LDS, lessons learned, love, musings

A few more thoughts on Saturday’s Warrior and sweet spirits…

Yesterday, I wrote a post about the 1989 LDS production, Saturday’s Warrior, which I inadvertently stumbled across on Wednesday afternoon. That post generated a lot of discussion, and a surprising amount of interest among the more religiously experienced of my friends. I realized that in writing that long post, there were some things that I never got around to writing about yesterday. Part of the reason I never got around to completing my thoughts is that my initial post was pretty long and I simply ran out of “gas”. Another reason is that I wasn’t quite ready to explore it twenty-four hours ago. Again, I only discovered this “masterpiece” two days ago. There’s a lot to unpack.

So, even though I have another topic on my mind, I’m going to write a little bit more about my thoughts on Saturday’s Warrior. Some people may wonder why I would devote two posts to a LDS cultural relic that doesn’t even affect me personally. Remember, I grew up Protestant, and wasn’t introduced to Mormons until I was a young adult. Watching Saturday’s Warrior as a child didn’t “scar” me. However, after posting about this on Facebook and RfM, I realize that it affected a lot of people. Some of those people are friends I’ve never met, and some of them have been “scarred” by Saturday’s Warrior. Even if it’s just because they watched it yesterday at my prompting!

The concept of the “sweet spirit”…

One idea that I was introduced to, when I first started hanging out with ex Mormons, was the idea of the “sweet spirit”. What is a sweet spirit, you ask? A sweet spirit is a euphemism for a young woman who has a “nice personality” and not much else to offer. At least on the surface, anyway. One thing I noticed about Saturday’s Warrior, and didn’t really care for, were the digs about physical appearance. I realize that this emphasis on physical attractiveness is a thing for most everybody, especially when we’re growing.

In Mormonism, physical appearance seems to be especially important, as I think it is in other strict “culty” belief systems. I’ve noticed it among the fundies, too, in spite of their insistence that they focus on a person’s “countenance”. The girls are expected to be beautiful and thin, so they can attract a mate and have the best life. But I’ve known a lot of beautiful people who haven’t had the happiest lives. Why do we focus so much on appearance and image? It’s definitely not the best indicator of who will be happy and fulfilled.

In Saturday’s Warrior, the concept of the “sweet spirit” is mentioned in the first moments of the video. As the show begins, we’re introduced to the couple, Julie and Tod, who are in the pre-mortal existence, waiting to be born and live on Earth, where they expect they will one day meet and be a couple. We are to believe that Julie and Tod were together before, and are an “eternal couple”, yet Julie is still worried that Tod won’t find her on Earth after they’re born. Or worse, he’ll find her unattractive. Here’s the dialogue that opens their connection:

Julie: “Of course I can’t blame you for being excited… all the experience a physical body will bring… new friends and… girls.” [looking worried] “Oh, you’ll probably be EXTREMELY good looking and they’ll flock around you by the dozens!”

Tod: “Oh Julie, I can hardly wait!”

Julie: “Oh, on the other hand, I’ll probably be very PLAIN!”

Tod: “It’s enough to make you want to CRY and SING and SHOUT all at once! Hey! Somebody out there! I’m COMING!”

Julie: “Ohhh!” [turns and sobs]

Tod: “Hey, what’s the matter?”

Julie: “All you can think about is getting down to those physical bodies!”

Tod: “Huh?”

Julie: “Oh, and GIRLS, and don’t try to hide it, Tod, you can hardly wait!”

Tod: “I can’t?”

Julie: [very upset and insecure] “Oh, so you ADMIT IT!!” [defeated] “Go on, then. Have your wild FLING on Earth! Just as long as YOU’RE happy.”

Tod: [grasping Julie’s shoulders and consoling] “Julie… how can you say such things, after all we’ve promised?”

Julie: [turning with hair flip] “What good are promises in a world where EVERYTHING will be forgotten? Even if by some miracle we DO meet? What chance is there that you could possibly recognize me?”

