Good news: “Sweet Is the Work” is now available for preorder! You can buy it right here. If you buy now, you’ll get it as soon as it ships.
More good news: I’ll be chatting about it on my Facebook page Feb. 15. Can’t wait!
Now that everything is out in the open, I can tell you everything about how this little book of mine came to be. It’s a pretty good story, I think, and one that I like telling.
American novelist Toni Morrison said “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”
When it comes to church history, I want to read about things I’m passionate about. I want to read about women. I want to read about how we’ve touched Church history. I want to see how women have helped shape the Church into what it was meant to be, and more importantly, I want to understand how I can do the same.
This is more or less what crossed my mind when my publisher asked me in a meeting, “What will your next book be about?”
The answer came naturally. “The first sister missionaries.”
This statement wasn’t completely true, strictly speaking. Most people understand the “first sister missionaries,” to mean the first single, full-time, set-apart, proselyting female missionaries in the Church. This is generally agreed to be Inez Knight and Jennie Brimhall, who were set apart in 1898 to serve in England. But my book’s story ends where theirs begins.
Put simply, my book is an attempt to answer my own question. What, I wondered, led the Church to change its existing males-only missionary work policy to leverage the skills and talents of the sisters?
I’ve learned the answers to that question a little bit at a time since May 2014. It was then — about a year before “Mighty Miracles” was published — that I made it my quest to track down the stories of the women whose work as exceptions to the rule led to a game-changing policy. There were about 200 women called to serve as missionaries prior to 1898, but many of them didn’t proselyte, many were elders’ wives who were called essentially as housekeepers, and another handful were more genealogists or students than missionaries. (The Church took “every member a missionary” pretty seriously for a while, setting apart women as missionaries before they left for school, for vacation, or in one case, to pick up her husband on the east coast.)
But some of these women magnified their callings. Some proselyted, and when they did, miracles came hard and fast. Mission presidents were begging for more women. One thing led to another, and with a policy change at the end of the 19th century, women were called as full-time missionaries just like the men were.
The policy wasn’t universally popular, and only certain “bright and intelligent women” were called for a while. The official end of polygamy led to more women being able to serve (i.e., being unmarried), which led to the calling of even more women. Other scholars have written and spoken more extensively on these sister missionaries in the early 20th century.
But again, my book isn’t about the women who came after the change. It is about the women who led to it, because the world needs us to be like them. We need to “realize the breadth and scope of [our] influence when [we] speak those things that come to [our] heart[s] and mind[s] as directed by the Spirit.” We need game changers.
This is one for the game changers.