Monday, April 30, 2007


PBS will be airing episodes on American Experience: The Mormons. They air tonight and tomorrow. The New York Times also has a review of the episodes. They appear to be well worth watching.


Bill said...

I didn't watch any of this program, admittedly, because the favorable NY Times review led me to believe it would be a largely hagiographic view of the religion, with the only criticisms being of views on homosexuality (which permits the Mormon Church to masquerade as a Christian religion). The liberal establishment actually has every reason to "mainstream" Mormonism because (1) it will serve to break down the separation of Mormons from the humanist/consumerist culture that turns one liberal; and (2) it aids the liberals larger goal of mainstreaming Islam (since Mormonism bears much in common with Islam). Creating the impression is Christian helps undermine Christianity, the most dearly sought goal of the left.

Alan said...

Well, I watched all but the beginning of the second night, as my 15 month old had her way with the remote control.

I will say that you are prescient in a couple of things. They did address the homosexual issue, of course, but were as even-handed as they probably could bring themselves to be. There were also a number of references to Islam throughout, even by Mormons themselves. I found that interesting.

They did unblinking coverage of the Mountain Meadows Massacre, with no real whitewash. They were also pretty straightforward on the polygamy issue. Brigham Young got quite a bit more of a pass than Joseph Smith did. The show did lack a strong critic of Mormonism with their evangelical scholar being surprisingly sympathetic (I guess if he wasn't, he wouldn't have been on the show).

I learned a fair amount, particularly about temple practices. They never did delve as deeply into the oddities of Mormon doctrine as I would have liked. I'm glad I watched it.

Bill said...

As I understood the NY Times review, Young was spared any link to the Mountain Meadows killings. While I think presenting that incident helps defuse the Mormon persecution mythology, I doubt the Mormons would really object to presenting it. The Old West had a number of massacres by various perpetrators, so it simply shows the Mormons as among others.

From what you indicate, I think I'm accurate in stating the program present Mormonism as part of Christianity (as opposed to the heresy that it is). The Mormons will take that. BTW, I passed a couple of their "elders" tonight. They were on their bikes and weren't close enough for them to attempt an approach. I have come to the point of having little interest in engaging their "missionaries." The fact is that it would take a great deal of time and a developed relationship to lead a Mormon to Christianity. That will never happen with their door knockers or their overseers. That is "casting your pearls" in my view, time better spent with those interested in the simple gospel message and not captive to cultic dogma.

Kurt said...

Alan, once again, you do not disappoint! I am really growing quite fond of your blog and appreciate your careful sense of humor that illuminates important ideas that would otherwise be boring and non-retentive. I find myself often contemplating what you write.

This broadcast was by far the best and most informative presentation I have seen from a non-Mormon. I hope those who watched realized that there were some falsehoods and exaggerations though.

Among other things, I wish they would have chronologized the legality of polygamy at initial practice; Utah statehood challenges because of it achieving illegality in the U.S. and not Utah at the time and the tremendous difficulty previously practicing church-members accommodated by voluntarily tearing their families apart after polygamy became illegal in the church.

Obedience to the law was, and is, one of our 13 Articles of Faith as written by Joseph Smith. It is, however, fairly safe to say that a large number of polygamy practicing church-members broke the law during the transition from defiance against one of many laws enacted specifically for the full-spectrum attack against the Mormon faith, to the acceptance that they were duty-bound as citizens to "obey, honor, and sustain the law" (Article #12).

I felt a sense of negative connotation throughout. Was this just me being oversensitive about my church again?

Notwithstanding, I’m not sure we could have asked for anything better. If anything, it may serve to knock a few of us partially pretentious Mormons off of our high horses and remember we are all sinners and our heritage was definitely imperfect, even dark on occasion, as well.

In defense, commenter #1 and others like him only think they are experts about us. They accept, repeat as fact and invent skewed, unsubstantiated and undefended information irresponsibly expressed by uninformed opponents of our church.

I would like to hear how they pray differently than us… We address Heavenly Father the way Christ told us to, we express gratitude, ask for what we believe we are in need of and a bit of what we want (sometimes more than we probably should), poor out our feelings, etc., submit to the acceptance of his will, then close in the name of our Savior.

I find it odd that a Christian could think it possible that some how that prayer is received and answered by someone different than who they pray to and receive answers from by using the same method; how any Christian could feel qualified to judge the validity of the life-changing event of accepting Christ by the same sacred and treasured method they experienced it in… But that’s just me. I am, admittedly, oversensitive on occasion.

Alan said...

Kurt, glad to have you back. I wondered if you would show back up. You are always welcome here, but you probably realize you will find little succor in these parts. I appreciate your views from the 'other side', though.

I understand how you felt a negative connotation, but from an outsider's perspective I assure you the overall presentation was positive.

The documentary was really interested in things from a historical (19th C forward) and sociological point of view. I would love to see an exploration of doctrine, for example, but that really was beyond the scope of interests of the broadcast. Still, some discussion of the historical claims Mormonism makes about America in light of archaeology would be useful (it received the briefest of mentions). Also, I would like to have seen some discussion of Smith's 'Reformed Egyptian', a language that never existed.

Bill, I don't believe you will have any success with an 'elder'. They are sent to teach, not to be taught. They also never know when they will be moved about, or who they will be partnered with. It's really more about giving them a baptism by fire in the faith that spurs stronger lifelong commitment. When I've studied with 'elders' and 'sisters' I try to ask questions they can't answer that might spur further thought.

Bill said...

The litany of heretical dogma propagated by the Mormon church is too vast to discuss here. Fundamentally, your church teaches that Christ is a created being, the literal offspring of "Heavenly Father" (noticeably not, God the Father, as taught in scripture) and "his wife"--yes, I know of Mormons' little-mentioned belief in "God's wife." Apart from the blasphemous and false assertion that God is a man of flesh from another planet with a literal wife, the assertion that Christ is created and not the incarnate and eternal God, is a heresy condemned by the Apostle John in his epistles. To assert such dogma is, as John stated, the spirit of the antiChrist.

I do not pretend to be an "expert" in even the Christian faith, much less the sad and innumerable heresies such as Mormonism that have arisen over the centuries. But I know its heresies sufficiently. Suffice to say, you neither believe in nor worship the God of the Bible, expressed in three persons. You do not believe in God the Son, Jesus Christ, come in the flesh as the ultimate revelation of God, as stated in John 1.

I do not worship "Heavenly Father", a grammatically invalid construction apart from its theological falsehood. I worship the Triune God, God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. Between your faith and mine there is "a great gulf fixed" in Mormonism's denial of the true nature of God. And no amount of secularist, academic documentaries or "good natured" exchange will change that.

That said, this is Alan's blog, not mine, and I'm sure he does not wish it to devolve into vituperous debate. I'll refrain from any further comment on the matter.

voice said...

I've never had the opportunity to study with Mormon missionaries. I did receive an account of doing so from a friend last year. The perspective of saying "it would take a great deal of time and a developed relationship to lead a Mormon to Christianity. That will never happen with their door knockers or their overseers. That is 'casting your pearls'" is something I hadn't thought of before.