“A Reverence for Trees, a Reverence for Printers” by Rosie Gochnour Serago

This spring, Exponent II found a printer that agreed to be our midwife. Due to an initial email joke that didn’t really land, our account representative, Mary, actually thought our magazine was about midwifery. After the confusion passed, we agreed she wasn’t entirely wrong, and when I had my first tour of North Star’s printing facility she expressed how enthusiastic she was to be “a midwife” to the words and artwork of Mormon women and gender minorities.

In fact, similar to a midwife, I observed a real reverence and fortitude in Mary as we discussed the details of printing our first issue together while we walked through the facility in Spanish Fork, Utah. She taught me how they accomplish zero-waste production, taking extra steps to gather up and bundle all excess paper trimmings to be re-made into new paper pulp. Working in the printing industry has made Mary a real defender of trees. “Every harvested tree deserves to go towards something that really matters,” said Mary. She was proud her facility printed the packaging for 21 million COVID-19 test kits during the height of the pandemic. 

A month later, when it was time for Mary and I to review the issue’s print proofs, she admitted she had already read a few articles. “I think a tree might be content to learn it was turned into this magazine,” she told me. She shared how one of the essays by a transgender sister impacted her heavily. Words printed on a page turned into a desire to give someone she’d never met a comforting hug. We agreed we were thankful to the trees whose sacrifice allowed us to build community and create a safe landing space in Exponent II.

We were thankful to the trees whose sacrifice allowed us to build community and create a safe landing space in Exponent II.

Although this issue is open-themed, the editorial team loved seeing organic themes emerge through the submissions. As the writing and art engage each other, we saw a clear thread about connection — particularly through the lens of generations.

As El Call examines precedent and revelation in priesthood ordination, Katie Ludlow Rich illuminates what genuine connection and service looks like in the life of Sue Szwahlen, the first woman (and LDS) mayor of Modesto, California. Artist Kathryn Ivy Reese talks about the Behold You Belong Movement and directly invites others into their inclusive, artistic collaboration.

Along with the book reviews and the stunning array of poems, the personal essays also speak to connection. Allison Pingree’s piece envisions a world where her husband is not struggling with Alzheimer’s disease while JosieAnna Peterson creates a powerful tribute to her late cousin. 

Without prompting, we also had moving submissions addressed to the generations to come. L.E.R. writes a brave letter to her daughter about the realities of postpartum depression, Lauren Toiaivao Bost discusses parenting styles amid faith transitions, and Trang Thach Hickman advises her two children about what it is like to live “between two worlds” as a Vietnamese refugee living the life she has now. Janalie C. Bingham Joseph reflects on her life as a working mother and Alma Frances Pellett shares her experience witnessing her son’s ordination. Many of these relationships and experiences are under construction, similar to what Kimberly Applewhite Teitter explores in her essay on faith and Carol Lynn Pearson’s portrayal of the Holy Weeks we undertake in our own lives. 

After I signed off on the print proofs to send another issue of Exponent II officially to print, Mary asked me if I knew I was part of a community “defining a new generation of Mormon thought leaders.” As the eight-year Layout Editor who has typeset more than 25 issues, sometimes I get caught up in a poem or artist statement and the magnitude of what I’m a part of silences me, similar to spotting spring’s first blossoming cherry tree. But mostly I feel a lot like a midwife myself . . . head down and focused on an important task at hand, birthing a new life. 

(Photo by wyman H on Unsplash)

Rachel Rueckert is the current editor in chief of the Exponent II Magazine. She is the author of EAST WINDS.

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