Polygamy was the key issue which acted to popularize opposition to the Latter-day Saint Church during the years 1905-1936. As a result of the continuing controversy over the so-called "Mormon Question," secular moviemakers in this period planned or actually produced nearly forty motion pictures containing Mormon characterizations. Although several important pro-LDS movies were made (some with Church assistance), the anti-Mormon photoplay dominated the silent film era portrait of the Saints. Murder and polygamy as basic themes provide clear reference to traditional literary and theatrical images.
Early attempts by Utah and Church officials to censor the offending pictures were unsuccessful. Following World War I, U. S. Senator Reed Smoot was able to effect the suppression of a number of anti-Mormon productions. After the Church reaffirmed its plural marriage ban in the mid-1920s, the anti-polygamy movement died out. As the polemical film aimed at the Church was abandoned, the Saints gradually took on a more favorable screen image.
College and Department
Fine Arts and Communications; Communications
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Nelson, Richard Alan, "A History of Latter-Day Saint Screen Portrayals in the Anti-Mormon Film Era, 1905-1936" (1975). All Theses and Dissertations. 4975.
silent film area, anti-Mormonism films, motion picture industry, LDS church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints