Jay’s Journal: Mormon Horror Fiction…or is it?

December 16, 2004 | 65 comments
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If you’ve never heard of Jay or Jay’s Journal let me explain. Jay’s Journal is a slim volume, published in 1979 and edited by adolescent psychologist and Provo resident Dr. Beatrice Sparks. It’s a series of journal entries that detail a sixteen year-old Mormon boy’s descent into the occult, culminating with his encounters with an evil spirit, the mysterious deaths of his friends, and eventually his suicide.

It’s a cult classic in every sense of the term.

When I first came to BYU in 1990 I heard about Jay and his journal, about the underground world of teen Satan worship along the Wasatch front, and about the fact Jay’s grave glows red at night. Some of my classmates even ventured to a cemetery South of town to see Jay’s final resting place with their own eyes. I understand that there was a headstone that did in fact glow red, but a little investigation revealed that it was reflected light from a nearby neon sign.

I love a good scary story, so I never forgot about Jay’s Journal. Last time I was in Provo I found myself in a used bookstore downtown (a spooky place to begin with) and decided to ask about the book. They had a copy and I bought it and read it.

Let me just say it was disturbing and unnerving in many ways. It’s great as a flat-out horror story, but it’s also a blatantly transparent fraud.

The tone of the book was way too didactic to be anything but the work of an adult—the most likely suspect, the middle-aged “editor� and committed Later-Day Saint, Dr. Beatrice Sparks.

I became obsessed with the book for a few weeks and did a little research. Once again truth is stranger than fiction. The true story surrounding the origin of Jay’s Journal is twice as disturbing as the actual work itself. (The best article I’ve ever found on the subject was recently published and can be found here. It’s definitely worth a look).

Essentially, Dr. Sparks used the actual journal entries of a Pleasant Grove teen that did commit suicide as a starting point. Only about 21 of the 212 entries in the finished work were written by the original teen. More importantly, the original teen’s journal makes no mention whatsoever of occult worship or interest in the supernatural.

Dr. Sparks claims to have filled in the rest of the story through letters Jay wrote and interviews with Jay’s friends (many of whom did coincidentally die very young). She changed the name of the boy to Jay, but it was easy for the residents of Pleasant Grove to figure it all out and the ensuing chaos contributed to the divorce of Jay’s parents and the disruption of their family.

I’m interested in a discussion of the ethical issues involved in Dr. Sparks’ actions. Did the ends (frightening kids out of exploring the occult) justify the means (taking considerable license with another person’s story)?

It’s a shame the book wasn’t originally presented as fiction. If you approach it simply as a piece of horror fiction it’s pretty dang good. Plus, it is delightfully 100% Mormon. It has great detail about growing up in Mormon culture. For example, Jay starts his journal in the first place because his scoutmaster and Sunday school teacher keep hounding him to do so. The book may be a fabricated, but it’s a personal history—a type of storytelling Mormons are particularly receptive to. It’s no wonder that Mormon kids to this day enjoy reading about Jay because he’s a lot like they are, struggling against the boundaries of their faith as they emerge into adulthood.

The book also incorporates Mormon doctrine in imaginative and frightening ways. In the book’s scariest moment Jay meets Raul—a spirit from the third of the host of Heaven in search of a body—in this case Jay’s. In fact, the zeal with which the author goes for the scares makes me wonder if she didn’t always hold an interest in horror and the occult and presented her story as true to legitimize writing in a genre that Mormon culture generally frowns upon.

Finally, it may sound strange, but in a roundabout way reading Jay’s Journal increased my testimony of the authenticity of the Book of Mormon. In its failure to convince me that it was a product of a teenage mind Jay’s Journal made me contemplate how difficult it is to pull off a believable hoax that can withstand intense scrutiny. Obviously not the best way to strengthen a testimony of the Book of Mormon, but every little bit helps.

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65 Responses to Jay’s Journal: Mormon Horror Fiction…or is it?

  1. William Morris on December 16, 2004 at 4:40 pm

    Interestingly enough (but perhaps not surprising) as I mention in a post on Jay’s Journal at A Motley Vision, judging by the Amazon.com reviews, evangelicals really like this book.

    Also: “Jay’s Journal” continues to be a very popular search term for those who stumble on to my blog. It’s tapered off a bit, but I’d guess that 8-10 people a month come to my blog via such a search.

  2. Rosalynde Welch on December 16, 2004 at 4:50 pm

    Wow, I’d never heard of this.

    Your ethical question is interesting, Brian. Recently I had a discussion with a family member about the academic project of queering history–that is, of reinterpreting the lives of supposedly straight historical figures to present them as gay (I believe the film “Alexander” did something like this in the popular vein.) I argued that there was nothing unethical about this project, although, in my opinion, it frequently leads to shoddy historiography–an academic offense, perhaps, but not an ethical one. The other person argued that such a project was profoundly unethical, even immoral, primarily because it would shame surviving family members or the figure’s cultural community. I dismissed this line of argument at the time–and I still feel that it applies in a very small proportion of cases–but this story has made me reconsider my position. I don’t think Ms. Sparks should have treated the material the way she did; our words mean far more than simply what they say.

  3. Adam Greenwood on December 16, 2004 at 4:53 pm

    No, these ends do not justify these means. There.

    Lying would be bad enough. But making a young man and his family your instruments is just unconscionable. You can talk all you like about the hypothetical people you are going to save but the fact is that in front of you is a real family whom you know and are abusing for your purposes.

    Also, I question whether it’s really all that effective at scaring people away from the occult. It’s just as like to spur it, if you ask me.

  4. Adam Greenwood on December 16, 2004 at 4:55 pm

    Ah, Rosalynde, I presume you mean that there’s nothing wrong when the evidence suggests to one that the historical figure was in fact gay? Cuz otherwise it would be a lie and, for someone with our moral beliefs, a slander.

  5. Rosalynde Welch on December 16, 2004 at 4:57 pm

    You presume correctly, Adam.

  6. Greg on December 16, 2004 at 5:00 pm

    I read Jay’s Journal as a kid in the mid-eighties and was totally enthralled by it. Its popularity certainly seems odd now, but it fit in with other mini-trends of suburban Salt Lake in the mid-eighties: repressed memories of ritual abuse (recovered by hypnosis or suggestion); talk of Ozzy Osbourne’s exploits and Motley Crue’s popular album “Shout at the Devil”; Ouiji boards (at least in my neighborhood); dungeons and dragons (cult-y, if not occult-y); and lots of kidnappings (or so it seemed at the time). I remember my dad bringing home a book by Lex De Azevedo call “Pop Music and Morality” that basically said that listening to Prince and the Rolling Stones is tantamount to animal sacrifice. What was in the water during those years?

  7. Shannon Keeley on December 16, 2004 at 5:07 pm

    Well, I read it at a pretty young age and it scared the pants off me. Nevertheless, I agree with Adam that I’m sure the book triggers plenty of curiosity about the occult.

    When Brian’s interest in it was rekindled last year I wasn’t too pleased. . .especially since he would read it an night before going to bed. After reading he’d want to talk about it, and because it was the last thing on my mind before I fell asleep, I often had scary dreams related to Jay. I’m pretty impressionable in that way. . .

    I’m glad William Morris mentions that the book is well-received among Evangelical audiences. I was just wondering about that. I find it kind of interesting that the church doesn’t give a lot of time or emphasis to cautioning members about getting exposed to or mixed up in anything related to magic, “new age� practices, or anything that could be construed as being linked to the “dark side.� It seems to be a pretty big part of the modern evangelical “platform� (is that an appropriate word to use?); for example, many Christian fundamentalists don’t let their kids read Harry Potter, etc. But the leadership of our church rarely addresses the topic of the occult specifically. In fact, Jay’s Journal is probably one of the few occasions that the subject is even explored in a Mormon context. I’m not saying that think the church should start being more vocal about this issue or banning Harry Potter books. I just find it interesting that the topic seems to have a very different priority level for Evangelicals.

    I hope that by bringing that up I’m not paving the way for this thread to turn in to another Evangelical vs. Mormon debate! But to me, the fact that the subject is rarely treated in the church makes Jay’s Journal all the more interesting.

  8. Randy on December 16, 2004 at 5:07 pm

    Greg, I think you and I were living parallel lives. You’ve described my experience of this mini-trend in SLC in the mid-80s to a tee.

  9. William Morris on December 16, 2004 at 5:19 pm

    Greg:

    I don’t know, but I’m sure that it was Reagan’s fault.

    And is it weird that for me Jay’s Journal is intextricably linked to E-SPRIT?

    ——
    You know, the only thing that really sticks in my mind from one of those ’80s firesides about the evils of popular music is the lyrics used as an example of how subtely evil it is: “Take me home tonight. I don’t want to let you go till the morning light.”

    ——
    An aside: Scott Barrett has been trying to get Deseret Book to stop carrying the book. I don’t know if this means it’s just sold out because the SL Weekly article renewed interst in the book, or if DB has stopped re-stocking it, but currently, there are no copies for sale online or in DB’s retail stores.

  10. Ryan S. on December 16, 2004 at 5:20 pm

    Greg & Randy,

    Me too! I can’t tell you the moral dilema I had in deciding whether or not to listen to Dead or Alive and the Pet Shop Boys because of the multiple special lessons (YM, Youth Conference, etc…) we had on the topic of popular music and the hidden meanings in the lyrics.

  11. David King Landrith on December 16, 2004 at 5:27 pm

    I’d have to say that I find Dr. Sparks behavior exploitative and inexcusable. She should be glad that I’m not her home teacher.

