Faith at Altitude

Religion and spirituality in the shadow of Pikes Peak

Monday, April 30, 2007


I've got a tough decision tonight. And, like most of my difficult decisions, this one involves what to watch on the telly.

Do I watch "24," where perpetually stressed-out Jack Bauer must escape from his co-workers, reclaim a nuclear doo-dad from a Chinese ambassador and snap his beloved honey out of some sort of bizarre, post-traumatic ailment?

Or do I flip over to PBS and watch a promising documentary called "The Mormons"?

My kingdom for a TiVo.

The four-hour documentary, which airs at 8 p.m. tonight and tomorrow on PBS, showcases a misunderstood and, at times, maligned segment of religious Americana. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was born in the United States, and its adherents were regularly pushed westward by a nervous populace until they finally reached Utah. Even today the debate rages over just what, exactly, Mormons are. Are they a branch of Christianity? Their own faith? A cult? The answers you get depends on who you ask.

The knowledge most non-Mormons have about Mormonism goes as follows: 1) they have a really good choir; 2) college-age Mormons dress really nice; and 3) the religion has something to do with holy underwear.

Mormon kids know the Bible better than most traditional Christians (in Colorado Springs, Mormon teens attend daily religion classes before school), and the faith is producing some of the country's most powerful figures. Mitt Romney, a Republican presidential candidate, is Mormon. Democratic Senator Harry Reid -- the same guy who said the war in Iraq "is lost" -- is Mormon, too. In Colorado, nearly 5 percent of the religious population is Mormon: There are more Mormons than Methodists, Lutherans, Episcopalians or Presbyterians in the state.

Mormonism is going mainstream. It's cool to see PBS taking a look at the faith in some depth.

I think if Jack Bauer wasn't so busy shooting people, he might hunker down and watch the show, too. He could use the break.


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