SALT LAKE CITY — When most people think of Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints pioneers, they think of 19th century people riding in wagons or pulling handcarts across the country to Utah.
Filmmaker T.C. Christensen has created a film about a family of 20th century pioneers who returned to Palmyra, New York, to care for the Joseph Smith family farm that at the time had been purchased by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, reports the Deseret News.
The film called "The Fighting Preacher" opens on Pioneer Day, July 24.
“In 1915, the president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints asked a middleweight boxing champion and his wife to occupy and keep up the newly acquired Joseph Smith family farm near Palmyra, New York, in a community full of negative feelings toward the Latter-day Saint faith,” stated the paper in an April 5 article called “New film 'The Fighting Preacher' is 'the best church history story you've never heard of,' director says” written by Trent Toone.
Christensen told the Deseret News that the movie details a great church history story that not everyone has heard about.
“It's entertaining, and it has a lot of good messages. There is great conflict, which is the essence of drama. This film has it,” he said.
According to the Deseret News, the film tells about Willard and Rebecca Bean being called by President Joseph F. Smith to tend to the Church found Joseph Smith’s former home.
Originally the Beans were only to serve on the mission for five years but instead wound up staying for 25 years.
“One of the longest missions in the Church,” Christensen told the paper.
The couple eventually won over the community that was none too happy to have Church members return.
“(The Beans) faced hostility and hatred, which still lingered in Palmyra, long after Joseph Smith and his followers were driven from the area. … The people were just awful to them," Christensen said.
Willard Bean thought he could get to know his neighbors by inviting them to boxing matches.
“Willard began challenging his new neighbors to step into the ring, giving new meaning to the phrase on the movie poster, ‘He believed in the laying on of hands,’” stated the Deseret News.
The newspaper reported that Bean quickly discovered that his boxing wasn’t helping either his family or the Church.
"We show early in the film, people come up and start bugging him, and he’d smack them in the face," Christensen said. "He had a little to learn, that’s not the Christlike way... By the time they came home after 25 years, they had flipped the town around, and they loved them."
Christensen learned about the Beans via the book “A Lion and a Lamb” written by Rand Packer in 2011.
“Hopefully, we can get some celebration for what the Beans did in 1915,” Christensen said.
To view the movie’s trailer visit youtube.com/watch?v=XYcAuRl2-CQ&feature=youtu.be