  12. Jeremy on December 16, 2004 at 5:28 pm

    I think occultism is rarely treated by the brethren because it is rarely a temptation to the youth — there are plenty of other less obvious paths into perdition that cause far more moral casualties.

    I would place Jay’s Journal, along with evangelical anti-occult obsessions, in the category of “Puritan Pornography.” People love conspiracy. People love intrigue. People love to be creeped out. And churchy folks like us (and evangelicals) perhaps might be tempted by the idea that our trial in life isn’t a mundane one like being nicer, obeying the commandments, loving our neighbor, etc., but battling the very devil and his minions, in person, toe to toe. This stuff brings to my mind the Lord’s refusal to give signs simply for folks to “consume them upon their lusts” — except the signs here aren’t angelic manifestations of God’s power but spooky, demonic signs of Satan’s, like kids in Provo getting possessed by evil spirits.

    Incidentally, I can’t take credit for the term “Puritan Pornography.” A jounralist coined it some years ago, in reference to how anxious some conservatives seemed to be to exploit the opportunity Clinton had given them to talk so freely and frequently about oral sex.

  13. Greg on December 16, 2004 at 5:41 pm

    William, Ryan:
    I remember a Sunday school teacher playing Foreigner’s “Hot Blooded” for us as an example of the evil in pop music. “C’mon baby, you can do more than dance” was the big culprit. Can you imagine if he saw danithew’s post of the lyrics of “Shoop”? As a kid I actually looked forward to lessons and books on the evil of pop lyrics — that was the only way I could figure out what a lot of the lyrics actually were. Ironic, or something.

  14. cooper on December 16, 2004 at 5:42 pm

    I’m just glad I didn’t grow up in Utah. There was enough of those people giving the occasional fireside with regard to rock music being a communist plot. I don’t think I could have endured the endless speeches on avoiding
    music because ‘the devil will control your very soul’. Do we not believe in agency? Do we not teach agency? Do we not teach a child to make good choices beginning at two or three so when presented something like the occult as teenagers they can ask questions and receive honest answers from us? Every kid in high school that was in drama used a quija(?) board here in California. We survived, we stayed active and still enjoy the occasional Pet Shop Boys song.

    Sorry for the rant. I do think Dr. Sparks was unethical.

  15. Russell Arben Fox on December 16, 2004 at 5:47 pm

    “…about the underground world of teen Satan worship along the Wasatch front…”

    Speaking of that, I wish they hadn’t torn down the old, crumbling, spooky BYU Academy Building. Some of the best stories and scares of my years in Provo were associated with that building. Losing it was a real blow. Every town needs some creepy old place that can be imagined as the home of a local Satanist cult. The neighborhood just isn’t complete without one.

  16. Adam Greenwood on December 16, 2004 at 5:48 pm

    “And churchy folks like us (and evangelicals) perhaps might be tempted by the idea that our trial in life isn’t a mundane one like being nicer, obeying the commandments, loving our neighbor, etc., but battling the very devil and his minions, in person, toe to toe”

    I have never found these two views incompatible.

  17. Adam Greenwood on December 16, 2004 at 5:49 pm

    Very true, Russell Fox. Hence BCC.

    :)

  18. Larry on December 16, 2004 at 5:51 pm

    Adam,

    I wonder how John Taylor et al would respond to that after their experience in England?

  19. Russell Arben Fox on December 16, 2004 at 5:54 pm

    Adam, you is a wicked funny man.

  20. William Morris on December 16, 2004 at 5:55 pm

    Adam:

    And in this corner, wearing the gold trunks and weighing in at…….

  21. Jeremy on December 16, 2004 at 5:59 pm

    Every town needs some creepy old place that can be imagined as the home of a local Satanist cult.

    In southern utah that was the old cotton mill (before they fixed it up). The provincial press had a field day when, during my high school days, somebody went in there and found “occult paraphenelia” (candles, an incense stick holder) and a “black cloak” (a trenchcoat). Turns out it was just some wannabe goth kids that had gone in there because they thought it would be a cool setting in which to listen to Depeche Mode.

  22. Rosalynde Welch on December 16, 2004 at 6:16 pm

    ” I wish they hadn’t torn down the old, crumbling, spooky BYU Academy Building”

    Incidentally, it wasn’t torn down, but merely restored, and currently housing the Provo Library.

  23. Mark B on December 16, 2004 at 6:40 pm

    Yeah, Rosalynde, but they did “tear down” the creepy, crumbling, spooky character of the building.

  24. Russell Arben Fox on December 16, 2004 at 6:49 pm

    I’m pretty sure they did tear it down, Rosalynde; the library which was built does have a frontal facade that looks like the old Academy, but I don’t think anything of the original building actually remains. I could be wrong about that though.

  25. Melissa on December 16, 2004 at 7:14 pm

    Russell,

    There’s a wonderful old abandoned Masonic lodge in downtown Providence that has just the sort of charcter you describe. It is a huge, ornate building with imposing columns that once had a copper roof but has been empty for decades. There are lots of local stories about the “spooky” kinds of things that have happened in there.

