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Full text of "Exponent II"

PUBLISHING THE EXPERIENCES OF MORMON WOMEN SINCE 1974 



EXPONE 



T II 




VOL. 32 I NO. 3 I WINTER 2012 




THE MORMON WOMEN PROJECT 



The Mormon Women Project is a continuously expanding digital library of 
interviews with Latter-day Saint women from around the world found at 



www.mormonwomen.com. 



Founded in January 2010 and launched with 18 interviews, the MWP recently 
published its 160th interview. A team of volunteer interview producers 
has featured women in 22 countries, from ages 23 to 98. The MWP is 
particularly interested in highlighting the righteous choices women make 
in all circumstances and locations. It celebrates women who have made 
deliberate choices - with the help of the Spirit and personal revelation - to 
overcome personal trials, magnify motherhood, contribute to communities 
outside their homes, or be converted to the Gospel. 



I 



Find the Mormon Women Project at 

www.MormonWomen.com 




P TABLE OF CONTENTS \ 




NAMING 
LOUISA 

BY: KRISTINE HAGLUND 




SOMETIMES 
THE HEART 

BY: BRITTNEY CARMAN 



/ learned that you 
should never label 
someone as merely one 
thing. We're all so much 
more than thi 

Sandra Turley 




BOTTARI: A 
JOURNEY OF 
BECOMING 

BY: KRISANNE HASTINGS 
KNUDSEN 





02 EDITORIAL STAFF 

LISTING OF OFFICERS 

03 LETTER FROM THE EDITOR 

BY: NEYLAN MCBAINE 

Why Is It Important to Tell Mormon Women's Stories? 



16 THE WORTH OF SOULS 

BY: LOUISE ELDER 

17 LESS ALONE 

BY: DEI LA TAYLOR 

18 EVERYONE HAS A STORY 

BY: LYNDSEY PAYZANT WELLS 

19 LIFE BALANCED 

BY: JESSICA DROLLETTE 

20 BEYOND PLOT 

BY: ANNETTE BAY PIMENTEL 

21 OPENING MY BASKET 

BY: PATTI COOK 



fntervteMny- 



22 WRITING AS AN ACT OF FAITH: AN 
INTERVIEW WITH LUISA PERKINS 

BY: SHELAH MINER 

25 THE POWER OF CHANGE IN 

STORYTELLING: AN INTERVIEW 
WITH ANGELA HALLSTROM 

BY: ELIZABETH PINBOROUGH 



31 THE PLACE OF KNOWING: A 
SPIRITUAL AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

REVIEWED BY: AMY JAMESON 



ON THE COVER: 

"Jungle Totem" 
Valerie Atklsson 



EDITORIAL STAFF 



GUEST EDITOR-IN-CHIEF 



LAYOUT DESIGNER/ EDITOR 
CONTENT EDITORS: 



COPY EDITORS: 



PLEASE NOTE: The volume and issue number printed in 
the Fall 2012 issue of Exponent II was incorrect. The correct 
number is Volume 32 Number 2. 



SPECIAL THANKS TO: Valerie Atkisson, Jayna Brown Quinn, 
Aniko K. Brewer, Julie Crews, Kirsten Beitler, LeIeita Alusa 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. 

r — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — T 

I SUBMISSIONS TO EXPONENT II: 

We welcome personal essays, articles, poetry, fiction, and 
book reviews for consideration. Please email submissions 
to editor@exponentii.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 
assignments. 



EXPONENT II 



ITER FROM THE EDITO 



Why is it important to tell Mormon women's stories? This is the question that reverberates in my mind every time I hit 
"Publish" to share another awe-inspiring woman's story on the Mormon Women Project. After publishing over 150 interviews 
at www.mormonwomen.com since January 2010 with LDS women from around the world, I feel like I am still just starting to 
catch a glimpse of why it is foundational to our identities as Mormon women to read other's stories and share our own. 

My own desire to share my story blossomed in 2006 when I was home with small children for the first time after leaving a 
career in Silicon Valley, supporting my husband in a graduate program and finally having the cognitive space to explore who I 
wanted to be as an adult. As the only child of an opera singer, growing up Mormon in New York City and then attending Yale, 
my experiences were often intriguing to others and I began to write them down. But it seems to me that any memoirist must 
grow tired of reliving her own life at some point, and when I reached that point myself, I turned to the lives of others. 

The bedrock of my identity as a Mormon woman was formed from the examples of my mother and other women of my youth, 
and in searching for my own adult identity, I turned to them. The Mormon Women Project launched with 18 interviews, most 
of which were cultivated from women I had known and admired for years. In the process of interviewing them and asking soul- 
searching questions about their motivations, their choices, their relationships with Heavenly Father, I found in their stories a 
spiritual creation for what I myself wanted to be. 

In the account of the Creation in Moses 3, we read about how, in the process of forming every living thing, the Lord God created 
all things "spiritually, before they were naturally upon the face of the earth." In fact, this predicating spiritual creation happened 
"according to my word," meaning the Lord conceived of the creation and spoke of its existence before the physical creation 
occurred. There was enough power in the Lord's words to bring matter into existence. 

Stories are the way we as Mormon women spiritually create our identities before we go off to live them in time and space. 
They are the cognitive tools we use to construct visions in our minds of what we want our futures to hold, who we want to be, 
before making those visions part of our external realities. What woman hasn't had the experience of hearing about another's 
journey to a far off land or family tradition, and not noted the spiritual pull to make that same journey or tradition part of her 
own actuality? Or, if we reject the experiences of others as things we don't want for ourselves, that too is part of chiseling away 
at a cognitive model of what we want our spiritual identities to be. The clearer that image, the more effectively we will mold it 
into reality. 

But mine is, of course, only one answer to why it is important to tell Mormon women's stories. Each contribution to this issue 
answers the question in its own unique way. And the answers are as varied as the contributors themselves. For some women, 
the stories of their ancestors have very literally molded their identities through names or genetic composition. For others, 
stories help them gain empathy for others or overcome social fears. For still others, stories are a way to process the pains and 
joys of our own experiences, giving us the cognitive distance we often need to maintain emotional and spiritual health. 

Why is telling Mormon women's stories important to you, our readers? Email us your answers at mwpeditor@gmail.com and 
we will post your answers on the Mormon Women Project. We'll look forward to hearing from you! 





Neylan McBaine 

Founder and Editor-in-Chief 
The Mormon Women Project 



THE MORMON WOMEN PROJECT EDITION • WINTER 2012 



3 



WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO TELL MORMON WOMEN'S STORIES? 

"So that our daughters may know to what source they may look for examples of womanhood." (See 2 Nep. 25:26) 



NAMING LOUISA 



I am the outrageously blessed mother of a thirteen-year- 
old girl. Like all thirteen-year-old girls, she is an exquisitely 
beautiful creature, growing into the clever idealism of the young 
woman she will soon be, but still full of the wisdom of her little- 
girl self. 

We are almost nothing alike, she and I— when I was thirteen, 
I was melancholy and bookish, already angsty about the 
Church's historical practice of polygamy and the obvious 
unfairness of ordaining those irresponsible, obnoxious, smelly 
boys to wield the very power of God, while we girls worked to 
earn a dumb necklace. My first sacrament meeting talk opened 
with the borrowed bumper-sticker slogan of a 
feminism I could not yet articulate for myself: 
"A woman without a man is like a fish without 
a bicycle." 

My daughter has a bicycle, but no apparent 
interest in fish or bumper stickers. Except for 
one glorious outburst at age four, when she 
stood up on the pew during a baby blessing and 
demanded, "Hey! Where are the mommies?" 
she has cheerfully accepted the discrepancies 
between boys' and girls' opportunities in the 
Church that were so galling to me. I've worked 
hard to answer her questions and not push 
her to ask mine. Still, I hope she will be a 
feminist. And a Mormon. If she is not, if she 
chooses a path that leads away from one or the other of these 
identities, I hope I will handle it as gracefully as I managed her 
plea for the Easter dress with a rhinestone belt and fur cape, 
her preference for talking on the phone instead of reading 
books, and her quitting violin to take acting classes (perhaps 
a bit more gracefully than that last!). But I don't want her to 
make the choice without knowing that there is such a thing as 
a Mormon feminist. I want her to understand that this heritage 
is irrevocably hers— it has been in her from the very beginning, 
starting in the moment she was named. 



Her name is Louisa. I did not choose the name so much as 
recognize it, the moment her father first tentatively said it 
aloud, and I knew, instantly and joyously, that Louisa was the 
being who was coming to live with us. We had declined the 
ultrasonic revelation of our expected baby's sex, and I had 
studiously avoided (I thought) hopingfor a daughter. But driving 
along the New Jersey Turnpike (past the city of Elizabeth, which 
had prompted our renewed discussion of girls' names), I was 
certain that a daughter would come and that she already had a 
name to fit her soul. It took only a few minutes to think of all the 
reasons to love the name, to place her in the long line of Louisas 
who might bestow their blessings on her. 

First, there is Lois, in the New Testament. 
2 Timothy 1:7 had sustained me for many 
years, rescued me often from the restless 
anxiousness that I so easily fell into: 

"For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; 
but of power, and of love, and of a sound 
mind." (2 Timothy 1: 7) 

I had brushed by the prologue to that verse 
many times and had only recently been 
reminded by a friend that Timothy's spiritual 
strength is credited not to the "faith of his 
fathers" but to his maternal ancestors: 

"To Timothy, my dearly beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace, 
from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. I thank God, 
whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience, that 
without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers 
night and day; greatly desiring to see thee, being mindful of 
thy tears, that I may be filled with joy; 

"When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is 
in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy 
mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also." (2 
Timothy 1: 2-5) 



I want her to 
understand that 
this heritage 
is irrevocably 
hers — it has been 
in her from the 
very beginning, 
starting in the 
monient she was 
named. 



4 



EXPONENT I 



BATHING BEAUTIES 

MEDIA: Acrylic paint, photo-transfer, 
fabric, beeswax, buttons, and 
crayon on masonite 

"The materials and subject matter of my 
artwork are meant to have a homespun 
feel. In this piece, my mother, her sisters, 
and her cousins are all lined up for a photo 
in their soggy homemade swimwear. This 
was the 1940s, so no spandex. A suit 
could grow a few sizes in one wearing, but 
it didn't seem to bother any of the little 
beauties in this work." 




My Louisa, too, has maternal ancestors who left a heritage 
of lively devotion, a faith which was not only "unfeigned" but 
considered and intelligent and searching. They were women 
who asked hard questions and then bravely lived the answers. 
(They also did things like earning a pilot's license. In Utah. In the 
1930s. Defying gravity, long before anyone was singing about it 
on Broadway.) 

Another Louisa who flashed through my mind in that moment 
was Louisa Swain, the first woman to vote in an American 
election (Wyoming, 1870). She was, by all accounts, not an 
activist or a woman with political ambitions, but a housewife 
who rose early to run errands and decided to vote when she 
passed by the polling place on her way to buy yeast. I love the 
story of her accidental feminism, the matter-of-factness of her 
certainty that a plain working woman had a contribution to 
make to the life of the polls, that she mattered. 

And of course there was Louisa May Alcott, whose feisty, 
prickly heroines had made me feel less alone in the world in the 
years when I was prickly but not yet feisty enough to know how 
to make my way. 

But the Louisa who came and stayed in my mind, the one I 
most hope will be a spiritual guide for my daughter, is Louisa 
(sometimes "Lula") Greene Richards. Louisa Greene was born 
in 1849 in Kanesville, Iowa. Her family moved to Salt Lake City 
in 1852 and was just getting settled there when her father 
was asked to help lead the settlement of Provo. In 1859 they 
moved again, to Grantsville, and then again to Smithfield in 



1864. Louisa's education was disrupted with each move, and 
she lamented the difficulty of getting what she thought to be a 
"proper" education: "I want to be a very good teacher, and do 
not know how. I feel that I am not competent yet to do justice in 
this respect and so am not satisfied with what I do. I do so wish 
I could attend a good school. . . . And oh, how I would study! 
And how much I could learn, and what lots of things I'd write 
about." ^ 

But she never let these insecurities get in the way of doing what 
needed to be done. She plunged in, trusting in God's help and 
in her own capacity and determination. Among the things that 
needed to be done were the expression of her thoughts and 
the development of her talent for words. The earliest surviving 
poetry of Lula Greene's is from when she was fourteen. Before 
she was twenty, she had editorial and publishing experience to 
her credit, with the Smithfield Sunday Scliool Gazette. I love the 
story of her first paid publication: she had gone to Salt Lake to 
begin working there, when she was called home to Smithfield 
because of an illness in the family. She needed money to pay her 
way back home, and so she stayed up all night writing poetry, 
which she sold the next day to the Salt Lake City Herald. 

Most of her career unfolded following this pattern— she simply 
and confidently set about doing the work at hand. She seems 
not to have been ambitious for fame or personal recognition, 
and her poetry and other writing move seamlessly from the 
mundane to the lofty. The Woman's Exponent, the Utah women's 
newspaper of which she was the founding editor, is a wondrous 
hodgepodge of editorials about the large political issues of 



THE MORMON WOMEN PROJECT EDITION • WINTER 2012 



5 




the day, exhortations to diligent Sainthood, and explorations 
of Mormon theology, right alongside explanations of how to 
inexpensively make vinegar for pickling and the importance 
of daily baths for children. Louisa (and her newspaper) took 
women's homemaking work seriously but didn't believe it was 
the only work women could or should do: "If there be some 
women in whom the love of learning extinguishes all other love, 
then the heaven-appointed sphere of that woman is not the 
nursery. It may be the library, the laboratory, the observatory. 
. . . Does such a woman prove that perfect liberty of education 
unspheres woman? On the contrary it has enabled that woman 

to perceive exactly what God meant her to do God lead us to 

find the true woman in the free American home."^ 

And she also wrote, a few years later, when she resigned the 
editorship of the Exponent to care for her small children, "I have 
decided that during the years of my life which may be properly 
devoted to the rearing of a family, I will give my special attention 
to that most important branch of 'Home Industry.' Not that my 
interest in the public weal is diminishing, or that I think the 
best season of a woman's life should be completely absorbed 
in her domestic duties. But every reflecting mother, and every 
true philanthropist can see the happy medium between being 
selfishly home bound, and foolishly public spirited."^ 



FIRSTS (TOP PIECE) 

MEDIA: Acrylic paint, photo-transfer, crayon, and pencil on 
masonite 

"When I was a girl my mother sang to me all of the time, 
and one of the songs that stands out to me is 'In The Little 
Red School House.' My mother actually did go to school in a 
red schoolhouse, although not so little. This piece celebrates 
that first day of my mother's first year of school, when her 
sweet Mammy Lou made new dresses for her and her three 
sisters." 



