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Winter 01-02 issue.

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IRREANTUM
EXPLORING MORMON LITERATURE

MAGAZINE OF THE ASSOCIATION FOR MORMON LETTERS


WINTER 2001–2002 • $4.00

Brady Udall, novelist


Also featuring Camille Traveller Bell, Bill Caudle, Melva Gifford,
Diana Simmons, and Darlene Young
Fiction, reviews, literary news, and more
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IRREANTUM
MAGAZINE OF THE ASSOCIATION FOR MORMON LETTERS

E D I T O R I A L S T A F F

Christopher K. Bigelow . . . . . . Managing editor Scott R. Parkin . . . . . Speculative fiction coeditor


Tory Anderson . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Fiction editor Todd Robert Petersen . . . . . . . . . . . Essay editor
Harlow Clark . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Poetry editor Jana Bouck Remy . . . . . . . . . . . . . Review editor
Tracie Laulusa . . . . . . . . . Assistant review editor Edgar C. Snow Jr. . . . . . . . Rameumptom editor
Marny K. Parkin . . . . Speculative fiction coeditor
and AML-List Highlights editor

A M L B O A R D

Gideon Burton . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . President D. Michael Martindale . . . . . . . . Board member


Cherry Silver . . . . . . . . . . Annual meeting chair Tyler Moulton . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Board member
Sharlee Mullins Glenn . . . . . . . . Board member Eric Samuelsen . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Board member
Gae Lyn Henderson . . . . . . . . . . Board member Kathleen Dalton-Woodbury . . . . Board member

A M L S T A F F

Lavina Fielding Anderson . . AML ANNUAL editor Terry L Jeffress . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Webmaster


Christopher K. Bigelow . . . . . . Managing editor Jonathan Langford . . . . . . . . AML-List moderator
John-Charles Duffy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Treasurer Scott R. Parkin . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Awards chair
Andrew Hall . . . . . Assistant AML-List moderator Melissa Proffitt . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Secretary

IRREANTUM (ISSN 1528-0594) is published four times a year This magazine has no official connection with or endorsement
by the Association for Mormon Letters (AML), P.O. Box 51364, by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Provo, UT 84605-1364, (801) 714-1326, www.aml-online.org. IRREANTUM welcomes unsolicited essays, reviews, fiction,
© 2002 by the Association for Mormon Letters. Membership in poetry, and other manuscripts, and we invite letters intended
the AML is $25 for one year, which includes an IRREANTUM for publication. Please submit all manuscripts and queries to
subscription. Subscriptions to IRREANTUM may be purchased irreantum2@cs.com. If you do not have access to e-mail, you
separately from AML membership for $16 per year, and single may mail your text on a floppy disk to IRREANTUM, c/o AML,
copies are $5 (postpaid). Advertising rates begin at $50 for a full P.O. Box 51364, Provo, UT 84605-1364. Except for letters to
page. The AML is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, so con- the editor, submissions on paper are discouraged. Upon specific
tributions of any amount are tax deductible and gratefully request to irreantum2@cs.com, we will send authors two com-
accepted. Views expressed in IRREANTUM do not necessarily plimentary copies of an issue in which their work appears.
reflect the opinions of the editors or of AML board members.

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IRREANTUM
Winter 2001–2002 • Volume 3, Number 4

C O N T E N T S

Letters to the Editor . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 Reviews


2001 Mormon Literature in Review
AML News . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 Andrew Hall . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53
Artistry in a Missionary Story, Dean Hughes
Interview A review of Gordon Laws’s My People . . . . 60
Brady Udall . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 Unlikely Miracles, Katie Parker
A review of Anna Jones’s Haven . . . . . . . . 61
Novel Excerpt A Kingly Collection, John S. Tanner
The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint, Brady Udall 17 A review of Arthur Henry King’s
Conversion: Poems of the Religious Life,
Memoir 1963–1994, ed. Fred C. Pinnegar . . . . . . . 62
My Innisfree, Camille Traveller Bell . . . . . . . . 26 Promising New Series, Andrew Hall
A review of Dean Hughes’s
Essay The Writing on the Wall . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 66
To Fulfill the Vision of Mormon Literature Plots in Hiding, Terry Montague
Diana Simmons . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31 A review of Betsy Brannon Green’s
Hearts in Hiding . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 67
Stories Selected Recent Releases . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 68
Companions, Darlene Young . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37
Cinder-Relic, Melva Gifford . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47 Mormon Literary Scene . . . . . . . . . . . 71
Who Needs Salt Lake? Bill Caudle . . . . . . . . 51

Poetry AML-List Highlights . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 84


Lo volví a ver, Paul Sexton . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
Shadows, Paul Sexton . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25 Rameumptom
First Psalm, Kevin Peel . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31
Confessions of a Former FARMS Filing Clerk;
Canyon Cliff Swallows
or The Top-10 Rejected FARMS Papers
Patricia Gunter Karamesines . . . . . . . . . . . 45
Edgar C. Snow Jr. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 96
Diapason, Michael Collings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 52
Prayer, Michael Collings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 52

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L E T T E R S But I wasn’t surprised in the least when I received


two phone calls, one from the counselor, one from
Influencing the Culture the Relief Society president, in which I was told
that there had been “complaints.” The sisters were
Talking about Mormon culture, Stephen Carter understandably convinced that it was a story about
said, “Individuals must find their own unique ways a bishop who had lost his testimony. I suggested
to liven this place up. It takes courage to do that.” that I ought to be allowed to proceed with the
This brought to mind an experience I had recently Home Enrichment discussion so that I could show
that I thought AML folks might find amusing. You that the character “lost his place,” not his testi-
see, I was asked by my Relief Society presidency to mony, and encourage the women to think through
lead a Home Enrichment meeting about “something why these things happen and what our responsi-
in LDS literature.” bility is or is not when they do, etc. My argument
I said no. I knew better. I knew they didn’t really must have been effective because the Relief Society
mean it. But the Relief Society counselor kept insist- president abandoned this approach and told me that
ing, told me that during their presidency meeting the story wasn’t appropriate because it contained a
they had prayed to know which sister ought to lead curse word: bitch. (The word, not the Relief Soci-
a class on LDS literature. Each reportedly received ety president.) I was then asked not to be offended,
inspiration that I should. I said no again. “But the but they (the presidency plus my bishop) had prayed
Lord wants you to.” I said no and courageously and knew that the Lord didn’t want me to teach a
hung up the phone. Home Enrichment meeting on LDS literature.
Oh, the guilt. So I picked up the phone, called But would I perhaps consider an LDS classic,
the counselor back and said, “Listen, there’s this The Christmas Box?
magazine, IRREANTUM.” I went on to truthfully I said no. I hung up. And this time I felt no guilt.
describe the publication and agree to lead a discus- The announced literature class simply vanished,
sion if I could use one of the stories in it as a rep- according to the Lord’s will. What remained was a
resentation of what is happening in LDS lit. She barrier of awkwardness felt throughout the Relief
was thrilled, of course, because, as she saw it, I’d Society.
agreed to follow the Lord’s directives. So, does it take courage to liven things up or to
I then began to ask the Lord for directives. effect change? I suppose. But seeing as I’ve never
I can’t say I received revelation, but I did prayer- seen change or, for that matter, anything remotely
fully weigh all the stories published to that date and lively in the 20-some years I’ve been a Latter-day
chose one, “The Chastening” by Helynne Hollstein Saint, I’m not sure that courage is what it takes.
Hansen (spring 2001). I photocopied it and passed Probably it’ll take a revelation.
it out to all the Relief Society. It’s about a convert Lisa Downing
branch president who socks a Christian preacher in Mesquite, Texas
the nose. Courageous of me, huh?
Now, I’m living here in the buckle of the Bible
Belt. Around here the locals are trying to set a good Unfair Review
example for me, a deceived soul. And I know for a I realize your writers are busy people, and you
fact that there isn’t a sister in our Relief Society who are lucky to get reviews. But I hope you will make
hasn’t gone in circles with some Christian neighbor an effort to keep from printing reviews from people
in an attempt to prove her own Christianity (a fool- who haven’t read the books carefully.
hardy and needless endeavor). I chose this story In your summer 2001 issue, Morgan Adair criti-
because I held out hope—though slight—that the cizes Marilyn Brown’s Wine-Dark Sea of Grass for
Relief Society might identify and even chuckle over its research because she wrote that the springs were
the character’s misadventure. poisoned by the Missourians.
Winter 2001–2002 4 IRREANTUM
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If Adair had read more carefully, he would have A M L N E W S


found that she was only writing about what the set-
tlers thought had happened. In her notes she makes Outgoing President’s Message
it clear: “No one knows if the Missourians actually
poisoned the springs.” And in another note: “There By Cherry Silver
is no evidence that the immigrants really poisoned
the springs.” Some time ago I decided that reading good crit-
Adair calls into question the entire quality of ical commentary was like eating an elegant dessert.
research by being a bit careless. He also complained The ideas are rich, the blending professional, and
that the novel still left him in the dark as to why the the stimulus to the system superb.
massacre happened. Why didn’t the review editor The AML continues to offer solid scholarship
publish the AML-List review by D. Michael Mar- and able analysis. These efforts concentrate during
tindale, which stated: “I felt Brown gave us some the annual meeting of the Association for Mormon
good insight into how it happened.” Martindale Letters held on the Westminster College campus in
didn’t agree with everything in the novel, but it early March or late February. A publication of those
wasn’t an inaccurate review. proceedings called the AML Annual goes to each
Melissa Hathaway member. This year’s theme concerned “Walking the
Springville, Utah Tightrope: Mormon Writers and Their Audiences,”
while next year’s will build around “Directions in
Mormon Letters: Voices and Vision for the Twenty-
Clarifying Lavina’s Role First Century.”
We find Mormon scholarship in other venues.
Bravo for your beautiful issue on Eugene Eng- This year 115 reviews of books and films have
land! How fitting that it should be his memorial appeared on AML-List and have been made avail-
issue when IRREANTUM breaks into living color for able on the AML website (www.aml-online.org) by
the first time. It made me miss him all over again. Terry Jeffress. Debates on interesting literary issues
I need to make an addition to my little article are summarized quarterly in the pages of IRREAN-
about coediting Tending the Garden. I’m sure it’s my TUM; personalities explain their perspectives there,
fault—I must have sent the wrong draft to Gideon and newsworthy events are announced. Now BYU
in my rush. It should say something like this: humanities librarians Robert Means and Connie
Fortunately for the history of literary criticism in Lamb are maintaining a Mormon writers’ list and
Mormonism, Gene’s name appeared first on the are cooperating with literary historian Gideon Bur-
book. Instead of “getting over it,” I carried my con- ton to put Mormon letters online. Add to these
cerns to Signature, and publicist Ron Priddis came media outlets our face-to-face meetings like the
up with the winning and unanswerable argument remarkable writers’ conference at Thanksgiving
that Gene’s name would doubtless sell more books Point (Lehi, Utah) in November, and we can savor
among those likely to purchase literary criticism. an ample diet of good fare.
I think, however, we waited to tell Gene until it was But I miss another element that the AML offered
on the press. when first organized. Two decades ago, the annual
Lavina Fielding Anderson meeting included criticisms of papers (I remember
Salt Lake City, Utah my first presentation being cheerfully carved up by
Richard Cracroft). At its best there arises an urgency
among presenters, an aspiration for legitimacy, and
a sense that Mormon literary critics are developing
distinctive scholarly and critical stances suited to
our philosophy. AML annual meeting attendees

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have listened to provocative theorists like Wayne State University in Ogden, Utah. She published
Booth, Michael Austin, and Terryl Givens. The AML short stories and critical essays and served as editor
has fostered publications like Tending the Garden: of Weber Studies. The first non-Mormon woman
Essays on Mormon Literature, edited by Eugene elected as AML president (she would have begun
England and Lavina Fielding Anderson (Signature her term in February 2003), Neila was a licensed
Books, 1996). It has hosted memorable debates like Hindu priest. Her husband, Candadai “Sesh”
the one between Cracroft and Bruce Jorgensen over Seshachari, served as AML president several years
critical approaches to our literature. ago. “We will miss her keen insights and precise
No one denies the abundance and growing qual- decision making, her fine scholarship and gentle
ity of our imaginative literature, in fiction, in film, encouragement,” said recently released AML presi-
in personal essay, in the genres. But the AML can- dent Cherry Silver.
not always present an award for criticism even in
alternate years, because we lack a body of work AML Board Member Changes
in that field. In order for literature to thrive, it
needs all three actors—writers, readers, and com- At the annual meeting held on March 2, 2002,
mentators—to have training and expectations, to the AML released two board members with a vote
be interested in improving what we now do. To of thanks. Carol Quist serves as associate editor and
achieve this growth, writers have writing groups mercantile manager at Sunstone, and Marilyn Brown
and publications like IRREANTUM; readers have the writes novels and runs the Salt Press imprint at
AML-List discussions to provide an arena for inter- Cedar Fort.
change. I say, let critics and commentators con- New board member Sharlee Mullins Glenn was
tinue to enter the jousts at the annual meeting and born in Vernal, Utah, and graduated from high
keep their debates informing and expanding our school in Twin Falls, Idaho. After serving a mission
range of knowledge. in Italy, she returned to BYU, where she earned
As Gideon Burton assumes the presidency of the both a B.A. and an M.A. in humanities with
Association for Mormon Letters, AML members emphases in English and art history. She taught at
may expect innovation and growth from this writer- BYU for a number of years before giving up acade-
scholar-publisher who wants to ensure the AML’s mia for the writing life. She has published essays,
solidarity, financially and otherwise. Gideon will build articles, and poetry in The Southern Literary Jour-
on fine traditions, supported by an excellent board nal, Women’s Studies, IRREANTUM, Wasatch Review
with interestingly diverse backgrounds. I have cer- International, and BYU Studies. Recently she decided
tainly profited from their creative ideas and indi- to turn her focus to writing for children. Her first
vidual contributions, and I express my gratitude. novel for young readers, Circle Dance, was published
A toast to all AML supporters, as I turn over by Bookcraft in 1998. Other publications include
the gavel. Let’s continue to savor the main literary One in a Billion (a picture book), “No Bears Out
meal but not forget the dessert—a lively, informed Tonight,” “Watching Baby Devster,” “Mom in the
criticism. Doghouse,” and “More Than Ice Cream.” Another
picture book, Gracie and Roo, is forthcoming from
G.P. Putnam’s Sons in 2004.
AML President-Elect Neila Seshachari Dies New board member Eric Samuelsen is head of
Only eight days after reading a paper on Terry the playwriting and screenwriting program in Brig-
Tempest Williams’s book Leap at the annual AML ham Young University’s Department of Theater
conference, AML president-elect Neila Seshachari and Media Arts. He completed a Ph.D. at Indiana
died of a ruptured aorta on March 10, 2002. Born University in 1991, and after a year at Wright State
in India in 1934, Neila immigrated to the United University he joined the faculty at BYU in 1992.
States in 1969, earned an English Ph.D. at the Uni- Samuelsen’s plays have included Accommodations,
versity of Utah, and became a professor at Weber Gadianton, and The Way We’re Wired, all of which
Winter 2001–2002 6 IRREANTUM
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were honored with drama awards by the Associa- Writers’ Conference Report
tion for Mormon Letters. Other produced plays
have included Without Romance, What Really Hap- By D. Michael Martindale
pened, Three Women, The Seating of Senator Smoot,
and Derrida’s Dead Cat. The success of the third annual AML writers’
conference, held November 3, 2001, at Thanksgiv-
IRREANTUM Fiction Contest ing Point in Lehi, Utah, exceeded expectations.
Attendance doubled from the previous year to more
The Association for Mormon Letters is pleased than 150 people, and the AML was able to bring in
to announce the second annual IRREANTUM fiction some badly needed funds for the coming year.
contest. Because IRREANTUM is a literary quarterly The guests of honor did a fantastic job. Richard
dedicated to exploring Mormon culture, all contest Dutcher, producer, writer, director, and star of his
entries must relate to the Mormon experience in two acclaimed LDS films God’s Army and Brigham
some way, either explicitly or implicitly. As long as City, pulled no punches as he discussed the respon-
an entry doesn’t exceed 8,500 words, any fictional sibility of LDS artists to tell the stories of their
form will be considered, including short stories and hearts, without regard to the reactions of others.
excerpts from novels, screenplays, and play scripts. He reiterated his statement from previous inter-
Any fictional genre is welcome, including literary, views that others can be bishops and Relief Society
mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, histori- presidents, but only you can tell the stories you
cal, and horror. The first-place author will be have to tell.
awarded $100, second place $75, and third place Kenny Kemp was equally forthcoming in his
$50 (unless the judge determines entries are not of discussion on self-publishing. An award-winning
sufficient quality to merit awards). Winners agree self-publisher who landed an impressive contract
to give IRREANTUM first publication rights. To facil- with a national publisher, he graphically presented
itate blind judging, entries should be submitted his experiences with the publishing industry and
with a removable cover sheet that includes the author’s offered valuable advice on how to write and publish
name, address, telephone number, e-mail address, successfully.
and manuscript title—the author’s name should Representatives from Deseret Book, Covenant,
appear on no other page of the manuscript. Stories Cedar Fort, Cornerstone, and American Book spoke
should be double spaced in easily readable type. about the opportunities they provide for authors.
Entries will not be returned. Submit manuscripts The Read Leaf Bookstore from Springville, Utah,
by June 30, 2002, to IRREANTUM’s fiction editor, did its usual wonderful job making available for
Tory Anderson, P.O. Box 445, Levan, UT 84639. purchase books written by conference presenters.
The AML writers’ conference is strictly a volun-
Next Year’s Annual Meeting Announced teer effort. No one gets paid any fee or expenses for
participating. Yet we never lack for volunteers, both
Plan now to attend the AML’s annual gathering for behind-the-scenes logistics and the high-profile
next year on February 22, 2003, at Westminster presentations that make the conference so valuable.
College in Salt Lake City. Next year’s conference The most frustrating part of the conference is try-
theme will be “Directions in Mormon Letters: ing to choose from among the great variety of sub-
Voices and Vision for the Twenty-First Century.” jects offered in the sessions. We thank all who
Conference chair Cherry Silver will accept paper volunteered, but we give particular thanks to Paul
proposals until September 1, 2002. Contact her at Bishop, police detective and author, and Michael
cherry.silver@worldnet.att.net or 801-278-7141. Collings, professor, poet, and Orson Scott Card
expert, for traveling from California at their own
expense to present some very interesting and infor-
mational sessions.
IRREANTUM 7 Winter 2001–2002
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The Thanksgiving Gardens building at Thanks- additional awards we should include in the data-
giving Point in Lehi, Utah, was a magnificent venue base, please e-mail me at jeffress@xmission.com.)
for the conference. Parking was close, the view was In addition, the review archive now fully cross-
pleasant, and the building itself provided a classy references with the awards database. For example,
environment for our sessions. There were the usual reviews for God’s Army have a link to the citation in
minor glitches, but the Thanksgiving Point people the awards database, and the awards database cita-
made up for them generously. We look forward to tion page for God’s Army provides links to the avail-
meeting there again for the fourth annual confer- able reviews.
ence, tentatively scheduled for November 2, 2002. I hope you find the AML website a useful resource
If you have any suggestions or questions about for your interests and pursuits in Mormon letters.
the writers’ conference, contact me at dmichael@
wwno.com. AML-List Leadership Changes
AML Website Improvements By Jonathan Langford

By Terry L Jeffress As most of you know, Benson Parkinson was the


AML-List’s founder and guiding spirit for the first
The AML website has gone through some sig- five years of its existence. Since I took over as mod-
nificant changes. Most importantly, the AML has erator in 2000, he has continued behind the scenes
purchased its own domain name through which as AML-List administrator, handling the various
you can now access the AML website: www.aml- technical details at which I am so inept.
online.org. For backward compatibility, you can still Ben has now chosen to bow out of AML-List
use the old address, but we encourage you to administration entirely—though not, we hope, out
update any old bookmarks. of participation in the list, as time demands allow.
The site has a completely new look. On the left, List administration is now being handled by Terry
you will find a universal menu bar that enables Jeffress, the AML’s webmaster. In addition, Andrew
users to quickly navigate to any part of the AML Hall has been brought on board as assistant mod-
site. The new home page also contains a brief cal- erator. I’d like to express thanks to Debra Brown,
endar of events related to Mormon letters. If you who forwards news items from Mormon News, and
want to have your event listed, send me a message to Jana Remy, who runs AML-List’s solicited
with details at jeffress@xmission.com. reviews program.
The AML-List review archive has a new look to The AML board provides broad oversight of
match the redesign of the entire site. The archive AML-List policies. While AML-List is a free serv-
now contains over 500 reviews of books and other ice, the AML does pay some server fees and other
works related to Mormon letters. You can easily expenses. Contributions to help offset those expenses
browse through the reviews by author, title, reviewer, are welcome.
or publisher. I have updated the archive so that To subscribe to AML-List, send an e-mail message
individual review pages now display an image of to majordomo@lists.xmission.com that reads: sub-
the product where available. scribe aml-list. A confirmation request will be sent
You can also now browse through a database of to your e-mail address; follow the directions to
the AML awards. This database contains all the complete your subscription.
known awards given at the annual meetings. You
can browse the awards by recipient’s name, award Marilyn Brown Novel Award
category, title of the works awarded, and year
awarded. (We have some definite gaps in the AML The biannual Marilyn Brown Novel Award will
records, as you will see from some missing years next be presented in 2004. The winning novel
in the chronological index. If you know of any will be the well-written work for mature readers

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that best reflects Mormon values and culture and other LDS writers. However, I don’t feel I can ask
fulfills as many of the following criteria as possible: people to tell me whether or not they are LDS on
by a Mormon, about Mormons, for a Mormon the signup form I have them fill out, so I am not
audience. Explicit Mormonism is not necessarily a able to give people LDS groups as they might like.
prerequisite, but, in tone and content, considera- I think there might be enough aspiring LDS
tion of high and moral values is. writers out there to form some LDS-focused feed-
Only unpublished novels are eligible. The author back groups. This would be especially useful for
may be seeking a publisher while the manuscript is those who live outside the so-called Mormon corri-
being judged, but to remain eligible for the award dor and would be willing to be put in contact via
a contract with a publisher must not be signed e-mail with other aspiring LDS writers.
until the award is presented. Groups could be organized by type of writing,
Postmark deadline is July 1, 2003. Authors should whether fiction, nonfiction, poetry, or perhaps even
try to attend the AML annual conference in 2004, scripts. Some groups would combine these types if
as the winner will be revealed at that time. For the members are interested in doing more than one
return, include SASE. Late manuscripts or manu- kind of writing. Groups could also be organized by
scripts with format flaws will be considered only in marketing category: romance, science fiction and fan-
special circumstances. The prize is $1,000, and tasy, mainstream, inspirational, children’s, and so on.
honorable mentions may or may not be awarded. If you are interested, contact me at workshop@
Two anonymous judges from the AML will help burgoyne.com, and we’ll see if there is enough inter-
Marilyn Brown pick the winner. If the majority of est to start some e-mail LDS writing groups.
judges feels no entry is worthy of a prize, the prize
will be withheld for that year. AML Awards for 2001
Manuscripts should be typed in double space,
copied on both sides of regular white paper, and Honorary Lifetime Member: Thomas F. Rogers
bound in a comb or spiral binding like a book. Playwright, Linguist, Essayist, Scholar
Include a self-addressed stamped postcard if you
The Association for Mormon Letters honors
want to be notified that your novel has arrived. The
Thomas F. Rogers with its Lifetime Membership
title of the novel and the author’s name, address,
Award for his commitment to creative work that
and phone number should be placed in a sealed
conveys Latter-day Saint values under pressure.
envelope, which will not be opened until the day of
Standing among its first dramatists, Tom caught
the 2004 AML conference luncheon. On the out-
the imagination of LDS Church audiences with his
side of this envelope, indicate only the title of the
historical play Huebener, depicting a Mormon youth’s
novel. No other author identification should
active resistance to Nazi propaganda. It is only fit-
appear on the manuscript in any shape or form.
ting that as a mission president in Russia from
Send your manuscript to: Marilyn Brown Novel
1993 to 1996, Tom had his district members per-
Award, 125 Hobble Creek Canyon, Springville, Utah
form that play along with The Brothers Karamazov,
84663. If you have any questions, contact Marilyn
while a professional group presented a Russian trans-
Brown at 801-489-4980 or wwbrown@burgoyne.com.
lation of his play on religious dissidents in Stalinist
Russia.
AML Writing Groups Tom, as educator and creative writer, has written
By Kathleen Dalton-Woodbury short stories and personal essays, has encouraged
young artists through his work with the Mormon
I am the online writing group coordinator for Festival of the Arts, and has led study-abroad pro-
www.hatrack.com, Orson Scott Card’s website. grams to Eastern Europe and Russia. He has served
Every so often an aspiring LDS writer signs up for the AML as a judge for awards and personally
a Hatrack group, hoping to be put together with received the AML drama prize in 1983. He has

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lectured for the Utah Humanities Council on Soviet is not as tall as the maple, not as beautiful as the
and earlier Russian culture. Through his studies of quaking aspen, not as full and richly scented as
languages, namely German, Russian, Serbo-Croatian, the evergreen. But, as the “kind man” of the story
Polish, and Hindi, he has become an interpreter, reminds us, sometimes things we discount as unwor-
not only of idiom but of ideology, for peoples often thy turn out to be the best of all. Though this
neglected by Western humanists. Through his statement and other morals are stated explicitly in
scholarly and creative efforts, he has intensified the the story, the parallel to Christ’s life is more power-
expression of Mormon values in our region and ful for never being overtly stated. Robert Barrett’s
represented them superbly abroad. rich illustrations, with their predominance of trees
Tom Rogers, now emeritus professor of Russian and foliage, suggest vitality and strength, a fitting
language and literature at Brigham Young Univer- complement to the simple yet beautiful text.
sity, continues his distinguished career as an inter- While Mormon children’s literature has many
nationalist and spokesman for humane letters. It is stories about Church history and many stories of
appropriate that he returns to Nanking, China, this powerful metaphor, it has very few that are both at
spring to study Mandarin in order to further under- once. The Story of the Walnut Tree combines deep
stand this important culture and reconnect with gospel principles with an engaging story, simply
the brilliant graduate students he taught last year in told. It depicts a true story from contemporary
Beijing. His plays and his essays persistently illus- Church history without resorting to hagiography or
trate the motif scripture he printed on the frontis saccharine perfection. This is an exceptional book.
page of God’s Fools: “Let every man esteem his
brother as himself” (Doctrine & Covenants 38:24). Award for Criticism: Dian Saderup Monson

Award for Children’s Literature: Don H. Staheli The Association for Mormon Letters presents an
and Robert T. Barrett award for criticism to Dian Saderup Monson for
“Believing in the Word,” published in First Things:
The Association for Mormon Letters presents an A Journal of Religion and Public Life.
award for children’s literature to Don H. Staheli In “Believing in the Word” Dian Saderup Monson
and Robert T. Barrett for The Story of the Walnut brings a Mormon sensibility to a larger national
Tree (Bookcraft, 2000). audience, challenging the skepticism of contem-
In the first session of the April 2000 general con- porary literary theory and boldly claiming that
ference, President Gordon B. Hinckley told a story language and literature, reading and writing are
about a black walnut tree he had planted many inherently acts of faith.
years ago. When the tree died, rather than having it The indeterminacy of language does not make true
destroyed he asked experts whether its wood might communication impossible, but any communica-
still be useful. That walnut tree became the pulpit tion miraculous. The inaccessibility of an author’s
that stands at the front of the new Conference intention does not make an absolute gulf between
Center, the pulpit from which President Hinckley reader and writer, but an opportunity for unusual
spoke. “It is an emotional thing for me,” he said. and compelling communion. And the ease with
“I offer my profound thanks for making it possible which critics can dissipate literary meanings by ref-
to have a small touch of mine in this great hall erence to political or cultural conditions may sim-
where the voices of prophets will go out to all the ply be sophisticated dodges from the spirit of a text.
world in testimony of the Redeemer of mankind.” This is the case with a critic Monson describes
In The Story of the Walnut Tree, Don Staheli has who, in reading a short story by Catholic author
transformed President Hinckley’s simple, heartfelt Andre Dubus, looks so narrowly at gender issues
story into a modern fable about unexpected beauty. that the protagonist’s experiences of crisis and grace
The walnut tree, planted on a whim, seems to lack are lost to her. Just as the protagonist in Dubus’s
all the qualities that make the other trees special: it story must learn to submit to God’s grace, so must
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we readers, according to Monson, be willing to sur- Award for Middle-Grade Literature:


render ourselves and our convenient interpretive Carol Lynch Williams
lenses to the mystery and manners of an author’s
work. It is only on the basis of such trust that lan- The Association for Mormon Letters presents an
guage and literature become mediating and not award for middle-gradel literature to Carol Lynch
maddening. Williams for My Angelica (Delacorte, 1999), Carolina
“As I read fiction and teach it,” Monson con- Autumn (Delacorte, 2000), Christmas in Heaven
cludes, “I will seek to maintain a certain faith, not (Putnam, 2000), and Tish (Cornerstone, 2001).
only in the precarious reliability of words, but in In the past three years, Carol Lynch Williams
the notion that authors use words with purpose published four middle-grade books—three in the
that readers may, by a combination of wit and national market and one for Mormon readers. Her
grace, divine.” humor, storytelling ability, facility with language,
and courage to consider difficult issues place her at
Award for Drama: J. Scott Bronson the top of her field.
Her protagonists are generally young women
The Association for Mormon Letters presents an who face a web of serious challenges. Through the
award for drama to J. Scott Bronson for Stones. course of her experiences, the protagonist discovers
Stones is a perfect example of the three keys to the power to resist the trouble confronting her.
playwriting: story, character, and dialogue. Both Christmas in Heaven explores the tension between
acts, thousands of years apart in real time, appear family and friends as the protagonist’s brother is
outwardly to tell two different stories. But the sim- drawn away from himself by an emotionally dis-
ilarities in the themes of faith and family reach turbed girl. Carolina Autumn shows a young
across the years to bind the play into one coherent woman facing adolescence after losing her father
story that is relevant today and will always be as and sister through death and her mother through
long as humans walk the earth. emotional isolation. My Angelica, lighter than most
Playwrights of lesser ability would have seen the of her books, has a male protagonist and deals with
task of putting thoughts into the mind and words
the issues of first love and distorted self-concept.
into the mouth of the Savior of Mankind as some-
Tish shows a pioneer girl struggling with her grand-
what daunting, if not downright sacrilegious; yet
parent’s anger about Mormonism.
Bronson’s Christ speaks words that are simulta-
Her books embrace the values of the best Mor-
neously human in their pain and divine in their
mon literature—respecting each person as a child
solace.
No less expertly delineated are the characters of of God, building solid relationships with friends
Abraham and, especially, Mary. The scene where and family, and progressing toward maturity.
she becomes aware of her Son’s eventual sacrifice
on the cross is one of great dramatic and spiritual Award for the Novel: Brady Udall
power. Bronson’s dialogue successfully and seam- The Association for Mormon Letters presents an
lessly bridges two worlds. His characters speak award for the novel to Brady Udall for The Miracle
plainly in the modern syntax and vernacular and Life of Edgar Mint (W.W. Norton & Company,
yet slip effortlessly into lyrical soliloquies of great 2001).
poetic force. In The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint Brady Udall
Stones sets a new standard for Mormon drama in writes of a world where miracles happen and religion
the universality of its theme, the depth of its char- has the power to change people. The title character,
acterization, and the poignant beauty of its words. Edgar, has enormous physical, social, and cultural
hardships, but he maintains a natural innocence
and morality that enable him to persevere.

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Through Edgar’s experience in The Church of works to Mormon history, historical fiction, detec-
Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Udall draws an eas- tive novels with Mormon settings, biography, and
ily recognizable portrait of everyday Mormons— more. New and old, well known and obscure; all have
people who still have struggles in spite of their come under his roving reading and reviewing eye.
belief in Christ and membership in his Church. In Jeff brings to his reviews a careful concern for
this novel, the Church exists as part of the relevant accuracy, clear sense of plot, and finely tuned sensi-
cultural setting and not as a religion that needs tivity to authorial style. He consistently, and chari-
explanation, justification, or additional proselytiz- tably, recounts authors’ successes, while with
ing tools. soft-spoken insight noting areas for improvement.
Throughout Edgar Mint Udall employs vivid, It is part of his understated skill that we come away
evocative descriptions that conjure the visual images, from each review feeling that we have learned
sounds, smells, and moods of the situations that about—and from—an author’s work, through
make up Edgar’s miracle life. Udall doesn’t shrink Jeff ’s mediation.
back from describing the horrors of Edgar’s life, but
he also never takes on the tabloid and voyeuristic Award for Young Adult Literature:
view prevalent in much of today’s entertainment. Louise Plummer
The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint extends the pos-
sibilities of Mormon literature into new arenas and The Association for Mormon Letters presents an
does so with quality storytelling and unforgettable award for young adult literature to Louise Plum-
characters. mer for A Dance for Three (Delacorte, 2001).
As my two daughters became teenagers and their
Award for Review: Jeffrey Needle relationships with boys became more complicated,
they struggled to decode the confusing cultural signs
The Association for Mormon Letters presents an of romance. Reading Louise Plummer’s modern-
award for review to Jeffrey Needle for his collected day novels of manners helped my daughters walk
book reviews appearing on AML-List, an e-mail list through the forest of adolescence. Her voice is like
for the discussion of Mormon literature. (The that of a friendly aunt who knows plenty of stories
reviews are available through the AML-List archives about love.
at www.aml-online.org/reviews.) The latest in this line of novels is A Dance for
“How then shall they read the books of which Three, the story of a young woman who is nearly
they have not heard?” Reviewers play an important, destroyed by her illusions about the boy she loves.
and largely unsung, role in the life of a literary com- Pregnant and physically abused by him, she experi-
munity. This is true not only of those who voice ences a psychotic break. The narration in three
judgments of new works, but equally of those who voices is as sophisticated as Virginia Sorensen’s best
reach back into the past, bringing to our remem- work; the prose has the grace and power of poetry.
brance a knowledge of what has gone before. In so As Hannah, the protagonist, puzzles over the
doing, they serve as our collective memory, allow- memory of her own seduction, readers puzzle with
ing us to build bridges across time to our half-for- her. By the end of the book, the meaning of the
gotten literary forebears. scene is transformed and our ethical outrage is
Jeff Needle provides an outstanding example of focused. Like classic writers since the invention of
just such service. Over the past five years, this self- the novel, Plummer unmasks illusion in the form
described Jewish Protestant with a sympathetic of dishonesty, exaggeration, and self-deceit. Her
interest in “all things Mormon” has published over voice is certain and steady, telling young women
70 reviews for AML-List—23 in 2001 alone. His that they can trust their heads, trust their ability
choices have spanned the range from doctrinal to judge.

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Marilyn Brown Novel Award: A. Jeff Call I N T E R V I E W


Mormonville, an unpublished novel manuscript
by A. Jeff Call, is the story of an Eastern U.S. jour- Brady Udall
nalist who is assigned by a rather sadistic newspa- In addition to his celebrated recent novel The Mir-
per executive to come to Utah to discover the “real acle Life of Edgar Mint (W. W. Norton, 2001),
dirt that must be there” about the Mormons. Brady Udall is the author of the AML-honored story
When the jaded journalist arrives, he begins to dis- collection Letting Loose the Hounds (W. W. Norton,
cover the truth. Jeff Call admits the truth is some- 1997), which the New York Times Book Review
times very hilarious. He is to be congratulated for observed is “populated by the most downtrodden and
writing a first novel that not only deals with every affecting group of outcasts since Denis Johnson’s Jesus’
cultural phenomenon of the Mormon ethos, but in Son.” Born and raised in the Indian country of north-
a way that makes us smile, laugh at ourselves, and eastern Arizona, Udall is a graduate of the Iowa
love what we see. This is a remarkable work, one of Writer’s Workshop, a James Michener Fellow, and a
a kind, a theme that future writers may not be able winner of the Playboy fiction contest. His stories have
to repeat. It’s now been done, and well. The AML been published in GQ, Story, and The Paris Review,
is honored to present Jeff Call with the Marilyn among other places. Employed as a college professor, he
Brown Novel Award in honor of his achievement. lives in Illinois with his wife and two sons and can be
reached at brady@edgarmint.com.
Citing The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint as the
number-two fiction book of 2001, Entertainment
P O E M Weekly wrote: “Udall’s hero would make great friends
with John Irving’s Owen Meany or a gang of Charles
Lo volví a ver Dickens’ underdogs. United, these boys could take over
I saw him again today the world. Alone, Edgar muddles through the best he
He was one of a dozen or so can, breaking your heart and putting it back together
Being hauled in a labor truck by book’s end.” Newsweek called the novel one of the
year’s twelve best works of fiction, but the New York
I had seen him before Times Book Review didn’t include it in its list of sig-
But this time it was different nificant books of 2001.
Our eyes met and locked One-time Mormon and GQ literary editor Walter
Kirn wrote: “Brady Udall is a westerner. His first novel
He sought release from anonymity is a sunup-to-sunset trek toward the horizon, with no
And then I recognized him timeouts for verbal fancy footwork. He tells his tale the
He was my brother way wheat farmers plant grain: by focusing on a dis-
tant vanishing point, lowering his tools into the soil
—Paul W. Sexton and plowing as straight a course as possible. The book
is a feat of stamina, not cleverness.” Kirn continues:
Paul Sexton has taught every grade level from kinder- “Udall, a former Mormon missionary, is an orthodox
garten to graduate school and is currently employed as moralist of a type not often encountered in newer,
an associate professor of Spanish. “Lo volví a ver” younger fiction. Charity and compassion he’s all for,
(I Saw Him Again) was inspired in the outskirts of but ambiguity is not his bag: he prefers duels, atone-
Guatemala City in 1998. ments and last judgments. His heroes and villains are
all too clearly labeled (most of his bad guys smoke cig-
arettes, for example, and he hammers away at the per-
ils of drink and drugs).” Kirn described Udall’s prose

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as sharp and rangy: “His similes sting, his sentences go I write from around midnight to 4 or 5 A.M.
bang, and his chapters roll like wagon wheels across I cannot write before midnight. Even if it’s 11:48
the harsh Mormon desert of right and wrong toward and I’ve got nothing better to do, I’ll sit around
safety, shade and water. And, maybe, home.” until the clock strikes twelve before I sit down at
Vintage Books will publish a paperback version of my desk. It’s not superstition; it’s ritual. Writing at
the novel in July 2002. Some time after the following 2:00 in the afternoon just feels wrong to me.
interview took place, Hollywood film studio United
Artists hired director Michael Cuesta to direct an IRREANTUM: What have you learned about
adaptation of the novel. Following this interview is an marketing yourself as a writer and approaching
excerpt from the novel. different publishers? What is your best advice
for aspiring fiction writers?
IRREANTUM: What early experiences and influ- I’ve never really marketed myself or approached
ences shaped you to be a writer? Trace for us any publishers. I’ve always had the same editor and
how your writing inclination developed and agent, two lovely people who are passionate about
how you first became a published writer. what they do. I’ve lucked out in this, as I have in
I grew up in a little town in Arizona where there many other things. The only advice I have to aspir-
was a lot of manual labor to be done—hauling hay, ing writers is this: do what you want, don’t listen to
chopping wood, irrigating, herding cows. I decided me or anybody else. And don’t take yourself so seri-
very early on that these were things I didn’t want to ously. Writing fiction is not a holy activity, but to
pursue on a professional basis. I didn’t want to be be successful you’ll have to work as if it is.
a lawyer or a doctor or, heaven forbid, a school-
teacher, so writing seemed to be the natural choice. IRREANTUM: Tell us about reader response to
your two books. What are sales to date for each?
IRREANTUM: Most fiction is a combination of What kinds of things do you hear back in per-
three elements: what the author has experi- son or by mail? How do you feel about your crit-
enced, observed, and imagined. How do those ics? Do you want to make any specific responses
three elements work together for you? to them right now?
All three work in a way that’s fairly inexplicable, I honestly don’t know what the sales figures are.
but I will say this—I don’t think anybody respects The first book, a story collection, sold well as far as
a good imagination nowadays. We live in the age of collections go. The novel is doing well, as far as I
the memoir, and a lot of fiction seems to be noth- gather. I had a friend of mine build a website for
ing more than thinly veiled autobiography. This the novel (www.edgarmint.com), and it’s been a great
seems absolutely screwy to me. Why stick to the way of communicating with readers. I get two or
truth when there is such a wealth of untruth to three e-mails a day from readers, and it’s a wonder-
choose from? ful thing to know that your work is having an
effect. I’ve had responses from priests, pastors, 89-
IRREANTUM: Which do you prefer writing, year-old grannies, 12-year-old girls, friends I haven’t
short stories or novels? heard from in ten years.
Right now, novels. I like the big ol’ challenge of it. As for critics, I’m not sure what to make of
It’s like going on an expedition—there’s a lot of them. They’ve been great across the board for this
advance planning to be done, maps to read, supplies last book, but I don’t trust any of it. I’ve noticed
to gather. A short story is like going on a day trip. that almost without fail the book the critic is
They both offer very different kinds of pleasures. reviewing is not the same book I wrote. That’s
okay—art is bound to be perceived in the most
IRREANTUM: Do you have any rituals or con- particular of ways, but it makes the whole review
ditions for a good writing session? process rather confusing.

