Sunday, June 1, 2008

I See... The Truth about LDS Fiction

I know I’m going to offend some readers with this one, but it’s a burning issue for me and others, so I’ve got to get it out there before I spontaneously combust. No one, except my most bitter enemies, would want that! Besides, my sweet wife has enough on her plate cleaning up after me, much less cleaning up me...

I struggle intellectually, emotionally, and on some levels, even spiritually, with the concept of LDS fiction. I have no problem with others being engaged, entertained, and even inspired by stories that aren’t true. They have a place in our world. Fiction can convey great truths and provoke us to think seriously about ourselves and our world.

The main problem I have with LDS fiction is that it mixes apples with oranges: the church and the gospel are true – fiction is not. In my quest for truth, I have determined that LDS fiction tempts unsuspecting readers of all ages and understanding to put them in the same fruit basket. Did the First Vision really happen, or is it just a really neat story of an inquisitive young man’s search for the true and living God? There is nothing fictional about this glorious event and it’s centrality in the plan of salvation

Before you crucify me on a hopefully fictional cross for hardnosed, limited views, I’m not talking about obvious LDS fiction for children like “The Scripture Scouts” series and “Tennis Shoes Among the Nephites.” I will be forever grateful for how effectively these tools brought my children unto Christ. So, Moms and Dads out there who have been programming their young anklebiters for years with inspiring accounts of clever young children time-travelling to meet Lamanite generals, put down your pitchforks! I am only worried about much of the fine LDS fiction out there, especially the historical fiction, written so well that it COULD be true, even if it isn’t.

At a more common-sense level, I have hard time understanding the draw of LDS fiction when available reality and truth is much more engaging. For example, I am personally acquainted with:

- a man who was raised from the dead;
- a man miraculously recovering from cancer;
- a quadraplegic young man who was promised the impossible by his bishop he would serve a mission, and then passed away when he was 19 to serve a mission in the spirit world;
- a teenage nerd who ended up “getting the girl;”
- a young man who was so successful in renovating himself in the process of renovating others on his mission that his home ward bishop did not recognize him on his return;
- outstanding sons and daughters of God who have wrestled to the ground terribly challenging problems such as bankruptcy, disease, pornography, infidelity, divorce, and even death, and now dare to launch their spiritual fists triumphantly upward in tenuous victory.

Please forgive me if my literary palate is not advanced enough yet to taste, swallow, and be filled by LDS fiction. Why become immersed in what could have been or what possibly could be, when the life stories of what has really happened, what is really happening, and what will really happen is sooo much more interesting?

6 comments:

  1. Bryce totally agrees with you on this issue, Bro. Tait. I haven't read it for awhile and I actually do remember liking to read it, but I understand why it is really annoying to people also. Bryce feels exactly the same way you do.

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  2. As you already know I totally agree with you on this one too. But I was wondering, do you view historial fiction on non-church subjects the same way? Though I pretty much hate all LDS fiction, I do like historial fiction.

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  3. I'm not as harsh on historical fiction on non-church subjects, because there is no implied claim of revealed truth. However, personally, I still find real history more engaging. I'm reading the second part of Bill Bennett's inspiring two-part work on US history titled "America, the Last Best Hope," and I'm having a hard time putting it down!!

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  4. I mostly agree with you on this one. I've read very little LDS fiction. One or two books, max. However, I think at times fiction can contain more truth than reality. For example, a great writer can incorporate symbolism in a story that just doesn't exist in the true-to-life version, and then the story becomes a vehicle for teaching a principle. A great writer can overlap two stories for the sake of pointing out irony. A great writer can embellish here and there for the sake of dramatic structure. As long as that work can be labeled fiction. Otherwise we might feel so tied to representing things exactly the way they happened that some of the truths they could teach are lost. (I'm currently writing a fictionalized memoir, based on pages from an actual journal. But I'm changing all the names, rearranging some of the order of events, etc. That doesn't mean it didn't happen or it's not true. It might not end up being labeled LDS fiction. But it will be a teensy bit fictionalized, and it will be written by an LDS author, and it will contain an enormous amount of truth.)

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  5. I couldn't agree more. You put words to what I have been thinking and trying to express for a while.
    Thank you!

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  6. If I understand you correctly, you object to LDS fiction because any spiritual experiences described are manufactured to order.

    I actually suspect that they may not be. Spiritual experiences can NOT be manufactured to order. Ever tried to write one that is completely fictional?

    It may be that the author has chosen their characters to depict a spiritual experience that the author has actually had. The experience may be real, even though the character is not.

    Of course, I don't know that LDS fiction is supposed to be a tool of conversion. But it seems like if LDS fiction with LDS characters left out spiritual experiences, they would no longer be LDS, but secularized.

    It is a challenge.

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