The family watched Ephraim’s Rescue yesterday. We recommend it.
It was actually pretty funny, and yes, affecting and inspiring. I blubbered a bit and resolved to live a life worthier of a crown.
I was a little surprised that it was so funny. I can’t think of any Mormon comedy off the top of my head that wouldn’t serve as exhibit 1 in any blanket condemnation of the Restoration and all its works. It helped that Ephraim’s Rescue wasn’t a comedy. It was a serious movie with funny bits. I also wonder if real LDS humor benefits from having a rough and tumble element to it. Look at who the actual funny Mormons were, all Mormon gents with sharp elbows and more than a little fire to them, like Brigham Young, Porter Rockwell, J. Golden Kimball, and at least as portrayed in this film, Ephraim Hanks.
The affecting parts were also a little less maudlin than the normal run of an LDS film, probably because of the funny bits. All in all, a great success and I highly recommend it. The first half of the trailer here is a fairly accurate portrayal of the film. The second half makes it seem at least a little cheesier than it actually was.
The film does raise an implicitly very serious question, though, which it also implicitly answers. More than one person is raised from the dead, all based on historical accounts. There are a number of straight-up miracles, prophetic dreams, healing gifts, and a visitation from a mysterious messenger who may have been an angel or one of the quais-immortal three Nephites, again all based on historical accounts. The movie does not gussy up the pioneer experience in portraying it as soaked with divine power and supernatural happenings.
So as inspiring as the film is, you may come away from it wondering where we went wrong. How come we aren’t as soaked as miracles as they were? One plausible answer is that the events of the film are culled from a lifetime of the individuals involved and from a whole epoch of the history of the Church. No doubt their day to day lives were hardly as filmworthy. Another plausible answer is that the Saints in that time and place were suffering more. We would have their gifts, perhaps, if we had their trials.
But the film offers another implicit answer. One theme of the film is the prayers of the handcart Saints for a miracle to relieve their sufferings but that never seem to be quite answered. They do see some miracles along the trail, but their sufferings get worse in the main. And when their rescue does come, it comes too late for many.
God is not the subordinate party in this relationship. We hold no strings on which to make Him dance.
P.S. One of the main characters bears a resemblance to former BYU QB Riley Nelson. If you are a Cougar football fan, try to put it out of your mind, lest it give you an irrational dislike for that character like it did for me.