My previous “Lit Crit Sermons” have been from sources that generally took a positive view of literature, seeing the role of the author or poet as an important and divinely inspired one. That view is, unfortunately, not universal among past General Authorities of the Church and those who wrote in LDS-oriented magazines. In fact, Church leaders often saw dangers in literature from the outside world and warned Church members against reading that literature. The Home Literature movement was the solution to the dangers that leaders saw.
This is, as far as I can tell, either the first or second published discussion of literature in a Mormon source (an earlier article discussed writing letters). As might be expected from a Mormon periodical in 1832, Phelps’ arguments are very focused on the Bible as an inspired document, and one that is clearly superior in all respects to anything that man might come up with on his own. While I’m not sure I buy this entirely (I think I’ve read poetry that is better poetry than that found in the bible), I do think that we don’t see the Bible as literature as much as we should. And, it is often sublime.
If we define literary criticism as any discussion of literature or its role, then LDS General Authorities have frequently been literary critics, from the beginning of Mormon publishing. Yesterday I came across the following description from Orson F. Whitney, buried, of all places, in his pamphlet/short book, The strength of the “Mormon” position.