|Image Source: Sunstone Magazine|
Here it is:
“In the arts Mormons seem more accomplished in ensemble than individual expression: bands, choirs, the theater, and dance, over painting, sculpture, or creative writing. Employers complain at times that Mormons are good followers but poor innovators. Visitors to Brigham Young University campus are impressed by its tidiness but wonder if such order and apparent unity are conducive to creative thought. To the degree that these widely held impressions reflect reality, they may indicate trade-offs communal societies make for the mutual support, efficiency, and strength their common endeavor affords. And though many in today’s liberal society would not be willing to make that trade, it may be that such communalists possess the means to mitigate the great fear Alexis de Tocqueville, writing in the 1830s, had for America, that ‘each man is forever thrown back on himself alone, and there is danger that he may be shut up in the solitude of his own heart.’”
--Dean L. May, “One Heart and Mind: Communal Life and Values among the Mormons.”
"Communalism" isn't a word Mormons use very often in church, but they have a long history with the concept. Can it be that Mormon excellence in communal or cooperative art is, as May suggests, a result of this history? It is a connection that I have never made before, but it makes a lot of sense now that I think about it.
What do you think? Do Mormons lag in individual creative expression because of some cultural unease about individualism? Is the literary anthology, which has had much critical acclaim lately, another successful product of a Mormon communal consciousness? Should an awareness of this communal consciousness inform the way Mormons write literature? Could the Mormon novel, like a play or film, become a group effort? Is the Romantic notion of the individual artist detrimental to the future of Mormon literature?
May, Dean L. “One Heart and Mind: Communal Life and Values among the Mormons.” America’s Communal Utopias. Ed. Donald E. Pitzer. Chapel Hill: The U of North Carolina P, 1997. 135-158.