A new PBS series profiling the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will again bring Mormonism into the national spotlight. On an hour-long edition of Utah NOW, we're talking about the series and gauging the reaction to this latest portrait of the faith. Find out what Utahns say after viewing the documentary. Did it clear up misconceptions or reinforce them? Join us for a balanced, considered response to the national broadcast. In a unique collaboration between KUED and KBYU, Utah NOW: Viewing THE MORMONS will be simulcast on both channels Friday at 8 pm.
Satellite interview with filmmaker Helen Whitney, who--over the course of three years--wrote, produced and directed both segments of the American Experience/Frontline Documentary: THE MORMONS.
Interview with Ken Verdoia and Terryl Givens, who are both featured in the documentary. Ken Verdoia is the director of production at KUED -TV Channel 7 and was one of the first experts contacted by Helen Whitney when she began her work more than three years ago. Terryl Givens is a Mormon author and a professor of Literature and Religion at the University of Richmond, Virginia.
One-on-one interview with LDS Church Historian and Recorder Elder Marlin K. Jensen, of the First Quorum of the Seventy, who is also the executive director of the Family and Church History Department.
Roundtable discussion with Jack Newell, emeritus professor at the University of Utah and a former co-editor of Dialogue Magazine; Elizabeth Sewell, associate director of BYU's International Center for Law and Religion Studies, Bob Goldberg, History professor and director of the University of Utah's Tanner Humanities Center, and Robert Millet a professor of Ancient Scripture and past dean of Religious Studies at BYU.
We thought both the documentary itself and the Utah NOW discussion were very worthwhile. The documentary, it's true, probably could have gone further to dispel stereotypes about Mormons and spent a disproportionately large amount of time on Mountain Meadows and polygamy, but overall it created an open dialogue with a friendly tone. As Mormons ourselves, we sometimes long for discussion which is more openly reflective and less polarized (it seems people either defend Mormonism or they attack it).
As for the Utah NOW program, it eloquently voices the objections that I think many Mormons have about the documentary but still puts forward the gratitude Ms. Whitney deserves for the very good work she has done.
We strongly encourage that the Utah NOW program be distributed as a special feature of the documentary itself when it is released on DVD.
Posted by Angela & Brett Rasmussen, Wednesday December 31st, 1969 @ 5:00 pm
Were outraged! The obvious negative bias and slant towards the LDS faith was clearly demonstrated with the emphasis of NINE interviews from those who malign our faith! We were disappointed with the manner that 'The Mormons' edited and sandwiched the comments of our beloved Prophet, Pres. Gordon B. Hinckley, our esteemed Apostle, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, our devoted Seventy, Elder Marlin K. Jensen, and our dedicated Professor, Daniel C. Peterson, between thick slices of anti, inflammatory, and negative opinions. The only positive rating that we can offer for 'The Mormons' comes from the inclusion of the transcripts of the interviews with Pres. Hinckley, Elder Holland, Elder Jensen, and Prof. Peterson on the show's web site. Their comments provide the real truth and include the following comment from Elder Holland (which we echo about the show consulting others for our story): You don't want somebody else telling you your history, and therefore I would like to tell my children, and the children of the church, the youth of the church collectively, I'd like to be having them hear it from friends rather than enemies. I'm just doubtful about the motives of some. ... But there is not anything anybody can say to me that will make me afraid of my history.
Posted by Errol and Hollie Bevan, Tuesday May 1st, 2007 @ 5:16 pm
I am a convert to the LDS Church. My faith and conviction have grown steadily for the 27 years I have been associated with it. The opinions presented in "The Mormons" were genuine and beautiful expressions from the hearts of those interviewed. I have gained a better perspective, empathy and love for those who defined the hurt that entered their lives as they have become stranged from their faith. The pure and moving testimonies of the faithful, from the simplest individuals struggling to understand the trails they face to the eloquent comments by Church authoirties brought the Spirit into my home touched our family as we watched. I would like to thank all who participated in the production and airing. It is a beatiful work.
Posted by John Butler, Wednesday May 2nd, 2007 @ 8:37 am
This blog so eloquently states how I feel about this documentary.
This is my reply to the blog
I find your analysis intellectual and fair for this documentary. If I had to guess you are Mormon, and the people who made this anti documentary where non mormon who , at the very least, where more influenced by the anti people they interviewed. At the most they where anti going in and had to appear to take both sides to get PBS to air this anti documentary.
I am a return missionary, retired US Air Force, and inactive member of the church. In my wide range of experiences, and places I have lived in my life, it is my experience that the vast majority of people out side of the church are anti mormon, so this anti documentary does not in the least surprise me.
Religion for idiots 101: Religion is based on faith. To argue faith is to be hateful. end of story.
Yes, I am a practicing Mormon, although I approach religious analysis from an agnostic viewpoint. I believe I would have had the same things to say if I'd watched a similarly biased documentary on Catholicism, the Amish, Islam, or any other religion.
It's been my own experience - living outside of Utah my whole life - that the vast majority of non-Mormons just don't know much about Mormons. Here in the Bible Belt (I live in Richmond, VA) the anti-Mormonism is fairly strong, but certainly not as prevalent as simple ignorance.
In terms of the making of the documentary - I met Helen Whitney and have spoken with several of the people she interviewed. I get a lot of my information from my father, Terryl Givens, who is obviously much more closely related to this project, as well as from other sources.
The impression I get is that it was actually PBS that put pressure on Helen Whitney to include a more anti-Mormon slant. One editor actually told her "Helen, you've drunk the kool-aid," after watching one of her earlier drafts.
