? Impatient? But every woman also
has attributes that make her loveable. Every
woman's worth is above rubies, though that
may only be evident to a particular man; with
luck, she marries him. Such a man makes
a decision about her value, and she about
his, which can cement the relationship for
eternities. What I came to understand about
the airport couples was simple, prosaic, but s
had decided to stay together. I must have witnes
spectrum of marital bliss and misery in airports,
the airport couples' situations— and whether or i
good situations— they were couples. After they :
One evening after the divorce was finally over, I pushed my
first grandson in a stroller in a pink- and orange-glazed Phoenix
sunset. Fall is the desert's real "spring." Released from the
stifling heat, desert dwellers tentatively emerge from the air
conditioning and fling arms wide to the glory of moderate
temperatures. That evening as we walked, fan palm fronds
rustled, rabbits darted from beneath oleanders, and I realized.
This is my life: the sweet baby, the beautiful weather, and a
desert sunset. The idea amazed me. I hadn't expected to feel
such joy and peace. It was a different life than before, but it was
mine. I hadn't had a job since I worked for Married Students'
Housing in college, but a former mentor phoned to offer me a
teaching position. I'd moved to a smaller house with a red tile
roof, a looming eucalyptus tree, and a spotted, mongrel dog.
I recognized that I was richly blessed, as my dear uncle had
I feel the truth of President Dieter F. Uchtdorf's comments:
"Often the most difficult times of our lives are essential building
blocks that form the foundation of our character and pave the
way to future opportunity, understanding, and happiness."
My divorce has allowed me fresh opportunities and clearer
understandings. I know the sacred value of compassion and
the healing powers of love— God's, others', and my own. I am
Now my chief worry at airports is catching the plane. Airport
couples pass without my scrutiny as I search for a purse-sized
water bottle to purchase or puzzle over the departure screens.
I'm pleased when a harried mother lets me help her with her
over-tired toddler, and I'm anxious about the claustrophobia of
dogs in travel carriers. However, now at the airport, I notice the
legions of single people, many more than I'd have thought. May
God bless them, I think. All of them and the couples, too. r^I^.
For H. Burke Peterson
If y as a culturey Latter-day
Saints seem fixated on
marriagey that doesnt have
to stop usfi'om rushing
to bandage the wounded
when the institution
explodes in divorce. A good
marriage may reveal the
largess of an individuaVs
lovey but divorce can
uncover a broad swath of
.ed the entire
lot they were
aid / do, they
Starting over has had some shocks of delight.
A time or two, I've written my divorced name
with the girlish flourishes I'd used to write my
new married name when my face was unlined
and my hair was a solid brown. I relish the
instruction of etiquette books; I am A/Irs., but
only to myself. I have been reborn, but into
a new life. After time, custody is moot. My
children love me. I'm entertained by their
efforts to find dates for me, and touched, too.
The question they always pose is whether
the potential date (celebrities, public figures,
and general authorities) is good enough for
me. At home, I play Dionne Warwick loudly.
Sometimes I let Sonny and Cher belt out "I
Got You Babe." If my music choices don't
represent good taste, I am satisfied that
it is my taste. The dog sleeps on my bed,
occasionally whimpering from a bad dream that I wake him
from by patting his soft furry side. I tell him that it will be all
right; we both go back to sleep. And sometimes I entertain
myself by tearing recklessly into product packaging. There is no
one to be irritated by my inability to tidily open a Cheerios box.
CIVH. MORMON WEDDING
'7 could not imagine this life in a giant religious family, always being the odd couple out/
By Lorraine Jackson ■ Lehi, Utah
"So, what temple are you getting married in?" The question
came with glee, during a big family function. Not an accusation,
and certainly not an assumption that the answer would be
anything other than "The Bountiful/Salt Lake/Timpanogos
Instead, the merriment fell into an awkward silence as my fears
were realized: My fiance's aunt didn't know that we weren't
active Mormons. I looked to Dan, who mercifully glossed over
the original question to move into more neutral wedding topics.
The room shifted slightly, and my paranoia
told me that my soon-to-be family was
realigning their perspective on our marriage.
I was consumed with fears about what
misguided assumptions were being made
about Dan, me, and our relationship.
We had met and nearly instantly fallen in
love while I was on a vacation to Utah in the
year prior. A wonderful Salt Lake job offer
and a packed vehicle later, I was moving
back to the "everlasting hills" of Zion where
I had grown up and had ceremoniously
decided to permanently leave behind after
college. Fleeing to the East Coast had been
an awakening for me about the status of my
faith: I had spent many years in Utah trying
to make Mormonism work for me, but the
long circuitous conversations about the
technicalities of green tea and the inequalities
of the priesthood with the bishopric were
slowly pushing me away from any affection
for the Church. Away from the prying eyes of
Mormon expectations, I felt like I was finally able to redefine
my relationship with God. What remained was a desire to live
an altruistic life, and a lingering fondness for my Mormon and
Jewish ancestry, which I continued to explore and study even
as my connection to the Church wavered. I found I could safely
pursue the stories of my ancestors who had crossed the plains
^^My civil Mormon
wedding was probably the
best thing to happen to
my spirituality in years.
It didntjust allay my
fears about Dansfamilyy
it required me to open my
heart again and slay my
own prejudices. Crafting
a celebration together as
a family was the ultimate
reconciliation— not just
of my future life within
Mormon culture^ but of
the Mormon woman that I
would always be. "
to Utah or left Moldova in a Jewish diaspora without feeling
constantly troubled by the dogma of the contemporary Church.
My ancestors became my spiritual safe zone.
It was a shock to my system, then, to find myself not only back
in Utah, but also about to join myself to a man who still loosely
identified himself as Mormon, along with his giant, wonderful,
and very Mormon family. The first time that Dan introduced me
to his extended family was at a high school basketball game,
where his cousins were playing in the state playoffs. There, I
met what seemed like billions more cousins,
four sets of aunts and uncles, and one set of
grandparents. Despite their fellowship, their
kindness, the twinkle in their eyes to see
Dan so happy with a woman, all I saw was
For all my hopes to be seen for who I was, I
could not seem to offer the same in return.
I had intentionally left Utah behind so
that I could pursue my spirituality without
judgment. When I saw this enormous, loving
family, I only saw a lifetime of disappointing
them, of questioning their motives, and
wondering when they would learn that both
Dan and I were making conscious choices to
live our life on the Mormon fringes.
I cried to Dan on the drive home from the
basketball game, confessing that I could
not imagine this life in a giant religious
family, always being the odd couple out, and
concerned that our combined distance from
the Church could jeopardize Dan's closeness to his family,
which would have broken both our hearts. He assured me that
his family would never let that happen. His unwavering belief in
his family and in us was the first step towards me making peace
with my faith and theirs.
Dan didn't give up on me, and proposed atop the gorgeous
red cliffs of Kanab, Utah, overlooking the cattle ranch that his
Mormon ancestors had established when Brother Brigham
sent them there to settle the wilderness some 150 years ago.
We sat side-by-side in the early morning light as he pulled
out a ring that, unbeknownst to me, had been given to him by
my grandmother and belonged to my Great Aunt Ruth, the
daughter of a Mormon pioneer herself. At that moment our
ancestral worlds were entwined, and this incredibly romantic
gesture reminded me that I had something pure and sacred to
cling to in my otherwise wavering testimony. Our ancestors
were ours, and they would be proud of our match. How could
they not be? We spent the remainder of our engagement day
visiting their cabins and cleaning off their headstones, which
we both thought was the greatest thing in the world.
So, I set to planning our big, fat Mormon civil wedding. We
knew right away that we wanted to give ourselves, our friends,
and our family a personal and meaningful experience. And
despite our shared confusion about our place in the Church, we
had always shared an extraordinary soft spot for our ancestors.
It was the sentiment of our engagement that inspired us to
have a wedding not only to honor our love, but to honor both
our families and, specifically, our Mormon pioneer heritage.
Because Dan and I had direct relatives who entered the Salt
Lake Valley through Emigration Canyon, it seemed all too
perfect to marry in the little white church at This Is The Place
To my relief, the awkward question of the temple was asked
just once, and the only other religious tension we experienced
in the process was choosing someone to marry us. Dan had
to politely turn down the presented idea of a bishop, and
in a wonderful turn of fate, I met a man at This is The Place
who goes affectionately by "Diamond Jim," a Mormon with
an Internet-ordained ministry license who often officiates
weddings for couples at the park. He says he has performed
ceremonies as a Sheriff, in pioneer coat tails and top hat, and
even as a ranking member in the Star Wars Rebel Alliance. We
opted for the top hat. While it seemed slightly absurd initially,
he showed amazing reverence for our history and our story, and
the top hat was a hit.
When we did finally share the location of our ceremony and
our minister with the family, I was happily surprised by the
excitement and warmth that Dan's family showed for our ideas.
My paranoia about being spiritually saved was quickly replaced
with gratitude as our families came forward in innumerable
ways to make the wedding a treasured, meaningful day full of
heartfelt elements. As Dan, our sisters, mothers, and I spent
the summer making programs that doubled as fans, hand-
stamping bags filled with desert wildflower seeds, and staining
doilies with coffee grounds, I often had a feeling of peace,
belonging, and occasionally, a presence in my heart which I can
only describe as timeless femininity. It was as if I could feel the
calluses of weathered women, generations gone, in the tips of
my fingers as we worked. I was tied to a centuries-repeated act
of women sitting together, creating, and sharing.
In one of the great disasters-turned-miracles, my eldest sister
fashioned a veil with hand-knit flowers and my Great Aunt
Ruth's brooch just days before the wedding when my original
veil plans fell through. One of Dan's aunts, a scrapbooking
queen, presented us with an entirely handmade box to save
keepsakes in when the wedding was over. It now holds my veil,
our ring boxes, lace from my dress, and a copy of our vows.
During this bonding and crafting time, I asked my sisters and
soon-to-be sisters if they would sing an a cappella version of
"For the Beauty of the Earth" at the wedding. It was sung at my
and my sister's baptism, and my grandmother has made it quite
clear it will be sung at her funeral. Hearing all four of my sisters
sing it together in perfect harmony during our ceremony was
one of the most beautiful moments of my life.
My civil Mormon wedding was probably the best thing to
happen to my spirituality in years. It didn't just allay my fears
about Dan's family, it required me to open my heart again and
slay my own prejudices. Crafting a celebration together as a
family was the ultimate reconciliation— not just of my future
life within Mormon culture, but of the Mormon woman that I
would always be.
When Dan proposed, I had a clear, profound sense of all that
had been done by the people before us whose Mormon, Jewish,
Catholic, and Protestant lives collectively guided us to this
moment and all the moments after. The wedding didn't seal
things up with a pretty bow, but it gave us a way to start our life
authentically, and unafraid, joined together on the edge of Zion.
RAISING THE NEXT
An EXPONENT II reader writes, '1 am a 30-something new mom. Over the years, I have made peace with my identity as a Mormon. I like
getting involved, helping the sisters in my ward, teaching quietly feminist gospel doctrine lessons. Despite the rough road it's been, I like being
a bridge-builder I'm stubborn and don't want cultural elements to drive me away from my birthright.
But my daughter is a really incredible kid. She's got this spunky energy. And if I dare stop to think about the subtle messages she'll get about her
'role' as a woman from nursery onward . . . gulp! And then there are the OVERT messages.
From moms of daughters: I'd love to hear how/if having a daughter changed your relationship with the Church. From anyone else, I'd love
your thoughts about raising the next generation of girls in the Church. How can we help protect them from those problematic messages about
womanhood, while at the same time teaching them to appreciate the best ofMormonism?"
CHRISTA BAXTER-DRAKE | OREM, UTAH
I just can't say this enough: The gender roles your children see at home totally
trump what they hear at Church. Just this week I was reviewing that troubling
Young Women lesson about respecting patriarchal authority. I'm pretty certain
I was taught this, probably multiple times, and yet I grew up fully believing
husband and wife make decisions together, listen to each other, come to
unanimous conclusions, and move forward. Why? Because, as far as I could tell,
that's how my parents worked. This is why as a college sophomore I didn't get
why my literary theory teachers trod so carefully around feminism. Why would
they think feminism would work against the Church when so much of what I
had learned there taught me I was powerful, valued, strong, capable of receiving
revelation and just as valuable as men? Modesty was about respecting my body,
education was important, marriage was my goal, but I knew if it didn't work
out I still was of worth. Seriously, this is all because my parents are wonderful,
considerate, egalitarian people.
The examples of womanhood, manhood, and teamwork that your daughters see
at home will be their default, their template for the future. And for everything
else, conversations in the car with my mom were really what helped me figure
out life. Be there, talk things through, and it will work out.
MEGHAN RAYNES | DENVER, COLORADO
"I was fairly peaceful about my Mormon identity before having my daughter,
but now I feel absolutely no guilt in rejecting problematic theology, policies,
and cultural practices. Gone are the days of mental gymnastics and trying to
make it all work; I don't even try anymore. I focus on all of the best parts of our
religion and ignore the rest. And I will not be shy in telling my daughter and my
boys why I reject the rest when the time comes that this is actually an issue.
The Sunday she came home with a handout that said "I have a body like Heavenly
Father" with a picture of a little boy underneath, I felt my heart break in two. I
cried for hours. I couldn't believe that somebody had given that handout to my
beautiful little girl without thinking how it made her body completely invisible.
