A Survey of Mormon Comix by Theric Jepson

When I asked Theric Jepson to write a bit about Mormon graphic novels, I didn’t expect that he would launch a full on bibliographic project. But he did — and even though the results make for a very long post, it’s very much worth a read. Indeed, it’s quite the amazing project and must have taken quite some time to put together. Thanks, Theric. ~Wm Morris

I’m also going to make you click through for the full post because the “more” tag seems to be causing some problems with the special formatting for the post.

Continue reading “A Survey of Mormon Comix by Theric Jepson”

Help me find the “non-American” Mormon Culture

Last year I purchased a bound volume of the 1949 issues of the missionary magazine of the Argentine and Uruguayan missions, El Mensajero Deseret, which I found in the basement of Sam Weller‘s in Salt Lake City. I had hoped that I might find there some articles originally written in Spanish by local members (not missionaries), and that I might there discover something of their perspective at the time. Unfortunately, my (still) somewhat cursory review, while it found many interesting articles, including one written by my grandfather that my family didn’t know about, failed to find any articles by local members and few originally written in Spanish.

I’m not sure how different things are today. Mission magazines like El Mensajero Deseret, which were meant for all members in the mission (not just the missionaries), have been replaced by the Church’s international magazine (in Spanish, La Liahona), and that magazine is largely a translation from English.

As a result of examples like this, I think its easy to assume that no Mormon cultural works are being produced outside of the English-speaking areas of the Church. In a comment to my post last week about What Should Mormons Know About Mormon Culture?, Anneke wrote:

“I’m uncomfortable with any attempt to define “Mormon Culture” that then limits that culture to “Anglophone Mormon Culture.” I realize that most of the time English is all we’ve got”¦”

I am also uncomfortable about this — but its hard for most of us, English-speaking residents of the US generally, to know much about what is being produced in Mexico or in France or Brazil or Japan. Its not like there are clear paths for getting materials from these places to the Mormon market in the US! I suspect that not a lot is being produced, given the low density of LDS Church members from each other in other countries, the lack of a market or way to distribute cultural works, and the near worship that foreign LDS Church members sometimes have for the Church in the U.S.

So, hoping that those who read this will add the works they know about, here’s a list of some of the works I know or have heard of. I’m sure there are plenty of others:

Continue reading “Help me find the “non-American” Mormon Culture”

Why Not an LDS Bible in Spanish?

Bible's title-page traced to the Bavarian printer Mattias Apiarius,

When the LDS Church published its own edition of the King James version of the Bible in 1980, Church leaders claimed that it was a significant achievement. The edition included extensive and better organized footnotes than those in other editions of the Bible. It also featured a lengthy Bible Dictionary and a Topical Guide (originally published as a standalone volume). At least LDS Church members (and other, non-members, if my memory is correct) hailed its publication as a valuable study tool. [Obviously, its inclusion of citations to other LDS scriptural works and the LDS concepts included in the Bible Dictionary and Topical guide prevented others from adopting this edition or showing much interest.]

At the time, it seemed obvious, at least to me, that similar LDS editions of the Bible in other languages would eventually follow. But more than 25 years later, we still have yet to see an LDS edition of the Bible in any other language.

To the casual observer, an LDS edition of the Bible in Spanish and in Portuguese would seem like a no brainer. The Church uses old, well-known protestant translations simiar to the King James translation used in English. By their age, both should be in the public domain (the Reina Valera translation, used in Spanish, was completed in 1602, while the João Ferreira de Almeida translation, the Portuguese version used in the Church, was complete by 1711, but only published in 1748). Theoretically, the Church could take these translations, add its footnotes and translate the Bible Dictionary and Topical Guide.

Its a big project, but less complex than the original LDS edition in English because most of the footnotes and topical selections have been made already in English. And such an edition makes sense when you realize that the current number of LDS Church members in Spanish-speaking countries exceeds the number of English-speaking Church members on the rolls in 1980, when the LDS edition was released, by at least 35%, or more than 1 million members.

So why hasn’t the Church produced its own editions?

Continue reading “Why Not an LDS Bible in Spanish?”

Are we discarding our Mormon heritage? (with Jeff Needle)

Last week I read my Easter gift from my parents: Outwitting History: The Amazing Adventures of a Man Who Rescued a Million Yiddish Books by Aaron Lansky. It’s a remarkable, wonderful story (and the story is pretty much what’s in the subtitle of the book), but even more than that it’s a fascinating exploration of how culture is created, fought over, transmitted and discarded. The book is filled with fascinating, touching and moving moments.

And of course, after reading it, I began to wonder if on a much smaller scale, the same problem was happening with Mormon literature. And I do mean a much smaller scale. First of all, Mormon books were mostly published in English (with the exception of the Deseret Alphabet and a few foreign language titles) so that barrier to transmission and block to preservation doesn’t exist. And the number of Mormon-related works that were published never reached the amazing amounts of Yiddish books and periodicals that were produced, which means it’s easier to get a handle on a fairly complete collection. And there are academic collections that are fairly good at BYU and elsewhere. So on the whole, I’m not super worried that our Mormon heritage is being tossed out in dumpsters.

