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SPRING 2001 • $3.00

Robert Kirby, Mormon humorist and novelist

Fiction and essays by Lee Allred, Elouise Bell, Ann Edwards Cannon,
Matt Crosby, Helynne Hollstein Hansen, and Donald R. Marshall
Poetry, reviews, literary news, and more
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Christopher K. Bigelow . . . . . . . Managing editor Marny K. Parkin . . . . . Speculative fiction coeditor

Gideon Burton . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Associate editor and AML-List Highlights editor
Scott R. Parkin . . . . . . Speculative fiction coeditor
Tory Anderson . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Fiction editor Todd Robert Peterson . . . . . . . . . . . .Essay editor
Harlow Clark . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Poetry editor Jana Bouck Remy . . . . . . . . . . . . . Review editor
Tracie Laulusa . . . . . . . . . .Assistant review editor Edgar C. Snow Jr. . . . . . . . . Rameumptom editor


Cherry Silver . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .President D. Michael Martindale . . . . . . . . .Board member

Gideon Burton . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .President-elect Carol Quist . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Board member
Marilyn Brown . . . . . . .Academic conference chair Neila Seshachari . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Board member
Jana Erickson . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Board member Kathleen Woodbury . . . . . . . . . . .Board member
Gae Lyn Henderson . . . . . . . . . . .Board member


Lavina Fielding Anderson . . .AML ANNUAL editor Scott R. Parkin . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Awards chair
Terry L. Jeffress . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Webmaster Benson Parkinson . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Listowner
Jonathan Langford . . . . . . . .AML-List moderator Melissa Proffit . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Secretary

IRREANTUM (ISSN 1528-0594) is published four times a year AML board members. This magazine has no official connection
by the Association for Mormon Letters (AML), P.O. Box with or endorsement by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-
51364, Provo, UT 84605-1364, (801) 714-1326, www.xmis- day Saints. © 2001 by the Association for IRREANTUM welcomes unsolicited essays, reviews, fiction,
Mormon Letters. Membership in the AML is $20 for one year, poetry, and other manuscripts, and we invite letters intended
which includes an IRREANTUM subscription. Subscriptions to for publication. Please submit all manuscripts and queries to
IRREANTUM may be purchased separately from AML member- If you do not have access to e-mail, you
ship for $12 per year, and single copies are $4 (postpaid). Adver- may mail your text on a floppy disk to IRREANTUM, c/o AML,
tising rates begin at $50 for a full page. The AML is a nonprofit P.O. Box 51364, Provo, UT 84605-1364. Except for letters to
501(c)(3) organization, so contributions of any amount are tax the editor, submissions on paper are discouraged. Upon specific
deductible and gratefully accepted. Views expressed in IRREAN- request to, we will send authors two com-
TUM do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors or of plimentary copies of an issue in which their work appears.

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Spring 2001 • Volume 3, Number 1


Editorial Raison D’Etre, Sharlee Mullins Glenn . . . . . . . 62

“He That Sitteth in the Heavens Love’s Lungs, Gideon Burton . . . . . . . . . . . . . .77
Shall Laugh”: The New Mormon Humor, Nacho Hell, Gideon Burton . . . . . . . . . . . . . .77
Edgar C. Snow Jr. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 Around Here All the Poets Have Already Left,
Dennis Marden Clark . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .83
News of the Association for Mormon Letters . . 5
Interview When Are We Taking Ourselves Too Seriously?
Robert Kirby . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 Patricia T. Coleman . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63
A review of Elouise Bell’s Only When I Laugh
Essays Freshly Peeled Air, Katie Parker . . . . . . . . . . . 66
Surprise, Surprise! Reflections on the Oxymoronic A review of Anne Bradshaw’s Terracotta
Question of Mormon Humor, Elouise Bell . . 19 Summer
MIA: Missing in Action, Whose Best-Loved Line Is It Anyway?
Ann Edwards Cannon . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23 Edgar C. Snow Jr. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 68
A review of The Best-Loved Humor of the LDS
Fiction People
The Chastening, Helynne Hollstein Hansen . . . 25 Falling Toward Heaven, Christopher K. Bigelow . .69
Checkmating Elder Kirkland, Matt Crosby . . . 31 A review of John Bennion’s Falling Toward
May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You, Heaven
Donald R. Marshall . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37
For the Strength of the Hills (Part Two), Sung with Vim, Vigor, and a Delicate Tongue,
Lee Allred . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47 Harlow S. Clark . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .72
A review of Edgar Snow’s Of Curious Work-
Poetry manship, Peggy Fletcher Stack and Kathleen
Peterson’s A World of Faith, and Robert Kirby’s
Missionary’s Lament, Richard Johnson . . . . . . . 5
Provo Daily Herald article “Dressing Like a
Untitled, Tony A. Markham . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
Mormon Guy for Only $39.93”
Don’t Say It, Beth Hatch . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
A Father’s Love, Paul W. Sexton . . . . . . . . . . . 18 Selected Recent Releases . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .75
Resurrected Spring, Linda P. Adams . . . . . . . . 23
Wrong Way, Katie Parker . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24 Mormon Literary Scene . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .78
An Argument, Katie Parker . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25
Educated Woman, Laraine Wilkins . . . . . . . . 36 AML-List Highlights . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .84
Mimesis Upended: A Reluctant Nod to
Mr. Wilde, Sharlee Mullins Glenn . . . . . . . 62

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E D I T O R I A L Smith, as reported by Joseph Knight (see Dean

Jessee’s transcription published as “Joseph Knight’s
“He That Sitteth in the Heavens Shall Recollection of Early Mormon History,” BYU
Laugh”: The New Mormon Humor Studies, 17:1), displayed some very rough Will
Rogers-esque humor while discussing the golden
By Edgar C. Snow Jr. plates. Says Knight about the incident:
So that night we all went to Bed and in the
To many non-Mormons, the idea that there morning I got up and my Horse and Carriage
might be such a thing as Mormon humor isn’t was gone. But after a while [Joseph] Came
taken very seriously. Consider, for instance, the title home and he turned out the Horse. All Come
of an Associated Press article appearing in the New into the house to Brackfirst [breakfast]. But
York Times on July 9, 1999: “Mormon Humor? Get no thing said about where they had Bin. After
Serious.” You’d think it would be easier to prove the Brackfirst Joseph Cald me into the other
historicity of the Book of Mormon than to prove Room and he set his foot on the Bed and
the actuality of Mormon humor. Yet, through inter- leaned his head on his hand and says, “Well I
views with several Latter-day Saints and a brief am Dissopinted. “Well,” say I, “I am sorrey.”
review of Deseret Book’s The Best-Loved Humor of “Well,” says he, “I am grateley Dissopinted; it
the LDS People, this article demonstrated some- is ten times Better then I expected.” Then he
thing wholesomely funny going on in the contem- went on to tell the length and width and
porary Mormon experience, something we intend thickness of the plates, and said he, “they
to showcase in this special Mormon humor issue of appear to be Gold.” But he seamed to think
IRREANTUM. more of the glasses or the urim and thummem
To Mormons, on the other hand, it should come then he Did of the Plates, for, says he, “I can
naturally to suspect there’s something funny about see anything; they are Marvelus. Now they are
Mormonism. For instance, who among us has not written in Caracters and I want them trans-
laughed at or told at least one J. Golden Kimball lated. (38)
story or two? Also, consider Elder James E. Faust’s
recent First Presidency Message, “The Need for Okay, okay, I didn’t say it was completely hilari-
Balance in Our Lives” (Ensign, March 2000, 2–5). ous. Joseph’s early sense of humor was unpolished.
It is an invitation, among other things, to cultivate As he said about himself, Joseph’s sense of humor
a sense humor in our lives. And in our admonitions was a “huge, rough stone rolling down from a high
to follow the prophet, have we given sufficient mountain” and becoming more polished by smash-
thought to President Hinckley’s own renowned use ing into other rocks on the way down.
of humor? A writer no less than John Greenleaf Whittier
Similarly, the Prophet Joseph had a hearty sense called the mature Joseph the “Yankee Prophet” and
of humor, one of the many reasons he was beloved said Joseph had “knocked out for himself a window
of his people. Anecdotal evidence suggests Joseph in the wall of the nineteenth century, whence his
was a man who loved to belly laugh. One of Joseph’s rude, bold, good humored face will peer out upon
contemporaries said about him: “Joe had a jovial, the generations to come” (as quoted in Hyrum
easy, don’t care way about him. . . . He used to Andrus, Joseph Smith, Prophet, Seer, 138). Joseph
laugh from the crown of his head to the soles of his enjoyed humor so much that on at least one occa-
feet, it shook every bit of flesh in him” (Dean sion he had to defend his own laughing. He was
Jessee, “Joseph Smith’s Reputation,” Ensign, Sept. tugging and wrestling with “the boys,” and some
1979, 59). In fact, the first known bit of humor humorless members of the Church, while tugging
in the history of the Restoration occurred during at their heavily starched collars, openly wrestled
the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. Joseph with Joseph’s apparent light-mindedness. His

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defense was to tell the story about the hunter who A M L N E W S

would not keep his bow strung at all times, lest it
lose its spring (see Hyrum Andrus, Joseph Smith, President’s Message: A Healthy Heartbeat
Prophet, Seer, 18).
It’s with great pleasure that I invite you to enjoy At the February 24 annual meeting of the Asso-
the offering of Mormon humor collected, discussed, ciation for Mormon Letters, long-time secretary
and reviewed in this issue. Sit back and let Robert Steven Sondrup recalled a time in AML history
Kirby, Elouise Bell, Ann Edwards Cannon, and their when the organization seemed nearly defunct
fellow Mormon humorists help you unstring your because of few members and low finances. Happily,
bow and exercise faith in Brigham Young’s declara- now an upward trend is strengthening the AML in
tion: “I sometimes think God must enjoy humor, both those areas and in public cognizance as well.
and that he won’t be strict in reckoning with a The AML literary awards are gaining increasing
humorist” (The Essential Brigham Young, 241). value. This spring you frequently encounter book
advertising that emphasizes the AML awards. The
Church News acknowledged the special award from
the AML to President Gordon B. Hinckley for his
nationally published book of essays Standing for
P O E T R Y Something. Deseret Book asked permission to apply
the AML seal to two award winners they publish:
Missionary’s Lament Margaret Blair Young and Darius Gray’s novel One
More River to Cross and Patricia Holland’s devo-
Why upon their heads must men impress tional collection The Quiet Heart.
Their balms and grease and scientific finds? The AML rotates board members, officers, and
The hair is not a sign of soul or heart, staff members. Our board taps into large sectors
Nor does the covered pate improve the mind. of the reading, writing, publishing, and scholarly
Oh! No! ’Tis but a parasite that preys communities. Currently serving are faculty mem-
Upon the blood of man, that could be spent bers from BYU and Weber State, a publishing
Much better in a thousand other ways. manager, technical writers, novelists, homemakers,
But find the man without, who does not hope and computer experts. This diversity invites multi-
For cover on that bald and shiny spot. ple viewpoints and talents. A great energy comes
Or find the one who has, and yet can hope, from this group of volunteers. I feel privileged to
Whose hopes are not to have but to have not. serve one year as president.
Perhaps the AML’s most important function is to
—Richard Johnson
promote literary networking. Some of that takes
place on e-mail through the discussion group AML-
This poem, written in 1950 during a high school
List, with its reviews of new publications and idea
English class, was purchased by the Saturday Evening
exchanges. Other networking occurs in writing
Post. “If they published it, I never saw it, nor was I
groups and at conferences. The AML web page
notified,” says Johnson. “They paid me fifteen dollars.
aims to advertise current meetings and their topics.
I didn’t cash the check, either. I had it framed on my
This vibrant publication IRREANTUM circulates
wall till I left on my mission—never saw it again.”
recent creative work and introduces our literary
The annual meeting—to be held next year on
March 2—promotes scholarly discussion and com-
mentaries on Mormon writing past and present. In
addition, a fall writers’ conference brings together a

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faculty of writers and publishers for practical how- New AML Board and Staff Members
to sessions. That conference, like our annual fund-
raising lecture, features distinguished authors. The AML is pleased to welcome three new board
Expect announcements shortly of guest speakers members and a new secretary. Board member
at AML events. Test out the AML’s revised web page Kathleen Dalton-Woodbury has published six
at And stay connected with speculative fiction stories and heads the Science
us through AML-List, our e-mail address at irrean- Fiction and Fantasy Workshop. Board member, and letters to P.O. Box 51364, Provo, Jana Erickson manages an imprint at Deseret
UT 84605-1364. We value your contribution. Book. Board member Neila Seshachari is a profes-
—Cherry B. Silver sor at Weber State University. Secretary Melissa
Proffitt is a homemaker and writer.
Call for Papers for AML Annual Meeting We release with a vote of thanks board members
John Bennion, Cory Maxwell, and Tessa Meyer
The topic of next year’s annual AML gathering, Santiago, as well as two staff members, Brandi
to be held on March 2 at Westminster College in Rainey and Darlene Young. The AML is currently
Salt Lake City, is “Walking the Cultural Tightrope: searching for a new treasurer; to inquire about the
Mormon Writers and Their Audiences.” Confer- position, please e-mail us at
ence chairman Marilyn Brown invites paper pro-
posals at or 125 Hobble AML Awards
Creek Canyon, Springville, UT 84663.
At the AML’s annual conference held on Febru-
Deadline Extended for IRREANTUM Fic- ary 24, 2001, at Westminster College in Salt Lake
tion Contest City, the AML presented awards in several cate-
gories. Following are the complete award citations.
The deadline has been extended to July 31 for the
first annual IRREANTUM fiction contest. All contest Award in Criticism: Benson Parkinson
entries must relate to the Mormon experience in
some way, either explicitly or implicitly. As long as The Association for Mormon Letters presents a
an entry doesn’t exceed 8,500 words, any fictional special award in criticism to Benson Parkinson for
form will be considered, including short stories and AML-List.
excerpts from novels, screenplays, and play scripts. The first award established by the Association
Any fictional genre is welcome, including literary, for Mormon Letters in 1978 was in the category of
mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, histori- criticism, and no activity can be considered more
cal, and horror. The first-place author will be central to the mission and vision of this body than
awarded $100, second place $75, and third place enabling meaningful conversations. As Wayne
$50 (unless the judge determines entries are not of Booth has said, Mormonism “will never attain a
sufficient quality to merit awards). Winners agree to great artistic culture until we have achieved a great
give IRREANTUM first publication rights. To facilitate critical culture.” That critical culture is indeed devel-
blind judging, entries should be submitted with a oping, and it has grown exponentially in recent
removable cover sheet that includes the author’s years due to the pioneering vision and indefatigable
name, address, telephone number, e-mail address, efforts of Benson Parkinson.
and manuscript title—the author’s name should Back in 1995, before e-mail became so widely
appear on no other page of the manuscript. Stories used, Benson foresaw the utility of establishing an
should be double spaced in easily readable type. online conversation about Mormon letters and in
Entries will not be returned. Submit manuscripts by May of that year inaugurated AML-List. Since that
July 31, 2001, to IRREANTUM’s fiction editor, Tory time, hundreds and hundreds of scholars, students,
Anderson, P.O. Box 445, Levan, UT 84639. Church members, and the casually interested from
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all over the world have become part of an online Award in Devotional Literature:
community dedicated to analyzing the aesthetic, cul- Patricia T. Holland
tural, pragmatic, and spiritual aspects of Mormon-
related literature. The membership of the Association The Association for Mormon Letters presents an
for Mormon Letters has swelled as a direct conse- award in devotional literature for 2000 to Patricia T.
quence of AML-List, and our meetings now reflect Holland for A Quiet Heart (Deseret Book, 2000).
On a beautiful day, Patricia T. Holland sat over-
the influx of many younger writers and critics and
looking the Sea of Galilee, wondering whether life
the broader variety of literary genres represented by
should be as hard as it was and worrying that she
AML-List subscribers. For all but two or three days
had not succeeded in her stewardships. As she felt
of the year when our live events take the fore-
the healing rays of the sun, she seemed to hear
ground, AML-List is the Association for Mormon Heavenly Father whisper to her, “You don’t have to
Letters. It has become a clearinghouse for news worry over so many things. The only thing that is
about LDS literature, a resource for budding writ- truly needful is to keep your eyes toward the sun—
ers, a forum for literary experts and lay readers, and my Son.” Against the backdrop of experiences such
a vehicle for announcing and promoting readings, as this, Sister Holland leads the reader of A Quiet
book signings, conferences, and online resources of Heart on a search for wholeness and holiness.
interest to AML members. Sister Holland soothes the troubled mind, encour-
The guiding force behind the list has been Ben- aging the reader to “turn a few things down and
son Parkinson. As moderator of the list until last turn a few things off ” in order to seek solutions
year, Benson not only solved many technical prob- and comfort from the one true source. With
lems, especially before e-mail became more estab- warmth, wisdom, and humor, she explains that joy
lished, but he also read every post to the list— will only be ours when our actions and our aspi-
literally thousands—to screen out both digressions rations match God’s plan for us, not God’s plan for
and diatribes, continually reminding the partici- somebody else.
pants of the goals and texts central to this body. Her honesty about her feelings and her willing-
AML-List could have had a shorter and less mean- ness to discuss personal challenges assure readers
ingful life if it had not been overseen by a well-read, that their own challenges can be met with courage
good-natured, and articulate critic who knew how and serenity. With her friendly style, she inspires
to tame this novel medium and turn it to account. readers toward more consistent spiritual strivings
Benson established regular columns, including without making them feel more frenzied and guilty.
outlets for news, bibliographies, new creative writ- She invites readers to feel and enjoy the Lord’s love
ing, and especially reviews. To date, some 400 reviews for them. “Rest in that love. . . . Let it relax, calm
have appeared on AML-List, most of which were and comfort you.” A Quiet Heart is the quintessen-
made possible through the mediation and editing tial inspirational book. It leads readers gently, qui-
of Benson Parkinson. The AML’s literary quarterly, etly, and steadily toward having hearts filled with
IRREANTUM, was born out of the vision and the charity—for themselves, for others, and for God.
community of personnel Benson Parkinson has This thought-provoking and well-crafted work
fashioned over the last five years. As Robert Hogge instills peace and hope in its readers and leaves
adumbrated in his recent AML presidential address, them with Sister Holland’s stirring reassurance that
the Association for Mormon Letters has been reborn “God will not fail or forsake us.”
electronically, and Benson Parkinson has been the
midwife to that great renewal. Award in Drama: Margaret Blair Young
The Association for Mormon Letters presents an
award in drama for 2000 to Margaret Blair Young
for I Am Jane (produced for the Genesis Group,
March 2000).

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Jane Manning James was one of our most remark- Award in the Essay: Gordon B. Hinckley
able pioneer ancestors. She was a woman of tremen-
dous courage and faith, and she survived personal The Association for Mormon Letters presents an
tragedies that would have destroyed many. And she award in the essay for 2000 to Gordon B. Hinckley for
was black, a former slave. The fact that she was a Standing for Something (Times Books, 2000).
convert to Mormonism, a pioneer, and a Saint makes Once in a great while, a book comes along that
her a compelling subject for drama; the fact that makes such a significant contribution to our cul-
she was African-American gives her story resonance ture that it really needs to be recognized in a
and power far beyond the facts of her life history. significant way. This past year, Latter-day Saints
Margaret Young, together with her writing part- witnessed an unimagined phenomenon as the pres-
ner, Darius Gray, has begun to explore the sad ident of the Church wrote a book that ended up on
legacy of LDS race relations in what promises to the New York Times bestseller list. That book,
be a groundbreaking trilogy of historical novels Standing for Something, is a forthright, unflinching
called Standing on the Promises, book one of call for society to return to its moral moorings.
which, One More River to Cross, was recently pub- In a day of rationalizations and redefinitions
lished by Deseret Book. Now, with I Am Jane, regarding family and morality, here is a book that
Young has taken the same body of research and cre- says, without apology, that married couples ought
ated a theatrical event of the first rank. to stay married, that parents have actual responsi-
Using gospel music from the nineteenth and early bilities to teach their children, and that the way to
twentieth centuries and employing a free-flowing find happiness and personal freedom is to embrace
theatrical style that moves the story through time such values as integrity, civility, and hard work.
and space, I Am Jane is an exciting piece of theater. That President Gordon B. Hinckley would say
Although the writing is direct and eloquent, Young such things is no surprise to anyone in our culture.
has made the difficult choice to mute her own That a national publisher would produce his book,
strong, poetic voice and give us instead the voice of that Mike Wallace of 60 Minutes would write a
her subject. The play’s title is no accident; I Am foreword for it, and that hundreds of thousands of
Jane is clearly intended as a tribute to a remarkable people across the country would buy copies of it—
subject, instead of the subjective vision of a master- those are unforeseen and unprecedented events.
ful artist. And, as such, the play becomes a vehicle President Hinckley has always been an opener of
not only for Jane James’s testimony but also the doors, and Standing for Something has opened new
vehicle through which we hear the testimonies of doors for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
our living brothers and sisters. Saints in ways that will affect the world’s view of us
The written texts of plays are merely the blue- for years to come. It has built a bridge between
prints for performances, and a fine play needs to be Zion and New York, demonstrating that Mormon
seen and heard, not merely read. This is doubly views and Mormon writings are welcome in the
true for I Am Jane. One cannot mention the power national culture.
and impact of this text and not mention the dedi-
cation and commitment of the members of the Award in Film: Richard Dutcher
LDS theatrical community, black and white, who The Association for Mormon Letters presents an
have sacrificed to present it in so many venues. award in filmmaking for 2000 to Richard Dutcher
I Am Jane is a wonderful play. But by bringing for God’s Army (Zion Films and Excel Entertain-
together present and past, black and white, broth- ment Group, 2000).
ers and sisters, this play becomes more than a work When considering Richard Dutcher’s film God’s
of art. It becomes an act of goodness. Army, the immediate temptation is to focus on this
film more for what it seems to herald than for what
it actually is. Since LDS filmmaking has now so

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clearly taken such a major step forward with the and Darius Aiden Gray for Standing on the Promises:
release of God’s Army, cinema can now be said to One More River to Cross (Deseret Book, 2000).
have joined the conversation with our culture that In One More River to Cross, Margaret Young and
so many LDS novelists, playwrights, poets, and Darius Gray have created a haunting, beautifully
essayists have been engaging in for generations. written, carefully documented story that describes
God’s Army seems to presage a movement, a renais- the lives of black Saints in the early history of The
sance, in which Richard Dutcher, in the best LDS Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
tradition, plays the role of pioneer. Pioneer stories often neglect these Saints of
And yet we ought not allow the God’s Army event color. This novel reminds us of their presence and
to overshadow the film itself. It’s such a lovely, inti- prominence among the early Saints, including close
mate film, a film of understatement and modesty. association with the Prophet Joseph Smith and his
A powerful miracle scene is treated quietly, without family. Many black Saints had only recently
intrusive underscoring or acting histrionics. A prayer attained their freedom, and they found some relief
scene is accompanied not by violins or choral angels in the company of the Saints. We would hope that
but by the simple sound of a car engine sputtering the early Saints had treated all men as equals, but
to a start. The camera work is unobtrusive, and yet we learn that—like today—prejudice often appears
the camera is always in the right place, and the even among people who should know better.
lighting convincingly captures the shabbiness of In the fine people of One More River to Cross,
missionary apartments. you find a strength and an integrity that served them
Dutcher’s writing has the same understated com- well in their long trek across the nation—escaping
plexity as we find in the best fiction of Doug Thayer from slavery in Maryland, joining the Saints in Illi-
or John Bennion. His characters are rich, multifac- nois, and traveling across the plains to the moun-
eted, and multidimensional. Dutcher’s missionaries tains of Zion. You’ll likewise find a deep humanity
are believable both as young men and as God’s ser- that extended beyond the boundaries of their own
vants, easily confused and yet also idealistic, given culture to those around them, setting an example
to practical jokes but also capable of great faith. for our growing, multicultural church today.
One More River to Cross is an important addition
The story of the making of God’s Army, the
to both Mormon and African-American literature,
struggle to raise funds and to find a distributor, is
with the story of a people who learned to reach
in many ways as inspirational as the film itself.
deeply within themselves to find a sense of purpose,
God’s Army is a fine and an important film, but it
a sense of worth, that only the gospel of Jesus
was also a commercial success. That may be the most
Christ can bring.
encouraging thing about it. And so, the Association
for Mormon Letters honors not only a remarkable
Award in Short Fiction: Darrell Spencer
piece of LDS writing but also the work of a pro-
ducer of courage and tenacity, a director of vision The Association for Mormon Letters presents an
and imagination, an actor of sensitivity and insight, award in short fiction for 2000 to Darrell Spencer
and a marketer of creativity and skill. It is not hyper- for Caution, Men in Trees (University of Georgia
bole to declare God’s Army the most remarkable and Press, 2000).
important film in the history of Mormon letters. It Writers judging writers. Whoever thought this
is a pleasure to honor this extraordinary movie. one up? As if one writer could judge another’s work
without bias. On the one hand, it’s easy to dismiss
Award in the Novel: Margaret Blair Young and something that doesn’t actually fall within your
Darius Aiden Gray own genre or violates one of the seven deadly sins
that you’ve taught against all these years. But when
The Association for Mormon Letters presents an the writer is particularly good and competes with
award in the novel for 2000 to Margaret Blair Young your own space, breathes the air that should have
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been yours, a writer-judge has to swallow pride and Values in Literature, bringing LDS literature and
say, “Damn, that’s good.” Because when you have criticism into contact with larger, non-LDS audi-
pulled apart all the critical edges and the center still ences through the journal Literature and Belief and
holds, what else is there to say? bringing together faculty and literary scholars from
So this year, the award in short fiction goes to a across campus and the country through colloquia
collection that is totally without humility. You and conferences aptly named “Literature and Belief”
might expect a writer to find one good metaphor or and “Spiritual Frontiers.”
image and play with it for awhile like a cat. No But Richard has been no literary pacificist. His
economy there. You might expect a writer to have passionate loyalty to the Mormon faith and to a
one story out of a collection that easily leads the conservative Mormon aesthetics has caused him to
pack. You might at least expect him to stumble speak out with typical lack of timidity against back-
every once in awhile, please. sliding opinions and encroaching secularism. As he
But not so. The language of this collection never concluded his year as president of the AML in
lets up. Every story is a downpour of image, a del- 1991, for example, he issued a stirring call to LDS
uge of metaphor, a torrent of detail. In fact, it is a writers and critics to return to the core values of an
flood of everything that the judge holds sacred. So LDS worldview. Whether or not Richard has suc-
what else is there for the judge to do, but to fall and ceeded in stemming the sophic tide of Mormon lit-
be washed away, to struggle and then cling again, erature, his authentic Mormon voice has created no
and finally crawl, and gasp, and in a whisper with enemies. To the contrary, it has always commanded
that last breath of air say—“Awe. I could never have respect, as all great passion does, especially from
written this.” someone who so genially combines religious testi-
mony and literary acumen.
Lifetime Award: Richard Cracroft Richard has been justly called the father of mod-
ern Mormon literary studies, but we might even
The Association for Mormon Letters presents an call him its godfather—substituting for images of
honorary lifetime membership to Richard H. Cracroft. violence the force of Richard’s constant good humor
The problem with honoring Richard Cracroft is and good will as he has presided over a dynasty of
that such an encomium deserves the eloquence and contributions to our common cause. Not only did
good humor that he alone is most qualified to give. Richard inaugurate the first courses in Mormon lit-
To list his many contributions to Mormon letters erature at BYU, but just prior to the founding of
falls short of conveying his passion, his verve, his the AML he edited (with Neal Lambert) the first
back-handed satire and his front-loaded humor. anthology of Mormon literature, A Believing Peo-
For Richard Cracroft has not simply been a scholar ple: Literature of the Latter-day Saints. That seminal
advancing our field; he has been a captain boldly work has been repeatedly celebrated both for chart-
leading us into it—organizing, quelling, and pre- ing a course for future LDS literary studies and for
siding over the skirmishes that have kept Mormon reviving genres and authors otherwise passed over.
letters such an interesting panorama. That early work has paid off in a heritage of renewed
On one front Richard has been a literary scholar, attention to the genres and figures that he and Neal
credentialed in American and Western studies, bring- Lambert salvaged from obscurity. He has more
ing LDS literature under the legitimizing aegis of recently defended “home literature” and popular
those more established fields. On another front he genres, convincing literary scholars to take seriously
has been a popular and accessible critic, explaining what mainstream Mormons are reading. Richard is
the history of LDS fiction to the Church at large an advocate and a champion, a literate voice for
in the pages of the Ensign or guiding readers of BYU works considered by some as less literary, both in
Magazine to the best of current LDS literature. As the past and the present. He is a leader who rouses
a kind of literary diplomat, Richard Cracroft has and rallies his audiences from their stupors of
for many years directed BYU’s Center for Christian thought, motivating them toward more profound
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engagement of both their religion and its literary I N T E R V I E W

For his mediation and advocacy as critic, for his Robert Kirby
countless articles and presentations that have shaped
the field, for his inimitable eloquence and humor, Interviewed by Edgar C. Snow Jr.
and for his many years of tireless reading and writ-
ing on behalf of Mormon letters, the Association Robert Kirby was born in California in 1953 and
for Mormon Letters proudly confers upon Richard moved at age six with his military family to Zaragoza,
Cracroft honorary lifetime membership. Spain, where the family lived until 1962. Following
their return from Spain, the family lived at various
military installations throughout the western United
P O E T R Y States, eventually settling in Salt Lake City. Kirby
graduated from Skyline High School in 1971 and six
There once was a doctrine, Adam-God months later joined a military police company in the
The reaction to which was quite broad. Utah National Guard. From 1973 to 1975 he served
You’re free to deny it, an LDS mission to Uruguay, where he met Irene Jones
Swear at it or by it, of Calgary, Alberta, whom he later married in the Salt
Or dismiss it merely as damn odd. Lake Temple. After working as a stock clerk and a
carpenter, in 1978 he joined the Grantsville Police
—Tony A. Markham Department and in July 1979 transferred to the
Springville Police Department.
Tony A. Markham is a graduate of BYU and the While attending night classes at Brigham Young
University of Utah. He currently teaches at Delhi Col- University in 1983, Kirby was encouraged by an Eng-
lege in upstate New York and is working on his second lish professor to actively pursue writing. The following
novel. His first novel, The Jaxon Files, was published year he became a weekly columnist for the Springville
in 1996 by R.K. Books. To his knowledge it is the first Herald under the pseudonym of Mark Conroy. In
example of Mormon comic epic science fiction. 1988 he became a regular columnist for the Utah
County Journal, writing law enforcement humor
Don’t Say It under the pseudonym of Officer ‘Blitz’ Kreeg, and the
Don’t tell me next year he left law enforcement to accept a job as
to bloom where I’m planted editor of the Journal. During that employment he
or say published two novels, Brigham’s Bees (Cedar Fort,
in this place 1991) and Dark Angel (Cedar Fort, 1992; repub-
I should thrive. lished by Slickrock Books, 2000). A compilation of his
police columns was published as Happy Valley Patrol
Imagine in 1993.
a jungle-rot cactus. At the Journal, Kirby wrote a column titled “Five
How long can Kinds of Mormons,” which began his strange odyssey
a beached whale as Utah’s “oxyMormon.” Because he persisted in lam-
survive? pooning Mormons, he was fired by the Journal in
1994. He then freelanced for three years, writing for a
—Beth Hatch variety of newspapers and magazines, including the
Salt Lake Tribune and the Daily Herald in Provo.
Beth Hatch lives in Vancouver, Washington, where In 1997 he accepted full-time employment with the
she collects pictures of the BYU campus and fantasizes Tribune, where he currently writes several humor
about living in Provo again. columns per week.

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In collaboration with Tribune editorial cartoonist Could you comment on that and your experi-
Pat Bagley, Kirby has published four humor compila- ence at the Tribune?
tions lampooning Utah’s dominant culture: Sunday of Kirby: I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I was
the Living Dead (Buckaroo Books, 1995), Wake Me set apart. It might imply that I have President
for the Resurrection (Buckaroo Books, 1996), Pat & Hinckley’s blessing or endorsement for what I write.
Kirby Go to Hell (Slickrock Books, 1997), and Fam- I don’t. I prefer it that way. As the Lord’s anointed,
ily Home Screaming (Slickrock Books, 1999). Today President Hinckley has no business lurking out
he commutes daily to the Tribune from Springville via here on the lunatic fringe with the likes of you and
the Internet, and his frequent speaking engagements me. But you’re probably referring to the time my
are primarily on the subject of coping with life in stake president talked to me about a column I
Utah. His wife, Irene, is his business manager and wrote in which I claimed I could beat up President
owner of Slickrock Books. Kirby is currently at work Hinckley. I didn’t say I wanted to. I was simply
on a book about Utah’s murdered police officers. His responding to readers constantly asking me if I was
website is located at When an afraid of Church leaders. In fairness, I also said I
IRREANTUM editor stood in line next to Kirby at a Provo could beat up the Pope, Mother Theresa couldn’t
Blockbuster recently, Kirby asked if Irreantum was the take a punch, and Billy Graham was sick and there-
name of a really irritable Book of Mormon prophet. fore no real threat. So why would I be afraid of
Church leaders? Anyway, the long and short of it
Snow: Can you elaborate on how, when, and was that my stake president thought that particular
where you aspired, or were foreordained, to the column was a bit irreverent. He’s probably right.
calling of Mormon humorist? I mean, I freely admit to being more than a little
Kirby: I’m not sure. My scholastic and employ- crazy. I ended up talking by phone with the general
ment record would indicate that I’ve always been authority who brought the offending column to
something of a smart aleck, especially where organ- the attention of the stake president. It was all in the
ized behavior is concerned. The Mormon humorist best of spirits, but they wanted me to know they
part came later, most visibly when I started lam- were concerned about me going too far. As my eccle-
pooning the Utah culture as a columnist for the siastical leaders, they were perfectly within their
Utah County Journal, sometime around 1992. One rights. They asked me to be more careful. I said I
day this light went on in my head, a sudden burst would. On the off chance that President Hinckley
of understanding about the legitimate side to the was offended, I wrote him a letter of apology. I said
behavior that once got me suspended or fired. I’m I wouldn’t write stuff like that anymore, but I still
not suggesting any sort of spiritual confirmation thought I could beat up the Pope. I got a letter
but rather that I finally realized that I’d been given back from one of his secretaries two weeks later
this left-handed way of looking at things for a rea- telling me that the president wasn’t offended and
son. Better yet, there was a necessary place for it wishing me luck.
within the Mormon experience. There’s also the I would like to point out that my stake president
possibility that one too many Sunday school les- is a good man. He’s the stake president because he
sons drove me around the bend. If that’s true, has talents in that area. That said, he’s told me that
maybe this is just what keeps me from taking a gun he finds some of what I do to be vulgar and light-
to church. However, judging from the feedback I’ve minded. I’m not offended by that, and I hope he’s
received over the years, there are a lot of fellow trav- not offended by the fact that I find some of his
elers out there. behavior incredibly boring. We have different senses
of humor. His particular sense of humor probably
Snow: I heard you say once that President serves him very well in his capacity as a stake pres-
Hinckley all but set you apart for your position ident. I think it’s safe to say that I wasn’t sent here
as Resident Fool at the Salt Lake Tribune. with the expectation that I would become a stake

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president. If I had to use his sense of humor to from New Jersey. The dog in question was a large
balance the talents and traits I have, I’d probably German shepherd and greyhound mix we called
kill myself. Lurch. The town was San Jose de Carrasco. Tough
A lot of Mormons behave as if God grades on the place. Nobody wanted to hear from us. We had a
curve. Too often we use other people as the stan- lot of doors slammed in our faces and quite a bit of
dard by which we measure our worthiness to God. name-calling. I got bored with all this, which is a
You and I weren’t put here to fashion ourselves after bad thing for me. I get into trouble when I get
President Hinckley. In addition to it being a colos- bored. One day I put a white shirt, tie, nametag,
sal waste of time, it’s contrary to God’s plan. God and pair of gym shorts on Lurch and took him out
made us as individuals, and our job now is to tracting. The responses were nothing less than
become the best people we can be, individually. I’m amazing. People didn’t know how to handle a four-
on a rant here. Next question. legged Mormon missionary. They weren’t ready for
humor coming at them from that direction, and it
Snow: President Hinckley is widely recog- caught a lot of them pleasantly off-guard. It wasn’t
nized as a charming man full of good humor. I long before people started watching for us. They
often refer to him as “prophet, seer, revelator, quit calling us names. I think they finally realized
and humorist.” How do you see his humor that we were human. Sharing humor does that.
affecting Mormon culture? Elder Lurch didn’t catch on as a pilot program.
Kirby: I don’t see his sense of humor changing The assistants to the president came out and told
what Mormons laugh at now, but rather I think it us to quit dressing up the dog as a missionary, and
will change how hypersensitive we are to ribbing we more or less complied. But they also told us to
from other people. His sense of humor is very get rid of Lurch, to which I responded, “Or what?”
much a self-deprecating one, and I think he’s done Neither one of them was big enough to make that
a marvelous job of helping us shrug off a lot of that happen. Lurch stayed with me until I went home,
martyr mentality we’ve packed around since Nau- at which point I turned him over to Elder English,
voo. If you want to be a player in the world religion who passed him along to the next missionary. As
business, you can’t go around sulking because far as I know, he was still there a year later.
someone thinks you’re a bit odd. Humor has this
way of making you OK with being odd. On a Utah Snow: I believe you once mentioned that
level, Mormonism can be stressful. Not only does it Twain’s Roughing It is perhaps your favorite book.
require a lot from its members, but there is a great I see a kinship between Samuel Clemens, that
deal of internal pressure—both imagined and real— “Wild Humorist of the Pacific Slope,” and you,
to maintain appearances. Humor goes a long way our own “Wild Humorist of the Wasatch Front.”
toward alleviating the pain of realizing that not I’ve heard others suggest you are the Mormon
only can you never be perfect, but everyone already Dave Barry. Which do you prefer, and why?
knows that you aren’t. Kirby: Twain is the absolute supreme commander
and high overlord of American satire. I read Huck-
Snow: You had a dog once as a missionary leberry Finn the first time when I was eleven and
companion. Tell me about that experience. Was have worshipped him ever since. Any similarities
it a pilot program in your mission? between Twain and myself are high sacrilege, so
Kirby: Toward the end of my mission in Uru- quit it. Roughing It is one of many favorite books.
guay (1973–75), I adopted a stray dog. We weren’t What I liked about it was the part wherein Twain
supposed to have pets, but I wasn’t a very obedient recounts his visit to Salt Lake City. It was a humor-
missionary. I kept the big rules but didn’t let the ous, even punishing, account of Mormon-dominated
smaller ones get in the way of what I wanted to do. early life and a pleasant switch from the corporate
My junior companion at the time was Carl English spin on Mormon history that I was used to.

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As for Dave Barry, I met him the last time he was immune system by activating T lymphocytes and
in Salt Lake. He’s every bit as funny in person as he natural killer cells that destroy invading organisms.
is in print. If I had to choose between being like It increases gamma-interferon, a disease-fighting
either of them, it’s probably Dave. But I hope I’m protein, and best of all it triggers a flood of beta-
cutting my own trail in this business, which per- endorphins. Free drugs, woo-hoo. I think most
haps goes without saying. I mean, really, how many people laugh simply because it’s a pleasure to do so.
religion humorists are there? There certainly aren’t It’s certainly a better alternative than screaming.
enough Mormon humorists. Pity, actually. I think I think Mormons laugh—at least within the con-
the gospel is the most interesting when it’s cast in a text of the Church experience—because if we
humorous light. I’m much more encouraged by didn’t, we’d go nuts. This is particularly true in
stuff that makes me smile. Utah, where pressure to measure up or conform
can be severe. If anything, I think this is the secret
Snow: Which humorists or other authors have to whatever success I’ve had at this. I didn’t create
influenced you most, and why? the demand. I’m not even all that original in my
Kirby: Humorists would be Patrick McManus, style. If anything, I’m probably simply brazen enough
P. J. O’Rourke, James Thurber, Lewis Grizzard, and to write what so many others are thinking. Lots of
Erma Bombeck. Authors, probably Robert Lewis us have suffered at the hands of gospel Nazis. If it
Taylor, Pat Conroy, Harper Lee, Levi Peterson, wasn’t a strict parent, it was an unimaginative sem-
Martin Cruz Smith, James Lee Burke. inary teacher or overly dogmatic bishop. Laughing
But inside the Church, I would have to say that at certain things is our way of getting rid of the
the greatest influences on me have been cartoonists guilt that we have been taught is the primary vehi-
Cal Grondahl and Pat Bagley, particularly the early cle of the gospel, something that is so much a part
Grondahl cartoon books published by Sunstone. of being reared in any religion. It’s a way of saying
One day I picked up Freeway to Perfection and very that you don’t have to be just another cow in the
nearly killed myself laughing. Nothing about Mor- herd in order to be Mormon. Face it—ninety per-
monism was the same for me after that. It was so cent of church is moo stuff. Like humor, the true
much better, so much fuller. I believe that there are beauty of the gospel lies in its simplicity.
people, some of them future leaders, who have
remained faithful because Cal gave Mormons a Snow: Is there a distinctive Mormon sense of
safety valve. It’s unfortunate that his contributions humor? Can or should Mormon humorists cre-
aren’t recognized more. [Editor’s note: The Associa- ate a “style of our own”?
tion for Mormon Letters recognized Calvin Grondahl Kirby: Since control or correlation is such an
with the 1983 AML award in humor.] indelible part of Mormonism, I think some people
would love it if there were a distinctive or approved
Snow: A recent Newsweek article (“The Sci- Mormon sense of humor. That would make it safe
ence of Laughs,” October 9, 2000) reports for them. But I’m not sure where you would look
that “laughter evolved from the heavy breathing to find humor that is particularly Mormon. Other
that accompanies something like playful than the occasional chuckle elicited during a
wrestling” and that “ritualized panting—laugh- general conference talk, there’s no official Church
ter—then might have come to represent the endorsement of humor. A couple of years ago,
playful activity itself, signaling ‘I’m enjoying Deseret Book published Best-Loved Humor of the
this.’” Do you have a theory of humor? Why LDS People, a book so singularly unfunny that it
people laugh? Why Mormons laugh? ought to be at least a misdemeanor to own a copy.
Kirby: There are so many positive physical ben- What wasn’t lame was not singularly Mormon—it
efits to laughter that it’s a wonder laughter isn’t borrowed heavily from other faiths, with only slight
included in the Word of Wisdom. It boosts your changes in casting to make it Mormon. If this is

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our best humor, what we as a people find the fun-

niest, it’s no wonder people think we’re anal. As for
creating our own style of humor, that’s something
that happens on its own. Humor is whatever makes
you laugh, a natural process that fails when you
force it or try to corral it.

Snow: I heard you once admonish an audi-

ence to “hold to the ironic rod.” Could you
explain that doctrine?
Kirby: For me, irony is the greatest teaching
tool. The psychological world has two poles: the
way we want things to be, and the way they really
are. Irony is everything in between, particularly any
attempts by us to correlate one with the other. The
most important lessons life teaches us are the ones
we learn by accident, usually at a time when we’re
clueless as to what’s happening. Mormons are ripe
for irony because we’re so sure we have all the
answers that we can remain oblivious to many of
the questions. Unfortunately, life then has to teach
us that we’re stupid before it can teach us how to be
smart. If you look at life with a sense of irony, it ironic wit is that it’s such a Christ-like form of
doesn’t hurt so much when this lesson comes. humor. George Orwell said it best: “The aim of a
joke is not to degrade the human being but to
Snow: I’m over-generalizing, but ironic wit remind him that he is already degraded.” It’s a gen-
seems to characterize American humor in the tle way of preparing us for the entire point of the
’80s and ’90s, rather than the wacky gags or gospel: namely, that we can do something about it.
physical humor common in the ’60s and ’70s.
I suspect the cause is the rise of comedians such Snow: One could argue that, in order to
as David Letterman and Jerry Seinfeld, among endure, great works of tragedy must contain
others. Irony rules. It’s hip. It permeates our “comic” relief, while great works of comedy
media, from Sprite commercials making fun of must contain “tragic” relief. Generally, do you
the idea of a commercial while pretending think that’s true, and specifically, is that true for
they’re not trying to sell Sprite, to Alanis Mor- the subset of the general category of comedy
risette warbling about irony itself, causing liter- that is plain old humor?
ary types to argue among themselves whether Kirby: I think the two are inextricably linked.
she’s using the term irony correctly. Will irony Laughter and crying are closely related. Both are
eventually become unfunny, to be followed by necessary coping mechanisms. They’re also natural
some other flavor of humor? contrasts, which is another great rule of life. You
Kirby: I think irony will always be with us can’t appreciate something without it having some
because it is so completely human. It’s old, at least kind of opposing or countering force. I think it’s
2,000 years. I think the Savior was using irony fair to say that much of my humor about religion
when he told everyone to stop worrying about the stems from having my faith destroyed by black and
sliver in their neighbor’s eye and pay attention to white thinkers in the Church. I had to rebuild my
the plank in their own. The beautiful thing about belief in the face of those same people, and humor

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was the best mechanism for coping with them. Look at the advances in other artistic endeavors.
Even when they are made up of good people, large Twenty years ago, there never would have been a
groups are dangerous to individuals. The bigger the Hollywood movie like Richard Dutcher’s God’s
group, the lower the collective IQ. Army. Prior to him, films about Mormons came
largely from apologists or antagonists, neither of
Snow: Some Mormon authors believe that which was a realistic view of us. You’d have to be
inspiration plays a part in their artistic creation. blind not to recognize Richard as the first in a long
Do you ever feel that you write inspired humor? series of movie directors to credibly tackle the Mor-
How do you come up with funny things to write mon experience on a national level. Is it the great-
about or funny ways to write about things? est film about Mormons that will ever be produced?
Kirby: I told you, I’m crazy. But other than that, No. But it’s definitely a terrific sign of the times.
I’m very much a product of my environment. I Years from now, I predict that Dutcher will be
sometimes get feedback from Mormons angry about regarded as the first filmmaker to bring Mor-
something I’ve written. Generally, it’s e-mail or let- monism out where audiences could see us for what
ters from people complaining that I’m being too we really are. There’s nothing for Mormons to be
irreverent or too punishing. Some contain the ashamed of in God’s Army and loads of stuff to
accusation that I’m thwarting God’s plan by giving be proud of, namely that we’re human beings first
people the wrong idea about Mormonism, that I and Mormons a much distant second. Frankly, this
might even drive members into inactivity. I don’t is something that escapes a lot of Mormons.
think so. Disaffection from the faith was a problem As for humorists of world stature, certainly we
will have them. Humor is an art form, and art
long before I showed up. Only about 40 percent
grows with society and culture. So it stands to rea-
of Mormons in the United States attend church
son that as the Church grows, so will our art. Just
regularly. If we had to blame this inactivity on a
as Grondahl inspired me, I hope I’ve turned on a
particular type of Mormon, I very much doubt that
light for someone else, hopefully someone
we could blame it on humorists. If you asked inac- smarter.
tive Mormons what drove them away from the
Church, they aren’t going to say that it was because Snow: Your first three humor collections
someone made them laugh. I’m guessing that it’s (Sunday of the Living Dead, Wake Me for the
the overly starched Mormon who does the major- Resurrection, and Pat and Kirby Go to Hell)
ity of the alienating. I know they’ve inspired me to were targeted toward the Utah and Latter-day
do what I do. I wouldn’t have known what kind of Saint audience. Could you elaborate on the
Mormon I was if they hadn’t been themselves. And audience for your current writing? It appears
for that I thank them. you are now aiming broader than Mormon cul-
As for coming up with funny things to write ture and the Beehive State, as evidenced by your
about, it’s easy. I go to church. The basic Mormon recent collection Family Home Screaming,
ward is such a condensed experience of antipodal which deals with general family themes.
human behavior that something’s always happening. Kirby: Family Home Screaming was a definite
shift away from a primarily Mormon theme. My
Snow: Speaking of inspiration, Mormon daughters were growing up, and I wanted a collec-
authors frequently note they are inspired by tion of columns that were inspired largely by the
Orson F. Whitney’s observations that we will yet experience of raising them, or how not to do it.
have Miltons and Shakespeares of our own. Will I also wanted something for a wider audience. The
we ever have Twains and Thurbers of our own? first three books targeted Mormon life, but life is so
Kirby: Sure. The Church is growing. It’s inevitable much bigger than just that. I think Mormonism
that we’ll have great humorists and lampoonists. will always be a part of what I write, but it’s not

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everything there is to write about. For this reason, Snow: When does wholesome humor become
one part of the interview with Richard Dutcher the unwholesome “light-mindedness” warned
in the autumn 2000 of IRREANTUM troubled me. against in the Doctrine and Covenants? What
Dutcher said Mormon writers who eliminate Mor- constraints do you feel writing Mormon humor?
monism from their work are either ignorant or Kirby: First, I think everything has a humorous
cowardly. Now that’s a bold statement from some- side to it. Everything. If you haven’t laughed out
one who no doubt would reject any outside loud in the middle of a personal prayer, then I don’t
attempt at dictating what type of films he should think you are living the full gospel experience.
make. As a writer, I’ll write whatever I’m moved to I believe that God has a ripping sense of humor and
write. If my next book has nothing to do with Mor- that he communicates to us through every one of
mons, that’s my business. You go where the story our emotions. With respect to public humor, the
takes you. I wouldn’t include Mormonism in my trick is in knowing what you can and should share
work just because I’m a Mormon. with other people. When I began the newspaper
column, I knew that I would cross the line from
Snow: You’ve written one novel, Dark Angel, time to time. Not because I wanted to, but because
which was recently re-released. How has that no two people can agree on exactly where the line
been received? I also recall you wrote a short is. D&C 63:64 says, “Remember that that which
story about a missionary that appeared in Sun- cometh from above is sacred and must be spoken of
stone (the story, not the missionary). Do you with care, and by constraint of the Spirit.” But
plan on writing more fiction? How about everything in this life comes from above. The entire
hymns? Did you know we used to spell it hims experience was orchestrated by God. So, which
until Carol Lynn Pearson made us change it? parts are okay to laugh at? The part where you trip
Kirby: Actually, it’s more like hums. Most Mor- and fall down? The part where you trip and fall down
mons don’t know the words to the songs in the in church? The part where you trip and fall down
humnal. I love fiction. You can create the world any while passing the sacrament?
way you want it to be. It’s a wonderful opportunity
to play God and to learn that the job isn’t easy. Dark Snow: You mention in your column you get a
Angel is doing moderately well, with great empha- lot of mail. How many pounds per week? Does
sis on “moderately.” This is partly due to the fact it distract from your work, provide a constant
that although the book is about Mormons, it is not supply of new humor material, or both?
directed at the LDS audience. As the title suggests, Kirby: I get a lot of feedback. Depending on
the book contains darker elements. It was originally what I’ve written, the response ranges from eighty
published in a heavily edited format that I didn’t to one-hundred-fifty e-mails and letters per week.
like. That was in 1991. When I reacquired the rights It’s gone as high as six hundred. Typically, less than
last year, we put out the unabridged version. five percent of this feedback is negative. Surpris-
The short story in Sunstone (July 1999) was ingly enough, most of that comes from non-Mor-
“Letters from the Field,” a collection of fictional mons. There are more than a few anti-Mormon
journal entries from an elder laboring in South bigots in Utah, people who think that being in the
America. In the course of these entries, you see him minority relieves them of any obligation to basic
change from an arrogant nineteen-year-old with all human kindness or decency. All you have to do to
the answers to someone who just wants to be of attract the attention of people like this is say that
service. Yes, I plan on writing more fiction, but I’m you’re a Mormon. They’ll tell you all about women
not sure that it will be in the LDS market. By the and the priesthood, Mountain Meadows, and Clas-
way, Dark Angel was my second novel. The first was sic Coke vs. New Coke. My favorites are the Born
Brigham’s Bees, a historical mystery that is now out Agains. They’re the Dobermans of Christianity.
of print. Love your fellow man even if it kills him.

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As for angry Mormons, hearing from them lets Kirby: Yes, in all of them. Pat Bagley, who illus-
me know that I’ve hit the mark. Usually it’s from trated the four humor books I wrote, has already
someone so utterly humorless that they’re arrogant had his calling and damnation made sure. He’s
enough to think that making fun of them is the going to outer darkness. I’m a telestial spirit and
same thing as mocking God. I find this to be proud of it. I think what Twain was expressing was
almost hysterically funny. Maybe that’s what makes his fear that heaven will be very much like church.
their anger so easy to tolerate. Being reviled by If it is, why would anyone in their right mind want
some people is a necessary part of what I do. On a to go there?
personal level, it lets me know who I am. André
Gide said it best: “It’s better to be hated for what
you are, than loved for what you are not.” I don’t
think I’ve ever written something that someone
somewhere didn’t find offensive. No matter what P O E T R Y
happens, someone will always find a way to take it
too seriously. What’s amazing about this feedback A Father’s Love
is that people would actually presume to change
what I think by insulting me. Weren’t they paying When all his love goes for No. 1,
attention in Sunday school? what’s left for No. 2?
But the vast majority of feedback is positive. Well, No. 2 is love’s issue, so
Some of it has left me humbled. A woman once what’s left for No. 3?
told me that my column was the only thing that Well No. 3 has got all of me, so
brought a smile to her father’s face in the last few what’s left for No. 4?
months of his fight with terminal cancer. I still have Well, No. 4 is easy to adore, so
a hard time thinking about that without getting what’s left for No. 5?
choked up. Well, No. 5’s made us all alive.
—Paul W. Sexton
Snow: Do you think you will ever hear the
words “Welcome to the humor session of gen- Sexton dedicates this poem to “five of my greatest
eral conference”? What’s the future of Mormon blessings, who are now giving me grandblessings.” He
humor? Any advice to the fledgling Mormon has taught every grade level from kindergarten to
humorists out there? graduate school and is currently employed as an asso-
Kirby: I hope not. Official endorsement would ciate professor of Spanish. “These days I live with my
be the death knell for Mormon humor. As for dear wife and the youngest of the original five, who
advice, do what comes naturally. It’s in you. Go fills our home with beautiful music and ambitious
find it. When you do, don’t be afraid to point it out plans for her future.”
to other people. Some of them won’t like it, but
that’s OK. They’re a big reason for doing it in the
first place.

Snow: Twain suggests there will be no humor

in heaven. In your book Pat and Kirby Go To
Hell, you and your cartoon collaborator, Pat
Bagley, went to hell and back, whether in the
body or not you probably cannot tell. Will there
be Mormon humorists in the celestial kingdom?
Terrestrial? Telestial? Outer darkness?

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E S S A Y to walk normally and safely along his path, but

something intervened; something incongruous to
Surprise, Surprise! Reflections on the his expectation happened. He had a surprise. This
Oxymoronic Question of Mormon is a basic, very simple example of perceived humor,
yet that precise action has kept the television pro-
Humor gram America’s Funniest Videos high on the charts
By Elouise Bell for an incredible stretch of time. In such instances,
the surprise is greater, and thus the humor is
On a slow news day recently, an Associated Press greater, when the rest of the situation has some
writer called around asking an assortment of folks formality or even pretension about it. Thus, the
to comment on “Mormon humor.” He sought out man slipping on the banana peel will get bigger
theorists, humorists, apologists, DeGenerists, and laughs if he is dressed in a tuxedo or a top hat than
the entire Farley family. Who knows what prompted if he wears Levis. The woman whose bloomers fall
this topic; maybe the editors were planning a small down around her ankles is more surprised if she is
Oxymoron Feste: Mormon humor one week, mili- dancing at a wedding reception than if she is mix-
tary intelligence the next, the wit and wisdom of ing up a batch of cookies in her kitchen. Peter
George W. Bush thereafter. Whatever the motive, Boyle as Frankenstein’s monster in Mel Brooks’s
the writer sounded out a few of us concerning film Young Frankenstein is more delightful, more
light-mindedness among the Saints. genuinely comic, when he sings “Puttin’ on the
When one gets a phone call like this, it rouses Ritz” and dances in a top hat and tails than if he
the sleeping dog named Paranoia. The word entrap- simply sat in a chair in his monster overalls and
ment floats to the surface of consciousness. One sang “It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.”
wonders if there is any truth to the rumors about The incongruity is greater. The surprise is greater.
a committee called Testing the Members. So one It is not only physical humor that depends on
frets a bit, stammers, and mouths hearty platitudes surprise for effect. Take that great classic exchange
while having a cohort trace the call. At least that’s between Abbot and Costello known as “Who’s on
what this one did; I haven’t checked with Bob First?” Costello asks Abbot the names of certain
Kirby. baseball players. As the audience, we are only
Trying to think on my feet—or, more accurately, mildly surprised that a player is named Who. The
on my seat—I did formulate a theory that I continue incongruity and humor grow out of Costello’s
to mull over. Here it is, all dressed up as a syllogism: inability to shift gears and accept Who as a name.
Major Premise: Surprise is the central element in He persists in hearing it as an interrogative pro-
humor. noun. We the audience are as surprised and amused
Minor Premise: Mormons, as a cultural group, by his persistent rigidity as we are by the Roadrun-
are conditioned to turn their backs, cross the street, ner’s persistent indestructibility in the Wile E.
and shake the dust from their shoes when they Coyote cartoons.
encounter surprise. It is the surprise element that pleases in good
Conclusion: Thus, the range of humor that Mor- wordplay. I don’t care for puns, but I admit to tak-
mons generate or respond to, at least in public, is ing a small pleasure in a line that says, “A man went
about as wide as a bolo tie. to a store to buy a pair of eyeglasses. He entered the
Let’s examine these assertions more closely. Vir- store rather misty optically, but came out quite
tually any comic situation involves surprise. Some- optimistically.”
times theorists use the word incongruity. It amounts In the following bits of wordplay, notice how the
to the same thing: an action or a word violates our element of surprise operates. This list names new
expectation. In the classic example, a man walking breeds of dogs now recognized by the American
along suddenly slips on a banana peel. He expected Kennel Club. We have a cross between a collie and

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a Lhasa apso that is called the collapso, a dog that A—Architecture: When was the last time the
folds up for easy transport. We have a cross sight of a newly completed LDS ward house made
between a pointer and a setter, which produces the you say, “Wow!” or “Ah!” or even “Hmmm”?
poinsetter, a traditional Christmas pet. And we B—Books: To be worth the paper they are
have a mixture of the spitz and the chow chow, printed on, books must yield surprises. Mor-
resulting in the spitz-chow, a dog that throws up a monism itself began with the coming forth of one
lot. Consider that if I simply said to you, “My dog of the most surprising books imaginable. One
throws up a lot,” the remark would not be funny. It might think such a history would produce a popu-
is the surprise in the wordplay that amuses. lation that welcomed the unexpected in literature.
How is a Mormon wedding different from a One would be wrong.
non-Mormon wedding? At a Mormon wedding, Example: Years back, a colleague (and a supervi-
the bride isn’t pregnant, but the bride’s mother is. sor in the academic hierarchy) sent me a memo
Here we have a double surprise—recognizing a praising a new book, Alice Walker’s The Color
truth that may not have occurred to us before, and Purple. I replied that I’d read the book and agreed
then encountering a generational anomaly, a mother with his judgment. Might this not make a dandy
pregnant at an age when we don’t expect her to be. choice for a freshman English reading list? Back
When we turn to situational humor, the role of with the speed and force of a divine thunderbolt
surprise becomes even clearer. Disguises, mistaken came a memo falling all over itself to insist that this
identity, lovers hiding in closets, all the schemes of book would not, repeat not, be a good choice for
all the comedies back to the Greeks—they all turn our freshmen because! Within the same man, the
on surprise. It is the quick-change artistry of life that private reader and the public paternalist collided.
can make us laugh, if we have the comic perspective. Spare our students (and their parents) the surprises.
The word humor traces back to the medieval Example: A browsing parent telephoned a cer-
concept of body humours or fluids (blood, phlegm, tain dean directly from the BYU Bookstore to
and green or black bile) that determined, as it was protest a book she had found on the shelves. Now,
thought, the human dispositions, the sometimes that bookstore has dealt with the censorship issue
surprising changes of mood and temperament from since the day it opened for business. But the book
person to person and from moment to moment. this mother faulted caused unusual consternation
I like to connect the words humour and human. in the deanery. She was surprised and shocked, she
The link for me is fluidity. Human life is fluid, fumed, to see a book titled The Black Stallion.
changeable, incongruous, unpredictable, now one Clearly her shock was too great to permit her to
way, now another, full of humours or varying dis- read the book, which, as you probably know, is a
positions, and, as a result—thank the heavens— children’s tale about a boy and a black horse. I don’t
full of surprises. think I really want to know what the sister thought
But aye, there’s the rub. Culturally speaking, the book was about; I’d be too shocked.
Mormon folk do not take kindly to surprise. Mor- C—Clothing: It is, of course, the total absence
mons hold firm beliefs about The Way Things of sartorial surprise that renders Mormon mission-
Should Be. We feel most comfortable, most safe, aries identifiable at five hundred yards anywhere in
and most praiseworthy when we neither create nor the world. But it is not missionaries alone in Mor-
encounter surprises. Why this should be so when mondom who eschew the new, the different, or the
the founder of the faith, Joseph Smith, was a man unexpected attire. Fashion dicta are elegantly unam-
who surprised the world at every turn, I cannot say. biguous in Zion. For men: “Any shirt as long as it’s
Be that as it may, the list of categories about white,” and for the women, “Heavenly Mother
which Mormons avoid even the appearance of wears floral prints.”
surprise is long and wide. We could cite samples D—Doctrine (including also Teachings, Hypothe-
alphabetically: ses, Speculations, etc.): Mormons feel about their

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views on all matters remotely relating to creed being that the teacher draws out wisdom and
as Boston women were said to feel about their understanding that already exist somewhere within
hats. Someone once asked a Back Bay matron the student’s mind or soul. But teaching done in
where the ladies of her circle bought their hats. that spirit can, sometimes, draw out surprising
Replied the disdainful dowager, “We do not buy questions, anomalies, minority views. Far safer,
our hats; we have our hats!” think some, to put in, rather than to draw out.
In a Sunday school class in Orem, Utah, one F—Feminists: You knew this was coming, right?
Sabbath, a good brother guided us through the les- We are talking about humor here, and one of the
son manual in a most expedient and unequivocal most delightful matrixes for humor is the light bulb
manner. At one point, I ventured a comment, cit- joke. All kinds of groups tell light bulb jokes about
ing an example of a certain point—there was no themselves and thereby illuminate their own per-
dabbling in precepts, I assure you—and as I remem- ception of themselves. In seeking out light bulb
ber, one or two others in the audience then made jokes, I have had wonderful experiences with nurses,
one or two mild emendations to my comments. honor students, Native Americans, football players,
The entire ad-lib insertion took no more than three and many other groups. The package always yields
or four minutes. both surprise and insight. (How many honor stu-
The following week, the teacher prefaced his les- dents does it take to change a light bulb? Just one,
son by announcing that these Sunday school les- but she’ll need an extension of the deadline. How
sons followed the Sunday school manual and were many BYU football players? Again, just one, but
not to become the subject of what he called “spec- he’ll expect a tutor and four hours of credit for
ulation” or “contention,” as had happened the doing it.)
previous week. I was consumed with amazement. Now, if we had world enough and time, I would
Friends, I know contention when I hear it. I cut my ask you to tell me light bulb jokes about Mormon
teeth on contention at my father’s knee, a knee both feminists. Since we have not such time at our dis-
gentile and Welsh. There had not been enough posal, I will tell you a few. How many Mormon
contention in that previous Sunday school class to feminists does it take to change a light bulb? First
fill a thimble for the smallest finger, I assure you. alternative: three. One to change the light bulb,
Indeed, nothing that I heard or said was in any way one to take a picture of the occasion for the Relief
novel or original. Not one high priestly eyelid had Society scrapbook, and one to write up an account
fluttered open during the entire mini-discussion. for the ward historical report. Second alternative:
Yet somehow the teacher’s early-warning radar had Just one, but afterwards Carol Lynn Pearson will
detected the possibility of surprise on the perime- make a one-act play of the event. Third alternative:
ter, and a reproof was issued betimes. Two, one to put in the new light bulb, and one to
E—Education: In a BYU archeology class, the make the old light bulb into a Christmas ornament
professor was setting forth variant explanations for with gold paint and glitter. (Don’t act surprised:
some recently unearthed artifacts. These were excit- there are feminists in the Relief Society, after all!)
ing discoveries, and scholars had controversial inter- Fourth alternative: None. This is a correlated light
pretations thereof. Doctor So-and-So thought thus; bulb and should not be changed without permis-
Doctor Von Whosit insisted on another conclu- sion from the stake president. When a change is
sion; Professor Thing saw the matter yet a third authorized, a deacon will come and change it for
way. At that point in the lecture, in the back of the the sisters.
classroom a hand began waving in distress. When G—Genealogy: Happily, while genealogical inves-
called on, the student wailed, “But Professor Myers, tigations may indeed produce surprises, what might
what do we believe?” You see, that is the problem disturb a model Mormon family in a son or hus-
with education. The word education comes from the band—the lifestyle of a horse thief, say, or piracy as
root “educare,” meaning “to draw out,” the premise a hobby—is usually considered just a charming

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idiosyncrasy in a great-great-grandcestor. I did get elegiac for some time, when he was greatly sur-
both a surprise and a laugh on one genealogical prised, not to say shocked, to see sitting in a back
occasion. I was doing my one-woman show based row of the congregation the very man he thought
on the life of Mormon midwife Patty Bartlett Ses- was dead and in the featured casket. Elder Kimball
sions, who had fifty-some grandchildren from one turned sharply to the ward leadership on the stand
son and apparently many hundreds of great-grand- and shrilled, “Bishop, just who the hell is dead here
children. Preparing in my hotel room in Logan, anyway?”
Utah, a few hours before the presentation, I Now, there are at least three surprises that make
received a phone call. A man on the other end this joke funny to Mormons. First, there is the sur-
asked if I was doing the program about Patty Ses- prise of the man presumed dead found among the
sions, and when I said yes, he proudly told me he living. Well, that is not a dangerous surprise, there
was one of Patty’s ancestors. After a pause, I asked, being no mention in handbook or manual about
“Where are you calling from?” unintentional mistaken identity. But the second
H—History: Historians have handed us a host surprise, and much more treasured for its rarity, is
of surprises in recent years, and for many in the the appearance of the word hell in a joke told in an
Mormon subculture the shocks have been disturb- LDS setting. Publicly, Mormons keep a tight lid
ing. If I understand correctly, the current direction on language. When the lid pops off, as it does in
asks historians to write only “faithful history.” this joke, the surprise releases a kind of stored
Since any historian must pick and choose among tension, and the resulting laughter reflects that sur-
the facts and possible explanations, the best course, prise. Finally, and perhaps most to the point, to
we are told, is to choose those bits and pieces that hear the word hell attributed to a general authority
are faith promoting and leave the others to rot on of the Church, about which group jokes, ironies,
the vine. puns, witticisms, and cartoons are rather rigorously
Personally, I rather favor the view that one discouraged, is a major surprise, perhaps a major
scholar expressed about Shakespearean study, when release of tension. And it is responsible for the
asked if he thought a certain director had “got it much beloved status of that rather simple anecdote,
right” in his production of a particular play. generation after generation.
Replied the scholar, “We will always get Shake- May I emphasize that all the foregoing theory
speare wrong, one way or another, but the chal- applies to the Mormon subculture in its mainstream
lenge is to get it wrong a new way each time.” manifestation, in its approved publications and from
Well, enough of examples. Back to the precept. its public podium, in its sanctioned meetings and
Which, in case I have rambled too long and you have in its image as constituted for mass consumption.
forgotten the precept, is this: The Mormon subcul- As for sub-rosa Mormon humor—ah! That is alto-
ture has traditionally conditioned itself to prefer gether another matter and a topic for altogether
the known to the unknown, the scripted to the another exploration.
spontaneous, the tried to the tryout. And by dis-
tancing itself from the surprising, this culture also Elouise Bell taught in the Brigham Young Univer-
distances itself from most humor, which turns on sity English department for thirty-five years and served
irony and the snap of the startling. What Mormons as associate dean of general and honors education. She
accept in the public venue as humor could more is the author of Only When I Laugh, the editor of
accurately be called a sort of amiable jocularity. Will I Ever Forget This Day?, a former columnist for
I conclude by taking a quick look at a famous the Salt Lake Tribune, and a contributor to Harvest:
Mormon anecdote, all the more cherished because Contemporary Mormon Poems. She has been honored
of its rarity. This is the story of Elder J. Golden for teaching (Karl G. Maeser Award), service (Susa
Kimball preaching the funeral service of a good Young Gates Award and Utah Woman of Achieve-
brother up in Idaho. Elder Kimball had been waxing ment Award), and writing (Society of Professional

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Journalists and Association for Mormon Letters). She E S S A Y

now teaches part time at Coastal Carolina University.
Her new book, Madame Ridiculous and Lady Sub- MIA: Missing in Action
lime (Signature Books, 2001), is described as follows:
“One of Mormonism's favorite humorists, Elouise By Ann Edwards Cannon
Bell, a retired BYU professor now living in South
Carolina, finds irony in life's little absurdities. She I get a pretty good aerobic workout whenever I
gives a bittersweet reminiscence of her late, reclusive go to sacrament meeting because I sit on the back
father, relates her funniest night at the opera, remem- pew and wrestle with guys. I’ve been doing this for
bers a magnificent watchdog, and reminds us of a years. My husband, Ken, and I have five sons, and
common humanity.” while they are pretty good kids—no prison records
yet—they hardly ever want to be in church, which
is why you can usually find me brawling on the
back bench with boys each Sabbath morning. My
husband used to help me out. In fact, we made a
pretty decent coed tag team, he and I. Then one
P O E T R Y day they made him the bishop while I wasn’t look-
ing. This means he gets to sit on the stand and
Resurrected Spring catch up on his sleep while—hello—I sit alone in
the congregation and take my morning exercise by
Dogwood petals putting kids in hammerlocks.
Float to the ground, In fact, that’s exactly what I was doing in church
Pale pink carpet last week—taking down lippy boys and pinning
Under the tree, them hard to the floor—when I became aware of a
strange hush descending upon the congregation.
Morning after I looked up (sweating, as well as panting hard) and
Easter. noticed people were staring expectantly at moi.
“Stand up,” whispered a friend on the bench in
—Linda P. Adams
front of us. “They just called you to be in Young
Linda P. Adams lives in Jackson County, Missouri,
Me? Be in Young Women? I had no idea that was
with her husband of twelve years, five young children,
coming. You’d think you’d have a little lead-time
a dog, and three cats. She graduated from BYU in
when you sleep with the bishop. But no. I have to
1990. Recently her work has appeared in Limestone
hear stuff over the pulpit. Just like everybody else.
Circle and Friction magazines. Her first novel, Prodi-
Oh well. C’est la vie. Que sera sera. Hey-nonny-
gal Journey, was released in July 2000 by Cornerstone
nonny. Such is life. Whatever.
Publishing and won Cornerstone’s Fiction Book of the
“Why did Ken call you to be in Young Women?”
Year Award. The sequel is expected by fall 2001.
someone asked later. “I thought you were pretty
happy in the Primary.”
“Oh,” I said, “he just wants me to get in touch
with my feminine side again.” It’s been awhile,
frankly. And it’s been awhile since I’ve been in the
Young Women program, too. I really hope I like it
better this time.
Here’s the deal. I hated Young Women when I
was a teenager, although we didn’t call it that. It was

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“Mutual.” Then it was “MIA.” Then it was some- enough to keep me tight within the fold as a grown
thing after it was “MIA,” but I always ended up woman. So really there’s just no use being a drama
calling it “Mutual” because that’s what we called it queen over the things that were said and not said in
when I was a Beehive. Just like I still call our a young girls’ classroom. Still. I’ll be interested to
church the “Mormon Church,” because that’s what see what we tell our daughters these days when I
we called it when I was also a Beehive. (I hate it start going to Mutual again.
when people start messing with names, by the way, I mean MIA. I mean Young Women. Or what-
and I believe we shouldn’t be allowed to do it. We ever we’ll be calling it next week.
don’t change the names of our children twenty
years down the road when—hello—we realize we Ann Edwards Cannon (class of Provo High ’74) is
gave them stupid names popularized by characters the author of seven books, two of which—Amazing
on soap operas during our childbearing years. We Gracie and The Shadow Brothers—were named
shouldn’t be changing other kinds of names, either. Best Young Adult Book of the Year by the American
Too, too confusing for mentally exhausted moms Library Association. (What’s a Mother to Do? is her
like me.) first book for grownups.) She is a columnist for the
So anyway. I hated Mutual. “Oh whine, whine, Deseret News and writes for Dialogue: A Journal of
whine,” a guy friend said to me when I mentioned Mormon Thought, Exponent II, New Era, Parent
this fact. “Women like you think they had it so very Express, Teen, and This People. She is the daughter
rough at church. But things weren’t exactly a bed of of Wyoming rodeo queen Patti Louise Covey and Utah
roses if you happened to be the type of Mormon State University linebacker LaVell Edwards—which
boy who didn’t like scouting or basketball but may explain a lot. She and her baseball-historian hus-
preferred blowing up toilets in the men’s restroom band, Ken, live in Salt Lake City and have five sons.
instead.” According to a bumper sticker on the family minivan,
“Okay,” I said back. “That may be totally true, but she once dated Jimi Hendrix, but she says that part is
at least you weren’t forced to sit with your boyfriends a lie. The rest is real.
in a classroom swathed with tablecloths being told
to hang onto your virtue for dear life like that was
the only, only thing that mattered about you.”
I’m sure I heard other things in Mutual. I know
for a fact that a lot of good, strong, intelligent P O E T R Y
women like my mother worked very hard to make
Wednesday nights an important and meaningful Wrong Way
experience for the snotty adolescent girls they were
assigned to look after. .instead way this
But whenever I think of Mutual, I mostly remem- it hid and out chickened I
ber the relentless chastity lessons. The chewed gum. but world my to people transport
The soiled cloths. The boards with the nail marks. magically would that poem beautiful
And I remember the smoldering resentment I felt a write to wanted had I
about the fact that it seemed you were valiant only —Katie Parker
if you wanted to be a wife and a mother, that you
were valuable only if you were a virgin. Which I
was. Oh my. I was such a little virgin. But I was
more than that, too. And that’s what I wanted peo-
ple at church to see about me. Which they did, of
course. Obviously my experiences growing up female
in the Mormon Church were tender and sweet

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An Argument F I C T I O N
There had been a large dinner,
but The Chastening
that luscious, scrumptious-looking By Helynne Hollstein Hansen
devil’s food cake
looked so delicious, Late one autumn evening, not long after Robbie
so inviting, Gibbons had been called as branch president, some
that my mouth said, college students who rented a house in his neigh-
“I want it!”
borhood had a little too much to drink. They were
My stomach said,
new and didn’t know their neighbors, and some-
“No, thank you.”
how they wandered over to Robbie’s front yard and
But my mouth said,
calmly, numbly urinated on the bushes outside his
“It would be a pleasure
for that marvelous dessert daughters’ bedroom window.
to pass between these two lips Robbie didn’t let this slip by, of course, but he
and the dark, sweet taste could never tell anyone exactly how he handled the
to slowly spread over this tongue. situation. The most he ever told members of the Red
It would be like a bit of heaven.” City Branch was that a little of his “gentile lan-
guage” came out when he caught the guys stagger-
My stomach said thoughtfully, ing away.
“I guess there’s room for it down here.” If the truth were told, as it was occasionally by
Robbie’s wife, Tess, to her counselors in the Pri-
My mouth eagerly devoured the cake. mary presidency, the urinating incident was not the
It was heaven, only occasion in recent months when this “gentile
but only for a moment. language” had slipped out. Because he was active
not only in the Church but also in the commu-
The last bite slipped down my throat nity—on softball teams, in the PTA, and in the
and into my stomach. Kiwanis—incidents did come up when he had
My stomach said, been known to use colorful expressions or even pop
“I don’t want this anymore. Can I send it back?” a cocky ballplayer in the eye. It would not have
My mouth said, been so unusual in the rough-and-tumble ranching
“No. Let’s have another piece.” county were it not for the fact that Robbie, despite
And my stomach said, his cowboy earthiness, was trying ever gamely to
“No. Prepare for delivery!” represent himself as an exemplary member and
leader of the LDS community.
I finally had to go on a walk His full given name was Bob Alan Gibbons. Not
to shut them up and stop the fight Robert, just Bob. Somehow, though, he had picked
but up the name Robbie in the military—specifically,
the cake was still waiting while jumping from choppers into rivers over Nam—
when I returned. and it had stuck. Tess, his in-laws, and his cowork-
ers at the Fish and Game Department called him
—Katie Parker Robbie, and until they got used to saying “Presi-
dent Gibbons,” so did all forty active members of
Katie Parker has a B.A. from the University of the Red City Branch in northwestern Montana.
Oklahoma and lives in Salt Lake City with her hus-
Not that it was hard to say “President Gibbons,”
band and son. Her work has appeared in the New Era
because Robbie was a diligent, orthodox branch
and Westview.

