Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Great Didactic Novel

In his novel, Added Upon, Nephi Anderson depicts the Latter-day Saint belief in the Plan of Salvation through the stories of various characters as they navigate the different stages of the plan. The novel begins in the premortal life where the main characters accept Heavenly Father's plan to come to earth and be tested. It then follows these same characters through their earthly experiences and trials on to their life in the spirit world and, finally, into the Millennium and resurrection.
The novel does have potential to accomplish some great things. Depicting the Plan of Salvation in a narrative way can make it more accessible for people and help readers understand the doctrines of the plan in a personal way as they read about how it applies to fictional characters they can relate to.
However, the novel falls short of its potential to accomplish these two feats for a couple reasons. First, the characters are extremely flat and don't fully develop. They face struggles and trials, but instead of showing the reader how the characters grew from these difficulties, Anderson simply has them miraculously find the Gospel and immediately accept it, which suddenly solves all their problems. It almost makes the characters seem like they're practicing blind obedience instead of faith because the reader never sees the characters' faith grow. They don't see the character come to believe, they simply see the character suddenly believe which is hard to relate to.
It also falls short because it conveys the Gospel in a very didactic, preachy way. In a novel this can come across as abrasive because the lessons of a story should naturally spring from the story, not be forced on the readers. Readers want to find the lesson for themselves and this novel doesn't give them that opportunity. Instead to blatantly states it, making the lesson and not the story the focus of the novel.

Image by Pixabay.com


  1. I'm with you in wishing he would've made the characters more compelling. I think you hit on the reason he didn't: because his focus wasn't on the story. He seemed more concerned with, as you said, creating an accessible view of the Plan of Salvation. Did he succeed? Maybe. Do I agree with his literary choices? Not really.

  2. I totally agree with this. Maybe the characters weren't really given enough time to become fully developed. I mean, how did he really think he could cover the entire plan of salvation with 6+ characters in only 200 pages? There's a whole lifetime plus eternity to cover!

  3. You put my thoughts into words. He was trying so hard to preach specific doctrine that it was unnatural and made the other elements we expect in a novel suffer.