Chapter 4

This is the Mormon chapter (a suitably American topic!). I wrote several papers on Mormonism during my Master's program; my advisor expected that I would do the same for my thesis. However, Mormon studies has been thoroughly, and responsibly, addressed within the scholarly community. My forays have been meager in comparison and usually more personal than not (see the folklore papers below). I also wanted to produce an English-related thesis, a decision that, for an English-teaching adjunct, turned out to be a wise one.

That being said, I enjoyed writing this chapter; with Mormonism, I am on home ground, talking about the culture in which I live. In some ways, being an insider, as compared to an outsider, while it may call into question one's objectivity, brings with it a wealth of experiential knowledge. (Consequently, I have often found the ponderances of thoughtful, intelligent insiders more perceptive than the skepticism of outsiders, whatever the topic.) In any case, as the last major hurdle, I found Chapter 4 a relief to write.

I would like to thank my brothers Joe and Eugene for exchanging e-mails with me concerning whether or not language changes people. That exchange helped me put my thoughts in order and to attack the subject from a decisive (sort of) position. Also, thanks to Eugene for his insightful and very funny review of The Last Promise. It is well worth reading in its entirety. See footnote #3 for its location.

The Last Promise

The Van der Veghels broke into excited comment. Grant, they warmly
informed him, had based the whole complex of imagery in his book
upon [the well]. "As the deeper reaches of Simon's personality
were explored--" on and on they went, explaining the work
to its author. Alleyn, who admired the book, thought they
were probably right but laid far too much insistence on an
essentially delicate process of thought.
When In Rome by Ngaoi Marsh

Votary theory brings together the context of an artistic work, its treatment in that context and, most importantly, the creative desire which any work attempts to satisfy. Votary theory is a tool for humanities scholars; I have introduced it with that specific group in mind. Votary theory encourages students of artistic works to focus less on the sociopolitical uses of artistic works and more on the creative, liquid, even transcendental nature of artistic works. Before this can be effected, however, an underlying problem within critical theory generally must be addressed. At the back of our current treatment of artistic works--all the theories, all the arguments over power--lies a fear of those works, specifically, a fear of language and its possible impact on audiences.

To exemplify this problem, I will end the application portion of this thesis with an analysis of the novel The Last Promise by Richard Paul Evans. Events surrounding The Last Promise portray our uneasiness over artistic works. Through examining The Last Promise, I will show how a humanities scholar, armed with votary theory, should respond to that uneasiness.

Controversy and The Last Promise

The Last Promise by Richard Paul Evans is a passably well-written, unsurprising book of the romantic variety. If one insists on hierarchical placement, it would be found alongside The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller and Nicholas Sparks' oeuvre. The author, Richard Paul Evans, rose to national notice in 1992 with the gift book, The Christmas Box (it appeared on the New York Times bestseller list and was later made into a Hallmark movie). Since 1992, Evans has published eight novels; The Last Promise is simply one amongst many. Yet it sparked a short-lived controversy in Utah when it was removed (or never purchased) for sale in LDS-owned Deseret Book. The pattern of rejection followed by accusations of censorship is a well-worn path in Western culture. Behind both the rejection and the accusations lies a suspicion of language, a fear that language will overwhelm those who imbibe artistic works. In the case of The Last Promise, the objection is to the adulterous, or semi-adulterous, relationship that underscores the novel's plot.

In The Last Promise, an American woman, Eliana, has married an Italian, Maurizio. The marriage is going badly. Maurizio sleeps around, doesn't show any interest in the couple's child, Alessio, and treats Eliana with belittling chauvinism. Eliana cannot leave Italy since her child has asthma. And such asthma! Such convenient asthma, Eliana cannot even put Alessio on a plane. She is forced to stay in her unhappy marriage, allowing the story's rather vapid plot to unwind. A handsome American appears on the scene and naturally sweeps Eliana off her feet. The two do not, in the course of the book, indulge in copulation, an instance pointed to by defenders, including the author, of The Last Promise's virtue.(Footnote 1) But it is hard to justify this view. The book is replete with romantic meetings typical to many novels of this type (meetings that usually culminate in a sexual union). Ross is instantly captured by Eliana's beauty. He likes her art, which gives him great (and immediate) insight into her deep character. He rushes her child to the hospital in a time of need. In thanks, Eliana prepares dinner for him, during which time "[Ross] moved next to [Eliana], lightly pressing against her. She could feel the warmth of his body beneath his shirt and she didn’t move back. She liked the feel of him close to her."(Footnote 2) Later, Ross and Eliana spend a night together on a hillside. The purity of their motives and behavior are reduced to the adolescent claim: We didn't go that far. "Yes," wrote one reviewer, "and Bill Clinton did not have 'sex' with that woman and didn't inhale either."(Footnote 3)

