Saturday, August 11, 2012

If you would like to read something very, very beautiful,

read this.

It is the story of a woman, who was once a girl, who listened to Hellen Keller speak in the Salt Lake Tabernacle about learning to read and type and speak. I did not even know that that Salt Lake Tabernacle circumstance happened, but it did, and it is moving.

(As a note: one of the best things that happened during my Boston Library Science days was getting to go on a class field trip to the school where Hellen Keller learned. It was just down the road from my house, so I passed it sometimes, without knowing quite how special it was. And then I knew. Just like that. I saw shelf after shelf and row after row of books and tapes filled with pretty dots, in pretty patterns, that mean something important to the people who use them. I saw the recording rooms where volunteers come and read books out loud, as clearly as they can, so still more words may be accessed. I learned that Boston's main library, the BPL, is one of the best libraries in the world for people who cannot see, in large part because of Hellen Keller's presence in the city, and I felt deep feelings, of admiration and gratitude for her legacy that she paid forward in very real ways. End note.)

Thursday, August 9, 2012

On the radio.

Once upon a time, a friend of mine from Kierkegaard class (not to be confused with Kierkegaard Camp), invited my husband and I to discuss some of the tenets of our faith on his radio show. I said yes before having a clear conception of his objectives, which may have been a slightly brave or rash thing to do.

As some communication passed between us, I learned more of what the personal and professional objectives were. As it turns out, the radio station my friend Sam works for (found at is a conservative, mostly Evangelical, Christian station, "challenging believers to think, and thinkers to believe." During this campaign season they have been inundated with emails and phone calls from listeners wondering if it is okay for them to vote for a Mormon.

Because of this, they knew that they wanted to have a segment on Latter-day Saint beliefs, so their listeners could learn what we believe, and make their decision for themselves. Initially, the producers wanted to have a round table discussion about our faith, without any members present to defend or clarify. Sam understood that even with good intentions that could easily slip into a bashing session, so he suggested that he be in charge of finding Mormons to interview, by saying, "I go to Claremont [aka: the only graduate university in the world with a Mormon Studies program]. I can find me a Mormon." And he did.

Earlier he had brought on one of our very atheist classmates to have a dialogue betwixt the two. One of his purposes during that conversation, he explained, as well as in the conversation we would have, was simply to model for his audience how it could be done--how you could respectfully talk with, and disagree with someone whose views are unlike your own. He wanted them to understand that "the other" could still be good human beings, and are worth engaging in a real way. It was worth it to him to let the atheist tell his own story, and to let Spencer and I tell ours.

In this, he did not want any of us to downplay our differences, or presume that they are not real or important, and in fact wanted to highlight our differences, but the real ones that matter, not the ones that are trivial or inaccurately portrayed.

When he told me these purposes, I felt full confidence in appearing on his show. Even when he sent us a list of the questions he would likely ask and it included many of those frequently repeated quips about "holy underwear" or baptism for the dead, because that list came attached with a very apologetic, and I believe sincere email explicating that he used the phrasing he did only that his questions might match what his audience members are likely to have heard or read.

I planned to go over the list with Spencer the day of, and at least begin thinking about what we might say. However, it didn't quite work like that. You see, because he had originally asked me for the 4th of August, which happens to be last Saturday. What I had missed in his initial email was the caveat that it was actually for Friday night, starting at midnight and going until 2:00 am, hence the 4th.

Thankfully I wrote him an email on Friday, saying, "I look forward to seeing you tomorrow," and he had the good sense to write back and say, "Tomorrow? I am trusting you mean today," with a renewed explanation about the date and time. More thankfully still, I had the good fortune to read his email at 10:40 pm, just a little more than an hour before we would be appearing live, on air, at his studio, a town or so over, when we are without a car.

Spencer looked up bus routes immediately, and told me that we needed to leave right then if we wanted to make it. We rode our bikes to the far away station, under and over passes, on quasi-highways, etc., etc. And let me tell you: if I have ever doubted that adrenaline is a real thing, I do not doubt now. I have never biked so fast, or felt so fearless on the road. For that 20 minutes I felt infinite. Or invincible.

And then we waited at the bus stop, and the bus didn't come. We waited some more. And still more. He checked the time of the bus again, and now it was telling us a new time. A later time. A time that would get us there fifteen minutes before we would be on. It would be cutting it close, because when I called Sam while we waited at that bus stop, he said that while he wanted to do the show on Mormons, he had two backup guests prepared to speak on the Problem of Evil, and that whatever program went on at midnight would need to be the program he stuck with.

We continued to wait, and continued to wonder if we would make it. Spencer checked to see how many miles away it was, to see if it was possible for us to bike there in time. We determined that it was only possible for Spencer--the still faster rider, adrenaline or no. The time came and went, and there was no bus. Ten minutes came and went, and there was no bus. Five more minutes passed. We called a taxi. And then the bus came.

We boarded. A little sadly. A little nervously. A little (or a lot) fearfully that we would not make it on time. It was still worth it to us to try, because even though the friend assured me that we could reschedule, it somehow felt like a now-or-never opportunity. I called him to tell him where we were. He told us he could give us a window of five minutes. No more. No less. He could say something about Mormonism by himself for that long.

I still felt scared, but our bus finally came to our stop. We dashed off and across the street to what we hoped was the correct building. We really had no time to waste. It was 12:04. We only had one minute. Someone was to be waiting at the door for us, to help us pass through the three clearance checkpoints. That someone was to have Sam's cellphone. No one was at door number one. Spencer ran to the other side of the building while I waited further. Then I saw them inside of the building, walking towards me.

We walked quickly through the building to the recording space, where it would all transpire. Miraculously we made the five minute window. Unfortunately, we did not have time to get a much needed drink of water, or use the restroom, or catch our breaths. Our seats were taken, our headphones were put on, and we were on the air.

The shortest way to explain the next two hours was to say that it was a remarkable experience. My friend Sam is very adept at what he does, and was more than knowledgeable about the LDS faith, as well as more than generous to us his guests, and to the religion that we imperfectly explained. Because of my mixup in dates, I was not able to prepare the way that I wished, nor Spencer, so we both winged it as best as we could.

And calls came from real listeners, which could not be planned for anyway. One question was very thoughtful and kind. Another was delightful and surprising for a different reason. The last was not quite as polite, but still relatively fine. It was a very fun and fulfilling opportunity and even more so because it was with Spencer.

Feel free to have a listen here.

(And if we made any egregious errors, please be a little bit kind to us. It was very late, and we had had a very wild ride getting there.)