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leader—almost too orthodox, in some members’ sleeves, but not always. After all, his arms were still
opinions. At thirty-eight, he was one of the youngest muscular and hairy enough that the tattoos weren’t
presidents in the history of the branch. A convert that obvious. Also, Robbie couldn’t help but think
of ten years, he was enthusiastic, demanding, and secretly that the tattoos still looked pretty good.
straightforward about how he expected the branch None of that mattered to members such as Sister
to run—sometimes downright brash. Lila Boone, age eighty-six, who received regular vis-
During the particularly harsh December of Rob- its from Robbie and his counselors at the Red City
bie’s first year as branch president, one of the local Nursing Home. Robbie gave her the last priest-
pine ranchers needed some extra help cutting his hood blessing of her life, and he and first counselor
Christmas trees. Floyd Buzby, the elders quorum David Joost were standing at the foot of her bed the
president, suggested a committee should be called night she quietly passed away.
to go help cut the pines. It didn’t matter to the sister missionaries either,
“Hell,” said Robbie, right in the middle of priest- who, whenever they came up from Missoula, always
hood meeting. “We don’t need no committee. Let’s received comfortable beds, simple but satisfying
go chop some trees.” He pointed jerkily into each meals, and an evening or two of warmth and laugh-
startled face. “Floyd, Randy, Grover, Brad, Tim. ter in the cozy, earth-tone home of Robbie, Tess,
Meet me here Saturday morning at eight, and at and the five rambunctious young Gibbonses.
least two of you bring your trucks.” And it didn’t matter to the startled, yet reluc-
They did, and two hundred trees were cut and tantly admiring, members of the Red City Kiwanis
hauled to town by the Mormon volunteers in three Club, who each had received at one time or another
hours’ worth of twenty-below-zero temperatures. If a copy of the Book of Mormon from Robbie’s own
any of the other five elders were unhappy about hands, with his own dedication scrawled within.
Robbie’s volunteer system, nobody ever said so—at Robbie still hadn’t given up on talking about the
least not to each other. gospel to his parents in Great Falls or his rather
Red City Branch members did concede to one worldly, divorced brother in Denver, but his most
another in muted tones and away from the branch enthusiastic missionary efforts were right in his own
building that Robbie could take a couple of lessons circle of fellow fish-and-game workers and ballplayers.
in tact. No one ever denied, however, that his basic Robbie Gibson was as down-to-earth as the next
kindness and gentility in attitude and service fit guy, most Red City locals agreed. How could he
snugly enough into the one-of-a-kind niche of bish- be so much like the rest of them and at the same
opdom. The members, almost without exception, time so different—so dedicated to his family, so
were fond of him and eager to please, including the uninterested in beer and other pleasures, so pas-
small branch choir, which regularly performed sionate about this church of his? Most puzzling of
“God of Our Fathers” because they knew it to be all, how could he, who knew exactly what kind
President Gibbons’s favorite hymn. of guys they were, be so determined to get them
Robbie’s appearance did take some getting used interested in his religion?
to for those who were new to Red City’s small group “Come on over to our house,” was Robbie’s
of Mormons. He conducted sacrament meeting in byword to anyone in or outside of the branch who
jeans, cowboy boots, a string tie, and the kind of seemed bewildered, needy, or heavy laden. Tess cheer-
cotton shirts that snap up the front instead of but- fully laid the table with sandwiches, stews, pancakes,
ton. His rather voluminous black mustache was or whatever she could put together and opened her
another small indulgence he allowed himself in willing ears and heart to her husband’s endless
his otherwise spit-and-polish rodeo look. And then, stream of lost or curious souls. “There is almost
there was nothing much he could do about the never a time when we don’t have someone else here
anchor tattoos—souvenirs of the Navy—that for dinner besides the kids,” she once told Betty
adorned each of his forearms. He usually wore long Joost with just a touch of wistfulness in her voice.

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If Robbie’s efforts, like all missionary work in with all their natural enthusiasm the LDS doctrines
Red City, had yet to yield any baptisms or other on Christ. At first the pastor seemed moved, but
tangible success, at least his unabashed vocal and ultimately he wouldn’t budge. The Mormons did
social approach had created a significantly higher not see Jesus Christ in the same way as other more
profile for the heretofore obscure LDS religion in traditional Christian churches, he said. Therefore,
the town. if the Red City Mormons insisted on being in the
Tess loved Robbie with a tender, weepy kind of bazaar, they would have to be in the basement. So
adoration, although he could exasperate her at Robbie reluctantly agreed to instruct the Relief
times—lots of times. She also confided to her Society sisters to set up their crafts and baked goods
counselors that her love for her husband was almost downstairs. “Hell, it’s better to be in the basement
scary, so much did he mean to her, and she could- than not to be in the bazaar at all,” President
n’t help but fume over the admiring looks and flir- Gibbons had said to Veda Woodward, the young
tatious ways of certain other sisters of the branch. Relief Society president. “It’s a missionary opportu-
Nevertheless, if a few women gave Tess reason for nity that we can’t give up.”
jealously and agitation, Robbie never did. It just Veda had agreed and urged all the sisters to pre-
wasn’t in him. pare their usual crocheted, embroidered, and quilted
By mid-September, leaves began to turn red and craft items, plus the plethora of holiday goodies.
orange in the high Red City Rockies, frost had to Her homemaking counselor, Eva Allman, who,
be scraped each morning from windshields, and with her two married daughters, was one of the
Robbie entered his second year as branch president. most respected quilting experts in the county, was
By the time the Red City members had crowded miffed at the basement location but contributed to
around the TV set in the meeting house to watch the usual production and gathering of homemade
the satellite broadcast of October general confer- goods to sell. When the day of the bazaar had
ence, the elders were already starting to wonder arrived, Robbie had stopped by the town hall to
about another tree-cutting episode that might well make sure adequate stacks of Book of Mormon
fall on the coldest day of the year. copies and missionary pamphlets were set out on
That winter, however, the Christmas season the basement tables as well.
brought a more disturbing concern to the Red City The upshot of that year’s bazaar was that the Red
Latter-day Saints. For years, the branch had partic- City holiday shoppers, who were used to flocking
ipated in the local Christian churches’ Christmas to the Mormon tables each December, crowded the
crafts bazaar held in the town hall the first Saturday basement, to the detriment of the other churches’
in December. The previous year, however, the Mor- displays upstairs. The Red City Branch ended up
mons had been relegated to the basement of the not only drawing the crowds away from the main
hall while all the other Christian churches in town floor but also selling the largest amount of goods
sold their goods in the gymnasium. The pastor of and making the largest amount of money of any of
another church, who had been put in charge of the the other churches.
bazaar, had hinted that since the Mormons were Several copies of the Book of Mormon had been
not really a Christian church, they should not be sold or given away as well. Most interesting of all,
allowed full participation. the experience had the unexpected effect of creating
Robbie, Tess, and several other vocal members of for the branch some secular, but sympathetic, sup-
the branch had risen to the missionary challenge. port among Red City citizens because of the unfair
They sent letter to other churches with the name way in which the Mormons had been treated.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints No one was more pleased about this than Rob-
clearly printed on the stationery. They arranged a bie, although he instructed the members over the
meeting with the pastor in charge of the bazaar and pulpit at the next sacrament meeting to be sports-
leaders of the other churches and explained to them manlike about their triumph. The members took

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the advice to heart, and even Eva Allman, who had With a motion like a giant magnet being pulled
sold two lone-start quilts at five hundred dollars from a refrigerator, Robbie turned around and
apiece and donated a substantial part of that to the walked from the pastor’s office, but he turned again
branch budget, felt humble and grateful, although and paused at the door. “Pastor,” he said brightly,
she couldn’t help but snicker a little on the inside. “my church ladies and I will see you bright and
When October rolled around the next year, Rob- early December fourth with our goods. If there isn’t
bie put on his best cowboy hat, made what he a space saved for us at the hall, we’ll make one.
thought was an admirable effort to tone down the Have a nice day.”
satisfaction he felt, and strode to the parish of When the word leaked quickly through the
the pastor who was once again chairing the inter- branch about the pastor’s attitude, the indignant
church bazaar. “Well, pastor,” Robbie boomed with Saints split down the middle as to what should
a smile, “can The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter- be done. Some wanted to burst upon the bazaar
day Saints count on a space this year in the Christ- just the same as Robbie had promised the pastor
mas bazaar?” they would do. Others were insulted to the point
The pastor, who had sat back down at his desk of wanting to boycott the bazaar completely and
after shaking Robbie’s hand, rose again from his forever.
chair and looked solemn and just a little haughty. Bella Angeletto, whose husband was inactive and
“I’m sorry, Mr. Gibbons,” he said, “but I’m afraid a one of the wealthiest ranchers in the county, thought
few things have changed since we talked about this the LDS members should go on record as saying
last year.” they would never even wish to be a part of a bazaar
“What do you mean?” asked Robbie steadily, man- that had already relegated them to the basement
aging with an effort to keep from inserting the hell and had refused to recognize them for who they
into the middle of his question. really were. “What do we need with those other
“I mean, Mr. Gibbons,” said the pastor evenly, churches anyway?” she huffed. “We can just hold
“that we have already discussed the fact that your our own bazaar and show them all up!”
church does not espouse Christian doctrine in the
Robbie entertained the idea of holding a Mor-
same spiritual way that we other churches know to
mon Christmas crafts sale the week before the
be theologically correct. Therefore, we believe any
interchurch bazaar and discussed it with Tess, then
further participation by your group in a Christian
with Veda and her two counselors. He pointed out,
church bazaar would be inappropriate. We hope
you understand our decision.” however, that the Mormons should not give any
Robbie, who had turned beet-red, struggled to suggestions of truth to the idea circulating in the
speak calmly. “No, I don’t understand it,” he said. town that Mormons were not truly a Christian
“Or, if I do understand it, I understand that you’re church. The community bazaar was the rightful
just plain pissed—” He started over. “That you’re place to be, he said, and that’s where the Red City
just mad that our members have always made bet- Branch should plan to go.
ter sales than any of the other churches, or that us Veda blinked back the tears. “The sisters have
being there makes people start asking questions already spent two homemaking meetings making
about our church and reading some of our materi- bazaar items,” she said in a quivery voice, “but I
als. I think you’re being just plain ornery, and I for don’t want to cause any trouble in the community.
one ain’t going to stand for it.” It wouldn’t be good for our missionary efforts.”
“Mr. Gibbons,” said the pastor with an icy clam, In the end, Robbie persuaded the branch women
“I’m sorry if you’re upset, but this is not my decision to plan on the interchurch bazaar as usual and,
alone. The other church leaders will back me up on when the designated date came, to exert a peaceful
it. You simply must not plan to participate this but determined entrance into the town hall. “The
year. We do not expect to see your people selling at community members will all come in our support,”
the bazaar. No space will be reserved.” he said heartily. “If they want us to stay, who can

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tell us to leave?” Still, he promised Tess, Veda, and • • •

other doubtful faces in the Relief Society that Saturday, December fourth, dawned sunny but
the Mormons would come in peace and, if neces- bitter cold. At 7:30 A.M. the electronic time-and-
sary, turn and leave in peace without causing any temperature monitor at the Red City Bank regis-
trouble. However, to Robbie’s dismay, Veda’s docil- tered twenty-seven degrees below zero as Robbie,
ity about his suggestion to crash the bazaar was not David, Floyd, and several of the other brethren
shared by his own counselors—Dave, who was a local hoisted folding tables and chairs from pickup trucks
merchant, and second counselor Grant Marsten, and carted them into the town hall, their breath
a young, married college student—or by his elders puffing out in great clouds in front of them as they
quorum president. worked. Veda and her two counselors, plus Tess
“Just what is going on here?” Robbie’s irritation and her fourteen-year-old daughter, Megan, fol-
with his counselors and with Floyd was ill-con- lowed with boxes and sacks full of crafts and treats.
tained at the next PEC meeting. “Just what do I Representatives from several of the other churches
have to do to get some support for what needs to were busily setting up their displays in the gymna-
be done?” Robbie set aside the bazaar question for sium, and already most of the floor space seemed
the moment and backtracked to the previous August, taken, so Robbie motioned his group downstairs.
when the membership records for nine new college The Mormons trekked with their materials to the
students had rolled in. Not one of those students basement, snapped on the lights, and exchanged
had yet been out to church. smiles that testified memories of last year’s selling
“Your class could be three times as big as it success.
is,” Robbie fumed at Floyd, who doubled as a Gratefully, the members unburdened themselves,
Wednesday-night institute teacher. unfolded table legs, and began uprighting the fur-
“We called all those students and invited them niture for their displays. Cloths were on tables, and
to Sunday meetings and institute,” said Floyd, the room was beginning to look almost the way
more meekly than defensively. “They all have home it had the previous year, when there was a voice at
teachers, too. It’s just that none of them are inter- the door.
ested in getting involved in the Church here. I’ve “Mr. Gibbons, I thought I had made myself
known that for years. You just can’t get most stu- clear.” The pastor’s voice was subdued, but his face
dents to come out.” was red and twisted with a venomous look. Robbie
“I told you that sometimes you just have to go took a step toward him. “Pastor, look,” he began.
to the dorms on Sunday mornings and get those “We’re down here where we can’t hurt any . . .”
people out of bed,” Robbie persisted, thumping his “Leave!” The pastor was shouting now. “I told
desk with his fist. Floyd, who could be persuaded you your church has no place in a Christian church
to chop down pine trees in double-digit, sub-zero bazaar. Now leave!”
temperatures, had no intention of dragging college For a split second, Robbie honestly tried to turn
students from their dorm beds on Sunday morn- the other cheek. In fact, he thought of doing it lit-
ings. It wasn’t that he didn’t admire Robbie’s deter- erally, of inviting to pastor to actually hit him, in an
mination; it was just that that was the sort of thing effort to defray the other man’s anger and bring
he simply couldn’t do. He was sufficiently abashed him to reason. Somehow, though, he found himself
by Robbie’s visible aggravation, however, to prom- feeling a little too much the way he had felt when
ise to go along with him on the bazaar. “Robbie, he caught the college guys urinating in his bushes.
you’re the branch president, and I support you,” “You son of a bitch!” cried the representative of
Dave added. “I just hope this works out.” Grant the LDS Church in Red City, Montana. “We ain’t
nodded his support but looked pale. Over the next going to be pushed around this way!” The pastor
few weeks, the branch kitchen filled with more and looked alarmed and took a couple of steps back-
more boxes of items to sell at the bazaar. wards. “We’ve earned the right to be here!” Robbie

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fumed. “The public wants us here, and . . .” Red with President Dave Joost and the stake presidency,
faced and shaking, Robbie paused to draw a breath. he still couldn’t make a commitment. During the
“And we’re Christian, dammit! We’re more Christ- months that followed, he came to church, but not
ian that you’ll ever be!” so regularly anymore. And, as much as he nour-
The pastor’s instincts kicked in all at once, and ished and cherished his testimony in the privacy of
he tried to duck, but not quite in time. Robbie his own soul, he couldn’t still the small, nagging
lunged for him with an outstretched fist and caught ennui that lay in the back of his mind and the dull
him on the side of the nose. The pastor plopped to ache that persisted deep within his heart.
the floor on his backside, shaking his head in a And sometimes late on those Sunday nights
befuddled way. He put his hand to his nose, then when the stake presidency from Missoula had vis-
looked horrified at the blood that had oozed onto ited the branch, keeping most of the other male
his fingers. His appalled look settled on the LDS members in meetings all afternoon, or when the
branch president. Robbie, who had immediately sister missionaries were now safely quartered at
snapped to his senses, reached out a hand to help Bella Angelleto’s ranch house, or when the nine
the pastor up, words of apology already stumbling branch choir members had sung “God of Our
from his lips, but the pastor brushed him aside and Fathers,” Robbie, with his body pressed against
drew himself up. “Mr. Gibbons,” the pastor said Tess, Robbie, the cowboy, Robbie, the Vietnam vet
in a voice barely audible but still shaky with anger. who jumped out of choppers into rivers, and Rob-
“I trust I will never see you or any of your people bie, the former President Gibbons of the Red City
at this event again.” He turned and headed up Branch, would draw a shuddering sigh. And, on
the stairs. occasion, he would creep outdoors to the side of
Tess and Megan were instantly at Robbie’s side, the garage to a hiding place in the snow and seek
each one stroking a shoulder. The other members solace in a way he had not for many years—with a
advanced and reached out to him, but he backed six-pack of Coors—while he reflected on his own
away. The silence that followed seemed endless and kind of chastening.
unbearable to the sorrowful members, who, at that
point, wanted nothing more than to support their Helynne Hollstein Hansen is an associate professor
branch president. Actually, only about one minute of language at Western State College in Gunnison,
passed before Robbie softly said, “Let’s go.” Colorado, and a former visiting professor of French at
When the stake presidency came up from Mis- Brigham Young University. She received her Ph.D. in
soula, they were kind and cheerful and said noth- French from the University of Utah. She is a former
ing more than that they thought the time had come staff writer for the Deseret News and Church News.
to bring some changes to the branch presidency.
None of the Red City members asked questions,
sought explanations, or volunteered any informa-
tion. Their silence was less a show of respect for the
stake leaders than for the branch presidency as it
most recently had stood.
In April, as the spring sun finally began to melt
away some of Red City’s most stubborn patches of
snow, there was an agreement among the branch
leaders to call Robbie into the elders quorum pres-
idency. It was a small quorum, but Floyd had had
only one counselor for several months, and he
really needed more help. Robbie thought about it.
He even prayed about it. But in his next interview

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F I C T I O N Elder Kirkland had come into the mission like a

thunderbolt. He baptized three people his first
Checkmating Elder Kirkland month in a mission that rarely saw more than fif-
teen baptisms per missionary in their entire two
By Matt Crosby years. Everyone knew he was going to be A.P. It was
only a matter of time. Elder Kirkland feigned apa-
One cold morning, in the front room of a small thy, but he knew it too.
apartment, on the east side of a small town, at the First, however, there was this one assignment.
north end of a small mission, Elder Kirkland tried Elder Fetcher had been out four months. He was
to kill his companion. He didn’t like the way he not a model missionary. It wasn’t that he was par-
made his cornflakes. The attack, and the fray that ticularly disobedient or lazy, just remarkably indif-
ensued, caused enough clamor that the landlady ferent. There was no urgency about him, no fervent
phoned the mission home and, in a state of severe desire to work or to baptize. Elder Fetcher just
agitation, begged the secretary to send help before wanted to do his time and go home.
she was forced to call the police. The secretary President Stanford sent Elder Kirkland to the
passed the information on to the assistants, who area with a charge.
made a quick phone call, and twenty minutes later “I have an assignment for you, Elder.”
the local zone leader was knocking on the two eld- “Yes, President?”
ers’ door. “I want you to help Elder Fetcher. I want you to
“It’s open.” turn him around.”
The zone leader entered to find the apartment “Yes, President.”
decimated and the two elders lying spent and bat- Elder Kirkland didn’t intend to let President
tered in the living room. Stanford down, and the night before the transfer he
Inquiries were made, interviews were conducted, prayed fervently that he might be successful.
questions were asked, and explanations were given. “I know there is a great missionary in Elder
The following story emerged. Fetcher just waiting to come out, Heavenly Father.
• • • Please help me to show him the way. Please help
Their first morning as companions, Elder Kirk- me to be a great example. I know that with Thy
land sat in the front room eating his cornflakes. help we can bring him around.”
Elder Fetcher, his new companion, was in the Now here he was, his first morning in the new
shower. Elder Kirkland was the older of the two area, and he could see he would need all the help he
missionaries but the new arrival to the area. Look- could get.
ing quietly around the apartment, he could see that Elder Kirkland heard the shower shut off, and
Elder Fetcher arrived in the kitchen, partially dressed,
his work was cut out for him. Dirty shirts were
a few minutes later.
strewn from one end of the apartment to the other,
“Good morning, Elder Fetcher.”
while clean ones hung from a clothesline strung
“Good morning.”
across the front room. Church books and investi-
“We’re going to have a great day today.”
gator records were scattered wherever there was “Sounds good.”
space. Blue planners were everywhere. Elder Fetcher grabbed a bowl and a spoon and
He sighed. It was going to be a long haul with sat down at the table. He used both hands to cen-
this one. ter the bowl in front of him, then he placed the
He had helped reform plenty of elders, but this spoon at its side.
was a severe case. The area had not baptized in over “Listen, Elder,” said Elder Kirkland, “I had a
a year. The records were a mess. It was going to thought.”
take a real concentrated effort to get things back “Okay,” said Elder Fetcher. He set the box of
on track. cornflakes, the sugar, and the milk in a semicircle

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around his bowl. Then he took a deep breath and take a lunch break, and not just any lunch break—
cracked his knuckles. he was going to take an hour lunch break. Elder
“I know that usually we would have personal Kirkland tried to overrule him, but he was quickly
study and companionship study this morning, but referred to the white handbook, which specified an
instead we’re going to take some time to clean up hour lunch break was to be taken, and had to
the apartment.” relent. A similar incident arose at dinnertime, with
Elder Fetcher poured a few cornflakes in his a similar result. And so, every day at mealtime,
bowl, followed by a sprinkle of sugar and a splash Elder Kirkland stood in the park and street con-
of milk. tacted while Elder Fetcher sat on a bench and ate.
“What do you think?” asked Elder Kirkland. Elder Kirkland was not accustomed to being
“Sure, whatever,” said Elder Fetcher. He poured overruled. He was not accustomed to losing. He
a few more cornflakes in his bowl and topped them had been captain of the football team and a starter
off with a sprinkle of sugar and a splash of milk. for the basketball team. He was accustomed to hard
“I just think that the Spirit will be a lot stronger work. He was accustomed to success. He had a
in a clean apartment.” quick smile and a pleasant disposition, but he cou-
A few cornflakes, a little sugar, a splash of milk. pled them with a peculiar intensity. He wore out
“What do you think?” companions faster than he wore out shoes. Several
“Sure, yeah.” A few cornflakes, a little sugar, a had begged the mission president to be transferred
splash of milk. away because they couldn’t match his drive. He was
“We’re going to have a lot of success in this area. a young man who got his way. He was polished. He
We’re going to turn this place around.” was efficient. He was polite. He called men sir and
A few cornflakes, a little sugar, a splash of milk. women ma’am, and what he set his mind to you
“Elder?” said Elder Kirkland. could consider done.
“What?” said Elder Fetcher. He put the cap back Elder Fetcher wasn’t impressed. He regarded Elder
on the milk and picked up the spoon. Kirkland with sarcasm and selective tolerance. He
“Do you always make your cornflakes like that?” was willing to go along for the most part, but there
“Yup.” He took a bite, and a deep breath came were certain concessions he wasn’t going to make.
through his nose as he sat back in his chair, chew- He wasn’t going to be disobedient, but he was
ing with satisfaction. going to take what was coming to him. Elder Kirk-
land could be as vigorous as he liked, as long as it
Their first week they tracted nearly fifty hours didn’t rob Elder Fetcher of his God-given rights.
and did what work they could with the members in Two of those rights were lunch and dinner.
the area but didn’t teach one first discussion. There The fact that Elder Kirkland couldn’t win the
were few people who would listen. Every night meal-skipping debate was an annoyance, and it was
Elder Kirkland prayed for success and for help in only the first of several. On one particular occasion
reforming Elder Fetcher. during their first week together, a dispute arose
There were also the beginnings of tension in the over the brisk pace at which Elder Kirkland trav-
relationship. Elder Fetcher was not taking to some eled between doors.
of Elder Kirkland’s reform measures. On their first “Easy Tex,” said Elder Fetcher, “who made the
afternoon together, an incident arose when Elder jump to light speed?”
Kirkland announced they would not be taking a “Elder,” said Elder Kirkland, “President Spencer W.
lunch break. Elder Kirkland had not taken a lunch Kimball said that if you knew what he knew, if you
break since he had come into the mission, and he saw what he saw, you would run between houses.”
spent the better part of fifteen minutes attempting “And have you?”
to bring Elder Fetcher over to his way of thinking, “Have I what?”
but Elder Fetcher knew his rights. He was going to “Seen what he’s seen.”

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“No.” “I’m sorry,” said Elder Fetcher, “I could have

“Then slow down.” sworn you just said we were going to skip P-day
That was the way things went. And every morn- tomorrow.”
ing there were the cornflakes. A few cornflakes, a “I did.” said Elder Kirkland.
little sugar, a splash of milk. Elder Kirkland watched “And did hell freeze over?”
with silent fascination. “Excuse me?”
“How long have you been making your corn- “Hell must be frozen over for you to even sug-
flakes like that?” gest that.”
“I dunno.” “You ought to be willing to do it, Elder.”
“I am willing. When hell freezes over.”
There was another item of contention. Elder “It will show the Lord how serious we are about
Fetcher was a bit of a chess enthusiast. He owned a baptizing.”
small chess set, and every night he would play him- “That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.”
self a game of chess before he went to bed. “I’m serious.”
“You shouldn’t be playing chess, Elder,” said “Forget it. Read your white handbook. We’re
Elder Kirkland. “It isn’t P-day.” supposed to take a P-day every week.”
“It relaxes me.” “Quit referring to the white handbook every
“Well, find something to relax you that doesn’t time you want to be lazy. There’s nothing wrong
break the rules.” with working extra hard to show the Lord you
“Where does it say I can’t play myself a game of mean it.”
chess?” “Well, actually, maybe I’m wrong.”
“You should write in your journal.” “Okay then.”
“I already have.” “If hell freezes over, there’ll be no reason to skip
“You should read your scriptures.” P-day. Guess you’re out of luck all around.”
“I read them this morning.” Elder Fetcher laughed and walked away, leaving
“I don’t think playing chess is going to make you
Elder Kirkland to wonder how he was going to pull
a better missionary.”
this companionship together.
“I don’t think it’s going to make me a worse
That night, as he sat writing in his journal, an
idea struck him.
“I think you should put that game away.”
Maybe, he wrote, I’m not being enough of a friend
“Because I don’t feel good about it.” to Elder Fetcher. If I’m going to help him, I’ve got to
“Well, then you should be grateful it’s me play- love him more. I’ve got to develop our friendship. I
ing and not you.” think that since tomorrow is P-day, I’ll offer to play
Elder Kirkland couldn’t win the battle, and he him a game of chess. I used to be pretty good at chess,
resigned himself to giving Elder Fetcher the silent and I know he likes it. Maybe that will be something
treatment every night at chess time. Elder Fetcher we can build on.
didn’t notice. The next day, Elder Fetcher was happy to oblige.
He set up the pieces and let Elder Kirkland take the
When the two had been together almost a week, first move. For the first time he began asking Elder
Elder Kirkland made a startling announcement. Kirkland questions about himself. Yes, Elder Kirk-
“Elder, we’ve been working for a week and haven’t land had played chess before, and yes, he liked it,
had any success. I’ve decided we should skip P-day and yes, he was pretty good at it, and no, he didn’t
tomorrow.” want to take that move back, and no, he didn’t want
They had just finished tracting for the night and his queen back, and no, he didn’t want a hint, and
were on the street, walking home. yes, he knew he was in check. As it happened, they

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played six games, and as it happened, Elder Kirkland “You know,” he said the next morning at break-
lost all six times. fast, “I really don’t like the way you make your
Whether baptizing or playing a game, Elder cornflakes.”
Kirkland was not in the habit of being beaten. “Why not?”
He didn’t like anyone to be faster, he didn’t like “Because it’s stupid.”
anyone to be funnier, and he didn’t like anyone to “I like it.”
be smarter. With each loss he became more deter- “Why can’t you just mix them around like every-
mined to win the next one, only to lose again. body else?”
“They don’t get mixed evenly.”
For what it was worth, the token worked. Elder “How evenly do cornflakes need to be mixed?”
Fetcher’s attitude toward Elder Kirkland improved “Is something wrong, Elder Kirkland?”
dramatically. He even seemed genuinely happy to “Never mind.”
go tracting that night. Elder Kirkland was more sullen that day. He did-
But there was a cloud over Elder Kirkland. He n’t seem to have any enthusiasm for the work. That
rarely spoke for the next three days. Elder Fetcher night he even stopped to eat dinner with Elder
asked him several times if he was all right, to which Fetcher. They sat on a park bench together eating
Elder Kirkland responded curtly in the affirmative. hamburgers from a local fast-food restaurant.
Each night, Elder Fetcher sat playing himself a game “It’ll come to you, y’ know,” said Elder Fetcher.
of chess while Elder Kirkland wrote silently in his “What will?” said Elder Kirkland.
journal. He watched Elder Fetcher and the chess- “Chess. You’ll get it eventually.”
board out of the corner of his eye but said nothing. “What does that have to do with anything?”
On the night of the third day, Elder Kirkland “Well, I’m just saying that you shouldn’t get too
finished writing in his journal earlier than usual. upset about losing. Chess doesn’t come overnight.”
Elder Fetcher was playing his usual game of chess. “I’m not upset about losing. I don’t even care
Elder Kirkland sat watching him and fidgeting about chess.”
with his pen. “Are you sure? Because you’ve been really salty
“Well,” he finally said, “I’m all done writing the last few days.”
in my journal. I guess I’ll just go to bed a little “It’s because I’m concerned that we’re not
early tonight. Do you want to have companionship baptizing.”
prayer?” “I see. Well, I’m sure it’ll pick up,” said Elder
“Sure,” said Elder Fetcher. He set down his game. Fetcher. He patted Elder Kirkland on the knee.
When they had finished praying, Elder Fetcher “What do you say we get back to work?”
went back to his game, but Elder Kirkland lingered. They played chess every night that week and ten
“Hey, Elder Fetcher,” he said, shuffling his feet, times on P-day, and with each game Elder Kirkland
“do you want to play a quick game?” grew more desperate for a win. All he could think
“Tonight?” said Elder Fetcher. about was chess. At night when he closed his eyes,
“Sure. I mean, if you want to.” all he could see was pawn to E4 and knight to C3.
“It isn’t P-day.” During the day between houses, all he could think
“Well, I know, but I’m done writing in my about was his next game. How would he open?
journal, and we don’t have to be in bed for twenty What would he do? What would it take to beat
minutes.” Elder Fetcher just one time? Every night he would
Elder Fetcher smiled a little. “Sure, I guess.” lose again and every morning have to sit and watch
One game became two, and two games became Elder Fetcher layer those cornflakes as if he didn’t
three, and Elder Kirkland went to bed an hour and have a care in the world.
a half later wondering how he was ever going to “You need to keep your pieces in the center
beat Elder Fetcher. more,” said Elder Fetcher one morning as he

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prepared his cornflakes. He was just working on his The next night Elder Kirkland waited an extra
second layer. five minutes to make his opening move, but there
“Huh?” was no burning in his bosom, and he lost again.
“I think you’ll find you can control the game
better if you keep all your pieces in spots where “What’s that?” asked Elder Fetcher the next
they can control the middle of the board.” A few morning.
cornflakes, a little sugar, a splash of milk. “It’s a bowl of cornflakes.”
“I don’t need any chess advice.” “I know it’s a bowl of cornflakes. What is it
“Well, I know, I mean you’re really coming along. doing in my place?”
You’re twice the player you were a few weeks ago. “I made it for you.”
There were a couple times last night I really had to “Why?”
think about what my next move was going to be.” “I wanted you to try a bowl that was made the
A few cornflakes, a little sugar, a splash of milk. normal way.”
“I don’t need encouragement,” said Elder Kirk- “My way is a normal way.”
land, “It’s just a stupid game.” He watched the “Don’t dump it out!”
bowl of cornflakes grow. “I’m sorry, Elder Kirkland, but I know how I like
“I understand,” said Elder Fetcher. “It was just a my cornflakes.”
The days came and went, and nothing changed,
Weeks passed. Elder Kirkland continued to lose. only that it got worse. It began to become clear
They didn’t baptize that month. It was the first that Elder Kirkland was never going to beat Elder
month that Elder Kirkland had gone without a bap- Fetcher. Finally, one night, toward the end of their
tism, and it sent a shockwave through the mission. second month, as another game came to an end,
President Stanford called and gave the two elders Elder Kirkland reached his breaking point.
stern pep talks, but productivity did not increase. “Why do you always have to be so smug when
“It’s not like you don’t have lots of talents too,” you say ‘checkmate’? It’s the tone of your voice.
said Elder Fetcher one day as they walked between Why do you always have to be so arrogant?”
houses. “I mean, you’re a real legend around here. “What are you talking about?”
Maybe chess just isn’t your bag. Maybe baptizing “You see! There you go again, ‘What are you talk-
isn’t mine. People just have different skills.” ing about?’ Like you’re so innocent. I hate this
“For the last time, Elder Fetcher, stop giving me game. I’m sick of it!”
advice about chess. Maybe if you’d spend a little “Maybe it just isn’t your game.”
more time thinking about missionary work and a “Maybe you should shut up!”
little less time thinking about chess, we’d be having “I think you’re taking this too seriously. It’s just
some success.” a game.”
“I’m just trying to make you feel better,” said “You see, there you go. Look how arrogant you
Elder Fetcher. are. It’s easy to be smug when you always win. I’m
“You concentrating on the work would make me sick of your attitude. I’m sick of the way you talk
feel better,” said Elder Kirkland, and they walked down to me. I’m sick of you offering to let me take
on in silence. moves back. I’m sick of your advice, and I’m sick of
“Father in Heaven,” he said that night as he your cornflakes. I hate the way you make your corn-
prayed, “there’s only one thing that’s going to save flakes. Every flake that hits your bowl is like a ham-
this companionship. I’ve thought about the games. mer pounding on my brain. I can’t take it anymore!”
I’ve thought about the moves. I’ve studied it out in “You’re going to have to get used to the way I
my mind. Please bless me with the inspiration to make my cornflakes. That’s the way I like them.”
know which move is the best one. I know that as a Elder Kirkland was silent for a moment, and then
team we can beat Elder Fetcher.” a peculiar serenity seemed to come over his face.

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“No, I’m not,” he said, “because you’re never P O E T R Y

going to make them like that again.”
“I hate to disappoint you, Elder.” Educated Woman
“You won’t.”
They went to bed in silence that night and with- An educated woman
out companionship prayer. Heavy tension filled the wouldn’t sleep in her clothes,
room, and when morning came it had not left. The eye a Harley man,
two elders sat up in bed when the alarm went off. forget to pay the water bill,
Neither moved. Neither spoke. They rubbed the pick up her daughter at the wrong school,
sleep out of their eyes and stared ahead at the wall. neglect her rosebush,
Finally Elder Kirkland turned and spoke. eat chocolate cake for breakfast,
“You will not layer your cornflakes this morning.” feed a mad stray dog,
“Elder Kirkland, I’m sorry, but I’ll layer my wonder if she’ll be homeless in a year.
cornflakes every morning for the rest of my life.”
“Not today.” An educated woman
The morning proceeded as usual. Elder Kirkland would take the garbage out
showered, and while Elder Fetcher showered he sat each Wednesday morning
down to his own bowl of cornflakes. He ate slowly (Tuesday night on a good day),
and carefully. As he ate, he stared ahead. By the sing each Sunday hymn
time Elder Fetcher arrived at the table, Elder Kirk- in a well-modulated voice,
land was working on his second bowl. Elder Fetcher fill the gas tank when half full,
sat down without looking at Elder Kirkland. He arrange for a babysitter a week ahead,
carefully centered his bowl and set down his spoon. attend the charity ball,
He set the cornflakes, the sugar, and the milk in a and carefully wipe her fingers
half circle around his bowl. There was a moment’s of cheese-cracker residue
pause, and then Elder Fetcher began. A few corn- on a linen napkin,
flakes, a little sugar, a splash of milk; a few cornflakes, paper if necessary.
a little sugar, a splash of milk; a few cornflakes, a
—Laraine Wilkins
little sugar, a splash of milk.
The landlady was jarred awake by a shriek and
Laraine Wilkins is currently a Ph.D. candidate in
the sound of a bowl hitting the wall. By the time the
German literature at Harvard University. She holds a
zone leader arrived, the apartment had been
B.A. and M.A. from Brigham Young University.
destroyed. Elder Kirkland lay against the wall, and
Though she has lived most of her life in Utah, she
Elder Fetcher was sitting a few feet away.
claims Idaho as her home state. She is a single mother
“I’m not mad at you, Elder Kirkland,” he was
who finds her time spread among such diverse activi-
saying. “I’ll bet President will transfer you away,
ties as bench-sitting while her 11-year-old daughter
and you know, I think that’s the best thing. You just
approximates John Stockton moves on the basketball
need to get away from all this chess. All this chess
court, engrossing herself in Nazi movies (she’s section
and all these cornflakes.”
leader for a big undergraduate course on mass culture
in Nazi Germany) or Paul Celan’s poetry, and finding
Matt Crosby graduated from Skyline High School
creative ways to get five-year-olds to keep their shoes on
in Salt Lake City and served in the Australia Sydney
during Primary class.
South Mission. An English major, he lives in Orem,
Utah. This is his first published story.

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F I C T I O N I mean I sometimes wonder if we really realize what

we have.
May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You Tell old Elder Tippetts to get on the stick and
drop me a line or two. I mean I am anxious to hear
By Donald R. Marshall how it feels being home off of his mission.
Well, be good and write again soon. We sure do
October 29, 1968 like to get letters out here.
Dear Elder Dunkley, May the Lord bless you,
I don’t supose you ever heard of me but “Elder” Elder Calbert Dunkley
Marloy Tippets who is from here in Mink Creek P.S. Here is a picture. It isn’t very good but you can
Idaho which I don’t supose you know much about get the general idea.
either said he was your companion for awhile or P.P.S. You wouldn’t happen to have a photo of your-
your supperviser (sp?) or something like that and self would you.
that you was a real “neat” kid and probly wouldn’t P.P.P.S. I was wondering if I might inquire just how
mind getting a letter or two from some body back old you are.
home so I thought I would give it a try.
How are things in Cuba Ohio? I bet its really November 17, 1968
“neat.” What’s it like being on a mission. “Really Dear Elder Dunkley,
neat” I bet. Marloy sure spoke highly of you. He You said write soon so how is this for writeing
sure is a riot. We could of died laughing at his soon. I just got your letter and I thought I would
experiences. sit right down and answer. Boy that picture of you
Well I know your probly too busy to even read was really “neat.” You look at least 25 but I took it
this not to mention how many girls you probly write that you and Elder Tippetts was about the same
age. Or am I wrong. His sister Nilene said he was
to all ready. So you don’t really have to answer this.
just 21 but “you know how he is.” He don’t look a
If you don’t want to that is. Well I better close for
day over sixteen. Or act it either. But he sure is
now. Don’t forget to write. “That is if you want to.”
a riot. I took it from your letter you was more of
Yours truly, the “serious type.” What is your opinion. Do you
Floydene Wallup have any other pictures? How tall are you? Is your
P.S. Do you have any pictures you could spare? hair really as dark as it looks? And what color are
your eyes. You asked how old I am, well I am a sen-
November 15, 1968 ior this year. And I don’t mean in collage neither,
Dear Floydene, “ha ha.”
I couldn’t decide if your letter was a joke or not There’s no news here. I just go to school every
because old Elder Tippetts he sure was a joker and day and come home and make bedspreads. I think
I wouldn’t put nothing past him if you know what a girl ought to prepare for the future. What is
I mean. What I mean is, is your name really Floy- your opinion. I can hardly wait until you write
dene Wallup? Don’t take offence but I mean its not again but I guess you probly have a lot of girls to
the commonest name in the world. That is, not to write to. I don’t know if its any of my business or
me, I mean. not but just tell me one thing do you have any one
This is really an experience for me. I mean who speical girlfriend or do you just “play the field” as
would of ever thought I would be almost two thou- they put it.
sand miles from good old Boulder, Utah. Things Don’t forget to write.
sure are different out here. I mean its quite a hum- “Love ya,”
bling experience to be somewhere where Mormons Floydene
are a minoratie. Boy it sure strengthens your testi- P.S. Here’s a snapshot of I and my girlfriend Miggy
mony fast. I think oft times we take it for granite. I am the cutest one naturally “ha ha.” I guess you’ve

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got so many pictures of girlfriends you won’t have mission right? Tell me all about it. When Marloy
room for this one. If you don’t want it you can send first told me about you I just thought you’d be a
it back. Or throw it away. Maybe you can use it to “good kid” and all but I never knew the half of it.
scare away evil sperits “ha ha.” Marloy said it’d be good for me to write to you and
boy he sure hit the nail right on the head. Your let-
December 3, 1968 ters are better than a Sunday school lesson. I just
Dear Floydene, wish I had half of your knowledge. But I think that
We have sure been busy. I have changed com- if I had someone like you to incourige (sp?) me I
panions and we have been transferred to Okalida, could just be a different person. I all ready am in
Ohio. My new companion is Elder Quilby from fact. Miggy Borup who is the other girl in the pic-
Steamboat Springs, Colorado, and I can tell you ture with me asked me the other day how come I
one thing it sure is a humbling experience to be a was so happy lately and I told her it was probly on
senior companion to such a swell guy. account of this “kid” I was writeing to and I’m sure
Well, you asked some questions. I am twenty it was no lie. I’m just as different as night and day.
years old and thanks a lot about that part about me I just wish we didn’t have to wait between letters
looking twenty five. Was that suppose to be a crack because you have a way of pulling me out of the
about me loosing my hair or what. Anyway I have dumps and making me want to strive to really be
brown hair and sort of blueish eyes and I am six some body. I can’t wait until you come home from
foot three and three quarters. Now let’s hear about your mission. I just look at your picture every
your vital stastistics. I mean how tall are you, ect. night and wish the time would go by fast. Linda
ect. if you look anything like your picture you are Rae Moody is going with Lonnie Shroters (sp?)
sure some dish. If you’ll pardon the expression. Do parents to meet him after his mission but I guess
you have any other pics of just you alone? you’ll have so many girls there to meet you that I
As for being the serious type I guess I never wouldn’t have a chance. How are you comeing
thought much about it. I mean I like a good joke home? By bus or plane or what. I don’t mean to
now and then if that’s what you mean but I think sound anxious or anything “ha ha.” Don’t wait too
we ought to look at the serious side of life too. If long before writeing.
I’ve learned one thing on this mission it has been to Love Ya,
look for the things that are eternal and true and Floydene
praiseworthy and lasting and eternal. If you know P.S. I am sending two boxes of candy to prove to
what I mean. I think you have a good idea to plan you I got more up my sleeves than bedspreads. The
for the future and more girls should do the same. one kind of went to sugar but the other one turned
But tell me do you ever make anything besides bed- out just about right. Hope you can tell which is
spreads. I mean like dish towels, ect. ect. which “ha ha.” You don’t really have to eat either
Well, be good. one if you don’t want.
May the Lord bless you, P.P.S. I almost forgot my vittle stastistics “as you
“Elder” Calbert Dunkley put it.” Well I don’t know as that is something a girl
is supose to tell but lets just say I’m short and sweet
December 5, 1968 “ha ha.” Seriously I am five foot four in my stock-
Dearest “Elder” Dunkley, ing feet and nice and huggable “ha ha.” And you
Boy was I thrilled when I got your letter. I’ve can get all the other details from my picture except
wrote to a “lot of guys” before believe me but when as I have said I have changed a lot since we started
it comes to writeing to you I just can’t help but feel writeing.
this is something “SPEICAL.” Your letters are so P.P.P.S. By the way what are your plans after your
wise. I’ll bet you must of went to collage before your mission.

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December 7, 1968 out about each other for instance how do you feel
Dear Elder Dunkley, about keeping the Sabbath day holy and who is
I could of died after I wrote you that last letter. I your favorite rock group, ect. ect. And for instance
hope it got lost in the mail but it probly didn’t as we have been writing for five or six weeks now and
nothing lucky like that ever happens to me, believe it has just barely come up about me having went to
me. Anyway, I’d just give any thing if I knew you college and all. Yes, I had the privilege of attending
hadn’t of read it yet. But I just know you have. So the college of Southern Utah for two quarters and
don’t hate me too much, okay? Promise me you’ll I am planning on getting more schooling just as
tear it up. How is the weather there. All we ever get soon as I am finished here as I think nothing is
is snow snow SNOW. Do you like to ice skate. I’ve more important than an education. Well, I better
learnt a lot about you already but everytime I seal close. Be good and write whenever you have time.
up a letter I can think of a whole lot of things I May the Lord bless you,
never asked. Maybe that’s why two people need a Elder Dunkley
whole eternity to get to know each other “ha ha.” P.S. Are you sure you put the address right on that
Don’t take me serious, okay? And remember to tear candy?
up that letter cause I was just “goofin.” But I really
do think you’re a “great guy” in my opinion. I bet December 29, 1968
you’re a real good missionery. Don’t forget to write. Dear Elder Dunkley,
“Love ya,” You’ll never know how thrilled I was to get your
Floydene letter at long last. I thought you must of give me up
for good. I was so blue all Christmas I just didn’t
December 27, 1968 know what to do. I wrote you three different letters
Dear Floydene, and Mama wouldn’t let me send a one of them.
I sure been busy. I would of sent you a Christ- I even had you a package all ready to send and she
mas card but we was about the busiest we have ever tried to talk me out of that too but I’m sending it
been, no lie. I suppose you think I’m a real rinky- any way so happy new year and by the way did you
dink (if you’ll pardon the expression) for not ever get my candy?
acknowledging the candy you sent. But to tell the What’s it like out there in Calcutta, Ohio. I bet
truth, Floydene, I never got it. But don’t worry as its “really neat.” It is just cold here. Nothing to do.
I’m sure it was just the Christmas rush and all if Marloy has went in the army as you probly know
you know what I mean. I’m sure it will catch up and so there’s not much doing around here. Not
with us one of these days. And as you noticed we that he ever took us out or anything but boy he
have moved. I have been transferred again to Cal- sure kept us laughing. What a riot.
cutta, Ohio, and after only three weeks in Okalida. You asked about keeping the Sabbath day holey
My new companion is Elder Worley and is he ever and the answer is yes I definitely think so don’t you.
a great kid. It is a humbling experience to be a sen- Although I supose a little TV never hurt nobody.
ior companion to someone who has the knowledge Especially if it is a relig. program or something on
of the gospel he has, I’m telling you. He gave a talk the “serious side” like September Divorce did you
at a baptism we had last week and it just spoke to see it boy was it ever good. To tell you the honest
each and every one of us. No lie, all of us come truth I never use to take church and that stuff
away from there feeling like we had truly had a very serious but since I started writeing to you
spiritual feast. nobody can hardly believe what a changed person
Floydene, my mission will not be over for nearly I am. You also asked about my favorite rock group
seven months. I mean who knows what will hap- boy did that ever get a laugh. You’d have to know
pen between now and then. In the meantime do the whole story but my uncle Fred teaches geology
you realize we’ve got a whole slew of things to find (sp?) and so when Mama read your letter she said is

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he interested in rock collections too or what. I could clothes bag. That was a good idea because we sure
of died. I sure hope her intelligence don’t run in the do have the dirty clothes. Ha Ha. I mean being on
family “ha ha.” a mission sure isn’t like the good old home life. Also
As for your question. I don’t have any speical thanks for the poem you imbrordried on the back.
favorites. I like them all. Esp. Spider Snyder and Did you make it up yourself. No offence, but there
the Black Widdows. They play Saturday nights at is one line that is just a little hard to make out.
Fish Haven during the summer but I have only What are the fourth and fifth words on the third
went twice and both times was with Miggy “big line. I mean the line right after “Proclaiming the
deal” but I am sure Mama would feel different gospel far and wide” that goes “With a heart
about it if I was to go with a return missionery BLANK BLANK unable to ever be denied”?
“hint hint.” Don’t take me serious. I’m beginning to wonder what happened to that
Your right about how much we got to learn candy you sent. We have been very busy but we all
about each other. For instance what is your favorite took a day off last Saturday and went to Lake Erie.
food. I love all kinds, esp. stuff that is really differ- I saw something you would like (I hope) which
ent don’t you I mean like peetsa (sp?) and other would probably look real good with your bed-
Mexican things even if Mama can’t stand it. Well spreads. So I sent it. Let me know if you like it.
what else do we need to know about each other. As for someone for your friend Miggy to write to
And by the way if you’ll think back it is not “as you that is a difficult question. I mean Elder Worley for
put it” five or six weeks that we started writeing but instance thinks his girlfriend Diane is going to wait
is exackly two months today. And I should know as for him and you can’t tell him different. And I
I’ve kept every letter you ever wrote. In order. haven’t showed her picture to anybody yet because
If you don’t think I’ve changed you ought to of you got to admit she does have a “slight problem.”
seen how I wrote letters before we started. I could- And with someone of your dimensions standing the
n’t hardly think of anything to put down on paper side of her it sure don’t show her off to any advan-
other than just hello how are you goodbye that’s all. tage if you know what I mean. But there is one
But look at this one for instance. I have been write- Elder in our district I have thought of. He is sort of
ing this book “ha ha” since supper. It just seems like hefty hisself and so might not mind. Just for kicks,
now things just flow out. Thanks to you. You just anyway, you said, right? How good of friends are
bring it out of me I guess. I could just go on for you with this here Miggy anyway? Don’t let her
ever but I better close. I don’t want to put you to read this but have you ever thought of tackfully
sleep “ha ha.” I just live for your letters. WRITE suggesting to her in a sort of sisterly way I guess
SOON!!! that she might try going on a diet or something.
Love ya, I mean she doesn’t have such a bad face as far as I
“Deenie” can tell from the picture but you got to admit
P.S. Remember my girl friend Miggy that was in that she’s not exactly what you might call another
the picture with me well she asked me to ask you if Rockelle Welch if you get what I mean.
you had any good looking companions that might I have to prepare a lesson on love and charity so
want to write to someone. “Just for kicks.” I better close. Be good.
May the Lord bless you,
January 13, 1969 Elder Dunkley
Dear Floydene,
Your package came and boy was I surprised. Elder January 29, 1969
Worley bet me you made it by hand and I said the Dear Elder Dunkley,
way you knock off those bedspreads I wouldn’t be I guess I’ve wrote at least six letters an tore them
a bit surprised. I wasn’t sure what it was at first but all up. I don’t hardly know how to put this as of
Elder Worley said he was pretty sure it was a dirty course I haven’t had the “collage training” you have

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but maybe you would just as leave not hear from that pillow cover from Lake Eery. I am sorry to of
anyone who don’t look like some “Rockelle Welsh.” wasted all your time when you could have been
I never would of thought you was so picky but I writeing to some of your “cuter” girl friends who
guess I forgot you have went to collage. “Big Deal.” are not “as you put it” so hefty. And as for “going
But just let me ask you this way, did you ever stop on a diet” did you ever stop and think that maybe
and think that a person might had just as good a I have tried as I am a full-fleged member of the
testimony of the gospel even if they was “as you put Tops Chapter of Mink Creek Idaho but of course
it” a little “hefty.” Well I guess I better close so you that wouldn’t interest you because I have a long
will have time to write to all your movie star girl way to go before I would ever look like Rockelle
friends. “BIG DEAL.” Welsh. Don’t bother to answer this as I am sure
Sincerly, your time is too preicous to write to someone as
Floydene J. Wallup dispicable as me.
P.S. Your package came. I supose you’d rather have As ever,
it back to send to some other dish “as you put it.” Floydene J. Wallup
February 3, 1969 February 15, 1969
Dear Floydene, Dear Floydene,
Excuse the postcard but I am in a hurry. I guess Boy do I feel awful. To say nothing of humble.
I never should of brought it up about Miggy being I am sure you must have misinterpreted my mean-
a little on the heavy side. It was just because of the ing. I mean what I meant was that said girl in said
fact that in comparison to you she didn’t hardly photograph could of stood some improvement in
stand a chance. If you know what I mean. But I’ll the weight aspect. That is to say a girl of her obvi-
still keep my eye open for someone to write to her. ous qualities shouldn’t let a little thing like a few
I mean if she’s your friend I’m sure she’s a swell kid. pounds keep her from fulfilling her potential. Let
Hope you didn’t tell her what I said. I apologize for me put it another way, and I mean this: Said girl
being such a big mouth.
would be nothing short of beautiful if she just lost
a little weight. And I mean it, Rockelle Welch or
Elder Dunkley
anyone like her better watch out if said girl lost a
P.S. Keep the package. I meant it for you.
pound or two and that includes Bridget Bardow.
And that’s all I’ve got to say.
February 9, 1969
Dear Elder Dunkley, I suppose you’ll never want to hear from me
You never knew it I guess but I am the one in again and I can’t say as I blame you, but I’ll always
that picture that you must of thought was “as you remember you as somebody that is sure a notch
put it” my HEFTY friend Miggy. So I guess you above the average if not right up there among the
might as well write to her from now on because cream of the crop. And if you just keep up your
she’s a lot more like your Rockelle Welsh than I’ll good qualities you are sure to go far in this world.
ever be. Or ever care to be. So you can just write I hope the Lord will bless you each and every day
and tell her how darling she is yourself if you want of your life.
to because I and Miggy are not on speaking terms Sincerely,
these days as she seems to of went and got about as Elder Calbert Dunkley
high falooting (sp?) as some other people I happen
to know. You can keep the snapshot if you want February 17, 1969
just cut OFF the hefty one “as you put it” and Dear Elder Dunkley,
throw it away if you haven’t all ready did it. Do you I guess I’m the one who should feel awful. And
want back all your letters and your post card and don’t think I don’t. I should of knew that nobody

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with a testimony like your could have been so March 8, 1969

PICKY “as I put it.” I guess I just jumped to con- Dear Floydene,
clusions. But lets let by gones be by gones, okay? Boy have we ever been busy. I know I should of
Forgive and forget, “as Mama puts it.” Boy was I written to thank you for those things you sent. Boy
ever sick when I come to my senses and realized we sure appreciate things from home. But we have
how I almost brokeoff with one of the swellest per- sure been busy. As you can see we have moved
sons that ever lived. I did do the awfulest thing again. My companion here in Waterloo, Ohio, is
though. I hate to tell you and I wouldn’t except I Elder Finlayson. He is sure a great guy and a bless-
want another picture of you so bad. I just did ing to work with. There’s one thing I can say
something terrible. Forgive me will you. I hope you beyond a shadow of a doubt and that is that you
have another picture because I just loved that one. sure get the cream of the crop out here. It is really
Did I ever tell you that it reminded me a little bit a humbling experience and a pleasure indeed to
of that one guy on Mission Impossible. Boy I can work with some any fine and outstanding Elders.
tell you it sure was a strength to me in time of need. I have made up my mind to read all I can and
And now I need it more then ever. improve my vocabulary, ect. etc. as I certainly have
By the way, although I don’t supose you’d be a choice group of fine and outstanding young men
interested, said girl “as you put it” has already lost to emulate from.
three pounds this week and it’s only Thursday. And As I say we sure have been busy. But I sure
what’s more I never should have sent you that haven’t forgot about all the kindness you have
crummy old picture anyway on account of the shown me. I can tell you I sure envy the lucky guy
shadows of the porch and that lawn mower make who gets you for a wife because you sure must be
me look bigger than I ever was and besides that you some cook. Maybe I shouldn’t bring it up but it
wouldn’t of recognized me if you’d of saw me on would be best not to pack cookies in an Axion box.
the street. From that picture I mean. SEND IT But they was sure good though. Keep up the good
BACK! If you haven’t all ready threw it away. I’m work in loosing weight.
Well, I guess I got to close. Be good.
going to have a better one taken as soon as my hair
May the Lord bless you and keep you,
grows out. My school pictures was just terrible (in
Elder Dunkley
fact every body’s was just awful) but I’ll send a
P.S. Don’t worry about the stuff getting here even
“good” one just as soon as I have one taken. I can’t
though we’ve moved. A box of coconut deals was
promise anything exactly “fantastic” but you can
forwarded here just yesterday. But did you send the
judge yourself weather you want to keep it or fruit cake? We didn’t get that.
“throw it away.”
In case you never got that candy I made I am March 10, 1969
sending you some fudge. It is a new resapee (sp?) Dear Elder Dunkley,
and also I am sending some Hawayan Peekaboo I was never thrilled so much in my entire life as
Delite cookies. And I am trying a fruit cake and if when I got your last letter. Boy I sure thought I had
it turns out I’ll send you one. Just don’t move until “goofed.” I just about decided I was never going to
all this gets there okay? Well I better close. Write hear from you as long as I live which sometimes as
soon. blue as I felt didn’t seem like it was going to be too
Love ya, far off. But your letter sure did life my sperits. Now
Floydene I’m back on my diet again. For a while there I was
P.S. Don’t forget to send a picture. “Okay?” just so blue I kept eating and gained back more
P.P.S. At the rate I’m going I could probly really than I had lost but now I know where we stand I
loose a lot of weight if I really thought it might be can promise you I’ll stay on it like you asked and
“worth my while.” What do you think. not disappoint you again. I don’t know if I’ll ever

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be another Rockelle Welsh “as you put it” but I’m you and yet I feel I know you better than any body
going to try with all my mite for the best I can do in the world. How can that be. I’ve never felt so
which if you were telling me God’s honest truth close to any one in my entire life. Please write
might not be so bad. I can tell you one thing for because I just die when I don’t hear from you.
sure no body’s ever made me try harder to really What would you think if I didn’t write for 28 days.
be some body. Or made me feel like I really had Even a post card or anything “when you get a
a chance. minute.” How much would it be to call Mink
I just hope all my “goodies” don’t keep you from Creek. My number is 852-3197 anyway “if you
thinking about your work. But don’t stop envying ever feel the urge.” I would probly just die if I heard
“as you put it” the lucky guy that gets me. Maybe your voice.
you might even have a chance yourself “ha ha.” I don’t even know how it sounds.
Only kidding of course. Please write please write please write please
I am still waiting for that picture. Do you realize right soon.
you will be coming home in just five months. I love you,
Sometimes if I think about it I can’t hardly stand Deenie
it. I just hate this school year and wish it would
end. Do you realize that the dances at Fish Haven April 19, 1969
will be started by the time you get off of your mis- Dear Floydene,
sion. How far is it from Boulder Utah to Mink This will have to be short because we are the
Creek Idaho? busiest we have ever been. I and Elder Whittle are
Write as soon as you can. I need your letters third in our district for giving the most investigator
so bad. discussions in one month. We are trying for first
Love ya, place this month. I guess that’s all the news.
Deenie You had better not send any more food until I
P.S. That fruitcake didn’t turn out. But I’m trying a write again because we might be moving any day
carrot and tomato soup cake that’s suppose to be a and I wouldn’t want any of those delicious things to
snap and not go stale too fast. To say nothing of get lost. Boy how could we be so lucky. But don’t
cheap. Or I guess I should say economcial “as send any more for awhile.
Mama puts it.” That sure is good news that you are loosing
weight. I’ll bet all the guys in school are fighting
April 3, 1969 over you, right? Keep up the good work.
Dear Elder Dunkley, Well I better close for now. Be good.
It has been twenty eight days since your last let- May the Lord bless and keep you,
ter. I am trying not to be discouraged as I know you Elder Dunkley
would of wrote if you was not so busy. Your not
that kind of a person. But I thought you might April 21, 1969
be interested to know the latest which is that said Dear Elder Dunkley,
girl has lost seven pounds and still losing. I even I am sending this air mail speical delivry so you
have to get new clothes now. I made some but they get it before you move in case you are about to move
didn’t turn out. like you said. I also have some things all ready to
I sent for this book on food that’s good for mal- send to you. Lemon Nut Cheers and Barley ByeBye
ing and it tells how to wrap them and all that. Puffs. How does that sound. Be sure to write back
Mama thought I was crazy but I know how you like real soon and tell me where to send them because
to get stuff from “back home.” I never even asked I all ready got them boxed and everything. And
you this but do you have a mother. Its funny some- you would never believe the things I have planned.
times the things I think of that I don’t know about If you don’t think its hard staying on a diet and

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trying to think up things to send to my missionery May the Lord bless and keep you,
you better think twice. But I would do any thing Elder Dunkley
for you. Sometimes I think I would even strave.
I know you are busy but could you please try to May 14, 1969
send that other picture I asked you for I never told Dear Elder Dunkley,
you this but that time when we “broke up” I was so “Long time no hear” so they say. Marloy was
mad I just crumpled your picture up and threw it home on leave after his basic training and asked
in the corner then when I tried to straiten it out about you. I could of probly dated him if I’d of
it was just all crumply and I did the awfulest thing. wanted but I been going with this other kid. As if
I tried to iron it. Now half of your face is stuck on you’d be interested.
the bottom of Mama’s old flat iron which I have I don’t blame you if you never speak to me again.
hid because I just can’t bare to have Mama clean I am so embaraced (sp?) by all those letters I wrote
you off until I get a new one. So now I have told you you. I don’t know what was the matter with me.
I supose you will probly think I’m just crazy but I was just blue I guess. It was the junier prom and
would you please send me one. Even a little one. all and I guess I could of probly went but then
And don’t forget to write on it. PLEASE. Miggy got a date (with Larry Blutz “Big Deal”) and
Every time I write to you (and you would never I just didn’t feel like it. I sure made a lot of bed-
believe the letters I have wrote but didn’t dare send) spreads last winter. Not to mention other things.
I just want to call you Cal so bad. Some times to But around in March I guess it was I just didn’t
myself I even call you Callie. Did anyone every call even feel like doing that. I was sick for awhile too.
you that. I know you are supose to be called Elder As if you’d be interested.
but do you realize your mission is going to be over Anyway school is almost out and will I be glad.
in 103 days and I have to get use to calling you I always thought my senier year would be “neat”
some thing besides Elder don’t I. but was it ever awful. Except now. I been going
Oh Cal, if you only knew how much your letters with this kid from Preston. He don’t go to church
mean to me you would probly never have time to or anything but he’s a “nice kid” if you know what
do any thing but write write write every single day. I mean. I guess he’s what some people might call “a
I don’t know whats happening to me but I just hate little on the wild side” but at least he don’t smoke
school and Mama has just been awful and your all anymore. So he says. Well, I guess I better close.
I have and Cal I love you more than you’ll ever I been so busy but if I get a chance I will send you
know. I just wish you was here right now. some fudge or some thing soon.
Do you realize you have never told me how you Love ya,
really feel. Floydene
My heart aches for you
Deenie May 29, 1969
Hi Elder Dunkley,
April 29, 1969 I am incloseing my graduation anouncement. As
Hi Floydene, if you’d be interested. Anyway, I finely made it. At
I just have time for a post card because we are so least “I hope.” Graduation is not till next friday.
busy. Guess what we made second in the district. I am sorry I have not had time to send you any
Floydene, I hope you are going out with a lot of thing yet. This kid I been going with is so jelous
guys because three months is a long way off and you wouldn’t believe it. He would probly kill me if
who can tell what might happen. he knew I was still writeing to you. But the way I
And please don’t send any more cakes and candy figure it its my own life isn’t it. But we sure have
airmail. Thanks for the mittens you nitted. They had some fun times. Mama just can’t stand him but
will be handy next fall. as I say I guess its my own life isn’t it. So I usually

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have to sneak out and meet him at the A and W in I have hardly thought of anything else for a week
Preston or somewhere. or so.
Well I guess you are probly about as busy as I want you to know I am sincerely concerned
I am. Dances start out at Fish Haven right after about what happens.
decoration day. Which means I will have to go to Elder Dunkley
the grave yard with Mama to put flowers on my
father’s grave. I supose I should feel sad or some- June 13, 1969
thing but I don’t on account of I never even seen Dear Floydene,
him. But in the afternoon this kid named “Cliff ” I I will never forgive myself if I don’t write and try
told you about said he’d take me on his moter cycle. to express how I feel. I mean I have been hoping
Well write if you get a chance. you would write every day but there has been noth-
Love ya, ing. Is it that you haven’t wrote at all or have you
Floydene put the wrong address on it.
P.S. If Miggy does get a camera for graduation I will Floydene I can’t stress enough what I feel in my
ask her to take a picture of me. You would never heart. Every day I have thought about it. And I
believe how I have changed. I lost so much weight can’t help but feel that I have been to blame. If so
when I was sick. And I’m letting my hair grow out forgive me. I never thought that I could be so con-
as he said he’d kill me if I didn’t. cerned about someone I have only become close to
in letters but I feel beyond a shadow of doubt that
June 5, 1969
I have not give you the kind of help and under-
Dear Floydene,
Thank you for the announcement. I am sending standing I should of. If your life is ruined because
you a book that I sure was impressed with. (I sup- of me I will never get over it.
pose it is not correct to end sentences with a prep- Floydene if you get this letter please sit right
asition but it sure sounds funny the other way if down and answer it by return mail.
you want my honest opinion.) Be sure and read Floydene I have did a lot of thinking and I have
this book though because it contains some out- been simply amazed at all the things you’ve did for
standing messages that are indeed inspiring and me this past year. I know I should be sorely chas-
uplifting. And be sure to tell me what you think. tised as I never once showed appreciation like I
Especially tell me what you think about the one on know now I should of. I doubt that there was ever
preparing your selves for the temple and how a missionary that lived that was ever as blessed as I
important eternal marriage is. I sometimes think was. And didn’t know it. Floydene I know I didn’t
that oft times we under estimate the true impor- half deserve all the things you sent. It just makes
tance. I know I never really understood until I me sick to think of all the ingredients you must of
come out here. But I sure know now. bought. To say nothing of the stamps. Floydene if
Floydene I don’t hardly know how to put this I have failed you I will never forgive myself. When
but I have been praying about you and I don’t I reread those letters you wrote me in March and
know if it is right for you to go with that boy. How April I just feel like a heal. Nobody ever wrote me
old is he and is he a member and are you sure he is letters like that before.
the one you would want to take you to the temple. Floydene it is late at night and I just have not
I hope you are giving it a lot of serious thought. been able to sleep because of you. I mean I can’t
And have you prayed about it. hardly look at that dirty clothes bag without think-
Floydene I hope you will understand my con- ing how I have probably really messed things up.
cern for you. Please don’t go and do nothing you I pray that it will not be too late. I mean you are
may one day have to be sorry for. I mean it is still young and have such a future ahead of you.
important to think of the eternal end of it. Have You need a chance to go to college and become a
you talked with your bishop. sweet young bride and mother.

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Floydene please reassure me it is not to late. it is to late to try and get in. I would be scared
From one who cares with all his heart, to death. But with your brains to support me and
Elder Calbert Dunkley incourige me who knows what might happen.
“Cal” I might even get a collage degree and be “as you put
it” your sweet young bride and mother besides.
June 16, 1969 Let’s put it this way I would be scared out of my
Dearest Cal, wits to go to the BYU or anywhere else but I am
Was I ever thrilled to get your letter. I just should yours and you hold the priesthood and whatever
of knew every thing would work out all right. you say I will do it.
I guess I’m just about the happist girl in the world. Yours forever and more my darling,
I can tell you I sure learnt my lesson. Cliff and me Your Deenie
had some good times all right but I wouldn’t trade
all five times I met him at the A and W for one of June 21, 1969
the letters you wrote me since school ended and Dear Floydene,
that includes the time at the grave yard too. Excuse the post card but we have been awful
I would of answered you sooner but we had to busy. I think I am going to be transferred again.
go to Minidooka as my aunt took sick and needed Floydene I think we both ought to pray about
someone to take care of the kids. Boy was they ever things.
a handful. Talk about busy. And cook all the meals May the Lord bless you,
besides. But I guess it was good practice “ha ha.” Elder Dunkley
I was going to write you right after Cliff and me P.S. Thanks for the cookie-like things.
“broke up.” It was the day before decoration day.
But was you ever right he wasn’t really “my Type.” June 26, 1969
But I wish we wouldn’t of broke up until after dec- Dearest Cal,
oration day as I was really looking forward to that I have read the part about temple marrage and it
moter cycle ride. I guess you don’t have one do you. just thrills me to reread your letter where you talk
Anyway when I come home there was not only about me becoming your wife and mother “as you
one letter waiting for me but two and was I ever put it.” I just live for your letters. I kind of hoped
thrilled. It couldn’t of happened at a better time I’ll you would of wrote more before now. It has been
tell you that. To say nothing of the book. Believe it thirteen days not counting your post card and I can
or not I am all ready on page 43. I don’t understand hardly wait. But I know your busy. I hope every-
it all but I can tell you one thing it sure does make thing is “all right.” Now that you will be getting off
you stop and think. of your mission in nineteen days I all most count
I am mixed up about what your plans are. I want the hours. How about you.
to “reassure” you “as you put it” that it is NOT to I have planned some thing good to send you
late and I will wait faithfully as I have never felt this every day left of your mission. When is the last day
way about anyone else. And that includes Cliff. But I should send some thing to you so you will be sure
as you mentioned collage I am wondering if you and get it and what do you want for the last day to
think I ought to get a semester behind me first. Or celebrate. You choose because I want it to be some-
what do you think. Nobody could of imagined me thing speical. You never stated a prefrance. I kind
going to collage a year ago. Or even a month. But of like those brasilyan beauty Bongo bars. What is
like I said I’m as different as night and day. Are you your opinion.
going to the BYU or back to that Collage of South I have almost memorized your letters. I love the
Utah or whatever it is, I hear the BYU is getting so part about how close we have became. Isn’t it
big and you got to be real smart to get in. Have you the truth. But sometimes I am not sure I remember
ever thought of Ricks. I mean its close. I wonder if how you look. Do you know the only picture I

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have of you is still the one on the bottom of our old F I C T I O N

flat iron.
The dances have started out at Fish Haven. I For the Strength of the Hills (Part Two)
probly could of gone but every body knows I’m
waiting for my missionery. I keep telling myself By Lee Allred
only nineteen days only nineteen days. Should I
meet you or what? I hope every thing is “all right.” [Part one of this story appeared in the winter
I am so crazy about you I could die. I love you 2000–2001 issue of IRREANTUM. The story thus far:
with all my heart and sole. Johnston’s army has spent three winters at Fort
“Your bride to be” Bridger, trying to force their way down Echo Canyon
Deenie to Salt Lake City. The Mormons have been able to
hold them off with the help of mechanical guns, simi-
July 16, 1969 lar to Gatling guns, created by Jonathan Browning.
Dear Floydene, General Johnston is trying again, with the help of new
This is a postcard of main street in Dodge City, rapid-fire mechanical guns. The Agar guns are the
Kansas. I am on my way home. With my parents. charge of Captain Peck, whose sister had “run off ”
I will not get time to see you this summer because with the Mormons.]
I have to get home and get right into school. My
grades were not good enough for BYU but I’m try- The column wound for miles back through the
ing a couple of junior colleges. Maybe we will both narrow switchbacks of Echo Canyon. There were
get to BYU some day. Who knows. If you see me few wagons, even fewer spare oxen. Johnston had
on campus and don’t say “Hi” I’ll never forgive you. ordered them slaughtered, butchered, and salted
Be good. Hope everything is all right. down. There simply wasn’t enough forage; it’d all
May the good Lord bless and keep you, been set to the torch by the Mormons. Most of the
Your brother in the gospel, horses had been sent back with Stuart to Ft. Leav-
“Elder” Calbert Dunkley enworth. Johnston saved a few for a small number
of cavalry vedettes and a few more to pull the
Donald R. Marshall earned the award in fiction artillery pieces, but none to pull the carriages of
from the Association for Mormon Letters for his book the Agars. Captain Peck and his men pushed and
Frost in the Orchard in 1978. He is an emeritus pro- pulled the gun carriages toward Salt Lake City like
fessor of humanities at Brigham Young University, some grotesque parody of the Mormon handcarts.
where for years he oversaw the International Cinema Ferguson eyed the walls of the canyon suspi-
program. “May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You” ciously. The south face was green with brush and
comes from The Rummage Sale, recently reprinted in scrub and deceptively smooth and sloping. You
the Mormon Literary Library series by Tabernacle didn’t realize until you tried climbing how steep it
Books (1999). He and his wife, Jean, live in Provo, really was. The barren north face was different
Utah. entirely. The north face rose in a sheer vertical line.
It seemed almost as if the rough blocks of yellow
sandstone formed the battlements and ramparts of
a castle wall.
“I don’t like it, Cap’n,” Ferguson grunted as they
heaved the gun carriage out of a muddy rut. “I don’t
like it at all.”
“You think I do?” Agar mopped his brow with
the filthy remnants of his once-frilly handkerchief.
Sweat stained and soaked his dirty, ill-fitting blue

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tunic. “We’re sitting ducks down here—and Mor- “As—important as—these guns—are to John-
mons all around ready to let fly any moment now.” ston,” Ferguson puffed, “you’d think—he’d assign
Ferguson spat. “No they ain’t—that’s what I us—more men to—uhng!—push!”
don’t like!” He jerked his head toward the north Shortly the grade sloped a bit more downhill, not
cliff wall. “This is where we ran into an ambush the enough to cause more work trying to keep the car-
last time down—and so far, nothing. Not so much riage from running away but enough to ease the load.
as a peep from the Mormons.” Ferguson was still nervously eyeing the canyon
“Hmpf. How can you tell?” Agar asked. “I can’t walls. Agar, having caught his breath a bit, said,
tell one part of this canyon from the next.” “Maybe we caught the Mormons by surprise. I dare
Ferguson spat again. “Simple.” He pointed to say the thing they least expected Johnston to do
the next bend in the canyon. “See up ahead where after they burned our wagons was for us to make a
the canyon narrows. See how the yellow sandstone mad dash down the Echo.”
turns reddish.” Agar nodded. Ferguson’s eyes nar- Ferguson grunted. “Might be some truth in
rowed. “Every time it narrows, every time there’s a that.” A corner of his mouth found the energy to
spot in the canyon that’s good for settin’ up an turn up slightly. “I know it took me by surprise.
ambush, the canyon turns red. Red as blood. If ’n I Usually our Second Napoleon’s a bit more plod-
was a superstitious man, I’d say it was a sign for us ding in his reckless abandon. Cold molasses is a fair
to do the smart thing and turn back.” way of puttin’ it.” He hocked and spat. “This is the
“Reckless talk, Rufus.” Peck was pushing along fastest forced march I’ve ever been on. If it weren’t
with them, as tired and sweaty as the meanest pri- for the wagons an’ our artillery, I swan we’d be
vate. “Johnston could have you shot for less.” making this trip at a dead run all the way. Faster,
Ferguson’s parched throat gave a dry cackle. ev’n, than the last time we run back up the Echo
“Happens I ain’t a superstitious man, Cap’n. Besides, with our tails between our legs.” He eyed the
Uncle Albert won’t get the chance to shoot me— canyons, his face suddenly grim. “Do or die, I can
the Mormons’ll get me first. They’re up to some- tell you one thing. I ain’t running agin. I’ll stand
thing, I tell you. I can feel it. We’re most of the way and die like a man ’fore I let the Mormons chase
down the canyon now; we haven’t seen hide nor
me back to face another Bridger winter.”
hair of ’em.” He eyed the canyon walls again. “I
Peck raised his head and looked down the
don’t think there’re any up there. And I don’t like
canyon, noting landmarks. “You’ll get your chance
that at all.”
soon, Rufus. At this rate, we’ll be to the breast-
Agar huffed. “I, for one, do like it a lot better
that way.” works in two days.”
The carriage wheel hit a rock, and the gun almost “Two days ain’t soon enough to suit me an’ my
toppled over. Only the quick action of Peck and his aching back.” Ferguson grunted as the wheel fell into
men saved it. It took several tense moments of another rut. “Agar,” he growled, “next time your
grunting and heaving to right it. One man col- uncle builds a gun, tell him to make it lighter, eh?”
lapsed after the effort. Peck detailed another to
carry him until he revived. Johnston had given Johnston halted the troops in broad daylight just
orders to leave all fallen men where they lay and around the bend from the breastworks. The Mor-
press on regardless, but this Peck refused to do. He mons had fortified that very narrow stretch of canyon
didn’t believe much in the camp tales about what back in ’57, before the shooting had started, and
the Mormon Danites did with prisoners, but he they’d had three years to improve on those fortifi-
wasn’t going take a chance on leaving helpless men cations. Twice before Johnston had fought his way
alone after the sun set. down the Echo, and twice before the Mormons’
They struggled on with the gun carriages, short defenses at the breastworks had stymied him. The
two men now. On they pushed, trying to keep up mouth of Echo Canyon was just beyond the breast-
with the rest of the column. works, however—tantalizingly close—and if they

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could just win through, they could march down Butler snorted. “Then I repeat: what good are
what looked to be a wide valley beyond and follow they?”
the Weber River to the Great Salt Lake itself. Johnston didn’t answer. Instead he pointed to the
There was still no sign of the Mormons. map of the canyon. “Gentlemen, why is it we are
Peck had his men make camp, which meant very having such difficulty getting down this canyon?”
little, as they didn’t dare start any fires for fear of There were a few snorts and chuckles. “I asked a
Mormon snipers on the walls of the canyons, nor question, gentlemen. I’d like an answer. We have two
had they any wood to do so if they dared. The men and a half regiments of Army regulars, a well-drilled
could only unroll their bedrolls, chaw dejectedly on artillery battery, and even a fair amount of cavalry.
their salted horsemeat strips, and soak their sore All that’s stopping us is an untrained Mormon rab-
feet in the crisp water of Echo Creek. ble. Why can’t we get down this canyon? Ben?”
Peck left them there, soaking their feet, and “If it pleases the general,” Butler said sarcastically,
walked over to the canvas tent being set up for “because the cussed canyon’s too narrow.”
Johnston. The tent flap was open. Johnston nodded. “Exactly. We may have the
Johnston bent over his collapsible table, poring edge in both quantity and quality of troops, but a
over a map of the canyon. His cronies, those of few men armed with a mechanical repeating rifle
them left—Butler, Francher, and Willis—were also can hold off an entire army.”
standing around the table, grim-faced. The half- The glum-faced Missourian spat on the floor.
rations and tomorrow’s planned attack had them all “You ain’t telling us nothin’ new here, general.”
on edge—enough so that they were actually argu- “Ah, Francher, but I am. If the Mormons can use
ing with the general. “It’s impossible,” Ben Butler the canyon against us, why can’t we use it against
was saying, mopping his shiny, bald head with a the Mormons?”
handkerchief. “We’ve less men and cannon than the Francher laughed sourly at that. “They ain’t the
last time we tried, and look what happened then.” ones anxious to git down the canyon—we is.”
Seeing Peck standing there, Johnston motioned Johnston pulled a cigar out of his pocket and lit
him inside the tent. it. “But what if they were. What if we were to make
Butler pointed a pudgy finger at Peck. “Instead them ‘anxious’?” He blew a smoke ring. “Gentle-
of a frontal assault by my infantry, why doesn’t Peck men, the Mormons are only human. Echo Canyon’s
use his new miracle guns to break through?” as narrow for them as it is for us. It’s high time we
“All three of them?” Peck asked. “Their only real started using that little fact of nature.”
worth to us is their shock value—if we can surprise He pointed at the map to a spot just around the
the Mormons with them. Wheeling them out in curve from his army’s camp. “This long, straight
front of the breastworks in plain sight isn’t much of stretch of canyon here is the breastworks. Just
a surprise.” beyond that is this small hill the men call ‘the Plug’
Butler turned red. “You’re a coward, that’s all.” because it sits in the middle of the canyon and
“Oh? And who stayed at the Napoleons and cov- plugs it like a cork in a bottle.”
ered the retreat last year? And who was the first one Francher hooked his thumbs in his suspenders
to run back up the canyon?” and spat on the ground again. “Tell us sumptin’ we
“Mormon-lover!” Butler spat. “Just like the rest don’t already know. Me an’ my boys, we’s the one
of your family!” who scouted out that map for you.” He jabbed a
“That will be enough,” Johnston said. He thick callused finger at the map. “Yup, that’s the
stretched upright and rubbed his tired kidneys. Plug. An’ just a mite ways past it the canyon ends,
“Much as it pains me to admit it, Peck happens to on account of the Echo flowin’ into the Weber. We
be right about the Agars. Throwing them in front knew that three years ago. Thems Mormons got a
of the breastworks would be like shoveling snow whole camp around that Plug: stables, kitchens, mag-
into a furnace.” azine bunkers. All the comforts of home—everything

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they need to keep them breastworks manned agin a relatively gentle slope to the canyon wall here
us. Nothun’s changed, ’cept maybe the Mormons next to the Plug. Run down the slope, take the Plug
have built a few more outbuildings around the by surprise, set up the Agars, and hold out until
Plug, maybe dug in a little better. Even if we did get you force the breastworks and join up with us.”
past the breastworks, the Plug’d still stop us cold.” Johnston nodded. “A classic textbook military
“So a few Mormons with Brownings sitting on maneuver, gentlemen.”
the Plug could still bottle us up, is that what you’re Butler was unconvinced. “Textbook maneuver?
saying?” What’s to say the Mormons are reading the same
Francher stretched his suspenders and let them text? What’s to stop the Mormons from preparing
snap. “That’s just exactly what I’m saying, general.” themselves against another Merango? They’ve
Johnston smiled. “And what if a few of our troops planned for just about everything else.”
with Agar guns were sitting on the Plug instead?” Peck shook his head. “Brigham’s a shrewd old
A stupefied look slowly crept over Francher. bird—I’ll give him that—but ‘prophet’ or not,
Butler’s fat chins gobbled up and down. “Why, there’s one thing we have that he hasn’t: a West
the breastworks would be completely cut off! They Point military education. I’ll match my de Jomini
couldn’t fight their way down the canyon any bet- against his Book of Mormon any day of the week—
ter than we could. Pretty soon, they’d run out of and twice on Sunday.”
food—” “Butler’s right. Seems to me like they’d be a’wait-
“—and, what is more important, ammunition ing for us to flank them like that,” Francher said.
for those ‘miracle guns’ of theirs,” finished Johnston. “Seems to me like they’d put some lookouts up on
He snapped his fingers. “And that would be that.” the hill or something like that. I know I would.”
Butler frowned. “But . . . how are we going to Johnston took a long drag on his cigar and blew
get the Agars on the Plug? It’s impossible.” another smoke ring. “Not if they were convinced
Johnston just smiled like a canary-fed cat and we were planning to make another frontal assault.”
hooked a finger at Peck. “Which we ain’t stupid enough to do.”
Peck stepped up to the map table. “The Austri- “Which is precisely what we are going to do—
ans thought it was ‘impossible’ for the French to and make our preparations for it quite obvious.
haul heavy artillery up St. Bernard’s Pass in time for Butler, I’ll expect you to lead that.”
the Battle of Merango in 1800. Napoleon proved “Suicide!” Butler almost screamed. “I tell you a
them wrong. We can do the same to the Mormons.” frontal assault is suicide!”
He pointed to the map. “I’ve proposed to General Johnston fixed his cold stare at him. “And it’s
Johnston that we haul the Agars up the south wall suicide—slow suicide!—if we don’t get past the
of the canyon. It’s steep, but not nearly as vertical Echo and into Salt Lake before our food runs out.
as the north wall. And it has a few trees for block- It’s either take the breastworks now while we still
and-tackle work.” can or starve to death. This is the only plan that
Butler looked unconvinced. “And how will you will work.”
manage to simply ‘haul’ the guns up the wall of the “If it’s so great a plan, why didn’t we try it last
canyon?” year? Or the year before that?”
“The same way Napoleon did. Disassemble the Peck snorted to himself. That’s precisely what he
gun carriages. Hollow out logs, put the guns in was asking himself. He’d presented this same plan
the logs, then drag them like sledges up the slope. two years ago when he’d first requested mountain
Carry the ammunition and the dissembled carriages howitzers. Johnston, however, insisted on attacking
by hand.” his way: straight down the canyon like a steer head-
He pointed at the map again. “Skirt the ridge of ing down the chute to the stockyards.
the canyon wall, stay on the other side of the slope Johnston took his cigar out of his mouth and
to keep out of sight. March to about here. There’s stared at the smoldering end. “Without these new

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Agars it simply wouldn’t have worked. Couldn’t have “That’s what the Mormons think, too. And so
held the Plug with rifles or cannons. Not enough fire- has Johnston for the last three years. I’ve finally
power, not a high enough rate of fire. Between their managed to convince him otherwise.” He gave them
Brownings and those five-shot slide rifles of theirs, a rough outline of the plan. “We’re leaving as soon
the Mormons would have had us for breakfast.” as night falls. Johnston wants us in place by dawn.”
“Maybe,” Butler muttered, “you just weren’t des- Ferguson eyed the canyon wall again. “I’m
perate enough to try it before.” thinking, Cap’n, that Uncle Albert’ll need to give
Johnston studied his cigar. “Maybe.” He stuck it us a few more men to lug those guns up that slope.
back in his mouth. “I’m certainly ‘desperate enough’ In fact, I’d feel a mite better if we had some mules.”
now, as you put it. If the men want food they’re “Johnston said he’s giving us the Missouri irreg-
going to have to fight their way to it.” ulars,” Peck said.
“McClellan—” Butler whispered. Johnston Ferguson spat. “Personally, I’d prefer the mules.
silenced him with a withering glare. They’re smarter, smell better, and ain’t half as mean,
Major Willis, who’d kept quiet through all this, ornery, or stubborn as them Missourians.”
finally spoke up. “I realize I’ve not fought the Mor- Agar’s stomach growled. “Mules would eat less,
mons the way the rest of you have. On paper, it looks too.”
as if this plan should work.” He looked up at John- • • •
ston. “But, general . . . can it? Will it really work?” They started up the slope at dusk. A thin screen
A cold smile crossed Johnston’s face. “My solemn of Missourians scouted the way ahead to watch for
word.” Mormon ambushes. The rest of the Missourians
• • • and Peck’s men grunted and heaved on the ropes
It was over an hour before Peck could return to fastened to the log sledges. The last few men carried
his men. the dismantled gun carriages, axles, and wheels like
“Rufus, I need you to gather up as many axes as two-legged pack mules up the slopes behind them.
you can find, and men fit enough to use them.” They managed to drag the logs up to the top.
After that, the going got far easier. They skirted the
Ferguson got to his feet, grunting a bit from the
summit ridge, just below the crest on the other
effort. “That’s going to be no mean trick, Cap’n.
side, so as to keep just out of sight of any watchers
The axes’ll be easy to find; fit men’s a whole differ-
across the canyon on the north wall.
ent fittle of fish.” He looked at Agar. “Git up, Agar.
As they reached the spot directly across from the
You’re a fit ’un.”
breastworks, the Missourians all let go of the ropes
Agar stood up. “I’m not sure how much wood and flopped down to rest. Peck grabbed their leader
we’re going to find around here to cut. Just sage up by the scruff of the collar and whispered as loud
and scrub, and it doesn’t burn.” as he dared, “What do think you’re doing? Get back
“There’s some decent-sized trees up the canyon a on the ropes and pull.” He hauled him to his feet
ways. I’ve been keeping an eye out for them. I want and gave him a shove in the direction of the ropes.
trees big enough so that when they’re hollowed out, The Missourian tripped and fell. He picked him-
you can set a Agar gun in.” self up with an insolent air. “Say, ain’t this where
Agar cleared his throat. “Cap’n, in spite of the we’re diggin’ in at? Them Brownings’re right across
occasional ruts, broken axles, and busted wheels, I there, ain’t they?” For all his bluster in camp about
do believe that the guns will be easier to haul in the wanting to avenge his ‘kinfolk,’ he didn’t seem too
carriages than in those logs.” eager about it now.
“Not where we’re going.” He titled his head “Quiet, Francher,” Peck whispered savagely. “Sure
meaningfully up the slope of the south canyon wall. the Brownings are across from us, but if all we
Ferguson took off his cap and rubbed his hair. wanted to do was directly assault the breastworks,
“You’ve got to be kidding, Cap’n. That’s impossible.” we could do that from the canyon floor.” Peck

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explained the plan again. Comprehension slowly “Just one. I want to be able to pin down any
crept over the man’s sullen face. Sheepishly, he got Brownings they may have down there. Set up the
up and picked up his ropes and started pulling others as soon as you can.”
again. His men followed. “Three minutes for the first one, provided you
A few hundred yards later, Peck signaled them to have Ferguson helping me, but I can’t guarantee
stop. Below them lay the Plug. The place seemed more than a lick and a promise in setting it up.
almost deserted, though. No campfires burned, and Can’t promise too stable a base to get set up on.
there were no sentries apparent at all. Won’t be very accurate.”
Ferguson said he still didn’t like it. It looked like “Just as long as you can spray ’em with bullets
a trick. Peck told him to be quiet. and force them to keep their heads down and pre-
Peck called his men together. “That,” he said, vent them from spraying us. Their sheer surprise at
pointing at the Plug, “is our objective. We take that being on the receiving end of a mechanical should
and the breastworks are cut off. Then it’s only a more than make up for our lack of accuracy. I hope.”
matter of time before Johnston can punch through “So do I.”
past them. Once he does that, the rest of the • • •
canyon’s no problem at all and we follow the Weber Just before dawn Peck’s men quietly readied the
River and march right down to Salt Lake City.” block and tackles. They lowered the log sledges as
He motioned to Agar and Francher to follow far down the slope as they could without making
him. They crawled over to the slope and stared noise. They still were a couple hundred yards away
down. “Here’s the plan: we’re going to go down this from the small ridge. As the dim light of false dawn
spur—slope’s a bit gentler here. Francher, have a lit the mountaintops, Peck signaled Francher’s men
third of your men spread out in front. You’re our to creep down the hill.
infantry screen. The rest of your men and mine With everyone in position, the men waited, poised
help drag the guns and carry the ammunition down for Peck’s command that would send them sliding
as fast as we can to that small ridge near the bot- down the steep slope in a desperate race for the
tom. Meanwhile, your screen will make for those revetments.
gun revetments as fast as you can. After the guns Ferguson sidled over to Peck. “I’ve done some
are down, the remaining two-thirds of your men blame fool things in my time, Cap’n, but this is the
will join the assault on the Mormon position.” blamed foolest.”
Francher chewed on a twig and thought about it. “I was just thinking along those lines myself,
“Going to make the devil’s own noise dragging them Rufus.” His voice sounded tight, strained.
logs down. Wake up the whole Mormon camp. I’d Ferguson hacked softly. “Throat’s too joe-fired
feel a sight better if them fancy guns of yours were dry to even spit. Figgurin’ with all them buildings,
set up before we made for the Plug.” there surely has to be several hundred of them
“Can’t be helped,” Peck shrugged. “We’ll do this down there.”
just like they do Conastogas going down a moun- And how many of them would turn out to be
tain pass. I’ll have a couple of men on ropes pulling friends of his sister? Or family? Peck shook his head
the logs forward and the rest on ropes pulling back clear. He couldn’t think about that now. “All the
to keep the logs from running away on us. We’ll set more reason for us to get to the Brownings first.
up the guns on that small ridge near the bottom.” It looks like they’re all tucked in those buildings
He turned to Agar, “What I need to know from fast asleep.” Peck watched the minute hand of his
you is how fast you can unship your guns and get pocket watch crawl toward the fatal minute and
them going once we reach that ridge.” tried not to think who it was inside those cabins.
Agar rubbed his chin. “You want me to get all of “Now!” he whispered, signaling to the men.
them in place at once, or just one at first, then the Francher’s men advanced down the steep slope.
rest later?” Peck cursed. They were starting to run, just what

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he’d told them not to do. They started sliding and now, without firing a shot, Echo Canyon was theirs
stumbling on the loose rocks, knocking several of the and beyond it, Salt Lake City.
smaller ones free. The rocks started rolling down He sent in men to make sure the buildings were
the slope, creating small landslides and making a as deserted as they seemed.
devil of a noise. It took only a couple minutes for Ferguson to
Fuming, Peck turned back to the Agar guns. The return and report, “They’ve pulled out, Cap’n. Ain’t
three log sledges began to slide down the hill, pick- no food, ain’t no ammo, ain’t no nothin’. Them
ing up speed. Ferguson was trying to get those on buildings are picked cleaner than a dog’s bone.
the ropes to slow down. He hissed, “Pull, you Mor- Completely empty of anythin’.”
mon lovin’—” Peck still refused to believe it. “It’s impossible.
“She’s comin’ loose!” The tackles on the far sledge Where did they go? The Mormons wouldn’t have
groaned and popped. There was a sudden snap and abandoned their strongest position for no reason
the twang of a rope giving way. The sledge, sud- at all.”
denly free, wrenched the remnant end of the rope, “Maybe they found out about my uncle’s guns,”
yanking to their feet the men still holding on. The Agar said with a grin.
sledge began sliding faster and faster downhill, A commotion started among some of the men
pulling along with it hapless men still caught up in nearby.
the ropes. Men screamed and huge rocks crashed “Now what?” Peck said wearily, turning.
down the hill as the sledge rumbled ever faster. Ferguson spat slowly and deliberately. “That.” He
Then it hit a small bump and went flying into the pointed toward the western sky, down the Weber
air. The sledge landed with a crash and threw the River Canyon. The western sky was nothing but a
Agar gun out. The metal gun caromed off rock out- black haze of smoke as far as they could see. White
cropping after outcropping, tumbling over and over. flakes of ash began drifting down, covering them
It reached the bottom with a horrible crash and like the first snowflakes of winter. “They’ve done
groan of rending steel. The wooden sledge thudded just like they said they would if we ever made it
and splintered on top of it. past ’em. Burn the place to the ground. That’s Salt
Peck stood transfixed, horrified. The noise had Lake, Cap’n. That’s Salt Lake City a’burning.” He
to wake up the Mormons, and Peck’s men were spat again. “And, I reckon, just about the entire rest
nowhere near in position. He had led his men into of the territory as well.”
a slaughter. He started shouting orders for his men Francher let out a whoop. “It’s Bobby Lee, I tell
to hurry, but Peck knew it was hopeless. The Mor- ya! Just has to be. No other thing it could be.
mons only had to run to their gun pits before Peck Bobby Lee and the rest of the Army marched in
could set up his Agar guns and it would be all over. from California and gave it to the Mormons but
Peck waited for the Mormons to boil from out of good. The war’s over, I tell ya. It’s over. We won!”
the buildings. Peck looked at Francher. “Have we? When we
He waited. They didn’t come. get to Salt Lake and it’s burnt to the ground and
The Missourians reached the bottom of the hill there’s no food to be had for a thousand miles,
and swarmed up over the gun pits and into the tell me again about how we’ve won.” He looked
camp. And still the Mormons didn’t come. back at the smoke. “It’s not over, Francher. It hasn’t
Francher yelled up at Peck. “They’ve gone! They’ve even begun.”
all pulled out. Wasn’t nobody manning the Plug. • • •
Nobody at all.” Johnston lost no time celebrating his Echo
Peck couldn’t believe it. They had done it. They Canyon victory. He marched his men through the
had taken the Plug. For three years, Johnston’s Army Echo and down the Weber Canyon toward the Great
had been butchered trying to take the canyon and Salt Lake. As they marched, one thought echoed

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over and over in Peck’s mind. No army in the world “That may be, but it’s less a fool’s errand than
could have forced their way past Brownings down you may think. As some of you are aware, Buchanan
the crag-lined walls. The Weber was the Echo all has sent the rest of the Army to attack the Mor-
over again, only longer and steeper. mons from California. Ulysses S. Grant is march-
They passed through, out of the Weber, past the ing up from the south, aided by a squadron of
huge rock formation called Devil’s Slide, and into gunboats up the Colorado. Robert E. Lee is march-
the Great Basin, within sight of the north shores ing over the Sierras, through Donner’s Pass, and
of the Great Salt Lake. And the land between the straight across the salt flats. My plan was that those
lake and the mountains was as lifeless as that dead, diversionary attacks would draw off troops from
dead sea. the Echo; they’ve succeeded beyond my wildest
Up and down that thin corridor of land, as far as hopes. They’ve panicked the Mormons, allowing us
the eye could see, there was nothing but black soot free passage into their heartland; now we must
and ashes. Not one home stood, not a barn or finish them off by securing their capitol.”
building. Not a foot of lumber, a stick, a tree, a sin- He paused as if he had expected applause. The
gle blade of grass or hay—not one thing had been men didn’t want a city. They wanted food.
left to Johnston’s Army that would burn. “And what if there isn’t any Mormon food left?”
They could see below in the lower Weber Valley Butler asked.
entire towns, each nearly identical, each neatly laid “Then we will link up with the two diversionary
out in the same grand sweeping design of perfect columns, each one of which will have plenty of
grids, streets broad enough to easily turn a wagon food to see us through.”
and a full team of oxen round—all of them empty. “Carrying it over the salt flats?”
Devoid of a living soul. Burnt to the ground until Johnston ignored him. “As I am doing this, you
only the brick chimneys stood, and even most of will continue your march on foot to Salt Lake City,
foraging for food along the way.”
those pulled down. Farms and fields surrounding
“What food?” came the cry. The knot of officers
each town were just as dead, the intricate web of
tightened around Johnston’s horse. The horse skit-
canals and irrigation ditches destroyed.
tered back.
The men staggered on for a few pitiful yards.
Overhead, a seagull cried. A flock of the birds
Dead ground crunched underfoot. Each step loos- wheeled past.
ened puffs of gray ash. Soot and smoke filled the Johnston pointed up at them. “There’s your
air. High up on the slopes of the Wasatch, the forests food. That should see you through to Salt Lake
still burned. City.” He spurred his horse forward. His cavalry
Most eerily of all, there was no life in that land. officers rode after him, kicking up the soot-blacked
No livestock, no animals in the blackened waste. dust in their wake.
Only the lonely, mocking cry of the gulls circling Wearily, Peck and the other soldiers could only
above the dead lake gave any sign of life. follow on foot. There was simply nothing else they
Johnston called a halt to a column that could go could do.
no farther. He summoned his officers. As they • • •
gathered around him, Johnston’s old Texan cavalry They were just a few miles north of Salt Lake
buddies brought him his horse. Johnston mounted City now. Peck’s crude maps called the area Davis.
up and looked down on his officers to address Salt Lake City lay just around a mountain spur to
them. “Men, I will be leading our cavalry south the south. Peck and a handful of his men were
into Salt Lake City as fast as possible, where I hope tramping wearily toward it. Agar was a bit farther
to secure what foodstuffs remain before the Mor- back with his two remaining guns. Other small
mons can burn them all.” clumps of soldiers, scattered up and down the val-
Amid the muttering, Butler snorted. “I’d say ley, vainly looked for something to eat as they stag-
you’re too late by half.” gered south.

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Ferguson hacked, his mouth too dry to spit. The man chuckled sourly as he slowly opened his
“Cap’n,” he said, “remember when I said I wasn’t a eyes. “That,” he said, “is an accurate assessment of
superstitious man?” this entire war. You should have let all of us just lay
Peck nodded. here.” His chuckle slid into a weak choking cough.
“I think I’m beginning to git that way.” Ferguson Peck looked at the man, then looked at Fergu-
raised his face to look up at circling seagulls. son. “He seems plenty alive to me. Rig some sort of
“Thems the birds that saved the Mormons from litter. We’ll carry him along as we go.”
the crickets. It’s beginning to get to me. Reckon we “Cap’n—the men are too weak to carry around
look to them like another rampaging horde of a half-dead Mormon—”
crickets, the way we’re scattered about foragin’ off “Then carry only the half that’s still alive, but get
the land. I’m dreamin’ of them at night, Cap’n. moving.”
Huge seagulls that carry me off like a cricket.” “Yes, sir,” Ferguson muttered, glaring at the
Peck laughed, then coughed at the effort. His wounded Mormon.
throat was just as dry. “This time, we ‘crickets’ are • • •
eating the gulls.” The prisoner’s name was Reddick. He was an
“Cap’n!” Danby called from up ahead a way. officer in the Mormon’s Nauvoo Legion. Peck
“Come quick!” couldn’t question him much beyond that. The man
Peck shuffled over as fast as he could, drawing slid in and out of consciousness as they carried him
his Navy Colt as he ran. Danby was standing on in the litter. Even when he was conscious, much of
the edge of a small gully that had been washed out the time he was delirious with fever.
by the spring rains. Down in the gully, hidden from Peck’s weary men reached the small spur. They
sight, was a horse that had fallen in. The horse had plodded up the rise for their first look at the Salt
broken its neck in the fall; it was quite dead. Still Lake Valley.
alive, however, was its rider, his legs pinned under The desolation of the small farming communi-
the horse’s deadweight. The man was barely con- ties to the north had been bad, but nothing Peck
scious. He looked up and saw Peck and his men had ever seen prepared him for what he saw now.
and stretched his arm, trying to grab the rifle that In the middle of a land that grew nothing but sage
lay in the sand just beyond his reach. Peck imag- and knee-high scrub, near the shores of the dead
ined that if the man had been able to reach his rifle, lake had lain a bustling, living, breathing city of
he would have shot himself long beforehand. twenty thousand souls. A shining metropolis rising
“No telling how many days he’s been down there,” from the midst of the wilderness. Nothing remained
Peck said. now but its charred skeleton. Peck could see from
“True enough.” Ferguson pushed back his cap. the perfect square grids of city and farms the exact
“I don’t think that horse is going to be good eatin’, demarcation between sterile desert and the lands
Captain. Looks might puffy to me.” the Mormons had tamed, lands that now lay torched.
Peck shot him a look. “Never mind about the Reddick rose up in his litter and said with a husky
horse. Let’s get that man up out of there.” voice, “You should have seen it when it was alive.”
After some heaving, they got the man out. Both Peck whispered, his voice raw, “Johnston prom-
his legs were crushed and one was obviously gan- ised this: this is surely a hell if ever there was one.”
grene, from the smell. They gave him some water Of all things Reddick could have done, laughing
to try to help him come to. was not one Peck had expected. “It’s our turn now,
Ferguson motioned Peck aside. “Cap’n, what are but yours is coming. Mark it well. This is your
we goin’ to do with him? We don’t have enough future, too.”
food or water for ourselves to be wasting on some Looking closer, Peck could see troops mulling
Mormon who’s as good as dead anyway. You should about in the dead city. Too many, to be sure, for the
have just left him lay there.” small number of cavalry Johnston had taken with

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him. Mormons? “More likely General Lee’s,” Red- The prisoners seem to recognize Reddick. Some
dick said, coughing weakly. “He was right on our of them saluted him. As Peck passed one group,
heels as we evacuated the city. I’m afraid your Gen- they straightened their shoulders and held their
eral Johnston was several days too late to arrive heads high and began to sing.
first—if that’s what he was trying to do.” At the hands of foul oppressors,
Ferguson spat, “That double-crossing Uncle
We’ve borne and suffered long;
Albert. He knew! He knew! That’s why he goaded
Thou hast been our help in weakness
us down the Echo so hard. He was trying to beat Lee
And Thy power hast made us strong;
into Salt Lake. He didn’t want to end up the goat.”
Amid ruthless foes outnumbered,
Peck nodded, his face grim. “No, Albert Sidney
who seek our mountain sod;
Johnston isn’t the kind of man who’s about to let
someone else have all the glory.” He let out a sour For the strength of the hills we bless Thee,
chuckle. “Lee’s the hero and Johnston’s left with Our God, our fathers’ God.
nothing to show but three disastrous winters at Thou hast led us here in safety
Fort Bridger.” He shook his head. “That’s one situ- Where the mountain bulwark stands
ation a dueling pistol isn’t going to solve for him.” Thou hast made Thy children mighty
Peck ordered his men to start marching down In the hills shaped by Thy hands;
into the city. Thou hast led Thy chosen Israel
• • • to Freedom’s last abode.
In the center of the charred city stood untouched For the strength of the hills we bless Thee,
two large buildings where Lee undoubtedly had Our God, our fathers’ God.
made his headquarters. “The Lion and the Beehive
Houses,” Reddick said. “Brother Brigham left his Peck turned to stare after them. “I know that
houses intact.” He chuckled sourly. “He wanted to song,” he said. “My family’s Swiss Lutheran. That’s
leave Johnston something to burn, I guess.” not a Mormon song; that came from Switzerland.”
Peck suspected another reason. Young wanted to “The Saints are not the first people persecuted
give the invaders a small taste of what had been for their beliefs,” Reddick said. “Nor shall we be
here before they came. The clean, neat buildings the last.” He started to cough weakly, then closed
and lush shade trees stood in stark contrast, a his eyes. When Peck’s men arrived at the makeshift
painful oasis in the charred destruction the Army hospital a few hundred yards farther into the city
had brought upon the city. Peck shook his head. and set the litter down, Reddick was dead.
“‘Johnston’s a sly one, but I’m Brigham Slick,’” he • • •
muttered. Ferguson held out the plate to Peck. “Cap’n, you
They were walking through scattered clumps of best eat something,” he said, nodding at the hard-
tents now. The smell of Army cook fires tempted tack and spoonful of beans. “Won’t be too long
them, but Peck was firm in having his prisoner before there won’t be nothing left.”
delivered to Lee as soon as possible. Peck didn’t answer. He only continued to finger
They passed a large column of Mormon prison- the chain of a small gold locket.
ers being marched west toward a makeshift prison “Lee and Grant didn’t bring enough for them-
camp closer to the lake. The prisoners were as foot- selves, let alone us. And the Danites still have our
sore and ragged as Peck’s men, but despite every- supply lines choked off,” Ferguson continued. Still
thing their spirits seemed higher. Peck didn’t answer.
“Boys from St. George,” Reddick said as they If only he hadn’t seen to Reddick’s burial himself.
passed, “I recognize some of them. Your General If only the chain hadn’t broken and the locket
Grant must have marched in from the south, as come loose from Reddick’s neck as they rolled him
well.” off the blanket into the shallow grave. If only Peck

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hadn’t picked up the locket and opened it and seen of your sister.” He nodded toward the makeshift
the small photo inside. graveyard and the newly planted cross. “That’s what
Ferguson set the plate down. “Maybe they was he would have wanted.” He scuffed his boot over
only sweethearts. Maybe . . .” His voice trailed off. the beans splattered on the dirt floor. “Not this.”
“Be kinder that way, anyhow,” he said gruffly. • • •
“’Cause if he was married to her, chances are he was Robert E. Lee sent for Peck the following day.
married—” Sentries standing outside the porch of Brigham
Peck leapt to his feet, knocking the tin plate over Young’s Beehive House saluted Peck, and he entered.
with a crash. The plate wobbled to a stop near his An orderly ushered Peck straight into Lee’s office.
feet. “Don’t say it. Don’t you dare say it!” The large room must have been Young’s study. Once
Ferguson took a large chew from the last of his elegant furnishings were soot-stained. Books and
tobacco. “What you’re thinkin’ is crazy. You didn’t mementos of the former owner lay haphazardly
kill him, son. You did everything you could to save pushed aside to make room for the general’s charts
him. Sight more than me. But even if you had and maps and other implements of command.
killed him—you’re a soldier an’ he was the enemy. Lee was behind the desk, trying to catch up on
That’s your job.” the never-ending Army paperwork. His heavy,
“Enemy? He was an American. He was my dark-blue tunic lay draped over the back of a chair.
brother-in-law. Is that what the Army is for? He wore a plain gray vest over a white shirt. With
Brother against brother?” his pair of reading glasses perched on the end of his
Ferguson lifted up the tent flap and spat outside. nose, the gray-haired Lee looked every bit the nick-
“He was a Mormon, and that’s good enough for me.” name he’d picked up from his students at West
Peck looked at Ferguson, really saw him for the Point: Granny Lee.
first time in days. “You really hate them, don’t you?” Peck stepped into the room. Before Peck could
“Back in the Echo, it was just soldierin’. But salute, Lee rose from his chair, walked quickly
once we’d won, and once they’d lost . . . they should around the desk, and took Peck by the hand,
have given up. But no, they’re still fighting, and pumping it up and down. “Good to see you,
we’re starving, Cap’n. We’re starving. We’re starving ‘Cadet’ Peck.” Lee’s eyes twinkled warmly. “Good
when we oughta have won.” He lifted the tent flap to see you.”
again. “It’s become right personal now.” “Good to see you, too, general.”
Peck fingered the locket. “Yes it has.” Lee waved him to sit down. “I was sorry to hear
“Don’t you see, Cap’n? We’re gonna have to hunt about . . .” He looked at Peck, then cleared his
down every last one of them before they’ll give in. throat. “I imagine this feels a might bit better than
Hunt ’em down like dogs. An’ that ain’t solderin’. the last time I had to call you into my office. You
Not at all. They’ve taken my trade, my whole life . . . could have been first in your class if you’d just
my honor and made me kill it, the same as they learned to get along with your superiors.” He
made you kill—” He bent over and picked the frowned. “Albert Sydney tells me . . . well, to put it
hardtack out of the dirt. “Cap’n, I’m ashamed of politely, that you’re impertinent and, shall we say,
myself. Ashamed I hate any man because of this. If argumentative?”
I can learn to hate his kind, then maybe I’m capa- “Only,” said Peck, flushing, “when he’s wrong.”
ble hating my own kind and that scares me, hatin’ Lee snorted. “Which, I’d wager, is probably most
and fightin’ my own. That Reddick feller and I, we of the time.” Lee rifled through some papers and
should have been friends the way you and me are, extracted a sheaf. “I have here Albert Sydney’s plan
’stead of the way I feel t’wards him now. You can do he sent to Washington to use the Agar guns to flank
something about it, Cap’n. You’re a good talker. the Mormons’ position in the Echo.” Peck’s face
They’ll listen to you. Both Lee, on account of he’s darkened. “Secretary Floyd has suggested Johnston
a fair man, and maybe the Mormons, on account be given some sort of decoration for his brilliant

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plan.” Lee dropped the sheaf noisily on the desk blocks dug up now and on display like some game
and sat back in his chair. “Sometimes justice is not trophy.”
just blind, but mulishly wrongheaded as well. I There was a loud knock at the door, and an
know about Johnston’s ‘brilliant plans’: they consist orderly burst inside. He wheezed as if he’d been
entirely of repeated, hasty frontal assaults on the running. “Begging the general’s pardon,” the orderly
center of a fortified position. I also know which of said, “the Mormons have sent someone in under a
my former cadets received superior marks on his white flag to parley.”
paper on artillery tactics at Merango.” “White flag?”
Lee scooped up the papers and shoved them into “Yes, sir.” The orderly paused to catch a breath.
a desk drawer. “Johnston will get his commenda- “And, sir, it’s Porter Rockwell.”
tion, nothing I can do about it. No sense fighting a Lee reached for his coat. “Go and find General
war you can’t win. But you’re getting something Grant,” he said to the orderly. “Bring him here at
that I think you’d appreciate more. I’m transferring once. And General Johnston, too, if he’s not off rid-
you out of Johnston’s command and assigning you ing after Mormon stragglers.”
to my personal staff, major.” Peck stood to leave. “You’ve work to do—”
“Th-thank you, general.” “You’re staff now. You stay put,” Lee said as he
“I should thank you. We used your plan at Don- slowly began to fasten the buttons on his tunic. He
ner’s Pass. We couldn’t have broken through any looked up and smiled wryly. “I may need someone
other way.” A hardened look came over him as he to tell me I’m wrong. Judiciously, of course.”
remembered the battle. “A horrible business, that,” • • •
he said softly. “Our Agars against their Brownings. The room seemed to shrink when Porter Rock-
It is well war has grown so terrible, else we should well strode into it. Smelling of buckskins and sage
be too fond of it.” His voice became firm again. and sweat, Rockwell filled the entire room. He was
“At any rate, I’ll be needing men on my staff who large and barrel-chested. His unkempt hair flowed
understand these new weapons. I don’t mind being down his back and twined around his front to tan-
told I’m wrong when I’m wrong”—Lee looked at gle into his beard. But it was his booming voice and
Peck sharply—“provided it’s done judiciously.” piercing eyes Peck noticed first. No wonder those
who met him ascribed supernatural powers to him.
“I understand, general.”
He seemed less a man than an elemental force.
“Don’t worry; you’ll get plenty of chances to
Grant, seated in a chair to the side of Lee’s desk,
learn judiciousness.” Lee leaned back in his chair
mumbled a curt greeting to Rockwell through the
and rubbed the bridge of his nose. “I thought I cigar clenched in his teeth. Johnston simply glared.
understood war. Meet the enemy, grapple with his Rockwell paid no more attention to them both
armies, defeat him. We’ve crushed the Mormon than he did to Peck. It was Lee he’d come to see.
army, captured their capitol, and we’re no closer to From the tales Peck had heard about the so-
winning than we were when we started.” called Danites, Peck had half-expected Rockwell to
Lee shook his head. “Heaven knows I don’t under- swagger in with a clutch of bowie knives and flint-
stand these Mormons at all. I doubt anybody does. lock pistols thrust through his belt like some back-
Did I tell you we found their half-built temple?” woods highwayman. The only visible weapon
He pointed out the window at a large walled square Rockwell had brought in with him was his unholy
nearby. “They’d torn it down, buried the granite self-confidence. The Mormons had been whipped
blocks, then plowed over them to make it look like as thoroughly as any people ever had, and still they
some sort of big cornfield inside an adobe wall. acted as if they’d won. From his stance, one would
We’d put up tents and were camping on top of it have guessed that it was Rockwell who was issuing
until Johnston finally forced a prisoner to tell us terms here today.
where it was.” He snorted. “More of Johnston’s idea Was this what had attracted Peck’s sister to the
of how to pacify the natives. He’s got the temple Mormons? Did they all have this utter certainty of

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their place in the universe? Peck thought of old “‘Rebellion?’ We’re begging Congress for state-
Jim Bridger boasting of stopping Rockwell at the hood while half of Congress is talking secession
mesa. Bridger might as well have tried holding back themselves!”
the Mississippi with a wave of a hand. Peck looked “Enough!” Lee paused and gazed out the window.
at the others. Only General Lee seemed unmoved, “Tell Brigham Young, tell your people to surrender,
unperturbed. return, and rebuild. Please.” He pointed at what lay
Lee wasted no time in initial pleasantries, which outside. “This valley—you can’t let it be left like . . .
seemed to suit Rockwell just fine. “You realize, of like that.”
course, Rockwell, that I cannot allow your people Rockwell chuckled sourly. ‘You want it rebuilt,
to reach Canada. Washington will insist that you be old man? Find somebody else. You’ve seen our canals
stopped before you reach the border. You know I and dams. You’ve seen the desert they’re holding
have the troops to run you to ground. It would be back. Takes an entire community, working as one
better for your people—better for all concerned— mind, one heart, to make a desert blossom like
if your people would come back on their own, that. Something you’ll never understand. Us Saints
peacefully.” were the only people alive who could’ve worked
Lee rose out of his chair and walked over to the this land. Nobody else wanted this basin. So we
window. “The papers back east say we’re out here took it. And then, after we made something of it,
putting down a rebellion.” He turned to Rockwell. suddenly you folks all want it. Same old story for
“We both know otherwise. This war was never about us. Well, we’re shut of it. We won’t have it. This
you Mormons or Utah. You know that; I know basin was dead when we got here. It’ll stay dead till
that. It’s about slavery and Kansas and trying to we come back. If we ever do.”
take the nation’s mind off the problem that is tear- “You may not be given a choice.”
ing us apart. You Mormons were only a scapegoat. Rockwell laughed. “You may not be in a position
This war was fought to buy time so the auction to bully us around.” He pulled a folded-up news-
blocks could continue.” paper from under his buckskin jacket. “My out-
Johnston drew himself up from the velvet-
riders have choked your supplies off so tight, you
cushioned chair he had sprawled in. “General Lee,
probably haven’t received the word yet, have you?”
your being a Virginian and all, I must say I am
He looked at Johnston. “No, you haven’t. Thought
shocked to hear you say that. The states have a per-
I might bring it to you myself, seeing as how
fect right to self-governance. They have a right to
their own peculiar institutions.” Brigham’s just a little too busy right now to enter-
Rockwell laughed, his voice booming off the tain all the company staying here in his house.”
walls. “But we don’t ours? At least us Mormons He tossed the paper over to Lee. It landed on the
enter our ‘peculiar institution’ by free consent— desk, facedown. Lee started searching his pockets.
we don’t require chains or whips. We have no auc- “I’ll save you the trouble of reaching for your spec-
tion blocks.” tacles, old man,” Rockwell announced. “South Car-
Johnston sniffed. “Utah isn’t a state.” olina has seceded. The Union is dissolved.”
“Not from our lack of trying. For thirteen years Like marionettes all connected to the same
we’ve asked Washington for statehood. Met the jerked string, Peck and the three generals rose from
requirements for statehood a dozen times over. their chairs. Lee scrabbled for his reading glasses.
Three separate statehood petitions were before “The shooting hasn’t started yet,” Rockwell added.
Congress the very day Buchanan declared us ‘in “But it will. The federal government will send its
rebellion’ and ordered your army here. Twice the troops, just as it did here. You folks are going to be
number of troops sent in to quell ‘Bloody Kansas,’ too busy shooting at each other to worry about us.”
I might add.” Lee read rapidly, his lips moving in shock. Fin-
“You’re rebels. Stinking treacherous Mormon ishing, he dropped the paper to the desk and put
rebels.” his face in his hands.

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Johnston snatched the newspaper and read for Rockwell only laughed. “We tried that route
himself. Grant walked over to a small book cabinet back in the Mexican War. You promised us state-
that once must have held Books of Mormon and hood then. We’ve since learned better.”
the like and pulled out a bottle of whiskey and a set “The South can offer you better than that,”
of glasses. He poured himself a drink and stiff- Johnston said. “Complete independence! The inde-
wristed it in one gulp. pendent nation of Deseret—with the original
Peck remembered the dead Reddick’s words to boundaries you petitioned Congress for.” Grant
him: It’s our turn now, but yours is coming. That day glared at him.
was already here. Rockwell shrugged. “You see? It does concern
“You realize, of course, that it won’t be just us.” He stood up. “But you’re partly right. You
South Carolina,” Johnston said, positively buoyant. folks have things to discuss among yourselves.” He
“If the North forces her back into the Union, then paused at the door and turned, grinning. “Let
state rights won’t be worth that.” He snapped his Brigham know what you decide.” He paused again.
fingers. “No, sir. The rest of the South will have no “Oh, and General Johnston—how did that speech
choice but to join alongside of her. Hand me some of yours go? We could hear you quite plainly from
of that, Sam,” he said to Grant. Johnston poured up on the mesa. Something about ‘the erection of a
himself a glass of whiskey. “It’s a glorious day, government neither loyal nor acknowledging any
Bobby Lee.” He hoisted his glass. “Here’s to the allegiance to the federal government?’” He laughed
South and a glorious new nation!” again and left.
“This?” Grant roared. “This from the man who • • •
not two minutes ago was taking such a high moral Johnston ground a fist into his other hand.
tone against ‘treason’ and ‘rebels’?” Grant snorted. “Rather galling, is it? Finding out
“This is the South we’re talking about!” you’re the same stripe of traitor?”
Rockwell burst out laughing. “So. All this high- “It galls me only to have to give the Mormons
sounding talk about loyalty and rebellion! Turns what they want.”
“Perhaps,” Lee said simply, “if you hadn’t shot
out this entire war was really only about hatred and
Governor Cummings in that pointless duel, this
bigotry and the fear of anybody different from
war here would have been prevented and the new
one we face would never have happened.”
Lee sighed. “I’m afraid, Mr. Rockwell, that this
Johnston thumbed his chest. “Don’t lay this at
parlay is ended. My men and I have matters to dis-
my feet, Bobby Lee. It was only a matter of time
cuss that don’t concern you.” before the South had to break away. The North
“Oh, but they do, General Lee. They do.” Rock- keeps pushing and pushing till they get what they
well said. “It was the fight we put up that put the want. Just like the Mormons did. Just like Kane
backbone in your secessionists—and it was our and Cummings tried to do.”
defeat that panicked them. More importantly, we Grant drained his second glass. “And you,
hold the key to your future as much as you hold Robert? What is it you plan to push for? Have you
ours. I imagine your troops will be recalled back made your choice yet?” He pointed at the paper.
east to fight your new war. But do you really think “The newspapers are calling for you to take com-
you can march back home, back through the Echo, mand of the federal armies, you know.”
if we decide not to let you? We can let you be, or Johnston’s mouth fell open. “You can’t be seri-
we can bottle you up and let you fight here among ous. You’re a Virginian, Bobby Lee. Virginia’s bound
yourselves.” to side with us, not with the Yankees. You wouldn’t
“There’s a third choice,” Grant growled. “You fight against Virginia?”
claim you’ve always been loyal. Prove it now. Come Lee bowed his head. “No, I could never raise my
to the aid of the Union.” hand against Virginia.”

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“Don’t you see, General Lee,” Peck burst in. with the South. I imagine they’ll end up with what-
“That’s just what you’d be doing if you join the ever they decide they want—statehood, or inde-
rebellion.” pendence.”
The generals all turned to look at the mere major Grant flung his cigar on the floor and crushed it
they had all forgotten about. Peck was out of line under his boot. “They can stew in their own juices
and knew it, but he didn’t see the faces of three for all I care.”
scowling generals, he saw the faces of Ferguson, “I think that’s what they’ve been wanting all
and young Danby, and Reddick. “You told me to along,” Peck said softly.
tell you when you’re wrong. Well, sir, you’re wrong. Lee got up and walked again to the window.
You’re the hero of Donner’s Pass. You don’t have to “I feel as if I have the fate of a nation resting on my
follow the choice Virginia makes; Virginia will fol- shoulders. Or the fate of three.” He sighed. “This
low yours.” new war we’re about to fight will still be over the
“You overrate my influence, son.” same questions this unfinished war here is being
“And you underrate it, sir.” fought over. Who holds the higher allegiance: one’s
Lee pursed his lips. “How would I betray Vir- people or one’s nation? Do you have the right to
ginia by defending her?” live in a manner your neighbor finds morally repug-
“The South isn’t going to invade the North, but nant? Does he have the right to prevent you from
the North has to invade the South to win. If Vir- doing so?”
ginia sides with the South, the battles will be “Depends on which side is right,” Johnston said.
fought in Virginia. In the Shenandoah. In Rich- Grant knocked back another whiskey. “Depends
mond. In Arlington.” on which side is wrong.”
Johnston laughed. “Bobby Lee, you can’t prevent “In a war where both sides have Agars and Brown-
Virginia from choosing the South, no matter what ings,” Peck whispered, “does it matter?”
this Yankee says. My solemn word on that, Bobby Lee fell silent. At length he asked Peck to help
Lee. My solemn word.” him on with his jacket. “I want to see that temple
“Your word isn’t worth quite what it was five lot again. I want to see whether those granite blocks
minutes ago,” Grant snapped. lying there are the unfinished foundation of a new
“General Lee, do you want Virginia to end up nation, or the tombstones of a foolish, lost cause.”
looking the way it does outside that window?” Peck Outside the window, flags were flying, brass
asked. “Do you want a war of brother against bands playing. Thousands of boots were tramping.
brother, father against son?” Tramping off to another war.
Grant nodded at Peck. “Robert,” he said slowly,
“you’ve seen now what making war with guns like Lee Allred won first prize in L. Ron Hubbard’s
the Agar means. Imagine an Echo Canyon or a Writers of the Future contest for his story “For the
Donner’s Pass across the width and breadth of the Strength of the Hills,” which was also a finalist for
nation. Is that what you want for Virginia? For the 1997 Sidewise Award for Alternate History. He
the nation? It’s your choice.” has another alternate history story that will be appear-
Lee was silent for a long time. “You all seem to ing in a future issue of IRREANTUM. His latest publi-
think I should be allowed a choice.” They nodded. cation, “The Greatest Danger,” was included in
“If I am to be allowed a choice, then the men must Drakas! and was the subject of his essay in the last
be allowed their choice as well.” issue of IRREANTUM. He has twice cochaired Life,
“And the Mormons?” Peck asked. the Universe & Everything, BYU’s symposium on sci-
Lee turned to him and sighed. “The South can- ence fiction and fantasy, and has conducted SF and
not claim self-governance in one breath and deny it genre fiction sessions at Association for Mormon
to the Mormons in the next. Nor can the North Letters conferences.
afford to continue to fight one war here and one

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P O E T R Y granting me what Grandma never had—

the prejudice of education.
Mimesis Upended: A Reluctant Nod to Mr. Wilde —Sharlee Mullins Glenn
How did she see peaches,
never seeing a Cezanne? Raison D’Etre
This mother of my mother They say the closest
who passed to me, across a generation, distance
her own deep-burning need for Beauty. between two
Or so I’m told. is a straight line
“You remind me of your grandma,”
my mother used to chide as she coaxed me But tell me—
from pages abloom with Renoirs and Monets. in real life
“Only she loved honeysuckle and Indian paint- does anything
brush.” travel like that?
I don’t remember. water ripples
I knew her only when she was old light undulates
and her mind was gone sound moves in waves
and she waltzed with strangers in her ruby robe
and sang, “Have you seen my new shoes?” Perhaps experience too
is best transmitted
How did she see flowers, not straight on
knowing no O’Keefe to lead her but through a twist,
deep into the sultry depths of poppies? a loop, a spiral
This daughter of desert basin who journeyed once
as far as Blue Bench—one day’s ride. Such convolution,
some think,
“You’ve got your grandma’s eyes,” great-aunts is called for,
peer out from afghan barracks and decide. makes more sense;
But I know better. hence,
She saw unaided (unencumbered?)
She saw direct, all by herself. Poetry.
I can’t. —Sharlee Mullins Glenn

How would I see orange without Albers, Sharlee Mullins Glenn lives in Pleasant Grove,
thick-crusted bread without Vermeer, Utah, with her husband and five children. Her work
eyes without Eakins, light without Turner, has appeared in The Southern Literary Journal,
my own still bath-wet form reflected Women’s Studies, Wasatch Review, BYU Studies,
without hosts from Phidias forward? and The Gospel and Applied Christianity. She is
also the author of several books for children. “Raison
Proud fashioners of Art (of life?) D’Etre” was originally published in BYU Studies
These benefactor-thieves, 34:4 (1994–95).
bestowing their vision while robbing my own,

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R E V I E W S just for me. I suppose that, like Elouise, I too am a

Mug-wump, a “person [according to the essay by
When Are We Taking Ourselves Too the same name] who sits with ‘mug’ on one side
Seriously? of the fence and ‘wump’ on the other” (4), an inter-
esting discovery for a woman who, only in Utah,
A review of Elouise Bell’s Only When I Laugh (Sig- can be safely called a feminist. This discovery follows
nature Books, 1990) upon a very recent visit to London where, having
Reviewed by Patricia T. Coleman declared that I was indeed a feminist, I found
myself under verbal assault by three or four other-
[Editor’s note: This review was originally presented wise quite civil English gentlemen who, having just
at the Association for Mormon Letters annual meeting read Germaine Greer’s observation in the London
on January 26, 1991.] Times that no real feminist ought “to consider it a
good day until she had insulted six men,” quite
The publication of Elouise Bell’s Only When I naturally assumed that my brand of feminism—
Laugh is happy news indeed for those of us who I call it “Utah feminism”—was identical with, God
have, over the years, enjoyed her columns in Net- save us, English academic feminism, Oxford-style.
work. It is especially happy news at this time of the The shock of that experience sent me back for
year when we have just been through the holidays comfort to Elouise’s “Mug-wump” essay. Here she
and, in typical Salt Lake City fashion, are in the reminded me that we are all of us fence sitters of
midst of what may turn out to be a rather extended one kind or another, that being a fence sitter is
temperature inversion. Suffering as we all are right more than just political expedient (especially in for-
now from what Elouise Bell calls “afterburn”—that eign countries); it is also philosophically necessary
complex of mopping-up chores that accompany so because we are always, if we are thinking people,
many otherwise pleasant activities, like Christ- amending our positions on the basis of new insights.
mas—I discovered that January in Utah is just the She also reminded me that we are all seeking the
time to make this book my constant companion. same things—like freedom from pigeonholing, free-
For Elouise Bell not only knows when to laugh, she dom even from misdirected verbal assaults; we just
knows what is funny—at least to people like me. do it under different names and guises.
She seems to understand better than most people In another essay, Elouise reminds us:
that humor—really important humor, that is—is The problem with Nice isn’t that it’s some-
profoundly serious. times wimpy; the problem is that Nice can be
By that, I don’t want to suggest that her humor dangerous. More crimes have been committed
is black, depressing, or sardonic. On the contrary, behind the mask of niceness, than behind all
she understands that humor is best when it is a the ski masks worn to all the convenience
kind of gentle, self-correcting wisdom born of pen- store stickups ever perpetrated. (40)
etrating self and social analysis. Her language
moves from the precise to the broadly suggestive, I remember what “nice” meant when I was in
exploring, as all good humorists do, the nuances of college. It was how we described the girl for whom
hyperbole. I do not think that it is saying too much we were trying to arrange a blind date. The guy
about the essays in Only When I Laugh to say that would ask, “Is she pretty?” To which we would
they are therapeutic: indeed, her lively self-depre- respond, “She’s great, a really nice girl. You’ll like
cating style reminds us when we are not taking our- her.” Of course, if she had been pretty, we all knew
selves seriously enough as well as when we are that we would have said, “She’s great, really pretty.
taking ourselves far too seriously. You’ll love her.” At Holy Names College, “nice” was
On every page and in every essay in the collection, the blind date kiss of death, and the men from
I found myself: it was as if Elouise had written this St. Mary’s College knew that. Elouise reminds us:

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Nice flies under false colors, wants the reputa- can be sure that the building called Hillside Pines
tion of the gentle dove without the wisdom of Terrace Gardens (and in which I lived when I first
the wise serpent. It is the Great Imposter, hav- came to Utah) is none of the above. In fact, it is
ing none of the power of Virtue but seeking quite comfortably situated on nearly level ground
the influence thereof. Nice is neither kind, near the corner of P Street and Third Avenue.
nor compassionate, neither good nor full of I guess Mr. Tracy didn’t think “Nearly Third
good cheer, neither hot nor cold. But, being Avenue” or “Still on P” were good enough names
puffed up in its own vanity, it is considerably for his apartment complex. I know that the lipstick
more dangerous than luke-warmth. (46) I use—Midnight Mocha Madness—is much more
like Hardy’s description of life than it is like any
I suppose what we Holy Names women ought to kind of madness: neither life nor my lipstick are
have said to the St. Mary’s men when they asked us going to deliver what they incipiently promise, else
if so-and-so were pretty was, “You’d better be I might expect tonight an evening of passion in
awfully handsome because you are really very shal- Paris rather than what is to be my fate—a set of
low.” What Elouise knows is that niceness is more freshman themes. And cars—there’s something
than just blind-date politeness. It “edits the truth, else, Elouise, to look at. Did any of you ever drive
dilutes loyalty, makes a caricature of patriotism. It a Reliant? Was it?
hobbles Justice, short-circuits Honor, and counter- Like Elouise, I, too, am tired of newspeak,
feits Mercy, Compassion, and Love” (41). whether it comes out of the mouths of my daugh-
She also seems to know, better than most of us, ters or my vice president. In “Liberating the Lan-
what other words do. All this time I thought our guage” (81–83), Elouise points out that in a world
household was the only place in the world where where Danish pastry becomes just plain Danish,
zucchini is a swearword in July and August. I have chaos is not far behind. What, for example, are we
heard my children say, “Do we have to have the to do with the term rubberstamp? Does “He’s just a
Z-word for dinner again tonight?” And I have felt rubberstamp” become—oh, well, never mind.
vaguely toward neighbors who drop off sacks of unre- Not too many years ago, as I was driving a car-
quested zucchini on my doorstep as I do toward load of junior high school girls home after school,
students who want to know if we are doing any- I heard one say, “Well, Emily, good-bye; it’s been
thing important in class today. In fact, I consider real.” I inquired of my daughter, “Real what?”
unrequested zucchini a kind of Mormon terrorist You can guess her response. Nevertheless, I was
activity, subtle maybe, but profoundly effective. undaunted. I wanted to be part of the group. She
Actually, Only When I Laugh is a collection of was, after all, my first child, and one wants to do
observations about words—all kinds of words— the ridiculous when one doesn’t understand the con-
and what these words do and do not mean, what sequences. So the next time we dropped Heather
they do and do not do. And in each case, we get a off, I turned to Heather and said, “Good-bye
whole new perspective on our language. For exam- Heather; it’s been.” I figured that if less was more,
ple, I’m with Elouise on the word patriotism. If we even less was the most. Wrong. Of course, the
can have “patriotism,” why not “matriotism”? If trouble with trying to be like other people, espe-
patriotism is about the world, Elouise tells us, cially those younger than you, is that you never
matriotism is about the earth (17–19). Remember know where to stop. Apparently I had left too
her? She’s the thing that we have to save first, much out. That’s pretty much how I feel when I
because the world won’t be worth saving if the order a Danish and get a pastry. What I really want
earth is dead. when I order a Danish is not a Danish pastry but a
And I’m with her on a few other things, too. Danish man.
When was the last time you really read the name of Elouise Bell reminds us throughout her collec-
an apartment building, a lipstick, or a car? You tion about the power of the word—abused power

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and underused power. As she herself points out in I’m a “3:05 Weekdays.” That’s the time I own
the same essay, “Mark Twain said that the differ- between the junior high carpool and the elemen-
ence between the right word and the almost right tary school carpool and which I reserve for writing
word was the difference between lightning and the in my cheap Osco Drugstore imitation Franklin
lightning bug” (82). Or, in my case, the difference Dayplanner the things which I should have done
between the pastry and the person. It is in that light but didn’t before 3:00 and ought to do but proba-
that you must read “Greeting Cards,” especially if bly won’t after 3:00.
you feel about them as I do. I figure that there must But underneath all this, as underneath all her
be an inverse relationship in the real world between insights, are important and profound truth. We live
fresh, crisp language and income. And as a Catholic, in a world of power ties and padded shoulders.
I’m convinced that a just God has a special kind of I think I agree with my father: the world was a far
purgatory for the perpetrators of all that awful pas- more interesting place when things other than
sionless purple prose passing for poetry. Do you shoulders were padded. Elouise wants us to know
know how much people get paid to write the that we live in a world which dresses for success and
insides of those cards? A lot. Do you know how which worries about it. We live in a world where
much anyone in this audience ever made off his or women are actually beginning to believe that men
her words? Not much, I expect. Anyway, tired of won’t take them seriously in the corporate market-
reading those “warm fuzzies” (as my children call place if they are wearing open-toed shoes. Someone
them) that you find on the typical store-bought ought to tell those women that men won’t, for the
greeting card? Tired of a world in which you not most part, take them seriously in the corporate
only don’t have to write what you want to say, you marketplace even if they are wearing combat boots.
don’t even have to think it? Great, get in line Someone ought to tell them that being a liberated
behind Elouise and me. But as Elouise tells us, we woman is more than the right to wear padded shoul-
don’t have to settle for imitating California, where ders and become the CEO of some semi-ethical
people are now hiring themselves out to hold the business. And someone ought to tell the men who
hands of the dying elderly who find themselves are wearing all those power ties to take them off; a
abandoned in rest homes. As Elouise says, you lot of us think men are already too scary.
should “care enough to send your very self ” (86). In fact, the world we live in is already too scary,
She scoffs at trends—those tony trends—like and it takes someone like Elouise to make that
being color analyzed (“Call Me Indian Summer,” clear. She reminds us that we don’t listen to what
97–99). You remember color analyzing: it’s what other people say. We don’t listen to what is said to
the rich people who aren’t smart enough to know us. We don’t even listen to what we say. We have
what colors look good on them and who have too only to look at Elouise’s essay “The Meeting” to
much time on their hands do to find out just what appreciate her penetrating wit. She turns accepted
colors do, in fact, look good on them. Those of us Mormon clichés—indeed, any clichés of custom
in academe will love this essay. We don’t make that and thought—upside down and inside out. And
kind of money, and we don’t have that kind of her language in doing this is eloquent. In her mar-
time. And we’ll love anyone who points out to us velous parody of the church meeting, she reports
the ludicrous behavior of that affluent leisure class that Sister Amanda Ridgely Knight will discuss
which we scorn chiefly because we do not belong. “The Role of Man: Where Does He Fit in the Eter-
But why not? In a world where people pay perfectly nal Plan?” and Sister Alice Young Taylor will lecture
good money to find out that they are a “Spring” on “Three Important Men from Church History”
and not an “Autumn,” Elouise suggests that we (13). Now, I’ve never been to a Mormon meeting,
ought to have more options than just the four sea- but I have been to my share of Catholic ones, and
sons. Elouise says she thinks of herself most of I am here to tell you that we Catholics haven’t yet
the time as a “Monday Morning” (98). Personally, come up with three important women in church

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history. In short, this parody, while clearly a Mor- Daniel and Rosie O’Shea. The O’Shea family is
mon parody, is a lesson to all of us who are prod- LDS and lives in Manchester, England, but moves
ucts of and participants in patriarchal religions. to a farm in Northern Ireland during the course of
I especially liked the discussion of “What We Look the book. Incidentally, a sequel, Chamomile Winter,
For in Boys We Date” (13). I know in my high is already announced at the back of the book. This
school, in a course called “What Boys Look For in indicates that, while this particular novel is only
Girls They Date,” we were told that every man 184 pages long, we should expect to see some
wants to marry a virgin. What I wanted to know groundwork laid here for future books.
was why, then, all the boys I knew were so busy The oldest son, Ken, is nineteen years old and is
every weekend de-virginizing the population. serving for two years as an LDS labor missionary in
Elouise’s kind of humor doesn’t settle for easy Scotland. In this capacity, he spends his days help-
one-liners or take cheap shots. She understands the ing to build new chapels for local congregations.
power of language; and even when the wit is sharp, He doesn’t proselyte, and he is allowed to date,
it is elegant. which opens the door for a romantic subplot. But
he also must face anti-Mormon sentiments and
Patricia Truxler Coleman joined the Juan Diego violence in the area.
Catholic High School faculty in September of 2000. The most interesting storyline revolves around
She taught at Westminster College for 30 years as a Patrick, Ken’s younger brother. He’s about a year
professor of English. Dr. Coleman has been the recipi- younger than Ken, but he’s not interested in serv-
ent of more than ten Utah Humanities Council grants ing a labor mission and performing hard physical
over the past 30 years and has lectured widely on her work. Neither does he want to move with his fam-
favorite subjects: Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Thomas ily to Northern Ireland. Instead, he finds an office
Hardy, E. M. Forster, and T. S. Eliot, and regional job and a room in a flat and announces to his fam-
American women writers. In 1995 she established the ily that he’s moving out on his own. In our society,
Jane Austen Society of Utah, a chapter of the Jane this is normal for many eighteen-year-olds. But in
Austen Society of North America, and has served as
the O’Shea’s time and place, the legal and expected
president and director of the Utah chapter for the past
age to leave home is twenty-one.
six years. Dr. Coleman is married and the mother of
I initially felt impatient with the heartbroken
three daughters and three stepsons.
responses of his parents; after all, Patrick is only
trying to do his best. He isn’t out to cause trouble
Freshly Peeled Air but simply wants to grow up and live his own life.
A review of Anne Bradshaw’s Terracotta Summer But Patrick’s stubborn desire to do everything com-
(Bonneville Books, 2000) pletely on his own eventually does get him into
Reviewed by Katie Parker some messy situations, including inadvertent
involvement in the political unrest in Ireland. Here
When I think of LDS historical fiction, I natu- Bradshaw believably portrays Patrick’s progression.
rally think of pioneer stories. Or stories of the He doesn’t mean to get into trouble but just isn’t
Restoration and the subsequent persecutions. Or quite firm enough in his convictions to stay out of
anything else leading up to and including the exo- it when it presents itself. In the following passage,
dus to Utah. I don’t think of LDS historical fiction Patrick confronts a group meeting covertly in his
as set in the United Kingdom in 1963. Yet this is own flat:
the setting of Anne Bradshaw’s novel Terracotta
“Come on Patrick,” another man shouted.
Summer. And this alone makes it an intriguing
“Show us your colors. Who do you side with?”
book to pick up.
Terracotta Summer spans three major storylines, Patrick felt dryness round his lips. From
involving three young adults in the family of the looks of the crowd he knew he’d better

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give them the answers they wanted. Taking a understands Ruth and her problems a bit too eas-
sip of beer he began shakily. “From what I’ve ily, without her really explaining anything. This
read about the history of Ireland, my sympa- would make more sense if it came to light that he,
thies rest firmly with the Catholics. I . . .” too, has experienced or seen abuse and its effects
“You Catholic then?” A rugged man near firsthand. However, no such revelation occurs here.
the front interrupted. But he does launch into testimony and spiritual
lectures quite often. Ruth is initially rather cold to
Patrick shook his head. him and to others around her (an effect of the
The same man spoke up in disbelief. “You’re abuse, we’re supposed to understand), but people
Protestant and siding with the South?” want to be friends with her anyway. And on page
“No, I’m not that either,” added Patrick, six she tells her life story to a man she doesn’t know
noticing an immediate wary undercurrent. “I’m and doesn’t trust. It may be convenient to the pro-
a Mormon, and . . .” gression of the story, but it’s not consistent with
the character.
There was a sudden uproar of questions. Still, the writing itself is generally good. Brad-
Liam stood, raising his hands for silence. shaw writes descriptive prose skillfully, as evidenced
“You’re no Mormon, lad,” his voice was slip- in passages such as “They set off, hunching into the
pery soft, his eyes as hard as frozen bullets. morning mist, their footsteps echoing in the freshly
“I’ve read about that church. Makes more peeled air” (82), or “She was middle-aged with
sense than others apart from one thing— black hair scraped into a bun, reminding Patrick of
their health code. They refuse alcohol.” He a clothes peg puppet he’d had as a child” (31).
was pointing a finger at Patrick. “So you’re a Bradshaw sometimes takes her descriptions to
liar or a waverer. We don’t trust either.” extremes, describing several changes of clothes and
“Wait,” shouted Patrick, fear in his voice as providing strong physical descriptions of a few
the crowd moved toward him, threatening. characters who appear only once. But, with these
He rushed on, “I’m not a liar. I . . . I want few exceptions, her descriptions are brief, vivid,
to help . . .” and welcome.
Bradshaw grew up in the U.K. and lives there
The last thing he saw as he went down was
currently, so her prose abounds with British vocab-
Josh’s face leering above him, surrounded by
ulary. This is generally more charming than prob-
grappling arms and savage sounds. (104)
lematic for American readers. But there were a few
The third storyline involves Ruth, Daniel’s punctuation problems that I caught, including two
twenty-one-year-old sister. She’s a nonmember who places where quotation marks were completely
was orphaned at the age of eleven, lived in an missing. There were also a few sentences that didn’t
abusive environment for five years with Daniel’s seem to be quite grammatically correct. (I let these
brother Gerald, and ran away at the age of sixteen. slide, though; I attributed them to British gram-
During the book, she is sailing to America, where mar.) Also, the character of Elder Johns is referred
she hopes to begin a new life. On the ship, she finds to once as “Brother Johns” (which is perhaps rea-
herself involved with some drug smugglers as well sonable) and once as “Elder Thomas” (which is
as with Frank, a nice Mormon guy. not). Another flaw that I noticed was the scene
Of the three storylines, Ruth’s is the most forced. where someone is reading the Ensign. The book
The other two stories follow naturally from the takes place in 1963 and the Ensign didn’t appear
given circumstances, but Ruth’s drug deal crisis until several years after that.
seems to be more of a James Bond type of setup (in Still, if there have to be flaws, I’d rather have
other words, set up). The storytelling isn’t quite as them come through this way instead of in the
smooth here, either. Frank, the nice Mormon guy, storytelling itself, and the storytelling here is far

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superior to many other books that I’ve read in the When was the last time anyone had a really good
LDS market. The story as a whole is interesting and belly laugh during a Catholic mass?
well told. Terracotta Summer is, truly, a breath of Are Buddhist or Muslim jokes funnier than
“freshly peeled air.” I’ll be looking for the sequel, Mormon jokes?
Chamomile Winter. Have you ever seen a copy of a text titled The
Best-Loved Humor of the Jehovah’s Witnesses?
Biographical notes on Katie Parker appear after her How frequently would you chuckle at the droll
poetry earlier in this issue. wit of a Baptist minister while he’s literally trying to
scare the hell out of you at a revival?
Whose Best-Loved Line Is It Anyway? Do Pentecostals ever crack wise in tongues?
How many amusing anecdotes are shared during
A review of The Best-Loved Humor of the LDS a typical Quaker meeting, even if someone speaks?
People (Deseret Book, 1999) I’m sure my defensive questions would have given
Reviewed by Edgar C. Snow Jr. us more comfort had it not been for the weakness
evident in some of our religious competitors (okay,
Mormon humor, believe it or not, was the topic okay—Catholics and Jews do have a well-devel-
of an Associated Press article appearing in the New oped humor tradition). With a collective sigh, we
York Times on July 9, 1999, entitled “Mormon returned to the topic of the lesson.
Humor? Get Serious.” This article featured inter- In its favor, it should be noted, I guess, that the
views with Elouise Bell and Robert Kirby, the subject of this book review carries the currently
reigning queen and crown prince of Mormon humor theologically correct name “LDS People” rather
practitioners (just as in Elizabethan and Victorian than “the Mormons.” However, in the argument to
England, there is no king yet—if anything, I con- prove the existence of Mormon humor to a hostile
sider myself the janitor). It also featured the then world, this book might be necessary, but it is not
newly released Deseret Book title in its “Best-Loved” sufficient. It’s not that Best-Loved Humor isn’t
series, The Best-Loved Humor of the LDS People. funny; some parts are tolerably amusing. But the
The teaser for this AP article was, of course, the collection is arranged for the convenience of some-
apparently ridiculous assertion that Mormon humor one researching a talk or lesson in church, and, as a
even exists. It’s like saying that there’s such thing as result, doesn’t really lend itself to the enjoyment of
an Amish mafia (wait, there was an Amish drug gratuitous humor at your leisure. It’s similar to
ring busted about a year ago; I heard it on NPR: taping The Late Show with David Letterman and
“Brother, wouldst thou partake of a nickel bag?”). watching it the day afterward in the bright sun-
In my own elders quorum, about a year ago we shine while eating breakfast—it’s just not as funny
discussed whether Mormons had no sense of humor as when you’re sitting semiconscious in the dark,
and took themselves too seriously, especially con- which, actually, may be the best way to read this
sidering some of the pronouncements in the D&C book. I recommend the dust jacket for the second
about loud laughter and such. The prospect that printing carry the label: “WARNING: Do not read
Mormons didn’t have a sense of humor wasn’t very while operating heavy machinery.”
amusing to us. We pondered the question deeply; Best-Loved Humor, at best, should be viewed as a
several members of the quorum even flipped des- correlated topical guide to Ensign-worthy humor-
perately through the Topical Guide and Bible Dic- ous jokes and anecdotes. The more I think about it,
tionary for answers but were found wanting. And in fact—and I’m not accusing anyone of plagia-
since no one had a copy of McConkie’s Mormon rism—this book looks suspiciously like a collection
Doctrine, we were left for the moment with a stu- of amusing anecdotes and jokes that were edited
por of thought. Then intelligence (whether pure or out of William Bennett’s The Book of Virtues.
not I leave to you) stroked my mind, and I then The biggest problem with Best-Loved Humor is
asked the following questions: that some of the funniest parts have nothing to do

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with Mormonism in particular, weren’t written by John Bennion’s novel Falling Toward Heaven
Mormons, and have likely never been quoted in offered me some delicious suspense related to what
any Mormon meeting (unless by the editors) before the author’s real motives were in exploring Mor-
they were compiled into this book. Yet, to their mon characters and themes—and I’m afraid it’s
credit, the editors of this book anticipated my impossible not to have ulterior motives of either
cranky comments by suggesting in the introduc- proving or disproving Mormonism when dealing
tion that any such passages in their book will even- with such charged material. I commenced this
tually become best-loved by the Saints, presumably reading experience knowing that Bennion is an
through the self-fulfilling prophecy marketing English professor at Brigham Young University—
strategy of encouraging people to quote such pas- but he’s in BYU’s most troublesome department,
sages in Mormon meetings until they become best- where several cultural wolves in sheep’s clothing—
loved. In fact, in order to fulfill that prophecy, I real or imagined—have already been ousted. In
even quoted the book last week in my Gospel Doc- addition, I was fully aware that the publisher is
trine class—people groaned; the ones who were Signature Books, which is not known for publish-
awake, that is. ing fiction as propaganda to affirm the faith.
Finally, one last gripe about Best-Loved Humor: Bennion’s novel is basically a love story between
I secretly wish I had come up with the idea myself Howard Rockwood and Allison Warren, whose con-
to write this book first. I give it two and a half flicting beliefs about religion, homeland, and gen-
golden plates (out of five). der roles complicate their relationship. Their last
names could be symbolic: Rockwood is a Mormon
Ed Snow is a partner in the Atlanta office of an tied to the Utah ranchland and Mormonism of his
international law firm. His collection of humorous polygamous forefathers, while the rootless Warren
essays, Of Curious Workmanship: Musings on functions spiritually in an unpredictable, unmap-
Things Mormon, was recently published by Signa- pable maze of passageways formed by human caprice,
ture Books. He is married and blessed with three chil- especially her own. For me one of the novel’s cen-
dren who laugh at all of his jokes. tral questions is, How extensive a warren can the
heathen, clawed Allison carve into the solid elements
Falling Toward Heaven of Howard’s beliefs, culture, and family? While read-
ing, occasionally I feared the rock and wood would
A review of John Bennion’s Falling Toward Heaven slow Allison down and eventually freeze her, but
(Signature Books, 2000) she manages to keep scrabbling to the end, though
Reviewed by Christopher K. Bigelow with increasing consciousness of a possible ultimate
destination. For me, she’s the novel’s most interest-
My favorite Mormon novel-reading experience ing and compelling character.
is when I’m held in some suspense about whether The first seventy-odd pages take place during the
the author believes or disbelieves Mormonism. It’s final weeks of Rockwood’s mission to Houston,
perhaps an unbalanced way to read, with too much starting when he meets Allison at an outdoor pub-
emphasis on the author pulling levers behind the lic event and ending when he ditches his homeward
curtain rather than on the work itself, but some- flight moments before departure and shows up at
thing about our Mormon emphasis on conformity her apartment to commence a relationship, which
encourages that way of reading. We can’t help ask- includes premarital sex. Rockwood’s faith at the tail
ing, Is this author true to the faith, on our team, a end of his mission is typified by his telling a neigh-
temple recommend holder? Unfortunately, that kind bor a few weeks before his mission ends, “Never
of suspense is not available very often, since most pray. It’s like the monkey giving three wishes: you
Mormon fiction is published with battle lines already always get something you don’t want.” Then, full of
drawn by virtue of the publisher’s reputation, if confusion about Allison and troubling news from
nothing else.
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home, he slips alone outside to sit by a “festering named Grandmother God. . . . Her voice was
bayou” and ponder his challenges: nothing like the voice of guilt which he could
He felt as dazed as a stunned deer—knocked only name patriarchal, after his stern male
on the head first by a woman who had no ancestors. But both were imagined voices, he
place in his universe, then by his mother who knew. He hoped that the sporadic gifts of
had quietly become an apostate, and finally by spirit which had swept uninvited through him
his father’s failing body. He imagined God as would some day add up to a truer voice.
an ancient patriarch, so hassled by all his heav- After acknowledging to himself that the Grand-
enly wives and children that he turned anar- mother God is “the voice of his mother made
chic, actively culturing chaos on earth. God larger,” Howard realizes she has taught him
should not leave his children in doubt. The
universe should be sure and safe. If he could that church was not a room of answers, but
just stop believing, he thought, his confusion a pathway of questions. Answers fell like
would disappear. sloughed-off skin behind him. He hoped that
he could next learn that Grandfather God was
In Richard Cracroft’s paper titled “God-Finding not an impossible mix of modern business-
in the 21st Century: Alan Rex Mitchell’s Angel of man and Old Testament patriarch. Howard
the Danube and John Bennion’s Falling Toward knew that prayer was a form of eternal calcu-
Heaven,” which he delivered at the AML’s annual lus, a way of making closer and closer estimates
conference on February 24, 2001, he says the fol- of God’s person-ness. But for the first time
lowing about the novel’s first portion, with which I since he was a child, he had faith in the process.
agree: “I’m afraid that for many Mormon readers
this will be the end of the book—or of any book Talking to Allison later about his evolving concept
that begins with the sexual transgression of a Mor- of God, Howard says, “Since seeing that the God I
mon missionary. But walking out at this point is had imagined had flaws of my own making, of my
like exiting the Passion Play in protest at the culture’s making, I started to feel that God might
heinous crucifixion of Jesus. As in any Salvation be more like my mother’s father, a wise and kind
Journey, the fall is only the beginning of the story.” man. My mother says that he never raised his voice
The novel’s middle portion takes place in Rock- to her. He had a round Danish face and he grew
wood, Utah. Howard and Allison stop to visit apples.” Howard’s efforts to understand God are in
Howard’s parents on the new couple’s way to the same vein as Frank’s in Levi Peterson’s The
Alaska, where Allison has taken a job as a computer Backslider, which are rewarded by a Cowboy Jesus.
programmer in the oil industry. In Utah they face Howard wants Allison to give up Alaska, marry
pressures stemming as much from Howard’s family him, and ranch with him, but she wants nothing to
traditions and desires to make the family ranch his do with it. While visiting Rockwood, she encoun-
life’s work as from religious conflicts. In phantas- ters a natural spring where archeologists are remov-
magoric scenes of imagination and hallucination ing the bodies of long-dead Goshutes, including a
brought on by his ancestral home, Howard faces mother and infant. This burial pool becomes an
down ghosts of both ancestry and theology and, image and symbol of Allison’s spiritual journey, as
to paraphrase his own words, rebukes the stern well as a foreshadowing. One of the archeologists
patriarch god of his youth and drives a stake tells her: “We can’t find a bottom to this pond, the
through his heart. roots go so deep. They may have thought of the
Later, on a return trip to Rockwood during pool as a passageway to the next life. Reborn in this
which Howard undergoes Church discipline, God heavy mineral water, salty as the ocean.” During a
takes on new characteristics in his mind: subsequent trip to Rockwood, Allison returns to
He pondered the being (imagined whisper, the pool: “Rimmed by gray alkali, containing water
impulse, psychological force?) which he had hot enough to melt the snow, the pool looked like
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an evil egg, an eye. Babe, she said to herself, don’t goodness of the young man and his father’s sin in
get superstitious on me. Death was no channel one person? Then I had Allison converting, but one
to anywhere. The heart stopped beating. Con- of my teachers suggested that having a non-Mor-
sciousness and identity were illusions of evolution.” mon in the book would give me the opportunity to
When Howard finds her bathing in the pool, she explain Mormonism to her and to non-Mormon
tells him it’s the only baptism she’ll ever agree to. readers. I gave her the name Allison after the lusty
Later, after Allison faces a burial pool of her own in woman in the “Miller’s Tale” by Chaucer. I gave
Alaska, she seems more open to Howard’s ideas that Howard a traditional Bennion family name. The
there is more to this sphere than what is physically question of the novel then became, Could these
on the surface and that death is not the end. Over two people, so different from each other, grow
the course of the novel she gradually allows herself toward a true marriage?”
to become entwined with Howard and, while stop- When I followed up with Bennion about why
ping short of embracing his religion, she seems to information related to Mormonism seems to be
realize she doesn’t have anything better to offer. woven into the narrative as if it were written for a
Even still, she refuses to let him ever slip into the non-Mormon audience, he said:
old patriarchal mode of his ancestors. I sent the book in its various drafts to about
This is a novel for those who seek spiritual twenty national publishers before Signature
adventure in their fiction rather than spiritual secu- was good enough to take me on. I revised it
rity—in other words, it’s a literary novel as opposed for Signature through a couple of drafts, but
to a popular novel. Readers of faith-affirming pop- I’m happy that it still has that general tone,
ular Mormon fiction have their reward, but in both because we assume too much about ourselves.
word and deed Bennion champions the moral As Pauline Mortensen has said, the audience
value of more complex, challenging, open-ended of a piece is determined by the blank spaces in
fiction. In a 1997 BYU Studies article, he wrote: the work, what is assumed. When we assume
“The literary novel is an experiment in existence, in too much, we as writers offend those on the
being. It is moral, not because it spells out answers fringe and outsiders, which I want not to do.
and defines abstract principles, but because it
requires moral decisions in a fictional universe that While this is probably not the literary novel that
approaches the complexity and ambiguity of the will finally crack into the Mormon fiction main-
universe we find ourselves in.” Bennion is a believer stream currently dominated by Deseret Book and
in Mormon doctrine, but he is obviously not a Covenant, I hope it’s another step in the right
believer in the aspects of Mormon culture Allison direction. A believing Mormon can walk away
helps save Howard from. from this novel with inspiring, even faith-promot-
In an e-mail exchange, Bennion shared some ing ideas about how life’s excruciating dilemmas
insights about the novel’s background. He started allow us to fall toward heaven, like Adam and Eve
writing it during his Ph.D. program at the Univer- did. Though “literary,” the novel is a pleasure to
sity of Houston, and it became his 950-page disser- read, with swift, economical prose, lively pacing
tation novel. “The germ of the novel was probably and dialogue, and colorful images and events. My
my longstanding unhappiness about my father’s only quibbles are with some comma usage and with
alcoholism,” Bennion says. “Because he was still alive some dialogue that seemed a little too self-aware
I couldn’t use that subject matter, so I chose another and elliptical. Frankly, I wish a publisher as cultur-
sin, adultery. Sounds silly, but that’s how my mind ally polarized as Signature hadn’t published this
worked. Originally I experimented with a young novel—I wish it had been published by some new
man returning from his mission to find that his Mormon publisher carving out territory for intelli-
father was having adultery with a woman he home gent, faithful readers dissatisfied by both the fore-
taught. I then thought, Why not put both the gone conclusions of popular Mormon fiction and

