The second and final segment of PBS’ “The Mormons” which aired last night was, in my opinion, far better than the first. I was pleasantly surprised to observe the various topics covered in the two hour program, such as missionary work, family history, temple activity, and family unity.
The segment was not without its critical and negatively biased moments, however. Former Mormons shared their feelings on being excommunicated, leaving the Church, or being punished by disciplinary councils. Missionaries were painted as somewhat obsequious peons who were compelled to fit the MTC mold while learning deceptive teaching tactics in the TRC by observing their facial expressions and learning how best to present the message. Lay members were indirectly presented as blindly ignorant individuals who dare not become intellectual, because that would certainly lead to doubt and, ultimately, disaffection.
Despite any minor flaws I found or exceptions I took, I thought this second segment to be more much favorable to the Church and its message than the first. There were fewer errors and the negative bias, purposeful or not, was less prominent. However, all in all it painted a fairly gloomy picture of Church life (coping with terminal illness, homosexual tendencies, intellectual suffocation, loss of a loved one, etc.) that is the exception rather than the norm.
One of the many press releases the Church has issued on the matter states:
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.
That pretty much sums up my feeling on “The Mormons”.
The closing statement in the documentary asked, referring to the Church:
Can it survive the present? Can it move into the future?
Time will show that the answer to both questions is a resounding YES.