I have not had a lot to say lately that wasn't surface only. I was beginning to think that I was going to spend the summer writing in depth for class only. And this is my 600th post, so I wanted it to be something with a bit of teeth in it. I hope I have found that with this.
Deseret News has an online e-zine called Mormon Times. I get the daily e-mail telling me what is in that day's edition. Sometimes I click over and read and sometimes I don't. Wednesday I didn't. But David Woolley did and then blogged about one of the articles by Jerry Johnston entitled "Great novels need doubt as vantage".
I read David's post first, last night when I had just come home from school and was tired from all the ethic codes and laws we have to learn for next week's midterm. So I read, left a short comment and went to bed. This morning I printed out both Jerry's article and David's blog- complete with all 4 comments (there are more now) and took them with me to Brandi's soccer practice so I could formulate a coherent reply. 2 hours and almost 5 pages later, I was still writing and decided that I was either going to leave a super long comment or I needed to write my own response post. I decided on the response post.
Response to Jerry Johnston- "Great Novels Need Doubt as Vantage" and David G. Woolley- "The Great Mormon Novel"
Jerry's article is about his belief that the writing of the Great Mormon Novel will never happen. David, on the other hand, believes that such a novel is possible. Makayla, one of David's commentors wants it to be possible, but is not sure it can be done. I have opinions about it all.
According to Jerry Johnston, to be a Mormon "means a complete surrender of one's ego, ideas and ambitions." David tells us that the Great Mormon Novel "...will portray the shedding of one's ego and ambitions. And it will find its voice, not in the surrendering of one's ideas, but by celebrating the divine creativity that flows from discovering that the will of God is an infinitely more holy road..." . As I read Jerry's article, this is the place I first decided I did not agree with him. I do not have a problem with a character in a novel, or the writer of the novel being willing to surrender ego and ambition, I am not sure that the shedding of one's ideas is something we are required to do.
Without individual thought and ideas, do we not become as automans, blindly putting one foot in front of the other on the path, plodding along without further light, knowledge and understanding? without knowledge and understanding one cannot "discover the will of God" and we are stuck, yet again, with a secular dead-end first step story.
The surrendering of one's ideas should take the form of the character allowing God to refine ideas until individual ideas form from the fact that we are of one mind and one heart and all ideas have the goal of furthering the kingdom of God. Those are the ideas that will flow with "divine creativity."
The Half-way Back Story
Jerry tells us that Wallace Stegner believes the Great Mormon Novel will be written, but that it will be written by an author that has left the fold and made a fray into the returning. Has come half-way back. Is still on the outside, but beginning to look in on a familiar scene.
David says not so, but that the novel will be about the one that has continued as a disciple and has learned to accept "God's will as his own". He also believes that"it will give us hope that men are that they might have joy. Divine. Eternal. Joy."
It is in the living of life that one experiences the depths of doubt, despair, faith, sin, forgiveness, darkness and light. Even the "active, bishop-like,tithe-paying, Relief Society President-like, moral, obedient, humble, temple-going, ecclesiastic supporting soul" who lives a "life of discipleship" trying to "adopt God's will as his own" will have moments of real doubt and despair as their spirit stretches and grows and learns and experiences mortality.
And if the doubt and despair do not belong to the disciple- it will be provided via someone close to the disciple, someone whom the disciple has been sent to help and guide. Someone the disciple loves beyond him/herself. and that someone's doubt and despair will wrench the heart of the disciple as if in two. And the faith it takes for the disciple to continue will grow. The understanding deepen. And when the despair is shed, the happiness is just as sweet for the disciple as it is for the doubter.
By this same token, one can understand forgiveness without desending into the depths of darkness and evil. There is no one that has not needed to both forgive and be forgiven. The difference is in degrees.
Again, I would propose that the understanding of true evil is possible without having descended there. It is possible for the hand of true evil to reach out and affect lives, even those who never leave the fold. The depth of one's soul that must be plumbed in order to learn to forgive in the face of that blatant evil is dizzying. And when the evil emminates from a loved one it is even more so. Should that loved one ever decide to rejoin the fold and shed the evil and have a change of countenance and heart- the joy felt by the disciple is just as exquisite as that of the returned.
David tells us, in the comment section,
For a novel to be a great Mormon Novel the idea of enduring to the end, or the divinity of men, or the divine potential of becoming more like Christ has got to be part of the novel. It isn't just a novel about "what would Jesus do." Its a novel about actually becomming like Jesus.
Its the doctrines of the restoration that must drive the great Mormon Novel. Not just the hand of a Mormon author telling any story well.
I believe that it is possible for the Great Mormon Novel to be written and heralded by the "LDS faithful and the literary world", and I believe it can be written by one who has not left and returned. It is not necessary for an author to have had personal experience with their subject matter in order to understand it and write about it in a way that lets the reader feel, know and understand as well. When I read the scene in David's Promised Land series where Sariah gives birth*, I remembered exactly how it felt and I felt Sariah's pain and rejoiced in the new life she brought forth. Now I am pretty sure that David has never experienced those pains and the exquisite anguish, but yet he was able to get it right in a way that allowed the reader to feel it and experience it with Sariah. Just as the Great Mormon Novel will allow the reader to know the joys and triumphs in the redemption and following of Christ.
*Forgive me, David, I cannot remember which book it was and if I stop to look it up, I will get lost in the book and not get this written today and perhaps tomorrow as well.
I have taken out a section of this post and edited it in response to feedback.