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Tuesday, April 12, 2005 

You're Not Alone

I kind of have a beef with Mormon celebrities. Not so much the people who are Mormon and also happen to be rock stars or sports players, my annoyance comes more from those people who are famous within Mormonism - the Janice Knapp Perry's and Jack Weyland's that line the shelves of your local Deseret Book with their drivel. I think the talent is mediocre at best and the stuff they are creating isn't original, stylish or inspiring. But that's just me. I hold LDS artists to the same standard I hold secular artists and sadly, there is almost no comparison. Don't get me wrong, there are some LDS authors I enjoy immensely, but for the most part, those authors are general authorities and they're writing non-fiction. Fiction writing in the LDS vein is similar to LDS film making - painful to behold about 99% of the time.

The thing that really cracks me up about all of this though, is the fact that the general LDS population eats this stuff up like it's jello & carrot salad. They love it! I worked at Deseret Book for a dark period of time in my life. I was APPAULED at the eagerness with which the new Anita Stansfield novel was purchased. THERE WAS A LINE! A LINE! For a cheesy LDS romance novel that allowed bored housewives and lonely teens and young adults to fantasize about the "perfect" LDS guy who would come and rescue them from their mundane existence. It actually PAINED me to sell these books. I don't think anything good can come from them. I don't believe that they help build faith in the Savior or His gospel. They are FAR too cheesy to accomplish anything worth while.

The cheese factor of LDS art reminds me of a rather painful dating experience one of my roommates had. Michael McLean came to our area to perform "The Forgotten Carols" one year, and my roommate was asked by a fella in our ward if she would like to attend with him. She is a nice girl, and agreed to go. Brother McLean preformed his forgotten carols (someone should REALLY talk to him about singing in public) while this young man attempted fruitlessly to put the moves on my roommate. He attempted the yawn and stretch to get his arm around her, made it PAINFULLY obvious he wanted to hold her hand by putting his and palm up on his knee and then opening and closing it repeatedly, and so forth and so on. With her immense grace my roommate was able to deflect these attempts and physical contact. Then Brother McLean did the UNTHINKABLE! He asked the faithful members that had assembled to sing along with him as he pounded out "Together Forever" (his "hit" I would have to say). He asked the audience to hold hands - the very thing my poor roommate was attempting to avoid with the frightening and over bearing young man who had brought her to be filled with the Christmas spirit. Instead, she became filled with fear and a sense of loathing for McLean and his forced hand holding. McLean then told the audience that if they were with that someone special, or someone they WANTED to be special to them, they should sing their hearts out. The young man now holding my poor roommates hand in his sweaty trembling one began YELLING the words of the song at the top of his lungs while looking DIRECTLY at my roommate. My roommate could do nothing but stare straight ahead and pray with all of her might that it would be over soon. McLean led the assembled masses in several refrains of the song. It was a painful experience for my poor roommate. She still, almost 2 years later, has no love in her heart for Michael McLean. She is the kindest person I know, but she will curse McLean until her dieing day for his forceful hand holding and cheesy behavior.

Despite the fact I haven't had such a horrifying experience due to a Mormon Celeb, I do have to say that I don't have much love for the scads of marginally talented people the LDS population has put on a pedestal because they don't cuss and veil their illusions to anything sexual. Frankly, I expect more from an artist. I expect a writer to write well, a song writer to evoke something, a painter to be a bit more realistic in their portrayal of things. But that's just me.

"eats this stuff up like it's jello & carrot salad"

You are a funny, funny woman..this really cracked me up.

Reg protestant churches are just as bad. I would rather die then hear "christian rock" ever, ever again. And the novels...thats enough to make me want to scream out loud...and of course..they are wildly popular.

Orson Scott Card is an amazing writer to me. No profanity, no sex and I would have never guessed in a million years his religion, he could have been anything as far as I was concerned. He is a great writer.

Awesome post. Ew - Anita Stansfield novels ((shudder)). I agree with your sentiment - there is some truly awful stuff out there.

Writing for a mormon audience has to be difficult. If you are writing for a specifically mormon audience, you have a very small target market. If you want to capture a large percentage of that market, you have to keep it very clean - not just profanity and sex, but also the ideas... By the time you strip out the darkness, or the possibility for darkness, there just isn't much left that is interesting in the "art."

I am constantly amazed by the Mormon oriented fiction that gets published - mostly DRECK. Although I will confess that when I was 12, Charly made me cry like a baby. But, um, I was 12.

