“I Had to Speak Up,” Ensign, Sept. 2000, 65
I was the only Latter-day Saint in my writers’ group, which met regularly to share and critique each other’s manuscripts. On an earlier occasion I had blurted out corrections when a woman made misstatements about Latter-day Saint history, and I had resolved to keep my cool in the future. But then another challenge arose when a gifted writer showed us her manuscript that portrayed adultery in a positive light.
I struggled about what to do. In the creative arts, it seems disrespectful to say anything that might stifle another’s creativity or hamper freedom of expression. But what should a Latter-day Saint do when artistic expression applauds standards that we as members of the Church cannot accept?
I believed the woman was an honest writer who would not write about such matters merely for sensational purposes. And I could not fault her skills, which included a strong sense of mood and deft handling of symbolism. But her fictional story told of a young mother and homemaker whose childhood had been influenced by overly restrictive moral codes, who was neglected by her busy husband, and who had chosen to have an affair with her next-door neighbor.
The workshop participants applauded the beauty and artistry of the piece. One person said, “It sounds almost religious.” Another said, “Now she can live!”
Gathering my courage, I decided to voice my opinion in the midst of this praise. I asked, “Wouldn’t her problem be resolved in a truer sense if she found a way to express herself within the family unit, keeping the best of both worlds? I feel sorry for the husband, for the wife, and even for the man next door. It is an easy, lazy solution.”
I then looked at the author and said, “I challenge you to use your creative imagination to bring forth new life out of an old setting, full and complete.”
The people in the workshop began to whisper, and some said words of affirmation. And the author? She gave me a beautiful smile and raised her hands in applause. And I felt glad that I had spoken out for higher standards.