Category: Mormon Arts

Arts – Music – Poetry – Cinema – Television

Is this the first bestseller by a Mormon not written in English?

A few weeks ago a book by the Brazilian language entrepreneur and LDS Church member Carlos “Wizard” Martins, who started the massive Wizard Language Schools chain (similar to Berlitz), reached the bestseller lists in Brazil. I’m fairly sure that the book Desperte o milionário que há em você (Awake the Millionaire Inside of You) is the first by a Brazilian Mormon to reach the bestseller list. I first heard of his book just before it was launched in April, and I didn’t give it much thought then—I’m not really in the book’s the target audience of those seeking a financial fortune and I suspect I could just as easily get a copy of the book that started this genre, Napoleon Hill’s 1937 self-help classic Think and Grow Rich, to say nothing of the various similar books penned by Mormons here in the U.S. But now that Martins has achieved a Mormon milestone in Brazil, I have to wonder if he…

An Immodest Proposal

As Sarah noted, Saturday and Sunday bring us our Fall semiannual General Conference.

As part of our twice-yearly ritual, we’ll hear the Mormon Tabernacle Choir up to three times: one session of Conference Saturday, one session Sunday, and the Music and the Spoken Word broadcast before the first Sunday session.

The Waylaying of Brandon Flowers

Despite being unfairly ambushed on the subject of religion prior to a recent performance on the Norwegian-Swedish television show Skavlan, Brandon Flowers admirably stood up for his faith, shying away from neither the battery of questions on his Mormonism by Norwegian journalist Fredrik Skavlan and others nor the full-on frontal assault on Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon and God by surprise guest Richard Dawkins.  While it was clear Flowers would have rather been talking about his music and his band, he nevertheless responded directly to questions about whether he actually believes the origin story of the Mormon faith and proactively cut into a Dawkins’ screed about the Book of Mormon being a work of “charlatanry.” In the face of being waylaid by the sophists, Flowers’ true character shone through. He’s a credit to Mormons everywhere.

Literary BMGD #35: The Savior is Coming

Spiritual history is replete with types and shadows. The similarities that appear between events in widely-separated places and times lead to the conclusion that the Lord is trying to point out some truth to us, something we need to understand. I see a kind of repetition in this week’s Gospel Doctrine lesson, in which Samuel the Lamanite tries to call the Nephites to repentance (Helaman 13-16). Samuel preached just a few years before the birth of Christ, and he prophesied about the destruction in the Americas that would accompany Christ’s crucifixion soon afterward. But somehow his prophecies don’t sound very different from those that we hear concerning Christ’s second coming.

Literary BMGD #30: The Saddest Death

Lula Greene Richards

As Alma talks with his son Corianton in Alma 40-42, he realizes that Corianton does not understand some basic elements of the Plan of Salvation. From what Alma teaches him, we can surmise that Corianton doesn’t understand that all will be resurrected, that each person will be resurrected according to their words in this life (the righteous to happiness and the wicked to misery), and the roles that justice and mercy play in the great plan of happiness. From the context, it is clear that all these teachings were in response to Corianton’s misdeeds while serving a mission, a similar situation to that described in this week’s poem.

Literary BMGD #29: Two poems — Oh taste not of the cup; Be Slow to Condemn

Alma 36 to 39 contain Alma’s advice to his three sons, Helaman, Shiblon and Corianton, which led me to the idea of parental advice—something that usually accumulates bit by bit over years rather than all in one block as Alma seems to have done with his sons. Of this advice, perhaps the most famous, especially when it comes to Mormon literature, is the advice given to Corianton and the reason for that advice. Corianton’s story has been the source for dozens of literary works — so much so that encountering a character in a Mormon story named “Cory” should automatically make you think of Alma 39.

Literary BMGD #25: To Elder L. Snow

Among the most beloved figures in the Book of Mormon are the four sons of Mosiah, who, after their conversion, take leave of their native land and homes and serve missions among the Lamanites. Where missionaries today serve for just a couple of years or less, the sons of Mosiah served a total of 14 years which I assume (the record doesn’t say exactly) was much longer than anyone expected. Instead, I suspect, they and their friends and family must have wondered if they would even return alive, for, after all, the Lamanites were the enemies of the people of Nephi.

