Tag Archives: Meet the Mormons

I Met the “Mormons”


“Sweep the earth, as if with a flood,” Elder Bednar prophetically pleads, “But this is not, I repeat, NOT a proselytizing effort!”

I saw Meet the Mormons (MTM) last week and here is my report:

I went into MTM concerned about this project for a variety of reasons and hence had very low expectations.  I arrived at the theater 6 minutes before the movie started in a very populated LDS area where I assumed there would be the best turn out.  I went on Saturday night of opening weekend.  There were no lines and I was surprised the theater was only half full, despite all the advertising and at least two apostolic requests to all LDS members to watch the movie opening weekend.  Perhaps other locations saw better attendance.  If my experience is anything like other areas, then this movie is not likely to be a blockbuster nor is it likely to make much money.

I admit I was touched by those whose lives were being highlighted. As I expected, they all seemed like good people. I do feel like they are being showcased for their “uniqueness,” however, and still think the church’s very choice of this film’s title is a little misleading.  It would have been better to call it, “Meet some extremely unique Mormons” or “Meet 6 Mormons not necessarily from Utah.”

I read an article in the Salt Lake Tribune where the author comments:  “The film is more of a showcase of Mormon wholesomeness than a candid look at the real us. While it’s nice to have my people portrayed as so blissfully positive, I came away wondering if I had been raised in a completely different church” (See article here).

In Elder Bednar’s promotion of MTM and while urging members to flood the earth with social media messages, he warns members:

“Be authentic and consistent.  A person or product that is not authentic is false, fake and fraudulent. Our messages should be truthful, honest  and accurate.” 

I could see how some may not view this film as totally accurate.

The church is encouraging members to use social media channels such as Pinterest to promote the gospel.

I’ll be candid, I was very underwhelmed by the movie itself.  It was dry, slow, non-climactic, and really quite bland. I was surprised that the film was only an hour and eighteen minutes long. Its length was much shorter than I expected.  Most movies are at least an hour and a half or more in length.  I’m not saying longer would have been better, I was just surprised at how short it was.

The coverage of these 6 people was very shallow, with very minimal real details of their lives or their faith. “Mormons believe in God and Jesus and families and the Bible and an interesting book called the Book of Mormon” was the general idea.  As I sat there amongst a mostly LDS audience, I wondered if any of them would have attended a movie that was called “Meet the Jehovah Witnesses, or Catholics or Amish.”  I kind of doubt it, unless the reviews of course were off the charts.

One movie review on Rotten Tomatoes said, “Would you go out of your way to see an infomercial that was more than an hour long?  Would you even pay for the privilege?  That’s what ‘Meet the Mormons’ would have filmgoers do” (See here, and here).  Many other reviews from news outlets were equally disappointed in MTM (see Nearing Kolob for other questions and links).

In all candor, this movie seems out of place being in the theaters.  The quality and story line were simply not there.  I think the Legacy theater would have been a better fit, although I think The Testaments and Joseph Smith movies are much more powerful.  In fact, I wonder if the Testaments would have not been a better hit in the theaters, despite its obvious attempt to share our message.

After seeing MTM, and after contemplating the project more generally, I think focusing on our core doctrinal message would be a better use of our time and resources.  Focusing on highlighting people in a time of such great urgency, may be a luxury we cannot afford.

“Take away the Book of Mormon and the revelations, and where is our religion?  We have none; for without Zion, and a place of deliverance, we must fall; because the time is near when the sun will be darkened, and the moon turned to blood, and the stars fall from the heaven, and the earth reel to and fro’.  Then, if this is the case, and if we are not sanctified and gathered to the places God has appointed, with all our former professions and our great love for the Bible, we must fall; we cannot stand; we cannot be saved; for God will gather out his Saints from the Gentiles, and then comes desolation and destruction, and none can escape except the pure in heart who are gathered.”

Joseph Smith

UPDATE on 12-15-2014

Meet the Mormons to date has grossed $5.8M.  Reviews from movie critics is averaging about a 5-10% like rating vs. a 90-95% dislike rating.  Interestingly, according to Rotten Tomatoes, 91% of all viewers have liked the movie.  This translates as many if not most or all movie goers likely to be LDS.

“We’re Glorious”


“Enter your email, Share it on Social with hashtag…, Download your free single….”

I just came across this little promotion on the Meet the Mormons Facebook page.   Great marketing pitch.  Who doesn’t like David Archuleta?  And what better way to spread the word than to take the message viral using all the social media tools of the day?

I don’t love the idea that the church wants my email, wants me to tweet, pinterest, facebook, follow and/or hashtag, all so I can get a “free” single of David’s song.  Obviously a joint marketing venture between him and the church, promoting Archuleta as well as the new movie.

