Saratov Approach

It’s not often that I get a call from the local theater to be offered free tickets to view a movie they are playing. (This was actually the first time this has ever happened.) It was not unusual to talk to Kim at the Twin Cinema 12 in Twin Falls though. Twin Cinema has been willing to help with multiple things for me over the past 12 years. There was a season of time that Eastside actually rented space at the Orpheum in down town Twin Falls for several months while sorting out space needs for our weekly gathering. Then there were those Sherwood Baptist guys and their successful movies… Facing the Giants, Fireproof, and Courageous. Larry and Kim are always willing to help.

Kim called late last week and asked if I would be willing to come view this movie they have showing right now called Saratov Approach. Kim was quick to let me know that this was a movie about two Mormon missionaries who were kidnapped in 1998. Her request was simply to watch the movie, their treat.

Tonight, Renee and I walked into the Twin Cinema 12 on the corner of Kimberly road and Eastland just before the 5PM showing. I explained to the cashier that Kim left me two tickets to see Saratov Approach, she was eager to accommodate by pulling out the tickets Kim left.

Here are a few reflections on the movie.

The story itself (not addressing any of the spiritual conflicts between orthodox Christianity and Mormonism) was told with skill. The skilled cinematographers did their duty to capture my attention and hold it for the entirety of the movie, even with occasional poor acting by some of the secondary actors. I was emotionally moved by the plight of the kidnapped Americans. I felt for the young men and even related to some of the internal struggles of faith and hope. I was moved with compassion for their families, and even the kidnappers from time to time.

The movie did what I think the makers wanted to achieve; there was a likability and an endearment to the two Americans and their genuine care for people, even their kidnappers. I found myself from time to time relating in a strange way to the young men. I was moved to tears as I watched their parents struggle with hope, fear, and joy. This was a good reminder that there are risks to Americans who travel abroad.

I was in constant conflict with the spiritual content. Renee noted that the two Americans would quote from the bible or reference the New Testament as they spoke of spiritual matters and not the Book of Mormon. There was language of god and Jesus that was familiar; but in light of truth, it was uncomfortable. Mormon doctrine was revealed from time to time, but always in subtle, veiled ways. Especially in relationship to the various spiritual paths that men travel down and essentially leading to the same god. This was not a focal point of the movie, but I picked up on it from time to time. A few conversations between the kidnappers and the two Americans felt like an attempt by the director to bridge an emotional bond between the viewers and the kidnappers so that Mormonism appears to be Christian. This language is always complicated. Mormon doctrine is anything, but orthodox Christianity.

I think the movie accomplished telling the story. It was done with seriousness, laughter, fear, tension, shock, tears and relief. The story showed two men loyal to their belief, honorable to their families, and compassionate to their captors. The story, for the sake of a story, was good. I’m glad I went. I’m glad to know the story. I’m thankful to the Roper’s for their kind gift of the movie passes.

I was reminded of Albert Mohler’s recent comments in a lecture at BYU last month speaking as an orthodox evangelical Christian seminary president to a student body of Mormons… “I am not here because I believe we are going to heaven together, but I do believe we may go to jail together.”


  • Garrett Batty

    November 13, 2013 at 11:25 AM Reply


    Thank you for taking the time to share your reflections on THE SARATOV APPROACH. I appreciate Mohler’s comment as well.


    Garrett Batty

    • Paul

      November 13, 2013 at 11:49 AM Reply

      I did enjoy the story. Thanks for the work of everyone involved to tell a story like this.

    • Paul

      November 13, 2013 at 5:32 PM Reply

      19 Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.

      20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

      21 But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;

      22 Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:

      23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

      24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:

      25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;

      26 To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.

      27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.

      28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.

      Romans 3:19-28 KJV

  • Brett Merritt (@someguybrett)

    November 13, 2013 at 5:30 PM Reply

    Thanks for the thoughtful comments on this powerful film.

    • Paul

      November 13, 2013 at 6:07 PM Reply

      Brett, Thanks for dropping by and reading my thoughts on the film.