As far as Helen herself is concerned, I think she's basically fair but is a little too fascinated in controversy. Which makes sense. You don't get famous and respected making documentaries without controversy. But I feel that this led to a kind of over-emphasis on controversy and a touch of sensationalism (though minor) to the work.
My e-mail is email@example.com
Posted by Chris Hawkes, Wednesday May 2nd, 2007 @ 3:10 pm
John, Are you kidding me? I was excited to watch this documentary. I had heard that it was going to be a very "fair" depiction of the Mormons. After I watched it in its entirety, with a very open mind, I was sad and heart broken. What a waist of time and money. All I can say is that my sprit was offended as I listened to so many anti Mormons pretending to be speaking in all friendliness toward the church but in reality were wolfs in sheep's clothing trying to degrade and run down the church.
Posted by FJ , Wednesday May 2nd, 2007 @ 3:48 pm
It is interesting to me that in some communistic societies the government has sought to eliminate the intellectuals. For example, in 1975, Communist Khmer Rouge of Camodia ordered the execution of all people he believed to be an intellectual because he found them threatening to his position of power.
Those of us who are Mormon all know or should know that excommunication is a spiritual execution and results in emotional pain for years.
Posted by LS , Wednesday May 2nd, 2007 @ 9:04 pm
Its for sure that this film was by a Mormon writer. It was a great ad for Mitt Romney. Bring up some controversy then sugar coat it with a cutsy Mormon candy covered feel good story. What a better way to make Mitt look good. The church had to have a hand in the making, it had numerous old mormon history films. I'd like to see someone really expose all the changes and coverups that the church really is doing. The Mormons are seen as a cult, and the way the film showed the programming of the children to go on a mission verifies that cult indoctrination. Shame on you Kued for falling for this political, corporate scam. This only proves that if Romney is elected that he will be controlled by the church, just as they are controlling his campaign with this sort of propraganda.
Posted by Trish , Thursday May 3rd, 2007 @ 2:43 pm
In the United States of America anyone is free to study history; it should not be controlled or sanitized by an institution fearful of losing its hold on power. No one should be afraid of their history, but should have the courage to acknowledge it, study it, and learn from it. The Germans are doing a good job with this in teaching their children about the holocaust, and maintaining museums in remembrance of the concentration camps, etc. (Ive read that the Japanese, traditionally a more closed society, are not responsibly educating their children about Japans role in World War II.) All religions have some regrettable history. How many Catholics, for instance, know that some Popes had concubines and lived in great luxury? There is a saying: God created religion and Satan organized it.
Posted by L. S., Thursday May 3rd, 2007 @ 2:43 pm
I was surprised that "The Mormons" was as good as it was, and while I lack faith in Doug Fabrizio's ability to be as relatively fair, I'll give his show a watch tonight. Regarding "The Mormons," there will always be complaints from various sides that this or that was overlooked, but overall I thought it was a reasonably accurate picture of Latter-day Saints.
It's strange that some of my fellow LDS brothers and sisters have complained about the emphasis on polygamy; in a discussion of the 19th century church it's difficult to overstate the importance of polygamy in shaping LDS culture, especially given the national reaction to the practice. I thought that part of the show was a lot less lurid than I would have expected.
The only gripes I have about the program and that I consider it disrespectful and offensive to have included information on temple ordinances when the producers know such ordinances are too sacred for church members to discuss publically (arguing that others have covered it doesn't justify PBS covering it, any more than others robbing convenience stores justifies you robbing a convenience store), and the overemphasis on the Mountain Meadows massacre (especially given the underemphasis on persecution of Mormons).
Regarding the latter point, from watching this series one would think that the persecution of Mormons consisted largely of one massacre at Hauns Mill, and that it was part of an ongoing war between Mormons and Missourians in which a few Mormons lost that one battle. Hauns Mill was the tip of the iceberg. Regarding the Mountain Meadows massacre, Mountain Meadows was not a formative or transforming event in the history of the Church, as--say--polygamy was, nor is it emblematic of Mormon ideals or ways of living. To make it the sole focus of an entire segment is a pretty clear indication that anti-religious bigots at PBS saw an opportunity to drag out one of their favorite stereotypes, the one about religious fervor being inherently dangerous, and trot it around awhile. However, Mountain Meadows didn't happen because of religious fervor, it happened because a confused notion of self-defense operated against a group of people entering Utah during a war in which the federal government was sending its own mega-mob west, and this wagon party had members bragging about having killed Mormons in the east and gloating that it was going to happen again. I for one am getting tired of hearing Will Bagley wheel out, ever time he sees a microphone, his tired and unsupported accusation that Brigham Young somehow planned this event from far away in Salt Lake City. In any event, since the entire tragic event was largely irrelevant to the future of the LDS church, or to saying anything meaningful about church members as a whole, it didn't merit more than a couple of minutes of time. The time it took could have been used to fill gaps that the program did leave regarding significant aspects of Mormon doctrine and culture. If PBS insists on painting religion as inherently dangerous, how about being intellectually honest and consistent, and painting the Left as a group of bloodthirsty monsters because almost every major genocide and atrocity in the past century (Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot) has been wrought by socialists? That wouldn't be fair? Exactly.
