Exponent II and the Measure of My Creation
This post comes to us from Linda Hoffman Kimball, seen here with a 1979 cover that she illustrated.
I was brand new to Mormondom in the early 1970’s. As a student at Wellesley College, I waited for 2 years to be baptized so my parents could get comfortable with the idea that their Midwestern daughter was on the one hand getting “radicalized” in the liberal East while simultaneously embracing a conservative religious group they thought of as backward and slightly scandalous. My mother rolled her eyes and confessed that “if you had to pick an adolescent rebellion, at least you didn’t pick the Hari Krishnas”. Despite my mother’s assumptions, I had always been a deeply committed Christian (United Methodist) and hadn’t gone into this “added upon” new move without considerable study, questions, doubts and a hope that God knew what He/They were doing with me.
When my circle of friendships grew beyond the many sets of missionaries who nurtured me in rock solid basics of the faith for those years, I heard about and witnessed a group of “older” women who, with their own get-up-and-gumption, were studying the history of 19th century Mormon women, publishing a book called “Mormon Sisters” and in July, 1974, beginning a newspaper which they announced as being “poised on the dual platforms of Mormonism and Feminism” with its purpose “to strengthen the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and to encourage and develop the talents of Mormon women.”
I was young, in awe, eager and enthusiastic to promote those “dual platforms.” (I am now old(er), in awe, eager and still enthusiastic to promote those platforms, even though the masthead doesn’t read quite the same way anymore).
Probably in 1975 I provided some ink drawings to be squeezed in wherever they might fit during the elaborate and labor intensive “paste-up” process (in the time before ubiquitous computer technology.”
Nancy Dredge would call out something like, “Linda, we need a 2”x 4” horizontal image of a waiter carrying a tray of hot dogs on page 12,” and I would set my pen to paper.
I was mentored by these Exponent Founding Mothers in the way I approached becoming a Latter-day Saint woman and found Exponent II consistent with my notion of “filling the measure of my creation.” There was, after all, that noble (if somewhat ironic) declaration from Brigham Young in the Journal of Discourses:
We believe that women are useful, not only to sweep houses, wash dishes, make beds, and raise babies, but that they should stand behind the counter, study law or physic, or become good book-keepers and be able to do the business in any counting house, and all this to enlarge their sphere of usefulness for the benefit of society at large. In following these things they but answer the design of their creation. (JD 13:61)
One of the aspects of Exponent II that seemed valuable and holy to me was providing a forum for LDS women of many stripes to have a chance to have their voices read under a large and welcoming umbrella. This idea influenced me so much that when I began creating non-fiction books, they were essentially collections of a broad range of Mormon authors combining their thoughts on topics with particular appeal for Mormons. The first book was Saints Well-Seasoned: Musing on How Food Nourishes Us – body, heart and soul published by Deseret Book. Later collections included my “In the Real World” series for Cedar Fort which include women’s candid experiences and thoughts on Visiting Teaching, Motherhood, Church Service, Sisterhood and Christmastime.
The title for my first Cedar Fort collection, “Chocolate Chips & Charity: Visiting Teaching in the Real World” got its title because of the influence of humorist, writer and professor Louise Plummer whom I’d met through Exponent II circles. She told me, “When you write a book, put the word ‘chocolate’ in the title and it will sell!”
I am indebted to Exponent II and to the Church for a hopeful and expansive way of thinking. Exponent II since its earliest days provided me with a vast network of friends, thought-provoking writing to read in the Exponent II magazine (which looks especially glamorous these days), the blog, and the September retreats I have attended over the years (and the sister retreats of Midwest Pilgrims where I have found similar like-minded sister-saints.)
I admit that being poised on the twin platforms of Mormonism and Feminism has kept me limber over the years as terms have become laden with changing meanings. Still, as nimbly as I can, I try for the “allure of balance” (the recent theme of the May 2016 Midwest Pilgrims’ retreat) of those platforms toward the purpose of strengthening “the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and to encourage and develop the talents of Mormon women.” I will continue to support Exponent II. Please join me!
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