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Read about the filmmaker's perspective in the Filmmaker Q&A.
I, too stumbled upon this program and found it very interesting. I had heard about this missionary requirement a year or so ago, so was curious. Especially since every so often such missionaries come knocking in our neighborhood. I will no longer be so mystified by what these youngsters are up to, but will be willing to chat for a minute.
They won't get very far in converting me, as I am a staunch Evangelical with a touch of Orthodoxy, Charistmaticism (is that a word?) and whatever else can make me closer to what God wants of His Church on earth.
The two things I am confused about when it comes to Mormonism (OK, there are more, but here are the two big ones) are the following:
1) How can they say they believe in the Bible when they totally disregard the last lines of the Bible which state that no words can be added to or subtracted from the Bible. The BOM is an addition, and therefore means that Mormon founders did not actually believe that the Bible was the infalliable word of God.
2) During the missionary training, one of the speakers said that if the missionaries do not follow all of the rules in their handbook they could lose their place in heaven. That is ridiculous. The Bible clearly states that you can be forgiven of anything except not wanting to be forgiven (because, of course, God lets us decide whether we want to be forgiven or not).
I believe that there may be numerous Mormons who go to heaven because they do believe in God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit properly, and just don't realize the lies from the BOM. After all, I am sure there are things I don't believe properly in the Bible because of my human frailty and ignorance. God will forgive me that because I really want to believe properly. I am concerned for the people who God is trying to show problems in their beliefs to that they are choosing to ignore. I pray that they will choose to agree with Him so that they may have the mercy and grace He wants to give to them. After all, God loves us all.
I accidentally caught the airing of this documentary before going to bed last night. I find these type of viewpoints very interesting. I also find many of the responses in this Talk Back segment to be horribly inflamed and mostly coming from those who are from "the church."
I find most of it to be complete hypocrisy. If you are from "any church," why so much volatility? Why not have more accepting beliefs of all religions that make the world revolve and support the general belief in a higher being?
Can you not see beyond yourselves to realize there is more than one viewpoint required in this world rather than all believing the same thing? How small-minded! If we were to all believe the same thing, we would be nothing more than robots. God, or any higher being, did not create us in the likeness of a robot, but to each be individuals with brilliant, separate, free-thinking minds. We are each beautiful because there is no one else like us on the face of the earth.
I personally think "the church" is brainwashing young minds to do as "the church" wishes ON them, not FOR them. To strongly direct young people in "the church's" direction and then make them feel as if they have gone outside "the church" if they happen to select something else for themselves is wrong. No one should be strong-armed into their own personal beliefs and then led like that for the rest of their lives.
I realize most of "the church's" followers choose this for themselves, but based on what? "The church's" viewpoint alone? How biased is that? To prey on young minds at a time in their lives when it's improtant to belong and fit in is truly just short of brainwashing.
The next word that comes to mind is cult. Unless you virtually convert yourself, you cannot be a part of any "church" ceremony and are certainly not treated as an equal. I had a relative convert to "the church" for marriage, but her own father couldn't give her away and had to watch from behind the gate at the back of "the church." I would not want to be a part of any organization that wouldn't welcome outsiders. Later when the families could be brought together, there was an obvious division that was demonstrated by "church" members.
I truly think in this age we have to look outside ourselves and allow our children to be children and encourage them to develop into people with some of their own ideals and thoughts. They don't have to be MEN by the age of 19, married by the age of 22, and well on their way to having a family immediately thereafter. Allow them to see the world from their veiwpoint and not "the church's." Children eventually rebel when things are shoved down their throat, or worse, when they feel they've been deceived. There's too much access to information in this world and they will quickly find out what "the church" is made of unless "the church" quickly catches up to the real world.
Ironically, earlier last evening two young gentlemen rang my doorbell. When I saw their white shirts and ties and backpacks (in sweltering 100-degree heat), I knew better than to answer the door. I don't need to hear about an unwelcoming "religion" that won't have me unless I'm a member. I don't believe I can listen to two young men attempting to tell me about their religion and solicit membership and baptism. (What experience do they have, other than what they've been taught by another with only one belief?) I already know my soul is saved and my belief is not based on ANY condition; my God is a loving god and does not discriminate or require exclusive membership.
Salt Lake City, UT
Wow, I just happened to come across this website and the comments. I'm amazed that so much comment is still being made two years after. I wasn't able to see the film until July of 2005.
I have a unique perspective on this project. I was there with those fine young men. I knew them. My eighteen months in the Germany Munich Mission was completely within the two years that Nancy filmed. I spoke to Nancy, and even agreed to be interviewed for the project because she was following one of my companions (the sister missionary who was never included). I know what she filmed; so I know what was left on the cutting room floor. It is true, that a far more intriguing story was lost.
I respect Nancy's right to free speech, it was her camera and her story to tell as she desired. I would never deny her that. At the same time, I was personally heartbroken to see her portrayal of the elders and especially of the Mission President. She chose VERY carefully the comments that she included. All of those choices were calculated to state only one point of view. To anyone who knows any of the participants personally, it was very obvious.
Just one brief thought on the subject of indoctrination that people seem to be so inflamed over with regards to The Church's Mission program and Church in general. I was a college graduate in Psychology when I was called to the Germany Munich Mission. I specialized and researched in Interpersonal Influence. The Church does indoctrinate, absolutely. But so does every religion, the military, fraternities, sororities, unions, companies, every television commercial, the list goes on. The technique is nothing new, and not necessarily bad. To belong is a common human desire. There is personal choice in indoctrination. I served a mission later in my twenties because I researched every religion I could find and finally decided upon the LDS Church. There was no blind obedience. Everything I took in I tested to see if I really wanted it. I did nothing blindly. That's why I went on a mission. To tell people, �try it on, take it for a test drive.� Nancy asked me why I was there when I wasn't the typical age. I told her of my journey. And my experience wasn't unique in the mission at that time. She had plenty of other options for an intriguing story. But she chose.
So she made her movie as she wanted to see it. All the best to her. And to be honest, I ignored all the manipulative techniques and just enjoyed reliving a few moments of an experience I will cherish forever. It had the toughest challenges mixed with the greatest blessings. Thanks for the visual memory Nancy.
I joined the LDS Church at age 19. I went on a mission despite my family and friends telling me to do otherwise.
There is no way anyone could have pressured me to serve a mission, if I didn't want to go, I would not have went. I feel sorry for the feeble minded fools who serve a mission due to outside pressures instead of their own convictions. They do not belong in the mission field in my opinion and instead of whining about the Church manipulating them, they should take control of their own life and do what they feel is right.
The Church encourages young men to serve a mission, so what is wrong with that? These young men are asked if they have a testimony of the Church, Joseph Smith, the Savior etc. they can say no, but some people just say what they think others want to hear and that is not any Church's fault.
No one wants to admit they're a fool, it's easier to say they were manipulated. I'm sorry, if you sacrifice two years of your life teaching something you aren't sure of, you are a fool! You couldn't manipulate or even pay me to do that!
Boynton Beach, Florida
I served my mission in Russia from 1994-1996. You can't force anyone to do anything. People are who they are. You can't force someone to be a member of the church and you can't force someone not to. The underlying principle is that we are all unique and must go through a process of self realization. That process is really what brings someone happiness. That is why someone leaving the Church in a decision for themselves for the first time finds happiness. And it is in this same reason that someone knowing for the first time for themseleves that the church is true finds that same happiness. There is a real sense of joy in an understanding of ones self. That's because we all have a unique origin, whether or not you believe it - and the closer you get to that origin the happier you will be. Because you will have a greater sense of self. I'm an active member of the church. My mission was great. But I went before hand knowing that I wanted to be there. And I can tell you that the most enjoyable thing about my mission was not necessarily bringing people into this faith, but was helping and serving people. Leading them along some kind of path that encouraged them to understand themselves a little better. This is where true happiness is.
I applaud PBS for having the courage to let independent filmmakers tell their stories, in their own "Voices".
Do you agree or disagree with this documentary? Who cares!
This is freedom of expression at its best (God Bless America!) If you don't want to invest your time "listening" to these irreverent, audacious and necessary viewpoints, use your remote.
I have only just got to see the "Get The Fire" TV Documentary and I feel I must congratulate Nancy du Plessis on what is a superb piece of TV, one of the best "Fly on The Wall" I have ever seen.
It has taken me until today to obtain a copy of the programme and that is since I first read about it on thw website just before tranmssion in 2003. The DVD arrived just before 8am and I had to watch it straight away.