MR: Exquisitely Loud and Indelibly Close

The Mormon Review vol. 4 no. 1 is presented here, with Jonathon Penny’s review of Stephen Daldry’s 2012 film Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. By Jonathon Penny I’m late with this, as with so much in my dog-eared, half-buttoned, last minute, Subway-sandwiched, twenty-first century life. I wrote the other day, on reflection about the harried nature of workaday (and workanight) life that I was precocious as a child, ambitious, full of expectations for myself and for the world around me bending to my will made holy for a borrowed righteousness and then the sag set in and I lost all of that to work and weekend and the paying of bills and the buying of groceries and clothes—the valid preoccupations of a grown up and the invalid occupations of a man of today that suck the meat and marrow, if I let them, if I forget them see them objects and not tools and not excuses to move about the…

Internet Radio and the Church

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I recently bought a couple wireless speakers so that I could listen to my music collection away from my computer, without earphones. It turns out that these speakers not only play music off my computer, though: they’ll also allow me to listen to, among other things, podcasts, Pandora, and any number of radio stations, as long as the radio station broadcasts online.

“For I am not Embarrassed by the Writings of Mormonism …”

In an interview on A Motley Vision, Scott Hales, a Ph.D. student at the University of Cincinnati and the brains behind the recent Mormon Lit Blitz, tells two stories of introducing Mormon literature to students. The first group was dismissive of the Mormon poetry that Scott chose and read to them. But the second group enjoyed the short stories they read. What does it say that the first group was made up of Seminary students while the second group were non-Mormon university students?

Literary BMGD #10: An angel came down from the mansions of glory

William Wines Phelps

Perhaps the most common theme in early Mormon poetry is the restoration. But while the Book of Mormon itself prophesies about the restoration (as it does in the 10th Book of Mormon lesson), it wasn’t until this hymn was published in 1833 that Mormon poetry addressed the subject. Of course, soon after the Restoration became a very common theme in Mormon poetry from many authors. William Wines Phelps, the author of this hymn was also one of the first and most prolific of Mormon poets, although unlike his contemporaries Parley P. Pratt, Eliza R. Snow and John Lyon, Phelps never published a volume of his own poetry. He is also unique because he is likely the author of the only poem, outside of scripture, attributed to Joseph Smith (The Vision, a paraphrase of D&C 76). If I recall correctly, he is still the Mormon author with the most hymns in the current hymnal.

Literary BMGD #9: A Paraphrase of Isaiah 60

Thomas B. Marsh

Scripture is often repeated in scripture, and poets have rarely been shy about re-using lines of poetry, often without attribution. Plagiarism is everywhere, and our view of it as a faux pas is really relatively recent—this view is certainly more recent than the mid 19th century, when Mormon newspapers started churning out poetry and other forms of Mormon literature. The 9th Book of Mormon lesson is also about repeated scripture, specifically Nephi’s use of the early chapters of Isaiah which seem to make up the bulk of 2nd Nephi. Perhaps Nephi served as an example for the poetry I’ve chosen for this lesson.

Literary BMGD #8: Twas on that dark, that solemn night

Manchester Hymnal

Active Mormons hear poetry about the atonement each Sunday in the sacrament hymn, so finding a poem to go with Jacob’s discourse on the atonement in 2 Nephi 9 isn’t too much of a burden. The hard part is finding something that isn’t already well known and is unique to Mormonism, which I’ve generally tried to do in this series. There are 28 sacrament hymns in the current hymnal, most of which are probably familiar. However, there have been a number of other sacrament hymns that are no longer in our current hymnal. Most of those are not by Mormons. And, while I have not been able to identify the author of this hymn, I have so far only found it in Mormon hymnals, starting with the Manchester Hymnal put together by Brigham Young, John Taylor and Parley P. Pratt in 1840.

Literary BMGD #7: Joseph, From Out of the Dust

Orson F. Whitney

Lehi’s final counsel in the Book of Mormon is to his son Joseph makes an interesting literary link between Joseph in Egypt, Joseph the son of Lehi and Joseph Smith, Jr. But, LDS authors have largely ignored this link, especially before 1900, when any mention of Joseph was usually a reference to Joseph Smith, Jr. But I did manage to find an exception in Orson F. Whitney’s epic, Elias. As far as I can tell, other than general righteousness, the only real link between these three is that they happen to have the same name. Their histories aren’t really comparable in any way that I can see. Still, Whitney at least mentions the prophecy of Joseph’s name, and connects it to Joseph in Egypt. While perhaps overly turgid in his prose, Whitney is as or more sophisticated in his imagery than any of his poetic Mormon predecessors that I’ve read. To me the oblique references made to biblical, book of…

