Latter-day Saint Video Vault celebrates decades of uplifting, funny, weird, and sometimes cringe-worthy Mormon-related videos, most of which are now found on YouTube. Join Jared Jones every other Friday as he breaks down one of these classics.
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]his week we delve back into Latter-day Saint cinema from the 1960s with 1968’s When Thou Art Converted. Although the film was a Brigham Young University production it was made under the direction of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve for church training purposes. There isn’t a lot of information about it available so let’s just get to it, shall we?
note: There are a few glitches in the video from time stamp 1:38 to about 1:48. Probably due to being uploaded from a damaged VHS tape. You just miss some introductory visuals. The movie’s dialog begins after the glitch goes away.
When Thou Art Converted opens at a busy printing company. We see Warren Bailey, played by Gordon Jump, supervising the presses and typesetting of various products. The action begins with Warren taking a phone call. He is frustrated to learn that one of his best workers is quitting to go work for competitor. He is quite angry and grabs his coat while muttering in frustration.
He shows up at the competitor’s office and proceeds to have an extended argument with the man who “stole” his employee. He is angry and complains that he trains people to do a good job only to have Dick Forrest hire them away. He sarcastically calls him “Brother” and Dick wonders why we have to bring the church into this. Yes. Warren and Dick are both members of the church. We learn later they are even in the same ward. Well this adds a new wrinkle to this dispute!
Dick insists he did nothing untoward. The employee in question merely answered the ad and said he couldn’t support his family on what he was making at Warren’s company. Warren doesn’t buy it. He continues to lay into his competitor and accuses him of being unethical. Dick says look who is talking now and cites a year book deal in which he felt Warren undercut him. They accuse each other of various things and Warren storms out of the office.
Later at home we see Warren criticizing “Brother” Forrest in front of his wife and children. He said he never wanted to speak to that “crumb” again. This desire, however will prove to be difficult as they are in the same ward, and in the same line of business. His wife tries to smooth over his comments with the kids. Their older son, Robbie picks up on the conflict and bets his father can take down Brother Forrest in a fight. He calls him a “Sunday Saint” and comments negatively about his expensive home and two new cars. Warren’s wife encourages him to not judge so quickly and try to see the situation from Dick’s point of view.
Later we see Warren’s family arriving home from church. His wife asked if Dick was there. “He’s ALWAYS there,” Warren responds. His wife gives him a look and comments that he has always been perfectly nice to her. Warren goes on and is sure Dick is just insecure. He is shocked that he would volunteer to pay for half of a boy’s mission in a discussion about the ward mission fund. “Does he need to be so public?” He accuses Dick of doing it on purpose to make others feel bad and look small.
A child interrupts and asks if they will be reading the New Testament as a family like the Bishop asked. “He said it would help us with our problems” Ed insists they don’t have any problems. Dick Forrest and his family are the ones with problems and HE should read the scriptures about doing alms before men. His comments are cut short as his son loudly sings “Let us Oft Speak Kind Words.”
Back at the printing company Warren Bailey takes a call from his Stake President who invites Brother Bailey and his wife to come meet with him. Later we see the family raking leaves and they are all wondering whatever this meeting could be about. Robbie speaks up. “Maybe he wants to referee a fight between you and Brother Forrest!” Warren pushes Robbie into a pile of leaves.
The Baileys arrive back at home after the appointment. Warren is being called to be president of the Elders Quorum. He doesn’t know why. Sister Baily assures him he can do it as he has been called of God. He immediately sits down and finds some writing paper (I just call it paper) and begins to write out members of the quorum to think of counselors. His wife suggests they finally start reading the scriptures together as a family, but no. He’s too busy for that! There is no time for scripture reading when there is a presidency to organize, a stake farm assignment to fill. He needs to get organized.
We then see a montage of him talking on the phone, making lists, checking handbooks and reading old church magazines. Finally, he consults the scriptures.
