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The Return of Elder Pingree

Lapsed Mormon Geoff Pingree retraces the steps he took twenty-five years earlier in Guatemala as devout missionary 'Elder Pingree'. Combining contemporary footage with a wealth of archival material–35mm slides, journal entries, letters, and audiotapes–THE RETURN OF ELDER PINGREE pairs the young Elder Pingree's earlier, single-minded journey with the older Geoff Pingree's ambivalent return to Guatemala as he searches for the people who once trusted him with their religious faith, attempts to understand the violent and unsettling political conditions of which he was ignorant as a regimented missionary, and grapples with the basic human dilemma of how one might do good in the world.

While Elder Pingree was certain he was preaching the truth and doing the Lord’s work, Geoff Pingree struggles to understand why he left the Mormon Church just four years after his mission, and he questions his own motives for helping other people. In tracing Elder Pingree’s path and seeking out his converts, Geoff Pingree aims to square old convictions with new ones, to make sense of once-sacred rituals in which he himself can no longer participate. In returning to Guatemala, he hopes to confront a missionary past that is both meaningful and troubling. THE RETURN OF ELDER PINGREE examines a universal coming-of-age struggle for self-knowledge and self-acceptance. In exploring what happens to human relationships as time passes and people’s hearts and minds change, it poses crucial questions about how to make sense of and take responsibility for our influence on others.