Strangers and Pilgrims

Season 1 – Death of the Prophet Joseph Smith

Home of the Strangers and Pilgrims Podcast

Materia Poetica

Harold Bloom is the American Literary Critic and Sterling Professor Humanities at Yale.  I enjoy his books on Shakespeare and American Literature.

In 1992 he wrote a book titled The American Religion.

In the book, for a few chapters, he talks about Joseph Smith and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  In those chapters he says:

Nothing else in all of American history strikes me as materia poetica equal to the early Mormons, to Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Parley and Orson Pratt, and the men and women who were their followers and friends. . .Smith matters permanently, to America and the world.

I love the quote.  I definitely think the amount of good, honest drama in the stories of these early members of the church is amazing.  And, definitely should be used as the basis for many stories.  And, I personally don't think it needs any touching up with extra characters, or extra scenes, or situations that didn't happen.  The actual story is good enough on its own.  You needn't gild the lily.  Or, offer jewels to the sunset.

Now, the podcast medium isn't technically full of art.  Or, the medium, at the moment, isn't necessarily going through an artistic phase it seems like.  It seems more like podcasts are good, cheap ways to tell stories. or, to get your point heard.

I hope that by telling the story of Joseph Smith's death in a podcast, hopefully in an artful way, that it could lead others to start to look at the source material in a new way.  Maybe it'll help others to see story lines they weren't familiar with before. 

Hopefully this well help start pushing people to look at Joseph Smith and his life in more poetic, lofty ways.  Not that it hasn't been tried before.  There's dozens of stories and movies and paintings out there about Joseph Smith and his life and accomplishments.

But, I think in most of those instances -- the focus has been less on the artfulness of the representation of the story, and more on just getting the story across.  I could be wrong, though.  There could be an entire body of artistic work out there, telling the story of Joseph Smith, that is concerned with the artfulness with which it tells its story.