Mixed reviews for “Meet the Mormons”

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Me with the "Candy Bomber," Gail Halvorsen, and "The Bishop" (now a stake prez), Jermaine Sullivan, at RNA in Atlanta.

Me with the "Candy Bomber," Gail Halvorsen, and "The Bishop" (now a stake prez), Jermaine Sullivan, at RNA in Atlanta.

Me with the "Candy Bomber," Gail Halvorsen, and "The Bishop" (now a stake prez), Jermaine Sullivan, at RNA in Atlanta.

Me with the “Candy Bomber,” Gail Halvorsen, and “The Bishop” (now a stake prez), Jermaine Sullivan, at RNA in Atlanta.

We’re two days out from the nationwide release of Meet the Mormons, the Church-produced documentary that traces the lives and faith of six Latter-day Saints. The Deseret News reported today that the film is set to open Friday on more than 300 screens in 45 states.

So far, the feel-good documentary has garnered a few reviews, including thoughtful and mostly positive ruminations from fellow Mormons at By Common Consent and The Cultural Hall. The production values appear to be high and the overall effect pleasing.

It has not generated much interest outside the LDS community, however, and as of this writing does not have a score at all on Rotten Tomatoes. That will no doubt change within the next weeks (and it will be interesting to see how much the RT audience score, presumably driven by the fans of All Things Mormon, diverges from the professional critics’ aggregated metascore when the critics’ data begins to become available).

Professional early reviews have not been as kind as LDS websites have been. The film reviewer for the Salt Lake Tribune declared the movie to be nice enough but claimed it’s “not a documentary but an infomercial, meant less to inform than to introduce a sales pitch.”

This notwithstanding the Church’s repeated emphasis that the movie is not intended as a missionary tool. (Of course it is intended as a missionary tool.)

The Village Voice chimed in today with an even more harsh assessment of film-as-advertisement:

The Church of Latter-day Saints‘ hyper-capitalist spirit guides Meet the Mormons, an extension of the “I’m a Mormon” campaign that sought to paint its ranks as a motley, hip lot. Instead of explaining what Mormonism is, this slick corporate video for the church only teaches us to want: On offer is the wholesomeness that comes with family, stability, and physical fitness.

… Aimed at nonbelievers, Meet the Mormons isn’t substantial enough to screen on the first day of LDS 101; the church’s most basic tenets — and controversial aspects — are elided completely. Instead, the focus is on the just-swell lives of six members, with a conspicuous emphasis on ethnic and cultural diversity, possibly to paper over the church’s racist past.

Who, as the Voice’s headline put it, would want to pay $14 for a “90-minute commercial” about Mormonism?

And after the movie, we Mormons will bake brownies for you. You're welcome.

And after the movie, we Mormons will bake brownies for you. You’re welcome.

Answer: Mormons, that’s who. Myself included.

In part, my interest was piqued by meeting some of the folks behind the movie.

A few weeks ago at a journalists’ conference I had the opportunity to sit down with the movie’s director, Blair Treu, and two of its “stars,” Atlanta bishop (now stake president) Jermaine Sullivan and “the Candy Bomber” Gail Halvorsen, the 1940s pilot famous for airlifting sweets to German children after WWII.

I found the director to be pretty up-front about exactly the kinds of criticisms that are starting to come in about the movie, especially the one about it being intended only for Mormons. “The bottom line is that we just want to look for opportunities to find common ground [with people of other religions],” Treu told me. “It’s not so much about the details of our beliefs as the details of who we are in trying to live those beliefs.”

And the president of Excel Entertainment, which is distributing the film, said that “If nothing else, if members of the Mormon Church walk out of this film feeling that they ought to be better Mormons, then . . . [that’s enough].”

It may be that after this initial foray into doing a major theatrical release, the LDS Church retreats back into its own entertainment subculture, producing movies by Mormons for Mormons. And there’s nothing wrong with that (well, at least not if the movies are good).

But I for one am glad that we’re trying to venture out of our bubble — even if the end result is that the only people who head to the movies this weekend to “meet the Mormons” are already Mormons themselves.

