This article originally appeared in the May/June 1972 Issue of Pioneer Magazine
The reading and writing of fiction was looked upon with some askance by early Mormon leaders. There persisted the fear that to delight in anything imaginative was to give oneself over to the senses, thus leading to sensuality, sexuality and sin.
In “Mormonism And Literature” (Winter 1954-55) is reviewed a warning from the brethren, particularly to the women, to avoid this type of pleasure:
“You do wrong in reading novels because you sacrifice your purity of mind to a fearful trial…. It is hard to discriminate between the good and the evil in novels…. The novel appetite being once formed, it craves all.
Human nature loves to coast along the borders of infamy and crime… Open vulgarity and obscenity are forbidden by reigning custom, but novel-writers, by means of honeyed words, encourage these evils… Where the novel writer leaves off, the devil commences, instilling more polluting thoughts than the literal intent of the word implies.”
In an 1872 General Conference discourse on “The Order of Enoch,” for instance, Young even went so far as banning novels from his hypothetical ideal community:
If I had charge of such a society as this to which I refer, I would not allow novel reading; […] You let your children read novels until they run away, until they get so that they do not care—they are reckless, and their mothers are reckless, and some of their fathers are reckless, and if you do not break their backs and tie them up they will go to hell [….] You have got to check them some way or other, or they will go to destruction. They are perfectly crazy. Their actions say, “I want Babylon stuck on to me; I want to revel in Babylon; I want everything I can think of or desire.” If I had the power to do so, I would not take such people to heaven. God will not take them there, that I am sure of. (“Order” 224–225)