News Story

PBS Documentaries Lead to Vigorous Discussion

The four-hour documentary “The Mormons,” produced by Frontline and American Experience and aired on PBS in the United States, is generating substantial discussion, with lively debate on Internet blogs about what it means to be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The documentary has led to a 10-fold increase in daily traffic to the Church’s Newsroom Web site. Last night, a Church response was posted in the “Commentary column” on the site calling Helen Whitney’s work “thought-provoking” and “broad and diverse,” yet recognizing that “four hours and numerous interviews can’t cover everything” about the Church.

For the first time since the redesigned site was launched last December, the public was invited to send comments regarding the documentaries to The hundreds of comments received have ranged from those who were impressed with the material and the individuals interviewed to those who were disappointed that the film did not truly capture what they felt the “Mormon” faith is really about. Samples:

  • “This piece will only open up a greater dialogue.” —Cary from San Jose, California
  • “I am amazed at the concerted effort to find all the malcontents and those with a grudge against the Church.” —Judy from Washington
  • “I did not see a depiction of the love [Joseph] had for others or details of his trials, specifically Liberty Jail.” —Tyler from Tulsa, Oklahoma
  • “I initially felt apprehensive about the program knowing that much of it could err on the side of being misunderstood, but after viewing it I found it very interesting.  I know where I stand and know the love I have for our history as a people and for the Prophet Joseph, and watching the film really reaffirmed that conviction.” –Richard from Phoenix, Arizona

Later this week, a selection of the responses reflecting the wide range of opinions will be posted on the Newsroom.

Blogs that focus on Mormon themes have had an increase in activity as well. On the Article VI blog, one reader wrote, “I woke up this morning and asked myself: If I were completely new to Mormonism, and ‘The Mormons’ were my first exposure to the Church, what would I come away from last night's episode thinking?”

The Washington Post/Newsweek’s religion blog, On Faith, has made the following their question of the week (posted from 2 May to 9 May): “After 175 years of existence, is Mormonism entering the mainstream of American religious life or are people still suspicious of it?” The blog has an established panel of writers who reflect diverse religious viewpoints — including those of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but also invites public comment.

PBS has made available on its Web site the full transcripts of some of those who were interviewed and who appeared in “The Mormons” documentary, including Church leaders.

Style Guide Note:When reporting about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, please use the complete name of the Church in the first reference. For more information on the use of the name of the Church, go to our online Style Guide.