Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Disclaimer for The Cove

Note: This disclaimer may be part of my novel called The Cove. This will probably appear at the beginning of the book. I don’t know if you would call it a forward or a disclaimer or what. At just after three a.m. last night, I finally stopped writing (not that the book is done-don’t get your hopes too high, I was just tired), turned off my computer and crawled into bed. Then I laid there thinking about these words. I almost got back out of bed to write this down. At six this morning, I almost got up again. At eight, I finally couldn’t stand it any longer. I felt prompted to write this. It reflects some things I spoke to a friend about on the phone yesterday afternoon. I’m not very good about sharing my thoughts out loud, so it’s best if I write them down. This isn’t perfect, and will probably be edited many times prior to it being published alongside the novel. But it’s a start. I hope this helps my readers. Thanks, Julie

Dear Reader,

If you are not a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, parts of this book may be confusing to you. So I’d like to take a moment to explain of few things. If you are a member of the church, there is information in here for you too, so keep reading.

All of the characters in this book are members of our church (commonly called Mormons). Because of this, they tend to speak to one another using phrases and nuances that are pretty exclusive to the church. One of the main themes of The Cove is centered around our temples. Throughout the book the characters will just call them the temple. What they really mean is that you could substitute any one of our temples' names in place thereof (134 temples are in operation worldwide as of December 2010). The Salt Lake City Temple in Utah is probably our most famous one, but the people in this book live in the South-Eastern United States and thus are more familiar with temples like the Atlanta or Orlando temples.

Our temples are very special for a couple of reasons. The ordinances that we perform in the temple are very sacred, and speaking about them is handled with reverence. There are two main things that I want to mention, Endowments, and Sealings. Whenever an adult member of the church is prepared, he or she will go to the temple and make covenants, or promises to obey God’s commandments in return for God’s blessings. Most of these promises and blessings are the same as what God made to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, so I encourage you to read the book of Gensesis in your Bible. Going to the temple to receive endowments is something that people are required to do before serving as full-time missionaries or before being married in the temple. The covenants and promises are sacred and special and they are not to be taken lightly. If someone breaks a promise to you, it would upset you. When you break a promise to Heavenly Father, it breaks his heart. Some of the most important promises we make to God are to stay clean, pure, and chaste. You’ll see later in the book how this comes into play.

When we are married and sealed in the temple, we are married longer than ‘till death do us part’ but for eternity. We believe, as many religions believe, that there is a heaven and that we will return to live with God. We also believe that if we are sealed to our spouse, we will be together forever. That is why we as latter-day saints make it our goal to be sealed in the temple. It’s not as easy as it sounds. There are so many pressures and temptations in the world that distract us from this goal. For many people who grow up in the church, the phrases ‘married in the temple’ and ‘sealed in the temple’ tend to be synonymous. They are not. For example, if a person is already married to their spouse and later decides to be sealed in the temple, they can go and perform that ordinance. Because of the seriousness of the commitments that we make in the temple, a couple must have been married for at least a year and be morally prepared to enter the temple. Sometimes, it’s a long process. But we feel that it is worth it. Very worth it.

One of the couples in this book makes a series of very bad choices that prevent them from being worthy to enter the temple. As you’ll see, the pain and guilt that this causes them becomes a central theme to the book. But, as Christians we believe that we can be offered forgiveness through the atoning sacrifices of our Savior Jesus Christ. Not one of us in the world is perfect. Many times we look at others and think that they have it all together; that their life runs along smoothly with no problems. It’s just not true, and I’m not going to gloss over that just for the sake of writing a book. Just because the characters in this book are fictitious, doesn’t mean that they don’t live real lives. They require repentance and forgiveness just like the rest of us.

Repentance is another huge theme in The Cove. I never meant for this book to sound ‘preachy’ and I hope that you don’t see it that way. With relation to the Gospel, the repentance process is more than just apologizing for poor choices; it’s more than just saying you’re sorry. For starters, it involves recognizing that you’ve done something wrong. For all the little things we do wrong on a daily basis, this isn’t all that difficult. Like most Christian churches, we believe that when we are baptized we are washed clean from our sins. When we take the Sacrament, or Communion, each week at church, it is like we are remembering the covenants we made at baptism and that we are once again washed clean. But when we have committed a very serious sin, it is like we are not ready to be washed clean. It is not that we are not worthy to be forgiven; Jesus promised that we would all be forgiven. It’s more like we are not ready yet to forgive ourselves. That’s where confession comes into play. We can confess our sins to Heavenly Father through prayer, but for some grievous errors we need to confess to our priesthood authorities. For a larger congregation, or Ward, this person would be known as a Bishop. In a smaller congregation, called a Branch, there would be a Branch President. Confessing our sins is like taking a load off of our shoulders and allowing Jesus to carry our burden. He’s already promised us that He will; it’s just a matter of us letting go and allowing Him that chance.

