As Fast as Rail Can Convey

“On the third day of the New Year we bade adieu for a short time to our “mountain home,” and traveled as fast as steam and rail could convey us towards the great Capitol of the American nation. The first day from home, in passing through the canons[sic] and along the narrow gorges, with magnificent mountains on either side, we were wrapt in admiration of the loftiness and grandeur of the wonderful old monumental rocks, which make man, in his reverence for that which is sublime, pay homage to the great Creator of the universe.” E. B. Wells, “Over the Hills and Far Away,” The Woman’s Exponent, 1879, vol. 7, no. 17.

I post this 3 hours before I board a train to go east, not to Washington D.C., but to Salt Lake City. My 8 month old and I will be traveling all day and into the early morning hours. I’ve done this trip before, a year ago, when traveling to see my brother’s sealing.

My family at the train station last year for my brother's wedding.

My family at the train station last year for my brother’s wedding.

The first part of the trip is through familiar territory: cities I’ve driven by or visited. After Sacramento, a train historian will come on the intercom and describe the surroundings and train history of the Donner Pass. The track is steep then, and we will be going slowly, but once we hit Nevada, we start losing cell reception and scenery and getting to the real reason I’m taking the train: after years of driving back and forth between Provo and Sacramento to visit family, I decided that once we moved to California, I would never again drive across Nevada.

The train is also cheaper, by hundreds of dollars. On the train there are interesting things to do: listen to the train history “tour,”  sit in the observation car, enjoy lots of leg room, knit, read, write, do jumping jacks.

But part of it is the romanticism of taking the train. Trains are the icon of the industrial age and the shrining of the world, which is now made smaller by the Internet.

I wasn’t sure, originally, if I was even going this weekend. It’s a 16 hour trip and I’ll have a baby. While cheaper than flying, it still costs money. Wouldn’t it be easier to say, “Oh, we’re trying to save up for a house and I have 3 kids and one is nursing and we don’t even own a car and the train and flights are so expensive and I don’t need to get involved anyway, it’ll eat up some of my Mormon social capital?” Yes, it would.

In March of this year, when I was deciding on whether or not to be included on the Ordain Women site, someone off-handedly mentioned the 1978 Official Declaration when members of African decent were finally allowed to go to the temple and all men were allowed the priesthood. Suddenly, I remembered sitting in Relief Society listening to an elderly woman retell (again!) how happy she felt when that announcement came and how much she prayed for it and how her friends and family were so excited they called each other up. And at that time, even before I would even say out loud that I thought women should be given the priesthood, I decided that if (if!) 50 or 70 years from that point women received the priesthood, I would go call all my friends and run out into the street. And I decided that I wanted to be counted among the people who prayed and hoped for the priesthood expansion for all worthy members.

And that’s how I decided to put a profile up.

Months passed and then this action was announced. Like I said here, I thought it was too soon for something to happen. I wavered on whether or not I would go. Then, while listening to the fMh podcast, Who are Mormon Feminists?, at the very end, Jessica read a comment from an anonymous responder to her survey, except that I knew those words and it was not anonymous to me. I had said that I was all in. My words echoed in my brain for 2 weeks before deciding that yes, I was all in. And I bought my train ticket.

In January 1879, a group of Mormon women took the train 5 days to D. C. to represent Mormon women and to say, “Hey we are just like you and we are willing to accept the responsibilities that come with the vote.” And today I’ll board a train to say, “Hey, I’m a Mormon woman with a testimony just like you, and I’m willing to accept the responsibilities that come with the priesthood.”


TopHat is putting her roots down in the Bay Area with her husband and three children. She loves the earth, yarn, and bicycling.

You may also like...

9 Responses

  1. Em says:

    Good for you. I’m proud of you for making this sacrifice and witnessing your sincerity both to people on earth and to the Lord. I am hoping for great things from this Conference.

  2. spunky says:

    Beautiful, TopHat. Wish I was with you on the train and at the meeting. Godspeed.

  3. Rachel says:

    Thank you for sharing both of your journeys with us. They are touching.

  4. Brooke says:

    I love this. You juxtapose the journeys by train so beautifully. My thoughts and my heart are with you.

  5. April says:

    It was so good to see you this weekend. Thank you for making the sacrifice to take such a journey.

  6. EmilyCC says:

    I’m so impressed! Thank you for everything you’ve done this weekend, TopHat. Truly inspiring, and I love the parallels to our foremothers.

  7. Ziff says:

    I love this, TopHat! I particularly like that your own words came back to inspire you to join and to go.

    • TopHat says:

      Yes, that was a funny moment for me. While I was listening to that episode I remember thinking, “Oh, I think I responded to that survey, but I don’t remember leaving any comments; I probably didn’t.” I must have been in an apathetic mood. Then suddenly my words were there to knock me out of the apathy!

      Saturday night after priesthood session, I texted my husband and told him I’d never forget or regret being there in line. It was humbling and it was inspiring.

  8. Aimee says:

    I LOVE that you did this, TopHat! And someday, I really believe your daughter will be glad she was there too!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.