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Peggy Fletcher Stack
Peggy Fletcher Stack has been producing stories for The Salt Lake Tribune's award-winning Faith section for nearly two decades. Writing about contemporary faith, rituals, and spirituality as well as religion's conflicts and cohesion has always been Stack's passion. Follow her at facebook.com/peggy.fletcherstack, Twitter @religiongal

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New film, same script at Mormon temples

For the first time in more than 20 years, the LDS Church has produced a new film for use in its temple rituals.

Its actors are all new and production values enhanced, say those who have seen it. But "there have been no changes to the script," says church spokeswoman Ruth Todd.

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Mormon temple ceremonies include a ritual re-enactment of the creation, Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden, mortal experience of the world, and the return to God’s presence. At each stage of this progression, participants make covenants with God in the name of Jesus Christ.

In the Salt Lake and Manti temples, these scenes are portrayed by live actors. But in 139 other LDS temples, the story is told through film.

It was the late church president, Gordon B. Hinckley, who came up with the idea of a film version for the rituals.

In the 1950s, the Utah-based faith was building its first European temple in Bern, Switzerland, which would serve members from many nations who spoke various languages. Hinckley’s solution was to film the ritual, so it could be dubbed in different languages.

That’s happening today as well.

"English-language copies of the new film are being sent to temples over the next few weeks," Todd said in a statement, "and will subsequently be translated into other languages."

The new film is about 15 minutes longer, writes Guy Templeton at the Mormon blog, Wheat & Tares, and that is due to the translation requirements.

"From what I understand, as the church has introduced more temples to Africa, they’ve discovered that some African languages require more words to explain the temple ceremony," Templeton writes. "So the church has modified the entire ceremony, allowing more pauses to accommodate the African saints."

It’s nice to accommodate African saints, says LDS writer, editor and blogger Jana Riess, but why not also express diversity by showcasing ethnic differences among the actors?

"There are no visible changes that would make African or African American Mormons feel more at home in the ceremony," Riess writes at Religion News Service. "It would be lovely if saints around the world could see themselves in the endowment ceremony, just as white American Mormons are privileged to do every time they attend the temple."

As Mormonism becomes a global faith, Riess adds, the church may begin to employ "local actors of color" in its temple film or by "following the live-actor model."

Either way, a black Adam and Eve could be in the LDS temple ceremony’s future.

Peggy Fletcher Stack

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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