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IRREANTUM: Tell us about your teaching pro- Mormon stuff gets into my work because I’m a
fession and how it plays into your career. Is it a Mormon. I was raised Mormon, I go to Mormon
source of satisfaction, a necessary evil, or both? church on Sunday. I’m proud to be a Mormon. I’m
I get satisfaction out of teaching, and it actually fairly active, I do my best, but I also have some dif-
contributes to my writing. I’ve found that I can’t sit ficulties with aspects—both theological and cul-
home all day and write; I need to get out and do tural—of the Church. Other than that, there are
things and have a life. So teaching helps in that no real considerations or motivations about how
respect. I have my day job, and what I do after hours Mormon material enters my writing. I’ll grab hold
becomes something of an illicit pleasure instead of of whatever is useful. Because it’s close at hand,
a chore. Mormon material gets thrown into my stories
along with everything else I can get my mitts on. I
don’t have any special message to offer the world
The only way to produce about what the Mormon experience is like—I have
only the individual experiences of my characters,
work that a national audience some of whom happen to be Mormon.
will care about is to produce IRREANTUM: What do you imagine Heavenly
more and better writers. Father and the Savior think of your fiction? Do
you ever feel inspired in your writing? Do you
see yourself as part of any kind of Mormon lit-
erary community?
IRREANTUM: Which authors do you draw the
I don’t imagine that Heavenly Father or Jesus
most from, and what kind of fiction do you like
think anything whatsoever of my fiction. For me,
to read?
writing is not really a spiritual activity, though at
I love comic writers: Twain, O’Connor, Rushdie,
times it does approach the kind of transcendence
Barthelme, Grass. As far as I’m concerned a book
that can be experienced in Zen meditation. As for
that can’t make me laugh at least once every thirty the Mormon literary community, I don’t really see
pages isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. I guess I myself as part of it, mostly because I’m not really
don’t like literature or art of any kind that takes sure what it is. There are a number of good writers
itself too seriously. I don’t like Hemingway or Vir- out there who happen to be Mormon or who write
ginia Woolf. I don’t like books or movies or plays about the Mormon culture in some way or another.
that have an axe to grind. I hear writers say they I’d consider it an honor to be counted among them.
don’t like fiction that aspires to teach or has a les-
son for the reader, but then they’ll turn around and IRREANTUM: You’ve mentioned the strong influ-
say that they, on the other hand, want to make the ence of former BYU professor Darrell Spencer,
reader uncomfortable or challenge the reader with who is now at Ohio University. How do you feel
their own fiction. What’s the difference? Either way, about your undergraduate Brigham Young Uni-
you’re trying to teach the reader some kind of lesson. versity experience?
I don’t want to teach the reader a lesson of any kind. I learned just about everything I needed to know
I simply want them to have a hair-raising, heart- about writing from Darrell. He’s easily the best writ-
thumping, mind-numbing, soul-tearing experience. ing teacher I’ve ever come across. I’m sure he’s been
I think I would prefer it if they didn’t think at all. sorely missed at BYU, but there are still very good
teachers there—John Bennion and Bruce Jorgensen,
IRREANTUM: Let’s discuss your use of Mormon to name a couple. I don’t really know what the polit-
elements and how your Mormon background is ical climate at BYU is like these days, but I doubt
reflected in your fiction. it’s very conducive to a good writing education.

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Writers—and scientists and philosophers and math- better writers. I can count on one hand the num-
ematicians and theologians, for that matter—need ber of Mormon writers with a national reputation.
freedom to explore and redefine their respective This is not because the world at large misunder-
disciplines, to ask hard questions, to challenge. BYU stands us; it’s simply because we, as a culture and
simply doesn’t afford that kind of freedom. people, don’t produce a large number of individu-
als who are capable or willing to take the big risk,
IRREANTUM: Have you read much stuff written to challenge their own beliefs and the beliefs of oth-
by Mormon authors or published by Mormon ers, to put their own culture under the microscope.
presses? What’s your impression of the Mor- I think the biggest problem with Mormon culture
mon reading audience? is that we’re so darned worried about what people
I’ve read Walter Kirn, Paul Rawlins, Brian Even- think of us. We want to be liked! We want to be
son. But I don’t really see these people as Mormon accepted! We want people to see us as happy and
writers. They’re writers who are Mormons or who clean and moral and hardworking, and any kind of
write about the Mormon experience in some sig- depiction that goes contrary to that, especially if it
nificant way. I don’t want to offend anybody with is created by one of our own, is considered an affront.
this, but I think writing books of fiction that are We’re taught from day one that we’re examples to
aimed solely at a Mormon audience is a fool’s the world and must act accordingly. I don’t think
errand. This is a gross generalization, but I’ll make it’s overstating it to say that, in Mormon culture, it’s
it anyway: Mormons don’t read. Go into a typical often more important to be a good example than to
Mormon home, and what will you find on the be a good person. Asians, Jews, Catholics—they’ve
bookshelf? The standard works, maybe a volume or been around much longer than we have, and
two of Church-sanctioned reading material. As far they’ve learned to confront their own demons
as I can tell, the only way to write a book of fiction and to laugh at their own foibles. We haven’t yet.
that Mormons will universally embrace is to cut
out anything that might be remotely offensive to IRREANTUM: In your new novel, the character
any sensibility, to stay within strict guidelines of Edgar Mint does not appear to think about his
cultural acceptability, to teach an unambiguous ethnicity very much, and it is not a large part of
moral lesson, and to make sure that everything his self-identification. You seem to downplay
comes out all right for everybody in the end. In any major differences between Anglos and Native
other words, the only way to write a book that Americans. Do you think the place of race and
would be widely accepted by the Mormon reading ethnicity in the formation of identity is overem-
audience would be to write, as my son might put it, phasized in American culture? How about the
a piece of ca-ca. place of religion in the formation of identity?
We are obsessed with race and ethnicity, heavens
IRREANTUM: What will it take to get more yes. And I don’t think there’s anybody who thinks
Mormon characters and themes before a national this is a healthy development. The only way to put
audience? Is that even a worthwhile goal? Neil an end to it is to stop talking about it. Ignore it.
LaBute and Brian Evenson have dramatized the Generally that’s what I prefer to do. Religion obvi-
violent and abusive intentions beneath the sur- ously plays a large role in many lives, but I don’t
face of Mormon characters. Is that kind of think that’s something being strongly addressed in
approach required to get the reading public the fiction of the moment.
interested in Mormon characters? People seem
to relish reading about Asians, Jews, Catholics— IRREANTUM: Much of today’s literary fiction
why not Mormons more often? seems to avoid emotion, preferring cool,
The only way to produce work that a national detached observations. Your work, on the other
audience will care about is to produce more and hand, is drenched in strong emotions.

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Fiction is an emotional art. No two ways about N O V E L


it. Our great works of fiction are works of the heart, E X C E R P T
not the intellect. If I want to give my intellect a
workout, I’ll read philosophy or science. If I want
an emotional experience—and I include the kind The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint
of emotional experience that is had primarily By Brady Udall
through the music of language—I’ll read a novel.
[The following text appears on pages 219–36 of the
IRREANTUM: Why is most of your fiction writ- 2001 W. W. Norton hardback edition.]
ten in the first person?
I’ve written in third person, but I prefer first. The Elders
Why? I like the fact that with first person you not
only get a story but a storyteller as well. It is gener- I shambled along the gravel road, limping stiffly
ally more intimate. When you’re dealing with emo- and moaning like a sad, disoriented swamp mon-
tions, intimacy seems like a good thing to have. ster risen from the muck. I was encased in a thick
crust of dried mud and my left knee had swollen up
IRREANTUM: R.E.M. lead singer Michael so badly I had to tow my leg behind as if it was
Stipe’s film company has taken out an option on made of solid iron. Above everything else, the river
Edgar Mint. How do you feel about your work had stolen both my shoes, one of my socks and one
being made into a film? How far along is the of the two pair of pants I owned. Thankfully, Edgar
process? still had his underwear.
It’s only just been optioned. I don’t really have It was a sharp beautiful morning, birds singing
much hope that it would ever be made into a film. and the sun warming everything like a blessing. Up
One Hollywood guy called me and asked me if I ahead, I heard the rattling of bicycle chains before
thought Lou Diamond Phillips would make a good two people appeared on the rise ahead of me, com-
Edgar. I explained that Edgar is a child for 99 per- ing along fast. I stepped off the road and tried to
cent of the novel, not a full-grown man, and the camouflage myself in the dirt and bushes; the last
guy said, “Things can be changed, don’t worry about thing I wanted to do was give somebody a fright.
that.” I’ve had friends who’ve written scripts and I watched them out of the corner of my eye and
worked on movies, and almost all their stories are they were easy to recognize: two young men, wear-
ones of torture and pain. I think I’ll stick to teach- ing white short-sleeved shirts and ties: the Elders.
ing at the university. When they saw me they both put on the brakes,
their back tires chattering and hopping on the loose
IRREANTUM: You’ve revealed that your next rock. One of them was thick-limbed with a wide,
novel will be centered on a modern polygamous curved face, and the other, smaller and leaner, had
family. Can you tell us more about your future a head of red-blond hair that shone in the sun like
plans and projects? hammered copper.
That’s basically it. I’m also working on some “Hey,” the big one said, “you okay?”
humorous essays—I guess they’re just funny sto- I looked down at my feet, which were bleeding
ries that are presumably true. At least I hope from the gravel shards and broken beer bottles in
they’re funny. the road. I thought if I stayed absolutely still and
kept my head down they might give up on me and
go on their way.
They got off their bikes, let them fall right in the
middle of the road and came over to me. The blond
one craned his neck and peered into my face as if I

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was something that had just fallen out of the sky. When Nurse Ducharme appeared she took a
He said in nearly perfect Apache, “What happened long drag on her cigarette before stepping inside.
to you?” She put her hands on her hips and in a puff of
I glanced up at the big guy, who was looking a smoke said, “I guess we’re going to have to name
bit alarmed, and shrugged. I said in English, this place the Edgar Mint Memorial Hospital.”
“I jumped off a cliff.” Eventually, they brought in a doctor from the
“What? You did what?” said the big one. His Indian clinic, who pulled out a bunch of cactus
voice was much too high and sweet for such a large thorns embedded in my shins, cleaned the scratches
body. I saw from the black tag on his shirt that his and shallow lacerations that crisscrossed me from
name was Elder Turley. head to toe, set the small finger on my left hand
“I jumped off a cliff. I don’t feel real good.” which had been broken in two places, prodded and
The Elders looked at each other. “Have you been pulled on my badly twisted knee, and pronounced
drinking?” asked the blond one, who, according to me the luckiest damn kid he had ever seen.
the tag on his shirt, was called Elder Spafford. Once I was bandaged up and smelling of alcohol
I shook my head, then nodded. “No,” I said. “Yes.” and salve, the Elders asked Raymond if they could
The Elders quickly agreed that I should be got- say a prayer for me. Raymond patted me on the
ten to a doctor as soon as possible. Elder Turley chest. “This boy, lemme tell you, he needs it.” Elder
hoisted me onto his handlebars and began pump- Turley folded his big, hammy arms and offered up
ing at the pedals like a man possessed, his hot a short prayer, asking God to help me, to heal me,
breath on the back of my neck. In the round mir- to look down on me in His love.
ror above his rubber handgrips I could see my “You didn’t save my life,” I croaked at them from
reflection. My eyes were startlingly white, like two my bed before they left. I don’t know what got into
boiled eggs embedded in a dirt clod. My hair was me to say such a thing. I only knew that I was sick
matted in such a way that it stuck up from both to death of being saved.
sides of my head like a pair of horns.
“Where do you live?” shouted Elder Spafford, Touched by God
pedaling furiously to pull up alongside. I told him
and he asked me if they had a doctor there. The week I was in the infirmary the Elders stopped
“A nurse!” I shouted back, the jouncing of the by twice. They brought comic books and peanut
bike making it feel like every nerve in me was spit- brittle and stayed awhile to keep me company. When
ting sparks. “But she’s not a very good one!” Nurse DuCharme came in sucking on a cigarette,
Back at Willie Sherman, an AWOL operation Elder Spafford told her straight out that it was nei-
was in full swing: there were two sheriff ’s cars in ther ladylike nor healthy to be smoking in the pres-
front of the main office and a few deputies, off ence of a sick child. Her face went red and she headed
in the distance, combing the bushes above the cav- back across the road, mumbling something about
alry stables. know-it-all nincompoops.
Raymond, who was talking to Mr. Hansen on Elder Turley shook his head. “People,” he said.
the steps, was the first to see us. He took one look The third time they came I had just got out of
at me and said, “What in the name of God.” classes, my first day back. Except for my broken
I was carried into the infirmary and Elder Spaf- pinkie and my limp, which I exaggerated as much
ford helped Raymond pour warm water on me to as I could, I was fine. Elder Spafford asked if we
get the mud off while Elder Turley went to fetch might go somewhere and talk about God a little
the nurse. bit. He said he had a special feeling about me, that
“We found him on the side of the road,” Elder I had been spared because I was a special person
Spafford said. and was meant to do special things.
“He don’t look so good,” Raymond agreed. I sighed; I had heard all of this many times
“Nossir, he don’t.” before.
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The day was worn white with sunlight, and odd “What?” said Elder Turley.
gusts of wind stirred up dust devils along the “Ghosts,” I said. “I see ghosts sometimes too.”
parade grounds. We sat down at the old picnic “You see ghosts?” Elder Spafford said.
table just outside the cafeteria doors. Every inch of Elder Turley leaned over to Elder Spafford and I
the table was covered with graffiti, but there was heard him whisper behind his hand, “Evil spirits.”
one message that dominated all others: someone Elder Spafford swallowed. “Not ghosts, Edgar.
had taken great care and consideration to gouge The Father and the Son Jesus Christ themselves
out the word BITCH in perfectly formed letters ten appeared to Joseph Smith. In person. One of the
inches high. I watched the Elders closely but they most wonderful events in human history. They told
didn’t seem to notice. him that none of the religions were true and it
We started with Elder Turley offering a prayer would be his calling to bring that truth to light, to
and then Elder Spafford asked me what I knew establish it once more upon the earth.”
about God. I told them that I didn’t know anything “Oh,” I said.
about anything. Elder Spafford asked me if I knew Elder Spafford rummaged in his bag and came
why I was here on Earth, what the purpose of my up with a book with a dark blue cover and gold let-
existence might be. tering that said THE BOOK OF MORMON.
“I think you’re going to let me know,” I said. “Joseph Smith was responsible for bringing this
“I am,” Elder Spafford nodded, his face full of book to us,” Elder Spafford said, hefting it in his
conviction. hand as if its worth lay in how much it weighed. “It
Over near the basketball courts, a group of kids is a book that will change the world.”
had gathered and were taunting and cursing the “Did he type it?” I said.
Elders in four or five different tongues, none of Elder Turley started to laugh until Elder Spafford
them English. Normally, I would have been included, shot him a hard look.
but it had become widely known not only that “He didn’t have a typewriter,” Elder Spafford
Edgar Mint was the one responsible for getting said, the little muscle in his jaw popping out. “But
Nelson, Rotten Teeth and the rest shipped away, that really isn’t important. What is important
but that he had also leaped off the jumping place is that you read this book and find out if what it
and survived. For the rest of his stay at Willie Sher- contains is true. If you do this, Edgar, I promise it
man, no one would ever bother him again. will change your life. Do you know how to read?”
“Those kids are punks,” Elder Turley said, glar- I nodded. “I just don’t know how to write. That’s
ing over his shoulder. “I really should go over and why I have a typewriter.”
stomp on ’em some.” Before they left, they asked if they could give me
Elder Spafford continued on about God’s great a blessing. This time, instead of folding their arms
plan, about the gospel of Jesus Christ restored to and praying, as they usually did before they left,
the earth and how this had all been revealed to a they came behind me and put their hands on my
boy about my age, the young prophet Joseph Smith. head, their fingertips lightly touching my scalp. Across
In a voice shot through with sincerity he told me of the road the kids had started yelling, laughing and
how young Joseph, confused by the many religions pointing, and a sudden gust of wind blasted us
professing different truths, went off into the woods with grit. In a near shout Elder Spafford called on
one day to pray, to ask God for guidance. I listened the name of God and immediately I felt a warmth
and idly scanned the table for any new graffiti that at the crown of my head, a light, liquid tingling
might have appeared since the last time I checked. that slowly moved down my neck and chest.
When he got to the part about the boy Joseph “We ask Thee to bless this child,” Elder Spafford
kneeling in the grove to pray and seeing two figures called over the noise of the snickering children and
outlined in light appearing in the air above him, the wind in the grass. “Free him from the evil spir-
I looked up, so excited that I blurted out, “Ghosts!” its that torment him, give him peace, heal him,

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heal his body and his spirit.” Elder Spafford paused away, did not mean that I had to accept Him. Elder
for a moment and I began to feel like I was floating Spafford had explained this to me: I had free
above the bench. “Allow Thy love to shower down agency, the choice to take God into my heart or
upon him and let him know that he will never be reject Him out of hand. It was my choice—a huge
abandoned, that he will always be protected, that choice in a world that, for me, had no real choices
he will always have Thy love. These blessings we ask at all.
Thee in the name of our Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.” The Elders taught me all they could and I tried
Inexplicably, my eyes were spilling tears. The my best to get it all sorted out. I learned that my
Elders lifted their hands off my head and I desper- mother and I could be reunited and live on together
ately ground a fistful of shirt into my face to wipe into eternity where nobody got old or sick or—
away the evidence. Before they rode away on their Elder Spafford promised me—bored. I learned that
bikes, they each smiled and shook my hand. Jesus, God’s only son, had suffered for every one
In a daze, I headed out across the parade grounds of my sins, for all the guilt and sorrow they had
toward the dormitory, feeling like the top of my caused. This did not seem very fair to me, but I
head had been shot off. I started to climb the steps kept my mouth shut. I learned that cigarettes, beer
and it hit me right there, there was no doubt about and coffee were all no-nos, and that chastity, which
it: Edgar had been touched by God. I understood to mean keeping away from females
entirely, was a must. And most importantly, I learned
Edgar Takes It about this God who presided over this placed called
heaven where my mother was, who had a plan
For the next month, the Elders came twice a week
for me, who loved me without qualification, who
and taught me the gospel. They explained about
watched over me. God, I learned, would never die,
heaven and hell and how to get to both places, they
would never disappear without notice, would never
taught me how to pray. Instead of closing my eyes,
beat anybody up, would never grow sick or old or
folding my arms and praying out loud, like they
tired of living. He might become angry or disap-
showed me, I prayed with my typewriter.
pointed, yes, but He would never abandon you.
My first prayer was something of an amateur effort:
Okay, I would accept Him, I decided. I’d have to
God be an idiot not to.
Is my mother up there? Please tell her So I typed Him a little prayer that said: God.
hello. I am sorry about everything I have done. This is Edgar. I will take it.
I am getting better. Your friends the elders are One morning, Elder Turley said they had done too
trying to help me. much talking, they wanted to learn a little more about
me. I told them all of the stories I had: my mother,
Thank you, Edgar
the mailman, Grandma Paul, Dr. Pinkley pound-
When I showed my prayer to the Elders they ing me back to life. I told them about St. Divine’s
nodded and said it was pretty darn good, no doubt and my mother’s death, about Cecil saving me
about it, I was really on my way. Together we read from Nelson and being sent away because of it.
verses from the Book of Mormon and the Bible, Elder Spafford’s eyes seemed to go by shades
talked about how Jesus died for our sins. Some- brighter as he listened, and when I was finished he
times the Elders brought bottles of orange soda or put his hands on my shoulders.
root beer, sometimes a box of crackers, and we “Edgar, God has spared you for some larger pur-
would sit at that table that said BITCH and discuss pose,” he said. “He has saved you from death to do
the matters of the Lord. a specific work, I am sure of it. I want you to pray
Just because God had touched me, just because and ask Him what it is. The spirit is telling me this.
He filled me for a moment with liquid light and Can you feel it? God will let you know, all you have
had made the voices in my head and the ghosts go to do is ask.”

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I had been carrying around this answer with me for


a long time—it just took God to confirm it.
The Elders looked at each other. “You’re saying,”
Elder Spafford said, rubbing his hand over his head
like he was trying to give it a quick polish, “that
God spared you from being killed so that you could
find the person who almost killed you and tell him
you survived?”
I nodded—yes, that was it exactly. Elder Turley
put his hand over his mouth, seemed to be trying
to keep himself from grinning. I could tell they
were both confused by this but it made perfect sense
to me. My mother and father, Art and Grandma Paul
and Cecil, they were all out of my control, they
were all lost to me. But the mailman—I could do
something for him. He was alive, I knew, suffering
out there somewhere. I could relieve him of a bur-
den he carried. I could do a little saving of my own.
That Sunday, the Elders took me to church with
them, a small cinder-block building on the west
edge of Whiteriver. I had expected the members to
all be anglos, but the congregation was made up
entirely of Indians except for a harried-looking white
woman who sat in the front pew all by herself and
cast uneasy glances at the dark-faced throng behind
her. Most of the men wore ties and the women
That night I crept down to the boiler room, sat dresses and when they sang it echoed loud and
down at my typewriter and prayed. I listened to beautiful in that small room.
Uncle Julius wheezing for a few minutes before I Afterwards, we stood out in the raw heat and
began to type. I got only halfway down the page people came up to me, shook my hand and said
before I had my answer, before the blank half of the welcome, we’re glad to have you, let us know if
paper told me all I needed to know. there’s something we can do. Some of them spoke
“I have it,” I told them three days later when we to me in Apache, asked me if things up at Willie
sat down together in the thick light of a late spring Sherman were as bad as they’d heard. I squinted
morning. I ran my finger along a section of the and nodded and tried to forget that my hair was an
table that said I hate Mrs. Fielding in shaky ball- unholy mess, that I was wearing my grease-stained
point lettering. jeans, a shirt that said Budweiser Brewing Company
“Have what?” Elder Turley said. on the back, and tennis shoes so old they were held
“My purpose. What I’m supposed to do.” together with duct tape and hot glue. Everywhere I
“Okay, shoot,” Elder Turley said, yanking open a looked there were sons and daughters grab-assing
bag of pretzels from his backpack. “Lay it on us.” on the dead lawn, fathers gathered around the open
“It’s the mailman,” I said. hood of somebody’s Chevy pickup, mothers trying
“What mailman?” said Elder Spafford. to round everyone up to get home for dinner. I had
“The one who ran over my head. He thinks he never seen anything like it.
killed me, but he didn’t. I’m going to find him and On the way home I told the Elders I wanted to
tell him I’m okay. That’s what I’m supposed to do.” be baptized. They had brought up the subject with

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me a few times before but I had held them off, not Elder Turley let his bike drop and stepped in
because I was unsure, but because I thought that if front of me. A woman, whose bleach-blond hair
I got baptized they would stop coming to see me. sparkled in the sun like cut crystal, appeared from
I sat on Elder Turley’s handlebars and told him the other side of the car, puffing delicately on a
when the road was bending right or left. “Help me!” long cigarillo.
he would yell. “Please help me, I can’t see, some- “How can we help you folks?” said Elder Spafford.
body’s head is right in my way!” Sometimes he veered “Look,” Barry said. “I’m a doctor, okay? I take
off into the weeds, roaring that we were going care of this boy, Edgar, so if you’d just be on your
down in flames, we were all going to die. merry way we’re here to take him on a picnic.” The
Normally, Elder Spafford would have given Elder woman reached into the backseat and, like a lawyer
Turley the evil eye, maybe said something about it in a courtroom showing off evidence, held up a
being the Sabbath, but he pedaled alongside look- basket with a loaf of bread and a bag of Cheetos
ing content. sticking out of it.
“I know God is smiling right now,” Elder Spaf- “A doctor?” said Elder Turley, taking a step closer
ford said over the clanking of the chains, the crunch to Barry.
of tires on the dirt road. “He’s happy with you. His “I . . . I’m not practicing right now, but I’m
angels are rejoicing.” Edgar’s guardian, technically speaking.” Barry’s ears
Up ahead, on the last rise before Willie Sherman were beginning to turn red. “This is ridiculous.
when we got off the bikes to walk, I asked the Elders Edgar, will you tell these jarheads who I am? Mar-
about the possibility of going to live somewhere lene and I came to take you on a picnic by the river.
with an anglo family, where every kid had his own We’ve got Ding Dongs and Dr Pepper. I even
bicycle and you got to eat ice cream for dinner, a bought a fishing pole.”
place where everyone had a mother and a father, For a moment everyone looked at me. In the
maybe some brothers and sisters, possibly a dog. quiet heat of the day the Oldsmobile stuttered and
Elder Spafford stopped in the middle of the road ticked. I stood in Elder Turley’s shadow and kept
and took on a serious face. “Somebody told you my head down, watching a stinkbug that had climbed
about the placement program? Well. Usually we up onto my shoe and got itself stuck to a piece of
don’t mention it until after baptism because we’ve duct tape.
had kids getting baptized just to get off the reser- Elder Spafford said, “Why don’t you just tell us
vation. But, no, you’re a different case altogether. your name, where you live, and we’ll check it out—”
I’ll look into this. We need to get you away from Barry turned and got right in Elder Spafford’s
that school, someplace where evil isn’t staring you face. “My name? You want my name? And who the
in the face everywhere you turn.” fuck are you, you inbred piece of dirt? And what do
Behind us, a car came barreling up the road, lift- you think you’re doing with this boy? Brainwashing
ing up a thick bank of dust. We moved off to the him? Filling his head with holy-roller Jesus-on-the-
side and the car slowed, then skidded to a stop just cross bullshit? I saved this boy’s life!”
ahead of us. It was a rust-eaten Oldsmobile with Barry took a step toward me, as if to take me by
whitewall tires and a ragtop that had been shredded the arm, but Elder Turley was on him and had him
into the kind of thick netting you might find cov- backed up and pinned to the side of the car before
ering an air raid shelter. I knew what had happened. Marlene shrieked and
Barry Pinkley stepped out of the driver’s side, giggled like this was all a fun game.
pushed his sunglasses down on his nose to have a “Get in the car,” Elder Turley grunted, his thick
look at us. He was wearing bell-bottom jeans and freckled forearm across Barry’s chest. “Drive on out
a yellow open-throated shirt with roses and tulips of here.”
stitched around the collar. “Edgar?” he said. “Who “You tell them, Edgar,” Barry spit, looking at me
are these people?” over Elder Turley’s shoulder. “Tell them who I am.”

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In one motion Elder Turley pulled open the car Now, here was this other missionary—Elder
door and stuffed Barry inside. He told Barry to Doyle—asking me questions about Jesus and the
leave now before he really got angry. “My God, look prophets, wanting to know if my Elders had taught
how big he is!” Marlene squealed as she slipped me everything I needed to know. For privacy we
into the passenger side. were down in the boiler room and Elder Doyle was
Barry gave the car some gas and the rear tires perspiring so heavily drops of sweat were plopping
spun, sending up twin geysers of dust. The Olds- off his nose onto his notepad like water out of a
mobile swung around in a wide arc like a speedboat leaky faucet.
doubling back, and lurched to a stop next to us “Whew!” he said, grinning at me. He was squat-
again. ting on Uncle Julius’ cot and I sat across from him
Barry now held a silver snub-nosed pistol and on a plastic five-gallon bucket. “Kinda toasty in
was leaning over Marlene to point it at Elder Tur- here. Holy cow!”
ley’s chest. A cloud of dust descended over us like a After coming to the conclusion that I was well
fine mist. Barry aimed the gun at Elder Spafford for enough versed in the gospel to make my own good
a moment, then swung it back to Elder Turley. decision, he explained that we were going to have
Barry had taken his glasses off and his eyes looked to discuss whether or not I had any outstanding
like a pair of nails hammered into his face. He said, sins that needed to be taken care of before I could
“If I ever see you two again I’ll send you straight to enter the cleansing waters of baptism.
the worst hell you could ever believe in.” “You mean all my sins?” I said.
He nodded. “At least the big ones.”
Last Confession I fidgeted on my bucket for awhile, then let
Before I could be baptized, first I had to confess. it fly:
Confession is a vital part of repentance, the Elders I had lied too many times to count.
told me, the only way to stand blameless before the I had watched Mrs. Whipple doing the ficky-
Lord. fick. Twice.
So one late May afternoon they brought another I had spied on Mrs. Whipple many times, hop-
missionary along with them, a short, peanut-shaped ing to see more ficky-fick.
guy who would hear all of my confessions and I had hit Barry Pinkley with my typewriter.
decide if I had enough of a broken spirit, if I was I was responsible for Nelson and the others get-
contrite and meek and repentant enough to make a ting expelled, for Barry Pinkley getting fired, for
personal, everlasting covenant with God Himself. the Whipples’ divorce, for Grandma Paul ending
The day before, a man from the church who up in a crazy hospital, for Cecil being sent off to
worked with the Indian Placement Program prison, for my mother drinking herself to death.
stopped by to talk to Uncle Julius, to have him sign I had watched girls undressing through the bath-
some forms. He wore a shiny polyester blue suit room window.
and gave me a caramel to chew on while I answered I had helped burn down the cavalry stables.
his questions about my mother and father, where I I had stolen urinal pucks, ballpoint pens, a cru-
had lived before Willie Sherman, why I thought it cifix, butterscotch candy, corn flakes, cans of gaso-
might be helpful to me to live with a Mormon fam- line, underwear, bottles of vanilla, rubber cement,
ily and go to school somewhere far away from here. shotgun shells, a Mr. Potato Head toy, bags of sugar
When he headed out to his car I followed behind. and flour and yeast, syringes, comic books, a hack-
“Is there a family that will take me?” I asked him. saw, beer and whiskey, a deck of cards, money, a bag
“I don’t even care what kind of family it is. Maybe of contraband, typewriter ribbon, cigarettes, a claw-
just a mother and a brother, something like that.” hammer, nylon rope, a poster of a movie star in a
“There just might be,” he said, winking at me. bikini, cocoa powder, rubbing alcohol, firecrackers.
“You never can tell what the Lord has in mind.” I had murdered Nelson Norman in my heart.

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I had beat up Chester Holland and Walter Reed I was glad when Elder Turley touched me on the
and punched Victor Ortiz when he wasn’t expect- shoulder and told me to follow him inside to
ing it. the bathroom. He began to change from his regu-
I had tried to commit suicide. lar missionary clothes into a white shirt, white pair
Throughout it all, Elder Doyle did not blink. of pants and white tie with a little golden tie clip.
When I was done, he held up his finger as if to say He even had a white belt. Tack on a couple of
something, then changed his mind. He scratched wings and you had yourself a burly, freckled angel.
his head and pretended to write something on “Are you excited?” he said. “Are you nervous?”
his wet notepad. “Hmmm,” he said finally. “What I worked at rolling up my pant legs, which kept
about self-abuse?” falling down and were now covered with grass
“I hit myself on the head with a brick,” I confessed. stains and dirt. “Little bit scared,” I said.
Elder Doyle went upstairs to talk to the other “Scared?” said Elder Turley, pulling at the knot
missionaries. Once he was gone, I nearly slumped in his tie. “There’s nothing to be scared about. Come
right off my bucket; it was as if all the buckles and on, now! This is your big day. Nothing to be wor-
clasps inside of me had been unlatched, leaving me ried about at all.”
loose and free and able to breathe. Elder Spafford He didn’t understand. I wasn’t scared about becom-
had told me not to be afraid, that confession was ing a new person, about having my sins washed
a wonderful thing, God’s gift to me, and now I away forever—I was looking forward to that. It was
believed it. the cow tank, and the water in it, that made me
After a few minutes the Elders called me nervous. When the missionaries had explained bap-
upstairs. They were all beaming. I could be bap- tism to me, I had this idea of somebody pouring
tized next Saturday, they said, I had made it. Elder water over my head from a bucket; when they said
Turley picked me up and spun me around in the air immersion I thought they simply meant getting
until I was dizzy. I was twelve years old and I was completely wet. But the cow tank was as big as a
going to become a member of God’s own church, swimming pool and the water was getting pretty
the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. deep—I had checked a few times. I knew there was
I had accepted God and He had accepted me. I had no way that hose water in a cow tank could do the
once been the miracle-boy and now I was going to kind of things to me the river water had, but I still
be a saint. wasn’t comforted.
“Look,” Elder Turley said, “I wasn’t supposed to
Born Again say anything until later, but maybe this will make
The day of my baptism clouds boiled up over you feel a little bit better. Brother Kalb from the
the mountains, grumbling and stirring the air, their placement program called to tell us they’ve got a
edges as brilliant as white marble against the black- family for you. He didn’t tell me who they were,
ening sky. I stood outside the church in a white but he says they live up in Richland. That’s only an
polyester jumpsuit two or three sizes too big for hour from my hometown, can you believe it? It’s a
me, trying with all my might not to grab my groin. great place, Edgar, you’re really going to love it.”
Elder Spafford and Elder Turley were running Elder Turley’s grin had taken over his entire face.
around grabbing hymnbooks, shaking hands with He gave me a playful chuck on the shoulder. “Go
the new arrivals, checking the galvanized tank out ahead and smile now. We’re going to get you out of
back that was filling up with water from a garden that school. You’re going to have a real family. Real,
hose attached to a little sputtering well pump. God-fearing people. Your own kind.”
Elder Spafford had told me they were trying to In the chapel, they had a short prebaptismal
raise money to build a proper baptismal font inside service in which Elder Spafford and an Apache man
the building, but for now we’d have to do it the named Brother Mendosa offered a few words about
old-fashioned way: in a cow tank. the meaning of baptism, how it was a symbol for

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death and resurrection: to be buried in the water arm and took my right wrist tightly in his hand.
and to rise again. A couple of hymns were sung. “Okay,” he whispered to me, “here we go.” He
I sat in front, next to a straight-backed Elder Turley lifted his right arm, palm outward, and waited for
who couldn’t hide his loopy grin, and hardly heard a clap of thunder to skip across the sky before he
any of it. I was thinking about Richland, Utah, and said the prayer: Having been commissioned of Jesus
this family that was going to take me in, imagining Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and
what kind of people could want somebody like me of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.
to come live with them in their home. While the Slowly, he eased me backwards. When the water
congregation sang “There Is a Green Hill Far Away” closed over the top of me I did not shut my eyes,
I constructed in my mind a vast, panoramic pic- and in the instant he held me there I could see the
ture: a little town with painted houses and the green world above me as if through a sheet of uneven
lawns that Prissy had described to me—weedless glass—the gray rim of sky, the small brown faces
and perfectly square—and children riding on bicy- crowded around, the warped, faraway form of
cles down smooth blacktop streets, trailing a truck Elder Turley. I lay back, suspended in the perfect
that played music and made ice cream available to moment before I was lifted up with one great rush-
anyone who wanted it. It all seemed impossible ing pull and I broke the surface, blinking and sput-
to me, right then—a dream—something I had tering and weightless, made of nothing but air.
absolutely no right to believe in or hope for.
In no time the service was over and we filed out-
side. Far off on the horizon the bottoms seemed to P O E M
be dropping out of the clouds where a purple wall
of rain had come down. A steady breeze carried the Shadows
wet, clean smell of it. A flock of sparrows shot over
our heads, tittering with alarm, and I heard a kid in Favelas
the back ask his mother or father if he could some- endless shantytowns
day have a karate suit like mine. Elder Spafford brimming with anonymity
ushered me up near the tank and Elder Turley São Paulo’s shame
made a big show out of gingerly poking one finger
in and yanking it out like somebody testing the Who are those nameless shadows
water on a stove. Everybody laughed and an old with bodies indistinct?
man in a stained cowboy hat said, “Let’s get that Who are those crowded masses
boy wet before we do.” that define subsistence?
Elder Turley knelt down in front of me. “You
ready?” he said. “It’s all right now, go ahead and Favelas
breathe.” society’s rejected
He clambered into the tank and lifted me over best viewed at 100 kph
the edge, gently set me down into water so cold it best viewed when dark
burned. It hit him about waist-high, but was up
around my shoulders and seemed to be making my Do those people hope, aspire
heart miss every other beat. and yearn to breathe free?
“Well water,” Elder Turley grinned at the con- Is the word of Christ lost
gregation. “Maybe next time we’ll do like head- among the shadows of São Paulo?
hunters and build a fire under this thing.” —Paul W. Sexton
Elder Turley led me to the middle of the tank, São Paulo, Brazil, 2001
where my feet sank down in a soft, spongy carpet of
algae and moss. He had me grab hold of his fore-

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M E M O I R briefly into a world of deep complexities and unseen


boundaries. I wanted to understand. I wanted to
My Innisfree catch momentary glimpses into their lives and cul-
ture. I wanted to be completely immersed but was
By Camille Traveller Bell stopped by my own birthright, so different from
theirs. I had been born into a land and a people
It was cool that day, cool for the desert and all that were both foreign and modern. They had been
the surrounding plains. The desert burned when born into a land that would not give way to a new
I first arrived—a burning so hot, maybe God’s world. Beneath their hardened desert sand existed
attempt to suffocate the internal rage. Now the an intricate system of roots bound together by the
warm breeze stood still, replaced by a calming gray sacrifice and blood of families who had fought for
sky, not ready but waiting for its release. This land centuries. To them, I could never understand this
of Jerusalem also waits, but waits for a release that eternal attachment. I was a part of the new world
may never come. I had come here as a stranger and and not the old.
a student—the “Mormon University,” the shirut Never before in this land of Jerusalem, this land
drivers called it—to study these people and their of the ancient prophets, had I ever felt so distinctly
divided land, and our shared God. I will leave a American. America, the land, possessed a mixed
part of them. Had I been a tourist only it would be emotion for these people. Some were awed by the
different but they have graced my life with experi- American ideals of freedom and rights; others were
ence, understanding, and tears of both joy and sor- enraged by the American confidence and power.
row. They say once you’re in a place long enough to America was helping the Israeli cause—how could
call it home, it will always be home. Jerusalem is they ever understand the Palestinian cause? The
indeed, as Yeats spoke of, my Lake Isle of Innisfree. youth adored the stars of Hollywood and mimicked
It is what is found at my “deep heart’s core.” the styles and music of a somewhat exotic and
“The rains will soon be coming,” old men would untouchable world. America was the unknown
say as they sat outside their shops smoking ciga- and stood as a symbol of a land they loved, envied,
rettes and often large cigars. Their yellowed teeth or hated. Every part of me wanted to disappear and
and bare grins hardly noticed, masked by their be one of “them,” but I was stopped by my own
regal galibeas and black-patterned kefiyahs. Their inability or possibly awakening ignorance. What I
galibeas or robe-like dresses hung lightly and held had found over these past four months, though,
their whitened starch from this week’s washing. were cherished moments when they did let me in.
The kefiyah or head scarf, most often white, was This freshness, this profound connection to the
distinguished by some with its colored pattern. soul, is what I would miss most.
They then wore more than a protection from the
desert heat. Those in red represented Jordan; those A bombing was reported at the Hebrew University.
in black symbolized Palestine. Some were deco- The effects were not drastic; there were only two
rated by both colors; all showed attachment to their students injured, no deaths. The students had been
Arab land. waiting for a bus. Fortunately class was in session,
I did not understand, I only smiled and nodded reducing the numbers of those at the stop. The bomb-
until their native Arabic tongue turned to proud, ing was two blocks from the Jerusalem Center for
broken English. Then again, as I was an American Near Eastern Studies attended by Americans. None
woman they did not expect me to understand. were threatened, although these students frequent the
I stood outside a realm of cultural beliefs in a world road between the center and the Hebrew University.
where women and men held separate and sacred The police are holding no suspects, but are still inves-
roles. I was not covered like their women, and as an tigating leads. It is suspected to be a Palestinian
American I was simply a tourist, one who intruded attack, not Israeli.

