MORE Star Trek

My sister has pointed out that almost every chat room in the history of the Internet devolves into a sexual discussion, with one exception – Star Trek chat rooms. I don’t know what that means. And I’m not sure if chat rooms exist anymore, actually. But expect bno salacious content in the post below.

My Esteemed Colleague from yesterday’s post commented on a very old blog post of mine, wherein I ranked the Star Trek movies from best to worst. You can find that post here, but if you want the Cliffs Notes version, I ranked the movies from best to worst as follows: II, VI, VIII (First Contact), IV (The One with the Whales), III, I, VII (Generations, or the One where Kirk Falls Off a Bridge), IX, X, and V (The One that Totally Sucked.)

Here again, in cool, Vulcan-Blood green, are My Esteemed Colleague’s comments, with my comments on his comments interspersed in traditional black.


I agree with many things you have to say here.

Thank you, sir.

In no particular order : Kirk WAS a smarmy date in the pizzeria, and V was just awful.

Those are the most compelling points in my post.

I would place Insurrection far above where you did, however. What was noteworthy about it for me was its square take on the Prime Directive, the first ever in a movie, and defending a small group of people. This impressed me because it was so clearly based on the assault on indigenous peoples that has happened worldwide, and Picard alludes to this in his argument with Admiral Dougherty. Also, there is a refreshing twist on a usual Star Trek theme. Usually Star Trek asserts that paradise is impossible, and no one should even try. Countless OS episodes have the crew interfering with various attempts. Here Picard really sticks to the Prime Directive, and we get to see a small utopian community and how it has created its own space. Given how many religious minorities did the same in America, and in a sense built it, I think that’s a worthwhile theme for Star Trek to have explored. Also, it was great to see Riker in command and I liked his new beardless look.

You’re probably right. To be honest, I don’t remember Insurrection that well. I only saw it once – in the theatre, on opening night, alongside many family members. I walked out generally pleased, although the discussion focused on how the thing was essentially just an extended episode, and I’ve forgotten most of it. I remember reading a Roger Ebert piece that said that Picard and Co. were actually on the wrong side of the issue – the people on the planet were not indigenous, and the Fountain of Youth aspects of the planet could have benefited a number of other folks, so why not use it? I’m not sure if I cared about the argument enough to agree with one side or the other, but I don’t recall the movie being the suckfest that Nemesis was.

I still think that VI is a good movie, but I place it lower than you. I think VI all got elevated in our minds because it was like salvation after the hell of V, and it is still a strong film, but at times the social parallels (which are good, that’s Star Trek) became way too obvious, kind of like the Omega Glory with the Kohms and the Yangs. I mean, Klingons with Russian accents? Come on. And to me, the mind-meld scene with Valeris was EXTREMELY disturbing and felt like rape, and it was acted like it was rape, and I thought it completely destroyed Spock’s character and made him break with all Vulcan ethics of peace. I didn’t like it one bit.

I guess the Valeris thing is the keenest area where we disagree. The bond between those two characters really highlighted Spock’s ability to balance his Vulcan and human side in a process that began back in the fourth film and which Shatner ignored and/or abandoned in the fifth. It was something like rape, and, yes, very disturbing, but I think it made Spock a far more interesting character. He knew exactly what he was doing; he felt it necessary, and he hated himself for it. “Logic is the beginning of wisdom, not the end of it,” he tells her at the beginning of the film, and by the end, he has to put those words into practice in a way that was extremely distasteful for him. I don’t think it destroyed his character – it made it much more complex.

It would have been even more interesting if Valeris had been Kirstie Alley’s Saavik, as was the original intent.

I don’t remember the Russian Klingons, David Warner and Christopher Plummer were the two best ones, and they both sounded English. And the parallels were very clumsy to what was topical in the early 90s, but the story is strong enough that it still works when divorced from its time.

And I could be elevating this unduly because I had read the script beforehand, saw the thing before it premiered at the Paramount lot, and felt heavily invested in it.

One thing you might revisit with The Motion Picture is its music. This film has some of the best music, and although it’s true most of the film is a small Enterprise travelling through some (pretty amazing for 1979) effects, the music especially in these scenes is particularly transcendent. Consider as well that the Next Generation got its theme from the music of this film. The first scenes with the Klingons are, I think, riveting, as is the scene with the Kohlinar. Spock regaining his emotional side and connection with Jim is really very moving, and I would think that form a Mormon perspective, the “spiritual marriage” scene between Ilia and Decker would be very interesting.

Agreed on the music, absolutely. Jerry Goldsmith’s score here is the best in any of the films, although James Horner’s stuff for II and III comes close. It’s sad that they brought Goldsmith back for V, though, because his grandiose music was used to accompany crap.

I have rewatched TMP many times, most recently when the “Director’s Cut” came out, and much as I’d like to love it, I can’t get there from here. The opening scene with the Klingons seems disjointed to me, and the Kolinahr thing is purposefully strange without providing much context. The personal moments are great, yes, but they’re buried in a mound of self-indulgent “sci fi”ishness that would have been better suited to a movie without these characters. I wanted Kirk, Spock, and McCoy, not long, luxurious shots of a disco cloud.

I didn’t see any Mormon overtones in the Decker/Ilia relationship. What I did see was that that bald chick couldn’t act her way out of a paper bag.

What’s interesting about V is that its basic idea had existed in Trek for a long time. Shatner stole Roddenberry’s idea and did extremely poor execution on it. Roddenberry had been discussing for years the idea of the crew finding God and it turned out to be the Devil (which, while offensive in some ways, is not so much “anti-religious” as it is very Gnostic, and Roddenberry at times shows a decidedly Gnostic streak). This was such common knowledge amongst the cast that you can see a 1978 interview with the cast where DeForrest Kelly openly discusses the idea — to the horror of the host who is aware of the religious sensibilities of his audience!! (I’m neither agreeing nor disagreeing with this theme here, merely trying to give some of the history of it. I hated V!)

No, you’re right on the money. Roddenberry kept trying to peddle a script called “The God Thing,” which ended up becoming the basis of TMP. It’s ironic that Shatner inadvertantly went back to that well, when he and Roddenberry hated each other so much.

The Sybok character was potentially very interesting, but in actuality quite flat. I agree that Shatner ventures into anti-religiosity here, because here we have a prophetic kind of figure who is made out to be just mistaken.

Talk about a way to destroy a character! Spock, a character whose backstory has been developed over the course of two decades, suddenly has a long-lost brother he never bothered to mention? Who’s a HAPPY Vulcan? This is one step removed from all the Evil Twin plots from Knight Rider or The Six Million Dollar Man. What rubbish.

And it’s not as anti-religious as Shatner would have wanted. He attempted, I think, to say that ALL prophetic figures are mistaken, but he was so milquetoast in executing the idea that he ends up making no point in particular and it all falls flat.

DS9, which apparently you’ve neglected, is one of the most pro-religious shows of all the Trek series, because it deals with the Bajorans, who are an extremely religious people, who draw upon their “prophets”, who are like gods to them. These are science fictionalized to the Federation as “wormhole aliens”, but as they are beings who exist beyond space and time, they are more like the Organians in some way, except more advanced, so perhaps something between the Organians and the Q.

I’ve been told many times that I’d like DS9. I tried the first season and gave up. I hear it got much better as the show progressed.

Some great points about III and its fleshing out of the other characters. Sulu really was likable in this film. But I’m going to argue for greater importance for this film. First of all, I completely and totally disagree with you about the villain. I thought Christopher Lloyd was not only awesome and formidable, but hilarious as well, and that is a really fun combination in a villain. For me, it was both believable and enjoyable. Moreover, III has religious overtones, perhaps the first Star Trek to openly do so. In fact, it is very much like the Mystery Religions of old, where a dying figure is resurrected. In its own oblique way, it is almost allusive to Christianity (although I am in no way equating Spock and Christ!). But as an allegory it is suggestive.

No, Spock is very much a Christ figure here, which is just fine with me. Great literature often references the Christ story via allegory, and I think that’s a positive.

Disagree strongly about Lloyd – he struck me as simply silly, particularly in comparison to Khan from the previous film. He’s just mean – no reason, no history, no logic to it at all. Khan was Iago; Kruge was a schoolyard bully. And I can’t think of a moment where he’s actually funny, which is too bad, since Christopher Lloyd is so delightfully funny in almost everything else he’s done.

The character stuff in III is magnificent, perhaps the best in all the films. The problem with III, which I don’t know how you could have avoided, is you had to get from point A to point B with everyone knowing exactly where point B was. You knew they were going to find Spock; you knew he was going to be brought back to life and fully functioning; you knew, essentially, how the film was going to end. When Bones, for instance, is told there’s significant danger to the procedure he has to undergo to restore Spock’s katra to his body, you don’t believe for even an instant that he’s going to be in peril, or even inconvenienced. And the fight over Genesis is yanked in to raise the stakes, but its a pale shadow of the plot from the previous film. It’s perfunctory.

