Arizonans Get a Sneak Peek of Meet the Mormons Movie

Contributed By Jill B. Adair, Church News contributor

  • 2 October 2014

Dawn Armstrong (center), whose story is one of six featured in the Meet the Mormons movie; Heather Updike; director Blair Treu; and producer Jeff Roberts are surrounded by volunteers from the Mesa YSA East Stake who helped host the sneak-peek event September 18.  Photo by Scott P. Adair.

“The movie opens October 10, so we’re asking you to remember 10-10-10. Tell or bring 10 friends on 10/10.” —Blair Treu, Meet the Mormons writer and director

MESA, ARIZONA

Gearing up for the October 10 nationwide release of the new movie Meet the Mormons, those who were instrumental in making it are traveling the country, giving “sneak peeks” and encouraging others to make the opening weekend a successful one.

Blair Treu, the film’s writer and director, along with producer Jeff Roberts and Dawn Armstrong, whose story is one of six featured in the movie, were in Mesa September 18.

“We hope that you feel something with this and that you’ll tell your friends,” Treu told 300 people in the packed theater following the movie.

“The movie opens October 10, so we’re asking you to remember 10-10-10,” he said. “Tell or bring 10 friends on 10/10.”

Elder Todd B. Hansen, Area Seventy, attended the showing with his wife and several friends who are not LDS. He said the presentation “creates such a safe, comfortable environment for helping people understand who we are and what we stand for.”

“It led to a very rich and meaningful conversation afterward,” he said.

Liesl Webb, left, and Pilar Felix, both of the Mesa Maricopa Stake, met Dawn Armstrong of Utah, whose story was featured in the movie. Photo by Scott P. Adair.

Dawn Armstrong, left, whose story is featured in the movie Meet the Mormons, got to view the movie in Mesa with Heather Latimer Updike of Peoria, Arizona, one of the sister missionaries who played a part in her conversion nearly 10 years ago. Photo by Scott P. Adair.

Blair Treu, the film’s writer and director, and Dawn Armstrong, whose story is one of six featured in the movie, spoke to the audience following the sneak peek of the film September 18 in Mesa. Photo by Scott P. Adair.

Mesa was the fifth stop in a tour that started in Los Angeles and included Las Vegas, Boise, Atlanta, Provo, Salt Lake City, and New York City.

Treu said the response has been “fantastic.” “These stories are authentic and there’s something for everybody,” he said.

The movie opens in 200 theaters across the country, and it is the first time The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has released a feature-length film commercially. All net proceeds will be donated to the American Red Cross, according to the official website, meetthemormons.com.

The moviemakers encourage all who are interested to see the movie as soon as it opens.

“Opening weekend is critical,” he said. “It has to compete with the ‘big guys.’”

Elder Hansen said letters and fliers promoting the movie went out to all stakes in Arizona, and there will be announcements from the pulpit in local wards on Sunday and in printed programs. A social media campaign uses the hashtag #MeetTheMormons.

Armstrong, who received a standing ovation after the movie was over, said, “Hope is a universal need for every human. … My hope is that you’ll bring that hope to someone.”

Her story begins when she, as a young single mother who lost a baby and struggled to raise another one, had hit rock bottom and was in despair when she met missionaries nearly 10 years ago and eventually joined the Church.

In the audience was one of the sister missionaries who had helped her in her conversion process.

Heather Latimer Updike of Peoria, Arizona, said she met Armstrong while serving in the Nebraska Omaha Mission.

Since that time Armstrong married, had six more children, has been an active member of the Church, and recently saw her oldest son return from a full-time mission. She now lives in Utah.

 “You just never know what one decision or one choice will do to change of life of someone else,” Updike said. “That decision might be to go on a mission or to talk to a friend.”

“You can’t help but watch this [movie] and feel the Spirit, and it puts a smile on your face,” she added.

Armstrong and Updike sat together during the movie.

“Her sacrifices made it so I could have a life I could treasure,” Armstrong said of her friend’s missionary service. “I’m happy. I continue to be faithful and true to the God who gave the gift.”

“My story is just one of many,” she added. “It’s a story of struggle and redemption.”

Others featured in the film are Jermaine Sullivan, an LDS bishop in Atlanta, Georgia; Retired Col. Gail Halvorsen, who was known as “The Candy Bomber” during the 1940s Berlin Airlift; Carolina Muñoz Marin, an amateur kickboxer in Costa Rica; Ken Niumatalolo, head football coach of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland; and Bishnu Adhikari, a humanitarian and engineer in Nepal.