RUBY AND Opal (bottom piece) 

MEDIA: Acrylic paint, photo-transfer, ribbon, and shoe 
button-hook on masonite 

"There are few women more dear to me than my 
grandmothers. This work captures my grandmother, Ruby, 
with her beloved and worshipped elder sister. It's vital to me 
that my posterity know and understand just how important 
their ancestors are to us as a family, and I try to show this 
by where and how I choose to spend my time, by doing my 
best to honor them through my artwork." 



6 



EXPONENT II 



This pragmatic, matter-of-fact early Mormon feminism seems 
rooted in a deep and abiding conviction of belonging, and 
it is this sense of belonging that might be the most precious 
heritage our foremothers have left to their twenty-first-century 
daughters. They never seem to have worried that their feminist 
convictions made them less Mormon. Indeed, they use Mormon 
scriptures and precepts as warrant for their feminism, and 
there is a certain theological boldness that I think is possible, 
in part, because their identity as Mormons was unquestioned. 
They write boldly, confident that their call to widening women's 
spheres is part of the project of building Zion. Because they 
knew so surely who they were, they were free to work out what 
they believed and thought about the issues of their day. 

Eliza R. Snow, hardly a radical, wrote: "We are to be progressing, 
and growing better. . . . We believe in eternal progression. . . . 
[The] works and duties of the women of Zion are constantly 
increasing. No where on the earth has 
woman so broad a sphere of labor and duty, 
of responsibility and action, as in Utah. ... Do 
we let Zion take full possession of our desire, 
our ambition? We have self all absorbed in 
the interest of the work of God. We are here 
to perform duties, and to do our part towards 
establishing God's Kingdom."^ 

Here is a feminism grounded not in self- 
discovery or self-expression but in having the 
"self all absorbed" in a communal project vast 
enough to fill time and eternity. Contemporary 
feminist projects— recovering the female 
voice, finding an authentic self— are made 
richer if those voices are able to tell stories of selves that are "all 
absorbed" in the grandest endeavors. We need to know who we 
are before we can know what we think, what we believe, which 
causes will demand our truest efforts. 

My grandmother, the long-ago pilot, is also a weaver of cloth 
and rugs. I love to watch her work at her loom, choosing bright 
scraps of fabric to weave between the long, straight threads of 
the warp. My grandmother's life is nearing its end; already her 
story stretches out long to hold the weft of my still-raggedy 
story and my daughter's barely begun bright golden thread. We 
need the stories that stretch out before and after our own to 
weave our lives around, to give us space to choose our colors 
and bind us to one another in the rich tapestry of Zion. 



One summer afternoon when I was nine years old, I was reading 
a book my aunt had given my father, and which he had in turn 
given to me. It was Mormon Sisters: Women in Early Utah. ^ 

I knew it had been written by some friends of my aunt, and I 
vaguely sensed that it was a brave book, though I couldn't have 
understood the contours of its courage and didn't yet have any 
inkling of the second wave of Mormon feminism it represented. 
But I loved it, fell into it in the glorious way that nine-year-olds 
can fall into books (as my daughter, at thirteen, still can— just 
barely), moved into that dusty nineteenth-century world so 
completely that I could feel the parching Utah sun, taste the 
bitter herbs of the midwives' medicines, and almost hear the 
rustle of those black silk skirts. 

And then, suddenly, I really did hear them. I felt the real and 
immediate presence of a dozen or so of these pioneer women, 
and heard, in some deep inward part of myself, 
"These are your mothers." I am the child of 
an experimental physicist, a thoroughgoing 
empiricist in most ways, a college-trained 
skeptic. But I have never doubted the truth 
of that childhood intuition. I am as sure of 
my connection to those women as I am of 
the warm, sweet heaviness of my Louisa's 
head on my shoulder when we read together. 
Their stories are ours— the warp and weft of 
our shared eternity. These are my mothers, 
and hers. I see their gifts to her in her happy 
faith, her deep, strong sense of herself as loved 
and worthy. She is a partaker of the grace 
bestowed by her still-unconscious belonging 
to a covenant of sisterhood that has known and claimed her 
since before she was born, since before I knew her name. 

NOTES: 

1 Sherilyn Cox Bennion, ["Lula Greene Richards: Utah's First Woman Editor"] 
BYU Studies 21, no. 2 (Spring 1981): 3. 

2 "Education of Women,"] Woman's Exponent (April 1, 1873), 3, cited in 
Bennion, ["Lula Greene Richards: Utah's First Woman Editor,"] 7. 

3 [Lula Greene Richards, "Valedictory,"] Woman's Exponent 6 (August 1, 1877), 
4, cited in Bennion, ["Lula Greene Richards: Utah's First Woman Editor,"], 9. 

4 Eliza R. Snow, "An Address," Woman's Exponent 8, no. 2 (Sept. 15, 1873),6. 

5 Claudia Bushman, ed.. Mormon Sisters: Women in Early Utah (Boston: 
Emmeline Press, 1976). 



We need to 
know who we 
are before we 
can know what 
we think, what 

we believe, 
which causes 
will demand our 
truest efforts. 



THE MORMON WOMEN PROJECT EDITION • WINTER 2012 



7 



WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO TELL MORMON WOMEN'S STORIES? 

"Because our stories— forbidden or venerated, secret or unashanned—are tine antidote to an isolation inlierent to tine human 
condition, tinat heartbreal< tinat lurl<s, physical or spiritual, always just around the corner, always just outside the door" 



Sometimes 



Some people are born with junk for hearts— perfidious, glitchy 
machines. This is not a metaphor: hearts sometimes break. 
Sometimes, they fall right apart. My grandfather, for example, 
was born with a barrel chest and a bulky, badly made heart, 
and when his big heart cracked inside his chest, he was a 
middle-aged man asleep in his bed. My grandmother, beside 
him, dreaming of water, woke for the convulsions that clapped 
his mouth and arced the whole of him, like a ship pitched in 
a furious sea. She could not know that his heart, literally, was 
tearing, but in the silence of it, in the stillness of all that motion, 
she knew that he was gone. 

At forty-six, my aunt died coughing in the back seat of her 
brother's car. This was creek-side at a campground in Idaho. 
This was my mother's family reunion, eighteen years after my 
grandfather's death. My aunt felt like something was stuck in 
her chest. Something heavy, she kept saying. Something hard. A 
touch of cold turned supercontinent. She thought if shejust kept 
coughing, eventually something would break free. At midnight, 
she woke coughing. She coughed from her tent, into the car, 
along the overgrown bank of the creek. My uncle gunned the 
engine and flew through its gears. His tires coughed red dirt. 
He let down his window to feel the air on his face, to calm him 
and remind him to breathe, and when his tires touched gravel 
just beyond the dam, he nearly choked on the white plume of 
dust. The Bonneville County dispatcher sent an ambulance out 
to meet them. The rendezvous point was a filling station in a 
postcard town called Swan Valley, and beside those sleeping 
gasoline pumps, on that beautiful summer night, they waited 
for the ambulance to come. They waited, and my uncle held 
his sister's hand, and like that, waiting in the darkness, no 
ambulance in sight, she coughed and waited and died. 

Later, the coroner discovered that what my aunt had mistaken 
for a landmass lodged in her chest was really the cast iron 
weight of her lungs. At some point, an infarction had breached 
the ventricular free wall of her heart, ripping through it, and her 
lungs had been filling with blood. The occurrence of cardiac 
rupture, he said, was extremely rare and likely hereditary. He 
said that by the looks of it, the heart attack was a week old, that 
she'd been walking dead for days. 



THE HEART 

When another aunt, my mother's oldest sister, died, it wasn't 
the fault of the hamstrung jalopy of a heart that my grandfather, 
as it turns out, handed down to each and every one of his eight 
kids. Instead, she drove herself to a mountain, pulled off the 
road, and swallowed a fragile handful of pills. Later that day, a 
medic from a nearby ski hill found her as he was driving home. 
She was slumped over the steering wheel, cold as cinders, her 
car stuck in a melting patch of snow. In a mystery that, eighteen 
years later, I still don't know what to make of, she asked in her 
suicide note that an autopsy not be performed. Because I loved 
her and because I still think I see her sometimes— coming 
toward me in the grocery store, buying flowers on the street— I 
have spent most of my adult life wondering what it was she was 
afraid they might discover, what she feared the soft inner world 
of her body, her exposed heart might reveal. 

The untimely loss of their loved ones and the reality that 
their father and sister both died of the same rare cardiac 
phenomenon spur my mother and her remaining siblings into a 
detailed investigation of their family history. Mostly, they want 
to know about their hearts. They schedule check-ups and order 
echocardiograms. Two end up with angioplasties; one comes 
home with a stent. They need a generational medical history, 
their cardiologists tell them. They need a family tree. Leading 
the effort, my aunt calls my grandmother, pen in hand. 

''Mother," she says. She's ready for business. ''We need to know 
about Dad's dad." 

The story of my great-grandfather has, for two generations, 
been my family's defining narrative enigma. Nothing, not a 
single thing, was known about him. My great-grandmother took 
his name and any clue to his identity, save the son she bore him, 
with her to the grave. The only thing my grandfather— that son- 
-knew was that he'd been adopted by the man who married his 
mother when he was two years old. His whole life he'd called 
that man father, and Howard Woodhouse had loved him like 
that's what he was. For my aunt, this is no longer sufficient. This 
will no longer do. She wants to know who he was, this nameless 
man. More importantly, she wants to know how he died. 



8 



EXPONENT I 



This will be hard, my grandmother must say, in the phone 
conversation with my aunt. My grandfather, at this point, has 
been dead for twenty-five years; his mother, too, has long since 
gone the way. To save her life, my grandmother can't think of 
where she'll find the answer, can't think of anyone who might 
know, but she promises to take up the reins. Within a week, she 
receives a call from my grandfather's half-sister, who thinks she 
has a lead. A dying great-aunt may be the last living person who 
knows the identity of the mystery father, but her health is in 
tenuous play. If they want to speak to her, it'll have to be soon. 
My grandmother and aunt pack a car and drive south. They 
arrive, hours later, and enter her room, quiet with the nearness 
of a coming end. 



"Naoma," this whispering wisp of a woman 
says, addressing my grandmother. She seems, 
in a final, prescient moment, to know why my 
grandmother is there. 

"Forgive me," she says. "I should have told you 
sooner. Sit down, honey. This will break your 
heart." 

What the great-aunt reveals is a history my 
grandmother can hardly make sense of, the 
branch of a tree she might wish had been left 
undisturbed, left to wither and fall forgotten in 
the silence that had tended it for nearly eighty 
years. The facts are these, and they are few: 
my great-grandmother had a twin brother. 
When they were twenty-one years old, she 
and her brother had a child. 



"That child was your grandfather," my 
grandmother tells me. Her voice is steady over 
the phone. She's had some time to process it, 
a couple of months. She says she hasn't told ^^^^^^H 
my mother or anyone else, says she just hasn't 
known how. At some point in the last thirty seconds of our 
conversation my breathing has stopped. I try to say something, 
anything at all, but my mouth can't seem to form words. 

"It's okay," my grandmother says, sensing my stupor. "It's a 
strange and difficult thing." 

After a while, when language returns, I ask what became of the 
brother. 

"We knew him," she says, "as Uncle George. We were close. He 
was always part of our lives." 



What the great- 
aunt reveals is 
a history my 
grandmother 
can hardly make 

sense of, the 
branch of a tree 
she might wish 

had been left 
undisturbed, left 

to wither and 
fall forgotten in 
the silence that 
had tended it for 
nearly eighty 
years. 



And then the questions come in roiling torrents and great, 
gasping waves: Why? How? Why? They were adults. Was it 
consensual? If it wasn't, what does that mean? And, good grief, 
what if it was? And then the medical concerns, like a nightmare: 
Is some horror hiding latent within me? Will I pass on to my 
children some awful, heritable thing? My great-grandfather, as 
it happens— the man my grandfather knew as Uncle George- 
was dead at sixty from the same massive heart attack that 
killed his son and his granddaughter, each generation dying 
younger than the last. It appears that, as the doctors suspected, 
this wrecked heap of heart muscle is, if nothing else, a tie that 
continues to bind us. But my grandmother knows nothing more, 
can offer nothing more, save this: when I ask her if she loved 
him, if my great-grandmother loved her brother, the father of 
her child, she pauses for a long time and is 
quiet. I can feel the push of air as she exhales, 
can feel its heavy weight. I can feel, too, my 
own heart beating so quick and insistent inside 
me that it almost seems to shake. 



"You know," she says slowly. "Yes, I think she 
did." 



Seven years later, as I write this, I've 
remembered how to breathe. Yes, the word 
incest may forever compel me to gently move 
a fingertip toward my teeth, but I don't pull my 
nails off. My face doesn't tick. My heart doesn't 
shake. It has been a simple convalescence, this 
lesson: sometimes the heart will rupture, and 
sometimes that rupture will heal. 



My grandmother asked me to tell my mother. 
She said it would help if she had to make one 



less call 



When I call, my mother is in her garden. The temple orange 
has just blossomed, and she is there, beside it, a small whiff of 
heaven on earth. The jasmine, she says, is so fragrant, you can 
smell it across the yard, and for a second, I don't think I can tell 
her. In the language of a common metaphor, I don't think I have 
the heart. 