Back off the J.K. Perry's. I thoroughly enjoy pounding out some of those songs on the piano to relieve stress.

On the other hand: I don't enjoy the cheesy novels, either. BUT, maybe these wholesome girls are trying to be obedient and chaste by reading these simple lovestories. Maybe that "does it" for them.

You and I are are a little more open minded. Ok, you are way more open minded. But I must mention: I read Thorn Birds at the tender age of 12. (JP, maybe that's why I think mom was so open about s-e-x.)

Weren't you and JP into all those cheesy Charly books?

I read Charley, Sam and Michelle and Debra...Yes I did. AT TWELVE!! I'm just saying.

Although, just to ask...I'm curious how Sarah feels about Gerald Lund's books...he didn't get slammed...how did he escape the radar? :) (Not that I'm saying he should be attacked...I'm just curious.)

I read a little mormon fiction as a pre-teen. Ick. I do wonder about the adults who read these things. I can't tell you how many times I've been told to read the Work And The Glory, it'll change my life, it's sooooo good, and I couldn't make it past page 2. It made me want to hurl.

But you know, the thing is, I'm not really an artsie snob or anything. I have pretty low-brow tastes. I love trashy romance novels and best-sellers, and most of those ain't art baby. I'm not picky about watching art-house flicks or only listening to hip music. I don't even know which music is hip, and I'm pretty sure that hip is the WRONG word to use but I don't know what the right one is, that is how un-cool I am.

I never read poetry and most lit-fic makes me want to take a nap. And still, I can't STAND, CAN NOT STAND most Mormon books.

I saw that Charly, she dies, it pretty much sucks for her boyfriend

In a former life, I used to work at an LDS-formatted radio station. Can I just tell you how much I HATE anything Afterglow? Oh, and after playing "Music and the Spoken Word" a billion times on my shift, I can't take much more of Spencer Kinnard (the former voice), Jerry-O and the Mo-Tab!

Also, I agree with you, for the most part about the literature at Deserted Book.

Sarah,

Your friend's experience sounds pretty awful, but I don't know how much of the blame can be given to Mclean. She needed to be a little more assertive. If she didn't want him to hold her hand, she could say no. Or sit on her hand. Or excuse herself - "I've got to go to the bathroom."

Or fake a few coughs into the hand.

Or just saying "no, thank you" in a firm voice.

If she's going to allow herself to be handheld and yelled at by Dopey just because Mclean up on stage said so, then she's got assertiveness issues that are almost certain to contribute to worse dating problems. If she's unwilling to tell a guy no, then having her hand held and being yelled at at a Mclean concert is the least of her problems. She needs to learn to be assertive, sooner rather than later.

Though I do enjoy a number of LDS CDs, the books leave me weeping in horror (or boredom - it's hard to say). I never even liked them when I was a kid. I read a couple LDS novels because some friends read them and thought they were great. Hated them (the books, not the friends).

I swore off LDS fiction, and stayed away for many years. Then, after over a decade of freedom from the drivel, I joined a book club consisting of a group of women from my ward. It was mostly fun, but a couple people liked LDS fiction. Since we took turns selecting the book for that month, it was inevitable that I'd have to read LDS fiction again.

I tried to be positive. It had been a long time. Maybe it had improved. Maybe. Hopefully. Please! But, no. It was, admittedly, enjoyable to tear the book to shreads (figuratively, not literally) when we met, venting over the shallow, stupid characters, the horrible writing, the pointless plot.

Someday maybe there will be good LDS fiction. Sadly, it will likely be long after I am dead.

I think that anytime that there is a subset of the population and there is media marketed to them it doesn't have to be as good as overall media or art. It doesn't mean that all LDS media is bad- simply that the stuff that couldn't survive outside of a mormon subgroup probably isn't as good.

That said- knowing that a lot of LDS music isn't really as good- I have to admit that I used to really dislike Janice Kapp Perry but now not so much. I still don't really listen to her stuff much at all, and think that her "pop" type stuff isn't all that good- she has written a number of the better primary songs.

The Forgotten Carols has to be the worst music (and lyrics) in the world. I have to thank Mclean for contributing to our family togetherness, however. Every year I improvise on a couple of his carols and everyone gathers around the piano and laughs and laughs.

There's a reason those carols were forgotten.

Good comments on this thread, I'll leave it at that, but I enjoyed the comments.

