Zandra Vranes of “Sistas In Zion” and Laurel Christensen Day: Racism In the Church

Episode #3: Published Oct. 23, 2018

Zandra Vranes and Laurel Christensen Day’s friendship requires a conscious, deliberate effort to create trust. In this episode, they talk with “All In” host Erin Hallstrom about why they have chosen to create a strong relationship and understanding with one another by refusing to shy away from difficult conversations. Vranes and Day discuss how racism is manifest in the Church today and what we can all do to help each other feel at home in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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Read a full transcript of the episode below.

ERIN HALLSTROM: I went to a church event recently with a dear friend of mine. The only real difference between this friend and me is that I'm white, and she is not. We sat down and within a few minutes, someone approached us, actually, they approached my friend not me, and asked if they could see her ticket to see if she belonged in the section that we were sitting in, we had fairly good seats. I didn't think anything of it, we showed the tickets moved on. And then two hours later, the same thing happened. And I was forced to admit something really uncomfortable, that I didn't want to admit I'll be honest, which was that something else was at play here that there was a reason that this kept happening to my friend and not to me. The reason I'm telling you this story is because today we are going to talk about race and racism, even among people that share the same faith. I'm joined by Zandra Vranes and Laurel Day, two friends who have forged a bond over sitting in some uncomfortable places talking about difficult topics. 

I'm Erin Hallstrom and this is "All In," an LDS Living podcast, where we talk about what it means to be all in with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Zandra and Laurel, thank you for joining us.

LAUREL CHRISTENSEN: Thank you for having us.

EH: So let me introduce you to our listeners who may not know you. Zandra Vranes is a popular multimedia personality and is the co-author of sistasinzion.com. She also most recently is a producer on the Jane and Emma movie. Laurel Day is the Vice President of Product and Consumer Experience at Deseret Book Company. Now the reason I wanted to talk to you both is because as I referenced in my introduction, topics of race and racism can be very charged and also very uncomfortable. I often feel a resistance myself to dig into it. But you are two women who got to know each other and chose to have some of those hard discussions, especially as it is connected to your shared faith as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. So do you remember the first conversation you had with each other about race? What sparked it?

LC: I feel like it very well could have been early on because part of why we met actually was because, in my role at Deseret Book, we're always looking for new talent, new voices. And I started stalking Zandra and Tamoo and their Sistas in Zion blog back in the day when blogs were a thing. And they had a radio show. Anyway, so we got together for a dinner at the garden. And so we kind of talked about racing immediately because we came up with an idea for a book that was actually from their perspective as black Mormons. And so I don't think it never has been a topic. And it's also not been the topic. It's not me, right?

ZANDRA VRANES: It was organic. But it's always been on the table.

LC: And it's the kind of thing that you kind of know is always on the table. I think. When a white woman and a black woman choose to like actually create a friendship, which is what I also feel like has happened. We had a reason for work to come together. We had a reason for faith to come together. But you choose, I think, to go beyond those boundaries and actually become friends. And I feel like that's what we've done, right?

ZV: Absolutely.

LC: We're friends. Right?

ZV: We are friends! Definitely friends.

LC: Yeah, I don't have a shared necklace. She doesn't have half and I have the other half. But that's coming maybe after today.

EH: I guess you were continuing in your professional, but when did it become more than professional?

LC: I think for us, I think it became more than professional when we really did start to become developed a friendship, and it's actually different than a friendship.In a lot of ways. It's like a sisterhood because it's not like Sandra and I hang out socially all the time. And, I mean, she lives in Boise and I'm in Salt Lake and frankly, it's not like I'm sitting around looking for ways to hang out with anybody these days because I feel that I am just so busy, but it feels like it's more of a sisterhood, we can we talk about that more than even being friends. So I'll speak to this and then Zandra will obviously have our own perspective. But I feel like I knew early on, that I needed someone like Zandra in my life as a sister because I've, you know, lived in a lot of different places. I've never like isolated myself from people of different backgrounds. I think the challenge is just by virtue of being a Latter-day Saint and living in Utah, which I've done long enough now. Sometimes you do start to get a little isolated in the diversity of your relationships. So I had a sense early on that my life would be blessed by developing a relationship with Zandra, just because our backgrounds were different in lots of ways. Not just because of the color of our skin, right?

