Richard Dutcher leaves church

http://www.heraldextra.com/content/view/217694/
Excerpt: (but go read the whole thing)

Mormon doctrines are powerful and beautiful and have given great meaning to my life for more than 30 years. I’m sure they will always continue to inform not only my future work as a filmmaker, but also my private spiritual journey. But it does not appear that it will be my honor to make some of these films that the LDS community so desperately needs.

As many of you know, I am no longer a practicing member of the church. The private answers to the questions I have asked in my prayers, and in my films, have led me on an unexpected journey, a spiritual path which may ultimately prove incompatible with Mormon orthodoxy. This understanding has brought me some of the most profound surprises and also the deepest sadness of my life. It is very hard for me to say goodbye to something that I love.

Who knows? Maybe, like Oliver Cowdery (to whom I’ve always felt an uncommon kinship), my travels will someday lead back to Mormonism and to this effort. Such an end would be beautiful and, in a strange way, an answer to my prayers. But I don’t know.

My thoughts:

1. Saddened. Dutcher is a talented man, and I could spend days praising Brigham City and God’s Army. Many of his comments about the mediocrity of Mormon arts were often spot on.

Luckily, he’s going off graciously, with no overt explicit attacks on the church as a whole.

2. However, that said, despite Dutcher’s insistence he’s being humble, I detect too much hubris in his implicit claim to have more mature spiritual insight than the rest of us orthodox types.

It’s clear Dutcher has put his art before the church. And in the end, as Neal A. Maxwell said:

If you have not chosen the kingdom of God first, it will in the end make no difference what you have chosen instead.

I wish him luck, and hope his comparison to Cowdery proves true – that he will eventually return to the fold. We’re poorer without him. But, at the same time, I think he’ll be poorer without us as well, even if he won’t realize it.

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About Ivan Wolfe

Ivan Wolfe teaches rhetoric at Arizona State University. He has a PhD in English from the University of Texas - Austin, and a BA and MA in English (with minors in Classical Greek, Music, and Philosophy) from BYU. He has several credits on various Christmas albums aimed at the LDS market, several essays in Open Court's Popular Culture and Philosophy series, and various book reviews in academic and popular venues. He also competes in Scottish Highland Games and mud run/obstacle course races, and he can deadlit over double his bodyweight (his last PR was just shy of 500 pounds). He is currently married to Lisa Renee Wolfe. He has five kids and four stepkids.

111 thoughts on “Richard Dutcher leaves church

  1. “It’s clear Dutcher has put his art before the church.”

    I don’t know that it is that cut and dry. Don’t get me wrong, pride is a big, big part of this, but I think Dutcher is speaking from real spiritual conviction. He obviously feels he had an important spiritual message for us all and was upset by its recetption. In the end this shows a lack of compassion for your audience and a lack of humility, but I also see in it some very real spiritual conviction. Anyway, there but for the grace of God go I. I have to worry to much about my own beams to get to worked up over Dutcher’s mote. He may yet end up as Cowdery.

  2. Everything he wrote about Mormons cinema is spot on. 99% crap. Too bad he’s decided to leave, even though I didn’t think most of his movies were much better than everything else, he is clearly a superior director to everyone else in the genre.

    I think the key (relating to LDS cinema) is what he said about focusing on story instead of making sure there are no swear words or breasts in your movie. Up till now it seems like filmmakers think they’ve made a good LDS movie if it is full of LDs references and is rated PG or G. Obviously it takes much more than that.

  3. Ivan,

    I share your sentiments in your first thought; but, not your second. I didn’t detect the hubris you described. His prayers and answers were private. AS long as he leaves as you describe:

    “with no overt explicit attacks on the church as a whole”

    I think we should be as gracious in letting him go. I too wish him well, and hope he gets different answers at some future time.

  4. Sad to see him leave, but when you put something before God and the Church you create problems for yourself. I think you have it right on when you say, “It’s clear Dutcher has put his art before the church.”

    Now the question comes for me… Do I by his videos (I currently own none), or not?

  5. Weird, I was just thinking about this an hour before I read Ivan’s post. Funny how the mind works. Anyway, I have many, many thoughts on this, but just a few quick ones:

    1)He basically already announced this in his CT interview a few months back.
    2)He has a wife who is apparently still active in the Church.
    3)The movies he is currently working on are R-rated blood fests. Yuck.
    4)I will always count the faithful scenes in God’s Army and Brigham City as great spiritual moments in LDS film.
    5)I hope he follows in Oliver’s footsteps, and if he does I will celebrate and welcome him back with big, open arms. In the meantime, I hope he is inspired to follow good paths by the Light of Christ.

  6. We hurt his feelings. “Goodbye cruel world.”

    This little essay is a bit too dramatic. There’s nothing humble about it. He’s cast himself as the true artist, the truth-seeker at all costs – speaking to us from his mountain-top.

    He really needs to get over himself. He’s talented but he’s not Michelangelo.

    But I think he’ll be back and we should welcome him when he returns. His movie-making shows how important Mormonism has been to him and I don’t think he’ll ever really be able to stay away from it. Which is great.

  7. People leave the church all the time for many different reasons. Some come back, some don’t. I appreciate those above who have said they will welcome Dutcher back with open arms. We should all be so Christ-like.

  8. I am not completely sure what Richard means by “a spiritual path which may ultimately prove incompatible with Mormon orthodoxy” or what the “unexpected surprises” or “deepest sadness” are. I am also not sure that not presently being a “practicing member of the church” means Richard has “left the church”, any more than have the large number of other members who may not currently attend or may not presently strive to live all of its standards. Leaving activity in the Church is not necessarily the same, in my mind, as “leaving the Church.”

    Perhaps it means he, for a time, will be part of the “third way”. Perhaps he too, in a few years, will be posting about considering renewing a temple recommend, notwithstanding a lack of unshakeable faith in the church as an institution or in its history. http://theculturalhall.com/?p=94

    A couple more things Richard said in the article that have significance to me:

    “One fundamental thing I have learned over the past few years is a genuine humility regarding my spiritual beliefs.

    “I know that some of you will not understand my decisions. Please know that I will always be not only a great friend to the Mormon community, but also one of its strongest defenders.”

    I have taken some spiritual journeys myself. And I, like many others, have discovered that a loving Heavenly Father will gently (and sometimes not so gently) guide us, sometimes in ways we would not expect–even on “paths that [we] do not know.” Hymn 270

    In the meantime, Richard, if you happen to read this, know that I, and many others, appreciate you, respect you, love you, and support you (and your loved ones), as you strive to follow God’s path as best you understand it. And please know that I, for one, continue to consider you not just a “great friend” of the Mormon community, but a vital part of us.

    An alternate translation for “still small voice” in 1 Kings 19:12 is “gentle breeze”. May you (and all of us) find continual or frequent refreshment and strength in the gentle breezes of God’s spirit and guidance as you (and we all) humbly continue seeking it.

  9. In comment #5, Travis asked: “Do I buy his videos (I currently own none), or not?”

    I would still buy his videos. For one thing, I think he made good movies. Though I think he’s acting a little childish, I don’t dislike or hate the man.

  10. Just yesterday morning, I showed my seminary class a video in which Dutcher plays Oliver Cowdery.

    It is interesting that he addressed this farewell solely to filmmakers, a few dozen people out of the thousands who read the Daily Herald. His farewell to moviegoers can be found in his vulgar comments on this web site three months ago. Devotion to art has become confused with an obsession with artists.

  11. Saying one is humble about his spiritual beliefs is only an alternate way of saying he’s lost his testimony. Truly, Brother Dutcher is a great artist to come up with such a self-flattering way of describing his descent into the spiritual wilderness.

    I did like most of his comments about cinema. And having seen States of Grace, I will say that he’s a technically much better director than other LDS directors whose works I’ve seen. But States of Grace also contained plot lines and themes that grated on my nerves, displaying a pop-Gospel mentality and a lazy emphasis on Hollywood-style compassion.

    As Brother Dutcher says, it isn’t enough for LDS films simply to be unoffensive. But it should go without saying that films marketed to Mormons, and particularly ones that try to be profound and inspiring, should actually make sense in the framework of LDS doctrine. States of Grace seemed to me more of an attempt to convince both Mormons and non-Mormons that we’re really just another bunch of born-agains. Dutcher’s spiritual journey away from Mormon orthodoxy had already begun.

    I truly hope he comes back, and I am encouraged by his self-identification with Oliver Cowdery. Because Cowdery fell away with the boast that, if he left the church, it would fall. Joseph invited him to find out, and he did. Dutcher, too, considers himself more important than he is. Cowdery made a grand contribution to the rise of the church, and we are grateful for the contriduction Brother Dutcher has made to LDS entertainment. Now we hope he will eventually return and benefit from the blessings of the gospel that inspired him through most of his life.

  12. Who knows? Maybe, like Oliver Cowdery (to whom I’ve always felt an uncommon kinship), my travels will someday lead back to Mormonism and to this effort. Such an end would be beautiful and, in a strange way, an answer to my prayers. But I don’t know. One fundamental thing I have learned over the past few years is a genuine humility regarding my spiritual beliefs.

    God be with you till we meet again, Richard.

  13. I always question people who claim to be humble.
    With that said, I have been an admirer of Dutcher’s work, and actually have tried to interest others in his films. I am not sure why his work was not generally accepted by the Mormon community.
    I genuinely feel said about his departure from Mormonism and I sincerely hope he returns someday.

  14. Dave Wolverton on Dutcher vs Merrill

    In my most recent novel, I have a woman who is preparing to cross the
    plains with the Willie Handcart Company tell a church leader, “I’d
    rather hear one ugly truth than a thousand pretty lies.”

    It’s because she knows that the truth, even one that hurts her
    feelings or is hard to bear, gives her some sort of framework to work
    from so that she can protect and better herself. She knows that church
    leaders are downplaying the rigors of the trail ahead, and she knows
    that if she is going to bring her family through alive, the truth
    isn’t an option, it is a necessity.

    I see some parallels to the remarks made by Dutcher and Merrill.

    So Richard Dutcher told us some hurtful truths: a lot of LDS
    movies have been real stinkers lately. Our audience is fleeing the
    theaters. We have to do better. And he touched on some of the
    reasons behind their weaknesses—we’re too afraid to offend anyone.
    Good for him.

    I’ve noticed it, too. Everyone in the industry has begun to
    recognize that the market is dying. Lately, when I see an ad for an
    LDS movie, I have to resist the urge to run the other way. I’ve
    wasted too much precious money on bad films.

    Does that mean that I agree with everything that Richard says?
    No. Richard is choosing to leave the church for awhile, a course of
    action that I would not recommend to anyone. I don’t know all of his
    reasons, but I suspect that he has been deeply offended. Thirty years
    ago, I had a bishop who offended me so deeply that I didn’t go to
    church for nearly a year. I had to fight the urge to vomit each time
    I sat in the same room with him. I eventually forgave the man and
    moved on. I think that whatever Richard’s reasons for leaving the
    church, he will do the same.

    As evidence for this, I’d suggest that you look at his films.
    The moral themes are so deeply woven into them, his ethical dilemmas
    so heavily textured, it is obvious to me that he’s a decent, wonderful
    human being. And essentially I think that he will continue on that
    path.

    Years ago, before I ever joined the church, I looked into dozens
    of other religions. Even as a teenager it seemed to me that most of
    those religions had little or nothing to offer. It’s a spiritual
    wasteland out there. Richard may see this, too.

