Wednesday, April 04, 2007
When I was seventeen, I read The Godmakers. I'd recently concluded that the claims of the LDS church are false, so I was more than receptive to "anti" materials -- I was actively looking for them.
So what do you imagine I thought of The Godmakers?
I thought it was horrible -- pure garbage.
And it irritated me because -- given all of the legitimate criticisms one can make about the church and its claims -- why publish this nonsense?
This was many years ago, so I don't remember all of the details, but I remember that the striking thing about the book was how much of it was devoted to explaining how Mormon beliefs conflict with mainstream Christian beliefs -- as if that were a proof that Mormon beliefs are wrong. Such reasoning may be convincing for those who were raised with Protestant beliefs (or are otherwise already convinced that mainstream Christain beliefs are right), but to the average person raised Mormon, such arguments are gibberish.
A few months ago I was reading a novel by a Mormon, and when I read the stuff where brother who leaves the church is portrayed as a ne'er-do-well with lots of problems, I didn't object because, hey, that can happen (though it's a bit more common in faithful LDS novels than in real life... ;-) ). And when the exmo bro takes the main character's (LDS convert) fiancé to a bar as a bachelor party, that seemed pretty normal. Then my suspension of disbelief abruptly ended when the exmo bro whips out a copy of The Godmakers. Without any hint anywhere in the novel about exmo bro being "saved" or converting to evangelical Christianity....
Confusing secular exmos with Christian exmos...? That's like... That's like mixing up Scottish and Irish!!!
I thought the author should have changed it to the following:
"He's an odd duck, your brother. He said I should check out this website." Eric pulled out a little piece of folded cardboard which Eliza recognized as a Zig-Zag box.
"He gave you rolling papers?"
"No, it's written on the inside." Eric opened it up and Eliza saw that Gary had written "exmormon.org" on the inside of the empty box.
Eliza snorted. "Yeah, that's a great suggestion if you want to waste your time reading the rantings of a bunch of angry apostates."
See? That's not only more realistic but funnier!!! (Having him maintain a stash of copies of The Godmakers to distribute? Pfft! I suggested this "improvement" to the author, but I guess my idea didn't make the final cut ;-) ).
Aside from that point, I liked the novel. I had a similar reaction with Brother Brigham -- I liked the novel overall, but a lot of details about the apostate characters could have been better. Even if the character in question is a villain -- or rather especially if the character is a villain -- plausible details make a work more effective. A little bit of research can make the difference between writing something that resonates with readers versus writing something that rings false.
And lest you think I'm unfairly singling out faithful LDS authors, remember that I gave this same criticism (perhaps even more harshly) to Walter Kirn's work here (see the comments as well as the body of the post).
And now for the self-indulgent part of the post!!! :D
I would like to recommend that serious faithful LDS authors take the time to read my novel Exmormon. Not because I think you could learn a thing or two from my amazing literary skills ;-) but rather because -- if you plan to include apostate characters in your work -- it's useful to have a multi-faceted image in your mind of what people who leave the church are like. If the only face you know of the apostate is what apostates look like to Mormons, you'll come up with a flatter, less lifelike portrait of your character than you will if you've seen apostates from another perspective: what they look like to other apostates.