This is what I struggle with the most right now, the almost complete invisibility
of women in our religion. I can deal with the cultural sexism because she will
have to put up with that in our broader society. But to have women almost
completely invisible— to not be able to recognize herself in scripture, hymn,
liturgy and, most importantly, God— that is so painful. I find myself fighting
back rage, sadness and tears at least once a week. I want to shake every leader,
speaker, and teacher and say, "Look at my girl. She deserves so much more than
what you are offering her." I cannot allow my daughter to believe that she is
"less than" (missing word?) because she can't see herself."
APRIL YOUNG BENNETT | SOUTH JORDAN, UTAH
Recently my husband said, "We need to put our daughter in Girl Scouts." It
bothers both of us that boys in our ward are sent on repeated camping trips and
other expensive activities. Such activities for girls, on the other hand, are few
and far between because the Church sponsors Boy Scouts but not Girl Scouts.
There is little we can do to change these inequities Church-wide (although I am
willing to try), but we can compensate in our own family. The Church is going
to provide our sons with Boy Scout troops but will not do so for our daughter?
Then we'll do it. This strategy won't work for everything— there is nothing I can
Princess Paintings by Emily Fox King, Ogden, Utah
do to get my daughter a seat at the Sacrament table— but at least with some of
these inequities, I can fill in the blanks.
ANONYMOUS READER | PROVO, UTAH
I have five daughters and have served as a Young Women president both at
the stake and ward level. I love the gospel and think the Church has provided
marvelous resources to assist in teaching pure doctrine and raising strong,
intelligent, well-rounded children. However, I have been in meetings with my
daughters where I have literally thought, "Everyone here sounds the same,
looks the same, cries at the same moment, and wants exactly the same things
from life." I have wondered whether my daughters are destined to emerge from
the process of growing up looking like a rubber stamp of everything they have
seen around them. I wonder if they will have the choice to become the women
God wants them to be and is quietly leading them towards, or if they will feel
like they have to fit into the mold of what our culture is screaming they ought
MARISSA MARQUARDSON | TUCSON, ARIZONA
I have two little girls, and this has really helped awaken my inner feminist! I am
more aware than ever about what is being taught at Church, and I am careful
to take the time to talk about things with my eldest about the messages she
receives from primary. For example, she asked how the world was created,
so we sat down with some pictures and the Bible. I told her the story of the
creation— except I also taught her that her Heavenly Mother was there helping
to create our world (because I just can't believe She wasn't involved!). I want
her to know that it's okay to think about and have a relationship with her
Heavenly Mother. She's just not going to get that at Church.
To me, part of the key is that we talk about it. I always ask them what they
thought about certain meetings or talks. We try to learn together how to
discern culture from doctrine and emotion from spirit. I try to encourage them
to develop their own personalities, to recognize their individual strengths, to
help each other through areas of weakness, and to understand that we are
valued because we are different, not based on how well we can fit into this
strange idea of what a Mormon woman "ought" to be.
I try to instill in my daughters that they are the children of God— a loving Mother
and a loving Father eternally united and working for their good. I teach my girls
that our Heavenly Parents are the singular source from which they can receive
inspiration and direction about who they are and what their mission in this life
is. Then, we start talking about how that revelation will likely be bounded by
revealed truths in scriptures and from prophets. I hope that they will emerge
from adolescence understanding that there is no single recipe that results in a
"perfect Mormon woman."
LINDSEY HICKS | ITHACA, NEW YORK
A large part of what we feminists take issue with in the Church is not doctrine
as much as culture. I think there are enough of us to change the culture. We
need to carry ourselves with confidence and pipe up. If we share our insights
and opinions freely, we will create a new norm. We should enthusiastically
accept callings to serve the youth and show them as well as tell them that we
NEXT SISTERS SPEAK:
MITT AND MORMONS IN THE LIMELIGHT
Since Mitt Romney became the presumptive Republican
Presidential nominee, Mormons in their many varieties
have received unprecedented attention from the
media. A recurring question Exponent II has received
from numerous media outlets concerns how Mormon
feminists feel about Romney as a representative of their
religion. Now is the time to make your voice heard!
How do you feel about Romney's nomination and the fact
that he and his famiiy will become the most recognized
representatives of Mormonism in the United States? How do
or don't his policy positions represent core Mormon values
Please send your responses to sisterspeak@exponentii.
org by August 1st, 2012.
Compiled by Exponent II Staff
On August 1st 2011, our beloved sister, Chieko Okazaki, passed away. With her passing, the LDS community lost one of
its most charismatic and engaging authors, speakers, and activists. Her experience living in a society in which she was
often marginalized— whether for her race, her religion, or her sex— offered her a perspective that made her especially
sensitive to those who felt like they did not "fit in" with LDS Church culture and helped her lead as the first counselor
and the first woman of color in the General Relief Society presidency in the 1990's.
We are glad to pay a small tribute to her legacy here by sharing stories from those whose lives have been impacted by
her profound words of wisdom and inspiring spirit.
r~^he conversation began with chore charts, but it ended with
^^^igatsuku. My daughters are aged seven and five, and with
enough reminders they'll do their chores as assigned, but we
ran into problems when I asked them to put away their folded
"But Mom, that's not on the chart." Beth clings to rules.
Instead of launching into the all-too-familiar litany of "What
does Daddy do to make our house work? What does Mommy
do to make our house work?" I landed on kigatsuku. I'm sure I
explained it terribly. Chieko Okazaki— oh, she was an amazing
teacher!— would have done better. But they got the gist of it, at
least: You look for things that need to be done, and you do them
whether they're your job or not.
My mother is a schoolteacher, so Chieko's talks always felt
familiar to me. When she greeted her audience with "Aloha!"
or brought visual aids to the Tabernacle pulpit, I knew she was
using classroom tools: Get everyone's attention before you
teach. Show, don't tell, and have your students participate
as much as possible. How many of us sitting in stake centers
watching by satellite called out an "Aloha!" in response, or
made a cat's cradle in our laps with imaginary yarn?
I actually met Chieko, face-to-face, when she spoke at a
Midwest Pilgrims retreat in 2008. She was tiny, and real, and
kind. She said she didn't understand the temple ceremony
either. She talked about letting our physical and spiritual beings
merge together, taking Jesus into the messiest and nastiest
parts of our lives— the dirty kitchen, the tedious carpool, the
fight with your husband. After all, what could shock him? When
one of my friends said, "We've all had the experience of sitting
in a Church setting and knowing there's a comment out there
you could make, and you might or might not make it, but you
know that if you don't say it no one will say anything like it."
Chieko urged us to say it. Stand up. Say what needs to be said.
I think of those words often. Be that person. Say the words.
When you see a need, fill it without waiting to be asked.
Noticing, developing awareness, realizing— these are the
qualities that turn children into adults, transforming them from
beings who follow directions (or not) to beings who act of
themselves. I want my children to be fully themselves, and if
possible, I'd like them to learn who they are while they are still
very young. So we practice. I send them into the donut shop
with a few dollars, and ask them to choose for themselves. I
ask them for directions when we're on the subway. Which stop
is ours? How do we get home? I want them to look adults in
the eye and ask questions, save their money for something big
that's important to them, find something they're passionate
about and spend ridiculous amounts of time doing it. I want
them to reach for God, and I want them to be the way God
reaches to others.
Beth slips her hand into mine as we walk from the playground
to the car. "I'm Leilani's only friend," she confides. "Everyone
else won't play with her, but I will. She needs a friend." Sarah
takes it upon herself to entertain her baby brother and keep him
away from the stairs. Upon realizing that only boys pass the
sacrament, she declares loudly, "But that's not fairl" and darts
off on the path of 5-year-old scheming. Bit by bit, the kigatsuku
seed bears fruit.
-LIBBY POTTER BOSS | BELMONT, MASSACHUSETTS
10 EXPONENT II
my father and Eddie Okazaki, Chieko's husband, grew
Up together on the island of Maui, Hawaii. I felt that
always gave me an edge whenever I invited Chieko to speak at
gatherings. Thankfully, she was always generous with her time
I had no reason to take pride in her accomplishments other
than that I am also of Japanese descent and from Hawaii. Every
one of her autographed, published books sits on my shelf.
Whenever she spoke in general broadcasts, I paid particular
attention, turning up the volume and basking in her practical
words of wisdom. I and many others cherished her frank, open
discussions of gospel topics. Her passing leaves a big hole in
Chieko had a tremendous impact on the Japanese-American
and Asian communities. Prior to her call to the General
Relief Society Presidency, few Asian names appeared on the
leadership rosters of wards in the United States. Perhaps
bishops felt that blonde bouffant hairdos and blue eyes were
part of the qualifications for ward leadership. But after Chieko
was called and established herself as a force to be reckoned
with, women with Japanese surnames began to appear as Relief
Society presidents in areas where Asians were not the majority.
Americans can often stereotype Asian women as only being
quiet, unassuming, and non-assertive. But these traits do not
lay bare the talent, hard work, and dedication underneath the
black hair, almond eyes, and petite stature of many of our Asian
sisters. Chieko helped members see past the stereotypes and
many were blessed as a result.
Chieko's legacy is still felt today even across
-ELLEN HORIUCHI WILLIAMS |
C^^ome years ago, Chieko Okazaki
CXattended the Rocky Mountain Retreat
as our keynote speaker. When women
got wind of this, it turned out to be the
best attended retreat we'd ever had! Her
reputation through her talks and books
made the women of the Church want to be
near her to listen, learn, and feel of her spirit.
^^Those of us at the retreat
warmed ourselves at the
flame of Chieko^ s faith.
She loved her Savior
and bore unforgettable
testimony of Him. She
loved us and we knew that
she didy and she became
part of our hearts.
We were all sharing a couple of big, rustic
cabins high in the Colorado mountains, and Chieko immediately
settled right in as one of us. She wore the customary blue jeans
and T-shirt (managing, nevertheless, to look her usual chic
self), enjoyed our Friday night potluck dinner with gusto, and
made fast friends with each of us. Chieko's particular, special
gift was making a connection with others; she focused, however
briefly, on the individual, making each one feel important and
respected. It wasn't charm or a method— she was simply being
herself. She was genuinely and passionately interested in other
people's feelings and lives.
At the retreat I had been asked to talk a little about the women
I had been working with while living in Bangladesh, one of the
poorest countries in the world. In addition to discussing the
challenges they faced, I showed examples of the exquisite, free-
form embroidery produced by the women of the villages. No
one was more interested than Chieko. She was focused on every
word and asked incisive, penetrating questions. Afterwards she
examined each piece of embroidered art with deep appreciation
and pleasure. A few years later, a friend in California heard her
speak at an event and told me that Chieko had mentioned
the women of Bangladesh and their remarkable, imaginative,
embroidered art done in the midst of terrible poverty.
Those of us at the retreat warmed ourselves at the flame of
Chieko's faith. She loved her Savior and bore unforgettable
testimony of Him. She loved us and we knew that she did, and
she became part of our hearts. When I heard that she had
passed away, I felt grief for the loss of a dear friend— though I
had met her just once and briefly. That was the special gift of
-LAUREL MADSEN | FORT COLLINS, COLORADO
/^hieko Okazaki made a significant difference in my life with
l^er caring, inclusive messages. Years ago, I was reading
Cot's Cradle on an airplane to Salt Lake. I was suffering badly
with depression at the time and her words were a balm to my
soul. I felt overwhelming comfort, knowing that I was part of
1 a sisterhood that transcended race, age,
theology, status, health, wealth, physical
appearance, or mental state. They were
all part of her personal journey as well as
mine. Tears were running down my cheeks.
The lady next to me on the plane asked me
what I was reading. I showed her the cover,
and she asked me if it was good. I sobbed
that it was an incredible book and that she
should make sure she found a copy and
read it. I didn't stop to wonder whether she
was a Mormon, because it wasn't relevant.
Listening to Chieko speak made me proud
to be a Mormon woman. I just wanted to
stand up and proclaim, "She's one of us!"
Her personal trials, her insights about the
scriptures, her imagery, and her use of visual
symbols took her message beyond language to women around
I didn't know her personally, but I knew she was my friend
because she mirrored what mattered in my life. The amazing
thing is how she mirrored so many disparate sisters. I believe
that the Savior does it on a cosmic scale with each of us. He
loves us for who we are and helps us want to be better. Chieko
made us all want to be better.
-ALICE HEMMING | KENSINGTON, MARYLAND
/remember my husband telling me often about his wonderful
2nd grade teacher, Mrs. Okazaki. She and her husband had
just moved to Salt Lake City from Hawaii, and it was her first
year of teaching. My husband said a favorite memory was the
first day it snowed. Mrs. Okazaki had never seen snow before
and was so delighted that she stopped what they were doing
and rushed the children outside to feel and share the frosty
falling snowflakes on their cheeks and hands. She brought that
same joy into her teaching every day. I'm not surprised she
went on to be a principal.
I saw her many times over the years and attended every talk
she would give at BYU Women's Conferences. I read every book
and article she wrote. I soared with her words. I loved being
a mother of six children and used the skills I learned from my
elementary education degree to enjoy my mothering. Though
raised with the Mormon teaching that a woman's place was
in the home, I sometimes bristled at these rigid roles. It was
thrilling to watch Chieko raise her sons while also working full-
time. She proved that there are many ways to be a good, loving
mother and wife.
