Like the Fifties,
marriage was the answer to an unexpected pregnancy,
even as adoption was the only answer to an unwelcome one.
A nonmember marrying his pregnant lover
was considered taking responsibility,
but Tony saw adoption as his way of shirking that responsibility.
He would give up a piece of himself—
a piece of his future—
to preserve the elevated status he held in the eyes of his parents.
He could give his child to LDS parents,
only for them to fall out with the Church,
& go another way,
& for the Mormons,
any other way would never be as good as their way.
If his mother ever discovered that Tony had broken the law of chastity,
it would dash her world of crystal palaces & marble temples to pieces.
I prayed it wouldn’t get out that I was seen walking with Tony
or I’d become a pariah in the Church.
Kath was only given a pass for liking him
because she was the only black person in the ward
& they didn’t want to alienate her,
for the Mormons collected minorities like others collected dolls.
As Moses’s mother had placed her son in a basket to protect him,
with the faith that whoever found him would raise him well,
Tony would let his child go off into the Deseret sunset.
He raised his head then,
not looking at me but out there,
as if the answer were written on the wind.
And then he murmured:
“Just as a man rejects his calling to serve a mission,
and is responsible for all the souls he could have saved had he gone,
I will be responsible for all those I bring into the world.”
I wanted to tell him that he was doing the right thing,
although I knew that would be no comfort to him,
for it would be known that he had done the wrong thing
for which he would now have to do the right thing.
In the eyes of the Church,
the act of fornication would never be made right,
regardless of the result,
however precious that result might be.
An Irish-Catholic girl coming of age in the Deep South during the New Millennium finds her family splintered when two Mormon missionaries come to her door, their presence and promise unearthing long-buried family secrets, which lead to her excommunication and exile.