When”The Empire Strikes Back,” the second film of the “Star Wars” saga, opened in Salt Lake City in May 1980, many Mormons left the theater convinced that they had seen a familiar face. By the time “Return of the Jedi” hit Utah’s rental shelves in the mid-1980s, the rumor was hard to escape in Mormon country: The Jedi Master Yoda was based on Spencer W. Kimball, who served as president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly known as the Mormon Church, from 1974 to 1985.
The reasons ranged from the trivial to the telling. Like Yoda, Kimball was short, with large ears, thin white hair, and a slightly squashed, wrinkly face. Both had a knack for gnomic, oracular axioms. Kimball was famous for urging Mormons not simply to believe in their faith, but to “do it,” and even to “do it now,” advice Yoda inverted into “Do, or do not.”
Unfortunately for the Mormons, Stuart Freeborn, who designed Yoda, did not mention Kimball when he cited his inspirations. But looking more closely, it appears that the Mormon identification with “Star Wars” is only one manifestation of a deeper Mormon fascination with the genres of science fiction and fantasy.
Today, an overwhelming number of Mormon authors and movie makers who have achieved national success, including Orson Scott Card, Jared Hess,Stephenie Meyer and Brandon Sanderson, also work in the genre.
There are a number of possible reasons for this fascination, from the persistent legacy of authors such as Anderson in Mormon culture to the most commonly suggested: the superficial resemblance between Mormon theology and the elements of speculative fiction. This can be taken at face value.
“Mormons believe a lot of things that are pretty fantastic — we believe in miracles and angels and ancient prophets and rediscovered Scripture — so maybe it is almost natural for us to dive into these other stories,” Mormon fantasy author Shannon Hale told the Boston Globe.
Read the rest of the article at The Washington Post.