Liveblogging Rock Center

So Rock Center at 9:00 p.m. Central Time on NBC (check your local listings) is going to devote its program to the Mormons. As reported in the SLT, the program will cover the following:

Brian Williams examines its history (founded on a hillside in upstate New York), controversies (its founder and early leaders preached and practiced polygamy) and customs (many Mormons wear church-specified underwear known as ‘garments’), through the eyes of a religious historian, a church official, and Abby Huntsman, daughter of former Republican hopeful Jon Huntsman.

• Why do Mormons seem to excel at running businesses and corporations … as Mitt Romney did? Two Mormons, David Neeleman, founder of JetBlue Airways, and Jeff Benedict, author of “The Mormon Way of Doing Business,” tell Harry Smith that Mormon success can be traced directly to the Mormon missionary experience and to the attention paid to Mormon sons by Mormon moms.

• An inside look at tradition and ritual in three very different Mormon households. Kate Snow profiles Al and Juleen Jackson, an inter-racial couple, devoted to their faith and raising five children according to principles much at odds with 21st century American popular culture; Joanna Brooks, a Mormon feminist who questions whether women can truly be equal if they can’t hold positions of power in the Church, and Mitch Mayne, an openly gay Mormon man who, despite the church’s stand against homosexuality, is able to work within the church.

• If you are a Mormon in need and you ask for help, the Church will provide food, clothing, training and much more. Harry Smith gets a rare tour of the Bishops Central Storehouse in Salt Lake City-more than 500,000 square feet of food and supplies under one roof…enough to support a year’s worth of Mormon welfare efforts. He also visits Welfare Square to watch volunteers make Mormon milk, cheese and honey…as part of his portrait of what he calls “the Mormon industrial complex.”

• The hardest ticket to get on Broadway is for the Tony Award-winning Best Musical “The Book of Mormon.” We meet Clark Johnsen, an original cast member who plays a number of roles in the show, parts that he has been preparing for most of his life. Johnsen was raised in the Mormon faith.

What the program will not be featuring is an interview with Mitt Romney. They asked; Romney declined.

I thought it might be fun to open up a thread so that y’all can comment on the program live as it progresses (sort of like our General Conference coverage). So I’m going to post this now so that many of you will actually see it before the program starts. See y’all in an hour and a half!


  1. Kevin Barney says:

    My wife saw the promo for the show this evening on the NBC Nightly News, which is how she learned of the upcoming program. I didn’t see the promo (I wasn’t home from work yet), but she tells me that Abby Huntsman is stunningly gorgeous. Abby apparently is not in the Church any longer. The anecdote she tells, which I assume will be part of the program, is that about three weeks after she started dating the man who is now her husband, her bishop came over to talk to her and basically read her the riot act, warning her of all the perils of dating a non-member (what about your children? etc.). So she left. Sometimes we push so hard trying to get people to stay we push them right out the front door.

  2. Kevin Barney says:

    Ha, my mother, who lives in Ogden, just called to tell me about the program tonight. She said she was impressed I already knew about it; of everyone she has called, I’m only the second one who knew what she was talking about.

  3. Kevin Barney says:

    And so we begin…

  4. Kevin Barney says:

    Playing a bit of an interview from Romney from three weeks ago. Now Harry Smith looking at Mormon Incorporated. David Neeleman and JetBlue. He wanted people to say working there was the best job they ever had. He did everything there, threw bags, etc. Why are Mormons so good at business? Serious about life. Not bad to make money, but it’s not your money. David sent to Brazil for his mission. Learned to love people and have compassion. Humbling and rewarding. Just because you knocked on 200 doors one day, doesn’t mean you don’t go back the next day and do it again.

  5. Kevin Barney says:

    Jeff Benedict, The Mormon Way of Doing Business. Most important influence is their mothers. Is there a Mormon network? Yes, a terrific one. You get to know them. Hard work, perseverance, thrift built into the Mormon DNA. “Put Your Shoulder to the Wheel, push along.”

  6. John Taber says:

    I’m glad that nonsense is out of the way.

  7. Kevin Barney says:

    Goldman Sachs office in SLC. Next generation of business leaders in school now.

    David has 9 kids; trying to please God. BoM in every room of Marriot.

