“The Mormons”: Pregame show

In reviewing PBS’ The Mormons (to be aired on Monday and Tuesday evening this week), the Mormon church-owned Deseret News is fairly positive, considering it a balanced portrayal of a complicated faith. However,

“The Mormons” is [not] without flaws. A posting on the LDS Church’s Web site has already questioned the documentary in two areas — the Mountain Meadows Massacre and present-day polygamists.

There’s merit to that criticism. The Mountain Meadows Massacre segment runs 19:34, which seems somewhat excessive in light of the documentary’s length.

And Whitney undercuts her own stated goal of dispelling stereotypes by spending seven minutes on modern-day polygamists. The documentary makes it clear they’re not members of the LDS Church, so why confuse the issue?

Do you anticipate these to be fair criticisms?

As far as Mountain Meadows is concerned, Mormons have to realise that it’s both an interesting story and one that can be used as a bridge to other discussions: Mormon persecution, prophetic (in)fallibility, archaic Mormonalia (blood atonement), the Utah war, and religious fanaticism. As for polygamy, our modern embarrassment hides the absolute centrality of polygamy to the church for more than fifty years or so. I think it’s valid to tell the story of polygamy and spend some time on its modern echoes.

Are you gathering the family for a PBS FHE? Any strategies for dealing with your friends, Mormon or not, who may find the documentary challenging? What are you looking forward to seeing the most?

Comments

  1. Kevin Barney says:

    On MMM, I think it depends on your perspective. If you told me I only had two hours to cover all of Mormon history, I wouldn’t spend fully one-sixth of my allotment on MMM. But this is a documentgary, not meant to give full coverage to Mormon history (the way a GD teacher may try to fully “cover” the reading assignment), but rather a series of chapters telling stories. And MMM is certainly a compelling story and is all the rage right now. So from that perspective 20 minutes seems ok.

    On polygamy, I agree with you.

    I’m torn about whether to watch these programs when broadcast (I don’t have a dvr). Locally they run from 9 to 11, and I don’t normally stay up that late watching TV. But if I don’t, it will be hard to contribute meaningfully to the blog discussion of them. I’m still mulling what to do.

  2. hmmm, my wife and I will probably watch, and see how well it is.

    As far as the MMM is concerned, I know my sister could have benefited from more accurate portrayals (well, and even the mention of it at all in church), as she left the church when she turned to anti-Mormon materials and found a wealth of things she just did not know about church history.

  3. Polygamy remains absolutely central to Mormonism today. Several of our most cherished doctrines and practices were revealed and taught in the context of justifying, persuading people to accept, or keeping secret the reality of polygamy. Four obvious examples include eternal families, the temple endowment, the Relief Society, and Mother in Heaven. Polygamy is the context for each of these; indeed, the revelation on eternal marriage in our scriptures is primarily a revelation about polygamy. So it’s silly and counterproductive to distance ourselves from the historical practice of polygamy. Without that, we would likely be a very different church, believing and doing quite different things.

    Seven minutes out of four hours doesn’t seem like too much emphasis on the lingering challenges related with polygamy for the church today. Even if we accept the effort to define “Mormon” as equivalent to “member of the LDS church,” it remains clear that modern polygamists are a challenge for Mormons. They use our scriptures, teach many of our doctrines, and defend some doctrines from the 19th century that we LDS folks have left aside. The very fact that the official LDS website regularly comments on the distinction between church members and polygamists is enough to justify some focus on the issue: it’s important enough to Mormons in the US that our church can’t leave it well enough alone.

    I’m looking forward to the documentary.

  4. J,
    I don’t know that polygamy is important to the church today. It was the historical context in which much of that was revealed, but I don’t think that that makes it equally important today as it was in that period. There are many people in the church who question the reality of celestial polygamy and many more (myself included) who question its necessity, which was in that period a central doctrine of LDS belief. While I don’t like attempts to distance ourselves or deny historical polygamy, I have an equal dislike for attempts to make it bigger than it is. It plays almost no significant role in the lived lives of modern Mormons.

    Regarding 19 on MMM, it is a documentary. It needs drama. MMM supplies plenty of that.

  5. HP, the doctrinal and practical consequences of polygamy do play a central role in the lived lives of modern Mormons — that’s all I’m trying to say. Polygamy was the way the idea of an eternal family came to us, along with a bunch of other things we really value. I’ve had people in various conversations try to dismiss things like Mother in Heaven because the idea originated in discussions of and defenses of polygamy — but so did so very much of what we treasure in Mormonism.

  6. JNS,

    I don’t see how the eternal family has any necessary connection to polygamy. At best the association appears incidental, not consequential.

  7. Mark D,

    I think JNS means that the doctrine of the eternal family is historically predicated on polygamy, not that polygamy and the eternal family are synonymous today.

    I think that JNS is right that without polygamy there would be no endowment, no garments, no eternal family doctrine, no D&C 131/2. Also, the abandonment of polygamy is an important case study in religious accommodation and change. Finally, a look at modern Mormon polygamy shows how even weirder the mainstream Mormons used to be!

    Polygamy is vital history.

    As far as MMM, well, it’s flavour of the month, isn’t it? The fact that there’s a church-sanctioned history being published this year suggests that the church considers this an important issue. I mean, how many other church-sanctioned histories are being published this year? I’d say that based on their own complaint, the church may be over-emphasising MMM! Really, what church PR is unhappy about is not MMM per se, but a segment that evidently allows Will Bagley to say, “it was Brigham wot dunnit.”

  8. Kevin,
    Are FAIR considering a review of the doc?

  9. And Whitney undercuts her own stated goal of dispelling stereotypes by spending seven minutes on modern-day polygamists. The documentary makes it clear they’re not members of the LDS Church, so why confuse the issue?

    The complaint does not seem to be about looking at the history of polygomy but the current polygomists — FLDS, etc.

    But I still say that’s fair game. People have it as a cultural reference and want to see how it all fits together.

  10. Kevin Barney says:

    Ronan, not at this time. Unless there is something really egregious in it, I don’t anticipate a FAIR response (such as the response to the recent JC/JS DVD). We might do something where we put up a page pointing people to further information on the particular topics broached in the doc, though.

    A reporter for the Ogden Standard-Examiner contacted FAIR with a bunch of quotations taken from the documentary, looking for comment. She published a few responses; see here. Your JS as shaman thread actually provided useful background on one of these, since one of the comments from the film was a quote from Michael Coe with his pet JS as shaman idea.

    I will be curious to see how Bagley’s “BY did it” act plays out in the doc. If that is allowed to stand as the scholarly concensus view of the matter, I will be extremely disappointed. (I don’t mind it being put on the table as one view, but since it is an iconoclastic view of Will’s that no other responsible MMM scholar accepts, to portray it as the history of the affair would be irresponsible in the extreme. IMO, of course.)

