If you’ve served in one of the youth presidencies in a Mormon ward, you probably think they don’t really have the authority to shape policy in any original or interesting way, but — as Alex Hansen demonstrates in his new novel Their Works Shall Be in the Dark — all you need is a little imagination, and perhaps a dash of foolhardiness.
The fictional priests’ quorum is led by Jacob, the cunning and charismatic son of a bishop. He’s not technically the quorum president because — for some bizarre historical reason — it’s LDS policy for the bishop to be the president of the priests’ quorum, and the teen who would be “president” is called “first assistant.” And to make this whole “presidency” thing even more of a joke, in smaller wards it’s common to have the majority of a given quorum serving in the presidency, as is the case in the story. But, unlike a typical “first assistant”, Jacob decides to try a novel experiment — to use his position of authority to command the priests’ quorum presidency to deliberately commit sins.
The story is highly entertaining and the character development is top-notch. It’s told in first person with each of the members of the quorum taking turns as narrator. I especially liked the way the various characters’ friendships — and their faith — evolve in response to their experiences. Their changes are quite natural without being predictable. The church itself provides the amusing setting without didactically serving as the source of all good or the source of all evil.
I found this book through the author’s Brodie-award-winning blog. It turns out that it’s not his first book, though it is his first book set in Mormondom. It’s a fun read — I highly recommend adding it to your summer reading list!