Monday, March 09, 2009

Before you all get your garments up in a bunch (again) over HBO's Big Love... *UPDATED* and *AGAIN*

Apparently next week's episode of Big Love is going to depict the LDS endowment ceremony, and of course a bunch of Mormons are already up in arms, crying "persecution," sending out stupid e-mails, and making pointless Facebook groups in an effort to stop the show.

As an active and temple-worthy LDS, and fan of Big Love, I must say this.

-Don't be getting your garments all up in a bunch over this.

-For those of you who have been endowed, the LDS endowment is VERY explicit about what THOSE WHO ARE ENDOWED are not supposed to discuss outside of the temple. I have strong doubts that any of these few things will be portrayed.

-There are many Fundamentalist and other restoration groups that have endowments similar to ours.

-In essence, what goes on in the temple is no different than any of our other sacraments (such as baby blessings, baptisms, confirmations, blessings, sacrament, etc). There is nothing wrong with depicting them.

-Even if the very few things of the endowment which initiates promise not to discuss outside the temple are portrayed... who freakin cares. All of this is widely available on the internet. The sacredness of the rituals and their secrecy are what we are committed to, not what we commit the uninitiated to.

-Much of the endowment was copied from Freemasonry by Joseph Smith and "likened" and reinterpreted for our endowments. Are you going to try to stop them too?

-While you're at it, why not try to stop the Order of the Arrow.

-As I mentioned before, initiated Latter-day Saints make covenants to keep a few select items undisclosed from the uninitated. If you have been endowed and don't know what I'm talking about, go again and pay attention this time instead of sleeping through it. There is no restrictions on anything else. This includes the clothing, washings, anointings, the creation drama, the garden drama, and everything else. There is no reason why these cannot, nor should not, be portrayed outside of the temple.

-A century ago, Latter-day Saints were much more open to discuss the temple and it's goings on than we are today. I think this is largely because what goes on in the temple is drastically different than the rites of contemporary Christianity (though it it much more similar to many Catholic sacraments); and we Latter-day Saints are overly concerned about our perception and 'fitting in' with traditional Christianity.

-I think this is a good thing over all. For those of you who haven't seen Big Love, I can tell you that the show will most likely depict it in a meaningful and respectful way that we would expect of any production depicting sacred rites and symbols (such as baptisms, communions, prayers, mecca, etc), much in the same manner that garments and their importance were depicted in Angels in America.

-If anything, perhaps this will help us as Latter-day Saints appreciate and be open and honest about our temple worship, instead of being so quiet and secretive about it.


Let me add a few more points

-Brigham Young and many early saints believed that Masonry was a corrupted form of the endowment, and yet they continued to practice Masonry and participate in its rites. One of the first buildings made in Utah was a Masonic lodge.

-During the Reed Smoot senatorial hearings, the contents of the endowment were transcribed for the Library of Congress and made public to show that it did not contain anything that could be construed as sedition.

-I once asked my Muslim friend Najib if he would be offended if I drew a picture of Muhammed (by perhaps sketching a person and saying that it was the Prophet). He said he would not because I was not a Muslim and had never made that commitment. I asked if he would be offended I was a Muslim and did it. He said he wouldn't be and would just feel sorry for me. He said he would only be offended if he had drawn it, as it would have been he who went against his own religious convictions. I think we can learn much from him.


The LDS newsroom (which I have major issues with) released a statement that can be read here:

What I don't like about the newsroom report is that it seems to cast a judgment on the episode before it has even aired. I think it would have been better served for them to say that because it has not aired, nor is the content of the episode known, they can only comment on a very limited basis.

They do make a good point however that members of the Church have to realize that they are no longer a small minority and that this is just further evidence that Mormonism is beginning to be more of a part of the public discourse.

I found it a bit ironic that they called South Park's "All About the Mormons" episode "a gross portrayal of Church history" when it actually depicted LDS history more accurately than LDS-produced movies do (as I pointed out here)


  1. I don't even think that YOU, a temple-worthy LDS member, understands the importance of keeping those things sacred. Even using the garment in an un-profound statement of, "getting them in a bunch" shows disrespect.

    Yes, with the way technology is today a lot of things are available on the internet including descriptions of the ceremonies which occur within temple walls. However, even though it is available, it does not mean it should be pursued and talked about. Since you are a temple-worthy LDS member of the church, you can then understand that pornography as well is available to anyone interested. However, again, even though it is available, it is advised to NOT research into further. And if I'm not mistaken, it has also been asked of each member to respect the sacredness of the temple, by not researching the things that go on through the temple. I wouldn't be surprised if the only reason why there IS such information on the internet was because of LDS members who get offended by the church in some way and post those sacred ordinances on ridiculous blogs such as this one.

    Have you ever heard of the statement, "Cast not thy pearls before swine"??

    This HBO series Big Love has nothing to do with helping the church in any way. It was not produced by the church, so I do not blame the members for being cautious and protective of their beliefs. This also has nothing to do with being "open and honest" about temple worship. If one is seriously contemplating the things that go on, they can find missionaries, a local church, or even an LDS member to speak with them. A TV series SHOULD NOT and CAN NOT be an adequate substitute.

    There is a difference between being secret and sacred. The church does not keep it a secret. If you want to know you can ask. But the things that go on within a House of the Lord are sacred and should not be taken lightly i.e. broadcasted on television for the world's sake.

  2. President Boyd K. Packer, "The Holy Temple":

    "A careful reading of the scriptures reveals that the Lord did not tell all things to all people. There were some qualifications set that were prerequisite to receiving sacred information. Temple ceremonies fall within this category.

    "We do not discuss the temple ordinances outside the temples. But it was never intended that knowledge of these temple ceremonies would be limited to a select few who would be obliged to ensure that others never learn of them. It is quite the opposite, in fact. With great effort we urge every soul to qualify and prepare for the temple experience. Those who have been to the temple have been taught an ideal: Someday every living soul and every soul who has ever lived shall have the opportunity to hear the gospel and to accept or reject what the temple offers. If this opportunity is rejected, the rejection must be on the part of the individual himself.

    "The ordinances and ceremonies of the temple are simple. They are beautiful. They are sacred. They are kept confidential lest they be given to those who are unprepared. Curiosity is not a preparation. Deep interest itself is not a preparation. Preparation for the ordinances includes preliminary steps: faith, repentance, baptism, confirmation, worthiness, a maturity and dignity worthy of one who comes invited as a guest into the house of the Lord.

    "All who are worthy and qualify in every way may enter the temple, there to be introduced to the sacred rites and ordinances."

    Whether or not the show includes the portions that aren't to be repeated outside of the ceremonies (although I don't see what's stopping them), I guess I just don't understand why you care so much that other members of the church are highly offended that a TV show (or any person on the internet, etc.) would attempt to portray the most sacred places we go and things we do.

  3. There is something to say, however, for the exercise of a grassroots movement by a people who are in effect apolitical by nature. Some battles simply must be fought out of principle, regardless of effectiveness. i.e. The War on Drugs. I love seeing our people rise to their potential. We need to be a powerful people, linked by principle, not groupthink. We need to stand and flex our muscles to have faith in our own power within the polis. A power we have every right to exercise.

    Again, I don't debate your thesis. I simply defend a possible outcome.


    -The guy who has been through the Ivy League Ringer. Endowed. Return Missionary. Freemason. And Order of the Arrow member.

  4. Gavin - I think implicit in Loyd's argument is the idea that, hey, Mormons should learn to take themselves less seriously. Have a sense of humor. Realize that a little show on HBO can't hurt you.

    Big Love is a great show that treats Mormons with a reverence I wouldn't expect from the network that brought us Sopranos and True Blood. Before you get your undies in a knot -- or your garments in a bunch, if you're clever and self-depracating -- understand that Big Love probably won't mock or insult your sacred ceremonies.

    Veronica - Quoting the words of those in authority says nothing about your actual argument. Say something about why you think the words of those in authority apply to why Big Love shouldn't depict the temple ceremony, then maybe you'll have an argument worth considering.

    Reef - Interesting point. I like it. But I think your war on drugs example says more about why people shouldn't fight a war simply on principle. If a war fought on principle isn't providing worthwhile results, I think it's reason enough to consider abandoning it. The drug war is a perfect example of this.

  5. This is an unrighteous blog post. You do not understand the sacredness of the endowment and especially not the garment or you would never say anything like what you have said above. Further, HBO does not plan to tape the temple ceremony, it is false. Your facebook group is defending something that is not going to happen. I invite you to keep it, but though you might like to know.


  6. Josh,

    Given a simplistic, childish, and naive notion of the sacred, perhaps it is "unrighteous." But if we act like adults, I think the irreligious or non-religious use of sacred concepts and language can be appreciated.

    And you are wrong. Big Love will be portray -an- endowment ceremony next week. Though I am not sure if it is supposed to be a depiction of an endowment as currently performed in LDS temples, or if it is supposed to be an endowment of a polygamous group (who also have endowment ceremonies). They are not showing video of an actual ceremony, as should be clear by the tv-guide description.

  7. oh man.
    I don't get HBO, but a good friend of mine does. She's not a member, like it matters, but she is among the most respectful people I've ever had the pleasure to know.

    Anyway. Loyd's right. There's only a few select things we are told to not discuss or reveal outside the temple. Signs, tokens, perhaps even the wording of some of the covenants (of that I'm not sure but leaning toward "not a big deal"). My stepFIL is a temple worker and has told us this - it surprised him to learn that.

    That said, the hypothetical of an unworthy member is this:

    It is sacred AND secret and I wonder how many members realize just how ridiculous and even cultlike these ordinances/clothing would look to outsiders - especially not understanding the symbolism thereof. It's weird to many faithful members. Is this where the concern lies? Don't want to think about the weirdness too much?


    Let's face it: LDS *are* a peculiar people. They *do* like persecution, just like any other good Christian church (for real). I get why some are concerned. They don't want to be made fun of, to have things they hold special made fun of. Nobody does, and few that I can think of have things they hold dear enough to protect in such a fashion. That said, those things are often kept so secret nobody knows about them. Temples are everywhere.

    A measure of respect is necessary.

    My first inclination, even as a heathen and as one who hasn't seen the show, is that this isn't ok. But perhaps a bit of transparency would only help get rid of some misconception and disrespect.

    Now if they start in with "Okay, so this is the first token and you do it like this" than I think the church has license to take issue. But yeah, chill a little bit. Nobody likes to be made fun of. Nobody likes to have what they hold dear made fun of. I think that's what this is about more than anything.

    But that's just me.

  8. Lisa,

    I totally disagree with the view that this is an attempt to make fun of the endowment. In my view, Big Love is by far the best and most sympathetic exploration of religious life on television. It depicts prayer, faith, beliefs, and trials of faith in a very real manner that is seen as matter of fact and meaningful in the lives of believers. I feel very confident that this will be the same manner in which the endowment will be portrayed.

  9. Loyd: I think you misunderstood me. Members will feel this is what is going on, hence some of the rejection of the portrayal (which, let's be real here. It's a two hour ceremony. It's a matter of *what* they show and how they do it, right?)

    I've never seen the show. I couldn't say. I just think some people, like me, don't want to be made fun of because so many (including members) feel the ordinances can be a bit on the odd side.

  10. oh, and that said: I'm not really for or against it. But I can see why some would be against it. And I see your point as well :)

  11. i completely agree with your assessment of the news release. i feel like it's two releases jumbled together--one says "whatever, you can't hurt us" and the other says "we are sick and tired of continual gross misrepresentations...even ones we haven't seen yet."

  12. I am curious Loyd. You refer to someone who takes issue with a non-LDS group portraying that which is most beautiful and important to us, as having a “simplistic, childish, and naive notion of the sacred.” What might your complex, grown-up and sophisticated version of “the sacred” look like?

  13. Thomas.... you need to read it again.

    I was responding to Dogman/Josh who said that "This is an unrighteous blog post."

    To which I responded "Given a simplistic, childish, and naive notion of the sacred, perhaps it is 'unrighteous.'"

    I continue with the answer to your question: "But if we act like adults, I think the irreligious or non-religious use of sacred concepts and language can be appreciated."

    I was responding to what seemed to be Dogman's claim that any non-religious use of sacred concepts was somehow necessarily "unrighteous." I think that such an idea is utterly simplistic. For example, while some people did not like Dutcher's portraying priesthood blessings and the sacrament in God's Army and Brigham City, I personally found their use to have profound meaning and significance. On a lesser scale, in my favorite movie The Fountain, I think Darren Aronofsky's use of a Mayan priest with a flaming sword protecting the Tree of Life was full of symbolic richness.

    Big Love, more than any show I have seen, does the best job at portraying and exploring religious life in an sympathetic, meaningful, and respectful manner. When Bill (the main character) is at a loss in what decisions he should make for himself and his family, he drives off alone, reads his scriptures, and prays. It's not mocked or ridiculed. Rather, it's shown as a regular and important part of a believer's life.

    Perhaps my favorite scene of Big Love so far (I got busy and stopped mid-season 2) is at the end of season one when the youngest of Bill's wives, Marge, is having serious doubts and struggles maintaining her religious lifestyle. While watching the baptism of one of Bill's sons (in their backyard pool), she is overcome and desires to be re-baptized that night as part a sign of her desire to recommit her covenants and her faith. It was a powerful scene that gave me new understandings and views of my own baptism.

  14. To reiterate what I mentioned over IM, the same issue that is taken up with your “Garments in a bundle” remark is the same underlying issue of Big Love’s portrayal of the LDS temple ceremony: that which one group holds to be sacred is portrayed otherwise. Sacred gets its own entry in the dictionary for reasons other than linguistic variation. Sacred means it is set apart for the veneration of those that find it sacred in the first place-not for a cable show to present it to the world for the first time. I’m not sure if you realize how it sounds when you say that a cable show or a movie helped you understand your religious beliefs. I would invoke the observations of Noam Chomsky when he points out that TV shows are created merely to keep your attention between the commercials that are their primary source of revenue. Who would trust religious or even academic integrity to such a system?

  15. Well I'll have to say that "garments in a bunch" and Big Love's use of religious rituals play a part in two separate language games. The former was for comedic effect, the latter is altogether different.

    Your definition for sacred since rather narrow made tailor made to fit your purpose. And to say that film and television cannot be used as a medium to explore sacred and religious concepts seems quite vacuous to say the least.

    While I'm sure that Big Love is made primarily for revenue (though with HBO it does so through paid-for service and not through advertising), that does not mean that it cannot also act in other purposes, such as for the creation of art and exploration of various concepts. In fact I would say that a primary concern for many in the television and film productions do it for reasons other than monetary reward and see such as a bonus not as the ultimate goal.

    For the most important of life-choice questions, where do most Latter-day Saints go to seek out revelation?

    In this episode of Big Love, a former LDS woman who is now practicing polygamy (largely to support her husband) is torn between what is right for her to do. With such a question, the place to go for her is the temple. While I am sure it will take some artistic license on the part of the writers for her to have a temple recommend to enter the temple, the role that the temple plays for Mormons as a means to receiving revelation seems an obvious aspect of religious life that ought to be explored. While they could simply depict her going to the temple as a benign experience of something akin to attending a regular chapel, they would be missing a crucial aspect of temple worship and temple-revelation process that one could argue denies and ignores the important aspect of the temple experience.

    I'm sure that you would also agree that the aesthetic of the ritual itself plays a role in the spiritual experiences you have in the temple. To depict the Mormon temple experience without such an aesthetic would also miss out on much.

    Anyways to sum this all up, I think your attempt to say that depictions of what is seen as sacred in film and television can have value and is not necessarily offensive or sacrilegious.

  16. you know when I first heard about this show and its next episode on mormon temple cermonies, I admit, I was angry. But after reading your post I admit I actually feel kinda stupid. you're right, every single thing that goes on in the temple is already on the internet word for word and all that matters is our own perspective and that we keep it sacred to us. thanks!

