Academic journal article Dialogue : A Journal of Mormon Thought

The Shyster

Academic journal article Dialogue : A Journal of Mormon Thought

The Shyster

Article excerpt

Arne met Leanne Holburn at church during his final year in an MBA program at the University of Washington. He found her very attractive. Of medium height, she had sculpted cheeks, an aquiline nose, and bright, intelligent eyes. Arne was tall and had a thatch of sandy hair and placid blue eyes, and by moments he supposed they might make a pair. He altered that supposition abruptly one evening when they were assigned cleanup duty following a Sunday School party. During the conversation that accompanied their work, Leanne let him know that she intended to go by her maiden name after marriage. "It's a lot of work to change your name on all the public records," she said. "Even worse, it's demeaning to take on a man's surname. It messes with a woman's identity. It demotes her. It makes her a junior partner."

She paused to place a serving tray into a cupboard. "If I am asked to pray in public," she went on, "I address my prayer to Heavenly Father. But I don't understand why I have to. I think it's wrong to leave Heavenly Mother out of our prayers. I address my private prayers to her, and if I ever have any daughters, I will to teach them to do the same."

She was a feminist and proud of it. He might have guessed that from the fact that she was in her final year in law school. He respected feminists at a distance, but their battle wasn't his, and he certainly couldn't see marrying one. Having been raised in a proper Latter-day Saint home and having served a mission, he had firmly in mind a wife like his mother, maybe more culturally aware and more attuned to urban life than his mother but, like her, fully in accord with the authorities of ward, stake, and church.

A couple of weeks later, Arne saw Leanne at a study table in the main university library. Impulsively, he took a seat beside her. She looked up and broke into a broad smile, and they exchanged a few words. Law students typically studied in the law library. Maybe she had switched to the main library on the chance of running into him. The thought pleased him-but seconds later, as he left the library, he became worried. He recognized that his attraction to her was stronger than he had believed. It required conscious restraint on his part-deliberate choices aimed at avoiding her at church and on campus.

This proved hard to do. Following sacrament meeting the next Sunday afternoon, Arne saw Leanne as he prepared to leave the church parking lot. She gave him a cheerful wave and he rolled down a window and offered her a ride. It seemed barbaric not to. As she got out of the car at her apartment building, she said, "Do you want to do pizza and a cheap movie Saturday night? Dutch, of course." What could he say but yes? He couldn't fault her for asking. Being forthright, taking the lead, went with feminism. But he assured himself this Saturday night date would be absolutely the first and the last. If he had to, he'd stop attending church for a while.

Things didn't turn out as planned. After the movie he parked the car in front of her apartment building and they walked to the entrance to the building, where he figured on saying goodnight. However, she invited him in for cookies and milk. It would have been rude to refuse. The cookies tasted good. She said her roommate had baked them. Being a law student, Leanne didn't cook much. After they had finished the snack, he said he guessed he'd better get going. She followed him out of the apartment to the front door of the building. As he turned to say goodbye, she stepped close and kissed him. The unexpected kiss anchored to something inside him.

At the car, he looked back. She was still in the doorway. "It was nice," she called. She was thanking him although it was he who should be thanking her. It was she who had suggested the Dutch evening out and who had just provided the nightcap of cookies and milk. She radiated signs that she liked being with him. With that thought, his reserves crumbled and he accepted that he was in love with her. …

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