For the first time, Mormon leaders in America have permitted their Church in the UK to open its doors to cameras.
With unprecedented access to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, this documentary follows a young British Mormon as he gives up two years of his life to convert the people of Leeds.
Known to most people as the men in suits who knock on our doors, young Mormon missionaries have the job of converting us to their particular brand of Christianity – they are the ‘Ambassadors of God’.
Twenty-year-old Josh Field from Sussex is one of around 200,000 Mormons in the UK. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is run from America. Based in Salt Lake City in Utah, the Mormon empire operates in 185 countries and has 15 million members worldwide. Their leader is Thomas S. Monson, whom Mormons believe is a living prophet receiving revelations directly from God. Every year he sends nearly 70,000 young men and women off to spread the gospel – and recruit to the church. – Channel 4
Mormons believe that every worthy, able young man should serve in this way. For Josh, it is an emotional and challenging rite of passage, full of sacrifice. Like many young people his age, Josh has a regular social life with a mix of friends, goes to dances at the weekend and completed mainstream school. Now, he must now surrender entirely to Church rules and as soon as his training begins, he is banned from seeing family and friends.
Whilst the Church provides accommodation, travel and £29 a week for food and haircuts, the missionaries’ work is unpaid and they are expected to contribute to the costs. In line with the Mormon rules, Josh has to be in the presence of a fellow missionary at all times for the duration of his mission and can only be apart from him to go to the bathroom. For these two, there is no complete day off and for two years, including Christmas, they will work – tasked with converting four people in their first year. – Channel 4
The strict measures are in place to keep missionaries like Josh away from temptation and prevent them from straying from the rules. The rules also dictate that Josh can no longer use his first name and, although Mormons stay virgins until they are married, Josh must give up even a simple hug with girls.
While Mormons are Christians, they have a number of controversial beliefs and rituals that set them apart from mainstream Christianity. These include: believing that Jesus came to America after his resurrection; performing baptisms for dead people – in baptismal fonts on the back of 12 oxen and wearing special underwear they believe helps protect them from temptation and evil.
This film gains fascinating and extremely rare insight into a controlled world, through the eyes of a young British Mormon, dedicated to serving his Church.
Amazing in 2012 we still have religion darling, that’s all I can say on this subject – TV Critic Queenie