High attendance and positive responses were reported by several stake and missionary leaders following the Oct. 27 satellite fireside and missionary open houses at which premiered the new motion picture, "The Prodigal Son."
It is too early to gauge the success of the event in terms of missionary appointments or convert baptisms, but leaders generally seemed pleased with the initial response.The half-hour production, introduced by President Howard W. Hunter of the Council of the Twelve, was a modern adaptation of Christ's parable contained in Luke 15:11-32. The film focused on a family in which a wayward adult son repents of his self-destructive lifestyle and his older brother struggles to overcome his own jealousy in accepting him back. (See Oct. 20 Church News.)
The film was shown at some 3,000 meetinghouses equipped with satellite receivers in North America. Church units were asked to hold a missionary open house at each location following the program. The open houses included displays and presentations dealing with the Savior, the purpose of life, the family and the Book of Mormon. Up to 900 people attended open houses in some locations.
At the Salt Lake Brighton Stake, advance invitations had been printed on high-quality stock, placed in envelopes and delivered to non-member neighbors and friends in the stake. The extra effort paid off with about 500 people attending the event, of which an estimated 100 were non-members, according to Roy H. King, stake high councilor over missionary work.
In one instance, Brother King said, an invitation was delivered to a family in which a 9-year-old had received missionary lessons several months ago. When the invitation came, she expressed the hope she could be baptized soon, and her father, a less-active member, admitted that it was time to "get serious about that."
A Church member brought a young University of Utah student from El Salvador to the open house, Brother King said. "I spent some time with him, and he is coming into my home to have further discussion."
In the Omaha Nebraska Stake, Pres. Kurtis George Cornish said about 250 people attended, and he estimated 50 were investigators. Stake and ward leaders were assigned in advance to bring people to the open house, and most fulfilled the assignment.
Pres. Cornish, who teaches cardiovascular physiology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, said the motion picture "really hit home" with a work associate who attended at his invitation. She had experienced family problems in which drug and alcohol abuse was a factor, and could empathize with characters in the drama, he said.
Pres. George T. Taylor of the Nevada Las Vegas Mission reported "a tremendous response" in his mission.
"Every one of the stake centers was filled to the maximum," he said. "The open house I attended was delightful. We socialized and mingled and had refreshments. The displays were beautifully done. The person conducting the meeting bore a beautiful testimony and invited us all into the open house. I realize enthusiasm doesn't always materialize into solid results, but it's certainly a step in the right direction."
In the Palm Springs California Stake, Pres. W. Douglas Kunz said geography made it necessary to hold open houses in three locations, each with a satellite dish.
"We had probably in excess of 300 people at each one. I spoke with some less-active members, and one sister's comment was `Gosh, we'll be back!' And that was not unique."
Further north, Pres. Merrill F. Higham of the San Francisco California Stake said his stake also had to hold the open house in three locations. He estimated total attendance at about 400, with an estimated 70 non-members. He added that many people have requested a copy of "The Prodigal Son" on videocassette.
Pres. Lowell D. Curtis of the Nephi Utah Stake expressed disappointment that only approximately 10 non-members attended his stake's open house. However, that seems more impressive in light of the fact that it amounts to about 10 percent of all the non-members in the stake.
One non-member family had been taught the missionary discussions previously. After attending the open house, the family has now committed to have the teaching process begin again, Pres. Curtis said.
"I anticipate we'll wait six months and then show the video again. Maybe we'll get 10 more investigators."