    You pay for your mission yourself; creates a brotherhood.

    After the break, a little Mormon history, and why people still view Mormons with suspicion.

  8. Who was that woman just before the break, with her claim of secrecy?

  9. Kevin Barney says:

    I think that was Abby Huntsman.

  10. Kevin Barney says:

    Used to be MTC and Donnie and Marie. Now much more. Clip from Family Guy, where Peter says he’s going to be a Mormon: “C’mon, nailing a different wife every night? That’s a no brainer.”

    Showing a clip from a Church video on Joseph Smith and the BoM. Talking to Jon Butler. Every religion has its own amazing stories.

    JS killed at age of 38.

    BY’s GGGGrandson is Steve Young.

    Elder Snow, impossible to reinvent our history. Polygamy was God’s will at the time. Stopped in 1890.

    Cult v. being Christian. Mormons believe JC visited America. Don’t drink; tithe.

    Napoleon Dynamite, Harry Reid, Mitt Romney.

  11. Kevin Barney says:

    Abby Huntsman thinks the Church hasn’t done a good job opening up. Very black and white, no gray area, either in or out. No Non-Mormons in temple. Ann Romney’s parents not allowed in to wedding.
    What goes on in there? Nothing crazy. Very much a sacred thing to Mormons. Church needs to move with the times.

    Holy hell, they just showed garments on models!

  12. John Taber says:

    Not the first time I’ve seen that, actually.

  13. Kevin Barney says:

    Abby tells stories of garments protecting from a fire.

    Mormons obsessed with genealogy. Baptism for dead. Holocaust victims issue.

    Racism late to change. Not certain even today why that was in place.

    Mormons being pushed to open up, faster than they would like, because of Mitt. Mormons believe this is their moment in time.

    Another break.

  14. “We’re not certain today why that doctrine was in place…” re: blacks and the priesthood/temple ban.

    I don’t really like hearing Abby Huntsman rhetorically speaking on behalf of all Mormons, btw. She could parse things a bit differently, imo.

  15. Kevin Barney says:

    Mormons a devoted faith. Lots of kids. Two genders not equal.

    Interracial couple outside SLC. Reading the BoM, attending Church (3 hours!). Her husband the only black face in a sea of white. The history mentioned again. Al has never experienced discrimination. Raised Baptist. His mom didn’t understand; didn’t know what it was. He has never found it overbearing.

    She doesn’t drink caffeine. She had a Coke once. He may have a Dr Pepper once in a while; no smothing, no alcohol. “Magic underwear.” People wary of what they see as the uniformity of Mormonism; some on outside see that as a negative.

  16. Kevin Barney says:

    Joanna time! BoMGirl. As a kid she thought men and women equal. Daughter asked why don’t girls pass sacrament. Vocal on whether women can have equality if not ordained. Issue for some feminists, not all. She can appear on national TV, be critical and still be practicing. Mention of the September Six from 1993. She hopes Church doesn’t see her as a critic.

  17. Kevin Barney says:

    Now Mitch Mayne. Mother said would have been better if born dead than gay. Underwent reparative therapy. Turned his back for many years. When returned, less openly hostile. Elevated to a leadership position role. would have to give it up if he met someone and had a relationship.

    For Al and wife, issue is how relentless sexuality is in media. For the Strength of Youth.

    Talking to their oldest 17-year old daughter. She had a boyfriend. Did he want to get physical? Yes. She didn’t want to go that far. If one of the mom’s kids said she slipped up, can be forgiven.

    Now Abby is telling the experience about the bishop calling her in because of dating a non-Mormon. He said your kids will not be blessed if you marry this man. She didn’t see it that way; walked out that door and couldn’t go back.

    Another break.

  18. I’d like to hear that bishop’s description of the conversation.

  19. John Taber says:

    At one point my mother’s bishop expressed concerns about my father’s capacity to join the Church – but they’d been dating much longer than three weeks at that point. Anyway, that bishop (now in the First Presidency) certainly did not tell my mother to break up with my father.

  20. John Taber says:

    Only 110 storehouses in the US? We ought to double that IMHO.

