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Volume 12, Number 1 (2010)

Irreantum Staff
Editor Jack Harrell
Managing Editor Kathleen Dalton-Woodbury
Fiction Editor Lisa Torcasso Downing
Poetry Editor Jim Richards
Creative Nonfiction Editor Brittney Carman
Critical Essay Editor Karen Marguerite Moloney
Book Review Editor David G. Pace
Lead Copyeditor Elizabeth Petty Bentley
Copyediting Staff Lotte Willian and Liz Jensen
Design Eric Lyman
Layout Marny K. Parkin

Association for Mormon Letters Board


President Margaret Blair Young
President-elect Scott Bronson
Past President Boyd Petersen
Board Members James Goldberg, Eric Samuelsen, Philip Snyder, Charles Swift
Secretary Darlene Young
Membership Secretary Kathleen Dalton-Woodbury
Treasurer Lynn Bronson
Webmaster Jacob Proffitt
AML-List Moderator Stephen Carter

Front cover: title, Shawn Randall


Irreantum (ISSN 1518-0594) is published twice a year by the Association for Mormon Letters (AML), PO Box 970874, Orem, UT 84097-0874; www.irreantum.org.
Irreantum vol. 12, no. 1 (2010) 2010 by the Association for Mormon Letters. All
rights reserved. Membership and subscription information can be found at the end of
this issue; single issues cost $10 (postpaid); double issues, $12. Advertising rates begin
at $50 for a full page. The AML is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, so contributions
of any amount are tax-deductible and gratefully accepted.
Views expressed in Irreantum do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors or
of AML board members. This publication has no official connection with or endorsement by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Irreantum is supported by a
grant from the Utah Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts, Washington, DC. Irreantum is indexed in the MLA International Bibliography.
Typeset in Adobe Jenson

5 From the Editor


Fiction

21 Lisa Madsen Rubilar A Confession


43 Thom Duncan When We Remembered Zion
67 Lon Young The Man and His Wife

Essays

9 Melissa Wei-Tsing Inouye Mornings and Nights


87 Eric dEvegnee Whats a Dead Mother Like You
Doing in a Place Like This?
93 David Grover The Missionary
115 Boyd Petersen Escape from Groundhog Day: Mormon
Literary Creation and the Cycle of the Eternal Return

Poetry

38 Jim Papworth Residence Inn Marriott: Salt Lake City


AirportMay 2008; At Sacr-Coeur: Montmartre, Paris,
August 2009; Welder: Falling
64 Simon Peter Eggertsen Felucca at Maadi
84 Matthew James Babcock Jerusalem Artichoke; Visions at
Birch Creek
103 Tyler Chadwick For the Sycamore (On Zaccheus, by
J.Kirk Richards); On Winter Nursing, by J. Kirk Richards

Interview
Reviews

107 Angela Hallstrom Brady Udall


124 Douglas L. Talley The Myriad Unknown
Mark D. Bennions Psalm & Selah: A Poetic Journey through
the Book of Mormon
132 Tyler Chadwick Of Speaking the Truth, Scapegoats, and
Absorbing the Rhetoric of Blame
Melissa G. Moore and M. Bridget Cooks Shattered Silence:
The Untold Story of a Serial Killers Daughter
142 Joseph Geisner, with Jeffrey Needle Closer to the Source
Jensen, Woodford, and Harpers The Joseph Smith Papers:
Revelations and Translations, Manuscript Revelation Books,
Facsimile Edition
153 About the Artist
155 Contributors
Volume 12, Number 1 (2010)

-r-ntum
And we beheld the sea, which we called Irreantum,
which, being interpreted, is many waters.
1 Nephi 17:5

Irreantum is a refereed journal published twice annually (Fall/


Winter, Spring/Summer) by the Association for Mormon Letters.
We seek to define the parameters of Mormon literature broadly,
acknowledging a growing body of diverse work that reflects the
increasing diversity of Mormon experience. We wish to publish the
highest quality of writing, both creative and critical.
We welcome unsolicited submissions of poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, and plays that address the Mormon experience either directly
or by implication. We also welcome submissions of critical essays that
address such works, in addition to popular and nonprint media (such
as film, folklore, theater, juvenile fiction, science fiction, letters, diaries,
sermons). Critical essays may also address Mormon literature in more
general terms, especially in its regional, ethnic, religious, thematic, and
genre-related configurations. We also seek submissions of photos that
can be printed in black and white. We welcome letters and comments.
Please visit www.Irreantum.MormonLetters.org for submission instructions. Only electronic submissions will be considered.

From the Editor

Sometimes I get depressed. I might be getting dressed in the morning, listening to a story on NPR about one side versus another, when a
kind of darkness sneaks up on me. Suddenly I feel the whole worlds an
arena of unending contention. Whats the point? I want to say. No
ones ever going to be satisfied with anything. Whatever goals Ive had,
whatever little things Ive wanted to accomplish suddenly feel meaningless. That first notion of futility triggers a downward spiral that can
last for days. Its like that scripture about salt losing its savor. Its not
rational. I know that even when Im caught up in it. I can tell myself,
These dark thoughts ... they dont make any sense. But recognition
doesnt necessarily break me out of it. Often its just dumb routine that
saves me. I do the things I need to do out of habit, and in a few days I
feel better. Futility vanishes as inexplicably as it came. Maybe its just
chemicalsome ebb and flow in my brain that I dont understand.
For years I thought I could talk to my doctor about some kind of
medicationif things got that bad. Then last year things did get bad.
The dark days came more frequently, and they came darker than before.
My doctor put me on a popular antianxiety/depression medication. I
was pretty nave. I thought a pill would solve the problem. But the medicine itself involved a horrible ramping-up period that took days, and
even when my emotions did stabilize, I didnt feel like myself. Perhaps
the medicine accomplished what it was supposed toI felt sheathed,
as though a plastic layer existed between me and everyone else. I talked
to one person on the same medication who liked it. It coats my soul,
he said. But I felt disconnected and inauthentic as I encountered the
world. I stuck with it for a few months. In the end, I decided the cure
was worse than the disease. Once again I talked to my doctor. When I
went off the medication, I found the experience to be worse than going
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on it. Im not making any comment about these medications for others.
Im just saying that for me, at this point in my life, it didnt work out.
I guess Im lucky, right? I was given the choice to try it, and I had the
choice to get off. For some people these medications are indispensable.
They can mean the difference between living and dying. Thats why we
have these drugs. Thats why we have caring, responsible professionals
who develop and prescribe thembecause were choosing life rather than
death, striving rather than defeat. In the Book of Mormon, the prophet
Lehi says, Wherefore, men are free ... to choose liberty and eternal life,
through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death,
according to the captivity and power of the devil (2 Ne. 2: 27). I believe
this choice is made by each of us every day, perhaps a thousand times a
daythe choice between life and death. When I chose to try the medication, I was choosing life. When I chose to get off it, I was also choosing life.
I mention all this to give context to a particular philosophy I hold
about art and morality. The position Ive developed over the past ten
years grows from multiple readings of John Gardners 1978 publication On Moral Fiction. This is a book every literary devotee should
read. No other book more clearly delineates a case for what makes
a work of art moral. My summation of Gardners position is that all
fiction, all art, can be said to express one of three assertionstwo of
them immoral, and one moral:
1. Life is easy.
2. Life is hard and isnt worth the struggle.
3. Life is hard but its worth it.
The first statement, Life is easy, is immoral because its a lie. Yet
we see this lie expressed all around us. We see it in advertising: This
product will make you happy. We see it in political propaganda: Our
party is always right. We see it in pornography: Easy sex and no consequences. Sadly, we see it in religion when complicated problems are
addressed with easy answers: Just pray. The paradox is that in real
life things sometimes do come easily. But in art it doesnt work that
waynot in good art, at least.
The second statement, Life is hard and isnt worth the struggle,
is a half-truth because life is hard. The lie comes in the narrow and
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From the Editor

nihilistic response that life isnt worth defending, isnt worth living.
This position is frequently expressed in teen poetry. I see it in my introductory creative writing class all the timeThe jagged, bloody edges
of my torn and blackened soul. This same message is expressed in a lot
of punk and heavy metal music, as well as in certain kinds of horror
movies. We can sometimes see this position on display in high school
art exhibits. Perhaps adolescents are attracted to this message because
theyre discovering for the first time that the world really can be an ugly
place. The art in this camp says, The worlds a toilet and were all going
down. But what makes it worse is that theyre not putting up a fight.
A natural relationship operates between these first two positions.
The sunny life is easy and the gloomy life isnt worth it are two sides
of the same nave coin. Gardner suggests this when he says, Cornball morality leads to rebellion and the loss of faith. The cynic might
boast of being more enlightened than the Pollyanna, but in his arrogance, he might be worse off.
Only one moral and viable position remains: Life is hard, but its
worth the fight. Moral art must affirm that life is hard, because life really
is hard. But it must also show that despite the ordeals, the antagonists,
the losses, life is worth every bit of the struggle. This is the position of
to hell and back. Its in the and back part where we find our redemption.
Thats why conflict is as important as resolution. I think redemption is
an essential characteristic of good art. But one cant redeem what hasnt
been lost. And one wouldnt choose to redeem a loss thats insignificant.
To draw an analogy with Mormon theology, the Atonement of Christ
would be meaningless if the Fall of Adam lacked significance. Thus,
moral art asserts the reality of lifes difficulty and lifes value.
The stories, essays, poems, and reviews in this issue of Irreantum are
good art by these standards. In Melissa Inouyes Mornings and Nights,
we find a sister missionary who loves the people and the country where
shes teaching even as shes jogging past the dead rats in the street. In
Lon Youngs short story The Man and his Wife, a good man struggles
toward a deeper sense of intimacy with those he loves, despite the risks
of misunderstanding and rejection. In Doug Talleys review of Mark
Bennions Psalm & Selah, we understand that poets can capture whole
lives in single lines, bringing us closer to the simple, poetic utterances
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of those we love. In the poetry of Jim Papworth, were reminded that


despite the hucksters and the zealots in this crass and clamorous world,
we can still come to realize that God is here. This issue of Irreantum
illustrates that life can be difficult in many ways. Perhaps this is one
hallmark of literatureconflict and the frank admission of difficulties. Maybe this admission of unpleasant truths draws us to the literary
endeavor in the first place. Yet each piece you will read in these pages
also bears witness that life really is worth all the ordeals along the way.
For years Ive broadcast the above position on moral art, always
making sure to give John Gardner the credit. A few days ago I took
Gardners book off the shelf, fully expecting to find those three statements on art and morality clearly before me on the page. I searched for
two hours. I didnt find them. Though I did find sufficient textual evidence to support my interpretation, I realized that those statements
may be my summation of the book rather than explicit statements
from the text. Its strange that I can go for years and confuse what
Gardner said with what Ive been saying about Gardner. I suppose Ill
have to reread the book now. Im glad. Its a book worth reading again.
As I sat down to write the first lines of this introduction, I had
my iPod on shuffle. I When Metallicas instrumental Suicide and
Redemption came on, I thought it fitting. These guys know what
theyre talking about. Theyve had their years of slow suicide. Theyve
seen their share of redemption too. Suicide is the lie that life isnt
worth living. Cheap redemption isnt much better, the lie that life is
easy. True redemption comes at a price, admitting the struggle and
still affirming life. (Remember the Book of Mormons death or liberty?) Sometimes I get depressed, but thats not the real problem.
The important thing is what I do about it. I believe life is worth the
fight. Oh, how I believe it! The whole enterprise of literature helps
remind me of this every day. The works youll find in this issue of
Irreantum say it too. Theyre good medicine for a rough world. Try
them for yourself.
Jack Harrell

Mornings and Nights


Melissa Wei-Tsing Inouye

Dawn broke with a vengeance over the city of Tainan. The Taiwanese summer made us early wakers. The sun flared over the horizon around 5:00 a.m., and soon the city was a full-blown sauna.
When it got that hot, there was no solace in sleep. I said my prayers,
then unzipped my mosquito tent and spilled out sideways into the
room. My roommate, Sister Alton, rose from her bed. We exchanged
glances in silent greeting. Another morning.
Before my mission, as an undergraduate at Harvard, I had been a
lover of solitude. My favorite was the peopled kind: sitting invisibly at
the window of a caf as throngs of strangers streamed past. My mission, however, had begun the moment I opened the door to my dorm
room at the Missionary Training Center (MTC) and found myself
facing my first companion, Sarah Faulkner, a distracted-looking girl
with short brown hair and green eye makeup. Her eyes snapped up to
meet mine, both of us asking the same questions: Will you break down
into hysterics? Are you a zealot? Will you be a slacker? Do you have an
eating disorder? Will you exercise with me in the mornings? Will it be a
pleasant thing to be with you twenty-four hours a day or will it be hard?
Hi, I said, extending my hand. Are you Sister Faulkner? Im Sister
Inouye. We must be companions.
The MTC: a huge complex dedicated to the intake of nineteenyear-old boys and twenty-one-year-old women from all backgrounds,
and to the output of missionaries who would say the same sentences with the same pauses while wearing the same clothes, each

1st place, 2009 Charlotte and Eugene England Personal Essay Contest

Irreantum

day brushing their teeth in the same half-hour of the morning and
switching off the light at the same half-hour at night. Together Sister
Faulkner and I poked fun at the Orwellian aspects of the MTC, and
together we knelt on the floor at night to pray, struggling with the
desires of ourhearts.
We shared much in common. As college students, we had learned
to relentlessly apply critical reasoning to every argument. When we
scrutinized the tenets of our faith under this lens, they seemed absurd:
a man named Jesus was Gods son who came back from the dead, a
man named Joseph Smith was a prophet who saw God and Jesus,
every individual has the potential to attain Gods perfections and powers, God hears and answers prayers. There was no way to prove these
claims through experimentation or argumentation. Mormonism also
contained contradictions, such as the teachings that each individual
should rely on direct personal revelation from God but that members should also obey the directives of Church leaders. And yet on the
other hand, our experiences thus far had shown us that our religion
inspired us to be better people and that it had been the source of much
happiness. Both of us were still searching for a way in which the world
of objective rationality could exist separately from the world of subjective faith, a way in which, through some miracle, one could lay claim to
both of them and not be torn asunder.
You know what I think? asked Sister Faulkner one day between
classes.
Sister Faulkner, I responded, this is the MTC. We dont think.
I think that I came on a mission ready to make some sort of sacrifice, but I dont know exactly what it should be or how to make it.
Hm. Do you mean the intellectual sacrifice of not making snotty
comments, or the psychological sacrifice of following all the stupid rules, or the emotional sacrifice of being away from your family,
orwhat?
All of them, but especially something about faith. All the people I know who possess true spiritual maturity have very simple
faith. Icant figure out how to have simple faith without it seeming
mindless.
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Inouye: Mornings and Nights

I suppose there arent many shortcuts to spirituality. Lopping off


lobes of your brain is a bad way to get simple faith. Maybe its all a
process of time, and doing things.
It was 5:37 as Sister Alton and I stood just inside the front door,
about to pray as we did every time we went out the door of our fourmissionary apartment. The official day began at 6:30 in the morning and ended at 10:30 at night, with eight hours allotted for sleep in
between. Both Sister Tu, my companion, and Sister McCoy, Sister
Altons companion, preferred sleep to exercise. So every morning Sister Alton and I woke up early and went out together to run.
Sister Alton had played softball in high school. She was tall, bigboned, and strong, with blue eyes that blazed against her tan skin, and
blond-brown hair that she usually pulled back in a ponytail. In college
shed majored in something that wasnt math and wasnt English and
wasnt science. Maybe I just remembered the subjects she didnt study
(the nerdy, scholarly ones) as opposed to her actual major because I
sensed that she didnt associate with nerds and scholars and was thus
unlikely to have a natural association with me.
Sister Alton looked at my exercise T-shirt, the armpits stained
with dark brown circles from months of use with only a weekly washing in cold water and cheap detergent.
Thats disgusting, she said. Then she bowed her head and folded
her arms.
Father in Heaven, said Sister Alton in Chinese, were going to go
outside and exercise. Please bless our bodies so that through this exercise
well be strengthened in our work. Please help us to become better missionaries. We ask these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
Amen, I said. The door handle clanked open and we stepped out
into the thick heat of the morning. Our feet hit the blacktop and we
were off.
My calves seemed to emit little squeals of pleasure. The settled
feeling in them started to pump itself out. My quads stretched and
yawned. They snapped into every stride, feeling the shock that ran
through my legs from the blacktop. My back straightened and my
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shoulders tensed slightly to gauge the swing of my arms. This is what


we do best! every muscle in my body seemed to chirp. This is the fun
stuff! Much better than riding a bicycle in traffic and sitting on chairs
while you talk about God. Couldnt we go a bit faster? Couldnt we go out
for a little joyride?
But missionaries must always stay close to their companions. I
jogged slowly at Sister Altons shoulder. This morning, like every
morning, Sister Alton and I headed for the road that led away from
our apartment and ran along the Tainan Canal. We ran at an easy
pace, lost in the miscellaneous thoughts that were the luxury of our
early mornings. Early morning time was time in which we could act
more like young twenty-something-year-olds and less like religious
ministers. It was a time in which we could spend some thought on
the inward self, without feeling guilty for not contacting everyone
around us.
Leaving the MTC and heading for Taiwan meant entering a new
routine of contacting and teaching: knocking on doors or talking
to people on the street, meeting with investigators at the chapel or in
their homes. We wore collared shirts and long skirts that were occasionally mangled by the bike chain as we rode from one appointment
to another.
Going door to door, or tracting, was always a bit of an adventure
because you never knew what kind of person would open the door.
What! yelled the Taiwanese a-mah (the word means grandmother
or old woman) when she heard Sister Tus knock one night. She
opened the red iron door a few inches, glaring, with narrowed eyes,
through the crack. Anger hardened the wrinkles in her face.
Who are you?
Hello, Grandmother, said Sister Tu, addressing her respectfully.
Were missionaries, and tonight were sharing a message about the
purpose of life.
Bam! The a-mah slammed the door. A heavy bolt thunked across.
Sister Tu looked at me.
I shrugged.
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Inouye: Mornings and Nights

We moved to the next door. Inside we could hear the TVsome


Qing-dynasty-themed soap opera. I rapped lightly on the red iron
with the cap of my water bottle. It saved the knuckles on a long night
of tracting. A middle-aged man opened the door.
Hello, I said. My name is Sister Inouye, this is Sister Tu. Were
missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Have you ever heard of it?
Oh, I know, laughed the man, those tall Americans on bikes in
twos. The Mormons, right?
Were sharing a message about the importance of families and how
families can be together forever. I handed him a tract.
I looked over his shoulder at his wife, who was shaking her hand at
us in irritation. No time, she called. Were busy.
No time right now, said the man. Come back some other day and
speak English to the kids, why dont you.
The door closed. The bolt thunked.
We moved to the next door.
5:39. We reached the canal and turned north. At noon the water
was drab and brown, but the morning sunlight made it almost lively.
For an instant, my thoughts were transported to other rivers Id run
alongside in other mornings, in other places and as another self.
The paths along the Charles River are narrow but smooth, worn
down by the feet of countless runners and, especially towards the
spring, marathoners in training. In the fall is the Head of the Charles,
and all the college crew teams in New England come to race. The
crews skim across the surface of the water, the boat leaping ahead
from stroke to stroke, the angles of dipping blades and stretching
backs all in perfect alignment. As one they slide forward, arms and
backs reaching out in one taut extension, and then shove out with
their legs and slide back, the motion smooth but explosive. Their limbs
and lungs are powered by strength borne of solidarity, their individual
pain arrested and transformed by the laces at their feet. Tied into the
boat, tied into each other, conforming to the stroke count shouted out
by the coxswain, there is nothing to do when everybody else is rowing
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but row. Like a live thing the boat leaps across the water, drawing
swiftly away into the distance.
People in America and Taiwan alike often asked why I had decided
to take time off from college to spend eighteen months in a foreign
country at my own expense, riding a bike in a dress, working sixteenhour days, for a church whose hierarchy and patriarchy seemed to
them to be at odds with the values of a Harvard woman. The answer
was simple: I believed that the things I taught were true, that they had
enriched my life, and that the world would be a better place for their
sharing.
How do you feel about God? I began almost every presentation.
Do you believe that God or gods exist? And what characteristics does
God have?
That question elicited a different reply every time: God is a spirit
God is a powerGod doesnt exist, but people use God as a heart crutch
If God exists, why do all these bad things happen?Your Western god is
different from our Eastern gods, but theyre all the same thingI cant
believe in something I cant seeI saw God the other day, it was really
amazing!
We would discuss broad concepts like the nature of deity, trying
to establish some common ground. I would assert that most people
believed in the existence of some Supreme Being, though they might
call this being by different names. I would tell the investigator that
God was our Father and that we were Gods children, created in Gods
own image, that God was not some impersonal spirit but a Father in
Heaven who loves us just as intimately and unconditionally as a parent loves a child.
The words used in the discussions were simple. At the right time
in a persons life, they had great power. They were most powerful
when it was not the missionary who spoke them. Missionaries talked
about the Spirit, meaning the Spirit of God, and prayed that God
would send this Spirit to descend upon the discussion and change
its tenor. Investigators, members, and missionaries alike described
it as a feeling of calm and clarity that, when present, spoke to the
heart and confirmed the missionarys message. It was the element of
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Inouye: Mornings and Nights

the extraordinary that we didnt possess ourselves, but for which we


hoped to qualify by being worthy.
How was one to be worthy? As missionaries our standards of personal conduct ranged from the loftiest to the most quotidian: one,
keep Gods commandments, and two, obey the mission rules. What
were Gods commandments? Love God, love your fellow beings.
What were the mission rules? Dont watch television or read newspapers. Get up at 6:30 and go to bed at 10:30. Stay close to your companion. No physical contact with members of the opposite sex. Read
six pages of The Missionary Handbook each day. Gods commandments were truth as it was obvious to the naked eye. Mission rules
were truth under a microscope, in a petri dish.
At first I had scoffed at those who seemed fixated on executing the
mission rules, no matter how minute. Would going to bed at 10:34
instead of 10:30 really detract from my spirituality? Obedience to Gods
greatest commandments ought to be the only standard that mattered,
not conformity to a rule book. But with time I came to realize that both
were ways to be good. They both required a certain sacrifice. The former,
like loving others as oneself, required the adjustment of ones priorities
in being less self-centered. Still, it was fairly abstract, and achieving it was
at best a long-term project. The latter, like staying close to ones companion, required the immediate sacrifice of constant attention to everyday
details. This was the line to be toed in missionary lifethe willingness
to sacrifice not only the big things like school, time, and money, but also
small things, like running fast, resting for a few more minutes, and enjoying solitude. In my desire to be obedient to even the little things, God
would gauge my desire to be Gods instrument, not my own. With time I
also learned that God required different sacrifices of each person because
only then could these sacrifices be made in the right spirit.
It was 5:42 as we bounded along the placid canal. The water of the
canal had a cooling effect on the air around it, but it also bred mosquitoes and fermented garbage.
Sister Alton wrinkled her nose.That is just rank, she said.They say
that even when you get back home, your clothes still smell like Taiwan.
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At the end of the canal road was a rice distributors shed, a great
high tin structure with a wide-mouthed entrance that opened onto
the street. Hundred-pound bags of white long grain rice were stacked
several layers high against the corrugated walls. Here Sister Alton
and I began to step with care. This was the part of the road splattered
withrats.
In the summer, the shed attracted droves of rats. They would gnaw
holes in the rice bags and eat to their hearts content. Unfortunately
for the rats, this road running between the canal and the distributors shed was heavily trafficked. Perhaps, too, after their nightly gorging they were less nimble. Almost every morning there would be a
new dead rat. As the days traffic increased, the rat would expand and
flatten. By the end of the day it would have grown cardboard thin,
though the body, paws, and tail still retained their basic shapes. Even
long coils of intestine would be flattened into perfect wiggly silhouettes. Finally, after a few days the dried-out rat would start to peel up
off the hot blacktop. After that, someone would usually scrape it off
the street and throw it away.
You would think that they would learn, I said, as we bounded over
a well-flattened silhouette. Why dont they post a crossing guard or
something?
This place is disgusting, said Sister Alton.
Well, I said, there are rats in America too.
She laughed, shortly. We said nothing for a while, legs and feet falling in a steady trot.
It is easier to be scornful of a place if the place is scornful of you.
How often had I been tempted to find solace in disgust when a person
or group of people mocked my offering of a set of truths that I had
found precious. How desperately had I fought to make my love for
others independent of the way they treated me. It was never easy.
At 5:51 Sister Alton and I arrived at the city government complex
and started laps around the grassy plaza. Many others were also out.
China is always at its best in the morning, alive and bustling. Middleaged women in sweats walked rapidly, slapping their palms against
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Inouye: Mornings and Nights

their hips and thighs. Silvery-haired men twirling long red-tasseled


swords whirled in slow and intricate circles.
The real action, however, was taking place in the breakfast shops
across the street. Steam billowed from bamboo steamers containing
mantou and baozi (steamed breads). Sweating pots of freshly cooked
dou jiang (soy milk) dominated the stainless steel counters. At tables,
customers dunked fat, soup-filled pork dumplings called little steamer
buns in chili sauce before popping the entire package into their mouths,
where it dissipated in a burst of savory pleasure.
The Chinese morning is a schizophrenic aroma of fragrant and
fetid. The alluring scent of frying oil and brown-bottomed dumplings
on cast-iron griddles competes with the putrid stench of open sewers
and the brackish odor of betelnut spit drying out on the street. Chewing betelnut (the leaf of the areca palm) is a male habit; it is a stimulant, and stains the teeth brownish-red. Betelnut is sold by bikini-clad
girls who sit in glass booths and roll the leaves while they wait for
customers. At nightfall, the booths light up with revolving neon lights,
the glass encasement illuminated like a fish tank in the darkness. The
girls thickly painted mouths pout and their mascara-crusted lashes
lower listlessly as they sit in the booths, vulnerable to the outside gaze
but defiant in their surly sexuality. Men pull up in cars to buy bags
of ten or one hundred, their mouths red as if with blood, the road
outside dyed with splatter after crimson splatter.
I loved the mornings because they were so lively, decent, and leisurely. But in the morning air there always lingered reminders of the
stifling heat of the coming day, the smell and stains of last nights garbage, and the demanding schedule just a few minutes into the future.
After three laps around the plaza, it was 6:12. I began to do the
exercises that I had used to warm up for high school track workouts:
skipping, bounding sideways, high knees. I fell slightly behind Sister
Alton but caught up periodically in bursts of speed. My body began to
feel purged, all of the stickiness sweated away and all of the restlessness run out.
What time is it? asked Sister Alton.
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6:14, I said. Better head back.


We trotted off the field, across the sidewalk, and back onto a street
that led back to the long homestretch along the canal. I put my legs
on automatic pilot and began to arrange my thoughts in orderly piles.
I took the mornings non-missionary thoughts such as pre-mission
memories and sensory absorption in sights and smells and shoved
them off to the side in a heap that would be stuffed into a mental
drawer as soon as we walked through the door at 6:30.
My feet fell in steady thumps that paced the ever-tightening rhythm
of my thoughts. I began to sort through the business of the day in my
headwhich investigators needed to be contacted, who was going to
meet with us today, and the places where we had to beand plan our
routes through Tainans crowded streets. We had two appointments
in the southern district of the city at 9:00 and 10:30. Wed take lunch
down there and go contacting in the central district for two hours. At
4:00, an appointment at the chapel. Dinner at 5:00. Then back down
south for some more visits. These many details were connected to a
single purpose, which made everything almost simple.
Harvard had taught me that important things were not simple,
but complicated. They needed to be analyzed, figured out. I began
my mission trying to explicate Truth, trying to weave philosophy into
advice I gave to others, trying to prove an intellectual ideal of righteousness through argumentation. It didnt work. I convinced no one
this way, least of all myself. I learned, later on, that the most beautiful
and sophisticated presentation of an idea was found in its simplest
form. I could only speak the things that I myself believed to be true,
and rely on the Spirit to make them true to others.
It was 6:23 as we swung back onto the canal road, retracing our route
back towards the apartment. The sun was higher and hotter; the sweat on
my cheekbones started to sting. The cars on the road were more numerous, sweeping around us in arcs of exhaust and noise. Curtains of pollution draped the fragrant smells of breakfast shops in an acrid overlay.
What an odd combination of good and bad smells: not entirely
pleasant and not entirely revolting; not always comfortable, but
18

Inouye: Mornings and Nights

memorable in an unapologetic way. China as a cultural entity was all


one pungent whole. Breakfast oil and ratty rice. Steaming soy milk
and dried betelnut spit. Old women who smiled at us in the morning and old women who slammed doors in our faces in the evening.
Mormonism could be this way, too. Joseph Smith, the prophet called
by God to enact a divine work, was the same person as Joseph Smith,
the flawed and fallible human being. Radical and empowering Mormon doctrines on the divine potential of women and the existence of a
Mother in Heaven coexisted with a conservative and patriarchal organizational structure. True obediencenot the mindless, Orwellian
kind, but the self-conscious and deliberate kindbrought freedom
from many harms, and true sacrifice brought great power. In the face of
human reality itself characterized by contradictions, Mormonism was
not undone by contradictions, but reinforced by them. The tensions
within itself were what made it vital, real, andfor meworthwhile.
The thought passed through my head like a whiff of something
familiar. I registered it, filed it away in the drawer of extraneous things,
and continued to wonder why an investigator named Guo Ling-jun
continued to meet with us and come to church, since she always
seemed so bored. Did she just want to argue with us? Was she lonely?
What did she hope for?
Suddenly, a freshly exploded mouse appeared in my path. I barely
missed it. Recoiling, I leapt into the air.
Ylehck! I shrieked, looking over my shoulder at the mouse, a
plump dumpling with hair and a tail. I fled with long steps, still looking backwards. I was thus completely off guard when I encountered
a second exploded rodenta great, fat ratthat lay sprawled just
before me.
Yaaagh! I yelled again, hurdling the rat and running several paces
ahead. Ew! Sick! Lllegh! I jumped several times into the air to distance myself from the road. Each time my shoes hit the pavement,
Iimagined the feeling of a juicy rat oozing beneath my soles.
Sister Alton jogged, lost in her own thoughts.
We reached the apartment and shucked off our shoes. I leaned on
the door handle and the sliding bolt retracted with a heavy clank. Our
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Irreantum

companions were up. Sister Tu was cooking a Taiwanese egg-pancake


for breakfast and Sister McCoy was in the shower, singing hymns in
the lovely light vibrato that was one of her most splendid gifts.
It was 6:30 a.m., and our working day had officially begun. We went
about the morning preparations of planning, study, and prayer. At 9:30
a.m. we would walk out the door. On the way to each appointment
we would speak with as many people as the time would afford. During the course of the day we would teach some people to pray, invite
some of them to be baptized, and ask others to change their lives in
specific ways, such as giving up alcohol or fasting once a month. We
would pray constantly as we rode our bikes along the street, asking
to be guided to those who were searching for the teachings we had to
share. We would not return to rest until 9:30 p.m., when, exhausted,
wed clank through the door and sling our shoulder bags to the floor.
Together wed plan the next days activities and kneel on the tiled floor
to pray. Then each would rise and attend to the individual rituals of
getting ready for bed.
Around 10:20 every night, the humid skies around Taiwan began
to hum as missionaries all over the island knelt beside their beds and
poured out their hearts in silent prayer. Their supplications rushed
heavenward through the steaming night, up through the roofs of the
apartment buildings, and past the smoggy low-hanging stars. They
raced on through the part of the sky that was cool and clear, and high
above the earth the Eternal One who comprehends all tongues and
hears all petitions listened and answered in softness.
At 10:30, the bedroom light flicked out. Darkness descended. We
fell almost instantly into grateful sleep, while outside the smells and
sounds of deepening night eased across the city, and the rats scampered blissfully once more in the great mountains of long grain rice.

