Rock Center on NBC, Mormons on Facebook

Source: Rock Center, NBC

As happens occasionally, a national news show did a bit about the Mormon faith on Thursday.  I found this particular report, on Rock Center with Brian Williams, delightfully pleasant viewing to my Mormon eyes.  Mormons were presented as charitable, successful, diverse, likeable and normal.  The church’s strengths were praised; the church’s problems were described accurately without hyperbole.

So I was surprised when I got onto Facebook and found that Mormons were complaining about a news program that seemed so friendly to our faith.  Particularly troubling to me was the reaction to part of segment 3, an interview with  Joanna Brooks, who mentioned that women do not hold leadership positions in the church and that boys may administer the sacrament but not girls.  This information is not news to anyone who has ever attended a Mormon church meeting and Dr. Brooks’ tone was not at all antagonistic.  However, some Facebook commenters assumed that Dr. Brooks was some sort of enemy to Mormonism, in spite of the fact that the report clearly stated that she was a practicing member of the church.  Why do so many Mormons overreact when a Mormon woman brings up gender inequity?  How can we overcome this taboo so we can have grown-up conversations about these issues?

I appreciated the response of Salt Lake Tribune TV reporter  Scott D. Pierce, who wrote:

… in some quarters, anything that’s not glowing praise is viewed as an unwarranted attack. Calm down. It wasn’t.

I also liked the words of LDS musician Cherie Call, who wrote,

I also have seen a lot of fuss made over the feminist Mormon woman, Joanna Brooks, pointing out that women don’t hold leadership positions. What about Relief Society and Primary? Well, they probably didn’t have time to include everything she might have had to say about all of that. I’ll bet it’s complicated. But let’s just stop right here and just say that if you were bugged by her, that she might not think the same way about all of those things that you do. You might not have any issues at all about things that are a big deal to her. Does that mean that she should be shut up, or that we should pretend to journalists that women like her don’t exist in our church? Wait a minute. Isn’t there actually something super uplifting about the fact that the Mormon church is capable of having very active members who are not all exactly the same? I think so.

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April Young-Bennett

April Young Bennett is the author of the Ask a Suffragist book series and host of the Religious Feminism Podcast. Learn more about April at

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7 Responses

  1. Naismith says:

    Thanks for taking the time to make this so readily available.

  2. mraynes says:

    I agree, April. I have no idea what all the fuss was over. Dr. Brooks spoke for maybe a minute with another minute of introduction and nothing she said was untrue.

    If there’s anything to get upset about it’s that the first and longest segment pretended like women have the exact same mission/successful corporate leadership experience that men do. There was nary a mention of who stays at home to take care of the family while the man is off conquering the business world. No acknowledgement that maybe women are told different things from their infancy and it dramatically affects their life choices. I guess it was refreshing, at least, to see a secular news program fall into the trap that many Mormon men do in assuming there is a normative Mormon experience–the male’s…Maybe refreshing is too kind a word.

  3. anon says:

    I watched part of it. The stuck-up blonde reported could barely disguise her contempt/hostility for Mormons, which is why I stopped watching it. Joanna was great!

  4. Risa says:

    I too was shocked when I logged onto Facebook Thursday night after Rock Center and found a bunch of my Mormon friends complaining and saying that they asked the wrong questions to the wrong people. Uh, what? Even the bi-racial family that was featured was on the local news complaining and it totally turned me off. Apparently the wife thinks that 98% of Mormon families are exactly like hers (not) and they chose to focus on the 2% that aren’t. Again, uh what? I agree with what Scott D. Pierce wrote so much, I could have written it myself.

    I was actually surprised the piece was so glowing and flattering and held onto my seat waiting for the inevitable attack to come. It didn’t. Geez, even the ex-Mormon gay guy at the end talked so highly of the church and teared up when he recounted his mission experience that I breathed a sigh of relief when it was over. I mean, if they wanted some really anti-ex-Mormons they could have gotten some!

    I’m just annoyed with all the members out there who expect every news story about Mormons to be falling down worshiping at the feet of the church, kissing butt, and overly praising it for just how wonderful it is. I mean, get a life. Those people should be happy that Rock Center made Mormons look not like the weirdo cult a lot of people think we are.

    And Joanna Brooks and Mitch Mayne made the church look good by showing the diversity within and how we’re not all a bunch of robots who think, act, believe, and say all the same things.

  5. Diane says:

    I watched the interview. And I also read the comments on 30 Rocks wall page afterwards. To be quite honest, I was flabbergasted. I feel like it was a fluff piece. Harry got the interview that basically everyone who investigates the church gets. Its odd isn’t it, he (Harry) interviews men (the former President of jetBlue,) and a male author of book about how successful Mormon men are. To tell us what its’ really like to be a Mormon(isn’t this the epitome of “mansplainin?

    Quite honestly, I felt the church historian(also a male) was lying thru his teeth. But that’s just my personal opinion.

    I felt bad for Abby because I could tell from the expression on her face that she was choosing her words carefully. (I’m sure she could have said a lot more than what she said but was weighing what would be the outcome for the members of her family who were still active)

    But, Risa, I disagree with you, because Joanna and Mitch were only tokens in this piece. In a voice over by Harry the statement came out see”women don’t have to fear being excommunicated like they once did because they are feminist” They barely and I say this with as much restraint as I possibly can touched on the subject of just how much bullying goes on because one is different, be they gay, lesbian, transgender, have problems with depression, whatever their difference is. This was never touched or talked about. This is what made this piece extremely one sided and a fluff piece.

    I wish Harry and Brian would have read these sites and the piece that was just written by a Bishop on FMH on what its like to be bullied by members. They would have seen what members really think and feel about things

  6. cody says:

    On the blessing/sacrament end of Mormonism
    people shouldn’t really bring it up/ us not care due to the idea of back in Jesus Christ’s time of being on earth only males wielded the Priesthood back then. It is strictly a male trait. The site I posted by my name/ on my name, or however that works out speaks of the Priesthood.

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