Big Love 3.6

I’m watching the latest episode of Big Love, and boy is there a lot of Mormony stuff in this one.

The family takes a trip out to see the Palmyra Pageant. On the way they stop at the Carthage Jail. In the upper bedroom, the guide plays a tape of a dramatization of the mob killing of Joseph. (I’ve never experienced anything like that.) The guide says that Joseph’s wife Emma was left bereft. One of the Henrickson boys asks his dad how many widows Joseph left, and Bill says he had 32 wives at the time. The guide says “Uh, I don’t think we know that.” Bill says “Just read Brodie or even Bushman.” Then another guy jumps in, identifyinig himself as “an amateur Mormon historian,” who assures everyone that Joseph did have those wives, but they were widows and orphans. Bill decides not to make a scene.

Later on the trip they run into a black Baptist preacher who reams them out (unaware they’re fundamentalists) and complains that until 20 years ago they wouldn’t even accept people like him.

After that Bill baptizes his first wife by proxy for his third wife’s mother, who had died.

They finally arrive at the pageant, after all sorts of family complications. Bill is having a crisis of faith and praying, and we see the angel Moroni (from the play) arise above his head.

But I got the biggest kick out of Bill in the upper bedroom of the Carthage Jail suggesting people read Bushman!


  1. Fascinating, Kevin. And awesome. Thanks for the Big Love update.

  2. You’re making me want to watch it–never seen it. Do they have it at Blockbuster?

  3. Is it online?

  4. the first two seasons are available on dvd. we don’t have tv, so we catch up after the season is out on dvd. can’t wait to see this episode! we like the show a lot. for someone who is lds, it’s very easy to see the distinct lines they draw between “us” and “them.” for anyone outside of our circle, i’m not so sure it’s as clear a delineation.

    we’ve been to carthage and they do indeed play an audiotape dramatization of the martyrdom.

  5. It was an interesting episode indeed. It seems that it took getting out of Utah to explore more “Mormony” stuff than usual.

    But the best part of the episode was Sarah’s story, especially the end. Absolutely heartbreaking. For me, it was the best moment of the season so far.

  6. makakona,
    we don’t get HBO either but while you’re waiting for the season on DVD you can keep up by watching each episode’s preview and recap for free at

  7. So, Big Love is set in 1998?

    Also, the show should touch on the fact that fundies still don’t accept black people as priesthood holders. Was the implication that Bill was somehow better on race issues than LDS members?

  8. Wow, you’re right Kevin. I just got around to watching the latest episode tonight. Overall, this season has been silly. Their marriage to Anna sure didn’t last long. Sealed one week, divorced the next!

    This is by far the most “Mormon” television series ever, imo. Apparently it’s doing well in the ratings, but who’s watching? I can’t figure out who the target audience is.

    That scene in Carthage Jail was incredible. An LDS – FLDS smackdown on HBO???

  9. Re. No. 8: “An LDS – FLDS smackdown on HBO???”

    I’m laughing out loud. This is too rich.

  10. Episode 3.3 blew me away in a half dozen ways. This one was ok. Kevin, you’re right the Carthage scene was great.

  11. Kevin Barney says:

    Thanks, makakona. The audio dramatization must be a new thing (it has been awhile since I was at the jail).

  12. Kevin Barney says:

    Oh, and on blacks and the priesthood thing Bill really didn’t engage the guy on any substance. I thought of the same thing you did, that the preacher would have been *really* upset if he knew that fundamentalists (obviously) don’t even accept the mainstream 1978 revelation!

  13. A co-worker (non-LDS) keeps telling me that Big Love “is really getting good with the latest episodes.” Maybe I’ll have to check it out.

  14. Neal Davis says:

    I heard the audio dramatization in the late 90s on a family vacation through the church history sites, so it may just be the taste of the docent.

  15. You should warn add a warning about this program, particularly for the audience of BCC, that “Big Love” would be rated R for various reasons if in movie theaters. This is a show, after all, on HBO.

  16. #15–true! Though is it just me or was that much more of a factor in season 1, which seemed to rely on the guy-has-sex-with-lots-of-women!!! ratings crutch way more than these later seasons?

  17. Great summary. The part of the show I liked best was the very same moment you identify, only I liked the recommendation to read Brodie.

  18. Kevin Barney says:

    Here’s a more detailed summary of the episode:,24270/

  19. My son watches it, I have only watched it 2 times. He gets most of his education on Mormonism from Big Love, South Park, and Comedy Central.

  20. #18–My favorite BCC perma links to my favorite AV Club author?

    Worlds…colliding! Head…nearing explosion…

    (wipes brains from computer screen)

  21. Jeremy (#7),

    So, Big Love is set in 1998?

    What? How does that square with the fact that “Bushman” (presumably referring to RSR and not JS and the Beg. of Mormonism) didn’t appear until 2005?

    Jettboy (#15), have you ever actually watched Big Love? Cynthia’s right that most of the post-season 1 episodes contain significantly less sex, and most would probably garner a PG-13 rating in theaters.

  22. (#20) Ew.

  23. Christopher,
    I think Jeremy’s referring to the fact that the preacher says that, until 20 years ago, people like him weren’t accepted. 20 years after the priesthood ban was lifted = 1998.

  24. Gotcha. Thanks, Sam.

  25. I haven’t watched the most recent episode yet (oh the glories of tivo!), but I am religious watcher of the show. The characters and storylines are superb, but I am occasionally irked by their failure to get regular LDS stuff right. I watch the show with my non-mo mom, and she often asks, “Do you guys really do that?” For example a couple of episodes ago when Barb was asking her LDS sister to get her husband to shut down the anti-gaming bills, the sister deferred to her husband and said, “Well he is my lord and master.” The church is definitely patriarchal, but no Mormon woman I know would ever refer to her husband that way.

  26. Mrs. Peacock says:

    I love Big Love and my husband and I watch it every week. We’re not LDS. I have been wondering – why do you think the show’s creators chose to take it in this direction? I’m trying to figure out what they have in store for the rest of the season.

  27. I’ve never seen the show, but it seems to reflect negatively on the Church. After all, someone watching it is just as likely to compare it to the Church as any fundamentalist offshoot. I’m sure everyone’s been asked how many wives their fathers had, because someone saw some special on PBS and is convinced beyond reason that Mormons secretly practice polygamy. Like most shows, I’ll bet people are drawn to its sensationalism.

  28. Jon,
    FWIW, no, nobody has ever asked me how many wives my dad has (or, for that matter, how many I have). Although I’m sure there are plenty of misinformed people out there, I’ve never personally come across anyone in California or New York who thought that mainstream Mormons were polygamous.

  29. MikeInWeHo says:

    It has to give the PR folks at the Church reason to scratch their heads. The show is really about Utah culture in many respects, but shown from the perspective of a polygamist family living clandestinely in the SLC suburbs. What’s interesting to me is the way they throw in everything but the kitchen sink when it comes to Mormonism, and just kind of mix it all together. People unfamiliar with the Church could definitely come away with some very incorrect ideas.

    Oh yeah, and I now have a testimony of The Prophet Roman Grant.

  30. John Taber says:

    I heard the audio at Carthage both times I went (1996 and 2004). The guide in 1996 said that at one time there were bleeding mannequins in the upstairs room, but President Kimball saw them and had them taken out.

  31. “For me, it was the best moment of the season so far.”

    no, no. the best moment was when nikki is trying to put the moves on bill but he’s not interested because he lost his vi…gra and marjean does her wifely duty to “warm” bill up.

    i’m still getting a chuckle.

    so. i was a little bothered with the marriage scene with anna last week. a bit creepy.

  32. Interesting to note that the Carthage jail guide is actually right: we don’t know exactly know how many wives Joseph had.

  33. Yeah, Kevin, I found the reference to Bushman exciting too. It was a rich episode. I liked that Bill told his son he would not embarrass the man in front of his family.

    I never miss this show. I adore it.

    It’s fun to see what they get right, and where they miss- ie: the submissive “he IS my lord and master” stuff about mainstream Mormons.

  34. Kevin Barney says:

    31 mfranti, yeah, i actually missed the first ten minutes, so when I saw that “warming Bill up scene” I didn’t know what to make of it. Then during the course of the episode I realized Bill had lost his viagra and what Margie was doing.

    Now that is giving one for the team!

  35. That’s why she said “Oh, am I being a pill?”!

  36. Kevin Barney says:

    I don’t know whether it was intentional or not, but the “20 year” thing actually reflects a certain verisimilitude. We Mormons have the year 1978 etched in our braings, but most people don’t; they just have a vague idea of when we changed our practice. So even though the 20 year thing was clearly wrong, I thought it was quite believable coming from the mouth of a foaming Baptist preacher.

    I’m a little less convinced that Bill’s goody-two-shoes daughter would have been witnessing to the preacher in the first place. That sort of commitment to missionary outreach strikes me as more mainstream than fundamentalist.

  37. Kevin Barney says:

    Tracy, I just now got that, thanks to your comment! I’m a little slow on the uptake.

  38. What about Marjean and Bill’s son seeing each other naked? Anyone notice that scene? There’s been sexual tension between those two from day one in this series. I think they’re heading for a hook-up.

  39. Kevin,
    The character Kathy Marquart is played by Mireille Enos who was in our Brooklyn ward for a few years. I love that a pretty significant character is played by a Mormon.

  40. I think Kevin is right. The black Baptist wouldn’t care that the Revelation on the Priesthood was made public on June 8, 1978. It would just be a bit of trivia filed away, that a long time ago, Mormons changed their view on priesthood. But since he was already an adult in 1978, the Church’s history towards blacks would be firmly entrenched in his worldview.

  41. #37 – “I’m a little slow on the uptake.”

    That (unintentional?) humor made my day, Kevin. I have gone through various iterations of how to comment on it without crossing the lines of propriety here, but I finally settled on letting it stand on it’s own.

  42. Kevin Barney says:

    Heh, Ray, I’m not that witty! I wish I could take credit for it…

  43. @27 — Jon, I wouldn’t say the show reflects negatively on the Church, though it’s certainly true that some people will watch it and mistakenly associate its polygamy with the Church. But so what? I think that’s a small price to pay for what has proved to be a fascinating and funny show about what is, after all, a fact of American life. From the standpoint of the television writer, BL is basically a fish-out-of-water show. A show about a bunch of very nice middle-class polygamists living in suburbia is structurally no different than Bewitched (a middle-class witch in suburbia), the Munsters, I Dream of Jeannie, etc. But BL is better written than any of those shows, and has the added oomph provided by the fact that there really are thousands of polygamous families out there. Presumably a fair number of creeps like Roman as well.

    And I was just delighted by the Bushman reference. It’s as if someone in Touched By an Angel were to say, “Oh, Jesus wasn’t really divine. Read Bart Ehrman.” Just goes to show how much smarter BL is than TBAA.

  44. I find it less than believable that Bill would read either Bushman or Brodie.

  45. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 43 I think that Big Love is an extremely subtle attempt to advance the homosexual agenda by promoting tolerance of non-traditional family arrangements.

  46. Kevin Barney says:

    MikeInWeHo, I agree. And if there is indeed that germ of an idea behind it, it frankly is brilliant.

  47. If it wasn’t for all the dry humping, Big Love would be my favorite show.

    Thing is, if you are really going to tell a story about mormon fundamentalists then they have to be mormon. The Hendricksons trip to Palmyra makes perfect sense. But then again, its bad PR wise. The average Joe cant tell a fundie from an LDS anymore than an LDS can tell the difference between an Ismaeli and a Whahabbi.
    The last thing we want is to have some mother find out that her son/daughter is listening to the mormons and then have her fear that her babies gonna be a polygamist.

    Also, the carthage thing illustrates something really interesting. The tour guides don’t rock the boat, “we don’t know” answers represent well the attitude of some mormons.
    While the widows and orphans thing would be hilarious if it wasnt true that so many folk explanations are passed on in order to waterdown the truth regarding plural marriage.

  48. I don’t understand why many of you think fundamentalist are so much different from yourselves. Many of us came from the mainstream church. We have many mainstream LDS books on our shelves. I have “Rough Stone Rolling” on my bookshelf. True, it’s sandwiched between “Adam-God” by Tholson, and the “Modern Mormon Dilemma”, but it’s still there.

    I’ve been to many different fundamentalist meetings, and a mainstream Mormon wouldn’t feel the least bit out of place. Hymns are the same. Children sing the same Primary songs. Prayers are typical of the LDS style. The sacrament is administered in basically the same way. Blessings are the same. Baptisms are the same. Temple ordinances are the same, minus the changes. Priesthood offices are the same. We use the same scriptures. Up until roughly a hundred years ago, our history is the same.

    Other than some doctrinal differences, most of us are just like you.

