Sunday, May 06, 2007

helen whitney: missing the mark

I wanted to post another point of view about the documentary. I said in a previous post that I don't understand how my fellow members of the Church can call this an unfair and even negative portrayal of our faith. Maurine Proctor writes this for her online magazine, Meridian, about the PBS documetary on the Mormons. She describes her disappointment with what was left out of the documentary. I understand what she's saying. I agree that Whitney's treatment of the Book of Mormon was lacking. If I were not a member of the Church, I'd be wondering how LDS people could possibly believe this far-fetched story about this supposed book of scripture and what was it about Joseph Smith that made people follow him into such bitter trials? Whitney's answer is Smith's carisma. However, as Proctor rightly points out, most people who became members and eventually made the trek to Salt Lake never met him.

The rest is from Proctor's article:

Parley P. Pratt described his experience when he first read the book:

After this I commenced its contents by course. I read all day; eating was a burden, I had no desire for food; sleep was a burden when the night came, for I preferred reading to sleep.As I read, the spirit of the Lord was upon me, and I knew and comprehended that the book was true, as plainly and manifestly as a man comprehends and knows that he exists. My joy was now full, as it were, and I rejoiced sufficiently to more than pay me for all the sorrows, sacrifices and toils of my life.

Everybody doesn’t have to feel this way about the Book of Mormon, but the documentary should have at least portrayed the reality that many do. Instead the Book of Mormon is breezily dismissed by Grant Palmer, an excommunicant, who calls it a piece right out of the 19th century and an archaeologist who says there is no evidence for it in Central America. Discussion ended.


sippinghotchocolate said...

i'm glad proctor wasn't the only one who thought the average, normal, non-intellectual, non-poet, non-artist, non-author members of the LDS church should had been interviewed. i loved hearing the conversion story of the african american lady in the documentary. and the homeschool family too. but then maybe something like that would had made the documentary like some of the videos put out by the church and then who would want to watch it. in whitney's response to the documentary she writes how she think the best approach to making a documentary on faith is minimal analysis, maximum imagery, music and personal stories. she also writes that "the great challenge she writes "is to get people to talk about these elusive subjects with poetry and precision." after reading that i don't know if i like her imagery or music or even her poetry and precision, which is why i think documentaries will always fail in part to a movie with a good storyline like "the work and the glory" for instance where themes can be woven into the story without one having to try to hard to bring balance to it.

ML said...
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ML said...

Excellent point in this blog Calandria. That's one thing that remains the same since Joseph Smith's day. The Church stands or falls on the truthfulness of The Book of Mormon.

Calandria said...

I really liked some of the art and imagery used in the documentary, but I think I might be the only one, at least of the poeple I've talked to. I think that both documentaries and fictional films like "Work and the Glory" can achieve something great. But they don't necessarily have the same purpose. (If any of you were wondering, I'm not keen on "Work and the Glory." I liked very much how the non-fictional part was done, but I couldn't get into the fictional story. I nearly fell asleep during those parts.)

Calandria said...

oh, and i didn't answer about if i've read Rough Stone Rolling or no. i haven't yet, but it's high on my list. i read some of a friend's copy plus a lot of reviews of it, including larry mcmurtry's. mcmurtry faults bushman for stopping short of revealing mormonism for the sham that it is. isn't that hilarious? what did he expect of a faithful member of the Church?

Auntie Lee said...

I could not see it here and my internet connection is to slow to watch it that way. I have read everything you all had to say. I am surprised that MMM was mentioned. I guess it would be part of history and is in the seminary lessons. In this country when church history is taught I find most people don't get most of it because the geography and the American part of the history has little or nothing to do with the Dutch. Open spaces, isolation, a lack of government officials in the wild west and severe weather conditions is way to much for them to understand. Some things are just to far away from their lives.

This year we are studying the New Testament. Even though I have read the teachings of Christ many times I am always surprised when I read it again to learn how truely a radical He was. That can only be understood as I learn more and more about the culture of the society He was living in. As I learn more of that society and the culture of the people I understand more of what He was up against and why people reacted the way they did to Him.

I don't think it is much different with church history. One must make the effort to learn the situation behind it and that takes an effort I don't think most people want to bother with.

dave said...

First, they did indeed have more on the Book of Mormon. All those Ghanans were essentially converted by the Book of Mormon alone. They could have had more, but I felt like that made at least a small point.

And I thought they did have some "normal" Mormons. The man whose wife had passed away in childbirth seemed pretty normal. And the daughter of the homeschoolers who was engaged and talked about getting married in the temple.

I've just seen Part II, and I thought it was Very Well Done. More than anything, Marlin K. Jensen ROCKS! What a wonderful, kind, eloquent spokesman for the Church.