At the time of The Last Promise's publication, the CEO of Deseret Book was Sheri Dew. Dew had recently served in the general presidency of the LDS (Mormon) women's organization as the second counselor. In Fall 2002, Dew announced that Deseret Book would not stock The Last Promise. "Our concern," Dew informed reporters, "is if a book makes immorality sympathetic."(Footnote 4) Deseret shoppers wouldn't be interested, she stated, despite their penchant for The Christmas Box and other Evans' novels, due to The Last Promise's theme. Reporters responded to Dew's announcement with glee. "Is Bible Next on Banned Books List?" headed the title of Robert Kirby's bemused article. He continued, "Some truly great authors may also get the toss, including Shakespeare, Steinbeck and Bronte."(Footnote 5) Other journalists cited the problem of tossing the proverbial baby (classics) out with the proverbial bath water (romance novels with immoral themes). Even sympathetic reporters--after all, a business can stock whatever it wants--questioned the seeming self-righteous smugness of Dew's decision: "a bunch of sanctimonious, neo-Victorian fussbudgets trying to micromanage our moral and aesthetic lives."(Footnote 6)

However, the issue cannot be reduced simply to censorship versus intellectual freedom. Intellectually, The Last Promise hardly falls into the same category as Dostoevsky. Furthermore, in an age of supposed alienation--businesses that care only for the bottom line, authors who care only for sales--it seems odd, if not hypocritical, to criticize a business that worries about the possible long-term consequences of promoting an unhealthy product. Although reporters took issue with Dew's decision, few questioned her underlying assumption: "Literature/language can change us." No one said, "But people don't commit adultery because of books!" Rather they argued, "But other books talk about heavy subjects. Why should this be the exception?"

If, in fact, literature begets behavior, then Dew's decision showed a conscientious desire to prevent harm to her community. The Mormon Church promotes traditions of chastity, including no sex before marriage and sex confined to marriage between a man and woman. In an editorial to The Salt Lake Tribune, a "former lay LDS Church leader" (probably a bishop, the leader of a congregation) wrote, "I have seen firsthand the challenges of extramarital relationships, no matter how innocent they are . . . To glamorize or rationalize such infidelity, with or without physical intimacy, is to simply not understand or not respect the sacredness of the marriage commitment . . . [T]he end of the story is never as nice as Richard Paul Evans or others might ask you to believe."(Footnote 7) This attitude reflects concerns among Mormon leaders regarding marriage, specifically LDS marriages. Between 1990-2005, the LDS magazine Ensign published over twenty articles about marriage, addressing issues as far-ranging as intimacy, finances, communication, and date nights.(Footnote 8)

Sheri Dew, coming out of a leadership position within the LDS church, no doubt felt strongly on a subject that continues to worry her associates. From this perspective, as the CEO of a LDS bookstore, she would be morally culpable had she promoted a book which encouraged extra-marital fun and games. Doing so would imply tacit approval of the book's message. Also, unlike Danielle Steele, whose books could be found in Deseret Book at the time of Dew's decision, Richard Paul Evans is a Mormon, lending further tacit approval to the book's message: This is okay. The Church doesn't mind, and anyway, the author is one of us.(Footnote 9)

I have chosen to use The Last Promise for this chapter since I have more empathy for Dew and LDS leaders than I do for feminists who want to censor Taming of the Shrew or fundamentalist Christians who want to censor Harry Potter. The "censoring" of The Last Promise (Dew never said other people shouldn't read it, only that the bookstore wouldn't carry it for its patrons) was localized and, from my perspective, entirely understandable. I have sympathy with Dew's position, with the problems faced by Mormon leaders who wish to promote a particular ideal in the face of overwhelming odds. Yet Dew's assumption, however bound to a specific cultural need, lies at the heart of both left-wing and right-wing theorists. Before we can understand and welcome the creative experience as readers and theorists, we must lose our fear of language, especially our fear of how people might use, or misuse, a work.

Fear of Language

How much power does language have? Would Mormons, encountering The Last Promise in a LDS bookstore, actually imagine both the book and the church had given them permission to indulge in infidelity (so long as the clothes stayed on)? It seems ridiculous, yet this fear of language's power lies at the back of much critical theory. Dew has, at least, the merit of honesty. Much critical theory performs similar (and far more sanctimonious) "censorship" through careful labeling: this is what these words mean, this is what these words imply, here is the baggage these words carry. Labeled language loses its sting, its possible influence. We have dissected and diagnosed the work; we have risen above the crafty designs of the author!

Jargon, labels of class, race and gender, designations such as "ideological," "patriarchal," and "imperialistic" attempt to confine the creative use and thrust of language to passive (and often overly broad) constructions. The scholar is given a metalanguage that supposedly renders the text (written or performed) innocuous, instantly intelligible. So long as it can be labeled, it can be safely stowed away. If Taming is the Shrew is a patriarchal and hegemonic work filled with Elizabethan witticisms and certain iconic images, we should be able to catalog all its parts. The play's language is dissected and diagnosed; the whole, anatomized. Unlike Frankenstein's monster, it does not live, and therefore, cannot harm.

Tied into this treatment of language as a fearful monster is the belief that language is hiding something. Clayton Koelb refers to this belief as "alethetic" in his book The Incredulous Reader. Alethetic reading, as opposed to lethetic reading (the terms are Koelb's own borrowed from the Greek), is the approach most supported by academic institutions. It involves searching for the truth behind or encoded in a text, uncovering another actuality.(Footnote 10) At the core of alethetic reading is the view of texts as possible threats; their language could change the world, alter reality. Texts must be figured out, defanged, before they do any damage. The alethetic reaction is so strong, Koelb argues, that it is common to "treat a text that has no apparent intention of telling the truth as if it were a revelation of the deepest secrets of the universe."(Footnote 11) Likewise, popular culture scholars often make the mistake of searching for deep profundities where there are none to be found. Agatha Christie is really preaching Marxist, feminist theory; romance novels are subversive; westerns promote resistant ideologies. Popular productions become cryptograms, masking secret messages and cloaked agendas; popular culture students are the decoders. Even postmodernism employs a similar type of anti-text, in which meaning is deliberately excluded in order to render language innocuous, successfully accounted for.

Lethetic readers, on the other hand, are not threatened by a text's language since that language is tied into a purely fictional world. The reader does not so much exercise disbelief as forget about the problem of disbelief versus belief; through "submission to the sovereignty of the word," the reader undergoes a liberating experience, escapes not from the world but into an object of desire.(Footnote 12) Language is allowed to create worlds, invite sympathy, satisfy creative desires without being subordinated to real-life, relevant applications. "Language severed from the obligation to reflect some form of reality is free to reflect itself honestly," Koelb writes, "to do all things that language can do, to affect readers however it can and will."(Footnote 13) Lethetic readers create "new texts" for themselves but, unlike with alethetic readers, the new text is not a gloss to the original. It is the result of the creative experience, not of suspicious questioning.

Votary theory looks at the lethetic experience. The alethetic experience exists. It would be useless to deny it and just as useless to despise those who take it seriously. Dew was being neither naïve nor imperceptive when she made her decision regarding The Last Promise. Whether or not language changes us is a problem for the philosophers. Votary theory encourages only a shift in focus. It is not the business of the humanities to control texts, to pigeonhole them, wrap them in neat packages or hang them on the drying racks of critical theory. Rather, it is our job in the humanities to understand and appreciate the creative, lethetic response in which both author and reader participate. The alethetic insistence on tracking down meaning/purpose/relevance for every word and phrase must be set aside for the sake of the creative experience which is not so easily categorized. Without losing our sense of context, we must ignore our anxieties over language. We must allow Katarina's final thundering speech, its honey words and enlarged spirit, however sixteenth century in origin, to touch us without fussing over our endangered feminist viewpoints.