  49. Big Love is one of my favorite shows. We don’t have TV, we buy boxsets or watch online. I hate reg. TV. My husband is a Physician and we are both active LDS. Dr. Kittywaymo is a descendant of JS through Lucy and Catherine Walker. Lucy goes on to marry Heber C. Kimball. He gets a little sensitive with some of the misinformation about Church History etc. But I happen to think this show is funny and smart! I know it is not on target about Church info, but hopefully people who are really interested in the Church will break down and actually investigate it, not listen to a albeit funny, interesting show with some Mormon flair.

    I just LOVE BIG LOVE!! I wish I could find a descent online site to watch them instead of the “you have had your 72 minutes, you need to wait..” stuff. I would even be willing to pay! If someone knows one for Big Love Season 3, please let me know. Thanx, Love, Kittywaymo

  50. ray, was the last part of 41 intentional?

  51. Natalie Brown says:

    Wow – I so want to watch this show now.

  52. CJ Douglass says:

    AZ Fundy,

    I hear what you’re saying.

    I find it interesting that the fundies in BL are portrayed as more mainstream and “normal” than their LDS neighbors.

    Now that’s a conspiracy if I’ve ever seen one. ;)

  53. mfranti, I plead the 5th.

  54. Dr. Kitty thinks I need to get a part on Big Love. I’m an LDS actress (and Disney, I’m in HS Musical 3). I might audition! Although I bet they don’t want a REAL LDS person on the show..

    This is one heck of a click-y group huh? Seems a little old for me.. gonna try a new Mo Forum.. c-Ya! kitty:)

  55. Kevin Barney says:

    I went home teaching last night, and this couple happened to get married at Nauvoo about five years ago. I asked whether they remembered an audio tape of a dramatized portrayal of the mob storming the upper bedroom, and the husband said on one occasion they did that. So clearly it has been done from time to time, although I’ve been there over a dozen times and never experienced it myself.

    If what is played at the real thing is anything like what was played on the Big Love episode, it strikes me as incredibly tacky and completely unnecessary.

  56. Agreed, Kevin.

  57. #48 AzFundy

    I would agree that we have alot in common. On a similiar note, chimpanzee DNA is 99% like human DNA.

    Its the 1% that makes all the difference ; )

  58. True, Pedro. Now, who are the chimps? Joseph Smith and his followers, or Thomas Monson and his followers? I believe that from the perspective of the mainstream LDS, the church has evolved from the days of Joseph Smith. You can also tell who the chimps are because they have a tendency to be put in cages by those more evolved species. ;)

    Oh well. At least this chimp has access to ALL the temple ordinances.

  59. We watched the episode right before setting out on our own Mormon history roadtrip — we’re in Nauvoo right now — so it was a special treat for us.

    I’ve had the precise Carthage Jail experience as depicted on the show, although I had it at Liberty Jail in Missouri. As of a few years ago the Liberty Jail LDS visitor center was completely unreformed. The jail is a reconstruction built inside a theater. The presentation involved shining spotlights on mannequins to taped voices similar to the depiction on Big Love. All I recall is the booming voice of God saying something like, “Joseph…!”

    Aside from us, the only people in the audience were a family of Restorationists (RLDS conservatives who are not affiliated with the Community of Christ). So, in other words, everyone in the audience had Latter Day Saint heritage but none were members of the LDS Church. The missionary guide didn’t vary from her script, which was entirely exclusionary — “our prophet,” “our church,” (i.e., the LDS Church, not your church, etc.) This is a site holy to our common heritage and I thought it was unfortunate that the Restorationist family received that experience. However, like Bill Hendrickson, I certainly have a policy against challenging a host.

    Although I also loved the references to Brodie and Bushman, for me the most powerful moment on that Big Love episode is when Bill baptized Barb on behalf of Margine’s recently deceased mother. I thought that was a fantastic illustration of why the practice of baptism for the dead was so immediate and meaningful to the people here in Nauvoo in the 1840s.

  60. So, let me get this straight … it’s all right for multiple commenters to use “fundie” on this thread, even before AzFundy used it as self-identification, but my use of that term a few weeks ago to identify the misinformation given by a member-of-a-similar-diversity merited repeated scorn by permas and others?

    Dang, I wish you’d be consistent. I’m losing my testimony of BCC.

  61. I know that our wordpress is true!

  62. With every fiber of your keyboard?

  63. every ctril+c, ctrl+v of my being.

  64. You win. This time.

  65. “If what is played at the real thing is anything like what was played on the Big Love episode, it strikes me as incredibly tacky and completely unnecessary.”

    Church sites don’t always know when to lay off the cheesiness. When I visited the JS birthplace in Vermont, I found that the blasting of hymns from hidden speakers in the trees really detracted from the atmosphere. The beautiful, quiet Vermont woods are a spiritual setting in and of itself; no need to tinker with perfection.

  66. Willswords says:

    I know a lot of you will think I’m a prude, but how do you justify watching this show? I’ll admit I haven’t seen it, but it just reeks of priestcraft to me — making money off of a fascination people have with fictional Mormon culture. Sorry. I probably sound self-righteous, but I think watching this show doesn’t make you sophisticated, it just shows you have some myopia when it comes to what is appropriate entertainment.

  67. Kevin Barney says:

    So I’m watching the next episode, and there is some more content of interest, involving an historic letter that Bill’s BIL acquired from Albie. Bill thought it was something having to do with MMM, a topic Bill didn’t care about. But it turned out to be a letter written by WW, proving that he never really intended to stop polygamy. The BIL buys the letter and donates it to the Church, where presumably it will never see the light of day.

    I take it that this supposed letter was inspired by the John Taylor revelation?

    Willswords, I don’t feel the need to justify watching the show.

  68. CleverName says:


    I think many people, Mormon or not, wonder what Big Love is really about and dismiss it out of hand

    To me, it’s primarily a family drama! I think that many people who watch the show would categorize it similarly. We love these people because of the way they strive to hold their family together through thick and thin. The fact that they are a family floating somewhere between fundamentalism and true LDS is secondary to the family drama. Really, they could be almost any religion because the majority of their struggles with faith are common across people of all faiths: Am I on the right path today? Am I being of service to my God and my family? If this sometimes feels so wrong, is it truly God’s plan? And if I’m not on the right path, what have I done not only to my own soul, but those of my family?

    In many ways the Henricksons are relatable to anyone who struggles with the challenges and responsibilities of both family and faith. Yes, their circumstances are dramatized and amplified, but the basic conflicts are familiar.

    I’m neither Mormon nor was I raised Mormon, so I can’t relate to the show from that perspective. I just found this blog today and it’s interesting to see thoughts about Big Love from those who are of this faith.

