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Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Book of Mormon Movie

When my professor found out that The Book of Mormon Movie not only made the top ten grossing LDS films, but also ranked fourth in the list she was shocked. After a bit of a debate about the credibility of my sources she was convinced and proclaimed that I have suffered more than any other student she has known. To be completely honest I agree with her. Prior to my recent viewing of this film there have only been two films that I've found so obscene that I've turned off during the viewing. The Home Teachers and The Book of Mormon Movie. I've been dreading this film since I started the project. I wish that I could say that this viewing changed my perception of the film, but it didn't.

I did, however, find something extremely interesting about this viewing. I found myself thinking about The Book of Mormon itself. More than any other unique factor of Mormon identity The Book of Mormon sets it apart from any other identity in the world. It is "the keystone to our religion" (Ezra Taft Benson, "The Keystone of Our Religion"). Everything else hinges upon its validity. Therefore, it is reasonable to say that every part of Mormon identity hinges upon The Book of Mormon. Our religion. Our faith. Our spirituality. Our identity.

The task that Gary Rogers took on by wanting to direct this film seems a lot bigger when we put it in that light. No wonder it seems he failed.

Thinking about the film this way I tried to push all of the acting, writing, design, and Lehi's strange pink shirt out of my mind in order to figure out its relationship to Mormon identity. The Book of Mormon is the hinge to our faith. Faith in The Book of Mormon demands "the unquestioned loyalty to the official version... One of the most important roles of this text in Mormonism may be the manner in which it articulates Mormonism's self-conscious mission to mankind" (Olsen 90). The film is an interpretation of that articulation. It attempts mediate that text to a new and innovative way.

In a way it reminds me of a story from LDS church history. Oliver Cowdery was a transcriber for Joseph Smith during the translation of The Book of Mormon. He desired to do more for God. He wanted the ability to translate. After much prayer and pleading he was given the gift. However, Cowdery didn't quite get it. He didn't understand what it took. He failed (see Doctrine and Covenants 8, and 9). Rogers took upon himself a role to translate The Book of Mormon into film. He was inexperienced. He didn't quite get it. He took an impossible feat upon himself. However, in the end it could be said "The Book of Mormon Movie is true, as far as it is translated correctly."

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