The Keys of the Kingdom (1944)

gregory peck movieIf you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find him, maybe you can hire…Gregory Peck.


Ah, yes, Gregory Peck — or, as he is known in our house: the A-team.

In Keys of the Kingdom, Peck plays a Scottish priest sent to China who establishes a Catholic parish against all odds. This movie is very similar to another great movie I featured a while back called The Inn of the Sixth Happiness.

This film is based on real life. And when I say “real life” I mean “a totally fictional novel written by A.J. Cronin in 1941.”

Aside from Peck (To Kill a Mockingbird and Roman Holiday), who received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor even though this was only his second film, Keys of the Kingdom features a few other actors you may recognize:

  • Vincent Price —Though famous for his horror films, this wasn’t the only religious film Price made. He also appeared in The Ten Commandments as well as Brigham Young.
  • Thomas Mitchell — His face will be familiar if you’ve seen It’s a Wonderful Life or Smith Goes to Washington.
  • A very young Roddy McDowall — He grew up to be a great comedic actor who appeared in Disney films like That Darn Cat! and The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin. He was also in a very obscure but hilarious film called Scavenger Hunt.

OH, SOMETHING YOU SHOULD KNOW: There’s this awkward moment when Father Chisholm thinks everyone on shore is waiting for his arrival, but as his ship lands it turns out they were all waiting for someone else. I had something similar happen one day in the hall at work when the CEO walked toward me and said, “There’s the man I’m looking for! Hello Adam.” As I reached out and to shake his hand, he gave me a weird look. I was already mid-handshake when I realized he was talking to an executive also named Adam who was standing right behind me.

There are many moments in this film that exemplify the actions of any true disciple of Christ, but one of my favorites came during Father Chisholm’s conversation with an atheist friend who was on his deathbed:

keys of the kingdom peck gregoryI still can’t believe in God. Are you mad at me?

Of course not.

Are you disappointed that I won’t let you save me?

Your salvation will be your doing, Willie, not mine.

When you get to your kingdom, don’t look for my name on the register.

It would be fun just to meet by chance.

Francis, I’ve never loved you as much as I do now, because you haven’t tried to bully me into heaven.

As we approach those who do not share our beliefs, we teach, we serve, and we unequivocally stand by our doctrine. But we do it with love and humility as Father Chisholm did.

Of course when you have something as precious as religion, you naturally want to share it with others. But regardless of whether or not it is accepted, those to whom we bear our souls must know that we will always be their friend no matter what they choose to believe.

Sparking faith in others does not come by belittling with pompous condescension, but by building up with the love demonstrated by Jesus Christ Himself.

“Therefore, O ye that embark in the service of God…remember faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, godliness, charity, humility, diligence.” — Doctrine & Covenants 4:2, 6

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