In the 1990's I attended a women's retreat in Provo Canyon.
Many of us had come with a sense of dissatisfaction and
unanswered questions about prescribed women's roles. Chieko
must allow and reverence our individual stewardships to be
different and accomplished in our own unique way. Let's quit
sending the message there is only one way. Weave us together
into a tapestry of unity, love, and acceptance." Wow.
There were a few women attending the retreat that were
lesbians and other women who had a gay or lesbian child.
They asked Chieko for her thoughts. I loved her answer: "How
would Jesus treat these people? He loves them. Sometimes we
struggle with the brethren and the dictates they give us but we
as individuals should follow Christ's example to listen to our
loved ones, passionately love them, and accept them as they
work through with Christ."
Thank you, Chieko, for mentoring me through your words and
example. Everytime I feel a frosty snowflake on my cheek I think
of your joy.
/yfriend of mine lent me the book Lighten Up! by Chieko
l/lX)kazaki a few years ago when I was going through an
emotionally tough time. I opened the first page of Chapter
One and read a few pages without blinking my eyes, as if I
received a letter from a best friend. By the time I finished the
book, Chieko Okazaki indeed became one of my best friends. I
wanted to listen to her words of comfort, guidance, and wisdom
and felt she would listen to me with complete understanding
and compassion. I feel so related to her personally. Like her, I
was in attendance and started off her talk by handing out balls
of different colors of yarn. Each woman was asked to share
something about herself and then weave her yarn around the
next person's yarn and so on. This continued until the yarn wove
a colorful tapestry throughout the room. Her message: "There
are so many ways to be accepted by our Heavenly Father. We
grew up a child of humble Japanese laborers, my parents were
Buddhists, I joined the church at the age of 15, 1 could only have
two children, I am a cancer survivor and often the only Oriental
woman in my ward. I knew that the book would help me, and it
did, it does, and it will throughout my life's stages.
Chieko Okazaki was a great optimist who I need and want to
become more like. She was confident because she knew who
she was and what she stood for. I want to be more purposeful
like her. She was strong spiritually and emotionally because she
was also able to learn as she went through the sometimes cruel
experiences of life. She was so understanding of the diversity
of women and could meet and see women without judgment.
She was full of a sense of humor. She was full of love that is like
Christ. I never met her but this is my interpretation of her from
reading her books and her talks.
I hope many women will get to know Chieko's perspective, her
life, her faith, her hope, and her wisdom. I hope many women
will find a way out of their struggles like I was able to, and gain
strength to move forward and become a genuinely happy being.
-MASAKO BARROWES | LYME, NEW HAMPSHIRE
/Ken I hear a favorite song from the mid- to late '80s, I
am transported back to my high school days and a more
carefree time when the whole world was in front of me. I was
full of hope and promise and ready to take on the world. This
may sound strange, but the same feeling comes over me when
I think of the General Relief Society Presidency from 1990-1997.
Elaine Jack, Chieko Okazaki, and Aileen Clyde were the women
who defined what Relief Society was when I left Young Women
behind. Those seven years were vital in shaping how I looked at
being a Latter-day Saint woman and how I would find my own
individual path in the Church.
bottles to show us that even though the doctrines of the gospel
are essential, the packaging is optional, and the two different
quilts, showing us that there is no one, right way to be a faithful.
Her words gave me strength as I tried to find my way as an
adult. She taught me that it was okay to ask questions and that
I could search and find answers. She taught me that I should
regularly evaluate my situation and do what works best for
my family. She taught me that Christ loves me and does not
want me to be weighed down by feelings of inadequacy— she
encouraged me to let Him in and "lighten up."
I miss her. I am glad I have her writings to turn to when I need
guidance, solace, and hope. As I read, I feel as if she were a
close friend, someone who knows me and has faith in me.
I am grateful that she was there during my formative Relief
Society years. Though I know there will never be another
woman quite like her, I pray that someone with her spirit and
optimism will come along to guide us and help my daughter's
generation embrace life.
-KIRSTEN CAMPBELL | GRANGER, ILLINOIS
ARTWORK: Hand Sewn Kimonos \ By Ellen Williams • Georgetown, Texas
Of the three, Chieko Okazaki seemed to speak the language
my soul understood the best. Her smile and steady voice were
what I looked forward to each time. General Conference rolled
around. Like me, she was a visual learner, and she was one of
the only speakers to use props to get her points across: a cat's
cradle to illustrate how our lives interconnect, baskets and
August 10, 2011 \ By Carol Lee Hawkins ■ Provo, Utah
/always thought I was one of Chieko's closest friends. She would
share her life with me, patiently teaching me and enlarging
my understanding. She'd remind me to laugh and enjoy life. But
mainly, she gently showed me the way to our Savior with acts
of Christian service. Her words softened my heart and reminded
me not to be discouraged but to carry on, knowing that what I
offered the Lord and those around me was enough. I always felt
better after I'd been with her. She was my dear friend.
I'm sure all of us here today feel the same way. And, tens of
thousands all over the world also claim Chieko as a treasured
friend just from watching, listening to, and reading her sermons.
Many of us call her simply "Chieko," a signal of the close bonds
that bind us together.
For Chieko, the world of friendship and closeness was unlimited.
She was not fenced in by the notion that one could only have
a few "close friends." She was free to bond with many. Chieko
modeled the principles of Christ's life in her own and shared
those principles with everyone. Like Jesus, she could talk with
the modern-day woman at the well, or the outcast fallen by the
wayside, and give them much needed succor and hope. She was
a friend to all.
Who would have guessed that a little Japanese girl from the Big
Island could touch, inspire, and love so many of us? Her influence
14 EXPONENT II
around the world is especially startling when you consider her
past. Chieko was born to "goodly parents" of humble means.
Her mother and father spoke pigeon English and had minimal
educations. She was born at a time when class distinctions were
rigid; she found herself in a culture that assigned her the bottom
rung of society. She knew her place — she was the kitchen help
in a world of white haole privilege.
With so many restrictions imposed on her, Chieko should
jp to be the ultimate conformist. Yet somehow,
I rules and social taboos did not limit her. As the
f, "the truth shall make you free," and so it did with
Chieko. Her conversion to the Gospel of
Jesus Christ at an early age gave her a new
framework — a new culture to build her life
around— one unrestricted by societal norms,
one that embraced truth and goodness in
any shape, form, or color.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ gave her simple
principles, profound direction, and strength
to continue on with her education, her
church service, her community work, and,
most importantly, with raising her family.
Under difficult circumstances, those principles gave her stability
in the midst of the cultural and social revolutions of her times.
Indeed, Chieko was part of that first generation of Japanese-
Hawaiians to attend university, be elected to government office,
and become successful businessmen and women. Such
change is often chaotic, but Chieko's eyes were clearly
focused on her newfound gospel, a culture filled with
powerful principles and led by
a brilliant, capable, and divine
leader— Jesus Christ.
Chieko didn't wave placards or
stage sit-ins to fight generations
of discrimination and injustice.
She simply held to the principles
of the Gospel of Jesus Christ
and joyfully moved forward with
Occasionally Chieko and I would slip away to an outlet mall just
to look— of course. Without fail, I'd turn my back, leaving Chieko
to roam the racks, and when I'd return I'd find a woman with tears
rolling down her cheeks, talking to Chieko. At
first I couldn't imagine what Chieko had said
to bring forth this reaction. Then I realized
that she hadn't uttered a word. Instead, a
total stranger who knew her only through
her books or talks had approached her and
poured out her heart in gratitude. Within
seconds, these two sisters bonded. And this
stranger became "another close friend" of
Chieko's. Everyone— and I mean everyone—
became her "dear friend."
have grown i
^^Who would have
guessed that a little
Japanese girl from
the Big Island could
touchy inspire^ and
love so many ofusV^
the community of saints creating a new Zion: A Zion that for her
had no cultural, social, or economic boundaries; a Zion where
there was room for all; a Zion with an extra-special welcome for
the downcast, the needy, the poor, and the hurting.
That was her gift, her genius. She didn't see boundaries and
barriers, just possibilities to be reached through principles
taught by her Savior. Indeed, Chieko often reminded us of this
with the power of one of her favorite statements: "In principles
great clarity, in practices great charity."
Just as she lived her life with simplicity, clarity, and charity, so
also she taught. And oh, how she taught! Do you
/i y remember these? [Carol Lee holds up paddles] Who
1 M ^k^^ canforgetChiekobringingthesecanoepaddlestothe
L ^^^^K Tabernacle to teach us about faith and study? Who
^^^P^P ^ can forget her playing Cat's Cradle or spinning
j^^^^^^X^ her yo-yos from the pulpit to illustrate gospel
yI ^^M^^^^^ principles? Who can forget how she shared her
mj^^^^^^ personal hardships and pain, which in turn gave
■f us permission to talk about our own? Who can forget
the spirit and call to action that she inspired in us every
time she spoke? Chieko taught as though she were talking
to each one of us as a trusted friend. And by the end of her
sermons, we truly felt we could claim her as our own. She won
'Birds of Porodise', by Stefanie Corson Nickoloisen • Phoenix, Arizona
Pliotograpli Provided by Jessica Steed • Phoenix, Arizona
US over with the love of Christ.
This last year, when Chieko's physical heart failed her, when
a lack of oxygen restricted her ability to speak, Chieko spent
her limited energy expressing love, gratitude, and thanks to
family, friends and strangers. In that, she found great peace and
Chieko understood the transformative power of charity and
love. She knew her Savior and basked in the joy of His constant
companionship. She wouldn't want us to worry about her. She
would want us to reach out to each other and to our Savior. I
believe her parting advice to us would be similar to that of
Moroni at the conclusion of the Book of Mormon.
"Pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may
be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are
true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ, that ye may become the
sons [and daughters] of God; that when he shall appear ye shall
be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this
hope that we may be purified even as he is pure."
This is my prayer for all of us. I say this in the name of Chieko's
closest friend, Jesus Christ, Amen. 7k\
SUMMER 2012 15
'\..with a mental image of both Chieko and Christ bearing me up at my elbows, I made it across the
threshold and said goodbye to my mother It was the most terrifying and courageous thing I have
ever done/' \ By Linda Hoffman Kimball ■ Evanston, Illinois
/n July of 1994 my two sisters and I arrived at the door to our
mother's hospital room. Mom was in a coma as a result of a
massive stroke. The doctors told us there was no quality of life
left and that Mom (who had been a nurse) had a DNR (Do Not
Resuscitate) order. We hoped that she wouldn't linger too long
in her coma, just long enough for us to say our goodbyes.
But I couldn't say goodbye. My sisters walked right into her
room where she lay. I had flown in to do this very thing, and I
simply couldn't do it.
I couldn't cross the threshold. I just couldn't
go in the room. It was as impossible
to walk into that room as if a steel
wall barred the way. Even as I felt
this urgent physical paralysis at
the door to her room, I knew
it wasn't rational, which, on
top of everything else, was
embarrassing. Of course there
wasn't anything blocking
the door. But I felt absolutely
incapable of saying goodbye.
That night I mourned over my inability to go in to see and touch
my mom. I remembered these powerful verses in Matthew 11
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give
you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and
lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
I was more heavy laden and fraught than at any other time of
my life. As much as I tried to lean on Jesus, at that moment He
wasn't tangible enough. I craved more substantial
Then another thought came. The last
time I focused on that scripture
was hearing Chieko Okasaki at
the Marriott Center in Provo.
It was about a year after her
husband's death. She spoke
about those verses and of her
grief, her love, her loss. She
spoke about Christ's invitation
to take His yoke upon us in
such times, and how that meant
being yokemates with the Savior
who had overcome all. Together we
could manage. Together with Christ,
she had managed. She spoke about the
boundless love the Savior has for us. She
spoke about how much she loved us— each of us
in that vast arena.
I believed her. I believed every word she spoke.
D&C 46:14 says, "To [some] it is given to believe on the words
of [others], that they also might have eternal life. ..." This was a
gift granted me by God through Chieko. She was tangible, and
I believed her.
The next day, with a mental image of both Chieko and Christ
bearing me up at my elbows, I made it across the threshold
and said goodbye to my mother. It was the most terrifying and
courageous thing I have ever done. I held her hand and spoke to
her. I prayed for her. Through the power of my faith I blessed her
and thanked her and wished her well on her journey.
Mom lingered on two more weeks before she died, and I took
another occasion or two to visit her unconscious self. My
sisters and I were primarily busy getting her chaotic affairs in
order and bolstering each other up as we sorted through her
I sent a note to Chieko— who didn't know me from Eve-
explaining how instrumental she had been in helping me
through this grim passage. She wrote back a simple, loving
note. I attended a couple of women's retreats where she
was the vibrant, compassionate speaker. I introduced myself
quietly as the "one you helped when my mother died," but I
had the feeling that there were millions of us who had intimate
and personal spiritual encounters because Chieko was the
instrument through which God performed miracles. I attended
her funeral last August and learned just how true that was.
Thank you, Chieko. Aloha.
KAREN KELSAY • ORANGE COUNTY, CALIFORNIA
JANAE VAN DE KERK - PHOENIX, ARIZONA
Today I'm scrubbing chocolate spots
Do you hear the cries of the child.
after gathering the neighbor child's
the child no one sees?
ribbons from my damask chair.