    Some of the most emotional and rewarding moments on this show are centered around faith. Last week’s episode, the one posted about here, had such a moment when Ginger, Margene’s dead mother, was baptized by proxy, allowing Margene to finally mourn her and let her go. And Nikki’s comments to her son during the ceremony that “no souls are ever lost”, in the middle of an episode about a family feeling more lost than ever, was beautiful and heart-wrenching at the same time. This family comes together and stays together not only through their love of and devotion to one another, but through their love of and devotion to God as they understand him. And in this sentiment, they are similar to all families practicing a faith.

    I didn’t mean to go on and on, Willswords, but wanted to offer a few words about what people see in the show. ;)

  69. helenharman says:

    I am looking forward to this week’s episode. I understand that Barb will be going to the temple.

  70. Kevin Barney says:

    CleverName, I agree with your comments.

    helenharman, that will be interesting! I’ll be sure to watch.

  71. helenharman says:

    This week’s TV Guide even has a photo of her in temple robes!

  72. Wow. Just saw that picture. Wow.

  73. Got a link, Ronan? I can’t find it online.

  74. Is that picture online anywhere? Or only on newsstands?

  75. [link]

    [editor’s note: Chris, that the link but it’s highly inappropriate. Hope you understand its removal.]

  76. Kevin Barney says:

    Holy smokes!

  77. Az Fundy says:

    Mr. Barney,

    Don’t you mean the alleged John Taylor revelation? Remember, Heber J. Grant, and the first presidency, said that this revelation doesn’t exits.

    ““It is alleged that on September 26-27, 1886, President John Taylor received a revelation from the Lord, the purported text is given in publications circulated apparently by or at the instance of this organization (Fundamentalists). As to this pretended revelation it should be said that the archives of the Church contain no such a revelation; the archives contain no record of any such a revelation, nor any evidence justifying a belief that any such a revelation was ever given. From the personal knowledge of some of us, from the uniform and common recollection of the presiding quorums of the Church, from the absence in the Church archives of any evidence whatsoever justifying any belief that such a revelation was given, we are justified in affirming that no such a revelation exists.” (Official Statement From the First Presidency)

  78. Holy s***. I can’t believe that they’d do that.

    That must be Tom Hanks’ revenge for church’s opposition to prop 8.

  79. Katie M. says:

    Oh man. Watching Big Love with my non-mo mom is a long standing tradition. But there’s no way I could watch this upcoming one with her. Even if she sees it without me there it’s going to be mortifying. She’s going to say, “Really, you do this?” Oh man, oh man. I’m a dead duck.

  80. My apologies for the link.

  81. Saw the link somewhere else and my first response was “Holy sh**! The jig is up!” I’m the husband of above Katie M. and I watch Big Love with her and her non-member mom. I don’t think the commitment pattern can resolve the questions and doubts that will come from this episode.

    Of course this episode will probably get plenty of air time on the 24 hours news channels about the controversy that will likely arise out of this. Even if there isn’t one, cable news will make one up. It will also get blogged about, spread on YouTube, Twittered.

    I’m interested to see how the Church PR department is going to handle this one. This thing makes FLDS/prop 8/Mitt Romney seem like nothing.

    Things are going to get really interesting, really fast.

  82. Steve Evans says:

    Brett, I disagree. It sounds like the essence of a tempest in a teapot. So a character on a cable TV show will sport some costume that looks like temple robes. zzzzzzzzz. Antimormonism of this kind comes and goes, and there is no need to get excited about it.

    Questions and doubts about it can be easily addressed by people who take the time to give patient and cogent replies. Comparing it to bona fide struggles like Prop 8 is ludicrous and diminishes the real feelings people have on both sides of that important debate.

    As I said, there is no need to get excited about this, unless of course one is seeking to cause trouble for the Church and rejoice in public mockery of private and sacred things. But no BCC commenter would do that.

  83. I think the official church will yawn and all manner of bloggers (not many Bloggernaclers, but little guys) who thrive on being indignant will have a heyday.

    But hey, someone from the church library went out to buy a copy for their collection when I brought Chris’s link to their attention.

  84. Steve-

    I don’t know, man. I can see this getting pretty big. Mormons are everyone’s fall guy right now.

    And I was disappointed with your passive aggressive attempt to call me out as someone who wants to rejoice in the public mockery of the Church (I don’t). I thought your style was a little more in your face. You used to be cool, man.

  85. Brett, it’s not passive aggressive, or aimed at you. Relax.

    Ardis is right.

  86. Er, how can Barb have a Recommend? Anyone? Unless she is lying, she can’t.

  87. Katie M. says:

    With all due respect Steve, it is you who are dismissing my bona fide struggle and real feelings. It may be hard for you to understand those feelings, but I can assure they are real. I’m a convert to the church, with parents who would not speak to me for a year after I joined, whose only conversations with them for some time consisted of them screaming at me that I was joining a cult. But over the past few years we’ve mended fences and they’ve come to respect my beliefs much more. I’ve have given many cogent and patient replies to them in an attempt to explain my beliefs. But an outsider looking in at the temple ceremony is going to really be weirded out. And the problem is that an insider looking in, I was weirded out. The temple is the greatest struggle in my testimony, and it will be hard to explain to my wigged out mom, that I’m not down with it myself, but that I know the rest is true so I stay. Viewing this episode will effectively demolish the progress I have made with my parents thus far. While Brett may have over-exaggerated the challenge this will put forth to the institutional church, the challenge it will pose to some members is rather acute. Any anyone who has been caught between their faith and wanting to fit into their family will know its just as big a struggle as the Prop 8 stuff.

  88. Katie, I’m in the same boat- my family practically cut me out when I joined the church, and I share some of your feelings. Knowing Steve as I do, I know he wasn’t trying to marginalize your (or anyone else’s) feelings- but I do know, from being in your position, that it can feel that way. A lot. I hope you have some trusted and faithful people who can support you and help with your questions and struggles. Feel free to email me if you need an ear.

  89. Katie, if you’re not going to read my comments fairly, don’t accuse me of dismissing your feelings or struggle.

    No question that the temple can “weird people out,” but that doesn’t mean it is unexplainable or indefensible or something that should be abandoned. I truly believe that questions or concerns about the temple can be addressed effectively in the right context (the wrong context most likely being in a blog comment). I don’t come from a part-member family, and haven’t had to deal with the kind of parental antagonism you describe. It sounds terrible. But even in your description, things aren’t completely hopeless, and I don’t see how this one costume will permanently alter that.

    I hope you are exaggerating the hypothetical impact of a single scene from an HBO show — but even if you’re right, and this does turn out for you to be just as big as struggle as Prop 8, that doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world and you should go running for the hills. Instead, isn’t it clear that your best course of action will continue to be to mend fences and be patient?

