A guest post by Stephen Carter
Every writer’s dream is to find an inexhaustible source of storytelling material: an unexplored mine of myth and metaphor that you can dig in to forever, unearthing fascinating nuggets to refine and mold.
The problem is finding that source. The first place you might think to look is to the old standards: the Bible, Grimm’s fairy tales, Norse mythology. It’s all good stuff, but, let’s face it, it’s also been done to death. Is there no new narrative trove for the contemporary writer to plunder?
Listen up, folks. I’m about to give away a trade secret.
You need to try the Book of Mormon.
I know what you’re thinking. “The book those kids in crew cuts and ties try to push on me at bus stops? The book that heads up a religion heavy on accountants, lawyers, and multi-level marketers? The book that absolutely no one has made a Hallmark Christmas Special about?”
Yes, that one.
I understand your incredulity, but let me pitch it to you this way:
- How many members does the Mormon Church have? (Answer: 15 million.)
- If you are not a member of the LDS Church, how many stories do you know from the Book of Mormon?
If you answered zero, you are representative of 99.9 percent of non-Mormons (about 99.8 percent of earth’s population).
The stories in the Book of Mormon have the kind of mythic resonance that can inspire millions of people to read it every day, but it is also almost entirely unread outside of the LDS Church.
In other words, you could beg, borrow, and even steal stories, archetypes, and characters from the Book of Mormon and almost no one would know. They’d just chalk your amazing stories up to your natural genius.
Let me give you a few examples of what you can find in that little blue book.
Ammon walks into the land of his people’s enemies hoping they will let him live long enough to teach them the gospel. He will have to kill many of their rivals and refuse a king’s daughter before he can realize his goal.
The inhabitants of a city Ammon converts take an oath to renounce violence. They repent of the many acts of murder they had committed over the years by burying their weapons. But soon afterward, an army descends on their city, forcing them to face the prospect of certain death for themselves and their families.
A few years later, a group of mothers from this city, mostly widows, must decide whether they should send their sons (who had been too young to take the oath) into battle. Will they lose them as they lost their husbands? Will they be breaking their oath by supporting war with the bodies of their sons?
And then there’s the story I just finished adapting into a graphic novel.
Alma sits shivering in the wilderness outside the city of Shilom. That morning he had been one of the king’s priests, living a sumptuous lifestyle and wielding great power. But then a lone prophet named Abinadi had preached to the king’s court and changed Alma’s heart. When the king decreed Abinadi’s execution, Alma tried to defend the prophet, but barely escaped with his life. He knows the city is dying, and he knows he is responsible. He must find a way to undo the damage he has done.
The Book of Mormon is absolutely teeming with stories like these. What I’ve presented isn’t even one percent of the narrative riches you can find in there. And practically no one knows about them. (Except Orson Scott Card, who turned the first book in the Book of Mormon into a five-book science fiction series: The Homecoming Saga. But I promise he won’t tell.)
As LeVar Burton is famous for saying, “You don’t have to take my word for it.” Go grab a copy for yourself. The Book of Mormon is free, after all. Avail yourself of the latest in stealth narrative weaponry.
If you’re interested in seeing the kinds of stories that can be harvested from the Book of Mormon, check out my Kickstarter, where I helped create a kick-butt 128-page comic book out of a mere two chapters in Mosiah.
In gratitude for this guest post, a donation has been made to the iPlates Kickstarter campaign.