    The city of Providence recently purchased the building and found that it has actually been used as an informal studio for generations of artists (The Rhode Island School of Design—one of the best design schools in the country, is in Providence). Apparently the inside walls are just covered with incredible paintings. Since then, there has been such a public outcry about tearing down this cultural landmark that the hotel rooms, which will be built in its place, will feature pictures of the wall art from inside the Masonic lodge!

  26. William Morris on December 16, 2004 at 7:19 pm

    I never heard about any sort of excorcism or cleansing ceremony being done on the new library so I’m sure that whatever it was that haunted the BYU Academy remains and actively seeks out library patrons who are alone and deep in the dusty stacks.

  27. Ethesis (Stephen M) on December 16, 2004 at 10:32 pm

    Gee, careful about the D&D comments …

    http://search.ebay.com/_W0QQsassZstormber

  28. Greg Call on December 16, 2004 at 11:17 pm

    Wow, Stephen. I never would have guess that we have a genuine D&D celebrity among us!

  29. Kingsley on December 17, 2004 at 4:13 am

    Ho ho ho, how lovely to finally debunk the grave solemn knowing whispered pieties of my friends re Jay’s Journal; I predict they will vehemently reject everything said in this excellent post, as Jay’s creepy downfall has afforded them years and years of forbidden pleasure, midnight thrills. Bravo Keeley and Gibson!

  30. Kingsley on December 17, 2004 at 4:21 am

    I admit that as I read Keeley and Gibson’s post just now, I looked over my shoulder once or twice, being all alone at work in a rather large, cold, dimly lit and echoey building; at 2:21 a.m.; and I thought, “Oh man, what if some horrible grinning spirit did suddenly appear to paw hungrily at my body; what then; and I went and locked the door. And rubbed my battered paperback BoM all over myself, my right hand to the square, Christmas music blasting.

  31. danithew on December 17, 2004 at 5:56 am

    Greg wrote:

    Can you imagine if he saw danithew’s post of the lyrics of “Shoop”?

    < grin > I only posted a link to the lyrics of Shoop. They were slightly more lude and offensive than the lyrics of “What A Man” that I in fact did post directly into a comment. Then I had second thoughts about whether that was ok. The only comforting factor was that someone else expressed some amusement at Ellen DeGeneres’s rendition of Shoop, which in fact was quite hilarious.

    I should be more careful. Some committee could be reading these things and creating a file even as we speak. So I won’t even begin to mention how back in fifth grade my father was horribly concerned about the amount of time and money I was putting into D&D (monster manuals, modules, multi-sided dice and the like). He was convinced it could lead to the occult and wasn’t a positive influence. Of course the only other kid I knew who would act as a dungeon master was some fellow named Bryce I. who lived in Scarsdale. [Committee, make sure you put his name down, k?]

    Sigh … these days kids don’t have to use their imaginations at all. They can play online muds (multi-user dimensions) or even graphical versions of D&D like Evercrack.

  32. John Kane on December 17, 2004 at 7:01 am

    ahhh, the days of MUDS. I’m glad I’m not the only person still alive who has played those things.

    Speaking of the Harry Potter books, I just saw some tonight at Deseret Book tonight, I was a bit surprised to see it, although I doubt it would do much hard, as my younger sister has yet to ride a boom, and she is a big fan.

    On the topic of D&D, I remember actually playing that once or twice at young mens sleep overs, a couple leaders seemed mildy concerned, but it fizzled out with no harm done…or was there? After I grew older than the young men I heard they would play “magic” at camp outs. As far as I can remember most are still active and any that aren’t certainly didn’t leave for the occult.

    When I was in the Elders Quorum Presidency I remember the EQ President and members of the Bishopric coordinating times to play Diablo online.

    All in all I think this things are somewhat harmless when they are kept in perspective for what they really are (computer games, card games, etc), but I have no doubt there is a deeper level that can get some in trouble if not careful. Its something to keep an eye on.

  33. danithew on December 17, 2004 at 7:23 am

    John Kane, what muds did you play? The only one I ever played was called Tdome II … but I abandoned it a long time ago. It was a game that combined fantasy (elves, dwarves, etc.), science fiction, current events, etc. The game was fun and amusing to me because one moment you could be fighting a dragon or a bugbear and the next you could confront Tanya Harding (weapon: a metal baton) or OJ Simpson (weapon: a ginsu knife).

    One of the main problems with Dungeons and Dragons was that it involved printed materials and the only way to really play the game was to interact with other people in the same room. When I was playing this game there were only a few other kids who were interested in the game and the times we could get together to play were limited. So I had all these materials that I thought were interesting but I was basically reading and studying them in isolation. I wonder how many other kids out there were also isolated fans of the game. Maybe for some people that isolated interest became a problem.