The only exception to this was the murder of David, which was quite a curveball and gave Shatner one of his best acting moments in the entire series. Although it came and went so quickly that it almost seemed wasted in retrospect.

We’re agreed that II is just amazing.


IV was not so impressive to me. It was a fun romp, to be sure, but here are my major problems : First of all, Roger Cormel died before the shooting of the movie, which completely changed the plot. Most people didn’t know this, but I did, because they had told us that IV was going to have Harry Mudd in it. That would have just been so awesome, and it would have had all the comedy IV had. So that was an unfortunately unavoidable disappointment.

Surprisingly, I had never heard this. Would have loved to have seen Harry Mudd back in action. I HAD heard all the Eddie Murphy rumors, though – he would have played the marine biologist, not whatserface who was pretty lousy. That would have been a confusing melange of Trek and an eddie Murphy vehicle, which would probably have been worse than what we got.

Secondly, the music for this film sounds like the soundtrack for the Ghost and Mrs. Muir, and doesn’t have the seriousness and depth we expect in a Trek score.

ABSOLUTELY agree. Why did they scrap Horner? This was the last part of a trilogy of films – II and III being the first installments – and suddenly we have this drastic shift in the music, and not for the better. IV’s music was wretched.

Then there is the matter of over-flippancy with changing the timeline. Scotty’s simple question of “How do we know he didn’t invent the damn thing?” is just ridiculous, and “Hello, Computer” just begins the slapstickization of Scotty that results in “I know this ship like the back of my hand *BANG*” (V) or “I think this new ship was built by monkeys” (V). Did WWIII really wipe out so much information that a trained Engineer would know absolutely nothing about the history of computers?

Ehhh… this doesn’t really bug me that much. Time travel requires a HUGE suspension of disbelief, even when it’s done well. The timeline stuff all falls apart if you examine it closely, but that’s true in any time travel film. I recommend you read “Pastwatch” by Orson Scott Card. It points out that any time travel to the past completely negates the present and creates an entirely new reality, and it makes a pretty strong case for that. (Apparently, the new Trek movie addresses this issue head on as well.)

As for Scotty’s “slapstickization,” I didn’t mind it in IV, as it felt like it was coming from a place of genuine affection, whereas in V it felt like contempt.

However, in its favor, it has the best integration of aliens into Trek in any film. I was very impressed by the multicultural/alien demographics of Starfleet in this film. Nimoy did a great job with that. And it was fun watching them run around San Francisco.

I don’t recall much alien interaction, except right at the beginning and at the end. And much of the fish out of water stuff was a lot of fun.

I know it may have been far too clumsy to include references, but they act like they’ve never been to 20th century Earth before when in fact they’ve been there several times before.


I’m curious, then. If you move Insurrection and Search for Spock up the scale and move IV and VI down, how would you order the films from best to worst?

Star Trek

My Esteemed Colleague, who I have mentioned on my blog many a time, is a Star Trek fan.

That’s quite an understatement.

He went to conventions. He has memorized the films. When he applied to Dartmouth College, he listed Star Trek as his religion. So he is exceptionally displeased with the new Trek film, which comes out in a couple of weeks. On Facebook, he posted a review of the early reviews, and, as he puts it, “Let’s just say that ‘scathing’ just scratches the surface of my review here.”

Excerpts from his comments are highlighted below in a worthy Trekkish, Vulcan-blood green, with some prudish editing for community standards:

Review on Wikipedia:

“Orci and Kurtzman said they wanted the general audience to like the film as much as the fans, by stripping away “Treknobabble”, making it action-packed…”

Action-packed? No, no, no!!

“Abrams saw … sex appeal as …integral”


“Orci and Kurtzman…noted…Kirk and Spock’s friendship echoing that of John Lennon and Paul McCartney.”


“They also noted that, in the creation of this film, they were influenced by Star Wars, particularly in terms of pacing. “I want to feel the space, I want to feel speed and I want to feel all the things that can become a little bit lost when Star Trek becomes very stately…”


“For Abrams, “The costumes were a microcosm of the entire project, which was how to take something that’s kind of silly and make it feel real.”


