Dear Glass-Half-Empty People,

Please explain to me how “The Mormons” can be seen as an anti-piece? I am bumfuzzled by people who seem to think that the producers have been communing with Ed Decker or Sandra Tanner. Is there anything that was brought up in the documentary that hasn’t been brought up by people in the Bloggernacle? Were there negatives that were not balanced by positives?

I don’t honestly see how this could have gone better for the church, but if you have ideas, please state them below.


  1. Were there negatives that were not balanced by positives?

    On the whole, no.

    I am also “bumfuzzled” by the negativity. I can only ascribe it to a desperate inability to think outside of the Mormon world-view. This is super lame and only makes us look fanatical and lazy.

    Question to the nay-sayers: What would you like to see in a PBS documentary on Islam? Would you want Chris Hitchens saying Muhammad was a fraud? I would, provided the faithful were given a say too. This is exactly what happened in The Mormons.

    Quit whining. It’s embarrassing.

  2. Dan Ellsworth said it over on Mormon Mentality. There just wasn’t much emphasis on Jesus Christ in this documentary. I think that’s the only negative thing I also can say about this documentary. But then again, it is not a theological documentary.

  3. I thought the documentary turned out fairly well, which surprised me. I had been interviewed by telephone by Helen Whitney (the film’s writer/director/producer), and the first things out of her mouth were: “I love to speak with intelligent people, people of faith, people of strong belief — who can be so fascinating when they express their doubts. I just find it so enlightening to listen to that kind of thoughtful, engaging candor. So tell me — when it comes to the Mormon Church, what are your doubts?”

    That is known as a “leading question.” In fact, though Ms. Whitney seemed extremely gracious throughout the interview, that is probably the most comically over-the-top leading question that I had ever heard. I’m a lawyer, and in law you are allowed to ask leading questions only to someone who is an adversary, someone considered a “hostile witness.” So her question immediately made me very wary, though I doubt that was her intent.

    I told her I didn’t have any doubts about the Church, that one thing a testimony brings is a certainty that allows me to make personal sacrifices for the gospel, etc. “Oh, everyone has doubts!” she insisted. She then named a prominent writer who had expressed doubts to her, and she invited me again to be more “engaging” and “intelligent” by expressing mine. I told her a personal experience I had had with the Spirit as a young man, which forever erased any doubts about the truthfulness of the gospel, and I added that other experiences since had only reinforced my conviction that the Church is true, that the gospel Joseph Smith restored is in reality pristine Christianity.

    “Hm, you sound just like President Hinckley,” she said, with just a hint of disappointment. If she intended that last as a veiled insult, she REALLY missed the mark! I was smiling all day that someone would say that about me. It’s probably the nicest compliment I’ve ever received.

    Now, again, I want to stress that Ms. Whitney was extremely gracious in talking by phone with me, and I was left with the impression that I would like her personally. But she also spoke with disdain about FARMS (the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies) at BYU, saying that though the professors themselves are kindly in person, she finds their work “mean.” (I could not disagree more about the work/research done by FARMS.) She also seemed positively shocked when, at the end of the interview, she attempted to find common ground with me by mentioning what an awful disappointment it was that Pres. Bush had been re-elected in 2004. “I voted for him,” I noted. She very clearly equated functioning human intelligence with “Democrat.”

    Anyway, she got in touch with me later, wanting to do more interviews, but I begged off. I did not at all have high hopes for the documentary, but all in all I thought it went all right. Parts of it were maddening, but other parts were deeply moving and favorable to the Church (i.e., accurate).

    Best regards,

    Ken Kuykendall

  4. I was really hoping this was going to be a thread that *wasn’t* about the documentaries.

    I guess I’m just a glass-half-full type.

  5. cj douglass says:

    I’m suprised to hear that anyone in the ‘nacle would call “The Mormons” an anti-piece. Do they also consider Bushmans recent book an anti-book? No one benefits from a one sided account. I would expect this from a seminary teacher in Utah but not from a member of the ‘nacle Stake.

  6. Anti- and ex-Mormons, such as those in the documentary, are an integral part of the Mormon community and experience — so it would have been unfortunate if that voice hadn’t been included. The film is a better document of us when it includes our black sheep and rebel stepchildren than it would be if it only included the faithful daughters and sons.

    Furthermore, for an outsider watching the film, I think having questioning and even belittling voices woven into the text plays a useful role. Most non-Mormons are, after all, going to approach this experience from a posture of disbelief. If the film had included only believing voices, then nonbelievers would be pushed into a role of prosecuting attorney — searching for inconsistencies, signs of fanaticism, traces of dishonesty in the believers’ accounts of the Mormon experience. By supplying comments from the perspective of disbelief, the film allows outsiders who don’t believe to adopt a more open posture toward the believing voices. The film is supplying counter-arguments, freeing the viewer from the need to construct them for herself. As a result, she is more able to take accounts from both the believers and the disbelievers seriously in their own right.

  7. But they were focusing on our distinctives, right? Ultimately, a lot of churches believe in Christ (and we have relatively recently re-emphasized his role in our church (as the documentary pointed out)).

  8. On there’s a discussion going on in the Mormon group. All these young kids are up in arms that the Church was portrayed in a bad light. They’re complaining that they didn’t interview enough members. I told them that most of the interviewees were members of the Church. So, they called into question those members’ faithfulness to the Church.

    I’ve got a lively debate going with a guy on Joseph Smith’s treasure hunting. According to him, Joseph never used a peep stone to hunt for treasure because Joseph never mentioned it in his journal. I sent him some links about Joseph’s 1826 trial. Of course he’ll say it’s anti material even though it’s from FAIR.

    He’s also pretty adamant that Joseph didn’t practice polygamy secretly behind Emma’s back.

    I’m looking forward to testimony meeting this Sunday. People are going to be railing against the show.

  9. Nergal says:
  10. I thought it was good.

    Suprising comments from Toscano about the temple. Also she said the HC and SP had committed violence against her was very odd. I was waiting for the police report of her beating and it did not materialize. The HC wanted to shake her hand not hit her with a baseball bat.

    The suicide bomber comment was ridiculous. This must be a PBS production. religion=violence

    To many artists, academics, musicians, authors etc. Not very representative but again its PBS

    Enjoyed Jensen, Givens, Southey, and really enjoyed Stevenson a lot. Toscano had some good moments as well

  11. a random John says:


    Please tell me that you know people that think that anything that didn’t go through correlation is at least questionable and probably EVIL. I know several. My guess is that a significant percentage of the membership falls into this category.

    For example, in a previous ward someone asked my wife for a book that would give an overview of Mormon history including polygamy. We had Ostling’s Mormon America on the shelf so my wife lent it to her. The next fast and testimony meeting this dear sister got up and said that someone had given her an anti-mormon book and that it nearly destroyed her faith. I immediately knew she was talking about my wife. I spoke the the husband (the EQP at the time and I was his 1stC) and said that we were very sorry and thought that the book was a pretty objective overview of what his wife had expressed interest in.

    Anyhow, never underestimate the ability of some members to reject anything that didn’t come directly from HQ.

