I am really pleased to be with you all today. I will confess that I am actually a little bit nervous, and that is not because this is such an auspicious crowd, but because my mother is here.
And, Mom, where are you? Can you stand up? I just want to know…OK, there she is. See right over there? And how is this [the microphone]? Is there too much echo? OK, I am OK with this.
OK, my mother is fabulous. She is just like one of the best people I know, and she is here, and she is making me a little bit nervous, but that’s OK.
So anyway, I thought I would start off by telling you a story, something that happened to me and my husband a number of years ago. We were visiting Maine, and we visited the Acadian National Park, which is just beautiful. If you have never been there, it is just great. And I went into the gift shop. [microphone adjustment]
Anyway, I was in the gift shop, and there were a couple of college-age students working there, probably as their summer job, and they were talking. And it was pretty interesting to me, because I am sort of like a “True Crime” aficionado, and they were talking about this group of people, who sounded like a pretty dastardly group of people, because this guy was saying, “Oh, you just cannot even believe what these people will do.” He said, “They will like drink blood and they will like slit the throats of babies.”
And he said–at this point I am like really sidling over, because I thought, “Ooo, pretty awful, but kind of interesting.” So I am sitting there eavesdropping on this conversation–and suddenly he says, “And do you know what? They cannot even drink tea or coffee, and they can’t even eat soup. It says that right in their Book of Mormon.”
Well, I had read The Book of Mormon enough to know that probably wasn’t really true. So I walked up to this couple, these young kids, and I said, “OK, excuse me. I didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but I couldn’t, you know, I just heard what you said, and I want you to know that I am a Mormon, from Utah, and the part about the soup—it’s not true.”
OK, it was a great moment! And I like to fantasize that as I was walking out of the front door they were running for cover. I think that would have been totally awesome!
So I tell you this story just because I want to say, “Thank you for the work that you do, that you’re engaged in, in terms of putting out correct information, and putting a more positive image of Mormons out there, so that people can be educated, and people know.”
You know, I wonder if the Salt Lake…what with the Salt Lake Olympics, and with Mitt Romney’s Presidential campaign if there aren’t more people now that have more accurate images of Mormons. I don’t know. But I appreciate deeply the work that you do to help that along, because there is still a lot of crazy stuff out there about us, and about who we are.
Even though the New York Times recently declared that “The Mormon Moment” has passed, I think that there are a lot of people that are still curious about Mormons: who we are; what we’re like; what our history is; what we do.
I know that when we lived in New York State, my husband and I and our five sons lived in New York State for a little while, and we lived in this place called Tuxedo Park. It was sort of a fluke that we were there. We did not really belong. But it was this very WASP-y enclave, very East Coast in a certain kind of way. And seriously, when we pulled into town with our U-Haul and, you know, all of these kids, we were a curiosity. And people were very kind. I mean, they invited us over, and wanted to get to know us and stuff, and I said to my husband, “Really it’s like we’re the Elephant Man, you know? They just keep inviting us to tea to see what we are really like.”
But people were curious. And one of the things that people would always do, as soon as they found out that we were from Utah, they would say, “Are you guys Mormons?” I mean, it was just that direct. And that question, especially at first, really took me aback. I don’t know what your experience with this is, but where I live, which is right in downtown Salt Lake, this is a question that you would never, ever ask. And it is especially a question that you would not ask right off the bat. It would be to ask somebody where I live if they are a Mormon, just that straight, you know, forwardly, it would be like asking somebody casually, “Well, so, how much money do you make?” Or, you know, “How’s your sex life?” I mean, it would be just that invasive, actually. But people were curious. And so that’s where I just learned how to say, “Why, yes, thank you very much. I am a Mormon.”
And then I had to do a little bit of work to convince them that I’m not really the Amish at the same time; because, a lot of people had that very experience. I remember once I was standing with a group of women, all of them very educated, all of them professionals, and they were talking about a book group that they had. And they had been reading a book about the Amish experience, about a woman who had grown up Amish. And they were saying things like, “Oh, my gosh, I just couldn’t stand to live in a culture like that. It would be so difficult.” And then all of a sudden I saw one woman’s eyes pass over me casually, and she said, “But, you know, I’m sure that there are a lot of great things about being Amish. I mean, maybe you would feel this fabulous spiritual connection.”
