We are very pleased to have Marj Conder guest blogging for us for the next few weeks.
Here’s how she introduces herself:
When I started my university studies in my late 30s, I took one of those tests that tell you “what you want to be when you grow up.” Mine said a protestant minister! When I got over my surprise, I realized it was dead on, with my interests in theology, history, social sciences including developmental psychology, all within an applied rather than a theoretical framework. While there is very little call for a Mormon woman to be a Protestant minister I have had the great good fortune to land in perhaps the only job that is the equivalent in the Mormon world. For almost 20 years I have been a curator at the Museum of Church History and Art. (Nate’s dad, Richard, was my original mentor.)
I was the curator of the Relief Society sesquicentennial exhibit at the Church Museum in 1992 and part of the team that literally created the Mormon Trail Center at Winter Quarters from the ground up (dedicated 1997). Mostly I have evolved into the self appointed champion of women and children, a position not otherwise filled.Â I have taught women’s history and been the curator of every children’s exhibit at our museum to date, including one opening December first. This chapter of my life, however, is racing to a close. I will retire the end of July and then my husband and I will be off on a new adventure somewhere as missionaries.
In my ‘alias’ life I am a wife, mother of five sons and one daughter (on the end). They are all long since married and gone. We have 21 grandchildren. The first 13 were boys! (“BoysRus” for two generations.) One son and his family live in Twin Falls, Idaho, and another son and family live in the St. Louis area. Our other four children live in the Salt Lake Valley.
One of our granddaughters was adopted from China. Her background has become a shorthand way to explain my claims to be a feminist in a faithful, believing Mormon context. Our Alice MeiXing was abandoned at the side of a dirt road in a cardboard box (sort of like Moses in the bulrushes) when only three days old for the crime of being female (her umbilicus was still attached.) I can raise up in righteous indignation over arbitrary, systematic and especially structural discrimination against the female half of the race.
About a month ago I was released as Primary President after almost 4 Â½ years and about 3 Â½ years before that as first counselor. Primary was a safe and totally orthodox place for my soul during some of these years. In returning to Relief Society I feel a bit like Rip Van Winkle. Although in truth a substantial part of my heart is in Relief Society–not for what it is now but for what I feel it can and must yet become.
On the same day I was released from Primary, I was sustained as ward historian, without being asked! As I stood up, my honest to goodness thought was, “At least I’m not being called to Dixie.”Â My good bishop and good friend really thought he had asked me. (My bishop and I are the same age and one of us is obviously suffering from a memory lapse!) It was an interesting experience in the 21st century to be called, to accept the call in my heart and mind and to be sustained all within a matter of seconds.
Well, I’m climbing down off my soapbox and saying I am delighted, actually blown away, to be invited to post here, among some of the brightest and most civil Latter-day Saints I have ever encountered.