Credit musy to to the now RM's as they where also completely honest both in the filming and comments after post production. I am so pleased to see that Jake had left a recent message, I am so pleased to hear everything you are doing. I was hoping that Brady may have brought up a little more up to date.
Myself I have such a "Strong Faith" but I am not a member of the Church. I met my first Elders on the 11th September 2001, a date that will ever stick on our memories. I have now read so much about The Church, I am currently reading Volume 8 of "The Work & The Glory" and I have every LDS DVD Movie released.
I have met such good people from the Church, Five of my Elders are now True Brothers to me and they will remain that now for "Eternity" - I have found so many Friends through The Church.
But I do have strong feeling about the Church in the early days and also on the Priesthood with African/Americans, it still troubles me to see no African American in the Church Leadership.
I am Protestant and most of my Friends are Roman Catholic and NOW Church of Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Thanks Mary for such an amazing documentary.
Hey. 'Tis me, Jake Erekson, one of the co-stars of the documentary. I've spent the last hour or so glazing over the commentary surrounding the film, and I must say that I am surprised at the strong opinions many of you have expressed. Thanks to all of you who have spoken in my defense, and in the defense of the church.
Let me start by saying that Nancy had every right to put the footage that she did in to the film, and it was, all in all, a very creative work. I would like to say, however, that at least 2 of the missionaries who were followed (Brady, and myself), are all still active members, and that the views expressed by the former members are not shared, at least by us.
I do have friends, however, that have gone on missions, and have since changed their stances. I had lunch with one of them today. That's fine if that's the path they choose. We have not chosen that path.
I would love to hear personally from anyone who would like to discuss this film, or the church in general with someone who lived every part of it. Contact me at
and we'll chat. I don't open e-mails or attachments from people I don't know, so please put "Get The Fire" in the subject line.
Best wishes, Jake
P.s. We've taken the liberty of editing some of the parts of the film out that we don't aggree with, and making a "happy version". It is a great way to relive some of the best moments of my life.
Long Beach, CA
I thought the film was a very fair depiction of Mormon missionaries, contrary to what their church thinks. I am a former member so I identified with those who ended up leaving the church, and no, I did NOT leave to "sin" nor was I "offended" by anyone other than Joe Smith and Briggy Young.
I have not yet seen this particular film, but I have gone over the website briefly and read some of the comments posted. I wanted to say that I appreciate the comment one person posted in January on how the film was very much biased and provided what looks like an extensive proof of why it is so. I read some of the comments the director had posted and I could tell right away that there was not any possible way this person could have kept an unbiased view on the whole situation. It was quite obvious what her views on the matter were, considering her mention of how the women in the church were treated and of how she originally said she heard of the church (of a family who was excommunicated). It did not surprise me to see an equal if not greater list of places to investigate the church as anti-literature as opposed to church accepted material. It seems to me that if one was to investigate a topic, especially a religion, that one would go to a person or people who regularly practice and believe the material discussed rather than going to it's enemies and asking them. If you were to want to find out more information on the Jewish denomination, would you go to a practicing Natzi and ask them what they thought and expect to get honest, unbiased information? I would think not. What you would get is a faulty list of rumored stories they swear as truth and examples of members who were so "blind" and disgusting in their belief. So it would seem that it's not fair to go to these antimormons and such and expect the "truth". I would also like to say that it is unfair to say that women are mistreated by any means in this religion. If you look at any of the recently published material by their church leaders, you would find only good words, praise, and adoration for the wives, mothers, and daughters of the world. There was even a talk recently published in a conference by the prophet himself requiring of the men a more sacred treatment of the women and that many of the world problems would be solved if this matter were paid more special attention to. What evidence would more accuratley describe the validity of the idea that the mormon women are oppressed, the criticism that is thrown at them daily by "independent business women" who tell them they are undermined, or the smile on a wife or mother when her spouse opens the car door for her every day. If you want to know if mormon women are opressed, ask a mormon woman, don't hide behind an "unbiased" documentary on mormon missionaries.
Just to clear a few things up, one very confused "ex-missionary" said that we are that we are taught to accept everything blindy, which could not be further from the truth. In fact we are taught to study out and think over and pray about every piece of doctorine. i have only read what is on this website but i would hope that it was staed in the film that the one "ex-missionary" no longer even believes in God.
San Antonio ,Tx
I have been a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day saints for maybe 5yrs now. I am currently 16, and my reason for posting this is that i dont like the way some people judge the Church without giving it true justice. Attend the church get to know the people in it, only then could you actually say for your self what its like i love my church and i am the only member in my family but that does not bother me because i know god watches over me. And since i chose to follow my heart i know this church is true and that the book of mormon is the word of god.
This will be long but I hope it will be read, especially by the Erekson family. After watching the movie, reading every page on this web site concerning the movie, researching for myself both the Mormon church and other churches, talking with hundreds of missionaries (both active, and inactive) in my life time, and reading all of the previous posts I feel it is time to post my own post. First of all it will be important to note just what the word biased means. According to the Webster Dictionary, Bias means:
3 a : BENT, TENDENCY b : an inclination of temperament or outlook; especially : a personal and sometimes unreasoned judgment : PREJUDICE c : an instance of such prejudice d (1) : deviation of the expected value of a statistical estimate from the quantity it estimates (2) : systematic error introduced into sampling or testing by selecting or encouraging one outcome or answer over others
I do this only because of the countless post and counter post on not only whether or not the movie was bias; but what exactly bias means. In short bias means to show only what you wish the viewer to see. The movie I saw, "Get the fire" was not without bias. I find the author/director of this movie to be quite bright and intelligent. The movie was well done as far as photography and filming is concerned. But after researching and reading more in depth information as well as other resources on the subject, I have come to the conclusion that, no mater how well made, this movie can not be contrived as anything but biased. It was well balanced in the concern of the numbers of people who were interviewed/followed. BUT! (and this is where the movie turns bias) A lot of the statements made toward the good of the church were in fact incomplete. For example, the movies most biased part, in my honest opinion, was with Jake Erekson's final statement about not liking the label of being an RM in Utah. There was more to that statement. Such as not thinking it fair that jobs come more easily to those who are labelled such and that it should be kept a private matter. Neglecting that leaves the audience seeing only what she wanted them to see, that he didn't like being an RM. It is several subtle statements like this that were cunningly cut out of actual whole statements, and smoothly weaved into the movie along with the ex-Mormon's full statements that led me to believe that this was indeed a biased movie. I believe that the vague forgetfulness to mention these cut parts or the fact that the first film crew quite the project because they felt the director was not being unbiased or that she was showing any integrity in her work that led to me to this understanding of the movie. I believe the reason for the vague forgetfulness was also to protect the "documentary" from too much scrutiny. But I'd like to say to the author/director that at least for this one person who is neither Mormon or ex-Mormon, but an objective viewer, I'd like to say to you that you did not fool me, and shame on you for distorting the definition of documentary. Also I would like to say to those that were hurt most by this distasteful and biased piece of work, if it can be called work, that I am deeply sorry and hope that this will in no way cast any form of shadow upon your family, religion, friends, PBS, it's benefactors, or your own beliefs. And I would like to extend a special thank you to Claudia Erekson for boldly coming out and posting here about where I could find more information from other sources on her son's and the other missionary's views after they returned home. If you think this movie is fully unbiased I suggest another look, and more in depth research. Look up the term for yourself at the following sites and newspapers:
I must also put in many discussions with missionaries both ex-members, and members still.
And most of all this web site, where the bias can be most easily seen by the wording of their own sections on Mormons such as: "Despite its rapid growth and ubiquitous missionary presence, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or the Mormon Church, remains outside the mainstream of religious institutions. Some call the Church a cult, while some say it goes against Christian thinking, yet followers of the Church--which claims to have approximately 12 million members--believe otherwise." Where is the other side of the story? how about a comment from the ones that believe otherwise? the proof that it is just a "claim" that they have 12 million members? perhaps the most convincing piece of evidence I can offer is the US statistics on the church membership found here:
this site is not Mormon, rather it is a national site and it indicates an even larger member ship then what the Mormons claim. I've given my proof Ms. Plessis that this was biased, where's the rest of the cut footage? what are you hiding? and why the prejudice? what do you have against them? At any rate, I close my argument and for anyone who sat through it all, I want to say thank you, please search for yourself, go to sites that are credible, not just ones someone made up, but ones that have been around for a while, have offices and editors that you can contact. And most of all to those of you who would speak before knowing your facts, please don't, you only hurt those who have.
