Friday, June 8, 2018

Eric Jepson Q&A

This year's Mormon Lit Blitz is winding down--just one more story left after today's excellent poem, Eric Jepson's "Joseph and Emma Grow Old Together." Here's a Q&A with the author: 
In your introduction to States of Deseret, you speculated about an alternate history where the wild success of Joseph Smith Sr.'s ginseng venture allows him to send Joseph and Hyrum to study with Ralph Waldo Emerson--and go on to found a college, not a religion. What draws you to alternate history where the restoration as we know it doesn't happen?
In the case of Joseph Smith, his greatness is inextricably tied to the pain and tragedy he endures. We all want to be Christlike, but none of us want to wander the dusty plains of Galilee only to be hung on a cross. I don't know, if given the option, that I wouldn't take the easily understood pleasures of studying with Emerson or growing old with my wife over the recurring stress and sadness and horror of Ohio and Missouri and Illinois. Martin asked to take the translation three times. What if Emma had been as insistent on a peaceful life with her husband?

I don't think I could blame them if she had.

This poem seems to deal with the tension between contentedness on the own hand and intense spiritual quest on the other. How do we deal with a spiritually intense founder in an era when simple, contented life has become such a central value for us?

This is exactly what worries me. I'm teaching seminary now and this year we covered the Book of Mormon. In just a few hundred pages, Mormon lets us stand back and see the shape of one thousand years of human history as a series of mountains and valleys. And times of simple contentment don't often last.

I'm a firm believer that the general thrust of human history is towards goodness and peace---but that doesn't happen on the small scale. That's on the centuries scale. We want to believe our comforts will last forever. I'm not sure scripture smiles at that attitude.
But hey. Life is safer and more predictable without ten new sections added to the D&C every April and October.

What would you like to see more of in Mormon Literature?
Everything. I want more voices from more countries and regions and languages. Which is an honest answer I'm working toward. The now answer is more of what I already love. But please, worldwide Mormonism! Convince me to love you all!

Where can we read more of your work?   


Well, buying stuff on Amazon is good for me.


Unfortunately, my website is down, but a complete bibliography as of seven months ago sits on my blog. (A good place to start might be my previous appearances on the Mormon Lit Blitz, one and two.)

7 comments:

  1. This one really got to me, Th.

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      Thanks, William. The themes of this poem are an undercurrent in my life that I tend to avoid thinking about.

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  2. I am in tears. As a descendant of the Knights, how different my life would have been in this reality.

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      Wow, Rebecca. I'm honored. Thank you for sharing your reaction.

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  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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      (This mysterious deletion was just a duplicate of a previous reply. Sorry for the mess, folks.)

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  4. Sheldon J LawrenceJune 9, 2018 at 9:18 PM

    I like this because to me it isn't necessarily a slam dunk that such an alternative would have been a disaster. That last line suggests, to me, a polygamy that didn't happen, which would have indeed been an answer to Emma's prayers.

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