Where Twilight Studies Meets Mormon Studies: Setting the Record Straight

12.2.09 | | 108 comments

Some time ago, I started following John Granger‘s Twilight studies blog, “Forks High School Professor” as a corollary to my own academic interest in Meyer’s books. Granger made a name for himself as Dean of Harry Potter Studies when he took J.K. Rowling’s books as subjects worthy of academic study. And now he’s trying his hand at Twilight, an effort I heartily applaud as I think of my own haphazard attempts to do the same thing.

And yet, sometimes he just rubs my believing-Mormon-skin the wrong way with his cursory engagement with Mormonism, something that’s simply secondary to and arising from his academic interest in literature, faith, and culture. Since he’s a newcomer to the still-blossoming field of Mormon studies* and an outsider to the LDS faith, I can’t fault him for this engagement and for getting some things wrong every now and then. Heck, cultural Mormons are a peculiar lot with an equally peculiar history. Putting things together about the religion can be difficult even for those with a lifetime commitment to it.

But as I was catching up on some FHS Professor posts I’ve fallen behind on, I felt compelled to chime in this morning and to set the record straight, as it were (though I’m sure my straight is still fairly skewed), by referring the good doctor to Reading Until Dawn. Of course, this has something to do with the need for self-promotion. But, it also has something to do with my faith in the strength of Mormon literary scholarship, especially, in this case, Eric’s “Saturday’s Werewolf” (a revised version of which, by the way, will be published in a forthcoming issue of Sunstone [get your teaser here] along with a revised version of “Toward a Mormon Gothic“).

The setup: In his November 18 post in response to Stephenie Meyer’s answer to a fan’s question about the source for her imprinting werewolves (“Stephenie Meyer New Moon Q&A: Imprinting“), Granger suggests two sources beyond the one Meyer gives for this peculiar, primal relationship between imprinter and imprintee (read the post for her answer): (1) the institution of polygamy’s overabundance of man/child relationships and (2) the notion of premortal coupling. He ties Meyer to the first by suggesting that Twilight is a response to John Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven, a book published, as Granger is quick to point out, “the month Mrs. Meyer had her [series-inspiring] dream and [... that] is filled to the brim with nightmare stories about polygamist crimes against young women as well as the nightmare of the Mountain Meadows massacre.” He continues—and this is what provoked my response: “Twilight is, I suggest, on several levels a Mormon woman’s response to Krakauer’s attack on her faith.”

Here’s what I said:

How so? Unless you’re privy to more information about Meyer than I am (i.e., that she’s read or is even aware of Krakauer’s narrative, something, in my mind, she’d have to do/be aware of in order to so specifically respond), this seems like something of a jump to me, like you’ve already formed an opinion on the issue and are stretching to find evidence (however thin) to support that opinion. Sure, Meyer is aware of Mormonism’s polygamist past and I’m sure she’s struggled with it in one way or another, though I don’t know how that struggle has influenced her personal understanding of the faith or, more apropos to this post, her work as a novelist.

But Eric Jepson (in the essay Sharon mentions in comment one) makes what to me is a more compelling connection between Meyer, Mormon doctrine, and Mormon (literary) history: imprinting as a manifestation of the premortal romance. This narrative trope is based in the LDS doctrine that we existed as spirits in the presence of God prior to mortal birth, an official teaching that gave rise to the folk doctrine of premortal coupling (i.e., that male and female spirits promised to find one another on Earth and to marry for eternity), which is conveyed in a sampling of non-official LDS narrative art. Jepson takes up two of these—Nephi Anderson’s 1898 novel Added Upon and Douglas Stewart’s 1973 musical Saturday’s Warrior (the latter is still a popular cultural reference in Mormon circles)—though I’m aware of at least two more: Susa Young Gate’s 1909 novel John Stevens’ Courtship (which was serialized before Anderson’s Added Upon was published; which may have been a source for his own, more expansive treatment of the premortal romance; and which was a response to the LDS Church’s [1890] manifesto putting an official end to polygamy) and Carol Lynn Pearson’s 1977 musical My Turn on Earth[, though this one is more simply about keeping premortal promises in general than it is about realizing a premortal romance].

This folk doctrine (which has been shot down by LDS Church leaders, most notably, as Jepson points out, by Spencer W. Kimball) seems a far more likely source for Meyer’s notion of imprinting than Krakauer’s discussion of Fundamentalist Mormon polygamy. (And though they share common roots, Fundamentalist Mormon does not equal Latter-day Saint.)

I’m likely to come back to this idea of Twilight Studies meets Mormon Studies in the not-too-distant future with a post on my RMMLA experience (it’s been on the backburner for over a month) and a post in response to one of Granger’s recent interviews (on the backburner for a couple of months). But I felt this interaction was worth copying here, if only to show more of how non-Mormon critics are engaging the Mormonism of Twilight; to suggest, perhaps, ways Mormon scholars can (fruitfully?) respond by referring to our own literary and cultural history; and to solicit your feedback on any/all of the above.

———-

*I place him in this position (something he may not do himself) because he takes up issues of Mormonism as they relate to Twilight.

108 comments: “Where Twilight Studies Meets Mormon Studies: Setting the Record Straight

  1. FoxyJ

    Not much to add since I haven’t read much of Meyer or much about her. But, sort of off topic, I’ve noticed that non-Mormons tend to be much more aware of Krakauer than most Mormons. Also, I’ve noticed that most non-Mormons seem to be a lot more aware of/focused on polygamy (historical and modern) than your average active Mormon. I think that’s interesting, just some food for thought.

  2. Th.

    .

    I think a lot of people are upset that we aren’t as obsessed with polygamy as they are. Which just goes to show that they don’t understand how he understand polygamy.

  3. Laura Craner

    Tyler- I love your response to Granger and I think it’s good you stepped up and said something. The fact that there are scholars out there studying Mormonism culturally and jumping to thinly reasoned conclusions only points to the importance of projects like RUD and AMV.

    I’ve been mulling over my own paper and I want to do something a little nontraditional with it. I’ll have to email you about it. Granger’s ideas and your post (and the fact that I’m out of the first trimester and starting to get some energy back) have really provided me some psychological urgency.

    I hope it does the same for other readers. These books, whether you like them are not, are worth weighing in on–especially from a Mormon perspective.

  4. Jettboy

    I made similar comments on his blog questioning why he came to the conclusions about what Meyers does and doesn’t know about Mormon history and doctrine. His response was of course she thinks these ways. He very much believes that Twilight was written in response to Krauker almost as a given. When I explained to him about a slightly off Book of Mormon interpretation, he went off on 18th Century beliefs that would form the Book of Mormon text. Again, he tries to present his own readings and own understandings of Mormonism above what an actual breathing Mormon would believe; especially what is known about Stephanie Meyers. Any Mormon who doesn’t agree with his conclusions is disregarded as a FARMS or FAIR apologist.

  5. Marny Parkin

    I agree with Laura that studies of Twilight from a Mormon perspective are important. They are also thin on the ground compared to non-Mormons’ works. Witness Twilight and Philosophy: Vampires, Vegetarians, and the Pursuit of Immortality (the Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series; Battlestar Galactica has a book in this series) and Parables from Twilight: A Bible Study.

    It is a lot like what happened to Battlestar Galactica–non-Mormons are more prominent in declaring what the philosophy is, so we loose ownership (as it were).

  6. Marny Parkin

    I’m also surprised at the lack of papers on Twilight submitted to the BYU science fiction symposium (to date, none). I would think the college age group would be perfect for this subject. We’ve also never had a panel on Twilight, so maybe it’s the committee’s bias.

    (BTW, if anyone wants to present a paper at the symposium, contact me ASAP. The deadline has passed, but I’ve received only three submissions so I would welcome more. I would need to get submissions by December 20 to get them in the schedule.)

  7. Katya

    Marny,

    Actually Twilight and Philosophy includes an essay by a Mormon. (Granted, it’s only one essay in 18, but I figured it was worth pointing out.)

  8. Lee Allred

    Marny,

    I’ve been kicking around an idea for a paper triggered by Theric’s “Stuki’s Hands”/”Mansmansylvania” essay here at AMV last month. It may not be SFnal enough for the symposium (although Wolverton’s early short fiction is the locomotive for my train of thought). Do you just need a proposal by Dec 20? Or the actual paper?

    – Lee Allred

  9. Katya

    Marny,

    It’s “For the Strength of Bella?: Meyer, Vampires, and Mormonism,” by Marc E. Shaw.

  10. Th.

    .

    Marny: Previously published work okay? Would I need to be able to come to Utah and present?

  11. Marny Parkin

    Lee, from you a proposal is fine. :)

    Katya, thanks again.

    Theric, previously published is fine. It would be nice if you could present it yourself, but if you know someone local that could read it for you that would work.

  12. Sharon

    Tyler,

    Thanks for reminding me that you wrote an article as well as the article Jepson wrote. I hadn’t got around to reading your article when I read Jepsons, and it had entirely slipped my mind.

    To clarify, I am not a Mormon. I am a Christian who holds to the Reformation tenet of “Sola Scriptura“. But I am very interested in what you have to say (and write) on the subject because I am interested in the religious allegories that I believe underpin the Twilight saga. They seem to be particularly LDS allegories to me, but of course I am reading them as an outsider looking in. Hence my appreciation for your “Reading Until Dawn” work.

    I think if you are not satisfied with whatever Granger will have to say upon his return from holidays, you might find a read of his book Spotlight fruitful, even if only to engage in further debate. The sixth chapter “Twilight as the work of a Mormon apologist” deals with the particular question you have raised.

    While you may not agree with Granger on the source of Meyer’s ideas of imprinting (and I agree Jepson makes a compelling case for the “Folk doctrine” source of the imprinting concept), Granger has some very interesting ideas about the impact of Meyer’s faith on her writing.

    Your comments and posting are especially valuable to those of us who, like Granger and myself, seek to understand these LDS connections, but are hampered by having no personal experience of LDS teachings from the pulpit direct, as it were.