“Steven Spielberg (who had partially convinced Abrams to direct because he liked the script, and he even advised the action scenes during his visit).”

Oh, great. So now we’re going to have Trek sequences advised by SPIELBERG??

“Empire magazine awarded 4/5 stars, saying, “for the first time in the franchise, the Enterprise is a genuine thrill-ride”; however, it also notes that “Very much like its dynamic young cast, this Trek is physical and emotional, sexy and vital even, but it is not cerebral.” “

Ok, my point entirely. You’ve just killed Star Trek. Bye-bye.

“Hardcore fans may suggest it’s “not as good as Khan” but the rest of us (and the box office) will tell a different story.”

Ok, $%&# OFF. Get your HANDS OFF TREK. You think the original is “too nerdy”, “too geeky” for your stupid-a$$ $%&# pathetic mainstream life used to stupid and idiotic television shows? GO WATCH THEM ; WE DO NOT NEED YOU HERE. GO AWAY.

“A revamp everyone can get on board with, from die-hards to those who wouldn’t be seen dead at a sci-fi convention.”

Those who “wouldn’t be seen dead at a sci-fi convention” can go STRAIGHT TO HELL. Go back to your MALL and buy something superficial.

There’s more, but you get the idea.

Here was my reply:


I can’t argue with any of this, especially since I haven’t seen the film. I do remember when Battlestar Galactica was being “reimagined,” I kicked and screamed louder than anyone. Believe me, I can understand the reaction here.

I guess part of my problem is that I haven’t seen any compelling Trek since First Contact, and I’ve had no interest in any cast since The Next Generation. I’ve been told Deep Space Nine is worth watching, but I could never get into it. Voyager blew. I saw one ep of Enterprise and decided one was enough.

Later Trek under Berman became this weird, stilted, lifeless thing. It seemed very pastel – no color or vibrancy. It wasn’t particularly cerebral, either. I find in rewatching Trek, it’s the original series that I find most compelling, because there were still some rough edges, and the characters were delightful. Even in TNG, most of the characters are interchangeable – Riker is Troi is Crusher is Geordi. Picard managed to become something more interesting, but I think a lot of that was due to Patrick Stewart’s genius more than anything else. Data and Worf were the only characters who were allowed to be unique, although they made Worf a buffoon a few too many times.

To me, Trek is wrapped up in the Kirk/Spock/McCoy triumvirate. Nothing that has happened since then has even come close to recapturing that dynamic. I love the fact that they recognize that Trek is these three characters, and that this movie’s going to focus on them. What they do, of course, remains to be seen.

I also want to push back a little on the idea that Trek is completely stately with no kicka$$ery. What were all those roundhouse kicks to the solar plexus from the good captain all about, if not kicka$$ery? And Wrath of Khan, unarguably the best of any Trek movie before or since, was built on a foundation of a strong, menacing villain. Action and intelligence can coexist just fine, and in the best of Trek, they very often do.

That’s not to say that this movie is going to be great, good, or even watchable. I’m just saying that the fact that it has beefy action sequences shouldn’t disqualify it from being Trek.

As for sex, they can go to far for my tastes, but I doubt anyone could go too far for James T. Kirk, if you know what I mean. (Cue the green chick in the wings…)

I guess part of my optimism for this project comes from Nimoy’s involvement. Of anyone now living, Nimoy has demonstrated the strongest commitment to the original Trek vision and the best understanding of what made it work. He directed III, IV and cowrote VI, and despite IV’s light tone, these represented some of the best Trek ever filmed. Nimoy thinks this movie is a home run, and at 80 years old, he doesn’t need to promote himself or his image beyond what he wants to do. That says something to me.

In addition, I really have ridiculously low expectations, because Trek lost me years ago. So maybe I’m not the real McCoy anymore.

And, after saying all this, I concede that this movie might still very well suck.

Vague Political Stuff

I’m sitting in an airport, waiting to fly to Washington DC, and I just passed a sign that said “Ignoring Global Warming Won’t Make It Go Away.” 

