by Andrew Christensen

Whatever else there is to say,
About all this…
Whatever else, there’s this, at least.
It’s quite a thing.
This thing that’s been done.
This thing we’ve all seen.
What we’ve been through.
It’s something.

It’s quite a thing – no question – to sit in a quiet chapel,
As someone rises,
In the middle of a talk.
As someone rises,
And walks to the back,
And throws open the curtains,
To let the sunlight stream in.
Where before we’d mistaken…no…
Where before we’d been offered
As daylight.

It’s quite a thing,
That there’s daylight.
In the chapel.
Illuminating dark corners.
Illuminating faces.

Oh, the faces…
Brothers and Sisters,
Your faces.
It’s been quite a thing, hasn’t it?
To sit there, stunned, eyes adjusting?
To look up, tentatively, and look around, and see,
By light of day,
Here and there,
Other anguish.
Other tears.
On faces we thought we knew,
But could never know – not really – by candlelight.
And oh, the warmth of the resulting embraces, by light of day.

And it’s quite a thing to say, now,
Quietly and with a modest, reverent resolve,
And a little sorrow, respectfully…
“Friends… Beloved…”
“There was as much shadow as light here…before… by candlelight.”
“This isn’t the chapel I thought it was.”
“I need to go… now… I think… for awhile.”

And it is quite a thing to dare, now,
To believe for a bold moment,
That one way to honor those pioneer ancestors,
Who pressed west by candlelight,MormonStories-iTunes
Is to release the echo of their grip
On those handcarts.
And set them down, in daylight,
And rest.
And head south, or north, or back east.
Just maybe anywhere but west, for now.

It’s quite a thing to set out, so.
Echoes of prayer still on our lips, and
With a self-conscious smile, then, heads cocked,
To pause, and listen, loving ourselves,
To hear,
The words of our mouths.


  1. Koa August 2, 2015 at 9:34 pm - Reply


    I watched the video you posted with the exmormon group and wanted to let you know you gave an amazing introduction. Sorry this comment is not directly related to the poem, but I wanted to post my reaction to your effort.

    Carson’s comment about an organization losing some great people was spot on. The entire event was a very insightful discussion, except for Kate Kelly’s repeat after me. That was one of the strangest things I have ever seen.

    • Frank August 3, 2015 at 7:03 pm - Reply

      I completely agree except I feel calling it strange is being generous – it was downright weird, distracting, and untimely!

  2. Martha in PA August 2, 2015 at 10:26 pm - Reply

    Breaking free of a cult is painful, scary, difficult, but so liberating. The poem could apply to my experience breaking away from the 2X2 cult (its nickname, because it claims to have no name). Sometimes 2X2 evangelists are mistaken for Mormons because of working in pairs. Part of what many cult members fear losing is that sense of being an insider, while all others are outsiders. There is this special knowledge, and there are the rituals and phrases and terminology not understood by, not revealed to, the outsiders. But how wonderful to be able to do without those artificial bases of specialness, and to kick off the shackles that kept our minds from roaming free, exploring, exercising reasoning powers. It is hard not to resent having been manipulated as long as we were, but for many of us the greatest urge is to help others toward their liberation.

  3. St. Ralph August 3, 2015 at 1:27 am - Reply

    Very, very good. For some weird reason I’ve always envisioned the hand cart pioneers (my mom’s people) proceeding through darkness. Not complete darkness, but darkness nonetheless. Now I realize it was candlelight. The words,

    “. . . those pioneer ancestors,
    Who pressed west by candlelight, . . .”

    really strike a profound chord in me. Damn, so that’s what it was: candlelight.

    Be well, Andrew.

  4. Xposit August 3, 2015 at 9:41 am - Reply

    Nice. I’ve always felt that Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” was an apt descriptor of what my experience was like as I emerged out of Mormonism. The poem reminded me a little of that.

  5. Cynthia Rees August 4, 2015 at 7:34 pm - Reply

    Such a nice poem. Since the members of my immediate family threw open the curtains and let in the sunlight at the same time, I have been spared some pain that many experience. But, I haven’t known how to think about the ancestors. What did they pay for the jewels they left me, that I have discarded, now that I know they are just paste. I like your answer.

  6. Emma August 6, 2015 at 7:24 am - Reply

    So amazing ! He described the experience of finding the real truth when you thought you had the truth so perfectly
    Thank you john for helping to bring the sunlight into my life. and thanks for giving me hope and strength as I face the devastating truth

  7. Jello August 7, 2015 at 12:44 pm - Reply

    What a beautifully crafted poem. It speaks to me in so many ways. Thank you.

  8. Tim Torkildson August 10, 2015 at 7:07 am - Reply

    Wild olive branches can bring forth a tame and wholesome fruit

    when they’re grafted to good stock, with clean and robust root.

    O, may my cankered, feral soul to such good stock be spliced,

    that I can bring forth fruit that’s sweet through serving Jesus Christ.

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