Thursday, May 03, 2007

The Church on the PBS documentary

The church is being very open about the documentary and has not
dismissed it out of hand at all as one might expect, but has given it
relatively positive or neutral remarks, although pointing out that it
was incomplete.

This is quite a remarkable development, in my opinion. I don't know
that the church has ever been so open or positive about something that
spent so much time exploring controversial aspects of the church.
Perhaps they realized that criticizing the documentary would do more
harm to their image than good.

SALT LAKE CITY 2 May 2007: PBS has produced two thought-provoking
programs about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Aspects of the faith covered in the programs were broad and diverse,
and the broadcasts are resulting in an equally diverse range of
opinions and responses from viewers.

As she has done in similar documentaries, producer Helen Whitney
probes at both the center and the edges of Church history, belief, and
personal experience. Members, former members, scholars and Church
leaders all presented their perspectives. Those interviewed in the
program — even though they hold different points of view — were
articulate and measured in their comments, giving serious thought and
consideration to the topic.

But even four hours and numerous interviews can't cover everything.
No doubt, some Church members will feel essentials were left out (the
restoration of priesthood authority and a fuller description of
women's experience in the faith) and non-essentials left in
(polygamist Warren Jeffs, for example). In a similar way, the
historic practice of plural marriage and the tragedy of Mountain
Meadows are far from the whole story of Church history or the
experience and faith of members today. (The entire interviews of
Church leaders are available on the PBS website at

But addressing these and other topics in a forthright way seems to
have allowed viewers less familiar with the Church to see a new and
broader dimension of the Church, shorn, perhaps, of one-sided
stereotypes and caricatures.

At a time when significant media and public attention is being turned
to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and when news
media is so often accused of superficiality in its coverage of
religion, this serious treatment of a serious subject is a welcome

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