Category Archives: Exploring LDS Lit

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.
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GWCGBOM
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.

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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.
YES.

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.

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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.” 

The Year My Son and I Were Born

320-yearAbout two years ago, I started trolling around various LDS blogs.  Some were interesting, some were funny, and some were heavily doctrinal.  There was one author I came across a number of times, and I was impressed with a number of things about her:  she used her full name (a rarity in the world of anonymous posting), she was intelligent, articulate, and sensitive, and she had a disabled son.

As the mother of a disabled son myself, I was immediately intrigued and sought out her personal website.  I spent an evening reading her blog and weeping.  Here was someone who thoughtfully and intelligently articulated exactly the feelings that I had but was unable to express in such a thoughtful and intelligent manner myself.  Over and over as I read, I thought, “YES!  I feel exactly the same way!”  I never realized that there was anyone else out there, LDS or not, whose experiences mirrored mine in so many ways. Continue reading The Year My Son and I Were Born

Whitney Award Predictions

In the spirit of all those Oscar articles right before the big night, I’d like to offer a few Whitney Award predictions. I had a great time being on the Whitney Academy this year. I have read all the finalists, and I was tickled to discover some fabulous writing that I would not have looked at before. I wish that I could attend the Whitney Awards Banquet, which will be held April 25th, but I have an unavoidable scheduling conflict. Sigh. I hope they do liveblogging again this year so I can read about it later.

Before I tell you my predictions, a bit of perspective on judging LDS fiction, and a disclaimer. Continue reading Whitney Award Predictions

Can Creative Writing Be Taught?

Here’s your answer: yes, creative writing can be taught. Kind of. Except when it can’t.

I’ve asked myself whether or not writing can be taught many times over the years. I asked it when I was an undergraduate English major and couldn’t figure out how in the world to get my pioneer novel off the ground. (It was called Exodus, my friends. I’m not kidding. And no, it never did arrive at the promised land.) I asked it when I started teaching high school English and wondered how in the world to grade the heartfelt and mostly terrible poems that landed in my assignment basket. I asked it when I enrolled in a graduate creative writing program, full of crippling self-doubt mixed with the tiniest flicker of hope that I might someday write a short story that came to some sort of satisfying conclusion instead of wandering off to curl up in a corner and die. And I asked it again when I was hired to teach creative writing to the bright and motivated students at Brigham Young University. Continue reading Can Creative Writing Be Taught?