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Millcreek Journal

Winders connect Hollywood lines with spiritual beliefs in new book

Jan 05, 2024 11:05AM ● By Tom Haraldsen

Grace and Mike Winder, the daughter-father team that produced “Hidden in Hollywood.” (Photo courtesy of Winder family)

For Mike Winder, it started as a college project. He was working on his honors thesis while studying history at the University of Utah, and he had no idea that it would turn into a book. But the story of his pioneer ancestor John R. Winder, who came to Utah from England, started Winder Dairy, became the “father” of the Utah State Fair and was later in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

From that single thesis, Winder has become the published author of 14 books, his latest being “Hidden in Hollywood: The Gospel Found in 1,001 Movie Quotes.”

“I’d always loved writing, and I found that after I did one book, you realize that hey, wait a minute, I can do more,” he said. “I also love movies. So for the last few years, I collected quotes from some of my favorites. I thought they could make a good book—tying some of Hollywood’s most famous lines into quotes or stories I’ve heard in church.”

It was an ambitious project, taking over two years to complete. He knew he could use some extra help, so he turned to his 16-year-old daughter Grace who became his research assistant.

“My dad said he wanted to write another book, and I asked him if I could help out with it,” Grace said. “We used a Google Excel sheet to pull out movie quotes and relate them to talks we’d heard in church General Conference or in lessons. Then we started compiling the book.”

“It’s been a lovely Sunday afternoon hobby,” Mike said. “Some people like to binge watch Netflix, some people like to go golfing. I like to write books in my La-Z-Boy.”

Mike Winder has been active in local politics for years. He was mayor and on the city council in West Valley City and served in the Utah State Legislature. He currently is city manager for Millcreek.

"In this new book, Mike seeks out the gospel principles to be found in cinema. There are topics and quotes from sci-fi, romance, thrillers, the classics, action films, Westerns, and more," said Doug Wright, former host of KSL's “Movie Show,” in the book's foreword. "Although a compilation of wonderful quotes is certainly enjoyable and entertaining, it's the thoughtful commentary tying it all together with gospel insights that completes the book's purpose.”

The book was a great opportunity for Grace, who is a sophomore at Granger High School, to embellish her own desire to write.

“I’ve always loved writing in my classes, and just helping out with this book has spiked my interest in writing and maybe to become a journalist,” she said.

“I tell my kids, this is my Minecraft, this is my Legos set. It’s fun to build and create things,” Mike said. “It’s fun to push a boulder up the hill and look and say, ‘Wow, we have come a long way.’”

He said there are many times when he watches a movie and hears a quote or lyric that resonates with a teaching he’s heard at church. He cites an article he read in UtahValley360 magazine titled, “Who Said It: Dieter or Dumbledore?” referring to a series of quotes that could connect to either a Latter-day Saint apostle or the wizard from “Harry Potter.”

“It dawned on me that there are a lot of cases where a line made in a movie could be a little nugget of gospel wisdom,” he said. “That’s when I began in earnest to write down lines or words that resonated with me.”

“Hidden in Hollywood” is organized into 19 chapters with titles and subject matters such as “Lesson on Life” to “Death and Beyond.” Because most scripts are online now, Mike and Grace found them very searchable. The book also contains illustrations created by AI–unique drawings to the book that cannot be completely duplicated.

It was the chapter on death and beyond that spoke to Mike, who lost his mother 12 years ago in a car accident, and has lost other family members in recent years.

“Sometimes the movie quotes summarize everything nicely—whatever you believe,” he said. “In ‘Mary Poppins Returns,’ Emily Blunt said this, ‘Trust she’s always there, watching as you grow. Find her in the place where the lost things go.’”

They said some things in writing this book never turned out exactly the way they first envisioned them, but in a lot of ways, they turned out better. Grace just wants people to find joy in the words of “Hidden in Hollywood.”

“I hope that people can read it and learn something from it,” she said. “It’s a happy book. If you read a chapter of this book every night then you’ll be happier. It helps a lot spiritually and just in general.” λ