Making the Grades
If you haven't seen The Work and the Glory I, or the sequel American Zion, then this third installment A House Divided is sure to be a bit confusing. Plunging straight into the plot with merely a patchwork of flashbacks as a guide, only those very familiar with the pervious movies (or ardent fans of Gerald Lund's original book series, on which they are based), will be likely to follow the flow.
The divided house title refers to the Steeds, a family that fractured in the first film after part of the clan decided to join a recently formed religious movement called the Mormons. The non-believing half disapproved of their choice, but none as loudly as Joshua (Eric Johnson). The eldest son of Ben and Mary Ann Steed (Sam Hennings and Brenda Strong), the rebellious young adult actually joined with other angry skeptics and political powers to persecute the new converts with threats, weapons, and forced evections from their homes and property. (Much of this abuse is depicted in the second movie.)
In this final chapter of the trilogy, Joshua travels to Savannah, Georgia, where he uses his shrewd business sense to secure supplies for the company he owns in the frontier community of Independence, Missouri. A chance encounter with an entrepreneurial twelve-year-old (Connor Chavarria) and his widowed mother (Meredith Salenger) soon finds the self-proclaimed bachelor bringing home more than just a good deal on cotton.
Meanwhile the rest of the Steeds have relocated to Kirtland, Ohio where they are trying to build a place of worship, despite local opposition and a lack of funds. Even Ben, who still refuses to officially join the congregation, lends a hand. However, the new temple and the accompanying financial strain end up inciting antagonism from both in and outside of the church. Before long the faithful followers are compelled to abandon their efforts and retreat to their former settlement in Missouri.
This return brings all the estranged family members back to the same geographical location, where it is just a matter of time before they will face the unwelcome prospect of crossing each other's paths again.
Although The Work and The Glory III: A House Divided is less violent than the middle movie (as indicated by its PG rating), it does contains some disturbing content such as beatings, vandalism, destruction of property, gun threats and an implied shooting death. While this may cause some concern, fans of the franchise are more likely to be disappointed by what the script doesn't contain.
The decision to fit the saga in just three movies (there are many more books in the series) has resulted in a narrowed story focus. So although the fictional Steed family does find closure, the plotlines depicting the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormon Church's official name) are never tied up. That leaves the production feeling like an unsatisfying cliffhanger (with no hope of a concluding episode). Even the positive messages about the strength of family ties, the conviction of faith and the power of forgiveness can't quite deliver the "Inspiring Final Chapter" promised in the tagline.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about The Work and the Glory III A House Divided.
Why do you think Joshua is reluctant to tell his new bride about his past? How does Caroline feel when she learns information from others? Why do you think Joshua treats Caroline so differently than the way he treated Jessica (who is depicted in the first and second movies)?
What are the reasons Ben Steed gives his wife for refusing to join the Mormon Church? How are his words and actions contradictory? What happens that allows him to reconcile his opposing feelings?
For more information about Joseph Smith and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, check this official website.