That's all water under the bridge now, though. However, given who is going to be on Utah Now tonight, one more thought comes to mind. I'm mystified by how the excommunication of six people out of a church comprised of many millions of members could constitute a "purge." Do the math. It would be interesting, instead of hearing those people endlessly replay their victimization stories, to hear someone publically call them on their lack of testimony. None of them believe that Joseph Smith actually saw God the Father and Jesus Christ stand before him, none of them believe that the Book of Mormon describes actual events, and none of them believe that Jesus Christ literally guides His church today through revelation direct to living prophets. They want to change the church from the bottom up, instead of letting God change it from the top down, because they don't believe God is up there doing that. In doing so they would gut the church of everything that it is, and turn it into a social club where the members rather than God call the shots. Who should put up with that? If you don't believe, how can you live with yourself wanting to participate in a fraud that calls upon you to lie every day of your life? If you do believe, why would you let wolves in the fold, who are trying to destroy the church from within? I'd be mighty interested to hear those questions asked tonight.
Posted by Paul Wake, Friday May 4th, 2007 @ 8:08 am
I thought the PBS presentation was fascinating yet somewhat troubling too. I didn't like how dark it started out - how 'mysterious' and 'somber' the artwork, music, and descriptions of Joseph Smith were. It felt that any mention of rev elation was depicted darkly rather than illuminating or as something lovely. I also felt very saddened to learn things I didn't know about the Mountain Meadow Massacre from a slanted source. After doing a lot of research I realized how quotes were taken out of context and applicable history was left out.
I think overall it left me nostalgic for being 8 years old again and to be newly baptized with only the love of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and the Book of Mormon in my heart, free of the burdens that come in adult experience of distorted views, backed not by a desire to be fair but with a personal agenda. I am reminded the truth that we can't escape earthly opposition in all things!
I don't question my personal revelation of Heavenly Father's witness to me of the reality of Joseph Smith's First Vision, the reality of the translation through revelation of the Book of Mormon, nor do I doubt the beauties and truth of celestial glory and celestial marriage and all the covenants and ordinances of the holy temple. I do know that Jesus Christ is the Redeemer of the World, the Messiah, and that he is my Savior, He is the Son of God, He is my loving Friend and King and that the Atonement and Resurrection are not just miraculous, but truth, reality, and beautiful, saving gifts. I will just say that having healing, peace, understanding of all the unanswered questions about the history, events, and even laws of the gospel that I don't have yet -- will be a wondrous, happy time. . .I am truly anxious and looking forward to the day of the Millenial reign of our Savior. I have felt many times the longing for this life to speed His coming, to usher in this promised day of peace. (3 Nephi 16: 18-20 "Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing, for they shall see eye to eye when the Lord shall bring again Zion. Break forth into joy, sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem; for the Lord hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem. The Lord hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of God.
I suppose I have to live like His coming is tomorrow but accept it may be after I die.
Watching this program left me anxious to have another General Conference; to sit in the Conference Center and hear our own propehts' testify of the truth again. I know when I pray I receive my own peace, and each time they showed one of our leaders speaking, peace returned to my soul. I know what I know and believe is true; despite the new questions that brought me to further research and personal prayer. The itching from questions I didn't have before have found relief from the Spirit's renewed confirmation of the truth to my heart and mind. Any challenge to our faith gives opportunity for new learning and renewal.
Posted by Chrystal , Friday May 4th, 2007 @ 9:45 am
To be fair in my response I report up front that I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and so bring to the dialog this perspective on the PBS documentary, The Mormons.
My initial take on the documentary, at least the first segment, was negative. While not necessarily factually inaccurate, I did not care for the art and background music associated with the story. Perhaps it is simply a matter of taste, but they strike me as ghoulish and in my mind they reinforce a stereotype of mysticism and fanaticism. I would be very interested to know how Ms. Whitney would respond to my concerns about the music and art work and the following conclusion that I have drawn after viewing the program twice. It appears from the program that she felt forced to portray the origins of the Church as dubious - flowing naturally from the invented revelations of its charismatic but ultimately dishonest founding leader. It seems that she cannot accept the story told by Joseph and believed by millions of Latter-day Saints, and therefore must tell an alternative story. Alternative stories tend to have dark and evil overtones. Thus, perhaps Ms. Whitney should not be judged harshly on this account - if you refuse to give any space for Josephs version of events you are stuck with the alternatives. As a Latter-day Saint I am comfortable with the binary proposition that either Joseph told the truth or he was a charlatan. If one cannot accept Joseph Smiths version of events, then that proposition points toward charlatan. I would have felt better about this documentary if Ms. Whitney would have left resolution of the tension engendered in the proposition to the viewer, but on this issue The Mormons became more editorial and less documentary.
Although I feel that polygamy received more attention than is warranted, it is an issue that is of interest to the broader public and if Ms. Whitney had given it only passing attention she would have lost credibility with many viewers. Again the assumption that Joseph was a fraud colors the presentation. If polygamy was not a commandment from God to His prophet, there must be an alternative explanation and that explanation often assumes sexual license. Given the time devoted to it, the topic of polygamy could have been developed in a fashion that was less editorial and more documentary. In my view, Mountain Meadows was also given more time than was appropriate, but here I confess to be sufficiently ignorant of the relevant facts that I am not a good judge. I eagerly await the volume on this topic to be published by Oxford University Press.
One issue that I had hoped to see explored more fully in the documentary was the issue of African heritage and the priesthood. The stories of faithful Latter-day Saints with African lineage who were baptized into the Church and carried within them a deep testimony of the restoration and a conviction that God loves them despite the fact that many of their fellow saints held racist views and they could not hold the priesthood or have the immediate blessings of the temple are inspiring beyond words. Their stories are worthy of a stand-alone documentary, but The Mormons gave them little attention.