And I thought, “Well, maybe. Who knows? You know, I wouldn’t know.” And afterwards, I mean, I didn’t even realize, when I got home I thought, “Oh, I get it. We just had one of those moments where, once again, they think I am the Amish.” So I did have that conversation quite a bit with people.
All right, now, I do feel like I need to make a little bit of a confession. When Steve Densley called me a few months ago and asked if I would speak to you, my first response, and he will tell you that this is the case, I said, “Really? Are you sure?” And the reason he asked that question is, and I told him this, I said, “You know, I am an active Mormon, I have been an active Mormon all my life, but there are times when I feel just a little bit out of step with mainstream American Mormonism. I sometimes just do.” And he told me, he said, “Okay. Listen. We had your colleague, Robert Kirby, (a lot of you know who Robert Kirby is) he spoke last year.” And immediately I said, “Well, if he can do it, you know, I know I can do it.” And, in fact, I called Kirby and I asked him about this and he said, “You know, I had a great experience.” And so I said to Steve, “OK. We’re on. It’s a date.”
As I just revealed, sometimes I do feel a little bit out of step. Let me talk about that for just a minute. The fallout from Kate Kelly’s recent excommunication has been more difficult for me personally than I would have expected. There are a couple of reasons for this. I think the main reason is actually I am pretty connected with a lot of young, fabulous, intelligent, passionate, awesome young women, many of whom I had as students at BYU at one time, some of them returned missionaries, married in the temple, who are struggling right now with their identity as Mormon women. A lot of them are feeling like, you know, “Is this a culture that really values girls and women as much as it values boys and men?” This is a real concern for a lot of them. And as I read what they have to say, and I listen to what they have to say, I just think, you know, my heart just goes, “Oh, please, the Church needs you, the Church needs your voice and your experience. And I don’t want you to feel like the only way that you can deal with your feelings is by exiting the Church.”
So there’s been a lot of that that’s been going on. The other thing is, and I have to be honest about this, too, all of this conversation this summer about women and women’s roles in the Church brought up some old feelings of my own. So I came of age in the 60s and 70s, and I think that there are some of you here that were growing up at the same time that I was. And you can probably remember what that was like. For one thing, you know, I was really eager to find role models. I wanted to find out what it meant to be female in all kinds of ways. And you know what? There just weren’t a lot of female role models in the scriptures. And I think that is particularly true of The Book of Mormon. So, that was a little discouraging for me.
And at that time there weren’t as many things that were being written about the role of women in our history, and in our culture. And so when I would look for information about women in the Church, mostly what I found were a lot of great, inspiring messages to be a wife and a mother. And that’s great, because that’s what I wanted to do and, in fact, that is what I have done. But I also wanted to have that feeling that, “Well yes, that’s great, but what else can I do that will be valued by my own people?” And it looked like to me at that time that the guys in our ward were having a lot more fun than the girls, because it felt like the boys were always in the gym shooting baskets, and raising money to go on Scouting trips, running rapids in Canada. And we were in our classroom having chastity lessons, right? And I just got to the point where I’d think, “Seriously, what is so interesting about my virginity? OK? I want people to stop caring about that so much.” So, I felt frustrated.
And it was interesting to me that all of a sudden when all of this was happening this summer that I revisited some of that territory. So, the fallout made me ask myself this question. And I had this–I can even remember where I was having this conversation with my sister-in-law, who’s very, very—she’s a lot more conventional and orthodox than I am—but we were sitting on the ride Splash Mountain in Disneyland, you know how you have those conversations sometimes about really deep, meaningful things when you are on Splash Mountain in Disneyland. She felt troubled by a lot of the stuff that she was reading and hearing, and she said, “You know, I have really loved that ‘I’m a Mormon, too’ campaign,” and she goes, “And now with all of this,” she said, “I wonder if we are as big a tent church as we like to present ourselves as being.”
