Mentions of polygamy during My Story: 1
One mention, taking up all of twenty seconds of screen time, may be one too many for some people, and several handfuls too few for others. What you get out of My Story may depend on what you’re looking for in terms of an Emma Smith biography in the first place.
My Story is elegantly shot, with top quality cinematography, costume and set design, and decent acting to boot. And, yet, it seems to be a missed opportunity.
Instead of opening a window to glance into the soul of a critical figure in Church history who was both “an elect lady”, and a “Mormon enigma”, we really don’t know anything more about Emma Smith than when we started. We get what amounts to a shallow look at some events in Church history, with some gospel platitudes about faith, prayer, and surviving trials from Emma’s perspective. Is that all the film wants to offer us?
A more fundamental question: why tie Emma’s story so closely with Joseph’s? Obviously much of Emma’s early life was entwined inseparably with Joseph Smith and the history of the early Church, but given that Emma lived a full 35 years after Joseph died, shouldn’t Emma’s story depart a little from “Joseph’s Story” at some point?
Short of an interesting anecdote from her post-Joseph life (shared in the first thirty seconds of the film) the movie doesn’t cover anything at all past Joseph’s martyrdom, at which time the film ends. Nothing about her second husband, whom we never meet. Nothing about the Reorganized Church with her son, Joseph Smith III, as head. Nothing, really, that any Church member familiar with the basics of Church history wouldn’t have already known.
Given that the film has no interest in discussing plural marriage at length — a defensible decision — and apparently no interest in exploring the 35 years after Joseph’s death, what are we supposed to learn about Emma? Is there anything here that couldn’t also have been gleaned from, say, The Work & Glory movies?
Much of the film shows events from Church history, which Emma was a witness to. But, that’s all she was for the most part: a witness. Many scenes consist of Emma watching while key events in Church history happened around her. I’m sure that’s historically accurate, but isn’t this supposed to be “My Story”?
The key events in Church history that she was actually an active player in — the creation of the first hymn book, and the founding of Relief Society, for example — receive a brief mention in a scene or two, but not explored in any depth as you might expect from a film purportedly about Emma Smith. Again, whose movie is this?
As mentioned at the beginning, what you get out of My Story will depend on what you expect from it. It’s pleasant, and well produced, but even if you have no interest in the subject of plural marriage, Emma Smith: My Story is very far removed from an insightful biography — containing nothing that will illuminate viewers about a still enigmatic historical figure beyond what was commonly known already.
Final Grade: B-