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A Review of Mormon Literature and Film

Volume 7, Number 1 (2005)





A Review of Mormon Literature and Film

Volume 7, Number 1 (2005)

Irreantum Staff
General Editor Laraine Wilkins
Fiction Editor Sam Brown
Poetry Editor Mark Brown
Readers Write Editor David Pace
Special Features Editor Angela Hallstrom
Book Review Editor Jana Bouck Remy
Book Review Assistant Andrew Hall
Newsletter Editor Vanessa Oler
Copyediting Team Manager Beth Bentley
Copyediting Staff Colin Douglas

Sarah Maitland
Henry Miles
Alan Rex Mitchell
Vanessa Oler
Steven Opager

Interns Liz Lyman

Alexis Sollami
Design and Layout Marny K. Parkin

Association for Mormon Letters Board

President Melissa Proffitt
Conference Chair Gideon Burton
Board Members Kathleen Dalton-Woodbury

Suzanne Brady

Jen Wahlquist

Eric D. Snider

Mark Thomas

Kylee Turley
Annual Proceedings Editor Linda Hunter Adams
Webmaster Kathleen Dalton-Woodbury
AML-List Moderator Jacob Proffitt
AML-List Co-moderator Gideon Burton
Irreantum General Editor Laraine Wilkins
Irreantum (ISSN 1528-0594) is published three times a year by the Association for Mormon Letters (AML),
P.O. Box 1315, Salt Lake City, UT 84110-1315, www.irreantum.org. Irreantum volume7, no. 1 (2005)
2005 by the Association for Mormon Letters. All rights reserved. Membership and subscription information can be found at the end of this isssue; single issues cost $8.00 (postpaid). 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 magazine 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, D.C. Irreantum is indexed in the Modern Language Association
International bibliography.

From the Editor

Critical Essays
Mormon Folklore Studies Jill Terry Rudy 11
Claiming Heritage through Narrative Kristi A. Young and
Benjamin R. Webster 25
Poems by Lance Larsen, Paul Swenson, and Susan Elizabeth Howe 59
Poems by Matthew James Babcock, Mark Bennion, Jim Papworth, and
Keith Moore 131
Interview with Folklorist Bert Wilson Andrew Jorgensen 37
Short Story
Unbroken Angela Hallstrom 67
Memoir Excerpt
Immortal for Quite Some Time Scott Abbott 75
Tombs J. Scott Bronson 79
Special Feature: Tribute to Neal A. Maxwell
Still the Notes Prolong from One More Strain of Praise 143
Readers Write: Folklore
Reel Observations: Napoleon Dynamite Craig Mangum and Lee Walker 159
From the Archives: J Golden Kimball: Mormon Folklore Hero
Book Reviews
Contributors 190

Volume 7, Number 1 (2005)
1 Nephi 17:5. And we beheld the sea, which we
called Irreantum, which, being interpreted, is many waters.


Irreantum: A Review of Mormon Literature and Film is a refereed

journal, published three times 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 welcome letters or comments. We also seek submissions of photos
that can be printed in black and white. Please send letters and submissions
to submissions@irreantum.org. If you do not have access to email, mail your
text on a floppy disk or CD to Irreantum, c/o AML, PO Box 1315, Salt Lake
City, UT 84110-1315. Submissions on paper are discouraged.
Map facing the title page is from Herman Moll, geographer, Molls Maps:
Thirty Two New and Accurate Maps of the Geography of the Ancients, as contained in The Greek and Latin Classics (London: Tho. Bowles, 1732). Photos
from The Fruits of Their Labors: The Culture and Traditions of Orchards
in Utah Valley, An Introductory Field School for Cultural Documentation,
July 1131, 2004, sponsored by the American Folklife Center, Library of
Congress, and Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, provided courtesy
of the William A. Wilson Folklore Archive, L.Tom Perry Special Collections,
Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.

From the Editor

I was stunned.
I was sitting in a folklore session at the AML conference last March
where a discussion was taking place about an upcoming project to be
sponsored by the Library of Congress Folklife Center, headquartered
in Washington, D.C, and Brigham Young University. The aim of the project
was the collecting of personal narratives and information that would tell
the story of the orchard culture that was fast disappearing in Utah Valley.
Although this was an academic conference, the response was not intellectual
in nature; rather, the interest was personal. As I listened to one audience
member after another, eager to find out more about the project and how to
participate, and, in fact, eager to explain why one family or another would
be ideal candidates to be interviewed for the project, I realized how vital our
personal stories are for us and our communities, and how badly we want our
stories to be heard.
This issue features material culled from the project termed Fruits of
their Labors. It is a noteworthy project and deserves wide recognition. But
I apologize in advance for those of you who wish Mormon didnt always
have to be synonymous with Utah. This issue on folklore is, admittedly,
somewhat Utah-centric. But there is a reason for that. I hope that, ultimately,
the pieces in this volume will serve as a model to inspire similar work on
Mormon communities outside Utah.
Utah is a hotbed for folklore studies. There are more folklorists in Utah
than in any other U.S. state, according to Dave Stanley in his 2004 volume
Utah Folklore, a collection of essays published by Utah State University Press.
This makes the study of Mormon folklore, including Mormon narratives and
storytelling practices, more likely to be taken seriously as an academic subject
of study at local institutions. Where Mormon literature generally has been
shunned as a serious topic of study at academic institutions in Utah (though

Irreantum S vol. 7, no. 1 (2005)

this is changing), Mormon folklore has had a more receptive audience. Utah
State University has had a folklore program for decades, created by Austin
and Alta Fife, and further cultivated by Utah State University Press through
its special focus on folklore; Brigham Young University has been offering
courses in folklore for a few decades and now boasts several folklore faculty
and staff, in both the English Department and Special Collections at the university library; the University of Utah has also been offering folklore courses
for some time through Jan Brunvand of Vanishing Hitchhiker fame and Meg
Brady, who is not Mormon but has written a study of a Mormon pioneer
woman entitled Mormon Healer and Folk Poet: Mary Susannah Fowlers Life
of Unselfish Usefulness (Utah State University Press, 2000). Smaller schools,
including Westminster College in Salt Lake City and Utah Valley State
College in Orem, also offer folklore courses and count folklorists among their
regular staff.
As folklorist Eric Eliason pointed out to me in a recent conversation, folklore invites a study of local culture. Professional folklorists are expected to
study and work with the groups that are close to them. This seems to come
out of an anthropological practice of participant-observation, where one is
expected to become friendly with the natives in order to get the insider
perspective on group dynamics, politics, practices, beliefs, usually through a
study of material culture and oral narrative. If Utah has been an intriguing
place for folklorists to do fieldwork among groups with uniquely identifiable
characteristics, such as the Mormons, then it has also been a place where
seeds are planted for the articulation of Mormon stories through literature.
Folklore brings together multiple disciplines to help us appreciate personal
narrative, in more than just a literary sense. With one foot in anthropology
and the other in literature, folklore might perhaps be better described as centipedal, with feet in history, popular culture, linguistics, ethnic and regional
studies, fine arts, public service, and doubtless many others.
Folklore opens up multiple possibilities for understanding what might be
included in the range of Mormon literature. The stories are everywhere, but
folklore studies give us lenses to see them with. The Association for Mormon
Letters has been sponsoring sessions on folklore at its annual conference for
a number of years, where scholars have explored folkloric themes in literature, as well as oral narratives coming out of various Mormon traditions. The
AML has awarded Honorary Lifetime Membership to Bert Wilson for his
seminal work in Mormon folklore. The interview with Bert in this issue pro8

Wilkins S From the Editor

vides numerous insights into the relationships that might be found between
folklore and literature. The essay by Kristi Young and Ben Webster on the
Fruits of Their Labors project offers a literary approach to understanding
the orchardists narratives collected by field workers. Jill Terry Rudys essay
on the history of Mormon folklore studies and trends for the future originally appeared in Utah Folklore. It addresses many of the common narratives
that emerge among Mormons, including Three Nephite stories. And while
Three Nephite stories are perhaps a bit clich, the genre is significant enough
to warrant representation in Angela Hallstroms fine short story based on
her pioneer grandmother. J. Golden Kimball stories also abound among
Mormons, and he is also represented. Rather than include stories about him,
though, we chose to include a 1922 general conference talk which illustrates
his skill as an orator, as well as a fine wit. The other pieces included in this
volume complement the folklore material, and perhaps in juxtaposition will
give the reader a new sense for what literature and folklore may have in
I do not know whether any of the subjects who were part of the Library
of Congress Folklife Center project came as a result of the discussion in the
Salt Lake Public Library at last years AML conference. But I like to think
that the folklore session engendered an appreciation among its participants
for their own related stories. Here is my own:
I was a Provo baby, one of four by the time my father finished his schooling at
BYU and took a job in Idaho. My parents lived frugally, as most BYU student
families do. Living off the land as much as possible was one way to keep expenses
to a minimuma characteristic I think of as typical for Mormons. In Utah
Valley, this meant driving up the canyon in the fall to pick chokecherries for pancake syrup, or bringing home bushels of apricots, peaches, apples, and pears where
the fresh, subtle aroma would grace our kitchen. One of my memories about the
seasons that moved through Utah Valley from the perspective of a pre-school-aged
child is that of accompanying my father on an occasional Saturday to a nearby
orchard. I recall especially the pear I plucked from a tree all by myself, how green
it was, and that it stayed on top of the refrigerator for nearly a week before it
had ripened enough to eat. My mother canned fruit every year, a practice that
has seemed to dwindle over the years for my mother as well as many other familiesnot because of the dwindling of the orchards themselves but because of a
shift in priorities and lifestyle that allows less time for domestic activities (whether
picking or canning fruit). Now I drive to work every day in Orem, past some of

Irreantum S vol. 7, no. 1 (2005)

the few remaining orchards. I have seen many of them razed in the last decade
to make room for office buildings or condominiums. I am reminded of the Book
of Mormon allegory of the olive tree in the book of Jacobtending, pruning,
grafting, harvesting, cutting down, rebuilding. Sometimes I stop and buy a bag
of fruit, hoping to remind myself of the patience and many hands required to
cultivate to maturity an orchard, a tree, or a single piece of fruit.
The stories are everywhere, in Utah, Idaho, Massachusetts, Iowa, Florida,
Egypt, Mozambique, Colombiasurely also in you. And they are stunning.


Laraine Wilkins

Mormon Folklore Studies

Jill Terry Rudy
The first folklore item I collected in my Introduction to
Folklore class as an undergraduate in 1987 was the story of
the Bountiful Witch. As I heard it, an old pioneer woman put
theevil eye on a little boy in her Bountiful, Utah, neighborhood. The boy
became sick and remained so until some women in his Mormon congregation met in a barn to reverse the spell by ripping apart a chicken and having
the boy eat the heart and drink the blood. When the boy recovered, the
women knew a witch had put a spell on him. My roommate told me this
story when asked if she knew any folklore I could collect for my class assignment. The pioneer past, the evil eye, a witch, and a gruesome deed to destroy
a spell assured me that the story I turned in would definitely be folklore.
When Professor William A. Bert Wilson returned my collected item,
I found that my story was folkloric in a way much more interesting than
just the demonstration of the continuity of superstitious beliefs in Mormon
Utah. I learned that the story had circulated in both oral and print versions
and that various performances of the story contained striking similarities but
also some differences. My roommate told me that she had heard the story
from her professor during a discussion of the Salem witch trials; she thought
the professor told the story to show that even pioneer Mormons could
believe in witches, not just New England Puritans. In responding to my item,
Wilson explained that he had read the story in a project submitted by one of
his graduate students several years before and remembered telling the story
to my roommates professor. I also learned that the Bountiful Witch narrative was originally collected from a masterful storyteller, and in that context,
it was appreciated as a family story that demonstrated the fortitude of the
narrators ancestor. If studying folklore meant I could spend time hearing
intriguing stories, pondering how traditional expressions reflect or contradict
cultural norms, and discovering how the meaning of a narrative changes from
one teller and performance situation to another, I was hooked.

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I did not know that Mormon traditions had been studied since the 1930s
until Wilson asked me in 1988 to write an entry on Mormon folklore for the
Utah Folklife Newsletter. At that time I concluded the essay by saying that
the purpose of Mormon folklore study will remain to explore and understand the Mormon ethos as it is created and maintained by a wide variety
of folkloric expressions of belief and custom. In returning to that assertion
many years later, I am inclined to ask why? Why have folklorists in and out
of the religious group identified Mormon folklore as a significant subject for
study? Why do Mormons remain both an intriguing subject and an ongoing
part of folklore as a profession? And, finally, why and how is the Mormon
ethos perpetuated through traditional expressions?
To answer these questions, Wilson rightly asserts that folklore can be an
uncertain mirror for cultural truths, and much of Mormon folklore study
if it focuses primarily on Utah Mormons and supernatural storieswill miss
the mark of understanding the Mormon ethos. Yet Mormon experiences
remain an integral part of life in Utah, and people continue to tell Three
Nephite and other supernatural stories. Further, Mormon experiences correspond with other significant human experiences; conversion, migration,
persecution, and rites of passage apply to other groups as well as Mormons.
As Wilson has said, Mormons as religious individuals express through traditions their need for security, their quest for meaning, their desire for the
continuance of what they cherish most (The Concept of the West 189).
To study Mormon folklore, then, is to contemplate what it means to live on
earth with dedication to the glory of God, a glory that for members of The
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is still grounded in practicing the
principles that they believe lead to immortality and eternal life.

Mormons as The Folk and

Mormon Lore as Object of Study
By choice and historical circumstances, members of the LDS Church have
been recognized as a distinctive group from the churchs founding. Organized
officially in upstate New York in 1830, the Church began with Joseph Smiths
stories of heavenly visitations of God and Jesus Christ, the appearance of
other angelic messengers, and the translation of new scripture, The Book
of Mormon, from ancient golden plates. Wilson asserts in The Handbook of
American Folklore that even in the nineteenth century, such claims found

Rudy S Mormon Folklore Studies

themselves in conflict with mainstream America and contributed to names,

stories, and customs repeated and perpetuated by outsiders. Therefore,
Wilson concludes, The first folklore having to do with Mormons was
probably that created about them by their enemies, including the initially
derogatory nickname Mormon itself (155). Perhaps the next type of folklore reflecting on the Mormon experience was narrative songs recounting in
a favorable lightthe founding of the religion, the persecutions against the
people, the trek across the plains, and the settlement of the West. Often
these songs, such as Brighter Days in Store, added new lyrics to familiar
tunes, as Thomas E. Cheney showed in his Mormon Songs. Brighter Days,
a Mormon version of Stephen Fosters Hard Times Come Again No More,
includes references to historical events involving Joseph Smith, the grasshopper and cricket infestations, and mobbers (92). The song conveys the
optimistic worldview that despite persecutions and problems there will be
brighter days in store.
In the mid-twentieth century, traditional Mormon song materials were
collected and published by Cheney, Austin and Alta Fife, Lester Hubbard,
Levette Davidson, and other collectors with ties to Utah and/or Mormon
heritage. In addition to studying Mormon songs, folklorists gathered other
types of lore such as Three Nephite stories, beliefs, and customs. Saints of Sage
and Saddle by the Fifes remains the most complete book-length treatment of
Mormon folklore. Austin Fife may have overstated the case in claiming that
were every other document destroyed, it would still be possible, from the
folk songs alone, to reconstruct in some detail the story of [Mormon] theology, their migrations, their conflicts with the Gentiles (quoted in Cheney,
p.xi). However, Fifes suggestion that the Mormon story could be reconstructed from folksongs demonstrates why Mormons were identified as a folk
group with lore that deserved to be studied. Mormons and anti-Mormons
or outsiders to the group, told stories, sang songs, and repeated customs
and beliefs about members of the church. Mormons were a self-proclaimed
peculiar people who had a distinctive range of traditions that matched what
folklorists had studied and collected for more than a hundred years.
From at least the eighteenth century, the folk were conceptualized as
lower-class, agrarian, and communal. The lore associated with the folk was
therefore assumed to have artistic features which revealed, in a formal, patterned way, a peoples values and ways of life. Many ballad collectors in
the 1700s and 1800s subscribed to and promoted the idea that songs of the

Irreantum S vol. 7, no. 1 (2005)

common people revealed the national character. These scholars assumed that
stories and customs were elemental, even ancient, forms of poetic human
expression; they saw in ballads and other types of lore a paradoxical blend
of authentic humanity that could be heroic or common and was at once
universal and yet particular to a people, place, or nation. They also assumed
that peasants and common people maintained a sense of naturalness and simplicity through their expressions, even as the modern world and art became
more rational and complex. While ballad collectors in the eighteenth and
nineteenth centuries tended to prize the simple beliefs and expressions of the
folk, early anthropologists such as Edward B. Tylor found old-time expressions and customs to be curious survivals from an earlier stage of human
development. Those folklorists who viewed traditions as being at odds with
civilization and modern life also believed that education would be an important way to uproot irrational lore.
Sometimes folklorists held both views: that the lore was artistically sound
in a simple, natural way and that it was destined to be perpetuated by a
people who remained quaint, backward, and out of touch with modern society. When the American Folklore Society was organized by William Wells
Newell and other intellectuals in the 1880s, they recognized that America did
not have a peasant class but rather groups with a distinctive heritage whose
lore should be collected and published. By the 1930s, scholars who had been
raised in the West recognized that Mormons had songs and stories similar to
those that folklorists were collecting in other areas of the country, and world.
Even at mid-twentieth century, Mormons remained a close-knit minority
who were still relatively isolated geographically and who maintained distinctive customs and beliefs.
The geographic isolation of the group definitely contributed to the identification of Mormons as a people ideal for folklore collecting. The physical
location of the group in Utah and other western settlements gave folklorists
an easy explanation for cultural coherence and unique traditions. Writing
of Mormon songs in 1945, Levette Davidson of the University of Denver
explained, The migration of the Saints to the Salt Lake Valley in 1847 and
the years following, resulted in a geographical isolation which permitted
cultural inbreeding and encouraged communal life (273). He presented
his collection of songs as traditions that deserved study because they were
surviving from earlier times and represented the more folkloric era of

Rudy S Mormon Folklore Studies

Mormon geographic and cultural isolation. In this essay and in other articles
by Wayland Hand, the Fifes, and Hector Lee, it is the lingering elements and
expressions of the Mormon past that interest these folklorists and, presumably, their reading audience. Others also began to acknowledge a distinctly
Mormon place and culture. Wallace Stegner wrote Mormon Country in the
early 1940s at the same time that many collections of Mormon folklore
were being published, giving the people a distinctive status in the American
West. A leading American folklorist, Richard M. Dorson, identified Utah
Mormons as a distinct regional group in his 1959 book, American Folklore.
Studies of vernacular architecture and material culture conducted by the Fifes
and others both confirmed and sometimes challenged the idea of a distinct
Mormon cultural region in the Great Basin.
The identification of Mormons as folk however, had more to do with
distinctive beliefs and customs than with geographic isolation and an agrarian way of life. Mormons made good folk for study because, in addition to
being associated with a particular region, they maintained through stories
and customs their distinctive beliefs. While Mormon songs were collected
because they revealed the history and values of the group, the Three Nephite
legends appealed to folklorists because they showed the supernatural base of
much Mormon thought. The stories usually describe the miraculous appearance of a man or, more rarely, two or three men who provide help, advice, or
warning before disappearing in a mysterious way. The men are assumed to be
the three Book of Mormon apostles who were granted their desire to remain
on earth doing good works until the second coming of Christ. As with the
Bountiful Witch story and its supernatural elements, some folklorists
including Lee, Hand, and the Fifesrecognized in Mormon traditions and
belief an acceptance of supernatural occurrences that seemed antithetical to
modern society, and thus quite folkloric. Following the lead of folklore collectors from Utah, Dorson identified Three Nephite stories as one supreme
legend an important type of narrative involving claims to truth, historical
characters, and/or supernatural happenings. Dorson explained his interest in
Three Nephite stories and in Mormons as a folk group: Mormon theology
invited folklore of the supernatural with its strong commitment to intuitive
knowledge and extrasensory experience (115). This intuitive knowledge and
extrasensory experience probably called revelation and testimony by faithful Mormons, remains a sensitive and important consideration for Mormon
folklore studies.

Irreantum S vol. 7, no. 1 (2005)

Mormons as Ongoing Subject in Folklore Studies

From the Grimms publication of tales to Francis James Childs collection of
English and Scottish ballads, scholars worked toward the goal of turning oral
traditions into written texts for comparative study. This goal complemented,
and sometimes overshadowed, the desire to represent and understand a group
through its traditional expressions. To salvage what was thought to be perishable lore, many of the early published works on Mormon folklore contained
numerous complete texts and some fragments of songs and stories from folklorists fieldwork and from printed sources. Following standard methodologies of the time, most publications gave minimal analysis of either the texts
or the contexts in which the traditions were collected or performed. Lester A.
Hubbard and LeRoy J. Robertsons article, Traditional Ballads from Utah
(1951) is an excellent example of trends in folklore studies that extended from
the nineteenth into the twentieth centuries. The article published nine Child
ballads that Hubbard had collected in Utah, songs identified by Child and
indexed by his name and a classification number. In the articles introduction, Hubbard gives a short discussion of performance contexts and explains
that British converts to the Church remembered the songs and sang them
to their children and grandchildren when they moved to Utah (3738). The
article is more an announcement that Child ballads were sung in Utah than
an analysis of what the songs meant for the people who knew them.
In addressing the issue of Mormon cultural autonomy from a theological
rather than a geographical angle, Austin Fife in Folk Belief and Mormon
Cultural Autonomy (1948) countered this text-based trend in folklore
studies, writing instead a cultural analysis based on items of folk belief and
narrative in the Fife Mormon Collection. Published in the most prominent
folklore journal in the country, the Journal of American Folklore, the article
acknowledges a growing corpus of Mormon folklore scholarship. In a lengthy
note, Fife explains that folklore studies of a Mormon theme have been
extremely limited, but he then gives references to twelve articles published
in regional and national folklore journals in the previous decade. He also
mentions Stegners Mormon Country, Maurine Whipples novel The Giant
Joshua, and the Daughters of Utah Pioneers pamphlet series, Heart Throbs of
the West, as sources for folkloric information, along with a few song publications and state, university, and church archives in Utah.
Fifes analysis links the distinctive qualities of Mormon belief and culture with the theology of Joseph Smith. Quoting the Articles of Faith, Fife

Rudy S Mormon Folklore Studies

develops his theme that Mormonism is particularly attuned to divine intercession in every act of man and the destiny of the world (21). Noting that
there is a Mormon doctrine of salvation and godliness that also is original in
the extent of its departure from traditional Christian concepts, Fife associates large families, genealogical research, and temple rites with Mormon belief
systems. Carefully distancing Mormon beliefs from magic and illogical kinds
of causation, Fife develops his main theme through examples showing the
intercession of the heavenly powers in the affairs of man (24). Many of the
examples involve apparent alterations of natural laws and elements: floods,
fires, and clouds appear to shield and protect Mormon groups and settlements; in other cases, a spiritual intermediary, like a Nephite or an ancestor
in a dream, appears to give information and guidance. Fife notes examples
of divine power used to rebuff enemies and the acknowledgement of evil
spirits that attempt to counter divine intercessions. Rather than placing these
folkloric events in the early history of the church, Fife concludes that such
elements of Mormon experience continue because the forces for the cultural
absorption of Mormonia in the current of intellectual life have, at best, made
only superficial penetration (28). Like Tylor and the survivalists, Fife seems
to hope that intellectualism will overcome traditions and beliefs related to
the supernatural. However, right up to the present, Mormon folklore studies continue to include traditional expressions related to divine intervention
and the principles advocated in the Articles of Faith because these principles
continue to animate the lives, belief, and outlook of Latter-day Saints.
As the study of Mormon lore shifted from the first generation of Hand, the
Fifes, Lee, and others to the generation of Wilson, Toelken, and Brunvand
(see chapters 1012), many scholars have continued to maintain the view of
Mormons as a distinct regional group connected with the American West
and having a unique heritage and belief system. Research still focuses on texts
of stories, customs, or songs, but the texts often come from student collections or archival materials rather than from the folklorists own collecting
trips or fieldwork. And the articles do not usually print verbatim texts but are
more likely to quote from those texts in order to analyze meaning or to comment on specific aspects of Mormon worldview or on a particular folklore
genre. Two of Brunvands articles on Mormon jokes and supernatural legends
demonstrate a mix of older and newer folklore concepts. For example, his
article on jokes, As the Saints Go Marching By maintains the older view
that Mormons are . . . a folk group comparable in the homogeneity and

Irreantum S vol. 7, no. 1 (2005)

strength of their traditions to other regional groups identified by Dorson

(53). However, rather than relying on the familiar genres of songs and narratives, Brunvand instead discusses jokes and the functions of current traditions known among or told about Mormons (54).
In another article on supernaturalism and Mormon legends, Modern
Legends of Mormondom, Brunvand maintains a regional viewpoint in
the study of Mormon folklore. After giving a useful review of past work on
Mormon legends, Brunvand advocates paying more attention to currently told
stories, storytelling contexts, and the varying attitudes among participants in
storytelling sessions (191). In contrast, Toelkens studies of water narratives
(The Folklore of Water and Traditional Water Narratives) also focus on a
region, the Mormon West, but he analyzes the narratives to address the thorny
issues of a culture that champions group cooperation but also encourages
individual attainment (Traditional 200). These changes in conducting
and publishing folklore research reflect the movement from comparative
studies and survivalist attitudes toward studies of the function and performance of traditions in the ongoing social life of a strongly interactive group.
Since the 1980s, there has been a distinct shift away from region as a
determining feature of Mormon folklore and an extension of research to
incorporate the founding of the church, its worldwide missionary efforts, and
Mormon congregations in locations outside Utah. For example, in Hecate
in Habit, Jeannie Thomas mentions a specific place, Utahs Logan Canyon;
however, she is more interested in issues of supernaturalism, interfaith relations, and gender and patriarchy suggested by stories of St. Annes Retreat
than in describing a Mormon region. In his discussion of marriage confirmation stories, George Schoemaker does not make region or place a significant
element but rather categorizes the narratives and analyzes what the stories
suggest about Mormon worldview. The methodology of these articles is similar to work by Margaret P. Baker, Suzanne Volmar Riches, Carolyn Gilkey,
Elaine Lawless, Gloria Cronin, and Margaret K. Brady. As this list indicates,
more women have begun conducting and publishing folklore research since
the 1960s; their interests, combined with new approaches in folklore studies,
have contributed additional genres and interpretive strategies to discussions
of Mormon lore.
The dean of Mormon folklore studies in the past four decades has been
William A. Wilson (see chapter 10), who has been able to define anew

Rudy S Mormon Folklore Studies

Mormon folklore studies by validating religious belief to folklorists and

folklore to the Mormon public. In articles published in the 1970s and 80s,
Wilson picks up the theme of divine intervention in human life that Fife
found pervasive in Mormon traditional thought, finding such cultural patterns in legends, missionary lore, and family narratives, and analyzing both
the contexts and functions of the stories.
In addition, Wilson began to redirect Mormon folklore studies away from
assumptions of homogeneity, quaintness, and backwardness. In Mormon
Folklore (1983), Wilson asserted, Most studies to date have assumed a
cultural homogeneity that in reality has never existed. The fact is that rural
and urban Mormons, educated and uneducated Mormons, male and female
Mormons, born-in-the-church and converted Mormons quite often view
the world through different eyes and respond to it differently in their lore
(15960). In 1989, he pressed the issue of changing the focus of Mormon
folklore studies in his The Study of Mormon Folklore: An Uncertain Mirror
for Truth, in which he called for scholars to turn from supernatural narratives to stories of the quiet lives of committed service . . . at the heart of
the Mormon experience (109). He also noted the function for Mormons
of faith-promoting stories and humor to encourage proper behavior . . .
[and] to ease the pressures by laughing at both themselves and at the system
(106). Wilson asserts that the focus of Mormon folklore studies should be
on universal as well as specifically Mormon issues: We must finally discover
behind Mormon folklore typical human beings coming to terms through
their lore with enduring life and death questions that know neither temporal
nor cultural boundaries (The Concept of the West 189).
From the 1980s into the twenty-first century, a growing number of
Mormon-affiliated scholars have found their way to folklore studies and
may yet fulfill Wilsons call. Contemporary issues in folklore studies, literary
studies, religious studies, and public-sector work have converged to make
Mormon folklore an intriguing and expanding area of research in the United
States and abroad. While folklore studies will always focus on genre and particular types of expression, there is an increasing interest in studying more
than texts by conducting more detailed ethnographic research. Recent critiques of ethnography in anthropology and other fields have not diminished
the scholarly and public interest in examining lived experience. Likewise,
world events and academic trends related to issues of identity and heritage
politics have not resolved concerns or dampened scholarly hopes about the

Irreantum S vol. 7, no. 1 (2005)

value of studying traditional expressions linked with the lives and values of
The most recent work on Mormon folklore has included historical topics
like Eric Eliasons studies of pioneer nostalgia and J. Golden Kimball stories,
Margaret K. Bradys significant book Mormon Healer and Folk Poet, and studies of contemporary narratives and customs. Eliason has commented that
Wilsons focus on religious practices presages contemporary trends in religious studies to research living religion or ways that theology and religious
principles are enacted in everyday life. Eliason also asserts, however, that the
study of supernatural experiences and beliefs will remain a key area of study
in Mormon folklore and religious lore in general. David Allred amplifies several areas of current intellectual interest that can be illuminated by the study
of Mormon traditional expressions: We need more research on the international church, the syncretism that comes with conversion. . . . The Mormon
experience(s) open the door for research on some of the most significant
human experiences and some of the trendy academic areas (syncretic belief
systems and identity formation, for example) (personal communication).
Allred, Reinhold Hill, Glenn Ostlund, Kent Bean, and Danille Linquist are
all conducting research that incorporates some of these academic trends in
their analysis of Mormon life.

The Mormon Ethos and Traditional Expression

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, ethos comes from the Greek
word for character, a persons nature or disposition; in nineteenth-century
England, the word became associated with conveying the spirit, tone, or
sentiment of people or a community. When intellectuals assumed that the
folk were one homogenous throng of people, it made some sense to assert
that songs and tales known by the people would represent clearly the sentiments and values of the group. Given assumptions about knowledge and
human behavior that gained credence during the eighteenth century, a religious group associated with prophecy, revelation, the building of Zion, and
the attainment of eternal life would seem to be ideal to investigate whether
actions and behaviors align with professed beliefs. Folklorists studying
Mormons have found that the songs, stories, customs, and material culture
of the group express a tendency to value a unique heritage, theology, and way
of life attuned to the conflict of good and evil and the intervention of God

Rudy S Mormon Folklore Studies

in human affairs. Contrary to expectations that rationalism would stamp out

such traditions and beliefs, folklorists and many other scholars now admit
that religiosity is not a survival from a primitive past and that it deserves
contemporary consideration and study.
Yet even the Bountiful Witch story suggests that such lore may contradict
or conflict with official doctrine and with the beliefs of the group. Despite
a bent toward accepting supernatural intervention in human experiences,
pioneer Mormon leaders did not advocate witchcraft and neither did any of
the storytellers who passed along the legend, an example of a tradition that
does not square with doctrine or with the deeply held values of Latter-day
Saints. Yet those traditions still suggest something about what it means to be
a member of the church. Likewise, some of the traditions that most closely
align with the Mormon ethos may not appear in diaries, family histories,
archives, or published scholarship. As Wilson points out in The Study of
Mormon Folklore: An Uncertain Mirror for Truth, folklore scholarship
may be uncertain because the cultural reality reflected in a published work
depends very often upon the predisposition and presuppositions of the scholars holding the mirror (107). The mundane nature of traditional acts like
taking Cub Scouts on a hike to fulfill a church calling or of checking in on a
neighbor may not appear on the radar screen of folklore studies; Wilson suggests these traditions have not become prominent in the study of Mormon
lore, even though acts of service show the character of faith at the heart of
Mormon life.
Whether collected, compared, analyzed, and published or not, the traditional actions and expressions of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints appear in choices they make each day. For this reason there
is value in gathering and studying examples of Mormon traditions enacted in
everyday life. Previous scholarship on Mormon lore need not be thrown out,
however, because the focus on group identity, the Mormon West, and the
past can contextualize studies that emphasize the contemporary lives of individual members of the group. Comparative studies with religious individuals
and traditions from other groups also can give insights into how traditions
create, deflect, and maintain group ethos.
Olive Burt asserted in her article on a dozen Mormon murder ballads
that Mormon converts tended to be the folk of each country, and they
brought with them the folkways and folklore of their native lands (141).
As early articles on Mormon lore suggest, the geographic isolation of Utah

Irreantum S vol. 7, no. 1 (2005)

and the Great Basin did not mean that Mormon culture was either homogenous or free from crime or sin. On the contrary, proselytizing efforts and
the doctrine of free agency associated with the religion assured that cultural
and behavioral diversity would always be an element of Mormon traditional
life in addition to the insider/outsider conflicts that have continually shaped
Mormon experiences. Because traditions show what people are used to and
relate to what they value, a Mormon ethos can be better understood through
continuing work in folklore studies. As indicated earlier, much work needs to
be done on the international church, on the relationship between new members and outsiders with the established group, on the emergence of new traditions, and on those traditions that remain significant and dynamic over time
and space. Eliasons collection Mormons and Mormonism: An Introduction to
an American World Religion suggests the possibilities of studying the international church; Susan Buhler Tabers study of a year in her Delaware ward,
Mormon Lives, answers some questions about how Mormons actually live
their religion.
But there is much more work to do by interested scholars in and out of the
church. Margaret K. Bradys work on Mormon womens visionary birth narratives and her book on Mary Susannah Fowler give important insights into
Mormon experiences in the past and present; her work, like that of Jan Shipps
in Mormon history, indicates the benefit of careful scholarship conducted by
an outsider familiar with the group. The topics, theories, and methodologies
for future research also are in place. Echoing Wilsons call to study lore nearer
to the heart of Mormon experience, David Mired adds, This means less
work on Three Nephites and more work that focuses on personal experience
narratives and narratives that define LDS identitynot J.Golden Kimball
stories but rather Heber C. Kimball [an early church leader] stories. . . . The
literature of Mormon folklore also may be too text-based. More ethnographic
work needs to be done . . . [and] more performance-oriented work needs to
happen (personal communication).
S This essay originally appeared in Folklore in Utah: A History and Guide to
Resources, ed. David Stanley. Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press, 2004.
14252. Reprinted with permission.


