145 comments for “Two by two

  1. Kevin Barney
    May 1, 2007 at 11:42 pm

    What is Elbert doing these days? I just realized that I haven’t seen him for a long time..

  2. WillF
    May 1, 2007 at 11:49 pm

    1. I was surprised they didn’t interview Jan Shipps. 2. The Jewish holocaust survivor’s explanation for why baptisms for the dead are shocking and unacceptable to him was instructive. He said something to the effect that he feared that he might look up someone in our records one day and find that the person was no longer considered a Jew because of the baptism. This finally helped me understand why they have been so opposed to baptisms for the dead of other survivors.

  3. May 1, 2007 at 11:52 pm

    Despite a few quibbles with facts, despite the despicable betrayal of her temple covenants by one of the talking heads, despite the few inevitable stumbles, taken as a whole in its intent and overall tone, I think this episode was dang near perfect. I wouldn’t have dreamed an outsider could do what Helen Whitney has done here.

  4. WillF
    May 1, 2007 at 11:58 pm

    I still think a major weakness of the film was the lack of background given for the people being interviewed. I’m sure there wasn’t time, and they expect you to do it yourself, but the film cannot stand on its own because we don’t know who is behind the many authoritative statements.

  5. Eric E.
    May 2, 2007 at 12:02 am

    It’s wrong to criticize the leaders of the church, even if the criticisms are true???????????

  6. Lupita
    May 2, 2007 at 12:06 am

    LOVED IT. Jan Shipps would have been great (maybe she was on vacation?) but hey, Harold Bloom? Excellent. I can’t think of any major issue that Helen Whitney missed.
    I am baffled at the possibility of negative reactions. I don’t see how it could have been done any better (but hey, I’m no documentary filmmaker).
    Ardis, RE despicable betrayer? Are you going to make me google this?

  7. Rosalynde Welch
    May 2, 2007 at 12:07 am

    I enjoyed it very much, and I would recommend it. Here are my quibbles:

    I was glad Betty Stevenson and Kathleen Flake were included, but I wish there had been more camera time for mature, faithful, articulate Mormon women (the random neuroradiologist was a token, nothing more). And I thought it was odd that the section on missionary work included so many bytes from exmos—Tal Bachman, Trevor Southey, Mike Quinn—even when they weren’t necessarily saying anything negative about their mission experiences. Also, I disliked the formal device of “Act I”, etc: since the piece isn’t narrative, “Chapter” would be more appropriate, and in any case, tonight, the divisions seemed arbitrary (the first, in particular, seemed a conglomeration of bits and pieces).

    Also, I thought it was hilarious that the footage of gospel music in a Mormon chapel was run without any acknowledgement that that sort of thing is HIGHLY unusual!

    That final shot of the Moroni sculpture being raised to the top of the Manhattan temple was a fabulous bit of television imagery (I assume it wasn’t Whitney’s, that she got it from somewhere else).

  8. WillF
    May 2, 2007 at 12:11 am

    On the other hand, it was interesting to get to know the people over the breadth of their quotes. The gradual way we learned about the man who lost his wife after childbirth (and his son) through his own words was better than if we had been given a short bio beforehand. (And I have to also say I am no documentary filmmaker.)

  9. May 2, 2007 at 12:14 am

    Lupita, one of the speakers, immediately after claiming to have experienced a transcendance in her temple attendance, goes on to describe details that she covenanted in that transcendance not to discuss. I find that despicable. But I can’t really blame the producers for having included that speech — it’s natural for journalists to pry when they know something isn’t being said, without regard to why something isn’t being said. Still, there was no mistaking the ground on which that person was standing, so it doesn’t detract from an overall wonderfully nuanced production.

  10. RP
    May 2, 2007 at 12:18 am

    Re: #3. I agree. Divulging these aspect of the temple ceremony was gratuitous. I am very surprised that some executive producer didn\’t throw up a red flag on that one. Not only was it in very poor taste, it was not particularly relevant. Sadly, for many Saints, this will be the moment in the film that most sticks in their mind. I predict that fur will fly on the PBS discussion board over this one.

  11. Bill
    May 2, 2007 at 12:19 am

    There sure was a lot of Schubert in this documentary. The G-flat major impromptu kept popping up everywhere, including the credits.

    I thought it was funny that when they were talking about ordinances for the dead, the music was the second movement of Beethoven’s “Ghost” trio.

    Schubert’s “Death and the Maiden” quartet kept appearing, sometimes at inappropriate times, such as when Margaret Toscano was talking about excommunication .

    The best was the use of the C-major quintet – Schubert composed this in the last of his 31 years – it came right toward the end when they were sending all those candle balloons, or whatever they were, into the air.

  12. Eric E.
    May 2, 2007 at 12:24 am

    Does anyone else see the physical similarity between Ostling and Neal A. Maxwell?

  13. Rusty Clifton
    May 2, 2007 at 12:32 am

    Tonight was MUCH better than last night IMO. There were some parts that seemed like the Church couldn’t have scripted them better (most notably the relief effort bit).

    I couldn’t help but laugh out loud when Tal Bachman said that he would have been a suicide bomber if the mission president had asked him. It was perfectly scripted for those who want to believe that we’re fanatical.

    I’m actually very glad they had the quote from John Taylor (via Darius Gray) because it just put it out there. The worst possible quote is now out of the bag, it’s no secret, it’s not covered up, now we can all deal with it together. Let’s move forward.

    I liked that right after Margaret Toscano’s experience of her ex-communication it was noted that we will always only hear one side of the story. It’s a very interesting point too, because the person who is ex’d knows this and has the freedom to exagerrate without the possibility of a counter-story. I’m not saying Margaret did this, I’m just saying that it’s an interesting point.

    It’s too bad that Oaks quote about criticizing leaders seemed to go by without any real explanation or nuance.

    I’m sure the “slitting the throat” comment about the temple ritual is going to cause a few bishops some headaches in the next few weeks.

    Things I thought would be included which were not: masonic ties to the temple, lies in the Smoot hearings, our current practice of (spiritual) polygamy, Word of Wisdom, political activism against gay marriage, garments, and a few others.

  14. Left Field
    May 2, 2007 at 12:34 am

    The Katrina sequence was good.

    We had on the closed captioning, and although the spoken narrative was nearly flawless, nearly every song had a mondegreen. “Then since my soul, my Savior, God…”

    I thought the sequence about dissidents really started to drag. They let Toscano go on a little too long, and it got to be different people saying the same thing over and over. That was like no high council room I’ve ever seen. What high council would put up with uncomfortable chairs like that?

    Several scenes had baffling footage. What was that circle of people doing on the hill while Southey was talking?

    Overall, I thought they were both very good, but for me, the first episode was more moving and thought provoking.

  15. Matt W.
    May 2, 2007 at 12:49 am

    I think on the whole, it was very positive for the church. After all, I got to see that Terryl Givens and I enjoy the same set of dishes inour homes. I think everything that was pt out there that some may consider “critical” are things that every member will eventually come across anyway. Did it give the complete picture? no? Could it? of course not. But it did a dang good job.

    The only negative I see in it is it feeds some information to lazy reporters who will bring it up later in the Romney run, both on the pro and con side, and I kind of think that’s a shame.

  16. m&m
    May 2, 2007 at 12:52 am

    I was disappointed that there wasn’t more from faithful LDS women who are happy as women in the faith. I felt (what I saw from) tonite’s piece (had to get little ones to bed) had balance in most segments, but not in that one.

  17. m&m
    May 2, 2007 at 12:56 am

    p.s. I also felt there could have been more balance in the piece on intellectuals in the faith. We have the stories of seven people who were excommunicated, but we don’t have stories of those who pursue rigorous intellectual study without trouble. Richard Bushman, for example, would have been a good person to include there to provide some balance.

  18. May 2, 2007 at 1:02 am

    Grant Palmer came off pretty well. They should have chatted more with him.

  19. May 2, 2007 at 1:05 am

    Rusty–I don’t think many people even heard Darius quote John Taylor–it was so quick. (And Darius was sick when he heard that Helen had used just that quote from the long interview he gave her.) The race issue was covered in under six minutes, with most of the focus on Africa.

    I was concerned yesterday by a comment on the T&S blog which suggested angels had attended the Twelve on June 1st, 1978. I had heard that such was definitely NOT the case and that one particular apostle had been urged to not use language suggesting it was. President Hinckley was very clear that the event was not “cataclysmic,” but sacred nonetheless.

    I liked tonight’s program better than last night’s. More intimate, and not quite so much of _Legacy_ out takes.

  20. Eve
    May 2, 2007 at 1:07 am

    I missed the first half-hour or so, but I enjoyed what I saw much more than I expected to. There were the few inevitable minor slips already mentioned, but overall I thought it was extremely well done.

  21. May 2, 2007 at 1:11 am

    The lady’s (Patterson?) testimony during the missionary section was priceless. All in all, that segment was very, very moving.

    While I know Margaret wishes more had been spent on the race issue, I thought it was appropriate and well-handled what was covered. I especially enjoyed the “co-founders” of the Church in Africa. What enthusiasm!

  22. Paul Reeve
    May 2, 2007 at 1:16 am

    I loved the LSD/LDS convert story. “Two white boys coming to my door talking about angels and gold plates and I’m thinking what are they on.” Priceless. She was great. And when can I get a musical number like that in my ward?

    The Katrina survivor interview was also wonderful.

    The Elder Oaks quote about science and faith in conflict seemed out of sync with JS saying that we embrace all truth no matter the source. I think I know what Elder Oaks was trying to say, but it seemed to imply something different.

    I think both nights were a home run. I’m bummed its over.

  23. Eric E.
    May 2, 2007 at 1:24 am

    Is anyone else rather impressed by Elder Jensen? I find it refreshing to find a general authority who really isn’t afraid to tell it like it is, and not pull punches.

  24. Keith
    May 2, 2007 at 1:24 am

    “I was concerned yesterday by a comment on the T&S blog which suggested angels had attended the Twelve on June 1st, 1978. I had heard that such was definitely NOT the case and that one particular apostle had been urged to not use language suggesting it was. President Hinckley was very clear that the event was not “cataclysmic,” but sacred nonetheless.”
    See Kimball Biography p. 219. Elder Richards said he saw Wilford Woodruff during the May 4 meeting when the issue had been discussed. I suspect that’s where folks are getting the ‘angels were seen’ idea. As I recall, however, Kimball wanted it clear that he had not had a personal visitation so as to not make the experience different than it was(234-35) and the admonition by Pres. Kimball with respect to being careful about what was said seemed to be in response to Elder M.’s statement that a voice was heard (implying all heard an audible voice).