The child who tried so desperately
thinking how her fidgety hands
everyone to please?
have smeared the French windows
and left Popsicle prints across my gilded
The child never meant to cause sorrow.
light switch. 1 watch her towhead
she just wanted happiness
bobbing across the lawn beyond
But with the child now resides
the bougainvillea as she threatens to twist
pain, confusion, and aloneness.
off the geranium blooms
and capture the cat.
The child retreated alone in her pain.
withdrawing to a place no one can find.
Our extra bedroom has become
Hiding from the world that hurt her so much.
a collecting place for this gremlin's
the child exists only in her mind.
wardrobe, complete with jewelry stand.
pairs of black heeled shoes, sparkling
In the darkness the child often dreams
little Capezios and grimy-footed tights
of you comforting her by your side.
1 dutifully wash by hand in the porcelain
The child dreams of your loving embrace.
sink each evening, after 1 iron miniature
your arms and heart opened wide.
clothes and slip peanut butter sandwiches
into a backpack layered with homework.
Mourn for the child that was.
then kiss her goodnight and walk her home-
the child who never had a chance to be.
thinking how sometimes in this life.
Look for the child hiding deep within
we are offered redemption.
for that frightened child was me.
A NEW KIND OF Pixmeer
"\ was pleased to see the Spring 2012 volume dealing with LGBTQ journeys of faith. How refreshing and
close to my heart. After I read the volume, I just had to put my feelings down on paper and share them.
Thank you for compelling me to express my words.'' \ By Kelly Montgomery ■ Lakewood, Washington
my heart sank when I saw the envelope from the president
6f the Auburn Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints. My hands trembled and I held my breath as
I read those black words on that white paper. Bishop's court.
I was 19 years old. I'm 43 now. I never went to the Bishop's
court, but my family did. They provided the evidence needed to
excommunicate me because I was a lesbian.
I have never been ashamed of my excommunication. I have
been hurt, angry, indifferent, and glad, depending on where I
was in my life. Over the past several years, I
have been humbly proud.
My story isn't that much different than other
lesbian Mormons, except, perhaps, that my
partner and I are very much out and also very
active in our ward. We live in Washington
state. My partner and I have four kids aged
from 16 years old to 17 months. Our Sunday
mornings are no different from any other
member's Sunday mornings ... hectically
wrangling kids so we can be on time to church.
I want to say that we are pioneers. I tell myself
this right before the sacrament prayers every
week, when I try to find that place in my heart
where I feel close to my Savior. I cannot take
the sacrament, but as I listen to those sacred
prayers, I covenant with my Father in Heaven
how, in the upcoming week, I can "take upon me the name of
thy Son" and "always remember Him" and how even though I'm
gay. He shed his blood for me. I think about how I can remember
Him as I'm going about my days, at work and with my partner
and kids, and I renew my belief that His Spirit will be with me if
I but try. I watch others place the bread on their tongues and tip
their heads back partaking of the water. Sometimes I can't help
but wonder if they know how fortunate they are to be able to
engage in such a sacred and wonderful ordinance.
As I sit in Gospel Doctrine and Relief Society, I often reflect on
how I would cherish the privilege of being able to teach a lesson
or say a prayer or bear my testimony. There have been so many
times when I've felt that fire burning in my spirit where my legs
nearly lifted me off the bench and propelled me forward to
share my sincere beliefs with my brothers and sisters during a
fast and testimony meeting. In February 2011, our little guy was
blessed during sacrament meeting. How I longed to hold him in
my arms and express from the pulpit my love for my Father in
Heaven, my Elder Brother, my partner, and my precious children.
I wished to bear testimony that I believed in personal revelation
because I knew from the first time I saw our
sweet little boy that he was meant to be my
child, even though I had not birthed him.
How I long to pay tithing and fast offerings.
How I wish for a calling. My partner and I
serve where we're allowed; we make a lot of
meals for missionaries and for members who
are sick or recovering from childbirth. I'm a
lawyer, so I often give legal advice to those in
need. It isn't nearly enough, though. My heart
longs to serve.
I am happy to say that we have been treated
pretty kindly by the membership in our ward.
We have never hidden our relationship. I
think the majority of the members in our
ward see that our family is really not much
different from their own families: We love
our kids, we pray together, we have Family Home Evening, our
kids go to Mutual and Seminary, we have a lovely home where
we do our best to live the gospel. Some may believe that we
don't live the gospel, because we defy the Church's position on
homosexuality. That is an interesting conversation. My partner
and I are registered domestic partners— we're as married as we
I wish I could have the prophet sit down with my family during
dinner and spend a little time with us. The prophet seems to
^^}X^e love our kidsy we pray
togethery we have Family
Home Evenings our kids go
to mutual and seminary^
we have a lovely home
where we do our best to
live the Gospel. Some may
believe that we dont live
the Gosepl because we defy
the Churches position on
18 EXPONENT II
KATHRYN W. HALES • ELLENSBURG, WASHINGTON
Oh, Elizabeth! How my heart yearns
To see you again,
To feel your comforting arms
As they did in the "first months"
Away from the piercing eyes
And prying lips of Nazareth,
The looks of accusation.
The words of shame.
You were my solace and retreat.
For you knew the Spirit's voice also.
Announcing sons for your barren womb (a
And my virgin one.
Sons of destiny for each of us
According to God's miracles.
Who knows when our paths
May cross again?
We both fled from Herod's wrath.
You to the desert as a widow.
From which you have never returned.
Myself to a foreign land.
Then returning to my village
That all the prophecies
Of God's servants might be fulfilled.
When will our sons meet?
For to meet they must —
Your John, my Jesus —
For together they have a mighty work to
Whose end we cannot comprehend.
Our lives, first bonded by blood.
Are inextricably linked by spirit.
And history will forever think of us together.
We, two mothers.
Have only been allowed to see the beginning.
But in our God-given natures
We will nurture and love
to the end that all might
Receive immortality and eternal life
To God's glory.
be so wise, so loving and caring— I believe he would leave our
humble home feeling the Spirit that is here. It is a Spirit of love
and teaching, forgiveness and repentance, acceptance and
striving. He'd see our kids thriving and happy. He'd see a loving,
committed relationship between two women who adore each
other and work hard at raising a successful family.
Lately, I've been humbly proud about my excommunication.
One might ask why. The simple answer is that being a non-
member has made me a better Mormon. I can't take anything
for granted, from the simplest act of service to the most
complex parenting challenge. I do not know what the hereafter
holds for my partner and myself, but my prayers in that regard
have been answered. I don't really need to know the details,
because the soft whisperings of the Spirit tell me I'm okay
and that we'll be okay. It's an interesting perspective for me,
because as a lawyer, I act as an advocate for something. The
Savior is my advocate. We are blessed as a family every day
and even though my membership has been taken away, I do not
believe that the Holy Ghost has left me.
I am a pioneer. I probably won't have anything to do with
great worldwide understanding or acceptance of gay Mormon
families, but I might have an impact on the person who sits in
the pew behind me, and I know I have an impact on my children.
FINDING OUR DIVINE POTENTIAL
"...the work of Relief Society is to progress, grow, and become like our IHeavenly Mother Each act of
becoming our full self is the work of Relief Society.'' \ By Brenda Thomas ■ Hurricane, Utah
/offered to speak today only if I could speak on the history of
Relief Society. March 17, 2012, marked 170 years since the
first meeting of the Female Relief Society of Nauvoo. As we look
to the past and the great work that Relief Society sisters have
done throughout its history, I hope all of us will find renewed
vigor to stand up and make good things happen today.
I have always loved the Relief Society. My mother instilled this
in me by her example of attending her Relief Society meetings
and fully participating with the sisters. She still loves serving
in the Relief Society, but it was not until I moved to the Boston
area that Relief Society became deeply important to me. It was
there that I had several Sunday lessons on the history of Relief
Society. I soon started reading and researching on my own. I
wanted to learn more about the exciting things that Relief
Society sisters had done in the past.
This history became especially real and significant to me when
I was asked to teach a Relief Society lesson on the Singing
Mothers. These choirs of women were organized in each
ward, stake, and mission throughout the world. There was
also a general Singing Mothers Choir composed
of women from the Salt Lake City area that
was featured on radio and television.
These groups of Relief Society sisters
performed at sacrament meetings and
stake and district conferences, and were
even occasionally bused to
larger events like General
Conferences and Worlds
Fairs. My own grandma,
with the Singing
Mothers when she
was a mother of young
f^Wnm children. When I asked
my grandma about her experience, I could feel her enthusiasm
over the phone from 2,000 miles away. She said she was thrilled
to sing with the Singing Mothers, and shared what a welcome
break it had been from her daily life.
I have also learned from sisters in my current ward about their
experiences in the Relief Society. While recently visiting with
an older sister, she shared childhood memories of going with
her mother to homes where a new baby had been born. This
was about 100 years ago, before hospitals were available in
rural and relatively newly settled Southern Utah, and babies
were delivered at home. While visiting, the children would play
outside the house, but at some time during the day, the new
mother would tap on the window and show the children the
new baby. Her mother had been the Relief Society president
for years in Toquerville, Utah, and she attended to the new
mothers, the sick, and the dying. The Relief Society sisters were
always there to help.
As I learned of these and other personal experiences, I came
to understand that this organization is much more than I had
previously realized. These sisters showed me that the work of
Relief Society is to reach beyond ourselves and our families to
improve our communities and our world.
Throughout its history. Relief Society sisters all over the world
have been engaged in this expansive work. They have been
there to sew clothes for the destitute; to raise, store, and
harvest grain for the hungry; to build hospitals and maternity
wards; to train nurses and nurses' aides; and to find homes
for adoptive babies and jobs for young women in need of
employment. They have worked with the Red Cross in providing
emergency aid, sewed bandages for the wounded, and prepared
wartime bundles to send to those in war-torn countries. They
have written stories for and edited their own magazine (for
over 100 years— The Women's Exponent and The Relief Society
Magazine), they have taught literature lessons on Shakespeare
20 EXPONENT II
and Emerson, and cultural refinement lessons on Brazil and
Germany. They have worked with other women in national
and international organizations to promote understanding
and peace across religious and national boundaries. Relief
Society sisters have served as missionaries sharing the gospel.
They have held bazaars and written books to raise money to
construct their own buildings, aid their neighbors, and carry out
worldwide humanitarian projects. They have been women of
action. When they saw a need, they stood up and worked to
make things better.
Why did these early Relief Society sisters do all of these things?
What was the impetus to go out into the world and make
a difference? Wouldn't it have been easier to stay home and
focus on their own families? To say that changing the world was
someone else's job?
One of the greatest works Relief Society sisters have been
involved in would seem to some to have been better left to
others: women's suffrage. It was in 1870 when Utah was still a
territory that women met together in the Tabernacle to protest
the anti-polygamy bill that had just been passed in Congress.
Three thousand women gathered at the Tabernacle; the only
men present were reporters, and they were impressed with the
intelligence, courage, and strength of these Mormon women.
When the leading Relief Society sisters stood up to speak,
five out of the 13 speakers "made connections between their
personal and religious freedom and their rights as citizens
and as women." ^2] They asked for the right to vote. It was a
month later that women gained the franchise in the Utah
territory. But the fight for women's suffrage did not end there.
With subsequent anti-polygamy bills, all women and Mormon
men were denied the franchise. Years later, when Utah finally
achieved statehood, the women did not sit back idly, waiting for
someone else to speak up for them. They organized, petitioned,
and worked tirelessly to get the Utah state constitution to
include their right to vote. These women gained that right, for
good, almost 25 years before the 19th amendment gave the
franchise to women across the United States.
I hope that their work has not been in vain. I hope that we
take seriously this right that Relief Society leaders worked
so diligently to bring to pass. Do you really look at the issues
before you go in to vote? Do you look at all the possibilities,
choosing the best from all sources before you decide whom to
vote for? When I look at political issues, I seek for that which
fits best with what I believe, regardless of political parties, and
in doing this I am following the example of my Relief Society
ancestors, who took their rights seriously and worked hard for
what they believed in.
In the spring of 1842, when Sarah Kimball
and Miss Cook wanted to create a society
of women to make shirts for the men
building the temple in Nauvoo, they had in
mind a group that would give service and
would enjoy socializing together. When
Joseph Smith heard about the proposed
society, he said he had something better in
store for the sisters. He knew the sisters could
do greater work than sewing, and he knew
that their eternal salvation depended on it.
Joseph Smith's vision of the Relief Society
was centered on preparing the women
of the Church to receive the ordinances
of the temple. He had already given the
temple endowment to men by the time
the Relief Society was organized, but he
knew that neither the temple ordinances
nor the Church were complete without
women receiving them as well.
And so, when Joseph Smith organized
the Relief Society on March 17, 1842, he
gave the sisters the keys to administer
their own society and receive their
own revelation. He intended the work
to lead them to a fuller understanding
of themselves, their duties, and their
possibilities. This was accomplished not
only through women serving in the Relief
Society but also through their participation in
temple ordinances. The temple endowment
symbolically moves us in an upward
progression as we advance in knowledge.
The eternal goal is not only to enter the
presence of our heavenly parents but
also to become like them. Thus, the work
of Relief Society is to progress, grow, and
become like our Heavenly Mother. Each
act of becoming our full self is the work of
Relief Society. This is not limited to spiritual
things. We are not whole and complete if we
only read scriptures all day. The work of
Relief Society encompasses all that we do
to develop our talents in service to others
and in becoming our best selves.