Rudy S Mormon Folklore Studies

Works Cited
Brady, Margaret K. Transformations of Power: Mormon Womens Visionary Nar
ratives. Journal of American Folklore 100 (1987): 46168.
. Mormon Healer and Folk Poet: Mary Susannah Fowlers Life of Unselfish
Usefulness. Logan: Utah State University Press, 2000.
Brunvand, Jan Harold. As the Saints Go Marching By: Modern Jokelore Concern
ing Mormons. Journal of American Folklore 83 (1970): 5360.
. Modern Legends of Mormondom, or Supernaturalism Is Alive and Well in
Salt Lake City. In American Folk Legend: A Symposium. Ed. Wayland D. Hand.
Berkeley: University of California Press, 1972. 185202.
Burt, Olive W. American Murder Ballads: And Their Stories. New York: Oxford
University Press, 1958. Rpt. New York: Citadel Press, 1964.
Cheney, Thomas (Edward), ed. Mormon Songs from the Rocky Mountains: A Compila
tion of Mormon Folksong. Publications of the American Folklore Society, Memoir
Series vol. 53. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1968. Rpt. Salt Lake City: Uni
versity of Utah Press, 1981.
Davidson, Levette J. Mormon Songs. Journal of American Folklore 58 (1945):
Dorson, Richard M. Utah Mormons. In American Folklore. Chicago: University of
Chicago Press, 1959. 11221.
Eliason, Eric, ed. Mormons and Mormonism: An Introduction to an American World
Religion. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2001.
Fife, Austin. Folk Belief and Mormon Cultural Autonomy. Journal of American
Folklore 61 (1948): 1930. Rpt. in Fife, Exploring. 1528.
Fife, Austin (E.) and Alta (S.) Fife. Saints of Sage and Saddle: Folklore among the
Mormons. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1956. Rpt. Salt Lake City:
University of Utah Press, 1980.
Hubbard, Lester A. and LeRoy J. Robertson. Traditional Ballads from Utah.
Journal of American Folklore 64 (1951): 3753.
Stewart, Polly, Steve Siporin, C. W. Sullivan, III, and Suzi Jones, eds. Worldviews
and the American West: The Life of the Place Itself. Logan: Utah State University
Press, 2000.
Taber, Susan Buhler. Mormon Lives: A Year in the Elkton Ward. Urbana: University
of Illinois Press, 1993.
Toelken, Barre. The Folklore of Water in the Mormon West. Northwest Folklore 7.2
(Spring 1989): 326.
. Traditional Water Narratives in Utah. Western Folklore 50 (1991): 191

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Wilson, William A. The Concept of the West and Other Hindrances to the Study
of Mormon Folklore. In Stewart, Siporin, Sullivan, and Jones 17990.
. Mormon Folklore. In Handbook of American Folklore. Ed. Richard M
Dorson. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1983. 15561.
. The Study of Mormon Folklore: An Uncertain Mirror for Truth. Dialogue:
A Journal of Mormon Thought 22.4 (Winter 1989): 95110.


Claiming Heritage through

Narrative Themes in the Fruits
of Their Labors Project of the
American Folklife Center
Kristi A. Young with Benjamin R. Webster
Balzac once said that every persons life was worth a novel. Folk
lorists facilitate the creation of what could be viewed as narrative novels. By collecting narratives that are told repeatedly by
an individual to illustrate important themes in their life story, folklorists
become a conduit through which these personal stories are recorded. Those
who share their narratives do so through memories filtered by their worldview. Memory is malleable and allows the teller to shape their narrative to
meet their own needs as well as the needs of their audience. While each life
is richly textured, how are the stories and their significance to be harvested?
Today many Americans of all walks of life are keenly interested in documenting various aspects of cultural heritage so they can be preserved for the
future, better understood, and shared with others. Unfortunately, despite
the tremendous amount of interest in this area, there are very few opportunities available for people to learn effective, state-of-the-art techniques for
cultural documentation.
The American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, a leader in ethnographic field research for close to three decades, has addressed this problem
by developing a model for an intensive, three-week-long field school for cultural documentation, and then putting it into action through partnerships
with educational institutions across the country. The Centers field school,
which was first held in 1995, offers hands-on training, for beginners, in such
areas as research ethics, considerations for preliminary research, interviewing

Irreantum S vol. 7, no. 1 (2005)

techniques, sound-recording techniques, documentary-photography techniques, ethnographic-observation techniques, fieldnote-writing techniques,

the archival organization of multiformat ethnographic collections, and the
development of public products and programs based on documentary material gathered in the field. The training, which is provided by members of the
Centers professional staff along with other experienced cultural specialists,
includes lectures, hands-on workshops, discussions, and supervised teambased fieldwork with a carefully selected cultural community.
To date, the American Folklife Center has sponsored seven highly successful field schools: two in Colorado, both in partnership with Colorado
College and the University of New Mexico (1995, 1996); one in Ohio, in
partnership with Kenyon College (1999); two in Indiana, in partnership
with Indiana University (2000, 2001); one in Maryland, in partnership with
Salisbury University (2003), and one in partnership with Brigham Young
University (2004). Two field schools are planned for 2005. One field school
will be in connection with Salisbury University and the other with Brigham
Young University. Each of these field schools trains approximately fifteen
participants who have included public-school teachers, librarians, leaders
of cultural groups, museum curators, arts administrators, and graduate
and undergraduate students of folklore, anthropology, history, and other
The focus for the 2004 field school program sponsored through BYU
was Utah Valleys orchards. The project, Fruits of Their Labors, addresses
a compelling research subject because of the rapidly changing face of Utah
County. It is vital to collect narratives and document the influence that
orchards have had upon residents in the Valley. The fieldwork done by members of the school not only provided valuable documentation of local Folklife,
but also created primary historical documents which will be invaluable to
future generations. All of the collected interviews, fieldnotes, tapes, and photos generated by the fieldwork are housed in the Wilson Folklore Archives in
L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Brigham Young University.
There were five teams of fieldworkers and around eighty possible informants. The topics that the teams chose to explore led them to orchards in
Provo, Orem, and American Fork. One team also visited the last LDS church
owned orchard in Utah Valley located in Payson; 2004 was the last operating
year for the orchard which the church plans to sell or lease.

Young and Webster S Claiming Heritage through Narrative

While visiting these sites, the fieldworkers collected information on customs, folk beliefs, and material cultural, but the main focus of their work was
personal narratives. The study of narrative by folklorists remains a relatively
new area of scholarship. In the past, folklorists often neglected first person
narratives focusing rather on the folk in the collective or looked at the community reflected in stories rather than in the individual. Consequently, personal narratives were often ruled too idiosyncratic and in their stead scholars
collected and studied third person legendsthose oft-told tales passed from
person to person within a social group and reshaped in the process to reflect
group values and attitudes and to meet group needs.
But these personal narratives can also be valuable because they provide
insight into the individuals who tell them. This approach to understanding
folk narratives is a trend that is beginning to gain ground in mainstream
folklore practices. As Sandra Dolby notes, Folkloristics [now] assume that
social groups are responsible for creating and maintaining cultural resources
that the individual then uses to build a personal reality (10). Where traditional methods of interpreting oral narrative might have focused on the
narrative itself and its regional/historical variants, folkloristics are now beginning to appreciate each individual narrative on its own terms. Folklorists are
now less concerned with how folklore is disseminated across time and space
and more interested in how it is performed in given social contexts.
So is it possible for oral narratives to move us in the way that great
literature can? William A. Wilson would say yes. His experiences fighting
cancer gave him the opportunity to reflect on just this question. In his 1990
Distinguished Faculty Lecture at BYU, Wilson not only cites literature to
express his anguish during this difficult time, but also recalls material from
his mothers personal narratives (which Wilson collected in oral interviews)
that have the power to comfort him.
One quiet night, in the darkened silence of my hospital room, with the terrifying word of the pathology report swirling again and again through my
headwell-differentiated carcinomait was not the hope of some miraculous cancer cure looming on the horizon that got me through to morning but
rather defiant phrases like those of the poet Dylan Thomas, hurled angrily and
repeatedly at approaching and inevitable death and reminding me all the while
of my individual and human worth:
Do not go gentle into that good night
Rage, rage against the dying of the light (56)

Irreantum S vol. 7, no. 1 (2005)

At the end of his lecture, after recounting his mothers struggle with a lifethreatening case of pneumonia as a teen and her eventual early recovery,
Wilson continues:
As I lay in my hospital bed years ago wondering what that well-differentiated
carcinoma would finally do to me, it was not just Dylan Thomass Do not
go gentle into that good night that brought me through the dark; it was also
my mothers line: And that spring I rode my horse and went back to school.
More than that, it was all that vigor, all that passion, all that humor, all that joy
and tragedy, all that life that had been Riddyville [where his mother grew up]
living in my memory not as historical narrative but as the artistic rendering of
significant human experiencethat is, as literature, literature that testified to
me once again of the indomitable nature of the human spirit and of its divine
capacity to create and enjoy beauty. (2324)

Just as Wilson found comfort in his mothers narrative about overcoming her ordeals, others, too, find inspiration from the stories of community
members. The power of narrative to transport a listener, or reader, into
another realm to gain appreciation for and inspiration from others is universal and came into play in the Orchards field school. Ben Webster, a
student who worked on preparations for the field school, was drafted into
a fieldwork group at the last minute. He found the experience to be life
changing. He writes: I became so enthralled with folklore that I took a job
working in the Harold B. Lee Librarys Wilson Folklore Archives and, before I
knew it, I was working on a project co-sponsored by Brigham Young University
and The American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress titled Fruits of
their Labors: The Orchards in Utah Valley; A Field School. That experience will
forever remain with me, not so much because of what I learned intellectually, but
because of what it did for me intrinsically. For a brief moment in time I became
an orchardist by listening to the narratives of those who were. I felt the joys and
sorrows of the early farmers who struggled to keep their despite the obstacles. I also
felt the loss of their posterity, some who still struggle to maintain their orchards
ina rapidly urbanizing county and other who no longer can.
Following a week of intense training both in and out of the classroom, the
participants were divided into teams of three or four persons in order to most
efficiently collect the folklore. I was fortunate enough to be assigned to a group
with an international flavor. Two of our folklorists, Howayda Kamel and Essam
Mohamed, were at the field school on assignment from the Egyptian National

Young and Webster S Claiming Heritage through Narrative

Library. As outsiders, not only to the cultural realm of heavily Latter-day Saint
Utah County but American culture in general, they brought an entirely different
set of life experiences from which to derive meaning from the personal narratives
we collected. Despite these vast cultural chasms and, perhaps in some measure
because of them, our team found not only intra- and inter-familial themes but
universal archetypes or global commonalities in the personal experiences of the
folk who live in the hills of the mighty Wasatch Mountains.
The power of narrative, whether literary or oral, to move its audience is frequently achieved through thematic strategies. As individuals recount stories
of family, friends, and forebearers to themselves and others, they often do so
in repetitive ways, using certain narratives again and again to expound on the
important themes of their lives. Dolby (cited earlier) notes the importance
of creative expression in the use of such strategies, where the abstraction of
literary themes from narrativesoral or writtenis an analytical exercise,
but the use of themes constitutes creative expression . . . The personal narrative is told for the sake of its literary goal; the event is created to illustrate the
chosen theme (2425). These strategies may not be articulated in a conscious
way; rather, themes often reveal themselves as the cumulative effect of several
stories that are collected to be preserved for future generations.
The importance of themes became a guideline for the field school students in the process of collecting the narratives. Webster writes: After much
deliberation, our team determined that we would focus our energies on seeking to
understand the function of the family in the orchards and, conversely, the function of the orchards in the family. And so it was that we set off to collect the stories
we would later title: Family Trees. In selecting the theme of family as a focal
point for their interviews, the field school participants were sensitive to the
personal nature of the stories they hoped to collect, and worked at establishing trust with their subjects. Webster continues: Our first visit was to the home
and orchard of Tim and Natalie Crandall. As we would experience with everyone
we visited, they were warm and hospitable, gracious enough to allow four strangers carrying all sorts of recording and camera equipment to traipse through their
otherwise peaceful home and set up shop. Folklorists invoke no special interviewing privileges; we spent some time just informally talking. Finally, when a level of
trust had been established, the Crandalls, like others, told the stories that matter
to them and that they want preserved. In all likelihood, these are stories they have
told time and again. But then, thats the beauty of folklore. Repetition affords us

Irreantum S vol. 7, no. 1 (2005)

an opportunity to find central themes. Each re-telling allows the hearer to gain
access to the values someone may not overtly state.
The interviewers achieved some measure of success in their goals to collect
stories about family. Indeed, family emerged as a central theme in the stories,
even without much prompting. Webster continues his narrative about working with the Crandalls to show how family values were articulated for the
orchardists: As we chatted with the Crandalls, they shared their thoughts about
working alongside family. Natalie shared these thoughts:
I really think that its just invaluable the time that you get to spend with your kids,
and I like it actually when Im put at a sorting table and I have our oldest daughter
here and me here. And youre just there for like, sometimes two, three hours and it
is a great time, even if youre mad at each other and youve had disagreements that
day you end up talking . . . youre standing there and you just start talking, and a
lot of time you can sort things out. Thats one thing I loved, sorting by Tims mom,
she was the best talker. You could talk to her about anything and everything, best
listener. It didnt matter what Id come with there if I was ever frustrated I always
went home feeling like Id been to a psychiatrist, you know. Because shed listen to
me and she would talk with me, and I love that part of farming, I really do like
that. And I like the interaction that youre just there with your kids.

Tim added, When I was working with my dad, we would spend a lot of time
thinning fruit, spraying . . . now [our son] comes to work, and often times, probably three fourths of the times he works right with me . . . its great because its
time that we can spend together, regardless of the activities.
It was a rewarding experience to let them interpret their own lives through the
way they shaped the experiences and aspects of the orchard they chose to share. My
colleagues and I didnt leave that interview with the idea that sorting, thinning,
or spraying fruit were at the heart of the tales, but rather family unity. The valuing of time spent together as a family and the harmony it created was not only
an LDS or even American interpretation of these tales, but a human one. My
Egyptian colleagues were just as likely to point out such overarching themes at the
close of an interview as myself.
While the theme of family in the orchardists narratives reveals something
more generally about the core values of the predominantly LDS community
in Utah County, many of the orchard growers extend their LDS religious
beliefs to how and why they work their land. Scott Smith sees his orchard,
which has been in his family since the 1850s, as both a family stewardship as

Young and Webster S Claiming Heritage through Narrative

well as a god-given one. While the land may be entrusted to them by God,
the care of the land is secondary to the worship and acknowledgment of
God. Tim Crandall expresses the following feelings about his commitment
to Sunday worship and its effect on his orchard work:
September and October are the hardest, in fact really September. By the end
ofSeptember we have all of our pears and peaches picked and apples, and
apples arent quite as hectic. Peaches and pears we go through them pretty
quick and so I guess our church callings they just, I mean theres just a time
wedo the best we can on Sunday. We never pick anything on Sunday; we
never do anything, no matter how busy we are. You know, theres been times
that weve had fruit that we really needed picked on Sunday, and we dont pick
and we wont let anyone else. And so we dedicate Sunday to that.

Not only does regular day-to-day church activity come into play in the
Crandalls lives as orchardists, but larger miraculous events do, as well.
Natalie Crandall observes:
I think its amazing too, Tims dad when he was, he was put in the stake
presidency, and Marvin Ashton came and set him apart. And in that blessing
he said that because of his church work and because of his dedication to his
church calling, that our farm would be protected from freezing, we would
have good crops when other people wouldnt have any, and it has been so true.
And I look at Tim as always been involved in a pretty big church calling that
requires a lot of time. I just, honestly, if you did not, if you, I mean being a
member of the Church and knowing that its true you know you are blessed.
There are things that just happen to fall into place for you so that youre able
to do your church calling and to do this other too. Looking back, or looking
ahead even you think, Ive got all this to do I have no clue, but you look back
and you think somehow it happened, you know. And it is truly a huge blessing
to- when we serve we are so blessed, I just believe that totally, totally, totally.

If the orchardists follow Gods guidelines they will be blessed in their stewardship; thus owning an orchard takes on a role in carrying out religious duty.
Both religious and orchard-growing themes shape the life narratives told by
orchard growers.
The relationship of hard work to religious commitment reveals itself in
both Tim and Natalie Crandalls individual narratives, and points to a third
theme identified by Ben Websters group of field workers. While hard work
is an integral part of the orchardists lives, the difficulty of the manual labor

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seems to be tempered by divine forces that provide blessings as the result of

religious devotion. But the theme of hard work also reveals a sense of identity
within the larger community, a means for seeing themselves apart from a
group that is already strongly religious. Ben continues his narrative, moving
to stories collected from the Wadley family: Among all the stories the Wadleys
shared, the following excerpt gave us insight into how they saw themselves, as a
family, in relation to those who didnt grow up on an orchard:
I remember, a few years ago, this friend that lives next door said, I want to get
some cherries, can I just come pick some? And I said, Sure. So I put a ladder by
that Lambert tree that was by my house . . . So she came and she was up there for
maybe 15 minutes and she said, Oh, this is so hard! How do you hold on to the
ladder and do it at the same time? And, you know she was only out [a little ways],
and I thought, What a wimp! She was out there for a long time, and she had
this many . . . I thought, Let me do it for you, its easier to do it than watch you!
I didnt know that we knew those things. But we do have a certain set of skills; its
just that nobody uses them anymore. Theyre useless!

And so it goes. These stories are told time and again to reinforce values, caution, or
just to share a laugh. But even in the laughter there is often a deeper significance.
Not only does the teller have a sense of family identity associated with the
hard work of taking care of an orchard, but the practice of hard work reveals
a pride in a family tradition that comes from previous generations. Webster
cites the Wadley orchardist:
I remember as a kid asking [my dad] once, Well, dont you get tired of this? And
he said, Well, when I go to work at my office job, thats a rest from farm work;
but when I work on the farm, thats a rest from office work. So I thought, gee, hes
restn all the time . . . I remember one time when we had to pick a prune crop...
[dad] had been working all day and doing other things all day and so he waited
one night until the moon came up and went out and picked the prunes by moonlight and picked the crop at night, so he just worked through the night picking fruit
because there wasnt any other chance to do it. You had to get them off.

Through the telling of this story and others, for example, we were able to perceive
the understanding the Wadley family shared about the importance their father
placed on caring for the orchard and, in turn , caring for his family.
The desire to preserve a sense of identity that comes from previous generations reveals itself in Websters own narrative about his experience approaching
the Wadley family. He recounts how one orchard community gave them a

Young and Webster S Claiming Heritage through Narrative

warm reception, one that seemed to come out of an urgency to preserve an

identity for future generations: The day after our interview with the Crandalls,
we headed north to the Wadley home. Through their generosity we felt the local
community reaching out to us as much we were to them. They repeatedly thanked
us for our efforts in preserving their stories and experiences, ones that, due to the
disappearing orchards, could never be relived, except through recounting them.
Although they themselves were doing a service to contribute to the project
of the American Folklife Center to document American folkways, the community recognized the efforts of the field school as a service to their own
community in preserving identity.
The reciprocal nature of the project further reveals itself in the sensibilities
that emerged in the field workers themselves, as they gained new perspective
and a heightened awareness of their own role in the collecting of the orchard
narratives. Webster cites the importance of the actual experience on the land
itself as it enhanced the narratives that were collected: Narratives such as
these served as the foundation for our overall field school experience. They were
enhanced as we breathed the orchard air, walked through countless rows of trees,
hauled ourselves up hills and down through gullies. These stories also framed every
picture taken and every sore muscle earned as we lugged recording equipment
across acres and acres of former and still standing orchards.
One afternoon on our way to the Wadleys home we missed their house and
ended up at and almost in the watering ditch. After a few hairy moments, we
turned around and, with some wonder, looked across the expanses of greenery
toward Utah Lake. We subsequently concluded that such views must certainly
have broken up the daily drudgery of working the land. We began, in that
moment, to understand the feeling behind the narratives, the feeling for the land
and trees. It wasnt a contrived or false sentimentality, but an honest look at an
honest people in an honest land.
The experience of being on the land and with the people, although an integral part of the stories collected, could never be fully preserved, except through
narrative. The memory of those lived experiences, as preserved through narrative, suggests the role of the fieldworkers as storytellers themselves. In
an ongoing process of storytelling, the collecting of oral narratives in the
orchards project thus shares concerns with literary narrative in which multiple adaptations are not only possible but also necessary. The preservation
of identity through narrative is a function of the adaptive role of memory.

Irreantum S vol. 7, no. 1 (2005)

James Olney writes that:

Memory, at least in part, is an adaptive function, with self-adjusting and selfdefining plasticity about it, turning back to the past so as to position itself
and us for what is to be dealt with in the future: it adapts continuously to
changing circumstances, external and internal, to constitute the self as it is at
any given instant. (343)

There is not doubt that the Crandalls and Wadleys forbearers would have
different tales to tell than those that the field school workers were told. In
fact, twenty years from now the people that were interviewed will have a
different emphasis about what is important than they do now. Though the
themes of family, religion, and hard work may remain, the expression of
those themes will shift with the economy, as well as the individuals who tell
them. The work done through the field school captures a moment in time of
an industry that is dying out, and is able to reveal the intimate lives of the
community that has supported it. It is vital that stories, not just economics,
document this vibrant way of life and values that these caring people are
willing to share in what is now not only a literary and folkloric document,
but an historical one as well.
Works Cited
FA20-FOTL-NJ-A001, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library,
Brigham Young University.
FA20-FOTL-NJ-A002, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library,
Brigham Young University.
FA20-FOTL-NJ-A003, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library,
Brigham Young University.
Olney, James. Memory and Narrative: The Weave of Life-Writing. Chicago: University
of Chicago Press, 2000.
Stahl, Sandra Dolby. Literary Folkloristics and the Personal Narrative. Bloomington:
Indiana University Press, 1989.
Wilson, William A. In Praise of Ourselves: Stories to Tell. Brigham Young Univer
sity Studies. 30.1 (Winter 1990): [5]24.


Interview with Folklorist

Bert Wilson
Andrew Jorgensen
William A. Bert Wilson has, without question, exercised the
single greatest influence on Mormon folklore studies as they have
taken shape over the last few decades. Wilson has hundreds of
publications to his name and is the recipient of numerous academic awards.
He edited the readable and acclaimed academic journal Western Folklore
and served for four years on the folk arts panel of the National Endowment
for the Arts. At both Utah State University and Brigham Young University,
he was chair of the English department and established thriving folklore
archives with an innovative indexing system that has enables users to access
a rich store of materials. He has mentored a generation of folkorists who are
now actively engaged in the study of Mormon folklore.

I interviewed Bert Wilson on January 7, 2005. As a student of folklore and

aspiring academic, I was intimidated by the prospect of interviewing a figure
of such renown. But Bert Wilsons humanity struck me right away. Yes, he
was a professor and department chair and mentor and researcher whose work
everyone must cite in their articles on folklore; but in his home and near
him, I could tell that he was also a home teacher, friend, and grandfather. We
held the interview in a family room, where the walls were lined with photos
of folk architecture and booksone wall of Finnish literature and folklore,
another of Western American and Mormon folklore anthologies, student
theses, and works of literature.
I want to talk about, start off with a little bit about your career and you academic life and then also your insights into what folklore is and how the discipline
of Mormon folklore has developed and where it will develop and where it should
develop. At what point in your education, in your life, would studying folklore
and Mormon folklore, later, be a meaningful pursuit in your life?

Irreantum S vol. 7, no. 1 (2005)

Well, this happened after I served an LDS mission in Finland and got
very interested in Finnish language and Finnish culture. Finnish literature,
belles-lettres, didnt really develop until the last part of the 1800s, the last
part of the nineteenth century, because even though 85% of the Finns spoke
Finnish, the language of education was Swedish. Sweden had ruled Finland
for 600 years, and then because of the war at the beginning of the nineteenth
century Russia took Finland from Sweden and made Finland a Grand Duchy.
Gradually a nationalistic movement began to develop, and it wasnt until
the end of that century that you started to get good poets, good novelists,
good short story writers. There really werent that many of them until you
got into the twentieth century. But the whole movement had occurred, the
nationalistic movement, to get them going, during the nineteenth century.
Iwanted to study Finnish literature but I realized that to do so I had to know
about Finnish folklore. Though there had been no belles-lettres among the
Finnish speaking people, these people had preserved a very rich body of folk
literature, the heroic songs, epic songs, folktales, a whole range of what we
call folklore today. The focus then was more on the folksongs, the epic songs
that told about ancient heroes. Then in 1835, Elias Lnnrot published the first
edition of the Kalevala; in 1849 he published a second and greatly expanded
edition. He had collected a huge amount of folklore in the hinterlands, the
country, and he compiled these songs that he collected into a cohesive unit
which he called the Kalevala, and this became one of the major stimuli for
the romantic nationalist movement in the country. I realized that if I was
going to study Finnish literature, I needed to understand the folk traditions
out of which the literature had developed.
If you look at countries that have a strong folk literature, like Ireland,
where there has been a heavy emphasis on its study, then you get a strong
literary tradition developing in that country, much of it growing out of that
folk background. Thats the kind of situation we have in Finland. I dont
want to spend a lot of time talking about Finland, but it was that interest
that sent me to Indiana University, because at Indiana they had a strong
folklore program. I received a national defense language fellowship to attend
there and study Finnish. [. . .] Indiana University had a good Finnish studies
program, and there I brought those two areas of emphasis togetherFinnish
study and Mormon folklore study. I finished the three years of that fellowship, and then I started working on my dissertation on folklore and nationalism in Finland and won a Fulbright Hayes in 1965 to go to Finland to do

Jorgensen S Bert Wilson Interview

the research for that. I was there for sixteen months and I had a desk in the
Finnish Literature Society, which is also the repository for the Finnish folklore collection. It was there I learned an awful lot about archiving because
thats the biggest archive in the world, and I began to see what a good archive
was like and what you could make of an archive.
Before I had left for Finland, when I enrolled at Indiana University, my
interest originally was in Finnish literature and Finnish folklore. I had never
thought about my own culture, my Mormon background. When I got
there, Richard M. Dorson, who was head of the program and was at that
time thedean of American folklore studies, was thrilled to have a Mormon
in the program. I thought I would find bias against the church, but I didnt
find it in the folklore program. He started talking to me about Mormon
folklore. He had just recently published his book, American Folklore, and he
had a section in there on Mormon folklore where he had relied on publications of Hector Lee and Austin Fife and Thomas Cheney. He now had an
actual student who was Mormon, and he encouraged me to turn my gaze
not just to Finland but also to my own cultural traditions and roots. That
was really a surprise to mebecause at that point, I had always thought, as
many people do, that I didnt have any folklore and that folklore belonged
to other people and that you have to go to esoteric places and out to the
countryside or rural areas to fine it. It didnt take long to set those notions
aside. I got interested in Mormon folklore as well. Each of us in the graduate
program, the PhD program, at Indiana had to do a major collecting project
to learn the techniques of collecting and documenting folklore. I decided to
see what I could do with the three Nephites. [. . .] I focused on the Mormon
students and the Mormon faculty members at Indiana Universitythere
were five or six of thoseand began collecting stories of the three Nephites.
From them I collected, I think, close to fifty stories and could have collected
far more except I had to get done with the project and submit it. But that
got me interested in Mormon folklore and I published an essay based on
that collection a few years later.
And so those were my two areas of emphasis. I published a book based
on my dissertation, Folklore and Nationalism in Modern Finland, which grew
out of my research in Finland. But you dont do much research in Finnish
folklore if youre situated in the United States. You have to go over there to
do the research. My wife and I spent sixteen months in Finland, which is

Irreantum S vol. 7, no. 1 (2005)

about all I could hope for at one time. I have kept my interest in Finnish
studies (Im writing an article right now for a Finnish publication), but my
major emphasis became what folklorists tend to study, the folklore of the
world in which they live. One of the differences between folklorists and
anthropologists is that anthropologists tend to go off to some Pacific island
or to a culture quite different from their own, and thats a valuable thing to
do, but many folklorists will work on the lore of the groups they belong toor
the area where they live. Occupational folklore is a good example. I think
of Robert McCarlhe worked on the folklore of his own occupation. He
had been a firefighter and did some good work on the folklore of firefighting.
Other people living in a certain area would do folklore of that area, so I just
began to, in my collecting and in my teaching, focus on the American West
and on Mormon folklore. One summer, I did fieldwork in Paradise Valley in
Nevada on ranching folklore and customs for the American Folklore Center
of the Library of Congress. I did a lot of work on non-Mormon material, on
the folklore of the western United States. Still, my main publishing effort was
Mormon folklore. I still continued to write and to publish on Finnish subjects. I have published ten or fifteen essays on Finnish folklore, but Mormon
folklore became my major emphasis. At BYU, as many folklorists do, I had
students collect folklore in my classes and turn that into me. I would keep
copies of it to develop an archive. For a long time, that stuff just filled boxes
and filing cabinets in my office.
Tell me about the archive at BYU. Thats where Im actually working now.
They named it after you in 2003.
What happened is that I had all that stuff, and unless you can get at the
material, there is no possibility that youre ever going to be able to find
anything. You have to have an indexing system, an information retrieval
system, and most folklore archives didnt really have very good ones. As I say,
professors kept this stuff in their office until it forced them out, and then
they turned it over to the library. I started working on an indexing system
at BYU and made some initial attempts at it, but then I left BYU and went
to Utah State University for about six years. Before I left, I turned all of
the collections over to the university archive, or to the library. They kept it,
but they didnt do much with it. Then I was six years at Utah State, and I
still had the BYU material and had all the material that was currently being
turned in through the classes I was teaching (this is a student based archive).

Jorgensen S Bert Wilson Interview

As you would guess, some of the material was not very good, but some of it
was excellent. Most of my Mormon publications have grown out of material I have collected and that students have collected and submitted to the
Well, when I was at Utah State, I developed an archiving system and went
back to the Library of Congress (there was an archiving congress there) and
gave a paper on a genre-based archiving system. Though its not perfect, it
does make it possible to index the material after we have accessioned it and
put it in the appropriate place and then find it again if were looking for it.
Before that you just had a hopeless task of flipping through thousands of
items to find what you wanted. I was at Utah State for six years and then
returned to BYU. I didnt want to leave all of that material there. So I got
a leave of absence; the first year I came back to BYU, I didnt come at all.
Istayed at Utah State. I left all of the collections that had come in from students at Utah State because I thought Utah State owned them, but I made
photocopies of everything. It took a whole year. I set up a copy machine in
the folklore archive and my wife came over and helped me. As you know, we
have focused projects and then we have the genre items, and we made copies
of all of that. It took us the whole year to do it and we brought those back
with us.
Now, Utah State and BYU archives both use this system that I developed.
Barbara Walker, now Barbara Lloyd, was my associate in the folklore program. I developed the system and she then applied it to the materialsto see
if it worked. And it worked very well for us. Its a system that should work on
any archive; it doesnt have to be Mormon or Western. Its just a hierarchal
system for getting at your material. Anyway, I brought all that back with me.
We had the original BYU material and then the USU material when I came
back to BYU. So at that time USU and BYU had identical student-based
folklore archives. Well, Ive been back at BYU for a long time now and Barre
Toelken replaced me at Utah State and so weve continued to collect here and
the people up in Logan have continued to collect. We both continue to use
that system, but we, of course, have turned up additional material they dont
have, and they have turned up material we dont have. But the same indexing
system works in both places and gives us a means of handling the material.
A lot of the stuff will be very similar: in religious and Mormon folklore, for
example, stories of supernatural or divine intervention in the lives of people.

Irreantum S vol. 7, no. 1 (2005)

They get those kinds of items up there, and we get them down here. Our
indexing system makes it possible to put lore from both institutions in the
proper place and makes it possible for people to do similar research at both
[. . .]
You mentioned this notion that you had, early in your life, that folklore
belongs to other people. Assuming that there is such thing as an average Latterday Saint, what does the word folklore mean to them? What are the common
misconceptions about folklore?
Well, I mentioned a couple. One is that I dont have any folklore or
that it belongs to old people or people in the rural areas or to backward
uneducated people and so on. Its also, to call something folklore is to call it
untrue. Thats a difficulty that folklorists everywhere have to struggle with.
When were talking about folklore were not talking about untruths but about
that part of our culture that is passed on from place to place and generation
to generation through traditional processes. Through hearing a story and
then repeating it. Its passed on without benefit of book learning and official
education, just among the people themselves. Its passed on by hearing and
repeating or watching and repeating. So a little girl watches her mother make
a log cabin quilt and then after a while tries doing that herself. As her mother
gets her involved in the making of the quilt, the practice of quilt making gets
passed along. Or, suppose youre talking about customs and practicesfamily prayers, for instance. Family prayer isnt folklore; I wouldnt say that, but
the way that the family conducts it is. We were visiting a family in Finland,
a good Mormon family, and the father said, Well, its time for our family prayer, and man those kids in the big family all rushed into the living
room and knelt down. I thought, how in the world did he ever achieve that?
Usually, you have to drag your kids from whatever theyre doing, but they
had established a tradition in their family that the last one in the circle had
to pray that night. So the slowpoke had to pray. Thats a tradition that surrounds the family prayer. The prayer offered was a typical Mormon prayer.
In some families, you kneel; in others, you hold hands. What you do, those
are folk traditions. Some families have an order where you start with the
father and mother and go through the family and then you start again; it
just depends on the family. But theres nothing written on that. Its not book
learning, its not official instruction; its what you learn in being a part of the
family, a part of a folk group and passing that on to somebody else.

