Another Mormon moment

Non-Mormons seem to be endlessly fascinated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Maybe it’s the church’s American roots? The long BANNED polygamy? The westward journey that created something like a kingdom in Utah? The church’s amazing growth? The tall spires on the temples? The foreign and mysterious rituals?

Probably all of the above.

With Mitt Romney’s run for the GOP presidential nomination, many Americans are taking a fresh or deeper look at the LDS.

And so is PBS. Tonight and tomorrow night, PBS’ Frontline will debut…”The Mormons.”: Two hours each night, from 9 to 11 p.m.

Tonight’s show will deal with the history of the Mormon church. Tomorrow, we learn about the modern church.

PBS offers this:

THE MORMONS traces the Latter-day Saints’ transformation in recent decades from the status of outcasts to mainstream players in U.S. politics and culture and into a global religion with as many as 240,000 converts annually, thanks to the efforts of Mormon missionaries. Each year, 50,000 Mormon teenagers join “God’s Army” and march across the planet from Latin America to Mongolia to Zimbabwe. “You go,” says Bryan Horn, a returned missionary. “Dad went. Grandpa went. And Grandpa, who’s a descendant of Wilfred Woodruff, who was taught by Joseph Smith, went on missions.”

If that’s not enough, on Friday we get the release of “September Dawn,”: a major motion picture that deals with the so-called “Mountain Meadows Massacre” of Sept. 11, 1857, when a group of Mormons killed 120 settlers from Arkansas who were traveling through Utah. It stars Jon Voight as a “fanatic Mormon bishop.”

Yes, I forgot to ask Voight about it when I talked to him last week.

Interestingly, the “Mormon History Association”: is meeting in Salt Lake City next month to discuss the massacre and other subjects. “What caused these Mormon settlers to kill 120 immigrants is a question still hotly debated by researchers and descendants today,” according to release from the historians.

Gary Stern

Gary Stern covered education in the Lower Hudson Valley for several years during the early 1990s. Now's he back on the beat. He believes that schools are one of the main reasons that people live around here and that educational issues -- from curriculum to financing -- are among the most challenging things that journalists can write about. He continues to be amazed by the complexity of educational jargon. Gary got his B.A. at SUNY Buffalo and his M.A. from the University of Missouri Journalism School (where his master's thesis was about the best ways to cover education). He lives in White Plains with his wife and two sons, who attend public schools.