Monday, April 30, 2007

Frontline - American Experience

  • Tonight and tomorrow on PBS will be a two part series about the LDS faith. I'm not sure what to expect. From the video stream available on the web it sounds as if it has been well produced. But I am very mindful of the fact that it is produced by those outside of my faith, and may or may not be entirely accurate. I plan to watch it and see what they have to say. I pray that it will do more to open up dialogue than create contention.


Mimi said...

I've been reading some online discussions about it - it seems that it has been pretty well received by LDS people (not universally, and there were things that people went WHAT????? about, but I think that happens in all documentaries of this type). I'll be interested in hearing your thoughts.

Jaquandor said...

Ken Jennings has a take on this (and other issues pertaining to perception of Mormonism in America today) here.

I watched part of the documentary and, from a non-Mormon's perspective, found what I saw to be fairly even-handed.

Belladonna said...

Mimi -
I'll have more to say after seeing tonight's episode.

Kelly, THANK YOU for the Jennings link. I doubt I'd have ever seen his stuff otherwise, and I was pretty impressed - I'm sure I'll read more of his blog.

From the first segment I must say it WAS fairly balanced - although they definitely got a few things just plain wrong.

I was livid when they said Mormons consider Joseph Smith to be the Alpha and Omega. That's crap. We do revere Smith as a prophet and hold him in a very special regard, but we do not worship him. The whole point of this religion is for us to come unto Christ. The Savior alone is given the title of Alpha and Omega, and it is HIS church.

However, I was honestly impresssed about the balance with which the producers addressed the violence that occured both against and by Mormons in the early history.

And there was some other good stuff. I'm curious to see what the next piece has to offer....

Marie said...

They sure fixated on Prof Givens, which pleased me -- he's a well-spoken and respected scholar with a powerful faith, and as happy I was to hear his viewpoints, I worried that it almost undermined their objectivity to feature him so heavily!

I watched all four hours and I felt like it gave a good cross-section of both the attractive and the troubling aspects of Mormonism doctrine and history, in the eyes of insiders, outsiders, and those who have been in both camps. I didn't feel like my faith was being slammed or sugar-coated, which is the sign of a good documentary. Two of the historians they interviewed had given presentations to the little LDS history group I belong to (Quinn and Bushman), and as exciting as it was to see my beloved faith presented to many who didn't know about it, it was good to think of my co-religionists out there confronting things that we've avoided dealing with. I think it's the healthiest way forward and slowly but surely we're getting there.

I do get a bit tired of the church getting raked over the coals for insisting that gay members of the church remain celibate. I'm a single heterosexual member of the church who is prepared to go to the grave a virgin if I never have the opportunity to marry, which is looking increasingly likely at the ripe ol' age of 30 -- it is certainly sad and certainly hard, but tragic -- nah. I've a male cousin and an uncle who are gay. Neither were rejected by their LDS families. One chose to leave the church and act on his inclinations and one chose to stay in the church and be celibate. It's only anecdotal evidence, of course, but the first died miserable and sick from HIV, drugs, and cruel and manipulative partners, and the later is a productive contributor to his congregation and profession in Manhattan. While I'm sure there's pain there, the gospel promises the antedote to despair and hopelessness when life deals you a bad hand.

Sorry to ramble. There was nothing new there, but it was still thought-provoking. I love PBS. A nice companion piece was the Nova show that aired immediately beforehand here in SLC -- it was on how Newton, one of our great scientific minds, was obsessed with alchemy, religion, and the occult even more than with science. Interesting comparisons to the early "magical" days of Joseph Smith which many use to render the rest of his experiences and teachings invalid.

Belladonna said...

Well, after seeing the second part, I must say I thought it was more balanced than the first segment. There were still a few things I felt were portrayed inaccurately, particularly about the church courts and excommunication, but overall I thought it was reasonably well done.

I wish there were a bibligography of sources of information for some of the things they said. There were a few things I'd like to investigate further and some I KNOW were quite false. Still, I think it was a good forum for opening up some conversations.

When I was a little kid I had a dream one night that I have remembered vividly all of my life. I dreamed that I was in an elevator that was taking me to "Heaven". There were many different floors to choose from. Instead of having buttons marked with numbers, each floor had a cardboard sign with the name of a different denomination written in crayon. There was one for Baptist, one for Catholic, one for Methodist, one for Mormon, etc. (I'd never even heard of Orthodoxy back then or I'm sure there would have been one for that too!)

I got off on my floor that said "Mormon" and went into a large beautiful room that was supposed to be Heaven. Everybody was smiling and happy, greeting each other and rejoicing.

Then as I looked around the room I saw there were different doors all around. Every now and then these doors would open and someone would come in from different sides of the room. These were the people who had been on the same elevator going to different floors. No matter which direction or denomination they came from, they all ended up in the same room.

Even though I was only nine or ten when I had that dream, it was very powerful for me then. It remains powerful for me now.

I honestly don't know what I believe about how what we hold to be true in this life does or does not impact what becomes of our soul after we die.

I believe with all my heart that the Book of Mormon is a true record kept by ancient prophets telling stories of God's dealings with people back then.

I believe that Joseph Smith truly did see God the Father and Jesus Christ and that under their direction he restored a church that held teachings that had been lost to the world.

I find much strength and sweetness in the gospel as I understand it.

Where I struggle is with the whole concept of ANY church being the "ONLY" way to know God.

I know that for ME, the LDS faith is absoloutely the right path. The sacred ordinances of the temple are deeply meaningful to me and the teachings of the prophets resonate powerfully in my soul.

But I also know that my spiritual walk would be far less rich than it is today if I didn't also share in the traditions and teachings of my Orthodox friends, or if I had not been exposed to ideas from other faiths.

So in a way I guess I'll always be a spiritual mutt, gathering up truth here and there where ever I can find it.

I DO have a testimony of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints. Absolutely. Still, I remain open to hearing what others have to say and willing to add other flowers to my spiritual basket.

Because the bottom line for me is deepening my understanding of Jesus Christ - not my understanding of the church - that really matters. The church is the vehicle that brings me to Christ. But it is that relationship with Christ that matters most of all.

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