At first glance, this may seem like a touching, inspirational adventure movie, but as with all media, a little investigation is necessary to find the real message behind the silver screen. Not much research was needed to quickly reveal the truth of this seemingly innocent "Christian" movie. On the Watchman Fellowship website, I found a movie review that shed some light on this motion picture.
Though the advertising of the film may not blatantly show this, but in actuality, the film is connected to Mormonism. The main character was a Mormon missionary (in case you were not able to deduce that from his outfit when he first arrived on the island), and he is currently an Elder in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). Additionally, the writer/director, Mitch Davis is a member of the LDS church, and the film's distributor, Excel Entertainment endorses "...all types of entertainment media that is reflective of Mormon or LDS culture."
I also found it quite interesting that when the film was first released in December 2001, the distributors chose to only show the film in Utah and Idaho with the tag line for the movie stating:
"The true story of Groberg's adventures on the islands of Tonga as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."
But when the movie opened nationwide four months later, they chose to remove "for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" from the tag line in the official press release. However, once the film jumped to the box office top 20 list, they changed the tag line again: "the true story of a Mormon missionary sent to the kingdom of Tonga in the 1950's."
Not surprisingly, Excel admitted that prior to the movie's nationwide release, they had tried to get advertising from several Christian media organizations, but they were rejected. So, we can easily deduce that the reason they changed the original tag line was to make the film appear to be "nondenominational" in order to deceive the general public. But despite this deception, even the secular audience was not impressed. Negative reviews were splashed all over the news, such as in the Washington Post, New York Daily News, and the Miami Herald.
Along with the bad critiques, the film did have its supporters and good reviews in the media. Even Bill McKeever, who is the Director of Mormonism Research Ministries, did not bash the movie. He commented that "... there is not a barrage of unique LDS teachings...." in the film. However, he would definitely agree that the movie does pose several concerns to the evangelical Christian community:
- The movie seeks to put the Mormon church and its mission's ministry in a good light to the viewing audience.
- The movie has a scene that portrays a Christian minister as the bad guy because he "tells his people to stay away from the Mormon missionaries because they are teaching false doctrine."
- The movie can also be used in Mormon proselytizing efforts.
- The God that John Groberg (both in the film and in real-life) refers to is not the God of the Bible. He is the Mormon God. (To learn more, watch this video below, and you can find additional articles at Watchman.org)
In conclusion, though the film may have great acting, beautiful scenery and a moving musical score, that doesn't change the fact that it is merely a tool used to spread the heresy of Mormonism and the LDS church. Unfortunately, because of the influence of Elder Groberg, 40% of Tonga is Mormon (approx. 43,000 people), and it will only be through the grace and mercy of the real God of the Bible, that these lost people will come to true salvation. "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9 NASB)