    Can you suggest any documents other than “For the Strength of Youth” that might help me to understand the connections – and distinctions – between official teaching for the edification of LDSs, and LDS “Folk” doctrine or practice? I understand that reading “For the Strength of Youth” will help me to gain insight into how LDS doctrine shapes LDS practice, but I am wondering how to find out more about how official LDS practice works itself out in Mormon culture.

    I hope this makes sense to you! Please remember I am an outsider looking in, genuinely wanting to understand how you and other LDSs see things from the inside. I am not interested in being evangelised, though, nor in seeking to evangelise you. I do not feel that God has given me that task!

    Also, you might be interested in the lecture that Mormon book critic Jana Reiss gave in April at the ninth annual “Mormonism in the Public Mind” conference at Utah Valley University. Reiss’s topic was “Stories from the Book of Mormon that Stephenie Meyer tells to me”. If you have not already listened to it, you can find a video of the lecture, along with others (not related to Twilight) given in the section “New Media and Pop Culture”.

  13. Sharon

    Sorry for posting that twice. The second comment has the link embedded for Jana Reiss’s lecture.

  14. [Wm says: no worries -- I deleted the one w/out the link. Thanks for posting!]
  15. Jonathan Langford

    First a comment to Sharon, and then a more general comment:

    A good starting place in getting a handle on modern Mormon folk culture would be to watch a copy of Saturday’s Warrior (I think it’s out on video). The heyday for this was about the time I was a teenager (and I’m about 10 years older than Stephenie Meyer). However, it’s hard to overstate the extent to which it saturated the culture. I’m not saying that we believed everything Saturday’s Warrior told us about the preexistence, but it shaped our imagination. Throw in an adjustment factor for the fact that by the time Meyer was a teenager kids would have been viewing it with a somewhat ironic/jaundiced eye (as kids do with things that are several years out of date) and you’ll get a good notion of the cultural milieu of Meyer’s teenage years. If your interest is more in what the Mormon teen milieu is like today, I’d say that Saturday’s Warrior is still a good source for some underlying attitudes, but with the caveat that I’m not sure very many of today’s teens have ever seen it. (The thing that strikes me as most dated about the original Saturday’s Warrior is the concern about having large families, which I would say is no longer a flashpoint of perceived conflict between LDS culture and mainstream American culture.)

    On a more general level, the best single source I know for showing both formal beliefs and the common “take” on those beliefs would be Mormonism for Dummies, which Jana Riess coauthored (along with Chris Bigelow).

    And now for my general comment on Granger’s apparent insistence on interpreting Meyer’s connection to her own Mormon heritage through the lens of Krakauer: a Mormon wanting to respond to Krakauer would have been a lot less covert than what it sounds like he’s postulating for Meyer. Mormons are thoroughly indoctrinated in our own history through Mormon sources. Krakauer just isn’t an important source of (or challenge to) our own self-understanding.

    I think sometimes that critics try to “make do” with one or two sources they’re familiar with as a map to (or substitute for) an esoteric field of knowledge the author they’re studying might be assumed to possess. The problem is that any believing Mormon who has been a member of the Church from youth up possesses a vast range of knowledge about Mormonism, both formal and informal, which nevertheless is very different from the body of knowledge that academic study of Mormonism by an outsider would produce. It’s an area laden with pitfalls for outsiders, which is one of the reasons why (as others have commented) those of us with critical interests who are LDS really need to do more of this ourselves if we want to see it done right.

  16. Tyler

    Sharon:

    I appreciate you stopping by to comment and the respect you’ve shown for the Mormon position on Twilight (though by no means do I claim to speak for the religion/culture as a whole).

    And I second Jonathan’s reading/viewing suggestions. A Millenium Edition DVD of Saturday’s Warrior is available, if you decide to go that route, something I recommend (as Jonathan has) because SW has had such an impact on a few generations of Mormon youth.

    Another place you might look for an general introduction to Mormon doctrine and history is Richard Bushman’s Mormonism: A Very Short Introduction. I haven’t read it yet myself, but I trust Bushman’s approach is general enough to give you a good overview of Mormonism from a Mormon scholar speaking outward.

    And for a look at the way Mormonism’s theological paradoxes have informed and been conveyed through Mormon culture and its texts, I also recommend Terryl Givens’ People of Paradox: A History of Mormon Culture.

    Do you AMVers have any other suggestions for Sharon?

  17. Tyler

    The Encyclopedia of Mormonism is also a good place to look for “articles [... that] broadly cover the basic elements and enduring features of Mormon history, doctrine, scripture, organization, and culture.” A searchable version can be found online here.

  18. Th.

    .

    Seriously. I can’t think of a single Mormon that cares much at all about Krakauer. Frankly, I’m surprised to learn those outside the Church still remember that book. And what exactly did it have to do with mainstream Mormons again?

    But, to Sharon, welcome! I like the tenor of your talk. I hope you’ll stop by often.

  19. Th.

    .

    Do you AMVers have any other suggestions for Sharon?

    Closely follow AMV, of course.

    Someone truly serious should subscribe to one or more of the following: BYU Studies, Sunstone, Dialogue, Irreantum, Element…..

  20. Jettboy

    I would suggest reading ”
    An Introduction to Mormonism” by Douglas J. Davies a non-Mormon and “The Latter-day Saint Experience in America” by Terryl L. Givens who was already mentioned. Reading both together would give a far better understanding of modern Mormonism than Krauker’s clunker. Stay as far away from him as possible if you really want to understand how Mormons view their own history and doctrines.

  21. Christopher

    I haven’t followed conversations about the influence of Stephanie Meyer’s Mormon beliefs on her writing that closely, but I know enough to raise an eyebrow when a couple of PhD students begin an article on the subject by noting that “Much ado has been made about the theme of chastity in the Twilight series (currently drawing hordes into movie theaters for its second installment), but few have noticed the other, less commonly understood, Mormon theological themes that course through the series’ fevered plotline.” (http://religiondispatches.org/archive/mediaculture/2052/big_vampire_love%3A_what’s_so_mormon_about_twilight/)

    Seems to me that folks interested in the topic would do well do follow blogs like AMV more closely. Keep up the good work, folks.

  22. Eugene

    The most direct–and entertaining–access to popular Mormon culture can be had via Robert Kirby and Calvin Grondahl. Card’s Saintspeak is worth a mention too.

  23. Sharon

    PS I am curious, Tyler, in reading your “Towards a Mormon Gothic” it seemed that you believed Edwin Arnaudin (author of the MS paper “Mormon Vampires”) was not a Mormon, since you treat him together with Caitlin Flanigan (obviously not a LDS) and say that he “glosses over [the LDS Church] as a cult”.

    When I read what he wrote, I presumed Arnaudin was trying to tread the fine line of making his MS as balanced a treatment of the LDS church as possible so the thesis wouldn’t be rejected, and gently promoting the suggestion that non-Mormons (like myself) read up on the LDS church so they can understand books by Mormon authors better. In short, I presumed that Arnaudin was LDS.

    Obviously, short of asking Arnaudin himself what his faith is, we cannot know for sure (unless anyone here is a personal friend?). But could you give me some pointers for working out whether the writer of a critique is probably LDS or not, where that is not stated? Or do you think it advisable to just presume that unless they say they are a LDS, they are not?

    For example, as an outsider looking in, the religion dispatches article Christopher referred to above, appeared to me to have been possibly written by a LDS, although its treatment was perhaps a bit general for that to be the case. It did seem a bit antagonistic in nature. And it tended to focus on the more obvious (again, to me, a non-LDS person) theological connections, rather than the more specific ones such as Eric Jepson makes in his “Saturday’s Werewolf” paper. So on the balance, although the author was aware of some elements of LDS doctrine, I would guess that the author was not a LDS.

    Obviously my reasoning is that I can presume that a LDS author writing for LDS audiences will be a more reliable source with relation to LDS doctrine than would otherwise be the case, and would be more likely to know what they are talking about, even if they are not a bona fide authority. Just as when I am with people who belong to the same faith as me: we share a common theological vocabulary, so we can converse about theological topics at a different level to the way we talk about them when non-Christians are present, who don’t understand the “lingo”.

    Thank you for welcoming me to AMV.

  24. Laura Craner

    Sharon–
    I’m a little late to this conversation, but I think one thing that is important in understanding the “Mormoness” of Meyer’s books is the emphasis on family. For Bella and Edward hooking up isn’t enough. What is striking about their chastity is not necessarily that they are so persistent in their pursuit of it, but, to my mind, their reasons for it. At first Edward just says it’s his old Victorian upbringing, but (I believe it’s somewhere in book three) he relents on his no-sex stance at which point Bella realizes the emotional relationship they have (as teenage as it is) and Edward’s values are more important than sex–which is really their first step toward a mature relationship. Once they are married, have sex, and Bella conceives Renesmee she is willing to gamble her relationship with Edward for the sake of their baby. This surprised and angered a lot of readers but given Rosalie’s back story, Esmee’s constant addition of young vampires to the coven, and Bella’s own broken family, it shouldn’t have been surprising. It’s almost as if Meyer is saying, “yes the romantic relationship is important but only when it fosters families.” Which is a VERY LDS idea.

    The other thing that strikes me as primarily LDS is the importance of the individual as a soul. LDS belief states the the soul is the body and the spirit together (See Doctrine and Covenants section 88 verse 15)and a lot of discussion between Edward and Bella is about how Edward’s vampire body reflects his spirit and what will happen to his soul as a result. Edward spends time worrying about Bella’s spirit and Carlisle’s backstory is very much about creating a soulful existence out a fractured body and spirit.

    The most popular Mormon hymn is “I am a Child of God”. Our kids learn it from the time the are toddlers and we sing it in meetings as adults. The first line of the song says, “I am a child of God and He has sent me here.” The chorus says, “Teach me all that I must do to live with Him someday.” The idea that God is truly our Heavenly _Father_ and not just a remote being and that we were sent to earth for the specific purpose of learning how to control ourselves and any urges (or in the case of Meyer’s vampires, powers) that come with a physical body hints at a larger concept of the divine origins and potential of humankind. That inherent divinity translates into normal Mormon life to mean that we all have limitless, eternal potential and that we need to make choices reflecting that potential. This is something that I think is implicit in Bella’s love for Edward–she believes unfailing in his divine potential (although she never calls it that). In this way, Bella’s response to Edward’s darkness is very reflective of Mormon teenage relationships. (Kirsten Randle’s book _Breaking Rank_ is a good exploration of this idea too.)

