We Mormons are getting lots of attention lately. This week I watched a two-part series on ACB World Report with Diane Sawyer. I was impressed with the positive tone and accurate information. Although it was not thorough as it could have been it did not feel designed to mock or expose some deep dark secret. I would recommend it to anyone.
I also watched a report on Rock Center with Brian Williams called "Mormons In America". I had mixed feelings about that one.
As a practicing member of the church, I felt the over-all program was disjointed. It seemed to bounce around from one topic to another. Some were really positive and inspiring, others were confusing and contradictory.
For example, the last segment was an interview with a young man who describes himself as a former Mormon. He tells a very touching story about his mission and how much it changed him but also says he could not 'reach his full potential as a human being inside the church as a gay person'. I honestly felt sorry for the guy. I suspect many people did.
I can only imagine how he feels. It can't be easy to be homosexual in a church that is so centered on marriage and family. Given the current attitude of our society, it seems that this young man was driven out of the church but bigotry and hate. That was not the case. I don't even have to know him to know that. But the segment left an overall feeling that the church is exclusive, elitist, judgemental, and cold.
The tone of the show seemed to be "conform or get out". Abby Huntsman all but said that as she discussed the Temples of the church. It was so clear to me, as a member, that she was talking out of...something other than her mouth. She didn't have experience in the Temple and quite clearly did not respect what it represents, a sacred place of worship. Of course we don't want just anyone to inside. Brian Williams compares it to a Cathedral in New York. Have you been in a cathedral? I personally feel the scared nature of the building and the reverence with which it was constructed. Then I look around and see people laughing, listening to secular music, wearing casual clothing that can be quite distracting, behaving in any numb er of inappropriate ways. I realize that not everyone behaves this way toward a building of worship. But we live in a world that no longer understands reverence. As Latter-Day Saints, we not only understand it, we encourage it. People don't understand the sacred nature of the temple because they don't understand what it is to hold something sacred. (And by the way, the Jews did not open their temples to just anyone either. Temples have ALWAYS been exclusive.) And don't forget that tantalizing tidbit about temple garments. I didn't realize it was now socially acceptable to ask strangers to show you their underwear.
I loved the part about the church Welfare program. Kudos to Harry Smith for not spinning it into some kind of conspiracy to hoard food or something. It made me want to go out and serve more, increase out personal food storage and reach out to the community. The whole segment was inspiring!
I have watched many shows about churches, schools, government programs, etc. I realize that interviewing former members is a common practice. I also realize that I make certain assumptions when outsiders do most of the talking on a subject. I assume that the active members are unwilling to talk. I assume that the active members have something to hide. I assume that the outsider is telling me truths I would not get from an insider. I wonder how many other viewers make the same assumptions.
Please note that ABC managed to tour a temple during an open house, speak directly to senior church leaders and ask questions that were nearly identical to those asked on the NBC program. NBC made this seem impossible, as if they could only get former members or disgruntled members to comment on the church's practices. That is exactly the kind of underhanded tactics that kept me from pursuing a career in journalism.
Okay, enough ranting. I just needed to get that out. If any of my readers have comments or questions about these programs or others, don't hesitate to ask. I would really love to hear how they came across to non-Mormons.