What's up with Jesus's hands?
We have three kids ages 6 and under. Time out as a couple is rare and fleeting. Movie theaters are virtually out of the question. But when the first two episodes of The Chosen hit the box office last month, my wife and I made sure to go. I loved it. Watching those episodes was a wonderful experience.
Until I ruined it.
Spoilers ahead, you've been warned.
The non-healing of Little James
The Chosen depicts the Apostle James (the one who wasn't the son of Zebedee, pictured above) as having a physical disability. "Little James," as he's called, struggles to walk, relying on a cane to get around. This disability isn't just acting, either– Jordan Ross, the actor who plays "Little James," has a host of medical challenges and disabilities and that's his legitimate limp. James watched Jesus heal hundreds of others, but Jesus never offered to heal him, and James is nervous to broach the subject, himself. But as season 3 starts, Jesus commissions James and his fellow Quorum members to travel through Judea, preaching and healing as Jesus did. James finally approaches Jesus privately to talk about the deep longing of his heart to be healed, especially now that he has been commanded to heal others.
This conversation between the Master and this humble Apostle is extremely moving, a real tear-jerker, and one of the most tender moments in the show… or so I've been told. See, I wasn't actually paying attention during that part. Or rather, I was paying a little too much attention during that part.
This scene depicts Jesus and James standing in a secluded place, speaking face-to-face. This scene alternates mostly between two camera angles: one looking at James from behind Jesus, and one looking at Jesus from behind James.
It was obviously filmed over several takes. Between takes, the actor playing Jesus seems to have moved his hands to a different position. This creates a continuity error in the final version of the scene. One moment, you see Jesus from behind with His clasped behind…
… and the very next moment, mid-sentence, you see Him face-on with His hands clasped in front…
Back and forth the camera jumps and Jesus's hands magically jumping from front to back, from back to front.
Once this jarring error caught my eye, I could think of nothing else. I was preoccupied with thoughts like:
- Was the space they were in too small to fit multiple cameras, forcing them to stitch multiple takes like this?
- Why didn't they notice this error in postproduction? Or did they notice but decide to keep it despite the error?
- They have a few weeks before this episode goes live in the app, I wonder if they will correct this error before then?
- Would this have happened if they weren't on such a tight budget and timeline?
- This is a good example of how even a simple thing like hand placement could break the magic of the movie.
Before I knew it, that scene was completed. Many in the audience were holding back tears. They were absorbed by Jesus's words and pondered on the infirmities in their lives they, too, wished were healed. Meanwhile, I was absorbed by a minor continuity error and pondered what tool in the editing program might best fix it.
I missed out on major meaning because I was focused on a minor mistake.
Others who miss on major meaning because of minor mistakes
As I've pondered on this experience in the movie theater, many other examples have come to my mind:
Nathaniel Hawthorne's short story, "The Birth-Mark," tells of a scientist who becomes obsessed with the small birthmark on his otherwise perfect wife. He concocts a remedy to remove her birthmark. It succeeds in bleaching away her birthmark but kills her in the process.
Elder Uchtdorf told of a flight crew who became so obsessed with diagnosing a small burnt-out indicator light that they accidentally crashed the plane, killing more than 100 people in the process (link).
Elder Hallstrom recounted one Church member who lost faith in his Church leaders because they had misspelled his name on his mission call letter. He eventually apostatized and even violently attacked the Prophet Joseph (link).
Thomas B. Marsh's bitter apostasy famously started over a disagreement between his wife and their neighbor over a few pints of milk (I first heard this story from Pres. Monson in 2009).
Another family apostatized because they watched Joseph Smith emerge from his translation room and immediately start playing with his children. They believed a real prophet would not behave in such an undignified fashion (link).
I like the parable Elder Renlund shared a few years back about a man whose boat capsized, stranding him at sea. Many hours after he capsized, hungry and dehydrated, a fisherman spots him, pulls him into his fishing boat, gives the stranded sailor crackers and water, and starts for shore. At first, the rescued man is grateful. But within a few minutes, he takes his food, water, and safety for granted. His attention shifts to the partial deafness of the captain, the staleness of the crackers, and the dents and peeling paint of the hull. He becomes so fixated on these imperfections and the fisherman's seeming indifference to them that he loses confidence in the fisherman as a capable rescuer and jumps back in the water.
We've seen many members jump overboard these past few years. Some jumped ship because of Elder Holland's "musket" analogy. Some left when the Church required masks, others when the mandate ended. Some lost their testimony of revelation because leaders called the vaccine "safe and effective." Others feel betrayed by the Church's support for the "Respect for Marriage" law. Members on both sides of the political aisle have abundant opportunities to take offense and abandon the "Old Ship Zion."
We all acknowledge that Church leadership has sometimes made mistakes in the way policies and communications are administered. But I believe Saints in future decades will scoff at such nitpicking today the same way we scoff at previous Saints for going upset over typos and a few cups of milk. The restoration is messy, and that's okay.
The first two episodes of The Chosen season 3 will be released publicly, so I'll get a second chance to watch that moment I missed. Maybe they've corrected the consistency issue with Jesus's hands. Or maybe not. This time, I'm determined not to care. I'm not going to miss out on major meaning by focusing on minor mistakes. Not again.