Eric D. Snider

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Latest Dutchergate news: Richard Dutcher issues Official Declaration 2

With all of pop-culture-savvy Mormondom (that’s about 50 people) abuzz over news of filmmaker Richard Dutcher’s announcement that he has left both the Mormon cinema movement and the Mormon church, it was only a matter of time before the man himself stepped forward to offer some clarifications. And now he has done so, not by writing another commentary in the Daily Herald, but by posting a comment on a blog. (See, mainstream media? Blogs ARE important!)

The site is By Common Consent, and it’s a smart, Mormon-faithful group of thoughtful writers. One of them, Taryn Nelson-Seawright, wrote a stirring essay about Dutcher’s work, prompting a lively Dutchergate discussion. Then Dutcher himself piped up. His comment is #77, and this link should take you directly to it.

As usual with Dutcher, he cuts right to the heart of the matter and makes some astute observations. To wit:

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.

Zounds! He nailed that one! It doesn’t happen in every instance, of course, and not all (or even a majority of) church members engage in that kind of gossip-mongering and back-biting. But it does happen, and it certainly happened in Dutcher’s case.

He goes on to explain, with some apparent bemusement, that no, he’s not gay, he’s not having an affair, he’s not bitter toward Mormons for not supporting his movies more, he’s not angry with the church, and so forth. All of which didn’t need to be explained to rational people who read his first Official Declaration, but as you know, being rational is not a prerequisite for spouting theories on the Internet.

So why DID he leave? Well, he’s still not giving any real firm answers, which is his prerogative, and I respect that. He employs a metaphor from Buddha (of Buddhism fame)about how once you’ve used a boat to transport you across a river, you don’t then carry the boat around with you; it’s served its purpose, and you leave it behind, grateful that it helped you.

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 don’t really have anything to add on the subject. To my knowledge, Kurt Hale has not stepped forward to call Dutcher a knave or a blackguard, nor has Michael McLean issued a fatwa calling for his execution, so I have no angry rants to respond to. Just thought you might like to see the latest on Dutchergate, and I wanted to once again express my admiration for Dutcher as a filmmaker. I wish him the best.

14 Responses to “Latest Dutchergate news: Richard Dutcher issues Official Declaration 2”

  1. Lowdogg Says:

    A McLean issued fatwa would really be something.

  2. BeeDub Says:

    Official Declaration 2. Priceless.

  3. Phouchg Says:

    What would a McLean fatwa be? Having the fat nurse from “The Forgotten Carols” yell at you?

  4. card Says:

    I think that it’s not only the mormon community that has the problem with character assassination. Unfortunately it’s more widespread than that. I’ve found that in society today people’s characters can somehow only be good or bad. There’s no room for failure in “good people” and no room for success in “bad people.”

  5. Holly Says:

    Randy Tayler, who made comment #111 on Taryn Nelson-Seawright’s piece, said the following,

    “What I see on the message boards is generally sympathetic, not derogatory. And you have to imagine that most true Christians are going to be content to remain quiet on Dutcher’s private decisions. But crazy people are louder, and hypocrites more obvious; they’ll condemn and flame and rant — and we all shake our heads in embarrassment that they’re part of our ‘fold’.”

    I think this is so true–the crazy people can be SO loud and obnoxious, that it starts to seem like they are the majority and, even worse, the voice of the LDS church. Same goes for political parties and many other groups.

  6. Momma Snider Says:

    Randy Tayler hits the nail on the head once again. He’s one smart guy.

  7. Erelis Says:

    ‘There’s no room for failure in “good peopleâ€? and no room for success in “bad people.â€?’

    An excellent observation, and one that needs to be repeated loudly and often in a society that is increasingly polarized. Perhaps some baby-boomers can answer a question that betrays my “youth” : were the ’60s this bad? Thank heavens my ‘chosen generation’ wasn’t deployed for another decade.

    Ditto about Randy Taylor’s comment.

  8. Timmy!!! Says:

    You know what? All these people who are speculating as to his reasons for leaving the church are forgetting one very important fact–it’s absolutely none of their business. A man’s religious beliefs (or lack thereof) are just about the most personal thing in his life, and he is under no obligation to share any of this with anyone.

    Among other things, the events in Virginia this week taught us, again, that none of us can ever really be sure of what’s going on in the hearts and minds of those around us. Some people deal in silence with burdens that are crushing them, unbeknownst to even their closest friends. It happens. Nobody should expect Dutcher to come out and give a full accounting of the road he’s been traveling down the last few months, or years, or hours, even, if he doesn’t want to.

    This comment isn’t directed at anyone in particular, I just feel it’s a helpful thing to keep in mind.

  9. Marc Says:

    Well Kieth Merrill kind of stepped forward and called Dutcher a knave and a blackguard… though he later apologized for it.

  10. Eric D. Snider Says:

    Well, yes. That’s what the knave/blackguard line was referring to…. See this previous blog entry. :-)

  11. John Doe Says:

    I am disturbed by the trend that Brother Dutcher so eloquently describes. I would say the leaders of the Church do tend to search those who have gone astray, the rank and file members do not. They just like to gossip. I was reading the 100-hour board at BYU and someone asked a question that basically was about feeling alone and suffering from depression. The response by the writers pretty much said “sucks to be you.” Someone pointed out the fact that we’re supposed to seek out the lost sheep, but that was met with “we aren’t obligated to seek sheep who have run away”. Something very wrong with the rank-and-file members, and it saddens me.

  12. Ryan Says:

    express my admiration for Dutcher as a filmmaker.

    I wonder if I am misunderstanding you here. Don’t get me wrong, Dutcher seems to be a pretty good dude (at least as far as I can tell from his public statements). But do you really think his work was good? I’ve seen God’s Army and Brigham City and that was enough for me. His movies, to me, lacked: production values, quality dialogue and accurate portrayals of the subject matter.
    Like I said, I have absolutely nothing against the guy and wish him the best in his endeavors… maybe I am missing something about his talent as a filmmaker?

  13. Argus Skyhawk Says:

    Well, I loved Brigham City and States of Grace, and I thought God’s Army was a very accurate portrayal of what much of my mission was like.

  14. Rich LaRocco Says:

    I do not base my testimony on the false premise that the president of the church is infallible. Or that past presidents of the church were infallible. Or that any prophet was infallible. Thus, it doesn’t bother me when an historian points out contradictory statements made by past or current general authorities. Hey, they’re human and, therefore, prone to err. Richard Dutcher is also human and prone to err. Mormons should seek truth from whatever source they can get it, as Brigham Young said. They also should reject the opposite of truth from whatever source it comes. The LDS church is full of humans who make mistakes, all the way from the rank and file members to Sunday School teachers, bishops, stake presidents and the very top echelons of its leadership. This doesn’t make the doctrine any less true. But you must base your faith on true doctrine — thus I concentrate on the basics, not worrying too much about anything beyond the articles of faith. Another false premise: That all American Indians are descendants of Laman or Lemuel. Base your faith on such a falsehood, and your faith will be shaken if DNA tests indicate otherwise. I’ve also never visited the “Book of Mormon sites” in Guatemala. That’s because I’m not convinced the Mayans were either Nephites or Lamanites. Maybe some Mormons would consider me a heretic because I either reject or hesitate to accept some things that most of them believe.

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