  11. I just got back from Stake Conference where our Stake President announced that the series would be airing in the next couple days. He said that all Bishops/Stake Presidents had received a letter from the First Presidency telling them about the documentary, though he left it unclear as to what the letter actually said. Our Stake President mentioned that the series would not be entirely favorable, and that some of the Bishops would be talking about the series further in the individual wards.

    Does anyone have a copy of or access to the First Presidency’s letter?

  12. I am surprised at the common sentiment that because the show needs drama it is okay to spend 20 minutes on MMM. If it provides a more balanced view to counter the September Dawn viewpoint, then maybe I’ll be glad, but I don’t see how the “need” for documentaries to sensationalize is any justification for 20 minutes on MMM. After all, there is plenty of drama available in the Mormon story without MMM. I will withhold judgment until I see the show, but generally I view the practice of overblowing a single event to be a bad thing in documentaries, no matter what the entertainment value of the single event is.

  13. What I really hope doesn’t happen is that some Mormons get very upset about the film and respond with unbridled hostility. Even if it turns out to be much worse than it sounds, even if it’s horribly untrue and unfair, then our best response is still calmly and lovingly correcting the mistakes. This is a huge opportunity for the church to be better known in the mainstream of world thought. Any anger and hostility on our part will only result in worse publicity for the church, and more importantly, will tend to turn people away from the restored gospel before they’ve even heard it.

  14. Ronan, I agree to some extent, however, I don’t think we can say the endowment is predicated on polygamy. It would, perhaps, be fair to say that the Nauvoo incarnation of the Endowment, may have been influenced by it. Also, I don’t think your equation of modern polygamists as illustrating the 19th century Mormon polygamists as being accurate. From my perspective they aren’t even comparable (e.g., easy divorce, choice by those contracting the marriege, etc.).

  15. Jacob,
    If MMM is indeed the single most bloody massacre in the history of the US before 9/11, I don’t think it’s sensationalist to dwell on it.

    (But I’ve been wondering about this. Have there not been Indian massacres of more extreme vintage? What about during the various homeland wars?)

  16. For most modern Mormons, the lifestyles of polygamous offshoots and MMM seem to have little relevance. A person can be raised in the Church and not be familiar with MMM. Modern Mormons by and large take no lessons from MMM, but mostly ignore it. The same is true with respect to polygamous break off sects.

    For people outside the Church, however, MMM and the lifestyles of polygamous offshoots do seem relevant in understanding historical and modern Mormonism. Sort of like the way many of us focus on historical abuses of the Catholic Church (or some of its leaders or followers) in its history–the Inquisition or Galileo’s story–when those historical things may not be particularly relevant to the life of a modern Roman Catholic. And while the formation of protestant sects, or their lifestyles, may not have dramatic day-to-day effects on the life and beliefs of a practicing Catholic, many of us, including Mormons, may think the break off by Luther or others is important or of interest in understanding modern Catholicism.

    To the extent the documentary is meant to address what about Mormonism is important or of interest to outsiders, as well as to understanding the lifestyles and beliefs of insiders, I cannot object to the documentary’s spending more than negligible time on polygamist offshoots or MMM.

  17. DavidH: a good explanation. That’s how I feel. I think Muslims and mass terrorism probably work the same way.

  18. Ronan,

    What I would like to hear is an argument for that position. The doctrines are logically independent. Joseph Smith might have felt inspired to reveal the doctrine of eternal families without any mention of polygamy, or vice versa.

    What you and JNS seem to be suggesting is that either Joseph Smith invented the idea of eternal families in order to justify and protect polygamy or that without polygamy the idea never would have crossed his mind, or would have been a triviality not worth the trouble to mention. It seems to me that is a difficult argument to make, and I am curious how you draw such a conclusion.

  19. Mark,
    D&C 131 and 132 clearly belong to the milieu of polygamy. That’s all I’m saying.

  20. Peter LLC says:

    either Joseph Smith invented the idea of eternal families in order to justify and protect polygamy or that without polygamy the idea never would have crossed his mind…. It seems to me that is a difficult argument to make

    That would be a difficult argument to make, and one that neither does.

  21. I agree with DavidH. I think you have to explain polygamy to understand modern Mormonism. Much of our identity of being a persecuted people is a result of polygamy. Sure, people didn’t like us because we had a gold bible, but when it gets down to it they really didn’t like Mormons because dudes had more then one wife.

    Plus, we have two living mainstream apostles who are sealed to more than one wife, spiritually speaking of course. Would that be possible if we didn’t have D&C 132 with us? I don’t know. D&C 132 at least justifies people being sealed to more than one spouse. The whole concept of multiple post mortem sealings boggles my mind.

    Finally, modern mainstream Mormonism has created its identity around not being polygamists. We’ve replaced polygamy as a cultural marker with fighting for the survival of the traditional family. (I guess stricter adherence to the Word of Wisdom also is used as a way to distinguish ourselves from the mainstream.) So, I think juxtaposing the Fundies with the mainstream Church is a good way to understand what it means to be Mormon today.

  22. When I said mainstream in regards to the WoW, I meant mainstream America.

  23. We believe that revelation happens when specific questions are asked. Questions regarding eternal families, etc., were only asked by Joseph Smith after polygamy raised the question. While we see these doctrines as logically independent from polygamy today, that was certainly not the case when they were revealed. Indeed, modern temple practice continues to presuppose the validity of polygamy: men can be sealed to multiple women, but women can only be sealed to one man. None of this means that our family, temple, etc. doctrines couldn’t have arisen except through polygamy. But they did arise through polygamy; the scriptural and historical texts regarding them are soaked in the intellectual and doctrinal world of polygamy. So, even if logically separable, these doctrines become in practice inseparable from polygamy.

    Ronan, regarding Mountain Meadows, what I’ve heard most often is the claim that it was the bloodiest act of religiously-motivated violence in the US before the 2001 terrorist attacks. Obviously, there was a massive genocidal war against Native Americans that cost many more lives, etc.

  24. Ugly Mahana says:

    JNS:

    Of course we also identify sealing with the keys restored by Elijah, and Elijah’s return was spoken of as early as Moroni’s first visit. Was Joseph thinking about plural marriage before he started contemplating his first marriage?

  25. Ugly Mahana says:

    After rereading JNS’ comment, I realized that he was not making as sweeping a statement as the one I contradicted. My apologies if my previous comment seems to be off-point.