We must, as scholars, lose our self-interest. Votary theory postulates that spectators/readers worm their way inside whole works, exposing themselves entirely to another world. Those works--texts, poems, plays--carry within them creative possibilities. We come to them with creative urges and desires. Our desires are satisfied once we enter the author's world, become captive to the author's language. Even The Last Promise, so controversial in its inception, can be understood from a creative perspective. It is the responsibility of the humanities scholar to chase after that understanding.

Votary Theory and The Last Promise

Votary theory looks first at context and treatment. This is the glass within which the more elusive qualities of creative thought and enthrallment are contained. Not every context produces an Anne Bradstreet but then Bradstreets are not simply produced by context. As we turn to the contents of the glass, we must employ our imaginations, do our best to comprehend the emotions--love, fear, anger, jealousy, lust, creativity, joy, happiness--which the context contains and which are not reducible to jargon or power hierarchies. As we do this, our understanding of artistic works, both past works and contemporary ones, will grow. We will become masters of our field.

The Last Promise, for instance, should be examined first in its context: the times in which it was produced, the individual who produced it. Evans was inspired to write the book after a stay in Italy where he met a woman very like Eliana. During his visit, he was "especially intrigued by the temple of Vesta and the Vestal Virgins [who died for love.]"(Footnote 14) The Last Promise is advertised on Evans' web site alongside a suggested study guide and a slide show of Italy. Whatever Evans may have felt about Deseret Books' decision (it is not mentioned on his web site), his career has not been hurt by official LDS disapproval. Like The Christmas Box, his 2005 novel The Sunflower showed up on the New York Times bestseller list.(Footnote 15)

Next we turn to the treatment of the book, examining not only the controversy generated by Deseret Book's decision but the reaction of book reviewers. Joanne McCarthy at MacGill Book Review called The Last Promise a "commercial love story, predictable as the script of a B movie, and like a B movie, not for everyone" while Booklist called it "gooey." Kirkus Reviews stated emphatically, "[T]his shameless wallow is begging to be mocked" while Publishers Weekly more kindly promised, "Those who enjoyed The Christmas Box are in for another treat."(Footnote 16) The book has been reviewed by fifty-five readers on, of which only eleven gave it a low rating (whether one is more or less likely to write a review about a book one detests as compared to a book one really likes is a matter of debate).(Footnote 17)

In the final stage of votary theory, we need to come to terms with the book's readers. While it may be true that Evans is "climbing on his best-seller soapbox to preach a medieval theme . . . that of the great wheel of fate," and that the book's tone bears resemblance to a "loquacious, self-important guy who's got you cornered on a five-hour bus trip and is convinced that you are dying to hear his profoundly superficial life story,"(Footnote 18) nevertheless, our primary consideration as scholars is to understand the work from the creative standpoint of its readers/spectators. "The prima facie probability," C.S. Lewis stated in An Experiment in Criticism, "that anything which has ever been truly read and obstinately loved by any reader has some virtue in it is overwhelming. To condemn such a book is therefore . . . a very serious matter."(Footnote 19)

In promoting the individual experience, I am not advocating the abandonment of standards. It is not wrong for scholars to argue that one book is better than another creatively, aesthetically. Throughout this thesis, I have taken issue with two performances that failed, in my view, to achieve complete creative accessibility and satisfaction. But we should never forget that people look for creative experiences in many different venues; it is our duty to comprehend that search and all the uneasiness and uncertainty which accompanies it. We need to turn away from the obsession with power--the ability of a work to promote or denigrate a class, race, religion, faction, culture, party, agenda--and turn instead to a work's lingual, creative enthrallment, no matter how frightening or dangerous that enthrallment may seem. Is the work good? Fun? Dreadful? Would I read it again? Would I throw it in the fireplace? Did I cry? Laugh? Get involved? Rewrite the ending? Did I believe? Would I go back? Did it let me in? Keep me out?

Did I enjoy my stay? I personally found The Last Promise an unbearable read, but again, the issue here is not my own satisfaction or even my placement of The Last Promise in a creative hierarchy. It is likely that some works encourage creative participation better than others. It is also likely that some works operate better with particular readers. My object as a votary theorist is the greater issue of creativity and audience. In what way does The Last Promise satisfy its advocates?

