By Marvin Payne

First thing this morning my five-year-old son, who is sick, asked me to sink into the beanbag and watch Rocky and Bullwinkle with him. I said, “No, John, I have to write a column for Meridian about doing things for your children.” Duh. So of course I watched Rocky and Bullwinkle with him, and consequently this column may show up in Washington, DC, late. Actually that’s okay, because that way the editors won’t have time to edit out the shameless plugs that are going to be the foundation of this column (and the framing, plumbing, electrical, and finish work, as well).

Also being late makes it less likely that I’ll get an e-mail from Meridian asking, “How come this column sounds just like Rocky and Bullwinkle?” (I have an original mind, but it’s impressionable. I played Harold Hill in my stake’s production of The Music Man in 1983 – I had never seen the movie ((I never do)), and the only live performance I’d seen was in my Aunt Lottie’s ward in Glendale, California, when I was a kid. Gordon Jump played Harold Hill. Brother Jump was the LDS actor on “WKRP in Cincinnati” who later stood forlornly by Maytags. He lived in my aunt’s ward. For the first three weeks of our rehearsals in Alpine seventeen years later, my main job was to succeed at playing Harold Hill instead of playing Gordon Jump – Gordon Jump was really good that night in Glendale. See what I mean?)

Fourteen months ago you were introduced here in these cyber-pages to an idea for a “Mormon Sesame Street,” a TV show springing from the hundreds of songs, thousands of smiles, and a few dozen surprise tears that have been, for twenty years and a couple of generations of children, Scripture Scouts.

It’s bigger now than it was fourteen months ago – the dream, I mean. Realer, too. In those months having produced a few segments, written a zillion more, and in our spare time (“our” being me and Roger and Melanie Hoffman and Steven KappppPerry) having created a television world that will host the first adventure into children’s programming ever to be undertaken by the BYU Global TV Satellite Network, we thought, “Why stop at making a TV show? Let’s make a whole doggone TV station! And radio station! And children’s Art Gallery! Library! Campfire circle! Playground! Clubhouse! Sanctuary!”

Well, this has to be a little different than merely Spanky saying to Alfalfa, “My uncle’s got a barn we could use for a theayter!” and Darla chirping (she “chirped,” that’s what she did, “chirped,” – I’ve been trying to put my finger on it for decades!) “I think I could find some curtains!” while Alfalfa just grins. Because even the Little Rascals didn’t reach as far as we aspire to do. Our 21st Century Spanky (Steve) says to Alfalfa (Roger), “Hey, I’ve got a Mac!” and Darla (Melanie) doesn’t chirp but affirms in perfectly unaffected fervor “I’ve got some faith!” while Buckwheat (Marvin) just grins.

Because that’s all you need! No kidding! You can, all by yourself, infuse all the light you can kindle and feed and fan and focus right through Steve’s Mac out into the Worldwide Web to light up children’s eyes and hearts in places the Little Rascals wouldn’t dare to go, even with slingshots and extra peanut butter sandwiches!

I encore some of what you found here fourteen months ago. The blue is how it was, the red is how it’ll be:

Hawks wheel overhead. Armadas of white clouds sail toward us from beyond distant peaks. This is mountainland. Your child __________(insert name, I’ll call him “Heber”) spies on the horizon a broad golden cliff, and strikes out for it with fixed purpose. A grappling hook chunks into the surface at the top of the cliff, and little Heber clambers over onto a wide plain of perfect white, with mysterious rows of sharp black discolorations stretching out before him. 

He comes, in time (a few seconds, actually), to a wide ravine, straight and deep and directly across his path. He slides down its smooth slope and scrambles up the other side, only to find another plain, like the one he’s just crossed. Eagerly he pushes on.

His 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. He squeezes under it and is on his way again. 

Suddenly he’s at the edge of another golden cliff. Warm wind from the lowlands beyond breathes into his face. Cut into the cliff below him 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.” Heber leaps 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 scout shoots like a dart down the dark and winding tube and emerges in 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. 

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

Heber is a Scripture Scout! And this is!

(Heber will want to come here just to experience getting in! Have you noticed how fervently he watches the Spiderman DVD menu, because you won’t let him watch the movie?)

There is a video-globe in the Scriptorium. Heber clicks on it and watches that Mormon “Sesame Street” show we were talking about. He likes one part of it a lot – he clicks on it again and again.

He clicks on the cool radio transmitter and downloads 24/7 kids’ radio, the best of the hundreds of Scripture Scouts songs and the best of everything other Mormon artists have crafted for children. And stories, and mysteries, and radio plays.

