Read Peggy Fletcher Stack's beautiful obituary in the Salt Lake Tribune here.
Paul's funeral service can be read here.
|Presiding||President Mahonri Madrigal|
|Conducting||Bishop William Plastow|
|Music Director||Pamela Carson|
|Invocation||Arlene Fielding McCauley|
|Opening Hymn||I Stand All Amazed #193|
|Life Sketch||Marina Capella (read text)|
|Music||Spiegel im Spiegel by Arvo Pärt.|
Performed by Molly Cowley and Debby Cannon.
In the ceremony, this was accompanied by a slideshow of photographs of Lavina scanned, edited, colorized, and rendered by Jared Capella
|Speaker||Lynn Fielding (read text)|
|Music||Brahms' Intermezzo, Op. 117 #1 |
performed by lifelong friend Lynn Carson
|Speaker||Christian Anderson (read text)|
|Music||For Everyone Born, arr. Paul E. Anderson (rehearsal recording with performers Sam Capella, Molly Cowley, Debby Cannon)|
|Farewell||President Mahonri Madrigal (read text)|
|Closing hymn||Jesus, Lover of My Soul #102|
|Benediction||Cathy Stokes (Note: this was a spectacular performance that began as a talk on the two great commandments and ended as a prayer/blessing on all of us to live them better, but there was no way to tell at what point it changed from one to the other)|
Good morning, everyone. Thank you for being here and for taking the time to celebrate a magnificent life. For those of you who don't know me, I am Marina Capella, Lavina's daughter-in-law. I had the joy and privilege of knowing Lavina for 22 years before her passing, and Christian and I lived with her in her beautiful home on Roberta Street since Paul's unexpected passing five years ago.
Lavina was born on April 13, 1944, in Shelley Idaho, an agricultural town of 1,800 people. She was the second of six children born to Herman James Fielding and Della Maude Dial. The family earned a living as potato farmers. When she was about 11, her family relocated from Idaho to the small town of Othello in Eastern Washington in search of more farmland. They left a fertile and mountainous region for what they soon discovered was a dustbowl. The trade was not prosperous and Lavina grudgingly recalled her preteen and teen years as being filled with back-breaking labor for minimal economic returns. She found an escape through books, which she devoured at an astonishing rate. She graduated as salutatorian from her high school in 1962.
Lavina managed to escape the farm life by enrolling at BYU, where she earned a bachelor's degree in English in 1968 followed by a master's degree in 1971. Her master's thesis compared the concept of the frontier in contemporary Israeli and historical Mormon literature. She supported herself through BYU by working as a teaching assistant and editing the Graduate Journal of Literary Criticism. She also interrupted her studies for two years to serve a mission in Eastern France. After BYU, she relocated to the University of Washington in Seattle where she earned a doctorate in English in just three years, defending a dissertation on conceptualizations of the Western US Landscape in 1974.
With her PhD and a job offer under her belt, she moved to Salt Lake City to work on the editorial staff of the Ensign magazine for the next eight years. While working in the church history archives, she met Paul Lawrence Anderson, a historic architect and museum designer. They courted — which was, for a time, unbeknownst to her (funny story). They were eventually married on June 13, 1977. Their only child, Christian, was born in March 1980.
Due in large part to ideological differences with her employer, in 1981 Lavina left to start her own editing business called Editing, Incorporated — or "Editing, Inc." for short, a rarely understood pun on the red ink she liberally (but lovingly) distributed across her clients' manuscripts. (Some of you were likely recipients of that ink!)
Lavina went on to have a successful career as an independent editor. Her editing projects and publications are too numerous to list, but here are her some of her major accomplishments:
Mormon history was her area of expertise, and she presented at many Mormon history conferences including the annual Mormon History Association and John Whittmer Historical Association conferences. She also valued women's spaces and attended many women's groups and retreats, including Pilgrimage, Exponent II, Retrenchment, and her Beyond Words Book Club. Within her ward, Lavina served in a variety of church callings, ranging from Cub Scout den leader to Relief Society pianist.
Lavina's public excommunication for alleged apostasy as part of the "September Six" in 1993 made headlines locally and nationally. There are likely, even in this audience, many versions and interpretations of that event, so I'd like to quote Lavina's own writing on that notable event:
In 1992 and 1993, when some of us were on a very interesting collision course with the Church over the issue of voice and silence, I got a call from two women whom I love and respect. They were both older than me — not a full generation but perhaps a half-generation? They could see the collision coming and asked me, for my own best interests, to step out of the public discussion One of them asked, "Why does it matter when you know what you think? Why do you have to say it?"
