"Character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next."
- - Ezra Taft Benson
July 30, 2014
Three Books By and For Women (and Other Humans)
by Laurie Williams Sowby

The well-researched Women of Faith in the Latter Days series, edited by Richard E. Turley Jr. and Brittany A. Chapman, has published the third volume of the planned seven-volume set (Deseret Book 2014, 378 pages in hard cover, 29.99). Volume 3 presents the lives of 23 LDS women born 1846-1870, each of whom knew pioneer life firsthand.

As noted in the preface, “They also experienced the gradual transition to modern life, some of them living into the 1950s and 1960s. Missionary work caused the Latter-day Saint body of believers to expand throughout the globe.” Hence, the stories extend beyond Utah.

One tells how Anna Gaarden Wditsoe, widowed mother of John A. Widtsoe, and her sister took the gospel to their native Norway when they were in their 50s. Another is the story of Tsune Ishida Nachie, cook for the Tokyo Mission home, who was baptized in a local stream in 1905 and became the first native Japanese temple worker in Hawaii.

Still another recounts the story of Cohn Shoshonitz Zundel, a member of the Shoshone in Utah’s northeast Bear River region when she was baptized at age 9 in 1873. Generations of Latter-day Saints have come from such faithful women.

A strength of this series is that the entries rely heavily on the words of the women themselves, often from their journals and letters, and always from primary sources. The text is enhanced by a scattering of black-and-white photos. A timeline aids understanding of context, and end notes and an extensive index are also helpful.

Diary of Two Mad Black Mormons, by Zandra Vranes and Tamu Smith, is a delightful read from Ensign Peak, Deseret Book’s imprint for books that appeal to an audience beyond Latter-day Saints.

The two have a blog and a radio show as “Sista Beehive” and “Sista Laurel” (“Nobody was interested in being the Mia Maid ‘cause with maid in their name, they might get mistaken for the help”). Now they have a book.

Their wit and wisdom is accurately subtitled “Finding the Lord’s Lessons in Everyday Life” (221 pages in hard cover, $21.99). It’s a refreshing read, with chapter titles like “Finding Jesus in Jail,” “Service Makes Me Nervous,” “Despicable Me,” and “Dysfunctional Families are Forever.”

They share their own stories, along with plenty of smiles and out-loud laughs, as they promote embracing diversity and dealing with adveristy. Plus, they’re kind enough to offer an asterisk and an explanation of phrases not in my Utah vernacular as well as some LDS words not found in others’.

If you are short on patience and/or time, pick up Two Mad Black Mormons for an instant fix.

What began as an unofficial assignment to write a monthly Relief Society message for the sisters in her ward has turned into a sweet, inspirational little book by Marilynne Todd Linford.  

As a mother, grandmother and now great-grandmother of one, she has much life experience and wisdom to offer a younger generation of LDS women in Sisters Forever: Inspiration for Women (Covenant 1014, 160 pages in softcover, $12.99).

Drawing on scriptures, anecdotes, literature, history, and personal experiences, each of the 50 messages is about two pages in length — short enough to read and digest, yet meaty enough to spark thoughts and discussion.

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About Laurie Williams Sowby

Laurie Williams Sowby has been writing since second grade and getting paid for it since high school. Her byline ("all three names, please") has appeared on more than 6,000 freelance articles published in newspapers, magazines, and online.

A graduate of BYU and a writing instructor at Utah Valley University for many years, she proudly claims all five children and their spouses as college grads.

She and husband, Steve, have served three full-time missions together, beginning in 2005 in Chile, followed by Washington D.C. South, then Washington D.C. North, both times as young adult Institute teachers. They are currently serving in the New York Office of Public and International Affairs

During her years of missionary service, Laurie has continued to write about significant Church events, including the rededication of the Santiago Temple by President Hinckley and the groundbreaking for the Philadelphia Temple by President Eyring. She also was a Church Service Missionary, working as a news editor at Church Magazines, between full-time missions.

Laurie has traveled to all 50 states and at least 45 countries (so far). While home is American Fork, Utah, Lincoln Center and the Metropolitan Museum of Art have provided a comfortable second home.

Laurie is currently serving a fourth full-time mission with her husband in the New York Office of Public and International Affairs. The two previously served with a branch presidency at the Provo Missionary Training Center. The oldest of 18 grandchildren have been called to serve missions in New Hampshire and Brisbane, Australia.

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