I have no objections to a book or documentary that asks difficult questions and explores sensitive issues. History and even the scriptures are filled with examples of splinter groups straying from the main path and faithful disciples stumbling as they work out their salvation. A truthful and complete documentary of the Latter-day Saints will of necessity contain these elements. However, in a documentary such as this, how you weight the focus on splinter groups and stumbling disciples versus the focus on functional members of the Church is an editorial decision that determines the balance of the message. Ms. Whitney took many steps in the direction toward a fair balance by including substantial face time in the program for the eloquent responses from Elder Marlin K. Jensen and Professor Terryl Givens, and by including statements in the program from scholars and former members of the Church that are moderate and thoughtful. She could easily have presented more polarizing speakers on both sides of the various issues. Ken Verdoia, who also received substantial face time, and in some respects was our expert guide, was also very thoughtful in his statements. Additionally, she avoided being overtly offensive to Latter-day Saints with her sensitive treatment of the temple and temple ordinances.
In the end I believe that Ms. Whitney's efforts are very laudable and paint the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as an extraordinary social institution but ultimately deny the possibility that it could be what it claims to be - the divinely restored church of Jesus Christ. From my perspective, her denial of that possibility makes The Mormons a less balanced documentary than it could have been.
Posted by Richard Sperry, Friday May 4th, 2007 @ 12:32 pm
I was not able to see all of the first night's broadcast of the PBS special "The Mormon", but what I did see was a bit dark and I thought too much time was spent showing clips of the "excommunicated members". Of course they give a very biased slant to things and usually you go to the sorce to find out about someting, I feel.
I think if people want to learn more, they probably will and for those who already think that the LDS church is a cult, evil, non-Christian, etc. they probably will feel the same. All members should try to be good examples, to CTR, and answer questions as clear as they can, but we should not cause contention nor argue with angry people. We are all human, everyone makes mistakes and a church whould not be judged entirely by how the members live but by the spirit of peace that comes with a beginning of a testimony.
Posted by Sheila Wright, Friday May 4th, 2007 @ 5:32 pm
I don't want to replow the ground the previous respondents covered too much. Trying to be objective it looks like the reaction is divided into three groups - some liked it, some disliked it because it was too favorable to the Mormons and some disliked it because it was too unfavorable. By one definition of "fair", if no one is happy with the outcome of an activity, then you might have gotten it close to right. From my perspective, as a college-aged convert to the Church that has lived most of my 51 years outside of Utah, the show could have been better balanced in some aspects. On the other hand, having lived in Missouri, Ohio, Virginia, and New Mexico before moving to Utah, I've seen a lot worse - a lot worse. The biggest lack in my view was a coherent presentation of Mormon theology - something that could have been included if a little less time was given to the Mountain Meadows Massacre or polygamy. There was no real discussion of how the Church's doctrine is similar to other christian denominations while at the same time having additional teachings that also make it unique. Also, the juxtaposition of polygamy in the early history of the Church with one of numerous spliner groups that happen to still practice polygamy will no doubt leave many people outside of the Church believing that polygamy is still part of the Church. Finally, starting off the program stating that Joseph Smith is the Alpha and Omega of the Church will definitely reinforce one of the negative stereotypes that some outside the Church have - that we worship Joseph Smith instead of Jesus Christ, who is the real Alpha and Omega of our religion. However, from a purely objective sense, in one sense Joseph is _an_ Alpha and Omega - Joseph was intimately involved in the restoration (beginning) of the Church in these times, and the validity of his works will always be tied to the validity of the Church until the end of this dispensation. At the end of the day I believe that there was more positive than negative in this presentation, and if it acts as a mechanism to facilitate honest discussion and debate, then it will have done its job.
However, I would have to dispute one thing posted earlier. I watched the Utah Now segment that aired this evening, and I have to say that it was extremely thoughtful, balanced and informative and that Doug Fabrizio did a great job moderating the discussion. In fact, I would recommend that it be considered a critical companion piece to the original documentary. The two works, taken together, provide a much more complete and comprehensive picture of "The Mormons" and I hope that Utah Now will make this broadcast available as a download or DVD to accompany the existing documentary. Thank you KUED and KBYU for producing this discussion on Utah Now and thank you PBS for showing the documentary.
Posted by Randy J. Jost, Friday May 4th, 2007 @ 10:14 pm
First, take into account my situation: I am 17, and a proud member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. A senior in high school, I am told by many teachers to be "informed" "read the newspapers, watch the news." My teachers don't realize, that at the same time I am being drilled about rhetoric, economics, social tension, and "why you cannot trust surveys". These things are all in my mind while I am watching the news and it announces THE MORMON program(MLA citation...). Since I am also preparing to go on my mission-I could rant here about a cretin aspect of the documentary that was offensive to my generation- I decided to sacrifice some of my precious youthful time "being involved" At first, I thought I had wasted it. It was awful, biased, blah, blah, blah, blah, you, don't, want, me, to, go, on, do, you? Let's just say, I was unimpressed. However, since I had watched it with more openness, I think I learned a valuable lesson on society.
openness: a term which here means,I am not a fat old man who only cares about increasing hot-dog yields at his stands, and seaching anti-Mormon literature so as to justify his hate over a "bad experience with a member" in the past.
(did I guess your life story Trish? Why would anyone, anywhere, have such heated anger, and feelings against the church, to look up a blog about it in the deep recesses of the internet, and post such a comment? Even columnists in the Washington Post who are PAID to be controversial, and opinionated, dont get so high strung, and they make their "point" eloquent.)