    But even if he never returns to the church, I don’t think the
    kind of person that he is will change much–whether he decides to
    become a Buddhist, a Baptist, or an agnostic. So I’m happy to
    consider him a friend and a brother.

    On the other hand, I had problems with Merrill’s response to
    Dutcher’s letter.

    First of all, Merrill says that Richard only ever made one
    halfway decent movie. Say what?

    I’ve seen four of Richard’s movies—”God’s Army,” “Brigham City,”
    “States of Grace,” and “Falling.”

    Each was a worthy film. “God’s Army” was the weakest of them,
    in my opinion, while “States of Grace” was the finest LDS film ever
    made. “Falling,” Richard’s latest work, is one of the five most
    powerful movies that I’ve ever seen. I viewed it in a private
    screening and was asked not to talk about it previous to its release,
    so I won’t say more.

    But I will say this: Richard Dutcher is the best storyteller
    working in the LDS film market today—hand’s down, bar none.

    For Merrill to declare otherwise suggests one of three things:
    Either he is a slack-jawed, inbred hillbilly; or his own artistic
    sensibilities are so screwy he doesn’t know good when he sees it; or
    he is being dishonest in his assessment of Dutcher’s work.

    Personally, I don’t believe that he’s a slack-jawed inbred
    hillbilly. Certainly Merrill’s own films show him to be an
    intelligent, sensitive director who has crafted many fine films worthy
    of praise. I, too, have been moved to tears by some of his work.

    It may be that he doesn’t recognize the value of Dutcher’s work.
    I’ve seen such things in the past. I once had a painter friend who
    loved Rembrandt but couldn’t abide “posers” like Chagall, Monet, or
    Picasso. In short, he had something of a blind spot that didn’t allow
    him to appreciate certain kinds of genius. Merrill may have a similar
    blind spot.

    But I’m going to vote here for dishonesty. I think that Merrill
    was so deeply hurt by Dutcher’s words that he struck back without
    thinking. Indeed, his own admission that he felt saddened to hear
    that Dutcher was leaving the community suggests that he places a high
    value on Dutcher’s work.

    Yet I suspect Dutcher has some blind spots, too.

    With each work, Dutcher has been delving more deeply into issues
    of violence, racism, infidelity, and so on. As Merrill puts it,
    Dutcher’s work is edgy. That doesn’t mean that it’s evil. “Falling”
    is a deeply moral film, even though it is so visceral that it would
    have a hard time qualifying for an R rating. I suspect that there
    will be some redeeming value even in “Evil Angel,” which Merrill
    decries as being “raunchy.”

    So Dutcher is focusing on the fringes of society, and decries
    people who resort to making “family” films as being people who
    generally have nothing of value to say.

    I’m sorry Richard, but those films we create that deal with the
    central issues of family and community relations could well be the
    most important films of the coming century. We are entering an era
    where powerful forces are working to tear our families and communities
    apart. We need filmmakers with foresight and vision to heal the
    damage.

    Yes, much of what we’ve seen lately has been dreck, but that
    doesn’t mean that it has to be.

    So I’m going to tell the truth as I see it. Neither filmmaker
    here is entirely right, or entirely wrong.

    Dave Wolverton/aka David Farland

  15. The big question for me is how this will affect other LDS film makers. Given how many film makers seem to go inactive or leave the church, will this have a chilling effect of artists who want to do something other than the Halestorm bit?

  16. Clark,

    I have stated before my concerns whether Church discipline has been used to influence the work of LDS film makers–for example, Neal LaBute’s report that he was disciplined for writing a play that portrayed some Latter-day Saints in a very negative light, and was told that he must commit to creating no new work dealing with Church members.

    Richard’s distancing himself from the Church is in a very different category. Some speculate that this resulted from negative reaction and harsh criticism from rank and file Mormons. I choose to take Richard at his word, that the distancing is part of his personal spiritual journey. In either case, I do not see his personal decision as having a significant chilling effect on others’ considering a film making career (any more than the leaving Church activity by a democrat or a epublican or a believer in evolution might have a chilling effect on a member’s deciding to become a democrat or a republican or believer in evolution).

  17. Richard Dutcher is just a man who has traveled a path that some of us don’t seem to understand. He is as genuine as they come though. He knows the effect of this in his own spiritual journey as well as in his circle of influence and, I assure you, this has broken his heart. I take particular offense at anyone who is not familiar with him personally attempting to label his decision or point out his weaknesses. He does not deserve your judgement. Every day is another day to find truth and happiness and this is a man who has simply found another path.

    LDS cinema would have absolutely no credibility were it not for the efforts of this man. While he does not define LDS cinema, and I doubt he wants that mantle anymore, he is integral to the foundation that exists. There is a fine line between LDS cinema for the sake of selling to a built in audience and a story that is told for and about members of this faith, family films or films that explore the darker side of what it takes to stay true. Most of LDS cinema, as in all film really, is about making money. Halestorm found a way to make money while others were still trying to tell stories and we have lost a true story teller. Remember that he is one of us, a young man who came here to do what we do every day and he has struggled. I doubt that any of us are quite yet able to cast stones.

  18. Given some of Neal Labute’s works and his photographing playmates for Playboy I think that a slightly different case.

    But the worry I have isn’t church action on members (the sort of thing Sunstone worries about). Rather it is a kind of self-censorship or external pressure due to the fear of losing ones testimony. We all know some activities are more conducive to the spirit than others. Were this a single case I’d think you have a point. But I hear among many the perception that this is the rule, not the exception.

    The issue is less whether this is Dutcher following his “spiritual journey.” Unlike some I can understand why some might come in and out of activity as part of their necessary development. Rather, I think the issue is how those who value their testimony view risks to that testimony.

  19. Dave Wolverton

    Well said. The truth usually does lie somewhere in the middle.

  20. I’m more or less indifferent about the loss to LDS film that Dutcher’s departure represents.

    But I also feel no real need to speculate or explain away why he left.

    Neal A. Maxwell’s quote “if you do not choose the kingdom of Heaven first, it will ultimately make little difference what you chose instead” is being misused here.

    Elder Maxwell meant that quote to be used as a tool of PERSONAL reflection. Not as a club to beat heathens over the head with.

    So let’s can the “there goes one more spiritual weakling who couldn’t hack it” hot air OK? It smacks a bit too much of self-congratulation.

  21. In reading Dutcher’s comments and Kieth Merrill’s response, I have a few thoughts:

    1)Keep in mind that Dutcher directly attacked Merrill’s work and that Merrill has been around a lot longer than Dutcher and is considerably more respected.
    2)The core of this issue is extremely relevant to today’s society: Merrill firmly believes that LDS filmmakers should keep LDS values when making movies. In plain terms, he believes movies should not portray sex and violence and glorify infidelity, adultery, pre-marital sex, etc. Dutcher’s movies are straying more and more into the territory of “exploring” these issues in a way that glorifies them. There is a central battle of worldviews here in which Kieth is on one extreme and Dutcher is moving to the other extreme.
    3)I am certain that Merrill, if he could turn back time, would tone down the rhetoric of his comments about Richard. When we write in anger, we always write things we later regret.

    But I do think this exchange offers an opportunity to explore the central issue here: which viewpoint is more positive? Which one is more likely to support the Savior and his mission? Which viewpoint will bring more good and bring positive change to society? Which one will help spread the gospel and build up the Church and its values?

    Obviously, I have framed the questions in ways that support my worldview, but I do think filmmakers, especially LDS filmmakers, have a responsibility to consider these issues. Some will say, “well, it’s just entertainment. Entertainment does not have to do all those things.” And that is exactly the point: what is the purpose of entertainment? Is it to “explore the human condition,” even if it means two hours of gore, sex, blood, etc on the screen?

    I would argue that any form of entertainment that you would be embarrassed to see with President Hinckley sitting next to you is questionable. Note the word “questionable,” not “bad.” You need to question why you are seeing things that Pres. Hinckley would not approve of. When I pose that question to myself, I get answers that point toward: “Geoff, you shouldn’t see that stuff.” Other people will get their own answers.

    Merrill’s position is that entertainment should build up all that is good and is in line with Church doctrine. Dutcher talks about “art” and “high quality films.” That is what is at the heart of this debate.

  22. Seth -

    You’re reading my initial comments completely wrong.

    I was not implying, and I did not mean to imply, “there goes one more spiritual weakling who couldn’t hack it”

    But I’m not interested in hashing all that out.

    Dave Wolverton said it best, so I’ll just ditto his and leave it at that.

  23. How ironic, I just watched God’s Army for the 5th or 6th time last night. Didn’t hear about this until just now. For what it’s worth, I probably would have joined the church a lot sooner than I did had there been a movie like God’s Army available to watch. One of the most real LDS movies I’ve seen, if not THE most real movie. Every time I watch it, a different scene causes me to get all emotional. This time it was the father of Laura finally kneeling down and praying. Elder Banks’ description of how he gained a testimony should be mandatory viewing in all seminary classes, IMNSHO.

  24. But I do think this exchange offers an opportunity to explore the central issue here: which viewpoint is more positive? Which one is more likely to support the Savior and his mission? Which viewpoint will bring more good and bring positive change to society? Which one will help spread the gospel and build up the Church and its values?

    The answer to that question isn’t self-evident to me. In many ways, the type of film that Merrill produces is preaching to the choir. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and I for one have enjoyed his work and found it spiritually edifying. But the same is true for me of Dutcher’s work.

    I haven’t seen States of Grace yet (it’s high on my Netflix list, so I’ll see it soon), but one of my teenagers saw it during a visit to Salt Lake City. It made him think about issues such as repentance and perseverance more than any Merrill film ever would. I’m not in any way denigrating Merrill’s work to say that. What I am saying is that both types of films can be edifying, but in different ways.

    One thing I appreciate about the Old Testament is that people’s warts are showing. Even great people, Noah is one who comes to mind, are imperfect, and we can learn from that. Yet how often when we tell the story of Noah do we talk about his getting rip-roaring drunk? Not very often. Usually that’s fine, but sometimes we need to see the ugly side too in order to put his later faithfulness in context. If that part of the story is in Scripture, it’s there for a reason. There’s nothing inherently wrong with only telling the inspirational parts of a story, and I’m glad we have filmmakers such as Merrill who are able to do that. But I’m also glad we have storytellers such as Dutcher who (at least to this point) have been able to put the ugly side in context rather than simply glorifying it as many secular filmmakers today do.

  25. I really hope he comes back.

    I have enjoyed his movies quite a bit.

    I hope he can hold it all together and hope his family can endure.

  26. I would argue that any form of entertainment that you would be embarrassed to see with President Hinckley sitting next to you is questionable.

    Why would you speculate about President Hinckley’s taste in movies? Wouldn’t it be wiser to speculate about Christ’s taste in movies?

  27. This is a disaster for Mormon arts. Lots of Mormons were wary of Dutcher’s so-called “edgy” material. I loved it. But they turned out to be more right than I was.

    Every artist who apostatizes is a double-blow to the Kingdom. Not only are they and their contributions lost but they make it that much more difficult for those of us who remain true to the covenants.

    I hope Mr. Dutcher comes back, and sooner and with less travail than Oliver Cowdery.

  28. Dave Wolverton is a gentleman and a Saint. Ditto to what he said.

    I think Clark Goble is right that self-censorship can be a problem and I think DavidH is right that fear of church censorship can be a problem. Every artist who apostatizes makes individuals more likely to self-censor and local church leaders to be more suspicious of their artists. But I’m also concerned about audience censorship. Arts need an audience and artist apostasy diminishes that audience.

