What should the talks be about for Mormon Arts Sunday?

Kent in a Beret
Why Kent can’t wear a beret on Mormon Arts Sunday (plus, his daughter stole the beret!!)

Our nascent annual attempt to change the way Mormons think about the arts, Mormon Arts Sunday, (a.k.a. “Wear a Black Beret to Church Day”) is approaching soon! I’m trying hard to make this a “thing,” and so while the whole “black beret” thing won’t work for me (as this photo demonstrates), I have managed to arrange for our ward to devote its sacrament meeting on June 8th (the 1st of June is Fast Sunday, so that won’t work) to the arts.

However, we do have to somehow give those who speak on Mormon Arts Sunday a subject. And since there will probably be 3 speakers, we need to divide up the subject of the Gospel and the Arts and Mormon Art into general areas–or at least select three specific topics from among the universe of possible topics. What should we say to speakers? What should they talk about?

I spent a few hours today thinking about this. A large part of the issue comes down to purpose: what are we trying to achieve?

In Scott Hales’ original proposal, he suggested that the purpose of this “Sunday Activism” is to “raise more awareness of Mormon art and literature in our local congregations.” In other words we’re looking for a little respect and perhaps participation.

In my case, our ward is blessed with a lot of artistic talent. We have everything from authors and publishers to opera singers, broadway performers and pop-music producers to filmmakers and actors to visual artists. At the end of June we will have our 5th annual “Bloomin’ Arts Festival,” held in conjunction with the neighborhood “Arts Stroll” meant to promote artists who live in the neighborhood. So, I don’t think we need to convince too many people to produce art.

But, mere production of art doesn’t mean that Mormon Art has much respect. Simply put, the market for art isn’t in Mormon Art, and most Church members are unaware of the breadth and quality of the Mormon Art that exists. So much of our battle is to make the idea of Mormon Art appealing, even if they can’t win their fortune at it.

So what does this mean for talks? What should the sermons be about?

Because of the responsibilities of ward leaders, we can’t neglect the need to bring all this back to the gospel. Somehow, the idea of Mormon Art in particular needs to be tied to the basic principles of Mormon doctrine. Focusing on this idea, here’s what I’ve come up with so far as questions to be addressed in the talks:

  • What is the role of the Arts, and especially Mormon Art, in the Gospel?
  • How can the Arts enhance our lives and help us live the Gospel?
  • What is the role of the Artist in the Gospel, and how should the Gospel influence his art?

These are broad enough topics and questions that the speaker can cover a lot of different things. In addition, they are personal enough that anyone can add their personal experiences to the talk.

But, I’m not sure how easy it will be to bring the scriptures into these talks — perhaps because I haven’t spent enough time myself searching the scriptures for references to the arts or how the scriptures look at related subjects.

I’m also pleased because these topics mostly avoid the subject of “r-rated” movies and what is “appropriate” in art — although the second talk could cover that also. But I think it would be best if that isn’t covered–we don’t need the controversy and we don’t need Church members to automatically go to that issue when art is discussed.

So, what do you think? Should we look for different topics? I hope that these subjects can be assigned soon, giving the speakers nearly a month to work on these talks. Are these topics going to be particularly difficult? What kind of people should be asked to speak? Artists?

If you were assigned to give a talk and one of these topics were given, what would you say?

12 thoughts on “What should the talks be about for Mormon Arts Sunday?”

  1. Good point about fast Sunday. Sorry to keep moving the goal posts, but I’m going to call the second Sunday in June Mormon Arts Sunday and leave it at that. I already have a post planned for later in the month to make it official.

  2. Love theric’s idea 🙂 I’d make sure the focus is on different forms of art, too. What are we categorizing as art?

  3. This isn’t as coherent a theme, but I like it when speakers bring in the scriptures more. I’d love to do a sacrament meeting where 6-10 members read their favorite poetic passage of scripture and shared a quick anecdote, testimony or explication related to those passages of scripture.

  4. William, I love that idea.

    While I know that you don’t mean the actual underlying poetry in the scriptures (instead passages that the speakers simply find poetic), I think it would be helpful to outline for members what scriptural passages seem to be poetry in the original — while Job, the Psalms, Song of Solomon, etc. are known to be poetry, there are also poems embedded in many other parts of the Bible, and in the Book of Mormon. It would be very nice if there was a list somewhere.

  5. This is great stuff! How did I not see this post until now?

    I’m also impressed that you have made this a “thing” in your ward. I’m pleased that the idea of Mormon Arts Sunday has moved out of the realms of satire. It deserves to be more than that.

    I’m not sure how much influence I have over Sacrament meeting speakers, but I’m definitely going to work Mormon Arts into my Sunday lesson to the teacher’s quorum.

  6. .

    Another possibility is this great quotation from then Elder Thomas S Monson:

    God left the world unfinished for man to work his skill upon. He left the electricity in the cloud, the oil in the earth. He left the rivers unbridged and the forests unfelled and the cities unbuilt. God gives to man the challenge of raw materials, not the ease of finished things. He leaves the pictures unpainted and the music unsung and the problems unsolved, that man might know the joys and glories of creation.

  7. .

    This was not clear in my original source, but the “God left the world unfinished for man to work his skill upon. He left the electricity in the cloud, the oil in the earth.” portion of that quotation was borrowed from George Macdonald.

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