That takes me to my epiphany about society: Unless I am horribly mistaken, there is a vast majority of Americans who would rather watch AMERICAN IDOL (MLA citation again,) than increase their knowledge base by researching "stuff."
And even less who would read my little comment.
Hint. I just used a form of rhetoric. Kudos to whoever can name it. This is actually really fun! using rhetoric, and hoping someone, out there, will notice...
Anyways, about those Americans. There are a lot of them. Very few people watched the documentary. Admit it, even many members didn't watch it. (It didn't help that it was two days long. Who has that amount of time?) Why would anybody watch it? It is obvious by the comments on this site that there are three types of people who cared about the show: Members of the church hoping for a miracle mission tool. Anti-Mormons anticipating, and glorifying in feeding their "evil" souls (notice the negative connotation of the word evil). And then there is me.
And Richard Sperry. He seems to be a good guy. 10 comments total were posted when I jumped on, and only one was meaningful to me (besides my own, of course) Richard gets kudos, cuz he knows that he doesn't know what other people know. He only knows a little of a couple of things. Like Me.
Yet it is understanding many little things that make someone understand the broad picture. If I wasn't taught in psychology about how unreliable surveys are, because the sampling isn't random, and doesn't represent the population, I would have been blinded, just like those members who were "deeply offended."
Come On! Of course it was biased, because the movie makers didn't follow the rules. Had it not been for Social Studies, I wouldn't have understood that the LDS faith is special, when brought on the world scale, because it models the same patterns of controversy, and heat, as did the social rights issue did in America. A documentary fueling the debate is unavoidable, and should be expect more often. Had it not been for English, I wouldn't have been able to write, or understand anything I had written, but would have not written, but really, did, er, wouldn't have, er, written? Had it not been for Physics.... Actually, Physics is useless here.
I am being cultured, and by being cultured, I understand a little more about things. There might be a response from an expert on surveys, shooting my argument to vernal, saying I don't know anything, but you guys will understand.
It is only dangerous to be educated, when we follow one direction, learn as much as we can, cling to our radical opinions, and by doing so, ruin our life and our faith. (I think one of the ladies in the documentary did this, about feminism). What we are taught in the church is to "gain as much education as possible" and that means, of all the education the world has to offer( I can actually site this one: Mission of the Aaronic Priesthood.) Even the accounting class. When we live open minded, feasting on education and knowledge, then we will achieve "bliss" and not be offended, blinded, or deceived by historians who study the problems of the world, only know about the problems of the world, and only get paid if the problems of the world continue. Face it: if history was happy, who would study it? Many parts of our church history is happy. Most of it is happy. And yet, historians don't care.
Posted by Bart Blackburn, Friday May 4th, 2007 @ 10:21 pm
I viewed the documentary in its entirety and thought it was very balanced in its approach. Perhaps overly cosmetic with many of the unsavory details of Joseph Smith's life. I have always found it fascinating that a majority of the members of the LDS faith make broad and negative generalizations when commenting upon detailed and documented recountings of LDS history. Why is anyone who dares point out historical realities about Mormonism immediately labeled "anti-Mormon" or biased? Can anyone pinpoint falsehoods about LDS history depticted as truth in the documentary? Did prophet Smith order the destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor or not? If so why did he order it destroyed? Did Brigham Young order the massacre or not? John D. Lee stated that he did. Why was he the only mand tried and executed for an event involving so many more who committed murder? The truth never fears investigation.
Posted by Ronald Tabor, Friday May 4th, 2007 @ 11:01 pm
I thought the comments in Utah Now were interesting take by all concerned. I think LDS need to get over this sensitivity to critics. As a Christian I don't get upset if members of the Jesus Seminar get up on TV and take a different views of the Gospels. I know there are scholars like Wright and Withington who have debated with them effectively.
Posted by Noel , Saturday May 5th, 2007 @ 1:32 am
Stop your sniveling!
Your own representative, Marlin Jensen, the official historian of the LDS church, agreed with the show, and even said it REPRESENTS US.
Posted by P. Porter, Saturday May 5th, 2007 @ 1:50 am
After watching The Mormons both nights, I was happy to watch UTAH NOW and the panel discussion. I felt the documentary generally solidified stereotypes of the Mormon culture, with
a few interspersed moments of truth, thanks to Marlin Jensen and the isolated sound bites of our prophet and faithful members of the church. Ken Verdoia's insights and balanced comments also stood out from those chosen to spotlight their negative experiences.
The panel discussion was most welcome and I thought moderated very well by Doug Fabrizio.
I especially valued the comments of Robert Millet
who chose to point out some of the real theological differences between Mormonism and the rest of Christianity and the fact that there are countless faithful intellectuals in the church.
I think you did an amazing bit of organizing in a short amount of time to put this panel together. Thank you for that.
I don't think that this documentary is going to change any minds one way or another, but it is a welcome chance for more dialogue and I hope more will be forthcoming.
Posted by Doris Williams, Saturday May 5th, 2007 @ 10:53 am
I watched the PBS series and the Utah NOW follow-up. I was deeply distressed at the wholesome, glossy, image the church and the documentary present to the world as a religion with a messy history that challenges the faith of some intellectuals, but largely works in the lives of its followers. This is an all or nothing religion that requires its members to march steadfastly in the same direction wearing the same size shoes. If the shoes happen to be your size, it is a joyful march. For those of us who wear a different size, largely women, it is a trail of pain to rival that of the pioneers on their Utah trek. But since most of us march, as I did for 40 years, with our Prozac smiles firmly in place, the glossy cover prevails unchallenged by either the documentary or your program.