  • John S. Grammer

    November 13, 2013 at 5:33 PM Reply

    Being a former Bapitst, and now a LDS convert for the last 17 years, I am still amazed at the amont of misinformation about our faith most “orthodox” christians cling to. You seem to aquire your information from non member sources, (who are also full of misinformation), share it amoung yourselves, and are in turn convinced that you are better informed than those of us who attend LDS services weekly. The reason the bible is sourced in the movie, is because we source it in our services, as well as in our missionary work. In fact the bible testifies to the validity of the book of Mormon, and the book of Mormon enhances biblical understanding. There is a very good reference book entitled “The biblical roots of mormonism” which is available on amazon in paperback. The authors are a couple converts like myself who reference all aspects of our doctrine from the Bible only with chapter and verse. This would give you a more genuine understanding of how and why LDS member conduct their services and themselves, than the rumor mill method currently used by most seminaries and orthodox leaders.

    • Paul

      November 13, 2013 at 6:04 PM Reply

      Thanks for dropping by and reading my thoughts on the film. This difference I speak of is not about my opinion verses another man’s opinion. This is best explained here:

      23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;

      24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.

      25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

      26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:

      27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;

      28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:

      29 That no flesh should glory in his presence.

      30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:

      31 That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.

      1 Corinthians 1:23-31

    • Bernie

      November 13, 2013 at 6:11 PM Reply

      As an Ex-LDS Member, who is now an Evangelical Christian, I say this with complete confidence… . Each Sunday when Mormons attend sacrament and Evangelicals attend Church services, they are worshiping at two separate alters respectfuly! The LDS Doctrines that are taught in Sacrament

      are NOT the same gospel that is taught in Evangelical churches! Right or wrong, it is different! With that said, The Saratov Approach was a great movie, and I would recommend it to my non LDS Friends!

      • Paul

        November 14, 2013 at 7:32 AM Reply

        Bernie, Thanks for your input on the doctrinal conflicts and that the movie itself has quality on the merit of skilled film makers.

  • Amy Jons

    November 13, 2013 at 8:25 PM Reply

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the movie. I also loved the movie from start to finish. They did an amazing job telling the story and building each character. Thank you again for your thought and opinions.

    • Paul

      November 14, 2013 at 7:45 AM Reply

      Amy, Thanks for dropping by, reading and commenting. It is good that stories like this are told. They tell the story of people and help facilitate conversation. This is a good conversation and a conversation with eternal consequences.

  • Leslie Bell Nelson

    November 14, 2013 at 6:37 AM Reply

    Thank you for the thoughtful, patient, loving, open minded conversation between Evangelical Christian and Latter-Day Saint Christian. Thank you Saratov Approach creators for helping to facilitate this conversation. We have a great deal more in common than not. I appreciate the film for many reasons, and hope it can soften hearts, enlighten understanding of Jesus Christ’s matchless power and mercy, and increase faith in God’s love for every one of us. It has certainly done this for me.

    • Paul

      November 14, 2013 at 8:07 AM Reply

      Leslie, Thanks for reading and commenting on my observation of the Saratov Approach. Where there may be areas of commonality in lifestyle, similar values, or common experiences aren’t these primarily in the arena of national patriotism? I respect when a fellow countryman faces difficulty, I feel for him, I plead for him, I cheer for him, I hope for him… This is where our similarities are.

      They get strangely mixed beyond this. Just consider the difference of Historic Christianity and the position of believers from the Old and New Testaments. Consider this LDS doctrine alone from
      •“God the Eternal Father, whom we designate by the exalted name-title ‘Elohim,’ is the literal Parent of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and of the spirits of the human race” (“The Father and the Son: A Doctrinal Exposition by the First Presidency and the Twelve,” in James E. Talmage, The Articles of Faith, 466).

