CNN Covers Mormons

CNN — the Cult News Network — brings you all the latest cult news, complete with hokey icons identifying each hot topic. Their categories include all the notorious cults of our day: Satanism, Al Qaeda, Scientology, Madonna (with Kabbalah), Neo-Nazis, Waco Davidians, Jews for Jesus, and (of course) Mormons. I imagine Tom Cruise and Madonna might be interested to know they could jump from their current cults to the Mormons and still be on the CNN cult list! I’m sure Gladys Knight would make a spot on the choir for Madonna. Tom too, I suppose. Can Tom sing? Let’s see, I recall an impressive lip-synch in Risky Business and a hummed tune in Rain Man, but no real singing. Fine, he can lip-synch.

Anyway, “cult news” sites are actually handy places to pick up offbeat mainstream media articles that cover the LDS Church. For example, there’s this entertaining UK article about MNB. Go read the last paragraph — gotta love that dry British sense of humour! They also link this USA Today story profiling two LDS missionaries serving in Paris. I’d have to say it paints a pretty sympathetic picture of missionaries. One is quoted in the article as explaining his approach to missionary work: “You smile, you’re friendly, you introduce yourself, and you build on common beliefs with the person. Most people believe in something beyond our power.” Now that doesn’t sound so threatening, does it?


  1. Great link, Dave. Sad, but still a great resource.

  2. I was a little disturbed by the comment
    “This month alone, a Mormon leader in Idaho…” I like the way it infers a recurring problem, without actually having the facts to do so. I guess Innuendo and sensationalism will sell papers.

    Also wasn’t one of the first movies about the Mormons made in England? Something about harems and abducting English women?

  3. Jay, you may be thinking of the famous Sherlock Holmes tale, “A Study in Scarlet.” Doyle describes mormons and their harems with great aplomb.

  4. I abhor how allegations are made towards a certain people or belief based on isolated circumstances. These unfortunate events are always displayed as seemingly being a direct result of the individual religion (innuedos and all). What is never acknoweldged is the fact that these offenders are not permitted to actively participate int he church until they have changed their ways. Correct me if I am wrong, but most of the targeting towards sexual abuse at the hands of Catholic priests stemmed from the issue that they were recieving no discipline as far as the church was concerned…at least in some cases. I dont think that you can apropriately link the two. If it was premised as an effort to bring an issue to light that needed to be resolved, I can understand, but instead the media creates a gross generalization of a religion as a whole. And I don’t like the idea of exploiting or even acknowledging the religious background of some criminal offenders as being anti-semetic and so on, but others are okay to attack. How about attacking those abusing their power in the media?

  5. Sigh. I hate stuff like this. Not so much because of the goofiness or the label of cult, but because it only serves to reinforce the Mormon persecution complex. This just gives too much fodder to those who think they personally are called to defend the one true church.

    We spend way too much time worrying about what other people think about us. If we get praise, we see it as glorious acceptance that people are starting to understand us. When we’re criticized, we circle the wagons. We’d be a lot better off if we let stuff like this roll off our backs and focused on how we can be better people and better Christians. Just my 2 cents.

  6. I did a quick google search, and The movie i was thinking of was “Trapped by the Mormons” made in Britain in 1922.

    There were several other notable films about the mormons, including several Zane Gray adaptions (Rainbow Trail, Riders of the purple sage), A mormon Maid (1917, A handsome Latter-day Saint man (played by Utah native Frank Borzage, who later became first person ever to receive the Academy Award for best Director) saves a beautiful Latter-day Saint woman (Mae Murray) from being pressed into joining the “harem” of a villainous older man.)

    There was also a Francis Ford adaption of a “Study in Scarlet” the sherlock holmes story. But the first was “The Mormon”, starring Allen Dwan, made in 1912. I can’t find any information on this really.

    I gathered this info from and

    I think the USA Today article was good. The problem I had with the Times Article was the innuendo and unfair assessment. If there is a problem in the church, i think it should be brought to light. I just don’t think it should be sensationalized or blown out of proportion, but treated in a fair manner.

    To me, it is not that a “leader in the church” is caught doing bad things that drew my ire in this article. It is the inferrence of a continuing problem.

    As an aside, I have a problem with reporters failing to report and or confusing the distinctions of church leadership. If the man was a Bishop/High Councillor/Stake Pres I have no problem with him being described as a church leader. The problem I have seen, and don’t know that it is occuring here, is when someone who is a member of the Elder’s quroum who holds no calling is described as a church leader because the hold the title Elder. Now perhaps we should hold ourselves to the standards of a leader if we are an elder or a high priest, but this treatment glosses over the reality of the church organization.

    I generally agree with John H. regarding where we focus our attentions. We should focus on becoming better people and better followers of Christ. The problem is that if we have the reputation of a cult that it closes doors. It closes doors in countries where we are trying to send missionaries, it closes doors to the hearts of potential souls (or at least makes them tougher to reach), and it makes the work harder for Saints in other countries. While in the US we have generally overcome any negative reputation, this is not always the case in other countries (See Wilfried Decoo post over at Times and Seasons on Alessia

    So while we can;t get too upset about it, we should be mindful of our reputation.

  7. Yes, I think one problem that distant mainstream media reporters have is in dealing with LDS terminology that differs from other Christian denominations. In most denominations, “Bishop” is a high church official, not a congregational minister. “Elder” carries considerably more status in some denominations, something like a High Council member. In contrast, those LDS leaders who actually are senior leaders have titles that are unfamiliar or confusing to some reporters or readers: “Stake President,” “Area Authority,” and “General Authority” don’t convey much to a non-Mormon. GA sounds a lot like GI, a universal if dated term for the lowest spot in the Army hierarchy.

