According to Mormon belief, individuals are required to get married before they can enter into heaven. Although marriage did not appeal to me, I wanted to be obedient to God’s commandments.
I met Rashel at the university in 2007. She was a female. She was a training to be a nurse. We had, very, different personalities. Under normal circumstances, we would not have been a good match. Under Christian circumstances, our marriage seemed appropriate.
Furthermore, I had lost hope of finding a companion that fit my idea of a perfect mate. I was forbidden from being with a male and I could not find a Christian female who was passionate about moviemaking. Thus, after a short courtship, Rashel and I were engaged.
In the picture below, Rachel and I dance in front of Yellowstone’s Old Faithful as it erupts. We were the only ones there, that day. John Denver was playing on the loud speaker: "Annie's Song" became our song.
The first time I heard about YouTube was in 2007. Instantly, I understood its value and began preparing videos to be uploaded. To me, this was an answer to my prayers.
My whole life I wanted to make movies as a career but was forbidden because Hollywood had control of the entertainment industry and Hollywood was immoral. But YouTube was advertised as a place where people outside of Hollywood could have a voice. YouTube was a place where I could speak without being compelled to compromise my standards. However, Rashel did not share my optimism about YouTube.
When I first met Rashel, she acted as though she loved the camera. This is one reason I was attracted to her. But as we came to know each other, I realized that was not her true nature.
Rashel was a private person.
In fact, Rashel is not her real name. In this story, have censored her identity and blurred her face. In my opinion, this censorship allows me to share my story with the public while respecting her desire for privacy.
In 2008, after getting engaged but before the marriage, Rashel said I had to choose between the wedding or the YouTube channel - between her or filmmaking.
My logic was thus: A person’s spouse should be the most important thing in their life. A man should be willing to sacrifice everything for his wife. If I refused to sacrifice my passion for my fiancé, it proved that I was not really in love with her. Therefore, I chose Rashel.
This marked the turning point in my life. Had I chosen YouTube, my reality would be different, right now. I believe, the timing of my entry and the quality of my work would have elevated me to national fame. Because of changing politics, I would have married a man. Today, I would be rich. But destiny had a different plan for me.
A Funeral and a Wedding
One thing that separates Mormons from other Christians is that Mormons believe that, in our day, God continues to speak, directly, to representatives on earth. Just as the people in the Bible were led by Noah, Moses, and John the Baptist, Mormons are led by living prophets who continue to write scripture stories in our day.
The prophet that led the Mormon Church in 2008 was President Gordon B. Hinckley, and he was scheduled to visit our university in February to open the brand new Rexburg, Idaho temple…
Another difference between Mormons and other Christian denominations is that Mormons believe that, for a marriage to be authorized by God, the couple must get married inside a Mormon temple. Due to the convenient timing of our wedding, Rashel and I were scheduled to be the first couple married in the Rexburg temple.
However, several days before the wedding, the prophet died. Due to his death, the opening of the temple was postponed and Rashel and I had to relocate our wedding to a temple in Salt Lake City, Utah.
At that time, I had a bad feeling about what I was getting into. Death is not a good omen for a wedding. Nonetheless, on February 5th, 2008, Rashel and I were married.
Like Bishop Frank, Rashel was opposed to Hollywood. She agreed with Frank’s advice not to pursue moviemaking as a career and insisted that I stop watching any media that contained immoral material.
As the year progressed, Rashel began censoring what I watched until I was no longer allowed to view anything. I could not watch movies, listen to the radio, read the newspaper, or watch television. To Rashel, it seemed that everything contained something immoral. This media fast lasted seven years (2008-2014).
Also, As Rashel's preference for privacy became more transparent, my ability to film decreased. She would often say. "You do not have permission to film me." It was as though our lives, together, were divided into two parts: my property and her property. But as she monopolized our marriage, my freedom to film weakened until it was dead.
Where is Jonny?
She also cut off my social media presence. Because my friends and family, occasionally, used foul language or uploaded questionable photos, I was compelled to quit Myspace, Facebook, and e-mail. All contact with the outside world was filtered through Rashel.
Some may wonder why I was willing to comply to these absurd restrictions. Again, my logic was that a man should be willing to sacrifice everything for his spouse. I wanted to make Rashel happy. I did not want to argue.
