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For week ended October 31, 1999 Posted 14 Nov 1999

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Documentary Aims to Take Objective Look at Mormon Women

Summarized by Rosemary Pollock

Documentary Aims to Take Objective Look at Mormon Women
Salt Lake Tribune 30Oct99 A4
By Peggy Fletcher Stack: Salt Lake Tribune

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH -- Utah native, Tasha Oldham, will explore the beliefs, realities and challenges of Mormon women in her new documentary film, "Sisters in Zion." Oldham will also disprove the notion that Mormon women have been duped, wanton, misguided, housebound, constantly pregnant and uniformly submissive, a belief that was expressed in early propaganda films such as, "Trapped By the Mormons" and "Mormon Women and Depression."

"From my experiences of meeting various kinds of people of different backgrounds and cultures, the majority of them hold one thing in common; they are ill informed about Mormons yet fascinated with the faith," Oldham said.

Directing the movie, Oldham took to the streets of Los Angeles where she interviewed random pedestrians about what they knew about Mormons. Most agreed that all are "still polygamist, they are drugged, with no voice in the church or in their lives, and they don't work," Oldham said.

With an opinion that the church has a male-only priesthood, many believed that women were weak and powerless. "Mormon women may not hold the priesthood, but they are a strong voice who have an important role in the church and community," she said.

Rivaling the national norm of working women, Mormon women who work outside the home come close to 75 percent, according to BYU sociologist Marie Cornwall. "If Utah is any example, Mormon women haven't been that different from the rest of the nation since the late 1980's," Cornwall said.

"The way most families have coped with economic changes is to have fewer children," said Cornwall. "Mormon women are doing that somewhat but it (family size) is still well above the national average."

Tamu Smith of Provo is among the women who will help explode the myth that women who are home with children are not strong. At 2l, Smith took custody of her nine sisters when her grandparents became too old to care for them. Three weeks later, she married and soon found herself pregnant with her first child. Smith, an LDS convert, is now 26 and still presides over the lively family of girls. She credits her success to her religion and how her faith has given her the ability to cope.

The film will be introduced by historian Jan Shipps and an Apostle from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The mostly female crew is headed by cinematographers Tahlee Booher of Salt Lake City and Nancy Schreiber of California. Schreiber, has recently been named, "one of America's hottest women cinematographers" by MovieMaker magazine.

"What I know about Mormonism is hearsay," Schreiber said. "I went to school with someone who became Mormon, and I was always curious about her life, how it changed." She says she is looking forward to "going into the community and see the truth." "The documentary camera never lies."

"Sisters of Zion" received partial funding from the Utah Humanities Council, Eastman Kodak Film and private donors, reports Steve Epperson, program director. "We were impressed by Oldham's efforts to present an objective and well-rounded view of contemporary women." "Funds to complete the film are still being sought," Oldham said. "We need enough money to travel across the country interviewing the most interesting Mormon women we can find."

Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 Kent Larsen · Privacy Information