But my knowledge of the L.D.S. faith goes deeper than that. My ancestors were part of the great migration of Saints to Utah between 1847 and 1855. My family's Mormon legacy began with my great-grandfather's responsibility as a body guard to Joseph Smith. When they arrived in Utah, they were assigned a plot of land along the Great Salt Lake north of Salt Lake City. My father's family, by and large, are Mormon.
I was raised in Catholicism, my mother's religion. And I am an academic tutor at Xavier University with a background in both theology and philosophy. I consider my culture to be born out of the rituals of the Catholic faith. And yet, religion is not so important to me as it may be to so many other people today.
The basis for the main male character in "He Asked Her To Dance" is my father. I have created a man whose cultural background is in the L.D.S. faith, but whose spirituality is more of the earth than any organized religion. While aspects of the Mormon people and their practices are a necessary part of the story I tell, there is a much stronger message in the person of Nels.
He sees through the eyes of love into the soul of others. He judges character by his gut feelings. Nels is a man who hears the movement of something beyond this world in the singing of wind through pine trees, elk barreling down a street looking for food in the middle of a hard winter, or through the eyes of his horse who is not a possession but a friend.
The dynamic between Louise and Nels had little to do with their religious beliefs. In researching the book, I spoke with many current and ex-members of the L.D.S. faith. I studied the Book of Mormon from a Catholic point of view, and have come to no real conclusions about what is right and wrong. However, Louise and Nels rose above Catholicism and Mormonism, to love each other, not their religions.