Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The Mormons episode 1

Thanks for your comments on yesterday's post. It's refreshing to see that people actually read my blog.

Overall I really enjoyed the documentary last night. There were a few issues that I wish they had put into greater detail and a few that they avoided all together. However, considering the fact that they were creating a four hour documentary and not a miniseries I though they made some good choices as to what to cover and what to leave out.

The introduction used a very familiar quote from Joseph Smith to get the ball rolling. "No man knows my history." Since the biographer, Fawn Brodie used this quote for the title of her controversial biography of Joseph, I was a little afraid that the documentary was going to just be a just reworking of her biography. Although it did hit on many of the same points that she brought to light, it was indeed an original work.

I was impressed with the choice of people that they choose to interview. In particular I enjoyed the Presbyterian ministers’ comments about being unable to completely dismiss Joseph’s story even though it cuts at the core of his personal beliefs. I’m sure that many, inside and outside of the church can relate to this. I know I can. He was a very complex character. I still struggle with many of the issues that surround Joseph’s life. I was a little annoyed at the one lady who talked through her teeth and pronounced Zion like it was two words, "Zy On" But that's just being picky.

I was reading some of the reviews of the program online. A few were upset that they had spent so much time on Mountain Meadows and on polygamy. I don’t share this criticism. Yes, these two issues are very controversial. That is exactly why they should have been in the documentary. I thought they did a good job of covering them both. I wonder how these same folks would have felt about a documentary on Islam that didn’t give due diligence to terrorism and Jihad.

Any report on Mormonism that includes the persecution and the slaughter at Hans Mill would be biased and incomplete without juxtaposing it against Mountain Meadows. It simply would have not been fair to include one without the other. I’d be willing to bet that the same folk who felt that the coverage of Mountain Meadow was too strong would have been equally disappointed if they had swept Hans Mill under the rug. I felt that PBS did a very even handed report on both issues. True they spent longer on Mountain Meadows. I’d just chalk that up to journalistic freedom. No matter what the personal bias of the reporter it seems that the more negative issues always seems to take a higher priority than the positive. For good or for bad our culture seems to enjoy these more salacious details. Hypothetical situation: What would happen if on the same day two young men in the same county made the news, one for saving somebody’s life and one for taking somebody’s life? Which do you think would lead the local news in that area? The first young man would be lucky to get a mention in the last 5 minutes of the broadcast. That’s all that I think happened here too.

As far as polygamy goes, I think that the modern church is simply content to say, “Yeah but we don’t do that anymore.” And change the subject without any further comment. Sorry but we’re not going to get off that easily. The cold hard fact is that without Joseph Smith’s revelation on celestial marriage polygamy would not exist in the United States on any where near the scale that it does today. Call them fundamentalist, excommunicated members, wackos, cults or whatever label you’d like. With only a handful of exceptions, many of them Muslim, all polygamist marriages in the US cite Joseph Smith as their authority to practice plural marriage. Like it or not these step-children of the church will continue to grab the spotlight.

The only comment that actually got me upset was in the previews for tonight’s episode a General authority made the comment that, “It’s wrong to criticize the church even if the criticism is true.” I disagree with this comment 100%. Once any organization, especially a religion, declares itself immune from criticism the check and balances are gone. How can we claim that our obedience is not “blind obedience” if we are not permitted to question and criticize? My wife cautioned me that since it was only a comment in a preview I might be taking it out of context. I look forward to watching tonight to see.

After the program I had about a 20 minute long phone call with a Methodist friend who had also watched it. At the very least I think the program will be a good catalyst for these type of discussions with our friends and family.

Tonight's episode is supposed to be about the modern church and how things are practiced today. I’ll be watching.

1 comment:

  1. It is interesting to note that in the Radio West interview some discussion of reworking the film to be more critical of the LDS faith was discussed. It is my understanding that the version we are seeing is the more critical edit.

    I would have to say that thus far the dialog has been respectful, yet thorough. Our history is couched in the American experience. In many respects it is the essence of the American experience. Our history is full of great characters and events as well as tragic characters and events. The events of history both positive and negative do not change the importance of the message of the LDS faith. I for one am grateful for the opportinities this documentary presents for entering into discussion.