  29. Re: #33: My feelings precisely. There are many things that I don’t feel Pres. Hinckley would need to approve or sanction, that I might do. I feel plenty inclined to make out with my wife when the time and circumstances are right, but would not do that if GBH were sitting next to me (it might put a real damper on the mood). Likewise, I am not so sure that GBH ought to know every book I read or every film I watch. Christ can know and see everything I do, and I am okay with my actions before him. Comparing GBH to Christ is akin to idolatry. A man can be a prophet and a man of God, but that does not make him God. Sadly, many testimonies I have heard in FTM talk way more about GBH than Christ. I do think many LDS idolize GBH way more than ought to be acceptable. (And yes I realize I could get stoned for saying this!)

    Christ is the standard. Not GBH. Nice a man as he is, and even though he is president of the Church, I run things thru the WWJD test, not the WWGD test.

    Also, WRT Dutcher: I loved States of Grace. About danged time LDS church members got an in-your-face lesson on the Grace of God. We get so caught up in being goody-two-shoes and holier-than-thou, and forget all about the wonderful Grace that God grants us. You don’t appreciate forgiveness or even understand it until you REALLY experience it.

    A few months ago Dutcher stated that he’d love to have the opportunity to direct an episode of “Big Love.” I hope he gets that opportunity. He is a brilliant director and has such a strong knowledge of the Restoration and its doctrines, he could do well with that.

  30. One advantage of the WWGD test is that Gordon B. Hinckley is a lot more concrete for most of us and our ideas of what he would do are a lot less susceptible to our own imagination and desires.

  31. A few months ago Dutcher stated that he’d love to have the opportunity to direct an episode of “Big Love.” I hope he gets that opportunity.
    Heck yeah. Now that he’s finally freed himself from the restrictions of the church, he can do all kinds of things! He can make raunchy B-grade movies with peace of mind, knowing that he can’t be censored by the Brethren. After all, art is all-important. And how could it possibly be art without a little skin, a touch of infidelity, a pinch of explicit language, and a dose of violence?

  32. I don’t understand the need for so many on this thread to attack Dutcher. I don’t agree with his comments. I believe they are arrogant and unwise. But two wrongs don’t make a right.

    What we are talking about here is bigger than LDS Cinema. We are talking about someone who has left the Church. We should pray for him – for his success on whatever path he chooses.

    I feel that Mr. Dutcher is a good film-maker. If he no longer makes LDS themed movies the loss is ours. He has a unique and talented way of bringing in the Spirit through his films. I realize that this is only my opinion, but I know many who feel the same.

    Remember the Lord has called all of us to be his missionaries. Some of these comments don’t jive with this calling. Let’s try to be true Christians.

  33. I find the WWJD line of thinking problematic. First of all, which Jesus are we talking about? I don’t really imagine the great I AM sitting down and watching a movie. Being omniscient and everything, wouldn’t He already know how it ends anyway?

    The mortal Jesus missed the whole movie craze by at least a couple of years. What would have been the equivalent in His day? What we know about His life on earth can be summarized in an afternoon of light reading–and that only covers a few months. Do we know that He never attended a play that made a few jabs at the Romans or took some swipes at the Jews? What if some of the lines in this hypothetical play were off color? Would that have made Him imperfect? I don’t think so.

    I guess the point of these guilt inducing cutesy type phrases is to not-so-subtly remind us that we’re all sinners and fall short of Christ’s glory. I can’t disagree with that. I get that I am not perfect. I just don’t know what good (or action) comes from making a statement like that.

    If I applied the WWJD phrase to every aspect of my life, I imagine I would be in my own kind of private Garden of Eden. I would remain innocent by always being perfect like Jesus. Didn’t Adam and Eve leave the garden for a reason? Weren’t they “perfect” while in the Garden? Wouldn’t they still be in the garden and wouldn’t we all still be hanging out pre-mortally if they had strictly followed the WWJD cutesiness?

    I get a bit frustrated when I allow these cutesy phrases to make me feel like I need to put fences around the law. I don’t like the guilt and baggage that follows from realizing how imperfect I am. It isn’t helping me.

    I have been taught and I believe that I came here (to earth) expecting to be tried and tested with the ultimate goal of returning to my Heavenly Father and becoming (action) like Him–not to return to the Garden of Eden and become like a terrestrial Adam. To be like Heavenly Father, I need to learn good from evil and then choose the good–not choose the good because it’s the only thing that I allow to come into my life (that was Satan’s plan). I think living my life the WWJD way would leave me pretty innocent (read naïve) and open to being beguiled.

    So I guess the question that should be asked–the question that actually applies to our current circumstance of being imperfect mortals is: will this action help ME (not Jesus–He already made it) return to my Heavenly Father? The important difference, for ME, is that the answer to that question can and will be different depending on where I am on my road back to Him. The answer will also be different from person to person depending on their current situation, location, and timing in their own lives–thus making judgment of other peoples actions irrelevant. Imagine that.

    I wish you well, Mr. Dutcher, on your path back to Him. If I can be of any assistance, please let me know. You have already helped me a great deal.

    Nathan Cartwright

  34. Edited (Please delete prior):

    I find the WWJD line of thinking problematic. First of all, which Jesus are we talking about? I don’t really imagine the great I AM sitting down and watching a movie. Being omniscient and everything, wouldn’t He already know how it ends anyway?

    The mortal Jesus missed the whole movie craze by at least a couple of years. What would have been the equivalent in His day? What we know about His life on earth can be summarized in an afternoon of light reading–and that only covers a few months. Do we know that He never attended a play that made a few jabs at the Romans or took some swipes at the Jews? What if some of the lines in this hypothetical play were off color? Would that have made Him imperfect? I don’t think so.

    I guess the point of these guilt inducing cutesy type phrases is to not-so-subtly remind us that we’re all sinners and fall short of Christ’s glory. I can’t disagree with that. I get that I am not perfect. I just don’t know what good (or action) comes from making a statement like that.

    If I applied the WWJD phrase to every aspect of my life, I imagine I would be in my own kind of private Garden of Eden. I would remain innocent by always being perfect like Jesus. Didn’t Adam and Eve leave the garden for a reason? Weren’t they “perfect” while in the Garden? Wouldn’t they still be in the garden and wouldn’t we all still be hanging out pre-mortally if they had strictly followed the WWJD cutesiness?

    I get a bit frustrated when I allow these cutesy phrases to make me feel like I need to put fences around the law. I don’t like the guilt and baggage that follows from realizing how imperfect I am. It isn’t helping me.

    I have been taught and I believe that I came here (to earth) expecting to be tried and tested with the ultimate goal of returning to my Heavenly Father and becoming (action) like Him–not to return to the Garden of Eden and become like a terrestrial Adam. To be like Heavenly Father, I need to learn good from evil and then choose the good–not choose the good because it’s the only thing that I allow to come into my life (that was Satan’s plan). I think living my life the WWJD way would leave me pretty innocent (read naive) and open to being beguiled.

    So I guess the question that should be asked–the question that actually applies to our current circumstance of being imperfect mortals is: will this action help ME (not Jesus–He already made it) return to my Heavenly Father? The important difference, for ME, is that the answer to that question can and will be different depending on where I am on my road back to Him. The answer will also be different from person to person depending on their current situation, location, and timing in their own lives–thus making judgment of other peoples actions irrelevant. Imagine that.

    I wish you well, Mr. Dutcher, on your path back to Him. If I can be of any assistance, please let me know. You have already helped me a great deal.

  35. #42: I agree that the WWJD line is too cutesy for real application, however, I was speaking in comparison to the poster who lives his or her life as if Gordon B. Hinckley were standing beside them during everything they do. My point was not to emphasize the worn-out cutesy WWJD stuff, but to indicate that the higher standard is Christ. We must seek to please Christ, not any man. And I do believe that.

  36. And in other news …

    11.99 million Mormons are asking, “Who?”

    Me, I looked at the picture and thought, “Wait, I thought Wilford Brimley had already left the Church.”

  37. Trying to live a life like Christ and other role models is not cutesy or part of Satan’s plan. Absurd.

  38. Are some of the commenters under the assumption that Dutcher has requested name-removal?

    I read Dutcher’s statements to mean that he is no longer participating, inactive. He’s made some other wishy-washy statements that can be interpreted several ways. And Geoff is right, this latest article is only a re-hash of what he stated in a prior _Christianity Today_ interview.

    Based on what happened with Neil LaButte, there may be church action after “Falling” and “Evil Angel” are released, if they portray members in a bad light.

    But dang, I think some people are being way too harsh on Dutcher personally. Go ahead and criticize his movies, just as you would any work presented to the public. But as for his standing with the church and the Lord, let him work out his own salvation.

    And let’s remember that the organizational church isn’t the gospel. The organizational church is the official box that the official gospel comes in. Or as Stephen Covey wrote, the church is the scaffolding.

  39. You know, something’s been really bugging me about this whole “gotta leave the Church to be a true artist” thing. I understand Dutcher’s dilemma here. But has it occured to anybody that there are plenty of art forms out there that allow full, honest expression, but that don’t involve “spiritual journeys that are incompatible with Mormonism”?

    I know an LDS guy who writes for a popular magazine. The man is one of the most amazing writers I’ve ever seen. He is able to fully express himself through his medium without a second thought about conflict with doctrine.

    And what about music? What about other forms of fim-making? It seems the gray territory comes more easily in fictional film-making. Personally I’m more apt to be inspired by a good documentary or a great piece of music than a novel or a fictional movie. That may just be me. I wasn’t particularly touched by either of Dutcher’s pre “spiritual journey” films.

    I’m an artsy type of person, whatever side of the brain that’s considered (which is unfortunate because I have no artistic ability). But I watch artists and it seems to me there’s an innate tendency among them to 1) take their work more seriously than they should, 2) become obsessed with their medium, and 3) become increasingly non-committal.

    In order to create, one must focus completely. In order to focus, many artists become obsessed- which isn’t too tough because most artists have obsessive personalities in the first place. When you become obsessed with something, it becomes all-important. Anything that you even percieve to be a possible threat to your work is marginalized. Your passion for your work becomes your rationale for a non-committal lifestyle.

    This is, of course, a generalization. Not to offend all you artists in the ‘naccle. But this is how I am, and I think it’s safe to say that one or all of these traits are shared by the majority of artsy people. I certainly understand them all.

    I don’t know that there is a feasible solution to these problems other than a set-in-stone committment that God and family come first.

  40. Trying to live a life like Christ and other role models is not cutesy or part of Satan’s plan.

    I should add that people do sometimes talk about imitating Christ in a way that is cutesy. But there’s nothing cutesy about the concept itself, which is central to the gospel. There is certainly nothing Satanic about it. Not even close.

  41. Adam, why don’t you try quoting what I wrote. Show me where I made the statement that trying to live a Christ like life is cutesy. Show me where I said trying to live a Christ like life is Satanic. Obviously, you are confused.

    If you take issue with something that I wrote, respond to what I wrote. Please do not respond to your simplistic interpretation of what you think I mean.

  42. “I take particular offense at anyone who is not familiar with him personally attempting to label his decision or point out his weaknesses. He does not deserve your judgement.”

    I find that one of the better ways to avoid having my decisions judged is to not print them in a mass publication–say, for example, a moderately large newspaper. I’ve found that after making such a publication, whether my decisions *should* be judged or not rarely matters from a practical point of view.

