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Switch to Forum Live View Richard Dutcher article
6 years ago  ::  Apr 20, 2012 - 8:38AM #1
Acts 28:22
Posts: 1,975
Richard Dutcher: Leaving his faith, staying with film - Salt Lake Tribune
It is impossible to stand upright when one plants his roots in the shifting sands of popular opinion and approval.

Thomas S. Monson
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6 years ago  ::  Apr 20, 2012 - 9:54PM #2
Posts: 5,277

I remember when his leaving was a news story some years ago.

I have wondered about the difficulties of combining LDS thought and culture into the arts.  That one LDS artist was who painted the picture of Jesus holding the Constitution or the one of President Obama burning the Constitution has captured extreme right-wing LDS sentiment to the degree it earned praise from some and condemnation from others, is one example of an LDS artist combining both his faith in God and the John Birch Society.

Cry Heaven and let loose the Penguins of Peace
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6 years ago  ::  Apr 21, 2012 - 7:46AM #3
Posts: 12,363

Apr 20, 2012 -- 9:54PM, moksha8088 wrote:

I remember when his leaving was a news story some years ago.

I have wondered about the difficulties of combining LDS thought and culture into the arts.  That one LDS artist was who painted the picture of Jesus holding the Constitution or the one of President Obama burning the Constitution has captured extreme right-wing LDS sentiment to the degree it earned praise from some and condemnation from others, is one example of an LDS artist combining both his faith in God and the John Birch Society.

When I first heard of what was going on, it sounded like he was simply having a snit fit because his movie bombed.

As far as the arts goes, the truth of the matter is that it's all in how one does it.

For example, the original 1970s Battlestar Galactica was actually envisioned as an allegory for the Mormon Trail. To this day very few people are aware of this.

Or you have the fact that the original Yoda muppet was based on Spencer W. Kimball. Not even George Lucas was aware of it until someone asked him about that.

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6 years ago  ::  Apr 22, 2012 - 12:17PM #4
Posts: 3,242

It's a process.

Some people, constrained by faith, are never able to acknowledge its holes and see a world outside of it.  Some, focused on those holes, are never able to enjoy the benefits of faith.

Dutcher, like a lot of people, wanted to do good.  He had a faith and he had a dream of becoming a filmmaker.  He combined them into his career as an independent filmmaker.

He made history.  His movie, "God's Army," started the whole genre of Mormon film, which made a splash around the world because Mormon movies made money.  In the film business, most movie projects don't.  Moviemaking is incredibly risky.  You'd have better chances taking your money to Vegas.  But Mormon movies were shot on a shoestring budget and appealed to a local audience that could be relied on for box office.

It got harder to sustain as the budgets grew and the novelty wore off.  To date, the biggest Mormon movie of all time is "Napoleon Dynamite," which went out of its way to avoid looking like a Mormon movie.  While written and directed by Mormons - and featuring an RM in the lead - it depicted a lot of great in-jokes about growing up in Mormon Idaho - but was as strict as an Orthodox rabbi (dividing meat and dairy) in its zeal to make sure there were no overtly Mormon identifications in the film.  None.

There's an obvious contradiction between making movies for Mormon audiences - by branding them as "Mormon" - and making movies for distribution everywhere else.  Nothing gives a movie the kiss of death quite like branding it as made strictly for a specific religious audience.

If you think people are reluctant to open the door to two missionaries preaching their message at no cost, just imagine how hard the sell would be if it involved asking those people to leave their home, get a sitter, park their car and head into a theater - so they could be preached to at their own expense.

Dutcher's troubles mirror those of independent filmmakers everywhere.  There's something cute about indies, in terms of their low budgets and the creative corner-cutting the filmmakers have to go through to get their movie shot and shown.  It helps if you're 22.  It's not quite as endearing when you're 32 or 42.  The gap between indies and Hollywood has never been wider, which is why nobody wants to see a Hollywood film about "real life" and nobody wants to see an indie that's too "commercial."

Every time somebody jumps the gap, lightning strikes.

Dutcher may be selling out - sort of like Hugh Nibley's daughter - in telling the well-worn story of "How I Escaped the Mormons" in order to get him an audience.  If so, the benefits will be short-lived.  But make no mistake about it, people do lose their faith in the LDS Church, at least in the most literalist view of the faith.  Why should filmmakers be exempt from a situation that has descended upon many urban professionals over the last so many decades?

