Category Archives: Up Close

Prayerful Wrangling with the Book Of Mormon

We are delighted to have McArthur Krishna guest posting all the way from India. McArthur and Bethany are the powerteam authoring the Girls Who Choose God series. If you haven’t discovered these books yet, please consider yourself invited to do so. They’re wonderful and deserve our support! If you’re stuck for ideas, may I suggest that Stories of Strong Women From The Book Of Mormon  would make an excellent Easter gift.
I admit when Bethany and I set out to do Girls Who Choose God: Stories of Strong Women from the Book of Mormon, we had mixed feelings.
On one hand, the Book of Mormon IS the keystone of our religion and so should be a highlight in our series.  On the flip-side, it often seemed a book full of war, fleeing to the wilderness, and a discouraging lack of women participants.
Now, after having spent a year prayerfully reading, wrangling, and writing our text, I can tell you we feel differently.  And, here’s the thing— this year we are going to officially study the Book of Mormon all year. Just considering the time investment we are all making, I thought I might share some of the realisations Bethany and I had along the way.
Let’s tackle the war angle first.  As there is plenty of war in this world, I found I often did not want to read about yet more conflict.  If anything, I wanted war to feel farther away… I could pray for those in Syria and Nigeria and Palestine but I didn’t want to have my spiritual study focused on war. However, I was able to reorient myself and see that discussions on war in the scriptures could be helpful even in my own life.
One realisation hit me— Life has plenty of conflict even when I am not personally in a war zone.  So, if you work outside the home or you have children or you have roommates or you simply just don’t live as a solo yogi in a cave, you experience conflict. (And perhaps the yogi does too— I can fight with myself!)
At a business conference on the east coast, I heard a motivational speaker once talk about how conflict is inherent in our lives and so we might as well get good at it.  (I don’t remember his name. If I did, I would credit him. I remember being surprised as he was from Park City and talked about remarrying into a lot of kids and his step-daughter’s hair blow drying blowing the circuit and how when he joined two sets of kids he had no idea how many plugs that would require.  Yes, all that— but not his name. Feel free to enlighten me if you know.) But I think he was smart— let’s get good at conflict.  Let’s learn how to be kind while having a difference of opinion. Learn to be honest… as in, say what we mean and mean what we say.  Learn to stay at the table.
I had a friend named Ike once say to me, “This appears to be a hard conversation we are about to have.  Let’s start hard and work ourselves to a more comfortable place.” That comment made me take a deep breath and then be able to do the hard work. The conversation was going to be rough but he made me trust that I was in a safe emotional place and we would get back to an easier understanding by the end. Expect that you are going to have conflict in your life, learn to be good at it, and work your way back.  The Book of Mormon can help as we read through and see how people weathered these times.  One big hint: turning to the Lord is always a good method.
Second realisation about war came while reading Alma 23:7. “For they became a righteous people; they did lay down the weapons of their rebellion, that they did not fight against God anymore, neither against any of their brethren (or sisters).” (Parenthesis added.  Obviously.) The scripture refers to people laying down real weapons such as swords and bows and pickaxes and whatever else they used. But I know over the years I have collected plenty of weapons in my own personal arsenal… sarcasm, snottiness, cold shoulder, the evil eye, poking, arrogance, quick rebuttal, and the list goes on. Reading this scripture made me realise that I needed to learn to lay down these weapons and not fight with God or anyone.  That can be hard.  I live in India and there is nothing that gets me snottier faster than a dishonest rickshaw driver. Just yesterday one quoted an almost triple the price and refused to use his meter.  My weapons kicked in and I was super snotty in response.  Why?  I could have just said no thank you and walked away… but I got mad. And so while he loses out on a fare, I lose out on a little shine on my sunny soul.  I’ve got to work harder to lay down my weapons.
Next, the fleeing to the wilderness angle.  As Bethany says, “Go camping. It solves most things.” And I think we can take every admonition about fleeing to the wilderness as a license to head for the hills and get some fresh air and god-made nature in our systems.  Just go.  And if camping is not your thing, pick something else.  Nature is good for us— in whatever form works for you.
Last, the discouraging lack of women.  And, to me, this is the most interesting thing we found. There are actually LOTS of women mentioned in the Book of Mormon.  Over 150 times, according to a talk back in 1977 by Marjorie Meads Spencer. (How come I never knew this?) And while some of those mentions are the merest of nods, others provide unexpected richness if we simply choose to pay attention. We can learn from Nephi’s wife who chose to do all she could and then turn to God in mighty prayer to protect her husband. We can learn from Nephi’s sisters who chose to break from false tradition and supported their younger brother as the prophet. We can learn from the women who choose to be baptised at the Waters of Mormon and, despite danger and hardship, chose to be believers.
I personally think this world needs more believers… people who believe in God, goodness, and each other. I think believing means we choose to be positive. My goal this year (and previous years, frankly) is to live with a more soft heart.  (This concept comes from the amazing Virginia Pearce via my amazing friend Mieka.)
Let’s try this year to read and learn from the Book of Mormon so that at the end of the year we can be stronger, humbler, softer-hearted people.