You can actually watch the song and a movie montage below on YouTube without all the hassle:

Arch youtube

Click Above to watch video and film clips

It’s a good song I think.  Nice lyrics and message – although a little fluffy and maybe off doctrinally (see 2 Corinthians 3):

Here are the Lyrics to the Meet the Mormons theme song:

There are times when you might feel aimless and can’t see the places where you belong.
But you will find that there is a purpose, it’s been there within you all along.
And when you’re near it…you can almost hear it.
It’s like a symphony…just keep listening, and pretty soon you’ll start to figure out your part.
Everyone plays a piece in their own melodies… in each one of us… It’s glorious.
And you will know how to let it ring out as you discover who you are.
And those around you will start to wake up to the sounds that are in their hearts.
It’s all amazing what we’re all creating.
It’s like a symphony…just keep listening and pretty soon you’ll start to figure out your part.
Everyone plays a piece in their own melodies… in each one of us…ohhh… is glorious.
As you feel the notes build… you will see.
It’s like a symphony…just keep listening, and pretty soon you’ll start to figure out your part.
Everyone plays a piece in their own melodies… and each one of us…ohhh… is glorious.

It all kind of reminds me of the feel good movie “August Rush.”  A movie about finding your purpose in life, where you belong.  Interesting that the lyrics don’t mention God or even allude to a Creator.  It mentions “we’re all creating” and speaks of symphonies, but feels very self-focused rather than God-focused.  (Maybe this really isn’t a proselytizing effort!).

I am very curious if and how much speakers in General Conference will plug the movie.  I say they plug it hard.  I don’t think the timing of the release, the weekend after Conference (and the BYU-USU football game) is a coincidence.  If nothing else, I predict endless ads between sessions.  I hope I’m wrong.  But then, why wouldn’t they?  It’s a very important church business investment.

Bednar Internet

Elder Bednar. “Things As They Really Are” June 2010 Ensign

A comment from last week’s Meet the Mormon’s post pointed to the above talk from Elder Bednar and remarked what a difference 4 years makes.  I could not agree more.  In his talk, Elder Bednar speaks about the importance of not getting caught up in “cyberspace” and not becoming obsessed with virtual identities that are not real.  (eh hem, Facebook, Twitter, etc.)

I’ve never liked that Facebook and other social identities encourage such illusionary self-promotions.  We all know people who sit at home all day, interacting in this fake world, taking endless selfies, always trying to portray how “blissful” their life is.

I fear this movie will be nothing more than a really expensive, glorified Facebook promotion of 6 otherwise very nice people.   Will this movie promote and encourage more Facebook idolatry?  Will it make me jealous that I’m not the Candy Bomber or not as successful and exciting as other “Great” Mormons?  Will I feel as “glorious” as these 6 (7 if you include David Archuleta) individuals?

Isn’t this part of our problem in the world / church?  We feel we can’t keep up with the Joneses, and the Joneses now tweet from Hawaii, where brother and sister Jones and their 4 perfect kids just posed for a selfie all at the Iron Man finish line.  Crap!  Now how do we keep up?  Well, it’s easy, lots of makeup, a tanning bed, teeth whitener, a little Photoshop, an expensive camera helps, and your own “glorious” post from… how about Temple Square.  That will make those worldly Joneses feel dumb.  You get the idea.

Are we really supposed to portray and see ourselves as glorious anyway?  If you do a search of the term glorious in the scriptures you will not see any mortal referred to by God as glorious.  Not that I could find.  You may become “glorious in the resurrection” if true and faithful in this life.  But, Glory is for God!  Not men.

Woe to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim, whose glorious beauty is a fading flower, which are on the head of the fat valleys of them that are overcome with wine! (Isaiah 28:1)

King Benjamin reminds us we are less than the dust of the earth, far from glorious, no matter if we have “figured out our part” or not.  Even those like this righteous King who do figure it out, i.e. are redeemed, still consider themselves less than dust and preach repentance not self-promotion.



Meet the Mormons

Meet the Mormons, coming to theaters October 2014

I just received an email from my file leader encouraging me to share this, like this, dig this, and watch this “real” movie which will be playing in a movie theater near you, maybe.

