I have always believed in the power of words to change people's lives. I used to do a YM/YW presentation on the influence of the media, and one of my main points was how literature gives us more choices in our own lives. If we're stuck in a situation and we don't know what to do, we're limited to the choices we can create from our own imagination and experience. But if we're well read, chances are we've read many, many responses to a situation similar to the one we're facing. We can add all those experiences we’ve read about to our store of knowledge to help us determine our own choices and pathways. Good literature changes the world, one reader at a time.
I feel very strongly about the potential influence of well-written LDS novels—particularly upon the youth in our culture. Take for example, peer pressure. There are many ways that peer pressure can be applied to our youth. For each of these, there are a variety of ways for our teenagers to respond to that pressure. For each response, there are several possibilities of outcomes and results. If you look at all these combinations, the number of books that could be written simply dealing with peer pressure is phenomenal. Add in other difficulties and choices our kids are facing, and the plot and story possibilities could keep all our current LDS authors writing for a lifetime. Add in clean fiction just for fun, children’s fiction, adult fiction and the possibilities become innumerable.
There is plenty to write about—and the good it can do to influence lives is staggering. Shining examples of good solid fiction that supports LDS values and beliefs is so needed in a world where fiction doesn’t sell unless there’s a racy scene or two; where the top selling novels targeted at teens promote and encourage pre-marital intimacy, rebelliousness against parents; alienation from family; and a rejection of traditional Christian beliefs and values. Even children’s books are sending the message that the evils of this world are simply alternate lifestyle choices.
LDS writers have a calling and a duty to let their voice be heard, to write books which entertain and captivate, but also support the values we believe in. We don’t need to beat our readers over the head with religiosity, but simply have our characters face difficult choices and either choose what is right despite the consequences, or face the consequences of their wrong choices. We need protagonists who act with courage and integrity despite the personal cost.
Can you see the potential we have for changing the world? I can. I believe God can. And unfortunately, I think the adversary can see it too.
Look at what is happening in the LDS publishing/book selling industry right now. We have a potential war developing between the two top publishers/resellers in our industry and everyone is lining up in camps, supporting one side or another. (Including me.) You have trusted book sellers being arrested for horrible things. You have independent LDS bookstores dropping like flies and small publishing houses closing their doors. Authors are facing personal challenges that are preventing them from writing the novels the Lord has placed in their hearts and imaginations.
I was talking to a colleague and friend the other day and she said, “I believe we are under attack.” I think she’s right. The adversary is working overtime to make sure we do not reach our potential. And I guess the question is, are we going to let him win? Are we going to be so distracted by what is going on around us that we allow our writing time to be eaten up by our fascination or our fear? Are we going to become so discouraged by rejections that we stop writing altogether? Or are we going to recognize our potential for good, recognize the attack upon us, and redouble our efforts to make a difference in the world?
I believe in the potential of LDS literature. I believe it is my life’s work to create, to write, to publish, to assist in publishing, to do whatever I can to put the stories that live in the hearts of inspired LDS writers into the hearts and minds of LDS readers. If the entire LDS publishing industry comes crashing down around me, I don’t care. If the company I work for goes bankrupt tomorrow, I don’t care. Somehow I’ll find a way to continue in my life’s mission. Even if all I can do is write about it in this blog, publish my own stories on my website, or tell them aloud in Primary class or around the campfire at Girls Camp, I can still change the world—one reader at a time.