behind the scenes with Cherish: part 2

Part 1: Heavenly Mother is an Instagrammer

“A Mother’s Womb” by Dylan Landeen, in Cherish: The Joy of Our Mother in Heaven, page 324

Chapter 2: Gestating a Book

May 2022: McArthur travels around the US, and even internationally sometimes, to speak at firesides and other gatherings about the doctrine of Heavenly Mother. This month, she went to North Carolina and spoke at a Heavenly Mother fireside in Ashli’s stake. Then she flew up to New York and spoke at a Heavenly Mother public event hosted by the LDS Women Project. I drove down to Brooklyn for the event, and loved meeting in person McArthur, her co-author Bethany Brady Spalding, and the LDSWP editor in chief Liz Ostler for the first time. I was a little starstruck – I’ve been following McArthur and Bethany and buying their books for a long time. But they are so comfortable with everyone they meet that it was never a big deal.

I chauffeured McArthur for the next two days, up to my house in Connecticut. We had tried to host a stake fireside but it was canceled just the week before.

Tangent: when we arranged for me to host McArthur, I contacted my stake leaders and said hey, this author is coming into town, can we have her speak? We didn’t even set it up for a Heavenly Mother topic – it was women in the scriptures, because she has also written books (published by Church authorized Deseret Book) about that. I had a couple of lengthy conversations with the stake president to reassure him that no, we wouldn’t get into “false doctrine” or teach girls to pray to Heavenly Mother or anything scary (while I rolled my eyes that this type of panic is even a thing), and he approved us to go ahead.

It was really frustrating to try to set it up – reserve the building, announce it to the wards, etc – no one had any interest in helping or participating, including people in my own ward. Then less than a week before, a mysterious person saw my Facebook post about the LDSWP event, apparently assumed it was my stake fireside, and called the Area Seventy (??) who then called the stake president and ordered him to cancel the fireside. Not many people saw that Facebook post because it wasn’t public, so while I will never know who called the area leader, there are only a couple of people it could be. Two years later, I am still shocked and disgusted that likely a woman went over the stake president’s head to deliberately cancel a fireside for women about women.

What we did instead: The morning after the LDSWP event, McArthur and I had a brunch at my house with about a dozen women to talk about how to talk about Heavenly Mother in ways that people won’t freak out about. The Sacred Silence is the strangest thing I’ve ever experienced. Patriarchy says, “Women are so needed and amazing! So we will respect Heavenly Mother by pretending She doesn’t exist because She is too sacred to talk about.”

Event 3 was an independent gathering of LDS people (not an official event so it didn’t have to be approved by any leader) in Boston – I drove McArthur up there and stayed for the meeting and then sent her on her way. Zach Davis arranged for and hosted the gathering and there was a lot more discussion that time than McArthur giving a speech as she typically does other presentations. I don’t remember much, this far removed from it, but I enjoyed the give-and-take.

Summer 2022: the book project had to sit for a little while, while my family moved from Connecticut to Virginia. We had ended submissions in the spring – Ashli and McArthur read everything and chosen what would be included, Ashli sent acceptance letters. Then everything came to me to sort into the topical chapters and create the huge master document to make the book.

The second big decision during the summer – after the book structure – was the title, credit to McArthur. The catchy phrase in Church literature is that the belief in Heavenly Mother is a “cherished and distinctive doctrine.” And we wanted people to recognize that this is a joyful doctrine, not a scary one to be afraid of. Cherish is an action – and we wanted exactly that – the action of cherishing the joy of this doctrine and belief. And that’s how we settled on Cherish: The Joy of Our Mother in Heaven.

September 2022: it took over 100 hours in September and the first week or two in October to place and edit all of the submissions into the master document for Cherish. There’s not a lot to say about this phase – I spend a lot of time at my computer bouncing between files – copying and downloading submissions from this file and putting them in that file. On October 13, off it went to BCC Press, the small publisher we chose to work with for the project.

To be continued … Part 3: Waiting

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