  26. Ugly Mahana, interesting points regarding Elijah. People often forget how early ideas of polygamy entered the Mormon story; some documents push the dates back as early as the beginnings of the Kirtland period, or possibly back to the New England period. So, the return of Elijah would have been during the period when polygamy was already on the table — although perhaps not yet clear or fully worked out in theological terms. On the other hand, sealing power wasn’t generally connected with family in Mormon sermons or writings until the Nauvoo period, when the cluster of doctrines regarding family, polygamy, the temple, and women’s role in the church became clear and interrelated. The account of Moroni’s vision that includes a recitation of the Elijah prophesy also dates from this period. That doesn’t mean that the text wasn’t part of the vision — but it does suggest that Joseph Smith didn’t understand it as an important part of the story until the period when polygamy really became a central feature of Mormonism.

    Again, I don’t mean to say that these doctrines wouldn’t have arisen if polygamy hadn’t happened; the counterfactual is hard to answer. But the form, rhetoric, and documentary basis for the doctrines would necessarily have been different. And, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to ask whether Joseph would have asked the right questions to lead him to these revelations without the sharp whip of polygamy driving him on.

  27. It is also important that the “sealing power” that we call it now, wasn’t really emphasized as being the motive power for Mormon marriage until relatively late. Joseph mainly talked about that power in relation to sealing people up into eternal life.

  28. Besides the religious motivation, there was the inconvenient fact that they were white settlers that were being massacred at Mountain Meadows.

    If they had been Indians, the massacre would perhaps get a tsk tsk and then we’d all turn the page.

  29. Does anyone know if the segment on the FLDS appears in the history episode on Monday or the modern church episode on Tuesday?

    It is not possible to tell the full story of Mormon history without covering polygamy. Regardless of how is it or is not linked to doctrines continuing in the modern Church, it had a huge practical impact on what happened to and with the Church in the period 1844 – 1904, in other words, most of its early history. With regard to the FLDS, whether we like it or not they are in the news, and not mentioning them would have left a hole in what is after all a news documentary.

    MMM on the other hand was such an extreme and isolated episode that any mention of it can generally be considered sensationalism. But again, in sympathy to Helen Whitney, with September Dawn coming out how could she have ignored it? Although 19 minutes is still too much.

    Since blather about MMM is not going to go away, my thought is that we can turn it to a casuistic use. How do we react to those who criticize or ridicule us? MMM is an extreme example of the inpulse to lash out and attack our critics and persecutors. Is there a more Christian way to respond? There actually is a fascinating historical counter-position to MMM. This is the officially Church approved actions against Johnston’s Army lead by Lot Smith. Here we have a truly brilliant guerilla campaign which did not directly take a single enemy life! Can we respond to our critics and yet still care for their souls? Like Jesus, answer them by reminding them that “ye are gods!” (John 10:34).

  30. j–that’s prince’s argument but i’m not fully convinced.

    jns–the problem is that JSJ was simultaneously invoking and revising the Protestant domestic heaven. eternal families in its current form is pretty similar to Protestant domestic heaven (the requirement of the temple, and the indication of ongoing procreation are the residual revisions). Polygamy was the 19th century revision. So i think it’s fair to say that polygamy was associated with the revision of the domestic heaven but not with the core sentiment. i keep thinking i’ll find time to write about the folk theology of heavenly reunions among LDS long before the official revelations, but there are so many projects to try to get done. Suffice it to say eternal families and heavenly family reunions are ubiquitous in folk Protestant culture and in folk LDS culture before Elijah and temple came into clear focus.

  31. Kevin Barney says:

    As we discuss these issues in the Mormon context, you may find the following article from today’s Chicago Tribune WRT a different PBS documentary on moderate Islam v. Islamicism. This raises similar kinds of issues:

    Documentarians battle PBS over Islam film

    By Karoun Demirjian
    Washington Bureau
    Published April 29, 2007

    WASHINGTON — The film features grainy footage and dramatic music, presenting itself as a stark look at the way fundamentalist Muslims in America and Europe crush dissent by their more moderate co-religionists.

    But the very production of “Islam vs. Islamists: Voices From the Muslim Center” has highlighted sharply different views about the state of Islam in the United States and showcased how intensely sensitive that subject remains. PBS, which commissioned the project, is delaying airing the film after protests that it is anti-Muslim. Now its creators are launching a public campaign against PBS to get it shown.

    The hourlong documentary is one of 22 episodes funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting for PBS’ “America at a Crossroads” series, which examines post-Sept. 11 subjects such as terrorism, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the experience of American troops overseas and global perspectives on U.S. foreign policy.

    “Islam vs. Islamists” follows the efforts of socially liberal Muslims in America and Europe to reclaim their religion from political extremism by speaking out against ultra-conservative imams.

    But the film never made it into the initial lineup of 11 shows that aired recently. A film about widespread discrimination against Muslims, “The Muslim Americans,” did air as part of the series.

    The producers and subjects of the “Islam vs. Islamists” film, who began to show it in private screenings last week, say that PBS demanded what the producers saw as unrealistic editorial changes after the series’ advisers, acting on criticism from such Muslim groups as the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Nation of Islam, claimed the documentary unfairly portrayed Muslim religious leaders. They say their experience with PBS proves the point of their film: that moderate Muslims have no platform from which to criticize extremists in their own religion.

    “I can’t see what they object to, except that they don’t want to see the true plight against modern-day Muslims,” said Hedieh Mirahmadi, a representative of a moderate imam who spoke at a screening in Washington that was organized by the film’s producers. “Not being able to see the political reality means that it may come to root in a very dangerous way.”

    Mirahmadi argued, for example, that the Saudi-based Wahhabist movement, a fundamentalist form of Islam, has spread across the U.S.

    Mary Stewart, a spokeswoman for WETA, the PBS station in Washington, and executive producer for the Crossroads series, said in a phone interview that even though the film hadn’t made the cut for the first 11 parts that were broadcast, it would be aired as soon as PBS feels that it has been satisfactorily edited.

    “It is a film with a lot of promise,” she said. “But every film that comes through PBS goes through editorial standards. They have received notes on what editorial changes would need to be made to bring it up to standards for PBS.”

    Producers and hosts of the Crossroads series have publicly accused the production team for “Islam vs. Islamists” of showing an editorial slant by being overly alarmist and demonizing imams.

    But defenders of the documentary say it merely portrays, in realistic terms, the divisions within the Islamic community in the West.

    The Muslims portrayed in the movie — including Naser Khader, the Danish parliamentarian who spoke out against Imam Ahmed Abu Laban and others leading the riots over last year’s cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad — say that PBS does not want to consider Western Muslims as a variegated group.

    “In my opinion, we don’t have a crisis of civilizations, we have just one clash,” Khader said. “It is in Muslim society, between Islamists and those who say ‘yes’ to democracy and modernity.”

    Speaking for the film’s production team, Frank Gaffney, president of the Center for Security Policy, a Washington national security think tank, insisted that the film was finished and said PBS’ refusal to budge on editorial demands meant that the film’s relationship with the network was finished, too. “They’re insisting on structural changes that would essentially eviscerate the message of the film,” he said.

