Meeting the Sistas in Zion

This past week in my Deseret News work I was able to write a feature story about the Sistas in Zion, two African-American women members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who are making a pretty remarkable difference in the world.

The article introduces Tamu Smith (Sista Beehive) and Zandra Vranes (Sista Laurel), tells where they came from and describes the events that brought them together. They maintain a website ( with a blog and weekly radio show.

Tamu Smith, left, and Zandra Vranes are the Sistas in ZIon.

Tamu Smith, left, and Zandra Vranes are the Sistas in ZIon.

The highlight for me was the chance to interview these two ladies in person. They have a wonderful sense of humor and I admire their candor regarding the funny aspects of the Mormon culture. They have some unique personal experiences to draw from, so they know what they are talking about. I don’t think I have ever laughed so hard in an interview.

And as I understand it, the interview was a first for the Sistas in terms of openly sharing about their personal lives, so I was grateful for that opportunity.

Here is what you need to know about the Sistas in Zion, as mentioned in the article: “The end goal (in their work) is to have fun and make people laugh. There are no inside jokes, and mean people are not allowed.”

“People have a perception that Mormons don’t have a sense of humor, but it’s OK to laugh at ourselves, to let loose a little,” Vranes said. “There are things that are obviously sacred and serious to us, but other things are just hilarious, like green Jell-O with (grated) carrots. That’s funny.”

“When people can see that you enjoy your religion, and that you can laugh at yourself, it takes the edge off some,” Smith said.

Washington Redskins’ linebacker Bryan Kehl has been on their show. I asked him to tell me about his experience but his reply came after my deadline, so it missed the article but I thought I would share it here. He does a good job of summing the Sistas up.

“I thought they were pretty funny, albeit quirky,” Kehl said. “I think (they are) a great resource for many members of the church who culturally might feel as though they don’t fit in as much, or are different from many of the other members. It’s always nice to know there are more like you, in it together with you, facing the same situations. From what I could tell, they seem to be doing a great job.”

Me with the Sistas in Zion.

Me with the Sistas in Zion.


Trent Toone

My name is Trent Toone and I’m a journalist for the Deseret News, where I write for a variety of feature sections. I was raised in Northern Utah and graduated from the University of Utah in 2003. Since then I have worked for several newspapers and received various awards over my journalism career. I am the author of “No Excuses, No Regrets: The Eric Weddle Story,” the sports biography of San Diego Chargers safety Eric Weddle. I served an LDS mission to Santiago, Chile, and spent a year teaching seminary. Like my father before me, I am a proud Eagle Scout. My wife Lisa and I have four children and live in Northern Utah. Feel free to contact me by emailing to trent.b.toone (at) gmail (dot) com.

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1 Response

  1. We enjoyed meeting you as well! You made the interview so much fun and we laughed too! Getting interviewed by a real journalist seems to be the key to getting us to open up. We can’t wait to reverse roles and put you in the interview chair. Thanks for a great experience!

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