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.