Sharing the gift of Exponent II
When I married my husband fourteen years ago, I was incredibly intimidated by my mother-in-law. It sounds ridiculous to those who know her, because she’s the kindest, meekest person that would give you the shirt off her back if you needed it. But to me, she represented so many things that were insecurities in my Mormonism. She is an expert seamstress; I literally can’t sew a straight line. She draws and paints beautiful works of art; I never graduated past stick figures. She’s politically conservative; I’m politically liberal. She’s poised and graceful; I’m loud and garish. In my mind, she was everything that I was “supposed” to be as a Mormon woman, but I just had no hope of being. I knew that she loved me, and she welcomed me into the family with wide open arms, but I always worried that she would somehow discover that I was this weird, alien Mormon who didn’t know how to fit into the cultural norms. Deep down, I worried that if she really knew me and my feminist leanings, she wouldn’t like me very much.
I remember a conversation we had a few years ago. We were talking about difficulty within callings, and she shared an experience where she had been called as a stake auxiliary president, but the stake president kept denying her prayerful requests for counselors. She mentioned that she was so frustrated, because she had prayed and prayed over these women’s names, and felt absolutely inspired to call them. She mentioned that she felt he was exercising unrighteous dominion in refusing to acknowledge her right to personal revelation in her stewardship. She talked to him, stood up for herself and her inspiration, and eventually had the sisters called whom she felt she needed.
This might seem small, but this whole conversation really struck me. My mother-in-law, who I felt was the pinnacle of Mormon women, pushed back! She sometimes felt frustration with certain aspects of the church! As a young feminist in the church, I realized that we had more in common than I had ever thought. I felt so bonded to her after that conversation, and really felt like maybe if she got to know me, she wouldn’t hate me or think less of me. Maybe it would deepen our relationship, rather than divide it.
The following fall, I gave her a subscription to Exponent II for her birthday. It was the first year that I had worked on the magazine, and so I figured that at least she could see my name in the front cover, even if she was a little put off by the content. It was the 40th anniversary issue, and there were so many good perspectives from Exponent women, past and present. It felt a little vulnerable to share this part of my life with her, but I thought the risk was worth it.
And she loved it! She regularly called or emailed me, talking about articles she had read and insights she had gained. Truthfully, she was a more studious reader than I was, often finishing the new issue of the magazine before I had even started it! We started talking on the phone and emailing back and forth about all sorts of things within the church – some that strengthened our testimonies, and some that were harder to deal with. But overall, sharing the gift of Exponent II with my mother-in-law is something that has truly strengthened and deepened our relationship, and I would say that we are now closer than ever.
Sometimes I don’t think we realize what a precious thing we have in the pages of Exponent II. Exponent II has been publishing, preserving, and sharing the voices of Mormon women for over forty years. In these pages, I’ve read the wisdom of women like Laurel Thatcher Ulrich and Judy Dushku, who have been navigating the waters of Mormon feminism for decades. I’ve also read the words of Isabella Parker and Rachel Rueckert, who are equally inspiring as they navigate Mormon feminism in young adulthood. The archives contain the words of Emma Lou Thayne, Margaret Blair Young, Claudia Bushman, and so many others. Exponent II is a wide space, welcoming of stories from women along the entire spectrum of Mormonism, and in it we can read the stories of those who have trodden these paths before us, and learn from their wisdom.
Is there someone in your life who could benefit from the gift of Exponent II? Is there a relationship that could be deepened by sharing it? Has your subscription lapsed, and you keep meaning to renew it?
Head to exponentii.org and subscribe today!