A Shameless Promotion of British-Mormon Culture!

From Aaron R.

I had an institute teacher named Peter Vousden, his name might be familiar to some of you as he has written a few articles for BYU Studies.  Aside from him being a thoughtful teacher and kind man, he also had a strong conception of the importance of his writing outside of the traditional academic arena.  He once wrote me a letter which stated that, ‘I feel as a lifelong English member of the Church that I want to say something about our history… One aim I have is to perhaps encourage younger British LDS Scholars to express themselves… I think it is tremendously important for British LDS to speak up for themselves.’  Those words have had an important impact upon my life.

I am certainly not a scholar nor have I contributed anything to LDS academic community but I feel passionate about supporting the work of others.  I sense that others feel the same, like Ronan.  I think endeavours like EMSA and the work done by Kent Larson in South America is vitally important to creating important cultural cross-over’s between the US and other parts of the World.  It seems to me that although membership is increasing outside the US, culturally we live beneath the hegemonic weight of the inter-mountain west.  This is not necessarily a negative dynamic but I also would like to see Mormons from all over the world exchanging their ideas and work.

In the UK, the Church’s growth really began 40-50 years ago.  As a result we are now seeing (what I consider to be) the maturing of the first generation raised in the Church.  These are the children of the mid-70’s to mid-80’s.  It seems that the time is ripe for these people, who are culturally as well as theologically Mormon (at least in part), to begin to express themselves to a wider Church culture.  As a result some friends of mine have begun an online magazine/blog of British Mormon cultural products.  It is called ‘Crumpets & De-Caff’ and we have just released our second issue.  Currently, it is small scale and most of the people submitting are friends of ours, plus we have added some things which are just pertinent to our friends like a video of my ward’s Roadshow (yes, we still do them!!!).  I even feel a little embarrassed about sharing this because I have included some of my poetry in there, which I wholly recognise is not anything to shout about, but I have been persuaded to tell you about this venture.

I believe that there are some people of genuine talent in Britain who have not got the same opportunities to speak to a Mormon-based culture, that might exist in the US.  This is not a lament directed toward Imperialistic US but rather a call to British Saints to speak up and I think that there are possibilities for change.  Academically we have EMSA and the IJMS which I hope will continue to flourish.  Yet, these, to my knowledge, are focussed on academic publications and do not have the same diversity of content of a Dialogue or a Sunstone.  That is not a criticism because I think that they should do what they intend, and it seems to be doing it very well.  My point is that there is scope and space for publications which focus on Art, Poetry, Creative Writing, Fashion and whatever else we can pretend to be good at it.  Additionally we have the Latter-day Book Store(s) which holds a monopoly (as far as I am aware) for the distribution of Church books in the UK [1].  I do not run the company, but they are in a unique position to be the publishers and purveyors of UK-based Mormon books, music, poetry and art.  To my knowledge they have not really explored nor invited such possibilities, but they could.

For those who might be interested the website is www.crumpetsanddecaff.co.uk

I am excited about the future of this area of British-Mormon culture and I was pleased to have the approval of Bro. Vousden who graciously allowed us to include one of his short articles.  That approval of an unassuming mentor has provided an increased impetus to keep trying to do what I can to further British-Mormon culture.

Notes:

1.  I am of course aware of the publications available through the internet, but these book shops are situated very close to both temples and I have met few members of the Church who buy their LDS-related books and music from anywhere.  I think this is evident by the fact that their website is completely awful.  They obviously do not need fight for that internet market.

Comments

  1. To visit the LDS Bookstore(s) is almost a pre-requisite to temple visits here in the UK.

    The problem usually is that the prices are very expensive especially when we can purchase the same and more items from deseret.com at a lower price even including the shipping!

    I too feel that there is an air of anticipation with regard to the aforementioned generation (mid 70’s – mid 80’s). In my stake we have only 3 of the High Council who are returned missionaries and none of the stake presidency. I’m not stating that they should be, but it is merely a reflection of a different generation.

    For me, within British Mormon culture is still a fairly heavy reliance on the U.S. Mormon Culture. Generally speaking alot of members hear an American accent and think whatever they are saying is gospel and they are held in awe as some kind of minor GA. Mission Presidents (generally are from the U.S. here in the UK)should be respected but I do feel that some British leaders feel they are subserviant to them.

    I personally feel a responsibility to ensure that a solid Mormon culture founded in the gospel should be more established and the generation you mentioned are the ones to ensure that this can happen for the good of future generations.

  2. My understanding is a large number of British helped start Mormon’s Utah era. Why did they not leave a footprint in Utah, or maintain ties to England?

  3. I look forward to reading through the website. This is a great endeavor.

  4. Susan W H says:

    Two weeks ago I came across three of Peter Vousden’s articles in BYU Studies. His piece on the religious history of St. Luke’s Parish was a great find for me. (“Dissent and Restoration in a Corner of London: A Personal View of the Remarkable Religious History of St. Luke’s Parish,” BYU Studies 44:1, 2005.) In fact, it’s on my list of things to do to email the author. Many of my ancestors lived and died in St. Luke’s. They did not join the church but one of their descendants did.

    To Bob: Some of my family did maintain contacts with England, but when they came here, they wanted to be Americans. They left a huge footprint in Utah–many of the 19th century Mormon leaders were British.

    Thanks for the link to Crumpets and De-Caff. I will check it out.

  5. #1 – That leadership issue might be a reflection of your stake. I know in mine and the one adjacent they have two returned missionaries (under 30) as Bishops and also a number of others on the high council and also on Bishoprics. However, I agree that there is certainly an reverence for American leadership and culture in the UK.