Of the fifty-five "customer" reviewers on (you don't have to buy a book in order to review it), most have read the book more than once (one as many as four times) while others intend to read it again. Evans' descriptions of the Italian countryside are praised (although a few reviewers point out various mistakes): "[The book] took me away to another world," writes one reviewer. Another concurs: "I was often shocked to glance up from reading and not see Italy outside my window."(Footnote 20) The Last Promise is even recommended, tongue in cheek, as an alternative to an expensive vacation.(Footnote 21)

Practical uses of the book crop up in other ways: the teaching aspect of Evans' writing whereby "how little we know about the social convention[s] of those in other countries and . . . the necessity we all have to feel loved [are] lessons . . . brought to life as you journey to Italy."(Footnote 22) A reviewer identifies herself with Eliana; her life resembles the heroine's. Reviewers are pleased that they learned something about Italian history, art and wine-making.(Footnote 23)

Yet, overall, the reviews refer not to the applicable aspects of Evans' novel but to its story. "The way Eliana and Ross's love unfolds, and the way Evans describes the beautiful Italian landscape, and way of life, makes you feel like your [sic] actually sitting there, watching this story happen," writes one reviewer. "I felt close to the main characters immediately . . . I felt like I experience[d] what the characters experienced," writes another while an early review reads, "In pure Evans [sic] fashion, you become totally absorbed in the lives of these characters."(Footnote 24)

A number of readers were reluctant for the book to end and applaud this reluctance in their reviews as a positive sign: "I was disappointed when it came to the end (as I always am with a good book)." "When the story ended I felt utterly bereft to no longer share [the main characters'] world." "Now I wish I hadn't finished it so soon--I miss reading this great novel already." "I wish I was back in the pages of The Last Promise."(Footnote 25) The created world became real to these readers, so real that one reader lectures Eliana in her review.(Footnote 26) Even less enthused reviewers point to the world of The Last Promise as central to their reading experience; for them, the book failed due to the world's incompleteness. "[T]his title had a rushed and rather unexplained ending and left me yearning for a better read," states a reviewer; another, summing up several complaints, writes that the plot seemed rushed "to the detriment of the reader's experience. It was one of those reads that you can't put down, yet when it's over, that feeling of satisfaction isn't QUITE there."(Footnote 27)

In perusing these reviews, a possible "perfect reader" for The Last Promise begins to emerge. This reader wants to be entertained, wants to learn things but, more than anything, wants to be absorbed into another world, to enjoy the characters and events as they unfold. The Last Promise's perfect reader also has definite opinions on what, specifically, enables creative involvement. The reviews on contain surprising specificity regarding what Evans did right (and wrong). Some reviews point to "the setting, the characters, the emotions" as the most important aspects of Evans' writing.(Footnote 28) Others focus on the suspense aroused by sympathy with the characters' plight. A perfect reader would likely agree most with the last statement; characterization is a pivotal issue in the reviews, both positive and negative. A critical reviewer, for example, cites the main characters' "contrived/artificial" and ultimately "boring" personalities as the death of his creative involvement.(Footnote 29)

Reviewers, pro and con, of The Last Promise share a number of creative expectations: "buyable" characters, a believable setting, a plausible resolution figure largely in all the reviews.(Footnote 30) For some, Evans' novel fulfilled these expectations; for others, claiming that the book's descriptions "fell flat" and the novel's beginning gave away the ending, it did not. For them, lack of credibility contributed to a sense of being kept outside, unable to achieve enjoyment due to the author's lack of ability. For admirers, such as The Last Promise's perfect reader, credibility was achieved; they were able to enter the novel.

The perfect reader for The Last Promise may not be the perfect reader for another text, but the issues raised by The Last Promise's perfect reader, however non-scholarly in delivery, are issues that should concern the votary theorist. We should be debating similar points, not only concerning popular romance novels but in regards to John Webster, William Shakespeare, Maya Angelou, James Baldwin, Emily Dickinson, and Vergil. Issues of creativity and involvement should arise when we discuss films, from animation to claymation, romance to thriller, as well as theatrical productions from dramas to musicals. Are audiences enthralled, gripped? Why? How? Is it the characterization, dialogue, prose, descriptions? What kind of journey do individual works invite us to take? Forget social significance--how are we satisfied, if we are satisfied, at a poetic level?