"Mother," I say, "I have something to tell you." I wonder if I 
asked her to sit down. I remember that she was silent. I must 
have asked, "Are you okay?" 



THE MORMON WOMEN PROJECT EDITION • WINTER 2012 



9 




"Yes," she says, finally. '1 knew him. He never had children of his 
own. He had horses and a pasture. He always asked us to come 
out and ride. Mother never let us," she says. "Something just 
wasn't quite right." 

She is far away as she says this. I can hear it in her voice. 



''I don't know what I think," my mother says. "Both scenarios 
just make me sad." 

"I'll tell you one thing," my grandmother says, looking but not 
looking at the trees as we pass, "I understand that woman 
better now than I ever did while she was alive." 



"I love you," I say, and, "I'm sorry." I don't know how to say 
anything else. 

"No," she says. "Don't be sorry. It's good to know this, to know 
how the story ends." 

Months later, my mother, aunt, grandmother, and I are in a car 
together. My grandmother's own twin brother has died and his 
funeral has just finished. It is spring in the far north of Idaho 
and the trees are newly in leaf. The sky is water blue. And 
perhaps because the sun is high and shining, and because, 
even at the end of a long life, death begs so many questions, 
talk somehow turns to my great-grandmother. It's the first time 
we've allowed ourselves the freedom to attempt a narrative 
or, at least, to speak that narrative aloud. Of course we've all 
got more questions than answers, and all of it— the questions 
we can formulate and the answers we'll never know— resides 
in a realm that still unnerves us to even approach. But there is 
a peculiar catharsis in approaching it and in our camaraderie 
as we do, as though having been thrust into this strange world 
together makes it, strangely, okay. 

Because I am young and a romantic, I decide with certainty that 
it may have been clandestine and maledict, but it was love. 

"I don't know," my aunt says, uncomfortable. "I'd almost feel 
better if it weren't." 



"Yes," my mother says. 
"Yes," whispers my aunt. 

And because I was a small child when I knew my great- 
grandmother, I still only truly understand the lucent white of 
her soft-cotton hair, the paper-thin skin that half frightened and 
half fascinated me every time I stroked her tiny hand. She was 
dying, even in my earliest memories, and lay, always, on a quiet 
blue couch. I have no memory of her ever speaking. I don't know 
that I ever heard her voice. 

And it is her silence, now, that compels me most. By the end, in 
her illness, words would not have come without difficulty. This 
is a silence that, even as a child, I could understand. When I 
entered her house with cousins, we stepped softly across the 
carpet, and when we spoke we whispered. And I am certain, 
now, that in an uncomplicated, childlike way I feared her then— 
her silent house, her body lying so still. 

My mother says, though, that even in good health she was a 
reticent woman— silent, almost severe. Certainly, the long 
censorship of our family history bears that out. She had been 
dead twenty-five years before my great-grandfather's identity 
was known. My grandfather lived his entire life and never knew. 
And for his part, his father— my great-grandfather— attended 
his only son's funeral as an uncle, effectively in disguise. 



10 



EXPONENT I 



JUNGLE TOTEM 

MEDIA: Watercolor and cut paper 

"Jungle Totenn is a personal timeline 
of the artist's life. The watercolors 
are cut out at the bottom of the 
piece and less cut out at the 
top, indicating past and future 
experiences." 




There is a conflict in this silence that I cannot arbitrate, a 
captivity that, for the years passed, nothing can breach. I can't 
pretend to know my great-grandmother's story; the plot arcs in 
a trajectory that I can only guess at, can only try to piece and 
trace. What pains she might have lived with, what joys, will not 
be known. In a sense, her heart has been forbidden to me by 
the silence in which she chose to dwell. But the fact remains 
that I live because of her, that I am the physical outrippling 
of a choice she made or, perhaps, of a choice that was forced 
upon her. And, though it is next to nothing, the little I know 
about her history has closed, at least in some small part, an 
aching, silent gap— a need to know her in order to fully know 
myself. In a clinical sense, finally identifying their grandfather 
served to confirm what my mother and her siblings had come 
to suspect— that genetically they are predispositioned to have 
their hearts fail. 

In a way, I might say that this somatic self-awareness has 
united them, not in anticipation of their early deaths, but in 
their resolve to live and love their lives. When they go, as we 
all will, in the end, it will not have been quietly into the night. 
And fate has been kind to my own small family. I don't fear for 
the futures of my children. They are perfect anatomies— no 
growths, no protrusions, no tails. Their hearts work, literally and 
metaphorically. We are lucky in that regard. But this is about 
something more than that. It is also about this truth: there is 
something empowering about a narrative, about a story told. 



I would start, I think, with this request, beyond science and 
genome: 7e// me about my heart. It is reckless and intrepid. It is your 
heart, I would tell her, in very different and very similar ways. 

It is the heart, too, of my lonely aunt, asleep, finally, on that 
mountainside. The heart of my uncle as he held his dying sister 
in his arms. It is your heart. Reader, I want to tell you, in its 
rapturous careening, in the stillness of its quiet, aching dark. 
We are not so different, you and I, of the same dust, the same 
ash, the same Word. And our stories— forbidden or venerated, 
secret or unashamed— are, I posit, the antidote to an isolation 
inherent to the human condition, that heartbreak that lurks, 
physical or spiritual, always just around the corner, always just 
outside the door. And it is true that we navigate mostly blindly, 
mostly in the dark. The shore is often distant, if it appears at 
all. In a perfect world, our shared humanity would be enough to 
hold us close, to keep and tend our hearts, but I don't need to 
say that the world is not perfect; it is precisely that imperfection 
that makes it such a frighteningly beautiful place. And so we tell 
our stories, and in so doing, we create a small but argent light, 
a light by which we take the pull of our temptations, the gravity 
of our many griefs, and in moments of fugitive lucidity, we make 
from them a meaning— in other words, a life. 



I named my third daughter Alta. She bears the name of my 
great-grandmother— the small, silent woman I both feared and 
loved. I keep a picture of her, Great-Grandmother Alta, beside 
my bed. I beg it, sometimes, to speak. 



And what is it that I would ask? What is it I want to know? 



THE MORMON WOMEN PROJECT EDITION • WINTER 2012 



11 



WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO TELL MORMON WOMEN'S STORIES? 

"Because when they ore our own stories, they enable spiritual transformations and discoveries." 



BOTTARI: A JOURNEY OF BECOMING 



In February 2008, I moved to Seoul, Korea, to teach art at a 
private kindergarten. I chose to leave nny job and family in 
Portland and immerse myself in a foreign and complex culture. 
Existing in an entirely new environment was simultaneously 
thrilling and frightening. After the excitement and flash of 
Korea dimmed, I was, at times, awash with loneliness. These 
journal entries document my move to Korea and those first 
few tumultuous months when I was required to redefine for 
myself the term "home." This journey taught me that spiritual 
transformation does not occur when I am comfortable and 
complacent; it occurs when I choose to enter the wilderness, 
face my fears, and open myself up to the divine that is waiting 
there. 

Spiritual transformation does not occur 
when I am comfortable and complacent; 

it occurs when I choose to enter the 
wildernessy face my fearsy and open myself 
up to the divine that is waiting there. 



JANUARY 22, 2008 
To Send To Korea 

■ Diploma 

■ Resume (signed) 

■ Police background check 
• Photocopy of passport 



3 university transcripts 
Signed contract 
2 passport photos 



1 Peter 5:10 

"But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal 
glory by Jesus Christ, after that ye have suffered awhile, make 
you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you." 

Settle you. Still, settled water. I need this. 

JANUARY 28, 2008 

In 1 Nephi chapters 16 and 17, I see that Nephi is fully present. 



He doesn't dwell in the past and he doesn't fear the future. He 
makes a bow, he hunts, he builds the ship. He gets to it. He 
doesn't waste time murmuring or feeling sorry for himself. I 
needed to be reminded of this as I am feeling really nervous 
about moving to Korea. 

FEBRUARY 15, 2008 

1 Nephi 18:24 

Lehi and his family tilled the earth and planted seeds in the 
promised land. This act of tilling and planting represents their 
faith in and obedience to God. They have dutifully made this 
place home by literally setting down roots, just as God asked. 

FEBRUARY 17, 2008 

I am feeling so blah and scared. So vulnerable and nothing. I am 
really freaked out about Korea right now. I'm leaving in a week, 
and I'm scared. Scared. Scared. Scared. 

FEBRUARY 23, 2008 

I'd like to find all of the scriptures that refer to a gathering 
place: a home, a congregation, a land, Zion. I love themes of 
placement and displacement in the scriptures. I love the idea 
of "home" as both a tangible and intangible concept. I love to 
think of "home" as a divine concept. What does it mean to be 
without a home for a time, such as Lehi and his family, Adam 
and Eve, Moses and Israel, only to discover that your true home 
lies in the heart of God? I wonder if it's required to experience a 
period of displacement in order to enter the home of God. The 
paradox: if you lose your home, you will find it. 

FEBRUARY 26, 2008 

I'm so scared about leaving for Korea. It's ok, Krisanne. It's an 
adventure. You are adaptable. You can survive. Have joy in the 
unknown. Be curious! 



12 



EXPONENT I 



FEBRUARY 27, 2008 

And so the adventure begins! I am riding on the train up to 
Seattle, where I will fly out this weekend. I've felt such peace 
and a real presence of joy today. I feel Heavenly Father with me. 
It is a comfort. It is a miracle to have God with you, watching 
over you, residing in your heart. This is a wonderful feeling— an 
assurance about where I am going in life. 

FEBRUARY 28, 2008 

I'm going to start a blog to document my experience living and 
teaching in Korea. About six months ago I was browsing the 
Internet, and I found this website of a South Korean artist named 
Kim Sooja. She uses the literal and metaphorical concepts of 
bottari in her artwork. The word ''bottari" refers to a colorful 
cloth bundle that women would use to carry their belongings 
while traveling. Kim Sooja suggests that our bodies are a type 
of bottari— this exquisite organic package that contains our 
memories, experiences, and values. Now that I'm embarking on 
my own journey, I thought that ''bottari" would be a good name 
for my blog— it will be a place that contains my impressions and 
experiences as I travel. 

^\..our bodies are a type of bottari — this 
exquisite organic package that contains 
our memoriesy experiences, and values. 




Bottari with the Artist, 1994, used Korean clothes and bedcovers, Yang Dong village, 
Korea. Photo by Ju Myung Duk. 



MARCH 3, 2008 

I'm here in Korea! My head is swimming but I have a great sense 
of well-being, a great sense of Heavenly Father's presence. I 
know I'll do well, and I know I'll survive. 



MARCH 5, 2008 

I find that the moment I step outside of my comfort zone, the 
world comes alive. Maybe it has something to do with the 
way our bodies tune into our surroundings when we're afraid. 
Everything is sharper— sounds and images dance. My ears 
catch the cadence of the Korean language; I hear the rumble 
of motorcycles in the alleyways, and the traffic on the streets. 
Images catch my attention: spicy beef kabobs, giant Asian 
pears, old men pushing huge handcarts of recycled trash, 
looming buildings covered in Hongul. Do you want to learn to 
be present like this? Do something that scares the hell out of 
you. 

^^Do you want to learn to be present 
like this? Do something that scares 
the hell out of you. 

MARCH 10, 2008 

I have many deja vus here. At least once a day I am struck by 
the stark familiarity of a moment, a conversation, or an image. 
There have been a few times when I remember dreaming a 
moment that has now happened in Korea. This is a testament 
to me that I belong here. 

What do I love about Korea? I love the food: bulgolgi beef, tteok 
bokki. I love the energy of Seoul at night. I love the traditions: 
bowing, taking your shoes off before you enter a home. I love 
the heated floors. I love the pushy old women on the subway. 

MARCH 17, 2008 

I see now that the scriptures are all about movement- 
movement from the old world into the new world, movement 
from the old law into the new law, and movement from the old 
man into the new man. The scriptures preach evolution, growth, 
mobility. 

MARCH 23, 2008 

It's Easter Sunday. I miss my family today. I wonder how the 
weather is in Portland. I wonder what sorts of food we would 
be eating today. 

MARCH 25, 2008 

Tonight, after work, I stood on the ramp behind my apartment 
complex. I was listening to Ryan Adams on my iPod and feeling 
the rain on my face. I looked in the restaurant windows at all 



THE MORMON WOMEN PROJECT EDITION • WINTER 2012 13 



of the Koreans. I looked at the Hongul signs above me. I was in 
Korea. I was present, feeling the reality of nny life. I was living, 
breathing, listening, getting rained on in Korea. I am here in this 
foreign land. I am here. 

MARCH 29, 2008 

I had a lousy day yesterday. I was feeling lost, asking myself, 
"Who am I in Korea? Where are my friends?" I was wandering 
through the aisles at Costco and it occurred to me to pray. I 
asked for help, and everything opened up. On my bus ride back 
from Costco to my apartment, a woman my age sat next to 
me and struck up a conversation in English. Her kindness filled 
the aching gaps. I felt friendship— something at that moment I 
desperately needed to feel. By the end of the bus ride we had 
exchanged contact information. A new friend, a stranger, a 
connection to Korean culture and language. God is so merciful, 
hallelujah. 

p.s. The name of the Korean woman on the bus was Ray-yune. 
When she introduced herself she said, ''My name is Ray-yune, 
like a ray of light." Yes. Exactly. 

MARCH 30, 2008 

I caught my reflection in a store window on my walk up to the 
chapel this morning. I was confronted with the image of my 
body in this foreign landscape. It was surprising to me. I wasn't 
observing Korea from afar anymore, as one would watch a 
movie. I was in the movie. 

MAY 8, 2008 

I feel at times so peaceful and excited. At other times, lost. 