  25. Eve
    May 2, 2007 at 1:29 am

    I too was really impressed with Elder Jensen.
    And I was stunned by the very existence of the Elder Packer clip! Ten or fifteen years ago there is no WAY he would have been interviewed for something like this. I think the Church has developed a whole new relationship with the media under President Hinckley.

  26. Eric E.
    May 2, 2007 at 1:38 am

    I wonder how that conversation went between Elder Packer and Pres. Hinckley.

  27. Janet
    May 2, 2007 at 1:48 am

    Yep, I loved Elder Jensen as well. He spoke articulately and forthrightly while exhibiting great compassion. I flat out wanted to hug him a few times. I felt terrible that they didn’t show Darius for a wee bit longer. Like someone said, it’s a relief to have the scary-of-scaries quotations out there for us to deal with, but by only citing Darius on that one thing the documentary spun him as disaffected.

    If anyone finds out why Jan Shipps wasn’t featured, I’d love to know. Having the input of a strong female scholar who merely sympathizes with (rather than belongs to) the LDS community would’ve helped balance the gender conversation if through no other venue than the visual.

    I heard nothing after the man said that his wife died during childbirth, however. After that I was too busy crying for the poor guy and snuffling off to find kleenex. Waaaaah!

  28. Eve
    May 2, 2007 at 1:50 am

    Also, I was struck by the obvious affection with which the former/ex-Mormons spoke of the Church–Trevor Southey talking about his community and his respect for Mormon people and Margaret Toscano talking about her first time going through the temple. In a strange way I don’t think the church could have scripted better or more credible PR than those moments.

    And I’ll add to the chorus in praise of Betty Stevenson (did I get her name right)? She was great.

  29. May 2, 2007 at 1:55 am

    Margaret (#19), I wish we had heard more from Darius, and I don’t doubt that if he had known he would appear for only a few seconds he would have preferred some other few seconds be used. Nevertheless, the John Taylor quotation or something just as difficult was bound to be used in a program like this. I am grateful that when it was said, and when it was discussed, it was by Darius in his gentle and longsuffering voice. People who needed to hear it, I think, will accept it from him in that voice far better than they would have tolerated a strident, ax-wielding personality. IMO.

    And Eve (#25), I could hardly believe my ears and eyes when Elder Packer shook his head and said, “Did I say that?” He seemed rueful, not like he hadn’t had a valid point but more like he wished he had presented it differently. That’s a kinder, gentler Elder Packer than he is often thought to be.

    Teryl Givens! Elder Jensen!! Helen Whitney for such thoughtful editing, in allowing Mormon voices immediately to qualify or temper the bitter statements of a few!!! Hear! Hear!

  30. Jeremy
    May 2, 2007 at 1:58 am

    If you haven’t already, read the NYT review. Many comments here are echoed there, including the reviewers’ being very impressed with Elder Jensen.

  31. Aaron Brown
    May 2, 2007 at 2:00 am

    I think the program was mistitled. It should have been “Terryl Givens and Margaret Toscano talk about Mormonism.”

    Aaron B

  32. Aaron Brown
    May 2, 2007 at 2:02 am

    Betty Stevenson was clearly the star of the show. Bravo!

    Aaron B

  33. m&m
    May 2, 2007 at 2:06 am

    Yup. I agree.

    ksl has picked up some of the blog chatter. Check it out at http://www.ksl.com/?nid=148&sid=1170085. (I’m not linking because I’ve had too many “sent to the spam filter” experiences here. If permas want to change it, go ahead. :) )

  34. Eve
    May 2, 2007 at 2:12 am

    And Eve (#25), I could hardly believe my ears and eyes when Elder Packer shook his head and said, “Did I say that?” He seemed rueful, not like he hadn’t had a valid point but more like he wished he had presented it differently. That’s a kinder, gentler Elder Packer than he is often thought to be.

    That was very much my impression–he seemed a little bemused at himself and kind and human. It was nice to see that side of him.
    As someone else said, I wasn’t as impressed with the Elder Oaks clip. It seemed somehow incomplete–maybe we needed to see more of the conversation to understand what he was saying?

  35. Matt W.
    May 2, 2007 at 2:15 am

    Margaret, I hope you check out Elder Holland’s Interview on the website. I like what he says about the folklore. Now we just need that in General Conference, I guess…

  36. Jessawhy
    May 2, 2007 at 2:24 am

    I was so impressed with the sequel tonight. The homeschooling family in Colorado could have walked right off a church video. The story of the daughter’s health condition, her singing with her sisters, it was all so moving and so faith-promoting! I think the spirit of that family came across the screen in a way that critics can’t deny.
    What I really loved about the entire documentary is that it explained a lot of Mormon beliefs in a dramatic, articulate way that we don’t usually talk about our beliefs. For example, last night, the idea of narrowing the distance between God and man through revelation, and even during the discussion of bodies/dancing, rang true to me, although I had never thought about it before. Very informative, even for a life-long member. I was sad to hear friends in my ward who thought it was anti-Mormon or who squirmed at the presentation last night (although it was admittedly darker than tonight).
    Excellent piece, I hope it encourages people to embrace Mormons in a new way.

  37. Sally
    May 2, 2007 at 2:35 am

    I thought the program was very good, but it bothered me that there were quite a few times where a negative point was brought up, but it wasn’t countered by an LDS viewpoint (ie no archeological evidence of the BofM, LDS women on prozac). It seems to me that when a member watches the program, we can see where they may have been wrong or biased and not be bothered – we already have testimonies. But I would think that a non=member watching this would tend to remember much more the negative, weird aspects and when they have a chance to hear the gospel, would remember those negative things and think “no thanks”.
    We recorded the program for my teenage son, who wants to watch it. I don’t want to have him stick his head in the sand, but as he is just forming his testimony, I am afraid the negative points of the program would prove difficult for him.

  38. Casey
    May 2, 2007 at 3:05 am


    I agree that it wasn’t fair as to archeological evidence of the BoM at least given FARMS, Nibley’s work, etc. That seemed odd to me since on nearly every other controversial statement there was at least an attempt at portraying both sides.

    Otherwise, I generally thought it was done very well.

  39. polly
    May 2, 2007 at 3:27 am

    I too thought the second half was better. The whole presentation was much more balanced than I would have expected. Re. # 37 Sally, my teenagers watched it. My son is 16, my daughter 18. They both found it interesting, were able to refute a few of the more negative points. More importantly, it gave us a wonderful opportunity to discuss some of the issues with which they were unfamiler. It also let them see that while we make mistakes we can talk about them and hopefully move on. I recommend it, as these points WILL come up at some point for almost everyone. It was good to see how some outsiders regard us. Hopefully everyone on both sides have gained some insight.

  40. Janet
    May 2, 2007 at 3:45 am

    I think I’ll send both Elder Jensen and Harold Bloom a bundt cake :)

  41. WillF
    May 2, 2007 at 7:19 am

    The editors sure liked that multi-faced painting of Joseph Smith.

  42. lamonte
    May 2, 2007 at 7:55 am

    I left this same comment on Ardis’ previous post but it poses a question that I am interested in so, in the fear that no one will return to the previous thread, I’ll ask the question here.

    I apologize if anyone has asked this question previously. I haven’t had time to review all the comments. I was interested, and in some disagreement with, the comments of Margaret Toscano related to the expected role of women in the church. I’m certain that, despite my 33 years of marriage and great desire to understand the feelings of women in the church, I cannot fully comprehend the pressures felt by my wife and other women when it comes to what is expected of them in the church. But it seems to me that committed and caring male members of the church, of which I know many, have reverence and respect for women in the church and our expectations of them are no greater than they are for ourselves. If a child goes astray I have never been tempted to blame the mother specifically, or even blame the parents per se. Having raised four children and experience exactly those challenges, I know how much the faith and prayers of my wife helped to turn around the life of the wayward child.

    And so I’m interested in the women contributing to this thread what you thought of those comments relating to the expectations of women in the church? Certainly there are high expectations for all of us but do you actually feel that weight more than men?

    On the other hand, in respectful disagreement with some of the comments mentioned above, I thought the inclusion of some “former” Mormons was interesting in that it seemed that each of them still loves the church and all that it stands for but simply left the church because of a crisis of conscience or because of some specific action on their part that precipitated excommunication. It seemed that even they spoke in respectful terms and, in fact, longed for their association to continue or be renewed.

  43. quinn mccoy
    May 2, 2007 at 9:46 am

    I found the show quite boring. In terms of documentary quality, it lacked real luster. The order of the second half was so jumbled, I’m amazed people were able to follow it. The unnecessary repetition of paintings and pictures was a disservice to artists and photographers, both in and out of the mormon church.

    Like many things that say ‘mormon’, many times we run to it to see what they will say. While what this person said was almost interesting (read one or two history books and you could get the whole show without all the boring monologues), the presentation was unentertaining, bland, and border line sophomoric

  44. May 2, 2007 at 9:50 am

    Re #35: “Margaret, I hope you check out Elder Holland’s Interview on the website. I like what he says about the folklore.”

    I’d love to hear what he says. Which website are you referring to? LDS.org? Or to a PBS one?

  45. Amy
    May 2, 2007 at 9:59 am

    #37 — If you watch it with your teenagers, I would just have your pause button handy, and I would pause and discuss, answer questions, have a dialogue.

    #42 — I am fascinated with this as well. I am 33 years old, I live in the South, and I cannot relate to the comments on women at all. I feel no pressure to bake bread or sew my kids clothes, that is not even in my world or my fellow sisters\’. And while I know my role as a mother directly correlates with my children\’s learning of the gospel and testimony, I also know in the end they make their own choices. I also truly feel my husband and I are equal partners…we work together and and approach things hand in hand in the gospel. Is this a generational thing? Is it a Utah cultural issue I am not understanding? I just have no issue with being a woman in the church today. And I am not the type to be easily subordinated! :0)

    I would also have like to hear more about the intellectuals who are faithful members. I am a college graduate, my sister-in-law has her masters and is a Fulbright scholar. I have never been afraid to ask real questions…I always believe I can find an answer, even if it\’s not one I wanted to hear!

  46. Katie
    May 2, 2007 at 10:07 am

    I found it hard to grapple with the story of the man and wife who felt prompted to have an 8th child. But then the wife dies after childbirth. Would God prompt someone to have a child knowing that the result would be death? Is one child’s birth more important than there being a mother around for 7 children? The mysteries of faith…..

  47. May 2, 2007 at 10:09 am

    It was the best Law & Order ever last night.

  48. jimbob
    May 2, 2007 at 10:25 am

    If I have one quibble, it was that no one countered Toscano’s obviously overbroad statement concerning our alleged aversion to liberalism in the church–e.g., you can’t be a feminist in the church, you can’t be an itellectual in the church, etc… I would have enjoyed someone saying, “You can be all of those things and more, but you don’t get to control our message just becuase you’d like to and you’ve thought about it for a while. At some point, doing things we ask you not to do will get you kicked out, as it would in any group.”

  49. BBELL
    May 2, 2007 at 10:33 am

    I thought it was good.

    Suprising comments from Toscano about the temple. Also she said the HC and SP had committed violence against her was very odd. I was waiting for the police report of her beating and it did not materialize. The HC wanted to shake her hand not hit her with a baseball bat.

    The suicide bomber comment was ridiculous. This must be a PBS production. religion=violence

    To many artists, academics, musicians, authors etc. Not very representative but again its PBS

    Enjoyed Jensen, Givens, Southey, and really enjoyed Stevenson a lot. Toscano had some good moments as well

    Margaret Young. I think you need to take up your arguement over the events in 1978 with Arrington. Its his book that I quoted. I got the quote in its e-form from a posting by J Stapely last year. Buy the book its on Amazon


  50. Matt W.
    May 2, 2007 at 10:43 am

    Margaret, it’s on the PBS site. It says.

    Q: I’ve talked to many blacks and many whites as well about the lingering folklore [about why blacks couldn’t have the priesthood]. These are faithful Mormons who are delighted about this revelation, and yet who feel something more should be said about the folklore and even possibly about the mysterious reasons for the ban itself, which was not a revelation; it was a practice. So if you could, briefly address the concerns Mormons have about this folklore and what should be done.

    A: One clear-cut position is that the folklore must never be perpetuated. … I have to concede to my earlier colleagues. … They, I’m sure, in their own way, were doing the best they knew to give shape to [the policy], to give context for it, to give even history to it. All I can say is however well intended the explanations were, I think almost all of them were inadequate and/or wrong. …

    It probably would have been advantageous to say nothing, to say we just don’t know, and, [as] with many religious matters, whatever was being done was done on the basis of faith at that time. But some explanations were given and had been given for a lot of years. … At the very least, there should be no effort to perpetuate those efforts to explain why that doctrine existed. I think, to the extent that I know anything about it, as one of the newer and younger ones to come along, … we simply do not know why that practice, that policy, that doctrine was in place.

    It is here

  51. Kevin Barney
    May 2, 2007 at 10:51 am

    I liked part 2 as well. Of course, there are things I would have done differently. For instance, I agree with m&m that I would have liked to see some positive portrayal of Mormon intellectuals to balance the negative verdict of overwhelming anti-intellectualism. And I agree with Rosalynde that I would have liked to see more strong women’s voices. The Mormon-women-are-all-depressed-and-on-Prozac meme is a caricature, and I would have liked to see a different point of view expressed.

    But Betty Stevenson was definitely worth the price of admission.

  52. Adam Greenwood
    May 2, 2007 at 11:04 am

    “I found it hard to grapple with the story of the man and wife who felt prompted to have an 8th child. But then the wife dies after childbirth. Would God prompt someone to have a child knowing that the result would be death?”

    Yes. God is Love but he’s not nice or easygoing.

  53. J.A.T.
    May 2, 2007 at 11:10 am

    1) Although there are some negative comments on the PBS blog for this documentary, several of the less-enthusiastic comments that people around here are sending are not being posted.

    2) Three cheers for Elder Jensen and the young lady (whose name eludes me) with the illness who bore her testimony and sang. (I thought it was interesting that primary, family and MoTab music was reaching to the NoMos in a way that rhetoric isn’t.)

    3) My condolences to all the workers of the church-produced footage that was used by Whitney. Since so often LDS visual art and music is dedicated ‘Soli Deo Gloria’ wasn’t it nice for Whitney to seamlessly use it, gain national notoriety and get a check? (I know, I know. We opened the copyright for her.) It just irks me. I give PBS more allowance than network TV stations though.) I tried reading the credits, but they were squished by a split screen commercial for the next PBS event. I’m working on a film right now, and by far the most expensive parts are the reenactment segments. The interviews are the cheapest thing to do, but if you try to put in some reenactments, by the time you buy costumes, pay multiple actors, pay for a location and props (travel, rent, site maintenance or set construction, animals, etc.), schlep the crew with you, pay a director, etc. etc. etc. the cost shoots through the roof. Considering Whitney’s contributions (mostly interviews setting up a camera in a home or office and pressing ‘play’) vs the church’s content (mostly reenactments), she came across with a pretty sweet deal.

    4) It’s fascinating that our opinions on this piece are so split. I’m baffled that such a biased piece is getting our praise. It certainly didn’t get mine. One of the most difficult issues in looking at the church is stepping back from the biases (both sides).

    In my opinion, very little true scholarly achievement has been made about the church, because the objectivity, empiricism and perspective is ALMOST ALWAYS tainted. We all know that in order to claim objectivity, we’ve got to evaluate and disclose our sources and identify possible variables!!! This production rarely identified the position of the experts– practicing LDS, ex-LDS, LDS heritage- non-practicing, etc. This is a major flaw. How many of you legal eagles would put someone on the stand w/o identifying them? How many scholars would slap a citation in a paper w/o evaluating a source? Why are we willing to accept “fact” from people who aren’t disclosive of their background and history with the topic they are ranting about? Inside the church and out, we rarely broach this topic without the bias of ex-mo’s grinding a hatchet or standing on a soapbox (and consequently journalists thinking they’ve got a ‘scoop’), or us, trying to reach out. I don’t mean to be an academic snob, but overall, this program fell very short of objective scholarly standards, and I was disappointed by that and the negative and sensationalized tone that was very apparent Monday, and still present last night.

  54. cyril
    May 2, 2007 at 11:19 am

    So the whole thing boils down to nothing. Ethereal, temporary, and then nothing. And if that is where we want to be as Mormons, then good luck.

  55. Kaimi Wenger
    May 2, 2007 at 11:25 am


    I don’t know — I did think the identification could have been better; however, the three prominent ex-Mormons in last night’s episode (Toscano, Southey, and Bachman) were all identified as such in the narrative. Some others (e.g., Quinn, Freeman) were not, but they weren’t cited very much.

  56. TAG
    May 2, 2007 at 11:25 am

    I don’t know if someone’s mentioned this, but Helen Whitney is on a Washington Post online chat today at 11:00 eastern time to talk about the show.


    If you don’t catch it live, you can go back and read the archives.

  57. May 2, 2007 at 11:33 am

    If I have one quibble, it was that no one countered Toscano’s obviously overbroad statement concerning …

    This comment unconsciously gets to the point of why I was not much bothered by most of the statements with which I disagreed. In many cases, inaccurate statements were followed immediately by a Mormon voice and comment — we very often got the last word.

    Most often, when we didn’t get the last word, the critical voice was “overbroad,” so obviously expressing an extreme viewpoint that I have to give an intelligent audience credit for recognizing the over-the-top nature of some charges.

    We don’t have to fret that people say things we disagree with. We don’t have to fret that the playground monitor didn’t do a voiceover to say “now, boys and girls, you’ve heard a bad comment and a good comment — be sure you disbelieve the one and recognize the other.” There are stupid people out there, no doubt about it, but give the majority of a PBS audience credit for being interested and able to think about issues.

  58. May 2, 2007 at 11:38 am

    J.A.T. (53) — I’m not aware of any deleted comments on this thread. I did remove a few comments from the other thread, as I indicated there. They were not merely “less enthusiastic” but were personally rude toward specific other commenters, and contemptuous of Mormon beliefs and of believing Mormons. Some of the later comments that man attempted to post became foul and threatening. “Less enthusiastic” is one thing; abusive is another.

  59. J.A.T.
    May 2, 2007 at 11:46 am

    Oh no, T& S is great about moderating! (Thank you for keeping things safe. Cyber bullying and threats are becoming much more serious.) But I was referring to the PBS blog. My comments weren’t posted, neither were my hubby’s or a few of the ward members around here. We were critical, (perhaps a little long-winded), but polite and brought valid points.

  60. DavidH
    May 2, 2007 at 11:57 am

    I could identify with virtually everyone in the second segment in one way or another. Some people have had very bad experiences in the Church, some have had very good experiences, most of us have had some of both.

    LaMonte, from the PBS website, Margaret’s commentary about the responsibility women feel about how their children may turn out was as follows:

    “In Mormonism, you’re told that your very eternal salvation and the eternal salvation of your children is the thing, that if you somehow make a false move, am I going to mess up my kid forever because I worked that job? Not just in this life — they may take drugs or something — but will they lose their eternal salvation? That is a horrible burden that you face, that I am responsible for this. Women feel that very keenly in the church. It’s a horrible burden. It really is.”

    My wife, who is in our stake’s relief society presidency, who teaches seminary, who does not like or read Sunstone or Dialogue or even the blogs, and who has been a stay-at-home mother and homemaker for 28 years, nodded her head when she heard this, and said something like, “That is exactly right, that is how I feel.”

    I would say that I share those feelings as a man, a husband, and a father. Although, in the Church, we are told that, as long as we have taught our children the gospel, we are not responsible for their choices, there is an implicit cultural message that our success is measured primarily by the Church activity of our children. I regret to say that I have on more than one occasion heard fellow members say things about parents of wayward children like, “I think their children left the Church because the parents were too strict”, or “I think their children left the Church because they were too lenient”, or “I think there children left because the parents were not sufficiently diligent in dedication to the Church and their callings” or “I think they left because their parents spent too much time on Church-related matters and not enough at home.” And I regret even more that sometimes I have thought that, even though I did not say it.

  61. May 2, 2007 at 11:58 am

    Oh, thanks, J.A.T. I misunderstood which place you meant had not posted comments. Good to hear.

  62. Greg Call
    May 2, 2007 at 12:11 pm

    I just have to brag a bit: Betty Stevenson is a long-time member of my branch (though she just left in the past year), and we’ve been treated to her testimony nearly every month for years. (It always starts out with a hearty “Wassup Oakland 9th Branch!” The gospel choir shown performing in my branch was pretty unusual — obviously put together for the filmmakers — but we used to have a gospel choir that performed regularly.

    It was great to see the faces of so many branch members — the Rutmans, the Neuman-Lieu’s, the Maxfield-Janers, and Ruby and Takiyana! Go Oakland 9th!

  63. Andrew H
    May 2, 2007 at 12:18 pm

    I was interested in the story of the home schooling Tilleimann-Dick family (Kimber was the bubbly newlywed, Charity the opera singer suffering from pulmonary hypertension). So I did a Google search, and they are a very interesting family. First of all, the kids have all taken their mother’s hyphinated name (their father is named Timber Dick).

    Also, their maternal grandfather is Tom Lantos, a California Democrat who has held a seat in Congress since 1980. Lantos is a secular Jew from Hungary, who was imprisoned in a Nazi labor camp for a time before he escaped and joined the resistance. He is the only Holocaust survivor to serve in the US Congress.
    After the war he moved to the US, got a PhD in economics from Berkeley, and married his childhood friend Annette Tillman, a Hungarian from a prominant family (she is a cousin of Zsa Zsa and Eva Gabor). Annette and their two girls, Annette Tillemann-Dick and Katrina Swett, joined the LDS Church at some point, although Lantos has not joined the Church. He appears to be a devoted an principled congressman, I did not read much about him I did not like. Here is a nice piece by his granddaughter Kimber.

    Katrina Swett is married to Richard “Dick” Swett, also a Mormon, and a Democrat from New Hamshire who served in Congress in 1991-1995, lost a Senate bid, and was ambassador to Denmark in the late 1990s. Katrina is currently in her second bid for a congressional seat in New Hamshire.

  64. DavidH
    May 2, 2007 at 12:24 pm


    I like the gospel music and clapping and swaying. Has the branch gotten any flack from above about it?

  65. Amy
    May 2, 2007 at 12:31 pm

    “We don’t have to fret that people say things we disagree with. We don’t have to fret that the playground monitor didn’t do a voiceover to say “now, boys and girls, you’ve heard a bad comment and a good comment — be sure you disbelieve the one and recognize the other.” There are stupid people out there, no doubt about it, but give the majority of a PBS audience credit for being interested and able to think about issues.”

    I don’t know, Ardis, as a girl from the south, I have been asked some pretty bizarre questions very seriously. Questions that should be painfully obvious as untrue. Down here they teach classes about Mormonism at the local churches and fill people’s heads with “truths” like these. And intelligent, members of the community who like to think about issues believe them all the time. There is a new DVD that has been created to assist the big 3 religions here in how to “lovingly guide” the good Mormons back to truth. I wish they would lovingly leave us alone. I’m not sure I can put that much faith in much of the PBS audience.

  66. CS Eric
    May 2, 2007 at 12:32 pm

    What was the bit about the floating candles at the end? It was very pretty, but where did it come from?

  67. Ben H
    May 2, 2007 at 12:39 pm

    I was just stunned at how beautifully people like Kimber and her sister Charity and Dallrymple and Betty Stevenson and Marlin Jensen were allowed to tell their stories. These are about the most beautiful testimonies one could hope to assemble in a piece like this, and Whitney gave them the screen time to express them fully and poignantly. By the time she put them in, it is hard to be very bothered by other imperfections or contrary voices, even the testimonies (also poignantly presented) against this or that. There were a few points where I would like to have heard contrary reasoning, and really we heard way too much from too few women on the role of women in the church, but I don’t think it’s realistic to expect every criticism to be neatly addressed. Part of the interest (and honesty!) of a piece like this is that it leaves some open questions.

    My only serious objection is to the inclusion of the one woman’s characterization of parts of the temple ritual we most specifically covenant not to disclose! Including that was a serious, distressing lapse of judgment in a generally excellent Part 2.

  68. May 2, 2007 at 12:43 pm

    Amy, that DVD has been lovingly distributed door to door here in Salt Lake, too. One of my favorite letters to the editor of recent memory was from the 80-something great-grandmother who took it out to the backyard and beat it to pieces with the back of her axe.

    The kinds of people you’re talking about who have been so carefully prepped by their pastors would not have been persuaded any differently by a PBS program that followed the pattern called for by so many nervous commenters — they would only think PBS had been co-opted by those tools of the devil, the evil Mormons.

    I don’t think evangelicals are the audience for “The Mormons” any more than Mormons are. The audience aimed for seems to be mainstream Americans, the kind of relatively bright and informed people who generally watch PBS. I do believe that audience can reasonably be expected to sense exaggerations and axe-grinding at least as well as I can sense partisanship in programs I watch. I might not always know what the reality is, but I can at least recognize that something isn’t quite right.

  69. Greg Call
    May 2, 2007 at 12:50 pm

    DavidH: The gospel choir is no longer, and the performance shown last night was a one-off thing, but I’m pretty confident that the choir had the full support of stake leaders.

  70. Amy
    May 2, 2007 at 1:08 pm

    Well actually, I really do agree with you. Your points were a good reminder for me.

    So you have seen it out in SLC also? That’s funny. Never having lived in a predominantly Mormon area, I quickly assumed that it wouldn’t make a showing there. I am embarrased to admit the assumption here in print. I think I also should admit sometimes I can be gun-shy because my kids are kicked out of schools as soon as they find out our religion, people still have the most bizarre ideas of what we do, and just this last week we were advised strongly not to put a church float in the local parade as people would basically throw things at our kids. Beer + evangelicals are a bad combination when it comes to a Mormon float passing by I guess.
    On the plus side, having our beliefs so craftily misrepresented so often has taught me to view criticisms of other religions and groups with a big boulder of salt. I have learned to do the research myself. My dear Jewish “mother” in NYC is fascinated by the Mormons. She thought nothing of trotting down to the new Mormon temple to welcome them to the neighborhood. That is definitely not like the world I live in…
    As an aside, I teach seminary and we got an emergency email this morning with a reminder that we are not to show any portion of the documentary to our classes, as it is not approved church material. I would have never thought of doing it, I wonder if they’ve had any problems with that already.

  71. It's Not Me
    May 2, 2007 at 1:27 pm

    Toscano’s lament that she did not get to dress her dead relative in temple clothing was interesting. I was not aware that people in the faith so looked forward to this important ritual (yes, I am being sarcastic). I recognize that it may be something she wanted to participate in, but wondered if viewers would infer that this is something Mormons anticipate that they’ll participate in. In fact, in her case I would have to think that she and her sister had strong suspicions that they would not be welcomed in that part, or that there would be some discomfort at the least. It’s not like the family told her she couldn’t come to the funeral and attendant activities and participate in other ways (though with her status as ex-mo she would be limited, as the funeral should be conducted similar to a sacrament meeting).

  72. Hans Hansen
    May 2, 2007 at 1:32 pm

    #63. Lantos & Tilleman-Dick families

    I grew up in San Mateo and the Lantos family was in my ward. I knew Annette (the mother), Annette (the daughter), and her sister Katrina, although we didn’t see too much of Tom. Great family with strong testimonies of the gospel. Charity performed in a concert in Washington, DC in 2005 and was accompanied at the piano by Condoleeza Rice.

  73. lamonte
    May 2, 2007 at 1:37 pm

    DavidH – Thanks for your perspective on that subject. As I read your response I could recall some experiences in my own life that could be related. Without getting too wordy, I had an experience during a trying time in my life, dealing with a wayward child, when I heard something attributed to Joseph Smith. Those words have been used in recent GA talks and can be found in President Faust’s talk from the May 2003 Ensign (April 2003 General Conference.)

    “The Prophet Joseph Smith declared—and he never taught more comforting doctrine—that the eternal sealings of faithful parents and the divine promises made to them for valiant service in the Cause of Truth, would save not only themselves, but likewise their posterity. Though some of the sheep may wander, the eye of the Shepherd is upon them, and sooner or later they will feel the tentacles of Divine Providence reaching out after them and drawing them back to the fold. Either in this life or the life to come, they will return. They will have to pay their debt to justice; they will suffer for their sins; and may tread a thorny path; but if it leads them at last, like the penitent Prodigal, to a loving and forgiving father’s heart and home, the painful experience will not have been in vain. Pray for your careless and disobedient children; hold on to them with your faith. Hope on, trust on, till you see the salvation of God.”

    When I heard those words read to me by a close friend I had a personal witness, like never before or since, that they were true. And today, when I think of the line that says “…the divine promises made to them for valiant service in the Cause of Truth, would save not only themselves, but likewise their posterity” I always remind myself that the salvation of my children is somewhat dependent on my “valient service.” I suppose such a thought could be considered like those expressed by Margaret Toscano but I can’t say that I have fear and trepidation over such thoughts. Because, in fact, they are about my salvation as well.

    I have a friend who joined the church after a 25 year investigation. When she came into the church, and the rest of her family followed behind her, she was counceled by certain people about what was required of a good Mormon mother and she felt totally overwhlmed. I was her bishop at the time and was able to counsel with her to understand that those ideals are only just that – ideals – and that most, if not all, of us fall short of those ideals. I hope we all have that same attitude.

  74. queuno
    May 2, 2007 at 1:38 pm

    News articles in the desnews quoted Jan Shipps today. She is mentioned as “a consultant” on the documentary but didn’t appear (perhaps by choice, I gathered).


    She is quoted as saying that the documentary is much better than Krakauer’s book or pre-Olympic descriptions of the Church.

  75. Katie
    May 2, 2007 at 1:42 pm

    “My only serious objection is to the inclusion of the one woman’s characterization of parts of the temple ritual we most specifically covenant not to disclose!”

    I did not go through the temple pre-1990, but I have a general understanding of the previous “penalties.” But it is my impression that the penalties were preformed to symbolically show what would happen if you revealed the signs and tokens (which you did specifically covenant not to reveal). But did you actually covenant not to reveal what would happen if you did reveal? What I mean is, today you covenant not to reveal the signs and tokens, but you don’t covenant not to reveal, that you covenanted not to reveal. So was there really a specific covenant not to reveal the penalties, or are you just putting them under the edict umbrella of “do not discuss the temple outside the temple?”

  76. May 2, 2007 at 1:42 pm

    Amy, your comment is a good reminder to me, too. When I get disgusted with the endless stream of silly Mormon-mocking letters to the Tribune here, I need to remember how much more direct the hatred can be where you are. And I’m proud of the Christian ministers here who don’t put up with the nonsense some of their brethren want to promote — the directors of the Salt Lake Theological Seminary, for instance, refused to distribute the DVD, and groups of Protestant ministers have stood literally arm in arm on the Main Street plaza to demonstrate their disapproval of other “christian” actions. This is especially admirable when you realize how often the very same ministers are castigated by misinformed Mormons (the “igner’nt” ones, to use our local accent) who can be as blindly bigoted against other churches as some of them can be toward us.

  77. queuno
    May 2, 2007 at 1:50 pm

    Katie – Your more specific statement is true.

  78. manaen
    May 2, 2007 at 1:51 pm

    70. & 76.
    Re: Mormon-mocking, direct hatred, and persecution. It used to be much worse and the improvement was noted a century ago by B. H. Roberts. Back then, so many false reports about us were coming out of Salt Lake that the First Presidency published “An Address to the World” to answer them. The Ministerial Association of SLC then published their review of that Address. B. H. Roberts then answered their review in the 1907 M.I.A. conference. Here’s an excerpt.. I particularly enjoy his phrasing in the last five sentences (“But our experience…).

    “These gentlemen reviewers express two fears. One is that they will be charged, because of issuing this review, with misrepresentation. Well, I don’t wonder at that, and I think we have proven that you have misrepresented. But they also fear that we will charge them with persecution. Gentlemen, we acquit you of the intention of persecution. When the Revs. Phineas Ewing, Dixon, Cavanaugh, Hunter, Bogart, Isaac McCoy, Riley, Pixley, Woods and others carried on an agitation in Missouri against “Mormonism” and the “Mormons” that resulted in burning hundreds of our homes and driving our people—including women and children, remember—to bivouac out in the wilderness at an inclement season of the year; when the mob incited by these reverends, your prototypes, gentlemen, laid waste our fields and gardens, stripped our people of their earthly possessions, keeping up that agitation until twelve thousand or fifteen thousand people were driven from the state of Missouri, dispossessed of several hundred thousand acres of land—two hundred and fifty thousand acres, to be exact—which they had entered, and rendered them homeless—we might call, we do call, that persecution. When the Rev. Mr. Levi Williams led the mob that shot to death Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum Smith in Carthage prison, and when the Rev. Mr. Thomas S. Brockman led the forces against Nauvoo, after the great body of the people had withdrawn from that city, and expelled the aged, the widow and the fatherless, and laid waste the property of the people—we think we are justified in calling that persecution, of which right reverend gentlemen were the chief instigators. And when in this territory some years ago one wave of agitation followed another, of which your class, and some of you, were chief movers, until a reign of terror was produced, and a regime was established under which men guilty at most of a misdemeanor, could nevertheless be imprisoned for a term of years covering a lifetime, and fined to the exhaustion of all they possessed, under the beautiful scheme of segregating the offense into numerous counts in each indictment; and when in that reign of terror women were compelled to clasp their little ones to their breasts and go out among strangers, exiled from their homes—we might be inclined to call that persecution. But our experience has been such that we scorn to call such attacks as this review of yours persecution. It does not rise, gentlemen, I assure you, to that bad eminence. So we acquit you of any intent in your review to persecute us. You need not fear that such a charge will be made, we are not so thin-skinned as all that. Besides, gentlemen, your power is no longer equal to your malice, and so we do not believe you will ever be able to persecute us again.”

    (Answer To Ministerial Association Review. by B. H. Roberts., Improvement Era, 1907, Vol. X. July, 1907. No. 9 .)

  79. D. Fletcher
    May 2, 2007 at 2:43 pm

    Givens explanation of “dancing” in the Church was, um, well, it was ridiculous.

  80. D. Fletcher
    May 2, 2007 at 2:47 pm

    Bill, during the MMM stuff, it was Debussy. Les Noces? or La Mer? something like that.

  81. Bill
    May 2, 2007 at 2:49 pm

    Only saw the very end on Monday, so I’ll have to watch it online.

  82. May 2, 2007 at 2:52 pm

    #71: I have some recent family experience with the issue of dressing the dead for burial. The only requirement is that those participating be endowed, even if less-active and not holding a temple recommend. I guess Toscano, having been excommunicated, is no longer technically endowed, but that does seem like a pretty hard-edged imposition of the requirement. I don’t think anyone from the Church checks on or approves those who dress the dead, so I suspect some family dynamics were at work in Toscano’s case.

  83. May 2, 2007 at 2:56 pm

    By the way, was anyone else distressed at Tal Bachman’s comment? “If my mission president had told me to blow myself up like a suicide bomber I would have done it.” That was juicy stuff for any journalist, but so far over the top that I wish the filmmakers had left it out.

  84. Natasha
    May 2, 2007 at 3:21 pm

    # 71. As someone who has participated in the ritual of dressing the dead in temple clothes, I can tell you that it is a sacred experience. I gasped when M. Toscano talked about how she was not allowed to do that–we believe in families, and we love even those who go astray. I would be devasted if that had happened to me.

    I was really moved by how former mormons such as Toscano and Southey discussed their love for the church and its rituals. Just because they have been excommunicated, does not mean that they are not still part of our community.

  85. mlross
    May 2, 2007 at 3:30 pm

    I cannot adequately articulate how moved I was by both segments of The Mormons. Over 35 years ago I served a mission for the LDS church and I was excommunicated two years after coming home. I attended BYU but transferred to the University of Utah after I was excommunicated. I stayed in SLC for almost fifteen years after being excommunicated. Needless to say I have a great many thoughts, feelings, and opinions about it all and it has taken years to work through it. Nothing that happened though has ever destroyed my underlying belief in the inherent goodness of the people in the Mormon Church. The PBS special only validated that long cherished belief. I know it is not easy to think that something you love has been misrepresented or not adequately or accurately expressed.

  86. Jennette
    May 2, 2007 at 3:34 pm

    I’ve only seen Part One so far, and thought it very interesting. After reading the discussion here I’m looking forward to seeing part two. I was intrigued by the artwork used in part one and did a little digging about the artists only to happily find out that (like myself) another former Provo native and Wasatch School alum, J Kirk Richards, is the artist for the piece they used when representing Moroni–the figure whose hair sticks out (how to explain that better?). I just wanted to send my congrats to Kirk on his talent, and to let other intrigued viewers know that it looks like the original is for sale at his website: jkirkrichards.com

  87. May 2, 2007 at 3:36 pm

    Amy, yes, she had covenanted not to reveal them.

  88. BBELL
    May 2, 2007 at 3:36 pm

    I have some time to really write down my gut reactions.

    I am actually surprised at how well I responded to Toscano. The only thing that really bothered me was the violence comment which unless I am mistaken she was neither shot, stabbed, or beaten by the Church Court.

    From watching her and her comments about the temple etc I thought to myself that this is a sister with a testimony who got off track doctrinally and because of pride got sideways with the Hierarchy and local leadership and could someday return.

    I hope she does return someday and her story can come full circle.

    I had a similar reaction to Southey as well. I know less about him but I found myself in sympathy with him.

    Bachman sounded like a lunatic. His mission exp in a jungle is not typical and his suicide bomber comment was playing for his secular buddies and the known biases of PBS

    Missionaries in Ghana: Loved it. I served in South Africa and can relate. Saw G lines on the African Elders. Again can relate

    Jensen: Were do I start? Amazing performance under pressure. He Exp the gift of tongues in Germany. I wished he would have used those words. Strong from beginning to end….. Shows that Dems can have testimonies (I already believed that FWIW)

    Lantos family: Strong. Seemed a bit non-typical lots of kids, obvious wealth. One of “those families” Dad was probably bishop SP etc at one point. Felt HG strong during the sick daughters comments an singing. The daughters looked Ethnic LDS to me

    Women in the church: Weak. Saw liberal PBS bias running thru the segment. Was waiting for an ad run by NOW to pop up. A LDS Female MD strong comments but not typical. Needed some SAHM moms from middle income 40-80K homes for balance. Prozac comments silly. Need a reference on the LDS women work as much as none LDS women. Not my Exp in the church.

    Blonde dad with 7-8 kids. Saw PBS bias again. Focused to closely on his face. I got the sense they were trying to protray his unfortunate final childbirth exp and somehow the result of fanatic beliefs driven by his faith and testimony. Those whacky fecund Mormons

    Sister Stevenson: Strong, very strong. Loved the genealogy bit. Loved the testimony, loved the conversion story. Liked the young white couples raptly watching her talk. She reminds me of some of the Xhosa mamas I knew in South Africa. Loved the LSD line. Would enjoy her in my ward…

    Needed more comments from middle income families with 3-5 kids. Needed some unmarried SW. Also needed more Hispanics either in the US or in SA. To many non-typical types in here. Artists, academics, authors, Musicians etc. Saw PBS intellectual bias here. Needed run of the mill corp workers and small biz types for a real feel

    On whole good with the exception of the areas above were the mask of objectivity at PBS started to slip a bit.

  89. May 2, 2007 at 3:38 pm

    I mean Katie, #75

  90. a Pope
    May 2, 2007 at 3:40 pm

    After having watched the show, the I am most disappointed that a documentary with the express intention of dispelling myths (or educating about) about the Mormons failed to include either the Wentworth Letter of the Articles of Faith.

    I think much of the focus of the show was on tertiary aspects of the Mormon Faith, without covering the basic core beliefs that we all hold dear. How could someone who truly wants to understand or describe a religion miss something so central?

  91. May 2, 2007 at 3:57 pm

    a Pope,
    Of course the documentary left things out. The first half had a very clear focus: 19th-century LDS history. The second half was more diffuse, but its focus seemed to be the lived experience of LDS today. Neither significantly addressed LDS doctrine or belief. I don’t recall any mention (if there was any, it was glancing) of the WoW, which is one of our more distinctive current practices. There was minimal attention paid eternal progression, and minimal on consecration. That’s not to say these aren’t relevant, just that they weren’t within the thesis around which Ms. Whitney and PBS structured the documentary. I, too, would have left some things out she included and included some things that she left out. But I trouble saying she made poor choices; this wasn’t, after all, Mormon Theology 101.

  92. tj
    May 2, 2007 at 3:59 pm

    i will wait for the “book” to come out—books are ever so much better than most movies
    the movies had a lot of “pretty” but not much else
    so we force dead people to accept baptism for the dead
    or at least thats what i heard
    i’d give it a 65 out of 100

  93. KLC
    May 2, 2007 at 4:09 pm

    Did someone really, truly name their son Timber Dick?

  94. Matt W.
    May 2, 2007 at 4:10 pm

    Something just occurred to me. Is Terryl Givens a democrat? I was just noticing that typically more face time was given to the respondent if they were a democrat? (Jensen over Holland, for example) Terryl could clench the theory for me.

  95. jimbob
    May 2, 2007 at 4:18 pm

    “Bachman sounded like a lunatic.”

    I sometimes get the feeling that this guy, along with Steve Benson, wouldn’t know what to do with himself if he wasn’t the semi-celebrity he seems to be in the organized ex-mormon world. He’s big on hyperbole generally, and typical FARMs bashing, and his acolytes seem to really eat it up. Last night was probably the most tempered I’ve ever seen him, actually.

    But more importantly, his abject vitriol for all things Mormon has made it difficult for me to listen to BTO and The Guess Who without a small level of ambivalence, because I find myself thinking during the songs, “These guys are related to that Tal Bachman guy.” Probably a little unfair on my part, I’m sure.

  96. Amy
    May 2, 2007 at 4:22 pm

    Wait a mintue, wait a minute….

    Who is a democrat in the documentary? Jensen is? Wow! That surprised me!! I am not familiar with people’s politics out west so this is all news to me!