And I said to her, “I know. I say that all the time, especially in some of the worlds where I operate. I say, ‘You know what? We are a big tent church. Some of the ideas that you have about us, they’re just wrong. This is something that I believe and that I really want to believe.’ But every now and then I will sometimes go, with that campaign (which I really, really loved, and which I believed), was it a little bit disingenuous?” So these are questions that I was grappling with this summer.
All right. Now I hope that by my telling you this that I have not made you uncomfortable, and what I hope even more than that is that I haven’t made my Mother uncomfortable. So, Mom, are we good? OK, she says we are. So I am going to proceed.
Here’s the deal. I am here. This is where I want to be. This is where I want to stay. And if you will excuse me just a minute I am going to get a swallow of water because I always like to do a Mark Rubio imitation whenever possible. Thank you. All right. Yeah, yeah.
OK, anyway, what I wanted to talk about a little bit today, because I have been going over and over things a lot this summer, ruminating quite a bit about what are the things that I value so much about my Mormon experience. So this isn’t a venue where I am going to bear a testimony. I am going to talk about some other things. And I realize that the things that I am going to share with you are things that people in other faith communities could say, too. But these are important to me. Mormonism is my spiritual language. Mormondom is where my roots are. And these are some of the things I love about my Mormon experience, and that I willingly share with my friends who are not LDS.
First of all, I really, really appreciate the sense of community that I feel as a Mormon. Now, I grew up in Utah, and I grew up in Provo, and I grew up in a ward that was, I was told, one of the most active wards in the entire Church. So I was used to just having that community there, ready-made, part of my neighborhood, certainly a part of my landscape. But when we moved to New York, I had that experience that a lot of you have now, or had while you were growing up, there were not a lot of Mormons, particularly not in Tuxedo Park, New York, the place that I just described to you. But as it turns out, one of the couples that lived there, they were the live-in nannies for probably the wealthiest family in the Park. They, in fact, were LDS. And when Tammy, the woman who was part of this couple, found out that some Mormons moved into the Park, she was overjoyed. She was on my doorstep, taking care of me from day one. And I gained so much from our friendship. But one of the interesting things about my friendship with her was this. We were living there, my husband was working in New York City, the reason why we were living in New York, in Tuxedo Park, was because some of the other associates and partners in his firm lived in this place. So we were there as sort of professionals. So at night, you know, we’d be invited to certain kind of events, and we would be there with sort of the “upstairs” people and hear their take on things and hear their gossip, about the help for one thing. And then by day I would hang out with the people who were living more of the “downstairs” life. It was a real upstairs, downstairs experience, and I learned so much. I felt like I was an anthropologist, actually doing field work, you know, among the WASP citizenry of New York.
But that community, that feeling that I had people in my corner, that I didn’t even know, from day one, was something that I just truly, truly appreciated. The sense of community in the Mormon Church, of course, is one of the things that we love, although I will say that sometimes being part of a ward or a branch is a little bit like being part of an extended family. Am I right about that? Some of the people in your extended family you get along with great, it’s fabulous. And then you have people in your family that you go, “Oh!” You know? Like “Crazy Uncle Joe is over there, and whatever you do, don’t make eye contact.” There is some of that that goes on. Like, for instance, we had, she’s gone now, but we had a woman in our ward who every fast and testimony meeting, like my kids really got to the place where they hated fast and testimony meeting because they always knew that this sister was going to stand up. And the thing of it is that she usually wouldn’t just bear her testimony, there was usually some sort of story involved, where she was deeply involved. But as you were listening to the story you would think, “That sounds so familiar to me. Why is that so familiar?” And then you would realize it was because it was the plot of a movie that we had all seen. And she’d see a lot of movies. But it was like she was Forrest Gump, you know? She was at all types of events at all times. And, you know, so there were just times when you would just go, “Oh, wow. This is a really crazy person!” And I had to have a lot to do with her. But here is the thing. Because I did have to have a lot to do with her, because she was part of my Mormon ward family, I actually learned to love her quite a bit. And there were a lot of great things about her, too. And that’s the opportunity that you have when you have this sense of community, where you have a common religious belief. I love that. I absolutely value that.
