Our nascent annual attempt to change the way Mormons think about the arts, Mormon Arts Sunday, (a.k.a. “Wear a Black Beret to Church Day”) is approaching soon! I’m trying hard to make this a “thing,” and so while the whole “black beret” thing won’t work for me (as this photo demonstrates), I have managed to arrange for our ward to devote its sacrament meeting on June 8th (the 1st of June is Fast Sunday, so that won’t work) to the arts.
However, we do have to somehow give those who speak on Mormon Arts Sunday a subject. And since there will probably be 3 speakers, we need to divide up the subject of the Gospel and the Arts and Mormon Art into general areas—or at least select three specific topics from among the universe of possible topics. What should we say to speakers? What should they talk about?
I spent a few hours today thinking about this. A large part of the issue comes down to purpose: what are we trying to achieve?
In Scott Hales’ original proposal, he suggested that the purpose of this “Sunday Activism” is to “raise more awareness of Mormon art and literature in our local congregations.” In other words we’re looking for a little respect and perhaps participation.
In my case, our ward is blessed with a lot of artistic talent. We have everything from authors and publishers to opera singers, broadway performers and pop-music producers to filmmakers and actors to visual artists. At the end of June we will have our 5th annual “Bloomin’ Arts Festival,” held in conjunction with the neighborhood “Arts Stroll” meant to promote artists who live in the neighborhood. So, I don’t think we need to convince too many people to produce art.
But, mere production of art doesn’t mean that Mormon Art has much respect. Simply put, the market for art isn’t in Mormon Art, and most Church members are unaware of the breadth and quality of the Mormon Art that exists. So much of our battle is to make the idea of Mormon Art appealing, even if they can’t win their fortune at it.
So what does this mean for talks? What should the sermons be about?
Because of the responsibilities of ward leaders, we can’t neglect the need to bring all this back to the gospel. Somehow, the idea of Mormon Art in particular needs to be tied to the basic principles of Mormon doctrine. Focusing on this idea, here’s what I’ve come up with so far as questions to be addressed in the talks:
- What is the role of the Arts, and especially Mormon Art, in the Gospel?
- How can the Arts enhance our lives and help us live the Gospel?
- What is the role of the Artist in the Gospel, and how should the Gospel influence his art?
These are broad enough topics and questions that the speaker can cover a lot of different things. In addition, they are personal enough that anyone can add their personal experiences to the talk.
But, I’m not sure how easy it will be to bring the scriptures into these talks — perhaps because I haven’t spent enough time myself searching the scriptures for references to the arts or how the scriptures look at related subjects.
I’m also pleased because these topics mostly avoid the subject of “r-rated” movies and what is “appropriate” in art — although the second talk could cover that also. But I think it would be best if that isn’t covered—we don’t need the controversy and we don’t need Church members to automatically go to that issue when art is discussed.
So, what do you think? Should we look for different topics? I hope that these subjects can be assigned soon, giving the speakers nearly a month to work on these talks. Are these topics going to be particularly difficult? What kind of people should be asked to speak? Artists?
If you were assigned to give a talk and one of these topics were given, what would you say?