Tod: “Hey, how long have we known each other?”

Julie: [slightly calmer] “Forever…”

Tod: “And loved each other?”

Julie: [smiles] “Forever…”

Tod: “Do you think we’re just going to forget all of that?”

Julie: [dreamy] “Yes… [suddenly horrified] I mean NO! I mean, I don’t KNOW what I mean!”

Tod: [embracing Julie in a hug] “Julie, I LOVE you, and if I have to search the WHOLE world over, I’ll FIND you…”

Julie: [turns away, upset]

Tod: [insistently grabbing her] “And as for not recognizing each other, why, that’s like saying that the sun, and the moon, and the stars will never recognize their GLORY!” [excitedly using hand gestures] “The truth and beauty and virtue will never recognize their OWN!”

Julie: [horrified] “But what if I’m UGLY?!”

Tod: [deadpans] “Ugly?”

Julie: “I knew it! I knew it!”

Tod: [comforting] “I’m just kidding, Julie… if you were the strangest looking girl on Earth, I’d still love you.”

Julie: “Oh Tod…”

The mushy dialogue continues, with Tod reassuring Julie that her looks won’t be important to him when they finally meet. But then we’re reminded that they will forget everything that happened in the pre-existence, and, well we all know what happens when young, shallow people get together. They tend to be attracted to physical appearance. As all of this is going on, we have to suspend disbelief, as the characters talk about what it will be like to have physical bodies, when they clearly already HAVE physical bodies in the pre-mortal existence. 😉 Tod and Julie share a loving duet, and then we’re introduced to Julie’s brothers and sisters. It doesn’t take long before the concept of the “sweet spirit” comes up again.

The brothers and sisters happily talk about what it will be like when the twins, Pam and Jimmy, are born to their parents. One of the sisters proposes they all be born at once– seven up-lets! But a little brother asks, “Do you wanna kill mama in one shot?” It’s funny to realize that in 2022, there have actually been some women who have given birth to seven or eight children at one time. That was an inconceivable thought in 1989, but the miracles of modern medicine have made it possible today.

And then one of the other brothers introduces Jimmy, who does his Donny Osmond schtick. He talks about what he feared.

Jimmy: “Well naturally, I had lots of fears. But one that really had me scared is that I would have, uh, such animal magnetism, such charisma, that no one would notice my sweet spirit.”

Everyone groans, and then twin sister Pam is asked about her thoughts.

Pam: “Well, of course being a girl, my number one fear is that I would have nothing BUT a sweet spirit.”

The kids all say “no” in horrified tones.

Pam: [twirling] “But with beauty or without, as long as I can dance my way through life, that’s all that MATTERS!”

Pam turns out to be very pretty; she looks like Marie Osmond. But she winds up in a wheelchair, so there will be no dancing in her life, and having a physical disability might make her less of a “catch” to some of the shallower people in the world. She later sings a dreadful song called “Daddy’s Nose”, which shows the whole family dancing with huge, fake, beak-like noses. I read that in 2014, they changed the title to “Daddy’s Genes”. I’m not sure if that makes it better. Maybe they changed it because it’s so easy to get plastic surgery these days. Below are the lyrics:

All my friends told me take advantage of your face
Other people so endowed have really gone some place
So I dreamed of Hollywood till it occurred to me
Someone beat me to the punch named Jimmy Durante

A nose is a nose like a rose is a rose
As everybody knows
But may we propose that the rosiest nose
Is a one that plainly shows
You ain’t got a nose less it touches your toes
And it grows every time that it blows
Wouldn’t be so bad if it’d stayed with ol’ dad
But we’ve all got daddy’s nose

Riverdale as you know has had a lot of quaking
Scientific tests were made to find out why the shaking
They finally zeroed in to find the cause of all our woes
We only have an earthquake when daddy blows his nose

A nose is a nose like a rose is a rose
As everybody knows
But may we propose that the rosiest nose
Is a one that plainly shows
It a rack for your clothes a plow when it snows
Or use it for a garden hose
Wouldn’t be so bad if it’d stayed with ol’ dad
But we’ve all got daddy’s nose
Mom’s even got it
Yes we’ve all got daddy’s nose
He really blew it
Yes we’ve all got daddy’s nose

There are other parts of the show that emphasize how important looks are. For instance, the missionary, Wally Kessler, has a companion named Harold Green who is overweight. I swear, these two must have been the inspiration for Elder Price and Elder Cunningham in The Book of Mormon Musical. Harold isn’t even that fat. He just looks a little plainer and more slovenly next to Wally, who looks like one of the Osmond Brothers.

Toward the end of the show, Harold and Wally are teaching Tod the gospel. He’s an artist, who is always in the park drawing. Tod, then not LDS, had talked to Jimmy, drawing him as he could be, rather than as he was. Later, as Wally and Harold lament that they haven’t baptized anyone, they notice Tod drawing again. They take a chance– prompted by the spirit, no doubt– and there’s a montage showing how they converted Tod, making him a “better” version of himself by introducing him to the “one true church”. At one point, Wally shows Harold a film, which is handily broadcast on Harold’s stomach. Harold, like many good Mormons of the time, was wearing a white dress shirt, and his size makes it easy for his belly to serve as a screen. The message is, he’s too fat, and that makes him laughable, and less lovable, even though he redeems himself and Wally later.

And the character Julie is shown looking in the mirror, primping and admiring herself. She had been devastated that Wally went off on his mission, since she thinks he’s the one for her. But then she meets another guy named Peter and sends Wally a “dear John” letter. Harold, the overweight missionary companion, tells Wally that maybe it’s for the best, but Wally says, “What would you know about love or the pain I’m going through?” as Harold sheepishly moves away. “And to think I trusted her!”

Wally is distraught about losing Julie, so Elder Green gives him a pep talk, and looks like a fool in the process. He’s comic relief.

Then Tod and Julie sing about being the perfect people they were meant to be. There’s lots of mushy gushing, again focusing on the whole “prince and princess” romantic love, which as we all know, only exists in fairytales. Look at the British royal family! But it’s promoted in this show like it’s something that can happen if only you have the right religious beliefs.

As I was watching and re-watching this video, it occurred to me that while this show is kind of silly and entertaining, and it obviously takes some cues from some of the popular sitcoms of the 1980s, like Growing Pains and Family Ties, the overall impression I got is that, overall, Mormonism is kind of silly. One really has to overcome cognitive dissonance to buy into some of the concepts that are presented in this show. Now, before anyone comes at me, please understand that I know that Saturday’s Warrior isn’t all there is to Mormonism. It’s simply meant to be entertaining. But if you watch it, not having been raised with some of the concepts that are conveyed in this production, you might come away with some impressions that aren’t all that favorable.

I know, for instance, that physical attraction is very important to young people. I know that young people are especially aware of their looks, and that so-called “sweet spirits” might not have the best luck in attracting romantic partners. And, of course, in this production, the partners have to be of the opposite sex, since Mormons aren’t exactly supportive of couples who aren’t heterosexual. But we hear the girls worrying about not being pretty enough. And we see one of the guys being made into the fool because he’s fat.

Kudos to actor D.L. (David) Walker for pulling off the comic relief in his turn as Elder Green. He was a good sport. I see on IMDB that he’s had a lot of roles over the years. He might even be the best known of all of the actors on this program. I guess he did get the last laugh, after all. Not everyone can be a leading man, but plenty of people can be character actors, especially if there’s something unique or interesting about them. I get that message after looking up D.L. Walker on IMDB, but I wouldn’t get it if I just watched Saturday’s Warrior, which is a show that has been shown to so many LDS youngsters. In that show, Walker’s character is made to be the unattractive fool who “can’t know about love”, even though a thinking person would know that’s not necessarily true. In fact, while everyone else in this production seems to have pretty light resumes on IMDB, the “fat guy” with personality appears to have enjoyed a pretty good show biz career. He’s also been married three times. I guess he’s needed a couple of tries to find the woman he was destined to be with since the pre-existence.