    The Corporation for Public Broadcasting provided $675,000 for the production of “Islam vs. Islamists,” nearly all federal funds. Some members of Congress saw the film last week.

    A Corporation for Public Broadcasting spokesman said it is committed to finding a way to publicly show the film.

    ————-

    kdemirjian@tribune.com

  32. JNS and Ronan,
    You guys kinda missed my point. Historical polygamy is the context in which those ideas were derived and revealed. But that original context is entirely alien to the members who use those concepts today. To a some degree, we mean completely different things today. So I don’t know the relevance of understanding historical polygamy in an attempt to understand the religious lives of Mormons today (at least in these issues; regarding the persisting persecution complex we have a different story).

  33. smb, I’m not completely hip to Prince’s Elijah perspective, but still, Joseph talked about this power mostly in terms of sealing folk up into eternal life, and I believe, on one occasion regarding baptism for the dead.

  34. J: the congregational sealings of 1832-4 shows the mixed perspective, and Smith seems to have had no patience for the theocentric view that sealing to eternal life could meaningfully apply to a single individual. This is the prophet who at least twice publicly indicated that he would rather go to hell with friends than heaven alone. While this was likely a rhetorical gesture (JSJ did not want to go to hell), he was making an important anti-Calvinist point. Look at his Elijah sermon and the notion that this = calling and election. what was the elijah sealing? the capacity to claim your kin at the throne of God. while that sermon is late, it expresses thoughts that are clearly present early.

  35. Hey, I went to college with the girl that wrote the article in #31. Small world.

  36. Yes, I agree with that, Sam; but overlaying that with modern notions of exaltation and marriage as sealing is horribly anachronistic, which is my only criticism. A criticism, I imagine that you agree with.

  37. #11 — I’d like to hear more about the first presidency letter too. In our ward from the pulpit, we were “neither encouraged nor discouraged to watch the documentary,” which truly puzzled me!

  38. smb, isn’t it the case that Joseph Smith showed relatively little interest in family structures or in family depictions of heaven until the polygamy question came to the forefront? The Book of Mormon, the early revelations, missionary sermons from the New England and Kirtland periods, accounts of conversations with Smith, and so forth show little interest, that I am aware of, in family theology — until polygamy becomes the leading edge of a revision involving family. I agree with your #34 that Smith worked with a corporate concept of salvation early on, but the transition from a community concept to a family concept seems to be a feature of the polygamy period, rather than a continuity. In this as in other things, the interesting point isn’t whether Smith’s ideas had 19th-century parallels, but rather (a) what the motive was for bringing specific ideas to the revelatory conversation, and (b) how those ideas functioned differently in the Mormon spiritual economy.

  39. #37: That’s interesting: the bishopric actually said that? Mine said nothing, which to me is the definition of “neither encouraging nor discouraging.”

  40. Kevin Barney says:

    I saw the letter and read it over quickly. I don’t remember the specifics, but there really wasn’t much to it. As I recall, it let people know that the program was coming, that the Church cooperated but did not produce it and therefore had no control over the final product.

  41. Our ward bishopric did, perhaps on its own initiative, specifically recommend today that we all watch the documentary — because our friends and neighbors might see it, and we ought to be ready to answer their questions.

  42. Polygamy is not at all central to our faith, like some of the previous comments seemed to get at.
    Just read the book of Jacob in the Book of Mormon.
    It’s kind of an “only when necessary” kind of thing.

  43. velikye kniaz says:

    With regard to JNS’s comment that he has heard that the MMM was the earliest and bloodiest religiously motivated massacre, I do believe that those who made such comments have ignored the systematic slaughter of the Aztecs and their former client/allied tribes after the conquest of Mexico by Cortes in 1521 (or thereabouts). Under the waves of Spanish priest’s who followed Cortes, these indigenous peoples were often given the ‘convert or die’ ultimatim and a significant number of them chose death. Details of this are to be found in the journals of Bernal Diaz del Castillo which still repose in the Royal Archives in Madrid. To his credit, one of these priests who came to Mexico to assist in this conversion was ultimately appalled at the barbarity of this slaughter and came to become a great advocate of the indigenous peoples to the Spanish court. Regrettably, I have forgotten his name. Nonetheless, I feel that this likely ranks first religiously motivated massacre’s in the North American continent.
    Please do not interpret the foregoing as any type of justification on my part of the MMM. I still feel that it was the darkest hour of Church history, but one which had it’s origins in the extremely bad judgement of the local leadership in southern Utah during an era of war frenzy. It still hurts and saddens me that it occurred.
    As to the quotation of JSJ that “he would rather go the hell with friends than to heaven alone”. I hadn’t heard that before so now I have a pronouncement from the first Prophet of the Last Dispensation as to my (and my fellow gay brethren)destiny in the hereafter. I just wonder if we will be allowed to continue our Reconciliation meetings?
    Brothers and sisters, I thoroughly this blog as well as Times & Seasons! Thank you so much for your fascinating threads and well thought out commentaries. You broaden my perspectives on more issues than I count! May God continue to bless you all!

  44. Our Ward Bishopric has promoted the documentary for weeks. The Mutual activity for Tuesday was going to be to watch part 2 of it, but I recommended against it, as boring to youth and as dealing with homosexuality with you not, in my opinion, emotionally ready for it.

    Ronan:

    as for “most bloody massacre”, What about Pearl Harbor, or the Alamo? Or the Civil War? Or…

  45. “you” should read “some of our youth” weird typo…

  46. David (#42), I don’t think that the filmmaker is asserting that polygamy is central to the LDS faith now. I think that she sees polygamy as having shaped much of the way the church has interacted with US society, and therefore it merits examination. At least, from what I’ve read of her in interviews, this is what she seems to be saying.

    I think she has a point. After all, much of the concern directed at the church in the 19th century (and into the 20th, with the Smoot hearing in the senate, for example) was over the issue of polygamy. The persecution the church faced can be traced at least in part to polygamy, and Utah’s statehood was affected by it. It also seems to me that a good bit of the Church’s efforts in society during the early – mid-20th century was directed at convincing the rest of the US that we are regular American folk, not caricatured, backwards remnants of the 19th century.

    Whether a documentary about the LDS Church should include X number of minutes about fundamentalist / polygamist offshoots is another question. To the extent that a goal of the film is to provide a more accurate picture of the LDS Church, then the answer would be very few if any minutes should examine polygamy. But if the film is about the broader LDS movement that followed from Joseph Smith, then maybe it is fair to devote some time to fundamentalists.

    In my opinion, a lot of the answer to this kind of question will depend on the filmmaker’s goals and treatment of the material. Having failed Mind-reading 101, I just can’t say what her goals are.

