Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Thoughts on the LDS Newsroom commentary on Big Love

I'm supposed to be working on a presentation for Liberation Theology class tomorrow, but before I get to it I need to let out a few thoughts about Monday's LDS Newsroom commentary.

*"Internet references to Big Love indicate that more and more Mormon themes are now being woven into the show..."
Internet references to Big Love? The show is available on DVD and the internet. The Church is a big organization and there are numerous LDS viewers of the show that they could have consulted with, but instead the Newsroom chooses to almost invalidate their so-called "commentary" by practically admitting that they have not seen the show, but instead are appealing to anonymous "Internet references."

As Latter-day Saints who are often widely misportrayed on the web, for the LDS Newsroom to base their commentary on "internet references" boggles the mind and shows that the Newsroom is not there to provide informed commentary.
*"the [Mormon] characters are often unsympathetic figures who come across as narrow and self-righteous."
The show also depicts many sympathetic and Christ-like Mormons as well. I can't help but feel that the "narrow and self-righteous" Mormons in the show were modeled after the "narrow and self-righteous" Mormons who started a campaign to fight the show before it even aired.
*"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as an institution does not call for boycotts. Such a step would simply generate the kind of controversy that the media loves and in the end would increase audiences for the series."
This is exactly what happened. This wasn't national news until HBO felt they had to respond to the hundreds of angry calls and e-mails they received. Until then, it was only covered in the Utah news. Now it is in the AP, Reuters, and nearly every national news outlet.
*"As someone recently said, “This isn’t 1830, and there aren’t just six of us anymore.”"
Who said it? Just someone.
*"In other words, with a global membership of thirteen and a half million there is no need to feel defensive when the Church is moving forward so rapidly. The Church’s strength is in its faithful members in 170-plus countries, and there is no evidence that extreme misrepresentations in the media that appeal only to a narrow audience have any long-term negative effect on the Church."
I agree with this here... sort of. The Church is big and this isn't going to make much of a dent (rather I think it will do the opposite). As Latter-day Saints we have to realize that we aren't a small minority along the wayside that can only be referenced in faith-promoting or demeaning ways. Mormonism is now part of the public discourse. We have to deal with it.

This statement, however, also implies that Big Love is an example of "extreme misrepresentations in the media." I can't help but see this as a rhetorical ploy made by someone who (as I pointed out) has not actually seen the show.
*"When the comedy writers for South Park produced a gross portrayal of Church history..."
See my previous post.
*"When an independent film company produced a grossly distorted version of the Mountain Meadows Massacre two years ago, the Church ignored it. Perhaps partly as a result of that refusal to engender the controversy that the producers hoped for, the movie flopped at the box office and lost millions."
Actually it was probably because the movie was poorly written, directed, and acted. Rotten Tomatoes has it scored at 13%. I find it interesting though that the Newsroom didn't mention the film by name - September Dawn.
*"The Church has refused to be goaded into a Mormons versus gays battle..."
That's right. Instead the Church chose to preemptively fire the first shots.
*"[The Church] has simply stated its position [on gay marriage] in tones that are reasonable and respectful."
Can anyone else sense the irony here? The Newsroom is defending its rights to belittle what is sacred to others (same-sex marriages) in "tones that are reasonable and respectful" while at the same time preemptively and ignorantly criticizing HBO for affirming the value of what is sacred to us (our temple rites) in a manner which HBO believes is "reasonable and respectful."
*"Meanwhile, missionary work and Church members in California remain as robust and vibrant as ever, and support for the Church has come from many unexpected quarters — including some former critics and other churches."
Our enemy's enemy is our friend? This is starting to sound a lot like neo-conservative foreign policy (let's not forget the preemptive attacks and responses based on anonymous and suspicious sources).
*"Now comes another series of Big Love, and despite earlier assurances from HBO it once again blurs the distinctions between The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the show’s fictional non-Mormon characters and their practices."
I'm guessing this is based on their supposed "internet references." Anybody who has followed this show would know that this statement is blatantly false. Rather than blurring the lines between mainstream Mormons and fundamentalist Mormons, the show has rather strongly pointed out that line and made that line a very key aspect of much of its storyline. You cannot watch Big Love and not know that a fundamentalist Mormons are different from mainstream Mormons are that the two are often very opposed to each other.

