Liveblogging “The Mormon Candidate”

Mormons across the UK are holding their breath tonight as Mormonism gets the John Sweeney treatment. Liveblogging in the comments below of the BBC’s The Mormon Candidate from 19.00 BST.



  1. I’m already buckled in and holding my breath. 51 minutes till liftoff.

  2. The “Biased BBC” blog is annoyed at the BBC focus on Romney’s religion when the Corporation made no such inquiry into Obama’s faith:

  3. John Sweeney’s tweets:

    Being followed by David Westcott, APCO, US lobby giant for the Mormon Church. They invaded our BBC office. Creepy. #themormoncandidate

    Two APCO agents ‘brainwashed’ a BBC journo to get to hand-deliver a letter complaining about #themormoncandidate. Creepy and intimidating.

  4. does this have anything to do with the bizarre BBC article Sweeney wrote juxtaposing Mitt and Park Romney (but not really saying much of anything in the process)?

  5. So the show hasn’t even started yet and we have our first brainwashing reference. Yippee.

  6. @2 Such a shame that Obama’s faith has never been an issue in this or any previous election ;)

  7. Kevin Barney says:

    No. 4, Andrew S., I believe the answer is “yes.” I think that article was a preliminary to the main programme.

  8. I have been impressed with the general information about Mormonism that the BBC provides on its page about world religions, so I’ve been interested to see how negative this documentary sounds based on the advertisement for it and Sweeney’s lead-in article about Park Romney.

    As background, this comes on the heels of Sweeney’s exposé on Scientology. Without reading too much into it, I think that this succession could imply that Sweeney sees Mormons as in the same category of fringe religions as Scientology, and that he sees us as harmful they way he sees Scientology.

  9. Presented as “world’s fastest growing religion.”

  10. Here we go…

  11. Supposed to be about Romney’s faith . . . so we are going to meet modern polygamists.

  12. Really, fastest growing religion? Already inaccurate.

  13. Father issues: Mitt wants to avenge his father’s defeat.

  14. Opening ends with a shot of the Provo Temple instead of Salt Lake. Intentional UFO allusion?

  15. Sweeney goes to SLC.

  16. “Church of the Latter-day Saints”

  17. Good pub for Alex Boye.

  18. Alex Boye as the face of the I am a Mormon campaign. Shots of Alex’s singing with the MoTab.

  19. Incredulity, FTW.

  20. Clips of the church’s Joseph Smith film.

  21. It’s good for them to share clips from the Church’s own videos. Even if it goes directly from the gold plates to creating our own worlds and polygamy.

  22. Wow, eight minutes in until the first Fundamentalist segment.

  23. Radiohead soundtrack to discussion of polygamy. Modern polygamists and Romney’s Mexican heritage.

  24. Cory Feldman is a Mormon polygamist?

  25. Into the polygamists’ bedroom. Nice middle class Big Love family.

  26. “Strange but not evil” (polygamists).

  27. I want some of those polygamist cookies!

  28. Did I miss the documentary saying when Mormonism stopped polygamy? Because it seems to be blurring time between LDS practice and current practice.

  29. Now to Jeffs. Very clear he’s a breakaway.

  30. And by “Mormonism,” I clearly mean “LDS.” And by “blurring time,” I mean it makes it seem a more recent break.

  31. Ben, I think it’s clear.

  32. Ben P, he did distinguish between the 1890 break and the subsequent groups.

  33. Ben P., they have been making it very clear.

  34. “At no point would you introduce your mistress to each other”. Sweeney.

  35. This is perhaps the fairest treatment of polygamy I have seen from any news organization (minus the SLTrib).

  36. Very sympathetic Henrickson type family. Polygamy the “boomerang” that keeps coming back.

  37. Now to an LDS family. African-American female face of “I am a Mormon.”

  38. Visit LDS family, including scripture study. Glad to see my family is not the only family that seems to be constantly in 1 Nephi.

  39. So far this is very, very fair and accurate.

  40. First historical error. 1826 trial isn’t clear enough to say JS was convicted.

  41. 1826, charged with being a con-man.