    #2 – I think ties were broken when people converted. I suspect that the multi-cultural mix that I understand was present in Utah mixed with notions of American hopefully vs. British poverty may ave meant that british converts were willing to reject distinctly British ties.

    #3 – I hope that it is becomes something good, it still has some way to go.

  6. #4 – Susan, that is one of my favourite pieces as well. It brings alive a religious culture that reaches outside of Mormonism, which I believe is something of value for British Saints.

  7. Martine says:

    Interesting. When I was a Canadian living in the UK, I noticed that the British people who had studied at BYU tended to put on a more American accent when speaking in church or bearing testimony. I mentioned it to a friend and was told (on matter of opinion, obviously) that they did it on purpose so they’d be seen as more righteous.

  8. Aaron, this is good work. The idea of an international exchange of thoughts and works and spirit is noble indeed.

  9. Anne (U.K.) says:

    As someone old enough to have been one of those mid 1970’s converts, I’d like to make a couple of comments :-)

    1- I’d have to respectfully disagree with the statement about the greatest period of Church growth being in the 70’s-80’s. Back in the pioneer days, entire wards and branches emigrated to Zion en masse- where my (recently consolidated two wards into one) ward now covers, there were no less than 5 units which emigrated as unit groups back in the 1850’s. Officially members were only discouraged from emigrating once the London Temple was announced, but in practice, families were still emigrating to Utah as late as the 1970’s.

    2- in my humble experience, many British LDS members have done all they could to distance themselves from their own culture and enthusiastically adopt that of our American cousins. As a youth, we routinely celebrated Independence Day with presentations in (now no longer ) morning Sunday School, musical presentations by missionaries, Tuesday night bbq’s, basketball matches vs. the missionaries, flapjack and pancake breakfasts. No celebrations of the country’s national saints days though! We were routinely taught in those days that by our 20’s we’d be en route to Jackson County, so maybe that explained it! How much this was encouraged by local (or higher) authorities I have no idea, but I do remember my ward used to commemorate Remembrance Sunday every year with a special Sacrament Meeting which included the singing of the wonderful ‘Jerusalem’. This was of particular importance to those members who had fought or survived both wars. Unfortunately, by the end of the 1970’s, we had been informed that we could no longer run the meeting in the same format- singing ‘Jerusalem ‘ was forbidden, as it did not appear in the Hymnbook. This caused a lot of distress to some, as Jerusalem is a huge part of English (possibly not British) culture. However, the Scots members insist on celebrating the life of their national poet, Burns, despite the fact his lifestyle was far from that endorsed by our standards!! Go figure :-)

    3- one other thing- I have no idea if it still happens, but it certainly used to be the case that the items submitted by British members for the British Isles Ensign Insert, we sent to SLC for ‘editing’- and when published, sounded very much ‘Ensign speak’, using idioms and phrasing which was completely alien to our culture and very different from the original copy submitted, whilst the facts of the piece remained the same. This certainly made me wonder if there was only room for ‘one size fits all’ and not country specific cultural identity.

    Sorry this is so long. I wish you good luck with your magazine/blog and look forward to reading future editions.

  10. Thanks for your response.

    #1 – Your right about numbers of conversion. The numerical high point of this century was the baseball baptisms of the late 50’s and early 60’s. My point was rather than long-term and sustainable conversions and growth were after this period. Which why the generation I am speaking of are the first to be raised in the Church with that dual culture.

    #2 – We sing Jerusalem every stake conference, but you do need a GA’s permission which is slightly ridiculous. I agree that these variations need to be encouraged and approved of.

    #3 – I am under the impression that it is managed locally now although I am still sure that it is edited using the many of the same format ideas. Moreover I don’t really see this as an outlet for creativity rather a PA endeavour.

    Thanks for your support.

  11. My MIL edits the British Isles insert. She sources and chooses the stories herself. It is true that they go to SLC for approval but as I understand it, she makes a big effort to preserve, and fight for, the British idiom.

  12. As to to the OP. Aaron, I tip my hat to your efforts and am delighted you are around. Obviously, another group has the market on being the church of England, but I see no reason why Mormonism over here ought not to be a church for England.

  13. John Mansfield says:

    “We sing Jerusalem every stake conference, but you do need a GA’s permission which is slightly ridiculous.”

    Don’t feel too picked on. Everything that happens in stake conference is approved by a General Authority.

  14. 13 – Everything that happens in stake conference is approved by a General Authority.

    No it isn’t.

  15. #12 – Thanks Ronan. I only hope that we continue to see unique and high quality work from people from within the Church in Britain.

    #13-14 – Just to be clear. It is just because the hymn is not in the hymnal that it needed approval. Apart from that the SP decides everything else.

  16. John Mansfield says:

    I’m sorry not to have responded sooner on this, but I didn’t notice the responses to my comment until this morning, and then I wasn’t able to speak to my source on this until this evening. I was partly correct and partly not, according to what my father-in-law just told me. He was a stake president in the southwestern United States for nine years until his release a few months ago. He said that when there is a visiting authority, everything on the program (speakers and their topics, hymns, musical numbers, the timing of everything) is sent to the visiting authority for his approval. Some visiting authorities want very specific music, and others just give broad guidelines, but the music choices along with the entire meeting plan are sent to and approved by the visiting authority, sometimes with a couple iterations. However, when there is no visiting authority, those decisions rest with the stake president and no approval outside the stake is sought for anything done in the stake conference.

    So, if English stakes need GA approval to sing Jerusalem at stake conference when there is no visiting authority, then that is something different from the experience of the recent stake president I was talking to, and I would want to hear specific affirmation from someone involved in conference planning that that is the case.

  17. Hey quite good website!!! Man .. Stunning .. Remarkable .. I am going to bookmark your weblog and take the feeds also…

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 9,828 other followers