This is further proof that the LDS Newsroom here is ignorantly commenting on something they know little about.
*"...the show’s fictional non-Mormon characters..."
Referring to fundamentalist Mormons as "non-Mormon" goes along with the Newsroom's hypocritical attempt to monopolize on the term 'Mormon' See more about that here.
*"Such things say much more about the insensitivities of writers, producers and TV executives than they say about Latter-day Saints."
Such commentaries say much more about the LDS Newsroom and the Church's public affairs department than it says about Big Love.


  1. In other words, with a global membership of thirteen and a half million there is no need to feel defensive when the Church is moving forward so rapidly.

    It would really help if the Newsroom statement didn't sound so damn defensive.

  2. Everything in your blog is screams, "I'm a more educated, sophisticated mormon than the rest of you". You walk a very fine line always criticizing everything about the church, it's organization, it's members, it's leaders, the way it chooses to portray Joseph Smith translating the Book of Mormon. It doesn't freaking matter how he translated it, as long as it's a true book...or do you have anything to say about that? It seems like you believe in the "mormon" church's doctrine, but hate mormons and their "mormon culture". I refer you to chapter 27 of the current "Teachings of the Prophets" priesthood manual. When all you do is criticize the church about everything it's only a matter of time till your bitterness drives you away, which probably won't be to big of a loss for you since, from what I read in your blog, the church can't do anything right.

  3. Thanks for your concern Joe. I'll keep that in mind.

    What exactly is the very fine line that I walk?

    My comments about the translation process were a response the Newsroom's criticism of South Park (as well as thoughts I have had on the subject and a discussion I had with Church Historian Elder Marlin K. Jensen). While you may have found them pointless, the folks at BCC found it interesting enough to incorporate into a blog post there.

    I don't hate Mormons. I'm one of them. I think self-hated is rather destructive. If you think that all I do is criticize aspects of the Church's bureaucracy and culture, then you need to peruse my blog a little more.

  4. Joe, Let me also thank you for not actually providing any actual criticism of the content of my post, just me personally.

  5. It doesn't freaking matter how he translated it

    History matters to Mormons. We study church history every four years in Sunday School. The Church recently published the first volume of The Joseph Smith Papers. General Authority talks frequently emphasize the importance of the Church's founding events (including the translation of the Book of Mormon).

    So I'm going to disagree with you. The process by which Joseph Smith produced the Book of Mormon does matter. To the extent that we address that process in Church, we should do so in an accurate and straightforward manner.

  6. How did this blog get twisted into a discussion on the history of the church. Loyd made one reference to the south park episode and there was an immediate defensive stance taken on the readers side.
    Loyd I agree with you. Thank you for your blog. You give a very clear explanation to all of your criticism. I think the point is this. The things that are done in the temple are held sacred to member of the church. They are not ‘secrets’. They can be misrepresented by an ignorant eye. If we give attention to big love by boycotting it, we only give them more publicity.

  7. Joe and his posse said "It seems like you believe in the "mormon" church's doctrine, but hate mormons and their "mormon culture." "

    what's wrong with that?
    so much of Mormon society is silly and backwards and somewhat damaging as it goes directly against so much of the Savior's all encompassing doctrine of acceptance and brotherly love, to be perfectly honest.
    what's so wrong with loving the pure doctrines (the things that REALLY matter) more than than the stupid societies and social status rulings that an ever-growing series of 18 year old Mormon kids have created within Mormon culture over the last 50 years?

  8. Joe said:
    When all you do is criticize the church about everything it's only a matter of time till your bitterness drives you away, which probably won't be to big of a loss for you since, from what I read in your blog, the church can't do anything right.

    This makes me wonder, is it the bitterness of the critic that drives him away, or the bitterness with which his criticisms are received? With friends (brothers and sisters) like Joe, et al, who needs enemies?

  9. Hahaha joe and gang, you shoulda known Loydo a couple of years ago...

  10. I was looking for the "aren't just six of us any more" quote because I wanted to incorporate it into a lesson. I thought I had heard in by Elder Packer or Ballard in conference a year or two ago. I didn't have any luck finding it there. . . and the Church's website search engine is rather lacking.

    I did find this, however:

    Elder Ballard said it, quoting Elder Ballard, who was quoting a president of the Church from some time ago. I think that would be the reason for the fuzzy citation in the Church News article. Just thought you might be interested.

    Love your disclaimer, by the way.


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