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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Best Two Years

There was a transfer on my mission where I served with a companion who didn't know why he was on a mission. He didn't enjoy working particularly. He wouldn't stop listening to his favorite music from back home. He didn't get what a mission was. Did this make him a bad missionary? Of course not. He had one trait that redeemed him of all of his inadequacies. He cared about people. That one trait, in and of itself made him successful in my eyes. I saw how important it was to gain relationships of trust where members, missionaries, and everyone else could trust that this Elder would treat them right. This impacted my perception of what it meant to be a missionary.  I created a loose theory of missionary work. I called it "getting it". Missionaries who "got it" were successful. Those who did not would fail no matter what they did. The question in my mind was, "What does it mean to get it". By the end of my mission I understood that getting it was different for each missionary. For some it was learning to work hard, day in and day out. For some it was learning that submission to mission rules brought peace and comfort in their lives. Yet for others it was learning that each individual is more than just a statistic to be analyzed by the office elders.
The Best Two Years is a film about "getting it". Elder Rogers may not have been the hardest worker, but he understood the importance of people.  Elder VanPelt was an aspiring Elder who didn't get anything. Elder Johnson understood the value of hard work, but he didn't understand the importance of supporting his peers. Finally Elder Calhoon got a lot of it. He understood how and why to work; he understood the importance of people. He didn't, however, understand the importance of his role in the mission field. This film is about understanding both the strengths and weaknesses that we each have. It's about understanding the roles that we play. It's about understanding our identity.

This is at the heart of my definition of cinematic transcendence. Without knowledge of who we are and why we are here there can be no real success because there can be no progression.
This identity is also central to Mormon theology. Even from the beginning of the world we believe that it is important to understand who we are and what our relationship to Deity is. Lucifer was cast out of the heavens because he didn't understand his relationship with God. He sought to rise about God and commanded Him saying, "surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor." This account illustrates "the significance of sacred narratives, often called creation myths, for the expression and maintenance of cultural identity" (Olsen, 90). When the Elders in The Best Two Years understood who they were and what their weaknesses and strengths were they became infinitely more effective and productive. They became a force for good. Mormon identity is rooted in self-identity. Scott Anderson and nearly every member of the church know this. It is central to everything that Mormons do.

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