20

A Confession
Lisa Madsen Rubilar

Niels Pattersen served as bishop for twenty-four years in the


town of Jubilation, Utah, and practiced water thievery, too, though
this was never proved. He who was supposed to be a father to the
people, a watchman against evil, who called me to his office and
extended a call as elders quorum president and laid his hands on my
head, blessing me with the ability to see into the hearts of my brethren and to receive inspiration on behalf of the many widows in our
townthis very man was capable of stealing my irrigation water. My
lifes blood. The very bread from my childrens mouths.
Its hard to believe he could do such a thing. He was my Sunday
School teacher growing up, and I was pals with his son, Charlie, who
got killed by lightning on the mountain in 1901, at the age of fifteen.
Back then I couldnt imagine the year 1955, but here I am, an old
man, and Im writing down what I never told a living soul, not even
Helene, my wife. Shes dead now. Two of my grown children are dead,
as well as the two that died at birth. I have thirty-nine grandchildren
and twenty great-grandchildren, but Im not writing this for them.
Imay burn it when Im done. But maybe writing it down will help
me decide, before I stand before my Maker, whether I was right or
wrong, whether I sinned or was sinned against. Maybe I will understand why, in the darkest moment of my sin or anothers, I received
that messenger of light. What did it mean? And if it meant something,
whythrough all the yearsdid I not understand?
My father died before I was in possession of reason, leaving
behind a barn, two draft horses and eighty acres south of town. My
1st place, 2009 Irreantum Fiction Contest

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mother had inherited some additional land on which we raised vegetables, which many a year was the only thing that kept us fed through
the winter. While I was a child, she leased the eighty acres to Niels
Pattersen for a share of the wheat harvest. When I married, I began
farming half of the acreage and sold Niels the other half to raise some
cash to buy milk cows. What had been enough for my mother and me
wasnt enough for a family.
Each spring, Niels and I walked the fence line of our adjacent fields
carrying shovels over our shoulders and pliers and hammers in our
pockets, heaving upright any tilted posts, pulling the wire tight, hammering in the staples. That two-wire fence wasnt really much use,
except to keep us from pulling the plow or the harvester a little too
far on one side or the other. We trusted each other like our own selves.
At least, I trusted him. I cant speak for what he had in his heart the
whole time he was trudging along at my side.
After I sold half my land to Neils, we decided it didnt make sense
to apply for separate water shares since just one ditchparallel to the
town ditchran along the top of our fields. But the fenceline made
it so we couldnt treat the land like one big parcel. Instead, we put in
separate irrigation headgates at the intersection of the town ditch and
the fence. We built those gates in one long afternoon of horseflies and
sweat, setting the wood boxes snug in the town ditch about a foot
apart. Each box had two slide gates that you could lift like a window
sash. Most of the time we left the south slide gates on both boxes
open to permit unimpeded flow along the town ditch.
When it was our turn, one of us would close our boxs south slide
gate and raise the west one (which always took a little muscle if it
hadnt been opened for awhile). This directed the water into our ditch,
either on my side or Nielss.
Because Nielss headgate was upstream from mine, this feat of
engineering would only work for me if the west slide gate on his box
was shut good and tight, especially midsummer when the flow in the
town ditch diminished. Otherwise the waterd peter out before it got
to the bottom of my field. Of course, I didnt have a seconds worry
on this point as we hammered and sawed and slapped at flies that day.
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Rubilar: A Confession

We agreed that each of us would get half the time allotted for our
joint water share. What could be simpler? What could be more fair?
We always flipped a coin to see who got the first few hours of water.
Whoever lost got the second half of our allotted time. We were very
particular about timing things down to the minutewe even carried
alarm clocks with us to the fieldyet we were on such terms that
whoever had the first turn would, at the halfway point, close his own
slide gate and open the slide gate for the other.
In Jubilation, people considered water theft a grave offense,
although some folks thought nothing of breaching the ditch bank
here and there to siphon off a bit for their garden or cow pasture.
Afellow named Weaver had a reputation for shutting his water gate
at least an hour after his turn was up. It was always, My horses got
out, or My cow was calving. There were worse cases, but those folks
eventually gave up farming or left town. Their fences had a way of falling down or their barns catching fire. Waters no laughing matter in a
place where sagebrush and juniper get a toe in at the first sign of dust.
The summer I began to suspect Niels of a crime, the snow pack
was low on the mountain. Wed had a drought two summers running,
so things looked a little desperate. At the irrigation meeting in March,
the water master told us to be thrifty; to stop leaks quick and check
on our water turn at least every three hours day or night. Niels, in his
role as bishop, added his two cents. All right, boys, he said. Weve
got to work with what the Lord give us. Every man do right by his
neighbor, and well come through this fine. He himself looked half
starved alreadythe skin slack along his jaw, the seat of his trousers
saggingbut he always did.
One night I rode Old Sal out to the field around ten oclock. I had
the first hours of our turn. It was dark, hardly any moon. Now in
ripe old age, Sal stumbled along worse than usual till I finally got off
and walked the last piece. Id already made the cuts in my ditch to
direct the water evenly into the furrows, so all I had to do was lift
the west slide gate that opened into the ditch, then close my gate to
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the town ditch. I couldnt see much, but I could hear the water gurgle
through like it was happy to do its part. I did a little more shoveling at the mouth of some furrows. Then I walked to the bottom of
the field where it bordered the sagebrush slope and looked east. The
wheat was sprouting nice. I stood and gazed out over the dark field
toward the darker mountain which sat, as always, like a giant with his
back turned, head hung between his knees, shoulders taking up the
horizon. Ive always thought: watch out should he ever raise his head!
Iimagine him stomping through the valley, crushing barns and houses
with huge feet and fists, but innocent, like a toddler in a pen of chicks.
I rode home. Helene asked would I lie down with her awhile, but I
said Id rather sleep in a chair. Its easier to get up again that way. She
went to bed, and I threw the wool afghan over my knees and nodded
off in the sitting room. The alarm rang about twelve thirty. I wanted
to get back to the field early to check on the turn, like the water master
said we should, and to make the most of the last hour. Old Sal was
cranky when I went out, presenting me with her haunches. Id left her
saddle on but Id taken off the bridle, and she was ornery about getting it back between her teeth. That slowed me down. I thought about
saddling Hero instead, but that would have taken even longer. The
moon was gone and the road so dark I took a lantern so Sal wouldnt
break my neck. When you ride with a light, you cant see anything
outside the halo, which is maybe why I didnt catch sight of anyone
coming or going.
When I got to the field, my gate was up, but not all the way up
like Id left it. I thought maybe it was loose and had fallen a little, but
it was in there stiff and tight. I started walking along the ditch to
see how the water was moving. It seemed a little low, though nothing
unusual. I turned at the far fence line and walked toward the bottom.
About halfway down I stooped and felt the nearest furrow. Bone dry.
So was the next one in, and the next. I started back the way Id come,
feeling the soil every few yards until I struck mud. Then I walked
diagonal through the field to see if the water had veered off somehow
and spread out across the top of the field. But that wasnt the case.
The furrows were pretty evenly wet, down to a certain point where
24

Rubilar: A Confession

the damp just dwindled away, like there hadnt been enough water to
reach that far. I went back to the headgate and checked the town ditch.
It was running good and deep.
I spent the last hour of my turn shoveling furiously along the furrows to help the water along, wishing to heaven I had a bucket to give
the bottom an extra dousing. At two, the alarm clock tied to Sals
saddle went off. I hurried back to the top of the field to shut my gate
and open Nielss. I lowered mine, and raised his without a tug. I didnt
think till later that maybe both gates had seen some action already,
and it never occurred to me to feel the soil on Nielss side of the fence.
Not once did such a thing cross my mind until I was back home in
bed with Helene. Then the idea that hed paid a visit to the field in my
absence and raised his gate awhile kept me awake a long time, tired
as I was.
Helene was the kind of woman whod milk the cows for me if I
stayed up late with a water turn or a calving or some such. Thats
probably what she did that next day because I remember sitting in the
kitchen while she cooked up some pancakes; otherwise, she wouldve
already had them on my plate.
The water didnt flow good last night, I said. When I went out,
the bottom of the field was dry.
Did you find out how come?
No, I said. Then I added, But the bishops gate was awful easy
toopen.
She knew what I meant. I remember the batter dripping on the
floorboards as she waved the spatula in my face. Dont be a fool, she
said. He loves you like a son.
At that time our own sons, Rudolf and Harold, were just old
enough to be useful. Augusta and Leonora were rolling around underfoot, and Helene was pregnant again. Its hard now to remember what
that was likethe house full of ruckus and commotion every minute.
But we lived that way for years. Eight kids in all (plus the two that died
before drawing breath). When the hullabaloo of raising a family is over,
youre hardly aware, but comes the day you realize the worlds a quieter
place, and a sadder one. Then sadder still. Rudolf died in 1918 of the
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Irreantum

influenza, and our youngest, Eleanor, died in 1943 when she miscarried
and they couldnt stop the hemorrhage.
Knowing all that, it pains me to remember how, after Helene shook
the spatula at me and said Dont be a fool, he loves you like a son, I went
outside and shouted at the boys weeding in the garden to do it right or
not to expect food on their plates come December. I dont recall what
they were doingsome silliness or other. Rudolph started to cry, and
I told him not to go bawling to his mother or hed catch it.
I also clearly recall talking to Niels later, in the road by his house.
I wonder, did I head straight over there after breakfast? Did I happen to pass by on the way to my mothers? Memory comes in bright
patches surrounded by dark, like the lantern on the road. Niels had
his Wellingtons on, a big clot of grassy manure stuck to one heel. He
hadnt shaved. His eyes were bloodshot.
I said to him, The water wasnt flowing good last night. About a
third of the field didnt get any till I did some extra shoveling.
His eyebrows shot up. If that surprise wasnt real, he couldve done
Shakespeare. I looked in his eyes, but he looked right back. My side
did fine! he said. When I got there at five, it was soaked clear to
the bottom. You got a rabbit warren going, draining off your water?
Ihadnt thought of that. I began to doubt my doubt.
It mustve been that very next Sunday that he called me into the
bishops office. Niels always saved his admonitions for the Sabbath.
Hed put on his Sunday clothes, and a change would fall over him,
along with the suit that hung on him like elephant skin. It must have
belonged to his brother, who died on his second mission to Samoa
and left a wife and three kids. I can see that suit as clear as day, shiny
in all the usual placesthe elbows, the seat, under the armsbut
nowhere that Nielss own frame pressed. His sister-in-law had the
melancholy and bad teeth, and never remarried. Everyone knew that
he supported that family along with his own, which was one reason
he wanted everyone else to do their part when it came to the widows
of Jubilation. Thats what he called me in for.
Brother Townsend, he said (he called me Brother Townsend on
Sundays, Fred on the other days of the week), as I was on my knees
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Rubilar: A Confession

last night, I felt impressed to ask you in today.


What is it, Bishop?
I felt to ask whether youwho are elders quorum president and
exemplar to the brethrenwhether you are giving a tenth of your
increase to the Lord?
I didnt answer right off. Niels knew my lot. He was the first, besides
my mother, that Id told about Helenes latest pregnancy. We were setting a fence post together when I confided the situation: how I was
worried about the baby coming in winter, how I was praying for a good
harvest. He knew all that!
When I didnt answer, Niels sighed and studied his knuckles. One
hand had a red gash across the back, mostly scabbed over, a little pus
at one edge. I wondered how hed got the wound. Lost his grip on an
irrigation headgate?
Bishop, I said, I give when I can. But I dont take food out of my
babies mouths and I dont think the Lord wants me to. You know
how it is.
Niels looked at me for a long time, as though waiting for me to say
more. As if that werent enough. His eyes were red at the rims. All
right, Brother Townsend. He sighed. The Lord knows your heart.
I could have replied in an insulting tone, And the Lord knows
yours. But I held my suspicions, like guilt, close to my chest. I almost
didnt believe them myself. Just like I didnt quite believe he loved me
like a son.
Thats what everyone thought, that in a way Id taken the place
of his son Charlie. We were the same age, best friends. Charlie was
riding my horse Sunrise the day lightning struck him off the saddle.
After Charlie died, Niels would take me with him when he went up
to Provo for seed and supplies. He bought me clothes for school; hed
often stop by the house to leave me a chocolate bar or some taffy; hed
split a load of coal with us or butcher an extra hog for our use.
Id had some bronchitis during the fall of 1901, which was why
Charlie was riding my horse on the mountain. My widow mother,
who always babied me, wouldnt let me go on the roundup that year.
Charlie felt bad I couldnt go, but asked could he borrow Sunrise.
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Ashamed to be in the position of mamas boy, I stoutly declared, Sure.


Im glad for someone to ride im. Everyone knew Sunrise was the best
horse in town for cattle work. He was a palomino Id raised from a
foal, canny as a fox and light on his feet, and hed look you in the eye
like a human being. He was killed by the same lightning bolt as Charlie. They left Sunrises carcass on the mountain, and for years Id visit
his bones whenever I was up in the meadows.
Our house was nearest the canyons mouth, so they brought Charlie
there. They laid him on my bed and sent for Doctor Merrill, although
by then Charlie had been dead an hour or more. His jacket was burnt
black in front, but his face looked peaceful and solemn like it did when
wed spend a night in the barn loft and Id wake early while he slept on,
dead to the world. If he were alive, I wouldve stuck a piece of straw in
one nostril, just to see him snort. But now he really was dead to the
world. He stayed quiet even when his father ranted and knocked his
head against the footboard and shouted terrible things.
After that I was a little scared of Niels, despite everything he did
for me. For going on three years, it was a known fact he drank whisky
morning, noon, and night. One time, when his wife had influenza, my
mother sent me to gather eggs at her place, and I tripped over something as I stepped into the shed. There he was, stretched on his back
in the dirty straw, drunk as a skunk. Get out of here, you son of the
devil, he said. In after years he was always kind as a father to me. But
in some part of my heart I knew he wished Id died instead of his son.
To this day I dont know why my mother let me go with him up
to Provo, when you could smell the liquor on him as he stood in our
front room waiting for me to say good-bye and shoulder my duffle.
At that time, wed make the trip by wagon, and it was three long days
with him watching me and wiping tears from his eyes. Hed let me
sleep in the wagon bed and would spread his own bedroll on the
ground underneath. I felt like I was sleeping atop the grave of a restless ghost. The ghost wasnt CharlieI was never afraid of himbut
Niels himself, who was about half alive at that time.
On one of those trips, with Niels groaning and turning under the
wagon, I prayed to God for deliverance. The night was warm and clear,
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Rubilar: A Confession

the stars like a wagonload of chicken feed spread in the sky. The smell
of sage and wild thyme filled the air, and the crickets were singing.
Looking east from the mouth of Thistle Canyon, I began to sense
something gathering just beyond the mountains at the end of the valley. The sky was growing lighter there. Of a sudden, I knew it was
an angel preparing to walk upon the earth to comfort me. Yet this
thought, instead of rousing me to greet him, as one would suppose,
had the effect of lulling me straight to sleep.
Not long after that, a visiting Apostle from Salt Lake gave Niels a
blessing and healed him of the wildness and drink. Niels always told
the story in testimony meeting, how the moment that mans hands
touched his head he felt something like ice water rise through his
veins and how those hands soaked up the cold until his whole body
glowed, and he wept in the Apostles arms. He never touched a drop
after that, although at times his eyes were so bloodshot and his face so
sweaty and red, it looked like hed been at the bottle. Maybe hed just
been up all night stealing water.
Shortly after Nielss cure, I married Helene and sold him half the
land hed been leasing, and we started farming side by side. Then he
was called to be bishop, and we all affirmed his call by raising our
righthands.
That didnt make him an angel, though. Niels could curse with the
best in his milk barn, though he took his responsibilities as bishop
serious, especially the collection of tithes. He admonished us every
Sunday on the subject, and Jubilations storehouse was usually full,
though I only used it once myself after I got bucked off a colt and
broke my tailbone. But for some folks, that sack of flour a month kept
them going in the winter. I contributed when I could.
That wasnt good enough for Niels. Most days of the week, he
never pestered, never got on his high horse or thought himself better
than anyone else. But once behind the pulpit, watch out. He could
preach with the best of them. Tithing means one tenth, hed shout in
the voice he used with his cows. Not whatever you have left over. Not
the wormiest apples or the flour thats got weevils in it. Tithing means
a tenth of all your increase. You separate it at the time of harvest, the
29

Irreantum

juiciest apples, the purest flour. Bring it to the storehouse, and I say
(as he went to quoting Malachi he bellowed like a bull in a pen) that
the windows of heaven will open and pour out such a blessing that
you cannot contain it!
I believed him, but only so far. Like I said, by the spring of the
drought year Im telling about, I had four children with another
on the way, and I worried when I thought what would happen if I
couldnt raise better crops than the year before. Id sold off my calves
and a milk cow in the fall so I wouldnt have to feed them through the
winter. Wed used up our surplus grain, and everyone else in town was
pretty much in the same boat. I was more than worried. I was scared.
The next time I lost the coin toss and got the second half of the water
turn, I became convinced of Nielss thievery. It was a night turn again.
Niels was supposed to open my gate at two oclock, but I couldnt rest
easy, so I headed out there around three to check on things. Normally
I wouldnt have gone till four at the earliest. Dont ask me why I was
riding Old Sal again, or why I didnt blow out the lantern, tie her to
a post, and walk the last bit. Most likely I couldnt admit to myself
what I was up to. So here I came, lit up like a Christmas tree and
clopping along like a brass band. Even so, I heard a whinny from the
field. Ipulled up and looked hard but my eyes were dazzled. I blew
the lantern out quick and sat the horse. I heard some scraping, like
wood against wood, some scuffling in the brush, and hooves on the
road. Ijumped off Sal and ran.
Somewhere along the way I stepped in a rabbit hole and nearly
broke my leg. When I reached my gate, it was up and the water was
flowing smooth. First thing, though, I felt the soil on Nielss side. It
was like syrup; like hed just shut his own gate. Next I walked my field.
About a third of it sat high and dry even though the water had been
flowingsupposedlyfor an hour. I shoveled like crazy the rest of
the night to get it moving down the furrows. Cursed myself over and
over for having forgotten the bucket again. Cursed the bishop with
every word I knew and some I invented. For I was positive now that
Id surprised him at theft; hed shut his own gate fast and opened mine
30

Rubilar: A Confession

when he heard me coming. He might as well have opened my vein


with a knife and let the blood run out on the ground.
By the time I got home after sunup the foot that had gone into the
rabbit hole was swollen twice its size. In my memory, Helene is holding my foot in a pan of ice water and Im trying to pull it out. The foot
looks like a dead thing. The sun is shining on the back of Helenes
head, and her hair has rainbows in it like a ravens back. Not a gray
hair. She looks up at me with a frown, and when she sees my face, all
twisted from the cold, she laughs out loud, her teeth white and saucy.
A good many of those teeth preceded her to the grave. I mustve told
her again of my suspicions. Maybe I threatened to cut down the bishops apple tree. I recall her saying, whether later that day or another
time, Frederick, think! Think before you act! The ladle struck the
sideboard as she spoke. Little drops of soup sprayed up at each stroke.
These are the things you remember after forty-five years. How the
little sprays burst one after another into a sunbeam and glowed and
vanished. Then she said, If you must go on this way, take a witness
with you. Lie low and see what you see. Thats the only way youll rid
yourself of this crazy notion.
I asked Boris Thatcher to go with me to the field. He wasnt one
Id hire to haul hayhe chewed and smoked and gambledbut he
didnt run his mouth, either. I promised him a dollar if hed stand
watch with me to see what critter was trampling my grain. I told him
I needed a partner to keep me awake, and he was delighted at the idea
of earning a dollar without lifting a finger. I said Id stop by for him at
nine oclock. I wanted to be there before Niels arrived. Our turn was
supposed to start at ten, but I realized Id have to stand watch all night
since I didnt know how long Niels would stay in the field, or when
hed come back to check on the water. Dont saddle up, because were
going to walk, I told Boris. He twitched his shoulders and grumbled
a little, but said all right, hed be ready.
That afternoon I made sure I flipped the coin, and that it favored
Niels. I wanted him to have the first turn, to see if hed open my gatelate.
Whats the matter, Fred? he said. You swallow a pickle?
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Cow stepped on my foot this morning and its hurting bad, I said.
My foot hadnt recovered from that rabbit hole.
Lets take a look, he said as I limped away. I lifted my hand and let
it drop. I was the one going to do some looking, that very night.
By nine thirty, Boris and I were holed up behind a juniper at the
bottom of the field. Id cut some brush and stacked it in front and on
either side to serve as a screen. The land was dark but the sky was
still blue, and the mountain hunched huge and black on the horizon,
waiting for its day. Wed barely got settled when Niels rode up. He and
the horse were solid patches of night against the sky. Boris started to
roll a cigarette. I knocked the paper out of his hand. He muttered an
oath, but I hadnt paid him yet, so he turned his back on me and spit
in the dirt. In the meantime Niels dismounted. He took a shovel off
the back of his horse and climbed through the fence. He walked along
the top of his field and shoveled here and there. He walked back and
took out his pocket watch and held it close to his nose. The only light
in the world rested on the mountains shoulders, so he couldnt have
seen the time. But he seemed satisfied. He moved the slide gates, and
from where I sat I could see the water froth white, then turn slick and
dark as it moved along the ditch like a tongue uncurling itself. Niels
walked with it down to the end of his field. Then he walked back and
rode away.
Boris started to whine about the tobacco Id spilled.
Im sorry about that, but your smokell give us right away, I said.
How can I stay awake if I dont smoke? he asked.
Well, thats what Im paying you for.
In fact, Id told him from the first, if he wanted the money, he had
to keep his eyes open all night. This turned out to be a mighty undertaking for both of us. Not that I was a stranger to sleepless nights. Id
often worked by a full moon scything a field or pitching hay. When
Augusta was born and Helene was a long time crossing the valley of
the shadow of death, I was awake two nights running. I was awake all
night when they brought Charlie in and laid him on my bed. Istood
in the corner crying, and Niels was kneeling on the floor next to him.
I thought he was going to pray, but then he started banging his head
32

Rubilar: A Confession

against the footboard. Two men wrestled him away. As they dragged
him out of the room blood ran down his cheek, and his eyes fell on
me and they were wild and seemed to give off their own red light.
Get out of here, he screeched. Little devil. Why didnt you ride your
ownhorse?
It was Charlies mother let me sit by the body all night.
But anger isnt as good as pure terror or grief for keeping off sleep.
Hunkered behind the juniper, I sure found that out. I started counting
on my fingers, bending them backwards, hard, one by one. Id count to
a hundred, yank my beard with both hands, give Boris an elbow in the
ribs, and start over. First the moon rose into the sky so bright and glorious, I feared the juniper and sage would do little to hide our position.
Then a wind kicked up and clouds moved in to block the stars. By the
time Nielss lantern appeared on the road, the night was black as old
tar. I couldnt see my watch so I didnt know the exact time, but from
the great length of his absence, I guessed it was close on two oclock.
The lantern bobbed along the top of his field, then around the outside,
pausing here and there. It passed so close, I could have murmured
Nielss name and he would have looked my way. I kept silent.
The light receded. I saw it wavering by the headgates. Then ... I saw
it cross onto my side. It moved slow along the ditch, swinging back
and forth like the eye of a great snake, weaving. At last the light came
to rest, and the shovel, as it rose and fell, seemed to me a great silver
mouth opening and closing upon the darkness.
So its true, I thought, and my heart went cold. The bishop was
stopping up my ditch to keep the water running stronger into his
own. I hadnt heard him close his gate, although I was pretty sure
hed opened mine. I clenched my teeth and was hard-pressed not to
curse aloud. A gust whipped a bit of dust in my eye. A spatter of rain
struck my cheek. Soon the lantern was in motion again. Soon it rose
above the horses head. The light went down the road and disappeared
fromview.
Boris, I said. Did you see that? He didnt answer, so I gave him a
push with the toe of my boot. Boris! I said.
He grunted. Im awake.
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Irreantum

If you were sleeping, youll not get a dime. The bishop was here.
Did you see him?
I saw him, Boris muttered. That was good enough for me. I could
remind him later what it was we both saw with our own eyes.
Stay here, I said. I made my way to the top of the field and put my
hand in my ditch. The water felt a little low. I walked along the edge
of it toward the headgates, putting my hand down every few feet. The
flow increased some, but not much. I couldnt find the place Niels
had shoveled closed, but then, I couldnt see my own hand in front of
my face. When I got to my gate it was, as I expected, only halfway up.
Iwrenched it all the way open. I already knew what Id find when I
got over to Nielss gate. It was half open, too. I gave the box a mighty
kick that brought me to my knees. I shook my fists at the sky. Then I
considered what to do.
It came to me I should leave things just the way they were. After
all, Niels would be back. He knew I would come check on my turn
in a couple of hours, and he wouldnt want me to find his gate still up.
Icould catch him red-handed. I stumbled back to my gate and lowered it like it was. Then I lay down next to the fence about ten yards
from the gate, trusting the dark to hide me. I laid there cursing under
my breath and grinding my teeth, just like Niels had when I stepped
on his shins in the chicken shed.
I woke to the rain. The sky rumbled loud and deep. My first
thought was: My children will have food this winter! Then I heard
a tramping of feet, not out in the road, but in the field, and I thought,
Its the bishop, damn him! I raised my head and looked out over the
rows of new wheat. I saw a light out there, but not from a lantern. The
glow was orange, like a low campfire, and was at least ten feet across.
Thunder cracked and I ducked my head. When I looked again the
light was rising from the earth. Not exactly the light, but a figure surrounded by light. The figures hair glowed silver and its robes shook
with brilliance, like a river under noon sun. One arm stretched in my
direction, the hand cupped as if offering or begging for something;
the other arm was raised as if to pull down the wrath of God from
heaven. A dreadful shiver wrung my body and I cast myself to the
34

Rubilar: A Confession

earth. At that same moment, an explosion sounded in my ears and a


great flash blinded my eyes.
Then wind. Blackness. A steep sliding into the abyss. I clawed at
ground that had no edge and yet I was falling. Rough voices. Blows
to the spine. I gasped and my lungs found no purchase on air. Red
flames at the edges of sight. My nose in the mud. I raised my head and
someone was shouting. Are you all right, Fred? Are you hurt bad?
Violent hands turning me, striking my chest. Then, at last, air, burning into my lungs like a poker. I saw hail bouncing off the white skin
of my belly and Niels poised above me as if chopping wood. Boris
intervened, shouting, Youll break a rib!
In the silence that followed, hail pelted the ground. My face stung
with it as I drew harsh breaths. I was cold and dizzy, my nose filled
with dirt. The two of them set to work on me as though in attendance
at a rough outdoor calving. They rubbed my feet and chafed my hands
and wrapped me in Nielss overcoat. As the downpour slackened some,
they hoisted me onto Nielss bay and took me home to Helene, who
spent the rest of the night heating water bottles and pulling burrs
from my beard and prickly pear spines from my back and thighs.
They said I was hit by lightning, and I dont doubt thats what they
thought; but I dont believe it. I didnt have a mark on me. What happened was this: I saw a vision. They said my heart stopped, but thats
not true either. I remained conscious throughout, even when I saw
nothing but blackness, even as I scrabbled at the edge of the abyss.
The storm eased the drought, sure enough, but it destroyed my
crops: beat them right into the ground. Shortly after, I sold my forty
acres to Harvey Miller for cash, and I used the money to see us
through the winter. The baby, a girl, died at birth, so all my worries
about another mouth to feed were soon enough replaced by grief. The
next baby girl died, too, and I thought Helene would go right along
with her, for sorrow. But we made it through and had four more children that lived, and my girls grew up bonny and good, and my boys
grew strong and fine. They have families of their own. The ones still
alive have grandchildren of their own.
But I never whispered to a living soul what I saw in my field that
35

Irreantum

night. I told myself time and again it was something else out there in
the wheat, lit from behind by lightning. I told myself that, but I never
quite believed it. Sometimes it seemed like Helene knew what Id
seen. Shed say things like, Youve been called for something special,
Frederick Townsend. Even that night, as she picked the spines from
my back, she said, I think youve been shaken awake now, Frederick.
Ithink the times come to repent. But all the while I argued in my
head: Maybe the bishop came back early, like I thought he would,
and was out there destroying evidence of his crime. Maybe he dressed
up in a sheet so Id doubt what I saw with my own eyes: his gate
standing open and him shoveling dirt in my ditch.
That was the real reason I sold my land. I believed Niels Pattersen
Bishop Pattersen!would go right on stealing my water, but I didnt
have proof to bring the matter to the water master, or the heart to
accuse the man to his face. And my witnessI know full well he
slept through the whole thing. When I asked Boris what he saw that
night, before the storm hit, he muttered something about deer jumping the fence.
What about the bishop? I pressed.
Good thing he showed up when he did, he said, or youda been a
dead man.
I paid him his dollar, and wondered how much Niels gave him to
keep quiet.
As for Nielshe had explanations. After he and Boris unloaded
me onto the front room divan, he stood in the doorway and said to
Helene, Why on earth was he out in the field like that? Why was
he out there so early? He knows I always open the gate for him. He
knows Id do anything for him. I even gave him part of my water time
tonight. And I found the gopher holes thatve been sucking him dry
and filled them in for him. Whyd he go out so early? He knows Id do
anything for him!
I thought his words the rantings of a soul-sick man. Still, for
Helenes sake, I was civil to Niels all his days, though I asked to be
released as elders quorum president and declined further callings from
his hands. I tithed the money I got from the land, and over the years I
36

Rubilar: A Confession

hired myself outhauling coal, cutting timber, laying shinglesjust


about anything until I could buy more land. Then I worked it hard;
Iwas a thrifty farmer. Ive been known to leave a sack of flour from
time to time on doorsteps around town. What Im saying is, Itried to
do good in this life. I tried to repay evil with good. But I had anger in
my heart. I saw a messenger from God, and I kept anger in my heart.
Lately Ive wondered more and more, was it my sin, or Nielss, that
the messenger came to reprove? Or did he come for some other reason? Because this is whats strange: the years, instead of dimming the
events of that night, have burnished them ever brighter. As each sorrow struck my life, I trusted more and more what I saw. When the first
baby died that winter, I said to myself, Remember how, in the pounding rain, the light in the field was ten feet across, and glowed red and
gold like a fire? When the next little infant lay white in her box, I said,
Remember how the personage rose above the bending grain, shining like the dawn? When I received the telegram of Rudolf s death
my first thought was, The messengers feet did not touch the ground!
and at Eleanors sudden passing I was pierced to the heart with the
thought: In the midst of the wind and the hail, his robes rippled, gentle as a breeze. And after my mother died I mused for weeks on this:
When he held forth his hand, did not my heart pound with joy? Yet I
groveled in terror at his feet.
Still, it was only recentlywhen my dear Helene departed this
lifethat I felt again, bending over her casket, that same fierce shiver
take hold of my frame and wrack me like an ague. I recognized its grip
from that night. The power, the source, were the same. Only this time
it was binding me, holding mecleaving my very skin to my bones, at
least for a little longer.

