To the religiously minded, few things carry greater importance than a connection to the divine. For centuries, the literature of prophets and the work of gifted artists have served to create a liminal space where man and Maker can meet. The advent of cinema and the creation of the Internet pose unique questions for the artist seeking to lead an audience toward an encounter with God. In a modern world where discretionary time is dominated by on-demand video streaming, the value of understanding cinema and its myriad potential is particularly relevant. As a religious organization, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has eagerly (and to a certain extent, uniquely) embraced and used film to further its aims. This thesis will further the conversation already begun on the topic of spirituality in official LDS Church productions, particularly adding new analysis regarding the form and content of more recent institutionally produced films. How do stylistic trends in recent official film productions of the LDS Church relate to the broader academic and theological discussion regarding cinematic spirituality? After the introduction and thesis overview in Chapter 1, Chapter 2 will provide a survey of prominent works regarding cinematic spirituality. Theories that entertain how movies speak to human spirits are varied and highly subjective. Many theories about what makes a work "spiritual" grow from particular religious traditions and are informed by that theorist's beliefs about God's nature. Some theories are dependent on loosely measured criteria (editing pace, complexity of music, distance between camera and subject, etc.), while others rely almost entirely on the "feeling" a work conveys (which may or may not be determined by objectively measurable parts).Chapter 3 relates the prominent theories laid out in Chapter 2 to the cinematic efforts made by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the past two decades. Examining the form and content of these media projects will reveal trends that indicate inherent assumptions on the part of the LDS Church's media department regarding the purpose and potential of spirituality and film. Chapter 4 explores how the Church's typical approach compares and contrasts with films made by independent Latter-day Saint filmmakers. Some stylistic possibilities will be derived from the efforts of Mormon artists more generally and may have implications for how Latter-day Saint films could help spiritually engage audiences.
College and Department
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Lewis, Mark T., ""An Hungry Man Dreameth": Transcendental Film Theory and Stylistic Trends in Recent Institutional Films of the LDS Church" (2016). Theses and Dissertations. 6006.
Mormon cinema, LDS Church media, Mormon Messages, I'm a Mormon, Mormon film, the Life of Jesus Christ Bible Videos, The Testaments: Of One Fold and One Shepherd, Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration, Meet the Mormons, Spirituality and film, cinematic transcendence, Paul Schrader, Craig Detweiler, Dean Duncan