One hundred years ago, Ruth May Fox,
third General President of the Young
Women, wrote a play based on Jesus' ^-^^^rti
parable of the ten talents. It portrays Heavenly Mother with her
daughters in the premortal life. She gives each young woman a
gift, such as wisdom, love, and endurance. They are sent forth
into the world to see what they will make of their talents. At the
end of the play. Heavenly Mother returns to her daughters to
get a report of what they did with their gifts. ,
We also have been given gifts and talents
by our Heavenly Parents, who love us and
are watching over us. When we work to
develop and use these talents and gifts,
we are not only following the examples
of our Relief Society ancestors, but we are
also doing the work of Relief Society in our
day. Although we are no longer asked by
our Relief Society leaders to stock our own
stores with homemade goods or to train as
nurses or to raise our own silk worms, we
can still creatively do Relief Society work in
our wards, communities, and the world.
^^When I look at political
issueSy I seek for that
which fits best with what
I helievcy regardless of
political partiesy and in
doing this I am following
the example of my Relief
Society ancestors who took
their rights seriously and
worked hard for what they
believed in. "
And so I would ask: What are you doing with the gifts and
talents given you by Heavenly Parents? Have you found
your niche, your special place where you can serve? Are you
stretching yourself, expanding your vision and standing up and
doing something in the world? Now, none of us are exactly like
1 Eliza R. Snow, Emmeline B. Wells, or Belle
Spafford. We are all unique and different,
and that is why our work as Relief Society
sisters will all be different. But we all have
an important work to do, and we will be held
accountable by our Heavenly Parents for the
Relief Society work we do here with the gifts
we have been given.
Let us each examine our lives and evaluate
how we are using our time and talents. And
let each of us stand up and do something
in the world to make it a better place. In
doing this, we are fulfilling the work of Relief
Society and becoming like our Heavenly
Mother, which is our ultimate goal.
As one Relief Society sister, Claudia
Bushman, has said, "It is not as important to find the right
thing to do, which may not exist, as it is to do something.
Action must be taken." This is the work of the Relief Society:
to stand up using our talents to make positive things happen,
and I see women doing it all around me. I see women working
diligently to teach children in our schools; I see women serving
others in the medical profession as nurses, nurse practitioners,
doctors, and dentists; I see women helping to improve our
parks and play areas; and I see others who contribute greatly
to community events. I know women who have started non-
profit organizations to take dental supplies and care to children
in orphanages in Bolivia, to build homes in Uganda, to educate
children in Jordan, and to stop pornography in the United
States. These are all Relief Society sisters; they are all doing
Relief Society work.
 The Relief Society was a charter member of the International Council of
Women from its founding in 1888 and the United States National Council
of Women from 1891. Women in the Relief Society actively participated
in these councils, often in leadership roles, until 1987. (See Jill Mulvay
Derr, Janath Russell Cannon and Maureen Ursenbach Beecher, Women of
Covenant [Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company, and Provo, Utah:
Brigham Young University Press, 1992]; pp. 137-138.)
 Lola Van Wagenen, Sister-Wives and Suffragists: Polygamy and the Politics
of Woman Suffrage 1870-1896 (Ph.D. Dissertation, New York University,
1994, published by Joseph Fielding Smith Institute and BYU Studies, 2004).
 Claudia Bushman, The Lives of Mormon Women (2006 FAIR Conference).
PURPLE: POEMS BY MARY LYTHGOE
Reviewed By Elouise Bell ■ Edmond, Oklahoma
^very good poem is a story, even if it is not a narrative. And every
w^ood story is true, even if it did not actually happen.
In Mary Lythgoe Bradford's collection. Purple, (Dialogue Foundation,
Salt Lake City, 2009), the poems tell stories so rich that each
can be mined for many different rewards. Few writers speak so
frankly and freshly about love in the Crone years, so honestly
about married love, so deliciously about the taste of words. But
for me, the theme most powerfully presented is that of the Eternal
Female— complex, confounded, short-changed, enlightened, and
"I Remember" charts the treacherous path. The girl of Five gains
confidence from tying her shoes, a confidence that soon splinters.
Baptized at Eight, securely held by her father, she regains confidence
enough to imitate Icarus, her chicken-wire wings defying gravity
itself. She plays baseball at Twelve, but the apples are now rotten
for young Eve, and she looks about for rescue, "already searching
for power/outside my own body." At Fourteen, her body mocks her
with a bloody stain: "Betrayal lay behind every tree/ in the orchard."
Entire novels have dramatized this road less vividly.
The poem "My Brothers" draws a graph of the rise and fall of
power often experienced by older sisters. One brother is at first
a confidante and companion, another the baby brother, in the
narrator's charge, "waiting for rescue," snatched from danger. But
then "I become his charge. . ./ I move protected /in my brothers'
world." Males grow from limitation to strength, from protected to
protecting, but for females, the vigorous, self-assured innocence of
girlhood is often as high as they fly. First-born status is definitive
only if you are a male.
Bradford gives the reader several poems in which the story's depth
is veiled, to explode only in the final line. In the intriguing verse,
"To Grendel," she tells the Gothic tale of the Monster who comes
"slogging through the swamp," catches and raises the Maiden
above his head, where she can see the stars and dream of flying.
But disaster prevails; she feels the claws, sees the jaws, the red
entrails, and, yes, possibly a "flash of love" in the monstrous eye.
Unsure, the Maiden asks:
"Was it only the last branch
of sky reflecting/so it's you
swallowed me and set me free"? The power of that final line
vibrates like a gong long after we've read the poem. How does
being devoured set the Maiden free? Free from what? To do what?
Live free from the stress of making any choice at all?
If the System is determined to diminish the Female, Bradford's
woman is relentless in her resistance to that fate. She speaks
ironically, sarcastically and fully awake in "To the Surgeon," giving
him "permission," saying, "Whittle me down to size," "excise the
hopes that refuse to die." This Woman has a larger presence than
the System finds comfortable. So out comes the blade, to cut
through "this expanse of thigh/these hanging garden breasts, /
these folds called hips." Most threateningly, the blade is invited to
the eye and the brain, wherein reside the truest conception of Self,
the strongest confidence, as well as the rarest treasures of faith
and hope. Go for the lobotomy, the Woman taunts; otherwise, she
will indeed "try again."
In a hugely insightful poem, the narrator's adult Self speaks to her
child Self, explaining "The Difference" between the pain the girl
child has felt at being thwarted, and her own ongoing agony. The
child "cannot suffer nobly nor fling a wild/curse at the sky and die,/
she can only flinch and cry." The tragic suffering, the clenched fist,
the wild curse of the Woman belong to the Heroic tradition: "You
are pathos, I the protagonist." The difference is between being
done to ... and doing.
Make no mistake. Mary Bradford, in this extraordinary collection,
is indeed doing, with power, wit, and deep insight not cheaply
bought. Poet Jo Harjo has said, "Sometimes people need stories
more than they need bread." My reading of Mormon women's
writings, especially on major blogsites such as Feminist Mormon
Housewives, convinces me Mormon women are hungry for
substantial true stories. Purple is nourishment to make the soul fly.
THE BOOK OF MORMON GIRL:
A MEMOIR OF AN AMERICAN FAITH
Author Joanna Brooks
Reviewed By Lisa Patterson Butterworth ■ Boise, Idaho
m WW. I ctouble toe you to «,
in yom twA <4ub. Etoe if w„ ,
tt«Jo««* Brooks ha**i>«l*lmnd«uy^ajrt^^
the book of
/fFi a possible impending Mormon presidency, it seems like
everyone is trying to figure out the Mormons. Now is the
perfect time to hand out a copy of The Book of Mormon Girl. Joanna
Brooks has a knack for telling stories that are simultaneously
relatable to all human experience and full of peculiar Mormoniness.
She opens the memoir during a Family Home Evening and within the
first several pages she manages to organically explain embodied
Mormon theology, convey the richness and purpose of Mormon
family life, and charm my socks right off.
More than any one detail, the richness of Brooks' narrative
illustrates a truth that is very hard to communicate to someone
who is not familiar with Mormons, namely, how deeply Mormonism
shapes a person's entire worldview. Every small choice can take
on peculiar significance— Brooks did not just choose a root beer
over a Coke, her choice was meant to separate herself from "the
world," demonstrating her devotion to God. She was not just a
Marie Osmond fangirl. No, Osmond was her guide as she strived
for perfection and prepared herself for eternal salvation. Every
earthquake, every skirmish was a sign that the
millenium was nigh:
and learned to put the matter of
polygamy on the shelf. But I was
not a root beer among Cokes. I
lived in small town Utah, a root
beer among root beers. And it
never even occurred to me to
apply to BYU. I can't think of
any of my root beer peers who
went to BYU. Perhaps it was too expensive? None of us had
ever heard of Eugene England or noticed that a purge was taking
While I never heard Packer declare that feminists, intellectuals,
and homosexuals were a threat to the Church, nor experienced
Brooks' intense and dramatic front-seat view of the purge, I still
knew and feared, as the first glimmers of my feminist awakening
arrived, that if anyone heard my questions, if anyone knew of my
doubts, that I too would feel deep rejection when the Church no
longer wanted me.
What a gift it was growing up in a world taut with
conflict and luminous with meaning. Time was not
empty ... No. Time was a vector of godly intention,
the fractal plume of something expansive and
infinite, and my purpose— and I knew it— to discern
the patterns of its unfolding.
Yes! That is how it feels to be a Mormon girl.
It feels powerful, important, and fraught with
purpose. Purpose in dancing together, purpose
in singing together, purpose in being together as
Mormons. And it explains so perfectly the deep
rejection she felt when it seemed that the Church
no longer wanted her.
I was blissfully unaware of the Mormon happenings in the late
80s and 90s when Joanna experienced first-hand the revival
of Mormon feminism at BYU and then subsequent firings and
excommunications of her mentors and dear friends. I wish I could
have sat with Brooks in classes from Eugene England and Cecilia
Conchar Farr, to learn with them that "all are alike unto God."
But as with any story, some parts of my own Mormon story
resembled Brooks' and others did not. I, too, had giant tins of food
storage wheat hidden under the stairs. I loved my pragmatic Young
Women leaders, heard my fair share of horrifying object lessons,
memoir has opened
the door for others
to share in the
experience of many
members who often
get left out of the
These similarities and differences are the
reasons we all need to tell our stories. It is vital
to hear stories from like-minded folk to affirm
our experiences, but it is also with these familiar
details that we build a bridge back to those who
haven't struggled with questions or felt the
subsequent rejection. Hopefully they too can see
pieces of themselves in us and gain empathy.
What drives people to leave the Church? Is it the
questions or is it the instant rejection, the hurt,
the confusion we feel from our community the
minute those questions arrive? We all know how
the packaged story goes: they were "offended";
They took the "truth to be too hard"; they wanted
to sin and they left. These narratives have been
packaged and we have internalized them, believing that perhaps
we really don't deserve to belong after all. By telling our stories,
those dismissive narratives must give way to complex realities.
Joanna Brooks' memoir has opened the door for others to share in
the experience of many hurting, questioning members who often
get left out of the official Mormon story. I love the Church, and it
will always be my home— not in a temporal, casual way but in a
bone-deep, blood of my ancestors, shaper of my past, present, and
eternal future way. I want my story to be told. And Joanna Brooks
has beautifully added to that telling— for all of us. .-^I^.
This summer, we wanted to try something different at Exponent II: a humor feature! So we asked you, our dear readers, to tell
us your funny Mormon feminist stories. Then, we discovered the Mormon "Hey Girl" Ryan Gosling memes^^^ created by three
Salt Lake City women, all recent high school graduates, and we knew they'd complement these stories perfectly.
In January 2009, the first Ryan Gosling memes began to appear on the Internet. With a candid picture of the actor and a silly
made-up quote always beginning with, "Hey Girl," fans would have Ryan say what they most wanted to hear, such as, "Hey
Girl, can I kiss you through the phone?" Variations of this theme could be found on Tumblr,^^] Tumblr's Feminist Ryan
Gosling that got our attention this past fall when Ryan moved from the usual come-on lines — "Hey Girl, sorry my shirt fell
off" — to some pithy feminist critiques: "Sometimes I think about Foucault's theory of marriage as a governmentally developed
tool that interferes with the appropriation of land rights, normalizes heterosexuality, and subjugates a woman's sexuality, and
it makes me want to cry with you."
It was in this vein that Ellen Lewis, Sagan Gotberg, and Whitney Paige came up with "Mormon Hey Girl" this winter, but
instead of feminist critiques, they offer hilarious references to Mormon culture and doctrine. Given Ryan Gosling's Mormon
upbringing, it seems all the more plausible that he might just ask one lucky girl if he could be her stripling warrior.
I] A meme is an idea, spread visually on the Web as a video, website, or, in this case, picture.
2.] Tunnblr is a short-fornn blogging platfornn that specializes in quick, often visual entries, as opposed to traditional text-rich blogs.
After graduating from BYU, I spent most of my early adult life
in some of the more liberal university wards of the Church-
Berkeley, CA, Cambridge, MA, Hyde Park, I L— where feminist
concerns were regularly part of the discussion in Relief Society.
When I moved to Los Angeles, I soon discovered that such
concerns were at best suspect, at worst unwelcome, in my new
ward. After one particular lesson, during which I made what
I thought to be a rather tame feminist observation, my Relief
Society president pulled me aside. She told me she thought my
comment was disruptive of her mission as she saw it, which
was to ensure that only the Gospel of Jesus Christ was taught
in her Relief Society, and suggested, without irony, that I'd
probably be happier in Elder's Quorum.
