Imaginary Mormons

The first time I read Ender’s Game I loved it, of course, but I hated one very specific thing: Ender’s mom was Mormon. It bothered me, as a child, that Mormons could exist in a universe where Mormonism, as I understood it at the time, was not true. I believe my specific reasoning was that the insectile aliens were obviously not created in the image of God, which said to me that God didn’t create life, which meant that God either wasn’t real or I was wrong about Him, but that’s beside the point. The existence of non-humanoid sentience in Mormon theology is an awesome topic, but it’s not the one I’m here to discuss today. I want to talk about Mormons, and a belief system I believe to be “real” inhabiting a world where much of the metaphysical underpinnings are completely imaginary.

Let’s look at another book, Monster Hunter International by Larry Correia. This is a series about a group of paramilitary monster hunters who basically run around, find vampires and werewolves and ancient, spooky, tentacle monsters, and shoot them. The books are great if you haven’t read them, and one of the characters–the kind of redneck Q who makes and maintains their weapons–is Mormon. That’s all well and good and more or less incidental to the story, until all of a sudden something big and insane and world-changing occurs, and the Mormon guy heads off to tell/consult with the leaders of the Mormon church. It’s basically a throw-away line in the book, but it stopped me cold because I was fascinated by the idea. First of all, yes: if an ancient spooky tentacle monster showed up with a plan to end the world, I firmly believe that the LDS prophet would have some interesting insights, and it would be very prudent to give him a call. but beyond that, how would the Mormon church, as a whole, react to a world full of monsters?

The Monster Hunter series, and in fact a majority of urban fantasy series, are based on the foundational premise that most people don’t know about all the magic and monsters in the world, and that the elite who do don’t share that with the rest of us. Buffy the Vampire Slayer had a group of friends who knew what was going on, but they spent a huge amount of time trying to keep it secret. Even Harry Dresden, who actually advertised himself publically as a wizard for hire, existed in a world where most people simply didn’t know or believe that any of this magic nonsense actually worked. One of the urban fantasy RPGs I used to play, a d20 game called Urban Arcana, posited that most people don’t see the magic and monsters and weirdness all around them because it’s simply too weird to acknowledge, and so our brain edits the weirdness out by subconsciously finding rational explanations for things–that big burly mob enforcer isn’t an orc, he’s just big and burly and the lighting is making him look kind of odd. I find that completely ridiculous: it is literally easier for me to believe in orcish mob enforcers than to believe that my brain is too stupid to recognize what’s in front of it. The human species would not have survived more than a couple of years at the most if our brain was designed to pretend scary things didn’t exist, and most of us (particularly children) (and genre fiction writers) actually seek out the weirdness in life, looking for reasons why things are more magical than they seem, not less. If something’s weird, we’re going to know it. And Mormons are going to talk about it.

Think about all the things Mormons believe–and not just metaphorically, but in a very real, physical way. We believe that God lives on a planet in space. We believe that devils are real, and that properly ordained priesthood holders can cast them out. And while we’re on the subject of the priesthood: holy cow, the priesthood. A magic power that lets us heal people, control nature, and perform miracles–we don’t actually call it “magic,” because we’ve defined the word “magic” as evil, but you know what I’m saying. Just because we get our power from God instead of from peeping sorcerers doesn’t make it any less amazing. Which brings me back around to the Monster Hunter series, and the tantalizing premise that the LDS church would be directly involved with the existence of magic and monsters on the Earth: would the church make any effort to conceal monsters if they were real? We talk about EVERYTHING in this religion, why not that? If werewolves were real, every young man in the church would grow up learning about how to defend yourself from them while on a mission–or at the very least, they’d grow up telling stories about their cousin’s friend’s uncle who had to fight one in Venezuela. If vampires were real, there would be a section in the General Handbook of Instructions telling Bishops exactly how to deal with someone who confesses to being one in a Temple Recommend interview: it’s not exactly their fault they were bitten, so it’s not a sin, and yet now they have all these urges they don’t know how to control, and so on and so on. That General Handbook has a section for just about every possible situation, so you know it would have one for that. We’re a church of delegation and lay leadership–that’s not the kind of organization that keeps a lot of big flashy secrets about the nature of the universe.

