A Moment at Sunstone

Last week, after I spoke on a panel at Sunstone, I greeted a woman who had been in the audience of my session. As soon as I looked at her I knew we had met before and I knew I knew her well. I couldn’t remember how but I knew I had fond feelings for this woman as she hugged me tightly.

“I know you,” I said to her.

“No you don’t. I’m just a reader of your blog. I’ve read you for years.”

Her face was kind and familiar.

“No. I know I know you.”

But the conversation carried on as we talked about the panel on religious extremism and how faith can be used harm others. And that’s when she causally mentioned she was from Quebec.

“I know you!” I said to her again.

“I am pretty sure you don’t! You couldn’t know me. I know you because I’ve followed you.”

But the connection in my brain synapses had been made.

“I was a missionary in Quebec! I was in Gatineau for six months! I spent so much time at your house. I used to hang out with your family. And your handsome husband.”

“Ex-husband,” she winked.

“Oh I am sorry,” I replied, and then carried on. “You have a daughter Sophie and a son and your name is…Christine, right?”

I felt like a magician doing a great trick. Her face was frozen for a second.

“Wait, this is crazy,” she said when her lips started to move.

“I remember you so well because I had determined that when I was done with my mission I was going to be just like you. I loved everything about you. I even loved how you laughed at your husband when he gave us kisses on our cheeks because he wasn’t Mormon and didn’t understand the ‘no kissing the sisters missionaries rule’ at that point.” I said excitedly.

“I…don’t…remember this…are you sure? Are you saying I’ve been reading you for this long and you’ve known me and I’ve known you and I just didn’t know it?” Her forehead wrinkled and her eyes squinted at me as her brain searched for recollection.

“Yes! That’s what I am saying.”

And then we compared notes. 4 kids, married around 30, had kids in our early thirties, one divorce, an interest in religion and philosophy. I had indeed followed in her footsteps. It was a proud moment for me; I ended up a lot like Soeur LaBeau after all.

Mormonism has its rewards. If you can weather the publicity storms, tolerate the mess of historicity, have hope in systemic changes (so on and so forth) there really are some beautiful, uniquely Mormon experiences to be had. This moment at Sunstone made Mormonism feel more like family and less like a religion. Especially after sitting on a panel discussing how faith can harm others, and a week of Mormon frustrations (BSA), this felt like a time when faith connected and healed.

“Bring your family back to Quebec and stay with me,” she said as we started to part after taking some photographs together. “We’ll take you to get the best poutine.”

(Poutine! Thanks mission to Quebec!)

“Oh I would love to!” I replied back. And I really meant it.


  1. So beautiful, it almost makes poutine seem palatable.

    Almost hast thou persuaded me to eat the fried earth-apple with gravy and cheese-curd. Almost.

  2. Courtney, this is lovely. Thank you for sharing.

    I had an experience like this recently. I was watching the “two brothers two” ep 3 on the morning channel and saw the part where elder sam Nelson climbs up this staircase made of dirt and sticks. I turned to my husband and said, “I have been up that staircase!” That sent me on a frenzy looking in my old mission photos and journals. Sure enough I had visited the same family several years earlier. I am grateful for my mission experience which helped me to truly learn to love (a little better :) God’s children on this beautiful earth.

  3. Jason K. says:

    Love this, Courtney. Here’s to human connections that transcend all the mess!

  4. True religion.

  5. hb from sc says:

    (humming) it’s a small, small, world.

    So awesome. Cannot wait to read/view your presentation from this year!

  6. I would prefer Soeur LaBeau’s Rasberry Shakes to any Canadian nosh

  7. I have had several similar experiences, (although one not as much on the “wonderful” side) and am amazed how much we do end up following and connecting with some people. Those connections become amplified, living in Alaska, but the most unexpected connections are often the most beautiful.

  8. Whoops… Typo *mormon channel* not “morning channel” haha

  9. Amazing story!

  10. Thanks for sharing this.

  11. CJane, you served in the CMM?? No wonder I like your writing so much! What years were you there? I was there Jan. 94-July 95. Poutine forever! ;)

  12. Neat story.

  13. I’m from Canada, but the west coast, and we didn’t have poutine there. I’ve often wondered what it would taste like, but I eat gravy on mashed potatoes and even on hash browns sometimes, so why not on fries? Anyway, nice story.

  14. Melanie Delton says:

    Thank you for sharing this. I served in that same ward on my mission. I was sister Lebeau’s companion in that ward back when she was Sister Cusack and attended sunstone with her this year. She was so happy to run into you. Times like this the world seems so small and we feel so connected to one another, a bit heavenly!