  • TomW

    Personally I’m not a fan of supporting entertainment products made by Mormons just because I happen to be one. You won’t find a single Janice Kapp Perry or Afterglow album in my vast library. I have avoided nearly all of the multitude of LDS comedies, even if friends would lend me the VHS for free (would any of these people update their collection with a DVD if available?). The lone exception I can think of off hand is “Baptists At Our Barbeque” because it was directed by Christian Vuissa, someone I had met in his childhood while serving in his small branch in Austria during my mission. (It turns out he is a phenomenal director and has put out some outstanding films including “The Errand of Angels,” which captures the German-speaking missionary experience magnificently with excellent scenery to boot, “One Good Man,” “Joseph Smith: Plates of Gold,” and what I consider to be an instant Christmas classic, “Silent Night.”)

    I’ll probably see “Meet The Mormons” this weekend largely because my family wants to see it. I don’t expect many, if any, non-LDS at the theater. I can’t imagine what would prompt someone on their date night to review the different offerings and decide to give it a shot. Seems a bit far-fetched to me.

    For those who are unhappy that the movie isn’t actually about the church’s history in any way, that isn’t exactly the point of the movie, so the criticism falls flat. I’m hopeful that the individuals whose stories are portrayed will be interesting to learn about. And who knows, perhaps the film will reach a few people here or there who are indeed willing to open their hearts to the message of the gospel. I’m cool with that.

  • TomW

    As for entertainment by Mormons for the general public at large, I absolutely LOVE Studio C! They make me laugh like Saturday Night Live still occasionally does.

  • Fred M

    As a member, I’m interested in seeing the movie, but for me it doesn’t pass the litmus test I use on projects like this: would I want to see a movie called Meet the Jehovah’s Witnesses? Nope (no offense to JW’s out there). It seems like a well-intentioned but misguided project.

  • Bernie Skoch

    This comment by the film’s director is absurd: “The bottom line is that we just want to look for opportunities to find common ground [with people of other religions],”

    Mormonism was founded on and continues to be promote its DIFFERENCES with people of other religions. When it’s convenient for recruitment purposes (as in this example), the words flow that “We’re looking for common ground.” But at its core, Mormonism is based on the premise that it (and ONLY it) is the “One True Church,” and that ALL other churches are wrong.

    Mormonism recognizes no Christian baptism performed in another faith. It recognizes no ecclesiastic authority other than its own (all male) “priesthood,” and it believes only its “prophet” has the authority to speak for the god it believes in.

    That’s not trying to “find common ground.” That’s exclusivity.

  • Richard Morgan

    I love Jana Riess’s refreshing honesty. She doesn’t shy away from admitting that the Church is telling lies (again):
    “This notwithstanding the Church’s repeated emphasis that the movie is not intended as a missionary tool. (Of course it is intended as a missionary tool.)”
    Well, in a capitalist, want-more, society we don’t actually call it lying. The euphemism “selling” is preferred. Or “marketing”. My favourite is “communication”.
    “Infomercial” isn’t necessarily a criticism, since some the best film-makers are now working for the advertising industry.
    The title certainly isn’t original. In the early ’70s we had a missionary tool which was a slideshow called “Meet the Mormons.” Unsurprisingly, no dark-skinned people were featured in it.
    So Mormons will go to see the film in order to be reassured that, in spite of everything, they are really nice people. (Why would they need that?)
    Maybe non-Mormons will check it out. I hope that Jana gets to interview both of them.
    Oh – and I love Jana’s oxymoronic last paragraph : Mormons venturing out of their bubble… to see a film about Mormons. Priceless.

    Question: will there be free entrance vouchers for Mitt Romney’s “47 per cent”?

  • “Question: will there be free entrance vouchers for Mitt Romney’s “47 per cent”?”

    Wasn’t that the supposed problem with the 47%, that they only wanted ‘free stuff’?

  • Bernie, I agree with you that there has always been an exclusivist strain in Mormon belief and culture, and an unfortunate tendency to view other religions as somehow inferior, or at least preparatory, to our own. But this is balanced by an equally powerful strain of universalism, evidenced by the come-all Mormon afterlife, for example. It’s not one or the other.

  • Larry

    Remind me to laugh at the next person who suggests LDS church tithes go entirely to charity.

    I am getting a serious “The Producers”/Canadian tax shelter vibe from the project.

  • One thing I think is kind of cool about the movie, it the kickboxing mother of two, and what the inclusion of her story tells us about the shifting views on the role of women, and what a mormon woman ought to look like, considering this from Elder Faust in 2000:

    “Unfortunately, we see some very poor role models of womanhood in today’s society. We see women boxers and wrestlers as we flip through the television channels trying to find something uplifting. I believe the women of our time need to be strong, but not in that sense. In my opinion, these activities demean the nobility of womanhood. Young women need to be strong in righteousness, and, to quote your current theme, ‘to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places.’”

  • Dave

    I would say that all religions, or even any organization for that matter makes the same statement of differences as the Mormons do. I will grant to you that some Mormons have not always been cordial about it, but frankly the very nature of an organization or a religion in this case, is that they make claims of belief that they believe to be right and organize to live and promote the ideas they believe to be true. That’s the idea. We all believe we are right. I assume you believe your statement is right and that Mormons are wrong so what is the difference? Again I think this movie is a way to better state what we believe without being divisive like we may have been in the past. A lighter analogy may be appropriate: I tell people all the time that Nutella is awesome, but they sometimes do not agree. I simply don’t understand why a jar spreadable Chocolate is not desirable to them but, I respect their right to abstain from it. That is their choice. But I also have a right to believe it is awesome and eat it in public and invite others to eat it. I believe it is better than peanut butter but some would disagree, but I still think it’s better than peanut butter, how is that offensive?

  • Dave

    How much of your money goes entirely to Charity?

  • Dave

    I think you may be taking Faust’s words out of context. I believe what he was saying is that physical strength does not make one strong. Sometimes we feel in order for women to be accepted and treated equally that they have to be like men instead of just respecting whoever they are. I think the comment about boxers and wrestlers could also mean that the world does not see a woman who is honest and good but one that has big muscles or who is “aggressive.” I think the idea of the Mom is not what she outwardly is but who she is regardless of her outward appearance. I believe she is not strong because she is a kick boxer and single mom but that she is a faithful wonderful woman and her surroundings do not define her as such but her integrity.

  • I won’t criticize your mental gymnastics there, since I myself am quite flexible in that area, but it doesn’t hurt us to be aware of when we’re doing it. 🙂

  • Richard Morgan

    Hi Dave. You compare your beliefs with Nutella? From what I know about the Church, that sounds about right.

  • Fred M

    Dave! We members need to be able to admit that attitudes toward women in the church may be shifting, and that leaders like Elder Faust may have had views that we would consider backwards now. Out of context??? He clearly said that in his opinion when women box it demeans the nobility of womanhood. And that’s okay. He was just expressing his opinion. And now time has passed and the church has produced a documentary featuring a member who is a female kickboxer, something they would not do if they felt they were promoting an activity which demeaned the nobility of womanhood. This is not something worth the mental gymnastics required to try to explain away or defend. What’s the negative in accepting that times have changed?

  • Richard Morgan

    Fred is right, Dave. The Mormon church is not hampered by “eternal truths” and other bothersome stuff. They benefit from progressive revelation. God is allowed to change his mind. He is God, after all.
    If you believe in that kind of God, all the rest just falls into place.

  • Fred M

    In your analogy, however, you are talking about individual taste, which is clearly subjective. As Mormons, we believe in objective truth–to carry your analogy further, we would be adding a judgment that not eating Nutella was somehow morally wrong (a sin of omission), or that by abstaining from Nutella a person would be missing out on the true meaning of life. Nutella is the best, not just for you or for me, but for everyone, and those who have not yet realized that Nutella is delicious are living incomplete lives, not yet seeing the light of Nutella truth. That’s what I think some people find offensive.

    I actually think the church has pulled back on expressions of this extremist view (a view which, contrary to your statement, all other religions definitely do NOT hold). Doctrinally, we still believe that ours is the only church with priesthood authority, the only true and living church–but if you study statements from the prophets (particularly those in general conference) you can see a clear evolution of how and when and to what degree this is expressed. There is an effort to be more accepting and open and less offensive. An effort I personally appreciate.

  • Larry

    More than you would be comfortable in acknowledging. 🙂

    When I donate to charity, I know the proceeds go towards actual charity (and the actual mechanics of distributing it). Not feature film production, shopping malls, cattle farms or political campaigns. I choose ones to donate to based on how much goes towards “administrative costs” and what they do with my donation and how its given.

    Tithing is not giving to charity. Its semi-compulsory (there is a major peer pressure element to it), the tithers do not get an accounting as to where the money goes, nor is the money ever intended to go for purely charitable pursuits.

    Your question essentially acknowledges my point and certainly does not contest it. Seeking to change the subject and focus on the speaker rather than what was discussed.

  • But Nutella IS the best. It is the One True Spread.

    I may not have a strong testimony of Mormonism as an exclusive, we-are-better-than-everyone-else truth, but don’t you be messin’ with my chocolaty hazelnut goodness.

  • Bonita

    I would recommend seeing “God’s Army”. I thought it was an excellent movie. Well done, easy to identify with the characters, and I actually think a non-member would enjoy it as well. It’s not a missionary tool. It’s just really a genuine story. Loved it.

  • Really interesting quote! Attitudes do change, thank God.

    “Demean the nobility of womanhood”? As if.

  • Hayley Weston

    Richard, Fred and Dave I liked all of your answers and commentaries however, only parts of each. Does God change his mind? I am not sure without studying the subject however, my initial answer would be that he doesn’t change his mind; rather he makes decisions and the TIMING of his decisions perfectly as he is all knowing.I would submit that as imperfect humans and not knowing ALL knowledge and truth at once that we are the ones who change our mind. Changing our mind and our hearts continually and progessively is crucial. Not just changing but changing in the direction of God’s truth that he provides “line upon line and precept upon precept”. God knows the perfect timing of when knowledge and truth is shared. He knows how much to share, what we are willing to accept based on our current knowledge and capacity and whether he should provide the knowledge (with more knowledge and truth comes greater responsibility). I’m sure there are many other scenarious and purposes that only God would know. God is the ultimate provider of knowledge and truth and he doesnt share all of it at once. He is loving and wants us to come back to him. If he is completely loving he would eventually want to share ALL of his knowledge with us. Got off topic a little. . . :). I explained all of this though because this is what many pepple dont understand about lds doctrine. We evolve. We change our perceptions and hearts based on new understanding, knowledge and truth that we receive directly from Gods mouthpieces here on earth or from our own personal revelation. Its all about finetuning our will with Gods and that is continuous. President Faust made that statement based on his knowledge at that time. Thank goodness for continuing revelation! 🙂

  • Fred M

    Of course. I’m trying to be open-minded, not insane.

  • TomW

    Bernie, it isn’t exactly charting new territory for people to believe they belong to the Lord’s true church and yet wish to seek common ground in numerous areas which promote community betterment and harmony.

    I, for one, respect the beliefs of my friends who believe that their churches are the true path. From my perspective, why else attend a church at all unless one truly believes it is what Christ wants me and everyone else to do?

    I don’t need other churches to recognize the priesthood authority of my baptism. Why would I require such validation from others? I don’t think they seek my validation either, nor should they.

    I absolutely believe that the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints IS the Lord’s living prophet, with the authority to speak for God to the whole earth. I also believe that God inspires people of all stripes the world over in myriad ways to bless their lives.

  • TomW

    There are various aspects to charity, Larry, of which only one seeks to help people in temporal need. Promoting spiritual strengthening of our fellow man also qualifies. If one wants to study the endowments of many philanthropists, the initial money goes into an investment from which the proceeds perpetually further the mission of the endeavor without touching principal. This is sound strategy.

  • TomW

    alliegator – I found your Faust quote to be intriguing, however I could make the argument that his reference to wrestling has more to do with the type one sees with Hulk Hogan rather than the olympic games. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t kickboxing involve more of a discipline in martial arts than purely pummeling someone with gloves? In any case, there has never been an anti-boxing or anti-wrestling doctrine in the church, albeit an argument can be made that a female boxer with only one simple pair of earrings may face less harm than a boxer with multiple piercings… ;o)

  • TomW

    With so many more 19-year-old sisters serving as missionaries, perhaps some kickboxing skills might come in handy if they are assigned to some of the more unsavory locales on the planet!

  • TomW

    Larry, as I’ve said already, charity isn’t limited to alleviating hunger or providing shelter overhead. The spiritual missions of the world’s churches are worthy charitable endeavors, even if you don’t personally support them. Go ahead, give as you see fit. The Lord will bless you. I know of no blessings which result from criticizing the charity of others.

  • TomW

    I appreciate the recommendation, Bonita, but I’m pretty sure that movie falls somewhere down my list below watching Star Wars for the 50th time and catching up on the entirety of Doctor Who!

  • TomW

    Jana, this may be more what he had in mind, but probably wouldn’t have wanted to directly link through the church website!


  • TomW

    I thought this article in the SL Trib did a decent job of getting to the intent of the movie: http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/58497919-78/mormons-meet-church-film.html.csp

  • Dave

    Fred M,
    I am still unclear why you find believing one is right as being offensive. It is true that the delivery of such a belief can be offensive. Like if I threw a jar of Nutella through your window every week until you started eating it. But I really do think Nutella is better, this is partially why I use the analogy (also for humor in a possibly over-heated debate) I really do feel those who do not like it ARE missing out but I am respectful and do not force it on them and would not do the same with my faith.

    All I am trying to say is that Mormons do not have the corner on believing they are right and someone else is wrong. I think this is simply a human phenomenon… I think most people believe in ultimate truths, there either is or is not a God, Jesus either was or was not who he or others claimed him to be. Joseph Smith made this simple argument. It was not that he wanted to be “righter” than others; he just felt there must be truth to the claims of religion and he believed that he found them.

    Also, If one learns truth they are obligated to assume that the opposite is an untruth whether intentionally deceiving or not, it is untruth. I do not believe others of other faiths are intentionally wrong or less than I because they are wrong only that they are wrong. If you believe that DNA is the cause of your blue eyes then it is natural to assume that anyone who disagrees with that is inocently ignorant or uninformed or a liar. These are the only possibilities. True, Brother Smith states that some religious people and faith ideas are nefarious in their intentions, and I think this is true as well but that does not mean I or he believes that anyone who does not believe as he is evil. Mormons believe they have found truth and if they are in fact right then anything otherwise is either unintentionally wrong or intentionally deceiving.

    I can see how being accused of being intentionally deceiving can be offensive; however if you are not, then there is no reason to be offended. Only that Mormons are simply unintentionally ignorant to the truth, and that does not offend me at all.

  • You could, alternately, just send the weekly Nutella to me.

  • Kimprobable


  • Larry

    Tithes are still not charity. They are dues to your religious social club with definite tangible benefits to those paying them.

    Failure to pay even brings the same kind of penalties within the club. Denial of club privileges and even ostracism of its members. Charity does not come with direct personal benefits. When it does, it is not charity.

    Missionary work in of itself is not charity either. It is self-interested recruiting. Even when missions set up charitable services, it comes with strings attached concerning being receptive to proselytizing.

    Be honest with yourself and about what your church does with the money you give it. Calling tithes charity is hardly that.

    Making a feature length film and giving it a theatrical release for certain box office failure is only charity for the production staff of the film. Realistically it gives one a “The Producers” or a Canadian Tax Shelter film vibe. A film destined to fail, whose failure benefits the people who made it. [see “Canucksploitation”]

  • TomW

    Larry, not meeting YOUR personal standard for charity is really quite irrelevant. Thanks for playing.

  • Jay

    Um, you do realize the church is donating all proceeds to the American Red Cross, right?

  • Larry

    No, your definition of charity is dishonest, self-serving and reeks of canned arguments.

    I will take your response as a sign of capitulation.

    You are not bothering to dispute my points and obviously uncomfortable with people going off-script on subjects.

  • TomW

    Your points are invalid, so there is nothing to dispute. Charity takes many forms, and your LDS intolerance is utterly irrelevant.

    No, your definition of charity is dishonest, self-serving and reeks of canned

  • Art

    There is alot of garbage out there in churchland and it produces some strange fruit; that being said… the Mormons are in general… really nice people – Ok I said it! I’m not one; but that is my impression. Do I agree with all their theology – no, but that does not detract from who they are. Just saying…

  • Thanks, Art.

  • Pingback: LDS Church Paying for People to Watch "Meet the Mormons"? - Nearing Kolob Nearing Kolob()

  • Jennifer

    These reviews were inevitable. First, none of the lives in the documentary were “just swell”. In fact, each person rose from extremely difficult, some poverty stricken, circumstances to productive and happy existence. They found love and family through their faith in God and hope in humanity. The entire film was beautiful in its diversity in all respects, including physical ailments to emotional, drug abuse, physical abuse, war, and severe poverty. The message was of light, truth, and hope. Truth is truth. All the negative reviews in the world cannot hide or cancel truth. It is still true. I do wonder why people are afraid of truth though. Why is it so offensive for a person or group of persons to claim they have found truth? As a religious leader recently stated: “Spiritual questions require spiritual answers.” Instead of criticizing, take the challenge and ask those spiritual questions—-and if done so with sincere heart—those questions will be answered in a spiritual way so that you find what you are seeking.

  • Jennifer

    Also, the beauty of the film was the imperfections of the people. Not one of them claimed to be perfect. Sometimes the words came a little awkwardly and not with the scripted eloquence of hollywood. But, would we really want it any other way?

  • Rodolfo Smith

    It is widely believed by many people that the LDS Church decided to take this very unusual PR step to introduce a feature length movie titled “Meet The Mormons”, in order to obfuscate the recent airing of the British television documentary titled “Meet The Mormons”.

    Watch it. I can guarantee that you will learn infinitely more about the LDS church from it than from this PR infomercial. It’s on Youtube here:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-jORAciyGk4 Meet the Mormons

  • TomW

    I’m sure, Roldolfo, that whatever is contained in your 46 minute YouTube link, will simply be an infomercial for whatever you wish to portray as well.

  • JW

    Sorry Jay, it is not “all proceeds.” The fine print says “net proceeds” which is something entirely differently and likely to be zero in this case. Please note the small, grayed-out print at the bottom of the official announcement for the clarification. The official announcement is here: http://meetthemormons.com/charity

  • Dave

    alliegator and FredM you are right. I agree and see your point. I guess I was feeling overly defensive. Points taken… I do still believe though that even though kickboxing is not demeaning to women (he was wrong to say that) it should not be the gauge of what makes a woman noble. Nobility comes from our personal integrity, not our hobbies. It is cool that noble women can feel they can have different interests, hobbies and abilities but I hope the film and we as members do not emphasize those things as what we are. We are children of God not facebook profiles…

  • Dave

    well said

  • Richard Morgan

    Thank you for that link, Rodolfo. Even after forty years, certain scenes revived unpleasant memories of my own mission.
    Makes me shudder just to think about it.

  • Rodolfo Smith

    TomW obfuscation at its finest. The link is to the British television documentary produced by award winning filmmaker Lynn Alleway, and aired nationwide in the UK on channel 4 in June 2014. If you don’t like the Youtube link, watch it on the Channel 4 UK site here:


    Oh by the way, this is Episode 1.

  • Andrew H.


    You missed the analogy and what we Mormons call the “spirit of the message” or it’s intent. Instead, you delivered a “zinger”. Peace!

  • Andrew H.

    The church has announced all proceeds will go to the American Red Cross.

  • Thomas French

    Yes you can focus on differences but there are so many similarities with other faiths. Beginning with we are all brothers and sisters, belief in God, our Heavenly Father, the fall, a Savior, Jesus Christ, and thru hid Atonement the opportunity to repentance, and immortality thru his resurrection. That love is the greatest commandment. That we are to follow him by serving and thinking of others first. How grateful I am that I was introduced to the gospel and learn more fully where I came from, why I am here and where I am going.

  • Thomas French

    Tithing is being obedient. Malachi 3:8-10, Proverbs 3:9, etc. I consider it like my rent for my time on earth. He gives us all and only asks 10 per cent back. Tithing is a matter of faith. I have never made a lot but when I have been obedient and paid my tithes, I never missed it. I always had food on the table, gas in the car and a roof over my head. Please wake up. God lives, Jesus is the Christ and has restored his gospel to the earth that we might come unto him becoming all we are meant to be.

  • Thomas. French

    When I joined the church in1973, Africa had famines. The church had 2 worldwide fasts First raised $6 million, next $3 million with all proceeds in conjunction with other organizations to relief. Major to immediate relief with rest long term. The church has 3 ongoing projects, wells in developing countries, wheelchair an neonatal resuscitation projects. In addition in any disaster worldwide it is one of the first there. I have found it best to give where it is decided by The Lord thru revelation to his prophets what needs are of highest priority at the time

  • Richard Morgan

    Thomas French said,”……we are all brothers and sisters, belief in God, our Heavenly Father, the fall, a Savior, Jesus Christ, and thru hid Atonement the opportunity to repentance, and immortality thru his resurrection.”
    I find this sort of duplicity really upsetting. No Christian church ever , in 2000 years of history has believed that our Heavenly Father is a much improved human being, who still has a body of flesh and bones. And countless wives. So when you talk about God, you have strictly nothing in common with traditional Christianity.
    The only thing that you have in common with other faiths is the fact that you believe that you are right and everybody else is wrong.

    Which brings me to the BBC documentary “Meet the Mormons”. THere was no surprise to see that the thought police system was still functioning. Distasteful but unsurprising. What did shock me, and which reminded me of your post, was when we heard a missionary say to somebody, “We are Christians.”
    Why would he say that? Not prizes for guessing that it was a manipulative trick to make people a little less suspicious.
    The problem is that for 2000 years Christianity has taught that God is omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent. Sure, theologians and apologists the significance of these attributes for centuries. But missionaries have no right to dupe people into thinking that they are just good ol’ Christians like everyone else.
    They want to get invited into people’s homes to subsequently teach them the Mormon version of God, who not only has a limited and limiting physical body, but also that, actually, (quoting Thomas Hardman in the thread about “Doubt”) he did not create the universe ex nihilo and therefore
    did not create evil,
    that he is bound by natural law and therefore
    could “cease to be God” (Alma 42:13),
    that God’s “work and glory” (Moses 1:39) is
    to see us “have a privilege to advance like himself,” etc.
    That stuff is completely alien to traditional Christian beliefs.

    I’d like to see missionaries putting notions like that in the first discussion, “Just like you, Mr and Mrs Johnson, we believe in an eternal Heavenly Father. But we know that he could cease to be God. So, actually, he’s kind of provisionally eternal.”

  • Richard Morgan

    Hey, Thomas, that is funny! “..when I have been obedient and paid my tithes, I never missed it.” You need to tell us what happened when you weren’t obedient or couldn’t afford to pay your tithes.
    People can do what they like with their money. Or other people’s money if they have huge credit card debts, which seems to be fashionable among young people these days.
    But I still remember a joker we met when I was a missionary in 1972. He was almost an investigator, but he’d heard about the principle of tithing and wanted a fuller explanation. Of course, we quoted Malachi 3:8-10, and said much the same kind of thing as you.
    Our French wannabe stand-up comedian retorted, “Well I have more faith than you. When I get my wages, I take all the money and throw it up into the air for God. What he wants, he keeps. What falls back down is mine.”

  • TomW

    Just thought some people would be interested in Robert Kirby’s take from the Salt Lake Tribune: http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/58507634-78/mormons-church-meet-real.html.csp

  • Larry

    “Net points” are a Hollywood accounting joke. It means next to nothing is going to the recipient. This is why only writers and naive co-producers usually get these. The savvy people get “gross proceeds” in their contract.


  • Larry

    There you go. It is an act of fealty and submission. Done with a measure of self-interest and benefit involved. The dues for your religious social club.

    So what happens to your standing in the church should you fail to tithe?

  • Larry

    Are you sure that is where all the money went? The LDS is not known for its transparency or willingness to disclose its finances for general scrutiny (most churches and charities do so willingly).

  • Dave


    I apologize for making it sounding like a personal attack, it was not intended as such. I assume you are a very charitable person. The point I am making is tithing and other offerings do not exist purely to provide financial charity to people. Nor would I expect that you give all your money to charity, though you may be very generous. I am not questioning your your charity only stating that few people give everything and that is not a bad either. Charity is a large part of what the church does with the money and it is very important, but tithing is for more than just giving to the poor etc. It is intended to be used to build God’s kingdom which could include like you said: “films” that tell our side of the story from our point of view, “cattle farms” that not only provide food for the needy but jobs for who need them, ‘political donations’ in causes that we believe will benefit society, and other financial investments (shopping malls etc) that grow the money to do more of those things. No one would see an individual as nefarious for investing money to make it grow to feed children, so why is it wrong of the Church to spend their money in ways other than giving to the poor? I see none of the reasons you gave as negative or abusive to the goals of the church or it’s members…

  • TomW

    Just got home from the local theater. I didn’t have high expectations. I had already grown weary of the many Facebook updates from my LDS friends, either touting the movie before they ever saw it, or raving about it afterwards. I’d also grown weary of the criticisms from people who never met an LDS news story that they didn’t want to snear at. (You know who you are!)

