Douglas H. Thayer: Mormon Author

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Douglas H. Thayer Mormon Author

Douglas H. Thayer was a fiction writer, considered by some as the “Mormon Hemingway” for his straightforward style and prose in exploring contemporary Mormon life. Eugene England called Thayer "the father of contemporary Mormon fiction and one of its major voices." Mormon author, John Bennion, said: "Thayer taught us how to explore the interior life, with its conflicts of doubt and faith, goodness and evil, of a believing Mormon."[1] Thayer was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He passed away on October 17, 2017, of liver cancer.

Thayer was born on April 19, 1929, and grew up in Provo, Utah. He recalls spending his childhood “running free” through the Wasatch Mountains as he hunted, fished, and hiked.[2] He dropped out of high school in 1946 to join the U. S. Army and served in Germany. He later served a 30-month mission to Germany for the Mormon Church.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Brigham Young University. Although he applied to law school he opted to pursue a PhD in American literature at Stanford instead. He found he disliked research, so he left the program. After teaching for a time in the BYU English Department and pursuing a doctorate degree in American studies at the University of Maryland, he decided that he preferred writing short stories and novels, so he finished an MFA in fiction writing from the University of Iowa. Thayer then returned to teach at BYU, and remained there throughout his career. In addition to teaching, he has been associate chair in the English Department, associate dean of the College of Humanities, coordinator of composition, and director of creative writing.

Thayer’s early work experience included a wealth of experiences that later influenced his writing. He helped on a uranium drill rig, and was a construction laborer, railroad section hand, janitor, restaurant dishwasher, seasonal ranger in Yellowstone National Park, and insurance salesman. He is well known for his coming-of-age stories and has been noted as “the finest chronicler of the Mormon youth in the culture.”[3]

Under the Cottonwoods and Other Mormon Stories, his first collection of stories (1977), is considered a Mormon classic. His other works include a second collection of short stories, Mr. Wahlquist in Yellowstone (1989); three novels, Summer Fire (1983), The Conversion of Jeff Williams (2003), The Tree House (2009); a memoir, Hooligan: A Mormon Boyhood (2007); Wasatch: Mormon Stories and a Novella (2011); and Will Wonders Never Cease: A Hopeful Novel for Mormon Mothers and Their Teenage Sons (2014). He wrote Greg & Kellie in 1982 with his wife, Donlu. The Thayers are parents to six children.

Thayer has won multiple awards for his fiction, including numerous DIALOGUE prizes for the short story and essay, the P.A. Christensen award, the Association for Mormon Letters Prize in the Novel, the Karl G. Maeser Creative Arts Award, the Utah Institute of Fine Arts Award in the Short Story, and the 2008 Smith-Pettit Foundation Award for Outstanding Contribution to Mormon Letters. He received lifetime achievement awards from the Association for Mormon Letters and the Whitney Award program for Mormon writers.

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