Meet the Mormons, TV review: Very few revelations on mission to uncover Mormonism

 

If you thought that Mormons were mostly confined to Salt Lake City and the Osmond family compound, you were wrong. As shown in Meet the Mormons (Channel 4), director Lynn Alleway's all-too-fleeting glimpse into missionary life, the Church of the Latter Day Saints is bustling with activity in the UK too.

The big boast of this hour-long, one-off documentary was Alleway's unprecedented access. Never before has the church's Utah HQ given a film-maker permission to document the lives of its UK members. But don't get too excited. It turns out that the Mormon definition of "access" and "no access at all" are, in effect, remarkably similar.

Alleway was allowed to shadow 20-year-old Josh as he set out on his two years of mandatory missionary work in Leeds, but she also had a shadow of her own; a representative of the Church who sat in on all of their interviews. There was footage of a Mormon temple's grand interiors, featuring chandeliers and life-sized model cows – but since no non-Mormon is allowed to enter, let alone film there, this was all pre-approved by the Church leadership. In agreeing to be filmed, their intention may well have been to dispel myths about Mormonism, but evidently old habits of secrecy die hard.

Josh's refusal to discuss their special chastity-promoting underwear, for instance, only made the long john-like garment seem undeservedly mysterious, while doctrines like Jesus's trip to America, baptisms for the dead, and the bar on female clergy were never actually broached. Instead, there were lots of shots of a mostly blank-faced Elder Field, as Josh was known in the church. These reminders of his inscrutability only made our frustration more acute. Alleway seemed convinced that if she could only get her subject alone, he would have revealed some hidden anguish behind this mask of calm. But was it a mask? I suspect that she hadn't factored in the stunting effect that weekends spent dancing to The Spice Girls at booze-free Mormon discos might have on character growth.

Better value was Morgan, a plump, blustering young man in a blazer and T-shirt combo, who managed to contribute a few thoughts on pre-marital sex before being firmly led away by Des the PR man. "I went on a date with this girl and we went to go watch a movie and – let me tell you – that was as fun as any form of sexual relationship could be," he announced with confidence.

"You haven't had sex, presumably?" ventured Alleway.

"No, I haven't. But the thing is, I know the chemical equation of it, so I can guess." Final score: Mormons 1 Documentaries 0.

Missionaries like Elder Field have an allowance of only £26 a week for food and haircuts, but they're still better off than Sammy-Jo, in another documentary from yesterday evening, Channel 4's Beauty Queen or Bust. As a hopeful Miss Black Country contestant, her £56 dole money has to stretch to rent, food, travel and a shedload of false eyelashes. So even though 44 years have passed since feminists protested Miss World 1970, it seems that women in dire economic straits are still reduced to trading off their looks in the hope of advancement. And woe betide the ugly ones.

Some things have changed, however; the outmoded swimsuit parade has been replaced by an "eco-wear" round, in which pageant contestants have to create an outfit from recycled materials. Twenty-two-year-old Natalie used human hair for her dress: "'Cause I do hairdressing and hair extensions for a living, I thought why not incorporate it into the eco round?" Why not, indeed.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Thomas carried Lady Edith over the flames in her bedroom in Downton Abbey series five

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne, seated next to a picture of his missing wife Amy, played by Rosamund Pike

film
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene

Friends 20th anniversary
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham

books
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey

There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turning

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits