AMV Mo-Lit Guide: Agency

The AMV Mo-Lit guide continues with an exploration of why agency is an important concept to Mormon literature and a list of key texts that explore the concept.

NOTE: this is an entry in the AMV Guide to Mormon Literature series. Click here for more details on the series.

In Mormon thought, agency (also called moral agency or free agency) is a crucial concept to solve two key issues:

A) why do bad things happen to good people if God is our loving, all-powerful Heavenly Father?

B) what is our purpose living in a fallen world?

The agency of mankind is a gift from God, but it also flows from the fact that Mormons believe that human beings existed as individual intelligences prior to receiving spirit bodies from our heavenly parents. The exercise of agency can lead to progression, that is the acquisition of the attributes of God, or to sin and pain (and without repentance, the stopping of progression e.g. damnation).

Although the Mormon concept of agency solves some issues of theodicy (why God allows bad things to happen to good people) it also raises others, especially how genetics, culture, material circumstances, history, the natural environment and coincidence affect an individual’s ability to freely act in the world. Another issue is the foreknowledge of God as well as his intervention in the world (miracles) and how those can constrain/impact the free exercise of agency.

For the Mormon artist, freedom from the basic dilemma of theodicy and original sin, the concept of agency presents a fruitful area for exploration of and experimentation with the various constraints and contradictions that remain.


1. The Worthing Chronicle by Orson Scott Card is about a civilization that doesn’t allow people to experience pain and what happens when that changes.

2. The Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer, which the author herself has explained is about choices, especially the way beings with great power (vampires) use (or abstain from using) their power to affect normal humans

3. The Matched Trilogy by Ally Condie is about a society where the government limits choices and also chooses (theoretically based on complex algorithms) major life decisions for its citizens, including marriage and occupation.

I welcome feedback on this entry. Anyone who provides it will be included in a list of co-conspirators which will be published in the final version of the guide. In particular, I’m interested in hearing a) what I get wrong or am missing from my brief discussion of why agency is an important concept to Mormon literature (keeping in mind, of course, that these entries are supposed to be brief) and b) what key texts I’m missing (note that I want these to be if not canonical at least fairly widely known texts that deal fairly explicitly with the concept). Overall comments about the format are also fine.

AMV Mo-Lit Guide: Angel of the Danube

NOTE: this is an entry in the AMV Guide to Mormon Literature series. Click here for more details on the series.

Angel of the Danube: Barry Monroe’s Missionary Journal is a novel by Alan Rex Mitchell published in 2000 by Bonneville Books. Mitchell re-released it in 2010 under his Greenjacket Books trade name. As the subtitle suggests, the novel is written as a series of journal entries, but in a unique twist the entries are written after Barry returns from his mission. As he relates his often comic mission (mis)adventures, Barry also reflects on what they mean as well as what he is going to do with his post-mission life. The novel is notable not only for its narrative structure, but also for its unique voice which blends California surfer dude, LDS mission lingo and Austrian German as well as and mixing the comic and dramatic modes of fiction.


Missionary Fiction; Romance; Comedy; Fictional Memoir


  1. Testimony
  2. Eternal Marriage
  3. Obedience


  1. Barry Monroe, a So-Cal dude who is called to the Austria Vienna mission
  2. Anna Magdalena, an Austrian Frau who investigates the Church and is fond of relating Austrian folk tales
  3. Unts, Barry’s mission companion and compatriot


  1. Austria, especially Vienna
  2. So-Cal, mainly the LA area
  3. The Mojave Desert


  1. It won the Marilyn Brown Novel Award in 2000.
  2. 2. Richard Cracroft compared it to Saul Bellow’s Henderson the Rain King. I’ve read both. It’s better.
  3.  Each chapter heading features an illustration by Charissa Yang Sullivan.
  4. It averages 1.7 uses of the word Dude per page (just kidding — I don’t have an electronic version of the manuscript, but if I did, I would tell you the true number).
  5. How much you like this book will depend quite a bit on how you react to the ending.

I welcome feedback on this entry. Anyone who provides it will be included in a list of co-conspirators which will be published in the final version of the guide. In particular, I’m interested in hearing if a) the format seems useful and/or interesting; b) whether or not you think I chose the right items to include the Themes and Main Characters sections; and c) if there is anything else that should be added to the To Know section.

Announcing The AMV Guide to Mormon Literature

Wm is going to be blogging (and then compiling) a guide to Mormon literature. Give him feedback on the structure of the project.

It seems to me that Mormon literature as a field is difficult to approach. Unless you are one of the few who have the chance to take the Mo-lit class at BYU, there’s no real easy way to get an overview of the field. This makes it difficult to enter into the conversations that happen here and at Dawning of a Brighter Day and elsewhere. Some of these conversations have been going on for a long time, and it’s hard to know how and where and when to jump in. I aim to change that in a low-key, non-scholarly way.

Here’s the plan:

I am going to write The AMV Guide to Mormon Literature. I’m going to do so by writing short entries on a variety of topics in Scrivener, which is a fantastic tool for dealing with lots of information and allows one to easily output writing in a variety of forms. I will post each entry as it is complete to AMV and ask for feedback. I’ll then do a brief edit of the entry based on the feedback and move on to the next topic. When I hit the point where I’ve covered everything that needs to be covered (with the caveat, of course, that there could always be more), I will then compile the whole set of entries in Scrivener, add a simple cover, and publish the complete guide as an ebook which I will then offer for sale through the standard channels. Profits from the sale of the book will go to pay for web hosting for AMV, Wilderness Interface Zone and LDS Cinema Online.

While this guide will be my (personal) voice, my (radical-middle) concerns, and my (idiosyncratic) perspective, I will also welcome feedback on each entry that I post. Anyone who provides it will be added to a list of co-conspirators that will be published at the back of the book. Continue reading “Announcing The AMV Guide to Mormon Literature”