The new fiction anthology Mormons and Monsters (in which, full disclosure, I have a story) deals with this question a lot. We’ve seen hundreds of years of fiction regarding the crossover between other religions and genre fiction: “Catholic priests who fight possessing spirits” is a thriving subgenre of mainstream horror; zealous protestants decrying sin and corruption is a mainstay of zombie stories; modern vampire mythology is quite literally an Anglican parable. These stories are valuable for a lot of reasons: first, because they put religion into historical perspective. The scriptures are littered with monsters and magic and crazy crap going on, and telling similar stories in the modern day or even in the future allows us to interpret them–to apply them to ourselves, as we’ve always been taught to do.

Second, crossing religion with genre fiction helps put that religion to the test, burning it and smashing it and twisting it and stretching it so we can see how it–and ourselves, reading it–reacts. What did it feel like for Noah to build an ark in the middle of a desert while everyone laughed at him? What was it like for the early apostles to go on missions and preach the gospel, only to be interrupted by a sorcerer demonstrating similar miraculous powers? How did the Mormon saints justify the huge sacrifices they made to follow a distant prophet most people didn’t even believe in, who told them to do crazy things most people openly disagreed with? Genre fiction allows us to explore those stories, the extreme situations of our own belief system, and see what happens. Want to try a fun experiment? Write a speculative story in which the prophet brings back polygamy. How do your characters react? How easy or hard is it for them to follow a commandment they’ve always been taught was wrong?

Third, crossing religion with genre fiction helps us take control of our own narrative. These are the things we believe, so why not write about them? If our religion ostensibly pervades every other aspect of our lives, why try to keep it out of our fiction? Storytelling is a powerful tool, one of the most powerful our species has ever discovered, and we have not only the opportunity but the responsibility to carve our place into it, whether that means stories about a Mormon lawyer or a Mormon archeologist or a Mormon monster hunter. Write what interests you, and make it as intrinsically “you” as possible.

About Dan Wells

Dan Wells is the author of several supernatural thrillers, including I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER, MR. MONSTER, and I DON'T WANT TO KILL YOU. He is a co-host on the podcast Writing Excuses, for which he has won two Parsec awards; he also won the Whitney award for Best New Author of 2009. He plays a lot of games, watches a lot of movies, reads a lot of books, and eats a lot of food, which is pretty much the ideal life he imagined for himself as a child.
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31 Responses to Imaginary Mormons

  1. I have the same gut reaction as you, Dan. It just feels weird when I come across Mormon characters in settings where Mormonism is stripped of its potential as truth.

    Even stories that don’t completely destroy our version of the universe, but still manage to push the envelope of distortion close to the limits (I’m thinking of Eric James Stone’s “That Leviathon, Whom Thou Hast Made”), bother me a bit as a believer.

    But I think your last paragraph is key. It’s a matter of taking control of our own narrative. I’d somehow rather see my faith recognized as nothing more than a benign social tradition by finding out Ender’s mom is a Mormon, than come across fictional Mormons who are created to do nothing but deride the Mormon faith. (One that comes to mind is Elder William Hitch from Chapter 27 of Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days)

  2. Wm Morris says:

    Thanks for the plug, Dan.

    And your final paragraph is exactly why we published Monsters & Mormons, MacEvoy. I understand that some readers may not respond to the colliding of LDS metaphysics with imaginary metaphysics. And that’s fine. This type of fiction isn’t for everyone. At the same time, as Dan points out, even scripture can create some jarring moments in relation to a modern LDS worldview, and, more importantly, inserting Mormons into various genres let’s us explore things we might not be able to otherwise.

