Politics

Mormon Panic Hits U.K.

Here are some ominous highlights from the BBC’s new documentary on just how weird and scary Mormonism really is. Among the ludicrous discoveries about America: “There’s an unwritten law: Don’t mention Mormonism.”

Mormonism, the British public learned from a documentary that aired on the BBC this week, is scary and mysterious, a possible “cult” on the verge of taking over the most powerful office in the world.

“The Mormon Candidate” was made by John Sweeney, the same British journalist who took on Scientologists in 2007’s “Scientology and Me.” While making that film, he got into shouting matches with the church’s officials, and said he was repeatedly stalked by the sect.

But despite the foreboding soundtrack, Sweeney evoked little of the same TV-ready drama from the Mormons he interviewed, a fact he warily admits toward the end of his Fleet Street treatment of Mitt Romney’s faith.

To keep things interesting, he is reduced to entering the kitchens of non-Mormon polygamists and asking them in hushed tones, “So, what’s it like in the bedroom?” He also spends a lot of time with disgruntled ex-Mormons, one of whom says he’s “been followed” — though he can’t say for sure if these followers come from the church.

The rest of the material is well-worn terrain, including Romney’s past as a Mormon bishop and evangelicals’ suspicion of the faith.

An employee of BBC Worldwide said she knows of no plans to distribute the documentary in the U.S. — something Sweeney suggested in the film is necessary.

“It’s as if because of American history, there’s an extra commandment: thou shalt not criticize another man’s religion,” he says, complaining: “There’s an unwritten law: Don’t mention Mormonism.”

In fact, there was curiousity about, and coverage of, more elements of Mormonism’s past, like polygamy, during the 2008 presidential campaign. But after four years that included two Romney candidacies, a second Mormon candidate, one Broadway musical, and a host of other cultural benchmarks, the U.S. seems to have moved on, with no law, written or unwritten, required.

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