This was the same message that various priesthood leaders, who may very well have been motivated by the same genuine concern as these women, gave to various individuals whom they went on to excommunicate. Think and believe what you like. Just don't talk about it, and especially don't talk about it in public. The only real answer I had to these two friends is that ecclesiastical abuse, the suppression of free inquiry, [especially about Mormon history,] and the inequality of women were causes that called to me in ways that other causes did not. As a matter of conscience and personal integrity, I was called to speak, not to be silent. (Pilgrimage talk, 2012)
As those close to her know, including her Whittier Ward family, Lavina did not let excommunication stop her from being a believer in the LDS gospel. She continued to attend church faithfully until 2020, when the Covid-19 pandemic and her declining health made it too difficult to continue. She read her scriptures daily. She prayed at every mealtime, frequently adding a supplication to bless and guide her Church leaders. She read every issue of the Ensign, New Era, and Friend. She loved listening to and singing church hymns. She served as the unofficial pianist in Relief Society. She was Mormon to her core, even if the institutional church did not acknowledge it.
In 2018, with the support of her bishop and stake president, Lavina began steps toward church reinstatement. President McLean reconvened the high council court on March 24, 2019, and, as a result, forwarded a positive recommendation for reinstatement to the First Presidency. After some intervening paperwork, the First Presidency ruled on August 7, 2019, that they would not authorize a change in her status "at this time."
Once again, Lavina did not let this decision define her or dissuade her. She claimed that she was disappointed but not surprised or dismayed. In her mind, the original decision had been illogical, and so was this one. As before, her belief in God's love for her and for all of God's children remained intact.
Lavina passed away on October 29, 2023 at her home in Salt Lake City, where she had lived for 46 years. Though increasingly limited in mobility and energy for the last ten years of her life, she was mentally clear until her last 48 hours, and kind to the last, giving books away to her nurse as her last voluntary act. She died of cardiorespiratory failure secondary to pulmonary hypertension.
I have no doubt that Lavina's contributions to academia, literature, and religious discourse will continue to inspire future generations. Her passion for knowledge, her commitment to social justice, and her deep spirituality will be remembered by all those who had the privilege of knowing her or engaging with her work.
I'm Lavina's younger brother, about 4 years younger, which means I had just been born when Lavina was teaching herself to read the year before she started school using Reader Digests. That should have been our first clue that this was an extra ordinary mind, but at the time, she was just a sister, who would take a flashlight to bed with her so when Dad would say, "It's time to turn the lights out up there!" We slept in the 2nd story of a small wooden house in a smaller still town called Moore, Idaho, She would dive under the covers, turn on her flashlight, and keep reading along with her older brother and sister with some giggling until dad would came back to the foot of the stairs: "Are you using flashlights? Turn the off the light, go to sleep!"
Dad bought us a horse when Lavina was 9 or 10, a white wily animal who would step back on Lavina's foot when she was trying to get on or bite my arm when I was. Lavina loved Chief, would ride him everywhere, swam a river with him, knocked off by the current, and, not able to swim, hung on to his tail as he swum on across. For years, she drew pictures of horses all over her homework.
When she was in the 5th grade, we moved to a huge irrigated desert, just taken out of sagebrush in Washington State called the Columbia Basin. It was pure sand so when the wind blew, you could not see across a road. When the wind blew, Mom turned over the plates and glasses because the sand would sift under the doors and around the windows and you could write your name in the sand on your plate. Dad planted the 160 acres into potatoes. Every morning, we would get up and change the siphon tubes to another row, watering the potatoes. At night, Lavina would read short stories, and write down their title, when we would weed down and back a 1/4 mile, we younger kids would choose a story, the a find a clod of dirt, and Lavina would start retelling the story to us while we rubbed the sand off the dirt clod- our time keeper. "You are rubbing too slow, Lynn, I'm going to have to let someone else do it if you don't do it properly."