    Which isn’t to say that I haven’t had the same reaction — the heretical image of the Salt Lake temple under water in Orson Scott Card’s Folk of the Fringe still unsettles me. Not quite the same as insect aliens, but still something that challenges the Mormon worldview. But these tropes and sub-genres and pulp traditions are out there, and it just seemed like it would be way fun to mess with them.

    In fact, I specifically in our call to submissions said: “In addition, we don’t want writers to worry too much about the metaphysical implications of mixing Mormons and monsters. You don’t need to have doctrinal reasons behind the existence of the monsters nor do you need to offer up stereotypically Mormon solutions to the problems the monsters pose (although such won’t be disallowed unless they’re too flaky or lame). ”

    This isn’t because I want to strip Mormonism of its potential for truth — quite the contrary. It’s because I want to infect genre with truth (but, of course, in a way that’s not didactic).

    • Moriah Jovan says:

      …the heretical image of the Salt Lake temple under water in Orson Scott Card’s Folk of the Fringe still unsettles me.

      Really? That surprises me, all things considered.

      Regardless my entry in Monsters & Mormons, my interest in the intersection of Mormons and speculative fiction ends where the speculative part starts. That is to say, our culture is rich, deep, foreign, and exotic enough to portray it as is (ah, like I did in Magdalene) without paranormal intrusion.

      The fact is, The World doesn’t know us at all. As one interviewer of Magdalene said: “The second delight, and one of fascination to the non-Mormon reader, is that Jovan takes us much farther into the mundane and daily life of Mormon society than previously. It is effortless. As Cassie is introduced to the Ward, so are we. In this way, Jovan shakes out the voodoo and urban legends and shows us the actual real flesh and blood folks of this society.”

      I personally would like to see more of this used to

      tak[e] control of our own narrative

      (great phrase) than speculative fiction. I’ve always believed we need to define us for us before the world defines us for us irrevocably. That may have already happened. IMO, speculative fiction doesn’t help.

      • Wm Morris says:

        I shouldn’t say that it still unsettles me, but rather I can still conjure up the memory of my visceral reaction to reading that image for the first time.

      • I certainly agree that there is room and plenty of need for “taking control of our own narrative” in the sense that you use, Moriah, in the form of more realistic/contemporary/etc. fiction.

        However, I would hate to see speculative fiction excluded from those efforts. My own experience in this area, specifically reading The Folk of the Fringe (as a teen), was a little different than some here – I did feel some of that jarring sensation, but mostly I had a sense of amazement (Mormons can be in science fiction??) and then liberation and excitement. It made the story more powerful to me personally, as a Mormon, in a way perhaps akin to girls reading fantasy with a lead heroine for the first time after reading nothing but Tolkien. (Though I do love Tolkien.)

        It *is* a difficult balance of course – avoiding didacticism as mentioned above, while also writing in a way that doesn’t dismiss our own beliefs.

        • Moriah Jovan says:

          I guess my point is that I *only* see that it’s done in speculative fiction. As far as I know, I’m the only one who’s done it in non-speculative fiction for a national (not LDS) audience. I mean, if I’m wrong, I’d love to have titles and authors.

          Re “Folk of the Fringe” specifically. I read it about five years ago and loved it. I say that as being not particularly a Card fan.

        • Doesn’t Brady Udall do “it”? (I’m no longer certain exactly what the “it” being discussed in this thread is, for that matter.)

        • Moriah Jovan says:

          Mebbe so, but that was kind of the freak side of us, wasn’t it? Polygamy as the vehicle to define us as a culture isn’t terribly helpful in building a narrative that is actually *true* to us, our culture, our traditions.

          I was under the impression that what “it” is is using our culture–authentically (because “going to temple” and “going to the temple” are vastly different concepts)–to create a narrative that defines us FOR us instead of letting outsiders continue to do it, as they have been doing for 150 years. Yet what’s under discussion is the use of speculative fiction to do it and it seems to me that’s the ONLY way we do it. Modern-day polygamy as a window into our culture is, IMO, as speculative as anything else.

