Pure Love: Readings on Sixteen Enduring Virtues
R. W. Rasband
Deseret Book (Salt Lake City), 1997.
Suggested retail price: $24.95 (US)
"What is Mormon literature?" is a question that endlessly concerns uswho read this list. As Michael Austin points out, one way of practicingMormon Lit is to bring an LDS perspective to the work of non-LDS writers. This is like panning for gold: you can find nuggets of truth in unusualplaces.
Pure Love is an anthology with LDS and non-LDS writers on the subjectof charity, "the pure love of Christ." The editor, Marilyn Arnold, isprofessor emeritus of English at Brigham Young University and a nationallyrecognized authority on Willa Cather. She is also a graceful teacher whoalways emphasizes the humanity in the fiction she approaches. One of mybest memories of BYU is of a crisp fall day after one of her classes: Iwas shivering with pleasure from the discussion of the previous hour.
This collection is obviously indebted in concept to William Bennett'sThe Book of Virtues, as Arnold acknowledges in her introduction. Yetshe manages to get much more profound than Bennett's somewhat didactictome. She organizes her chapters around the lists contained in scripture(charity is kind, envieth not, is not puffed up, etc), thus placingcharity at the very heart of the gospel and at the same time covering animpressive amount of doctrinal ground.
A partial list of writers who appear in this anthology: non-LDS -- Madeleine L'Engle, Eudora Welty, Viktor Frankl, e.e. cummings,Emily Dickinson, John Gardner, William Blake, Blaise Pascal, C.S. Lewis,Willa Cather (of course), and Gerard Manley Hopkins. LDS writers: Hugh B.Brown, Elouise Bell, Parley P. Pratt, Eliza R. Snow, Marden Clark, LeonardJ. Arrington, Obert C. Tanner, Gordon B. Hinckley, Spencer W. Kimball,and Clinton F. Larson.
Two items that I was tickled to see were Donald R. Marshall's satiricalshort story "The Preparation", which deals with what might be calledFranklin Quest-itis; and President Harold B. Lee's retelling of the famousanecdote about President David O. McKay and the beautiful women on theDays of '47 parade float.
If there is a weakness to this book, it is that the breadth of theselections is too narrow (this is probably due to conservatism at DeseretBook.) For example, I would have liked to read an entire short story byFlannery O'Connor instead of a mere quotation. Maybe some morecontemporary authors could have been worked into the mix, like EugeneEngland or the mordantly funny Christian writer Anne Lamott. On thewhole, however, this book is full to overflowing with wisdom, and verymuch worth having in your home.
==================================================== R.W. Rasband firstname.lastname@example.org Heber City, UT email@example.com Lisa Kennedy Montgomery forever! ====================================================
© 1997 R. W. Rasband