The Dawning of a Brighter Day: Mormon Literature after 150 Years

I ask you to consider the following: Mormonism is a genuine religious movement, with persistent and characteristic religious and cultural experiences growing out of a unique and coherent theology and a true and thus powerful mythic vision, and it has already produced and is producing the kinds and quality of literature that such experiences and vision might be expected to produce; it is, in fact, right now enjoying a kind of bright dawning, if not a flowering then certainly a profuse and lovely budding, in its literary history.

Many of us, at least until recently, could be excused for not knowing there is a Mormon literature. A serious anthology of Mormon literature, providing a full view of the quality and variety over our nearly 150-year history, was first published only a few years ago. That was Richard Cracroft and Neal Lambert’s A Believing People. At about the same time, these two scholars inaugurated, at Brigham Young University, the first course in Mormon literature. The Association for Mormon Letters, the first professional organization intended to study and encourage Mormon literature, is only a few years old. We have as yet no scholarly bibliography of Mormon literature, no full-scale literary history or developed esthetic principles, little practical and less theoretical literary criticism. The most basic scholarly work—the unearthing and editing of texts, development of biographical materials, and serious literary analysis of our acknowledged classics—is still largely undone.

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