  97. Craig V.
    May 2, 2007 at 4:22 pm

    Viewing the documentary with non LDS eyes, I found the second part in many ways more troubling than the first. That’s not to say I wasn’t moved by many things I saw. I wept like a baby during the telling of Charity’s story (don’t tell DKL, he believes that real men don’t cry). What I found troubling was the exposition on how the LDS church treats its “odd ducks”. I’m surprised that I don’t see more self examination on this thread flowing from that exposition. There’s great concern (and rightfully so) about whether or not the documentary was fair and accurate, but very little of “This is a slice of how the surrounding culture sees us. Where can we do a better job? Where are our blind spots? How can we grow in our love for our neighbors?” Forgive me if that’s judgmental, and let me be quick to point out that we evangelicals can also be cruel to our “odd ducks”.

  98. manaen
    May 2, 2007 at 4:23 pm

    Sudden realization — after watching all four hours of the program, reading countless comments in the ‘Nacle, in the middle of a comments page on pbs.org — the title of the show is MORMONS, not MORMONISM.

    This is a very good study of the *people* involved/touched/affected by the restored gospel (LDS, splinter, ex) and I’m touched by how it lets our humanity shine through — we aren’t caricatures in this show. From Elder Packer and the Church Historian to the widower to Katrina help to rueful musings of former members, we are shown respect and shown as thoughtful, feeling humans. I agree with many comments about emphasis and omissions (like Hugh Nibley and no one can live on borrowed light), but this study is about us, people, not our collection of facts, history, and scriptural and scientific supports. I believe Helen Whitney did a remarkable job of exploring *us*.

  99. manaen
    May 2, 2007 at 4:26 pm

    Craig, I’m a convicted felon, disfellowshipped, and divorced — an odd enough duck for you? You have no idea how much I appreciate every week how I’m included, nurtured, and protected within the Church.

  100. mlross
    May 2, 2007 at 4:28 pm

    “Bachman sounded like a lunatic” – I had the opposite response to Bachman when he talked about his mission. As a RM I could relate to the excitement and rush of being on a mission and serving the Lord. Granted I did it in TX and not the jungle. When he made the comment about blowing himself up I laughed out loud because I so understand where he was coming from. It was hysterical. Granted those not as familiar with the Church would not necessary respond that way. I never questioned though his genuine love for what he was doing.

  101. May 2, 2007 at 4:38 pm

    Matt W., I think I’m in love with you.

  102. drflykilla
    May 2, 2007 at 4:42 pm

    Sam B,

    My husband and I both felt disappointed that the documentary didn’t focus more on what we as LDS members believe now. I personally felt that a person unacquainted with LDS beliefs would have learned a little about LDS history and some of the more controversial beliefs, but not really learn what personal belief in the LDS church was all about besides the importance of families and temple worship (and dancing apparently LOL). You never really get a sense of what attracts converts to the LDS church aside from the “families are forever” meme.

    I think it would have helped if there had been a section on personal testimony, i.e. one’s relationship with God and Jesus Christ. Also, it would have been useful to discuss the LDS canon of scripture. It sounded like the LDS church cares for nothing but the BOM, and have no interest biblical study. I also would have liked a brief outline of what constitutes LDS worship on Sundays. Temple worship was well-developed, but there was almost nothing on what we do weekly aside from saying we spend all our extra time doing it ourselves as a lay ministry and showing a few clips of a sacrament meeting.

    There are othere things I would have liked to see covered as well such as the Relief Society and the Mormon Battalion, but I realize that Ms. Whitney had a limited amont of time.

    The good things? Like someone else mentioned, the comment on baptism for the dead by the holocaust survivor really touched me. I hadn’t really looked at it like that before and you could just hear the anguish in his voice over the thought that his dead relatives would be forced to give up their Jewish identity, like so many other times in history. I also felt great pity for the gay man that felt compelled to leave the church despite his obvious love for it because of his struggles with homosexuality. I don’t know if homosexuality is genetic or not (I suspect that there may be a genetic component), but certainly don’t envy those that have that burden to carry. I think the issues presented were pretty fairly expressed, although Toscano’s telling of her excommunicaiton was pretty over the top.

    Overall, it was a lot fairer than most media productions (TV or written) I’ve seen or read. But it wasn’t perfect–what can you do?

  103. May 2, 2007 at 4:48 pm

    Blind spots? Mine are generally right in front of my nose. Thank goodness for the Church and gospel of Jesus Christ. They help me reach just a little further beyond me every day.

  104. DKL
    May 2, 2007 at 4:50 pm

    One thing is sure: The documentary made Baby Jesus smile.

  105. dmm
    May 2, 2007 at 4:51 pm

    I think the Tillemann-Dicks are Democrats, too. But, frankly, if the Church\’s Democratic spokespeople are as articulate, sympathetic and powerful as Jensen, Givens and the TD sisters, then I don\’t mind giving them all the air time they want.

    P.S. If Lantos and his wife are Hungarian Jews, their descendants probably aren\’t \”Ethnic LDS,\” at least on one side of the family…

  106. Adam Greenwood
    May 2, 2007 at 4:54 pm

    “I don’t think evangelicals are the audience for “The Mormons” any more than Mormons are. The audience aimed for seems to be mainstream Americans, the kind of relatively bright and informed people who generally watch PBS.”

    Evangelicals aren’t dimwits or ignorant. Bright people can believe stupid, nasty things.

  107. Craig V.
    May 2, 2007 at 4:57 pm

    Manaen (#98),

    I have some idea because I’ve read some very honest and moving posts from you. I’m always open, however, to hearing more.

  108. Adam Greenwood
    May 2, 2007 at 5:02 pm

    I gasped when M. Toscano talked about how she was not allowed to do that–we believe in families, and we love even those who go astray. I would be devasted if that had happened to me.

    Everything you say is true, but its also true that we believe in temple rites and ordinances. Loving those who go astray doesn’t mean indulging them, or pretending they haven’t strayed.

    Just because they have been excommunicated, does not mean that they are not still part of our community.

    In a sense it means exactly that.

  109. May 2, 2007 at 5:05 pm

    Adam, although I swore I would never respond to you again, I will have to point out that the context of Amy’s and my exchange were those who had distributed the recent anti-Mormon DVD, and members of organizations whose leaders prepped them with anti-Mormon church classes. Such people are not necessarily dimwits or ignorant (of which I did not accuse them, any more than I excluded Mormons from the description “bright and informed”), but, like Mormons, they tend to have their minds firmly made up about Mormons, and were not likely the target audience of “The Mormons” any more than are we. My opinion merely, not requiring words to be put in my mouth.

  110. jjohnsen
    May 2, 2007 at 5:07 pm

    Yeah, it surprises me that some people think Bachmans bomb comment is so far out. Did all the crazies get sent to Australia, because I had companions that sounded just like him (one particular ZL even said he would take an Uzi to a mall if the MP told him too, because it would send all those people to spirit prison where they’d have the best missionaries ever. I know Bachman is a famous ex/anti/whatever Mormon, but I didn’t feel it was put in there just to make a tie between religion and violence.

    And after reading BBell’s various comments, I’m pretty sure he’s not giving money during PBS’s pledge drives.

  111. Matt W.
    May 2, 2007 at 5:09 pm

    Ardis #100, Uh-oh, I must not have been a jerk enough lately. I’ll try harder to be more beligerent from now on.

  112. DavidH
    May 2, 2007 at 5:11 pm

    Craig V,

    I agree with you, we Latter-day Saints need much more self-examination about how we treat “odd ducks.” We need more humility as members (starting with me) and institutionally. I think the press release of the Church today about the program, which was not defensive in any way, is a good start.

    I was interested in Helen Whitney’s response when she was asked online at the Washington Post what her impression was about our religion after her three year study:

    “I was struck by the emphasis on certainty in your religion. I come from a tradition which encourages doubt and questioning. My own faith is inflected with doubt which I feel is intimately connected to my faith. However, I sense from many conversations with Mormon believers that doubt can be seen as undermining of the faith, even dangerous to it. When I went to my first testimonial meeting, and heard men, women and children describe their faith using the words ‘I know’ I was truly surprised. They didn’t use words like: I hope, I believe, I intuit, but the ubiquitous phrase I know. For some Mormons, this can be inspirational, and yet for others it can be intimidating and discourage them from voicing their own questions. Nonetheless, as I spent time in the Mormon culture I came to learn that their certainty is a complex many layered encounter with the divine.”


    I think she is right on the money when she says “certainty” is an expectation of our religious culture, and any form of doubt is regarded, culturally and generally, as weakness, even dangerous.

    “Certainty” and avoiding doubt generally seem inconsistent with self-reflection. I think it is a common view in the Church that the Church’s general leaders are never wrong about anything important; if anyone has ever been hurt by something approved by the Brethren, it is always (or almost always) the fault of the one hurt.

    But as Whitney also acknowledges, “I came to learn that their certainty is a complex many layered encounter with the divine.” There are levels of certainty and conviction (see the bcc thread about cafeteria Mormons). And, actually, it is acceptable to say “I believe” or “I feel” or “I have reason to hope” instead of “I know”, at least in some wards, branches and stakes. For example, when our stake presidency was recently reorganized by Elder Holland, one of the new counselors repeatedly used the phrase “I believe” in his testimony, and did not once say “I know.” I have not heard any criticism (or any indication that anyone else even noticed).

    My own faith is more like Whitney’s than the stereotypical Mormon’s. I am a believing skeptic, and on many= things, I lack certainty. For a long time, I felt like an “odd duck”–that I was inferior or inadequate because I did not have the apparently unwaivering and undoubting testimony of others in each and every truth claim of my religion. But I have since come to believe that Jesus meant what he said when he taught that all it takes is the faith of a mustard seed to move mountains and that if we “believe” in Jesus, we can be saved. And that this powerful gift of faith is not inconsistent with doubt, at least in the sense that faith is not “knowledge”, which means it is something less, which means at some level having faith must mean an acknowledgement that we lack complete certainty.

    As a political aside, I wonder, sometimes, if the love affair of US Mormons with George W. Bush is because he exemplifies in the governmental arena the type of certainty to which many Mormons aspire in the religious sphere. Whatever Bush’s faults, self-doubt is not one of them.

  113. Andrew H
    May 2, 2007 at 5:17 pm

    Jana Reiss’s comments:

    Generally very positive, said that she talked to Whitney off and on over the last couple of years about the project.

    An interesting rumor Jana passes on:
    “Yesterday I spoke with Helen’s good friend and college roommate (who works in religion publishing — small world, eh?), who told me that Helen has been “devastated” by PBS’s final cut of the movie. Helen apparently found it overly critical of the Church and fought hard to keep the perspectives of active, faithful Mormons. So I was expecting the first part of the documentary to be fairly muckraking. This opinion was also strengthened by the comments I heard from two conservative Mormons in the weeks before the special aired. They had seen portions of it and found it lacking. So, I was primed to be greatly disappointed. But I found it to be generally well-balanced, with multiple points of view showing that even among Mormons, there is a great deal of diversity about historical issues.”