Sometimes I feel even and still. Other times my heart feels 
porous, soaking up all of the sadness until it becomes heavy 
and dripping. I am feeling the weight of loneliness today. I am 
crying in the art room closet. Sometimes I feel so sad I can't cry. 
Those are the times I feel hollow, zombie sad. Stark, dry, desert 
sand sad, empty echo steel sad. Cracked, rusty pipe sad. 

^^I believe that we^re all in the process of 
Muveiling^ that life continuously gives us 
opportunities to connect with our knowing 
self- — that part deep down inside of 
us that holds all truth. 

JULYS, 2008 

I believe that we're all in the process of unveiling, that life 
continuously gives us opportunities to connect with our 
knowing self— that part deep down inside of us that holds all 
truth. In this way, the universe is so unbelievably merciful- 
pulling for us, supporting us, encouraging us to connect with 
God, even if it's painful. This process of unveiling is really the 
work of becoming. I love the word "becoming"— it is hopeful, 
kinetic, steadfast. 

JULY 4, 2008 

In my meditation this morning I had a vision of myself sitting at 
a table with my knowing self, my divine center. She was infused 
with light. She was calm and piercing. She was a composite of 
all of my ages— child Krisanne, young adult Krisanne, elderly 
Krisanne. Like a hologram, every time her body moved, I could 
catch a glimpse of one of these versions of myself. She told me 
to press forward in becoming, that I was safe here. 




Korea, by Elsa Muko 



Incheon, South Korea, by Ashley Dollesin 



Korea Pavilion, by David Spe^ 



EXPONENT I 



MY FOG 

MEDIA: Cut paper 

"I am always drawn to combinations of 
simple lines in architecture, especially 
as they are seen on a rainy, foggy day. 
Walking around in a city and capturing 
images of those lines, as much as 
possible, is important to me. I feel that 
if I don't do it on the spot the same 
setting will never be there. 

"As I transfer those moments onto 
paper in a minimal and simplified way, I 
I hope to bring back the mood of those 
sophisticated moments." 




THE MORMON WOMEN PROJECT EDITION • WINTER 2012 15 



SISTERS SPEAK 



Telling Mormon women's stories 

This feature typically gives readers of Exponent II a forum to present their own thoughts about a given topic, providing an 
opportunity for readers who normally consume the publication to contribute to it instead. It also allows for a multiplicity 
of viewpoints and perspectives, a founding goal of Exponent II. In this guest edited issue. Mormon Women Project 
volunteers respond to two different prompts. In keeping with the mission of the feature, Sisters Speak gives the MWP 
volunteers voices which are normally silent: while they are the ones who produce and edit MWP interviews, here they 
come out from behind the editor's pen. 



part I 



How does sharing your story with other women and hearing other 
women's stories influence you? 



THE WORTH OF SOULS 
LOUISE ELDER | ENGLAND 

The name "Tiffany Peterson" came into my head unexpectedly 
one evening, as I was placing my book back on the nightstand. 
Although this name came to me out of the blue, I knew exactly 
why I was being prompted to think of her. A few days prior, I had 
signed up to be an interview producer for the Mormon Women 
Project (MWP) and was in the process of deciding which of the 
eighteen people on my list I should contact first. Clearly Tiffany 
was to be the one, although she hadn't even been on my radar! 

A friend of one of my old roommates, Tiffany was a well- 
traveled, adventurous single adult with a flourishing career at 
a global investment bank. She had also recently become the 
legal guardian of her eleven-year-old niece I knew the outline of 
her story and that it would be a fascinating addition to the site. 
I was excited to contact her. 

I emailed her the next morning, letting her know about the 
project and asking for her contribution. Time differences 
notwithstanding, I received a prompt affirmative response, 
along with this comment: "When I read your email I got a little 
emotional, as it reminded me how truly blessed I feel and how 
I know the Lord is watching out for me and has a plan for me." 
Her response left me deeply humbled. I knew the impression 
to contact her had come from the Spirit. To see that she felt 
known and loved of the Lord as a result of my request made 
me so grateful I had followed the prompting. From that point 
on, I knew I would need to be really prayerful in this voluntary 
assignment because I could sense the impact that participating 
would have on all of us. 



Tiffany and I spoke a couple of weeks later, and I spent hours 
transcribing our ninety-minute conversation and editing it down 
to a concise format. As I drove about the English countryside 
during this time period I found myself thinking of her often and 
feeling so grateful that women like her exist. Her unique story 
and example of righteous living was permeating my soul. I felt 
stronger in my own life choices and as a result, more in tune 
with the Spirit. Out of love and respect for her, I really wanted 
to make sure her story was told as purely as it could be. 

The day came when the interview was published. I was nervous 
and excited and hoped what Tiffany had shared would resonate 
with our readers. As I scrolled down and read the positive 
comments, one from Rachelle caught my attention: 

Thank you so much for your story. I've been praying about 
something for a few months now and I believe that what the 
Spirit taught me through your concluding paragraphs was an 
answer to my prayer. So thank you beyond what any words 
could ever possibly describe. 

That same feeling I had when I read Tiffany's response to 
my interview request returned, but amplified. I cried. I was 
humbled and in awe of the Lord. I knew I hadn't done anything 
of myself: Tiffany felt known and loved because of her inclusion 
on the site, which came from a spiritual prompting, and 
Rachelle's prayer had been answered through Tiffany's story. I 
had merely been an instrument in the Lord's hand. But I felt 
so overwhelmed that He had chosen me to help Him in that 
capacity. And once again I felt so relieved and grateful that 
I had followed that prompting. There are few feelings in this 



16 



EXPONENT I 



world that compare to being trusted by the Lord to answer a 
person's prayers or to let someone know their divine worth. 

This experience has made a real difference to me. I view the 
story given to me by each participant as sacred, and treat it 
accordingly. I feel honored to have interviewed courageous, 
brave, and faithful women whose life stories have woven their 
way into mine. Most importantly, I feel a profound love for and 
from the Lord, for me and for each of these women. I know 
that telling their stories is important to Him, and I know it is a 
beautiful response to His admonition in Doctrine 8l Covenants 
18 to "Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God." 



fear of being judged or exposing yourself and family members. 
What I have found are stories of women that describe the many 
faces of what it means to be a Mormon woman. I have become 
less judgmental, more accepting, and less alone as I read about 
and interview these diverse women. 

I am a fan of the tale of Odysseus and marvel at the 
accomplishments of Penelope, who may not have traveled 
the seas as did her husband, but nonetheless battled at home. 
There are many "Penelopes" in this life who struggle with 
various trials, but whose stories don't get the headlines. 

When I interviewed Lisa Hansen, who has gone back to school 
and is working on a PhD in psychology, I became aware of her 
work to help young LDS gay members and their families. She 
has helped LDS women who struggle with career and family 
choices— a conflict I attempted to resolve in the 70's, when I 
was in grad school. She gave me the courage to go back and 
complete my master's degree— because if she could do it in her 
50s, I could too. 

The Mormon Women Project shows us that we are valuable, 
and that each of us must travel a unique path for our growth, 
as prescribed by our Maker. I love the quote shared by Hugh 
Nibley at a BYU commencement: "To quote one of the greatest 
of leaders, the founder of this institution. There is too much 
of a sameness in this community. .. I am not a stereotyped 
Latter-day Saint and do not believe in the doctrine . . . away 
with stereotyped 'Mormons'!' Good-bye all."^ 

It's difficult to see our uniqueness unless we share our triumphs, 
yet this seems out of place in a religious life of sacrifice. But 
when you give women the space and place to share, when 
you are prompted by questions to uplift others, women feel 
comfortable. When I asked Lisa for anything else she could 
share, I learned that she and her husband wrote the words and 
music to the Primary song, "Nephi's Courage." Now, when I'm 
sitting in sharing time, for what seems like an endless time, and 
we sing that song, I think, "Hey, I know Lisa; she's a remarkable 
woman." 

1 Holzapfel. (2011). Becoming Master Teachers. Religious Studies Center , 12 
(1). Retrieved from: http:/7rsc. byu.edu/arclnived/volume-12-number-l-2011/ 
becoming-master-teachers 

2 Nibley, H. (n.d.). Leaders to Managers: The Fatal Shift. Neal A. Maxwell Institute 
of Religious Education . Provo, UT. Retrieved from: http://maxwellinstitute. 
byu.edu/publications/transcripts/?id=125 



LESS ALONE 

DEILA TAYLOR | EL DORADO HILLS, CALIFORNIA 

I tend to be an introvert unless lamina small setting of people, 
then I enjoy sharing conversation. But I often hesitate to take 
that step. A friend once pointed out, "You have a low-social 
need." I'm not the woman who shows up at every ward function, 
or Relief Society event. Yet, I enjoy and need friendships with 
other women. 

I am also one of those women who stray from the manual when 
teaching Relief Society, Gospel Doctrine, or the youth in Sunday 
School. I have always taken to heart what Joseph McConkie 
learned from his father: "Look, if you cannot go beyond the 
period at the end of the sentence, it means you do not have the 
Holy Ghost. And if you do not have the Holy Ghost, you have no 
business teaching in the first place."^ 

The Mormon Women Project has helped meet my needs 
to go beyond the period at the end of the sentence. When I 
read the first article at the MWP, I was drawn into a feeling 
of camaraderie. I noticed the tab to volunteer, stepped out of 
my comfort zone, and clicked on it. Becoming an interview 
producer with the MWP gave me an opportunity to contribute 
and a space to become involved with other women. 

A good friend is a good listener. I have found that when I 
interview Mormon women, I must listen to their needs and 
words. Their stories leave a deep imprint on me. I am probably 
not singular in this feeling or the feeling that I don't have a lot of 
close friends. It's not easy to share your trials and triumphs for 



THE MORMON WOMEN PROJECT EDITION • WINTER 2012 17 



EVERYONE HAS A STORY 

LYNDSEY PAYZANT WELLS | REDMOND, WASHINGTON 

I've moved a lot in my married life— six times in six years--so I'm 
starting to get introductions and small talk down to a science. 
It can be exhausting to socially start over so often, especially 
because I stay home with my two-year-old all day, so I have to 
work to find opportunities to be surrounded by and interact with 
adults. But throughout these experiences, I've grown to love the 
chance to get to know so many new and different women. I now 
have friends across the country, with different backgrounds and 
occupations and family situations and lifestyles, and I love it. 
I'm learning that everyone I meet has an interesting story— it's 
just a matter of tracking it down. 

I love the book How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale 
Carnegie. In it, Mr. Carnegie lists six ways to make people like 
you, and while none of them are particularly earth-shattering, I 
recognize them as good common sense and have applied them 
to my friend-making. Among the tips are things like become 
genuinely interested in other people, encourage other people 
to talk about themselves, talk in terms of the other person's 
interests, and make the other person feel important. The best 
way to do any of these is to ask good questions. When I meet 
a new person, I try to let them do all the talking. Of course, it 
feels great to talk about myself and share my point of view, but- 
-and I've found this especially true in talking with other women- 



-the quickest way to get a good conversation going is to get the 
other person talking about herself. 

Hearing from another woman, whether it's something trivial 
like where she runs errands around town or something more 
poignant like her hopes, dreams, and fears, always makes an 
impact on me. I pick up tips on where to find best deals on 
groceries, good playgrounds to take my kid to, interesting 
movies to see-but I also learn new strategies for coping with 
my problems, see new ways of looking at an ordeal, receive 
confirmation that God guides all of our lives, or find the 
reassurance that I'm not the only one dealing with a particular 
emotional issue. Sometimes I hear something I wholeheartedly 
disagree with, which always causes me to pause and ponder 
why I feel the way I do and typically re-confirms my beliefs. No 
matter what I learn, it always benefits me. 

On the playground, at church, passing a friend in the hall and 
stopping for a brief chat, I love taking the opportunity to get to 
know other women. We've all been so blessed to have different 
experiences and understandings, and we can help, comfort, and 
uplift those around us if we just open our mouths. I'm almost 
looking forward to our next move, just so I can discover a new 
selection of stories. That's a big "almost," though-I'm happy 
staying put and diving deeper into the experiences of the 
amazing women all around me. Everyone's got more stories to 
tell. 




CLOTHES HANGING 

MEDIA: Oil painting 

'This work tells a story of individuality, of trial and 
experience. Of how people are like clothes. When we 
are united, our individual imperfections (which women 
are so prone to magnify in themselves and in others) are 
overlooked. We become more beautiful." 



18 EXPONENT II 



PART II 



As women we are often told that we are co-creators with God within the 
context of motherhood. In what ways have you partnered with God to help 
your life's story unfold? 



Life Balanced 

jessica drollette j moscow, idaho 

Ever since childhood I've felt emptiness inside, an unquenchable 
thirst for sonnething just outside nny reach. I felt some of the 
answers lay with my Heavenly Mother, but I knew so little about 
Her that I didn't know where to begin. Meanwhile, the family 
matriarchs taught me to find Mother Goddess in the nurturing 
of children, and through the example of my elders I learned that 
Father God's role— and ultimately the role of man— was in the 
organization of human affairs. 

As I grew, I longed for the day when I would satisfy my divine 
role and seal the void growing inside. Surely motherhood would 
bring such joy that nothing else would matter. But when that 
day came, the void remained. I loved my child with a heart 
nearly bursting, but a deep emptiness still tore at me. I searched 
for a solution and eventually found a dusty library book on the 
Eastern traditions of yin and yang. 

According to ancient cultures, female and male energy— yin 
and yang— exist in everything. The complementary relationship 
between the two is captured in the yin-yang symbol, two 
embracing asterisks, one dark and one light. Yin, the female 
energy, is right-brained, chaotic creativity, and yang, the male 
energy, is left-brained, extroverted power; together they form 
duality in perfect balance. I swam the river of my subconscious, 
trying to comprehend this new information, but all I 
encountered was confusion. How could I align myself with this 
new information, with the Co-creators of the universe, and fill 
the emptiness inside? Maybe a symbiosis of the two was key in 
learning to share equal space with the opposing characteristics 
of order and chaos, strength and gentility, flow and stability. I 
began my quest for more knowledge, praying for guidance. 