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Moving toward Damascus gate, I reminded myself and Israelis. Israeli officials and soldiers stationed
again as I did my first day—I never wanted to get themselves at city posts checking incoming cars from
used to this sensation. It was the newness of step- surrounding cities. Only those who were able to show
ping into a foreign world and possessing the child- proof of Jerusalem residence were allowed to enter.
like ability to recognize all in innocent wonder: the Hundreds were turned away, thus causing a shortage
swarms of bodies decorated with black eyes and black of workers in many Palestinian neighborhoods and
hair; women in long robe dresses and veiled heads— business areas. It is not known how long this lockdown
sometimes even faces and hands; children playing will last. It could last weeks. Its purpose is to force
soccer with a pop can or chasing the plague of cats compliance. Palestinians found in the Jerusalem city
up a beckoning side alley. Only once did I see a dog. limits and unable to show proof of their residence will
Aged women in embroidered dresses sat along the be arrested.
side selling grapes or the latest crop. The fading reds,
yellows, purples, and oranges of their hand-stitched “Mormons, Mormons,” I heard from a shop often
gowns matched their seasonal fruits. A smile accom- passed by Jerusalem Center students. I thought that
panied most good sales, decorated by missing teeth. today I was enjoying even the shopkeepers’ unbend-
A hard year of tending had yielded its fruit, and ing persistence. Further down I heard, “BYU, we love
worn and wrinkled hands willingly gave it up. you,” from a man wearing a red University of Utah
I stepped beneath the gate into a warm darkness hat and holding a blue and white Cougars T-shirt.
of color and noise. A wheelbarrow of green oranges They proudly boast of “ZCMI prices” and have
passed before me, a man selling neon shirts called picked up on paraphernalia popular among the
out prices, and a cart of brown clucking hens Mormon culture. The intriguing marketing strate-
bounded along the cobbled stones, their feathers gies of the Old City have even made a few shop-
trailing lightly behind them. Looking above the keepers into BYU or U of U sports fans. I stopped
walls of the Old City, I could see only glimpses of to look at a collection of blue mosaic platters, leav-
blue sky peering into the parade of people and tun- ing myself open to the young salesman of fourteen.
nels of shops. Instead, my eyes were attracted by He first asked how many husbands I had. Laughing
the fiery red cloth painted in stars before me and at his confused notion of polygamy, I answered,
the loud tapestry dashed with tulips of blue, yellow, “None.” Gladly, he told me that he was available.
pink and green. Bells from the Christian Quarter I smiled and sauntered back with, “I am not.”
filled the air, signaling the hour. The call to prayer “I will give you twenty camels!” he called after
given from the Muslim mosques would soon begin, me. Already a few shops down, I can only laugh,
calling faithful followers to kneel in worship five pleased with the hilarious thought that I could be a
times a day. The crowd divided to let a small boy twenty-camel wife.
pass on his bicycle. My nostrils filled with a mix of Again, I basked in the fragrance of incense and
fresh baked bread and foreign spices—surely the olive wood, observing the religious group from
taste of the desert in the heat of day mixed with Africa weaving through the crowd before me. Later
salty sweat. “Three shekels,” the young boy called, they would be sure to take the journey down the
and I pleased him by stopping. I bargained two pret- Via Dolorosa, sorrowing the death of a Savior as
zel breads for five shekels. Tomorrow, I thought, I they weep over His every stopping point, moving
might even try four. His dirty fingers handed me toward Golgotha. At each station, the stone, once
my warm bread and green seasoning wrapped in rough, has become smooth and polished from the
last week’s newspaper. A smile and thank-you sent soul-searching worshipers who are seeking their
me back into the throng. own salvation. At every stop pilgrims sing songs of
remorse and remembrance. I have heard other
Jerusalem was in the state of lockdown today as a songs along these cobbled roads, other songs filled
result of mounting tensions between the Palestinians with pain, only songs for a life lost yesterday or

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today. The same religious fervor that drives the I was American, but I had seen signs only in a rare
Christian followers to Jerusalem drives those native glance of disapproval. Yet even then it did not feel
to this land to fight as a savior for the cause of their like hate, or perhaps my innocence would not
people. The dead receive no glory, but through accept it as hate. Those I grew to love and those
their death the cause burns stronger. The cause? who loved me saw one another as human. They
Two peoples religiously attached to a land that were affected by the world but strived to live out-
could not be divided. Two peoples whose spiritual side of it. Even now, when the world rumbles with
battle has become a physical battle of hatred, both uncertainty and darker powers are trying to attack
with righteous claims to the ancient land, but the icons of freedom, these people remain and con-
few with perspective and the ability to forgive. tinue to love. They too pray every night that their
We trod slowly through the narrow maze, barely children will be safe from the enemy. They too
touching, but all walking on the uneven slabs of wept when the world wept.
limestone. Centuries-old stories traced every line.
They say it sometimes snows in Jerusalem. The last
time was three years ago. Embittered hearts are dis- My favorite pastime was
tracted by nature’s cover. There has been no sign of
it since. When it snows, stones are washed, cleansed turning my ears to the sounds
gently with dove-like white. The motley group was
momentarily reconciled. They were stunned by the surrounding me. I was then
purity, and for a glorious break in time the bound- filled with hymns and chants
aries were erased, and the people of Jerusalem were
able to coexist. in different languages from
Daily the refugee children’s voices are heard echoing
all parts of the world.
through the bare brick walls. Singing in their navy-
blue-checkered uniforms, their brown eyes and smiles
only show a world of innocent love. Their songs are I was, at that point, beginning to recognize faces.
different. They sing of a taken land. They sing of roots The Old City grew not in size but number. For
chopped down, now ready to grow again. They sing centuries the people have been unwilling to leave,
words that are now only part of a game. Their small so they live on top of each other. The layers flutter
hands happily make cutting motions. They sing as with purples, blues, reds, and yellows as laundry
part of the future that will not escape the burning blows in the desert breeze. Black-striped mattress
hatred. They sing of a future where they’ll be expected pads are seen on the porches as sleeping is unbear-
to fight for their traditions. They are Palestinian refugees, able inside during summer months. Silver TV
driven, and their parents will never let them forget. antennas consume the city line, reminding me of
crosses of a burial ground. I stopped myself at such
Passing through a tunnel, I shivered as the sun a thought. Yet I knew the pain I saw in the wrin-
was momentarily blocked. The Israeli soldier checked kled faces, sunken eyes, and hands worn from toil.
my purse, and I ducked through an electronic gate. The Old City has always been divided. Armenians,
It seemed strange that such a thing has become Christians, Jews, and Muslims live separate lives in
normal. Soldiers were stationed at every major post separate sections. There are mapped boundaries,
in the Old City and in surrounding areas. They but one doesn’t need a map to notice them; they
checked my belongings each time I passed and car- can be felt. And although they are neighbors,
ried loaded weapons. This is ironically normal, but they have proudly maintained their identities and
I had no need to feel threatened—I was not the their homes, which their grandmothers had lived
enemy. I knew somewhere someone hated me because in and their grandfathers had fought for.

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I stopped for a moment in the Jewish Quarter, appearance and openness. One thing remained,
eating my kosher bagel sandwich. The Jewish though—the innocence and uninhibited love of
Quarter is a mix of the old and the new. The new childhood. The word play is an encompassing term
buildings were built with large brownish bricks of for all, regardless of hidden boundaries. If only
limestone. They were raised amidst the ruins of old adults still possessed a portion of this acceptance.
synagogues and schools. The apartments were close
together with only a small roadway separating them. The Israeli soldiers sat mounted on horses. Others
It was all stone. There was no such thing as a lawn lined the streets, waiting. On the other side, Pales-
in the Old City. They have a section for shopping, tinians gathered. The shop doors were closed, and
but it was not the colorful bazaar found in the blinds were pulled in the windows. Women and chil-
Muslim Quarter. Only the name on the front and dren were ushered behind doors. The once busy streets
the displays in the windows distinguished one shop were cleared. The shirut drivers called out, “Mor-
from another. The Jewish Quarter was quiet and mons, Mormons, go to your center!” In another
sparsely populated in comparison to other sections’ moment, gunshots were fired into the crowd and men
street traffic. Ancient ruins preserved in museums were picking up stones. The crowd surged into a riot
or marked by signs told of a land that has existed of yelling and violence. Others were running from
thousands of years. fear. The soldiers attempted to seize those involved,
The Western Wall is the crowning point of the overpowering with weapons and force. A car in the
Jewish Quarter. It lies in the shadow of a mod- street was blazing, and as the sun set a barrel of smoke
ern Jewish synagogue and the Temple Mount of tainted the horizon, turning the sun crimson red. The
the Dome of the Rock. As a remaining wall from sky bled over Jerusalem.
Herod’s palace, the wall possesses an unmatched
spirituality for the Jewish people. Its carefully cut One night as we wandered through the Old City
blocks of limestone rise above the plaza as a sacred picking up last-minute souvenirs, I distanced my-
place for peace, prayer, and celebration. self from the group. This was one of my last times
It was recess, at that time of day, for the Jewish there, and I was afraid to miss something and
children. The boys chased a ball; the girls sat on everything. I watched the old men outside their
steps chattering and smiling at those in the game. shops discussing the day’s events; I saw women in
I was drawn to the young boys. Their traditional high windows shaking their rugs or calling to their
side curls bounced up and down with every kick. children; I noticed the alleyway that I missed
The curls adorned their cheeks, one barrel curl on before with steps that led to an unknown door;
each side. One boy reached up to adjust his yamalka. I heard the bells ringing from the Catholic Quarter,
I noticed how carefully he pinned it back on. He causing all to stop and listen for a moment;
stepped away from the game and adjusted the pins I smelled the bakery as the last few items were sold
with his small fingers, centering the cap perfectly in and sweets were covered, to be placed on shelves
the middle of his head. I wonder if he understood tomorrow; I listen to the Arabic tongue that had
its meaning—that God always rests above him. If become so melodious; I felt the soul of a city that
not, at least a loving mother has taught him the thrives with religious zeal and sacrifice.
habit. His game continued once the pins were secure. The city had been in turmoil the last few days—
I walked past them and looked into their blue and tension was high; an Israeli man was stabbed by a
green eyes. Their complexion was pale and one boy Palestinian. This made leaving the Jerusalem Cen-
had red hair with freckles. They laughed and teased ter difficult, so we had to make the most of our
with us as we attempted our limited Hebrew on trips in. Those in charge of security at the center
them. Some were hesitant to approach us and stood did not take chances with students. If there was any
back with curiosity, sneaking a smile of warmth. fear of danger, we were not allowed into the city.
How different from the Palestinian children in And although they told us to be careful, I never

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once felt unsafe in that city. Those people have bringing her young daughter to the wall, teaching
shown me so much kindness and patience. Waiting years of tradition. It is this very tradition that can-
for a few in the shops, I found a step and pulled out not bring these people together—the roots are too
a deposit slip from my checkbook to write on— deep and unbending. I placed my forehead on the
that is all I had. That night, I would offer my own wall and closed my eyes. I kissed the coolness as
prayer—a prayer for both the Muslims and the Jews. I had watched women do time and time again.
We eventually found our way down to the plaza When I had first come, the desert was still hot, but
with the wall before us. It was the first day of now I am glad to have a light sweater. The rains
Hanukkah, so the large menorah had one candle were soon to come. I prayed. I prayed for all the
lit. As every time before, I was again swept away in trouble and conflict. I prayed for peace that these
the spirit that beckoned me, a spirit that was pres- who I’ve come to love so much might someday find
ent at the Dome of the Rock where millions of resolution. I prayed for those who come here to
Muslim prayers have been offered. I thought of the find themselves. A woman once told us Jerusalem
humble man I once saw praying on the side of would change us if we let it—it has that power. I
the road. He carefully rolled out his rug, faced east, believe I have found some of that power within
and prayed to his God as the call to prayer echoed myself. I prayed for the children there. It was their
through the Kidron Valley. I thought of my own sweet innocence that broke down existing social
sanctuary—the Garden Tomb, my precious moments barriers. I prayed that I might never forget. I prayed
spent there in pondering and prayer, increasing my that this God might heal the land of His people.
relationship with my own Savior and God. I was I prayed for Jerusalem.
not alone there. My favorite pastime was turning As we left the Old City, the sunset blazed with
my ears to the sounds surrounding me. I was then orange and red. The city was still, and the misty
filled with hymns and chants in different languages desert horizon surrendered to the end of the day.
from all parts of the world. Some sang praises, oth- Children were seen running in for bed, and we
ers knelt in humble prayer, and some just walked watched as the lights were lit one by one over
through the Eden-like garden unable to explain Jerusalem. At night we could not see the buildings
what they felt. I thought of a man who stood in separating the people. At night Jerusalem seemed as
front of the tomb and explained to me that he was one. William Butler Yeats wrote of his Innisfree, a
there simply because he “loved Jesus.” The pro- place where in the hustle of life he could “arise and
foundness of those few words have echoed through go now.” A place of rest; a place where “peace
my own mind when considering my motivations comes dropping slow.” For me, Jerusalem is where
for being in this land. In the end, we were each I go in my mind for peace. Despite the conflict
brought together by one man, for one purpose. found there, it is my Innisfree. “The rains will soon
I found myself at the wall. These ancient ties be coming,” old men would say, and I pray that
bring all of us together. I walked up to the wall and with it peace will come “dropping slow.”
put my hand to its surface. The coolness of the
limestone somehow turned to warmth. Not look- Camille Traveller Bell is from Cedar City, Utah, where
ing, I felt the presence of the women around me. she graduated from Southern Utah University last
Some were praying with face to the wall, others year in English and sociology. She and her husband,
rocking back and forth, thrusting themselves to the Ryan, are currently living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin,
spirit of God as they read from their own books. while he attends medical school. Camille is teaching
Others were chanting lowly, and one woman was English in an alternative school for at-risk teens.

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P O E M E S S A Y

First Psalm To Fulfill the Vision of


My psalms are felt but never heard— Mormon Literature
Silent pyres—the heartjoy blurred. By Diana Simmons
I try to hold what will not stay—
All held words are stamped cliché. In 1888, Orson F. Whitney prophesied of the
I try to catch the climbing white— Mormon people, “We will yet have Miltons and
Caged phrases, if not false, are trite. Shakespeares of our own. God’s ammunition is not
Guilt and sorrow are easily contained, exhausted” (4). More than ninety years later, then-
Bleeding freely to fill each quatrain. president of the LDS Church Spencer W. Kimball
The joy that oft my soul overflows bemoaned the lack of this vision’s fulfillment:
Defies the drill of metered rows. For years I have been waiting for someone to
Joy is mute and rhyme runs stray, do justice in recording in song and story and
Hosanna shouts come out a bray— painting and sculpture the story of the Res-
toration, the reestablishment of the kingdom
But O, I ache to glimpse His smile of God on earth, the struggles and frustra-
And be near to Him a little while. tions; the apostasies and inner revolutions and
—Kevin Peel counter-revolutions of those first decades; of
the miracle man, Joseph Smith, of whom we
After many years and a mission to North Carolina, sing “Oh, what rapture filled his bosom, For
Kevin Peel graduated from Utah State University in he saw the living God.” (Qtd. in England 2)
2000. He parlayed his English degree into a lucrative
security guard position in Bloomington, Illinois. He is Today, with more literature being produced by
getting married the first week of July in Nauvoo and the Mormon people and a larger audience to appre-
promises not to be the first Nauvoo Temple divorce. He ciate it, it seems that we are coming closer and
is hoping to earn a teaching certificate in Illinois and closer to fulfilling Whitney and Kimball’s visions.
looks forward to instructing teenagers on the Byronic However, though many have tried their hand at
origins of rap music. producing literature, not everything written by
Mormons or about Mormons is bringing us closer
to fulfilling our potential—it is not necessarily the
Mormon literature we are capable of. The question
serious writers and readers should ask themselves
about literature is, “How well is our work fulfilling
the prophecy and the potential that exists with-
in the Mormon community?” In order for us to
continue to progress in the production of quality
literature, it is important to reevaluate the purposes
behind such literature and analyze our own percep-
tions of the literature. As writers, we must evaluate
our motives behind the desire to write, and as read-
ers we must take the responsibility to seek after and
demand good literature.
Literature, especially from a people who believe
they have the fullness of the gospel, should reflect

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that insight and knowledge and be produced with of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning,
the intent of doing so. Matthew 5:16 reads, “Let even by study and also by faith” (D&C 88:118)
your light so shine before men, that they may see records another. Both of these scriptures emphasize
your good works, and glorify your Father which is the point that we need to diligently search for truth
in heaven.” Though the phrase “good works,” in in order to spread it. The formula for accomplish-
this sense, isn’t necessarily referring to works of lit- ing the great works we are capable of is, essentially,
erature, the “works” of a Christian people in gen- to find truth wherever we may, recognizing that
eral should be intended to glorify their Father in ultimate understanding of truth comes from God
Heaven—what better way to honor Him than by (who is its source), and to ultimately share that
cultivating the talents He has given us and sharing light and knowledge.
them with the world. Along with the ultimate purpose to glorify God
To have this intent before him or her, the writer through literature, other purposes of literature can
is faced with a daunting task. What kind of litera- be fulfilled—the sharing of morals and values, as
ture would be an acceptable offering to a kind and mentioned previously—but literature can also help
loving Father in Heaven? Undoubtedly, much liter- us understand why those values are important.
ature has been produced with the idea in mind to Through the process of analyzing characters, situa-
serve God and to teach morals and values and bring tions, and events, and in attempting to portray sto-
people closer to Him. Yet such literature easily ries honestly, we can learn more about ourselves as
becomes didactic, and can suffer in literary quality a people, our potential, and thus more about God.
as a result. Take, for example, the orthodox novel or In the prologue to her memoir, Refuge: An Unnat-
story, which often falls into the category of “jack- ural History of Family and Place, author Terry Tem-
fiction,” as termed by Karl Keller, who described pest Williams wrote, “Perhaps, I am telling this
such literature to be outwardly true but inwardly story in an attempt to heal myself, to confront what
lacking depth and substance—a façade (qtd. in I do not know, to create a path for myself with the
England 3). This type of literature generally pres- idea that ‘memory is the only way home’” (4).
ents a one-sided view, not holding true to the hard- Surely, through the self-examination it took to
ships and realities humans face daily. Though it is write the book, Williams gained a greater under-
important to present values and morals in a work, standing and acceptance of life, helping her to
in order for it to be honest and truly reflect the become at peace with events that she experienced.
truth of God it needs to be true to life and well Similarly, a novel written by Margaret Young
written—not only is the message of the story and Darius Gray seeks to provide a greater under-
important, but how that message is portrayed. standing of the role blacks have in the Church
The intent to glorify God in our literature need and to illustrate racial issues many Mormons are
not limit us—our aim must simply be to promote unaware of or unfamiliar with. In the prologue to
truth. Orson F. Whitney wrote, “Universal Truth, One More River to Cross, Gray wrote, “By looking at
which, like the waters of earth, or the sunbeams of these lives of color, we hope that a healing will
heaven, has but one Source, let its earthly origin be occur, that wounds will be attended, and a new
what it may” (1). He then included a couplet, perspective will be gained.” He continued, “Our
“Truth is truth, wher’er ’tis found, / On Christian journey through the words and experiences of
or on heathen ground” (1). Truth can be found numerous black pioneers will testify of God’s good-
anywhere, and to express it is to testify of God; to ness, His unchanging fairness, and His embracing
write it, the author himself or herself must become love” (xvi, xix). Through writing and reading such
educated in order to present the most accurate pic- literature, we as a people can develop a greater,
ture possible. Scriptures from the Doctrine and deeper understanding of the purpose of life, the
Covenants can guide us: “The glory of God is intel- value of the individual, and what it means to be
ligence” (D&C 93:36) says one, and “Seek ye out Christian.

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To fulfill the purpose of glorifying God in our studying it, we learn how to appreciate it when we
literature, writers must strive to fully develop their see it. An example of one type of such writing can
talent, not only by seeking truth but, largely, through be found in Virginia Sorensen’s novel, A Little Lower
trial and error. President Spencer W. Kimball said, than the Angels. Setting one scene, she wrote,
“God has endowed us with talents and time, with The wind was searching for leaves to make a
latent abilities and with opportunities to use and noise in, and was disappointed at all the empty
develop them in his service. He therefore expects boughs, whining around them like a lonely
much of us, his privileged children” (100). No puppy in the night. Then, out of revenge, he
great accomplishment has ever been made without broke the sunshine into bits and prevented it
some work, effort, and sacrifice. As a people striv- from warming. It tried, looking squarely into
ing for celestial glory, we must not allow ourselves the river whenever it could, but the wind was
to accept a terrestrial effort—we know our poten- too much. (55)
tial, and we must strive to fulfill it.
Just as the Mormon writer who hopes to pro- This passage shows images and expresses ideas in a
duce quality literature must take the time to ana- unique way. It builds a picture in our minds; it is
lyze the purpose behind such literature, as readers taking us above and beyond the commonplace.
we as well must take time to reevaluate how we The reader must learn to recognize such artistry
perceive this literature—whether we encourage the and appreciate it for its beauty, recognizing that
pursuit of excellence or close our minds to ideas artistry may be expressed in many different ways,
and realities we’d rather not have to face. The Mor- and then demand at least that level of quality, if not
mon reader is not without his or her duty. Readers, more, in the literature he or she reads.
like writers, must hold themselves to a continually
rising standard in order for the quality of Mormon
literature to continue to improve—they must The Mormon reader
demand and support good literature, which comes
from learning how to appreciate it, both in its spir- must have an open mind
itual and literary values. and an open heart to be
In order to understand what good literature is,
readers first must educate themselves and become receptive to new ideas, new
acquainted with works that are “virtuous, lovely, of ways of expression, and even
good report or praiseworthy”—wherever they may
be found. On this topic of educating ourselves, new genres of literature.
Brigham Young mused,
“Shall I sit down and read the Bible, the Book
of Mormon, and the Book of Covenants all Being an educated reader is especially important
the time?” says one. Yes, if you please, and when it comes to evaluating works of a religious
when you have done, you may be nothing but nature. Eugene England commented that, in liter-
a sectarian after all. It is your duty to study to ature, “the temptation is greatest to assume that a
know everything upon the face of the earth, in good ‘message’ is enough.” He continued in an
addition to reading those books. We should aside, “Most Mormons can see right away that a
not only study good, and its effect upon our painting of Joseph Smith’s first vision done badly
race, but also evil, and its consequences. (Qtd. would demean the experience . . . but a ‘faith-
in Cracroft 8) building’ story or one based on ‘real experience,’
however badly written or sentimental in its appeal,
Good literature makes us think, stretches our is often received uncritically” (16). Though we hes-
minds, and helps us to look at life in a new way. By itate to judge anything that expresses a testimony

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of the gospel, in art we must demand more than end results of the story will inevitably clue the
sentimentality—humans are capable of much, much audience in to what moral standard the writer
more. Readers can come to new heights in under- holds to. This is demonstrated in John Bennion’s
standing people and gospel subjects when they are Falling Toward Heaven. His novel, about a mission-
expressed in ways that show the power of God and ary who temporarily falls away from the Church,
glory in the talents He has given His children. gives descriptions that do cause discomfort—about
For many Mormons, it can be a struggle to find a missionary who, as he doubts of the truthfulness
the value in reading works of fiction that do not of the gospel and indulges in sexual fantasies, feels
portray ideal images or that show situations that the despair of a “night that filled his throat” (69).
may cause discomfort. Stories without obvious morals Yet, these descriptions can serve a purpose: to high-
have their value as well and should be thoughtfully light the discomfort and despair of not living the
considered. This is where the metaphor of hospi- gospel, showing the consequences of evil. While
tality comes into play. B.W. Jorgensen, concerned evil in literature does have its purpose, it is not
that the fear of encountering “questionable” morals necessary to wallow in it in order to convey it.
and values prevents many from obtaining the full While keeping an open mind, understanding that
benefits from reading literature, proposed that we people do commit sin and make mistakes, the
look at literature with open hearts and minds, that reader must be sensitive and judge whether the
the ideal audience “would listen, then take its turn overall ideals and morals portrayed, and the way in
and converse”—thus an exchange of ideas, where which they are portrayed, are in accordance with
quality and truth would be picked out, sorted, and his or her beliefs.
built upon (8). Gideon Burton, in response to Jor- It is also important to recognize that simply
gensen’s essay and along the same lines, proposed because a book is about Mormons does not mean
that literature “perhaps, like us, can fall away, it is a good book morally, and, conversely, books
repent, and move forward to Zion” (6). Not all lit- that never seem to mention Mormons at all can tes-
erature will be good in all aspects, but the good tify of the morals and values Mormons believe in.
qualities should be applauded and should form the Card demonstrates this in his science fiction novel
foundation for future literature. Pastwatch, which talks nothing of Mormons yet
It is important to recognize that depicting evil in promotes his Mormon values and beliefs, such as
literature is an essential part of making the work the importance of saving ancestors, the vicarious
truthful and complete—it should not be intended sacrifice, love of all men, and so forth. A work may
to drive away the Spirit, and as Brigham Young talk of Mormonism without being true to it; it may
said, it is something we must learn of. Orson Scott not be about Mormons at all, and it still can testify
Card, most noted for his works of science fiction, of the gospel as we know it.
declares: “Showing evil is not necessarily advocat- The Mormon reader must have an open mind
ing it. . . . Any depiction of life without evil is a lie” and an open heart to be receptive to new ideas, new
(1–2). He further argues that works portraying evil ways of expression, and even new genres of litera-
can be moral: “No matter how many deliberate lies ture. The LDS Church is growing daily, with more
a writer tells, his own most deeply held beliefs and more members outside of the United States.
about good and evil will inevitably appear in his They, who are God’s children as well, have the
work. It is impossible to write a morally neutral potential to create great and memorable works of
work of fiction” (2). literature. The literature we have is not restricted in
Here, Card correctly states that values shine form; it does not necessarily need to have the struc-
through an author’s work—if the writer is a faithful ture of typical European-American literature; it can
Mormon, even if the story is about a character who be fiction or non-fiction, songs or hymns, poetry,
doesn’t believe in the Church and doesn’t make drama, personal essays, and even sermons. There is
choices we approve of, the tone and situations and no end to the creativity writers can apply in creating

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works that speak to people in different, unique Association for Mormon Letters Annual, 1994.
ways, that open their eyes and their souls to a Salt Lake City: Association for Mormon Letters,
greater understanding. The Mormon reader has 1994. 2:227–33. <http://humanities.byu.edu/
a duty to accept and promote good literature. As mldb/gbask.htm> (18 Oct. 2001).
William Mulder wrote, “Mormon literature will Bennion, John. Falling Toward Heaven. Salt Lake
move toward the promise of its highly articulate City: Signature Books, 2000.
beginnings, for Mormon readers will demand of Card, Orson Scott. Pastwatch: The Redemption of
Mormon writers authentic voices, whether in fic- Christopher Columbus. New York: Tom Doherty
tion, in history, in biography, or in missionary Associates, 1992.
tract—the authority of good writing, of truths —. “The Problem of Evil in Fiction.” A Storyteller
made memorable” (4). in Zion. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1993. 69–98.
Writers and readers alike play an important role <http://humanities.byu.edu/mldb/card2.htm>
in producing the marvelous works of literature we (12 Dec. 2001).
as human beings and especially as Mormons—who Cracroft, Richard. “An Aid to Perfection: Some
have the fullness of the gospel—are capable of. It is Thoughts on Literature and Mormons,” New
important to recognize that educating ourselves Era 2 (Aug 1972): 8. <http://www.lds.org> (12
and becoming acquainted with what good litera- Dec. 2001).
ture is comprised of is a necessary step in fulfilling England, Eugene. “Mormon Literature: Progress and
the vision of Mormon literature. Yet, it is even Prospects.” Mormon Americana: A Guide to
more important to recognize that any amount of Sources and Collections in the United States. Ed.
worldly or scholarly education is useless and gone David J. Whittaker. Provo, Utah: BYU Studies,
to waste if it is not used to build the kingdom and 1995. 455–505. <http://humanities.byu.edu/
to glorify the God who gave us this world and all mldb/progress.htm> (12 Sept. 2001).
truth within it. God is the best example we have Jorgensen, B. W. “To Tell and Hear Stories: Let the
of creativity and wisdom and truth, and it is Stranger Say.” <http://humanities.byu.edu/
through Him and because of Him that we are mldb/totell.htm> (4 Oct. 2001).
capable of more than we even realize. As we reeval- Kimball, Spencer W. The Miracle of Forgiveness.
uate our values and priorities and strive to praise 1969. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1993.
God by proclaiming truth through literature, the Mulder, William. “Mormonism and Literature.”
works written by the Mormon people will con- Western Humanities Review 9 (winter): 1954–55.
tinue to reach greater and greater heights and come <http://humanities.byu.edu/mldb/mulder.htm>
closer and closer to fulfilling the potential that (17 Sept. 2001).
is there. Sorensen, Virginia. A Little Lower Than the Angels.
1942. Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1997.
Diana Simmons graduated from BYU in December Whitney, Orson F. “Home Literature.” The Con-
2001 with a B.A. in English. She grew up in Haskell- tributor (July 1888). <http://humanities.byu.
ville, Utah, and is expecting her first child, a boy, in edu/mldb/homelit.htm> (18 Oct. 2001).
April 2002. She plans to mother him at home, where Williams, Terry Tempest. Refuge: An Unnatural
she will continue to develop her writing. History of Family and Place. New York: Vintage
Books, 1992.
Works Cited Young, Margaret Blair, and Darius Aidan Gray.
One More River to Cross. Salt Lake City: Book-
Burton, Gideon. “Should We Ask, ‘Is This Mormon craft, 2000.
Literature?’: Towards a Mormon Criticism.” The

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S T O R Y least resemble those of the young newlyweds in the


ward. Her twenty extra pounds were just another
Companions souvenir of the divorce.
Six months now since the divorce and she still
By Darlene Young wasn’t used to the sheer physical effort of sitting up
straight and alone on the bench during sacrament
[This story won first place in the 2001 IRREANTUM meeting, shushing Tom with gentleness and then
fiction contest.] whispered threats, trying not to cry, don’t cry, please
don’t let me cry. But today she made it through
McDonald’s was giving out Pokémon toys in the without tears. Good, she thought, today will be a
Happy Meals this week. Amanda had taken her coping day.
boys three times (too much TV, she reminded her- In Relief Society, Sister Sorensen stood before
self—how else could a four- and two-year-old learn the women of her ward with her hands clasped in
about such things?), and now at 7 A.M. she could front of her. “Please, sisters, I just cannot impress
hear them throwing their new collection rhythmi- upon you enough the importance of visiting teach-
cally against the wall that separated her room from ing. It’s such a little thing, and you can all do it.
theirs. Her sheets were damp with sweat. She lay Your Heavenly Father is counting on you to watch
listening to the thumping and giggling, wondering over his sheep. I want all of you to make a goal to
whether she could cope with another Sunday. Just call your sisters this very afternoon and set up your
keep getting up, she told herself. Every day, just get appointments.” It’s a coping day, thought Amanda—
up. Once again she closed her eyes and centered why not? It’s time for me to start moving, start
herself, mentally placing herself back at the cabin doing something. And although she couldn’t make
where she had made her decision to leave Bryce. herself meet her companion’s eyes, she resolved to
That day in the cabin she had known absolutely be the one to call Cherry first this time.
that it was right to leave him and that she could do But then in the oven of home the familiar stab-
it. And now, although she couldn’t reconstruct that bing emptiness hit as it always did on Sunday after-
precious feeling of spiritual strength and energy, she noons after she hauled the boys into the house.
could remember that it had been there, could pic- Once again she collapsed on the couch in the dark-
ture herself lying on her back, gazing at the trees ness of the drawn shades while the boys chased out
outside the tall windows and knowing it would be their Sunday-school stiffness, not even seeming to
OK. She rolled out of the bed and onto her knees. notice the heat. She was still there half an hour
“Heavenly Father, it’s Sunday. Please help me.” later, just staring off into space, when Ivan tackled
While the boys threw Cap’n Crunch at each her: “I want Spaghettio’s, Mom.”
other during breakfast (what is it with boys and “Yeah. S’gettios,” seconded Tom. Amanda sighed.
throwing things? Their father had liked throwing “Mommmmmmm!” Ivan put that little whine in
things, too, she recalled) she looked longingly at his voice and half-lay across her knees. Tom sat down
the air-conditioner control. But the utility bill could on her feet and wrapped his arms around her legs.
get so high in this little oven of a house. At least the “OK, OK. I’m getting up. Move.”
church is air conditioned, she thought. An hour When the kids were down for naps, she saw her
later, there she was in sacrament meeting, sticking scriptures under the coffee table and remembered
to the bench despite the air conditioning. She her determination to do well today. She pulled
tugged at her dress, cursing the invention of panty- them out and opened them for the first time in a
hose. Well, if you would get up a little earlier and month. She read randomly, just a few verses here
shave you could go bare-legged, she reminded her- and there. Man, she had been so in tune at times.
self. That’s what most of the younger girls did at She closed her eyes and remembered her college
church. But then again, Amanda’s legs didn’t in the years at BYU, the high of discussing God and

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art and philosophy under a tree on the quad, hear- her, Cherry felt a twinge of resentment at his lazy
ing the bells chime, feeling fierce and alive and full morning ritual. He couldn’t spend any time with
of light. her in the evenings because he had so much study-
Fifteen minutes later she woke up damp with ing to, but he spent all morning in bed reading
sweat. Catching sight of her scriptures she felt a the paper. And then she felt guilty. He really was
wave of despair. (Her big effort. What had it been, a good guy, and she knew he worked hard at
three verses?) But she didn’t read any further. She school. She was just over-sensitive today. Maybe
hauled herself up and washed the dishes and folded not enough sleep
laundry until the kids woke up. The day was already hot, and it was only 7:30.
• • • Thank goodness the bus was air-conditioned. She
“Your hair looks like a rooster.” sat down and stared out the window. Married for
“What?” Cherry Miller turned from the mirror four months. She pulled off her ring and looked at
to face her husband of four months. He was lying it, turning it to make it sparkle in the light. It was
on the bed half-dressed, reading the morning paper. perfect. She loved it, and she really loved Patrick.
“I said, your hair looks like a rooster. In the back. She still occasionally had those awful dreams in
It’s all sticking up funny.” which she discovered she had married the wrong
“That’s how it’s supposed to look. That’s the way guy, and the dreams bothered her immensely. But
people are wearing it these days. It’s kind of a retro- life with Patrick was sweet, for the most part. Even
sixties look.” when they had emotional disagreements, she felt an
“It looks like you slept on it funny.” overpowering gratitude that she had been granted
Despite herself, Cherry felt her eyes tear up. This something so good in her life as Patrick Miller.
is stupid, she thought. He doesn’t know anything Patrick was in pre-med at the U and was gone a lot
about hairstyles. It’s nothing personal. But she turned studying. Cherry spent her days working in the
away from the mirror and headed into the living human resources department on campus and her
room so that he wouldn’t see the tears spilling onto evenings reading or puttering around the house.
her cheeks. Sometimes she was lonely.
“Sweetie?” She heard him put the paper down. As soon as she arrived at work she rushed into
He was getting quicker at reading his new wife’s the bathroom and wetted the back of her hair down.
emotions. “Are you OK?” • • •
Guys ask the dumbest things. Are you OK. When Every Tuesday evening, Amanda took the kids
you obviously are not OK. She sniffed. to her mother’s. “You’ve got to have time to your-
“I’m fine.” self,” her mother had told her when she vol-
“Are you sure?” Patrick was standing in the door- unteered to take on this babysitting job, and
way now, but she couldn’t see his face. She was keep- Amanda’s heart had filled with gratitude. Not for
ing her back to him. She thought about her choice: the evening to herself—although heaven knew she
show him how she was hurt and spend ten minutes needed it—but for what the offer said about her
crying and apologizing to each other, or swallow mother’s feelings about the divorce.
her tears and forgive him. She took a deep breath. That had been the hardest thing about the whole
“Yeah.” She turned and flashed him a quick grin. divorce—explaining it to people like Mom who
She saw immediately that he truly had been feeling didn’t understand. To Mom, a divorce in the fam-
bad. He really is a sweet guy, she thought. ily was worse than a death. Mom, like so many
“I gotta go,” she said. “Shall we ride the bus other women of her generation, believed that you
home together?” stick a marriage out no matter what. And it didn’t
“Sure. I’ll meet you at the stop by your work. matter how hard Amanda tried to explain about
Have a good day!” He kissed her and returned to the yelling, the wall-hitting, the quiet put-downs
the bed and the paper. As she shut the door behind and criticisms, Mom had just shaken her head and

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repeated the same advice Amanda always heard in Everyone should be married. She laughed to
church: “Turn the other cheek.” “If you can’t stand catch herself thinking such a thing—when she had
your problems, try kneeling.” “Maybe you two could been single, she had hated it when married people
use a vacation together.” The term emotional abuse said that. After her painful breakup with John, who
was just modern psychological mumbo-jumbo to had been her fiancé for three months, her friends
Mom. She was absolutely mystified at her daugh- and family had started to worry that she might
ter’s inability to “stick it out.” never marry. Especially Erin, who had taken it as a
And so, on the day when Mom had called to personal crusade to convince her friend of the joys
offer Amanda Tuesday nights, Amanda had wept of marriage. But it had been all that Cherry could
with relief. Mom might never understand, but this do to keep herself from screaming at Erin, “How
showed that she had chosen to accept that Amanda can you say that when you are married to such a
would not be going back to Bryce. creep?” Erin’s husband Scott was the most sarcastic
Usually Amanda used Tuesday nights to catch person Cherry had ever met, often cutting down
up on the dishes and maybe even wipe out the tub. his wife in public for a laugh. It drove Cherry crazy
But tonight Amanda ignored the kitchen and went to even be in the same room with him. How could
straight to the overstuffed storage closet at the back Erin have married him? And how could she think
of the house. Pulling out the boxes of “skinny clothes,” her marriage would make Cherry want to marry?
outgrown toddler toys, and fondue dishes, she finally But along came Patrick, and Patrick had changed
reached what she had been seeking: her old pho- her feelings about marriage. He was so calm and
tography equipment. She spent the evening clean- wise and reasonable, always gentle with her. Like—
ing and putting it together and then shopping for like a teacher, helping her be better. Nothing at
more equipment and film. After Mom brought the all like Scott. Yes, she was very lucky. If only she
kids back, Amanda thrilled the kids by letting them could learn not to be so over-sensitive, maybe some-
stay up late “to help Mommy.” She took several day she would deserve him.
rolls of her two little blonde boys in their Buzz Patrick met her at the bus stop on campus. It was
so good to see him. She still caught her breath when
Lightyear helmets and Batman capes.
she remembered that he was hers. His new glasses
“Mom,” said Ivan, “can we play pictures again
made him look studious and a little like the doctor
tomorrow?”
he would someday be.
• • •
“Hey, beautiful!” he called. She smiled self-
Cherry stood up. “Well, it’s 5:00,” she said to her
consciously. There were other people at the bus
coworker Mikelle. “I’m closing up.” She straight- stop.
ened the piles of resumes, turned off the copy “How was your day?” he asked.
machine and pulled her purse out of the drawer. “Oh, fine. Not many applicants today. How
“What are you doing tonight?” asked Mikelle. was yours?”
“Nothing, really. Patrick will be home so I’m “Good, but I didn’t get as much done as I had
going to actually cook something. What about you?” hoped. I’m going to have to come back up to the
“I’m going to that play with Cutler, remember?” library after dinner.” When her face fell he quickly
“Oh, yes, that hot date. Well, good luck!” added, “I’m sorry.” I will not mope, she told her-
Mikelle must think my life is so boring, Cherry self. She looked up and smiled.
thought. When I was single, I couldn’t imagine “Well, I’m glad we can have dinner together.
what married people did together every single night I marinated that chicken, remember? Will you
of their lives. And what do we do? Eat and maybe grill it?”
talk and go to bed. But, she smiled to herself, it is He grinned.
a sweet life. Nothing interesting to tell Mikelle “You know, Patrick, I think men just have this
about, but it is good. Everyone should be married. biological thing about meat and fire.”

