Terry Tempest Williams and Mormonism Essay

Terry Tempest Williams and Mormonism Essay

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Terry Tempest Williams and Mormonism

In Mormon religion, formal blessings of healing are given by
men through the Priesthood of God. Women have no outward
authority. But within the secrecy of the sisterhood we have
always bestowed benisons upon our families. Mother sits up.
I lay my hands upon her head and in the privacy of women,
we pray. (158)

Terry Tempest Williams is fully aware that she is contradicting the church when she writes “women have no outward authority,” yet she still chooses to take part in a ritual of healing that can only be performed by the men. Williams, however, does so in privacy and in the “secrecy of the sisterhood.” The word secrecy hints at the idea of doing something which is not accepted and against certain beliefs of today’s church. She was born and raised in a home of devout Mormons who follow the traditional beliefs of their faith. She acknowledges that the Mormon Church places great importance on obedience. In college she began to question her faith and today would not consider herself an “orthodox Mormon,” although Mormonism still has an impact in her life and work. In her writing, Williams continually contradicts the values of the Mormons.

In Refuge, she subtly defied the restrictions inflicted upon women by the Mormon Church. She briefly addressed the issue of having children and the role of women. Williams’ family, for the most part was very supportive of her book. It was met, however, with some criticism from Mormon academic journals, disapproving of her defiance towards the church. In an interview Williams said, “that obedience in the name of religion or patriotism ultimately takes our souls. So I think it's this larger issue of what is acceptable and what is not; where d...

... middle of paper ...

...mately takes our lives.” She is consistently but subtly challenging the orthodoxy of Mormonism. (http://www.insideoutsidemag.com/archives/articles/2001/09/terry_tempest_williams.asp)

Williams will continue to act in civil disobedience against some of the beliefs held in the Mormon Church; questioning everything she is taught. She attributes her work in part to her faith. This is perhaps because of her upbringing in Mormonism and her vision of a person in white that confirmed her faith. The love she had for her mother was perhaps another reason; Williams’ mother was a devout Mormon who took her religion seriously and closely followed its traditions. The independent spirit that she possesses, however, keeps her from accepting Mormonism in its entirety. She believes that it is right to challenge one’s beliefs, that it prevents one from blindly accepting everything.

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