“The Mormons” aired on PBS for two hours yesterday and two hours Monday. It’s neat to have four hours devoted to people talking about Mormonism. Two hours of the show were focused on history, and the other two were focused on the modern Mormon Church, or Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Some were disappointed with the overemphasis on controversial history, and some were disappointed with the under-treatment of controversial Mormon doctrines. Many were excited about the exposure of the world to the truth about Mormons, and others worried about how much sway anti-Mormons would have in what was said.
The recent “LDS Gem” for families said,
Monday and Tuesday evening this week, PBS television stations throughout the U.S. will show a two-part documentary called ‘The Mormons.’ Initial reviews describe the programs as thoughtful and probing and compliment Church leaders and members for how they addressed difficult topics. To see reviews by ‘The New York Times’ and others–as well as the Church’s own response-visit the Newsroom at: www.mormonnewsroom.org.
It was surprising to see such intense coverage of Mormon polygamy, along with coverage of non-LDS polygamist groups. While it’s hard to ignore that some of these Mormon fundamentalist groups definitely branched off from Mormonism in the early 20th century, it would be very improper to imply any modern connection between current polygamists and Mormonism. Some feel that the line was crossed when these people, who aren’t Mormons, received coverage in a documentary on Mormons.
Polygamy in Mormon doctrine is a controversial issue. It was difficult to understand and controversial when it was instituted, when it was practiced (by relatively few, by the way), and when it was renounced, and it still is a point of difficulty today.
Some think that the change in policy on Mormon polygamy is evidence that Mormon prophets don’t receive revelation from God, but that they react to social and political pressures instead. Why would polygamy be good at one time and bad at another? The Book of Mormon suggests a practical approach in Jacob 2:27-28, 30:
Wherefore, my brethren, hear me, and hearken to the word of the Lord: For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none; For I, the Lord God, delight in the chastity of women. And whoredoms are an abomination before me; thus saith the Lord of Hosts. . . For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things. (Emphasis added)
We cannot begin to list the possible reasons for the Lord to institute polygamy-his thoughts are higher than our thoughts. But as for changing Mormon policy-and this is not official doctrine or anything-our view of God as a Heavenly Father can shed some light as to why policies can change. Firstly, parents give their kids very different rules as they grow up. We see God’s rules change when he commands the end of the Law of Moses after the crucifixion-which is acknowledged by most Christians. God gives his children the laws they need when they need them to progress toward him. God’s not just there to command us, his purpose is to help us reach a goal of returning to him and being more like him.
If parents change the rules in the home to accommodate age, neighborhood, maturity level, and other factors, just so they can raise safe children and produce happy, confident adults, isn’t it plausible that God makes and changes rules based on what we need to grow up right? This life is a growing process, and sometimes we need different things. That’s why we have modern revelation and living Mormon prophets.
As for the documentaries, we have yet to see how they will effect the world’s view on Mormonism, or even how the Church will react. I sincerely hope that people will want to find out more about Mormons, and that they will be able to find good sources where true Mormon doctrine is available.