Big Love: Res Publica

Here’s another post from the Dialogue editorial board. Many of you know Matthew Bowman from Juvenile Instructor. He is a graduate student in History at Georgetown, and is a member-at-large of the editorial board because he knows about everything. Also, he’s a very good sport about playing Monkey in the Middle with small, unruly children, even in freezing weather. This is his thoughtful take on the Big Love debacle.

Big Love: Res Publica

Last week, for probably the first time in history, TV Guide broke controversial news. And this week, it came to pass; Big Love showed a portion of the LDS temple ceremony; specifically, a fraction of a prayer circle and a portion – probably the most sensitive portion – of the veil ceremony. The consequent and rather predictable Mormon uproar has taken the form of a rally to protect the temple; tiresome email petitions and facebook groups and YouTube videos abound. But what, beneath the surface, is this debate really about? Big Love is a complicated show, and deserves an interpretation that scratches below the surface.

The temple content aside, this was a reasonably typical Big Love episode. That is, it offered a rather soap opera-esque story about a group of fundamentalist Mormons (whom we like!) struggling to survive in a hostile world, mixed with a few malapropisms (Barb declares she wants to “take her endowments,” full stop, which on top of the grammatical weirdness seems strange for a woman in her mid-forties; there’s some confusion about how exactly recommends work; apparently you can only stay in celestial rooms for fifteen minutes before the old ladies toss you out; multiple characters talk about being “unsealed”), set in a vaguely paranoid Salt Lake valley where the LDS Church’s omnipresence looms behind every business deal and in every “heck.”

But here’s the interesting thing about Big Love; despite all that it’s actually sympathetic to Mormonism as a religious tradition, just not exactly the brand most LDS folks are familiar with. It takes its characters’ belief in God, in Joseph Smith, in the Book of Mormon, in sealing, in ordinances, in an afterlife and all of the rest seriously. It’s not out to prove Mormonism is silly or weird; indeed, quite the opposite: it wants us to identify with its main characters in all their fundamentalist convictions. Many of which (noted above) Latter-day Saints happen to share. To compare the show to the last bit of pop culture that reproduced part of the endowment session . . . well, this is not September Dawn. Christopher Cain and his band of merry pranksters wanted their viewers to think the temple was cultish and pagan, so they set the ritual in a barn and lit it in much the same way as the Phantom of the Opera’s secret lair; Cain’s heroes have to be literally forced into participation. There is a qualitative difference between that and Big Love; Barb wants to go to the temple because she believes it is what it claims to be; being excommunicated and losing access is devastating to her. She tells the others in her marriage that “I miss it. I miss the ritual and the sense of purpose.” She tells her mother she wants to go to find peace in a time of stress. It is clear to the viewer how hallowed the temple is.

Given all this, the temple content in the episode is oddly dissonant. The most obvious problem (aside from its very existence) is that the plot grinds slowly to a halt while Barb recites an entire cumbersome chunk of the veil ceremony. This is unusual for Big Love, whose imitations of Mormon rites are generally suppler than this; see for instance the baptism for the dead episode a few weeks back. For unfamiliar viewers who lack the sense of violation that might keep Mormons tense and at fever pitch throughout, the monotone recitation of archaic phrases would quickly become tiresome. It is thus not impossible to imagine the show’s producers are aware both of their transgression and its ability to goose the Mormons. It’s skillfully presented and within the still-sympathetic arc of Barb’s character, but it simply goes on too long to work artistically. Bind that to the particular content – perhaps the pinnacle, the most sacrosanct moment of an already private ritual – and we are left with the sense of a production team that knows precisely what it is doing. It’s not useful, however, to simply cry foul; to accuse these folks of cartoonishly malicious motives; to take our ball, accuse them of being haters, and go home. That does them, but more importantly ourselves a disservice. What’s more useful is to use this episode to learn more about who we are and where we are in American life.

I would argue this particular poke in the Mormon eye is bound into larger debates about religion and politics and the public square. Most contemporary Mormons feel that regardless of whatever the ceremony itself says about what should or should not be kept secret, all of it should. This extends even to official discourse within the institution itself. Noah Feldman’s concept of ‘soft-secrecy,’ twentieth century Mormons’ proclivity to minimize those things which might seem odd or disturbing to contemporary is a useful way to conceptualize this, both within and without the boundaries of the Church.

