This semester I have spent a lot of time learning about the curriculum of the Truth, Beauty, and The Good, in relation to literature, religious pursuit, and life in general. Truth is also known as the meaningful life and primarily deals with epistemology or how we know what we think we know. Beauty, which is the rich life and stands out to us in form and aesthetics, and can act as an access point to Truth. Both of these correlate with The Good, which is known as the life of authentic happiness and is primarily seen through ethics. When combined, Truth, Beauty, and The Good for our ontology, or who we are and what it means for us to be and not just exist.
The reason I give you this quick introduction to Truth, Beauty, and The Good is to better articulate what I believe is the authentic and innate connection between religion and literature.
One of the first concepts that struck me while studying Mormon literature, was that in the early stages of LDS Literature, specifically Added Upon, the work and author seemed to be more concerned about portraying Truth than they were interested in portraying Beauty. Although I think this tactic accurately accomplishes its goal (yes, I can definitely see Truth in the book) it made it difficult for me to want to read the book because it was not first beautiful. This example highlights on of the main differences but also similarities between literature and religion. It seems to me, that in general, religion is most often primarily worried about Truth and The Good. Wishing for its devotees to live ethically and understand why they believe what they believe, is religions primary goal. On the whole, this approach works. It gives its followers a sense of the meaningful life of authentic happiness; at least, that is what I have felt from my membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Similarly, literature also deals with Truth, Beauty, and The Good. But, its priorities are slightly different. Usually primarily focused on Beauty, literature uses Beauty, via aesthetics and form, to enlighten us to principles of Truth and The Good. All good literature leaves me feeling expanded in regards to questions about what I know and how I think I know it and what I believe to be ethical. In this way, literature often accomplishes all three aspects (Truth, Beauty, and The Good), whereas, religion often goes straight to the heart of the matter of Truth and The Good, hoping that it appears beautiful to the members.
Both religion and literature seem to want to enhance our lives, although they often go about that goal in different ways. The only time that their different tactics present a problem, though, is when religion and literature try to join forces while still tugging their own directions.
A perfect example of this tug-of-war is Mormonism and its efforts to create inherently religious literature. In many of the books we read this semester, I found myself always coming back to the same problem. The lessons and experiences of the book could be so impactful if they were portrayed with Beauty instead of just Truth. Religion doesn't necessarily need to present its information beautifully because easily-comprehended information ensures that everyone understands the doctrines taught. But literature, in order to be effective, must be beautiful. Obviously Beauty can be manifested in a number of ways. This doesn't require a prescribed style, but rather the qualities that will strike the reader because of the inevitability of what is written. Literature is less forceful than religion. The beauty of literature is that it embeds Truth and The Good subtly; it takes external reality and filters it through the internal workings of the human mind and soul. This is beautiful. Because of this Beauty becomes the access point to infinite amounts of Truth and The Good. Because literature is subtle, we can discover the truths that affect us, not just the truths that are prescribed and explained.
Mormonism has a great potential to create literature that embeds immense possibilities for Truth and The Good. But in order to succeed, Mormon literature must not ignore Beauty. We must be prioritize Beauty and then, without doubt, the Truth, The Good, and the authentic happiness in our meaningful lives will be embedded into the pages of what we write. Others will find it through Beauty, and they will believe in the treasure they found.