Religion and fiction are two facets which share a very close link. Since time immemorial, writers have shown the effect of their religious believes in their writing. I many diverse religions, authors have used religious believe extensively in their writing but it is Christianity that has received a wider acclaim. Examples are writers such as C.S. Lewis of chronicles of Narnia.
Although a non-believer in his earlier years, Lewis converted and used his intellectual prowess to share his Christian believes in poems, fiction and non-fiction articles. In his non-fiction works, Lewis has received wider public attraction which has also dominated his works of fiction.
The one writer who has deviated from the mainstream religion and captured public attention is Stephanie Meyers. A graduate of English and a home based mother of three children, Meyer’s released her first literary work in 2005 titled, Twilight. The novel is about Bella Swan, a teenager who falls in love with a vampire who feeds on animal blood by the name of Edward Cullen. The book was an instant success and has inspired sequels and a film version.
The books have been collectively referred to as the Twilight Saga and have been thought to replace the gap left by the Harry Potter series. Meyers confesses that the twilight saga was inspired by a dream she had on 2nd June, 2003. She clearly describes the dream as follows:
To avoid missing some clear details, she began writing what she could remember. The succession became chapter 13 of the novel with the heading, Confessions. She continued to write to the conclusion then resumed the beginning until the pieces became one complete book. Her other sequels, New moon and Eclipse were met with great enthusiasm by her fans. Eclipse alone sold 150,000 copies on its launch date to the surprise of many.
Meyers and Mormonism
A dedicated Mormon, Meyers does not make a secret of it. The university she attended, Brigham Young University is run by Mormons. She confesses that the Mormon or the Church of Latter Days (LDS) has influenced many aspects of her life including how she perceives the world and her literary works. She admits that the character Bella, who is described as a good girl because she tends to relate teenagers to the way she was brought up.
In her writings, Meyers depicts most of her characters as good people and even those who are bad have a reason for their behaviors. What drives her to engage in such character illustration is the influence of the environment she was brought up in which being good was an expectation rather than a choice. From a tender age, she was instructed to accept the tenets of the LDS and fulfilled all the required rituals, believes and meetings. Meyers attends church for three hours every Sunday and that her religious are long term and are depicted in her work as an expert writer.
The Articles of Faith require that all creations should be ethical, praiseworthy and beautiful. If Meyers was to deviate from this believes she would be betraying her faith. She agrees that her faith has had a great bearing on her work since most of her characters dwell on their origin and destiny. Although her novels are not that religious, the characters including vampires are conscious of religion. She further avoids drugs and sex in her works hence reinforcing her Mormon believes. The Mormon theme of free agency also pops up in her works. Free agency emphasizes the importance of making one’s decision and even in Twilight, vampires make the choice of being more than just vampires.
Due to the public perception of Mormonism as a cult, Meyers introduces Mormon believes in her works in a restrained manner.
Sexuality and law of chastity
Members of LDS are required to live in a way devoid of extra marital affairs and sexual acts that are wicked within the marriage. For those who are not married, sexual abstinence is highly demanded. Jesus and his disciples taught that unchastity is sinful and does not please God. Mormon teaches their youth to avoid all activities that come before intercourse. Masturbation is also a sin as it breeds other evil desires (Prothero 2007 p11). Sexual sin is only forgivable by one seeking God’s forgiveness through prayer and abandoning such habits. The importance that the Mormon attach to chastity is captured by the prophet Hebert grant when he said, “[t]here is no true Latter-day Saint who would not rather bury a son or a daughter than to have him or her lose his or her chastity — realizing that chastity is of more value than anything else in all the world” (Inouye 1992 p306).
To cement her belief in sexual purity, Meyers handles the topic of sex as her core theme and brings the relationship between Edward and Bella a launch pad for using agency to avoid sexual temptations. From the onset, Bella is clearly attracted to Edward and cannot stop talking when having a conversation with him. Although their relationship is full of physical attraction they exercise self control to avoid breaking the law of chastity. To avoid losing control, Edward reduces the length of each physical contact to avoid it getting out of control.
A larger section of Eclipse is dedicated to the discussion between Bella and Edward about the intimacy and safeguarding one’s chastity. Although Bella is disappointed of the prospect of not enjoying sex before converting to a vampire, Edward warns her of the consequences of such an act. Bella’s continued insistence on sexual intercourse is thwarted by Edward who insists that it will only be possible after marriage because he wants to ensure her heavenly future.
By clearly describing the romantic scenes Meyer, acknowledges the existence of feelings and how they can emerge rapidly but gives overview of the pleasures that are found in marriage.
Diet and the word of wisdom
LDS is different from other religions due to the provisions provided by section 89 of theDoctrine and Covenants. It instructs the use of wine for sacramental purposes and hard alcohol for cleansing the body (Ricks 1992 p 400). Tobacco use is only limited to nursing injuries and sick cattle. Coffee and tea are deemed not good for the body and meat from animals and birds to be consumed only during winter and scarcity. The recommended diet is grains mainly wheat and seasonal fruits and vegetables. The use of cola drinks is not acceptable as it contains components such as caffeine. The doctrine prohibits the use of drugs such as marijuana.
Soda is consumed by Bella and her friends albeit occasionally. Caffeine is only mentioned once when Bella requests for a coke on a flight but is denied by Edward citing her “low tolerance of caffeine”. Although alcohol is rarely mentioned in the book, it is negatively portrayed whenever it comes up. Alcohol is also the cause of Rosalie’s fatal experience when she is beaten and raped by Carlisle’s drunken friends (Meyer Eclipse 2007 p 367). In adherence to Mormon doctrines, Meyer portrays her characters living clean lives by avoiding drug abuse.
Free agency/free will
Agency refers to the ability of humans to make choices for themselves (Ricks 1992 p49). In the spiritual perspective, it is the choice of knowing God and the doing away with evil desires and practices. It teaches that there is nothing like being neutral but a choice must be made between freedom and eternal life or bondage and death (Packard 1992 p 433). The choice to live a righteous life leads to the accumulation of intelligence and this depicts the glory of God (Kimball 1969 p22). In the twilight saga, agency is clearly manifested by Bella as she makes the right decisions most of the time and when the wrong one is made, she uses experience to avoid it in the future. She focuses on her school work, chooses the right friends and fiancé. Her behaviors lead Edward to comment that she does not seem a seventeen year old.
Edward and Jacob are other characters who stick to the agency. Edward is able to manage temptations to engage in sex with Bella. Jacob is proficient in mechanics and is intellectually superior like Edward.
Influence of Mormon doctrine on popular culture within the Twilight Saga
Mormonism like any other Christian religion bases its beliefs in the provisions of the bible and their other scriptural books that lay great importance to living a virtuous life. Popular culture is characterized by drug abuse, sexual relationships outside marriage, making improper decisions and minimal attachment to family. Throughout the Twilight Saga, characters have adhered to the teachings of Mormon doctrines in their daily lives (Meyer Twilight 2005 p51). Popular culture is characterized by early sexual relationships which are prohibited by Mormonism. Drug abuse is another aspect of popular culture which Mormonism teaches its members to shun.
The youth these days lay importance to making decisions that please their peers contrary to LDS which teaches the importance of making personal decisions and taking responsibility for the outcome. Popular culture is characterized by single parent families and divorces. Mormon doctrine insists on close knit families where respect for each member is supreme.