SMITH-PETTIT LECTURE- THE MAKING OF THE MORMONS, OR MY FOUR YEARS AS A STRANGER IN THE STRANGE LAND OF MORMONISM The spiritual landscape is my instinctive journalistic beat. I am drawn to radical spiritual commitments, and so naturally, Latter-day Saints interest me. For me, making documentaries is an elaborate creative and spiritual project, one of balancing and layering, of crawling inside the revelation of another religion. I will outline the complicated process of making The Mormons and illustrate it with behind-thescenes stories and guiding strategies that will, I hope, help us better understand the never-ending dance Mormonism has with the media, and vice versa. I will detail my preparation process, including the challenge of persuading PBS to commission a documentary on Mormons, and the overwhelming tasks of understanding Mormonism, of gaining access, reading stacks of books and articles, interviewing hundreds of experts and lay folk, many of whom first had to get permission to talk to me. For The Mormons, I wanted to create a thematic work, not a chronological history. Our challenge was to determine what are the defining events, ideas of Mormonism? How can we describe some, but not all, of Mormonism’s big bold ideas without getting lost in a theology lesson? How might we tell some, but not all, of the history and not get lost in a chronological swamp of names and events? How might we establish balance when examining the truth claims of Mormonism without either endorsing/selling the religion or subjecting it to inappropriate attack? We interviewed some 1,000 people before we began filming. Our primary challenge then was to find the right personal mini-dramas and especially people who speak without deadening piety or platitudes. Then there was the search for images! How might we visually suggest the shockingly literal nature of Mormonism but not allow the film’s metaphors to be taken literally? Finally, I will speak about the response of non-Mormons to the documentary and what these reactions tell us about the relationship between Mormons and mainstream America. I will also share what surprised me most in making this documentary, personally and professionally.