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What are your thoughts concerning this film on the history and beliefs of Mormonism? Did it broaden your understanding of this very American religion?

I think your program was very fair and as comprehensive as it could be for a two hour program on a complex religion with a very checkered past and lots of misunderstanding, and offshoot sects. The program was extremely kind to the LDS Church overall, and perhaps I saw the program as a bit mild. There is so much in Mormon history that is just outright nasty. The Mountain Meadows massacre is just one rather large horrifying incident, but there are hundreds of other smaller workings of the Mormon Church that denied people in the west of their property and livelihood.

Congratulations to PBS to taking on a very controversial topic and trying to give an overview of the Mormon Church. My bias would have been to see more "apostate" women speak up about how the Church denies women so much. But thank you for raising the topic and doing so in such a gentle way.

Brooke Wickham
Olympia, WA

 

My question is how can someone spend 4 hours talking about The Mormons without once mentioning how we all have testimonies of Jesus Christ? Testimony is the basis for any practicing Mormon. It is the reason that the pioneers went west. Not faith in Brigham Young, or their church, but knowledge through their testimonies that God would not allow a leader who would lead them astray. We all live this way today, we don't blindly follow the leaders.

We fast and pray, learn for ourselves the truth of the gospel principles, and gain greater more expansive testimonies as we follow those principles. Jesus Christ was not mentioned once as part of our belief, and He is the basis of our belief. How could anyone do us such an injustice, who claimed to be unbiased in their study of our religion?

Marlene Kaiser
Orem, Utah

 

Is it possible to obtain the full interviews of all of the contributors? There were a number, to include Dallin Oaks and Boyd Packer, who are notably missing from your interview section. All in all, I enjoyed the show. As always, there were things that I wished had been addressed, but in four hours, that is a difficult task. Thank you for the effort.

Sherwood, OR

Our editors respond:

Elder Oaks and Elder Packer's interviews for this program are available - see the Editor's Note and link at the bottom right area of the INTERVIEWS section of this site.

 

Congratulations on creating a four-hour advertisement for the Mormons! You have managed to make a dangerous cult look like the American dream. Yet you failed to address the realities of their faith such as the fact that the "Jesus Christ" that they worship is NOT the Jesus Christ of the Holy Bible! What about the Mormon policy to kill any Mormons that convert to real Christianity? What about the use of crystals and sex rituals in the Tabernacle today? This is supposed to be a fair and balanced portrayal of Mormonism and yet I notice that it is vastly Mormons that praise your documentary. Maybe next you can sell Wicca and Satan worship.

Darrell Shortt
Port St. Lucie, FL

 

It was not hard to become completely engrossed in this documentary. It was very informative and left me with a multitude of emotions.

I really envy the success LDS members have in establishing community, although I find their blind submission to church doctrine terrifying. I think that their insatiable desire to proselytize others is a manifestation of the insecurity that gnaws away at them due to the flimsy foundations of their faith. A thinking skeptic would never buy into any of that hogwash.

On a similar note, I was tremendously impressed by the action they took during the Katrina crisis, but couldn't help but wonder what they would do if the upper echelon of their bureaucracy encouraged them to take action of an antisocial nature. They seem to be Mormons first and citizens of world second. They voluntarily live within a theocracy, and that's scary. Then again, I guess that describes evagelicals in general...

Tokyo, Japan

 

I saw only the second part of the series and found it to be not only a fair depiction of my religion, but beautifully done. It was poignant and hopeful, in its coverage of life's difficulties and the faith that sustains us. It gave a respectful view of many of the tenets we hold dear. It painted a portrait of Mormons as good, faithful people. However, Doug Fabrizio's Utah Now program was a wonderful discussion of the "rest of the story," which I enjoyed even more. I agree that doctrinal explanation was a bit lacking for those who don't know us and that the notion that we excommunicate the "odd ducks" of the Church was too easy an explanation of the excommunication of dissidents, which is very complex. Margaret Toscano touched my heart. I wish her experience had been different.

