Strangers and Pilgrims

Season 1 – Death of the Prophet Joseph Smith

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Jung, Bacon, and Joseph Smith

In my notes I found this quote from this book “The Gnostic Jung and the Seven Sermons to the Dead”. I have no idea where I found the quote. But, it comes from the book’s epilogue:

Contemplating the mysterious panorama of the Seven Sermons, one is reminded of a saying of the philosopher Bacon: “Animus ad amplitudinem Mysteriorum pro modulo suo dilatetur; non Mysteria ad angustias animi constringantur.”

The book goes on to say this is translated as:

Let the mind, so far as it can, be open to the fulness of the mysteries; let not the mysteries be constrained to fit the narrower confines of the mind."

This quote from Francis Bacon reminds me of one of my favorite Joseph Smith quotes, from Chapter 22 of his Teachings of the Presidents of the Church book:

I want to come up into the presence of God, and learn all things; but the creeds set up stakes [limits], and say, ‘Hitherto shalt thou come, and no further’’; which I cannot subscribe to.

And this other Joseph Smith quote on the same subject matter, from the same chapter:

The great thing for us to know is to comprehend what God did institute before the foundation of the world. Who knows it? It is the constitutional disposition of mankind to set up stakes and set bounds to the works and ways of the Almighty.

There is a quote along these same veins by H.A. Overstreet in his book “The Mature Mind” that I’ve lost. I’ll have to go re-read the book and find it again.

As a side note, that book “The Gnostic Jung” talks about how Jung was visited by a bunch of spirits one day and wrote a book called “The Red Book” that wasn’t published until 2009!? But, a summary of the Red Book, called “The Seven Sermons to the Dead” was published in his lifetime. I didn’t know any of this. I thought he was just the archetype guy. I’ll have to read into it.

Recording Podcasts is Difficult for Me -- I'm probably doing it wrong.

I’ve been re-recording my podcasts, as has been mentioned in previous blog posts. It takes me forever. It doesn’t come naturally to me — this recording stuff.

It reminds me of the lines from W.B. Yeat’s “Adam’s Curse”

I said: ‘A line will take us hours maybe; // Yet if it does not seem a moment’s thought // Our stitching and unstitching has been naught. // Better go down upon your marrow-bones // And scrub a kitchen pavement, or break stones // Like an old pauper, in all kinds of weather; // For to articulate sweet sounds together // Is to work harder than all these. . .”

Recording the podcast for me is so tedious. And, I have to go back and do everything over so many times. So many times. The only answer is I’m probably doing it wrong. It can’t be this difficult and time consuming for everyone. Like, my breathing. I have to go back and edit out almost every single breathe I take because it sounds like a vacuum cleaner got turned on. There is this loud sucking / inhaling noise in between every sentence that is louder than my speaking voice.

But, it’s for a good cause. I’d rather have a product I was proud of than one I wasn’t. Those first recordings lasted a whole year before push came to shove and I changed them. Maybe these ones will last two.

Yeats is good. Pretty mystical. Adam’s Curse is a poem I think about quite often.

Out of Liberty Trailer

Here is the trailer for the movie I wrote with Garrett Batty and McKay Stevens. The story of Joseph Smith and his fellow prisoners in Liberty Jail — and the jailer, Samuel Tillery, who watched over them there.

They did a little write up about the movie in Meridian Magainze today. It’s fun to read about.

You can go to the movie’s website and request that the movie show in your area — if enough people put in your zipcode I think they’ll make an effort to get a screening in a local theater.

Season 2 of the podcast should be finished here in the next few months — for real this time. Unless another script need to be written out of nowhere.

Saints Volume 1, The New Play Project, and Soft Skills

For Christmas, my sister-in-law Rushell gave me a copy of Volume 1 of The Saints — the new history publication about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Volume 1 essentially covers the life of Joseph Smith. You can, actually, buy a copy of the book — or you can read it for free, too.

I enjoy reading it, to see what they said, what they didn’t say, and how they framed their story.

The history of one man’s life, especially Joseph Smith’s, is so complicated and has so many nodes and anecdotes and story lines running through it that it’s hard to give one straightforward narrative structure to the life, or the events surrounding the death.

So, their telling of the story is very similar to mine in a lot of ways, and different in a few ways — so I enjoy seeing how they did what they chose to do.

I’m aware of two of the writers listed in the book — James Goldberg and Melissa Leilani Larson.