    I made this point already but I’ll just throw it out there in a more concrete form. Today, any person who wants to play a role-playing game with others can get online and immediately find people who want to role-play as well. I suppose online interactions have their own dangers but for some reason I haven’t heard as many whispers about occultism connected to online role-playing games as I used to hear regarding occultism and D&D. The main complaint about online role-playing is that people waste so much time (hundreds or thousands of hours) in the online world.

    I’d much rather use that time for something productive like blogging. ;)

  34. Kingsley on December 17, 2004 at 7:33 am

    D&Ders. Sweet. I tried playing it (the old-fashioned way) the other day with a friend; after one hour of staring glassy-eyed at my little lead figurine as he made his interminable trek across a grey fold-out dungeony thing, I gave up. I wonder if it had to do with lack of imagination, or the influence of Nintendo, or what; or what. Or maybe my friend really, really sucked at being the DM or whatever you call it. Anyhow, it took like 30 minutes to kill one goblin and 30 more to find out whether or not he had any gold in his pouch; and like 30 more to see if I could paint lipstick and eyeshadow on him for a joke, to freak out his goblin friends (apparently, you can do anything in this game, so long as the right numbers come up).

  35. danithew on December 17, 2004 at 7:49 am

    Odd Kingsley. Back in the day I don’t recall us every using lead figurines.

  36. Kingsley on December 17, 2004 at 7:52 am

    Oh, man. I worship your brains. Probably you just had a smudged piece of lined paper with columns of numbers running down it, right? You fellows were awesome.

  37. John Kane on December 17, 2004 at 8:15 am

    “Anyhow, it took like 30 minutes to kill one goblin and 30 more to find out whether or not he had any gold in his pouch”

    Absolutely. I think one of the reasons games of this ilk are of such a minor threat, if at all, is because these Deacons we might work about don’t have the attention span to regurgitate the topic of a sacrament meeting that ended 5 minutes previous, let alone spend 6 hours figuring out 90 seconds worth of movements in a fictional world.

    As far as the MUDS, I am straining my brain to remember the names of some, give me time. I certainly wasted hours on those though, just remembering the setup of the town by heart so I could go North-North-West-North to get to where I wanted to be was among my most monumental wastes of time. But I do agree that they contribute to your imagination.

  38. Ivan Wolfe on December 17, 2004 at 9:24 am

    Greg-

    Please – no slandering of Dungeons and Dragons. A great game. And Tracy Hickman, who co-wrote the Dragonlance novles and campaigne setting for the D&D game would take umbrage at your description (as I do) that it’s culty – or has any connection to Jay’s Journal, etc.

    D&D is a fun game – and people who play it have a lower suicide rate (by more than 2/3) than the national population – despite what thet Tom Hanks movie claimed.

  39. Ivan Wolfe on December 17, 2004 at 9:26 am

    Oh – I forgot to mention Tracy Hickman is LDS and holds a temple reccomend. That’s why I mentioned him.

  40. Ivan Wolfe on December 17, 2004 at 9:30 am

    KIngsley –

    I’m guessing your DM wasn’t very good.

    When I play, I prefer to use Tracy Hickman’s philosophy: Guerilla gaming!! (Basic summary – when Conan chases evil slime goblin, and the goblin goes through a door adn locks it – Conan does not stop to check for traps, pick the lock, explore the surrounding area, or interpret the runes on the column next to the door. CONAN EATS THE FRICKIN’ DOOR!!!! )

  41. Bryce I on December 17, 2004 at 9:35 am

    Danithew–

    Be careful, or your level 50 human blogger will meet an untimely demise.

  42. danithew on December 17, 2004 at 9:42 am

    Bryce,

    I will always submit to your dungeon masterly counsel. :)

  43. lyle on December 17, 2004 at 9:58 am

    looks like we have a critical mass for a T&S on-line gaming group. :)

  44. danithew on December 17, 2004 at 10:07 am

    A new mud is born: T&S H&S (hack’n’slash). (j/k)

  45. Russell Arben Fox on December 17, 2004 at 10:08 am

    I stand by Ivan. I got into Dungeons and Dragons back around 1979 or 1980, about a year after I first heard about the game from an uncle in Utah, when the only available introductory edition was the basic rules and dice in a blue box (the one with the dragon on the cover). This was before the game split into AD&D and Basic, before the Fiend Folio or any of the expansions beyond the original three core books, before the Tom Hanks movie. It was a crazy, strange, wonderful thing, and I and my brothers devoted most of the rest of our adolescence to it. We would occasionally play at school or elsewhere, but mostly it was a brothers thing, and in the end it was just me and Daniel, my older brother–he would play about six characters, and I was the DM. It was glorious fun, and if I may say so, we were really good at it. We robbed all the usual fantasy suspects (Tolkien, Alexander, Lewis, Burroughs, Zelanzy, etc.) for material for our plots; developed extensive adventure arcs which carried our adventures over a periods of years (one of which featured the “restoration” of a lost religion, complete with the recovery a long-lost artifacts hidden and defended by watchful guardians); included major wars and social upheavels, which directly affected the characters Daniel played (one hobbit gave up adventuring in order to get married and become mayor of his local village, our elf wizard found religion and gave up magic to become a cleric); and generally let it consume our imagination. We leaned heavily on the stuff TSR pumped out, back in the day (the slaver and giants modules, etc.), but most of it basically was a joint creation two crazy teen-age minds, complete with dozens, perhaps hundreds, of hand-written, typed and drawn pages of maps, notes, lists and plans, as well as a pretty extensive collection of minatures. It would keep us up all night and scared our parents to death.

