Firstly, things that disappointed me or that I felt didn't get the treatment necessary to having a layman understand:
- This should have been three parts, with the first focusing entirely on Joseph Smith. It needed to be mentioned how often he cheated on his wife, covered it up, blackmailed men for their wives to become his1 for eternity, and his first prosecution by the law, in which he was jailed for a brief time and fined heavily. That was before the Golden Bible was written, incidentally, and most devout Mormons (esp. converts) do not know this for fact, and are actually TRAINED to disbelieve anything "unsavory" about Joseph, because it's Satan turning the hearts of the people against Truth. <-- actual comment by my church leaders growing up when questioned.
- The lack of mention at how few of the original "apostles" that gave credence to Joseph Smith's "vision" remained in the church shortly after its creation and subsequent harassment. (And how many of those men had to give their wives and property to Joseph to be allowed "back in.")
- The lack of mention at how almost every "plural" wife Joseph Smith took was 26 or younger, and considered by all to be "comely." Uh huh. Yep, the Lord wants you to raise up a puuuuurdy nation unto him. Riiiight. Ugly/Old Women=/=Pleasing Unto Me, thus sayeth the Lord.
- Small, but irritating as I lived there for years: They continually showed Bryce Canyon and Snow Canyon (southern Utah) as the place that the pioneers settled, which is false. They settled in what is now Salt Lake City and Ogden, almost 300 miles north. (Just one of those geological things that bugged me. Never mind. *G*)
- Regarding the Mountain Meadow Massacre, they failed to mention that the Arkansas wagon train was rumored to have several hundred dollars in gold coin, plus a large herd of longhorns, which were highly valuable on their own. Brigham Young was building an army, so gold and supplies would be essential.
- They failed to mention the Blood Vow that was made among the participants of the slaughter (read: murderers) at Mt. Meadows that required them to kill (and spill the blood) of those that spoke about the incident afterward. And how this was carried out in the church houses. I'll give you a moment to let that sink in. A man would be killed, his entire body's supply of blood drained out, if he spoke about what he (or others) did. (This happened in the Touquerville Stake House, of which my ancestors were members.)
- They skipped the succeeding President after Brigham Young, John Taylor, and he is PIVOTAL to the polygamist movement! He was the one that said he would die before he would allow the "Principle" (as it was called) to be taken from the earth. He is who took members aside and had them practice in secret, after being ordained in the "Full Keys of the Kingdom of God" so they could continue to do so. Incidentally, my cousin is married to his grandson. His family? Practices polygamy. (Skeeerry.)
I was very happy that they mentioned Joseph Smith's early shenanigans as a treasure seeker for money before he "found" the plates. Please know that I was a devout Mormon, from a line going back to the origins of the Church, and I was never, NEVER taught any of this. We were taught, by our leaders, by our "doctrine teachers," that the world would want to push us off the straight and narrow with lies and slander about Brother Joseph. And he was just a Man. (Although he's practically worshiped. Go to downtown SLC and you'll see what I mean.) They teach you to turn away from truth, to "pray and have personal reflection so that the Lord may show you the way."
I'm all for prayer, if that floats your boat, but I can hold a book on quantum physics and ask the Lord to impart his wisdom in me, but eventually, I'm going to have to crack those books.
The Book of Mormon got a soft treatment, imo. I've talked about it at length. Historians and scientists go APESHIT when the Mormons try and profess its contents as fact, because there is nothing but evidence in opposition of that. That's... that's a really tricky god, there, making each side out to be wrong. I was taught in my seminary classes that one of the reasons the American continent's Indians didn't attack Christopher Columbus (I'll give you a minute to remember where Columbus landed) is because Jesus came to the Americas after he was hung on the cross. He was white and glowy (because dead Jews become night lights?) and that story was passed down through the Indians and they thought maybe Chris Columbus was the Second Coming. I shit you not. There's so much fallacy in there, it'll make your head swim.