Ummm, given the fact that we’ve been cooling for the past ten years, that strategy has actually worked pretty well so far. 
I have a hard time commenting on the current political scene, however, as I’ve never felt more disenfranchised than I do now. Obama’s spending us into oblivion, whereas the right is responding with a lot of screaming and outrage and tea parties and crankiness. I’m certainly still a man of the right, but I can’t get excited about generic, disaffected noise, which is pretty much all the right has to offer these days. It doesn’t surprise me, as Obama’s radicalism is far beyond what almost all of us anticipated, but it would be nice if we could shape scattered rage into a coherent political movement that provided palatable solutions that could get people to actually vote for us. 
Case in point: this year, projections for the Federal Government anticipate $2.2 trillion in revenue. Coincidentally, mandatory government spending – Social Security, Medicare, interest in the debt – will also reach the $2.2 trillion threshold. Which means that everything else the Federal Government does will be done on borrowed money, including national defense. 
That is unsustainable. 
All the tea parties in the world to cut spending won’t do a lick of good if we don’t get mandatory spending under control. Which means significant reforms in Social Security and a massive revamping of our entire health care system. Nobody on the right is thinking about either of those things with any degree of seriousness, while the Left is thinking about expanding them. 
We’re living through the Chinese curse – “may you live in interesting times.”

Dry Spell

So my work is entirely time-consuming, and I’m feeling guilt for not updating this blog on an almost daily basis. Except it’s now getting hard to update it on an almost weekly basis. I don’t want to just throw in the towel, but if real life continues to be this demanding, I think I’m going to have to slow down for awhile.

Just thought you should know.

Bible Bashing

If you can, imagine the following conversation without falling asleep.

“You Mormons are dead wrong and are going to hell.”

“Really? Why?”

“Because you say that God has a body, when John 4:24 says God is a spirit.”

“That doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a body. It also says that we need to worship God ‘in spirit and in truth.’ Do we need to leave our bodies to worship Him? When John says elsewhere that ‘God is love,’ does that mean He’s not a spirit anymore?”

“Yeah, well, John also says that ‘no man hath seen God at any time.’ Kind of makes Joseph Smith look like a crackpot, then, doesn’t it?”

“Is Moses a crackpot too, then? Exodus 33:11 says that Moses spoke to God ‘face to face, as a man speaketh to his friend.’ Acts 7:55 says that Stephen saw Jesus ‘on the right hand of God.’ By the way, don’t you have to have a body to have a right hand?”

“He was speaking figuratively. You would know that if you trusted the complete Word of God. The Book of Revelations says that you should not add to or take away from the Bible.”

“It’s the book of Revelation, bonehead. No S. And that was written long before the Bible was compiled, and refers to John’s Revelation only. Virtually the same verse appears in Deuteronomy 4:2. Should we toss out the whole New Testament?”

“You’d like us to, wouldn’t you? It’s the New Testament that tells us to beware of false prophets, like your Joseph Smith quack.”

“So why doesn’t it just say ‘beware of prophets?’ If we’re only supposed to watch out for false prophets, doesn’t that imply that there will be true prophets, too? The New Testament also mentions baptism for the dead in 1 Corinthians 15:29. Why doesn’t your church practice baptism for the dead?”

Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah.

(It’s over. You can start reading this blog post again.)

Believe it or not, I’ve had the discussion outlined above, or at least variations of it. In such conversations, I’ve also wandered into Ezekiel and Isaiah’s prophecies about the Book of Mormon; we’ve hashed out whether or not it’s OK to give blood; and whether or not the Mormons have a transatlantic tunnel that begins in London and leads to the Salt Lake Temple, where British women are married off to men with beards and/or Orrin Hatch.

You may be startled to learn that such conversations usually fail to make converts on either side.

Mormon missionaries refer to such events as “Bible bashes.” They’re nasty, nasty affairs, and everyone involved usually ends up walking away angry. Revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants warn against such nonsense. Section 19, verse 31 reads as follows:

And of tenets thou shalt not talk, but thou shalt declare repentance and faith on the Savior, and remission of sins by baptism, and by fire, yea, even the Holy Ghost.

I’ve learned that the Holy Ghost isn’t argumentative or contentious. He’s not interested in legalistic wrangling over tenets. He speaks with a still small voice, not with a bullhorn and a subpoena.

That’s not to say that the principles we believe in are irrelevant, or that they don’t stand up to scrutiny. It’s that heated arguments over Bible verses don’t shed any light on anything. Many members of the Church like to refer solely to the Bible to make their arguments, because the Bible is common ground between our faith and the Christian world.

But the Bible is not common ground. The Bible is battleground.