37

Irreantum

Residence Inn Marriott


Salt Lake City Airport

May 2008
Jim Papworth

The child stands on the hotels green vinyl chair.


His Little People dive from the sink edge;
he narrates their lives, a piece of brown licorice
hanging from his mouth. Somewhere deep
in his brown study a story begins: he turns
the handle and bends into the waters current
taking his first drink from a faucet.
All of us, of course, have these images
stored in the slim frames of our minds:
a small boy perched over a sink; wet shirt;
water dripping from counter to floor;
the sinks timbre changing as it fills.
And the chirps, slurps, songs, poems, stories
that rise like small birds from a childs lips.
Now he throws his wet shirt to the floor;
shoulder blades rise like small hills
from the plain of his back, his ribs
like bars of music or curved fingers
holding his heart and lungs
and the birdsong notes that rise
from his wet mouth.

38

Papworth: Poems

His mother floats miles above the earth


in the steel tube of velocity pointed north
from Lubbock, gone these past weeks,
toward us and this poem, this story,
that she will see only through these words,
and hear only in the retelling after our bodies
collide in the aftermath under the growl
and rumble of jets careening through the sky.

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Irreantum

At Sacr-Coeur
Montmartre, Paris

August 2009
Worshippers fall in one at a time and file
towards the priest offering absolution
or at least communion.
A gold and blue Savior
hangs above the choir seats.
A woman leads her grown daughters
palsied body through the gate.
Her pink Izod shirt. Her skirt testifies
in blue polka-dot.
The priest invites his flock
to turn and shake hands with a neighbor;
they turn; they hug or kiss or shake hands.
The security guards walkie-talkie screeches.
The rose windows. The nuns singing rises
like a saint through the apse, the dome.
Hundreds in genuflection. Tourists circle
the aisles in their shorts and tank tops.
A man stooped over in a cracked back.
His green vest. The woman kneeling
at the prie-dieu; her hand bent and withered.

40

Papworth: Poems

In the mosaic announcing the Savior,


Elizabeth testifies, and her swollen belly.
Outside, a Senegalese ties a bracelet to my
daughter-in-laws wrist. In the light
it all comes clear: the bracelet, the Senegalese,
the wrist, the artist dancing with two glass globes
on the steps of Sacr-Coeur, the crowd of people
watching, coins flipping through the sacred air,
the girl in the gray Coca-Cola shirt, a child:
they have all gathered, like lepers, the halt,
the lame, the crafty, all of them to testify,
to breathe the steady air, to witness:
God is here. He has always been here.

41

Welder: Falling
. . . how everything turns away

Auden
When he steps back
from the red heat
and raises his face shield,
his wings melt
and he splashes into air, flailing,
seven stories up, the tip
of his fire swinging in a blue arc.
His helmet catches a wave of air;
he reaches for the rope
and saves his fall,
the lunge yanking him
spasmodically, again, and
against the new buildings brick.
His hat cracks the gravel below.
Thats a damn fine truck,
says a man near the fence.
Three guys sit on sawhorses,
eating lunch. A long-armed forklift
beeps backwards, its load
shifting on uneven ground.

42

When We Remembered Zion


Thom Duncan

By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down,


yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.
Psalm 137:1

There arent many people left who remember Castle Point from
before the Times of Desolation, as weve come to call this time between
the end of the world and the coming of our Lord in glory. Patriarch
Flowers always claimed he could, but most people stopped taking him
seriously after that testimony meeting when he said Joseph Smith
had appeared to him.
Sister Mattie Fletcher is certainly old enough to have been alive B.D.,
but she hasnt spoken one intelligible word since her only son was caught
and killed during the last Utah Holocaust. My dad, the bishop, tried for
a week to talk Sister Mattie into letting the elders bring Allans body
down from the inverted cross in her front yard. Every time he broached
the subject, shed scream, yell that she would kill herself if they took him,
and why did they have to? He was going to be resurrected next Sunday
anyway. On Saturday night somebody removed the bloated corpse. A
fresh grave appeared out at the end of Old Mine Road, but everyone
pretended not to notice. Sunday morning, rumor had it, Sister Mattie
just smiled, nodded her head, and cried, He made it. My father denied
knowing anything about the matter.
The only Castle Point I ever knew was the one where I grew up,
the former mining town about halfway down what used to be called
Highway 10, in the old county of Emery, located in the eastern section

3rd place, 2009 Irreantum Fiction Contest

43

Irreantum

of the state known as Utah. Ive been told I was born on the exact
day fifty years after American civilization ceased to be. Dad had this
video recording of the presidents last speech and, every Monday night
for as long as we could still get electricity, he would gather us around
the television and make us rewatch it. Everyone grinned when the
video suddenly turned up missing one day. I denied knowing anything
about it.
I saw that video so many times I practically memorized it. The president spoke about the economy and loss of values and something
called the deficit. He mentioned losing sight of the mark and compared the country to an old grandfather clock that had been wound so
tightly it finally stopped working. I dont know how much of what he
said was factual and how much was politics, and Im not sure anyone
else knew either. It didnt matter what the reason was. To my father,
it was crystal clear why America was now little more than a memory.
Sin, he declared during one of our evening meals. Thats what
did the country in. R-rated movies, drugs, and homosexuals. I didnt
understand what he was talking about. Id never seen an R-rated
moviethe Fundies had taken care of that in the Great Book Burning. Drugs? We were too worried about finding food. And I was only
twelve. What people did in bed was too disturbing to think about.
But that all changed the year Ruby Daniels reached puberty.
I had known Ruby all my life. Being only a few months apart in age,
wed gone to Primary together. We sat next to each other in the oneroom schoolhouse that had once been the office of Castle Point Realty.
I had known her, all right, but I had never really noticed her until that
summer between sixth and seventh grades.
There was this special place where all us kids would go play. Had
the world gone on normally, a new stake center would have been built
there. A cornerstone and a partial foundation in an overgrown field
were all that remained of Strunkards Orchard. Our childhood imaginations made that cement cornerstone many things. Sometimes it was
a podium from which we would deliver satirical sermons to a congregation of snickering and fidgety five-year oldsat other times, a stage,
and the entire valley below our impassive audience as we sang Come,
44

Duncan: When We Remembered Zion

Come, Ye Saints at the top of our lungs. But that summer between the
sixth and seventh grades, in the year that we began to put away childish things, the cornerstone became the place where two friends could
just sit and talk. And maybe do something else if the time was right.
I raced Ruby up the hill toward Strunkards Orchard, and by the
time we reached the cornerstone, we were breathless and laughing.
Ruby gathered her wind first.
Your mom had the Vision yet?
I didnt know what she meant, but she asked it in such a way that I
figured it must be important. I was thinking about other things. Shed
run ahead of me up the hill, and I found that sight very enjoyable,
fascinating even. The last thing in the world I wanted to do right then
was talk about church. Sudden strange forces boiled up inside me.
Ididnt know why, only that Ruby could assuage them.
The Vision? I answered, trying to sound interested. Whats that?
I hardly heard her response. A rivulet of sweat made a path down
her chest. I dunno, she said. I heard Mom and Sister Carter talking
about it the other day. Its something that only the women get. They
stopped talking when they saw me listening.
I sneered. So what is it? Is it like the vision Patriarch Flowers had?
They seen Joseph Smith or somethin?
I told you, I dont know. Even if it was Joseph Smith, they wouldnt
be dumb and tell people about it.
I couldnt see the point of this conversation, so I said, My dad says
women cant have visions. Id learned that resorting to higher authority usually shut people up. And hes the bishop.
Then your dads dumb.
You cant say bad things about the bishop. It says so in the scriptures.
She brought her legs up, planting her heels on the edge of the cornerstone, hugging her knees and tossing her hair in a way I thought
was the most beautiful thing Id ever seen. Her words firmly planted
in conviction, she said, All I know is my mom had the Vision.
Lying back, she flung her arms to the side, closed her eyes to the sun.
When I saw those arms go wide and her blouse press down against
her budding breasts, it was all I could do to keep from touching them.
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Irreantum

She seemed oblivious to my growing lust, which was all to the good.
Iwould have been embarrassed if she knew what I was feeling.
I wonder how old Ill be when I get the Vision, she said.
I leaned on one arm and looked down into her face. Freckles danced
across it when she wrinkled her nose. Dont seem to be much of a
vision, if nobody knows about it. I couldve licked those freckles clean
off her.
You wouldnt understand, said Ruby, turning her face away from
mine. Its a woman thing.
I started to stammer. If ... if women started having visions, it
would ... it would just mess things up.
She turned to face me. Oh, would it?
I saw only her eyesdark and deep. I felt like I was falling into them.
At that moment, I didnt care about the Vision all the women
claimed to have, whether they saw Joseph Smith or Jesus Christ himself. My concentration honed onto the sumptuous banquet spread out
before me, the tantalizing treats presented seemingly for my delight.
Ireached out to make my selection.
My swift journey to the dirt beside the cornerstone left me numb,
confusedand speechless. Common sense quickly stumbled back
into place, and now she stood above me. Behind her, the sun ignited
her coppery hair with a flame that matched her anger.
Jason Whithers, you are ... so dumb! She whirled and bolted
down the hill, her hair a bright and burnished blaze.
Stunned and silent until she was out of sight, I slowly shuffled
toward home, wondering if Id ever understand girls.
I looked for Ruby the next day as Mom, Joseph, Cindy, and I
walked to the meetinghouse on the corner of First West and Second
North. The Danielses lived just two streets over and down a block,
and we often ran into them while walking to church.
Not today. My bruised but ever resilient twelve-year-old ego told
me it was because of what Id done yesterday. Ruby talked her mother
into leaving early so they could avoid seeing us. Or, worse yet, she felt
too embarrassed to even show up.
46

Duncan: When We Remembered Zion

I wanted to apologize. Id thought all night about what shed said,


wondering if my mom was like her mom, Sister Carter, and the other
sisters whod had this mysterious Vision they couldnt tell anyone
about. Id thought about it so hard as I watched Mom getting ready
for church. I kept looking for some sign that shed had the Vision.
Ididnt know what I would see, but I had some ideas. Once Dad told
us that people who lived back then used to say how Joseph Smiths
face would become almost transparent when he was having a vision.
I searched for extra luminescence in Moms face that morning but
found none. Once in a testimony meeting, Mom said the gospel made
her happy. So maybe having the Vision made people happy. If it did,
I sure couldnt tell. To me, Mom seemed more irritable than normal.
She hurried us kids along with uncharacteristically angry tones; she
even paddled Josephs behind once. Cindy hugged away her little
brothers tears as Mom finished getting ready.
When we were about a block away from the meetinghouse, I heard
singing from across the street. Sister Mattie often broke into song as
she tended the garden shed planted around the base of Allans cross.
In her aged and off-key voice, she belted out the words of the hymn
with a fervency Id never heard in Sunday School.
When all that was promised the Saints will be given, and none
will molest them from morn until evn, and earth will appear as the
Garden of Eden, and Jesus will say to all Israel, Come Home. Upon
seeing us, she stopped singing and smiled at us from under the wide
brim of her sunbonnet. He made it, she said. He made it.
The vine shed planted just weeks before had already started snaking up the wooden upright and entwining itself around the rusty nail
that hung there. Yes, Sister Mattie, Mom said, in the same humoring
tone she used for the Primary children. Im sure he did.
And hes going to come back, you know. Yessiree, hes going to come
back. Look at this. These flowers were his favorite.
You couldnt stop Sister Mattie once she launched into tales of her
garden. The only thing we could do was walk away, while she continued to speak to thin air. I wondered if Sister Mattie had ever had the
Vision.
47

Irreantum

Most Sundays, either Dad or his counselors stood at the entrance


to the meetinghouse, shaking hands with members who filed in. Today
they were strangely absent. I wondered why, figuring that church must
have already started. But then I saw Widow Fleming dash in before
us. I knew we werent late. According to Mom, Sister Fleming hadnt
been late to Church in twenty years. She and Mom exchanged smiles.
Id drawn deacon duty that day, so I shuffled up front as soon as
we entered, scanning the pews as I went for any sign of Rubys billowy
hair. She sat with her father and mother, eyes forward. She didnt offer
so much as a side-glance when I slumped into deacons row, knowing
as sure as I knew anything that she would never speak to me again as
long as she lived. I persuaded Johnny Allred to exchange places so I
could pass to the Daniels. The hubbub of people greeting people that
normally underscored our meetings died a sudden death. In spite of
myself, I turned toward the back of the chapel. Through the open
double doors under the broken exit sign the bishopric came marching
up the aisle: my father clutching his papers from the previous night,
followed by Brother Reynolds and Brother Varvitsiotes. They passed
through the congregation with silence clearing their path and with
pointing and whispering behind them. I was not so young I couldnt
tell that something exciting was going to happen.
Brother Reynolds conducted, and we sang the opening hymn to
the energetic but off-tune piano accompaniment of Sister McHenry. It
seemed like forever before I took the cracked tray of bread in my hand.
Ineednt have bothered swapping with Johnny: Rubys eyes never raised
from her hands the whole time. Sacrament over, I sloughed down the
aisle, my eyes on my shoes, and fell into the pew next to Mom.
Mom stiffened as Brother Reynolds approached the podium. I
stared straight ahead. This was it. Here came the exciting part.
Wed like to thank the Aaronic Priesthood for their reverence in
serving the sacrament. Well now be pleased to hear Bishop Whithers
address us.
Maybe we will, maybe we wont, some woman behind us whispered. I turned to see who, but Mom elbowed my chest and brought
my eyes quickly forward.
48

Duncan: When We Remembered Zion

Slowly, Father unfolded the papers hed been carrying and laid
them flat on the lectern. He opened his worn scriptures and began
to read. And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my
spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions.
His eyes seemed to take in the entire ward before he continued,
this time reading from his notes.
This passage from the book of Joel clearly shows us the Lords will
concerning revelation from Him to the Saints in the last days. His
voice stumbled and halted, forcing his usual informality to the strict
confines of a prepared speech. On first reading, it may seem that He
is talking about a time when revelation pours from the fountains of
heavenwhen everyone, with equal authority, speaks the will of God.
Rustling in the congregation. Mom reached out to take my arm
inhers.
But God is a god of order. All His prophecies will be carried out in
His own due time. And revelation to the Church, if it is true revelation, must follow a certain order.
A derisive snort (I think from the same woman) punctuated his
sentence. Dad continued unfazed.
Not only is revelation designed to be delivered to the Church
through the Lords chosen servants, but it must, as the Prophet Joseph
Smith taught, edify. Revelationsor visionsthat do not teach us
something in plain words, or worse yetvisions that remain unspokendo not have their source in the Almighty, but are visions from
the devil.
A voice from somewhere over my shoulder filled the room.So whats
the latest word from God, Bishop? Sister Arletta Daniels, Rubys
mom, had risen to her feet and was even now fighting off her husbands
attempts to quiet her. Ruby disappeared behind a hymn book.
Sister Daniels would not be deterred. If youre the chosen servant,
then what does God have to say for Himself lately?
Brother Daniels clutched at her sleeve. Arletta, sit down.
I wont! And whens the last time you heard from the Brethren, Bishop? Brother Daniels rose. His wife continued. I think
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everybody in Salt Lake got out a long time ago and just forgot to tell
us! Brother Daniels pushed his wife out into the aisle, and toward
the exit. Sister Daniels would not be easily shushed. Nels, quit pushing me! She pulled free of her husbands grasp. Ill leave on my own.
I dont want to be in a church where I hear lies preached from the pulpit, where leaders talk about things they dont know nothing about.
She walked toward the exit while Brother Daniels grabbed Ruby and
started to follow her out. Sister Daniels turned at the door and gestured to include the entire ward. And by the way, Bishop, a lot of men
have had the Vision too! As the door closed behind them, the silence
that remained felt tangible. The sister had thrown down the gauntlet.
It was up to the knightto my dadto pick it up, toss it back in her
face, or in some other way engage her in battle.
Dad turned a page and continued as though nothing had happened.
A voice coming from the front room woke me up. The more awake
I became, the more voices I heard. A sliver of light slicing through my
half-opened door beckoned me. I nudged the door ever so slightly
and put my ear in the open space.
Im sorry we came by so late, I heard Brother Daniels say. Arletta
has something to say.
The Sister Daniels I heard next was not the same woman who had
quit sacrament in a huff earlier. This was a changed woman, a subdued woman. I ... I want to apologize for my behavior this afternoon.
I realize that I ... spoke out of place. I ... thats all I can say. Her voice
sounded strained, unreal, as if she had said the words, but not meant
them.
Dad spoke next. I appreciate you coming by, Sister Daniels. I know
we both want to do whats right.
There were a few other exchanges, and then the Danielses left.
Did you see that bruise on her face, Leland? Mom said. I think he
beat her into apologizing.
We cant know that. All we know is that she now seems to understand her place in the Church. And thou shalt not command him who
is at thy head, and at the head of the church.
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Duncan: When We Remembered Zion

Youre not at the head of the Church. Youre just the bishop of a
little Podunk ward in eastern Utah.
I leaned back against the wall. I could hear just fine.
Dads voice rose in intensity. Dont try to change the subject. Its
the principle of obedience Im talking about. I saw the look that passed
between you two women. Whatevers going on among the sisters?
Nothings going on. You know, Arletta may be right. I think the
rest of the Church has gone off to Jackson County and forgotten
about us. If the Church still exists anymore.
Dont say that! A long pause. When Dad spoke again, his voice
had changed. Thats not possible. Anyway, well find all that out when
the elders get back.
They should have been back last month. What makes you think
This conversation is at an end! I heard Dads feet coming down
the hall. I crept back into the shadows of my room. Are you coming
to bed? he said, just on the other side of my door.
Moms voice sounded faint, almost a whisper, but I could still
understand her.
If I do, itll only be to sleep.
I climbed into bed. Sleep didnt come right away because I kept
thinking about the elders. Id forgotten about them. A couple summers ago, Dad had called two young men, Troy Miner and David
Hudspeth, to journey to the eastern lands, to the land of Missouri, on
the borders by the Lamanites. Their assignment? To find the Mormon settlement surely being built in Independence, and to return and
tell us of its progress. I remembered their setting apartquite the
ceremony, their departure even more so. But it wasnt long before we
all returned to our normal ways of life and, for the most part, forgot
about them. Occasionally, the mothers of the two missionaries got up
and talked about their sons in sacramentand wed be reminded of
them. Or some priest bemoaned his hard life, murmuring how the
missionaries were the lucky ones because at least they didnt have to
do choresand wed be reminded. But neither parent nor priest ever
mentioned the danger. Maybe because everybody already knew danger loomed Outside. All the adults remembered the holocausts, and
51

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all the children had the ramshackle buildings and Sister Mattie to
warn them of the world east of Desolation Canyon.
I had so many chores the week after Brother and Sister Daniels
had paid a midnight visit that I didnt have time to think about Ruby,
or much of anything else. Not that I would have been able to talk with
her. She seemed to go out of her way to ignore me. One day when
Sister Thatcher dismissed us early from school, Ruby rushed out and
I didnt catch up with her until she was quite a bit down the road.
So how come you wont talk to me? I asked, trying not to sound as
desperate as I felt. You still mad at me cause I tried to ... you know?
Im sorry. Ill never do it again, okay?
She turned fiery eyes and pursed lips in my direction, and then
veered off the road up toward Strunkards Orchard. I followed sheepishly. She dropped her books on the cornerstone and then paced back
and forth while I stood by, wordless.
You dont understand, do you?
I didnt.
Sometimes you make me so mad.
So tell me, Ruby, I pleaded, feeling tears well up in my eyes. Iwant
to understand.
Her whole attitude changed. She sat on the cornerstone and beckoned me with open arms. I dropped my own books, ran to her, buried
my face in her lap. She held me, saying nothing, until I stopped crying.
I turned away from her, suddenly embarrassed at my show of emotion, and started to gather up my books. Behind me, I heard her get
up and walk over to me. I stood up, back to her, but didnt leave.
Youre so silly. I wasnt mad at you because you touched me. Turning, I found her smiling and tucking a wayward strand of hair behind
her ear. She caressed my palm, which had suddenly become clammy,
and raised it toward her breast. I barely heard her whisper, I liked it.
She leaned forward, kissed me, and sent my hormones careening. We
fell to the grass at the base of the cornerstone, she freely giving what
she had denied me the week before, I hungrilybut awkwardly
accepting. When our fumbling hands spent their energies, we lay
apart, looking into the sky.
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Duncan: When We Remembered Zion

You think we should tell somebody?


Like your dad? Why? We didnt do it.
I guess youre right.
It was the Vision, she said, abruptly changing the subject. Thats
why I got mad at you, because you didnt believe the Vision was real.
I still dont know what youre talking about. But whatever it is,
your mom sure believes it.
Ruby winced. I was so embarrassed when she stood up in sacrament meeting like that. She looked at me, her eyes bright and shining.
Ask your mom tonight!
Ask my mom what?
Ask her if shes had the Vision.
If your mom didnt tell you, then mine sure wont.
Maybe. Maybe theyve taken a secret oath or something. But maybe
she will. You wont know until you try.
I dont know.
Please! Just ask her.
She looked at me with those liquid brown eyes, and I would have
jumped to the moon if she asked me to. I agreed to ask Mom.
After dinner, I brought the bucket of water in from the well and
poured it in the old tin tub Mom used to wash the dishes out behind
the house. It seemed as good a time as any, so I asked her. She continued rinsing a plate as if she hadnt heard me. Then she carefully placed
it in the strainer and wiped her hands on her apron.
She walked out the back door. I followed her past the tool shed.
When she sat on the stump of an old apple tree, I took the cue and
leaned against the sheds paint-chipped side. She said, Sooner or later,
I figured youd ask me.
Well, tell me. I was emboldened by my desire to make good with
Ruby. You had the Vision or not?
She paused, as if choosing her words very carefully. People who
have the Vision dont talk about it.
Why not?
They dont have to. If you have the Vision, you know it. You dont
need to talk about it.
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That means youve had it, then.


She was silent.
So whats it like?
Mom thought a moment. Whats up like? What color is quiet?
What sound do the stars make? What does the sun taste like at
midnight?
Was she making fun of me? Did she really think Id believe the silly
answers she was giving me?
No, I dont, she said, answering the questions Id only thought.
Iblinked at her as she continued. But whats it like trying to explain
the Vision.
Then why is Dad jealous?
Her lips parted, starting to form an answer, and then her expression
froze. Her eyes gazed at something a million miles away. She cocked her
head and listened to emptiness, then said, Its time. I got the impression she was talking to someone elsesomeone who wasnt there.
Her old self returned, but excited, edgy. Go get your father, and
meet us at the graveyard! She ran up the driveway, her apron flapping
in the air.
But why? Whats the?
Just do it! she barked over her shoulder.
I sprinted all the way to the meetinghouse and found Dad at the
side of the building, checking the connections on the old satellite dish.
He fumbled for a crescent wrench in his red toolbox and said, One of
these days, Im going to get this thing fixed.
Dad
Finding the wrench, he began tightening the cable connector. Then
well find out what happened in the rest of the world.
Dad, I grabbed his shoulder.Mom said to meet her at the graveyard!
Across the street, Sister Reynolds burst out her front door, her feet
still in slippers, and ran down the street. Brother Reynolds hobbled
behind her. Ethel! he yelled as he tried to loop one suspender over
his shoulder. What the hells the matter with you?
When I was a kid, Dad said, the world hadnt completely fallen
apart.
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Duncan: When We Remembered Zion

A group of women, some carrying blankets, others buckets of water,


hurried down the sidewalk and out of view. Oh, the government was
pretty much shot to hellhad been for quite some time, Dad said.
Icould tell by the occasional word snatched off the wind that the sisters
were headed toward the cemetery. But the persecutions hadnt started
in earnest yet. I looked down the street. Doors flew open everywhere.
We could still get general conference on the satellite dish then.
Dad knuckle-knocked the dishs surface, setting off a metallic thrum.
Then one day, the transmissions just stopped.
People were spewing out, mostly women but with the occasional
man, all heading in the direction of the cemetery.
No explanation, Dad continued, ignoring the commotion. No
warning. They just stopped.
I practically danced, I was so excited. But my father simply straightened, looked at me as though no one else in the world existed. But I
dont want you to get the wrong idea, Son. He pointed at me. They
aint forgotten us. The Lords just testing us, thats all. I saw his eyes
flick toward the street. We got to be strong. He was going to ignore
what was happening.
I wanted to dash away, to be the first in line to see what was happening at the cemetery. To satisfy Mom, I had to try once more to
coax Dad. But hed turned his back and was down on his knees again,
adjusting the satellite. Dad, I dont know what, but something importants happening now and we gotta go see it.
One of these days, Son, he said without looking up, Ill get this
thing fixed, and well hear from the Brethren again. Theyll tell us
what to do. He looked up at me as though thinking. Why dont you
go? Ill be along shortly.
I heard the last sentence over my shoulder. People came from the
side streets to join the crowd. Others trampled their own gardens and
scaled their own fences to blend with the cemetery-bound. Little children scurried along, their faces shining with the same excitement I
felt, while most of the adult faces were set in a rigid intensity. Theyre
back, I heard one sister say when I passed her. Its wonderful! from
another one. A brother offered this to the air: I hear it too!
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The whole town had come to a stop in the middle of the road, in
front of the cemetery at the south end of Main Street. Elbowing my
way to the front, I found myself flanked by Dads two counselors, their
hands clenched into balls, their jaws set in iron, their eyes squinting,
searching, waiting ...
For what? I saw nothing but the macadam road curving gently to the
left beyond the clump of cottonwood trees, the castle-shaped mountain of
sandstone standing against the sky. And then something moved our way,
playing peek-a-boo behind the tree trunks. A sound Id never heard before
accompanied the movement. I caught a flash of sunlight against metal,
suddenly hidden by foliage, now visible again. Then around the corner
came an ancient truck, moving slowly but steadily in our direction. Id seen
trucks beforeat least the rust-eaten skeletal carcasses of trucksbut
never one like the truck that came to a lurching stop just a few feet before
us. It moved under its own power for one thing. For another, its smooth
white surface shone with a radiance that made my eyes hurt.
Id seen Lamanites before, too, whenever they had wandered, bedraggled and weary, into town from the nearby reservation. But this one was
different. I knew the moment he opened the door and stamped a booted
foot on the broken asphalt. He seemed to unfold himself from the truck.
He towered a good head and a half over anyone else in Castle Point. His
waist-length coal black hair swung like a cape and came to rest against
his massive shoulders. Without looking at any of us, he took a single
step back around to the truck bed, leaned over, and fumbled something
into his arms.
When he came around the far side of the truck, I saw what he was
carrying. A body.
Someone in the crowd saw too. Its Troy!
I found him unconscious by the side of the road, said the Lamanite, just south of the Book Cliffs. He will live.
Didnt I tell you? Sister Mattie pushed her way through the crowd.
Didnt I tell you hed come back? None of you believed me, did you?
She stroked Troys cheek, held him close to her as if he were her own
son. Lets go home, now, Jimmy, she said, several brethren carrying
Troy, and several of the sisters (led by Mom) going along to help.
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Duncan: When We Remembered Zion

Wheres David? Sister Hudspeth knocked me aside as she burst


from the crowd and faced the Lamanite. I want to know where
Davidis.
David was not with him.
What do you mean? They were companions. I noticed Brother
Hudspeth making his way through the crowd. They went everywhere
together.
The Lamanite looked at Sister Hudspeth with kind eyes and said,
There was an unmarked grave nearby.
Her face went blank. No. No. Her words were soft whispers,
barely audible. Her husbands hands fell on her shoulders as she
slowly shook her head back and forth, back and forth. No! No! She
went limp, turned, and fell into his arms. As she sobbed, her husband
held her, rocked her.
The Lamanite knelt and turned her face to him. He spoke to her
in a language that didnt sound like any Navaho Id ever heard. She
immediately calmed, looked him in the eyes, and smiled. Youre right,
she said, her spine straightening. I will, wont I? Then she turned to
Brother Hudspeth. Lets go home, Henry. Everythingll be all right.
The crowd seemed to part like a wave as Brother and Sister Hudspeth,
arm in arm, passed through, walking back toward town.
I watched them go. When I turned back around, Caleb Worthington was holding out a bucket of water his wife had brought, offering
it to the Lamanite.
The Lamanite took the bucket. This is pure water from the
mountains?
Yes, sir, said Brother Worthington. Just like you asked.
The Lamanite opened the gas tank of his truck and poured in the
water. He gave the bucket back to Brother Worthington and started
up the trucks engine. With a slight wave to the crowd, the Lamanite
drove away, back toward the east. As he disappeared around the bend,
I saw Dad, half hidden among the trees, watching him go.
The coming of the Lamanite was the beginning of the end for
Castle Point. Not that things had ever been normal before, but they
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really turned strange from that moment on. It wasnt too noticeable at
firsteveryone just seemed more outgoing, friendlier, happier.
Everyone except Dad. Meals had always been a timehowever
much we kids disliked itwhen we could depend on Dad launching
into a sermon on some subject or other in between mouthfuls. Now
he glumly downed his food and scarcely ever looked up from his plate.
As the weeks went by, he paid less and less attention to his appearance.
Sometimes he wouldnt shave for days. And when he did manage to
clean himself up enough to go to church, this formerly meticulous
dresser (We show we love the Lord by looking our best at all times)
would stand in front of the congregation with his tie askew or his hair
disheveled.
But it was when he began to ignore his church duties that I knew
something serious had happened. Slackening ones devotion to the gospel was a concept that had always been foreign to my father. Before this
time, he had been a rock of faith. Adversity that would threaten to tear
apart the lives of others had always seemed to fortify him. But since
the coming and going of the Lamanite, his pedestal of strength had
started to crumble. How far it would crumble, and whether it would
ultimately engulf him in its collapse, seemed only a matter of time.
And then there was this sudden interest in cars by everyone in town.
Not just cars but just about anything that might be made to move
under its own power. A few days after the Lamanite drove away in a
water-powered truck, people all over Castle Point started pulling the
weeds away from backyard sedans, smoothing out the dings in abandoned tractors, polishing the chrome of long-rusted bumpers. After
church, the men would congregate on the front steps and compare
notes, the women would talk about designs for quilting seat covers.
People whod never seen a moving vehicle before Troy Miner came
home seemed to know just what to do to resurrect their old clunkers.
Through it all, Dad remained silent. He gave no sermon condemning the vain pursuit of material goods. The only way I knew he was
even aware of what was happening to the town was when Heber Carmichael came over to the house and asked if he could fix up the old
van we had out behind the barn. Dad threatened to shoot him if he
58

Duncan: When We Remembered Zion

didnt get off the property. The dust of Hebers departure hadnt settled
before Dad had peppered the van with the bullets hed intended for
Hebers backside.
As Dads hold on reality started to slowly slip away, and Brother
Daniels preoccupation with combustion engines increased, Ruby and
I found more time to be together. Wed steal away to the cornerstone
and talk about the goings on. We talked about the weird contraption
that Brother Chidester was putting together out in his shed, something he called a riding mower. We laughed when we thought of the
car that Brother Riley was building out of wood and an old refrigerator. We talked about everything except what was really on our minds:
What did all this mean? Why was everybody building cars, when cars
meant travel, and travel meant someplace other than here, and here
was all we had ever known?
Eventually, our conversation drifted around to our future lives
together. Id build a big house near a river, wed have lots of children,
wed be happy forever, and not at all like our parents. When conversation dwindled, wed lie on the grass in each others arms, approaching
intimacy but always stopping short.
Then a series of events happened one weekend that were to change
our lives forever. The day started much like any other Sunday in
Castle Point: families meandering to church, Sister Matties hymns
accompanying us while we entered the meetinghouse, the familiar
strains of the opening hymn filling the chapel. Dad seemed more his
old self in his crisp suit and tie.
But just as the music started for the sacrament hymn, I heard
voices behind me. I turned from my seat in Deacons Row to see Patriarch Flowers stand up from his seat in the congregation and shuffle
toward the podium. A tittering followed him, and I could imagine the
words: He thinks its testimony meeting. I hope the bishop doesnt
let him speak. Dad held up his hand and Sister McHenry stopped
torturing the piano.
As Patriarch Flowers passed me going up the steps, I smelled
something foul and saw a dark stain widening on the back of his pants.
Johnny saw it, too, and laughed until I punched him in the arm.
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The old mans bony fingers clutched the edges of the podium, as if
it was all that kept him from falling, and opened his mouth to speak.
Nothing came out at first, then a hoarse voice breathed the words:
How long, O Lord, how long? He looked around. He smiled and
started toward the steps.
He hit the first step and then began to fold inward, his knees buckling, his head lolling forward. He fell facedown onto the sacrament
table, shattering some plastic trays, sending others skidding off the
edge. I ducked to avoid a spray of water and bread, and then looked
up as Patriarch Flowers, entangled in the sacrament cloth, slid off the
table and crumpled lifeless to the floor not six inches from my feet.
Whatever plans anyone had for that afternoon were quickly set
aside as we all gathered in the chapel for funeral services and, afterwards, in the cultural hall for refreshments. Since Dr. Mulrony had
died a few years earlier, there wasnt the luxury of a week to prepare a
body and have a viewing. (Id often heard Dad refer to this whirlwind
system of dressing the body and burial as hat em n plant em.) The
eulogy was hurried, the burial rushed, and by late afternoon, I found
myself hovering over the refreshment table, trying to stuff as many of
Moms brownies into my pocket as I could.
You shouldnt take so many, said Ruby.
You been quiet all afternoon, I mumbled. Thought you forgot
how to talk.
Just havent felt like it, thats all.
Before I could ask why, I was interrupted by two loud voices. The
entire room quieted down, and I turned to see Dad and Brother Daniels over against a wall.
Theres not much you can do about it, Leland, is there? said
Brother Daniels.
I can forbid it!
Well, Im not listenin. Brother Daniels started toward the door,
Sister Daniels right behind him.
Dad called after him. Nels, when you gonna stop listenin to your
wife and start followin your leaders?
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Duncan: When We Remembered Zion

I didnt know Brother Daniels could move so quickly. Dad had


barely finished his sentence before he was flat against the wall, staring
wide-eyed into the bigger mans face. Someone screamed.
I feel sorry for you, Leland. I really do. Brother Daniels pushed
Dad away and strode out the double doors.
Ruby, were goin home, said Sister Daniels.
I knew it, said Ruby under her breath. She grabbed my arm, her
eyes burning with intensity. I need to see you tonight.
Mom and Dad argued so much that night that I couldnt sneak away
until after midnight. I ran all the way to Strunkards Orchard, hoping
that Ruby hadnt given up. She ran into my arms. Shed been crying.
Were leaving, Jason.
I know we are. Someday, well
No, not you and me. We are. My family. Tomorrow. With everyone
else in town.
Then Ill come with you. Ill
Just hold me.
I dont how much time passed before the holding turned into caressing, before the caressing became fondling, before the fondling led to
our wild groping. Our clumsy lovemaking that night was less a physical thing and more a desperate attempt to hold onto something that we
both knew would soon be taken away forever.
I climbed up the nearest cottonwood and watched the caravan
disappear in the distance. Long after I could actually see her, I knew
Ruby was still waving good-bye.
Around noon I finally climbed down and started for home. The
town was quiet. I walked past familiar homesnow vacanttheir
doors standing wide open. Not everyone had left, but enough to make
a difference. The town of Castle Point had seen its last days.
I found Dad sitting on the front porch when I got home. He tossed
me a shovel and told me to follow him. I trudged along as we made our
way through the empty streets and up the road that curved toward
Strunkards Orchard. He turned off the road toward the cornerstone
and my heart began to pound. Had he somehow found out about
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Ruby and me? Was he about to confront me with my sin in some


melodramatic way? When he stopped at the exact spot where we had
lain together the previous night, I felt certain of it. I breathed easily
when he pointed to a patch of ground and told me to dig.
After Id gone down about a foot, Dad joined in with his own shovel.
Between the two of us, we eventually dug a hole about three feet deep
before my shovel hit something metallic. Dad knelt and worried a tin
box out of the hole. He climbed out and sat on the edge of the cornerstone. The tin box he opened had a plastic bag inside. He opened
the bag, took out some letters. He scanned them, and then handed
them to me. All the letters had dates from the previous century. Some
were written by children, most by adults. There was the occasional
photograph or other keepsake folded inside. I noticed that Dad had
been holding one letter for quite some time. When he finally handed
it to me, there were tears in his eyes.
I read the letter. Later, when Dad put all the others away and reburied them, he kept this one out. In the years between, Ive memorized it.
To the People of the Millennium:
As I write this letter, I wonder what it will be like in your time.
How wonderful it must be. No crime, no violence, with everybody
living in peace. I wish I could change places with you for just a day.
Sincerely, George Leland Whithers, age 12

I stayed around Castle Point until Dad died ten years later.
Ididnt hat im and plant im. I took my time digging the grave, up
on Strunkards Orchard. I put the tin box filled with letters on his
chest and, with Josephs help, lowered his body into the grave. I gavea
prayer, and Mom led us in some hymns. Then we stood by the grave
for along time, just remembering.
It didnt take me very long to fix up the van. I was able to patch up
most of the bullet holes, and it started up perfectly the first time we
poured pure mountain water into the gas tank. The morning after
Dads funeral, Mom, Joseph, Cindy, and I set off south on Old Highway10, turned onto 70, and headed east toward Zion.
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Duncan: When We Remembered Zion

Just as we were approaching the San Rafael Swell, the Lamanite


turned onto the highway ahead of us in his gleaming white truck. We
followed him clear through Colorado and into Kansas until he turned
off the highway where 70 passes Goodland.
When we left Castle Point, I wasnt sure what wed find along the
way. The old horror stories about the lone and dreary world outside our little valley were still strong in my memory. But so was Ruby
Daniels, and her memory drove me on. Because of her, I had always
known I would eventually make the trek east.
I used to wonder what it would be like if and when I saw her again.
I imagined pulling up in front of a house that some other man had
built for her. A little girl who looked just like Ruby would be playing
in the front yard. Id sit and watch little Ruby for a few minutes as bittersweet memories of her mother washed over me. Id want to behave
like a grown-up, so Id go up to the front door and knock. Ruby would
open it, and wed hug like old friends. Shed introduce me to her husband. Id spend a pleasant afternoon engaged in benign talk of the
good old days in Castle Point, enjoy a fine home-cooked meal, and
then Id leave as the sun set over the far shore of the lake.
But I dont worry anymore about how Ruby will greet me. I know
what Ill find when I get to Zion.
Because, last night, I had the Vision.

63

Felucca at Maadi
Simon Peter Eggertsen

Along the Nile cornice, royal purple jacaranda


and flame red acacia petals winnow down,
flake the late May river path, swirl and fluff
about the ankles of the early evening strollers,
part like sparrows fluttering to seed or crumb.
None come underfoot.
Along the river, we move north in a felucca,
rhythmed about by music tinning out from
black dog woofer boxes on the shore
a large, white ficus leaf feathering
before the west-leaning wind as it spreads
itself flat across the water.
Above, loose cotton-thread clouds perceive
themselves into the calligraphy of an Arabic script.
Read from the right, as the texts between the
whirling mosaic illuminations I once saw
on the Korans pages at Rumis green tomb
in Konya, they raise a question:
And who will explain this steep path to you?
The bland wind billows the sail edge into a left-handed
crescent, a cloth trace of the waxing early moon above.
On coming about, the angle line wavers, the wind
lufts and teases the charity of its blue border.

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Eggertsen: Poem

It whaps like a wet sheet hung to stop


a Utah canyon breeze near Wildwood,
after noon, when it reverses on itself, valley bound
along the river, running to kiss the rising
desert valley heat below.
The diminishing Akhenaten sun gilds a path on the river,
as thin and golden as the leaf on Tutankhamuns masks.
It lays the way to sail straight to those triangles at Giza,
where Cheopss barge awaits, earth-bound,
to companion us into the after.
No need to come about again this evening,
the angles of Ra right themselves on the river.
We can keep on sailing, straight on together
for an eternity.

65

Signature Books
Publisher of Western and Mormon-Related
Fiction, Essay, and Art

visit us at www.signaturebooks.com

The Nelson Whipple house, built in 1854 in Salt Lake City, is now the home
of Signature Books. Drawing by Keiko Jones, courtesy the artist.

The Man and His Wife


Lon Young

And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.
Genesis 2:25

When the phone rang next door in the clerks office, Paul Gundersen was sliding a fresh box of Kleenex across his desk to a sister whod
already sobbed through her travel pack. Hed once joked in a stake
meeting that remorse could be measured in tissues, but now, under
grief s burden, he couldnt summon that same lightness of spirit.
The woman sat across from him, swollen faced. When she first came
in, a few weeks earlier, shed told Bishop Gundersen she was drowning
and needed someone to haul her up. Seeing her now, her hands clasping the sides of her crimson chair as if she were adrift, a chunk of flotsam after a wreck, Paul knew the rescuing wasnt over. And it wouldnt
be until she told her husband what shed done.
The clerks phone stopped ringing, and a minute later Brother Jiminez knocked timidly on the door of the bishops office.
Excuse me, Claire. Its open. Bishop Gundersen rose and opened
the door a crack. Yes?
Very sorry, Brother Jiminez said, Your wife say you call right away.
Emergency. Your grandfather.
In his rush to get to the hospital, Paul Gundersen hadnt locked up
the meetinghouse. Hed have to swing by in the morning on the way
to the clinic. Once he got out of Poulsbo and crossed Liberty Bay at
the bridge, it was twenty minutes down the peninsula to Silverdale.
A mist fell. Just a blur, nothing the wiper blades could sweep away.
The red taillights of cars ahead seeped through the windshield like
wounds blossoming into fresh gauze.
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He reviewed what little he knew from his call to Summer: Grams


had found Grandfather sprawled out in his orchard near the base of
his fruit ladder, a bucket of plums spilled around him; they were taking him down to Harrison Medical. Summer would follow behind
the ambulance with Grandma.
The mist modulated into a light rain, and Paul switched the wipers
to intermittent.
It had been his grandfather, Lars Gundersen, whod lured him, along
with Summer, back to Washington to take over his dental practice.
Those first months Grandfather came in a few mornings a week, swapping jokes with the hygienist and ribbing Paul about wet-behind-theears dentists who could learn a trick or two from the old geezers. Paul
didnt mind, nor did he mind when his grandfather discoveredgolf.
Summer fell in love with Lars and Grandma Millie right away and
insisted they find a place close by. And so theyd been in town less than
a year when Paul became the second Bishop Gundersen to serve the
Poulsbo 1st Ward. He was young, not even thirty yet, when the call came.
His youth, and the fact that he and Summer had no children in spite
of a series of quiet, early-term miscarriages, meant ward members were
slow to embrace their new bishop, and even less likely to look to him as
the father of their ward. What helpedand hurtwas that, a decade
earlier, theyd known and loved his grandfather, Bishop Lars Gundersen, the distinguished, white-maned patriarch of the congregation.
Paul merged onto Waaga Way The rain had fizzled out, but semitrailers shot plumes of road water up into his windshield.
He thought about the night before his ordination. Hed gone to his
grandfathers place and found Lars sitting out on the patio, watching
finches hide-and-seeking among the plum trees. Paul pulled a chair
close and they watched awhile in silence.
Grandfather, he said. Will you give me a blessing? Paul turned
so he could see him directly and added, A fathers blessing?
His grandfathers gray blue eyes held Pauls, reflecting a distant sorrow. Paul had known this might be hardfor both of them. But healing, too. They both missed Pauls father. Neither had seen nor heard
from him in twenty, maybe twenty-five years.
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Young: The Man and His Wife

Larss voice cracked when he spoke. You deserved better, Paul.


Will you do it?
Ill need to change. Lars Gundersen pushed himself up out of the
patio chair and went inside the house to change out of his gardening
clothes. Paul waited in the cool evening air, watching the finches dart
through the orchard.
When his grandfather stepped out a quarter of an hour later, he
apologized for keeping Paul. Grandfathers white hair had been neatly
parted, and he now wore a white dress shirt and a plain brown tie. His
face shone smooth and pink as a salmon.
You shaved. You didnt need to. Paul rose.
For you. Now sit back down, young feller.
His grandfather drew a long breath. He placed his hands on the
crown of Pauls head, lightly at first, and then let each hand sink into
place so Paul could feel their proper weight.
Paul Ames Gundersen, he started slowly. Acting in the name of
Jesus Christ and by the power of the priesthood, I speak unto you the
following words of counsel preparatory to your assuming the mantle
of bishop. There was a short pause. Paul brought his hands up off his
lap and folded them across his chest.
Paul, you are called by the Good Shepherd. Know His sheep,
protect them. When one has strayed, place it on your shoulders and
return it to the flock. Grandfathers hands slid a little, and he righted
them. You are called by the Great Deliverer. There will be those who
come to you in sins grasp, bound by shackles of their own forging.
May you be moved with compassion to help them shake off the awful
chains by which they are bound. Help them know deliverance.
There was another pause. Paul could hear the finches. When his
grandfather spoke again, his voice stumbled. He cleared his throat
and started over, sotto voce. Paul, you are called by the Healer of
Souls. There is no pain, no sickness, no torture as exquisite as the
agony of being cut off from God and man, severed from the relationships that make us whole. You must bring people to wholeness, Paul,
by bringing them back into those relationships. Help them overcome
the shame that drives them, Adam-like, to hide themselves rather
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than have their nakedness known. Let them not fear to be known. In
the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Paul sat motionless. Grandfather mumbled an apology about the
blessing being so short, but to Paul it held inestimable worth, a precious pearl. That night he wrote it on a 3x5 index card and placed it
behind the front cover of his scriptures. In the first few weeks of his
calling hed referred to it often. Now, well over a year into his tenure as
bishop, the words still crept into his mind when his heart forgot mercy.
At 9:17 p.m., half an hour after receiving the phone call, Paul arrived
at Harrison Medical, found Summer and his grandmother outside
the E.R. He learned that his grandfather, Lars Gundersen, had just
been pronounced dead.
He and Summer stayed with his grandmother at the hospital for
a few hours, offering what strength they could. Summer helped the
most. She sat with Mildred Gundersen on one of the couches, drawing the old woman into her chest and letting her sob. Later, when
Pauls grandmother was ready, Summer led them both into the quiet
room where they had brought Grandfathers body.
It was a little past midnight when Paul and Summer escorted
Grandma out into the dark wet parking lot. Summer retrieved her
purse from her car, which they would leave down here until tomorrow, and the three of them all rode together in Pauls Accord. Summer
didnt want his grandmother to go back into the house alone and suggested she stay with them for the night. Or at least let Summer stay
the night at her place, in the guest room. Mildred Gundersen wouldnt
hear of it. In the end, they had to let her spend her first night all alone.
Friendships came as naturally to Summer as breathing. Paul
envied her for it. Early in their marriage he even put it into words.
What are you talking about? she sputtered. Youve got all kinds
of friends.
Nope.
She named names. Half a dozen members of the ward that hed
served with, husbands of Summers friends, a few guys from grad
school. And thats just off the top of my head.
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Young: The Man and His Wife

Yeah, I guess, he agreed. But I wouldnt call them friends. A friend


is like ... transparent. You know? You really know them. They know
you. All the way. Everything.
She smiled. Youre describing women, not men. I dont think men
do that, do they? Dont they just sort of hang out?
Yeah. Youre probably right. Play some golf. Go fishing. Grunt now
and then when you want another beer. He scratched his armpit, and
when she didnt laugh, he scratched his crotch. She hid her mouth
with her hand, but Paul could still tell she was laughing.
Later that night, after theyd made love, Summer propped herself
up on her elbow and faced him. Paul?
Yeah, hon?
Do you consider me a friend?
Well, were married, arent we?
I know were married. I meant, are we friends?
Paul started to reach for her hand but drew back. Yes. We are.
Paul, you set that rake down and take a break now. Mildred
Gundersen held a tray with a tall glass of milk and a sandwich. Summer was walking behind her and threw her hands up in the air as if
to say, I couldnt stop her. Summer says you like rye bread. Do you
like rye? Its all we had. She set the tray down on the patio table and
fussed over it a bit. Are you sure its not too chilly? Its already getting
cold. Middle of August, and already cold.
Paul leaned the rake against the back of the house and took off his
hat. Grams, you shouldnt have, he said. Weve come over to take
care of you, not the other way around. He hooked his wide-brimmed
hat over the corner of the patio chair, brushed a daddy longlegs off the
seat cushion, and sat down. And yes, I love rye.
I told you, Summer interjected. She pulled a chair out from the
table. Come sit down, Grandma Millie.
Oh, I couldnt. Theres so much to do.
Grams, Paul repeated, affectionately, come sit down for a minute.
Summer can get you a shawl or a jacket. Couldnt you, hon?
Sure. Summer made her way in.
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Paul stood to help his grandmother take a seat at the patio table
and then sat down again. Did you get any sleep last night?
Some. Theres so much to be done. Dorothy and Susan coming,
funeral arrangements...
None of that matters yet, Grams. The funerals not until Saturday.
Therell be plenty of time to take care of details later. Besides, Summer and I are handling all that. You can justPaul searched for the
wordjust grieve, just let it sink in. You can sit and cry and talk and
remember.
Therell be plenty of time for that later, too, his grandmother
replied. All the time in the world. Summer came out with a crocheted shawl, ivory colored. Besidesthank you, doll, thats better
besides, it helps to stay busy.
Summer took a place at the table, then popped up. I think I heard
the dryer buzzing. Let me get those beds ready.
Ill do that. Just dont you fuss.
But Summer had already ducked into the house.
So, have they had any luck reaching my father? Paul asked. He
was dubious.
Not so far. I dont suppose theyll be able to find him. She fingered
a button on her shawl. Susan dug up an old number. It rang some
woman hed shacked up with for a couple of months, but it sounds like
that was over ten years ago. This lady hasnt heard from him, either.
Says he owes her money. She gave a rueful sigh. Your fathers quite a
peach. She changed the subject. Paul, you havent touched your pickle.
What?
Your pickle. You havent touched it. I thought you liked them. She
started from her chair. Do want something else?
No, this is great. I like them. He lied.
Mildred settled back into her chair. You always did love pickles. Just
like your grandfather. When you were little, youd wrap your whole
pudgy little fist around a pickle and walk around licking it like a Popsicle. She leaned forward, drew her shawl tighter around her shoulders,
and then leaned back again.
Grams?
Yes?
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Young: The Man and His Wife

Were you and Grandpa close?


Were we close? What kind of question is that?
Paul swept his hand in the air as if brushing away his question. Im
sorry, Grams. I just meant, you know, did you talk? Did you know
what the other one was thinking?
She took her glasses off and rubbed a napkin in smooth circles over
one of the lenses. Then she put the glasses back on. Oh, I suppose.
She thought for a moment and then added, As much as anyone ever
does, I guess. She looked down at the table and began fidgeting with
the napkin. He always loved to talk.
About what was inside him, or just about things? Did you ever get
inside?
Things were different for us. For our generation. Men werent so ...
so touchy-feely. We werent their therapists, and they werent ours. She
looked out at the orchard. You got close because you lived together
day after day, year after year. You knew each other because you built a
life together.
Friends?
Oh, better than friends, I suppose. She smoothed out the napkin
with one slow pass of her hand. Companions.
That night Bishop Gundersen arranged to meet with Claire
Walker. Hed asked his high priest group leader to come in as the
priesthood chaperone. Bring a book, hed said. Except for the hall
leading to his office, the building was dark and empty, no activities
going on. Bishop Gundersen waited inside the large glass door of the
meetinghouse to welcome Claire.
A car pulled into the parking lot. In the dim mercury haze of lamplight, Paul saw a man get out of the vehicle, walk around the car, and
open the door for his passenger. He offered his hand, and a woman
stepped out. It was Claire. Claire and Joe Walker, together. They made
their way up to the front entrance. Seeing Claires hand firmly anchored
in her husbands, Paul smiled. She had told her husband everything.
Bishop Gundersen swung the door wide to receive them.
As they stepped into the front entry, their faces illuminated by the
porch lights, Bishop Gundersen recognized the grace that had come
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to them. There was pain, but there was also understanding. They
were together.
Sister Walker turned to Bishop Gundersen, not letting go of Joes
hand. I told him, Bishop. I told him everything.
I know. I know you did, Bishop Gundersen answered. Hed never
seen them look so in love.
Paul Gundersen swung by his grandparents place on his way
home from the church. He knocked. No answer. He knocked again,
louder, and rang the doorbell. He took a step back and leaned out to
check the carport. The Town & Country was thereof course it was,
she didnt drive at night; she must be home. He walked to the side of
the house, cut through the carport, sidestepped an unruly rhododendron, and rounded the back corner of the house.
There, on the back patio, stood Millie Gundersen, her nightdress
rippling in the mild night breeze. She stooped over the fire pit, fumbling with what appeared to be a box of kitchen matches.
Paul paused, intent. He watched his grandmother scrape a matchstick against the side of the box. It snapped. Two or three more matches
tumbled out of the box as her fingers scurried around for another. She
struck a new match. The red tip bloomed into a sputtering white
orchid of flame. Paul saw his grandmothers face now, seething coldly,
like discarded embers. The flame she held yellowed, shrank, and crept
fingerward.
The match seemed to leap from her hands into the fire pit. His
grandmother stood back. The flame didnt take hold. She leaned
in again, peering into the dark pit. She fumbled for another match,
scratched it into flame and plunged it into the pit. Then she struck
another, and another, dropping each into the flame. A few thin wisps
of smoke rose and dissipated into the night air. And then darkness.
His grandmother stooped and reached into the fire pit. When she
withdrew her hand, Paul saw what appeared to be a book. She held it
by a corner, as if she might be burned. Or bitten.
Paul strode toward the patio. Hey, Grams!
The book tumbled out of her hand.
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Young: The Man and His Wife

Grams, its just me. He had almost reached her.


Paul? she asked. She turned in the wrong direction, as if uncertain
where his voice had come from.
Grams, its OK, its me, Paul. Im behind you.
She wheeled around to face him, then struggled to right herself again.
Paul reached out to steady her. I didnt mean to scare you. He felt
her body trembling. Grams, its getting chilly out here. Shall we head
in? Or I could get a fire going out here if you want me to. Paul glanced
at the fire pit. There were no logs, no rolls of newspaper, no tinder.
Just some old... He crouched down for a closer look.
Grams? Paul poked around the fire pit.
Just never you mind that, his grandmother said too quickly. Thats
nothing but old books.
They look like old journals, old diaries. He picked one up. Leather.
A slight hump in the cover. He thumbed it open. The pages were stuck.
These are Grandpas, arent they? Paul asked.
Suddenly, an arm swooped down and twisted the diary out of his
hand. Theyre poison, thats what they are. She threw it back into
the fire pit. Then she clutched the box of matches against her heaving
chest. Now come away from there.
Grams, he reached gently for the boxes of matches, lets go inside,
and you can tell me whats upset you. He set the box of matches on
the hearthstone that ringed the fire pit.
Inside, Paul led his grandmother to her easy chair and draped an
ivory afghan over her. He took his place in his grandfathers rockerrecliner. A lamp table stood between them, littered with Kleenex and
remote controls.
Neither of them said anything for a while. When Millie spoke, it
was in a small, distant voice. I never should have even picked one up.
What do you mean? Paul stopped rocking.
His journals. I never should have touched them. She took her
glasses off and set them down beside the lamp. She brought her thumb
and forefinger to the bridge of her nose and pinched the bluish, papery
skin. I wanted to be close to him. I thought it could help with the
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loneliness. She paused. Hes been gone two days, Paul, two days, and
Im already lonely. I miss him. You dont know. She tipped her head
toward the patio. I thought I could read a few pages and it would be
like having him here, sitting down together. Her voice broke, and the
rest came out in thin rasps. Like having him talking to me.
And you got more than you bargained for.
Oh, Paul, you never really know anyone. You think you do, but
you dont. She plucked up five or six spent tissues from the table and
placed them in a row on her lap. All those years.
Grams, Paul said, Im sure he felt there were things better left
unsaid.
No, thats not it. Its that you realize you only knew half a person.
But the other half has been living in your house all those years, too.
And that half s been kept a secret.
Pauls mind drifted back to Claire and Joes interview and the image
of them looking so openly into each other, nakedly. Hands clasped
tight. How often he himself broke away when Summer wanted too
close a look. Protecting her? Maybe it would be like this. He wondered how close a look his grandfather had ever permitted.
What do you feel, Grams? He searched for a word. Betrayed?
She moved her tongue under her top lip and swept it along her
teeth, as if tasting the word. Thats a terrible word, betrayed. No, not
betrayed. She shifted in her chair. I just cant let myself think about
it. The Lars I knew was ... uncomplicated. She picked up a tissue and
dabbed at her eyes. He was just good. He did good things and he
thought good thoughts and that was that.
So you want to burn the rest?
Lars would want to burn the rest. Those journals got no place
being left around.
But dont they show who he really was? You know, inside? Isnt it
better to know the good and the bad of a person?
The question hung unanswered in the silence between them.
Paul reflected back on that nights visit with the Walkers. He had
asked Claire why, after all these weeks, she had finally decided to tell
Joe the truth.
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I dont know, she had said. Joe sat with his arm on the back of her
chair, stroking her hair. I felt I couldnt risk his rejection by telling
him the truth. But I couldnt keep on accepting his love either, knowing deep down he didnt really know what Id done.
She leaned into Joe. And nowher head sank into the warm
plane of his chest, under his chinnow, Ive never felt so loved. So
safe, so accepted. She straightened, turned to face Joe, and said, You
know the ugly parts but love me anyway.
Paul inched his grandfathers La-Z-Boy rearward a little, then
lifted his feet. The rocker slumped forward, hesitated, and then sighed
backward again. He nudged it back into motion, and nudged it again.
His thoughts tipped back and forth between his grandfathers journals and his stunned and perplexed grandmother. On the one hand,
the promise, at least posthumously, of true communion. On the other,
a widow wounded by the man whose life, she supposed, had been an
open book.
So Grandfather missed the chance to be fully known in life. So
Grandmother refuses the chance to fully know him in his death.
The next time the rocker came to a halt, Paul stood up. Grams, Ill
get rid of his journals for you. If thats what you want.
She continued looking straight ahead, at nothing.Youll burn them?
Ill burn them.
Summer didnt wake when Paul came home that night from his
grandmothers place. Hed bounded up the stairs of their split-level
with the stack of journals in his armsthought maybe they could
read through some of them togetherbut when he found her asleep,
he tiptoed back down to the kitchen.
He draped his suit jacket over a kitchen chair and poured himself
a glass of milk. He would read just one or two entries, thats all, he
told himself. After that he would store them somewhere safe. In a
year or two, when things had settled down, he would let his aunts
know about them. They had some claim on those journals, too, perhaps more than Grams did. Mildred Gundersen didnt have to know
they were still around.
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Paul carried the volumes down into the family room, set them in
a stack on the carpet, and switched on a small light next to his overstuffed chair. He thought of Summer sleeping above him in the master bedroom. He knelt in front of the pile of journals and considered
how often he and Summer were like this, like tonight. Just feet apart,
but on separate planes.
He smoothed his hands over his pants. After a deep breath, he
picked up a journal and let it fall open to a page. Cursive ribbons of
words sprawled across the pages. Here and there, where the nib of the
fountain pen had snagged across the paper, freckles of ink splattered.
The entry was dated August 13, 1953. He thumbed ahead. August 24th,
October 10th, October 12th, ending January 28th, 1954. Each date had
at least a full page entry; some entries sprawled across several pages.
He put the journal down and picked up another more handsomely
bound volume. The pages stuck together. Paul flexed them and they
fluttered open in his hands. This particular journal, he discovered,
spanned his grandfathers tenure as bishop of the Poulsbo 1st Ward.
Paul settled into his chair with Lars Gundersens journal, the yellow light from the lamp throwing a gold shawl over his body and
backlighting his hair so that to on observer in the room it might have
seemed aflame. Except for that pocket of light around Paul, the house
was dark.
He dithered briefly. It was one thing, he considered, to read the
journals of an ancestor; the experience is dispassionate, like an archaeologist examining clay shards or a comb made from a tusk. It was quite
another to enter the private world of someone you knew and loved.
He skimmed to October, looking for an entry dated on Grandfathers birthday. He found it. October 27th.
Why have I never driven life into a corner and reduced it to its lowest
terms? Have I feared the answer? Or have I feared the implications of the
answer? Maybe Ive been a coward.

Paul looked up from the page. This would not be your typical
Rained today. Had lunch with Frank kind of entry. He pictured
Grandfather propped up in bed, writing this down while his grandmother dozed. Driven life into a corner ... wasnt that Thoreau?
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Millie and I watched a film yesterday. A man has grown up on an
island where nothing is realall along hes been the star of one of those
reality shows, but he doesnt know it. Everythings a sham. Set, props,
actors, everything. Of course, he doesnt know any different, since people
just accept things at face value. Then a few unaccountable things happen.
Incongruities. Doubts rise in the guys mind. Next thing you know, this guy
sets out on a heros quest to discover the truth. Everyone tells him, just relax,
youve got it good here. But our hero must know whats true and whats
false. Eventually hes able to break through the faade, puncture through the
illusion. Hows that for driving life into a corner, huh ol Henry?