  21. Will it be online ever? Reruns of American Dad have an absolute claim on my viewing attention in this time slot.

  22. Kevin Barney says:

    13,628 number of bishops in U.S. All laymen. Being your brother’s keeper. Faith without works is dead.

    Fasting. 1/4 of U.S. Mormons earn $30,000 or less. Tour of central warehouse in SLC. Absolutely huge. Basic commodities. Would make people from Costco jealous. All produced by Church for charity, not for profit. Enough to support welfare effort for an entire year. 110 regional storehouses. Drivers pray and sing before moving out.

    Welfare square. Turning Mormon milk into Mormon cheese. Mormon honey Mormon honey. “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could solve the world’s problems with a loaf of bread?” Shows an order form. No money changes hands here.

    Bishop monitors the spiritual and temporal needs of their flocks. Volunteers try to remove any stigma of having to make a trip here.

    Can’t pay for the items in the store; you can do volunteer work. Not just for Mormons; just have to meet with a bishop first. Goal to get people back on feet ASAP. 327 employment services around world. If you need clothing, they can do that, too.

    Mitt was a bishop; Mormons wish he would reveal more of that experience.

  23. Kevin Barney says:

    Next will talk to a Mormon in the cast of the BoM musical.

  24. Kevin Barney says:

    BoM musical has grossed $100 mm. Still one of toughest tickets. Touring company in Denver and Chicago. Clark Johnson an actor in the musical; was raised Mormon. Has been in the musical since the beginning. Being Mormon apparently helped him get the house. Called to serve a mission in Mexico. Learned out to step out of himself, care more about others. Very powerful experience for him; he’s obviously emotional.

    Long path out of the Church. Couldn’t reach full potential inside the Church as a gay person. His parents serving a mission. On stage he looks just like he did on his real mission.

    That is the end of the program.

  25. Well done.

  26. I thought it was terrific, well rounded, and showed the true spectrum of the wide gamut of American Mormons. We’re not all cookie cutter, but we’re all engaged in something far bigger than ourselves. Of course much could be said of both the pros and cons of tonight’s show, but in the end I think the welfare segment conveyed what we really are as a people more than anything else. When that welfare sister missionary said, “This is what the Savior would want us to do,” it resonated with me as a Latter-day Saint.

  27. The most interesting thing to me was to follow the twitter feed at #MormonInAmerica. Many, many offended Mormons. And others who said it rocked. Fascinating dichotomy.

  28. KerBearRN says:

    Thought it was amazingly positive– having Abby Huntsman answer questions about Mormon practices seemed a bit silly– but imagine the angry people they COULD have interviewed. But seriously, Brian, you’re surprised people don’t want to show you their underwear?? Can I see you in yours? *snigger, snort. But all in all, I felt proud of my faith and practices– for the most part I found this to be a very warm portrayal.

  29. MikeInWeHo says:

    Great live blog, Kevin. The segment with the welfare missionaries was amazing. Hard to believe that some Mormons were offended by a broadcast like this.

  30. I haven’t watched it, but for real I am offended by the notion of them showing Mormons standing and clapping and singing O Happy Day. That song is not even in the hymnal, so one will never get me to believe it was not staged to make us look more “Christian”. I have lived in many wards in many states all across this country and different wards do a little better than others, but the best I have ever been able to get out of the congregation is a funeral march even when it says “Exuberantly” or “Brightly” up in the corner. They make “How Firm a Foundation” even sound depressing so there is no way without proof of what ward it is on what Sunday and someone else from said ward confirming it that I will ever believe such a moment was not staged for television.

  31. Wait, did that really happen? Some people are saying it but now they are saying maybe it was not Mormons after all? I’m confused and will hold my pie-hole until I watch it and see for myself.

  32. EOR you might be thinking of the clip of the Genesis group i n SLC, which does in fact sing and clap.

  33. Yes, I just finished watching the entire show and I did recognize it as The Genesis Group. I’m foolish for getting second-hand info. If the special hadn’t been so long I would’ve watched it first before piping up, ha.

  34. Kevin Barney says:

    The dichotomy in Mormon reaction is indeed very interesting. For my part, I thought that overall it was a very positive report.

    So why do you suppose some members are seeing it as very negative?