  25. Th.

    .

    Laura—

    I couldn’t find it but didn’t we have an AMV discussion on figuring out if authors are LDS? I seem to remember one and I think you wrote the post that started it.

    (Incidentally, Sharon, I don’t try to be anonymous, but often people don’t immediately realize that I’m the fellow who also uses the byline under “Saturday’s Werewolf”.)

    And I agree with Laura that “I Am a Child of God” is much more significant than “Saturday’s Warrior” at least in terms of direct influence.

  26. Wm Morris

    Eugene has posted some interesting thoughts on Granger’s work. He talks a bit about the discussion we’re having here, but also gets in to why popular culture should be defended (and is defensible) and compliments Granger on his work in this area (and points out Stephen King’s hypocrisy).

  27. Seth R.

    This is a repeat of a comment I made over on Touchstone Magazine’s “Mere Comments” blog responding to Granger’s analysis of Twilight:

    Reading Granger’s analysis, I have to say I think he’s in as much of an alternate universe as Edward is.

    Let’s start with John L. Brooke’s “Refiner’s Fire.”

    The book makes assertions about Mormonism that almost no Mormon – modern or otherwise would even know about, much less advocate. I have never met a Mormon in my life of 35 years in the LDS Church who knows about or is even remotely interested in how Mormon beliefs supposedly evolved from roots in the 1600s. The fact that Granger dates the “founding” of Mormonism to the 1600s shows the sort of alternate universe kind of conspiracy theory-driven thinking that one can only shake one’s head at.

    Mormonism started in the 1830s. And Joseph Smith was far too uneducated to be tapped into anything remotely resembling philosophical trends from the 1600s – except insofar as the formed a part of the general milieu of frontier America he grew up in.

    This is nothing more than wild speculation posing as literary analysis. Maybe Granger has read “Refiner’s Fire.” But I would posit that he’s one of the few human beings on the planet that has. Mormons are blissfully unaware of this stuff, and even those of us with a good knowledge of apologetics have not the slightest clue who Mr. Brooke even is.

    So much for the Carlisle connection.

    Linking the Volturi to the Catholic Church is just silly.

    The idea of a powerful organization against whom the hero must struggle is hardly a uniquely Mormon idea. Everyone in America has this archetype stored away somewhere in their psyche. Meyer could have gotten it from any number of places without having Catholics in mind.

    Also, in calling the vampires “blood-atonement driven” I wonder if Mr. Granger even has a working knowledge of what the doctrine of blood atonement even is, or if he just picked it up watching “September Dawn” one Friday night.

    Granger’s attempt to link the perfectly circular meadow with the “Mountain Meadows Massacre” is just so pathetically desperate as to be almost comical. You can almost envision a sleepless Granger sitting at his desk thinking about how to work in a Mormons-are-bloody angle into a review on a Mormon vampire novel.

    “Let’s see… blood, blood… what’s bloody about Mormons? Oh, I know! Blood Atonement! OK, that’s one link… what else… Oo, oo, I know – Mountain Meadows Massacre! That’s a really good one! Now, how can I possibly link that bloody episode with Twilight? Oh yeah! Twilight has a “meadow” in it. I am on a roll here!”

    News flash – clearings have always had symbolic literary meaning. You travel in the dark woods of life, and then you suddenly come into a clearing and taste the sun. It can represent enlightenment, opening your world view, any number of things.

    I mean, come on guys. How credulous can you get?

    Do you seriously think that we Mormons are all having Mountain Meadows flashbacks every time we hit a meadow?

    Or maybe you do think that. Because you guys have gotten so used to defining our entire faith off of a few conveniently negative episodes that people like Granger simply assume that every believing Mormon must be thinking about the same stuff he thinks about every time “Mormonism” is on the brain.

    Well, I hate to break it to you – but even with the recent books about Mountain Meadows, most Mormons aren’t thinking about the topic at all. Almost none of us have purchased any of the books on the subject, much less read them. This isn’t a topic that most Mormons care about.

    I only know about it because I spend a lot of time debating with Protestants, and some of them are fond of opportunistically using the incident as a general slur on the Mormon population. And even I don’t feel any particular guilt about the incident.

    I also found amusing Granger’s airy dismissal of Mormon apologetics on the massacre as “pathetic.” They’re only pathetic because they are inconvenient for him. I note that Granger never deigns to enlighten us why exactly they are pathetic.

    As for myself, an atmosphere of panic about you Protestants sending an army to wipe us out seems like a pretty damn-good explanation to me. How about you?

    The genetics thing is cute. And I’m glad that Granger found a way to shoehorn in another criticism of Mormonism in the guise of doing a literary review. But this one sinks as well.

    The South American native showing up has nothing to do with Book of Mormon origins. Stephanie Meyer herself explained this detail in an interview. She did her research for this book. On vampirism, not Mormonism.

    There is a South American legend of vampires that impregnate women.

    That’s it.

    That’s where the genetic hook came from. Not half-baked DNA criticisms of Mormonism – which again most Mormons neither know nor care about.

    Incidentally, the DNA argument is an absolute embarrassment to anti-Mormonism. It betrays either a profound ignorance of how population genetics work, or an ignorance of what the Book of Mormon actually claims, or both. It was rather amusing to watch all the frenzied excitement in the anti-Mormon camp when they thought they’d finally uncovered a silver bullet to discredit Mormonism – and then the outraged anger and confusion that resulted when Mormons not only refuted the entire argument, but didn’t even break a sweat doing it.

    Happy to elaborate on this if you are interested.

    Finally, Granger’s attempt to shoehorn another tired counter-cult ministry standby into the review – Adam-God theory.

    Let me just tell you right now that the only Mormons who even know about Adam-God are those who have it shoved in their faces by some anti-Mormon. The rest don’t know about it at all.

    Adam-God theory comes from some very confused and vague statements made by prophet Brigham Young waay back in the 1800s. It was never fully accepted even when Young was prophet, and has fallen into complete and utter obscurity since then. Mention Adam-God theory in a modern Mormon Sunday School class and you will be met with a room full of blank looks. I find it implausible in the extreme that Meyer was ever even aware of this theory.

    Granger would know this if he really knew that many Mormons. Apparently he doesn’t.

    There is a very real temptation to assume that the members of a group are thinking about the same things we are thinking about when we are thinking about them.

    If you were to play a word-association game with Mr. Granger with “Mormons” as the starting point, you’d probably get something like the following: “polygamy”, “Mountain Meadows”, “DNA,” “Adam-God”, “Jesus and Satan are brothers,” etc.

    But if he thinks that modern Mormons really know, care, or think about those subjects, he would be completely wrong.

    Let me give you an example on the other end.

    Does the average Lutheran spend his time in the pews during the sermon agonizing over the utterly illogical and self-defeating mess of Augustine’s formula for the Trinity?

    No?

    Well that’s what I think about when I think about Lutheranism, among others. So that must mean that each and every American Protestant is torn with internal conflict over how to resolve the Trinity, right?

    Well, of course that’s wrong. That’s just silly.

    And Granger is being equally silly here. He is assuming that his own views of Mormonism – as an outsider – must be representative of what Mormon insiders are thinking. It’s an incredibly sloppy piece of thinking. I would have expected better from Touchstone.

  28. Moriah Jovan

    Adam-God theory comes from some very confused and vague statements made by prophet Brigham Young waay back in the 1800s. It was never fully accepted even when Young was prophet, and has fallen into complete and utter obscurity since then. Mention Adam-God theory in a modern Mormon Sunday School class and you will be met with a room full of blank looks. I find it implausible in the extreme that Meyer was ever even aware of this theory.

    This is something I’d have to disagree with you about.

    Every Mormon I know knows this couplet and while mention of it in Gospel Doctrine might make us, by turns, squirm, bluster, and snicker, it wouldn’t get any blank stares.

    As for Refiner’s Fire, I have a copy (autographed), have read most of it (albeit long ago), and my grandfather’s in the picture at the front.

  29. Th.

    .

    Actually, when I think of Lutherans, I think of Norwegian bachelors making powdered-milk biscuits. Tasty and expeditious.

    Although I think ignorance of many of these issues is widespread, Meyer has a BA from BYU and I’m sure she has, for instance, an inkling of Adam-God. What she and I and you don’t have is the least amount of worry about Adam-God. So here I’m in complete agreement with you: We don’t care about this crap.

    I’m mystified by, as you say, anyone who thinks that DNA evidence of any sort would affect my thinking about the Book of Mormon. If I required a logical rebuttal I could easily come up with a dozen, but I don’t. I don’t need a rebuttal. It doesn’t matter.

    One great thing about being Mormon is we get this a lot and, I hope, it makes us more generous to those of other faiths. Even their writers (though I’m pretty sure all of Flannery O’Connor’s stories are about papal love children).

  30. Th.

    .

    Every Mormon I know knows this couplet and while mention of it in Gospel Doctrine might make us, by turns, squirm, bluster, and snicker, it wouldn’t get any blank stares.

    Are you talking about Lorenzo Snow’s “As man is…
    “? Because that’s not related to Adam-God.

  31. Moriah Jovan

    Oh, Seth R. I APOLOGIZE!!! Th. is right. That totally blew past me. Adam-God. You’re right.

    *eeek!*

    *slinking away now*

  32. Tyler

    Seth:

    Thanks for posting your response to Granger’s Touchstone article. I hopped over and read what he has to say and, frankly, I think it’s a bit irresponsible of him, as a (supposed) literary critic, to be using Twilight as a means to perpetuate anti-Mormon rhetoric. Most disturbing, I think, is the way his discussion disintegrates into a rhetorical free-for-all: dragging out the tired old anti-Mormon weapons of polygamy, Adam-God, Mountain Meadows, and general Mormon peculiarity in his effort to applaud Twilight‘s artistry (Really? He thinks Meyer built all that into the series?) while denigrating Mormonism and to applaud Meyer for subverting Mormonism from within. By attributing such intentions to Meyer and her narrative without any logical or ethical thinking through of the issues (which would include doing his research on what Meyer and contemporary Mormons really believe, not simply what he thinks she/we believe) and by dismissing out-of-hand any believing Mormon responses to his work as polemically apologetic, he loses most—if not all—of his credibility in my book.