And let it be said: most of the Jews that died in the Holocaust were Yiddish speaking. And Yiddish speakers and, especially, writers also faced great persecution at the hands of Stalin. Most of Mormonism’s literary production happened after its persecutions.

And yet, I owe my interest in Mormon literature to three shelves of books at the Berkeley LDS Institute that were donated. I don’t know if all of the titles came from the same family or person. But I’m pretty sure that most of them were donations and not acquisitions. I also owe the title of this blog to Roy Markow (or his descendants, possibly) who donated a copy of Orson F. Whitney’s “Love and the Light: An Idyl of the Westland” to the Berkeley Institute. “A Motley Vision” is taken from that poem (which by the way, I still have. I figure it this way — nobody had checked it out before I did. There were actually two copies. And someday I will return it). The people who made these donations could very well have just tossed the books or given them to Deseret Industries or put them in their basements or attic to molder and suffer water damage. Continue reading “Are we discarding our Mormon heritage? (with Jeff Needle)”

Last call for LDS book group recommendations — the form is closed

Submissions for the list of Mormon fiction recommendations for LDS book groups have petered out, but I figured I might as well announce a formal end date: I will be closing the form at 10 p.m. CDT, Sunday, April 20.

UPDATED 4.20: The form is now closed. Give me a week or two to crunch the results. And, thanks again.

The original post with explanations and instructions.

Titles in the spreadsheet as of April 18, 11 a.m. CDT:

Brother Brigham
Long After Dark
Kindred Spirits
Hooligan: A Mormon Boyhood
Passage to Zarahemla, Tennis Shoes Among the Nephites, Tower of Thunder, Eddie Fantastic
Ender’s Game
On the Road to Heaven
Go In Beauty
Paradise Vue
The Conversion of Jeff Williams
Heresies of Nature
Bound on Earth
The Pictograph Murders
Fine Old High Priests
Bound on Earth
My Mom’s a Mortician
Funeral Home Evenings
Early-Morning Cemetery
The Final Farewell
Circle Dance
Bound On Earth
Cold Train Coming

There are several titles that still deserve to be considered. I have refrained from adding any, but after the form closes, I will add the two titles that I think most deserve to be included, but weren’t added via the anonymous form. I will also make clear that I’m responsible for adding those titles so readers can take my biases/tastes into account.

Thanks for your help!

Mormon fiction recommendations for LDS book groups (updated April 18)

Chris Bigelow, founder of Zarahemla Books, recently published a guest post on Blog Segullah on Mormon literature’s middle niche. In the comments, author and blogger Angela Hallstrom said that she’d like to see Deseret book develop this Mormon niche and market it to all the LDS book clubs. That seems unlikely, but it occurs to me that there is something that we can do. Plus I have been itching to trot out this really cool Google application as well as launch AMV projects*. So I respectfully request your help in creating a list of middle niche novel (or short story collection) recommendations for LDS book groups.

Updated 4/7/08 to add this point of clarification — Titles should significantly feature Mormon characters and/or themes. For example, Saints by Orson Scott Card is fine. Ender’s Game is not (even though Ender’s mother is Mormon). /update

Here’s how this is going to work:

I have created a Google Docs spreadsheet that can be fed through an online form. I want all of you to submit your recommendations via this form. I will then crunch/format all the data and post it in some sort of usable way on a static (i.e. non-blog post) page here at AMV and announce the finished list with a blog post. All of us will then forward the page link to people we know who are in LDS book groups as a resource for them to use when considering what books to read.

UPDATED 4.20: The form is now closed. Give me a week or two to crunch the results. And, thanks again. Continue reading “Mormon fiction recommendations for LDS book groups (updated April 18)”

Mormon Poetry for National Poetry Month

April is National Poetry Month, so in view of our recent conversations about Mormon poetry, I though it might be a good idea to review what Mormon poetry is in print at the moment, and ask those who visit to take a look. [The links are to the Amazon page for the book – no link means that the book isn’t available on Amazon.]

I think we would also love to know of any books that aren’t on the list. I pulled this information from a number of sources, but like any bibliographies of Mormon materials, it is very hard to get everything.

The list is interesting for several reasons:

Continue reading “Mormon Poetry for National Poetry Month”

Mormon Literature Database news

I recently noticed that BYU’s Mormon Literature Database was broadening it’s scope and asked Gideon Burton, assistant professor of English, for more detail. Here is what he e-mailed me:

“The Mormon Literature Database was renamed Mormon Literature & Creative Arts on May 19, 2007, signaling an important broadening of institutional support at BYU for scholarship on Mormon culture. The database (up and going since 2003) had already begun expanding beyond belletristic literature to include speeches and other genres, and had escalated to some 20,000 works and 5000 authors. Given the relational nature of the database, it was only logical to begin linking Mormon literary works with their artistic counterparts in music or film (LDS poetry has been adapted to hymns, for example, and Mormon novels have been adapted to film, etc.). Continue reading “Mormon Literature Database news”