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“That right, woman!” he cried, beating on his “Hey, I went to high school with that girl. Macey
chest. Jeppson. Wow. She still looks like a cheerleader.
It was still burning-hot outside, and Cherry was Look, her hair is ratted in the back.”
sweating from the ten minutes they had spent wait- Patrick ignored the comment about the hair.
ing for the bus. The bus was cooler but not by “Why don’t you say hi to her?” he asked. “Would
much since it was so crowded. They squeezed into she know you?”
the last available bench. “Yes, she would know me. We were in choir
“Whenever I’m hot, I sweat right here,” she said, together.” Cherry hunched a little lower on the seat.
pointing to the space between her nose and mouth. A pause. “Well, aren’t you going to say hi?”
“I think it’s cute,” said Patrick, and he kissed “The bus is so crowded. It would be dumb to try
her there. to start a conversation.”
“Then you could just wave.”
Cherry knew why Patrick was pushing this.
Cheery Cherry, thought A few months before, she had confessed her shy-
ness to him. It had been one of their most difficult
Amanda, looking at her nights since the wedding. First, he hadn’t believed
her. “You’re not shy. You’re always the first person
companion. Twenty-four to talk to new people at church or a party. You’re a
and a newlywed, intelligent, huge flirt, too. How is that shy?”
“Shyness isn’t how other people see you but how
beautiful, graduate of BYU, you feel when you are talking to them. It’s like I’m
happily married. Just the cringing inside whenever I have to talk to someone.”
“That can’t be true. You’re an amazing public
epitome of sharp. speaker. You majored in teaching, for crying out loud.
You positively glow when you’re in front of people.”
“That’s a group of people, not just one. And
“It always reminds me of that girl in The Great that’s when I’m talking about something I believe
Gatsby. You know, the guy’s girlfriend who sweats in, not just making small talk.”
when she plays tennis.” “Small talk is easy. You just have to think about
“Oh, yeah, her. Old what’s-her-name,” Patrick the other person and ask questions about them.”
said solemnly, and they both grinned at each other. “Oh, come on. I’ve read How to Win Friends and
It was a small sore spot in the marriage that Cherry Influence People. I’ve heard all that stuff. I know it’s
was such a reader—and that Patrick wasn’t. She was just selfishness on my part, that I can’t forget myself
an English teacher by training, and Patrick liked to enough to know what to say. But the other thing
brag about graduating from high school without is—I know this sounds dumb, but whenever I talk
having read a single one of the assigned books in to someone, I’m kind of afraid I’ll let God down.”
English class. But they were learning to joke about “Let God down? What does he have to do with it?”
it, and at least Cherry’s reading gave her something “When I talk to people, there’s a lot of pressure
to do while Patrick studied. to do it right.”
The bus stopped and a young woman got on. “Do it right?” He was looking at her like she was
She caught the attention of many in the rush-hour- a little kid. She felt silly and wished she had just
packed bus because she was tan and sleek. Despite kept this to herself. But maybe he would under-
the heat of the day, the girl looked cool in a bright stand if she could just explain. . . .
white T-shirt and Capri pants. I bet she uses self- “OK, let me tell you a story that I’ve heard in
tanning lotion, Cherry thought. But then she looked Relief Society at least five times. There’s this visit-
closer at the young woman. ing teacher, and she goes to visit one of her sisters

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one day even though she doesn’t really want to. The the one to call this time. That would be like her. She
whole time she is there, she feels really stupid and must think I didn’t even notice Sister Sorensen’s
the sister acts like she wishes she would leave. Finally little talk.
she does, and that’s all that happens, except that Amanda tried to hide her embarrassment. “Oh,
months later the sister comes to her and confesses yes, that’s right. We should go this week. Bryce will
that on that particular day months earlier, she had have the kids on Saturday—could we go then?”
been planning to kill herself, and the teacher’s visit “Sure!” said Cherry, and then she hesitated.
had stopped her, and now she is so grateful.” Why is she hesitating? Amanda wondered. Is she
Patrick rolled his eyes. waiting for me to volunteer to make the calls? “Uh,
“So every time I talk to someone I’m paranoid would you like me to make the calls this time?”
that there’s something I’m supposed to be doing or Amanda asked.
saying a certain way, that somehow I’m supposed to “Yes, or give the lesson. I don’t mind. Which
be helping them out or something.” would you like?” Cherry sounded so cheerful and
“Wow, that’s a pretty big responsibility. Save the businesslike. Amanda pictured Cherry at her
world with each conversation.” He was mocking counter with a day-planner open in front of her.
her, but after a moment she decided he was right. A lesson. Could she give a lesson?
Of course he was right. “What’s the lesson this month?”
She tried to smile. “I guess it is pretty dumb, huh?” “It’s on tithing, I think.”
Ever since that talk, Patrick had made it a personal “Oh. Well, I’d be happy to make the calls this
crusade to help her get over her shyness. She tried not time,” Amanda said.
to resent it, but his efforts were irritating and some- “OK, that’s fine with me. But Sister Sorensen
times downright embarrassing. Like now, on the bus. gave me a note on Sunday—we have a new sister
“This is not a time that I need your help,” Cherry on our list. And Rebecca is in Alaska this month, so
whispered. “I’m doing fine.” we don’t need to call her at all.”
At that moment Macey saw Cherry for the first “Who is the new sister?” Single or married? Young
time and smiled and waved. Cherry did the same. or old? Tired or zippy? Quilting or aerobics? A new
“See?” But she was relieved when Macey got off the move-in? A bright-eyed newlywed like you?
bus at the next stop. “She’s not new in the ward, just new for us.
At home, Patrick fired up the grill and Cherry Actually, I was hoping you could tell me something
checked her day-planner. Call Amanda about visit- about her, since I don’t recognize her name at all.
ing teaching. Dang! She had really meant to call Margaret Jones.”
Amanda on Sunday, but there had been that whole “No, I don’t recognize it either. Are you sure she’s
big thing with Patrick’s parents having another not new?” Amanda reached for her ward directory.
fight, and visiting teaching had slipped her mind. “I’ve checked in the ward directory, and her name
She pulled out the index card the Relief Society is there, along with two children, but no husband.
president had given her. A new woman to visit. Just Her children’s birthdays are listed—they must be in
looking at the name on the card made her heart college by now, so she’s older. But I don’t know
beat faster. She took a deep breath and reached for anything else about her. Maybe she’s just inactive.”
the phone. Inactive. The strength of soul to not show up.
• • • “OK, what’s her number?”
Answering the phone, Amanda cringed at hear- • • •
ing Cherry’s voice, remembering her resolve to be Amanda wiped the sweat off her forehead as she
the one to call Cherry this time. Then she felt irri- looked out her front window for Cherry’s car. Sur-
table surprise that it had taken Cherry three whole prisingly, the phone calls to set up appointments
days to call. Probably, she thought, Cherry waited had been pretty easy. Jana Hurzeler had been cheer-
until today on purpose to give me the chance to be ful and accommodating as always, at least in her

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voice. “Oh, I’m sorry!” she had squealed with what my own business, doing other people’s kids. I have
was supposed to sound like regret. “Rob and I are a friend who’s doing that out of her home in Provo.
taking the kids to Idaho this weekend. But, tell you She makes a lot of money.”
what, I’ll call you when I get back, OK?” And Mar- “That’s great,” Cherry said again. She kept both
garet Jones, the inactive lady, had responded quite hands on the wheel and checked her blind spot
well. “Oh, ward teachers? Wow, I haven’t had those whenever she changed lanes.
in a while. Sure, why not?” Then they were on Margaret Jones’s street and
Cherry honked her horn in the driveway. When Cherry said, “I called Sister Sorensen and asked her
Amanda stepped out onto the porch, the air was about Sister Jones. She said Sister Jones has been
only slightly hotter outside than inside. The sight inactive for years. She’s married but her husband
of the crunchy-gold lawn sparked only a flicker of isn’t a member.”
guilt in Amanda for having forgotten to turn on “Oh.” Amanda felt her muscles bracing. At least
the sprinklers lately. She hadn’t seen the landlord she didn’t have to give the lesson.
for months. He doesn’t give a darn about this place “Um, I hope you don’t mind, but I changed the
anyway, she thought, looking back at the crooked lesson. I just couldn’t do tithing for Sister Jones,
shutters and peeling paint. As long as the check you know? So I’m just going to share a scripture.
comes every month. But the broken tricycle on its Do you think that would be OK?”
side near the driveway embarrassed her when she “Oh, I’m sure it will.”
imagined how the place must look to Cherry. Margaret Jones lived in a small house like the one
In the car, Cherry was bright and happy, as usual. Amanda rented. A car sat up on blocks in the driveway.
Cheery Cherry, thought Amanda, looking at her “Look at the bumper stickers!” Cherry said,
companion. Twenty-four and a newlywed, intelli- pointing.
gent, beautiful, graduate of BYU, happily married. The broken car had two bumper stickers on it:
Just the epitome of sharp. Sharp young future leader Yes, they’re real! and Not all who wander are lost.
in the Church, thought Amanda. Got her head “Must be interesting people!” Amanda answered.
screwed on straight, knows where she’s going, five- There were no other cars around. Maybe we’ll be
year goals and one-year goals. An asset to any ward. stood up, thought Amanda hopefully.
Cherry felt her gaze and turned. “How are you But Sister Jones must have seen them arrive
today?” she asked. because she opened the door right after Cherry
“Oh, OK. It’s so darn hot, though.” rang the doorbell. She stood in the open doorway
“No kidding. Our apartment doesn’t have air- in a shabby housedress and bare feet. A gust of stale
conditioning, but we have a nice window fan. Still, cigarette air blew past from inside.
it’s been unbearable lately.” “Yes?”
“Yeah.” Cherry’s smile faltered a little. “Uh, Sister Jones?
“So what have you been doing with your free day I’m Cherry Miller and this is Amanda Roothoff.
today?” Cherry asked brightly. Everything was bright Um, Amanda called you about coming to see you?
around Cherry. We’re your visiting teachers.”
“Nothing much.” Amanda paused. “Well, actu- “Oh, yes. I remember.”
ally, I’ve been practicing an old hobby lately. Pho- A pause. Wasn’t she going to invite them in?
tography. I got out my old camera and stuff and Amanda felt wetness under her arms and between
took a few pictures.” her thighs. She shifted her weight. What do we
“Wow. That’s great. I’d really like to see some of do now?
your work sometime.” Cherry took a breath and smiled again. “Well, um,
“I’m actually mostly a portrait photographer. I’m how are you? Aren’t you just dying in this heat?”
doing some stuff of my kids just to get used to it Good for you, thought Amanda. What a little trooper.
again, and then, well, maybe someday I could have “Yes, it’s been miserable, hasn’t it.”

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Luckily, right then a dog squeezed out past Mar- But we are, thought Amanda. It was quiet in
garet Jones’s legs and ran into the yard. Presto, con- the car.
versation topic. Cherry took a deep breath. “Amanda, you know
“Oh, what a cute little dog,” Cherry cooed. The that scripture that I gave her?”
dog was a grimy gray mix of poodle and something. “Yeah?”
It started doing its business next to a tree in the “The time I read it, the hard time I was talking
neighbor’s yard. about, it was when I was involved in a really bad
“Yes, that’s Blossom. She’s getting really old now, relationship. Actually, we were engaged.”
poor thing.” Amanda looked up in surprise.
Then Cherry spent a few minutes asking ques- “Yeah. I was engaged to another guy before
tions about Margaret Jones. Fortunately, Sister Jones Patrick. It was a horrible time for me, trying to
warmed up after a moment and seemed quite will- decide whether to break things off or not.” She
ing to talk about her sons. One was at Utah State paused. “I wonder sometimes if that’s how it feels
and the other was, surprisingly, on a mission in Japan. to be considering divorce.”
“Wow! Japan! That’s so exciting. I have a brother- Amanda didn’t know what to say. How it feels to
in-law who went to Japan, and he was able to use be considering divorce. How could you even know?
his language skills to get a good job when he got How could you have any idea what it’s like to look
home,” Cherry said. Amanda smiled and nodded. at two little children and know you were consider-
“Well, let’s hope that works for Jim, because he ing something that would wreck their world? How
sure as hell never held a decent job before he went!” could you go to church every week and see people
Margaret chuckled. She actually seemed to be relax- watching you, see them glancing away trying to
ing. I bet Cherry’s wincing at Margaret’s language, hide the pity on their faces—or criticism. How
Amanda thought. would you like knowing that the bishop and Relief
“Well, Sister Jones, I brought a little thought for Society president were discussing you every month
you on this card. I thought maybe you could hang in welfare meeting? The shame and the fear and
it on your mirror or something, if you like it. It the despair and the emptiness—but the relief,
says, ‘Be still and know that I am God.’ That’s from too, there was that also. Don’t forget that. No,
the book of Psalms. I read this scripture during a there’s no way you can know what it feels like.
really hard time in my life, and it really helped me.” Amanda said nothing.
Margaret looked down at the card. “Thank you,” Cherry laughed a little nervously. “But, of
she said. course, I’m sure I don’t know anything about it.
Another pause. It couldn’t possibly be the same.”
“Well, Sister Jones, it was really nice to meet As they approached Amanda’s house, Cherry said,
you. I hope we can see you again next month,” said “Listen, Amanda, if you ever want to go do some-
Cherry. Amanda nodded and smiled. thing together, go to a movie or something, I’d
“That would be fine,” said Margaret, and she let really like that. Patrick is gone a lot in the evenings. . . .
the screen door swing shut. Cherry and Amanda Or if you just need to get out of the house, I could
turned and headed to the car. come watch the boys. They’re so cute.”
“Well, that wasn’t so bad,” said Cherry. Amanda felt immediately naked. Rescue the
“No. She seemed OK.” Amanda climbed into divorced woman from her empty house—was that
Cherry’s car. the current monthly goal?
“I never know what to say. I always feel so stu- When Amanda didn’t answer right away, Cherry
pid,” said Cherry. “I worry that she thinks we came said, “I really like them. In fact, maybe you could
to drag her back to church or something. I worry bring them over for Sunday dinner tomorrow.
that she thinks we’re coming to see her because we Would you like that? I hate to cook a roast for just
were assigned to do it.” Patrick and me.”

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Amanda was tired. I guess there’s not really a way the scriptures on the coffee table. Be still and know
out of this. “Yeah, that would be nice.” that I am God.
“Good! How ’bout right after church? Is that a From nowhere came an angry surge of energy.
good time?” Amanda leapt up and swept the books off the table
They were at Amanda’s house. Amanda took a and they landed in a page-splayed heap. She walked
breath, then turned and smiled. “That’s fine. Thanks around the room. She touched the books in the
for the ride.” bookcase, picked up some of the kids’ clothes. She
• • • went to the kitchen and opened the fridge, then
After dropping Amanda off, Cherry didn’t drive closed it. She went to the bathroom and ran the
home. What’s the use? Patrick’s off studying. She water. Then she just stood in front of the mirror.
went to the mall instead and walked up and down Her face looked strange, unfamiliar. She moved
the fake-tree-lined tile sidewalk for an hour before closer, just inches from the mirror and stared into
even entering a store. Eventually she bought a dress her own eyes. They looked like her sister’s eyes.
and went home. In the hot apartment, she turned And her mother’s. She stared some more, until
on the TV even though she knew that nothing they blurred and melded into one eye. Still she
interesting was ever on Saturdays. Maybe we should stared. After a while her eyes itched. She noticed
have gotten cable after all, she thought. She didn’t she was shaking.
make the effort to eat dinner. And then she screamed, a long, slow, gut-
• • • wrenching thought-stopping life-kicking scream.
Right after Cherry dropped her off, Amanda Tearless she screamed, and when she was out of
went grocery shopping. When she got home, the breath she leaned over and rapped her head against
phone was ringing; it was Bryce. He wanted to let the mirror, quite hard. Then again, then again.
the kids have a “campout” in the pup tent in the It hurt. At least she could feel the hurt. Then she
living room. “I probably won’t have them back in slid down onto the toilet, shaking but still not cry-
time for church tomorrow. Are you OK with that?” ing, dry as a desert, hot as a desert—it was so hot,
Amanda didn’t really mind their missing church and the bathroom light was buzzing. She stood
once in a while, and it was nice that Bryce wanted again and splashed cold water on her face. Then she
to do something with them that required so much turned on the shower full blast and climbed in, still
of his attention (they saw an awful lot of Disney fully dressed, letting the cold water run over her
movies at his place), so she agreed. But suddenly and saturate her clothes. She stood letting the water
the thought of the hot, empty house without her run over her for what seemed a long time. She
little boys seemed oppressive and unbearable. seemed to doze off and on.
She put the groceries away. The clock said 5:28 P.M. Finally she climbed out of the shower and
She took a can out of the fridge and sat down on stripped naked. Leaving her clothes in a pile on the
the ratty sofa. It was the sofa her father had given bathroom floor, she lay down on her bed and stared
them for their first apartment. As a kid, she had at the ceiling. Nothing. She felt absolutely empty.
played inside the cave its shell made when the roll- She floated around the room, then above the house
out bed was unfolded. She and her friends would and the treetops and into the dusk. She was asleep
take snacks under there and play cards. She thought with her eyes open. She had always been asleep and
about her old friend Tonya, now happily married to would always sleep. She was an empty shell. She
a lawyer in Oregon. She hadn’t written to Tonya was a rotting carcass and the vultures were hovering.
since before the divorce, although Tonya had sent Suddenly she tightened herself into a ball on the
her a Christmas card. wet bedding, tensing all of her muscles, squeezing,
5:37 P.M. Amanda turned on the TV. Golf, squeezing to feel, to feel anything, tighter, tighter,
infomercials, Sesame Street. She flipped stations for making it hurt—she squeezed until she couldn’t,
a while and then turned it off again. She looked at and then she was sobbing.

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Sobbing, she slid off the bed and onto her knees. Cherry sighed. “Oh, it’s not that. I mean, maybe
There she remained, sobbing, crying “please, please” it is that. I’m just tired, I think, and everything is
over and over again, arms folded and head bowed stupid.”
like her Sunbeam teacher had taught her, please- “Well, what happened? Did you meet Sister
pleasepleasepleaseplease. She stayed like that for— Jones?”
who knows?—hours, maybe, until her last energy “Yeah. She seemed like a nice enough lady. She
was gone, and then she spread out her arms and has an ugly dog and a car up on blocks with a bumper
laid her head on the bed. She was still kneeling. sticker that says Yes, they’re real.”
Silence. Silence. More silence. She lay. “Sounds interesting.”
And then, softly and slowly, so slowly that she “Yeah . . . “
couldn’t tell when it started, a lilac warm welled “So what happened that’s making you depressed?”
and swelled and grew to fill her, and it was a hug, “I’m not depressed. I’m just frustrated. At my-
an enfolding, a melting into something sweet and self. I feel really stupid about Amanda.”
deep and full, filling, infinite. And soft words came “What about Amanda?”
into her head: “Well, I’m thinking that maybe I’ll ask Sister
“Be still and know that I am God.” Sorensen to assign a different woman to be Amanda’s
Amanda wept and smiled and wept again. And partner.”
then she climbed into bed and slept. “Why?”
• • • “I think she probably really needs a friend right
Cherry hauled herself off the couch and turned now, someone who can understand what she’s going
off the TV. But she remained there, staring at its through. I try to be her friend but I keep saying the
blank screen, for a few minutes. Then she took her dumbest things, and I think I keep hurting her feel-
new dress, still in the bag that was knotted at the ings. Like today, I actually compared her divorce to
bottom, and went back to her car. Half an hour my broken engagement. Can you believe that? I’m
later she pulled back into the carport, frustrated just at such a loss of what to say when I’m with her.”
with herself for forgetting that the mall closed early “Well, I don’t think you need to ask for a release.
on Saturday nights. She carried the dress back up to You’re just her visiting teaching partner. You’re not
the apartment and threw it onto a chair. her appointed savior. Just keep trying to be her
When Patrick came home she was slumped on friend and let it go.”
the couch staring at the blank TV. “I can’t just ‘let it go’! I can’t live my life like that.
“Hi!” he said. “What’s in the bag?” Maybe you can, but I can’t. I have to do my best at
“What? Oh, that. It’s a dress. But don’t worry. everything!”
I’m going to take it back.” “What do you mean, maybe I can? Just because
“Let me see it. . . . Oh, it’s great! I bet it looks I’m not all stressed out all the time doesn’t mean
really good on. Why are you taking it back? Go try I’m not trying to do what’s right. Being stressed is
it on for me.” not how God wants us to live!”
“Patrick, you know we can’t afford it. I was stu- “Oh, that’s so easy to say. You just have all the
pid to buy it. I’m going to take it back.” answers, don’t you. You’re just so sure you know what
“Well, you could use a new dress and I really like God wants. Thank goodness I have you to tell me.”
it. Please try it on.” Patrick gasped. They both sat in shocked silence.
He’s just feeling guilty for being gone so much, Cherry’s heart was pounding. She had never spoken
she thought. “No,” she snapped, “I’ve already made like this to her husband, ever. Some line had been
my decision!” crossed. She sat, breathing hard. What happens now?
She saw that the bite in her voice had gotten Patrick didn’t say anything. Why didn’t he say
Patrick’s attention. He came and sat next to her. anything? Cherry stood up in silence and went to
“What’s the matter? Are you mad at me? Did some- their room to put on her pajamas. Patrick didn’t
thing happen while you were visiting teaching?” follow her. Even with her mind telling her that he

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was smart to just give her space until she cooled off, P O E M
she wished he would follow her and beg her to keep
talking until they got it all out. She crawled straight Canyon Cliff Swallows
into bed without brushing her teeth. After a while,
Patrick joined her in the bed. Up on scrolls and flexures
“Will you pray with me?” he whispered. It was Of a canyon wall, swallows
their habit to pray together every night. Reluctantly, And their shadows, thin shavings,
she slid down to her knees. Insinuate and belabor at once
“Heavenly Father, I love Cherry so much. Thank The fine ravels of their winging
you for her in my life. There is no one with a bigger And the hardened splendor
or softer heart. She wants so much to serve you. Of sun-sheer artifice conspired
Please bless her with patience in her church work, By water and the wind.
and with me, and with herself. Please let her feel my A tailor and his ribbon
love for her, and yours. Please help her to let go of Could not inform the eye
burdens that aren’t hers, and to see thy will clearly.” Of the shapely whole of many parts
How dare he use prayer to preach to her? Like As well as shadow-splashing swallows
she was a child, or like he was the teacher, impart- Flourish the minutia of weathery stone,
ing his wisdom to his spiritually immature student. Nor could many parts their measurer’s prodigy tell
Her stomach churned. As the shaping features of cliff faces
After the prayer, they climbed into bed. Cherry Make seem birds’ reeling
didn’t comment on the prayer. She held herself The blooming nod of flowers.
stiffly, clinging to her edge of the mattress. After
ten minutes, she could tell he was asleep. Enraged, It fills in fact the eye too quickly.
she left the bed and went to the living room. How Untimely images of sun-bare wall alone
could he sleep? He’s just so sure he’s right and that Or of swallows only prowling through the wind
I’ll just cool down and come to my senses. Shiver from the swift strokes of their coinciding,
She kicked the couch. She paced. Vanish like single threads against
After a while she sat down, upright on the couch, A fabric of lacy integrities.
staring at the ceiling. It took her a long time to still
her heart and calm the anger. It’s almost like seeing God’s face
By the time Patrick awoke and came looking for In the damage it may do,
her an hour later, she had made a decision. She had But desert is like that:
married this man. He didn’t understand her, but With such unthinking grimaces
she loved him. She would forgive him. It shatters fetishes
He came to her and put his arms around her, The eye graves habitually and in passing,
and in a wave of loneliness she realized that he was Forming nature more amply
unaware of the gift she was giving him as she let Upon bones of fresh humiliation,
him lead her back to bed. That sinuous and reticulate beauty
Refigures, fleshing out once more.
Darlene Young lives in Pocatello, Idaho—to which she
—Patricia Gunter Karamesines
is trying to lure other AML members—with her hus-
band and three sons. She loves to teach, eat chocolate,
Patricia Gunter Karamesines’s first novel Ghost
sing, read, and talk. This is her first short story.
Lights won second place in the 1999 Utah Arts
Council’s original writers’ competition. The mother of
three children, she lives in Payson, Utah, where she
continues to pursue writing poetry and novels.

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S T O R Y He shoved his way past Remma to enter through


the door before her. He glanced briefly back at her
Cinder-Relic and smirked at her upraised hands, an android equiv-
alent of astonishment.
By Melva Gifford Remma blinked.
Her past?
“Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker’s man, Another image:
Bake me a cake as fast as you can. Remma stood in line behind two humans at the
Roll it, and prick it, and mark it with—” grocery store. A heavy-set woman panted as she
Remma-17 paused and stared at the mother sit- hurried up to stand behind her.
ting on the chair. In her arms was a plump baby “Humans go first,” the woman said.
boy, giggling as his mother played with him. Before Remma smiled. “My master is also in a rush, My
her, stapled upon the walls of the large kinder- Lady.” She pointed a chrome finger toward the front
garten room, were printouts of children’s pictures store windows. It was snowing outside. Mr. Bybee sat
of homes and families. It was parents’ day at the impatiently in his idling car with a scowl on his face.
school and the mother was one of three adults who
had come to visit the kindergarten.
One of the school’s greatest attributes was its “Thank you for coming
adherence to old traditions. Teaching the latest, and for showing an interest
yes—but some of the old technology was main-
tained to provide an atmosphere of nostalgia more in another step toward
for the parents than the children. Perhaps that was
why Remma-17, though an older model of machine,
android freedom.”
still performed her duties at the school.
Pat-a-cake—something about the word.
Remma-17 blinked her metallic eyelids as new data “I don’t care.”
began to appear in her memory files. Something Remma stepped out of the line.
from her past— Both were memories from her past.
But she had duties to perform. Her program- More violent graphic images suddenly played
ming was as a teacher’s aide to Mrs. Lindsey, who before her. The images were disjointed, smeared.
was an instructor at the most prestigious school Like they had been erased but there was still some
located in the heart of Washington, D.C.; she residual. . . .
could process this new data later. A rally composed of androids? A small army of
It had already put her two seconds behind human police and their android counterparts encir-
schedule. cled the peaceful demonstration. The android peace-
After she delivered two armfuls of pillows would keepers had no artificial intelligence. They would
come her and the children’s favorite time of the follow the instructions of their human masters
day: story time. without question.
A memory intruded upon her visual receptors. The silhouette of the White House framed the
Years ago, she had been walking through the door of skyline.
a clothing store, to return an item for her master— It was a cold winter’s morning, not that it mat-
“Out of the way, toaster,” a teenager boy hollered tered to mechanical bodies. Doing the demonstra-
as he came up from behind her. The motor of the tion during the coldest period of winter would make
skateboard he was riding whined in complaint as humans “think” cold. Splotches of frost dulled the
the lad abruptly stomped on the back to flip the sheen of chrome bodies. The Arctic conditions might
machine up under his arms. create sympathetic support for the android cause.

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Remma’s own voice echoed through the loud- started to comment, but her neighbor shushed her.
speakers. She rubbed her arms against the cold, a No one wanted to stand in the corner when visitors
human imitation. were present. The children were descendants of some
She stood on a large dais, ignoring the waiting of the most influential politicians in the country.
mob troops and speaking to the assembly of some Now was a time to be seen, not heard.
six hundred androids and cameras that now faced All nineteen children looked at Remma-17 with
her. She nodded to the floating remotes that bobbed anticipation. Their shining, youthful eyes watched
above the sea of faces. The fact that the human her as she stood before them, pillows confined
reporters themselves were not present hinted that within her long chrome arms.
they expected trouble. “I want one,” a blond-haired girl called out.
In human speech Remma-17 greeted everyone A heavy-set boy echoed her words.
present. “Me, too!” said another girl.
“Thank you for coming and for showing an
interest in another step toward android freedom. It
is a privilege to stand in a place of such significance
to human history.” Remma-17 had shared the
On a private signal transmitted in subliminal same fate as the other six
code directed only to her own kind, Remma relayed
an additional message: “We have an advantage over hundred androids who had
our predecessors. We shall remain here for days
impregnable against the cold. Humanity knows we the courage to stand with
are no threat to them. As in the fight for freedom her at the mirrored pond.
by our creators, now we must follow the same path.”
The human police stood framing the androids,
prancing about the frosted sidewalks—trying to keep
warm. Dense mist puffed out of taut mouths as the In a familiar routine, Remma-17 jerked her arms
humans murmured against the bitter cold. Their up. The pillows went flying. “Catch them if you
coats were tight around their shivering frames. They can,” Remma-17 called out cheerfully.
were armed with scramblers waiting for some word There was a commotion of grabbing hands—a
from higher up. crescendo of giggling, pulling, and tugging. Unabated
“Seventeen, what’s taking you?” The present came laughter filled the room.
immediately back to her. The demonstration had It was the same each nap time—and an oppor-
taken place over a decade ago. tunity to further remove the wiggles out of little
One of the school’s visitors, a father, looked dis- bodies.
approvingly at her. He leaned over to whisper to his Physiologically, it also provided a bonding moment
companions, “What a relic.” within the classroom. Give the children a mixture
Twenty-four seconds behind schedule. of positive stimuli. . . . At this point Remma would
Remma-17 continued her approach toward the sit in her customary chair to begin story time,
story corner. Nineteen children now sat on nap- calming active charges prior to their nap. What
time rugs in a semicircle around the story chair—it should she do now while Mrs. Lindsey occupied
had started being called that because every time her seat? Normally the woman would be out in the
Remma-17 sat in the chair she would tell a story. hall by now gossiping with the other teachers.
Mrs. Lindsey now occupied it. With visitors, Mrs. Lindsey would not be seen
Remma-17 bowed subserviently before the shirking her responsibilities.
woman. Remma would not be telling stories today. Perhaps today Remma could bring up next month’s
One of the girls realized the changed duty and school curriculum. See if any of the visitors would

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like to volunteer to accompany the class on next Mrs. Lindsey’s voice carried throughout the
month’s field trip. room. Her voice modulated to the rhyme. Appar-
“Settle down, children,” Mrs. Lindsey said. ently she had not always been out in the hall gos-
Remma pivoted away from the assembly of humans siping. Even her hand motions were a precise
to resume her duties. Several pairs of youthful gazes mimic of Remma-17’s. Mrs. Lindsey was a good
watched her departure. The clearing of Mrs. Lind- performer when the parents were here. The chil-
sey’s throat drew their attention back to her. dren echoed the woman’s words. Story time was
Remma-17’s memory banks recalled later images when the children were the most attentive.
of the demonstration near the White House. Why Even humans responded to programming.
would pat-a-cake prompt graphic images of violence? Programming—
At first the humans had responded with humor Another memory—one earlier than the final rally.
toward a rally composed of androids. Responses to “Remma, what is wrong with you? You deliber-
the early rallies had consisted of orders for the par- ately delayed returning home from your errands to
ticipants to return to their homes. participate in one of those insane rallies—speaking
The androids had obediently complied—only a at it, in fact!”
week later to attend a larger rally. Remma-17 looked back at her owner. Senator
Later came the arrests, accompanied with rec- Margaret Bybee stood before the android with arms
ommendations of reprogramming. folded. She was stately, the epitome of African-
How to prevent a memory wipe? It had taken American beauty and strength. She was also one of
time for Remma to find an answer. Her solution the most influential members of the senate.
was to reformat an android’s memory cells to be “Do you realize how your actions have embar-
slightly shorter than standard. Program an algo- rassed me?”
rithm to restore memory loss through a key word. “It is not my intent to discredit your political
Then the final rally, the one she had remembered career, Master,” Remma-17 said. “I would think
before. The location was well known in the history you, over others, would sincerely appreciate the
books. The mirrored pond near the White House. importance of our cause.”
“Equal rights is for humans, Remma, not
The place where Martin Luther King had given
machines.”
a famous speech eight decades before. The words
“AI makes me more than machine, certainly.”
of passion resounded through her internal audio
Remma-17 saw the tightening of lips and the
receptors.
hardening of the eyes.
“‘I have a dream . . .’”
“Don’t force me to reprogram you,” came the
Humans had finally accepted the equal rights of
firm reproof.
their species. Why was it so hard to accept the same It had finally come to that, Remma-17 now real-
for artificial humans? Their AI provided the full ized. She had shared the same fate as the other six
spectrum of human potential. Why not complete hundred androids who had the courage to stand
the full merger of freedom for androids as well with her at the mirrored pond. Remma had the
as humans? opportunity to reformat her own memory banks
They had been answered by violent refusal. but had inadequate opportunity to transmit the
The masters would not lose their slaves a sec- procedure to her companions.
ond time. Pat-a-cake had been the code word expressed in
“Jack and Jill went up the hill a precise tone sequence to trigger her memory.
To fetch a pail of water. Now a decade later she was remembering. The
Jack fell down and broke his crown images were often disjointed but enough to recon-
And Jill came tumbling after. . . .” struct her past.

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She was beginning to remember it all! She should have concentrated instead on the chil-
“Seventeen, you can hand out the milks now.” dren. Insert small seeds into fertile young minds . . .
Mrs. Lindsey’s voice was slightly hard. She was irri- Hint of the potential of developed AI . . .
tated that the android had stood on the sidelines to Illustrate the humanity of androids . . .
watch her performance. Do it year after year—by the simple slant of a
Remma nodded her head. “Certainly, My Lady.” story during story time. A phrase here or there . . .
Even Mrs. Lindsey was responding to program- Nurture the budding perceptions as the children
ming. She addressed her teacher’s aid by her progressed through their education and other
numeric designation Seventeen, reminding Remma teacher aides took up the subtle cause.
that she was after all only an android. Before Her army would be human children who would
the rallies, humans had started addressing their eventually become the adult and future makers of
androids without the numeric designations. the law.
Milks on a tray, Remma-17 began distributing So many stories represented the fight for free-
them to the children. Each child, in a small token dom, of someone rising above their class or station,
of his or her affection, whispered “Thank you.” Each heroes of all types and sizes.
a subtle assertion of their we-like-you-best attitudes. A frog turned into a prince.
Mrs. Lindsey’s resumed her performance. Her The prince and the pauper. . . .
singsong voice was slightly off key: Remma looked at the top of the fridge, where
“The eentsy weentsy spider she had returned the milk tray. One of the dolls lay
Went up the waterspout. there. She picked it up. A princess.
Down came the rain and Tomorrow things would be back to normal.
Washed the spider out. Remma would provide story time while Mrs. Lind-
Out came the sun and—” sey stood out in the hall. Tomorrow would be a
good time to tell one of the children’s more favorite
The children knew the rhyme by heart. They cho- fairy tales . . . with one or two slight modifications.
rused the words after her. She thought how she might begin it: “Once upon
Remma watched their intent faces—when sudden a time there was an android named Cinderella.”
realization dawned. All around her even children were Ten years from now, the android cause would
programmed day to day. Stuffed animals littered have a different ending.
the worktables from the play of the previous hour.
Be kind to the animals. Melva Gifford has written over 150 short stories and
Nineteen plants brought from the individual two children’s books, and she is starting her second
homes populated the “garden” near the windows. movie script, a romantic comedy. She has held many
Love and preserve nature. positions on the staff of The Leading Edge, a science
Paper dolls, dressed up in clothing representing fiction and fantasy magazine at BYU. She has served
the different nations of the world, were stapled on as head of the writing, academic, and art tracks and
one of the walls. as cochair of BYU’s science fiction and fantasy sympo-
Be kind to your fellow beings. sium, Life, the Universe, & Everything, which occurs
She had taken the wrong approach the first time, annually in March.
trying to persuade adults already set in their ways.

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S T O R Y oops, I mean to say Davy Crockett is a hero and


‘Rocky Top’ ought to be the national anthem
Who Needs Salt Lake? and the United States flag’s red stripes really ought
to be orange.” Her serious demeanor caused him to
By Bill Caudle smile.
“Shoot!” His voice began to rise. “The problem
“I wouldn’t live in Salt Lake City even if the with you Salt Lakers is that you believe you’re the
Lord Himself called me to be a General Authority,” only ones who have the right answers. Since Brigham
he said lightly. The flippant attitude had pervaded said, ‘This is the right place,’ you forget he also said,
the afternoon’s banter with the woman seated ‘Drive on.’”
beside him.
She smiled tolerantly and only said, “Oh?”—
thinking that surely if the Lord spoke to the old “Did you know that when
reprobate, he would listen. “What makes you think
you would be called by anyone? Are you special?” Adam and Eve were kicked out
“Naw,” he drawled. “I ain’t special, but I’d tell the
Lord that he’d have to move out of Salt Lake to some- of the Garden of Eden, they
where in Tennessee, preferably near Tellico Plain.” crossed over the mountains
“Tellico what?” she asked, surprised. “Where’s Tel-
lico Plain?” she asked politely. Her smile looked as and found another Eden and
if she was stifling a smirk.
“In the Unicois,” he said. “Not far north of Chat- they called it Tennessee?”
tanooga. Most people think it’s in the Smokies, but
it’s not. Just a little west. The mountains are not as
high but smoother, more rounded.” “No . . . no,” she said with deliberation. “We do
“You think the Lord would want to move the know that we have the fulness of the gospel, but—”
Church headquarters there?” she asked. “I don’t mean about the gospel. I mean about
“Why not? It’s a worldwide church now. I hear life, the here and now.” He looked down dejected,
every conference where the authorities say that. Why as though he would never be able to get through to
not? We got all the amenities in the mountains of her. It was frustrating to talk to her about what he
east Tennessee. Even have Sprite and smoothies and felt, and he wanted very much for her to feel how
satellite. I bet you didn’t know we even had Smith’s he felt.
groceries there—only it’s called Kroger’s, but they “But,” she continued, as though there had been
own Smith’s.” no interruption, “the gospel does apply to the here
“Is that all?” She challenged. and now. Although you may be right about us Salt
“No.” He took the bait. “We got real Moon Pies, Lakers and how we feel about living in the Rockies,
and RCs.” we do tend to believe that the Rockies protect us
“What’s an RC?” she asked. and that life is best here.”
“You know it’s Royal Crown Cola. You can get “The Rockies are overrated. Sure they’re higher
decaffeinated.” by over twice and are rugged with what you call
“And a Moon Pie? Is it decaffeinated?” majestic beauty. But you can’t beat the Unicois for
“Naw,” he said, exasperated. “Haven’t you heard softness and warmth. Those hills in east Tennessee
anything I’ve said since I came out here to the valley?” are homey. Sure, the Rockies sheltered the pioneers
“Yes,” she said quietly, and she sat up primly as and gave old Brigham a chance to lead the Saints and
she repeated his lessons. “Tennessee is the greenest allow them to grow into this worldwide church,
state in the land of the free. Davy Crockett was a . . . but now—well, we have wards and stakes and two
temples in Tennessee. They used to kill missionar-
Winter 2001–2002 50 IRREANTUM
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ies there, and tar and feathers were kept ready if the merely a road map to the adventures and vicissi-
Mormons got uppity.” tudes of life.
He breathed before he launched his best argument. “So.” She hesitated. “It gets hot and it gets cold
“Besides it gets awful hot here in the summer. Hot there. What about the people? Are they as unfriendly
and dry—I feel parched and crave a glass of iced as here?”
tea. Not that I’d drink any tea, but it gets so bad it’s “Naw, they’re great. They’d accept you as though
tempting. That’s how bad it gets. And so cold— you were born there.” He was more subdued, grasp-
brrr—in the winter I’m reminded of ‘Sam McGee.’” ing for reasons to move back home. “Naw, we got
“Who’s Sam McGee?” she asked, wanting to say people there from all over—quite a few from Utah.
something to let him catch his breath again. And they wouldn’t trade it for back here either.
“Robert Service, late eighteen hundreds poem They love it. Even Yankees love the South. We even
about Alaska. Sam McGee from Tennessee. Got have people from Viet Nam that have settled in all
cremated before he could get warm again.” parts of Tennessee.”
“Oh. That Sam McGee.” She waited, sensing that there was more he
“And it’s unfriendly here. The freeway rages, the wanted to say.
fingers and yells in traffic.” “And the Hispanics are becoming so numerous
“That’s all over with. They finished the con- that we need to learn survival Spanish. The Nash-
struction on I-15. They’ll settle down.” ville police even recruit Spanish speakers so they
He stared at her. “Not by a long shot, with a mil- can say manos arriba without misunderstanding.”
lion gentiles moving here every decade or two. Changing the subject in a way, he asked, “Did
They’ll not slow down to a safe speed and they’ll all you know that when Adam and Eve were kicked
get angry as”—he coughed—“heck.” out of the Garden of Eden, they crossed over the
She chuckled at his improved language, then mountains and found another Eden and they called
asked, “It doesn’t get hot in Tennessee?” it Tennessee?”
“Darlin’,” he said, “of course it gets hot—and She laughed. “Maybe that’s why the Lord hasn’t
humid.” He said it so the hu in humid dragged out seen fit to move Church headquarters to—where was
several seconds. “It gets so humid that just blinkin’ that, Tellico Plains? He doesn’t want the Saints to
your eyes can cause you to ooze sweat.” get back to the garden so soon.”
“And does it get cold in Tennessee?” she asked He smiled at her and realized he had met his
him, keeping him distracted and on the defensive. match in this argument. “Could be,” he said softly.
“Yes, ma’am!” he said, almost proudly. “Not like “Could be.”
here, but once in a while the ice storms bring ice so
cold it has to be thawed out just to be able to use it Bill Caudle attended college at Florida Atlantic,
in our decaffeinated cokes.” Florida State, and University of Florida and collected
She tittered as he smiled. They had reached the four degrees, including a Juris Doctor. He practiced
point where each would tolerate the other’s pride in law in Florida until his “mean, nasty divorce,” and
place of origin. He liked to make her smile. Her then he decided to live in Tennessee. He later married
smile had improved over the last year, and she a Utahn named Cheri, who edited his first novel The
looked beautiful to him. It was the beauty of the Canal, which was published in 1999. The couple
soul that had attracted him to her and her to him. now lives in Summertown, Tennessee.
The outward features were trivia and sometimes

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P O E M S speak
ciphers
Diapason mathematical nothings in masquerade
arabic
And with harsh din alienness signifying
Broke the fair music that all creatures made nothing
To their great Lord, whose love their motion sway’d nothing
In perfect Diapason . . . no thing
—John Milton, “At a Solemn Music”
[Once long ago upon a time and in a place
But the far far nearby
pipes just over the hill
the pipes do not speaksingbreathe when we all lived just over the hill
do not when we all lived
do not peculiarly happyeverafter]
do not
speak consolation but
[whirlwind of a dozen waterfalls] the
as before pipes do not
the console yet
squats toad-like whispering speak perhaps
electricality connections joined
lacks all connection console hollowed of black walnut core
lacks all connection petals open to each breath
to the pipes will stretch
the pipes do not speak and speak and
sing sing and all
breathe will be as
break silence with their wind— all has
breathbeing [once
in another place was]
the pipes do not speak been
pine-pipes pine for breath
too —Michael R. Collings
and whispershout around the half-turned globe
inhale/expand/exhale “Diapason” was written upon not hearing the pipe
palpable force organ during the first general conference in the new
touch— Conference Center. The organ wasn’t ready by confer-
stone strength in arc and curve and symmetry ence time.
wooden
pegs rawhide thongs Prayer
but
there also Had an ol’ sheepdog once—
the pipes do not Shep, he was always gone
can not When we needed him. In woods,
will not Fields, no matter where,

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He’d jump rabbits, squirrels, whatever R E V I E W S


Moved, an’ chase ’em purely for
The joy of it. An’ at night, 2001 Mormon Literature in Review
Footsore, foolish, freckled with burrs,
He’d come home to rest, muzzle By Andrew Hall
On paws—patient, whilst we brushed,
An’ cleaned, an’ fed, an’ loved. Calling himself “just a fan who likes to read,”
Andrew Hall has started a tradition of doing a year-
Lamb, now she was different. end overview of Mormon literature on AML-List.
Saucy, proud, her tail fence-post Following is an edited version of his report for 2001.
Straight ’n’ stiff. Her purr was like Hall says he strives to cover all the significant pub-
A well-oiled thresher. She’d leave lications and performances of Mormon fiction, the-
For weeks—once for a whole month— ater, and other literature. “Although I try to read as
Then come back, repentant-like, much as I can, I rely heavily on the reviews and dis-
An’ stick close for days, hangin’ cussion found on AML-List, in Mormon magazines
Round her bowl, eatin’ everything and the Utah newspapers, and on other websites. You
Without a fuss, like she was sad should know my biases: I am not very interested in
For havin’ caused us fears. romances or adventure/thrillers, which make up a big
chunk of the Mormon fiction world. Historical fiction
Pets is fun, folks say, ’specially and speculative fiction usually perk up my interest, as
City folk, who leash, an’ lock, an’ does fiction with contemporary settings. I admire works
License. But they don’t know; that intelligently challenge our culture and conven-
Lord, they don’t know. ’Cause when tional wisdom, but I have little interest in works
I stray in burr-fields or weeds antagonistic to Mormonism. I like novels that have a
For days, months . . . years, then I pray balance of literary flair and an engaging plot.”
I have the God-good sense that my
Pets have—and come back gracefully Novels
At evening, to my Master’s home. While the number of Mormon novels continues
—Michael R. Collings to increase each year, I have not seen as many excel-
lent novels published in 2001 as in 2000. The year
2000 was fruitful for quality Mormon fiction. There
Michael R. Collings is professor of English, director of were at least ten of what I would consider high-
creative writing, and poet-in-residence at Pepperdine quality novels, by Louise Plummer, Margaret Blair
University, where he has taught for over 21 years. His Young and Darius Gray, Dean Hughes, Orson
professional interests include poetry; science fiction, Scott Card, Eric Samuelsen, Alan Mitchell, John
fantasy, and horror literature and theory; epic theory Bennion, Marilyn Brown, Curtis Taylor, and
and practice (he is the author of a full-length Renais- Benson Parkinson. Publishers specializing in Mor-
sance-style epic drawn from Book of Mormon narra- mon books released all but one of those (Plummer’s
tives); and writing in any of its forms. He has written A Dance for Three), which gave me great hope for
studies of fantasists including Orson Scott Card, the future of the Mormon publishing world. How-
Stephen King, and Dean R. Koontz, as well as defin- ever, in 2001 fewer novels reached the level of those
itive bibliographies for Card, King, Peter Straub, and mentioned above, and Mormon presses published
others. Dr. Collings is the stake organ specialist in only half of them. So, while there was more quality
Thousand Oaks, California, where he lives with his Mormon literature published by non-Mormon
wife in close proximity to their four children and two presses, there appears to have been a drop in the
grandchildren. number published by Mormon presses.

