Documentary Film Seeks to Counter Mormon Stereotypes

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The filmmaker behind a new four-hour documentary about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said she hopes her work will debunk some myths about the Utah-based church.

“I hope that most of the stereotypes ideally, all of them will be blown away,” Helen Whitney told The Deseret Morning News from a television critics gathering in Pasadena, Calif. Saturday. “Because so many of them are just based on ignorance. Ignorance about Mormon history, ignorance about Mormon theology. Ignorance.”

The two-part film called “The Mormons” is a joint presentation from public broadcasting’s “American Experience” and “Frontline.”

The “American Experience” segment is expected to air April 30 and cover the church’s history, including its founding, persecutions leading to exodus and polygamy.

The “Frontline” broadcast is planned for May 1. Its focus is the modern church, including missionary work, family life, temples and the elevation of the faith to a mainstream religion.

“It is not exhaustive. It is not comprehensive. It is thematic,” said Whitney, who spent three years on the project. “I have chosen what I felt to be the defining ideas and themes and events in Mormon history that would help outsiders go inside the church.”

Is Mormonism Christian?

Is Mormonism Christian?
by Richard John Neuhaus

Whitney worked with Mormon and non-Mormon consultants while making the film. She said she interviewed “hundreds,” from everyday members to church President Gordon B. Hinckley and those antagonistic toward the faith. She also traveled cross country and sent a film crew to Ghana.

“Mormons are everywhere, and I wanted to make that point,” she said. “There are more Mormons outside of America than in this country. And even within America, there are many Mormons outside of Utah. So only a small part of it was shot in Utah.”

Whitney, who won both Emmy and Peabody awards for her films profiling monks and Catholic Pope John Paul II, said Mormon church leaders, said the film’s goal is neither to recruit new members to the church, nor discourage its believers.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Monday January 15, 2007.
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