March 2006


Darying Young Mom recently asked people to name their single most favorite book.

Single?

Most favorite?

I haven't had my face out of book for more than an hour at a time since third grade.  Picking one was like trying to pick a favorite food.  I love them all but sometimes I'm just in the mood for this one; it doesn't mean I like the others any less.

So, while I put my thoughts together for some more substantial posts, here's a list of the books I love enough to keep.

"Misty of Chincoteague," by M. Henry.  Might as well start with the one that started it all.  I was assigned this in third grade.  I remember sitting on the couch as my mother tried to call me to dinner but I was too engrossed to move.  She said "We'll never see that girl full-face again."  She was right. 

"Merovingen Nights."  Actually a series of inter-connected short stories by C.J. Cherryh, Mercedes Lackey and others.  Fascinating "lost space colony" story with richly detailed culture.

"The Hedge of Mist," by Patricia Kennealy-Morrison.  Time was, my definition of a good book was one that had maps and glosseries.  "Hedge of Mist" is the end of a trilogy of King Arthur and has the distinction of being the only one, out of all the many, many, MANY King Arthur stories I have read, that has made me cry at the end.  Has the added bonus of NOT including the pathetic Lancelot cycle.

"Tam Lin," by Pamela Dean.  Part of the "Fairy Tales" series started by Terri Winding.  It's a novelization of an old Scottish ballad, set in a 1970-something Minnesota college.  This is one of my oldest favorites.  I remember reading it in high school and hoping that my college experiences would be like that.  (Er, minus confronting the Queen of Faerie.)

"Snow White, Rose Red," by Patricia C. Wrede.  Also one of the "Fairy Tales" series this one is a delightful mix of alchemy, human magic and the Faerie Queen's court set in Elizabethan England.  I found a copy at a discount bookstore at the beach and have counted myself lucky ever since.

"Rimrunners," "Downbelow Station," "Merchanter's Luck," "Tripoint," and "Finity's End," by C.J. Cherryh.  I've never cared much for Cherryh's fantasy books but I just love her sci-fi.  There's something smart, snappy and almost puzzle-like about her Merchanter's Alliance universe.  It's the best kind of sci-fi, it looks at the culture and the effects of the various technologies on culture and politics without bogging you down with techno-babble or long explanations of things that everyone in the book ought to know already.

"The Tale of Murasaki," by Liza Dalby.  Liza Dalby is the only Westerner ever to have become a geisha and she brings a wealth of cultural and historical knowledge to this novelization of the life of Lady Murasaki, the woman who wrote "The Tale of Genji."  "The Tale of Genji" is considered to be the first work of fiction ever and is to most Japanese as Shakespeare is to us Westerners.  (I.e, old, venerable, cultural heritage and full of language so archaic as to be nearly unintelligable.)  Mz. Dalby does a beautiful job of sketching Heian-era Japan right down to the poems the aristocracy used to communicate.

"Sister Light, Sister Dark," by Jane Yolen.  A wonderful weaving of novel, myth, legend and "historical essays."  An interesting world that comes complete with maps, lyrics and music.  Gotta love it.

"A Prayer for Owen Meany," by John Irving.  Nostaligic, transforming and riveting.  It's been mentioned elsewhere on the Bloggernacle as a Non-Mormon Mormon book and I have to agree.  I loved it so much that in my eagerness to recommend it to a friend, I just flat out bought a copy for her.

"Good Omens," by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman.  A friend of mine loved this so much that in her eagerness to recommend it to me, she just bought me a copy and I can't say I'm sorry she did!  The cock-eyed view of things, the silly footnotes… it's hysterical.  Admitedly it's a very humanistic view of Armageddon but it's still a very, very good laugh.