One of my Facebook friends, who did attend the LDS church for a few years as a young woman, nicely summed things up. We were discussing the message of this movie, which she didn’t see when she was an active churchgoer. She wrote:

You have to have been indoctrinated. It’s for Mormons. Don’t have non-Mormon friends, don’t smoke cigarettes, don’t experience life; just stay in our dumb cult and make more Mormons. If you want to do anything else, you are very bad and will surely be unhappy. Being a total weirdo is fun! P.S. We’re not weird.

Yes… I think she’s absolutely right. To a lot of us who aren’t from a heavily Mormon area, this does come off as pretty weird. And, at least to me, it comes off as superficial, childish, and silly. I know, for instance, that there are millions of people in the world. Many, but not all, believe in a God of some sort. But to watch this movie, and listen to the opening dialogues, you come away with the idea that only the best people end up in Utah, where they will be raised LDS, and spend their lives searching for the perfect heterosexual, white mate, and their beliefs will be Mormon styled Christian. They are predestined to have a certain number of children, and their decisions in life will lead to exactly what the Mormon God intended them to be.

If you think about it, it’s kind of a lazy way to go through life. It’s as if there’s a blueprint for reaching the highest level of Heaven. Follow the steps toward righteousness, and someday, you’ll be in the Celestial Kingdom, which to me, seems like it would be a very boring place. After all, most everyone would be white, Mormon, and worried so very much about their looks before they get born again, and then spend their lives looking for the same people they knew in another life. I may need to stop and ponder that a bit.

If you assume that there’s a big plan, and God has made a plan for every single being on Earth, even if they aren’t members of the LDS church, it seems even more far fetched. But Mormons are often advised to “doubt their doubts” and “put any troubling thoughts on the shelf.” Hell, there’s even a brilliant song about that concept in the Book of Mormon Musical, which again, I think, took some inspiration from Saturday’s Warrior.

“Turn It Off”… like a light switch. It’s actually kind of a sad song.

Actually, when I think about all of the stories I’ve read over the years about the damage caused by “denying” thoughts and feelings, the song “Turn It Off” really seems sad to me. How many terrible marriages happened because people denied their feelings? How many people suppressed their feelings of sadness and anger, only to have it turn into catastrophic depression and anxiety years later? How many people have actually killed themselves because they couldn’t bring themselves to deal with their truths? This isn’t just a Mormon thing, though. It’s something that many people go through in life. They feel pressured to quash their thoughts and feelings and just believe, no matter how ridiculous, upsetting, or profoundly unbelievable something is. I think it wastes a lot of time and energy, and I think strict, culty belief systems, like Mormonism, make that phenomenon even worse than it has to be.

I know a lot of people love being Mormon. Or, so they will insist if you ask them, or if they’re missionaries. But I know, having hung out on RfM for so many years, that if you don’t fit the profile in that group, it really can be hell. There’s a real emphasis on looking happy and presenting the right image. Look at the Lori Vallow Daybell and Chad Daybell case. I recently wrote a review of The Doomsday Mother, a book about that tragedy, in which a lot of people died, mainly over illusions, delusions, and image… not to mention mental illness. I also watched a Dateline episode about that case.

I couldn’t help but notice Lori Vallow Daybell’s emphasis on looks. She entered beauty pageants, for instance. One of her friends was interviewed, and I couldn’t help but notice that her friend was extremely well groomed and even looked like perhaps she’d had some plastic surgery. She definitely had coiffed hair and wore a lot of makeup. Yes, that would be expected of someone on television, but I got the sense that this was a normal thing for Lori and her friends, all of whom were very much into Mormonism. Lori has been married five times. So much for finding “the one”.

