Since the movie The Other Side of Heaven opened about three years ago, one segment of society has been particularly influenced for good.
"The most soul-fulfilling aspect of being a part of this movie is the number of young people who are missionary age who have come back into activity in the Church, or who have joined the Church," said Elder John H. Groberg of the Presidency of the Seventy.
The Other Side of Heaven is a major motion picture that depicts the missionary experiences of Elder Groberg when he served his mission to Tonga as a young adult. The movie is based on his experiences as recorded in his book, In the Eye of the Storm.
"There have been hundreds of letters attesting to the influence this movie has had on their lives," Elder Groberg continued.
Visiting the Provo Missionary Training Center on Thanksgiving day where the movie was shown as part of the day's festivities, Elder Groberg met several missionaries who said they were serving missions because of the movie.
One elder told how he worked in a movie theater in California. He knew nothing of the Church, but as time permitted, he watched The Other Side of Heaven during several showings. He was touched by the wholesome life of Elder Groberg and was later baptized.
Another elder said he came from a faithful family, but somehow found himself going the wrong way in life. The more his father and bishop worked with him, the more he fought to get away.
One Saturday afternoon he was cruising the streets with nothing much to do and decided to see a movie. Watching The Other Side of Heaven, he said he cried and cried. While he wouldn't respond to his father or priesthood leaders, somehow, sitting alone in the dark, the movie touched him and prompted him to talk with his bishop.
A mission president serving in Texas called Elder Groberg to tell how the movie directed six families to be baptized. He told how a single mother was disgusted at the movie selections in a popular video rental business one evening and asked the attendant for a family-friendly movie.
The attendant said he had never seen The Other Side of Heaven, but had heard good reports. The mother became "entranced" with the movie and showed it to relatives for the next several days. A short time later, after returning the movie, missionaries happened to knock on her door.
"Kolipoki," she said, recognizing them by their white shirts, referring to the name given to Elder Groberg by the islanders.
"Similar incidents have been repeated hundreds of times," Elder Groberg said, including immigration officials in an Asian country who were not going to honor the visas of four missionaries until they learned that the missionaries were from the same Church as the missionary to Tonga in the movie.
Because of its general appeal and family friendly nature, The Other Side of Heaven has been chosen by two national cable networks to be shown during December and January.
The Starz! cable network will air the movie on Dec. 9, 14,18 and 20. It will air six times in January on Jan. 4, 10, 16, 21 and 27. Interested viewers can confirm dates and times on-line at: starz.com
Showtime, another cable network, will air The Other Side of Heaven in January, though program times have not been announced. Both networks will show the movie at various times during the next 18 months.
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