Although Bowman acknowledges that Romney is in “a really, really tight spot” with regards to talking about his religion, he says “it is unfair to ask him to explain or talk about polygamy or the priesthood ban or any of those things because those aren’t the things that Mormons themselves normally talk about.
“Most Mormons think about their religion as something they DO,” Bowman said. “There are a set of theological propositions that they buy into, but once they buy into them, Mormons don’t sit around in Sunday School and debate those issues.”
Jowers disagreed jovially, indicating that when he was going to school in Cambridge, Mass., there was “a doctrinal battle every Sunday, where we would explore everything in the minutest detail.”
But, he acknowledged, “whether that happens as much in Bountiful, Utah, is another question.”
By and large, Bowman continued, “Mormon Sunday Schools aren’t really a discussion of the scriptures as much as they are a discussion of how we can live our lives better.”
“Most Mormons have little interest in the differing theology of Brigham Young and Orson Pratt,” he said. “Although there are some who enjoy those kinds of theological and doctrinal explorations, the lived experience of your average Mormon ward is not the place where it happens.”
Indeed, Jowers added, “the question of how we can take care of each other is more the kind of thing we talk about.”
Which is one of the reasons Hill felt compelled to create “The Religious Test.”
“I wasn’t trying to resolve anything — I just wanted to provide a lot of good information and let people draw their own conclusions,” he said during a conversation after the panel discussion. “The format is linear, and without narration. It’s a discussion, almost a dialogue, with a lot of people who have a lot of good insight about the LDS Church and whether or not Americans should be concerned about having a Mormon president — or someone from any different faith group, for that matter.”
Bowman and Jowers are both interviewed during the documentary, as are Sen. Joseph Lieberman, Richard Mouw, David and Nancy French, Joanna Brooks, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, Daniel C. Peterson, Quin Monson, McKay Coppins, Kathleen Flake, Richard L. Bushman, David Campbell, Nathan Oman, Newell Bringhurst and Kristine Hagland, along with a dozen or so others.
“I spoke to Mormons and non-Mormons, liberals and conservatives, Republicans and Democrats, trying to get them to tell their story in a cogent way,” Hill said. “I wanted to create one place where we can put all of the information out there for people to see and consider.”
And hopefully, talk about.
“The film is not intended as a solution or an answer,” he said. “I want it to be the catalyst for dialogue and discussion. We need to talk about the role faith is playing in the political process. We need to figure out why we don’t just say, ‘So what?’ to the religious question.
“If the film can start that dialogue, then it has fulfilled its purpose.”
For more information on the film, go to www.thereligioustest.com.
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