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May 01, 2007



Excellent review. I was hoping you'd post your thoughts.
So true about your observation of the church's
wording about polygamy and MMM being an "element of Utah history." I never would have picked up on that if you had not pointed it out.

Hope you review part II


Thanks, Diana. I must give a hat-tip to my friend Mayan Elephant for pointing out the semantics of the church statement on the show.

Sister Mary Lisa

Great review. I wish I had watched it myself.


I thought it was very good. I really enjoyed watching it.

I do wonder about the MMM and Church versus Utah history, however. Roday's headlines, unfortunately, contain several examples of LDS church members in leadership callings who abuse their callings to exploit children- a primary teacher molesting primary kids, a bishop sexually abusing young women, etc. Skipping ahead 100 years, would you look back at these instances as "Church History" just because they were done by church members in leadership callings?

I did, however, really enjoy the documentary, and I saw nothing in there that would surprise any educated Latter-day Saint.

E- what is it about the first part of the show that moved you so deeply? I know you don't believe such things anymore, but couldn't those stirrings have been the Spirit, testifying that what you were seeing was true? That in spite of all the warts and tragedies that happened along the way, there is something divine in this work, and truth? Just a thought- you know yourself better than I ever will, obviously.

I am also looking forward to tonight's installment, which I suspect will focus on dissent in the modern church and the "September Six", as well as on missionary efforts across the globe.


SML: you can still watch it yourself. You can watch the whole thing at pbs.org. Someone somewhere surely has a more complete link, but last night's installment should still be available for viewing.


Thanks for the food for thought, Jordan. I did have "stirrings" in the first half but then I felt nauseous in the second half--maybe that was the Spirit telling me to get out, eh?


Could be.

Could also be because what happened was tragic and sickening. It is always sad to remember such events.


Jordan, I think your analogy fails because Mountain Meadows (whether BY ordered it or not) was at least partially the consequence of Mormon teachings and culture at the time. If current LDS trachings and culture could be shown to have a direct (if not complete) connection to the acts of the individual church members guilty of abuse then, yes, you could say that it was part of church history. Likewise, if church authorities had acted to cover up abuse cases, then that would be part of church history. Oh, wait a minute...


If current LDS trachings and culture could be shown to have a direct (if not complete) connection to the acts of the individual church members guilty of abuse then, yes, you could say that it was part of church history.

That is exactly what many ex- and disaffected mormons claim! Obviously, I disagree.


I must also add that I was very happy to see the documentary treat issues as the complex conundrums that they truly must have been, rather than allowing simplistic answers to "purify" the confusing complexity of history.

For example, I love that it did not reduce the practice of polygamy to either the welfare and care of women (as so many in the LDS Church do) or to Joseph Smith's sexual desires (as so many former LDS members do).

Mayan Elephant

Jordan, I can't speak for Equality, but i can say that I had a similar reaction to the first hour.

I just wanted to scream out at the screen - "Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaamnit. Can't anyone see what is so inspiring about this?"

I wouldnt say it is the trademarked spirit at all. It's more like the draw it would be to have been on the Mayflower, or to have travelled with with Lewis and Clark.

Joseph Smith, with all his flaws, was a leader. His followers were a strong community. The comparison of Smith to Henry Ford was very moving and profound. He wanted every person to have miracles and revelation. When Brigham Young said he wanted to be a prophet, Smith embraced it. Smith overpromised and overextended himself to the point of extreme consequence. That too was part of his charm. In all that, he was on a roll and his people were inspired enough by him to create a massive movement and identity.

Look at Smith. Look how fast he was moving. Can you see him stacking his fortune 100 insitution with old bastards that worry about earings or poker and then just sitting back and waiting to see who lives the longest? hell no. He may have 476 wives if he lived as long as Hinckley, but i gaurandamntee ya he would not have yanked their money, priestess authority or curiculum away from them. Sure, inside, the guy was a devil of sorts. But, still, even devils can be fun.

That is what I mourn.

The Hinckley church is the exact opposite of Smith's. Smith wouldn't recognize this instition. His strangeness has been replaced with a strange reverence, aptly captured by the description of him as the 'Mormon Alpha and Omega.'

