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Friday, May 04, 2007

The Mormons 

I finally got around to watching the PBS show last night, all 4 hours in one sitting (yeah, I was up rather late).

I thought overall it was quite good. The one bit of history I was not familiar with that I learned from it was Reed Smoot's history in the senate. I had heard almost none of Smoot's story before seeing the show. Though they didn't mention that Smoot was half of the Smoot-Hawley act that is blamed for the Great Depression. But history is history, and I thought they did the history bit about as fairly as they could.

I thought it was a little stupid that the show used excommunicated members to talk a lot about the church in the second half, without identifying themselves as such until they personally talked about their excommunications. On the other hand, what they said about the church generally (on subjects other than their issues) was very positive, so it's hard to complain much about that. The former member who served a mission and said he would have been a suicide bomber if his Mission Pres. asked him to was weird though. Is that supposed to be representative?

Some of the imagery seemed odd (where'd that red hairy Moroni picture come from?) and referring to Joseph Smith as the "alpha and omega" was just wrong from a Christian perspective. I think there was another spot similar to that that sounded ok in context but offputting by normal Christian connotation.

The one thing I really liked was the music. If you listened carefully most of the songs and instrumental music seemed to fit in very well with the topics under discussion, and the members singing and playing music were great. Did anybody else notice the choir singing "Oh My Father" and ending on the "I've a Mother there" verse at the end of the first half?

Things missing:
* no discussion of the Word of Wisdom - and weren't those "Mormon fundamentalists" shown drinking wine? They focused on tithing as a barrier to entering the church and the difficulties of modern members in being clearly distinct from the world, but I didn't see a mention of giving up coffee, alcohol, smoking. The wonderful convert sister who talked about being on drugs before the missionaries came, did they ever mention that that was a barrier to joining?

* I didn't see anything on the responsibilities given to young men in the priesthood. Or the relationship with scouting... Seemed like that might fit in with the whole women-having-the-priesthood issue, but no. Why?

* The discussion of missionary work was good, but I thought their examples of missionaries in action were a little atypical. They referred to the MTC as "boot camp", but didn't draw further on the analogies with military experience, which I thought would have been logical.

* They talked about the church as being exceedingly wealthy and owning lots of property, but not about some of the impressive buildings (like the tabernacle) we're responsible for, or other prominent achievements of the church members (no mention of the Mormon Battalion even!)

* They touched on all the "controversies" that I can think of except one - abortion and the way our faith informs related issues like stem cell research. Why's that?

In some respects the whole thing seemed a bit of a commercial for Mitt Romney. There he was in several places, and even his website address clearly listed...

Anyway, I don't think it hurt a bit, overall it was much better than I'd expected. Even testimony-building in parts.
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