*NOTE: I am not a professional writer, nor am I an expert in Literature or the Doctrines of the "Mormon" church. I am someone who has strong opinions and has an easy forum for airing them. So, do you have your grain of salt standing by? Good, then read on...
I started reading the Twilight series maybe a couple of months ago on the encouragement of a very good friend who I consider to be a strong, active member of the church (read: Mormon=Christian). I enjoyed the plot line and characters. I like how the author created an entire new world with all kinds of new "rules" for vampires and people and other mythical creatures. I was slightly put off by what I consider to be a childish and "selfish" writing style; I'll explain what I mean by a "selfish" writer in a bit. I really got into the strength of the love and need the main characters have for each other. I always feel as if the "normal" populace are too complacent about loving and needing other people, and I was drawn in by their passion for each other. I felt like I was warned on the very 1st page of the 1st book, when the main character points out that her favorite shirt is a tank top. But I glossed over it. Many people are not as into modesty as I am, and it seems to be a gray area as to what modesty is anyway. OK, since you asked, I will tell you what I consider modest. If you are a "member" you will know what I mean when I say modesty means covering any part of your body that is covered naturally by your underwear (after you've been to the temple). If you are not a member of my church, this means that you are covered from about your clavicle in front (no cleavage), with sleeves, with your stomach completely covered (even when you reach), and your pants/shorts/skirts go at least to your knees. Also it generally means 1-piece bathing suits, or a 2-piece that looks like a 1-piece, no bikinis. Obviously this means no tank tops. So I figured, "I'm being nitpicky", and I kept reading.
I had no problem with the first or second books. I even glossed over the idea that her boyfriend is sleeping with her (literally, for those of you who haven't read the books), and holding her while she sleeps, because she makes it very clear that she is fully dressed under the covers and he is on top of the covers simply holding her and watching her while she sleeps (vampires don't sleep in this world). I very much enjoyed the 1st 2 books, and read them each in a matter of days. Then I was bored with the writing style, so I wasn't in a hurry to read the 3rd book. Let me define for you now how I define a selfish writer, sometimes I am a selfish writer, but I think I've gotten better (a little). A selfish writer writes to hear themselves write. They may be inspired in their story and/or characters but they insist on using cool words, big words that no one knows the meaning of. And usually those words just don't work. You've all read a book where you had to read through a sentence a few times, b/c it was just so wordy you didn't get what it was saying the first 5 times, right? (I'm sure my blog is like that sometimes, but for me it's more because I write so stream of consciousness, and it runs together, rather than that I am wordy). I often felt like these books are very wordy to be wordy, and they remind me of what your Junior High English teacher told you was wonderful writing, very expressive and used lots of good vocabulary words.
But I digress, I would have kept going despite the wordiness. I would have kept going despite the idea that this girl believes that it is OK to have a best friend of the opposite sex who is not her true love, and sneak away from her true love to go visit her best friend (did I mention he's a guy?!). I would have kept going despite her obvious prejudices against marriage (which really surprised me, b/c we believe (this IS doctrine) that "The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan."). This character is in her own world, and Stephenie Meyer chose that she has no innate morals. She chose to not take this great opportunity to preach to the masses. That was her sad choice.
No, what bothered me was the swearing started in the 3rd book (I guess it's a "Straw the broke the camel's back" thing). Again, I am no expert on doctrine and this is a gray area. Especially since the swear words were of the H and D variety. I winced and glossed over the 1st 2. I paused at the 3rd, b/c I try to tell my self "3 strikes, and that's it" in these situations. But I really wanted to know what happens! Curse these stupid soap operas that are so compelling. And I kept reading... then I got to one part where they were in bed together (every night) and they are getting really passionate and it's very much an analogy for sex. She describes in great detail him grabbing her thigh and pulling it around himself, and I started wondering if I was in the middle of a "romance"(read:sex/pornography) novel. That's when I thought, I can't abide this any more. So I skimmed (b/c, I admit, I wanted to know what happens) and came upon a part where the best friend is hurt badly and she describes his swearing using another character. The character says he was swearing like a sailor basically and then took the name of the Lord in vain. He said it very flippantly. And that's where I gave up on Stephenie Meyer. I cannot tell you how the wind was knocked out of me. Yes, it is rampant is our society today to say, "Oh, my God". But it is neither a prayer nor a call to Him. It is taking His name in vain, and it's one of the original 10 commandments! Hello! People! Those original 10 have not changed. I am sorry I allowed myself to get taken in by the relationships and characters.
What you must understand is, I watch and hear these things all the time, from "normal" people. I am most disappointed b/c our church has enough trouble being considered Christian and that we are good moral people, and here one of our own is treading the thin line between choosing what is right and good and what is widely accepted as just fine. It's hard setting a good example and feeling like I have to be perfect for my "non-member" friends and family b/c I don't want them to think anything negative about the Gospel b/c of me. But put someone "Mormon" in the spotlight and people are suddenly calling me out the woodwork and going, "Oh, she's Mormon, is that what you believe?" I know there are people out there who believe that any publicity is good publicity (NOT ME). So here's a quick rundown of the basics of what we believe, and our views on family. These are both very short reads, and very concise.
So (I like the word so), to be clear, I know this is a work of fiction, but the potential there to make a clear statement was so great. I can't describe very well how I feel about this. It's so exciting to find an LDS (Mormon, btw) writer b/c you figure you won't be dealing with the smut (yes, I said smut, I'm 80 years old today) that is out there on the Bestseller lists. I am more disappointed b/c the author should know better. And I had to tell my 10 year old he could not finish the book. That was hard.
I'm just glad I read faster than he does.
Let's just hope tomorrow I choose a less controversial topic.
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