  47. JNS, let me finish my revisions on my chapter on the ecclesial versus the biological family, which I think clarifies some of this. Polygamy (along with adoption, baptism for the dead, patriarchal blessings, and some other innovations) was actually a way to bridge the gap between biological family, which seems to have been critical to Smith early, with ecclesial community, which was almost as early. There was always a creative tension between the two.

    i think the cultural context is relevant because JSJ was in dialogue with his surrounding culture, which had evolving ideas about nuclear families as havens from a brutal world as well as a certain nostalgia (in complex repercussions across social strata) for an older patriarchal model that fit better JSJ’s ultimate innovations. In this sense Smith’s carry-over of the eternal family is secure regardless of polygamy. He and his followers had this Christian sensibility independently. However, the eternal patriarchal family so difficult to distinguish from the ecclesial family IS a part of a package deal with polygamy, at least historically. So in a sense the fact that we’re mostly (though not fully) back to the Protestant view reflects our increasing distance from polygamy.

  48. O Great Prince:

    “Let me be resurrected with the Saints, whether to heaven or hell or any other good place. . . . What do we care if
    the society is good.”
    Faulring, An American Prophet’s Record, 398. See also ibid., 366.

  49. Been there, done that says:

    The new and everlasting covenant WAS polygamy. It was denied by the church until 1852, when it was forced to finally admit that polygamy was practiced.

    True history (accepted by everyone except LDS people) shows that polygamy was a cover/excuse for Joseph Smith’s many extra-marital affairs. Did you know he was married to (at least) 43 women during his lifetime, some as young as 14? Sex was a part of the arrangements. Most Mormons don’t know this. About 1/3 of the women were already married to living husbands! This is called polyandry. Most Mormons don’t know that either. Why do you think Joseph was tarred and feathered so many times?

  50. Thanks for the late breaking news.

  51. Are you gathering the family for a PBS FHE? Any strategies for dealing with your friends, Mormon or not, who may find the documentary challenging? What are you looking forward to seeing the most?

    Yes, I will be watching this with my wife and kids. I don’t know much about strategies for dealing with challengin issues — I’m much better at providing the challenges than providing resolutions. I think I am most looking forward to seeing Mormonism discussed like this in the mainstream media. My apologies for breaking any rules if I post here what I posted over at T&S

    I remember watching the Joseph Smith documentary on PBS several years ago and feeling a sense of pride in my Mormon heritage. For me at least, there is something very fulfilling and validating about seeing Mormonism being discussed in main-stream media, whether it is President Hinckley being interviewed on “Larry King Live!” or a light-hearted (light-minded?) mocking context like Southpark.

    There is something about seeing Mormonism packaged and made ready for main-stream consumption that gives me the sense that “we have arrived.” This may be very silly and naïve of me, but it is this sense of ethnic/cultural pride that I expect to feel when I watch this over the next two nights (and re-watch it any number of times afterwards), regardless of the mistakes and inaccuracies and biases that I just expect to be part of the storytelling.

  52. 49: Your comment, though civil (for which, thank you) doesn’t demonstrate much sophistication. For complaints like this to be credible, I think they ought to demonstrate some sophistication. By true history, you seem to be advocating the satyr hypothesis which is primarily accepted by Brodie, equivocally by Kern, and then hobbyists, critics, and formons. Not exactly the consensus required for “true history.” Foster, who initially leaned that direction, later repudiated the view. The 43 number is a) probably inaccurate, and b) ultimately irrelevant. Your estimates of polyandry are also a little high, although ultimately irrelevant. And you seem to be playing off the rumor that the Hiram, Ohio 1832 assault was a result of anger over Smith’s sexual activities, though this is not certain (and again, ultimately irrelevant). There is no doubt that polygamy played significantly in Smith’s murder in 1844, and rumors of polygamy affected some persecution otherwise, but other factors were quite prominent in attacks in the Smithian phase of early Mormonism (late 19th century Evangelical reformers, behaving like the current Religious Right, clearly made polygamy central to their attacks).

    There are certainly Mormons who do not understand much about polygamy, and there are Mormons who feel that understanding polygamy is not crucial. I’m not convinced that recycling Brodie will be particularly useful in remedying either of these conditions.

  53. Wow, smb. That was a much more civil response than I had planned, which was along the lines of “go soak your head in a bucket, troll”

  54. Civility, man, a treasure often lost (he sighs with awareness of his own intermittent hypocrisy).

  55. #43, let me clarify: the line I’ve heard, which I think may possibly be correct, is that MMM was the bloodiest religious slaughter in the US before Sept. 11, 2001.

  56. Re 49: Oh my gosh, THAT’S what polyandry is? I thought it referred to separating darks and whites in the rinse cycle! (And yes, we do know about Joseph Smith’s wives and their marital status. I would guess that the majority of us on this particular blog are very familiar with it.)

    #52–Whitney’s work won’t be like Lee Groberg’s _Joseph Smith: An American Prophet_. (I understand that former Community in Christ [RLDS] leader Grant McMurray felt that Groberg’s final product was basically an infomercial for Mormonism.) This will hit hard, but it will also honor many faithful Mormon stories.

  57. I am looking forward to it.

    I really hope that the issue of race is addressed well. It is my hope that public attention to that issue will increase likelihood for the church to issue a proper apology and repudiate past teachings. I feel it will happen eventually, but it will happen sooner if more people want it.

  58. Race will be addressed (Darius Gray and Betty Stevenson, both African Americans, are included in the final cut). The fact that there’s so much attention drawn to the Church’s successes in Ghana is a bit of a concern (press releases say Whitney traveled to Ghana to film), because the challenges those in Africa face are so different from those faced by African Americans. We make the mistake in the Church all the time of pointing to Africa to indicate how well the Church is doing with people of color. I hope Helen Whitney doesn’t make the same mistake. It’s true that we’re making strides in Africa. In the U.S., we’re taking some good baby steps.

    My sense is that race will not get a hard hit–which is a little surprising. I think it’s a much more important issue than the MMM. My understanding is that race doesn’t come up until the second night, but I could well be wrong. I don’t know much more than anyone else, but I’ve been given a heads up on a few things.

  59. Margaret, I am a little worried that Betty, as a purpurted ex-con ex-drug addict will be the primary representative of blacks in the Church, while Darius, who I believe is frankly just brilliant, will be marginalized. It seems like this decision was either made for entertainment purposes, (the LSD church..) or because the production staff didn’t see Darius as stereotypically “black” enough.

    Of course, that may be a false intuition, and may show me as the bigot, but I am worried.

  60. Matt W: From what I hear, Betty Stevenson does a wonderful job. I feel bad that Darius wasn’t used more, but the choice may have been one of balance. It depends on who else they have there. Did Darron Smith get in? (I understand he was filmed.) I haven’t heard. If so, then they already have an African American male–and maybe they wanted to balance Betty’s devotion with Darron’s questions. I agree with you that Darius is brilliant, and he is a dedicated Latter-day Saint. In our own documentary, he says, “From the moment I say my first prayer of thanks in the morning until I say my last prayer at the end of the day, my faith defines me. It defines what I do and what I don’t do.” I wish something like that had gotten into the Whitney doc.

    Another consideration might have been Darius’s health. I don’t know what his energy level was like when they interviewed him.

  61. Margaret,

    I am also suprised that apparently Whitney did not hit to hard on the Black issue.

    Polygamy is easy to simply say its been a while its history etc.

    1978 is a recent date. A good interviewer could get GBH on camera or any other member of the 12 who has been around forever and say the following.

    ” You were in the Q12 prior to 1978 what did you do to help overcome the ban? Did you support the ban etc?”

    I am not to concerned about the show in general. Publicity is usually good cause it gets people asking questions about us.

  62. This is how little my PBS station cares about the Mormons and/or thinks that NY’s capital region cares about the Mormons: they’re telecasting a silent auction. Things they’ve advertized selling on aforementioned SILENT auction? Giant corporate posters with motivational sayings and photographs of planes or eagles.

    Who do I blame? Franklin-Covey?

    I’m ticked.

    Though of course I’ll just watch it online, which only changes where I sit in my apartment. Still. Mormons. We’re important!

  63. Brad Kramer says:

    Re:#s 49, 53:
    I’m pretty sure that even Brodie thought that JSJ’s puritanical sensibilities ran too deep to justify viewing sexual gratification as the motivation for polygamy/polygyny/polyandry.

  64. Thomas Parkin says:

    amri,

    This will help you feel better about that auction. (It always makes me feel better)

    http://www.despair.com

    ~

  65. Whoa, Thomas, that did make me feel better. I like the mug:
    Just because you’re necessary doesn’t mean you’re important.

  66. Random fellow says:

    The Los Angeles area singles ward had planned to watch the PBS show, but canceled the activity after several people sent the FHE committee the following email, allegedly sent from Dennis Holland, a Regional Public Affairs Director for the Church, (Elder Holland’s Brother):

    “a less than firmly grounded Mormon seeing the first two
    hours of “The Mormons” might well feel ashamed to be a Mormon, and
    non-Mormons would carry away a strong distaste for Mormons. There is
    little in the segment being shown on the 30th that gives a positive
    Latter-day Saint viewpoint.”

    “While I had hopes that the program would be a fair-minded treatment of
    the Mormons, I learn instead that it is an ‘expose’ of the ‘wrongs’ in
    Mormon history. It is a smooth but bigoted and
    unprincipled assault on the Church.”

  67. I’m a bit curious about that letter–given what the church’s official line, so far, is– http://www.lds.org/ldsnewsroom

  68. sorry- the correct link is

    http://www.newsroom.lds.org

  69. Random fellow says:

    Yeah, me too–that’s why I stated it was “allegedly” sent by Dennis Holland.

    However, several sources corroborate that this was sent by Bro. Holland. I think it is probably actually from him, but perhaps more people have seen the email than he intended?

  70. If Whitney’s aim is to correct the record about Mormons, which is what the trailer implied, that is a task that requires an extended discussion of Mountain Meadows and polygamy. After all, there is a forthcoming motion picture and Warren Jeffs is in court as we are speaking.

    If there is bad news then you want to tell it yourself, tell it all, and tell it immediately. My sense is that is what Whitney is doing. Her rhetorical approach aims to disarm Mormon opponents by dealing with the bad stuff proactively.

    I don’t think that it is reasonable to blame Whitney for undermining people’s faith or badmouthing Mormonism. If there are Mormons who feel betrayed by Whitney that says a lot more about them than about Whitney.

  71. Ooh.

    Coming tomorrow:

    “It is wrong to criticize (the leadership of the church), even…if..that…criticism…is…TRUE.”

    per Elder Oaks.

    That should be fun.

  72. Kevin Barney says:

    We’re at the start of the MMM chapter right now. I’ve been enjoying it; I think it is very well done so far.

    A handful of mistakes (Jesus came to the Nephites during the three days after the crucifixion, a picture of Lucy Mack identified as Emma, etc.), but overally I think Helen did a good job.

  73. I think anybody who sees this as a negative hatchet job is smoking better stuff than I ever got back in the 80’s. I thought it was pretty balanced and if anything, very church-positive.

  74. My favorite from despair.com is “the one common thread in all your unsatisfying relationships is you”.

  75. But I wanna know what it was like? Who watched it? I watched States of Grace tonight instead.

  76. Agreed: very positive. Quite pleasant to watch, even if there are occasional minor errors. The MMM/polygamy treatments are incredibly positive and honest.

  77. There’s an open thread about the show over on Mormon Mentality.

  78. I didn’t think it was bad. there were moments that were weird. the “Alpha and Omega” joseph smith statement raised an eyebrow. The Journalist, who I am otherwise unfamiliar with, reporting that we baptise dead people and that celestial marriage equals just polygamy. (Though I liked him he was charismatic, and needed in the process) And it was a little weird the whole Terryl Givens dancing God thing, but that was a good kind of weird, but it just seemed weird in the middle of all this intensive editing that they chose to leave that. (Not that I’m complaining. Terryl is terific.)

  79. Mondo Cool says:

    Please excuse me, but just how many children did that oversexed Joseph Smith have and by whom?

  80. 80: unknown. recent genetic investigations ruled out 3 prior candidates. I think there are something on the range of 5-10 reasonably high probability candidates. Not sure who the formon CES person was, but he was among the least compelling interviewees. While I think Flake was perhaps overstating the case slightly, the freudian totem hypothesis is not rigorous either academically or religiously.

  81. Sam, the former CES guy is Ken Clark, sometimes known as Grasshopper.

    He is (or at least used to be) one of the mainstays of the Recovery from Mormonism board. One of my grad school friends knew him from back when he worked for CES in Idaho. From reading his story and talking to my friend, it sounds like he was a convert who had a very black-and-white worldview, a naive view of history, and some overbearing CES supervisors. Not a good combination.

    Prior to the airing, he said (paraphrasing) that he tried to speak in intellectual, academic way without sounding like he had an ax to grind, or else he just wouldn’t sound credible.

  82. Addendum- I don’t think he goes by Grasshopper anymore (if I’m thinking of the same guy), and I don’t think he’s the blogger/poster by that name.

  83. Any more information on the “alleged” email from Brother Ballard? I’d like to find out more about it. I posted on this over at mormonfolklore dot org in case anyone is interested.

  84. Kevin (73),
    I didn’t even notice any of the mistakes. Of course, my 17-month-old decided during the documentary that she wanted to play with all of her noisiest toys and to play ring-around-the-rosie, and my dog decided that he needed to go out every couple minutes, so the best I could do was listen; I didn’t even see the picture of Lucy/Emma. But on the level of watching past a hyperactive toddler, everything seemed pretty accurate.

