In an interview on A Motley Vision, Scott Hales, a Ph.D. student at the University of Cincinnati and the brains behind the recent Mormon Lit Blitz, tells two stories of introducing Mormon literature to students. The first group was dismissive of the Mormon poetry that Scott chose and read to them. But the second group enjoyed the short stories they read.
What does it say that the first group was made up of Seminary students while the second group were non-Mormon university students?
Of course, its easy to see high school students as being dismissive of almost anything—there is something about that age that means students think they know everything. Nothing new.
But I don’t think that this attitude is unusual at all. I’ve read posts in the bloggernacle, presumably from folks that are much older than Scott’s high school students, that are just as dismissive of Mormon literature. Somehow all Mormon literature is bad, not worth reading and not in the same league as today’s literary fiction.
How do those who hold this view explain the non-Mormon university students?
I suppose what is really going on is something like what the Lord says about prophets in Matt 13:57—Mormon literature isn’t without honor, except among Mormons.
Lest anyone get the wrong idea, I don’t claim that Mormon literature is being evaluated for the Nobel Prize or the Pen Prize at the moment. But my somewhat educated judgment is that its within striking distance. Nor am I even claiming that having Mormon literature win one of these prizes is important (although it would probably yield some respect). I do think, however, that it is worthy of respect and often on par with what is taught in University literature courses. There isn’t any need to feel embarrassed by the best of Mormon literature.
Of course, if you want to be embarrassed by the offerings from Deseret Book, I won’t argue. I’ll just observe that we probably do need even the bad Mormon literature.
Can we show our own literature and culture some respect already?