Posted by Jackie Anderson, Saturday May 5th, 2007 @ 11:27 am
After watching Doug Fabrizio do a pretty good job with this show (and thank goodness one of his panel members pointed out how sad it was that Helen Whitney wasted so much time on Mountain Meadows that viewers left the show never having been exposed to what was not included but should have been: a clear explanation of where the LDS faithful believe we came from, why we are on the earth, and where we are going when this life is finished), I have no gripes at all with the Utah Now presentation. I do write to add one thought. Immediately after Utah Now, I watched the Rocky Anderson/Sean Hannity debate on another channel. It was ugly; not Anderson and Hannity, but the crowd. Animals. And the crowd was riled up over things that weren't anywhere near as important as what the different sides discussed on Utah Now (and on The Mormons). What a contrast! Life can be strange.
Posted by Paul Wake, Saturday May 5th, 2007 @ 2:51 pm
I was a very active member of the Mormon church for many years because I believed the teaching of the leaders about the church history and its theology.
During the program and the Utah Now discussion, there were references to intellectuals (Bad) and the Glory of God is intelligence (Good).
Two years ago, I read Richard S Van Wagoners Mormon Polygamy, a factual, documented description of the disgusting and sickening practices of polygamy under Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and others in Nauvoo and elsewhere.
A prophet of God could not have engaged in these activities.
I also read Charles M Larsons By His Own Hand upon Papyrus a thoroughly-documented account of Joseph Smiths faked translation of the Book of Abraham from Egyptian burial documents packed within 2 of 4 mummies which came to Kirtland, Ohio, with a traveling sideshow.
These papyri were found in a New York City museum and returned to the Mormon church in 1968.
Since Joseph Smith could not translate these papyri, which he claimed to be written in the same, non-existent Reformed Egyptian language as the Book of Mormon gold plates, he could not have translated the Book of Mormon.
The Mormon church has lied and hidden its true history and persecuted anyone as an intellectual who has documented the truth.
I have formally resigned from the Mormon church.
Posted by J Bell, Saturday May 5th, 2007 @ 9:44 pm
I read through most of these posts and would like to make a couple of comments, not on the PBS documentary, nor on it's post mortem, but on some of the other posts. I apologize for not taking the time to reread and find the names of those posts to which I am responding.
First, the comparison of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge is not only offensive, it is inaccurate, and typical of radicals on both the left and right. The word "intellectuals" was used in that particular post. I'm not sure what the post's author's understanding of the word is, but if it includes doctors, lawyers, engineers and other professionals, then yes the Khmer Rouge directed their murderous activities at "intellectuals".
But the LDS Church is full of such professionals who are faithful members and who have never been executed. I personally have not heard of the LDS Chruch executing anyone. My own understanding of "intellectual" includes a much narrower group of people. These are mostly found on University Campuses, and in my experience are not very much in touch with reality, and are very adept at complicating beyond reason ideas that are really quite simple. But as far as I know the LDS Church has never executed nor advocated the execution of such persons for being "intellectuals".
There is another post that seemed to claim that "thoroughly documented" works prove beyond doubt that Joseph Smith was an evil charleton. The author of that particular post seems to have a limited understanding of history, of how conclusions are drawn based on documentation nor how documentation is weighed for credibility. The post also ignores the fact that some historians with personal agendas engage in selective documentation. Also the author of that post seems oblivious to the many vigorous disagreements among historians about who did what, where they did it, what they actually said, etc. For example, there are historians who believe that Josshua Chamberlain led a bayonet charge at Little Round Top and thus turned back a Confederate attack that may have resulted in ultimate victory for the South at the Battle of Gettysburg had it succeeded. Other historians believe that Chamberlain did not call for the bayonet charge, that someone else did and that Chamberlain is not the hero that many belielve. Abraham Lincoln is canonized by some and vilified by others, each side relying on "thorough documentation" to support their assertions. It is pretty much up to each individual to decide what s/he will believe.
As for Joseph Smith, he was a man who commanded the most powerful military force in Illinois and could easily have used it to defend his life. Yet he did not. He travelled to Carthage, Illinois knowing that he would in all likelihood be killed. He was indeed killed. That speaks much more powerfully to me than any documentation enemies of the LDS Church can muster against it.
Posted by David W, Sunday May 6th, 2007 @ 11:43 am
I'm a native of Salt Lake City. I was born into an LDS family, baptized at the age of 8, accepted the Aaronic priesthood, but eventually took on a healthy skepticism of the teachings as a young adult and pursued other spiritual training, most of which isn't even in a Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition.
I have extended family that are deeply involved in the Church, and I continue to carry on dialogues about doctrine and culture. I may or may not be objective, but certainly observant.
Having read through the previous comments, it strikes me that people went into this viewing with a heightened sensitivity, affected by what they didn't want to see or hear, such that you can get two polarities of how it offended those who felt it was either too critical or too complimentary. As one previous respondant suggested, perhaps this is a sign of fairness and balance. In this case, a lose-lose situation instead of a win-win situation.
From my perspective, I thought the two-night series was reasonably represented. I do regret it didn't have more to say about church doctrine, how it is similar to and divergent from traditional Christian theology.
But again that would have likely given the same viewers more reason to gripe about being anti-Mormon or pro-Mormon. People who decry that Mormonism isn't a Christian religion base it upon theological "anomalies".
