Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit. (Matthew 15:14, RSV)
There is nothing that strengthens a nation like reading of a nation's own history, whether that history is recorded in books or embodied in customs, institutions and monuments. (Joseph Anderson)
Tradition is an important help to history, but its statements should be carefully scrutinized before we rely on them. (Joseph Addison)
Legacy is a story that follows the early Mormon pioneers as they get run out of one town to another. The film portrays the "Gentile" mobs becoming hostile and afraid of LDS taking over the various communities. In the midst of this persecution, there is a love story that develops between Eliza Williams (the main character who tells the epic tale to her young grandson) and David Walker (a new convert from England, who joins the Saints in Nauvoo, IL and helps them build the temple there). The story ends with Eliza giving her grandson the Book of Mormon that Joseph Smith, Jr. gave her, and telling the grandson, "And make sure that this legacy of faith may never die."
There are a few points of theological interest:
1. David's Anglican minister tells him, "If your heart tells you... [The LDS Church] is the true Church, then maybe... [God's] speaking to you." This is quite a caring portrayal of a Christian minister! David's about to join a newly formed, obscure, and wacky polygamous cult and run off to America, and this is the best his minister can give him?
2. Eliza takes Matthew 16:19 out of context when it says, "[W]hatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven," and applies it to when she married David. They were sealed for "time and all eternity" (prior to the building of the temple). But the binding mentioned in this passage doesn't have anything to do with marriage continuing in the afterlife any more than the binding nature of alimony payments continuing through "time and all eternity." The context has nothing to do with marriage. The context in the preceding verse is the building of the Church of Christ. It is the withholding or giving out of the gospel that affects the growth of the Church. There is pardon for the penitent, and there is curse for the impenitent. Finally, Jesus goes on in Matthew 22:23-30 to teach that people are not married in heaven, but are as the angels. For more on this, see my review of A&E's Investigative Reports: Inside Polygamy.
3. Eliza over plays the role of the cheerleader when she says, "Zion is waiting; let's help God keep His promise!" So poor God really needs their help? Given the article link below, the LDS God really did need their help, since "[n]one of Joseph Smith's prophecies regarding the redemption of Zion came to pass." Certainly a merciful and all-powerful God should be able to do great things when He promises to despite our help or lack thereof.
The film is extremely well done. The scenery as well as the music is fantastic. The acting is pretty good too. Legacy really has a charm to it that is missing from so many other LDS works. If I were LDS, I'd feel extremely proud of my heritage after watching this movie. The problem is that this work gives only one side of the story... the distorted side. It ingrains Mormons with their persecution complex in which they feel picked on for choosing the right. But the facts are LDS haven't always chosen the right.
As a simple illustration, the film does not give any indication why Smith was jailed in Carthage, IL. The viewer assumes that it was just like all the rest of the times he was jailed, viz., because he was simply being persecuted for his faith. The reality though is that Smith was locked up in Carthage for not going along with our cherished freedom of the press. He razed The Nauvoo Expositor, because it spilled the beans as it were on Smith's endorsement of, among other things, polygamy and polytheism.
For a good and much more extensive critique of the historical information omitted from the film, see the very important review by Jerald and Sandra Tanner by clicking here.
Finally, to order a copy of Legacy, click here.
R. M. Sivulka
Salt Lake City, UT
May 3, 2004