One lazy afternoon, a leaf fluttered from an apple tree into my 
lap, and a voice spoke inside my heart. 'This is female energy: 
to grow from seed to tree, to shrug off leaves in the fall and 
draw inward to nourish and rest, then birth new leaves when 
spring stirs the air. Blossoms form, swelling into fruits that drop, 
bringing new life in their own season." I tried noting similar 
patterns in my own life as I explored the yin side of energy. More 
than just embracing my role as a mother, I began to accept the 



birth of change from maiden to matriarch to crone and to allow 
the death of my unnecessary burdens of guilt and fear. I felt the 
freedom to express my thoughts, to create with passion, and 
to live with purpose. With excitement, I realized the void inside 
was growing smaller. 

But I still didn't understand how to integrate yang, or male 
energy. Where was this structure in the rich symbols of nature, 
and how did they apply to me? After scaling the Great Wall of 
China, I finally found my answer. My fingers traced the rough 
stones overlooking Outer Mongolia, and the voice in my mind 
returned. 'This is a symbol of masculine energy: the stones 
beneath you and the mountains around you are steadfast 
and immovable, standing firm for generations." I began to 
see the need for structure amidst the chaos of my newfound 
assimilation of yin energy. If I didn't incorporate the drive, 
dedication, and order of yang energy, my creativity would 
become nothing more than the chaos of dreams. 

My gaze lifted to the jutting mountain peaks surrounding the 
valley, and finally the two worlds of yin and yang merged in my 
heart. When I, as the mountain, meet the changing powers of 
wind, water, and heat, the soils in me shift, and the wind and rain 
beat upon me until I break. My shattered mountain mingles with 
the surrounding soils, the ocean floor, and riverbeds, changing 
me with each experience. I am buried by layers of other broken 
men and women on the same journey, and I am pressed toward 
the earth's mantle, where I again transform under intense heat. 
Eventually, with great effort, I will break through the surface 
of my own fears and insecurities, reaching for the hands of 
the Creators, who have now successfully molded a stronger, 
wiser mountain. But without the chaotic forces of the Creators, 
the mountains within me would remain rigid and unchanged 
forever. 

On the plane ride home, I reflected on how my journey had finally 
filled the void within my soul. I saw my mind (yang) as strong 
and immovable and my heart (yin) as creatively chaotic— 
both energies already residing within. I saw Mother Goddess 
and Father God together, co-creators within Themselves, with 
Each Other, and with all Their creations— forming a giant web 
of connectedness. Co-creation with Goddess and God was 
not some unobtainable goal. My journey to find internal yin/ 



THE MORMON WOMEN PROJECT EDITION • WINTER 2012 



yang balance taught me that I co-create with Them every 
time I embrace the chaos of change, the birth and death of 
daily experiences, and the promise of renewal every time my 
mountains crumble. All I have to do is reach up. 



Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.' That's 
it, the whole enchilada. Four wee clauses packed with gospel 
truths: Christ's lordship, his relationship to God, our need for 
forgiveness, our propensity to sin."^ 

I intend to recite the Jesus Prayer when I find myself thinking 
resentfully or enviously. But I can't do it. The words won't stick 
in my head. I turn back to Riess's book over and over to get 
the words right. I write the prayer out, and it helps for a day, 
but then I'm confused again. And there's always that edge of 
discomfort from my Mormon upbringing— does it count as 
prayer if someone else wrote the words? 

Maybe if I set it to music, I think, like those impossible-to-get- 
out-of-your-head Article of Faith songs. After all, I don't have 
any problem with singing the same hymn over and over as 
worship. But the music doesn't help me remember the words, 
either. I am simply unsure of both the words and the notes. 

So I give up on the Jesus Prayer. Instead, I turn to the hymnal for 
a short, meaningful text. The one I choose is only three hundred 
years old instead of a thousand, like the Jesus Prayer, but the 
words buoy me (plus, I can remember them): 

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow; 
Praise him, all creatures here below; 
Praise him above, ye heav'niy host; 
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. ^ 

Now, when the selfish beast inside clamors for attention, I 
chant my hymn. As I sing, I feel a welling of peace and gratitude 
that washes my selfishness back a few minutes at a time. 

I need God now less for the plot of my life and more for 
characterization, tone, and theme. I need Him to polish the 
metaphor, to edit out needless words, to shape transitions. 
Humming my hymn, I invite Him to edit my life in ways beyond 
plot. 

1 David Van Biema, "Mother Teresa's Crisis of Faitin," Time, August 23, 2007, 
http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1655720,00.html. 

2 Jana Riess, Flunking Saintlnood: A Year of Breal<ing tlie Sabbatli, Forgetting to Pray, 
and Still Loving My Neighbor (Brewster, MA: Paraclete, 2011), [insert page 
number and delete the brackets]. 

3 Thomas Ken, "Praise God, from Whom All Blessings Flow," Hymns of the 
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter- Day Saints (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus 
Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1985), 242. 



BEYOND Plot 

ANNETTE BAY PIMENTEL | ADA, OHIO 

In my last calling, I harangued the Laurels to deliberately 
construct the plot of their lives: Go to college! Get married in 
the temple! I told them God would help them make big choices. 
But for me, those decisions came years ago. I puzzle over how 
to include God in my life now that its plot is in place. From the 
tempest of planning my life, I seem to have been flung onto the 
flatland of enduring to the end. 

Mother Teresa's experience resonates: in a stunningly clear 
moment, she knew God had called her to care for the poor. 
Then, for most of the rest of her life, silence.^ For me, the silence 
has not been so total (nor I so saintly!), but I, too, struggle to 
feel God's influence without momentous decisions looming. 

Of course, there are still small plot points to be decided— Do 
we live here or there? Take this job or that?— and I still rely 
on fasting and prayer. But years ago, I was praying about the 
trajectory of my life, seeking blinding Yes! or No! moments. 
Now, the flatness of my spiritual life troubles me. Where does 
God fit when the plot outline is already written? 

I am intrigued that several of the women I have interviewed 
for The Mormon Women Project seek God, at least in part, by 
incorporating other traditions of worship into their lives. 
Heather Farrell fasts for the month of Ramadan, but the 
prospect of going without food for such a relentlessly long time 
daunts me. Erin Fairlight Olsen uses the Muslim calls to prayer 
as personal reminders to stop her daily work and pray. I am 
annoyed enough by the preset alarms on my phone that I have 
no desire to add calls to prayer. 

I find the tradition I want to try in Jana Reiss's brilliant little 
book. Flunking Sainthood, which chronicles her attempt to 
incorporate various worship practices into her life. I have often 
found it helpful to repeat admonitions to myself (be kind, be 
kind, be kind), so I decide to try the daily repeated recitation 
of a medieval prayer. Riess describes the Jesus Prayer as "one 
of the most simple and elegant prayers I've ever seen: lord 



EXPONENT I 



Opening My basket 

patti cook i north salt lake, utah 

He leaned over in the car, took my face in his large calloused 
hands, and murmured softly, 'This doesn't mean I love you 
less. . . ." And then a quick kiss and he grabbed his bags and 
disappeared into the Baltimore airport. 



New Testament from 1 Peter. Both were of the same opinion 
that I really never wanted to be married. I wanted to scream 
into the phone that I wasn't the one backing out— but that 
wouldn't have mattered anyway. 

Across the country from any family or close friends, I was alone, 
discarded, and completely disoriented. 



I watched him leave the car, shut the car door, and then be 
swallowed by the darkness of the airport. 

And then I felt it. 

I pulled up the parking brake, turned my hazards on, prayed 
to God that I wouldn't get towed being in the ten minute drop 
off lane, and ran into the airport after him. 
Somewhere in my heart I knew if I didn't see 
his face again, then I never would. I had run 
through my fair share of airports, but this 
time around I was spurred on by the pressing 
feeling that the universe was about to merge 
two roads, and racing against that inevitability 
was my only hope. I ran till I found his terminal. 
The door to the gateway whooshed shut, the 
plane pulling away from the airport. No one 
had said it, but I knew it was over. Our wedding 
date was only a couple months away, but 
somewhere in my heart I knew that although it 
hadn't been spoken, something broke. 



I couldn't have known then that it would take me almost a 
full year to be able to look a man in the eyes, to care in any 
meaningful way, to begin to sort out my faith on the ramifications 
of personal choice and how although something was right and 
good, it doesn't mean that it lasts. And in truth, part of me never 
did recover from the roller coaster of that experience. There 
was a girl I was before who never fully turned back on and came 
^^^^^^^ alive again, who was never quite as carefree or 
trusting. 



... my Advocate 
and Friend 
simply and 
gently said, "Just 
start pulling 
things out of 
your basket 
Patti. There will 
be what you 
need. 



In the New Testament, in the gospel of 
Matthew, the miracle of feeding the multitudes 
with less than enough is mentioned on two 
different occasions. I often wondered, did the 
disciples realize they had been through this 
before? Whether or not they did, we have 
record that they told the Savior, the Creator of 
the Universe, the One who atones for our sins, 
"Um . . . Lord, we simply don't have enough 
here. Maybe we should send these people out 
to buy their own food. . . ." 



That night I spent a long time thinking of what had happened. 
Thinking of how complicated something simple can become. I 
thought of the house he had bought for us, the rack of Disney 
movies for our someday kids, and the neighbors in Arizona I 
had met and planned newlywed parties with. I thought of the 
wedding dress I had in my closet, the engagement photos, and 
custom wedding ring I twirled absentmindedly on my finger. 
Also there was the fact that in two short months I would have 
nowhere to live and no job. I hadn't anticipated the need for a 
plan B. 

My fiance would call several days after the airport, asking for 
the rings and other personal items back. In trying to understand 
it all, I got detached answers from him and a lecture on following 
the priesthood from his father, citing some scriptures in the 



I have felt like those disciples looking into my own basket, 
shaking my head and knowing there simply weren't enough 
resources in there for the task at hand. But somehow as I made 
tentative steps to rebuild a life, my Advocate and Friend simply 
and gently said, "Just start pulling things out of your basket 
Patti. There will be what you need." 

And so I did. Moving forward with faith, opening my basket 
each morning and praying that someday I wouldn't hurt 
anymore. And little by little, out of my basket, the Lord has 
helped me create a new life instead of being buried by the life 
I thought I should have. He has helped me keep my faith when 
the questions seemed overwhelming and the road so divergent. 
And He helped me trust, when years later another man knelt in 
front of me and asked me a question. 



THE MORMON WOMEN PROJECT EDITION • WINTER 2012 21 



Writing As An Act of Faith: 

An interview With Luisa Perkins. 

Luisa Perkins is a successful fantasy novelist who draws inspiration from her husband and six children 
and the various locations in which she's lived. Luisa talks about the discipline of writing, the challenges 
of writing specifically for a Mornnon audience, and the role of stories in faith and creativity 




HOW DID YOU GET STARTED AS A WRITER? 

I got my professional start when my sister was a graphic 
designer for Grandin Books, a now-defunct independent LDS 
publisher. In 1994, I wrote an essay that Grandin turned into a 
Mother's Day gift booklet, and it sold very well. A few weeks 
later, Grandin's owner then approached me about writing a YA 
novel. He thought there was demand in the LDS market begging 
to be filled. 

I couldn't turn down the challenge, and so my first novel. 
Shannon's Mirror, was born. Grandin published it in December of 
1994. It's about a young gymnast who struggles with anorexia, 
which was a very real issue at the time among young women in 
the Church. 

DO YOU SEE YOURSELF AS A MORMON WRITER OR AS A 
WRITER THAT HAPPENS TO BE MORMON? WHAT DOES 
THAT MEAN TO YOU? 

I'm a Mormon who happens to write. My faith is so central to 
me that it's like breathing: I don't necessarily notice it every 
second, but it makes everything else possible. I don't set out 
to write "Mormon" stories, but my identity as a believing LDS 
person informs every creative choice I make, whether I'm 
writing for the LDS or the national market. On the other hand, a 
lot of the time, writing is like breathing for me too. I often can't 
see myself apart from it. 



The Mormon audience is very diverse— much more so 
than most publishers— national or LDS— realize or want to 
acknowledge. I don't consciously write for that audience; I just 
write the kind of story I want to read. The benefit of having loyal 
LDS fans is that they are enthusiastic proselytizers for your 
work. Word of mouth sells a lot more books than anything else, 
in my experience. 

YOU HAVE SIX KIDS. HOW DO YOU BALANCE PARENTING 
AND WRITING? DO YOU DRAW FROM YOUR CHILDREN 
AND THEIR LIFE EXPERIENCES IN YOUR BOOKS? 

I don't have very many hours in the day to write, so I try to 
make my writing time as efficient as possible. My obsessive 
personality serves me well in this case. Five of my kids are 
in school, so that's when I write. Our youngest likes to sit 
with me and read books or play with toys while I work. It's a 
companionable silence, and I will miss her when she goes to 
kindergarten next year. As good a sport as she is, my best 
writing time is when she is napping. 

As far as the rest of my hours go, I rarely watch TV. I limit my 
time on the internet— and sometimes take fasts from it entirely, 
because I have an addictive personality and the internet can 
really suck me in. I try to stick to a routine for chores and meals. 
My husband and I consciously schedule Date Night and time 
with our kids so that relationships don't get lost in the shuffle 
of our busy lives. 



WHAT ARE SOME OF THE UNIQUE CHALLENGES AND 
BENEFITS OF WRITING FOR THE MORMON MARKET? 
HOW DOES IT DIFFER FROM WRITING FOR THE MARKET 
AT LARGE? 



I definitely draw from my children when I write. I steal dialogue 
and anecdotes and memories from my family constantly. 



22 



EXPONENT I 



HOW DO YOU STAY MOTIVATED AND ON TASK AS A 
WRITER? 

