(I blush to confess that) I’m old enough to remember the release of The Last Temptation of Christ. While there was some discussion of the film in the student ward I attended, I don’t remember it being nearly as big a kerfuffle (or “brou-hahr-hahr” as they say around here) as The Passion has been. I’m sure that not nearly as many Mormons saw The Last Temptation as will see The Passion. I can think of several possible reasons for this:
1. The Last Temptation did not generate quite as much general media hype as The Passion.
2. Mormons are generally more comfortable with violence in movies than sex in movies. (Whether or not we should be as bothered with the notion of Christ being married and having sex as many Christians would be is a whole ‘nother subject, which I will leave to a week when we haven’t been quite so “sex-obsessed” in our discussions)
3. The Atonement, while certainly a central component of Mormon theology, was not as much a matter of emphasis or as prominent a feature of Mormon discourse as it now is. President Benson had given his “Come Unto Christ” talk just a year (or two?) before, but it had not yet filtered into the habits of thought of church members. Moreover, we were still somewhat suspicious of evangelical Christians, or at least very defensive about their views of us. I can’t imagine “having something in common with other Christians” being the sort of motivating factor then that it appears to be now in some members’ decision to see The Passion. I’m not sure whether our relative comfort with a decidedly non-Mormon portrayal of Christ is due to an increased sense of shared mission with other Christians, a mere change of which facets of Atonement we choose to emphasize, or a significant shift in Mormon Christology. What do you think?
A disclaimer: I have not seen either movie, and don’t necessarily want to get bogged down in a discussion of the relative merits of the films (though I’d be interested in learned opinions on that subject, of course). I think I’m using The Last Temptation mostly as a chronological marker.