-- Spencer W. Kimball (Source)
So, lately I've been exposed to a lot of bad works of art, and specifically that produced by LDS artists, including a grotesque novel and a painful theatrical fireside experience. This seeming trend of LDS artlessness concerns me for many reasons. The excellent article by President Kimball quoted above indicates that Latter-day Saints have not only the opportunity, but the responsibility and obligation to produce good art (or, art that is "virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy", etc.), as well as the possibility to do so, considering our relationship with the Spirit. It concerns me when Mormons continue to churn out mediocre or even shamefully bad art, from literature to films to music to theater. I don't think we can expect everyone to be the next Handel or produce the next "The Last Supper", but I also think we should be able to expect not to have to trudge through the tripe that is splashed over the shelves of Deseret Book and permeates the inventories of online LDS stores with bright, vibrant advertisements and glowing reviews. Once when working at the BYU Bookstore, a woman visiting for an on-campus conference bought a DVD copy of the outrageously ridiculous movie based on The Book of Mormon. I asked her if she had seen it before, and she said she hadn't, but she wanted to support it because "it's Mormon" (incidentally, how a DVD can BE Mormon is beyond me). I so wanted to warn her of how hideous it is, and I may have mentioned that I didn't care for it, but the fact remains that people are falling for things like this, based sometimes solely on the fact that it's made by LDS (while ignoring some of the smaller titles which are actually quite good). Can you see why I feel like we have a responsibility to produce good art? It is uncharitable to bank on the relative artistic ignorance of the average LDS. How many more warblings of Kirby Heybournes, Kenneth Copes and any number of LDS boy bands must we endure? How many more of the lyrics of the Michael McLeans, Janice Kapp Perrys and pretty much any EFY artists do we have to bear? How many more simpering, golden-glowy Simon Deweys or Greg Olsens do we have to be subdued by? How many more breathy Mindy Gledhills or Hillary Weekses are we going to be exposed to? How many more Jack Weylands, Stephenie Meyers and Anita Stansfields are going to overrun our bookshelves? How many more The Singles Wards and The Home Teacherses are we going to suffer through? How many more arpeggio-fraught, identically-styled pianists' cookie-cutter new age versions of hymns are we going to listen to before realizing they all sound the same? Even the quality of many of the Church-produced films and music/pageants is questionable. Granted, many of the above listed artists do produce some good things, and it makes people feel warm and fuzzy and all that, but it's so often derivative or only "okay". Shouldn't we strive toward artistic excellence? According to President Kimball, the quality of classic art didn't necessarily die with the classic artists. We can and should produce virtuous, lovely praiseworthy art that is of good report.
For the record, I do believe there are LDS artists who are, at best, saying something, or, at least, doing it artistically (such as James Christensen, Walter Rane, Minerva Teichert, Brett Helquist, Greg Simpson, the 5 Browns, William Joseph, Gladys Knight, Mack Wilberg, William Whitaker, Richard Dutcher, Orson Scott Card, the BYU choirs in general, etc.), but I only wish these were more the rule than the exception.
Oh, and the meadowlarks are NOT still singing, by the way.