A little over a decade ago, I had met several of my goals as a writer. I had won awards and published books. Strangely, I found that publishing wasn’t that big of a deal. Neither was winning an award. I even faced a rather embarrassing situation after I was given a medal for my fiction. I was joking around with my family and put the medal on, saying, “What if I really wore this thing?” Then, of course, I forgot that I was wearing it. Sure enough, company arrived, and there I was wearing my medal, as though it were part of my daily wardrobe. It was like answering the door wearing a tiara, swimsuit, and a queen’s robe.
I could write stories which made it into some good journals, but I wasn’t at all sure that a well-crafted sentence mattered much–certainly not nearly as much as it once had, when I was embarking on my dream to become a published writer. Now I really wanted to write something of importance, not just something that might win an award. I wanted to consecrate my talent, and I prayed for guidance to do just that.
Very soon after, I started writing about black Latter-day Saints, though I knew none. Within a month, a black woman moved into my ward, a former civil rights activist, and we became close friends. Within a few weeks, I met Darius Gray, a black man who had joined the Church in 1964. We teamed up and eventually wrote three books and made two documentaries. Both of us felt that these projects were consecrated ones. We were offering our talents to God.
Now, just because we considered that our books and films were consecrated doesn’t mean they were “unspotted.” I am currently revising the trilogy for republication, and I’ve found lots of errors and unwieldy sentences. Many times a student or a fellow ward member will announce that they were merely the conduit to an inspired poem, and that God had actually authored it. They will then recite a rather self-conscious, predictably rhymed, abstract work about some gospel principle. My judgmental self will silently mock the attempt, thinking, “God was having a bad day when he composed that one, wasn’t He.” My more generous self will acknowledge that any attempt to write a poem about faith or love or motherhood (etc.) is an act of courage, and should be honored–probably not with awards, but with kind words. I suspect the angels will be singing lyrics by Blake rather than by Edgar A. Guest, or lyrics in another language and by a poet we’ve never heard of. Still, consecration is consecration, regardless of how flawed the gift is. We have all sorts of stories and songs about that. “The Drummer Boy” and The Littlest Angel come to mind immediately.
In the Association for Mormon Letters, all of us on the board donate our time supporting something we believe in: the best art (film, plays, prose and poetry) which our artists can produce. And it’s an exciting body of work, getting bigger and better every season. We give awards to the best of it, but we’ll look at anyone’s offering.
In that spirit of consecration, we invite you to join us in supporting everything the Association for Mormon Letters stands for. Frankly, we need your help. We are on the cusp of something magnificent in Mormon art, and we invite all to partake and to give. To learn more about our efforts and how you can be a part of them, see http://www.mormonletters.org/Join.aspx