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Scott D. Pierce: 'Hidden' Mormons show is sort of funny

Published March 7, 2013 11:04 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

If you're LDS, you might find "Hidden in America: The Mormons" slightly amusing. Because it's a little bit over the top.

Airing Sunday at 8 and 11 p.m. on the Discovery's Destination America channel, the program employs ominous music as the narrator intones, "Few non-Mormons know the core beliefs of the church. To understand that, you need to go right back to its mysterious beginnings."

Oooh, mysterious beginnings!

Alas, that's the introduction to the standard story of Joseph Smith, the angel Moroni, the golden plates and so on. Familiar to Mormons, albeit less so to others.

"Mormonism is, at its heart, a great American story," said series producer Nick Long. "Yet that story is not widely known outside the faith, so we wanted to address that. With curiosity about the faith seemingly at an all-time high, we hope this program creates greater understanding of where Mormons have come from and where they are headed."

The Australian producers got a lot of cooperation from the church and its members. The show takes a behind-the-scenes look at everything from the Hill Cumorah pageant to the church welfare system.

"We also had the opportunity to meet Mormons from all walks of life – finding them to be strong and resilient people, proud of their past, and with an optimistic approach to the future," Long said.

The hour also looks at oddities like "The Mormon Bachelor" online series and the Men on a Mission beefcake calendar, which led to the excommunication of its creator, Chad Hardy.

There are some errors. The producers are nine months off when they tell viewers that Mormons are counseled to have a three-month supply of food — although it's funny when the narrator says, "Mormons may have been the original doomsday preppers." And it's a little misleading to refer to the Tabernacle on Temple Square as a "concert hall."

Not surprisingly, there's a lot of time devoted to polygamists, who are not members of the LDS Church. That's certain to raise the hackles of some members.

"Polygamy is part of Mormon history, and in that context, it made sense to mention the breakaway fundamentalists who continue to practice it today," Long said. "In doing so, we were careful to make it clear that this group and its practices are not supported by the LDS Church."

That's mostly the case. The bit where a picture of Joseph Smith fades to a picture of Brigham Young and then to a picture of FLDS prophet Warren Jeffs is not exactly anything they'll be laughing about at LDS Church headquarters.

(Destination America is Channels 201 and 715 HD on Comcast; Channel 286 on DirecTV; and Channel 194 on Dish Network.)

Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at spierce@sltrib.com; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.