When I was a youth, the Church encouraged us as members to engage our friends in conversation about the Church using the Golden Questions: Who am I? Where did I come from? and Where am I going to? My father even had a lapel pin for his suit that was in the shape of a question mark, meant to elicit conversations using these questions.
I sometimes wonder if it wouldn’t be good to have some similar system to elicit conversations about Mormon Culture and literature.
I don’t mean to imply that Mormon Culture and literature have the same import as the gospel. I don’t think we need to fidn ways of discussing LDS literature with our non-member friends. The audience is different and the need for cultural knowledge is probably not as crucial.
But, I don’t think we are using the cultural materials we do have to promote Mormon culture at all. In the past few weeks, as I’ve looked at the books that General Authorities referred to in General Conference, I realized that much of Mormon culture is largely absent from their references. Yes, there are references to doctrinal works, but not to fiction. “A Tale of Two Cities” is retold, but not “Greg & Kellie.”
I’m sure that “A Tale of Two Cities” and a host of other cultural works are widely cited because they are widely knows. But as I’ve observed before, General Conference is our Mass Media — the principal way that Church members find doctrinal and cultural elements. Thus, we have a kind of “chicken and egg” problem – General Authorities don’t know about Mormon literature and don’t cite it and wouldn’t if they did because most members in general don’t know about it. But they won’t know about it, until it gets cited in General Conference or in other major sources of Mormon cultural information.
When the items referred to are important and well known, they do become cultural references — touchpoints for our culture, things we mention in conversations or even in talks from the pulpit. It sometimes takes a long time for this kind of growth to happen.
But I think it has to start with those that do know these stories, quotations and other materials using them. Shouldn’t we (those of us that do have some knowledge of Mormon culture) retell stories from LDS fiction in our talks? Refer to the best of LDS literature in conversations with others? Reinforce the cultural knowledge that we have found valuable?
I kind of wish I had a database of summaries of LDS stories and literature, something that would help me figure out what to use when I have the opportunity. Short of that, I guess I’d better get to know Mormon literature better, or come up with some kind of golden lapel pin to wear at Church.