Jul 25

Mormon Gays in Mormon Plays, Part III


Of the nine plays I (originally) found that met my criteria, I think it’s no accident that almost half of them have premiered since 2008. Whatever the tensions were between the LDS Church and the gay and lesbian community before that year, the heated battle over California’s Proposition 8 has increased them exponentially. Whether or not any of these plays was written specifically because of or in response to those events, the environment of anger and resentment must have been on the minds of anyone with ties to either community, let alone to both. Continue reading

Jul 15

Mormon Gays in Mormon Plays, Part II


Banging the Bishop: Latter Day Prophecy, by Dustin B. Goltz

Goltz was raised as a Reformed Jew, but became Mormon as a young man when missionaries came to his door. As a Mormon, he felt that he could be a good person who had a mission in life and divine potential. Also, he was told that his homosexuality was a result of excessive masturbation, and he would be welcomed into heaven if he’d stop. He couldn’t. And he didn’t stop being attracted to men, so he eventually decided he didn’t belong in the Mormon heaven, and he left. Continue reading

Jul 12

Mormon Gays in Mormon Plays: How Mormon Playwrights Portray Gay and Lesbian Mormons, Part I

Note: I originally intended to make this all one post, then realized that it was over 3,000 words long, so I’m splitting the topic into multiple posts.

A few weeks ago, I learned that a friend of mine is raising money to stage a production of Melissa Leilani Larson’s Little Happy Secrets next year. The play is about a lesbian Mormon who is trying to reconcile her sexuality with her faith. (It’s really unfair of me to condense such a thoughtful and nuanced play into a one-sentence summary. I promise I’ll say more about it later, or you can read about it and their fundraising efforts here.) It was staged last year in Provo, but Dave Mortensen (my friend) and Melissa would like to put on a larger production in Salt Lake City.

I decided that I wanted to write a blog post about plays by Mormons with gay and lesbian Mormon characters, both as a way of helping to draw attention to Little Happy Secrets and because of the topicality of how the Mormon community and the GLBT community interact. Continue reading

Oct 23

The Western University and the Secular Compromise: Some Implications for Literature

This afternoon one of my students met with me about his next paper, which he wants to write refuting The Da Vinci Code and defending the divinity of Jesus Christ. I found myself struggling to explain to him why he can’t write such a paper to fulfill a university assignment. I tried to help him think about possible lines of argument he could pursue that would allow him to discuss his beliefs in intellectual and secular terms. It is my pleasant responsibility to help him master the norms of the university, and that means learning to speak, think, and write about religion in terms accessible to public consideration, in the terms of rational argument and empirical analysis. On the one hand, I deeply respect those terms; I’ve chosen with great joy to spend my six-day-a-week life examining the world in them. And learning to think about one’s beliefs in intellectual terms can be a vital and invigorating experience, although there are far too few spaces in the borderlands between the university and the church where believing students can bring the disparate pieces of their lives together; as a believing scholar, I long for more such spaces. But on the other hand, perhaps we secular educators (among whom I must count myself, insofar as I teach a secular subject in a secular context) sometimes rush too quickly over the losses incurred in the secular environment. The most essential expressions of religious belief are generally precluded by secular norms; in an important sense we allow every possible discussion of religion except what it most essentially is. Continue reading

Oct 11

Why I Love Poetry

This semester I’m taking a course in French phonetics in mild defiance of my department’s new stricter graduation timelines; I’ve already fulfilled the language requirement, and I simply want to improve my pronunciation. It’s fascinating. As I told Lynnette enthusiastically over the phone last weekend, “We’re learning all about where in the mouth you say the different vowels!” Not being one of the family’s language nuts, she said, affectionately and dryly, “How boring!” (Acid criticism from a woman who teaches Thomas Aquinas to grad students.) And we both had a good laugh. Continue reading

Sep 29

How Do You Read Books (and Watch Movies)?

I just picked up Tyler Cowen’s Discover your Inner Economist, and found that he has some rather unorthodox suggestions for how to get the most enjoyment out of reading books and watching movies. He argues that when it comes to these experiences, the major limiting factor is the scarcity of our own attention. Cowen’s approach? Quit early and often if something loses your interest:

When should we finish a book we have started? In this regard I am extreme. If I start ten books maybe I will finish one of them. I feel no compunction to keep reading. Why not be brutal about this? Is this book the best possible book I can be reading right now, of all the books in the world? For me at least, the answer is usually (but not always) no.

Continue reading

Aug 31

A Good Read

There have been a number of posts and references around the bloggernacle recently about what constitutes a good book. The Wiz lamented the state of bestsellers, Heather O talked about what she thinks is a good story (and in doing so, referenced those she thought were bad), and Adam linked to A Reader’s Manifesto, which attacks recent Literary Works. All of this got me thinking about what I consider a good book. Continue reading

Jul 19

Write What You Know, Know What You Write: A Review of Bradford Tice’s “Missionaries”

On my way out to Utah last week to attend my sister Melyngoch’s farewell and see her off on her mission to Sweden, my plane was delayed in Denver, and I violated the budget my husband and I agreed upon just hours before and bought the Atlantic’s summer fiction issue. (The Zelophehad family is not noted for the ability to delay gratification.) After a hilarious story by Marjorie Kemper about a priest who gets into massive debt trying to help his poverty-stricken parishioners entitled “Specific Gravity” and Tobias Wolff’s excellent “Bible,” I flipped to Bradford Tice’s rather tiresomely predictable story about Mormon missionaries. (Religion is clearly in the air, even among the secular MFA crowd.) Continue reading

Oct 22

Religion in . . . (not really) literature

Lately I’ve been reading romantic thrillers (yes, this is my guilty secret after 25 years of reading more redeeming books I started reading romance novels). I’ve found a few authors I like, but I’ve read most of their books, so I’ve been looking for new authors I might like. I looked at some of the Listmania lists on Amazon, and found some suggestions. One of the suggestions was for the O’Malley series by Dee Henderson. What I didn’t realize until I was five or six chapters into the first book is that these are not just romantic suspense novels. They’re Christian romantic suspense novels. And it bugs me. A lot. I really like the characters, and the plot is pretty good, but the discussion of faith and believing makes me want to throw the book across the room. Continue reading