Perhaps she was right. She called laterthat evening to apologize,
much to her credit, and sheepishly added, "I spoke with [my
husband] about what happened. He grinned and said, 'No
one expects the Gospel of Jesus Christ to be taught in Elder's
-LORIE WINDER STROMBERG ■ LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA
Do you believe
in modern day
you are a vision!
On March 8, 1992, I was teaching English in China. Our city,
Qingdao, invited all the foreign teachers to attend a celebration
in honor of International Women's Day. We were assured this
was a very big deal, with special speakers, a fancy meal, and
special party favors. The truth is, none of these events were
optional. At least once a month the city would invite/order us
foreigners to attend some event or another. And the food that
was meant to impress us was horrifying to a picky eater like me.
Spare me your "delicacies" like silk worm larvae, sea slug, and
cow tendon and give me some freakin' sweet and sour chicken.
But I digress.
The 12 of us expats arrived at the Qingdao Hotel ballroom,
took our seats, and wondered how on earth women would be
celebrated by the very patriarchal group of Communist officials.
First there were speeches. All by men. Art work was displayed.
By male artists. A band played. Yup, not a skirt in the bunch.
One of the teachers there, a woman name Cede, was a very
traditional Iranian and wore the chador. I knew things were bad
when Cede started to get angry and was murmuring in Farsee
under her breath.
Sometimes things get so nutty that they cross over into the
hysterical. At first we were shocked, then offended, but by the
end of the ceremony we were all trying very hard not to laugh
out loud. And that's when they gave us our goody bags. Fran,
another teacher at my school, opened hers first and pulled out
several giant maxi pads. Jean, a British teacher said, "Is that a
sanitary napkin?\" Yes. Our party/panty favors were a bag full
of the biggest Kotex pads you have ever seen. We all lost it.
Tears streamed down our faces. "Well," I said, "it's the only truly
female thing about this celebration." The post-menopausal
among us were going to trash the favors but I collected them all.
I had recently purchased a gorgeous set of dishes with imperial
dragons on them and had been wondering how I was going to
ship them safely back to the States. That night I peeled off the
tabs on the bottom of the pads and securely affixed two to each
dish and stacked them into a box. Thanks to the thoughtfulness
of Qingdao's Communist Party officials, not a single dish broke!
Hooray for Women!
-HEATHER SUNDAHL | BELMONT, MASSACHUSETTS
My sister and I hiked an active volcano while she was visiting
me in Guatemala. We were hiking with a group of about 15
back-packing tourists. The last 20 minutes of the hike to reach
the summit were over glass-sharp lava rock and we were all
treading very carefully so as not to slip and shred a hand if we
tried to stop a fall. To reach the summit and peer into the hot
molten lava flow we had to make a single file line, since only
one person could peer at a time. One after another, as each
person saw the lava and felt the heat sizzle at their eyebrows,
each did the most natural thing most people would: toss out an
explicative. Waiting in line we heard one after another, until my
sister, from Utah, had her turn: "Holy Crap!"
-ADRIANA SMITH ■ ECUINTLA, GUATEMALA
During sharing time, the counselor in the Primary presidency
was teaching the assigned weekly lesson from the outline,
which on this particular week was about the Priesthood. She
began by playing the game, "Try to guess the word." These
games never work for me, but she was giving it a try. So she gave
the following clues: "This word starts with a 'P.' This word is
something that is powerful and from God, and this is something
that boys have but girls don't." The kids just sat there until one
little girl yelled out "PENIS!" All the kids happily agreed.
-JESSICA FINNIGAN ■ OREM, UTAH
26 EXPONENT II
One day about a year after we moved to the brutally desolate
southwest, my then-two-year-old daughter and I went
garage sale-ing, as was our new Saturday morning ritual. This
particular Saturday, though, I was feeling uncomfortable about
being nine-and-a-half months pregnant with our fourth child
and being in a different and unfamiliar part of town.
When my mother was nine months pregnant with her sixth
child she waddled from store to store buying all the supplies
the Church said the family would need in the undeveloped
conditions of 1960s Samoa where my father would soon serve
as principal of the LDS Church schools. She gave birth, and two
weeks later flew to Samoa.
As I pulled up to this particular garage sale at about 9:00 a.m.,
a huge boat of a car pulled up and parked right in front of me.
Now this powder blue car was not only huge, it was lifted up
on hydraulics, with little shiny spinning wheels, and its sound
system was definitely one-of-a-kind. Four large Hispanic young
men got out of the car at the same time I was getting my little
daughter out of the minivan. The driver and I made eye contact,
and I felt compelled to say something to him. But of course, I
decided against an easy "Hello!" or "Good morning, sir!" and
instead my mind raced to think of something to say to show
how both cool and/or hip I am. So, with a big smile, I said, "Hey,
looks like your ride's been pimped!"
After three years and many tropical adventures involving giant
rats, interesting parasites, and six wild red-heads without the
modern convenience of sunscreen, it was time to move back to
Utah. Mom decided that a red-eye flight to Hawaii was just the
ticket— they'd keep the kids up late, shuffle them on the plane
and watch them all fall peacefully to sleep for a quiet trip to the
Ah, the best-laid plans. No one slept for the six-hour flight. There
was screaming and fighting and vomiting. Every passenger
on the plane loathed the entire pack of freckle-faced demon
children. Including their parents.
It was the single most ridiculous thing I could have said. As soon
as the words left my mouth— as if in slow motion— I wanted
to retrieve them but alas, I could not. The men said nothing at
first. They just stared at me and then turned to each other and
started laughing. They clapped their hands, then walked up to
us and started high-fiving and fist-bumping me. One said, "Look
at the mamacita, talking about your ride, man!" and another
patted my daughter on the head. Then they walked away from
us, still laughing and addressing each other with a sort of British
affectation, "Oy there, looks like your ride's been pimped!"
As my daughter and I walked hand-in-hand and looked at the
items at the picked-over garage sale, I smiled at the priceless
value of friendliness. Joseph Addison said, "What sunshine is
to flowers, smiles are to humanity. These are but trifles, to be
sure; but, scattered along life's pathway, the good they do is
-COREY LYNCH JOHNSON | ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO
As they arrived in Hawaii, the customs officer eyed my
distraught mother, the surrounding tumult of bouncing,
screaming ginger monsters, and the 16 boxes containing all of
their earthly possessions. With clear trepidation he asked, "Do
you have any alcohol, firearms, or narcotics to declare?"
My mom looked him in the eye and said, "Mister, if I had 'em, I'd
have used 'em by now."
He laughed and waved them through without a search.
-LISA PATTERSON BUTTERWORTH ■ BOISE, IDAHO
\s your name
Of course 111
make you a hot
you have to be
at Ward Council:
you didn't even
need to ask.
During a stop along the Seine River while traveling in France,
everyone was sightseeing and I noticed my husband standing
in front of me. I wrapped my arms around his waist from behind
and, feeling a little risque, I tucked my fingers into the front of
his jeans. Not into his front pockets, but actually into his pants. I
closed my eyes and rested my head on his back. He immediately
tensed and I thought that was funny.
I hadn't been holding him more than
a few seconds when I heard my
husband saying, 'Heidi.
I hadn't been holding him more than a few seconds when I
heard my husband saying, "Heidi." Except the problem was the
voice was not in front of me. My eyes flew open and I saw my
husband standing about 10 feet away with an enormous smile
on his face and waving at me. My face flushed. I quickly took
my hands out of this strange man's pants and looked at him for
the first time. He was old, bald, fat, and foreign. The only thing
that he and my husband shared in common was that they were
both wearing purple polo shirts. I tried to mutter an apology
and he said something in a language I didn't understand as I
ran away. I was humiliated rushing back to my husband and
the small group of my family members laughing at me, but was
even more humiliated when I discovered that this man was on
our tour bus. Needless to say, he followed me around for the
rest of the two weeks and my family still teases me about it.
~ HEIDI BRINKERHOFF SHIELDS ■ LODI, CALIFORNIA
Sometime in 2000, we discovered that my husband Dave had
developed a sesame allergy. So if he bit into a burger that had
seeds on the bun, or any Chinese food that had come in contact
with any seeds or oil (basically all of it), he'd get itchy, then red,
then his throat would start closing.
One Sunday we're sitting in church wrestling three kids and I
mindlessly grab a piece of bread from the sacrament tray and
chew it. Mmmm. Savory. Crunchy. And then it clicks that I'm
tasting sesame seeds. I look over at oblivious Dave who has
the bread half way to his mouth and I dive across two kids to
smack his hand away and shout in a stage whisper, "Don't take
Everyone in a six-foot radius goes stiff and silent. In the pew
ahead of us are the Boston Temple President and Matron. She
steals a glance at us and shakes her head. Dave was the Young
Men president and the boy holding the tray for our row looked
like he was going to cry as he imagined what sordid thing Dave
must have done for me to literally knock the bread out of his
sinning hand. I turned beet red and felt like I was going into
anaphylactic shock. Being the center of attention is just fine by
me, but being the center of a scene — I was mortified. Dave
loved it. Thought it was hilarious.
- HEATHER SUNDAHL | BELMONT, MASSACHUSETTS
Oh nothing, just
feeling the spirit.
28 EXPONENT II
When I was growing up in Provo, Utah, the magical creatures
that were the focus of some teen girls' dreams were not vampires
or werewolves . . . but Osmonds. Instead of the piercing gaze
of a dashing young (or ancient) mystery man, the girls of my
generation searched for a glimpse of a pearly white smile from
the bright and beautiful faces of these local mystical beings.
Now, years later, I wonder what I could tell you about these often
caricatured yet seldom understood creatures. First off, they are
all absolutely as nice to mere mortals as they are to Oprah.
Their toothy grins really can dazzle you from miles away, and if
you've ever been to an Osmond missionary homecoming then
you know what it feels like to be freshly bathed and decked in
your Sunday best, and still be horribly aware that you will never
shine like a thousand brand new pennies glowing in radiant
beams of sunlight.
The Osmonds were a vivid presence in my childhood. I grew
up within walking distance from Osmond Lane; my aunt was a
make-up artist on the set of The Donny and Marie Show in the
1980's; and my dad briefly worked for Osmond Real Estate. In
my K-12 years, I received items from various Osmond boys that
included a Pound Puppy, a letterman jacket placed around my
shoulders behind the Provo Temple, and even the occasional
small bouquet of flowers in a hand-thrown pot. And as a
newlywed, I spent many hours assisting Marie in the children's
department of ZCMI fulfilling the requests of paper angels from
the Sub-For-Santa Tree.
If this really were teen fiction, I suspect my supernatural power
to attract a particular Osmond lay not so much in my alabaster
skin or witty repertoire, as much as in the fact that I lived blocks
from BYU and I was not Mormon. "Shhh . . . see that guy? He's
an Osmond," could easily be whispered alongside, "Hey, that girl
over there? I'm pretty sure she's a heathen." Not many devout
Mormon boys only months away from their mission can resist
practicing their sacred powers of proselytization, and a certain
Osmond was no exception when he approached me, the cute
colorguard captain in the band room. I think even an Osmond
occasionally needs a break from the Utah Valley Mormons-only
dating standard from time to time.
My sisters and I were probably the only girls in Utah County
whose father forbade his daughters to ever marry an Osmond.
Couldn't we find ourselves a nice high school dropout with a
motorcycle instead? As a rebellious teen, what better way
to thumb my nose at parental authority than by wearing my
sister's prom dress to the winter formal and holding hands,
fingers intertwined, with an Osmond? In front of everyone! (Take
that, Romeo and Juliet.)
Unfortunately, our star-crossed love didn't
stand a chance against my inability to attend
early-morning seminary. Rebellion isn't exactly
fun when it involves getting ready in the dark
and arriving a full hour before the rest of high
school even unlocks its doors.
Unfortunately, our star-crossed love didn't stand a chance
against my inability to attend early-morning seminary. Rebellion
isn't exactly fun when it involves getting ready in the dark and
arriving a full hour before the rest of high school even unlocks
its doors. It was over in three days.
In the end, I used up any remaining supernatural powers to snag
myself an ex-Navy sailor eight years my senior that my dad
(almost) immediately approved of. Then, with no supernatural
powers that I know of, I made shining, marvelous people in my
body who are probably at this very moment conspiring about
how to someday find Osmonds of their own. Go for it, kids.
There are a lot worse things out there besides pearly whites,
intimidating hygiene, and impressive moral standards, even if
it means for the rest of eternity people will ask you about your
Uncle Donny before they remember to ask about you.
- ALISSA KING | LAGUNA HILLS, CALIFORNIA
/ was just
working on my
Is it too early to
list you as my
THE WOMAN'S EXPONENT
The very first edition of the original Woman's Exponent contained a humor section called Pen and Scissors — proof that ourforemothers appreciated
a good laugh. This feature was ongoing, and we share a few jokes with you here. We are also reprinting one of the nnost requested pieces from
Exponent II: "Patty Perfect." finally, in this era of serious modesty — talk, enjoy a light-hearted look at nude photos from the Exponent Blog.
Woman's Exponent (WE) | Vol. 1: No. 3 | JULY 1, 1872: Mrs.
