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I just finished watching "Meet the Mormons." The documentary (of sorts) about my own people was released in theaters Friday. One star for effort.
The film is more of a showcase of Mormon wholesomeness than a candid look at the real us. While it's nice to have my people portrayed as so blissfully positive, I came away wondering if I had been raised in a completely different church.
Featured are six vignettes of "typical" Mormon families going about typical Mormon business. There's a formerly homeless single mom, a WWII candy bomber, a college football coach, a humanitarian in Nepal, a black LDS bishop in Atlanta, and a Central American mom and kickboxer.
The trouble for me is that each of the stories is framed in that proper 1950s and '60's "Father Knows Best" or "Leave it to Beaver" format. Everyone is perfectly groomed. Any real frustration or natural craziness is hinted at rather than highlighted.
Brother Cleaver: "Goodness me. It is time for church."
The Beav: "Golly gee, Pop. I love sitting still for hours."
Sister Cleaver: "Let me just get my scriptures, dear."
Please. I've been a Mormon my entire life and never had a go-to-church experience like that.
The Old Man: "Did you hide your pants again? C'mere!"
Me: "No! I don't want to go. It's boring!"
Mom: "Don't squeeze his head so hard, Bob. Remember what the bishop said."
Actual church in "Meet the Mormons" was equally unreal compared to the church I attend. All the kids stayed in their seats and were reverent. People sat quietly waiting for the service to begin.
Real Mormon church especially in younger wards with lots of kids sounds every bit as reverent and uplifting as branding bobcats.
There were lots of images of us behaving appropriately. Nobody got sent to their room for failing to study the scriptures with the rest of the family, or making up an irreverent prayer at dinner. No one was kicked out of seminary and Family Home Evening didn't resemble a small riot.
If "Meet the Mormons" is intended to show that we're just like you non-Mormons, it probably left you scratching your heads as well. I don't know anyone that tidy and unblemished. I'll bet you don't either.
At best, "Meet the Mormons" proved to the unaware that we aren't a Utah goober version of the Pennsylvania Amish, and there are different color versions of us around the world. But that's about it.
Mercifully, there were some good parts. I particularly enjoyed the segments featuring the black bishop in Atlanta and the kickboxing champion sister in Costa Rica.
Hey, I'd love to live in a ward where everyone had a skin color different than mine. At the very least it would be more interesting than the sensory deprivation color around me now.
And I'd probably be at least a bishop or stake president today if growing up I'd had a smoking hot Primary teacher I knew could punt my head the length of the chapel without leaving her seat.
But something needs to be developed that shows the real us, the sort of Mormons you already know because we live next door and sometimes get on your nerves or even annoy the hell out of you.
You can bet the LDS Church won't do it. So just as soon as I can raise the funding, I'll get busy producing the sequel: "Now Meet Real Mormons."
Robert Kirby can be reached at email@example.com or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.