The Singles Ward
There are three things that are too amazing for me, four that I do not understand: the way of an eagle in the sky, the way of a snake on a rock, the way of a ship on the high seas, and the way of a man with a maiden. (Proverbs 30:18-19, New International Version)
The Singles Ward happens to be my favorite LDS movie. I even bought the video. I really enjoyed this romantic comedy, and I really enjoy showing it to my family and friends to help them understand the LDS subculture. Most of the humor needs to be spoonfed to those unfamiliar with this culture, but for those "in the know" as it were (LDS or not), this really is quite a funny movie. I also enjoyed how these LDS can poke fun of themselves. Self-deprecating humor never disappoints. I remember times going to see this movie at the local Utah dollar theater, and at various points during the movie my non-LDS friends and I were the only ones in the audience laughing!
The story begins with Jonathan Jordan (Will Swenson) being wakened up late in the morning by a phone call from the new ward activities director--Cammie Giles (Connie Young). She asks Jonathan if he could volunteer his job skills as a stand-up comedian for an upcoming singles' ward function. Jonathan rudely brushes her off and hangs up on her, since he does not even go to church anymore. We then find out that Jonathan is divorced and blaming the LDS Church for his bad marriage.
On his way to a stand-up gig, Jonathan drops off his friends at the local singles' ward for a dance. He ends up coming in and unbeknownst to him, begins dancing with the girl he previously so rudely hung up on. Cammie finally finds out who he is, and that is when the fireworks begin. The story may have ended there, but Jonathan now fancies Cammie and begins trying to win her heart by, among other things, going back to the singles' ward again.
Cammie finally comes around, but like in every relationship, more problems arise. Cammie goes through a spiritual awakening of sorts when she realizes that Jonathan is simply going through the motions. She decides to go on her mission and breaks it off with Jonathan. Jonathan finally goes through his own spiritual awakening, and of course gets right with the Church and, in time, Cammie.
Now of course this spiritual awakening is quite subjective. No attempt is made to weigh the criticisms of Mormonism factually. The unquestionable grid for sorting out Jonathan's direction in life is simply in terms of his life's experiences growing up in a Mormon family. The movie ends with Jonathan being thankful for choosing the right (CTR--a popular Mormon acrostic). And again, this right is simply in terms of lining up with his tradition. But what if the whole tradition is wrong? This question is never adequately dealt with.
Jonathan begins to experiment living out of his tradition after his divorce, but he never ends up feeling at home outside of it. And even more tragically, he never is provided an alternative Christian tradition to experiment with. So in Jonathan's world, there are only two choices: the LDS tradition (which given his situation, is uncomfortable but obviously right) or the senseless tradition of living however he wants (the initially comfortable, but obviously wrong... because it turns out not to be producing the comfort he thought it would). So our tragic hero learns there is discomfort on any road one chooses, but he will receive the most comfort (at least in this life) by falling back on his tradition (sort of an anti-Fiddler on the Roof message), and all this must be indicative of what is right.
For more reviews and information on The Singles Ward, click here.
R. M. Sivulka
December 30, 2003