Drummond, the Quaker preacher, was asked whether the spirit
ever inspired her with the thought of getting married. "No, My
friend," said she, "but the flesh has."
WE I 1:5 I AUGUST 1, 1872: "Some enlightened women hold
that the Father designed for man to eat of the forbidden fruit;
but seeing the consequences, he had not fortitude to meet the
requisition, so his wife had to do it for him."
WE I 2:17 I FEBRUARY 1, 1874: "Advertising for a wife is just as
absurd as it would be to get measured for an umbrella."
WE I 1:17 I JANUARY 31, 1873: A gentleman who had left
his wife alone in the theatre while he went out to get a whiff
of fresh air "apologized" on his retun. "Dear me," said she, "I
thought you went to give me a chance to flirt with that man
with the mustache." She has had no cause to complain of any
want of attention from her husband since.
WE 1 1:19 I MARCH 1, 1873: A young lady who was rebuked by
her mother for kissing her intended, justified the act by quoting
the passage: Whatsoever you would that men would do unto
you, do you even so unto them.
WE I 2:9 I OCTOBER 1, 1873: Why do women talk less in
February than than in any other month? Because it is the
shortest month of the year."
WE I 1:2 I JUNE 15, 1872: "Can you tell me how the devil is?"
asked an irreverent fellow of a clergy man. "My friend, you must
keep your own family record," was the answer.
WE 1 1:2 I JUNE 15, 1872: An eccentric Connecticut gentleman,
recently deceased, left to religious institutions $75,000, to his
cook, $120,000, and to each of his five children, $400. This
man's affections lay principally in his stomach.
WE 1 1:2 I JUNE 15, 1872: Progressive teacher to a pupil of the
period: "Sary Jane Hooker, just take that chewing gum right out
of your mouth. Little girls who chew gum in school need never
expect to become President of the United States." Ambitious
young ladies, with Presidential aspirations, will please take due
notice and reduce the gum traffic proportionately.
WE 1 1:1 1 JUNE 1, 1872: An old lady says she hears every day of
civil engineers, and wonders if there is no one to say a civil word
WE 1 1:1 1 JUNE 1, 1872: Old lady to her niece— "Good gracious,
Matilda, but it's cold. My teeth are actually chattering." Loving
niece— "Well, don't let them chatter too much, or they may tell
where you bought them."
WE I 3:19 I MARCH 1, 1875: Everyone has a curiosity to know
how celebrated people look; and so we will describe a few
women prominent as writers or lecturers.
Mrs. Stanton is a handsome woman. Miss Anthony and Mrs.
Livermore are both plain. Marie and Jane Porter were women of
high brows and irregular features, as was also Miss Sedgwick.
Anna Dickenson has a strong, masculine face; Kate Field has a
good-looking, though by no means a pretty one, and Mrs. Stowe
is positively homely. Alice and Phoebe Cary were both plain in
features, though their sweetness of disposition added greatly
to their personal appearance. Margaret Fuller had a splendid
head but her features were irregular, and she was anything but
handsome, though sometimes in a glow of conversation she
appeared almost radiant. Charlotte Bronte had wonderously
beautiful dark brown eyes and a perfectly shaped head. She
was small to diminutiveness, and was as simple in her manners
as a child. Julia Ward Howe is a fine-looking woman, wearing
an aspect of grace and refinement, with great force of character
in her face and carriage. Laura Holloway resembles Charlotte
Bronte, both in personal appearance and in the sad of experience
of her young life. Neither Mary Booth nor Marian Harlan can lay
claim to handsome faces, though they are splendid specimens
of cultured women, while Mary Clemmer Ames is just as
pleasing in features as her writings are graceful and popular.
30 EXPONENT II
EXPONENT II I mtl'Ptrl^
By Margaret B. Black & Midge W. Nielsen \ Orem, Utah
Exponent II Vol. 10: No. 2 (Winter 1984)
Many LDS women unconsciously compete with an idealized image
of the already-perfect wife and mother who successfully incorporates
all the demands of family church, and society into her life. Although
we have never met such a woman, we persist in believing she's out
there somewhere. We can just imagine what she must accomplish
in a day ...
Patti gets up very early and says her personal prayers. She zips
up her slim, vigorous body into her warm-up suit and tiptoes
outside to run her usual five miles (on Saturday she does 10).
Returning home all aglow, she showers and dresses for the day
in a tailored skirt and freshly starched and ironed blouse. She
settles down for quiet meditation and scripture reading before
preparing the family breakfast. The morning's menu calls for
whole wheat pancakes, homemade syrup, freshly squeezed
orange juice, and powdered milk (the whole family loves it).
With classical music wafting through the air, Patti awakens
her husband and 10 children. She spends a quiet moment ,
with each and helps them plan a happy day. The children
quickly dress in clothes that were laid out the night before. V
They cheerfully make their beds, clean their rooms
and do the individual chores assigned to them on
the Family Work Wheel Chart. They assemble for
breakfast the minute mother calls.
After family prayer and scripture study, the
children all practice their different musical
instruments. Father leaves for work on a
happy note. All too soon it is time for the
children to leave for school. Having brushed
(and flossed) their teeth, the children pick
up coats, books bags, and lunches that were
prepared the night before and arrive at
school five minutes early.
With things more quiet, Patti has story-time with her
pre-schoolers and teaches them cognitive reading skills.
She feeds, bathes, and rocks the baby before putting
him down for his morning nap. With the baby sleeping
peacefully and the three-year-old twins absorbed in creative
play, Patti tackles the laundry and the housework. In less than
an hour, everything is in order. Thanks to wise scheduling and
children who are trained to work, her house never really gets
Proceeding to the kitchen, Patti sets out tonight's dinner: frozen
veal parmigiana that she made in quantity from her home-grown
tomatoes and peppers. She then mixes and kneads 12 loaves of
bread. While the bread rises, Patti dips a batch of candles to
supplement her food storage. As the bread bakes, she writes in
her personal journal and dashes off a few quick letters: one to
her Congressman and a couple genealogy inquiries to distant
cousins. Patti then prepares her mini-class lesson on organic
gardening. She also inserts two pictures and a certificate in little
Paul's scrapbook, noting with satisfaction that all family albums
are up-to-date. Checking the mail, Patti sees that their income
tax refund has arrived— a result of having filed in January. It is
earmarked for mission and college savings accounts. Although
Patti's hardworking husband earns only a modest salary, her
careful budgeting has kept the family debt-free.
In less than an hour, everything is in order.
Thanks to wise scheduling and children who are
trained to work, her house never really gets dirty.
After lunch, Patti drops the children off at Grandma's for their
weekly visit. Grandma enjoys babysitting and appreciates
the warm loaf of bread. Making an extra call, Patti takes
a second loaf to one of the sisters she is assigned to visit
teach. A third loaf goes to the non-member neighbor on
Patti arrives at the elementary school where she directs a
special education program. A clinical psychologist, Patti
finds directing this program an excellent way to stay
abreast of her field while raising her family. Before
picking up her little ones, Patti finishes collecting for
^ the charity fund drive.
Home again, Patti settles the children down for
their afternoon naps. She spends some quiet
*|\ time catching up on her reading and filing.
As she mists her luxuriant house plants, the
school children come through the door. Patti
listens attentively to each one as they tell about their
day. The children start right in on their homework, with
mother supervising and encouraging them. When all the
schoolwork is done, Patti and the children enjoy working
on one of their family projects. Today they work on the
quilt stretched on frames in a corner of the family room.
Dinnertime and father arrives, and it is a special hour for
the whole family. They enjoy Patti's well-balanced, tasty meal,
along with stimulating conversation. After dinner. Father and
Mom can relax. She enjoys listening to the sounds of laughter
and affection that come from the kitchen.
With the teenaged children in charge at home, Mother and
Father attend an evening session at the temple. During the
return trip, they sit close together as in courting days. "Well,
dear," says Paul Perfect, "did you have a good day?" Patti
reflectively answers, "Yes, I really did. But I feel I need more
challenge in my life. I think I'll contact our Family Organization
and volunteer to head up a reunion for August."
EXPONENT BLOG | 7^^^aj^a.(Miryd^
Posted on July V, 2007 \ By Deborah
"\ picked up the dry cleaning . . oh, and I finally got the proofs
from my nude photo session."
"Your what?" asked my husband.
"My nude photo session — I told you about it."
Long pause. "Remind me."
Essentially, he was prescribing a nude photo session. This was
not the phrase in my head when I walked in for my appointment
with the medical photographer. If it had been, I probably would
have shaved my legs.
I entered feeling that anxiety that had been lacing my limbs
for weeks, that had me staring at my once-benign brown spots
with increasing suspicion. For years, I'd viewed my red hair as a
particular gift — (just ask me to rattle off names of luminaries
with auburn tresses) — but suddenly I found myself hoping my
(future) children inherited my husband's mocha coloring.
I had the last appointment of the day. The spring sun was
dipping down, casting shades of red into the deserted waiting
room. The floor was empty, save the Super Receptionist and
the medical photographer, a woman about my age. When we
entered the studio, I made a decision. No, that sounds too
deliberate. Inexplicably, I suddenly wanted to have some fun
with my body. I didn't want it to be my enemy.
"Hey, this may be my one opportunity for a nude photo shoot,"
I told Ms. Photographer. "Care if I ham it up?"
I have a way of alarming my dermatologists. They are alarmed
by the number of moles sprinkled across my body, alarmed
by their peculiar edge pattern, alarmed by the inevitable lab
results of every biopsy: extreme severe dysplastic nevus. (Yeah,
that means pre-cancerous.)
She laughed, "Fabulous. Be my guest."
So as we proceeded with her careful script of camera angles,
I threw in some sultry smiles, an arched eyebrow or two. We
laughed and chatted about our careers. It felt good to be in my
In December, during my quarterly visit, Madame Dermatologist
shaved off a changing mole and, as a bit of an experiment, a
tiny textbook-normal mole in the same region. Both came back
severe — make that "extreme severe." She was alarmed and
passed me off to the experts at Memorial Sloane-Kettering
Cancer Center for more careful monitoring.
Now, I love my new doctor. I love his receptionist, who
recognizes my voice on the phone. I love the waiting room that
is flooded with the light of floor-to-ceiling windows. When you
don't really have cancer, Sloane-Kettering is a great place to
spend an afternoon.
Today, as I looked through the oversize book of prints, I warned
my mind, "You just keep quiet about the extra pudge, the
stomach roll, and the scar tissue."
And when my husband came home, I wouldn't let him eat
dinner until he turned every page.
He said I looked beautiful. He's right. )K
Of course, someday I will almost certainly really have melanoma
— or "the noma," as we call it around here. As my Cool New
Doctor explained, I grow my moles atypically. Hazards of having
luscious red locks, I guess. Instead of removing every suspicious
mole and leaving me with scarred limbs, he suggested Full Body
Digital Photography — a high-resolution way of tracking each
and every mole on a monthly basis.
Illustration by Pat Langmade, Paradise Valley, Ari.
TO PEC OR NOT TO PEC?
In my calling that enconnpasses helping people through the full nnenu of life's nniseries, PEC is the worst
part of the job. \ By Dana Haight Cattani ■ Bloonnington, Indiana
The ward priesthood executive committee (PEC) includes the bishopric, ward clerk, ward executive secretary high priests
group leader elders quorum president, ward mission leader and Young Men president.
The PEC meets regularly to consider priesthood matters.... As needed, the bishop may invite the Relief Society president
to attend some ward PEC meetings to discuss confidential welfare matters and to coordinate home teaching and visiting
teaching assignments. \ Handbook 2: Administering the Church 2010, section 4.3
/^s Relief Society president, I typically attend three monthly
l/t/fneetings. The first is a one-on-one appointment with
the bishop. I generally bring a focused agenda, and we make
decisions and discuss concerns candidly. I leave with a sense of
autonomy, support, and partnership.
The second is the Ward Council meeting with the bishop, his
two counselors, the executive secretary, ward clerk, high priests
group leader, elders quorum president, ward mission leader, two
full-time missionaries. Young Men president, Sunday School
president, and high council representative. If everyone attends.
there are 13 men present, as well as three women: the Relief
Society, Young Women, and Primary presidents. The bishopric
brings the agenda, and the discussions are mostly focused.
Generally, I leave with a sense of the differences among the
organizations' leaders and priorities and of the challenges in
The third meeting is PEC. It includes all 13 men from the Ward
Council, and, at the bishop's standing invitation, me. The
bishopric provides the agenda. Consistently, I leave feeling
frustrated. In my calling, which encompasses helping people
through the full menu of life's miseries, PEC is the worst part
of the job.
The PEC meetings I attend are not disorganized or poorly run
or irrelevant. The men are gracious and competent, and for
the most part, I enjoy working with them. My ward, like most
others in the Church, has more active women than men ^
on the rolls. The "priesthood matters" th
up the agendas at these meetings virti
always affect women, either directly c
indirectly. Yet the committee officially
consists entirely of men. This structure
leads to some puzzling administrative
Women have .
For example, seemingly analogous
roles turn out to be not at all parallel. The
Young Men president is a permanent PEC
member, but the Young Women preside
is not even on the potential guest list. Simi
the apparent ranking of stewardships is a bit odd.
