All posts by Shelah

About Shelah

(Editor-in-Chief) lives in Salt Lake City with her husband and six kids. She has a BA in English Teaching from BYU, an MA in American Culture Studies from Washington University in St. Louis, and an MFA in Creative Writing at BYU. Her work has been published in Dialogue, the Mormon Women Project, Irreantum, BYU Studies, and Segullah. When she’s not writing or wrangling, she can often be found running through the city in the pre-dawn darkness.

Passions: Or maybe just a fad?

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Running with The Raven on Miami Beach. He has run eight miles on Miami Beach every single day of my life– talk about passion.

Six years ago, I had a routine: get all the kids ready, drop the two oldest  off at the elementary school, then head over to the gym, where I’d put the baby and the preschooler in kid care, and I’d go off to spend the next two hours doing whatever I wanted. Usually, I wanted to take a spin class. I was pretty fanatical about my spin classes. I had teachers I loved and teachers I barely tolerated. Some songs were great for spinning (Latin dance music– who knew?), while some songs made the class almost unendurable– and if you asked (and even if you didn’t), I’d be happy to expound on which was which. In class, I’d sit in the back, right under the fan, with my water bottle full and my game face on. I was the annoying girl who grunted and sweated and tried to race you. It was awesome. If you had asked me what I was passionate about back in those days, spinning classes surely would have been on my list.

Five and a half years ago, we moved, and I can probably count on one hand the number of spin classes I’ve taken since. I haven’t even been on a bike.

Looking back, it’s obvious that spin classes were, for me, just a fad. An enjoyable fad, to be sure. My butt looked amazing, and my abs were much tighter than they’ve ever been before or since. But when we relocated, there wasn’t a gym that had classes at a time that worked, and my kids were old enough that I didn’t need my daily interaction with the girls at the gym (as competitive as it may have been on my part) to save my sanity.  Continue reading

Book Review: Diary of Two Mad Black Mormons by Zandra Vranes and Tamu Smith

20717469Diary of Two Mad Black Mormons: Finding the Lord’s Lessons in Everyday Life
Authors:Zandra Vranes and Tamu Smith

Back in 2011, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sista Beehive and Sista Laurel (aka Zandra Vranes and Tamu Smith) for the Mormon Women Project. They were fantastic to talk to– funny and very real and willing to open up about why, as black Mormons and converts to the LDS Church, they felt they had a unique perspective to offer readers to their blog. In the years since that conversation, they have found even more success, launching their own radio show, speaking at various engagements, and now publishing their first book together, Diary of Two Mad Black Mormons.

In the book, the Sistas start out speaking generally on various topics (“Breaking and Entering” is about finding God, “Stand” is about having standards and standing things that are important to you). They expound on these topics in their trademark style– talking forthrightly, with lots of emotion, in language peppered with Ebonics. Their book is at its strongest when it delves into their personal stories, which is something that they do to highlight most of the points they want to make. They talk about the time Sista Beehive got caught shoplifting, when Sista Laurel pretended that her mom was dead and her hilarious experience at EFY as a teenager. They’re willing to talk about hard things and to help us see that even if we have hard circumstances in our lives, that shouldn’t separate us from the love Christ has for us or from his plans for our lives. The book is a quick, useful read. I think it’s important because of its perspective and because of its wonderful storytelling.

 

Book Review: Women at Church by Neylan McBaine

Women at ChurchIn the Sunday morning session of General Conference this weekend, President Eyring told the story of how he traveled to a “small city far away” to confer the sealing power on a man whose “hands showed the signs of a lifetime of tilling the soil for a meager living.” The man’s wife sat in the room, weeping, and when President Eyring asked her how she felt, “She looked up and then said timidly that she was happy but also sad. She said that she had so loved going to the temple with her husband but that now she felt that she should not go with him because God had chosen him for so glorious and sacred a trust. Then she said that her feeling of being inadequate to be his temple companion came because she could neither read nor write.” President Eyring reassured her and spoke to her about her spiritual gifts, and her great faith in the gospel.

What struck me about this exchange was not just the kindness President Eyring showed, or his ability to discern that this sister had received personal revelations which she held dear, but the fact that her husband’s new church responsibilities highlighted her own feelings of inadequacy. While I don’t know enough about this woman’s life experience to even begin to guess whether her church experiences or experiences in her culture of origin helped shape this feeling, the anecdote highlights the fact that women in the church can struggle with feeling less than their male counterparts.  We see men on the stand every Sunday. Our boys pass the sacrament. Few women have the opportunity to work in church leadership. Our religious language is often gendered. There are so few female voices and role models and leaders for us to turn to as examples. As more women work closely with men in the workplace and work toward egalitarian relationships with their male partners, church may be one of the few places where women may feel limited by their gender. I’m not saying that every woman feels this way; many women feel that their membership in the church empowers them. I just want the church to be a place where every member can feel that she belongs.

But enough about me, let’s talk about McBaine’s important book, Women at Church: Magnifying LDS Women’s Local Impact. First, I want to talk about something the book doesn’t do– in a time when the ordination of women has been a hot-button issue, Women at Church doesn’t doesn’t address female ordination. Instead it’s a primer for what leaders and everyday members can do to capitalize on the talents of women in the church. McBaine lays out the mission of the book in the opening sentence: “This book is predicated on a single belief: that there is much more we can do to see, hear, and include women at church.” She continues, “I have written this book as an inducement toward greater empathy for those who feel unseen, unheard, and unused, and a strategic guide to improving our gender cooperation in local Church governance.” Continue reading

Faces of Latter-day Saint Women: An Interview with Neylan McBaine

What inspired you to write Women at Church?

Because I founded the Mormon Women Project almost five years ago, I’ve had the opportunity to interview hundreds of LDS women through that effort. The MWP was founded as an attempt to highlight the beauty and variety of our female membership, in hopes that Mormon women would have a wider range of models to admire and follow. It’s been an immensely rewarding journey for me, and along the way, I started getting asked to speak and write about women in the Church. Inevitably, along with the inspiring stories I’ve heard and read over the past several years, I’ve encountered too the pain and sense of betrayal that some of our women face at church. I see the effort to make women more comfortable at Church to be consistent with my effort to highlight the diversity of our membership: it’s all an effort to widen our embrace of each other, inspire empathy, and emphasize the broad range of contributions we women make to our communities and to the Church.

The book itself wasn’t my idea; I credit Brad Kramer of Greg Kofford Books for asking me to write it. It took some courage and a lot of spiritual prompting to actually sit down and do it. I wrote the book in five months, but really I was writing it for years before that as I’ve been thinking about these matters. Continue reading

The List

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I was about ten the first time I got my hands on a planner, and it made a monster out of me. I filled it up with every homework assignment and dance class, and delighted in checking the items off my list when I had completed them. In college, I was one of the girls who carried her Franklin planner everywhere (you know, the ones you probably laughed at), and today, I’m a slave to the Cozi app on my phone, which allows me to create lists not only for myself, but for everyone else in my family.

One of my favorite novels, Wallace Stegner’s Crossing to Safety, chronicles the friendships of two couples, the Langs and the Morgans. Charity Lang starts each morning in bed, creating her the list of things she wants everyone in the family to accomplish. While my recollection of the story is that the visiting Morgans seem a little annoyed by Charity’s micromanaging ways, I feel that I identify with her more in this scene than any other place in the novel.  Continue reading