RECONCILING FICTION AND TRUTH
by Phyllis Barber
Keynote Address for the Association of Mormon Letters, April 21, 2017, at Writ & Vision, Provo, Utah
Words are the wings both intellect and imagination fly on. Music, dance, visual arts, crafts of all kinds, all are central to human development and well-being, and no skill is ever useless learning; but to train the mind to take off from immediate reality and return to it with new understanding and new strength, nothing quite equals poem and story. -Ursula K. LeGuin
A note of warning: there will be many questions in this paper. Most are questions I’ve asked myself, but hopefully, some will resonate with you. But be prepared for questions! The main one that comes to mind when thinking about this paper—“Reconciling Fiction and Truth”—is this: There are history books galore, more published every day. There are lesson manuals. There are Sunday School discussions every week. Mormons give careful, unremitting attention to Truth with a capital T, dotting every “i” and crossing every “t” it seems, discussing scriptures endlessly, but is our culture, and are we, comfortable with the creation of art?
Yes, of course, most of us would say. There’s the Harris Fine Arts Center. The Springville Art Museum. The Church History Museum with its vast collection of Mormon art. And look at LDS Authors on the Internet—our best-selling writers. Most would say the Mormon culture is in good shape, nothing to worry or think about. However, I’m always one to ask questions, chief among them: (1) What is the role of fiction and truth? and (2) Do we believe that art has value? Continue Reading →