Mormon in America: Did They Get Us Right?

You think we'd learn, but we don't. Us Mormons' still get really excited when we hear that those of a secular, reputable station, like a prime time television show, are going to talk about us, in a big way. Don't deny it either. You all did it, and so did I.

 I saw you.

About a week ago many of us started sharing last night's upcoming promotional video about Rock Center's report on "Mormon in America". Granted, the promo video highlighted a segment in the piece that was done very well -- the tour of Welfare Square in Salt Lake City, Utah. So we all immediately assumed that the entire, hour-long report, was going to be great! Our anticipation was high, thinking that finally someone was going to represent what being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was genuinely all about -- for the vast majority of faithful Mormons, who live it everyday!

Did they succeed? Well, that depends on who you talk to... Overall, the general consensus, taking all things into consideration, was positive -- for most. Some were outright enraged, however, that the temple garment was displayed with zero regard to how members would feel having something, to them, so sacred, strewn across the screen for all of America to behold! I do understand this reaction. It feels like you've been violated. I had a similar response the first time I saw the garment being displayed, online, by anti-Mormons. I'm now kind of immune, although I shouldn't be, as I've accepted that this is the world in which we live -- little respect for religious worship and beliefs. So we press on...

There have been no shortage of reactions, by members of the Church, to "Mormon in America". In fact, hours before I was able to watch it, here on the west coast, friends in earlier viewing time zones, were sharing real-time feedback. And from what I was hearing, at that point, not favorable. It seems that it took a while, after a bit of discussion, to decide that most of us are pretty okay with how it all ultimately went down. But can I just sneak in, that my favorite response to the showing of the temple garment was the suggestion that if they must show it, could they please use one of our newer styles? That just made me chuckle -- and of course was intended to be humorous.

In the middle of it all, I decided to ask the question on my WBMW Facebook Page: ( If you haven't already, you should LIKE it :)

QUESTION? To those of you who watched or are planning to watch the NBC special *Mormons in America*, I'd be curious to know what you thought about it? Tell me what you liked and what you didn't like....

Feel free to check out their responses HERE -- very thoughtful.

And including other places around the Internet, the discussions boiled down to basically these general thoughts:

General negatives, with a few critiques:

Definitely number ONE -- Did not like that they showed the temple garment.

Did not like that someone, pretty much clueless about the garment, and the temple endowment, was allowed to comment about it, and other facets about Mormonism, of which she has removed herself. Did not like that she was given "authority" status. It was suggested that it would have been better to take those same questions to an actual Church authority -- like an apostle.

Did not like that they interviewed people from both extremes of Mormonism: From dissident, less-active members, to the extreme orthodox member. (Those who read scriptures for 30 minutes a day, as a family-- and still see drinking Coke as a no-no, to be embarrassed about.)

Did not appreciate former Mormons being a representation of what it means to be "Mormon in America". If this was a show to represent those who have left the Church, then certainly their experiences could be considered valid. Although most agreed that they were touched by the former member, who served a mission,  now in the Book of Mormon Play -- and the respect that he showed his parents. Some even saying that they wanted to hug him.

Would have preferred to hear more voices of Mormonism, that the majority of active Mormons feel would better represent their faith. There seems to be a great lack in proper representation of normal Mormons, in the media.

Did not like that the policy on same-sex marriage and homosexuality was not defined from the position of the Church, when the issue was presented.

Did not like that a feminist Mormon woman was presented as a spokesperson for the Church, or worse, to represent the vast majority of Mormon women who have no problem with equality in the Church -- at least that's how it came across.

Would loved to have seen a segment on the humanitarian efforts of the Church -- and yet we realize this was supposed to be about the Mormon people themselves.

Tired of seeing baptism for the dead brought up.

Positives that definitely outweigh much of the negative, with a few suggestions:

Tour of Welfare Square and accompanying interviews, seen as glowing! Many really liked how the principle of self-reliance was taught, and how we help those in need --  by giving them the opportunity to work and receive employment services to improve their lives -- versus receiving handouts. No victims allowed.

Loved the family they chose to interview.

Did like that the Mormon family interviewed was of a mixed race marriage. The husband was positive example of how Black Mormons, today, have moved beyond the concerns of the previous Priesthood ban.

Mention of fast offerings -- a positive. Perhaps they could have brought in more about tithing to try and clear up some misconceptions -- though we know that wasn't the purpose of the program.

Interview with a current Bishop of the Church.

Liked how the Mormon ethic of work was presented. Return missionaries are able to use skills learned on mission to better their communities. Missions are a great experience.

Showing the cooperative nature of how members serve in the Church.

Brief intro of Joseph Smith and founding of the Church -- well done, but would like to have heard more about the importance of current Prophet and what that means in the lives of our members.

Happy that polygamy was not made a big deal.

Brief explanation of the Book of Mormon -- well done.

It was informative, without being overly negative.

Personally, I pretty much agree with all of the above, but felt there was one BIG miss, if you really want to know about the Mormon people --  and that is the importance of living prophets. Though from a political perspective it was probably best not to go there, as there are some concerns that Mitt Romney may potentially have issues with where to place his loyalties, if he becomes POTUS -- which we all know should not be a concern.

Overall, most felt that a fair job was done, considering this was an outsider's look at the Mormons -- but perhaps not balanced.  Okay, I can live with that. And of course the fact that it was only an hour long program, with commercials -- giving little time to cover everything we would have liked to see.

Now getting back to our, perhaps, overenthusiastic sharing of this program before it even aired. Yes I do think we all need to be a bit more careful, in the future, with how fast we jump on a bandwagon, before we fully understand the journey. And yet, I continue to see the positive side of welcoming outside observations of the Mormon faith -- as it give us better opportunities to discuss what Mormons believe, and to share our own personal stories. And that, is always a good thing!