Number two. I appreciate the opportunities for service that the Mormon Church provides for me, somebody who might not naturally on her own seek out those opportunities. A good friend of my husband’s left the Church many years ago, and my husband stays in touch with him. And he has said at various times, he said, “You know the thing that I really miss about the Latter-day experience is the fact that I just don’t have ready-made opportunities for service.” I cherish that. There’s a woman in my ward who also, I don’t want to make it sound like all the women in my ward have died, but this one has passed away, too. But I learned so much from her about service. When I was younger, I was very taken with the Martha and Mary story (you remember that, right?) because I identified more with Mary. I really loved the notion that Jesus would say that Mary had chosen the better part. And what I took that to mean is that He really loved dreamy young women who didn’t want to help in the kitchen. I thought, “Yes! I’ve got Him on my side! This is awesome!” And Sharon was not a Mary at all. Sharon was just a pure full-on Martha. This is what Martha looked like as channeled by my friend Sharon. When our oldest son went on his mission I didn’t ask for any help like at the Open House, or the not open house, or whatever it is not supposed to be, or supposed to be, that you communicate secretly about. So, anyway, we had one of those, but not really, kind of. So, I did not ask for any help. But Sharon showed up at my house. She absolutely kicked me out of the kitchen. She said, “I’m taking care of this, because first of all, you are not that good at it. And b, I know you really need the help. And c, I want you out there mingling with your son and his friends so leave the kitchen to me.” And she did. She ran the kitchen. In fact, she kicked my mother out! My mother was a tiny bit miffed, but she’s gotten over it. And here’s the funny thing. After being in my kitchen for a while she showed up with certain things to give me that were lacking in my kitchen. She said, for instance, “You really need this paper towel roll because you don’t have one of those. I don’t know what is wrong with you, but here is one. And here is something else I noticed. You need a strawberry huller.” Do you know what those are? Like, you hull strawberries with them. And I looked at them and I thought, “In all of my life I never wanted this, but thank you.” I’ll tell you what; it is the best piece of equipment. It just makes that job go like that. That was Sharon. That’s what Sharon did. Sharon was Martha.
The other thing that Sharon did for as long as I can remember, and she never drew attention to this, is she waited until everybody cleared out of the chapel after sacrament meeting and she went around and she just picked up all the garbage. She’d pick up the programs; she’d pick up the candy wrappers. She did all of that and then she’d throw it away. And after Sharon died, I made the vow that I would start doing that myself. (Sorry) And she passed away two years ago, and I am not always very good at doing it. I don’t always remember, but when I do that I think about Sharon, and I think about the opportunity that she took to serve, and the great example that that was to me. So, that is another thing that I really love about the Mormon experience.
Number three. Now this may surprise you, given what I said a little bit earlier, but I remember a number of years ago, that I was asked by a local magazine, actually a local working women’s sort of feminist magazine that was called Network–it’s no longer around–Karen Shepherd was the editor and I did a lot of work for her back in those days. She said to me, “You know, I know you are a Mormon. I would really like you to write a profile piece on another Mormon.” And I said, “Well, that would be great.” And she said, “It’s Carol Lynn Pearson. I just read her book and I am very interested in it.” This was the book that Carol Lynn Pearson wrote about her experience of taking care of her dying husband, who at the time was dying of AIDS. So, I made arrangements. Carol Lynn Pearson was in Salt Lake. We made arrangements to connect. And I didn’t even know what I was in for. I didn’t know what she was going to be like, what she was going to say, whatever. And I asked her, I said, “You know, that had to be hard. You and your husband divorced, he came out, contracted AIDS, he died. You know, what has your experience been like as a Mormon? How does that make you feel?” And this was what she told me at the time, and I’ve never forgotten it. She said, “You know, one of the things I really love about being a Mormon is that I think that the Mormon Church is capable of raising really good men, of creating really good men.” I didn’t expect her to say that. And I said, “Well, tell me what you mean by that.” And she said, “Do you know what I love? I love when babies are blessed and what you do is you see all these men stand in a circle and you get to hear the father say a prayer in public about all his hopes and desires for that brand new child.” She goes, “That’s great. And that they are encouraged, men are actively encouraged to share some of their tender feelings about religion, about their families, about the Church.” She said, “That’s great. That doesn’t happen in every culture.”
