The string of films about bizarre stories from recent Latter-day Saint history continues. Also: Newspaper details how “Under the Banner of Heaven” re-created a temple scene.
Last year brought “Murder Among the Mormons,” the Netflix true-crime documentary about forger-bomber Mark Hofmann.
This year comes “Under the Banner of Heaven,” the FX/Hulu miniseries about the grisly killings committed by religious zealots Ron and Dan Lafferty.
But filmmakers aren’t done with telling bizarre stories from recent Mormon history.
Words now that the “Manacled Mormon” case — in which a former beauty queen was accused of abducting a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in England, tying him down and forcing him to have sex — is being adapted for the feature film.
Variety reported Monday that the movie, to be called “Sinner V. Saints,” will star Freddie Highmore of “Good Doctor” fame and Maisie Williams from “Game of Thrones.” It will be directed by Tim Kirkby, with “Fleabag” and “Veep” to his credits.
Filming is set to begin next year.
“’Sinner V. Saints’ takes us on a riotous journey, and we were immediately captivated by [Jill Hoppe’s] witty script, which brings this incredible true story to life,” Maya Amsellem, managing director of WestEnd Films, told Variety. “Combining this with Tim’s exciting directory vision, we are sure this crazy, colorful film will surprise and delight audiences worldwide.”
The show is based on Anthony Delano’s book “Joyce McKinney and the Case of the Manacled Mormon.”
The case exploded into the headlines in 1977, when Joyce McKinney, a former Wyoming beauty queen, was accused of kidnapping and raping a Latter-day Saint missionary.
McKinney has denied the allegations in the lurid episode, which also became the subject of a 2010 documentary titled “Tabloid.”
Temple scene in ‘Under the Banner’
Speaking of “Under the Banner of Heaven,” the Los Angeles Times has detailed the lengths to which the series’ designers went to re-create an “endowment” ceremony inside the Salt Lake Temple — from the colorful mural on the wall to the white robes on the actors.
“Everyone was on the same page about being as detailed and accurate as humanly possible, and respecting the,” custom designer Joseph La Corte told the Times. “… There are sensitivities around depicting what takes place in the temple. … That meant a lot of research, by wardrobe, by set design, by bringing in people who had been through those ceremonies in that exact room.”
In 2018, the church itself drew back the veil a bit to explain — in short YouTube videos — its temple ceremonies and the clothing devout members wear.
One video, running less than two minutes, explains the endowment, an ordinance that includes ritual reenactments of the creation, Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden and humankind’s mortal journey and ultimate return to God’s presence.
“The endowment is full of symbolism,” the narrator states. “Like all temple ceremonies, everyone is dressed in white temple clothing, representing which purity and equality before God.”
The video, which has racked up more than 380,000 views, then shows the white robes, white caps and green aprons members wear during the endowment.
Video about the temple garment
A second church video, lasting barely a minute, discusses the often mocked, maligned and misunderstood temple garment. It compares this underclothing to the religious attire donned by believers of other faiths, including “the nun’s habit, the Jewish prayer shawl and the monk’s robes.”
Many Latter-day Saints “also wear religious clothing, but underneath their regular clothes,” the narrator says, while the garments are shown. “Similar to ordinary modest underclothing, it comes in two pieces and is usually referred to as the temple garment. … They serve as a private and personal reminder of our relationship to God and our commitment to live good, honorable lives.”
This video has amassed more than 160,000 views.