Area clergy contacted Wednesday by the Deseret News expressed concern about the controversial movie, "The Last Temptation of Christ," scheduled to open in Salt Lake City later this week.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints earlier issued a statement saying that the movie is not the story of Jesus Christ and encouraging people "to shun those things that detract from the dignity and spirit of his divine mission."Deseret News Publisher Wm. James Mortimer said Wednesday that the newspaper will not run advertising promoting the movie because "those things that demean Deity are best omitted from the Deseret News."
Greg L. Sahlstrom, pastor of the Hope Lutheran Church in West Jordan, said he worried that moviegoers might get mistaken ideas about Jesus Christ because of the way he is portrayed.
Critics of the movie have said it shows Christ as deranged and driven by lust in a scene in which he dreams during his crucifixion of marrying Mary Magdalen and having children with her.
"The Bible is very clear about who Jesus Christ is. If other viewpoints are floating around in this movie or elsewhere, don't be confused by it," Pastor Sahlstrom said he told his congregation in a recent sermon.
He and some other local church leaders said that despite their own misgivings about the movie, they planned to see it so they could discuss it with their congregations.
The Rev. Wesley Parish-Pixler of the Hilltop United Methodist Church said the Sandy congregation's contemporary issues Bible study class planned to read the book of the same title, written by Nikos Kazantzakis, this fall and discuss it from a "Biblical and theological perspective."
Dr. Fred Kirkland of the First Baptist Church of Granger, however, said he sees no redeeming value in the story that was brought to the screen by director Martin Scorsese.
"I think this is the worst attack on Christianity since I've been living," Dr. Kirkland said, adding that he and other area clergy planned to call the theater showing the film and complain.
"If the Christian community does not protest and does not get behind opposition to this kind of thing, the movie industry will continue to produce scurrilous movies of this kind."
Mortimer said that "after very careful consideration, the Deseret News has concluded that it is not appropriate to be part of the advertising promotion of the new movie, `The Last Temptation of Christ.'
"Information available to the newspaper about the content of the film indicates that it trivializes the message and mission of Jesus Christ. Those things that demean deity are best omitted from the Deseret News."