Understanding each other

I’ve spent a decade researching and writing Mormon history, focusing primarily on church liturgy—our rituals and ritualized patterns of worship. And with every additional project, I am more convinced that the voices, records and stories of women are not only important, but necessary to comprehend our past (and present). Even with topics we often associate with men, like “ordinances,” we fail when we don’t account for the experiences of women. One cannot understand Mormon healing without understanding the integral participation of women in the liturgy. And even where male priesthood office holders are the sole administrators, often women are the majority of recipients.

The years of reading through the diaries of men and women, of reading minutes and conference addresses, of reading periodicals and letters, has all changed me. I don’t suppose to have true empathy for anyone, but I hope to, in spite of all my failures as a Saint. There are moments when reading has felt like miracles, however; when I seem to see things beyond myself, when the chasm between me and the other shifts closer. If we are to mourn with those that mourn, if we are to find ourselves in Obediah’s vision of Mount Zion, it will be because we sought to understand each other.

Ardis Parshall is well known in some corners for her stamina as a researcher, skill as a genealogist, and prolificacy as a blogger. Less well known are some of her important publications, some dealing with tricky topics. She is also a dear friend, one whom I am certain to regularly aggravate. Still, she is generous with me, and my own publications have shown to be better for it.

After having spent some time working at the LDS Church History Department, Ardis is proposing to start a project that will leverage all her skills to help us understand each other. She has started a kickstarter campaign for a published history of the Mormon Church that incorporates the voices, records, and stories of women. She has made an extraordinary case for the necessity of this project. And you should read through her posts. But let me make my case. Our story is incomplete, and we cannot be whole without the voices of all of our people. We must understand each other. We must expand our view.

Consequently, I enjoin readers to participate in her campaign. Share it with your friends and families. A record must be kept.


  1. The first thought I had when I learned of Ardis’ Kickstarter project is this story:

    “I was at Joseph’s house; he was there, and several men were sitting on the fence. Joseph came out and spoke to us all. Pretty soon a man came up and said that a poor brother who lived out some distance from town had had his house burned down the night before. Nearly all of the men said they felt sorry for the man. Joseph put his hand in his pocket, took out five dollars and said, ‘I feel sorry for this brother to the amount of five dollars; how much do you all feel sorry?’”

    Andrew J. Workman, in “Recollections of the Prophet Joseph Smith,” Juvenile Instructor, Oct. 15, 1892, p. 641.

  2. it's a series of tubes says:

    Backed. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Excellent and worthy cause.

  4. I believe that this is going to be an extremely important book–for the Mormon Studies community, certainly, but also for my daughter and son, who need to hear these stories and meet these women. I would have been furious at Ardis had she NOT given me the opportunity to play a small role in its coming forth.

  5. Stellar post making important points about some much needed work. I can’t wait for this book, and I love the opportunity to support Ardis.

  6. Molly Bennion says:

    Good luck, Ardis. Happy to support such a great project, especially in your hands.

  7. If I were to sit down and compile a list of the ten most important things happening in the field of Mormon studies right now, Ardis’s project should be right up there alongside the Joseph Smith Papers Project and a handful of other endeavors. It’s an important project, revolutionary in its scope and potential impact, particularly concerning how we tell stories about and to women and girls. It’s an honor to be able to support this important work.

  8. I’m happy to support and want to see Ardis’ project succeed. I’m considering myself part of my wife’s 5-book pledge. That’s the volume/bargain way to go (apologies?), and multiplies the number of copies (recommended!)

  9. I’ve just been brooding happily on the stories I know of my formothers since the announcement of this project. We had two adult speakers on Sunday on male one female both spoke truth, but it emphasized to me how important truth spoken from our sisters as well as from our brothers is to for us hear.

  10. A worthy project. Please share and support.

  11. Corrina says:

    Thank you for letting me know about this project and how to support it.

  12. jlouielucero says:

    Backed. Thanks for sharing.

  13. Hey, is this the same Ardis who quite recently declared BCC to be a cess pool and vowed never to return? Maybe there’s a record of that floating around here somewhere….. Well, anything I can do to support understanding.

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