And I’ve remembered that over the years, because I think that she is right about that, actually. I have been very fortunate. Not all women can say this, women in the Church and out of the Church. I have had really universally good experience with the men who are closest to me in my life. I am married to a great guy who is sitting by my mother. And his name is Ken Cannon. Some of you may know him. He is very active in the Mormon History Association. And my own boys, I got to see the good things that happened to them because of our involvement in the Church. Let me give you an example. They were all Scouting [?], so I can’t talk about the Scouting program, OK? But I can talk about this. Because we live in the Avenues in downtown Salt Lake, which, you know, I always say The Avenues is where Mormons on the lam go to hide. There are a lot of people on the roles, but not very many active people. Anyway, what that means is that there never were very many kids in Primary, or like in Young Men and Young Women’s. And so that, coupled with the fact that our ward held partial responsibility for taking care of a rest home in our stake, meant that my boys often had to go to the rest home, to pass the sacrament, to help with blessings, to do all of those kinds of things. And they didn’t always love it, if fact, sometimes they would just like roll their eyes, and go, “Oh my gosh, you know, Betty gave another 20 minute prayer today.” And Betty was just like she gossiped in the name of the Lord, which I think is awesome if you can figure out how to do it. So she would say a prayer, but she would do things, like she would bring everybody’s business into the prayer. She’d say, “Oh, please bless Raydean’s son that he’ll stop smoking, because, you know what? He’s breaking his mother’s heart.” And her prayers were full of information like that. And my kids would just come home and go, “Ohhhhh!” And I would say, “Hey, be nice, because you know what? That is going to be me in thirty years and I don’t want you guys to be smoking in the parking lot with Raydean’s son.” But they also gained a fair amount of compassion from that experience. I am really glad that they were able to do that the whole time that they were growing up, that they had that experience.
And then my own father, I have to talk about him for a minute. Sometimes I think that there are women in the Church who have trouble with the patriarchy because their experiences with men have been bad. They have known men who have been abusive, either physically or verbally. They’ve known men who immediately just discount their opinions, because they’ve been uttered by a woman. They’ve known men in leadership positions that just haven’t been sympathetic to their situation. I had the opposite experience, and oddly, I think that that sometimes kind of what contributed to the frustration I felt growing up female in the Mormon Church. My own Dad, I was the only girl, I had just, well, obviously, I just had brothers if I were the only girl. But I never, ever, ever, not even once for a single second, felt like I meant any less to my father because I was a girl. And in fact, what I always felt like is: if my brothers could do it, I could do it, too. If the opportunity was there for my brothers, then the opportunity ought to be there for me as well. He communicated this in all kinds of little ways. And I am so grateful for that. And I think a lot of who he is is because he grew up the way that he did.
