‘By Heaven’s Mandate’, the Disney+ series that shows the uncomfortable reality of Mormons

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The seven-episode miniseries from Oscar winner Dustin Lance Black (‘My Name Is Harvey Milk’), ‘By Heaven’s Command’, features Andrew Garfield in another spiritual persona as Detective Jeb Pyre. Since he took off his Spiderman suit, the actor has inhabited a significant number of religious characters; from a jesuit in the movie
, from Martin Scorsese, to an evangelical preacher or the soldier member of the Desmond Doss Adventist Church. Now, the Brit investigates the events that occurred within the Lafferty family while uncovering buried truths about the origins of the Mormon religion and the violent consequences of the unwavering faith. As Pyre, a devout Mormon, what Garfield discovers leads him to question his own faith.

«I have been asked that question many times and it is still not clear to me why I lean towards this type of role. It is something mysterious. I think about questions of spirituality, questions of faith and doubt, questions of how to live one’s life, questions of the meaning of life, and I think about what it means to live on the razor’s edge, between life and death. The characters that question the meaning of life make me think about my own mortality. I ask myself a lot of existential questions about what we are doing here, breathing on the earth. Movies and TV shows and spirituality stories that deal with the subject interest me. I think this is the juiciest answer I have. As a storyteller I feel compelled to question myself, the same as an artist, but I also do it in my personal life,” Garfield admits in conversation with ABC.

‘By Heaven’s Command’ is based on a nonfiction bestseller written by Jon Krakauer about a series of events leading up to the 1984 murder of Brenda Wright Lafferty, played by Daisy Edgar-Jones, and her young daughter in a Salt Lake Valley neighborhood. (Utah). I have been a fan of this book since its publication. Jon Krakauer is a magnificent author with deep and fascinating prose. I found the story exciting and horrifying at the same time. Ten years after reading it, I got the call from Ron Howard [aquí productor] to star in the series and I thought they were the perfect team to carry it out. We have not only honored what Jon Krakauer wrote, but also the lives of Brenda and Erica Lafferty. It’s not easy to unearth human rot without adding sensationalism, but we’ve done it with this series.”

The case becomes both a spiritual and criminal investigation for Pyre (Garfield), forced to confront the faith in which he was raised and the darkest episodes of his past, portrayed through ‘flashbacks’. Although he never breaks with the church for good, it becomes clear by the end of the series that he has grown disillusioned with the beliefs that once anchored his life. «I wanted to find out everything about Pyre and I read the book by writing in the margins. I spent a whole day feeling his presence, asking him to guide me on the path of interpreting him. I asked him to tell me how to be him in the best possible way and I must admit that in a mysterious way I felt his presence on set. We all soak up his spirituality »reveals the British actor.

When Krakauer’s book was published in 2003, the church issued a forceful disclaimer of the work, calling it “a slap in the face of modern Latter-day Saints (as Mormons call themselves) and a misunderstanding of religion in general.” ». Criticism of the Mormon church fueled sales of ‘By Heaven’s Command’ until turning the work into an international bestseller and one of the most widely read books on the Mormon faith.

The church has not officially commented on the series since it premiered in the United States in April, but David Bednar, a member of the governing body of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, recently suggested that it added to a long pattern of discrimination and misunderstanding against they. “We’ve been mischaracterized since the 1830s, when the church was established, and that idea will never go away.” The series also focuses on the pressure Mormon women are under to assume traditional domestic roles and blindly support their “priesthood holders”, that is, their husbands.

“It was a no-brainer for me to accept the role. Not only because of the people involved and because the subject interests me deeply, but because it is a very important story for human beings. I think we need to look at how we create myths that we then live by and how those myths infect and affect our behavior in society,” Garfield says.

Daisy Edgar-Jones plays a Mormon woman in 'By Heaven's Command'
Daisy Edgar-Jones plays a Mormon woman in ‘By Heaven’s Command’ – Disney+

This isn’t the first time the sacred ceremony, the details of which are not publicly released, has been shown on television: A 2009 episode of the HBO series “Big Love” dramatized the ceremony, sparking a viral reaction that forced the network to to issue an apology. “There are sensitivities around depicting what happens in the temple, so it was important to all of us to make this as accurate as possible. That meant a lot of research, for the costumes, for the set design, by bringing people who had gone through those ceremonies into that exact room,” explains the protagonist.

‘By Heaven’s Command’ paints a true portrait of everyday life for Mormons during the 1980s. “It’s ultimately about the search for truth in the face of potential loss of family, social fabric, life,” Garfield concludes

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‘By Heaven’s Mandate’, the Disney+ series that shows the uncomfortable reality of Mormons