All I could think of while reading that experience was the episode of the Simpsons where Ralph Wiggum takes Lisa to the Krusty the Klown special and after spilling ice cream on her, he is approached and asked if Lisa is his girlfriend. He says "yes, I love Lisa Simpson" and she screams, tells him off and then the classic scene comes. Bart, watching the event on a video slow motions and says, "It's amazing, you can actually see the exact moment when his heart breaks."

I feel for your friend, but I had a reminiscent chuckle out of her experience.

I also tend to avoid the "Mormon lit" but then again I also avoided all "Sweet Valley High" and "Baby-Sitter Club" books as well. They seen synonymous to me: formulaic...

Amazingly, I just read a book by a Mormon author that I liked. It's called "The Goose Girl", and even though it's pretty simple, (it's a retelling of a fairy-tale), it rated pretty low on the Cheese-o-meter. I was impressed. I have to say I love Orson Scott Card, though.

I had a similar experience with holding hands with a "special" someone at a concert, and wow, very uncomfortable. But he was obviously just as uncomfortable, and clearly wanted to puke throughout the entire song, so we were able to make it a joke and laugh off with the teenage awkwardness that made that moment even more oh-so-special.

Steve Young was single so long, I figured he was gay and just couldn't bring himself to come out of the closet. Maybe he is but figured he'll try marriage. If he isn't gay and was with the church program when single, then his equipment probably isn't functioning to my standards.

I have to say I liked Felicia Sorenson's first CD a lot, but any culture has its plusses and minuses.

Amen Sarah!

My name is Susan Law Corpany. Has anyone here read any of my (cough cough) LDS novels? (WARNING: About to attempt shameless self-promotion.) I have been told that they are DIFFERENT than most LDS novels. I'd be glad to send any of you discriminating readers a free (as in not even any shipping charges) copy of one of them just to get the word out among those who read and talk about what they read. Contact me at susancorpany@aol.com with an address and a copy of Unfinished Business will be on the way shortly. My books are called Brotherly Love, Unfinished Business, Push On and Are We There Yet? They are funny, but not contrived, touching but not sentimental, and there is MORE THAN ONE PLOT, i.e., weak swooning woman rescued by strong handsome man and they live happily together ever after for eternity and beyond, except for (insert struggle of choice here). Short excerpt: (Steve is on Beverly's porch with several bags of dirty laundry and a bouquet of flowers.) "Flowers? For me? How sweet! And what's in the bags?" Steve smiled sheepishly. "Oh, those are for you, too. I had a really busy week, and I was wondering if you . . ." "Sorry Steve, but laundry is like sex, not until after we're married. I'll go put these in some water while you load those back into your car." As Steve loaded the laundry back into the car, he muttered under his breath, "If laundry was like sex, I wouldn't be trying to get someone else to do it for me!"

Although I agree with you about the general cheesiness of Mormon literature I believe it is also prevalent in non-Mormon literature, especially the romance genre. Orson Scott Card, Gerald Lund are good writers! I am an avid reader but I didn't read much Mormon literature as a teenager. Heimerdinger's Tennis Shoe books are a guilty pleasure. I did read "Charly" and "Sam," which I enjoyed but I hated the blatant manipulation of my emotions. I now refuse to read Weyland's other novels and most Mormon literature.
However it is the music that drives me crazy. I think I was the only one at a recent Time Out for Women who WAS NOT touched by McLean's (and McLeans-father and son) songs. Boring and self-serving. The evangelical Protestant "christian rock," (the ironic quotation marks are correct in this case) makes me cringe too.
Sarah, I suggest you refer to a dictionay when you attempt to critique an author's writing.
Thanks for the opportunity to complain!