The secrecy that surrounds the temple is one of the last bastions of peculiarity within a rushing tide of Mormon cultural assimilation. Maintaining that silence within the church is a way to assure ourselves that we are still possessed of holiness, of that special set-apartness that once characterized our entire lives. It’s a way to maintain the power of the distinctions and initiations that make Mormon culture strong and give it clarity. Mormons have sacrificed much of their identity for the sake of acceptance in American life, but still suffer penalties for keeping the scraps that remain. The rough and tumble American public square approaches Mormon secrecy warily. It is for many observers inherently suspect, indicative of an illiberal culture, and incompatible, ultimately, with democracy.

And of course, recently the Church has been accused of precisely that; of subverting democracy by proxy, of manipulating American politics from the sidelines while still trying to remain aloof from the demand to fully participate. This shadow over the plot was darkest in Barb’s last speech to the disciplinary council which excommunicates her at the end of the episode. “I love the church but I believe the church and its leaders are in grave error on polygamy and on the kinds of marriages and families it creates,” she said (emphasis added). “I can’t forsake my family.” This episode of Big Love, if it does nothing else, strips away Mormon secrecy and in so doing attempts to shove the Church unwillingly into the bright lights and cacophony of the public square.
Among other things, then, I think this whole affair demonstrates how complicated Mormonism’s engagement with American life has become. There are an ever multiplying variety of ways in which the world might engage with the faith, and several of them are at work in Big Love. This was not the show’s finest hour as a work of art, but it is perhaps the most interesting, because the several gears here ground more loudly than usual. However, it’s insufficient to simply (as the Newsroom did) lump what happened in this episode in with September Dawn, or either of them with South Park. If nothing else, this affair might convince us that the usefulness of the hypersimplistic term “anti-Mormon” is rapidly narrowing.

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Comments

  1. “Diablogging”? As in, blogging by the Devil?

    Well, it’s Matt B., so I guess the description fits. :)

  2. Nice.

  3. The show may be somewhat sympathetic to the idea of religion as a part of people’s lives in general, using this family’s religion as an example, but if you watch the show regularly, you cannot deny that its approach to Mormons as people, and the Church as an organization is anything but positive.

  4. Very nice, Matt.

  5. Thanks Matt.

  6. well done.

  7. If nothing else, this affair might convince us that the usefulness of the hypersimplistic term “anti-Mormon” is rapidly narrowing.

    I agree completely. I’ve been struck by how often what I consider to be legitimate and reasonably stated criticisms or opposition are labeled as “anti-Mormon” by members of the Church.

    You might get the idea that we have a persecution complex or something!

  8. John Hamer says:

    MCQ: I think Kristine explicitly means Mormons and Mormonism (i.e., in the broader sense) and not LDS members and the LDS Church.

    The show is very sympathetic to some Mormons — specifically the Hendricksons, who are Mormon, even though they aren’t members of a particular Mormon church, the LDS Church.

    Likewise, the show is sympathetic to Mormon beliefs in general, even if it shares the Hendricksons’ perspective and consequently is not sympathetic to the LDS Church in particular.

  9. Matt: I agree, but I think that there is another level to the portrayal here that you are missing. The sympathetic aspect of Mormonism exists only within the exoticized world of polygamy. It is not sympathetic to mainstream Mormonism. This, in turn, suggests an odd set of rules for Mormon engagement. Mormonism is allowed to be sympathetic to the extent that it remains exotic. To the extent that it wishes to participate on terms other than those of being an exotic subculture, it is presented as pathological. In a sense, Mormons may be sympathetically Mormon so long as they don’t try to be American at the same time. When Mormonism does try to be American, it becomes sinister and threatening. Interestingly, this shows up in nineteenth century debates over polygamy. Native American polygamy and Indian polygamy did not call forth American or British legal crusades. Mormon polygamy did. There was a sense in which it was the very familiarity of Mormonism that made it seem so threatening, and its practices could only be rendered safe by being placed in an exotic context where they could be approached anthropologically as it were.

