In August, Scott Hales suggested (and he is not the first) that popularizing Mormon Literature might come from flooding the bloggernacle with posts. I like the idea.
But I think there are many hurdles to this idea–principally because even those writing about Mormon literature don’t really know much of the literature. We talk about a few major titles, and ignore all the rest, without even any real assessment of what value they may have.
For most of the potential audience for Mormon Literature, the lack of knowledge of what has been written is accompanied by a lack of any need or desire for that literature. It simply doesn’t have much of a place in their lives.
Writing criticism, or even merely description, may, as Scott and others suggest, popularize Mormon Literature. But I don’t think this is the only approach that we can use. It would also be helpful if we used Mormon Literature in more pedestrian ways. Why not chose a Mormon poem to illustrate an idea or recognize an event? Why not use a Mormon short story to help a Sunday School lesson or expound doctrine in a talk? Mormon Literature needs to be a vital part of our everyday Mormon culture, just like Shakespeare or Keats or Twain inform our national and English-language culture.
Unfortunately, the barrier is still knowledge. Its hard to use poems, stories, novels, etc. that you don’t know about.
Still, we have to start somewhere. So, I’ll give it a try and, to recognize the holiday, post a Mormon poem:
With choicest meats and rarest fruits, with puddings cakes and pies,
With vegetables, and cereals the best the fields afford,
With all that mother nature from her generous store supplies,
I laden come to greet you, and provide your waiting board.
Come, gather round, both old and young, your bounteous meal partake,
And for these gifts your hearts lift up in humble, grateful prayer,
For man may plow and plant and reap, but God the increase gives,
Then thank Him for His wondrous grace, His ever watchful care.
For home and kindred, health and strength, for freedom’s blessed boon,
For waving trees and rippling streams, for birds and grass and flowers,
For sunshine, rain, refreshing breeze, and winter’s bracing air;
Oh, how the wealth of God’s great love fills all life’s passing hours!
Thank Him that we have work to do, and do it with a will,
For idle brain, or idle hands ne’er yield the heart content,
May we so live that in return for all these mercies given,
Our time, our talents and our strength be in His service spent.
[Published in the Young Woman’s Journal, v6 n4 p164; January 1895.]
This was the earliest poem I’ve found so far that talks about Thanksgiving Day (not that I’ve searched very hard). Its not the only one. Ardis Parshall at Keepapitchinin has posted many more recent Thanksgiving items over the past few years. She is doing exactly what I’m suggesting — finding and using Mormon material again. Not all of it is great, but the issue really isn’t whether or not its great. The issue is whether or not it is culturally relevant; whether it speaks to us today. I don’t know if the above poem does. Perhaps by posting it here we can try it out and see.
4 thoughts on “Mormon Literature for Thanksgiving”
I agree that we should find more pedestrian ways to infuse our lives with Mormon literature, Kent. Thanks for the reminder.
I think “God the increase gives” is a very relevant line.
Great post, Kent. I’ve been trying to do more of this sort of thing on the Low-Tech World with my posts on Nephi Anderson and, more recently, on John Lyon. I think it’s really important to recover these works, especially since they’ve been so needlessly maligned by Mormon critics in the past who objected to their sentimentality and didacticism. I think they present a critical gold mine for those interested in Mormon literary studies.
This also serves as more proof that I should legally change my name from Hales to Hatch. I’ve been called that a few times in “This Week in Mormon Literature.”
Ooooops. I’ve corrected it, Scott.
I feel your pain, however. “This Week in Mormon Literature” regularly misspells my name also.
And, for what its worth, I have a number of projects in process to republish and recover early works — I’m almost done with an edition (the first not published serially) of Emmeline B. Wells’ “Hephzibah.” I hope to have it done next month.
It will be followed by a major poetry collection next year.
Thanks. I look forward to reading the poetry collection.