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the excessively nonplussing fiction of the literary that pile of books is my copy of Of Curious Work-
elite. Irreantum Books, anyone? manship. Not where I last saw it every time I
glanced over there for weeks and months. I’m
Christopher K. Bigelow has a bachelor’s degree in beginning to think the other books kidnapped it
professional writing from Emerson College, Boston, and passed it from shelf to shelf to laugh over this
and a master’s degree in creative writing from BYU. or that passage, or over Snow’s recommendations of
He writes marketing copy for a nutritional company, what books to put in a 72-hour survival kit, or
teaches writing at Utah Valley State College, and is what the gift of tongues really is. (Think cow.)
writing a missionary memoir. He is the cofounder of The post-it notes telling us where to look is an
IRREANTUM and serves as managing editor. image of one thing referring to another, or remind-
ing of another, and that’s how the book works. Ed
Sung with Vim, Vigor, and a Delicate Snow takes familiar phrases and shows them in
Tongue unfamiliar ways. He considers the gift of tongues,
and how he’s never spoken in tongues, and gradu-
A review of Edgar Snow’s Of Curious Workmanship ally muses his way to a gift someone gave him on
(Signature Books, 1999), Peggy Fletcher Stack and his mission: cow tongues.
Kathleen Peterson’s (illustrator) A World of Faith Or he wanders through the old MIA songbook,
(Signature Books, 1998), and Robert Kirby’s Provo which included unintentionally provocative song
Daily Herald article “Dressing like a Mormon guy for titles, like Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Tit Willow.” Or
only $39.93” he muses about how we sing in our congregations,
Reviewed by Harlow S. Clark compared to how the Swiss Saints in his mission
sang. Here’s the opening to “With Vigor and Vim”:
While I like quotes, I don’t like to memorize
quotes, or anything else. In fact, I only know The other evening we were listening to a
2 phone numbers: home and work. And I Primary Songs CD on our car stereo in order
can’t tell you my home number without push- to put our kids to sleep when I thought I heard
ing number pads on an imaginary phone sus- the lyrics, “Sing out with vigor and phlegm,”
pended in the air. Someone once said (I can’t causing me to wonder aloud whether these
remember the quote) that the mind is a room words had been translated directly from the
you fill with furniture you’re going to use, and old German language primary songbook Die
the rest you put in the attic. Some rooms are Kinder Singen I knew from my Swiss Mission
sparsely decorated, others are filled to the days. My wife politely suggested the word was
brim with furniture so close together you can “vim,” whatever that meant, causing her to
hardly move around, covered with assorted wonder whether I needed a hearing aid. No
knick-knacks from the Franklin Mint placed doubt it gave her a Father’s Day gift idea.
on doilies. The room of my mind is piled high When we got home I searched for a defini-
with discarded wads of paper, a chair, and tion of “vim” in that great repository of infor-
little post-it notes telling me where to look mation every Mormon in the ’70s looked to
things up. before giving a talk—not Mormon Doctrine,
—Edgar Snow but Webster’s Dictionary. Do you remember the
days when orthodoxy could be measured by
Sounds like the room I write in, except the wads whether the opening line of your “2-1/2 minute
of paper are books and newspaper and knicks and talk” was either (a) a Mormon joke (The Pope,
knacks like a shelf I rescued from someone’s garbage Billy Graham and President Kimball were
can, which would mount nicely in the space above fishing one day when . . .), or (b) the definition
where the door swings open. And somewhere in of your theme pulled out of the dictionary,

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followed by (c) an unattributed theft from this is the only Mormon fashion trend ever
Golden Nuggets of Thought, a treasury of short started by a General Authority that failed to
talks each of which could conveniently be catch on.
read aloud in about 2-1/2 minutes?
Kirby moves on to a sharper observation as he
He goes on to muse about our lack of vigor in moves down the body, poking fun at both Mormon
singing; we sing much too delicately, so it may approaches to fashion and Mormon militancy:
seem strange in the review title to suggest this book Mormons are more conscious of price than
sings with Vim, Vigor, and Delicacy. But it does. they are of brand names. “Two for one” means
There’s a lot of laughter here, a lot of foibles, but more to us than Armani, who, if asked, most
for all the foibles, and the vigor of the laughter, the Mormons would say was a Book of Mormon
humor is surprisingly gentle. prophet. Next up are shoes. Gucci is out (see
I was going to write, “surprisingly gentle com- Armani reference). So are Birkenstocks and
pared to Robert Kirby’s caustic humor,” but caustic Bass Weejuns. As a rule, Mormon guys prefer
isn’t the right word to describe Kirby’s humor. Off to be shod as if they were about to cross the
and on for the next day I kept wondering how to plains again. Wing tips or mailman shoes are
describe it. Roughhousing is a word that comes big. Combat boots may be allowed in some
to mind. Kirby is not particularly gentle, but he’s Montana wards, but definitely nothing
not being rough to beat people up, just full of vim two-toned or with tassels.
and vigor.
Other words that come to mind are relentless and There’s a lot of sharp satire in Kirby’s work,
satirical. I was looking for a Kirby column in the much sharper than this piece, some of it. So much
Provo Daily Herald archives ( that some people miss the testimony in his work.
and didn’t find it, but came across this one, “Dress- (Not my spellchecker, though. It suggests choirboy
ing like a Mormon guy for only $39.93,” which as an alternative to Kirby.) The column I was look-
begins: “A while back, I was in the Church Office ing for talks about his last few days before his mis-
Building trying to get to the roof to take a picture sion and starts out as a humor column but contains
of the top of angel Moroni’s head for a Sunstone a serious reference to Jesus saving his soul, which
article. I mean, he looks gold from the street but brought back that lovely moment in Brigham’s Bees
you never know. He could really be a brunette.” where the polygamous uncle is dying of lung can-
Note how Kirby sets up his satire poking fun at cer and utters his last word, with great love and
Sunstone, and people’s perceptions of Sunstone, and savor, apparently a greeting, “Lord!”
sets the stage for some misadventures trying to get Ed Snow’s humor is not so sharp—rather, as the
to the roof. subtitle suggests, it is “Musings on things Mor-
But he gets distracted by the way other passen- mon,” like the difficulty of correcting a typo when
gers are dressed and starts musing about how to you’re engraving on metal plates. Enjoy it, and if
dress like a Mormon guy: you can afford the horrendous price, buy another
one for the ward chorister, and ignore that reviewer
For starters, you’ll need a tie tack, something behind the curtain complaining that Signature
that discreetly proclaims your inner self and prices its literary offerings as if it doesn’t expect
keeps your tie from hanging in casseroles at them to sell, prices them as if they were books of
ward eats. Most LDS males opt for a minia- poetry from small presses that had to recoup the
ture of the Salt Lake Temple, angel Moroni, printing costs with relatively few sales, like Alicia
Eagle Scout award, or a paper clip. The most Suskin Ostriker’s The Crack in Everything, Pitt
original tie tack I’ve ever seen on a Mormon Poetry Series, U of Pittsburgh Press, $12.95, or
was in a photograph of Elder J. Golden Kim- Tess Gallagher’s Amplitude (216 pages), Graywolf
ball. His tie tack was a molar. Incidentally, Press, $14.95.

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I say ignore that ranting reviewer even as he of belief and showing how the cultures together
points out that Ostriker and Gallagher have national make up A World of Faith. That this is Stack and
reputations but their books ranked 313,202 and Peterson’s rhetorical stance is clear to people who
367,754 on on the Ides of March, are familiar with religious polemics. For example,
100,000 behind Snow’s (219,663), so someone an astute reader of book covers, say of Walter Mar-
must be buying it, so maybe they could lower the tin’s The Kingdom of the Cults, or Anthony
price on the second printing—but, of course the Hoekema’s The Four Major Cults, will note that
fact that people are buying it proves the price does- they’re all here, Mormons, Seventh Day Adventists,
n’t deter buyers, so they won’t. Christian Scientists, and Jehovah’s Witnesses. Indeed,
Ignore, I say, ignore that ranting reviewer who all the Native American religions in the book,
tries to make his case that Signature doesn’t think including Hopi, are religions the polemic writers of
this book will sell by pointing to Peggy Fletcher the immigrant Protestant religions would consider
Stack and Kathleen Peterson’s A World of Faith, non-Christian, or heretical, or not mainstream.
which is only $5 more than Of Curious Work- But if there’s a satiric edge to that last paragraph,
manship, even though by all accounts hardbound there’s no satiric edge to this book. It’s a gently spo-
books with full-color illustrations are much more ken celebration of the ways people all over the
expensive than 132-page paperbacks. Indeed, in world worship their creator. Stack and Peterson
the national press hardbound children’s picture have the good grace to dignify each religion, to let
books sell for just $1 more than Of Curious Work- each speak through its own symbols and let each
manship (for example, Rick Walton and Jimmy speak as a tradition of faith, a tradition that reaches
Holder’s Pig, Pigger, Piggest, and Laura Numeroff toward God, or responds to God’s reaching arms.
and Felicia Bond’s If You Give a Pig a Pancake). (Look at the border on the front and back covers;
A World of Faith costs 25 percent more than most can you spot the Mormon symbols?)
children’s hardbound picture books, but it’s also Each religion, from Amish, Baha’i, and Baptist
twice as long, 64 leaves instead of 32. Clearly to Unitarian, Yoruba, and Zoroastrian, has a two-
Signature thinks this book can compete on the page spread with a picture illustrating people and
national market. places from that tradition, and a border showing
Rant on, rant on, reviewer—how does it rank the tradition’s symbols and motifs, a two-paragraph
at Barnes and Noble? (72,823, and BN gives it a account of the religion, and a caption about the
20 percent discount, which it doesn’t give Snow’s illustration. Here’s the first paragraph about the Hopi:
book). Oh, wait, there’s a transition coming.
Humor testifies that people are human and In the beginning, say the Hopis, human
humane enough to laugh at themselves. Humor is beings lived underground, far below the sur-
also a way of telling the outside world you exist as face of the earth. But they were crowded and
a culture with the foibles and mores and strange- constantly tripping over each other. So they
ness of any culture. Religion also testifies that a made their way up through three different lev-
group is human, a distinct culture. But if humor is els until they found a hole in the earth’s sur-
sometimes full of phlegm and vigor, so is religion. face. They climbed through the hole to see the
If humor sometimes wounds, religion sometimes sky and breathe the air. This world was the
counts other religions as an offense, destroying in Fourth World. God told the humans that this
tongues of fire or fiery mortar shells temples and world was not easy like the other three. It has
statues and mosques and synagogues (gog, magog, height and depth, heat and cold, beauty and
synagogue, cinemagogue) that may have stood emptiness. Humans must choose the good,
hundreds of years as someone’s expression of faith. God said, and carry out the plan of creation.
There is another way of testifying about a cul- Then God left them, with only spirits or
ture’s belief in God—setting it among other cultures “kachinas” to guide them on their journey.

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Kathleen Peterson’s illustrations have the same Selected Recent Releases

beauty that made her illustrations for The Stones
of the Temple such a fine companion (a helpmeet) Bell, Michele Ashman, Love Lights the Way
to J. Frederic Voros Jr.’s lyrical celebration of Salt (Covenant, $14.95). For Ashlyn Kennsington, the
Lake’s childhood. The illustrations here show a happiest day of her life—the day she would marry
detail that bespeaks not only study of other cultures the man who had swept her off her feet—was a dis-
but also a love and respect for what is sacred in aster. Left at the altar, Ashlyn is heartbroken and
those cultures. soon transforms into an insecure recluse. When her
The Pleasant Grove library has three or four best friend offers the opportunity to spend the
copies of this book, and I have probably checked summer on the Oregon coast, it seems like the per-
them all out over the past several months as a way fect escape. Soon the attention of an attractive
of prodding myself to write this review. I like to stranger, Sebastian Jamison, helps Ashlyn feel like
boost their circulation, too. I worked off a traffic her old self. Intrigued by a large, abandoned Victo-
ticket there once and found that if a book is out on rian home overlooking the ocean, Ashlyn decides
a table you don’t reshelve it before scanning the to restore it and turn it into a B&B. But it seems
barcode so that it becomes part of their circulation that everything goes wrong. There is a fire, and then
stats. I like to put a few books on the table every Sebastian begins acting strangely and disappears.
time I go. I don’t know if it has a copy of Of Curi- Bessey, Sian Ann, Forgotten Notes (Covenant,
ous Workmanship, but if my other two or so thou- $14.95). After four years of nursing school, Sarah
sand books ever get through passing it amongst Lewis has returned home to her tiny Welsh village
themselves I’ll finally shelve it and consider it well of Pen-Y-Bryn to live, work, and entertain audi-
circulated. ences with her gifted harp playing. She loves the
I’ve been keeping my copy on the lip of the phi- peace and beauty of her village but finds her seren-
losophy shelf, essays, rather than with humor in the ity shattered by the arrival of two Americans—Iris
other room, where it wouldn’t constantly remind Pearson and her handsome son, Brian—looking for
me I have a review to write, so I suspect the philoso- answers about their infamous ancestors. The disap-
phers have made off with it. Thinking’s hard work, pearance of Glyn Jones and Mary Williams from
and I hope it gives them enough rest that they can the village in 1881 has been the subject of specula-
sing with a bit more vim. I’ll ask them when we tion, rumors, and outright lies for over 100 years.
meet. After I drop by St. Peter’s Deli first and pick When the Pearsons arrive claiming to be Glyn’s
up some tongue. and Mary’s descendants, some old questions are
answered, but new, painful mysteries emerge. Sarah
Harlow Clark is a freelance writer who reports the is intrigued by and then attracted to Brian—until
Lindon city council news for the Pleasant Grove she discovers he is a Mormon. Torn between the
Review (, writes features for horrible things she’s heard about his religion and
NewUtah! and the Provo Daily Herald, and in his her growing affection for Brian, Sarah decides to
spare time does business research and writing for a help him with his search.
high-tech company within walking distance (three Carter, Ron, Prelude to Glory, Vol. 4: The
miles), but he uses a car because even though he has Hand of Providence (Deseret, $22.95). It’s the
some life insurance Donna thinks it’s not sufficient summer of 1777, and flamboyant British general
and the road there is just too busy to walk. Along John Burgoyne has been sent by King George III to
about this time of year Harlow starts imagining his command a force of some eight thousand British
garden and resolving that this year the weeds shall and German troops in the war raging in the rebel-
have no dominion. lious American colonies. With little understanding
of the rugged, heavily wooded terrain he will have
to cross, and taking for granted the help he enlists
from the ferocious Mohawk Indian tribe, Burgoyne
IRREANTUM 75 Spring 2001
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assembles an elaborate camp and begins his march Nunes, Rachel Ann, This Time Forever
on Fort Ticonderoga. When the Americans aban- (Covenant, $14.95). Mickelle Hansen never real-
don the strategically located fort without firing a ized marriage could be so challenging. Her hus-
shot, it looks as though Burgoyne is well on his way band’s epilepsy has caused him to become cynical
to accomplishing his purpose and achieving mili- and verbally abusive. But with love in her heart and
tary glory. What he hasn’t foreseen is the determi- strength from her Heavenly Father, Mickelle is
nation of the American forces. Under the heroic determined to make her marriage work.
leadership of General Benedict Arnold, the upstart Poulson, Clair, I’ll Find You (Covenant,
Americans claim an unlikely victory in the decisive $14.95). When she was six years old, Jeri Satch wit-
Battle of Saratoga, which changes forever the his- nessed her best friend, Rusty Egan, being kid-
tory of the world. napped by a menacing stranger. As the old green
Gardner, Lynn, Opals and Outrage (Cove- car sped away with Rusty inside, Jeri screamed, “I’ll
nant, $14.95). For Bart and Allison Allen, a vaca- find you!” This promise had haunted her for seven-
tion is just what the doctor ordered—literally. As teen years. As years passed, thoughts of Rusty were
top-secret agents in the anti-terrorist organization never far from Jeri’s mind. And she never ceased to
Anastasia, this newly married couple needs some watch for the one thing that would identify him—
time off. But with a harried phone call, the vaca- his unforgettable blue eyes. Meanwhile, a muscular
tion is over. Bart and Allison learn that Islamic fun- inmate named Randy Moore wasn’t sure how he
damentalists are in the States, and they aren’t here knew the attractive young woman staring at him.
to see the sights. But the name she murmured—Rusty—sent a
Hughes, Dean, Children of the Promise, Vol. shiver down his spine and made long-forgotten
5: As Long As I Have You (Deseret $22.95). In the memories claw for the light of day. But he didn’t
final volume of this series, Hughes presents a pic- have time for this. With only months to go before
ture of what life was like for an ordinary LDS fam- his parole, all Randy could think about was the
ily, the Thomases, at the end of World War II. The half-million dollars he had hidden, and the serial
family is slowly coming back together at home in
killer who would soon be on his trail.
Salt Lake City. But that doesn’t mean all is well in
Stansfield, Anita, A Star in Winter (Covenant,
Zion. President Thomas is ready to fulfill his dream
$12.95) Shayne Brynner has tried everything to
of a vast business enterprise run by his children.
make his marriage work. His wife, Margie, only feels
But, as Sister Thomas tries to make him see, the
children may have different plans. well enough to shop incessantly and go to lunch
King, Beverly, Picture Perfect (Covenant, with her friends. Buckling under Margie’s extreme
$14.95). At the age of sixteen, Jillian Taylor won a credit-card debt, Shayne is forced to sell their home
beauty contest and left her family, her home, and and move the family into an apartment. Enraged,
her church to go to New York to become a model. Margie leaves the family. Eight-year-old Scotty
She never looked back. Eight years later—washed Brynner is having a noticeably difficult time coping
up and broke—Jillian is ashamed to admit failure. with the problems at home. When he misses school,
When her father dies unexpectedly of a heart Helen Starkey, Scotty’s caring and sensitive teacher,
attack, she has to borrow money for plane fare to decides to visit the apartment. When she learns
go home. Although her world has completely fallen of the family’s plight and the father’s demanding
apart, Jillian is determined to keep up appearances. job, she offers to watch the children after school.
Her old boyfriend, Randy Prescott, is delighted to Shayne is grateful for the help, and a close bond
see her. But his cousin Luke is less enthusiastic. develops quickly between Helen and the children.
Luke has always thought Jillian was superficial; When his marriage ends, Shayne’s feelings toward
worse, she turned her back on her father when he Helen deepen beyond gratitude.
needed her. Worried she will break Randy’s heart Staheli, Don, and Barrett, Robert T., The
again, Luke warns Jillian to leave town. Story of the Walnut Tree (Deseret Book, $16.95).

Spring 2001 76 IRREANTUM

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Inspired by President Gordon B. Hinckley’s Nacho Hell

account, The Story of the Walnut Tree tells a tale of
The ancient Mayas fried their mash of maize,
how the wisdom, nurturing, and vision of the
creating crispy strips of crunchy corn.
prophet of God, the “man who loves trees,” trans-
Upon an altar, smoking fires ablaze,
formed a struggling walnut tree into the pulpit of
tomato and cilantro slush was born:
the Conference Center. With lessons reflecting
the Holy Salsa, hot to feed the gods,
President Hinckley’s lifetime of teaching his chil-
was slathered on the chips with shouts of glee
dren and grandchildren, this narrative tells of the
a taster slave would have to beat the odds
potential inherent in all God’s creations.
as jalapeños melt him to the knees.
Yorgason, Blaine M., Hearts Afire, Vol. 3:
A vat of rude Velveeta, spiced and warm
Curly Bill’s Gift (Deseret Book, $22.95). It’s
would through a trough be splashed upon the mix.
1881, and the plight of the Saints sent to colonize
The priestesses of munching would perform,
southeastern Utah weighs heavily on LDS apostle
cavorting like a mass of colored sticks.
Erastus Snow. Enduring heat, drought, wind, failed
Today, no takeout fetched from Taco Bell
crops, and chronic poverty, the embattled citizens
could match the brimstone of that nacho hell.
of Bluff Fort are also plagued by Indian depreda-
tions and an infestation of vicious outlaws. At the —Gideon Burton
heart of this struggle to survive are Billy and Eliza
Foreman and their infant son, Willy. Nearly para- Gideon Burton teaches Renaissance and Mormon
lyzed by her fear of an evil Indian, Eliza also battles literature at Brigham Young University, where he is an
poor health and discouragement. Matters are made assistant professor of English. He currently serves on
worse when her husband, Billy, has to seek employ- the editorial board of IRREANTUM and as president-
ment away from the fort. He signs on as a cow- elect of the Association for Mormon Letters.
puncher and is turned over to Curly Bill Jenkins for
initiation into the world of bucking broncos, herd-
ing cattle, and roping.


Love’s Lungs
Back then balloons were not an easy matter.
In ancient times they had to kill a goat,
extract its large intestine (or its bladder),
some lumberjack would huff, the ball would bloat.
Today, some weakling florist turns the gas,
and presto, a bouquet of mylar orbs!
Farewell those rites of manhood to be passed
when gifts so swelled no time nor sweat absorb.
True valentines their own balloons must fashion,
must find a cow or rhino to dispatch,
must find the guts to well express his passion,
to show his love that florist’s met his match.
She’ll know your love by just how well you blew:
believe me, this procedure’s tripe and true.
—Gideon Burton

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M O R M O N in paperback by W. W. Norton. Booklist described

the collection as “finely crafted short fiction that
explores the aftermath of life-threatening events”
S C E N E and called Clyde’s writing “sculpted prose.” The
New York Times Book Review said, “Clyde has an
Books exquisite sense of humor” and “this collection [is]
• Martha Nibley Beck, last year’s winner of an as good as they get.”
AML award for her memoir Expecting Adam: • Entertainment Weekly reported that rap star
A True Story of Birth, Rebirth, and Everyday Magic, Sean “Puffy” Combs is suing AML member Mikal
has released a new self-help narrative based on her Gilmore because Combs alleges Gilmore contracted
personal consulting services. A Publishers Weekly to cowrite Combs’s autobiography for $325,000
reviewer called Finding Your Own North Star: but failed to start work on it. The book, intended
Claiming the Life You Were Meant to Live “cheerful for Ballantine, was canceled early last year because
and perceptive but too long” and noted that Beck’s of nondelivery. Gilmore is the author of a memoir
voice is “light, down-to-earth, and refreshing.” The titled Shot in the Heart that revolves around his
reviewer continued: “By far the most fascinating brother, executed Utahn murderer Gary Gilmore.
material is on how to read warnings from the essen- • Darius Gray, coauthor with Margaret Young
tial self: low energy, lapses into illness, forgetful- of Deseret Book’s black pioneer novel series Stand-
ness, addictions, Freudian slips, and mood swings. ing on the Promises, has gained nationwide media
She advises steering toward the correct path by attention for his involvement in the LDS Church’s
eliminating negative influences and practicing elab- release of a CD containing the world’s largest repos-
orate self-esteem exercises. A section on navigating itory of African-American genealogical records,
change weighs the book down, while suggestions drawn from the nineteenth-century Freedman’s
for dealing with serious emotions like grief and Bank. Deseret Book publicist Tom Haraldsen told
anger are somewhat breezy. In the end, however, Publishers Weekly that, while the historical fiction
the numerous self-quizzes, exercises, and chances to trilogy’s first volume was marketed only regionally,
laugh will allow many readers to overlook these the company is now considering a national market-
weaknesses.” ing plan. Released last September, the trilogy’s first
• Orson Scott Card’s novel Sarah, the first vol- installment, One More River to Cross, has exhausted
ume in his Women of Genesis series published by its initial 7,000-copy print run, and 4,000 more
Deseret Book, was recently reviewed by the Jerusa- copies have been printed. Nearly 1,000 copies were
lem Post. “When a noted science fiction author— handed out to media personnel and African-Amer-
and practicing Mormon—uses the Bible as the ican dignitaries attending the Freedman’s Bank CD
basis for a novel, the result is a kind of fiction that press conferences. The second volume of Standing
some Orthodox readers might opt to leave on the on the Promises is scheduled for release in February
shelf,” the reviewer begins. But he concludes, “This 2002 during Black History Month.
book stands on its own as a fine work of fiction • Gerald Grimmett’s recently released novel
rather than as a devotional tool. It is an impressive The Ferry Woman: A Novel of John D. Lee and the
tribute to contemporary feminism.” In other Sarah Mountain Meadows Massacre was called “great” by
news, Publishers Weekly reported that mainstream Salt Lake Tribune critic Martin Naparsteck. Told
science fiction publisher Tor has picked up mass- through the voice of Emeline Buxton Lee, the
market rights to the novel. young, fictional 16th wife of John D. Lee who helps
• Mormon writer Mary Clyde’s short story col- him run Lee’s Ferry, the novel is “great because of
lection Survival Rates, which won the Flannery the richness of Grimmett’s language; because of the
O’Connor Award and was published in hardback grand, at points biblical sweep of his tale; because
by the University of Georgia Press, has been released of his insight into the psychology of Emeline, whom

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he manages to portray as richly individualistic and Book), and 500,000 for Chris Heimerdinger’s
real, but also as a metaphor for Mormon culture; seven-volume Tennis Shoes among the Nephites
and, mostly, because of his courage in confronting series (Covenant). An article about the connection
the most discomforting episode in Mormon his- between religion and science fiction and fantasy
tory.” Brigham Young does not order the massacre included a large sidebar titled “The Mormon
in this account, but he is portrayed as selfish and Link,” which identified two reasons for the Mor-
corrupt, according to Naparsteck. Grimmett is a mon connection: “Their idea of God as a highly
St. George, Utah–based journalist and freelance developed man—and not an ethereal, supernatural
writer, and the novel is published by Limberlost being—is the kind of highly evolved hero much of
Press of Boise, Idaho. science fiction is founded on,” and “Much of their
• LDS author Violet T. Kimball won a 2001 history has painted them as ‘aliens’ to the American
Spur Award for her book Stories of Young Pioneers: mainstream.”
In Their Own Words, published last year by Moun-
tain Press Publishing Company. The book, which Drama
relates the experiences of young pioneers traveling
through the West in the mid-nineteenth century • Playwright Julie Jensen, who has identified
herself in the media as a nonpracticing Mormon
and was written for young readers, is Kimball’s
and who authored the plays Two-Headed and Last
second title; her first book was Mormon Trail: Voy-
Lists of My Mad Mother, has received a $25,000
age of Discovery. Past winners of the Spur Awards,
grant from the National Endowment for the Arts
which are sponsored by the Western Writers of Amer-
and a $100,000 grant from the National Theatre
ica, include Larry McMurty for Lonesome Dove and Artist Program. During a residency at the Salt Lake
Michael Blake for Dances with Wolves. Acting Company (SLAC), she will develop a new
• Clair Poulson’s romantic mystery I’ll Find You, play exploring the struggles between early Mormon
published by Covenant and involving a main char- settlers and the Goshute tribe and examining the
acter who is a prison inmate, sold out its 6,500- modern-day proposal of some tribe members to
copy first printing within a month of release. store nuclear waste on their reservation. Jensen’s
Poulson, a former police officer and current county latest play, Cheat, has been the subject of recent
judge in Utah, says he’s “witnessed firsthand the readings in New York and New Jersey.
struggles of prisoners, and I have seen ones who • Tim Slover’s new play Hancock Country, based
could be reformed. Remarkable changes can hap- on events surrounding Joseph Smith’s martyrdom
pen when prisoners are touched by the gospel and at Carthage Jail, was recently given a staged reading
the right example.” Covenant marketing vice pres- by the New Renaissance Theatre Company at Salt
ident Robby Nichols describes Poulson as “the LDS Lake City’s new Rose Wagner Center for the Per-
version of John Grisham.” forming Arts. “I have shied away from Mormon
• Publishers Weekly recently ran two articles related history,” Slover said, “probably because I’m too close
to Mormonism, one about Mormon book publish- to it, but I have attempted to write a play that is
ing and the other about Mormon influence on sci- both educational and entertaining, and I have tried
ence fiction and fantasy. A feature article titled to give full weight and value to both the Mormon
“Mormon Publishing Comes Into Its Own” esti- and non-Mormon views in Illinois during that
mated the Mormon publishing market at $100 mil- period.” The play was commissioned by R. Don
lion annually and revealed some Mormon-market Oscarson through his Discovery Grant program,
sales figures, including 40,000 copies for David which aims to help produce locally written works
Woolley’s Pillar of Fire (Covenant), two million for with the potential to eventually move beyond
Gerald Lund’s nine-volume Work and the Glory Utah’s Wasatch Front.
series (Deseret Book), 400,000 for Dean Hughes’s • Boston businessman Greg Carr, who was raised
five-volume Children of the Promise series (Deseret LDS in Idaho, recently completed construction of

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the Market Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts. put on film,” a Daily Variety reviewer called
The 110-seat, state-of-the-art performance house in Brigham City “a more artful, philosophically daring
Harvard Square will serve as a venue for “offbeat work” than God’s Army and “the happiest marriage
theater productions.” yet of the disparate propagandistic and narrative
influences inherent in the subgenre of ‘religious’
Film cinema.” Describing the performances as “impec-
cable” and the movie as an “engrossing” mix of
• Despite earning only about $12,000 in five piety and humility with murder and mystery, a
years on movie-related efforts and failing to reach New York Times reviewer wrote, “Brigham City, like
the screen yet, print heavyweight Orson Scott God's Army, may proselytize for the Church of Jesus
Card has several cinematic irons in the fire, includ- Christ of Latter-day Saints, but Brigham City is also
ing three projects he said “should all go before the an example of concise, skillful filmmaking.” Two of
cameras this year.” Dogwalker, adapted from a Card the film’s least admiring reviews appeared in the
short story, is set in New Orleans, Louisiana, “in a LDS-owned Deseret News and the LDS-targeted
bleak but all-too-plausible future about twenty online Meridian Magazine. The film’s PG-13 rating
years from now. Sometimes called a ‘cyberpunk caused some controversy, and a TV deal to televise
Midnight Cowboy,’ Dogwalker points a new direc- Brigham City has reportedly been made.
tion in science fiction film, away from huge action • Richard Dutcher announced that his next
flicks with mind-numbing budgets and toward more movie will be a $10 million biography of Joseph
intimate films about human relationships twisted Smith, which he termed “the Mt. Everest of LDS
by technology.” A film based on his novel Home- filmmaking.” The film has a working title of The
body will be a “ghostly romance,” and a film based Prophet: The Story of Joseph Smith Jr., and Dutcher
on his novel Feed the Baby of Love will be an “adult has begun scouting locations in New York and the
love story.” My One and Only, Card’s film for the Midwest and plans to start shooting this fall for a
Mormon audience about four women at BYU, has possible 2002 holiday season release. He has been
been easier to finance, Card said, because of the developing the script for six years and has sought
success of Richard Dutcher’s God’s Army. His hopes the input of Columbia University–based LDS
remain alive for a movie based on his novel Ender’s scholar Richard Bushman. Dutcher noted that the
Game, which he said “will be made when a studio film is completely independent of the LDS Church
has the courage to fund a film without stars. Even- and would probably be rated PG-13. Because of
tually it will happen, when the right director is the relatively large budget, Dutcher said, the film
found. It could come together next month, next must appeal to a crossover audience, not just LDS
year, or 10 years from now.” viewers. “Joseph Smith’s story is relevant and impor-
• Richard Dutcher’s new film Brigham City pre- tant not only to the Mormon people but to Amer-
miered in about 60 western U.S. cities in April. ican history and even world history,” Dutcher said.
Dutcher, who wrote, produced, and directed the • Mitch Davis recently finished directing a film
film, plays a small-town sheriff and Mormon bishop titled The Other Side of Heaven, based on John H.
who uses every possible resource to find a serial Groberg’s Tongan missionary experiences recounted
killer. According to Dutcher, the murder mystery in Groberg’s memoir In the Eye of the Storm (Deseret
serves as the skeleton of the plot, while the meat of Book). The film is a coming-of-age story about a
the story is how deeply religious and sheltered char- boy from Idaho who gets sent to a Tongan island,
acters deal with the horrific crimes. In contrast with where he is the only white person and must learn
the $300,000 budget of Dutcher’s last movie, God’s how to survive and to love and relate with the
Army, which grossed $2.6 million, Brigham City islanders. The movie, produced by high-powered
was made with a $1.2-million budget. Noting the Hollywood producers and LDS members Gerald
film’s “supremely powerful climax that surely qual- Molen and John Garbett, is scheduled for release
ifies as one of the tensest communion services ever this fall. More than 600 people were involved in

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making the movie, including many Hollywood insid- “I want my kids to see great films,” Lines told the
ers, but only a handful were LDS. In a review for New York Times. “But I don’t think teenagers, and
Meridian Magazine, Kieth Merrill wrote, “Do not adults, for that matter, need to see all that sex
mistake The Other Side of Heaven as having any- and hear curse words and see all that blood and
thing at all to do with the recent buzz about ‘Mor- gore.” Motion picture industry representatives
mon cinema.’” He continued, “It is a full-blown warn that such editing activity may violate trade-
Hollywood feature film that will easily play to the mark and copyright laws, especially with regards to
world, ‘in every movie center’ as Spencer Kimball movies offered for rental. CleanFlicks posts a list of
foresaw.” For more information about The Other 18 movies it will not edit “because of theme, over-
Side of Heaven, go to or all message, and number of edits in the movie.” The list, which is as interesting for its omissions as
• Jongiorgi Enos, copresident of Pacific Island its inclusions, includes Pretty Woman, Liar Liar,
Films and a producer, director, and screenwriter, is Blair Witch Project, The Story of Us, Addicted to
planning to direct a $2.5-million, feature-length Love, American History X, Caddyshack, Eyes Wide
film titled The Long Walk of Patience Loader. Seen Shut, Basic Instinct, Show Girls, Gross Pointe Blank,
through the eyes of Patience Loader, a young Primary Colors, Rounders, Payback, Election, Ana-
woman in her twenties, and drawn from actual lyze This, Return of the Dragon, and Face Off.
pioneer diaries and journals, the film will trace the • Preston Hunter’s website
1,300-mile journey of the Martin handcart com- includes an exhaustive page about virtually every-
pany in 1856 and feature actual Mormon history thing related to Mormon filmmaking past and
sites. The film’s premier is tentatively scheduled to present (
take place in Salt Lake City during the Olympics in Recent news about current projects includes the
February 2002. following: Production is scheduled to start in June
• After winning the Hugo Award last fall for his for The Singles Ward, a romantic comedy about a
Galaxy Quest screenplay, Mormon writer David congregation of college-aged LDS singles that will
Howard recently won the Nebula Award for be filmed in Salt Lake City and Provo. A big-screen
Galaxy Quest. The Hugo Awards are voted on by adaptation of Jack Weyland’s best-selling Mor-
fans, and the Nebula Awards are voted on by mem- mon romantic-comedy novel Charly is in the
bers of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of works by Kaleidoscope Pictures. LDS Battlestar
America. Orson Scott Card is the only other Lat- Galactica creator Glen Larson is working on a
ter-day Saint known to have won both awards. revival of the popular 1970s science fiction series.
• Bryan Lefler, an illustration major at Brigham LDS fantasy novelist Tracy Hickman and wife
Young University, won best picture and best director Laura Hickman are shopping around Witch-
for his film War Play at the Eclipse Film Festival in weaver, a screenplay about an unusual duo of con
St. George, Utah. The film, which explores the artists—a priest and a fake witch—who visit dif-
mind of a young boy who participates in make- ferent towns and pretend to burn her. LDS
believe war games but is unable to separate his imag- producers Jerry Molen and Robert Starling are
ination from reality, was also featured in this year’s behind On My Honor, a biographical epic about
SlamDance Film Festival, which runs in tandem Lord Baden-Powell, founder of the international
with the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. Scouting movement.
• LDS Church member and former television • A team of professional LDS filmmakers is plan-
sportscaster Ray Lines is drawing worldwide atten- ning a series of epic Book of Mormon movies for
tion for his video-editing business CleanFlicks the large-screen IMAX format. The first movie,
(, which has offered bowdler- Safe Passage, will depict the exodus of Lehi’s family
ized versions of more than 160 videos for rent and from Jerusalem to the promised land and is targeted
also edits copies of videos owned by individuals. for release in mid-2002.

