On Pop Culture Plates

By September 14, 2013

Last year, for the annual summer seminar on Mormon culture, I wrote a paper on the gold plates in the popular imagination. It was one of the most fun papers I’ve ever had cause to write (and I’m in cultural studies, so I get to write about a lot of fun stuff). For today’s quick Saturday post, I wanted to share with you some of the images I found.[1]

The mix of religious imagery and material/popular culture is, of course, not unique to Mormonism. Protestants and Catholics like to inject their pop culture with a little bit of faith as well, and I’m sure other religions do the same. But of course Mormonism does have something unique when it comes to Christianity, namely the gold plates. And these gold plates find their way into everyday culture in a variety of ways. See here some examples.

PicMonkey Collage

Baptism cake, world fair pavilion, pin, replica of the plates, Moroni action figure, primary song.

From paintings to world fair exhibits to crafts to tie tacks to edible gold plates (made from gingerbread or rice krispies or cake mix) to action figures, gold plates are well represented in the Mormon popular imagination.[1] They work in institutionalized settings (Family Home Evenings, seminary activities, songs sung in Primary) but also in more domestic arrangements, Mormonizing whatever environment they’re used in along the way.

Think about what it means to display a replica of the gold plates at home, or wear a lapel pin, or have your kid play with a plastic Moroni in the front yard. It’s such a small, simple action, yet invoking the gold plates, like pinning a General Conference quote on your Pinterest board, or linking to lds.org on your personal blog, or putting up a picture of a temple in your home, means you’re actively aligning yourself with the story they represent. Not bad for something like a tie tack that costs about four dollars at Deseret Book.

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[1] You can find the full article on the Dialogue website if you’re interested.[2] Images, clockwise from top left: sugarslc.blogspot.com; the Mormon Pavilion at the 1974 World Fair in Spokane, Washington; deseretbook.com; bofmstore.org; deseretbook.com; lds.org.

Article filed under Miscellaneous


Comments

  1. I recommend the article to anyone interested, as it is a fascinating topic and Saskia is a fantastic scholar.

    Comment by Ben P — September 15, 2013 @ 4:53 am


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