by David G. Woolley
*Editor's Note: In a column titled Great Novels Need Doubt as Vantage that appeared in the Deseret News Mormon Times, religion editor Jerry Johnston lamented there would likely never be a Great Mormon Novel because he has, "known some marvelous Mormon wordsmiths. But being a Mormon is not like being Catholic or Jewish. There is precious little wiggle room for devout LDS writers. There aren't a lot of gray areas to explore."
Here at the Top of the Morning, author David G. Woolley suggests that the great Mormon novel will take the broken, first step stories and make them complete. And why not? If Mormonism is the fullness of the gospel, then shouldn't Mormon novelists be the ones who bring that fullness to storytelling? Here is David's response to columnist Jerry Johnston.
June 10, 2009
The Great Mormon Novel is possible. It will happen. It will be faithful, uplifting, and embraced by those in and outside of the church for the very reason that it completes the now incomplete definition of the great novel by mending our broken stories where evil is personified as good, and completing our incomplete dramas where good is lampooned as evil.
The great Mormon novel won't chart new territory or break new ground as much as it will lead the reader to rediscover the storytelling path to our fullest mortal potential--the path that is lost in so much secularization.
The great Mormon novel will reacquaint men with the divine. It will celebrate the demands of gospel centeredness. It will rediscover what has been lost. It will restore faith in men, reverence for God and it will uncover the revelatory connection between heaven and earth. It will find joy in the work of building the kingdom. It will portray the shedding of one's ego and ambitions. And it will find its voice, not in the surrendering of one's ideas as you suggest in your article, but by celebrating the divine creativity that flows from discovering that the will of God is an infinitely more holy road than is the dead-end of half way back authorship. The community of great Mormon novelists isn't limited to Mormons who leave the fold and come half way back to the church. There is a more complete ending to every story than coming half way back.
The literati of our time celebrate redemption in the half way back story. The world finds comfort in those first redeeming steps. There is a certain worldly familiarity in the Aaronic Priesthood approach to redemptive storytelling, and since all storytelling is about redemption, the great Mormon novel will plumb the depths beyond those first preparatory steps and carry the reader into the restored fullness of the redemptive human drama.
The great Mormon novel will be a Melchizedek novel that takes redemptive storytelling through to is fullest, most complete, entirely natural dramatic high point. A temple climax set in the figurative tops of the mountains. It will give us hope that men are that they might have joy. Divine. Eternal. Joy.
The great Mormon novel won't be the investigator turned convert King Lamoniesque story. It will be the disciple, final stage, Enosesque story. The story of an active, bishop-like, tithe-paying, Relief Society President-like, moral, obedient, humble, temple-going, ecclesiastic supporting soul, who finds redemption not in the preparatory steps of coming back into the fold, but in the sanctifying graces of the life of discipleship, adopting God's will as his own. Isn't that the message of the restoration? Restoring an understanding, not of the first principles and ordinances, but of the divine potential in each of us? The great Mormon novel will give the reader a glimpse of their divine end while they are yet living in the earthly pages of their mortal beginnings.
It will happen Jerry. New wine will be poured into new bottles. The great Mormon novel will be written. The old rules of literary critique will be discarded for new ones. The old ways of viewing a novel will become new. The world will unwrap our literary gift left under the tree and know us better. The pages will be salted with inspired inklings and prophetic foreshadowings and when the reader arrives at the last page, she will close the book and say, "I knew it was going to end like that." And by knowing us better, the world will know that though the end is foreshadowed in the beginning, the satisfying climax isn't in the first steps of coming half way back along the narrow way or the opening scene of chapter one, but in enduring to the sanctifying conclusion. Which is, as in all great stories, The End.
David G. Woolley
Join author David G. Woolley at his Promised Land Website.