Smith-Pettit Foundation Award for Outstanding Contribution to Mormon Letters
The Association for Mormon Letters is pleased to award the Smith-Pettit Award for significant achievement in Mormon letters to Levi S. Peterson. Levi has played an inestimable role as one of the leading lights of Mormon fiction, biography, and criticism for over 40 years. With the publication of The Canyons of Grace
, he presented all Mormondom with a new voice--a gifted, ironic, irreverent, and gentle voice that probed, analyzed, and demythologized conventional Mormon attitudes. He filled a space in the culture once reserved for writers like Juanita Brooks, Virginia Sorensen, or Maureen Whipple. At the same time, he seemed to borrow the Christian grotesque of Flannery O’Connor. He found grace in unlikely places and in unlikely people, places the Lord would be, but where the self-respecting Mormon would be less likely to fund herself. He was not about to affirm the propriety of Mormon complacency; instead, he was definitely out to find the grace that touches all of us. Levi would not have it any other way. His works, therefore, can never fully embrace only the center of Mormonism and its cultures and doctrines. There is no enmity, but there is a strong reminder that Mormons on the boundaries—the Mormon others—are always in God’s hands. He is an irreverent friend with a keen capacity to love the oddities of belief and practice he has found all around him in his home wards, his towns, and his family. At the same time, he is unafraid to tell the rest of us that our faith in ourselves is misplaced. But this has not been without controversy. The Mormon weakness for taking offense has sometimes dogged Peterson, even made him a polarizing figure. His response has been admirable. Through his biography of Juanita Brooks, his editorship of Dialogue
, and his autobiography, Levi S. Peterson has sought to begin new conversations where it once seemed that common ground was lost. He has made his life’s work a true gift to the Latter-day Saints. To him we offer our heartfelt gratitiude.