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Mormons, Evangelicals, and Catholics Finally Agree on Something?

New, Controversial Movie Released By Excel Entertainment Could Signal Common Ground

PASADENA, Calif., June 24, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Nearly two decades ago, Anne Hathaway starred in her first feature film, "The Other Side of Heaven," about a Mormon missionary couple. Disney picked it up and sold over 4 million DVDs. Now, as the movie's sequel ("The Other Side of Heaven 2") is set to open June 28, evangelical-based Fuller Seminary hosted a screening and discussion featuring the movie's Mormon director.

Dr. Richard Mouw leads a discussion with Elder John H. Groberg, Mitch Davis, and Shawn King about creating dialogue between Mormons and other Christian denominations after a screening of The Other Side of Heaven 2: Fire of Faith at The Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, CA. The film opens nationwide this Friday, June 28.

An event like this was unthinkable when the original movie was released 20 years ago, and it shows there's been a major shift in interdenominational relations in recent years.

The movie tells the true story of the interreligious strife caused when Mormon missionaries arrived on the tropical island of Tonga in the 60's, but also shows how Methodist, Catholic, and Mormons came together to support each other in the midst of major crises. Despite their theological differences, they found a way to work together.

Dr. Richard Mouw, President Emeritus of Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, California, began the evening explaining how this particular event represented "the intersection of two key aspects of my life's work, one being my keen interest in how media and popular culture affect the Christian spiritual life, the second being my on-going efforts to encourage the Evangelical community to engage in more meaningful dialogue and, where possible, collaboration with the Mormon community."

"I have had the privilege of knowing and serving with some of the world's great religious leaders," Elder John H. Groberg, Emeritus General Authority for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, stated during the post-screening discussion, "but I have never met better men than the faithful Tongan ministers, both Methodist and Catholic, who reached out in love to me and my family all those years ago."

That interreligious strife could become a thing of the past is something one of the other screening's attendees, the Right Reverend Father Alexei Smith of the Los Angeles Catholic Archdiocese, called for in comments afterward. 

"We should all be working for the greater honor and glory of God rather than competing with one another," Smith said.

Dr. Mouw summarized the film by saying, "This truly beautiful, emotional film is set in the 1960's, and I hope our ecumenism has progressed quite a bit since then.  But mostly I hope our ongoing, interfaith dialogue will lead us to the same kind of positive reconciliation between faith traditions that the movie models."

Also present at the screening was Shawn King, wife of famed talk-show host Larry King. "We've had some spirited conversations in our household," said King. "I'm a devout Mormon and I am married to an atheist Jew. So we decided to find the places where we could agree, not only with our family but with our friends also. Find the best parts and focus on that rather than focusing on your differences." 

ABOUT THE MOVIE

Directed/Produced by Mitch Davis (The Other Side of Heaven, The Stray, Christmas Eve)
Release Date: June 28, 2019
Rating: PG-13

Website: https://www.othersideofheavenmovie.com/

Summary: John Groberg returns to Tonga for his second round of missionary adventures, this time bringing his wife and family. When their son is born critically ill, the Grobergs face the ultimate test of their faith, only to find themselves surrounded by the love and prayers of thousands of Tongans of all denominations. Barriers of interreligious strife (the Grobergs are Mormons) are broken down as an entire nation unites in hopes of a miracle that will save the baby's life, as well as that of a Tongan minister's son who is in a coma in an adjacent hospital room.

Dr. Richard Mouw leads a discussion with Elder John H. Groberg, Mitch Davis, and Shawn King about creating dialogue between Mormons and other Christian denominations after a screening of The Other Side of Heaven 2: Fire of Faith at The Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, CA. The film opens nationwide this Friday, June 28.
Dr. Richard Mouw leads a discussion with Elder John H. Groberg, Mitch Davis, and Shawn King about creating dialogue between Mormons and other Christian denominations after a screening of The Other Side of Heaven 2: Fire of Faith at The Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, CA. The film opens nationwide this Friday, June 28.
Elder John H. Groberg (right) discusses his mission experiences in the Pacific Islands in the 1950’s with an attendee at a special screening held at The Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, CA. Those experiences, including overcoming tensions with other denominations, are the basis of the new film The Other Side of Heaven 2: Fire of Faith. The film opens nationwide this Friday, June 28.
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