Why Yoda wasn’t based on Mormon prophet Spencer W. Kimball

Yoda and Spencer Kimball (Wikipedia Commons)
They may have looked similar, but Yoda was not designed after LDS Church President Spencer W. Kimball. Photo courtesy Wikipedia Commons

Bubble burst, a Mormon myth is.

The look of “Star Wars'” Yoda was not based on former LDS church president Spencer W. Kimball.

Rather, the Jedi Master was based upon Albert Einstein and perhaps Stuart Freeborn, the designer.

Yoda designer Stuart Freeborn. (The creator is on the right, in case you were not sure.) Photo courtesy The New York Times

(Check out these articles from mental_floss, BBC and Slate. And The New York Times said it well: “When George Lucas asked him to create a centuries-old Jedi master, Stuart Freeborn took a long look in the mirror.”)

The fact figured into Travis Gettys’ recent RawStory piece titled “Nobody loves Star Wars more than Mormons — and here’s why“:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, perhaps more than any other religion, has embraced “Star Wars” — and many Mormons are convinced that the Jedi Master Yoda is based on a former church leader.

A rumor has circulated since the 1980 release of “The Empire Strikes Back,” the movie franchise’s second film but fifth installment, that Yoda was modeled after Spencer Kimball, who led the church from 1974 to 1985, reported the Washington Post.

Some Mormons thought Kimball resembled the tiny Jedi Master who trained Luke Skywalker — albeit without green skin — and made similar wise but cryptic pronouncements.

Kimball, for example, was known for urging Mormons to not just believe in their faith, but to “do it,” while Yoda advised Luke to “do, or do not.”

Yoda’s designer, Stuart Freeborn, never mentioned Kimball as an inspiration, but instead seems to have modeled the character after Albert Einstein.

Utah led the nation in “Star Wars”-related Google searches from Dec. 10-17, with its highly Mormon residents being about 25 percent more likely to seek out information online about the movie franchise than Californians, the next closest competitor.

The state also placed two movie theaters in the top 10 nationally — South Jordan at No. 7 and Jordan Commons at No. 10 — on the opening weekend for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

The church has always been open to science fiction — and even Mormons agree their theology displays some elements of speculative fiction.

“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,” said Mormon sci-fi author Shannon Hale.


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