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.
This week’s column features Easter Dream from 1990. This 22-minute film was produced by the church for broadcast distribution in North and South America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Members could also purchase it from Church Distribution for $6.00. It was part of a series of seasonal videos produced by the church in the 80s and 90s that sought to teach lessons on the basics of the gospel.
Easter Dream opens on a field of wildflowers. We pan to a Greyhound-type bus and see Jason on a long bus trip. He deals with various stages of boredom and hunger along with interesting and not so interesting passengers as he winds his way across the heartland to his grandfather.
He finally climbs off the bus and greets his grandfather who is surprised how much he has grown in a few years. Grandpa says Jason reminds him of his Father and they both share an awkward pause.
As they drive home, they discuss Jason’s decision to not go out for the baseball team and Jason wants to know why his Mother sent him to spend the summer with Grandpa. Grandpa jokes that it’s because Mom doesn’t want to feed him all summer but just settles on “She said you needed your Grandpa.”
As Jason enters his grandfather’s house, he comments on how much smaller it feels than he remembers. He looks around and his gaze stops on a mirror and then on a picture of his family–Mother, sister, Jason and his father with his hand on Jason’s shoulder. Grandpa puts his hand on Jason’s shoulder and expresses his condolences. Jason’s father died.
Later on, Grandpa comes into Jason’s room to see that he is settled. Jason is reading a BOOK people! I like him already. Grandpa says he found Jason’s dad’s old baseball mitt and suggests he might want to keep it to remember, but Jason cuts him off saying he remembers his father just fine. Grandpa recognizes Jason’s grief and says his feelings will change over time—he won’t feel this way forever. He tells Jason to go to bed as chores start early.
The next morning, Jason goes about the chores but is out of sorts. He has problems hooking up the milking machine and then is faced with an uncooperative cow just out of reach. He flings the milking machine down and storms out of the barn. We later see him consoling himself with a barn cat. Grandpa walks by and says he needs some help. Jason gets up and joins him. Jason sticks with the work and builds his confidence throughout the day. He even takes on the cows again for the afternoon milking and succeeds. He then finishes his day with a glass of milk I mean the cows are right there. Has he no shame?
As he is drinking his milk he sees a rope and board swing hanging from a tree branch. He walks over starts to swing. He is taken back to the time his father pushed him in that very swing. He thinks he hears his father calling his voice, but it is Grandpa calling him to dinner.
After dinner Jason is sitting on the porch and Grandpa brings him some ice cream. Jason isn’t interested and actually didn’t eat much dinner. Grandpa tells him to put on a clean shirt. He wants to show him something. They drive into town and go to their meeting house. In the empty chapel Jason takes a seat and Grandpa walks up to the piano to grab a notebook. He tells Jason of a time he was practicing with the choir for the Easter program and a young child held up a picture of the resurrected Christ. He reaches into the folder and pulls out a copy of Harry Anderson’s “The Second Coming.” He said as the child spoke and showed the picture it hit him—Christ is alive. He even stopped playing the piano and the people in the choir were worried he had a heart attack.
“[Christ] is in charge, and if he wanted [your father] to come home, well I could learn to accept it,” Grandpa says.
“I miss him. And I want to see him again,” Jason says.
“I miss him too. God didn’t put us here with our families just to let it all end when we die. Death isn’t the end of family.” Grandpa says.
Grandpa continues to bear testimony of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and how it enables us to be together as families.
“But that is so far away!” Jason says, and Grandpa agrees.
Later they are at a diner. Grandpa notices a boy Jason’s age who regularly asks about Jason. Jason turns to look and sees the boy with his father—a very present reminder of what he has lost. Jason becomes frustrated and leaves the diner.
They drive home from town as the day fades into night. The farm work takes its toll and Jason nods off.
He wakes in an aggressively soft-focused dream. He is dressed in clothing from the time of Christ and stands in a bustling open-air market. He is confused but follows the crowd which suddenly parts to reveal Jesus bearing his cross. He looks in wonder as Christ passes by him and then follows the roman soldiers and crowd to Calvary. Jason sees Christ suffer on the cross and sees Mary and other disciples weep at his death. The scene cuts away to a distant view of the crosses on the hill as Jason is jolted awake by a bump in the road.
He falls back asleep and wakes outside the garden tomb. He hides behind plants as disciples come to inspect the tomb. After the disciples leave he goes and sees the empty tomb for himself. Back in Jerusalem he sees the same disciples go into a room. Jason wants to follow but the door is locked. He looks around and sees a high window and a ladder. Jason climbs up and as he pulls back a curtain he sees the bright glow of the resurrected Christ showing the wounds in his hands to the Apostles. Jason surveys the scene, and as he looks Christ looks up to him in the window and they lock eyes. This exchange surprises him and he falls to the ground. He brushes himself off and looks up to see modern shoes and dress slacks on the ancient street. It’s his father. Jason rushes to embrace him Jason’s father assures him they will be together again.
Grandpa wakes Jason by tapping on the truck window.
“Are you okay?” Grandpa asks?
“Yeah, Grandpa, I’m okay.” Jayson says. “I will see my dad again, won’t I.”
“I’m sure of it son. So will I.”
It’s been said over and over—it’s a weird time. Easter Dream does a good job of reminding us of the stabilizing power of Christ’s sacrifice for us. Although the Atonement may not remove grief, or the need to grieve, it can can ease the pain of grief by focusing on the joy of the resurrection. May you and yours experience this joy this Easter season.
Thoughts, Musings & Trivia
- An article from the Church News says that the crucifixion scene is one “rarely if ever filmed” by the church. Hard-to-find Mormon Videos goes so far to state Easter Dream was the first time any church production shows a representation of the crucifixion.
- The team had one hill selected but found it to be too rocky to place the crosses—later they found another hill that even had some holes already dug.
- Casey Ellison plays Jason. He is a television actor who played roles on Punky Brewster, Mr. Belvedere and The Wonder Years.
- Oscar Rowland played Grandpa. He starred in 1984’s Footloose and Silent Night, Deadly Night