I may choose to ignore anonymous comments. I consider this type of anonymity dishonest. Also, I don't post regularly. I post when I have something worth writing and something worth reading. I explain all this in: Don't Let Telling Tales Trip Up Your Truthfulness.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Twilight Series and Church Beliefs

A reader expressed concern over my Eclipse counter gadget on the sidebar in this blog. The reader feels that although series author Stephenie Meyer is Mormon the Twilight series is not representative of L.D.S. beliefs. In addition, the books are full of lust and not appropriate for adolescent Mormon readers. These are valid concerns that warrant a thoughtful response.

There are many different issues here.

1. I have an Eclipse counter gadget on my sidebar.
2. I am promoting Meyer's writings as representative of L.D.S. religion.
3. The Twilight series is not representative of Mormon beliefs.
4. The series is full of "lust."
5. The series is not appropriate for L.D.S. youth to read.

1. I have an Eclipse counter gadget on my sidebar.

Yes, there is an Eclipse counter gadget on my sidebar. I have cycled through quite a lot of gadgets on my sidebar as a matter of fact. I specifically put it under all the other gadgets for official L.D.S. sites because I wanted to emphasize I considered it subordinate in importance to them. I had a lot of gadgets on my sidebar but decided to limit them because they can make pages slow to load and I want people with slow connections to be able to access my pages without difficulty.  I am looking forward to Eclipse being released in June 2010. That was my intent in including it. The gadget links to the movie, not to the books.

2. I am promoting Meyer's writings as representative of L.D.S. religion.

I am a bit surprised that the gadget's inclusion was taken as "promoting" her works as L.D.S. The gadget is for the third movie which has not been released yet so I really do not know what, exactly, it is promoting.

I have also enabled Google AdSense on this site. Google analyzes the content and places relevant ads. As I have reviewed these ads from time to time there are ads that I would not choose to have on my site although I have specifically forbidden "adult" i.e. pornography ads from appearing. I did choose the Eclipse gadget. Since I control this aspect, I may remove it in the future. I am still thinking about this.

3. The Twilight series is not representative of L.D.S. beliefs.

I do not think it is either. But, I did not expect it to be. There is nothing L.D.S. about vampires, werewolves, shape shifters or whatever else you want to call them. Bella's character is basically non-religious. The Cullen's have morals but not religion per se. I did not find specific L.D.S. beliefs contained in the book, but others seem to think so.

There are some really admirable qualities presented in Twilight. For example, the Cullen's specialize in self-discipline. Their mastery of self is remarkable. Few adolescent romances are portrayed where the girl is willing but the guy takes the initiative and puts the skids on a physical relationship outside of marriage. Edward made chastity sexy.

I see a veiled attack on homosexual behavior. For example, The Cullen vampires deny their true nature of human blood drinking by exerting supreme self-control. They refuse to indulge because they believe it is wrong. Carlisle Cullen has never imbibed human blood. Other Cullens have had lapses. Jasper specifically relinquishes this lifestyle after an extensive history of killing both humans and vampires. I see a parallel with homosexuals who refuse act on their inclination and maintain L.D.S. moral standards and laws.

Edward Cullen is an old fashioned, conservative, monogamous, principled male character who insists Bella marry him before anything happens. She complies -- in the fourth book. Some commentators say Edward is a sterotypical Mormon man. One commentator pointed out that this so-called Mormon stereotype is fundamentally incompatible with the other so-called Mormon stereotype of lusty Mormon men intent on adding innocent, under-age girls to their polygamous harems. These stereotypes cannot both be accurate at the same time. See the Heidi Harris article entitled, "100 Years of Sexy Sexless Mormon Vampires"

4. The Twilight series is full of "lust."

I am inclined to agree, but I want to explain my position. Several years ago as part of my Ph.D. studies I read a book on Constitutional law entitled "Obscenity and Public Morality" by Harry Clor published in the early 1970's and still in print. Experts consider it one of the best books on obscenity and morality ever published. He makes a distinction between "emotion" and "physical acts."  He feels that pornography can be distinguished by "physical acts." Granted, Harry Clor does not speak for the Church.

The Twilight series is full of "emotion" not physical acts. If the emotion qualifies as lust then the Twilight series contains lust. Passions themselves are not supposed to be sinful, not bridling them is sinful. (See Alma 38:12) The primary vehicle for bridling them is waiting until marriage which Edward and Bella do. I do not think the Twilight series contains "behaviors" that are condemned in the L.D.S. belief system.

I was a bit uncomfortable by the lengthy emotional descriptions in the Twilight series. However, I do not think the views represented to me when I was an adolescent concerning sex were healthy. I was told to "never let a man touch my body." Well, I really took this advice to heart. I was uncomfortable shaking hands with any male. These and other views I picked up were not, and are not, healthy. I do not want to represent the emotion felt by Bella in the Twilight series as being unhealthy. In the proper setting, marriage, it is healthy. Experiencing emotion is not wrong. Engaging in certain physical acts is wrong.

5. The series is not appropriate for L.D.S. youth to read.

This is a parent's decision. I would not encourage youth to read books their parents do not approve of. I enjoyed the Twilight series and feel comfortable recommending it.

Last summer I took a Young Adult Literature class as part of my Master's degree in Library and Information Science. It was eye-opening. I decided that I could never be a librarian specializing in adolescent literature because I would never feel comfortable reading all that smut. Much of the smut is receiving prestigious awards like the Newberry Medal and the Michael L. Printz award.

For one of my modules, we had to read something edgy and out-there. The book I chose was relatively tame but others were eye-opening. I had no idea that this kind of material was available and being published for young people.

If Stephenie Meyer's books can draw young people away from the alternatives then I say all power to her.

My all time favorite young adult book is The Bronze Bow. It is a beautiful story and Newberry Medal winner. However, it is now being banned in schools largely because it contains religious faith. I think this is nonsense but I do not make the rules.

So, there you have it. Any other comments or concerns?

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