  12. Sam MB says:

    You missed the subliminal messages, brothers. They were pretty malignant indictments of a way of life. I couldn’t make out the fine print, but it was something about a guy named Benjamin and may have been taken from Mosiach 3-5 or something like that. Hard to keep track of those single-frame intrusions.

  13. Matt W. says:

    I think it isn’t that people didn’t like the program or think it was good, I think it mainly is (for me at least) that there were things in the program that I disagree with (and there should be, of course, but that doesn’t mean I should not voice an opinion on the disagreement) and as mormonism is very close and dear to me, I feel a compulsion to armchair quarterback ever instant of a documentary regarding it.

    On the other hand, I really liked the documentary, and would use it in sunday school.

  14. I think another helpful way to approach this topic is to ask, why do some members find the piece challenging to the/their faith? I have heard some people complain about the inaccuracies, but I think those arguments are not worth pursuing. There seems to be a deeper cause. Why do some members feel a disconnect?

    Can anyone provide a sympathetic reading of their perspective?

  15. I agree, Matt. There are things that I would have done differently if I was in Helen Whitney’s chair. But I have read one or two comments implying or flat-out saying that this may have well have been produced by Lighthouse Ministries and I wonder why. I assume that this is typical Bloggernacle hyperbole, but maybe there is something I missed.

  16. lamonte says:

    I agree with comments that the program was balanced for the most part. Certainly it was not an “anti” hatchet job and it presented issues as they happened. I think we could all find fault in the presentations of “our side” but I thought they tried to present the truth.

    I was interested in the comments of the Holocaust survivor who feared that one day he would discover that his dead relatives were no longer Jews because they had been baptized vicariously into the Mormon Church. It reminds me of a man – an adult convert – who expressed concern to me that the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood seemed harsh if he considered that one day he might stop believing in the church and then he would be subject to the penalities for such. I asked him if it wouldn’t be the case that if he stopped believing in the church he would stop believing in the penalties described in the D&C. Likewise, it seems that if this Jewish man discovers in the next life that his dead relatives have converted to Mormonism it would mean that Mormonism was the correct path. If it is not, then the vicarious baptisms would not be legitimate. Am I being too simplistic and insensative about this issue?

  17. a random John says:

    Matt W.

    I’ve got to protest. Your compulsion to armchair quaterback is nothing compared to mine. Consider the evidence:

    Exhibit I
    Exhibit II

  18. CS Eric says:


    What surprises me about those people who would never read anything that hasn’t been correlated is that they don’t consider all the quotes in General Conference from other, outside sources. Unless, somehow, C.S. Lewis’ works somehow made it through. Is it okay for GAs to read outside material, but not for the rank and file?

  19. a random John says:

    I should probably add that I consider Mormon America to be roughly the book format equivalent of The Mormons. It provided an overview of many aspects of Mormon history and culture without being a really deep dive on any of them.

  20. According to Jana Reiss, who has a recent blog post up about it somewhere I can’t find at the moment, Whitney was very unhappy about the way it ended up, due to PBS insistance on editorial changes.

  21. a random John says:

    CS Eric,

    Those people know that GA’s have a superior spirit of discernment and are therefore able to pick out appropriate books by their covers. The rest of us are left wandering the aisles of libraries lost and confused.

  22. Antonio Parr says:

    For what its worth, my non-member mother commented that the PBS special placed the Church in a very unflattering light. All a matter of perspective.

  23. The problem is correlation, Daniel. ‘naclers won’t be phased by anything in the documentary. But if all you have is Seminary and Sunday School then this is pretty tough stuff.

  24. I think the people who did not like it maybe do not know our history? I thought it was great, particularly the first half–I was thrilled with the results. However one of my sisters said it was lies and that her husband was so disgusted he turned it off. It turns out, she didn’t know JS had wives who also had other husbands. I explained it was true, and she was confused. My mother was confused as to how she didn’t know this. It didn’t seem to shock the rest of the family–does it go back to inoculation theories?

  25. Of COURSE people are upset. This is brand new, upsetting and disturbing information for a lot of people. I would venture a guess that at least 50% of the people who watched it, have never heard any of this before. Only a few years ago, the first night of the documentary would have knocked me on my butt. I didn’t know any of those things and would have considered them to be lies. Finding out they were true would have been even more upsetting. I remember how I felt when I first learned a lot of this stuff – I was sure it was all untrue, and extremely upset for a long time.

    If you have heard all of this and aren’t phased by it, the documentary came off as balanced and great. I personally loved it. But if this is new information, you’re bound to think it’s anti.

  26. CS Eric says:


    I think you are overgeneralizing here. Maybe my experience was unique, but I learned about Mountain Meadows, Adam-God, Joseph’s polygamy and polyandry, among other controversies, my first year in seminary, in junior high in the Salt Lake valley. About the only stuff in these two showings that I didn’t know before I was old enough to drive was related to the temple. Tough stuff for you, tame stuff for me.

  27. Yes, the other Dan referred to what I said over at another, superior blog:

    I loved part 2, but overall, at the end of the program, I think someone not of our faith could have watched it and concluded that we don’t place very much emphasis on Jesus Christ. That was disappointing to me, because they passed over what I believe to be our central message and concern.

    Would someone watching the PBS special come away with the impression that our faith’s primary focus is on the reality of Jesus Christ, and that all these other issues are peripheral, at best?
    I reiterate- I did like it in many ways, but I was dissatisfied in that it portrayed a lot of people talking about everything but Christ.

  28. All in all I thought the PBS piece was pretty good.
    I was disappointed PBS spent so much time on the MMM since it affected the church very little then and is something modern Mormons thinkk about rarely, if ever. I just does not affect out doctrine one iota. We all understand misplaced zeal and fanatacism and a perfectly understandable desire to distance oneself from it. While the MMM was horrendous, it does not affect the church today, its doctrines, its members, or its public policy, except to the extent that the church officials are forced to respond to the criticisms. And, BTW, the church has officially apologized for the event many times, but I never hear the descendants of the New York, Ohio, Missouri, or Illinois mobbers that murdered, raped, burned, and beat my Mormon ancestors apologize for their acts. I am a decendant of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, and I want my damn farm in Nauvoo and my store in Kirtland back. When am I gonna get MY reparations?

  29. 28. I thought they spent quite a bit of time emphasizing our emphasis on Jesus Christ and our acceptance as christians to some but not others.

  30. I liked it but have criticized aspects of it over at T&S, so I suppose HPJDC is including me in his incredulity.

    I thought Whitney did a good job. It was a good show. My personal opinion is that it might have fallen short of Whitney’s hope that it would shatter stereotypes — particularly the worn-out one about Latter-day Saints not being Christians. That aspect of shattering stereotypes is what my critical comments have referred to. But I realize by focusing so much on that, I have not been giving credit where credit is due. Whitney should be applauded for a truly noble effort in providing a balanced view. I wholeheartedly agree that she gives the Latter-day Saints the benefit of the doubt by portraying them through their own words and perspective, at times (i.e., the times when it’s not exmos explaining who “The Mormons” are).

    A good example of this was right in the beginning when the First Vision is first mentioned. The narrator says “Joseph Smith described his experience as . . . .” rather than “Joseph Smith claimed that”. That aspect of this was very Bushman-esque, and very welcome.

