Mormon Literature Won’t Be Left Behind Again!

April 1, 2004 | 11 comments
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Once I brought up the issue of Mormon literature, asking for recommendations and opinions about fiction written by and for the LDS audience. (The thread rapidly turned into another throw-down about R-rated movies, but that’s neither here nor there.) I haven’t been able to do much fiction reading since then, but I still like to keep up on what’s available via the Deseret Book catalogue, as much as I gripe about it, if only to know what I’m missing. (Hey, Sam and Charly’s son is all grown up and serving a mission!) The latest catalogue made one thing pretty clear to me: Mormon authors have caught the Left Behind wave.

First, there is Chris Stewart’s The Great and Terrible, Vol. I: Prologue–The Brothers, “the first novel in a new series [which will] take us from the beginning of time to the final hours of the last days, revealing the greatest secret of all: the children of God can defeat the adversary, for we have fought him before.” I assume “The Brothers” of the title are Lucifer and Jesus? Or perhaps not. Slightly less ambitious in breadth, but no doubt able to go into more detail for all that, is Wendie L. Edward’s Millennial Glory, Vol. III: Apocalypse–The Unveiling (which follows up on Millennial Glory, Vols. I and II: Hidden Light and Wars of Light), an “exciting ride through Revelations and prophec[ies] of the last days, all brought to life through the colorful stories of the Rogers’ family.” Finally, braving eschewing the use of multiple colons, Jessica Draper and Richard D. Draper bring us Seventh Seal: “A trio of gigantic earthquakes devastates cities all over the world. Conflicts between Latter-day Saints and other major groups have reached their breaking points since the Mormons moved their headquarters from Salt Lake City to Independence, Missouri. Now one of the Twelve Apostles is missing. The signs are everywhere.” According to the catalogue, there is a sequel, Rising Storm (“Economies are failing and chaos is spreading throughout the world…”), but I couldn’t find it on the Deseret Book website. Professor Draper has written a couple of books on prophecies of the Last Days, so it’s not like he hasn’t done his homework.

When I was 15, I believe, our family of eleven left Spokane, WA, and made a massive three-week journey across the country in a mobile home, stopping at all sorts of church historical sites along the way. I was particularly captivated by Adam-ondi-Ahman–I mean, there is was, this great big field, where the great gathering would take place! (My mom took a rock from the field as a memento, and left it on our doorstep; it remained there for years.) My father told me rumors that the church had already installed sophisticated water and electric lines beneath the field, kind of an anticipatory infrastructure for the thousands of celestial persons and numerous mortal others which would soon gather there. (This was in 1984, I think.) That night, as the mobile home lumbered on to Kirtland, I had an idea: What if some transient hippie happened to be camping out in the woods nearby at the exact moment the great host arrived? What if he watched it all transpire, then stumbled off and died of shock in a local hospital, but not before revealing all he’d seen, thus starting a chain reaction of fear, panic, and reprisals against the church? Meanwhile, a devious Syrian general (codenamed “Magog”) was in negotiation with the Soviet Union to invade the Middle East through Turkey and crush Israel once and for all…

By the time we got home, I had the whole thing outlined; pages of the stuff. Featured a sword fight between the archangel Michael and, I believe, Cain, as well as a great scene where the Christ in all His glory descends upon the Mount of Olives, splitting it in two and creating a huge chasm into which fell dozens of tanks (which burst into flame when Jesus touched the ground) and as well as hundreds of screaming communist soldiers. Never did anything with it, though, and I eventually threw it out. If only the Left Behind folks had come along a couple of decades earlier, I might have known there was money to be made in eschatalogical fantasy, and wouldn’t have tossed my future prosperity away so lightly. Oh well.

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11 Responses to Mormon Literature Won’t Be Left Behind Again!

  1. Kaimi on April 1, 2004 at 5:28 pm

    Russell,

    You should have kept it, it sounds like interesting reading.

    I sometimes wonder where stories never written, and songs never sung, end up. If I have an idea for a haunting melody at midnight, but I go back to sleep and forget it, is it gone forever? Or does it continue to exist somewhere?

