In the past 40 years the descriptions of Mormon literature published by Eugene England and his successors have designated oratory as one of the primary forms of our literary output, one that Church members are most familiar with. It is in oratory, as well as the personal essay, that Mormons are sometimes thought to excel. Given the pattern of Mormon worship, that makes sense.
But we also might ask whether a strength in oratory is best for our literature. Are some forms of literature inherently better than others? And does the Mormon view differ from that of others who have examined literature?
Its no surprise that Orson F. Whitney had has opinion about oratory:
What does it cost to develop a writer? Do readers bear part of that cost? If readers refuse to read anything but the best works, will authors still be able to develop? And what is the role of criticism for a developing author? While these questions are perhaps more about education than strict criticism, when they have such a large potential impact on the quality of literature its hard to see how literary criticism can ignore them entirely.
And Emmeline B. Wells did weigh in on this issue, chiefly in response to a series of complaints about there being too many books, and too few books that are worthy of careful reading. We hear these complaints today, but these complaints ignore Wells’ question in response: how do authors develop if only works of literary genius are read?