Doug Thayer on Mormonism as a faith that invites novelists

As I mentioned in my post Doug Thayer sums it all up, Thayer’s “About Serious Mormon Fiction” is remarkable for the in-depth and broad look he takes at the field. There are a numerous passages that I could quote that would lead to fruitful discussion, but I’m just going to focus on one.

After covering a lot of ground and then going in to some specific ideas for the types of Mormon novels that he would like to read, Thayer writes:

Contemporary Mormon life itself helps to create this need for a serious fiction. A faith that believes in perfection, a life filed with attainable goals, large beautiful families, the near Second Coming, personal revelation, daily guidance from the Holy Ghost, eternal life with an eternal family, righteousness materially rewarded in this life, and degrees of glory invites interpretation, explanation. In short, is a faith that invite novelists. Because we as faithful, intelligent Mormons want to help to understand it all, to see how it works, or might work. And this is often best done in the privacy of a novel that the readers enter into imaginatively to experience vicariously with the protagonist all that he or she experiences, understands, and learns in the process.

For example, what is spiritual experience? We Mormons talka lot today about the spirit — feeling the spirit, being guided by the spirit, following the spirit, seeking the spirit, losing the spirit, being filled with the spirit, leading a spiritual life. We don’t talk much about living a religious life, but living a spiritual life. So what is a spiritual life, to folow the spirit? Are we really talking about experiencing the Holy Ghost, and therefore should write spirit with a capital S? If so, what does it feel like? How do you know if ou’re leading such a life? Is it only feeling, emotions, impressions? Is the intellect, the mind, objectivity, reason a part of spirituality? In what ways are our spiritual lives powerful, compelling, directing, satisfying, divine? As Conrad said, the novelist’s task is to make experience, something to be tasted, seen, heard, felt, and smelled. A realistic serious novel could create characters, images, situations that would help readers experience spirituality, help them hear, feel, and see it, know what it is and is not. (39)

I don’t know how well we accomplish this, but I like this notion of making experience and helping understand a lot.

6 thoughts on “Doug Thayer on Mormonism as a faith that invites novelists”

  1. I wonder why he feels it has to be a realistic novel. Because of your last post, I’ve ordered that issue of Irreantum. After I read his essay in full, I’ll be able to comment more intelligently.

  2. This is exactly what I think in regards to the vast LDS genre scene, something we create being godlike in nature as the author.

    I’m inclined to believe this is a much bigger reason we have so many writers working in genre as opposed to (as I understood it) Howard Tayler’s argument of jumping on the bandwagon theory.

  3. I’m inclined to believe this is a much bigger reason we have so many writers working in genre as opposed to (as I understood it) Howard Tayler’s argument of jumping on the bandwagon theory.

    I didn’t think Howard’s argument was based on “jumping on the bandwagon,” but on the premise of cultural homogeneity (i.e., what appeals to one will appeal to others who are in a similar situation). This argument doesn’t necessarily clash with yours, since Mormons could be culturally more likely to want to create worlds (fictional or otherwise).

  4. .

    I think, combined with Goldberg’s essay from the new Irreantum, we have here the makings of a new, strong why-Mormon-lit.

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