In her analysis of Oprah's book club, Kathleen Rooney makes a repeated call not for an abandonment of literary hierarchies but for the thoughtful construction of hierarchies that can then be submitted to debate.(Footnote 31) Votary theory encourages the same scholarly analysis of the creative experience. Not everyone will agree on what invites or engages creativity. Many would argue, as do reviewers on, that books like The Last Promise fall short of a creative hallmark, being products of "mindless romance novel workshops."(Footnote 32) Others will disagree. Within the strictures of context and treatment, these are the kinds of debates the humanist should engage it. Fans are more than capable of carrying out these conversational exchanges, but it is a sorry day for the humanities when assertions, eagerness, and excitement regarding creative enthrallment are sloughed off into supposedly less critical territory.

Throughout this thesis, I have applied votary theory to three different works, two which I enjoyed, one which I did not. In all cases, my task was not to ask, "How do my personal reflections explain this work's reception by others?" or, even, "How can this work be explained politically or socially?" Instead, I have tried to indicate how a work, produced within a certain time and place, may have impressed its audience creatively. We return, once more, to the symbol of the container. Every author creates within a context (the glass). That context determines a work's creative possibilities. Czinner was influenced in his choices for The Duchess by the advent of middlebrow culture. The possibilities open to him included horror and issues of identity. Late for Dinner utilized a device common to the 1990's, although other devices, such as time travel, were also available. The controversy over Evans' book was caused by the intersection of the author's personal experience (his trip to Italy) and the needs of the Mormon community (as perceived by its leaders).

What follows, though shaped by context, is not dependent upon it. Audiences search for creative experiences. Votary theory claims that this search is individualistic, independent of time or place. Shakespeare's audience desired it as did Homer's as did the Victorian readers of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Humans will always search for the creative experience in themselves, in each other. Specifically, votary theory claims that the search ends, momentarily, when a reader/spectator enters an artistic work, clambers inside the author's world. The reader/spectator comes away satiated, unfulfilled, or satisfied with reservations.

Furthermore, what the reader/spectator finds in the author's world, despite the confines of context, reflects the author's own search for creativity. In this meeting between reader and author (or, rather, between the reader and the author's created world), transcendence may occur--something less concrete, more ephemeral, more liquid than the container of place and time. Votary theory hopes to address both content and context without ever losing sight of the grandeur, the fun, the creative inspiration of artistic works. Unfortunately, we live in a world where too often, it seems, we are asked to separate the liquid from the glass.
1. "Evans says anyone upset by the message doesn't get the point. 'I know I will get some criticism from some people who don't get it . . . This is a woman who has been abused, who needs some love in her life. I believe we have the right to be loved. And I have real trouble with anyone who doesn't believe that." Quoted in Christy Karras' "Evans Moves to Italy in Search of Respect, Time With Family," The Salt Lake Tribune, November 10, 2002, D7. The study guide for The Last Promise on Richard Paul Evans' web site does not bring up the sticky problem of the adulterous relationship. Instead, it sticks to assertions such as "In addition to bonds of love, the bonds of family play a crucial role in The Last Promise." The study guide does mention the story of the Vestal Virgins (women who were killed in ancient times for falling in love), but in such hazy terms it is unclear what exactly about the Vestal Virgins you are supposed to consider. Richard Paul Evans,

2. Richard Paul Evans, The Last Promise (New York: Signet, 2002), 93.

3. Eugene Woodbury, "A Promise Not Worth Keeping," Irreantum: Exploring Mormon Literature, Summer 2003, 76. Eugene Woodbury is my oldest brother. His review of The Last Promise was written for a magazine published by the Association for Mormon Letters. I will refer to that review several times throughout this chapter.

4. Holly Mullen, "Banned Novel at Deseret Book Could Open Floodgate: What About Classics?" The Salt Lake Tribune, November 17, 2002, B1.