Richard L. Garcia
As a Mormon I have learned through "forbidden books" that our faith is predicated on several lies and coverups. Joseph Smith preyed on the naiive with his claim of deciphering the "golden plates" with a seer stone and the unbelievable claim that Mormons are "white indians" from Israel. The whole Mormon Doctrines are pure fabrications based on blatant plagarism from the King James Bible together with Smith's fascination with Masonic rituals and the text "View of the Hebrews" which he extensively borrowed from.
Let's forget the religious and spiritual message that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints espouses for a minute and look purely at its stance against smoking, drinking, taking illicit drugs, etc. It is common knowledge today -- ask any doctor -- that smoking, drinking, illicit drugs, etc., are all bad for your health and general well-being. Yet Joseph Smith asked his followers to abstain from these substances well over a century ago. What took the scientific community so long to figure this out? With that, I rest my case.
Honestly. I must agree with the gentleman that said that the film did not reach its goals. It was unfairly biased, as one can plainly see. Okay, the missionaries are there as observational pieces, fine. Then you have your disenchanted, unenchanting former-missionary, former-members each around the age of 30 providing small amounts of negative commentary. Where are the former-missionary, still-active-members of the same age providing equal amounts of positive commentary? Where is the balance? Their absence puts everything these boys give for two years in a negative, and skewed light. Even though the negative arguments presented were rather ignorant conclusions, it would still be better to have a decent representation of those who have come home and have remained active in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
To the director: I understand you're the filmmaker and you can make editorial-style works and do not have to present complete pictures of how things are. I am sorry you chose to do that here.
Cedar City, Utah
In response to Nancy du Plessis's film "Get The Fire," I thought that it was a fair portrayal of both sides of the story about serving an LDS mission and the impact it later had on the lives of the men portrayed.Watching the film, I couldn't help but notice that a majority of the men stated that serving a mission was due in part to pressure from family, clergymen, the LDS church itself, and friends. Although I would have to side with them that the pressure is great to serve a mission and that the LDS church does require every 19 year-old male to serve, the LDS church also recommends that every WORTHY male with an UNDOUBTFUL testimony serve a mission. It is better that a mentally, physically, and spiritually ready and prepared young man enter the mission field than one who has doubts, or disbelief of the work and The Church. This is why young men and women are to spend time before filing papers to leave on a mission talking with their higher clergy and preparing themselves to be worthy and strengthening their testimonies of The Church and the big responsibility they're about to take. I'm pretty sure that you wouldn't send out an unprepared an unsure person to represent you or something you firmly believed in, would you? Nancy du Plessis is not biased, nor was her work in portraying two sides to serving an LDS mission- You have individuals who are either going to love or hate their mission experience and that's just the way things go. As for the men whose views were taken and for all others, men and women, who are deciding to serve an LDS mission, ask yourself "Am I ready to do this?" and "Have I fully prepared myself for this?" before you leave on the mission, not while you're already out their! If you're not ready, don't go!
I haven't seen this movie, but just from looking at the missionaries featured on this website, it seems to me that the faithful Mormons are far more attractive than the ones who lost their testimonies. I'm not sure what that means, but it does seem interesting to me.
I was disappointed by the program. While Du Plessis claimed she had no narration in an attempt to present an unbiased film, she instead used commentary from former missionaries who had become personally disaffected from the church. She used their comments to narrate what the missionaries were doing. A more balanced approach would have included interviews with current members who had served missions. The result made the missionaries appear naive and irresponsible. Having served a mission, it was an incredible experience. Hard at times, but I'm glad I did it. I don't think this was an "unbiased" view of a mission.
I am a convert to the church of Jesus Christ of latter day saints...I had a spiritual conversion. The missionaries taught me: I studied, prayed and asked the Lord directly if what I was feeling was true. Being 16 years old, fun loving and a bit of mouthy girl (cheerleader)...I was a bit sad when the answer came without a doubt that YES, the Book Of Mormon is the word of God. I thought, "Why do I need to know this NOW?" I actually lost friends in High School. I was teased when my skirts went from mid-thigh to just above my knee. I didn't go out doing the things high school kids do. My brother said a few years later, "You ruined the family". I had no peer pressure to join the church, just the oppposite. I had Holy Spirit pressure that I cannot deny. Just about 30 years later, my son is the first to serve a mission. He is in Florida. The film made me smile to see the love the missionaries had for each other. Yes, they are different, but the same. They are one in spirit. When you see the missionaries, BE NICE: They are somebody's sons and daughters!
I really liked it. I am a female "RM" (That means returned missionary.) I am not from the west and am very active in the Church and I liked it. It was honest and I loved to see how the featured missionaries grew and changed. I giggled as I watched them. I cringed at the "ex-missionaries/no-longer members" men. But they were expressing how they saw things. Hay, a mission is hard and if you are bitter and have little faith and do not want what is offered there is nothing anyone can do. I think Nancy showed their side very fair. I would love to see how the newly returned ones turned out. Returning is just as hard as going.
Good job an the film. I loved it.
I thought it was an interesting glimpse into mormon missionary work abroad. I am a filmmaker from the Bay Area and would like you to check out my documentary on Mormon Missionaries titled Eight Lives, One Mission. You can get a sneak preview at scarlettshepard.com.
After viewing the film "GET THE FIRE" I thought Nancy du Plessis did an excellent and well balanced job.
It taught me things I would have not known otherwise on both sides of the LDS.
Thank you PBS for showing it and thank you Nancy for all the work and time you put into it.
The program reached Atlanta 1/29/04.
It was fair. The church called it bad. It wasn't. It was the one thing the church didn't want: balanced. It showed the truth, which the church didn't want, which would explain why support was pulled partway through.
I don't like the idea of someone telling me that the way I believe is wrong, so I'll just remind Mormons of their 11th Article of Faith: "We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty G-D according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may." Seems it doesn't apply to non-Mormons, otherwise Mormons wouldn't be prostelitizing.
Unlike most of the negative opinions expressed, I've watched this film -- four times. Living in Finland, it was necessary that I buy the video. It was an excellent use of Mk 35,00.
Yes, I'm another ex-mormon who completed a mission more than forty years ago. I still invite the mormon elders for pizza on a regular basis as I've done for over fifteen years.
This film is balanced, if anything, leaning to a positive view of the LDS Church. The young men are certainly representative of the hundred or so elders who have visited my home. They are certainly better educated and possess better social skills than the average elders. The LDS leaders selected the three elders for those and other reasons.
The LDS Church (IMO) should thank Ms Duplessis for the excellent work. To read the extremely negative comments of Mormons who obviously have not seen this film, I suspect an organized campaign of slander. To "lie for the Lord" is an approved doctrine of the faith and about 80% of these letters testify that it is being done.
My video is 57 minutes. At least 48 center around three fine young elders who are at least a notch or two above their peers. The ex-mormons, during less than ten minutes, point out valid criticisms of that church. Truly anti-mormons would have been more critical.
Any objective viewer of this film would come away feeling greater empathy for Mormon missionaries, more curiosity about the church and doctrines. S/he would certainly not feel more negative of the church. What more could the Mormon Church wish from a film produced by a non-mormon? They should offer a big thank you to Nancy Duplessis rather attempt to destroy her credibility.
When a gentle and sympathetic work such as "Get the Fire" receives such vehement overkill, it's no wonder if future films decide to actually attack the Mormon Church. It's not possible to please this sect. Might as well give them hell. The criticism couldn't get any worse.
Congratulations to Nancy Duplessis. You've made an excellent film and I can only wish you much continued success.
I was raised my entire life in the Mormon Church and served a 2-year mission just like the young men in the film. From first-hand experience, I can attest that the documentary is accurate and unbiased.
Nancy du Plessis should be applauded for producing this documentary. As a Mormon who is still proud of my missionary service, I found it very rewarding to watch the film and see that I was not the only missionary to go through trials. It is gratifying to see a true documentary that shows the good, bad, and ugly of missionary life.
Thank you PBS, Independent Lens, and Nancy, for this promising piece. I hope to see more in the future.
Note: The large majority of Mormons who denounce this film do so out of an uneccesary desire to discredit anything in the media that does not paint the Church in an perfect image. As noble as their desire is to protect our Church, it does nothing to help demonstrate the truth about missionary life.
I am puzzled by some viewers' statements that the author did not follow up on the three missionaries after they returned home, when in fact she did. She had a template of questions which she asked both of the current missionaries and former missionaries.
As far as a balanced presentation, far more attention was given to the current missionaries than to the former missionaries, and thus to the positive perspective of missionary work.
