Teens from Different Countries Find Friendship on TV

  • 18 December 2010

Article Highlights

  • A French teenager visiting Utah for a documentary series finds that Mormons aren¹t what he expected.
  • The show, Les Nouveaux Explorateurs, will air on French television on December 27, 2010.

“Religion can be a very important thing for some people, making them try to be better, and I respect that a lot.”

—Valentin

Greg and Ann Sorenson and their children of Riverton, Utah, became part of a travel documentary with a French twist this year when a film crew from a production company in France came to Utah.

The French reality show, Les Nouveaux Explorateurs (The New Explorers), by Bonne Pioche Productions, follows several French teens as they explore the United States and learn about the culture by following their particular interests. Valentin, a 17-year-old sports and rodeo fan, was assigned to be the subject of the segment that features the region of the United States that includes Utah. 

The Sorensons were chosen to participate because of their 17-year-old son, Jake, who served as Valentin’s “host friend” during the film crew’s brief stay in Utah. 

The crew’s focus while with the Sorenson family was on the “Mormon family experience,” according to Ann Sorenson, rather than on the Church itself. During Valentin’s visit, he and Jake watched YouTube videos from both of their countries, went to a ranch to ride steers, hung out with other American and French teenagers, attended a rodeo and dance, shopped at a mall, and had a barbecue with neighbors. Jake and Valentin also spent a lot of time playing basketball together. 

Ann said that Jake was given no instruction on what to show Valentin during the visit; the teens discussed together what they wanted to do and see.

The activities most memorable to the Sorensons were the opportunities to share the gospel. Some of the crew had researched the Church online before coming to Utah and had specific questions that they prompted Valentin to ask during filming. After Valentin and the film crew toured Temple Square, they asked the Sorensons about temples and the Church’s emphasis on families, particularly regarding family history. 

Ann also recalled the French group’s amazed reaction to the family’s food storage. Valentin exclaimed, “You could eat for a year with what you have!” The group also admired the family’s garden and enjoyed their first taste of zucchini bread; one crew member even asked Ann for some of her recipes so he could get his wife to cook the same foods when he returned to France.

Valentin said that this was his first encounter with Mormons, and that the experience dispelled some misconceptions he had about the religion, such as his expectation that he would encounter families with multiple wives and lots of children living pioneer-style. Faced with the Sorenson household of five people—one husband, one wife, and three children—living a modern lifestyle, his ideas of what it meant to be a Mormon changed. 

He admits that there are still things he doesn’t understand, such as the emphasis on chastity and not drinking alcohol, but he is interested by the importance that the gospel has in the Sorensons’ lives. 

After spending time with the Sorenson family, he said, “Religion can be a very important thing for some people, making them try to be better, and I respect that a lot.”

By the time Valentin and the crew left, they had developed friendships with the Sorenson family. Valentin invited Jake to visit him in France, and the crew told Ann that they want to visit Utah and the Sorensons again. As a parting gift, the Sorensons gave each of their guests a bag of saltwater taffy and a copy of the Book of Mormon with a personal message inscribed inside the cover.

This episode of Les Nouveaux Explorateurs will air in December 2010 on the French cable channel Canal Plus.