Jane and EmmaSalt Lake City, Utah; Nauvoo, Illinois
: Excel Entertainment
Jane and Emma
The new film Jane and Emma is about the friendship between Jane Manning and Emma Smith. The film is loosely historical, based on the limited writings that Jane left behind, but though some aspects of the story are imagined, the film speaks to many facts about Latter-day Saint history that we know to be true. The film openly acknowledges, for instance, the fact of Nauvoo polygamy and Joseph Smith’s multiple wives. It sympathetically depicts Emma Smith, who must surely be one of the most equivocally viewed figures in the early history of the Church. And central to the film’s thematic concerns is the tangled and contentious history of race relations in Latter-day Saint history. It presents early converts as sharing the unabashedly racist worldview of nineteenth-century Americans, and it prefigures the ways in which the most retrograde notions of race and privilege would continue to impact Latter-day Saint culture and thought going forward from Joseph Smith’s martyrdom. Despite, and perhaps because of, the difficult issues the film addresses, I would describe the film as faith inspiring and powerfully spiritual.