  42. Now to the disaffected and the critics of JS. Book of Abraham “impudent fraud”.

  43. On to interview with Elder Holland.

  44. Ronan, I agree with you.

  45. Elder Holland now.

  46. Holland admits that papyry may have just been vehicle for BoA to be revealed.

  47. I kinda wish Holland would have known a bit more about that.

  48. Defends the BoA in a somewhat nuanced way. Denies JS’s conviction as a “con-man”.

  49. MTC.

  50. Asks a group of MTC missionaries, “What criticisms would you give about the Church?” Yeah, you’re going to get a lot of answers there.

  51. Poor missionaries squirming a little. One sister asked if there is anything to criticise in the church. No.

  52. ““What criticisms would you give about the Church?”

    “Well, the food here gives us terrible, terrible flatulence.”

  53. Now to Boston and Romney as lay leader.

  54. ‘Pretty much said’

  55. Female member of Romney’s ward talking about Romney as bishop. Had problems with an unwed mother. He wanted her to give up baby to adoption, and she felt very pressured both ecclesiastically and doctrinally. Said she was threatened with excommunication if she didn’t comply.

  56. Meets a former congregant (Peggy Hayes) who was told to give up her child “to the church” after an illegitimate pregnancy or face excommunication. Ouch. Romney denies.

  57. I’m guessing Mitt sent her hometeachers.

  58. She kept the boy, and when the kid was sick later on, she asked Mitt to come give a blessing. He sent someone else, and she was offended.

    Mitt denies he threatened excommunication.

  59. Romney denies he threatened excommunication.

  60. Cult accusation.

  61. “It’s very cultish in its behavior and what it asks its members.” -disaffected Mormon.

  62. Temple stuff.

  63. Garments are “a very pagan and cultish thing.” -same woman

    “It is assumed Romney also wears these undergarments.” -Sweeney

  64. Garments as “pagan cultish thing” according to one ex-Mormon.

  65. More ex-Mormons saying Mormonism is a cult.

  66. FIrst mention of temple oaths.

  67. Blood oaths in the temple. Damn!

  68. …and punishments.

  69. Asking Holland about temple oaths.

  70. Romney swore gruesome oaths; clear that it is no longer done.

  71. Holland does the Osama/Obama slip.

  72. Holland: Osama… Obama. Freudian slip!

  73. Oh no! Holland did the Osama… Obama.

  74. Holland explains the oaths as a covenant with God concerning his personal devotion. I thought he did well.

  75. That little segment did not go well.

  76. Elder Holland struggles a bit with the blood oaths but does well in the end. Very sensationalist stuff.

  77. Halfway through, the entire focus: polygamy, ex-Mormons, temple oaths, loss of belief. Other things mentioned, but these are the focuses.

    Shout-out to Tom Kimball!

  78. It’s Tom!!

  79. Lots and lots and lots of ex-Mormons and their pain.

  80. Woman shares tough and poignant story of missing out on her daughter’s temple marriage.

  81. Mention of the “Strengthening the Members of the Church Committee.”

  82. SCMC.

  83. David M. Morris says:

    This documentary resembles the same template he used on Scientology.

  84. Former member and employee of the records department saying they have a group of former CIA and FBI people who follow members around on their records.

  85. ExMo angst not really countered by the mainstream.

  86. Mind you, SCMC really is hard to defend. Michael Purdy quizzed. Doesn’t know much about the SCMC.

  87. Head of Media Relations claims he doesn’t know much about the Strengthening Committee. He’s fumbling over his words. He says he’s heard of it, but doesn’t know anything about it.

  88. David M. Morris says:

    Strengthening Church Members Committee… Protects the Church from predatory polygamous practices

  89. Holland says it still exists, and polygamy is still the principal task. But it also investigates “incendiary purposes.”

  90. Elder Holland states that the SCMC’s primary aim is to protect against polygamy.

  91. Sweeney: “a church that spies and a church that shuns.”

  92. Interview with bitter ex-member Parker Romney. Man, there are a lot of disillusioned Mormon interviews.

  93. Wish Holland would have acknowledged that some members to shun those who leave, and then condemned it.

  94. JRH does well on shunning. Would not shun his child. Very believable.

  95. *do

  96. “I don’t think they [the Church] understand the degree to which they are brainwashing.” -Parker Romney

  97. “I have been followed. As recently as this past month.” -Parker Romney

  98. Romney’s cousin . . . whom Romney claims never to have heard of. You can understand why the BBC would want this guy on the show.