Jorgensen S Bert Wilson Interview

Youve written that folk narratives now circulating among Mormons, even
those, say, about pioneers, show us more about contemporary Mormon life and
values than they do about the subject of the story. Why is that so?
Well, because we always remember the past in terms meaningful to us in
the present. I did an essay on polygamy published in Weber Studies. They
had a special edition about Utah and I wrote an article on polygamy narratives. Imade the point fairly strongly there that I dont think well find
a very accurate picture of what polygamy was really like by just paying
attention to the stories that contemporary Mormons tell about polygamy,
because those stories are going to be a reflection more of the tellers own
attitudes, values and perceptions than they are of the people who lived
during polygamy. There may be a close correspondence in some instances,
but people who dont like polygamy are going to end up telling stories
about all of the difficulties that arose out of that institution. And people
thinking of ancestors who didnt have difficulties, theyll tell stories about
the harmony that prevailed. So youre going to have stories of harmony
and disharmony in polygamy. You look at who tells the stories and youll
usually see that the people who have a negative view of polygamy tell stories about the disharmony and misery that some people suffered, and you
will hear stories told by people who have a positive view, and these will be
stories of harmonyhow the wives worked together, how they supported
and loved each other, how the husband was esteemed by and fair with all
of them. So youre getting an attitude of the current generation reflected in
the stories more than you are getting an accurate picture of the past. And
heres where folklorists and historians ought to be working together. Theyre
not mutually exclusive efforts. We didnt have anybody back in polygamy
times collecting folklore. Now you can get some of the narratives that circulated, but you have to dig them out of journals and out of letters and
correspondence between people. You can do that, but its a hard effort. I
think that the historian is the ideal person to tell us what polygamy was
like. I think the folklorist is the ideal person to tell us how contemporary
Mormons feel about polygamy. Then you put those two approaches together
and you get a much more comprehensive and I think valuable view of
polygamy than you would by just taking one or the other approaches. Those
stories tell me that wed have a really difficult time if anybody ever really
seriously advocated the return to polygamy [laughter]. There are people
who would.

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It seems that youre describing that folklore is an apt way to get at the value
center of a culture.
Well, value center is a term I developed and Barre Toelken picked it
up and talked about it in his book The Dynamics of Folklore. Yeah, I think
that if you take a group of people like the Mormonsone of the mistakes
that non-Mormons have made is to stereotype Mormons. People have
asked me, Whats the typical Mormon like? And I say, I dont know;
Ive never met a typical Mormon. Every Mormon is in some ways different from every other Mormon. You have conservative Mormons, liberal
Mormons, you have Mormons who grew up in rural areas, Mormons who
grew up in urban cities, Mormons who are from Japan and Germany and
Finland and Tahiti, and theyre all different from each other. But there has
to be a central core. If thecenter doesnt hold, then you dont have anything.
And thats what I call the value center. Now that value center may shift at
times. I remember a friend of mine talking about our Constitution, Noel
Reynolds, a political science professor who has been a vice president at
BYU. I remember he said that the constitution means what the Supreme
Court says it means. As sentiment in the country shifts from one time to
another, then the Supreme Court, being part of that culture in which the
justices live, reflects that changed sentiment in its decisions. A good example
would be the approach the Supreme Court took to separate but equal in
the schools. An earlier Supreme Court decision stated that you had to have
equal schools but that they can be separate. But after the Brown v. Board of
Education decision, where Thurgood Marshall led the case against the earlier
view, then the Supreme Court reversed itself and said, No you cant have
separate but equal because the very fact that you make them separate means
that you make them unequal. That was a shift in the attitude in the country
at large and when that sentiment, that value center, had shifted from one
position to the other, then the Supreme Court went along with it. I think
the Supreme Courts job is to make sure that the shift doesnt take place too
fast, that youre not blown away with every wind of doctrine, changing the
decisions of earlier courts.
I think that happens in the church. I think the value center of the church
toward polygamy was not the same at an earlier time as it is now. Heres one
of the great values of folklore. We can look at what the stories are telling us
about how people feel at the present moment. One of the great values of
an archive is to have folklore collected over a long enough period of time

Jorgensen S Bert Wilson Interview

that you can look at stories, on the role of women in Mormon culture, for
example, chart the way Mormons have felt about women over a sixty year
period, and then see changes occurring in the culture that are reflected in the
There are different people with different backgrounds. But are there traditions that are conventionally overlooked in folklore studies that would be good
subjects of studies for revealing the character of Mormonsthe new value center
or changing value centeror just things that have been overlooked that would
be valuable?
There probably are. We have to discover these as we go along. You have to
live within a particular group of people long enough that you start to sense
the differences and you know what to ask for. Thats why its valuable to have
people trained in the methods of folklore research study the people who live
around them. Theres always a danger in that approach that you will miss
things that, because youre so close to them, they dont seem to be anything
that you will devote attention to. One of the main areas in that regard
before I say that, let me just back up and say that in Switzerland, at one time,
when they trained people in the university or elsewhere to become collectors
of folklore, they had to collect the folklore from their own cantons, the places
where they lived. And so the university saw its job as training people from
these different areas and sending them back into their home environments
because they would know already what it would take an outsider a long, long
time to learn. Thats the benefit of growing up in the culture. One of the problems is that, having grown up in a culture, you might miss things that an outsider would notice. So sometimes you need both the outsider and the insider.
But I think that one of the things we have missedand Ive been emphasizing this right at the end of my career, but not in time to get much stuff
collected in this direction. We dont need to quit talking about the stories of
divine intervention, but I think we need to start talking more about how we
deal with each other as human beings. If our culture is anything, if we learn
anything from it, it ought to be that we should love one another, help each
other, support each other; those beliefs are rooted deeply in our teachings as
Mormons. Yet stories of love and service are so commonplace that we havent
done anything with them, and folklorists have tended to look atthe more
dramatic, exciting, sensational story. You can look at the Nephite stories
as a sensational kind of experience. But if you look at those stories from
another perspective, what you have in the Nephite stories is these kindly old

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gentlemen helping people. Now we cant forget the fact that these kindly
old gentlemen are supposed to be people who have been granted the gift
of tarrying on the earth until the Savior would come again. Thats fine,
remember that, make it part of what you write up, but focus on the help
that they give and the kindness and concern that they have for other people.
We have about 1500 Nephite stories. My wife has helped me with those and
weve gone through those a number of times, and she comments on the fact
that what you find in these stories that you dont very often find in other
supernatural legends is that once the old men have left, the people they have
visited have been left with a good and peaceful, serene, happy feeling. Well,
we should recognize that part of the story. Nobody who has written about
Nephite stories has focused much on that.
Then I think we need to look at stories of devotion to the church.
Nobodys written anything about temple workers. I work in the temple now
as an ordinance worker. Some of the workers are old and feeble; they could
be home watching T.V. or doing something comfortable, but they sacrifice
hours of their time every week to come over and help the temple work
move ahead. What great devotion to helping! The people they are helping
to redeem are the dead, but theres nothing supernatural about that, its just
the kind of thing we ought to do. Then you look about you and see people
in your wards and your elders quorums and your Relief Societies who arent
necessarily commanded to go out and do something but just do it because
its good. And I think we get a much more accurate picture from these individuals of what the church really means to people and of the kinds of actions
it inspires them to carry out than we do from the sensational stories. One of
the problems is that the outsiders who publish the journals have wanted the
sensational stories. So those of us who are inside the culture, knowing that
these other kinds of stories exist have tended to play to the outsiders who
want the sensational stuff. I remember I was talking to Wayland Hand one
day and he made an interesting comment. Wayland Hand was one of the
leading folklorists in the United States, he was a Mormon, served a mission
in Germany, taught at UCLA until he retired in the German department,
but taught folklore. He was a good man who had really moved away from the
church, but he wasnt critical of the church like some people are. I was talking
to him about this and said we need to focus on these other stories. He said,
Oh, you mean youre going to go out and collect all of those stories that
are just everywhere? [laughter] Well if they are everywhere, thenNephite

Jorgensen S Bert Wilson Interview

stories arent everywhere, but these kinds of stories are everywhere, and by
focusing on the sensational, we have neglected one of the major cultural facts
of our society. So we really need to get out, and I hope that folklorists who
teach at BYU now, when they talk to students about things they could collect, would stress that this is a possibility as well.
Jill Rudy wrote that youve been successful at validating religious belief to
folklorists and folklore to the Mormon public. Do you ever see yourself as this
sort of intermediary. If so, how were you able to successfully do that?
Well, I dont know if Im much of an intermediary. One of the things that
you have to be careful of isthis has happened a number of times. In our
high priests group, the first Sunday of each month, instead of following the
program, we have a life history. We go through the group. Those have been
very valuable. They help us understand the people we live with. The histories
give us a stronger desire to help them. Occasionally, Ill hear someone tell a
story that I know is maybe the 75th version of the story that Im aware of, but
I never say, Oh, thats just folklore youre talking about here. Remember I
didnt say that folklore equals falsehood. Sometimes Ill go up and talk with
the individual afterwards about the story. It depends on the person.
In an essay I published in the alumni magazine, Mormon Folklore: Faith
or Folly, I have written that we ought to be focusing more on basic prin
ciples: faith, repentance, baptismwhats important for Mormonsrather
than on somebody popping out from behind a cloud and solving our personal difficulties when we get into them. I think that a lot of our folklore is
sort of me-centered (This is what happened to me) when we need stories
that are other-centered (This is what happened to cause us to help others).
We need good examples of a person inspired by the gospel to sacrifice much
of his or her time and effort to make life better for other people instead of
Iwas having severe problems and then I paid my tithing and things got a lot
better for me. Id like to see more of the other kind.
[. . .]
George Schoemaker quoted you saying, I believe in the worth of every human
being, not just in the elite, not just in the well-educated, but every living person
is as worthwhile as any other living personand folklore brought me into that.
I suppose that this is an attitude and value youve always held but that your career
helped you become more aware of its importance. Would you agree?
Yes, the career helped me become more aware of that. As I say, thats one of
the values that folklore study has. It opens the world up to you. But I think I

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have always had that value. Ive never thought that we should suppress people
or we ought to ridicule them and, you know, a lot of folklore does ridicule
people: a whole category of folklore that I call anti-other-people lore, the ethnic
jokes, for example. I have just come very strongly to believe that every person
is. . . . We have all this talk about the elite, well, the people who belong to the
elite are people and we ought to care about them. There are the non-elites and
they are people; we ought to care about them. There are the rich people and
the poor people. Theyre all people. One of the things about working in the
temple that I like is that everyone is dressed in white (it wouldnt have to be
white necessarily). You cant tell by looking at them (you can tell their ethnicity) whether they have a lot of money, whether they have no money. All of
these things that we place so much value on in our society, those differences
disappear and we all become children of God in the temple, not just because
were doing Gods work but because all of those things that make us different from each other, for the little while were in the temple, disappear and
were truly brothers and sisters. The clothing is a great part of that. I think
that variety is interesting. I believe in cultural diversity. I think we ought to
celebrate and honor the different cultural manifestations we have. If we were
all exactly the same in the way we dress, the way we talk, the way we look, it
would be a pretty dull society. That doesnt change the fact that behind that
exciting cultural diversity lies the basic human being, the homo sapiens that
we all are.
What do you consider some of your greatest accomplishments?
I dont know. Its hard to talk about your own accomplishments. I think
one of them is focusing on trying to help people help each other and using
folklore to do that. One of the things we havent talked about is that I have
tried to make people who are not always sympathetic to folklore studies
become more sympathetic. I received the Leonard Arrington Award recently
from the Mormon History Association. Thats the highest honor that the
association gives. They give one of these awards each year. The award mentioned that I had helped the historians understand the importance of folklore
in interpreting Mormon culture. Since I published my first piece on that
subject, Folklore and History: Fact Amid the Legends, back in 1973, that
was what I have been trying to accomplish, but its not always easy, so I was
happy to get the award. Id like to se a parallel recognition in the Association
for Mormon Letters or in the world of letters and literature. I dont think
weve gotten there yet. I am an honorary lifetime member of the AML, and

Jorgensen S Bert Wilson Interview

that was awarded to me for my work in folklore, but I still think most of the
people who teach literature need a better understanding of what folklore is
and how it can help them in the courses that they teach. Those of us who
teach American literature need to understand how folklore reveals the essence
of the American characterif not one American character, then many different American characters. That would be true of Mormon literature as well.
One of the things we need to help literary people understand is that the
art of folklore lies in the performance of folklore. Just reduced to a text on
a bare, white page, an item of folklore may not seem particularly artistic,
aesthetic or inspiring, but if you can get the entire context and if you can be
there at the performance of the song or the story or the enactment of a ritual,
whatever it is, then the item takes on power. For me, art equals power. People
who tell stories, if theyre telling Nephite stories, or if theyre telling ghost
stories or historical legends about the pioneers, they usually want to affect
human behavior. They want to have an impact on the people theyre telling
the story to. They want them to make them believe more than they do or
they want to make them laugh, or they want to make them understand what
the pioneers went through. So the more powerfully they tell a story, the more
likely they will achieve the effect that theyre after. In other words, in order
to alter the behavior of the audience or listener, they have to make the stories
artistically powerful. An artistically powerful narrative is so much better than
a dull story, and not all people who tell folklore stories do it well, but there
are always wonderful performers in a group of people. In some ways, folklore
is more like theatre than it is like any other of the literary forms. In theatre
you have the live performance, you have the audience out there laughing or
crying, or not responding when you wish they would, and right while youre
on the stage, you try to start adjusting that performance according to the
feedback youre getting. Then, in the first night after that first performance,
the cast will all sit down together and say, what worked and what didnt?
They try to adjust their performance to take that into account. With folklore,
such an adjustment takes place during the performance of a story. Most
people have had the experience of telling a joke. They get about a third of the
way through and they think, This is going to fall flat. Then they either back
out gracefully or they do something to catch the peoples attention and make
them laugh at this joke. Theres nothing quite as bad as a bad performance of
an otherwise decent joke. Thats what happens with the performance of all
folklore. Youre giving a talk in church or youre talking to a small group or

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youre out with your friends on a hunting expedition: youre telling a story
and youre getting feedback the whole time, and as you get feedback you
respond to that. So, the work that is created in the end is a joint creation of
you and your audience. Its kind of a dialogic situation, where the response
is going back and forth. That doesnt happen in the composition of a literary work. You may write a piece and give a rough draft to a friend and ask
for the comments, and you do make adjustments that way; but its not the
same thing as the adjustment of the performance in the very act of the performance. If we could help people in literature departments understand the
art of performance and get them to pay attention to it, not just to the words
on the written page, then they could again a better appreciation of folklores
aesthetic power.
Another thing we need to do is get away from the notion that folklore
is sort of a pre-literature, that there is some kind of evolution taking place
among the people and first you have the rough, raw, crude folk performances,
and then you move from there: drama grows out of folk dramas and so forth.
Maybe that has happened, but instead of looking for folklore in literature,
we need to look at folklore as literature, realizing that every culture has its
own aesthetic standards. Heres that cultural diversity again. What strikes one
culture as beautiful doesnt strike another one that way. An anthropologist
teacher of mine talked about an anthropologist who went to Africa (I dont
remember the group he was studying) and took Beethoven records with him.
He was going to play those to edify the natives he was studying. He turned
on his recording machines and played one of Beethovens symphonies, and
people in the audience just started laughing. They thought that was the funniest thing they had ever heard. Nothing in Beethoven even approached what
they considered to be music. So, you have to understand what the aesthetic
standard of the people is. You see, whats common to the human raceyou
get back to the humannessis that all groups have aesthetic standards, but
those standards arent the same. The deep structure there is an appreciation
of form, but the kind of form that is appreciated is different from culture
to culture. So long as we work only within our own culture, we wont have
much problem, but as we study Native Americans or if we study African
Americans and their traditions, or if we go off to some different place, then
we have to consider what those people consider to be beautiful because they
do have standards, excellent standards of beauty. Thats another thing thats
a part of this whole broadening of our awareness and understanding.

Jorgensen S Bert Wilson Interview

What do you hope lies in the future of folklore and especially the study of
Mormon folklore?
Weve already talked about some of these things. I wish we could find a
way of studying the folklore of all Mormons because most Mormons live
outside of the United States and even in the United States, most live outside
of Utah. We need to get some people out there collecting and studying so
we can start getting a more accurate picture of this value center that Ive
talked about. I still believe that you have to have that value center or you
dont have the group. I would certainly like to see that happen. Then, as Ive
mentioned a minute ago, I would like to see, not a shift away from studying
exciting or supernatural storiesthose are finebut an attempt to add to
that study and broaden it widely to include the stories of kindness and love
and respect and helpfulness for other people. If we could do those two things,
I think that would be great. I guess I would like us to keep plugging away
at this helping people understand that studying folklore doesnt undermine
Mormon culture but gives us a better understanding of it. Missionary lore,
for instance, reveals some of the difficult spots in a missionarys life. Its hard
to be a missionary and the missionaries have developed traditional ways
of dealing with some of the stresses and strains. As a result, some of those
stresses and strains start appearing in the stories missionaries tell. Instead of
criticizing them, we ought to understand that something is going on here
that maybe we ought to pay some attention to. For example there is a large
body of stories in which two elders leave a months supply of weekly reports
for their landlady to send in and then take an unauthorized trip. She mixes
up the reports and the wayward elders always get caught in the end. Why
is this story so popular? Why do most missionaries like it? What might the
popularity of this story tell us about strains missionary work under and what
might it suggest about possible means of alleviating those strains? Instead
of condemning the story tellers, I would like others to understand that the
folklore, in the long run, can help the missionaries be a more successful
group. In fact, I gave a talk at an organizational behavioral conference held
at UCLA. Most of the talks there were on organizations, business organizations, and how the studies of cultures of different organizations could help
employers adjust the way they did business to make life more pleasant for
their employees and in the end probably increase productivity. Well, I argued
there that if you looked at the Mormon missionary lore, you could do the
same thing. One of the problems is that if you bring up a problem revealed

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by the stories, others often accuse you of trying to undermine the system.
They need to understand that, no, thats not whats going on herethese
missionaries want to do whats right; they want to succeed, but theyve got
tremendous pressures on them and they have to do something to ease the
strain of those pressures or theyre going to blow apart. Telling stories helps.
Listening to them sympathetically might help even more.
Folklore, in that way, is sort of like a helpful diagnostic tool?
Yeah, and Id like to see us understand that and be less eager to criticize
and less eager to come up at times with silly rules. Some mission presidents
try to get their missionaries not to use the word greenie. Well, in one mission, they did that, so the missionaries started calling them wetties. They
were the wet ones. They still had to have some kind of language to deal with
the new missionary. Other mission presidents have understood where that
language comes from, why missionaries use it. One mission president, when
the missionaries arrived in the field, arranged their first meal in the mission
home, and everything was greengreen punch, food served on green dishes
with a green table cloth, mostly green food, all of this emphasizing the greenness of the missionary. Then, the mission president took this dinner and used
it to talk to the missionaries about how, youre green now but youre not
always going to be green. Youre going to be a growing thing. And instead
of telling the missionaries, Oh, dont use that language, he realized what
was happening culturally and used it to help the missionaries, and they, Im
sure, greatly appreciated it and probably didnt use the word greenie after
that as they would have otherwise.
What are your plans for the future?
One of my plans is to learn how to say no. So I will quit doing all of these
things that take a lot of time and stop me from doing what I want to do.
Im working on a book of my mothers personal narratives. Thats my first
aim. If I get that done, then I would like to work with these Three Nephite
stories that weve got and make an annotated collection of those, looking at
them from different perspectives than theyve not been looked at before. And
finally, Ive got about 4500 missionary folklore items. Id like to make that
material available to others to use if I dont get time. Its all indexed and cross
indexed, so a lot of work has been done. Then, I need some time in my life,
Isuppose, to retire, just sit back and watch the sunset. I dont know if Ill ever
be successful in doing that.

Jorgensen S Bert Wilson Interview

Anything else you would like to add?

Well, you asked me about great achievements. Im not sure whether Id
call them achievements, or if its satisfactions. Ive had a lot of my students in
the classes Ive taught, and [Professor] Jill Rudy is a good example, get interested in folklore and then go on out and make folklore their profession or to
include folklore in some other profession. It has been rewarding to see that
happen. Kristi Bell [Young] just took a folklore class because she thought it
looked interesting and thats been a major emphasis in her life ever since, and
Jill took a folklore class from me. Thats usually the way it happens, not just
here at BYU, but if you talk to folklorists who got turned on to the subject,
they just took the class one time and that was it, from then on they were
hooked, and so thats been nice. At one of the American Folklore Society
meetings a few years ago, we arranged a luncheon meeting for all of my
former students. We had quite a group of us there and it was really nice to
look around the table and to see what had happened. Im not sure if I would
call that an achievement, but it is a satisfaction. I dont think Ive destroyed
anybodys faith. In fact, Ive always used folklore to try to increase faith, not
damage it, and I think thats been very worthwhile.
Bibliography of Works
William A. Wilson: Essays on Mormon Folklore
Mormon Legends of the Three Nephites Collected at Indiana University. Indiana
Folklore 2 (1969): 335.
Folklore and History: Fact amid the Legends. Utah Historical Quarterly 41 (1973):
4058. Reprinted in Readings in American Folklore, ed. Jan Harold Brunvand,
pp.449466. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1979. [Not principally
about Mormon folklore, but contains many Mormon examples.]
And They Spake with a New Tongue (On Missionary Slang). In Conference on
the Language of the Mormons, ed. Harold S. Madsen and John L. Sorenson,
pp.4648. Provo: Brigham Young University Language Research Center, 1974.
(With JohnB. Harris.)
The Vanishing Hitchhiker among the Mormons. Indiana Folklore 8 (1975): 7997.
The Paradox of Mormon Folklore. In Essays on the American West, 19741975, ed.
Thomas G. Alexander, pp. 127147. Charles Redd Monographs in Western
History, no. 6. Provo: Brigham Young University Press, 1976. Reprinted in
Brigham Young University Studies 17 (1976): 4058 and in Idaho Folklife: Home
steads to Headstones, ed. Louie W. Attebery, pp. 5867. Salt Lake City: University
of Utah Press, 1985.

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The Study of Mormon Folklore. Utah Historical Quarterly 44 (1976): 317328.
A Bibliography of Studies in Mormon Folklore. Utah Historical Quarterly 44 (1976):
Folklore in Giant Joshua. In Proceedings of the Symposia of the Association for Mormon
Letters, 197879, ed., Steven P. Sondrup, pp. 5763. Provo, Utah, 1979.
Folklore of Utahs Little Scandinavia. Utah Historical Quarterly 47 (1979): 148166.
The Curse of Cain and Other Stories: Blacks in Mormon Folklore. Sunstone 5, no.
6 (NovemberDecember 1980): 913. (With Richard C. Poulsen.)
On Being Human: The Folklore of Mormon Missionaries. Utah State University
Faculty Honor Lecture. Logan: Utah State University Press, 1981. Reprinted in
New York Folklore 8, nos. 34 (1982): 527.
Mormon Folklore. In Handbook of American Folklore, ed. Richard M. Dorson,
pp.155161. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1983.
Trickster Tales and the Location of Cultural Boundaries: A Mormon Example.
Journal of Folklore Research 20 (1983): 5566.
The Seriousness of Mormon Humor. Sunstone 10, no.1 (1985): 613.
We Did Everything Together: Farming Customs of the Mountainwest. Northwest
Folklore 4 (1985): 2330. [Not principally about Mormon folklore, but contains
Mormon examples.]
Austin and Alta Fife: Pioneer Folklorists. Utah Folklife Newsletter 20, no.2 (Fall
1986): 24.
In Memoriam: Austin E. Fife, 190986. Utah Historical Quarterly 54 (1986):
Review Essay, on Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, by Michael D.
Quinn, in Brigham Young University Studies 27 (1987): 96104.
Dealing with Organizational Stress: Lessons from the Folklore of Mormon Mission
aries. In Inside Organizations: Understanding the Human Dimensions, ed. Michael
Owen Jones, Michael Dane Moore, Richard Christopher Snyder, pp.271279.
Newbury Park, California: Sage Publications, 1988.
Freeways, Parking Lots and Ice Cream Stands: The Three Nephites in Contemporary
Mormon Culture. Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 21 (1988): 1326.
Review of Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, by Michael D. Quinn, in
Western Historical Quarterly 20 (1989): 342343.
The Study of Mormon Folklore: An Uncertain Mirror for Truth, Dialogue: A Jour
nal of Mormon Thought 22 (1989): 95110.
Mormon Folklore and History: Implications for Canadian Research. In The Mor
mon Presence in Canada, ed. Brigham Y. Card, et al, pp.150166. Edmonton and
Logan: University of Alberta Press and Utah State University Press, 1990.

Jorgensen S Bert Wilson Interview

In Praise of Ourselves: Stories to Tell. Brigham Young University Studies 30 (1990):
Personal Narratives: The Family Novel. Western Folklore 50 (1991): 127149. [The
same essay as In Praise of Ourselves, slightly changed to fit a folklore
Folklore. In Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 5 vols., 2:51820. New York: Macmillan
Publishing Company, 1992.
Three Nephites. In Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 5 vols., 4:147778. New York:
Macmillan Publishing Company, 1992.
Mormon Folklore: Cut from the Marrow of Everyday Experience, Brigham Young
University Studies 3 (1993): 521540. Reprinted as Mormon Folklore, in Mormon
Americana: A Guide to Sources and Collections in the United States, ed. David J.
Whittaker, pp. 435454. Provo: BYU Studies, 1995.
The Power of the Word. The Association for Mormon Letters Annual (1994): 1:814.
Powers of Heaven and Hell: Mormon Missionary Narratives as Instruments of
Socialization and Social Control. In Contemporary Mormonism: Social Science
Perspectives, ed. Marie Cornwall, Tim B. Heaton, and Lawrence A. Young,
pp.207217. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994.
Austin and Alta Fife. In Utah History Encyclopedia, ed. Allan Kent Powell, p. 187.
Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1994.
Folklore, A Mirror for What? Reflections of a Mormon Folklorist. Western Folklore
54 (1995): 1321.
Mormon FolkloreFaith or Folly? Brigham Young Magazine 49, no. 2 (May 1995):
Mormon Narratives: The Lore of Faith, Western Folklore 54 (1995): 303326.
The Lore of Polygamy: Twentieth-Century Perceptions of Nineteenth-Century
Plural Marriage, Weber Studies 13 (Winter 1996): 152161.
Mormon Folklore. In American Folklore: An Encyclopedia, ed. Jan H. Brunvand,
pp.49396. New York and London: Garland Publishing, 1996.
Folk Ideas of Mormon Pioneers. Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 31, no. 3
(January 1998): 8199. (With Jessie Embry.)
Settlement Folk Ideas: Stories for the Mormons Move West. In Annual for the Asso
ciation for Mormon Letters 1998, ed. Lavina Fielding Anderson, pp. 5768. Salt
Lake City: Association for Mormon Letters, 1998. (With Jessie Embry.)
The Folk Speak: Pioneer Lives in Pioneer Oral Narratives. In Nearly Everything
Imaginable: The Everyday Life of Utahs Mormon Pioneers, ed. Ronald W. Walker
and Doris R. Dant, pp. 485503. Provo: Brigham Young University Press, 1999.
Eighteen Years Later: A Retrospect on On Being Human, Sunstone 22, nos. 34
(June 1999): 5760.

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Review of George Q. Cannon: A Biography, by Davis Bitton, in BYU Studies 39, no,
3 (2000): 19093.
The Concept of the West and Other Hindrances to the Study of Mormon Folklore.
In World Views and the American West: The Life of the Place Itself, ed. Polly Stewart,
Steven Siporin, and Charles Sullivan, pp. 167190. Logan: Utah State University
Press, 2000.
The Role of Religion in Cultural Policy in Utah. In Cultural Policy in the West:
Symposium Proceedings, pp. 103110. Aspen, Colorado: The Aspen Institute,
Western State Arts Federation, 2000.
Folklore of Dixie: Past and Present. The 22nd Annual Juanita Brooks Lecture.
St.George: Dixie State College of Utah, 2005.


Lance Larsen

Yes, the zucchinis grow heavy and wicked,
and yes, a porcupine parses the orchard
one rummy apple at a time.
But the true inventory begins when two brothers
in mummy bags carve up Cassiopeia,
first with index fingers, then with closed eyes
and a buried love of their mothers, expressed as sleep.
Their uncle smoking under the eaves has traded
places with the wind. Hes canvassing backyards,
the wind has turned bald but philosophical.
New roller skates and an ax in the peonies
create a cautionary tale by moonlight,
whose heroine huddles in the front room
trying to free Chopin from torn sheet music.
Beneath her, in the basement, her older sister urinates
on a plastic wand that turns
her misgivings the shade of her boyfriends car.
To the side of the house, a tiger
salamander in a bucket holds the night
ransom. Up ahead, one peach tree, three grafts,
like agony spiking in Jesus and the two thieves.
The Father who suffered him to be nailed
climbs over the fence. Wanders his overgrown
vineyard in an underfed body, to remember
lostness. Takes a swig of syrupy Coke
left out all day, coughs once, then wipes
his mouth on the neck of a sleeping mastiff,
who dreams apocalypse in greens and terrible blues.
S Originally appeared in Paris Review

Paul Swenson

My father grew and grafted fruit.
Pears on an apple tree
(five varieties),
quinces on a pear tree,
apricots on a peach tree,
and, as a joke
(confuse the neighbors),
strawberries on a linden tree.
No joke when robins ate his cherries
he shot them from their perch.
I hated picking up nicked cherries,
fallen apples, other bruised
and bird-chewed fruit. Worst,
had to collect the birds themselves
breasts both red and scarlet,
each crestfallen corpse, claws up.
In our yard, pears
on an ordinary pear tree,
but so tall, we cannot reach.
Their ripe, hard fall is fatal.
They pelt our patio, pulverize
our neighbors drive. So,
we harvest carcasses for waste,
while bees feast the overflow.
Memory of satisfaction:
I taste my fathers fruit.
My trees yield is putrefaction.


Swenson S Two poems

The Fallen Philistine

Goliath was a giant,
and God blessed him.
No more than three, her voice
is fearless and serene.
Its not to me she speaks,
but to a rumpled, buzz-cut
boy who climbs church stairs
to fix upon her words and glimpse
the halo of her flaxen hair.
Who is this elfin angel
of eccentric grace,
come to revise
the face of scripture?
The boy is mesmerized
he is her captive audience,
her Davidpicked to witness
blinding revelation that turns
the Bible story upside-down.
Now, massive Philistine is seen
through boys brown eyes
as grotesque freak of nature
his fear dissolves to piteous
stare. Here stoops a painful misfit
old, alone and bowed. Crude
armor clings to him like chains.
Crowds rude children taunt
himone picks up a stone.
Like the boy, I want to scrub
the scene thats sure to follow
reach out and change the channel.
Yet, in this obscure Orem ward,
Im suddenly aware I am not bored

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in church, as is my wont. Perhaps

this dubious vision is a dream. Oh ye
of little faith, the angel beams. Goliath
is a giantGod will help him.
First stone that strikes his forehead
lays the monsters awkward body low.
His moans elicit mockery. Emboldened
by the blow, the mob stands tallall
except a small, blonde girl, who pushes
forward, crawls between the chief priests
legs to reach the fallen man. A new moon
rises as she lays her hands upon his head,
takes oil to clean and consecrate his wound.
The giant isnt dead! exults the boy.
Hes breathing now. And yet, his joy
is transient. Seeking affirmation from
the angel, his face aglow with awe,
he turns to find his tutor gone. Briefly,
on the moment, the fleeting atoms
of a shining mage dissipate. The boy
and I are left alone; the room grows
cool and calm. We do not speak
of what we sawbut we believe.


Susan Elizabeth Howe

Gypsy, show-off, your taffeta
leaves sweep the wind,
whip as you sway
in your tarantella.
Lure of the male, sex
why you rustle then stay still
awaiting the drift
from his golden tassels.
Teach me your tricks, show girl,
the shimmy of cool days,
bright breezes when you call out
his potent dust, brush it
into the sweet place of your heat,
layers of husk and
silky hair showing.
Then youve got it, your cache,
green purses filling with beads of yellow.
Waiting, you tell your own fortune:
your life will be short
but your treasure will scatter, fertile.


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Mary Speaks of the Annunciation

When Gabriel appeared at the door
like any traveler with news to tell,
I was looking across the sill,
given to know each woman as a fallow
fieldopen space, luminous,
weedy along the edges. How barren
a drought makes us seem.
When he said, The Lord
is with thee, I didnt think he believed
I was favored or that women were blessed.
He hailed me for my labor, hungry.
I have often fed wanderers,
dipping my jar in the well, setting out figs
and dates, breaking the unleavened bread.
A field, not choosing the plow, accepts it,
though the act turns under natural growth,
leaves the earth raw, exposed. Not until
that salutation, Mary, you have found favor,
did I perceive his angelic difference,
the sheen I had thought to be dust.
And the question of my consent. Oh yes,
I could have refused. I accepted because God
came later, touched me, his hand
just fitting my breasts. You cannot
make truth without me, I said. Yes,
God answered. We will prepare Earth
for your voice. I joined with Him,
at last conceiving
my work in the larger scheme.
A field is natural, at rest, that holy thing
that changes swords to plowshares, blades
to rust, food for soil no longer the color of blood.


Howe S Three poems

For Remembrance
Kensington Gardens, November 30, 1997
Three months to the day since the queen
locked herself up in Balmoral
and the people who heard you had died
bought all the flowers in England
and brought them here in tribute.
Now it is cold, wind after rain,
clouds rushing south. These gardens
shiver at your loss, diminished,
less of a gap in Londons maze
of wealth and privilege.
Ive come to feed waterfowl in the Round Pond
the plain white bread Ive brought in a plastic bag.
I like the swans best, their genuine poise,
how they drift across the surface without seeming
to move, lift their wings into sails as perfect as ice.
You were like this femaleexquisite neck,
grace, and plumage. Her two signets
in tow, growing into their true shapes
but not yet brilliant, the color of dust.
A swan, however, is not a figure but a bird,
hungry, hissing the others away, demanding
my bread, posing. Now she clamps higher
on my finger with every bite. Yes,
need can obliterate decorum,
even when one is queen of hearts, everyones
diamond, the center of the bulls eye.
As I, with my loaf, am nowflustered,
trying to be generous with what they ask,
this flotilla of waterfowl: Canada geese,
the silly coots with white bills disappearing
as they dive, the lesser pigeons and gulls,

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and the speckled birds I dont know, quick

enough to catch in flight the bits of bread I throw.
And the swan, her great wings, her long,
impossible neck. Like the others, hungry.