The Christian world has been fighting over the Bible for centuries, if not millennia. The Roman Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox churches have excommunicated each other; the Protestants have rejected the authority of both of them, and hundreds, perhaps thousands, of sects of Christianity have sprung up all over the world, each of which has a different spin on which scriptures should be interpreted literally, which are figurative, which are unimportant (Martin Luther called the Book of James a “straw book”) and which are essential to salvation. They also have a hard time deciding on what the Bible actually is. The Catholic Bible is bigger than the Protestant 66-book version, and each version has scriptures that refer to books that aren’t part of the canon.

Even if you can agree on what books should be included, the Bible is not an Ikea owner’s manual. It’s hardly self-explanatory. Imagine if you dropped the text of the King James Bible on seven different English-speaking planets and told them to fashion a religion around it. Do you think all seven would be identical, or even similar? Do you think they would bear any resemblance to any churches now in existence? Do you think, for instance, that any one of them would come up with the Athanasian Creed or Easter eggs hidden by bunnies?

It’s important to recognize that the Bible, in and of itself, is not religion. It is, rather, the record of people who had religion. And these people had no Bible, or at least no New Testament. Rather than wrangle over what Peter meant in his epistles, they were able to ask Peter directly. The same Spirit that led Peter and Paul to minister to the New Testament church is necessary in order to step away from the dead letter of ancient texts and into the living power of God. “For the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.” (2 Corinthians 3:6)

Mormons that decide to engage in this battle are not only wasting their time, they’re ignoring the charge they’ve been given. We revere the Bible, but we don’t worship it. We worship the Living God instead. Our message is that God continues to speak, and that revelation didn’t end when the apostles did. That’s a message that comes by speaking with boldness and power, not through bickering and squabbles that lead nowhere.

Although I ought to share one Bible bash I had back on the streets of Dundee, Scotland, that was particularly memorable.

Some evangelicals were holding a street meeting, and my missionary companion and I were the only ones paying any attention to it. Pretty soon, they were standing in a circle around me, firing off nasty questions, with me firing back. (My companion had the good sense to keep his head down and wait until the whole thing blew over.)

In the middle of the fracas, a woman in a pirate’s outfit came storming through the middle of it, asking iof we knew where we could find buried treasure. Annoyed at the interruption, I pointed at a nearby building and said, “It’s over there!”

“That’s a bank!” she said, scoffing, as she hit me over the head with a plastic baseball bat.

Turns out she was a TV host of a popular British children’s program, and I was on national television the next day. So the moral of the story is, if you want to be a British TV star, you should argue about Bible verses in the public square.

I’m sorry, what was my point again?

The Mormon Jesus and the Love of God

Last week was nuts. When real life intervenes, keeping up with a blog is pretty rough going. I apologize. Rest assured, I have not abandoned this blog, only neglected it. Although if it were a child, that would be enough to sic CPS on me.

The past couple of weeks have been very hectic, indeed, yet they’ve also been remarkably religious. Our church’s General Conference was last Sunday, and I had a chance to go downtown and see the priesthood session live at the Conference Center. For those of you who have never been to the Conference Center, it’s quite the experience – a 22,000 seat indoor hall where every seat has a clear sightline to a single podium. It’s an engineering marvel, even if you’re not excited about the religious aspects thereof.

Speaking of which, no conference would be complete without scary-looking street protesters, who congregate outside the conference center with large signs telling all the Mormons they’re going to hell, or that they’re leading others to hell, or that they’re too pro-abortion. (Those are my favorite. Dude, if you’re protesting that the Mormons are just too pro-choice, you’ve got WAY to much time on your hands.)

The irony about this is that most of these protesters hold up signs announcing that Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation.

I don’t think these people realize that there is not a single Mormon who would disagree with that. I posted this picture on Facebook, and a Mormon friend of mine likened this to a guy going to a polling place on Election Day and screaming to everyone in line, “YOU SHOULD VOTE!!!!”

I can remember on my mission coming across many evangelical Christians who condemned me to hell unless I was willing to accept Jesus into my life. Invariably, I would use the opportunity to, then and there, accept Jesus into my life. I would say whatever little prayer they had printed on their cards or flyers and then look them in the eye and say I agreed with every word in it. It still wasn’t enough. I remember talking to one family at their doorstep, who said I needed to accept Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior.

“Fair enough,” I said. “I cheerfully accept Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior. I recognize that I am helpless without Him, and that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. I invite him into my life, and I know He is the only way to heaven.”

They stood there, flummoxed.

“Is that it?” I said. “Do I have to do anything else?”

“Yes, you do,” the mother said. “You need to repent of your Mormon faith.”

