01 October 2008
The Unofficial 16th Apostle
I have not done any kind of scientific study on this, but I am willing to go on record here as saying that C.S. Lewis is the most quoted non-Mormon non-scriptural person in the entire realm of LDS discourses. Hardly a month goes by when I don't hear his name at least once in a sacrament meeting talk or Sunday School lesson. And I am almost 100% sure that at some point this weekend, some GA will not be able to resist the urge to quote him. At this point, I almost giggle every time I hear it.
I must confess here that I have not read much of Lewis' work. I have not read his two most famous "Christian" works- Mere Christianity and The Screwtape Letters and only barely made it through two or three of the Narnia books as a boy. Nevertheless, even if Lewis is only deserving of half of his reputation, he would likely still rank as one of the great writers and thinkers of modern Christianity.
But none of this quite explains the acute Mormon affinity for quoting him. There are plenty of great Christian writers and thinkers that Latter-day Saints don't go out of their way to embrace. Why other Christians like him is perfectly understandable- he is one of their own. He speaks their language and defends their cause. But what of ourselves? Do his works have a particular resonance with Mormon doctrine, either official or popular? (And if so, how has this point remained so well-hidden from the rest of "orthodox" Christendom? I mean, if the Mormons like him so much, something has to be wrong with him, right?) What was C.S. Lewis' opinion of Mormons or Mormon doctrine, if he had one at all?
Perhaps C.S. Lewis puts the broader "Christian" cause so eloquently, and we therefore crave his words. This leads to the more troubling implication of this post, which is: why have we not produced a C.S. Lewis of our own, someone whose writings can articulate Mormonism so well for a broad audience? Part of it, of course is structural- no one outside of the Church leadership would dare to set themselves up as the go-to thinker on Mormonism and no one within the leadership is trusted enough by outsiders to give the story to them straight. But is there anything else that is holding us back? Especially after the year we've had (FLDS in Texas, Mitt Romney), we could use an eloquent and well-respected spokesman right about now.