Wednesday, May 6, 2015

In Search of Heaven

In Search of Heaven

I have been fascinated with human relationships my entire life, especially the relationship between a man and a woman—from attraction, to falling in love, to what makes marriages last. Of course, a big part of that relationship is the physical attraction and subsequent intimacy that is a part of God’s plan for us. After years of studying and pondering the big picture and the little elements that create the big picture, I’ve learned some fascinating things about this aspect of the relationship between a man and a woman, and its high priority in the gospel plan. I’ve always believed that if I’m writing about relationships, then that part of it can’t be ignored, because it simply IS a part of it, and to ignore it does a certain injustice. I’ve also felt strongly that it was important to portray it appropriately and respectfully, which doesn’t happen very often in the media. Those of you who have read my books from the start know that I’ve never ignored the intimacy aspects in the relationships I’ve written about, but I’ve never written inappropriate details, and any sin related to such things always faces appropriate consequences. Unfortunately, there are those who think I shouldn’t write about it AT ALL, and some of them have made quite a fuss. But I’m still here and still writing about what I feel is important.

When the idea came to me for this particular novel, I was a little surprised and thrown off guard. I’d been through some very challenging struggles in regard to writing about human intimacy, and now I was being given strong inspiration on addressing it head on as a part of the plot. My first thought was that I had no desire to fight this battle with the LDS publishing industry, when it had been made clear to me that many people were offended by any mention of it at all, and it was better avoided or handled very, VERY delicately. And I had scenes pouring into my head of an arranged marriage, a frightened bride, and some very frank conversations in regard to what would take place in the marriage relationship in regard to intimacy. So, I prayed, and I followed the example of the inspiration for the story: I took it head on. I spoke frankly with both of my editors. (One handles all the business and represents me with everyone else at the publishing company; the other does the actual editing and works with me on evaluation and revision.) The conversations went well and they both agreed that I should go forward with the project. In the end, I only had one sentence nixed from the book because it was “too strong.” I added an author’s note of explanation at the beginning which I hoped would clarify my reasons for doing this. If any of you have not read the book and don’t know what I’m talking about, or if it’s been a long time, I’m actually putting the author’s note at the end of this entry.

As for the actual story here, it’s one of my favorites. It wasn’t until after I’d completed the book that I realized it had some things in common with the classic story of ‘Jane Eyre,’ in the way that she starts out as the governess and then they end up married. But the similarities stopped there, so it wasn’t enough for me to be concerned about plagiarism or anything, but perhaps my love of the story planted some seeds that had been mulling in my brain. I’ve always had a bit of a fascination with arranged marriages, and this story became the perfect vehicle to make some powerful points.

The other great thing about this story is the way that Eleanore finds a Book of Mormon in the mud at the beginning, and she quickly knows it’s true and wants to find this religion. It’s a wonderful journey to turn the pages and see how that might eventually come to pass.

FOREWORD (From “In Search of Heaven”)

I have been writing about the human relationship for nearly thirty years, always revolving the relationships in my stories around varying degrees of social and emotional issues. And the journey has been remarkable! My fascination with human behavior and its irrevocable ties to our spiritual nature has taken me vicariously through some of the greatest difficulties and most profound joys of this mortal experience, while I have surely learned far more than I could ever share with my readers. Topics and storylines come to me with no logical explanation, always leading me to avenues of research into the human experience that leave me stunned—and altered—by the struggles and challenges of real life.

Living vicariously through my characters, I have seen the powerful impact of choices made for good or ill, confirming the profound need to live according to the guidance of a loving Father in Heaven so that we may receive His choicest blessings. I’ve also seen much evidence of Satan’s evil designs to stand in the way of allowing us to partake of the greatest joys this life can offer. His ability and determination to counteract the positive with negative grow startlingly more clear as the war for souls intensifies.

While this universal law applies to every aspect of life, I’ve felt a growing concern to see how cleverly he has distorted the issue of human intimacy. Because it is the most sacred and profound element of the human experience, it stands to reason that Satan’s efforts in combating it would be his most tireless and skillful. Nowhere is his insidiousness made more evident than in the gray areas of distortion regarding the sexual relationship that rightfully belongs in a marriage between a man and a woman. While we are continually hearing of the evils of pornography and
immorality in our world—and for good reason—I wonder how often we stop to consider the reasons for concern in these matters.

I’ve written about disease, death, abuse, sin, and many aspects of dysfunction and suffering, always with the solutions coming from correct psychology and correct gospel principles, and I have learned that the two are dovetailed perfectly. The teachings of our Savior in the New Testament are the tip of deep icebergs of psychological truth. Each of the topics I’ve studied and in which I’ve immersed myself into in order to write about them more accurately have given me cause for deep introspection and a sense of understanding and empathy that can only be called a divine gift. On my own, I could never grasp and portray all I have felt inspired to address.

One of the common elements that I have woven through every story is the coming together, and keeping together, of that most beloved marriage relationship. I’ve recently gained a new understanding of how thoroughly distorted it has become in our world. In a vigilant effort to protect ourselves and our children, it seems that many people have lost sight of the very purpose for this battle. As we cry out for the eradication of the ripples of evil caused by pornography’s disparagement of the human body, do we pause to remember the counterpoint that the body is a temple, a gift from God—His greatest creation? Do we honor its magnificent abilities related to the power of creating life in partnership with God? While we redouble our efforts to push away the gross distortions of the world’s view of these things, do we remember—and teach our youth—to revere and treasure how glorious and wondrous God intended that relationship to be when used within its proper boundaries? I believe that many of us, without consciously thinking about it, have become so understandably concerned about fighting the battle against evil, we haven’t stopped to realize that Satan has led us to feel uncomfortable about any discussion of human intimacy. While the world mocks it with crudeness and vulgarity, have we become afraid to talk about it at all for fear of putting ourselves into that worldly category?

Throughout my life I’ve seen much evidence of how Satan destroys what is good by creating unwarranted guilt and misunderstanding. Isaiah said, Wo unto them that call evil good, and good evil (2 Ne. 15:20). It would seem that Satan is capable of doing as much damage with one attitude as he is with the other. In these, the last days, the lines between good and evil must be defined more clearly than ever. I believe that Satan is keenly aware of the damage he can do to the human relationship with his ability to “call evil good, and good evil.” I’ve seen marriages crumble and youth become lost over the failure to understand that our war against pornography and immorality is for the sole purpose of preserving and defending that most sacred aspect of the marriage relationship. It is discussed frankly in the temple and by our latter-day prophets, but we hesitate to talk about it enough to thwart Satan’s effort to distort and confuse the issue.

I am absolutely certain this story was given to me as one tiny effort to shed some light of understanding on what is right and good in matters of human intimacy. Through these characters’ eyes I have gained a new level of understanding on the stages of human emotion that are irrevocably connected to our God-given instincts. I hope you will enjoy the story for what it is—a story. And I hope that perhaps you’ll find some new perspective that could possibly make your own life and relationships a little better. Perhaps it will give you a point of reference for discussing a sensitive topic with your spouse or your children. And may God be with us all as we continue to fight the battle.

Anita Stansfield

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