A couple of nights ago I stumbled across the antidote for all of you out there disillusioned with the attempts of LDS art to meaningfully engage with Mormon history: I saw Mahonri Stewart’s The Fading Flower, presented by New Play Project at Provo Theatre Company. I took along a date, so I was legitimately worried that the whole thing might flop. But I was pleasantly surprised: the play deals with the atmosphere surrounding Joseph III’s coming of age, his assumption of the leadership of the RLDS faith, and the heightening conflict between Nauvoo and Salt Lake – with the Smith family caught in between. It gives special attention to Emma Smith and her youngest son, David Hyrum, in a way serving as a stage adaptation of Valeen Tippetts Avery’s From Mission to Madness: Last Son of The Mormon Prophet.
Although aesthetics and empathy, not faithfulness to history, are the driving forces behind this production, it is compelling, even to the historical mind. And it’s especially significant for its intended lay LDS audience.
In any case, if you’re in Provo in the next week, it’s worthwhile. More information available at http://newplayproject.org/season/2009/fading-flower/.