There is a painting on the wall of I. Q. Nibbleby (the Lord Baden-Powell of Scripture Scouts). Heber clicks on it and it swings inward, revealing a deep gallery of scripture heroes, painted by brilliant and inspired Latter-day Saint artists, and by the old masters. He clicks on a painting he chooses and hears the story of how it came to be.

He clicks on a scroll on the library shelf and the Family Proclamation whirls into view, but it’s in kid language, in a kid’s voice.

He will click on full animations of the Scripture Scouts audio adventures enjoyed by 100,000-plus families around the world. The stories are drawn from the scriptures, The Articles of Faith, and The Family Proclamation. He may click on the new series about Zion and the Restoration called The Wonderful Things That Joseph Saw

An ancient hand-held harp hangs on the wall. When he clicks on it, Heber finds sing-alongs galore, with the old bouncing ball, or bouncing bone, or bouncing liahona, bouncing out the words in front of fun video.

He can “Ask Boo,” engaging in a blog-type discussion with everybody’s favorite talking dog.

Heber will find the Signpost, the “arrows to everywhere” post (like in the M.A.S.H. compound) that will point him to “host pages” for each book in the Standard Works. Each page will offer, by clickable choice, a Definition of the book and its background (friendly audio with highlighted words), and Selected Stories from the book (spellbinding audio with musical underscore and illustrations).

What? Your Heber only speaks Spanish? That’s next! Or you have trouble understanding him when he speaks Mandarin Chinese? That’s right after Spanish!

Your little Heber, or Helen (okay, Ty or Madison) will thus be drawn into a vast free Internet Emporium of Joy, a ticketless Disneyland of Light, a tall-sailed Ship on a Quest for Gospel Truth. 

And This is the End of the Capital Letters and exclamation Points!

Of course, Heber, Helen, Ty, and Madison all attend Primary, read the Friend, and regularly surf Meridiankid’s Magazine (oops, there isn’t one – well, not yet). And there are Deseret Bookshelves laden with engaging, fun ways for your kids to grow in the gospel. But, as much as we may want to stress the consumer benefits for H., H., T., and M., there are a few hundred million kids just as deserving who have only an Internet connection and no real good idea of what to do with it. Others have ideas for them, often not very good ones.

So we’re talking about a choice that, as far as Google and I know, doesn’t exist.

Earlier I trumpeted in reckless glee “A Mac is all you need!” Well, yes, a Mac and about a bazillion bucks. This is where you come in.

(You’re not gonna believe it, but, right here in the middle of this writing, the phone rang and Roger ((Alfalfa)) asked if I could hurry quick record a couple of sentences to e-mail over to his son’s studio where they’re tweaking a fund-raising DVD, and I recorded and e-mailed the following words, which I will put in quotes – but not in parentheses, because they might as well be the next words in this actual column.)

“Help children all over the world know who they are, and how they can get back home to God. Help us create”


This is, of course, tax-deductible. 501(c) (3). (Being a fan of early Star Wars movies, I always have to resist adding ((p)) and ((o)).) Hey, this is so tax-deductible that the IRS will pay you to do it, and will pardon, in advance, any late fees you may ever incur as you proceed forward in your tax life. (It would be prudent to run this last detail by your accountant.)

Our financial advisors have advised us with the advice that we not publish our next fourteen months’ budget. They advise us that those whose imaginations are ignited by this vision will know by the Spirit how to help. But it’s $750,000 (we’re rounding it to a million just to be safe). It’s not that I don’t trust your spirituality, but why push it?

I’m not going to write here the address where you should send your check, though, because you should e-mail me and ask questions first, like how many zeros are appropriate, and should you include cookies or doughnuts. (Boo prefers Milk Bones. Also you should e-mail me first because sometimes in Backstage Graffiti I’m just kidding.)

So you’re a conventional donor whom the Lord has blessed with the means to do good, and right now you’re turning your head away from the monitor and shouting, “Margaret, this about the most darned unconventional appeal for funding I’ve ever seen!” 

And Margaret will answer, “Well Darling, you’re reading it in Backstage Graffiti, aren’t you? Haven’t you discerned that that guy and all his ilk are pretty unconventional? That’s why!” 

And Margaret will be wrong. Oh, my ilk and I cheerfully admit to being certifiably unconventional, but that’s not why the appeal is unconventional. The appeal is unconventional because will be unconventional. will be unconventional because the most unconventional thing on the planet right now is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We want the children to know all about it.

Send your thoughts to [email protected].


2006 Meridian Magazine.  All Rights Reserved.