    Around 1983 or 84, some Mormon sideshow-barker/scam-artist came to town, and there was a big bi-stake meeting where he played music backwards for us, to explain how Queen was urging us all to smoke pot and Led Zepplin was calling for the sacrifice of newborn babies to Satan in pagan May Day rituals, and how Dick Clark is a practicing warlock, and how, by the way, Dungeons and Dragons was inspired by the Necronomicon and includes spells for summoning members of Satan’s host to possess our bodies for the purposes signing blood oaths on the astral planes. I’m sure Jay’s journal must have made some sort of appearance. The guys was a complete sham and played us all for fools, selling our parents and youth leaders hundreds of copies of his own crappy (but “clean”) pop music tapes, as well as his inspiration records. His visit had two consequences on our family: one, I was unable to go to sleep without playing a Mormon Tabernacle Record in the background for the better part of a month, so terrified was I of the shadows in my room (and don’t ask me how I managed to get up at five in the morning and go milk the cows, watching those spooky horned creatures emerge from the dark); and two, Dad packed up and put away all our D&D stuff for about nine months. Nine months lost! We love our Dad, but I don’t think Daniel and I have ever really forgiven him for that.

    Dan and I eventually played again, sometime with outside participation but mostly on our own, and continued until I left for BYU and he left for his mission. We always talked about taking it up again, but it didn’t happen. There was a serious effort to begin a Fox Family D&D campaign some years ago, but the distance between us all just made it too difficult. Perhaps someday. Our kids will all play.

    Incidentally Ivan, I played one of those mass guerilla with Hickman at a gaming convention once. Fun, though not really my style; I’m much too “deep” a player to go so fast. (Conan eating, the door; that’s good. In the game we played, one character who accidentally triggered a portal to the demon Asmodeus’s residence escaped by claiming he was the cable guy; did Master Asmodeus want Showtime or HBO? (This was around 1990, I think.) That actually caught Tracy off guard, and there was some discussion as to which the King of Demons would prefer. He ended up rolling for it.)

  46. danithew on December 17, 2004 at 10:08 am

    Could be an interesting way to settle stem-cell disputes and that sort of thing. :)

  47. Ivan Wolfe on December 17, 2004 at 10:13 am

    Ah, yes – Tracy’s fun, chaos pandemonium games. I played one when he was at BYU in 2001. We were pod racing, and someone threw a tree at me. I decided to cast “cause light wounds” on it – which is a touch spell. That also threw Tracy off for a bit. I would up rolling for a saving throw, which I failed.

    I don’t quite do my games as fast as Tracy’s, but I prefer fast resoultions to battles, and discourage the infinite rolling to check to see if the gnome, while standing on his head, can interpret the runes on the wall (or whatever).

  48. Davis Bell on December 17, 2004 at 11:05 am

    Along the lines of what Greg mentioned about ritualistic abuse, I assume most people here are familiar with the Glenn Pace memo to the Strengthening the Members Committee (which memo, when leaked, I believe, revealed the existence of the Committee to the wider world). I’ve read the memo, but I’m curious to know if anyone knows any backstory on it, or if anything ever came of it, etc.

  49. a random John on December 17, 2004 at 11:13 am

    A co-worker of mine is a big fan of video games and D&D for his teenage sons. He claims it keeps them away from drugs and makes them such nerds that women wouldn’t touch them with a ten-foot pole, thus making his job as a parent easier. He figures they will de-nerd on their own once they hit college.

  50. Kaimi on December 17, 2004 at 11:18 am

    I was never really into D & D per se. I think my parents nudged me away from it. But I played various computer RPG’s (Bard’s Tale, Ultima), and also had a Robotech pencil-and-paper RPG that my brother and I played quite a bit as teenagers.

