The other night I followed a link to a blog I hadn’t been to in years, Mormon Child Bride. Although it looks much as it ever did, since I was last there, it has changed from a more knowing (not embarrassing) version of what TAMN mocked, to the chronicle of a Mormon feminist’s estrangement from the Church. In connection with Recent Events, she’s putting up a series of guest-post reactions which range from the heavy to the numb.
Shuffling through her old posts, I found this one in which she visits “a member-submission Art Show at the Church History Museum. [She] cried a little … because the art was so beautiful…. The art represented everything I loved about Mormonism. I felt myself being called home. If Mormons could create art that transcends the cultural and yes, even doctrinal inequities and quirks of their own religion, couldn’t there be a place there, for me?”
I suppose some people might argue that making museums her temples was the first proof of her lousy priorities, but I’m not too worried about that argument being made here. And uninvited accusations and judgments are never a balm. Besides, as she says elsewhere, pain is “experience[d] … alone, in the Gethsemane of your mind … [teaching us] that pain is a Christ-like attribute.” Contrast this with her accusation of Mormon fiction: “How many Jack Weyland novels held a funeral where the only LDS person in attendance wore a ‘lovely shade of blue’ instead of black? Symbolizing that Mormons are special because we don’t need to mourn.” But we not only may mourn, we should mourn. And art that ignores suffering and calls it redemption is failed art.
I think this might have been the impetus for this tweet from the BCC account:
Never has Cowboy Jesus been needed more than He is needed now.
— By Common Consent (@ByCommonConsent) June 24, 2014
Much of what is being written now about Recent Events (and I will not take sides; I don’t pretend to know enough to do so; I see my only possible role as showing forth love) is occasional in nature—and it’s hard to say whether it will maintain its usefulness when its timeliness is gone. Just to take Zelophehad’s Daughters as an example, they’ve posted everything from oniony satire to personal consideration of precedent to why-I-stay-esque essays (I’m oversimplifying, obviously). I’ve chosen ZD for my examples for a couple reasons. First, several of the writers are personal friends of mine, and second because they are at least as emotionally open as everything else I see online. Which is to say these pieces are personal. And that is the primary attribute of most of the writing I’m seeing right now.
This sort of writing is important when wounds are fresh (and, regardless of what you think of Recent Events, to deny the reality of people’s wounds makes you a prick), but as BCC suggests, ultimately, other, “more substantial” works of art are more likely to provoke, whether directly or indirectly, a lasting and cleansing catharsis. This is what great art can do.
But what art do we have to offer? Speaking specifically of fiction for the moment, I imagine people will suggest Dostoevsky or O’Connor, and for cathartic purposes, we don’t need explicitly Mormon texts. Which might be good. Because what do we have to offer?
Rift makes some interesting inroads, but it’s a decidedly masculine work and thus might be counterproductive.
A lot of the 1990s Signature-published fiction was less vested in community and so, unless someone is anxious to leave, it probably won’t provide much salve even if it feels on-topic.
I honestly can’t think of much Mormon fiction off the top of my head that seems like it might be a dogeared favorite a suffering Saint could pull off the shelf and reread in these troubled times.