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.