Angela Hallstrom

Authors Note
When I was a little girl, my favorite family story was about
Elizabeth Stolworthy, my grandmothers grandmother, the fifth
child of pioneer parents and the first one to survive past infancy. As
the story went, Elizabeths mother, Matilda Jenkinson Stolworthy, had been grief
stricken by the loss of her four other babies, and when Elizabeth became ill with
a fever, Matilda prayed for help. Her husband was out of the house, so she was
frightened at first to find a strange, bearded man standing in the doorway, letting
in all the cold air. He offered to bless the baby, and when he did, Elizabeths fever
miraculously broke. The stranger left very suddenly, and when Matilda rushed to
the door to thank him, she found hed disappeared without a trace. The fact that
he hadnt left a single footprint in the snow convinced her shed been visited by
one of the Three Nephites.
When I was a junior at BYU I took an American Literature class taught by
Eugene England. The same year, a short story collection he edited called Bright
Angels and Familiars was published, and since I hung on every word Eugene
England said, I bought the book. Wed just finished reading The Giant Joshua
by Maureen Whipple, so when I saw her name in the table of contents, I turned
to it first. Her story, They Did Go Forth, didnt seem familiar right away, but
the more I read, the more I became convinced she was telling my great-grandmothers story. A sick baby, an absent father, a bearded stranger. When I got to
the line where the Nephite calls the protagonist, Tildy, by her last nameSister
Stolworthyand proceeds to disappear into the cold winter night without leaving any footprints in the snow, I slapped the book down and called my grandma.
The combination of my familys story, retold by Maureen Whipple, included
in a collection edited by Eugene England, seemed so thrilling and extraordinary

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to me at the time, I could hardly bear it. Of course, I know now that such Three
Nephite stories are a staple of Mormon folklore, but when I was twenty, Matilda
Stolworthys experience was my familys miracle, particular and unique. It was
our story, retold at reunions, carefully photocopied and archived in our family
histories, proof that God had specifically intervened at some point in the nottoo-distant past, and in doing so, had made our very lives (as Elizabeths direct
descendents) possible.
Even though I was often intimidated by my college professors, I gathered up
all my courage and made an appointment to meet with Dr. England to tell him
about my discovery. It isnt fiction! I wanted to tell him. Tildy Stolworthy was
real! This story really happened! Its the truth! Although I cant remember the
specifics of the conversation I had with him now, I do remember he was very kind,
very pleased for me that Id found a personal connection in some of Whipples
work, and he encouraged me to continue to read Mormon literature. But he
wasnt as impressed as I had hoped.
Now, thirteen years later, I understand why Eugene England was happy for
me but wasnt overwhelmed by my revelation of the truthfulness of Maureen
Whipples story. While I believe my ancestors wrote honest accountings in their
journals of the time Matilda was visited by a stranger who healed her only child
and, somehow, left no footprints in the snowpart of the magic in her story is
its very mystery. Nobody, not even Matilda, knew exactly what had happened
that day. And now the story has been passed on, reshaped, retold, and it means
different things to different people with each passing generation. It is folklore.
The story that follows is my version. It joins probably hundreds of versions
of the same story, written and oral, that each reflect the particular time and
place and worldview of the teller. My twenty-first-century story is different
from Maureen Whipples early twentieth-century story, which is different from
my ancestors nineteenth-century stories. But in my mind, each one of them

Late in winter the snow drifts high against the house, and the only sound
is the moan of the rocker along the pine floor. Tildy rocks swiftly, up and
back, up and back. She is a sharp-faced woman, thin. Her hair is not pinned
up. Her face belongs to a woman done with crying. Her eyes are hollow

Hallstrom SUnbroken

In her arms sleeps a limp baby unswaddled from her blanket. The baby
is struggling, breathing shallow and high, and her skin is glossy with sweat.
From the moment Elizabeth was born shed been a beautiful baby, everyone
said so, the first white baby born in Cache County. The Indians from all
around came to Tildys door to inspect the childs pallor. They whispered that
this was not a healthy babyTildy couldnt understand their words, but she
saw their pinched expressions, the pity in their eyesand for months she
had wanted to tell them No, no, this one is a healthy one, you just dont know,
you have never seen a white baby, they all look this way. Fragile. The color
But they were right. She wonders if theres something vital missing from
her blood. How else to explain these deaths? But shes watched herself
bleedeach time she gives birth there seems to be more of itand her blood
is scarlet and shocking and the same as all the blood she has ever seen: bright
with life. So if not in the blood, then where is this weakness hiding? What
is it she passes along to her children that dooms them so early, and without
exception? She wants to know because explanations bring peace. People will
ask her, How did your baby die? Froze to death, she wishes she could tell them.
Rolled off the wagon, taken by diphtheria, choked on a button, bit by a rabid dog.
She wants causes. Reasons. Answers.
The people who went on the wagon train from Salt Lake City to Cache
County with Tildy and her husband were always asking each other questions
about their children. How many children do you have? How old are your children? What is a mother to do with so many children? At first they took Tildy for
barren. Who knows the timing of the Lord? they would tell her, and repeat the
names of all the Bible women crazed with waiting: Sarah, Rachel, Elizabeth
the mother of John. Being childless but pregnant, her secret, she let them
believe. But then her stomach grew larger. People started treating her like a
miracle woman, and she couldnt keep the truth from them any longer. It
seemed too much like lying. She stated the truth, laid her hand on her stomach and said This is not my miracle, said In fact Ive birthed four babies previous.
Soon the mothers of lost children came to her with their own stories (born
blue, smallpox, thrown by a horse) and waited breathlessly for hers.
They get sick, she tells them. Dont know how. They grow to be a certain
agelaughing, rolling over, grabbing at their own toesand then they sicken
and then they die. Four times. Boy, girl, girl, boy. All of them blonde, except the

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last one, who had red hair like my father and was strong like him, too. So strong
I believed the Lord meant for him to stay.
Tildys husband is a quiet man and doesnt like to talk of trouble. Past is past,
he tells her. I cant divine the future, he also likes to say. He means this as a
comfort but it is not. She cant be as he is, living each day as if it were a stone
set along a path: one stone, then the next, then the next, each never touching
the one before it, but all of them together leading to some knowable destination. She envies him.
Her husband has gone back to Salt Lake City to stay with his dying
mother, and when he left, Elizabeth was a healthy child. He would take her
in his thick hands and stand her on his lap to let her bounce. Shes a strong
one, he would say, strong as they come and Tildy believed him. Elizabeth had
lived longer, already, than any of the others. Already taking to her hands and
knees and rocking back and forth, ready to crawl. Her hair had grown into
glossy ringlets that covered the tops of her ears. She still nursed two times a
night and Tildy let her, loving her fat baby thighs, as warm and soft as new
But now the baby is hot and burning with fever and wont take the breast,
wont even open her eyes, and her lovely golden hair is matted with sweat.
Her legs hang wilted against Tildys arm, and its hard to believe that just a
day before these legs had been sturdy and kicking, round with Tildys milk.
Dawn is coming but the moon is stubborn, hanging frozen in the sky. The
snow has stopped falling, and the silence is so deep that Tildy feels buried
inside it. Out of her window she sees nothing but rolling undulations of
snow, dipping and rising like waves, and she feels much as she did on her
long voyage from England, looking out into the sea: overwhelmed by distance and emptiness and time. Alone. There are neighbors, yes, good people
living a mile away in one direction or two miles in the other, but what is
she to do? Pack her dying baby in blankets and trundle off into the frozen
darkness? No, there is nothing to do but rock. And pray. Always theres the
She cant help it. In England, as a girl, shed always prayed, prayed so much
her father said she was addled, called her Saint Matilda. And then she prayed
her way right to the Mormons and their God of answered conversationsa
God who talks right back!and her father wasnt teasing anymore when he
called her a lunatic, mad, as sorry a creation as God ever made, and ordered

Hallstrom SUnbroken

her directly out of the house. And so she prayed once more and was taken in
by sympathetic Saints. She met a man, her quiet, kind husband, and together
they prayed themselves onto a ship and away from England to a wide frightening place called America, which they commenced to walk across together
until they stopped, exhausted and full of prayer, in Salt Lake City, in Zion,
and beseeched their Heavenly Father for rest.
It was in Salt Lake City she lost her fourth baby, the red-headed boy who
resembled her father. On the day of the burial, she stood with her feet sinking low in the soft dirt dug for his grave and told God good-bye. Farewell, she
said. You have taken everything, and you dont keep your promises. Three times
she had prayed for her babies liveswith faith she was sure of it, mighty
faithand three times he had answered her no, and three times she had wept
in anguish but had also said Gods Will Be Done and Soon Well Meet Again
in Heaven. She knelt beside her bed in prayer on the very nights shed buried
those babies and pleaded with God No More. Now her fourth child had died,
and everywhere she looked she saw children: children running and shouting
and pulling on their mothers sleeves, children climbing to the tops of trees
without slipping, diving into deep water without drowning. Even worse she
saw the sick children whod been healed, the ones who tottered out of their
houses ashen and shaky after being shut up, contagious with illness. Healed!
Miracle children! All around her, it seemed, children with the mark of Gods
infinite grace and mercy fixed forever on their countenances, rushing, full of
life and chosen, right into their mothers arms.
No longer, she told her husband that night when he knelt beside their bed
to pray. She lay stiff and straight, the quilt tucked up tight under her arms.
He didnt say a word, just nodded one short nod and said a prayer himself,
then slid in bed beside her.
She kept her silence with God for many months. Then one summer day
while feeding chickens in the yard, her mind wandered and she found herself
talking to God like she once had, telling him her troubles in her mind. She
spoke to God in an ordinary way, thinking thoughts like, Lord, this hen is not
a good laying hen, I could use your blessing on this hen. Suddenly she realized to
whom her thoughts had turned. What have I done? she thought. How could
I be speaking to him again, so easily, as if nothing had happened between us?
But she found she couldnt stop herself. She sat straight down on the ground
in her skirts and said everything she had to say to him, telling all the ways
hed deserted her, how she felt hollowed out by tribulation, that she didnt

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understand what more could be expected of her. She dug her fingers deep
into the dirt and sobbed. She raised her head up and opened her eyes against
the glaring blue sky and said, out loud, her voice ringing up to heaven, Ive
had all that I can bear.
And thats the prayer she prays as she rocks, over and over, as insistent as
the Indian chants she hears sometimes at night, throbbing down from the
mountains. Ive had all that I can bear. She knows that he can hear her. She
doesnt know if he agrees.
The sun comes up huge and soft, filling the room with a hazy yellow light.
Tildys stopped rocking and her eyes are closed, not in sleep, but in an
exhausted fight against it. Elizabeth pants in her arms, her fever unbroken.
A gust of cold air rises up and over Tildys body, and she feels the hair on
her arms prick up. She breathes the taste of winter into her mouth. Before
opening her eyes she thinks, Death has come, and I know it now so well I recognize it on my skin and taste it on my tongue.
But she is wrong. As soon as her eyes open she sees her front door blown
open. A dusting of snow skims across the floor and over her feet. She rises
for the first time in hours to go to the door, aching, her hot baby clutched to
her chest.
When she sees him, shes too frightened to release the scream from her
Standing in the corner by the kitchen table is a man. He is not a large
manmaybe as tall as Tildy herselfbut his hair is terrifying, bright white
and blown up on its ends. He stands with his palms open, facing her as if in
surrender. I mean you no harm, he says, and his voice is tranquil and low. He
looks directly into Tildys face. His eyes are the darkest brown, the deepest
eyes Tildy has ever seen, and his skin is as smooth as a boys. But he is not a
young man, she can tell, not only from his hair but from his look of weary
I just called to see your sick baby, he says.
Tildy pulls Elizabeth in closer. I will not give this baby up to death, she
thinks. But then she brings her eyes level with the eyes of the white-haired
man and studies them evenly, and she knows he is not death. He is the opposite of death.
Shes a very sick baby, Tildy says.

Hallstrom SUnbroken

I know, says the man. He moves toward the baby and Tildy stays where
she is, Elizabeth cradled tight in her arms. The man reaches out his hand
and tests her fever, touching his fingertips to the babys forehead, cupping his
palm against her cheek.
Sister Stolworthy, you have had a lot of trouble, he says. He wont take his
eyes from her face, and she can feel his warm breath on her skin. Your babies
have been taken from you. But you have been faithful through it all, and God
will bless you. Your little girl will get well and will marry and have a large family.
She will be a leader among women. She will lead as long a life as she desires.
Yes, yes she will, Tildy says, her voice certain, unwavering. The man folds
his hands over the top of Elizabeths tiny head, covering her brow and her
skull and the tops of her ears. He whispers a blessing, says Elizabeth, be
healed, then he takes his hands off her head and steps back. Tildy folds the
baby in close to her body and kisses the top of her head and her cheeks and
her neck, kisses all the skin she can find, skin still damp with sweat and warm
with the fever she knows, now, will break. She closes her eyes and breathes in
the smell of her baby: clean, sweet, alive.
Peace be unto this house, the man says. He stands in her open doorway, the
cold air swirling past him.
Thank you, Tildy says, and he nods at her and smiles. Then he is gone.
Tildy studies her childs face, the shape of her nose, the height of her forehead, the line of her tiny jaw and chin. She feels as if shes known Elizabeth
always: who she was and who she is and who she will be. You get to stay here,
with me, she says. Her sleep seems smoother, already. Soon she will watch her
wide eyes open.
She goes to the front door and steps out into the daylight. She doesnt wonder who the man is, where he came from, or where he has gone. Squinting
out into the winter sun, she is not surprised to find herself alone. There is
no one around for miles. Just the unbroken snow, the glaring whiteness of
it stretching away from her, crisp and glittering and calm. Her warm breath
turns to vapor in the cold. It mingles with her daughters and rises.


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Immortal for Quite Some Time

(memoir excerpt)
Scott Abbott
Those who want to approach their own buried pasts must . . . not be afraid
to return again and again to the same facts; to strew them about as one
strews earth, to root around in them as one roots around in earth. For facts
are only layers, strata, which only after the most careful research deliver the true
values hidden in the earths interior: the images which broken loose from all earlier
associations stand as precious objects in . . . our later insight like rubble or torsos
in the gallery of the collector. (Walter Benjamin)

His feet are livid, I wrote. Now his things are in bags in my garage, stinking of cigarette smoke, limp with heavy use. I keep them because they mean
something. I catalogue them as manifestations of my brother, a portrait of
sorts. I worry vaguely about contagion. I want to know John in ways I never
did. I am uneasy about what I will learn. What Ill learn about myself. We
are brothers, after all.
I turn to our notebooks, Johns and
mine, gather photographs and documents.
Specific words and recalled gestures may
help cut through the simplifying patterns
memory and forgetfulness impose. What
experiences, what ways of thinking, what
biological imperatives shaped us? Which did
we embrace? Which embraced us?
Ill piece my way back, or rather forward
to that catalytic scene in the Boise mortuary.
John will have no choice in this matter.
His feet were livid.


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14 August 1972, Wickenburg, Arizona

While we drill an exploratory well a few miles north of town, Ive taken a
room in a ramshackle motel crammed into the elbow of a highway-railroad
intersection. My next-door neighbor is a wizened ex-contortionist who
looked deeply into my eyes the first time I said hello and said she would read
my palm if I would come into her room. I claimed to have a vague palm.
Her name is Maria, and in the relative cool of the evenings she maneuvers a
hose to sprinkle a tiny plot of grass and flowers in front of our rooms. She
wears a sleeveless blouse, a pair of loose shorts, and sneakers with no socks.
She ties white rags around her deeply tanned left calf and her equally brown
left bicep, white semaphores that accentuate the contrast between the almost
theoretical lines of her emaciated limbs and their pronounced joints. Galls.
Burls. She saw me staring at her bulbous elbows and went into a practiced
explanation of how her mother tied her in knots when she was a baby so
she could be an acrobat. She has never regretted it, she said, for it led to her
eventual greatness and the chance to mingle with the truly great people of
this century. She is resigned to living out her days in Wickenburg, where the
desert heat eases her arthritic joints.

June 1979, Princeton, New Jersey

Last week, after a disappointing job search, the Chair of Princetons German
department surprised me with a one-year lectureship. That was good news;
but the change in status made us ineligible for subsidized graduate-student
housing. Susan found an ad in the Town Topics: Companion needed for
older gentleman. Free rent in exchange for cooking, gardening, and personal
Free rent? I asked. At what cost? Loss of privacy? Complaints about the
children? Additional responsibility and worry?
Susan thought it wouldnt hurt to check it out.
In a large house on a quiet, tree-lined street, we found a man of ninetythree years and his sixty-four-year-old son drinking bourbon in a sunny room.
Could I get you a drink? the son asked.
No thank you.
Dont you drink? the old man asked gruffly.
No, we replied.
Why not? the son asked.

Abbott S Immortal for Quite Some Time

We are Mormon and as part of our religion we . . .

Youre Mormons! the old man burst in. I have an aunt who is Mormon.
She spends her free time tracing our family lines. Marvelous stories. Do you
do that sort of thing?
Not as much as we should.
I used to live in Vermont near Brigham Youngs birthplace, the old man
said. Ive always admired his virility.
Susan asked what would be expected of us if we moved in.
The son answered: minimal yard work, light housecleaning, simply being
in the house at night in case help is needed, cooking dinner at night. A
homemaker will come in each morning to get Father up, bathed, dressed, to
get him breakfast and to clean his rooms. A woman will come from New
York to take over your duties when you go on vacation.
Would our small children be a bother?
Certainly not, the old man broke in warmly. I like children. I have always
liked children.
I studied him skeptically.
And if they get too loud I can just take out my hearing aid. He demonstrated with a shaky flourish.
Do you get around well? I asked, pointing to the aluminum walker standing next to him. His right leg was encased in a complicated brace.
Pretty well, he answered. Thirteen years ago, I was eighty then, I fell down
the last step into the garage. Broke my leg in two places. When it didnt set
right the doctor decided not to try to reset it. I was so old it wouldnt matter
for long anyway. He winked at Susan.
And, he continued, just so you know exactly what you are getting into, let
me tell you about my ulcer.
He sipped from his bourbon glass.
My ulcer began in 1912 when my business failed. I was married, with a
small son. He gestured in the direction of his son, and then paused for effect.
1912. That makes my ulcer the oldest living ulcer.
We laughed.
My doctor told me he could trace every ulcer to a Greek Restaurant. Do
you eat in Greek Restaurants?
Not often enough. Sir, well take the job if you want us.
The old man conferred for a moment with his son. Could you move in on
Friday? he asked. His name is Walter Furman.

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24 November 1979, Princeton

Working in the reference section of the Firestone Library today, Iobserved a
slightly disheveled man of forty or fifty scratching feverishly at a pile of worn
papers. Later I saw him smoking a cigarette out front. Something about him
reminded me of John; or, better said, something about my reaction to a man
I took to be troubled reminded me of my feelings for a brother who seems
unusually distant.

7 February 1980, Princeton

Peter Brown, an historian specializing in the early Christian period, lectured
here today. I found a seat in the packed auditorium just as he rose to speak
about active and contemplative lives, the philosopher and the monk.
I am overjoyed to be a guest at Princeton University for a third time, the
historian began, and once again to have the great pleasure, the great pleasure
of renewing old acquaintances. Unfortunately, he continued, you have had
two . . . two years to think about what I said the last time I was here. In
private conversations with several of you today, I have been forced . . . have
been forced . . . forced slowly and painfully to eat my own words.
The fourth century A.D. is a dark age in my mind; but from the moment
the first stutter broke from Peter Browns lips, I hung on the laborious birth
of every utterance. He spoke of fourth-century politicians and their steady
withdrawal from active life and I listened, dumbstruck, to the words that
caused this eloquent speaker such trouble: in a wonderful redundancy, inexplicable became inexp-p-p-p-plicable; a Latin term was untransla-transla-lala-table; St. Elmos fire fli-fli-fli-fli-flickered; in ali-li-li-literation the word
performed itself.
With faltering lips and faultless style Peter Brown spoke of careful gesture,
perfectly formed sentences, subtle restraints, meticulous grooming. He told
of the man so perfectly schooled that he wanted to commit suicide because
he had farted in a public lecture. He described the pure mind and its cultivation of the unsullied hand, correct deportment and its effect on the exercise
of power.
A holy man, he said in a memorable phrase, was thought to have arrived
at the most enviable prerogative to which an inhabitant of the later empire
could aspire: he had gained parhe-he-he-he-parrhe-he-parrhesia, freedom to
speak before the awesome majesty of God.

Abbott S Immortal for Quite Some Time

He delineated the relationship between body and soul and I pictured

stuttering as the extraordinary and inadequate articulation between the two.
Plotinus, he said, was so ashamed of his body that he would not tell of his
parentage or of the date or place of his birth. Anthony blushed when he had
to eat.
Peter Browns concluding remarks included something about infectious
serenity; the macabre sound of d-d-d-d-d-death; a question as to how the
philosopher gains his superior qua-qua-qua-qua (then softly) qualities; and
finally, an heroic struggle to say the Greek word m-m-m-m-m-m-meschane,
the humiliated ones.
I tried out a stutter of my own while walking back to the library. To speak
or write eloquently and to manifest the body. Displayed disability as guarantor of honest discourse.
The disheveled man was smoking by the entrance again.

1 March 1980, Princeton

Two dreams last night. In the first I stood on stage, in costume, ready to say
my lines. The audience waited but I couldnt remember a word. In the other
dream I also stood on stage, this time wearing a long beard. I spoke fluently,
extemporaneously, glibly. The words flowed from my mouth and the beard
began to dissolve, leaving me naked.
A brother and sister in my accelerated German class remind me of the semester John and Carol were in my class at BYU. Carol earned a B through diligence inspired largely by a desire not to disappoint her brother. Learning his
third language, John coasted to a perfect A at midterm. He never appeared
in class again. I gave him a C.
Pouring Walters afternoon bourbon, I tell him about the man at the library
and how he reminds me of John.
What does he wear? Walter asks.
A rumpled suit, I answer, and a white shirt without a tie.
Is he a bit thin?
Sounds like John Nash. He used to be a promising economist. Had some
sort of breakdown.

Irreantum S vol. 7, no. 1 (2005)

I try to clarify my point: I dont think my brother has had a breakdown,

just that hes had a hard life. He has always been different somehow.

2 April 1980, Princeton

Still no job. Second year in a row. Trips to Chapel Hill and Pittsburgh came
up empty. I have papers to grade and Thomas has been crying for two hours.
Susan comes home with another story of someone with a Ph.D. who was
forced out of the profession. I silently tell her to go to hell, escape to my
office, drink a Coke marked Kosher for Passover, and work like a madman.
He would be thirty-one in November. Would he ever get a good job? Would
he ever have a home of his own? He thought how pleasant it would be to
have a warm fire to sit by and a good dinner to sit down to. (James Joyce,

1 May, 1980, Princeton

John called this morning from Houston. Hes cooking at a place called Steak
and Eggs and says he is doing well.
Late this afternoon, a colleague on leave to learn Greek so he could finish
a book about Hlderlin called from a bar in Laredo to announce he wouldnt
be returning to Princeton. The department Chair came into my office and
offered to extend my job for a second year.
Gratefully, I cancel my enrollment in the Wharton Business Schools summer Ph.D. retraining course.

13 May, 1980, Princeton

John called again yesterday. He made $20,000 last year, he said. He was going
to enter a writing contest. And he has heard that the Russians are planning
to let the Iranian hostages loose just before the November election so Carter
can take credit, win the election, and continue to be a pushover.
The Russians?

23 October 1980, Princeton

After the woman from Princeton Homemakers left this morning, I took in
Walters paper and breakfast.

Abbott S Immortal for Quite Some Time

You look good, I said.

I like optimistic people, he replied. This morning I was a little wobbly and
Mrs. Miller said Id never make it. After that I would have got up if Id have
had to crawl like a snake.
Picking up his paper, Walter asked me if any of the hostages had been
released in Iran.
I dont think so, I answered.
Ill be an old man before they are released, he said without a hint of a
We began talking about stories in Dubliners. I mentioned Joyces attempt
to portray Dublin with scrupulous meanness, a phrase Walter liked immediately.
I have always been fascinated by stories about death and woe, he said.
Even as a boy Edgar Allan Poe was my favorite. My father thought that was
deplorable. He wanted to see me reading Emerson or Shakespeare. To please
him I used to lie on the floor with a huge volume of Shakespeare open in
front of me, pretending to read. My father was overjoyed; but naturally I
couldnt understand a word.
Would you like to be portrayed with scrupulous meanness? I asked.
Flattery is demeaning, he answered. Meanness is unfair. But scrupulous
meanness would be an honor.

22 November 1980, Princeton

Walter was weak this morning, almost falling in the bathroom where I was
helping him get ready for his Saturday bath. Then he got stuck over the toilet.
I pulled one way while he pulled the other, the leather soles of his L.L. Bean
slippers slipping on the carpet. Later we talked about Ivy-League football,
letting the history behind todays games banish the knowledge that he is
getting weaker every day. Walter began to reminisce about his upbringing:
When I was eight or nine my father thought I wasnt getting up early enough,
and devised a scheme to help. At seven a.m. he would play Verdis Anvil
Chorus vigorously on the piano downstairs. It was a sufficiently loud piece
to awaken my admiration, and down I would come. We would spend the
next half-hour going through a German lesson, the Rosenthal method, if I
remember correctly. I learned long passages by rote, having only the slightest
understanding of what I was learning.

Irreantum S vol. 7, no. 1 (2005)

Walter began quoting in German from Schillers Wilhelm Tell. Ten or

twelve lines later he was still going strong.
Mr. Rosenthal would be proud of you, I said. My father woke us by singing the BYU Cougar fight song: Rise and shout, the cougars are out! So
damn cheerful!

5 January 1981, Princeton

Four days in Houston. Job interviews for the third year in a row. Then the
flight home.
I sit by the fire. I leaf through the pages of The Honorable Schoolboy. I
watch football on TV. I play games with the children. I sleep. And sleep.
I stayed with John in Houston. He has changed his name to Jay. With his
gaunt, fifty-year-old friend Lee, in Lees old Buick, he picked me up at the
airport. All smiles, smelling of beer and nerves. I asked about Houston. He
told me about the giant margaritas in his favorite Mexican restaurant. Lee
joined the awkward conversation to point to the sprawling, fire-damaged
brick house (ca 1908) he was restoring in Houstons Montrose district. The
houses tile roof glowed red-orange against the dusty green of an overgrown
park. Jay cooked some ham and eggs and we sat around the kitchen table
without much to say. Soon after nine I said I needed to get a good nights
sleep to be ready for my interviews. I slept fitfully on a narrow cot in a stuffy
closet half filled with boxes.
The next morning I donned my interviewing suit and in ten minutes had
exchanged the tenderloin for the inner citys polished, right-angled, high-rise
monuments to economic virtues.
That evening Jay and Lee and I drove across town to a pot-luck dinner
in the basement of a Unitarian church. A muscular man sporting cropped
blond hair and dressed in a Levi jacket, T-shirt, jeans, a steel chain, and engineers boots seemed to be in charge, although a softer looking Unitarian pastor had organized the dinner. Jay was drunk. Between bites of fried chicken
he blurted out his secret, putting into words what the kiss I heard the night
before had already confirmed.
Uncomfortable with the attention I was attracting from the all-male
crowd, I tried to focus on my brother. A handsome man. Others were focusing on him as well.
Back at Lees house Jay offered me things: a set of knives, a cookbook, a
fountain pen. I asked if he were still drawing. He told me about his new

Abbott S Immortal for Quite Some Time

b usiness venture: Shaklee B vitamins that would make him (and me, if I
wanted) healthy and rich. I tried to describe what I knew about pyramid
schemes. I asked him about old bruises around his eyes and nose. He boasted
of winning a drinking game called pass-out. He pointed out the blackvelvet copies of Rembrandt and Constable hanging on the walls and claimed
that Lee had an original da Vinci drawing somewhere in a box. We spent
the evening playing cards. And we reminiscedtrivial shared memories
that finally made us feel our kinship. Do you remember when Mom broke
her toe trying to kick Carol? Remember driving Grandmas riding mower
in Colorado? And the squirrel your arrow skewered on her tree trunk?
Remember the neighbor kids who dismembered the lizards we sold them?
Remember when you fell off the top bunk and smashed your nose? And
when I got my nose broken in Little League?
For seventeen years John and I lived together, shared a room, hung our
shirts in the same closet, did homework elbow-to-elbow, fought incessantly.
Since then we have been virtual strangers.

6 January 1981, Princeton

I called Mom tonight to tell her about my job search in Houston. I skipped
any mention of my depression and emphasized that this year I had more
experience, new publications, and more interviews.
I prayed earnestly for you to do well, Mom said.
I hope it works, I replied uneasily.
It will only work if your faith is strong enough.
I couldnt help myself and asked her about the three thousand job candidates at the convention. Who helps them?
Youll never get a job if you dont have faith in yourself, she said confidently.
Are you talking about faith or the power of positive thinking?
You know what I am talking about, she said.

22 January 1981, Princeton

Scott! Scott!
I rose from my dream and stumbled down the stairs.
Did I wake you?
Yes, but it doesnt matter.

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I thought it would be all right at six. Ive been lying here since two.
Whats the matter?
Same trouble the doctors supposed to be working on. I found that if I
turn over to this side I can urinate a little. But now the urinal is full. Would
you empty this for me. And the TV. Does this one work in here? In case I
have to stay in bed.
Walter never stays in bed. After emptying the urinal and testing the TV,
Isat down on the end of the bed.
What did the hearing-aid man say yesterday?
He said my hearing was worse than last year. I need a new $500 hearing
aid. I told him I would think about it. If I knew I was going to live a few
more years I would buy it. But Ive been feeling poorly lately.
I think youve been doing fine.
No, Ive been getting weaker. Ive been having trouble in the bathroom. I
dread it when I have to go in there. So I dont know about the hearing aid.
I hate to burden my estate with a bunch of hearing aids. Do you have a
Yes, should I get it?
Would you please? I seem to have lost both of mine. Youll have to sterilize
it afterward, so the children wont get something dreadful. Gertrude used to
have an obsession with getting things sterile. She boiled thermometer after
thermometer. Never understood why they kept breaking.

21 February 1981, Princeton

An embarrassment of job offers. How will I decide between Bucknell,
Columbia, and Vanderbilt? I wont even make the invited campus visit to
Washington University.
Columbias is a six-year offer, but not tenure track. Susan likes the smalltown environment of Bucknell. I lean toward Vanderbilt with its graduate

1 March 1981, Princeton

Walter has a dozen prohibition anecdotes, stories that have a strange fascination for a teetotaler like me, although I dont even like the smell of the
bourbon I serve him in the late afternoons.

Abbott S Immortal for Quite Some Time

When did John begin to drink, flaunting a dietary prohibition with as

much force as the Churchs proscription against homosexuality?
I got the materials for my gin through an intermediary from Fleishmanns
Yeast Company, Walter recounts. After testing the grain alcohol in my
companys lab, I mixed the gallon of alcohol with a gallon of distilled water
to prepare a supply of gin.
One day at the office I got a call from Gertrude. She was very mysterious
about whatever had happened, telling me only that I should be prepared for
an unpleasant surprise when I got home, and that I should not act rashly.
That evening she sat me down and said that on returning from shopping
she had been met at the door by David and a school friend. David proudly
announced they had destroyed the whole store of gin. Poured it down the
sink. They were headed over to the friends house to do the same for his
father. Gertrude let them go, but quickly called and warned the other mother
that prohibitionists were on the way and that she should hide her goods.
After hearing the story, I called David in. He must have known he was in
trouble, but he looked rather sure of himself.
Why did you destroy my gin, David? I asked him.
His answer was bold: For God and my country.
David, what in Gods name are you talking about?
Our teacher in school told us that liquor rots a mans stomach, David
Well, nothing has happened to my stomach, I replied slowly although not
altogether truthfully, and I have been drinking for some time.
Just wait, David said. It will happen sooner or later. And besides, in school
they said that men who drink beat their wives.
Now I was on firmer ground.
That may be partly true, I agreed. Some men who drink beat their wives;
but there are lots of men who drink who dont beat their wives. You have
never seen me beat your mother, have you?
No, I guess not, David admitted. But its against the law to have liquor in
the house.
Now I had him. You are wrong, my boy, I said. The law says you cant buy
or sell the stuff. Once it is in the house it is your property. I may not have
been right in buying the ingredients, but what you have done is to destroy
private property.

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That was an argument that appealed to the legal-minded boy. Together

with his accomplice, David earned enough money to pay me back. And
the next weekend I took them both to New York, fed them dinner at the
Dartmouth Club, and treated them to a movie. Some time later David confided to me that the other boy, a wild little red-head, had tasted the gin to
see what it was like.
I figure that was the beginning of Davids interest in law, Walter added. As
you know, hes now a New Jersey Supreme Court judge.
It was prohibition, I tell Walter, that hardened the Mormons stance on
alcohol. Brigham Young established a wine-growing mission in southern
Utah. He also supported the transcontinental railroad because his favorite
Bass Ale was stale by the time it reached him by wagon.
Would you like a glass of bourbon? Walter asks.
Thats kind of you, I respond, but no thanks.

29 March 1981, Princeton Medical Center

Nathan Taylor Abbott was born today at 11 a.m. What remarkable prospects
a child of this age has. What has Nathan inherited, I wonder, and what will
he learn from us that will enhance or limit those prospects?

4 June 1981, New York City, Columbia Presbyterian

Yesterday morning we sent two-year-old Thomas alone into open-heart surgery. He looked back past the attendant, reached his hands out to us, and
cried for help. Several hours later we were allowed to see him in intensive
care: cadaver white, bandaged, his bodily openings filled with tubes. He was
breathing only with the help of a respirator. Every heart beat was monitored,
every cc. of urine measured. After a long hour he opened his eyes for the first
time. Later he grasped my finger. The night passed silently. Soon after dawn,
heartened by Thomass progress, we talked about the future, about the family we are creating. Around midday the battered little boy nodded yes to my
question: Are we still friends? From his window on another day he watched
airplanes drop out of the sky to land at La Guardia and counted busses as
they passed the abandoned dance hall below.


Abbott S Immortal for Quite Some Time

17 July 1981, Princeton

Scott. Oh Scott. Could you help me?
I heard the thump of Walters brace on the floor an hour ago. I find him
in bed.
Scott, he says, thank you for coming. Im wondering if you could help me
get my . . . my . . . you know, my . . . its in the sitting room. Ive had trouble
with this word before but I have a way to remember it. I think of the Civil
War, of Shermans march through Georgia. Only it wasnt a march it was a
raid. Radio! Would you get my radio?
Im going to miss this man.

27 May 1983, Nashville, Tennessee, Centennial Park

The park across the street from Vanderbilt boasts a full-scale replica of the
Parthenon and has become a popular meeting place for gay men. I counter
the unease I feel while eating lunch here by thinking maybe Ill see John, who
has left Houston for some unannounced destination. I sit on a slanting stone
bench halfway between a mortuary and a noisy playground. Even when the
park is full the bench facing the mortuary is usually empty.
A white blob hangs about eight feet above the ground on a tall hackberry
tree. I walk over and find a flourishing lump of fungus where I had thought
to find an impaled cows lung.
How can we trust perceptions so colored by conscious and subconscious
experience? I answer my own question: Without experience, perceptions
would be measurements devoid of meaning.

29 May 1983, Tbingen, Germany

I cower on the floor under a blanket. In the dark above me a huge cat spits
and hisses and rips at couch fabric. I hug my legs to form a smaller target.
The cat screams its outrage. Time crawls on and my anxiety eases into frustration. Id like to sleep! Then the cat springs like God through the dark and
slams onto my head. Wildly I strike out, but he is too quick for me.
From the bedroom comes Libbys voice: Anything wrong?
The cat continues to voice his outrage. I have to contain mine.
At breakfast, Kitty rubs affectionately against my legs.
Youre good with animals, Bruce says.

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10 June 1983, Tbingen

All day in the university library working on literary uses of Freemasonry in
eighteenth-century Germany (Lessing, Schiller, Goethe), and now I need
fresh air and exercise. I put an apple, cheese, sausage, bread and a book
of Hlderlins poetry into a bag and start up the hill. At the top, clustered
together along a winding dirt road, lie dozens of small garden estates surrounded by wrought-iron fences. Signs warn of vicious dogs. I sit on a bench
and read Hlderlin on impossible love.
Done with lunch and not yet ready to join Hlderlins Empedocles in his
fiery leap into Aetna, I pack my things and step off the road onto what seems
an unused strip of land bordering on a garden. A faint trail of bent grass leads
to a place overlooking orange-tiled roofs and the green and brown and yellow
fields of the Ammer Valley. The garden next to me is a model of industry. Tall
poles stand ready to bear the weight of beans already inching upward. There
are healthy rows of strawberries. Dark green rhubarb. Apple and cherry trees.
Two stacks of white beehives.
I stand near a square of flattened grass, left perhaps by the blanket of a
pair of lovers. I think about who they might have been. I am happy for them.
Stone sounds on metala whetstone on the blade of a scythe. The gardener has come to mow the grass I and a young couple have trampled. I walk
up the path to find an old man swinging a gleaming blade. Bent low, he rips
into the grass with long, efficient strokes.
He is startled to see me in his garden. In broad Swabian dialect he says
something I dont quite understand.
Im sorry to be in your garden, I say. Trespasser. Stranger. Foreigner.
He mutters and frowns and swings his razor-sharp blade.
The forest darkens as I leave the Steinenberg. Night falls. I sit in the window of my room. I pick up my pen and write about desire.

3 July 1983, Tbingen

My mother and grandmother arrived yesterday after two weeks in the Holy
Land. As an antidote to their frenzied professional group tour of hot desert
lands, our quiet walks through woods and vineyards have refreshed them.
Tomorrow well drive to Munich, and then to Zurich, where my brother Paul
is being released from his mission.

Abbott S Immortal for Quite Some Time

I wish we had picked up John after his mission, Mom says over dinner. It
might have made things less complicated for him.

5 July 1983, Dachau

Mom and Grandma had seen a museum in Israel commemorating the
Holocaust, so they hurried through the documentation of atrocities performed in a sleepy German town, anxious to see the barracks and crematory ovens. I took them by their conservative right arms and ushered them
through the display, translating for them, drawing comparisons to American
politics and Utah religion: German Women Dont Smoke. Tavern owners
should allow no jazz music to be played in their taverns in the future; if questions arise as to what constitutes jazz, they will be decided by Dr. Gerhard
Schneider, Gmelinstrasse 6. Homosexuals Are Animals. Please burn all
the filthy, godless, Marxist, Jewish books you own; refer to the following list.
Jews Are Pigs. Protect the honor of your wives and sisters and daughters.
Pledge Allegiance to Flag and Fhrer. Buy German; the job you save
may be your own.
In the evening I gave Mom a copy of a story I am working on. Youll
remember the event, I said. See what you think about how Ive used our
She took it and kissed me good-night.
The Hairy Turkey
The station wagon picked up speed as it passed the grounds of the Navaho
Methodist Mission. Schlumbergers well-serviced trucks gleamed blue and
white in the early morning sun. The car climbed steeply between rocky hills,
past the rusty inventory of Four-Corners Auto Salvage. A billboard demanded
that someone should GET US OUT OF THE U.N.!
Bills mother read a church magazine in the front seat. His sister Allie
slept next to him, her head wedged into the angle between seat and door. Bill
looked out at the passing riverside farms and refineries and historical markers.
Indian Petroglyphs. Mormon Settlement. Robert McMasters turned the
station finder up and down the radio dial. This early on Sunday morning the
radio was the realm of Navaho disc jockeys, their guttural speech littered with
English brand names.
Thats their idea of music, McMasters said. He raised his eyebrows and
turned to his wife. They think thats music.

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The hogback marking the reservations eastern boundary came into sight.
Just east of the ridge squatted the Turquoise Bar. It dispensed, even Sunday
morning, what could not be bought or sold on Indian land. McMasters drove
more carefully.
An occasional hogan appeared and receded beside the highway. Longhaired horses and scruffy dogs warmed themselves in the late November sun.
Dogs are easier to raise than chickens, McMasters said with a laugh.
Shacks covered with black tarpaper or cardboard huddled along the highway. Away from the rivers cottonwoods the landscape was lunar, sand and
sandstone dominant, vegetation sparse. The volcanic sails of Shiprock rose in
the west.
Bill, do you know why the Indians call it Shiprock? McMasters asked.
No, I dont.
They have a legend about a big ship that brought their ancestors across the
Just like the story in the Book of Mormon, Bill thought.
The highway drew them south from the volcanos massive core to Tocito,
where busy pump jacks sucked oil from the ground. McMasters slowed the
car and turned onto a gravel road. The dark, conifer-covered slopes of the
Lukachukai Mountains rose above them.
The station wagon pitched and scraped over a bumpy road until McMasters
pointed ahead to a cinder block house perched at the foot of the mountains.
He turned into the hard-packed yard. A short-haired dog snarled at them from
the top of an overflowing garbage drum. Empty soup cans, stew cans, bean
cans, canned chicken cans, hominy cans, Spam cans. And bottles. It surprised
Bill to see flat whiskey bottles here. Under the direction of the Southwest
Indian Mission President, the McMasterses had come to hold a sacrament
meeting with Brother and Sister Begay.
McMasters left the car and edged past the snarling dog. He knocked on the
door. The cold wind blowing off the mountain ruffled his thin hair. The door
finally opened and he half entered the house. There seemed to be some discussion, then he leaned out and motioned for his family to follow. Bills mother
and sister picked their way across the yard.
Bill stretched and looked around. This place contrasted sharply with the
well-kept yard of President Tsosi. The head of the Toadlena branch of the
Church lived comfortably in a big house trailer surrounded by grass and a
As Bill turned toward the door, a confusing creature rounded the corner
of the house and advanced on gnarled, all-but-toeless feet. Feathers scattered
sparsely on its wings and body did little to hide scabrous folds of skin. From
the birds bare chest, as loathsome to Bill as grimy feathers on the chest of a

Abbott S Immortal for Quite Some Time

man, hung five or six long hairs. Black hairs, thick black hairs, their ends dragging filthy on the ground.
Bill stared stupidly at the bird.
A hairy turkey.
Bill stumbled into the overheated house. Before his eyes had adjusted to the
semidarkness, his father was introducing him to Sister Begay: This is my son
William, recently returned from a mission to Germany.
The emaciated woman, sixty, seventy, eighty years old, Bill couldnt tell,
bobbed her head and smiled.
McMasters led his son over to a long-haired man in a rusted wheelchair.
Flaps of empty skin hung from his face and neck.
This is Brother Begay. Brother Begay, this is my son William, just returned
from a mission to Germany.
The old man disclosed two lone teeth through a weak smile. Scattered
white hairs dangled from his chin and cheeks. He stared straight ahead. Y-th, he said. Bill said Yaw-ta-hay and shook the mans bony hand.
The McMasterses stood awkwardly in the middle of the room. Sister Begay
continued to nod. Brother Begay stared straight ahead.
McMasters motioned his family over to the double bed in one corner. Allie
sat on the bed next to the wall, her mother beside her. Bill pulled his hand
from the old mans grasping fingers and sat down, leaving a place for his
Shall we begin? McMasters asked. Sister Begay nodded from her chair near
the stove.
At a signal from her husband, Bills mother stood up with her hymn book.
Lets sing We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet, she suggested brightly.
Sister Begay sang along quietly. When they finished, McMasters began to
pray. He stopped short, however, when Sister Begay interrupted.
We know Spencer Kimball a prophet of God. He tell us to join Gods
church. We see our son when we die.
She lifted herself from her chair and limped over to a shelf holding photographs. Lifting a photo of a young man in full dress uniform of the United
States Marines, Sister Begay tearfully described the death of her only son, far
from the reservation, fighting in Korea.
McMasters cut the narrative short by announcing that they would now
bless and pass the sacrament. Bill broke small pieces of bread onto a plate
and filled six tiny paper cups with water from a thermos. McMasters read the
prayer on the bread and Bill offered each person the symbols of the body of
Christ. He watched Brother Begays yellow fingernails grope blindly across the
plate in search of a piece of bread.

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Handing each person a cup of water in remembrance of Christs blood shed
for them, Bill kept his head bowed and tried to think of his Savior. Brother
Begays shaking hand spilled most of the sacrament water.
The old man broke into the stillness to ask Bill a question: You drive past
Yes, Bill answered, embarrassed at the interruption of the holy ordinance.
The People call it Ts Bita, Winged Rock, the old man said. One end is
the blood of Cliff Monster. He catch men with claws and throw them from
sky to children in rocks. You see Shiprock? he asked Bill again.
Yes, yes, we saw it, Bill replied, wondering how to put a stop to this. They
should be thinking about the atonement of Christ.
Dine , the People, the Dine call it Winged Rock, the sightless man
explained. Cliff Monster has long beak, very large eyes. Things like feathers
on his shoulders. He catch prey and carry it to high rock and throw it down
to wife and children. Monster Slayer carry pouch with blood. He hunt Cliff
Monster. Cliff Monster see Monster Slayer and catch him and carry him high
and drop him on cliff. Monster Slayer not die. He saved by life feather from
Spider Woman. Blood from pouch make monster think he dead. Monster
Slayer hide in nest with Cliff Monsters young. He learn parents names from
children and then kill mother and father. He toss them to children to eat. Cliff
Monster become Winged Rock and his blood turn to slippery rock on end.
You call it Shiprock.
Before the old man could go on, McMasters greeted the Begays in behalf of
the Mission Presidency and the Stake High Council. He announced he would
speak on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. While he described the
crucifixion in grisly detail, pointing out that the spikes were driven into the
wrists rather than the hands, Bill looked around the room.
His father stood at the kitchen table, clear except for his scriptures and the
quickly drying remains of the sacrament bread. A hot black stove squatted in
the center of the room. His mothers head nodded in the close heat. Next to
a cinder block wall stood an unpainted dresser. Above the dresser hung the
shelf with the photographs: the Marine son, an old photograph of the Begays
wearing traditional Navaho clothing and jewelry, and in a plastic frame an
autographed glossy photo of Elder Spencer Kimball. Several white votive
candles bracketed the photographs. Just above hung a plastic crucifix and a
cluster of feathers.
The crucifixion of Jesus Christ, Bill heard his father saying, was a tragic
event. As members of Christs church we choose to remember the grand and
glorious resurrection which took place three days later. That is why you never
see a crucifix in one of our chapels. Worshiping a cross is one more form of
pagan idolatry.

Abbott S Immortal for Quite Some Time

He noticed the crucifix too, thought Bill. And the feathers. He looked over
to see how Brother and Sister Begay were taking this call to repentance. Sister
Begay was smiling, nodding her head. Brother Begays sightless eyes were
Slowly the scene changed from the crucifixion to the resurrection. And on
that grand millennial day, McMasters was saying, Christ will come again. The
just will rise from their graves to meet him, their bodies made whole; yea, and
every limb and joint shall be restored to its body; yea, even a hair of the head
shall not be lost; but all things shall be restored to their proper and perfect
Closing his Book of Mormon with a flourish, Bills father spoke in an
almost gentle voice: I know that we will be resurrected on that great and glorious morning. You, Brother Begay, will see again and walk again. You, Sister
Begay, will be reunited with your son and the three of you can dwell together
throughout all eternity.
She nodded her head and smiled.
But behold, McMasters concluded, reopening his Book of Mormon, but
behold, an awful death cometh upon the wicked . . . they are cast out . . . and
they drink the dregs of a bitter cup.
The whiskey bottles outside, Bill thought.
Gathering his books together, McMasters asked his wife to lead them in a
closing hymn, called on Allie to offer a closing prayer, and sat down heavily
on the corner of the bed. The frame gave way and McMasters found himself
sprawled on the floor with his family.
While his father knelt and tried to prop up the bed, Bill stood to the side
with his mother and sister. The phrase proper and perfect frame flitted crazily through his mind.
The closing song and prayer were forgotten in the confusion and the family
got ready to leave. Bill picked up Brother Begays hand from the arm of the
wheelchair and said good-by. He waved apologetically to Sister Begay. She
smiled and nodded.
Outside, the cold air felt good. Bill looked around the yard for the turkey,
ready to warn the rest of the family. Not until they were safe in their car, however, did it totter around the corner of the house. The old birds hairs dragged
thickly through the dirt. Its glazed eyes burst into flame. It began to run at
them, squawking desperately, as if it hadnt squawked for centuries.
McMasters jerked the wheel around and stomped on the accelerator.
The turkey attacked the chrome monster, weaving and feinting with its
snake-like neck.
The big car shuddered twice, then careened out of the yard.
Damned turkey, McMasters muttered.

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8 July 1983, Zurich

Driving across the German-Swiss border, I had to ask twice before Mom
would comment on the story.
Thats not the way it was, she declared.
I know its not, I answered. I used the events and the feelings I remembered to write a story. Its not supposed to be history.
Dad wasnt like that, Mom asserted. Why are you so critical of the
Church? So bitter and cynical?
Mom, the story is about a family whose good intentions backfire because
of extraordinary cultural differences. Its about our own inadequacies. Mis
sionaries face situations like this daily. We ought to think about them with
some humility.
Thats not the way it was, she repeated.


(part II of Stones: Two Plays about Sacrifice)
J. Scott Bronson
For My Mother: The first miracle of my life

The Mother Middle Aged
The Son
Around Thirty
The Father Just Past Middle Age

The Place
The Time

Is a Tomb
Is Past

The Set
Black blocks formed as a low bench and lower portion of entrance to the

The Costumes
Black. Simple.
(Lights up. The MOTHER is sweeping the floor. After a time she moves
to the bench and dusts it with a small white cloth. Then she sits on the
bench. She runs her hand along the edge of it. She stretches out on her
sidealmost in a fetal position. Then she rolls to her back and stares at
the ceiling. She places the cloth over her face. Pause. The SON appears
in the entrance. Pause.)

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(Sitting up suddenly.)



I frightened you. Im sorry.


No. No. Stay. Please stay. (Pause. The SON sits next to his mother and takes her
hand. Pause.) I was. I just. Its so cold. Hard.

Mother, his body will feel none of it. And his spirit . . . right now his spirit
feels nothing but joy. (Pause.)

Truly? (The SON nods. Then she nods.) He was a good man, wasnt he? He
deserves that kind of joy.

Yes. He was, is, a good man. A very good man. Father put me into his
care... trusted him to rear the Son of Man.

The Son of Man. (Pause.) What about the Son of Woman?


One in the same. (Pause.) Its not like you to be bitter.


Im not bitter. Not really. I just dont want you to forget that you also have
a mother.


Bronson STombs

The best mother any son could have. How could I possibly forget you?

You may be the son of God, but like all menpeopleyou can become preoccupied to the point of excluding other concerns. Or, perhaps you inherited
that from me.

What could so infect me that it would push my mother from my mind and
my heart?

Oh, I know Ill always be in your heart. Even if you werent a god I think
your heart could hold all the world. But not your mind. Your mind holds
only one thing at any given time.

Thats true of everyone. I hope you have noticed however that your influence
on me has taken deep root. I have learned a great deal from you.

Really. I know it must be true, but at this moment I feel as empty as an

ancient desert well. As if I have always been.


Your deep-rooted learning was not watered from my well.


It was. It is. (Pause.)


Bitterness and self-pity. All in one day. Arent you pleased you were here to
witness it? (Pause.) Hes been gone for such a short time. I remember every

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hour I spent with him. But now, none of it seems real. As if the memories
are someone elses, and I never really knew him at all.

Its a terrible, hollow feeling to lose someone so dear.


It is. You feel the same way?


I understand your feelings.


But you dont share them.


Not quite.
(The MOTHER takes a deep breath.)

Im ready.

No. No sermons.

Actually, I could use a sermon right now.


Time enough for sermons later.


But thats not what I meant. You have something to tell me. What is it?


Bronson STombs

I miss him too, Mother. And, like you, my memories of him already feel like

That wasnt it. (She looks him deeply in the eyes.) Youre hiding something.
When did you begin this practice?

When I was certain that I was about to hurt someone I love quite dearly.

And perhaps you feel that I am too fragile at this moment to hear whatever
news it is that you have for me.

Perhaps. I was counting on it.


Fine. Youll tell me when youre ready. But, dont for a minute think that we
will get out of this tomb before you have confessed all.

Whatever you say.


Thats right. Your mother has spoken. (Suddenly, she breaks into tears. The
SON holds her until she stops.) Im sorry.

For what?

Oh, admit it, Son . . . you want to teach right now. You cant help yourself,
you are a teacher. Isnt that why Father sent you? (Pause.) Arent you going to
tell me that my grief is pointless? That it profits me nothing in the long run?

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That I should have a broader, more eternal view of my husbands death?


Never be ashamed of expressing your grief. Theres no sin in feeling sorrow.

Especially for a lost love.

But hes not lost, is he? Ive heard you speak on this very subject before. Hell
be mine again one day . . . Ill be his . . . forever. And if I could express my
faith in that as well as I express my grief, I wouldnt feel the grief at all. My soul
would be comforted by a divine peace. Isnt that what you want to tell me?

No, Mother. I meant what I said . . . no sermons just yet.


Dont hold back, Son. What is it?


The sermons will come. Soon. Soon, too, will come the time when your faith,
if it is sufficient, will allow you to throw your griefs upon another who will
bear them for you. I wish that time were now. But, it cannot be. I am not
yet ready.

What are you saying?



Actually . . . what are you not saying?


Id rather not say just yet. Im not ready for that either.


Bronson STombs

Dont do that. No. Perhaps I am too fragile right now. Too fragile to know
that something . . . portentous is about to happen . . . to you perhaps . . . and
not be allowed to know what it is. I will not permit you to drop ominous
statements like that and let them lie. It fills me with more dread than I can
bear. Especially now. Oh, this is worse than when we lost you at the temple.

I wasnt lost.

Your father and I didnt know where you were.


As I told you then, I was about my Fathers business.


Yes, without indulging in the courtesy of informing your step-father and

your wet-nurse.
(He shoots her a look. Pause.)

I apologized for that.

(Light change. The FATHER appears.)

Apologies, no matter how sincere, cant heal some wounds.


Hes already explained himself.


Yes, yes . . . hes about his Fathers business. Im sure that its terribly important that this brilliant twelve-year-old prophet who has been put into our
care be about the business of disabusing these doddering old fools of their

Irreantum S vol. 7, no. 1 (2005)

unworthy traditions.

Theyre not fools.


Then theyre foolish.



Because they wont listen to you.



They think youre a curiosity. Do you suppose even one of them will change
because of the things youve been teaching and expounding for the last
three days? If they actually believed any of the things youve told them they
would be plotting your death right now. (Pause.) They think youre quaint.


I thought you were going to lecture me.


Im getting there. But first I want you to know that I know just how truly
brilliant you are. I know that what you taught them is true, and comes from
God. I know who you are, what you are, and why you are here. I know what
your mission is . . . will be. And for a long time it intimidated me. Frightened
me. But now, I know who I am. I know what I am. And why Im here. Its
a blessing and an honor for God to have put you into our care. But he did
so because he trusts us. He chose us because He knows we can teach you
something. As brilliant as you are, you have much to learn. And you are
teachable. I know that you talk with Father every day, and Im sure that He
communicates with you . . . somehow. Whether through visions, dreams,

Bronson STombs

or angelic manifestations, I know he is teaching you. My sense is that those

teachings have more to do with . . . the eternities. The verities of heaven. If
Im wrong, dont tell me. I rather like believing that Im right.

You are.

Really. Well, then. That makes what Im going to say now even more pertinent. This is the lecture you were waiting for.

Im listening.

Some things can be learned only through experience. Im sure you understand
that . . . in theory. What, perhaps though, has escaped your understanding is
that despite these angelic tutorials, you still need the experience of living and
growing with a family. With a family is where you will best learn the practical
application of such concepts as respect and courtesytwo things that you
failed to exhibit when you left us to be about your Fathers business. Your
mother has been sick with fear for three days. Thats not just an expression.
She has been sick. So much so she can hardly stand now without aid.

Mother, you have no need to fear. I am in Fathers hands.


Dont tempt God, young man. You may have angels attending you, but that
doesnt allow you the privilege to blithely stroll along the brink of a cliff. Your
enemies may throw you off and if God wants to save you, you will be saved.
If you throw yourself over the cliff, God will let you fall. We are the subjects
of the test. God is not. Do you understand?

Yes, sir. (Pause.)


Irreantum S vol. 7, no. 1 (2005)


We love you so very much. One day you may understand just how much. I
hope you will.

I will.

Good. Because then you will understand why we were so frightened for you.
And why that fear has turned to anger. And why that anger will be set aside.
We are so grateful to have you back with us. So grateful that you are safe.
(Pause.) Please forgive my sharp words.

No. You are right. It is I who must apologize. I must try to . . . learn to . . .
(Pause.) . . . to include . . . more people in the decisions I make.

Yes. Good. Thank you.

(The SON kisses his mother on the cheek and exits. Pause.)

Why did you say they would be plotting his death?



Dont play this game with me. Please just answer my question.

I just wanted to scare the boy a little.


Do you really think Im going to believe that? (Pause.) Why do you think
those men would be plotting his death? (Pause.) What did he say to them?

Bronson STombs

What was he telling them?


The truth.

About himself?

Very nearly. He was speaking in hypotheticals. He was leading them to the


What is he thinking?

Hes thinking that he will change the world.


By getting himself killed?


I believe thats the plan.

(Light change. The FATHER disappears and the SON reappears.)

I have never been so frightened. Not before or since . . . until now. Whats
going to happen?

Mother, you have no need to fear. I am in Fathers hands.


Youve said that before . . . and I believe it. But, for some reason, it doesnt
comfort me.


Irreantum S vol. 7, no. 1 (2005)


Comfort will come. In its own time.


Everything in its season. Is that it?



Is your season upon us?



What does that mean?


It means I will be leaving soon.


To do what?

Teach. As you said, Im a teacher.


Where will you go?


Everywhere Father leads me.


Will I ever see you again?


Bronson STombs

Oh yes. You will see me.


When will you leave?


Soon. (Pause.)

Please dont.


I dont want you to go


This is what I was born to do. (Pause.)


I know.

Do you?


You know the purpose of my existence?


Of course.


Irreantum S vol. 7, no. 1 (2005)


How do you know?


Youre not the only one to receive visitors.


I know that, but . . . I thought I was told . . .



That I was the only one who knew about . . .


That youre the Mediator? That you will be despised and persecuted of men?
That you will bear the burden of the world and men will want to kill you?
Yes, I know about that. Ive heard you and others read the scriptures. I know
what they mean. I know who you are. And what you are. At least I think I
do. Maybe theres more to it. (Pause.) I love you. You cant know how much
I love you. You cant know how badly I need you right now. You cant leave.
(Pause.) You say nothing.

I dont want to hurt you, Mother.


Oh, you could never hurt me. There was a great deal of pain when you were
born . . . but never has there been an ounce of hurt. (Pause.) Its ironic, but I
imagine some day people will celebrate your birth. There will be songs written about the beauty of that holy night. About the angels who sang. About
the kings from the east, and the shepherds and the inn. But no one will sing
about the blood and the pain and the sweat and the pain and the tears and
that incredible pain. But it was all a part of it. Theyll sing about the manger
and the gently lowing cattle, but they wont sing about the hearty scent of

Bronson STombs

animal dung. About the grunting and the groaning. They will see your birth
as a miracle and they will assume that it was silent and easy. They wont ever
imagine that you came into this world just like every other babe that is born,
through the bloody, watery womb of a screeching, straining mortal woman
of flesh and bone. The miracle of your birth is who your father is, not your

No, Mother. No man could have done what you did. Not even the Eternal
Man who is my father. If he could have he would have. (Pause.) Only a
woman. And He chose you. Do you know what it means that in all Fathers
creations He chose you to bear the son of God? That He trusted you to
raise me to be a god? (Pause.) You are the greatest miracle of my life. Believe

Ill try. (Pause.) I wish your brothers and sisters felt the same way.

Some day they will. Give them time.


Oh yes, on my death bed theyll all be gathered around uttering whispered

prayers assuring God and me that they honor me as the greatest miracle of
their lives.

Yes, I believe they will. And theyll mean it. Just as I do, with all my heart,
mind and soul.

Thank you. (Pause. She kisses him. Touches his face, his hair.) You are a miracle

Yes, well, a child born of a virgin is a rather miraculous thing.


Irreantum S vol. 7, no. 1 (2005)


Thats not what I mean. To me you were the most . . . I dont know. Its impossible to describe. Just to touch your perfect, smooth skin. To look into your
eyes and try to imagine what you were thinking. To watch you crawl around
picking up everything in your path and putting it in your mouth. Everything
about you was, still is, a miracle to me.

Even if I were not the Son of God you would feel that way. A mothers first
child . . . well, if you cant describe it, how can I?

Perhaps youre right. Perhaps the miracle is in discovering how to be a mother.


Then every mother everywhere could know that miracle if they would follow
your example.

I dont deserve that.


Of course you
(She stops him with a gesture.)

Please dont. I appreciate and cherish your honor for me. It is a wonderful
gift, especially coming from you. But, any more than that is . . . too much.
Im afraid I wouldnt believe even you if you were to bestow me with more
praise than I deserve. I could never live up to it. I may allow you to call
me a miracle or even an angel . . . maybe. But never . . . never the perfect

But to me


Bronson STombs

Dont! (Pause.) Listen, if youre going to begin teaching people, theres

something you need to understand about people. We dont love better by
reaching for perfection. We approach perfection by loving better. Does that
make sense?

Perfect sense.

Was that meant to be funny?



Now that I think about it, I suppose it is possible that to you I might have
seemed like a perfect mother because I did love you so very much. But it was
easy to love you. So easy.

More than the others?


It must seem that way. But not really. Its just that . . . my heart went out to
you so much. I was always so afraid for you.


Because . . . because . . . youre so submissive. To a parent, thats . . . a dream

come true, a completely obedient child. Who couldnt be grateful for that?
But you tended to let people take advantage of you. I hated that. You always
seemed to be in so much pain. And I cant bear to see you in pain.


Irreantum S vol. 7, no. 1 (2005)


And yet, every pain that I brought to you over the yearsevery cut, scrape,
bruise and hurt feeling that I had was soothed, treated, kissed and healed by
your love.
(Light change. The SON gasps in pain and holds his hand out to his

Whats this? What have you done now? Youre bleeding. (Using her white cloth,
she begins to wipe at the wound on his hand.) How did you do this?

Working with father in his shop.


Well, I assumed that much. But how? What made this hole?

A nail.

How did you manage to impale yourself with a nail?


Daydreaming, if you ask father.

(As she wraps his hand, turning the cloth into a bandage.)

very deep. Youll be all right.


Thank you.

Youre welcome. And what were you daydreaming about?


Mm-hm. Its not

Bronson STombs

I wasnt.


No. Not really.


I see. So then, what distracted you?


A vision. (Pause.)

Of what?

A wooden cross. Nails. And a man wearing a crown of thorns.


What man?

I couldnt see his face. (Pause.)



Yes. It appeared to be quite painful. There was a great deal of blood.


There was no more to the vision?


Irreantum S vol. 7, no. 1 (2005)



What do you think it means?


I dont know. (Pause.)


That poor man. (Pause.) How did you do it?


I had dropped a nail . . . I bent to pick it up . . . and . . . the vision came.

When it was gone I felt pain in my palm. My hand was gripped in a tight
fist over the nail. (Pause.)

And your father accused you of daydreaming.



Did you tell him it was a vision?




I . . . dont know.


Bronson STombs

Are you afraid of him?


No. (Pause.) No.


What are you afraid of? (Pause.) Your father is a wise man. He could help
you to understand these visions. He knows that you commune with angels.
He doesnt chide you for that. Why do you think that he would chide you
for having visions?

Its not that. Im certain that he can help me understand them. I think
that...I think that I dont want to understand them . . . yet. (Pause.)

Ah. I see. (Pause.) When youre ready . . . go to him, tell him of your visions.

I will.

In the mean time, always bring them to me, and well wonder about them
together. (Pause.)

(Light change.)

Who else was there to help you bear the pain?


Not many. Not many that I trusted.


Irreantum S vol. 7, no. 1 (2005)


Your father

Yes . . . but not until I was ready to know the full weight of the pain that they
brought. You understood what my visions were before I did.

Yes. And no. I knew they were given to you to prepare youto strengthen
you. For what, I didnt know. I still dont. (Pause.)

You let me work through all that by myself. You helped me carry the weight
of the confusion of not knowing. And when I was ready, father helped me
carry the weight of certainty.


How did you do it?


I dont know. (Pause.)


Well, its not over.


I know. Its just about to begin. Isnt it?



Without your father to help you.


Bronson STombs

My true father will be with me.


Of course. I simply meant . . .


I know what you meant. Im sorry. I shouldnt be so quick to correct.


But you are correct.


Yes, Im correct, but so what? That doesnt mean I need to be insensitive to

the memory of the man who raised me as if he were my true father. I owe
him more respect than that. Besides, you are correct as well. His wisdom and
calming influence would be great comforts to me now as I prepare for my
mission. I am sorry he is gone. (Pause.)

Thank you. (Pause.)


I was sent to bring you home.


Were you?



We all know that this tomb will never be just right. It will never be clean

Irreantum S vol. 7, no. 1 (2005)

enough or comfortable enough for the remains of such a good man. You will
never be ready to lay him down.

Thats true, I suppose.


But he is gone.

Though happy, you said.


Yes. (MOTHER closes her eyes. Long pause.) Mother


What will you teach?



What will your message be as you go about teaching? That you are the Son
of God?

That we must all love one another.


Then you wont tell them who you are?


Oh yes. I will. It is by that authority that I will teach them.


Youll put yourself in so much danger telling people that.


Bronson STombs

Be that as it may, I will tell them.



Because my message must come from a position of supreme authority.


Love one another is such a radical idea that it can only be taught by the
Son of God?

The depths to which I will ask them to go in order to practice true God-like
love for their fellow beings is indeed a radical concept. Very frightening in
fact for those of insufficient faith. (Pause.)

Is it . . . possible for mere mortals to love that deeply?


You do.

How? What have I done to demonstrate the kind of love youre talking

Simply by placing the interests of others before your own.


What mother couldnt do that for her children or her husband or even

Yes, yes, very true. Even the heathen can love its own. But I will require that

Irreantum S vol. 7, no. 1 (2005)

they love their enemies as well. They must embrace all people within the
limits of their love. Everyone. (Pause.)

Thats impossible.

Thats what many will believe. But they are wrong. You do it every day.

I dont

Every day, Mother. Please forgive the reproving tone I am using, but you
need to understand just how worthy you are. I dont know, perhaps you
wont admit to your own goodness because you fear becoming too prideful.
I wouldnt worry about that if I were you, for surely we must knowmust
be able to acknowledgewhen we are doing, or have done, something right
and good in the world. We must know that we are, or are not, following
Fathers commandments. We all know the difference between what is right
and what is wrong, and we know which path we tread. We know. (Pause.)
We know.

Not always.

Mother, you taught your children, every day, that all men, all womenall
peopleare worthy of our love. As you mediated all those petty little differences between us children you made us understand that we should always
think of the Other before ourselves.

I dont recall


Bronson STombs

By asking us these questions: How do you know thats what she meant?
Do you think his intention was to hurt you? What do you suppose he feels
about that? Is she truly as angry as you say? And you expected answers. And
none of us could ever give them to you . . . because we were only thinking
of ourselves.

Yes, but I was only talking about your siblings, not . . . the whole world.

But our family is the whole world. What we learn at home we use out there.
Besides, I watched you. When you had a difference with someone you always
kept your feelings in check until you were fairly certain that you knew their
true position. This extended to even those who oppress our people, our socalled enemies. (Pause.) This is what I will preach.

That we should love . . . include our enemies?



They will kill you for that.


Yes, they will.

(MOTHER reacts with a small outcry which she immediately tries to

Dont do it. Dont go to them. Dont give them your life if all theyre going
to do is throw it away.


Irreantum S vol. 7, no. 1 (2005)


Some of them wont. Some will listen. Some will hear me.

Enough to make it worth your effort?