"Papa Married a Mormon" and "Mama's Boarding House," by John D. Fitzgerald.  Frontier Utah life as told by a young man who lived through it.  Some of you may be familiar with the "Great Brain" stories.  This is the same author and these are the bio- and auto-biographical stories of his family growing up.  I'm not always sure of the timeline, though. Pictures and other things in these books indicate that John D. was born in the early 1900's but he also describes his father and the local LDS bishop crying with joy when Utah was admited to the Union in 1880-something.  Still, it's very interesting to read about that time and place.

"Saints" by Orson Scott Card.  LDS historical novel with polygamy.  Also with some shrewd comments on LDS with pioneer heritage.  Loosely based on the life of Eliza R. Snow and so well done that after I read it, I went through the hymnal looking for songs written by the heroine.  Again, it's very interesting to read about that time and those places.

"The Lord God Made Them All" and others by James Herriot.  I just eat up these stories of veterinary life in rural England around WWII.  There's so much appreciation for the little things in life, gentle humor and decent people.  Not every veterinary visit in the stories is a success but it's still a feel-good series.

"Sherwood," "The Hero and the Crown," "The Blue Sword," "Deerskin," and "Beauty" by Robin McKinley.  These are all lovely books.  "Beauty" is and always will be my favorite version of "Beauty and the Beast."  There's something about the characterizations and descriptions that make her books a delight.  The narration too is funny, light and interesting.  Unfortunately, McKinley's later books have a tendency to end in magic sequences so odd I think "this must be what a bad drug-trip is like."  The magic endings make sense in "The Hero and the Crown," "The Blue Sword," "Deerskin" and "Beauty" but in "Rose Daughter" and "Spindle's End" I can barely understand what happened, let alone why it was supposed to have had the effect that it did. 

"Chicks In Chainmail," edited by Esther M. Friesner.  Cute and funny collection of short stories poking fun at the idea of the bronze bikini-wearing warrior girl.  Continued in other books like "Did You say CHICKS?" and "The Chick is in the Mail."

"Hellspark," by Janet Kagan.  My mom picked this up for me at a yard sale on the off chance that I'd like it.  Somewhat to my then-teenaged chagrin, she was right.  Talk about poly-glot!  A gorgeous cacophony of different cultures, languages and body language with a good stiff dose of suspense and mystery.  A truley wonderful sci-fi book that never pales no matter how many times I read it.

(My husband is now teasing me for not including the Book of Mormon but this is a list of novels. As wonderful and inspiring as the Book of Mormon is and as grateful as I am to have it, it's just not the same reading experience!)

History really burns me up.  There’s a post at the Bloggernacle Times about Joseph Smith, his run for President and his communcations with other presidential hopefuls.  The U.S. treatment of us burns me up every time.  It’s just sad, pathetic and sickening.  Almost I could swear Satan was driving the country to try to ruin us.  I certainly wouldn’t be surprised.

 Prior to the Civil War, “State’s Rights” was the rule.  The founders had believed that whatever the Constitution didn’t say you could do you simply COULDN’T do.  Most people in Joseph Smith’s time would have seen it that way as well.  The Constitution didn’t say that the federal goverment could interfere with how a state dealt with the people therein, therefore it couldn’t.  Therefore, our people were rounded up and shot, their livelihoods and properties taken away and all other manner of crimes and injustices commited against them and they had no redress for the highest level of government they could appeal to had been the one to issue the extermination order.

No wonder they decided that the solution was to set up their own state.  Yet while they were doing that, the Civil War was fought and the federal government gave itself the right to interfere with state law.  What better use for that pretty new power could there have been than to send an army to attack a temple, or to deny practicioners of a specific religion the right to vote?

Talk about damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

I love “Joan of Arcadia.”  I’ve found it to be smart, spiritually up-lifting and thought-provoking in good ways.  I was verry disappointed when it was cancelled simply for attracting the wrong target audience.

But my grievance with CBS is not the subject of my post.  When I started watching “Joan,” it was in its second season, or possibly the tail end of its first.  Because I liked the show so much I bought the DVDs when they came out and I’ve been catching up on the episodes that I’d missed.

