Writing and Rationalization

I’ve had cause to consider this topic many times over the last few years and now it has coalesced into a pretty solid opinion on the subject. As writers, we are able to turn loose of the reins of our imaginations and simply soar through life collecting stories and morphing them into the written word for all to enjoy. There are so many genres and sub-genres that there is something for every type of reader. This is a good thing in my opinion as I enjoy reading numerous genres and sub-genres, learning from both fiction and nonfiction alike.

I was startled to find rationalization and belittling remarks from a national author and others, who shall remain nameless, that centered around the fact that LDS writers are obsessed with sex. In essence, her thoughts were that because we didn’t include graphic sex scenes we were obsessed with it, therefore our work suffered because of it. She quickly stated she didn’t believe in God or sin, which is her choice, and that she always included an LDS character in her books who chose not to have sex. This made it all right in her little world.

She is not alone in the national market. There are authors, LDS and non-LDS, who see nothing wrong with having sex scenes in their books. There are authors who would rather not but the submission guidelines call for it and then there are authors who rationalize it away. “But my main characters were in a loving, committed relationship.” “But my main characters were married.” “But I was just showing the foolishness of indulging in premarital sex.” A sex scene is a sex scene – you can dress it up any way you like – but the fact remains that those scenes elicit emotion and sensation, which can lead the reader down a number of paths. Elder Dallin H. Oakes has stated unequivocally:

“Pornographic or erotic stories and pictures are worse than filthy or polluted food. The body has defenses to rid itself of unwholesome food. With a few fatal exceptions, bad food will only make you sick but do no permanent harm. In contrast, a person who feasts upon filthy stories or pornographic or erotic pictures and literature records them in this marvelous retrieval system we call a brain. The brain won’t vomit back filth. Once recorded, it will always remain subject to recall, flashing its perverted images across your mind and drawing you away from the wholesome things in life.”

This is one of the main reasons why the LDS market came to fruition. So that readers who enjoyed well-written, exciting stories could find them centered around our religion, our values and our beliefs sans the extreme violence and sex scenes. This is what we choose. It does not limit us. It does not harm us. In fact, in following the admonition of Paul, “If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.” This doesn’t make us naive, ignorant or stupid. It makes us wise in the choices of our literature.

There is nothing wrong with choosing to serve the Lord through our literary work. It doesn’t have to make the stories shallow, insipid or poorly written. Just because we don’t include sex, the seedier side of life, the drunks, the prostitutes, the drugs, the inhumane actions of one against many . . . Just because we choose to write what entertains, uplifts, educates, encourages and enlightens, it does not make it less worthy. The LDS market is a multi-million dollar industry – apparently I am not the only one who thinks so.

So I guess it boils down to this: how you look at it, perceive it, and act upon it. As an author, are you willing to submit your book to the prophet for his reading enjoyment without squirming or hiding your face?