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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Discussions About Orson Scott Card » My thoughts on SAINTS

   
Author Topic: My thoughts on SAINTS
Craig Childs
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I first read ENDER'S GAME and SPEAKER OF THE DEAD in high school, but it was not until I finished LOST BOYS during the summer before my sophomore year of college, circa 1995, that I really because an Orson Scott Card fan. Since then, off and on for 15 years, I've been slowly reading through Card's entire body of published work, over sixty books that he's written, co-authored, edited, or anthologized. I've only got three left: INVASIVE PROCEDURES, ENDER IN EXILE, and HIDDEN EMPIRE.

I finished SAINTS tonight and, without a doubt, this is the most complicated and challenging book Card has ever written. At over 600 pages, it was, at times, an extraordinarily beautiful and moving tale of sacrifice and tragedy. At other times, it was too slow and got bogged down in meaningless side-plots. I struggled for six months to get through the first 350 pages; I very nearly read the last 250 pages in a single sitting.

It's easy to see why this is such a classic among Mormon audiences; it validates and honors Mormon history without overly deifying some of its patriarchs. As a non-Mormon, I still found myself rooting for Dinah and Joseph Smith to somehow make their plural marriage work and evade the tragic fate of history.

On the other hand, as an evangelical Protestant non-Mormon, I also found myself fascinated as I read about Joseph Smith's attempts to hide his polygamy, to the point of lying repeatedly to his wife. I found myself asking, How could people really believe in a religion taught by such a man as this?

The characters' religous experiences--speaking in tongues, prophesying, visions, etc.-- were hard to swallow at first because I honestly don't believe God acted in those ways to those people at that time. On the other hand, when reading the book, I absolutely believed the characters thought God was speaking to them, and they acted accordingly to those beliefs.

So, in the end, I still think this was one of OSC's most important works, even though it was different from anything else I've read by him.

At the very least, it was thought-provoking and memorable.

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Wendybird
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Its important to remember that while this book has some obvious characters who share their name with real historical persons it is a FICTION book. There was no Dinah Markham. Plural marriage is a hot topic in current Mormon communities since it is NOT endorsed in our current doctrine. There is no evidence that the real Joseph Smith lied to his wife and carried on with polygamous relationships. In the past people would marry the Prophet but the marriages were not consumated marriages (at least not all of them and not where Joseph was concerned)

So as long as you take this story as a fully fictionalized account that Card created and its only real ties to history is yes there was a prophet called Joseph Smith and yes the early LDS church practiced polygamy. That is about the extent of the truth in the story.

But yes it is a well crafted tale.

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Geraine
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I am LDS, and while I liked the book, I had to force myself to remember that it was a fiction book.

I know Mr. Card researched the history behind the book extensively before writing it, however there are many things about the characters that are not exactly explained well in the book. This probably stems from Mr. Card being LDS himself. There are some things we are taught growing up in the church that we believe are just common knowledge. Some things don't really need to be explained, they are just a given.

As far as the polygamy is concerned, I think it is important to remember that it was not something that the church participated in at large, and that most of the members asked to participate were not exactly willing. They did it because it was asked of them.

Polygamy in the church (from what I have found myself) was a form of community welfare. During the time in which the Mormons were being persecuted and even killed, and during the trek to Utah, there were a lot of widows that simply could not provide for themselves. It was a different time back then. Polygamy was a way to take care of those widows and their children, and provide a father figure and a priesthood influence in the home.

It has been years since I have read Saints but I do not remember if this is made clear in the book.

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Shan
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The book made clear that it was a revelation given to Joseph, and he struggled mightily (in the book) with obeying the revelation and dealing with Emma's repugnance and unwillingness to enter willingly into polygamy.

I loved the first section of the story when the children were growing up in London, Craig Childs. But then, I also loved Charles Dicken's stories, too. [Smile]

I thought this was an excellent book, as well. Mr. Card has talents in tale-telling that continue to amze.

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Yozhik
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quote:
There is no evidence that the real Joseph Smith lied to his wife and carried on with polygamous relationships.
Umm, well, yeah, there is. Although certain successor groups, like the Community of Christ, who broke away from the LDS church taught otherwise.


quote:
I also found myself fascinated as I read about Joseph Smith's attempts to hide his polygamy, to the point of lying repeatedly to his wife. I found myself asking, How could people really believe in a religion taught by such a man as this?
Joseph Smith's situation reminds me a lot of Abraham's. Except that preparing to sacrifice your son is arguably worse than lying to your wife. It's a tough situation -- what do you do when you feel that God is ordering you to do something wrong? You better make darn sure that it's actually God doing the asking and you're not just crazy.
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scifibum
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"Except that preparing to sacrifice your son is arguably worse than lying to your wife."

Arguably?

