SALT LAKE CITY — Anyone in downtown Salt Lake City during Conference weekend has probably seen the "street preachers" — and heard them too. They're the people brandishing huge signs, yelling at members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
A new documentary, "Us and Them: Religious Rivalry in America," tells the story of an unlikely friendship between a practicing LDS man and a street preacher.
"Growing up as a devout Mormon, I had always been raised with a little bit of a fear of these people who stand outside the Conference Center and protest," said filmmaker Bryan Hall.
One day, Hall gathered his courage to introduce himself to one vocal critic of his church.
"I approached him, singled out Ruben, and faced my fears," said Hall of meeting Ruben Israel. "And here we are."
"It started because he came up and asked a sincere question, and so I dropped what I was doing and spent some time with him," Israel said. "And, as odd as it sounds, yes, we have a unique friendship."
Israel stays at Hall's home every six months during Conference weekend. Bryan attends Conference sessions; Ruben preaches outside.
"It's not like I've been converted to Mormonism," Israel said.
Hall acknowledged: "I've made no ground on him."
However, Israel said he has come to understand Hall better during their time together.
"I understand where he stands," Israel said. "That's the principle, and I appreciate that."
Hall said the film may be uncomfortable viewing for some.
"I don't just pick on Mormons. Last weekend, I was in Washington, D.C., preaching to Muslims."
"I don't just pick on Mormons," Israel said. "Last weekend, I was in Washington, D.C., preaching to Muslims."
Israel said crying repentance comes from the Bible. He works as a contractor, and no one pays him to protest.
Both men say they better understand the scripture, Matthew 5:44, which teaches: "Love your enemies."
"I am a better Mormon today than I was five years ago," Hall said.
Bryan and Ruben will tour the region with their documentary. It is available at Deseret Book and Amazon.com.