The Deseret Morning News announced a new online resource for Latter-day Saints called MormonTimes.com, which the newspaper tells us “will include unique features and stories created by Deseret Morning News staff members. It also will point readers to the best LDS news and information being created on other Web sites around the world. And it will feature opportunities for readers to share their experiences, testimonies and opinions through a variety of reader participation activities.”
As anyone who knows me understands, I’m all for finding “the best” in all things LDS. The site looks pretty much like I thought it would: an online version of The Church News, basically, though they do have a piece by Orson Scott Card. Anyway, the column that caught my eye today is by one Jerry Johnston, who, if memory serves, is a writer for the paper.
His column considers Mormon “passion,” which is not readily apparent to the naked eye. But the prose is horrific. He describes early Mormons as coming “from the rugged, dry-eyed stock of New England farm families, then came West to live as flinty-eyed John Waynes.” And then, as if anticipating our bewilderment in imagining a community of John Waynes with dry yet flinty eyes, he reassures us, “Which is pretty much what happened.”
Moving on, we learn that “like lava, LDS passion simmers down out of sight, at the core.” What the hell is he talking about? Mormons have always been told that “the natural man is an enemy to God” and that passions are to be bridled and suppressed. The acknowledgment that Mormons still feel something passionate is an almost subversive statement.
Next is this: “The Book of Mormon is soaked with ecstatic outbursts — ‘excited utterances’ lawyers call them, evidence of honesty.” How do you soak something with an ecstatic outburst, and since when is an ecstatic outburst evidence of honesty? Then follows a deft use of alliteration: “percolating passion.” Johnston is so happy with this phrase he repeats it three times.
Finally, he chooses as the apex of Mormon passion a passage from Alma wherein Ammon becomes so caught up in religious ecstasy that he boasts. I’ll spare you the passage (which we are told is a “wild soliloquy” that “soars”), but Johnston then tells us he imagines “how a trained Shakespearean actor would tackle that outburst — someone like Ian McKellen or Patrick Page. I’m sure they’d make it ring like church bells.” Uh, yeah.
He then reminds us that the Book of Mormon isn’t “dry and dusty” but filled (soaked, maybe?) with passion. The last few lines are priceless and need no comment:
“An invigorating book might have a sober, hide-bound cover, but inside, the contents will take flight.
“Ditto for invigorating people.”
If you find any particularly bad prose, let me know. I love collecting this stuff.