The classic ending for a comedy is marriage, for a tragedy is death. Another standard story set up is leaving home on a quest and coming home changed (or finding a new home).
In Mormon fiction, we have some additional milestones (and these aren’t unique, of course, to Mormonism in how they function). We have mission stories (which are also quest stories). We have rite of passage stories: baptism/confirmation, ordination, engagement, marriage, becoming parents. All worth telling.
We also have conversion stories (or deconversion stories) — and I’m speaking of conversions on a major scale here: gaining a testimony or joining the LDS Church (and vice versa).
All of those are fine. But often those stories are the province of childhood through one’s twenties. In some ways, the overall culture of Mormonism has that problem: you get baptized at eight, ordained at 12 (if you are male), go on a mission at 19, take out your endowment (either pre-mission or sometime in your late teens through mid-twenties), marry in the temple sometime between 19 and 26, and have your first child (usually before age 30). So what next? Enduring to the end. Yawn.
What a wretched phrase. First of all, it makes the bulk of life sound pretty lame and boring. Second, it means that once you’ve hit all those other milestones, you’re pretty much done . And third, I’m not sure what it really means — or rather that it means what we hope to mean. I mean, if all we’re doing is enduring, just gritting and hanging on, then I don’t know that we’re really living up to the measure of our creation or magnifying our callings and talents, etc.
I’m thinking a better term would be: progress to the end.
But whether we call it endure or progress (and, of course, it’s both), I think that dealing with how this plays out in the lives of active Latter-day Saints is ripe ground for Mormon narrative art. It’s more difficult to tell these stories — you don’t have the easy hooks of mission or marriage or death. But I think that it’s worthwhile, and it’s an area where we can really help each other understand bits and pieces of the modern Mormon experience.
And, of course, there are Mormon writers who have tackled this part of the journey. But not as many as I would like. Looking at my bookshelf, there are a lot of comedies and tragedies and missions and courtships and deaths and conversions there.
Am I crazy here? What’s your favorite piece of Mormon narrative art that deals with “enduring to the end”? What issues or moments or situations have you been hoping someone would write about?