  3. D. Michael Martindale says:

    “We believe that God lives on a planet in space.”

    Not correct. ” And I saw the stars, that they were very great, and that one of them was nearest unto the throne of God; and there were many great ones which were near unto it; and the Lord said unto me: These are the governing ones; and the name of the great one is Kolob, because it is near unto me…” [Abraham 3:2-3]

    Kolob is a star, not a planet, and it’s nearest to the throne of God, not the actual place where God dwells. I figure the main interdimensional doorway that leads to the realm of God is near Kolob,which is what makes it “nearest unto the throne of God.”

    “Write a speculative story in which the prophet brings back polygamy.”

    I already did: my novel “Brother Brigham.”

    I’m intrigued by this discomfort at reading a fantasy story (science fiction and supernatural horror are just specialized forms of fantasy) where Mormons are included in a fictional universe whose reality conflict with LDS doctrine. It’s freaking fantasy–who cares? Lots of things in a fantasy story conflict with reality.

    I can only figure that Mormons are too insecure about their beliefs to not let such things bother them, which seems a pretty odd thing for a people who claim to “know” their beliefs are true. If you really “know” your beliefs are true, why feel uncomfortable with a fantasy story that conflicts with those beliefs? The magic and the monsters conflict with your beliefs of what reality is too, but you don’t feel uncomfortable about them existing in a fantasy. It’s all part of the fun of make-believe.

    But if you really feel a need for a speculative fiction story that doesn’t conflict with the Mormon worldview of the universe, check out my story in “Monsters & Mormons.”

    • Lisa Torcasso Downing says:

      I’d add that D. Mike’s _Brother Brigham_ did a fantastic job of of making a speculative story about Mormonism throb with the pulse of reality. _Brother Brigham_, like every book, has its faults, but it is fun because believing Mormon readers are confronted with a situation that seems plausible within the belief system. The novel is uncomfortable bc of the reader’s sense/worry it could be true, not because the story casts Mormonism as untrue. If you haven’t read it (and this includes you, Dan), you really should. Its one of the most interesting “experiments” in modern Mormon fiction to come down the pipe. And I understand via a Zarahemla Books Update that Z is having a 25% off holiday sale: Use “holiday” as a coupon code. (There’s my Christmas gift to you, D. Mike.)

    • Moriah Jovan says:

      I can only figure that Mormons are too insecure about their beliefs to not let such things bother them, which seems a pretty odd thing for a people who claim to “know” their beliefs are true. If you really “know” your beliefs are true, why feel uncomfortable with a fantasy story that conflicts with those beliefs?

      Agreed.

      • I can only figure that Mormons are too insecure about their beliefs to not let such things bother them, which seems a pretty odd thing for a people who claim to “know” their beliefs are true. If you really “know” your beliefs are true, why feel uncomfortable with a fantasy story that conflicts with those beliefs?

        There are other, perhaps more charitable things you could figure. For example, some Mormons might feel that bringing the Church into a fantasy story is a form of making light of things that are sacred to them. Some might see the deliberate inclusion of the Church in a story that denies the reality of what Mormons believe to be an intentional attack on the Church, and therefore react defensively.

        I don’t think it’s a good idea to jump to conclusions about the strength of people’s testimonies based on their reaction to fantasy fiction that mentions the Church.

        • James Goldberg says:

          This is a good point about a lot of things. It’s easy to sit and kvetch about audience reactions–but charitable responses to audience response is, I think, the wiser course.

        • Wm Morris says:

          Agreed. Excellent points, Eric. I think part of what’s related to my reaction outlined above is that, like some Mormons, I put the temple somewhat out of bounds.