  31. I thought that the 1st part was tipped in our favor, but the 2nd night was tipped away. Still pretty balanced, but there wasn’t a whole lot of women’s voices to weigh against Margaret Toscano’s voice. I think it would have been more fair to also hear from women who don’t feel marginalized and silenced in the Church. Plus, all the talk about women and their perfection burden in the church – which is definitely a reality – but what about hearing from women who’ve learned to love themselves, accept their differences, are doing the best they can and manage to be happy in spite of the pressures? I don’t think women comparing themselves unfavorably against other women is a result of the Church. I think women all over do it, the church culture exacerbates it, but the PBS show made it sound as if Mormon women are all downtrodden, depressed and on Prozac.

  32. DavidH (McPrude) says:

    For some reason, the Church’s public relations department did not get the memo that the program was a largely one-sided anti-Mormon piece. If someone knows President Hinckley personally, please let him know that “heads should roll” in the department, and we need someone else in PR to complain vigorously about the “documentary.”

  33. More Ann Poelman and less Margaret Toscano on the treatment of women would have made the second evening more balanced in my mind. Bbell’s commentary in #21 exactly sums up my thoughts.

  34. I completely agree with the post. In fact, over at M* I commented (more or less) as follows:

    “I find it amusing how some people (bishops, etc.) think that members shouldn’t watch the program, as if PBS had gone anti-Mormon or something. This betrays a willful desire to not consider other perspectives.”

    My comment was then deleted for some reason.

  35. cj douglass says:

    I particularly appreciated the part about “Mormon fundamentalists”. Not that I agree with their practice or views but it showed a clear difference between us and them. I’m sure a lot of people still didn’t understand the difference before the doc.

  36. To say that 19 minutes or whatever spent on MMM is too much seems a bit fatuous considering 120 minutes will be spent on it in the upcoming movie September Dawn or whatever it’s called. Surely it’s better to have actual history in the public imagination before Hollywood takes a crack.

  37. I have some time to really write down my gut reactions.

    I am actually surprised at how well I responded to Toscano. The only thing that really bothered me was the violence comment which unless I am mistaken she was neither shot, stabbed, or beaten by the Church Court.

    From watching her and her comments about the temple etc I thought to myself that this is a sister with a testimony who got off track doctrinally and because of pride got sideways with the Hierarchy and local leadership and could someday return.

    I hope she does return someday and her story can come full circle.

    I had a similar reaction to Southey as well. I know less about him but I found myself in sympathy with him.

    Bachman sounded like a lunatic. His mission exp in a jungle is not typical and his suicide bomber comment was playing for his secular buddies and the known biases of PBS

    Missionaries in Ghana: Loved it. I served in South Africa and can relate. Saw G lines on the African Elders. Again can relate

    Jensen: Were do I start? Amazing performance under pressure. He Exp the gift of tongues in Germany. I wished he would have used those words. Strong from beginning to end….. Shows that Dems can have testimonies (I already believed that FWIW)

    Lantos family: Strong. Seemed a bit non-typical lots of kids, obvious wealth. One of “those families” Dad was probably bishop SP etc at one point. Felt HG strong during the sick daughters comments an singing. The daughters looked Ethnic LDS to me

    Women in the church: Weak. Saw liberal PBS bias running thru the segment. Was waiting for an ad run by NOW to pop up. A LDS Female MD strong comments but not typical. Needed some SAHM moms from middle income 40-80K homes for balance. Prozac comments silly. Need a reference on the LDS women work as much as none LDS women. Not my Exp in the church.

    Blonde dad with 7-8 kids. Saw PBS bias again. Focused to closely on his face. I got the sense they were trying to protray his unfortunate final childbirth exp and somehow the result of fanatic beliefs driven by his faith and testimony. Those whacky fecund Mormons

    Sister Stevenson: Strong, very strong. Loved the genealogy bit. Loved the testimony, loved the conversion story. Liked the young white couples raptly watching her talk. She reminds me of some of the Xhosa mamas I knew in South Africa. Loved the LSD line. Would enjoy her in my ward…

    Needed more comments from middle income families with 3-5 kids. Needed some unmarried SW. Also needed more Hispanics either in the US or in SA. To many non-typical types in here. Artists, academics, authors, Musicians etc. Saw PBS intellectual bias here. Needed run of the mill corp workers and small biz types for a real feel

    On whole good with the exception of the areas above were the mask of objectivity at PBS started to slip a bit.

  38. D. Fletcher says:

    The non-member who watched it with me wondered if it was paid for by Mitt Romney — he thought it was TOO pro-Mormon Church.

    Two low points: Elder Oaks comment about not-criticizing the GAs, and Terryl Givens’ puerile bit about dancing in the Church.

    I also thought some of the visuals were silly. The whole courtroom shots during Toscano’s piece (is that the Alta club) were just … silly. And then, talking about intellectuals, they show some library shelves.

  39. lamonte says:

    D. Fletcher – I also saw a sly smile on Elder Oaks face as he stated that conflicting statement. I thought he was trying to say it “tongue-in-cheek.”

  40. #19 – I just looked and saw that conversation on facebook. You were totally right, of course, but I kind of feel bad for that poor kid you were arguing with. He just doesn’t have a clue. It is that kind of attitude towards church history that manages to be both infuriating and incredibly sad.

    I haven’t watched the second part of it yet, but I didn’t find out anything that I didn’t already know from the first part, and I worry about people who can’t look at the whole of church history without viewing truth as anti-Mormon. Wee ought to be able to separate uncomfortable truth (that MMM did happen, that Joseph Smith had his quirks) from actual criticism of the church. This was in no way anti-Mormon, and if a testimony can’t survive this documentary, then that person needs to look at what their testimony is based on and figure out why it won’t survive objectivity.

  41. I wouldn’t call this documentary an anti-Mormon production because the dark parts of church history mentioned were all rooted in fact. But it was the way in which they were presented and the things that weren’t said that made the production biased and unfair. I felt that they chopped up church history and presented it in such a bizarre way that it was no longer representative of the church’s history. In discussing the whole history of a church, you cannot single out every controversial issue in its past and neglect to discuss the rest of the history–they only discussed the “warts” in our history, and pretended that they alone were our history. As a result the documentary came up with a very distorted view of church history. (Not to mention the fact that they spent 20 minutes interviewing a polygamist group that has nothing whatsoever to do with the LDS church, which was misleading to say the least.) With that serving as a backdrop, they moved into discussing present-day church doctrine in part two.

    The second night, I felt, was even more biased and slanted than the first. Yes, they talked about the church’s emphasis on Jesus Christ–but dismissed it as a PR move. Yes, they mentioned the church’s emphasis on families–but only to serve as a backdrop for how much we hate gay people. They had a few stories from faithful LDS members who were positive about the church, but they were much shorter than the peices by excommunicated members or former members with an axe to grind. And somehow I got the sense that they had edited out the strength of those positive pieces–after reading Ken Kuykendall’s post above I can say it’s consistent with what I would have expected from an interview for this documentary. The excommunicated or former members painted a picture of the church as a scary cult/dictatorship runs out of Salt Lake City that hates women, black people, gay people, and pretty much everyone and controls its members with the constant threat of excommunication. While some people may feel this way, I believe that a majority of the church does not, and the documentary did not reflect that. As my husband pointed out, we follow the prophet but the ward is essentially run at the ward level as we have no professional clergy–and the documentary gave little mention of the ward organization, which is how most people–Mormon or not–experience the church. In my opinion, the filmmakers should have just looked up the nearest ward in the phone book and started interviewing people there, instead of digging up former/excommunicated Mormons with sensational stories and giving them disproportionate airtime. Although former members do have a right to be included in a documentary about the church, the majority of the documentary should have been have focused on things that were more central or relevant to the church and its beliefs and practices. The subject matter of the second half of the documentary probably didn’t ring true to more than a handful of people, both members of the LDS church and those who aren’t. If this documentary wanted to catch the essence of Mormonism then it failed. I just didn’t see myself or my church in this documentary.

