Sistas in Zion are voices of humor and faith on stereotypes, misconceptions and all things Mormon

Published: Thursday, Aug. 15 2013 9:10 a.m. MDT

“We were taught to never turn down the word of God. If someone wanted to talk about the word of God, you listened,” Smith explained. “But she didn’t want to listen, so she gave them my grandparents’ address.”

Smith, who was raised by her grandparents, was present when the elders arrived on their bikes one hot summer day. Despite learning the aunt didn’t live there, they happily visited with the family anyway.

They weren’t interested, Smith said. The family attended her uncle’s Pentecostal congregation in San Bernardino, but in an effort to be kind, they invited the missionaries in for a cool drink.

A short time later, Smith’s grandmother became sick. The missionaries visited her at the hospital and gave her a blessing.

“She said if she made it out of the hospital, she would visit the LDS Church,” Smith said. “When Grandma got better, we visited for the first time. When we walked in, I felt like I was at home, where I needed to be.”

Smith and her grandparents were later baptized.

After high school, Smith attended Ricks College, now BYU-Idaho, but struggled to fit in.

“I knew the church was true, but people were not acting like my brothers and sisters, so I started some soul searching,” she said. “I felt so lonely. I thought that when I got around more LDS people my age that things would be different, but it wasn’t.”

Fortunately, a professor encouraged her to study church history and learn about prominent black Latter-day Saints. The idea appealed to her and she checked out a book from the library about black pioneers. She enjoyed learning about people like Jane Manning James, an early convert who traveled hundreds of miles on foot to reach Nauvoo, Ill., where she was invited to stay with the Prophet Joseph Smith’s family. She also became the first African-American woman to come to the Utah Territory as a pioneer.

Smith later moved to Utah, where she learned about the Genesis Group and eventually met her future friend and co-host, Zandra Vranes.

“Genesis was able to provide that extended family that I was looking for,” Smith said. “Out of it I got sistas.”

The genesis

The Sistas in Zion admit they are sort of an unlikely pair.

There is a nine-year difference in their ages and initially, Vranes was a close friend of Smith’s sister. They enjoyed their association through the Genesis Group, but Smith was also married; Vranes was not.

After Vranes got married, they became better friends.

“I was always fond of her and her family,” Smith said. “After she got married, we became closer. She would study and eat my Top Ramen.”

As Vranes and her husband prepared to move to Chicago some years ago, Smith suggested they co-author a blog in an effort to stay in touch.

“I was like, NO,” Vranes said. “I didn’t know much about blogging, I just knew people got on the Internet and tell their business. No.”

A few years later, as the friends attended LDS general conference in October 2009, Smith pitched the idea a second time.

“I said OK, but I don’t want to share anything personal,” Vranes said.

“OK, so what do you want to write about?” Smith said.

“I didn’t want to talk about what I did that day, what I fixed my husband for dinner, that is boring. Let’s write about church,” Vranes said.

Soon they were kicking around ideas and came up with “Sistas in Zion,” based after the hymn, “As Sisters in Zion.” To maintain their anonymity, Smith became Sista Beehive and Vranes became Sista Laurel.

A funny culture

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