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Jermaine Sullivan attended Baptist, Pentecostal and other kinds of Christian churches, but couldn't find what he was looking for in any one faith.
Then, one day in 1999, Sullivan was at home watching tv and saw an ad for an LDS video. The young black man jumped up and called the number on the ad. Three days later, Mormon missionaries showed up to teach him the tenets of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Two weeks later, he was baptized into the LDS Church.
It was, he said, the story of Mormon founder Joseph Smith and his quest for truth in the 1820 that captured Sullivan's imagination.
Sullivan's conversion, though, is not part of his profile in the movie, "Meet the Mormons," due to be released into theaters on Friday.
And that's on purpose, filmmaker Blair Treu said Tuesday.
"We chose not to use conversion stories," Treu said, "because we are not pushing conversion."
The church wanted to send a message to viewers of all faiths, he said, that Mormons are not "different from you. We want to find common ground and build bridges of understanding."
Instead of explaining unique LDS beliefs, the church wanted him to highlight how the six Mormons featured lived their lives based on their faith.
Thus, viewers will see Sullivan acting in his role as an LDS bishop in Atlanta (though since the filming was completed, he has been made a stake [regional] president), teaching young Mormons how to dance, and greeting members in his urban congregation.
They can follow the daily activities of Ken Niumatalolo, who coaches the U.S. Naval Academy football team and also teaches a children's Sunday school class.
Mormon mom Carolina Munoz Marin is shown working her way to the top of women's amateur kickboxing in Costa Rica, while nurturing her young family and helping her husband run a local charity. And U.S. airman, Col. Gail Halvorsen's well-known tale of dropping candy to children during the 1940s Berlin Airlift is retold.
It shows Dawn Armstrong, who found the Utah-based faith through missionaries after she and her 18 month-old son finally moved out of an Iowan homeless shelter. When Armstrong's second son, Tre, died at three months, the 18 year-old single mom made a huge change moving to Utah. Now, she has six more living children with husband Craig Armstrong and Anthony (whom Craig Armstrong adopted) has just completed a two-year Mormon mission to Durban, South Africa.
The filmmakers were looking for a missionary story and one that featured a large family, a strong female presence, and a foreign mission, Armstrong said. Their family fit all the categories.
Finally, there is Bishnu Adhikari, a Nepalese humanitarian who joined the church after encountering a missionary in Russia. Adhikari felt the missionary was the embodiment of all that he wanted to be, the soft-spoken civil engineer said Tuesday. "He was perfection in the way he dressed, the words he chose, the life he led. I wondered what was influencing him. It was his faith, which was based in the Book of Mormon."
After reading the LDS scripture, Adhikari said, "many things began making sense."
The self-effacing convert from Nepal wants no attention for himself from Meet the Mormons, but if someone around the world sees the film "and follows the truth I built my life upon," he said, then he will feel his involvement was "a success."