    In any event, I read Brett’s comment to be primarily about the public/institutional reaction to this episode of a cable show, and my reply to him was also primarily about the public reaction to the episode. I have no doubt that for some people out there the temple robe-costume will be a big problem, and of course on that individual, private level we need to take those concerns seriously. But I don’t think we are talking about very many people in that group, nor do I think this will be more than a blip on any institutional level. That is the context in which I think this is a typical antimormon tempest in a teapot, and ultimately not something the average member ought to stay up late worrying about.

  90. I don’t watch this show and I am pleased to say that if someone asks me about it I won’t be able to answer because I won’t have seen it.

  91. Az Fundy says:

    tracy m,

    Fundamentalist have their own temples and endowment houses.

  92. Tracy M,
    Az Fundy is mostly correct. Some groups that don’t have their own temples have been known to steal blank temple recommends which are then distributed and used to enter mainstream LDS Temples. The recent switch to recommends with bar codes on them is, in part, an effort to stop this from happening.

  93. Eric Russell says:

    The recent switch to recommends with bar codes on them is, in part, an effort to stop this from happening

    The other part is so that your name will come up on a screen in front of the greeter in a large text, which allows them to greet you by name without having to squint to read the writing on your actual recommend. It’s done wonders for temple workers’ morale.

  94. Ok- but do Fundys wear G’s? In the show, none of them do, and none of them attend church outside of what they do at home… just curious.

  95. John Hamer says:

    I agree with Ardis that those of us who are not fundamentalist Mormons ought to stop saying the word “Fundy.” Fundamentalist Mormons continue to be subject to significant discrimination (“persecution” in the Mormon vocabulary) and it’s appropriate for us to avoid using disparaging nicknames.

  96. John, thank you for the correction. I appreciate knowing when I’m making an unintentional slight, and will be more careful in my choice of words.

  97. Kevin Barney says:

    Tracy, yes, fundamentalists wear G’s. They wear an old fashioned version that goes to the wrists and ankles. There really isn’t an attempt to portray that on Big Love.

  98. Matt W. says:

    I think the official church will yawn and all manner of bloggers (not many Bloggernaclers, but little guys) who thrive on being indignant will have a heyday.


    It is rare that I disagree with you, and maybe I don’t, because I think you are right that the church may just yawn at this. If they, do, I think they are missing an opportunity here. I think the church needs more clarity around the temple, otherwise these things will continue to be embarrassing to the church. I think Newsroom will have something up, and I hope rather than being indignant it is conciliatory and explanatory in nature. I think that would be the best approach to this. I think if the church just yawns, we are letting others define our beliefs and, if I can use a business term, our brand to the world. I think allowing that is a mistake.

  99. Thank you Kevin, for the clarification.

    I suppose I’ll wait and see the episode before I formulate an opinion of what, if anything, it means to us.

  100. Here’s what I’m curious about: will mainstream LDS react with less indignance and scandal if scenes in the episode depict fundamentalist LDS temple ceremonies as opposed to LDS ones, regardless of the similarities? If so, why? If not, why not? I’m assuming that the Big Love temple will, in fact, be an FLDS temple of some kind, so LDS reaction, regardless of which way it breaks (i.e. relief that it’s not our ceremony they’re violating versus anger at the pop-cultural depiction of sacred things — even FLDS sacred things), will be very, very interesting to watch.

  101. The church historically has not been very good at handling things like this — think: the Krakauer book, the Arrington papers at USU, even Prop 8. A public statement about the depiction of an FLDS temple ceremony, no matter how closely it parodies ours, will likely serve only to cement the confusion in people’s minds — why would we comment when we’re not the subject of the depiction? If they don’t handle things exactly right (whatever that means), then it would be better not to handle something like this at all. IMO.

    The greater problem is the likely public demonstrations of indignation by rank and file members. We tend to be at our loudest, most redneck and least admirable in cases like this. Which gives the mockers the publicity they crave in the first place. Which gives public sympathy to those on the receiving end of our undignified redneckery, rather than showing us as the sympathy victims of mockery.

    The closest parallel I can think of is the street screechers who wear garments or stamp their muddy feet on them during protests in front of the Conference Center in April and October. When some indignant member snatches the garment away, thje member is arrested for theft. When another indignant member pops a protester in the nose, the member is arrested for assault. The most successful reaction in the experience of those of us who are faced with this twice a year every year is to do nothing. Then there’s nothing for the TV cameras to broadcast (the picture of a crazy man waving a piece of white fabric in the air, ignored by passersby, isn’t broadcast-worthy).

    That’s the reasoning behind my recommendation, Matt.

  102. Willswords says:

    Considering that the next show “goes into the endowment room and the celestial room” are people here still going to keep watching this show?

    [link edited]

  103. Willswords, sorry to edit the link but many readers will find it highly objectionable.

  104. Matt W. says:

    Ardis I understand your perspective and I agree that the church nor any member of the church should be indignant at this. But we do need to have an answer for when we get “what the heck?” from the new converts or the 17 year olds. We need to be able to tell our non-member friends something when they ask “What the was that all about?”

    The fact is that too many members don’t get the temple clothes, don’t understand the correlation to Old Testament temple clothes, and just don’t think they can talk about it because it is mistakenly stuck in the “too sacred to discuss” bucket. Too many members are embarrassed by temple clothes and temple garments, and they cover this embarrassment and discomfort with indignance in many cases.

    Maybe I am wrong in this. But I think the church would get some good mileage out of some inoculation and explanation on this, if only to communicate a more unified message when my Baptist Brother-in-Law asks me about this next time I see him.

  105. Matt, you and I have talked about this before, but I want to say again here that I think it’s too easy, and only adds to potential problems, to wait for ‘the church’ formally as an institution when things like this happen. (Not that I don’t think sometimes it will respond, and I’m grateful when it does.)

    There is much out there already that can help people understand more about the temple, for example, and about its ancient roots. I have to get to bed, but here are a couple of links. I’m certain there are many, many more resources out there already, including at (I mentioned the index at the other discussion you had on this…really, why don’t more of us point people there?)

    Temple Study is a great example of a blog with lots of posts that could help someone who really wants to dig in and understand more.

    This post has lots of resources linked in one post.

    My vote is let’s do more to compile and share info that already exists for easy access for friends and neighbors who might have questions, and for members who don’t know how to address them. IMO, we can help ‘the church’ by being more proactive more often, rather than expecting the institution to do all the explaining in some specifically defined way. Because, often, it already has done a lot of explaining just in the teachings we have access to. :)

  106. p.s. Also, imo, part of the journey for people is not just getting quick answers (although, of course, we should have some simple answers in our back pockets for hot-button topics), but by searching and studying themselves anyway.

