Here’s my take on the film.

I’ve never been one to stand aside and let everyone else do the talking.  Where’s the fun in that?

(I posted this on my “other blog.”  You know, the one with all of the cute kid pics and barfy-sweetness.)

For those of you who aren’t living in the Beehive state or in the near vicinity right now, you may not be aware of the documentary that has been released at Sundance this week.  It details the Mormon Church’s involvement in the Proposition 8 campaign in California, which aimed to allow homosexual marriage in that state.  As a member of the Mormon Church, I have a tendency to be sensitive to any media coverage or discussion about my Church, as it is rarely favorable.  A documentary about the Church’s stance on gay marriage has little or no possibility of shining a positive light on the organization.

Let’s be honest.  I’m not a huge fan of the Church’s involvement in politcal issues.  I’m not a huge fan of the Church’s treatment of homosexuals.  But their actions are not my call to make.  My responsibility as a member is to take it up with the Lord in prayer and base my actions upon the answers I receive from Him.  If I feel it is incumbent upon me to donate my life savings to the cause, I’ll do it.  If I feel like my energies would be better spent at the mall on a Saturday afternoon, that’s what I’ll do.  Of course, it goes without saying that it will be a lot easier for the Lord to convince me to go to the mall.

My Testimony of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ is an ever evolving and changing, hopefully growing, sometimes nebulous orb of light and truth.  It has been based on other’s enthusiasm and interest in the past, and has been placed on a proving ground to see if it would withstand the test of doubt and lack of “village” support.  I’m happy to report that, to date, it has survived the test and has come out the other side still mostly resembling the original.  Only this version is a bit tougher.  I think that’s good.  It’s not a steak, after all.

So- when this film premiered, and the backlash began, I steeled myself for the worst.  I was ready to see what ugliness the director and producers unearthed about my beloved Prophets and Church leaders.  I was ready to see the broken hearts and homes that would be blamed on my Church’s actions and dogma.  I wasn’t disappointed.  They came with guns a-blazin’.  I even personally know of a woman who will not be going back to church because of this film.  I won’t be watching the film,  I don’t feel the need to throw my young tender shoots of belief under the tires of a spiteful and hate driven driver.

I firmly believe in choice.  I firmly believe in action.  I firmly believe that a person’s ability to voice their passions is one of the greatest beauties of this nation, and of a God that loves us.  I also believe in the decline of personal responsibility and respect for other’s beliefs.  I am disappointed in what Reed Cowan produced, but am glad for him that he had the right to produce it.

So- for those of you who aren’t members of “my church” I hope that you will take the things you read and hear about this particular film to your own God and allow Him to teach you truth.

As an anti- “mormon prop 8 doumentary” person, I really enjoyed this review from hitfix.com:

“8: The Mormon Proposition” (dir. Reed Cowan) – If Gibney is generally angry, Reed Cowan is red-faced, spitting, pitchfork-waving irate and “8: The Mormon Proposition” shows all of the grace and restraint of a velociraptor attacking a bull in a china shop. Cowan is so angry he can’t see straight and so angry he can’t put together a film that’s anything other than sloppily assembled propaganda intended to make you boo at the people on the screen, which is *exactly* what I felt like doing, which isn’t in any way the same thing as making a good film.

Mostly, “8: The Mormon Proposition” got its screening space at Sundance because of regional topicality and a receptive Festival audience base. It repeats familiar frustration at Mormon involvement in the passage of California’s anti-gay marriage proposition, but does so with utter blinders. Would Proposition 8 have passed in California without the Mormons? Probably not. But the Mormons weren’t the only reason Prop 8 passed and Cowan and his team don’t have any interest in looking at any kind of complicated answer, one that would force them to examine 52 percent of the California voters voted for the Prop. To watch this film, you’d think that exactly 52 percent of California voters are Mormons. Despite the film’s title, Prop 8 is only a starting point anyway. The second half of the movie is detailing the roots and impact of general Mormon distaste for homosexuality. The information accumulated in that second half is damning, but it has nothing to do with why a broad coalition of religious voters from various backgrounds also voted for Prop 8.