Rashel felt that she was not obligated under the same media restrictions. As the female in the marriage, she believed her responsibility was to be the gatekeeper. She had to view the media so she knew what to censor. Because of this difference in our media diets, Rashel and I were moving in different directions.
One reason Rashel found the media so repulsive was that, in 2008, the LGBT movement was gaining momentum. This was the year of proposition 8. The gay issue was in movies, on the radio, in the newspaper, and on TV. A shift in opinion regarding same-sex marriage was taking place.
But I had no idea, because I had become blind to the media.
As a child I was told that I was different. I adopted the media as a way to relate to other people in society. But as my media fast continued, my ability to communicate with people shriveled. I became awkward. I felt alone.
The media is everywhere. Magazines are in the checkout stand at the grocery store. Movies are advertised on billboards on the freeway. I did not realize it, at the time, but the censorship of the media was the censorship of the world. As my depression grew, I no longer wanted to leave the house. My perception of realty was based on what Rashel said it was, and sometimes her stories were not accurate.
Below is a picture I drew during this lonely time in my life. I call it The Seven Year Gap.
A Mental Disability
It was at this time that I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD). Several doctors attested that I was the, single, worst case they had ever seen. They said it was a “miracle” that I graduated college, and for that matter, high school.
ADHD is a learning disability that effects a person's attention span as well as their ability to control their behavior. However, the disability comes with benefits as well, such as the ability to hyperfocus and solve problems in original ways.
When I learned of the diagnosis, I felt a sense of relief. My whole life, people told me I was different. Now, for the first time, I knew why. ADHD explained my challenges. It explained my gifts. For the first time, I felt like I had a handbook that explained the way I function.
Due to feelings of loneliness and alienation, I began writing a novel and immersed myself in a fictional world of my own creation.
Ataraxa is about a boy named Blitz who is magically taken to an island inhabited by all of the notable fiction and non-fiction characters from earth (Shakespeare, Long John Silver, Zeus, Einstein, etc.). All characters are stereo-typically segregated into one of several lands. Modeled after the the system of division that describes the Magic Kingdom in Disney World, every land in Ataraxa had a theme: western, haunted, oriental, fantasy, and so on. Each land is divided by boundaries that the characters are not allowed to cross. However, Blitz wreaks havoc as he plays matchmaker and romantically pairs couples from different territories.
The purpose of the book was to ask the reader why certain boundaries exist: racial, sexual, biological. But the heart of the book discussed the boundary that separates fact and fiction. Thus, at the conclusion of the novel, Blitz realizes he is in a virtual reality game and has fallen in love with a fictional character.
The novel sparked my interest in language and the process that toddlers go through when learning how to communicate for the first time. Because of this, in 2012, I applied for and was accepted into a graduate program at Brigham Young University in Utah (BYU). For the next three years I took graduate courses in mass communications.
Below is a downloadable sample of the type of work I did in graduate school. In this paper, me and two other students studied the influence Hollywood has on non-American cultures.
My educational breakthrough came when I discovered semiotics. Semiotics is a methodological approach to interpreting signs and symbols (the interpretation of meaning). It can be used to interpret stories with analogies, metaphors, or parables. I love semiotics is because I could use it to understand my two favorite subjects: film and religion.
Due to the nature of the field, media avoidance became difficult. In 2013, as part of an academic study, I watched my first movie in six years: Warm Bodies.
My goal was to analyze the film to show that Hollywood had secularized a Christian concept (the apocalypse). Instead, the study revealed that Warm Bodies could be interpreted as a parable of Jesus Christ disguised as a story about a zombie Romeo and Juliet. (Instead of Christians eating the body of Christ as the Eucharist, Christ is, literally, eating the brains of his followers.)
The results of the study surprised me. My whole life, I had been told that Hollywood was ignorant to Christianity. This analysis suggested otherwise. (The study is below in downloadable format.)
Later that year, I was given a grant to present the study at a conference in Washington D.C. It was awarded a prize by the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (AEJMC).
Rashel insisted on going with me to Washington D.C., but made the experience a nightmare. It was like she was trying to make me angry or prevent me from enjoying myself. In many ways, Rashel scared me. I did not always feel safe around my wife. I felt that she would not hesitate to crush me if the moment came when it was in her best interest.
