American Experience (1988– )
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The Mormons: Part II 

Somewhat different than part 1, which was a selective treatment of Mormon history, part 2 explores the lives of many different kinds of Mormons, going for more breadth than depth. As such ... See full synopsis »


Helen Whitney




Episode credited cast:
Tal Bachman Tal Bachman ... Self
Robert Bennett Robert Bennett ... Self
James Dalrymple James Dalrymple ... Self
Timber Dick Timber Dick ... Self
Fiona Givens Fiona Givens ... Self
Terryl Givens Terryl Givens ... Self
Calvin Harper Calvin Harper ... Self
Bryan Horn Bryan Horn ... Self
Gail Houston Gail Houston ... Self
Marlin K. Jensen Marlin K. Jensen ... Self
Leslie Karsten Leslie Karsten ... Self
Emily Lodish Emily Lodish ... Self
Colleen McDannell Colleen McDannell ... Self
Richard Mouw Richard Mouw ... Self
Melissa Mower Melissa Mower ... Self


Somewhat different than part 1, which was a selective treatment of Mormon history, part 2 explores the lives of many different kinds of Mormons, going for more breadth than depth. As such only one family interviewed represented the bulk of actively participating Mormons, while the rest of those interviewed represented mostly fringe members, inactive members, ex-members.

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PBS underscores again
22 July 2008 | by groggoSee all my reviews

Over the past 15 years or so, PBS has been infiltrated by more and more heavy-duty corporate sponsors, and much of the network's previously hard-hitting investigative 'bite' has either disappeared or been severely diluted.

This four-hour series on the Mormons is exhibit 'A': it's yet another frustrating exercise that purports to examine 'truth'. Little attention is afforded to the shady past of the religion's founder, Joseph Smith, a convicted swindler, impostor, thief, consummate liar and all-round superb con artist.

The series does point out that Smith was operating in an upstate New York region infested with lunatics who had received 'the light and the word' from god himself. Enter our Joseph, who was a fabulously talented storyteller. He was imaginative, glib, and charismatic (sound familiar?), much better than all the others at making people believe that he, and only he, was THE chosen messenger (a la Mohammad).

In the PBS series, we see documents allegedly translated by Smith (transcribed from two magic gold plates that he had conveniently found near his home). Yet historians who have seriously studied the Mormons claim that Smith was basically illiterate (again, like Mohammad), although he could apparently read.

According to these historians, Smith did not write the words on the gold plates, because, well, he couldn't write. He instead cajoled a friend into transcribing the plates, which were carefully hidden from the scribe's view for safety's sake. If he saw them, according to Smith, he would be struck dead immediately. Ya gotta love this guy.

Smith's 'translation' contains countless passages (about 30-40 thousand words) taken verbatim from the Old and New Testaments (a lot of rust on those gold plates). It would have been easy for Smith to simply read these passages to his clueless scribe, yet this little nugget is ignored in the PBS series.

Basically, The Church of Latter Day Saints is just another phony religion invented by a con artist par excellence who actually started to believe, with surpassing zeal, his own lies. He went on to transform and convert himself before he converted his followers. He became a super-evangelist before he was inconveniently murdered in a shoot-out. A dead martyr is better than a thousand live zealots; zap: we got ourselves a religion.

Smith was seriously delusional, not unlike other 'founders' of religions. That seems obvious to atheists, agnostics and 'outsiders,' but not to PBS, which infuses this series with a tone that is almost reverential. This sellout of truth by the people's network is understandable: to condemn the Mormon faith is to risk severe reprisals from powerful church members in politics and corporate America.

Mormonism (or whatever it's called) is apparently the fastest-growing religion in America and perhaps even the world. Coincidentally, it might also be, per capita, the richest. Odd how god, The Perfect One, gave the 'final word' to the Mormons yet also had a need to accumulate enormous wealth in the bargain. If god is 'perfect,' why would he need money? It shows, once again (and again and again), that the number of people who are willing to be duped is apparently infinite.

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1 May 2007 (USA) See more »

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WGBH See more »
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