Discussions of The Mormons are all over the place. Is it weird that the first time I ever heard of the documentary was the end of last week? Let me opine briefly on what I thought, before I read too many other commentaries by people who can better articulate what I am thinking.
I mostly liked it and think it was long overdue.
I am kind of fascinated by the reaction people have had to our Church throughout its short history, and I don't just mean the negative reaction, although that part fascinates me the most. Join this newfound religion and leave England to follow a prophet who has seen God? Leave my wife and young kids to fend for themselves on the farm while I go on a mission for three years at a time? Pour tar over people and roll them in feathers? Issue an order to exterminate an entire civilization? Not elect somebody because of his religious affiliation? Teach anti-Mormon classes to the 7th graders at my church so they can approach their Mormon friends fully equipped with knowledge about horns on their heads and cultish behavior? Okay! Lots of people have said, Sign me up! I find it all very intriguing. I'm also kind of surprised when I hear that Mormonism is out of the mainstream. I suppose that's true in many places, but in my little world, I eatbreathesleep Mormonism and it's not obscure in the least. So I thought this program was overdue because it's time that a dialogue began about this young religion that reaches all corners of the earth and that stirs up such stong reaction.
I like knowing and learning about the history of Joseph Smith and the early Church. Sometimes I wish the Church was more forthright about mistakes made in the past because I feel like the truth has nothing to hide, but I understand the motivation of putting the best foot forward. I certainly don't feel the personal need to be defensive regarding polygamy, blacks and the priesthood, DNA evidence (note: I am not insinuating these are mistakes that the Church has made), or any other hang-ups some people have, and this is why: it's a revelation thing. I have strong, firm convictions that the Church of Jesus Christ is led by--who else?-- Jesus Christ, working through a living prophet and through relevation that each one of us can receive. Faith persists beyond societal pressures or scientific data or human error. I can't remember who said it last night, but I liked that part about how legitimate belief and participation in a religion cannot nor does not depend on empirical evidence. By definition, faith is "things that are hoped for, but not seen."
Abby and Nancy, you both mentioned that you thought the documentary was skewed and inaccurate. Please correct me if I'm putting words in your mouth, but I wonder if you felt that way because the Gospel was not presented as you are accustomed to perceiving it. Steve used the word "hollow." To those of us in the faith, the gospel of Jesus Christ is presented through the gift of the Holy Ghost. It is peace, it brings happiness, it offers hope. When everything is as it should be personally, the gospel is more than a history of events or a way of life or a group of people cleaning up after the wreckage of Katrina. It feels like truth, and it does not depend on empirical evidence. Attacks or criticism on these beliefs we value so highly therefore sometimes end up feeling like a punch in the gut.
Back to the documentary. Regarding the production value, I think it mostly cast a favorable light on Mormonism. Of course, everyone gets out of it what they want to get out of it. Haters probably got justification for hating, critics probably got justification for criticizing, believers won't stop believing. I wish the director had been more clear on who was speaking and how they came by their expertise on the subject. I would have liked to have seen fewer lengthy narrations by a couple of talking heads, and more contribution by more contributors. Maybe that's just because I get bored easily, and don't trust one-sided stories. I thought the absence of Jan Shipps was notable, although the credits listed her as a consultant. I thought Elder Jensen was thoughtful and well-spoken. I appreciated Elder Oaks' concession that the Mountain Meadows massacre was wrong on all fronts. I thought it was wonderful that the subject of eternal families was covered so thoroughly. If there is one message that I think we as a church ought to be broadcasting to the world, this is it. I saw my friends Mary and Craig Romney on tv! I'm sad for the child whose mother died in childbirth and whose father said some days he wouldn't do it again, but I was touched by the testimony that was shared in the telling of this story. If I think of more to say, I'll be back.