Okay, so I was just in Utah, and my husband bought me an Anita Stansfield at the D.I., because he knows how much I do not like her writing. I read it, not sure why, out of boredom or morbid curiousity. What got me about this one, Now and Forever, (is there ever one of these that doesn't have love or eternity in the title or flowers or lace on the cover?) is that the character immediately had an explanation, via vision or dream, for everything, including why she would someday spend eternity with her current husband even though sealed to her first husband who died. Is anyone ever concerned about the false doctrine in these books? They should be, because mindless Mormon housewives read this stuff and think that if Anita says it, it is so. I lost my first husband, and I know that you can't get a cancellation of sealing unless you show (read: prove) some major wrongdoing. It is one thing to say "God will work it all out" and yet another to present it as if the characters can make up their own rules or have "visions" that show that the way they want it is the way it is going to be. And when she has twins, and one dies--the little boy she had seen in a vision that was supposed to come into their family--she immediately is shown that the other twin, a little girl, came into their family as compensation for losing the little boy, and came to their family because she was not able to come to earth through some other means. In other words, the family she was supposed to go to were using birth control or there had been a miscarriage, or whatever, so she was diverted to another family. I wonder if that other mother who may have suffered a miscarriage will get a "bonus baby" to make up for her heartache. We might tell ourselves things like this to make ourselves feel better, but to present them as fact is not a good thing. And she explained away the character's first husband as someone she was supposed to marry and be part of his perfecting process before marrying her true "soulmate" that she covenanted with in the pre-existence, therefore her sealing to him was "just a technicality," the wording used in the book. I think it was her bishop who told her that. The important thing is that doctrine and facts were manipulated so that the character got the outcome she wanted. Life doesn't work like that, and answers don't come immediately, if they come at all. Personally, there are things in my life that I have imagined to have happened for certain reasons, but as far as I am concerned, the jury is still out until I get to the other side and realize what mistaken notions I have had and what things were working the way they were supposed to. I don't pretend to know all that stuff here. There are things in these books that might be labeled "possible explanations" that she presents as fact because of the character's great "faith." Besides the portrayal of unrealistic characters, there are unrealistic answers to problems. I don't think this is the kind of dreck we want to be feeding our young people, who will find that life is just not like that.

Hi All - Being a convert to the Church (almost 30 years) and a writer for over 47 years, I'd have to agree that I enjoy reading non-fiction far more than fiction. However, sometimes we seek something which meets our criteria - but one should never murmur or complain about those who find a market. One would guess some like those who write the terror/scary stuff - but since I don't there's neither value or non-value in me to say much about those who write the stuff. My venue is Poetry, Prose and Essays-but have written technical and for newspapers (sports, motivation/attitude, cultural) material. Each has it's time and place - and I enjoy the idea that no one knows who I am and thus don't face the emnity of those who'd comdemn what I've written.

My two cents - life is much too short to shake a finger at that which you can do nothing about - chuck ingerson SE GA

i think you have a right to your opinion and that is it! I also think that all music has so much power, it just depends on the person listening to it and how they let it effect them!

I take great offense at the comments made about JKP. I personally consider her the greatest LDS songwriter of all time. Who else has written more beautiful inspiring songs for both Primary, Young Women, and Relief Society. After reading her book "The Stories Behind the Songs" and reading about the direct inspiration behind so many of her songs it gave me a whole new perspective of her. I believe she doesn't just use her talent for money and publicity, but has used and developed her talent to serve our Heavenly Father in writing songs to benefit His people. Her daughter, Lynne, whom I know well, has followed in her mother's footsteps and written and sung some amazing songs that have actually helped me through some terrible trials in my life this past year (divorce). I will always love and cherish them for sharing their talents with the LDS people.
Shelly

Ok there's opinion-giving, and then there's Mormon-bashing. I am a proud Mormon, and only 18 years old, and all I've heard from the negative comments is how all the LDS music writers, authors, and celebrities are cheezy, boring, or uninteresting. Perhaps that is because you all are so accustomed to hearing degrading, trashy and sladnerous filth everywhere you turn, that when you actually experience something decent or wholesome, like J.K.P.'s music, you are past feeling and therefore are unappreciative. The only thing people find wrong with Mormons and Mormonism, if you are completely honest with yourself, is that we try to keep things sacred that ought to be kept sacred. You won't find inuendos, or degrading material in our media, because we do not believe in lowering our ideals, or actions to such a level of indecency. You may not accept the fact that we try to be wholesome, but do not bash us for it. We do not bash you for seeking out such things in the first place, so do not bash us for trying to stop them.

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This Week's Topic:

  • The Sabbath Day

Various Authors

  • Monday:
    Kaycee opted out of Mormondom 4 years ago. She calls herself agnostic.
  • Tuesday:
    Sarah is not your average Gospel Doctrine Teacher.
  • Wednesday:
    Carrie Ann comes from pioneer stock, and lives in Provo, but is open minded and fair.
  • Thursday:
    Ned Flanders hasn't been to church in a while, but maintains an interest in all things Mormon.
  • Friday:
    John C. is an academic with a sense of humor and a testimony.
  • Saturday:
    JP's not going to church and feeling okay about it.

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