  33. Tyler

    the tired old anti-Mormon weapons of polygamy, Adam-God, Mountain Meadows, and general Mormon peculiarity

    Oh, and the (lack of) genetic proof for the Book of Mormon.

  34. Th.

    .

    Wow.

    I just read the Granger article and if he wasn’t a known personality I would have assumed this was a satire. It’s borderline hilarious.

  35. Tyler Chadwick Post author

    Sharon:

    I am curious, Tyler, in reading your “Towards a Mormon Gothic” it seemed that you believed Edwin Arnaudin (author of the MS paper “Mormon Vampires”) was not a Mormon, since you treat him together with Caitlin Flanigan (obviously not a LDS) and say that he “glosses over [the LDS Church] as a cult”.

    I’ve actually had a fair bit of contact with Edwin in terms of his paper (which he submitted to RUD and which I worked with him on until, for various reasons, he decided to go another way with it) and I’m fairly positive he is not LDS. I’ve invited him into the conversation, though, to give him the chance to speak for himself.

    As for this—

    I presumed Arnaudin was [...] gently promoting the suggestion that non-Mormons (like myself) read up on the LDS church so they can understand books by Mormon authors better.”

    —I think that is part of what he’s doing, though the tone of his paper is quite cautionary. In other words, tread carefully lest Twilight proselytize you into Meyer’s faith. I get this especially from his “rabbit hole” metaphor—that readers must beware lest they fall down the “rabbit hole” of Meyer’s faith—and from his comment that Twilight is simply Mormonism “cloaked” in clever vampire tale (see pg. 91 of his thesis). This tone, along with the resources from which he draws his information about Mormonism (one an ex-Mormon diatribe), his need to reference the religion as a cult, and the personal interactions I’ve had with him in which he thanked me for pointing him to certain resources on the Church, suggested to me that he’s not LDS.

    Which leads me to suggest one of the biggest things you can do to determine whether or not, as you say, a writer of a critique is LDS: Acquaint yourself with Mormon culture and theology by referring to the resources we’ve suggested here (and to the resources suggested within those resources). Becoming conversant (or at least semi-conversant) in the language of Mormon culture can often help you detect within the writer’s rhetoric and tone whether or not they’re speaking from within the Mormon tradition. And, of course, if all else fails, you can ask.

    Any other suggestions, AMVers?

  36. Tyler Chadwick Post author

    Th.:

    I just read the Granger article and if he wasn’t a known personality I would have assumed this was a satire. It’s borderline hilarious.

    It is pretty laughable, isn’t it, how he just throws everything into the pot—like he was just wallowing in every anti-Mormon sentiment he could find and then decided to write about Twilight as a release.

    As I read it, I just kept shaking my head, asking, “Where in the hell did he come up with that? And are people actually buying what he’s trying to sell?”

  37. Laura Craner

    Just glanced through Granger’s Touchstone article and I have a beef beyond all the weirdo Mormon stuff:

    Where is he getting that Bella is a feminist?

    Did he actually read the books?

    She moms every person in the books. Example: Charlie. The first twenty pages of the saga have her giving up any freedom she might have had with her own completely irresponsible mother to take care of him. She cooks, cleans, and does his laundry. Not to mention she gives up EVERYTHING in her life for the sake of love and romance. Sheesh. The only way Bella’s anti-Friedan identity could have been more clear is if she carried a vacuum attachment on her belt.

    And, um, Meyer’s readers ARE Mormon. Particularly Mormon women. And that guy has us pegged all wrong.

  38. Laura Craner

    Th–

    I’ve been racking my brain as to when I posted something about figuring out whether or not an author was Mormon. . . the closest thing I could come up with was my “What’s Your Sign” post, but that was more about social situations. I did have a post about “Mormon-ing” books. It was called If you can “Queer” a book can you “Mormon” a book? Maybe that’s what you were remembering. (I’m trying to link to it using some html, but I’m a computer code dummy so it might not work. . .)

  39. Seth R.

    Guys, I just drove past a meadow today.

    I am sooo gonna have nightmares tonight. Let me tell you…

    As for Granger’s humans becoming divine theme – didn’t have much beef with that. Seemed legitimate enough, if somewhat speculative on his part.

  40. Tyler

    Add to the contrast of these “significant” meadows (I didn’t notice anything sparkly in that photo you linked to, Th. Did you?) the notion that mountains are generally taken as sacred space—and not just within Mormon culture and theology (see paragraph two here)—and there’s something else Granger has failed to account for: the mountain as “temple,” a place where humans have historically gone (think Moses, Abraham, Christ, Nephi, any number of explorers/mountaineers/philosophers/writers, etc.) to escape the world and commune, through some ritual or another, with something higher: God, nature, a purified version of the self.

    Contrary to what Granger believes, Mormons do have a spiritual side beneath our proclivity for violence.

  41. Eugene

    I believe Granger is trying to do Meyer–and Mormonism–a favor. His mistake is finding depth where none exists. So he has to import it from somewhere else. Lacking sufficient knowledge of Mormon culture and theology as understood from within, he falls back on Mormonism as understood from without.

    This is the kind of nonsense you get whenever academics overanalyze “popular” culture. Ironically, Granger ends up doing exactly what he set out not to do. I’d really like it if Meyer were that clever. Heck, I wish I were that clever. The expression, “You can’t make this stuff up,” applies.

    But here’s the thing: everybody does it. It’s never enough to grant that somebody creates art, or enjoys it, for straightforward reasons. Or their reasons. Here’s an experiment: write a novel about vampires from inside Mormon society and watch in amazement as Mormons assign to it “meanings” that never entered your brain.

    Oh, wait, I did that.

    As Camille Paglia puts it, “The modernist doctrine of the work’s self-reflexiveness once empowered art but has ended by strangling it in gimmickry.”

  42. William Morris

    That’s a sweet Paglia quote, Eugene. I completely agree.

  43. Sharon

    Th: Yes, I did realise that you were the person who wrote “Saturday’s Werewolf”, and thus also that you were LDS. I was more asking whether Tyler thought Arnaudin was LDS, which he has answered for me above (thank you very much for your opinion, Tyler).

    Tyler: You wrote that becoming conversant with the language of Mormon culture can help me to detect whether a given author fits within that culture or not. Obviously my reading this blog and coming back to the comment string here is part of my attempt to do just that.

    So in this vein, can you help to clarify for me, would Latter-day Saints prefer to be referred to as “Mormon” or “LDS”? (Also, should there be a capital for “day” above?) I read in one LDS blog that LDS is what you call yourselves, and Mormon is what you have been called (and called yourselves) in the past but that you generally don’t use “Mormon” any more as it has negative connotations in the wider American culture. Hence I have tried to use “LDS” in my comments above.

    Yet I am noticing on this blog that the term “Mormon” seems to be used more commonly, and obviously with no thought that it could be construed a derogatory term. So is it just that I read something that is not generally accurate? Or is it that people who care less about what other people think of their “Mormon-ness” are more apt to use the title for themselves? Or is it similar to (as I understand it) the use of the term “nigger”? (Whereby in conversation between African Americans, “nigger” can even be a term of endearment, however if a white American uses it of an African American, it by definition must be presumed to be intended to cause offence.) Thus within this (except for my presence) LDS forum, Mormon is used comfortably, yet I should still (as the outsider grateful of her welcome) be using LDS as a mark of polite respect? Or is it that “LDS” is the term used when talking of theological doctrine etc, and “Mormon” is the term used when talking of how that theology looks in the lives and culture of LDS faithful? Please help! I want to understand, not offend.

    For the information of those who are critiquing Granger’s hypotheses about Meyer’s books, can I humbly suggest you read his Spotlight when it comes out in a week or so? I haven’t had time to read the Touchstone article yet, but I have read a reviewer’s copy of Granger’s book, and while you may not agree with his analysis of a possible Mountain Meadows connection, he does treat in great detail the “mountain meadow as place of religious experience in many cultures” connection within his anagogical interpretation. He has brought out the same ideas that Tyler mentioned above in comment 47. So perhaps Granger’s Touchstone article was just too brief to include all his thoughts on the allegorical meaning of the meadows in Twilight.

    Seth, you wrote: “There is a very real temptation to assume that the members of a group are thinking about the same things we are thinking about when we are thinking about them.” And Eugene, you wrote that, “Lacking sufficient knowledge of Mormon culture and theology as understood from within, [Granger] falls back on Mormonism as understood from without.”

    This goes back to my point in my first comment on this post. As a non-Mormon myself, when I read Meyer’s books, knowing that she is a LDS, I do try to work out how what she has written fits with what I know of the LDS. However, the inside of my head is the inside of a Reformed Evangelical Christian’s head (to give me some labels) and so it is very hard for me to get a real sense of what it might be like inside the head of a LDS. Even though Meyer and I are both wives and mothers of a similar age, who have a similar number of children, and who are both stay-at-home mothers.

    The thing is, non-LDS people have very little to go by, in order to understand LDSs. We can read the Book of Mormon I guess, but frankly I’d rather spend my time reading my own religion’s Scriptural canon than that of other religions. You can call me lazy, but there are only so many hours in one day.

    Also, I feel that reading the scriptures of another religion is not necessarily the best way of understanding that religion anyway. I know that until I became a Christian, and the Holy Spirit entered into me, the Bible was just a collection of stories, poems, letters etc. Now, I read the Bible and learn and see and gain wisdom for faith and living. I don’t think that, as a non-Mormon, I would be able to identify the core LDS doctrines from reading the Book of Mormon myself. Not with the number of hours presently in a day, anyway!

    So I have come here to AMV to, as Tyler put it above, “do research into what contemporary Mormons really believe.” And while I am on this topic, thanks for the book recommendations above: my local library is ordering Mormonism for Dummies in for me.

