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As the CEO and founder of Q.Noor, former high fashion model, LDS public figure, and speaker, Rosemary Card is the eponymous Model Mormon of her first book. The irony is, she’s the first to say there’s no such thing:

“There are some people who would cringe at the idea of me being considered a ‘model Mormon’ which is pretty much the point.”

Rosemary says her life isn’t anything to be idolized. Instead, the book – a mix of memoir, lessons learned, thoughts, and opinions – welcomes everyone who is a work in progress like her. 

“I’m still in the weeds,” Rosemary told me during an interview. Rarely does an author admit they don’t have all the answers, but she says it’s “totally fine” to have struggles and questions. 

Even the introduction questions why anyone would care about her story (“I’m not Obama and I know it”), but I say we should care because Rosemary is something unusual: A person unashamedly constantly questioning, listening, learning, sharing, and remaining open to changing her opinions. 

Both Model and Mormon

Rosemary spent her childhood moving between Utah and New York City up to the point of discovery that her body – once the “cause” of being bullied – was ideal for modelling. Ever the business woman, Rosemary forged her own path to the runway.

Her modeling stories are eye opening into a world many people imagine as the utmost of glitz and glamour for very little effort. But while Rosemary had her moments on catwalks in foreign countries, she also rushed around the city for casting calls, fittings, and meetings, barely squeezing in time for lunch.

As you’d expect for a Utah Mormon girl, the clothing she was asked to wear was often a concern, but even more frightening was the number of stories that read like a disaster waiting on the next page, like the time she narrowly avoided being drugged by a photographer.

She doesn’t escape every nightmare, but there is a sense that Rosemary is protected. When other models felt like they weren’t allowed to say no, whether it be to sheer clothing or questionable working conditions, Rosemary was empowered by her parents to oppose what she wasn’t comfortable with. While still unbelievably young and discovering the world, she felt a pull between being a good model, but not wanting to sacrifice her boundaries.  

Now for a spoiler: Rosemary did not reach Gigi Hadid supermodel status. Despite always feeling like she was one show away from making it big, it never happened. For millennials who grew up believing they could do anything if they just worked harder, Rosemary’s story is refreshingly realistic. She’s certainly not a failure (or lazy), but modelling wasn’t exactly a roaring success either. Instead, today she’s a not-quite-30-year-old, strong, opinionated entrepreneur who has already lived a lot of life.  

A Cultural Revolution

Through her social media, public influence, and now her writing, Rosemary positions herself at the forefront of the cultural change occurring within the Church. It’s a shift that includes the idea that a “model” (or perfect) Mormon is a high standard – one we cannot reach in this life, so we can all cut each other some slack. For Rosemary this means more love, less shaming.

Already she campaigns for change in the way we address modesty to girls by chucking out catchy phrases that miss the point (like “modest is hottest”). Instead, she wants to put the focus back on the individual’s private commitment to God. She wrote:

“When I was in Young Women, a leader told us that if we wore tank tops, we were basically walking pornography. This is gross and a freaking 100 on the creepy shame level. …When I speak to Young Women groups, I never mention what body parts to cover and how much. …Shaming young women, or women of any age, into fitting a dress standard that is far more cultural than doctrinal by making them feel accountable for someone else’s choices is flat-out wrong. Not only is it damaging to women, but it is immensely damaging to men.”

It’s a back to basics approach of love and acceptance, breaking free of unnecessary or unhelpful traditions to focus instead on the two great commandments: love God and love your neighbor. 

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Craving a voice

Rosemary noticed the need for women’s stories when she was at BYU and then again when she worked for the Church’s video department.

“I really embrace the doctrine that men and women are different,” she said to me. “But it felt like we needed to pick a script and stick to it: either men and women are different meaning we need different things and we think, teach, and learn differently or we are the same and it doesn’t matter if it’s coming from a man or a woman, the lesson will be the same because our experiences are the same.”

There were very few female producers in the video department during Rosemary’s employment. The vast majority of Mormon messages and multimedia shown at women’s sessions were created by men.

“This seemed so weird to me. We have this group of middle aged men deciding what the women of the Church need to hear and what will make sense to them.”

Holding strong to her belief that if she can learn from a male voice, men can and should also learn from a female voice, Rosemary is quickly becoming what was missing in the editing room. Throughout her book, she addresses her Heavenly Parents to include Heavenly Mother, she calls for female speakers in conferences, and encourages women to remember how powerful they are in some sassy but Church appropriate language:

“Satan understands that women are Bad-A powerhouses who get crap done while leading others to do the same. If Satan can get us to focus on our appearance, whether in self-loathing or in a prideful way, he can distract us from becoming and developing into the forces for good. Categorizing women and pinning us against one another fro competition and comparison only makes the fight harder. Other women are not the enemy. Satan is.”

Being the model Mormon would be an impossible standard to uphold, but thankfully that spot is already taken (read: Jesus). Rosemary doesn’t have all the answers, but you can be sure she will keep asking the right questions.

Model Mormon: Fighting for Self-worth on the Runway and As an Independent Woman by Rosemary Card was published June 2018 by Cedar Fort. You can purchase it through various vendors, but if you follow this Amazon link, you’ll be helping TWiM at the same time.