Kurt was cool. He said his dad would let us dig holes at his house so I and other neighborhood boys started hanging out with him. Kurt was a little older than me and so I looked up to him just like an older brother. He was a major influence in my life for the next ten years, or until at least 1974 when I went away to college.
The influence of friends
My dad didn’t like Kurt at all. Looking back now I can’t say that I blame him but I didn’t understand it at the time. Kurt had long hair and he looked sideways at you because he had one bad eye. He seemed to have a general disrespect for authority figures in society. That showed openly in the way he interacted with other people.
Kurt was a rebel from the word go. He wore a denim jacket with “The Mighty Quinn” embroidered on the back. I had no idea what that meant. I think it may have had something to do with the underground drug culture that had spilled down from the Bay area to Southern California in the late sixties and early seventies.
Kurt’s parents seemed very easy-going and laid-back. Mine were very strict and were often uptight, or at least I thought my mother was. Kurt’s mom worked at a bank and my mother taught at a local elementary school. I didn’t interact much with Kurt’s dad but he seemed very permissive and gave Kurt a lot of things.
I don’t know why kids compare parenting styles but I guess we all do. We usually don’t realize how much our parents do for us until we get older. For the longest time I wanted my parents to be more like Kurt’s. They gave him cool stuff and he would share it with us. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t stuff that my parents liked.
Introduction to vices
For example, one day a bunch of us were hanging out behind the local department store. There was a little spot between the school and the store where they kept the trash bins. We used to sit on the high brick wall around it from which we had a good view of all the kids in the schoolyard. It was our cool place to sit and talk.
One day Kurt popped out a hard pack of Marlboro cigarettes and lit one up. We all watched in amazement. He did it so nonchalantly like he had done it many times. OK, we were all impressed, including me. Remember, I looked up to Kurt like an older brother. I wanted to be just like him. What he did, I did. That was the rule.
The cultural influence
I can’t tell you how many times my parents banned me from hanging with Kurt. Apparently, every time I got sassy with my folks it was after I had been with him. I didn’t get the connection then, but it was very obvious to them. Without doing anything, Kurt was blamed for a lot of my teenage rebelliousness growing up.
You see, Kurt was a product of the sixties. He was just doing that which came naturally as a result of growing up in a society that promoted cultural dissent. We were on the tail-end of the Hippie movement. Hippies criticized the middle-class values that my parents exemplified and rejected established institutions we upheld.
The Hippie movement
Hippies embraced Eastern religions, championed sexual liberation and promoted the use of psychedelic drugs and psychedelic rock. They opposed nuclear weapons and war, and even nuclear power in general. They opposed political and social orthodoxy and rejected doctrinal ideology while seeking new meaning and value.
They favored peace, love, and personal freedom, perceiving the dominant culture as a corrupt, monolithic entity that exercised undue power over their lives. For hippies, it was “whatever” and “anything goes” as long as you don’t hurt anybody else. My friend Kurt epitomized this culture and I absorbed it from his influence.
Sex, drugs and Rock ‘n Roll
Kurt introduced me to music that I had never heard before. I was so sheltered that I didn’t even have a TV or radio in my home growing up. Now I was listening to groups like Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, The Who, Black Sabbath, Blue Oyster Cult, Electric Light Orchestra, Emerson Lake and Palmer, Pink Floyd and Yes.
You can argue that these bands made some great music and I won’t disagree. But what went along with that music was the promotion of illicit sex and drugs. I think you can also call it the great American party scene. It was prevalent when I was in high school and it still is today, but most powerfully expressed in the rock concert.
Great and spacious building
If there is anything that helps me visualize the great and spacious building as it was described by Nephi in the vision shown him by the angel, it is the rock concert. Of course, not all bands or songs at a rock concert fall into this category. But from my experience, the large crowds and abundant drug use constitutes vain imaginations.
In my case, I discovered it firsthand on April 6, 1974, the date of the California Jam and the last rock concert I ever attended. If you think about the date, you would be right in pointing out that it was the Saturday that we sustained President Kimball as the Lord’s prophet. Yes, I should have been somewhere else that day.
A lost generation
As I wandered around the festival that day I was overwhelmed with the number of young people that I saw wasted on drugs and so totally out of it. I had an awakening there and slowly came to realize that I no longer wanted to be a part of this great and spacious building. My eyes were being opened and it was not a pleasant sight.
I saw so many young people burned out and losing their ability to focus because of the drugs. So many lost their virtue and with it their desire to create things that are good or lasting. They went on to be has-beens and dropouts. Some made it into mainstream society as they got older but the glory days of their youth were gone.
Turning away from the world
The ideals and idealism of the hippie movement had never been realized and never would be. It was all a big lie, perpetuated by the biggest liar of them all. That was the feeling I had as I left this group and entered into the world of living the gospel and preparing for my mission, temple marriage and a life of service in the church.
My repentance was not easy. I had only been away from the church for less than a year but it felt like forever. I had to work for years to overcome the effects of that world. I still bear some of those scars today. Some of the music from those days brings back painful memories that I don’t want to relive. I had been badly burned.
Deception of the adversary
In the great and spacious building are found many people who are in the attitude of mocking those who have partaken of the fruit. I’m sure you have seen this attitude firsthand. I know I have. When I left that building and found my way back to the iron rod, the attitude of mocking became more visible and much easier to discern.
While some are very direct in their mocking, labeling believers in God and Christ as fools or worse, it has been my experience that most are just going along with the crowd. The entire hippie cultural movement of the late sixties and early seventies was nothing more than another attempt by the adversary to deceive God’s children.
Summary and conclusion
I know this isn’t a particularly uplifting or inspiring essay but I’ve wanted to write it for a long time. I was greatly influenced by the American pop cultural of the late sixties and especially the early seventies, when I was in high school. The hippie movement simply did not deliver the promised enlightenment that so many sought.
Unfortunately, the influence of those days has been integrated into our culture and society. It is hard to be in the world and yet not of it when so much of our world has been corrupted by the false values of the hippie movement. The attitude of mocking followers of God is just one of the more blatant results of that movement.