Writing Church History

A few weeks ago, I saw someone post a comment on Facebook about “the suits” in the Church History Library and how they tell Mormon history. About the same time, I officially became one of those suits: I now commute up to Salt Lake each day to write for history.lds.org.

And though I miss my beard a great deal, I’ve got to admit: it’s a pretty cool time to be a suit.

Between the vast collections of letters, minutes, and journals and several decades of interviews and oral histories from members around the world to draw on, there are a staggering number of stories up there waiting to be told. And the internet means that there’s a lot of room open for how to tell them.

Once I’ve got a few current projects off my plate, I’m particularly excited to get started on the Pioneers in Every Land feature. I’ve complained before on this blog about some Mormon Lit that jumps into a different cultural setting: hopefully, a richer pool of accessible nonfiction narratives can help future literary writers find an entrance point for telling stories set outside their own countries.

What do you think the relationship between church sources like the new history.lds.org and independent literary production might be as we go forward? How will online story streams change the way we all think about Mormon faith and identity?

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2 Responses to Writing Church History

  1. Jonathan Langford says:

    The beard is a sad loss, but oh, well. Congratulations on becoming suited!

    As a people, we Mormons have always been better at nonfiction narratives than fiction. It’s still noteworthy to me, for example, that Carol Lynn Pearson’s Goodbye, I Love You is probably still the most widely read piece of LDS literature dealing with homosexuality. (It’s also noteworthy that it’s a book from the spouse’s perspective, but oh, well). In general, we find worth in nonfiction narratives where we are often skeptical about fiction — especially when it gets into subjects that are outside the mainstream.

    So I would think that nonfiction narratives about Mormons in other cultural settings are likely to flourish. And certainly that *ought* to help jump-start writers’ fiction narratives. However, based on what we’ve seen before — and my imperfect analysis of the Mormon reader’s psyche — I expect that there will be a lot more interest in reading polycultural Mormon nonfiction than fiction.

  2. Th. says:

    .

    I’m excited about the Pioneer project. Better July 24th programs ahoy!

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