I was told that I had to be married to get into heaven, but why did marriage feel like Hell? And why was Rachel so upset with me all the time? For the past six years I had done everything she wanted. I gave up my friends, my passions, my life. I sacrificed everything for her. Why couldn’t I make her happy? I wondered, what is the man’s responsibility in a marriage?
It was that summer, as the sun set, dancing with Rashel near a fountain in front of the cracked Washington Monument that I realized, we might not make it.
For a while, I considered nonprofit organizational (NPO) work as a career option. Previous to this, I had volunteered for the Boys and Girls Club, The Ronald McDonald House, and The Salvation Army. When an opportunity to intern for Feed The World opened, I jumped at the chance.
During the internship, I worked with a team to study how stories can be used to increase donations. My passion for this project led to my graduate thesis wherein I used semiotics to interpret pictures found on NPO websites.
In the thesis (below) I analyzed ways that NPO pictures influence viewers into donating money, even though it seems as though they are getting nothing in return. The purpose of the study was to improve the way charities use visual images to increase revenue.
It was while writing my graduate thesis, in December of 2013, that I saw Selena Gomez for the first time. Because of my media fast, I had no idea who Selena was. I had never heard her music or watched her television show. My introduction to Selena occurred when I visited the Salvation Army's homepage and saw this image: (Note: The original had violet highlights.)
At the time, Selena was supporting the Salvation Army through their red kettle campaign, but this image confused me. While most photographs used by charities to solicit donations feature children who are poor and hungry, this was an image of a rich teenage princess. Because I was unaware of her celebrity status, I did not know how the photo was suppose to convince people to donate money. When I asked a fellow student for help, he informed me that the girl was famous.
That week I gave a presentation to my class on the influence that celebrities have to change public behavior. The focus of the presentation was on Selena Gomez, who used her fame to support people in need.
When the presentation was finished, I forgot about Selena. I would not come across another image of her for almost a year.
This is when Things Get Weird
In 2014, as I approached the end of my graduate program, Rashel was pressuring me to apply for high paying occupations I did not want to do. I felt that I had to sacrifice to prove that I loved her, but my life was becoming a nightmare. How much can a man sacrifice before losing his identity?
By that time, my creativity had been bottled for so long that it was ready to explode. I began creating dioramas of miniature worlds. I invented a language. I sculpted life-size dinosaurs out of styrofome pool covers... Things were getting weird.
Burning my Novel
As I neared the publishing phase of my novel, I asked Rashel and Bishop Frank to read the book. They told me I had to censor multiple segments because my themes were not appropriate for a Christian audience. In particular, they told me to censor everything related to sex. Although none of my characters engaged in sexual relations, of any kind, the topic was discussed because I believe it is important. If Christianity wants to survive in the modern age, we need to talk about sex.
Even though sex was discussed in a mature educational way, Rashel and Bishop Frank told me I could not be a Christian and publish such a book. But the censorship would have changed the meaning of the story. I thought about publishing it in secret, under the name Jack Darkly, but even changing my name was a form of censorship.
At that time, I decided I would not allow anyone to censor my stories but me. Furthermore, if I was forced to censor one word, against my will, I would censor everything. Therefore, rather than publishing the book, late one night, I went to the back yard, in tears, and burned my story.
Finally, my misery convinced me to start watching movies again. Thus, in 2014, I ended my seven year media fast.
I felt like watching movies was the only thing I had control of in my life. But the guilt of lying to my wife was more than I could bare. It made me not want to be near her. Therefore, one evening, I told Rashel the truth. Then, as I confessed, I realized that the reason she was treating me so badly might have been because she was hiding a secret, as well.
Indeed, she was...
That evening, all of the problems in our marriage, suddenly, made sense. Rashel had been hiding pieces of the puzzle so I could not see the whole picture. She was censoring our story like she censored the media. She had cut out scenes that she felt were inappropriate, but the censorship changed the meaning of our marriage. As a result, Rashel and I were living two, very, different stories that only appeared the same on the surface.
What is Truth?
