As I mentioned in an entry a few days ago, I'm going through files on an old computer and deleting or transferring everything on it. One of the things I found was a message from President Carlson, written eleven years after he finished his stint as mission president and almost eight years after I left the church, a fact he was very well aware of.
But it's a nice message--warm and honest and caring. I would never do what I'm about to do now with a message from someone whose privacy I might be betraying, but President Carlson is, unfortunately, dead, so I feel at liberty to copy his message here.
Date: Fri, 27 Jun 1997 11:05:02 -0600 From: Monte B. Carlson To: holly Subject: Goofing Off
It is Friday, and I am not motivated to work today. Nice to hear from you. I attended an eleven stake regional conference in Pocatello two weeks ago and bumped into a former missionary. He and his wife were headed to Taiwan and Hong Kong this Sunday, and were flying out of Boise, which put them on the Freeway right past Twin Falls. We sent a "care" package to [our second daughter] with them, and enclosed a copy of your E-Mail message. [She was ten or so when I knew her eleven years earlier, and I had been extremely fond of her, so I really wanted to know how and what she was doing. Turns out she was serving a mission in Taiwan.] She too has had some wild experiences in Taiwan---from having a girl attempt an actual suicide while on the phone with her, to having a two year old boy take a whizz in her purse while she was giving the mom a lesson. From bike wrecks to being flashed, her mission, like yours, has not been dull.
Things are going pretty much the same for us. I've been the stake president for eight and a half years. The practice of law has actually been fun and productive. While personal injury cases still take up the bulk of my time, I did handle a first degree murder case from start to finish last year, and then another one this year. I do the legal work for the regional newspaper and enjoy the first amendment issues they present. I did write a hunting book mingled with scriptures that no one will publish.
I have lost contact with many of our missionaries. The computer was a mystery to me until about a year and a half ago, and E-Mail is as recent as last week. Your's was the first message I received. If you have the E-Mail addresses for some of the other Taiwan crew, I would love to start building my own address book.
It is good to hear from you. You know I am your biggest poetry fan and would welcome any new additions to my collection of your work. Would you believe I have actually quoted you in some church talks? I don't expect you to give up dissertation time to communicate with us, but keep the door open for messages.
The fact that he was a fan of my poetry truly meant something, since, as his obituary mentions, he had a degree in English lit. And how many stake presidents would tell an "apostate" "that they quote her in church talks? My impulse upon finding that email was to write to him again, but unfortunately it was too late.
The friend who forwarded messages about President Carlson's death to me made a point of including the "to" headers, so that I could find email addresses for people I'd lost touch with but might want to contact again. I did write to one of my favorite elders, but it was awkward. There are so few Mormons who knew me when I was Mormon who still have anything to say to me--they just don't know how to talk to me about anything without bringing up the Church. Even President Carlson told me all about his calling and meetings he had attended, but, I don't know, the fact that he still thought enough of me and my ideas to use them when discussing his own faith means something. Somehow it's different from what I get from so many Mormons who used to know me. President Carlson might have been afraid for me, as he told me once, but he was never afraid of me, as so many Mormons have been. So I never had to be afraid back.
I know it sounds cliched, but I wish I had found the message a month ago and told him that.