It is interesting to consider missionary work as a rite of passage from youth to adulthood. In my observations, it doesn't always happen, because the missionary just transitions from a controlled home environment to a controlled mission environment. Sadly, some of these returned missionaries marry long before they have achieved independence and their own identity as self-sufficient adults. I think the wiser ones concentrate on finishing their education and getting started in their careers before taking on the huge responsibility of marriage and parenting.
While I found the film a general failure in accomplishing the goal of the filmmaker, I did find it an enlightening tool to see so many of the young men so unprepared. Though admirable in faith and effort, certainly more could have been done on their part to prepare themselves to leave for two years with a stronger belief.
Thanks for trying though.
It seems that some people are bit confused about what exactly being biased means. If the filmmaker were truly biased she would have chosen to observe two female missionaries from New York City as they conquered the mean streets of Boston (the New Yorker's rival). The film showed two sides of the story: the three faithful missionaries who spent day after day preaching their beliefs and also the four ex-Mormons who have their doubts about the church and its teachings.
As an ex-missionary I thought it accurately protrayed the triumphs and trials of the Elders. And as a "inactive" member of the church I can certainly sympathize with the non-belivers. The film on a whole did not feel biased or slanted. It was a fair depiction of Mormon life.
It was unfortunate that Ms. du Plessis chose such a bias tact to telling this story. A story always has two sides. An honest and thorough storyteller works hard to investitgate in order to tell both sides. Whether one agrees with the tenet of the Mormon faith or not, to portray the hard work of these dedicated young men and women through the eyes of 4 dissidents is irresponsible. What a slap in the face to them and those who love them.
The producer never intended to make an unbiased documentary on the mission experience, and the effects on those who serve. Had she stated that as her objective, I would add my voice to those assessing the documentary as a failure. She notes that she's studied anthropology and considers the mission a "rite of passage" which is "almost obligatory", and that viewers might consider the effects of authority and socialization of all young people. In wondering what would possess a young man to make such a sacrifice, the producer only regarded it from a cultural standpoint, and wasn't able to either consider or demonstrate in her film that the young men might actually possess their own convictions, beliefs, and testimonies. In the editing she chose to precede mission clips with blurbs from disgruntled ex- and anti-Mormons only, thereby leading the viewer to assess the mission experience through those clouded viewpoints.
The faithless are as eager to gain converts as are the faithful. Ms. du Plessis took pains to portray the missionaries as unenlightened adolescents pressured into marching off on the path programmed for them, squelching any personal feelings or doubts. The ex-Mormons are portrayed as overcoming the pressures of conformity, developing healthy criticism, and being free to value their own thinking and opinions above all else. The producer is advancing the 20th-century, American ideal of self as God and I consider Ms. du Plessis to be as unenlightened and socially programmed in her thinking as she portrays the missionaries to be in theirs.
As a documentary on the producer's view of missionaries, it did its job. As a documentary on missionary work itself, it had glaring omissions and conspicuous shortcomings, not the least of which was an honest follow up with the three young men.
It is almost impossible to make a completely unbiased statement. And really what is the point? Humans are creatures of opinion, we NEED them to direct our existence.
In my opinion, on a technical level, Nancy du Plessis did NOT accomplish her objective to make "a film about young people who went through this experience and came to different conclusions" for she did not follow up on these young men after being released from their callings or include opinions from other ex-missionaries that still valued their faith and moral standards after their mission experience.
As for the rest of the comments posted at this site, I believe there is right and there is wrong. And I believe there is a One God who has dominion over this universe. I also believe that He is the only being who knows exactly what right and wrong is and has authority to govern this universe BECAUSE He is righteous. So if you are not that One God, then you better leave judging others beliefs and actions to Him.
College Station, Texas
After watching du Plessis's film and reading the comments below, I need to register my some of my concerns. Indeed, the show seemed to be slanted, biased but I think that comes from the fact that all of the returned missionaries selected and presented as the logical, adult, mature voices were very much anti-LDS, all of them have left the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It seems like many other viewers agree that such a selection presented a bias. The rest of the film was interesting, but how would it be to be followed daily by cameras? My hats are off to those young missionaries who endured such scrutiny. Rather strange and unique, isn't it, to see such a show on PBS focused on one religious group?
This subject could never be fully covered in one hour. With the time and other parameters allotted, Ms. du Plessis did a fine job, in my opinion.
Also, to the question of fairness, ie having four ex-members in the film and no faithful RMs (other than the three who were the film's main focus, of course): how many faithful, active members were interviewed? All the parents were there. The mission president and his wife were featured. We heard, if indirectly, from several other members as well. How else was that to be counter-balanced?
Thousands of LDS church memberships are formally resigned every year. Many of these people, believe it or not, served complete and honorable missions. Many of them (though not all, certainly) still consider their mission to be the highlight of their youth. They just don't believe NOW that the church is true.
Just as it's crucial to include the views of those surrounding and supporting the missionaries, so are the ex-Mormon RMs an essential part of the LDS missionary story. In this film they were the only representatives of the former member side of the coin. Just four voices, while the active membership were represented by how many?
Take another look.
I served in a Europeean mission 10 years ago. I am still a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I have held various callings within the Church and attend the Temple regularly. I am very much a "member in good standing."
However, I am annoyed at some of the members' responses I have seen on this page. For some reason, they seem to think that a missionary is a perfect person and anything less than that should not be discussed. This is not the case. I found the documentary to be very close to what I experienced on my mission. We were, after all, naive young men and women who had not travelled or experienced differing cultures. Many of us had never spent any real time outside Utah.
The Returned Missionaries who were critical of the Church are also very common. Of course, not all missionaries leave the Church -- and most remain active members. But I have met many, many RM's who have left the Church. Some are bitter and angry, but most are just critical of issues they could not resolve and did not have enough faith to accept. I can accept this -- they do, after all, admit that it is their lack of faith that lead them away from the Church.
Trying to "hide" the truth about our religion is not the way to handle problems. It is deceitful and this deceit is recognized by the people we try to fool. The missionaries were honest, devoted and sincere. That is a beautiful thing in itself. We don't need to pretend that they (or our religion) is perfect, too. We are human, after all.
After seeing the video and slogging through eight pages of commentary, I have to say that I have no idea why there's such vehemence against this well-executed film.
Actually, perhaps I do have an idea: It seems that Mormons don't appreciate when they are shown in a true light--they must be shown as smiling superhumans 24/7.
The images of the missionaries and the mission president were not scripted; that was obvious. That the film caught them in awkward moments was not "anti"-anything; it was charming, human and warm.
It seems that Mormons are afraid to look bumbling and human, to seem doubting or scared, to seem 19 years old instead of the aeons-old spirit literal offspring of God they claim to be.
Lighten up, people! Live a little.
I grew up in conservative Davis County, Utah as one of the few asians living there. I have been fortunate enough to travel to many places in the world, sometimes for lengthy visits.
The feedback from many (but fortunately not all) of the LDS members here once again shows why so many of those living outside the USA think that Americans tend to be loud, spoiled whiners.
So, this documentary didn't turn out to be the ideal propaganda film for the LDS church. So what?
I find it ironic that the positive message of those who did endure the hardships of missionary life as depicted in this documentary are being drowned out by the lazy thinking, thin-skinned defensive reaction of those who supposedly are LDS advocates.
Believe me, you do your church no favor by displaying your intolerance. You only tend to reinforce an unfortunate stereotype.
Up front I admit to having missed this program - something I hope to rectify in the future by rerun and/or purchase. However, I feel I am qualified to talk about the subject for several reasons, including the fact that, as a life-time member from Utah (like the boys in the documentary), I served an LDS mission to Western Europe (Switzerland Geneva Mission). I also was married/sealed in the Salt Lake Temple and have served in various callings in the church in the intervening years, most recently as a counselor in the bishopric. Had Nancy du Plessis interviewed me, I would have concurred that the presentations of missionary life corresponded very much to my own experiences and that the missionary experience played a non-trivial role in making me who I am today. Would that have made anyone happier? Probably not.
I've now read through all of the comments from today (5 Jan) through Brian's (NY, NY) dating from the 24th of Dec (currently on page 6 out of 8). Brian opines that the program would have been better had it explored how mormons manage to navigate through their post-mission lives and yet keep their faith. From what I've gleaned about the program from the comments I've read, it seems to have done this about as well as it could hope to do so.
In my considered opinion, there are only two ways to maintain one's faith in any religion, including Mormonism:
1. ignorance (willful or otherwise) of the whole story; or,
2. spiritual experiences of sufficient power to offset any concerns or questions one might have.
