When one attempts to represent Mormon experience in a fictional form, doors are opened for understanding and honest experiences. I think there is power in sharing these experiences in this genre, as opposed to sharing similar life experiences in nonfiction writing.
Mormon experiences are unique. Latter-day Saints are daily striving to achieve perfection, or to become like Christ. And while falters are inevitable and common, they are not the main focus. Saints normally try to focus on the positive and uplifting aspects in life. While there are circumstances where learning and love can grow through the sharing of common sorrows, there tends to be a line drawn about the kinds of sorrows that are comfortably heard. There is a tendency for trials of life (losing a loved one, losing a job, illness, etc.) to be heard easily. But often times as soon as one mentions a moment where their faith has waivered or a question about doctrine, it becomes an awkward situation that is not as inviting and open for love and support.
By writing about these moments of teeter-tottering faith, or questions about doctrine in fiction, it provides a safety net and safety zone where I believe Latter-day Saints are more comfortable to discuss and listen to the questions of beliefs at hand. Why this is so, I do not know. But I think it is important for such works to be written, so that we can open our eyes to things that really are going on around us that we may not know how to deal with.
Douglas Thayer in his novel “Will Wonders Never Cease” provides for a conduit for Latter-day Saints to see first hand some of the experiences in Mormon life that aren’t normally talked about. By using fiction, there is the safety net, which allows for the candor and honesty to be openly received (at least in most cases). By having the inside scoop into the protagonist’s thoughts, we are able to be candid, and are more likely able to relate to the thoughts and experiences—especially to the ones we have tried to keep private from others. This kind of writing is not only eye opening, but I think it is also a healthy release that others can relate to similar feelings in a safe way.