    When the light went on for me about the OT connection with the temple, it overtook my life in study for weeks…hours and hours of intense and focused study. It was fascinating, and actually was a life-changing experience. Such experiences are not easily transferred and understood in a cursory explanation, so I’m more a fan of helping people get the tools to find answers themselves –both those in the Church and those wondering about us — so they can better answer questions (their own and others’).

  107. Cynthia L. says:

    m&m #105,106, excellent points.

  108. I’m reeling a little bit from seeing the picture and snippet in TV Guide. How does this compare to respect given other faiths? I assume there are multitude of other religious ceremonies that have been depicted in movies/tv/art, but I cannot come up with any on the fly…

  109. John Hamer says:

    Re (108): A parallel that comes to mind is the furor over the depiction of the prophet Mohammed in cartoons. Even if the depiction is normal and/or respectful, many Muslims oppose all depictions of the prophet for religious reasons.

  110. Steve Evans says:

    John, not sure how this is parallel given its abnormality and disrespectful nature. But that’s perhaps a good lens for gauging our reactions.

  111. John Hamer says:

    Steve (108): I think depicting religious leaders in cartoons is normal in our society. I think it would be very possible to have a tasteful History Channel documentary on the life of the historical Mohammed. However, even if such a documentary were very favorable to Mohammed, many Muslims would still find it disrespectful for religious reasons.

    Likewise, many Mormons clearly consider any depiction of Mormon temple rites disrespectful, even if such a depiction were done in a way that is quite normal and favorable by the broader society’s standards. I haven’t seen this episode yet, so I can’t judge whether the scene is handled appropriately or not. However, I thought the show’s handling of baptisms for the dead in a recent episode was thoughtful, appropriate, and favorable.

  112. John Hamer says:

    Sorry, that should say (110).

  113. Willswords says:

    I’m being censored on BCC for sharing something that is posted out in the open on TimesAndSeasons? Wow, the world is coming to an end after all. :-)

  114. Katie M. says:

    Having now seen last week’s episode, and having read the comment above saying the actress that played Kathy is a LDS Mormon, I wonder if she was killed off because she wanted out after learning about the temple episode. Perhaps not, but if she had continued, it definitely would have caused dilemma for her.

  115. Justagal says:

    Do we really know how “Mormon” the actress who plays Kathy really is? I mean, she may be a Katherine Heigl/Amy Adams Mormon (“raised Mormon” but not currently practicing, or even possibly not planning to be a practicing Mormon anymore). Heck, she could even be a Tom Hanks kind of Mormon (only attended intermittently, with Mormon family).

    Whether or not she’s an active Mormon, she also plays Kathy’s twin, Jodeen, in the show. The fact that Kathy’s character was killed off says nothing about whether Mireille Enos is still a cast member.

  116. Steve Evans says:

    Willswords, the ludicrousness of it all is not lost on me.

  117. Mark N. says:

    I’ve never seen the show (not an HBO subscriber), but the HBO site does mention that the season 1 and 2 episodes can be downloaded from iTunes.

  118. Tracy M., I’ve seen Catholic Mass and dozens of different kinds of Protestant worship services on TV and in film.

  119. The LDS endowment is VERY explicit about what should not be discussed outside of the temple. As long as these are not shown/mentioned, LDS should not get their garments in a bunch with what the show does, as long as it is done in a respectful manner… just as any religious ritual should be want to be treated with respect.

    I recall McKay recounting watching his mother as a child washing and ironing her temple clothing and encouraging parents to do the same.

    I sometimes wonder if the uproar would be less if we Mormons were not so secretive (and embarrassed) by our distinctive sacraments.

  120. #97

    Tracy, yes, fundamentalists wear G’s. They wear an old fashioned version that goes to the wrists and ankles. There really isn’t an attempt to portray that on Big Love.

    Yeah. I was actually surprised by how big of an attempt there was in the first season to show that Bill wears whitey-tighties.

  121. Ann, I have too- but those services are open in real life to anyone. You don’t have to be a confirmed Catholic to sit in the church and watch the ceremony. Of course you cannot take communion, but I don’t think it’s the same as our Temple ceremony.

    Maybe a more accurate comparison might be a Native American Sweat Lodge, or a Jewish Mikvah- both of which have certainly been portrayed cinnematically.

  122. Kevin Barney says:

    So I’m watching Big Love. No temple scene yet. So far the plot is revolving around a letter from WW proving the church never really intended to give up polygamy. Bill’s BIL, who wants to climb the GA ladder, bought the letter out from under Bill and gave it to the Church so the Church could deep six it in the archives.

    I’ll add more as things develop.

  123. Kevin Barney says:

    Well, it just ended–no temple scene. Did the TV Guide article say it would be tonight’s episdoe, or is it coming down the pike, I wonder?

  124. Kevin Barney says:

    I just heard from a friend that’s it’s going to be the March 15th episdoe. I had misunderstood and thought it was going to be tonight.

  125. Kevin-

    I haven’t watched today’s episode yet, but was there anything in preview for next week’s episode about a temple scene?

  126. Kevin Barney says:

    Nothing about a temple scene. But I can see they’re setting something up regarding Barb. Her sister has gone to her bishop and is talking to him about Barb’s lifestyle. (Barb was counting on the letter to justify her choice to follow polygamy, and is devastated that it has been swept under the carpet.) It’s not entirely clear how this leads to the temple, but they’re leading up to some sort of plot development for Barb.

  127. Great episode tonight. Perhaps the best all season. Bill’s enemies keep multiplying, and what keeps the show going season after season is Bill’s ability to land on his feet in the face of insurmountable odds through scheming, blustering, and enjoying barely enough luck. Bill is the ultimate underdog, and the more ways they invent to bury him, the better the show gets.

    IMHO the WW letter is a Mark Hoffman plot.

  128. I watched one and a half? seasons of Big Love. I have not been watching recent episodes. I will not be watching the coming episode.
    I am not embarrased about the temple. I prefer that people realize that we consider it sacred and respect that and not mimic and show a fake temple ceremony on TV. If they choose to they should at least be accurate. Big Love has not shown enough accuracy with Mormonism for me to believe they will show things accurately. If Barb does go to the temple (not as a flashback) then how can she get a recommend? She hasn’t been attending church. And she leaves in shame? What?
    They are using it for drama, of course, with little regard for anything else.

