Mormon Coffee-Table Books?

Christopher BigelowMormon 19 Comments

I work with a publisher in Great Britain who is keen to do some lavish, glossy, full-color coffee-table-type books on Mormon themes (or hot-chocolate table, if that’s how you prefer it).

This fine gent has asked me to shake some trees and see what topics Mormons would like to see given this kind of treatment, whether historical, cultural, or whatever. He prints ’em cheap in China and stacks ’em deep in places like Costco and Barnes & Noble.

So take a moment to sit down on your sofa and stare down at your coffee table and try to picture what kind of Mormon-themed coffee-table book you’d like to see there, something that hasn’t already been done (or, if it has been done in some form, hasn’t received the glossy full-color illustrated treatment it deserves yet).

Thanks in advance for any suggestions! (And I’m sure none of them will be tongue-in-cheek…)

Comments 19

  1. If this publisher is Dorling Kindersley, I would love to see one of pioneers. DK could get people to dress up in “pioneer garb” and stand near reconstructed handcarts and covered wagons. They could show the Saints dancing in the evenings after a long day walking. They could show the wagons gathered in a circle against agression from the natives. It could include maps, diary excerpts, song texts and maybe even music? The book could also depict life in the Salt Lake valley, as a “continuation of hardship” theme. I guess the book could also include people on the Mormon Battalion.

    Another book concept would be Mormon pageants, with lots of pictures comparing and contrasting all the pageants put on by the Church in Nephi, Palmyra, Nauvoo, etc., as well as old defunct pageants. This may have interest outside the LDS culture because tons of non-LDS go to these pageants year after year. Pics of costumes, pyrotechnics, audio and stage technologies needed to pull off the show, etc. Plot outlines, personal experiences viewing and participating in the pageants.

    Another book concept: Utah mormonism. The day to day life of the average (is there such a thing?) Mormon in Utah. Pictures of homes, family life, activities, seminary, soccer practice, church on sunday, etc. This is probably not a great idea, but people are curious….

    So where’s my cut of the revenues? 🙂

  2. I think it would be fabulous to see a Mormon hot cocoa table book depicting Mormons in various meetings. PEC meeting, Welfare Committee meeting, Ward Council meeting, Bishopric meeting, Elders Quorum Presidency meeting, High Priest Group Presidency Meeting, Relief Society Presidency Meeting, Young Men’s Presidency meeting, Young Women’s Presidency meeting, Primary Presidency meeting, Sunday School Board meeting, Deacon’s Quorum Presidency meeting, Teachers Quorum Presidency meeting, Priest’s Quorum Presidency meeting, General Priesthood meeting, Stake General Priesthood meeting, Ward Mission meeting, Seminary Board meeting, Scout Committee meeting, Bishop’s Youth Committee meeting, etc. Of course, this is just a small handful of examples and there are many, many more meetings, but you can begin to get the picture.

    I think it would be great if the publisher could capture photographs of Mormons in these various meetings all over the world. It could show the rich diversity of meetings and their participants that exists within the Church.

    Also, it would also be great if they could capture the meeting participants’ varying body language: right leg crossed over left leg, left leg crossed over right leg, legs uncrossed, chin resting in palm of right hand, chin resting in palm of left hand, learning forward in chair, leaning backwards in chair, eyes open, eyes closed, eyes crossed . . . hopefully they could capture the vision of what I’m saying better than I’m able to articulate it.

  3. Pre-standard plan chapels and tabernacles. Interiors and exteriors. Organs. Stained glass. Pews. Staircases. Fun to look at, and subversively stirring up an appreciation of (demand for?) craftsmanship and uniqueness.

  4. I 2nd the idea for “pre-standard” chapels. If the chapels and photos were very artsy, I’d like it.
    Plus, it’s much better than the other idea I had. 🙂

  5. [hand waving desperately to be called on . . .]

    Yes! What Ardis said in #3, plus decorative motifs of beehives and sun and stars, and all that goes with such. Remember Allen D. Roberts’ article, “Where Are the All-Seeing Eyes? The Origin, Use & Decline of Early Mormon Symbolism.” Sunstone: Mormon Experience, Scholarship, Issues & Art 4:3; whole issue no. 15 (May/June 1979), pp. 22-37 ?

    “The time will come,” hoped Edward Dorr Griffin in 1826, “when ‘Holiness to the Lord’ shall be written on all the possessions of men, on the very ‘bells of the horses;’ . . . The common vessels used to dress our food, instead of being regarded as instruments of luxury or display, like our Bibles and psalm-books, shall be all for God. Men will write Holiness to the Lord on every dollar and on every foot of ground. They will no longer labour to hoard but to do good.”

  6. Larger, updated version of the Minerva Teichert Book of Mormon series or recent BYU exhibit. There are a number of nationally prominent LDS artists. Art books seem to do pretty well.

  7. John Dehlins The Other Mormon Hero’s

    Cover showing American Hero’s

    Traditional Mormon Hero’s

    The Other Mormon Hero’s

    This would make a great cover and would look fantastic in the front window of Desert Book!

    Hopefully in time for Christmas

  8. Pulling together some of the comments above: Mormon architecture and construction. This would cover temples, including (as per Rick’s comments) closeups of architectural details; LDS chapels (as per Ardis), particularly pre-standardization ones, as well as international ones; and LDS-influenced community architecture and civic works. I still have fond summertime memories of irrigation water flowing through the Provo gutters as a BYU student in the 1970s. And driving through the backroads of Utah, you can still see abandoned homesteads and cabins, as well as houses and farms that have been around for a long, long time. One can also include LDS historical sites in Palmyra, Kirkland, Independence, and Nauvoo. ..bruce..

  9. One more: Mormon folklore. stories could be illustrated. I’m not sure that blacks and the priesthood would be appropriate to put in this volume, though. 🙂

  10. Welch, John W. and Dant, Doris R., “The Book of Mormon Paintings of Minerva Teichert,” Bookcraft, 1997, 168 pages, ISBN 1-57008-378-9.

  11. I don’t know if I posted about this book before, but I just sent the final manuscript to the press yesterday. It’s a picture book about the Kirtland Temple — actually more a souvenir book than a coffee table book.

    Here are some examples of the spreads. (Actual size is 11×17).

    The Pulpits

    Building Community

    Temple today

  12. I would love to see a book of the “faces” of Mormonism. A collection of pictures of everyday Mormons which would illustrate the diversity and changing international face of what a “typical” Mormon looks like.

  13. I’d be the first to pre-order a copy of “Mormon Kitsch, Vol. I”. Just think – – – the Angel Moroni Christmas Tree topper, the Gordon B. Hinckley paint-by-number portrait, the little box framed portrait of Spencer W. Kimball with a built-in music box that would play “I Am a Child of God,” etc. etc. (I have seen all these examples.)

    (While a graduate student at BYU I functioned as the TA for a visiting professor teaching a two-week seminar. She was somewhat familiar with the church, as her aunt was a member. One of the first things she asked me was, “Where can I find some good Mormon kitsch? My aunt’s house is full of it, and I’ve love to pick some up.”)

  14. Holy smokes, Hamer, that’s a gorgeous book. I look forward to it.

    Thanks everybody else for the great ideas–definitely several I’m going to run by the publisher.

  15. I’ve used photo book software to create 5 books – the quality of the printing is amazing and I would fully recommend them for creating a coffee table book, wedding book, family photo book or whatever. Great stuff! It can also be used to create a church directory, family history, or religious book.

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