The Young Men president has a very demanding calling but
a relatively narrow stewardship. He serves males ages 12-18—
in my ward, about eight young men. In contrast, the Primary
president serves children of both genders ages 18 months
through 11 years— in my ward, about 80 children. She oversees
10 times as many people as the Young Men president, including
the largest staff in the ward, and her organization touches upon
a much higher percent of the ward households. However, like
the Young Women president, the Primary president is never
part of this executive committee. In the same way, an elders
quorum president and high priests group leader divide home
teaching and quorum responsibilities for the adult households,
while a Relief Society president serves any household that
includes a woman over age 18— in my ward, virtually every one.
Short of the bishop, the Relief Society president's stewardship
is the broadest in the ward. Yet, she is not a permanent member
of the executive committee.
different networks than
men do. They often know
information about other topics
with different levels of detail
I once listened to a discussion in PEC about a calling that needed
to be filled. One of the men suggested a particular woman, and
several others chimed in their support. After listening for a
few minutes, I pointed out that this woman was expecting a
baby in six weeks. (Had they not noticed?) Immediately, the
conversation shifted to another individual. My input was salient
Women have access to different networks than men do. They
often know information about other topics with different
levels of detail and nuance. They know, among other things,
that nursing lounge chairs should have arms, that undersized
ovens in a church kitchen are inadequate for ward dinners, and
that thermostats set by men in suit coats inevitably will be
uncomfortable for women wearing short-sleeve blouses. They
know, as well, that families in need rarely want to be discussed at
a council meeting, that women visitors need not be asked their
marital status or how many children they have, that fifth
fc^ . Sunday combined Priesthood and Relief Society
^^1^ lessons are opportunities for discussion and
application of gospel principles rather than
^ simply more doctrine, and that some ward
community service activities need to be
organized by and for women so that
they have explicit opportunities to make
Y a difference in public life. Why write
the important perspectives of women
out of an executive committee tasked
with addressing welfare, missionary, and
Brvice roles for the entire ward?
M cnaritable explanation might be that the women
are not excluded; they are protected. Sunday mornings
can be very busy if a woman has young children to feed and
dress. In households with married couples, at least one adult
needs to be home to facilitate, and surely some men find it
easier to preside from a distance when it comes to hog-tying
toddlers or rousing semi-comatose teenagers. Given a choice,
some women undoubtedly would prefer to skip additional
Sunday meetings that can be tedious and time-consuming.
In our church, at least, administration is the province of men,
while combing unruly hair, washing the breakfast dishes, and
prepping the dinner is typically the province of women. Taking
a woman out of her home on Sunday morning (or afternoon or
evening) presumably would interfere with her divinely designed
role as nurturer— whether or not she has children at home or
Less charitable explanations for excluding women include
34 EXPONENT II
rigid culture and gender roles. Men hold the priesthood. The
priesthood is central to the Gospel. Any organization with
women in it is, by definition, auxiliary. (In dark moments, I think
that in our church, men preside, lead, administer, ordain, call,
baptize, confirm, and bless while women provide food, sex, and
child care. If the women were to strike, we might quickly find
out what is auxiliary and what is not.)
Of course, the most obvious rationale for the existing PEC
structure is Handbook 2, Administering the Church 2010. The
composition of the committee is clearly specified. No girls
allowed, except by special invitation.
■ ■ ■
More than 25 years ago. Laurel Thatcher Ulrich published an
essay in Exponent II titled "On Appendages." She noted that
our imprecise use of language creates some problems and
distortions. Specifically, we tend to substitute
the words priesthood and men rather freely.
(Not convinced? Listen carefully when the
conducting member of the bishopric stands
up after the sacrament. Whom does he thank
for the reverent administration of the bread
and water? If he thanks the young men rather
than the priesthood, give him a high five after
the closing prayer.) Ulrich's assessment
remains true today:
Part of the problem is our vocabulary. Because
we use the word priesthood to refer to both the
vehicle and the power, we get into some curious
situations, almost like mistaking a utility pole for
electricity or a sacrament cup for water
What if every ward had a Men's Executive Committee that
had the ear of the bishop for an hour each month? Would
women be significantly more marginalized than they are in the
current arrangement? Names matter. So does the composition
of influential committees. Additional meetings can be
burdensome, but I suspect that most women would be happy to
serve if they had meaningful roles and felt empowered to make
and implement their own decisions. They would be happier
still to serve in a setting where they were not permanently
outnumbered and uniformly outranked. This dynamic forces
women who advocate for change into unflattering caricature
roles: shrew, battle-axe, disgruntled daughter of God.
I could easily opt out of PEC. All I would have to do is plead
domestic responsibilities. It is an iron-clad excuse for a
woman— and the reason I do not invoke it. Here is the dilemma:
Not to attend PEC is to accept the status quo— that men make
the decisions on behalf of women— but to attend PEC is to
accept the role of token woman as sufficient. Either I absent
myself from an instrumental committee and leave it entirely in
the hands of men, or I lend credibility to a body I do not think is
I cannot, on my own, revise Handbook 2 io include the ordaining
of women, the renaming of the PEC as the Ward Executive
Committee, and the reconstituting of its membership to include
fewer men and multiple members of the Relief Society, Young
Women, and Primary presidencies. I can, however, offer the PEC
in my ward one example of a woman who shows up and speaks
out. I do not get out of bed at 6 a.m. on a Sunday morning to
sit in those meetings like Clarence Thomas, who in 20 years on
the Supreme Court has never spoken from the bench. If silence
is the intent, let's all sleep in and read a memo
at a more reasonable hour. I speak up, and
I speak disproportionately, in an effort to
represent my large and diverse constituency
So I attend PEC every month. I go to stake my
claim that we are the Relief Society, not the
Catering Society, and that the scout leaders
do not need us to bake 200 brownies for
their training meeting. I go to witness the
discussion on families that have not had
home teaching visits in the past six months.
Visiting teaching? Not mentioned— until I
bring it up. (I keep all those statistics on visits
that apparently do not count for much.) I go
to notice when we spend a quarter of one meeting discussing
whether or not 12-year-old boys should help take the sacrament
to shut-ins or be allowed to be home teaching companions with
their fathers. Did we discuss the importance of giving 12-year-
old girls visible and important responsibilities in the ward? It
never came up— except in my next meeting with the bishop.
I go so that when we sing the opening hymn, one voice is in the
Am I co-opted in my role as token woman? Probably. Do I
irritate the men? Undoubtedly, and with good reason. Do we
need more women in the councils of the church?
Here is the dilemma:
Not to attend PEC is to
accept the status quo —
that men make the
decisions on behalf of
women — but to attend
PEC is to accept the
role of token woman as
'While extremely frugal in most ways (7 prefer the
term ''cheap/'' my dad says), he has an obsession
with buying fruit/'
By Margaret Olsen Hemming ■ Baltimore, Maryland
/^yl /Ken I was nine years old, my father went to a conference
i/w\n Boston with several pounds of bananas packed in his
suitcase. My mother had insisted that he take them.
She had spent a day humming to herself as she anticipated
his upcoming trip, happy to have a week to rid the house of
fruit during his absence. When he came home just a few hours
before leaving for the airport burdened with bags of bananas
and apples, she panicked. The fruit was soon banished to his
suitcase. When Dad returned from his trip, he insisted that
those bananas were highly useful, even
needed during his trip. Mom grimly smiled
in response and said nothing. This was just
another battle in what my siblings and I
eventually came to refer to as the Fruit Wars.
While extremely frugal in most ways ("I prefer
the term 'cheap,'" my dad says), he has an
obsession with buying fruit. Since he always
did the grocery shopping for the family, he
had full rein to bring home boxes of pears,
oranges, plums, and apples. Bananas are a
particular weakness for him. The mammoth
portions of fruit brought into the house
meant that during my childhood, fruit was
everywhere: in several bowls covering the counter, filling bins
in the refrigerator, and stuffed in a box on the kitchen floor. My
father argued that if five children and a passel of kids from an
in-home daycare center were to get three full servings of fruit a
day, we required a daily input of at least 20 to 30 pieces of fruit.
In theory, his numbers added up. I have no doubt that our full
house went through an enormous amount of food every day.
But in reality, the fruit would begin to rot, and then my mom
had to deal with it.
First the fruit went into the refrigerator; the kids were
Where did this
grapefruit come from?
Billy is there grapefruit
in the houseV^ The
battle in the Fruit
Wars commenced ...
admonished to eat the fruit in the fridge before we went for the
new fruit on the counter. When even the refrigerator fruit began
to rot. Mom would make grape yogurt, apple pies, and banana
bread. Banana bread was a staple of my childhood. But as soon
as the bananas were used, my father quickly replaced them.
We couldn't eat the banana bread fast enough. One unusually
hot summer, when Mom was nine months pregnant with my
younger brother, our freezer was stocked with five loaves of
banana bread and there were still several pounds of bananas
on the counter. My mother declared herself to be enabling an
addiction and swore off ever making banana
bread again. We all thought she was joking,
but more than 20 years later, she has stuck by
her promise. My younger siblings have rarely
ever eaten banana bread, which makes it feel
like we grew up in different families. But the
end of banana bread didn't stop bananas from
coming into the house in massive quantities.
The banana bread strike has created a few
awkward moments, especially with ever-self-
reliant women from the ward. They would
come over for book group and my mom would
apologize for the piles of fruit on the kitchen
counter. "Oh!" they would say, "You should
make banana bread!" Awkward silence. How
does one explain a ban on banana bread as a response to an
over-zealous husband addicted to buying fruit?
My dad always did the grocery shopping on his way home from
work, arriving at the door with bags of groceries that the kids
had to help unload. Many times my mom would peer into a few
bags and her face would fall. "Bill, where are we going to put all
this fruit? Look. Look in the refrigerator. Look at the counters.
There is no space for it. What am I going to do with all this?"
Sometimes my dad's reaction was defensive, sometimes jovial,
but always the same, "Oh the kids will eat it!"
36 EXPONENT II
And we did. Under great pressure. For years a fruit salad
accompanied every single dinner in the house. My dad took
over the chore of cutting up the fruit every evening and then
adorned the table with an enormous bowl of fruit. "Has everyone
had some fruit salad?" my dad would say, serving himself thirds
and looking anxiously into the still-full bowl. "Margaret, have
some fruit salad! You barely took any." The tone was
always cheerful, but we all knew the tension that the
bowl was creating. Unspoken words of accusation from
my mom and defense from my dad made that salad
the most emotionally burdened fruit in history. We took
second helpings of fruit salad, just to avoid conflict. We
also knew that it was useless to make any response to dad's
question, "Have you had an orange today? Are you trying to get
me into trouble?" It was easier to just take the orange.
Eventually my mom began sneaking fruit out of the house.
She gave it to parents of her daycare kids or to families in the
ward who needed meals. A few times it went straight into the
trash, a waste that made both my parents feel terrible. Such
an abundance of food gives the impression of wealth beyond
discipline or understanding, but that wasn't the case at all. My
parents had a very tight budget. My father spent every Saturday
morning cutting coupons, doubling or tripling them up to get
unbelievable grocery deals. We were well-cared for, but any
extra expenses were carefully considered and often rejected.
Fruit was the bizarre exception of a tightly run ship.
Like many Mormons their age, my parents were trying to achieve
several conflicting goals at once: Have many children young,
get good educations, stay out of debt, pay tithing, and have
a parent at home. The pressure that this created heightened
the transgression of rotten fruit: There was simply no room for
waste in the family budget. But it also urged Dad on in his fruit-
buying. He had five children to feed and limited funds to do it.
Buying bulk fruit for incredible deals was an economic necessity,
but it was also a joyful conquest. There was an exuberant thrill
in keeping a family healthy in the cheapest way possible. The
pleasure was strong enough that the habit remained long after
the financial pressures had eased and the household had grown
By the time my older sister and I had started college. Dad had
adopted some of Mom's methods of disposing of the fruit.
When we would come home for Sunday dinner, we inevitably
left with a bag of fresh contraband. If it came from Mom, it was
always overt: "Please, take this bag of apples. We can't use it." If
it came from Dad, it was less obvious and said in an undertone:
"There are some oranges down in the food storage. Why don't
you take a few back to your apartment?"
At the same time, fruit coming into the house had gone
undercover. My sister came home to visit one evening and Dad
pulled her aside while Mom was out of the room. "I need you to
get me a grapefruit," he said. "There's a box downstairs in the
storage room, to the left of the door."
"Dad, did you hide a box of grapefruit from Mom?"
My sister retrieved the grapefruit and it went into the fruit salad
that night. Halfway through dinner. Mom narrowed her eyes.
"There's grapefruit in this salad."
Silence. Everyone chewed innocently.
"Where did this grapefruit come from? Bill, is there grapefruit
in the house?" The deception quickly unraveled. Another battle
in the Fruit Wars commenced as they rehashed all the old
arguments for and against an unwieldy amount of Vitamin C
in our home.
Over the years. Mom found ways of coming to peace with the
fruit. She started a garden and began composting. College kids
visiting home were always more grateful than adolescents
for fresh fruit. In the process of becoming a social worker and
therapist, she realized that she could let go and not allow her
husband's problems to be her problems. When I visit now, there
are always multiple full bowls on the counter and my toddler
daughter is always encouraged to snack on several pieces
of fruit ("Honey, can I cut up a plum for you? How about a
banana?"). But really, the Fruit Wars are over. I wouldn't say that
my parents ever reached an armistice, but their laughter about
the issue today indicates that their marriage could overcome
even the most painful banana battles.
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