  129. Justmeherenow says:

    Interesting enough, reportedly among the roles that non-regular castmembers play in this upcomping episode reportedly include (a) Stake President Davis (b) A Temple Worker, and (c) The Lord . . . . .

  130. Justmeherenow says:

    …And although the synopsis I read mention that Barb, exposed by Cindy and Ted, is summoned to a church court, it says nothing about the temple.

  131. For those fearful that Big Love is about to expose all the secrets of the temple in the most callous and brazenly disrespectful manner, you might consider watching the rest of the episodes. Granted, I’m going out on a limb here, since I do not, in fact, know how the show will treat temple related things. But if their treatment of any other ordinances and/or things sacred is an indicator (baptism, fasting, blessings, marriage/sealing, baptism for the dead, and now dedicating a grave), they will be very respectful. Mainstream LDS as a social group are a bit caricatured in the show as enemies, potential and real, to the Hendrickson family. But the things the Hendricksons consider sacred are portrayed with uncommon sympathy, dignity, and respect.

  132. Along with what Brad just said, I think Marge’s re-baptism in Big Love is perhaps one of the most powerful depictions of the value and meaning of ritual that I have ever seen in film, and as something that could provide LDSaints with meaning to their own sacraments.

  133. Kevin Barney says:

    Note that the sideblog now has the LDS Newsroom commentary on the forthcoming episode:

  134. Steve Evans says:

    It’s a fairly thoughtful reply, in my opinion. Obviously they cannot completely brush it off, or treat it as totally inoffensive, but a reasoned response was in order.

  135. I still say there are two important (and yet unknown) factors that need to be taken into consideration before we get all indignant: 1) is the depiction respectful (i.e. does it show things that are expressly forbidden by the ceremony, or does it only show as much as anyone who has attended the viewing of a dead, endowed Mormon would know and contextualize what it depicts in a way that reflects positively on the participants)?; 2) is it a depiction of an LDS temple ceremony or of some kind of FLDS or offshoot-LDS ceremony? For better or worse, we will react differently (i.e. less angrily) if it is the latter, I think.

  136. I agree with Steve when he says it’s a fairly thoughtful reply. I love responses like this that call for level-headedness and a calm reaction to situations like these.

  137. 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.

  138. 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.

  139. 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 in many instances depicted LDS history more accurately than LDS-produced movies do (as I pointed out here)

  140. Steve Evans says:

    three in a row, Loyd?

  141. I’d finish and then come up with a new thought.

    I can only retain so many words in my head at a time. Sorry.

  142. Steve Evans says:


  143. Eric Russell says:

    Interesting that the Newsroom article actually largely sidesteps the aspect that I think is the primary complaint among whoever is complaining: that of the mere depiction temple events itself.

    I wonder what the church’s reaction would be to a professional documentary about the Mormon temple ceremony, done with as much respect and reverence as possible, that included a dramatization of the events therein.

  144. In the KSL article, Kent Jackson mentions Mecca. It’s true that only Muslims can go on Hajj, but cameras are often present to no-one’s offense, as far as I can tell. Not a great example.

    I can think of some religious rites which are hidden from the public, but can’t currently think of one whose fictional depiction would cause much upset. Perhaps someone can think of one outside of Mormonism?

    The Mormon temple is interesting. There is very little that is officially “secret” — the rest is “sacred” by virtue of its closed and hallowed nature. I think Mormons need to explain better why depicting a person in temple robes is offensive as there’s certainly no doctrinal reason for the outrage. Is it because we have so effectively hidden robes from view — even from Mormon view outside of the temple — that we are a little embarrassed by their appearance in a profane setting?

    Do we offend Levites when Mormon art shows Aaron in his priestly garb?

    I am not suggesting that Mormons should not be offended, only that they need to better explain why.

  145. I should add that I am aware that the show will supposedly depict the Endowment, i.e. more than just Barb in her robes, but so far Barb in her robes is all we’ve seen. Why does this disturb?

  146. “Why does this disturb?”

    With America’s sanitization of (from) ritual in religious life, think we as Mormons have become largely embarrassed by what we do in the temple.

  147. “we as Mormons have become largely embarrassed by what we do in the temple.”

    No. That’s not it. I’m not embarassed about our rituals or ritual clothing. Never have been.

    I think the reason we get “offended” is that it seems like our sacred rituals are being taken from us and used for entertainment. I’m not necessarily offended by others depicting temple rituals for scholarly purposes, but even a scholar who is respectful would not reveal publicly things that the particular culture has chosen to keep from public view. To do so without permission shows disrespect and an attitude of carelessness toward those being depicted. That’s what makes us feel offended and angry. I don’t think that’s very hard to understand.

  148. Steve Evans says:

    Right on MCQ.

  149. #147 – Exactly.

  150. Are you offended by other sacred sacraments being portrayed in film – such as baptisms, communion, blessings, prayer, healings, etc?

  151. #147 “it seems like our sacred rituals are being taken from us and used for entertainment”

    Are you offended by other sacred rituals being portrayed in film – such as baptisms, communion, blessings, prayer, healings, etc?

  152. Margaret Young says:

    I go to the temple often–weekly to help at a veil, and other times with my husband. He and I both went on Saturday.
    I fully understand that many people get “weirded out” by what we do in the temple, and some leave the Church because the temple hasn’t matched their expectations. I find that my understanding and appreciation have unfolded over the years, so that now there are real moments in which I feel waves of warmth associated with particular temple rituals. I literally feel empowered. So for me, this program, as well as the cover of _The Godmakers_ belittles something of supreme significance and beauty for me.

    Embarrassed by the endowment? Maybe I could’ve been the first couple of times I went to the temple, when I was filtering everything through my own rather puerile paradigms. Now I try to fill a much larger paradigm, and find myself growing to meet the possibilities and promises.

  153. “Embarrassed by the endowment? Maybe I could’ve been the first couple of times I went to the temple, when I was filtering everything through my own rather puerile paradigms. Now I try to fill a much larger paradigm, and find myself growing to meet the possibilities and promises.”

    How much of this could be avoided if we didn’t also participate in the sanitization from ritual? For example, compare the architecture of our earliest temples to those today. The symbolism is almost lost. Our Hosannah shouts in dedications have become almost whispers. We hide the rituals and clothing from our children so that when they finally go, they are shocked and often scared because they can perceive it as a totally different religion from the one they were raised in.

    While we should not be embarrassed by our temple rites, I wonder if perhaps we have developed a false sense of secrecy about the temple that has led to us not wanting others to know what we do in there.