Yeah, okay.

See, that’s the problem. These guys insist that all you have to do is accept Jesus, and, presto, you’re saved. But if you say you accept Jesus and still want to hang with the Mormons, you didn’t do it right. If you press people hard enough on this, they’ll tell you haven’t really accepted Jesus, you’ve accepted some other Jesus. The movie The God Makers, which was quite a popular Mormon-bashing film back in the ‘80s, constantly refers to Jesus as being separate from the guy the Mormons worship, who is repeatedly identified as the “Mormon Jesus.” The problem is that the Mormon Jesus is pretty much identical to the other Jesus – he was the Son of God, born to a virgin in Bethlehem; he grew up in Nazareth; he called twelve apostles and taught the Gospel, and then was betrayed and crucified on Calvary. Three days later, He rose from the dead, and He commissioned His apostles to teach his Gospel to all the world. Now, unless the Mormon Jesus did all this same stuff down the street or something, it’s pretty hard to distinguish between the two.

The problem is that Mormons believe Jesus did more than this. The Book of Mormon tells of His visit to the Lost Tribes of Israel, and Joseph Smith and other modern prophets talk of seeing Jesus on several occasions. So what these Christians are saying is that Jesus only did what is chronicled in the New Testament, and only the Mormon Jesus did all this extra, weird stuff.

So, when you get right down to it, the way to hell isn’t a lack of belief in Jesus. Apparently, the danger lies in believing too much about Jesus.

I’m not quite sure what to do about this. I can go into almost any Christian church in the country, and they’ll tell me things about Jesus that I will heartily agree with. I believe He did everything the Bible says He did. But I also believe Jesus is more than just words on a page. I don’t worship the Bible; I worship Jesus, who is not bound like the pages of a book.

I can recall quite vividly one of the first experiences I had that built my own personal witness of Jesus Christ. I was in a pageant at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles called III Nephi, which dramatized Christ’s visit to the New World after His resurrection. I was nine or ten years old, I think. I played one of the children who greets the Savior, and we were taught two songs to sing on that occasion – one was “I Feel My Savior’s Love,” and the other was “The Love of God.” I can recall feeling a very powerful witness that Jesus was real; that He loved me, and that He knew me by name. I can remember a testimony meeting right after the dress rehearsal, where one of the men stood up and said “That which you feel right now is the love of God.” He was right. I knew he was telling the truth, just as surely and plainly as I knew I existed.

The song “I Feel My Savior’s Love” was written for that pageant, and it has since become something of a staple among Mormon children. I’ve heard it a billion times. But I hadn’t heard the song “The Love of God” since the day I last sang it on the stage of the Shrine. That is, until yesterday, when a local choir sang it as a counterpoint to “I Know that My Redeemer Lives.” And instantly, I felt that same sweet assurance, the power of the Spirit reminding me of the certainty I learned so long ago.

That which I felt was the love of God.

Maybe that means I’m damned for all eternity. Maybe the Mormon Jesus has deceived me. Maybe, maybe, maybe – but I really don’t think so. There are some things that sink too deeply into your soul to deny them. So when people yell at me and tell me that I need to believe less than I do in order to be saved, I’m afraid I can’t accommodate them.

Since when does God damn people for believing too much?

Theatre Notes

This thing’s being passed around Facebook to all theatre junkies, and since I’m slacking on keeping this blog updated as it is, I thought I’d not waste a lengthy piece of writing on anonymity.

1) What was the first play you ever did? What role or job?
I was, I think, ten years old, appearing in a summer school production of Maurice Sendak’s Really Rosie. I played a monkey. (Typecasting? You betcha.) It was the first time I’d ever found something that I was good at that would impress other people.

2) What was your most recent show? What job/role?
I directed Guys and Dolls at the Tuacahn Center for the Arts in 2004. Haven’t done anything remotely theatrical since. My last live performance was also at Tuacahn, back in 2000 as the lead in The Music Man.

3) What was your favorite show/role?
Hands down, playing the title character in Eugene Ionesco’s bizarre existential weirdfest Man with Bags at USC. I’ve never had a performing experience that has even come close.

4) What was your most challenging show/role?
Well, that Music Man performance involved me stepping into the lead for two weeks at the end of the run, after a summer where the cast was told that I was a combination of Satan and the King of Suck by the woman playing Marian. The hostility was palpable, and it would have been tricky under the best of circumstances, and these were by far the worst. I still nailed it, though, because I’m a friggin’ genius.