  43. I am responding to what you wrote. WWJD means “What would Jesus do,” right?

  44. I did not write that WWJD means “What would Jesus do”. However, I do agree with that statement–and the statements of others that the four letters, WWJD, are commonly understood to be an abbreviation for the phrase “what would Jesus do”.

    Are you suggesting that asking yourself “what would Jesus do” and living a Christ-like life are somehow equivalent? I don’t see any connection at all and I never implied any connection in my previous post.

    Has asking yourself “WWJD” (or imagining President Hinckley or some other role model sitting next to you) prior to making a decision helped you to follow Christ’s example?

    Please articulate for me, in the case of Jesus, how you came to understand the thinking and/or personal preferences of an omniscient, omnipresent, perfect and incomprehensible being. In the case of imagining other mortals sitting next to you, please take me step by step how having this “imaginary friend” has helped you to live a Christ-like life.

    What would this internal dialogue and/or figments of your imagination accomplish? These cutesy little tactics are usually used for one thing–not sinning. I mean, how embarrassing would that be to have Captain Moroni watching you while you’re trying to get to second base with your High School girlfriend. Right? Oh my gosh, that would be SO embarassing. I’m going to embarrass myself all the way to the Celestial Kingdom. I won’t need Christ or his atonement because I will be too embarrassed to sin. I am so grateful to whoever came up with that nifty little phrase. IT. IS. SO. CUTE!!!!! I will praise his name forever!

    I find this line of thinking to be a very juvenile interpretation of the Plan of Salvation and Christ’s mission. I did not come here (to get this body) to “not sin”. Satan offered that plan. It was rejected. You and I both chose the other way. This way–Christ’s way–was the only way.

    “Not sinning” and following the example of our Savior have absolutely nothing to do with another.

  45. “Not sinning” and following the example of our Savior have absolutely nothing to do with another.

    Nothing at all, other than that Christ never sinned and so by following his example we would also not be sinning…

  46. You agree that we are supposed to be Christ-like. You say that asking yourself “What Would Jesus Do” is impossible because we can’t have any idea of what an immortal being is like. I say that if we can’t know what Christ is like it is impossible for us to become Christ-like.

    I disagree that (1) becoming Christ-like and (2) trying to do what Christ would do are “without any connection at all.” In my mind, it is impossible to separate out cleanly what a person is and what a person does. In my mind, one of the ways that we become like a person is by imitating their actions.

    Christ himself commands us to do what he does. 3 Ne. 27:21 “for the works which ye have seen me do that shall ye also do; for that which ye have seen me do even that shall ye do.”

    Its sometimes messy figuring out what Christ would do in our particular circumstances. In my mind, this is precisely why it can be helpful to look to the example of contemporary followers of Christ. I have at various times derived spiritual benefit from asking myself “What would Jesus do?”, “What would Pres. Hinckley do?”, “What would my Bishop do?”, “What would my father do?”, and “What would my wife do?”, among others.

  47. “Christ never sinned and so by following his example we would also not be sinning…” (#53)

    So what? What does “not sinning” look like anyway? Please demonstrate specifically–through action–how you have followed Christ’s example of “not sinning”. If you were playing the game Charades and you drew a card that said “hint: action, clue: not sinning”, how would you act that out?. How are you following someone’s example by not doing something that that particular someone didn’t do? Let’s examine that logic:

    A. John did not go to the game last night.
    B. I did not go to the game last night.
    C. Therefore, I equal John

    Is not breaking a rule something that should be admired? emulated? “imitated”? “Hey did you see the game last night?”, asks one fanboy to another. “Yeah, Kobe was amazing!!!! Did you see that one time where he didn’t double dribble?”, replies his super-excited friend. “Oh, I know”, says the first guy, “I couldn’t believe it when he deftly didn’t get that 5 second violation”. “The guy is amazing”, they exclaim in unison… and then they break into an off key rendition of “If I could be like Kobe…”

    “Not sinning” was a by-product of Christ’s perfection. He was not perfect because he didn’t sin. I can’t think of a single time where he asked us to follow his example of “not sinning”. Christ came to earth and played the absolute perfect game–so to speak. He made every shot. His Grace was pure poetry in motion. His quickness. His timing. The way he eluded and outplayed His adversary had people on their knees trying to worship him. His poise. His humility. His perfect Charity towards all who witnessed his incomprehensible greatness.

    He does all of these great things and all you want to focus on is the fact that he didn’t break any rules while doing it? Give our Savior some credit!

    “Christ himself commands us to do what he does. 3 Ne. 27:21 “for the works which ye have seen me do that shall ye also do; for that which ye have seen me do even that shall ye do.”” (#54)

    Amen. Well quoted, Nephi, son of Helaman. It sounds like you, me, and Adam Greenwood agree that we should do the works we have seen Christ do. Is “not sinning” a work? Would you use a shovel? A forklift? But I digress. I never said that “(1) becoming Christ-like and (2) trying to do what Christ would do are “without any connection at all.””. I said, “Not sinning” and following the example of our Savior have absolutely nothing to do with the other.” Do you see the non-connection between “not sinning” and “doing the works we have seen Christ do”? If not, please make the connection for me. First, you will need to show me what a “not sin” looks like.

    Adam, my brother in Christ (and this is where I am being totally serious), I have no issue with anyone using any tool they can think of that will help them DO Christ-like works. I just don’t see how speculating what another person would do in your particular situation is:

    A) Possible. No other person has ever walked your path. Our spiritual journey is ours alone (we are never alone, but no one can walk the path for us). Any speculation as to what they would do is, at best, an educated guess.

    B) Relevant. Even if you could know what another person would do in your particular situation, what good does that accomplish? They are a separate, unique individual. Their gifts, talents, knowledge, progression are different than yours. An appropriate action for them may not be an appropriate action for you.

    C) Helpful. If I could know what [insert contemporary follower of Christ here] would do and that the action was relevant for me in my particular situation, is that knowledge helping me? To whom did I look, in order to acquire this knowledge? If I were to DO this action as I have seen [insert contemporary follower of Christ here] DO, would I understand why I did it? Sure. I did it because that is how [insert contemporary follower of Christ here] did it. I don’t think that is helping me.

    Do I believe that it is wrong to ask yourself “what would Pres. Hinckley, Jesus, Bishop, Father, Wife do?” No. I just think it is pointless. I think it is about as helpful as trying to “not sin”. I think it is trite. It is cutesy. It is fluff. It lacks substance. It is a distraction. It is a crutch. It is a way of trying to cruise control to exaltation. It is a way of saying that I don’t need to know the why. I don’t need to sweat and bleed and work out my salvation with the help of my Savior, alone on the court, like I came here to do. Just show me what Kobe did in this situation–then I’ll copy it. I’ll just keep practicing this half court shot until I can do it “perfect”. That’s what I saw Jesus do. Then I will be as good as Jesus.

    When I was a little kid–about 7 years old–I remember my dad struggling with a decision. I remember that it had something to do with taking a job that required him to work on Sundays. This was a big deal for my family at this time–more dire a situation than it might appear to you. I remember that my Dad struggled a great deal with this. I remember seeing him on his knees, praying to his Heavenly Father. My Mom’s Dad passed away during the week or so period of time that my Dad was making this decision. My mom took my sisters to be with her family. My Dad and I were home alone one night and he asked me to say a prayer. He told me that he didn’t know if he had the faith to receive an answer. I don’t remember the prayer, but he told me later that with the help of divine guidance, he had decided that he should not take the job that required him to work on Sunday. He did what his Heavenly Father asked him to do. My Dad was a different man after that experience. He was a better man. Dare I say, he was more like Christ because of that experience.

    Can you guess what I would DO if I found myself in a situation where I would be required to work on Sunday? I hope that I would DO the same thing that my Dad did. I would put my game shoes on. I would look to my right and to my left–to make sure my constant companion/personal trainer was with me. Then I would go to my coach (My Father in Heaven) and ask him what he thought I should do. He knows me perfectly and he knows my game. He is the only one that can get me from where I am now to where I want to be (exaltationally speaking).

    My Dad won’t be judged by whether or not he took the job that had him work on Sunday. A year later or a month before, my Dad’s answer may have been different. What mattered is that he did what his Heavenly Father asked him to do. My Dad, you, me and President Hinckley will be judged by whether or not we DO whatever it is that our Heavenly Father has asked each of us individually to do. This process is made possible by the atoning sacrifice of Christ and we can do it with the help of the Holy Ghost. That is my focus. That is what my Dad taught me to do. That is what President Hinckley teaches me to do.

    That is what Christ did.

  48. “a little bit of skin, a touch of infidelity, a pinch of explicit language, dose of violence…”

    You have read the Bible, right?

    Kind of has lots of those things.

    Okay, no ancient languages expert so I don’t know how explicit the language might be in places. But the scriptures are full of graphic violence, sex and infidelity, and a fair bit of nudity; sometimes followed by repentance, sometimes not, and both by the heathen and by the chosen peoples.

    Purposeless potrayls of the above, critize away. But the authors of our sacred texts didn’t shy from “exploring” them.

  49. Sage- Ok then, please give me an example of a purposeFUL portrayal of these things. I’m not talking violence. I think movies like Saving Private Ryan are very useful. But please give me an example of a movie that portrays sex and nudity in an enlightening and useful way.

  50. *”He does all of these great things and all you want to focus on is the fact that he didn’t break any rules while doing it?”

    You have a very narrow conception of what “not sinning” means. But even if you think of it as just a collection of rules, then, yes, its important that Jesus didn’t break those rules. Jesus the adulterer would not save you.

    *You accept 3 Ne. 27:21 but reject WWJD. How is this possible? In my mind, they’re the same thing. Either I have to just mechanically imitate the deeds of Christ by seeing what he did and recreating it as much as possible, or else I have to try to translate the works he did into my own life, which requires asking what Jesus would do in my circumstances.

    *You are simply wrong that we are free to do whatever as long as we also do specific things the Christ did. Not sinning is part of the imitation of Christ. I am not becoming like Christ if I say to my brother Raca. Not saying Raca to my brother is part of becoming like Christ.

    I know from experience that trying to follow the example of better people than me, or trying to understand what they would do in my situation is possible, relevant, and helpful. It is not trite. It is not cutesy. It is not fluff. It has substance. It is not a distraction. It is not a crutch. It is not a way of trying to cruise control to exaltation. It is not a way of saying that I don’t need to know the why. It is not a way of saying that don’t need to sweat and bleed and work out my salvation with the help of my Savior. You can gesticulate all you want, but I know better because I’ve done it. The scriptures, the prophets, and my own experience all prove the importance of example. Against this, your verbal spattering is in vain.

    Your example is a case in point. You apparently believe that there might be a situation where you would benefit from imitating your father’s example of what to do when facing a tough decision. You apparently believe that in following your father’s example you would also be following Christ’s.

  51. *”You have a very narrow conception of what “not sinning” means.”

    Please. Someone. Explain to me what “not sinning” means. I’ve asked this over and over. Help me understand it. ACT IT OUT! Show me how it can be done–even for just a second or two.

    *”You accept 3 Ne. 27:21 but reject WWJD. How is this possible? In my mind, they’re the same thing.”

    They are not the same thing. WWJD is metaphysical fluff that has no real practical application. A work is something you can do. You can ACT IT OUT. I can demonstrate (and strive to do) charity, love, healing the sick, preaching the gospel, redeeming the dead, perfecting the saints, (and all of the other perfect works that Christ did). These are all works. “Not sinning”, as I have stated many times, is NOT a work!

    *”You are simply wrong that we are free to do whatever as long as we also do specific things the Christ did.”

    Once again. Instead of quoting me and disagreeing with what I have actually stated, you instead choose to disagree with your simplistic misinterpreation of what you think that I mean. Show me where I said “we are free do do whatever”. I never said that, but I do happen to agree with that statement. Heavenly Father’s plan allowed for this very thing to occur. It is called agency. It isn’t free though. Christ paid a great price for us to have it. And there are always consequences–happy or sad, good or bad–when we use our agency.

    *”I am not becoming like Christ if I say to my brother Raca. Not saying Raca to my brother is part of becoming like Christ.”

    Demonstrate to me how you would “Not say Raca to your Brother”. ACT IT OUT! The core of our disagreement seems to center on your belief that by not doing something (not sinning, not saying raca, etc.), you are actually doing something (becoming like Christ). Don’t you see the flaw in that logic?

    *”Your example is a case in point. You apparently believe that there might be a situation where you would benefit from imitating your father’s example of what to do when facing a tough decision.”

    Exactly. And you missed my point entirely. The danger of WWJD (and other cutesy antecdotes) is that it cuts out the part of the process that matters. Let’s see… I really want to take this job that requires me to work on Sunday. Hmmmmmm. I wonder what my Dad would do (WWDD). I know that as a kid he was in this same dilemma. He chose to not take the job on Sunday. He was a good man (a contemporary follower of Christ), so now I’m going to do what he did. Sweet. Decision made. Trial over in 5 minutes–I think that’s a new record. I’m doing just what my Dad did.

    WRONG!!!!!! The answer to the question “what would Jesus do?” is the same every time. Ask your Father in Heaven what to do (by going through whatever growing pains are necessary) and then get to work by doing it (and therefore going through whatever growing pains are necessary). It is a rhetorical question. There is no point in asking it.

    The part of the my Dad’s experience where he followed Christ’s example was the part where he looked to his Father in Heaven to know what he should do. And upon knowing what he should do, he did.

    I don’t know how to explain this any more clearly. Christ was perfect because he did exactly what his Father in Heaven asked him to do–not because of anything he didn’t do. My goal and focus in life is to follow Christ’s example by doing exactly what my Father in Heaven asks me to do–not to copy the actions of what apparently worked for somebody else.

  52. “Christ was perfect because he did exactly what his Father in Heaven asked him to do–not because of anything he didn’t do.”

    A great deal of what his Father in Heaven asked him to do was to not do things. See, e.g., the 10 Commandments. A great deal of what Jesus himself commanded was to not do things. I don’t understand why you think its impossible to not do things. Its perfectly easy to not do things. At this moment there are millions of things you are not doing.

    In any case, WWJD is not phrased as a negative. You seem to think that the phrase is WWJND.

  53. *”I don’t understand why you think its impossible to not do things.

    It is impossible to not do something. If I am not doing something it is because I am doing something else–and therefore doing something. It is impossible to “not sin”. The point that I have been trying to make is that the only way that you or I will be able to get through this mortal existence without [insert whatever sin comes to your mind] is to have been doing something else the entire time. And that is what matters. What was I doing instead of [insert whatever sin comes into your mind]? Every moment of every day, I was doing something.

    *”At this moment there are millions of things you are not doing.”

    I suppose that is a true statement, but so what? It doesn’t matter. It’s the equivalent of making a statement like, “the sky is not green”. I am not doing those millions of things because I am doing something else. I will not be held accountable for not doing a single one of those millions of things. So why focus on them? And herein lies the danger of this flawed logic–thinking that you have done something good because you didn’t do something bad.

    I will be held accountable for the things that I do. Was I charitable? Did I heal the sick? Did I love my neighbor? When I committed sin, did I repent? We will be judged by our actions–by what we did with the time and the opportunity we were given.

    *”A great deal of what his Father in Heaven asked him to do was to not do things. See, e.g., the 10 Commandments. A great deal of what Jesus himself commanded was to not do things”

    Not breaking the commandments is a symptom of adhering to a greater truth–it should not be the focus. When Christ came to fulfill the law, the focus of the law shifted from what we should not do to what we should do.

    Matthew 22:
    36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
    37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
    38 This is the first and great commandment.
    39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
    40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

    Christ loved our Father in Heaven perfectly. Everything else that Christ did was a by-product, a consequence, a symptom of that perfect love. By using his life to do all of the wonderful things that he did, there were an infinite number of things that He did not do–including sin. And not a single one of those things mattered–to Him or to His Heavenly Father.

  54. Nate,

    Do you think we should remove “Come Follow Me” from the hymnal and “I’m Trying To Be Like Jesus” from the primary songbook?

  55. Tossman – my point was simply that when I read your statement, it struck me as strange. Perhaps it wasn’t your full intent but your rhetorical question “… how could it possibly be art without…[my previous quote]” seemed to be saying that art cannot have those things.

    And it seemed to me that something having “a touch of infidelity” can’t – in and of itself – be terrible, because the scriptures have more than just a touch of infidelity. And “adose of violence” etc.

    Granted, it did follow right on your statement about raunchy B-movies. Perhaps I read too much into your post.

    But you phrased it in terms of art – and while art obviously CAN not have infidelity, skin, or violence, there are many great works that do. I mean, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “A Scarlet Letter” would have been a very short story indeed if he couldn’t portray infidelity.

    Since you don’t seem intent on defending your phrase (having already gone from criticizing to “a dose of violence” to commending Saving Private Ryan’s graphic violence, perhaps your point was simply that B-movies are bad. And I’m fine with that.

  56. *”Do you think we should remove “Come Follow Me” from the hymnal and “I’m Trying To Be Like Jesus” from the primary songbook?”

    Please quote any statement of mine that leads you to believe that I would want those hymns removed. My writing here has been an effort to understand and define what it means to follow Christ’s example. If you find that I wrote something that would suggest we should do anything other than follow Christ’s perfect example–show me. I will retract it with a sincere apology. As I wrote at the end of comment #59: “My goal and focus in life is to follow Christ’s example”

    My debate with Brother Greenwood was about the practical application of the question, “what would jesus do?”–something that I find to be impossible, irrelevant and unhelpful (for the reasons described in comment #55).

  57. He left the LDS church long ago anyways, so this is no surprise. I know this because of reports of him on the set of movies hung over, drinking, swearing, etc. Sad that he’s chosen to follow an evil path, which has its attractiveness in the industry in which he works. I’m not sure what “art” is portayed in something like Evil Angel, it’s just masturbatory juvenile fantasy…so what?

  58. Nate C.,

    I’m unable to understand the meaning of most of what you’re saying, and what you do say that I can get some meaning from strikes me as untenable, so I think I’m actually misunderstanding it too. I know from personal experience that asking WWJD is possible, helpful, and relevant, so there’s no way you could persuade me anyway. We should probably just drop this discussion.

  59. Dutcher would do better to keep his mouth shut. He can take his beer and shove it.

  60. Copied from: http://www.bycommonconsent.com/2007/04/richard-dutcher-vehicle-of-gods-grace/#comment-129821

    Taryn,

    Thanks so much for your beautiful essay. I was very moved by it. As you can imagine, I’ve been dropping in on various internet sites and reading the discussions. Perhaps it would be in my best interest to simply disappear without another word, but out of respect and affection for my friends and for those who have been generous in their support (including yourself), I’ve decided to address a few of the statements that have been made about me and my decision to leave the Church. I’d appreciate it if those who read this message would send it along to other internet sites. I’d like it to be read.

    Also, the ghost of Thomas Marsh keeps pestering me. He’s been following me around for the past few days saying, “Don’t let them do to you what they did to me!”

    What did they do to him? They turned him into a Sunday school lesson. (A note for all the literalists out there: No, Marsh’s ghost has not actually been visiting me. I’m just trying to make a point.)

    FAREWELL – PART II

    Thomas Marsh was one of the leaders in the early Church. Most of us know him only as that silly man who left the Church because his wife cheated another sister out of some “milk strippings.” The matter ended up with local Church leaders who determined that Sister Marsh had, indeed, acted dishonestly. As the story goes, Thomas was so offended and angry that he left the Church and didn’t come back until he was an old man, dead broke and half-senile.

    But there’s so much more to the story.

    Although the “milk stripping” incident is factual, it is not the reason Thomas Marsh left the Church. He left in those chaotic days in Far West, shortly before Joseph was arrested and taken to Liberty Jail. These were the days of Sidney Rigdon’s reach for power and his “Salt Sermon.” They were the days of the Danites (Yes, Virginia, there were Danites), and the days when Oliver Cowdery left the Church. Oliver’s complex and difficult decision was made at a time when his life was being threatened by other Church leaders. It was a crazy, dangerous time and Thomas was right in the middle of it. I’m sure those old milk strippings were the last things on Thomas Marsh’s mind when he mounted up and got his family the hell out of town.

    Yet this man’s complex life, and his difficult decision, has been reduced to an inaccurate Sunday school lesson in Pride. I believe this “lesson” is a slander, and a violation of a very complex human being.

    Although it may be out of my hands, I do not intend for something similar to happen to me. At least not without a fight.

    It’s unpleasant to acknowledge, but the LDS community has a history of character assassination. It is an ugly truth, but it is the truth. I have often joked (darkly, and among friends only) that when wandering sheep stray from the fold, Mormons don’t go looking for them. What happens is: somebody climbs up on a really tall tower, takes out a high-powered rifle, gets the poor straying soul in the cross-hairs, and then blows his wandering brain out.

    When individuals leave the fold, why do we find it necessary to blacken their names? This has been the case since the earliest days. Back then, a church member or leader could be in full fellowship one day and considered a wonderful, decent, loveable human being. The next day, if that individual chose to make an exit, he was the “blackest, basest of scoundrels,” an “adulterer” and a “counterfeiter,” etc.

    Today, we’re a little less melodramatic. But still, when a scholar, artist, intellectual, or even a rank and file member of the Church decides to leave, his character is instantly under attack: “I think he’s gay” or “I bet she’s having an affair” or “I’ve heard he’s a drug addict,” etc.

    Just for the record: I’m not having an affair. I’m not gay. I’m not a drug addict. I’ve never tried to illegally reproduce hundred dollar bills and I haven’t killed anyone. Sadly, I can’t even claim to have beaten anyone up, not since the 9th grade anyway. (Actually, now that I think of it, I didn’t win that particular fight. A neanderthalic 12th grader beat the snot out of me.)

    However, I’m far from perfect: I do like to swear sometimes (seldom in anger, mostly for fun), and I’ve recently grown fond of really expensive dark Irish beer (enjoyed in moderation, of course). On occasion I’ve even been known to swear while drinking a beer. I’ve always been good at multi-tasking.

    I tried smoking cigars, but didn’t care for them. Cigarettes I hate. Coffee’s not for me, but I have found some great dark teas that I really like. There’s one in particular, Lapsang Souchong, that I highly recommend.

    Also, sometimes I daydream that Jennifer Aniston and Angelina Jolie are both madly in love with me and I have to become a polygamist so that I can keep them both and not lose Gwen (my equally gorgeous wife).

    There you go. Not very juicy. Downright silly in fact. On to more serious matters.

