One of the more unusual criticisms that I sometimes hear of Mormonism is that it has failed to produce any great art — visual, musical, or literary.
I’m not absolutely sure that this is true, unless one sets the standard for “great art” at the stratospheric level of Shakespeare, Bach, Michelangelo, Dante, Beethoven, and Rembrandt. Frankly, I’m not altogether convinced that the past two centuries have produced any artists at that level, Mormon or non-Mormon. Certainly, such artists have been, at the very best, exceedingly rare.
But let’s grant the accusation for the moment, for purposes of discussion.
What world-class art, apart from the New Testament itself (which, in the original koiné Greek, may in any case not be quite as great a literary masterpiece as it is in, say, its elegant King James Version) did the original Christian church produce during its first two centuries?
Do we have any reason to expect that a rapidly growing new religious movement will produce great art?
And, anyway, how does the presence or absence of great art count for or against the truth of a religious message?
For much of its history, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been a small, isolated group, largely engaged with settling and cultivating a vast semi-arid Great Basin in the American West. It has had little leisure, and little if any financial surplus, to sustain the production of great art.
I advise patience. (And to our writers and sculptors and painters and composers, I offer as much encouragement as I’m capable of giving.)