. I was doing some reading about The Relief Society Magazine last week and came across this article which made me horribly melancholy for a world I never knew. I recognize that Correlation was vital in terms of managing a single faith of many languages, but some real losses accompanied those real gains, one of which was the rich literary culture of the Church’s previous generation of periodicals. I commend the article to your soul. Today on the Relief Society’s birthday however, on this, an arts site, I am writing about the article’s revelation that one of the texts recommended for sisters’ consideration and study was Ibsen’s A Doll’s House. A daring choice, it seems to me, even now when the recommendation is 80 years old, given the nervousness allegedly revealed in many Relief Society book group’s rules. From the 1934 recommendation (I have made some slight adjustments without having recourse to the original scans or much concern with its paragraphing): Continue reading “Back in the doll’s house, one woman said, while another but smiled and shook her head.”
Just what is true in literature and what meaning we can find in it are perennial subjects for prophets as well as literary pontificates. Yet often both of these are treated as unitary–a work of literature is either true or its not, and has just one meaning. Of course literary critics have long seen that works of literature can be true in different ways and have multiple meanings. But somehow this fact is lost in the debate when we put things in a religious sphere.
Except when it comes to scripture. By the early twentieth century some Mormons not only thought that scripture was true in multiple ways and had multiple meanings, they also taught these ideas in the published Relief Society lessons about the Bible, such as the extract from a lesson found below. Oddly enough, I’m not sure that most Church members today see this point, at least not from the scripture lessons I attend each week.
Few Church members today remember that when the Relief Society was more independent, it had its own lessons, and one of the monthly lessons focused on literature and the arts. The text below is one of those lessons, from the January 1917.
In many ways this lesson is surprising, and not just for the fact that it was taught. I was surprised at how basic the lesson was, covering material that I think I was taught in High School, although I’m not sure that it sunk in very well. It is tempting, therefore, to think that one reason for dropping these lessons is that they were being taught in school. However, I’m not sure that in 1917 the school system was covering this material very well, and even today I think many Church members would benefit from repeating these lessons, even though they don’t have much to do with doctrine.
Mormon Drama reached something of a high point in the 1950s. Hundreds of performances of plays occurred in wards and stakes under the auspices of the MIA, which published as many as a dozen or more plays in its annual MIA Book of Plays.
Terryl Givens, in his recent People of the Paradox writes that this anthology contained “offerings largely obtained through national playhouses.”1 However, depending on how you read “largely” this might be misinterpreted. By my count nearly 25% of the plays in these anthologies were Mormon works.
Switching back to something very old school this week — next week will be something by one of the AMV crowd.
Title: Mother’s Day
Author: Nephi Anderson
Publication Info: The Relief Society Magazine, January 1916
Submitted by: Theric Jepson
Why?: Theric writes — “.
This is an extra short story from Nephi Anderson at his preachiest. It gives a nice taste of Home Lit at its homelittiest. Plus, it shows that the Mother’s Day troubles we often hear of are older than you or I.”