Posted by: Jay | May 4, 2007

Did “The Mormons” give Mormons a pass?

I have to say as an active member of the LDS Church I loved “The Mormons” on PBS. I’d say it was 90% accurate and for the most part fair (If you want to know the few problems I had with it ask). I love the dialog it started among the LDS faithful. I can’t wait to go to church this Sunday and hear what people say. This gave me the chance to openly talk to people about things that are normally not discussed (people don’t know or feel uncomfortable with it). I have heard and read comments from some members that view the program as widely positive and many that view it negatively.

Personally, I think it could have been much worse. I’m inclined to say that Helen went too easy on us. I would have loved to hear interviews on the subject of blacks and the priesthood. Yes, I know it was mentioned, but it was so short that if you blinked you missed it five times over. I was waiting to see a more extended interview with Darius Gray (A Church member-checkout the podcast he did with John Dehlin here. It’s podcast #26). I thought it was odd that they didn’t put him up on the website that contains all the interview transcripts here. And what about the history of blacks in the LDS Church. Joseph Smith and Elijah Able, etc. I was very disappointed that this was not brought up. Joseph Smith was extremely progressive about blacks in his day and I think this topic would have helped and not hurt the church.

I also think the LDS Church got a major pass because Helen Whitney didn’t interview Thomas Murphy about mDNA and the Book of Mormon. I don’t think the evidence is as damning as most people think (If they know about it at all), and it would have been nice to hear what the Church thought about it.

Helen also didn’t go into anachronisms in the Book or Mormon or any of the other problems with the Book of Mormon text. The Book of Mormon has some intellectual gems (as well as spiritual ones) in it that cannot be explained away, but it also has some problems that must be discussed. It would have been nice to see interviews just about the Book of Mormon, good and bad.

I was glad to see that the temple ceremony was respected. I think this was only right given the fact that the LDS Church leadership was cooperative in participating and those ceremonies are held sacred to us. Tell me what you think. Was it a hatchet job or PR piece for the LDS Church?


  1. Simon Southerton is the ex-LDS who brought about the mDNA issue. Thomas Murphy is just an anthropologist that restated it in public a couple of times.

    I too think that it was rather even handed. The LDS church is controversial no matter what side of the aisle you are on, so it wouldn’t be a true presentation if it didn’t include controversy. I think it was overall very truthful and very careful with the facts.

    I think where some members are upset is that the documentary went with the actual story rather than the faith promoting versions that are passed around the membership. And in that case, they need to be more upset with what they’ve heard in church than with PBS.

  2. I agree, I wish the church would lay out the facts more plainly. They are there, but you have to go searching for them. Also, to be fair, we don’t talk about these things (MMM, blacks and the priesthood, mDNA, etc.) in church meetings. That time is taken up learning and discussing the gospel. That’s as it probably should be. We don’t go to church to learn how to defend church history. However, I really do wish there were a place, in the LDS Church, where these thing could be talked about “officially”.

    Simon Southerton, hmm. I’ll have to look him up. Thanks for the tip.

  3. As someone outside the church but with Mormon friend and acquaintances, I thought that it was a rather even-handed treatment. I also thought that the narration by a mix of writers, historians and other scholars who were inside of, outside of, and formerly part of the church helped keep the perspective balanced. (As much as I can’t stand Harold Bloom….) I was also very impressed that they respected traditions and didn’t address temple ceremonies and only showed footage of what must have been the New York City temple before it opened, even though they had access to that information from ex-Mormons.

  4. I agree Joan, thanks for the input!

  5. Not too much on this thread…sadly.

    As for what I thought. Yes it was fair, and interesting. I felt that it glossed over some of the ugly parts of the history, who knows why. I wanted more of JS and his place in polygamy, more on why JS advocated Blacks to have the priesthood and after his death it was retracted?

    Yes PBS was delicate when it came to the temple, but I am concerned about the MANY changes to the ceremony since JS resored the gospel.

    Didn’t JS restore the church/gospel in its fullness? Why all the changes? Again, I ask the question, either he was right completely or wrong. It seems like later prophets are being rather selective in the prophecies they claim are the correct ones…

    Honestly the history of the church is just getting more and more shady, more secrets, more conspiracy, and more lies.

    I was very intrigues by the comments made by Dallen H. Oaks… WOW, and not in a good way wow.

    So basically even if what I say is in FACT the truth, if I say anything against the prophet(s) living or dead I am an APOSTATE.

    This was the part that struck me the most.

    I have always felt like the teachings of the church were designed to dull people and their individual personalities, being unnaturally humble, meek etc… there was never much room for freedom of expression, but this, well it is on a whole other level of silencing the curious mormon.

    We live in fear that if we question, we will lose our place in heaven, and be spiritually cut of from our father in heaven and our families. There really is no room to think outside the box, and I wish that they (PBS) might have touched on that a little more…

  6. I agree. I think Helen Whitney could have spent a week going through other issues in more depth. I don’t think she addressed the blacks and the Priesthood issue enough. The issues surrounding polygamy were also not developed enough. What I really like about it is since it aired, the Church has started to publish articles in the Ensign and Church News about controversial LDS history. This is a great development that shows that the Church understands a need to be more open about the tough issues.

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