    Seth, you also said: “So that must mean that each and every American Protestant is torn with internal conflict over how to resolve the Trinity, right?”

    Well, I’m an Australian Protestant, not an American one, but I actually spend a fair bit of time thinking about the Trinity. How it works; how to explain it to my kids; what it means for the church, Christ’s bride; what it means for me, since my body is a temple for the Holy Spirit (1Cor6:19); what it means for the way I pray, and which person of the Trinity I direct my praise and thanksgiving and petitions and apologies to… Perhaps I am more on the “pious” end of the scale of things than the “nominally religious”, but I have conversations about these things with other Protestants fairly regularly.

    When I think of Lutherans, I think of the doctrine of transubstantiation, and Martin Luther’s take on that compared to the one of the Catholic Church and compared also to that of John Calvin’s interpretation. But I have to admit, most of the Lutherans I have known (I used to teach at a Lutheran church school a long time ago) didn’t discuss this doctrine in general conversation. At least not with me.

    While I used to live in a suburb with a LDS chapel (church? meeting house? stake? I am not sure of what term is appropriate to use – see how clueless I am!), and have had a few short conversations with an LDS woman who lived around the corner from me, I have no access in my present location to connect in a casual, face-to-face conversation with any LDS. I probably could ring up the local LDS church and ask them to send a missionary around for a chat about the way their faith works itself out in real life. But they wouldn’t be likely to be 30-ish “Mormon housewife” material (to quote Lev Grossman’s famous/infamous Time article on Meyer). I doubt they could provide me with literary criticism of the metaphorical imagery of Meyer’s novels, either.

    Furthermore, if Arnaudin’s descriptions of the LDS practice of constraining discussion of LDS doctrine with non-LDS according to a “milk before meat” formula are accurate, I am not sure that I would get an honest and complete portrayal of LDS doctrine and culture and the doctrine-culture intersect anyway.

    Which brings me back to my problem, and Granger’s. While I acknowledge that within every faith there are people who are more knowledgeable about the faith’s doctrines than others, I have to presume that people of a different faith to me know at least as much about their religion as I know about it from reading (even casually) about it from the outside.

    For example, I know nothing about the Ba’ha’i faith (even how to spell it!) than that it is a conscious attempt to reconcile many faiths into one amalgam faith. But I have to assume that every single Ba’ha’i person knows the above about their faith for themselves, since it is obvious even to me, a complete outsider.

    Likewise, if I read something about LDS doctrine on LDS.org or mormon.org, for example, I presume that most relatively knowledgeable LDS people would at least be able to articulate this doctrines, or at the very least have heard of it. Granger has done homework. He’s read your recommendation of Mormonism for Dummies, at least.

    Maybe my presumption is overly optimistic. It would not be too overly optimistic to presume a good standard of doctrinal knowledge in the congregation of which I am a member. We listen to sermons on predestination, redemption, grace, mercy, the gospel of Jesus Christ, sin, salvation, eschatology, hermeneutics, Christology etc frequently. And then we discuss them and respond to them in our congregation response time afterwards.

    Also, from the outside looking in, and as a generalisation, it seems that LDS people tend to take their faith seriously. So I would assume the “average” LDS knows more about LDS doctrine than the “average” liberal Christian knows about (mainstream) Christian doctrine, for example.

    So, Seth, in answer to your criticism of Granger’s article, I have the following to say: if you want to write an article or book providing an insider’s hypothesis into the connections between Meyer’s faith and her books, go ahead! I will buy it. If you already have, please let me know where I can find it.

    But if you won’t provide credible information to help non-LDS people understand Meyer’s work from your privileged position of already being “inside the head” of a fellow-LDS, I don’t see how you can complain when a non-LDS person tries their best to work it out for themselves. No-one is infallible. We all make mistakes. Granger’s work is one of logical analysis using literary criticism methods, which has produced a hypothesis, based upon his (albeit limited) knowledge of the LDS. It can only be judged according to that standard.

    And when you write the LDS-perspective on Meyer’s books that I am so eager for, I hope for your sake that other LDS people don’t shoot your hypotheses down in flames saying you know not whence you speak.

  44. Katya

    Sharon,

    I’ll weigh in on the terminology, at least.

    I (and I suspect most others) don’t find anything at all offensive about the term “Mormon.” However, that term can technically apply to multiple denominations, so the leaders of our church are more likely to use LDS / Latter-day Saint to be more precise, and some members also follow in that vein. (The “d” is not capitalized.)

    If you made a pie chart of the membership of all the denominations that trace their roots to Joseph Smith, the LDS Church would account for over 90% of the total, so it’s no wonder that “Mormon” is generally synonymous with “LDS.” However, some of the smaller splinter groups (“splinter,” from our perspective) get a lot of attention in the media, which leads to confusion about whether or not members of the LDS Church currently practice polygamy, use electricity, etc.

    As you’ve noticed, one problem with using “LDS” over “Mormon” is that “Mormon” can be an adjective and a noun (perhaps, more technically, a substantive), while “LDS” isn’t as flexible. (Although maybe your “LDSs” will catch on. ;) )

  45. Jettboy

    Sharon, I think the biggest problem that we find with Granger is that he doesn’t try to listen to Mormons who critique his works. His assumptions are taken at face value without input from those who inhabit the world he is trying to use to understand Twilight. The fact you are asking question here is a good start. If you were to present a paper to a few Mormons and ask what they thought without dismissing them then the conclusions might be more realistic. That doesn’t mean you have to agree with every criticism (us Mormons are diverse as anyone), but at least use them when helpful.

    “I hope for your sake that other LDS people don’t shoot your hypotheses down in flames saying you know not whence you speak.”

    Can’t be avoided. That is the name of the game – see the diversity comment above. However, if a large enough group of people you respect shoots the hypothesis down, perhaps there are good reasons. We Mormons at least on this blog don’t feel that respect from Granger; only defensiveness.

  46. Th.

    .

    On the adj/noun thing, the noun form of LDS is Latter-day Saint (which is unwieldy) or Saint (which we don’t expect those who aren’t LDS else to say).

    Also, in other Joseph Smith-based traditions, the capping of the D may be different. Wikipedia’s editors decided that the proper generic was Latter Day Saint, and that Latter-day Saint was specifically for the Salt Lake version of Smithdom (which word I just made up).

  47. Katya

    >55.

    Good call on the different capping of the “D” for different denominations. It wasn’t Wikipedia who decided on the hyphen and lower-case “d” for us, though; it’s the trademarked name of our denomination.

  48. Sharon

    Thanks for your help with the nomenclature above everyone. I think I will stick to LDS so no-one gets confused, least of all me!

    While we are on the topic of nomenclature, you might like to know that Granger is not Protestant, as you have presumed. He is Orthodox Christian.

    Laura, you wrote at comment 42, Meyer’s readers ARE Mormon. Particularly Mormon women.

    Not all of them! Not me, and not even most of Meyer’s readers, I presume, going by the sales figures. Every reader of the books that I know personally is not LDS.

    I suspect part of Granger’s reasoning includes the fact that Meyer sought publication with a secular publisher, rather than a LDS publishing house. In all her interviews where Meyer has discussed how she first got published, she never mentions considering approaching Deseret Book, for example. Her intended audience, when it comes to publishing the books, then, must be presumed to be secular, or at least primarily non-LDS.

    Meyer’s initial audience was herself and her sister, both LDS. So any analysis has to take that audience into account as well, of course.

    Tyler, you wrote: He thinks Meyer built all that into the series?

    In answer to this, I have to say that Granger seems to have a higher view of Meyer’s abilities than you, but yes. Meyer does have a degree in Literature. So she presumably completed some studies of allegory and other rhetorical tropes in that. Her degree is from BYU. So her lecturers must have been LDSs and capable of discussing the connections between their academic discipline and the LDS faith. (Not having been to BYU myself, I am making a presumption here. But isn’t that the whole point of denominational academic institutions? It’s why I send my kids to a Christian school, anyway.) Perhaps Meyer learnt some of her admirable literary skills from her BYU mentors.

    Now I have another question, which relates particularly to Seth’s comment at #45: As for Granger’s humans becoming divine theme – didn’t have much beef with that. Seemed legitimate enough, if somewhat speculative on his part.

    First of all, of course what I write below is speculation. Until Meyer tells me face-to-face that I’m completely wrong – or completely right – I’m going to keep trying to work out the puzzle that her work provides to me. It is intriguing!

    When I read the Twilight books, particularly the last one, I got the idea that there must be some reason for Meyer inventing all those vampires to add to the story line at almost the last moment. I suppose you could argue that she needed the numbers to have a reason for the Volturi to pause, but she could have done that merely with the added number of werewolves visible in the clearing, as indeed she did. There are a lot of new vampire characters, and they all have quite detailed personalities and histories. That is a lot of work for an author who is merely creating characters for the sake of numbers. (And one whose book was already so long.)

    So I asked myself, who are all these vampires? Why are they in the story?

    And the answer that I came up with – non-LDS person with limited LDS knowledge that I am – is that they are metaphorical representations of people, or groups of people, Meyer knows, or knows of.

    Now this is merely my hypothesis. But it seems to me that if Bella attains “perfection” as a vampire of the Cullen-vegetarian variety, given Seth R’s comment above about humans becoming divine being a legitimate LDS theme, if you will, then it seems to me that the Cullens must be a metaphor for Latter-day Saints, or even the entire Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

    Now Seth, you said above that Linking the Volturi to the Catholic Church is just silly. Why do you think that? If the Cullens are metaphorical Latter-day Saints, then it is natural that the vampires Carlisle spent time with before he decided to go away on his own, because he didn’t agree with their philosophy of vampirism, would be the metaphorical representation of the Catholic church. Didn’t Joseph Smith have a vision that told him not to be a Catholic, that the Catholic church was apostate? That is what Meyer has shown with the Volturi – they are the epitome of a group who has authority they don’t really deserve. And they’re Italian, for goodness sake! Doesn’t that give you just the slightest hint?

