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?