Therefore, this show was more about the "peoples/history" of Mormonism, and less about it's theology.
Regarding criticisms of the program as "anti-Mormon" and putting it's history under a bad light, I am dismayed by those ultra-sensitive LDS members who are offended by challenges to their too often sanitized, protected and sometimes mythical views of the lives of the prophets. Joseph Smith spent time in the hills of New York digging for gold? New England was embued with a fervor of religious expression, including American transcendalism, such that the environmentl in which the Church was created is understandable and frankly, not too unique or awesome.
While extoling the value of knowledge on one hand, it (LDS faith) has a curious way of limiting the exercise of freedom and thoroughness that comes with it. The "whole" truth, as we are taught in a judicial context.
One previous respondant couldn't keep from referring to specific church leaders without applying words like "beloved, esteemed and decidated" as if they might be part of a required LDS-rhetoric when referring to those individuals. Endearing yes, but I've seen how frequently these terms are framed within a formulaic expression that detracts from a sense that there really is a unique and personal testimony, and not just cookie-cutter incantations.
Ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, facts are facts. And all in all, this show presented facts. I don't see respondants disputing the facts very much.
One issue I will take up about the show. It did bother me that a disproportionate amount of time was focused on the Mountain Meadow Massacre. This is poignant when compared to the discussion of the experience of Mormons in Missouri and Illinois. Time spent on the Mormon's midwestern exodus was quickly discharged in quick generalizations about murder, rape, burnings and expulsion; with only one real incident given much explanation. I was almost tempted to replay the show and set a stop watch to the matter just to see how much time these two issues were "out of sync". Must I remind the producers that at least one state governor issued an official order of extermination of Mormon members? Is that not a state sponsored genocide? That condition itself, would help to describe the fearful, perhaps paranoid, and yes, even vengeful mindset of the newly established inhabitants of Zion in Utah.
Whereas, none of the atrocities, committed upon Mormons or by Mormons, are justified, I will argue that both can be conditionally understood. Not condoning it, but understanding it.
As a sidenote, I almost got expelled from LDS-primary in very early adolescence for having brought up this very matter: perhaps the practice of polygamy, the mass migration of new members into these conservative farming communites, new and unusual interpretations of Christian theology, all leant themselves to producing increased fears amongst the non-Mormon community. It may have not been right, but one could see potential for big trouble. Stories of polygamy and fears that women were being abducted to serve as wives might make any conservative familly ultra concerned. Perhaps even willing to defend ones kin with guns and ammo. I can't believe now that as a kid, I would have had the presence to articulate it. But I know those observations came from my lips.
And for that, I got a condemning stare from the mother (our class teacher) of a good friend. And, for some reason, we didn't get to stay friends for very long after that.
Having been raised in the Church in my youth, and continually hearing about the martyrdom and victimization of the faithful, perhaps the Church membership needed a "slap-up-side-the-head" from what happened at Mountain Meadows. My experience was that after some 100-plus years of establishment, entrenchment and dominion in Utah, a large percentage of rank-and-file Mormon faithful have developed their own peculiar intolerances, and better-thans.
Afterall, if you're the only true church, you're pretty much establishing a status of superiority. You are the only ones who get to see God, and become "a" God. It's a lesson in human nature, and what fear and autocracy can do to people. "whack!" There you go: a little lesson in humility and fallibility.
I highly respect the productions coming out of Frontline and American Experience. That alone would make me a ardent supporter of PBS. And, combined with some very representative, balanced news coming each weekday evening with the Nightly News Hour with Jim Lehrer, it remains a respected source of information. I commend KUED for not only having aired this show, and given it's viewers a forum for comments, but leant the expertise of one of Utah's best journalists, Ken Verdoia. He is outstanding. Perhaps we can call him with all good conscience: beloved, esteemed and dedicated.
Posted by Richard Nelson, Sunday May 6th, 2007 @ 12:10 pm
I am late to the Givens-Verdoia dialogue about the Whitney documentary, having missed it Friday, and seeing it Sunday. The idea that "polygamy is history, and should no longer define Mormonism," is a blind spot. Intellectual Mormons are ignoring the fact, that the polygamous elephant is still in the room. Not only are the right-wing fringe practicing it, but you and I know that mainline Mormons are also ambiguous about it. Time for the faithful to admit, that the "revelation" of 1890 was a necessary concession to the need for statehood, and not a divine mandate to the seer and revelator. Also time for the Church to ask the Attorney General of the State of Utah to arrest and prosecute ALL polygamists, not just Warren Jeffs.
Posted by David Miles Burkett, Sunday May 6th, 2007 @ 12:13 pm
Reply to: Post by: DavidW | May 6, 2007 10:04 PM
Since I used the phrase thoroughly documented, I assume that the remarks about history, which I have studied for 45 years, were directed to my post on
May 5, 2007 09:44 PM.
Without reading the books or examining the sources of Richard S Van Wagoners Mormon Polygamy and Charles M Larsons By His Own Hand upon Papyrus, I dont believe anyone can make sweeping generalizations about the validity of their research.
The latter book describes how Joseph Smith had to purchase all 4 of the mummies to obtain the papyrus fragments and Emma Smith stored them and the papyrus fragments until they went to the museum in Chicago and then to the Metropolitan Museum in New York City, avoiding destruction in the Chicago fire.
They are glued to the back of papers which include architectural drawings of Kirtland, Ohio, and a temple.
After their discovery in New York City by Aziz S Atiya from the University of Utah, the papyrus fragments were returned to the Mormon church on November 27, 1967.