      This doctrine of God alone (there are many more conflicts) shows extreme conflict with historic orthodox Christianity. God (Heavenly Father) is not an exalted man with a physical body of flesh and bone. LDS founder Joseph Smith said, “If the veil were rent today, and the great God who holds this world in its orbit, and who upholds all worlds and all things by his power, was to make himself visible-I say, if you were to see him today, you would see him like a man in form” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 345). The trinity is denied with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost seen as three separate entities. “The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit. Were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell in us” (Doctrine and Covenants [D&C] 130:22).

  • Elaine Goold

    November 14, 2013 at 7:05 AM Reply

    I am LDS and I am always frustrated and hurt when those of other faiths tell me I am not a Christian. I love my Savior, Jesus Christ, and live my life following His teachings and striving to treat others as He did. If I am a follower of Jesus Christ, I am a Christian.

    • Paul

      November 14, 2013 at 8:21 AM Reply

      Thanks for voluntarily dropping by my blog site, reading and commenting. I appreciate your feeling of frustration and hurt. My intent was to give an opinion on a movie, a movie that I actually thought was put together with skill. I realize that it was not my review of the movie that made you feel like this.

      My conclusion that Mormonism is not “Christian” is not an offensive act on my part, it is an attempt at an honest conversation on clear and undeniable facts that historic Christianity and LDS doctrine are in conflict with each other. My observation of the two in this narrower, theological sense does not imply any animosity or hostility toward Latter-day Saints. Nor do I single out Mormonism on these issues.

      Consider these differences:

  • Shauna

    November 14, 2013 at 5:38 PM Reply

    Thanks for your thoughtful comments. I, too, am LDS, and I, too, am always amazed when people question our Christianity. Jesus Christ is my Savior and Redeemer, and I try to center my life on his teachings and example. I believe that his Atonement and resurrection are the most important events in the history of the world.

    Please consider this talk by Jeffrey R. Holland, one of our church leaders, which explains beautifully why members of our church are absolutely and unequivocally Christian:

    • Paul

      November 14, 2013 at 7:39 PM Reply

      Thanks for dropping by, reading and commenting. I have just watched the link you posted. this link actually supports that there is a great gulf fixed between Biblical doctrine and LDS doctrine. I have actually heard this lecture before yet I watched again with interest. I’m still convinced that there is are great differences in what we believe. I don’t have any trouble believing what the bible teaches and that it is in conflict with what LDS doctrine teaches. The Bible teaches a ‘one-God’ theology.

      The bible does not teach of a man being elevated or exalted to godhood.
      The bible does not teach of Jesus and Lucifer being brothers.
      The bible does not teach of Jesus becoming a god.

      I am a follower of Jesus, defined by the Bible. This is a notable difference of the Jesus defined by LDS doctrine.

      Following Jesus as defined by the Bible will not look the same as following a Jesus as defined by LDS doctrine. I appreciate that Jeffrey R. Holland acknowledges that LDS doctrine does not teach of a Trinity Godhead as Christians believe. It helps to show there there are doctrinal conflicts between the two and that we are not both “Christians.”

  • Deanna Propst Rostock

    November 18, 2013 at 6:39 AM Reply

    Thank you so much for going to see The Saratov Approach. This movie is about my brother Andrew and his companion Travis. We were so thankful for every prayer that was said in behalf of Andy and Travis as well as our families. We felt them and we were comforted by them as we waited for news about Andy and Travis. They came from all religions and all people across the world. We know that our Heavenly Father is mindful of each of us. We were so very blessed.

    We hope that this film touched your heart and your life as much as it did ours. Thank you again for going to see the movie and for your comments.

  • symphonyofdissent

    November 27, 2013 at 8:30 PM Reply

    Thank you for your well thought out review. I served my mission in Russia (not in the same mission) and so I loved the movie deeply.

    From my experience in Russia, the people there are truly starving for an understanding of the Savior. Most consider themselves Russian Orthodox which is a “traditional” Christian denomination, but are ignorant of the savior and his atoning sacrifice. When we taught people we often focused on Jesus Christ and him crucified because that is the centerpiece of the Gospel. Our mission was to invite others to come unto Christ through his restored gospel in order that they could find faith, repent, be baptized, receive the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end. Christ is the center of all that we preached in Russia.

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