They discussed how there was a "mass hallucination" or possibly Actual Miracles™ happening when the Kirtland temple was dedicated. (Note: that church is no longer LDS property.) As I grew up in the church, we were constantly regaled with fantastical stories of angels "bearing witness' to everyday schlubs like me. When the Logan (Utah) temple was dedicated, people declared that they saw Indian Warriors (Nephites) long since dead and angelic in presence surrounding the temple, to allow them passage in, so that they may partake of the blessings within. There was the deeply Mormon story of the plague of crickets that threatened their food stores, and a mystical cloud of seagulls appeared out of nowhere (heaven sent) and devoured them. As I prepared as a youth to enter the temple and perform "baptisms for the dead"2, my leaders - with beatific expressions on their heavenly turned countenances (this is how they talk) - told me of their experiences. Shared stories written by the Church for the youth. One such story was of a girl doing baptisms, and being filled so much With The Spirit that she could see a balcony along the ceiling with people - angels? - standing in line with happy, no, joyous expressions on their faces, waiting for their names to be called. And they would hear their name as the girl performed the baptisms and be Quickened with The Spirit and enter heaven.
The long and the short of it, if you were REALLY righteous, if you were REALLY connected to the spirit, you would See. Anyone ever hear of the Salem witch trials? Like you want to be caught not seeing heaven's bounty, right? It's hammered in from infancy that those who are most spiritual (read: worthy) will "see into the heavens as if the veil between the places have been lifted." <-- actual quote from my patriarchal blessing at the age of 20. Oh, boy. You can bet I wanted to see angels!
One other thing I wish they talked about: how EVERYONE originally associated with Joseph Smith and the creation of this religion no longer was a member. The Church will tell you it's because of greed, of wanting to have the religion tailored to their wants/needs (instead of Joseph's?), of Satan's influence on the weakness of man. But a reasonable person will look at the facts: Person A claims something as truth. Persons B through M say yes, it is so. A few years down the road, B through M have all left the church, been kicked out (their property given to Joseph) or have nothing but disdain for that period of their lives. THIS IS TELLING. And it's telling you that it was a sham. There must have been those that believed deeply, because who doesn't want to think that you can directly talk to God because He loves you? That's a lovely idea. It's all the "horses and steel and Jewish decendants in America" and "god wants me to sleep with many women and marry them in secret, even though they're married already" that is wackadoo.
The actual "revelation" that Joseph Smith received (written in 1843, although he was known to practice it in 1831 when they'd left Palmyra and were relocating in Kirtland, Ohio) in regards to plural wives is thus: D&C 132. (There's a whole lot of hoohaw, then skip to 30, where he hits the Abraham bidness. Because the prophets of old did it... So can I! The REALLY special part is where he hits on the adultery bits, because he was being accused left and right of it. Well, how convenient that God had something to say about that! (verse 41 on the same link.) Then, to REALLY save his neck, God wanted to speak out DIRECTLY to Joseph's legal wife, Emma Smith, about her getting all "het" up with her husband's philandering. (With her friends. And the baby sitters. IN HER HOUSE.) That would be 51-52. Because she was all, "If it's good for the goose..." and Jesus was all "Oh, snap! No, no, for women are to be cleaning my man's house, yo, and taking care of the kids. You don't get to go philandering, because then Joe Smizzle won't know your baby is HIS baby, and how can he be all 'BOOYAH' to Jebediah with his larger righteous number?" Except Jesus was far more literate and deep breathy/sighing about it.
Brigham Young (the second President of the Church, and the leader that brought the Mormons from Illinois to Utah) said himself of women in reference to Zina Diantha Huntington Jacobs, married to Mr. Jacobs for time, and Joseph Smith for eternity (and allegedly bore Joseph a son that died in infancy. While married to Mr. Jacobs.), then later removed from Jacobs' house and "given" to Brigham as a wife for "time." (worn out yet?)