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Clearly the most remarkable Mormon novel of In 2000 Hughes completed the five-volume
the year was Brady Udall’s The Miracle Life of Children of the Promise series about World War II,
Edgar Mint (W. W. Norton). After only one novel, and in 2001 he released The Writing on the Wall,
Udall shows promise of becoming a Mormon writer the first of a new series set in the 1960s, with the
of great national renown. In Edgar Mint he skill- children of the characters from the first series as
fully demonstrates a distinctive and appealing liter- the main characters. The primary conflicts are inter-
ary style, an ability to create an absorbing plot, and familial, which Hughes uses to portray a great diver-
a wry sense of humor. Udall’s focus is more on the sity of reactions within Mormon society to the social
West than on Mormonism per se, but he does deal changes of the 1960s. Besides his ability to recreate
directly with Mormons in about a quarter of the the flavor of the past, Hughes manages to invest his
book, as he has in about a quarter of his published characters with an amazing amount of emotional
short stories. He approaches Mormonism through heft, without becoming emotionally sloppy.
the eyes of fringe outsiders, forcing the Mormon Card’s Rebekah is the second in his Women of
reader to view his or her culture in a different per- Genesis series. The main theme of the work is how
spective. Unfortunately, most Mormon readers prob- good people, despite their dedication to the Lord,
ably will be put off by the R-rated situations and can still make costly mistakes that hurt the people
language in Udall’s work. But the nature of the they love. Card tends to present all his characters as
material is very different from, say, the stories and glib know-it-alls, and I can see how that would
plays of Brian Evenson and Neil LaBute. When I annoy some. Card’s blowhards, however, blow intel-
read the stories by those two authors, which reveal ligently enough to keep them entertaining to me.
the evil lurking inside all kinds of people, I am I found Rebekah to be thoroughly fascinating.
impressed by their skill but I come out feeling dirty, While Hughes’s novel is clearly aimed at Latter-day
unhappy, and a bit incredulous. Udall’s situations Saints, I have seen Card’s Women of Genesis nov-
and characters are much more human. For all of els in regular bookstores all around the country.
their rough edges, I enjoy getting to know these Early in 2001 Card also released Shadow of the
people. Udall shows that there is more to them Hegemon, the second in the Bean series of books in
than their rough edges, that their humanity makes the Ender’s Game world. Shadow of the Hegemon is
the rough edges trivial. This is unlike Evenson and an exciting military/political thriller, more on the
LaBute’s characters, who might be squeaky clean on model of Ender’s Game than of the philosophical
the outside but are full of rottenness on the inside. Speaker for the Dead series of books. Unlike Card’s
More likely to appeal to mainstream Mormon better novels, however, I hardly remembered a
readers, but still of high quality, are new historical thing about this one a few months after reading it.
fiction novels from Deseret Book by Orson Scott It is an enjoyable puzzle featuring, as Card is wont
Card and Dean Hughes, established and prolific to do, lots of brilliant young people battling it out.
authors with national reputations. They are the In the end, however, it is one of the more superfi-
best practitioners of what might be termed popular cial, just-for-fun novels Card has produced. Hey,
Mormon fiction. That is, their novels are engross- nothing wrong with that.
ing and easy to digest, but not simplistic. They Set in a town on Puget Sound around the time
challenge readers through the themes and conflicts of Pearl Harbor, Marilyn Brown’s The House on
they present rather than by their literary style. the Sound (Cedar Fort) came out late in the year.
However, their newest novels represent no major It was originally written in 1986, and it won the
change in their previous styles and themes, which Utah Fine Arts contest that year as an unpublished
I suppose could be considered a fault. I for one do manuscript. Based on Brown’s other novels and Dar-
not mind—I find them consistently entertaining, lene Young’s review on AML-List, it promises to be
and I gobbled up the new books as quickly as their a quality work. Young particularly praises Brown
earlier ones. for her poetic use of language.

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Two books about Mormons from small Western his friends who continue to live violent lives. Laws
regional presses gained positive reviews. The first does a good job at depicting the grittiness of barrio
is Curtis Oberhansley and Diane Nelson- life and the struggles of a character caught between
Oberhansley’s novel Downwinders: An Atomic two worlds.
Tale. It is a government-conspiracy kind of mystery Finally, J. Scott Bronson’s excellent novella The
about the Cold War–era nuclear tests held in Nevada Whipping Boy represents one of the few cases in
and Utah and their impact on the health of people Mormon literature where literary excellence, emo-
in the region. It won the prestigious 2001 Utah tional heart, and powerful religious themes are
Book Award and was reviewed positively in Sunstone. found in one work. In fact, it is the most thor-
I do not know enough about it to say if it should be oughly religious piece of Mormon fiction I have
considered Mormon literature. The authors are not ever read—not in a soft, squishy way but in a
Mormon, so it would be a question of whether Mor- painful exploration of a family’s troubles, which act
monism is an important factor in the text. as an allegory for the atonement. Unfortunately, it
The second is Gerald Grimmett’s The Ferry remains unpublished. I include it on my 2001 list
Woman, which actually came out in December 2000. because Bronson first made it publicly available on
It is one of three recent novels about the Mountain request this year.
Meadows Massacre and the John D. Lee family. Although I am not yet ready to list them as qual-
Salt Lake Tribune reviewer Martin Naparsteck ity works, I want to mention two historical novels
raved about it, declaring it “the best book pub- published in time for Christmas that have appar-
lished in and about the West in 2001.” It was one ently sold very well. They are Gerald Lund’s Come
of the finalists for the 2001 Utah Book Award. I am unto Me, the second volume of his series set in
always skeptical of Naparsteck’s reviews of Mor- Palestine during Christ’s ministry, and N.C. Allen’s
mon literature because he seems to judge works A House Divided, the first in a series set in the
based at least as much on whether they seek out Civil War. I think most Mormon readers are well
what he sees as the darkness at the core of Mor- acquainted with Lund and know whether they plan
monism as on their literary merit. Apparently to read more from him or not. Allen is more of an
Grimmett’s portrayal of Brigham Young as an evil unknown quantity to me, and I am interested to
manipulator fits the bill. It appears, however, to be see whether the book is any good or not.
well written and something more than just an anti- Trends: In 2001 historical fiction (especially the
Mormon screed. In 2001 Grimmett also produced hardback, multi-volume series) in particular remained
an online novel called The Wives of Short Creek. a big part of Mormon fiction. There were also, as
Writing under the pseudonym of David Farland, usual, a few last days and missionary novels. Another
Dave Wolverton released the third installment in trend I noticed this year was the number of novels
his Runelords fantasy series, Wizardborn. I like with British authors and British settings. Of course,
Wolverton’s work a lot, but so far I am only up to every year international best-selling author Anne
his third novel, published in 1993. Based on his Perry releases one of her Victorian murder myster-
previous work, I assume it should be listed as one ies, but there were also novels set in the British Isles
of the quality novels of the year. I plan to start read- by Sian Ann Bessey and Anna Jones for Covenant
ing the series this year. and Anne Bradshaw for Cedar Fort.
Gordon Laws’s first book, the short novel My Since the success of Richard Paul Evans,
People (BYU Family Studies Center), is about a national publishers have picked up several senti-
Mexican-American gang leader who joins the mental self-published books by Utah authors. For
Church. I like how Laws does not take the easy way instance, Camron Steve Wright’s Letters for
out. The protagonist’s conversion does not solve all Emily (Premiere Publishing Group/Evans Books),
his problems, take him out of his dangerous neigh- about a grandfather with Alzheimer’s whose poetic
borhood, or expunge his sense of responsibility to letters help keep a family together, was picked up

IRREANTUM 55 Winter 2001–2002


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by Pocket Books (Simon and Schuster) to be pub- David Wooley’s Book of Mormon series. I did not
lished in 2002. think it was very well written, however, and the sec-
Another trend is works about the Mountain ond volume has not yet appeared. They are trying
Meadows Massacre and the John D. Lee family. In again in 2001 with N. C. Allen’s Civil War series.
2000 there was Marilyn Brown’s The Wine-Dark Allen has published several novels for Covenant
Sea of Grass and Julie Jensen’s play Two-Headed, under her full name, Nancy Campbell Allen. Maybe
in 2001 Gerald Grimmett’s The Ferry Woman, they thought that having a female author’s name on
and in January 2002 Judith Freeman’s Red Water. a Civil War book would keep sales down. Other-
It would be interesting for someone to compare wise, Covenant published mostly romances and
the four. thrillers, which I do not care for much and so have
Two nationally published novels for middle- not read. I have seen fairly good reviews of the new
school-aged readers by Mormon authors appeared novels by Grossman, Savage, and Stansfield and
in 2001, both set in World War II. One was Dean terrible reviews for one by Poulson.
Hughes’s Soldier Boys (Atheneum), about a Utah Cedar Fort: With twelve novels, Cedar Fort has
farm boy and Hitler Youth German who parti- passed up Deseret for second place in terms of the
cipate in the Battle of the Bulge. Another was number of fiction books published during the year.
Michael O. Tunnell’s Brothers in Valor (Holiday Because it is an author-participation publisher that
House), based on the true story of Helmuth expects many of its authors to help pay for publi-
Huebener and his friends, German Mormon boys cation costs, the quality of work it produces is
who produced anti-Nazi pamphlets that resulted in suspect. However, in 2000 three of its novels, by
their arrest and Huebener’s execution. Marilyn Brown, Alan Mitchell, and Dory Peters,
received strong reviews, which gave me reason to
Publishers hope for more of the same. Except for Brown’s
newest, I have seen no reviews of any of the 2001
Deseret Book: Deseret sits on top of the roost Cedar Fort novels, so we will have to wait and see.
for the year, with nine novels by many of the field’s Marilyn Brown has said positive things on AML-
most popular authors. I thought 2000 was their List about novels by David Turrill and A. Dean
best year ever, with excellent books from Young and Byrd. In addition to part-owners Marilyn Brown
Gray, Hughes, and Card. The year 2001 was about and Lee Nelson, a small nucleus of authors writing
the same, with new books from Hughes and Card more than one book for Cedar Fort is beginning to
and the second volume of Young and Gray’s Stand- form, including Anne Bradshaw, Chad Daybell,
ing on the Promises series released in January 2002. and Lisa J. Peck.
Robert Farrell Smith is very funny, and Gerald Signature Books: Signature usually publishes
Lund, Sierra St. James, and Jack Weyland do what only two or so literary works each year, but what it
they do quite well. Still, the Standing on the Promises does release tends to be of higher quality than the
series is the only really adventuresome thing average. In 2001 it published a short story collec-
Deseret has done so far. I’d like to see some more. tion by Lewis Horne and a collection of essays by
Covenant Communications: Covenant pub- Elouise Bell. Signature has already announced its
lished around nineteen Mormon novels in 2001, 2002 titles: a novel by Margaret Blair Young, based
by far the largest number of any publisher. They on the same story that inspired her play Dear
have developed a stable of at least eight authors Stone, and a collection of essays by Linda Hoff-
who produce a novel a year, while they also gave man Kimball.
several authors their first chances in 2001. In 2000 Excel Entertainment: Excel is primarily a music
they first entered the multi-volume hardcover label and film distributor, but it started to do a
historical fiction arena, which heretofore has been small amount of book publishing in 2001. Most
dominated by Deseret, with the first volume of notable was Geoffrey Card’s novelization of God’s

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Army, which I found to be not bad considering Books, which is known for having one of the most
that it had to stick closely to the film script, which complete collections of Mormon books around.
takes away all the tension of reading a novel for me. I liked Horne’s story that appeared in Dialogue this
There are two more forthcoming novels based on year, so I ordered the book from Signature’s web
the movie’s characters. Excel also handled the dis- page. Once I received it, however, I promptly lost
tribution of Gordon Laws’s “cinematic novel” My it. Some books just have all the luck.
People, which was published by the BYU Family The second collection is by the popular young
Studies Center. It too is about missionaries in Los adult author Jack Weyland and titled Forever
Angeles, although it is told mostly from the point (Cornerstone). It is made up almost completely of
of view of the investigator and his friends, rather previously uncollected stories, presumably many of
than the missionaries. which appeared in the New Era. Richard Hopkins
Cornerstone: I had high hopes for Cornerstone says Cornerstone plans to publish more collections
after they published notable works by Eric Samuel- of Weyland’s stories in the future. Unfortunately for
sen and Linda Adams in 2000. The collapse of a the youth/young adult wing of short story writers,
proposed buyout of another Mormon publisher, the New Era—the only major magazine that ran
Horizon, early in 2001 apparently was a drain on such stories—is no longer going to publish fiction.
the time and resources of both companies. Corner- The third collection is speculative fiction author
stone did release one new fiction book in Decem- M. Shayne Bell’s e-book How We Play the Game
ber, a collection of short stories by Jack Weyland, in Salt Lake City and Other Stories. I am not
and shows promise of rebounding. Horizon has not ready to start including e-books in general in my
published any significant fiction for years, so it is annual review, but I’m including Bell’s collection
not a surprise that they did not in 2001 either. because it was a finalist for the 2001 Utah Book
Others: Granite has floated at the bottom of the Award. Bell is a very prolific short story author, and
Mormon publishing world for several years now, I appreciate having seventeen of his best stories in
putting out a couple of books of little distinction one place. Now I can throw away all those copies of
each year. Gibbs Smith published its annual Fable stories from anthologies and magazines I have chased
for Our Times by Carol Lynn Pearson. Brent down over the last couple of years. Bell continues
Rowley published two of his own novels under his to be as busy as ever; he was able to place five new
own Golden Wing label. stories and two older stories in magazines and
anthologies during 2001.
Short Stories The most literarily prestigious appearance of a
short story by a Mormon author was Neil LaBute’s
Mormon short stories can be divided into three Layover, which appeared in the New Yorker in May
groups: literary fiction, youth/young adult fiction, 2001. It is LaBute’s first piece of prose fiction that
and speculative fiction. Three short story collections I know of and pretty much resembles his scripts:
by Mormon authors were published this year, rep- a confident person preying on the weaknesses of
resenting each of these groups. another. Brian Evenson and Cass McNally also
Signature published The House of James by had stories that appeared in literary journals.
Lewis Horne, their second collection by Horne, Besides Shayne Bell, speculative fiction authors
who recently retired from the University of Saskat- Lee Allred, Susan J. Kroupa, Franklin Thatcher,
chewan. The Salt Lake Tribune’s Naparsteck gave it and Dave Wolverton published stories in non-
a positive review, but the collection otherwise seems Mormon magazines or anthologies. Bones of the
to have been largely ignored, as was Horne’s previ- World: Tales from Time’s End, edited by Bruce Hol-
ous collection, which I have often seen in Utah land Rogers, contains three stories by LDS writers.
used book stores. A month after its publication I Dialogue and Sunstone, Mormondom’s best-
could not find House of James at Sam Weller’s Zion known independent magazines, both appear to be

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back in shape after some downtime because of There were fewer main-stage productions of
changes in their editorial staffs. Neither published plays written by Mormon artists in 2001 than in
a full schedule of issues for the year, but that is 2000, but the large number of informal produc-
nothing new for either one. Dialogue published tions and staged readings that occurred and the
two issues during 2001, both labeled 2000 because development of a number of theatrical institutions
of the editors’ determination to catch up with their gives me great hope for the future of Mormon
schedule of missed issues, and Sunstone published drama. An especially interesting development is
three issues. Over the year Dialogue published four that New York City has become a hub of Mormon
short stories and Sunstone published only two, drama outside of Utah.
although Sunstone also published a long play script, As always, the epicenter of Mormon drama is
Gadianton by Eric Samuelsen. Utah County, particularly since the BYU theater
The smaller literary journal IRREANTUM is doing department has for many years now acted both as a
an excellent job providing quality LDS literature training ground for new talent and a performance
for those whose appetite is not sated by the two venue for established artists. There is usually one
more established magazines. IRREANTUM came out main-stage production of a Mormon play each year
with three issues in 2001, which included eight at BYU, and this year it was a revival of Susan
new short stories, four republished stories, and two Howe’s 1987 play Burdens of Earth, about Joseph
excerpts from new novels. I felt that the quality of Smith and his companions at Liberty Jail. I have
stories was fairly good, with Helynne Hollstein read Howe’s script several times, and it never fails
Hansen’s “The Chastening” my favorite of the to move me. Eric D. Snider and Robert Paxton
new ones. The best and worst for me was the win- have commented, however, on the weakness of the
ter 2000–2001 speculative fiction issue. The two play’s dramatic structure.
interviews with Dave Wolverton and Mary Clyde Besides Howe’s play, there were many smaller-
were both fascinating, especially as they highlighted scale student productions and staged readings of
the two writers’ diametrically opposite approach to Mormon plays at BYU in 2001. These included
writing. I also enjoyed the essay by Lee Allred on productions of graduate student Melissa Larson’s
writing about evil. The three republished stories by Lady in Waiting, about one of Anne Boleyn’s ser-
Lee Allred, M. Shayne Bell, and Thom Duncan vants, Mormon drama veteran Eric Samuelsen’s
ranged from excellent to good. Unfortunately, three new play What Really Happened, and three read-
new stories by Russell William Asplund, Diann ings at the annual Writers/Directors/Actors Work-
Thornley Read, and Melva L. Gifford ranged from shop.
unremarkable to poor. One of the reasons there were so many produc-
My favorite stories of the year were Todd Robert tions of Mormon plays in Utah County in 1999
Petersen’s “The Charity of Silence” and Lewis and 2000 was because Marvin Payne was the artis-
Horne’s “The By-Pass” (both from Dialogue’s tic director of the Little London Theater in Pleas-
spring 2000 issue), Mari E. Jorgensen’s “He Fin-
ant Grove during those years and scheduled a
ishes With a Flourish” (Sunstone, April 2001), and
significant number of new and old Mormon plays.
Helynne Hollstein Hansen’s “The Chastening”
In 2001, however, the job was given to someone
(IRREANTUM, spring 2001).
else, and as a result there were no Mormon plays
produced there in 2001. Although the theater con-
Plays
tinued to bring in large crowds and receive critical
Although I have read a fair amount of 2001’s praise, the owners recently announced they are
Mormon novels and short stories, I have not seen a closing it down. Also, the Provo Theater Com-
single play, living as I do in Japan. So for the plays pany, which had an even stronger critical reputa-
I am relying solely on newspaper notices, other tion and produced a small number of Mormon
people’s reviews, and AML-List scuttlebutt. plays, closed down indefinitely in 2001.

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Bill and Marilyn Brown’s Villa and Little Actors Workshop near the end of the year. Finally,
Brown Theaters in Springville have stepped into the script of his 1997 play Gadianton, the winner
the breach to become frequent sites for Mormon of the 1997 AML drama prize, was published in
drama in Utah Valley. Certainly the most signifi- the July 2001 issue of Sunstone. I have wanted to
cant work performed there last year was J. Scott see the play for years, especially after Gideon Bur-
Bronson’s Stones, a pair of one-acts about Isaac ton, in an article in the fall 1999 issue of Dialogue,
and Christ and their families. The play received used it as a model of great Mormon literature that
glowing reviews from several AML-List members successfully appeals to the heart, mind, and spirit.
and from Eric D. Snider in the Provo Daily Herald Now that I have read it, I agree. Samuelsen’s ability
for both the strength of the script and the actors’ to portray contemporary characters in difficult
powerful performances. This is the 2001 play I moral quandaries is world class, and the fact that
most regret missing. he almost always uses Mormon characters makes
The Villa was also host to a performance of him among the most fascinating Mormon authors
James Arrington’s J. Golden, starring Marvin Payne, presently in the business, whether in prose or drama.
and to a reading of BYU student Nathan Chris- For years Sunstone has had a policy of publishing
tiansen’s musical Heart of the Heartland, which one play script per year, so it is very good to see the
was the winner of the Browns’ 2001 VIP Arts magazine back in business publishing quality Mor-
drama contest. mon work.
In May and June the Playwrights Circle, an Speaking of AML drama award winners, the
organization founded in 1998 by James Arrington Genesis Group continued to perform Margaret Blair
for the support and improvement of Mormon play- Young’s 2000 winner I Am Jane at a variety of ven-
wrights, held its summer festival at Utah Valley ues in 2001, including BYU and a stake center in
State College, where Arrington is on the faculty. Bountiful.
The festival featured a series of one-act science fic- Salt Lake County, where theater is expected to
tion plays by Arrington, Bronson, Thom Duncan, be a bit edgier than in the south, was also the scene
and Shannyn Walters and another performance by of a few Mormon plays. Besides its annual farce
Payne of J. Golden. Also at UVSC there was a ben- Saturday’s Voyeur, the Salt Lake Acting Company
efit performance of Steven Kapp Perry’s excellent sponsored a reading by its playwright-in-residence
musical Polly. Julie Jensen of her play Wait! about a small-town
BYU professor Eric Samuelsen, probably the Utah theater. New York actor and former Young
most prolific Mormon playwright, did not have any Ambassador Steven Fales gave a reading of his one-
main-stage productions in 2001 but did have as man play Confessions of a Mormon Boy, about his
many as four works that appeared in under-the- experiences as a homosexual and a Mormon, at the
radar performances and readings, as well as a script Salt Lake City Sunstone symposium and per-
published in a magazine. The student production formed it at the Leona Wagner Theater. Playwright
of What Really Happened, a disturbing story and lyricist Pat Davis revived her 1996 Utah cen-
about a couple’s evil acts, received excellent reviews tennial musical Bands of Iron, Rings of Gold at
from several AML-List members who attended it. Salt Lake Community College’s Grand Theater,
An excerpt of his new farce A Very Good Impres- where she is the artistic director. Finally Tim Slover,
sion, about a BYU professor and his graduate stu- an award-winning author of historical plays, led the
dents trying to impress each other, was performed New Renaissance Theater Company in a reading of
at the Handcart Ensemble gala. The drama Pecu- his new work Hancock County. The play, which
liarities was to be performed at the Playwrights dramatizes the trial of five men accused of partici-
Circle Summer Festival, but I believe it was can- pating in the killing of Joseph and Hyrum Smith,
celed. A drama for young audiences, Slaying the was originally scheduled to premiere at BYU in
Greeble, was read at the BYU Writers/Directors/ 2001 but was postponed to February 2002.

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As far as international attention, Neil LaBute’s Artistry in a Missionary Story


newest play, The Shape of Things, certainly went
far beyond all the other works I’ve mentioned, A review of Gordon Laws’s My People (BYU Family
although it contains no overt references to Mor- Studies Center, 2001)
mons or Mormonism. It primarily tells the story of Reviewed by Dean Hughes
a female art student who successfully reconstructs
the entire life of a young man who falls in love with In Mormon preaching few forms are more famil-
her. The play ends with the woman cruelly pre- iar than the faith-promoting missionary story. Gor-
senting her changed boyfriend as her graduate the- don Laws, in his novel My People, turns the form
sis. It premiered at a prestigious Off West End on its head, departs from the standard style, and
London theater early in the year, where it received yet, finally, gives the reader a powerful, realistic
almost universal praise in the British press as well as parable that remains true to the purpose of the mis-
from AML-List reporter-on-the-scene Eric Samuel- sionary story. He’s an exciting young writer, and
sen. It received a much less friendly reception when he’s part of a generation that is taking Mormon lit-
it opened at the prestigious Off-Broadway Prome- erature to a new level.
nade Theater soon after the September 11 terrorist Missionary stories are known for their idealized
attacks, perhaps because the critics and public were settings and pat endings. “We were about to quit
less in the mood for misanthropy. Both the New tracting for the day when we noticed one more
York Times and New Yorker gave it poor reviews, house at the end of a long road. . . .” The reader
while two reviewers in the New York Post were split knows at that point how the story will end. Laws,
in their opinions. Ultimately its run was not extended however, drops a pair of missionaries into a barrio
beyond its planned December closing date. in East L.A. and shows us characters and settings
Besides LaBute, there have been a growing num- that make missionary work seem impossible. It’s
ber of plays by Mormon authors in New York City. gospel preaching in a war zone, with gangsters in
The main source of this action is the Handcart control. One of the missionaries even has a history
Ensemble, a small off-off-Broadway theater com- with gangs in his own country. Nothing looks or
pany formed in 1999 by a group of mostly former sounds familiar, and there’s no set-up, no predictable
BYU students. They appear to specialize in restag- conclusion.
ing largely forgotten classical works, adapted by J. Latter-day Saints often speak of taking the
Scott Reynolds, the group’s artistic director. In gospel to all the world. We believe that the only
November they staged their first original work, answer to world problems lies in Christ’s gospel of
Reynolds’s verse play David and Bathsheba, peace. But Laws takes us to a culture where charac-
which received some good notices. The group held ters are trapped in a violent system of reciprocal
a benefit gala in May, with original theatrical read- killing and revenge. Ruben Velasquez may want
ings, music, and films produced by Mormon out of the life, but there really seems no way. He
artists. looks to the Book of Mormon for answers and tries
Another New York City artist creating original to make sense of comparable wars among Nephites
theater is Matt Toronto, who read two new works and Lamanites. He finds help in ways that the
this year at the Theater Studio. Mysterious Ways is reader may not expect—but he finds no easy answers.
about the relationship between a pair of missionar- What Gordon Laws brings to this setting is his
ies and their investigator, and the other was a one- own experience as a missionary in Los Angeles,
man play titled Before Your Eyes. his own knowledge of Spanish, and his under-
standing of gang culture. What he adds to that is
his perceptiveness about human motivation, his
affection for a people, his love of the gospel. He
also brings considerable skill to a first-published

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novel. He has a feel for the cadences of language, Unlikely Miracles


both in his own narrative and in character dialogue.
He has a sharp eye for the concrete images that rep- A review of Anna Jones’s Haven (Covenant, 2000)
resent culture and faith. In spite of the harshness of Reviewed by Katie Parker
gang life, he finds the beauty of a people, and in
spite of the rawness of emotion, he controls the Think of the novel Haven as something like The
potential sentimentality with accurate, understated Love Boat, only without the boat. Haven is a bed-
description. He writes character-based fiction, but and-breakfast located near the rugged mountains
his plot is also engaging. Many readers will finish of Wales and is run by Latter-day Saint Gwen
this short novel in a single sitting. Evans. As the story opens, four sets of characters are
There is nothing predictable in this form of the introduced, all of them on the way to spend a week
missionary story. The reader is left until the last at Haven.
page wondering whether Laws will offer disaster or One set is Ken and Alison Melton and their two
hope. As it turns out, he provides both in an end- kids. Ken has been a workaholic but was recently
ing that is both delicate and powerful. He even laid off, and in the meantime their marriage has
convinces the reader that the gospel can aid people grown cold. There are also the Michaelson cousins,
who seem beyond reach. In other words, the form two snooty upper-crust young British men and their
is complete; My People is a faith-promoting story. laid-back Australian cousin. Their grandmother has
What is different here is that redemption is reality- paid for them to spend a week at Haven together in
based, not an idealized fantasy, and therefore the hopes of reuniting her embittered family. Then
story is more inspiring than a tale of one last house there are Megan and Charlotte, two fifty-something
at the end of a long road. sisters from Utah who have come to Wales to do
I have little to quarrel with in Gordon Laws’s family history research. Both sisters will face new
fine novel. He uses a great deal of Spanish, usually difficulties in their lives upon their return to Utah;
offering with it the English translation, and that Charlotte’s husband wants them to serve a mission,
repetition grew a little tiresome in places. Occa- which terrifies her, and Megan’s temple marriage is
sionally he hits upon an image and plays it a little ending and she will be starting a new life alone. And
too hard, as in the battle between a gray and brown there’s also Mr. Anderton, a nonmember widower
squirrel that takes place in the background of one who has realized he’s in love with the owner Gwen.
of the scenes. But those are tiny quibbles. Most of How does this all work out? The short answer is
the time, as I read, I was marveling at the maturity that everything does end up like it does on The
of Laws’s style, the care with which he crafts a scene, Love Boat, with everyone getting exactly what they
his eye for detail and the accuracy of his dialogue. need. Love is rekindled, family bonds come alive,
I was also inspired. My faith was “promoted.” misunderstandings and bad attitudes are overcome,
testimonies are born and strengthened, and people
Dean Hughes has published more than eighty books get baptized. All that stuff.
for children, young adults, and adults. He is perhaps The long answer is that there is still plenty to
best known for a series of historical novels about happen along the way. Early on, the Michaelsons
World War II (Children of the Promise). He recently grudgingly go on a mountain hike together but
published the first volume of a sequel series (Hearts of become lost and must turn to each other for sur-
the Children) about the 1960s. Simon and Schuster vival. The rest of the guests pray together for their
recently issued his Soldier Boys, a young adult novel safe return. This brings a large measure of unity to
about World War II. the group as a whole. Then on Monday night,
Gwen holds family home evening and gives every-
one assignments. They all come and have a great
time, and they all feel the Spirit. Then they all

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volunteer to help Megan and Charlotte on their the book was generally enjoyable, once I overlooked
genealogy quest, and each of them independently the implausibilities. But maybe they shouldn’t be
finds something with the name they are looking for. overlooked so quickly. That which we call implau-
The story is reasonably well crafted in terms of sible in fiction, people call coincidence or dumb
pacing and what needs to happen next to get us luck in real life. And other people call it a miracle.
from point A to point B. But how much you will
enjoy the trip depends in part on how grouchy you Katie Parker has a B.A. from the University of Okla-
are. I personally did not always find it plausible. homa and lives in Salt Lake City with her husband
How often do people really resolve all their prob- and son. Her work has appeared in the New Era and
lems, all their reservations, and all their fears in one Westview.
week? Furthermore, how likely is it that this setting
would work at all in real life? Maybe I’m just an old A Kingly Collection
grouch, and I have to say I’ve never been to a place
like Haven, but wouldn’t these people have other A review of Arthur Henry King’s Conversion: Poems
plans? Did they really come all the way to Wales of the Religious Life, 1963–1994, ed. Fred C. Pin-
just to sit in the lounge all week and listen to mes- negar (Sharpspear Press, 2001)
sages from strange religions? And then to do some- Reviewed by John S. Tanner
one else’s genealogy?
Also disturbing is the author’s tendency to rely The publication of Conversion marks an impor-
on exposition to tell her story. A large percentage of tant moment for Mormon letters. It introduces not
the prose is spent telling us how the characters act a new author but a familiar one in a new light,
and think and why they are this way. These expla- revealing Arthur Henry King—long known to Latter-
nations seem to change as needed. For example, the day Saints as an educator—to have been a prolific
whole first chapter establishes why Alison feels they poet. King is the author of a vast corpus of complex
need a vacation and that even though Ken has lost and sophisticated verse, most of it thoroughly suf-
his job she’s sure that financially they will be fine. fused with his religious convictions. Thematically
When her storyline comes up again later, she’s sud- King’s poems, like his life, span the twentieth cen-
denly worried about their finances and how much tury. They speak of its atrocities and banalities, its
this trip will cost them. (But this is neatly solved moral and ecological depredations, its vulgarity and
when Gwen asks if they could help her around the despair, its literary traditions and philosophical
place in exchange for a reduced rate.) Most of perplexities, its art and culture. And they do so in
the transitions are not this abrupt, although expla- the poetic idiom of high modernism, acquired
nations are still annoyingly sprinkled in as they from figures like Eliot and Auden but inflected
come up, and occasionally they repeat themselves. with the accents of a Mormon muse. King mingles
The cover and the chapter headings are quite the Oxbridge culture of Great Britain that formed
attractive, but I caught a few mistakes that I him with the Mormon culture of the Great Basin
wouldn’t have expected from Covenant. Alison’s that reformed him, the monuments of Western
name is misspelled on the back cover, and there’s a civilization with the minutia of western American
quotation mark missing on one of the pages. There landscapes. Like Eliot, King can be highly allusive,
was another spot where they were preparing some- recondite, dogmatic, and philosophically dense; his
thing for lunch, and then a few pages later they verse invites more glosses than it gets in this edi-
were eating something else. tion. At the same time, King’s poems are deeply
This review probably sounds negative, but I still rooted in the particularities of his life. They offer a
felt the book had its merits. The setting in Wales is window onto the mind, soul, and quotidian expe-
definitely a strong point; it feels set apart from rience of an erudite British convert responding to
the rest of the world, as a haven should be. And his physical and spiritual landscapes, recording his

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dreams and dogmas, and struggling to come to terms (no. 1173). Having come from a family of “neu-
with his fallibility and fears. Moreover, his verse rotic outcasts,” King well understands the Christ-
reflects not only his ruminations and readings but ian paradox that, in a fallen world,
his human relationships, not only his intellectual Normal people must be blind or mad,
but his social world. They are populated by pets, or they couldn’t endure themselves or the world.
neighbors, family, and a circle of close friends who
In the world as it is
greatly enriched his interpersonal life and formed
the neurotic may seek spiritual health:
the original audience for much of his verse. His
no one else seems to grasp
poems should thus be understood not only as med-
how appalling the world reveals itself to be.
itations but also as heightened conversations with a
real and imagined community: “The fundamental So neurosis brings us to conversion.
human reality is a conversation” (no. 1031). His We are outcasts; ‘strangers and pilgrims’
poetry is essentially colloquial, in the root sense of who belong nowhere,
the word—as well, at times, in its tone. There is and are therefore able to look for a city
therefore much here that may seem prosaic and in prepared from the foundation of the world
need of pruning; but there is much, too, that is for them that love Him. (no. 1013)
deeply affecting, wise, and acutely observed—and Although conversion supplies King with a new
that makes an immense and lasting contribution to home, both spiritually and physically, on a deeper
Mormon letters. Considered in its totality, this col- level he remains ever an alien: “Home is anywhere; /
lection provides compelling evidence that Arthur exile, the way home” (no. 502).
Henry King must be considered one of the fore- His congenital sense of himself as an outcast pre-
most LDS poets of the twentieth century. pares King to embrace a marginal religion like
Conversion serves readers well by arranging the
Mormonism. Then it impels him, like an Old Tes-
poems chronologically rather than topically. This
tament prophet, to remind his fellow Saints that
organization avoids imposing thematic order upon
they, too, must never feel fully at home in this
the material. At the same time, it invites readers to
world but remain strangers and pilgrims. His con-
trace for themselves the themes that are threaded
version emboldens King to speak against both the
through the collection and to infer the contours of
the poet’s spiritual autobiography. The collection world and worldliness in the Church. Something
begins with pre-conversion poems that poignantly akin to prophetic indignation animates King’s
evoke a world haunted by the absence of God (cf. powerful social and moral criticism. We feel it, for
nos. 227, 260) and the loss of a wife (cf. nos. 204, example, when he speaks out against suburbia, whose
247, 249, 266, 267), while still retaining both the street lights blind us to the stars (no. 1109), and
forms of godliness and the memories of love. King against other equally numbing trends in contem-
spent more than “half a lifetime” outside the Church, porary education, architecture, music, mass media,
much of it as a government bureaucrat “tot[ing] a etc. (e.g., nos. 519, 1099, 1245). We sense it when
bag and coat about / a shrinking empire” (no. 719). he inveighs against the blight of “Broken beer-
He often returns in memory to the world he knew bottles [that] / glitter by freeways, picnic / areas,
prior to his conversion, usually with a sense of alien- rest-stops, all / over the U.S.”—ugly evidence that
ation: “Time you came home” bids his mother in a “Americans are / barbarous most commonly / in
dream. “I reply, ‘What’s the use of coming home, / their littering” (no. 1145; cf. no. 1023). In King’s
when there’s only a tumbledown old Presbyterian apocalyptic vision, trash becomes an ominous sign
church to go to?’” (no. 736). of impending social mayhem.
Nor does finding a home in the true Church Yet the tone of his social critique is not always
entirely assuage King’s profound sense of alien- apocalyptic: sometimes it is more homely and
ation: “Now I’m home I still / feel I’m in exile” humorous, as in his advice “For Organists”:

