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Manifesto for the Mormon Arts

by James Goldberg


I speak to you. 

Not to them. 

Not to the world. 

We don’t have time

to choke today

beneath the pride

of the world. 

I speak to you. 

I speak to you

and just to you:

for in this hour

we are sent to none

but the lost sheep

of the house of Israel. 

To sing new songs

to heavy-eared Israel.

To make many-colored 

coats for blind-eyed Israel. 

To take stiff-necked Israel 

by the hand and show her 

how to dance. 


Sound the trumpet. 

In an hour of darkness, 

sound the trumpet. Sound 

the call to arms. 

Awake,  O Zion. 

Awake, awake:

put on thy strength. 

Wield the word 

like a two-edged sword,

dividing and discerning. 

Pierce the soul, cut bone

and marrow, delve deep 

into the thoughts and intents 

of the human heart. 


Your work 





Bind yourself to God—

and let your heart swell

wide as eternity. Feel

the yearning in your gut 

so strong eternity shakes. 

All depths are yours.

All heights are yours. 

Darkness yours as surely 

as the light.  Wrong is yours

as surely as the right. 

Find an anchor, 

a sure anchor, 

an anchor 

whose truth 

you can trust

to set you 



The world. 

The world. 

The pride of the world. 

So much space taken up

by the pride of this world. 

Talent spent in vain pursuit

of the pride of this world.  

Chasing greatness—meted out 

by the pride of this world. 

Maya, they called it

where my grandfather 

was young: Illusion. 

How we grasp at a 

mirage of glory. 

How eager we are

to let ourselves be led

by pre-packaged dreams

of the pride of the world. 


We sell our birthright of revolutionary insight for the pottage of respectability.

And, so doing, bind ourselves with the chains of assimilationist self-shame.

They used to rap people across the knuckles for speaking their own language, 

but now we’ll do it ourselves. We’ll tend the garden the empire’s way,  

a monoculture field for cash crops. The same old messages, over and 

over. The terms of debate as fixed and bounded as a gladiatorial fight. 

Oh we, who were called to imagine another city, work instead to pave

Babylonian roads. Mustard seeds slip away like faith between our fingers.  

The tongue grows weary. The tongue forgets its tales, its aims, our names. 

The milk and honey are free: but we will buy their dreams instead 

for a price, for such a price. It will cost us root and branch. 

We let them divide us. We seek occasion against sister, against brother,

so desperate for them to see how they’ve divided us. So desperate to 

impress the people who divided us. But they’ve moved on—and we 

inherit the wind. 

Like people turning into rhinoceroses, we learn to call our losses beautiful.


Send a whisper 

through the night. 

In an hour of darkness, 

raise an ensign of electrons: 

let your words hiss out 

in the night. 

Let your words 

pierce to the core 

in the night

because the 

soul bleeds

only light. 


Maybe no one is watching 

--and that is OK. 

Maybe no one is watching: 

it’s better that way. 

It means no one will tell you

the things you should say. 

The proper posture for writing is this: 

head covered, feet bared, in the desert 

on your exiled knees. 

The proper posture for painting is this: 

lashed to the mast in a storm on the sea, 

wrists sore. Eyes stung by rain. 

The proper posture for composing is this: 

a burden heavy on your back, an overseer

driving prayer into your heart. 

The proper posture for dancing is this: 

Alone, left all alone, in the wind and 

earthquake and fire. Still. 

No one makes money doing this. 

Almost no one makes money 

doing any kind of art, but 

no one even dreams of 

making money doing 

this. And the hours 

are so full with 


great and 


No one 

makes the

money to have

the time to do this. 

Yet somehow you are

still doing this: dreaming,

hoping, against all the odds

that it will cease to be a miracle

for you to find time and will for this.  


No one makes money doing this. 

The people are too many,

says the Lord, the Lord

great and terrible, 

Whoever is fearful and 

afraid, let him depart. 

Whoever is ashamed

let him or her depart. 

Whoever hesitates 

to speak our names 

let him or her depart. 

This time let it be thus: 

whoever only sips at these

waters, whoever trusts the hands

more than the water, whoever kneels

but will not fall on their face to

gulp grace greedy from the source—

let them depart, let them go 

in goodwill and peace    

while we who drink 

with reckless abandon 

bear the torches 

through the night. 

Speak our language. 

Speak our language 

in your own lilting accent.

We don’t have time today

for you to choke on the

halting words you translate

into a Gentile tongue. 

Speak our language.

Sing the songs of your people.

Sing of the old women who served 

so well and saw so much and take 

the sacrament now in their homes. 

Sing praise for all those who were 

strangers in a strange land when 

they took up the faith. Sing glory 

for the bare walls and spare spaces, 

for the foyers and people chatting 

in the halls. Sing the stumbles and 

the rising of the past, sing futures 

into our imagination. 

Sing the humble foods of the nomad, 

words flowing like milk and honey 

from your mouth, without money

and without price. 


Sound the trumpet. 

Sound the trumpet

in the darkness. 

Sound the truth. 

The breaking of 

clay vessels. Sound 

the breaking. Sound clay 

breaking. Sound the truth.  

The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon!

The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon! 

The word is sharper than a two-edged sword.

Let words ring through the night. 


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