          The discourse of fiction, whether it’s literary or genre, tends to desacralize. Just like it tends towards ambiguity or at least shades of gray. This is one of its virtues and I think one thing we could do a better job of doing is explaining those virtues, but I can also understand those who are uncomfortable with that effect.

          I also think (or at least hope) that it goes the other way. One point of my Speculations series [plug: the next two installments of which will appear in Dialogue next year] is to assert the holiness and reality of certain things (certain doctrines, scriptural stories, prophecies) by injecting them into other discourses or by treating them as real. One example: Speculations: Trees, II..

  4. Th. says:

    .

    Back to Ender’s Game, a book that challenges our understanding of the faith must be good. All of us will have moments when what we thought to be true doesn’t mesh with new facts. How do we deal with that?

    Fiction ain’t a bad laboratory to test these questions out in.

  5. Th. says:

    .

    [I can't help but notice that posts here are using a mormons-and-monsters while the book is titled Monsters & Mormons. It hardly matters, but it might lead, in the future, if further posts appear, that they may get split in two should the word order later match the title.]

  6. Th. says:

    .

    [I just discovered this may be my fault as I apparently typed it wrong back when I wrote about Peculiar Pages. Color me doubly embarrassed.]

  7. I came to the Mormon faith as an adult about 6 months after I graduated from HS. I was a huge fan of fantasy at the time and one of the things that struck me about the LDS church was the expectation that a holder of the priesthood could indeed call upon the power of God to heal or perform other miraculous deeds.

    Sounded a lot like a cleric to me!

    As I’ve matured, very slowly!, in my faith, I’ve gone through periods where I felt very defensive of my church’s doctrine and beliefs. Interestingly, those were the times when I wasn’t immersing myself enough in the things that bring spiritual peace to me.

    So I also find it easy to jump to this conclusion: that someone who condemns fiction that proposes a reality in which LDS doctrine isn’t the only true reality is perhaps a little shaky in their own faith.

    But that’s just not fair. I take a lot of pride in my ability to laugh at myself. I enjoy poking fun at Mormon stereotypes. But when I do that, some people are justifiably concerned that I’m poking fun at LDS doctrine, belief, and practice. Their sense of reverence is somewhat offended. I’m not going to tell them to quit it, and I guarantee I’m not going to quit it. I’m not going to go around being deliberately irreverent and offensive, though.

    As a writer and a person who still believes priesthood holders are kind of like fantasy clerics (Cadderly FTW!), I love fiction that tosses Mormons into a new, or old!, world and lets that world shine new lights on my faith. Really looking forward to Monsters & Mormons.

    Also, nicely thought out, Dan.

    • Th. says:

      .

      I myself don’t purposely offend people, but I do sometimes push the boundaries of the offensive. Not with the goal of offending but with the goal of getting people to question the whys of their boundaries.

      I suspect this may be very annoying.

  8. MKHutchins says:

    Google and the biography index have failed me, so here’s my memory paraphrasing…Tolkien talked about fairy-stories being something strove to illuminate and define truth, and that including the thing (Church/God) directly in the story led to a circular definition and a number of problems. And yet Tolkien was highly devout (Catholic, not Mormon, just in case someone needs the clarification). I don’t think discomfort at speculative fiction equals weak faith at all.

    As a young teenager, I was also really uncomfortable with Ender’s mom being Mormon. Not because Mormons were in a science fiction story (that was kind of cool), but because she never took him to Primary and Ender was denied a childhood of singing “Popcorn Popping on the Apricot Tree” complete with hand motions. Depressing. Part of the reason I really liked EJS’s “That Leviathan…” was because it had an upright, practicing Mormon in it.

  9. I read a dozen or so of the horridly written Left Behind books, but the authors made such parodies of the Bible that I could not take any slights of the Church to heart. I have not read speculative fiction about the Church that unsettled me–but I don’t read everything. Perhaps I would be bugged if I got to the end of a story and found that the demon laughed at the Elder, but quailed before the Catholic priest.