The story here is that Dutcher is bringing back "Falling," the "first R-Rated Mormon movie," a movie with a decent pitch (regardless of whether Dutcher is any good as a writer/director).  Falling is the story of a once-devout Mormon filmmaker who ends up shooting freelance footage of accidents and tragedies for local news stations.  I think it's an engaging concept.  Again, I'm not sure whether Dutcher made a good film out of it (I haven't seen "Falling") but I'd probably see it.

I grow weary of watching the same movies over and over.  Walk Like a Man?  Give me a break.

To me, the future of the faith will have to be one where there's greater tolerance for divergent views of the theology.  There are tons of people in Utah alone who have fond feelings for the faith and for each other but who cannot reconcile their own awareness with the mythology of the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith's revelations or Church History.  I'd go so far as to say that troubles begin much earlier, in the Old and New Testaments.

I think the strength of the LDS faith is in its desire to save Christianity from the crisis it was in when Joseph Smith was overwhelmed by the factious sectarian paintball war of his time.  Protestantism, itself, was an attempt to save Christianity from what it had become in the 1500 years before Jesus and Luther.  But by the time of Joseph Smith, this hope of hanging everything on the Catholic Church had already proved untenable as every babbling preacher with a Bible in his hand was doing battle with every other preacher with a Bible in his hand.

Joseph Smith's First Vision and the publication of The Book of Mormon unleashed a new possibility, that original Christianity was coming back.  A whole generation, eager to live out their fantasy of living in "Biblical times," took that faith and ran with it.  It is nothing less than amazing at how they set off on missions, building and creating, while surviving the furious vollies of anti-Mormonism.

But along the way, they created a record of their own, one that falls a bit south of Biblical ideals.  If God really did come back and lead a church again - in our own day and time - would he really pick people like Oliver Cowdery, Martin Harris, the Whitmers, Sidney Rigdon, Wiliam Law and others - who went from writing and publish the Book of Mormon and spreading it throughout the world to getting themselves excommunicated for finding fault with Joseph Smith?  Would he really want his prophet to secretly marry 23 women, some of whom were married already, and some of them to faithful members of the faith?  Would he really allow Joseph Smith to ordain Elijah Abel and then allow Brigham Young to ban blacks from the priesthood?  Would he have told Brigham to tell the crazies down in Mountain Meadows to "leave those people alone," but tell him a day too late?  Would he be happy if Brigham waited so long to have any investigation, one in which one man took the fall for the whole community?  Would he have told Joseph Smith to organize Zion's Camp?  Would he have really endorsed the creation of the Nauvoo Legion or not warned Joseph about destroying the Nauvoo Expositor?

Would God have told the Brethren to oppose Civil Rights, as they were denouncing Martin Luther King and the struggle for equality?  Would God have really told Hinckley to pull the trigger on Prop 8?

I doubt it.  I think Church History bears itself out.  If you want to overlook or spin these cringeworthy moments, in order to maintain your faith in other things that are either more palatable or less easily scrutinized, have at it.

I don't need to do damage to my own limited intellect and common sense in order to have faith in something.  Then again, I wouldn't have asked Jesus about the historicity of his parables.  I wouldn't have needed to know if the Good Samaritan was really a Samaritan - or anybody in particular.  I think the truth of the story is bigger than whether the story is literally true.

As for Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, I think we see a whole generation of dreamers, who wanted something to be true and who were willing to move heaven and earth to pursue the dream.  It's inspiring in its own way.  I don't think their humanity, including their sins and imperfections, make them less interesting or less worthy of our attention.  

People blast Mormons for believing in modern-day prophets when they, themselves, look for direction today.

People blast Mormons for believing in eternal progression when they, themselves, seek it everywhere.  They want to live longer and healthier.  They want better digs.  They endlessly seek new thrills and stake new ground in every endeavor.  To be human is to reach for the stars.

People blast Mormons for baptism of the dead, yet they say a prayer for each other, light candles for the dead and try - through countless ways - to honor those who are gone.

Mormons are funny for the Word of Wisdom, yet so many people today are going after sugar, gluten, alcohol and whatever ingredient gets under their skin.  Recently, the customers of Starbucks have forced the company to make a commitment to stop using crushed bugs to give their "strawberry" drinks a red hue.

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6 years ago  ::  Apr 24, 2012 - 12:05AM #5
Posts: 1,785

Bill, you post some great comments here, but I ask just how boring would life be without all of those things you note?Laughing

Jesse F.


I will be as good as I can, until temptation comes.

Buster Brown

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