The potatoes were planted 45 days late because the landlord was slow getting the land leveled. Dad was digging the potatoes in November when the temperature dropped from 40 degrees to 15 above. So when Lavina was in the 5th grade, we lost everything. We were too poor to even go back to Idaho. We ate half sticks of gum growing up. We shared milkshakes. That poor. Not forever, but for many years. "We were poor, but," Lavina recalls, "I never felt poor. We always ate well. And I had my books. Mom would make this wonderful homemade bread, timed to come hot out of the oven just as we came home from school. We would scrap over who got the end crusts, and cover it with butter and honey."
And Lavina had her books: Every two weeks a book mobile, a small motor home with its insides filled with book shelves and books would come to our town of 1,500 and park 3 blocks away. Lavina would always come back with two 14 inch stacks of books which she would put just inside her bedroom door, a bedroom she would share with Karen all the time she was home, reading through them before the bookmoble came again. She remembered the stories, but she also remembered the titles and the authors. One week while selecting my books when I heard her say, "I have read all the books on this shelf." And then, and "Everyone except this one on this shelf," and then, "I think I am going to take every book I haven't read home with me." She ended up with about 30 books, all the books she hadn't read, which I helped carry home. The bookmobile ladies loved Lavina.
Dad was the bishop. Mom was everything. Sunday school teacher, primary counselor, teacher, Seminary teacher. It was a small ward and Lavina started substitute teaching in primary at age 12 and never stopped. On the first of each month, we fasted from Saturday noon to Sunday noon. In the summer it was hot and we would put a pebble in our dry mouth to trick our salvia glands into thinking we were eating something. In testimony meeting, we often had people stand and give a travel log of recent vacations and one particular individual would regularly discourse for 30-45 minutes on the patriarchal. It was a subject of lively debate during our Sunday meal and dad, the bishop chose not to intervene. Then one Sunday, after a particularly long exposition on the topic, leaving only 10 minutes left, Lavina (now a junior high school) got up, walk all the way up the long aisle to the pulpit, and announced in a clear voice "I think testimony meeting should be reserved for testimonies," and then walked about to her seat. There was absolute silence for the remaining 10 minutes.
Although there was considerable cheering afterwards around the dinner table.
Our family did not have a TV until 1970. We weren't always poor and by now we had bought a farm and build three potato storage and the kids were Dad's work crew. But for whatever reason, Dad thought we should read instead of watch TV. In the summers we lived in three trailer houses, on the farm. "We should name them" the sisters decided. Lavina's proposal:
A big red trailer where we ate, and mom and dad slept: HEAD SHACK
a smaller middle trailer where Lavina, Karen and I read and slept: MY SHACK
and a third trailer where the just recently married lived TOBEDWEGO,
(Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego).
We had memorable food fights with Mom egging us on. Once Mom made a large bowl of whip cream to put on strawberry short cake. Max put his finger in it and wiped it across Lavina's nose. Lavina grabbed the wire whip, one of these twirly ones and pulled in back, aiming in at Max. "You wouldn't dare," he said.
"Do it," Mom urged. Lavina showering whip create over Max and kids on either side. Everyone grabbed milk glasses, milk jugs, soup, everything but the plates and silverware. Mom was slayed and helped us clean it up.
We all brought our books to dinner. Eventually books were banned at the dinner table. Books were banned out in the field after a particular memorable incident where Lavina, book in hand, stepped over a ditch-break three times. Lavina read aloud to us called Cheaper by the Dozen, probably while she was knitting. It is an account of the family of a time-motion expert, Frank Gilbreth, known world-wide in the 1920s who, for example, would walk into a German manufacturing plant, tell them he could increase productivity by 20% and do it by eliminate wasted or inefficient motion in the production lines. Lillian Gilbreth extended these ideas into greater home efficiency and education of her children. It became embedded in our family culture.
Like Lincoln, who once said, "My father taught me to work, but he didn't teach me to like it." Dad taught us to work. We kids discussed getting T—shirts which would read, "We cannot be fired: slaves have to be sold." And while Lavina kind of despised farm work, in the rest of her life she would get up at 6, eat, and be at her typewriter, and later computer, by 6:30, then spend 30 minutes for lunch, and work until 6 that evening.
We all went to a small high school. Mr. Adams taught the four oldest in our family to write. Mr. Adams told my parents he did not think he would ever have anyone who wrote as well as Lavina. High school is when Lavina began to see writing as a craft, her craft. Years later, she invited my oldest son Jared and daughter Sonnet to come down to her cabin for a writing school with Christian. Writing became a craft in my family as well.
Briefly so they will read it, clearly so they will appreciate it, picturesquely so they will remembered, and above all, accurately so they will be guided by its light. – Joseph Pulitzer
Lavina finished her mission to France when I went on mine to Central America. We did not see each other for almost 4 years. When I came back I enrolled in a Honors English class at BYU where we wrote a paper a week, and it dropped a grade every day it was late.
Monday morning at 7:30 I took one of my papers by show Lavina what a great job I had done. She read it. THIS she announced gleefully, is a really, really good FIRST DRAFT. She/we started ripping into it. It was evident by 10:00 that I was not going to get it put back together by 11:00. Now a B. We worked on it for 4 hours on Tuesday. Now a C. Lavina thought we were close but it still needed more work. By this time I was in reckless abandon mode . We spent another 3 hours on Wednesday. It was now a D. We were finally done, I typed it up. Turned it in on Thursday. I got it back Monday from our professor who smiled strangely at me. Across the top he had written WORTH WAITING FOR.
And just below that . . . . an A+.
You are wondering how I justified this with the BYU honor code?
Just below the A+ I had written the author: L. Fielding
* * *
Four years later, Lavina's invisible arm of influence got me into BYU law school. I had been admitted to the first class but could not go. A good friend, David Lauritzen urged me to call to see if I was admitted the second year.
Finally I called, Admissions who forwarded me to the Dean of the Law school's office to see if I was admitted for the second year. His secretary, whom I had dated, pulled my file, confirmed I had been admitted for the first class and confirmed that I was not admitted automatically to the second class (what was I thinking), and
"So who decides admissions now, I asked.
"That would be the Acting Dean Bruce Hafen," she answered. "There are only five spots left."
"Well, . . . so could you be so kind as to walk my file in to his office and see if I'm admitted," I asked.
"What? That is kind of strange. Well how else will you know? OK, I'll go see what he says. I'm just going to lay the phone down while I do it," she said.
She was gone about 5 minutes. When she returned, I could tell that she had picked the phone up, but was silent for about 30 seconds.
"Well, he glanced thru your file and then said, "Fielding. Fielding? Is he any relation to Lavina Fielding?"
"Her younger brother."
"I submitted an article to the Ensign years ago and Lavina edited it until I thought it was unrecognizable. Far more severe than editing on Law Review at Law school. And then I had people come up to me for months afterwards and tell me how clear it was and how much it had helped them. So... if he is half as smart as his sister, we had better give him one of the five spots."
Briefly so they will read it, clearly so they will appreciate it....
* * *
One spring my younger sister got engaged. Lavina, choosing her time, said, "Young man, are your intentions toward my sister honorable?" Arlene was mortified. The rest of us were delighted. Years later, when Paul going with Lavina, Arlene saw her chance, cleared her throat and said "Young Man,".....and Paul looked back just in time to see one of Arlene's siblings clamp their hand over Arlene's mouth. We were all rooting for Paul.
Lavina's life was guided by the inspiration she received. Initially, it came to her as a teletype. Answers appear as type in her mind. She began to contrast this with the passages that refer to feelings, feelings of peace, and feelings of assurance. When the civil rights issue came along, she was told, not your calling. When Viet Nam came along, "not your issue". But then came the issues that she was told were her's, and she remained true to the light she received, as most of you well know.
Getting accurate health information out of her as her condition declined was impossible. Work hard, do your share. Don't complain.
I talked with Lavina 6 days before she passed. "How does it feel, facing your passing such a short time away?" She cast around for the right word. Rare to see Lavina at a loss for words....
"Anticipating?" I suggested.
"Yes, anticipating see Paul, seeing those who had passed, getting to talk to Lucy Mack Smith I have written so much about. I can talk to her to see how much I got right. Anticipating is a good word."
Voracious reader, skilled crafter of the written word, relentless worker, a follower of her guidance, faithful to the end.
On behalf of the family, I would like to thank her son Christian and his wife beautiful and brilliant wife Marina for returning to Salt Lake to be with and take care of Lavina after Paul died -- a job not for the faint of heart. Lavina was strong willed, and we thank you both for a great and difficult job.
I ask you to listen with tolerance to this talk, since I am writing it under three major handicaps. First, I am Lavina's only child, Christian, so everything I say is irredeemably biased by love and grief, which are really two sides of the same coin I suppose. Second, like all of you, I no longer have Lavina to edit my stuff. This means my weak arguments go unchallenged, my purple prose remains indigo, and there are probably a few places where I use a semi-colon instead of a dash. You laugh, but the way I was raised that's a big deal. Third, you should know that I recently defended a dissertation in mathematical physics. That has nothing to do with my eulogy, I just try to work it into every conversation. No, it's so you know that I'm someone whose first instinct is to look for data and numbers when talking about something complex. And Lavina was certainly that.
I found a few numbers to quantify the impact her one big, beautiful life had on the world. Despite being an introverted, border-line autistic academic who would much rather read than ... well, anything, she somehow became a lightning rod for controversy. Virginia Woolf writes, "when a subject is highly controversial ... one cannot hope to tell the truth. One can only show how one came to hold whatever opinion one does hold. One can only give one's audience the chance of drawing their own conclusions as they observe the limitations, the prejudices, the idiosyncrasies of the speaker." So here are some of the data I used to form my opinion.
When Lavina moved to Salt Lake City in 1974, it changed Mormonism forever. First, she is arguably a dominant force shaping Mormon scholarship. During her time here, she collaborated with leading scholars, being the titled editor with Maureen Ursenbach Beeche, Eugene England, Newell K. Bringhurst, and also three volumes of the Case Reports of the Mormon Alliance with Janice Allred. On her own, she wrote Lucy's Book, a critical edition of Lucy Mack Smith's memoir, and the essay collection Mercy Without End. The biography Lucy's Life is forthcoming with Kristine Haglund. In addition to these collaborations, she published 34 book reviews, wrote 11 book chapters, and published 55 journal articles. Perhaps her influence was greatest, though least recognized, through the 311 books and journals she edited as CEO of Editing Inc, a substantial fraction of all LDS scholarship from the early 1980s to mid-2010s. Though she was the most broadly-read person I know and certainly could have edited in many different fields, she dedicated her life, her work, her skill to understanding her own religious tradition in a way very few lay members ever have.
As impressive as these statistics are, there are two numbers that I think sum her impact up even better, and that I want us to think about for the rest of our time together. These numbers are 1,370 and 0. The first number, 1,370, is how many times I estimate she sat in Sacrament Meeting, and watched the symbols of Christ's universal love be denied her. By the time she stopped attending due to ill health, her excommunication was more than twice as old as the deacons enforcing this exclusion. The second number, 0, is the number of times she expressed any fear at any point during this fierce test of her community bond; never when she was being pressured to withdraw her writings, never while she continued to attend her ward, never as her last days approached and she looked forward the few remaining steps into eternity.
I want all of you to take a moment to really consider what that means. That is not the kind of courage most of us can understand, much less claim. So: take a deep breath and answer this question in your own mind: What would I do—what would I say and to whom would I say it—if I wasn't afraid. If I was brave like Lavina.
If you're like me, some of the things your fear holds in are angry or wounding. This explains one of the major contradictions that made up the walking paradox that was Lavina: hundreds of testimonials on her webpage (see the back of your program) and on Facebook bear witness to her touching lives with kindness and empathy. She signed most of her voluminous correspondence "affectionately" and kept a cross-stitch sampler on the wall of her office from as far back as I can remember that reads "Showing affection is not a sign of weakness, merely a sign of affection." But because she really truly did not care what people thought of her, she could also use her insight and vocabulary to cut people off at the knees. I have seen authors leave a session with Lavina, slithering down the front steps, clutching their manuscripts bleeding red from wounds on every page. I remember one Sunstone where one of her co-panelists arrived late and flushed, taking the microphone to blurt out a rambling excuse; Lavina leaned into her mike and snapped, "Nobody cares why you're late, sit down!" That sort of unfiltered frankness should have earned Lavina nothing but enemies, and would have if that same frankness didn't also make her compliments resonate with the kind of sincerity you just can't get from anyone else. This was the same Sunstone session where she complimented and encouraged several beginning writers, who still remember that kindness as being a key moment on their path to this very day.
I hear some of you saying, but what about relationships? Who can live looking into that unflattering mirror? Many of you were here five years ago for Paul's unexpected funeral. Lavina wasn't the only LDS scholar moving to Salt Lake in the mid-70s. Many of the new arrivals to SLC doing projects related to the Church History Department had formed groups and were rooming together. Paul had just rolled into town from Princeton in a yellow Porsche no insurance company was willing to underwrite. He decided to throw a progressive dinner party so everyone could see everyone else's new places. I think there were about 10 people living in 4 apartments/starter houses. He called around to get some details that he could make into a funny fake architecture-tour pamphlet / party invite, and Lavina answered the phone at the place she was sharing with Jill Derr and two other women. She was listening to a piece of classical music by Brahms (either the Intermezzo Lynn just played, or the Requiem, there was disagreement among the principles by the time I came along) that had always been his favorite, and after chatting with her on the phone and then at the prog party itself, decided to ask her out. He mentioned this to someone who had recently dated Lavina once, who said, "That's a terrible idea; she's an ogre." Remember, brutal honesty was Lavina's hallmark, but Paul was the sort of person who appreciated it. Forewarned, he didn't take her to dinner, but instead to Deseret Book. They split up for 45 minutes and agreed to meet at the cashiers. Like most of us, Paul had two books and was hesitating about buying a third, when Lavina came up to the counter with 27.
That was pretty much it for Paul; Lavina took a lot more convincing. After he proposed, she took almost three months to think it over, embarking on a lengthy series of prayed questions and answers that led her to research, seek council, and more prayers. Finally, when asking "should I marry Paul", the answer came "you have enough information to make this decision." "Well, I will then," she said. She wrote in a later speech it was as if a host of angels burst into applause, and the earth re-echoed their joy. In her signature undramatic way, she told him "Yes" on a barren stretch of I-15 outside Mona; he pulled over, said "Well this is a hell of a place", and kissed her. She didn't tell him about the spiritual experience at all; he had to read it from the same article I did.
Of course, we can't talk about Lavina without talking about her deep belief in the sacred nature of words. She loved them, used them brilliantly, never let her Manual of Style drop below body temperature, and once won free tickets to the play "eleemosynary" for being the only editor at the Ensign who could define it (financially charitable). She carried this love to ludicrous extremes at times. I remember her napping in a hotel room while Paul and I were channel surfing. A commercial for diapers came on, with the tagline "Love your baby? Give them Pampers." Lavina woke up, said, "Give him or her Pampers", and went back to sleep. Another time, Lavina was driving me home from middle school with a friend; we were chatting when she suddenly blurted out, "If you say the word 'like' one more time, I'm making you walk home!" I hadn't noticed this verbal tic, but my friend said, "Wow, that's, like, a little harsh." She screeched to a halt on 3rd West and glared at him until he apologized.
She respected words like this for a couple reasons. First, they were her escape from the manual labor of the farm. (Sidebar: another contradiction was Lavina loved nature but hated working outdoors.) Second, words were her windows into other people; for all her kindness, she had difficulty understanding how others thought and what they felt. This memorial is being held despite her insistence that nobody would care that she was gone, nor should they since she wasn't able to give anything back anymore. But most importantly, she respected words because they let people be seen clearly. She loved working as an editor because she could help people present their best selves clearly and honestly. People responded to this; one woman wrote on her wall, "You may have had one son, but you have mothered generations of Mormon...sisters and daughters."
As we know, this compulsive honesty combined with caring for others led directly to her discipline by the church. When she realized through her work at the Ensign and in the archives that the lack of checks and balances was leading to just about every single person she knew being pressured by leaders, she believed that documenting these problems with impeccable scholarship and with the best writing she could muster would convince leaders to correct the problem, much as Lester Bush's article had helped Kimball find a way to extend the blessings of the priesthood to all worthy men. This is how Lavina shows love: not by changing herself, but by changing the world to make it better for everyone. It is a mark of how carefully she researched the problem that not one authority nor anyone involved in the 138 cases she reported has ever even suggested she said something untrue. Sadly, scrupulous accuracy wasn't enough this time.
I know there are many parents with us who worry what effect honesty and spiritual independence might have on their children. As a teen, I would sometimes express that I was upset with Lavina for taking a stand against spiritual abuse, because it got her excommunicated and left me socially isolated by association. If you worry your children will resent you for making their lives harder, at times they will. But: I was also proud then. I am even more proud now of her example of courage and integrity. Whatever failures I have in my life, they don't come because I lack role models in bravery.
