I said in an earlier blog this was going to happen. As Mitt Romney’s chances of winning increase we’re going to see an increase portrayal of the Mormon church which will border anywhere from somewhat misleading, to filled with innuendo, to downright wrong. It’s already beginning.
I saw the first half of the public television special tonight “The Mormons” and I was appalled. Those were not my ancestors that they discussed so one-sidedly. One hour of instruction – footnotes given fanfare as minuscule as the short lived action-less Mormon Militia (but not the laudable and much larger Mormon Battalion), inordinate attention to portrayals of Joseph Smith wielding a sword as if he thought he was Napoleon every where he went, calling Smith our “Alpha” and “Omega” (could they get any more offensive?), the 1842 burning of the expositor, but no coverage on vandalized LDS property, a quarter of the time on early Polygamy, another quarter of the time drawing up an elaborate case to blame Brigham for Mountain Meadows massacre despite a complete lack of evidence that he ordered such a treacherous act, and another quarter covering recent polygamy which is outlawed by the LDS church and only practiced by less than 0.01% of Mormons (if you can call apostates Mormons). That’s who my ancestors were? That’s who the Mormons are? This program is called “The Mormons”, right?
Wow, talk about picking and choosing history. Why not discuss the Mormon battalion where 500 Mormon men marched 2000 miles on foot to fight for this country during the Mexican war, immediately after the government allowed Missouri to issue an extermination order allowing LDS people to be shot on site. Why not tell about the tremendous sacrifices made by 10,000’s selling all they had to come from Europe to “the promised land”? What’s with this “promised land” terminology? Why not tell about the multiple 1000’s (1 out of every 10) who died on the trek westward, or the Martin and Willie Handcart company alone wherein 220 people died? How about the unprecedented worldwide growth rate? How about telling what happened from 1900 to 1960, and the amazing welfare system that abolished poverty among the LDS during the depression … they completely skipped that period (1/3 of our history) … perhaps they couldn’t dredge up any scandals. Any scandals did happen afterward was with splinter groups who make up less than 1% of the “Mormon” population – but they still covered those right up until the program ended.
They gave whatever dirt on Joseph Smith they could find, so why not the many good reports given by non-LDS of Joseph Smith’s character and his good nature? What about all the early 1st hand accounts from non-Mormons of the time that admitted the Mormons were peace-loving and tried to be considerate as possible. How about a more detailed account of the martyrdom of Joseph Smith and others who were there and the false charges he was held under, and the murders and raping of LDS people before the trek west, or the draining of the Nauvoo swamp and the 1000’s that died there from malaria? How about the method of church succession (Brigham Young didn’t just “take over” as PBS seemed to suggest), or how about the actual extermination from Kirtland and then Nauvoo and the massive burning of Nauvoo that followed? How about the massive splintering after the martyrdom? How about the surprise that most people followed Brigham to Mexico despite that he chose the most difficult trek of all the splinters? Or why not tell how all other splinters died off except those who inherited Nauvoo who have since struggled just to maintain their numbers. How about the building of the early temples, and the other temples, and what those early temples represent not just to Mormons, but to Americans?
Lastly they never got into the minds of those early converts. Why did Joseph’s church attract so many more dedicated followers than all the other upstarts in the “burned-over district”? Was it the Book of Mormon – or the unique concept of a priesthood restoration – or the 100% lay ministry – or the level of dedication that’s expected – Joseph’s mere magnetism – or the unique “plan of salvation” that he taught? Perhaps these things will be discussed in the second part of the series.
No, they didn’t cover those histories nor those events, but THOSE things were the substance of my ancestors. Not Mountain Meadows. Still, the Mountain Meadows massacre was a harrowing part of mormon history where a secluded group of members disregarded everything they were taught in order to commit so great a crime, and so I and all my Mormon freinds were taught about Mountain Meadows in our youth, and like all Mormons I will always be horrified and disturbed by it. The act was just as contrary to the LDS faith as it is to any other faith – a most important fact that PBS neglected to mention. Even worse, one of the PBS historians for unknown reasons then accused Mormons of not accepting the reality of Mountain Meadows and not having learned from it. Note the unjustified subversive scare tactic they use that those who don’t learn from the past are condemned to repeat it – we will?! Well, if you’re LDS then that may well be just what your neighbors now think of you.
I shudder to think that my non-member friends and neighbors saw that incredibly biased treatment of my heritage, and what they must think of my own ancestors now. What they must think of me that I might believe in that horrendous pick-n-choose history, and lastly that they might now consider something so hurtful and baffling as myself having a part of Mountain Meadows massacre in me. Way to go PBS … way to fuel the flames that one of your historians admitted were so unjustified.