I will always remember Richard Dutcher as the LDS missionary who dies after giving a blessing to a crippled man who is a new convert to the Church. In a spiritually soaring scene, that man is miraculously healed, and then Richard Dutcher, content but suffering from a terminal disease, passes away overnight.
That might be one of my favorite scenes in all of cinema.
As many readers know, that was the climactic scene of the 2000 film “God’s Army,” still probably the best of LDS cinema after all of these years. Richard Dutcher played “Pops,” the faithful Elder Dalton, who refused to leave his mission.
Artists like Richard Dutcher are given special gifts. They are able to synthesize the thoughts, emotions and feelings of millions in powerful scenes that allow us to feel the urgency and clarity of God’s love for all of us. And when these artists direct, write and act in such personal and poignant movies, how can we not feel special empathy for them?
Most readers probably know that Richard Dutcher made another very good movie called “Brigham City” after “God’s Army.” He then went on to make a several more movies…and during that period he announced he was leaving the Church. He gave what I considered to be a melancholy interview for Mormon Stories, then he got divorced, and then there is this horrific story about an ex-girlfriend filing a request for a protective order against Dutcher. Dutcher is quoted saying the following: “These are very painful and worrisome allegations. I do feel the need to state publicly that I have never in my life hit a woman, never choked a woman, never kicked a woman — certainly never sexually abused a woman.”