Joseph Smith did not anticipate the discovery of the Rosetta Stone in 1799, which later allowed Egyptologists to translate Egyptian Hieroglyphics.
Experts have confirmed that these papyrus fragments were from common Egyptian funerary documents: the Book of the Dead and the Book of Breathings.
Joseph Smith wanted to absolutely claim that these were from Abraham and he added the phrase By His Own Hand even though these papyri were written approximately 1200 years AFTER Abraham lived.
The Book of Abraham was used to deny priesthood to Blacks in the Mormon church.
If I had been told that the Book of Abraham came to Kirtland with a traveling sideshow of Egyptian mummies , I would never have become a member of the Mormon church.
Posted by J Bell, Monday May 7th, 2007 @ 9:02 pm
How could someone present 4 hours about The Mormons without once mentioning the strength of the church is in our personal testimony that Jesus is the Christ, the saviour, our brother, best friend and the head of the church?
Without this testimony by the members, the church would be nothing. We don't follow our leaders blindly, but with the assurance of the Holy Ghost that what the leaders are doing is right.
Posted by Marlene Kaiser, Tuesday May 8th, 2007 @ 10:04 am
HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT JESUS IS THE HEAD OF THE CHURCH? AND THATS RIGHT WITHOUT THE TESTIMONY OF THE CHURCH THE MORMONS WOULD BE NOTHING! TITHING YOU SAY YOU WORK SO HARD TO GIVE NOT HOW EVER MUCH YOU CAN BUT A SET PORTION 10% OF YOU HARD WORKING MONEY TO THE CHURCH TO USE FOR WHAT DO YOU KNOW? NO!! I THINK THAT PEOPLE SHOULD HAVE A FREEDOM OF SPEECH FOR WHAT THEY BELIEVE IN AND THE MORMONS ARE THE MOST HARSHEST OF PEOPLE I HAVE EVER MET IF YOU DONT LIVE BY THERE STANDARDS YOU ARE NOTHING!
Posted by RACHEL , Wednesday May 9th, 2007 @ 11:47 am
Job 38:2 "Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?"
When it's all said and done... some will sit at the feet of God and the prophets to discuss their life long committment of faith and good works. Others will mingle with the likes of Helen Whitney, Ken Verdoia & Jobs friends to discuss how far they missed the mark.
Posted by Charles Schumaker, Friday May 18th, 2007 @ 9:14 am
I was disappointed in the program "The Mormons." I felt there were not enough mainstream representatives in the program. I did think some of it was well produced, but just imbalanced toward the negative. I felt misunderstood as a Mormon.
Posted by Beth Elmer, Monday May 21st, 2007 @ 9:00 am
Weâre outraged! The obvious negative bias and slant towards the LDS faith was clearly demonstrated with the emphasis of NINE interviews from those who malign our faith! We were disappointed with the manner that 'The Mormons' edited and sandwiched the comments of our beloved Prophet, Pres. Gordon B. Hinckley, our esteemed Apostle, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, our devoted Seventy, Elder Marlin K. Jensen, and our dedicated Professor, Daniel C. Peterson, between thick slices of anti, inflammatory, and negative opinions. The only positive rating that we can offer for 'The Mormons' comes from the inclusion of the transcripts of the interviews with Pres. Hinckley, Elder Holland, Elder Jensen, and Prof. Peterson on the show's web site. Their comments provide the ârealâ truth and include the following comment from Elder Holland (which we echo about the show consulting others for our story): âYou don't want somebody else telling you your history, and therefore I would like to tell my children, and the children of the church, the youth of the church collectively, I'd like to be having them hear it from friends rather than enemies. I'm just doubtful about the motives of some. ... But there is not anything anybody can say to me that will make me afraid of my history.â
Posted by Errol and Hollie Bevan, Wednesday July 18th, 2007 @ 10:58 am
LDS Mormons Believe The seed of Cain and Ham are the Africans who where Cursed Black in the LDS Mormon Pearl of great Price Scriptures (This is not in the HOLY BIBLE)
". . . there was a blackness came upon all the children of Canaan, that they were despised among all people . . . (Pearl of Great Price Moses 7:8)."
"And . . . they were a mixture of all the seed of Adam save it was the seed of Cain, for the seed of Cain were black, and had not place among them (Pearl of Great Price Moses 7:22)."
This teaches Mormons that Black skin is a CURSE FROM the Mormon GOD (THIS IS NOT IN THE HOLY BIBLE)
"...cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing...the Lord God did cause a skin of BLACKNESS to come upon them (Book of Mormon 2 Nephi 5:21)"
"And the skins..were DARK,according to the MARK which was set upon their fathers..which WAS A CURSE upon them...(Book of Mormon,Alma 3:6)"
"and the CURSING which hath come upon their skins...(Book of Mormon, Jacob 3:5)"
This teaches Mormons that Black Cain Loved Satan more then God and made oaths and covenants with Satan (This is not in the Holy Bible)
moses 5:28-31 pearl of great price OFFICIAL LDS Mormon scriptures
28...they loved Satan more than God.29 And Satan said unto Cain: Swear unto me by thy throat,30 And Satan sware unto Cain that he would do according to his commands.31 And Cain said:Truly I am Mahan,the master of this great secret...
Posted by Ilegal Player, Sunday June 21st, 2009 @ 11:02 am
Recuerde: No son necesarias las discusiones: Por sus obras los conocereis.
Posted by MarÃ¬a Engracia , Thursday January 21st, 2010 @ 7:38 am
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