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• Ampersand Films recently announced the pro- Miscellany

duction of Handcart, a feature film chronicling the
courage and faith of a young family as they endure • In a recent Chicago Tribune interview, Orson
the hardships that befell the Martin Handcart Scott Card confessed he had been unable to write
Company and its rescue. The film is scheduled to during the preceding five months due to the death
be released to theaters on July 24, 2002. of his 17-year-old son from complications of cere-
bral palsy. He also discussed watching his prema-
Online ture daughter die on the day she was born in 1977.
Asked about his priorities, Card replied, “To be as
• Meridian Magazine (www.meridianmagazine good a father as I can to my children” and to “try
.com) has issued a call for submissions for its new to be a good husband to my wife, a good Mormon,
poetry page. Poets are invited to submit one to five and after that, that’s when I start trying to be a
poems at a time in any form to poetryeditor@merid- good writer, which is pretty far down the line.” He Poets are asked to include the continued: “A lot of interviewers find it amusing or
poetry text both in the e-mail message and as a strange—and I’ve had this surprisingly often—but
Word attachment, type their first and last names in they’ll assume that since I’m a writer of fiction, I
the subject line, and include a brief biological state- must have left the church because you can’t actually
ment, including where they are from. be writer or intellectual and some kind of artist and
• Marny Parkin announced that the URL to her believe in one of these ‘primitive religions.’ But in
bibliography of Mormon speculative fiction has fact, I’m a believing, practicing, active Latter-day
changed to The Saint and make no bones about it.” During the
site features authors’ awards, links to reviews, and interview, Card said he’s normally a Democrat but,
recommended reading. because of Bill Clinton’s influence on the party,
• Dallas Robbins has launched a new moder- voted for George W. Bush in the recent presidential
ated e-mail discussion list called LDS Alternative, election. He also revealed that more than half his
where people can discuss alternative Mormon peri- writing each year is usually not science fiction.
odicals such as Sunstone, Dialogue, Exponent II, • Utah Senator Orrin Hatch was the subject of
IRREANTUM, and Journal of Mormon History. The a recent New York Times profile about his songwrit-
list’s scope includes related symposia and confer- ing efforts and politics related to online music.
ences, research requests, the culture of the LDS After years of writing poetry, Hatch began writing
intellectual community, and its impact on the LDS songs in 1995 and has since released nine albums.
Church and membership. Robbins expressed his His technique for writing is to come up with a song
hope that “enlightening discussion can take place title and then pen the lyrics. “I’m not saying that
in a spirit of charity and respect.” To subscribe, visit God speaks through me,” Hatch said, “but he can inspire.” He distributes most of his music over the
• In the spirit of satirical newsweekly The Onion Internet and has spent about $95,000 on his music
(, a new website at www.deserettri- efforts so far, recouping only $65,000. Asked about is offering parodies of Utah and Mormon controversial rapper Eminem, Hatch said, “I don’t
news. Recent headlines have included “Truce like his message. I don’t like his lyrics. But still,
Declared Between Warring Jews and Mormons,” there is a genius to it.”
“Hatch Files for Moral Bankruptcy,” “Porn Czar • Deseret News columnist Jerry Johnston
Targets Barnes & Noble,” “Mormon Church Plans recently won his second Wilbur Award for out-
IPO,” “Commandos Storm Jordan Temple,” standing religious columns. “Jerry somehow consis-
“Snoop Doggy Dogg Converts,” “Church Sells tently puts a subtle but impossible-to-ignore touch
Main Street to Saudis,” “Church Welcomes Pri- on his column that makes reading it both enter-
mate Membership,” “NAACP Study: Utah Sucks,” taining and enlightening,” said Deseret News man-
and “Utah to Annex Tonga.” aging editor Rick Hall. “But, amazingly, you don’t
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realize that until you’re done. The delivery is so soft You’ve got to have something else to be a poet,
that you’re finished reading before you know you’ve some interest in the world your speech addresses;
been hit. But there’s no doubt about what he was a place to go, a place to come from, somewhere
trying to say. It’s clear that he gives his writing as that isn’t the only place you’re comfortable.
much attention as his message. And, somehow, nei- Quires of words, reams of words, whole forests
ther overshadows the other.” Johnston, who has singing like the ghosts of Mt. St. Helens,
been active in the AML, has written two books: all that paper wasted to trap a score.
Spirits in the Leaves and Dads and Other Heroes.
The Wilbur Award is presented by the Religion There’s nothing else you have to be a poet:
Communicators Council. only speech, and only until you utter,
• Speaking to a group of 2,000 prospective mis- and then the unutterable is gone, and leaves
sionaries, Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the LDS you only the husk, the text, the rind, the print.
Church’s First Quorum of the Seventy quoted
Harry Potter’s teacher from the fantasy novel Harry You’ve got to be someone else to be a poet,
Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. “It is our to pad around the house unshaven, unwashen,
choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far unkempt, and unprepared to earn a living,
more than our abilities,” Elder Uchtdorf quoted. let alone ever letting a living earn you.
• Billed as “a five-day workshop for aspiring
writers on the art of publishing books for children You’ve got to be somewhere else to be a poet:
and teenagers,” BYU’s second annual Writing for around here all the poets have already left,
Young Readers Workshop will be held July 16–20. and anywhere you go they’ll still be leaving.
Scheduled faculty members include Laura Torres, Can’t make your own; who’d tell you what they
Rick Walton, Helen Ketteman, Claudia Mills, mean?
Carol Lynch Williams, Alane Ferguson, Louise
Plummer, and Joan Bauer. For more information, You’ve got to keep something else to be a poet,
visit caged: a skunk, your soul, what no one wants—
till they can’t stand to see you have that much fun.

You’ve got to care less about what you’re going to get:

a sore throat and an ear for your own voice—
P O E T R Y and, if you’re lucky, a voice for your own ears.
—Dennis Marden Clark
Around Here All the Poets Have Already Left
You’ve got to be something else to be a poet: Around here, Dennis Clark has already left, out
attorney, accountant, acupuncturist, practicing random beauty with the senseless axe of
analyst, anomaly, auditor, a jerk, kindness.
another of whatever it is you ain’t.

You’ve got to love something else to be a poet:

“a lifelong love affair with language,” hmm?
The poem’s the words that linger on your tongue
after you can’t lick them into shape,
the taste of salt and bitter and good hot blood,
thick enough to make you wash your mouth.

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A M L - L I S T black heritage mean to you? (And should you cap-

italize black or not? Is one way more PC than
another, or more preferred? Oy.)
D. Michael Martindale (Nov. 17): If you don’t
Compiled by Marny K. Parkin
mind the blind leading the blind (my experiences
with blacks is about as good as yours), I would
AML-List provides an ongoing forum for broad-
think that only the most obnoxious people would
ranging conversation and a stimulating exchange of
be offended by questions from someone who sin-
opinions related to LDS literature. One especially
cerely wants to understand. If you just tell them
rich topic during November, December, and Janu-
you’re an author that will be writing about some
ary was how to portray faithful LDS characters and
black characters and you want to get it right,
why. Read on for a sampling of the sentiment on
I would think most people would be honored that
this and other topics. If you find yourself champing
you asked them. People like to feel like experts and
to chime in, send an e-mail message to majordomo@
share with others what they know. that reads: subscribe aml-list. A con-
Annette Lyon (Nov. 17): So here’s the question,
firmation request will be sent to your e-mail address;
which I think piggybacks on Linda’s: Once we
follow the directions to complete your subscrip-
know enough to write about the culture believably,
tion. AML-List is moderated by Jonathan Langford.
how can we do it without offending those readers
who belong to that culture? I worry, because there
Addressing Race in Mormon Literature are a handful of hypersensitive people out there, ready
Linda Adams (Nov. 15): So my dilemma as a to think any white person is prejudiced—that any
writer is, how do I create believable black characters negative would be construed as a blanket statement
in my work, without sufficient personal experience? or an attack. Do we ignore those people and hope
Where do I go to further my education, to learn for the best? I’m thinking of an experience my
the things life hasn’t naturally given me the oppor- brother had in basic training. (He is one of the least
tunity to know (yet)? prejudiced people I know, and several of his close
I don’t know where to turn to glean more infor- friends are black.) One morning he and a black
mation and knowledge on what it is like, what it man were shaving, and the black man was inspect-
feels like, to be black in America today (and Mor- ing several ingrown hairs in his face. “Man, that’s
mon). I can imagine what it might mean in the really gotta suck,” my brother said. Instead of see-
future (since the series is set in the future), but ing sympathy, the other man saw prejudice. He
the future grows out of the present and people in turned on my brother and let out a several-minute
our day would be my characters’ “ancestors.” I need spew about how he was proud of his heritage, etc.
to know their history so that their experience res- If an innocent comment can incite that kind of
onates truthfully with today’s readers. I have a good response, I can only imagine the reaction from
imagination, but that doesn’t make up for accurate someone looking for prejudice in a book—and
information. “finding” it. That’s one reason I haven’t tried writ-
I don’t know how or if I could approach the issue ing about a black character yet. I don’t dare make
with the smattering of acquaintances I have. I would them less than perfect, and that’s not good writing.
absolutely hate to offend anyone. How can I com- Don’t give up, Linda.
municate my absolute respect while asking stupid D. Michael Martindale (Nov. 21): We ignore
questions? Things a child might ask—these are those people. Someone will always be offended by
things I need to know. Details from how do you what you write. If you write the most bland, inof-
work with black hair (you know, what types of fensive stuff you can think of to avoid offense, some-
products do you use, different from what I do), for one will be offended that it’s bland and inoffensive.
instance, to the greater questions of what does your You cannot win if you worry about offending

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someone. Do your homework, get it right, be fair story (“Faith of the Fathers”), but I kept waiting for
to the characters (all the characters, not just the any character actions to be informed by LDS the-
ethnic ones), then write, and the hypersensitive ology. There was tradition there but no substance.
be damned. The father in the story didn’t do any of the things
I recently met a black person who impressed me that I would have as a father. I’m as tired as some
greatly: Darius Gray. He has recommended that we of you probably are of the blithe claim that “God
expand our literature to include people of other has called xxx home” and the determinism that
races and nationalities. If I succumb to the fear of implies. But the other extreme of an absence of
offending the hypersensitive, I risk offending Dar- godly intervention isn’t any more laudable.
ius because I pretend blacks don’t exist. Whose The story itself may be real/true enough. The
opinion of my work would mean more to me, his father’s actions are plausible enough for an indi-
or those who are looking for any excuse to be vidual. But the implication of the story (beginning
offended? Anyone who would be offended by my with the title) is that this is a general experience with
honest effort to depict blacks or other races and LDS faith, and that message is wrong. The gospel
nationalities realistically is someone whose opinion has a lot to say about God, death, justice, purpose,
matters little to me. Pointing out mistakes I’ve and comfort in mourning. The father in this story
made in my attempt is fine. But taking offense at did nothing at all to find any of it, understand any
every word—who cares about such a person? of it, let alone communicate any of it to his obvi-
ously wounded daughter.
Shaken Faith and Truth Certainly such a father may exist and may be my
Jacob Proffitt (Nov. 20): I think that it is next door neighbor who is active in the Church.
absolutely possible to have every word of a work be But the message is that this is a representation of
true, and yet the message can turn out, if not actu- faithful fathers in the Church. I don’t think it is.
ally false, at least misleading or misrepresentative. “Faith of the Fathers” is well written—well
Since we are a church that still holds to that old crafted—but I’m not going to read any more of
hokey claim that Truth exists at all, this notion of these stories. And since that was the first fiction
writing has some interesting connotations for us. story in IRREANTUM, I assume that it is representa-
On the one hand, it is impossible to relate the tive of what the editors wanted to present, so I just
whole truth in any work less massive than, well, didn’t bother with the others. My apologies to
something really massive. On the other, we do try those authors, but I can’t handle the continuing
very hard to be honest, even claiming in annual messages about my faith that are devoid of an
temple interviews that we strive for honesty in all active, loving, comforting God anymore.
our dealings. The most powerful message of the gospel is that
So for the Mormon market, the question becomes, God does exist. He is real. And he wants, even
what are we willing to do in order to sell our work? requires, a personal relationship with each of us.
Are you willing to restrict your art to the dark ele- That doesn’t mean that we are always happy, but
ments in our society if that is what sells? it really does mean that we don’t have to be
Personally, I’m tired of “modern realism.” I skipped always sad.
the rest of the latest [autumn 2000] IRREANTUM Write all you want about shaking faith and people
fiction section because I read the first story and learning that the tradition is not enough or that
found that, while it was well enough written, I common traditions just don’t hold up when reality
really dislike the faith-denuded Mormon experi- deals harsh blows. But don’t expect me to give you
ence narrative. I was afraid to try the next story for my attention while you do. Frankly, I’m tired of
fear it would be along the same quandary-loving shaken-faith stories as a whole. But most particularly
vein. I should tread lightly here as Paul Rawlins is I am tired of the ones that leave you at the bottom
probably going to read this. I was engaged by his of the lost-faith cycle with no resolution in sight.

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Darlene Young (Nov. 27): I think you are too Gae Lyn Henderson (Nov. 27): I just read the
quick, Jacob, to throw words like “faithless” around. story because of what Jacob had said about it. So I
Because a story did not increase your faith, or thank him for bringing up the topic and directing
because you failed to see how the characters in it me to “Faith of the Fathers.”
could be faithful and still not respond to problems Rawlins’s story touches me with the absolute
the way you would have, does not mean that it is a honesty of its voice. Why, when sudden and tragic
faithless piece. (I also disliked your use of “repul- death occurs, do we as a culture tend to rush in
sive,” but since it obviously repulsed you, I cannot with easy answers: God wanted him to perform a
argue that point. I’m just sad that it seems that the mission, it was his time, etc. This story points out
only reason it repulsed you is the same reason that that sometimes life and death, from our perspec-
you called it faithless, which is a faulty label, IMO.) tive, are absolutely random.
I thoroughly enjoyed the story and didn’t see it I didn’t find this story “faithless” at all. It showed
as faithless at all. I believe that faith is an acting a father filled with love, trying to respond authen-
in the face of doubt, not just a knowing all the tically to his daughter’s pain. It inspires me that he
answers. This man didn’t know how to help his would care enough to try to see it from her per-
daughter. I, as a survivor of the death of a family spective, to not try to “fix” her feelings immedi-
member, silently cheered when he did not give her ately, to not force an understanding upon her that
all of the trite, overused “scriptural” cliches that roll may take time to occur. Why do we think God put
so quickly off the tongues of well-meaning, “faith- us here in the first place? To have to face the diffi-
ful” Church members in the face of tragedy. Yes, cult challenges, to try to find meaning in suffering.
having a clear view of the eternal scheme of things I believe in a loving God who answers prayers.
is comforting. Yes, the scriptures and prayer are But I have to say that I’ve had people tell me their
comforting. But grief is real, even to the most prayers were not answered. In fact, some of my
diehard of believers, and it just isn’t helpful to be own prayers seem to go unanswered. In the tradi-
told things like “God must have had a reason” and tion of my church and my belief system, I try to
“It’s all for the best” and “Don’t worry, you’ll see understand that maybe the answer is “no,” maybe
him again” and “This life is but a small moment.” I have to be patient, maybe God’s will becomes
This faithful man saw with spiritual eyes that some apparent over time, maybe I’m asking for some-
griefs just have to be walked alone. I felt that he thing that I shouldn’t have, maybe I am misunder-
made an extremely wise choice by giving his daugh- standing the answer or not in tune enough to get
ter space and then letting her see the honest truth: it, maybe I lack faith, and all the other ways we
that sometimes life just hurts. explain such apparent lack of response.
This is not a lack of faith. This is seeing clearly. So what do people do when they have that expe-
All I can tell from your protests, especially when rience—the experience of not getting an answer? If
you ask “Could we see the hand of God at all?” is all their reading and the lessons in church tell them
that the story was rotten because this father did not that prayers are always answered, they may falter in
respond the way you think a “faithful” father would their faith. Perhaps stories that explore the unan-
and because nothing else in the story intervened to swered prayer situation can actually help us deal
relieve this daughter of her pain. Is that what you with that scenario if and when it occurs in our own
are saying? What sort of intervention, I wonder, lives. Trying to listen to God’s inspiration, trying to
would have made this a “faithful” story to you? And feel his will and figure out what his answers are—
how realistic would this intervention have been? these are some of the most common of human
For me and for many readers, a story that is not experiences. To write about that struggle is to help
shy about showing the true pain of life is a thou- us all try to figure it out.
sand times more powerful in building faith than Fiction is, by definition, made up—not true.
one which feels preachy or too idealistic. But ironically, one of my criteria for whether or not

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fiction is worthwhile is its honesty. I want to trust Mormons are portrayed going about finding the
the story to tell me the author’s authentic experi- answers or working through life’s challenges.
ence of life. If the story tells me about what another This reminds me of a little discussion that took
human being has experienced, then I think it has place some time ago. It may have been triggered by
value. How can I dismiss it and say that it is not my a post from a NY publisher looking for an epic
experience and so I don’t want anything to do with Mormon novel. Someone commented that we
it? Don’t I have the obligation to at least listen to needed literature that showed Mormons solving
this human voice that I have encountered and problems and so forth without all the “praying”
to try and understand it? I may disagree, and I may stuff. That obviously is not a quote, but it is what
ultimately reject it as invalid. But perhaps in that I understood the post to be saying. When reading
process I am enriched. the post about the novel, I got the feeling that they
I want to read a variety of voices and perceptions wanted a central Mormon character, but not the
about the human experience. I don’t want to limit religious part of being Mormon. How can you
myself to what I immediately agree with. On the write a novel about a believing Mormon woman
other hand, I can be overloaded quickly with “dis- and not have her praying, going to the temple,
turbing” material. When I was a student at BYU believing in God, feeling bad when she falls short,
studying literature, I remember that during the repenting, attending RS or teaching YW or Pri-
semester I read Steinbeck and Hemingway I started mary, and on and on. It’s not that the character
to feel depressed—what I interpreted as their should be perfect, or perfect in doing the right
“faithless” attitudes strongly affected me. things, or finding all the answers in nanoseconds.
So nobody is forcing anybody to read something But why would we want to portray an active,
he or she doesn’t want to read. I certainly don’t believing Mormon not even trying to live the
want a steady diet of negativity, agony, or suffering. gospel? Unless the point is to show the character as
But I think I grow a little when I choose to listen a hypocrite.
to such voices and try to figure out how I feel about Jacob Proffitt (28 Nov): I don’t want stories with
them. What I term “good” literature offers me that no suffering. I thought most of the suffering in the
growth experience and that challenge. story was perfectly valid. I had no trouble accepting
Sometimes I think that “disturbing” fiction the pain and questioning of the daughter in the
demands to be discussed. In classroom situations story. I don’t even mind the jabs at all those oh so
students have the opportunity to say why they facile answers people give in the face of tragedy. As
detest something and to analyze that reaction a bit. I stated in a previous message, I too am tired of the
Then they can hear someone else’s experience and too-easy answer that “xxx was called home” and
try to understand it. By the time the discussion is the imperious determinism that implies.
over all parties involved are enlightened. My problem is with the father, not the death or
This list discussion is good for that reason, the daughter’s trouble with it. This is supposedly a
I think. faithful LDS father. He is the title character. This
Tracie Laulusa (Nov. 28): I don’t think Jacob story is about his faith and how it is representative
was asking for the character to supply easy or trite of the faith of all faithful LDS fathers. And yet we
answers. I think he was looking for the character to don’t see him exercise any faith at all. He spends all
act as a faithful Mormon should/would/could. his time wringing his hands trying to understand
(Correct me if I’m wrong, Jacob.) Did the charac- his daughter and suffering a crisis of faith that is
ter get on his knees and really pray? And if he did- never adequately identified, let alone dealt with.
n’t, why not? Did he search the scriptures for I have had crises of faith. I know what it feels
comfort and answers? And if he didn’t, why not? It’s like. I have had times when my family is going
not so much a matter of finding quick answers, trite through things that I don’t understand and when it
answers, tough answers, or no answers; it’s about how is time for me to help and I’m not sure how. When

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this happens, it is time to get back to basics. It is Todd Robert Petersen (Dec. 14): Don’t get me
time for prayer, for study, and for paying attention wrong—I’ve never asked that the gospel, God, or
to your family. It is not time for turning inward the Spirit be central to all our stories. I don’t think
and taking stupid risks in the wilderness. Introspec- it is too much to ask for it to be present in those sto-
tion is one thing, and important, but his daughter ries about faithful LDS people, though.
is in crisis and it is time for him to come out of I agree with Jacob here, but add one caveat, one
himself and put all his resources into helping her. that comes to mind as I think of Dickens’s A Christ-
Frankly, I wouldn’t have minded his little stunt mas Carol. The Cratchits are faithful, but on
either, if it had lent him some sense and under- Christmas Eve Mrs. Cratchit won’t drink to
standing enough to help. But it didn’t. Scrooge’s health. It is a tense moment. She’s not
So to respond again to Darlene and Gae Lyn, showing much kindness, and it’s clear that this is
who found it an accurate portrayal of suffering and both a lapse on her part and something not out of
grief at death, I did not have a problem with the hand. In fact, we’d probably all be less like Bob and
daughter. I had no trouble with the pain associated more like his wife.
with a death that makes no sense and is so very This is instructive, in this discussion, because it
tragic. My problem with this story is as a father of shows that in the representation of the faithful, one
faith presented with a story that purports to repre- is obligated to also show their lapses, the times
sent fathers of faith. I can understand him feeling when they don’t measure up to their own ideals.
helpless. But his reaction to his own helplessness is When the faithful aren’t represented as human (and
selfish and in the end of no assistance to the suffer- all that means), they become untrustworthy to
ing of his daughter. So on that level, I found this readers, which makes faithful people suspect in the
story repulsive. And faithless. Yes, that is a personal eyes of all kinds of people.
response. Yes, I have no trouble with it being true Another example: in my favorite television show,
on an individual level. I don’t even have trouble The West Wing, President Bartlett slaves over a deci-
with the depiction of grief and loss. But on the level sion to pardon a death-row inmate who is up for
where it supposedly represents me and a valid execution. He and others in the White House seek
response to the hurt of a child, it does not resonate (and receive unbidden) spiritual advice from all
at all. It is not time to question your own faith just kinds of people—priests, rabbis, and the like—and
because your child is in pain. If anything, it is time at the end the president realizes that he blew it and
to draw as close as you can to God so that you can receives confession from Karl Malden.
be there when it is time to be and back off when it I think this is a good representation of a faithful
is time. It is in times of family crisis that you turn person who has blown it and must face the music.
to God, not your own problems. The danger when asking for accurate representa-
Scott Tarbet (Nov. 30): I agree with [Jacob’s] tion of the faithful comes when that “accuracy”
point, as far as it goes, that a story purporting to be (and I use this term in the guarded, cautious way of
about the faith, the religious aspects of being a the postmodernist) is sacrificed for romantic and
Mormon, needs to have the gospel, God, and/or idealized notions of what the faithful are and what
the Spirit in it. But it is possible, and I hope some- they do.
thing that we’ll begin to see more of, for stories The presence of the gospel, God, or the Spirit in
about Mormons to be about the way our unique stories of the faithful must, I think, be done with
subculture operates and the way it affects our lives. care in order to avoid the sense that the author is
Stories about Irish Catholics don’t have to center evangelizing. It also needs to maintain a story’s
on how and when they pray, and I don’t think there need for conflict. And in a more complicated sense,
is any reason ours have to either. We have a unique sometimes stories of the faithful need to be about
and interesting subculture, with tons of wonderful those lapses of our interaction with God, when we
stories to be told. have forgotten to pray, to act with kindness, to

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interact with grace. Sometimes God is still there drops on the last syllable of the line. On the next line,
even when we are not doing the right thing, when the pattern starts again. It’s a bit mind-numbing,
we have neglected our duties and forgotten him. but for all I know it may be common to many
I think that our literature should show those people not accustomed to the concept of trying to
moments as well. I mention this because I think read aloud with feeling. In the Southern Baptist
that this view is not shared by many readers, who church that I came from, scriptures were read with
want to be edified by tales of churchy heroism (e.g., great feeling, especially the hellfire-and-damnation
the savvy, in-touch home teacher is prompted to passages! We loved those! What a Baptist preacher
bring his home teaching family a ham and some could do with Second Nephi!
gifts on Christmas, thus saving the father shame In general, I don’t think you’ll notice so much a
and bringing joy and happiness on Christmas). common linguistic pattern, since that is so influ-
In literature, I am more interested in “evil and its enced by education level and regional dialect, as a
consequences”; however, in general conference, I noticeable underlying belief system that comes
like something else—reprimand. I very rarely like through in a person’s communication. I can’t help
stories that simply end with “Prayers were spoken, noticing that the speech of many people today is
aloud and in silence. Tears were shed in that sweet, tinged—well, drenched, actually—in cynicism, sar-
sweet moment of profound and pleading prayer. casm, and despondency, while the speech of many
This home teacher listened to the Spirit and went of the Mormons I know reflects a firm belief that
willingly, without waiting, to do his Father’s will . . .” things will turn out all right in the end, no matter
As it has been mentioned, some people like these how long it takes and even if matters won’t get
kinds of stories, but I do not. I want the story of straightened out until the next life. The fact of that
the fellow who did not go to visit one of his fami- life after this one has a soothing effect on despair.
lies on Christmas Eve because he and his wife are Alan Mitchell (Jan. 17): In prayer and testi-
the only members in his family. The scriptures mony meeting, Mormons are always thanking God
aren’t really melancholy, but I kind of like being for “the opportunity” to be here, to worship, to
melancholy sometimes. Literature can help me see have the gospel, for our callings, etc. I wonder if
and understand this important aspect of being in this has to do with our concept of free agency—we
the world.
don’t thank God for making us Mormon or good
or smart or holy but for giving us that opportunity.
Mormon Dialogue But aside from the Mormon speech patterns,
William Morris (Jan. 16): What I would like is which I consider distinct from Utah speech pat-
some help finding examples of well-written dia- terns, I believe most of the speech comes from the
logue in Mormon fiction. I especially would love to local culture where Mormons reside. [My character
hear of examples that are not pioneer, or provincial from Angel of the Danube] Barry Monroe speaks
Utah speakers, but rather are post-WWII/contem- mostly like a Californian, but with Mormon and
porary and/or educated/urban/suburban Mormons German nouns thrown it. And as most missionar-
speaking. Anything come to mind? ies would agree, no self-respecting California dude
Or to be more general: Does anyone have any would ever say “flip.” Only male missionaries from
theories or observations of how “contemporary” the Intermountain region would say the f-word.
Mormons speak? What do they speak about? Do My working hypothesis is to use local culture
they exhibit any linguistic patterns that mark them and throw in a few Mormon words and phrases.
as Mormon? And I am grateful for the opportunity to share my
Barbara R. Hume (Jan. 17): One thing I’ve thoughts . . .
noticed in the 30 years I’ve been in the Church is a LuAnn Staheli (Jan. 19): I’ve noticed a similar
particular voice pattern when they read scriptures. phrasing difference (I’m originally from Indiana)
The voice starts low, then continues rising until it when people pray aloud in Utah. They seem to pause

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in similar places and not where a natural pause splendid new state-of-the-art 900-seat theater—
would be in speaking. In other words, they don’t stop which doesn’t feel that big, by the way. For some
at the comma breaks but more often between the time now I have been hoping that at last, the Church
subject and the verb or between adjectives and nouns. would head in a new and provocative direction in
They also use words differently from their real the field of the arts. Not yet. The play was bland.
meaning, i.e., praying for moisture (dew, conden- Nothing dynamic about it at all. The scenes that
sation) instead of rain or snow with water content. had potential for that—Mary telling Joseph that she
Annette Lyon (Jan. 22): It’s a small thing, but is with child, the shepherds watching over their
reading some of the posts reminded me of a non- flocks by night, the visitations of the angels—all
LDS wedding my brother and his family attended. were static and emotionless. My friend, who’s in
The minister performing the ceremony frequently the show, assures me that there was a little more
said “Amen” throughout, and my little nephew (I action, a little more emotion and conflict, before a
think about three at the time) kept calling out small committee made up of three of the Council
“Amen” every time he heard it. Afterward, another of the Twelve came to preview the show a few times.
LDS person approached my brother and said, “Are Thereafter there were pages and pages of changes
you LDS, too? I figured you had to be after listen- every day for two weeks that stripped the play of any
ing to your son.” Most religions don’t have the kind of exuberance. The injunction was to make the
congregation repeat “Amen” after a prayer, so I play more reverent. The angels were not allowed to
guess that’s a trait that makes us stick out a bit. talk to the other characters any more with any kind
of lively feeling, rather they were to talk at the other
Spiritual Passion in Art characters with flat, solemn attitudes.
J. Scott Bronson (Nov. 28): I saw Savior of the My friend has had, generally, a positive experi-
World the other night and have been mulling over ence working on the show, but she is very disap-
ever since how I was going to say what I am going pointed in the way that things were handled in
to say about it. It has certainly caused me to think producing the thing. She says that she is unlikely to
a lot . . . however, my thinking isn’t anything near ever work for the Church again in the capacity of
what I’m sure the producers want me to think. an artist. As she would discuss with the director her
They want me to be thinking about my savior and disappointment in the watering down of the script,
. . . and I don’t know what else. A good friend is in she got a lot of justification along the lines of “The
the show, and she got me tickets for a preview per- Church is not in the business of trying to produce
formance. We’ve had a few discussions about the great plays; the Church’s mission is to save souls.”
play, and how it came about, and how it has It’s quite possible that Savior of the World may help
changed and lots of other things—mostly, how it is to save a few souls, but I can’t make myself believe
to work for the Church on an artistic endeavor. that a play that challenged my thinking and my
We’ve come to the conclusion that . . . well, we’re feelings about the Savior would be damaging to the
depressed. The play (which is a term that can only Church’s mission. In fact, I think it would probably
apply loosely to what this is actually, which is a pag- save more souls than what this one will do.
eant, but it’s not grand enough for that either) was Here’s the thing that depresses me about the
written by committee. And the committee was Church producing mediocre theater: whether they
given specific parameters: a play about Christ in mean it to happen or not, the plays produced in
which Christ does not appear, that is very heavily this theatre will be held up by a majority of the
reliant on the use of scripture—quote it as often as membership of the Church as the standard to
possible—and some others that I have either for- which we should all look. I know what that will
gotten or haven’t been told. do to the audience I am trying to reach with plays
I wanted to like this play. I was excited to see like Stones. I will hear this kind of comment: “If
what the Church was going to do with this rather your play is worthy of a faithful audience, it would

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be done by the Church, wouldn’t it? If your play we define “please.” I believe much of what we do is,
is not one that could be produced by the Church, in this special sense, an acceptable offering.
it’s not a play that should be produced at all.” I also suspect that that can happen in official
I know this will happen; I’ve seen it happen. I have Church productions, where nonartists have the
heard those words. final say in what actually appears on stage.
Here is what I have been thinking ever since I Scott Tarbet (Nov. 29): Folks, this is a huge
saw the play Friday night: When did exuberance experiment fraught with risks that the Brethren are
become synonymous with irreverence? undertaking, and certain of them are without a
I am glad that all the seats for all the perform- doubt viewing it with a jaundiced eye. “Art” isn’t
ances sold out within days, but I think a play correlatable, and what they are doing comes per-
should be appreciated for its merits, not simply ilously close to art. But it’s most definitely not
because it was produced by the Church. art—it’s missionary work and it’s perfecting the
When did solemn become synonymous with Saints. We have to remember that if the experiment
reverent? is going to work, giving faithful LDS artists oppor-
When did boring become the ideal? tunities for Church service qua live-theater-but-
Neal Kramer (Nov. 29): Scott Bronson’s com- not-quite-art and exposing many thousands of
ments on Savior of the World raise some very diffi- non-theatergoers to the live experience, broadening
cult questions. still other opportunities, we have got to give it a
One is the hope we all seem to have that our chance. If we as an arts community within the
work, and our sophisticated standards of aesthetic larger LDS community rip it to shreds, this new
excellence, will be accepted by either the official opportunity will become even more circumscribed
Church or by the culture, and that that will some- and may disappear altogether.
how imply acceptance by God. Kellene Adams (Nov. 30): We as writers/artists
I think we can have fruitful discussions about are, generally speaking, a fairly opinionated and
acceptance by the culture and even by the official confident group. Which is good; we have to be in
Church (like being quoted or praised in confer- order to put our personal creations in the public
ence, etc.), but I think the deeper fear that we domain for scrutiny and criticism.
might be offending God is nearly and maybe com- This drama, as well as much of the material out
pletely impossible to talk about. there produced by LDS artists, stimulates emotion
I will give one example. and feelings in a great many people. People cry,
Quite a few years ago now Franco Zeffirelli, a ponder, pray, even change their lives, as a result of
believing Catholic and passionate artist, made what Jack Weyland books (I know, because I know some
I thought was a beautiful film about the life of the of those people) and the Legacy film and even heav-
Savior. Many of my friends didn’t like it because it ily correlated material.
seemed too Catholic, i.e., it wasn’t true. I expect While we might not consider it great art (and it’s
that many Catholics disliked it because it wasn’t good that we don’t, because we need to stretch and
Catholic enough. Others didn’t like it because they push the envelope and offer people deeper and richer
don’t like Zeffirelli’s whole approach to film. Etc. stuff ), I think it’s important that we don’t diminish
Etc. Etc. or demean those people (who actually may repre-
I still believe that Zeffirelli achieved something, sent the majority of LDS audiences) who are moved
though, that Mormon artists also hope to accom- and touched and changed by what we might call
plish—he used his considerable skills as an artist to milquetoast.
praise God, to bear testimony of the divinity of Now having said that, I feel like the list is one
Jesus Christ. place where LDS writers and creators ought to be
I admire the attempt and hope that our efforts to able to say what they think without having to care-
do the same may be pleasing to God, in all the ways fully weigh words. I just wanted to share this one

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thought that has come to me repeatedly as I’ve read the last minute, and some of them had their feelings
the list. hurt. Now, you can’t say, “That’s the way things are
Steve Perry (Nov. 30): Presentations about the in the real world; they’ll just have to get used to it,”
life of Christ, especially his last week, are often called because we have already established that this pro-
“Passions” or “Passion Plays,” and for good reason. duction cannot be judged or criticized by real-world
I need that passion in my life—it takes a lot of standards, correct? That type of thing is unfortu-
spiritual passion to get my wife and I up to lead our nate and sometimes occurs. If my friend had any
four less-than-enthusiastic elementary and pre- real gripe, it was the way those types of things were
school children in reading and discussing the scrip- handled. And she came out all right, so her com-
tures every morning. (Luckily for us, the scriptures plaint was on others’ behalf. What I’m trying to
themselves and the heartfelt cries and admonitions reiterate here is that the “institutional bias in the
of prophets past are often passionate enough to Church against arts and artists” that you men-
help me discover some sparks of relevance for these tioned will be—I fear—fueled by this play, rather
recalcitrant youths I love.) than doused. I find that unfortunate. It saddens
I need that spiritual energy flowing into me as me . . . for myself, yes, and for every artist trying to
often as possible to keep me going. I long to con- gain favor in the eyes of their own community.
nect with it at church, though those moments are And the questions arise that I must seriously
less frequent than I’d like, despite my constant consider now: Is exuberance irreverent? Is the pas-
attempts. Most often the connection is found and sion in my work unsuitable in the eyes of God? Is
I am fed and recharged through spiritually passion- the tone of my crafted expression unworthy of divine
ate music (from all genres and most denomina- praise? Up until a week ago I thought the answer to
tions—almost never LDS recordings). Nearly as those questions was no. Now I’m not so sure.
often I find it in live theater well done. Less often I
find it through literature, though that may not be
the case for most of you on a literary list!
Eric D. Snider (Dec. 1): The problem is that the
Church isn’t touting this as a missionary tool or a
method of perfecting the Saints. They’re calling it
a theatrical production. I agree that you have to
judge a work by what it is . . . but what if the artist
himself is incorrect about what it is? Do we judge
Savior of the World by theater standards (which is
what the Church says it is), or do we judge it by
make-the-audience-feel-fuzzy standards (which is
what it actually is)?
J. Scott Bronson (Dec. 1): Many people coming
to see Savior of the World will think it’s great art.
That’s fine. My daughter loved it. I will not deride
their judgment. What I think is unfortunate is that
many people will also believe that great art is cre-
ated by committee with apostles making everything
“appropriate” in the end. Again, I am not saying
that the Church did anything wrong or under-
handed or anything like that. A little unorganized,
maybe—several people were cut from the show at

Spring 2001 92 IRREANTUM

Spring 2001 issue.qxd 6/5/01 10:33 AM Page 93

And Now for Something Completely In his “Book of Mormon Language” entry, Brian
Different: Announcing IRREANTUM’s Stubbs includes the word rameumptom in a dis-
cussion of the Hebrew roots of Book of Mormon
R A M E U M P T O M terms: “‘Rameumptom’ (Alma 31:21), meaning
‘holy stand,’ contains consonantal patterns suggest-
By Edgar C. Snow Jr. ing the stems /rmm/ramah/, ‘to be high,’ and
/tmm/tam/tom/, ‘to be complete, perfect, holy.’
IRREANTUM has been flooded with over 1,000 The /p/ between the /m/ and /t/ is a linguistically
requests to start up a humor column. As a conse- natural outgrowth of a bilabial /m/ in coluster with
quence, and in order to finally stop my repeated e- a stop /t/, such as the /p/ in /assumption/ from
mail requests from continually disabling the editors’ /assume + tion/, and the /b/ in Spanish /hombre/
mailboxes, IRREANTUM has created this, the Rame- from Latin /homere/.”
umptom column. Now, at long last, there is a per- So, there you have it. It is simply a natural out-
manent outlet for Mormon humor, a place reserved growth of Irreantum that we feature the column
for all five of the Mormon humorists to publish Rameumptom and thereby allow the bilabial colus-
their material from time to time. ter of Mormon humor hombres a place from which
Why Rameumptom, you might ask? If the term they can stand and wax humorous or satirical about
irreantum, meaning “many waters” (1 Ne. 17:5), Mormon culture in ways that otherwise might get
covers Mormon literature in general, then why not them stoned in testimony meeting, but ultimately
rameumptom, meaning “holy stand” (Alma 31:21), not excommunicated. When I say “stoned,” I mean
to cover Mormon humor in specif—what the!?! with rocks, something left ambiguous in the expla-
Chris Bigelow, managing editor of IRREANTUM nation by Brother Stubbs. After conducting my
and the man responsible for naming this column, is research I suggested to Chris the alternative col-
unavailable (read: won’t answer my e-mails) to umn title “Unstoned,” suggesting the same thing,
explain to me why he’s calling it Rameumptom. At but perhaps at the risk of being slightly confused
first, I was left to my own surmises and guessed he with another Mormon magazine that also pub-
just thought it plain sounded funny. I tested this lishes Mormon humor. But he never responded to
idea the other night on my two-year-old. She my e-mails.
thought it was humorous if I sang “Rameumptom” Please e-mail submissions for Rameumptom to
over and over again to the tune of “Shall the Youth
of Zion Falter?” replacing the “No” and “Yes” parts
with “-tom.” Try it: “Rameumptom Rameumptom
Rameumptom Rameumptom Rameumptom Rame-
umptom Rameumptom Rameump—tom.” The
bass part of the chorus works especially well, don’t
you think? This test was less successful with the
melody of “If You Could Hie to Kolob.”
Upon further reflection, I wondered if perhaps
our managing editor was attempting to elevate the
position of Mormon humor in Mormon letters by
including some of it in these hallowed pages of
IRREANTUM. Then I did a little research and learned
the following information from the Encyclopedia of
Mormonism that I think explains it all and no
doubt was considered by Brother Bigelow in his
editorial decision-making process.

IRREANTUM 93 Spring 2001

Spring 2001 issue.qxd 6/5/01 10:33 AM Page 94

Association for Mormon Letters

Order Form
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To view the complete table of contents for each issue, visit
___ March 1999 ($3): Premiere issue
___ June 1999 ($3): Interview with Marvin Payne
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___ Summer 2000 ($4): Interview with Dean Hughes
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Spring 2001 issue.qxd 6/5/01 10:33 AM Page 95

Looking for the lighter side of the gospel in action?

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Spring 2001 issue.qxd 6/5/01 10:33 AM Page 96

New from Signature Books

Of Curious Workmanship:
Musings on Things Mormon
By Edgar C. Snow Jr.

What reviewers are saying:

“If you gene-spliced Hugh Nibley with Steve

Martin, you would get Ed [Snow].”
—R.W. Rasband, AML-List

“Good-humored, good-spirited fun.”

—Richard Cracroft, BYU Magazine

“Snow’s wry voice reminds us of Mark Twain

and Garrison Keillor. . . . Curious workman-
ship indeed!”
—Elouise Bell, from the foreword