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By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
Directed by Richard Dutcher
Zion/Excel 08/00 DVD/VHS Feature Film
Mormonism is one of the fastest growing religions in the world. In a recent survey of this subject, Richard and Joan K. Ostling wrote: "No religion in American history has aroused so much fear and hatred, nor been the object of so much persecution and so much misinformation." The writer and director of God's Army, Richard Dutcher, has fashioned an engaging film about a group of young Mormon missionaries trying to bring in a harvest for the Lord in Los Angeles.
Nineteen-year-old Brandon Allen (Matthew Brown) arrives in town from Kansas City. His stepfather is in prison for molesting children and his mother has left the Mormon church. Allen, who is confused about his beliefs in God, is taken under the wings of Elder Dalton (Richard Dutcher), the twenty-nine-year-old leader of this young band of missionaries who are fulfilling their two-year commitment of service to the church.
The day begins with devotions and study. Following their daily mantra, "Let's do some good," Dalton and Allen hit the streets where they either knock on doors or pass out material about the Mormons. Of course, most people are too busy to talk or to listen to them. The young missionaries, undaunted by constant rejection, try to keep their spirits playful by performing silly pranks at their living quarters.
Allen's faith is challenged by Dalton who has a brain tumor and still works harder than anyone else. Banks (DeSean Terry) is an African American missionary who always faces difficulty when confronting other blacks who claim that the Mormon church discriminates against them. Kinegar (Michael Buster) irritates the others with his attempts to engage them in a dialogue about the flaws and inconsistencies of Mormonism as pointed out by the church's harshest critics. He eventually leaves the flock.
Given the secretive nature of this Utah-based religion that boasts ten million members worldwide, God's Army is the closest many people will come to getting a behind-the-scenes look at Mormonism. Dutcher's focus on the deepening relationship between the young Allen and the older Dalton, who's known as "Pops," gives the drama a strong emotional grounding. Through them we learn a little bit about the Mormon Bible, the prophet Joseph Smith, prayer, baptism, healing, anointing of the dying with oil, and the commitment to build the kingdom of God on earth for the faithful.
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by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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