About 48 hours before Lavina died, she had her first break with reality. I heard her calling me, and rushed downstairs to find her on the bathroom floor, having crawled there after getting herself out of bed for the first time in weeks and insisting with some impatience—in French—that I help her find the two kidnapped Swiss girls. To be clear, in Lavina's mind she had awakened to find herself on a hard-tile floor in a foreign country, unable to walk, and kidnapped; her response to this situation was not fear but irritation and her top priority was making sure two strangers were safe. In many ways that tells you everything you need to know about Lavina: when you stripped away the eloquence and the encyclopedic intelligence, what remained was courage and compassion etched on the fundamental substance of her soul.
These two traits, as we all know, got her in trouble. But, I think, they are also the reason we are here in our hundreds. Today, we do not mourn the passing of a woman who did what others told her to and came to death full of regrets. Neither do we gather to grieve a woman embittered by injustice. Today we look at a life lived with complete authenticity, we honor it, and we pray for Lavina-strength, Lavina-integrity, Lavina-courage, so that our end will also come with the same sense of wholeness and completeness as hers.
|1 For everyone born, a place at the table,
for everyone born, clean water and bread,
a shelter, a space, a safe place for growing,
for everyone born, a star overhead.
|3 For just and unjust, a place at the table,|
abuser, abused, our shadows we face;
in anger, in hurt, a mindset of mercy,
for just and unjust, the mercy of grace.
|2 For woman and man, a place at the table,
revising the roles, the courage to share,
with wisdom and grace, we balance the power,
for woman and man, a system that's fair.
|4 For everyone born, a place at the table,|
for halt and for hale, cast out or adored,
the right to speak out, to witness, to worship
for everyone born, the embrace of the Lord.
And God will delight when we are creators of justice
and joy, compassion and peace:
yes, God will delight when we are creators of justice
justice and joy!
I'm grateful for the opportunity Marina and Christian gave me to share a few thoughts about Sister Anderson. I'd also like to say how wonderful that last musical numbers was, and all the music today. It feels right to have this sort of musical tribute for Sister — and Brother — Anderson, who both loved music so much.
There is a scripture in the program; I asked Marina earlier if this was one of Sister Anderson's favorite scriptures because in Whittier Ward (where she was a member for 46 years) we have a Testimony Book that was compiled in 1999. As part of her testimony she shared that scripture:
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 8:38-39)
That certainly defines in my mind who Sister Anderson was: a woman who did not let anyone or anything separate her from the love of God in Christ. I wanted to read some of what she wrote in December of 1999:
I know that God lives, and knows each one of us, and loves each one of us. I know that Jesus Christ is my savior, and that his mission on earth was to teach us by precept, but especially by the example of his boundless love. I am especially grateful for the faith of Joseph Smith, which took him into the sacred grove, and his determination to serve Him that led to the restoration of the Church. I love the Book of Mormon, and find inspiration in its pages. Rereading it beginning every January has been a wonderful way to start each year. I revere and sustain our prophet Gordon B. Hinckley who holds all priesthood keys for our day, and whose inspiring vision has made it possible for hundreds of thousands of members to have access to the blessings of the temple. I love the Church and stand in awe of its ability to create and nurture communities of goodness and caring. I have a testimony of prayer; not only that faith can produce miracles in our lives, but it can also open our eyes to the constant miracles with which we are surrounded.
That is the Sister Anderson that I know, a woman of faith and conviction. I had the opportunity to meet with her and share some special moments, including sharing this [paragraph] with her. I knew from reading this how much she loved the Savior, and that nothing could change the special relationship she had with Him. That was very evident in everything that she did, as has been shared to some degree today.
I want to share my testimony that I know the Plan of Salvation is a plan of happiness. I know that Sister and Brother Anderson are together, and they are able to enjoy eachother's company in a spirit of peace. I am grateful for a loving Heavenly Father that allows us to experience things in this life to prepare to meet Him again and be in His presence. I'm grateful for a Savior that gave His life for each and every one of us, whose infinite and eternal atonement is universal, and yet individual and specific: only He knows how we feel at any point in our lives regarding any challenge we may be facing. I'm blessed by the associations I have had with the Andersons; we, as the Madrigal family, we love them. And I want to express my deep love for Brother [Paul] Anderson who I miss dearly; I miss Sister Anderson too, but I know they are together and that is the important thing. I am grateful for having this opportunity to share these thoughts, and I do so in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.