Number four. One of the things that I really, really value about the Mormon experience is that it spiritualizes the earth. It spiritualizes our world. I found a diary that I kept when I was in the fifth grade and it’s really funny, because sometimes I think that you can see inklings of yourself as a young person, you know, as the person that you became at the age that we are now. Even when I was a little girl, I always wrote about stuff like what the weather was like, and what I noticed was growing, and what was blooming, and what I had done outside. One of my sons says about me, he goes, “You aren’t really outdoorsy, but you are outsidesy.” And I think that’s a great description. I love the natural world that we inhabit. To me it’s just a testimony every time I step outside. And, you know what? I love the fact that we have this notion that before the world was created physically, what was it created? It was created spiritually. That we feel like the earth is alive, and that resonates with me. One of my favorite passages of scripture actually comes from the eighty-eighth section of The Doctrine and Covenants. I love the personification of the world that goes on in this scripture, in addition to just loving the language. I think it’s just gorgeous writing, and so as a writer it appeals to me, too. But here is the scripture, and you’re probably familiar with it. “The earth rolls upon her wings, and the sun giveth his light by day, and the moon giveth her light by night, and the stars also give their light, as they roll upon their wings in their glory, in the midst of the power of God.” Isn’t that great? I just absolutely love that. In fact, I love it so much that I included it in a book that I wrote a while ago. I said to my husband, “Would it be inappropriate for me to promote a book?” And he goes, “Who cares?”[laughter] Anyway, a number of years ago an editor–I do write books for young readers, and I published some books with Random House in New York—and my editor, who is not LDS, came out here just to visit and to see Utah. She had never seen it before. And she said to me, “You know what? The Mormon migration west is one of the great American stories. And you are a Mormon and you are the only Mormon I know, so I want you to write a book. I want you to write a Mormon book for me. And I said to her, “Oh. You chose the wrong person, because I don’t really like historical fiction. I don’t like to write historical fiction. Yeah, I like to read historical fiction I just don’t like to write it, because you have to do homework, OK? I don’t want to do any more homework.” So I said to her, “Yeah. Oh, well. Whatever.” But she stayed on me and I finally wrote a book for the national audience. It is not written for a Mormon audience, called Charlotte’s Rose, which is a Mormon handcart pioneer story, about a twelve-year-old girl’s experience coming across the plains. And this is out of print in the national edition, but the University of Utah recently, published it, republished it a couple years ago, so I am very grateful for that. But I include that passage of scripture in this book, because I thought, “I think this says so much about who we are and what we believe.”
All right! Number five. Don’t worry. I am almost done. I promise that I won’t go over because I am hungry, too. Number five. You know what? I think there’s a natural optimism and buoyancy that we have about the nature of man and the nature of experience. First of all, we believe that we are made in God’s image. We believe that we’re just a little lower than the angels. We believe that we’re here to be tested, but the message that I got even more than that as I was growing up is that we’re also here to learn and to grow, and that one of the things that’s really important to us is intelligence. The glory of God is intelligence. We are encouraged to expand ourselves. I love that. And, you know what? This is pretty awesome, too. When we leave this world virtually every other place is better than here. So, that’s a pretty unique concept when you think about it. Like, I am going, “Hey, I vote for that. That sounds great to me.”
Number six. Mormons have a great oral tradition. Sometimes I think, that, you know, I majored in English, and I had a specialty in American literature when I got my Master’s degree, and of course the Southerners have that great oral tradition, like Flannery O’Connor and Eudora Welty and William Faulkner. And I think, you know, Mormons share that as well. We have a really great oral tradition, where we have our stories that we tell to each other, and we are actively encouraged to do that. That’s what bearing our testimony is, that we’re telling part of our story when we bear our testimonies. Keeping journals, you know, we’re telling our stories when we do that. And I love those stories. Some of them are sad, some of them are tragic. Some of them are at least spiritually uplifting and some of them are just really funny. There’s plenty of humor to be found in the Mormon experience. I am not going to go into great detail here but if you ask anybody in my ward, the 27th ward in Salt Lake City, if they can tell you about the worst Christmas program ever, they’ll go, “Oh, yeah! Let me tell you about that.” It’s a great story. I’m not going to tell it all here, but let me just say these are some of the elements involved. We had a violinist on the program who suddenly got