Paul smiled. The Truman Show. Paul knew that final scene well.
Truman sails into the great unknown. Then, abruptly, the bow of his
vessel pierces through the horizon, which, it turns out, has been nothing more than a vast, airbrushed canvas. Truman, who has learned
the truth, now experiences the triumph of a world gained and the
heartache of a world lost.
Paul continued reading:
As for me, Ive seen a few cracks in the world around me. That is, the world
view comprised of a thousand gospel truth claims. Do I claw away at each
chink in the wall? Do I throw myself against them? No. Ive learned to live
with a few cracks. Besides, if I tear away at them, Im afraid my whole
world would collapse. I have preferred the safe (illusory?) perfection within.
Besides, what if I did manage to tear down this world? What if there
werent a truer one on the other side?
I thought about talking to Millie about this. Decided not to. Shes always
said she leans on my faith. Shed be scared if she knew how shaky my own
is at times! Lord, I believe. Help thou my unbelief.

Paul trembled at the honesty, the nakedness, the frank admission of


uncertainty. In a church culture where members trumpet the absolute
knowledge filling every fiber of their beings, whove known beyond
a shadow of a doubt, even from their mothers womb, Paul could
understand his grandfathers reticence. Too bad he never talked to
me about it, Paul thought. Maybe it would have helped, realizing we
werent as alone as we supposed, both of us soldiering on through the
muck and mire of our uncertainty.
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Paul turned to another entry. November 11th. Grandfather was venting after the high council excommunicated a man in his ward. The passage seethed with anger:
Jeds already cut off. He sinned against God and feels like hell. Why
make it worse? Hes already felt like Almathe thought of being around
God makes him squirmhed rather you bulldozed a mountain over him.
So whats this excommunication supposed to accomplish? Huh? Cut him
off even more??? I spend three months persuading him he could step back
into the chapel without God hurling a lightning boltthat God would welcome him, WELCOME him back, and now hes been Xd! Insane. President Johnson says its to help him come back. Thats like yanking away the
life preserver from a drowning man to see if hes determined enough to
swim back to the boat! Dumb Dumb Dumb, and I told President Johnson
that to his face!

The wards shepherd could roar like a lion. Paul skimmed through
more entries. More rants. Mostly ruminations. He closed the journal
and held it against his chest.
Paul looked at his watch. Almost 2:00 a.m. He had three root
canals scheduled to perform in the morning and should be asleep.
Instead he thought about his grandmother. How could she have given
up the chance to know her husband, really know him? What was it
shed said? He was just good. He did good things and he thought good
thoughts and that was that. Paul wondered what Summer would say
about her husband, and how incomplete her understanding would be
if she were in the same position. He wanted her to solve the puzzle,
and yet, he had to ask himself if hed ever show her all the pieces.
Why not give her all the pieces? Pauls answer had always been,
What if I give every piece and she cant solve the puzzle? Or doesnt
try? OrPaul surveyed the heap of journals at his feetwhat if she
takes one look at the missing pieces and decides to toss them into a
fire pit? At least, through these journals, Grandpa can still be known.
But what about me? Paul thought. Whos going to know me?
Summer struggled the most with their childlessness, but sometimes Paul ached too. A feeling in his chest. Time running out, almost.
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Like when you suddenly realize your wallets not in your pocket, but
you wont allow yourself to panic, so you walkcalmly now, alls not
lostto find yesterdays pants. Theres still a chance. Theres still time.
Paul chose one more journal entry to read that night. He figured
his grandfather would have been serving as bishop for about eight
months at the time of this entry.
I cant write this. I must write this. Maybe Ill destroy it when Im
finished and its done its job.
Ive got to get it out.
Last weekend, at the Phoenix conference, they put me up at the Hilton.
The first night I kept the TV offsmart, given my weakness. The second night I turned it on to watch the local news. And during commercials
I found myself surfing channels. I found what I was looking for. Looking? Deep down I was looking. I changed channels, then changed back.
Ilapped it up, the very puddle of filth Id retched up years before. I thought
it couldnt get me. Im as weak as ever.
I cant take the sacrament tomorrow, but I dont know what to do.
Maybe Ill get sick so I dont have to go. Maybe Ill take it anywayheap a
little more damnation on my head. Ive tried to pray, but theres such a hot
shame. Cant confess to President Johnson, hed hold a court on this quicker
than breathing. I know he would. Bishops need bishopsones that have
felt this kind of slow fire. I feel so emptied out. My prayers are a mockery.
Ive cast myself out of paradise. Im cut off.
Im so alone.

Paul closed the journal and placed it among the others. He thought
about the funeral he would conduct later that week and the many tributes that would be made to Lars Gundersen, brother, husband, father,
grandfather, and bishop. He thought of his own father, who would
not be at that funeral because hed been hiding his own face in shame
for the last twenty-some years. He thought of Claire Walker clasped
in the strong grip of her husband after believing shed be swept away
like trash. He rose from his chair and stepped out of the pale island
of light cast by the reading lamp. He ascended the stairs and turned
180 degrees and ascended more stairs, leading him to Summer. Even
in the dark, he knew the way.
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When he reached their bedroom, Paul pulled the tie from his neck
and slowly unbuttoned his dress shirt. He slipped out of his trousers,
being careful to make sure the buckle of his dress belt made no sound.
He bent down and peeled off his socks. When hed stripped down to
his garments, he took them off too. He let everything lie where it fell.
He pulled back the comforter of their bed and slid in, naked, facing
her. He could feel the warmth of Summers body next to his.
Summer, he said softly. He could hear her slow, even breathing.
She slept with the side of her face planted in the pillow, facing him,
with one leg drawn up. He reached for her free arm, the one she wasnt
sleeping on, and followed it down to her hand. When he found her
hand, he drew it up carefully to his chest. He rested it there and then
cupped both of his hands over hers. She stirred and then was still
again. Her breathing remained steady.
Summer, he said again, and continued in a deliberate, measured
voice, I know youre asleep. Its better this way, at least for now. He
paused, breathing in the soft scent of her hair and her bodys warmth.
When I was a boy I once stuck my middle finger in the air at my
sleeping mother and silently formed each individual letter of the
F-word, as if it were an incantation. When I was thirteen I started
masturbating and didnt stop until a month before I turned nineteen.
Paul drew another breath. Im sorry, you dont need to hear this,
but I need to tell you. He had been trembling, but now his body
eased. When I was a missionary I looked up the skirt of the ward
mission leaders daughter. She was sixteen, a cheerleader. She sat on
the kitchen counter swinging her legs and talking on the phone while
her mother made our dinner, and I couldnt stop looking. The point is,
Im not good. I never have been.
His voice had become as soft as a lullaby.
And theres this: before I met you at college, I had stopped going to
church. It had been three months since Id attended. I started going
again because I met you. And you dont realize I drink Dr Pepper
more than you think, and I dont really believe its against the Word of
Wisdom and Ill probably keep on drinking it.
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Young: The Man and His Wife

I rented an R-rated movie while you visited your sister in Miami


two summers ago, and I replayed the bad scenes over and over, and
sometimes I still let them replay in my mind. And, Summer, this is
hard to say, he paused and then continued, there are times when Im
glad we dont have kids. I know that it breaks your heart, and sometimes it breaks mine, too, but sometimes Im glad. Im sorry. I thought
you should know. I want you to know.
He felt her smooth, warm palm against his chest and he clasped it
more firmly in his own hands. He could feel the pulse in her hand in
counterpoint with his own.
Paul continued this strange lullaby for a long time, letting each hidden thing tumble out, like water spilling over a dam.
When he awoke, he found Summers arm still draped across his
chest, and every dark corner filling with light.

83

Jerusalem Artichoke
Matthew James Babcock

Note: This poem was written after visiting The Religious Reflection Room
in the Detroit Metro Airport
In The Squatters Pub Brewery, two pilots
(I hope not mine) quaff beer
and devour Black and Bleu Rocket Wraps.
The label on the Odwallas bottle
from which I sip green puree says I have
swallowed Jerusalem artichoke,
a plant that, contrary to what its name
might suggest, is not an artichoke
and not from Jerusalem. This is
the equation of life: Nothing is what
it says it is. Despite the high price,
somehow this is healthy. The Italian,
girasole, means sunflower.
After Samuel de Champlain dispatched
shiploads of the bundled tubers
from Cape Cod to France, people
added sunroot and earth apple
to the legend. What is prayer but
a commerce of discoveries? When
is misunderstanding a pilgrimage?

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Babcock: Poems

Some days, the greatest risk


can be to sit and stare
at the intoxicating flight of daylight
through two glasses of amber.
This is, after all, the quest of the new world.
To drink the strange. To explore
without leaving. To grow into the myth
of ones name and, having exiled
the nomad eye, make a holy city of the heart.

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Visions at Birch Creek


Albert Lyons, teamster, escaped Nez Perce slaughter
where my nearly ten-year-old daughter
with borrowed Eagle Claw pole casts in
for brook trout whose quicksilver combustion
flashes like the stolen mule-train firewater
Chief Joseph drank under sky everlasting.
Blood marks the rendezvous by degrees.
Throbbing gills. The imminence of her menses,
river of no return. And western tanagers, redorange skulls drenched in sunrise shades,
fleet incarnations of luckless Chinese
who took Nee-Me-Poo hatchets to the head.
One wonders how Albert survived. Did he too
hallucinate on air? Did he plunge hands into
prism currents for fish mirages, having
flitted through the willows from liquor-loving
braves along the bottoms? Did he crawl pari passu
with unborn daughters under war-paint evening?
The savage moment bids us be women and men.
We stand by to be butchered or else stun
lacerated knees and chapped palms in a daze
on prairie shale and sage. Let the tanager blaze
of my daughters hair consume the whiskey sun.
Let our presence outlast the massacre of days
long enough to inhabit ghost town hotel and shack.
Too large to keep, too small to throw back.

86

Whats a Dead Mother Like You


Doing in a State Like This?
Eric dEvegnee

I was ten when she was killed. Every day after that I peered into my
early morning routine hoping this crystal ball of the quotidian would
somehow prepare me for the coming day. To a closet omen-phile,
unexpected money in my pants or eking that last bit of toothpaste
out of an otherwise decrepit tube forecasted smooth high school seas.
For me, after the accident, an anticipated misfortune was always better than an unexpected one, and these little oracles of the ordinary,
like the mysteriously missing left shoe or the teetering glass of milk
that inexplicably stabilizes, helped me intuit the future of my day. But
gradually, my dependency on signs diminished as the Doppler effect
of time muffled the screams, the wresting steel, and the bursting glass
still drumming in my ears years after that night. When I could go
for days without sensing each breaths fragility, I worried less and less
about divining my burnt breakfasts meaning.
Years later when only the deep scars were still visible on my face, one
had to look carefully to see what remained of that night; new friends
were often surprised to hear I survived the wreckage of the accident
that entombed my mother. Most of these new friends expected to see
either some obvious psychological disfigurement or, at least, a glimmer
of grief in my daily life that would make my motherlessness visible. I
found my friends astonishment strangely gratifying: proof that I had
pieced back together everything that shattered that night like glass
across the pavement. I could forget my mother, the accident, and that
whole other life the way I could place my only picture of my mother
in our clean stacks of newlywed towels in the linen closet of our first
apartment. The premonition that came in a phonebook eleven years
later illustrated that memories are not as easy to arrange as photos.
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When I saw the yellow bag at the mud room door, I hurriedly carried
it to my customary seat at the kitchen table. Coming from the garage,
the six children all emptied out of the laundry room and, once in the
kitchen, scattered in different directions like marbles poured from a
bag as I flipped through the pages of the new directory. The craving to
see my name in print drives me to look up my name in odd places, such
as our phonebook. As a young college professor, Ilong for someone to
approve of something associated with my name, even if its only a street
address and phone number. Little did I realize what I would unearth
by digging through this diminutive rural Idaho directory.
As I thumbed the book for the D section, I marveled at the homogeny of the names. In high school my classmates had last names like
Sutich, Stickel, Ramey, Radulski, Lendecky, Espositoa witness to
the immigration patterns of the last century in Connecticut. The
names in this phonebook were more like the names from my wifes
years at Orem High where the only ethnic tension was between the
Jensens with an e and the Jensons with an o.
The joie de vivre of the silent g and apostrophe in my French last
name complicates the placid, preEllis Island phonebook world of
Ricks and Klingers. Looking over the page for the exact placement ofmy
foreign name fashioned a genealogical glee within me as I found a Richard Devine. I dont find as many Irish surnames in Rexburg as I used to
in Connecticut, where it seemd everyone had a Farley or Curran in the
closet. But more than just an Irish surname, Devine is a significant name
because it is from my mothers side of the family. My mothers family
was a typical Irish-American family of ten where the five daughters all
had some variation of Mary in their names, and the father, the son of an
immigrant police officer, liked his drinks at the Knights of Columbus.
Eight children, little money, alcoholism, and the normal stresses of life
was a mixture too potent for even my grandfather to swallow. With a
husband who staggered home late and a house with children around
each corner, my grandmother would say only that she coped during
those years by ironing, drinking beer, and crying.
Moving my eyes down from the Robert Devine entry, I was aghast at
the next name down the list: Kathleen Devine. That was my mothers
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dEvegnee: Whats a Dead Mother Like You

name. Since her sudden death by a drunk driver over twenty years
ago, she had only milled about in the back of my memory along with
recollections of kindergarten classmates, Primary teachers, and others
whose faces I once recognized; mere silhouettes of people I used to
know. Now, here on the page in front of me, the formless memory of
my mother emerged like an apparition in the shape of a name.
I cant believe it! I exclaimed in a mixture of sublime wonder and
dread to my wife, who was staring at me, wondering about a person
who reacted that way to a phonebook. I showed her the name.
Should I call her? I asked, bewildered.
No, she said with restrained but grave concern, trying to hide the
unease in her eyes.
I could almost see my wife at some point in the future having to go
around the house hiding the phonebooks because, as she would tell
our friends, They upset him. My reaction, my sense that something
cosmic, fate driven, had happened seemed incredibly real. So part of
me was grateful my wife reacted the way she did; I needed to see the
eeriness of my request flicker across her face. It was like some bad
gothic story. But instead of a story focused on ghosts, stormy dark
nights, castles, fog, and unexplained supernatural phenomena, my
gothic tale involved a phonebook and someone who had the same
name as my dead mother. It had all the makings of a really bad Edgar
Allen Poe story; one he wrote quickly to pay off gambling debts.
I hoped that my ability to question my uncanny response to the
name in the phonebook was an indication that I was not headed for an
early mental breakdown. When my two good and discerning friends
didnt mirror my mystical sense of awe over the name, however, Ifelt
a little like the narrator in Poes famous gothic poem, The Raven. In
the poem, the persona is haunted by a bird that perches above his
chamber door. Like me trying to explain the terror of a name, Icould
imagine the persona later trying to persuade his friends of the horror
of a bird in his office. His friends surround him as he excitedly waves
his hands imitating the infernal fowl. He becomes increasingly agitated as he sees his story fail to elicit any emotion.
Now, what was the scary part again? the tall one asks with trepidation.
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You say the bird looked at you ... My ... goodness ... Well ... That
does sound chilling, another friend would say, coaxing the other
friends to go along with the frenzied fable. Despite Hitchcocks fine
feathered assassins, Ive always questioned how a raven could be terrifying. But after trying to explain my own midnight dreary experience,
I worried that Poes The Raven reveals more about the person who
feels the fear than the object of the fear itself.
My reaction to the name was in part a desire for a Rosetta stone help
me to interpret the fragments of contradicting images I recall of her.
Iremember she was a grade school teacher with a sincere compassion for
her lower-income, downtown students. And I remember how so many of
her students made construction paper cards for my sister and me after she
died. The cards reflected the kind of teacher that played at recess with the
outcasts of the elementary school set. But my personal memories make
her more enigmatic, more like a tortured gothic ghost. I remember most
the sound of her anger. It was more than just the scream of a momentary
frustration; it was the fraying of a despondent life that resonated in our
house. A hypoglycemic Miss Havisham jilted at the altar by normal insulin levels, she would lie in her darkened room at the end of the day, after
medicating her imbalance of blood sugar with candy. I would creep into
her shadowy room to see about dinner and her disposition. My mothers
sunless moods seeped into my bones. These cryptic recollections of her
only intensified her spectral presence in my gothic tale.
I dont know for sure what it was during those months that pulled
her apart by the edges. Between the divorce, my fathers moving out,
her leaving the Church, and her new lover jilting her, her life just
became too much. I could see in her face the tattered strands of a
threadbare soul. Somewhere in some mixture of her own choices and
what life had done to her, she had become embittered, forcible, and
without a hope to regain control. And the loss of her hope for a different life crushed her. So I was left to ponder, Pandora-like, at opening
my mothers memory, wondering if my curiosity over who she really
was outweighed the consequence of knowing the truth.
A few weeks later in that summer, when my father and sister came
to Idaho to visit us, I wanted to gather everyone in our living room,
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dEvegnee: Whats a Dead Mother Like You

detective-style, to solve the mystery of my reaction to that name. But


I couldnt. I had the mystery but no butler, no person I could unmask
to explain the riddle. Instead, like a scientist, I decided to wait for
the right moment to show them the name. When the kids were playing downstairs, I brought out the numinous phonebook and carefully
opened to the page of my experiment. I stayed calm and detached,
not wanting to influence my test subjects. I watched my sisters eyes
as they followed the alphabetical order down to my mothers name.
Slowly, her eyes widened as her jaw lowered. I could see the preternatural name infect and spread across her thoughts like a virus.
Astonished, my sister looked up at me and asked, Should we call?
Then my father actually took a picture of the listing and wondered
if we should send it on to other family members. Astounded at our
shared reaction but still grasping at my sanity, I talked him out of it.
My experiment with the name had worked. But the success of the
experiment was cold comfort. At least Im not the only one, I would
think to myself, but my relief was just a lepers excitement at finding a
leper colony. Commiseration is a poor substitute for a cure.
Later on during his Idaho stay, my father went fishing with a friend
who lives in the same town as the woman who bears my mothers
maiden name. I wondered if my family was still as perplexed as I was
or if they had let the name slip into the haze of their memory. After
my father returned from fishing, my son and I went to Applebees with
him and his friends. While at dinner my father looked at me excitedly, pointed to his friends wife, and exclaimed: She knows Kathy
Devine. Before my dad subconsciously switched the womans name
to my mothers nickname of Kathy, I had still clung to some hope
that we could let the name rest in peace. But while I looked at his
friends awkwardly, my dad quickly added, looking slightly dejected,
But shes too tall.
Too tall for what? I thought. But I didnt speakI knew what he
meant. I understood why he said it. It was as if our Applebees suddenly grew gables and I imagined the fog rolling in from the Yorkshire
moors. I could almost see my brooding father standing Heathclifflike on the crags of our booth shouting my mothers name into the
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misty miasma of grilled fajitas. I could only imagine what our friends
must have been thinking. After a pause, one of our friends added reassuringly to our macabre discussion, Kathy is really nice.
Please tell me shes not in the trunk, was all I could think as I desperately hoped for a subject change or for someone to show me the
hidden cameras. The conversation was interrupted by the arrival of
drinks, and we slowly found our way past the mortifying topic. But
as freakish as our conversation was, inwardly I had shared my fathers
urge. Seeing my long-dead mothers name just five names below my
own was like someone figuring out my best personal password. The
fear of someone knowing my password and stealing my money or my
personal information would not be the worst thing about someone
figuring out my password; the worst thing would be knowing that
someone knew me well enough to predict my password. The word is a
reflection of the mind that must remember it; an entry point to what
is valuable enough to hide. That name in the phonebook appeared to
my family not as the coalescing of coincidence, but more as the revelation of a door to a room we no longer enter. Maybe I still wanted to
believe the accident was a dream, or maybe I wanted to believe she
was now living close to her son, secretly watching over him and his
family like a mother would. This irrational hope was the part of me
that remembered that something beyond that door once existed.
For a moment, the sight of her name brought her back to me in black
and white, even giving me an address. The name was as tangible as the
felt-board lessons about the plan of salvation were to me as a child.
Carefully pressing the border of each world to come, my small fingertips
ordered the universe of planetary fabric on the board without a thought
to their circumscribed inhabitants. But that almost incarnate name
resurrected as much of her ambiguity as it did her memory, and what
remained unresolved endured. I wonder where my mother is on that felt
board now and if my ambivalence pains her. If only she could give me a
sign. But some signs are harder to discern than the teetering glass that
doesnt shatterlike the occasional kismet in the white pages.

92

The Missionary
Stephen David Grover

Freely ye have received, freely give.


Matthew 10:8
I began to sustain the illusion that he was I,
and therefore, by simple transposition, that I was my father.
E. B. White, Once More to the Lake

I met a missionary recently. This was back in the fall, when the days
were just cooling off and the weather was crystal clear. I was walking
downtown in the sun, thinking the ambitious thoughts of a graduate
student, and I only half registered the man standing against a building up ahead, seemingly doing nothing but watching passers-by. In a
college town, especially in an election year, being stopped by strangers
peddling causes, candidates, or charities wasnt uncommon, but nothing about the man suggested he was interested in conversation, so I
prepared to pass him without design. I merely glanced down at my
feet, readjusted my bag, and continued walking. Just as I crossed his
position, however, he suddenly said, Excuse me.
I was caught off guard. Normally when approached on the street
Ive seen it coming and have a strategy: Ive either fished out the coins
for a quick deposit or loaded a shrug and a sorry, or maybe Ive maneuvered several fellow pedestrians between myself and whoevers asking
the awkward questions. But Im not generally an avoider, and I never
ignore. Most of the time I just take the flyer with a smile and answer
the question truthfullyYes, Ive registered to vote, or No, I dont
have a minute for the environment just now, or No, I wouldnt like

Honorable Mention, 2009 Charlotte and Eugene England Personal Essay Contest

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to buy any ice cream, even though every purchase helps Kappa Delta
Mu Chi Beta Alpha Whatever. I almost always keep moving forward
regardless. Although such questions dont directly state it, they are
often an invitation to stop and chat. So when the unassuming man on
the street quite suddenly said, Excuse me, in a calm, quiet voice (just
after Id determined his irrelevance to me), I shopped short, surprised.
Torn from whatever reveries occupied me, I glanced over him while
my mind started running through the possibilities: He needed directions? No, he hadnt been looking for anything. Money? He was clean
and neatly dressed, so unlikely that. Had I dropped something? I dont
think so
He was speaking, and his hand turned out to show me the cover
of a book he was holding; I looked at it, focused my attention enough
to read the title, and replayed the sentence I had not been listening to.
The book was the Bhagavad Gita. Were missionaries, he had been
saying: Were sharing this book.
At once the situation dawned on mewhere I was, who I was talking to, what came next. My first instinct was to smile and shake my
head, then nod and say no, then blink and laugh and look slightly off
to the right, then nod and look at him and laugh again while saying,
Imean, I know, and Thanks, but, while shrugging and walking away.
Instead, I looked up from the book, smiled and shook my head,
frowned and stuttered: Ive read this book.
For six hundred sixty-five days I was a missionary in South
Korea. With extremely few exceptions, I spent those days approaching peopleon the street, in their homes, on buses, and in taxis
asking them for a minute of their time.
Nine out of ten people would smile and mutter and walk away. And
those ten were the one out of ten who had stopped at all. Having thousands of chances to practice my method, I learned that if you said hello
and offered your hand too early, a person could skirt around you effortlessly as you bowed. If you started too late, the person would either fail
to notice you in time to stop or could feign not noticing and continue
walking briskly anyway. The trick was to catch someone at just the
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right distance, about seven paces, making the slightest bit of eye contact before stunning them with a brilliantly pronounced, Annyeong
hasaeyo, seonsaengnim. The sudden novelty of an American speaking Korean and offering an appropriate handshaketwo handed, to
show respectmight spark enough cordiality for a returned bow and
a handshake. Koreans are, in general, a very protocol-conscious people.
Surprise, though occasionally an effective missionary tool, is shortlived. It must be replaced by genuine curiosity if someone is to remain
in your company. This means asking a question, and although I had
any number of topics I could raise with anyone I met, I think my
favorite question involved the book I always held in my hand. It was
simple and direct; it appealed to the reader in me and thus, I hoped,
to the reader in them; and it quickly identified me and my purpose.
Have you ever read this book? I would ask, and turn out my hand to
show the gold letters on a blue cover, the Book of Mormon.
Ive read this book, I said to the missionary.
But have you read this book? he countered, and I saw that he
meant to ask whether Id read this particular edition. I could see that
his copy of the Gita was considerably thicker than the one I had read;
the cover showed that it was filled with explanations and annotations
by a holy-looking man with a long, foreign name.
No, the one I read was much thinner. It was paperback and had an
introduction by a scholar. Her name was, uh
A scholar?
Yeah... I grasped for the name on the cover of my own copy, the
one I had bought for an Asian literature class that had been cancelled
the first week of school when only three students registered. I had
decided to keep the books and read them on my own, and the Gita,
with its short, dense stanzas, had made a great bathroom book (not
that Id tell this guy that). The cover was a colorful Hindu painting, the kind of thing you could stare at until its tiny details slowly
revealed themselves, which I had done, incidentally reading the translators name dozens of times and rolling it around my mouth for its
feel and rhythm. It was a solid name, with even syllables; it trod on
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the tongue much like my own name did. What was it? There it was:
Barbara Stoler Miller.
Ah, Barbara Stoler Miller, he said and nodded. Thats the same
one I first read, but its not this one.
Oh? He had me. He had read the same edition I had, had recognized the name of the translator. I could tell he was sincere about that
by the way his voice sped up slightly with the excitement of finding
some common ground. Up until that moment he had spoken, not
slowly, but unhurriedly, deliberately. It was an odd bit of gravity to see
in a young man just a few feet from a college campus known more for
its parties than its studies.
Establishing common ground is essential in missionary work. Its
hard for people to see you as a real person. Missionaries are, in essence,
monks, separated from the normal activities and concerns of life. Mormon missionaries maybe especially so. Who up and leaves homein
my case, just when I shouldve been getting through collegeto stomp
around some strange place annoying people? We didnt watch television, didnt go to the movies, didnt read newspapers or novels, didnt
listen to the radio. We didnt go on datesdidnt even flirt with girls.
Very suspicious, if you ask me.
I wasnt Korean and knew precious little about Korea, couldnt understand the suffocation of a nation having grown up between China and
Japan for three millennia or more, couldnt fathom the impact of having
been at war with oneself for fifty years, and this directly after having been
a Japanese colony, the culture and language having endured systematic
attack for eighty long years. I didnt know how seriously young Koreans
took their education, wasnt aware of the weight the college entrance
exams placed on their shoulders, a weight which fueled a six-day school
week supplemented by hours and hours of private instruction in special
tutoring schools called hagweon. I wasnt privy to the social and economic pressures that divided work from home, to the conflict between
Eastern tradition and Western progress that kept many men working
sixty-hour weeks to provide for families they rarely saw, families that
suffered when fathers were obligated to spend even more time with
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Grover: The Missionary

their office mates when the boss would rent out a bar for morales sake
(attendance not optional). Under mission rules I wasnt even allowed to
go to the karaoke bars or, without a broken water heater or busted pipes,
to the ever-popular bathhouse. And, being Mormon, there was to be no
bonding over a cheap glass of Hite beer or a shot of soju. I could drink
tea but only herbal varieties, no greens or blacks.
What did that leave me for common ground? Precisely this: the
Korean-born pitcher Chanho Park had just been traded to the Texas
Rangers in my home state. I spoke fluent English, a coveted skill. And
I was, despite the distance of age and race and history, still a person,
with all the questions we all are born with. Who am I? Where am I
going after I die? Whats right and whats true and how do I know?
Whats so special about this particular copy? I asked. The missionary proceeded to explain that the scripture itself was interwoven
with commentary by a holy man, an expert who made its meaning
clear. I asked why his commentary was better than Millers.
Miller isnt trying to lead people to truth. She doesnt believe in
the truth of this book. Shes a scholar and sees it as a poem only. This
man is holy. He isnt trying to sell books. He only wants to help others
understand and be happy.
He went onI dont remember his exact words, of course. As he
spoke I noticed how striking his eyes were; they were very light, an icy
blue, clear and focused even as they darted from the book to my face
to some middle distance whenever he searched for a word. His hair
was very dark, which set his eyes off even more, and it was buzzed
short except for one long lock in the back. I could see that his hair was
fine and soft like a babys. He was in his very early twenties, Iguessed.
He told me his name was Patrick.
When he finished his explanation he didnt rush ahead, didnt take
control of the conversation and guide it toward a chosen subject. He
just stopped for a second. Perhaps he was feeling out the reverberation of what hed just said, checking to make sure it had the ring of
truth he trusted it should. Maybe he was just giving me a minute to
digest it all. It occurred to me that I could ask an unfair, malignant
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question, the kind meant to undermine, the kind asked of politicians


at press conferences. Ive heard my fair share of cheap shots. Putting
one together would be no problem, and in the momentary confusion
it caused I could make my escape. Or I could watch him talk himself
into a corner.
The impulse to one-up this kid was very real, and for a moment I
teetered on the edge of cruelty. But Patricks genuineness was inviting
me to be genuine, and I asked him my real question.
How do I know this book is true?
When I failed to convince someone that I was indeed a regular person, they would quickly find an excuse to leave. Missionaries are, by
definition, fanatical, after all, and its dangerous to linger near a maniac.
Sometimes while out walking the streets I would hear the staticky
sound of a megaphone and turn to see a pair of pretty young women
in neon vinyl miniskirts and tube tops dancing outside a newly opened
restaurant, periodically announcing the virtues of the proprietor and
his prices. Or it would be a passing flatbed truck laden with bushels
of garlic, the driver hawking his wares from an intercom in the cab. Or
it would be a missionarythe part-time kind from a local congregationstanding sharply at attention, yellow sash with a red cross and
black letters draped from shoulder to hip, one hand holding the mic
up to his or her mouth, the other firmly grasping the loudspeaker like
a holstered gun.
The vinyl-clad rocket chicks, as we called them, spoke with the
wildly enthusiastic tone of a toilet-bowl-cleanser commercial, and the
truck drivers had the native, welcome rhythm of a carnival barker or
a stadium beer seller. The missionaries, however, imitated the Korean
pastors oratorical technique, a clipped, falling intonation that became
a sickly parody when applied to the short command-form statements
they typically made: Repent. Believe Jesus. You will go to Hell. Repent.
As important as it was to make myself appear a real person, it was
more important to treat those I met as real. Having hundreds of twosecond relationships a week is demoralizing; it dehumanizes in both
directions. I felt like a machine at times, at other times, a ghost. I had
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minutes of anger, learned to laugh at myself in pitiful moments. Sometimes in the desperate belief that I had become a clich, that no one
really saw or heard me, I would say something completely unexpected
just for the shock of it. One night knocking doors in a particularly trying apartment building with my companion, I rang a doorbell, and
when a lady asked who it was over the intercom, I said, Were two
large and hungry Americans. Can we come in and have some dinner?
She mumbled something about the baby being asleep; I laughed and
assented, content merely to hear something new.
On the other hand, the repetition made it hard to see the people I
met as people. Koreans already all look the same to an American, and
it was all I could do to resist talking at them as if to a robot. (As it turns
out, Koreans all look different once you get to know them, and Americans all look the same once youve been gone for two years.) At first my
struggle with the language kept me on my toes, listening intently to try
to catch every word a person said in our short exchanges, but before
long I knew my script and every possible permutation thereof. Just
as easily as some polite person could mindlessly fire excuses my way
in hopes I would give up without their having to be assertive, I could
deflect such attempts without blinking. How easy it is to be heartless.
Mine was the business of constantly tempering a thick skin with
some degree of vulnerability, to regard each person I saw as a brother
or sister without taking things too personally. To fall too far toward
one side of the balance was to become manipulative, a salesman; to
fall too far to the other was to risk despair.
Heres what I learned as a missionary: real conversations occur
when both parties risk something, when they both acknowledge the
humanity of the other. Ive never been a great listenerIve too many
ideas in my head at any given time for thatbut those few moments
of my time in Korea that I would classify as touching grace all occurred
within conversations. They occurred when I put aside my ego and my
insecurity and was paid the same respect. It was both scary and sacred.
Patrick never had a single ready response. He heard my questions as if they had never been asked before. I watched him consider
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each one and formulate his answer. I heard him speak sincerely, not
eloquently, but with short pauses as he arranged his phrases. He held
his book in one hand as the other was tensed softly, fingers spread as
if holding a softball, and he made gentle grasps in the air as he sought
the proper path. I got the impression he hadnt been doing this long.
How do I know this book is true?
He squintedhe was either remembering what he had been
trained to say or was searching his feelings for the truth: You read
the book, you try out the things it teaches in your life, and you see if it
feels true, if it brings you peace.
At times it was scary talking to him. I asked him the questions I
had long ago figured out were the most important to me, the ones
I wished people on the streets in Korea would think to ask, and his
answers were eerily close to the ones I wouldve given. It was as if I
had met myself from seven or eight years beforeit put a suddenly
clear perspective on my life since then. I seemed to see all that would
befall this boy in a few short years, and I didnt know whether to
lament the passing of time or to put my arm around him. He was me,
but then, he wasnt.
Is this how a father feels seeing his son walk a strangely familiar
path? Is this what my own father, who was a missionary in Scotland
in 1974, saw in my letters home from Korea in 2001, what he sees in
me every day on a twenty-seven-year delay? Im twenty-seven myself,
now, though I dont yet have a child of my own to watch.
The strange discomfort of listening to Patrick struggle was mixed
with an odd pride at seeing him do so successfully. I gave him my final
question: Okay, so what is it you want from me?
Confused look.
Youre a missionary: youve told me about your book, youve told
me how to know if its true. Now what?
Id like to give you this book.
There is one statement for which there is no reply a missionary
can give. Every person who doesnt stop seems to say it; most of those
who do stop say it in one way or another: Im not interested.
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Grover: The Missionary