ZV: Yeah. You know, I'm a really introverted person. And so I don't make friends very easily. And my social, my real-life friendships are very small. I think for me, Laura was a person that I, the more honest I was with her, the more I trusted her and, and I thought, "Okay, I can be myself." Until I don't I think it just I just turned around one day and thought, oh, I've let my guard down around this person. And as a black Latter-day Saint, I think we spend so much time in like a version of ourselves that is not relaxed. When we're at church, we're not as culturally loose as we would be. And so for me, it was when I noticed that oh, I'm like speaking ebonics around Laurel.

LC: And sometimes defining.

ZV: Yeah. And you know, and you, you realize that you're very relaxed around this person and you don't have to be in that state of... I mean, it's still myself. It's just not a free self. And I'm very free around Laurel.

EH: So that feeling of not being able to be completely naturally yourself.

ZV: Right.

EH: Is that something you feel a lot in church?

ZV: Yeah. I mean, a lot of people say African Americans, but black Americans specifically, we say "ax" instead of "ask." I can say both. But we say the Sacrament prayer all the time in our church and the word "ask" is in it. When I hear the word "ax", it goes either way. I know what they're talking about. It's a dialect switch for me. But I've been in places where I've seen a black Deacon be, have to repeat the sacrament prayer over and over and over again. And so I've learned, okay in this place, just say it the way they're comfortable with. And so if I slip, it could be seen as a mistake or something that you'd have to repeat. And so you learn to kind of switch.

EH: Yeah.

LC: You know, one of the interesting things about I think some of the conversations we've had, I think there's a whole lot of members of The Church who go to church and don't feel like the real version of themselves. But I think when you go, and you have a different color of skin, or a different marital status, or different, whatever you attribute that feeling to the thing, and I'm not saying that it's not at all like, I have no doubt that Zandra has a different experience at church because she is a black member of The Church in a predominantly white area then I would, given the same circumstances. But I actually think, and we've had this conversation to there's so many things that being a member of The Church, there's so few of us that fit the "mold," that I think a lot more of us have the same feelings than not. And we attribute it to the thing instead of realizing part of it is just the community of you know, it's interesting. And then and then they'll have an example like what Zandra just gave that's very specific, culturally. And so I'm not diminishing that at all. But it just struck me when you said that I thought, "Yeah, how often do I go to church and don't feel like the truest version of myself at church?" and what a shame because that's probably where I should feel the most free?

EH: Like the fear to be totally comfortable with ourselves.

LC: Yeah, or to actually ask the question you want to ask, or even give the answer you actually really do feel, but maybe it's not. It's going to give people a reason to judge you for saying that answer or whatever. Right.

EH: So is it ever hard to have this conversation? Do you ever want to stop talking about race with each other?

ZV: I always want to stop talking about race.

EH: That's fair. We won't let you.

ZV: Yeah, no problem. And that's also, t's just my personality. I'm just a very guarded person. And I never ever talked politics, social issues in a public platform before it was always conversations that I had with very intimate circles. And so it's not that I didn't talk race. It's just that I didn't talk race with loose acquaintances. So I think that that was probably harder for me and Laurel and I know each other as well with my writing partner Tamoo. Laurel and Tamoo have an affinity for subjects that I just I listened to I observe but don't typically get into. So I love to listen and I love to observe in situations like that, but I would say that that it was a little difficult for me.

