Feature Film ‘Meet the Mormons’ Makes National Debut
Film & Video — October 8, 2014
Church-produced documentary opens in 300-plus US theaters on 10 October
Salt Lake City — A feature-length documentary produced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to challenge stereotypes about Mormons is being released in theaters across the United States this week. The Utah premiere of “Meet the Mormons” was held in the Salt Lake area on 7 October 2014. The movie will be shown in over 300 theaters across the country beginning Friday, 10 October.
More than 500 invited guests attended the Utah premiere Tuesday night, including the cast from the movie. Planners called the event a success.
“It’s breaking new ground,” said Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles about the release of “Meet the Mormons.” “It’s an effort to increase understanding, not to proselytize.” Elder Holland explained the movie was moved to the big screen because “the film was so successful with test audiences.”
“I find it fun and edifying, and it’s a remarkable experience to be here with so many people in this event on this night when they see it for the first time,” said Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who invited moviegoers to share their honest reactions to the movie on social media.
“Very touching, very inspiring. I really enjoyed it,” said Mitt Romney, former presidential candidate, governor of Massachusetts and head of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games held in Salt Lake City. Romney attended the Utah premiere with his son, Josh.
“I was thoroughly impressed,” said Shawn Bradley, former professional basketball player, after the screening. “I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. You laughed, you cried. It was a movie that talked to me emotionally. It brought you into part of the story.”
“I think it was very enlightening,” said Pamela Atkinson, an advocate for the homeless in Utah. “It showed a diverse group of people who are all of the same faith. They’re in different parts of the world, but they all have something in common.”
“It’s a real pleasure for me to even have a small part to get to contribute to this film,” said David Archuleta, who was a missionary in Chile when he recorded the single, “Glorious,” for the movie. “It’s just gotten such positive reviews. I’m just happy and just looking forward to people getting to know us.” The Church released a music video of the song on YouTube last week that has received nearly 826,000 views.
“I thought it was so inspiring. The fact that we’ve got these ordinary people living these extraordinary lives and doing so much good — it’s just moving. I enjoyed every minute of it,” said Utah’s first lady, Jeanette Herbert, who attended the premiere with her husband, Governor Gary R. Herbert, and their son.
“I thought it was very inspirational,” said Danny Ainge, president of basketball operations for the Boston Celtics. “I left the movie wanting to be a better Christian.”
“There is something for everyone,” said Blair Treu, director of the film that was originally planned in 2010 as a replacement for the movie on Church prophet Joseph Smith currently running in the Legacy Theater on Temple Square. Filming from production to editing took three years to complete.
“This is an opportunity for us to tell our own story,” explained Treu, who felt strongly that the film should be a documentary that reflects the global Church instead of a narrative production. “I think that it will dispel common misconceptions and myths that people hold about us.”
Treu is excited to share the varied backgrounds of the cast with audiences. “It’s a film at its core that illustrates we respect people of all faiths.”
“One of the other things that the film clearly illustrates is though they come from different backgrounds, they don’t have to abandon their culture to become [a Latter-day Saint],” said Treu.
The new feature film tells the stories of six diverse Latter-day Saints and their families: engineer and humanitarian Bishnu Adhikari, who is originally from Nepal; Ken Niumatalolo, the head football coach of the U.S. Naval Academy; Carolina Muñoz Marin, an amateur kickboxer from Costa Rica who runs a charity with her husband; Jermaine Sullivan, an academic counselor and bishop in Atlanta, Georgia; Utah missionary mom Dawn Armstrong; and Col. Gail Halvorsen (Ret.), the man known as “the candy bomber” during the Berlin Airlift in the 1940s.
Dawn Armstrong wasn’t sure at first that she wanted to tell her story, but she says her missionary son, Anthony, convinced her it was a good idea. “He said, ‘But your story is my story,’” said Armstrong. She called being in the film an “amazing experience.”
“Even though it’s intimidating to kind of put yourself out there, … my story will help someone realize that you’re really in charge of your destiny and you can change for the better; in a minute everything can be different,” she said.
Dawn Armstrong said the film provided an accurate portrayal of what it’s like to send a son or daughter on a mission for the Church. “I hope it will open more hearts, I think, when people see the human side of sacrifice.”
“We love to share. Particularly with my service in South Africa, I was able to really learn how God loves all of His children and all the different cultures and religions of the world,” added Anthony Armstrong.
Dawn’s husband, Craig, said his family enjoyed being in the movie. “It’s really made us stronger as a family and just made us appreciate all the more everything that God blesses us with,” he said.
Jermaine Sullivan hopes the audience will see the “authenticity and realness of their lives.” He was a Mormon bishop when the movie was made. Sullivan is now a stake president. “I hope this just kind of clarifies some misunderstandings and helps people understand that we are Christians and we live normal lives; we go to school, we work and we interact and move in society just like any other group of people. I think hopefully they come away with the fact that we’re Christian and that we have more in common than we do differences.”
Sullivan’s wife, Kembe, said she hopes people will see themselves in the stories and connect with her family. “I was so excited because it’s such an opportunity for everybody to see regular Mormons just at home, at work, getting ready for church, and it was fun to see different diversities [and] walks of life, so it was fun to be able to be a part of it.”
Gail Halvorsen, who will be 94 the day the movie releases nationwide, said he learned “service before self” growing up in Utah. “The message of the Savior comes across the same anywhere you are in the world, and the photography of course [is] spectacular. That’s the message of the Savior,” he said, “that change comes not for more money, not for a bigger car or newer house, but it comes from getting outside oneself. The Dead Sea is dead because it wraps its arms around the fresh water and gives out nothing.”
Female comedian Jenna Kim Jones was “thrilled to be a part of this project.” She interviewed people in New York City’s Times Square for the film. “I am so happy that these are the people who represent my faith. Their lives, what they’re like, the struggles they face, the cool things that they’re doing — it’s just a highlight of a bunch of really great people.”
More information about “Meet the Mormons” and theater locations can be found on the official movie website. “Glorious” is also available as a free download on the “Meet the Mormons” Facebook page. All proceeds from the film will go to the American Red Cross.