    From my point of view, some speculative fiction regarding Mormons is unsettling because we have a picture of reality that may not accord with the scriptures. Card’s America in Asimov’s and in Folk of the Fringe shows a future of the U. S. that few Mormons picture, but that is contemplated in the scriptures.

    Cavemen and radiocarbon dating challenged the faith of many, but when we return to the scriptures we find that the gods brooded on the face of the waters (note: hens brood differently than sparking vampires brood). And we find that the gods organized life and saw that they were obeyed–by those living things in this organizing process. And we can say, “This may mean that Abraham’s vision encompassed the evolution of the species.”

    I would feel physically, but not spiritually, challenged by the existence of the Buggars, because I am not sure of the extent of God’s creation. However, I was not a kid when I read the book, so I did not have a fixed diorama of creation in mind. I can understand how a kid would be challenged. The existence Eric’s Leviathans would create a ripple through the faith, which would quickly settle down. If the faith can survive cavemen, it can survive the Leviathans

    In my writing, I looked for historical data on early Mormon attitudes toward medicinal use of cannabis, but could not find any, so I winged it in a story in which a sister offers cannabis as a pain reliever to a wounded man in 1860. Feel free to tell me I was wrong–that the prophet had forbade all uses of the stuff. I love that learning thing.

    • Moriah Jovan says:

      I read a dozen or so of the horridly written Left Behind books, but the authors made such parodies of the Bible that I could not take any slights of the Church to heart.

      But…they’re not parody. They’re perfectly serious and in line with evangelical doctrine. So the problem is that the intended audience knows it’s not parody and will therefore also take slights to the Church (which they already hate) very seriously.

      • “But…they’re not parody. They’re perfectly serious and in line with evangelical doctrine.”

        I am aware. Their parody was not intentional. I enjoyed lots of the strangeness in the books–it made me think and I love to do that thinking thing. One of my favorite strange parts was in a radio broadcast of the Jew-turned-Christian who had proved that Jesus was the Messiah.

        He made a big deal out of taking the scriptures literally–exactly what they said and not using the interpretations of man–as evangelicals do. Then he said that the first horseman was the same being as the beast.

        What did he base that on? Nothing in the scriptures equate the two. He said the first in a list is always important–the leader. Since the beast was the leader and the first horseman was . . . the first . . . then they were the same being.

        They eventually give a formula for when to take things literally and when to take them figuratively. Of course the formula is not from the scriptures, but is just something that is obvious to the authors. So the ocean literally turns to clotted, stinking blood. But we have no indication that anyone will have a sword for a tongue, or that a lamb will speak to the people of the earth, or that the Whore of Babylon will turn any tricks.

        The problem of figurative vs. literal language is not theirs alone–The Lord has not given us a complete road map either. But in my experience, we understand that we don’t know everything, because we’re not ready for everything. Our “method” for distinguishing relies on the Spirit, though, not on textual or reasoned formulae.

    • Scott Parkin says:

      Can’t speak for cannibis, but the Utah pioneers were big on a drink they called Brigham Tea whose main active ingredient was ephedra (banned by the FDA in the mid-2000s as a performance-enhancing drug whose side effects included rapid heartbeat and cardiac arrest). In other words, a lot of early Utah Mormons were at least partially stoned, and almost certainly wired.

      The Book of Mormon suggests natural remedies for a great many ills. Remembering that modern science has isolated the individual chemicals responsible, those chemicals have natural factories in plants and herbs.

      Some fun food for thought (no pun intended…).

      • Wm Morris says:

        I’m not surprised to hear that there is ephedra in Brigham Tea because I have tasted it, and there’s no way they were drinking it for the flavor.

      • Moriah Jovan says:

        Ephedra isn’t a substance that gets you stoned. Quite frankly, I don’t know how they would have gotten as much done as they did without a chemical kick in the pants.

