Whorled View

February 8, 2008

Watch the Anti-Mormon-flavored PBS program “The Mormons”, or not

If you missed it 10 months ago don’t despair … recently reshown (as was “September Dawn”) to coincide with Romney’s epic struggle against the msm-nominated McCain , you can watch it Monday night on PBS.

What am I talking about? I’m talking about the most one-sided and history-selective treatment of the Mormon church that has ever been wrongly portrayed as a balanced treatment of the church. I actually don’t have a problem with all the anti-Mormon media that honestly admits that it intends to be highly critical and not give a balanced view because at least those treatments are at least honestly disrespectful. I’ll take honest disrespect over dishonest respect any time of the day.

But this one pretends to be something that it isn’t: Balanced. Some history: A couple years ago producers of the PBS series “American Experience” approached the Mormon church with a proposal to produce a “balanced” view of the Church in a 2 part documentary. Church leaders obliged and were interviewed as promised. Boy were they surprised when it aired.

Apparently “balanced” meant that they would give the same amount of time to a couple church leaders and BYU professors, as with excommunicated members, as with apostate ex-mormons, as with a couple of non-mormon intellectual critics, as with a couple evangelical anti-mormons, as with a non-representative members who made bad decisions or had ideas that weren’t backed up by official doctrine, and then they gave like 5 minutes to one good-representative lds family (out of 4 hours). So if you combine the time spent on negative and critical messages compared to positive messages the ratio was something like 5:1.

That would be fair I suppose if the church does 5 times more damage than it does good, but if you look at the statistics of Mormon communities you’ll find quite the opposite dynamic: the presence of the Mormon church (at least statistically when you look at family values, crime, suicide rates, graduation rates, education, etc) has a tremendously positive effect on communities. Christ said “By their fruits shall ye know them” (what I like to call the divine litmus test), but for whatever reason this maxim is never applied to modern-day Mormons or modern-day Mormonism.

I blogged on the program when it first aired back in May of 2007. You can read my summary of it if you don’t want to waste your time to find out how one-sided and selective it was (see here for part 1 and here for part 2).

Don’t get me wrong – it was done very professionally by Hollywood standards, narrated by a well known actor (David Ogden Stiers, the uppity surgeon from Mash) with nice camera work, with the deceptive appearance of good research, commentary by self appointed experts sitting in comfy chairs in wooden walled offices, paranoia enabling sensationalism, and most of all: artistic liberties (ie. innuendo, fact wrangling, and most of all: extremely selective history coverage).

So if you watch it then please remember the divine litmus test (“By their fruits shall ye know them”) when you consider what most of your Mormon neighbors are about. What do THEY do? How to THEY act? Then consider the amazing social statistics of communities with lots of Mormons compared to anywhere else. If you’re an atheist and thus don’t like the idea of “By their fruits shall ye know them”, consider this adage: “Actions speak louder than words”. It means the same thing. Our beliefs guide our actions and words so you can really get to know us by what we do on a daily basis.

Otherwise you can watch a million programs called “The Mormons” and never still have a clue what a “Mormon” is. Don’t be scared … we won’t bite, and we probably won’t even convert you. In fact we’d love to give you the other side of this documentary so you will truly have a “balanced” perspective.

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12 Comments »

  1. To whom it may concern;
    Dear,sir or madam that might be true that today your community is better than others but you can’t wash the black spot from the history books probably there could be a little exaggeration but after all this is true.Will you deny that of course you can’t so that is my point and thank you for your explanation.
    Sincerely

    Comment by Sal — June 17, 2008 @ 2:43 pm

  2. Could you try reading Thomas Jefferson’s Bible and you would find out the truth since he was very learned man and writer of the declaration of independece and he was a man of the Enlightenment and knew many intellectual leaders world wide,Since he was brought up in the Church of England so he was well read of the Bible studies but his comments about the Bible are that you won’t like.
    Sincerely

    Comment by Sal — June 17, 2008 @ 2:54 pm

  3. Sal, thanks for visiting. You said “that might be true that today your community is better than others”.

    I feel the need to point out that I never compared the LDS community against “others”, but merely pointed out that statistically it appears that living LDS people statistically have largely a “positive effect” on most of the metrics used to assess the wellbeing of a society. I, in fact, don’t like making comparisons, and I prefer that the LDS community is blended enough in with the rest of the world that it’s successes will not be seen as “Mormon community” successes. In fact, it was this documentary that originally did the comparing and if a comparison of communities is to be done at least it should have been with respect to acts and character of living Mormons which aspect got at best a cursory nod.

    Comment by lullabyman — June 21, 2008 @ 7:15 pm

  4. About Jefferson’s view of the Bible … can you please elaborate? I’m guessing, just off hand, that his views of the Bible are much closer to LDS beliefs than his view are to Mainstream Christian beleifs, and certainly closer than they would be to Fundamental Christian beliefs.

    Comment by lullabyman — June 21, 2008 @ 7:24 pm

  5. Jefferson was a deist and didn’t subscribe to the Christianity. Deists basically believe in a creator, but it stops there. There is no interest in mankind, or intervention, etc. Jefferson was very much a fan of Jesus Christ though. While not believing in his divine nature, he did believe he provided the most comprehnsive, unique way in which to treat other human beings and live.

    Most LDS people I have know are good people. I haven’t lived in or near Utah, but seems they are quite active in helping people and doing good things. That being said, I have a problem with people saying Mormons are Christians. They aren’t. They may use some concepts and Jesus in their theology, but its an obvious pick and choose theology. If you take away or add to Christianity as much as they have, its not the same religion. You could say the same thing about Christianity and Judaism I suppose, but no one ever really makes that distinction.

    D

    PS. I’ll have to watch the PBS program. I missed its original airing. I’ll see if I can find it on net.

    Comment by Daniel — July 9, 2008 @ 3:40 pm

  6. Dear Daniel-

    Jefferson indeed was a Deist, but he was also a devout Christian. Consider these words that Thomas Jefferson wrote on the front of his well- worn Bible: ‘I am a Christian, that is to say a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus. I have little doubt that our whole country will soon be rallied to the unity of our Creator and, I hope, to the pure doctrine of Jesus also.’

    So you need to revise your definition of a “Deist”. There are different levels of deism, from strong deism (God planted DNA on earth and has done nothing since), and weak deism (God administers a plan of salvation for mankind but is only involved with mankind on sort of an executive level, largely leaving mankind to suffer the day-to-day inequities of life on their own). I think you’ll find many Christians today are Christian Deists as was Jefferson.

    Regarding your opinion that Mormon’s aren’t Christian because they “pick and choose theology” (according to your words), in reality LDS doctrine is the only Christian-based theology which claims to be “restored” by God instead of “reformed” by a “reformer”. Protestant Churches however claim to be “reformed” out of corrections they made to the teachings of the Catholic Church. Here’s a cognitive exercise for you:

    Reform = men pick and choose their gospel. Restored = God brings back his original gospel. More than any other concept in the LDS theology this is what really sets the LDS doctrine apart from the doctrines of other Christian churches, and it is what non-Mormons find most offensive: that God would actually have the nerve to call all other churches wrong while restoring the original truths to a young uneducated boy. Reformers called themselves Reformers for a reason, as did Joseph Smith call himself a Restorer for a reason – but according to LDS theology Joseph Smith really was just a conduit through which God did the restoration.

    For example …

    It’s true that LDS people don’t believe in some specific mainstream Christian beliefs which we believe deviated from the original nature and doctrine of Christ … deviations like: the Trinitarian doctrine (from Nicene and Athenasian Creeds from 325 AD in the council of Nice, France), baptism by sprinkling (evolved during the “holy” wars), vain babblings (speaking-in-tongues when there is no interpreter nor understanding), priest craft (preaching for money), priesthood by election, halos, winged angels, celibacy, self-appointed authority, indulgences, and a low regard for the efficacy of works and prayer. The post-apostolic introduction of these and other doctrines into Catholicism and persisted into mainstream Christianity can be traced and identified throughout documents and archeology of the Dark Ages, and are widely accepted as non-apostolic among many academic historians who’ve studied the sequence of events.

    The Apostle Paul foretold your so-called “pick and choose theology” – but that theology began within a generation after Christ’s resurrection once His authority was taken from the earth (Galatians 1:6-8 and 2 Thessalonians 2:3). It was at that point (shortly after the resurrection) that the churches on the earth did “pick and choose theology” as you put it, and ushered in what all mankind now calls “the Dark Ages”.

    In fact, all the very reformers of mainstream Christianity, whom both you and I revere, plainly testified through their reforming efforts that a great apostasy did indeed take place, for without an apostasy they would have had no need to reform the doctrine according to how they personally interpreted the scriptures.

    It’s only been recently that modern Christians now say that the only important doctrines are 1) saved exclusively by grace, and 2) belief in the trinitarian interpretation of God, and 3) that scripture and all similar type of revelation ended with the Bible. Only recently has mainstream Christianity rationalized that one’s identity as a Christian can be based entirely on these three points and largely ignoring the other 99% of the bible.

    In addition to an apostasy, Paul also foretold of a “restoration of all things” to occur just before Christ’s return (Acts 3:21). The LDS church is the only church which claims to have that restoration, whereas all other churches claim merely to have “reformed” the gospel based on the opinions of their “reformers”. It’s not just a matter of semantics … the words “reform” and “restore” are exact in their meaning and it is no accident that “reformers” chose that term for who they were and what they were doing instead of using the words “restore” or “restorers”. These terms plainly define the most significant differences between the LDS church and mainstream Christianity.

    I guess what I’m saying is that given this biblical and uniquely LDS doctrine of a literal restoration, Mormons alone are semantically justified to criticize someone else’s claim to pure and uncorrupted Christian beliefs, *** BUT LDS WILL NEVER DENY SOMEONE’S CLAIM TO BE A CHRISTIAN ***. Again, MORMONS DON’T do that. Even though you may subscribe to an interpretation of the nature of God’s being which was invented long after Christ died Mormons are happy if you define yourself as a Christian so long as you have good fruits. Why? Because Christ said “by their fruits shall ye know them”. He never said by their doctrine will ye know them.

    That said, a person convinced against their will is of the same opinion still (and I have no doubt you’ll want to watch this show anyway). I’m sure you’ll enjoy the professional appearance and extremely selective history, not to mention all the interviews of people who do not represent the bulk of LDS people that you’ll never meet. Please, just do yourself a favor … follow the savior’s promised litmus test: “by their fruit’s shall ye know them”. We, the living descendants (me, my family, your LDS neighbors) are those fruits – not dead people who’s personal opinions and debated lives mean little in a church which holds the guidance and counsel of their living leaders over all those who’ve passed on to the other side, save Christ only.

    Comment by Lullabyman — July 9, 2008 @ 5:09 pm

  7. Well, Lullabyman, that was a great and logical response. I loved it!

    One thing I will add is that Christ in 3 Nephi 27 did say that his church shall be recognized by two elements, that it carried His name and that it would bear his doctrine. Only the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has both factors, not to be contentious, (which he condemns in that same chapter!), I just wanted to offer that by the doctrine, also, you shall recognize the true church.

    🙂

    Comment by packbaby — October 11, 2008 @ 7:44 pm

  8. Hello everyone,

    I just have a question..is it about Jesues or God? it seems that you people focus on Jesues much more then God Himself. Jesues was a messanger of God to his people am I wrong? when it is the created is greater than the creator???

    Comment by Mohamed — April 6, 2009 @ 9:16 am

  9. Good question, and not a simple answer.

    Mormons (LDS) worship God, not Jesus Christ, although we accept and reverence him as our Lord (meaning we are subject to him) and our Savior and Redeemer, the literal Son of God who personally atoned for the sins of man and broke the bands of death that we might be forgiven and return to God the Father. In LDS doctrine Jesus Christ is Jehovah, who acted in behalf of God the Father as the God of the old testament, and was the one whom people prayed to and whom they worshiped (Jehovah Witness, for example, who also consider the Father and the Son as separate individuals believe we should still worship Jehovah instead of God the Father which is different than Mormons believe). Since Christ came to earth, however, Mormons recognize that Jesus said to give all praise to the Father, and Christ gave us the pattern of prayer starting with “Our Father which art in Heaven”, although we pray in the name of Christ, ending prayers with the words “in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen”, Christ still being our mediator with the Father.

    In many ways since the Father and the Son are one in purpose and agreement and in likeness, and always have been (“if ye have seen me ye have seen the father” – John 14) praying to Jehovah in the old testament times was hardly any different than praying to His Father today although Mormons do believe them to be 2 separate and distinct individuals (not merely 2 different aspects of the same person as most Christians believe). But Jesus acted in behalf of his Father in the old testament, instead of as a mediator, which is what he does now.

    You might compare it to having a principal or headmaster (God) at school (earthlife) who is also the school’s owner (Creator of the earth), who has a son (Christ) who is exactly like the headmaster in absolutely every single way – whom the headmaster (God) trusts implicitly for that very reason. Therefore the headmaster (God) put his son (Christ) in charge for many years as the acting headmaster (God). At one point the father resumes his role as headmaster (God) while the headmaster’s son (Christ) attends the school himself as a kind of exemplary student, during which time he, as the exemplary student, passes a required test nobody else could pass because it was seemingly impossible (the test being his perfect life, atonement and resurrection).

    As a result if him passing the test, everyone else in the school who agrees to follow the son is allowed to graduate so long as they acknowledge what the son did and that he was the literal son of the headmaster. Meanwhile in accordance with passing the seemingly impossible test he then is allowed to have his own school (Creator of his own world) in which school he, the son (Christ), is the literal headmaster (God), not just acting headmaster. But after that point the son is no longer considered the acting headmaster (God) anymore in his Father’s school, which role he returned to his Father when he was tested. The students then honor and respect the Father as the acting headmaster (God).

    In other words, at any given time, the students only recognize and reverence only one person as headmaster (God). This is how Mormons claim to be monotheists, since “TO US” there is only one God.

    Despite having his own school which he builds and runs as headmaster, the son (Christ) does not however abandon his Father, our headmaster (Our God), but continues to assist his father as a mediator/teacher, his previous example as a perfect student being the example other students must follow.

    There are admittedly some erroneous conclusions you’ll come to if you take the above analogy too far … it is my own analogy and prone to all kinds of misinterpretations, but I think it describes fairly well the LDS belief in God and Jesus Christ and their roles in the plan of salvation and with regard who we worship and see as God.

    Comment by davea0511 — April 6, 2009 @ 5:58 pm

  10. I might also add that the analogy I gave above can be taken quite literally (so long as you don’t extrapolate extra doctrines that I didn’t specifically spell out). That’s because LDS people do in fact believe the very purpose God has in creating this earth is as a literal school for mankind, and he wants us to graduate onto bigger and better things. According to LDS belief this is what God delights in doing above anything else: helping the spirits of mankind (which are eternal) to develop Godlike qualities for the sole intention of spreading joy and goodwill.

    There are really 2 uniquely LDS scriptures that define this: “This is my work and my Glory to bring to pass the immortality [which gives you the ability to affect your surroundings] and eternal life [which means you can always continue to development] of mankind” (Moses 1:39) and “Adam fell that men might be, and men are that they might have joy” (2 Ne. 2:25).

    … just an interesting FYI.

    Comment by davea0511 — April 6, 2009 @ 6:46 pm

  11. what an [expletive] you are (updated to make it more family friendly – lullabyman)

    Comment by Anonymous — March 27, 2010 @ 5:52 pm

  12. Hi Jackie Owen, from Californaia, Utah, and now in South Dakota in “higher education”. Even though you post as “Anonymous” wordpress still lets the blog owners know who you are. I see you’re still very bitter against the Church. I’m sorry to hear that. I’m sorry you think I am an ***. I try to be respectful, and I expect my visitors to be the same. I don’t know why you said that though… could you be more specific? Best of luck to you.

    Comment by lullabyman — November 23, 2014 @ 1:16 am


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