The Princess Bride’s relationship to the scriptures. Bear with me here. This is not one of those “William Goldman [the author of the book and screenwriter for the movie] was LDS” things (like “Yoda is President Kimball” or whatever from other franchises). When I first read the book (which came before the movie), it shocked me. I did not expect what I found. Almost everything from the movie was in there (although often in different ways – the famous “life is pain” quote comes from Fezzik’s parents in passing during a flashback, for example), but there was so much more. There was a lot on “his” [scare quotes on purpose] dysfunctional family life, his career, his childhood, and a lot more plot in the actual tale of Buttercup.
Category: Creative Writing
Eleusis and the Spanish-language LDS Novel
Some years ago I learned of and became fascinated with a 1976 Venezuelan LDS novel, La Puerta Azul, o Georgina Altamirano, La Venezuelana que se convirtió en Mormona. This autobiographical novel was written by the granddaughter of the “patriarch of Meridan Letters,” Tulio Febres Cordero. It also was the first long-form Latter-day Saint literary work I knew of that was written in another language1. But, although I have a copy, I haven’t yet read it. Since then I’ve kept an eye out for other works, and I’ve found some2. Recently, I’ve seen some activity in Mexico, most notably the literary association “La Cofradía de Letras Mormonas“ and its periodical “El Pregonero de Deseret”3. And I learned of a recently-published Mexican Latter-day Saint novel: Eleusis [The Long and Winding Road] by R. de la Lanza. I believe that a Mexican Latter-day Saint literature is developing. A Short Review I must admit that I was pleasantly surprised by Eleusis, which is available as an ebook from Amazon. Given the average book in the Wasatch-front based LDS market, I expected a fairly traditional work—a genre work written for entertainment, perhaps with a thriller or romantic plot with a Latter-day Saint setting. But I think Eleusis has higher aspirations. The novel tells the story of multiple generations of a Mexican family as they work through their relationship with the Church over a century. Shifting back and forth through time, the family members join the church,…
The Bread of Life, with Chocolate Chips
Today I am pleased to present a guest post from a good friend of the blog, Samuel Morris Brown. I learned to cook when my wife was recovering from cancer surgery. There’s a hollowness, kindred to cancer, hungry to swallow you up when a beloved’s life is threatened. I still remember, with a soul-deep ache, that time when her body was a battleground for scalpeling surgeons and monstrously deformed cells. Those harrowing days are a distant memory now, but that fulminant awareness of her mortality still haunts me. I’ve seen a lot of death in my short life; nothing disoriented me like her cancer. The wild upheaval of unexpected illness unearthed more than a surgical specimen for the pathologist’s microscope. She and I discovered in the cancer’s aftermath my longstanding failure as a husband to be her full partner. This spousal dereliction had insinuated itself into the infrastructure of our marriage. I realized that my soul needed a surgery of its own. A spiritual death had wrapped its malignant fingers around my internal organs, a nefarious mimic of the tumor that had lifted the retina off the back of her eye. The simultaneous, stark revelation of her mortality and my personal failure left me wanting to sit alone in a room and cry my way through the smothering chaos rather than accept the painful transformation that beckoned. But there was no time to stare, heartbroken, at my pitiful soul, dithering…
Fiction and History
I’ll give you a couple of book discussions after one short paragraph on fiction and history. Both fiction and history are a form of narrative. Historical narrative is (ideally) constrained by facts and historical evidence; both fiction and history are constrained in a looser sense by the sensibilities of their reading audience, as few people will read a boring or irrelevant or uncredible narrative, whether packaged as fiction, nonfiction, history, or scripture. We readers want plausible, relevant, interesting narratives. Life is too short to bother with anything else. So let’s start with some fiction, Mette Ivie Harrison’s His Right Hand, the second installment in an ongoing series. The blurb on the front cover describes it as “A Linda Wallheim mystery set in Mormon Utah.”
