I remember being a Sunday School teacher. It was one of my favorite assignments and since I had a small class, I knew my students pretty well. One Sunday, a student approached me and apologized for making me angry. I couldn’t remember any such incident, so I asked for clarification. He said that he had been at an intersection earlier in the week when I crossed and honked his horn to say hello. I had glowered and thrown up my hands at the driver’s impatience in honking at me.
In high school, I was very publicly Mormon. In my first school, I was the only member of my church who attended the school and in the second, my sister and I were the face of our faith. We knew that we were being watched by everyone from our friends to strangers. This was brought home when the headmaster told me that as far as he could tell, I acted just like a regular Christian.
Last year, in response to the culture of hate and antagonism that was arising because of presidential election season, I established a group called “Worrying Signs, USA Edition” to document actions, words and crimes that did not represent the America that I had faith in. (This is an approved off-shoot of the Worrying Signs established in Britain after the Brexit vote.) We now have hundreds of members and they contribute evidence of the reprehensible on a daily basis. They are taking their voice and speaking against injustice and they make me proud.
This brings to mind a talk I gave several years ago about “The Mormon Moment.” A newspaper article I had read discussed the increasing prominence of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and I said that each of us had to decide what to do with our own Moment.
I feel as though this is equally as true in terms of writing. We should not put to paper what does not represent us or our convictions and represent those things as truth. It doesn’t matter which faith you profess or if you are coming from your own moral code without reference to a specific higher power.
I went into two interviews last week, both of which would require me to be the public face of a particular organization. I am qualified for the positions, but I feel grateful that I did not leave the interviews and start scrambling to hide writings that would stand in opposition to their values. I don’t have any steamy sex scenes that I hope the interviewers never find or characters who speak profanity as a second language.
There are places and times for things that I cannot support. I am writing a murder mystery and there is strong xenophobia within the community. I have plans for a series in which there are government-sanctioned genocides. But I aim to cause a cognitive dissonance with the reader so that they realize that this is not the way things are meant to be.
I hope that I can continue to keep my integrity and encourage anyone who wordsmiths to do the same.