  2. lyle on April 1, 2004 at 5:31 pm

    Russell:

    Clothe your less-material thoughts into material form. If you can remember that much…start writing now…before you read the other stuff & get your original idea polluted. You can still be the next Gerald Lund…and I’d love to see you up on the stand at GC in another 15 years! ;)

  3. William Morris on April 1, 2004 at 5:43 pm

    Kaimi:

    I’m counting on being able to retrieve all that stuff after the resurrection.

    But I may have an idea where some of it goes. A couple of years back I was walking to BART [Bay Area Rapid Transit], and the thought popped into my head that there was one more work by Kafka that I hadn’t read. I had recently read _Amerika_ and had thought that I had worked my way through all his fiction. The title of the work was clear as day _Der Verbrechen_ [The Crime]. I could even picture the volume and vaguely recalled looking at a page near the end of the work and that it involved a young man and woman. When I got to work, I scoured several online Kafka bibliographies, but couldn’t find any work called _Der Verbrechen_. Then I remembered that actually I had dreamed about the work and that it didn’t exist.

    Perhaps our unwritten, unsung works end up in other people’s dreams.

  4. Kristine on April 1, 2004 at 5:44 pm

    Only distantly related to the topic at hand (sorry): I heard Jana Riess interviewed on NPR the other night about the Left Behind publishing phenomenon. That’s kind of fun, to have a Mormon get to talk authoritatively about an evangelical cultural phenomenon! (She’s the religion books editor at Publishers Weekly)

  5. William Morris on April 1, 2004 at 5:53 pm

    The only Mormon work in this vein that I have heard good things about is Linda Adams _Prodigal Journey. [ http://home.sprintmail.com/~adamszoo/linda/ NOTE: can't do a direct link to the book page for some reason]. I haven’t read it yet. For reviews, see: http://www.aml-online.org/reviews/a/Adams_Linda_Paulson.html

    —-
    Gideon Burton presented an interesting paper at the AML conference a couple of years ago on the Left Behind phenomenon and the danger of its success to the Mormon publishing market which is already modeling itself too much [in his opinion -- and mine and dare I say probably that of many T&S participants] after the Christian book market.

  6. Nate Oman on April 1, 2004 at 6:59 pm

    “the danger of … the Mormon publishing market … modeling itself too much [in his opinion -- and mine and dare I say probably that of many T&S participants] after the Christian book market.”

    For those who don’t think about such things (ie me), spell out the dangers and the alternatives.

  7. Julie in Austin on April 1, 2004 at 7:34 pm

    Is anyone else frightened that people who can’t muster the time/interest to read the scriptures are filling their heads with this stuff and thinking it is the Real Thing? Or am I worrying too much?

  8. gst on April 1, 2004 at 9:03 pm

    I like to quote my dad on matters of “gospeltainment” (he was speaking about the Hill Cumorah pageant): “I keep my entertainment separate from my religion, because I find that when I mix them, one, the other, or both suffer.”

  9. Fred Astaire on April 2, 2004 at 4:43 am

    If the Kafka story existed, it would probably have the correct definite article: Das Verbrechen.

  10. William Morris on April 2, 2004 at 12:46 pm

    ::sigh::

    Thanks, Bro. Astaire. You are brother right? I mean, I can’t imagine you *not* having already had your temple work done. My instinct was for ‘das,’ but when I looked it up online, I thought that it had a M icon by it meaning masculine.


    Nate:

    I will respond to your request when I have a minute — in fact I think I can even dig out Gideon’s paper on the subject so that my post is a little more his actual argument and a little less my interpretation.

  11. Charles on April 2, 2004 at 1:19 pm

    I read the Seventh Seal, which was very good. A great depiction of the near future and possibilities that could enshroud us. Parts of it were a little too preachy but generally used to give the ready a little background without actually giving a history lessen. After reading it, I felt it was a little less about the last days but perhaps more of a begining of the last days. All around pretty good.
    So far I’m not as impressed with Prolouge: the Brothers. I thought the premise would be really good, but halfway through I’m having a hard time getting attached to the many characters. I hope it picks up.

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