  17. I just want to add one thing...

    To those who have an issue with the phrase "garments up in a bundle" like this guy:

    "Even using the garment in an un-profound statement of, "getting them in a bunch" shows disrespect." (by the way if your going to quote, do it correctly, the actually correct term is "getting YOUR garments". "Them" would actually refer to more than one and the object not personally being yours... Meaning your wearing more than one at a time (which is disrespectful) or your referring to others garments, so your mad about it so you want others garments to bundle (which is disrespectful also, cause why would you want other peoples garments to bundle?)

    Anywho, what i wanted to say was... I sure hope that if your upset by that, your not the type that:

    1. Hangs around in your garments when you are at home.

    2. Lets your garments sit on the floor or in the dirty clothes hamper with other dirty clothes.

    3. Wear tight shirts so the garment shows through.

    4. Sweats tremendously and wipes their face with their either their shirt or garment shirt.

    5. Um... see how easy it is to get picky?

    6. Tuck the top garment into the bottom garment... That might not really be "disrespectful" but you look ridiculous... That's disrespectful.

    And most important... If your the type that hangs around in garments... Please don't let it be mesh... All too many times i saw this. It's disrespectful to mankind.

    If the narrator had said "getting your white tighties/HANES/FRUIT OF THE LOOM in a bundle" that would just be a lie... And that my friends is disrespectful and bad writers ethics.

    Now, for anyone in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, I'm having a Big Love party Sunday. Maybe we'll all sit around watching it in just our garments to get the full APOSTASIZING effect. Maybe they'll bunch up during the show... Who knows... It's anyones guess.

  18. Hmmm...

    For some reason I find your comment a little caustic Bobby. I dunno.

    I don't know if I like the idea of a Big Love party. I actually want to wait until I've got up with the episodes before I watch the next one so that I can at least watch it in context of the storyline.

  19. This comment has been removed by the author.

  20. This comment has been removed by the author.

  21. Loyd,
    I'm not sure how to convey this in a way that you've not already heard and that you'll understand. Your caviler attitude towards the temple and all it holds is very upsetting as you have noticed. The reason so many people are up in arms is because they feel (as to do I) that you are exposing a very sacred and PRIVATE part of our lives. It's as if you had a very personal dream and you told it told it to a friend, and that friend turned around and told EVERYONE about it. Now, I don't know anything about this "Big Love" business but I do understand people's reaction to this. I'm sure you've heard the saying "with great power come's great responsibility". Well, Loyd, you have great power to influence and shape minds. With that power you must decide if this is really the responsible thing to do. Is this the way God would want you to use the knowledge and talent He has given you? I ask you to please, get down on your knees and ask God if what you are doing is right. If you ask, with a sincere heart, having true intent, He will answer your prayers.
    I pray that you will receive an answer and follow God's commands. In the end, He is the one you must answer to. Not the people, not producers and not HBO.

  22. I never said I was offended. Read my comment again. By the way, people who get get defensive usually are doing something wrong. I just thought I'd bring that up.

  23. Just wanted to let bobby know, I don't do any of those things he listed as "picky."
    Wearing the Garment is a personal commitment, seen as an outward expression of your inner commitment to follow the Savior.
    It's been said that most of the negative feedback toward Big Love is from people who haven't seen the show. Well, most people who criticize porno don't use it, and people who speak against rated-R movies don't usually watch them.
    Perhaps your fascination with anti-mormon, and mock-mormon media has desensitized you, but most people do find it offensive.
    I don't think we should make a big stink about every attack or misrepresentation of the Church, but I certainly don't have to approve of them as 'intellectually stimulating' either. I get much more insight out of reading a book like Jesus the Christ, or the Miracle of Forgiveness, and don't feel any more childish, simplistic or naive for doing so.
    I agree with the idea that no one can be offended without wanting to. I used to say that a lot on my mission. However, we are also cautioned against giving cause for offense.
    Last, I don't say their decision offended me. I say I don't approve, and would prefer it were not shown. Expressing that doesn't make me ignorant.


Please provide a name or consistent pseudonym with your comments and avoid insults or personal attacks against anyone or any group. All anonymous comments will be immediately deleted. Other comments are subject to deletion at my discretion.