LC: And I actually Zandra taught me a really powerful lesson and I think we had something happen between us that actually could have been a riff. And I don't know if you remember this, but there's, I don't know, it's probably year and a half ago, I posted something on Facebook about, that was about race and The Church and making the connection of how Mormons were persecuted, you know, one time and so Mormons of all people should better appreciate the black experience. And it was my first time posting about race on social media. I have a lot of diversification in my world of political parties, and, you know, people who identify as LDS and people who don't. And anyway, I was getting on a plane, and some comments had started to come on. And Zandra entered the conversation, which she had never done before on my social media, and responded with something that was so articulate and so smart, and so, like, calm, and I was just, it was actually an answer, we can talk about that later. But it was an answer that has stuck with me. And then somebody else commented, as a comment to Zandra. And I started to see that there was like some tension coming up. And because I was getting on a plane, I got nervous, and I deleted the thread. Because I just didn't want this conversation to happen between people I love and may not be there. And I hurt Zandra, by doing that, because it took a lot of courage for her to enter the conversation. And it was my attempt to actually like, protect her. But for her, it was me shutting down a conversation that she finally had the courage to enter. And we ended up having a really like bold conversation after that, which I'm so grateful for because Zandra could have just dismissed me as another white friend who doesn't want to enter hard spaces with her. But instead, she gave me the benefit of the doubt and gave me a chance to like A, apologize and B, explained why I had done it and then C, do it differently the next time. And you know, the thing that I love about that experience is that I think too many of us have a hard thing happen. And then we just decide, oh, this is too hard. And Sandra could have decided that that day, she would have been so justified in doing that. Because I did, in essence, betray, like the trust that she and I had. Social media is tricky anyway. But it was a powerful lesson for me. And I don't even know if we've talked about it since then. I don't think we have. But I need you to know honestly, that was a really profound experience for me, not just in a relationship, but also in this space of like trusting each other that we're going to figure this out, even when it's hard because I think it's hard to even with as well as we know each other sometimes we still there still hard things right? I love that we're both all in, you know like we're both willing to talk about it.

ZV: I will say that you know, I've had that experience. And what I always feel is that for the marginalized person, whatever it is, whether you're the single woman in a conversation with a married woman, and you take yourself, you're like, "Okay, I'm gonna try to explain to them what it is." It takes so much out of you and takes so much energy. And then when those conversations get difficult, or they feel tense, or even contentious, and people delete them, it feels like all your work is gone. For the most part, what I've done is I'm like, that's why I don't get involved in these conversations.

LC: And I get it. Yeah, I get why you wouldn't be based on just that one instance of us together.

ZV: Right? And I just move on I'm and I just like I'm gonna be this type of friend with that person. I'd already developed a relationship with Laurel, where I felt like, I guess we're just going to see, I'm going to tell her how it made me feel and we'll see. And for me, those are the moments where I say, like, I step my toe in and see how it goes.

EH: And worth it.

ZV: Exactly. And because I've done that sometimes with people that I think I'm good friends with. And then they're like, well, I just didn't want to do it. And they don't understand for me what was, which showed the strength of a friendship that was that she was willing to hear my perspective. And that was even just that was a different experience than I'd had that someone said, oh, wow, let me even hear how this was different or significant to you. And so those experiences with Laurel have been really why it just keeps going. Not because we get it right all the time. But because we can at least tell each other that we're not getting it right.

EH: We've proved to each other, you can trust each other, right? Social media is such a mixed bag. It's really tricky. Although I also think it's important to raise your voice there. But I think is a lot of people, a lot of people like me feel this nervousness of stepping into it and saying the wrong thing, or having people that, you know, start saying the wrong things on your post and how you police that. Zandra, you recently or I don't know how recently it was maybe six months ago or something did a fairly long Facebook Live?

LC: If by fairly long you mean three hours!

ZV: Three-hour church. You're welcome. I'm the reason why the church is rescheduled.

EH: Thank you! I tell you, so we are connected on Facebook. And I watched it. And I didn't want to watch the whole thing. But, but I watched it because I felt like it was one of those moments where I felt like it was important because you're hurting about something. And what is so I guess the question I have from that is what is the best way that you can feel that support from people? Is it just sitting with you? Is it helping? Is it saying things? I mean, what's the way that you wish? People who weren't in your who don't have your same shared experience and would engage with you to help support you?

LV: Can I ask a clarifying question did not want to watch it because it was so long, or because it was making you uncomfortable? Or?

EH: Because no, I mean, I wanted to watch it. And let me be clear, but part of it was the length. But the second part of it was after about probably an hour into it. It was hard because it hurt.

LC: Yeah.

EH: And I saw someone who so sincerely was in pain. And it's hard to sit there when someone's in pain. Right? It's hard to do that. And so it's easier to just, you know, go back in play Candy Crush. Do people still play Candy Crush? I don't, I play something else. No. But yeah, you see what I mean? Like it? So anyway, that's mine.

