Recently on Facebook I linked to Mahonri’s post about The Book of Mormon Musical over at Dawning of a Brighter Day. The conversation that ensued was awesome and a few really good moments came out of it for me.
The first moment came when I wrote this in response to a friend (who is not LDS) who asked why the rest of the world should care about Mormons in the first place: “What really is interesting and important to me is that Mormonism is a particular way of being in the world and interacting with the world. I would venture that it is a unique way of existing and as such it offers unique perspectives on what it means to be human in general. I personally feel like I have gained a lot of insight, compassion, and other such desirable human virtues from engaging in other cultures’ artistic and spiritual works. I hope that at some point it would be possible for others to engage with Mormon art and culture in a similar manner. But the current cultural climate in America isn’t conducive to that. And, perhaps more importantly, the larger part of the current artistic climate in Mormon culture isn’t conducive to that. There are a few artists, musicians, and writers that I think are creating that kind of art, but it takes a lot of work to find it and engage in it–and if that isn’t everyone’s priority, that’s okay. I just wish more people knew it was out there.” It was a great moment because it was the first time I’ve ever been able to effectively articulate why I care so darn much about what Mormon artists are producing.
Another great moment came when several friends who were not LDS weighed in on their feelings and experiences when well-meaning Mormon folk give them Books of Mormon. If I thought it was germane (and not a breech of confidence) I would repost their comments here. Suffice it to say, it really widened my thinking on missionary efforts and on how we need to condition our hearts much more carefully before flinging our beliefs about.
And a final great moment was when a friend asked me for recommendations of Mormon writers, musicians, and artists who aren’t pushing didactic works but simply chronicling the Mormon experience. I was quick to supply a list of books (_Rift_ and _Long After Dark_ by Todd Robert Petersen; _Angel of the Danube_ by Alan Rex Mitchell; _The Conversion of Jeff Williams_ by Doug Thayer; _Bound on Earth_ by Angela Hallstrom; _Where Nothing is Long Ago_ and _A Little Lower Than the Angels_ by Virginia Sorensen; and the memoir _The Year My Son and I Were Born_ by Kathryn Lynard Soper.) But I floundered a bit when it came to recommending music and artists.
The similarities between sharing what I believe to be great art and about what I believe to be real Truth in the universe was surprising to me. I was passionate and careful about both. I didn’t want either subject to come off as preachy or unapproachable or close-minded. It thrilled me to the core to be able to talk about things that were so influential in my life.
So I want to know: what experiences have you had spreading the good news of emerging quality Mormon Art? What artists, musicians, movies and books do you recommend? Please link to them in the comments; I need a good resource for referring my friends!