I think if I had been raised Mormon, I probably would have been considered a (not so) “sweet spirit”. I know that people have thought of me that way even outside of an image conscious organization like Mormonism. Growing up, watching my sisters, cousins, and friends date a lot, while I spent weekends alone, was hard for me. And yet, I don’t think I would have enjoyed the pressures that come from being really “pretty” and desirable to men. Years beyond adolescence, I realize that there’s a lot more to me that the exterior. Those who get to know me eventually find that out. Some people like it. Many others don’t, but the ones who like it are almost always excellent people. Also, as most people find out, I’m not actually a very “sweet” person. I can be grumpy, opinionated, and temperamental. I think I’m basically kind, deep down– but sweet, I definitely ain’t. And I am not good at faking it. Many of the people who do end up liking me have told me they like me because I’m not fake. But not everyone appreciates “au natural” me, and most people don’t take the time to consider why I am the way I am. They have enough of their own shit to figure out. 😉

Maybe it’s better that I’m not extremely well liked or admired. It takes a lot of pressure off, and I don’t have to waste my time with fake people. Because seriously… have you ever considered what a burden it is to be really physically attractive to others? You’re always attracting people who are likewise attractive, and more than a few of them turn out to be boring, entitled, and narcissistic. If you’re a nice person, you’re always turning down people who find you attractive and interesting, but perhaps you don’t have the same feelings for them. And maybe you’ll even attract sociopaths, who only look good on the surface, but deep down they’re creeps. I think of guys like Scott Peterson, who, no doubt, had plenty of women who wanted to date him. Laci Peterson may have seemed lucky when they married, but it turns out she was not lucky at all. Same goes for anyone who thought Lori Vallow Daybell was a hottie.

Anyway… I guess it’s not a bad thing that I watched Saturday’s Warrior. It did teach me some things, although maybe not what the creators had wanted to teach. I guess I’m just grateful that I’m not burdened by that kind of a belief system. I would imagine that it adds a lot of unnecessary stress and strife to life, and life is hard enough as it is. Having to worry about the exterior so much, as I follow the many rules of a very demanding religion, is not very appealing. And while the idea of a close and loving family is lovely, there is a downside to having that kind of a family. For one thing, that kind of connection makes it harder to go out and live life on one’s own terms.

I told my mother the other day that I didn’t know when, or even if, I would move back to the States. She sounded slightly sad, since she will be 84 years old this year, and she probably wonders if we’ll ever see each other again in person. But we have never had a very close relationship, and I am not close to my sisters. If I did live closer to home, I doubt we’d be any closer. And it would be easier to be caught up in conflicts and manipulations, too. I know this from personal experience. So, while I would like to be closer to family other than Bill, I also realize that not being closer is kind of a blessing in some ways. There are certainly fewer fights and petty dramas to contend with. I don’t have the time or the energy for that anymore. I’ve realized that eventually, we all mostly end up alone… or we are the ones who die first. Who wants to spend life worrying about not being a “sweet spirit”?

So I guess it’s time to end this post and get on with my Friday. I hope this post offers food for thought.

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10 thoughts on “A few more thoughts on Saturday’s Warrior and sweet spirits…

  1. Interesting post, as always.

    Given the current divisiveness here in the States, I would not advise any ex-pat to move back to the homeland any time soon. It’s crazy, and the uptick in racist-inspired violence and anti-Semitism is making me wish I had the resources to live overseas.

    Of course, things in Europe are looking worrisome, especially with Vladimir Putin being aggressive re Ukraine and his demands that NATO ceases its “open door” admission policy, reverse some of its policies regarding Eastern Europe, and that the Alliance pledges to never admit Ukraine as a member state. I hope cooler heads prevail and that a diplomatic solution can be found…without, of course, the West caving into Moscow’s demands.

    Hope you, Bill, and your lovable dogs have a good and safe weekend.

    • I believe I found that video on YouTube. It was from a Dateline show about her. You should be able to find it, or you can find my recent review of a true crime book called The Doomsday Mother. I think I linked the video in my write up.

      It was just a brief clip on the show, though. It’s not like they showed the whole interview– just a couple of questions she answered that made her sound sketchy.

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