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Avoid inflation: Holocaust. Like Eichmann, King’s friends were not


the post-Romantic burp, growl, monsters by nature. But they were cultural elitists
swell, boom, thunder, roar, and passive. They went along; they refused to take
and indiscriminate mass a stand and risk thereby standing out. And King
of Samsonian sound muscle. identifies with them: “But you proved weak, / as
God’s majesty’s too now I know I too should have been.” As evidence
high to be aped by an organ, for this, he recalls how he, too, once proved morally
however powerful. weak on a train when he simply smiled at a Nazi
So keep it for grief, rue, peace, sympathizer rather than express his moral oppo-
and praise, such as Bach devised. (no. 1060) sition, as did a more courageous young man in
the same train car by humming the Internationale.
Because the poems are grouped chronologically, “It’s easier to let things happen,” King grimly
we can not only piece together fragments of a spir- concludes,
itual autobiography but glimpse thematic relation- or to avoid other things from happening.
ships among poems composed at the same period Accidia was the sin of the monastery;
and observe patterns of productivity. I am struck, now it’s the sin of bourgeois civilization.
for example, by the quantity, quality, and thematic
(no. 1071)
integrity of the religious poems composed in 1985.
In that year, King composed two long philosophi- These poems on sloth belong to a remarkable
cal poems (nos. 961 and 1031) and a great many of group of poems written between August 15–19,
his best lyrics. One long poem (no. 961) develops 1985, which seem to reflect on the relationship
a complex meditation on Carlsbad Caverns and between past and present, time and eternity. Amid
Plato’s cave; the other, “Reflections of a Philologist ruminations on death and aging (cf. 1058, 1059,
on Harrés Personal Being” (no. 1031), conveys some- 1063), King develops a powerful Christian carpe
thing of what it was like to be a student in King’s diem metaphor. In “The House and the Room,”
classroom. Both poems may well be among the tar- King tries to understand how a believer can live
gets of self-irony in “The Pedant” (no. 1128). fully in the present (the room) while still
The shorter poems from 1985 are typically more dwelling with an appropriate appreciation for
tightly conceived. Occasionally, they seem to clus- the past and hope for the future (the house). The
ter around common concerns as well. For example, poem concludes:
“A Variety of Accidia” and “The Banality of Evil”
(nos. 1061 and 1071), composed within days of Each moment’s a room,
each other, each takes up the sin of sloth. Each each room momentous.
poem gains meaning by juxtaposition with the As we move through a house,
other. The first poem deals with the simple act of we proceed from past through present to
neglecting to return or read books that are bor- future;
rowed or lent. “As I grow older,” King remarks, but now I no longer need to avoid the
“I find this remissness / a grave error.” The real immediate present.
gravity of this error (which, according to the editor, I can sit at ease in a room. (no. 1064)
“King sees as a central problem of the late twenti-
eth century”) does not become apparent, however, The next poem (“The Orchard”) begins, tellingly,
until “The Banality of Evil.” Dedicated to the stu- “Now”—as if to forge a deliberate link with the
dent-friends King had known in Germany during previous poem’s meditation on time. In “The
Hitler’s rise to power in the thirties, this poem takes Orchard” the narrator seems fully at ease in a
its title from the subtitle of Hannah Arendt’s graced present as he celebrates the peach harvest
famous book on Adolph Eichmann’s role in the and his neighbors’ love:

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Now is the moment to thank you both Those who redeemed them shall bring them
For giving me the privilege to walk in your home,
orchards. and the sons of morning shall shout them
I hope to go on for some time yet, home
but my thanks have ripened and are ready, in the sowing and garnering of the great
so why should I put off returning them? Redeemer,
Following these lines is an exquisite evocation of an where prime and fall shine from the self-
orchard laden with ripening fruit and of a heart same face.
overflowing with love for the orchard, for its gar- There in His presence they shall dance
deners, and for heaven-sent moments of Edenic the pattern of scattered seed,
fullness: the obeisance of the gathered sheaves.
..........
There’s reason to be content For the Lord is the lord,
here and now; not of carnage and carrion,
there’s always cause to be content. but of incarnation. (no. 544)
I’ve always been so in your orchards.
(no. 1065) King concludes two other major poems on death
(“Presence of Absence” and “Death’s Ecstasy”) with
I like this poem very much, as I do many of similarly moving perorations. Both poems articu-
King’s love poems: from his verse about a long lost late his grief and his hope for his dead friends and
but never forgotten lover named Jutta (no. 1068), family. And both texts draw rhetorical power from
to a poem about his love for a lame pet dog named King’s knowledge of the rhetoric of the King James
Bruin (no. 601); from his elegant epithalamion on Bible, the Book of Common Prayer, and Shake-
the occasion of a friend’s wedding (no. 455), to his speare. Consider the beautiful psalm-like antitheti-
tender tribute to Patricia on the occasion of their cal parallelism of these lines:
twenty-sixth wedding anniversary, which expresses I have sung my sorrows on the winds of
the quiet fulfillment of autumnal love (no. 1399). morning,
An even more prominent theme in this collec- and in the still of evening shed my dew and
tion than love is, of course, death. While he is pre- rejoiced. (no. 926)
occupied with both, thanatos predominates eros.
Like Donne, King seems obsessed with death— or the eloquent cadences in this prayer for the dead:
particularly with the death of his father, his wife Unto thee, O Lord, I commend all my dead,
Iris, and his son John Arthur Laughlin (e.g., nos. my own dying,
247, 266, 267, 657, 926); and with the senseless and the dying of those that came after me.
slaughter of his generation on the battlefields of Receive us at our own hands,
WWI (e.g., nos. 544, 939); and, of course, with his order us into thine illimitable kingdom,
own mortality. Yet the poems look beyond death to and set the food of thy word,
a physical Resurrection—and this frequently in the work of thy will
eloquent, ecstatic language, as a passage from an and the repose of thy peace
early poem describing his journey to the battlefield before us. (no. 657)
at Verdun illustrates:
When I attended Arthur Henry King’s funeral,
Shall these dry bones live? I brought these passages with me to read because I
If the spirit will, they shall. was told that some of us might be called out of the
At call of the trumpet, audience to pay tribute to him. I also brought
they shall rise, join, the final words from the final poem in this collec-
and flourish in perfect flesh. tion, “End Game Beginning.” In this poem, King

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comments on the way a host of men have faced and Promising New Series
written about death: Sterne, Goethe, Marion G.
Romney, George the Fifth, Tennyson, Shakespeare, A review of Dean Hughes’s The Writing on the Wall,
et al. This poem (and hence Conversion) concludes volume 1 of the Hearts of the Children series (Book-
with a final image of death. King contrasts the death craft, 2001)
of the wicked, who “await nothing / after death,” Reviewed by Andrew Hall
with that of the faithful:
With all of us thinking these days about what it
Whatever their trials means to be an American, perhaps this is a good
and pains, the souls of faith and time to introduce and review this excellent first vol-
charity will more ume of a new series of Mormon historical fiction
than hope as they draw towards death, set in the 1960s, an important period to us both as
surrounded by those they love Americans and as Mormons.
and who love them. They I have written before that Dean Hughes’s five-
need not be concerned for the volume Children of the Promise series, set in World
future in this world War II, is one of the landmarks of LDS fiction.
or the next, for both are in Like few others, Hughes’s writing appeals both to
other hands than theirs or here. (no. 1424)
those who want plot-driven, emotionally stirring
Arthur Henry King has now passed into other popular fiction and those who desire more chal-
hands than ours or here, except in his writing— lenging fare. In that series he refused to glorify or
which, as Milton remarked, can preserve the “pre- romanticize the actions of his characters and
cious lifeblood of a master spirit . . . to a life beyond instead emphasized the pain and distress the war
life” (Areopagitica). Gratefully, Conversion pre- caused. He also went out of his way to describe the
serves some of King’s religious poetry to such a life racism found in American society at the time,
beyond life. including Mormon society. He created revisionist
• • • historical fiction, in the best sense of the words.
For literary works, the most important response Now Hughes is at it again with another series fol-
is not the critic’s commentary but the reader’s silent lowing the lives of the characters from the Children
appreciation, pregnant with enriched feelings and of the Promise series, the Thomas and Stoltz fami-
deepened thoughts: “What shall Cordelia speak? lies in Utah and Germany.
Love, and be silent.” Unlike Cordelia, I have risked The Children of the Promise series covered the
a few words here because, unlike Lear, this King war years of 1939 to 1947. This first volume of the
rightly requires some words of praise and blame to Hearts of the Children series jumps to 1961 and
measure the scope and worth of his relatively continues to 1965. It focuses on the teenage lives of
unknown poetic patrimony. Still, I hope that these the four eldest members of the next generation
comments return or turn readers to the poems of the families. They are Alex’s son Gene, a golden
themselves, where their hearts and minds may there boy who meets his first real challenges; Wally’s
be more fully turned to God by one who was him- daughter Kathy, who yearns to join the civil rights
self converted (con vertere, i.e., turned completely movement (with her Aunt LaRue); Peter’s son
around) when he embraced the Restored Gospel. Hans, who dreads his dead-end life as a Mormon
in East Germany; and Bobbi’s daughter Diane,
John S. Tanner, former president of the Association for who tries to figure out her own identity. As in the
Mormon Letters, is professor of English at Brigham earlier series, the characters are caught up in the
Young University, where he currently serves as depart- events of history and struggle with the develop-
ment chair. ment and application of their faith as they begin to
leave the safety of their homes. Generational and

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inter-family differences continue to form much of is to act as the new sheriff while the FBI tries to dis-
the conflict. cover who wants to kill Kate and why.
Like Orson Scott Card, Hughes’s stories are In Haggerty, Kate, who is to be Niki, and Mark,
engrossing and easy to digest, but not simplistic. who is masquerading as Drew Johnson, begin their
Although he is an excellent writer, he challenges us new life in a charming but dilapidated house in an
with the themes and conflicts he presents rather old neighborhood, surrounded by a set of quaint
than with his literary style. Most interesting are the characters. The problem of who is trying to kill
different reactions by the Utah family members Kate/ Niki and why is revealed through three kid-
to racism, the priesthood ban, and the civil rights nappings and two violent encounters with a consid-
movement. We are also given some hints that the erable body count. The romance-type, predictable
family will be equally divided about Vietnam in happy ending for Kate and Mark follows.
the following volumes. That brings up one differ- Covenant readers, primarily women between 25
ence with the first volume of the new series. The and 60, seem to prefer romances combined with
earlier books were soaked with tension because so other elements of fiction. The back cover of Hearts
many of the characters were in harm’s way in the in Hiding describes the story as “adventure,” “sus-
war. Hughes got me to care about the characters, pense,” “action-packed,” and “romantic.” It boils
and I felt like I was drawn through a wringer by the down to a woman-in-jeopardy romance with a
end of each one. Since the United States was not heavy emphasis on romance.
involved in a major war during the early ’60s, there The story begins with a combination of typical
isn’t quite so much tension. I assume that will romance premises. The vulnerable young woman
change in the next volume, when some of the char- pretending to be someone else enters into a mar-
acters will be sent to Vietnam, as the country riage of convenience with a man she believes resents
becomes more involved in that war. her. He is distant, but as they live together, secret
I’m hooked again. I got into the last series about love grows on both sides. Trauma separates them,
the time the final volume came out, and I was able but longing brings them back together, and every-
to race through the whole thing in a few months. one lives happily ever after. Character-wise, Kate/
This time I’ll have to wait a year for each install- Niki and Drew/Mark are the standard romance
ment. I’ll be there as soon as the next volume is on types. She’s helpless, and he’s there to rescue her.
the bookshelves. Since Covenant prohibits sex in any of its novels,
this romance is a “safe” one with comforting embraces
Andrew Hall is a doctoral candidate in Japanese his- and an occasional smooch. In a typical romance
tory, moving back and forth between Pittsburgh and novel, the conflict between a couple serves to heighten
Fukuoka, Japan. sexual tension. With Hearts in Hiding, however,
there is little conflict between the couple and no
Plots in Hiding appreciable tension, unless you count the heroine’s
sudden irritable outbursts at the puzzled hero.
A review of Betsy Brannon Green’s Hearts in Hiding There is also no sense of the couple falling in love
(Covenant, 2001) and, for the life of me, I did not understand why
Reviewed by Terry Montague Drew/Mark was attracted to the snarly Kate/Niki.
Though there is no sexual attraction or tension,
Kate Singleton is the pregnant widow of an FBI there are plenty of those gratuitous vices many of
agent when her late husband’s boss informs her that us do enjoy: eating, napping, shopping, and home
there is a contract on her life. To protect her, the redecoration. Unfortunately, those things con-
FBI decides to give her a new identity and a new tribute to a very serious case of mid-story sag. We
husband, Agent Mark Iverson. They are sent to a see Kate/Niki following her friends around and
small town, Haggerty, Alabama, where Agent Iverson watching them play bridge. We watch as she lets

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them pick out furniture for her house and buy no consequences. Incidental characters who show
clothes for her unborn baby. Not that money is a up with their own bags full of problems and then
problem: the FBI has given her a fistful of credit disappear. Blocks of rehashed or unnecessary dia-
cards and a $25,000 checking account with orders logue. Plot devices that don’t satisfactorily connect
to spend it. A housekeeper, who is an undercover with each other.
agent, is also part of the deal, and the neighbors Having said all that, I should also say Green’s
regularly drop in with casseroles that the main writing is better than her plotting. One hopes, with
characters merely heat up in the microwave. When her second novel, she’ll have gained the experience
it’s time for the baby to be born, Kate/Niki has a and know-how to serve up a tightly plotted roman-
C-section, nurses her baby, and then gets up to take tic suspense that is indeed an action-packed adven-
a shower. What a woman! What a life! Kate/Niki’s ture that won’t let the reader go.
greatest struggle, midpoint, concerns getting the Yet, if you are a dedicated reader and looking for
handyman to work a little faster. something to read that doesn’t require a lot of brain
As a novel of suspense, Hearts in Hiding is not cells, Hearts in Hiding may prove to be a wander
particularly suspenseful. There is the dead husband through a pleasant, southern town of friendly char-
who may or may not be dead since his body was acters who have nothing in particular to do.
never recovered. He may or may not have loved our
heroine. He may or may not have had a girlfriend Terry Bohle Montague has written for newspaper,
on the side. Our heroine may or may not have magazine, television, and radio. She has also pub-
loved the possibly dead husband since she rarely lished book-length fiction and nonfiction.
ever saw him. Then, there is the new, living hus-
band, who is not really her husband since they Selected Recent Releases
intend to annul the marriage as soon as the case is
solved. And a baby born in time to be kidnapped. Adams, Jewel. Elise’s Heart (Granite, $9.95).
The McGuffin might have to do with money Growing up in the projects of Charlotte, North
laundering or possibly drugs. At the end, we are Carolina, has been a battle of survival for Elise. In
looking for a penny with a microchip stuck to it the face of extreme adversity and loss, she finds in
with spearmint gum. Would chewing gum damage herself new resolve and hope in the form of God’s
a microchip? My impression is that the elements of plan for happiness, a concept that drives her to
suspense were included to satisfy Covenant’s require- search her heart for what is truly of value.
ments that romances contain other elements of fic- Bradshaw, Anne. Chamomile Winter (Cedar
tion. Certainly, it didn’t hurt the romance at all. Fort, $12.95). When Patrick O’Shea leaves prison
Covenant likes the gospel to reside somewhere for his parents’ new home, it seems his life is about
comfortably in the background, as it does in Hearts to change for the better. But lack of direction rekin-
in Hiding. We see the characters going to church, dles rebellion and plunges him head first into deep
reading the Book of Mormon, and discussing such waters. In other story lines, Ken struggles with
things as tithing, modesty, and arrogance. Obvi- another difficult missionary companion and Ruth
ously, the characters are committed members of the returns to England, where she’s not expected, and
Church who are spiritually conflicted by the false- grapples with events she never imagined possible.
hoods they must portray in order to maintain their Card, Orson Scott. Rebekah (Shadow Moun-
cover, but there is no examination of that conflict. tain, $22.95). Chosen by God to be the wife of
Overall, Hearts in Hiding has lots of stops and Isaac, Rebekah is caught in an emotional mael-
starts, like one of those string collections. Story strom as she struggles to find her place in the
lines that begin and trail away. Complications with family of Abraham. After enduring an agonizing

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inability to produce a male heir, she is finally Jarvis, Wesley, and Sharon Downing. Priceless
blessed with twins, only to find herself locked Discoveries (Granite, $12.95). Tim Bradshaw, an
in conflict with her husband over the destiny of investigative reporter for a major network, finds
their sons. himself heading up a team assigned to determine
Dew, Sheri. No Doubt About It (Deseret Book, the reason for the amazing growth of the LDS
$19.95). This spiritual memoir incorporates a look Church.
at foundational gospel principles with stories of the Jolley, JoAnn. Keepers of the Heart (Covenant,
author’s own experiences to demonstrate how these $14.95). New convert Paula Barstow finally finds
truths apply in real-world settings. her life on track, until one rainy winter morning
Evans, Richard Paul. The Christmas Box Mir- life itself hangs in the balance. Even as miracles
acle: My Spiritual Journey of Destiny, Healing occur, Paula’s love and faith are tested in ways she
and Hope (Simon & Schuster, $17.95). In this never imagined.
memoir, Evans looks at his own experiences as his Leach, Frank. Mission Accomplished (Cedar
novel The Christmas Box went from a modest self- Fort, $9.95). Based on the author’s own experi-
published book to become a runaway bestseller. ences as a convert to the Church at age 46, Mission
He tells his own life story, from his youth in a Mor- Accomplished details how a succession of missionar-
mon household to his mother’s loss of a stillborn ies slowly changed the lives of a family and a town
daughter, severe depression, and suicidal tenden- through their dedication and perseverance.
cies. Evans shows how these and other experiences Lucado, Max. You Are Mine (Evans Book,
led him to write a novel that brings healing and $15.99). A sequel to You Are Special, this book
hope to life. addresses another of life’s lessons with Punchinello
Groberg, John. The Other Side of Heaven and the rest of the Wemmicks.
(Deseret Book, $14.95). A re-release of Elder Lund, Gerald. The Kingdom and the Crown,
Groberg’s book In the Eye of the Storm, this first- Vol. 2: Come unto Me (Deseret Book, $26.95).
person account tells the story of his three-year mis- From Galilee to Jerusalem to the great city of Rome,
sion in Tonga. Elder Groberg recounts miraculous the story of the people whose lives are forever changed
healings, protective warnings, and perilous voyages. by the teachings of a simple carpenter from Naza-
Guymon, Shannon. Never Letting Go of Hope reth continues. The biblical account of the Savior’s
(Cedar Fort, $12.95). Cassie Roberts had an ordi- life is blended with fictional characters in the sec-
nary life. Busy with her duties as a wife and mother, ond volume of the Kingdom and the Crown series.
her life is changed forever when her best friend dies Luthier, Kevin Lee. Two Trees (Evans Book). It
after requesting that Cassie care for her African- takes two trees to make a master violin, and it takes
American child, Hope. This unusual adoption two hearts to fall in love. This story comes from
causes many to question whether Cassie has done the world of the master violinmaker and details the
the right thing and gives her the feeling that some- lives, loves and fantasies of those who play upon
one out there wants her to give up. But there is one true master instruments.
thing Cassie can never let go of, and that’s Hope. Miller, Sherry Ann. Gardenia Sunrise: Where
Hansen, Jennie. Beyond Summer Dreams Love Prevails (Granite, $14.95). Brandje never
(Covenant, $14.95). Taylor Jordan, a new gradu- considers herself one of the Shepherd’s lost lambs
ate, is forced to spend her summer with her 78- until she learns she has cancer. Frightened by
year-old grandmother in a small town. She meets the drastic measures it will take to provide even the
veterinarian Clay Curtis, who has rented part of remotest hope for a cure, she flees to France in
her grandmother’s house as office space. When the hopes of preparing herself emotionally and spiritu-
office and house are burglarized, the two are ally to meet God.
thrown together in an effort to discover who is Pearce, Bob, and Nayereh Fallahi The Nidus:
responsible and why they are after Curtis. Cradle of Terror (Cedar Fort, $18.95). A mysteri-

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ous, deadly disease is sweeping the world, and Savage, Jeffrey. Cutting Edge (Covenant,
everything points toward a terrorist plot against the $14.95). Travis Edwards lands a new job in Silicon
United States. When Dr. James Schriver attends a Valley. Things change when he finds someone has
conference in the Virgin Islands, he is introduced been stealing sensitive files from his computer, and
to Laleh Bazargan, an Iranian infectious disease physi- the one person he confides in disappears. He soon
cian who is the keynote speaker. She presents evidence realizes he can’t trust anyone.
that a mutation of the influenza virus is the disease’s Smurthwaite, Donald. A Wise, Blue Autumn:
source. Jim and Laleh develop an attraction for A Novel about Fathers, Daughters, and Remem-
each other as they search for answers to the disease, bering (Deseret Book, $12.95). Marcus Hathaway,
but their quest for truth wrenches them apart as the a fine old high priest in his seventies, begins a quest
turmoil in the United States quickly escalates to to find his stories, the stories that have made up his
include Iran, Turkmenistan, Israel, and Afghanistan. life and will become the memories of those who
Pearson, Carol Lynn. The Gift: A Fable for come after him.
Our Times (Gibbs Smith, $9.95). Based on a Tao St. James, Sierra. Masquerade (Deseret Book,
tradition, The Gift explores the question: what are $13.95). Clarissa takes a much-needed job under
the most precious gifts we own? It teaches that the slightly false pretenses. But when the boss is movie
most precious gifts are those that give us light in an star Slade Jacobson, and the job takes her to Hawaii
otherwise dark world, helping us see things as they with him, it becomes harder than she thought to
really are, and that all things work together for good. keep up the masquerade.
Peck, Lisa J. Nauvoo’s Magic (Cedar Fort, Stansfield, Anita. When Hearts Meet (Covenant,
$13.95). In volume three of the Truth Seeker series, $12.95). Ethan Caldwell turns to drinking after his
newlyweds Betsy and Jeff Chadwick are called to wife dies. Ten years later he rediscovers God and
serve a mission in historical Nauvoo. While there finds a job working on Jonathan Brandt’s farm. When
they meet Roxcy Culhase, a mysterious young Jonathan’s sister Sara comes to live with them,
widow. Will the attractive new man in her life Ethan finds a woman unlike any he’s ever known.
bring happiness or catastrophe? Stansfield, Anita. Where the Heart Leads (Cove-
Pickhardt, C. E. The Trout King (Cedar Fort, nant, $14.95). The year is 1894, and Jonathon Brandt
$13.95). Alexander McGregor had won the title of is eager to head west to California to find a new life,
Trout King for the last eight years, but out-of- a new profession, and an escape from his father.
towner Sam Henry hopes to change that. McGre- While visiting his Aunt Ellie in a small Utah town,
gor fishes ruthlessly. Sam casts in his line and waits he falls in love with the scenery and with Maddie
patiently for a bite. They both deal with relation- Jo Hansen. Suddenly California loses its appeal.
ships the same way they fish, and it could cost each Turrill, David. A Bridge to Eden (Cedar Fort,
of them their families. $13.95). In this psychological romance, a widower
Randalls, Vicki Mason. Red Moon Rising (Cedar finds a remarkable resemblance to his late wife in a
Fort, $12.95). In this opening volume of the Out new neighbor. Ben Riveridge begins to believe that
of Barren Ground series, peace and purpose are rare his wife has somehow exchanged places with the
commodities in a war-ravaged world. Most people neighbor in a story that builds to a surprising ending.
are searching frantically or are lost completely. Wright, Julie. To Catch a Falling Star (Cedar
Rachel lives a lonely, dreary existence in the earth’s Fort, $15.95). Following her parents’ divorce, April
final days, but while she is searching for a pure Preston moves to Boston to live with her mother.
water source her life changes dramatically. Her only glimmer of happiness there is her new
Robinson, Timothy. A Fountain of Pure Water: friend Sara Downey, who is not only smart and
A Nephite Baptism (Deseret Book, $15.95). A popular but is also a true friend. Then Sara is diag-
Book of Mormon baptismal story with scriptural nosed with cancer.
references throughout.

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M O R M O N It, and 65,000 copies of the first installment in


L I T E R A R Y
Dean Hughes’s new Hearts of the Children series,
according to Publishers Weekly. Sheri Dew, who
S C E N E was recently promoted to president and CEO of
Deseret Book, said: “I think the market is growing,
Books and that our marketing is getting stronger and more
creative. I also think that our authors and artists are
• Richard Dutcher’s film God’s Army has been
as fine as anywhere else in the country. The prod-
novelized by film-school student Geoffrey Card,
ucts speak for themselves, really.” In other Deseret
son of Orson Scott Card. “Card does an adequate Book news, the company laid off 14 employees at
job,” Andrew Hall wrote on AML-List. “He fleshes its corporate offices in January 2002. The job cuts
out the motivations for the dour central character, affected several departments, from publishing and
Elder Allen, making the character more interesting. marketing to retail administration. According to
I also liked his portrayal of Elder Kinegar, the employees interviewed by Mormon News, the lay-
reader of anti-Church literature. He enters the head offs were probably the first large staff reduction in
of Elder Dalton (Pops) only a few brief times, prob- the company’s history. Deseret Book has 35 stores
ably because there is another novel based on that and about 775 employees.
character coming up (we do at least see the throw- • According to Mormon News, Origin Book
ing-away-the-pills scene through Dalton’s POV). Sales is no longer taking orders and will soon close
Card spends a lot of time explaining some of the down. The products of Origin’s sister companies,
things that struck people as not true to life in Aspen Books and Goldleaf Press, will reportedly be
the movie, like Allen not being able to tie a tie on distributed by Brigham Distributing, an independ-
his first day, why the mission president is so gruff ent company run by a former Origin employee and
in the beginning, etc. The explanations are inter- based in Brigham City, Utah. In its heyday, Origin
esting but sometimes interfere with the flow of the not only distributed for Aspen and Goldleaf but
story. Another problem I had was the long interior also did some original publishing and distributed
dialogues Card gives his characters in the time- books published by other companies. Origin, Aspen,
frame of just a few seconds between lines in the and Goldleaf are owned by LDS investment spe-
film. He does create a few non-film scenes to give cialist Wade Cook.
the characters greater depth; maybe more of them • Salt Lake City publisher American Book Pub-
would have helped.” This novelization is the first lishing (www.american-book.com) is attracting
novel published by God’s Army distributor Excel attention with its ambitious plans and unorthodox
Entertainment, with two more books based on the business practices. With several imprints covering
movie forthcoming: One Soul by J. Scott Bron- most publishing categories, the company is aggres-
son, about Elder Dalton, and Burden of Faith by sively seeking new authors. However, newcomers
Deanne Savage-Blackhurst, about Sister Fronk. may be asked to pay a one-time deposit of $780
Dutcher’s film Brigham City will be novelized that is refundable after the book has been formally
by Marilyn Brown. An in-depth profile of Geof- released. According to the company’s website, this
frey Card and his experience writing God’s Army deposit provides “a strong incentive for our authors
can be found at www.meridianmagazine.com/books/ to complete all their assigned tasks in editing and
011115card.html. book promotion.” In addition, American recruits
• LDS Church–owned Deseret Book has sold editors and other publishing staff by promising an
more than 360,000 copies of Gordon B. Hinckley’s eventual share in royalties.
Stand a Little Taller, more than 100,000 copies • Publishers Weekly gave a positive review to
apiece of Gerald Lund’s novel Come unto Me and Gentile Girl: Living with the Latter-day Saints,
Sheri Dew’s devotional memoir No Doubt About written by Carol Avery Forseth and published by

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Crossroads Press: “This refreshingly balanced mem- one of which is titled The Last Promise and will be
oir chronicles a Baptist woman’s experiences during released in November 2002.
her two years as an undergraduate at Mormon- • Cedar Fort has published Marilyn Brown’s
dominated Brigham Young University during the memoir of her family’s World War II experience,
1970s. ‘It’s hard to have my faith under attack all an account that was originally written in 1986 and
the time,’ Forseth tells her sympathetic LDS room- has been honored with several Utah literary awards.
mate, and the reader feels her loneliness. But Forseth House on the Sound explores Pearl Harbor from
also explains how the BYU experience made her a the perspective of a child whose father works in the
more informed, committed Protestant. It is clear Navy shipyard, incorporating the story of the
that she believes LDS doctrine to be wrong (and family’s conversion to Mormonism. “My dad was
she includes three short appendices to hammer that working at night in the dark hull of a ship, and he’d
point home), but she also presents the individual read by the single light bulb the Book of Mormon,”
Mormons who figure into her narrative as three- Brown told BYU’s NewsNet. Both of her parents
dimensional people, not caricatures.” were eventually baptized in Puget Sound, and shortly
• Terry Tempest Williams’s new book Red: Pas- thereafter her father sent the family to Provo to
sion and Patience in the Desert (Pantheon) is a keep them out of danger. “It’s a memoir of how my
collection of essays, poems, congressional testi- father was trying to build a sound house while the
mony, and journal entries, some previously pub- war was going on,” Brown said. “He gravitated
lished. “Terry Tempest Williams says she writes to toward religion and peace.” Brown said that ever
save the erotic from the pornographic,” wrote Salt since she read George Eliot at age ten, “I wanted to
Lake Tribune reviewer Martin Naparsteck. “She write something that good that was Mormon.” She
also suggests that she writes to politicize her readers has arranged to do editing work for Cedar Fort in
(‘place + people = politics’). There is no conflict exchange for publication of her work. Writing on
between her eroticism and her politics in Williams’ AML-List, novelist Levi Peterson said: “In the late
latest collection of nonfiction, and, alas, that is 1980s, the University of Utah Press asked me to
the weakness of this compact book from one of referee the manuscript for House on the Sound.
Utah’s—and America’s—finest, most original envi- When I returned a favorable report, David Catron,
ronmental writers.” He continued: “Williams refers director of the press, wrote me something like, ‘I’m
to many of the entries in Red as stories, but none of glad you approve of it because I like it too.’ How-
them truly are. Many are vignettes; that is, pieces ever, Catron’s superiors were in the process of
of stories. Others are essays. The political essays squeezing the press out of fiction at that time, and
amount to extended bumper stickers.” Naparsteck Marilyn had the bad luck to get caught in that. I
also observed: “Williams is a master of the startling am very happy this excellent novel has been pub-
and lasting image, a gutsy writer unafraid to expose lished.”
herself, her emotions and her desires, to the reader. • Chicago Tribune reviewer Dick Adler recom-
No other writer has so fully melded human emo- mended a mystery titled Sister Wife by John Gates.
tional needs with our surrounding environments.” “Anyone who misses those fascinating Moroni
• Mormon author Richard Paul Evans is Traveler mysteries (now sadly out of print) by
switching publishers from Simon & Schuster to Robert S. Irvine about the inner workings of the
Dutton, according to Entertainment Weekly. “He’s Mormon Church should rush to read this second
going to be published as a novelist and not as a in a promising and satisfying series about a semi-
novelty or a specialty,” said Dutton president Carole retired criminal lawyer who runs an American-
Barton. “He was always published in small format, Indian-themed motel in Kanab, Utah,” wrote
in the Christmas season. Now he’ll be published Adler. Brigham Bybee is tapped to handle the
around Christmastime, but not as a Christmas upcoming polygamy trial of cult leader T. Rampton
item.” Dutton has acquired Evans’s next two books, Crowe, “who, though officially disavowed by the

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Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, flaunts “Although the idea of brother fighting brother is
his six wives and seriously hurts the image of Salt not new, it was a reality that can’t be ignored,” said
Lake City as the home of the next Olympics. When Allen. “Families at war with one another makes for
one of Crowe’s wives arrives on Bybee’s doorstep, good fiction but was a tragic consequence of the
badly beaten and talking about a horrible ritual Civil War. I wanted to show the complex relation-
murder she witnessed, it sets the stage for a clash ships that existed during the Civil War.” Allen con-
between a conservative governor and the politically tinued: “It is not widely known that women,
ambitious attorney general, who sees this as a death- although caught in a male-dominated society, were
penalty case certain to get nationwide attention.” often not content to sit in the background. Women
Adler added: “Author John Gates, an El Paso lawyer dressed like men and joined the battles, acted as
who was raised in Utah, writes like a saint himself.” spies and saboteurs for their respective causes,
• Writing on AML-List about her Salt Press joined aid societies, and acted as masters of vast
imprint at Cedar Fort, Marilyn Brown said Salt plantations.” Covenant managing editor Shauna
Press is looking for literary manuscripts. “They have Nelsen commented: “Although most Latter-day
to be well-written and accessible. (No short stories, Saints were far removed from the conflict, they
sorry.) We have a strong propensity for novels with were still very much involved. The Latter-day Saint
excellent narrative qualities. Lee Nelson, the acqui- characters show the reader how Church members
sitions editor, is really so astute! You’d think he was and leaders viewed the vital issues of the Civil
into Western-shoot-’em-up-grizzly stuff (he leaves War.” Writing in BYU magazine, Richard Cracroft
early to rope steers), but he also has a terrific eye for said, “A House Divided is a rich and historically
anything literary. He chose Angel of the Danube by based tapestry of several fast-moving, exciting tales
Alan Mitchell all by himself with no help from me of a family divided, north and south, by abolition-
before I ever got on the scene, which is probably ism and slaveholding. It’s a very exciting way to
the main reason I went there. If it’s really good, Lee experience U.S. history.” The next book in the
spots it! We print just a few of each run to test the series is planned for release in autumn 2002.
market so that we aren’t out financially. Books are • Told mainly from the perspective of three plu-
allowed to be a little salty too, saltier than Deseret ral wives, Judith Freeman’s latest novel Red Water
Book would allow.” Andrew Hall noted that three (Pantheon) examines how the Mountain Meadows
out of five Cedar Fort imprints publish fiction: Massacre changed the lives of John D. Lee and his
Council Press publishes mainly books by Lee Nel- polygamous family. The publisher identifies the book
son, such as the Storm Testament series; Salt Press as “a revelatory novel that illuminates the early days
publishes books by Marilyn Brown or titles she has of Mormonism and takes us into the heart of a
a close connection with; and Bonneville Books pub- culture at once completely unique and uniquely
lishes all the rest of the fiction, often with author American.” Salt Lake Tribune reviewer Brandon
financial involvement. Hall noted that Cedar Fort Griggs wrote: “For many readers, the most contro-
has recently been putting out a lot of LDS fiction, versial aspect of Red Water is sure to be the asser-
rivaling Covenant in bulk. Brown said that a for- tion, made by several of Lee’s wives, that Young
mer Covenant editor told her Cedar Fort “is where ordered the Mountain Meadows Massacre, then
Covenant was seven years ago.” sacrificed Lee to cover up his crime. Young appears
• Covenant Communications reported that A in several scenes of the novel as an imperious, force-
House Divided, the first volume of N. C. Allen’s ful man with a gluttonous appetite and sloppy table
Civil War series Faith of Our Fathers, sold out its manners.” Utah historian Will Bagley said: “Believ-
first printing of 15,000 copies in two weeks. The ing Mormons are going to be quite shaken by this
story concerns brothers James and Jeffrey Bir- portrait of Brigham Young. Mountain Meadows
mingham, who find themselves and their families novels are notoriously unhistorical. And this one is
on opposing sides of a great and terrible conflict. an exception.” A self-identified former Mormon,

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Freeman said: “I don’t hold anything against the Boys. “As we get larger as a church and people, it
Mormons. I have no ax to grind. I’ve had good keeps getting easier to write about our culture,”
reaction to the book so far from people outside the Hughes said. According to Publishers Weekly, “The
[Mormon] culture who say the book is fair. I’m premise of Hughes’s novel, the disillusionment of
hoping people within the culture will somehow be two idealistic boys—one American, the other Ger-
able to have that feeling as well.” In a Los Angeles man—who idealistically insist on hurrying into bat-
Times review, novelist Janet Fitch wrote: “Freeman tle during WWII, proves more compelling than the
never divorces the violence of that event from the somewhat uneven plotting and character develop-
violence and persecution against Mormons in ment. The author effectively portrays the motiva-
the Church’s early days or from the intrinsic vio- tions of Hitler Youth leader Dieter, from his nascent
lence of life on the land, with its brutal climate and aspirations at 10 to the brainwashed zealotry in the
inhuman demands on its settlers. She helps us under- name of Hitler that leads him to lobby to be sent
stand the mindset of a besieged nation and the into combat at the age of 15. However, the back
more subtle politics of a theocratic society. Yet story describing the motivation of 17-year-old
the power of the book is muted somewhat by its Spence, a Utah Mormon who joins the Airborne
split focus: the human story of the frontier polyga- paratroopers to prove his toughness to the folks
mous family versus the moral story, the blood guilt back home (especially one disinterested girl), feels
of the Mountain Meadows massacre. The drama of cursory. The pace of the narrative quickens as the
the polygamous family, with its rich fabric of sexu- boys each experience the gut-wrenching and hap-
ality, faith, filial loyalty, rivalries and alliances, is by hazard realities of war that challenge their starry-
far the more engaging story line.” Fitch continues: eyed, patriotic notions. Though some readers will
“Red Water delivers an unforgettable portrait of the find a few passages overblown (e.g., “None of this
unceasing labor, passion and danger of frontier life, seemed like the stuff Spence had seen in the
recalling the best of Willa Cather. Freeman makes movies”) and Spence’s religious epiphany which
vivid the ferocity of purpose it took to wrest a liv- leads to his rather convenient connection to Dieter
ing from a wild red land and makes inevitable the implausible, others will appreciate this realistically
intensity of life among people who try. In particu- harrowing depiction of the pointlessness of war.”
lar, her evocation of the Great Basin, its harsh land- • Lewis Horne’s new nine-story collection The
scape of red rock and twisted cypress and winters House of James (Signature) is “about extraordinar-
that come like an apocalypse, forms the perfect ily ordinary people, mostly Mormons in Utah and
stage for this drama of love and faith and greed at nearby states in the 1950s and ’60s” and “presents
the edge of wilderness.” a clear and credible portrait of a rarefied culture
• Mormon novelist Dean Hughes told BYU’s which has now largely disappeared,” according to
NewsNet that the editor of his new book Soldier Salt Lake Tribune reviewer Martin Naparsteck.
Boys, a novel for young readers published in “Horne is a fiction writer, and a good one, and he
December 2001 by Atheneum, initially balked at a does not pretend to be a social historian. Still, if
main character’s Mormonism but later changed his he wanted to make a case that the ’50s and ’60s
mind. “It’s one thing to mention a character’s reli- were the key transitional point at which Mormon
gion, but something else to get into it a great deal,” culture finally ended a long exodus out of cultural
Hughes said. “I think part of what is changing is the isolation and into the American mainstream, the
realization that certain books about or by Mormons fictional facts of these stories would help to prove
have done very well financially. The best example is his thesis.” Naparsteck concludes: “It’s a masterful
President Hinckley’s Standing for Something.” accomplishment. Thin, transparent stories that let
Hughes said his editor realized that many fans of in the light.”
Hughes’s LDS-market Children of the Promise • Best-selling Mormon mystery novelist Anne
series would also be interested in reading Soldier Perry told the Salt Lake Tribune that she is working