  10. Wonderful analysis. Thanks Matt.

  11. Nice work, Matt.

  12. Nate – two thoughts: first, I disagree about the exoticization of polygamy in the show. Big Love works because the Henricksons seem so normal. They go to Costco, have kids with part time jobs, and so forth. On the other hand, both the compound and the LDS versions of Mormonism are presented as sinister and authoritarian. This normalizes polygamy by suggesting it’s actually the institutional versions of Mormonism – those that threaten the American liberal polity – that make Mormonism weird, rather than the doctrine, which the Henricksons embrace wholeheartedly.

    Secondly, more tangential thoughts on exoticism. I think we’re seeing the intersection of two ways American society engages Mormonism in this episode; that is, Mormonism as an artistic subject and Mormonism as a political force to be confronted. The gears are creaky here because the episode is trying to do both at once. I think the Church is increasingly comfortable dealing with Americans who understand us primarily in the second sense, but much less sure-footed with depictions of the Church in the first sense. That’s when we’re far too eager to sling around the term “anti-Mormon.” The Catholics have had to deal with The Exorcist and its innumerable silly imitators; but they understand that in a fundamental way these movies are not really about Catholicism, but about a particular artistic sensibility that Catholicism’s trappings serve. I don’t, then, think exoticizing in an artistic sense is necessarily hostile.

  13. At least they didn’t use [parts from the pre-1990 endowment ritual]. Nice Job on the post. Does not one Member of the Church read anything not published by Deseret? Read a Quinn book. Read Sunstone. Lets get out of the bubble.

    John

  14. Thanks for the great and fair review of this episode.

    “The secrecy that surrounds the temple is one of the last bastions of peculiarity within a rushing tide of Mormon cultural assimilation.”

    I think the relative secrecy or unfamiliarness is quite interesting to examine here. What would make the Endowment any more or less sensitive to being revealed than any other ordinance, such as Baptism, or the Sacrament? Aside from the obvious covenants not to reveal certain parts, (which scores of LDS members would appear to have forgotten in their hasty attempt to confirm and deny the accuracy of various parts of the depiction in this episode,) the only real difference about the Endowment is that it is known to only a very few religoius groups. LDS believe that the ordinance of Baptism belonged to the Church, and that all the other Churches descended from the Great Apostasy, carrying down fragments of the truth: Baptism, the Eucharist (Sacrament/Communion), with them. And Mormons point at these ordinances without difficulty as examples of true (or only slightly altered) concepts that have carried down…

    Well, the day may come when the Endowment may also exist in nearer to as many religious denominations as these other ordinances do. What if several Mormon offshoots gain traction and begin to grow? Missionaries might some day mention the Temple, and potential converts would reply: “I’ve been through the Temple. The endowment was so meaningful!” And the Missionaries would be in the same predicament as they are with Baptism currently, saying, You’ve been through an Endowment, but we will need you to be re-Endowed so that it is done by the “correct” authority. I realize this may seem like some wild speculation to some, but imagine how differently this current situation would be understood if the Endowment were common amongst many religious societies?

    But, I digress, I think Matthew’s review here has been very fair to both sides. It has been no secret from the beginning that the creators of Big Love are purposefully trying to demonstrate some things about acceptable types of marriages in the eyes of the law, and in the eyes of religion, and religion’s entanglement with government, while at the same time entertaining us, and I think this episode has done exactly that.

  15. John: Thank you for the exortation. I have decided to leave the bubble…

  16. Matt b.: Perhaps exoticism is the wrong word. I think that the interest of Big Love resides precisely in the way that it makes the exotic seem normal. This is the same kind of irony that they traded on in Rome (which I loved), where things like Roman religion were shown in all of their glorious wierdness by characters that seemed very immediate and approachable. It is precisely the exotic bit of these familiar seeming characters that makes these dramas work. The idea is something like, “Look how normal those wierd polygamists are. It’s kind of wierd, eh?” I admit that exotic may not be quite the right description here, but it is certainly trading on the very strangeness of polygamy. That said you are probably right that American liberalism’s (philosophic not political) discomfort with hierarchy and institution in relgion is probably a stronger theme.