        • Scott Parkin says:

          I’m assuming that they might have imbibed other natural confections to counteract the invigorating effects of the Brigham Tea. After all, it was all natural, and the Word of Wisdom explicitly calls out medicinal herb(s)…

  10. Scott Parkin says:

    This general topic is one I’ve been interested in for a long while, and one that I’ve written about here before. I’ve always appreciated the genres’ ability to address religion, politics, social governance, philosophy, art, etc.

    I’m one of those people who hasn’t used a lot of explicitly Mormon elements in fiction (the odd and occasional drop-in as scenery, but not plot element), but who tends to start from a heavily LDS thematic foundation.

    One reason I haven’t used those overt elements is because they tend to distract from the (genre) story I want to tell; people tend to focus on the LDS element and try to deconstruct it (for good or ill) to the exclusion of the broader narrative point. So far I haven’t chosen to write a story where explicit LDS-ness matters (though I am working on a distinctly Mormon novel as we speak).

    Another reason is individual aesthetic. I’m not keen on putting words in the mouths of either God or Church leaders, and I’m not keen on putting policy pronouncements in the mouths of the institution—at least partially because I value the real words that issue from those sources enough that I choose to leave them alone in fiction. I encourage others to do it (and I’ve enjoyed a great many stories that do), but it’s just not my bag.

    I’ve never gone in for much of speculative theology (though I have written fiction about an intelligent planet, Christian ferrets, and a cat that takes the sorrows of others on itself), though I often choose details and settings based on my understanding (or reasonable extrapolation) of theology. Thus, I have no problem at all with non-human aliens precisely because I argue that the “image of God” can be fairly read as a description of the covenant rather than a set of specific physical attributes. It was a story in Asimov’s many years ago about a three-fingered blue alien at a tent revival meeting that helped reset my assumptions on that.

    Sadly, I missed all of the early announcements about M&M, so I didn’t have time to write a story (guess I should read AMV more often). I tried to send in a couple of stories at the last moment that were set in generically Western settings or featured characters I knew to be Mormons or situations extrapolated from Mormon cosmology, but because none were explicitly Mormon I was out of luck. I will certainly buy it when cash flow allows.

    There is plenty of the unexplained that can and ought to be fodder for fantastic fiction set in both generic and explicitly Mormon settings. For some of us the tendency to shy away has less to do with strength of testimony and more to do with simple individual aesthetics and the desire to keep a part of our experience to ourselves. So far I simply haven’t felt a screaming need to write about Mormon supernaturalism (supernaturalia?) because other stories interest me more.

    Not squeamishness at all; just lack of interest.

  11. Lee Allred says:

    I would submit that there are two ways of writing a Mormon into a story. The first is to accept that the laws of reality exist the way Mormons say they do and construct the rest of the story from there. The other is to have the laws of reality exist in the way the author posits and work Mormonism in around that.

    I would further submit that the first instinct of a Mormon reader encountering Mormons in a story is to default to the first mind-set: “a member of the Church is in this story; the Church is true; therefore, reality — the world, the cosmos, the universe, this mortal existence, this side of the Veil — operates according to the Gospel, the Priesthood, and the Plan of Salvation, otherwise the Church _isn’t_ true.”

    This reaction could very well get in the way of the reader’s immersion, willing suspension of belief, sense of wonder, and quite frankly their enjoyment of the story. I think this is trouble some have expressed with being told Ender’s mother being a Mormon: suddenly and almost instantly, a Mormon reader is rearranging Card’s fictional universe to fit into the Mormon universe. Square peg. Round hole. Lots of hammering.

    This isn’t to say that both approaches aren’t valid. It’s quite possible to write faith-affirming stories with the first method (the Apostle Paul on Mars Hill used Greco-Roman Mythology to teach the nature of God), just as it’s also quite possible to write faith-diminishing bathos using the second.

    A Mormon author introducing Mormons or Mormonism into a story would do well to keep Mormon readers’ reactions in mind, however.

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