Books of Interest to the LDS Nerd

A few of these are forthcoming, a few have appeared recently. I am compelled to read them all, as soon as I can get to them. Now Available Charles Harrel,“This Is My Doctrine”: The Development of Mormon Theology (Kofford Books) “In this first-of-its-kind comprehensive treatment of the development of Mormon theology, Charles Harrell traces the history of Latter-day Saint doctrines from the times of the Old Testament to the present.” I have my doubts that someone who does not equally control original Biblical sources and LDS history, as well as the vast amounts of secondary literature on historiography, exegesis, etc. can give LDS doctrine a truly comprehensive diachronic treatment, and compress it into 597 pages. Nevertheless, I’m grateful to Harrel, an engineering professor, for making the attempt and I look forward to reading it. Too many LDS labor under the assumption that the status quo sprang fully formed from Joseph Smith. I don’t recall which of my friends said, but…

The Look of Temples

The New Ogden Temple, © 2010, Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

This weekend I got to drive past the Ogden Utah Temple, which is currently surrounded by a high fence as it undergoes a major renovation. While there is nothing new with renovating a Temple, as far as I can tell, this is the first time that the outside appearance of a Temple has had such a significant change. What does this mean?

Mormon filmmaker explores sex and singleness at Duck Beach

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The topic of sex and the Mormon single is a perennial favorite in the bloggernacle, and recently it has drawn national attention as well. No treatment of the topic would be complete without a look at the Duck Beach phenomenon, an informal annual gathering of east coast LDS singles in North Carolina that is equal parts Jersey Shore and Temple Square. LDS filmmaker Stephen Frandsen (my cousin) and his production company Big Iron Productions have trained a thoughtful lens on this singular affair, and are currently in the process of financing and producing a documentary exploring its relevance. We’re pleased to share an interview with Stephen Frandsen here, and we invite readers to add their own experiences with or impressions of Duck Beach in the comments. The filmmakers are actively seeking further participants who are willing to share their stories, and they will be pleased to respond to questions in the comments here.  Finally, please do consider donating to the…

Influence, Reflecting Badly and Mormon Culture

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The news yesterday that artist Jon McNaughton had pulled his artwork from the BYU Bookstore led me to ponder once again the influence that Church-owned businesses and institutions have on Mormon Culture. While these institutions seem focused on how what they carry and produce reflects on themselves and, ultimately, the Church, I worry that the variety of books, art, music and other Mormon cultural materials aren’t as available as they should be.

Home Waters: Overview

Home Waters

George Handley’s Home Waters: A Year of Recompenses on the Provo River (University of Utah Press, 2010) practices theology like a doctor practices CPR: not as secondhand theory but as a chest-cracking, lung-inflating, life-saving intervention. Home Waters models what, on my account, good theology ought to do: it is experimental, it is grounded in the details of lived experience, and it takes charity – that pure love of Christ – as the only real justification for its having been written. It is not afraid to guess, it is not afraid to question, it is not afraid to cry repentance, and it is not afraid to speak in its own name. The book deserves some time and attention. It’s what you’ve been wanting to read. It may also be what you’ve been wanting to write. At the very least, it made me want to write about it. I’ve planned a few posts that will air some of my ideas about Handley’s ideas:…

A Mormon Image: Cemetery in Carrol County

Fam History VA

After retirement, my father turned to family history and temple work to fill his time.  Most of this work has focused on researching ancestors from Virginia and North Carolina.  I took this photo at a cemetery in Carrol County, VA, near the the birthplace of my father’s grandparents.  My father is shown in the picture.  While in the cemetery he was able to locate headstones of people for whom he had completed temple work.  It was the first and only time that my father has visited this place that has taken so much of his attention. As a side note, I have to feel for my ancestors who left lush, green, beautiful Virginia for the desert of Vernal, Utah!  Sorry Vernal. By L-d Sus ___ This picture is part of our ongoing series highlighting Mormon images. Comments to the post are welcome; all comments should be respectful. In addition we invite you to submit your own images to the Mormon…

A Mormon Image: Joseph’s Birthplace Memorial At Dusk

Joseph Smith Birthplace Columns Boatright

“I was born in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and five, on the twenty-third day of December, in the town of Sharon, Windsor county, State of Vermont.” Joseph Smith History 1:3 By Gary Boatright Jr. ___ This picture is part of our ongoing series highlighting Mormon images. Comments to the post are welcome; all comments should be respectful. In addition we invite you to submit your own images to the Mormon Image series. Other images in the series can be found here. Rules and instructions, including submissions guidelines, can be found here.