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rivka
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Preparing to =! actually doing so.
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Wendybird
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Yes but remember the Community of Christ split from the LDS church because they felt Joseph's son should be the next prophet. I imagine there were some hard feelings which could color their records of the time. It is possible that there were many women married to Joseph but that does not mean he actually had marital relations with them. There was a lot of misunderstanding about the doctrine and many women were sealed to the prophet but weren't actually married to him.
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Craig Childs
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From what I've read on Wikipedia, there has always been controversy about whether or not Joseph Smith practiced polygamy. I guess the practice became more popular, or at least more widely accepted, under Brigham Young, who of course claimed he learned of the doctrine from Joseph Smith.

Card's version of the story claims Smith did preach polygamy at least to the upper leadership of the church. Card also addressed the use of polygamy as a charitable way of treating widows, and he addressed the fact that many people practiced polygamy begrudgingly, as a duty to their church.

Color me cynical, but I sort of doubt these rationales. I think polygamy probably had a lot more to do with some men's desires to sleep with lots of women.

I do agree, it was a very interesting book. This one was very different from much of Card's other works.

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Craig Childs
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quote:
Originally posted by scifibum:
"Except that preparing to sacrifice your son is arguably worse than lying to your wife."

Arguably?

I can't disagree. Sacrificing your son is worse than lying to your wife.

Is it worse than polygamy? By modern morals, yes.

But in Abraham's time, sacrifice was commonplace in almost all cultures. Child sacrifice was also widely accepted.

In Joseph Smith's time, polygamy was considered an aberration and a crime.

So, the public outcry between the those actions would have been very different, as would the consequences.

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Scott R
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quote:
Color me cynical, but I sort of doubt these rationales. I think polygamy probably had a lot more to do with some men's desires to sleep with lots of women.
It also meant taking care of them financially, along with all their children.

...but here's my Crayola Cynicism...

:sets to coloring:

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Yozhik
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Yeah, imagine you have three wives, and all of them have a mile-long list of chores for you to do on Saturday instead of going fishing.
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Synesthesia
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quote:
Originally posted by Craig Childs:

Color me cynical, but I sort of doubt these rationales. I think polygamy probably had a lot more to do with some men's desires to sleep with lots of women.


Well, having read that book ages ago, that was one of my thoughts about it that I didn't want to state lest folks POUNCE on me.
But, yeah, Joseph Smith did come off rather skeezy to me in this book. And I was upset at that one character for leaving her kids over a religion. I don't think I'd want to do that. But, it was an interesting book. It was about a culture I don't know much about. But having read all of these books about polygamy by people who left it... no... All of the fun of having multiple wives seems to have been taken out and replaced with hard, hard, work and quite a few kids and not enough money.

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Scott R
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(Also, CC: IIRC, in Mormon plural marriages, each spouse lived in a separate house. While wives' properties may have adjoined, and the families shared meals and some child-rearing, it wasn't like a harem situation.)
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Synesthesia
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quote:
Originally posted by Scott R:
(Also, CC: IIRC, in Mormon plural marriages, each spouse lived in a separate house. While wives' properties may have adjoined, and the families shared meals and some child-rearing, it wasn't like a harem situation.)

Nope, Harems weren't really fun either. The mother of the guy picked most of the women for him anyway.
It was mostly hard work... lot's of hard work. Grrr. There's such potential for best of both world fun, but it is not to be had.

Man, so many of those folks had it hard though.I don't know how they could stand it. i would not want to share a man. I'd growl. I'd say, he's MINE GET YOUR OWN! GRRRR MINE!
Plus these women in books like Shattered Lives were engaged in Who Can Suffer the Most but Complain About it The Least.
But at least there's someone to share house work with, so that's cool. I hate cleaning.

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bCurt
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quote:
...in Mormon plural marriages, each spouse lived in a separate house
I don't think that blanket statement is accurate. In many cases they lived in separate houses but not in all.

My 3rd Great Grandfather had 7 wives and 40 children. His sister was the first wife of Orson Pratt, an LDS Church leader. I am pretty sure that some of Dinah (who is a composite character) is based on her. She did mending for Joseph Smith to earn money and had problems with Bennett. I will say she apparently felt neglected by a husband distracted by the work he did for the church and what little time was left being divided amongst multiple wives. I believe she had every right to feel that way.

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PSI Teleport
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Saints was a well-written novel, but it's one of the only two of OSCs books that I removed from my collection. There are scenes in there that are too painful for me to read again. Same with Songmaster.
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Synesthesia
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Hmm. Lost Boys is officially my favourite OSC novel, but I can never read it again since I'm mature enough to cry from it every time.
Especially this line that makes me love OSC no matter how much I totally disagree with him politically and would probably get into an argument with him upon meeting him which would make me wander off to listen to music and seeth instead because I hate conflict. So perhaps I'd literally growl at him, but that LINE! Aww, it was so sweet.

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DDDaysh
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Has anyone else ever wondered if Abraham actually FAILED the test?

Oh yeah, and I think Saints was a great novel to read!

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Scott R
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quote:
Has anyone else ever wondered if Abraham actually FAILED the test?
Actually, I read a pretty good fictionalization of this called Abraham's Purgatory.
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