It isn’t that Cowan’s points are wrong. They’re right (even if they’re reductive sometimes simplistic). It’s just that he’s not making them with talent or with art. The assembled talking heads have a “These are a few people we happen to know with opinions on the subject” feeling. The assembled footage has a “These are the news clips we were able to clear in time for our deadline” feeling. There are three credited editors and two credited cinematographers and that would explain, at least in part, why neither the look nor pacing of the film are cohesive. There’s little doubt that with “8: The Mormon Proposition,” speed was the top priority.

Probably my biggest problem, though, is the film’s “Well, they’re demonizing us, so we’re going to demonize them” ethos. There’s a stretch of footage from a message the Mormon elders recorded and transmitted to followers encouraging them to donate heavily to Prop 8-related causes and both the audio and video have been manipulated to make the elders seem more threatening and insidious. All the while, all I could think was “The elders sound hateful and scary and malicious enough on their own.” I just happen to believe that there was a way of telling this story that could have played more toward the middle, that could have showed moderate California voters how they were duped by out-of-state special interests. That could have made people who were apathetic or ambivalent become outraged and annoyed. Instead, Cowan just settles for making already angry people angrier.

In this case, the “village” support is nice.

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6 thoughts on “Here’s my take on the film.

  1. I, for one, have not seen the documentary (I currently live too far from Utah). However, from what I have read so far, it appears I now understand the problems behind the film. I think it should have been separated into a stand-alone documentary on Gay Mormons and their experiences as well as a stand-alone documentary focused on Proposition 8 that includes more than just the LDS aspect of it (like minorities or conservative Catholics/Evangelicals/etc.). I think those 2 individual ideas put together might be too overwhelming to some.

  2. Being one of your obvious non-Mormon friends, I have a limited amount of knowledge on all the LDS teachings and their stance on homosexuality.

    Ironically, I have been teaching world religions in my classes the past couple weeks. Knowing I live in a die-hard right-wind, Southern Baptist area of the Bible Belt, I knew what would happen…intolerance. It took a nice long discussion with my students for them to understand the idea of acceptance of all others. Perhaps Mr. Cowan would like the same lesson.

    Acceptance of others’ beliefs is my stance. I am not here to judge anyone. I try to live that everyday. I wish everyone did.

    I, too, will not be watching the movie. I don’t care for its hateful stance and look at the Mormon church. (Again, its all about acceptance.) I don’t want to get some jaded view that would possibly end up making me jaded. I prefer to view the Mormon church through the eyes and hearts of my Mormon friends.

  3. I watched this movie about a month ago expecting the bias the critics describe. But the movie still sent me into a tailspin. As a practicing mormon who has been attracted to men from adolescence (but never acted on these attractions with any man), I’ve never seen other Mormon men who obviously love each other. As a married father of three, who wishes to remain married, the movie caused me to finally face questions that I’ve buried, including:
    – even though I’ve never cheated on my wife, am I destroying her life by not giving her all the aspects of a true relationship she deserves? sometimes we feel like roommates who have sex now and then, but otherwise our physical/emotional intimacy is at arms-length.
    – can I remain married and ever fill the hole inside me?
    – will the anger I feel, which impacts my family and causes me to be “unapproachable”, do more long-term damage to my children than a divorce?
    – can I find a way to be happy but remain married?
    – why do I want to be part of church that has caused so much pain in my life – I’ve hated myself because of these attractions…for years! The church’s teaching have caused me to blame myself – and I believed the feelings remained because I wasn’t faithful enough…
    – if I stay because I love my wife and kids and don’t want to hurt them, will I look back later and feel that I haven’t lived? Will I feel the same remorse I feel now?

    After a deep depression, I finally looked for a therapist. And I’m making some hard choices including:
    – I refuse to hate myself for these feelings, they are me, my sexuality is mine, and it isn’t going to change
    – no amount of prayer, fasting, an honorable mission, obedience, begging God, screaming at God, asking God to take me, etc., is going to make these attractions go away
    – I want to remain married and I need to find a way to be happy – maybe acceptance is the way
    – although my wife and I discussed this issue 4-5 years ago, I need to be open and explain that this isn’t going away, it hasn’t gotten better, and we need to discuss all these fears and the guilt I have
    – at the same time, I think the church’s position is wrong. When it says they don’t ask their gay members to behave any differently than single members they are lying – they ask gay members to live a celibate life without hope of ever finding a mate, no dating, no falling in love — a very lonely life. And therefore I begin to question my beliefs…

    So that’s where I’m at – the early stages of figuring this out.

    Thanks for blogging.

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