"The woman you claim for a wife does not belong to you. She is the spiritual wife of brother Joseph, sealed to him. I am his proxy, and she, in this behalf, with her children, are my property. You can go where you please, and get another, but be sure to get one of your own kindred spirits." (emphasis mine)
Please do not be disillusioned that polygamy is ANYTHING like polyandry. People choosing to cohabitate with others whom they love, and make adult decisions about their lives is NOT the aim/principle of polygamy. I've discussed this at length here. Some would argue that polygamy is a small portion of the Mormon's history, but in a way, it's the very essence of what they are: outlandish claims, lies to cover up, tweaking and "revelation from God" to make it seem palatable, then changing their stance to sway public opinion in their favor. Just because Modern Mormons (the majority converts not connected to the history of the church) aren't familiar with the truth of their prophets participating in pedophilia and rape "In the name of God" doesn't make it go away. And that's what I think they want - they want the ugliness to go away so they can continue on the path to "becoming" a regular ol' religion.
And please know that Mormons are COMPLETELY AWARE that they still believe in polygamy. That's one of the things that kills me! It's not in THIS life, but they fully expect polygamy in the next. I'll explain: my father was married and sealed to my mother in the temple for time and all eternity. They divorced civilly (heh, no they didn't, but I mean in the legal sense. Hee!) My father later marries my step-mother in the Mormon temple for time and all eternity. So... when he dies, he has two wives in heaven. If my mother had wanted to marry a man in the temple for time and all eternity, she couldn't. She could marry him for her life on earth, but in heaven, she's my dad's wife. How do you get around this? You get what is called a "temple divorce." This isn't granted often. You have to get permission from one of the 12 apostles that run the church, for starters. They break the "seal" between my mother and my father so she can marry another man and be HIS wife in heaven.
This is still in practice. Ergo, temple going Mormons (read: devout) are fully aware of polygamy in the next life is normal for many Mormons.
1: In the Mormon faith, a man and woman are "sealed" in the temple for time and all eternity. It is possible to be sealed for only time (life) or only for eternity (post-death)
2: In the Mormon faith, you must be baptised by someone with "authority" in order to enter heaven. If you died before those priesthood powers were restored on earth, or before you could meet and become a Mormon yourself, I, for example, could have been baptised in your stead. Your name would be entered into Heaven's Record, and you could choose in the next life to accept or not. This is that big "tub" on the backs of twelve oxen in every temple - a baptismal font.
One reason why I think the church is so successful - although they lie about their numbers, 12 million means how many are on the rolls. A huge portion of that is inactive, or they refuse to give up the names, like in my case (and my children's case, grr.) - is that in a way, they are selling the American Dream overseas. They go to the poorest countries and have huge numbers of baptisms. The church has its own welfare system, for one. (And I admire that, actually.) The Church teaches that you can be blessed NOW for your clean living, unlike the catholic idea of blessings in heaven. (There's that too, it's the here and now blessings that are unique.) They profess that God loves YOU. God will talk to you, God is talking to his leaders NOW, he is living and real. (Like, Jesus is flesh and if you cut him, he would bleed. But be able to heal himself like Claire on Heroes. :D) They preach success is directly linked to godliness. If you are righteous, you will have money, essentially. Yeah, that's going to turn a few heads. =P
It's very strange to realize that I've been to these places: Navoo, the Carthage Jail where Joseph was assassinated, Independence, MO... They're held in such respect, you'd think you were walking the path of Christ to the cross. And while I was in Navoo, they didn't mention the Navoo Expositor (the printing press Smith had destroyed for printing "slander") except to say that a disgruntled former member (who wanted to give the Church his revelations because why couldn't he?) printed lies about Joseph. And that was that. O_O I love that this PBS show mentioned how that was the very OPPOSITE of what it is to be American. Freedom of press/print is such an ingrained concept to us, and it's amazing that Smith & Co. were shocked at America's revile when they heard of it.
I'm very much looking forward to the next part, as they look to discuss something that should be an affront to anyone who considers themselves an intellectual, or a believer in freedom of thought: BYU, the bastion of Mormon Thought, routinely fires professors that don't toe the line and further Mormon Doctrine. Prof. Nielson wrote an article about how maybe gays should be allowed to be married. I'm honestly blown away that he wasn't excommunicated. (I think he wasn't because the public eye was on the Church, and Mitt Romney was getting his campaign in order.)