    We forget how opaque Mormon hierarchy and practice is to the uninitiated. When I first attended LDS services, I initially thought the Sunday School President was the second most important person in the ward. Because he was at the podium every Sunday morning conducting opening exercises.

  8. I try to not let these things get to me. And to John H’s 2 cents I say “Amen”. I think that I have just recently become aware of the gross manipulation and spin that the media uses. In regards to politics, religion, you name it. I dont know what rock I just climbed out from, but it’s disturbing and shouldnt be tolerated. What to do about it? I dunno. That’s just my 2 cents.

  9. Sarah, yes the combination of bias plus incompetence just doesn’t leave the average journalist much to work with. I was fortunate enough to stumble across Russ Braley’s book Bad News: The Foreign Policy of the New York Times several years ago, and thus never really labored under the illusion that the mainstream press has much credibility. There’s a great review of it posted at the Amazon page. Things seem to have gotten worse (at the Times and everywhere else) since that book was written.

  10. About “Trapped by the Mormons”: The Tower Theater on Ninth South in Salt Lake used to show this hilariously campy silent film with live musical accompaniment every now and then, which is how I saw it, and I believe the Tower either bought the rights to produce a VHS version, or carried the video version produced by someone else. It’s so wildly weird that Mormon friends found it quite funny, too; I can’t imagine anyone coming away thinking, “Sheesh! Those Mormons are even scarier than I thought!” The best part is the swirling-eyed hypnotism the dashingly good-looking missionary inflicts on the hapless daughter, with 1920s-style special effects. It’s really worth renting if you can imagine enjoying a night of campy anti-Mormon propaganda.

  11. Thanks Dave. Pretty enlightening. I am a photographer, and recently have done some research as to the conception of war that we develop due to war photography. What we are and are not permitted to see, and how it is presented. The differences between what was released during World War II and now. Fascinating stuff. But I digress.

  12. This site rules!

    I love the little logos for each group. I think my favorite is the one for Scientology, followed closely by Jews for Jesus.

  13. Charming, no?

  14. John H:
    We spend way too much time worrying about what other people think about us. If we get praise, we see it as glorious acceptance that people are starting to understand us. When we’re criticized, we circle the wagons.
    And with all that time spent worrying, Mormons are mostly incapable of truly understanding how they and their practices are perceived by outsiders.

  15. I initially thought the Sunday School President was the second most important person in the ward. Because he was at the podium every Sunday morning conducting opening exercises.

    I remember those days. I was the third most important person in the ward back then, because I was the Sunday School music leader, and I had to have something to say at the podium about the practice hymn every week, too. :-)

  16. D. Fletcher says:

    Tom can sing. He started his career playing Sky Masterson in his high school’s production of “Guys and Dolls.”

  17. “And with all that time spent worrying, Mormons are mostly incapable of truly understanding how they and their practices are perceived by outsiders.”

    This has been my contention all along about Jon Krakauer’s book. There’s no doubt there were plenty of errors only an outsider would make. So naturally we focused on those and tried to tear the book to shreds. But along with that, we showed our complete incapability to admit that some people look at our culture, call it like they see it, and that how they call it isn’t always flattering praise about our perfect nuclear families and hard work and industry. Some people find our practices odd and our beliefs not just odd, but detrimental. We may disagree, but maybe we could learn something once in a while instead of defending every little quirk.

  18. The links to other news …

    Hunter S. Thompson to go out with a bang
    Mormon scholar, 95, is accused of rape by daughter
    Tiger shot dead after a week of suburb life
    Leaders accentuate the positive as protests bring out the negative
    Kremlin in no mood to be lectured, Bush told
    Germans believe debt of gratitude has been settled

  19. I saw Trapped by the Mormons at the Tower on a double bill with The Incredible Brine Shrimp. I also purchased VHS versions of both in the lobby of the Tower. I believe this was in the spring of 1992. TbtM has its entertaining moments, but mostly it is terrible. Chris Hicks of the DesNews insists that early portrayls of Dracula are based on the evil Mormon missionary depicted in TbtM. Specifically the “focus on the convincing eyes” effect.

    I think that Brine Shrimp is a more entertaining movie, though even it drags and it is less than 20 minutes long. Worth it for the payoff at the end though, which I refuse to spoil.

  20. “But the first was “The Mormon”, starring Allen Dwan, made in 1912. I can’t find any information on this really.”

    “The Mormon” was a big production for the time, with Warren Kerrigan playing the lead. The plot centers around polygamy and kidnapping women. It was pitched this way: “In the early days of the West it was customary for the Mormons to attack wagon trains, in order to secure new wives in the practice of their polygamous belief. The young son of the Mormon elder was dearly beloved and faithful and was given the post of outlook, to locate wagon trains, ascertain the number of men and women in them and assist in the attack. One morning he spies through his powerful telescope a lone wagon crossing the prairie. He hastens to the council of the Elders and tells them of approaching emigrants. He is sent to ascertain the number of men with the wagon and encounters the girl. It is a case of love at first sight. He gazes earnestly in the girl’s eyes and sees an answering light in their depths. Then he realizes his mission and that the capture of those women will make them wives of the prophet. A fierce desire overcomes him to possess her for himself–a thing not possible in the church. He renounces his faith and warns the emigrants.

    He assists in fighting off his own people and at last they hold up the flag of truce. The old father learns that his son has become an apostate. Sadly he returns to his home to grieve over his erring son lost to him forever. The emigrant having been killed, the young Mormon takes his place, and with the girl by his side turns to a new life with the woman he loves” (Richard Alan Nelson, “A History of Latter-day Saint Screen Portrayals in the Anti-Mormon Film Era, 1905-1936,” M.A. Thesis, Brigham Young University, 1975, p. 52).

  21. Kristine says:

    Justin, is there *anything* you don’t know?

%d bloggers like this: