Portrait of a Mormon Woman: Juliana

Many thanks to Juliana for this beautiful post. You can read more from at her blog, Skipping Past Cornfields, and in another recently-published essay entitled “Loving Away the Fear.

I have decided that I love middle age…that is, aside from the need for bifocals and the figure that seems determined to sag no matter how many hours I spend lifting weights. I love watching my youngest child learn to read at the same time that her older brother grows into a man while serving as a missionary. I love moving past the honeymoon phase and the period of disillusionment to reach the beautiful reality of a mature marriage. I love thinking about my next career and mentoring others as they begin to discover their wings. And I love figuring out who I am now that I have less to prove than I did as a student or as a corporate professional.

Who am I? I am a writer, or at least I aspire to be one. I am a teacher. I am a wife and mother. And I am a believer.

Why am I Mormon? I came by my religion the easy way. I inherited it from folks like my Great-Great Grandmother Decker who crossed the plains as an almost single mother and helped found Parowan, Utah. But my faith, the reason I stay? Now that raises a different question entirely. My wilderness hikes and forest prayers have never led me to burning bushes or shining pillars of light. No angel ever stopped my tracks on the road to Damascus.

And yet, like the Savior’s companions in a storm-tossed boat, I have received the witness of peace. I have read the scriptures, seeking for wisdom, and marveled as words once spoken to prophets took new life in direct answer to my pleading. I have knelt in prayer and felt the warmth of the Comforter envelop me. I have taken the advice of the prophet Alma to experiment upon the word (Alma 32:27), acting on subtle promptings, and I have watched my faith grow as the Lord took my hand.

I have a close friend who challenges my faith. She cannot fathom how I can accept the history of polygamy in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints or support a priesthood to which I cannot be ordained. I have thought a great deal about that. Every Mormon woman at some point has to grapple with her relationship to these issues of faith and others like them, and unfortunately epiphanies come with a built-in “non-transferrable” clause. God knows the value of a good test of faith, and pioneer ancestry hardly makes one immune to the need for conversion.

For me, that conversion has come in stages. As a young adult, fresh out of the comfortable arms of home, I read scriptures on a mountainside in Wyoming and recognized a tender mercy in the magnificent double rainbow that appeared just when I needed a creative “hello” from my Heavenly Father. As a young widow, I came to the quiet realization that God’s plan of happiness was true. The plan became more than merely a lesson taught by young missionaries or enthusiastic Sunday School teachers. We really do live again. Families can last forever.

And here, in my middle age, I am beginning to learn to trust in God’s love for me, for all of His children. I have seen too many prayers answered to claim coincidence. Joseph Smith once said, “I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it; at least I knew that by so doing I would offend God, and come under condemnation.” (Joseph Smith-History 1:25)

While the angel Moroni very kindly lets me sleep at night, God has sent me numerous angels from all walks of life. He continues to supply the wisdom that I lack. I cannot deny that. I am a believer.

Juliana Wallace
Chatham, Illinois