PBS looks at 1856 book critical of MormonsSaturday, July 19, 2008
RENEE K. GADOUA RELIGION NOTEBOOK
Post Standard at Syracuse.com
An account of a Mormon woman from Tompkins County was the topic of a segment on a recent episode of PBS' "History Detectives." The show, which was filmed at The History Center in Tompkins County and televised as part of the show's season debut June 30, looks at the 1856 book "Female Life Among the Mormons; a Narrative of Many Years' Personal Experience by the Wife of a Mormon Elder, Recently from Utah."
According to www.pbs.org, the segment investigates a book in which the anonymous author "claims to have witnessed a shocking, immoral culture of violence, polygamy, sexual depravity and brainwashing."
The show attempts to answer whether the book is autobiographical or fictional. The Mormon church, also known as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was founded in 1830, after Joseph Smith reported finding sacred texts near Palmyra, Wayne County.
Tukufu Zuberi, one of the show's "detectives" and professor of Race Relations and Sociology and director of the Center for Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, provides a major clue by reading from an 1855 New York Times book review. "An anonymous work like this, making grave accusations against a body and against individuals, is not entitled to much consideration at any rate," the review reads, according to a PBS transcript. "It strikes us as being the worst fiction of the season."
The show traces the author to Ithaca and points to a significant factual error that points to it being fiction rather than fact. It concludes that the book is an example of anti-Mormon literature popular in the era. Watch for a rerun, or check it out on the PBS Web site, which also includes an excerpt from the book.
A defense of Mormonism This week, as Palmyra hosted the annual Hill Cumorah Pageant, my mail included an announcement of publication of a book defending Mormonism.
"Shaken-Faith Syndrome: Strengthening One's Testimony in the Face of Criticism and Doubt," by Michael R. Ash, is published by the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research and distributed by Deseret Book, which sells Mormon-related books and other items.
According to a news release, the book is aimed at helping believers "defuse faith-shaking claims." News of the polygamous sect in Texas, Mitt Romney's presidential campaign, and anti-Mormon Web sites "that target Mormons in the hope of creating doubt and disillusionment through a selective presentation of the evidence" create the need for such a publication, the group says.