Rosann Fillmore
Orangeville, UT

 

Good program. It gives me hope when I see broadcasters that will give us a chance to tell our own story and define what it means to be Mormon. I love Mormonism, even if I don't always live up to what I believe, I guess that only makes me human. I love the doctrine of Mormonism as well as the culture, even if it at times it is almost suffocating.As far as some aspects of the program, I wasn't quite sure what the emphasis was on Mormons and dancing. I never felt compelled to dance in all my years in the church, can't think or a single time where dancing was drubbed in to me or anyone I know.Also, to hear some people on this feedback talk of "sanitized" mormon history. This is an absurd notion. Everything on this program about controversial Mormon beliefs is available to anyone who chooses to do some moderate reading. Subsequently, any lack of knowledge exhibited by any Mormon is due to laziness or perhaps them being in the the faith only a short time. I have never felt pressured to not pursue or study deep doctrines of the Church. No portion of our history has ever been disturbing to me, especially when examined properly in the context of the times they lived in and away from whiners who have an axe to grind against some aspect of their experience within Mormonism. All in all I commend PBS and trust that you might observe the coming years and the Mormons that will continue to play huge roles in the forthcoming history of our country and the world at large.

Benjamin Campbell
Herriman, Utah

 

A complete hatchet job. It should have been titled, "The X-MORMONS," as this is the only perspective that gets a fair shake. From excommunicated feminists to excommunicated gays and polygamists to excommunicated academics and so-called 'scholars'.

Of the THOUSANDS of resources and official statements available by the leadership of the Church, we rarely see an Apostle or President of the Church give the Church position.

As I'm sure PBS is aware, the majority of the reaction you will and are getting is negative. Why? Because this portrayal of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a joke.

Israel D.
Saint Louis, Missouri

 

As a female member of this church, I was frustrated to hear myself and the other females in this church stereotyped as women who are constantly baking cookies, trying to be perfect, happy and beautiful. Most of the LDS females that I know are women who are strong, smart, assertive, an equal partner with their husbands, hold jobs and/or have careers.

We also know how much God loves and cherishes us and remember the fact that we can bear children as our sacred role here on earth. We love and cherish this role ourselves and take pride in our sacred obligation to nurture our children as well as others.

We are a powerful force in this church and were not given enough credit. You were right about one thing, we sure can do it all.

Lauren Richmond
Salt Lake City, UT

 

Thank you for your insightful documentary on Mormons. As an active and devout member of this church, I found it refreshing to see a broadcast which remained balanced throughout.

For those of my faith who feel that the Mormons are being misrepresented and that the documentary slanted to the negative, I say be thankful they did not go into more depth than they did. There are many troubling aspects of Mormon history which the vast majority of members of the church are unaware of. We must understand that there is much, much more to Mormon History than what we are taught in Sunday school.

Thanks again for the balanced perspective when dealing with aspects of history that are foreign to the majority of church members.

Jason Jackson
Rancho Cucamonga, ca

 

While I did not necessarily agree with everything stated on your program, "The Mormons", I did find it interesting to hear such differing points of view. Having grown up in predominantly LDS communities, I admit my world view is probably somewhat limited. It was interesting to hear members of the Church, former members of the Church, and members of other faiths express their views and beliefs about Mormonism. Any program that does not vilify the Mormon church and claim they practice polygamy, human sacrifice, or have horns, has done a pretty good job.

Elisa Gee
Layton, Utah

 

The way history was presented, one would think that Smith was a charlatan and sex-fiend and that the thirteen million Latter-day Saints today are fools for believing in the book he brought to pass and the Church he founded. I would hardly know that the Bible and the Savior are paramount to their faith and to their lives. To understand the Saints today is to understand their religious thought, at least in my mind. Doctrine attracted the early Latter-day Saint converts, most of whom had not met Joseph Smith before joining the Church, and remained a significant reason for the survival of Mormonism after his death. I have yet to see a documentary willing to literally open up the LDS canon in order to understand the Saints. I look forward to a future filmmaker who will pursue this goal.

Jann Cahoon
Salt Lake City, UT

 

As a devout member of the LDS faith, I found the first half of the documentary a sometimes painful, but often powerful reflection of many of my own intellectual struggles with the paradoxes of Mormon history. Most religious movements lead to excesses in its adherents, especially as it struggles to define itself. Catholics and protestants must deal with their own scandals, I suppose.

