I’d actually read several excerpts of this book and following volumes and had wanted to sit down and read the entire book. I also hope to get to the rest of the volumes when time permits.Women of Faith in the Latter Days follows the lives of various women who joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) in the early days of the church (cerca 1830) and later took part in the exodus to Utah. Each portion of the book is an essay which involves a biographical sketch followed by life experience often using first person, or second person sources. Each section also has a different author or authors which make it somewhat complicated to grade this one because not all sections were created equal. Wives and mothers of early church leaders (Emma Smith, Lucy Mack Smith, Eliza R. Snow etc) tend to get a lot of press in the LDS writer community. I did enjoy that some of the essays are about women who were ‘ordinary’ women. They weren’t wives of the leaders. Their struggles are real and personal. Their hopes, strengths, and weaknesses shine through. This was a particularly trying time for the female members of the LDS church. They were called to gather in various states, eventually driven from them. Their husbands/fathers/brothers are called away to serve missions for indeterminate amounts of time. Their prophets and apostles were continually hauled to jail and eventually their prophet was killed. Their children suffered. They were asked to live the law of polygamy. As a woman, I genuinely can’t imagine having to go through those events and coming through them stronger than before. I believe their is a modern day misconception about ‘Mormon Women’ both outside the membership of the church and inside as well. We (yep, Mormon!) are perceived as weak, ill informed, followers. That never has been, and is not the case. If the essays do one thing, it is to show the complexity of women who chose to align themselves with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-days. They were not foolish, uninformed, automatons any more than LDS women are today. They argued, they questioned, they fought, they struggled, they survived, and more importantly, they triumphed.
These essays portray their vulnerability, their tenderness, but also their unflinching faith. The motivating tie-in that explains why on earth these women would endure the cruelties that they suffered… each essay shows a woman who believed that what they were doing was for a greater good. It shows women who buried children in unmarked graves and even while mourning said “one day it will be made right”. I genuinely cannot imagine having that perspective… and then I can. Just this week a dear friend of mine lost her 2 month old son. He was unresponsive after a nap, and after being rushed to the hospital and put on life support, he did not make it. Though she and her family are aching, she said similar words, “One day, it will all be right” This book is certainly inspirational, though some of the essays are very poorly written. Particularly those about the usual suspects Emma Smith and Eliza R. Snow. They take pains to avoid controversy, which I find a bit disingenuous.