Making the Grades
Wanting to show Mormons in a realistic light, Richard Dutcher determined to make a movie for and about members of his church--The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). Spending four years scrounging up funding, his half million budget necessitated shooting this epic in just eighteen days. Once complete, he began knocking on theater doors in Salt Lake City.
Everything about God's Army focuses on persistence--from the way it was made to the story within the movie itself, which revolves around a new missionary, Elder Allen (Matthew Brown). Arriving in LA from Kansas, the baggage Allen carries from his dysfunctional family is far weightier than his suitcase. Assigned to work with the older Elder Dalton (played by Dutcher), Allen is still struggling within himself to know if the religion he is about to preach on the hardened streets of LA is true.
During the next few weeks Allen witnesses a spectrum of experiences, from having doors slammed in his face to participating in a miraculous physical healing. In between, Allen tries to understand his fellow missionaries--one who has more serious doubts about the LDS faith than himself, and two others obsessed with practical jokes including taking surprise pictures of their roommates on the toilet. (Bet their moms were happy to see them leave home...)
People of any denomination (not just Dutcher's targeted LDS audience) will appreciate the core theme--Allen's own conversion to his faith as he persists in serving and his recognition that he must decide what kind of missionary he will ultimately become. However, both types of viewers may also be offended by the occasional irreverent attitudes depicted by these men who claim to be representatives of Jesus Christ. Finally, the use of Mormon jargon may leave non-LDS audience members in the dark (bearing a testimony?).
In Dutcher's movie, missionaries begin each day with the motto "Let's do some good." While I often see LDS missionaries engaged in community service, and know from personal experience the positive potential their message holds, the only visual evidence supplied in Dutcher's script concentrates on the good they do for each other rather than for those outside their faith.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about God’s Army.
Do you think having faith in God would improve a person’s life?
The missionaries portrayed in this film often have trouble expressing their feelings about their religion with the people they are teaching. Do you ever find it difficult to share personal “spiritual” experiences with others?