Stories from Mormon History
For the last 9 years I have wanted to tell stories from the history of the Mormon church -- from the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Until this last year I never really tried to. It was always more of something in which I dabbled.
The first season of this podcast, the Strangers and Pilgrims podcast, will represent my first realized-attempt at telling a story that comes from the history of the Mormon Church. That story being the story of the death of the Mormon church's founder and first prophet, Joseph Smith.
A source that I regularly look back at, as I figure out how to best tell stories out of Mormon History, is a talk that is popular among Mormon Artists -- The Gospel Vision of the Arts, by Spencer W. Kimball.
In this talk, Spencer Kimball says:
For years I have been waiting for someone to do justice in recording in song and story and painting and sculpture the story of the Restoration, the reestablishment of the kingdom of God on earth, the struggles and frustrations; the apostasies and inner revolutions and counter-revolutions of those first decades; of the exodus; of the counter-reactions; of the transitions; of the persecution days; of the miracle man, Joseph.
Actually, in the 3 minute introduction episode to my podcast, I pull some phrases from Spencer W. Kimball's talk -- struggles and apostasies . . . revolutions and counter-revolutions.
Another, far less referenced talk from a leader of the Mormon Church which I regularly go back and visit is The Arts and the Spirit of the Lord, by Boyd K. Packer. I love this talk. Partly because Boyd K. Packer was quite an artist himself. I also love how hard-nosed Boyd K. Packer is in it, and I love how neglected the talk is compared to Spencer W. Kimball's talk. It's like having a favorite band that no one has heard of.
But, part of the talk that I often go back to and re-read is this portion:
It is a mistake to assume that one can follow the ways of the world and then somehow, in a moment of intruded inspiration, compose a great anthem of the Restoration, or in a moment of singular inspiration paint the great painting. When it is done, it will be done by one who has yearned and tried and longed fervently to do it, not by one who has condescended to do it. It will take quite as much preparation and work as any masterpiece, and a different kind of inspiration.
I like that, too.
I think both talks kind of pull at one another from different sides. Kimball's talk is saying, "You can make Mormon drama equal to Shakespeare's drama," and Packer is saying, "Don't make art that tries to please the world. Just please the Lord." So, to me, looking at both of these talks side-by-side, I think the point is to try and make Shakespearean-level drama that pleases the Lord." And, I think the point is that that isn't something that is impossible.
One of my top-5 favorite films is Carl Th. Dreyer's The Passion of Joan of Arc. If I could think of any piece of work that is a Shakespearean-level drama that also pleases the Lord, I would have to choose this one. It's masterfully done. It's high art. And, the drama from it comes from a religious and spiritual core.
In my opinion Mormon art should follow in the footsteps of Carl Dreyer.