all sniffy and refused to play his violin in church for us. We had a self-styled songwriter who announced that most people like happy songs at Christmas, but she thought we should honor all the dead babies who got slaughtered. This is really true. And so then she sat down and played the piano and it went on and on and on. There was a lot of drama involved, and when it was over she was clinging to the piano. Like we had to practically drag her away from the piano it was a very emotional experience. So after that our chorister got up and said, “OK, well, all right then. I think that we should just get to that happy place and sing “Joy to the World” don’t you?” So we did that. But the best part was this. In the middle of our program we had a closing prayer, in the middle of the program, because this is what happened. The woman who was on the program to say the closing prayer had fallen asleep. She suddenly woke up with a start, there was a pause, and she had played soccer in high school so she was in great shape and she knew how to take out people who were in her way. So she was sitting at the very back. She was a fairly young woman. All of a sudden we see her streaking up the aisle. She’s knocking out people, like the next person who was supposed to perform. She races up to the podium and she says a prayer. And we’re all stunned, because we didn’t see that coming. And what that meant was that when we finally got to the end of the program and we sang “Joy to the World” our poor befuddled bishop who was just really brand-new on the job, he goes, “Uhhhh, I think we already had the prayer, so I’ll see you guys later.” That’s kind of how that ended. Seriously, by the time that we got to the end of the program, practically everybody in the audience was like holding up a cigarette lighter going like this, you know [waving arm over her head], like, you know, “Man, I am never going to see a show this awesome again!” And I turned to my husband at that moment and I said to him, “You know what? Yes. I am so glad to be a Mormon.” And I leave this thought with you and thank you very much.
Thank you. Oh, I feel so smart! OK. [Question] This says, “What do you see as the future for women’s increased participation in the Church decision-making process?”
You know, I don’t know. My guess is though that the Brethren are probably paying attention to what’s going on here. I don’t know what’s going to happen in terms of, you know, a lot of things, but my guess is that women are going to be more and more consulted about certain things. And my guess is that they already are getting a lot of information. So we’ll see where that goes.
And then this [question] was what was my favorite column that I have ever written in the Tribune?
Gosh, I don’t know. I know what my favorite one was for the Deseret News. A long time ago when my husband was the bishop—I have ADHD. I mean, I just am not a person who can like sit for three hours. And so over years I had developed this sort of habit of like going to the first hour and then sort of sneaking home for a little bit during the second hour, OK? And then in the third hour I would go back up. So I got into the habit of doing that, and so once when I was at home I imbibed in my favorite drink which is Dr. Pepper. But I started feeling bad about myself. I thought, “You know, you are a really crummy bishop’s wife.” I just could not think of any other bishop’s wife who’d be sitting out in the parking lot in a car drinking a Dr. Pepper. So, I decided, “I’m just going to show my ward what a great bishop’s wife I am.” And it’s almost like I was on the campaign trail. I walked into the church, I walked down the aisle. I am like kissing babies and giving old women hugs. And then all of a sudden I realized I’ve got my Dr. Pepper can in my hand still. And my husband was still in the bishop’s office, but his first counselor was sitting up on the stand, and I turned around and he goes [shaking head], “You’re so busted.” Because, you know, they do not sell Dr. Peppers in the basement at most Mormon churches as far as I know. So that was definitely my favorite one that I ever wrote for the Deseret News and it’s the one that attracted the most attention. I had a lot of people tell me how much they loved it. But I also got a lot of angry hate mail. I am always surprised when I get hate mail, because I think, “Really? I write such an innocuous column.” I don’t understand why people get so upset about stuff, but sometimes they do.
Maybe my favorite one for the Tribune was a Christmas one that I wrote last year where I talked a little bit about where I hit a cat, because who doesn’t like a great “I almost killed a cat” story at Christmastime? But, how I stopped and I found the owner of that cat, and she was a single mom, didn’t have a whole lot in the way of resources. And when I showed up on her porch with her nearly-dead cat in my arms, she just was so forgiving and so loving. And I really enjoyed writing about that.
OK. [Question] What effect do you think jokes about polygamy, such as “I can barely handle one” have upon the emotional stability of Mormon men and women? Boy, it probably depends on the Mormon man and the Mormon woman, don’t you think? ‘Cause, I sometimes think that a good polygamy joke is a lot of fun, but I’m glad I am not one of them! So, anyway, thank you very much.
[This talk has been lightly edited for grammar and clarity.]