    Many have jumped to the conclusion that I left because I’m angry that LDS audiences didn’t line up for my movies. If such was the case, I would be a truly shallow human being.

    First of all, LDS audiences did line up for my movies. Even my lowest-grossing film, STATES OF GRACE, made $200,000.00 at the box office. True, that’s less than 1/10 of what GOD’S ARMY grossed, but still…most independent filmmakers would kill (or, at least, maim) for a $200,000.00 theatrical gross.

    Some have very pointedly claimed that if my films had been more financially successful, I wouldn’t be leaving. Believe me, it has nothing to do with money. I didn’t make GOD’S ARMY because I thought it would make me rich, and I haven’t left Mormon Cinema because I’m afraid it’s going to make me poor. If STATES OF GRACE had made 20 million dollars, I’d still have made the same choice.

    Others have said that I’m angry because Mormons didn’t “get” my movies. I think the majority of those who saw them “got” them. I’ve tried not to pay too much attention to the very vocal minority who didn’t.

    Some have speculated that I may have been offended by a church leader or member. That’s not the case. Church leadership has never been anything but supportive, and I’ve never lost any sleep over disapproval from individual church members. I would never let a personal offense from a fellow traveler detour me from the path.

    Also, so many people out there think that I have been angry at other LDS filmmakers for dumping poor quality movies into the marketplace and ruining the reputation of Mormon Cinema.

    Okay…you got me. That one’s true. But it is not the reason for my departure.

    To conclude, it’s not necessary for anyone to jump to any conclusions. Please refer back to my letter and re-read the last several paragraphs. I shared my reasons. If you want me to be more specific, I’m sorry. I will not do that.

    Out of respect for the feelings and beliefs of so many of my closest friends and family members, and those who have appreciated my films, I choose to leave my reasons clear, although not explicit.

    Many have expressed concerns for my wife, Gwen, and our children. I’m grateful for your concern. We’re all fine, and happy. Gwen didn’t learn of my struggles and my decision in the morning paper, of course. We’ve been talking about it, and dealing with the ramifications, for over two years now. I can’t tell you how grateful I feel to have such an understanding, supportive and loving wife. I hope to be equally supportive of her and of our children as they continue to be active in the church.

    Again, I’m not angry at the Church. I’m not angry at Joseph Smith. I’m not angry at Gordon B. Hinckley. I don’t have any axe to grind whatsoever.

    My time as an active Latter-Day Saint has been a beautiful, wonderful, life-changing adventure. I’m not rejecting it.

    The best way for me to describe my situation is to share a metaphor. Buddha once compared his teaching to a boat that helps us cross a river. But, once we get to the other side, no one would think of carrying the boat around on his shoulders. Although grateful for its service, no one would say, “Oh, this boat helped me to cross over the river, so I’m now going to carry it on my back.”

    The wise traveler would, obviously, leave the boat at the side of the river and continue on the journey.

    I now feel the need to–with respect and gratitude–lay down the boat and continue on.

    The past few years have been very difficult for me. I’ve been trying to continue my journey toward God while carrying a boat on my back. I hope no one will take offense at this metaphor. I’m not saying that all of us have to leave the boat of Mormonism behind. Many of you will arrive Home in these boats, I’m sure. But, for some unknown reason, our mutual Father in Heaven requires that I take another route. A large part of me would rather stay in the boat. I like the boat. But, my brothers and sisters, it’s time for me to start walking.

    I have not, as I’ve been accused, abandoned God or truth. I believe I am being loyal to truth and reality (as best as I can perceive it), and that I am still reaching up, in my life and in my film work, to my Father in Heaven.

    I leave with love, and I promise to do my best not to take offense at those who currently have me in the cross-hairs. I’ll dodge their bullets, and continue on my way.

    Richard Dutcher

    P.S. I’m sure many of you are as confused by my decisions as you were before you started reading. I apologize, but these words are as much as I want to share, publicly, at this time. I hope to meet many of you, individually, in the coming years. If circumstances allow, we can sit down quietly and privately–maybe even over a dark Irish beer–and I can tell the story in more detail. Until then.

  61. “Don’t let them do to you what they did to me!” What did they do to him? They turned him into a Sunday school lesson.

    Difference is Marsh was an apostle. His apostasy was a big deal for the Church, just as if Robert Hales or Richard Scott fell away today. That would be a big deal, and I’m sure it would become a Sunday School lesson.

    Dutcher is just a regular Joe like the rest of us. His apostasy (and yes, that’s what this is) is a big deal for him and probably for his family, but to the church as a whole, not so much. I don’t think Dutcher is in danger of becoming a Sunday School lessen, a la Thomas Marsh, anytime soon. Sorry Richard. You are not Oliver Cowdery or Thomas Marsh. You are just another Brother Jones. Just like me.

  62. I have tried to track down the source for the seminary story of Marsh’s leaving the Church over a dispute related to milk. I cannot find anything contemporaneous about it. The best I could find was some sermon decades later asserting that the event occurred and this was the reason for Marsh’s departure. Are there articles in BYU Studies, Dialogue, Journal of Mormon History, or the like, that can shed more light on this? (I do not see anything is Rough Stone Rolling about it.)

  63. Mr. Dutcher,

    I read these same comments over at BoC and I’m confused. If you want to avoid shots to your character and avoid the so-called e-Danites of today, then why not just fade quietly into another life? I doubt very seriously that very many people would have taken notice of your otherwise routine story of disagreement/disenchantment/unfulfillment with the church if you hadn’t taken the initiative to print up a large editorial in a predominately Mormon community to tell them all about it. I guess it’s hard for me to understand why you ask for the spotlight and then wonder why people might be looking at you closely.

  64. I’m impressed with the level of sincerity that Richard shows. I am also touched by the fact that most who have posted have been supportive to him, at least to varying degrees. I am certain there will be some who will weigh in on judgment in an unnecessarily cruel way, but I believe most of us can support someone who is going through a rough patch and trying to come out of it on top, even if the ultimate decision leads away from decisions that we have personally made (in my case, I am satisfied that Mormonism holds my rather heavy doctrinal queries).

    I wish you all the best, Richard. My belief is that certain Mormon beliefs and ideologies will continue to be so much a part of you that it will be hard for you to ignore regardless of whether or not you “come back.” There is so much that is inviting and peacegiving in Mormonism, and I am glad that you have stated as much in your “declarations.”

    As far as a few who have mentioned that Mr. Dutcher doesn’t sound particularly humble, I would suggest that he honestly does give off a feeling of having struggled, which I believe is the sentiment he is trying to express (not to speak for him, but I believe I am sympathizing correctly).

  65. Richard, #68, I wish you all the best in your spiritual quest and hope that it eventually leads you back to the Church. I once liked Irish beer myself, but stopped drinking as part of the process that led to my conversion. With much love, Geoff B

  66. DavidH, try “‘I Have Sinned Against Heaven and Am Unworthy of Your Confidence, But I Cannot Live Without a Reconcilliation’: Thomas B. Marsh Returns to the Church” by Lyndon W. Cook which is found in BYU Studies v. 20, no. 4, pp. 389-400. Hopefully the URL at the bottom of this comment will take you to it.

    There is also a footnote to page 74 of Brigham Young’s 1857 diary in the U of U digital collection. The diary reads “Sunday 6 Attended meeting at the Tabernacle Preached in Morning, Bro Thomas B Marsh was received back to the bosom of the church.” Footnote 75 reads:”According to Marsh’s own account (Thomas B. Marsh Papers 1838-1863, L.D.S. Archives), the incident that caused his defection was a quarrel between Mrs. Marsh and Mrs. George W. Harris over pooling milk and making cheese from the joint enterprise.” It would, of course, be interesting to get a direct quote from the Marsh dealing with this matter.

    http://contentdm.lib.byu.edu/cdm4/document.php?CISOROOT=/byustudies&CISOPTR=695&REC=8&CISOSHOW=685

    http://content.lib.utah.edu/cdm4/document.php?CISOROOT=/tanner&CISOPTR=2466&REC=1&CISOSHOW=2217

  67. The source through which we receive the milk strippings story today is a talk George A. Smith gave on April 6, 1856 and found in the Journal of Discourses v. 3, pp. 280-290. It includes this bit:

    There are many here, as religious as this congregation looks, who have not got a good fence around their farms, yet they will kneel down in the mornings, perhaps, to offer a prayer. By the time they have got one knee fairly to the floor, peradventure somebody thunders away at the door and cries out, “Neighbor, there are twenty head of cattle in your wheat; they have been there all night, and are there now.”

    The man of no fence is roused up, and instead of praying he is apt to think, “Damn it,” and to start off get the cattle out and put them into the stray pen.

    Marsh’s remarks to the church on his return are found in JD 5:206-208. They were made Sunday, September 6, 1857, a year and a half after George A. Smith’s talk.

    http://www.journalofdiscourses.org/Vol_03/refJDvol3-43.html

    http://journalofdiscourses.org/Vol_05/refJDvol5-35.html

  68. That BYU Studies article includes a letter that Marsh wrote to Heber C. Kimball as a prerequisite to being rebaptized. From that letter: “I have met with G[eorge] W. Harris and a reconsiliation has taken place with us, and when that was accomplished I was so overjoyed that I was constrained to say in my heart truely this is an evidence the Lord Loves me after all my rebellion & my sins.” Harris is the only person mentioned by name in the letter.

  69. re: 69
    “…You are just another Brother Jones…”

    I’m not so sure he’s ‘just another apostate’ as you seem to assert. His departure was enough to set the Bloggernacle all a-flutter, that’s for sure!

  70. John Mansfield,

    Thanks for the citations.

    At the end of this post, I have excerpted from the sermon by Elder Smith, upon which the seminary teacher’s manual relies, the Marsh story as Elder Smith tells it. Not only do Elder Smith (and the seminary manual) claim that Elder Marsh’s apostasy resulted from the milk strippings, but Smith (and the seminary manual) attribute the extermination order in Missouri (and thousands of deaths) to Marsh’s apostasy (Lyndon Cook’s BYU Studies article does not blame the extermination order on Marsh).

    With respect to the “strippings” story, both Cook’s BYU Studies piece and the footnote 75 to which you refer also cite to some Marsh papers (in addition to the Smith sermon), without giving a page number or very precise identification of those Marsh papers. Have you seen the Marsh papers or know what they say on the subject?

    Edler Smith’s recounting of the story refers to Church investigations’ or courts’ being held and being appealed all the way to the Prophet. I have seen no citations to Church investigation or court records, nor any other accounts of such appeals or investigations or courts being held. Do you know of any other evidence?

    Here is the excerpt from the Smith sermon. I continue to wonder about the reliability of the story.

    “The wife of Thomas B. Marsh, who was then President of the Twelve Apostles, and sister Harris concluded they would exchange milk, in order to make a little larger cheese then they otherwise could. To be sure to have justice done, it was agreed that they should not save the strippings, but that the milk and strippings should all go together. Small matters to talk about here, to be sure, two women’s exchanging milk to make cheese.

    “Mrs. Harris, it appeared, was faithful to the agreement and carried to Mrs. Marsh the milk and strippings, but Mrs. Marsh, wishing to make some extra good cheese, saved a pint of strippings from each cow and sent Mrs. Harris the milk without the strippings.

    “Finally it leaked out that Mrs. Marsh had saved strippings, and it became a matter to be settled by the Teachers. They began to examine the matter, and it was proved that Mrs. Marsh had saved the strippings, and consequently had wronged Mrs. Harris out of that amount.

    “An appeal was taken from the Teacher to the Bishop, and a regular Church trial was had. President Marsh did not consider that the Bishop had done him and his lady justice, for they decided that the strippings were wrongfully saved, and that the woman had violated her covenant.

    “Marsh immediately took an appeal to the High Council, who investigated the question with much patience, and I assure you they were a grave body. Marsh being extremely anxious to maintain the character of his wife, as he was the President of the Twelve Apostles, and a great man in Israel, made a desperate defence, but the High Council finally confirmed the Bishop’s decision.

    “Marsh, not being satisfied, took an appeal to the First Presidency of the Church, and Joseph and his Counsellors had to sit upon the case, and they approved the decision of the High Council.

    “This little affair, you will observe, kicked up a considerable breeze, and Thomas B. Marsh then declared that he would sustain the character of his wife, even if he had to go to hell for it.

    “The then President of the Twelve Apostles, the man who should have been the first to do justice and cause reparation to be made for wrong, committed by any member of his family, took that position, and what next? He went before a magistrate and swore that the “Mormons” were hostile towards the State of Missouri.

    “That affidavit brought from the government of Missouri an exterminating order, which drove some 15,000 Saints from their homes and habitations, and some thousands perished through suffering the exposure consequent on this state of affairs.”

  71. Good Luck Richard,

    As my brother I love you and hope for your hapiness and fulfillment in whatever road you choose. It seems as though many people feel you can not please God unless you are LDS. Such narrowmindedness never served anyone well.

  72. DavidH, first I think Marsh writing about reconciliation with George Harris, a year after Smith told his story, is a pretty significant clue.

    Second, I found the Saints Without Halos web site has the first person History of Thomas B. Marsh which was printed in the Millennial Star [the real one], v. 26, no. 23, June 4, 1864. The only reason he identifies there for leaving the church is seeking out faults in Joseph Smith while ignoring the beam in his eye. If there is nothing more than this in the Thomas B. Marsh Papers, then that footnote 75 is stretching some.

    As for the affidavit that Thomas B. Marsh and Orson Hyde swore out against the church, that can be found in History of the Church. It appears to have been a useful tool for the anti-Mormons. It made it hard for governments to give any support to the Mormons against their attackers, and gave reason for something like the extermination order.

    http://www.saintswithouthalos.com/b/marsh_tbh.phtml

  73. I agree that Marsh’s seeking reconciliation with Harris is a significant clue. But it, by itself, does not tell me that the story happened anything like Elder Smith told it.

    My understanding is that the extermination order had multiple causes, including Sidney Rigdon’s “salt” speech, with blame on both sides. To lay all, or the preponderant, blame on Marsh (as Smith and the seminary manual do) seems simplistic and less than fair.

    In “googling” for the Marsh affidavit, I came across a site which questions the Marsh story:

    “The most famous story about Thomas B. Marsh is about milk and cream. It was first stated by Apostle George A Smith in 1854….

    “The story has little if any historical basis, and elements of it can be shown to be false. Thomas B. Marsh was the President of the Quorum of the Twelve and Missouri Stake President at the time, and full notes exist from the Stake Presidency / Quorum of the Twelve meetings. No such hearing about milk is noted. Extensive diaries of Joseph Smith exist. No such hearing about milk is noted. Thomas B. Marsh presided, as usual, over the October 4th, 1838 monthly meeting of the Q12 and HC. Then, he went with the Mormons in their invasion of Daviess County, and left during the middle of that conquest, went to Richmond, and gave the affidavit noted above. It should also be noted that thousands did not perish on the Mormon trip to Illinois from Missouri, though it was not an easy trip.”

    http://www.tungate.com/Missouri_1838.htm

  74. You can not please God unless you are LDS.

    Ultimately, you cannot fully please God unless your are LDS. Truth isn’t diverse and inclusive.

  75. Maybe Elders Dalton and Allen can catch Richard at the bus station before he gets away….

  76. Some Thomas B. Marsh sources for those interested (I humbly suggest Tungate and perhaps even Dutcher may want to revise some of their conclusions in light of these sources they may not have been aware of.)

    The first recorded telling by George A. Smith of the Thomas Marsh apostasy that I am aware of was recorded by William Clayton in Heber C. Kimball’s diary on Dec. 21, 1845:

    “Sometimes mere trifles, destroy the confidence which each ought to have in the other, this prevents a union of faith & feeling[.] The apostacy of Thomas B. Marsh was caused by so small a thing as a pint of strippings and his oaths brought the exterminating order which drove us all out of Missouri[.]“

    Apparently there is a June 1838 reference in the Journal of Henry William Bigler that covers the incident as well. Bigler was a witness of Mrs. Marsh’s trial before Bishop Partridge. The library is closed or else I might be able to verify if the journal is contemporary or not. Bigler, as you might recall, famously recorded the discovery that precipitated the California gold rush. There is a review of a book about Bigler in JMH 25:2 (1999) and extracts from his journal while serving in the Mormon Battalion in UHQ 5:2 (1932). The Bigler journal is quoted in “Thomas B. Marsh: Reluctant Apostate” by A. Gary Anderson Regional Studies in LDS History: Missouri (1994)

  77. Richard Dutcher’s bitterness toward his Mormon audience speaks directly at his intent. Clearly he was more interested in exploiting his audience rather than pleasing them. I venture to say that, had his last two films made money, he would still be a good little Mormon making Mormon movies. How convenient to blame the Mormon’s for not recognizing his self proclaimed genius. Trust me, if he had half the talent he claims he has, audiences, in and out of the church, would be clamoring to see his films. How pathetic!

  78. David Keller,

    The Cook article also cites to the Bigler journal. When you find what it says, please post it. I am curious whether and to what degree it corroborates George A. Smith’s recounting of the story.

    Please note that Dutcher does not dispute that something like the strippings incident occurred, but he says that that was not the reason for Marsh’s leaving the Church. I tend to agree with Dutcher–at least as to causality. On this score, I am not sure why George A. Smith analysis regarding the cause of Marsh’s apostasy should be considered any more reliable than Brody’s psychoanalysis of Joseph Smith’s motivations. Thus far, I have seen nothing from Marsh stating that this was the reason or motivation for his leaving the Church, or, indeed, anything else mentioning the “strippings” (nothing beyond the “hint” to which John Mansfield refers in No. 81).

    Tungate, on the other hand, expresses some skepticism regarding whether anything like Elder Smith’s recounting of the events occurred. He notes that there is no evidence that the matter was ever considered by higher authorities–there is nothing in the minutes of the high council or in Joseph Smith’s record. In terms of the particulars, I have not seen anything other than George A. Smith’s recounting of the story. (By the way, was Elder Smith somehow involved at the time? Was he on the high council or otherwise present?) Again, perhaps the Bigler journal will shed more light.

    Also, what does Anderson say about the events in his article about Marsh?

  79. Reading Deron’s analysis of Dutcher’s motivations makes me wonder whether George A. Smith’s analysis falls in the same category. Maybe Deron knows Dutcher’s motivations better than Dutcher does, and in the same way, perhaps George A. Smith knew Marsh’s motivations better than Marsh.

  80. DavidH,

    I think you are right to be skeptical about George A. Smith’s assessment of the effect the cream incident on causality towards the extermination order. I think the Danite depredations in Oct. 1838 were the last straw for Thomas Marsh, but he was on his way out anyway. Looked at one way, I think the proposition that the Danite stuff influenced the timing and noisiness of his exit has more truth value than saying that those events caused his apostasy.

    Anderson’s article tries not to rely too much on GAS and to paint a fuller picture of Marsh’s personality and motivations. Like Cook, he points to power struggles between JS and TBM, perceived slights, jealousies, and an inability to handle criticism well. (I have heard recently that Lyndon Cook has apostatized). A few excerpts (sans footnotes) for you:

    Henry William Bigler, a witness who attended the trial presided over by Bishop Edward Partridge, added that during the hearing["[Mrs. Marsh] called on God and angels to witness her innocence. At this time the Prophet jumped up and said, `Sister Marsh, if you say that, you lie like the devil.’”

    While this event led directly to the apostasy of Elder Thomas B. Marsh, the problem was certainly more complex.

    About the time Marsh was preparing to leave the Church, he received another personal revelation which attempted to change his mind before it was too late. Marsh related that he “received a revelation in the printing office.” Elder Heber C. Kimball recorded that when Marsh came out

    “he read it to Brigham and me. In it God told him what to do, and that was to sustain Joseph and to believe what Joseph had said was true. But he took a course to sustain his wife, and oppose the Prophet of God, and she led him away.”

    On 16 October 1838, he accompanied a group of Saints to Daviess County, Missouri, to abate mob activities there. However, his heart was not in it, and he questioned the legality of the actions of the Saints.

    In a letter to Robert Pierce in Philadelphia on 30 May 1844, Hyde encouraged him [Pierce] to support the Prophet:

    During our temptation, David W. Patten, was shot by the enemy, and several days afterwards, while Thos. B. and myself were sitting in a log cabin together in silent meditation, some being smote him on the shoulder, and said, with a countenance full of the deepest anxiety and solicitude, “Thomas! Thomas! why have you so soon forgotten?” Thomas told me it was David W. Patten, with whom, he not long before, had made a covenant to remain true and faithful until the end.

    This letter came at a time after Elder Hyde had been reconciled to the Prophet and to the Church.

    As for Bigler’s diary, I think now that it wasn’t a contemporary entry, because his biographer, M. Guy Bishop, noted that Henry didn’t start keeping a diary until the Mormon Battalion and wrote autobiographical material in it in the mid 1840′s. USU has Bishop’s book and some extracts from the journal I will check them out Monday, but these sources may not have the relevant text. There is a copy of Bigler’s journal in the SLC FHL, but I am not going there any time soon. Henry’s cousin, Bathsheba, married George A. Smith. I assume that Elder Smith’s interest in Marsh’s apostasy centered around being called to be his replacement, and that if he didn’t witness any of the Marsh’s trials firsthand, he learned the story from Joseph Smith while visiting him with Young and Kimball at Liberty Jail.

    Thanks for summarizing Tungate’s and Dutcher’s positions. Part of Tungate’s argument was based on the lateness of Elder Smith’s account, but as I have shown there is one nine years earlier than the one he came up with. As for Dutcher, in my opinion, he went too far in calling the Sunday School lesson “slander” and the cream incident as not “the reason” (without clarifying that it was at least “a reason”) for Marsh’s apostasy. It is also ironic that Marsh was neck deep in bringing about Oliver’s and David Whitmer’s ouster. I do agree with his point that reasons for apostasy are usually more complex than stolen milk or misspelled names.

  81. I hope I run into this man. I will certainly “reprove him sharply”. Brother Brigham would have known how to deal with this weakling, there is no place for weaklings in any association of saints. Its a shame we have to live at a time when we have to tread weakly when God would have us deal with the strong hand. He should be forced to learn faith from the strong hand, for its “better to die than to lose a testimony”

  82. I too am saddened that Brother Dutcher has decided to leave the church (whether he requested his name be removed from the records is semantics that I’d rather not delve into). I’ve seen all three of his LDS films (I haven’t seen Girl Crazy because I don’t have cable) and IMO he is/was the only serious artist in the LDS film genre.

    He sounds sincere in his desire to continue his private spiritual path, and I don’t mean to cast any stones in his direction. But for his sake and others, I see signs of his following the example of Tal Bachman towards becoming a full-fledged antagonist. I sincerely hope that doesn’t happen, but people that leave the church and leaving it completely alone are rare.