  35. My thoughts. The only two cringe worthy moments for me is when David Neeleman (I think) was speaking about service and said, “That’s what we’re programmed to do.” The word programmed added to the robotic, not using our brain mentality some have of Mormons. The other moment was the garments–ugh!

    Otherwise, I was pleasantly surprised at how positive it was. I felt that both Abby Huntsman & Clark Johnson talked about their experiences in the church in a wistful way. The angry rhetoric wasn’t there that I’ve usually seen from former members interviewed for tv. You could tell it was emotional for them, remembering some spiritual moments of their time in the church. I’m sad that they left and I think our church is poorer without them and their voices.

  36. Left Field says:

    There was a similar dichotomy of response among both Mormons and non-Mormons to the PBS special a couple years ago. Some loved/hated it because it skewered the Mormons, and some loved/hated it because it was favorable to the Mormons. I’ve heard sportscasters say that they know they’re doing a good job when they get equal amounts of mail complaining that they favor one team as complaining that they favor the other.

  37. I have my own bitter experiences with certain bishops so I sort of felt where Abby Huntsman was coming from. Said experiences are also why the whole segment on Welfare Square was not only cringeworthy for me but also made me angry. I don’t think they should have shown garments on television like that–far from making us look less crazy I think it made us look moreso. They only spent about 1 minute with Mitch Mayne whose story I think is extremely important.

    It just felt all wrong to me. I am sure in the balance it showed the Church in a good light but maybe that is what bothers me in my current state I guess. Anyway, I have said it before and will say so again but I just wish this Mormon Moment would be over already.

  38. Huntsman was already out the door if what a bishop said pushed her out. My wife has had a string of terrible bishops throughout the years, including one who told her as a teenager that “perhaps she shouldn’t come to seminary” anymore. And whoever considers anyone descended from early church leaders as “Mormon royalty”? Is that a term she applied to herself?

  39. The whole “unprecedented inside look” at the Church’s welfare operations made me think of Vinny’s bragging to Mona Lisa Vito that he had got all the prosecution’s files, since he’d been schmoozing with the D.A. Which led to this exchange:

    Mona Lisa Vito: Don’t you wanna know why Trotter gave you his files?
    Vinny Gambini: I told you why already.
    Mona Lisa Vito: He has to, by law, you’re entitled. It’s called disclosure, you [fill-in-the-blank]head! He has to show you everything, otherwise it could be a mistrial. He has to give you a list of all his witnesses, you can talk to all his witnesses, he’s not allowed any surprises.
    [Vinny has a blank look on his face]
    Mona Lisa Vito: They didn’t teach you that in law school either?

    No possible mistrials here, but how many thousands of people have taken tours of Welfare Square?

  40. Snyderman says:

    My opinion is selective sight. You know how people tend to see all the fouls committed by the other team in a sports game? My guess is that here, people only saw the “bad.” See, we tend to be incredibly critical of the “world,” so my guess is that many members went in thinking, “Let’s look at the newest example of how the world views/treats us badly.” And then that’s exactly what they saw.

    I, for one, thought it was very well done. I had the exact same cringe moments as kc, and I thought they may have given more time than they should have to Abby Huntsman–considering she is no longer a member–but overall I thought it was fine.

  41. My Cousin Vinny reference for the absolute win. There is nowhere for this conversation to go but down from there.

  42. Also, I have heard the term Mormon Royalty before and it always makes me want to gag. I would have been grateful if they had mentioned which of the 12 she is descended from…a-that’sright-Parley P. Pratt!! Boom. As of 2011 it is estimated that he has 30,000 living descendants though, so not entirely special.

  43. John Taber says:

    She’s also the great-granddaughter of David B. Haight.

    My namesake ancestor was a counselor in the First Presidency, but I don’t consider myself any kind of royalty for it.

  44. Overall a pretty good advertisement for the church. The garment clip (the same image that floats around the internet for use by critics of the church) was in pretty bad taste. I’m a little shocked they gave a quarter of the program to Abby Huntsman–she’s not exactly well spoken or insightful (she actually sounded a bit confused at times).