    So all the other vampires are, well, who? I think they are metaphorical representations of other Christian denominations. The Romanian vampires represent the Orthodox church, for example. Just check out their conversations with Bella et al about how the Volturi (Catholics) “stole” their power and position 1500 years ago (Breaking Dawn p626-632, 658). That reminds me a lot of what I learnt in my Church History lectures.

    So, from this simple overview of my hypothesis, do you agree that this might be a reasonable allegory for a LDS author to develop? It may have been initially unintentional, in the way that CS Lewis wrote that the Christian allegory in his Narnia series just seemed to “bubble up” as a natural outworking of his faith in his story-writing. If you think this interpretation is unreasonable, please tell me why. Please don’t just tell me I’m an idiot for even considering it. And keep in mind Meyer’s degree in Literature from BYU!

  49. Jettboy

    Sharon, if what you say is true then it has less to do with Latter-day Saints in general and more to do with Stephanie Meyer in particular. We Latter-day Saints really don’t learn Christian Church history in any detail in Church or anywhere else officially. Anything that does get taught is so general that it would have to be a personal study on denominations. In other words, its possible, but unlikely.

    “Didn’t Joseph Smith have a vision that told him not to be a Catholic, that the Catholic church was apostate?”

    That would be stretching the First Vision narrative too specifically. No denomination of any kind was mentioned, just vague notions of false creeds. As he reported, “I was answered that I must join none of them [sects], for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: ‘they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.’ He again forbade me to join with any of them; and many other things did he say unto me, which I cannot write at this time.”

    Most of us are going under the assumption that Meyer is a typical Latter-day Saint, and her biography and writing doesn’t give any hints that is not true. She might be more clever than we give her credit for, but it so than much of it is her own doing with her Mormonism tangential to her creativity.

  50. Eugene

    As I said before, I want Meyer to be that deep. I just don’t think she’s deep in the way Granger thinks she is. I don’t think I’m that deep, and I have a BA and an MA from BYU. Though maybe if I write something really popular, it’ll turn out that I am!

    In any case, if a Mormon came up with such a tortured analysis, it would be just as silly, but at least it’d be more convincing to other Mormons.

    Granger reminds me of Edward Zwick’s The Last Samurai, which is quite enjoyable, but so anachronistic and historically inaccurate that it qualifies more as fantasy. B-movie hack Steven Seagal actually has more practical knowledge of Japan than Zwick does, for all his experts and advisors.

    So when I watch Into the Sun, I say, “Wow, Seagal knows what he’s taking about.” It’s still a dumb movie, but it’s dumb for the “right” reasons.

  51. Th.

    .

    On the other hand, I think the privilege of being a critic in a highly educated society is that you get to make things up and as long as you have some textual evidence it doesn’t matter how ludicrous your thesis. This is criticism as a game and it is delightful.

    I don’t however find it to be particularly helpful in actually understanding a work of literature. It’s more of a parlor game than genuine analysis. It’s fun, but meaningless.

    IMHO.

  52. Tyler

    Sharon:

    I don’t think anyone here is forgetting that Meyer has a bachelor’s degree in literature, which surely signals that she has a fair breadth of knowledge when it comes to most things literary (allegory and rhetorical tropes included). That her degree is from BYU further suggests that she’s undertaken some exploration as to the relationship between Mormonism and literature (and who knows how much of this she’s undertaken outside of her education at BYU). But not, unless I’m completely mistaken (and you BYU lit grads will have to confirm this), to the degree Granger is suggesting in his discussion of Twilight—especially as this relates to the more controversial aspects of Mormon history and culture.

  53. Th.

    .

    My life history is nearly identical to hers (excepting memorable vampire dreams) and I don’t see it as likely as all.

  54. Jonathan Langford

    A couple of thoughts…

    First, on Mormon vs. LDS: It seems to me that on the level of connotation, “LDS” tends to be associated more with official Church identity (e.g., membership, official Church events), whereas “Mormon” tends to be associated with culture. This is one reason why the more common term is “Mormon literature,” rather than “LDS literature.” “LDS literature” would be associated with literature that was sold in LDS bookstores–which are, however, LDS bookstores, not Mormon bookstores. Does that blow away my hypthesis here?

    Anyway, that gets at one important point about how to tell a Mormon or careful non-Mormon writer from a less-informed writer. It’s less in the stance, I think (because we Mormons do vary a great deal, more often than I think we realize), than in the details. Example: In Advise and Consent, Allen Drury makes an offhand reference to a senator’s family wanting him to become a missionary, in a way that shows that Drury assumed this was a lifetime calling, not a two-year experience. I don’t know any real way to “get” those details, aside from (a) learning Mormon culture (and you’re right that the religious books aren’t necessarily the best way to do that), and then (b) following the suggestion of others above and get some LDS readers to vet your ideas.

    And now on to other thoughts…

    It’s not common to write allegorically these days. C.S. Lewis was something of an exception to that. Even within literature programs, I don’t think this is a mode of interpretation that’s emphasized, except for some works like The Faerie Queen that absolutely demand it. That’s as true at BYU as anywhere else, based on my experience. (I also have a B.A. and M.A. in literature from BYU.) You get a lot more on symbolism, style, characterization, and even rhetorical criticism, though I suppose that would vary depending on which professors she had.

    In any event, the connection between studying literature and learning how to write creatively is, I think, a highly indirect one, especially at the undergraduate level. I have a LOT of friends from BYU who went on to write science fiction and fantasy of one form or another. I don’t believe that Meyers was ever a part of that particular community… Anyway, it’s certainly true that our ideas about our religious beliefs impacted our writing. Mostly, though, it was on a thematic level. My friend Dave Wolverton, for example, writing as David Farland, grapples with issues of wealth from and inequality in society in his Runelords books from a profoundly LDS perspective (though one that’s unlikely to be popular with those who are more conservative politically). Orson Scott Card deals with issues of how one ought to use godlike power in The Worthing Chronicle. When Mormons do go allegorical in speculative fiction, they tend to do so from a theological perspective–presenting the Plan of Salvation from an allegorical point of view–or playing with alternative possibilities for our own religious history, as Card does in a variety of works and as Lee Allred does (for example) in his alternative story, “For the Strength of the Hills.” This sounds very different from what Granger is proposing. If Meyers did that, then it would have been a highly individual, even eccentric reaction to her own Mormonism, from a cultural perspective–at 90 degrees from what other Mormons think about and do.

  55. Eugene

    As my sister observes about the Folklore & Literature course she teaches: “[A]lthough folklore fascinates me all by itself, finding itty-bitty folkloric symbols in stories just doesn’t. It never has. I’m all about formal criticism, but I think the story matters more than the itty-bitty symbols (and that kind of analysis always strikes me as rather desperate).”

  56. Daniel O. McClellan

    Thanks for this interesting discussion. I do history of the ancient persuasion and am not generally involved in discussions of modern fiction, but I am LDS and have a good deal of experience with LDS history. I ran across Granger’s article and felt it merited a detailed response. I provide one on my blog here:

    http://danielomcclellan.wordpress.com/2009/12/10/mormon-vampires-in-the-garden-of-eden/

    Many of my criticisms coincide with Seth’s comments in #32 above. Again, thanks for the enlightening discussion here.

  57. Sharon

    Thank you everyone above, in particular Jonathan Langford for your most detailed response. I am taking on board your comments re the use of the term Mormon. And thank you Jettboy for correcting my misunderstanding about Joseph Smith’s vision, and for making clear the point about Mormon general knowledge about Church History. Yes, Tyler, Mk 6:4 is exactly the sort of thing I was thinking of!

    Your responses help me see that there are basic problems with the idea that there is a deliberate metaphor for religious denominations in Meyer’s work, but still leave me wondering why she developed so many characters at the last minute that to me (with my own limited studies in Church History from a Protestant perspective) line up to represent various Christian denominations very smoothly. Hmmm.

    So can anyone tell me what is the general understanding about non-LDS denominations among Mormons? Obviously Jettboy’s quote above gives me the historical background, but how does that work out in Mormonism today? Do Mormons just assume all Christian denominations are apostate as per “their creeds are an abomination” and not bother to differentiate between any of them? Is there any distinction made between mainstream Christian denominations (for example Baptist) and those denominations that many mainstream Christians would call “heretical sects”? (Obviously I am not talking about the LDS church here, whatever their status, which I do not wish to debate as I stated in my first comment. I am referring to other groups, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses and Seventh Day Adventists).

    In a similar vein, what is the general approach to the FLDS? Someone above referred to them as a “splinter” group, I think. How does that perspective work itself out in LDS-Mormon conversation about the FLDS?

    In conversation with my husband, I have been talking about your comments that Meyer has probably not deliberately constructed a cast of characters who conform as a strict metaphor to various denominations. He has suggested an allied alternative. Do you think it possible/reasonable that Meyer has drawn upon a stereotypical understanding of these varying denominations from her Mormon perspective (as per all my questions above) in creating her characters, much as any author will draw upon their experience – and then transform it – in creating a story?

    Also, Meyer has specifically said in several forums (newspaper/magazine interviews, online fansites etc) that she does see the LDS theme of “overcoming the natural man” coming through in her work. Reiss came to the same conclusion in her lecture that I linked to above.

    Now I know that LDS people are often criticised by non-LDS people for an overemphasis on justification through works. The LDS response is often that the non-LDS person does not understand the LDS doctrine properly. So in order to help me avoid this error, can someone(s) please explain to me the significance of the doctrine surrounding the idea of “overcoming the natural man”, and how that fits with the LDS “Plan of Salvation” as Jonathan Langford put it above? Is a level of personal righteousness seen as a necessary pre-cursor to faith, according to LDS doctrine? Is an increase in personal righteousness seen as the result of faith? Or evidence of faith? Or necessary for exaltation/divinisation? Or some combination of any of these or other ideas? Is divinisation the same as post-mortal exaltation, or are they subtly different?

    From listening to Reiss’s lecture, I got the idea that “overcoming the natural man” meant something about coming back into a relationship. She said that the term “natural man” is the description of the absence of relationship, not a tidy pejorative statement about immorality. So does “overcoming the natural man” mean coming back into a (right) relationship with God? Or is it coming back to a (right) relationship with other people? Or is it characterised by both of these? Is “overcoming the natural man” something that culminates in divinisation?