  85. (I forgot the smiley icon—basically, I’m saying I agree, only I couldn’t watch closely enough to encounter the small mistakes that may have happened. But come on, I’ve wanted to see this for weeks, my daughter will usually fall asleep while we watch TV, and she explodes with energy—what’s a person to do?)

  86. My roommate and I both wished that Whitney had offered more information about the people who commented. LDS? Non-LDS? Mormon scholar? Random historian off the street who had an opinion about the Mormons? Not all of us are well-versed in who all the talking heads in the LDS history world are and it would have been nice to be given a little more than “Name, Historian” or “Name, Poet”, etc.

  87. Glenn/Knudsen, stop using BCC as your personal spam billboard for your site.

  88. I think I’m reasonably well read in Mormon history, doctrine, etc. I didn’t recognize half of the talking heads. The PBS website only lists a few. I would like to know more about the background of all the commentators beyond the well known such as Prince, Bushman, Givens, etc. Who is the wild eyed poet?

  89. Kelly/KLC, can you list out the people?

  90. Steve, I can only list the ones I already knew, Bushman, Givens, Bagley, etc. I wasn’t taking notes, so the new names just glided by with me commenting to my wife, “who is that?” For instance, the woman with short dark hair, listed as author.

    I went to the PBS website but their list of interviews is weirdly deficient, they don’t even have Bushman, and it has only a few of the lesser knowns to me.

    By the way, I thought overall it was a very good documentary. Too much time on MMM for my taste, not because I don’t want to talk about it, but because I don’t see it as a foundational or pivotal act in our history, nor do I see it as illustrating any inate LDS view of doctrine or the world. It was tragic but it was also an anomaly.

  91. The poet is Alex Caldiero.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alex_Caldiero

    http://www.signaturebooks.com/outofprint/various.htm#alex

    The author was Judith Freeman, author of Red Water.

  92. Some other names I remember:

    Harold Bloom
    Robin Lane Fox
    Alex Baugh
    Ed Firmage Jr.
    Ken Clark
    Jana Richman
    Carmon Hardy
    Richard Mouw
    Simon Worrall
    Phil Bolinger
    Glen Leonard

  93. To duplicate here for those not reading all of the threads:

    As a documentary done by someone “from the outside”, I couldn’t be more pleased.

  94. I did know who quite a few of the commenters were, but I was frustrated when they did voice overs with video, because then it was impossible to tell sometimes who was speaking. I do think a bit more context of their backgrounds would have been good. I haven’t read all the comments here, and don’t have time now, but thought I’d mention it is supposed to be online later today, the whole first segment, at the pbs site, in case no one’s mentioned that already.

  95. I thought the first part was well done. It was more positive than I had expected actually. I agree the largest complaint or criticism I have is that so many people were titled as “historian” or “author” or “poet”. Some of them were recognizable IE – Bill Bagley, Truman Madsen and of course leaders. Forgive me I didn’t recognize any anti-Mormons though some of them self-admitted they were not LDS. But I think it was at best a poor oversight of information and at worst downright misleading to put a Bill Bagley or Truman Madsen opinion up alongside the opinion of an anti without letting the viewer know the allegiance, history, affiliation and/or bias of the opinions either for or against the religion.

  96. Although my expectations were low, I was still disappointed in the misrepresentation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints by this PBS “documentary”. One of the first complete fallacies was a statement at the beginning that “Joseph Smith is the Mormon’s Alpha and Omega”. This statement alone is an outright insult to me. Latter Day Saints never refer to Joseph Smith as the Alpha and Omega. That title is reserved for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Next, the Smith Family were reported to be people that make “bad judgments”, always “living on the edge”. These statements contradict all of the many testimonies given of the Smith Family by their fellow citizens reporting them to be outstanding citizens. I was insulted when Joseph Smith was called a “schemer”, “shamen”, “faker”, someone who is “way out there”. What an insult to the Church. Imagine if a report on Islam, Catholicism, or Buddhism referred to Mohammed, the Pope, and the Dahli Lama similarly! They portrayed eerie pictures of the angel Moroni and Christ which were paintings that I’ve never seen. It was obvious what their intentions were. I found it ever so “convenient” that Joseph found the plates, translated them, and gave them back to the angel with no mention of the Witnesses and their bold testimonies of having seen the plates and handled them. I was again outraged at the statement where someone claims that it is “an embarrassment to the members to think that an angel delivered the plates to Joseph”. We are not embarrassed by this statement. On the contrary, we declare it boldly to the world to be true! We declare that it is in direct fulfillment of Biblical prophecy found in the book of Revelations among other places. Furthermore, I was disappointed to hear the visions by hundreds of Saints in Ohio to be characterized as “experiencing mass hallucinations”. Another incorrect statement claimed that “Joseph Smith created the Priesthood”. Neither Joseph nor anyone in Church history has made that claim. We believe that the resurrected John the Baptist, followed by Peter, James, and John bestowed that authority not only on Joseph, but on Oliver Cowdery as well. PBS claims that the LDS faith was the “religion of the poor people”. This is an outright lie. There were MANY wealthy and prominent landowners who were members of the early Church. If anyone was poor, it was usually due to unrighteous and illegal seizure of property and estates by “real Christians”. Their statement that the Book of Mormon is “Frontier Literature” ignores all of the Ancient Semitic characteristics of the Book of Mormon such as Throne Theophany Motiffs, chiasmus, and cognate accusatives to name a few. There were numerous other misrepresentations and inaccuracies throughout the entire “documentary” (if it can be called that) which made me cringe when I heard them. Lastly I was personally offended when referred to as still being “odd”. I wouldn’t be surprised if PBS lost a large audience. Their efforts to discredit the church and mislead it’s members astray have been in vain. The Saints will not be swayed by every wind of doctrine invented by men. God’s kingdom will continue to roll forward and never cease until his gospel has filled the earth. I bear witness that the Church is true, that the Book of Mormon is indeed the word of God, and that the living Jesus Christ is the head of this church, and do so boldly in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

  97. Steve Evans says:

    Alex, you were offended when referred to as being “odd”? That surprises me.

  98. Strong words, Alex. Many people filled with faith and testimony of the Church accept as valid the documentary evidence that supports many of the claims you quibble with. As far as the negative opinions communicated, a documentary for the American public is obligated to present both sides, and people are unlikely to understand Mormonism meaningfully if they only ever hear from people certain that one fairly particular current definition of it is incontrovertibly true.

  99. Alex,

    Joseph Smith as “Alpha and Omega” has unfortunate linkages, but it’s true in a way: he is the beginning and end of our movement. Sure, Mormons believe that Christ is the real “founder” of Mormonism, but you can hardly expect a public documentary to say that!