I became aware of James when he was involved with the New Play Project in Provo, Utah years ago. I was an undergraduate student studying film at BYU and was writing plays, too. I had submitted a play for one of their shows — to be produced — my play was a comedic retelling of the Story of Adam and Eve’s fall. I don’t think it was an irreverent take on it. But, it was dry humor. And, I thought this play was really good.

Anyway, I’m sure James doesn’t remember this, but I submitted the play to be included in their show, and it wasn’t included. And, I was furious, and shocked. Because, I knew it was good. I thought it was good. And, I thought I was a good writer, and I didn’t understand how my play wasn’t selected.

So, I found a phone number for the New Play Project, and called up, because I wanted to get to the bottom of why they rejected the piece. So, I call and James answers the phone. I had seen him around BYU at a few things — at a few readings or performances or something., But, I’d never spoken with him. But, you know I knew people who knew him. You get it. And, he, I guarantee had and still has no idea who I am.

Anyway, I’m on the phone with him, and I’m like, “Man. this short play is good. How did this not get picked up by you guys?” And, he said that it was good, but they didn’t choose it. So, I keep pestering him, and he goes on to explain that they already had an Adam & Eve play that was chosen for this block of plays, and that they couldn’t have 2 Adam & Eve plays.

Actually, I knew the guy that had written the other Adam & Eve play — Davey Morrison. He and I were film students together. And we used to read each others stuff that the other one was working on. Davey actually ended up taking that play and turning it into a web series that is currently on Amazon Prime. I’m pretty sure I linked to it in a previous blog post, too.

Anyway, my first reaction to James saying they couldn’t have 2 Adam & Eve plays was, “why not?” But, I just said, “Yeah. but, mine is good.” And, he said that, essentially, the other playwright, who wrote the play, had workshopped his play with the New Play Project for months, and gone to all the weekly or monthly meetings, and was involved in a lot of the direction of the organization, and had been around a lot of the people, and that his was the Adam & Eve play that was going to be chosen / produced.

And, I think about this moment a lot.

A) It’s insane i had the gall to call someone up and argue about why my play wasn’t chosen for their production.

B) Regardless of whose Adam & Eve play was objectively or subjectively better written play, the one that got produced was the one whose writer had networked, intentionally or not, into the production side of things. This story reminds me on a regular basis that a lot of getting things produced, or made, or seen, or even looked at — whether you’re trying to sell a story, or trying to get a job — isn’t about the quality of the material objectively. It’s about who you know, how you’ve networked in.

That’s neither here nor there. It’s just how the world works. The soft skills are, often times, more important than the heard ones.

Out of Liberty at the LDS Film Festival

Yesterday, Wednesday, I put up the new re-recording of the Introduction to the podcast.

Hopefully, within the next week or so all of the episodes will get their new recordings posted. I’d like to do one episode re-recording a night. But, that seems like it might be a tall order.

The movie I worked on last year, instead of doing a 2nd and 3rd season of the podcast, is coming out this year. The director, Garrett Batty, is going to be speaking about it at the LDS Film Festival coming up in Orem next weekend. The movie is called Out of Liberty. I guess I can say that, since it’s listed in the LDS Film Festival Schedule. Garrett is keeping a pretty tight lid on the whole thing. And, as such, so am I.

I’m excited to go to the film festival this year. I’ve lived in Utah for 4 1/2 years now, and this will be the 3rd LDS Film Festival I’ve been to since moving up. I always enjoy going and seeing what is happening in the industry. I especially enjoy the “Current State of LDS Cinema” panels they usually have.

It’s interesting to see what they think is important, or what they think is happening, versus what I think is important, and what I and other 'non-industry’ people thinks is happening. Most of the conversations, I feel, usually tend to devolve into what is not happening — why stories aren’t good, why movies aren’t good, what needs to happen to fix it.

This year I’m planning on dropping the kids off at the in-laws and going to that Friday morning discussion. I guess this year, though, instead of going as an outsider looking in I’ll be there as a nascent-insider looking around. I say “nascent-insider” very hesitantly. Since, a lot of these guys know each other. Go back decades, and are pretty good buddies it seems like. All working on/around each others films.

As a writer who doesn’t even have his first movie in the theaters, or for digital download, yet — I feel like I probably won’t be an actual ‘nascent-insider’ until the film festival next year, in 2020.

I’m looking forward to going to the Jane and Emma Q&A. That movie had some really interesting ideas in it. Some really interesting themes and directions. I think about that movie a lot since I saw it in theaters last year.

Yeats, Eliot, and Indecision on Stairs

In 1933 W.B. Yeats published the book of poetry “The Winding Stair and Other Poems”

The poem Vacillation V, from this book, has the following stanza:

Things said or done long years ago,

Or things I did not do or say

But thought that I might say or do,

Weight me down, and not a day

But something is recalled,

My conscience or my vanity appalled.

The idea of vacillations on a staircase remind me of the vacillations on a staircase of Prufrock in T.S. Eliot’s The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock:

And indeed there will be time

To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”

Time to turn back and descend the stair,

In a minute there is time

For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

"Mormon" is Correctly Used in Proper Names

As I’ve been editing all my scripts to get them more in line with President Nelson’s guidance on using the proper name of the church — so that I can then re-record the episodes — I’ve noticed in my scripts that the term “Anti-Mormon” gets used a lot.

I’m not taking this out, because of the line in the Style Guide which says:

"Mormon" is correctly used in proper names such as the Book of Mormon or when used as an adjective in such historical expressions as "Mormon Trail."

“Anti-Mormon” was the name of an actual group, or party, of people that lived in Western Illinois while Joseph Smith and the Latter-day Saints lived there from 1840-1845. Here is a small Wikipedia entry about them.

One of the leaders of the Anti-Mormon party was a man named Thomas Sharp, who ultimately figured largely into the death of Joseph Smith.

Starting Again & The Name of the Church

I haven’t written anything on this blog — or done anything on the podcast in a long time.

I wrote back in April 2017 that I was working on a film script, and so was temporarily stopping writing Season 2 of the podcast. I didn’t expect the film script to get bought, or have it go anywhere, and so when I wrote that last blog post in April I figured I’d have Season 2 of the podcast out in the summer. But, the script ended up doing more than I thought it would.

It got bought, and produced. In that process it went through 13 rewrites — or 13 drafts. I wrote the first 8 drafts, and did the re-writes based off the notes of the Director and Producer attached to the film. And, then the Director did the last 5 rewrites based off my and the producer’s notes. The director says that he didn’t actually do 5 rewrites, that he only did 3, and that his numbering system only make it look like he did five. But, either way.

The director, in July 2017, while we were doing rewrites raised the budget, and the film was shot in early November 2017 — there are some good actors attached to the project, I think. They did pretty good.

I would talk more about the movie, or link to it, or use people’s names associated with it — but nothing about it has been published yet. Everyone is keeping it close to the vest. And, I don’t want to be the first person to say something about it on the internet.

So, the reason that I just stopped — out of nowhere — with Season 2 of the podcast, is because I was doing rewrites on this Church history movie I wrote. The movie tells a story from the life of Joseph Smith. It isn’t the story of his death, though. It’s not based off the podcast. I do, though, have that script written already, though — a script telling the story of the death of Joseph Smith. It’s just a big budget script — probably $5 million dollars. So, in order for that movie to get made, this movie coming out in 2019 will have to do very well.

Anyway, what I’m going to be doing over the next few weeks is going back and re-recording all the first season episodes of the podcast.

In October 2018, Russell M. Nelson, the prophet and leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — the Church Joseph Smith founded, gave a talk in General Conference titled “The Correct Name of the Church”.

In that talk, Russell M. Nelson referenced an official statement he put out regarding the proper name of the Church — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This official statement directs people to an updated style guide which says:

While the term "Mormon Church" has long been publicly applied to the Church as a nickname, it is not an authorized title, and the Church discourages its use.

In his conference talk, President Nelson said:

the name of the Church is not negotiable. When the Savior clearly states what the name of His Church should be and even precedes His declaration with, “Thus shall my church be called,” He is serious. And if we allow nicknames to be used or adopt or even sponsor those nicknames ourselves, He is offended.

What’s in a name or, in this case, a nickname? When it comes to nicknames of the Church, such as the “LDS Church,” the “Mormon Church,” or the “Church of the Latter-day Saints,” the most important thing in those names is the absence of the Savior’s name. To remove the Lord’s name from the Lord’s Church is a major victory for Satan. When we discard the Savior’s name, we are subtly disregarding all that Jesus Christ did for us—even His Atonement.

Since this talk in October 2018 I’ve been meaning to fix the podcast and take out all the times that I used the term “Mormon” or “Mormon Church” or “Mormonism” — but I haven’t done it. And, I was a pretty big offender — in the first episode of the podcast there were probably 70 times that I referred to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the “Mormon Church” or to its members as “Mormons”. So, I’m repenting now, and starting to get myself more in line with the teachings of the prophet.

So, over the next few weeks I will be updating every podcast episode, all the scripts, and information on the website, and on the podcasts, so that I use the appropriate, correct name of the Church and its members.