    Within the constraints of Meyer’s imaginary America, it seems that immortality for vampires and werewolves could easily represent an LDS view of post-mortal exalted life. That is, if Meyer has indeed created an allegory of the LDS Plan of Salvation, as Jonathan said was more likely for a Mormon author than my previous hypothesis. Seth R commented at #45 above that As for Granger’s humans becoming divine theme – didn’t have much beef with that. Seemed legitimate enough, if somewhat speculative… So could Bella’s state of perfection as a newborn immortal vampire, able to overcome her desire to drink human blood with little effort, represent her achieving post-mortal exaltation in the LDS way?

    Please excuse me if I have asked something that made you think I was just trying to get a rise out of you. That is not my intention at all. It is hard enough grappling with what certain words mean according to my own religion’s systematic theology, let alone that of another similar-but-different religion. And I am not merely being lazy to do my own research either – my copy of Mormonism for Dummies hasn’t come in on inter-library loan yet.

    Thank you again for all your help in understanding the Mormon perspective.

  58. Jettboy

    “Do Mormons just assume all Christian denominations are apostate as per “their creeds are an abomination” and not bother to differentiate between any of them?”

    I would have to say yes that Mormons are anti-everything in their approach to religion. If I was to break it down, it would be similar to how the link puts it: Jews, Catholics, Protestants(Baptists are singled out because many are antagonistic), and Other. Muslims only recently have been higher up on the radar for obvious reasons, but its not clear the general opinion. It is true that Catholics sometimes get the most detailed critical treatment, but mostly no different than Protestant criticism of them. The “heretical sects” are viewed as just more Christian denominations usually under the Protestant (even if they don’t want them) umbrella. That said, at various times good things have been expressed about all of the above. Ideally a Mormon would just ignore all of them and get on with their own religious living.

    “How does that perspective work itself out in LDS-Mormon conversation about the FLDS?”

    How does the general public talk about them? Chances are very likely Mormons hold them with the same negativity. Most would just not like to talk about them at all. They are as “alien” to modern Mormons as the general public. Yes we have shared histories. Similarities are considered ended there. They are like the “creepy uncle” you want to stay away from no matter how related by blood.

    I don’t have time to go into the grace, works, and exaltation discussion at the moment. However, thinking about it I think Mr. Cullen is far more the Christ figure than Edward. He is the one who brought life from death. He is the one who taught them control and comforted them in their blood-lust.

  59. Sharon

    Jettboy, I like that “creepy uncle” analogy. Thanks for clarifying. You asked, How does the general public talk about them? I live in Australia and I don’t think there are any FLDS here at all. If there are, they are definitely not in the public eye. So the general public doesn’t talk about them at all. Of course, I am assuming that is different in the wider US.

  60. Th.

    .

    Sharon—

    With the grace v works issue, we have arrived in an arena where not all Mormons will agree with each other. The math of salvation (if you will) is not entirely clear to us.

    Probably the most quoted verse on the topic is from the Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 25:23, “For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.”

    (I don’t know if there is a way to search General Conference talks by scripture quoted — anyone know? Because how this scripture is discussed, it occurs to me, would make an excellent personal study course.)

  61. Th.

    .

    Here’s my interpretation of that scripture:

    God expects me to be the best person I can be. But even so I will never be good enough. Only Christ can win my way to heaven. I am powerless.

    ————–

    I’m afraid, in other news, that although I get the gist of the word divinisation, I had never heard it before this string and so I am powerless to compare the concept to exaltation.

  62. Katya

    I don’t know if there is a way to search General Conference talks by scripture quoted — anyone know?

    Go to scriptures.byu.edu

    To save you the trouble, I get 42 hits for 2 Nephi 25:23. (To put that into perspective, though, 2 Nephi 2:25 gets quoted 130 times.)

  63. Adam K. K. Figueira

    I would add to Jettboy #69 that although theologically Mormons are “anti-everything” in the sense that we make a claim to be the only true church, that doesn’t translate to a denial of good intent or even divine inspiration on the part of other faiths. It also doesn’t mean that Mormons won’t associate with those of other faiths in (to an extent) worship – as do Jehovah’s Witnesses – or in civic action or other acts of community forming. I’m thinking of the numerous times I’ve heard LDS General Authorities refer from the pulpit to contemporary leaders of other faiths – even Catholics – as men or women “of God.”

    The touching tribute payed to President Hinckley during his funeral procession (as well as other Prophets) by the Cathedral of the Madeleine bespeaks the close relationship of the Salt Lake Catholic Diocese with the LDS church. President Thomas S. Monson summarized it this way:

    “Beginning with the death of LDS Church President Joseph F. Smith on November 19, 1918, and continuing through the passing of President Gordon B. Hinckley 18 months ago, the bells of the Cathedral have tolled in tribute to these LDS Church Presidents — a demonstration of the ecumenical brotherhood which has existed between our churches.”

    Contrast that with the Baptist church (well, four members of it, anyway) that protested the funeral with signs saying “God hates Gordon B. Hinckley” and “You’re going to hell,” and you can see why Baptists sometimes get singled out, as Jettboy says.

    I also think there’s a subtle difference in the way most Mormons I know view Jehovah’s Witnesses. If FLDS are the “creepy uncle” (an apt analogy), then the Witnesses are perhaps the geeky coworker. They do some of the same things we do but in a way that we find distinctly odd. We can become slightly uncomfortable in their presence because of their enthusiasm and obvious assumptions about who we are. They’re not family members by any means, but still lovable enough to be the butt of a well meant joke. Only once in a while are we openly antagonistic to each other. In short, we have a “bless their hearts” attitude towards them from a distance, and a “not right now” attitude up close. But the similarities between their direct proselytizing and ours separate them from the general pack of Protestants.

    At least that’s my experience.

    In addition, many Mormons know enough to get a sense for when they’re dealing with someone slightly to one side of mainstream Protestant Christianity, such as a Seventh Day Adventist.

    I guess my point is that I don’t think it’s fair to claim that we don’t bother to distinguish between different faiths in a cultural or interpersonal sense, although our theology definitely recognizes no other belief system as completely effectual.

  64. Tyler

    Sharon:

    Within the constraints of Meyer’s imaginary America, it seems that immortality for vampires and werewolves could easily represent an LDS view of post-mortal exalted life. [...] So could Bella’s state of perfection as a newborn immortal vampire, able to overcome her desire to drink human blood with little effort, represent her achieving post-mortal exaltation in the LDS way?

    I hope you don’t mind: I’ve sent you an email with an article attached that addresses this idea more specifically. So keep your eyes out for something from my name [at] motleyvision.org; and if you don’t get it, let me know. I’ll try again.

  65. Tyler

    Sharon:

    Re: grace v. works:

    Here’s how the LDS Church defines “Grace” on mormon.org, which is the Church’s official website devoted to outlining basic LDS beliefs for non-Mormons or those new to the faith (whereas lds.org provides resources for Mormons and others seeking greater specificity and depth as regards the Church’s official doctrines and institutional policies; it provides transcripts from the Church’s annual and semi-annual conference—wherein Church leaders speak from the pulpit to LDS around the world—and access to lesson manuals and the Church’s official periodicals).

    And here’s how grace is expounded in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism (not an official LDS publication, but still a very reliable source to consult in matters of Mormon theology and cultural practice).

    Also, for more on Mountain Meadows from an LDS perspective, see this article published in the Ensign (one of the Church’s official magazines) in 2007 and this entry in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism. This response to the Ensign article is also quite interesting.

    Hopefully these can provide some additional insight into the matters we’ve been discussing here in terms of the intersection of Twilight and Mormon culture and theology.

  66. Th.

    .

    I would also like to plug the Encyclopedia of Mormonism as a good source for understanding Mormonism the way Mormons do. Alphabetized entries are so handy.

  67. Jonathan Langford

    A very good basic source on LDS doctrine as accepted generally, officially, and pretty much noncontroversially is True to the Faith, a short, alphabetically organized book that was published by the Church in 2004 and is also available electronically at http://www.lds.org/languages/youthmaterials/trueToThefaith/TrueFaith_000.pdf. (I’ll try to go back and insert that as a link.) You won’t get detailed or in-depth discussion of anything, but for understanding what the basic, generally accepted starting-point is in areas such as the doctrine of grace, works, and faith, you can’t really get much better. Individual Mormons will quibble with some elements of the definitions, but for the general Mormon understanding, this is possibly the best place to go. (The Encyclopedia of Mormonism is good for more in-depth information, but my experience has been that it also includes entries that are sometimes one-sided or eccentric.)

  68. Th.

    .

    Well, now I’m torn. I’m cited in Spotlight’s intro, but he spelled my name wrong. Now how should I feel?

  69. Jettboy

    [The author of Spotlight] blatantly states he isn’t qualified to give a psychological examination of Meyer or the books. he then asks the rhetorical question how in the world can he know anything about a Mormon mother? And yet he says, in essence . . . I’m going to write about the books with these topics anyway.

    [Wm says -- I think we can make the same point without the name calling even if it was expressed in an incredibly mild form (and I do appreciate your restraint Jettboy, but I'm going to exercise AMV prerogative here and make a slight edit to this comment)]

  70. Sharon

    Thanks everyone for your discussion, and thanks Tyler for the article, I did get it. I am still working my way through reading your answers and following your links, and will probably comment more later.

  71. Sharon

    re #81: Please don’t feel miffed, Th, it wasn’t the only spelling error in the manuscript. I think Granger may have only read your article after I pointed it out to him on the FHSProf blog several weeks ago. And how many times have you seen Meyer’s name spelt wrong in published articles? FWIW, if I manage to get anything published on the subject, I will try very hard to get all names spelt correctly!

  72. Th.

    .

    Oh, I’m pretty hard to miff. But I much enjoy pretending to be miffed!

    And, yeah, I’ve spelled her name wrong a jillion times myself.