ZV: Yeah, I think exactly what she described as what happens in real life. You're just so uncomfortable. And people want the discomfort to go away. So if I mean, you know, if I make a comment in church that makes other people uncomfortable, then the natural response that they have, or the initial response that they have is like, "Oh my gosh, I just want to be comfortable again" which is usually dismissive. They don't want to talk about it. So how can we get this topic off the table, so I can feel comfortable again. And I think all of us have to learn how to sit in discomfort. We really do. And specifically as Latter-day Saints, we believe that we have something called the gift of the Holy Ghost, which is our term for the Holy Spirit. And another name that scriptures has for him is the Comforter. And, you know, for me, I'm like, if God gives us a Comforter, obviously, he intends for us to be uncomfortable. And it's the Comforter's job to restore comfort, not our job. It's our job to sit there and engage and believe that we have this power that is going to come in and restore comfort, and will sort that out. So for me, I think the first step how people can support anybody that feels like they're in pain, or they're hurting is being willing to be uncomfortable, and at least here. And it's I know, it's really hard. I guess it's hard. I've been uncomfortable before too. But the minute people are trying to get comfortable again, you're like I shouldn't have said anything, or you feel or it air increases the pain because their comments that they're making are dismissive. And you feel like no one gets me and so I just think people got to be willing to sit in uncomfortable spaces sometimes. For me, what was is so unique to our doctrine is that we believe we get the gift of the Holy Ghost. And people always ask me like what, like, you guys think that you have something better than other people are like, only you guys get stuff. Here's the thing. We made a specific covenant, which was that we would bear and mourn and comfort. It's so hard to do. And we covenanted that we would do it for the whole world, that's like a huge thing. I believe that we get the gifts of the Holy Ghost because we took that covenant on and when you're bearing and you're mourning, you literally need constant companionship. I don't just need him to come in and tell me like, "Oh, don't go to that party or don't, you know, don't do this thing. Or, hey, this is truth." I need him constantly because I'm doing this forever covenant to bear and mourn. And I need that power with me to be able to do that. And I wish as members of The Church, we would tap into that so much more because that's our doctrine, we believe we got the constant companionship, and we're like, not utilizing. If you know, the Holy Ghost has got to be up there sometimes just going "Hello, tag me in, tag me in" because, you know, we're like running around like, oh my gosh, is so uncomfortable. And so whatever, but like, hello, we have this power that it says, "I will restore the comfort Don't you worry. Go in. Engage. I'm with you." Not just sometimes not just on Sundays, constantly. So I love that about our doctrine. I love that about needing the gifts in order to do the covenant because if you haven't covenanted to do it, you don't need the Gift constantly. And we get that immediately the minute you're baptized and you make your baptismal covenant, you get the gift of the Holy Ghost because you need it the moment you make that covenant.

EH: Okay, so let's get uncomfortable for a minute. What, what does racism look like at church in 2018?

ZV: In 2018, nobody is come into my ward house, burning crosses, wearing hoods. For the most part, you're not hearing overt racial slurs. And I think for a lot of Latter-day Saints, that's what racism is. So if that's not happening, then we're all better. And also, we have no policy banning black members from full membership in The Church. So, therefore, if you don't see those specific things, that's not then there's no racism. But in 2018, racism looks like saying things that are what you would call microaggressions. They're not overtly racist. They're not, like I said, racial slurs, but they still have racial connotations. So if someone says to me, keeps commenting, that they really liked when I wore my hair straight, and over and over again, like I liked when you wore your hair straight. Or this has happened to me, in The Church directory, you should take your picture over again because I really loved when your hair was straight. Well, when my hair is, in its natural state, that's an identifier of my racial identity. And for someone to keep saying they liked me better with straight hair. No, they didn't say the words black. They didn't say the N-word. They didn't even bring up race, but it has those racial connotations. And it looks like dismissing when someone tells you that something has happened, you know. I'm with youth a lot, someone will say, especially in youth settings, someone used a racial slur. The adults don't know how to deal with that. So they'll say just don't talk to them. Or, you know, you're a child of God, it doesn't matter what people tell you, not wanting to actually correct what's happening.