    I just thought that overall this piece was slanted against the church from the beginning. Everything, right down to some of the music and the pictures that they featured, contributed to an overall dark mood. Calling it anti-Mormon proganda may be going too far, but fair and unbiased it wasn’t!

  42. bbell,
    If the PBS bias only appears in those elements that you disagree with, it may not be PBS’s bias. That said, I would have also liked more “everyday” voices. That said, I think that the voices chosen to represent the everyday (the homeschooling family, Betty Stevenson, the neurosurgeon) were really rather eloquent. I agree that there could have/should have been more.

  43. I don’t think it was anti. I think what we got was the exceptions and the perimeters of Mormonism. As you say the distinctions. In this sense we got the donut of Mormoism – the perimeters exaggerated.

    So it wasn’t anti, it was interesting and entertaining. Which may be the next worst thing.

  44. D. Fletcher says:

    Oh! I remembered another hilarious thing: the grainery where wheat is stored for the Second Coming.

    As George said last night, um, what?

  45. D.! I know. That one gets me every time. Grain for Jesus.

  46. Re: #33

    To me that memo from the church is a carefully worded endorsement of the program (not necessarily of all the views expressed).

    My in-laws turned off their TV on the first night during the polygamy portion, and they hadn’t ever heard of the Mountain Meadows Massacre. I got an email from my previous bishop who apologized for recommending that I watch the program (not that I needed his recommendation). He said said it was “cleverly” produced and full of “half-truths” and “creative manipulations of true facts”.

    My estimation is that many of the people that are moaning over the “biases” and “lies” in this documentary are those who only read church history from Church and CES manuals and/or who can’t handle the fact that others can have differing opinions/views on LDS history.

    My wife and I think that this documentary was overwhelmingly positive, well thought out, compelling, and interesting. There are a few interviewees who obviously had axes to grind, but their motives were pretty clear.

    I agree with an article I read yesterday. It said something to the effect: “If only all religions could have such an opportunity.”

  47. If the documentary was intended to portray the Church negatively, then I’m surprised that Whitney didn’t mention polyandry, Freemasonry, blood atonement, etc. Honestly, if you’re trying to tear the Church down, these are pretty easy shots to take.

    I think that when members of the Church allege that Whitney is biased against the Church, what they really mean is that she is not biased enough in our favor. Most of us aren’t used to seeing our faith threw the eyes of a non-Mormon. Many of us aren’t even used to seeing it in a manner that even approaches objectivity. So when we see a production such as “The Mormons,” it’s easy for us to get defensive and upset.

  48. D. Fletcher says:

    Jesus loves whole wheat bread, that’s all. His sandwiches are usually tuna, with a little pepper and lemon, not mayonnaise, and watercress, on whole grain wheat bread, sliced diagonally.

    Plus Total with skim milk, for breakfast.


  49. through, not threw. Sorry.

  50. “In discussing the whole history of a church, you cannot single out every controversial issue in its past and neglect to discuss the rest of the history–they only discussed the “warts” in our history, and pretended that they alone were our history. As a result the documentary came up with a very distorted view of church history. (Not to mention the fact that they spent 20 minutes interviewing a polygamist group that has nothing whatsoever to do with the LDS church, which was misleading to say the least.)”

    But they did discuss missionary work from the beginning (mostly on the second night), they only presented the LDS view in Missouri, they spoke of the sacrifice, devotion, and goodness of the pioneers, even when discussing the MMM. They couched most of their discussion of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young in respectful terms. I think that you are missing the forest for the trees, here. I agree that 19 minutes to MMM might give a distorted view of its perceived place on our history, but they were relatively positive throughout the two hours.

    “Yes, they talked about the church’s emphasis on Jesus Christ–but dismissed it as a PR move. Yes, they mentioned the church’s emphasis on families–but only to serve as a backdrop for how much we hate gay people.”

    They also had Elder Jensen offering whatever hope he can to those people. Elder Jensen’s responses themselves belie our emphasis on Christ as being merely a PR move.

    “As my husband pointed out, we follow the prophet but the ward is essentially run at the ward level as we have no professional clergy–and the documentary gave little mention of the ward organization, which is how most people–Mormon or not–experience the church.”

    I remember discussion of the ward unit and the lay clergy, in particular in terms of its demands on member’s time (with the implication that they do it because it is important to them).

    I thought that Trevor Southey’s artwork was beautiful, although I thought the music was strangely ominous.

    I suppose that the reason that more unusual people were prefered in the documentary is the same reason that they are preferred in real life: people remember those folks that stand out. So, in contacting local leaders/Church leaders/exmo-bulletin boards, they are going to focus on those people who are recommended to them and only rarely are they ever going to meet Joe Blow Mormon.

    Further, I think that they did just fine with the doctrine (although more emphasis on Christ would have been better). While it may not be the local church, what should they have done? A piece on children moving on from Primary? A local Enrichment night activity? Elders Quorum game night? That is the stuff that most of our church life is made up of, but do we consider it all that important?

  51. Kevinf says:

    As somebody earlier noted, I can’t wait until Sunday and Fast & Testimony meeting!

  52. I actually liked the inclusion of Fundamentalist groups in Part I. First, I think they did a wonderful job clarifying that they are not the same as the LDS Church. Second, while we may try to distinguish ourselves from them as much as possible, we can’t forget that they are essentially our religious cousins. As off-breaks of the LDS Church, I think they are relevant to a discussion of Mormonism. And lastly, I felt that the portrayal of the Big Love-style family drove home the point that you don’t have to be insane to practice polygamy. If intelligent and otherwise normal people who are integrated in modern society willingly practice plural marriage in the 21st century, it’s more plausible to claim that 19th-century Mormons really weren’t as crazy as many believe.

  53. #43

    A close look at PBS does indicate a secular liberal bias. Everything from their grants from liberal foundations to their audience base to the donor base is clearly liberal. Its Establishment in house liberal bias. Like the NY Times or NBC. Its also tremdously provincial. Its no accident that most of these types of series are run by the Boston Affiliate or the Washington office

    If it walks like a duck, squacks like a duck, and talks like a duck its a duck.

    Yes I believe that Foxnews has a conservative bias which explains its popularity cause it filled a market need.

    I really do think they completely missed the Hispanic angle. Its a huge blind spot in the series. A visit to a Hispanic congregation would have really bolstered the series.

  54. Regarding the Elder Oaks’ “don’t criticize leaders” sound byte, I believe it was just that — an out-of-context sound byte. In his book _The Lord’s Way_, Oaks clearly states that if members feel a strong need to discuss differences with church leaders, they should do so, but do so privately.