Oh yes. If it saves only one . . . it will be worth the effort.


You didnt learn that from me. My love isnt great enough to allow me to open
my arms to all the world and yet be content to embrace one soul.

That will never be asked of you.


Only you. And I have no doubt that you can do it.


But I wont have to. I already know many souls that will accept my sacrifice.
(She looks at him sharply.)



Youre just going to give yourself to them?




Bronson STombs

Why? Shouldnt they have to earn your death?


No. That is a gift. Its my life they will have to earn.

(She stares at him for a long time.)

And you have lived a remarkable life. But nothing you have done so far seems,
to me at least, to have been anything that would be of such value that all of
humankind should want to purchase it. Pardon me if I speak blasphemy.

No. You are correct. But what I will do will be so valuable to them that the
cost of purchasing it will be their own lives. (Stunned, she opens her mouth
to speak, but he cuts her off.) What I mean is, that in order for humankind
to make . . . what I will do effective in their lives, they will have to give their
liveslive their lives for me . . . for my cause.

What could cost that. (Pause.) What will you do? (Pause.)

I. (Pause.) I . . . will.

Youre shaking. Whats wrong?

(Light change. The SON falls into a kneeling position in pale moonlight.)

Father . . . I am ashamed to confess . . . that I am frightened. So very frightened. I have seen this moment in vision numerous times, and I have been
preparing. Angels . . . have administered to me . . . guided me . . . I should
be ready. And yet. (Pause.) Father . . . I know you can do all things . . .

Irreantum S vol. 7, no. 1 (2005)

that if it were possible you could remove this bitter cup . . . that I might
not drink it. If it is possible . . . Father, please spare me the horror . . . the
agony of this deed. (Pause.) Forgive me. I know that it is not possible. If it
were an easy load to bear . . . any man could bear it. I am not any man. I
am your son. (Pause.) Send me help, Father. Please strengthen me for the
task. Otherwise, I fear I will lose heart and follow my own will, which is to
shrink from your will. Please, Father, help me. (Pause. A bright, white light
appears near the SON. The SON gains strength from this communion. Slowly, he
is calmed. The white light fades. Pause.) Father . . . your will . . . not mine be
done. (Immediately the SON is stricken with painhowever, this pain is not yet
beyond any he has already suffered in his life. It is not yet beyond the pain that
any other person has likely suffered. The SON bears most of this pain in silence.
But, as the pain increases, vocalizations occur from time to timedeep groanings
or hissingsbut nothing very demonstrative. As his Atonement proceeds, the light
around the SON begins to widen as it turns red. And as the SONs pain increases
the red deepens. If possible, it might be a nice effect to have the red light engulf
the audience as well as the entire stage. At the ultimate moment, when the light
is at its deepest, broadest redwhen the Son can bear no more pain without
dyinghe opens his mouth to scream, but . . . Light change. And all that emerges
is a whisper:)


(She is there in an instant, holding her son, rocking him.)


Hush. Hush, Son. Its over now. The vision is gone. (She strokes his head and
continues to rock him as he calms down. Pause.) Youre all right. Everythings
all right now.
(Slowly, he regains his composure. He looks into his mothers eyes and

Thank you. Thank you, Mother.

(Looking into his eyes, she can still the see the terror.)

What did you see? (Still breathing heavily, he cannot answer.) What? (Pause.)

Bronson STombs

I saw . . . the end.


The end of what?


Not the end . . . the beginning. Of me. My beginning, really.

(Pause. His mother can hardly contain her emotions.)

What happens? (Pause.)


We should go.

What happens! (Pause.) What happens!


I will bear the weight . . . the pain . . . the sorrow, the guilt . . . of all the sins,
of all the people, of all the times, of all the worlds . . . at one moment.



No man can do that.


But the Son of Man will.


Irreantum S vol. 7, no. 1 (2005)


Dont. Please dont. It will kill you.



I cant bury my husband and my son on the same day.


It wont kill me. And its not going to happen today.


Yes it is. (Pause.) If you tell me today . . . it happens today. And every day
until I die. (Pause.)

Its going to happen. It must.


Why must it?


Otherwise there is no salvation.



None at all. (Pause.)


I see. (Pause.) And it wont kill you?


Not quite. (Pause.)


Bronson STombs

How is it then that you . . . ? How will you die? Who will kill you?


Tell me! (Pause.)


I will die on a cross. Soldiers will take my clothing and drive nails through
my palms . . . and through my wrists and my feet. They will place a braid
of thorns upon my head and they will call me King. (MOTHER quietly sobs.)
After six hours I will give up the ghost. They will pierce my side and the fluids
of a broken heart will flow out. And they will take me to a tomb much like
this one.

All this for our salvation?


Yes. (Pause.)

Is there no other way?


There is no other way. (Pause.) And I want you to be there.




No! No. No. I cant watch that happen. I cant even think about it.

Irreantum S vol. 7, no. 1 (2005)

(She collapses, nearly fainting.)

Mother! (He holds her, keeps her from falling all the way to the floor.) Mother.

Oh, Son. (Pause.) How can you ask that of me?


I need you, Mother. Ill need you there. (As his own tears begin to flow:) In the
last hour . . . the great god, my father, will leave me. I must have you there.
I must see your face . . . your sweet face. I must. (Pause.)

Then I will be there.

(Embracing her tightly:)

Thank you. Thank you. (Pause.)


Are you sure that you can do these things? How can it be possible?

Yes . . . I can do it all. I will do it all. My body will endure the pain because
God is my father. My heart will endure because you are my mother.
(Weeping, she covers his face with kisses. As well as his palms, his

God bless you, my son. God bless you. For all the people, of all the times, of
all the worlds, I thank you. Thank you. (Pause.) Thank you.
All rights inquiries may be made to the author through ENCORE PERFORMANCE
PUBLISHING: PO BOX 692; Orem, UT, 84059. Any adaptation or arrangement of this
work without the authors written permission is an infringement of copyright.

Matthew James Babcock

Fathers of Daughters
When I wasnt a father of
a daughter I was walking down an English
street: Sheffield, South Yorkshire, shoulder-toshoulder with the crowd in
grayed anonymity, gray face of sky.
West of Hole-in-the Road, opposite
Cobbs of Doncaster, and we (I speak
collectively of this wonderful
coterie of strangers) were caught in
a downpour so sudden my eyes and lashes
were trimmed with startling
cold drops before
I could blink. Under a royal blue
awning, I wedged myself in with
fifty others, shoulders and heads soaked already
from backhand slaps of Yorkshire rain. Like fathers
of daughters, we all feared
the worst, protesting the skys timing,
forcing ourselves farther back,
concerned only with when things would dry out.
It lasted seconds. But one small girl
in pink pantswithout umbrella, coatless
remained out in the delugeour sideways
retreat so quick and unanimous,
almost choreographedshe stood alone.
Soaked chestnut hair streaks clung to her face.
Her dance, a two-step of panic,
impromptu fear and grace

Irreantum S vol. 7, no. 1 (2005)

gone wild: Mommy! Mommy! she cried,

accompanied by slick black taxis,
an intermittent bus shifting gears, spouting
exhaust. Through the rain racket
came random calls for someone to
do something, nameless purrings of care.
I didnt move, told myself I couldnt.
The crowd wouldnt allow me to reach out.
And the rest is like wiping your hand
across fresh gems of rain on
a car windshield. Shes gone now.
She was wet, and we were dry. Still though,
years later (though I dont
believe in such things, or maybe do), I wonder if
before I was a father of a daughter she came to me
somehow, dressed in pink,
out on an English street in the rain just to see
what Id do, if before
it was like we were sharing a taxi just after
an urban thundershower, our faces
illuminated by amber slashes of sun, resembling
each other. Or on a bus, wedged in with
many others, and she reached through this
wonderful entourage of strangers in a way
that couldnt be named, just to say
something, her voice and eyes ringing clearly
prisms in the core of a
tear of rainjust to say that the best thing
to do is reach out now because this sun, this sky,
all this like cities of rain will be
gone before we can blink.

Babcock S Two poems

Ten years later she takes me back
to Mandarin Garden Chinese Restaurant
where in the frayed ruby light
of greasy tissue lanterns we trade platitudes
like Time really flies and Weve been gone
overnight, but it feels like forever
over Tiny Spicy Chicken and Buddhas Pork.
The frail paper placemat says shes
the Ox, given to patience and persistence,
an ideal match for me, the Cock,
selfish and eccentric, advised to avoid Rabbits.
Outside, the noon traffic on Main Street
drones by into gleaming future and past
through ticker-tape flakes of snow
shaken from the balcony of November sky,
each peak in the Wellsville Mountains
a guest strapped in high collar and cravat.
On the return drive, we lapse into wordlessness.
Milestones: hitchhiker in lime green anorak.
Skeletal Ford chassis in a field.
Handmade signs reading Garden of Eatin
and Free Idaho: Repeal Right to Work.
A scrap of black plastic garbage sack
snagged on a music staff of barbed wire

Irreantum S vol. 7, no. 1 (2005)

flaps a one-note anthem in the crosswind.

At the Bonneville County line, a ring-necked pheasant
springs up from roadside scrub brush
the color of husks, a spindly Peking acrobat
in harlequin silks and sashes somersaulting
through the next decades hoop of fire.
She watches, asks about next years plans.
I squint ahead where the road vanishes
into the zodiac of what remains, where in
the hub of the wheel Buddha squats
in a blond pasture on a shattered stump,
weaving prim slipknot paradoxes about
the Oxtender and prone not to slack,
plodding on forever to arrive overnight
and the Cock, perched on her back,
keenly observant of times stationary flight.


Mark Bennion

Ideas came faster than the tide
under the seas crash and hiss,
through the corals thick sting
in a foam spitting salt and weeds
as people journeyed north, merged
like wet sand
like a school of fish.
I wanted it like this
to watch friends find refuge
and fear were not so far apart
when they built a ship, seeing
it prepared for the horizon of day.
I stayed back to keep building,
I shared plans as the sea
grew stolid and intimate,
its rhythm lining our voices,
the breeze as constant as an old friend,
my face like a worn loading dock
on the edge of those war infested lands,
Bountiful and Desolation,
their majestic cliffs
tied to the ebb of memory.
What good would it have done
had we not ventured out, preferring


Irreantum S vol. 7, no. 1 (2005)

the warm shoulder and arm of shore?

Oceans pull revealed
its own embrace, somewhat quaint
and always dangerous
until we knew the unknown
would never diminish each time
the hull sprayed its web of water,
I held on to the bow
like Lehi did to his sons,
withered and bent, still believing
that you have to leave a world
to find what is full of promise.


Jim Papworth
Above Henrys Lake: Mid November
As if the bird-god knew a sign would remind me of belief
he sent an omennot an eagle with a white goose
hooked and bleeding in its talons
but a neighborhood of Waxwings.
They did not swoop down in a clap of thunder,
or materialize in the shattered edge of lightning:
they appeared from nowhere: a vision, an incantation
of fifty or sixty small fawned bodies
rising and falling in unison like a startled gasp,
or a balloon let loose of air, a shook carpet, a puff of dust,
like a giant heart whuwhumping, each combined undulation,
each acrobatic somersault a new metaphor.
A picture show from the early daysno sound
but the whir of wings, a small, careful practice
of group flight aerodynamics, of a god dipping
those sixty tails in yellow paint, just so. A brush stroke
on the skys blue canvas; a small play of ballerinas
on a moment landing in Junipers, then off
like startled minnows. No sound but the sound
of synesthesia, of swirl and swing, of life lived high and fast.
No sound. But the bird-god conducted
each movement and his wand sprayed the birds
in a different pattern of choked spasms, of pulsation,
lifting and rising a passi lenti in the breath-held show
of blue and snow and Juniper, a small moment of watching
without effort, a brief mood of intense happiness,
a gift I keep opening and opening
the unwrapping a rhythm like circadia.

Keith Moore

The Lilac of Strevell

When Strevell was in heyday,
As those towns were,
Neither the bishop nor the madam
Knew a whim of road-plan
Hung their doom,
Hung the towns
I stopped with my brother for gas
Go to the can, swill a Cokethe wind
Hed buy Cracker Jacks and Milk Nickels on business trips
It was the big stop-town
Halfway to Twin Falls
Just being there made it big
Someonethe station man in coveralls
Or Mr. Gunnell or Mrs. Gunnell
Or the store woman in her flowered print
Always had a smile
Or a joke and plenty to say
We spoke of Amelia, Willkie, The War,
Our B-stickerHow do you get a B-sticker?
Asked the coveralled man
Or a terrible rain
Sweeping out of Malta
Theys a washout this side o Declo,
Youll wanna be careful,
And my brother would frown as he paid
And we went out in the wind and the wet-sage smell
Lets get going, hed say,
Grabbing the door to the tan Packard, Ill bet shes right
And Id lick a Dreamsicle
As he drove into the purpleblack skies of Malta
That soon hid the Packard in hail

Moore S One poem

And when we could see again,

We saw hail on the backs of cows
There had been passion at the Gunnell Motel,
Not just the usual
The passion of hurt lives,
Disappointment, checking into thready rooms
Where a split in the blind gave a view of Naf
A game of cards
A little pleasure
A beer
A laugh
Hollow, and swiftly sponged
By that gulf of Cassia desolation
Now the Gunnell sign is faint
Like traces of mirth in the Coliseum
Or a pulse at Stonehenge,
Stormscratched, rustpocked, an old page of sorrow
The office and the rooms have become
Weeds and blackwidows in pebbles
To mesh in druidic despair
Of whatever Strevell hoped to be
But perhaps the town wasnt
All brawlish and bawdy and bent
On the paltry coins of passers-through
For there stands yet
The ruins of a house
Anchored there more by a lilac
Than any steel or concrete
The house is a shell, mostly gone
The lilac uses whats left to lean on
And is the only visible organism in Strevell today
It wouldnt seed itself there
Someone put it there in some musty time,

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The week the Titanic went down?

Whod do that, the bishop, or the madam?
Someone well never know?
What sustains it on that moonscape?
No American place is so raw
As that silent corner of Cassia
A recent ghost town
Is fiercer than the quaint
And even after the coming holocaust
I think the lilac of Strevell
Has a taproot that insists
So deep as to regreen


Special Feature:
Tribute to Neal A. Maxwell
Irreantum finds it fitting to pay special tribute to the Apostle
whose way with words and love of language became a defining
element of his ministry. Over the twenty-three years he served
as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, until his
death on July 21, 2004, Elder Neal A. Maxwell explored hundreds of gospel
subjects with insight and intelligence. He harnessed the power of language,
using metaphor, imagery and cadence to burn his particular message into
the minds of his readers and listeners. By turns witty (If we entertain
temptations, soon they begin entertaining us) and eloquent (Patience
is . . . accepting a divine rhythm to life; it is obedience prolonged), Elder
Maxwells blend of philosophical acumen and verbal expressiveness engaged
people all over the world.
Neal A. Maxwell has been twice recognized by the Association for Mor
mon Letters for his contribution to Mormon literature, first in 1983, with
a special commendation for sustained excellence in the sermon, then again
in 1999, when his book One More Strain of Praise won the AML award for
devotional literature. The book, written soon after his struggle with leukemia
began, explores a wide range of topics, from the purposes of human suffering
to the divinity of Jesus Christ, blending what Maxwell calls the autobiographical and the doctrinal as only he could. We are pleased to honor Elder
Maxwells life and legacy by reprinting the first chapter here.

Still the Notes Prolong

Why is it that I couldnt see the illness coming? Looking back, I now recognize there were more than a few pointing indicators in addition to unusual
fatigue. For instance, there was the operative role or irony about which, for
years, I have spoken and written. But now it was my turn to experience it
more keenly. The very title of my latest book was almost invitationalIf

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Thou Endure It Well. This by itself might have alerted me, being issued just
before the leukemia was diagnosed. Consider, as well, the books ending
poem, which was more invitational than poetic:
By Neal A. Maxwell
When from Thy stern tutoring
I would quickly flee,
Turn me from my Tarshish
To where is best for me.
Help me in my Nineveh
To serve with love and truth
Not on a hillside posted
Mid shade of gourd or booth.
When my modest suffering seems
So vexing, wrong, and sore,
May I recall what freely flowed
From each and every pore.
Dear Lord of the Abba Cry,
Help me in my duress
To endure it well enough
And to say, . . . Nevertheless.

Irony, the hard crust on the bread of adversity, can try both our faith and
our patience (see Mosiah 23:21). Irony can be a particularly pointed form of
such chastening, because it involves disturbing incongruity, contrary to our
expectations. Our best-laid and even worthy plans must be sharply revised.
With such an inverting of our anticipated consequences, irony can become
the frequent cause of an individuals being offended. Furthermore, the larger
and the more untamed ones ego, the greater the likelihood of his being
offended, especially when tasting his small portion of vinegar and gall.
It was ironic, too, that an Emily Dickinson poem was used in that same
precursor book. This could have been another personal heads up.
He stuns you by degrees
Prepares your brittle Nature
For the Ethereal Blow
By fainter Hammersfurther heard
Then nearerThen so slow

Maxwell S Still the Notes Prolong

Your Breath has time to straighten
Your Brainto bubble Cool
That scalps your naked Soul
(From poem 315, The Poems of Emily Dickinson, ed. Thomas H. Johnson
[Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1955],

Likewise, a 1995 Thanksgiving talk constituted something of a pass in

review, utilizing for the first time a previously resisted autobiographical
approach. The focus was on a few special examples of my gratitude to God
for the various intertwining of my life with the lives of others.
Also emblematic and foretelling was another crescendo of sorts during my
assignment in the late spring of 1995 to the Okinawa Stake conference. This
visit coincided with the fiftieth anniversary of the end of the World War II
fighting on that island, where I was an eighteen-year-old, inadequate, and
frightened infantryman. The commemorative visit stirred many memories
and much gratitude, as it doubtless did in several hundred other veterans
returning to that island.
Subsequently, too, several small luncheon gatherings of surviving Okinawa
and World War II buddies back home tied other needed loops together. This
tying together, too, could have signaled what was impending. Those buddies,
along with many members and nonmembers alike, have been enclosing me
in an enveloping pattern of prayers and concern.
Interviews about my faith by an able Hugh Hewitt on PBS in 1996 also
turned out to be significantly autobiographical. This focus was not needed
by viewers as much as by meat least for the purpose of counting my
Beginning in January 1997, chemotherapy treatment and hospitalization
lasted forty-six days. My preceding desires were strong and settled but without knowing whether there was to be a remission of my leukemia at all. These
desires included:
1. To be able to partake of this, my comparatively small-scale experience,
and yet not shrink (see D&C 19:18).
2. To learn still more of Jesus by taking upon me a very small version of
His yoke, and, in so doing, advancing my desire to become much more
like Him (Matthew 11:29).

Irreantum S vol. 7, no. 1 (2005)

3. To increase my empathy so that I could also be more helpful to others,

while at the same time being more effectively expressive of my everdeepening convictions about the Savior and His gospel.
4. To follow the dictum of Brigham Young about how members of the
Church (whether in persecution, poverty, or sickness, and so on) should
acknowledge the hand of the Lord by saying, in effect, Its all right:
When the Latter-day Saints make up their minds to endure, for the kingdom
of Gods sake, whatsoever shall come, whether poverty or riches, whether sickness or to be driven by mobs, they will say it is all right, and will honor the
hand of the Lord in it, and in all things, and serve Him to the end of their
lives, according to the best of their ability, God being their helper. If you have
not made up your minds for this, the quicker you do so the better. (In Journal
of Discourse 1:338; emphasis added.)

These same goals continued with me in the additional IV and injection

chemotherapies of 1997, 1998, and 1999.
Amid it all, by giving further praise of the Master, I hope it will be said
that I could still the notes prolong.
Yes, my seventy-plus years surely constitute a generous span. But still,
generous spans even with added delays en route glide swiftly away:
Our life as a dream,
our time as a stream
Glide swiftly away, . . .
For the arrow is flown
and the moments are gone.
(Charles Wesley, Come, Let Us Anew, Hymns, no. 217)

The test for all of us is how well we do within our individualized fields of
action and in those years wherein we are set, just as Tolkien wrote:
Other evils there are that may come. . . . Yet it is not our part to master all
the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour of those years
wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those
who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not
ours to rule. (Gandalf in J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King [New York:
Ballantine Books, 1965], p. 190)

A few brave disciples, in rare circumstances, are permitted to seal their

testimonies with their blood. All of us, however, can witness, though less
dramatically, by both how well we live and how well we die. By enduring well

Maxwell S Still the Notes Prolong

any deprivations and sufferings we can quietly but firmly seal our testimonies
using the wax in our spiritual submissiveness.
As to how essential such submissiveness is, Gilbert Meilaender appropriately reminded us recently that C. S. Lewis, in The Pilgrims Regress, spoke
of how developmental discipleship always involved the tether and pang of
the particular. Concluding of Lewiss insights, Meilaender wrote: We live
with this duality of our being, with our hearts both tied to what is local
and unique and drawn toward the universal. Living within that tension, as
the Lewis poem puts it, we pay dearly (The Everyday C. S. Lewis, First
Things, August/September 1998, p. 31).
Yet my cross is comparatively light even now. It is surely less rough-hewn,
compared to so many heavier crosses borne longer by others. Of course,
only Jesus can accurately compare crosses. But whatever the ruggedness
and weight, His grace is sufficient to help each of us carry his own cross
(2 Corinthians 12:9; see also Ether 12:26-27; Moroni 10:32; D&C 17:8).
Furthermore, whatever the weight of those tutorial challenges, if we emulate
Job we wont charge God Foolishly either (Job 1:22).
Among the lessons learned and, yes, relearned, for which praise of the
Master is surely given, were the following:
Suffering accounts for some of the sweat that goes with the process of
working out our salvation.
Customized tutorials are the extra tuition we pay for our continuing,
graduate education as Jesus disciples.
Some blessings clearly come in the form of bracings. Therefore, both
recesses and brief reveries are of necessity quickly interrupted because of
lifes compressed curriculum.
Since smugness stifles the process of spiritual growth, smugness is likely
to be shattered, too, and not just arrogance, an obvious candidate for
shattering. More especially, bracings can interrupt any tendency to be
gliding along, like a hydrofoil, too unfeeling of and unresponsive to the
shaping bumps and waves of the sea of life.
It is best if we can be humble because of the word and not solely because
circumstances compel us to be humble, but, if necessary, the latter will
In discipleship, we learn of suffering that there are no exemptions, only

Irreantum S vol. 7, no. 1 (2005)

We continue to feel that we would still prefer to suffer ourselves rather

than to see our children or grandchildren suffer. Yet this choice is sometimes not given to us.
We learn that we can take more than we first imagined, yet we fervently hope such a response will also prove true of how we handle any
We learn much more about the Holy Ghosts role as the Comforter,
including how He so helpfully preaches to us from the pulpit of memory in order to help us cope with our present and future.
We learn that, while others can sincerely comfort and help us, even so,
our cross is finally ours alone to bear.
Prayers, after all, are the most effective thing others can do for us! These
constitute an outpouring that, for me, has become and continues to be
such a real and sustaining factor.
Heavenly Father not only expects but also encourages us to plead with
Him over our challenges. Our pleading is not a sign of weakness, but
can reflect thoughtful submissiveness. Indeed, Jesus, who knew clearly
what He faced in Gethsemane and on Calvary, nevertheless pleaded
with the Lord for the cup to be removed from Him. Therefore it is what
we do, during and after the pleading, that matters, especially as to our
submissiveness to the Lord. But pleadings are appropriate.
I feel unworthy of the many incoming prayers, letters, and phone calls,
yet surely not unappreciative! Being thus remembered by so many is truly an
overwhelming experience; one simply cannot imagine, beforehand, the real
metes and bounds or the deep tenderness and gratitude that this outreach by
others evokes.
Clearly there are different individual exit routes from life. Some people go
suddenly and quickly, leaving survivors in a state of shock and with almost
no time to prepare. Others die only after prolonged suffering. It is best that
we leave to the Lord the variations in both the timing and the exit routes. He
and He alone can make those decisions, and He does so out of His individualized perfect love and mercy.
Thanks to Jesus, however, whether we go suddenly and easily or agonizingly and slowly, His glorious latter-day Restoration is part of His helping
grace, being so full of nurturing doctrines and reassuring truths. The fun148

Maxwell S Still the Notes Prolong

damental purposes of the Restoration included to bear testimony of mine

Only Begotten; his resurrection from the dead; yea, and also the resurrection
of all men, two supernal fundamentals (Moses 7:62). Other restored realities are clearly a vital part of the grace of it all, but Jesus atonement and the
resurrection are at the very center of it all.
By means of the resplendent and reassuring Restoration, so many other
things that constitute the tether and pang of the particular can be put in
a proper perspective. Praise be to God, because the gospel permits us to see
even more clearly things as they really are, and . . . things as they really
will be (Jacob 4:13). If things are not seen with such gospel clarity, so many
mortal lives end up being consumed by such puny purposes. Otherwise, too,
without gospel perspectives human capacity can be so underemployed and
improperly focused, like trying to use the huge telescope on Mt. Palomar
merely to study nearby Catalina Island. The grand Restoration is not only a
crucial and needed restitution of plain and precious things but it is also a
refutation of various prevailing and incorrect views of life, including the view
that life is merely a meaningless brevity.
Therefore, matching lifes strategic purposes to our local discipleship and
its daily tasks by using gospel perspectives becomes vital. In this process,
adversity can both clean the lens and sharpen lifes focus while blending the
doctrinal and the personal.
Fathers plan comprehends and is inlaid with His personal plans for each
of us, including our individual trajectories of trial. Happily, therefore, we can
rightly sing in praise and of exemplifying Jesus:
He marked the path and led the way,
And evry point defines . . .
Redemptions grand design,
Where justice, love, and mercy meet
In harmony divine!
(Eliza R. Snow, How Great the Wisdom and the Love, Hymns, no. 195)

Thus recent events in my life have helped me to try more valiantly to

prolong these and other grateful notes of praise for the Lord, since these are
a part of the music of discipleship.
Besides, our shared uncertainty as to proximate things simply goes with
the mortal territory. Only a few people seem to have known something of
their longevity and personal timetables. The Prophet Joseph Smith knew his

Irreantum S vol. 7, no. 1 (2005)

life would not be a long one and that he would never see forty. President
Brigham Young, who visited Joseph in Liberty Jail, said, I heard Joseph
say many a time, I shall not live until I am forty years of age (Discourses
of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co.,
1941], p. 467). President Wilford Woodruffs journal records that Lyman
Wight said that Joseph told him, while in Liberty Jail, Missouri, in 1839, he
would not live to see forty years (History of the Church 7:212). Most of us do
not know our spans. Nevertheless, though these are unrevealed, all things
must come to pass in their time (D&C 64:32).
Therefore, as to our personal timing, the rest of us are asked to live in what
someone has called cheerful insecurity. We trust in the timing of the Lord,
and, meanwhile, know that the days and years of righteous individuals will
not be numbered less. But it is up to us to be content with the things which
the Lord hath allotted unto [us], including the time allotted (Alma 29:3-4).
Meanwhile, we surely experience the varied but real limitations in the
ranges of our tether and the customized pang of our particular and
allotted challenges (see Alma 29). Meanwhile, too, we experience the reality that there are different types of tears: tears of sheer joy; tears of sadness,
including over those who suffer because of sin or who have no hope for a
glorious resurrection. But there are also the tears that are shed out of sheer
empathy, as when tenderness responds to tenderness and empathy evokes
empathy. Such occurred in the case of the death of Lazarus. Jesus did not
go at once, as requested, to bless sick Lazarus, but instead arrived only after
Lazarus had died. (See John chapters 11 and 12.) Jesus knew beforehand, of
course, that Lazarus would rise again; He know the impending outcome. But
even so, when upon His arrival He saw the tears of faith-filled Mary and others, Jesus nevertheless wept. Yes, He surely loved Lazarus. Yes, He was about
to raise him dramatically from the grave. Yet seeing the tears of others evoked
His own empathetic tears.
Such reciprocal evocations have been part of my experience many times in
recent months. Empathic tears, therefore, do not reflect a fear of death, but
instead a precious sharing of emotions, as when others are touched and are
so kindly expressive to us.
In any case, uncertainty as to longevity leaves a balance to be struck by
us all. We are to salute the Lord for the gift of life, for as long as it lasts, and
yet, at the same time, to be spiritually submissive as it ends. This is a delicate
balance we do not always fully and gracefully achieve.

Maxwell S Still the Notes Prolong

Several scriptures have proved to be relevant and reassuring in this regard.

When these have been shared aloud with many who also suffer from cancer
they have been far better than anything I could say, especially to those valiants who reach that point where they are sick of being sick.
And I said unto him: I know that [God] loveth his children; nevertheless, I do
not know the meaning of all things. (1 Nephi 11:17)

We need not know the meaning of all things, if we know God loves us!
In the same way our appreciativeness for the role of submissiveness needs to
grow, as one strives to
[become] a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and [become] as
a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to
all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth
submit to his father. (Mosiah 3:19)

Use of the word inflict suggests customized challenges and tutoring that
require an added and special submissiveness.
Similarly, our appreciativeness of Jesus supernal empathy will greatly help
us to endure.
And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every
kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon
him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.
And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death
which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his
bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know
according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.
(Alma 7:1112)

Jesus fully understands! His empathy is perfect!

No wonder it is intellectually dishonest not to inventory all of ones blessings great and small. No wonder there is a reminding scriptural theme all
about how God has mercifully blessed mankindand for such a long time:
Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful
the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even
down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your
hearts. (Moroni 10:3)

The vast sweep of divine oversight of human history includes Gods many
mercies to us individually. Of course, when death comes to all of us, as a

Irreantum S vol. 7, no. 1 (2005)

result thereof some things will be clearly missed. But these are small dunes of
deprivation when placed alongside that vast Himalayan range of all our past
and present blessings.
It is significant that the very first verse in the Book of Mormon reflects
Nephis own experiential gratitude for the goodness of God. Having seen
many afflictions in the course of my days, nevertheless [I was] highly favored
of the Lord in all my days. Yet, he continued, he had a great knowledge of
the goodness . . . of God. This knowledge was something on which Nephi
repeatedly relied during his life to sustain him through so much adversity.
(See 1 Nephi 1:1.)
Even so, unless we are on guard it is easy to slip quickly into self-pity.
For me, however, there was the helpfulness of those who have gone before,
including my parents, who have modeled so well for me the process of
In any case, the delay in route granted me has been a special blessing
for which I praise God, and I have been reasonably busy trying to use the
allotted mortal time for the purposes of eternity.
[. . .]
Having ultimate gospel gladness not only is possible, but also can finally,
if not constantly, swallow up any proximate sadness. Thus the music of faith
not only deserves to be prolonged, but also should include lively songs of
S Reprinted with permission of Deseret Book Company.


Readers Write: Folklore

We want to inspire you.
Readers Write includes essays on a preannounced topic
that our readers can address in a short form. If, as Mary
Lythgoe Bradford suggests (in citing Eugene England), the personal essay for
Mormons is a variation on the testimony as literary genre, then we hope you
will find inspiration here akin to what can be found in the best of testimony
meetings: personal edification, a sense of community, and the fortitude to
share your own story. Submissions may address the topic from any perspective, but should be thoughtful and honest.
Upcoming topic deadlines:

(May 15)
(September 15)
Send submissions via email to: submissions@irreantum.org

Celluloid gods


The Readers Write essays for this issue respond to the following: It has been
said that the function of folklore is to reconstruct the spiritual history of
the human race. Not only oral but written forms of folklore occur in myths,
legends, riddles, and proverbial sayings. Holmans Handbook to Literature
lists charms, spells, omens, popular ballads, and cowboy songs, among other
forms of folklore. Mormon folklore ranges from frontier magic to a mix of
Indian and pioneer mysticism, from the Manti riff to sightings of the Three
Nephites, from other-side-of-the-veil stories told around a campfire to the
vaulting testimonies of true believers in sacrament meeting. Tell us about
folklore. Tell us about the spiritual history of the Mormon people as told
through their common stories.

The Burn of the Brands

Canada, summer of 1918: almost three decades have passed since Utahn
Charles Ora Card, fleeing prosecution for polygamy, arrived at Lees Creek

Irreantum S vol. 7, no. 1 (2005)

in southern Alberta with eight Mormon families. Others have followed, and
Canadian congregations have flourished since, cultivating qualities rivaling
those of Utah settlements, perhaps even surpassing them in faithfulness and
obedience. Sure, the Great War has complicated life, but the majority of
Canadian Latter-day Saints has endured much to settle Albertas prairielands
and are ready, if required, to endure more. Yet during this time of war and
upheaval, some find themselves at a troubling crossroad.
Most Mormon immigrants to Canada follow directives from local church
leaders to take on Canadian citizenship, but a few havent, clinging to their
American identities. Some of those who cling lose all bids to make Canada
their home. Crop failures, family misfortunes, devastating turns in weather:
theyve given it every effort, but roots just havent taken. Theyve set their
hearts on Canada, but shes spurned them.
Then there is the Great War, which exerts terrific pressure on Canadian
communities beginning in August 1914 when Great Britain declares war on
Germany. For a time Mormons in Canada retaining U. S. citizenship have
been able to dodge calls to military duty, issued sometimes through the local
ward. But everyone knows it is just a matter of time before Canada passes
legislation subjecting American citizens living within its borders to the
Canadian draft.
There is also the enforced conscription in the U.S. beginning in July 1917.
Latter-day Saints returning there will be forced into the conflict. (Many
feel that if they have to fight theyd rather train in the U.S.) Finally, there
is a question of whether or not fighting is even necessary. While President
Joseph F. Smith has publicly defended constitutional rights that Germanys
belligerence threatenssuch as freedom of religionhe has never explicitly
endorsed warfare.
Regardless of the reason, anyone wanting to return to the United States is
faced with an intimidating border guard: circulating tales about what happens to Mormons who give up colonizing southern Alberta. Nearly everybody hearssometimes from the pulpitof someone whos fled Canada
straight into the arms of disaster. How about that fellow who drifted across
the border to Montana to an area that had never had a crop failure? In the
Bible, Jonahs attempt to run away from Gods calling put an entire ships
crew in peril. So, was this mans faithlessness the cause for two years of crop
failure in the area to which he fled?

Readers Write

Then there is the story of the man whose wife left him as soon as he set
foot in Utah, taking all their kids with her. Another of how a family lost
everything when the train carrying them from Canada derailed. The boxcar
in which they rode caught fire; theyd barely escaped the flames of death.
Also, many claim to know people whove left but returned, saying they
looked but couldnt find a better life anywhere. Even so, the general opinion
about deserters is that they are low in faith, so perhaps it is better for the
whole grain population if all the tares left of their own accord.
Fates like those in the stories might and do happen to pioneers homesteading elsewhere. And as with their brethren and sisters, many Mormon
immigrants to Canada face woes that cause them to doubt theyve done the
right thing in coming. Church authorities, however, exert themselves via letters and personal visits, praising those Canadian saints that stay, prophesying
a wonderful future for southern Alberta, explaining how anyone wanting to
partake of the bounteous blessings sure to come needs to stay put. During
the hard times before confederation, enough of these prophecies have come
true to bolster the courage of those who have resources and motivation left
to stick it out.
As for the despondent, the homesick, the fainting oneswell, local leaders avow that they dont want anyone to feel obliged to live somewhere they
dont want to. They point to those church members for whom coming to
Canada has worked out nicely, prosperous saints who might not have fared
so well in Utah, plagued as it is by overgrazing and high land prices.
In the end, those leaving feel the burn of the brands of faithless and
weak. Will family members left behind ever forgive them? Furthermore, if
the unsettling tales theyve heard are true, disaster waits at the border, ready
to fall upon them like an Old Testatment plague the minute they set foot
across that political and spiritual line in the sand, the 49th Parallel.
P. G. Karamesines, Payson, UT

Quenching the Thirst

My worldview, my testimony, and definitely my writing have been deeply
affected by one particular Mormon folk story. Its the story of the visiting
teacher who feels prompted to visit a woman for no obvious reason. Later

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she finds out that her visit that day prevented the woman from committing
Much as I dislike Mormon folklore, I plead guilty to spreading this
onebut not because I want to share its great message. In fact, I think its
an evil story, and I spread it as an example of something very wrong about
LDS culture.
I admit that its an appealing story, especially for teachers whove been
assigned yet another lesson on visiting or home teaching. Its got great human
interest, and it appeals to our yearning to make a difference in other peoples
lives with something as boring, routine, and often just plain old bothersome
as visiting teaching. The motivation behind the telling is admirableor at
least understandable. But I dont like what the story, or at least the retelling
of it, might do to women who hear it.
In my experience LDS women often seem stressed, worried, well-meaning
and busy, but most of all we seem scared to death. Scared of not doing our
duty and scared that we are spending precious time on something that
doesnt matter. Its hard to visit teach because we often feel phony and dont
see results. This soothing story reassures us that what we are doing matters
and that there might be big results happening that we just dont see. But look
deeper at this story and what its really saying: Visiting teaching is important. So important, in fact, that it can save lives. And, by extension, Its so
important, that if you dont do it, something awful could happen. No, we
dont make this leap in logic consciously, but it happens. Suddenly we are
Its subtle, but its there: The lady I visit teach is going to kill herself if
I dont call her at the right time! So we run around carrying the world on
our shoulders. Effective motivation for doing our dutyyes. But fear is not
Gods way. It leads to exhaustion, feelings of inadequacy and self-condemnation, and that ubiquitous Mormon female affliction, depression. A steep
price to pay for a cute time-filler in a Relief Society lesson.
Women dont need more guilt. What we need is more folk stories about
mercy, about getting second chances, about repentance and acceptance from
God. Heres the story Id like to hear: Jane finds out that Sheila, whom she has
been visit-teaching for years and who always says shes just fine, has had huge,
horrible things going on in her life about which Jane never had an inkling. Jane
must make peace with the fact she was never particularly prompted about her

Readers Write

charges difficulties, and she has to find a way to forgive herself for not knowing
and not fixing things. Through the experience she learns about Gods love for her
as well as His love for Sheila. It would be a story about misunderstandings but
good intentions, about being good enough because your heart is good, about
having compassion on yourself as well as others.
It would refresh.
It would encourage.
It would nourish.
I guess thats why I use these things as themes in my writing (mercy, acceptance, second chances). My heart aches for the victims of some folk stories in
LDS culturethe members of the audience, who are generally well-meaning, wondering, and thirsting. Im trying to circulate stories that will help
mitigate useless guilt, stories that will quench thirst.
Darlene Young, Pocatello, ID


Degrees of Separation:
the Napoleon Dynamite
Craig Mangum and Lee Walker
If youve managed to catch the Napoleon wave thats swept the
country in the last several months, chances are youre under the age
of 25, a computer nerd, or curious about all the fuss. The independent movie made in Preston, Idaho on a $400,000 budget features a quirky,
slight plot that revolves around a geeky teenaged boy named Napoleon and
his small-town world of Preston, Idaho and couldnt be more banal. Yet it
has spawned enough interest in the U.S. to generate over $44 million in box
office receipts in a six-month span, set records for CD sales in its first week,
and to have established itself as the most quotable film in recent memory.
Indeed, it may be destined to rival the likes of Monty Python and the Holy
Grail or The Princess Bride for coveted status as a cult classic and the attendant
slough of roll-off-the-tongue one-liners.
Critics in the pre-dawn of Napoleons arrival on the scene generally panned
the film. So if established movie critics, including the likes of Mike Clark of
USA Today and Kevin Crust of the Los Angeles Times didnt anticipate its rise
to stardom, what did they miss? Who is really making this work of trifling
frivolity into such a phenomenon? And what the heck does it have to do with
freaking Mormons? We like to think of the answer in terms of degrees of

Directed by BYU film student Jared Hess, and starring Jon Heder, Napoleon
Dynamite saw its first big buzz at the Sundance Film Festival in January
2004, with a screening on Friday, January 17, 2004, in the Park City Library
Centre Theatre. Word spread quickly, and after a few days it was the film that

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everyone was talking about. Not all the buzz was positive, however. In fact,
Napoleon was polarizing audiences at Sundance.
Most critics at the festival didnt like the film and were not sure how
to account for the films popularity. Todd McCarthy of Variety dismissed
audiences positive responses to Napoleon by observing, Every Sundance
competition entry has a large contingent of cast, crew and friends present
for the first screening. Beyond that, Im told that many festival volunteers,
most of whom are quite young, get tickets to such screenings. Then theres
the fact that this film is, in a sense, a local product, made in a neighboring
state a short drive away. I cant prove it, but it would not be hard to believe
that there was a strong vested interest in the picture on the part of much of
the audience. Many critics shared his sentiment, but distributors somehow
knew there was money to be made from the film.
Despite critics general dismissal, Napoleon was purchased during the festival for approximately $5 million by Fox Searchlight, a record-making deal
for a film at Sundance (until this years $9 million Paramount deal for Craig
Brewers Hustle and Flow). In addition to the hefty price tag, Fox Searchlight
agreed to a 1,200-screen opening for the film, something unprecedented for
an independent film. In May 2004, Fox Searchlight further announced a deal
whereby MTV Films and Paramount Pictures would market and distribute
the film internationally. Clearly, Fox was working the youth scene.
Napoleon moved beyond film festivals and proved that it was a force to
be reckoned with when it opened on June 11, 2004. During the first week
Napoleon brought in $116,666 playing on 6 screens, coming in at a respectable
23rd for box office receipts. It competed with Harry Potter and the Prisoner of
Azkaban, then in its third week, and still the top grossing film that week. By
mid-September it had reached its peak at the box office, gaining a number 9
slot, with over $4 million in a single week, and topping out its screenings at
1,027 different theatres. After 31 weeks, the box office total came to $44.5 million. It spent 5 weeks in the top ten during 2004. Fox Home Entertainment
ordered 2.5 million units for its initial DVD release on December 21.
Consumers snapped up 60% of those copies on the first day of release. One
week later, it was only behind LOTR: Return of the King and season six of
Sex and the City on Amazons bestseller list. Not too bad for a film with a
$400,000 budget.
And Napoleon is still going strong. Vote for Pedro T-shirts can be purchased at the grocery store or online; moon boots are purportedly coming

Mangum and Walker S Napolean Dynamite Phenomenon

into fashion; and movie reviews continue to be generatedif for no other

reason now than to explain the nature of the phenomenon to the middleaged folks who would rather not go see a movie that lauds the culture of their
own forgettable junior high school years.

Youth Appeal
By now, you may already be familiar with the basic details of the film. But
they deserve a recounting. Napoleon Dynamite is the films hero, an eccentric and awkward teenager living in Preston, Idaho. With a tight red afro, a
penchant for drawing mythical creatures, and a pair of 80s-style moon boots
to complement his one pair of jeans and wide array of T-shirts, Napoleon is
the kind of nerdy kid who seems to invite all the taunting and ridicule that
come his way at school. He stores tater tots from lunch for later consumption; he walks around with his eyes half shut, though theyre accentuated by
glasses with lenses the size of pie plates; he insists on telling the most minute
details in a whiny voice that begs for an occasional body slam into the school
lockers. The slight story is this: Napoleon lives with his thirty-two-year-old
brother Kip, their eccentric grandmother, and a llama named Tina. Grandma
cracks her coccyx in a dune-buggy accident and Uncle Rico comes to babysit.
Meanwhile, Napoleon befriends an amateur photographer named Deb (who
sells handmade boondoggle keychains door to door) and a shy Mexican
boy named Pedro. The film pulls together a series of comic sketches to follow various thin plot lines, including Kips pursuit of love on internet chat
rooms, Uncle Ricos desire to time travel back to 1982 and relive his days of
high school football glory, Pedros campaign to become student body class
president, and an awkward romance between Napoleon and Deb.
While the film doesnt have a dramatic story arc, it uses the character of
Napoleon to connect one sketch to the next. In doing so, Jared and Jerusha
Hess, are counting on the audience to identify with Napoleon as a character. Critics have compared him to Dawn in Todd Solondzs Welcome to the
Dollhouse (1995), to Max, played by Jason Schwartzman in Rushmore (1998),
and to a character David Lynch might create if he were to make a high school
comedy. The gawky Napoleon hardly holds the appeal of an Orlando Bloom
for a swooning crowd of prepubescent girls. But hes the kind of kid one
can relate to because hes the twenty-first century Everyman. Hes the kid
you would be if you actually obeyed your parents; hes the kid your parents

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robably were when they were young, despite their protest to the contrary.
Its easy to recognize the accoutrements of an earlier generation, with clothing styles culled from a thrift store and dated mannerisms played out with
such naturalness. This recognition holds its appeal not as nostalgia, not as
a longing for days of yesteryear, but as a parody of the good old days that
parents so famously like to talk about. In the same way that a 50s-styled
PeeWee Herman became the nerd of cool during the eighties, Napoleon may
very well be the new nerd of our day, a chance to poke fun at the generation
just now reaching mid-life crisis stage and getting a peek at the other side of
the hill.
If a low-budget film shot in Preston, Idaho, and featuring costumes culled
from Deseret Industries and props made at a Boy Scout camp can bring in
over 100 times its original cost in box office receipts within six months of its
release, then its worth looking at whos looking. And it seems to be young
people who are particularly taken. Even if an admittedly significant subgroup
of computer programmer audience members deserves a nod, it is clear that
the phenomenon is driven primarily by a Midwestern or suburb-dwelling
youth culture. The film has built a large and rabid following of young film
goers across the country. College communities in particular have embraced
Napoleon, with one campus bulletin board devoted to posting the latest news
about Napoleon actors (including spreading and disclaiming rumors about
the death of Jon Heder by car accident or food poisoning), and engaging in
discussions about which characters are most deserving of admiration. Indeed,
an entire culture has grown up around the film. High school students have
adopted dialogue from the film as part of their regular speech. Moon boots
are once again in style and Vote for Pedro T-shirts can be seen everywhere.
This popularity seems to be the result of a cumulative effect forged by wordof-mouth, as much as by MTV, and is at the heart of the real Napoleon
phenomenon. Whether the film will continue to function as a cult classic
remains to be seen, but its audience clearly matches the demographics of the
youth and alternative culture that have made Rocky Horror Picture Show and
Monty Python such mainstays.
Napoleon Dynamite certainly doesnt fit the model of high-profile Holly
wood films, where promotional efforts focus on the anticipation of opening
weekend. Indeed, all the blockbuster films of 2004 peaked on opening weekend, and then gradually leveled off in viewer attention. On the other hand,
Napoleons star has risen too quickly to be considered in the same category as

Mangum and Walker S Napolean Dynamite Phenomenon

classic underground films. Films with a cult following always take at least a
couple of years to become known in more mainstream circles. Or they follow
the standard pattern of Hollywood marketing, on the scene for a short span,
but then gaining cult status with a new generation of viewersafter a few
years. Yet Napoleon launched itself into the hearts of middle America within
a short three months. This is the wonder of the Napoleon phenomenon. It
may be stretching it to call this a phenomenon by three degrees of separationbut to be a star three months after a big Hollywood film would reach
its peak, and three years before any other film would attract a significant cult
following makes for a new breed of film.

Mondo Idaho
Todd McCarthy may have a point when he suggests the popularity of
Napoleon Dynamite at Sundance was due to local attention. Almost daily the
neighbors 12-year-old daughter talks about friends who have some connection to the cast or crew of Napoleon. It seems to be a status symbol to know
someone associated with the film. The closer and the connection you can
establish, the cooler you are. Its like playing six degrees of separation, but
with Napoleon Dynamite. So the rumors fly about a girl whose little brothers
Primary teacher is Jon Heder, or a boy whose fathers family is from Preston
and knows the Hess family, or a girl whose cousin is the guy who plays Don.
These kids know the film was made within their community and that it is
popular worldwide. My poor neighbors girl suffers because the best she can
do is say that she is friends with the girl whose little brothers Primary teacher
is Jon Heder!
The film works with a lexiconboth verbal and visualthat is recognizable as Utah Mormon. One online reviewer (on urbandictionary.com)
points out how much of the deeply subtle humor in the movie is only
caught by those familiar with Mormon culture. He points to ubiquitous
clues: Napoleons Ricks College T-shirt, the DI shopping, and mention
of Boy Scout camp. Even the liger, the creature that Napoleon draws in his
notebook, has roots in the growing-up culture in the Mormon West. The
liger was a real half-lion half-tiger that actually lived for many years at the
Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City, and is well known to legions of Utah kids who
went to Hogle Zoo on field trips. After it died it was stuffed and mounted
and is now on display at the Monte L. Bean Museum at BYU. And the cool

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words that Napoleon uses like flip and gosh have been used by Mormon
kids for decades.
But if the film works with a lexicon that is familiar to those who live in
the Rocky Mountain West, then the lexemes are also identifiable enough
by outsiders to be imitated. When we first saw the film in August, long
after its popularity was well established, it seemed that everyone else in the
theatre had seen the film multiple times. The crowd was loud, laughing in
anticipation of jokes, and already quoting dialogue with the characters on the
screen. This happened in Utah, but similar experiences have been reported
in Minnesota, Boston, and elsewhere. One teenage checker at a grocery
store, who noticed a purchase of cheese and tortillas, asked about making
kay-sa-DILL-ahs; he might have been speaking horrible Spanish, except for
the moon boots. At a Church of Christ concert, three kids selling cookies
during intermission wore name tags Kip, LaFawnduh, and Pedro. Even
the recent Halestorm film Sons of Provo pays tribute to Napoleon when one
ofthe would-be members of the Provo-based boy band Everclean tries out by
wowing the judges with his Napoleon dance moves. And David Letterman
dipped into the Napoleon lexicon when he invited Jon Heder, as Napoleon,
to recite one of his top-ten lists: How You Know Youre Not Part of the In
Crowd at School.
But this lexicon has been tapped before. Jared Hess may be following
in the footsteps of Utah filmmaker Trent Harris, whose film Plan 10 from
Outer Space (1995) and book Mondo Utah (billed as a collection of extreme
weirdness from the land of Utah), have given double-cult status to the cultural ephemera of a religious community with unique practices and beliefs.
It is especially his three-part film The Beaver Trilogy (2001), which has won
Harris acclaim from film critics nationwide, that might best be compared
to Napoleon. The first part of The Beaver Trilogy is a documentary featuring Groovin Gary, a young man from Beaver, Utah, who is obsessed with
Olivia Newton John and Farrah Fawcett. The nostalgia for the icons of
popular culture of the 1970s that are still present in a small town of the 1980s,
and an affectionate look at the odd character whose dream is to make it big
as a dance performer, seem to have a great deal in common with Napoleon.
If the Beaver setting were transferred to Preston, Idaho, it may very well be
that Napoleon Dynamite would be the natural result. At one remove from the
Trent Harris weirdness, it is perhaps this transference that gives the film its
appeal to a broader audience.

Mangum and Walker S Napolean Dynamite Phenomenon

Mormon Cinema?
For a film to be considered Mormon, must it deal directly with Mormon
themes, use Mormonism as a background or plot feature, or be informed by
a Mormon vision or worldview? If so, then it is a stretch to attach the label
Mormon to Napoleon Dynamite.
Napoleon is no more a Mormon film than Minority Report is a Jewish film
or The Aviator a Catholic film. Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese are
two of the most respected and successful filmmakers working today. Both
are openly religious and talk about how their religions have influenced their
work. But critics and filmgoers do not refer to their films in the context of
Jewish Cinema or Catholic Cinema. These directors dont focus on a specific
religious demographic. Still, their worldview as shaped by their religious
beliefs occasionally surfaces. Scorseses Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, Raging Bull,
and Casino might possibly be seen as Catholic. His 1999 film Bringing
Out the Dead explores the emotional lives of a group of paramedics, but
addresses the seeming failure of efforts to save within Catholic notions of
crucifixion and redemption. Spielberg and Scorsese each have one film that
is grounded specifically in their respective religious upbringing Spielberg
with Schindlers List and Scorsese in The Last Temptation of Christ.
But it would be a mistake to compare Jared Hess to Spielberg and Scorsese.
Spielberg and Scorsese began their careers with high-profile Hollywood
fare, and only after huge sucess have they moved into their more serious,
religiously intoned work. Though it remains to be seen what Hess will do
in the future, were not holding our breath. Hess may have just one story to
tell. Although there are no Mormon characters in Napoleon Dynamite and no
mention of the Church, its doctrine, or its history, the Mormon ethos and
cultural references are so close to home as to leave much doubt as to Hesss
ability to move into new directions. But thats fine. If a small-town Mormon
kid can tell his own story in such a way as to cultivate a huge fan base and
turn over several million dollars to boot, thats something to cheer about.


From the Archives

J. Golden Kimball: Mormon Folk
The legends surrounding the figure of Jonathan Golden Kimball
are legion in Mormon culture. Known as a salty character with a
penchant for cussing, a weakness for coffee, and a keen sense of
humor, Elder Kimball represents today what Eric Eliason identifies as a certain amount of nascent rebellion, not so much against authority, but against
the constraints of etiquette in Mormon cultural psychology (155). Eliason
further observes that J. Golden Kimball can be compared to a number of
international religious trickster figures and constitutes a prototype of the
performer-hero within a specific cultural matrix. Thomas Cheney cites a
contemporary of Elder Kimballs who called him our Mark Twain and Will
Rogers (7). As a Mormon folk hero, he embodies the ideals of the culture,
and represents symbolically the ironies inherent in striving toward its loftiest
ideals amid human folly. The narratives about J. Golden Kimball attest to
the adventurous spirit of an Orrin Porter Rockwell from a generation before
him; and in the generation afterbefore the controversy that led to his eventual fading from the public eyethe popularity of a Paul H. Dunn.
The number of books devoted to reciting these legends suggests something
of J. Golden Kimballs skill as an orator. Yet none of them quite do justice to
the larger talent he put into the service of his religion. More than a master
of witticisms and a performer of scandalous deeds, Elder Kimball was, in
fact, a highly skilled speaker. From the time he served as a missionary to the
Southern States mission in 1883 (at the age of 30) until the time of his death
in 1938 (at the age of 85), he traveled widely among the Saints to preach. His
reliance upon improvisation in his speaking (though not unknown today)

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seems to be part of a different eraone in which an oral culture prevailed in

the world that was gradually being displaced by radio and sound recordings.
We find it fitting to pay homage to the oratorical skills of a legendary
man whose words not only have taken on a life of their own in the stories
Mormons still tell, but also demonstrate the deep faith of a man who devoted
his entire adult life, rough-hewn as it may have been, to the work of the Lord.
In this conference talk, we hope you will gain a sense of this other side of the
beloved Mormon folk hero J. Golden Kimball.

Works Cited
Cheney, Thomas E. The Golden Legacy: A Folk History of J. Golden Kimball. Santa
Barbara and Salt Lake City: Peregrine Smith, 1974.
Eliason, Eric A. J. Golden Kimball Narratives. In Folklore in Utah: A History and
Guide to Resources. Ed. David Stanley. Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press,


Kimball S Conference Address

Ninety-second Semi-annual Conference (October 1921)

Elder J. Golden Kimball
(Of the First Council of Seventy)
During our two days conference I have listened with a great deal of interest
to what our brethren have said to us. My mind has been very active during
the conference, and I have thought about a great many wonderful things, to
me, that might sound very flat to you; but for some reason, this afternoon,
I feel like a fellow who had run entirely out of material, having exhausted
the material that I had, in thought. I think of what Elbert Hubbard said. It
struck me rather strangely the other day. He said: If you are going to reform
the world you had better begin with yourself, and there will be one rogue less
in the world. Of course, I did not want to apply that to myself, but I would
not object to applying it to you.
Now, brethren and sisters, I shall address you for a short period of time,
only a few minutesalthough it seems a long time to you, and does to me;
it certainly will before I get through. My voice has been heard among this
people for nearly thirty years. I think I have been in the ministry here at
home for nearly that length of time. I would not give my experience and the
association I have had with the brethren of the authorities for all the riches in
the world. I hope, brethren and sisters, that during these thirty years, I have
created an impression in your mindsat least I have tried to do thatthat I
am trying to be honest. I am trying to be truthful. I am trying to be sincere
and loyal and unafraid. There is nothing that I desire more, outside of the
Spirit of God and the honoring of the Priesthood and the sustaining of this
work, than to have an honest mind. It seems to me during the past few years
that the minds of many are warped. We do not think honest; we do not hear
straight, nor do we see straight. I am sure, from the experience I have had in
the Church, that the Lord can do very little for a man who persists in being
dishonest and untruthful; and, of course, it goes without saying that no man
or woman in the Church of Jesus Christ can be immoral, and have the Spirit
of God to be with them. I read in the Doctrine and Covenants the message
that was given to the elders in early days. The Lord said: But with some I
am not well pleased. Now, what was their trouble? Because they will not
open their mouths but hide the talent which I have given unto them, because
of the fear of man. Woe unto such, for mine anger is kindled against them,
and it shall come to pass if they are not more faithful unto me it shall be

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taken away even that which they have. I realize, my brethren and sisters,
that, during the past thirty years I may have said some foolish things. I have,
in my own way, given the people a good deal of chaff to get them to take a
little wheat, but some of them havent got sense enough to pick the wheat
out from the chaff. If a man in this Church ever does say a foolish thing, they
will remember it to the very day of their death; and it is the only thing some
of them do remember. I think they do mighty well to remember that.
I find out some things by reading the Doctrine and Covenantswhich,
by the way, I do read. I am familiar with the Bible, a little, and the Book of
Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price. I have
wished, sometimes, that there would be a big fire and burn all the rest of
the books so that we would read these books more. Sometimes I feel that a
man ought to be imprisoned for writing any more books; because I got my
experience mostly by reading the books which contain the revelations of
the Lord. I got my first experience in the Southern states in two years, and
I read the Bible; I read the Book of Mormon; and I read the Doctrine and
Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price. I dont believe the man lives, unless
God inspires him, who can ever breathe into a book what you can get out
of the Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great
Price. That is my testimony. Joseph Smith said that a man will live nearer to
the gospel of Christ reading the Book of Mormon than any other book that
has ever been written. I want to say to the Latter-day Saints that according to
my judgment and experienceI am old enough to know a few things, and
I am old enough to remember some thingssome of the greatest inspired
men we have ever had in the history of this Church have been men who have
read the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the
Pearl of Great Price. Now, brethren, I do not want to say anything to hurt
anyones feelings about books that are written. I read the Bible through once,
and when I got through I said: I will never tackle it again in the flesh; but
I have read in it, and I am acquainted with it, and I have marked it. I would
not give my Bible for all the Bibles in the world, because it is the only Bible
I can find anything in.
The first council ordained some one thousand and forty seventies last year.
The Lord has said in the Doctrine and Covenants: There are many called
and few are chosen. As I said, there were one thousand and forty seventies ordained last year; and why are they not chosen? The Lord gives us the
answer clear and plain. I am glad he talks plainly. Why are they not chosen?

Kimball S Conference Address

Because their hearts are so much set upon the things of the world, and they
aspire to the honors of man. They would break their blamed necks to get
an office in the state or in the nation. I havent heard of anyone breaking his
neck to go on a missionnot lately. Now brethren, I know what the trouble
is. You remember not very long ago that Brother Hyrum M. Smith, when he
presided over the European mission, sent word to us and gave the sign of distress, like all these mission presidents are doing now. He wanted one hundred
capable, efficient, competent menjust what they need in every mission in
the world. So the First Council started out to get them. We made a thorough
canvas, and we never dreamed but what we could get one hundred out of
the councils of quorums, the presidents of seventies, without any trouble at
all. We interviewed those seventies by the hundreds, personally interviewed
them, looked them in the face, and we never found one single president that
was not willing to go, not one that I remember, but when we looked into
their financial affairs they could not go. They seemed to be alright spiritually,
but it was their financial troubles. That is the trouble now.
I believe in all that President Grant said. I preached it years ago, after
I went broke, with just as much vehemence as he ever did in his life. I
preached until I was almost exhausted. I remember a sermon. I think it was
a very wonderful discourse, too. I was up in Smithfield at a conference, and
I preached to the people on the subject of debt. I had just been through the
mill of the gods, and they ground me to powder. I went over the hill to the
poor house, and I think I was able to tell them a pathetic story; they sold
me out, just like they would sell cattle; and yet I was in the missionary field
at that. I told my story, and told it very plaintively; and there was a salesman
at this meeting. I saw the other day at one of our conference meetings. That
made me think of it. He was a salesman of the Co-operative Wagon and
Machine Company. After I preached my discourse I met this man and he
said: Brother Kimball, that is the best sermon I ever heard. I never sold as
many implements in my life as I did after you preached that sermon. After
I had warned the people and forewarned them, that to be in debt was to be
in hellI dont know anything about hell, but that is the worst hell I have
ever been into be in debt. I can tell you how you can keep out of debt;
but I cant tell you how to get out after you get in. I had a man come to me
the other day who wanted me to indorse his note. I had sworn, almost on an
oath, I would never sign another note, not even for my wife. But he looked
at me so pitifully, and was in such dire distress, and I had so much confidence

Irreantum S vol. 7, no. 1 (2005)

in him, that I told him I would sign it, although I was quite sure I could
not pay it if he did not. He applied at one of our banks. They did not know
me, for which I was very thankful. I went to the bank and looked the man
in the face. He said: Mr. Kimball, havent you got any collaterals? I said:
CollateralsI should say not! I havent got a collateral of any kind. He said,
How do you expect me to take your indorsement? I replied, On my looks
and general character. That is all I have got. And he turned me down; and I
have been tickled to death ever since. That is the way to keep out of debt.
I thought I would like to read some scripture as a closing of my remarks:
I am sure I can make it in two minutes. It is something my father read, in
reading from his old Book of Mormon, that was published or printed in 1830.
I found this page worn almost out, and I wondered what it was. This is what
I found. It was just such a condition that we are now in. They had had war,
and they had had famine, and then they went to the prophet and appealed
to the Lord, so that the famine was withdrawn, and it says: That ended the
eighty and fifth year. In thirteen years that people fell down two or three
times, and yet they were Gods people. This is what he said. I want to read
it to you and impress you, if I can, with this one thought: And thus we can
behold how false and also the unsteadiness of the hearts of the children of
men; yea, we can see the Lord in his great infinite goodness doth bless and
prosper those who put their trust in him. Yea, and we may see at the very
time when he doth prosper his people, yea, in the increase of their fields,
their flocks and their herds, and in gold, and in silver, and in all manner of
precious things of every kind and art; sparing their lives, and delivering them
out of the hands of their enemies; softening the hearts of their enemies that
they should not declare wars against them; yea, and in fine, doing all things
for the welfare and happiness of his people; yea, then is the time,Now
that strikes me as a strange thing. After God has done all that for his children, and it could not be written any better if it was written of this people,
how God had blessed themthen is the time that they do harden their
hearts, and do forget the Lord their God and do trample under their feet the
Holy Oneyea, and this because of their ease, and their exceedingly great
And thus we see that except the Lord doth chasten his people with many
afflictions, yea, except he doth visit them with death and with terror and with
famine and with all manner of pestilence, they will not remember him.

Kimball S Conference Address

We are just like all other children of God, in all other dispensations.
Notwithstanding the fact that we are a chosen people, for a special purpose,
our hearts have been hardened and we have forgotten our Godsome of us.
Now, brethren, I think you will have no trouble in getting out of debt. At
least you can get out as well as I have.
Now, brethren and sisters, I am glad; I thank my God that he chastened
me. I thank God that I have had the love and affection of my brethren.
Ithank God that I am alive. I know the gospel is true. I know it because I
learned it through adversity and through suffering and through hardships.
Inever learned it because I was Heber C. Kimballs son, because I was the
son of a prophet. I learned it just as he learned it. I may not have paid as big
a price as my father did, but I paid for pretty nearly everything I have. I paid
well for it, but I am satisfied. I sustain the brethren of the authorities, and I
uphold their hands. I never felt better in my entire ministry in this Church
than I do today. I thank God the sun shines. I thank God the grass is green,
and the water runs down hill; as it did not for a long while. Now the Lord
bless you. Amen.
The choir and congregation sang, Redeemer of Israel, and Conference
adjourned until 10 oclock a.m., Sunday, October 9. The closing prayer was
offered by Elder C. Alvin Orme, President of the Tooele stake of Zion.
S Reprinted from Ninety-second Semi-Annual Conference of The Church of

Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Held in the Tabernacle and Assembly Hall
Salt Lake City, Utah, October 6, 7, and 9, 1921, with a Full Report of All the
Discourses (Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Saints, [1921]), 8386.


Irreantum S vol. 7, no. 1 (2005)


Book Reviews
A Burning Example of Literary Talent
A Review of Shannon Hales Enna Burning (Bloomsbury,
By Andrew Hall

I am becoming increasingly convinced that some of the best literary work

being done by Mormons in the last five years has been for the young adult
market. I believe I have, and here is more proof of it. Shannon Hale debuted
last year with the very well-reviewed young adult fantasy novel The Goose
Girl, based loosely on a Grimm Brothers story. Enna Burning is set in the
same medieval kingdom, and features several returning characters, although
the protagonist was only a secondary character in The Goose Girl.
The fantasy element is the ability of a very few characters to peak to and
direct natural elements. Isi, the Princess-in-hiding protagonist of The Goose
Girl, learned how to speak to wind, and Enna, the forest girl who befriended
Isi in the first novel, learns how to speak to fire. Ennas brother was the first to
discover the magic words which taught fire, but he quickly lost control over
his gift. When a neighboring kingdom invaded Bayern, the brother fought
with the fire, but it overcame him, and he was roasted alive. Enna decides
she must also learn the magic in order to save the kingdom, but tries to put
limits on how she uses it, to avoid the monstrous acts her brother committed,
and to save her own life. Each time she uses the fire, however, she becomes
more addicted to its power, and less able to control her actions.
Hale writes in a clean, eloquent style, and shows a flair for creating rich
characters. The central plot device, although perhaps a bit derivative from
Tolkien, serves as a powerful engine to the plot. There are obvious parallels to the perils of addictionHales descriptions of the slide from careful
experimentation to outright addiction are very finely crafted, and appear very
realistic. She describes Ennas fire lust in almost sexual terms, in particular the

Irreantum S vol. 7, no. 1 (2005)

intense but short-lived relief Enna experiences each time she gives in to her
Not to say that the work is explicit at all, I would very happily recommend
the novel to all readers middle school and above. Hales portrayal of war also
successfully tread a fine line, communicating the horror of the experience,
without going into grisly detail.
Hale is a real talent.

Book of Mormon Stories That Mike Allred Told to Me

A Review of The Golden Plates: The Book of Mormon in
Pictures and Words Vol. 1: The Sword of Laban and the Tree of Life.
Art and story adaptation by Michael Allred, coloring by Laura Allred,
lettering by Nate Piekos (AAA Pop, 2004)
By Ivan Wolfe

In the comics industry, Mike Allred is a well-respected artist. He manages

to write in both the independent market and the mainstream superhero
genre with no loss of credibility. Generally, when an independent artist goes
mainstream by writing comics featuring Superman or the X-Men, the artist
is considered to have sold out. At the same time, a mainstream artist who
attempts to go independent is met with fierce resistancesort of like when
a science fiction author tries to write mainstream literary fiction. Mike Allred
has shown he can navigate both worlds with ease, though his mainstream
work always has a bit of an independent edge to it.
Now, Mike Allred has moved into a genre many thought dead outside of
the bizarre fundamentalist evangelical tracts of Jack T. Chicks Chic comics
[http://www.chick.com]religious comics. In the 1980s and 90s there were
some experiments with Christian comics by Marvel comics (with Nelson
publishers), in the 70s and 80s there were Spire comics which told tales of
interest to Christian audiences. And, of course, EC comics, creators of such
gems as Vault of Horror, Tales from the Crypt, and Shock SuspenseTales
(you knowthe gory horror comics that nearly got all comics banned inthe
1950s) got its start as a comics company producing Picture Stories from
There have been other sporadic attempts to make religious comics that
would appeal to the American market, but none have lasted very long.

Book Reviews

There is no current publisher that regularly publishes comics aimed at a religious audience, though many independent and mainstream comics borrow
from Christianity in the same way they borrow from Greek mythology or
Of course, Mormons are quite underrepresented in comicseven with
the rumors that Power Pack was an LDS super group. Mike Allred has now
jumped into the fray, taking time off from his normal work in other comic
books to, in essence, try and create a Mormon comic market.
Well, after that brief introduction, the question to ask is: How is it? The
answer: Pretty darn good. Allreds art seems very well suited to the subject
matter and the adaptation is fairly faithful.
Want specifics? Okayat first, Allred might seem to be the wrong artist
to tackle this subject. His style is best described as cartoony and genericbut
that hardly says it at all. When I say his art is generic, I dont mean indistinguishable from the great mass of comic artists out thereI mean its not
heavy on detail. Some comic artists revel in drawing each individual leaf
on a tree, each wrinkle on a characters face and every ripple of muscle on
a heros well-chiseled form. Allreds art style gives just enough background
detail to suggest a forest, for example, without having to draw each individual tree. And while his characters faces are distinct from each other, they
are fairly neutral as to racial features or age markings. Clothing is fairly
simple and lacking in detail. This is a good thing, though, because it lets
the story shine through, rather than allowing the art to overwhelm the story.
There are places where Mikes artistic choices seem somewhat odd at first,
but after some thought, I decided they were good choices. For example, when
the angel appears while Laman and Lemuel are beating Nephi, it resembles
some sort of scary apparition rather than the angels that appear elsewhere
in the work. In fact, its appearance is rather frightening, like when the alien
finally appears on screen in the movie Alien. However, once you realize that
this is how Laman and Lemuel (and not Nephi and Sam) perceive the Angel,
then the depiction makes sense.
The adaptation itself is fairly faithful. All the narration that appears in
captions comes straight from the Book of Mormon, as does most of the
dialogue. What original dialogue Mike Allred supplies is generic enough
that it doesnt date the work or add distracting anachronisms. For example,
when Zoram discovers that the man he thought was Laban was really Nephi,
he says Please do not kill me! to which Nephi replies: You have nothing

Irreantum S vol. 7, no. 1 (2005)

to fear from me. From there, the conversation uses text from the Book of
Mormon (as the Lord liveth, and as I live etc.).
Special kudos should go to Laura Allred for her coloring job. Nearly half
of this comic is focused on Lehi and Nephis vision of the Tree of Life (this is
nice because it also allows Mike a chance to show what the art in upcoming
issues will look like, what with the vision Nephi has of his posterity). The
coloring job on the fruit of the tree of life is amazing. Instead of just being
white, it shines in a way that really makes it look like the most desirable of
all fruits.
Also nice are the essays on the inside front and back covers where Mike
Allred discusses why he is doing the adaptation and also talks about some of
the research he did in order to make the look of his adaptation reflect the current state of scholarship regarding the Book of Mormon, the ancient Middle
East, and ancient Mesoamerica.
Overall, this is a worthy adaptation, and its done by one of the masters
of the craft. Unlike many recent adaptations of the Book of Mormon, this
one is not made by artists inflicting their painful journeymans work on us.
This Book of Mormon adaptation is made by someone who has spent time
perfecting his craft.
The most correct book deserves nothing less, and in this case, it gets a
lot more.

Sequel Offers Something for Everyone

A Review of Linda Paulson Adamss Refining Fire (LDStorymakers, 2004)
By Jeffrey Needle

Refining Fire is the second volume in a series that began with Prodigal Journey.
As with the first volume, the heroine is Alyssa Stark, a young college student
forced to flee as a dictatorial U.S. government outlaws the practice of religion
amid the rampant spread of American Toxic FluATFa disease resistant
to all known treatment. Utah has been allowed to secede from the Union;
other Mormon outposts have emerged as Latter-day Saints establish safe
places for family and worship. Alyssa is not a member of the Church, but
her life is affected by LDS friends, and circumstances push her more deeply
into the LDS fold.

Book Reviews

While growing up, her family was very close to the Richardsons, converts
to the Church. Alyssas mother, abusive and irreligious, forbade Alyssa from
consorting with the Richardson family, despite a budding love affair between
Alyssa and Peter Richardson.
As the previous book closes, Alyssa has had some remarkable experiences,
including a healing event involving Jesus himself. Circumstances bring her
back into contact with the Richardsons, where she settles in as a permanent
guest, all the while being influenced by the love and acceptance offered by
the family.
On another front, her friend Jonathan Pike is a budding physician. Debra,
Alyssas college roommate, is dating Jon. The national situation separates Alyssa
and Debra. Jon and Debra finally marry, although Jon has not had time to
finish medical school. Nevertheless, he is called into duty when ATF arrives
at their LDS outpost in the form of Margret DeVray. Margret, dying and
weak, arrives at Pikes complex. He immediately gets to work trying to find
a cure for the disease.
If this all sounds a bit contrived, it really is. But when writing speculative
fiction, ostensibly based on a Mormon-like vision of the time just before the
second coming of Christand when youre intertwining a finite number of
characters, and writing a love story at the same timeI suppose contrivance
is unavoidable. You have to work the characters in somehow.
There are several instances where the story goes off track, into what some
would consider the lunatic fringe of the belief spectrum. The Prologue was
almost unreadable. Hired thugs holding a Temple-worthy Saint hostage. He
hears words from God and sends the thugs into a flurry of confusion. It was
almost laughable, written as if it were spoof, rather than a serious manifestation of Divine power. I fervently hoped the rest of the book would not follow
this pattern.
Happily it didnt. Once Adams gets started, she brings the story back to
earth and continues the story begun in the previous volume. In this book,
we get a better feel for these people. They emerge as genuine, with real lives
and loves, with beliefs and doubts. Near the end, Adams briefly reverts to
this comic-book type of writing, but its only a for a bit, tolerable until the
beginning of the next chapter.
The issue of sexuality weighs heavily in this book. One segment is especially reflective of LDS belief in this area: the Richardson house has been
blessed and set aside by one with proper priesthood authority. This, presum179

Irreantum S vol. 7, no. 1 (2005)

ably, prevents Satan from directly entering the house. But one night, Satan
appears to Alyssa. She screams, Peter dashes into the room, and drives the
devil out. Peter is confusedhow did Satan get into the house? Later, he
learns that his brother Andrew had been viewing pornography on his computer. This sin, in effect, opens a door for Satan to enter the house and attack
Alyssa. Yes, a bit preachy, but then again preachiness is a big part of this
As the book closes, many issues remain unresolved. This surely means a
third volume is coming. In my previous review of the first volume, I mentioned some holes in the story that I thought should be filled in. The second
volume does just this, and I was happy to see it. The unresolved issues in
this volume are consistent with a plan to round out the series with a third,
perhaps final, volume.
This book will be enjoyed by the casual reader of LDS fiction. It has
something for everyonea real love story, really bad people doing really bad
things, family tensions, governmental persecution, the display of priesthood
powerits all there. And, in fact, this second volume is better than the first.
Ill look forward to the third volume. If Adams can decide which venue she
wishes to write aboutthe real problems of real people, or the comic cut-out
world of Mormon speculationthis next volume can be a winner.

False Start?
A Review of Carol Thaynes False Pretenses (Covenant, 2004)
By Katie Parker

LDS fiction just keeps getting better and better. When I started reviewing it
only a few years ago, I was elated to find an occasional book that addressed
real-life issues and had characters who responded more-or-less realistically to
their situations. This is no longer the case. The more I read, particularly of
the newer releases, the more talented writers I see who do exactly this with
their stories.
Carol Thayne is certainly one of these talented writers. Compared with
LDS fiction of only a few years ago, as well as with some of today, her prose
is breathtaking. It brings you there to the scene and into the hearts of the
characters. Much of her characterization is vivid. My only real complaint
about False Pretenses is the pacing.

Book Reviews

False Pretenses is a thriller-adventure story with elements of romance. One

of the protagonists, Kelli Carson, is a young, single Latter-day Saint woman,
who needlessly carries a big burden. When she was a young teenager, her
parents were killed in a car accident for which she feels responsible. Over
the years her feelings of guilt have become overwhelming, to the point that
she has joined the polygamous so-called Church of Faith that promises her
redemption from her sins as she submits to the will of her leaders. Her older
brother Sam, who has been a parent to her since the accident, has been concerned about her but is unaware of her involvement with the cult until it is
too late. Another character who also becomes involved in this is Sunny Day,
an inactive Latter-day Saint who has a heart as good as gold but suddenly has
to quit smoking when she is called to be the Relief Society president in her
branch. (Sunny is my favorite character here; she can be quite a hoot.) The
premise of the story is very intriguing, and the array of characters and smalltown settings in locations across Idaho and Montana adds color to itall.
Scenes like the following establish the situation and the characters quite
nicely. Here, Kelli talks to the branch president of Sunny Branch for the first
time, at Sunny caf where the branch holds Sunday meetings:
Kelli hadnt told the branch president anything. She wanted to, but every time
she opened her mouth, nothing came out. President Heath had handed her a
checkered napkin. She blotted her face and stared at the bear-proof garbage
Kelli looked down at her hands and noticed that they were twisting the
red-checkered cloth. She hadnt even noticed. Her knees were quivering. This
was a new sensation for her. Kelli glanced up at the president. Not at his face,
but at his tie. Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy? And then at his rumpled
shirt. This man is supposed to be a spiritual leader. What a joke, she thought in
frustration (81).

Unfortunately, the story all but stalls partway through. Once Kellis predicament is established, her escape from the cult is all too easy. In fact, it
happens quite early on in the book. By a stroke of Providence, Kelli and her
friend who have escaped happen to run into Sunny, who takes them in and
protects them. There is a little tension here and there as Kelli tries to keep her
identity secret, and she continues to struggle with her feelings of guilt and
reluctance to contact her frantic brother, but since she is already physically
safe and being cared for by good people, the story doesnt move forward like

Irreantum S vol. 7, no. 1 (2005)

it should. Even the fact that her friend runs away again isnt as much cause
for alarm as perhaps it should be. When the cult appears to have located Kelli
and she escapes again, she is once again found by good Latter-day Saints who
provide her with what she needs. The situation has the potential to be a real
nail-biter, but once again Kelli safety comes too easily. The story does gain
momentum again near the end when another young woman goes undercover
for the police, feigning interest in the cult in order to gain access and learn
its location. Her safety is not so easy to procure.
There are issues of faith and prayers for help, but they are all part of the
framework of the story and not vehicles for lessons. Flashbacks are used skillfully to show us the whole story, bringing in some welcome depth. Readers
not bothered with the pacing should find this an exciting, worthwhile book.
Carol Thayne is definitely an LDS author to keep an eye on in the future.
Her skill with words is commendable. I would like to see her maintain the
suspense that she started with.

Sends the Reader into the Mythic Realm

A Review of P. G. Karamesiness The Pictograph Murders (Signature
Books, 2004)
By Jeffrey Needle

Alexandra (Alex) McKelvey is a convert to the LDS Church. She is enrolled

at BYU, studying English. But she finds herself on an archaeological dig in
the Utah desert, accompanied by archaeology students from BYU. She feels
a strong connection with the earth, with the myths and legends of the Native
Americans who populated, and continue to populate, these stark, desert lands.
She is accompanied by her nearly prescient Siberian husky named Kit.
As the dig progresses, new members of the crew arrive. They are a mixed
buncharchaeology students from BYU along with other nonaffiliated
adventurers. Some dont fully understand the challenges aheadthe crude
living conditions, the bitterly hot desert, and really hard work ahead.
The arrival of Tony Balbo, a Native American not assigned to the site,
causes conflict and concern among some of the diggers. Tonys philosophy
is wrapped in the stuff of ego and contempt, the necessity for manipulation
and deceit. Alex has determined to live by the moral standards of her adopted
church. But there is a deeper antipathy at work here, one that Alex does not

Book Reviews

completely understand. As a moth to the flame, she is drawn into Tonys

circle of control, intent on breaking free but feeling a need to, in her words,
call him out.
Alex is the central character in this story. She brings to the dig two unique
aspects: her status as a relatively new convert to the Church, and her fascination with, and connection to, the earth legends. This is not the first time shes
been drawn into the desert to admire the pictographs. In them she seems to
find some peace, some connection with a higher reality.
But interwoven with Alexs story is an ongoing narrative wrapped around
the myths themselvesa veritable parade of legends and interactions in the
world of the spirits, seen through the interpretive eye of Coyote, also known
as First Angry. Coyote sees himself as the personification of all that is clever,
all this is superior to the animals around him.
Coyotes sometimes disjointed but often magical cogitations circle in
the air around this book much as a kaleidoscope sends images flying neatly
before the human eye. As I read, I was equally fascinated by the grime and
the smell of an archaeological dig as I was by the lofty, ethereal meanderings
of Coyote. And as the humans at the dig interact in ways both accepting
and suspicious, even so does the mythic populace of Coyotes dreamworld, a
cornucopia of animals and reptiles forever in conflict.
I debated as to how to describe how the storylines come together. I realized I couldnt do it without giving away much of the plot, and Im unwilling
to do that.
But it is in the merging of storylines that the real meaning behind this
book arises. To call the story spooky is not enough. There is an otherworldliness about it that kept me riveted. Long after I should have been abed,
I was plowing through the pages, wanting desperately to come to some point
where I could say, Now I understand; now I see what the author is trying
to say. Instead, the reader waits until the last few pages to truly bring the
underlying message to fruition.
The Pictograph Murders is more than just a murder mystery. In fact, the
murder itself is in many ways secondary to the story. Karamesines is doing
more than laying out a desert puzzler. The field of play is more than the desertit is the totality of the human experience as reflected in the sometimes
uncomfortable coexistence of history/science and myth.
The primary digging is not done in the sand, but rather in the levels of
consciousness that drive and inform us. At issue here is not the collection

Irreantum S vol. 7, no. 1 (2005)

of shards and pots, but the clarification of the place of truth in both the
scientific and religious endeavors. Readers will be captivated as Alex and
Tony spar over the meaning of truth, the place of myth, and whether history can even be written unaffected by the undercurrents of culture and bias.
Chapter 30 is a rich mine of philosophical debate, a virtual war between two
people from different backgrounds and with different agendas.
As the story progresses, the reader becomes aware of a larger battle going
onone that challenges an idea that is so Mormon, so religious. If a person
fully buys into a mythical self-understanding, can that understanding lead
the person to do remarkable things? With the ongoing debate over the historicity of the Book of Mormon, one must wonder whether historicity ought
to be an issue at all. Is myth a sufficient motivation to bring out the best, and
the worst, in people?
In the end, The Pictograph Murders challenges the reader to see past the
physical into the realm of the mythic, perhaps the realm of the possible. The
digging in the earth is nothing as compared to the digging into the psyche.
Much of this book disturbed me in a very profound way. I found myself
rethinking my own views of religion and the power of legend.
Some years ago I read Margaret Youngs Salvador for the first time. It made
me reconsider my views of Mormonism and my own sense of the sacred.
Now I find myself in a state of introspection once again, a feeling that I
need to attain some sense of balance between the real, whatever that is, and
the mythic. But having read The Pictograph Murders, I am aware that such
explorations can lead alternately to enlightenment and to madness. And, in
the end, the real challenge is in determining which is which. Im not so sure
I know any more.
This is a remarkable book, and merits wide readership.

Kemp Changes Format but Still Delivers a Powerful Story

A Review of Kenny Kemps City on a Hill: Parables of the Carpenter
Series, Book 2 (Harper San Francisco, 2004)
By Andrew Hall

Writing a second volume of a trilogy can be tricky. For the reader the thrill
of discovering new characters and a new world has past, yet climactic events
are often reserved for the final volume. Kenny Kemp fails to overcome some

Book Reviews

of these problems in the otherwise enjoyable City on a Hill. It is the second

in the Parables of the Carpenter trilogy, a nationally published historical
fiction series, imagining events in the young adulthood of Jeshua (Jesus of
Nazareth), before the years of his formal ministry.
I thoroughly enjoyed the first volume of the series, The Welcoming Door.
Kemp showed considerable bravery by inventing scenes and imagining the
thoughts of a young Jesus. He boldly portrays Jesus not as a teacher, his role
in most of the gospels, but instead as a common laborer or an older sibling,
and thus imagines answers to the hat would Jesus do? question in a variety
of workaday situations to which a reader might relate. He created a Jesus
who was both endearingly mortal (he playfully teases his younger brothers
and feels frustration during difficult jobs), but was also inspiringly wise and
kind, befitting a Son of God preparing for his ministry. Also, Kemp used the
parables as jumping-off points to create three complex stories, imaginatively
creating full back-story lives for characters introduced only briefly in the
scriptures. He succeeded at creating an appealing nspirational book without
resorting to cheap emotional fireworks.
Kemp uses a significantly different format in City on a Hill. Rather than
three stories based firmly on well-known parables, connected only by Jeshua
presence, Kemp produces a unified narrative, with only a faint connections
to two lesser-known parables. The setting is Sepphoris, the capital of Galilee,
where Jeshua is a craftsman working on a Roman basilica. There he becomes
involved in a complicated mesh of plots and counter-plots, involving King
Herod Antipas, a Roman governor, a rich Jewish landowner, a Greek official,
Jewish laborers, and others. The story is fairly interesting, and Kemp is a
skillful wordsmith, but the complicated plot is sometimes confusing. Kemp
appears to be setting the scene for the final volume, and in doing lessens the
impact of the second book itself. Most problematic of all, the abundance of
characters and the details of their plotting takes creen time away from Jeshua,
the best-drawn, most interesting character.
One of the things that made the first book so involving was Kemp description of Jeshua changing the hearts of some very bad people. He showed
Jeshua help the lost souls by showing them the larger implications of their
actions, and teaching them empathy for others. This time, Jeshua is not
allowed to spend extended time with any singe character. There is only one
successful onversion portrayed, and it is a muddle, with none of the emotional impact of the conversions in the first novel.

Irreantum S vol. 7, no. 1 (2005)

As I mentioned, the parable-stories are not as central in City on a Hill.

The back stories Kemp imagined to the parables in The Welcoming Door were
fascinating, and the parable spiritual messages were central to the plot. This
time the parables feel secondary at best, and their morals (forgiveness and
prayer in this case) do not play major roles in the story.
Still, Kemp is creating an interesting world, and if book two is mostly setting up the last volume, maybe the payoff will be worth it. There are some
very nice parts. Almost all the passages featuring Jeshua interacting with
his family are effective. I also like the sections which describe Jeshua inner
struggle with the burden of his calling, the nature of which he does not yet
completely understand. He is haunted, for example, by visions of future
apocalyptic battles, with some fighting in his name. The portrayal of his fears,
and the way they are eventually soothed, is very nicely done.
Finally, an observation. Although I saw the first volume in many mainstream and Christian bookstores, and read several reviews, I have never seen
this one on any shelves, and have seen very little public reaction. I wonder
why Harper San Francisco seems to be doing little to promote the book.

Prayers, Thrills, and One Ugly Buddha

A Review of Rachel Ann Nuness A Bid for Love (Spring Creek Book,
2004). Originally published by Covenant Communications as
Love to the Highest Bidder.
By Katie Parker

This series represents something of a departure of Rachel Ann Nunes from

her issue-oriented romantic LDS fiction. A Bid for Love and its sequels
Framed for Love and Love on the Run are LDS, and they e romantic, but
instead of heart-wrenching ordeals (illness, abuse, miscarriage for the couple
to overcome, the pair is involved in a good old-fashioned running-from-badguys adventure.
Early in the story, it is established that Cassi Mason and Jared Landine
are both LDS, both single, and both feeling an emptiness in their lives that
the right opportunity to fill just hasn come around yet. They each have a
secret longing for a spouse and a family, but neither of them has yet met the
right person. Both of them are buyers for prestigious art galleries, working
on opposite coasts. They meet at an art auction where they have both been

Book Reviews

instructed to buy a particularly ugly Buddha statue for their respective galleries. Naturally, the two feel some antagonism towards each other as they
compete to purchase the statue. But there is also an inexplicable attraction
between them. And as they also begin to receive threats on their lives, they
discover that a lot more is at stake than just taking the Buddha home to a
The story is quite smoothly crafted. Cassi and Jared are both carefully
portrayed as beautiful and competent people who are perhaps just a little
insecure and haven yet met that special someone. Their attraction to each
other is also neatly paced and pointed out:
As their eyes met, Jared felt a tingle run through his body he Cassi he was
getting to know fascinated him. When she had teased him in the store about
babies named Jared and he had looked into her eyes, there had been a connection between them (69)

There are even interventions from the other side of the veil:
[Jared has the opportunity to be in the hospital room of a dying friend.] Near
the end, Sister Martin opened her eyes and called, ared, where are you? I have
something to say ared, you haven been doing what you should. Get going. The
Lord has someone prepared for you. Open your heart and let her in. Sister
Martin voice was growing weaker now, and she had to gasp for air.
l do it. I promise, he said hoarsely. (47)

As with many LDS novels, the Spirit intervenes at exactly the right
As he left the elevator on his floor, a strange feeling overcame him and fear
rippled through his body. Leave, something whispered in his soul. He was near
his door now, and unsure of what to do.
Leave, the voice said more clearly. (79) [After he hesitates, two thugs come
out of his hotel room and beat him up.]

The story itself is not particularly unpredictable or deep, but the carefully
constructed characters are still likeable and everything in the story lives up
to its function. I dont generally seek out adventure stories, but I still had fun
reading this one.


Irreantum S vol. 7, no. 1 (2005)

Cynicism and Humor Make Novel a Worthwhile Read

A Review of Robison E. Wellss On Second Thought (Covenant
Communications, 2004)
By Jeffrey Needle

Walt Stewart is a young Utah Mormon, not entirely clear what he wants
to do with his life, but certain that he wants some clarity. He is engaged to
a lovely girl; things are looking up. Then, one day, she comes to him and
tells him that she will be marrying Walts roommate. So much for things
When the phone rings with a job offer from AmeriGrow Enterprises in
Alamitos, New Mexico, he jumps at it. Packing his few belongings, he heads
out to the small town to begin his new life.
Alamitos turns out to be a somewhat smaller town than what he had
expected. No street signs, a small Mormon ward, and lots of snoopy neighbors. His first stop is at a small restaurant, owned and staffed by a member
of the local ward. A single man has come to Alamitos! The wheels start turningthis restaurant owner, Sister Smith, has an unmarried daughter.
But Walt has other ideas. One day he catches sight of the most beautiful woman he has ever seen. Clara Campbell, also LDS, is an employee at
Platner Observatory, built nearby and the object of much scorn and resentment among the locals. Clara is brilliant, a scientist, and she falls for Walt in
a big way.
Alas, theres trouble at the Observatory. Someone is sabotaging their
work, and a creature resembling Bigfoot has been spotted at the plant. No
one seems to know whats going on, but theres enough tension between the
townsfolk, who lost some of their prime grazing land to the Observatory, and
the scientists, to provide for a considerable list of usual suspects.
The result is a rollickingly funny, bitterly satiric Mormon novel, a complete surprise and a total delight. I dont recognize the name Robison E.
Wells; I dont think Ive ever read anything by him before. I hope theres more
to come.
Central to the humor is Walts deep, abiding cynicism. Paired with his
insecurities and uncertain self-image, his pursuit of Clara becomes something of a comedy of errors. Some of the funniest writing Ive seen in years
comes in Walts yearning for Claras hand in marriage, a debacle not to be
believed. Near the end, when he composes an acrostic of her name as the text

Book Reviews

of his proposal, we wonder if this fellow will ever get his head sufficiently
together to make a good husband. Funny!
Lying beneath the surface is the ever-presence of the Mormon way of living and thinking. I was amazed that there was no preachiness at all in this
book. In fact, Mormonism is simply accepted as the backdrop of their lives,
with no effort to convince the reader that he or she must change in some
way. I kept expecting it to come at any minute; happily, it never did arrive.
No preaching, just a wild ride on the back of a young man making his way
through life.
It is also clear that Walt, the first-person narrator of the story, has never
learned to take his religion, or his life, very seriously. He knows how to play
the gamego to meetings, take the sacrament, etc.but he also understands the comic background to much of his Mormon experience.
Years ago, Orson Scott Card, in The Lost Boys, portrayed ward life in a
funny, at times uproarious parody. Wells aims toward the same goalthe
sometimes eccentric members of a ward, their sometimes funny ideas,
etc. Frankly, I think Wells does it better than Card. The ward scenes are
I enjoyed every minute of this book. Well, perhaps *nearly* every minute.
In two places. Wells makes the classic mistakeusing I when he means
me. I find it so jarring. I so wish it werent so. A few bumps in an otherwise
excellent story.
On Second Thought isnt great literature. This is not its purpose. But it is
a great read if youre looking for an interesting, often hilarious story with
plot twists and eccentric, fully human characters. Frankly, Ill leave the great
literature for later. Give me a good read any day.
Bottom lineif you get a chance, read On Second Thought. Maybe sitting
at the beach on a warm afternoon, or even in front of a roaring fire in your
winter cabin. I think youll really like it. And I do look forward to future
efforts by Wells. (Pssst: figure out the difference between I and me and
Ill be thrilled!)


has been a professor of German and Philosophy
at Vanderbilt University and Brigham Young University. He
is currently an administrator at Utah Valley State College.
His memoir Immortal for Quite Some Time was awarded the book publishing
prize by the Utah Arts Council.
Scott Abbott

teaches English at BYUIdaho in Rexburg. Before

teaching, he worked as an advertising copywriter for The Haworth Press, Inc.,
in Binghamton, New York, and earned an M.A. at Binghamton University.
His fiction, poetry, and essays have appeared or will appear in Illuminations,
Weber Studies, Spillway, Entre Nous, Rattle, and other journals. In 1999, he
won first place in the crown half and honorable mention in the chair half
of BYUs national eisteddfod.

Matthew James Babcock

Mark Bennion graduated with an MFA in Creative Writing from the University

of Montana. He currently teaches writing and literature courses at BYU

Idaho. His work has appeared in Aethlon, Aurorean, and BYU Studies. He and
his wife, Kristine, are the parents of two daughters.
J. Scott Bronson is from San Diego and now lives in Orem, Utah with his fam-

ily. He studied theatre at BYU. He has written a dozen plays or so including

two roadshows, a couple of Mayhew Award winners and the Association For
Mormon Letters 2001 best drama, Stones. He directs for the stage and has
served on the boards of two theatre companies in Utah County, one of which
he co-founded. He has acted in scores of stage and television productions
from Utah to California.
Andrew Hall

currently teaches East Asian history at the University of North

Angela Hallstroms fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Dialogue, The
New Era, and Irreantum. She is an M.F.A. student in writing at Hamline
University in St. Paul, Minnesota, where she lives with her husband and
three children.

Susan Elizabeth Howe is an associate professor of English at BYU. A contribu-

tor to Ascent, The New Yorker, and other magazines, she is the author of Stone
Spirits, which won the Charles Redd Center Publication Prize in 1997. She
is the author of a play, based on the book Discoveries: Two Centuries of Poems
by Mormon Women, which she also co-edited with Sheree Maxwell Bench.
Discoveries is currently being rendered into a film.

is a graduate student in Folklore at BYU. He also works

in the Wilson folklore archive in BYU Special Collections at the university
Andrew Jorgensen

teaches poetry and creative writing at BYU. His work will soon
appear in a Pushcart anthology; his collection Erasable Walls appeared in

Lance Larsen

Craig Mangum has worked as a technical writer for several years and attended
Sundance Film Festival regularly for almost as long. He lives in Orem, Utah
with his family.

is a native Salt Laker. His work has appeared in Western

Humanities Review, Weber Studies, and Irreantum. Wordrunner Press of
Petaluma, California has published his novella and a book of poetry. He
publishes a literary monthly called Wasatch Poetry and Prose.

Keith Moore

lives in Southern California with his books and his computer

and spends far too much time reading. A self-described Jewish Gentile, he
remains on the outskirts of Zion, despite the elders best efforts to get him
under the water.

Jeff Needle

Jim Papworth has been teaching at BYUIdaho for 17 years. He has worked
as the manager of a retail tire outlet and in the lumber business in northern
Idaho. He lives with his wife in Rexburg, Idaho and has six children. His
work has been published in various small presses and zines mostly in Idaho
and Utah.

lives and writes in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. After reviewing other

peoples books for several years, she now has a novel of her own hitting
the shelves of LDS bookstores. Just the Way You Are is scheduled for release
by Spring Creek Books. Her work has also appeared in the New Era and

Katie Parker

is associate professor of English at BYU. She has published

articles on the history of folklore studies in Journal of Folklore Research,

Jill Terry Rudy


Irreantum S vol. 7, no. 1 (2005)

Journal of American Folklore, The Folklore Historian, Western Folklore, and

College English. She has also contributed essays to collections on Mormon
folklore, family folklore, and culinary tourism. She is guest editor with Kristi
Young for a special issue of Folklore Forum based on the folklore archiving
conference held at BYU in 2003, and she is collaborating with Bert Wilson
on publishing his collected essays.
Journalist Paul Swensons late emergence as a poet came after the 1989 death
of his famous poet sister May Swenson. His debut collection, Iced at the
Ward/Burned at the Stake, was published by Signature Books in 2003. Two
additional collections are in preparation.
lives, writes, and watches films and high school basketball in Salt
Lake City, Utah.
Lee Walker

is an American Studies undergraduate at BYU (05). A 27

year old Northern California native, he enjoys athletics, music, dance, the
outdoors, and, of course, folklore.
Benjamin Webster

Ivan Wolfe, originally from Alaska, currently attends school in a doctoral

program at University of TexasAustin. His current area of study in in
Rhetorical theory. He also holds an MA in American Literature from BYU
and has served as the chair of BYUs annual science fiction symposium, Life,
the Universe, and Everything.

is the curator of the Wilson Folklore Archives in L. Tom Perry

Special Collections. She is also the co-director of the 2006 BYU and Ameri
can Folklife Center field school, Tradition Runs through It: Environment
and Recreation in Provo Canyon.

Kristi A. Young


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Unpublished Novel Competition

Reminder! Your manuscript for the $1,000 AML Unpublished Novel

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Reviewed in the October 04 issue of Irreantum:

Growing Up in the Depression
by Larene R. Blaine
An amazing true story that reads almost like
fiction. . . . Honest as plain wood, Blaines voice
recalls events and people as they must have been
She brings her family back to life. . . . Blaine
skillfully leads the reader to understand and feel
the sorrow of each family member, individually,
and feel the enormous burden a five-year-old gir
silently shoulders. . . . Readers of all ages should
explore and embrace this extraordinary book.

Order from Amazon.com, your local bookstore, or buy online:


A Place for Fine

Mormon Art and Literature

Mormon Artist Group


Personal Essays by Mormon New Yorkers

Thoughts on contemporary Mormon urban life.

Paperback, 224 pp.

Music by Royce Campbell Twitchell

Lyrics by Glen Nelson
The animals in the stable where Christ is
born try to sing the child to sleep.

Sheet music, 5 pp.

by Lane Twitchell
Three limited edition prints inspired by an
Elton John song examine the relationship between
artists and the businessses that promote them.

and Other Mormon Stories

by Douglas H. Thayer
A classic collection of powerful stories that capture
the burden of expectations of Mormon men.

Paperback, aprox. 240 pp.

The most important collaboration of LDS composers and visual artists in the Churchs history.

Hardbound Ltd w/CD, 128 pp. $150.00

Paperback Ltd W/CD, 128 pp. $ 50.00
Piano Score only 112 pp.
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Toward (and Away From) the Mormonistic
(Michael Hicks Essay) only
$ 9.95


Why the Church is as

True as the Gospel

by Eugene England
One of the most-cited collections of essays on
LDS thought and doctrine returns to print.

Paperback, aprox. 160 pp.


The Rummage Sale:

Collections and Recollections

by Donald R. Marshall
The rst of the new wave of Mormon
ction that started in the 1970s.

$1000.00 each


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New editions of classic

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Signature Books
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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.

Junius and Joseph

Presidential Politics and the Assassination of the First Mormon Prophet
Beginning with a provocative thesis, Wicks and Foister engage in a thorough reexamination of Joseph Smiths 1844
presidential candidacy, its political context and implications, and its probable connection to his murder. While their work
asserts controversial conclusions about what and who were behind that murder, its import extends further since it provides
unprecedented, detailed portraits of political Mormonism, politics in 1844 Illinois and the Midwest, the web of
connections and personalities that linked the two, and the events of June 27.

$24.95 paper
$45.95 cloth

Volume 7 in the Life Writings of Frontier Women Series

No Place to Call Home

The 1807-1857 Writings of Caroline Barnes Crosby,

Chronicler of Outlying Mormon Communities
Despite the impermanence of her situation, perhaps even because of it, Caroline Crosby left a remarkably rich record of
her life and travels, thereby telling us not only much about herself and her family but also about times and places of which
her documentary record provides a virtually unparalleled view.
$29.95 cloth

The Mormon Vanguard Brigade of 1847

Norton Jacobs Record
There are no historical events that have more iconic significance for the people of Utah than the trek of the vanguard
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He had no special status in the church, and there is little to make him stand out in the historical record than that he left
what is regarded by many historians as one of the most informative journals of the early Mormon emigration. The diary
published here begins in 1944, the year of church founder Joseph Smiths murder and continues through the crisis events
that followed.

$22.95 paper
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The Collected
Leonard J. Arrington
Mormon History

Along Navajo Trails

Recollections of a Trader, 1898-1948

Will Evans was the proprietor of the Shiprock Trading
Company and had a strong interest in Navajo culture. His
writings should find a special niche in the literature from
and about traders to the Navajos.

$21.95 paper
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I wish we could find a way of studying the folklore of all

Mormons because most Mormons live outside of the United
States, and even in the United States, most live outside of
from Interview with Folklorist Bert Wilson

Youll never get a job if you dont have faith in yourself, [Mom]
said confidently.
Are you talking about faith or the power of positive thinking?
You know what I am talking about, she said.
from Jack Harrells October Soil

Plus Jill Terry Rudy on Mormon folklore studies, Kristi

Young and Ben Webster on the Library of Congress folklore
collecting project Fruits of their Labors, a short story
by Angela Hallstrom, a play by Scott Bronson, a tribute to
NealA. Maxwell, and observations on Napoleon Dynamite
asMormon cinema
Poetry by Matt Babcock, Mark Bennion, Susan Howe, Lance
Larsen, Keith Moore, Jim Papworth, and Paul Swenson
Regular features: Readers Write, From the Archives, Reviews

Official publication of
the Association for Mormon Letters