  99. Parker is in a dream world. Followed? You’re not that important mate.

  100. These real cases “are a million miles” from the public image the Church “wishes to portray.” -Sweeney

  101. David M. Morris says:

    Church, Jews and the Holocaust and Princess Di…

  102. Proxy baptisms: Whitney Houston, Princess Diana, and Anne Frank.

  103. Park Romney just seems like a crack-pot.

  104. Discussion of these “controversial” topics are “off limits.”

  105. David M. Morris says:

    An unwritten law, don’t mention Mormonism

  106. Robert Putnam is doing a great job.

  107. Anne Frank.

  108. Now focusing on Mitt’s money.

  109. David M. Morris says:

    Bain Capital – What Did He Do?

  110. I doubt there is a day that Romney doesn’t curse that decision to take the Bain Company picture holding all the money.

  111. Silence about Romney’s Mormonism? Strange. Ask Maureen Dowd, Robert Jeffress, and Bill Maher,

  112. I had not actually seen that picture before. Ben P., I think you are right. Bad mistake.

  113. Now focusing on SuperPacs.

  114. David M. Morris says:

    Romney is a moderate, this goes down like cold sick…

  115. Super PACs — insinuation seems to be that much of the money is Mormon.

  116. Now focusing on Romney’s political past.

  117. Visiting an Evangelical family in Iowa. They won’t be voting for Romney, partly because he’s a Mormon.

  118. I appreciated their honesty.

  119. This is basically a celebration of certain post-Mormon community folks thus far, yeah? Not a single scholar of Mormonism so far?

  120. Evangelical family in Iowa: “cannot get over the Mormonism thing.”

  121. David M. Morris says:

    In comes Rick Santorum, his take on God wins votes

  122. Wife wouldn’t even vote for Romney in the general election. “I can’t in good conscience vote for him.”

  123. BHodges, well they did have an apostle as a counter-voice.

  124. David M. Morris says:

    Up beat music when talking of Santorum

  125. Besides Putnam, who has done some work on Mormonism in his American Grace, there have been zero scholars of Mormonism.

  126. ….though I would have loved to see Kristine as a good counter-voice.

    Or even seen Tom responding to some of the more zany ex-Mormons.

  127. David M. Morris says:

    Showing Romney supporters in black and white and downbeat music…hmmm manipulation at its best

  128. Thesis of the show: Mormonism is weird, but the evangelicals that won’t vote for him are even more dangerous.

  129. Last twenty minutes have focused on the “Candidate” part of the title than the “Mormon.”

  130. David M. Morris says:

    Deseret Industries focus and $1 million since 1985, welfare farming

  131. David M. Morris says:

    and there is the dodgy piano playing again….donnnnttt trust the Mormons,,,,,

  132. And right when I say that, it goes back to Mormonism being a cult and all the ex-Mormons who are frustrated with the faith.

  133. Back to “is Mormonism a cult?”

  134. David M. Morris says:

    JRH talking about refuting allegations of occult….of (exmormon) say that then it is a pretty good job they left.

  135. Holland is getting pretty frustrated. “I would hope you would have enough respect for me to think, ‘this man is not a do-do.'”

  136. David M. Morris says:

    manipulative music with temple and chapels in driveby shots.

    Programme Ends

  137. and….over

    I’d give it a C. Not as terrible as I expected.

  138. Elder Holland visibly annoyed with Sweeney.

  139. That was a remarkably crappy show. Could have been worse, but the rhetorical advantage in almost every instance was granted to active post-Mormons. Not the regular average post-Mormons, but the advocating, organized, narrative-crafting post-Mormons.

  140. The End.

  141. I would have liked to see a scholarly counter-voice, but I think it was generally pretty fair. The ‘cult’ part was a bit heavy, but that is a rather larger reality for critics of the Church.

  142. David M. Morris says:

    I would give it a D for sloppy journalism and more intent in undermining the Mormon beliefs and then linking Romney to it. Where were the scholars of Mormonism, where were the positive images, where were the balanced review?

    You have to give it to Sweeney he is consistent.

  143. Not sure Elder Holland should be encouraging people to leave

  144. It was 80% ex-Mormons and Evangelicals. They needed a counter-voice that wasn’t as invested as Elder Holland. If the attempt was to show why many Americans are suspicious of Mormons, then it was very good. That’s not how most people will see it, though. The accusations will be accepted by most.

