The story behind the missionary reality TV show, 'The District'

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  • K Mchenry, IL
    April 25, 2014 8:00 a.m.


    The Catholic Church has a billion people. Conversions are not focused but the Catholic Church is growing rapidly because of families having children who partake in the three steps of initiation that ending in their teens and the small numbers going through RCIA. Some LDS numbers are not converts in the field but members children making the decision at the appropriate age. Catholics are not concerned about getting a follower of Jesus to join because truthfully it doesn't increase Christianity. We are trusted in nations to help with humanitarian efforts because we learned a hard lesson in our fervor to convert centuries ago. I would find such a reality show to be interesting to watch. I don't think reality shows need to be drama based.

  • K Mchenry, IL
    April 25, 2014 5:05 a.m.

    Bruce has a point. What is the retention rate of the newly baptized that were not from families within the membership?

    A convert is expected to give ten percent, quit smoking and drinking and coffee drinking and spend virtually all of their free time in church, on a church calling, getting their teens to ten hours of church activities to include seminary and direct them into after school jobs where they earn about 10k before age 18 so they can serve a mission themselves. Only a convert would understand the culture shock. Not to mention doing all of that with little knowledge of doctrine. Imagine the errors?

    The commitment to turn toward God can be made in an instant. But the understanding of what that means takes a bit longer if you want the person to remain a member and know what they believe. You would not want a new member to officially join with erroneous doctrine in his mind? Then you have LDS behaving badly and a church is judged by it's worst member, actually God so judged by it's worse Christian.

    April 19, 2014 10:58 a.m.

    Hi Trent,

    I have always had such an avid interest in, and
    love for, what I like to call "the backstory."

    You outdid yourself with your backstory on the
    LDS Missionary reality TV show, "The District."

    I am very grateful for your highly professional
    and comprehensive backstory. Not to mention
    your outstanding creative talent.

    Thank you!

    It would be fun to see/hear/feel the backstory
    on your career as a journalist.

    Kindness, Collins (Doc Meek)
    Neurological Learning Specialist
    South Jordan, Utah, and
    Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
    Saturday, April 19, 2014

  • patriot Cedar Hills, UT
    April 18, 2014 8:51 p.m.

    I don't get the facination with missionaries and mission life in the film industry. Mission life is all about hard work and serving others ...that's it folks. No drama or flash just long days and worn out shoes with lots of rejection sprinkled with a little success. The change that happens to young men and women is the same change the early apostles experienced in following the Savior - transformation from dicipleship. Can't really put it on film.

  • hoping Holladay, UT
    April 18, 2014 8:01 a.m.

    Thanks, Trent. Your article filled in the missing background. I may be the only viewer who didn't understand the reason for the BYUtv episodes at first. But now understanding makes the experience even more enjoyable. Truly, God does move in mysterious ways His wonders to perform.

  • crimendelsiglo Spanish Fork, UT
    April 17, 2014 6:01 p.m.

    i've only seen a few of District and enjoyed seeing those 4. my frustration was in the organization of Mormon Moments (or which ever set they were filed.) i was unable to view either D1 or D2 episode to episode. i found episode 1 thru 3 but no others; then discoveed D2, but only one episode (out of sequence). maybe Mormon Moments is better organized now bu i've lost interest when unable to view each episode sequentially. this applies to youtube too but the missionary dept and byu-tv as well

  • GibsonBN Los Angeles, CA
    April 17, 2014 4:09 p.m.

    My name is Brian Gibson. I'm a member of the Church and a reality TV producer living and working in L.A. I had the privilege of working on District 1 and it was a wonderful experience. I believe it was an inspired project and I only wish the Church would do projects like this more frequently. It's great to see the project getting some press even if it is 7 years later, and it's refreshing to hear the perspective of the missionaries involved. Although none of us did this project to get attention or notoriety, one producer that isn't mentioned in the article is Marc Marriott. I believe if not for his energy, talent, and especially his patience it never would have happened. Kudos to the Church leaders for taking a risk on a project like this and kudos to you Marc. Missionary work is a wonderful thing.

  • Simpe Spectator St.George, UT
    April 17, 2014 2:15 p.m.

    I realize that its not realistic, but I wish they would have made District Videos about Missionaries in a foreign country. I was one of the first groups to view the District 2 in the MTC. It made it seem like the missionaries in San Diego were on a spiritual vacation. Obviously your most important obstacles are getting people to overcome their past and to follow christ. I wish it would show also having to deal with the language, gross foods, you know things from 3rd world countries that a lot of missionaries deal with. Nonetheless, I still love these videos.

