As stated in the movie’s opening credits, this movie is “based on a true story.” The end credits get more specific, explaining:
“This film is inspired by actual events and characters. Some characters, characterizations, incidents, locations, timelines and dialogue were composited or otherwise fictionalized. With respect to such composited or fictionalized elements, any similarity to the name or history of any person, living or dead, or to any actual incident, is entirely for dramatic purposes and not intended to reflect on an actual character, history, or entity.”
But what does that paragraph of legal language actually mean? What is true in the movie and what has been modified?
Below are details answers to that question pertaining to key events and/or individuals in the movie. However, these details include spoilers that may make the movie less satisfying for you. If you want to avoid those spoilers, the following additional information may be sufficient:
All the main characters and events included in The Other Side of Heaven 2: Fire of Faith, are based on experiences included in two books written by Elder John H. Groberg containing over 600 pages between them.
In an effort to include as many of those characters and events as possible within the limited confines of a 110-page screenplay, the screenwriter combined and/or reordered some timelines and characters and events.
All major characters and events in the movie are based on true characters or events, but modifications have been made in order to tell as many possible aspects of the Groberg family’s story as succinctly and dramatically as possible.
If that is not enough clarification, read on, knowing that you may be exposed to spoilers.
The Truth About Thomas S. Monson (SPOILERS AHEAD)
As depicted in the film, then-Elder Thomas S. Monson was the Apostle assigned to supervise the Church in the South Pacific during the time then-President John H. Groberg, his wife Jean, and their children were in Tonga presiding over the missionary work there as well as in Fiji and Niue.
Elder Monson visited the Groberg family numerous times during their three years in Tonga and participated in laying on hands and blessing several members of their family over the years. He also participated in several missionary conferences with President Groberg.
As the movie shows, Elder Monson was a fast driver, but he did not actually drive the Grobergs to the hospital with their sick baby because he was not in Tonga at the time their infant boy fell ill.
However, as depicted in the film, Elder Monson did receive a prompting while in a barbershop in New Zealand to call President Groberg and encourage him to get his baby on the next flight to the U.S.
The Truth About Feki Po’uha (SPOILERS AHEAD)
As depicted in the original film, Feki Po’uha was Elder Groberg’s beloved first missionary companion who was transferred “back into construction” when Elder Groberg was assigned to become the District President and call two counselors during his first mission to Tonga.
When Elder Groberg returned to Tonga as Mission President years later, his mission included the island of Niue, where Feki had settled with his wife, Foli, after helping build chapels for the Church and several structures on the BYU-Hawaii campus as well as the Polynesian Cultural Center. Tragically, while serving as District President in Niue, Feki contracted bone cancer and died at a fairly young age. Elder Groberg spoke at his funeral.
Notably, Feki’s youngest sister, Na’ati, is the grandmother of renowned PGA golfer, Tony Finau. And Feki’s brother, Soanasi, is the father of former NFL player, Sione Po’uha.
The Truth About Tonga Toutai Paletu’a (SPOILERS AHEAD)
In the new movie Tonga Toutai Paletu’a is depicted as a young missionary serving in President Groberg’s mission when, in reality, he served as one of his counselors in the mission presidency.
Toutai’s timeline was modified in order to allow his father/son story to unfold alongside President Groberg’s father/son story within the limited constraints of a two hour film. Without this modification it would have been impossible to include Toutai’s inspiring story alongside the Groberg family’s story because they actually occurred years apart.
Did Toutai really get beaten up for joining the Church? (SPOILERS AHEAD)
Yes, many times. Read Chapter 20 in the book The Fire of Faith for a more complete and factual account.
The day Toutai was baptized his father sent his older brother to the beach to “teach him a lesson.” The brother arrived just as Toutai emerged from the water and beat him into unconsciousness using a thick stick. Gratefully Toutai survived and his father and family eventually reconciled. Toutai went on to be a faithful, prominent leader of the Church in Tonga.
Did Toutai’s father really make him spend the night alone on the beach buried in the sand? (SPOILERS AHEAD)
No. However, the act of burying Toutai in the sand and forcing him to spend the night alone on the beach is a true story occurring in the life of one of the writer/director’s Samoan friends who was thus punished for showing disrespect to his father. The sudden storm causing the seas to rush over the boy in the sand is fictional.
Is it true Toutai's father gave the Groberg baby a blessing? (SPOILERS AHEAD)
No. This scene is a representation of the love and faith of the many Tongan Methodist ministers who led their parishioners in faithful fasting and prayer in the baby's behalf. The Groberg family felt the influence of their faith and prayers and believes it was key to their baby's miraculous healing.
The Truth About the Storm at Sea (SPOILERS AHEAD)
President and Sister Groberg were caught in numerous serious storms as they traveled throughout the Tongan islands in older boats, often taking their young daughters with them. There were a number of times President and Sister Groberg feared for their lives as well as those of their little girls. For more details see the book The Fire of Faith chapters 8, 12, 21, 28, 41, and 48.
It was impossible to depict the wide variety of storms and boats involved in the Grobergs’ many ocean adventures so the writer/director composited highlights of these storms into one sequence in the film. He also included a story found in chapter 48 of the first book, The Other Side of Heaven, in which a boat towing a barge got caught in a storm that threatened to sink both of them.
The Groberg girls were not aboard the boat on the day it was towing the construction barge, and they were not playing on the barge when the storm hit, but everything else about that scene is true, including the degree of peril experienced by Jean and her daughters during their many voyages at sea during their mission.
It is also true that the barge really did start to sink the boat President Groberg was on and he had to decide whether or not to cut the barge free to save the boat. Some of his beloved missionaries were aboard the barge during that particular storm, but his daughters were not.
Did the Groberg’s baby daughter really get thrown from the boat up onto the rocks as depicted in the movie?
Yes. This scene is taken from an unpublished chapter from Elder Groberg’s original manuscript for The Fire of Faith. The chapter relating this story was ommitted for purposes of brevity before the book was published but Elder Groberg gave it to the writer/director of the film when he was writing the script and he decide to incorporate it.
The island where this occurred is called Fotuha’a and the baby girl who was thrown up into the outstretched arms of the Tongans, Gayle Groberg Teuscher, was only a few months old. There was an article in “The Church News” describing how recordings of General Conference were recently delivered to Fotuha’a by throwing them up onto waiting Saints on the rocks. There are many islands in the South Pacific where this practice is still used for disembarking boat passengers.
What Important Things Are Missing From the Movie?
Many important events and characters were not able to be included in the film because of time constraints, including the Coronation of King Tupou IV, President and Sister Groberg’s friendship with the King and Queen of Tonga as well as many Nobles, and President and Sister N. Eldon Tanner visiting Tonga for the Jubilee celebration with the Royal Family.
Unfortunately, other dear friends and key characters from the Groberg family’s mission to Tonga are unrepresented or underrepresented in the film, including but not limited to Uliti Uata, Sovea Kioa, and Manase Nau. To find out more about these missing events and individuals, see the book, The Fire of Faith.
1 MILLION STRONG TO BRING THE MOVIE TO ALL THE WORLD
Elder Groberg and President Thomas S. Monson shared a vision, purpose and mission for making the sequel: That this true story of love, forgiveness, family and faith would reach as many people across the entire world as possible.
We achieved this with the first movie in the year 2000 and we can do it again!
Watch the video below for a message about how we can fulfill Elder Groberg and President Monson's mission for the movie...