5) What is the most bizarre show or role you’ve ever done?
Again, Man with Bags comes to mind. It had people with trees growing out of their stomachs.

6) Has anyone ever written a show for you?
I think Ed H. tailored a role he wrote in the USC Senior Experimentals for me, but it wasn’t really written FOR me. I’VE written several roles for me, however, none of which have ever really been produced.

Wait! Scratch that! Greg H. wrote a role for me as “the Pianist” in the original kid’s Rock Theatre in 1983. It was a great, wonderfully fun show, but the role was wafer thin.

7) Have you ever quit a show to accept a better one?
Actually, the reverse. I was offered a slot at the Utah Shakespearean Festival and went to the Playmill instead. Although Playmill offered me much better roles, and I think I had more fun up there than I would have had carrying a spear at Utah Shakes.

8) Have you ever completely blown character on stage?
You mean just once? Playmill ’93 was filled with such moments. I remember splitting my pants onstage and everyone onstage and off breaking into convulsive giggles. I leapt over a couch in See How They Run and felt the thing split up the middle, but because of the Playmill’s odd seating layout, only a third of the audience could see my butt. So they started laughing, while the rest of the house had no idea what was going on. Eventually, Heidi M. walked onstage with a fresh pair of pants, and I changed in full view of the crowd, and then the show went on, sort of.

9) What show(s) are you just dying to do?
My original Peter Pan musical, Neverland.

10) Have you ever done one of your “dream” shows?
I’m not sure. I don’t really have show dreams anymore, so I’m not sure which shows would be dream shows at this point.

11) Who was your favorite director?
Huge Michael K. fan, probably because he directed Man with Bags.

12) Who was your least favorite director?
I’d go with “me.” Or Thor N., the insane man who threw full 7-up cans at children during a production of Hans Christian Andersen in the early ’80s.

13) What is the most surprising role you have ever been offered?
Some guy at USC wanted me to play a dude version of Blanche in his all-male Streetcar Named Desire. I think it was only for one scene, but I passed.

14) Have you ever injured yourself onstage or offstage?
Ever? Yes. Theatrically related? Not often. I remember I gouged my leg running up to the front of the Bing Theatre at USC and attempting to leap from the house to the stage to give Lenanne Sylvester a hug. It took a chunk out of my bone that still wobbles if I fiddle with it.

15) What show(s) have you done multiple times?
There’s The Music Man, which I performed in three times, twice as the lead. (Both times were stories in themselves – see and .)

I was in a constantly shifting standing company of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown for the better part of six years, playing Schroeder. I also directed it for my church, playing Snoopy. I’ve been in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat umpteen times in a bunch of settings and roles, once as the lead in high school. Done Guys and Dolls three times, twice as a cast member, twice as a producer, and once as a director. Annie Get Your Gun – twice produced, once directed. Twice produced Fiddler on the Roof. Actually, this list is boring me, so I’ll stop here. (P.S. Produced The Foreigner twice; directed it once.)

16) Have you ever had an onstage kiss?
Have I EVER! (Up through puberty, that was pretty much all the action I got.)

17) What was your scariest moment in a show?
I once dropped a roll drop without warning in Jackson Hole in order to go make an entrance in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. I could have killed someone.

18) What is your best show memory?
I can’t think of one standout. Man with Bags again, Into the Woods at USC, and not single-handedly destroying Tuacahn with my performance in The Music Man. Maybe playing opposite Gok Festuf Gearin in The Odd Couple and throwing a plate of spaghetti off into the wings and hitting a guy in the eye.

19) What is your worst show memory?
My first year producing shows in Jackson Hole and playing to empty houses for The Mystery of Edwin Drood was always deeply, deeply depressing. I was the only one onstage who knew just how much money we were losing.

20) What is your saddest show memory?
Actually, I hark back to my first show – Really Rosie – and being totally crushed when it was over. Just devastated that I had to go back to real life. I felt the same way after a summer in The Wizard of Oz at Barnsdall Gallery Theatre in Hollywood. As a little kid, those casts represented the only communities that didn’t think I was a freak and a half. It was always very hard when it all ended.

As I got older, however, closing nights too often became glorious moments of relief. Or, in the words of Jack R., “This, too, shall close.”

21) Do you have any theatrical superstitions?
Nope. Macbeth Macbeth Macbeth. Good luck! I’m off to go whistle in the dressing room.