    Re: the Smith family: in terms of their farming success, “living on the edge” is pretty accurate.

    Coe’s characterisation of Joseph as a “shaman” was juxtaposed with Mouw’s admission that Smith was not a charlatan. I for one would be unhappy if a PBS doc didn’t explore contrary views of Muhammed. I don’t expect religious hagiography on public TV.

    The art was different, but certainly no worse than the saccharine that often passes as Mormon art. Let’s say it was “challenging” and be grateful that our lazy aesthetic was thus challenged!

    Givens stated that the Book of Mormon’s history was “an embarrassment” to many intellectuals NOT members.

    Bagley said that Kirtland represented “hallucinations” OR “visions” and again, this was juxtaposed with Givens’ testimony of the Pentecostal nature of the event.

    I could go on, but needless to say, your inaccurate and immature slander of the documentary does Mormonism no favours. Let’s get over our clannish inability to let others have any access to our story and be grateful that Helen Whitney produced such a balanced piece.

    Can I get an Amen?

  100. Amen.

  101. Obviously, lots of comments on the show were Anti-Mormon…they did not portray all the positive things the church has done for the world and what Joseph Smith example help millions of people change their lives…As always these Negative comments on the show about the Mormons will create curious minds to seek more about the truth. Those Historians rely mostly on their worldly knowledge and not of God’s…Whenever there are lots of Anti Mormon shows the membership of the Church soars.

  102. Kevin Barney says:

    So Ronan, I take it you were finally able to see it?

  103. Painfully slow streaming video. I’ve seen up to Carthage.

  104. amen

  105. I didn’t know which thread to post this on but I think it’s really interesting. My good friend just sent me an email about her reaction to last night’s segment of The Mormons.
    She’s an orthodox Jew, so she’s sympathetic to very structured religions and because we’re such good friends she probably knows more than the average about Mormons but it’s not like we sat around and talked about Mormons all the time.

    I thought it was really well done and even though there were more opinions given from inside the church then from outside I think it seemed like a really fair portrayal. Everyone came off looking very smart and it was very clear that parts of the history still haunt modern believers. I walked away with the impression of Joseph Smith as someone whose religious fervor started out from a very honest place but by the end he believed in himself more than the religion (a common practice for leaders in my opinion, i.e. Jim Jones). For me that fact doesn’t devalue the earlier teachings of a leader so I still can respect the religion as a whole. (by the way this was my own person interpretation – the series did not imply this at all). The figure that was really interesting to me was Brigham Young b/c he wasn’t really a religious figure (or all that charismatic) and he struggled with some of Smith’s prophecies and was still able to command the community’s attention.

    The funniest part to me was when they talked about polygamy. They showed the mainstream saying that there is no such thing as “fundamentalist Mormonism” so anyone who practices polygamy isn’t really Mormon and then they had a polygamist family talking about how it was a prophecy of Smith’s and you can’t undo a prophecy so they are practicing the religion correctly. It was heart-breaking to hear the first wife of the family talk about her struggle to share her husband. But I almost started laughing out loud when after they claimed they were doing this b/c it was Smith’s doctrine they were shown eating dinner and DRINKING WINE!!! Isn’t that going against a main tenant of Mormonism? I was almost convinced that polygamy in their minds was really a religious institution instead of just about male domination and then I saw that and realized they are just picking and choosing like everyone else.

    Anyway, interesting. She doesn’t think JSJ would have poisoned all our pioneer forebears she just thinks that Jim Jones had good intentions and then went crazy as a result of being at the top.

  106. John Williams says:

    I thought that the two modern-day plural wives featured at the end of the documentary were surprisingly normal in appearance, dress, and speech. Their husband seemed jarringly normal in appearance when he shared some comments in the doc. I didn’t get the Warren Jeffs / Tom Green vibe.

  107. Ronan, I “amen” your analysis completely. I have a comment/question: There seemed to be very little talk of a Mormon belief in Christ. Do we think that’s because it’s not interesting to outsiders or unique to what this documentary is trying to demonstrate? There of course was a lot of emphasis on the Prophet Joseph, but not so much on his “restoration” of the gospel of Jesus. I did enjoy the treatment of Joseph’s unique view of the Godhead and our potential to become as God is…

  108. John Williams says:

    re 109,

    Did Joseph Smith-era Mormons emphasize Christ as much as present-day ones do?

  109. Re: 110, John I think you raise a valid point.

  110. DavidH says:

    Amri,

    The fact that your friend did not ask to visit with the missionaries proves conclusively that the documentary was biased against the LDS faith and truth claims.

    I would hope that the next time the Church agrees to cooperate with someone outside the faith to make a documentary that it insist that the documentary pass through the correlation process. True, no one outside the Church (and perhaps some inside it) would want to watch it then, but at least we could be comfortable in recommending it to our neighbors and even show it in primary.

  111. Did you read the part about her being an Orthodox Jew, DavidH? There’s no chance in hell (or gehenna) that she’d convert.

    Plus why does everything have to be a conversion tool? That seems a little creepy.

  112. Ronan, Amen.

  113. People, I have seen anti-stuff and this is not anti-stuff. There was only one person last night whom I would characterize as 100% anti. Calm down!

    Also, Amen.

  114. Amen and Halleluia Ronan.

    DavidH: You are living in a dream world.

    Honestly though, I would not discount this program as a missionary tool, precisely for the reason that it was NOT run through the correlation committee. People will trust it more, and the positive parts will resonate all the more deeply.

  115. There sure was a lot of Schubert in this documentary. The G-flat major impromptu kept popping up everywhere, including the credits.

    I thought it was funny that when they were talking about ordinances for the dead, the music was the second movement of Beethoven’s “Ghost” trio.

    Schubert’s “Death and the Maiden” quartet kept appearing, sometimes at inappropriate times.

    The best was the use of the C-major quintet – Schubert composed this in the last of his 31 years – it came right toward the end when they were sending all those candle balloons, or whatever they were, into the air.

  116. David was just kidding, MCQ.

  117. DavidH says:

    Amri and MCQ,

    Hellmut is right, I was trying to use irony.

    My wife chides me sometimes for saying things ironically in such a way that people take me seriously. My apologies. (Maybe I should ask Steve Evans if I could use an alternate identity along the lines of Prudence McPrude.)

    I actually think the program was excellent–I personally believe that the spirit of God may have had a role in its production and editing. And I also think MikeInWeHo may be right that one day, the program may be used in CES.

    Was it Hugh Nibley who said something “It is good the Old Testament did not have to go through the correlation committee, or it would only be five pages long”? (Actually, maybe that would be a good idea, so that it would be a more reasonable length to read.)

  118. Jon in Austin says:

    Ronan,

    Late amen.

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