Partial to Objectivity

Last night PBS aired the first half of the documentary called "The Mormons." I was looking forward to an even-handed representation of the Church's doctrines and history. What I saw instead was a host of people, many of whom were not LDS or who have left the Church, telling what they thought was wrong with it. There were numerous reported "facts" which were not supported by evidence from any primary source, such as the idea that Joseph Smith spent an inordinate amount of time hunting for treasure. Of the two hours, the entire second hour was spent discussing the Mountain Meadow Massacre and polygamy.

To their credit, there were a few statements by actual church authorities. Specifically, there was video shown of a General Conference address by President Hinckley stating in no uncertian terms that we do not practice polygamy. There was also a brief statement by Elder Oaks discussing the Mountian Meadow Massacre. The bulk of the interviews shown, however, were of those with no authority to speak on behalf of the Church.

There were, of course, representations of those with differing faith and opinions. That is in the interest of fairness. What is unfortunate is that the majority of the program seemed to focus on what would be considered controversial, with no mention made of all the good the Church does, for individuals, families, and the world as a whole. Having said that, the second part of the program may explore those things in greater depth. We'll have to wait and see.

This does bring up an interesting question. Is it possible to create a completely impartial documentary? I would think that to achieve a truly disinterested viewpoint it would be neccessary to be completely apathetic toward the subject. Otherwise it would be impossible to maintain true neutrality. For example, I would be the perfect person to explore the issue of what kind of fish would make the best pet. I don't care about fish at all, so I could be completely impartial. That presents two problems, however. The first is that I would never work to explore an issue that I didn't care about. Even if you overcome that problem, though, you will inevitably begin to form an opinion as you learn more about the subject. So, I guess to be fair to the producers, writers, and editors of "The Mormons," it's probably impossible to be completely impartial. The most we could realistically expect is for them to have a bunch of people on each side of things.


trb48 said...

I didn't like the documentary at all. I found it offensive and not very thought out. I think that they could have made it more objective. The thing that got me was the section on the Mountain Meadows Massacre. They went through all of the details, and then one guy basically said that Brigham Young was there, and he personally killed everyone. Then they had the church "historian" there, and he said that Brigham had nothing to do with it, and he was relieved at that fact.

If I did not like the church, who would I believe? Probably the first guy. Infact everyone basically said that Brigham was to blame. I think that the major thing that they failed to mention was that nothing like that had happened before, and nothing like that has happened since.

I had to stop watching I disliked it so much. Maybe the next episode will be better.