5. Robert Kirby, "Is Bible Next on Banned Books List?" The Salt Lake Tribune, November 16, 2002, C1.

6. Woodbury, 76.

7. Wayne Parker, "Romanticizing Infidelity," The Salt Lake Tribune, November 25, 2002, A6.

8. Amongst them, "What Prophets and Apostles Teach about Chastity and Fidelity," Ensign, October 1998, 38; Janette K. Gibbons, "Seven Steps to Strengthen a Marriage," Ensign, March 2002, 24; "Building a Successful Marriage," Ensign, March 1998, 27; S. Brent Scharman, "For Better, for Worse, For Always," Ensign, June 1991, 25. Also, a talk by Sheri Dew herself: "It Is Not Good for Man or Woman to be Alone," Ensign, November 2001, 12.

9. In 2002, Dew declared that all books were going to be reviewed according to "new buying guidelines." Danielle Steele books are still available through Deseret Book (although some of her novels may have been culled; the rest of Richard Paul Evans' books are also available). In any case, the availability of Steele's novels lends credence to Dew's claim that "[t]his is completely a business decision. It's not a religious decision, it's not a moral decision. It's a customer decision." In any case, it is likely that Mormon customers are less bothered by the ambiguous morality of non-Mormons than by the waffling morality of fellow Mormons. Christy Karras, "Forbidden Fruit: LDS Author's Book Deemed Inappropriate," The Salt Lake Tribune, November 14, 2002, A1. Evans, who has said little on this subject to the press, can hardly complain since his popularity, in Utah at least, was probably influenced by his being Mormon in the first place. He lived in Salt Lake City for many years, gaining the sobriquet of "beloved Utah author," Mullen, B1.

10. Clayton Koelb, The Incredulous Reader: Literature and the Function of Disbelief (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1984), 39.

11. Ibid, 225.

12. Ibid, 41, 229.

13. Ibid, 225.

14. Karras, "Evans Moves to Italy," D7.

15. Richard Paul Evans,

16. Joanne McCarthy, "The Last Promise (Book)," Magill Book Reviews, August 1, 2003, no page number given. Other reviews are attached to the book's page at

17. The only extremely negative review I have posted on was of Ayn Rand's Anthem, which is possibly the single stupidest book ever written. Update: The Last Promise now (August 2017) has 330 reviews on Amazon: 75% are 5-stars; 17% are 4-stars; 5% are 3-stars; 2% are 2-stars; 1% are 1-star. One could argue that a person who reads a Richard Paul Evans to begin with is predisposed to enjoy him. 

18. Woodbury, 78.

19. C.S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1961), 88-89.

20. Reviewers on may give their names (if they contribute often) or just sign the review "A reader." I will give the names when I have them: J. Roggrow and Maria.

21. Janet E. Spurr.

22. Paula.

23. Kris Mack, Julia Wade, Maria, "brooke."

24. Hillary Richardson, J. Noga, "Ezcowboy."

25. J. Noga, Maria, a reader, Janet E. Spurr.

26. "But what Eliana doesn't understand is that the promise has already been broken by Mauirzio [sic]," Lisa.

27. Nancy R. Katz, K. Cohan "lunch-break reader," emphasis in review.

28. "A reader." In regards to emotions, reviewer Karen wrote, "[The book] generates inside you that 'fall in love' feeling all over again."

29. Richard Parker. His entire review: "The Story [sic] story was just interesting enough to keep me reading, but I have never been so thoroughly put off by the protagonists of a story. Everything was so perfect about Eliana and Ross that I found them way too contrived/artificial, although supposedly based on a couple of bona fide homo sapiens, and certainly exceedingly boring. I have to wonder if the author didn't use the same device - the 'real life' fictional interview - that others have used to try to make the story seem more true-to-life; even with this, or even if the entire story were true, it's not much of a story. At least the studly [sic] Ross's capacity for 70+ consecutive push-ups was explained by his exhaustive physical training regimen while he...uh...had nothing else to do. Glad I bought the book at a clearance store."

30. "[I] couldn't buy the main character," writes "quiltmom Sue." Ms Dawn concurs. Also, Evans should have "desbribed [sic] the places in Tuscany with feeling and the senses, not as a Tourist guide reading a map," explains Dancing Crane.

31. Kathleen Rooney, Reading With Oprah: The Book Club That Changed America (Fayetteville: The University of Arkansas Press, 2005).

32. A. Todd.

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