  83. Just a comment: #93 is not representative of this site or of the feelings of 99.9 percent of Church members I know. I am inclined to see the commenter as a “troll.” But because it’s just one comment, I’ll keep it here. Future comments along these lines will be deleted. Thanks.

  84. Curiously, God seems to be.

    It wasn’t me who said ‘strait is the gate and narrow the way.’

  85. Here’s a bit from a talk by Heber C. Kimball on July 12, 1857 found in JD 5:27:

    About the time he [Thomas B. Marsh] was preparing to leave this Church, he received a revelation in the Printing Office. He retired to himself, and prayed, and was humble, and God gave him a revelation, and he wrote it. There were from three to five pages of it; and when he came out, he read it to brother Brigham and me. In it God told him what to do, and that was to sustain brother Joseph and to believe that what brother Joseph had said was true. But no; he took a course to sustain his wife and oppose the Prophet of God, and she led him away.

    Thomas B. Marsh was once the President over the Quorum of the Twelve-over brother Brigham, me, and others; and God saw fit to give him a revelation to forewarn him of the course he would take; and still he took that course. We told him that if he would listen to that revelation he had received, he would be saved; but he listened to his wife, and away he went. His wife is now dead and damned. She led him some eighteen years; and as soon as she died he came to Winter Quarters-now Florence, and has written to us, pleading for mercy.

    Lots of possibilities for why Heber C. Kimball brought up Elizabeth Marsh: He had received the letter that Thomas B. Marsh wrote from Florence, Nebraska an May 5. Report of Marsh’s reconciliation with George Harris could have stirred up memory of the old difficulty. Or George A. Smith’s story the previous year had taken on a life of its own and become the common wisdom for Marsh’s apostasy. Or, as with George A. Smith’s talk, bringing up Sister Marsh simply served to illustrate a bigger point he wanted to make. G.A. Smith wanted the saints to work at living harmoniously. H.C. Kimball wanted husbands to not be lead by their wives.

  86. I apologize for resurrecting an old thread, but I finally was able to go to the FHL in SLC and check out the source in The Journal of Henry William Bigler microfilmed in US/CAN film #465. I didn’t have enough time to verify, but this entry is near the start of the journal which was began during Bigler’s MoBat excursion according to his biographer. The entry reads:

    While in Far West I was at the trial of Sister Marsh the wife of Thomas B. Marsh, he was the President of the Twelve, for skimming milk[.] Several sisters in Far West had agreed to unite in make[-]ing cheese by putting their milk together, each one promising not to skim their milk. The trial was before Bishop Edward Partridge where it was [?] that she had not kept her promise and was about to withdraw the hand of fellowship[.] [T]he Bishop and others plead with her to make things right and offered to give her time to do so, but no [?] she called on God and angels to witness her innocence[.] [A]t this the Prophet jumped up and said “Sister Marsh if you say that you lie like the devil.” This remark from the Prophet at that time made me [stare? startled?], However on a little reflection, I [sure?] got over it.

    The thing that stands out to me is that Marsh’s wife was already well on the way to apostasy by the time this trial was held. I infer that from her wishing to withdraw from fellowship rather than confess.

    As a reminder, my point in bringing the 1845 George A. Smith account and the ca. 1846 Bigler account was to rebut accusations that the story didn’t arise until much later in 1854 and therefore either didn’t happen or didn’t significantly impact Elder Marsh’s apostasy.

  87. Thanks for checking the source and sharing what you found with us.

  88. Richard Dutcher’s Spiritual journey.

    As a mormon, and as an individual who is somewhat skeptical of things, I do not see what most of the comments above see with Richard Dutcher leaving the church.I think in his pursuit of moviemaking and learning more about mormon history, he learned the truth, which is that mormon “history” as the lds church paints it, is not accurate. It is a shell of the actual history of mormonism since its founding. The actual history of this church is much, much, more colorful and controversial, then what the church makes it out to be. I think he saw inconsistencies with what the church says, and what actually happened and that disturbed him. I also think he has a desire to make movies that make people think, whether they are lds or not, about spiritual things. The fact is, the church has not been honest with things; specifically, polygamy,Joseph’s behavior with magic, with illegal banking, with behavior of mormon leaders in Missouri, and Joseph’s behavior in Nauvoo. Richard probably left for a variety of reasons,and I think he believes that movies should make one think,and church movies certainly do not do that. They’ve simply become propaganda pieces. He wants mormonism and moviemaking to be better than that. I for one, agree wholeheartedly.

  89. Dave, I just re-read all of the comments above, and I think the majority, except for some obvious trolls who have been pointed out, are pretty respectful of Richard. At the end of the day, it’s his journey and his decision, not yours and not mine. Looking back on this situation, it is interesting that he has decided to question the Church so publicly. He could have kind of faded away and become inactive without long letters explaining his own private journey. That is, of course, what most people do — they simply stop coming to church, they don’t make it public.

    But, as I and many others have said in this thread several times, I think we can agree that we wish him and his family the best. Everybody has their own path, and he has got to find his. I still got a laugh about the line about the two elders going to the bus stop to get him to stay on his mission. Hopefully he’s still at the bus stop spiritually and he’s still ready to come back, but even if he’s not, again, I wish him all the best.

  90. “Looking back on this situation, it is interesting that he has decided to question the Church so publicly.”

    Or that he waited to do so after States of Grace had finished its marketing run.

  91. Everyone has free angency. Isn’t that what we fought for? If Richard Dutcher wants to leave, I’m sure he has his reasons. It’s not are place to judge him. Who are we to judge anyway?

    Richard I wish you the best of luck, and I hope you find what you are looking for.

  92. To Bro/Mr. Dutcher
    I just found out about your leaving the church yesterday – and was sad to learn of your leaving.
    To those who wrote that you used your free agency and that we should respect your right to make your choice – I would disagree.. The term “FREE agency is man make. The term should be “Agency” it is not free – there are consequences to agency and those consequences depend on how that agency is used.

    I understand you right to agency and wish you well – I still feel for your wife and family. I have lived with a husband who left the church and know from my own experience that there is a great difference in a home where an honorable Priesthood leader lives and one in which there is no priesthood. Believe me there is a big difference ! And pretty words cannot change that. And she cannot help but feel it along with your choice to break your eternal sealing to her and your children. This a is a small part of the consequences of your choice.

    You and I have never met and I feel that your plea for not putting you down is very hypocritical when you slander not only me but millions of Mormon’s by your comment “It’s unpleasant to acknowledge, but the LDS community has a history of character assassination. It is an ugly truth, but it is the truth. I have often joked (darkly, and among friends only) that when wandering sheep stray from the fold, Mormons don’t go looking for them. What happens is: somebody climbs up on a really tall tower, takes out a high-powered rifle, gets the poor straying soul in the cross-hairs, and then blows his wandering brain out”. Again, you do not know me so how can you say that I do this (which by the way I don’t). I do know that there are some who do this but in honesty I think that this problem is not just a Mormon problem – I think every religion can say the same thing. But, you are right there are some Mormon’s who do this and it would appear that this also includes you.
    Just to let you know– I have loved and have been so very very touched by “Legacy, Two Testaments” as well as The Joseph Smith Story. I love these movies. I also have all of the “Liken the Scriptures” shows for my grandson and I really enjoy them also along with Beauty and The Beast, the Mormon version of Pride and Prejudice, Anxiously Engaged,and a few others and look forward to some others that I would like to get. While these movies don’t touch my soul and leave me weak in the knees – They entertain me in a way that I can learn gospel principals and I have no problem with watching them with my son or grandson. I do not personally like edgy shows (my preferenc, because I just don’t enjoy being scarred or having nightmares and because I for one do not feel the spirit around when they are on). I know and allow others the right to watch what they will – I am just stating my own personal preference.
    I thought it interesting how you talked about you not being perfect and the language you used in explaining this to others “However, I’m far from perfect: I do like to swear sometimes (seldom in anger, mostly for fun), and I’ve recently grown fond of really expensive dark Irish beer (enjoyed in moderation, of course). On occasion I’ve even been known to swear while drinking a beer. I’ve always been good at multi-tasking.
    I tried smoking cigars, but didn’t care for them. Cigarettes I hate. Coffee’s not for me, but I have found some great dark teas that I really like. There’s one in particular, Lapsang Souchong, that I highly recommend.
    There you go. Not very juicy. Downright silly in fact. On to more serious matters.” Personally, I do not feel that willing breaking God’s commandments a “SILLY Thing” and while I appreciate your recommendation on the beer and tea. I can assure you I will not be running out to try them. In you statement “My time as an active Latter-Day Saint has been a beautiful, wonderful, life-changing adventure. I’m not rejecting it.” It would seem that your definition of “rejection” is somehow not the same as mine. And as far as your parable about Buddha whereas you would chose to leave the boat, I would chose to keep it as I may come across another big water mass and I would want to be prepared to cross it. I think the hardest thing for me to understand that you have written is why you think that God the Father would send you on a different path that breaks his commandments (W of Wisdom, partaking of the Sacrament, keeping your Temple and Priesthood covenants, avoid even the appearance of sin,just to name a few). I am not trying to “Bad month” you – just trying to understand better what you have written. I do wish you well in the new life that you have chosen and I wish all the luck in explaining all of this to Christ on judgment day. May you be happy in the road that you have freely chosen
    your loving spirit sister…JanSan

  93. After reading some of your comments, I have to wonder, what is wrong with some of you people? So the man doesn’t share your religious beliefs, so what? A person’s religion / spirituality is a deeply personal thing, so who are you to chastise him? Religion is inherently *faith* based, so you really have no ground to stand on when criticizing this personal decision. It’s not like you can ‘prove’ he made the wrong decision. Obviously he feels it is the right decision for him, so why the comments about “good luck explaining this to Christ on judgement day”, and “you cannot please God unless you are LDS”. Give me a break. Some of you people seriously need to get a life.

  94. Mr. Time:

    You seem to be a drive-by commentator, but I’ll just say: I would agree 100% with everything you said, if anyone had actually said “good luck explaining this to Christ on judgment day” or “you cannot please God unless you are LDS”.

    Since those comments do not appear anywhere in this thread, your criticisms appear to have been posted in the wrong forum.

    Or, perhaps you should be more charitable in your reading of the comments on this (year and a half old) thread.

  95. RE: Ivan Wolfe,

    Actually, both the comments “Time” refers to were made essentially verbatim on the thread. The bit about Christ and judgment day appears just before “Time”s response (the author of the post is “JanSan”).

    I hope Dutcher finds happiness, in the Church or out of it, I hope that he continues to improve as a filmmaker, making even greater movies dealing with spirituality, and I hope he and his family remain very happy together.

  96. I’m looking Davey, and I’m not finding what you are referring to. JanSan’s comment is long and rambling, and I’m unclear what his/her main point is, but those phrases are not there “verbatim” or otherwise.

    I’m unsure why people find it offensive when people actually believe the Church is true and thus think it’s better to be in it than out of it.

    But, I basically agree with your main point. In or out, I only wish Dutcher the best and hope he finds some measure of happiness. If he’s happy with where he is, then more power to him.

  97. No wonder this gets late drive by commentators. I just did a Google search on Dutcher, and this is the third result. I have no idea why.

    I’m closing comments on this, though. There’s no need to re-hash this out every six months someone drops off a drive-by comment.

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