Special Offer >>> Be a “Viewer Like You”!
By Marvin Payne

This column begins with “special offer >>> Be a ‘Viewer Like You’!” This is because when Backstage Graffiti usually appears, it’s near the top of things to read on Meridian Magazine. Then, day by day, it slides downward on the screen, until it slides right off.

(Hey, have you heard of the natural phenomenon of “continental drip”? I don’t know, it makes a lot of sense to me. Look at a globe. What’s at the top? Nothing. I mean, water – no land. Next, you have these fat continents. But look at how they end, at the bottom. You have North America with its Florida and Mexico, Europe with its Spain and Italy, Asia with its India. And ((I’m almost embarrassed to have to point this out to literate people)) the big and little sister continents of Africa and South America, which offer almost identical and irresistible evidence to all with eyes to see. What do all these continents have in common? They’re dripping! And what’s at the bottom of the whole world? Not water – Antarctica! Now try to tell me that the “continental drift” people have a leg upon which to stand.)

So on Meridian you have this journalistic phenomenon we might call “column drip” or “column slide.” Except pieces that begin with “special offer >>>,” which stay parked eternally about four titles from the top. Thus you see how the inexorable slide can magically be rendered downright exorable. (Also, buried deep in the treasure cave of this column is an actual very special offer ((>>>)), like a humble seed about to burst into sprays of diamonds ((<<<hyperbole))!)

Follow me, here. A child, with its grown-up, sits before a TV as before an altar. Imagine we are the child’s grown-up (unless one of us ((that would be you)) is, in fact, a child, in which case does your mother know you’re on the internet?). Our eyes are riveted, all our senses laid bare. We are hungry and trusting as baby birds. On the screen:

Hawks wheel overhead. Armadas of white clouds sail toward us from beyond distant peaks. This is mountainland. Three little kids in pith helmets, shorts, and backpacks spy on the horizon a broad golden cliff, and strike out for it with fixed purpose. A grappling hook chunks into the surface at the top of the cliff, and these young explorers clamber over onto a wide plain of perfect white, with mysterious rows of sharp black discolorations stretching out before them.

They come, in time (a few seconds, actually), to a wide ravine, straight and deep and directly across their path. They slide down its smooth slope and scramble up the other side, only to find another plain, like the one they’ve just crossed. Eagerly they push on.

Their path is blocked by a thick red wall, meandering across the plain like a gigantic ribbon. Some distance off to the right, it kinks upward, forming a kind of low bridge. The scouts squeeze under it and are on their way again.

One of them stops and kneels along one of the rows of black markings. Another pulls from his backpack a big fold-out ruler. The third unsheathes a pole with a red tip and scores a broad line on the ground alongside the black row. They pack up and move on.

Suddenly they are at the edge of another golden cliff. Warm wind from the lowlands beyond breathes into their faces. Cut into the cliff below them are black ledges, like half moons. Embossed on each is a different set of strange gold letters – “JAS,” “HEB,” MOR.” Directly below is a ledge marked “TG.” The scouts consult urgently and then in quick succession leap off the cliff toward the ledge.

But it’s not a ledge! It’s the mouth of a cave (not unlike the gap between the roots of the Whomping Willow of popular renown)! Our little friends shoot like darts down the dark and winding tube and emerge in a flopping pile into a circular timbered room with a domed ceiling, lined with balconies of bookshelves, carved with alcoves full of archeological curiosities – a strange mix of musty vaulted library and space-age technology.

Suddenly a Basset hound whips around to face them from a computer terminal. “Woof! I’m so-o-o-o glad you’re here! I need help answering this e-mail! Dogs can’t type, ya know!”

The room is the Scriptorium, deep in the heart of the gargantuan set of scriptures the children have just traversed in order to get here.

They are Scripture Scouts. And this is Scripture Scouts TV!!!!!

Breathlessly you ask, “Mormon Sesame Street?” Yup.

Why not? If kids can learn numbers from watching blue monsters count cookies, can’t they learn to pray from watching a talking dog, conventionally colored?

