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JANE and EMMA is based on the life of Sister Jane Manning, one of the first black Mormons. She returns to Nauvoo to find that Joseph Smith, her prophet and friend, has been assassinated. Jane spends a ceaseless night with his widow, Emma Smith, sitting watch over the body of the prophet as a whirlwind of loss and confusion leaves them wondering how either one of them will be able to move forward. Through the long night, Jane wonders if the prophet’s promise to extend the blessings of eternity to her has died along with him. The film explores the possible events of that night, including Jane’s endeavor to remain amongst the Mormon people and Emma’s struggle to cope with her heartbreaking loss. Poignant issues of racism and polygamy threaten to break their bond of friendship. In the end, will Jane and Emma have the courage to follow the path each believes they must take?
My Review: This is a fictionalized drama portraying the relationship between Emma Smith, the wife of the prophet Joseph Smith, and Jane Manning James, one of the first African-American members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The movie was stirring and the cinematography was exceptional, the acting flawless.
I love this story of Jane. She is a strong woman. One who hears the voice of the Lord often. When he calls, she answers. Even walking a thousand miles to Nauvoo when she was denied passage onboard a ship. She is determined and strong-minded. She proves to be faithful under any circumstance, even when she was denied the temple blessings that she had been promised. (The prophet Joseph died before he was able to fulfill his promise to her and others chose not to fulfill it for her.)
I will admit that I am drawn to any book or movie that recounts true stories of racism, persecution, and injustice. I feel that it is our duty as citizens in any community to keep telling the stories of those who have suffered. History is a priceless gift. It reminds us that we cannot repeat the mistakes of the past. It continues to hold us to a higher standard and helps us fight to continue to improve our ability to be humane. These stories need to be told. Racism will never end until we adhere to God's laws, and become one with His mind and will. When we truly know God, we understand that "all are alike unto God"(2 Ne 26:33). We are all his children and He "is no respecter of persons" (Romans 2:11). We are all "partakers of that heavenly gift" (4 Ne 1:3). When we truly love God, we love as His Son Jesus Christ loved. Unconditionally. Purely. Without End.
Two monologues' truly touched my heart in this movie. The first was when Joseph Smith walked in on a man telling Jane that she couldn't be baptized because she was a daughter of Cain (Insert my blood boiling). He very deliberately chastised this man and it is a beautiful moment in the film.
"The negro has been enslaved, beaten and murdered for no reason but the color of his skin. You assume that by looking at our sister Jane, that we are somehow superior. In what way I do not know. If you would exchange places with a black man, I mean, completely; your upbringing, your employment, even the clothes off your back, he’d be like you and you like him. No one would see any difference between the two of you. Negro’s have souls and are subjects of salvation. They are not just children of Abraham, they are Children of God. To curse the negro is to tempt damnation."
And later on in the film Jane explains her experience in a heartfelt exchange with Emma.
"So many saints have come through your house shocked to know that I ain’t no slave. You know what I thought would be different? This place. Nauvoo. I thought, the Lord wants me here. Gatherin’ to Zion gonna change me for the better. But the saints ain’t as different from the rest of the world as they think they is."
That last line was so powerful. It hit me personally and caused some serious reflection. I recommend this movie. It tells a story that needs to be told. I think that it is appropriate for all ages and would be a perfect movie to watch with your family. Make sure that you use it to open up important conversations that need to be had. We need to teach our children to be better and to do better. I personally love living in a world colored with different races, religions, cultures and people.
Mormon, in a letter to his son Moroni, said it best.
"And I am filled with charity, which is everlasting love; wherefore, all children are alike unto me; wherefore, I love little children with a perfect love; and they are all alike and partakers of salvation." (Moroni 8:17)