Monday, August 10, 2009

Movie Review: "Emma Smith, My Story"

I heard about this movie while I was on my mission and it was on the list to see when I got home. I was even more intrigued when I heard that they used the same basic cast as the Church-produced film "Joseph Smith: The Prophet of the Restoration" - even though "Emma Smith" is not an official Church production. Suffice it to say - I was a bit giddy about this. I LOVE studying Church History (any kind of history, really, but Church History has a warm, tingly place in my heart... and if you need me to explain why, see me after class). And Emma Smith is my hero. Period. No Arguing.

A brief history of Church filmmaking is in order: there has been dramatic improvement in the last - I'd say 10 years. You watch anything from before 1990, especially... you'd have your year's supply of cheese. Back then, it was probably discouraged for actors in those videos to utilize any sort of acting talent - just tell the story in your best Sunday-School-scripture-reading-monotone voice (zzzzzzzz....). The message and doctrine and so forth were all there - but you have to quit laughing long enough to listen. Not condusive to being educated by the Spirit, believe me (those of you who have showed "Together Forever" to an investigator family in conjunction with the Plan of Salvation lesson know what I'm talking about).

But now, you have "The Testaments" and the aforementioned "Joseph Smith" movie. Plus, the most recent Church History seminary/institute videos are very well put-together. Same goes for the 20 minute "Restoration" video and "Finding Faith in Christ." Yes, Virginia - the Mormons can act!

But I'm not here to talk about those videos. Just know that they are doctrinal, spiritual, uplifting and, yes - they are entertaining. Check them out if you get the chance.

Back to "Emma" - first response: Awesome movie! Like I mentioned before, Emma Smith is my hero. Think about it - think of the life of Joseph Smith - he's the Prophet of God, he's seen amazing visions and revelations. Plenty of people believe what he's seen - but just as many (if not more) don't believe and there's no shortage of persecution and abuse and lies to go around. (and that BS continues today, even - that's another rant for another day). Ultimately, he's murdered at Carthage Jail, imprisoned on trumped up charges and the "powers that be" in government could very well have released him, but because the anarchist mob wants him dead, they don't. All because God called Joseph to do a great work in restoring the true gospel. You want to talk about unfair and unjust...

So now, think of Emma - how much she had to sit through and deal with throughout her life. Oh, she believed in the gospel with all her heart - as this movie so beautifully portrays (if I had one complaint about "Prophet of the Restoration," it was that Emma seemed to lose faith completely towards the end - which is another reason I'm glad this movie was made). She stood by Joseph until her death and kept her testimony. I don't blame her in the slightest for staying behind in Nauvoo when the rest of the Saints went on to the Salt Lake Valley.

There's a line in the movie - after the Saints were driven out of Missouri to what would become Nauvoo. Emma says that, in her mind, she left the storm across the Mississippi River and she had no desire to cross the river again (something to that effect), so she didn't.

This movie did a great job of portraying Joseph and Emma as real people who simply had extraordinary callings. But after the revelations were given and the work moved forward - they still had to deal with regular life, but with added purpose (as it is with any member of the Church). All the human responses to the trials they both faced are there, just like anybody else.

Plus - there were funny scenes too. I don't want to give too much away, but I have to tell this one: it's the hairbrush scene at the end. It's the middle of the night, Joseph is in hiding from his enemies, but people have been around the house harassing Emma, so the situation is tense. Emma's just put the kids to bed and she's about to go to sleep herself when she hears someone coming into the house. So, she takes a hairbrush from her side table and waits for whoever this is to come upstairs. He comes in the room, Emma goes to attack him - and it's Joseph! Best line is Joseph - "That thing's not loaded is it?" Priceless! (don't know if it's historically accurate, but in this case, who cares? XD XD XD XD)

Oh - and there is a mention of plural marriage. My first thought was "Dear heaven, do we have to go there?" But the did a great job of addressing this sensitive issue - it was just old Emma discussing the topic with her grown daughter and the answer was "God commanded, Joseph obeyed - might not have liked it, but we did what we had to do." I was impressed with the movie to that point - but that blew impression out of the park!

Everyone should see "Emma Smith: My Story," especially if you have an interest in Church History - most especially if you want to know, at least to a degree, how prophets and apostles do what they do. Seriously - you can tell how much Joseph relied on Emma and that is the best part of the movie. Personally, I think that's a vital part of Church History that needs to be discussed, but doesn't get the respect it deserves. Joseph Smith was an amazing man with an amazing calling from God - and he was blessed with an amazing wife to support him.

Bottom Line: I love Emma :)

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