What would the world look like if more people spent time in each other’s homes, getting to know one another while learning to appreciate a variety of differences?
It’s an idea embraced by the Tad and Amber Baltzer family, Latter-day Saints from California who were featured in last Friday’s episode of NBC’s “Home Sweet Home,” an unscripted reality TV series produced by filmmaker Ava DuVernay.
“The whole reason why we wanted to be a part of this beautiful show is to find common ground, to find love, to find understanding for one another,” Amber Baltzer said. “If you aren’t understanding people’s actions and whatnot, get to know them a little better, right? When you go in to somebody’s home, and really get to understand why they believe the things they believe, it’s just brings so much love.”
The Baltzers recently spoke with the Deseret News about what they learned from their experience on “Home Sweet Home.”
What is ‘Home Sweet Home’?
The reality show presents families from various backgrounds as they swap homes for a week and experience something new, such as racial, religious, economic, geographic, gender and identity differences, according to a description of the series found on NBC.com.
The nine-episode series, which airs each Friday, follows 18 families and promotes themes of curiosity, love, acceptance and open-mindedness.
“At the end of each hourlong episode, the two families reunite to share their eye-opening and life-changing experiences,” the description says.
Meet the Baltzers and Silversteins
The Baltzers live in Huntington Beach and are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They are a close-knit “surfing family” that often spends time together at the beach. Tad Baltzer is a real estate broker and his wife, Amber, is a swim instructor. They are the parents of four children — Saxon, Dane, Kylie and Micah.
In the episode, the Baltzers switched homes for a week with the Silversteins, who live in the Los Angeles area. The Silversteins are a Black and Latino family with Jewish heritage who describe themselves as “nerdy artists.” Joshua is a writer/educator/performer and his wife, Cinthya, is a photographer. She was born in Mexico and came with her mother to California when she was 5 years old. Their children are Ami, Laila and Shel.
Each family left a week’s worth of activities for the other. Each family also spent time with friends and neighbors of the other family.
The Silversteins were introduced to the Latter-day Saint faith, and gamely tried skateboarding and surfing, among other things.
The Baltzers cheerfully experienced Jewish faith traditions, photography, art, beatboxing and improv.
What the Baltzers said of their ‘Home Sweet Home’ experience
Tad and Amber Baltzer didn’t know what to expect when they arrived at the Silverstein home the first day, but they agreed it was positive experience for their family, they told the Deseret News in a video interview.
“What a wonderful concept, and just such an incredible opportunity to step outside of one’s comfort zone,” Tad Baltzer said. “As we immersed ourselves into the various activities that they love to do, it was quite a challenge to dig deep and find that creative self within, but what a wonderful opportunity to have that brought out and to learn and grow.”
“Home Sweet Home” fulfilled their expectations, Amber Baltzer said.
“We wanted to get out of our comfort zone, we wanted to get our kids out of their comfort zone and grow, get to know different types of people and the different places they live in,” she said. “So it was exactly what we signed up for and we loved it.”
While there were several obvious differences between the families, show producers focused mainly on religious differences. The Baltzers didn’t shy away from talking about their faith in the episode and hope they represented the church in the right way.
“To represent (the church) in front of the nation, and what a family from the Church of Jesus Christ looks like, that is so much pressure, and we are not perfect at all,” she said. “We are just baby steps trying to be like Jesus Christ.”
The response from family and friends in the community who watched the Oct. 29 episode, “Art Is My God,” has also been positive, said Tad Baltzer, who served a Latter-day Saint mission in the Samoan islands.
“We were genuinely so grateful to have the privilege to be a part of this and hope with all of our hearts that we can continue to build bridges of understanding and create that community what the show is trying to do,” he said. “It’s a phenomenal concept.”
What Ava DuVernay learned about the Latter-day Saints
DuVernay, known for her film adaptation of “A Wrinkle in Time” and the civil rights history movie “Selma,” told the Religion News Service that her goal for the show is to “celebrate differences.”
“This isn’t a ‘Kumbaya,’ ‘all hold hands and love each other’ moment,” the executive producer told RNS. “This is ‘understand my life so that we can have a better time living in this world together.’”
DuVernay admitted to journalists that she was “scared” while filming the episode with the Baltzers because it forced her to confront her own beliefs and stereotypes about Latter-day Saints and their history. She considered not doing the episode because at the time she thought “they don’t like Black people.”
But seeing the family members’ curiosity and open-mindedness about the family with whom they swapped homes led DuVernay to change her views.
“There are so many misconceptions about what it means to be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” Tad Baltzer said. “Hopefully ... people will have a new perspective on what it means to be a member of the church.”