Tuesday, December 2, 2014

What is the Real Mormon Experience?

No two people ever truly experience the exact same thing.  One of the beautiful things of life is that it is unique for every single person; even amongst the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Because we all experience things from an inimitable point of view, it is impossible to capture a Mormon experience that can represent that experience for everybody, be it in fictional or non-fictional form.  However, in Douglas Thayer’s novel, Will Wonders Never Cease, his use of fiction to relate the coming-of-age experience of a Mormon teenager, can authentically represent common Mormon beliefs and themes.

I believe that it was much easier for Doug Thayer to express these themes in a fictional way rather than a non-fictional story.  Like Andrew Olson said here, “, it is very difficult to represent the negative aspects of a culture through one’s own personal writing or speaking.  Often the negative things in life get pushed aside and those involved try to ignore them.”  Thayer was able to tactfully demonstrate a Mormon viewpoint on things like repentance, sin, and sex education; whereas in a non-fiction setting, Mormon’s are generally less willing to discuss sex or even past sins publicly (like Kyle getting drunk at age fourteen).  We try to see from a more positive perspective, and save the personal information for Bishop’s interviews. 

Other works of Mormon fiction, like Nephi Anderson’s novel, Added Upon, can also relate important beliefs and themes in a way non-fiction could not.  It would be incredibly difficult to obtain the personal accounts of people who have experienced all of the stages of the Plan of Salvation, from the pre-existence to exaltation, like the characters in Added Upon.  However, while both novels relate themes and beliefs in a way that non-fiction may not, it is possible that they do not relate true Mormon experience as well as a personal essay would.  Real experiences from real people, real Mormons, could more accurately tell the reader what life could be like for a Mormon.

I personally enjoy fiction more than non-fiction.  It has the ability to explore the outrageous, even though it is not always 100% accurate.  As I read, I like being able to be placed in the minds of people like Kyle from Will Wonders Never Cease.  It allows me to go on their adventures with them, even though I have not experienced those things myself.  

1 comment:

  1. It's a good point that fiction is probably more popular than nonfiction, so in that way it is probably a better avenue for reaching people. At the same time, it is easier to read fiction merely to be entertained, while nonfiction can have the opposite problem of conveying a message while lulling the reader to sleep.