Review: Fresh Courage Take, or What It’s Like to Be a Mormon Woman
I recently read the new book Fresh Courage Take: New Directions by Mormon Women (Signature Books, 2015; publisher’s page), edited by Jamie Zvirdin with a foreward by Joanna Brooks. Twelve enlightening essays reflecting the plight, fight, and delight of being a Mormon woman circa 2015. You might ask: Not being a Mormon woman myself, who am I to write a review of this book? I know at least a few Mormon women rather well (mother, wife, daughter). Also, I have read lots of blog and Facebook posts by articulate Mormon women sounding some of the same themes and experiences, albeit shorter and less polished than these published essays. There’s a certain “I’m mad as heck and I’m not going to take it for much longer, only a few more years, but I really enjoy teaching the Sunbeams” quality to a lot of Mormon feminist writing. These essays show even less mad and more enjoyment.
Day 2 of Gratitude
Prayers of Gratitude—Sunday, November 9 . . . was the annual Primary Program, one of my favorite Sundays of the year. Though many find this day difficult, I simply have to smile at the unpredictable entertainment, as well as the sincere belief and sincere silliness of little children. Moreover, there is the pleasure of watching someone else discipline my rowdy children while I sit and enjoy whatever message I can glean from the too-close-to-the-microphone yelling of three-year-olds. This year I did get a message.
Learning to Yell
You probably think the title is a joke or some nice irony or a typo. It is not. It is not even a feminist manifesto about reclaiming my “voice.” This really is a story about me re-learning to yell. I used to yell. No problem. All I needed was a slight provocation
A few years ago, my sister handed me a lumpy white envelope for Christmas. I opened it carefully, able to feel the jumble of small parts beneath my fingertips. Inside were perhaps 30 or 40 small, dark seeds. “Um. Cool,” I said, mystified.
Gay : Marriage :: Mormon : Christian
A Play in One Act Heber: . . . and that’s why we should all recognize that Mormons are Christians. Aquinas: Whoa, whoa. I understand your enthusiasm. The label of Christian is really valuable. But it also has a set definition. And I don’t think Mormons are in that definition. Heber: Why not? We believe in Jesus, don’t we? Christianity is defined by one thing: Belief in Jesus. Aquinas: That’s where you’re wrong. In fact, there’s a lot more to Christianity than belief in Jesus. Throughout human history, the word “Christian” has included a complicated package of additional, interrelated ideas. There is the Nicene creed, the Trinity, and a variety of other beliefs. And no entity satisfies that particular combination except for mainline Christians. Heber: But those are peripheral, cultural, possibly wrong. And when you look at it, even those have changed repeatedly over the years. Aquinas: Yes, there has been some shifting over time. But the label has always included some basic attributes, beyond simply a belief in Jesus. The Trinity, for instance. Heber: And, who exactly defines it that way? Aquinas: The Christian community! Heber: You mean, people who are satisfied with the existing system? Isn’t that a little self-interested? Aquinas: It’s no more self-interested than your group seeking social validation by trying to glom on to an existing, respected label. This illustrates my point. Part of the value of these terms is that they don’t just include…
A Mother Here – New Art and Poetry Contest
There have been LDS art contests in the past, either sponsored by LDS church institutions or by private organizations, but none have yet focused on Heavenly Mother as their theme. That changed this month with the newly announced A Mother Here Art and Poetry Contest. Aiming to stimulate the visual and poetic expression of Heavenly Mother, as well as highlight the nascent divinity that resides in women as well as men, monetary prizes in excess of $2200 will be awarded to the best entries. The contest accepts two-dimensional art submissions to be considered in its visual arts awards, and all forms of poetry for the poetry awards. The contest will accept submissions until March 4, 2014, after which award-winning entries will be chosen by prestigious judges Susan Elizabeth Howe (esteemed poet, playwright, and professor) and Herman Du Toit (former head of the Durban Art School and former head of museum research at BYU’s Museum of Art). Winning entries will be announced on May 11, 2014 (Mother’s Day) and they, with other merit-worthy entries, will be collected in an online gallery and a printed booklet for all to enjoy. With the kick off of the contest’s website, amotherhere.com, an impressive collection of historical Mormon literature and music addressing Heavenly Mother has been hosted online. It contains works from early Mormon history, beginning with the work of William W. Phelps, up until the present. In addition, the site provides some historical analysis of the portrayals of Heavenly Mother…
