Catholicism was the older sister of Mormonism: The Catholics had their pure nuns, touched by none, the Mormons their women, touched by one.
David’s face was bathed in beams of light, looking like one of those angels on Christmas cards. It was his face that eclipsed the moon.
I called God as my witness that night at St. Mary’s, that David & I would be static characters in the dynamic play we were being written in.
Though we were all invited—we could not enter heaven unless we brought the temple recommend, or invitation— which is how Brother Wiley put it.
The scent of the man David was like incense to my soul. I breathed him in. There was a very visceral part of me that wanted to take him in.
Even as Mother & David belonged together, so did David & I, in our own way—in a way the 3 of us together never could.
The man I thought was Jesus told me He’d been waiting for me all my life, & led me up the aisle like a bridegroom—the moonlight, my veil.
Sweet spices permeated me as His spirit entered. The olfactory sense was the closest thing to omnipresence a mortal could impose on another.
This rapture didn’t spirit me up to Heaven, but rather, gave me a sense of belonging on earth I had never felt before.
It had always been David who had made our house the kind of home the Church said a home should be—the second most sacred space, next to the temple.
“For where two or three are gathered in My Name, there am I in the midst of them,” Jesus had said, & so, the Mormon missionaries paired off like Noah’s Ark, except in a sexless, same-sex fashion.
His faith had been proven—his sacrifice hadn’t required the forsaking of his own life—only the forsaking of a chance at a life with me.
David appreciated the natural world as much as Mother & Caitlin did the spiritual, whereas I was caught somewhere between the two.
Man had been given dominion over all earthly creations (rather than God, who had dominion over all the heavenly ones).
Though we were surrounded by people, we were the only two people in our world—in the world, but not of it.
I sensed a change in my & David’s relationship, but I could not define it. It had matured. I was no longer his stepdaughter—I was his equal.
Christmas in the Deep South was twinkling lights for snowflakes, spray-on snow on windowpanes, & the Hallmark yule log flickering on a screen.
When Mother married David,
it was for them.
When she would die as
the result of a lethal conception,
it was for them.
Everything she would ever do
for would be for them &
because of them.
I was in love with a boy I didn’t understand,
but the boy who understood me,
I loved as a friend &
could only love as more
in the absence of all the others.
When I was a child,
I was childlike.
When I became a woman,
I would set my child aside,
for I was still a child myself.
Snapshots were captured moments,
portraits, created moments.
The former was for families like theirs,
the latter, for a family like mine.
I had never taken a walk with Jesus,
like the Protestants.
I had never spoken to His mother,
like the Catholics.
Rather, I sought the head of the
Mother was a Mormon in faith & works, whereas I was not. Yet long after I left it, my works (or lack of sin) would become acceptable to it.
Marriage was akin to a conversion, & then there was a process to keep it. There was no once married, always married—it was never my salvation.
I had always imagined Adam & Eve & all the others to be mere symbols, or representations of the best & the worst traits that human beings possessed.
Mormons loved stories even as Jesus loved parables. There were conversion stories, faith-promoting stories, & stories of Joseph Smith’s birth, life, ministry, murder, & his role in the life to come. He was a god, even as God was God.
The Mormons had their mottos: “Modesty is the best policy” (which was always directed at the ladies) & “I didn’t promise it would be easy; I only promised it would be worth it” (or so they said Jesus said).
How Mormons were supposed to live was outlined to the smallest detail—to keep everything as uniform as the concourses of the angels in Heaven.
Tony, Mart, & Mick thought of themselves as “The Three Wise Mor-men,” but Kath, Leann, & I saw them as The Three Stooges—an unholy trinity.
As Mother played the piano, I looked out of the corner of my eye at Brad’s profile, and saw the story of my life—watching men watching her.
Mother had become an entity—
a Thing to Be.
Her properties were fine,
her features, refined,
but as much as I tried to pour myself
into her mold,
I would not come out quite right,
for she was made of the right stuff.
The Mennonite women had their kapps,
the Pentecostals, their long skirts,
but the Mormons had their garments—
the men & the women.
There was total fashion equality.
Catholicism was built on tradition—
an ageless woman bedecked with jewels,
her robe stained glass—
a fragile coat of many colors.
They fasted to strengthen their resistance to the flesh,
but ate to strengthen & nourish their bodies.
They got an education not just to be prosperous,
but to be more like the God who knew it all.
I had been taught scripture for educational purposes;
now I learned it for a spiritual purpose,
for knowledge was the glory that was God.
Conversion was an event for the Protestants,
a process for the Mormons,
but as for me,
it was an event that led to a process.
All the Nolan women had slender fingers—
fingers to play the piano & the strings of men’s hearts—
siren songs to keep them close.
Caitlin’s heart & soul lived in her childhood faith,
& would become her comfort,
even as the one I had never clung to
would become an anathema to me.
He said curves like mine were unfinished sculpture.
I was his clay, even as Mother was God’s stone
to chisel away until there was nothing left.
Diamonds went with white,
pearls, with black;
I saw Mother as the diamond—
I, the pearl,
& David as the man who adorned us
Life as a Mormon had a sameness to it—a consistency I found comforting. A part of me felt I had come into the world belonging to the Church.
My friends in the Church had had a life prior to Mormonism, & so a part of me wondered if the Church was simply a gathering place for like minds to meet.
“Only the true Church would tell you to go to the Source, instead of asking you to take their word for it,” was Mother’s testimony.
There was going to be a talent show at the ward Christmas party, & it was then I looked in myself & saw I was but a consumer of talent.
My mother had become, in many of the brethren’s eyes, a woman of great piety—a saint—but not in the Catholic way.
Mother had dethroned Sister Wiley with her lowly humility to become God’s Royal Highness. To be a queen, she had to first be a servant.
Sister Wiley’s star was dimming, even as Mother’s was burning brighter, becoming a red giant. The Church was a black hole swallowing her up, turning her into one, for no light could escape her.
Caitlin had woven herself into the fabric of the squares with the Green Haven Ward, sometimes keeping us in stitches.