D Michael Quinn was a professor that was granted UNLIMITED ACCESS to all of the Church's Records (this is and was unprecedented) to write a book about polygamy. He was given this access BY the Church! They hoped his would be less inflammatory than "Mormon Polygamy" by Richard Van Wagoner (who wrote what is THE definitive tome on the topic. Side note, he grew up down the street from my dad and is a good friend of his to this day. The book is very matter of fact with a slight hint of apologetics. And Van Wagoner is still LDS and devout, so he wasn't ex'd.) Quinn showed his work to the church. It was not favorable. (How could it be?) and Hinckley (an apostle at the time) said to go forth with it, if he felt he should. The implication was DO NOT PRINT THIS. He printed it. He was kicked out and raked over the coals.
Note that one of the "apostles" that got in Quinn's face was Dallin H. Oaks, who is on the PBS program saying how sad it was that people can't get over the Mountain Meadow Massacre. And babies of the age of 8 being SHOT IN THE FACE. Or HACKED TO PIECES. That's so sad they can't just "let it go." He's a supreme asshole.
I hope they mention Boyd K. Packer, who said to the entirety of the Mormon church that one of the greatest dangers facing their members were "intellectuals." I'll let THAT seep in, and the implications of an educated churchship on their rolls and the fear that must create. (What I was actually taught, by the church in church, about the Mountain Meadow Massacre: the US government had threatened to kill Mormons, not unlike the Missourians. There had been rapes and murders leading up to the event, so the Mormons were prepared to defend themselves. They acted alone without church governing, and worked with Indians to attack, and unfortunately murder a FEW of the Arkansas party. It's a tragic tale where people didn't obey the church. That was their official stance in the 1980s. And it is complete and utter bullshit.)
I think that what I find most irritating about the Mormons themselves (and on their own, they are every bit as nice or rude as any other person. It's getting them in a group that makes them weirdos) is their ignorant superiority. "Our Church is the One True Church. We alone know everything truthful, we alone know what God wants, we alone have the restored keys of the Kingdom of heaven, and unless you toe our line, you will be barred from heaven's blessings." And yet, hardly any of them know their originator was jailed on fraud. That he had a hit man that attempted to assassinate a US Governor. That Brigham Young ordered a group of people killed as a show of power and to gain property. That the 3rd leader pulled many men aside and instructed them to continue with the "most blessed of dispensations, Plural Marriage" as much as the church wants to deny and forget that. (I'd ask anyone who doubts this to look up the Smoot Case.) Mormons follow perfect obedience, and pledge allegiance to the church and its leaders twice a year. If you don't toe the line, you are barred from its "blessings." Anyone who says otherwise either doesn't know, or is lying because it makes them uncomfortable.
If I can impart any wisdom it's this: The Mormon Church changes its history routinely to stay midstream. They deny their history, even though there is a record. They hide their followers from the truth, and claim that to listen to the truth is giving in to Satan's lies and whisperings, and that will chip away at their faith, and then they'll be alone and godless. And so their people cling to their BS. I abhor this religion because it is based on lies, and built a surprisingly strong foundation on even more lies and bloodshed, and deny their people access to facts so they can exercise their faith. All religion is suspect, imo. But a religion that coerces and lies and flat out rules their people with an iron thumb is no church to follow, let alone believe in.
ETA: A negative response to the doc on the PBS blog that perfectly illustrates the fingers in the ear, deep, regretful sigh that is the average Mormon in the face of fact.
With all that has been said thus far, I must add that I feel quite misrepresented as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I felt a darkness and sadness prompted by the cynicism displayed throughout the show. The truth about the church can only be discovered through an individual study of it. No one can gain a true understanding of what we are and what we believe by listening to others opinions; opinions represented as truth in a mask of intellectualism.
Joseph Smith would reply to this documentary by saying that regardless of the outcomes created by it, the kingdom of God will roll forward with increasing momentum. Indeed he said, "the standard of truth has been erected; No unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent,visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear,till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the great Jehovah shall say the work is done."
I appreciate your efforts to inform the world of who we are, no matter what your motives are in doing so. I just want to say to anyone watching and reading that in the end truth is truth, and stands independent of commentary and cynicism. The only way to know truth is to seek it out yourself, independent of the opinions of others.
Part Two of this discussion is continued here.