But, enough of the serious stuff. The characters in The Cove have a lot of fun also. The four main characters that start off the book are college age. There are a lot of neat programs that our church offers that a specifically geared for this age level. Our Young Single Adult (or YSA) programs are designed to give people 18-30 years old a chance to get together for dances and other activities in order to mingle and have fun in a less-formal setting. We also have Institute of Religion classes (or Institute for short) where the college kids get together once a week for a little gospel study session. It’s a more formal class with an actual lesson and manual, but still a lot of fun.

There are a few terms that you may want to familiarize yourself with. I don’t want to create a glossary for you to read, but here are some of the things you should know. We don’t have any paid ministry in the church, so every job or chore that needs to be done is handled through a series of ‘callings’. From the nursery leader, to the Bishop, and right up to the Prophet; every person coming together to do their part makes for an important connection and helps things run smoothly. The ‘Priesthood’ could take up its own paragraph to explain. I’ll suffice it to say that men and boys in the church are offered the opportunity to serve by being called to offices within the Priesthood. All men who are missionaries, Bishops, Branch Presidents, Quorum leaders, and even the guys who come around to pass the sacrament trays full of bread and water are Priesthood holders. The Relief Society is also mentioned in the book. This is a women’s organization where the ladies in the church serve one another and the people in the community in lots of ways, whether it’s providing a meal to a sick family, sewing a quilt for an orphanage, or just being there for one another as sisters. Which reminds me; in the church we call each other Brother and Sister. As in, ‘nice to meet you, I’m Sister Spencer.’ You’ll hear the characters in the book referring to one another in this way. Home and Visiting Teachers are another term that is used. We have a neat system of taking care of one another and it involves visiting one another and getting to know each other well enough that we can help out when needed. Like a Visiting Teacher would probably know that one of her sisters has a sick child and could probably use a good hot meal for her family, or a shoulder to cry on.

Many of the characters in The Cove are missionaries or returned missionaries. The church had 52,483 full-time missionaries serving throughout the world as of December 2010. They volunteer up to two years of their lives to go where they are needed and to teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Someone who is a ‘returned missionary’ is just that. A person who has served a full-time mission and has come home to go back to normal everyday life. As you’ll remember from my paragraph about temples, all missionaries have also gone through the covenants in the temple also. Spending two years of your life completely dedicating yourself to the work of the Lord tends to change a person. They tend to take those promises pretty seriously, because they’ve seen first hand how the Gospel changes lives. As you’ll be able to see from the way the characters interact, returned missionaries hold themselves to pretty high standards. The Book of Mormon is mentioned in The Cove once. This is a book of scripture that we read alongside the Bible and is another testament of Jesus Christ. Great book, by the way. Well, I’m sure that this list is not exhaustive, so ask me questions if you want more information about things that I talk about in my book. I am in no way an expert on any of this. For proper authority on these subjects, I highly recommend visiting www.lds.org and learning more about the church. Or you can call 1-801-240-1000 to speak with someone directly.

On a more serious note: I never intended for this to happen, but The Cove has a few sections that turned out a little, how should I word this…descriptive. I take marriage and marital relations very seriously and strongly feel that there are some things that should never be discussed outside of the bedroom of a lawfully wedded man and woman. Some of the sections in this book come dangerously close to crossing that line. I apologize for this. I have agonized over whether to remove certain parts or tame them down a bit, but it is what it is. I hope you will not be offended by them. As a whole, I am very pleased with how the story played out and I hope you will be as well. These characters have become very special to me and I hope you will love them just as much as I do. That being said…welcome to the cove. I hope you enjoy your stay. –Julie

Read a couple of excerpts from The Cove:
First Kiss...excerpt from The Cove
The Funeral...excerpt from The Cove

My next novel, The Farmer's Daughter is almost complete! Check out an excerpt:
Excerpt from The Farmer's Daughter...I told you that I tip well

I recently lost 42 pounds on the Take Shape for Life program! Want to check out my weight loss transition? Click here! -Julie L. Spencer


Lo said...

Julie, I wish you had begun your story with as much description as your "disclaimer". I do understand all the terms you are using in the book with regard to the LDS church; but while a book can begin with the surprise effect, I believe you must establish your character or characters' background info fairly early. Does that make sense?

Julie Spencer said...

That Excert is not the beginning of the story! It's in the middle. Or, even closer to the end even. I can't wait for you to read the whole thing. You won't have to wait much longer, Lois. Because you are going to be one of the first people to review it. Possibly very soon!

John said...

I like you blog!
See that your interest was tea party.

http://www.michelebachmann2012.blogspot.com/ - This is a blog I made in support of Michele Bachmann. If you like it please spread the word and let it be truly said that "Obama is a one term president!"

By the way I am LDS too...