One of the episodes I saw today disappointed me and frustrated me.  Now, little bits like God telling Joan that she wouldn’t be able to percieve His true form because it’s unlike anything she knows make me shake my head.  (Um, hello?  “Let us make them in Our image?” Does anyone READ the Bible?) I let them go though because I know different churches have different beliefs on that subject.  But today she asked him a direct question, the Grand Question: Why?  Why does anyone live, why does anyone die?  He didn’t answer her!  He just smiled and said “Here’s your house.”  (They were on a bus, so it’s not quite as random as it appears.)

 I know it’s a bit much to expect that they then would have had Him give the Plan of Salvation that I spent January teaching my Sunday School class about.  NO answer, though?  Not even the vaguest set of platitudes that could be put together out of the New Testament?  Are you trying to tell me that NONE of the other churches even have the slightest clue?

Usually the show makes you feel and think but this episode is either a crummy cop-out or the rest of the Christian community is apallingly ignorant.

I’ve had this for so long I’m not sure where I got it anymore.  I found it again recently and thought it’d be fun to share.  As a side-note, I took great glee in teaching my ESL students in Japan to say “domestic engineer.”  (And I’m sorry J. Stapley, I WILL get to that review of “In Sacred Loneliness” but my book has gone A.W.O.L. on me…)

Just a mother… HA!

A few months ago, when I was picking up the children at school, another mother I knew well, rushed up to me. Emily was fuming with indignation.

“Do you know what you and I are?” she demanded.

Before I could answer – and I didn’t really have one handy – she blurted out the reason for her question.

She had just returned from renewing her driver’s license at the County Clerk’s office. Asked by the woman recorder to state her “occupation,” Emily had hesitated, uncertain how to classify herself.

“What I mean is,” explained the recorder, “Do you have a job, or are you just a . . . ?”

“Of course I have a job,” snapped Emily. “I’m a mother.”

“We don’t list ‘mother’ as an occupation. ‘Housewife’ covers it,” said the recorder emphatically.

I forgot all about her story until one day I found myself in the same situation, this time at our own Town Hall.

The Clerk asked: “And what is your occupation?”

What made me say it, I do not know. The words simply popped out.  “I’m. . .a
Research Associate in the field of Child Development and Human Relations.”  The clerk paused, ball-point pen frozen in mid-air, and looked up as though she had not heard right. I repeated the title slowly, emphasizing the most significant words.  Then I stared with wonder as my pompous pronouncement was written in bold, black ink on the official questionnaire.

“Might I ask,” said the clerk with new interest, “just what you do in your field?”

Coolly, without any trace of fluster in my voice, I heard myself reply, “I have a continuing program of research [what mother doesn’t] in the laboratory and in the field [normally I would have said indoors and out].  I’m working for my Masters [the whole family] and already have four credits [all daughters]. Of course, the job is one of the most demanding in the humanities [any mother care to disagree?] and I often work 14 hours a
day [24 is more like it]. But the job is more challenging than most run-of-the-mill careers and the rewards are in satisfaction rather than just money.” There was an increasing note of respect in the clerk’s voice as she completed the form, stood up, and personally ushered me to the door.

As I drove into our driveway buoyed up by my glamorous new career, I was greeted by my lab assistants – age 13, 7, and 3. And upstairs, I could hear our new experimental model (six months) in the child-development program, testing out a new vocal pattern. I felt triumphant. I had scored a beat on bureaucracy. And I had gone down on the official records as someone more distinguished and indispensable to mankind than “just another. . .”

…Or, to be more specific, guilt is Catholic.

 I admit that I haven’t read the post about Mormonism and guilt.  I’m not very interested and mostly confused by it to be honest.  I’ve always thought of the Catholic church as the one with a big investment in guilt.  I don’t understand why the blogger feels that Mormonism runs on guilt.  My experiences with the church’s teachings have always been very positive.  We’re human, we make mistakes.  God’s plan for us is to learn from our mistakes.  That’s what repentence is for.  That’s why we’re not supposed to judge others and why we’re supposed to love each other as ourselves and have compassion.  Repentence and compassion are what I hear taught at church.  Not guilt.