    Six or eight months ago, on a weekend with nothing to do, I drew up a quick little dungeon, a few quick rules, and played with my boys (ages 5 and 7). It was a huge hit. Mardell then went and did as any good Mormon mom would do — she made a big felt playing board, complete with little felt adventurers, little goblins, dragons, trolls, swords, gold pieces, and so forth. And, of course, lightsabers. It’s like a D-&-D-meets-singing-time-visual-aids game. It’s a blast to play with the kids. Sullivan has taken to creating some of his own new types of monsters and weapons, and cutting them out of felt, and then telling me their stats. He tends to create uber-powerful weapons or monsters, and then I have to explain to him that it’s probably not a good idea to have a monster that hits for 5d6 when your character’s life is 2d6.

    So far we’re still using the six-sided dice from board games around the house, so the rolls are pretty uncomplicated. I’m probably going to get a few dice packs for Christmas, and make it a little more complex.

  51. Kingsley on December 17, 2004 at 11:20 am

    I have noticed that some D&Ders take umbrage to even someone simply disliking the game; the accusations of mental retardation, etc., began to roll out; I meant no disrespect; I gave it the old college try, being curious; and, while admitting my circumstances were less than ideal, I still feel it might be a difficult thing for me to get into. That being said, I’ve really enjoyed everyone’s fond memories of the game; and I remember absolutely devouring the six original Dragonlance books; and have always wondered since then whether the rumors about Hickman’s membership were true; now I know. Gee, thanks, fellas.

  52. Kingsley on December 17, 2004 at 11:23 am

    That is fantastic about your wife, Kaimi; the only time my mom ever mentioned D&D was when she was regurgitating the popular LDS line: “… and there were these one kids, who began really practicing dark magic; and this one kid got killed even! Stay away, my son! Stay away!”

  53. danithew on December 17, 2004 at 11:36 am

    Kaimi,

    I really like the fact that your family’s role-playing game had traditional fantasy elements mixed with science fiction (light sabers).

    The online mud (multi-user dimension) I used to play was fun for exactly that reason … it had just about everything you could imagine from fantasy, movies, science fiction, contemporary events, etc. thrown in.

    Another little detail I liked about this mud was that characters could get permanent implants. So you might be fighting with a sword and regular armor but you might have implants in your fingers, skull, chest, back, arms, legs, feet, etc. A character who had a levitation implant in his feet could move across water without any problems or having to worry about swimming. Anyway, it added a whole new fun element to the game.

    Plain traditional fantasy (elves, dwarves, giants, dragons, etc.) bores me after awhile. But with everything else thrown in, there’s a lot more room for creativity.

  54. lyle on December 17, 2004 at 1:05 pm

    Danithew: I’m out of your mud. I’m a fantasy purist. :)

    Kaimi: Glad to know there is another “techie” out their (Robotech) midst all the star war(rior)s & star trekkies.

    I still play, although seldom. My wife doesn’t understand the non-visual aspect of the game (although we play RPGs on the xbox together).

  55. Greg on December 17, 2004 at 1:09 pm

    Please – no slandering of Dungeons and Dragons.

    Just to be clear, I wasn’t casting any aspersions on the game — I know hardly anything about it. I was just pointing out that it seemed to be part of a trend that was identified by many as having occultic elements.

    Danithew: I only posted a link to the lyrics of Shoop. A thousand apologies. I still think that my Sunday school teacher who decried “Hot Blooded” would have been quite concerned about “What a Man.” :)

  56. danithew on December 17, 2004 at 1:11 pm

    No worries Greg. I think you are right. I had some of my own misgivings after posting those lyrics.

  57. Brian G. on December 17, 2004 at 1:14 pm

    Wow. Holy thread-jack. What was a perfectly good thread about Satan morphed into a ComicCon. Luckily, I have a plus five sword I affectionately call Glamdring the Thread-jacker Hammer with which to vanquish all you zero charisma interlopers. Hold on, let me get out my twenty-sided polyhedron. (Shuffling of paper, sound of a die rolling.) Oh, look a twenty, since I happen to be a 30th level Chaotic Evil Fighter-Magic User Drow I simultaneously cast a Spell of Fatal Wounds. Oh, and don’t bother coming after me I’m also wearing a Cloak of Invisibility.

    There. Can we get back to talking about the Prince of Darkness now?

    I was a big Dungeons & Dragons geek too back in the day and I actually see how it relates to an early 80s Satanic Panic atmosphere that we all seemed to feel, (plus, I’m glad it inflates the number of posts on this thread) but if I could, I’d like to steer the conversation back to an issue which my original post probably should have raised.

    By being Mormon we certainly believe in the reality of Satan, possession, disembodied spirits, and assorted evil forces. If that’s what we believe than I think it follows that there is a danger in exploring the occult. Now, I’m not saying rock music and Dungeons & Dragons lead to that exploration, but as a young parent I wonder how to instill a healthy respect and awareness for the reality of evil without overdoing it and scaring the bejesus out of my offspring early 80s style.

