The official trailer for Under the Banner of Heaven is upon us. As an ex-Mormon, I couldn’t have been more glad by what I saw.

It showed depictions of the cult ritual that is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ temple endowment ceremony, as one example.

But it goes beyond that. Certain potential that Under the Banner of Heaven, a miniseries produced by FX and premiering April 28 on Hulu, fills me with happiness. That’s to help anyone who has had a Latter-day Saint faith crisis. (The protagonist, Andrew Garfield’s Jeb Pyre, questions his LDS faith, according to an IMDb plot synopsis of the show.) Believing and unquestioning LDS misunderstand those who have. Non-LDS don’t consider them (if they hardly consider the church itself, why would they consider its dissidents?). Thus, there needs to be something major that can hopefully bring much more understanding of the significance of having an LDS faith crisis.

Under the Banner of Heaven: Upon Further Review …

Assessing the trailer further, I’m not surprised at how accurately the trailer depicted the LDS world. Its footage is from a production by a showrunner in Dustin Lance Black who is ex-Mormon, according to Fusion Magazine.

Dustin Lance Black gives his acceptance speech after winning Best Original Screenplay for Milk at the 81st Academy Awards at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood, Calif. on Feb. 22, 2009. (photo credit: GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)

A typical LDS prayer was spot-on in terms of how LDS prayers begin and end. And “instruments in Thy hand” is a phrase used in LDS culture as well.

Pyre says “We aren’t a community that usually locks its doors.” That speaks so much to the reality of households in LDS culture. People close to me have actually said on more than one occasion that it’s great that they can live in a community where they don’t have to worry about locking their doors.

Pyre says there are “things” and “beliefs” in the church that he has “only ever heard whisperings about.” That also speaks to an LDS culture that doesn’t acknowledge or even know about the realities of church history – largely, if not mostly, because the church was the opposite of transparent about those realities. In recent years, the church released “essays” on difficult issues regarding the organization. However, they are not at all prominent on the church’s website, and they are still spin-heavy.

And a culture where there are only whisperings about things in church history that are too often disturbing? That remains fairly intact.

A Negative Impact of Latter-day Saint Culture

Were the realities of church history more than whisperings, I, like so many others, probably wouldn’t have felt like their world was turned upside down, with their identity shattered, when reading documents like the CES Letter and many independent books on church history. Those include, but are not limited to, No Man Knows My History and An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins.

The trailer also shows a man who appears to be a church adherent (perhaps a bishop (congregational leader)?). He says “I don’t go digging in the past, and neither should you.” This comments on the majority of practicing LDS who don’t even make an effort to learn the history of their own religion. Yet, who are yet sure that they know how others should live their lives.

Questions Regarding the Link Between the Church and Mormon Fundamentalism

Joseph Smith, founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (photo credit: The Associated Press/The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)

Perhaps if church adherents were to allow themselves to ask more questions, they wouldn’t be that way. Pyre’s questions relate to an LDS family that became Mormon fundamentalists. And the fundamentalist sects started when the church ended polygamy. Since they have to do with the connection between the church and Mormon fundamentalism, some of those questions could be “Did (church founder) Joseph Smith have sex with his wives?”, “Was Joseph Smith’s polyandry occasioned by unhappy marriages?”, “Did Joseph Smith have a pattern of marrying teenage servants and family friends living in his home?”, and “Did Joseph Smith manipulate women into marrying him?” Mormonism Research Ministry provides information in response to those questions.

Perhaps these Smith followers who don’t ask questions about the history of their own religion don’t because they are afraid. And maybe one of those fears is that they would agree with a perspective Black gave to The Salt Lake Tribune: “If you do a deep dive into any religion — but I think particularly the Mormon religion — there are only two ways to go … It’s either going to become a musical comedy, or it’s going to turn to terror and horror. And there are things that need to be changed in this church.”

Under the Banner of Heaven Is a New Hope

Black also said, “This show presents some of those things that need to be changed.” Perhaps the “potential” I mentioned of the show being able to help folks understand the significance of having an LDS faith crisis will not only be realized. Maybe Under the Banner of Heaven will bring some of the reasons for the crises more to light.

In that case, I’ll be even further glad than I was after seeing the trailer.