  145. BHodges, I agree to an extent–but this show was particularly aimed at discussing Mormonism in light of the Romney campaign (and what Mormonism means in the Romney campaign). For this, the overtly and crafted rhetoric against Mormonism is a huge factor. Why won’t people vote for a Mormon? This is why.

  146. David, I think that is a little unfair. He could have done some other things but I think it was not wildly inaccurate.

  147. David M. Morris says:

    This was the copy blurb:
    John Sweeney investigates the beliefs of Mitt Romney, the man most likely to take on Barack Obama later this year, and asks whether America is ready for a Mormon president.

    Sweeney travels to Utah to examine the appeal of the world’s fastest growing religion. He meets the stars of its expensive ad campaign ‘I’m a Mormon’, who tell him of their dedication to family and charity. He meets polygamists, followers of an old Mormon tradition the official Church has turned its back on, he talks to missionaries who recruit people around the world just like Mitt Romney in the sixties, finds ex-members who claim they are cut off from their families and accuse Mormonism of being a cult, and he explores the faith with a Mormon apostle.

  148. Pro’s: I think Holland did a good job, and it at least allowed him somewhat of the final word. They *somewhat* countered the accusations, though not much.

    Con’s: as expected, it focused on all the extremes of Mormonism (cults, polygamy, temple oaths, shunning, cults, disillusioned Mormons, cults, more disillusioned Mormons, shunning, cults, etc.). Also, it failed to actually engage, even superficially, how Mormonism affects members.

    So, in discussing the “Mormon Candidate,” its focus was more on how a Mormon candidate is *perceived*, not how a candidate is influenced by his/her Mormonism.

  149. Man, this, combined with Elder Holland’s Q&A at Harvard has been fascinating to observe. We don’t often get to see/hear an Apostle directly responding to concerns and accusations in this way.

  150. >So, in discussing the “Mormon Candidate,” its focus was more on how a Mormon candidate is *perceived*, not how a candidate is influenced by his/her Mormonism.

    Yes, exactly.

    But it does little to counter that perception. And it said very little about the actual Romney the Mormon.

  151. the_narrator: I doubt that 1 in 100 Americans are aware of the post-Mormon exit narrative, stories of temple marriage exclusion, various families shunning “apostates,” or accusations of former FBI agents following Park Romney around. It boils down, mostly, to evangelicals not liking Mormonism because we don’t adhere to the Nicene creed, added scripture to the Bible, teach an “apostasy narrative,” and send missionaries to their homes, etc.

    Basic structure: Name a few criticisms, interview a foMo, evangelical, polygamist. Then ask a Mormon about them, show various Mormons telling somewhat different stories or otherwise looking uncomfortable. Reiterate the original criticism in a rhetorically open way, while the dots have ostensibly already been connected.

    Could have been much worse, but good hell, that was poorly done.

  152. >But it does little to counter that perception. And it said very little about the actual Romney the Mormon.

    Exactly. Sadly, I didn’t expect it to.

    So my general reaction is “meh.”

  153. David M. Morris says:

    @Aaron I am not saying he was inaccurate just accentuating the cultist elements. What I found objectionable though was the manipulation in the music, the presentation of forlorn Romney supporters in black and white video, you get the idea. This certainly was not PBS interviewing. I think JRH did a good job but I would have loved to seen the full interview without edit. There seemed no interaction with grass roots Mormons, or their other beliefs. I look forward to explaining this week more questions arising with undergrads. Oh well….

  154. DebbieC: Not sure Elder Holland should be encouraging people to leave.

    In some cases it very well might be in the church’s and the person’s best interest to leave. The hope would be that such a circumstance wouldn’t result in shunning, etc., though different people are going to react in different ways when friends and family lose their faith and decide on a different path.

  155. David M. Morris says:

    This programme will be repeated on BBC HD 11:00 PM, Tuesday 27th March 2012. (so three hours time from now)

  156. On reflection BHodges I suppose I agree. Although I think Elder Holland could have explained his thinking a little clearer

  157. BHodges, no. But 1 in 100 americans find believe there is something nefarious and cultish about Mormonism. And those views have a genesis in these sorts of critics and ex’s.

