She called herself the Deer Valley girl in the subject line of an email she sent. Leisl, actually from Salt Lake City not Deer Valley, had strolled right up to my table at the Deer Valley Grocery Café, where I was taking in the mountain air, and an espresso drink, both of which help the muse come to visit when writing in restaurants.
I did not have time to kill—I was on a book deadline—but true Mormons go visiting and I could not deny her a bit of chat time. I told her the true story of an Iowa writer who was suffering from his uncle’s suicide and went to a church basement supper. And there, in the low-ceilinged room beneath the Baptist church sanctuary, where there were long tables of potluck foods, like the potato salad, the baked beans, the home-canned green beans, four different choices of deviled eggs, and a promised land of desserts, he felt that he was a member of a very important club: his family. The implicit messages about food and family and community were so powerful for him, much more so than any amount of moralizing or ceremony going on upstairs. He began to feel better.
Leisl must have been so moved because she reached into her bag and gave me the Book of Mormon. I figured she had several copies in that big shoulder bag so I did not open it until I arrived back home. But it was her own copy. Pages so heavily annotated, and passages underlined in black ink, then highlighted in pink, and green, and blue, she was seriously studying this difficult and complicated book written by people who probably didn’t have very good editors. It is, according to her, an ancient record of a people who were led by God to leave Jerusalem before it was destroyed, their journey to the Americas, and God’s dealings with them.