We next see Warren on the phone with one of his counselors. His plans are coming together. He is excited to get the quorum on board with help at the stake apple farm—to help them catch the vision of the labor. He divides up the list without thinking about it. Much to his chagrin he realizes that Dick Forrest is on the list of names he assigned to himself. I do appreciate his neatly handwritten phone list. Definitely makes me appreciate the advances the church has made with online and mobile resources. He laments his need to call Dick, but is reminded about the scripture and the “worth of souls.” He decides they will start reading the scriptures as a family that very night.
They read Matthew 6:33:34 and then roll on to the beginning of Matthew 7. Son Robbie ask what are the motes the verses mention. His father said “it’s something that blinds you. That keeps you from seeing clearly.” Perhaps it begins to hit a little too close to home for Warren?
The next day at Warren’s office his wife arrives and asks if he is ready to come home. She sees her husband is troubled and asked what is going on. He said everything is going well but somehow it just doesn’t feel right. He does what he should do but still doesn’t feel the acceptance of his quorum or from the lord. His wife then said that all his first counselor’s calls are made and asks if ALL of his are done too. He has yet to call Brother Forrest. He makes a quick phone call to try to reach Brother Forrest but no one answers.
He then walks home and contemplates his state of mind on the way. He thinks about scriptures, quotes from General Authorities and the need to base his life and leadership style on the Savior. He thinks about controlling his temper and being a more thoughtful employer and parent. He also thinks of repentance and realizes his need to put it to use.
Later that evening He reads the scriptures with his family again. They read the Lord’s words to Peter in Luke: “But I have prayed for thee, that they faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” Warren then explains the passage to Robbie. “A lot of us are not completely converted. We deny Christ in little ways.” The scripture affects Warren, and we see him driving up to the Forrest’s house. He rings twice but no one is home. As he sits in the car he offers a prayer. “Lord, I tried, please let this be acceptable in thy sight.”
Even after his herculean effort of making a phone call (unanswered) and driving by an empty home he is a little restless and can’t sleep. He turns to the scriptures again and realizes he is not truly converted. To be converted he must understand Dick and himself. He needs to “love one another,” as Jesus taught. He then turns to Doctrine & Covenants and is reminded that he has not been acting as a disciple should.
The next day he arrives at Dick’s office. He looks humbled and immediately apologizes and asks for forgiveness. “I’m sorry what I’ve done to hurt our relationship.” Dick responds quickly asks for forgiveness and wishes he could have been the bigger man to come to Ed first. They both realize how their pride got in the way.
“There’s a scripture I just can’t forget,” Warren says. “It says ‘When thou art converted, strengthen my brethren.’ I’m really trying to convert myself, Dick. I hope you’ll help me.”
Dick agrees only if Warren will help him as well. They come together in a mutual display of emotion that is probably uncharacteristic for men of their vintage.
As he walks out, Warren offers a final bit of wisdom to cover up his emotions.
“Better get home. You know how wives are when you are late for dinner.”
Like many church films of this period, the issues raised in the film, and its underlying message are rather timeless. First the issue that led to the central disagreement. I have been in church class discussions when many class members thought it fine to have “business behavior” separate from “gospel behavior.” Should you treat someone differently when they are members of the church? Shouldn’t you treat everyone the same? I don’t think either Warren or Dick had any really unethical behavior. Because each had actions that impacted the other, however, they took it personally and beyond the scope of the actual behavior. It serves as a good reminder of how we need to act both personally and professionally.
Warren’s mission of self-discovery is the true focus of the film. His struggles of putting off the natural man, finding forgiveness and striving to be the best leader he can be are very relatable. When I became an Elders Quorum President I experienced all those feelings. I even offended someone early on with a heavy-handed assignment and had to apologize and ask forgiveness. It was a hard learning experience but was one I am glad I had. Warren’s statement “We all deny Christ in little ways,” is a powerful one.
Even though the issues and message are relevant, the film is rather forgettable and full of uncomfortable tropes of the period. Was the wife being mad at dinner tardiness really the best way to end a film about becoming more like Christ? I think not. Regardless, inspiration can be found in When Thou Art Converted. Or you can just read the New Testament or the several General Conference talks that come up on the church website when you search the phrase.