  17. john,
    We’re out of the bubble here. If you would kindly leave your gross overgeneralizations at the door, we’d appreciate it.

  18. What was so over the top about what I said. I simply mean to say that members are not aware of our history. Most members are in a bubble. And gladly so. Is this not a forum for discussion of our faith? Our faith is being dragged through the mud without our knowing anything about it. I don’t mean to be confrontational, or maybe I do, but these things do exist and need to be dealt with. They can be dealt with in a respectful way or they can be brought to light by those that wish to hurt us. I would rather the later.

    john

  19. Further more, we internet Mormons have caused the bubble to be burst. So either we stop the Bloggernacle or we bring the rest along. My guess is that the train has left the station.

    John

  20. John, I think you are likely an non-(or ex-)Mormon troll. Don’t use “we.”

  21. …and Jeff Day has started a fundamentalist schismatic church! Great.

  22. You have no idea what I believe. The word Ex-Mormon has always offended me. i may not follow every utterance of the Bretheren but that does not discount my Mormonism. We all have a different view of what Mormonism is, what the afterlife will be like, what the temple really means, but my family crossed the plains too. Don’t make claims you can’t back up.

    John

  23. Look, John. I don’t particularly care what you believe. But don’t expect to be received with open arms when you make trollicious comments.

  24. john,
    You are a troll. I can easily demonstrate this with all your comments here today. Go away.

  25. Northerner says:

    Nice post, thanks! I thought the temple portion of the episode was generally respectfully done and, with the music, rather powerful, as the climactic depiction of Barb’s spiritual yearnings. In that frame of reference, I didn’t think the veil part of it was too long at all; I think it was that very ritual part that emphasized what she felt was so important about the temple.

  26. “Trollicious”, is that even a word.

  27. I looked it up. That is what a troll says after a particularly good meal. Mmmmm, “That was trollicious”. This is getting ridiculous. I thought this was a forum for the discussion of Mormonism.

  28. John C.

    Are you a wizard? You can tell by comments who is and who is not a troll. Amazing!

  29. John, your comment #13 alleged that no member of the church has read anything not published by Deseret Book. Was there something on the thread that lead you to believe that the author and/or commenters limit their reading so? Did you think that such accusations might be offensive when directed at a rather well-read group of Mormons, like the ones here at BCC?

  30. No I am implying that the general public of the Church has not read anything other than Deseret published books. I am quite sure that this group is well read. If by well read you mean “Rough Stone Rolling”.

  31. “Are you a wizard? You can tell by comments who is and who is not a troll. Amazing!”

    Comments (and underneath bridges) are the troll’s favorite hideout. Bye, John.

  32. John:

    I agree with you about your definition of Mormonism. I even agree with your first comment (#13), and didn’t read it as a critique on the bloggers and commenters here at BCC, but rather indicative of your general frustration with many LDS members’ lack of willingness to learn about Mormonism from non-Church-pubished materials.

    If you aren’t a troll, then, you’ll perhaps be willing to listen to a suggestion? Speaking for myself, I believe that the reaction against some of your comments stem from the way you chose to express your feelings. I’m not sure about your background, but perhaps you’re new to reading BCC. Each blogging community has patterns of communication to which we all adapt ourselves over time in order to best express our ideas in ways that are correctly interpreted and understood by the rest of the community. Additionally, blogs like BCC generally have guidelines for appropriate commenting. From the “Info & Contact” page at BCC: “BCC is a place of charitable discussion for everyone, including those who are not Mormon.”

    When I read a blog for the first time, I usually read a few posts and all their comments to orient myself to the community before entering the conversation. I also reread my comment a couple times before posting to make sure that I’m saying what I want to say clearly and inoffensively. I _hope_ that most of those who read my comments see them as respectful and honest attempts at contributing to the dialogue, and increasing our collective understanding of a particular topic. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have controversial opinions sometimes; it just means that my opinion is approached from a position of respect given its mode of delivery, and prevents others from dismissing me as a “troll”.

    Best of luck!

  33. Heh. My patience for banality is so thin today.

    Troll.

    Anyway, sorry for the threadjack, Matt.

  34. Antonio Parr says:

    “Troll’s favorite hideout?!?”

    For a group as gifted and sincere as the ones who drive bycommonconsent.com (one of my favortie websites), there is nevertheless an unpleasant, recurring theme of casting stones at purported “trolls”. I thought the gleeful dig at “John” (whoever that is) was needlessly biting, especially when “John” could very well be someone who is looking for honest dialogue about the Church. (Even if John is a “troll”, there must be a less sarcastic way of dealing with such folks. Otherwise, we begin to look like one of those cartoon villains on Big Love . . . )

  35. Antonio Parr says:

    I found Big Love’s portrayal of elements of Temple worship to be insensitive. I found the insensitive scene to be of very mixed artistic worth. I found the characterization of the LDS Church as corrupt, and its active members as heartless and conniving, to be genuinely offensive and patently false.

  36. Justmeherenow says:

    The LATimes’s Alllyssa Lee ( http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/showtracker/2009/03/big-love-the-he.html ) is talking Emmy:
    :
    “And if you thought Jeanne Tripplehorn was incredible in the episode so far, her stand in front of the disciplinary committee was absolutely riveting. And her speech touched upon some hot-button issues. ‘You openly disparage my family, but you hide the truth about our history,’ stated Barb, the camera zooming in on her. ‘I love the church. I love it more than I can say, but I believe the church and its leaders are in grave error on polygamy, and on the kinds of marriages and families it creates. I can’t forsake my family.’
    :
    “Though her delivery was firm, it was no less wrenching when the stake president, in a grimace of disappointment, proclaimed Barbara Dutton Henrickson to be taken off the record books and severed from her family, her ancestors and progenitors for all eternity. And as he uttered these words, the camera slowly panned back, detaching itself from a clearly devastated Barb, fighting tears and mustering all her courage to stay faithful to her convictions, no matter the cost. (Emmy voters, take note!)”

  37. Antonio, point taken. One of the reasons that is a recurring theme is because trolls occur with some frequency. Perhaps we (especially I) am a little too transparent in my troll-dealings; if you prefer, in the future we could just do as most places, and simply zap people without any indication of their existence.

    I am sure there is a less sarcastic way of dealing with such folks. I humbly suggest back to you that until you have had to repeatedly deal with trolls as an administrator as we have, you’re in no position to understand the difficulty and inconvenience associated with the task. As you indicate, we are (I am) frequently critiqued as the cartoon villain by orthodox members and antis alike. I have no problem with that depiction, however inaccurate. But we’ll (I’ll) try to be less sarcastic about it.

  38. Antonio Parr says:

    Barb’s emotional response at being excommunicated was powerful, and great acting by Tripplehorn. Her sarcastic comment about the Stake President inquiring about her underwear was entirely inconsistent with her emotional pain, and is yet further evidence that the writers were going all out in their attack on the LDS Church. Nothing subtle about the writing; kudos, though, to Tripplehorn for her acting.

  39. Antonio,
    When sincere folk behave trollishly, they apologize once it has been pointed out or they explain the non-trollishness of their comments. They don’t get angry immediately and demand that their opinion be treated with respect. So you know.

    Sorry, also, about the threadjack.

  40. I just need to clarify that Noah Feldman’s “theory” that the church is constantly trying to be seen as main stream has definately missed the point. Mormons have never wanted to be lumped with main stream Chrisitianity and never will. They are a restorationist religion and not a reformed religion and will always be distinct and gladly different. That is not to say that they don’t respect and work together with other religion sects but do not wish to assimilate.

  41. Nate – It seems to me that the voyeurism that polygamy might inspire in HBO’s audience is the hook, but after that the surprise comes from how much the polygamists are like you and me. This, I think, is the subtext of the show; alternative marriage arrangements aren’t that alien.

    Leslie – While you’re right to a certain extent, I think that much of the past hundred-twenty years or so of church history have revolved around the problem of how American (and, just on the horizon, African, Brazilian, or whatever) the Church needs to be. That Mormons are constantly asking the question indicates that there is a tension here, but sometimes the answer’s in the affirmative. For instance, the 1995 redesign of the Church’s logo was designed to more closely bind Mormonism to Christianity, no more, no less.

    Thanks, all, for your comments.

  42. Brittany says:

    Good job Mattie! Loved the read :)

  43. Natalie B. says:

    Hmm…I really see nothing that offensive in John’s comment. He started out by complementing the post, which suggests his remarks probably don’t apply to the author or those within the discussion. I think it was probably just hastily composed.

  44. Sorry matt,

    “For instance, the 1995 redesign of the Church’s logo was designed to more closely bind Mormonism to Christianity, ”

    It was done to bind the Church closer to Christ in the eyes of everyone, Christian, Mormon, or not.

  45. Antonio Parr says:

    No. 39

    John:

    I am not sure that “trolls” all share the same DNA, and, as a result, don’t all respond with the same grace and finesse proposed by you. This particular fellow seemed sincere enough to me, which is why I bothered to comment on his post.

    No. 37

    Steve:

    Thanks for responding/clarifying. I understand your dilemma.

    Sorry to digress on this topic, as it was very well presented.

  46. Sam – Sure. I’m curious that you seem to believe that your last sentence disproves my point.

  47. John Hamer says:

    BTW, I apologize above (#8.) for skipping the intro — I liked the post so much, I thought it was Kristine’s. Anyway, welcome, Matt B! I’m still 3 episodes behind, so I haven’t watched this one yet, but I couldn’t help but peak at all the posts.

  48. the 1995 redesign of the Church’s logo was designed to more closely bind Mormonism to Christianity

    Hmmm. Can logos be inspired, the same as scripture? Is our logo the equivalent of scripture? Should we have voted as a Church to accept or reject the logo?

  49. J. Stapley,

    You say “…and Jeff Day has started a fundamentalist schismatic church! Great.” How exactly did you derive that conclusion from my comment?

    To those who have spoken about the Church logo, if the Church really wanted to draw closer to Christianity, they would probably adopt the Cross into their logo art. There seems to be a balance being struck, a line that is not being crossed at this point.

  50. daveonline says:

    I have not watched Big Love, nor have much interest in it, not if much TV in general. I was struck though by the irony in the comments about the moving acting of someone who feels great sorrow about being excommunicated from a church she believes is very wrong in its beliefs about marriage. This “noble” person bravely accepting losing eternal blessing because of her commitment to a higher good. It makes no sense to me. Perhaps she is really too afraid to leave her marriage and the sorrow is a personal one about not having the courage to move away from a mistake? That seeems more plausible than the implication that she is being truly valid to a belief of plural marriage. If she internally truly believed she was right, I could accept that what could be left is sorrow at not being able to be “friends” with everyone and to accept that not every one will like me. But sorrow at losing eternal blessings – No – unless she is trapped in a mistaken choice.
    This set of questions for Barb also captures the paradox of many Mormons to this situation. Why are we outraged/surprised that someone might speak poorly of us? Are we sorry for losing the esteem of everyone? Or are we trying to justify a condemning view of the world, because our own hearts are misaligned with harsh judgements of the outside world and thus the background music in our own lives portrays us as the nobel wounded hero?

  51. Regardless of my feelings about the HBO use of sacred rituals on TV, as far as the story goes I think Barb’s dilemma touches on an almost Eve-ish moment of choice. I confess I might just be a romantic fool, but sorry daveonline, I don’t think the choice is not as simple as current lover vs. eternal blessings. With all of our talk about being on earth to be tested, this is a big one. I think God wants to see how we do in the face of these kinds of challenges–what is our commitment to loving someone? Does it end for us the moment we have to change a diaper? When we have to put up with the quirks of another personality? What might we sacrifice for love? Do we sacrifice our lives, our desires, our own ambitions for another whom we love? Should we? Does love of the community trump the intimate love of an individual?

    If Barb suddenly recants and leaves her love and rejoins the church, then what is she as an individual? Is that a victory for some side? What would any of us do if we were commanded to leave our spouse–by the police, the government, the church, by someone with a gun? What if God commanded it?

    If we are able to numb our sentiments to the point of dumping our spouses because the Stake President tells us to we are dangerously close to the unimaginable horror of the contemporary FLDS situation with the reassigning of wives and sending men into exile while new, more acceptably righteous men take their places in their beds.