  114. Janet
    May 2, 2007 at 5:30 pm

    My very bright, very evangelical dissertation director seemed to think the documentary made us look like the cult he used to think we were, before meeting a bunch of Mormons and becoming friends with us. I think Bachman’s wacko comment was the clincher, but the section on dissidents did not help, either. I think perhaps the documentary left him with the impression that events such as the foment of fear surrounding the September Six (on both sides, probably) represent the status quo rather than a really painful aberration thereof. I hope he rewatches it and pays more attention to the less shocking stuff representative of everyday life. Then again, he’d have been able to call out a glucose-infested piece as purely silly, so I’m trying not to dither myself over his concern too much. Drat.

    I do wish PBS had included more blue-collar folks (though I take slight umbrage at the implication that authors, artists, and intellectuals are somehow invalid and abnormal. It’s as normal to have them in a ward as a bricklayer) and more mainstream Mormons from outside the West. The bit about prozac and female pressure seems more a Utah thing than a general one; nobody in my non-Utah wards ever cared if I quilted or made jam. I doubt they care much here in SLC, either. Still, LDS women do seem to expect exert a lot of pressure on themselves even as leaders tell us to be kind to our own egos.

    A note on Margaret Toscano’s violence comment: it didn’t baffle or bug me like it did others, but I do think the metaphorical import of the statement rendered it a bit dangerous in the PBS general audience context. I agree that removing someone from their community while acting (possibly) falsely nice constitutes a type of violence, but it’s not what people think of when they hear the word “violence.” As BBELL and others make clear, the word denotes physical immediacy and bruises. There’s a real physicality to excommunication and there are emotional and intellectual bruises, no doubt, but the discussion wasn’t nuanced enough to make that clear. Her skill as a rhetorician might have run awry of audience in this case. I found it quite sad that her BIL excluded her from dressing her sister–especially since Ardis’ profoundly moving “Dressing the Dead” post made such an impact on me.

    I’d have liked to see more of Elder Holland. And I’d have loved to have seen an female leader from the GRS or GPP. Elder Jensen was great though–really must send that bundt cake.

  115. jat
    May 2, 2007 at 5:33 pm

    Reeg, who aaaaare these people??? Noone knows who you are talking about! (SNL Regis and Kelley skit)

    But seriously, my colleagues at the university today asked about the bias involved by the scholars in the documentary. Anyone to fill in the blanks?

    Daniel Paterson- BYU Professor of (Islamic Studies?)
    Ken Verdoia- Non-LDS, anyone know if he ever was?
    Michael Coe- Yale (assuming not LDS)
    Greg Prince- ?
    Terryl Givens- Mo or nonMo? He kept mixing up the “they”, but would occasionally slip and say “we”, but it wasn’t clear whether he was a practicing Mormon, ExMo, or Mormon by culture/heritage not by belief.
    Sarah Barringer Gordon ?
    Kathleen Flake ?
    Jon Butler?
    Michael Quinn (ex-Mo)

  116. m&m
    May 2, 2007 at 5:40 pm

    jat, there is a who’s who at http://mormoninquiry.typepad.com/mormon_inquiry/2007/05/whos_who_on_the.html. I thought it was quite helpful.

    I don’t know much except that Terryl Givens is a member.

  117. mlross
    May 2, 2007 at 5:41 pm

    #114 – there are backgrounds and interview narratives at http://www.pbs.org/mormons/interviews/ for most of the folks interviewed.

    Daniel Paterson- BYU Professor of (Islamic Studies?) – YES
    Ken Verdoia- Non-LDS, anyone know if he ever was? – NO he has never been
    Michael Coe- Yale (assuming not LDS) – assumed the same thing
    Greg Prince- LDS wrote a new bio of David O. Mckay
    Terryl Givens- LDS
    Sarah Barringer Gordon – don’t believe she is LDS
    Kathleen Flake – LDS
    Jon Butler – do not believe he is LDS
    Michael Quinn (ex-Mo) – YES

  118. It's Not Me
    May 2, 2007 at 6:00 pm

    I did not find Bachman’s comment representative of what I saw in the mission field. Like most missions, I’m sure, we had a wide variety of personalities. And some of them needed professional help. I never heard of anybody like that, however, and my immediate reaction to the comments was “this guy’s a loon-ball!”

  119. Margaret Young
    May 2, 2007 at 6:07 pm

    There’s also a post at BCC which gives more information on the interviewees. Greg Prince is the author of _David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism_–a real scholar on President McKay and all of the events of his lifetime, particularly regarding the priesthood restriction.
    Terryl Givens is quite a brilliant guy, and writes often about the Book of Mormon.
    Michael Coe is THE expert in Meso-American archaeology and a fine anthropologist, but he thinks Mormons are sorely deluded. (And he knows quite a lot about the faith.)
    Dan Peterson is the FARMS guy.
    Judith Freeman wrote a book on the MMM (historical fiction)

  120. Janet
    May 2, 2007 at 6:12 pm

    “It’s Not Me”–exactly my and Dh’s reaction. I think we both lost mouthfulls of potato chips with our gaping, “Whaaaa????” Plus I remember my MP being, if anything, too careful of our safety rather than flouting it at every opportunity. I think mine was fairly standard….

    I believe Kathleen Flake is a professor of divinity at Vanderbilt and that she is still actively LDS.

    I’m curious: does anyone know if Elbert Peck is still on the rolls? He was quite charming and sounded very fond of the church, I thought.

    Terryl Givens looked like Mer’s dad on *Grey’s Anatomy*. And who was the guy who looked so much like Elder Maxwell that I had a Lazarus moment?

  121. D. Fletcher
    May 2, 2007 at 6:16 pm

    Richard Ostling, TIME magazine’s religion writer, among other illustrious credits.

  122. Adam Greenwood
    May 2, 2007 at 6:42 pm

    Adam, although I swore I would never respond to you again

    Did I drive you to swearing? Dagnabbit.

    I’m sorry that misunderstood you.

  123. James M
    May 2, 2007 at 6:57 pm

    Tal Bachman would strap on a suicide vest upon request from the mission president. Half of my mission wouldn’t get up at 6:30 a.m. if our president promised two p-days a week. It seems like he was exagerating a touch.

  124. Geoff B
    May 2, 2007 at 7:01 pm

    Bbell, great comments in #88.

  125. plutarch
    May 2, 2007 at 7:02 pm

    Greg Prince: co-biographer of David O. McKay, Mormon but perhaps not entirely orthodox
    Terryl Givens: U. of Richmond prof., Mormon, prominent academic Mormon apologist; dancer?
    Sarah Barringer Gordon: non-Mormon, has written at least one academic book on Mormon history
    Kathleen Flake: Mormon, probably with Arizona roots (are you kidding? could she be otherwise with that name?); U. of Chicago-educated, expert on Smoot hearings, perhaps currently teaching at Vanderbilt?
    Jon Butler: non-Mormon, widely respected author/prof. on American religious history

  126. Craig V.
    May 2, 2007 at 7:13 pm


    I would love to explore with you faith and doubt, but I’ve already been a little too guilty of thread jacks. Hopefully, Kaimi will forgive a mini thread jack and allow one seed thought.

    One of Kierkegaard’s pseudonyms defines faith as ‘immediacy after reflection’. I’ve found much fruit in meditating on this definition. It makes faith a movement rather than something static. It’s a movement that Jesus seems to almost force. Mary comes to Jesus and informs him that the wine is gone – immediacy. Jesus says “Woman, what have I to do with you?” This forces reflection (doubt, confusion, even some pain). Mary tells those in charge of the wedding to do what Jesus instructs them – faith. The Canaanite woman asks Jesus to heal her daughter – immediacy. Jesus doesn’t answer her. She kneels before him and pleads. Jesus says, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” Once again, Jesus forces reflection (“has he rejected me, does he care, doesn’t he see the suffering of my daughter, is there no mercy for odd ducks?”). She responds, “Yes Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” Jesus says, “Great is your faith.”

    Perhaps this sheds some light on how certainty can be a complex many layered encounter with God.

  127. May 2, 2007 at 7:30 pm

    Tal Bachman would strap on a suicide vest upon request from the mission president. Half of my mission wouldn’t get up at 6:30 a.m. if our president promised two p-days a week

    Greatest one-liner this week, James M.

    Tal came across as a lazy spoiled kid from the suburbs — how dare anyone ask him to live in such a horrible place?! But he wasn’t there because of the alligators, he was there because people lived under those same conditions, and you can’t minister to the people without going where they live. Tal evidently didn’t aspire to Mother Teresa-hood, did he? And although his line about suicide-bombing was colorful, it didn’t sound to me as if even HE believed it when he said it.

    That’s exactly the kind of so-called anti-Mormonism that doesn’t bother me at all, because I think his whininess will inspire more guffaws than shock.

  128. jat
    May 2, 2007 at 7:40 pm

    Margaret, Plutarch, M&M, Janet, mlross, Ardis and D Fletcher,
    THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH for the info and links.
    T&S and its bloggers are lifesavers!

  129. manaen
    May 2, 2007 at 7:54 pm

    Craig V.

    96, now 97, maybe there’s less discussion here about how to acccomodate the odd ducks because, to a certain extent, we are the odd ducks in the Church — we already know how to accomodate us.

    98, now 99, re-reading my comment, it seems much more flippant than I’d intended. I meant no offense and I hope you take none. Thx for your gentle response in your 106, now 107.

  130. Keith
    May 2, 2007 at 7:55 pm

    The program is, of course, The American Experience and Front Line and so focused on the Mormons in the USA. Given that, the international Church (aside from the references to missionaries in foreign lands and to the Church in Africa) didn’t have much air time here. Interestingly, when they spoke of aid going to all sorts of people in times of disasters, I thought they’d talk about the aid given to the tsunami victims in Asia and the Pacific. But then, I’m in Hawaii. When they turned to Katrina, I thought, ‘Oh yeah, there was that’. Location and perspective are big players. I wonder in a decade or so whether the focus on American saints will be seen as a necessary limiting focus or, instead, myopic. Some of the issues — such as the disciplining of dissidents — just simply aren’t on the radar screen for Saints in, say, New Zealand, Mongolia, or Indonesia. In many respects life for Saints outside America is very different and some of what are “controversies” in the US are not so for them.

    Anyway, this isn’t so much a criticism as an observation/reminder that more Saints live outside the USA than in it and that this mostly left them out.

