A guest post by Diane Stringam Tolley, the author of the Book of Mormon novels Daughter of Ishmael and A House Divided.
Why do I write?
I come from a long line of story-tellers, but that is only partially the reason . . .
As one of 36 students in Mrs. Hainsworth’s grade six class, I bent to the assignment with my usual determination.
Okay, you’re right, I was not typically so focused. But when the assignment was for Language Arts and included some or all of the words: Write a story, I was hooked.
Today, some fifty-plus years later, I don’t remember what the actual story was to be about.
Nor, sadly, did I keep a copy of what I wrote that day. I expect it was something pithy and epigrammic like, ‘The Haunted House’. Continue Reading →
What did Stewart Glutmeyer name his boat?
Bless our Seminary teachers for giving us silly sayings to help remember complicated concepts. The multiple choice answers to a test question like “What is stewardship?” don’t really define the concept as much as they highlight its importance.
The concept of Stewardship has become much more important to me in the last few years, particularly since I read Steven C. Harper’s Making Sense of the Doctrine & Covenants in 2008. Harper’s discussion of agency in the Doctrine & Covenants, of what it means to act as an agent for the Lord, gave me something to carry in Bro. Glutmeyer’s boat.
(A lot of the value I got from Seminary I got in spite of the political rhetoric it was couched in, rhetoric that might lead one to think the gospel resided in a political party or one wing of the national bird–which Ben Franklin thought would better have been a turkey. One of the valuable lessons I learned was from a comment that Jephthah should not have sacrificed his daughter, but should have fallen down before the Lord and asked forgiveness for making a rash vow. (See #33 for a fuller discussion.) That comment, together with a dramatic monologue of Pontius Pilate in Hell–Spirit Prison?–taught me that I didn’t have to accept what characters in scripture say about themselves or others as the Lord’s viewpoint, that I could question their motives and assumptions. A great gift.)
My historian cousin Joe Soderborg has also talked with me about the concept of being agents or stewards, particularly about the parable of the man traveling into a far country as a parable about leadership as stewardship: Continue Reading →
June is a month to celebrate–give thanks for–prophetic religion. And not just because June is the month when Spencer W. Kimball chose to mark the U.S. Bison Ten Eel not with a patriotic panegyric about the joys of living in a free country, but with a stern warning about “The False Gods We Worship“:
We train a man in the art of war and call him a patriot, thus, in the manner of Satan’s counterfeit of true patriotism, perverting the Savior’s teaching:
“Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
“That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.” (Matt. 5:44–45.)
Two years later, the second Friday in June, I spent the morning with some other missionaries out at the Martin Harris Farm, cutting grass and getting it ready for the horde of Pageant visitors next month. When we came back to the Hill Cumorah for lunch, Jennie (foreman Ralph’s 9-year-old daughter) ran out of the quonset hut behind the hill, excited, Continue Reading →
The Friday before I post I usually get a note from Jonathan Langford: “You’re up for Tuesday.” Instead, Friday after work I opened up my email and saw a whole bunch of letters with the ominous subject line “Jonathan Langford.” My phone shows the first few words of each letter below the subject line, so I saw the word heartbroken in Margaret Young’s letter, which confirmed the omen. (I wondered if anyone had told my brother Dennis, then found out from my sister that Dennis was in the hospital after back surgery.) So I’ve been thinking about Jonathan off and on all weekend. On the bus Monday morning I realized I’ve probably also been waiting for someone to say, “April Fools.”
This column was a gift from Jonathan. Continue Reading →
Birth is a universal experience. All living things have received or given birth, or planted seed, or witnessed birth, or helped. So if you want to write about a birth what details will you include, besides things like name, height, weight, date and time? What details will make this birth worth reading about?
To My Blossom‑Headed Boy
Andrew Jeremy née Clark
Born December 22, 1984, 9:16 a.m.
7 lbs 9 1/2 oz 20 1/4″
“One deft stroke and the head appeared,” I’d written of your birth.
“How’s that?” I asked her.
“It’s three a.m.,” she said,
“And it’s not true; I had to push like hell
before it came.”
Continue Reading →
Sometimes it can be useful to read things in a new form, format, or translation. For some reason my MP3 player treats anything after the first digit as a decimal, following the order 1, 10, 100, 101, 102, . . . 11, 110, 111, 112 . . . 2, 20, 21, und so weiter. So last year year I decided to listen to the Doctrine & Covenants in that order, and it was interesting to hear the early and late sections juxtaposed.
Later, when I got to the Tanakh I decided to listen in the Jewish order rather than the Christian. Tanakh is an acronym for Torah, Nevi’im, Ketuvim:
- Torah (Instruction): Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy.
- Nevi’im (Prophets):
- (Former) Joshua, Judges Samuel, Kings
- (Latter) Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel
- (The Twelve) Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi
- Ketuvim (Writings):
- (Poetical Books) Psalms, Proverbs, Job
- (Five Rolls–Hamesh Megillot) Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Esther, Ecclesiastes
- (Historical Books) Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah, Chronicles
According to Wikipedia the order of the Ketuvim has never been quite set, but this is the most common. Harold Bloom says in Jesus and Yahweh: The Names Divine that the Ketuvim ends with Chronicles because Chronicles ends with the rebuilding of the temple and the invitation to return to the temple. Christians changed the order, elevating Daniel to a major prophet and giving Malachi the last word, because Daniel was so important to Christian eschatology and Malachi prophesied about their Lord’s forerunner. Continue Reading →
The Title caught my eye, “Poetic Diction and Parallel Word Pairs in The Book of Mormon.” Not unusual, my eye was scanning the table of contents to catch something of interest, and I’m open to any poetic diction that would make my poetry less paltry. (Praise be to the Orem library for stocking its sales shelves with interesting titles like Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 4:2 (1995)) I read enough of the article to get the general concept and learn that word pairs are a common feature in Hebrew poetry. A few weeks later we were visiting my wife’s sister in northern Idaho and I noticed a framed psalm on the wall in her son’s furniture store. There’s a word pair, there’s one, there’s one.
I’d seen and heard word pairs before, particularly in the Psalms and Isaiah, but didn’t have a name for them, as I did for situations where the first and fourth lines rhyme and so do the second and third. It’s so common that we’ve schematized it as ABBA. Once I had a schema for parallel word pairs I could see how common they are and notice how they often appear in sets of two or three.
Consider the beginning of Psalm 106 Continue Reading →
I ended my last post with this sentence: “I will next take up the question of how three Western writers — Pound, Eliot and Frost — brought in a new poetry for the new century.” I’m not quite ready to do that. Those who have read this blog patiently, hoping for new insights every time, may be disappointed — or may be elated. You may view this post, not as a recapitulation, but as a capitulation to the necessity of cleaning up a house where contractors have been reconstructing our kitchen whilst we traipsed out-of-reach through British Columbia (because our phones don’t work in Canada), and lolled in a small cabin on Gabriola Island in the Salish Sea, me reading Leonard Arrington and the writing of Mormon History[i], followed by Malcolm Lowry’s last novel, October ferry to Gabriola[ii], which I had brought along knowing we would be staying on Gabriola, and which provides a remarkable portrait of his home in Dollarton, north of Vancouver, in chapter 11, “Eridanus” — and Valerie desperate for new reading matter because none of my books interested her, until she started reading Leonard Arrington, etc.
But I wanted to note something some of you may have not noted: Continue Reading →
Spirit and Art: Orson Whitney
Orson F. Whitney
**I have called this series “Being a Restorationist Writer, and the Quest for the Infinite” for two reasons. One is that I see the experiences of seeking and knowing a relationship with, communicating with, being transformed by, interpreting life in the light of knowledge obtained from, endeavoring with varying degrees of success to live in, the light of the Infinite (though we Latter-day Saints usually don’t call it that; we call it “God” or the “Spirit”) as being, in the view I have presented here, the defining “matter” of the Restorationist writer. The other reason is that the “quest for the Infinite” is a key point of contact for purposes of comparison and contrast of Restoration writers and writers of the world, and for exploring historical relationships between them. That is by way of reminding my readers where I have come from, why I am here, and where I am going with this series. In regard to that first reason, I have commented on, by way of section 93, aspects of the poetic practice of Joseph Smith. I want to say something in this and the three subsequent installments about the theories of Orson F. Whitney, Merrill Bradshaw, and Clinton F. Larson, and somewhat about Clinton Larson’s praxis, because I hope their ideas will remain alive in the Restorationist literary conversation. Now, then….
**The idea that the Holy Ghost will have something to do with whatever is distinctive or characteristic of Restorationist art was, so far as I know, first stated outright by Orson F. Whitney, Continue Reading →
My Poems, Part 3
A turning point in my development as a writer was the composing of this:
LIKE A DEER HE COMES TO ME
Take, eat: this is my body
Like a deer he comes to me,
parting the ferns,
like a deer with bright antlers.
I chase him across meadows,
beside streams I pursue him,
and he does not weary;
but in the thicket he surprises me,
he lets my arrow pierce him.
He gives me of his flesh at evening,
and in the bright morning
like a deer he comes to me.
It appeared first in Dialogue in 1980 and then was anthologized in Harvest, as “Take, Eat,” and Richard Cracroft told me once that he was using it regularly in his Mormon lit course. It has undergone some tinkering since it was first published in Dialogue, with title, epigraph, format, punctuation, and verb tense (I put it originally in past tense, later realized that it belonged in the present).
Continue Reading →