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Film / Day of Defense

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Day of Defense is a 2003 American drama film directed by Adam Lawson. It is loosely based on the book The Day of Defense by A. Arthur McDonald, published in the 1960's, that was made to address common arguments against the Mormon faith, with the plot as a means to convey this.

Two Mormon missionaries, Elder Burke and Elder Davis, arrive in the town of Marysville and get arrested for preaching without a license from the Christian Town Council (CTC). While the missionaries are usually driven out of town, the Judge Nielson decides to put the missionaries and the CTC on trial. The judge assigns James Radner to act as defense attorney for the missionaries, creating controversy in the conservative Christian town.

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Day of Defense includes examples of:

  • An Aesop: Religious intolerance is bad, and you can learn new things from other religions.
  • Big Bad: James Radner and the CTC represent the town's intolerance to other religions.
  • Death of a Child: Thomas Bryant's daughter Kelli gets hit by a car and dies.
  • Everytown, America: Marysville, a tight-knit Christian community where any outside influence is viewed with suspicion.
  • Felony Misdemeanor: A police officer takes the missionaries to court for proselytizing to a woman.
  • High Priest: Reverend Williams is the leader of the CTC. He's worried that any outside religion may lead townsfolk away from the "real" Christian churches.
  • Hollywood Law: Everything about the Mormon elders' prosecution is completely illegal, grossly violating the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. The film at first treats it like the Christian Town Council (CTC) is just illegally running missionaries from religions they don't approve of out, which is plausible. However, when no one brings up that fact (including the Mormon defendants and judge who's semi-sympathetic to them) it beggars belief. In reality, if a town's government did this in the US, they would be quickly sued and possibly federally prosecuted. The kind of laws that it portrays were abolished in the early 1800s. A lot of the film reviews note this. There are also some courtroom antics and other common tropes, but that's fairly standard in films with court scenes.
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  • I Work Alone: Elder Davis considers calling the Mission President to help them with their case, but Elder Burke insists that they do it by themselves (with the Lord's help).
  • The Judge: Judge Nielson is the town's new judge, so she isn't as willing to just throw out Mormon missionaries like the previous judges.
  • Kirk Summation: Thomas Bryant gives one at the end of the trial, explaining why religious intolerance is bad.
  • Knocking on Heathens' Door: Played with. The missionaries are prohibited from preaching to the people, so instead they try to get to know the townsfolk, with little success.
  • Male Gaze: Kimberly is introduced with a slow pan up her body before she starts flirting with them.
  • The Missionary: Elder Davis and Elder Burke.
  • Not What It Looks Like: Kimberly flirts with the missionaries, much to the annoyance of her boyfriend.
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  • Quote-to-Quote Combat: The Mormon missionaries engage in this during the trial with their accusers regarding their church's beliefs vs. mainstream Christianity (the issue being whether they're Christian or not).
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: The missionaries decide to leave before their second court date, but the Bryants convince them to stay.
  • Ship Tease: Kimberly flirts with the missionaries, and she later apologizes to Elder Davis for causing trouble. At the end of the movie she says she's planning on moving to California, where Elder Davis is from.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: The film is set in Marysville, presumably somewhere in the United States. Elder Davis mentions that he previously served in Leeton, which is actually a small city in Missouri. One of the cops mentions that the town is in Sweetwater County, which is actually in Wyoming, though there's no town of Marysville in the county there.
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