Meh. Still don't feel super persecuted.

I was responding to a friend's initial blog reaction of last week's Rock Center with Brian Williams' "Mormon in America" piece on NBC and realized that my response was long enough to be a post of my own. So, here you have it: the glistening jewel of my opinion.

I didn't have the same negative reaction that some of my friends have had. I mean, sure, it wasn't perfect. Considering that it's coming from a national news network, and that they want to address the sensational rumors that swirl about the Church & are currently in the media (polygamy, racism, sexism, gay issues) it makes sense that it's not going to read like something KSL puts out in between sessions of General Conference.

I do wish they had not shown that photograph of the couple posing in temple garments, not only because it's disrespectful and because I don't usually wish to see people in their underwear, but also because my word that was unflattering. (As my Gentleman Husband says, "First they tell you to multiply and replenish the earth, and then they tell you to wear garments all the time." For him, at least, the latter does not inspire the former.) Why not just go with the one-pieces that some of our grandparents still wear, huh, NBC? I would have much preferred that they use the nice illustrations from the Beehive Clothing brochures, or at least found someone willing to risk their soul by posing in the new Carinessa IIs, which look about a million times better.

I wish that Abby Huntsman hadn't been given so much screen time to speak for "what Mormons believe." Was it because she is so camera-friendly with her beautiful face and her blinding white teeth? Even though she wasn't negative in her responses, I don't really feel like she is the one to ask, especially about things like temple worship, garments, etc. when that's something she may not have ever had first-hand experience with and certainly no longer believes in. Ya know?

I was glad that they focused on the Church's humanitarian programs rather than going the "Oh look how rich the Church is and how much they spend on building shopping malls while hiding their financial information" angle, which is a place they totally could have gone. That was a welcome change.

Joanna Brooks was the women they quoted talking about women's issues, and she said on her own site that although the producers were very kind and seemed sincere about wanting to portray our faith accurately, she was kind of bummed that out of their two-hour interview they zeroed in on the "some LDS women want the priesthood" thing as their one bit to put in out of everything she said.

I did think that the mixed-race family and their children came across really well in the interviews, even if they were reportedly not thrilled with it afterwards.

GH and I both felt so sad for the Broadway performer when he talked about his mission and got all emotional about what a special experience it was, but then said that he eventually left the Church because he couldn't reconcile being gay with being an active member. Even though his interview was one more example of "let's talk to somebody who isn't LDS anymore about what it means to be LDS," his story was kind of heart-breaking and I'm sure is a common one for many, many gay members of the church.

So. There you have my take. I thought that overall it tried to dispel rumors rather than perpetuate them, and the fact that they had access to the Church Historian and to Welfare Square means they did approach the Church for participation in the story. Just because you don't see a member of the Quorum of the Twelve being interviewed doesn't mean they weren't asked.

Anybody else have any thoughts?


goddessdivine said... [reply]

The first and last segment (LDS CEOs and Welfare Square) were decent, the latter being the best overall. It's what was sandwiched in between that ruffled my feathers.

Still shaking my head about that Abbey chick. Whose idea was it to use her anyway?

Mrs. Clark said... [reply]

Agree totally. And what was wrong with Abby's bishop, who was obviously genuinely concerned about her dating a non-member (and we don't know if there were other things that concerned him!) gently telling her that marrying in the temple is important? Of course it sounds like overstepping to non-Mormons, but to me it just sounded like good advice I'd want the bishop to give my own daughter.

AmyJane said... [reply]

Ha, am watching it online RIGHT now, and I have said almost every single thing you've written here. Yeah, we're still pretty much the same person.
I really don't get the Abby Huntsman thing. And the unflattering garment pictures...ewww!

Kayla @ Freckles in April said... [reply]

Your title pretty much sums up my opinions.

And you're totally right about that garment picture. I, for one, do not look nearly that awful in my skivvies. I mean, I'm no Victoria's Secret model, but those people look truly terrible.

Anonymous said... [reply]

Funny, we were just discussing this at dinner tonight and I feel very much the same about the interview. I find it rather annoying that "The Book of Mormon Girl" has somehow become the go-to voice of our church for these types of interviews (she was recently interviewed on our local NPR daily news program), as I don't always love her opinions and how she portrays the church. I wasn't thrilled with what she said in this NBC show, so I was glad to read she wasn't happy with it, either! I also had mixed feelings about the interview with the openly gay man in San Francisco who is also an active member. I really appreciated that they included his story, but I can't imagine what his poor mother was thinking!

Liz Johnson said... [reply]

Granted, I haven't seen the episode, but I kind of feel like we need to get used to our church's oddities (and/or faults) being in the public. I think there's a lot we kind of grimace at when we think about it ourselves, and we need to be more comfortable in being honest about our faith and our religion. Yes, we wear weird underwear (although I don't think showing pictures of people wearing them is appropriate AT ALL). No, women don't have the priesthood. Yes, our doctrine/policies on homosexuality are hurtful and/or limiting to some gay members. I don't think there's a problem admitting that our church isn't perfect, that we're still a work in progress, but that we're trying to be good people and do good things. And it's ok for people to talk about their experience within the church rather than get the official church spokesperson to be THE ONLY PERSON EVER ALLOWED TO TALK ABOUT MORMONS TO THE MEDIA.

Now I'll go watch the episode and see if my opinion on this changes. :)

Elise said... [reply]

I haven't watched the program, but I've heard so many people say "it could have been worse!" and they generally felt it was ok.

Sort of a tangent--have you seen this article? http://www.fairlds.org/fair-conferences/2012-fair-conference/2012-to-do-the-business-of-the-church-a-cooperative-paradigm It's from the recent FAIR conference (the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research) that was held at the beginning of this month and it's full of awesome stuff about women's equality in the church. It is a bit long, but there are some serious gems in it and totally worth the read.

Science Teacher Mommy said... [reply]

Elise--YES, that article is completely awesome.

Other thoughts? I have a true and abiding testimony of the Carinessa II's. I love them with all my heart. They are a true principle.

That's all.

Sherry said... [reply]

We watched it last night after our home teachers brought it up. We both felt like it was fine. We weren't huge fans of Abby Huntsman, but we also felt like she did okay talking about temple garments, despite the fact that she's probably not an expert on them.

abby said... [reply]

I thought it was pretty decent for what it was. It addressed questions that people have outside the Church about the Church. I've seen worse.

I thought Abby did a good job explaining what things were. I don't know why they asked her about these things as opposed to the mixed race couple (He was in the stake presidency when they lived in DC). Joleen even gave her testimony and it wasn't cut. Their daughter seemed uncomfortable with the questions about her dating choices. I would be too.

As a single Mormon, I have heard stories about Bishop's acting like Abby's Bishop did. He should have been more sensitive. Instead, he just offended her and made it uncomfortable. Then again, I have no idea what was said in that office and maybe she was looking for a reason to get out of the church. My current Bishop has zero issues with us marrying non Mormons outside of the temple. I guess to each his own.

The actor bearing his testimony about his mission was a heart breaker. The September Six mention was kind of curious to me. You can have feminist leanings in the Church, but I think a good chunk of the Six were working for BYU at the time. It's a line that those who are LDS in academia fight constantly. How to be intellectual while still being an active member of the church.

I found the garment pictures odd, but I understand as a convert why they showed them. I remember the first time I saw them and I wondered what was with the weird underwear.

I'm glad NBC gave a diverse view of the Church in a way that wasn't condesending.

mj said... [reply]

Mostly I thought it was great. Yes, the garment pic made me feel a little icky and there were one or two comments that didn't portray things the way I would have liked (e.g., cathedrals and temples are not analogous). But I agree with Liz's comment. The fact is, we are WEIRD (peculiar if you will). Overall that was a really kind portrayal compared to many others I've read/heard/seen.

Lisa said... [reply]

As a nonmember, who spent quite a lot of time going to sacrament meetings, young womans, and dances while in high school (I am good friends with Jenny), I thought they did a pretty good job explaining LDS to those who don't know anything about the church in the 42 minutes they had. Even though I'm not a member, I frequently dispell myths and misunderstandings about the church. Many of the things I point out to others are the very same things Rock Center touched on. I thought Abby did a great job of balancing her feelings toward the church with remaining respectful of the churches wish of keeping temple "secrets." I have always admired how loving, faithful, and family oriented Mormons are. Other religions could really use some pages out of your play book for that! Just my two sense from an outsider who has spent a lot time on the inside!

Elsha said... [reply]

Okay, so I didn't actually watch, but your comment about the Carinessa IIs made me laugh. (Because it's true.)

The Atomic Mom said... [reply]

That's funny (in a not funny way) about Joanna Brooks' reaction, since that's kind of what she harps on about all the time. I wish they would have asked the same questions of a General Authority or given the Church Historian (I've forgotten his name because he's newerish in the job) the chance to answer those same questions. Abby Huntsman clearly had no idea what she was talking about. And we only heard HER side of that story. Every single bishop I had, with the exception of one, as a single person was very kind and concerened about who we were dating etc. I will agree with her when she said, you are either in or out of the Church. As time progresses and the end gets nearer (how's that for fatalism) the divide will be greater and greater and there will be fewer grey areas. And Gh is right about the garments -- but at least we don't have to wear poofy hair a-la the FLDS, now that would be a tragedy.

Beth said... [reply]

After reading both your and goddessdivine's responses... I'm leaning more toward your reaction, and why I agree with another commenter that official spokespersons do not have to be the only ones to answer media questions... when it's about doctrine the official sources should at least be mentioned alongside the others that aren't 'experts'. I really like the actor, because it's true what he said, in his own way he is still bringing a message about the church to people, whether it's positive or negative... I can't say since I haven't seen the play.

Liz Johnson said... [reply]

So I finally watched it, and dude, you are so right - what was UP with that garment picture?! Those were some ill-fitting underroos.

While I wish they would have portrayed more of Joanna Brooks/the family/Elder Snow, I don't have a problem with her saying that women aren't treated equally in the church. I mean, they're not. I realize some people see this as a "misunderstanding" of the Plan of Salvation, but I see that classification as a "misunderstanding" of what some women feel about their position within the church. Obviously this needs to be discussed more so that we can all see each other's points of views a little bit better.

Honestly, I don't think Abby Huntsman is the best person to talk about certain things, but she wasn't bad at all. And really, I think it actually did the church a favor to have somebody who has left talk about these things in such a matter-of-fact way. She didn't make Mormons sound bad or like freaks - pretty much everything she said was accurate and fair, and I think she carries a little bit more authority to the general population than hearing from another "brainwashed" Mormon. I don't think it was necessarily a bad thing for her to be so prominently featured.

I thought the part about the Broadway performer was touching. It makes me sad that so many gay members feel like they don't have a place in our tent. I hope that changes.

Jenny said... [reply]

Lisa, you are the best ever.

Kiersten said... [reply]

I agree. I didn't think it was that bad. I thought the segment with the guy from the Book of Mormon musical was really touching.

Abby Huntsman got on my nerves a little bit, but I think it could have been much, much worse. She wasn't an angry, revengeful ex-Mormon, and I'm sure they could have found one if they wanted to.

The garment thing was a problem. And it annoyed me how Brian Williams at that point leaned in all conspiratorially and was like, "what's with them not showing us their garments?" I wanted to yell (okay, maybe did yell), "Sure, Brian Williams, why don't you just whip off your pants, and show us your skivvies? They're UNDERWEAR. That's why you can't see them." Also other reasons. But honestly. Underwear.

emandtrev said... [reply]

Completely and 100% agree about Abby Huntsman. She IS beautiful, which makes me believe (cynically, of course) that is why she got so much screen time. Well, that and the fact that her dad is prominent and she's no longer a practicing Mormon. She wasn't as bitter as some folks could have been, though. Sigh.

The two other things that bothered me most were them showing the garment photos and the statement about women not being equal to men. Otherwise, I think they did an okay job. For the most part. :)

Nemesis said... [reply]

The rumor I heard recently is that Abby Huntsman works for NBC, so perhaps for them the reasoning went something like, "Turns out we have an attractive, well-spoken woman from a well-known LDS family who is already in our building. Seems like a no-brainer."

j said... [reply]

Finally, got around to watching the report. Felt pretty similar to what you described. I think my biggest issue with the Abby Huntsman part was the way that they used her as an authority on what Mormons think and how Mormons feel about things, despite her not being a practicing member of the faith.

Would have preferred an even amount of time from people who are active in the church and represent the mainstream of the church, rather than a slice of every niche group they could find (minus the FLDS).

But on the whole, I've seen much worse.

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