As with all too many members (converts or not), I based my testimony on the first because, despite a lifetime of effort, I was unable to achieve the second. When I finally stumbled onto the parts of the story that the church has long sought to suppress, consulted with the apologists, weighed this expanded body of evidence and prayfully pondered the implications, I felt left with no other honest course than to resign from all my callings.
Based on my own experiences and the comments I've read, this program sounds like a pretty objective view of missionary life and its impacts. We certainly need a view from outside of the church's PR department for, as was pointed out by the quote of Boyd Packer, they are anything but unbiased.
In the film they said the "Mormon Church" controls your life even what underwear you wear. No one has ever shown up at my home to check to see what underwear I was wearing. No one forces me to do anything. We are told that Jesus Christ and his profits (in the Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon and through modern day Prophets) God has laid out a plan and given us instructions on a way of life that is most pleasing to him. We can choose for ourselves if we want to follow those teaching.
Watching this film to learn about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the equivalent of going to the KGB and asking about democracy or asking Dupont about global warming. I joined the church four years ago after three years of "investigating" the church. I looked at a lot of "anti-Mormon" material and found it was full of things taken out of context, half-truths and down right lies. As far as those return missionaries in the movies, in recent years President Hinckley has said that the local leaders should be more selective when extending a mission call. They are to make sure they are going for the right reasons not just because they feel pier pressure. Those missionaries do more harm than good to themselves and to the church. I'm grateful for the many missionaries who taught me. By introducing me to the gospel they have helped turned me from a mean spirited jerk into a caring giving person. I have yet to figure out what is so bad about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Millions of dollars to humanitarian aid are given around the world including here in the USA. We are taught tolerance of the beliefs of others even those that attack us (which is more than can said of those that attack us). We are taught abstinence from premarital sex, drugs, tobacco and alcohol. Maybe they think that drunken womanizers make good spiritual leaders, if so there are other churches for those beliefs.
Look into the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints for yourself. Ask if the Lord had not been behind it, could The Church have survived? The mobs burned homes, drove the inhabitants out into the snow, and killed many. There was even an "extermination order" against Mormons in Missouri that was not repealed until the 1970's. Joseph Smith was driven out of his home several times, beaten many times, tarred and feathered, falsely imprisoned for over six months with out a trial and finally murdered. While being tarred and feather the mob left the door open and his son, who was already sick died of exposure. He died with so little his widow had to make a living taking in borders. To stop all of this all he had to do was renounce that he had a vision of the God and Jesus Christ and that he translated the Book of Mormon.
All of us who have served missions for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and still remain faithful to its teachings, can agree that Nancy du Plessis grossly misunderstands us. If she truly had wished to give an unbiased view of the missionary experience, she would have included the personal testimonies of ex-missionaries who are still members of the Church. Indeed we could have expected more from a PBS documentary, but we shouldn't be surprised by her depiction. Ms. du Plessis isn't the only person who misunderstands the missionary experience. It is something so personal, and so life-changing, that only those who have actually lived it can understand it.
I know a man who was a missionary in Munich, Germany, (the same mission shown in the film) who returned home from his mission in 1999. He was a roommate of mine at Brigham Young University. He was a stellar individual, highly motivated, extremely intelligent, filled with compassion, and was a tremendous influence on me. He loved his mission experience, and to this day, feels nothing but gratitude for it. He was a missionary because he wanted to be, because he believed in what he was doing.
Although her documentary is off the mark, we should commend Nancy du Plessis for trying to put something out there that helps others get a glimpse. We can trust the viewers to filter out the bias and see what is underneath--boys becoming men through their love for God and for their fellow men.
As far as all these people who have left the mormon church, it really doesn't matter if we're talking about mormons or eating pumpkin pie, do a little asking around and you're bound to scrape up a few people who have had bad experiences with it. Let me film something in black and white, give me a sad soundtrack and the right people and I could portray every religon on earth in a negative light.
I got back from my mission (to Germany) two months ago today, and take it from me folks, it's not as strict as it was portrayed by Ms. du Plessis. Of course it's different and of course it's tough. Most worthwhile things in life are.
My problem is and always will be that mormons are constantly ragged on for doing things that almost everyone else in the world does. There are churches out there that force missionary work on its members, there are churches out there where the priests aren't allowed to have sex, and we get complaints because we don't smoke, or we give up watching TV for two years. Please people. The world is going to hell and you still think it's wierd that I don't drink alcohol. Who has the problem?
The notion of a God and a gospel that tell's it's followers, "You're going to have to work for this." scares people. Half the comments I've read here tonight and documentaries like this one only go towards proving that.
The film was fascinating, and a little depressing. In reading over some comments of others, I don't understand why people think a documentary should be perfectly balanced. True, the ex-Mormons in the film seemed not only older, but more articulate and thoughtful than the clone boys who were doing their mission. It wasn't as if the filmmaker were giving the missionaries a script to follow, like the script the missionaries are given by church leaders when they come knocking at our doors. At that age, their own religion is not something that is deep in their understanding or feelings, or informed by their life's experience. Instead, the mission is a tool for missionaries themselves to grow in strength and faith for what their church teaches is a battle for people's immortal souls.
The mission improves the missionaries' study skills, social skills and it makes them feel as though they belong to a larger group that is at the same time exclusive -- the chosen ones -- yet with a noble purpose. It is their rite of passage. Although difficult at times with the deprivations they endure during a mission, let's face it, they are well fed and it is a lot easier than drinking the poison Koolaid at Jonestown, which people did for the same reason Mormons go on a mission. They do it to "belong" and to avoid the disapproval of their friends, culture, religious leader(s) and families.
To answer a question posed by the LDS member with a persecution complex, about why PBS doesn't show a film with some opinions by ex-Protestants or whatever. My goodness, that'd be just too boring and common to watch.
The LDS church might consider producing a short film showing the ecstatic spiritual gifts that are bestowed on a convert to the LDS faith, and the missionaries could carry it around on a portable DVD player. It might be more compelling to German people than having clone boys spout rehearsed LDS doctrine in excreable German.
El Paso, Texas
I was sadly dissappointed after watching the so called "documentary" by Nancy DuPlessis. That documentary ruined the integrity of Independent Lens and PBS. She opted for sensationalism rather than reality. It was sensationalized when Du Plessis thought that the mormons she interviewed were "too tight lipped." and that she wanted people who, "really talked." Freedom of speech allows people in this country to do that,however it doesn't make what they say true. It seems to me that most of the people who watch PBS, watch it for unbiased educational shows. Her documentary was not one of them. It was sensationalized trash. Had she vocalized her intent to show young people who went through this experience and who came to different conculsions it probably would not have been made. I am waiting for ex-patrons of all religions to trash their former beliefs on Independent Lens, because apparently that is where it is condidered to be okay. Or is that only for non LDS? Anyone who takes the time to trash ones religion needs a hobby because they have too much time on their hands. Time which could be better spent doing charitable things. Poor job.
I watched this program last Friday night and thought that it showed pretty accuratley how difficult the mission really is. I served a mission a little more than two years ago in El Salvador, C.A. and it was just as difficult for me. I had to learn the language, how to talk to people, to get along with my companions and swallow my pride. In El Salvador, most of the people are evangelicals or Catholic, so I had my fair share of religious conversations. Most were good and we ended up with an appointment to come and visit them. By the end of the mission, I had been in enough negative discussions with people that I knew when the conversation was turning sour and how to turn it around.
I wanted to write today because of the way I was displeased with the film. Sure its important to show people who came out of the mission with a bad experience, but its just as important to show the other huge percentage who came out with a much better experience. Of all of the ex-missionaries I know, none are even close to feeling the same as the ones that were shown on the program last night.
Also, I would encourage people to look on mormon.org for the churches stance on homosexuality and not just take a "victim"'s point of view.
My sister and i watched this documentary when we were up late one night. It bothered us both that their religion constricts them from so much. We both agreed that the men were very attractive, and wished that we could rid them of their horrible upbringings.
Although I disagree completely with the teachings of the Mormon Church, I absolutely agree with their view that sharing ones religious beliefs is a right they should be free to engage in. Free speach in regards to ones personal beliefs in the realm of religion, politics, cultural philosphy, etc.. is profoundly important in a world that has seen severe religious persecution, ethnic cleansing and political repression. Those in the film who decided to leave the church were free to do so and it would have been a negative experience for both them and the church if they had stayed. We all can live by our choices, we can choose to discuss our beliefs or not discuss them, we can choose to be a member of an organization or not be a member, and we can choose to listen to a religious or political philosophy or not listen to it. Those like the mormons who's faith is considered odd or different by the majority are often the object of persecution or repression, and we have only to look at nazi germany in the 30's to see how dangerous this mentality really is
My wife was a lifelong member of the Mormon church, and I was a convert. We discovered a lot of the attitudes and teachings of the church were created to serve the purpose of serving a self-propogating community. In watching "Get The Fire", our observations that most of the church's growth came not through proselytizing but through internal growth was confirmed. Looking back, I cannot believe that I fell for the line that, as one of the former missionaries put it in the film, Native Americans were ancient Israelites who practiced Christianity and spoke Ancient Egyptian. The film was very well made and very revealing. I wish to thank Nancy du Plessis for her work on this.
Salt Lake City, UT
I have too little time and too little space to share my full feelings about this documentary. Most of my feelings have already been described by others. My problems with the documentary deal mostly with time. The film is too short, how can one possibly condense 2 years into 1 hour. And then when you take into account having to add in those silly boys that never seemed "to become men" who just seem to like to talk a lot and complain. When you add this in you are left with...well... a confusing amount of nothingness. People ought to just take it as it is, and that is...nothing. I had a terrible time actually following the missionaries, I could never remember who was who, and before I knew it, they were home!! Nothing but confusion. Too bad, it could have been something interesting, I'd love to see the stuff that was cut. That is where the real documentary lies.
Santa Fe, NM
Excellent film! It made me squirm at first, listening to the missionaries struggle speaking unintelligible German, as I did when I started as an American music student in Austria years ago. I'm a non-Mormon, but having run into missionaries several times in my life, including living next door to them twice, I've always wondered what their experience was about and this film captured it well.
Thanks to PBS for providing the excellent links on the website. Many of the stories in the ex-Mormon site were absorbing and inspirational, in that they've inspired me to continue seeking my path apart from organized religion, as I've done since I was a teenager and left Catholicism. I did that based on "a burnin' in my bosom" that church dogma wasn't right for me. I had to ask myself, "Isn't it a little narrow to assume I just happen to be born into the one true faith when I don't feel superior to people who belong to other religions?" I had the good fortune to have a family who allowed me to make my own decisions.
It is curious that while Utah is the most progressive state in taking steps to be completely wired for high speed internet technology, the internet is also going to provide a place for members of the LDS church to start thinking for themselves at an earlier age. Young LDS members are going to read some eye-popping facts about the history of their cult, and not be as easily controlled as their parents were. When it comes time for their mission, more may end up joining the Peace Corps or Habitat for Humanity, or at least request missions where they do more for people than try to convert them. People who are considering conversion to any organized religion will be able to read about a different side of the story, compared to the illusory one they imagine or hope for. Instead of having to read about it in a banned book, they can simply GOOGLE their topic.
When I saw the subject of the film, I call all four of my children to view the film. I understand the view of the film maker in making what she thought was a balanced film, but I was a bit brought down by the fact that all the "former" missionaries were all chosen because they have since left the Church. I did not serve a mission for the church and was never pressured to do so. But my nephews and one neice have chosen to. I wish that the film could have contained just a glimse of what I have received from my family members serving in Alberta Canada, Chicago, Baltimore, Figi and Italy to see the real caring that these young people have for the people that they come into contact with. This is the second program I have seen on PBS concerning Mormon Missionaries. Both were balanced in my view, but neither contained interview with former missionaries that still professed to beleive in the faith. I asked my kids what they thought of the film and they just said "Couldn't we have watched cartoons" Oh, well at least they watch Seseme Street.
Salt Lake City
I would like to thank the filmakers for triggering a flood of memories (some a little painful, but mostly good) about my own missionary experience in France some 30 years ago. The similarities were amazing.
I'm a little surprised by the comments in this talkback forum. How can anyone see this documentary as being a negative portrayal? Over 90% of the documentary was devoted to happy, eagar, nice, polite, intelligent, positive young men and women maturing, struggling and growing on their missions, peppered with a few comments from those who had a different experience. It would have been a very biased, and boring, documentary if all they had shown was the positive.
One of our visiting General Authorities (I believe it was Howard W. Hunter) told us that "half the missionaries in this room will someday leave the Church" based on the then current Church statistics. While there are many who have a positive missionary experience, many didn't (half?). I'm not sure it would have been possible to make a "balanced" documentary without hearing from some of them. It was interesting to me that even the former Mormons seemed glad they went on missions.
I served as a missionary for the Mormon church roughly 10 years ago, and found du Plessis' documentary accurate in many regards. Yes, missionary work is often frought with rejection and the drudgery of trying to find someone willing to listen to your message. Yes, 19-yr-old missionaries are, even after a year in the field, sometimes unable to articulate their views effectively in a foreign language. Yes, there are those in the leadership of missions who use some pressure as a means of directing the effort of missionaries they lead. Yes, there are those who spend two years trying to do this work and come away disillusioned.
However, what I found dishonest in this portrayal of missionary work is all that du Plessis left out. Where is the success of skeptical converts accepting Mormonism in-spite of the clumsiness of 19-year olds in a foreign land? Where is the missionary who returned from his mission a decade ago and still finds Mormonism invigorating, uplifting, and yes, true? Where is the portrayal of honest heartache when someone the missionaries have been working with for months decides to end the relationship? Where are the heartfelt testimonials expressed by recent converts and missionaries?
The closest du Plesssis comes is missionaries committing an American militaryman in Germany to baptism, prefaced by the comments of a former missionary about how members of the military abroad are more isolated and vulnerable to the Mormon message than others, and missionaries preaching in a town square when no one is listening.
There was little balance to this documentary, and I fear you've done your viewership a terrible disservice by including mostly the negative, leaving the Mormon missionary experience as nothing but a strawman which the documentary dispatches with little more than a puff.
I came here intending to express my views regarding a documentary that I felt was a bit biased. After seeing how many people have already responded I don't have much to say that has not already been said.
It was sad for me to watch this program because I once knew, or thought I knew Dimitri Yatsenko. He was a very different man when I knew him and it breaks my heart to see how bitter he has become.
I only want to say that, as a female member of this church, I am 30 and single and, despite what the filmaker said in her Q & A, I have NEVER been pressured into marriage or subservience. Witht the views that she expressed in her Q & A section I cannot help but think that she may not be as unbiased as she thinks she is.
Kim L. Murphree
When I first started watching this show, I thought, "great, finally a non-biased discussion of the Church." I sat down with my 13 year old son, and after watching for about 10 minutes, we were both saddened by the obvious negative slant of the piece. There are so many prejudices and altogether deceitful stereotypes that are reinforced by this show. Before I go further, I must add that I am NOT from Utah, NOT a Republican, and NOT raised in the church. I am a convert, well-educated, published, single-working-professional-mom, and an award-winning broadcast journalist. With that said, I have always supported public broadcasting as an absolutely necessary function of our society, especially in the era of corporate communication mergers and conglomerates. Yet, I have never been more disappointed in a piece. Where were the interviews with the young men and WOMEN who return from completed missions to begin successful, professional and personal lives full of the spiritual enrichment gained from their experiences teaching the gospel? We only saw minutes and minutes of interviews from about four disappointed souls who had fallen away from the church for one reason or another. How is that a balanced view? On another important note, I heard some female voice subtly commenting in the background that it was more important for men to go on missions and women to get married and have children. There was no real discussion of the point, it was just thrown in, never disputed, and never commented on by any of the sisters on missions. In fact, MANY young women go on missions, and the Church of Jesus Christ of latter day saints also has one of the most highly educated female populations in the world because so many young women also go to college. Even for those who choose to become wives and mothers early in life, no discussion is given of why they make those sacrifices and choose to become a parent and rear a family. You know, I teach Gospel Doctrine class, and I am here to tell you that we discuss the ancient female missionaries, disciples, and mothers as well as modern female missionaries, disciples, and mothers, none of which is a mutually exclusive calling. If you are going to throw a point in your film, at the very least offer some balanced, informed discussion about it. Finally, almost everything I heard was Utah-centric. Here's a flash, most of us DON'T live in Utah. I believe the statistics will show that over 50% of the 10 million or so LDS members, live outside Utah, many in other countries. To be fair, it was interesting to watch the missionaries as they deal with day to day missionary work. The camera catches the realities of trying to share a spiritual message in a largely temporal society. Let me close by saying, I wish the producer of the film had dug a little deeper, searched for perspectives on both sides, and educated herself enough to be able to know how to use the camera lens as an investigative tool. There is so much beauty and goodness afforded to those of us who have chosen to be members of the Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day-saints, to lift the burdens of others, and to find the deeper, richer meaning of life, where we came from, why were are here, and what our potential is as daughters and sons of God. That is something defintely worth including in any film and sharing with the world.
PBS should do better at weeding out such biased productions as this one. By mixing facts with exhaggeration and lies this program cleverly attacks that which is good.
i think it is ridiculous that active mormons criticize Ms. du Plessis' work as being "lop-sided" or "anti-mormon". this is typical rhetoric of active LDS (which i was for over 10 years). anything about "the church" not sanctioned by "the church" is deemed "anti-mormon" because it doesn't cast "the church" in a 100% favorable light. I find it remarkable that mormons, who i know are very thoughtful and intelligent people fail to use thought, intellect or respect to other points of view. what most active LDS fail to realize is that Ms. du Plessis attempted (and i believe succeeded) to bring a balanced view of mormon missionary work. By definition, the word "balanced" means some of both views are expressed. Over 80% of the documentary was pro-mormon, i.e. devoted to the three missionaries and their gospel, their testimonies, etc. The blips of interviews of the "apostate" returned missionaries was needed to provide an opposing viewpoint. How was Ms. du Plessis supposed to get anything but positive remarks from the three active missionaries? They live under complete control of the church, their free-will stripped of them as they enter the mission field. Perhaps, Ms. du Plessis could have interviewed some active mormon returned missionaries, but it would have come at the expense of the three active missionaries' story; the "apostate" view is a necessary component of a balanced work on mormonism. Even the numbers were the same: three active mormon missionaries who ALL gave positive feedback regarding their mission, and three returned missionaries who were less than enchanted with the experience. Mormonism and mormon mission work, like all other human endeavors, have positive and negative aspects, and i believe Ms. du Plessis did a wonderful job giving both sides of the mormon mission story. If you interviewed everyone who ate a new resturant and asked them to rate their experience on a scale of one to ten, do you honestly expect they all would reply "a ten"? What Ms. du Plessis was able to capture was what i believe is the individualistic truth of mormon missions, and that is that the mission does more than turn boys into men, but has a polarizing effect on the testimonies of those who serve missions. one either comes away with a strengthened testimony of the LDS gospel or their faith in that gospel is permanently destroyed by first-hand knowledge of church goals, learning BALANCED church history, and experiencing the "double bind" the church and mision life for church offers.
I can appreciate the filmakers attempt at making a thought-provoking film. I liken it to someone interviewing those that finish a race and those that quit. I for one am a returned missionary. I served in Latin America and it was a very special experience for me. It made me care for others more and realize my potential in this life as a son of God.
In most cases, those who have "quit" the race do it because of some vice or personal choice of lifestyle that the gospel does not make allowences for. Self sacrifice and obedience to God is hard, and takes self control. It requires temperence and moderation. I feel very sad for these bretheren who feel a sense of "liberation" now that they have chosen to not follow gospel principles.
My mission was the best. The people I met were not taken advantage of, but they were liberated with the gospel of our Heavenly Father, and they are very happy.
I wish everyone happy holidays at this time of celebration of our savior's birth.
I found the documentary interesting and also the comments of Mormons here who label anything as anti-mormon which does not agree with their world view.
Most Mormons are woefully ignorant of the REAL history of their church as they read only the sanitized version Salt Lake gives them which has all "sensitive" materials removed.
They also are not aware of the numbers game Salt Lake is playing to hide the stagnation of the church. As the missionary force declines they will blame it on "raising the bar" or stop publishng yearly statistics altogether.
What makes Mormonism a cult is that it sucks people in and uses them up for the building of the church. The analogy of the beehive is more correct than members realize: the worker bees work themselves to death for the queen , which in this case are old men at the top of the pyramid scheme who need money to finance their pet projects.
Sadly, the problem with cults is that nobody believes they're in a cult - until they start ladling out he cyanide. Thank you for an excellent view at the Mormon missionary program.
Very well done and balanced film. I happened across it while channel surfing and caught it just as the titles were rolling.
Being LDS, and a convert, I was compelled by your presentation. Bravo.
It would have been interesting to follow missionaries to a Spanish-speaking area as well.
It is good to see (in the credits) that the Church Public Affairs department was as open to you as it appeared.
As the mother of Jake Erekson, after reading the newspaper articles, the biographical sketches of the missionaries, and the talkback section of this web site, I wish to share another side of the story about the filming of this documentary from someone who has been a part of it ......the truth as we see it.....
Jake chose to serve a mission because he wanted to. That isn't to say it wouldn't be difficult (life is hard, isn't it?). But his desire to serve his Heavenly Father and his knowledge of the truthfulness of what he would be teaching overrode his desire to stay home with all the things that make life comfortable for a any of us - friends, family, school -- life as we know it. When we were approached by the our bishop about an independent filmmaker wanting to film Jake opening his mission call and film his mission, we were startled, to say the least. Being a very private family who hold our beliefs close to our hearts (and not on our shirtsleeves), as well as being camera-shy, it was a difficult decision for us. But as parents who were hesitant and concerned, we determined that it was Jake's mission and his right to choose whether or not to participate. We were told by Ms. du Plessis that she wanted to portray "what it is that makes these young men leave their homes and their lives and for two years to travel to distant lands and preach religion" (a "safe" enough topic for a mission, we thought). Jake consented to participate. Our concerns and misgivings persisted, but the project began. Almost immediately our fears as parents found some credence as Jake was asked in an initial interview to read a "Mormon rap" cut from the newspaper that was absolutely not his style (he graciously declined). At other times during his mission, Jake also may have seemed less than cooperative because things he was asked to do did not seem appropriate. If this seemed uncooperative to the filmmaker, so be it - these young men were following the counsel and the rules they had willingly committed to (is there anything wrong with keeping a commitment?) We had another son who was also serving in the Munich Germany mission at the time of Jake's call, and his concerns with the filming confirmed again our misgivings. As a zone leader at the time of Jake's arrival in Germany, he was interviewing one of the missionaries and felt impressed to deny Ms. du Plessis access to that very private interview. His spirit of discernment was very powerful in helping him protect this missionary from undue stress at being filmed while trying to keep private things private. Then the initial film crew, whom we as a family had formed a special bond with, later left the project because they could not control the integrity of the film they had vested so much time and money in. Somewhere midway through the mission, as the missionaries were feeling more comfortable with their new surroundings and their callings, and as the Spirit was even more evident in their lives, they felt a definite change in the process (could it be perhaps this was when the returned missionaries came into the picture?) But wanting to keep the commitment they had made to be filmed, they continued allowing access, although more guardedly. And isn't that a great thing to do - keep your commitment, but be cautious when your conscience (the Holy Ghost) tells you there is danger?
We had felt from the beginning that there was some agenda on the part of the filmmaker to "catch" these young men falling or making mistakes, and this was confirmed to us when we read her statement in the Provo Daily Herald about our son: "I thought maybe Elder Erekson, who is a bit of an artist, I thought that maybe at the end there would be some difference, that there would be maybe more questioning....." But Jake's integrity and commitment to what he believed to be true was justified by her comment, " --- but there's no questioning from him." (one truth conveyed). However, Jake's final statement in the documentary left that conclusion hanging a bit in the eyes of the viewer. The reason he didn't like being "labeled" a return missionary in Utah was because he holds his belief and his testimony close to his heart and doesn't think it should be the basis of anyone's judgement of his capabilities as a husband, father, student, or employee. That part of his comment never made the final cut......another statement taken out of context...... (For post documentary interviews with Jake and Brady, see the article by Doug Fox in the December 19th Provo Daily Herald and by Peggy Stack in the December 22nd Salt Lake Tribune.)
To make a very long story short, we have viewed the documentary now .... and it was a bittersweet experience. It was a joy to see Jake on his mission (I was always envious that someone else got to see his everyday activities while I only heard about it in letters!) We will be forever grateful that at least some of it was captured on film so we could be a part of it. It is a marvelous thing to see his growth in stature and testimony from the beginning to the end of that life-altering, difficult, joyful, character-building two years! However, our initial concerns were justified as well. We were very disappointed in the manner that false ideas were presented as doctrine by others without balancing that with the official doctrine of the church (the public deserves to hear both sides). Everyone is entitled to their free agency to think and act for themselves, but presenting their personal opinions as doctrine is not being honest. Return missionaries who have held true to the things they taught and learned on their missions were never represented. And the initial premise that was presented to us for the film, in Ms. du Plessis' words: "what it is that makes these young men leave their homes and their lives and for two years to travel to distant lands and preach religion" was never addressed. However, despite altered objectives and a feeling of betrayal in the finished product, our testimonies remain intact. We love our Savior and are so eternally grateful for His Love and His Sacrifice. The gospel is true. Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, and we now have a living prophet upon the earth. The truth of these things will be made evident and final judgement of all will be determined by one who knows the truth of all things.