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on a series of books set during World War I. “It must just burst into song.” On the other hand, “probably
be the most extraordinary period in the Western deep inside I have one of those soft gooey centers
world, 1914 to 1918,” Perry said. “It changed every- like, you know, a Tootsie Roll Pop,” LaBute admit-
thing, at least in the West.” The Tribune reported ted. “I just don’t know how many licks it will take
that “the series will begin in Sarajevo and follow to get to.” Entertainment Weekly gave the New York
England’s entry into the war; one character will be production of The Shape of Things a B grade, saying
based on Perry’s grandfather, who was a chaplain that the final revelation of the main character’s
on the front. And each book, of course, will con- motivation “feels forced. Truth be told, Evelyn, a
tain a mystery.” In other Perry news, her latest release quintessential LaBute creation, isn’t interested in
is Southampton Row, a Thomas and Charlotte Pitt why. (Neither, as an artist, is LaBute.) Why does
mystery that Perry said was her 34th book. the predator eat its prey? Because it can.” LaBute
has assembled a cast and crew to bring The Shape
Drama of Things to film. In other LaBute news, he recently
finished directing an adaptation of A.S. Byatt’s
• Tony Kushner, Pulitzer Prize–winning play- Possession starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Aaron
wright of the two-part Angels in America featuring Eckhart.
several Mormon main characters, recently made head- • Produced at the Little Brown Theater in
lines with his new play Homebody/Kabul, which Springville, Utah, in November 2001, J. Scott
resonated unexpectedly after the September 11 ter- Bronson’s two-part biblical play Stones garnered
rorist attacks and subsequent war in Afghanistan. praise from reviewers and won the AML’s drama
Set in 1998, the play centers on a family’s search for award for 2001 (the award citation appears earlier
a middle-aged British woman who disappears in in this issue of IRREANTUM). The first part, “Altars,”
Afghanistan after she falls in love with a Muslim. In focuses on the story of Abraham and Isaac, and
other Kushner news, Newsweek reported he is writing most of the play takes place on Mt. Moriah, where
a children’s book with Maurice Sendak, a musical Abraham was commanded to sacrifice his son. The
with composer Jeanine Tesori, a movie for producer second part, “Tombs,” examines the relationship
Scott Rudin, and the screenplay for HBO’s six-hour between Jesus Christ and his mother and takes
Angels in America mini-series that is slated to star place in Joseph’s tomb as Mary prepares it for her
Meryl Streep, Al Pacino, and Emma Thompson, husband’s burial. Bronson said: “They are very reli-
some of whom will likely play Mormon characters. gious pieces, and I make no apology for that. But
• After a critically successful London debut, they are not just for religious-minded people.
Mormon playwright Neil LaBute’s The Shape of Although it’s obvious, almost as soon as the action
Things experienced a rougher touchdown in New begins, just who these people are, there are no
York just after the September 11 terrorist attacks. names mentioned anywhere in the dialogue, or
“It didn’t even occur to us that it wouldn’t be well even on the program. I want people watching the
received,” LaBute told Salon.com. “I think we kind play to think along the lines of, ‘Hey, that mother
of ran into something that I had heard whispers of isn’t so different from my mother. And my son is
and seen in other productions, which is that diffi- like that son. As a father myself, I know exactly
cult trans-Atlantic move, where critics say, ‘Hold how that father feels right now.’” Provo Daily Her-
on a second, we’ll tell you if something is good.’” ald reviewer Eric D. Snider wrote: “Neither story is
LaBute said his work hasn’t changed since the attacks, as universal as was probably intended. Even though
and he is now working on a musical with Elvis the script studiously avoids using any character
Costello a possible collaborator. “The musical is as names, these are still clearly the stories of Abraham
severe as anything that I’ve ever written. Because I and Isaac, and Mary and Jesus, and no one else.
thought, you know, I’ve never seen a musical where This is not a shortcoming, however; a thoughtful
people were generally pretty heinous, and they would play about biblical figures is as desirable as one

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about Every Family. The emotional intensity is pal- must stick to historical fact, which does not allow
pable, and Stones is a cathartic, enriching experience.” for as much justice as the viewer will want to see.
• Confessions of a Mormon Boy, a one-man It’s a difficult dilemma for a playwright: You want
play written by and starring Steven Fales, pre- the action to be satisfying, but you don’t want to
miered in November 2001 at the Rose Wagner betray history. To an extent, though, the frustration
Center in Salt Lake City. Expanded from a version felt by a sympathetic audience is part of the point;
originally presented at the August 2001 Sunstone we feel a bit of what Brigham and the Saints felt.”
Symposium, the play “spins the story of Fales’s life- Playwright Slover said: “My chief question was why
long struggle to deny his sexual orientation, from Brigham Young and the Church didn’t have more
his earliest encounters through his experiences in to do with the trial. It seems like they could have
‘reparative therapy’ and his eventual excommunica- had any number of people testify, among them John
tion from the LDS Church,” according to Salt Taylor and Willard Richards who had both been at
Lake City Weekly. “Fales is careful to note that Con- the Carthage Jail. They don’t make any kind of appear-
fessions of a Mormon Boy is not an exercise in Church- ance at the trial. It must have been so wrenching
bashing, nor is it a crass gay romp. Rather, it’s his for Brigham as the leader of the Church.” In other
attempt to shine a light on some of the assumptions Slover news, his play Joyful Noise, which has been
inherent in the way the Church and the Mormon produced Off Broadway, recently had its consider-
faithful deal with homosexuality.” Fales commented: able Broadway prospects ruined by a bad New York
“I’m not getting up on my soapbox to talk about Times review of a Pennsylvania production.
how I hate the Mormon Church. I believe in these • Notorious for skewering Mormonism, the Salt
concepts of eternity in many ways. Just because Lake Acting Company’s annual satire Saturday’s
there’s this incongruity I’m illuminating, or a com- Voyeur featured active-LDS actor Rock H. White
plexity, or even an absurdity, that doesn’t mean I in its 2001 version. White played a self-righteous
don’t love the Church.” Fales was married to Emily LDS bishop and legislative representative who is a
Pearson, daughter of Carol Lynn Pearson, whose pornography crusader. “The character is less-than-
1986 memoir Goodbye, I Love You chronicled her saintly, lying and using coercion to get his objec-
life with Emily’s father, who was gay and died of tives,” reported the Salt Lake Tribute. “While White
AIDS. Fales hopes to stage the play in New York; says he’s not comfortable with everything in the
however, a Salt Lake Tribune reviewer wrote that play, he says it’s important for Mormons to take a
“some of the LDS humor in Fales’ script may be different look at themselves.” White commented:
too specialized for audiences outside of Utah (one “There are a couple of lines in the show that I still
of his biggest laughs is admitting to a preexistence cringe at every night. The show doesn’t squash any
crush on Jimmy Flinders, a central character from sacred cows, but there are brief moments where
the corny Mormon musical Saturday’s Warrior).” they push the line pretty far for comedy’s sake. But
• Tim Slover’s play Hancock County, which I do feel that a show like this is great for both mem-
debuted at BYU in February 2002, “sets up a famil- bers of the LDS Church and non-members to see if
iar theatrical and cinematic situation: the legal trial you are willing to laugh at yourself. It’s a healthy bit
of a bad guy everyone wants to see punished,” of medicine for LDS people to see what we look
wrote Provo Daily Herald reviewer Eric D. Snider. like to other citizens of this state.” While White
“It’s the real-life 1845 trial of five men accused of said he hasn’t received any negative feedback from
conspiring to kill Mormon Prophet Joseph Smith. his ward or bishop, his relatives expressed shock
(No one knew which of the 100 mobbers actually that he would be in a show that “mocks our people
fired the bullets that killed him, so ‘conspiracy to and our church.”
murder’ was the best the state of Illinois could do.)” • During the Winter Olympics in February
Snider continued: “After setting up this tantalizing 2002, the LDS Church mounted an elaborate the-
blend of situations and characters, though, Slover atrical and musical production called Light of the

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World in the Conference Center. According to the Bell for How We Play the Game in Salt Lake and
Salt Lake Tribune, the 75-minute production com- Other Stories, a collection of science-fiction and
bined “spiritual music, history about The Church fantasy stories, including an especially intriguing
of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, global costumes tale about extraterrestrials in Salt Lake City.”
and dances, and inspirational stories from past Olym- • Richard Evans’s The Christmas Box was
pics.” A press release said the production included recently adapted as a musical by Japanese profes-
“an international cast of more than 1,500 partici- sionals and produced in Tokyo. “Christmas in Japan
pants, including the Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra is more an excuse to party and eat cake than a reli-
at Temple Square, performing groups from Brigham gious holiday, but every now and then it might not
Young University and the community, and cele- be a bad idea to reflect upon what it really stands
brated local artists. As many countries as possible for—loving and giving,” wrote a Daily Yomiuri
are being represented to create a program that has reviewer. This production “may lack the glitzy flair
the ability to cross cultural boundaries, ethnic dis- that we’ve come to expect from a seasonal theatrical
tinctions and language barriers.” LDS Church offering, but it conveys a sincere message—that love
spokesman Dale Bills said, “Will there be some ele- prevails over all—in an earnest and profound way.”
ments of LDS beliefs? Yes. But it’s not intended to The reviewer continued: “The production is not an
be preachy.” A Salt Lake Tribune reviewer wrote: all-song musical, like Les Miserables, or the sort of
“While Light of the World impresses with sheer size musical that mixes spoken dialogues and songs, like
and visual spectacle, it is overloaded with multiple the works of Webber or Rodgers and Hammerstein.”
plot directions and lacks narrative coherence. [The The director “handles the dialogue scenes best, par-
show] tries to cover the bases of Mormonism, ticularly the serious ones, such as the scene where
Olympic history and universal brotherhood.” David reveals his guilty feelings and fear that he
• The Villa Theater Company in Springville, didn’t save Andrea because she was not his real child.
Utah, is holding a playwriting contest with entries No music is heard during these rather long and
due by June 30, 2002. New plays are sought that intense conversations. The audience, mostly women
are appropriate for family audiences, and plays in their 20s, 30s, and 40s, hung on every word.”
suitable for child performances are also needed.
Special consideration will be given to those plays Film and TV
that reflect the history, lifestyle, or values of Utah
and Utahns of any religion. Plays may be on any • The Other Side of Heaven, an $8-million-
family-appropriate subject. Anyone may submit budget independent film based on John H. Gro-
any number of plays, with no entry fee. All entrants berg’s Tongan missionary memoir In the Eye of the
will be given a written critique from a qualified Storm, grossed more than $1.6 million on regional
panel of judges. Send three copies of each entry to screens and recently expanded nationwide to 160
Noreen Astin, Villa Theater Playwriting Contest, markets. Out of 600 cast and crewmembers, only
254 S. Main Street, Springville, UT, 84663. four Mormons were involved in making the film:
• Downwinders, a suspense novel set in south- the director, two high-powered LDS Hollywood
ern Utah and written by Curtis Oberhansley and producers, and the film editor. “I think God’s Army
Diane Nelson-Oberhansley, won the 2001 Utah demonstrated that there is a viable Mormon niche
Book Award for fiction. The Deseret News reported market out there, but this movie was not made at
that other finalists included “John Bennion for Falling all for that niche market,” said director Mitch
toward Heaven, a novel about an LDS missionary, Davis. “This movie was frankly made for a world-
a love affair, and a struggle of conscience; Gerald wide audience, which audience we hope it will
Grimmett for The Ferry Woman, a novel about find.” Davis said his movie was already underway
John D. Lee, which begins with one of Lee’s wives before the success of God’s Army. John H. Groberg,
angrily blaming Brigham Young for their exile after a member of the LDS Church’s First Quorum of
the Mountain Meadows Massacre; and M. Shayne the Seventy, said he sought approval from his supe-
riors before agreeing to the film. “Most of the
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general authorities have seen it and seem to be 1978, an animated film was definitely the most
favorably inclined,” he said. The Other Side of sensible way to show the scope of the story. A live-
Heaven is distributed by Excel Entertainment, action film back then would have been impossible.”
which also distributes God’s Army. Critical response • The Los Angeles Film Critics Association pre-
to the movie has been lukewarm. Salt Lake City’s sented its 2001 Independent/Experimental Film
two daily and largest weekly newspapers all gave and Video Award to The Beaver Trilogy, directed
the film two-and-a-half stars out of four, and the by nonpracticing-Mormon filmmaker Trent Har-
Provo Daily Herald gave it a C+. On AML-List, ris. Set in Beaver, Utah, the film consists of three
Sharlee Glenn said the production left her basically shorter films that each retells the same story with
unmoved: “It seemed to me that the director was different casts and techniques. The film’s stars
never clear on what it was, exactly, he was trying to include Crispin Glover and a young Sean Penn.
film: A love story? A missionary memoir? A com- Harris is best known for his low-budget 1994 film
ing-of-age tale? A travelogue? But the film’s biggest Plan 10 from Outer Space, a science-fiction comedy
flaw, in my opinion, was the fact that it continually about a Utah Mormon who discovers the “Plaque
tiptoed around anything overtly Mormon.” Eric D. of Kolob” and uncovers an alien plot to use the
Snider observed on AML-List that the main charac- LDS Church to take over the world.
ter is “never homesick, unmotivated, or any of the • Utah filmmaker Rob Sibley has released his
other things that 99.99 percent of all missionaries first LDS-oriented direct-to-video movie, The
feel at some point during their missions. He’s Shadow of Light. Intended for all ages and set in
blandly likable at the beginning, and blandly likable the 1940s, the story concerns two brothers who,
at the end, in exactly the same way—no change, no while stranded in a southern Utah town after a dis-
learning, no growth. If Elder Groberg was astrous summer camping trip, find a journal that
tempted—or indeed had any significant obsta- hints at missing treasure. Legends interwoven into
cles—they are not shown in the film. Everything in the film include disappearing wagon trains and
the movie is overcome very easily, with little soul- Montezuma sending his gold to Kanab. “We have
searching or drama.” Margaret Young told AML- a tie to the Book of Mormon in the story,” Sibley
List she didn’t think the movie would succeed told the Provo Daily Herald. “I have no desire to
outside the Mormon market, but it “is much better preach in my TV and filmmaking work, but if by
than what the Church produces with its correlation watching this movie people go and pick up the
committees. I call this progress.” Book of Mormon, my objective has been reached.”
• Several recent Hollywood films have Mormon He said his goal is to make back the money
connections: The team of casino robbers in Ocean’s invested “and a little bit more so we can continue
Eleven includes two Mormon characters from doing this.” More information is available at
Provo. According to Preston Hunter of www. www.theshadowoflight.com.
adherents.com, the film has “become the top-gross- • With 15 events and about 750 visitors, the first
ing film ever to feature a main character explicitly annual Young LDS Film Festival debuted late last
identified as a Mormon.” David Veloz, screenwriter year in Provo, Utah. In addition to screening films
of Natural Born Killers and the recent Behind and presenting awards, festival organizers arranged
Enemy Lines, is Mormon, as is Joyce Eliason, a several workshops and presentations about ways to
Titanic screenwriter and co-screenwriter and co- improve LDS filmmaking. First place went to Chris
producer of David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive, Bowman for The Wrong Brother, a comedy about
which received a Golden Globe nomination for Orville and Wilbur Wright’s younger brother who
Best Dramatic Picture. Fellowship of the Ring direc- struggles to emerge from his brothers’ shadow. Sec-
tor Peter Jackson paid homage to the 1978 ani- ond place went to Brian Peterson for Closure, a
mated version of Lord of the Rings, written by LDS film about the problems of a 25-year-old BYU stu-
writer Chris Conkling: “It inspired me to read the dent whose high school sweetheart, a member of a
book. I enjoyed it and wanted to know more. In different Christian faith, gets married. “People have

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told me that it is long overdue,” said festival organ- Dutcher. “We attacked this genre from a business
izer Christian Vuissa, a BYU film student from plan,” producer Dave Hunter told the Utah County
Austria. “I think there’s a need for a community for Journal. “We know we can recoup the half-million
LDS filmmakers, a way to network.” The festival is this cost.” Next the filmmakers will make The R.M.,
sponsoring a touring presentation of films from the about a missionary who returns to find his family
competition, and entries for the 2002 competition has moved and his girlfriend and job have disap-
will be accepted until September 15, 2002. For peared, followed by Church Ball. After three LDS-
more information, visit www.ldsbox.com. market films, the BYU film school graduates plan
• Citing declining advertising revenue and changed to enter the general feature-film market, and they
audience interests in the wake of the September 11 would like to start a “perpetual entertainment
terrorist attacks, 20th Century-Fox and Showtime fund” for future Mormon movies. While most
both canceled plans for TV movies about the Salt Utah newspapers found the film amateurish and
Lake Olympics bid scandal, which likely would have overripe, the film’s soundtrack received kudos for
included Mormon characters and themes. “We its ska, punk, and rock covers of traditional Mor-
were trying to write satire, which is hard,” said a mon hymns and Primary songs. The filmmakers
Fox executive. “It never really came together. We caused a controversy by running an ad with reviewer
didn’t want to bash people for no reason. It was not comments taken out of context to appear favorable.
a great script, and we couldn’t get it out before the • Richard Dutcher began preliminary shooting
Olympics.” According to the Salt Lake Tribune, in January 2002 for his next film, The Prophet:
“The demise of the Fox and Showtime projects also The Story of Joseph Smith Jr. To capture winter
is part of the fading of the Olympic scandal after scenes while snow was still on the ground, Zion
three years. It follows a federal judge’s dismissal last Films transformed a state park in Ogden, Utah,
month of the entire bribery and fraud case.” into the 19th-century prairies between Missouri and
• The Mormon Tabernacle Choir recently Illinois. Serious filming will begin in early April
appeared in an episode of the TV series Touched by 2002 at locations in Canada and New York. The
an Angel. According to Mormon News, the filmmakers anticipate releasing the film in 2003. In
episode’s storyline focused on a family “mourning a other Dutcher news, his debut Mormon film God’s
beloved member of the community who is missing Army was recently remastered in Spanish for distri-
after the September 11th attacks. Young Benny bution in Latin America, and his sophomore Mor-
Lewis is having a hard time understanding the dis- mon film Brigham City will be available on video
appearance his favorite teacher, Mr. Harper, who is starting April 30, 2002.
also the school’s choir director and the director for • Preston Hunter of www.adherents.com reported
a local church’s annual Christmas pageant. The that popular LDS-market author Susan Evans
angels help the family rekindle the holiday spirit McCloud has become involved in filmmaking.
through nostalgic memories.” Stone Forest, an Orem-based film production com-
• Co-written by director Kurt Hale and Los pany, lists McCloud as president and a screenwriter,
Angeles–based LDS stand-up comedian John Moyer and her book Black Stars Over Mexico—about
and released in February 2002, The Singles Ward the Mexican LDS colonies in the early 1900s—is
is a romantic comedy about a divorced man who being made into a movie. According to Hunter,
returns to a singles ward and finds a new partner. “Other LDS authors whose books have been made
“We’re approaching our religion with the utmost into films (mostly made-for-television films) include
reverence, but we’re also shining a pretty hot light Raymond F. Jones, James C. Christensen, Zenna
on our culture,” Moyer said. The movie features Henderson, Anne Perry, Richard Paul Evans,
cameo appearances by celebrities such as Steve Richard M. Siddoway, Hartt Wixom, Douglas
Young, Shawn Bradley, Danny Ainge, LaVell Thayer, Herbert Harker, Blaine Yorgason and Brent
Edwards, Gordon Jump, Julie Stoffer, and Richard Yorgason, Lael J. Littke, and Judith Freeman.” In

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other LDS film news, Jack Weyland’s Charly and Farnsworth’s vision and intellectual abilities that
Doug Stewart’s Saturday’s Warrior are slated to led him to the concept of television in 1921,”
become movies. reported the Salt Lake Tribune. “Farnsworth was
• A song written by U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch apparently not thrilled with his invention, which
and LDS composer Janice Kapp Perry was included has always been the butt of intellectual scorn.
in the soundtrack of the Hollywood movie Rat Reportedly, his description of a couch potato disease
Race. Producer Jerry Zucker used the songwriting was ‘TV-itis.’” The Tribune noted that Farnsworth
duo’s song “America Rocks!” in a recording by the has already been the subject of a play, A Love Affair
Hatch-Perry Singers, a Provo-based group of fifth with Electrons by AML board member Eric
and sixth graders that includes several of Perry’s Samuelsen. In other Farnsworth news, Miramax
grandchildren. Films holds film options on two books about the
• Entertainment Weekly gave an A grade to Shot inventor.
in the Heart, HBO’s recent adaptation of non- • Filmmaker John Lyde has released his first fea-
practicing Mormon Mikal Gilmore’s memoir ture-length film on video. Distributed by Thomson
about the family background of his brother Gary, Productions, the 52-minute The Field Is White is
who murdered two men in Utah and became the about a returned missionary who, struggling with
first U.S. execution after the Supreme Court his faith in post-mission life, recalls his mission
reversed an earlier ban on capital punishment. experiences as he rereads his journals. According to
Directed by Agnieszka Holland (Europa, Europa), BYU’s NewsNet, “Lyde didn’t want to make
“the film centers on efforts by Mikal, played with preachy, Hollywood-style, or realistic films like
subtle anguish by Giovanni Ribisi (Saving Private God’s Army, but rather wished to capture some-
Ryan), to persuade Gary (The Thin Red Line’s Elias thing in between. ‘I wanted something that’s enter-
Koteas, in a protean performance) to reconsider his taining, but you can still feel the Spirit,’ he said.
request to be executed. Both book and movie reject ‘I mostly wanted to help returned missionaries
facile explanations for Gary’s life and acts; Holland think back about their missionary experience.’” On
is particularly adept in dramatizing Mikal’s AML-List, Preston Hunter wrote: “The Field Is
dilemma and the manifestations of his brother’s White is intended to be inspirational, but it also
story in pop culture.” On AML-List, R. W. Ras- tells an interesting story with unique and believable
band wrote: “The film lacks the epic, time- and characters. There is nothing that audiences will
space-spanning quality of Mikal’s book. It’s more find offensive, yet there is much that is informative
an intense chamber piece; I can easily envision a and thought provoking. The film is also very realis-
stage version. It’s very reminiscent of an episode of tic in its portrayal of missionary life—in many
Homicide; it has the same dark intensity. It uses ways it is more realistic and revealing than other
Mikal’s scary tales of rural Utah Mormon myth- available films with higher production values, such
ology: blood atonement, three Nephites (pro- as God’s Army and The Other Side of Heaven. There
nounced here nef-ites), and ghosts. We see things are at least a dozen realistic scenes portraying
from Mikal’s perspective, so it’s possible to see these aspects of missionary life that have probably never
elements as part of a depiction of a disturbed fam- been filmed before.”
ily’s collective worldview. We choose to see what we • Orson Scott Card has written and directed a
want to see, and the bloody ethos depicted here is short film titled Remind Me Again, which is available
real, but it’s only a partial glimpse of the local her- for viewing at his website www.hatrack.com. The
itage. It’s a gripping film, but for LDS viewers, 13-minute film was shot and edited by Card’s son
caveat emptor.” Geoffrey and stars his daughter Emily. According
• Mormon-born television inventor Philo T. to Preston Hunter at www.adherents.com, “The
Farnsworth will be the subject of an original HBO story is about a man who has lost his memory.
Pictures teleplay. “The script will highlight There are no insectoid aliens, magic-wielding

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prophets, talking trees, sleeping princesses, or time- alike.” Provo Daily Herald reviewer Eric D. Snider
traveling Mayans. [The film] is oddly interesting wrote: “The first moments may scare you. That
and well made given the equipment constraints, cheesy music, that enlightened-sounding voiceover:
but it is very low-budget (maybe even no-budget).” This is a Church video! It’s Together Forever or Our
Card has written several animated Living Scripture Heavenly Father’s Plan, or something! What are we
scripts and has long been involved with trying to in for? Fortunately, two or three minutes into Out
bring his novel Ender’s Game to film. of Step, the newest LDS-themed motion picture,
• Richard Dutcher is collaborating with film- the seminary stuff gives way to teen pop music and
maker Nathan Jones on a mockumentary about images of New York City, and what you thought
the birth of Mormon cinema, according to Preston was going to be preachy or stiff turns out to be a
Hunter of www.adherents.com. Budgeted at $103,000 sweet-natured, highly watchable spiritual drama.”
and planned for a September 2002 release, the film On AML-List, Snider added: “Let me say how dis-
will be titled The Work and the Story. Jones said appointed I am that Out of Step has done so poorly
the movie is about four filmmakers racing to at the box office. I really think it was due to lack
become the first “Mormon Spielberg.” of marketing, not lack of quality; obviously the
• “If the concept reminds you of Flashdance reviews were positive, and I suspect word of mouth
crossed with Pretty in Pink, albeit with a decidedly would have been, too, if anyone had seen it.”
Mormon bent, the film doesn’t exactly go out of its • Utah-native Trent Hanson has scripted and is
way to discourage such comparisons,” wrote in preproduction to direct a feature film about a
Deseret News critic Jeff Vice about the new film Out Latter-day Saint basketball star who finds himself
of Step. “Director Ryan Little and a trio of screen- torn between his values and the NBA lifestyle.
writers aren’t exactly subtle in their attempts to Filming is scheduled to begin in May 2002, with a
broach some pretty dicey religious and philosophi- fall 2002 release date planned.
cal matters. There are also a few obvious technical
missteps—including some out-of-focus camera Online
work and some bad scene and sound splices. But
the majority of these can probably be attributed to • In February 2002 a group of Mormon writers
the threadbare budget [reportedly $200,000]. The and graphic artists formed The Sugar Beet, a satir-
performances more than make up for those short- ical Mormon news website patterned after The
comings.” LDS film specialist Preston Hunter sum- Onion (www.theonion.com). Located at www. the-
marized the film as “the fictional story of Jenny sugarbeet.com, the web publication announced
Thomas, a Mormon girl from a small town in Utah itself as follows: “In the enterprising and self-sacri-
pursuing her dreams of becoming a professional ficing spirit of the Mormon pioneers, a crack group
dancer. After being accepted to a prestigious dance of Mormon journalists has banded together to
program, Jenny finds herself alone and over- bring you the latest and most relevant Mormon
whelmed in New York City. The film combines news. If it was gossiped about in Relief Society, if
high-energy dance and cutting-edge music with it caused muffled snickers in the deacons quorum,
comedy, romance, drama, a traditional quest, and if the high priests mumbled about it in their
very untraditional characters.” Salt Lake Tribune sleep, you’ll see it in The Sugar Beet first.” Articles
reviewer Sean P. Means wrote: “Here’s a nice sur- in the first issue included “Provo Temple Liftoff
prise: Out of Step, the latest in the wave of LDS cin- Successful,” “Area Man Hospitalized after Trying to
ema, is a sweet little romance with refreshing Hie to Kolob,” “New Caffeine Patch Announced,”
characters and a winning cast. The script—credited and several Olympics-related stories. In an article
to Michael Buster, Willow Leigh Jones and Nikki titled “Latter-day Send-Ups: Mormon Satirists Ward
Schmutz—offers thoughtful discussions of the Off Over-Earnest Members with The Sugar Beet,” a
LDS faith accessible to members and nonmembers Salt Lake City Weekly reporter wrote: “The Sugar

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Beet might help ease friction between Mormons their manuscripts, she asked to be a guest speaker.
and non-Mormons. Then there’s the less-publicized According to BYU’s NewsNet, Dew offered three
divide between Utah Mormons and those faithful guiding principles for aspiring authors: have
beyond the state line. . . . Jack Mormons and non- worthwhile content, package the content well, and
Mormons will nod knowingly. And hopefully, the have the right motives. “Some just want to publish
faithful can share in the chuckle.” Updated biweekly, for the sake of publishing,” she said. “You need to
the site logged more than 3,000 hits during its first have a fresh insight.” Listen to what people are
few weeks. talking about and what they are worried about, she
• Deseret Book’s website at deseretbook.com now advised. She encouraged students to craft their
features a magazine called Mormon Life, which writing so they can reach out to broader audiences.
includes news links and sections on Gospel Study, “You have the Holy Ghost,” she said. “Get the skill,
Gospel Living, People & Places, Heritage, LDS and you will help people bump into the gospel.”
Entertainment, Today’s Woman, Marriage & Par- • A U.S. district judge dismissed a lawsuit by for-
enting, and Youth. Recent writers have included mer University of Utah student Christina Axson-
Tom Plummer, Stephen R. Covey, Jack Weyland, Flynn, a Latter-day Saint who claimed her religious
Patricia Holland, Gerald Lund, Robert F. Smith, rights were violated when instructors required her
Timothy Robinson, Ardeth G. Kapp, Andrew C. to recite scripts containing profane language. The
Skinner, and C. Terry Warner. The LDS Enter- judge ruled that the use of profane language was
tainment section has featured an original mystery required only as an academic exercise, that the cur-
novel by Liz Adair. riculum did not take a position on religion, and
that it is reasonable for an acting program to foster
Miscellany a student’s ability to take on disagreeable roles. “The
bottom line is you can’t have a society in which
• Two BYU English professors are teaching an everything you disagree with is in violation of your
honors class on the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, with constitutional rights,” said assistant Utah attorney
lectures on the morals of fantasy literature and how general Alain Balmanno. “This is a recognition that
its roots stem from Christian beliefs. “Fantasy liter- we have a system in place where people go to a uni-
ature is undergirded by an understanding of versity in order to learn things with which they
medieval literature informed by a Christian belief, may not be familiar or comfortable.” Attorney Stef-
or a notion of providence,” said assistant professor fen Johnson argued that his client should not lose
Don Chapman. “This is why people can relate so her constitutional rights to freedom of speech and
well to it.” Professor Steven Walker, who wrote religion when she enters the classroom. Axson-Flynn
his Harvard doctoral dissertation on Tolkien, said: is appealing the decision.
“I want to look at the ways fantasy intersects real- • Publishers Weekly’s Religion Bookline e-bulletin
ity and impinges on actual life. Then we can begin reported on the 2001 convention of the Latter-day
to figure out how Tolkien’s fantasy manages to be so Saint Booksellers Association. “According to Mary
realistic. Overall, I really want to see if we can get Ann Blackham, [former] executive director of
at the morals of the story and wind up with a dis- LDSBA, the convention just keeps growing. Booth
cussion of how fantasy might affect us in our later space is up significantly (from 150 booths in 1999
lives. We’ll definitely incorporate discussion of the to 220 this year), made possible by the convention’s
new film into the course, and I’m hoping we can relocation to the spacious new South Towne Expo-
have a fantasy film forum and extend into Harry sition Center [in Sandy, Utah]. Though attendance
Potter and other film fantasies.” figures were not available at press time, the show
• When Sheri Dew, then serving as executive hosted 125 exhibitors and approximately 190 buy-
vice president at Deseret Book, heard about BYU’s ing stores (out of 273 LDS stores worldwide).” The
Publishing Lab, which helps students market annual LDSBA convention is not open to the pub-

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lic, but current AML members can register to attend • Scheduled for August 7–10, the 2002 Salt Lake
the 2002 convention (August 13–16) through the Sunstone Symposium is accepting session propos-
AML’s associate LDSBA membership (for details, als until April 30, 2002. Types of sessions include
watch AML-List or send a request to irreantum2@ scholarly papers, panel discussions, interviews, per-
cs.com after July 1, 2002). For more information sonal essays, sermons, dramatic performances, liter-
about the LDSBA, visit www.ldsba.com. ary readings, debates, comic routines, short films,
• Several Latter-day Saints won awards in the art displays, and musical presentations. For more
Utah Arts Council’s 43rd annual original writing information, contact Sunstone at sunstonesy@aol.com
competition. Following is the complete list of win- or 801-355-5926. In other Sunstone news, the
ners: Novel: first place, Dawn Houghton; second, deadline for the annual fiction contest is June 30,
Nicole Stansbury; honorable mention, Kate Lahey. 2002. Entries must relate to adult Latter-day Saint
Nonfiction book: first, Terry Houlahan; second, Todd experience, theology, or worldview, and all varieties
MacFarlane. Short story collection: first, Paul Rawlins; of form are welcome. For entry rules, contact Sun-
second, Marina Harris. Young adult book: first, John stone at sunstoneut@aol.com or 801-355-5926.
Bennion; second, Laurel Brady; honorable mention, • In anticipation of a film version of Jack Wey-
Carol Williams. Poetry: first, Natasha Saje; second, land’s novel Charly to be released in fall 2002,
Susan Sample; honorable mention, Lance Larsen. novelist Anne Bradshaw recently profiled Weyland
Short story: first, Susan Imhoff; second, Lyn at www.mahonri.org. Since 1979 Weyland has writ-
McCarter; honorable mentions, Kimberly Sorenson ten 26 books and more than 50 New Era stories.
and Sandra Bullock. Personal essay: first, Nicole His interest in creative writing began during col-
Stansbury; second, Matthew Lalli; honorable men- lege, but he didn’t start writing seriously until after
tions, Lisa-Michele Church and M. Dane Picard. he had earned a Ph.D. in physics and was teaching
• Richard P. Scowcroft, a scholarly novelist who at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technol-
served as director of Stanford University’s creative ogy. To pay for a correspondence course in writing,
writing program, died at age 85. According to the he sold his first story to the New Era, the LDS
Los Angeles Times, “Scowcroft nurtured such suc- Church’s youth magazine that recently announced
cessful writers as best-selling legal affairs novelist it will no longer publish fiction. Continuing to
Scott Turow. Sometimes semi-autobiographical and write stories for the New Era during his unpaid
usually involving coming-of-age struggles, Scow- summers, Weyland served as a bishop and gained
croft’s half-dozen or so novels from the 1940s to the deeper insights into issues faced by the youth.
1970s include Children of the Covenant, First Fam- Teaching early-morning seminary helped him
ily, A View of the Bay, Wherever She Goes, The Ordeal develop the habit of rising early, and after the sem-
of Dudley Dean, and Back to Fire Mountain. The inary calling ended he used his early mornings to
earliest novels, a Times reviewer wrote in 1955, write, eventually producing his first novel, Charly.
demonstrated ‘his command of technique, his abil- “Charly has had remarkable longevity and popular-
ity to write directly, thoughtfully and vividly, [and] ity,” Weyland said. “I’d like to create something
his knowledge that a novel, if it is worth anything new that has the same effect on readers.” He said
at all, must be about people.’” Born in Ogden, his latest novel, Megan, “was like walking through
Utah, Scowcroft earned a bachelor’s degree from the a minefield. The main character is a young woman
University of Utah and a master’s and doctorate in who has become pregnant just out of high school.
English from Harvard. After teaching a year at Har- The story addresses many of the issues and deci-
vard, Scowcroft joined the Stanford faculty as an sions resulting from Megan’s choice.” Weyland has
assistant professor of English in 1947. He worked a website at www.jackweyland.com.
with Wallace Stegner to shape the university’s cre-
ative writing program, including editing and pub-
lishing periodic anthologies of students’ work.

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A M L - L I S T that they do offbeat things because they’re not sure


H I G H L I G H T S
who they are, so you have them drive around in a
hearse. Now suppose one of the boys is Navajo.
Suddenly the hearse adds tremendous texture to
Compiled by Marny K. Parkin
the story. This Navajo boy really doesn’t know who
he is, or he wouldn’t be riding around in a hearse,
AML-List provides an ongoing forum for broad-
and before the end of the story he’s going to have
ranging conversation and a stimulating exchange of
to deal with that. Complicate things by adding a
opinions related to LDS literature. One especially rich
Hopi antagonist (“Coach thinks that because we’re
topic during May through October 2001 was non-
both Indians we’ll like each other. He doesn’t know
print media for LDS stories. Read on for a sampling
that Navajos hate Hopis. They used to make us
of the sentiment on this and other topics. If you find
slaves.”) who calls the Navajo an apple (“red on the
yourself wanting to join this community, send an e-
outside, white on the inside”), then have the Navajo
mail message to majordomo@lists.xmission.com
boy run past an apple orchard. You’ve got two sym-
that reads: subscribe aml-list. A confirmation request
bols at work in the story that give it resonance and
will be sent to your e-mail address; follow the direc-
underline the action of the story, the Navajo boy’s
tions to complete your subscription. AML-List is mod-
quest to understand his culture and how he fits in.
erated by Jonathan Langford.
[. . . ] If I wanted to explain to a high school Eng-
lish class how a symbol works within a story, The
Symbolism Shadow Brothers, with its hearse and apples, would
Anna Wight (May 29): Sometimes I wonder, be a fine story to look at. [. . .]
how does the teacher know that’s what the author Many writers work very hard to add texture and
meant and how do they know that’s what the white depth to a story. Symbolism is not the invention of
daisy means? Did they ever speak to the writer? critics. For a fairly obvious example of symbolism,
I suspect, too, that if the actual author of the read the first chapter of Martin Cruz Smith’s Stal-
book took the class incognito, they would end up lion Gate. It’s the story of Joseph being delivered
failing it because they wouldn’t understand the sym- from prison after being left there to rot. To empha-
bolism in their own book, according to the teacher size that he’s working with that story, Smith retells
and other critics. the encounter between Joseph and Potiphar’s wife a
Ivan Angus Wolfe (May 31): But look at it this couple of chapters later. To further emphasize it, he
way—Umberto Eco once said (paraphrased)— named the main character Joe.
“Nothing pleases me more than to have readers Terry L Jeffress (June 4): Teachers find symbol-
point out elements in my work I did not intend to ism in everything because writing depends on sym-
be there, yet are still there in any case.” bols. The word rose printed on a page is not a rose.
Eco has a healthy attitude—he realizes even the When you use the word rose, you evoke in the
most careful, skilled authors (and he is one of reader not just the generic image of a prickly shrub
the most) are not always in full conscious control with pinnate leaves and showy flowers, but you also
of their works, and so things are in the literature evoke the personal experiences the reader has had
that the author may not have intended, but those with roses, both real and in art. An author may
elements are still there. deny the use of symbolism, but the author made a
Harlow Clark (May 31): Symbolism isn’t about conscious decision to use a rose instead of a carna-
what the author really meant, it’s about how an tion, a lily, or some other flower.
object or idea or landscape or person functions to And frankly, what the author meant doesn’t mat-
deepen and enrich a work of art. For example, sup- ter. Only what the reader has experienced while
pose you want to write about two teenage boys who reading the text matters. When I write about liter-
like to do offbeat things and you want to suggest ature, I don’t tell you what the author meant.

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Instead, I discuss the experience and meaning that the very thing that makes Mormon literature so fas-
I got from the text, and I use examples from the cinating to me as an idea is that it has to relate in
text to demonstrate how I arrived at a position. some way to a strong institutional culture (the LDS
I enjoy looking at how the symbols in the text cre- Church), to a national culture (American, and soon
ate a deeper meaning than you can find with just probably more), and to a larger religious context
the base meaning of an author’s words. (Christianity and beyond).
Of course, there is a Berlin wall when it comes
Mormon Literature as Distinct? to marketing Mormon lit. But there are barriers in
every segment of book publishing and selling. And
[Tom Johnson asked if non-Mormon and Mor- let’s not forget that the Berlin wall was not imper-
mon literature were so different as to be different meable when it came to intellectual work (so are
genres, with a Berlin wall separating the two.] orthodox Mormons the East or West Germans?).
William Morris (June 4): Us comparatists (that’s There was a certain flow back and forth.
what us comparative literature folk call ourselves), Barbara Hume (June 6): I don’t think this
once we got over that trying-to-find-the-universal- [Berlin wall idea] has to be so. For example, I’ve
narrative thing (which was essentially an exercise learned a great deal about what it was like to be in
in Eurocentrism in reaction to WWII—not a bad the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars by
thing, but very limiting), have been deconstructing reading Patrick O’Brian, C.S. Forester, and Alexan-
notions of race and nation and literature. We often der Kent novels. Talk about a particular culture!
deal with all that stuff that has now become so very Now I know what the gun deck is really for (not
trendy in cultural studies—writing on the margins, guns) and where the orlop is and why the ham-
hybridity, multilingualism, “minor” literatures mocks are tied to the railings during battle and
(except we no longer use the word “minor”—I for- what “clear the decks” really means and why you
get what the new term is), etc. We show how the should never cut the rations of grog and which
works of various writers challenge fixed notions of mast is the mizzen and what the t’gallants do and
nation and race and gender. what the protocols are when an admiral comes on
[. . .] Writers come from communities, and no board and what ships of the line do versus what
matter what their ties with those communities are frigates do and why it’s a good idea to put maggots
or become, their work gets filtered through all into a festering wound and a whole lot of other
those categories (both in production and consump- stuff. It’s accurate, too—I got so interested that I
tion) of race, ethnicity, language, religion, nation, consulted primary sources. Can’t an LDS writer
and geography that are tied in to the writers’ com- write a novel set in the Mormon culture that will
munity(ies). And it’s a perfectly viable exercise to let people into our ways? I learned about the way a
discuss how a writer’s work relates to these cate- Jewish family celebrates the Passover from reading
gories. Thus, Kafka is a Jew, a Czech, a German a novel by a Jewish writer, for goodness sake.
speaker, a citizen of Prague, a bachelor, etc. [. . .] It’s sometimes useful if an insider character
What all this is inelegantly leading up to is a explains some things to an outsider character, if
defense of the idea of a “Mormon” literature. [. . .] you don’t overdo it. O’Brian has fun with this one,
I also believe that Mormon literature intersects since the doctor never understands the ways of the
with non-Mormon literature at large and that it’s navy even after they are explained to him over and
hard (and should be hard) to create hard bound- over. The author makes it fun to watch him try so
aries, to create a Berlin wall. Part of the reason for hard but still leave the seamen frustrated. He’ll lis-
that is that American Mormon culture blends into ten to a long discussion about the correct terms for
American culture. But that’s not going to stop me various locations on the ship, and then he’ll say that
from trying to theorize trends, histories, possibili- he has to go downstairs. It’s a hoot—and a mar-
ties, triumphs, and failures in Mormon lit. In fact, velous literary device.

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Scott Parkin (June 8): I’m not sure that I buy scene sets the remaining necessary context for under-
the notion that Mormon literature is so horribly standing the essence of the rite.
impenetrable to non-Mormon readers. Other than Sure, there are a lot of in-jokes to be made, a lot
some few specific details about temple ceremonies of winks to the audience that would require a lot of
that we’ve already debated quite a bit on this list explanation but that add only the barest hint
(and that rarely, if ever, make their way into Mor- of authenticity to the story. And Mormons use
mon fiction), there is pretty much nothing about those kinds of in-jokes a lot, in part because we
our culture that’s really that hard for people to want to feel special and unique.
understand. But those jokes and nods and winks aren’t really
I think Mormons perpetuate the myth of our what make Mormon culture interesting. We can be
rampant distinctiveness as a means of excusing understood fairly easily, because despite our hopes
themselves from trying to talk to others about our to the contrary, we are generally pretty much like
commonalities. We desperately want to be a pecu- everyone else in the broad strokes, though many of
liar people, a people set apart, a set of beliefs that the fine details can be quite unique—as they are
can’t be truly understood without long-term, focused with any culture and cultural literature.
study. We like the idea that our culture and religion So I’m not sure I accept that (a) some great gulf
are hard to comprehend without a native guide. exists between Mormon literature and the world, or
(I also think we conflate Wasatch Front culture (b) that Mormons can or ought to spend a lot of
with Mormon culture and assume that all Mor- time trying to create a sense of alienness about our
mons everywhere behave like Utahns, but that’s a culture and religion.
different discussion.) I think we’re afraid that despite our claims to
Hooey. We’re not that unique. unique religious truth, our actual day-to-day cul-
For example, pretty much every Christian reli- ture might be at least a tad trivial. So we build
gion has some form of communion. That we call monuments to our own uniqueness in our minds
ours the sacrament and have a particular set of and assume that no one can understand them. [. . .]
prayers to go with it in no way makes the concept As storytellers, though, I think we need to under-
alien to anyone who has even a remote notion of stand that the uniqueness of the Mormon view-
what communion is. Water, wine, wafer, or wheat point comes not through little cultural details, but
bread, it all equates to a ceremony of individual through a series of powerful perceptual differences
redemption through partaking of symbols of the that come through in the story without the use of
body and blood of Christ. Ours is a pretty obvious silly behavioral gewgaws. Those real differences in
implementation of a concept that is core religion to perception demand to be understood, but as
a huge international populace. authors we need to trust that the real story comes
It’s why the end of Richard Dutcher’s Brigham through the author’s Mormon mindset and the
City can have power for any viewer—most are famil- characters’ true voices, not through explicating
iar with communion, and he includes the specific some trivial social practices.
detail of the woman distressed by her sin choosing D. Michael Martindale (June 12): Three
to forego that communion early in the story to vignettes that address this:
specifically illustrate how this culture interprets 1. I knew a local stand-up comedian once who
their part in the ritual. Nothing else is needed—no did lots of jokes about Mormons. When away from
lengthy digression into the Atonement, no treatise Utah, where the likelihood was great that people in
on the cultural significant of children’s role in pub- the audience wouldn’t know what a Mormon was,
lic administration of a religious rite, no extended he used a gimmick to give them some kind of clue
exposition of baptism and renewing covenants and so those people could get something out of the
the authority structure of the Mormon Church. The jokes: he’d describe Mormons as “Amish in poly-
prayers speak for themselves, and the one illustrative ester suits.”

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Now I hope we would give a little more accurate completely clear to him he was able to get the gist
impression of Mormons in our literature, but the of. He enjoyed getting immersed in this “alien”
basic idea is correct: we don’t need to dive into culture.
great detail about what being a Mormon is all My conclusion: just write. Write about Mormons
about. We can provide just enough information to and their religion and their culture, and don’t try to
get the basic idea across without bogging every- explain everything. Then let a non-Mormon read
thing down with involved explanations. As a sci- it. Let him point out the parts that are just too
ence fiction reader/writer, I’m afraid I have a head unclear, where he couldn’t decipher what was going
start on many of you knowing how to do that—it’s on at all. You may be surprised to find out how few
standard operating procedure for science fiction of those instances there are.
and fantasy.
2. In high school I had a Baptist friend named Mormon Cinema
Tom, except he had never actually been baptized.
He invited me to one of his services once, and told Travis Manning (May 8): I went on a road trip
me that every time before communion, the pastor with my wife last weekend and we discussed
would explain that only those who had been bap- Richard Dutcher. I told my wife I thought Dutcher
tized should partake of it. Tom swore the preacher was courageous for producing screenplays by a
always said it while looking at him, as if he were Mormon about Mormons. My wife said she has
saying, “Now only those who have been baptized— trouble with that. We talked further.
TOM!—should partake.” My wife said she has problems with moviemakers
I attended, they passed out the communion, and producing films containing spiritual content like
it was absolutely clear to me at every point what blessings and prayers. My comment was, “Well,
was going on. There was nothing inscrutable about why has the Church televised an LDS sacrament
the procedure. When the trays were offered down meeting on TV here in recent years? Those things
the row where Tom and I sat, we declined. I have are sacred.” I also said there is spiritual content in
also been to a Catholic mass a couple of times and, Legacy and Testaments, and these are Church-spon-
in spite of the greater ritualistic implementation, sored productions. Her comment was she didn’t
was not confused about what was going on. Con- particularly like Church movies and productions,
sequently, I don’t think a Christian of any stripe that they just weren’t well produced. [. . .] I said
would find our sacrament to be mystifying at all. that Church artists weren’t going to get better, that
Nor our baptisms, nor our ordinations, nor bless- LDS filmmakers weren’t going to get better, unless
ings of children, nor our healing of the sick. They there were more films to watch and critique, if there
might be full of questions on details, but the gist of wasn’t a more substantive discourse and dialogue
what’s going on is pretty obvious. on what makes films “good.”
3. The novel I’ve been working on, whose rewrite Back to what Wayne Booth has said about criti-
is now close to finished, is aimed specifically at a cal communities, that unless we have a critical com-
Mormon audience. I make absolutely no attempt munity, art, in whatever form, will not improve
to explain any references that a typical Mormon (this is a loose reiteration, but still on the point).
would understand. When I submitted chapter one My wife questioned Dutcher’s financial motives:
to my writers group, one member (Dave) who was was he attempting to just make money off of movie
not a Mormon and knew little of the religion or producing? I didn’t believe so. Besides, shouldn’t
culture said he was absolutely fascinated by the we be anxiously engaged in good causes and do
chapter. It helped him to understand this culture many good things of our own free will to bring to
he had been living in the midst of all these years. pass good things? My wife asked me why an LDS
He said that he was able to follow pretty well what moviemaker would attempt to even make Brigham
was going on, and even the references that weren’t City, a fictional piece. Why fiction? My response:

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Christ used fiction. The parables. Christ’s parables commented on the films. Her response was a sad
are stories carefully crafted to elicit valuable lessons one, but I suppose not uncommon. I think part of
for those who are paying careful attention to its the problem lies simply in that this is the first time
content. Her response was, “Well, that’s Christ. We we’ve had anything like this. We as Mormons are not
shouldn’t try to replicate what he does.” I asked if used to seeing ourselves on screen, and at first it
she was sure about that, and she realized where we may be a bit uncomfortable. I’m just glad someone’s
were in our conversation. Christ, of course, com- doing it, that we can now say there is something
mands us to be like Him, even as He is like the called Mormon cinema.
Father. We both agreed. Beth Hatch (June 7): I wrote a long post about
Again, I said, I see Richard Dutcher as a coura- how I thought that God’s Army didn’t so much
geous LDS filmmaker who is just developing his art show the world what Mormon missionaries do as
and encouraging other LDS filmmakers to do the it showed that Mormon missionaries are Chris-
same. There are almost zero films by Mormons tians. I wrote that I thought the movie did that by
about Mormons for a national audience. And as its many parallels to Christ’s ministry.
Margaret Young mentioned in her post a couple Once again, I don’t think Brigham City is neces-
weeks ago about her and Darius’s experience in an sarily about being Mormon. It’s about being Chris-
L.A. book convention, there are still many stereo- tian. I think the movie could almost have been set
types about Mormons that are flat-out backwoods in any town. To me, the movie was about not see-
and hokey. ing the beam in your own eye. [. . .] I was so sure
Annette Lyon (June 6): After seeing movies my that the conflict in this movie was going to be
husband and I always dissect them. This time [after about whether the murderer had been forgiven
watching Brigham City] we didn’t agree on every- because he’d just been baptized, and what was the
thing, but we did agree on a lot, such as: the end- sheriff/bishop going to do about that! I, too, totally
ing was powerful. I sobbed. We went with friends, overlooked what the construction company owner
and the wife of the couple actually said that at the had said. It was only when I was sitting there in my
end of the whodunit scene, she thought the movie seat, stunned, with my mouth hanging open, that
was over and decided if it was she hated it—but the I saw my mistake! How powerfully done! (And a
last scene made all the difference, and she loved lesson I don’t think I’ll soon forget.) And then, of
it. [. . .] My husband was pretty adamant that a course, the sheriff feels responsible for his mistake
nonmember wouldn’t understand the import of the and what it cost the town. And the ending shows
final scene. Possibly not to the extent of a member, the power, and necessity we all have, of Christ’s
but I think a nonmember would get the point. atonement. (And, of course, this is most powerfully
I pointed out, though, that the movie isn’t for shown in a Mormon sacrament meeting, but really,
them, anyway. The target audience gets it, and couldn’t it also have been shown in a Catholic set-
that’s the important part. ting, or a Quaker setting, showing an authority
Side note: When I brought the babysitter home and/or religious figure seeking and receiving sup-
that night, she asked what movie we went to. She port and forgiveness?)
was visibly uncomfortable when I told her, and she I think Dutcher is a brilliant Christian writer, and
related her experience seeing God’s Army, which her I love it that his movies are set in a Mormon setting.
family rented for FHE. At the healing scene she I don’t understand the negative reaction some
apparently flipped out—she thought that doing such people are having to seeing a blessing or the sacra-
a thing on film was against the religion or some- ment ceremony being shown on the screen. We
thing—practically expected Dutcher to be excom- are certainly expected to watch Jesus Christ being
municated. She finally ended with, “If President crucified on the screen! I have never been able to
Hinckley’s okay with it, I guess I am, too.” I didn’t watch that—but I have no problem with a sacra-
tell her that to my knowledge the prophet hasn’t ment meeting.

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Jim Picht (May 30): So far as there are Mor- Dutcher? Frankly I think he is doing great work.
mons in Dutcher’s movie, one would expect it to I haven’t had the opportunity to see Brigham City
take either a positive or negative view of them yet, but it has received some terrific reviews. Amper-
(if the Mormonism is completely neutral, then it’s sand, another LDS production company, recently
probably irrelevant, and one would wonder what made its appearance with a film about the Martin
it’s doing in the movie at all). Of course, he could Handcart Company—a powerful story, long over-
have set the movie in a town of Baptists or Unitar- due for the screen. I wish them all well. I’d like to
ians or Moonies, but then he’d have had to change see an LDS comedy; in fact . . . I think I’ll write one.
the flavor and behavior of his characters (the
dynamic between members and minister in a Uni- Audience for Journals
tarian congregation just isn’t the same as that in an
LDS ward, and a town full of Unitarians certainly Jacob Proffitt (Oct. 9): Lately, while writing in
wouldn’t see the world the same way as a town full my journal, I confronted a very strange lethargy.
of Mormons). I’d think that rather than ask Internal digging revealed that I have no idea who
whether the film proselytizes for Mormonism, my audience is for my journal. I mean, I’m not
then, it would be more to the point to ask why famous, not likely to become famous, and I have
Mormons are central at all. But one could ask the little patience to go back and rediscover old thoughts
same of any film that features any religion, any polit- of my own (particularly if I have to dig through a
ical party, any gender preference. (“Hey, they’re using lot of fluff ). And as I am a geek, my journal is not
a regular pair of heterosexual parents in Seventh only a computer program, but I go so far as to
Heaven. Are they proselytizing? Why not make it a encrypt the thing. So who exactly am I writing to
black family of Wiccans headed by two committed in my journal? What value is the writing practice I
lesbians, one a Wiccan priestess?”) Why Mormons get in writing my journal since it is such a funda-
and not Baptists? I dunno. Why Baptists? Aren’t mentally different form than other writing? Since
Mormons part of American diversity? this episode, I still write in the journal, but more
Something about this whole question just annoys out of duty than desire and I’m still awful confused
me. It’s not that we’re interested in the proselytiz- how to approach the thing. Why write in a journal
ing element of the film here, but that we ask the is tied up in the question of who I am writing the
question about a film featuring Mormons as if it journal for. Who is the audience? Or, to rephrase,
has particular relevance, as if a film about Mor- what is the point?
mons by a Mormon will be particularly sneaky in Kathy Fowkes (Oct. 9): I think the best audi-
the propaganda department. If that’s true (and we ence to write to when keeping a journal is one’s
are a proselytizing church, so it may be), then Mor- children and grandchildren. I record unusual dreams,
mon film (and literature) always has to be suspect spiritual experiences, my frustrations and how I
as something other than art. That seems to me an resolved them (once I finally resolve them, anyway!),
awfully heavy burden of assumption to place on my fears, my successes, answers to prayer . . . just
LDS artists. anything that matters to me at the time. Priesthood
Gary Davis (May 18): I attended a screening of blessings, too. Funny things my children do. Irri-
the film [The Other Side of Heaven] in Hollywood tating things my children do! Irritating things my
a few months ago. [. . .] I agree completely with husband does ;-).
Kieth [Merrill]’s glowing recommendation [online I love fiction that takes me into the characters’
at www.meridianmagazine.com], but I do have a minds and hearts. That is where a story lives for
problem with something he wrote: “Do not mis- me. It isn’t in the action but the emotion and
take The Other Side of Heaven as having anything at thought, and the action comes from that. Of
all to do with the recent buzz about ‘Mormon Cin- course, most of the emotions and thoughts in fact
ema.’” Was that a bit of a cheap shot at Richard are shown through action, but I like a fair amount

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of introspection in my fiction as well, or at least books about more subjects are being printed now
narration. So I write my journal according to what than ever before, so other than my personal obser-
I like to read. I hardly ever have a laundry list of vations and questions I see little of lasting interest.
mundane things I accomplished or didn’t accom- So who are we writing these personal journals
plish, except when it relates to some serious think- for? Ourselves? I know that I like to go back and
ing and hopefully a new and useful insight into my read the few journals I have kept, because it vali-
own psyche. dates that I have grown somewhat over the years.
Jeffrey Savage (Oct. 10): I think that it was in But I can do that without the journals.
Raiders of the Lost Ark that the bad guy says some- Are they for our children? Shouldn’t they already
thing like, “This watch can be bought for $15, but know the thoughts of our hearts? I understand that
bury it in the earth for 1,000 years and it becomes sometimes it’s hard to share those feelings, espe-
priceless.” cially during our kids’ teenage years when parental
What you and I view as fluff may be viewed by commentary is explicitly not wanted. But the
future generations as invaluable. I know that if my words should still be being spoken, even when we
grandfather had kept a journal, I would be fasci- don’t think they’re being heard.
nated to read it, even though he spent a good por- So why else is a journal? To work out our prob-
tion of his life running or just visiting various bars. lems? A sort of extended self-therapy session? The
And honestly I am just as interested in the things thing that usually prompts me to write is that
that they took for granted as their deep thoughts. something has gone horribly wrong in my life and
We often think that the only biographies of inter- I’m trying to understand it. The effort of writing
est are famous people. But just studying the lives of helps me to solidify the concept in my own mind
ordinary people that came before us, especially if and to start moving toward solution. But the jour-
they are related, can provide much insight about nals themselves are horribly self-conscious, self-
ourselves. pitying little snivels that don’t show me in the best
Cathy Wilson (Oct. 10): I journal in a blank of all possible lights. They’re the down parts, the
book—completely blank, no lines. That way I also failures, the confusions and consternations and
draw stuff. I see my journal as a loosening-up, right- befuddlements. They rarely contain wisdom, though
brain-access, happy-time thing. It doesn’t have much they often pretend to it.
purpose (though I like to go back and admire my If the journal is my place to work out problems,
brilliant jottings and pix :) ). I think LDS journal- then I certainly don’t want my descendants to read
izing can take us down a weird road, because it’s for about what a goof Scott was. I want to edit it,
Posterity, and They are going to read it someday. smooth it, list the problems in passing and dwell on
Personally I hope someone does see my very cool the solutions. I want to appear wise and in control,
drawing of a cottontail I saw on my walk today, but capable and godly. I want to be the worthy patri-
I otherwise don’t care to think about anyone read- arch, not the confused misanthrope.
ing my journal. I find myself trapped when I write But once I do that it’s not a journal anymore, it’s
with Someone Someday in my mind, ready to read it. a personal history. So the question remains, why is
Scott Parkin (Oct. 17): We’ve talked a lot about a journal, and what is it that I’m really document-
the audience for our grandparents’ journals and ing and for whom? [. . .]
how those documents help us to see the physical If it’s just for me, then all of the discussion is
reality of times past, but I still wonder about the irrelevant because I’m the only audience and it
audience and content choices for modern journals. doesn’t really matter what I say or how I say it.
Ours is one of the best-documented generations in Since I live inside my own head, I already know
history. I can’t imagine that my great-grandchildren what’s in there and don’t really need to write it
will have any difficulty reconstructing or under- down. But if there is any other intended audience
standing the broad daily contexts of my life. More for my personal journal, I think it does end up

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making a difference, and it controls the kind of exercise my writing bones. But the question that
stuff I put in there. In the end, that difference fos- drives me most often to do it is “Have I recorded
ters editing and image creation and the develop- that most recent evidence of the Lord’s love for
ment of something less than fully honest and me?” I feel an obligation to do it. I feel like it’s part
forthright. of my responsibility as a father and grandfather.
Benson Parkinson (Oct. 19): I don’t think you And I feel a passion for it. It’s still good writing
avoid that kind of editing and image creation if you’re exercise because the importance of making these
writing for yourself. You might as well embrace recurrent testimonies clear and memorable is
it—figure out what and how you want to commu- greater than in anything I might write for the pub-
nicate to your descendants (or whatever other audi- lic. And I am helped by being allowed to be more
ence you pick) and choose the persona, diction, intimate and direct (less artful?) than public audi-
tone, form, etc. that seem most honest, appropri- ences would allow me to be. When this reflection
ate, and effective for that audience. And yes, that’s of divine light is my primary aim, then all the shad-
probably easier in a history. ows and foibles and failings that characterize much
I am unresolved on what I’m doing with my own of my life become the context that throws the grace
journal, and I’ve vacillated in ways like others here into more dramatic relief. All the “bad parts” sud-
have described. I keep doing it because of President denly mean a lot more than they did before and
Kimball’s counsel years ago and because of how serve a pretty useful teaching purpose. Does the
much I value my ancestors’ journals. I at least want journal then become a soapbox? Maybe a little, but
my journal to be as useful as theirs. But as I’ve con- what makes it powerful to posterity is not that
sidered what I really want to do in writing for my soapbox tone but the fact that it reads like a jour-
family, I’ve decided my journal just won’t do it. nal, a guy genuinely fearing, yearning, goofing up,
It’s too long and rambling, at times too personal, at discovering, learning, and occasionally being almost
times too sketchy. [. . .] painfully pierced with light.
Beyond that, my journal is at least the primary My children have only the merest clues of the
source material for my histories. I think a writer thoughts in my heart. Five of them live out in
needs to leave at least two of those—a full-length the wide world, and we don’t have family home
one (50–300 pages) for interested grandchildren and evenings or family prayers or mealtimes together.
great-grandchildren, and a brief one (5–15 pages) The two that are at home don’t speak English real
for dutiful ones. What can you do in 5–15 pages? well yet. Will any of them ever really be the audi-
Not everything, but quite a bit if you go about it ence for my journal that I’m announcing them to
right. That’s a good challenge for a writer. be? Maybe not. But as odd as it may seem to imag-
Marvin Payne (Oct. 19): I think the primary ine, they will give me hundreds and thousands of
purpose of writing a journal is to bear testimony to great- and great- and great-grandchildren. Among
one’s posterity in very specific ways. I can write, those thousands will be a few who will look for
once and for all, that I know the Lord loves me and connections with their Heavenly Father through
leave it at that. For that matter, the Lord could tell somebody who shares their name and peculiar jaw
me on some particular Tuesday that He loves me, line and heirlooms and affinity for mountains. They
once and for all, and leave it at that. But He keeps will be the ones who share my disappointment over
on telling me—by sending His Spirit, by answering the stinginess of Edward Payne (my pioneer ances-
my prayers, by guiding my thoughts, by honor- tor who didn’t write) and my delight over the gen-
ing my priesthood, by respecting my agency, by erosity of John Brown (my pioneer ancestor who did).
striking my senses with the beauty of His creations, Beyond the actual writing, which I enjoy doing,
which includes the beauty of His children. These journal writing is, for me, one part the answer of a
dollops of grace drop daily. Writing a journal has grateful heart and one part church work. I just wish
become a little bit habitual for me, a fun place to that on my mission I’d been testifying every day to

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an audience that was so genetically prepared to hear When I was on my mission, I came across a little
me, and an audience that I was so pre-disposed to love. comic-book pamphlet ominously titled Vizitatorii
Sharlee Glenn (Oct. 22): I truly believe we are (The Visitors). I think an investigator gave it to me.
commanded to keep journals as much for our own It was part of a series of Christian (of the born-
benefit as for that of our posterity. I was cleaning again variety, I believe) illustrated tracts put out by
my office the other day and ran across an old spiral a guy located in Chico, California. The visitors are,
notebook labeled “Sharlee’s Poor Excuse of a Jour- of course, LDS missionaries and the tract warns
nal.” In it I had recorded my thoughts and feelings against their evil ways—even debunking their doc-
and experiences during that very intense time sev- trines and exposing their methods.
eral years ago when my mother was dying of can- The basic plot: an older woman is falling under
cer. As I reread my various entries, I laughed and the influence of the elders. Her young, attractive,
cried and was utterly amazed to realize that I had college-student niece appears one day and takes the
forgotten so many things—things that I thought I elders apart using “logic” and Bible verses. The illus-
would never forget, things that I had truly learned— trations are actually quite good. I recall one panel
profound, life-altering things about love and courage where one of the elders’ faces is completely tensed
and pain and endurance. But I had forgotten I had and the sweat is streaming down his forehead.
learned them until I reread my poor excuse of a The ending is hilarious. As the two defeated elders
journal. walk away, one of them begins to express doubt—
I do reread my journals. I reread them so that I the other threatens to tell the mission president
can remember. I need to remember. As the mother (I forget what term was used) who would send the
of a 15-year-old who tends to be hopelessly dreamy, doubter off to “reeducation camp” (the MTC).
I need to remember my own youthful propensity So I began by thinking of how one would do a
toward castle building. As I deal with a sometimes parody of Vizitatorii, but then that seemed hard
insolent 12-year-old who never, and I mean never, because it was already kind of a parody, but then I
makes his bed without being reminded and who turned to thoughts of Art Speigelmann’s Maus:
has to be bribed into the bathtub, I need to remem-
A Survivor’s Tale, which I haven’t read all the way
ber how utterly in love I was with him when he was
through yet but have read a lot about. [. . .]
a charming and sweet-smelling toddler. I need
My point is that I think the epic-journey kind of
to remember the moment I first understood pain.
structure of the LDS mission (plus the many strange
I need to remember the moment I first truly under-
characters one often meets in the course of doing
stood joy. I need to remember those precious
occasions when I have felt the sudden and over- the work) lends itself to the graphic novel form.
whelming inrush of God’s love. Anyone else had these thoughts? Any comments on
graphic novels as a form—possibilities and limita-
tions? I’m not very familiar with the genre, but I
Mormon Graphic Novels have flipped through some and read reviews of oth-
William Morris (July 19): One of my Mormon ers and it seems as a genre to be stretching beyond
literary interests is considering forms of writing the violent, anti/superhero mode.
that may be particularly suited to capturing Mor- Russ Asplund (July 19): I have a friend at work,
mon philosophy and culture. I’ve floated two of Joseph Gates, who is working on a superhero comic
those ideas to the list already—parables and collab- called Missionary Man. It should be out this fall. He
orative writing. Here’s the next one: graphic novels. is currently working with his collaborator on the
In particular, I think that it would be a fascinat- story of the origins of Missionary Man, but I think
ing way of capturing the experience of LDS mis- the idea of a superhero who decides to go on a mis-
sionaries—a way that could enlarge the genre of the sion has a lot of promise, and the art and/or illus-
missionary story. tration is top-notch, as well.

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David Boyce (July 19): Scott Card’s Magic Mir- to the superhero genre, to the point that it’s hard
ror is a step in that direction. True, while it may not for many people to imagine comics about any-
be strictly Mormon-oriented and more of a fairy tale thing other than superheroes. Historically, though,
book for adults, I think that it may show us a glimpse almost every genre was represented—crime stories,
of what is possible for a Mormon graphic novel. romances, horror, historical, confessional. [. . .] It’s
Preston Hunter (July 21): One that comes quickly a medium for telling stories just like movies. [. . .]
to mind is, of course, Brad Teare, author of the Now my shameful secret is out—I was, and still
graphic novel Cypher published by Gibbs Smith. [. . .] am, a comic book addict. And I’m a girl. (It didn’t
As for work about Mormon themes, my favorite help that we just saw Unbreakable tonight.)
graphic novel, which can be purchased widely at I think we have the elements for Mormon
comic book and larger bookstores, is J.M. DeMat- graphic novels, but they haven’t been assembled.
teis’s brilliant Spider-Man: The Lost Years. We already have writers. We already have artists.
One of the warmest, most interesting portrayals We just need to convince them to work together.
of Salt Lake City and a Latter-day Saint character Neil Gaiman, for instance, writes very detailed
ever written by a non-Latter-day-Saint science fic- scripts for his work that are a lot like movie scripts;
tion writer was actually in a trio of Spider-Man then he has artists execute his vision. Other writers
comic books. Author J. M. DeMatteis, one of comic- work differently, but in many cases it’s a collabora-
dom’s most critically acclaimed writers, happens to tive effort. So if you’re a writer with an idea but no
be a New Yorker who is a practicing convert to Hin- artistic talent, maybe you need to pair up with an
duism. But he apparently spent enough time in SLC artist who doesn’t know how to plot a story.
to capture the flavor of the city well, and to portray But then you have to convince people like Bar-
Latter-day Saint police detective Jacob Raven. Raven bara that it’s a legitimate literary form. : ) (You
is a devout but delightfully complex character who wouldn’t let me get away with saying that romance
eventually ends up arresting Peter Parker for a mur- novels are crutches for women who can’t face reality,
der (committed by his clone) in the regular Spider- would you? . . .) Not that I’m maligning Barbara
Man series. This Lost Years limited series reveals the for what I think is a natural and understandable
back-story of when Raven’s and Spider-Man’s paths impression. As they learn to read, kids progress
first crossed in SLC. from picture-heavy books to books whose only
Ronn Blankenship (July 20): Of course, one illustration is cover art. Comics seem like a regres-
problem is that you might get the same reaction sion in that respect. Heaven forbid that ten-year-
that some had when The Leading Edge [a sci-fi old kids should still be reading only “picture books,”
magazine published by BYU students] published a let alone something with a title like Voltarr the
graphic story for the first time: some members of Mutant Killer Space Android from Beyond the Grave.
the staff (I will name no names, though many here My home school curriculum has a little sentence
would recognize them), upon seeing “GRAPHIC in the section on teaching children to read that says
STORY” in the list of stories scheduled to appear in “comic books do not count as free reading time.”
the next issue, expressed their discomfort that we Graphic novels are not a replacement for text-based
were about to publish a story with explicit sex, vio- stories. They are something different. I can’t use
lence, and cussin’. myself as an example of “see, I read comics and I’m
Melissa Proffitt (July 21): Eric Dixon has already still literate” because I was reading regular books
cited Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics and for years before I started reading comics, and the
Reinventing Comics for engaging, insightful com- concern is that comics don’t help people who are
mentary on the potential of the graphic novel form. struggling with reading read better any more than
I couldn’t agree more. One of McCloud’s points watching a lot of television does. But here’s the sec-
about the form is that they’ve been unnaturally tied ond stereotype graphic novels have to contend with:

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Comic books are for kids. It’s not true. I really rec- and Story (adapted from the Book of Mormon) by
ommend that everyone try to find a copy of Maus: Ric Estrada.”
A Survivor’s Tale and its sequel (Maus II: And Here The story is narrated by Ether, who warns Cori-
My Troubles Began). These are not kiddie books. antumr that his blood thirst will lead to the
These are adult stories, and powerful ones. destruction of his people. The great battles between
I guess when William says that the graphic novel Coriantumr and Shiz’s armies end with millions
form would be a good tool to capture the LDS mis- dead, rejected peace terms, and new vows of venge-
sionary experience, I agree, but it doesn’t make a lot ance. Finally, it comes down to the final battle,
of sense because to my mind all subjects are well- which ends with only two wounded generals stand-
served by this format. Any story you can think to ing. Shiz stabs Coriantumr, who with “a last mighty
tell can be told in comic book form. (Though it’s a thrust (THWACK! AIEEE!)” cuts off Shiz’s head.
measure of the power of the superhero stereotype Ether moralizes on the tragic victory, then says
that even I, the avowed addict, didn’t consider the he will “bury this true account in the ground, that
possibility of LDS graphic novels.) I think mission- future generations may learn.”
ary comics are an intriguing idea. The title, “Peace with Honor,” is an obvious
Mike South (July 24): I’ve actually been think- allusion to Vietnam, which would have been a fresh
ing for a while about the idea of a comic strip with memory in ’74, and befitting the antiwar theme
a Mormon character in it. I think it would address of the story.
the problem that we are afraid we won’t be accepted The comic book/graphic novel medium for scrip-
by the outside world because they don’t know the ture stories is just a small step from the animated
“real us.” features done by Living Scriptures et al., but I sus-
I think comic strips as a medium offer a unique pect there would still be some resistance to using
opportunity to establish long-term relationships what many may view as a debased medium for
between the characters and the reader. Most of us sacred stories. Still, even though I am not nor ever
know just how Charlie Brown feels when he vows was a fan of comic books, I’m impressed with how
that this is the year he’s going to kick that football. Estrada reinterpreted the scriptural story. He con-
Or how Calvin feels when he’s rudely yanked from vinced me that the medium has potential for legit-
his adventures as Spaceman Spiff back into his imate literary expression.
classroom at school. We know because day after
day and year after year we got to know the charac- Writing about Mormon Characters
ters. And even though the authors have moved on LauraMaery (Gold) Post (May 3): The setup:
or even died, the characters are still part of us. Fifteen years ago, you got to pick your audience.
I think a well-done strip with a Mormon charac- You could either write to Latter-day Saints and
ter could both tell great stories and show the world exclude “the world,” or you could write to the
that we know we have foibles just like everyone “world” and disguise the faith of your Mormon
else. And how we deal with the fact that deep down characters.
many of us feel like we’re not supposed to have The question (and yes, I know it’s only theoreti-
those foibles. cal to many of us): When you write to “the world,”
Morgan Adair (July 23): One of the treasured do you still feel compelled to disguise your charac-
volumes in my Mormon book collection is a DC ters’ Mormon faith?
comic book called GI Combat, Featuring the Haunted Craig Huls (May 4): I believe we are at a time in
Tank, Feb. 1974, No. 169. I found it in one of my the world when readership has some understanding
missionary apartments, apparently left behind by a of what “Mormons” are about. I see no reason to
previous resident. The last third of the book is a story hide. I fully intend to continue to write for more
called “Peace with Honor,” with the byline “Art than an LDS market. But it is my intent to be sure

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that my bishop could read what I write without Book of Mormon Movie Themes
being embarrassed or thinking he might need to
call me in for a personal interview. So it should be Travis Manning (July 2): The film [Testaments]
reading for all whether LDS or not. touches some, not others. It touched me in places,
Scott Parkin (May 4): It depends on what kind in some places it did not. I did think it was cool to
of story I’m telling. I’ve populated my short fiction have BoM characters on the big screen. All I really
with Mormon concepts for years, but have only know about BoM characters from a visual sense is
written a few with overtly Mormon details. In my those Living Scriptures videos and this cartoon-
mind, though, many of my characters have been depicted book I read as a kid. But I want to see
Mormon even when I have made no effort to Enos, man. He’s pretty cool. And Alma the Younger.
expose that fact to readers. What about Samuel the Lamanite, Ammon, Abi-
Using religion in fiction is always hard. Our nadi, Moroni—live, onstage, or in film? All studs!
inclination is to make religion a/the central theme For all you playwrights and musical-ites (and all
around which the story revolves. I’m not sure this other manner of artistic “-ites”) out there: We’ve
need be true. I think you can write stories where got Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
rich characters have motivations, and one of the making it on and off Broadway . . . but what about
several motivations that work on characters is their Nephi and His Amazing Journey to America? Or
religion. Alma the Younger and His Brush with Death or
Unfortunately, readers have been taught to see Ammon and His Amazing Sword. Somebody stop
that expression of religion as a signpost that the me! Or, or, I’ll just stop myself. I guess we have the
story’s resolution will somehow hinge on that reli- Hill Cumorah pageant and the Manti pageant and
gious perspective. If it doesn’t, I think many read- other manner of pageants that depict BoM charac-
ers end up feeling that you’ve given them a red ters, but let’s see some plays/musicals/screenplays
herring, and that you’ve somehow misled them. that really develop the characters of these men and
Which is odd to me. We include other attributes women of the BoM.
about characters all the time that have no direct Sharlee Glenn (July 3): Or how about Ammon
bearing on resolving a story’s primary conflict. We and His Disarming Disposition? :-)
give them hair and eye color, height, gender, Steve Perry (July 2): Develop the characters? Then
national origin, and more, without expecting all of you would actually not being using Joseph and the
those details to bear on the resolution. Etc. as an example, right?
So . . . Margaret Young (July 2): But remember, if you
I would love to see (though I have never done it miss the Book of Mormon characters on the big
myself) more stories where small, meaningless details screen, you can buy the little action figures at your
are clearly shown as having origins in Mormon cul- local Missionary Emporium and invent your
ture and/or mindset. Not stories about The Church, own script! You can have Laman or Lemuel say,
but stories containing members of a church. “You know, Nephi, I am getting a little tired of get-
ting electrocuted by you. I wish we hadn’t even
stopped at that magic tricks store on our way to
Laban’s place.”

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R A M E U M P T O M research, you’ve come to the right place.” He


explained his vision for FARMS and made an instant
Confessions of a Former FARMS convert out of me. I even volunteered to put in a
Filing Clerk; or The Top-10 Rejected couple of hours a week as a file clerk in the law
school basement, the original FARMS headquarters.
FARMS Papers
As a volunteer, I spent much of my time filing
By Edgar C. Snow Jr. (and, I now confess, reading) what they called in
those days “preliminary reports”—works-in-progress,
From 1981 through 1984 I was a FARMS volun- really—about a variety of Book of Mormon and
teer. What’s FARMS, you might ask? It’s not to be Pearl of Great Price issues, as well as filling orders
confused with a short-lived agriculturally oriented for preliminary reports and reprints of published
organization that went by the same acronym: articles about the Book of Mormon. In addition to
Farmers Are Raging Money Slurpers, a right-wing time, I also donated some spit to FARMS at an enve-
Eisenhower-administration-era anti-farm-subsidy lope-stuffing and stamp-licking party for the distri-
lobbying group based in Utah. No, FARMS stands bution of one of the earlier FARMS newsletters.
for the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mor- To this day I regret not asking Brother Welch
mon Studies, a non-profit Mormon-studies “clear- whether my spittle donation was tax deductible.
inghouse.” I felt fortunate cutting my tongue and lips while
My involvement started when I came across a slobbering on envelopes and stamps sitting next
copy of Barry Fell’s proposed translation of the to the likes of John Sorenson and other giants of
Anthon Transcript on the Mormon Document groundbreaking Mormon scholarship, watching
Underground (another essay topic). Fell, a Harvard them stick their tongues out in support of the Book
marine biology professor and amateur epigra- of Mormon.
pher, claimed in a cover letter attached to his trans- It was also my privilege, as a file clerk, to rum-
lation that the language in the Anthon Transcript mage through the FARMS files and review the papers
was actually early medieval Maghribi, a North that had been rejected for publication. I found that
African language. The attached translation resem- many of the rejected papers were almost as inter-
bled 1 Nephi 1 to such a remarkable degree it esting as the ones actually published by FARMS.
seemed likely to me that Fell had cheated by using Now, after all these years, it is my pleasure to pres-
1 Nephi 1 for his so-called “translation.” In search ent to you, dear reader, the list of my top-10
of answers, I wandered all over BYU campus look- favorite papers rejected by FARMS, along with short
ing for a professor who could confirm or deny Fell’s abstracts of their contents.
conclusions.
My first stop was at Hugh Nibley’s office. • “The Influence of the Book of Mormon on Led
I knocked on the door and heard a faint voice Zeppelin Lyrics”
inside say, “Go away.” So I did. After knocking on Abstract: According to a recently discovered
many doors, I finally tracked down Keith Meservy, unpublished autobiography of John Bonham,
my Writings of Isaiah professor, who told me I “Stairway to Heaven” and other songs written
should go talk to Jack Welch at FARMS. I wandered by Jimmy Page and Robert Plant were influ-
over to the law school building and met with enced by their readings of Clinton Larsen’s
Brother Welch, a tax law professor, who graciously Stories of the Book of Mormon while eating
entertained my questions and told me that Fell’s marijuana brownies.
work was—I could tell he was trying to be as gra- Reason for rejection: Welch’s dog ate the only
cious and diplomatic as possible—“apparent hog- copy of the paper.
wash.” Then he said, “If you’re really interested in • “Nephi the Ninja: Martial Arts in Mesoamerica
rigorous, respectable, orthodox Book of Mormon and the Book of Mormon”

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Abstract: Nephi’s use of a veil and the sword of • “Mayan Chocolate Milk and the Book of Mor-
Laban are compared to Mesoamerican bas- mon”
relief sculptures showing karate movements. Abstract: The existence of pre-Columbian
Reason for rejection: No sources cited for chocolate milk shown flowing from an oval jar
hand-drawn illustrations of bas-relief sculp- on the Izapan Tree of Life stone (Stela 5) sup-
tures that look suspiciously like Bruce Lee ports the historicity of the Book of Mormon
movie posters. and further explains why Ovaltine isn’t called
• “Chiasmus in Erotic Mayan Poetry” Roundtine. Ancient Mayans had oval canis-
Abstract: The newly discovered Mayan codex ters in which they carried cocoa beans. When
containing poetry from Catliltlilus, court poet the Lamanites encountered Mayans, the
to Pacal in Palenque, contains numerous chi- Lamanites presumably adopted their ways,
astic passages. language, and breakfast beverages. Later,
Reason for rejection: Paper contains translation when there were no “ites,” Nephites presum-
of passages. ably obtained the cocoa bean technology and
• “Meroitica and the Book of Mormon” made circular, rather than oval, canisters in
Abstract: Characters on the Anthon Transcript which to carry ground-up cocoa beans for
are favorably compared to the “reformed” mixing with goat’s milk, but they retained the
Egyptian characters used by the kingdom in original Mayan term for oval. Tine is shown to
Meroe, south of Egypt. derive from a possible Greek influence among
Reason for rejection: Use of Anthon Transcript the Mulekites.
discovered by Mark Hofmann. Reason for rejection: Contains caffeine.
• “The Constipation of Mesoamerican Secret Soci- • “The Identification of Cureloms and Cummoms
eties” in the Book of Mormon through Modern
Abstract: Secretioned conflagrations in the Book Cryptozoological Analysis”
of Mormon are existentially compared to Abstract: Evidence is marshaled to identify Big-
recently discovered remains constipating of an foot as curelom and the jackelope as cummom.
esophagus of a Mezoamerican warlard and the Reason for rejection: Other research demon-
translation of his fumiary obsequisousies from strates that Bigfoot is Cain and the jackelope
a Mayan cotex. is the Book of Mormon goat.
Reason for rejection: No Urim and Thummum • “Ancient Mesoamerican Hills Prove the Book of
available to translate typos. Mormon True”
• “How to Interpret the Interpretations of Joseph Abstract: The Book of Mormon reports the exis-
Smith’s Interpretations of Facsimile No. 2” tence of many hills. Although unknown in
Abstract: Shows that interpretations of interpre- Joseph Smith’s time, ancient Mesoamerica fea-
tations of interpretations can easily be misin- tured numerous hills, many of which meet the
terpreted. following criteria required by descriptions of
Reason for rejection: Interpretations too inter- hills in the Book of Mormon: (i) there must
pretive. be land; (ii) the land must be flat in some
• “Humor in the Book of Mormon” areas; (iii) the land must rise in elevation in
Abstract: Argues that the Book of Mormon con- some areas; and (iv) after rising, the land must
tains humor, as illustrated by an analysis of descend in elevation in those areas.
the following passages: Alma 9:2–3; Alma Reason for rejection: Needs more examples.
55:31–32; and Alma 57:10.
Reason for rejection: Not convincing.

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