(Two posts in one day… and here I was worried I wouldn’t have much to post about…)

I Walk The Line (With apologies to Johnny Cash and all Cash lovers.))
I keep a close watch on this heart of mine
I keep my eyes wide open all the time
I keep the ends out for the tie that binds
Because I’m Thine, I walk the line

I find it very, very easy to be true
I know I’m not alone when each day is through
Yes, I’ll admit that I’m a fool for You
Because I’m Thine, I walk the line

As sure as night is dark and day is light
I keep You on my mind both day and night
And happiness I’ve known proves that it’s right
Because I’m Thine, I walk the line

You’ve got a way to keep me on Your side
You give me cause for love that I can’t hide
For You I know I’d even try to turn the tide
Because I’m Thine, I walk the line

I keep a close watch on this heart of mine
I keep my eyes wide open all the time
I keep the ends out for the tie that binds
Because I’m Thine, I walk the line
 

 My brief foray into re-writing song lyrics aside, one of the things I’m proud of our church for doing is walking the line.  Or in some cases, drawing the line and holding it.  The subject of polygyny came up at FMH and it was mentioned that polygynists in Africa who wish to join the church must divorce their plural wives.  Some people think this is sad and a contradiction given our own fight for polygyny.  They’re right; it is sad.  I feel for those families who make such a wrenching decision but it’s not a contradiction.  At least, not in my eyes.  You see, we as a church* aren’t big believers in “moral relativity.”  There is right and there is wrong and while some things may be less wrong than others they’re still wrong.  Other churches, in some cases apparently the self-same churchs that enjoy lambasting us so much for our “evil history of polygyny” seem to have a different view of things.  Where our church has officially ended polygyny and has issued not one but two manifestos on the subject, other  churches in Africa turn a blind eye to the polygyny not only of their members but of their priests. 

Some people wonder why we don’t do the same thing; we believe in polygny too, don’t we?  It’s an obvious question but it misses the big picture.  We believe that God occasionlly commands His people to practice polygny.  We believe that we were commanded to practice it in the past but we also believe we aren’t commanded to practice it now.  This kind of command is church-wide.  There is no Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints of Zimbabwe*.

Which is not to say that there aren’t cultural differences to be found in the church.  I doubt the Japanese LDS have funeral potatoes and I don’t think British LDS are as enamored of Jell-O as some American LDS.    The important things, the Spirit and the Gospel are the same everywhere you go, though.  God’s church is a church of Order and Law and His Laws are the same in the Utsunomiya branch or the Annapolis Ward.

We all know of a few exceptions to this iron-bound, black-and-white picture it seems I am painting.  Nephi vs. Laban for one, or the story of the Dutch(?) priest who ordained an old, sick woman with the power to bless the Sacrment for herself because there was no other way for her to get it (Martha’s Sacrament.)  Our gospel is firm, organized and led by a prophet but we still have room for divine direction and compassion.

However, because we do have a firm, organized gospel and a prophet when a line is drawn, it is drawn on and by the whole church.  We know where we stand no matter where we are.  That is one of our strengths.

*Though come to think of it, there are probably people out there who feel differently. Nevertheless, this is my perception.

*I don’t know anything about the situation of the church or polygyny in Zimbabwe.  I just like to say “Zimbabwe.” 

 You, or some of you, already know me as harpingheather.  I’ve been posting on a number of your sites (notably FMH, Silas Grok and Millenial Star) for a few months now.  There are a couple of reasons that I’m using a different name here but mainly I just love the new name.

Welcome to my blog.  I will be exploring LDS history for the first time, digging into my own roots as I do genealogy, sharing thoughts and begging questions on life, the universe and everything.  I look forward to hearing all of you.  (Except for trolls.  I have a +5 Spear of Lightning for them.)

Next on the agenda: a review of Todd Comptons “In Sacred Loneliness.”

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