Unique Outreach by the Rochester Stake

This week, the Rochester Stake in New York is sponsoring a special performance of Carol Lynn Pearson’s Facing East, to be followed by a fireside featuring a discussion led by the Rochester Stake President. Notably, the performance is being directed by Jerry Argetsinger, who was the long-time director of the Hill Cumorah Pageant throughout the 90s, and costume design is being handled by Gail Argetsinger, a Tony award-winning costume designer who designed and supervised the construction of thousands of pageant costumes during the 90s. For those unfamiliar with Facing East, it is the story of a Mormon couple who is grappling with the suicide of their gay son. It was written by Carol Lynn Pearson, a Mormon playwright and whose husband (and the father of her four children) left her to confront and explore his own homosexuality.  He returned to live with her 6 years later after being diagnosed with AIDS, with Sister Pearson caring for him in the months…

A Mormon Image: Brothers

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We’ve been teaching our oldest son Peter that he’s a big brother to our younger son Jeremy.  When Peter learned that Joseph Smith also had a big brother, he fell in love with the concept.  Now whenever we go somewhere church-related, he asks, “Will there be a picture of Joseph and Hyrum?” By Robert Gibbons ___ This picture is part of our ongoing series highlighting Mormon images. Comments to the post are welcome; all comments should be respectful. In addition we invite you to submit your own images to the Mormon Image series. Other images in the series can be found here. Rules and instructions, including submissions guidelines, can be found here.

A Mormon Image: Hand in Hand on Temple Square

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Walking hand in hand with my family on Temple Square in April 2009. Taking our one year old daughter for the first time was very special, and as we walked I looked around to ask someone to take our picture. We were alone. As I looked at our shadows, I thought that was a much more powerful image; for me, it invokes the feeling of moving forward and facing the future together. This is my favorite photo from that trip. By Christy D. ___ This picture is part of our ongoing series highlighting Mormon images. Comments to the post are welcome; all comments should be respectful. In addition we invite you to submit your own images to the Mormon Image series. Other images in the series can be found here. Rules and instructions, including submissions guidelines, can be found here.

A Mormon Image: Mormon Helping Hands

Mormon Helping Hands, Sacramento

About 800 Members of the Sacramento California Stake and their friends donated more than 2,000 man-hours at the City of Sacramento’s William Land Park, which has seen its finding cut by 60 percent in recent years and its maintenance staff trimmed from 22 to seven employees. Volunteers focused on numerous work projects, including historic trail restoration, power-washing of park amenities, landscape maintenance, specialized gardening, and the cleaning out of the park’s three ponds. The volunteer service in Land Park has an estimated value of more than $70,000. by John S. McKinney ___ This picture is part of our ongoing series highlighting Mormon images. Comments to the post are welcome; all comments should be respectful. In addition we invite you to submit your own images to the Mormon Image series. Other images in the series can be found here. Rules and instructions, including submissions guidelines, can be found here.

Renewed Call for Photo Submissions

Since instituting the “A Mormon Image” series last fall, our submissions have slowed from a glut to a trickle.  As a result, we thought we would issue a new call for photographs to be considered for inclusion in the series. The instructions for submissions can be found here and the images we have featured since kicking off the series can be viewed here.

This Mormon Life

This American Life

Several weeks ago the NPR program This American Life aired a stunning segment on Gordon Gee, the Latter-day Saint President of Ohio State University, and his daughter Rebecca. The segment revolved around a series of letters Gordon’s late wife Elizabeth wrote to their daughter as she was dying of cancer.  Rebecca was 16 at the time of her mother’s death, and the letters were to be given to her each year on her birthday for thirteen years. Rebecca, however, gradually drifted from the Church, while the letters from her devout mother focused heavily on the deep yearnings she had for her daughter to remain close to the Mormon faith and marry in the temple. Gordon, meanwhile, began to find himself caught in between these letters from his late wife and his daughter, with whom he remained close. The segment, as is typical of This American Life, is handled deftly with balance, in a way that leads you to understand and…