LC: Or even as recently I mean, Zandra had the experience of being in church and someone talking about the curse of Cain. And Zandra trying to correct them with the gospel topics essay, by the way, and having it dismissed. Because it's not seen as an official church publication, which is ridiculous, right? So I mean, it's the subtle thing she's talking about, but it's also like the more blatantly obvious things where we're holding on to old ideas, holding on to old beliefs and not accepting that things have actually changed and are different.

ZV: Yeah. So why do you think we resist hearing that these things are happening?

LC: You know, there's a great line in the Jane and Emma movie, where Jane says, and I hope I don't slaughter it, but she says something like, "The saints enough, who like to think or aren't is different from the rest of the world as they like to think they are." And I think that's true in our church culture. We like to think that because of our covenants, and because of our additional understanding, because of the restoration scriptures, we like to think that we're somehow "Better off" than the rest of the world. And I think we're also, you know, The Church is also a place for sinners and a place for people who need grace, but none of us want to see it in ourselves. I mean, racism also looks like in my mind, telling a story in Sunday school, and mentioning your Asian friend, when the fact that your friend is Asian has literally nothing to do with your story. So you're either saying it to say, "Hey, look at me, I don't just have white friends," or you're saying it for some other reason. I've heard it, I mean, I hear people say something like, "You know, she, she's Mexican, but she's really, really fill in the blank." Like, I think there are things like that that are said that we just don't even think about the implications of how that sounds and what we're actually saying what that identifier means. So going back to that comment that Zandra made on my Facebook page, it was about the idea of being colorblind. So someone had said, "Well, I'm colorblind." And you know, we hear that all the time as if it's like the noble way to look at race. Recently, Zandra said, which I love, she said, "I need you not to be colorblind, I need you to see my black skin to like, fully appreciate and understand my experience and my challenges." And I that really, truly was a paradigm shift for me, because I thought my goal was to become colorblind. I thought that was the goal. And Zandra helped me realize, "Nope, that's not the goal, I need you to see this." So on one hand, we need to see each other's differences that make things hard. And on the other hand, we need to not be calling them out when it's not relevant to the discussion. So talking about uncomfortable, I think that's hard. I think that is a tricky space. To show Zandra, I see you, and I get it, and oh wait but this was the time when I wasn't supposed to. Like this is the time when I wasn't supposed to bring it up. Like that's hard. It's tricky, even for, for me who I feel like I have the benefit of having a connected, close intimate relationship with a woman of color, I still get it wrong. And so of course, it's uncomfortable. And of course, we're all I mean, we're going to get it wrong. And we need to be okay with that I guess?

ZV: We have to be okay with getting it wrong because that's how we learn. That's how we grow. And I think that it's what's really hard is that people love to focus on intent. I didn't intend to say something mean, I didn't intend to be racist, intend to make you feel bad. But as members of The Church, our goal is to look at our impacts that we're having. And so even if my intent is not to hurt your feelings, by the thing, I said, if my if the impact I had on you doesn't match the intent I had, don't I need to change the way I went about it. So if I say "I actually wanted you to feel loved", and you say to me, "Yeah, well, that actually made me feel isolated." And then I keep saying to you about intended for you to feel love, so I'm going to keep saying this phrase, or doing this thing because that's my intent. And you keep saying to me, "Hey, that's not the impact it's having on me."I have to change my engagement so that my action actually matches the impact that I'm having on you. We struggle to do that. We want people to just go off of the intent that we had. And that's not Christ way, you know what I mean? Christ came and he said, "I'm going to show you the impact I have on people by doing things differently than the way you guys have been doing it right now." And he went around the world and showed and went around Jerusalem and showed people that and that shut people up. They kept saying, "No, you don't do that on Sundays." He kept saying, "Yeah, but the way you're doing it, your engagement is not masking the impacts we need to have on people." So that's really hard for us, just as human beings.

EH: Well it requires a massive amount of humility.

ZV: Yeah. I cut you off. Go ahead.No, no, I think we want that we put the onus on the other person. Yeah. And so if someone says to me, "I touched your hair because I think it's really cool." That was my way of showing you like, I actually think black hair is cooler than white here. And I say, Yeah, but the impact it has on me makes me feel like, you don't respects my personal space, like you. Like, I feel like I'm on display.

EH: Out of curiosity.

