Tuesday, June 5, 2012

BBC interview with LDS leader earns controversy

Posted By on June 5, 2012, 2:22 PM

A BBC investigative journalist's interview with Jeffery R. Holland, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, raises intriguing questions about the LDS Church and its beliefs.---

The documentary, released in March but yet to be broadcast Stateside, is called The Mormon Candidate and featured a sit-down interview in the LDS Church Headquarters in downtown Salt Lake City between British reporter John Sweeney and Holland. Among Sweeney's questions were several relating to whether U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney would have pledged to cut his own throat or disembowel himself before revealing the secrets of the LDS temple ceremonies. In edited footage, Holland said, "That's not true." He later says that vows would have been made "regarding the ordinances of the temple." Such penalty oaths were taken out of the temple ceremony some time ago, one Sweeney interview subject said, albeit after Romney would have taken his temple oaths.

Sweeney asked Holland about church members shunning those who leave their faith. Holland noted that he would choose not to cut out of family life one of his children if they decided to leave Mormonism.

Others highlights of the interview include questions relating to the baptizing of dead Holocaust victims, similarities between the LDS Church and Masonic organizations and whether the LDS Church is a cult. By this point in the interview, Holland's distinct unease had unraveled to almost cavalier frustration. "I'm not an idiot," he told Sweeney—nor, he implied, are the 14 million members-plus members of his growing church.

Sweeney also brought up the "Strengthening the Members" committee, a group within the LDS Church that polices polygamists and other vocal apostates or breakaways from the church. Holland acknowledged their continued existence as a group dedicated to protecting the church's membership from dangerous critics.

Perhaps the most interesting question is why the interview took place at all. The LDS Church is not known for allowing media to interview its hierarchy.

Given that Sweeney was responsible for a controversial BBC documentary on the Church of Scientology—including an infamous on-air rant by Sweeney against church media handlers—the wisdom of agreeing to a sit-down with Holland is a head-scratcher, particularly given the way Holland struggled to answer some of Sweeney's unabashedly direct questions.

A PR firm for the church hand-delivered to BBC offices in London a letter complaining about the "ambush" interview, according to The Guardian.

The documentary will be broadcast in the United States later this year—presumably before the election.

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