The Fighting Preacher
Preacher Willard Bean becomes the world middleweight boxing champion in 1905, but when Joseph F. Smith asks him to step away from the limelight and serve a five-year mission in upstate New York, the Beans immediately pack their bags and travel to the East Coast. Once there, they find the hatred that existed 90 years earlier is still alive and very present.
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Utah, 1915: a surprised Brother Willard Bean is summoned to the pulpit. He and his wife, Rebecca, are asked to take on a mission in the state of New York, to live on a farm and re-establish the church in that area. It comes with a warning, though: the area is very hostile.
When they arrive, they aren’t welcome. They are glared at and spat on as they drive through the town. Driving the horses and buggy through the town towards the farm, they are glared at, and spat at, and when they arrive at the farm, a threatening note reads, “BEWARE MORMONS – $5,000 BOUNTY OFFERED BY THE ANITI-MORMON LEAGUE”. Soon after, there is a knock on the door. Three vicious-looking men from the anti-Mormon league, with a shotgun in hand, spell it out – “We threw out the Mormons years ago, and voted against you being here, so best be on your way.” Will rolls up his sleeves, and threatens them too. The surprised, somewhat intimidated men turn and leave, threatening to come back.
Will is NOT intimidated and stands his ground. Rebecca is alone, visited by taunting people whom she stands up to bravely. The couple go from house to house trying to introduce themselves, but doors are slammed in their faces.
Six years later, nothing has changed. He and Rebecca are still hated. As Will has constant flashbacks to his champion boxing days, Rebecca has an idea: Put out a challenge and do what you do best–box. The lineup on boxing night is outstanding. Will knocks every contender out and the challenge is over, but no one is flocking to be friend. He’s gained nothing.
Their little daughter, Palmyra, suggests, “Be nice, like Mommy always says…” Will decides to change tactics…. Rebecca bakes pies, makes soup, visits the sick, they hand out vegetables, etc. Everyone is responding with surprise and appreciation. Palmyra makes a little doll for a nasty classmate who is surprised and sheepish about her behavior.
Cut to many years of love and service later: It’s 1939. Will receives a letter from the Church of Latter Day Saints…a 5-year mission has turned into 25 years of faithfulness and loyal service, and they are being discharged from their mission. Mixed emotions…they love the people here like family.
At a farewell gathering at the Lions Service Club, where Will was denied membership and then became their president, it is said, “We set out to get rid of them, then we started to admire them, and now we love them.” They are bidding goodbye to the kindest family that ever lived here. They turned enemies into friends. Voiceover continues as the Beans drive out of town with everyone waving from their doors and they will forever live in the memory of this generation.
The Dove Take:
This movie is a wonderful example of overcoming prejudice and hatred with love and kindness supported by the strength of faith and in turn bringing out the best in good people who have temporarily lost their way.