Cairns along the journey of an LDS woman

The other week I went hiking in Arches National Park in southern Utah. Started out to the Landscape Arch, and felt so good that I continued on to the Double O Arch. It was quite breathtaking, especially the view from the far side. The day was mildly warm, and a bit overcast, but the skies seemed quite brilliant from behind the Double O. The smaller O on the bottom is quite small, and gives one the feeling of looking through lopsided binoculars.

Again, felt good, and continued on the Primitive Path out to Dark Angel, which I suppose could look like a heavenly being to some, but looked mostly like a phallic symbol to me … or maybe I’m just preoccupied. Today was a good day to be hiking … mostly had the trail to myself, but it was populated enough that I knew somebody would probably be along within an hour if I got injured. The trail was soft and silty for the most part, with several traverses over rocky areas. Quite frequently, I’d scramble across a difficult area and have one of those where-in-the-dickens-am-I-supposed-to-go-NOW? moments. Fortunately, I never had to wait long until my eye scanned a friendly little cairn that pointed the correct way out. Spotting these cairns along the way brought a smile to my face as I began to think of the women I have known, or known of, who have acted as cairns along my own journey as an LDS woman. And, if you’ll bear with me, I’d like to offer them my thanks.

First and foremost, my mother. She’s not so much a cairn as the guide on the other side of a walkie talkie, giving me the freedom I need, but always available when I need her. Independent, intelligent and honorable in all her doings.

Carol Lynn Pearson’s book, “Will I Ever Forget This Day.” Found it on my parent’s bookshelf when I was perhaps twelve. I’ve read it to pieces, literally. Recently bought a replacement copy. I looked forward to my college years, comforted that there were other ambitious, educated LDS women paving the way. Learned the importance and joy of keeping a journal. I don’t currently keep a paper journal, but view blogging as a modern interpretation.

C. Johnston, my Mia Maid advisor. Dynamic, warm, intelligent, witty, and individualistic. Helped me through those awkward two years of transitioning between childhood and adolescence. Also an educational role model, as she was completing her masters in English even while pregnant and having a husband in school.

J. Remy, best college buddy, first LDS friend, mentor and big sister. At a time when I was ready to pull away from the gospel, she helped me find reasons to stay invested. Because I of her I got involved in Lambda Delta Sigma, got my first massage in a hot tub, and learned to quilt and like floral dresses. More than a decade later, she’s still one of my best friends, although the floral dresses were long ago DI’d.

Chieko Okazaki. Through her talks and books, I’ve come to see Relief Society as more than a place to learn to can peaches and make felt boards. At its (and my) best, RS is a place where we can more fully develop our relationship with deity and other sisters in the gospel regardless of age, race, profession, marital status or children.

All the Missouri Mavens and Company. You know who you are. Thanks for all the friendship and support over the years.

The Exponent II Blog. It continues to be quite a heady and stimulating journey to discourse and interact with all of you. Thank you so much for your thought provoking posts and comments. In my wranglings with difficult questions that sometimes have no reachable answers, it’s comforting to know there are other questioners, and to gain your support and wisdom. In this vein, I’d like to hear from you about who or what have been your cairns along this journey of LDS womanhood.


Jana is a university administrator and teaches History. Her soloblog is

You may also like...

No Responses

  1. Amanda says:

    Thanks for your post, Dora. I’ve heard so many LDS women complain that they don’t have any role models to look up to that it’s refreshing to hear from someone who has them all around her. Adn thanks for pointing out that we can find inspiration and examples in the next room!

  2. Deborah says:

    Lovely tributes — and got me thinking during my painful dentist trip this afternoon. Here’s a smattering of thoughts.

    In Person

    1) The Relief Society presidents each of the four years I was in the Boston University ward — four of the brightest women I have known; they are the reason I have a deep love for Relief Society (and it’s potential to serve women well).

    2) Shelly — whose gentleness, generosity of spirit, and incredible insight came to my spiritual and emotional rescue at a pivotal moment in my life.

    3) Two other close friends — one an Opus Dei Catholic and the other an Orthodox Jew (married to a rabbi, no less) whose thoughtful devotion to _their_ faith inspires greater devotion to my own.

    In Print

    1) The historians who keep Mormon Women’s history alive (Jill Mulvay Derr, Carol Cornwall Madsen, Maureen Ursenbach Beecher, etc)

    2) The General Relief Society Presidency when I was entering RS — whose bold talks and works still inspire me (Elaine Jack, Cheiko Okazaki, Aline Clyde)

    3) Exponent Writers

  3. jana says:

    gosh, Dora, I’m amazed that you’ve put up with me for so long 🙂 isn’t it great to have been friends for so long that we can stay up all night telling stories from the ‘good old days’? i’m lucky to have had you as a friend and mentor for the past 15 years! 🙂

    PS: i’d forgotten about those hot tub massages with the guys from institute…man I so prefer the ‘half-body’ massages we had in Beijing: more skills, no emotional baggage….

  4. Heather O. says:


    What about those RS counselors, huh? Don’t we get any credit? 🙂

    I’m trying to think of the fourth RS president. Kirsten, Meghan, Rebecca–who am I missing?

  5. Deborah says:


    Kristen — but you were in Germany most of that year.

    I give you major props for that phone call you placed to me before I set foot in Boston — talk about laying out the welcome mat!

  6. Dora says:

    Deborah … I also felt a great connection with the Jack RS Presidency. While I was president of the church sorority at UCI, the presidency visited and held focus groups with various sisters to get a feel for the issues concerning LDS women at the grassroots level. As I hadn’t hoped for, I was in the group that met with Sr. Clyde, but she was marvelous, and I left that meeting absolutely high on Relief Society.

    Jana … yes, baggage = bad. However, I’m still hoping to get back to Wat Po and take a course on Thai massage, and still looking for a study partner.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Best regards from NY! » » »