  • bribri86 Phoenix, AZ
    April 17, 2014 1:11 p.m.


    "The LDS Church should follow the Catholic example and make sure that the convert fully understands the commitment being made."

    The LDS church is following God's example and shouldn't following the example of anything else.

  • MMVIII Y ALUM Vancouver, WA
    April 17, 2014 12:25 p.m.

    Bruce, members of the LDS church have received a revelation that states - "The field is white, already to harvest." This means that there are many people prepared and ready to accept the gospel right now. Some people take longer than others to progress to baptism but the invitation usually comes early.

  • amagnetick AV, CA
    April 17, 2014 12:23 p.m.

    Coming from a Convert to the Church (I was previously Catholic), I feel somewhat qualified to address this:

    Whether the Catholic Church is older than the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints really doesn't matter. To me, trying to compare the two are like comparing apples to oranges. There is no active missionary arm of the Catholic church, their growth rate is no where near what the LDS Church is at least in terms of percentage. I would have to say that perhaps the Catholic Church should borrow from the LDS church's playbook, not the other way around. Asking for a lifetime commitment did not deter me or any of the other Converts that I know from becoming a member. Of course, some may fall away from the LDS Church, just like many leave the Catholic church even after taking their year long course they are required to take before becoming a member of the Catholic faith.

  • d_rolling_kearney Sacramento, CA
    April 17, 2014 12:09 p.m.

    Bruce, your concerns are valid, but show that you are completely uninformed as to how missionary work actually proceeds in real life. There are definitely standards that must be met before anyone is allowed to actually be baptized after committing. They must receive all the lessons, make further commitments that might require life changes (health code, abstinence until marriage, etc), attend church, read the scriptures, pray, and even have interviews with other missionaries to make sure they know what they are doing, understand what they were taught, and have had all of their concerns resolved. We don't want shallow converts any more than you do, so we definitely take steps to try to make sure that doesn't happen.

    As for your other concerns, Mormons aren't Biblical "literalists." There are things we know to be literal and others figurative, and we have living prophets to clarify. As far as believing ours is the "one true faith," Catholics still believe that, and I can't imagine belonging to a church that didn't. Why invest yourself in something that cannot guarantee salvation? Finally, "overzealous" is a subjective term. What is zeal but dedication?

  • gmlewis Houston, TX
    April 17, 2014 11:51 a.m.

    Missionaries teach and testify, but the Holy Ghost converts. I've known people who were taught by missioaries off and on over decades, but gladly set a baptism date when they felt the witness of the Spirit.

  • CVgal Smithfield, UT
    April 17, 2014 11:42 a.m.

    I loved the series! More please!

  • Bruce Angleton, TX
    April 17, 2014 11:04 a.m.

    The LDS Church is a very young church in comparison to Catholicism. It seems as though Mormons are making many of the same mistakes the Catholics made centuries ago (biblical literalism, one true faith, overzealous missionary activity, etc.) Asking someone to make a lifetime commitment after meeting them once seems unlikely to produce a lasting relationship. It takes a year of lessons and study (RCIA) before a person is allowed to become Catholic. The LDS Church should follow the Catholic example and make sure that the convert fully understands the commitment being made.

  • John Locke Ivins, , UT
    April 17, 2014 9:55 a.m.

    Any message of or about the Church is good news. If this allows more people who like "reality" shows to participate in knowing what the Gospel stands for ("good news") the better. It will also aid the missionaries in their work, as when they ask the question: What do you know about the Mormons," is answered, "I watch(or have watched) your reality show," all the better. Then the missionaries say," May we come in a talk more about it?" Who would say, "No"?

  • Kjirstin Youngberg Mapleton, UT
    April 17, 2014 9:09 a.m.

    Thank you for another well-written and insightful article, Trent. These topics~missionary work and filmmaking~are among my favorites. I have always felt "called to serve" through these mediums, blogging, and sharing with others via social media.

    Doubt anyone will read my comment after a five-page article, but I feel I must say something in case anyone missed it:

    God is in charge. His plan will roll forward. No matter how corrupt the world, governments, or individual people become, the work continues. There are no coincidences.

    When Sister Payne was rejected at the tender age of ten, God found a way to prove to her she had talent, and looked great on camera. The Lord put Brother Reis where he needed to be, when He needed him. All He required was a willingness to serve. Our Heavenly Father takes care of the rest.

    I hope this series continues. We need to see events in foreign lands, with elderly couples, or "impaired" missionaries. No one will be withheld from missionary work if they are willing to serve...even if it is only to help the missionaries in their work through your positive influence in whatever sphere you occupy.