  131. It's Not Me
    May 2, 2007 at 8:06 pm

    When I heard the Jewish man give his perspective on baptisms for the dead, I too thought that was something I had not considered. The more I thought about it, the more I thought that he really is not any different than anybody else, is he? I mean, what committed Prostetant or Catholic or whatever couldn’t lay claim to the same perspective: that they wouldn’t want descendants thinking that they are no longer ____________ because an ancestor is listed on the Mormon roles?

    Couldn’t that reasoning then be applied to anybody? “We’re a devoted atheist family, and we don’t want people thinking that we have Mormon blood in our line somewhere.”

    I’m still not convinced that the perspective is valid (though I’ll concede the feelings are real and sincere). If the LDS church is not true, then who cares. If it is, then it’s the right thing to do.

  132. manaen
    May 2, 2007 at 8:10 pm

    A question that’s been forming for a while and sharpened by Betty Stevenson’s comments on her genealogy:

    Consider that:
    * We speak of the family as the basic unit of the Church. A *unit* instead of the basic group in the Church..
    * Comments about our cohesiveness, sometimes stretched to lack of individuality, are common about us
    * As Betty Stevenson noted, we feel a kinship, a drive as we find and seal our ancestors to us.

    Jesus prayed as he worked out the at-one-ment, “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one (John 17:20-22)

    Could the examples I cited be indications of Christ’s atonement working in us so that we become part of the answer to His prayer for our one-ness? Even if we’re not thinking of fulfilling His atonement, is this not what happens as the gospel helps us to eliminate barriers, serve each other, love each other?

  133. Craig V.
    May 2, 2007 at 8:25 pm

    Manean (#129),

    I was not offended. It seems to me that as I read the New Testament, all of God’s children are odd ducks. This very truth, however, can work the kind of self examination that makes us sensitive to the pain of those on the edge of our community.

  134. May 2, 2007 at 11:22 pm


    I agree with you, listening to Tal made me think: “how does he hope this will come off?” His comments sounded as if he intended them to be grandiose or shocking but they came off as melodramatic and hyperbolic.

    Many Others–

    Many here and elsewhere have commented on Whitney’s choice to emphasize polygamy and MMM. I think I can understand polygamy because it was such a vital and complicated aspect of Mormonism during the Church’s early days. She might have felt that anything less than a fairly marked emphasis on polygamy would unfairly overlook a formative and vital aspect of the early Church.

    I have a harder time, however, understanding the emphasis on MMM. Krakauer’s hypothesis notwithstanding, I think it is difficult to rationally argue that MMM was a formative episode in Church history or of the Church’s character. Certainly it stands out as a terrible tragedy, and it shows with frightening starkness that some who claimed to be saints could act like devils. But whereas much of Whitney’s show helped us see what makes Mormons tick, the focus on MMM seems almost sensational since those who dwell upon it the most are folks like Bagley who want to huff and puff and lay the blame at Brigham’s feet. It is certainly important and tragic, and it ought not have been overlooked, I suppose, but it does not seem to me to warrant attention paid it–especially since time (only four hours) was so precious.

  135. May 2, 2007 at 11:51 pm

    Also interesting: I was the token Mormon at the hospital where I just finished rotating (in PA) and I had a few people come up to me on Tuesday and Wednesday to ask what I had thought about the show. I think the exposure has been pretty widespread.

  136. m&m
    May 3, 2007 at 12:52 am

    I don’t know if this is along the lines of what you have been thinking about, but I wrote an Easter piece about reconciliation in our relationships here.

    As to Sister Stevenson, I was so touched by her faith in the principle of being saved only with her family members. As hard as her family life was, she let her heart turn to her fathers, and I sense a sort of change happened in her heart. What a testimony!

  137. Eric E.
    May 3, 2007 at 1:12 am

    what was anyone’s thoughts on Elder Jensen mentioning the “entering into an agreement” with the jewish faith to cease doing proxy baptisms for jews? Doesn’t it seem logical that if the practice is the right thing to do, then we should do it for all? Why are jewish people less “deserving”?

  138. It's Not Me
    May 3, 2007 at 1:20 am

    #137 – This fits right into my comment in 131. I’m not sure where you’re going with your question, but it does seem to me that the logical thing would be to either not do baptisms for the dead for any group w/o their permission, or do it for all peoples regardless of objections. Either way, I don’t see any reason why any one group of people should be given special consideration over any other group in this regard.

  139. It's Not Me
    May 3, 2007 at 1:22 am

    I also noted that Elder Jensen used the term “arrangement” and not “agreement.” With him being a former attorney, I think he chose that term advisedly, perhaps because after that “arrangement” there were Jewish names that slipped through for some time.

  140. m&m
    May 3, 2007 at 1:36 am

    I sort of saw it as a way to keep a bridge rather than burn it. There is more to consider than just getting names done…the relationships we seek to build with living people matters, too. The first emphasis in temple work is on families anyway, and converts who were Jewish can do their families. Obviously the Lord can and will make provisions, as there is a lot of work that will yet need to be done during the Millenium. I actually think it says a lot to see the respect the Church has with a sensitive situation. We don’t barge into a nation that doesn’t want proselyting even though we believe all nations should hear the word; we don’t force people to be baptized even though we believe it’s an essential ordinance; and we seek not to trample what is sacred to others. Makes sense to me, really.

  141. May 3, 2007 at 6:48 am

    Eric E., the Jewish people are different, in this narrow case: the arrangement applies to victims of the Holocaust, not all Jews. That group was targeted for physical annihilation simply because they were Jews, which began with compiling lists of their names; the perception was that they were being targeted for annihilation a second time, beginning with compiling lists of their names, by wiping out their very identity as Jews. You and I know that wasn’t the intent, but it’s a logical perception when you realize that the lists that were being extracted for temple work were specifically lists of Holocaust victims. We ordinarily ask members not to do temple work for anybody born in the last 110 years unless they are family members anyway, and there we were, violating that general policy, even with the best of intentions, while close family members of those very victims are living and objecting. It seems a fair accommodation of feelings, for the time being.

    On the other hand, the situation with Holocaust victims isn’t unique. You can’t routinely clear a name for temple work for a person who was born in an Islamic country — try to do that, and you’ll get an error message telling you to write to a SLC address to explain your connection to that person. I’ve never dug into the full circumstances behind that; I ought to, just out of curiosity. It happened most recently while I was helping a client clear names for his Greek ancestors; while most of that family had been born in Greece proper, the father had been born on an island that had been Greek at the time but now belongs to Turkey. I wrote a letter tracing the blood relationship of my client to this man, and almost by return mail the church sent back a printed card allowing temple work. The computer can’t be programmed in the same way to bar Holocaust victims, of course, since there are no convenient geographic or name boundaries there.

  142. May 3, 2007 at 10:56 am

    There are a few Muslim countries that aren’t automatically barred from temple work. I keep hoping the family history department doesn’t realize those countries are Muslim or that will put a real damper on some of my friends’ temple work. Even people with a direct relation to Christans living in some Muslim countries haven’t been able to do temple work for those ancestors.

  143. DavidH
    May 3, 2007 at 3:58 pm

    As I reflect on the program, it strikes me that it is almost like so-called “360 degree” evaluation that we sometimes receive at work–a presentation of how we are perceived and evaluated from many different angles.

    There are many ways to respond to a negative evaluation or perception from someone else (or in this case, when it is mixed with a variety of viewpoints, some of which were positive, some negative, some mixed).

    One can be defensive and reject the criticism–dismissing or ignoring it (“I’ll never watch PBS again”). This is a normal human reaction even within our Church (“I’ll never go back to Church as long as she continues as relief society president!”).

    Or one can listen carefully to the critique, trying not to be defensive, and attempt to make it a learning experience. Sometimes the negative perception is on target. (“Maybe the bishop is right–I should try harder to be on time to welfare committee”) More commonly it is a mix (“My son is right, I do need to and can allow him more choices; on the other hand, as much as he and I might like, I can’t let him drive the car by himself until he gets a license and is insured”). Sometimes the criticism is flatly wrong, but there may be something we can do about it. (“It is not arbitrary for me to require people riding in the car to wear seatbelts, but I can do a better job explaining the rule and be more gentle when I remind them of the rule.”)

    I agree with the book of Hebrews when it tells us “Now no chastening [criticism] for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldest the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised [take thoughtful action] thereby.” Hebrews 12:11.

    I think the Church’s careful and cautiously worded response is the right one. In my opinion, we should not withdraw into a bunker, but constructively engage the criticisms by self-analysis, among other things asking ourselves why do people perceive things the way they do, and what can we do (besides responding heatedly) to correct the perception or fix a problem that really exists.

  144. Scott
    May 4, 2007 at 11:58 pm

    The transcript of Elder Jensen’s interview has me thinking about a tension between continuing revelation and hope.

    In the context of homosexuality and citing previous dramatic changes in Church position, the interviewer asks: “Is there any way, through revelation, this ban could be changed?” Elder Jensen concedes—as I find most Saints do—“I suppose anything could be changed.”

    That position—that technically speaking anything could be changed—is in a sense required belief to line up with AOF 9: “We believe that [God] will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God”.

    Continuing revelation is a core doctrine, but so too is hope. We also hold hope as an article of faith: “we hope all things.”

    So here are my two questions.

    1. Do we as Saints do a good job of brining the two beliefs together? Do we hope that God will reveal—soon—many great things? I suspect that at points before 1978 few Saints hoped for a lift in the ban; many may even have quickly dismissed the possibility just as many do today regarding changes in Church position on women or homosexuality.

    2. Certainly any Saint can hope for a revelatory change in some position or another, but at what point does that hope cross a line that’s met with official discipline? Elder Jensen also speculates that if one was “openly vocal” in advocating for gay marriage, that would likely warrant discipline. Seems like a hazy line to me. Can I be vocal to my friends and family as long as I don’t write an article for Sunstone? Elder Jensen speaks of his own periods of doubt; how much latitude do the rest of us get to wrestle with these issues?

    If these questions feel a little “third rail”ish then pull back to other positions which seem equally firm today but are more discussable; for example, consumption of coffee. The ban on coffee could be interpreted as having origins much like the ban on blacks holding the priesthood.

  145. Just A Girl
    February 13, 2008 at 1:55 am

    Despite the fact that the translation from Swedish might leave a little room for interpretation, I respectfully correct poster #14 in the lyrics to the Christian hymn, \”How Great Thou Art\”….then SINGS my soul….not then SINCE my soul. Reading up on the original Pastor who lyricized the now-famous hymn might also be edifying.

    I enjoyed the documentary…..I\’m sure I\’m already being vilified amongst readers of the board but I have always been very enmeshed in the Church. I think the program was very well done. I\’ve watched it twice now — in its original airing and again this week.

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