ZV: Yeah, exactly. And they keep saying to me, "No, that's but that's not what I meant." You know, and, and they don't want to change. They don't want to say, "You know what, I didn't intend for you to feel that way. But now I know that that's the impacts I'm having on you. Let's talk about how we can engage better so that my, you know, my intent and my actions lined up." That's, that's what we've got to do.

LC: I think that connection between intent and impact is, like, perfectly explained. And it explains it actually, in a way that I mean, even yeah, I just think that's perfect. And its application is in everything, right? In every relationship and every situation. Brilliant.

EH: So what's our responsibility to correct people? And I mean, there may be, are there different responsibilities between someone who is white or someone is a person of color? Because I don't think all the responsibility should be on you, Zandra, for example. But we kind of tend to put it on you, I feel like, and so what's all of our responsibility?

ZV: I'm going to say everyone's responsibility starts with their circle of influence. So I'm going to give a different example where I would be the person that doesn't understand. Okay, if someone says something in my family that's homophobic, it is not the LGBTQ+ person's responsibility to correct my family, and convince them that they're a person that deserves respect. It's me, I have the better connection. I have the ability to speak to my family in a way that they already trust me. And so it's my job to go in and saying, "Hey, what you just said, right there, that's, that wasn't okay. And let me tell you why. And you know, that I love you. And, and you know, that we're always going to be family together. But I need to explain this to you."And the reason is, is because I'm the one that should be having the patience with my family. I'm the one that should be going to the room if that if my family is going no, but it's okay because of this. If I let the person that got hurt have to do that, I'm deepening their hurt, you know. I'm requiring them in that really vulnerable moment, to field all of this defensiveness that's going to come at them. But if I'm there, and I see that I get to be patient with my family. I get to hear the asinine things that they might say, and shield this person from it, and walk through that and muddle through that with them. And I'm the one that has the trust and the relationship to be able to do that. I think sometimes what we tend to do is we'll say like, "Let me get my one gay friend in here to go." Can you explain to my family? Why this isn't okay. Now, if I have trust with that person, I can say, okay I want to talk to my family about this. Could you help me understand some things that and you go one on one, and then you take that back to your family? So are our circles of influence and our places of influence, are our responsibility. If a non-Latter-day Saint is offended by something, a Latter-day Saints said it, that's my community. I go in there, and I wrestle with my community and say, "Look, we got to talk about what happened." And my community can let their guard down because I'm one of them. And so we can have this difficult conversation, I don't have any expectation that this person is now got to go in and do battle and do and do all that. So it allows us to give grace. When it's me, I get to say like, I know my mom's not like an insane person. And I know that if she really understood this, that she wouldn't say what she says. So I can go into with that. But the other person doesn't need to be a part of that, you know, I don't need say, hey, she didn't mean it like that.

LC: It reminds me a little bit of that the airport slogan like, "See something, say something." Like if you're aware enough to see that it's happening, to hear it and to realize that it's wrong, you're obligated because you have more knowledge. And we believe that doctrinally right? When you have more knowledge, you have more responsibility. I think there are oftentimes many well-intentioned people not thinking about the impact. In a classroom, for example, when something is said, and we're all like the ones that are going, "Oh", but what do you do? Do you call the person out in front of the entire Sunday school class? Do you wait till after the Sunday school class, pull them aside? Like, it's hard to know, I think in that moment what to do. And that's when grace I guess has to come in. Grace on behalf of the person who's sitting there that's feeling, I don't know. But I do think we don't do it enough. We don't come the defense enough of the person who's feeling marginalized, whatever the situation is. And I, for one want to be better at that. And I feel like I at least am aware that I need to be better. And maybe that's the first step.

ZC: Yeah. I think awareness is great. I think that recognizing that we all have blinders and some capacity, you know. And I also think just being willing to recognize that we can all literally be in the same place and have 100%, a completely different experience. And it all be true. So that's really hard. Like, especially in congregations, like someone might say, "I had this really hard experience with the bishop." And then the rest of the word goes, "I love the bishop. I've never had a hard experience, he's a really great person." The bishop could be a really good person to me, and then a really rude person to someone else. I could be a wonderful person to everyone in this room, and someone could walk in here and tell you about a negative experience they had with me, and it could be 100% true. We've got to remember, like, it's so nuanced, and we've got to listen to those experiences. And it's okay to say, "Wow, I never had that experience with this person." But what we tend to do is just jump in there and get super defensive and like, "He must have meant something different? I've never heard him say anything like that." We may not have, but we still need to let that person share that experience.