  55. tru dat, bbell (about the hispanic angle)

  56. RE: #33:

    I didn’t watch the documentary. But I have to disagree. The Church’s PR efforts around this documentary and Romney’s presidency, etc. have been top notch — a model for other organizations, even.

    And I know that there are people out there who automatically dismiss anything that whiffs of public relations [as if other forms of discourse don’t have things they gloss over, ignore, insist, put out of bounds, misrepresent, etc.], but the pieces that the LDS PR department have been publishing in the “Commentary” section of their online newsroom are incredibly well-written and strike the perfect tone.

  57. D. Fletcher says:

    I need to concur with BBell that a big missing tone in the second half of the series was the international church. Even when they showed scenes at the MTC, it seemed like Utah.

    There was a bit about Africans joining, but not much else.

    I also think they didn’t really capture the Church as a large, corporate-like organization. No scenes of “worker bees,” for instance.

  58. “I am actually surprised at how well I responded to Toscano. The only thing that really bothered me was the violence comment which unless I am mistaken she was neither shot, stabbed, or beaten by the Church Court.”

    BBell you have repeated this comment on several blogs and it seems as though you are purposefully giving the word “violence” a very narrow meaning. Violence doesn’t have to involve physical force. To borrow a sacrament meeting talk cliche-the dictionary lists this as a definition of violence: “abusive or unjust exercise of power.” Violence can also be used simply to describe the intensity of an act. You can even do “violence” to a piece of text by misconstruing its meaning.

    I am sure to Toscano her excommunication did seem like an “unjust exercise of power.” These men abruptly cut her off from eternal salvation. It was intense and it was sudden. She didn’t get stabbed, but I am sure she felt it was violent nonetheless.

  59. In my opinion, the filmmakers should have just looked up the nearest ward in the phone book and started interviewing people there…

    Yikes. Double-yikes.

  60. MikeInWeho says:

    Interesting that nobody in the bloggernacle is discussing the question that Whitley throws down, and even ends on: Will Mormonism be able to come to terms with the problematic aspects of its history? How?

    Her question reveals her bias. She clearly admires “The Mormons,” but feels that both the official church organization and the culture have avoided dealing with their real history thus far. It’s a much more challenging assertion than the Ed Decker-types could ever make.

  61. Sure Katie,

    If you are college educated and have been in intellectual circles you know that its common for the word violence to be used to describe what the speaker refers to as unjust aggression. Its usually Feminists using it that way to berate The Man

    for most people violence means just that. A *(^*^%whupping. Its not an accident that she is using the word that way. Its being used by her and PBS (twice) for the shock affect.

    It was a “money quote” Which is why it was repeated at the end of the show in the trailer

  62. I’m sure the excommunication felt extremely violent to Toscano. I don’t think she was using it for its shock value. “Violence” probably best sums up the experience for her.

  63. Jeremy Jensen says:

    “These men abruptly cut her off from eternal salvation. It was intense and it was sudden.”

    No. Her actions, if they were against the will of God, cut her off from eternal exaltation, not those men.

    If, on the other hand, those men were not inspired in their decision to excommunicate her, she will not be punished in the next life. So, irregardless, nothing those men did affected her salvation one way or the other.

  64. Mike,

    I caught that comment at the end and my wife and I started laughing at PBS and its worldview.

    I simply thought it was a typical run of the mill secular PBS comment.

    Comments like that have come and gone since 1830 but somehow we keep chugging. In 2035 with the LDS church rapidly catching the So Baptists in size as the #2 church in the country there will be another PBS special and they will ask a similar question at the end.

  65. None of us can conclusively say how Toscano’s excommunication will play into her salvation (and that’s not for us to debate, anyway), but we cannot deny the impact that it must have had on her and her family in the here and now. In light of this, its temporal effect, I still wouldn’t dispute her choice of words. Excommunication really seems like a “violent” act to take against her.

    Give her a break.

  66. D. Fletcher says:

    Randall Paul, who mentioned that his ancestor was John D. Lee, was my older sister’s prom date in 1963.


  67. My husband and I watched it and since I have been on the ‘nacle and have done a lot of my own research, nothing that was brought up was any surprise to me. It was easy enough to spot any inconsistencies and biases. Someone else said here that if you hadn’t ever heard this stuff before you could easily have thought it was anti material.
    My husband had never heard about the MMM before but he said overall that he thought it was pretty good. He didn’ appreciate the experience that missionary guy had and how his president told him about his mother’s death. The thought that was appalling. He also thought the fanatical missionary who said he would have blown himself up if his mission president told him was just too sensationalized and crazy. He said it was like this guy was trying to make us look like terrorists or something. Neither of us were surprised when they said that he had left the church.
    Overall, we thought it was pretty balanced.
    I considered that they didn’t focus on freemasonry or Blood Atonement or polyandry and I almost expected that to come up. I read somewhere that the producer originally had 6 hours of film but had to edit it down to 4 hours and that the PBS station wanted it to be more critical of the church. So that is something to consider. It didn’t shake my testimony or my husband’s. I wish there had been more women who were stay at home mother’s who are all supposedly depressed to talk and give their voice. I was frustrated with the statement by Boyd K Packer about gays, feminists, and intellectuals and honestly didn’t know about that. I was even more upset when he backed it up and didn’t apologize for that comment. Guess he doesn’t like those intellectuals over at FAIR and FARMS then.
    And being a mother I consider myself to be the ultimate feminist, so I wasn’t happy about the labeling.
    It bothered me that this is what they consider the most dangerous things to the church. I have a hard time believing that Jesus would have ever said the same thing.
    I loved the testimony of that woman who was an ex-drug addict. She had my husband and I in stitches and we decided that we need her brand of music to liven up our sacrament meetings!

  68. bbell,
    I’m not sure why you seem so anti-intellectuals (or, at times, anti-college-educated), but her use of the word “violence” was comfortably within current usage. Other than your assertion, I’ve never seen anyone suggest that words cannot be violent; in fact, that seems central to today’s prevelant idea of the “mean girls” phenom.

  69. Public television has to be secular. Otherwise you cannot negotiate the needs of various faiths in the public square.

    And Fox News is not conservative. It is tabloid journalism appealing to base instincts maskerading as patriotism and piety.

    Fox News is successful because it validates prejudice and programs sex, violence, and humiliating reality TV. It’s popular for the same reasons that the Circus was popular in ancient Rome. Fox and Fox News appeal to the lowest common denominator.

    Real conservatives resent Fox News because they value civilization and resent paranoid populism.

  70. Sam,

    I would have to include myself in the college educated intellectual crowd. I know what Toscano is saying but the word violence sounds so ominus and the way that PBS used it again in the trailer makes me highly suspicious.

    On average I liked the series and see it as a net positive despite my criticisms. But it could have been better and it could have been a lot worse

  71. Need a reference on the LDS women work as much as none LDS women. Not my Exp in the church.

    The classic citation on this point is Tim B. Heaton, 1994, “Familial, Socioeconomic, and Religious Behavior: A Comparison of LDS and Non-LDS Women,” Dialogue 27 (Summer): 169-83. The finding here is that Mormon women work outside the home at generally similar rates to non-Mormon women. There are two differences: Mormon women work part-time a bit more often than do non-Mormon women, and married Mormon women work somewhat less than the average (5-6% less) while non-married Mormon women work substantially more than the average. Full-time work has a moderate negative correlation with church attendance — which may reflect faithful decisions not to work full-time, exhaustion due to full-time work, or other causal patterns — but a modest yet statistically significant positive correlation with part-time work.

    Another interesting study is Bruce A. Chadwick and H. Dean Garrett, 1995, “Women’s Religiosity and Employment: The LDS Experience,” Review of Religious Research 36 (March): 277-93. Comparing among Mormon women — rather than between Mormons and non-Mormons — Chadwick and Garrett find strong relationships between religious belief and practice, on the one hand, and part-time work or no employment, on the other. They also find evidence that causation runs in both directions: those with less religious conviction work more, while those who work full-time become more distanced from their religion.

    Overall, the data support the inference that there may be a few percent more stay-at-home moms in the church than out of it, but basically not a large difference. There appears to be a larger difference between active Mormon women and inactive Mormon women than there is between Mormon women and non-Mormon women.

  72. MikeInWeho says:

    I admire your relentless optimism, bbell, although at times it borders on denial. Laughing off the secular worldview, really?

    Hellmut is dead-on right about Fox. It panders to conservatives, sure, but if you really look at their non-news programming….yikes.

    D. Fletcher lives!!!!!

  73. With regard to the excommunication of Margaret Toscano, I agree with Dr. Givens’ comment that we only get to hear one-half the story, and it’s almost always from the viewpoint of the excommunicated person because almost always the only information that is divulged is by him or her in the context of these confidential proceedings. Having served in the HC or SP for the last several years, in my experience (i) we don’t hold very many of these proceedings, as they are usually resolved short of a disciplinary council through private counseling with the bishop or stake president, as the case may be, and (ii) the ultimate outcome is rarely a surprise to the participants, since several months or more of one-on-one private counseling, etc., have usually gone by before it reaches that stage. In Margaret Toscano’s case, she knew that there were leaders who were uncomfortable with her writings and deemed them to be contrary to Church doctrine, they had asked her to stop, she had refused, and they’d been discussing it for several months. While we can argue the merits of whether her writings were indeed contrary to Church doctrine, I fail to see how the final result could have been construed to be either surprising or sudden to her.

  74. I caught that comment at the end and my wife and I started laughing at PBS and its worldview.

    This is actually in response to your earlier comments about PBS too, but I can’t seem to find it as the thread is getting longer.

    I happen to know that there are faithful/active Mormons working on the staff of American Experience, so the “worldview” is not exactly as you make it out to be.

  75. D. Fletcher says:

    I don’t know if I live, but I’m still watching TV, so that’s something.


  76. Skip, asking Margaret Toscano to stop writing and researching is inappropriate in the first place. The proper response would be to engage her work about her mistakes.

  77. Hellmut,
    That was the one thing that my husband and I discussed last night. We both thought it was inappropriate in the first place to ask for Toscano to stop writing, researching or discussing church doctrine or history. We read the letter that was shown and we both thought that was a case of
    unrighteous dominion. No one has the right to take away another person’s right to free speech. Not even a church leader. I guess they can, since they did but I really think that it was actually unconstitutional of them to require that of her, regardless of whether they liked what she wrote or said or not. My husband is a pretty conservative guy and he thinks that was out of line completely.
    We both agreed that maybe she should have been talked to about her theology and her ideas about church doctirne, but she should not have been silenced.

    Just my opinion of course…

  78. Re: 78, there certainly is a constitutional right to free speech, but there’s also in that same amendment to the constitution the right of religious groups such as the Church to freely exercise their religion without undue interference from the government. The Church, a private organization, is within its constitutional rights to expel from its private membership rolls persons who it (rightly or wrongly) deems to be apostates while, at the same time, those persons’ speech rights under the constitution continue to be protected.

  79. 78: Right or wrong, it was not a constitutional issue. The government is not stiffling her right to speak. Beyond constitutionality, the church didn’t stiffle her right to speak either. They just said if she continued to publish on topics determined to undermine the church, she would be excommunicated.

    Again, I’m not saying her excommunication was right or wrong. Just that her constitutional rights were in no way infringed.

  80. Steve Mitton (29) states that Mormons have not received apology for harms done to them.

    That is factually incorrect. Both Missouri and Illinois have formally apologized to the Mormons, and Missouri (in 1976) officially rescinded the Extermination Order.

    Also, the statement that ” the church has officially apologized for the event [MMM] many times” is factually incorrect. The church has never made an official apology for MMM, nor has it ever made any official acceptance of responsibility. However, the church did place a memorial for the victims and issue a statement noting that the memorial was for victims who were killed at that site.

  81. I agree with you, Skip and Kyle, that technically it was not a matter of constitutional rights. However, there are worlds between American values and the behavior of LDS leaders, which is an important diagnosis.

    More importantly, if we pressure scholars and researchers to abandon their findings then we are effectively asking them to lie. We should not deploy our power to ask other members to commit sins. When we do, we expose members to a catch 22. If they do not preserve their membership privileges, they will be damned. If they lie, they will be equally damned. Technically, there is no way out. Whatever you do, you will be damned.

    In effect the demand to recant scholarship instead of contesting the issue on the merits, creates a class of people to whom salvation is no longer available. That amounts to a denial of the atonement, which is a more serious sacrilege than anything any scholar may or may not say.

    Leaders who act in this way are only condemning themselves.

    Stephanie has got it right. It’s unrighteous dominion.

    Notice that LDS authorities have every opportunity to defend orthodoxy by refuting the scholarship. As has been demonstrated in Ronan’s thread about Toscano’s view of polygamy, it is pretty easy to refute aspects of her interpretation. We have much less to fear from her than from our own fear when it results in aggression.

  82. Steve Evans says:

    Hellmut, you win the award for blowing things completely out of proportion. It begins with a faulty phrase: “if we pressure scholars and researchers to abandon their findings then we are effectively asking them to lie.”

    This is simply not true, and it is particularly false and inapplicable in fields of “soft science” and personal interpretation, which is Margaret’s domain. If you want to say that “if we pressure scholars and researchers to abandon their findings then we are effectively asking them to be false to themselves,” then I think you are getting a little closer to what is really going on.

  83. Kristine says:

    Whoa, Steve, that’s a pretty sweeping dismissal of several academic phyla, my friend–just because theology and history don’t have numerical data doesn’t mean that there aren’t conclusions that are more and less appropriate. If you say that asking historians or theologians to suppress their conclusions is only asking them “to be false to themselves” (not that that isn’t problematic!!), you’re completely atomizing those fields. Are you sure you mean that?

  84. So I just got back from Institute, and this Senior Missionary Couple that I don’t really know was teaching because our old senior missionaries just left, and our normal teacher was gone, and the first thing they said was that we could discuss the documentary while everyone was still getting there. I said that I hadn’t seen the second part of it yet and then one of them said that “it was just as terrible as the first part.”

    Wow. I gave them my best “I’m not trying to be rude but what on EARTH are you talking about” look, and then I said that I had enjoyed it and thought it was pretty well done.

    Anyway, they didn’t really argue with me or anything, and the only other person that was in the room that had seen it was with me, and said so, but then the woman said that they had said such terrible things about Joseph Smith and polygamy. I didn’t know what to do – they seemed nice enough, so I didn’t want to press the issue or argue, since I’d just formally met them for the first time, but then they kept saying stuff that wasn’t really true during their lesson (they declared several things that happened in early church history “unconstitutional” and they clearly didn’t know what they were talking about) and I left feeling really fed-up and frustrated.

    So I’m guessing that if this is the typical LDS reaction then I’m going to have a hard time dealing with some people in the next couple of weeks.

  85. I have a question that I hope is not off-topic here. In watching the documentary, nothing was new to me, but I have never understood why Joseph instituted polyandry. And does it appear to be true that he pressured women and young girls into marriage? Any thoughts to help me understand the concept of polyandry would be appreciated.

  86. D. Fletcher says:

    I’m not sure anyone in the world, living or dead, can explain why Joseph Smith married women who were already married to other men, some of them loyal disciples to Joseph. Unlike polygyny, which at least makes some biological sense, polyandry makes no sense whatsoever.

  87. Aaron B says:

    Sally, asking the question “why” with respect to any aspect of polygamy isn’t going to get you any easy answers. There are interminable debates about “why”, and I don’t think there are any consensus views (other than among the orthodox, who will invoke “God’s will.” But of course, this doesn’t really answer the question that’s being asked).

    Aaron B

  88. Aaron B says:

    Yes, it will be interesting to see what ward members’ reactions will be on Sunday. I am optimistic that, at least in my ward, people are sensible and informed enough that no one will have freaked out over the documentary. (Knock on wood).

    It used to fill me with despair when LDS folks would overreact negatively to any portrayal of Mormonism that didn’t seem to come straight out of CES/correlation. Now I just sigh, as I’ve come to expect it.

    The simple fact is that many LDS only ever read about or talk about Mormonism in a purely devotional context, so they have no experience interacting with balanced presentations about the Church. Leonard Arrington tells the story of discovering that a librarian had categorized Great Basin Kingdom as an “anti-Mormon” work back in the 60s. Basically, if you’ve divided the world into “pro-Mormon” and “anti-Mormon” categories, anything that doesn’t meet some ridiculously devout threshold is going to strike you as devious and faith-destroying. Sad.

    I long for the day when Mormon hypersensitivity to criticism (or even balanced discussion) of the faith ceases to be so widespread. Here’s hoping it’s just around the corner …

    Aaron B

  89. Sally, let’s shelf polyandry for the moment as it is way off topic. There are blog discussions about it out there.

    Everyone else, the vibe I am getting is that Margaret’s story seems unfair. As was noted in the documentary, we don’t know all of Margaret’s story and we never will. I’m fine with her use of violence, as I believe her when she says that is how she experienced her excommunication. I am equally fine with the High Council shaking her hand, as I believe that they loved her (and likely love her).

    I am having this debate with SmallAxe over at some other blog. It might be more appropriate to take it over there.

  90. Thanks for the invitation, HP.

    Steve Evans, you seem to be confused about what constitutes a lie.

    Lying is a matter of intent. Any statement that the author means to be untrue is a lie. Hence being false to yourself is lying.

    Particularly, a lie is not undone if it generates a statement, which turns out to be objectively true. In this case, the attempt to mislead the audience about the state of affairs would partially fail but we would still be dealing with a liar.

    Therefore it does not matter whether the scholarship is objectively “true.” Objective truth is in a sense irrelevant to lying. It only becomes relevant insofar as Toscano would fail to meet her scholarly obligations if she failed to accept demonstrably true statements. The proper punishment for that would be loss of scholarly prestige.

    More narrowly, scholarship is relevant not because it is objectively true but because it represents the best effort of the scholar to date. Applying power to extract a contrary statement constitutes a demand to lie.

    Speaking of soft disciplines, this is a problem that is well known in theology for it is the dilemma of the Holy Inquisition. Martin Luther responded to similar demands for recantation supposedly with the statement: “Here I stand. I have no choice.”

    In light of the fact that your statement mischaracterizes the nature of lying, Steve, you might want to reconsider your assertions. The larger question has been resolved since the late renaissance. By now, even the Catholic leadership has changed course.

    I take HP’s invitation as an indication that people are uncomfortable with this discussion. Anybody who wants to continue to explore this matter, please, follow HP’s link.

  91. sally, think of it as a surprising extension of the Law of Adoption.

  92. bbell, 38: Women in the church: Weak. Saw liberal PBS bias running thru the segment. Was waiting for an ad run by NOW to pop up.

    It did. In Utah a notice scrolled across the bottom of the screen several times announcing a response by NOW this coming Friday. Why NOW of all groups?

  93. Steve Evans says:

    Hellmut, I’ll retract my assertions. Thank you for your gracious instruction.

  94. #72,
    Thank you.

    The data seems to back me up if I had fleshed out my comment.

    JNS you last paragraph sums up my understanding as well. PBS did not add the relevant nuance therefor skewing the perception of the data

  95. bbell, I agree that nuance is always better than broad assertion — and I also think you can often get the nuance with almost as little evidence as the broad assertion. On the other hand, the fact that the Mormon/non-Mormon differences in terms of women’s working lives are on the order of single digit percentages is probably surprising to a lot of people, so I do think it’s worth stressing that point.

  96. JNS,

    Thanks for the data.

    I would be curious to see a study that compares temple marriages vs non temple marriages and takes into account numbers of children and ages of the children. Then compares to non LDS

    My hypotheses would be as follows.

    Temple married LDS women with 3 plus children betwween the ages of 25 and 40 work at far less percentages then the other 2 groups.

    In my current ward I am not aware of a single 25-40 year old woman with 3 plus children that is employed. This includes our PHD’s, JD’s etc.

    People with smaller families, younger women with children, and women who’s kids are getting older all are employed at higher numbers

    That is where the differences will start to get starker.

    I am sure a study like this could be done if it has not already.

  97. bbell, I should note that the Chadwick and Garrett study I summarized above does partially address several of the questions you’re interested in from your #97. The differences in terms of stay-at-home-mom/housewife status between Mormon women with a high level of religious belief and those without is about 14%; the difference between women who have a high level of devotional behavior (strongly correlated among Mormons with temple marriage) versus those who do not is about 16%. Definitely meaningful differences — but certainly not consistent with a perception that none of these women work outside the home. In every category of belief or behavior, over 50% of Mormon women work outside the home. It is of course possible that somewhat different measurement — for example, explicitly rather than indirectly considering family size and temple marriage — would change the picture. But mathematically it would be very difficult for the statistics to change very much: most high-belief and high-performance Mormon women are known from other research to be in families with multiple children and temple marriages. Both the Heaton and the Chadwick and Garrett studies do also control for age directly.

    So the data are partly consistent with perceptions — there are some differences related to activity rates and degree of religious commitment. But they also have some new things to teach us. In particular, both survey and census data suggest that a majority of Mormon women work, including a majority of Mormon mothers and including a majority of very faithful Mormon mothers.

  98. For what its worth bbell, you live in a fairly affluent ward in a part of the country where the cost of living is best described as dirt cheap. If there are few places where a fairly high standard of living can still exist with a single person working at a relatively normal salary, suburban North Texas is one of them.

    And its a bit silly to say that Mormon women between the ages of 25-40 with three or more kids work significantly less than their non-Mormon counterparts. Who are we defining as their counterparts? I’m pretty sure women between 25-40 with 3 or more kids work significantly less than other women across the board. The nuance then comes in at what percentage of women fit into that category. I’m sure the percentage decreases as religiosity does – but I’m also sure that income and cost of living are going to factor into that number as well.

  99. I just watched the first hour of the first documentary. I’m no church history buff, but I didn’t learn much of anything new. Other than the fact that after Haun’s Mill for some reason they tossed dead bodies down a well.

    I have to wonder if anyone other than Mormons is actually watching this. It’s pretty boring. I think making it four hours long was a mistake.

    And I was a little bit frustrated that they’d quote Joseph Smith but not mention when those quotes were from, or talk about things he’d done but not when he’d done them.

  100. Thank you, Steve. You are being very kind.

  101. Steve Evans says:

    Hellmut, I’m gritting my teeth.

  102. Of course Megan I recognize that our ward and region are an outlier on the income to cost of living scale.

    Like many others in our 2 stake region I chose suburban NTX for those very reasons as a conservative fecund LDS guy. So the region attracts similar minded LDS folk who seem to flock here in large numbers

    Your parents home maybe 3400 Sqft with a swimming pool would at most fetch 220K and would probably take 6-9 months on the market to sell. This same home in my previous suburban Chicago ward would run 700K or so.

    Its clear to me from the data set that JNS mentions supports my hypothes that as religiosity and family size increases the sheer numbers of SAHM’s increases as well. Of Course all things being equal there is a link between religiosity and family size on average.

    One interesting point is that it appears that with the high cost of living and low salaries in Utah that from anecdotal evidence it appears that the SAHm model is getting less and less prevelant in Utah itself. We are starting to see here in NTX young families that are essentially fleeing Utah due to high housing costs and desiring a traditional LDS lifestyle. I am starting to call them Utah refugees. Lending again to the data that JNS mentions with a majority working now.

    Come home soon eh?

  103. JNS #98, I love the turn of phrase “high performance Mormon women.” Now I just need to decide if I’m a Beemer, a Mustang, or a Jag.

  104. Sally #86,

    Sorry I am late to see one of your questions:

    “And does it appear to be true that he pressured women and young girls into marriage?”

    You may want to check out my recent post on M* for some perspective on this. PBS, Polygamy, and Pressure

    I would be happy to answer any further questions you might have about the subject there.

  105. zionssuburb says:

    I know the conversation has moved a bit beyond this comment, but I personally didn’t find anything that I hadn’t already know or read about at one point, but I’m familiar with the academic or scholarly approach and conversation about the Church.

    Many members of the Church are not used to this level or type of language being used to describe the church our doctrine or practices, and I believe, they interpret that as negative. Right or wrong, its a reaction to unfamiliarity.

  106. RE: #68

    I thought the missionary story was that the BRANCH president left a note on the door saying “your mother has died, call home”. Not the MISSION president.

    Did I hear that wrong?

  107. Steve:

    I can’t believe you let Hellmut get away with that. You wuss.

  108. And what was the deal with them saying that Joseph Smith is our alpha and omega? Way to get rid of stereotypes of Mormons, Helen Whitney. Way to go.

  109. I am just now watching the second part as I haven’t had time before, and I was moved to tears by the Katrina relief bit. I thought it was awesome, how could you call that anti?

  110. Joanne says:

    I don’t know where post this question, so I’ll just do it here. Margaret Toscano described her church court as happening on the stake level. I thought women were disciplined at the ward level (I don’t necessarily agree with this notion, but anyway…). Who knows enough about Margaret’s story to explain this? Did her case start with the bishop and then she appealed to the stake president? Someone, please clarify.

  111. I know nothing about Margaret’s story, but my understanding is that most church courts regarding major sins (such as apostasy) take place on the stake level with the stake high council. At the option of the stake president, some lesser issues may be handled by a bishop’s court, composed of the bishopric. Anyone have additional info on that?

  112. Normal procedure is that all church discipline for a non-Melchisedek Priesthood holder starts with the bishop, with a right of appeal to the stake president and a high council court, with still a further right of appeal to the First Presidency. However, the “September Six” cases seem to have been unusual, with the initial initiative coming from Church HQ rather than locally, so who knows if the normal procedure was followed in other respects.

    As regards the documentaries, I have been thinking about what I would tell Helen Whitney if I had a chance to meet with her again personally (I had the pleasure of having a long conversation with her in person when she was researching the documentaries). Here are my current thoughts:

    (1) First I would thank her for devoting three years of her life and career to working on a documentary about us, and for her efforts to get a fuller picture than the standard media and popular stereotypes. I would also express my appreciation for her struggle to get financing, and to negotiate with the PBS people to get such a wide exposure for this material. (She is an independent filmmaker, and had to work long and hard to get Frontline and American Experience to sign on. My understanding is that these operations generally produce their own material, and are quite resistant to accepting indie offerings.)

    (2) I would have to ask her about the rumors that Frontline and American Experience forced her to edit in a more critical perspective than in the first version she submitted to them.

    (3) If the answer to #2 is positive, I would be curious to know if there is any prospect of her ever getting to do a “director’s cut.”

    (4) I would apologize for any rude or uncharitable comments directed toward her personally by Church members. Monday morning quarterbacking is a universal human trait. Everyone has ideas about how they would do a documentary about the Church. The obvious response is that they should go out and work and scrape for three years to make a documentary, and then beg and plead to get it past the very much NIH (not invented here) oriented insiders at Frontline and American Experience. Then you can positively criticize what she produced by doing it your way.

    (5) Finally, recognizing that she was making her documentary, not mine, I would suggest that the following edits would have made it more balanced, while still keeping it her documentary rather than the one I would have made:

    (a) Showing the modern polygamous family at the end of the first episode merely reinforced the most persistent inaccurate stereotype and defeated her purported purpose of getting past old stereotypes about the Mormons. While it is true that she had statements from Pres. Hinckley as well as voiceover stating the modern Church’s position, visuals always trump verbiage in film, and the uninformed viewer is left with the impression that the polygamous family are the “Mormons” which are the subject of the documentary (which they are not — in fact I suspect that family wasn’t even representative of FLDS families, let alone LDS ones).

    (b) In the second episode, she could have devoted a few seconds to having one believing talking head give the believer’s perspective on the issues of BoM historicity and anti-intellectualism. Surely she could have spared for those topics at least the same few seconds that she gave to Dr. Osborn-Poelman to rebut the many minutes of time devoted to feminist criticisms. The allocation of time is her editorial decision, but a short counter-voice on those topics should have been included just for balance.

    (6) Lastly, I assume she is aware that many Mormons do not feel that the documentary portrayed their religious experience. Her whole career has been making documentaries on religious and spiritual topics. I would ask her if she thinks there is any chance that any documentary about the religious experience of any faith community can achieve significant public distribution without some nasty “newsy” hook.


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