The book The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield, has had an 
enormous influence on my writing life. Pressfield posits that 
professional writers show up and write every day. Whether they 
feel like it or not is immaterial. He describes the writer's constant 
struggle against what he names ''Resistance" (and what I name 
"the adversary"). Whenever I don't feel like writing, I re-read a 
chapter or two of The War of Art. It kicks me right in the pants 
and gets me going again. 

I also have an accountability partner. She's a very successful 
writer named Annette Lyon. Annette also has a family and an 
unbelievably busy life. We email our daily goals to each other, 
then text back and forth as we complete tasks and word counts 
throughout each weekday. I've gotten far more effective with 
my writing time since Annette and I started this partnership 
over a year ago. I strongly recommend finding an accountability 
partner to any struggling writer. 

YOUR WORK SEEMS TO BE VERY GROUNDED IN A SENSE OF 
PLACE. HOW HAVE THE PLACES YOU'VE LIVED CROPPED 
UP IN YOUR WRITING? 

I take a lot of joy and strength from the beauty of my environment. 
I am a very visual writer, and I consciously take time to describe 
the physical setting of the "movie in my head"— the action of 
the story. 

My novel Dispirited is set in Manhattan and the Hudson 
Highlands. My family and I happened to have lived in each place 
for eleven years, so I know and love them both very well. For 
me, the settings are almost characters in the story. The contrast 
between the two places has a lot to say about the novel's theme 
of displacement. 

TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE GENESIS OF YOUR IDEA FOR 
DISPIRITED AND THE PROCESS OF WRITING THE NOVEL 

A long time ago, I read an article about astral projection— the 
process of consciously leaving your body behind and roaming 
about. I thought it sounded fascinating but terribly dangerous. I 
couldn't stop wondering what would happen if some other spirit 
took over your body while you were gone. 

Years later, I saw an evocative photograph of an abandoned 
house in the woods. I immediately knew I had to set a story 




No DAUGHTER 

^kir/dsfv Matter 

MEDIA: Oil on board 

"We have two biological children and two adopted 
children, all boys. Our failed adoption involved a baby 
girl and it brought up all kinds of feelings I didn't know I 
had about having a daughter and what that would have 
meant to me. I did this painting as therapy for myself, to 
express my sadness at the loss of the opportunity to pass 
on what being a woman means to my own daughter. 

"Being a mother is such a pivotal part of being a Mormon 
woman, that when things don't go the way we want 
them to or think they should, it can really hit at the heart 
of everything you believe. I feel that it is important to 
share our experiences and disappointments surrounding 
motherhood in a real and non-judgmental way, so that 
we can have a foundation of compassion for each other. 
This foundation is necessary to have a society of women 
who feel they are sisters in the gospel who can support 
and build each other up, instead of judging and tearing 
each other down." 



THE MORMON WOMEN PROJECT EDITION • WINTER 2012 



23 



there, and I gazed at the photo often as I wrote the story that 
became the novel. Once Zarahemla Books agreed to publish 
Dispirited, I was lucky enough to be able to secure the rights 
to that photo for use on the book's cover. I think it's one of the 
coolest book covers ever, and it perfectly suits the mood and 
tone of the story. 

TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE PROCESS OF WRITING THE 
BOOK 0FJER3MIAH: PREMONITION, YOU WERE INTRIGUED 
BY THE INTERESTING CHALLENGES THAT CAME WITH 
MAKING A NOVELIZATION OUT OF A STORY THAT 
ALREADY EXISTED. 

I was a big fan of the web series The Book of JerSmiah. Its 
creators, Jeff Parkin and Jared Cardon, did groundbreaking stuff 
when they created the show. It got rave reviews from salon.com 
and The New York Times, and it won a Webby award. When Jeff 
and Jared pitched Deseret Book on releasing the show on DVD, 
Deseret Book was enthusiastic about creating a novelization 
as a companion to the series. Jeff and Jared contacted me to 
find out whether I'd be interested in writing the novel, and I was 
thrilled to say yes. 

I watched the entire first season of the show again a few times, 
and then Jeff and Jared gave me the original scripts, which had 
been written by students with direction from Jeff and Jared in 
Jeff's New Media class at BYU. 

Interestingly, the written script often differed significantly from 
what was actually shot, so I watched the series yet again and 
carefully corrected the scripts to conform to the actual dialogue 
and blocking. 

I then used those scripts as outlines. We wanted the novel's 
dialogue to match that of the show pretty closely— so then I 
got to go in and write internal dialogue, character motivation, 
action sequences, and eventually entire scenes that don't 
appear in the series. 

Now that The Book of JerSmioh: Premonition is being released, I 
am excited to start writing the sequel. Season two of the series 
was never filmed, so this time, I won't have scripts to work 
with. But the characters all feel like old friends at this point. I'm 
excited to work with Jeff and Jared to create what happens to 
them next. 



WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CONNECTIONS THAT YOU SEE 
BETWEEN WRITING AND FAITH? 

One of the reasons I write is to pay forward the joy I have gotten 
out of reading countless wonderful books. If I could give that 
gift to others, I would feel very successful indeed. 

Writing is an act of faith; creating anything is an act of faith. It is 
very important to me that I strike a balance in my life between 
consumption and creation— and that I teach that to my 
children. As they read, people recreate the worlds writers have 
created. Lawyers are creative; plumbers are creative. Just about 
anything, if done mindfully, is creative as I define the term. 

Gardening, knitting, cooking, mothering— these are all other 
ways I express creativity, but writing is special to me. God 
created our world using words, and He gave us all a hunger for 
story as a way to find meaning in our lives. So in a way, writing 
feels almost holy to me; perhaps doing one's life's work always 
does. 

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT FOR MORMON WOMEN TO TELL 
STORIES, EITHER FICTIONALLY OR AUTOBIOGRAPHICALLY? 

I think it's crucial for three reasons. First, of course, a huge 
historical void exists. Women have traditionally been silent (or 
silenced). The lack of that perspective on the past impoverishes 
us all— both men and women, both current and future 
generations. We can't fill that void, but we can make sure that it 
doesn't continue. Our voices need to be heard. 

Second, sharing stories benefits the teller at least as much as 
the receiver. I find joy and clarity and therapeutic insight as I 
articulate a theme close to my heart or recreate something 
definitive that has happened to me. Every writer I know has the 
same experience. 

Third, Mormon women sometimes tend to isolate themselves 
within shells of competence and busy-ness. They then can fall 
prey to the lie that they are all alone with their burdens. Even 
though the rest of the world sees them as on top of their lives, 
they suffer what Thoreau called "quiet desperation." Telling 
stories makes us vulnerable, but experiencing one another's 
stories helps us out of those shells and opens our eyes to the 
reality that others share the same struggles. I think that's a real 
key to unity. 



24 EXPONENT I 



INTERVIEWS 



THE POWER OF CHOICE IN STORYTELLING: 

AN INTERVIEW WITH ANGELA HALLSTROM 




Angela Hallstrom is the oward-winning author of Bound on Earth, a novel in short 
stories, and the editor of Dispensation: Latter-Day Fiction, o collection of short fiction 
by Mornnon authors. As a nnother of four, a part-tinne college English instructor, and a senninary 
teacher in her Minnesota stake, Angela nnanages to balance the arts of writing, and editing with her busy 
life. She believes in the power of story to increase our understanding of and compassion for our fellow hunnan 
beings. 



WHEN DID YOU COME INTO YOUR WRITERHOOD? HOW 
DID YOU DISCOVER YOUR ABILITY TO WRITE? 

I have always loved words. I've always been a big reader, and 
many of my childhood memories are of well-loved books and 
reading. I majored in English at Brigham Young University, 
and after I graduated I became a high school English teacher. 
During most of that time I dabbled in writing a little bit, but the 
majority of my energy relating to story and language had to do 
more with literature: with reading literature, with writing about 
literature, with teaching literature. And even though I dabbled in 
it, I hadn't really started to pursue fiction writing seriously until 
we moved to Minnesota. We moved from Utah to Minnesota 
when I had two small children. I had been teaching full time up 
until that point. Suddenly I was home with two kids, and I knew 
I needed to maintain my connection with language and stories. 
So that's when I started writing more seriously. I enrolled in a 
graduate program at Hamline University that was originally in 
liberal studies, but the more I started writing fiction, the more I 
realized how much I loved it, and I moved into the MFA program. 
That was when I began studying how to write more seriously. 
I had always thought that writing was this mysterious gift 
that bestowed itself upon only a select few: those people who 
felt compelled to write for hours and hours and couldn't drag 
themselves away from the computer. Because I wasn't that 
person— because sitting down and facing that blank page and 
blinking cursor was often challenging for me— I never thought 
that I was destined to be a writer, or that I was a "real" writer. 
But now I am a firm believer that writing is a choice. While there 
very well may be a "muse" for some, and while there may be 
that feeling of being compelled to write by some force outside 



yourself, for me, the majority of the time writing has been an 
active choice. Reading is always a pleasure. I'll read any time. 
But writing, especially when I begin a project, takes discipline 
and courage. Once I'm in the middle of a writing project and 
really humming, then I feel that compelling drive take over. And 
once I finish a project I'm always grateful to have written. But no 
matter how much I write, the empty page is always daunting. 
I'm just glad that I pushed through my mistaken belief that fear 
of the empty page somehow disqualified me to write at all. 

WHAT MOTIVATES YOU TO MAKE THAT CHOICE TO WRITE 
AND TO CONTINUE MAKING THAT CHOICE? 

I find a great deal of power in story. Like I said before, I've 
always loved reading. The school subjects I was always most 
interested in were history, psychology, and literature— anything 
that had to do with people and what made them tick. Writing 
allows me the opportunity to imagine all of these lives, which is 
very satisfying. 

AS WOMEN WE ARE OFTEN TOLD WE ARE CO-CREATORS 
WITH GOD. IN WHAT WAYS HAVE YOU PARTNERED WITH 
GOD TO HELP YOUR LIFE STORY UNFOLD? 

I think God is very interested in people choosing to act. 
Embracing agency and exercising the power of choice is 
central to our progression as God's children. Writing stories 
has actually given me a lot of insight into the power of agency 
and action, and so has teaching writing, because I have studied 
how to write stories and how story-making happens. Writing a 
story seems very simple, but in fact it is very, very hard. Along 



THE MORMON WOMEN PROJECT EDITION • WINTER 2012 25 



with working as a writer and a teacher, I have been the editor of 
Irreontum [the literary magazine of the Association for Mormon 
Letters] and have worked on Segullah [a literary magazine and 
blog for LDS women], and I have been involved in lots and lots 
of contests where I have read people's fiction. It is incredibly 
hard to write a good story. Part of the reason is because people 
think that, in order to write a good story, the only thing that 
has to happen is something interesting or out of the ordinary. 
But that's not true. What makes good stories is when people 
actually make a decision in the face of the things that happen 
to them. So it's not enough to have a story about someone who, 
let's say, wins a lot of money in the lottery. Winning the lottery 
would definitely be out of the ordinary. But you don't have a 
good story until the main character chooses to act in the face 
of this life-changing event and then reaps the consequences of 
those choices. 

I think the same thing is true within our own 
lives. Just as with a good story, I believe that 
a good life is made up of brave choices and 
being willing to own your choices and move 
forward and ahead. There is a Spanish proverb 
I like: "Take what you want, and then pay for it, 
says God." That is the crux of all good stories, 
I believe, and God wants us to learn how to do 
that. If part of the reason we are here on earth 
is to learn to become like God, we have to learn 
how to make choices and accept responsibility 
for the choices that we make. We must live life 
in such a way that we are always searching for 
the opportunity to bring God into our decision- 
making process, but also in such a way that we 
are not static or passive. Rather, we are active 
partners with God in our own life. 

I remember right after we got married my husband and I were 
in Provo trying to find somewhere to live. I was really young- 
only twenty when I got married. My husband was twenty-one, 
and he'd been home from his mission for five months. We had 
gone and visited this tiny little hole of an apartment, and I 
remember saying to my husband, "So, we need to pray and ask 
Heavenly Father if this is the right apartment." So I stood there, 
outside and around the corner from the apartment, and folded 
my arms. I said the prayer and I sat there for a minute, waiting 
for an answer of some kind, and there was nothing. I was very 
frustrated because I didn't feel anything. Why wouldn't God 
reveal to me which apartment we were supposed to choose? 
I can remember my husband saying to me, "You know, maybe 



what God wants us to do is to choose where we want to 
live. Maybe it's just up to us." It sounds almost silly now, but 
that moment was, ironically, a revelation to me. I had always 
assumed that God had made all the big decisions for me, and 
that my job was to be in tune enough to hear Him when He 
revealed to me this future that had already been planned. The 
longer I live, though, the more I see that truly being a co-creator 
with God is dependent on our ability to choose for ourselves 
and take ownership of those choices— with a willingness, 
always, to listen to God's promptings about what's right and 
what's wrong. Because He will help us. But He hasn't made the 
decisions: we have to do that. 

Circling back around to writing and how it relates to agency— I 
have had terrible problems with writer's block, and I think a 
lot of writers have had that same problem. You write yourself 
into a corner, and you're afraid to move in 
any direction because you think. What if I 
am writing this story into the ditch? Then I 
am going to have to go back and revise it, or 
even start over completely. We think this even 
though we all know— anybody who has ever 
tried to write or anybody who has ever even 
taken a writing class knows— that revision is at 
the core of good writing. If you are constantly 
trying to avoid revision, if you think, "Well, 
what I am going to do is write this thing all in 
one shot, and it's going to be great and I'll avoid 
making any mistakes," you are never going to 
be able to get anything done that way. You're 
never going to be able to write your story. 
The same thing can happen in our own lives. 
We can have essentially that same desperate 
feeling of writer's block, of being terrified to go in one direction 
or the other because we are worried that if we go down one path 
we might have to circle back around. We might have to revise. 
But I think that sometimes God is also saying to us, "Well, life 
is just one constant round of revision." Life is not linear. The 
writing process isn't linear. If you are too afraid of ever having to 
revise your life, then you are also going to be stuck. 

Not to say that it's not terrifying. Writing, like life, is scary. 
You are constantly being forced to choose as a writer. You are 
constantly making decisions for your characters, and it can 
be terrifying to contemplate that you might be making the 
wrong decision in your writing. But the only thing you can do is 
abandon that need to control everything and just jump in and 
start and have faith that you will get there in the end. That's 



Just as with a 
good story, I 
believe that a 
good life is made 
up of brave 
choices and 
being willing 
to own your 
choices and 
move forward 
and ahead. 



EXPONENT I 



ultimately what good writers are able to do: have faith that they 
will get there some day. Sometimes it takes a really, really, really 
long time. I had a writing professor who was a great mentor of 
mine— her name is Sheila O'Connor— and I remember sitting 
in a class of hers. She had just published a novel that was 
probably about 250 pages long, and someone in the class asked 
her, "How many pages do you think you wrote?" And I don't 
remember the exact number, but I remember her saying, like, 
thousands. She had written thousands of pages to come up with 
those 250 pages. I remember being stunned by the number, but 
I also remember thinking, "Yeah, that's what it takes to write a 
truly great novel". Again, I think this applies to how we live our 
lives. We would like to be able to have these epiphanies, these 
moments where everything is just startlingly clear. Every once in 
a while that happens, but I think it's pretty rare. I think most of 
the time we have to write thousands of pages in order to create 
our 250-page novel. 

HOW DO YOU THINK THE INSPIRATION OR THE SPIRIT OR 
WHATEVER YOU'D LIKE TO CALL IT-THE MUSE-WORKS 
IN YOUR STORY-TELLING? IS THAT THE SAME AS THE 
SPIRIT THAT OPERATES IN YOUR LIFE? 

Actually, I think there are some real similarities. The idea 
that writing can be a spiritual experience, on the one hand, is 
often true. I have had some very spiritual experiences writing. 
I've had some really wonderful epiphanies. But like with pure, 
unquestionable revelation, at least for me, the startling epiphany 
is rare. When it comes, you appreciate it and you know to savor 
it. But for the most part, I just have to keep putting one foot in 
front of the other as a writer. And I have to do it with faith that I 
will eventually get where I need to be. I don't start a story with 
an unshakeable idea in mind of where it's going to go or even 
of what it is going to be. I know that some writers write with 
everything all outlined and with a firm idea of the end in mind. 
But I really don't. I start with the idea of a character, and I start 
with the idea of a conflict— what this character wants or what 
this character is searching for— but I don't really know until I 
have revised and revised what the character's desire actually is. 
What I thought the character wanted wasn't actually what the 
character wanted. But it's only through the process of revision 
that I know what the story is going to be about. I don't get these 
bolts of inspiration. I don't dream up really big complicated plots 
and stories and outcomes and then just have to sit down and 
type them out. Sometimes I wish I could operate that way; it 
seems it would be more efficient. 




DOLL SELF PORTRAIT 

MEDIA: Oil on canvas with collage 

'This piece expresses the frustration I felt as a single LDS 
woman with a desire for marriage surrounded by a throng 
of equally as beautiful, talented, and spiritual women. 
When I painted this I was out of graduate school and 
wondering what was next. I spent a lot of time wondering 
what was wrong with me and how I could improve in 
order to be marriageable (art degrees aren't especially 
lucrative). This is making me laugh as I write it now, but I 
kept going and let my life play on. Eventually I got married 
and lo and behold! My life, as before, is still frustrating 
and full of contradictions. This painting was my way of 
putting a picture to what I was experiencing at a critical 
bend in my life path." 



THE MORMON WOMEN PROJECT EDITION • WINTER 2012 27 




WHAT ARE SOME OF THE GREAT STORIES THAT YOU LOOK 
TO FOR YOUR WELLS OF INSPIRATION, AND WHAT MAKES 
THEM GREAT? 

One of my favorite novels of all time is Gilead, by Marilynn 
Robinson. I think it's a great novel for three reasons. The first 
is that the language is just amazing. I am in awe of Robinson's 
facility with language, with what she is able to do with the 
written word. Aesthetically, it is a very enjoyable experience to 
read her writing. Second, I think she understands people. She's 
a very empathetic writer. When you read her writing you know 
that she loves the people she has created, even those who 
are making bad choices, and she wants to understand them. 
I think that too often people believe that a ''bad" character 
must have bad or evil desires. In real life, most people— there 
are always outliers, of course— think the choices they make are 
reasonable. And you as the writer have to be able to understand 
that choice even if you yourself would never do what that 
character does. You at least have to be able to understand why 
they would believe that what they are doing is reasonable. Her 
characters are always very believable because she gives them 
that humanity. 

The final reason is that she is one of the few contemporary 
writers of literary fiction who dares to be religious. So many 
contemporary fiction writers create worlds that are completely 
secular, although it's occasionally okay to be spiritual, if it's 
a nonreligious kind of spirituality. If these writers include 
religious people in their stories, usually those characters who 
affiliate with an organized religion or a church of some kind are 
unintelligent or close-minded or emotionally stunted. Even if the 
authors believe they are being charitable to those characters, 
there seems to be a whiff of condescension toward them. 



Marilynn Robinson does not do that. She is a religious person 
herself, and her characters are often very religious people. She 
is able to handle religiosity in a way, though, that isn't didactic, 
which is very difficult to do as well. I think this is why she has 
been so celebrated by the literary establishment, too, because 
she's able to avoid didacticism. Of course, it doesn't hurt that 
she's a genius. 

what is the heart of story for you? is it revealing 
something about the human condition or 
creating an aesthetic object for enjoyment? 
1^ . what is it about story that keeps you coming 
Zj back to it? 

For me — and I know that it's different for other people — the 
reason I love story is all about the human condition. Story helps 
us understand people better. Even if you are someone who is 
lucky enough to travel all over the world or to have come into 
contact with lots and lots of interesting people, it's very difficult 
to step outside of the bubble of your own life. The more you can 
try to understand other people and their lives, the better off you 
are. That's what story does for us— it allows us to at least get a 
glimpse into someone else's world. Through that we can build 
understanding, cooperation, charity— everything that is at the 
core of building a good world. 

That's why, to me, literature and a liberal arts education are 
so important. Of course it's important to have all the science 
and technology and math. But we shouldn't lose sight of what 
can be gained in a good liberal arts education. Hearing stories 
and becoming acquainted with great art, great philosophers, 
and great cultures, allows us to inhabit the world of someone 
who is very different from us and to encounter new ideas. That 
makes the world better for all of us. There's a quote I really 
like by Richard Russo, who is a contemporary fiction writer, 
found in The Best American Sliort Stories 2007 (ed. Stephen King 
[New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2007]): 'The study of 
literature has had what I believe to be a salutary effect on my 
own character, making me less self-conscious and vain, more 
empathetic and imaginative, maybe even kinder. Perhaps it's an 
oversimplification, but as I've gotten older, I've come to wonder 
if maybe this is what reading all those great books is really for— 
to engender and promote charity. Sure, literature entertains 
and instructs, but to what end, if not compassion?" (409). I love 
that quote, and I think that's actually part of what all of you are 
doing at the Mormon Women Project. Through telling stories 
you're engendering charity and compassion. 



28 EXPONENT I 



DOES SPIRITUAL AUTOBIOGRAPHY HAVE A PLACE IN 
YOUR LIFE? 

I've read a number of autobiographies by Mormon women in 
the last little while. I really enjoyed Emma Lou Thayne's most 
recent memoir, The Place of Knowing. It is excellent. Kathryn 
Lynard Soper's The Year My Son and I Were Born is excellent. And 
I read Jana Riess's Flunking Sainthood. Even though that one is 
a little different from a traditional memoir in form, I also really 
enjoyed it. I am ashamed to say that I have not yet read Joanna 
Brooks' The Book of Mornnon Girl: Stories from an Annerican Faith, 
but it is on my list of books I need to read immediately. 

We can learn a lot through story, and it doesn't even necessarily 
need to be a true autobiographical story. I write primarily 
fictional stories, although I hope that they still 
feel true. Actually, people often assume that 
the stories I write are autobiographical even 
when they are fiction, which can be either 
funny or frustrating depending on my mood. I 
wrote a short story last year that was recently 
published in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon 
Thought which was intended to be read as 
fiction, but I know it's close enough to my own 
life that some people will assume it's all true. 
So I do it to myself. Sometimes I wish I was 
the kind of writer who, when people asked me, 
"What's your story about?" could say, "It's 
about vampires! It's about time travel!" Well, 
my most recent story is about a forty-year-old 
Mormon mom who goes on a walk. Not only 
does that description lead people to think it's autobiographical 
(because who makes up a story about a forty-year-old Mormon 
mom going on a walk?) but I realize it doesn't sound very exciting 
on the face of it, either. I totally understand that. But the story is 
about more than this very thin plot summary can encapsulate— 
at least I hope it is. It's about motherhood and loneliness and 
love and— here's this theme again— how terrifying it can be to 
make choices in life. And the only way I knew how to give voice 
to those themes was through story. 

I think we need to have stories. The more stories that are 
focused on being as honest and brave as possible about real 
life, the better off we all are. I believe there is a lot of comfort 
and a lot of hope to be found in the sharing of one another's 
stories, whether fiction or nonfiction. 



WHAT MAKES A STORY TRUE EVEN IF IT'S FICTIONAL? 
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CHARACTERISTICS YOU LOOK 
FOR? 

There is an element of courage. There's a lack of reliance on 
easy answers. There's a phrase, deus ex machina, or "God from 
the machine," which, loosely interpreted, means "God made it 
happen," or as it applies to literature means "the author made 
it happen." In fiction, deus ex machina is employed when all of a 
sudden out of the clear blue sky some improbable intervention 
or unlikely miracle comes and solves all of your problems. That's 
one of the issues I find in dishonest fiction: problems are solved 
for the characters. Anton Chekov says, "What is obligatory 
for the artist is not solving a problem but stating a problem 
correctly." Sometimes, especially as Mormons, we're tempted 
to think what we need to do is solve a problem 
in our writing. Sometimes those solutions 
are way too easy because we are trying to fit 
them into a certain number of pages. Then 
the story rings false because real life doesn't 
work like that. In real life, very few of us have 
some answer come sweep down and save us. 
The knight in shining armor does not appear 
for most people. So I think that honest fiction 
doesn't rely on a deus ex machina to come save 
the day. I also think that, like I said before 
when talking about characters, honest fiction 
refuses to make all its good characters heroes 
and all its flawed characters villains. There 
is an element of shadow in all characters no 
matter what it is that they are doing. I think 
that can even be true in genre fiction. I know people who will 
say, "Oh, well, in a murder mystery, the bad guy can just be a 
mustache-twirling villain and that's okay." Well, you know, in 
some of the good mysteries I've read, that's not the case either. 
People are complicated. 

HOW DOES STORY WORK IN YOUR CHILDREN'S 
EDUCATION OR THEIR SPIRITUAL FORMATION? 

I think that it is important for kids to read, of course, and books 
have always been a big part of my kids' lives. I hope they are 
learning all the different things they can learn from all the books 
they read, whether those be science books or fantasy novels. 

I also think story is important in spiritual formation, or religious 
education. Last year I taught early morning seminary, and I did 
the Old Testament. One of the things I loved about teaching 



Life is not linear. 
The writing 
process isn't 
linear. If you 
are too afraid 
of ever having 
to revise your 
life, then you are 
also going to be 
stuck. 

1 ^1' 



THE MORMON WOMEN PROJECT EDITION • WINTER 2012 29 



the Old Testament was all the stories. It was fascinating to get 
underneath all of those stories and to be able to talk to the 
students and say, "Let's really try to imagine what Hagar must 
have felt like when she was cast out into the wilderness. Let's try 
to imagine what Sarah must have felt like with Ishmael being the 
firstborn son but having a desire to have Isaac be the birthright 
son. Let's put ourselves in these real people's shoes and then 
apply that to our own lives. How does it feel?" There's so much 
jealousy in the Old Testament, for example, and looking at all 
those stories was a great way to be able to talk about jealousy, 
what it does, and how it can infect our lives. And I think it has 
more of an impact than simply saying, "God tells us. Thou shalt 
not covet.'" That's just an abstract commandment. But if we can 
make it into a concrete story with real people who have real 
longings and real disappointments and real choices that are 
difficult and complicated, then I think it's easier for our children 
to apply in their own lives. 

WOULD YOU TALK FOR JUST A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOUR 
OWN CREATIVE PRACTICE AND HOW YOU BALANCE ALL 
THE ELEMENTS OF YOUR LIFE? 

I will say I have a lot going on in my life right now, which is 
true of almost anyone no matter what part of life they are in. 
But I'm in a part of life that is pretty jam-packed. I have four 
kids, and they range in age from five to sixteen. I have a part- 
time job as a writing teacher, and teaching is just as important 
to me as writing. When I lived in Utah I taught at BYU as an 
adjunct for a while, but here in Minnesota I've been teaching 
at a local community college. So between my teaching job and 
everything at home that goes on and my church callings, I try to 
work in time to write in the nooks and crannies of my life. I have 
given up— and some people who are very dedicated artists will 
probably not agree with me here— but I have given up the idea 
that right now in my life I can be a great writer. This is simply 
because I'm not able to dedicate the amount of time that the art 
form requires. That said, I have enough time and energy to write 
one short story that I am satisfied with a year. I know that to 
some people that probably sounds like a very dribbling amount. 
But for me it fits into my life right now in a satisfying way. I have 
every expectation that in other seasons of my life I will have 
more time, but it's also important to me to keep that part of 
myself active and engaged, so I keep at it, a little at a time. 

WHAT SORT OF EFFECT DOES MAKING THAT CHOICE AS 
AN LDS WOMAN HAVE ON YOU? ARE THE STEREOTYPICAL 
GENDER ROLES SOMETHING YOU WRESTLE WITH? 