  52. Nate Oman, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head.

  53. daveonline says:

    Homer,
    I certainly agree with you on the Eve framing of this situation, though I did not mean to frame it so much as choose current lover over eternal blessing. And I agree on the whole issue of love being played in daily details that clarify and cement the commitments of love.
    I was more interested in the internal psychological contradictions of the character and translating that to the context of a Mormon community faced with the task of spiritual brothers and sisters who may mock and oppose. Does the same dramatic background apply to Adam and Eve when they leave the garden? Do we and they see themselves as “heroic martyrs”? Do Mormons now see themselves as heroic martyrs? If so, then I would propose there is also an internal contradiction with more fundamental beliefs. In the case of Adam and Eve and Mormons today, do we fully recognize and appreciate that in order to truly live the blessings of a committed love (both in a marriage and in the larger community), they must accept hardship, humility and opposition as opposed to the fantasy that the world exists to serve and provide for me and that I can please everyone?

    Extending to one more theme here about “Well, good things will come of this.” While I agree that it is true, it is also the foundational paradox of Christianity that “Good things will come of slaughtering and sacrificing our God” and if we forget that, we risk losing appreciation and respect for the pain that was incurred for the good things to happen.

  54. Jeff Day:
    My guess is (and J. Stapley please correct me if I am wrong), that he was referring to your linked website.

  55. FWIW, my doctor, who is a spiritual but nonobservant Jew very interested in all religion, talked to me about Big Love after my appointment this morning (he brought it up because he knows my religion). He told me he thought the scenes in the temple were beautiful, that he felt a real peace and sense of joyous wonderment in the ritual and sacred language. While, after I explained the reaction of most Latter-day Saints as a feeling of violation, he understood, he still commented again about what a beautiful ceremony he thought it was.

  56. Daveonline,

    Thanks for your clarification. I reread your post and can see your deeper point. Unlike some of the commenters on this Big Love Brouhaha, I’m not sure that the writers were conspiring to find a way to really get the Mormons. There are some compelling dilemmas that can be explored here.

    I appreciated your further post: “In the case of Adam and Eve and Mormons today, do we fully recognize and appreciate that in order to truly live the blessings of a committed love (both in a marriage and in the larger community), they must accept hardship, humility and opposition as opposed to the fantasy that the world exists to serve and provide for me and that I can please everyone.”

    Too often, young mormon newlyweds leave the sealing room thinking they have finally arrived, that everything is finished. Just wait for the blessings that are owed to the righteous and everything will be bliss. And relieved parents echo that sentiment thinking that all their worries are over, because they finally got them to the temple. With apologies to the Carpenters. “We’ve Only Just Begun . . .”

  57. Tom Zelaney says:

    I thought that the Endowmnet excerpts were handled sensitively – however, I saw Barb enter at the head of those stairs and reach for the newel post and froze thinking she was reaching with hter right hand across her left to the post on her left just as if she were about to dip into the Holy Water and cross herself. The whol movement was exactly as a Catholic would do on entering a church. I almost fell of my seat with expectation. But she must have caught herself in time.

    As for keep our rituals secret, this strikes me as amusing in that I can find old, revised and all forms of mormon rites on the internet at will. Worse yet after seeing that they’re authentic, I don’t know what we’re all in an uproar about. I thought the ceremonial clothing was tastefully handled – I thought it reminded me of the nuns in my grammar school.
    But as to exposing all of Mormon ritual to public view, I would oppose that simply because I do not find it ritualistic enough to pass muster or sufficiently elevating to endure comparison to Episcopal or Roman ceremonial. I comes across as Masonic jargon combined with cartoonish movements and unintelligible symbolism. We would suffer from its exposure.

  58. I do not have HBO and have never watched “Big Love,” although I think I must.

    I did not hear about this until this morning, when I climbed into my car in an Anchorage Wal-Mart parking lot, spotted two Mormon missionaries nearby, turned on the car and the radio came on to NPR’s “Talk of the Nation.”

    The first words that I heard were, “I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.”

    I put an illustrated account on my blog, which you can find here:

    http://wasillaalaskaby300.squarespace.com

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