LDS kids these days don’t know how good they have it.
The Mormon Channel produces new Mormon Messages for Youth every month or so. LDS recording artists release uplifting music videos that make the rounds on the Internet every few days. With so much high-quality, uplifting media to choose from, many of today’s Mormon teenagers have no idea how far LDS short films have come.
If you remember “The Mailbox,” “The Phone Call” or “Johnny Lingo,” you’ve seen the evolution of LDS cinema. Show your teenagers these videos to teach them a valuable lesson in innovation and progress — and maybe a lesson or two in self-worth, family relationships and selfless service.
1. “Johnny Lingo”
When Johnny Lingo, a trader in the South Pacific, comes to bargain for a wife, the villagers eagerly anticipate his decision. But much to their surprise, he pays an unheard of eight-cow dowry for Mahana (who earlier in the film elicits the famous one-liner “Mahana, you ugly”). Johnny’s demonstration of love helps Mahana gain confidence and come to appreciate her inherent self-worth.
2. “The Phone Call”
If your teenager likes “Napoleon Dynamite,” “The Phone Call” is the short film for them. The short film teaches important lessons in dating, confidence, relationships and nunchuck—I mean, martial arts skills as it follows the story’s frizzy-haired, lanky, karate-move flaunting hero through the tricky waters of teenage dating.
The film is based on a short story by Jack Weyland that was first published in the Feb. 1976 issue of the New Era. It includes a classic love triangle and hero’s journey from awkward and insecure to slightly less awkward and insecure.
3. “My Turn on Earth”
“My Turn on Earth” is a musical that teaches gospel principles with a catchy beat and happy-go-lucky tune. The stage play, which was written by Carol Lynn Pearson and Lex de Azevedo, was filmed and released on VHS in 1986 and on DVD in 2008. The play teaches key aspects of the Plan of Salvation through song and dance, with special attention to the purpose of our time (or “my turn,” if you will) on Earth.
4. “Cipher in the Snow”
BYU adapted Jean Mizer’s short story “Cipher in the Snow” into a short film in 1973. The film tells the story of a young teenager who collapses and dies in the snow with no apparent cause of death. As his teacher pieces together the young man’s story, he learns that he was ostracized and lonely—that he apparently simply lost his will to live.
The story is a cautionary tale for teachers, leaders and children who might be letting at-risk kids slip through the cracks.
5. “The Mailbox”
Another heartbreaking story, the 1977 short film “The Mailbox,” tells the story of an 83-year-old widow named Lethe who waits by her mailbox every day hoping to receive letters from her family. Keep the tissues handy.
6. “Saturday’s Warrior”
“Saturday’s Warrior” is another stage musical that teaches gospel principles, even if there’s slightly more speculation portrayed than actual Church doctrine. The film follows Jimmy, the oldest in a large LDS family, who doesn’t share his family’s worldview. The film has strong anti-abortion themes and focuses largely on the importance of family.
7. “The Gift”
If you’re looking for a new, low-maintenance Christmas tradition, look no further than “The Gift.” The short film is a heartwarming tale of the special gift a son gives his father for Christmas — but we won’t spoil it for you.