Mormon culture too often loses something when LDS authors and artists choose the national and international market over the LDS market. I call this the Randy Bachman Syndrome.
Bachman, for those who don’t know, joined the LDS Church in his native Winnipeg, Canada, in the 1960s, as the band he was in, The Guess Who, started to gain notoriety. At the same time that the Osmonds were known worldwide as Mormons, Bachman was regularly hitting the top of the music charts, first with The Guess Who, and later with Bachman Turner Overdrive. But despite the fame and accomplishment, he wasn’t widely known for being Mormon, and relatively few Mormons knew that he was LDS. Unlike the Osmonds, Bachman had little or no impact on Mormon culture.
I’ve seen this same thing happen over and over with LDS artists. They gain respect and even fame outside of Mormonism, and somehow fail to get any respect or even attention from within Mormonism. Its as if Mormon culture has blinders to members that don’t meet some unknown set of qualifications. Some may suggest that these qualifications include being faithful. But Bachman was faithful (until relatively recently — he left the Church earlier this decade, years after his fame had declined to “whatever happened to…” status), as were many others who have gone through the same relationship with Mormon culture.
Another example is Clayton Christensen, who wrote the New York Times bestselling book The Innovator’s Dilemma and was earning thousands of dollars from giving speeches to business groups years before he was called to be an Area Authority Seventy. Yet it wasn’t until his call to service as a Seventy that many Mormons knew much about him, and I’d guess than most still don’t, and won’t until (and if) he is given a more visible calling. And even then, will members be aware of his bestselling book? [On the other hand, I’d bet more members know of Gerald Lund’s books than his calling as a General Authority!]
My point here isn’t that fame is important, or that Mormon culture should adopt anything in particular from the culture of the world. It is that fame and notoriety are fickle things, and this is especially true in Mormon culture. Those authors and artists seeking success in the world are only rarely known for being Mormon, and their Mormon affiliation is infrequently an influence on others, and even less frequently an influence on Mormons.
It seems that success in the world only very rarely gives Mormon artists the opportunity to influence many people for good.