If you happened to miss Mormon in America, you can watch the entire show, online, HERE.

So, did we cover your concerns and thoughts? And what do you think was the BIG miss?

Kathryn Skaggs


  1. My mission pres always said, even the bad publicity was good, so learn to take it all. After a day to think about it, I agree it was mostly ok. I do agree with your negatives and positive assesments as well. My hope is that this will lead some to or other Church media and spark their curiostiy.

  2. Great read! I know it was a bit absurd that they would give any weight of a seriois interview to someone who left the church..especially her being so yoing when she did. The thought even cqme to mind ..that she will be back..and regret she was being so immature in her rationalation.

    And the kid in the Book of Mormon play..i could feel he misses the church. He has just chosen to live how he feels. Thats got tobe so hard to be so torn. My heart goes out to him and all those like him.

    Im sure Ill think of more to say that after... but great read!!

  3. I also appreciated the commentators positive attitudes towards the church and our programs. All in all... i really felt it was a good show.. just missed the mark a bit..

  4. I was disappointed with the report but I will say they were more accurate then the PBS documentary was a few years ago. At least that was an improvement. But really did they have to show the garments? That was wrong!

  5. I didn't share much about the show before hand because every time the news stations do something on Mormons they have to include two bad things for every good.

    Overall they did ok. Could they have done a better job about telling our story, Yes! But then as Bro. Jackson said in the after interview done by KSL here in utah "Its NBC"

  6. You hit the nail on the head. It was okay, but not something I'd direct my non-member friends to watch. I guess I started out with very low expectations and NBC rose about those. If I had started out with Pollyanna-like high expectations, I would have been furious. But, most of us know the media will take the low road when it comes to our faith.

    The garment photo was ridiculous and shocking. It's one you find on anti-Mormon sites and served no purpose to show it except disrespect and shock.

  7. I really don't trust the media to represent any thing totally correct because they don't want to. It's sad that there are only a few stations that are not libral based. I wasn't surprised that they interviewed who they did. I think the whole things was based on the unusaul members of the church for better ratings. I think it was awful that they showed the garments which are very sacred to us. The humanitarian section is a good one to show.
    What can you say except the media is on the dark side.

  8. I think you have to take the good with the bad. And I think it's important to be genuine and to show every different kind of Mormon, which they seemed to.
    It would be dishonest to do a show about Mormonism, and to only show Wellfare Square and a couple of Mormon success stories. Because all in the church is not pretty and without some dirt here and there.

  9. It's easy for me to get defensive about things like this, when something means so much to you (a pearl one might say) and it is looked at by those who aren't either respectful, or who think they are being funny... it gets my ere up. I suppose they were really just trying to show a side of the presidential candidate; but I think the negatives get me more than the positives console me.

  10. I guess I have two lines of comment that won't be super popular, but may give a slightly different view. I agree that most things were positive, but that a lot of members overhyped it before watching.

    All but one of the emails I got that were forwarded to huge numbers of people, came from friends or family in Utah. I got several that used almost exactly the same wording, gushing about this being a chance to invite nonmembers into our homes to help them understand the LDS church. The unsaid expectation seemed to be that this was a missionary opportunity that was too good to pass up.

    I set the DVR to record it, but I didn't receive emails from anyone here in Oregon, or from friends and family from other states. Several friends mentioned it on their blogs, but mostly it was, "here is the link to BCC if you want to watch liveblogging, probably in EST, but I am sure more comments will go up when it shows in Utah."

    I am sure that there will be people talking about it at church, but neither of my visiting teachers mentioned it when they came on Friday, and the scout activity my husband was in charge of didn't include any boys or parents that had enough of an opinion to share it during four hours of cutting and stacking wood. (I hear the new Adele song is good, though.)

    I guess my point is, I am not sure how much this really was seen as a "Mormon Moment" outside of Utah. My parents don't have cable, and we offered to save it on a DVD so they could watch it whenever they had time. They said they didn't think they would watch it. My mom was to busy being YW president and my dad is getting ready for the change from one set of missionaries for four wards to one set for two wards.

    The second comment is shorter, but probably less popular. I was glad they quickly showed the garments, and then moved on. Yes it would have been nice if the outside world understood their significance enough to simply ignore them, but that isn't going to happen. So, I was glad that there is now a mainstream reference, NOT on an anti-Mormon website, that people can take a quick peak if they must, without having tons of negative stuff to sift through. I wish people weren't so curious, but since they are, I thought it was better to have the image there, rather than where people usually find it when they go looking.

    Overall, I thought that it gave a lot of information to people who know nothing about Mormons. I have a niece in Florida who is a Southern Baptist and who said she hadn't known that Mormons did so many good things.

    I also thought that it did a good job of looking at the "outliers" in Mormon thought and practice. It didn't make it look like everyone did exactly the same thing as every other Mormon. It showed that there is diversity of thought in the church, which resonates a lot here in Oregon. Lots of people here see the LDS church as a cookie cutter, republican, patriarchal religion that is very exclusive. I do not think that most people would walk away from watching the program, and think that was true. :-).

    1. Thank you for taking so much time to share your thoughts, Julia. Most appreciated.

  11. I expected it to be worse because it came from NBC. That's about all that I can say. It wasn't horrible. The Wallace interview of Mitt Romney and his wife on Fox News Sunday today told a far better story than NBC did because it gave people a glimpse of a couple who try to do it right, raised five sons, have 18 grandchildren and practice what they preach.


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