Author Jonathan Decker
Jonathan Decker is a licensed marriage and family therapist moonlighting as a film critic, providing Hollywood movie reviews from a Latter-day Saint perspective at mormonmovieguy.com. He also writes regularly for Meridian Magazine, Modern Mormon Men, and Mommy Bear Media, and has published articles in St. George Magazine, Desert Saints Magazine, and Southern Bride Magazine. Jonathan earned a master’s degree from Auburn University, where his thesis was picked up for international publication. He has a background in entertainment, winning a campus-wide talent show at Brigham Young University for his act, “One-Man Lord of the Rings,” and spending two years as a writer and performer with the popular BYU humor group Divine Comedy. Jonathan lives with his wife and children in St. George, Utah.
What is your book and why should people read it?
The book is 250 Great Movies for Latter-day Families, and it contains synopses, reviews, and gospel discussion guides for 250 films, from the silent era to the present, that are well-made, entertaining, and meet Latter-day Saint media standards. There are also chapters on said standards, a foreword by 17 Miracles and Ephraim’s Rescuedirector T.C. Christensen, and indexes by genre, rating, and gospel topic (“repentance,” “honesty,” etc).
It’s my hope that the book is a resource for those who want to watch wholesome, uplifting films and have meaningful conversations afterwards. Each review directs people to the scriptures and teachings of living prophets. Despite the title, it’s not just for family movie nights: I hope that couples will use this for dates, friends will use it for get-togethers, and youth/singles groups will use it for activities.
Who or what inspired your last book?
I was walking out of the theatre several years ago and had just seen One Night with the King, which tells the biblical story of Queen Esther. It’s an imperfect film, but the strengths far outweigh the flaws and I found myself inspired to live closer to Heavenly Father and to be more courageous, kind, and charitable. I had a strong impression that I needed to do something to seek out wholesome, uplifting cinema and expose more people to it. Movies can be such a force for good in our lives, motivating us to be our best. I would also say my parents inspired the book. Some of the most profound Gospel conversations I’ve ever had have come after watching a film with them and tying its themes back to the scriptures.
Any other books in the works? Goals for future projects?
I’d love to do 250 More Great Movies for Latter-day Families, along with a mainstream, non-denominational version. I want to write a survival guide for LDS singles.
If you were stranded on a desert island what 3 things would you want with you?
The scriptures, a solar-powered laptop with wi-fi, and a fully-functional Costco.
What are your pet peeves?
Outhouses. Persons who don’t use their turn signals. Judgmental attitudes. Litter scattered across a beautiful natural location. Poor movie theater etiquette.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you “grew up”?
I was aiming high, but either the next Superman or the next prophet. Either way I suppose I wanted to save the world. Now I’m a licensed marriage and family therapist, so I guess the desire to help is still there.
What was your favorite book when you were a teen?
That’d be a toss-up between Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables and Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo.
What is your favorite Quote?
“If it’s important to you, it’s important to the Lord.” That’s from my mom.
If a movie was made about your life, who would you want to play the lead role and why?
I’d like to take a crack at it. I’ve already done the research and it’s really easy for me to get into character. Plus, the resemblance is uncanny.
What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you?
“You can’t have faith without obedience. If you keep the commandments you know that God will bless you. If you disobey, you’ll doubt that He will.” My brother-in-law told me that when I left on my mission.
What movie and/or book are you looking forward to this year?
Bring on Ender’s Game!
You have won one million dollars what is the first thing that you would buy?
I would buy my wife her dream house, unlimited massages, and a boat. She’s this amazing, hard-working, self-sacrificing woman who always puts the needs of others before her own. I’d like to pamper her.
What movie do you watch that you’d be embarrassed to admit?
I’m not embarrassed, but others are embarrassed for me. The film is Xanadu, with Olivia Newton-John, an older Gene Kelly, and some other actor that nobody remembers anymore. It’s about the muses, the daughters of Zeus, released into the world once again. Olivia is sent to inspire a struggling artist to open the world’s greatest roller-skating rink, but she breaks the cardinal rule of being a muse: she falls in love. The dialogue is atrocious, the story is ridiculous, and the tone is hopelessly cheesy. The wardrobe is as garishly 80’s as you can get. In a lot of ways it’s “so bad it’s good,” but then the music is legitimately wonderful, the dancing is solid, and the scene with Olivia, Gene, and a WWII-era big band is real cinema magic. Also, at one point it turns into an animated film for no reason whatsoever!
The desert after it rains. I’m referring to pretty deserts that have plant and animal life, like in Mesa, AZ or St. George, UT. An aroma is unleashed from the desert after a good rain that fills me with joy.
Favorite quote from a movie?
The movie is rated R, but you can catch an edited version on TV like I did. 3:10 to Yuma, a Western remake with Christian Bale and Russell Crowe. It’s a marvelous morality tale. The quote comes from Crowe’s character, a villain with a long-dormant conscience. He says to Bale’s character: “That’s why I don’t mess around with doin’ good, Dan. Once you do somethin’ for somebody else, somethin’ decent…see that grateful look in their eyes…makes you feel like Christ hisself. I imagine it’s habit-forming.”
Favorite childhood book?
Calvin and Hobbes. My dad used to read it to me at night. He’d get really animated and do amazing vocalizations for the characters. It’s one of my favorite memories. Today, I do the same thing with my stepson.
Do you like the spotlight or lurking in the shadows?
I’d like to be lurking in the shadows, only to have a spotlight suddenly shined on me, like what might happen during a prison break. Then I’d start dancing.
What hidden gem do you have in your bookshelves?
The Infinite Atonement by Elder Tad R. Callister. Many people have read it, but many more need to. Aside from the scriptures, that book has given me a greater understanding of the mission and sacrifice of Jesus Christ than any other book.
Top 3 things on your bucket list?
I’d like to get into a shark cage and see a Great White Shark up close in the open ocean. I’d love to tour Europe. Most of all, I want to serve a mission with my wife.
I have five: Tucanos Brazilian Grill in Provo, UT, Amsterdam’s Café in Auburn, AL, The Cheesecake Factory on the Las Vegas strip, Filberto’s Mexican Food throughout Arizona, and any authentic Amish kitchen.
Finding wholesome, uplifting movies can be a daunting task—especially when Hollywood s values are so far from the Church’s. 250 Great Movies for Latter-day Families offers a broad selection of edifying options for your family’s next movie night. With content reviews, gospel discussion guides, and indexes by genre and gospel topics, this guide is sure to have something for everyone.