Just ask I. Q. Nibbleby. He’s the Lord Baden-Powell of Scripture Scouts (and the owner of Boo Dog, incidentally). You might have to wait, though, until he has a rare free moment. He’s out in Second Chronicles, examining text, imagery, artifacts (and the occasional Assyrian warrior who has lost his way) with a magnifying glass, noting his observations on a clipboard. You can only reach him by videoscope, and you have to grab his advice quickly, because he pixelates out on you after only a few seconds (Second Chronicles is quite a long way off, remember – not as far as First C., though, where the pixelization is even worse ((You’ve probably never even considered the morass of pixelization difficulties to be encountered in the Old Testament – we Television Moguls have to deal with this sort of unimaginable opposition whenever we undertake to do something worthwhile (((Most TMs simply cave in and develop shows starring kitchen items ((((like, shall we say, sponges?)))) that will tell underwater wisecracks and wear geometric clothing.))) .)) !)

[Editorial department, relax. Macintosh has “punctuation-checker.” (This feature was developed under a special consultation contract between Apple and Victor Borge before his untimely death in 2000 from vocal complications arising from his compulsion to speak punctuation out loud when telling stories.)]

Victor Borge appeared as a guest on Sesame Street a number of times (once, I think – one is a number) and well illustrated the basic premise of that brilliant series, as articulated by its creators: “We are a comedy show that teaches.”

Well, Scripture Scouts TV is a comedy show that teaches, but, like its twenty-year-old audio antecedents, with the erstwhile moment of piercing sweetness that could easily have been a regular part of Sesame Street, too, had they featured as guests, along with Victor Borge (a pretty sweet guy, at that), a couple of LDS missionaries from Idaho.

I could go on and on, I suppose, describing the elements of the show, moments like “Off The Wall,” wherein Boo Dog exchanges one-liners with hieroglyphs, or “And Now, A Talk,” wherein scriptureless primary talks drive their listeners into sleeping bags on the primary room floor versus scripture-rich talks, which ignite celebration on the scale of the Republican Convention and reduce the primary president to tears of joy, or “Joyful Noise,” wherein Victor Borge gathers wide-eyed youngsters around him on a sound stage and teaches them wonderful Scripture Scouts songs with his magical piano (just kidding, it’ll probably just be me and a banjo). Except that, technically, it doesn’t exist. The show, I mean. (Literarily it exists, just technically it doesn’t exist.)

special offer >>> click here! Now! Forget that you wanted to stay on Meridian long enough to read how enterprising sisters can take clueless guys on dates to Gospel Doctrine class and overcome their pornography addictions with photo essays of Nauvoo while apologizing for dissing Mormon movies and waiting for a child to utter some Mormon humor. Instead, click here now.

http://www.scripturescouts.com  (WAIT! Don’t click here! Not yet! Not until you’ve read the disclaimer. To wit: The video to which you will be miraculously linked by clicking here, er, there, might be misunderstood by that small ((but not necessarily socially or spiritually backward, and we love you anyway)) segment of Meridian Readers who are not already Scripture Scouts fans*. They might, for example, question the plausibility of entrusting the direction of an important piece of film work to a dog, or they might be so young ((or so seduced by commercial TV)) as not to remember Alistair Cooke, or they might be so attention-deficited by MTV as not to have the patience to sit through end credits, and thus miss the point of the whole presentation. Or, Scripture Scouts fan or not, you may not have a computer, and so clicking on the link would be… oh yeah, never mind. Go ahead and click here now. I mean, there.)

Post Click: There you have it. The way to escape with finality and grace the whole difficult controversy over Mormon movies. Do Mormon Children’s TV instead. (Ask me questions, I’ll tell you no lies – mp@marvinpayne.com.)

Fun as it is to hang out backstage, making and reading graffiti, sometimes you have to step out into the light.

*Footnote for the asterisked “not already Scripture Scouts fans”: If you’re in the neighborhood, you are cordially invited to join Roger & Melanie Hoffman (my co-creators of Scripture Scouts, along with Steven Kappppp Perry) and the Mormon Choir of Washington D.C., Saturday, April 9th at 7:00 pm at the Washington D.C. Temple Visitor’s Center, for an introduction to said Scripture Scouts. Lots of Scripture Scouts songs, including some from the new series on the Family Proclamation, also “Consider the Lilies” (Roger wrote that song! I know somebody who wrote “Consider the Lilies”! Dude!) and the choir’s premiere of a new song, “One Child at a Time.” It’s for the whole family – sing-alongs, fun and inspiration!

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Visit marvinpayne.com!

“…come unto Christ, and lay hold upon every good gift…” (from the last page of the Book of Mormon)