The latest Exponent II issue is now available here. Also, don’t forget that submissions are due for our upcoming Summer 2013 Temple-themed issue on April 15th. Please visit our website for more information and email your submission to editorATexponentiiDOTorg.
Letter from the Editor
Last month, my oldest son, Asher, was baptized. It was an occasion Asher and I looked forward to; family came from out of town, we invited lots of friends. It was a lovely day.
After the baptism, I thought about the friends who came and those who didn’t. It’s not that I have hurt feelings towards those who couldn’t come. Those Saturday baptisms are hard to attend while juggling dance schedules and baseball games.
I was, above all, touched at who came. Many who came are our friends who question the Church (and live miles from our stake center). They knew this day was important to me and my family, and they came to witness this event even as it brought up difficult and tender feelings around their own relationships with the Church.
The majority of my friends who didn’t make it to the baptism were members of my ward. I love these friends. They are the ones I call when I need an emergency babysitter or if I want to go for a run after a long day. I thought we were pretty close.
But, then, I had to pause…maybe we’re not that close, and it is my fault we aren’t closer.
I don’t tell my ward friends much of what I think about the Church. I don’t often make comments in Sunday School or Relief Society. I worry that the ward will consider what I have to say inflammatory or polarizing. I hadn’t even told them about how I struggled to teach Asher about baptism and confirmation while still being affirming of other religions and choices.
Many of my ward friends know I’m a feminist, but when they ask me about my “Mormon women’s magazine” (that’s what I call Exponent II if I worry that someone would be suspicious of a “Mormon feminist magazine”), I respond with short, noncommittal answers because I’m desperate to find a new topic of conversation. I don’t tell them much of what I truly care about because I fear their judgment.
My friends who live far away have come to me through the Internet. I read their blog posts and Facebook updates. I’m not worried about telling them what I really think because I know they think the same way.
In other words, I only let people see the real me when I feel completely safe, which has created a Catch-22 for me. I never tell my ward sisters and brothers what I think, which means I never give them the chance to show their love and help me feel comfortable.
I believe that the reason Exponent II resonates so deeply with many is because it is a safe space. In here, our authors and artists are courageous. They dare us to know them by telling us their stories, warts and all. In this issue, we are lucky to have two Awakenings essays with authors, Corey Johnson and Jennie Andrews, who do just that. Author Kathy Carlston does this too. As she shares her story of being a Columbine High School shooting survivor, we see her spiritual formation during this process and can’t help but think about the community of Sandy Hook Elementary School. Do we hear this kind of soul-searching in the ward setting? Do we, as a community, allow it and seek to engage with someone is brave enough to share their struggles?
In her piece, “Joy,” Emma Lou Thayne, a longtime Exponent II contributor, tells us how she creates that safe space at her cabin each summer when she invites her ward’s Relief Society up for a day to have discussions and create meaningful friendships in nature, away from the windowless classroom.
Creating that safe space means we need to talk about ways to bring positive change to the Church. Bob Rees does this in “Small Things: Thoughts on Mormon Feminism” as he discusses holy envy and the ways we can use other Christian denominations’ examples to bring the women in the scriptures into our LDS meetings.
And, there is Laura Compton’s astute assessment of the Youth Curriculum that the Church rolled out at the beginning of this year in her essay, “New Lessons, Old Language” because being close to others also means that sometimes we need to critique and examine current practices.
Is it always safe to be known? No. Natalie Prado and Stefanie Carson-Nickoliasen demonstrate this in the tongue-in-cheek game, “Pants,” as they ask readers to guess the misogynist reactions to women wearing pants in both the 19th and 21st centuries. But, I think that often sharing our honest reactions, our deeply-held convictions is worth the risk.
Though it terrifies me, I need to work harder on letting my ward sisters and brothers see the real me, to let them know what I think and to hopefully learn more about the ideas and stories that they hold close and haven’t shared with me. I’m glad to have the Exponent II writers to model this for me so effectively.
Emily Clyde Curtis
Exponent II Co-Editor-in-Chief