I’m honored by Julie’s invitation to blog on this venerable site, amid such esteemed company. I thought I’d begin my introduction by mentioning my connection to several more regular T&S-ers. Julie Smith and I were housemates for two years at UT-Austin. She witnessed my courtship to my husband and attended my wedding. I’ve been grateful to continue my friendship with her in the meantime. I admire her tremendously on many levels, not least because she is probably the most organized, disciplined scholar I know.
I also had the great privilege of being in the South Bend ward with both Adam Greenwood and his family and Ben Huff. I feel privileged to know them both and continue to learn from their faith and intellect. As they can both attest, the South Bend ward is a remarkable community in many ways. Gatherings to eat and talk with other faithful and curious saints sustained me during our years there.
Finally, fellow guest-blogger Jonathan Green and I and our new spouses shared a Fulbright year in Bonn, Germany in 1995-96. The fact that two newlywed Mormon Germanist medievalists would end up on Fulbrights in the same town in the same year struck us as reason enough to be friends for life. And we also hit it off for so many other reasons–mostly Jonathan and Rose’s homemade pizza and Jonathan’s cakes and tortes. Have him bake for you sometime.
I don’t know what’s normal for guest bloggers, but I’d like to introduce myself and my family in this first post so that my subsequent posts have a little context. After Julie’s statement that my husband, Ted Warren, has “the most interesting job of anyone [she] know[s],” it is tempting to let people speculate wildly on his professional activities, but I suppose I should just fill in the details. Ted is a photojournalist for Associated Press based in their Seattle bureau. He covers local Washington news as well as national and international news on assignment. He just returned, for example, from Scotland, where he covered the G8 Summit and the British Open. He loves his job, as do our sons and most of our friends. Since my profession (“Hi, I’m a German professor,” or “Hi, I’m a medievalist. . . “) is usually a conversation killer, it’s always nice to have Ted around to spur interesting discussion.
I grew up in Tempe, Arizona, the oldest daughter and second child of eight. I have six brothers and one sister. (My siblings, incidentally, also have careers that generate far better chats than mine–one is a forensic pathologist, another is an aspiring actor, who was on an episode of Law and Order: Criminal Intent earlier this year). I graduated from Arizona State University with a B.A. in German in 1984 and then served in the Germany Frankfurt Mission from 1985-1987. Victor Ludlow and Christian Vikari were my presidents.
Upon returning I began an M.A. program in Language Acquisition and my German teaching career at BYU in fall 1987. After one year in the program I spent 18 months at the U.S. Embassy in then East Berlin as a State Dept. fellow. During that amazing time I had the opportunity to watch East Germany transition from hard-core Communism to an independent democracy. Few people remember that East Germany actually had a few months of democratic independence prior to unification with the west. I treasure my time there, especially because of the friendships I developed with members of the East Berlin ward. I learned so much about faith and questioning and perseverance from them.
I completed my M.A. when I returned from Berlin and then taught German at BYU for another year while I tried to figure out what to do with two relatively useless degrees. One of the activities I valued the most during this time was participating in BYU’s feminist group VOICE. My small part in VOICE’s activities that year was gave me the courage to acknowledge and act on my own feminism.
This growing involvement with feminism, along with my encounters with friends of all faiths and no faiths during my Berlin year, contributed to a major crisis of faith for me. I never doubted God’s existence–I had felt his presence too powerfully too often; nor did I doubt the reality of Christ’s atonement–I had felt the balm of its grace too intensely. Rather, the core of my crisis was trying to figure out whether I could maintain my integrity while staying connected to a church whose teachings–and more often policies and practices–contradicted other things I believed or felt. The result of my struggle, to severely abridge a long and painful process, was the recognition that I could not imagine a life without church, nor could I imagine a life in any other church. I had found Christ in the LDS church and decided that I would continue to seek him here. I also realized that I was an ‘ethnic’ Mormon on many levels and could no more easily remove myself from that community than I could from my family or nationality, or, as Cecilia Konchar Farr put it once, Mormons are “my people.” It has remained crucial for me to recognize my indebtedness to my people and my desire to stay among them as I seek answers.
As Julie mentioned in her intro, I earned a PhD in Germanic Studies at UT-Austin. While in Austin I met my husband in the university ward. Our first son, Grayson, was also born there just before we left in 1998. Our second son, Hal, was born, two months premature, in 2001 in Indiana. I have always worked full time since having children, loving what I do, and yet always wondering if I’m making the best choices. I take it year- to-year, even day-to-day when things are hardest. My husband stayed home with Grayson for a year during my first job at Mt. Holyoke College. Our kids have been in wonderful home daycares since then. (I’ll share some thoughts later on the impossibility of balancing work and family.) I taught for five years at the University of Notre Dame. My husband commuted 200 miles a day to Chicago for four of those years, then was transferred to Seattle. There was no job for me in Washington state the year he was transferred, so we made the excruciating, and probably wrong decision that the boys and I would stay in Indiana for a year while I waited for the next round of job ads. I was fortunate to get the one job in my field in the entire state of Washington the following year and now teach German language and literature at Pacific Lutheran University.
Although I have few opportunities to teach it because I am now at a small undergrad institution, my research specialty is medieval religious literature, especially the writings of women mystics. My interest in this topic is profoundly connected to my life in the church and my belief in and experience with God’s manifestations to his children. The visions and revelations recorded by the women I study intrigue and move me, as do their interactions with and frequent struggles against the male hierarchy of the church in their day. I’ve had just a few chances to talk about medieval mystics to LDS listeners, but I believe we can learn a lot–about seeking God, in particular–from these women and men.
Thanks for reading. I look forward to learning from the women and men at Times and Seasons.