Guest Post: The Parable of the Two Sons
My friend and neighbor has written a beautiful parable that I am pleased to share with you today. David Harding works actively in his ward and neighborhood. His daughter is my daughter’s best friend. As those of you with children know, it is a great blessing to have your offspring fall in with good people who help support them as they grow into themselves. Periodically, maybe once or twice a year, David writes something that he thinks could be shared beyond his close circle. The topics range, but as often as not they are gospel related. And so I’m introducing David, and one of his writings, to you. The Parable of the Two Sons by David Harding The master of the vineyard was setting out to travel foreign lands for a number of years. He had two sons whom he loved more than anything else. They had recently come-of-age and now had their own budding households. The first son was nervous about the impending absence of his father, and approached his father asking for some extra money in case things went poorly while he was gone. The father had compassion on his son and gave him ten talents to ensure he would have sufficient funds to cover any unforeseen difficulty. During the first year of the master’s travels there was a bountiful harvest at home. The second son worked hard and made a fair profit. The first son, on the…
King Noah’s Blues
I could see them before I crossed Michigan Avenue into Grant Park. There were probably five of them, holding big yellow signs with blocky letters, Bible verses. It seemed out of place, fifty feet in front of the entrance to the Chicago Blues Festival, but maybe I just didn’t understand the logic behind it. I don’t remember the verses the signs promoted, and the picketers seemed nice enough, holding signs but not harassing the passersby, passersby who, like me, basically ignored them. Maybe they’d picked out verses of scripture with special applicability to fans of the blues; then again, maybe these were just generic holy protest signs.
How a concussion made me think of Stephenie Meyer and Francis Hutcheson
Last semester, my first semester studying Greek, I sustained a mild concussion. I have mostly recovered now. I still have problems with bright lights that makes nighttime driving intolerable, but for the most part, I’m functioning normally. But for a few weeks there, I couldn’t think straight. It hurt to concentrate. Reading even a light novel was difficult, and translating Greek was nigh impossible. Just looking at Greek letters caused me pain. But my handwriting was spectacular. Any notes I took about lectures I attended during that time are the most clearly written, beautifully precise notes I have ever taken. Sketching was fine too, so the concentration required to look and draw was painlessly available to me. It was strange to experience this involuntary shift in my capacities. I tend to think that what I think, how I think, is what I am. But if my cognitive functions are subject to physical manipulations, some of which are outside of my control, can I think of my thinking self as my self? Stephenie Meyer’s adult sci-fi book The Host is a science fiction romance exploration of the connection between emotional, intellectual, and spiritual development with the particulars of physical embodied experience. In that way, it is a very Mormon reflection on purpose of mortality and morality. For Meyer, the particulars of human embodiment includes deliberate agency and unintentional feelings of passion, vulnerability, and need. This naturally results in social structures, the…
Authenticity and The Book of Mormon
I know, I said a year and a half ago that I wasn’t going to see The Book of Mormon. But then it came to Chicago and, in spite of the fact that it is sold out through at least March, a friend set me up with a ticket. So I’ve now seen the show. I’m not going to review it, though. It’s already been widely reviewed, and frankly, I don’t have the musical theater chops to provide a credible review.