  158. Funniest part: the public relations guy’s reaction to the Strengthening the Members of the Church Committee question. Talk about a deer in headlights.

  159. Debbie C., I think you are right that it was jarring to hear that from an apostle. Although I think Bhodges raises a valid point I think it does not necessarily apply to the case cited by Elder Holland here. I think there are other ways he could have framed his response. Having said that he did far better than me under such circumstances.

    Michael Purdy was awful.

  160. I’ll bet Elder Holland himself cringes at his response, because it was fairly sharp. My guess is he really would recognize that for some people the Church isn’t a good fit, though. Maybe we’ll see the shunning issue addressed in conference.

  161. From Justin Webb, BBC correspondent:

    “Thought John Sweeney’s #themormoncandatate failed to convince. In my 8 years in USA never met a Mormon I didn’t like. All faiths odd.”

  162. Justin Webb was brainwashed though to be fair.

  163. tbh, I haven’t liked Justin Webb since he came back from the US- I wish he’d go back there!

    this is interesting

  164. What difference does it make what I think? I don’t care honestly care what you think. In the Bible it sayzs You will know them by there works. Forget that and lets make up abunch of stuff and see if that gets traction. Over all Mormons are great citizens of the U.S. and any other country they live. Leave them alone! What have they done to you?

  165. You guys are so stupid, believing in this Romney fool.
    “Believe in America” is his slogan.

    He shows how much he believes by banking offshore.
    How many other lies is this big head/narrow shoulders fool living?

  166. First, who are “you guys” who are so stupid? Second, what does your comment have to do with the BBC documentary?

  167. In a perfect world, Yoko Ono would have stepped in front of John.

  168. Rational Guy says:

    “Scholar” of Mormonism?? That’s like a scholar of alchemy….

  169. Now on Youtube:

  170. Ronan, Could you put that into the body of the post?

  171. Done.

  172. Brigham Young and the entire Mormon hierarchy would have been hanged in 1857, had the Mountain Meadows Massacre been prosecuted to its fullest potential, some one hundred and forty California bound Arkansas men and women, were slaughtered under a flag of truce, after Mormons decked out as Indians attacked their wagons.

    Forty two white men were hanged at Gainesville Texas in 1862, for failing to support the Confederacy, the same year thirty eight Santee Sioux were hanged in Minnesota, after five American settlers were killed by Indians, whose case rested on their assertion that the settlers fired first, eighty five Irish traitors, were justly hanged in New Mexico in 1846,

    They had deserted General Taylor’s command, and joined Santa Anna’s forces in Mexico, then crossing back into Texas, slew eleven of their former comrades from ambush, on the northern banks of the Rio Grande!

    Fifty four Mormons took part in the Mountain Meadows Massacre, of whom thirty two were from England .. Brigham Y was up to his neck in it all, as well he received livestock and property looted from the wagons, John D Lee Mormon Bishop and adopted son of BY, was the single Mormon executed by firing squad in 1877, twenty yrs after the event!

    Provo Utah is the site of at least one FEMA camp – picture inbred descendants of the massacre perpetrators, having their way with the thousands of internees, using the same rationale that fueled the MMM, that the victims are “Gentiles!”

  173. Actually like it or not this show did a good job of explaining what much of the world thinks of us. It is sometimes hard to get the truth out of the church. Elder Holland really messed up, he should have been upfront the first time and should not have been pressed to get a complete truthful answer.

  174. BTW Here is the full show in one video

  175. @LDoor, I just freed your comment from moderation. WordPress sends all comments with youtube links to moderation by default.

  176. I used the phrase “tin-foil hat crowd” in my conference address last Thursday to refer to the interesting people who post interesting conspiracy theories about Mormon history. Anybody need an illustration of what I had in mind? I didn’t think so.

  177. I wonder if the title of the program, “The Mormon Candidate”, is meant to subtly conjure up “The Manchurian Candidate” It seems that is exactly what Sweeney was trying to do via the content.

  178. it's a series of tubes says:

    Subtly? I thought the title was making that point about as subtly as a hammer.

  179. I just didn’t catch the connection at first. It was probably obvious to most.

  180. Cynthia L. thanks for letting me know! I was wondering what the issue was.

  181. I am sure this paragraph has touched all the internet
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