  45. I was mostly upset by the showing of garments too, because I look *way* more sexy in garments than that! Plus, who tucks the top part into the bottom part? Weirdos… ;)

  46. Abby Huntsman was the best “anti-Mormon” foil we could have asked for! If only all anti-Mormons were as attractive and good at throwing softballs as she was. So her bishop expressed concern about her future non-member husband. So what? I’m sure there are thousands of active, believing Mormons who have endured worse advice from their usually well-intentioned bishops.

  47. This is pretty true, she wasn’t incendiary, seemed more frustrated and, again, confused about Church doctrine (what she said the bishop said should not have been a surprise to her, I’m sure her grandpa has been telling her to marry in the temple since she was 5 years old).

    I’m not convinced of her attractiveness–she looks a bit too much like her dad to be attractive. Also, why was she so shiny?

  48. As Mormons, we get defensive because we don’t want “outsiders” to perceive us the wrong way, right? Nothing said by any former members (not even the garment shot – although that’s such an ugly, unflattering style in all polyester!) bothered me. I think it is OK for us to open up about the Church’s imperfections or why people leave. We SHOULD be exploring these things. The only part that made me cringe was when the LDS housewife admitted to having a Coca-Cola once. As if we consider it a sin or even taboo to drink Coke. To me, THAT makes us look weird.

  49. No Mormon women in business, I guess.

  50. Abu Casey says:

    I don’t think I’d call myself offended, and I haven’t seen the ep yet, but I’m pretty tired of the lazy “Mormons are successful in business” argument that cites missions as the cause. How many Mormons and former missionaries are there that don’t go into business? How many are there that totally fail at business? Until we know that, the argument’s got no legs.

  51. I found myself having different waves of reactions to the piece, from “ho hum” (I think I’m pretty sick of the Mormons in business thing too), to fascination (I really liked the Welfare square stuff) to uncomfortable (garments) to proud (Joanna and Mitch).

    The reaction has been fasinating to watch on Facebook from both believers and the disaffected community. When I asked for reactions, I found just about everyone could find a bone to pick with it. The disaffected thought that it was a “fluff piece” that didn’t ask hard hitting questions, and said some lies. The believers were offended at the garments, at Brian Williams questioning of garments and temples, and the “feminist agenda” being pushed (their words, not mine).

    The “fluff piece” comment got me thinking – for many of us involved in the bloggernacle and the online community in one fashion or another, we’re so used to providing analysis on anything Mormon that sometimes, we forget that not everything Mormon is made for us. That piece last night? It was made in prime-time on a national network for a prime-time national audience. The prime-time national audience doesn’t care about many of the things we discuss, and are still trying to figure out what we believe, and what it might mean exactly if a Mormon were to become president.

    Part of me hopes for another something like Helen Whitney’s “The Mormons” to be released, something where a large undertaking was made to understand and analyze the Mormon culture made for a broad audience. Amazing to think it’s been 5 years since, and how it might seem that so much has changed, but also, how so much has stayed the same

  52. The “Mormons and business” stuff makes me laugh. What if they did a piece on “Jews and business”…!

  53. I was also surprised they spent so much time on Abby Huntsman. She seems like a swell gal but her story just wasn’t really compelling. She is an attractive enough girl (which is actually irrelevant to anything since pretty much all of the men in that program were God awfully ugly) however, her father cuts quite a grand figure.

  54. #43 Prince John! Thank you for gracing us with your presence and wisdom! =)

    What did Brian Williams mean when he said that TBOM play was “very blue”. I’m not familiar with that term. Anyone?

  55. Blue comedy is filthy comedy kc

  56. Thanks EOR…

  57. Quickmere Graham says:

    Regarding the garment image, yes it’s that same dreadful headless image floating around on anti-Mormon websites. The garments on the models are, frankly, much too ill-fitting, that isn’t what I or my spouse look like in our garments. The ominous black backdrop doesn’t help, either. I’m half-tempted to get a regular looking photograph out there just so this ridiculous one isn’t used anymore.

  58. Jackie Smith says:

    I am a member and I was very appreciative of the way the subject was covered. A difficult subject and times for religion but it was skillfully balanced a very accurate.

  59. I don’t know that I can call folks braying on about drinking Coke accurate. That is a cultural experience at best, not doctrinal.

%d bloggers like this: