Thursday, August 30, 2012

LDS Church Officially Reacts To NBC's "Mormon In America", Characterizes It As "A Sincere Attempt To Know The Faith"

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has finally posted official reaction to the NBC News special entitled "Mormon In America", which aired on August 24th, 2012. On the Mormon Newsroom blog, in a post entitled "Mormonism in the News: Getting It Right August 29", they characterized the program as "a sincere attempt to know the faith" and lauded it as "a good example of what we mean when we say we want to be a part of the global discussion of Mormonism".

The Church did cite three parts of the report which could have been improved:

-- Temple Garments: This segment was considered mildly insensitive because it showed a picture of individuals wearing the garments. The LDS Church prefers that media outlets report on temple garments the same way as they would religious vestments of other faiths.

-- Insufficient Distinction Between Temples And Chapels: During one segment, Brian Williams was protrayed as sitting outside a temple and wishing he could enter it just like a Catholic cathedral. While it is correct that only devout LDS members vetted by their bishops can enter LDS temples after they are formally dedicated, it is also true that the public is always welcome to attend any of the Church’s 28,000 weekly Sunday worship services around the globe.

-- Word Of Wisdom Does Not Specifically Mention Caffeine: The NBC special erroneously stated that caffeine was forbidden. More precisely, it is hot drinks, further defined as coffee and tea, that are forbidden.

For those who may have missed it or want to watch it again, the full 42 minutes of the show is posted on YouTube. Audio is a bit low.

Unofficial reaction by individual LDS members was posted to a host of Utah media websites, where secular coverage was more detailed. In comments posted to the August 24th KSL Channel 5 news story, many found the picture of the garments to be offensive, but a considerable number were also unhappy with the point of view espoused by Abby Huntsman, one of the daughters of former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman. Abby has evolved into what can be best described as a "New Order Mormon", and thinks the Church should be less secretive. A few people were also unhappy with the points of view espoused by Joanna Brooks, a faithful member of the Church who flirts with feminism and has promoted gay rights. Brooks was perceived to have been obsessed with "patriarchy" within the LDS Church and promoting the idea that women should have the Priesthood conferred upon them. Nevertheless, the general consensus was that NBC strived to be fair and balanced.

On August 26th, Joanna Brooks published her own follow-up response on Feminist Mormon Housewives. Brooks was also offended by NBC's portrayal of temple garments, and thought too much time was given to Abby Huntsman. But what Brooks wanted to bring out is that although she feels no personal angst over not having the Priesthood, many LDS women she's met, including devout templeworthy women, believe women should get the Priesthood. So Brooks wanted to communicate the fact that ordination is important for some Mormon feminists, and that for some of them, questions of decision-making and institutional participation and visibility take priority.

The problem with Mormon feminists is they don't understand that marriage is supposed to be a COOPERATIVE relationship, and NOT a competitive relationship. Husband and wife were not intended by God to be interchangeable parts or to mirror one another. Both combined are intended to mirror our Heavenly Parents. Our Heavenly Father simply gave each component different tools; men have the Priesthood as a tool, while women are given different tools. It doesn't make women inferior.

Some good reaction was also posted by Konden Smith, who was part of a seven-person panel invited to discuss their reactions on KPNX Channel 12 in Phoenix. He writes:

In context of the “Mormon moment” that has generated so much commentaries, films, articles, etc., my initial reaction after watching this portrayal of Mormonism on NBC was that this wasn’t just a “moment” of national interest over Mormonism, but a celebration of it. This was no “gloves off” encounter with Mormonism or even a challenging yet friendly critique, but rather playful banter with nerf swords, and NBC was more than careful not to hit anyone in the eye. This says a lot about how successful Mormons have been in proving they can be good neighbors, but it also says a lot about how Americans have chosen to look at Mormons and Mormonism as better neighbors themselves. If NBC’s “Rock Center” is at all representative of national sentiment, it’s almost as if the nation wants to prove its religious sophistication in this late date, and Mormonism is being used as its platform. Mormons couldn’t be happier.

I would agree that this program was about the best we can expect from a secular news organization. Rather than spend excessive time complaining about the relatively minor mistakes, our time would be better invested in capitalizing on the outreach opportunities opened up by such mistakes. Correcting the record may bring some people to the knowledge of the restored gospel.

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