The final truth of this production lies in the minds and hearts of three young men who gave up two years of their lives to serve their Heavenly Father (and did so honorably), and for the rest of us...... it lies somewhere on the cutting room floor.........
dumb,dumb,dumb. Yes this was. shame on you and PBS. & the Anti-CRAP you showed on Mormons. i hate PBS now and refuse to watch it, thats horrible that they would smash this religion then dare to play childrens shows the next day. if there is any CORP. going on its PBS hating mormons. ... thats ok. to me this show was 'blah blah blah, we don't like Mormons, blah blah blah.' good for you for doing somthing so dumb.
I am a college educated 41-year-old female. I was fortunate to be raised in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and have spent most of my life not only studying, but more importantly LIVING its principles and teachings. I also happen to be a returned missionary (Louisiana, Baton Rouge Mission 1984-85).
This evening, my 10-year old daughter said to me "There is something about missionaries on channel 19, but I turned it because it wasn't very good." Her comment piqued my curiousity and I watched the remaining 15 minutes or so of the "documentary".
It took me less than 10 seconds to realize that this film was not produced by The Church or any of its faithful members. In my opinion, it is not a realistic depiction of missionary life. It lacks the true zeal and passion of missionary spirit; eliminates the highlights and captures the mundane.
My strongest objection is that the returned missionaries interviewed were 100% inactive in the church. What is the true ratio of missionaries who remain faithful compared to those who fall away? I believe that if this were a factual "non-biased" documentary, that ratio would have been represented.
Nice try, Nancy, but the truth will still go forth boldly and nobly and independent.
Overland Park, Kansas
To those of the Mormon faith insulted by this documentary, I say welcome to the world of us Catholics, where it has been far easier for the media to show off the sins of the few and the misinterpretations of the many than provide the real truth about my faith (Roman Catholicism) and yours, LDS.
The bias in this film is immediately evident and transparent and I fully understand the outrage expressed here by many members of the Mormon faith.
I was disappointed that Nancy was not objective in doing her documentary on the "missionary experience" of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It would have been more fair to show positive along with the negative. I admit that some young men and women go out on a mission without having a testimony of the church. This is unfortunate and they should have never gone. My husband went on a mission to Munich, Germany. He speaks of his mission experience with fondness. He and I are looking forward to the time that we will serve a mission together once our family is raised. Why are we going to go? Not because of pressure, but because we have a testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and want to share it with all those who will listen.
I read all these posts from Mormons who are outraged, claiming their doctrine has been misrepresented, or that it is only opinion, but I've yet to hear what their doctrine actually is.
What do Mormons actually believe? I know many Mormons ranging from infant to elderly, and I can tell you what they have told me they believe runs the gammut from very old teachings (Adam-God, Blood Atonement, Polygamy, Unconditional Love, Man can become God, God had physical sex with Mary to produce Jesus) to hardly knowing anything about what their church teaches other than they have lots of callings, they perform lots of service, they pay their tithing as instructed, and one day, if things go well for them in this life, they can return to their Heavenly Father, on the planet Kolob, according to some.
For practicing Mormons that have responded here, just exactly what is your doctrine? Do you know for sure what it is? Is there a compiled list somewhere? Would Bruce R. McConkie's Mormon Doctrine be the "official" church doctrine?
Since this program aired, I have asked ten active mormons of varying ages, both male and female, this question, and not one person could actually tell me definitively what Mormon "doctrine" is. One told me God and Christ's love is unconditional, and another told me it isn't. That it is in fact conditional. One told me they had Free Agency, one told me that was wrong. That they only have Agency. One told me Polygamy is still the doctrine of the Church but is no longer practiced because it is illegal in this country, and another told me Polygamy is absolutely NOT part of the Church doctrine, not even in the form of Celestial Marriage.
It's all very confusing. How do you all keep track of it all? Is there a way to keep track of it all? Do any of you know for sure exactly what your church doctrine is?
I feel like I need a scorecard and a playbill just to keep track of it all!
Thank you for such an informative film. I was somewhat disappointed at first when the negative comments were being interjected. I had settled back to enjoy a positive spin on what should be a positive experience for young people. However, upon seeing your film, I realize I am a little naive in my perspective. It has made me all the more aware of some of the pitfalls that can come if these young people are not prepared and supported properly during such a critical time . The opinions and impressions they form on their missions will have great and lasting impact on the rest of their lives. As a mother, I realize with greater depth my responsiblity to teach my children more about the truth of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. So their hearts and minds will not be swayed by every wind of doctrine or every skeptic they meet. Because they will meet them.
Thank you again.
I thought it was disingenuous of the filmmaker to only show commentaries from return missionaries who did not ever gain a testimony of the church. There are some missionaries who went on missions for the wrong reasons. Nancy seems to have found them. The truth is that such negative experiences are the exception, not the rule. Couldn't she have included ANY interviews from missionaries who loved their missions and know that the church is true? It shouldn't be so hard, they exists everywhere within the church. It is more difficult to find the negative ones, but they do exist. The Mormon church is true, and anyone who spends any objective time looking into the facts must acknowledge this possibility. Every day, the evidence supporting the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon grows. There are plenty of positive websites about Mormons and our beliefs; the negative ones are full of lies. My mission in Munich Germany was a great experience and I know that the Book of Mormon is true and that Joseph Smith was a TRUE prophet of God. I am sorry the filmmaker couldn't include any interviews from the many return missionaries who share this knowledge.
FOR COMMENTS FROM THE MISSIONARIES FEATURED IN THIS FILM AND THEIR IMPRESSION OF THE FINISHED PRODUCT, CHECK OUT THE ARCHIVE ARTICLES FROM THE SALT LAKE TRIBUNE ON DECEMBER 22, "LDS MISSIONARIES GIVE THUMBS DOWN TO FILMMAKERS DOCUMENTARY, AND FROM THE DAILY HERALD, DECEMBER 19, "CALLED TO SERVE - ON FILM".
Charleston, West Virginia
I am a convert to the Church and I am the only active member in my family. I was fortunate enough to be introduced to the gospel by two missionaries. That experience has changed my life dramatically, for the better. I now attend BYU, the private LDS university in Provo, UT. Attending college in Provo has helped me to see what life is like completely submerged in a uniform culture with strict expectations on personal behavior. I am very thankful for the opportunities that have been afforded me because of that environment. At first, I did hate Provo, but I have grown to love it. I actually call Provo home now rather than where my family lives. My testimony has been strengthened while being at school here. I can also see how it would be so easy to not have a testimony and still comply with the culture though I am learning how to see all that is possible in Provo because of the societal expectations. And, I like it. I thoroughly enjoy Provo and what I have been able to experience because of the common beliefs shared and acted upon by the majority of the population.
What ALL missionaries are taught, and teach themselves is that Feelings = Knowledge. This, of course, is a false assumption. All of Mormonism is based on this assumption. To desire "a burning in the bosom" as a way to verify truthfulness of something.
All testimonies that have been written in these threads are ALL based on feelings equaling knowledge. When anyone here says they KNOW Mormonism is true, it's only based on feelings, not "knowledge" as defined in the dictionary.
If all the facts were present for all members to see, their feelings would be different, and their domestication INTO the cult would break. I feel for all these members who have to emote so much to somehow prove it's a good thing.
Los Angeles, CA
Wow, what a great film! You must have had to have overcome so many hurdles during the film making process. You did it! Well done.
What other projects do you have in the making? Keep at it, you are a great storyteller and have a great eye for the camera.
All the best,
I have studied every piece of history written by Non-LDS sources, and nothing has lead me to believe that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is anything but the truth. Heavenly Father gave us all a mind and free agency, to learn and grow.
Joseph Smith was not the savior, but was a prophet called in America, when freedom of religon prevailed, and stills ruins today. As does freedom of speech....
By their fruits you shall know them.
Joseph Smith predicted the first battle of the civil war, at Ft Sumter, SC. 35 years before it happened.
Recieved revalation for the Word of Wisdom, 120 plus years before smoking was found to cause cancer.
Today the Church is the fastest growing church in America, because it's the truth. Despite all the Anti-Mormon, Born Again type proganda.
I was a missionary, I'm a convert and I am not blinded by nothing. I'm open to your opinions, but I certainly don't like the way you did the program. It was not neutral
Jesus is the Christ, and his Priesthood power is again on the earth. And despite all the opponents of the Lord's work, it will go on.
I put my faith in God, not a any man.