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PBS Airs Part One of Series "The Mormons" Tonight

PBS Airs Part One of Series "The Mormons" Tonight

Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

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Paul Nelson ReportingPBS will air part one of its miniseries "The Mormons" tonight. Some say the documentary is anti-Mormon, while others are calling it LDS propaganda.

This is not, by any means, the first time storytellers have focused on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Some church members may be thinking, "Great. What now?"

"There are a lot of things said about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. A lot of things are true, and a lot of things are false."

Outside of the LDS Conference Center, it's hard to find church members who haven't heard about the upcoming documentary. They have their own expectations of what the documentary should do.

"I would hope that it would be factual, and not try to persuade in any way."

"I just hope that the truthfulness of what we do comes to light."

"It is our hope that they would portray the church correctly, in its true light."

To make the documentary, filmmaker Helen Whitney was given unprecedented access to church history. The producers also spoke with church leaders, religious scholars and historians both in and out of the church, including historians like Will Bagley.

"This is one of the themes of the documentary that I think it handles very well," he said. "How does a revolutionary religious movement that proclaims that it will upset the entire religious and political order, how does it become a mainstream American religion?"

Bagley says no topic is off limits for this documentary. It will discuss polygamy, blacks and the priesthood, and gays in the church. Not all opinions about the church are positive.

A line in the documentary says, "Being gay in that culture is beyond hell."

But Bagley says filmmakers tried to get both sides of any controversial issue. Take, for example, the Mountain Meadows Massacre.

"You have me saying, 'I'm convinced Brigham Young ordered it. It was a top-down operation,'" Bagley said. "And you have Glen Leonard, church historian, saying, 'No he didn't.'"

So, is it the documentary meant to oppose the LDS Church, or is it a fluff piece on the religion? Bagley says both things will be said about it.

"Whenever you're dealing with a subject as loaded as Mormonism, if you can hit that balance where half the people are accusing you of being anti-Mormon, and half are accusing you of being Mormon promoters, you're in the right place," Bagley said.

Bagley says he feels the documentary is sympathetic to the LDS Church overall.

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