Sunday, October 12, 2014

LDS Movie "Meet The Mormons" Ranks Number 10 On First Day Of Release; Documentary Or Infomercial?

The heavily-promoted "Meet the Mormons", a new documentary-style movie from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ranked No. 10 in box office sales nationwide in its first day of release on Friday October 10th, 2014. According to the Deseret News, the movie was the number one film in over 100 locations, with sold-out showings reported in Salt Lake City, New York City, Detroit, Miami, Las Vegas, Dallas, Phoenix and other cities. LDS Church spokesman Eric Hawkins said Saturday this was the first time the church has managed a theatrical release of this kind, and church leaders are pleased with the response to the movie. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland discussed the movie in a video released in advance:

The movie, which portrays the personal stories of six diverse Mormons and their families, opened in 317 theaters across the country on Friday. And they are not familiar celebrities like Mitt Romney and Donnie Osmond; instead. the list includes Jermaine Sullivan, a Black bishop in Atlanta; Ken Niumatalolo, head football coach at the Naval Academy; Carolina Muñoz Marin, a Costa Rican kickboxer; Bishnu Adhikari, an engineer who organizes humanitarian projects in the Himalayas; Dawn Armstrong, a missionary mother in Utah who struggled as a homeless single parent; and Gail Halvorsen, the legendary "candy bomber" during the Berlin airlift the followed World War II. All net proceeds from the movie are being given to the American Red Cross.

Senior LDS leaders pushed the membership hard to get the word out in advance, and there are some reports that some stakes tasked their wards to send up to 15 members to attend showings of the movie in their area. But senior LDS leaders practiced what they preached; exercising leadership from the front, Elders Jeffrey R. Holland and David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve, accompanied by other prominent Mormons, attended a special advance screening of the documentary presented at the Jordan Commons Theatre in Sandy, Utah on Tuesday October 7th. Elder Holland characterized it as a wonderful, sweet, extended personal testimony, about faith, goodness, change, and the future. He added that it’s everything the gospel stands for. Elder Bednar was nearly as effulgent, saying that it’s not about the church as an institution, but about the people and how the gospel of Jesus Christ transforms their lives. He considers it quite remarkable.

Some LDS members expressed some misgivings about the possibility that substance may have taken a back seat to style, even though the primary target audience is Gentiles (non-Mormons). Some pertinent comments (after the jump):

andyjaggy American Fork, UT 10:38 a.m. Oct. 9, 2014 (Deseret News):

I guess it's just me, but I have been feeling that we are tooting our own horns a bit too much lately. Hey! Look at me!!!! I'm a Mormon!!!! Pay attention to me!!!! I'm not really that strange!!!! Mormon pop culture? I guess we do have something to prove these days, but it still bothers me a bit. It's probably just me.

Meckofahess Salt Lake City, UT 1:52 p.m. Oct. 9, 2014 (Deseret News):


No its not just you brother. I appreciate the Church wanting be able to tell its own story and not just leave it to the media to tell it for us(sometimes inaccurately). But this movie does appear to be a promotional. I understand it does little to explain the doctrine of the Church, or show how we are really any different than other good people in the world. But as a "missionary church" with what we believe is an important message to share, it stands to reason that the Church will always employ what ever positive means are available to it to get the message out. In my opinion it is valuable to share information about people who are contributing in a positive way to the world, be they Mormons, Catholics or members of other faith systems.

Some non-Mormon reviewers went further, characterizing the movie as an "infomercial". But more positive reviews were posted on the LDS Freedom Forum. A couple of good examples:

Thoughts After the Meet the Mormons Premiere
Postby TannerG » Wed Oct 08, 2014 8:10 pm

Last night I attended the Meet the Mormons premiere in Sandy. While I dislike such events, I wanted to say something about the film itself.

I admit I have been somewhat cynical about the movie. But as I watched, my feelings changed a bit. The people featured in the movie are examples of the millions who have been able to leave behind the darkness and walk toward the light through contact with the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. I feel that the movie will inspire hope and love of God in the people who see it.

It has been said that even if Christ knew He would only save one person, He still would have gone through the agony of Atonement. After seeing the movie, I think that the same might be true about it. If one person is able to turn from a life of sin and darkness and go to the Savior as a result of seeing this movie, the cost will have been worth it. I don't want this to turn into a thread about church expenses and whatnot. I just wanted to express the feelings I have had.

Re: Thoughts After the Meet the Mormons Premiere
Post by AI2.0 » Sat Oct 11, 2014 12:49 pm

I went to see 'Meet the Mormons' last night. Excellent, I really enjoyed it.

And, since I have seen the movie, I will tell you my opinion of why the church spent the money and took the time to make this movie.

It is to open the doors for the missionaries. It is to dispel the many rumors that the media(through entertainment) continue to push that we are an odd ball cult that doesn't drink and has multiple wives and oppresses women and is racist or we're just the 7th day adventists.

I would say that the movie does a great job of highlighting a handful of unique LDS members and it will go a long way in softening the hearts of any who see it. I don't expect the movie will garner large audiences in the theatre, but that doesn't matter--it only has to touch some hearts and influence some people to be effective.

And, when the theatre run is over, they'll put it on Netflix, Hulu, etc. and more people will watch it--some simply out of curiosity, or because the spirit urges them to watch it--and it will soften more hearts and make people curious or long to have the kind of love and happiness these people have in their lives and they will be more open to listening to the missionaries or seeking out the church to learn more about it.

When the missionaries approach a person who has seen the movie, they will be more likely to allow them to talk to them and it will give them more information and reason to ask questions.

I could see that this movie was inspired and will go a long way to soften hearts.

For those who criticize the church for making this movie: One part of the four fold mission is proclaiming the gospel--this movie facilitates that. No question at all.

Considering that the movie is geared more specifically towards non-Mormons and is not intended as a proselytization tool, it accomplishes its mission.

1 comment:

Ben L. Kemer said...

The way that I see it: This film may be yet another feature played at the Visitors' Centers. I consider it a documentary as a film. Informercials are prolonged broadcasts. It follows a documentary format: outlines topics in the form of questions, than goes topic by topic, with each family being a topic.