EH: Yeah, I've experienced that a lot where you have someone that tells you, "Oh, this thing happened to me it was super racist." And my immediate response is, "Oh, are you sure?"

ZV: Right.

EH: You know? And instead, maybe the response should be, I'm hearing, "Oh, tell me more about that made you feel?"

ZV: Yes.

EH: "Oh, let me understand that. Let me try and understand you better right." Coming from a place of empathy before we come from a place of telling you what's what. So let's talk about Jane and Emma. Why make that movie today?

LC: You know, I think one of the beautiful things about Jane and Emma, the movie and the making of the movie is that the making of it was the movie in terms of we are still having the same challenges, the same conversations, the same difficulty, as was in Nauvoo in 1847. So maybe things on paper have changed, but I think this process has reconfirmed in my mind, the importance of like, what we are actually here to learn because I think every dispensation and every generation within that dispensation is here to learn how to love each other. And so the issues might fluctuate, and the society and the culture might change, but the issue is still the same. And we have reasons to be divided. And we can either choose to let those divisions make us not love each other. Or we can figure out how to love each other, even with those divisions, and those things that are part of just the natural human experience. And it's, it's hard. I mean, when you know, with the gifts of the Holy Ghost, when Moroni says "pray with all the energy of your heart, that you may be filled with this love." I don't find anywhere else in the scriptures that we're told to pray with all of the energy of our heart for anything else. And that lets me know, guess what this is going to be hard. Yeah, actually loving each other is the hardest thing right going to be asked to do. So you better pray with all the energy of your heart to do it, or you're not going to be able to make it. And we have to want it that badly, that we're really willing to have humility, get on our knees and say, "I can't do this." My heart cannot change, but I trust that you can change it and I'm ready and I'm willing. But it is the challenge of mortality. I am more and more convinced that we're given gender and race and marital status and economic, like whatever those things are, we're almost given those things so that we have something like force us to change our paradigm and learn to love each other. Otherwise, Heavenly Father could have made us all the same way easier, and still had a mortal journey, right? And still, learn to somehow become like Him. Nope, we couldn't have. He realized you actually can't learn to become like me, unless you have all these things that clearly make division, and you learn to overcome them and love anyway. And I just think that's amazing.

ZV: There's peace in it too though. Because Jane and Emma, what it does for me is reminding me that we don't have to reinvent the wheel. We're not like, I think sometimes you think of it like, how do we figure this out? Like, this is going to be so hard because no one's ever done it before. The peace in this is like, we have sort of a map of like, showing that we did this at a really divisive time, especially in America, and in our church. And two women were able to do it, it fills me with hope. Because I'm like, I'm not making this up or having to figure it out. I just need to pick up the mantle, where they left off and carry on. That knowing that there's four mothers in the work that showed us the way gives me a lot of peace, and hope.

EH: What have you learned from each other?

ZV: A lot.

LC: I think I've learned more about myself through my relationship with Zandra. I've learned more about my ability to listen, and more about my ability to understand. I'm someone who, I'm pretty quick to have an answer to things. And this has been we've had conversations and topics where I don't have it. I don't have the answer. And I've learned that I'm actually capable of listening and being a that I don't have the answer. Being okay that there isn't an answer sometimes. And I have I've learned a lot about faithfulness. So, I so appreciate Zandra's commitment to just stick in for the good fight. Because I've watched her have to battle some things. And it's, it has renewed my commitment to what it means to be a Christian, and what it means to honor my baptismal covenants. With Sandra, and just even in my own sphere, like in my own place, but I'm kind of always amazed at people who have 100 reasons to walk away, and they choose to hang on to the five reasons they don't have to walk away, or the reasons they can't. And in my own life, I sometimes can be a walker. If things get too hard, I can walk really quickly. And I've, I've appreciated that piece of it too. But I just I love what I've learned about myself and what I've learned about what it means to be a sister. Because I truly, I feel as close to Zandra in a sisterly way as I do my own.

