A Mormon President

Mormon President, Mitt Romney Joseph Smith I highly recommend the documentary “A Mormon President“. With great production, story telling and controversy this DVD tells the story of Joseph Smith’s presidential run, his introduction of polygamy and his eventual murder. In many ways the documentary is as much the story of William Law as of Jospeh Smith. I think the producers did an excellent job of laying out the facts and deftly introducing both sides of any controversy they encountered.

I felt the Smith biography “Rough Stone Rolling” served as a template for the narrative of the documentary, but the film made fewer speculative judgement calls for what must have been motivating Joseph Smith in the last year of his life. Additionally the documentary was able to boil down the key events of 1844 into a 60 minute presentation. It’s so much more consumable and explanatory than most of the evenly-toned presentations of Joseph Smith’s life. A resource that honestly tells Smith’s story without skewing too positively or too negatively was desperately needed and I think “A Mormon President” hits the mark.

The commentators will be familiar to many Mormons and include both faithful voices (including a BYU historian and Richard Bushman) and critics but neither is given any favorable weight. I thought you could easily distinguish what may be motivating their bias as they reflected on the events.

In addition the DVD includes some bonus features that are well worth the time to view. They include a segment of Mormons defending their faith and the feasibility of a Mormon president and a segment of non-Mormons (most of them Evangelical critics of Mormonism) discussing why they don’t think America should elect a Mormon). I thought both segments introduced the basic arguments each side makes. My one criticism is that I don’t recall any Evangelical (or non-Mormon) making an argument for why it would be okay to elect a Mormon. At one point it seemed the producers needed to scare up some dissenting voices and decided the easiest way to find voters opposed to a Mormon presidency was to film some interviews in a backwoods, Arkansas bar. I’d hate for those brief interviews in the bonus section to dissuade anyone from viewing the DVD though.

If you get a chance to see “A Mormon President” I think you should make the effort.

11 thoughts on “A Mormon President

  1. Wow. That’s just too weird to even leave an opinion. But having only seen the trailer at least I can state why it feels a little twilight-zonish. The premise of the film appears to be based on the concept that the Mormons, since J.S. are seeking power. But that premise lives out one slight detail. JOSEPH SMITH NEVER EXPECTED TO BE ELECTED PRESIDENT! It was a protest vote to highlight the plight of his people who had been mobbed in Missouri, their homes stolen, forced into a swamp in Illinois, and were still fighting just to survive. He had tried to get the attention of the federal gov’t and was told “Your cause is just but I can do nothing for you.” My understanding has always been that the purpose of his candidacy was just to draw attention to their plight, yet this little film seems to be operating under the delusion that it was a narcissistic power grab by a Napoleonic Caesar. Pleeaassuuhh! Ominous music, square jawed Romney-look-a-likes playing J.S., can only carry a fantasy built on a strawman hypothesis just so far before someone pulls back the curtain and sees…nothing. Maybe the snippet of the trailer doesn’t do the topic justice, but, if we’re suppose to literally view this as a Church grab for power–versus the much simpler story that an american politician, who coincidentally is Mormon, is running for president, then you’ve already lost my interest. Conspiracy theories have one thing in common with squirrels–they both tend to gather nuts!

  2. The film actually illuminates the “protest run” better than you did. I agree that the trailer makes it seem like a big conspiracy film. It’s not though. It plays it very straight and I don’t think even the most historically savvy Mormon would disagree with anything stated in the documentary (except for the opinions of some of the commentators).

    I assure you, it’s nothing like your description above.

  3. One of the things I’ve found interesting about Smith’s presidential campaign is that his platform was progressive by the standards of the day — and he certainly had more creative approaches to issues than either of the major parties offers today. One of his ideas, for example, was to end slavery by selling government land to get the money to buy slaves’ freedom.

    And WRT the current race, here’s a new survey: Poll: 40% of Americans uncomfortable with Mormon president. What I don’t know is how many of that 40 percent are Democrats who assume that all Mormons are Republicans, but it’s still an interesting number.

  4. Was I the only one who found it strange that Grant Palmer is listed in the OP as one of the LDS “faithful” voices?

  5. From the trailer this guy might be a cookoo conspiracy theorist who believes Mormons are aiming for world domination.

  6. To those who fear that Romney as president would kowtow to the LDS church’s leadership:

    There has been no greater defender of the position of the Church’s position on immigration issues than … Newt Gingrich. Gingrich has basically taken the Church’s position when he argues that strict enforcement of current immigration laws (for those already here) would break up families, and that’s not worth the cost. It is a compassionate, fair position.

    And who has opposed the Church’s position? None other than Mitt Romney.

    So much for him being a puppet of Salt Lake.

    (I’m not sure Gingrich is in much of a position to talk about the sanctity of the family, but that’s a whole other issue.)

  7. Here’s a new poll that suggests that, at least when it comes to the general election, that Romney’s religion isn’t a barrier to getting Republican support.

    GOP fine with Mormon prez

    The poll found that only 2% of Republicans would feel “very uncomfortable” with an LDS president, and only another 12% would feel “somewhat uncomfortable.” That’s just not a big deal.

    A fifth of Democrats, however, say they’d feel “very uncomfortable” with an LDS president. I suspect (but don’t know) this is because of their perception that a Mormon president would inevitably be a political conservative; I doubt if very many Democrats would vote against Harry Reid simply because of his religion.

    The poll suggests to me that — if he gets the nomination — Romney’s religion won’t be that much of a factor in the the general election. He’ll likely be judged for his politics more than his faith.

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