Look. I know you. I know you are sick of reading thick tomes of Mormon history and detailed 19th century mission journals and the latest on Book of Mormon apologetics. I know that you want something a little more literary, a little more narrative-y, a little more … fun. But still, you know, high-minded and serious and all that.
As many of you know, I served a mission in Romania (Feb. ’92 – Jan. ’94). Yes, I worked with orphans. But I can’t write about that. Not yet. This one comes first…
I’ve been reviewing the essays in the groundbreaking (and, unfortunately, still one-of-a-kind) anthology Arts and Inspiration: Mormon Perspectives in preparation for a series that I plan on running on A Motley Vision this spring. One of the impressive things about the work is the high level of professional achievement attained by the contributors. That combined with a passage in “Art: A Possibility for Love” by Johann Wondra got me thinking about Mormons and the professions.
Enough theory. It’s time to get to actual examples of Mormon kitsch. The following represent my picks — some because I actually like them (don’t tell anybody), some because they’re just weird, and some because they’re hecka funny.
In his 1977 work Faces of Modernity: Avant-Garde, Decadence, Kitsch, Matei Calinescu writes, “What constitues the essence of kitsch is probably its open-ended indeterminacy, its vague ‘hallucinatory’ power, it’s spurious dreaminess, its promise of an easy ‘catharsis’” (228). Kitsch, then, is the experience of art made easy. It is junk food consumption. It is manifested in products that can be easily reproduced, acquired and enjoyed. It doesn’t require an active critical faculty. It places no demands.
The last dance was always a slow dance. Something by Chicago or Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” or the latest R&B hit.
I recently discovered that the number of active elders in my Oakland, Calif., quorum comprises less than ten percent of the entire population of elders and prospective elders living in the ward boundaries. Even accounting for move outs whose records were never updated (and I believe that an effort was made to go through the list two years ago so it’s semi-up-to-date), there are a lot of inactive (actually, I believe “less active” is the preferred term at the moment) men living within our ward boundaries.
Correlation is a dirty word among some Mormons. Or at the very least, in my experience, it is a topic of complaint that often comes up on LDS-related listservs, blogs and Internet fora. The charge usually leveled is that correlation has stripped much of what is interesting, unique and important from official LDS discourse.