No longer is this an institution of adventurists and a community that takes in the bold, those willing to buck society for their own benefit or future generations. Now, it is a snitch state on a treadmill with a Mope that is trying to mainstream the joint while maintaining his antique social views.

Nothing, Nothing, Nothing could have better contrasted the first hour, and its incredible metaphors and events, with the current church, than Oaks smirked response, "It is wrong to criticise church leaders even if the criticism is true."

Oaks should be forced to eat nothing but cucumbers and drink only pickle juice until the morning of the 7th resurrection for that crap.


ME- I love the way you express yourself. It makes me think and laugh all at the same time, even when I disagree with your conclusions. I have probably read literally thousands of your words (and more) both here and elsewhere at this point.

I can see your point about the differences between the more beaurocratic LDS church of today and the maverick LDS church of yesteryear. It's one of the things that tickles me as I read various takes on church history.

But I have to say that I believe Joseph Smith would have taken the same strict stance against criticism of "church leaders" as Elder Oaks did- indeed, Joseph Smith did not have a high tolerance for criticism. Nor did Brigham Young.

Mayan Elephant

Yeah, Smith may have run a few people off for disagreeing. Possibly, we will never know.

My bigger point though, is that he wouldnt have tolerated boring, boring, boring.

He would have a revelation in a second and invite all the homosexuals to come to his barbecue. He would be Gavin Newsom, Mark Cuban, Hugh Heffnor and the Gipper all rolled into one crazy jackass.


Thanks for your review, Equality. I actually like it when experts are not attributed to camps. If they make their statements without a team uniform then the audience has to figure out what they actually mean rather than cheering on the home team uncritically.


The documentary was very balanced and almost kind to the mormon church. Much time could have been spent discussing the three witnesses and their disaffection, the Danites and their sacking and looting, or Joseph Smith's propositions to other men's wives. None of these topics were discussed. Richard Bushman made mention of Joseph's polyandrous wives in passing. The producers portrayed Smith as a man who was murdered, not as the man who had a pistol and shot a number of men in a last gunfight. The members of the church who criticize Part 1 as being unfavorable, really have little idea of the extent of negative church history that was ignored. MMM was discussed as positively as it could have been. Any discussion regarding the doctrine of Blood Atonement that Brigham Young taught, was avoided. Also, the oath of vengeance, given in the temple at the time, to exact vengeance against the U.S. and against the mob who killed the Smiths, was not discussed. There are many areas of church history leading up to MMM that were not discussed. If anything, The Mormons tried to focus on the positive aspects of the mormon faith, while mentioning some of the negative aspects in passing.

Regarding polygamy, the doumentary spent a reasonable amount of time developing the theme. The church practiced polygamy from 1852 to 1890 openly, and from 1843 to 1904 openly and in private. A practice that existed for 61 of the foundational years of a new religion, should not be brushed aside. Many members aversion to a discussion about polygamy becomes apparent once they learn uncomfortable facts that are not taught at church these days. Again, the portrayal of plural marriage was accurate and fair, showing both sides of the issue. It was unfortunate that the theme could not be developed further. I look forward to seeing tonight's final installment of this objective work on Mormonism.

Sister Mary Lisa

Mayan, you make me laugh. Funny guy. I love your sentiments here, and agree. Joseph Smith would have never let the church stagnate so long without new revelation coming down the celestial pike to keep us enthralled. No way.

Mayan Elephant

[crossposted all over the place]

I just finished watching the second episode.

Will y'all think I am a lesser elephant if I admit that I cried? It's fine if you think that. It is true. That was brutal to watch. Effing brutal.

I lost it.

Margaret Toscano did me in. I was just amused without seeing anything very interesting, until Toscano came along. Then, it all changed.

I dont know if there are others on here that have sat on the jury side of a Mormon church court. I have. I was a High Priest in the church. I was in the seats they pictured in that video, the jury seats. Damnit. There is no redemption for that. None. Not ever. It is part of me now. I dont expect to ever be redeemed for having been a part of one of those courts. I can only hope to adjust after having made that part of my life experience.

Hearing Toscano tore me to pieces.