Book of Mormon Comics
I love stories. A narrative strikes me as the most fundamental way of ideas with other people. And by ideas, I mean not only the bare events of the narrative, but also abstract concepts, morals, and emotional truths. It makes sense to me that our basic scriptural texts have strong narratives. The Old Testament is a collection of stories, with the consequences of one generation’s choices setting the stage for the actions of the next. The Book of Mormon also has very strong narratives. Other classic stories that we are familiar with, we feel free to reimagine. We update fairy tales, retell myths in modern settings. Even the stories of Genesis are recognized as archetypes that we re-present and reinterpret. But too often Mormons tend to shy away from this type of creative engagement with the text and narratives of the Book of Mormon, perhaps from a kind of self-censorship that fears corrupting in some way the most true book on the face of the earth. Unfortunately, that means that while we regard the book as wholly inspired (or just holy), it often remains dry and emotionally opaque to us. Although we are counseled to apply the scriptures to ourselves, we often don’t actually take the obvious first step of sympathizing with the people of the Book of Mormon as though they were real, feeling men (or women, for the few that are explicitly mentioned in the text). The unfamiliar…
MR: Exquisitely Loud and Indelibly Close
The Mormon Review vol. 4 no. 1 is presented here, with Jonathon Penny’s review of Stephen Daldry’s 2012 film Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. By Jonathon Penny I’m late with this, as with so much in my dog-eared, half-buttoned, last minute, Subway-sandwiched, twenty-first century life. I wrote the other day, on reflection about the harried nature of workaday (and workanight) life that I was precocious as a child, ambitious, full of expectations for myself and for the world around me bending to my will made holy for a borrowed righteousness and then the sag set in and I lost all of that to work and weekend and the paying of bills and the buying of groceries and clothes—the valid preoccupations of a grown up and the invalid occupations of a man of today that suck the meat and marrow, if I let them, if I forget them see them objects and not tools and not excuses to move about the world and make it ring and rhyme and ripple for my passing through it, little though I am and ought to be. When I was that child, it was Lloyd Alexander and C.S. Lewis and Ursula LeGuin and later Ray Bradbury who nurtured that precocity, who fed and shaped it, who layered their heroic visions of childhood over fable and fantasy, Goliath and God. Well, when I was a child I hardly needed provocation. And now that I am a…
Home Waters: Overview
George Handley’s Home Waters: A Year of Recompenses on the Provo River (University of Utah Press, 2010) practices theology like a doctor practices CPR: not as secondhand theory but as a chest-cracking, lung-inflating, life-saving intervention. Home Waters models what, on my account, good theology ought to do: it is experimental, it is grounded in the details of lived experience, and it takes charity – that pure love of Christ – as the only real justification for its having been written. It is not afraid to guess, it is not afraid to question, it is not afraid to cry repentance, and it is not afraid to speak in its own name. The book deserves some time and attention. It’s what you’ve been wanting to read. It may also be what you’ve been wanting to write. At the very least, it made me want to write about it. I’ve planned a few posts that will air some of my ideas about Handley’s ideas: one on the importance of place, a second on the importance of genealogy, and a third on importance of (re)creation. The book’s self-description reads like this: People who flyfish know that a favorite river bend, a secluded spot in moving waters, can feel like home—a place you know intimately and intuitively. In prose that reads like the flowing current of a river, scholar and essayist George Handley blends nature writing, local history, theology, environmental history, and personal memoir in his…
Unique Outreach by the Rochester Stake
This week, the Rochester Stake in New York is sponsoring a special performance of Carol Lynn Pearson’s Facing East, to be followed by a fireside featuring a discussion led by the Rochester Stake President. Notably, the performance is being directed by Jerry Argetsinger, who was the long-time director of the Hill Cumorah Pageant throughout the 90s, and costume design is being handled by Gail Argetsinger, a Tony award-winning costume designer who designed and supervised the construction of thousands of pageant costumes during the 90s. For those unfamiliar with Facing East, it is the story of a Mormon couple who is grappling with the suicide of their gay son. It was written by Carol Lynn Pearson, a Mormon playwright and whose husband (and the father of her four children) left her to confront and explore his own homosexuality. He returned to live with her 6 years later after being diagnosed with AIDS, with Sister Pearson caring for him in the months preceding his death. She authored a book about the experience, Goodbye, I Love You, and has sought through her works to encourage understanding among gay members and their families (including the recent No More Goodbyes: Circling the Wagons Around Our Gay Loved Ones). Of her effort, she’s said “I love the Mormon community … and I have a unique opportunity to build bridges.” This sponsored performance follows other notable developments within the Church this past year, including the Church endorsing…
Halloween Costumes and Inner Conflict
Halloween scares me. Of course, I’m scared of lots of things—poverty, cancer, rape, gang violence, Satan, etc. I thought I should admit that up front. Make of it what you will.
Rough Dawn Breaking
The marble skin of Joseph’s perfectly-muscled chest sparkled like diamonds in the Palmyra sun. Emma stared, captivated by the velvet tones of his voice, the intoxicating scent of his tousled bronze hair. “You should stay away from me,” he had warned her moodily. “I’m too dangerous.” But he couldn’t seem to stay away from her . . . My masterpiece will be available at fine bookstores everywhere, just as soon as I get it all written. I expect you all to purchase copies for home and office, and as Christmas gifts for nieces, and open-minded nephews.