ZV: I feel like Laurel, I've learned a lot about myself. I think that I'm always trying to protect myself and protect others. And that that makes me decide really quickly who to let in for Jane and Emma while Tamo and I were doing the research and it's because of Laurel that were at the table. And if someone would have said before, like Laurel, this white girl who works with at Deseret book wants to do a movie about some black people, I would say, well, we should-- probably not them. But I would have been wrong. And she has been the person in this journey that has commiserated with me cried with me and fought for me. And I couldn't have had the insight to have picked her to be in that journey with I really had to be open. And so this idea of we talk about this a lot on the Jane and Emma project of letting unlikely friendships in. It is so vital, you cannot look at a person, you can't scroll their Facebook feed, you can't look at the people they hang around and make assumptions about people. You have got to let yourself have experiences, and then build relationships on the experiences that you're having.

EH: What does that mean to you to be all in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, even amongst all of this difficult ness?

ZV: I would say, all in for me means being where God asked me to be. And sometimes that's really difficult place. And when I'm all in, it also means that if I'm here, I'm also doing what he asked him to be because there's one thing being here, and being disconnected."Okay, I'm here God," but and for me that doing is that baptismal covenant piece, which is to bear one another's burdens to mourn, to comfort to take upon me His name. And so if I'm going to be here, that means that I'm here to do those things for other people. So majority of people asked me, "What's the best thing about your church?" And I always say, "That it's a community that has covenanted, promised God, that they would bear my burden, comfort with me, mourn with me, I would do the same to them. I didn't just promise you, I promise God that I would do that for you." And so I'm dedicated. That's what keeping covenant is. That's the beautiful thing about my church, my gospel, my community.

EH: Thank you.

LC: Just simply for me, we either believe that all are like under God, or we don't. And I feel like I spent a lot of my life being a really good member of The Church, checking off some boxes and doing this to-do list of things I thought I was supposed to do. And I think the older I get, and the more life experience I have, I'm becoming more and more aware that really all He cares about when all is said and done is,"Did you love my children?" And there's plenty of times I fall short of that. Um, plenty. But I think a lot of us are going to be surprised by how important that question is, after this life, compared to all the other questions we thought we were going to be asked. And so for me, it matters because I really, truly believe our job in this life is to get our Father's heart. And these are the kinds of things, these are the kinds of relationships, these are the kinds of issues, these are the kinds of conversations, that I think help us get that. It really is why we're here. And it is why we have these challenges. I believe that because otherwise, a loving God would have made this a heck of a lot easier for a whole bunch of his children who go through life unloved. And so yeah, I just I think it's, I think it is that simple and that hard. All the same time.

ZV: Because we think of it as something that will descend upon us when we have "churched" enough correctly. As opposed to something that we're actively engaged in going out and making happen. And in some instances, fighting for.

LC: Because ironically, you can church correctly, and not the right heart.

ZV: Absolutely. But I think that's what we think like, it's like, I will become loving by if I go through the mechanics. Yes, yeah. And it will just, it will descend on me, and I will see everybody, and it's no, that's work. It takes work to go and see everyone differently. And that's what I mean, really, I think we should know that. It's what Jesus did, like, constantly, that was his entire ministry was going and loving people and watching him work. And they literally say he worked miracles. It was work.

LC: So "all in" to me, means am I willing to do the work it takes to get a heart like His, and to love his children, and to love my brothers and sisters, and to remember that that's actually who we are. So I guess in that respect, we really are sisters. But that's, that's what "all in" means to me.

EH: Thank you both so much for being here for letting us sit with you in this and hopefully, for a lot of us to dedicate ourselves to sitting in more difficult conversations going forward with our sisters, our brothers, all the children of God. So thank you very much for joining us.

ZV: Thank you so much for having us.

LC: And thanks for the conversation. I think this is a conversation that ought to be continued in every home and every relationship. We can do better.

EH: Thank you. Thanks again to Zandra and Laurel for joining us and to you for listening. If you haven't seen the movie, Jane and Emma, you really should go see it. It's a beautiful film that touches on many of the topics we talked about today. And also for more episodes of All In please visit LDSliving.com/allin.