To be a missionary is to live with disappointment. But its hard to


know exactly what youre disappointed in. Are you disappointed in
yourself for not being a stronger, purer vessel? Or are you disappointed
in people for not getting it? Or is it just the world and the way it works?
You tell yourself that you are making a difference but that its a difference youll probably never see. You go on in the hope that books given
and words spoken will find their way into the hands and hearts of
those who need them, when they need them. But youll almost certainly never know.
On the flight home from Korea, I wrote out a list of things I
wanted to incorporate into my life, a list of lessons learned. Near the
top of the list was the caveat that I never forget how it felt to be on
the side of the door shared by pizza guys, mail carriers, door-to-door
salesmen, and missionaries.
So why, standing there that beautiful October day, did I even hesitate? If I took the book, Id instill in Patrick some sense of hopea
hope that his work wasnt for nothing; a hope that, if he were anything like me, hed be needing after long days on the street; a hope
that I of all people was both equipped and, somehow, obligated to
give. But wouldnt taking the book be a lie in a way? Wouldnt taking
it be giving false hope instead of real hope, since it was unlikely Id be
drastically changing my religious beliefs anytime soon?
The night before I graduated from college, my dad stayed the night
with me in my apartment. We lay on the tacky living room couches in
the dark until four in the morning, talking about everything. He asked
me about my college experience, about choosing to be an English major,
about my aspirations for becoming a teacher and a writer, about starting grad school in the fall. It wasnt a new conversationwed been
having it periodically for years as I went to him for advice at each step
of the way. But that night it was different. We werent so much father
and son; it felt like we were peers there in the dark. When he knew
something about the topicsay, Crosby, Stills, and Nash or providing
for a future familyhe threw in his two cents, though not in a prescriptive way. When I spoke of something outside his experience, like
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writing professionally or reading Milton, he listened sincerely, as if he


could learn something from me.
We were two guys staying up late, having one of those rare and real
conversations.
I told him my fears about choosing such a narrow path, that a masters in creative writing wouldnt open up a whole lot of new doors,
careerwise. I explained how I felt committed to teaching, largely as
a result of my missionary service, but that I didnt know whether I
could hack it as a writer. Did I have what it took? Could I devote
myself to it? Im crafty and smart, sure, but would that be enough?
While I dont remember my fathers exact words in response to my
fears that night, his message remains clear in my mind: You can do it.
I know you can. Youre making your own decisions, and Im proud of
you for it. I know that where youre headed is where you need to go,
that things will work out for you.
He didnt know the future, didnt know whether the hope he was
sowing would bloom or not. But he sowed. The next day, during the
graduation proceedings, I gave him a bound collection of my creative
writing done as an undergrad.
I didnt take the Bhagavad Gita from Patrick. I looked him in the
eye and admitted that I agreed with everything he had told me, that
I felt he had given me all the right answers. But I confessed that I
wasnt looking for anything new in my life, that I wasnt dissatisfied in
any way. I thanked him for his honesty and assured him that if I ever
needed something more I would know where to look. He made no
reply, merely stared his acceptance as I turned and walked away.
Four minutes later I was in my office tending to the endless minor
concerns of school and work and life. Four months later, and Im still
thinking about Patrick.
Oh, how I wish I had taken that book.

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For the Sycamore


(On Zaccheus, by J. Kirk Richards)
Tyler Chadwick

Shes always been the narrative crux,


her branches grown thick
as his presence in Luke, raising
his faith so he can anoint Gods head
with his sweat, her shadow pinned tight
to the Tellers canopied bosom of words.
Shes no different here in her browns
and rusts, peering down the blouse
of my soul from the artists throng,
playing my gaze through the spaces
between her sprawling geography.
She frames her fruit well on that throne
of a branch where he sits mid-startle
against the plot twist, holding his perch
to keep from falling too hard
on his faith. Yet the centuries
nearest her act, the children of the children
of the child nearest the viewing pane
see how she tilts her head toward the throng,
mouth wide; tries to suckle
from the taleforget; even Zaccheus
moves on after Christ points him out, calls him
down, invites himself over for tea
with the publican and his family.

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But Christs finger reaches


beyond his words, beyond pigment, beyond
the curving branch of the sycamore
he touches at last. Always
to the Garden. To the serpent. And
Eve, knowledge gnawing at her lips
like juice pressed from a thousand figs
as Adam walked in from the cool of day
and she reached to fit his waist
with the apron
shed learned to make from her Mom.

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Chadwick: Poems

On Winter Nursing, by J. Kirk Richards


I imagine myself newborn. Mouth
dripping with nipple and milk
warm as the rest between breaths
when the flesh goes lax against
death. Stutters between syllables
of desire. Cozies up to the grave
as to memories nursed
over the mourning doves elegy
the winter Keats slipped beneath
my skin. Nestled into the swaddling
mother knit around my soul
before she raised me to breasts
heavy as temptation. Latched me on
to her heritage, Eve calling come
eat from the kitchen as she filled
an eight-by-three-by-six basin
with desire enough to top off
the abyss. To trigger the contraction
of Gods womb, Edens walls bearing
down on my hunger. Birthing stars
like purled bodies
sweating as snow down a window
fogged by childhood wanting in.
Panting its catechism.

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Asking what it means when


the mourning dove sings even though
winters come. Even though
the doves coo may just be a coo.
Even though Ive been asking
since Keats came in from the cold
when a birds just a bird. Snow just snow.
Flesh just flesh. Death just death. God
just breath on a memory, marking
where I buried placenta and soul
in this landscape suddenly blank
as DNA the moment of conception.
Base pairs copulating like voices
singing backup in a dream. The one
where Im Adam. Or is it Eve? Keats?
My mother? God? Me? Sitting opposite
winter. Watching question marks
punctuate a garden: sprouts turned
fruit-bearing trees, branches heavy
with burial urns heavy with milk
still warm as the rest between breaths.

106

A Great Mormon Novelist:


An Interview with Brady Udall
Angela Hallstrom

Brady Udall grew up in a large Mormon family in Arizona, where


he worked on his grandfathers farm. He graduated from Brigham
Young University and later attended the Iowa Writers Workshop. He
teaches in the MFA program at Boise State University, and lives in
Boise, Idaho, and Teasdale, Utah, with his wife and children.
Udalls work has appeared in The Paris Review, Playboy, GQ and
Esquire, and his stories and essays have been featured on National
Public Radios This American Life. He is the author of Letting Loose
the Hounds, The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint, an international bestseller,
and the newly released The Lonely Polygamist. About The Lonely Polygamist, Publishers Weekly writes, A family drama with stinging turns of
dark comedy, the latest from Udall is a superb performance and as
comic as it is sublimely catastrophic.... Udalls polished storytelling
and sterling cast of perfectly realized and flawed characters make this
a serious contender for Great American Novel status.
The following interview was conducted via email in May 2010.

Hallstrom: Lets begin with a little background about your new novel,
The Lonely Polygamist. Polygamy is obviously a topic rife with potential
and conflict for Mormon writers. What were your particular reasons for
tackling it?
Udall: I started thinking about writing a novel back in 1997 when
I wrote an article for Esquire magazine about modern polygamy. It
seemed like such an interesting and complex topicsomething I just
couldnt resist.
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Hallstrom: Ive read that you spent a good deal of time getting to know
polygamists within their own communities. What were some of the biggest
surprises you encountered in your research?
Udall: The biggest surprise was how normal everything seemed. The
homes I visited were no different than any other Mormon household
you might come acrosspictures of the SLC temple, a piano in the
family room, scriptures on the coffee table. Kids running around. Lots
of kids.
Hallstrom: Mainstream Mormons have complicated feelings about
polygamy. Have you encountered resistance from Latter-day Saints when
they hear youre writing a polygamy novel? How do you answer those
Mormons who would prefer that we distance ourselves from polygamy and
downplay the common roots our religion shares with modern-day polygamist religious communities?
Udall: Before the novels release, my publisher asked me to write a short
letter specifically for Mormon readers, and here are the last couple of
paragraphs of that letter, which I think answer the question pretty well:
Because novelists are routinely asked what they happen to be
working on, I got into a lot of discussions about polygamy, and I
noticed a common reaction among members of the church. Mostly
they seemed agitated, or even aghast, wondering why I would want to
write about such a prickly subject. Once or twice I was asked if I had
something against the church, some axe to grind.
Of course, these sorts of reactions were not surprising. The church
has struggled to distance itself from polygamy, claiming that it no longer has a connection to the practice. And yet I dont think we can
sweep polygamy under the rug so easily. Whether we like it or not,
polygamy is not only a part of our past, its part of our present, our
scripture and theology, which both suggest it will be part of our future.
If we are to respect our heritage and be honest about who we are as
a people, we must acknowledge polygamys place in our church and
culture. And when we see a polygamist family among us, we must
remember we are looking in the mirror; we are looking at ourselves.
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Hallstrom: Interview with Brady Udall

Hallstrom: Although there are some examples of contemporary literary


novels that deal with the spiritual lives of their characters in a realistic and
straightforward way (the work of Marilynne Robinson comes to mind, for
example), questions of a characters relationship to God and non-ironic
depictions of a religious life seem relatively rare. Why do think this is? Do
you think writers are missing opportunities to write about these important
human questions?
Udall: Theres a blind spot in modern American fiction when it comes
to religion and spirituality. Generally speaking, religious or spirituallyminded characters have tended to be looked on with suspicion or outright animosity by writers during the last century or so. Icant say why
this is. My guess is that we writers tend to be outsiders; we dont trust
organized religion or those who participate in it. I guess its a little
strange that I have that same distrust in a lot of ways. I also think its
terribly important that contemporary literature takes religious life and
religious people seriously.
Hallstrom: Much of your work contains scenes that acknowledge the
reality of spiritual experiences in your characters lives. In your previous novel, The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint, in your short fiction (the
award-winning Buckeye the Elder was recently reprinted in Zarahemla
Books anthology Dispensation: Latter-Day Fiction), and in The Lonely
Polygamist, you write of powerful priesthood blessings, miraculous answers
to prayers, and personal conversion stories. On the other hand, your characters also grapple with religious apathy, spiritual doubt, and the loss of
faith. What would your advice be to Mormons who wish to write about the
full range of spiritual and religious experience for a mainstream audience?
For a Mormon audience?
Udall: I honestly dont know how to distinguish between a Mormon audience and a mainstream audience. With that in mind, I guess
Id say this to an aspiring writer who also happens to be a Mormon:
dont focus on the Mormonism. Focus on the characters, on the story,
on the quality of the language. If Mormonism happens to be important to any of these, so be it, but dont force it, dont be self-conscious
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about. We Mormons seem to be a very self-conscious people these


days and, well, it can be a tad annoying.
Hallstrom: Publishers Weekly recently called The Lonely Polygamist
a serious contender for Great American Novel status, which is high praise
indeed. Some literary-minded Latter-day Saints have been hoping for decades
for a Great Mormon Novela mainstream book celebrated by Mormons
and the literary community alike. Recently, Deseret News columnist Jerry
Johnson recalled a conversation he had with Wallace Stegner about the Great
Mormon Novel. Stegner told him he believed such a novel would be penned
by someone who was born in the church, left the church, then made it part
way back again. Stegner believed that being away from the church would
give the writer perspective, while coming part way back would guarantee his
empathy for the culture. In the column, Johnston went on to explain that
Stegners idea of the Great Mormon Novel was an impossibility, that a true
LDS writer would not want to be on the outside looking in. He wouldnt want
to be defiant. Hed want to promote the faith.... In the future, Im sure LDS
writers will produce wonderful novels. But a grand and glorious literary novel
that is heralded by both the LDS faithful and the literary world? I dont think
so. Do you agree with Stegner? With Johnston? Neither?
Udall: I guess this whole subject strikes me as a little silly. Is there
a Great Jewish Novel? A Great Catholic Novel? Not that Ive ever
heard of. On the other hand, there are a lot of great Jewish and Catholic writers who have produced many great works of literature. To me,
the questions is not, Where is the Great Mormon Novel but Why
arent there more good Mormon novels? That our culture produces
so few works of artistic meritespecially in the context of the culture
at largeis troubling to me. That said, I think Mr. Johnston is right
when he says it would be nearly impossible for a novel to be heralded
both by the LDS faithful and the literary establishment. I dont think
thatll happen any time soon.
Hallstrom: What kind of response to The Lonely Polygamist have
you received from Mormon readers? Have any readers from polygamist
communities given feedback?
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Hallstrom: Interview with Brady Udall

Udall: No feedback yet from polygamist communities, though some


people from those communities have come to my readings, which
I appreciate. The response from Mormon readers has been mixed.
Alot of support, and a lot of negative responses, which range from
complaints about the swearing and sex, to claims that Im selling out
my religion in the pursuit of riches and fame.
Hallstrom: Golden, the father of the Richards clan in The Lonely Polygamist, can be described as ineffectual, emotionally disconnected, and frightened by the weight of his responsibilities as a patriarchal figure. Although
Goldens plight is exaggerated by the sheer size of his family, did you intend
for Goldens character to make a statement about contemporary manhood
and/or fatherhood?
Udall: Very much so. Most of the men I know, including myself, can
barely handle the meager obligations of, say, one partner and two or
three children. If I put myself in Goldens shoes I honestly dont think
Id do half as well as he does. Am I saying that modern men arent
necessarily up to the task of fatherhood? I dont knowmaybe I am.
Hallstrom: While its true that the members of the sprawling Richards
clan suffer from neglect and invisibility, many of them find some real benefits to being a part of such a huge family. What does this novel have to say
about the struggles and blessings inherent in family life? How did your past
as a member of a large family inform your writing of this novel?
Udall: This novel really is more about family than it is about polygamy, and somehow this big, exaggerated family is the best way Ive
found to investigate what family is really about. People often think
of big families as offering warmth and safety, but too often there are
those of us who dont know how to navigate the complications and
challenges of such a big group. I was one of nine children and while I
had a wonderful childhood (well, most of it, anyway) I sometimes felt
very alone even in the middle of all that noise and chaos.
Hallstrom: The Lonely Polygamist is both very funny and very sad.
In fact, in my opinion, one of the novels greatest strengths is its emotional
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openness. This isnt the arch, ironic, cool (in both senses of the word)
novel that we often find in contemporary literary fiction. What are the
risks and benefits of writing literary fiction that embraces emotionality?
Udall: Thank you, and thanks for the question. I think the only risk
with writing in an emotionally open way is that critics will brand your
work with that dreaded word: sentimentality. To me, fiction is an
inherently emotional art form. The novels we love we love not because
theyre intellectually stimulating or philosophically deep, but because
they present us, as Faulkner said, with the human heart in conflict
with itself. I love what William Kittredge once had to say about this:
If youre not risking sentimentality, youre not risking anything at all.
Hallstrom: The Lonely Polygamist is a sprawling, complicated novel
that juggles an enormous cast of characters. Not only does it employ three
main points of view (Golden; Trish, the fourth wife; and Rusty, the
11-year-old family terrorist), but an omniscient, present tense point of view
occasionally pops in and offers us a more cinematic perspective. Most of
your previous work has been written in the first person. Could you describe
how your experience writing The Lonely Polygamist differed from writing
projects in the past? How did you handle all those points of view?
Udall: This is definitely a writer-to-writer question, and I appreciate that. Youre right: nearly all of my previous work was done in the
first person, and with this novel I wanted to do things Id never done
before: third person, multiple perspectives, the God-like omniscient
narrator. Heck, even writing from the point-of-view of a woman I
considered a challengeI hadnt really done that before. For me, this
was a pretty difficult book to write because of all the new things I was
doing, but the daily challenge of it kept it exciting.
Hallstrom: How does your work as a teacher of writing inform your
work as a novelist? Do you think writing can be taught?
Udall: I dont know that my teaching influences my writing, but I
know my writing influences my teachingI try to warn my students
away from the mistakes I have made and continue to make. I do think

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Hallstrom: Interview with Brady Udall

writing can be taught, but as with most everything else, there has to
be some talent involved; you cant teach someone whos tone-deaf to
sing like Caruso.
Hallstrom: Do you have another writing project in the works? If so,
could you tell us a little about it?
Udall: The next project is in the planning stages. I think its going to
be a YA novel of some kind, and its going to be an investigation of the
afterlife. Sounds weird, I know.
Hallstrom: Sounds interesting to me! Ill be looking forward to it. Thank
you, Brady, for a great interview, and for writing such an excellent novel.
Its one of the best novels Ive come across in years, and I hope it continues
to be widely read and discussed by all sorts of readers.

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Fiction Contest 2011


The Association for Mormon Letters and Irreantum magazine will begin
accepting manuscripts for the ninth annual Irreantum fiction contest on
January 1, 2011.
Because Irreantum is a literary journal dedicated to exploring Mormon
culture, all contest entries must relate to the Mormon experience in some
way. Authors need not be LDS. Any unpublished fictional form up to
8,500words will be considered, including short stories and novel excerpts.
Authors may submit one or two entries. Irreantum staff and members of the
AML Board are ineligible.
The first-place author will be awarded $250, second-place $175, and thirdplace $100 (unless judges determine that no entries are of sufficient quality to
merit awards). Publication in Irreantum is not guaranteed, but winners agree
to give Irreantum first-publication rights.

Submission Instructions
Deadline: Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Only electronic submissions will be accepted. Email your entry as an MS
Word, WordPerfect, or RTF file attachment to contest@mormonletters.org.
In the subject line, please write 2011 Irreantum Fiction Contest. Include
your name, the title of your submission, and your contact information,
including address and phone number, in the body of the email.
To facilitate blind judging, no identifying information should appear in
the story itself other than the title of the manuscript, which should appear
as a header on each page.
Winners names will be posted on Irreantums website, www.mormon
letters.org/irreantum, on August 31, 2011.
For more information about Irreantum and the Association for Mormon Letters,
see www.MormonLetters.org/Irreantum.
With no official connection to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,
Irreantum and the Irreantum Fiction Contest
are funded through a grant from the Utah Arts Council.

Escape from Groundhog Day


Mormon Literary Creation and the
Cycle of the Eternal Return
Boyd Petersen

The theme for this years conference is One Eternal Round: Mormon Literature Past, Present, and Future. The title alludes to scriptures in both the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants that
say the course of the Lord is one eternal round (1 Ne. 10:19, Alma
7:20, Alma 37:12, D&C 3:2, D&C 35:1). I have always taken comfort in this thought: that Gods ways are unchanging and His works
are never ending. However, over the past few weeks as Ive contemplated the idea and applied it to myself, Ive grown more apprehensive. Granted, the scriptures refer only to the Lords course, but for
us Mormons striving for a God-like existence is a way of life. Would
I really want my existence to be an eternal round? Would I really
want to relive my life? For one thing, I would not wish to keep planning AML conferences forever. Nor would I want to have to relive the
stress of writing and delivering a presidential address for this highly
literary audience, an audience that knows an elegant turn of phrase
and a well-crafted sentence, and fears all too rightly hearing neither
here today; so that, like Woody Allen claiming that a loving God
could never make him sit through another Ice Capades, you will all
hope for the mercy of Just Once. Appropriately, in a fit of anthropomorphic malice, my computer ate the first version of this talk so I did
get to experience writing it again.
Recursion is a fairly popular literary device, especially in speculative
fiction. Time travelers have to avoid nasty possibilities of becoming
Presidential address, 2010 Association for Mormon Letters annual meeting

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their own grandparents or murderers; even Harry Potter cant allow


himself to be seen by himself when Hermione uses her time-turner.
(Although in the most recent Star Trek movie Spock receives advice
from his older self as the two pass in a hangar.) Kurt Vonneguts
depressing novel Timequake explores his disbelief in free will through
a dystopic hell of recursion, his characters watching and participating
in bad decisions and tragic life events they clearly remember but are
powerless to change. But for those of my generation one of the most
beloved and familiar treatments of eternally recurring existence is in
the 1993 film Groundhog Day. Bill Murray plays a cynical, smart-alecky,
and egocentric Pittsburgh TV weatherman named Phil Connors,
who is assignedfor the fourth year in a rowto cover the underwhelming Groundhog Day ceremony in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.
Facing dead-end career doldrums, Phil is less than delighted with the
assignment, and can barely contain his contempt and sarcasm while
reporting on the pseudoevent. As soon as he has finished the report
Phil sets off, anxious to get out of town. On the return drive, Phil,
Rita, and cameraman Larry get caught in a blizzardone Phil did
not predictand they must return to Punxsutawney to wait out the
storm. When Phil wakes the next morning, however, he discovers that
he is not only stuck in Hicksville, he is stuck reliving February second, and no one else knows hes been through it before. He awakes
at exactly 6:00 a.m. to the same songSonny and Chers Ive Got
You Babeand the same lame early-morning radio chatterThats
right, woodchuck-chuckersits Groundhog Day!; he is greeted
by the same nerdy Ned Ryreson, who did the whistling belly-button trick at the high school talent show; he steps in the same icy
puddle; he arrives at the same Gobblers Knob while the loudspeakers blare the same Pennsylvania Polka; and he witnesses the same
Punxsutawney Phil prognosticate six more weeks of winter. And this
happens the next day as well, and the next, over and over and over
again. What if there is no tomorrow? Phil asks a telephone operator
at one point, there wasnt today! Phil Connors finds himself stuck in
a cycle of eternally repeating Groundhog Days, passing from disbelief,
through boredom, anger, childish fantasy enactment, suicidal despair
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Petersen: Escape from Groundhog Day

and finally philosophical acceptance, ultimately using the curse of


repetition to perfect himself.
I think as weve all sat through the interminable high councilor
talk on Sunday we may have all felt a bit like Phil Connors stuck in
Punxsutawney. Time seems to stand still, our eyes droop, our energy
is sapped, our stomachs growl and groan, and the speaker drones on
and on. What would the Mormon Groundhog Day look like? Perhaps
its getting stuck in a calling were not happy with for years on endan
eternity of Primary or nursery or ward clerking. I know I sometimes
felt trapped in my own Groundhog Day while serving as a missionary in France, knocking on doors sixxty hours each week and having
people greet us with the same Cela ne minteresse pas again and again,
broken by rarer but equally predictable instructions on where, exactly,
anatomically, we could put our tracts and fanaticism. I suspect a young
woman in our ward who just had twins (bringing her total number
of offspring to six) and whose husband was just called into the stake
presidency must feel trapped in a cycle of never-ending child and baby
care, sleeplessly performing feedings, burpings, bathings, and diaper
changings on top of the mothering tasks for her older children.
Unlike Phil Connors or the suffering saint enduring another high
council talk, I somehow doubt the Lord is tormented by this cycle of
eternal recurrence. I believe somehow He manages to enjoy the repetition, to take pleasure in the endless recurrence of events. I hesitate
to quote Nietzsche while people are still eating, but I think a little
thought experiment he once proposed is applicable:
What if, some day or night a demon were to sneak after you into your
loneliest loneliness and say to you: This life as you now live it and
have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times
more; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every
joy and every thought and sigh and everything immeasurably small or
great in your life must return to youall in the same succession and
sequenceeven this spider and this moonlight between the trees, and
even this moment and I myself. The eternal hourglass of existence is
turned over and over and you with it, dust grain of dust. Would you
not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon
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who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment
when you would have answered him: You are a god and never have I
heard anything more divine.

Nietzsche points out, rightly I believe, that most of us would be


horrified by the prospect of endlessly repeating our mundane lives.
He reminds us of the quiet desperation of our temporal existence.
However, his words provide not only a sad reminder of our tedious
misery, but also a challenge: he confronts us with the possibility of
authenticity. His words are a call to conscious self-creation, to live our
lives in a way that we would want to repeat them over again (Voeltz).
That is, I suspect, what God does.
Nevertheless, this is a conference on Mormon literature rather
than self-actualization, so I want to address the eternal return in literature, or more specifically endless repetition in Mormon literature.
Literary Groundhog Days, if you will. Nowhere do we find a more
frustratingly endless repetition than in anti-Mormon fiction and
expos. From the nineteenth century to the present, these works have
followed a well-trod path, one documented by scholars from Hugh
Nibley, Richard Cracroft and Neal Lambert, Gary Bunker and Davis
Bitton to Michael Austin, Terryl Givens, Craig Foster, and Megan
Sanborn Jones. These texts are constructed with one-dimensional,
stock characters; a superficial portrayal of Mormonism and Mormon history; clichd and agenda-driven narratives. The nineteenthcentury tropes, which sometimes continue today, include lecherous,
sex-obsessed Mormon patriarchs attempting to seduce young virgins
with over-the-top religious rhetoric (or menacing looks and mesmerism). They voyeuristically expose the strange secrets and bloody oaths
of the Mormon temple endowment. They depict threatening and violent reprisals by secret Danite bands that enforce obedience to the
temples secret, nefarious oaths. They are derivative, unoriginal, banal
repetitions.
What is surprising is that much of what we might call didactic Mormon literature, whether from the left or the right, is equally repetitive and in similar ways to this anti-Mormon literature. Again, we find
stock characters; superficial encounters with our theology; and clichd
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Petersen: Escape from Groundhog Day

and agenda-driven narratives. In an essay published in 1999 entitled


Danger on the Right! Danger on the Left! The Ethics of Recent Mormon Fiction, Eugene England critiqued two anthologiesTurning
Hearts published by Deseret Book and In Our Lovely Deseret published
by Signature Bookand persuasively argued that both anthologies
failed. He was that rarest and most dangerous of ideologues, a member
of the Radical Middle. He mentioned how the stories in the Deseret
Book anthology typically suffered from aesthetic weakness as well as
moralizing, shallow characters, and all-too-tidy conclusions. On the
other hand, England argued that stories in the Signature anthology
suffered less from aesthetic deficiencies but were guilty of the same
sloppy generalization and ideological stereotyping creating similarly
didactic and ethically sterile conclusions. Every Mormon authority
figure is crass, prejudiced, clueless. Almost every first-person narrator
is sensitive and misunderstood. (One is reminded of the winner of
the 1992 Bulwer-Litton contest for the worst first sentence from a bad
novel: I was an extremely, extremely, extremely sensitive child.) In
short, England argues that the stories in both anthologies, with some
exceptions, fail due to vain repetition and lack of originality. Instead of
grappling with the complexity of life and the depth of Mormon theology, England says these stories typically were content to repeat stock
themes and stereotypes. As Hugh Nibley once paraphrased Brigham
Young: There is too much of a sameness in this community.... I am
not a stereotyped Latter-day Saint and do not believe in the doctrine
... away with stereotyped Mormons! (Leaders 16).
In the movie Phil Connors eventually escapes the endless cycle
of repetition. Taking advantage of his situation, Phil becomes soulful. At first only in an attempt to attract the attentions of a pretty
woman, he begins to improve himself. He begins to listen to her and
appreciate what she loves; he becomes an artist. He learns to make ice
sculptures and to play the piano, taking the same lesson over and over
again until his teacher asks whether this is really his first lesson. Yes,
but my father was a piano mover, replies Phil. He also finds ways to
make his world better, changing a tire, saving a child who falls from a
tree, helping a homeless person find shelter, and using the Heimlich
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maneuver on a choking man. And he comes to know and be appreciated by everyone in town.
What frees Phil Connors from the banal repetition of his life are the
same things that can free the Mormon artist. First, we must develop
our talents and pay attention to the craft of storytelling. As Phil Connors comes to learn, we must assume others have something to teach us
and apply ourselves to the work of listening to them. Second, we must
have charity, both for our audience and for our characters: we show
charity for our audience by rewarding them with originality and depth.
Our characters deserve charity by our letting them live and develop;
by making them well rounded and whole; possibly letting lifes pain or
joy win even when we might disagree philosophically; squashing the
ideological didactic urge to either preach at or disillusion our readers.
Finally, as we do this, we will be released from the eternal cycle of the
mundane and enter the eternal cycle of endless possibility, a world of
joy and light and truth. Remember our word recreation as in to play
literally means to create again. Recreation is found in re-creation, but
only in real creation, not in hack writing or mindless repetition.
I think Eugene England would be proud of the recent developments in Mormon literature. A sort of renaissance seems to be taking
place in Mormon literature, drama, and cinema. We have artists who
are reimagining Mormon ideas in bold, creative ways, many coming
from that spooky radical middle. The familiar theme of the missionary narrative has certainly developed in rich and complex ways, from
Eliots Fires of the Mind through Mitchells Angel of the Danube, Gods
Army, The Best Two Years, Errand of Angels, and States of Grace. The
conversion narrative has been rethought in works like Jack Harrells
Vernal Promises and Coke Newells On the Road to Heaven. Richly
textured characters like Todd Robert Petersens Jens Thorsen and
Angela Hallstroms Palmer family are becoming more common, and
they are shown to live human lives in which the gospel doesnt necessarily provide all the answers but does provide comfort and stability.
New themes and social issues are being explored, like the place of gay
individuals in Mormon culture in works like Larsons Little Happy
Secrets and Langfords No Going Back. The stereotypical Mormon
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Petersen: Escape from Groundhog Day

image is being exploded in works like Greg Whiteleys New York Doll
and Elna Bakers The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween
Dance. And Angela Hallstroms recently released Dispensation: Latterday Fiction continues the tradition of collecting the best literary short
fiction of Mormonism, picking up where Eugene Englands Bright
Angels and Familiars left off. I want to celebrate a reawakening of Mormon literature!
Another Nibleyism, if youll forgive my recursion: once when
Hugh was talking to his daughter about the temple, he compared his
constant delight in those same two-hour ceremonies over dozens of
years to a baby learning to walk: A baby doesnt take his first steps and
then sit down! A baby doesnt say, Well, thats it, then, Iknow how
to do that, so I dont need to try anymoreof course not! Ababy
keeps practicing that walk until he can run, not just because he wants
to do that activity for its own sake but for where it can take him! He
twinkled a bit and added, father of eight that he was, And oh! Where
it takes him! Into all kinds of trouble! But what fun! Can you imagine
anything more fun?
Neal A. Maxwell once wrote that given Gods divine love, there
is no boredom on His part amid His repetitive work, for his course,
though one eternal round, involves continuous redemption for His
children; it is full of goodness and mercy as His long-suffering shows
His love in action (5354). To create something original, with charity and mercy, over and over again is, perhaps, our only escape from
Groundhog Day. We may hope to become a type of Nietzschean bermensch, by authentically confronting each new day with a new creation.