In all fairness I have not yet watched this movie, but here are just a few observations and concerns based on the very little I know so far:

The church has gone into the commercial movie business, which from the little I know, can be quite risky.  Movies cost a lot of money to make, and judging by the quality of the trailer, this movie seems to be no exception.  My best guess is that the production and advertizing will cost the church (tithing payers) as much as $20M, maybe more.  I remember Living Scriptures owner Jared Brown bearing his testimony in a ward I was visiting in Layton where he said he lost or might lose $50M with The Swan Princess, which he said was a flop because of its poorly timed opening coinciding with Disney’s Lion King.  Perhaps I’m wrong on the costs, but if this is a real movie, there should be a real accounting so the members can voice their opinion (common consent) on such proposals in the future.

Elder Holland, in the promotional email I received, takes about 4 and half minutes to introduce us to this very “bold” and “unique” new endeavor.  You can see his pitch here.  I find it a bit awkward.  At the end he repeats what seem to be talking points and provides a rallying cry to coordinate member efforts to promote this film, stating that “we should buy out a theater if we can afford it, and that all who can should attend.”

Elder Holland states very clearly that this movie is “not a proselytizing effort.”  This begs the question: why not?  The church is spending a very large sum of money and yet the purpose isn’t to attract converts?  Maybe the church had to agree that missionaries would not stand in front of movie theaters, which would be understandable I suppose.  But would it be wrong to state clearly that the real purpose for the project, despite some commercial, public, limitations, is to share the gospel?  Is this not what churches do?  Shouldn’t preaching the gospel be the objective?  Especially when the clarion call from leaders today has been to “Hasten the work!”

I also find it really strange that Elder Holland promotes that the church is “not doing this to make money” and that “all proceeds will go to charity.”  The charity of choice for the church apparently is the American Red Cross.  Wait, I thought the church was a charity?  Why would we want to give the money to a different charity, run by people who take large salaries and waste much of the money it is suppose to give to the poor?  According to Snopes.com the CEO of the American Red Cross was paid $652k in salary plus expenses and given a 6 week paid vacation in 2009.  You can read more about this here.  You can also read here about how the Red Cross supports abortion.

The church, I thought, was the best charity in the world.  Part of its now fourfold mission being to provide relief to the poor.  It almost feels like the church is going out of its way to make itself appear more altruistic by not wanting any of the proceeds and by donating them to perhaps a more “approved” non-religious charity, in the world’s eyes.  I think it’s a missed opportunity.

Why didn’t the church decide to use the proceeds, assuming there will be any, to the build a fresh water system in Congo or somewhere else in need of such simple basics we take for granted?  Where the church could assure the money would not be wasted?  After all, senior couple missionaries can do these types of projects and are free to the church.  It’s almost as if the church is sensitive to recent criticisms of spending money on large and expensive controversial projects.  And so to assuage concerns it’s teaming up with the Red Cross.  I think the move could backfire and as I said, wastes an opportunity to do something more concrete with potential proceeds, that the church could put its name on, that could make a difference.

Elder Holland also mentioned that the church was initially only going to show the film in the Legacy Theater.  But, when their professional research department started to report back polling data, they changed their minds.  The church’s frequent polling is a sore spot for many active members.  Some may ask, “If the church is run by revelation and at a minimum inspiration, then why so much emphasis on such worldly and often unreliable tools?”  How much do such studies cost of the widow’s mite?

I also find it a little odd that this movie is rated PG and that it is not suitable for all audiences.  It just feels like the church is trying really hard to put all the right marketing touches on this effort.  Perhaps in this case, trying too hard.  I assume their analysts advised them accordingly.  Maybe it’s the title that makes it PG.  “Meet the Mormons.”  Makes me think of “Meet the Parents” or its less reverently named sequel.

Lastly, the church seems intent, based on those people being highlighted in this film, to make itself not look like Utah.  The movie by its title leads one to believe it will be talking to a few of its own regular, average Utah Mormons.  Apparently not.  We are going to meet a young, African American bishop, a Polynesian college football coach at the Naval Academy, a kick boxing mom, and a few others.  The church seems to want to show a diverse and interesting group of people.  I actually love the diversity, but it does seem a little misleading.  It provokes the question whether or not the church has an image problem.  Either way, is highlighting the interesting 10% (at most) of the church really accurately portraying who we really are?

I think this is an attempt to show the world how normal we are.  Perhaps not peculiar, but “normal.”  Or better said, extremely, interestingly, and successfully normal.  It’s a logical approach from a marketing standpoint.  I’m just not overly comfortable with it.  Time will tell, but I am hopeful that in this process we will be shown the costs and profits or losses from the project.

UPDATE on 12-15-2014

Meet the Mormons to date has grossed $5.8M.  Reviews from movie critics is averaging about a 5-10% like rating vs. a 90-95% dislike rating.  Interestingly, according to Rotten Tomatoes, 91% of all viewers have liked the movie.  This translates as many if not most or all movie goers likely to be LDS.