But, do they like us?


I recently watched Mormon America, a film based on the idea of "off the street" takes on Mormonism from non-Mormons all across the well-known USA (NYC, LA, New Orleans, DC, etc.) Essentially two dudes take their car and camera and hie thither and yon to stand around and stop people to ask them what they know about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The result is as follows:

There are a few smile-worthy moments, but nothing to write home about. Fortunately, the filmmakers only demand 35 minutes of your time. Even still, I’m not sure it’s worth even that small investment. I mean, do we really need a movie to let us know that “they” think we’re still polygamists? Or that they think we’re wholly contained in Utah (a fact which the presenters harp on). What was lacking were the strong anti-Mormons (no Baptists telling Darryn he’s off to hell) or the entirely crazy perceptions. I guess the Church really is coming out of obscurity if horns, hypnotizing missionaries and hordes of gold have fallen by the wayside. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing. The more interesting conceit, at least to me, would be to carry out the same project along the Wasatch Front or in Southern Idaho to see what the non-Mormons who live among us believe. But, unless I become a semi-star of Mollywood, I doubt that such a project will get off the ground.

A couple informants confused Mormons with the Amish. This poses the less interesting possibility of a life lacking cellphones but rife with freshly churned butter, but also opens Mormons up to Rumspringe, the Amish period of living like the English right before baptism, as one interviewee suggests. I think I’ll stick with the morals if it means I can have buttons, electric ranges and the Internet.

What struck me most about the whole idea, as well as its outcome, is the appalling self-centeredness it shows of our people. We feel deeply, at least in official rhetoric, that we have something good to offer the world. As such, we cannot believe that the world knows so little of us. We desperately want to be known. Clearly, we’re approaching name recognition at least, however slowly it may be. But this project is really less of an experiment for humour (and nowhere near a compelling addition to the documentary canon) and more of a narcissistic salute to the Mormon consciousness in the jello belt, where all the earnings will be made. Thanks, guys, but no thanks.


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