Works Cited
Austin, Michael. The Persistence of 19th-Century Mormon Stereotypes in Contemporary Detective Fiction. Sunstone August 1998:
5171. Print.
Baker, Elna. The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance:
A Memoir. New York: Dutton, 2009. Print.
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Bunker, Gary L., and Davis Bitton. The Mormon Graphic Image 1834
1914: Cartoons, Caricatures, and Illustrations. Salt Lake City: U of
Utah P, 1983. Print.
Card, Orson Scott, and David Dollahite, eds. Turning Hearts: Short
Stories on Family Life. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1992. Print.
England, Eugene. Danger on the Right! Danger on the Left! The
Ethics of Recent Mormon Fiction, Dialogue 32.3 (Fall 1999): 1330.
Print.
, ed. Bright Angels and Familiars. Salt Lake City: Signature, 1992.
Errand of Angels. Perf. Erin Chambers. Excel, 2008. DVD.
Fires of the Mind. By Robert Eliot. Margetts Arena Theatre, Brigham
Young University, Provo. November 1974. Performance.
Foster, Craig L. Victorian Pornographic Imagery in Anti-Mormon
Literature. Journal of Mormon History 19 (Spring 1993): 11532. Print.
Givens, Terryl L. The Viper on the Hearth: Mormons, Myths, and the
Construction of Heresy. New York: Oxford UP, 1997. Print.
Gods Army. Dir. Richard Dutcher. Zion Films, 2000. DVD.
Groundhog Day. Perf. Bill Murray. Columbia Pictures, 1993. Film.
Hallstrom, Angela. Bound on Earth. Woodsboro (MD): Parables,
2008. Print.
, ed. Dispensation: Latter-day Fiction. Provo: Zarahemla, 2010.
Print.
Happy Little Secrets. By Melissa Leilani Larson. Dir. Landon Wheeler.
Provo Theatre Company, Provo, Utah. 19 March 2009. Performance.
Harrell, Jack. Vernal Promises. Salt Lake City: Signature, 2003. Print.
Hugh Nibley, Leaders to Managers: The Fatal Shift, Dialogue 16.4
(Winter 1983): 1221. Print.
. Tinkling Cymbals and Sounding Brass: The Art of Telling Tales
about Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. Salt Lake City: Deseret
Book, 1991. Print.
Jones, Megan Sanborn. Performing American Identity in Anti-Mormon
Melodrama. New York: Routledge, 2009. Print.
Lambert, Neal E., and Richard H. Cracroft. Through Gentile Eyes:
A Hundred Years of the Mormon in Fiction. New Era 2 (March
1972): 14. Print.
122

Petersen: Escape from Groundhog Day

Langford, Jonathan. No Going Back. Provo: Zarahemla, 2009. Print.


Maxwell, Neal A. Not My Will, but Thine. Salt Lake City: Deseret,
2002. Print.
Mitchell, Alan Rex. Angel of the Danube. Springville (UT): Ceder
Fort, 2000. Print.
Newell, Coke. On the Road to Heaven. Provo: Zarahemla, 2007. Print.
New York Doll. Dir. Greg Whiteley. First Independent, 2006. DVD.
Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Gay Science. Trans. Walter Kaufmann. New
York: Vintage, 1974. Print.
Petersen, Todd Robert. Rift. Provo: Zarahemla, 2009. Print.
Raleigh, Robert, ed. In Our Lovely Deseret: Mormon Fictions. Salt
Lake City: Signature, 1998. Print.
States of Grace. Dir. Richard Dutcher. Zion Films, 2005. DVD.
The Best Two Years. Dir. Scott S. Anderson. Halestone, 2003. DVD.
Voeltz, Richard A. Groundhog Day, Dj Vu, and the Myth of the
Eternal Recurrence. Interdisciplinary Humanities 15.2 (1998): 179
86. Print.

123

The Myriad Unknown


Douglas L. Talley
A Critical Review of Mark D. Bennions Psalm & Selah: A Poetic Journey
through the Book of Mormon (Woodsboro, Md.: Parables, 2009)

I have an uncle, now deceased, who served in the Army Corp of


Engineers during World War II. He saw combat at Okinawa and
there cleared jungle, pushed dirt, and helped build bridges. Years after
his passing I learned from my aunt that he had first served in the
European theatre and had landed with forces at Omaha Beach on
D Day. I previously had no idea that my uncle was a first-day witness to the literal bloodbath of Omaha Beach. I never once heard
him breathe a word about it. He made only one, shrugging comment
about the war that anyone in the family could ever remember: They
shot at you, even if you didnt have a gun.
In reading Mark D. Bennions collection of poems titled Psalm
& Selah, my uncles single observation of war came vividly to mind.
Psalm & Selah styles itself as a poetic journey through the Book of
Mormon and celebrates the myriad unnamed and unknown souls
of that religious history. I was reading Bennions book with a critical
eye and taking notes when I came to a poem entitled, The Other
Sixty, at which point I surrendered and began reading as an enthusiast. The title of the poem refers to sixty young Ammonites who joined
Helamans original band of two thousand stripling warriors in battle
against their Lamanite enemies. These, The Other Sixty, are introduced collectively in Alma 57:6 and without a single name to their
person:
And it came to pass that in the commencement of the twenty and
ninth year, we received a supply of provisions, and also an addition
to our army, from the land of Zarahemla, and from the land round
about, to the number of six thousand men, besides sixty of the sons of
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Talley: The Myriad Unknown


the Ammonites who had come to join their brethren, my little band
of two thousand.

The poem offers the story of these anonymous sixty with a series of
one line statements about their war experience. The poem might be
the voice of a single youth recounting a chronology of his particular
experience and perhaps speaking for all. Or it might be a combined
voice offering a chronology of the collective experience, beginning
with the groups enlistment at the poems opening:
My father spoke often of burying his sword.
Mom nodded, I know youll return.
I joined to avenge the death of Antipus.
I arrived after sundown.
I wasnt old enough to fight.

The poem then continues with apparently chronological details of


the rigors of training and entrenchment:
I learned from my brother how to march with a stave.
My skin rubbed raw against buckler and shield.

*****
Every night for a year I trenched a tunnel.
I came to know the weakness in bulwarks.

*****
Boulders bedded us down.
My mother died two days after I left.
I slept with one hand tied to a knife.

*****
Rats gnawed at my clothes and haft.

The poem then advances to various observations about the grit,


hardship, and terror of actual combat, about starvation and the suffering of the fallen and wounded:
I found kindred among the vultures and hawks.
The only thing worse than death was escape.
I swatted flies off the wounded.

*****
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My leg was cut off just below the knee.
Weep? Wail? Moan? No word can describe the screams.

Finally, the poem in a quiet, reflective denouement comments


on the emotional fallout of the war experience, the details of post-
traumatic stress syndrome:
I no longer can cry.
I confess: I didnt fight.
At night both armies charge into my dreams.
How do you seize freedom with someone elses life?
My left arm is gone.
Its no use to rehash the oily blame.

At the end of my first reading I suspected there were probably sixty


lines to the poem and that each line might be the separate statement
of sixty individual warriors combining into a summary. The possibility opened that this was not a single voice, but a kaleidoscope of
sixty voices, each speaking up randomly, each with a snippet of experience, a personal highlight, precisely the way my uncle had summed
up his entire war experience, both at Normandy and in Okinawa, in
a single observation: They shot at you even if you didnt have a gun.
At that moment I was converted to the premise that the great drama
of an anonymous life can be captured in a single vivid and compelling
observation. My uncle is virtually unknown to the world, and yet he
left an unforgettable record of the great trauma of his life with one
riveting statement. Bennion has likewise envisioned in his poem the
same terse and grim summation of what must have been the horrendous war experiences of sixty young men who are otherwise unknown
to the world.
Notwithstanding the bone-piercing irony of these one-line summations, an even greater, capstone irony presented itself upon a second
reading. I added up the single lines and counted not sixty, but sixtyone. Surely I must have miscounted so I added up the lines again, but
again I counted sixty-one. Yet the poem was titled The Other Sixty.
The Book of Mormon itself stated there were only sixty striplings
who came to join the original two thousand. Why then were there
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Talley: The Myriad Unknown

sixty-one lines to the poem? What did the poet intend with the extra
line? And then a possible irony occurred to me. Bennion, thinking
deeply through his determined celebration of the Myriad Unknown,
may have imagined there were actually sixty-one warriors and that
one went uncounted and unacknowledged. Mormons record, notwithstanding its label as the most correct book on earth, may have been
mistaken in this one detail, or perhaps had rounded the number to a
convenient sixty. The possibility exists that one went unnoticed.
Bennion perhaps may not have intended this interpretation, but I
will hold to it nonetheless. I prize the oddity and quirkiness of conveying the poignancy of our anonymity by the poems suggestion that
one of the stripling reinforcements went unacknowledged. I further
prize the technique of the poemthe grim authenticity of the singlestatement observationone statement leading to the next and building upon all the previous, and I suppose I find it especially authentic
and compelling because of my uncles personal experience. The poem
rings with a genuine voice, whether it be one voice, or sixty-one voices,
because what impacts us most deeply, what may change us irrevocably,
is often best captured in a single reflection, reduced to an apothegm,
a proverb, a word.
For this poem alone, The Other Sixty, I recommend Psalm &
Selah, yet there are easily another dozen poems with which I am
equally impressed. Nevertheless, I make this recommendation with
some caveats. Bennions book is a decidedly devotional text with a
spiritual sensibility premised upon revealed religion, so (1) it is probably not to the taste of the nonpraying, irreligious reader, who would
not appreciate how one might kneel down to knowing. Also, while
Bennions collection is not necessarily just for Mormons, one will
need more than a passing acquaintance with the Book of Mormon
to follow the many allusions of the poems, so (2) this book is not
general reading matter even for many Mormons, although it could
and should be. Further, Bennions poetry presents a number of complexities and, notwithstanding one recognizable sonnet and villanelle,
it is certainly not conventional rhymed and metered homily, so (3) it
is not for the reader who prefers Best-Loved Poems and expects a tidy
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moral lesson in every ditty. Finally, I came upon several obscurities


of narration which at times puzzled and even troubled me, and so, as
a final cautionary note, (4) the book offers a handful of challenging
passages that will tax the reader. Nevertheless, Bennions technique is
so steady and skilled throughout the poems, as in The Other Sixty,
I want to give him the benefit of the doubt about obscure passages
and chalk my troubles up to my own ignorance. I will happily reread
the book again and review some of the recommended reading in the
books appendix to clear up personal confusion.
Part of the challenge of Psalm & Selah arises from Bennions clear
fondness, like Shakespeares, for polysemy; his words are rife with
multiple meaning. Take, for example, the line quoted above from The
Other Sixty:
I found kindred among the vultures and hawks.

One meaning of the word kindred would be the stripling warriors own family found among the slain as food for vultures. However, another meaning for the word would be kinship, as in a kindred
spirit, one who identifies himself as akin to a vulture or a hawk hunting for prey. The kindred are not a family of blood relatives, but a
family of like predators. The line reads perfectly with either meaning.
Bennions poetry abounds with this kind of wordplay, and the reader
needs to remain nimble and alert to it to fully appreciate his layered
nuances.
Other difficulties are not so readily explained. The poem Rift, for
example, deals with the fissure in our fold when growing antagonism between the supporters of Laman and Lemuel on one hand, and
those of Nephi and Jacob on the other, reaches an irreconcilable rift.
The poem ends with a troubling sentence, which remains an incomplete thought no matter how many times it is read:
The soil hardens as I lift my feet, your swagger
and threats spread over the undergrowth;
fear falls everywhere in the time it takes to spill water
or watch a bowl drop and shatter; and now that
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Talley: The Myriad Unknown


the artificer knows his craft, now that the blacksmith melts the exact
oval of ore, always drilling the apprentice
as afternoon heats up, that sorcerer, heaving its dry spell
over every needle and vine like a wool blanket,
like rippling linen, like older brothers burying the younger ones
or throwing them into the sea.

Swagger and threats have generated fear and spilled into conflict,
as in the image of an argument ending with a shattered bowl. Portents
of battle and war are imminent in the images of artificer, blacksmith
and apprentice melting ore and fashioning weapons. But the clauses
beginning with the words now that do not conclude. That is, now
that the artificer and blacksmith are at their tasks, what then? The
poem does not answer, or answers only with a dangling conditional
phraseas afternoon heats up, that sorcerer, heaving its dry spell...
Certainly Bennion, who teaches college-level English, knows an
incomplete sentence. The ellipsis created by the incomplete thought
can only be intentional, but to what purpose? One possible explanation is that the inconclusiveness of the sentence suggests the inconclusiveness of The Rift. What will be the outcome of the conflict
as it evolves with time into the cruelties of fratricide and warfare?
Would anyone have predicted at the outset that this family quarrel
over rights of inheritance and leadership would deteriorate centuries
later to the point that some women were forced to feed upon the flesh
of their husbands and others were raped, tortured, murdered, and
then devoured as a token of bravery? Indeed, as the afternoon heats
up, that is, as the Rift widens and heads toward the darkness of
nightfall, that sorcererin one sense meaning the beguiler, Time,
and in another, the great deceiver, Satanthat devil begins a work
of uncertain outcome, casting a spell like older brothers burying the
younger ones / or throwing them into the sea. It is a dark mystery,
indeed, set in motion.
The books obscurities may, in fact, all be intentional. It may be
part of Bennions design to introduce indecipherable mystery, just as
scripture will. I draw this conclusion in part from comments made
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by Bennion in an interview with Laura Craner on the Internet blog


AMotley Vision:
I love the certainty and the ambiguity found in the word of God.
Some poems in Psalm & Selah try to imagine the inner lives of . . .
individuals. Other poems connect to places in scripture, such as Zarahemla, Bountiful, the Waters of Mormon, etc. And still other works
in the collection dont necessarily connect to a specific person or place;
rather, they reflect various thoughts Ive had as Ive studied the Book
of Mormon.
I try to read a variety of poets, even those whose work baffles me.

Bennions observations may at times seem abstruse or ambiguous


because he may draw from influences which are by his own admission
baffling. However, he encourages us implicitly that we need not shun
what we do not understand at first go. We have permission to puzzle
over what we encounter in art and literature and to feel baffled as
many times as circumstance may demand. Persistence, as the old saw
reminds us, will pay.
In another poem titled, Curious, the poet references a passage
in the book of Alma and alludes to Hagoth, an exceedingly curious
man who built ships and launched them from the borders of the land
Bountiful into the west sea, and there were many of the Nephites
who did enter therein and did sail forth. One intuits that Bennion
could not resist the allure of the statement that Hagoth and these
people, as recorded in Alma, were never heard of more. That statement is pregnant with all of the fond, lost memory that Bennion is
determined to resurrect and celebrate. The title of the poem offers
multiple meanings. Hagoth is a man of curiosity with ideas that came
faster than the tide / under the seas crash and hiss, but he is also an
oddity, a man of curious behavior, and we as readers are curious about
him. The polysemous title suggests all of these nuances of the word
curious. Hagoth remains behind to build numerous ships for others
to sail, until he finally launches forth himself in the final stunning
lines of the poem:
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I held on to the bow
like Lehi did with his sons,
withered and bent, still believing
that you have to leave a world
to find what is full of promise.

The meanings are multiple and can apply to a number of different journeys(1) the literal journey at sea to discover a new land;
(2) the literary journey that we course through in the Book of Mormon in echo of the voyage undertaken by Lehi and his sons, or (3)the
spiritual journey offered by the words of Christ, which, as Alma tells
us, will carry us beyond this vale of sorrow into a far better land of
promise. With these final lines of the poem I am satisfied that Bennion has likewise offered in his poetry a similar journey. Psalm &
Selah is just such a curious ship as Hagoth built, by which we might
leave the plain and ordinary world and sail for a rich, imaginative one
to find what is full of promise.
Bennion persuades us that much in the unchronicled lives of ordinary people invites celebration and that every honest artistic effort to
bring such lives out of obscurity, including the studied effort of Psalm
& Selah, is praiseworthy. I think of my uncle and the millions like
him, who have been relegated to the ranks of the long forgotten. His
name was DougDouglas Murphyand I am honored to be his
namesake, the namesake of one who survived a horrific war honorably
while being shot at, even though he didnt have a gun.

131

Of Speaking the Truth, Scapegoats, and


Absorbing the Rhetoric of Blame
Tyler Chadwick
A Review of Melissa G. Moore and M. Bridget Cooks Shattered Silence:
The Untold Story of a Serial Killers Daughter (Springville, UT: Cedar
Fort, 2009)

Speaking the Truth


I must begin this review essay, which Ive had great difficulty writing
for reasons I hope become clear in my rhetorical wanderings, with a
series of caveats, beginning here: I make no claims to represent the literary conscience of America or, for that matter, of Mormon-America
neither do I feel the need to make such claims, simply because I dont
believe I represent the mainstream American/Mormon American literary consciousness or even, perhaps, that there is such a thing. As a poet
first, Im attracted to language that is lyrical, visceral, and honest; that
draws me toward deeper connection with my inner self/ves, with others, and with God. In short, I like words and combinations of words
that cut to the quick, that dont simply affirm my version of reality
(though sometimes thats nice, too), but that disrupt it, that persuade
me to reevaluate what I knowor think I knowabout myself and
the moral universe I inhabit.
While this union of disruption and connection might seem contradictory, I believe connecting with our deepest selves and with others,
including God, requires a constant reappraisal of where we stand in
relation to them. And thats one thing literature does: in the words of
Mormon poet-critic Karl Keller, as an essentially anarchic, rebellious,
shocking, analytical, critical, deviant, absurd, subversive, destructive
rhetorical force, literature attempts to destroy institutions; it challenges individual settled faith; it will disrupt all life. For this reason,
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Chadwick: Of Speaking the Truth

Keller continues (and I echo his confession), I have to admit that


I hate starting the study of a new novel, a new poem, or a new play,
because I know that one or another of my religious/moral/intellectual assumptions may be questioned, challenged, disproved, destroyed.
To read sensitively is to come under serious attack. In wrestling with
each new work of literature ..., I have to shift the grounds of my belief,
and I find this painful but productive because, though its essentially
faith-destroying, not faith-promoting, ... the destruction of flabby
assumptions is nonetheless a strengthening process (20). Disruption,
then, can ultimately lead to a more grounded, though paradoxically
dynamic, sense of self and to deeper connection with and understanding of the universe.
And thats one reason I keep reading and one reason, I think, why
writing this review has proved more difficult than I anticipated when
I first found a review copy of Melissa G. Moores memoir Shattered
Silence: The Untold Story of a Serial Killers Daughter in my inbox
because writing, a sister process to reading, is just as disruptive a force.
Like reading, to borrow from Keller, it prompts self-examination/
world-examination/existence-examination, the search for self, the
persistence amid discovered meaninglessness, a destructive reexamination of the grounds of ones own belief. And like the reader, the
writer should be constantly reexamining his [or her] faith and learning where it is insubstantial and superficial in order to create a properly disruptive, compelling, and spiritually real experience for readers
(21). The specific challenge for writers in this arises in the notion that
to speak the truth of experienceand to speak it well, as readers
expect them torequires more than mere self- or world- or existenceexamination. It takes real rhetorical effort, including responsibility to
the truth of ones experience, to ones audience, and to language itself.
In terms of my experience with Shattered Silence, Ive tried to hold
myself accountable to these rhetorical principles by keeping myself
open to the truth of Moores experience as daughter of Keith Jesperson, the Happy Face Killer; to find or create spaces where shared
language (or the approximation thereof ) might open opportunities
for me to connect to, and reconcile my words with, the realities of
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her sometimes grisly world. This has been no easy prospect since,
first, Im not female and Ill never really know what its like to be one
(though that doesnt keep me from trying to understand); and second,
the only experience Ive had with serial killers has come through the
movies or episodes of CSI and Criminal Minds. Nonetheless, I consider myself a willing learner, and Ive hoped I could meet Moore on
some common rhetorical ground so she could show me, in a manner
of speaking, how the other side lives.
Through this process, Ive also thought a great deal about the
desires, needs, and intellectual/rhetorical demands of my immediate audience of readers of Mormon letters and, by extension, Moores
potential readers, wondering with what critical/rhetorical focus and
what language I might best honor Moores intent (she is, after all, part
of my audience and I feel some responsibility to her and her words);
the complexity of her psychological landscape; and the intellectual,
psychological, and rhetorical demands her narrative might make (or
fail to make, as the case may be) on that audience.
Now, caveats thoroughly expressed, time to dive into Moores text.

Living Unpleasant Realities


In the opening scene of Shattered Silence, Moore describes a moment
of violence from her childhood that characterizes the unpleasant
realities of her life as daughter of an abused and emotionally abusive
father turned serial killer (228). Narrating for her younger self, Moore
begins, August 1984[:] I squinted into the bright blue morning sky
and couldnt help the shudder that rippled through my little body (1).
But at just five years old, shed shrugged off this foreboding sense that
danger was on the horizon (Moores older self calls these impressions
knowings) because, in her words, It was a lovely day, and I had a
secret (1): a barnyard home built on respect and compassion in which
she was partnered with a stray mother cat in the nurturing of four
kittens to independence.
But her secret was shattered when one kitten was drawn from her
small circle of security by her fathers taunting call: Here, Kitty, Kitty,
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Kitty! ... I wont hurt you. I promise. Moore reflects, At that moment,
I wanted desperately to believe that promise. But I had heard it before.
It was not a real promise, it was a lie. It was a lie every single time
(3). As the child begged for her kittens release, her father gathered
them from her helpless grasp, took them to the clothesline, and, in
a moment of appalling cruelty, hung each kitten, biting and scratching, with a clothespin fixed to the scruff of each neck. Running for
her mothers help, little Melissa replayed memories of her fathers violence toward catsmemories that recalled the deep hurt and pain
afresh. But she found no willing partner in her mother, who simply
pulled from her daughters grip, and, blank eyed, turned back to folding the laundry into neat little piles and neat little rows (4)a manifestation of her efforts to create some order in her otherwise unstable
existence as an emotionally and mentally battered wife.
Moore returns to and analogizes this moment later in her memoir
when she relates how, as a teenager, after being raped by her boyfriend
and realizing she was pregnant, she wondered whether abortion was
the answer. Her boyfriends family, she says, would have paid for the
procedure. But she was looking for support beyond financial, for
some human connection that could whisk her away from past abuses
and mistakesa relationship that could save her from herself and
her fathers crippling influence. In short, she confesses, she wanted a
knight in shining armorsomeone to slay my dragons and allay my
fears. Someone to fix everything and make it all right (153). Yet, she
continues, in Sean (her boyfriends pseudonym) No knight had come.
There was no soldier to fight my battles, slay my dragons, kiss away
my fears, and chase the demons away from inside my mind (154).
She was alone, in her words, Like my baby kittens on the clothesline,
... suspended in mid-air, beaten back by life (154).
So drawing this connection between her fathers violence, the
deformative power it had over her development, and the string of
unpleasant realities from which her life was hungbroken familial
bonds, neglect, abuse, rape, teenage pregnancy, and moreMoore
points to her own perpetuation of the attitude of nonaction, fear,
bitterness, and blame that enabled her passive engagement in the
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intergenerational cycle of abuse. And as becomes clear in her memoir:


it took many years, much grief and pain, and maturity born of deep
introspection before she could bear this cross, which had somehow
fallen to her, in hope.

To Pretend Someone Else Did It;


or Giving the Devil His Due
I trace strains of the helpless and blame-riddled attitude Moore
had developed and the rhetoric derived from it directly through her
fathers pointing finger. In his own voyeuristic engagement with his
past, as found in Jack Olsens journalistic and disturbingly vivid I:
The Creation of a Serial Killer, Jesperson repeatedly casts himself in the
self-designated role as habitual victim (124), passing the buck for his
violence to his father, an alcoholic who verbally and physically abused
his kids and who in turn blamed his behavior on the might makes
right culture of his upbringing (Moore 220); to the women he killed,
who had just used him, he says, for sex or drugs, a ride across country
or money; to his ex-wife, because he hadnt been ready to marry, but
did anyway and thus, in a sense, gave up his freedom and his personal potential; to his peers, siblings included, who brutalized and
taunted him throughout his troubled youth; also to his ex-girlfriend,
the justice system, his penis, the devilany person (or part thereof ),
social system, or religious idea that he feels slighted his good-natured
soul. Yet, he even denies himself the prospect of this essentially pure
nature when he comments that, from an early age, he was possessed
of two selves: Mr. Nice Guy and the demon (Olsen 26), the one to
whom he attributes (or on whom he blames, as the case may be) his
essentially human acts of kindness, the other on whom he blames his
grotesque acts of violence.
In his more honest moments he does come close to shouldering
the blame for murdering eight womenclose, but not quite. Discussing his first kill, he admits that the act had come straight from my
fantasies (17), a near confession that, in the end, only buffers him
from the weight of conscience because the moments surrounding the
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murder were essentially like moving through a fantasy, an elaborate


dream: the realm where the subconscious subverts the conscious mind,
where we cant really be held responsible for what we think or do. He
further justifies this blame-bending charade by observing that I tried
to forget the details of what Id done, to pretend someone else did it
(17). Just as we often forget the details of dreams, painting them in
broad strokes on the walls of memory as we move beyond the pretense
of fantasy into and through consciousness, here Jesperson works to
slough off his reality for a more favorable lie, one that he rationalized
further when he learned that two drifters had claimed responsibility
for his crime, which, in his words, thus wasnt my problem anymore
(18). Hed found a pair of willing scapegoats and absolved himself of
guilt as he watched them bear his wrongdoing across the public stage
into prison.
When he finally began taking responsibility for the murders, it was
in taunting jabs leveled at law-enforcement officials in graffiti penned
on public restroom walls and in letters to newspapers he felt needed
to be corrected because they had some details of the killings wrong.
His words were thus meant more to stroke his own ego than to actually demonstrate responsibility for his actions and their influence on
the world, including on those he claims he cared for most: his children. Indeed, in his imitation and escalation of the violence of his
pastdeveloping from an abused boy and young man to an arsonist
and a torturer of animals to a defiler and serial killer of women
he propagated the culture of bitterness, blame, and brutality he had
once despised, passing a ruinous and soul-numbing legacy to his posterity because he continually gave control of his life to forces of fear,
manipulation, and blame. His choices thus precluded the possibility
of influencing his family line for good.
And while Im perfectly willing to admit that Jespersons brutalized past, punctuated with some degree of mental illness, may have
severely restricted his freedom to choose, each matter of abuse and
murder ultimately hinged on his decisions. In other words, as much
as trouble came rushing to meet him as a result of his past, he ultimately chose to tackle it headlong in the middle, fists of desire ablaze.
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Metabolizing Blame, Shattering Silence


Born into such a caustic family culture and conditioned early on with
and into its finger-pointing and violence-enabling mentality, Moore was
destined to fill her parents roles as enablers and habitual victim[s], to
pass this destructive legacy on to the next generation in her family line.
That is, she likely would have fulfilled such a role if she hadnt listened
to the series of preternatural knowings (1)still, small promptings
that led her away from her fathers influence, that inspired her to reach
for something more, and that helped her mature into a woman with
strength enough to metabolize this culture of violence and blame by:
1) establishing a support system for herself outside the home, including the building of positive friendships (one of which led to a healthy
marriage) and religious affiliation (she joined the LDS Church in her
early twenties, though she seems to have been spiritually sensitive from
childhood and had fellowshipped with other faiths through her teens);
2) by educating herself in ways to overcome the negative influence of
her past; and 3) by choosing to educate others in these possibilities for
encouragement and developing the will to overcome.
Moores actions in this regardfrom heeding the nudges of conscience and instinct despite not understanding why, to forging new
friendships and institutional affiliations meant to facilitate sustainable
personal and cultural changeillustrate the moral courage required
to stand against and ultimately to absorb injustice at any level, including the familial: the relational space we are most intimately acquainted
with and thus most vulnerable in. Of those who exercise such courage,
the late Carlfred Broderick, renowned Mormon psychologist, family therapist, and marriage and family scholar, observes, Although ...
[some] children may suffer innocently as victims of violence, neglect,
and exploitation, through the grace of God some find the strength
to metabolize the poison within themselves, refusing to pass it on to
future generations (38). Elsewhere he calls these individuals transitional character[s] because they change the entire course of a lineage
in a single generation, ... filter[ing] the destructiveness out of the
family line so that the generations downstream will have a supportive
foundation upon which to build productive lives (qtd. in Tanner).
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Moore observes of this metabolizing process, especially as it relates


to the transitional work shes undertaken in her life and which she
means to represent rhetorically in her memoir, that in order to keep
atrocities from happening [at any level], we must learn from the violence of our collective past; and such personal and cultural education
begins, she suggests, with individuals who have enough courage to
shatter the silence of injustice and violence and to share with others
what theyve learned in their confrontations with the darkest side of
humanity. Only then, she concludes, once we acknowledge ... [this
darkness] and refuse to sweep it under the carpet, can we fully overcome our personal and cultural victimhood and live fully in the light
(21920).