    All in all, I’m glad I went. I thought each profile was interesting in its own right.

    I loved the opening story of the black bishop in Atlanta. While his congregation is not “typical” in terms of its wealth of diversity, I see absolutely no problem heralding this particular ward in an aspirational sense. As the LDS church continues to spread its beliefs throughout the world, this is increasingly the changing face of the church, and I embrace it wholeheartedly. Hearkening back to a term Jana and I talked about perhaps a year ago or so on her blog, I have a certain “holy envy” of the Atlanta Ward.

    The first story to really tug at my heartstrings was that of the Candy Bomber. My parents grew up in Germany during World War II. My mother was introduced to the gospel by her best friend while they were working together at an airplane factory. After the war, they found themselves in the East. Though she was far from Berlin and never personally had a connection to the Candy Bomber, she had her own experiences with hardships and hunger, and it was easy to relate to the children who were so desperate for a taste or smell of chewing gum and chocolate. How wonderful that this man is still alive to tell his story firsthand and to periodically reenact his adventure for young audiences.

    The other story to really touch my heart was the teen mom whose life was about as fragile as it can be when she first encountered the missionaries. Looking back on the changes in her life which led her to find love, to add to her family, and then go through the experience of sending her son on a mission. And what a great dad to boot! Reminds me of the song by Brad Paisley, “He Didn’t Have To Be.”


    So now do I update my Facebook status to herald the film? I don’t know. I feel like my non-LDS friends may have already suffered enough! But there were several moments throughout the movie that I thought of non-members I know who really would enjoy it, and I might extend an invitation to them individually.

  • TomW

    Another writer, Ryan Jenkins, responds in part to Robert Kirby. I tend to agree with his sentiments: http://www.realclearreligion.org/articles/2014/10/14/missing_the_mormon_point.html

  • Tom, what an interesting and powerful story about your parents. Thanks for sharing.

  • TomW

    An interesting article at The Hollywood Reporter: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/meet-mormons-proves-box-office-740471

  • Larry

    “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) will donate all net proceeds* from the theatrical release of Meet the Mormons to the American Red Cross.”

    “*Net proceeds means box office proceeds less distribution expenses.”

    Net proceeds are a Hollywood accounting joke

  • Larry

    Its amazing how much you have to rationalize how the money is spent in order to keep up the pretense that your social club dues are somehow charity. “Building God’s Kingdom” seems to produce quite a tidy profit for the prophets. Money going to commercial ventures set up to enrich the coffers of their owners are never going to be considered charity to anyone remotely sane. At best its venture capitalism preying on the naive.

    Movies designed to be box office failures hardly fit that bill either.
    Yes “Meet the Mormons” was set up specifically to lose money for the LDS church. Given its limited audience and costs of professional film production/distribution, it was utterly insane to give it a theatrical release. The costs of distribution usually make up the lions share of the budget of a film not starring Tom Hanks. Direct to video would have been far less costly, more effective and made the film more useful as the recruiting tool they were aiming for. Hence my suspicion of a The Producers type scam or using the film as a tax shelter (as was the case for most of Canada’s low budget film output in the 70’s and 80’s)

  • TomW

    Larry, it’s amazing how bent out of shape you get over other people’s devotions.

  • Pingback: Real Religion?: Questions of authenticity in “Meet the Mormons” | Third Spaces()

  • Anonymous

    Ok, Dave. But, would you seriously watch a documentary about Nutella, though? That may have worked on Mr. Rogers, but most people would choose the sorriest B movie over that. Your analogy doesn’t work.

  • Cliff

    So do most of the churches earnings go back to Kolob so that God can maintain his giant celestial palace full of smoking hot wives that he impregnates with the spirits of babies….or does he make his own money some how? Perhaps he sold the death Star to Darth Vader? That giant orbiting space station had to of cost a trillion space bucks.