  58. Sarah on December 17, 2004 at 4:10 pm

    I think that you can show the reality of evil by looking out your door (well, all right, I suppose that depends on your neighborhood). And, a reading of “The Great Divorce” and “The Screwtape Letters” instilled far more respect and fear of *actual* evil in me than ten thousand lectures on D&D or EverQuest ever could, and it did so despite the fact that (amongst other things) I spent the better part of my mid-to-late teenage years writing Star Wars/Star Trek fanfiction, reading Harry Potter and similar (earlier) fantasy works, and playing MUDs, King’s Quest, and EverQuest. If anything, LOTR and similar stories gave me more ways to think about the nature of evil.

    It’s more about the conversations you have — and the spirit you approach them in — than what you ban them from watching/reading (since banning things usually entails various unintended consequences, including sometimes excessive curiousity/fascination with the thing that’s been banned), in any case. Maybe a conversation exploring the attitudes and motivations of Orcs and Balrogs is going a bit far, and I think that saying “ah, this depicts Magic, and Magic is EVIL, and so let’s burn this book” is counterproductive on the best of days. But how about talking about why children and young adults in Germany became willing servants of Hitler, or how public officials so often become tempted to do wrong things while in their offices of responsibility, or how powerful temptations (drugs, pornography, violence, whatever) can be — and how hard it is to turn back once you’ve given in to them?

    Yes, Satan exists. But our battles with him are in our minds and in our daily lives and in our interactions with other people and in how we respond to events in our communities and the world. Walking around looking for demons who want to jump up and down on your shoulders telling you to do bad things (or slice you through with a broadsword — depends on your preferred imagery, I suppose: Buffy or LooneyTunes) or Manifestations Of Pure Evil In The Form of Idolatrous Popular Culture and Possessed Persons is as good a way to distract yourself from how your own spiritual weaknesses are harming your family and friends and neighbors as any other method I can think of.

    Seriously. Reading the Book of Mormon and church history, it’s pretty clear that most prophets most of the time never encountered herds of swine possessed by demons, and never got spirited away to mountain peaks to be tempted by Satan in person (as it were). Even the “and the whole room turned dark and I felt like I just wanted to die and it was incredibly cold and so forth” experiences were kind of limited to selected spiritual giants, called to great deeds, who had already passed the “are you good to your neighbor, and do you refrain from throwing stones at repentant sinners” test.

    Having said all of that, it’s probably wise to explain at some point why you feel that pagan worship is misguided, or why seemingly harmless Oijua (sp?) board games and Tarot readings CAN lead to more problematic sign-seeking. And I’m all for explaining how exactly various pop stars are being grotesque, self-exploitative, and just plain icky when they do the grotesque, self-exploitative, and just plain icky things they do. I definitely think that you can create an atmosphere that distracts from the Spirit with rock music and poker games. Meanwhile, those who host firesides might do well to remember that you can get to Hell through petty injustices and too many bon-bons just as easily as you can through raping and pillaging (and the bon-bons don’t create the same potentially life-changing “oh, ew, I just killed a bunch of people and there’s carnage and blood and I’ve got to buy new boots” moments that pillaging can); or, to put it another way, the demons are cheering anytime you turn away from Heaven, regardless of whether they brought out all their favorite tricks and whether or not you were wearing black, fingering some pagan symbol, and had too many peircings at the critical moment.

    Which reminds me how much I liked reading “The Screwtape Letters.”

  59. Adam Greenwood on December 17, 2004 at 5:29 pm

    For the record:
    D&D is totally evil! It’s so dull that you start thinking about Satan just for the pleasure of it.

    However, as Kaimi has discovered, role playing games that you make up yourself are where it’s at.

  60. John Kane on December 18, 2004 at 6:52 pm

    Dragonlance were some of the very few books I would willingly read growing up.

  61. danithew on December 18, 2004 at 7:37 pm

    For an interesting perspective of Satan there’s always Milton’s Paradise Lost, where as some say, Satan is the hero or at least the most interesting character of the story. His utter defiance almost comes off as heroic.

  62. Jim F. on December 18, 2004 at 11:39 pm

    Russell Arben Fox: For the record (#24), you are wrong. The building is the restored original Academy Building. They tore down several adjacent buildings and restored the original building. (Russell being wrong happens so infrequently that I have to take every opportunity I get to make hay with a mistake.)

  63. Russell Arben Fox on December 19, 2004 at 7:28 am

    Jim, that really surprises (and pleases) me. I’ve never been inside the new library, so obviously I was speaking without knowledge (something I do often), but I could have sworn that, aside from the front, the entire building looked quite different when I saw it last. Good for the city of Provo for recognizing and preserving a historical landmark.

  64. Susan Malmrose on December 19, 2004 at 9:17 pm

    I’ve never heard of Jay’s Journal, but I did read Sparks’ Go Ask Alice as a teen. I wondered at the time how much of it was true, now I wonder even more.

  65. Scott D. Barrett on December 18, 2005 at 1:55 pm

    If you have any questions regarding the Truth about my brother, Alden, and his life, please post them and I will respond.
    Scott

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