Every once in a while I find myself succumbing to doubt. I find myself wondering, does it really matter? Does all this chatter about Mormons in books and Mormons writing books and Mormons in art and creating art really matter?
If any of you have the same question, well, the answer (besides being 42) is an enthusiastic yes. Here’s why:
My family of origin has always been big on impassioned discussions–especially my father. Just after his mission he majored in Literature at the Y, got married, had a bunch of kids, and then went on to get his PhD in something that would support his family (business, computers, stuff I don’t understand). But being an English major at heart meant he could never walk away from discussing ideas. It was a gift he has given to all of us kids. The election of 2008, combined with email, blogs, texting, RSS feeds, and hyperlinks, has taken our family passion to new heights. Issue of choice these days: Prop 8 and the question of bigotry in the Church. This has been an especially intense discussion for my brother, all the more so since he has come across some disturbing things (ah! the wonders of the Internet!)–one of which happens to be the Journal of Discourses. For awhile he figured he couldn’t go to Church any more. What were we, his loving family members, to do?
Others turned to prayer, but I immediately *wink* turned to a recent issue of Irreantum–the one that has a play about a RM who is contemplating leaving the Church because of what he read in the Journal of Discourses. For me, the things my brother came across in the Journal of Discourses were not spiritually dangerous or even too troubling. I could talk with him about it and try to see his point of view because I had already encountered this problem vicariously through literature. And, I think, because of my study of LDS literature I aided him in navigating his crisis.
A similar thing happened when my sister came across some lesser known facts about Joseph Smith and polygamy and Violet Kimball. She was pretty upset, but I was not because I had already encountered and fended off that beast through literature (both Virginia Sorenson’s more libidinous telling and OSC’s more faithful telling.)
So why does all this blogging and writing (and painting and sculpting and composing) matter? Because it helps me understand my oh-so-Mormon-place in this not-so-Mormon-world and it gives me opportunities to grapple with the weightier matters of my faith when the risks are low. I get the chance to consider the issues without throwing out the testimonial baby with the quasi-intellectual bathwater. A careful study of literature helps me cultivate sophisticated ways of thinking (and feeling) about living a life of faith and, ultimately, strengthens my resolve to do so.
Of course all this begs the question, why do Mormon arts matter to you? How does a study of Mormon literature (and the rest) interact with your faith? Has it strengthened it or strained it?