Book Burning “Friends”
Remember that cute story in the Friend about the eight-year-old who read some bad words in a children’s book she checked out from the school library? She went home and talked to her parents about it. They explained what the words meant and why they chose not to use such language. They also talked about why the characters in the book used such words. Maybe the characters were struggling to choose the right. On the other hand, maybe they came from a different background where such words weren’t taboo. They talked about how they could maintain their own language standards while showing tolerance and respect for people with different standards. They used the book as a tool to reinforce their family’s values while gaining new insights and appreciation for the perspectives of others.
You don’t remember the story? That is because I am telling it wrong. In the actual story, the girl got the book banned from her school.
These delightful censorship stories pop up pretty regularly in our church magazines. Sometimes good Mormons are banning books, other times they are boycotting community plays, and frequently they are demanding that all of their friends and colleagues stop swearing.
The American Library Association’s Banned Book Week is coming up soon. At this time each year, the Library Association takes a few minutes to remind us of the dangers of censorship. If the kinds of things we brag about in our church magazines are any indication, we Mormons could use the reminder.
I won’t demand that Church Magazines stop printing stories promoting censorship. That would violate my own principles of literary freedom. Instead, the next time I see one of these bothersome stories in my kids’ copy of the Friend, I’ll talk to my children about it. I’ll explain the dangers of censorship and why I choose to fight it. I’ll also explain why some members of our faith think they need to censor things. Maybe they don’t know how to choose the right when confronted with other influences. Maybe it hasn’t occurred to them that banning books that make them uncomfortable prevents everyone from benefiting from the books’ messages. I’ll explain to my kids how we can stand up for literary freedom while showing tolerance and respect for people who write church magazine articles favoring censorship. I’ll use that Friend article as a tool to reinforce our family’s values while gaining new insights and appreciation for the perspectives of others.
For more information about Banned Book Week, see http://www.ala.org/ala/issuesadvocacy/banned/bannedbooksweek/index.cfm