Latter-days Saints, both yesterday and today, live in a realm of dynamic tension between the inexplicable and apparently contradictory personalities and actions of its foundational leadership and the beauty of its doctrines of man's divine potential, the eternal relationship of family, and its central focus on the expansive grace of Jesus Christ.

Scott Youngquist, MD
Los Angeles, CA

 

Thank you PBS for a balanced, interesting, and thought-provoking presentation. I thought it could have mentioned some important elements of Joseph Smith's life: the Liberty Jail experience with letters of such literary poignancy, and the observation that he had no children by any "plural wife". But on balance, the films were extremely well done.

One writer among these comments has asked about North American archeology, but the Book of Mormon account happened most likely in Central America. There is an old Nova documentary about beliefs about descendents of the tribes of Israel, including among Native Americans. It might be interesting as a follow-up to re-broadcast that.

Douglas Reid
Farmington, UT

 

I was surprised that the show was as good as it was. There will always be complaints from various sides that this or that was overlooked, but overall it was a reasonably accurate picture of Latter-day Saints.

It's strange that some of my fellow LDS brothers and sisters have complained about the emphasis on polygamy; in a discussion of the 19th century church it's difficult to overstate the importance of polygamy in shaping LDS culture, especially given the national reaction to the practice. I thought that part of the show was a lot less lurid than I would have expected.

The only gripes I have about the program and that I consider it disrespectful and offensive to have included information on temple ordinances when the producers know such ordinances are too sacred for church members to discuss publically (arguing that others have covered it doesn't justify PBS covering it, any more than others robbing convenience stores justifies you robbing a convenience store), and the overemphasis on the Mountain Meadows massacre (especially given the underemphasis on persecution of Mormons).

Regarding the latter point, from watching this series one would think that the persecution of Mormons consisted largely of one massacre at Hauns Mill, and that it was part of an ongoing war between Mormons and Missourians in which a few Mormons lost that one battle. Hauns Mill was the tip of the iceberg. Regarding the Mountain Meadows massacre, Mountain Meadows was not a formative or transforming event in the history of the Church, as--say--polygamy was, nor is it emblematic of Mormon ideals or ways of living. To make it the sole focus of an entire segment is a pretty clear indication that anti-religious bigots at PBS saw an opportunity to drag out one of their favorite stereotypes, the one about religious fervor being inherently dangerous, and trot it around awhile. However, Mountain Meadows didn't happen because of religious fervor, it happened because a confused notion of self-defense operated against a group of people entering Utah during a war in which the federal government was sending its own mega-mob west, and this wagon party had members bragging about having killed Mormons in the east and gloating that it was going to happen again. I for one am getting tired of hearing Will Bagley wheel out, ever time he sees a microphone, his tired and unsupported accusation that Brigham Young somehow planned this event from far away in Salt Lake City. In any event, since the entire tragic event was largely irrelevant to the future of the LDS church, or to saying anything meaningful about church members as a whole, it didn't merit more than a couple of minutes of time. The time it took could have been used to fill gaps that the program did leave regarding significant aspects of Mormon doctrine and culture. If PBS insists on painting religion as inherently dangerous, how about being intellectually honest and consistent, and painting the Left as a group of bloodthirsty monsters because almost every major genocide and atrocity in the past century (Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot) has been wrought by socialists? That wouldn't be fair? Exactly.

Perhaps one more thought. I'm mystified by how the excommunication of six people out of a church comprised of many millions of members could constitute a "purge." Do the math. It would be interesting, instead of hearing those people endlessly replay their victimization stories, to hear someone publically call them on their lack of testimony. None of them believe that Joseph Smith actually saw God the Father and Jesus Christ stand before him, none of them believe that the Book of Mormon describes actual events, and none of them believe that Jesus Christ literally guides His church today through revelation direct to living prophets. They want to change the church from the bottom up, instead of letting God change it from the top down, because they don't believe God is up there doing that. In doing so they would gut the church of everything that it is, and turn it into a social club where the members rather than God call the shots.

Paul Wake
Springville, Utah

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