More than 1,100 e-mailed responses had been received by midday today (3 May) following the invitation for viewers of the PBS documentaries to send their assessments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Those who responded with an overall negative view of the program mostly pointed out what they believe are serious omissions — too little about Jesus Christ, the restoration of the priesthood, or the role of Latter-day Saint women. Some also felt that the large numbers of nonmembers interviewed for the program could not capture the heart of the faith or understand it as Church members do.
Overwhelmingly, the most negative response was reserved for the section on polygamy. Many viewers said they couldn’t understand how a program with the declared aim of removing stereotypes could have spent so much time with modern polygamists who have nothing to do with the Church.
Those who liked the programs most often referred to the honesty and openness of Church leaders and others who expressed what their faith means to them.
Because all the many responses cannot be shown, the following represents a cross section of views expressed.
“I watched the first installment of the PBS documentary with keen interest, not because I am a member of the LDS Church, but because I have so many kind, wonderful Mormon friends. I thought the documentary was excellent, providing ample opportunity for both historical insight and modern-day reflection from a variety of viewpoints. … Those of us who are Christians of a different stripe can find great fellowship with our Mormon brothers and sisters, who so often show the way in family strength and loyalty.”
“As a Latter-day Saint and scholar of religion I found the documentary to be overall a positive and well-balanced description of the Church. Of course, there is no such thing as universal objectivity in matters of spiritual commitment, thus I am not surprised that many members found any criticism of the Church disturbing.”
“If they want to do a program about break off religions, then call it that, after all, they wouldn’t consider interviewing a Lutheran to find out their beliefs of Catholics, yet that is what they did.”
“I felt that the program had some truth, mostly half truths and some untruth.”
“The director discussed the Book of Mormon and other doctrines which make us different from other Christians (which is entirely appropriate), but she never discussed similarities or common beliefs — like how we study and believe in the Holy Bible.”
“I was a little disappointed that so much time was spent interviewing and following a fundamentalist Mormon family. It undermined the segment’s main point that the LDS Church wants to strictly distance itself from practicing polygamy. I believe that showing a modern polygamist family in a documentary about Mormons continued to promote an association between the two.”
“A friend said it best, we hope that many who go into viewing it won’t begin nor leave with a skeptical mind, but ask to understand the gospel and our people with a desire to learn and not to destroy.”
“History simply doesn’t support the belief of many modern Church members that early Mormons never set a foot wrong. I wish we could, as a collective body, move beyond such small mindedness and realize that every story, fight, fact or contention has two sides. Without the unpleasant bits, this documentary would have simply been Church propaganda.”
“It distresses me that so many are offended by anything unflattering about the Church, and are unwilling or unable to see the ‘other side.’ There is power in acknowledging problems.”
“I was disappointed to hear in the first several minutes of the documentary that ‘members of the Church consider Joseph Smith their Alpha and Omega’ which simply isn’t true. Christ will always be the Alpha and Omega to members of the Church.”
“Nearly half the program was concerning the Mountain Meadows Massacre and Polygamy. Surely this is not half our history, nor have these events contributed so great a portion to who we are today.”
“We do not consider [Joseph Smith] to be the Alpha and Omega of the Church. Instead, we believe Christ is our means of salvation, and that Joseph Smith has simply helped us to better understand the Savior’s gospel and His role in our life.”
“They did a fairly good job except I feel they lean to the idea we worship Joseph Smith and not Jesus Christ.”
“The first night seemed to focus more on the sensational aspects of LDS Church history than upon the meat of the gospel.”
“It was somewhat irritating hearing President Hinckley proclaim clearly that there is no such thing as Mormon Fundamentalists, only to have that proclamation ignored and incorrect information broadcast concerning those folks.”
“While I did enjoy the program, there was definitely not enough from both sides of the story. They devoted two ‘Acts’ to Mountain Meadows and Polygamy but barely grazed over the persecution of the saints.”
“I didn’t understand why they had nonmembers explaining the history of the Church. Don’t they trust the views of the members?”
“The first portion of the program was well-balanced, and those who spoke from outside the Church did so in a respectful manner. On the contrary, many of the illustrations used were of dark and ominous nature, those of Joseph were mostly unflattering and the background music was eerie.”
“I felt disappointed about how they spent so much time on polygamy and the ‘fundamentalists.’ They showed President Hinckley stating the fact that they are NOT affiliated with our Church, and then proceeded to interview, discuss and show the ‘fundamentalists’ in great length looking like they were part of the Church.”
“I feel that this documentary is a positive step toward increasing objective understanding and respectful dialogue. Truth leads to friendship, both of which are, as Joseph put it, among the grand fundamental principles of Mormonism.”
“After watching the first in a two part story entitled ‘The Mormons,’ I would like to compliment PBS and the people responsible for this documentary. I thought it probing and fair. This ‘warts and all’ view is necessary to show both the good and bad that has made up the history of the Church. The interviews shown proved that even those who are not believers in our faith had a great deal of respect for, if not faith in, Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon and members generally.”