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What’s more, a July Pew Research Center study found that 68 percent of Americans said a candidate’s Mormon beliefs wouldn’t influence their votes.
But Christing said the question is legitimate: “You took the oath of consecration to the [LDS] church, and if the Constitution were to put you in a position that might go against your faith, how would you handle that?”
The film also explores the most contentious aspects of Mormonism and says little about teachings Americans might applaud. It might leave anti-Mormon viewers feeling justified in their prejudices and curious theology lovers feeling starved of a holistic view of Mormonism.
The film portrays Smith — who was a mayor, general and, according to LDS believers, a prophet — as someone with extraordinary visions for his church and America. He hoped to create within the United States an official LDS country, a pseudo-“theodemocracy,” as Christing called it. Smith eventually crowned himself the “King of Israel on Earth,” which he said was God’s will.
The documentary also highlights Smith’s most controversial teachings including a revelation (since rejected by most Mormon sects) that men could only attain the highest level of heaven if they married several wives, and his teaching on the “plurality of gods,” a belief that humans will eventually become part of God or like gods themselves.
And some of the interviewees in the documentary make shocking claims.
“If America knew the living embodiment of the power-seeking that was in Joseph and continues in the LDS church today, they would be very frightened to have a Mormon president,” Shawn McCraney, a former Mormon missionary who was excommunicated, says in the film.
Later in the video McCraney adds: “They send their missionaries out into the world, they learn languages of the world, they have temples dotting every country of the world that they can. They would love to take over the world, and I think they believe that they will someday do it.”
Christing said he had no intention of painting a negative picture of Mormonism but wanted to show that anti-Mormon sentiments still exist today.
“I think Mormonism is such a fascinating topic,” said Christing, who added that he personally has no problem with a Mormon leading the country. “I find it incredibly interesting that [Smith] could have a vision that included politics and eternal policies and be so popular.”
The version of the documentary released to Roll Call didn’t explore many positive aspects of the religion. It also did not specify that Romney rejects polygamy or emphasize that there are several hundred versions of Mormonism today. In a recent interview, Christing told Roll Call there is a newer version of the film that includes more interviews with Mormons and distinguishes these details.
“A Mormon President” is not available for viewing in theaters but can be ordered at amormonpresident.com.