Having Survived To Tell the Story


Despite these heady claims for shattering the silence imposed on
heras a victim of intergenerational violence and her life as daughter
of a serial killerperhaps, even, because of them and the challenge
of negotiating complex psychological terrain in a vehicle of words
Moores memoir suffers from a tragic rhetorical flaw: while the writing is earnest and offered to readers over the altar of good intentions,
there are times when it barely manages to convey more than the tone
of a personal diary. The text is very loosely written (to the point that
it could use an extra series of revisions), riddled with grammar, usage,
and unjustified time-jumping issues and inconsistent analogies that
ultimately undermine her attempts to craft a more affective, universally compelling, and silence-shattering narrative, something I believe
her unique experience demands, especially when her story is juxtaposed with her fathers overpowering narrative and read in light of
the generic standards of the memoir itself and of affective language
use in general.
Speaking generally to how the memoirs standards for content,
tone, and propriety have developed and expanded over time, William
Zinsser comments that until the 1990s, memoir writers drew a veil
of modesty over what they wrote. There was an agreed-upon code
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that you didnt reveal the most squalid details of your life. However,
with the advent of tabloid TV, shame went out the window, Zinsser
observes. No family was too dysfunctional for people to talk about
and write a memoir about, though these memoirists simply took
pleasure in playing the victim, in heaping personal failures and perceived wrongs on parents, siblings, and coaches in order to absolve
themselves of responsibility for personal choices gone awry.
Yet, Zinsser continues, a few great writers turned things around
with psychologically and rhetorically demanding memoirs that dealt
with childhoods every bit as terrible as those written by the whiners
and the bashers, but that were instead written with love and forgiveness. These writers didnt pass the buck for personal weaknesses or
present failures; in fact, Zinsser asserts, they were as hard on their
younger selves as they were on their elders. And with this acknowledgment of their own accountability, they refused to engage in and
thus absorbed the prevailing rhetoric of blame, saying, in effect, that,
yes, we come from a tribe of fallible people and we have survived to
tell the story.
Though Im fairly certain Moore is unaware of this movement of
memoirs written with an eye toward the fallibility of ones elders and
ones younger self yet all the while grounded in the virtues of courage, love, and forgiveness (an unfortunate lack on her part, which, if
filled, could have infused her narrative with greater rhetorical stature
and influence and helped her look her fathers story in the eyes), she
does acknowledge, however unconsciously, the space created by such
writers when she claims that she lives in the perfect place at the perfect time to tell her own story of survival (xv). And that, I believe, is
the singular merit of Moores book, glaring formal inconsistencies and
weaknesses notwithstanding: having survived her childhood amidst a
tribe of fallible, bitter, and violent people, shes found a way to begin
metabolizing the rhetoric of blame and to ground herself and her
story in the possibilities of personal and rhetorical growth and change,
of forgiveness, and of a world that yearns together for a way out of violence into healing, temperance, tolerance, charity, love, and joy (220).

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Works Cited
Broderick, Carlfred. Letter. I Have a Question. Ensign (Aug. 1986),
3841. Web. 10 Dec. 2009.
Keller, Karl. On Words and the Word of God: The Delusions of a
Mormon Literature. Tending the Garden. Ed. by Eugene England
and Lavina Fielding Anderson. Salt Lake City: Signature Books,
1996. 1322. Print.
Moore, Melissa G. and M. Bridget Cook. Shattered Silence. Springville,
UT: Cedar Fort, 2009. Print.
Olsen, Jack. I: The Creation of a Serial Killer. New York: St. Martins
Press, 2002. Print.
Tanner, Kristi. Becoming a Transitional Character: Changing Your
Family Culture. Forever Families. School of Family Life at Brigham
Young U, Aug. 2002. Web. 10 Dec. 2009.
Zinsser, William. Memoirs and McCourt. NYTimes.com. The New
York Times Company, 24 Jul. 2009. Web. 10 Dec. 2009.

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Closer to the Source


Joseph Geisner, with additional comments by Jeffrey Needle
A Review of The Joseph Smith Papers: Revelations and Translations,
Manuscript Revelation Books, Facsimile Edition, edited by Robin Scott
Jensen, Robert J. Woodford, Steven C. Harper (Salt Lake City: Church
Historians Press and Deseret Book, 2009)

The latest volume from the Joseph Smith Papers project, Revelations and Translations, has created quite a buzz in the Mormon historical community. Numerous articles in the Church News, Deseret
News, Mormon Times, Salt Lake Tribune, and the Ensign have covered
the publication. BYU Studies published the papers presented at the
May 2009 Mormon History Association conference, which discussed
the publication of this volume. Many blogs have posted interviews
with editors or presented reviews of the volume. The reason for all the
excitement is manifold. The book is a beautiful example of printing.
It provides Mormons with some of the earliest records of the church,
and the contents of pages 8405 are being made available for the first
time with this publication. This volume consists of two revelation
books recorded by scribes employed by the Prophet Joseph Smith.
The manuscript books cover the years 1828 to 1834, a period in which
a large percentage of Smiths revelations were received.
This new volume may be the crown jewel of the thirty-plus
projected volumes. In this volume of Revelations and Translations the reader will find the raw manuscripts of one hundred and
nine items in Revelation Book 1 and fifty three items in Revelation
Book 2. The volume has two parts: the Book of Commandments
and Revelations is designated Revelation Book 1, and the Kirtland
Revelations Book is designated Revelation Book 2. The volume has
a series introduction, a volume introduction, and each Revelation
Book has an introduction. Each page of the two revelation books is
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reproduced in a color photograph on glossy paper. The facing page


has a printed line-for-line, matching typescript. For easy identification, changes found in the manuscript are color-coded to the name
of the person making the change.
The importance of these manuscript books can be illustrated with
a letter written by Joseph Smith and the revelations themselves. On
July 31, 1832, Joseph wrote a letter to W. W. Phelps, warning and
instructing Phelps: I will exhort you to be careful not to alter the
sense of any of them for he that adds or diminishes to the prop[h]
ecies must come under the condemnation writen therein (qtd. in Jessee, Personal 273). The manuscripts themselves declare these are the
words of Jesus Christ and they are not to be tampered with: Behold,
and lo, these are the words of Alpha and Omega, even Jesus Christ.
Amen (D&C 81:7), listen to the words of Jesus Christ, your Lord and
your Redeemer (D&C 15:1), and These sayings are true and faithful:
wherefore transgress them not, neither take therefrom (D&C 68:34).
The preface to the Book of Commandments, itself a revelation, in
Revelation Book 1, declares that the published volume of these manuscripts is the Lords and his servants authority, and those who go
forth bearing these tidings unto the Inhabitants of the Earth to them
is power given to seal both on Earth & in Heaven (223).
Exploring the manuscripts makes readers feel as though they have
leaped into a Dan Brown novel. The volume invites readers down a
number of avenuesresearch, critical text evaluation, theological
development, historical context, or a search to understand the revelatory process.
Some revelations are recorded in both Revelation Book 1 and Revelation Book 2, like Sections 76 and 78, allowing readers to compare
changes and track theological developments. Section 78 is found in
manuscript form in both revelation books, and can also be found
in manuscript in the Newel K. Whitney collection. The last could
be the earliest manuscript of the three. Quite a number of changes
occurred in Section 78 when it was published in the 1835 Doctrine and
Covenants. The text about Michael your prince and Adam-ondiAhman were additions to the revelation after these manuscripts were
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made. Section 76 is one of the most popular theological teachings


for Mormons and is commonly called The Vision. Though neither
manuscript is the original recording of the vision, each allows readers
to get as close to the original as possible. And there is debate as to
which of these two manuscripts is the earliest.
With the publication of this volume we have the earliest wording
for the Testimony of Witnesses for the revelations of Joseph Smith,
much like the testimonies for the Book of Mormon. The testimony is
found on page 215 and titled 73 Revelation, with the editors suggesting it was given about November 1, 1831. The testimony is signed by
thirteen priesthood holders, most signing after November 1831. John
Whitmer copied five additional names onto the testimony manuscript. It is interesting to note that none of the eleven witnesses of
the Book of Mormon signed this testimony document. Some of the
witnessesJoseph Smith Sr., Hyrum Smith, Martin Harris, Hiram
Page and Samuel Smithwere not in attendance for the meetings
in November 1831 when this revelation was recorded. Other Book of
Mormon witnessesPeter Whitmer Jr, Christian Whitmer, David
Whitmer, John Whitmer and Oliver Cowderywere in attendance
for these November meetings, but did not sign the testimony.
Why these Book of Mormon witness names are missing from this
testimony calls for further study. The 1835 Doctrine and Covenants
also contains this revelation, but it is called the written Testimony of
the Twelve for the Doctrine and Covenants (255). The revelation can
also be found in Dean Jessees The Papers of Joseph Smith (1:36768).
This manuscript version has some ten words missing from the manuscript found in Revelation Book 1. Having this testimony manuscript
available allows us to see its original intent and how it was later used
by Smith and the church.
The volume gives us an appreciation for the accuracy of Ezra
Booths letters that Ira Eddy published in the Ohio Star. Booth wrote
these letters from September 12, 1831, to December 6, 1831. Booth gives
a brief history and some details about the early church not usually
found in other works. In one of Booths letters he writes, I have in my
possession the 27th commandment to Emma my daughter in Zion;
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and in Revelation Book 1, John Whitmer has written 27th Commandment A Revelation to Emma (3839). Historians had often
wondered what Booth meant by 27th commandment, and now the
reason he used this phrase is known.
Another more substantial comparison can be found with Doctrine
and Covenants Section 28. This section is Book of Commandments
Chapter 30 and is found in Revelation Book 1 (5153). Comparing
this document with the Book of Commandments and the Ezra
Booth letter (Ohio Star, December 8, 1831) one discovers some very
important differences. The manuscript in Revelation Book 1 provides
us with the source for these changes found in the Book of Commandments. Apparently, Sidney Rigdon went through the manuscript and
made changes for its publication in the Book of Commandments.
One of the important changes Rigdon makes is identifying the place
for the city of Zion. The original revelation has among the Lamanites; the Rigdon change found in the Book of Commandments has
it on the borders by the Lamanites. Booths letter has the original
wording found in the manuscript. This does not mean Booth copied
the revelation from Revelation Book 1. Revelation Book 1 has an error
John Whitmer made in copying the revelation; Booths copy found in
his letter does not contain this error.
It is important to put this new volume in perspective. One of the
manuscript books, Revelation Book 1, has been housed with the First
Presidency collection since Joseph Fielding Smith became church president in 1970. According to the introduction, Smith may have known
about the manuscript book as early as 1907 (4). Church authorities like
B.H. Roberts, who worked in the historians office and wrote extensively on church history, had no knowledge of this manuscript. From
the beginning of the twentieth century to about 2005, the importance
of this manuscript book and the information contained therein have
been unknown to church leadership or its historians and scholars
studying the texts of Joseph Smiths revelations.
For years historians believed a manuscript collection or manuscript book existed for the publishing of the Book of Commandments.
This collection was believed to have been written and organized in
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November 1831 at Hiram, Ohio. When Revelation Book 1 was first


announced last year, many people came to the conclusion this must be
the manuscript collection for the Book of Commandments. Internal
evidence in the manuscript book itself shows it was used for the publication of the Book of Commandments. The editors of this volume
have concluded the book was not intended as the manuscript book
for the Book of Commandments publication. Revelation Book 1 was
actually created and maintained as part of John Whitmers church
calling. Whitmer was called to be Church historian on March 8, 1831.
In response to his calling, Whitmer began copying Smith revelations
into the manuscript book. When Whitmer and Cowdery were called
at the conference of November 1831 to publish Smiths revelations, it
was decided to use the manuscript book Whitmer had created for his
calling as church historian. This is an example of how the publication
of this important volume is providing new historical evidence that
completely changes our understanding of the way the events occurred.
In the last few years, an avalanche of primary sourcebooks has been
published. This volume fits quite well with books like Early Patriarchal
Blessings, Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, Wilford Woodruffs Journals,
Far West Record, Kirtland Council Minute Book,The Nauvoo Endowment
Companies, and Words of Joseph Smith. All of the forgoing publications
provide us with various types of documents that help Mormons understand their rich history. This new volume will help readers understand
those first critical years of the Churchs infancy. This book provides
documents for a period in which the historical record is quite limited.
Many questions will be answered and many questions will be raised
because of this volume.
Church leaders have discussed and written about changes in Mormon scripture. This volume brings to light many changes in Joseph
Smiths revelations. Only forty-five years ago, President HughB. Brown
as a member of the First Presidency wrote, None of the early revelations of the Church have been revised, and the Doctrine and Cove
nants stands as printed. During this same period, Wilford Woods
Joseph Smith Begins His Work was pulled from Deseret Book stores
due to content suggesting changes in the revelations. Individuals were
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told the books were out of print when, in fact, the book was still in
print and available to other stores. Those who inquired after the books
were told that the scriptures in their present format were identical in
content (Wood; Openshaw). The Wood books reproduced the first
edition of the Book of Mormon, the 1833 Book of Commandments,
and the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants. In a related statement, Elder
BoydK. Packer said this in the April 1974 General Conference: Now,
Iadd with emphasis that such changes [in the books of revelation] have
been basically minor refinements in grammar, expression, punctuation,
clarification. Nothing fundamental has been altered. Why are they not
spoken of over the pulpit? Simply because by comparison they are so
insignificant and unimportant as literally to be not worth talking about.
After all, they have absolutely nothing to do with whether the books
are true(93).
Similar ideas about Smiths first revelation, The Book of Mormon, can be found. In the October 1961 Conference, President Joseph
Fielding Smith said,
It is true that when the Book of Mormon was printed the printer was
a man who was unfriendly. The publication of the book was done
under adverse circumstances, and there were a few errors, mostly
typographicalconditions that arise in most any book that is being
publishedbut there was not one thing in the Book of Mormon or in
the second edition or any other edition since that in any way contradicts the first edition, and such changes as were made, were made by
the Prophet Joseph Smith because under those adverse conditions the
Book of Mormon was published. But there was no change of doctrine.

Recently Royal Skousen has written, The original [Book of Mormon] manuscript supports the hypothesis that the text was given to
Joseph Smith word for word and Joseph Smiths editing for the second and third editions (1837 and 1840) represents human editing, not
a revealed revision of the text.
Other writers have felt differently about changes made to scripture.
Joseph Anderson, secretary to the First Presidency, wrote in the 1970s
attesting to the accuracy of Woods books. Anderson, in discussing
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changes made in the Book of Mormon, writes: Smith made many


corrections in the 1837 and the 1840 editions of the Book of Mormon. Anderson then goes on to discuss the changes in the Doctrine
and Covenants: Smith, being the one who received these revelations
and had them recorded, likewise would have a right to add or to subtract from, or change, the revelations and did so in some cases. Currently, the FAIR wiki site states the following: Joseph didnt claim to
be hearing a voice, and he didnt claim to be quoting God or taking
dictation. Rather, impressions would come to him, which he would
put into words. Joseph clearly did not consider them direct quotations from God, since he was quite happy to revise them, edit them
later, etc.
How one handles the above comments in light of the redactions,
changes in words and phrases, and theological changes will be an individual endeavor. This new volume will allow access to the revelations
and allow readers to see for themselves the changes that have been
made. By seeing these pages of scripture in their early form, the reader
can have an informed understanding of the revelatory process. This
volume makes clear that the manuscript revelations are gifts from
God. The printed volume is a gift from the Church, and the editing and photographs are remarkable gifts from the editors and those
working on the papers project.

Comments by Jeffrey Needle


Joe Geisners comments easily stand on their own. Rather than
write a separate review, Joe has kindly allowed me to piggyback my
few thoughts onto his review, to offer a nonmembers perspective.
Since hearing about the content of this volume at a talk given
by Elder Marlin K. Jensen, the current Church historian, I couldnt
wait to get my hands on it. It sounded like just the thing for Mormonphiles like me, who have an enormous interest in all things LDS,
but who have no emotional attachment to the claims of the religion.
As Joe points out in his review, leaders have been reluctant over the
years to admit that substantive, important changes were made to the
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revelations. This volume could signal a new era in Mormon historytellingsurely good news!
Ive pondered the reluctance of Church authorities to lay out the
historical record cleanly and completely. Its almost as if some leaders
feared that Mormonism was a house of cards that might collapse at
any moment if members discovered that changes and alterations were
made in the revelations. Is Mormonism so frail, so unsteady on its feet,
that a whiff of the truth might make it all come down?
As Richard Bushman said some time ago, Weve grown up. We
can now discuss our past openly and honestly. Elder Jensen adds,
We have nothing to hide. Bravo! And with this volume, we can see
a glimpse of the richness and variety of the revelatory experience in
early Mormonism. More importantly, we can now understand revelation as a progressive and flexible phenomenon, rather than a producer
of static communication from God to man.
Of course, some realities emerge whenever discussing religious
institutions and their telling of their own story. Sociology 101 teaches
us that the primary purpose of every institution is self-preservation,
that organizations will not do anything to threaten their stability and
existence. In Mormonism, the vast number of new members, those
who must receive the milk first and then the meat, necessitates a careful telling of a history that might be called faith-promoting.
But after a while, the milk no longer suffices. Then comes the time
for the meat. Frankly, finding meat on the Mormon menu has been
pretty tough. The Bible itself tells us: But the path of the just is as
the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day
(Proverbs 4:18). Does this apply to prophetic experience as well? Of
course it does! Why then do some shy away from the more difficult
issues, such as changes to the revelations, when such changes can be
understood as the result of that light shining brighter and brighter?
As time passes and as that light continues to shine, changes are
to be expected. Some may balk: why not just create new revelations?
Why alter what previous prophets have written? The citation from
Proverbs, I believe, contains the answer to this question. Not only
does the doctrine of continuing revelation allow such updating, but it
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virtually requires it. While ultimate truth may be static and unchanging (some would dispute this), the reality is that our perception of
that truth, and our expression of our understanding of that truth,
confront us from day to day.
Prophets are fallible; they are, after all, people just like you and me.
With a certain amount of boldness and, perhaps, some private doubts,
these inspired men and women have penned their thoughts for all to
read. At times theyve had to go back and amend their writings. As
their own vision of Truth became more focused, it is only natural to
expect that they would go back and reinterpret their own views to
conform to more recent revelation.
I can recall coming across a volume from Bookcraft early in my
explorations of Mormonism. It discussed Josephs First Vision. To
my surprise, it related several versions of that experience. The version
canonized in the Pearl of Great Price is not the earliest, but is, perhaps, the version that is most faith-promoting. I wondered at the time
how Mormons could accept the canonized version so readily. Today I
understand the rationale and have little trouble with it.
Was the Church ready for this book on the First Vision back when
it was published? I recall it was published in 1980. Disturbingly, since
then, the Church has shown little willingness to turn the historical
pages and find the exquisite truth that lay behind the faith-promoting
teachings. Joe mentions a few of the General Authorities who tried to
perpetuate a stereotype that simply falls to the side when considered
closely and with complete honesty. Im confident theyre aware of what
has actually taken place throughout their history. Im also confident
that their primary mission has been to present a confidence-building
account that would feed the flock and encourage faithfulness.
Maybe this is why I treasure this newest volume so much. Yes, it
weighs about 100 pounds (slight exaggeration?). And no, it isnt as
compelling as a Dan Brown novel, nor as titillating as the latest Danielle Steel romance. But after Brown and Steel recede into our collective memory, this volume will stand tall as one of the most important
and relevant releases from the Churchs press.
Make no mistake: at nearly a hundred bucks, this is a big investment.
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Geisner, with Needle: Closer to the Source

But its worth grabbing this volume now and spending some quality
time discovering the roots of Mormonism. If Karl Barth was correct,
that scripture was, in effect, a divine-human encounter that morphs
into a personal contact point for each of us individually, this book can
come alive as evidence that early LDS revelation was, and still is, this
same kind of encounter.
Each reader meets God in the scriptures in a different way. Early
LDS leaders likewise experienced God in their own deeply personal
way. And as their minds scanned the theological horizon, and came to
understand Josephs revelations in new and exciting ways, they journeyed through those revelations and clarified so many points, filled so
many holes.
What a treasure this book is! My excitement about owning this
book is eclipsed only by my anticipation of whats coming next. Has
Mormonism turned a corner in the telling of history? I hope so.

Works Cited
Anderson, Joseph. Letter to T. G. Witsitt. 29 July 1974. TS.
Brown, Hugh B. Letter to Morris L. Reynolds. 13 May 1966. TS.
BYU Studies. 48.3 (2009). Print.
FAIR: Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research. Book
of Mormon/Lamanites/Referenced in the Doctrine and Cove
nants. The Fair Wiki. 29 November 2009. Web. 28 April 2010.
Far West Record. Ed. Donald Q. Cannon and Lyndon W. Cook. Salt
Lake City: Deseret, 1983. Print.
Joseph Smith Begins His Work. Ed. Wilford C. Wood. 2 vols. Salt Lake
City: Wilford Wood, 1958. Print.
Kirtland Council Minute Book. Ed. Fred C. Collier and William S.
Harwell. Salt Lake City: Colliers. 1996. Print.
Marquardt, H. Michael. Early Patriarchal Blessings. Salt Lake City:
Smith-Pettit, 2007. Print.
Openshaw, Marie. Letter W. E. Lewis. 3 Oct. 1967. Letter to John M.
Cuthbert. 24 Jan. 1973. TS.
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Packer, Boyd K. We Believe All That God Has Revealed. Ensign


May 1974: 93. LDS.org. Web. 28 April 2010.
Personal Writings of Joseph Smith. Ed. Dean Jessee. 2nd ed. Salt Lake
City: Deseret, 2002. Print.
Skousen, Royal. Changes in the Book of Mormon. Times and Seasons: Truth Will Prevail. 2009. Web. 28 April 2010.
Smith, Joseph Fielding. Conference Reports. October 1961. LDS Library
.com. Web. 28 April 2010.
The Joseph Smith Papers: Journals, Vol. 1: 18321839. Ed. Dean Jessee,
Ronald Esplin, and Richard Lyman Bushman. Salt Lake City:
Church Historians Press, 2008. Print.
The Joseph Smith Papers: Revelations and Translations: Manuscript Revelation Books. Ed. Dean Jessee, Ronald Esplin, and Richard Lyman
Bushman. Salt Lake City: Church Historians Press, 2009. Print.
The Nauvoo Endowment Companies, 18451846: A Documentary History. Ed. Devery Scott Anderson and Gary James Bergera. Salt
Lake City: Signature. 2005. Print.
The Papers of Joseph Smith. Ed. Dean Jessee. 2 vols. Salt Lake City:
Deseret, 1989. Print.
The Words of Joseph Smith. Ed. Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook.
Provo: Brigham Young UP, 1980. Print.
Wilford Woodruff s Journals. Ed. Scott G Kenney. 9 vols. Salt Lake
City: Signature, 198385. Print.
Wood, Wilford C. Letter to Edmond C. Gruss. 22 March 1967. TS.

152

About the Artist

Shawn Randall has an MFA in Media Design and Design Research


from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. He has
worked in a variety of business and government sectors with clients
including Disney, Nokia, Warner Brothers, the Department of Defense,
and punk rock band All Systems Go. His core specialty, design research,
is incorporated into each project he undertakes. For one of his most
influential clients, the United Nations, Shawn co-wrote, filmed, and
produced six short documentary-style films for The Action Exhibit
an international endeavor focused on inspiring people to take action
on social and political world issues. Shawn teaches art and design at
Brigham Young UniversityIdaho.

Artists Statement
The cover image is a tree and its roots, made up of quotes from each
piece within this issue of Irreantum. The image has multiple levels of
meaning. The tree represents life, growth, health, and vibrancy. It also
represents the wonderful range of experiences, feelings, and ideas that
come from the observant and articulate group of writers represented
in this issue. The intricate patterns and textures speak to the often
subtle and seldom-discussed nuances of the human experience. The
image allows readers to catch glimpses of the minds of these authors
so that as they read the text, phrases from the cover will resonate for
them. The end product or final image of the tree is only possible when
all pieces come together and work together. Please dont misunderstand. Though the twists and turns of a trees branches find their own
way towards the light, the tree is still one. I have observed that our
beauty, as Latter-day Saints, comes from our unity as well as from our
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Irreantum

diversity, which isnt something we often associate with the LDS faith.
I am talking about the diversity of the human experience. We are
beautiful because of our similarities, and more importantly, because
of our differences. Those differences are the reason we live such rich
lives. I hope as we read this text that we will reflect on the beauty of
differencedifference of opinion as well as difference of experience,
while always growing toward the same eternal light.

154

Contributors

Matthew James Babcock teaches English at BYUIdaho. His


book Private Fire: The Ecopoetry and Prose of Robert Francis will be
published by the University of Delaware Press in 2010. Visions at
Birch Creek was one in a group of three poems given the Dorothy
Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Award in 2008. His writing has appeared
or will appear in various on-line and print journals, including Spoon
River Poetry Review, Terrain, Staccato, Bateau, The Rejection Quarterly,
and Foundling Review.
Tyler Chadwick lives in Pocatello with his wife, Jessica, their three
little girls, and their Miniature Schnauzer. He is a doctoral candidate
in English at Idaho State University, where he works as an editorial
assistant on JAC, an interdisciplinary journal for the study of rhetoric,
writing, culture, and politics. He also blogs at Chasing the Long White
Cloud and A Motley Vision. His latest poetry project (of which For
the Sycamore and On Winter Nursing are a part) is an ekphrastic
engagement of J. Kirk Richardss paintings. An online archive of Richardss work can be found at art.jkirkrichards.com.
Eric d'Evegnee teaches literary criticism and American Literature
at BYUIdaho. He has published critical work on William Faulkner
and a forthcoming personal essay in BYU Studies. He lives in Rexburg
with his wife, Sarah, and their six children.
Thom Duncan graduated from BYU in 1973 with a BA in playwriting. While at BYU, he had two full-length plays produced as part of
BYUs main season. Though he writes mostly plays now, his first love
is speculative fiction. His short fiction has been published in LDSF
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Irreantum

and Irreantum. His play Matters of the Heart, which was first published in Irreantum, will be reprinted and made available in Zarahemla Books's upcoming anthology on LDS theatre entitled Saints on
Stage. Winning third place in this contest means that he can continue
to brag that hes won one award for every decade hes been writing,
starting in the 1960s.
Joseph Geisner lives with his wife in California, where they provide
residential services for the developmentally disabled. He is a lover of
books and history.
Stephen David Grover is a contributing editor of Quotidiana and
the former managing editor of Brevity. His essays have appeared in
journals such as Artful Dodge, Black & White, and JuiceBox.
Angela Hallstrom lives in South Jordan, Utah, with her husband
and four children. She is the author of the novel Bound on Earth and
recently edited a collection of short fiction by Mormon authors, Dispensation: Latter-Day Fiction. She teaches creative writing at the BYU
Salt Lake Center, and serves as Irreantums co-editor.
Melissa Inouye is a graduate student in Chinese history at Harvard University. She currently lives in Los Angeles with her husband,
Joseph McMullin, and two sons, Isaiah and Kai.
Jeffrey Needle is book review editor for the Association for Mormon Letters.
Jim Papworth grew up in Lewiston, a pulp and paper mill town in
northern Idaho. He has taught at BYUIdaho since 1988. He lives in
Rexburg with Anne and their two sons, Tavenor (3) and Mackinley(5);
and two older sons who have yet to sprout wings and fly away. He
enjoys being married to Anne, raising their family, fly fishing, reading,
writing poetry, teaching, hiking, and backpacking.

156

Contributors

Boyd Petersen teaches in the English Department at Utah Valley


University and serves as the Program Coordinator for Mormon Studies. He is currently serving as Past President of the Association for
Mormon Letters, and is the author of Hugh Nibley: A Consecrated Life.
Lisa Madsen Rubilars fiction, essays and poetry have appeared
in journals and magazines, including Multicultural Review, Dialogue:
A Journal of Mormon Thought, Exponent II, Wasatch Review International, Brick, Publishers Weekly, Timber Creek Review, and The Carolina Quarterly. One of her stories, a finalist in the Hunger Mountain
fiction contest judged by Wally Lamb, appeared in the new anthology
of contemporary Mormon fiction, Dispensation. She holds a bachelors degree from Brigham Young University and an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She lives with her family in Niskayuna,
NewYork.
Doug Talley is a lawyer and business executive in a small insurance consulting firm. He graduated with a BFA in creative writing
from Bowling Green State University, and his poems have appeared
in various literary journals, including The American Scholar, Irreantum,
Literature and Belief, and Christianity and Literature. For a number of
years he edited the poetry column for an on-line publication, MeridianMagazine.com. He and his wife April are the parents of seven children and reside in Copley, Ohio.
Lon Young grew up the son of a fur trapper in Michigans remote
Upper Peninsula. He now lives in Utah County with his wife and five
redheaded children, where he teaches music and language arts. Apoet
whose work has appeared in various journals, including Cimarron Review,
Notre Dame Review, and Dialogue, this is Lons first published story.

157

Thanks to Our Donors


The Association for Mormon Letters gratefully acknowledges
the following members who have made an extra contribution by paying AML dues at the Lifetime, Sustaining, or Contributing levels. In
addition, we have listed those who have received an honorary lifetime
membership in recognition of their influence and achievements in
Mormon literature.
Lifetime Members ( $500)

Richard Cracroft
James DArc
Anonymous
Terryl
L. Givens
Marilyn Brown
John S. Harris
LaVerna Bringhurst Johnson
Edward L. Hart
Bruce Wayne Jorgensen
Sustaining Members ( $250)
Clinton F. Larson
Merilyn Alexander
Gerald N. Lund
Elouise Bell
William Mulder
Signature Books
Hugh Nibley*
Levi S. Peterson
Contributing Members ($100) Thomas F. Rogers
Steven P. Sondrup
R. Don Oscarson
Helen Cardland Stark
Cherry & Barnard Silver
Douglas Thayer
Bruce Smith
Emma Lou Thayne
Farrell M. Smith
Laurel T. Ulrich
Virginia Eggertsen Waugh
Honorary Lifetime Members Maurine Whipple
Terry Tempest Williams
Lavina Fielding Anderson
William
A. Wilson
Elouise Bell
Wayne Booth*
Mary L. Bradford
Marden J. Clark

*deceased

158

Association for Mormon Letters Order Form


AML membership

Includes Irreantum subscription, discounts to AML events, and


support of AML efforts.

Annual dues: $25 regular

$20 full-time students

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The aml is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, so donations are


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Charlotte and Eugene England


Personal Essay Contest

The Association for Mormon Letters and Irreantum magazine will begin accepting manuscripts for the third annual Charlotte and Eugene England essay contest on January 1, 2011.
Because Irreantum is a literary journal dedicated to exploring Mormon culture, essays must relate to the Mormon experience in some way. Unpublished
personal essays up to 5,000 words will be considered. Authors need not be
LDS. Individuals may enter a maximum of two essays. Irreantum staff and
members of the AML board are not eligible.
The first-place author will be awarded $200, second-place $150, and thirdplace $100 (unless judges determine that no entries are of sufficient quality to
merit awards). Publication is not guaranteed, but winners agree to give Irreantum first-publication rights.

Submission Instructions
Deadline: Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Only electronic submissions will be accepted. Email your entry as an MS Word,
WordPerfect, or RTF file attachment to contest@mormonletters.org.
In the subject line, please write 2011 Personal Essay Contest. Include your
name, the title of your submission, and your contact information, including
address and phone number, in the body of the email.
To facilitate blind judging, no identifying information should appear in
the essay itself other than the title of the manuscript, which should appear as a
header on each page.
Winners names will be posted Irreantums website, www.mormonletters.org/
irreantum, on August 31, 2011.

The Charlotte and Eugene England Personal Essay Contest is funded


through the estate of Eugene England
Visit www.mormonletters.org for more information about
Irreantum and the AML