Let her be an Ensign.

By May 29, 2015

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Two years ago, I wrote a post called, “In the Ghetto: I Like It Here, but When Can I Get Out?” I lamented the separation of Mormon women’s history from the general narrative of the church. Having people read what you’ve written is always lovely, but it is exponentially better when someone continues to think about something you’ve written and then chooses to do something about it. Thank you, Ardis.

Ardis Parshall–the mastermind behind the Mormon history blog Keepapitchinin–has moved to act. Always one to go above and beyond, Ardis has begun a daunting project of writing a broad synthesis of Mormon history written from the perspective of women–She Shall Be an Ensign. And she needs our support.

We, here at JI, heartily recommend her project to you. Ardis is an indomitable and generous researcher and she will offer us views and stories that we have never seen or heard of before. (Though I love Mary Fielding, I’m sorry if you’ve been overly attached to her [not] blessing her ox, but it is time for new stories and new voices.) Through this project, Ardis is attempting to begin the process of balancing out the narrative of LDS Church History, which has been overwhelmingly male. (For some depressing stats see this.) While her Kickstarter campaign burst out of the gates, the support needs to continue so the project is fully funded and Ardis can bring this project to fruition.

Go here. See the project. Do something. Just $10 of support will give you an electronic copy of the book. At $35 you get a print book and trading cards. Your support will help all of us enjoy the fruits of a complete tapestry of Mormon faith.

In that 2013 post, I argued, “until there begin to be popular LDS sources and church curriculum that incorporate women’s voices into the larger story of the Restoration, LDS women’s history will remain in the ghetto rather than taking the equal place it deserves in the narrative of the Restoration.” I am one of those historians desperately wanting Mormon women’s voices to continue to be heard. Personally, I believe this is of essential importance to the spiritual health of the body of Christ as well as the academic field of Mormon History. Some publishers need encouragement that such projects are not only devotionally or academically valuable, but likewise monetarily viable. Though Deseret Book’s commitment to Women of Faith was significant, without people buying books the prospect of other such projects lessens dramatically. (Women of Faith needs to sell more books.) The success of She Shall Be an Ensign and other projects working to balance the narrative of the Restoration are essential to demonstrate to publishers that we will put our money where our mouths are. Support Ardis as she continues to work for all of us.

Article filed under Announcements and Events


  1. Glad to see this endorsement here. You’re right — this is an important cause. And plus, who doesn’t want to read more of Ardis’ original writing?

    I’m supporting this project.

    Comment by Hunter — May 29, 2015 @ 9:35 pm

  2. Me, too. Go, Ardis!

    Comment by Heather S — May 29, 2015 @ 11:05 pm

  3. Thanks, JJohnson. This is a great project.

    Comment by Edje Jeter — May 31, 2015 @ 6:23 am

  4. I’m contributing to this project, and spreading the word. For sure. Not knowing the publishing world, I have a few questions, though. Why is Ardis publishing this herself? Will people feel confident quoting from it since it is self published? I’m honestly asking. I want it to have all the prestige it deserves. Someone please explain!

    Comment by Joanne — May 31, 2015 @ 3:40 pm

  5. Joanne-

    Those are good questions. Here are my ideas, but I’ll invite Ardis to add anything if she wants to.

    I know certain imprimaturs seem to give some comfort, but hopefully people will judge the material on its own merits. As a independent historian, Ardis doesn’t have the luxury of a salary while she works on this. Beyond that, printing the book, kickstarter fees, and shipping costs, etc. will take a considerable majority of the funds. I myself would hope she’ll have more than $30k to cover all of that plus keeping her own self together.

    People rarely make money on Mormon history books. And those working with a publisher would have to wait until the book is sold to get any small (less than 10%) remuneration.

    Comment by JJohnson — May 31, 2015 @ 7:25 pm

  6. Thanks, J. And thank you, Joanne, for asking.

    One of a publisher’s first concerns has to be how profitable a book will be. By self-publishing with the aid of a Kickstarter, I don’t have that concern – every pledge represents 1-5 copies of the book sold, along with the confidence that the book will be worth everyone’s while.

    If people have questions about my credibility and quality, you might refer them to my blog, Keepapitchinin. With more than 5,000 posts over the past seven years, anyone curious can check out the breadth of my research, my scholarship, and especially my tone. I’ll be happy to answer email to AEParshall [at] aol [dot] com when anyone would like to be pointed toward a post on a given subject, or to ask for my “edgiest” or “most devotional” posts to measure my attitudes. A sampling of acknowledgments from a handful of top scholars for whom I have worked might also be of interest.

    But as JJohnson said above, this book should stand on its own merits, and its reliability, and my skills and qualifications should be evident from reading even a few pages of the text.

    Thanks for your support.

    Comment by Ardis Parshall — May 31, 2015 @ 8:02 pm

  7. Very good. Thank you both for helping me understand. I have zero personal doubts about any of this, but wanted to be able to present the case for it to others. Another reason I’m asking is because of my experience teaching home study seminary (D&C) to one student this year. When the writers are committed to treating the TEXT of the D&C, which is very nearly 100% male, it’s difficult for the average non historian teacher to incorporate women’s voices. I sent a letter to the curriculum department about this, and the person who answered me emphasized that the writing team needs to focus on the text and on prophets and apostles, and to use sources that are ‘readily available’ to church members, and are even translated into other languages if possible. Discouraging. Volumes like yours would be like gold to a D&C teacher who doesn’t want to sacrifice teaching ‘The Curriculum’ but who wants a time efficient way to give a more complete picture, giving women more air time. I sincerely hope that those who make decisions about the church manuals recognize this treasure.

    Comment by Joanne — June 1, 2015 @ 12:30 pm

  8. I wonder how many Mormon history books would pass the Bechdel Test?

    Comment by Chris Smith — June 2, 2015 @ 3:41 pm

  9. […] month (here) we told you about friend of JI and Keepapitchinin’ blogger, Ardis Parshall, and her […]

    Pingback by Juvenile Instructor » The hours are counting down for She Shall be an Ensign. — June 30, 2015 @ 7:50 am

  10. I just donated/pre-bought a copy of the book! So should everyone else.

    Comment by Amanda — June 30, 2015 @ 8:02 am

  11. As far as the self-publishing aspect, self-published books are generally less well-regarded than ones that have been through a press. BUT, Ardis’ reputation precedes her.

    Comment by Amanda — June 30, 2015 @ 8:08 am


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