  73. Sharon

    Tyler, in that article you sent me, Jonathan Green wrote, “Meyer takes the same cue for the conflict in Breaking Dawn, which is, to resurrect another Mormon trope, a battle of testimony.” Can you please explain what “a battle of testimony” means in Mormon culture? I suspect it has something to do with competing claims that Joseph Smith Jr really did find golden plates and translate them, or not, depending on which side of the “battle of testimony” one is on. Is this right? Is it applied more widely or more specifically than this? Thanks.

  74. Jettboy

    I must admit that I have never heard of “battle of testimony” either. Depending on the context, it is a made up by the author description or something I would have to disagree with existing. It is certainly not a term that Mormons use as a culture.

  75. Tyler

    Sharon:

    The idea of a “battle of testimony” refers to the War in Heaven. Mormons don’t believe this was a physical brawl between Michael & his angels and the dragon (Lucifer) & his angels, but, as the LDS Bible Dictionary states:

    a conflict that took place in the premortal existence among the spirit children of God. The war was primarily over how and in what manner the plan of salvation would be administered to the forthcoming human family upon the earth. The issues involved such things as agency, how to gain salvation, and who should be the Redeemer. The war broke out because one-third of the spirits refused to accept the appointment of Jesus Christ as the Savior. Such a refusal was a rebellion against the Father’s plan of redemption. It was evident that if given agency, some persons would fall short of complete salvation; Lucifer and his followers wanted salvation to come automatically to all who passed through mortality, without regard to individual preference, agency, or voluntary dedication (see Isa. 14: 12-20; Luke 10: 18; Rev. 12: 4-13; D&C 29: 36-38; Moses 4: 1-4). The spirits who thus rebelled and persisted were thrust out of heaven and cast down to the earth without mortal bodies, “and thus came the devil and his angels” (D&C 29: 37; see also Rev. 12: 9; Abr. 3: 24-28).

    The warfare is continued in mortality in the conflict between right and wrong; between the gospel and false principles, etc. The same contestants and the same issues are doing battle, and the same salvation is at stake.

    As Mormon children are taught, this war began because

    Lucifer became very angry that he wasn’t chosen. He did not accept Heavenly Father’s plan. [...] It was not a war of guns and bombs, but a war of talking and trying to get people to follow him. Lucifer convinced some of our spirit brothers and sisters that his evil ideas were good, and they chose to follow him instead of Jesus.

    (Forgive the repetition of ideas. I thought I’d choose two sources to show how the notion is taught to Mormons from the cradle to the grave, as it were.)

    In the Mormon worldview, then, this war was—and continues to be—a battle of testimony, something that will end decisively in favor of God. Meyer “resurrects” this Mormon trope in the final conflict of her Saga to suggest, I think, where the real power resides in this clash of vampires. Because Bella can do what she does by the end of Breaking Dawn, casting her protective influence over the clan of “good” vampires, violence is avoided and the agency of each character is preserved.

  76. Th.

    .

    I think it’s hard to overstate how important our concept of the War in Heaven is to our worldview. Although I’m pretty sure Green invented that specific term.

  77. Tyler

    Although I’m pretty sure Green invented that specific term.

    I was sure I’d heard it from a General Authority’s mouth at one time, but I must be mistaken. Though I have heard “battle of testimony” used in other Mormon forums.

  78. Eugene

    I’ve never heard the term “battle of testimony” before. And the subject being raised, the “War in Heaven” owes a lot to Milton, just as “Child of God” owes a lot to William Wordsworth (“But trailing clouds of glory do we come / From God, who is our home”). And not a “physical brawl”? C’mon, and lose out on all the fun Star Wars hooks?

  79. Jettboy

    It makes sense now, but I feel uncomfortable with the term. Sharon’s question points out why I hope it isn’t adopted. It can be misconstrued on so many levels.

  80. Wm Morris

    I’m not too keen on the term either (and also have never heard it before), and I agree with Jettboy about the high likelihood of it being misconstrued.

  81. Mojo

    I’ll chime in as one who’s never heard that term before.

    Apropos of nothing, I had someone ask me: “Why do Mormons consider pipes evil–or symbolic thereof?”

    Any ideas? Have no clue what he was talking about.

  82. Th.

    .

    Is he an Orson Scott Card fan? Because in Storyteller in Zion he wrote an essay about a pipe that appeared in an illustration while he was an editor at the Ensign.

  83. John Granger

    Mrs. Meyer has said in an interview on this website:

    “The professor who had the most influence on me was Steven Walker, mostly because he was just insanely brilliant. The way his mind worked was fascinating, and it helped me look at the literature we studied in so many new ways.”

    I hope we can accept this BYU English professor’s thoughts on Spotlight as having more authority than ‘Tyler’ or ‘JettBoy’ or the Oxford student studying Aramaic (!) on the subject of Mormonism, literature, and Twilight. He, at least, has a real grasp of LDS theology, history, and literature, has read the book, and understands literary alchemy and its ties to Mormon beliefs.

    Prof. Walker read Spotlight and wrote this note as his endorsement:

    “John Granger’s Spotlight probes deeply into Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series by means of an Eliade lens: ‘The reason people read is for some experience transcending their lives as egos.’ The reason we read Meyer so passionately, the reason we enter so ‘fully into her stories,’ Granger shows us, is the compelling mythic implications of her narratives, the religious ‘depths and heights’ they share with some of the best English literature. Granger persuades me that Meyer’s religious thought is so crucial to her fiction that to read it without consideration of the theology is to miss much of the point. As a believing Mormon like Meyer, I can testify it’s no light matter to succeed as this critical view does in deepening a Christian’s reading of his own theology. If you’re interested in how much religion can matter in modern fiction, you’ll be interested in Spotlight.”

    Professor Steve Walker

    Author of The Power of Tolkien’s Prose

    Do you think Prof. Walker would (a) endorse a book that bashed Mormonism or that was written without careful research into LDS history and thinking, or (b) that didn’t contribute significantly to the conversation about Twilight? I don’t. But that, of course, could be just another symptom of my desire to smuggle Mormon bashing arguments under the cover of literary criticism.

  84. William Morris

    An appeal to authority is always fun but seems rather weak, especially when delivered with a snarky slam against your “detractors.”

  85. William Morris

    Also as a warning to what I hope will be a good conversation: let me be clear that personal attacks against Meyer or Granger or Walker won’t be tolerated. It’s about the arguments and criticism tendered — not the person delivering them.

    And: I have only read the first Twilight novel and a few of John’s blog posts so I personally don’t feel like I have much of a bone in this particular literary conversation other than that some of it has taken place here on my turf.

  86. Th.

    .

    One point worth making is that this discussion happened before the book was released.

  87. John Granger

    The appeal to authority may have been “weak” but it shut down this conversation, Mr. Morris, to include your remarkable back pedaling. Though I agree with Aquinas (citing Boethius!) that that the argument from authority is the weakest argument, I doubt very much that anything else I could have offered in this forum as argument would have been met with anything but guffaws by your literature mavens here.

    I cannot expect an apology for your crew’s dismissive and unprofessional attacks on the know-nothing Gentile, but I did expect better than to be called “snarky.” My apologies for revealing my disappointment about the discussion on your website in a sarcastic aside about my detractors at AMV, no scare-quotes necessary, yourself among them.

  88. Wm Morris

    John:

    If you view literary discussion and debate (which I would note includes a range of responses here and elsewhere) as a war to be won (backpedaling, crew, detractors, mavens), then I’m afraid that doesn’t interest me much (at the very least — others are welcome to chime in so long as they give heed to the warning above).

    If you are interested in actual conversation then how about we start with your response to Tyler’s suggestion that “imprinting as a manifestation of the premortal romance” is a much stronger approach to sussing out Meyer’s attitudes and motivations (unconscious or otherwise) than Krakauer’s book?

  89. Th.

    .

    Curiously, I was just talking about the Krakauer book yesterday with some fellow Mormons. I couldn’t find anyone who had cared enough about it to buy a copy, read more than a few pages, or even remember it. I suppose there must be a Mormon out there somewhere who thinks that book is a big deal, but I’ve still yet to meet one. And I know hunnerds and hunnerds of Mormons.

    If it’ll make Mr Granger feel better, he might take heart that I’ve recommended his book to some high-school students. And, back to Steven Walker’s comment, it strikes me as absurd to suggest that any probing, no matter how deep, could be construed as the final word on anything.

    My goodness. If the first person who wrote about Shakespeare had been 100% right — just think of all the English professors out of jobs!

    Just as a general observation though, as a result of his comments, Granger’s book has gone from one I am skeptical of but want to read, to one that I’m prone to dismiss as a likely polemic. Tone tone tone. That’s the secret to healthy internet discourse.

    I do hope, Mr Granger, that you will accept William’s offer to engage with us rather than dismiss us.

    But since this conversation basically was over four months before you showed up, it’ll be interesting to see if it’s possible to get it started again.

  90. Tyler

    John:

    I second both Wm. and Th. and add this:

    I appreciate you stopping by to comment, even if you may think I’m just giving that lip-service; and I’m glad you felt to share Steven Walker’s observations about Spotlight. I do hope to read the book in the not-so-distant future, but I’ve been forestalled by other pressing projects.

    Which leads me to this: I hope you’ll keep in mind for any future discussion here that 1), as Th. points out, this post was written before Spotlight came out and 2), ergo, that it wasn’t written in response to or as a review of Spotlight. Though there is some extrapolation about the book based on the articles you’ve published about Twilight and Mormonism online, my observations are a response to those online postings. I’ve tried to be responsible in my observations by being clear about what I was responding to and I would hope that, as a matter of courtesy and professionalism, you would offer the same in return by giving the participants here at AMV the benefit of the doubt. I’m confident we’ll do the same, though I can really only speak for myself. 

  91. Rose

    It’s curious just how many places I’ve come across Granger defending his his work. So many of his comments mention Steven Walker. I’m wondering if Mr. Granger understands the level of egalitarianism that functions within the church. We send nineteen-year-old boys to preach about gospel principles, we ask ordinary people of all stripes to teach Gospel Doctrine classes… so why do I need to kotow to someone else’s understanding of the gospel just because he’s an English professor who taught Stephenie Meyer?

    Not only that, Granger’s defenses smack of the “But my [insert minority here] friend said…” arguments.

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