Girls Who Choose God: Stories of Strong Women from the Book of Mormon

A year ago we reviewed the first book in the Girls Who Choose God series, Stories of Strong Women from the Bible. Today we are very pleased to share that it was so well-received, a second book, Girls Who Choose God: Stories of Strong Women from the Book of Mormon, has been published. This guest post by author McArthur Krishna tells the story of how it came about.


Most people in the church don’t think there are many women in the Book of Mormon… If you ask us to name women we all stumble through a few… and then are stuck. I was exactly the same.

When Bethany and I were in a meeting with Deseret Book about the first Girls Who Choose God book, I was one of the people who nodded and agreed, “Yup– there aren’t enough women in the Book of Mormon to do its own volume”–  and so we decided to focus on the Bible.

Fast forward a year later– we were researching and reading and actually paying attention and we found an amazing thing– there are LOTS of times women are mentioned in the Book of Mormon.  Over 155 times, in fact. Frankly, we got all excited wondering if there were actually enough substance to write a Girls Who Choose God book with these women?

Turns out, with a lot of prayerful wrangling, there is.

Drumroll…. Girls Who Choose God: Stories of Strong Women from the Book of Mormon is now available.

Now, I don’t take umbrage with the Book of Mormon not having many named women.  I understand it was a different time, culture, age. What I take umbrage with is myself– I had completely missed all the women, though I have read the Book of Mormon more than a dozen times.

Why did I miss the women?  Simply because they often are not named?  Because they are not shown as the lead role in the story? We need to get better at recognizing and honoring women’s participation in the God’s work… and not just one narrow type of work but a broad spectrum of contribution. We can all contribute with whatever gifts we have.

For example, I am feisty. I admit this, I even had it listed in my online dating profile.  (Despite my mother’s pleas I tone down the word, I left it.  I thought anything else would be false advertising.)  However, there was a period of time when I worried about whether it was ok that I was such a firebrand. I was not very soft or tender or mild or any of those sorts of things that seemed (to me) to get held up as the way a Mormon woman should be.

It was about the same time when I got called to be the seminary teacher.  When the branch president laid his hands on my head to set me apart he ran through the usual mantle…and then paused.  He paused long enough that I cocked an eyebrow upwards wondering what in the world was going on.  Then he spoke, “God wants you to know that He is well pleased with your fiery spirit. It is the spirit He gave you.”

I was stunned.

The branch president had no idea that I wrested with this question.  He used the exact word that was my concern…
and after he closed the prayer he just shook his head at me, “You should know– that last part was not me.” Oh, I knew.

I felt a big, tight part of the inside of me breathe deeply… and release. I was known by God.  And who I was was not just ok, but divinely crafted.

My very next thought after sheer humbled gratitude was, “So how do I use this gift?”

Over the years opportunities have presented themselves.  But now I use all my grit and feistiness to write books that I think matter.  When that process is challenging, I don’t give up.  And then I speak, and write, and plot and plan to get the word out. I call all over Temple Square for a month looking for the right person who might be able to get the paintings hung in the Conference Center.  Bethany and I work together to make our work as elegant and clean as possible.. and maybe a little feisty.

I can use my feistiness to serve God in this way.

Why does Girls Who Choose God: Stories of Strong Women from the Book of Mormon matter? For many reasons.  But, one, is we need to recognize that women come in all different forms.  They contribute to God’s work in many different ways.  These stories show the power of women’s faith, prayers, courage, teaching… the power of being a daughter of God who throws herself with energy and determination into serving goodness.  And that matters for the women of the Book of Mormon… and it matters for us today.


Author McArthur Krishna is passionate about helping children learn the most vital lessons of life.  She publishes a social awareness series with Scholastic India Books, a diversity and celebration of life series with Amber Jack publishing, and is now publishing a Girls Who Choose God series with Deseret Book.  As McArthur says, “I have loved writing for children.  They are so eager for goodness and sponges for learning.  There are many topics that stories can help children learn like empathy, resolving conflict peacefully, sharing– but the most important concept I would want a child to know is 1) They are a child of God and 2) So is everybody else.” 

An Inner-Height Love Story

Michelle Larson is:  wife, mom to 5, future adopted mom to a child from Ethiopia (waiting for referral), director of a non-profit called Grow.Learn.Give., sister of twenty-six (counting in-laws), daughter to four, teacher of lots of church kids, runner- skier- dancer- writer for herself, health teacher to anyone that will listen, chaeuffer and slave to five little piggies. ….all rolled up into 72 inches.

“I met the greatest guy at the ward service project today….too bad he’s short.” That’s how my love story began circa fall 1992. However, my roommate was the one who said it; she shares not only my Amazon-woman stature, but also my first name. We were the “Shellies,” one with one l-y and the other with two ll-ies. We went through many a date-less weekend together while our smaller-statured, less intimidating (so they say), more dateable roommates painted the Provo town red. Yes, we were tall, loud, opinionated, older (?), busy, and getting masters degrees. I can see why we could scare some folks. Continue reading An Inner-Height Love Story

Unexpected Adventures

Today’s UP CLOSE post is from the trips and travels of Ellen Patton of Lexington, Mass. Late-night baking, antiquing and exploring New England are some of her loves.  She believes strongly in writing letters and mailing them with real stamps, spending time with friends, and enjoys photography. She adores her loft condo with 18 foot ceilings in a converted high school. During the day she works as an assistant to the President of MIT, and has word processing, photocard, and photography businesses on the side. Ellen has 3 brothers, 11 nieces and nephews, and a bus fleet of friends. She currently serves as RSP in the Arlington Ward. She is a daily blogger at
I had hoped, but never thought I’d be one of those people who traveled to exciting places in the world.  I grew up in Los Angeles, traveled the west coast and saw most of what there was to see in California.  I’ve been to all but seven states (driving from California to Boston added some in “the middle” that I probably never would have visited otherwise).  My mom took us to Mexico when we were kids and I went to Canada as a chaperone on a youth Temple trip.

I lucked out with two business trips to Europe while working for a start-up software company.  I had been responsible for running the office (making copies, phone calls, power point slides, etc.) in a window-less hotel room in Boston twice a year for our member meetings.  Then they asked me if I wanted to run the office–in Munich!  Two years later they asked about Brussels!  Both trips lasted two weeks with four days of work and exploring with coworkers and on my own.  I wasn’t sure I was ever going to get to Europe again so I took advantage and saw as much as I could.  From the Sound of Music tour to Neuschwanstein Castle, Hallstatt, Austria, driving on the autobahn, seeing Paris from the top of the Eiffel Tower, buying lace in Bruges, riding trains, visiting friends in St. Die, France, seeing the Mona Lisa, eating croissants and wiener schnitzel, drinking soda from a beer mug at the Hofbrauhaus and visiting Olympic villages—both trips were great adventures!

In 1999 my friend Jennifer called and asked if I had always wanted to go to China.  In my dreams. Continue reading Unexpected Adventures

Revisiting First Impressions

Rosalyn Collings Eves is our UP CLOSE Trips and Travels guest author today.  She enjoys traveling, although she hasn’t been able to do nearly as much of this since becoming a mother to two young children: a four-year-old boy and a two-year-old girl. When not trying to plan and execute child-friendly trips, she plays with her children, teaches the occasional composition class, reads, and writes (not as much as she would like).

I was twenty the first time I went to Europe. It seemed like the height of adventure at the time, navigating different railroad stations with my handy Eurail pass, a single, large, unwieldy backpack on my back. And I was in Europe, a land drenched with history, with old castles rising unexpectedly from hillsides as we sped past on the train, and uneven cobblestone streets branching off of paved modern roads as we walked through towns.
I was traveling with an acquaintance of mine, a slim, pretty blond girl who got whistled at constantly when we were in Italy. I say “acquaintance,” because I didn’t know her well when we started: we were coming off of a semester abroad in London where we had been friendly but not exactly friends, and our mothers, fearful of the potential fates awaiting single female travelers, had arranged our airfare together.

At first it was almost idyllic as we made our way through Germany, Bavaria, and Switzerland. And then we went to Budapest. The name itself conjured pure romance for me, although I knew little about the country other than it had been the last bastion to stand between the ravaging Turkish armies and the rest of Europe, and that Audrey Hepburn’s Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady was thought to be a Hungarian princess because of her impeccable English. Our arrival wasn’t entirely auspicious: we arrived late in the day and were directed to a nearby hostel. We decided later that our guide must have had some kind of financial arrangement with the hostel, because it was so dirty. (We were too scared of the grime to even risk the showers.) At the time, though, that just seemed to be part of the adventure.

I was alone when I set out on my exploration of Budapest; Kirsten had a different agenda for that day. I stopped in a local grocery store to buy a yogurt and some bread. After eating, I brushed the crumbs off my lap and set off across one of the many squares that dotted the city. I held my map in my hands (an obvious tourist, I’m sure), the map itself creased and uneven, the edges beginning to stick slightly to my palms under the warm spring sun.
I felt, rather than saw, the shadow in front of me; I looked up to see a stranger looming before me scant seconds before he whacked me in the head with the flat of his hand. He hit me hard enough that I stopped, suddenly, forcing the stream of foot traffic to part around me. I’m still not sure why he hit me, if I was in his way or he was just feeling particularly grouchy about tourists that day. I do know that I was left feeling off-balance, shaky and suddenly unsure of my place.
I decided to abandon my exploration of the city itself and headed across one of the suspension bridges that cross the Danube (called the Duna in Hungary) at even intervals. I was heading toward higher ground, toward Gellért Hill (named, I found later, for an early Christian martyr who was put in a barrel and rolled down the hill into the Duna). The figure of a woman upholding a palm frond beckoned enticingly from the base of the hill; ironically enough, she figures prominently in a monument to the Soviet “liberation” of Hungary from the rule of Nazi Germany. (Anyone who knows any Hungarian families who fled Hungary in the 1950s under Soviet rule understands the irony here.)

The initial climb was refreshing; the trail was crisscrossed by the cool, green shadows of a heavily wooded area. Ahead of me I could see a young couple, a few paces behind me a young family. It was only after I’d been climbing for several minutes that I realized that the couple had outpaced me and I had outpaced the family. The only person within eyesight (or earshot) was a young man in his mid-twenties. The only thing I really remember about him was that he had dark hair.

“Excuse me?” He called to me.
Surprised to hear English, I stopped and turned to him. I heard the rustle of the wind in the trees and realized, my heart suddenly beating faster, that we were alone on the trail.
I don’t remember exactly what he said; I do remember that he offered to show me a part of his anatomy that I had no desire to see. I said (with what seems in retrospect a ridiculous politeness) “No. Thank you.” I put my head down and walked as fast as I could (without actually running) and prayed that he wouldn’t follow me.
He didn’t, thankfully. And serendipitously I found my friend Kirsten at the top of the hill, having decided separately to make the same pilgrimage. I was overjoyed to see her; I may have even cried a little. I’m sure she was surprised by both reactions.
That night, I wrote in my journal. I thought of the two unfriendly encounters, my futile attempts to order stamps at the post-office or to navigate the metro system (although everywhere else I’d managed just fine), and I wrote, “I don’t understand the language, I don’t understand the culture, I don’t understand the people. This is the first city in Europe where I really feel like an outsider.”
Flash forward five months. I’m sitting at my parents’ kitchen table, surrounded by my friends and family. In my hands, I hold a largish envelope with my mission papers. I rip the paper open, scan quickly until I find the important words. “You are hereby called to serve in the Hungary Budapest Mission . . .”
I thought back on my negative experience in Hungary and I felt a little afraid. But I went anyway.
And you know what? I learned to understand (and speak!) the language (which, by the way, is supposed to be the third hardest language for English speakers to learn, after Finnish and Chinese). I learned that the people were not actually that unfriendly (or that lewd)—that they were, in fact, some of the most generous people I’ve ever known. I fell in love with the country, with the seas of sunflowers stretching for yellow miles, with the intoxicating smell of linden trees in the summer. (Every summer, when the linden trees blossom in late June and early July, I’m transported back.) And that woman holding a peace offering atop the “Statue of Liberty”? The missionaries called her the Pizza Lady.
Are there places that (like some people) you found you misjudged on initial acquaintance? How did those places improve with additional exposure? Did you learn anything new about yourself through your changing association with that place?