The rest of the video was, well, you know, whatever. Who cares? The homosexuailty stuff was predictable. Boyd Packer was just what one would expect, a prick. Whatever. The filmaker was just bizarre. It was sad, but what is the point? Whitney was really dumb to put him on the spot - would you rather have your wife or your son? Lame Helen, very lame.

If people cannot see the absolute trauma that is in those courts, and the heinousness of it all, the little goofy snippets of the choir or some businessman that serves cake in his own home while wearing his suit and tie, are not relevent. Really.

This church judges its own. This church divides families on earth. They use courts to divide families. They use the temple to divide families. They use volunteerism to divide families. Oh, and they do all this, in the name of forever families.

On one hand, I saw Toscano, and I knew she would sit in that chair, and take the bullet for me, for my local leaders, for my mission companions, for my wife and kids, for all women, for Mormons. She could do it because she loved Mormons. Does anyone get that? She loves that community.

And then, Jensen speaks, Boyd Packer speaks, and I realize those men want me gone. They want me silenced. They want me to no longer be a part of the tribe or community that once included Toscano, and many other women like her that they are busy telling to shut up.

Toscano being denied the chance to dress her sister is unreal. If anyone reads this and claims families are forever, remember that image, of a sister, divided from her family, her heritage and ritual.

Honestly, I want to see someone in the bloggernacle scream in all caps with lots of smilies and bold font that what happened to Toscano was out of line. I want Otterson to finally admit that it was wrong, out of line, egregious, and the entire community is worse because of it. Until they do, I will continue to try and convince myself that it was not a tribe that I left, but a cult.

Tribes and families take care of their own. Cults threaten their own and brainwash them to think its a blessing.

This is not what my people gave their lives for, the current version is why people lose their lives.

wry catcher

ME - Your review of Part II made me cry. I am not sure I can even watch it.

Cut s dean

Thank you, Mayan Elephant.

An interview with Margaret Toscano on her quite brutal court of love is below, if you missed it. Thanks again.


Cut s dean

I could have added that the interview with Daniel Peterson at the same site above is interesting, as Dr. Peterson here is much less strident and absolutist than he usually is (on the FARMS site, etc.) leading one to believe he himself may not agree with much of the nonsense he typically spouts.


I found the second section very emotional, but for different reasons. Yes, the section on toscano's church court was a punch in the gut.

But the missionaries they showed street contacting? Those were my missionaries. I knew those guys- I was their ward mission leader when the footage was filmed.

The family they showed, with the older sister getting married in the temple, and the younger sister with the possibly terminal health condition? I know them. The couple they showed gettign married int he temple lived in our branch- they were the first people who ever baby-sat our son. They helped us move into our current apartment. I've met the sister, the opera singer with the hypertension problem. They are all some of the most wonderful people you could meet.

Watching that last night was a mixed-up time...


Well, the disappointment that some Mormons felt over part one should have been partly assuaged by the volume of time given to Marlin Jensen in part 2.

After Toscano, which I also found to be the key voice in part 2, I was most impressed by the weight of Tal Bachman's words. He said, roughly paraphrasing: "It doesn't matter how helpful the invention is if you realize that it's only an invention then it's not worth dying for..." and, the corollary, not worth living for..

This was among my initial impressions of part 2 which I posted here.

Thank you, Equality, and thank you all for your thoughts. ME, and others, I share the trauma.

john f.

Terryl Givens is at the University of Richmond, not BYU.


Thanks, John. I corrected that in one place but missed the other reference.


ME, the last segment made me cry--the father (James Dalrymple Sr.) who struggles admitting that if he knew his wife would die because of the birth of the last child he might not do it again.


James Dalrymple struck me as a contemptible piece of filth whose sad devotion to his invisible friend--sorry, "Heavenly Father"--caused him to encourage his similarly insane wife, who at forty-two, having given birth seven times, with a clear diagnosis of gestational diabetes, encouraged her to become pregnant again so that his delusion could be assuaged. Sorry that she died, but golly, could we not have seen that coming? He's taking comfort and solace in the same idiotic insanity that cause him to kill his wife in the first place, and that's not fair. He should go to jail, or put a bullet in his brain. Maybe then his children would be spared inheriting his inhuman idiocy.

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