Definitely. I wasn't able to find a teaching job for a year and a 
half after we moved to Minnesota, I'd left behind the literary 
community I'd built up in Utah, and I felt the loss of those things 
keenly. I really struggled with being jealous of people who could 
just leave and go be in an office and write if they wanted to and 
have some quiet and solitude. I also missed teaching a great 
deal. I felt like my life was primarily about supporting the needs 
of all those around me, which is of course a very noble and 
important role to fill, but I also felt that pursing my creative and 
professional pursuits— even in a limited way— was essential to 
my feeling like a whole person. 

That said, I wouldn't change the life that I have now for anything. 
I'm grateful that I made the choices that I have made to be able 
to be present in my kids' lives as much as possible. I am married 
to a good man who wants me to be happy and who supports 
whatever choice I make— at least so far! And circling back 
to that quote, "Take what you want and then pay for it, says 
God"— everything that's in my life right now that is battling for 
my attention, I want. I want all of it. I'm going to have to make 
sacrifices in different areas of my life, but if I can own those 
choices, I am much less likely to feel resentful or angsty. If I can 
do that, then I am able to have a little bit more serenity about 
some of the sacrifices that I have to make in order to enjoy the 
wonderful benefits of having a family and actively serving in the 
Church, for example. 

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO WOMEN WHO HAVE A DESIRE 
TO TELL STORIES, AND HOW WOULD YOU ENCOURAGE 
THEM TO TELL THOSE STORIES? 

First of all, I believe that any time people choose to tell their 
stories that it adds to our collective sense of compassion and 
charity. Sometimes as Mormon women we think of service as 
making a casserole and taking it to a neighbor or babysitting 
someone's children. Those are definitely acts of service, and 
they are wonderful, but writing can also be an act of service. 
I think sometimes people imagine writing as a very solitary 
thing. You have this image of a writer holed up alone with his or 
her own thoughts, and that happens, obviously, in the writing 
process. But ultimately, if you are writing with the purpose of 
having other people read it, you have to believe that adding your 
voice to the world— especially if you do it in a spirit of wanting 
people to come together— can increase the power of good in 
the world. And I think that's a noble thing. 



EXPONENT I 



The Place of Knowing 

A Spiritual Autobiography 

BY EMMA Lou WARNER THAYNE 



"Spiritual perception in the real world is tricky. The reality 
of life gets in the way of living in the Spirit— it's hard to stay 
there/' Ennma Lou Thayne writes in the Epilogue of her latest 
book, The Place of Knowing. How often have I felt that! In my 
life as a busy twenty-first-century Mormon woman and mother, 
a self-employed literary agent and freelance editor, a wife, 
homemaker, citizen, volunteer, and friend, it seems there is 
little room left over for "living in the Spirit." However, my friend 
Emma Lou Thayne proves it can be done and 
with incredible results. Emma Lou manages 
to stay spiritually perceptive in her "real" life 
better than anyone I have ever known. 




story of her 
accident, 

the story at the heart of The Place of 
Knowing. We talked like old friends for over an hour. Emma Lou 
has a talent for making you feel known, accepted, and perfectly 
at ease while drawing out your deepest thoughts. I knew 
immediately that I wanted to work with her, that knowing her 
and being known by her would bless my life. 



I had the pleasure and privilege of meeting 
Emma Lou in 2006, when she enlisted my help 
to find a distributor for the audio edition of The 
Place of Knowing: A Spiritual Autobiography. At 
the time, she had struggled to find a publisher 
for the work and had independently recorded 
an audio edition, which she had been selling 
herself out of boxes stored in her basement. 
She was teaching a course on writing your 
own story as a part of the Lifelong Learning 
program at the University of Utah and wanted 
to use the book as part of her course materials. 
She dearly wanted to see it in a print edition, 
and, as a literary agent, I agreed to help her 
find a national publisher to take it on. The local 
LDS publishers she had already approached 
had been wary of the more mystical concepts ^^^^^^^ 
discussed in the book, despite Emma Lou's 
reputation as one of the greatest poets and writers of the LDS 
faith. 



In the years I 
have known 
Emma Lou, I 
have come to 
recognize that 
this need to 
share divine 
grace with 
others, to be a 
flame that draws 
out the flame in 
others, informs 

her thoughts, 
her actions, her 
words. 



I listened as she told me her stories: she is the 
mother of five daughters and grandmother 
of nineteen boys and girls, an accomplished 
tennis player who coached the University of 
Utah Women's Tennis team and taught English 
classes at the U while raising her young family, 
and a prolific poet and the author of thirteen 
books. From the time her children were small, 
she would stay up all night once a week so she 
could have time to read, think, write, and listen 
to what the night had to give. 

Then there was the story of her remarkable 
accident. 



I'll never forget our first meeting— it was a snowy, dark evening 
when I arrived at her home, somewhat nervous to meet this living 
legend. She met me with open arms, bright eyes and such curiosity 
about me and my life— any nerves I had were immediately 
forgotten as we talked about writing, my life, politics, and the 



In June of 1986, Emma Lou Thayne was coming 
home from a family camping trip with her son- 
in-law Jim at the wheel. Without warning, 
a three-foot long, six-pound, L-shaped iron 
rod, the kind used to hold the mud flap on an 
eighteen-wheel trailer truck, came crashing 
through the windshield and struck her in the 
face, narrowly missing her right eye and causing eight fractures 
and a broken jaw and killing six teeth. Her face had to be 
surgically screwed back together with titanium plates. Police 
and doctors said no one should have survived a blow of such 
force. Jim, who had witnessed it happen, said, "No way you 
could have survived. Grey" (Emma Lou is ''Grandma Grey" to 
her grandchildren). Emma Lou felt strangely detached from the 
experience, like she was floating somewhere above it all. 



THE MORMON WOMEN PROJECT EDITION • WINTER 2012 31 



In The Place of Knowing, Emma Lou describes how during 
months of surgeries and recuperation, she struggled to become 
herself again: she suffered from violent nightmares and found 
that she couldn't cry or laugh as she used to. She felt remote, 
disconnected, unable to feel anything. A friend recommended 
she meet Rachel, a gifted intuitive who 'Yead" her chakras. In 
Hindu and Buddhist traditions, chakras are energy centers of 
the body and their state of balance reflects in our physical, 
mental, and emotional health. Rachel told Emma Lou: 

You ore walking very lightly on the earth. You have been to the 
place of knowing, and you have come back to do something. 
You have made a promise— to tell us about that place of 
knowing. Until you can do it, the sadness will be there. 

This resonated deeply for Emma Lou and started her on a 
journey of exploration to figure out exactly what had happened 
to her in the accident. A friend was the first one to speak it out 
loud: "But of course I understand," she told Emma Lou. "You 
died." Around this time, Emma Lou awoke from a dream one 
morning knowing she had revisited the place she had gone to in 
the accident— her childhood home. This particular dream was 
life altering. Even after she awoke, she felt she could re-enter 
the place she had been in the dream throughout the next day. 
She writes: 

It was less of a dream than an awakening to the child life I 
had known. In my vision, I still knew every castor bean in the 
spindly garden, every crack in the uneven pavement, where 
my family— of no age as their forever selves— were waiting 
for me, a total enveloping of time. The family at the table the 
way we always sat: Father, Gill, Mother, me. Grandma at the 
end opposite Father; on the other side. Homer, Richard— three 
gone, four still here. Then I was almost awake, crying, my 
tears welling and spilling in a joy beyond joy, everything and 
everyone utterly dear, accessible, totally there. . . . I was the 
true me again, in my freedom and rightness— effortless, my 
being in both worlds. 

Emma Lou describes the state of being she experienced in this 
dream and during her accident as "childness"— an idea very 
different from the concept of heaven she had been taught and 
had imagined in her pre-accident life. Such experiences have 
led Emma Lou to believe deeply in the communicative power 
of dreams— often poems come to her fully formed in dreams. 

As months and years passed, Emma Lou came to better 
understand where she had been during her accident and what 
it meant for her and for all of us. She felt a deep sense of calling, 
that a charge had been given to her: 



Out of the grace offered to me, I could ask for ways to offer it 
to others. Not only to live with the serenity of abiding in the 
place of no fear, but to let others know of that place and of the 
light awaiting them. I had to let them know that such light is 
available without an iron rod through a windshield. For anyone 
paying attention and expecting, that grace will open doors to 
receiving it. 

In the years I have known Emma Lou, I have come to recognize 
that this need to share divine grace with others, to be a flame 
that draws out the flame in others, informs her thoughts, her 
actions, her words. She sees the world through spiritual eyes, 
and her job is to guide others to a similar state of "knowing." 

The Place of Knowing is an intimate look into what it means to 
"know" in this way, as Emma Lou shares her very personal history: 
she writes of a daughter's struggle with bi-polar disorder as the 
genesis for writing the hymn "Where Can I Turn for Peace" and 
about becoming an activist for nuclear disarmament at the end 
of the Cold War. She writes of her relationship with a painter 
named Paul Fini, a young gay man who would die of AIDS and 
leave fourteen paintings, representing the Stations of the Cross, 
in Emma Lou's care, and she explores her unique perspective 
on nighttime and what it can teach us if we are open and 
listening. She tells stories of growing up, of making remarkable 
connections with people throughout the world, of healings, of 
losing dear friends. Woven throughout the book are her poems, 
often the purest distillation of her brushes with the divine. The 
subtitle, "A Spiritual Autobiography," is a perfect description 
of her memoir. The book is full of beautiful scenes and moving 
stories, but more importantly, it maps the course of Emma 
Lou's spirit: what she felt, how she grew, what she learned, how 
the finger of God moved people and events to shape who Emma 
Lou Warner Thayne would become. 

For all her spiritual connectedness and willingness to 
explore any and all avenues of divinity, inside and outside of 
Mormonism, Emma Lou is not all serious. She is first and 
foremost a supremely joyful person. Part of her "childness" is 
that she loves to have fun. She delights in living to the fullest. 
As you read, you can't help but wish you might have been born 
into one of her daughters' families, so Grandma Grey would 
take you on one of her "sprees" for your birthday. Emma Lou's 
father had a motto that she still lives every day: "Try hard, play 
fair, have fun." Above all, Emma Lou is a down-to-earth mystic: 
she is utterly open to the delights of this world while seeing into 
the next. 

★ ★ ★ 



32 



EXPONENT I 



FAMILIES Are Forever 

MEDIA: Mixed Mediums (cliarcoal, pencil, digital medio) 

'This composition is a symbolism of my Polynesian culture 
and LDS religious upbringing. Both influences play important 
roles in my life. They also emphasize the importance and 
need for a strong family unit in today's society." 




We tried for over a year to find a publisher for the book, without 
success. Many editors thought it was a remarkable story, but 
it was too Mormon (no one wanted stories about Mormons 
in 2007), or it was too difficult to categorize— not quite 
Memoir, not really Religion, not Christian, not New Age. It was 
disheartening for both of us, but we eventually reached a point 
where I could do nothing more for the book. We reluctantly 
parted ways, at least in a business sense, and Emma Lou went 
back to her local publishing contacts, where she eventually 
found a champion in an old friend, Gibbs Smith, who agreed 
to publish the book. Finally, after so many years of waiting and 
hoping, the book was published in 2011. 

As I again immerse myself in The Place of Knowing, I'm struck not 
just by how remarkable Emma Lou's experiences are, but how 
mindful she is about recording and sharing them. One of her 
great gifts as a teacher is nudging each of us to pay attention: 
to the day-to-day brushes with the divine, the visions, the 
coincidences that change our paths forever. I empathize with 
Emma Lou's daughter when she remonstrates: "Mother, don't 
you know that ninety percent of us live ninety-nine percent 
of the time simply in the experience? In all the rush, who has 
the time even for the inclination, let alone the chance, ever to 
do more? Oh, would I love to." As the mother of three small 
children, I find that with a business to run on the side, the 
mundane tasks of daily life seem to consume every scrap of my 
time and energy with nothing left over for pondering, reflecting, 
and, especially, recording. Yet Emma Lou has managed to write, 
to think, and to have a rich spiritual life, while being extremely 
busy. Emma Lou writes: 

Days go by so fast I can't live them. Only reflection saves 
their gifts to my life. I hope this book makes clear that they 
are there for anyone, the small miracles. But only through 
paying attention can we respect and retain what is there to 



awaken us, to guide us to a state of realization. The gifts. The 
observable offerings from the divine and the human continue if 
I simply take time to notice the subtle destiny. . . . What it takes 
is that first step: paying attention. Attention to experience that 
becomes a story of our own. 

Emma Lou inspires me to strive for deeper examination, a slow 
savoring of moments and details, and to keep a small notepad 
handy to record it all. Even right after her accident, when she 
couldn't see well enough to read, Emma Lou was writing it all 
down. "Open up that notepad, and see if God won't fill it, and 
you, with glimpses of the divine," I imagine her saying. Her 
stories inspire me to acknowledge my own story, to live more 
mindfully and notice the details: the slant of the early evening 
sun on the grass, the curve of my chubby toddler's cheek, the 
light in my daughter's eye as she perfects a cartwheel. 

Emma Lou will be remembered by the historians as a trail blazer: 
first woman serving on the board of the Deseret News, a lauded 
poet, and Mormon mystic. To me, her legacy is being a woman 
who is open to all things light, whether that light originates in a 
Mormon chapel, an Irish Cathedral, an ancient Native American 
temple, or from a stranger on a train. Foremost, Emma Lou 
is a mother, who loves fiercely, holds her children tight, and 
knows that heaven is where we sit down with our families at 
an endless banquet of love and understanding. I believe that all 
women, especially mothers, can sense the rightness of heaven 
being about connecting forever with those we love most. Emma 
Lou would show us the way to find this true home, both as a 
state of being in this life and a comforting place to look forward 
to in the next. This is the place of knowing. 



THE MORMON WOMEN PROJECT EDITION • WINTER 2012 33 



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