Although I had spent seven years listening to every word Rashel said by voice, somehow, I hadn’t heard anything. I had not been reading the signs and symbols of our story to see the hidden truths. Now, I did not know what parts of our marriage were real and what parts were fake.
I felt like the character in my novel who fell in love with a fictional woman. The Rashel that I knew was not real. I felt like the Biblical character Jacob when he woke up next to his wife Rachel only to realize that he had married a different woman. It was as though a switch had taken place. Where was the girl I thought I married?
The End of My Story
I offered solutions to repair our marriage, but the damage was irreversible. Rashel was miserable and felt that the only way she could find happiness was by getting rid of me. Furthermore, although her secret was grounds for divorce, she felt that she had not done anything wrong. That was the moment that I realized, for sure, that something was not right with Rashel.
But I felt that I was not in a position to criticize her. Although she had been lying to me, I had been lying to her. I made a promise to my wife that I would not watch movies. I broke that promise.
I felt that this was the end that my story deserved. When I was young, I was told to be loyal to Christianity. I was told to stay away from the media. Yet, my whole life, I had been having a love affair with Hollywood.
I Dream of Cheerios
That night, Rashel said that God wanted us to get a divorce. To me, that was absurd. Why would God make his followers get married then make us get divorced. Nonetheless, Rachel told me to pray about it. If nothing came of the prayer, she said I could continue to be believe that divorce was wrong. However, if God wanted the divorce, this was his chance to tell me. I agreed to Rashel's logic, and that evening, I asked God the question.
That same night, I had a dream where I was at Niagara falls. I was standing next to a well waiting for a girl. The girl approached and asked if I knew her name. It was the nonprofit singer that I had encountered a year ago: Selena Gomez.
Selena invited me into a cabin and explained that the world was about to end. She said that, in a few years, the news would announce that our world had reached a turning point. Then she said that I could prevent the extinction of mankind by uncovering an ancient writing method that was used by the creators of the Bible.
Then, Selena said she would show me the lost writing method on one condition: I could not show it to anyone until I found Selena and confirmed that the method is real. I agreed. Next, she dumped a box of Cheerios onto the table. Inside the Cheerios were letters that spelled a secret message...
Then, Selena told me that, within the week, Rashel would put me in jail. This would serve as a sign to let me know that this dream was from God. She also told me that after I was released from jail, I should not return to Rashel, but find Selena and show her the writing method.
A Second Opinion
When I awakened, I was in shock. It did not seem like a coincidence that that dream occurred the very night that I prayed for guidance. That morning, I told Rashel that I agreed to a divorce. She asked why I changed so suddenly. I told her that it seemed as though God had given me a direct answer to my prayer.
But I was skeptical of the dream; therefore, I scheduled an appointment with Bishop Frank to get a second opinion. Bishop Frank agreed with my previous argument: God does not support divorce (Matt.19:4-6). But I argued that the Bible is full separations (Matt. 19:9): Abraham banished his wife Hagar. Judah banished the mother of his children, Tamar. Jacob separated from Bilhah over Reuben. God, himself, took Mary from her fiancé Joseph. I said,
"Perhaps our understanding of marriage, as it relates to the Bible, is inaccurate."
I asked Bishop Frank to pray to God for a second opinion. He refused. He said asking God certain questions is unnecessary when the answer seems obvious: God would never allow divorce.
Then I remembered my friend Devon and how the Church leaders would not answer his questions either. It made me wonder, 'Are Mormon leaders really talking to God?' What makes them right and me wrong?
The Bible Code
After the dream, I researched writing methods in the Bible. The fact is, certain books of the Bible do, appear to be written using some kind of chiasm-like structure.
Furthermore, in the 90s, Professor Eli Rips, one of the leading scholars of group theory, published a study that suggests that the words and numbers used in the Bible seem to be written according to some kind of pattern. He called it the Bible code. However, as of now, no one understands how this method works or why it was used.
When I told Bishop Frank about the dream and suggested that I might have the key to understanding how this method works, he asked why the Mormon prophets did not already know the method and why they were not using it to create stories, today. He reasoned that it can only mean one of two things: Either I am a prophet, and the Mormon Church is wrong… or I am wrong. And if I am wrong about the writing method, then I am probably wrong about God telling me to get a divorce.
I agreed with the bishop's logic.
The Right to Remain Silent?
That night, I told Rashel I was having second thoughts about separating. This led to the worst argument we had ever had. I shouted at her and said that her secrets have destroyed our marriage and I don’t know how to fix it. As I yelled, she used her phone to film me in secret, then said, if I don’t divorce her, she will put the footage online and show the world what kind of monster I am. At that moment I yelled,
“YOU DO NOT HAVE PERMISSION TO FILM ME!”
Then, I took her phone, broke it into two pieces, and ran out of the house (that was the last time I ever touched a telephone).
After a few hours, I returned home to apologize to Rashel. When I arrived, an officer was waiting for me. He accused me of beating my wife and demanded that I tell my side of the story. I shut my mouth and said I wanted a lawyer. He said that in cases of physical abuse, I do not have that right. Then, as a representative of U.S. law, the police officer told me that, in this situation,
I do NOT have the right to remain silent. When I refused to speak, he handcuffed me and took me to jail.
Jonny goes to Jail
In jail, I was in shock. I could not believe that Rashel told people I physically abused her. I reasoned that I could not return to Rashel because her lies posed a threat to my freedom and safety.
I was also in shock that the prediction from my dream came true. Selena said Rashel would send me to jail. And now, I was in jail. I was freaking out! What was happening to me?
That night, I had my second dream. Again, in the dream, I was visited by Selena Gomez. She told me she would show me a writing method used by the creators of the Bible if I promised not to show it to anyone until I found Selena and confirmed that the method was real. I agreed. This time, she, actually, showed me the method and how it works. Then she told me that, as a sign that this message was from God, I would be released from jail the next day. She told me not to return to Rashel, but to find Selena. (Gen. 41:32)
Am I Crazy?
The next day, On Oct 1st, 2014, I was released from jail. With no home to return to, I had become homeless. Rashel, immediately, began destroying my name. She told people that I had abused her, that I thought I could speak with God, and that I had been viewing pornography (her word for any Hollywood movie not rated G). To confirm her report, Bishop Frank agreed that I had been acting strange.
That week, I found a room in the university that I could sleep in without anyone knowing. Because of the dream, I considered voluntarily admitting myself into a program for mental illness. However, I reasoned that the medical field does not have a method for differentiating crazy from prophetic. People thought Noah was crazy, and John the Baptist, and Jesus Christ. What is it that separates someone who believes he can speak with God from someone who, really, can? I reasoned that Bishop Frank was right when he said, the truth of my situation boils one thing:
Does the Bible follow a writing method, and can I replicate it?
As I settled into my secret home in the school, I compared the method that Selena showed me in the dream with the way the creators of the Bible wrote... It was real!
For the next three months I studied this method, trying understand why it was created and why it was important.
I Have to Find Selena
Dreams are manifestations of our subconscious mind that use symbols to communicate messages to our conscious mind. But the symbols are not, necessarily, suppose to be taken literally. If a boy has a dream about female celebrity, it could mean a lot of things. It does not necessarily mean I have to literally locate Selena Gomez.
For this reason, I was confused as to what I was, actually, suppose to do with this writing method.
Then, in December of 2014, I had the third dream. Again, I was met by Selena Gomez. To paraphrase, Selena told me that because the Biblical writing method is literal, making contact with Selena is also literal. She repeated that I had to find her and teach her this writing method.
The Lottery Ticket
As reality seemed to merge with fiction, two questions weighed, heavily, on my mind. The first question was:
If a Biblical writing method does, in fact, exist, wouldn't it be discovered by a Jewish professor, a mathematician, or a religious leader? With seven billion people on the planet, why me?
My answer to this question is this: When I was a teenager, I made a promise to God that, after I died, I would tell him a story worth listening to. What I did not know, at that time, was that stories follow rules. Language is based on regulation. Communication is based on agreements humans make that connect us to one another. Thus, I believe, in order to keep my promise, God expects me to tell my story using His rules.
But the answer to my second question would take several years to learn:
Why Selena Gomez?...
In December of 2014, I took the last 1000 dollars that I owned, bought a used car, and drove to Hollywood, California to find Selena Gomez.
To continue my story, click on the banner below.