Wednesday, May 2, 2007

The Mormons: Good Show, Bad Website

It has been a somewhat busy month since I last posted here, and I feel really stupid about not writing. I have wanted to write on many issues, but felt I did not make the time to write substantively on the issues I care about. However, I wanted to get out something that I want to express. Perhaps I will write more about this and other things in the future.

Tonight I watched the second half of The Mormons on PBS. I have not yet seen the first part because my tivo was split between 24, Heroes, the Daily Show, and the Colbert Report and had to wait until later tonight to even record the first half. I will probably get to that tomorrow. I was impressed by the second half; it was about what I expected in terms of non-Mormon/dissident feelings, official Church line, and scholarly discussion. I was greatly surprised, though, by the dramatic telling of the stories. I felt the juxtaposition of that generally sterile discussion with personal interviews of individuals who have been impacted by the operation of the Church was incredibly powerful. While I could easily identify with the member families and individuals, I also could sympathize with the experiences of Margaret Toscano and Trevor Southey (Tal Bachman, not so much; he is always annoying). I also liked how the program started and ended with sunset panoramas of the Bountiful temple. I strongly contend both that Bountiful sunsets are the best on earth and that the Bountiful temple is the best one yet built.

I was excited to see the program's website because PBS usually has great web resources. I have often depended on Frontline or American Experience websites for research. However, I was greatly disappointed by the dearth of further resources now there. Specifically, the fact that only 13 interviews from the series online, and even then they are excerpted and not complete interview transcripts. I would have liked to have seen more from other interviewees like Sen. Bennett (I kind of would like to see how he screwed up) or Harold Bloom. I would also like to read or watch more from Betty Stevenson, Bryan Horn, and others whose personal experiences I liked so much. I hope they improve the website, as it is relatively easy to do, compared with adding new sections to the documentary itself.

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