In Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986), the crew find themselves in 1980’s San Francisco, and promptly realize that they are perceived as socially awkward. Kirk, in an apparent effort to explain the behavior of Spock, comments

“Oh, him? He’s harmless. Part of the free speech movement at Berkeley in the sixties. I think he did a little too much LDS.”

Obviously, Kirk had intended to refer to the drug LSD rather than “LDS,” and I've always understood this as an out-of-universe joke about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who sometimes refer to themselves as “LDS.” The joke seems to work both because the LDS have a reputation in comedy of being somewhat socially awkward and also maintain a strong stand against drug use.

This strikes me as odd, as Star Trek has historically avoided cheap religious jokes in favor of broader stories hinting at religious themes.

Is there any official word or other strong indication as to whether this was the intended meaning of this joke? In other words, does Kirk mess this up solely because he is not familiar enough with 20th century US culture or did Paramount and/or Shatner intend to drop a “Mormon joke” into the script?

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    imo I don't think it's a joke targeting the LDS church, but just a fish out of water joke in that he is trying to use an acronym and gets it wrong
    – NKCampbell
    Commented Dec 13, 2019 at 17:57
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    How recent is the LDS Church's insistence on using that abbreviation? My first thought is that most movie viewers in the 1980's likely wouldn't even think to associate "LDS" with "the Mormons." Commented Dec 13, 2019 at 19:51
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    Perhaps LSD will help Commented Dec 15, 2019 at 12:25
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    I saw this back when it came out as a young person and I always thought it was a bit of a double-entendre. There's no way that nobody in the production of the movie considered the mormon reference.
    – JVC
    Commented Dec 15, 2019 at 17:43
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    I think it was a sort of double-joke. Kirk was attempting to say that Spock's behavior was due to use of LSD, but because Kirk was not completely comfortable with 1980's slang he said "LDS" instead of "LSD", and thus appeared just as awkward as Spock. I don't recall having heard the term "LDS" before this movie came out - members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints were always referred to as "Mormons" when I was growing up. Commented Dec 16, 2019 at 2:25

3 Answers 3


No, the point is that Kirk, despite having an interest in 20th Century history, is still largely ignorant of the finer details. He's dredging up half-forgotten memories in what the original script describes as an "inspiration" moment.

KIRK: He's harmless. (inspiration) Back in the sixties he was part of the Free Speech movement at Berkeley. I think he did too much LDS.

GILLIAN: LDS?? Are you dyslexic on top of everything else? Come on, Lemme give you a lift. I have a notorious weakness for hard luck cases -- that's why I work with whales.

The analogy would be you trying to convince someone you were from the 17th Century by talking about the works of Francis Sausage.

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    that's SIR Francis Sausage to you
    – NKCampbell
    Commented Dec 13, 2019 at 18:11
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    I don't think that a religious joke is out of the question even if this is the "plain" meaning. It could be a double entendre. However, I wonder how likely it would be that most of the audience would associate LDS with Mormons, particularly in the 80s.
    – Adamant
    Commented Dec 13, 2019 at 18:17
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    @Adamant - It struck me as being a very obvious fish out of temporal water gag
    – Valorum
    Commented Dec 13, 2019 at 18:18
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    That's why I mention double entendre. You see this a ton in childrens movies, where the plain meaning of a joke might be plot-related but the secondary meaning is a popular culture joke. Like in Zootopia where the primary joke is that sloths are slow (plot related and something many children will know) and the secondary one is that DMVs are slow.
    – Adamant
    Commented Dec 13, 2019 at 18:20
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    Or indeed, calling yourself Ford Prefect… Commented Dec 16, 2019 at 6:45

The dyslexic comment indicates that he was aiming for 'LSD' and arrived at 'LDS'. No Mormons were harmed in the creation of this joke.

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    This doesn't exclude the possibility of a twofer, making a joke about both misremembered language and contemporary religion.
    – Nij
    Commented Dec 14, 2019 at 7:55
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    No, but it's vanishingly unlikely. Even the question points out that it would be wildly unusual for Star Trek; it's also hard to see how it would fit into the narrative of the characterisations or even the joke itself in any meaningful way. Commented Dec 14, 2019 at 12:20
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    @Nij Berkeley was an epicenter of the acid(LSD)-fuelled hippy movement in the '60s - this is entirely the point of the joke. There is absolutely nothing in this to do with mormons whatsoever.
    – J...
    Commented Dec 16, 2019 at 16:51
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    @J... Exactly. Calling it LDS is like calling marijuana 'hash browns'.
    – Carduus
    Commented Dec 16, 2019 at 20:32

Star Trek went out of its way to be inclusive when it was not popular to do so. By hiring cast members of many races and cultures they invited their audience to see inclusivity in the everyday running of the show. To go out of their way to create a joke at the expense of a religious group seems to be out of character for the writers and executives. I doubt that there was any intentional tie to the Mormons in this exchange.

"But Star Trek has a more profound aspect to its legacy, too. Series creator, producer and writer Gene Roddenberry’s vision of a future Earth society that is at peace, with humans working together to explore the galaxy and acquire knowledge, was a beacon of hope amidst the turmoil of the late 1960s.

And especially in its Utopian vision of racial and cultural harmony, Star Trek boldly went where no TV show had gone before." ( https://www.sbs.com.au/guide/article/2016/09/08/how-star-trek-broke-down-racial-and-cultural-boundaries-50-years-ago )

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    I suspect that it was intended as a joke referencing the religion, but not as a cheap shot, or at least not an insulting one. Partially because as a member of the LDS church (or to be more accurate, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints), I find it funny, as has every other member of the church that I've seen it with.
    – Itinerati
    Commented Dec 15, 2019 at 4:40
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    @Itinerati What makes you think it has anything to do with the church? I see zero evidence for it or reason to suspect it. Commented Dec 16, 2019 at 12:32
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    Largely because the joke is a lot funnier that way, and I think the writers of 'The Voyage Home' were pretty good at their job. It's clear that Kirk was meaning to say 'LSD', but he instead said the one iteration of the acronym that would have meant something to a person in 1986. And when LDS (a conservative church) is juxtaposed with UC Berkeley (a liberal university), the joke is even better. It seems unlikely that it was an accident that no-one caught, with the acronym being reasonably well known, even if it's not exactly famous. If they didn't want the joke, they would have used SLD.
    – Itinerati
    Commented Dec 17, 2019 at 16:51

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