Tuesday, May 21, 2019

“Redeeming” Zion

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Which religion started preaching on the streets of Salt Lake City in 1863 hoping to redeem the Saints?
a.                  The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
b.                  Methodist
c.                   The Church of England
d.                  Presbyterian
Yesterday’s answer:
C   Cinema
Missionaries catered to the Italian love of cinema by regularly showing free movies to the public, often at youth-targeted MIA meetings, which elicited positive exposure for the Church. The Italian translation of Man’s Search for Happiness was particularly successful. Typically, two EIS (public relations) elders from the mission office in Florence would tour the mission, showing the film in venues prearranged by the local missionaries and members and publicized through press releases, leaflets, and street meetings. Sometimes other films where shown, and the public was invited without coordination from mission headquarters. The missionaries soon learned, however, about regulations against showing films in public that were designed to protect local movie theaters’’ business. Required to apply for permits, they encountered stonewalling from government officials who hoped the missionaries would give up. However, the intervention of an influential Church member who worked in the film distribution industry, Aldo Cuffaro, usually expedited the process.
Despite these obstacles, the free LDS movies were enormously popular. Duns reported that the Church movies were “a great curiosity” to the Italians, and so the missionaries showed movies “up and down throughout all of our mission,” often to standing room only audiences. In one city the missionaries presented two showings of a film, and people “were sitting out on the street looking through the windows at it. It was packed so full they had brought the chairs and everybody was sitting out there and watching it all around the building” through the big plate glass windows in front.
In February 1967 in Catania, five months after the missionaries first began proselytizing, viewing films at Thursday night MIA had become a successful means of stirring up interest in the Church. At one showing of Man’s Search for Happiness, forty-nine people—most of them investigators who had walked in off the street after seeing the publicity—crowded into the small LDS meeting place. Missionaries reported an enthusiastic response, with several of the investigators coming back two days later to attend a baptismal service and then requesting baptism themselves. In one instance a near-riot ensued when police in Palermo tried to prevent the Mormon missionaries from showing films in public. Leavitt Christensen happily reported: “In Palermo the police stopped the street meetings because it was packing too many in and they contended that the preaching was against the Catholic Church. The elders didn’t stop at first so the police hauled them off to jail and then riots broke out (small ones) between the people and the police. The elders had to calm the people down by saying that they would be back after they went to the court house and got things straightened out.”
James A. Toronto, The “Wild West” of Missionary Work” Reopening the Italian Mission, 1965-71, Journal of Mormon History, Fall 2014, 46-48.

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