  154. Margaret Young says:

    I’m afraid I don’t understand your phrasing: santization from ritual. Could you help me understand what you mean?
    The shifting architecture isn’t really sanitization but architectural choice, isn’t it? We seem to value beauty more than symbol–or perhaps some of the symbolic aspects of the architecture have simply been ignored or forgotten. (Hugh Nibley refused to refer to the Provo Temple as a temple, but called it an Endowment House.) The clothing? Surely our children are aware of our garments, and they see deceased relatives in their temple robes.

    I wonder if those from other cultures, who have already opened themselves up to the oddities of Mormonism as compared to what they’re used to, are also more open to the temple. I’d guess so, but I have no way of quantifying that.

  155. Steve Evans says:

    loyd, you’ve repeatedly talked about how far less is secret about the temple than people would think, how the covenant to keep things sacred only applies to a small portion of the Endowment, etc. I guess that argument falls flat for me. The reason why this is the case is because of the general notion of not trifling with sacred things. While we might not be bound by covenant with respect to all aspects of the temple, we do ourselves a grave injustice when we discuss the temple flippantly or when we have casual, public conversations detailing the ordinances and counsel of the Endowment. I agree that we should be proud of what these ordinances are and not hide these things from our families, but we don’t win the day by de-sacralizing the temple.

    As to the larger point of how society no longer appreciates High Church ritual — sure, that’s a fairly uncontroversial point. But the devil is in the details of what that implies for LDS and their temple discussions.

  156. I am referring to the diminishing role that ritual and symbolism play in religious life. I think this is evident in evangelical Christianity (and perhaps more evident in the latest trend of evangelicals converting to Catholicism or Anglicanism partly in a yearning for ritual in their worship). I think this is manifest in not only our temples, but also our chapels that almost completely lack a significant role of symbolism in their architecture (besides standard usage that can be found in almost any Christian chapel).

    This of course is not even particular to religion… architecture in general has largely abandoned the heavy use of symbolism that was once standard for so many buildings.

    When was the last time you heard any serious shouting in a temple dedication? None that I have ever attended. To do so is too weird and odd now because it goes contrary to our subdued and puritan form of worship.

  157. Steve…

    is a baptism or communion any less sacred than the endowment?

  158. Steve Evans says:

    Loyd, of course they’re not less sacred, but they are absolutely less private. It’s a problem to the extent that any of them are mocked or treated in an inappropriate context. But the private nature of the Endowment is and always has been an essential aspect of the rite, and we shouldn’t pretend otherwise.

  159. Sorry another short point that came after i submitted the last comment ;)

    Brigham Young and his contemporaries viewed Masonry to be a degenerate form of the endowment, and yet they widely participated in Masonic rites long after the had their endowments. Were they also trifling with sacred things… or did they have a different concept of the sacred nature of the endowment.

  160. The private nature of ALL of the endowment? Or merely the particulars we promise to keep private?

  161. Steve Evans says:

    All of it.

  162. Does all of the endowment equally demand the same private aspect?

    I’m assuming this isn’t the case as we open the public to the knowledge that the rite involves moving from one room to another from a telestial to a terrestrial to a celestial.

  163. Margaret Young says:

    Steve–rather familiar words, those.

  164. I’m with MCQ #174 and Steve #155. Well said brethren.

  165. Left Field says:

    #139: I don’t want to hijack the discussion, but I wouldn’t want to go so far as to claim that the South Park version of history is any more accurate than any particular official church version. The number of seerstones in the hat is just one of a number of historical inaccuracies.

    In recounting history, we all tend to be really accurate in the matters consistent with the story we want to tell, but less accurate when historical information is contrary or irrelevant to our story. South Park is no exception.

  166. Steve McIntyre says:

    Re: #138,

    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.

    I think the idea is to preemptively cast doubt upon the accuracy and even-handedness of the episode, in the hope that non-LDS viewers will assume (or at least suspect) that the some of the “weirder” content is not an entirely faithful depiction of LDS temple rites.

  167. #165

    I won’t argue with you there. I am not claiming that as a whole it was any better, but I would argue that the use of a hat is perhaps the most criticized of aspects of the episode by LDS who base their historical understanding on official sources.

  168. nasamomdele says:


    No one argues about how many big indians were standing behind those sister missionaries at the serial rapist’s house.

  169. Loyd, the fact that the Church has deemphasized Joseph’s use of a hat in its depictions of the translation process is very much “old hat” (if you’ll pardon the expression). What’s the point in making that an issue here?

  170. It was just a short side note on the LDS Newsroom commentary about the Big Love episode that mentions the South Park episode. Am I not allowed to make a brief comment about that?

  171. What you’re allowed to do here is not for me to say. I was just asking what your point was. Maybe you didn’t have one.

  172. Margaret in 154
    “Surely our children are aware of our garments, and they see deceased relatives in their temple robes.”

    I don’t think this is enough. I was raised in the church but the only funeral I attended before I attended the Temple for myself was my non-member grandmother’s funeral when I was 6. She was buried in a mauve skirt suit.
    The only reason I had seen temple robes before I went to the temple was because my mom (intentionally) happened to be ironing hers when I came home from school one day.

  173. So can somebody clear something up for me?

    If deceased endowed Latter-day Saints are buried in their temple clothes, is it okay to show temple clothes to non-members?

    A female LDS friend showed me all of her temple clothes when I was 17. I always assumed it was naughty for her to do so.

    My husband keeps his temple clothes in a black bag and I’ve never seen them. I know what male temple clothes look like thanks to The God Makers film and the exposés I read as a teenage anti-Mormon, but I’ve never seen his temple clothes. Are we taking this precaution for no reason?

  174. “If deceased endowed Latter-day Saints are buried in their temple clothes, is it okay to show temple clothes to non-members?”

    I wouldn’t conclude that, Jack. My mother was buried in her temple clothes but there was no viewing after she was dressed by my sisters. I think it’s understood that we don’t display temple clothes to anyone outside the temple, even members of the Church, except as strictly necessary (which would be very rare).

  175. “Surely our children are aware of our garments, and they see deceased relatives in their temple robes.”

    Growing up, I thought my dad’s garments were just old-man underwear… and I HATED seeing him in his semi-transparent mesh old man underwear.

    I did not see any temple clothing until I went through the endowment myself.

  176. I think usually the deceased is dressed in the temple clothes after the viewing, right before the casket is closed for the last time. At least that’s what I was told.

  177. Left Field says:

    The body is always dressed in temple clothes during the viewing, except for the hat/veil which is put in place immediately before closing the casket. Typically, family members or church members dress the body before the funeral, although I think a mortician can be given instructions for doing it if circumstances require. This is true even when the viewing is open to the public, as it usually is. There is no restriction of who can see the body in its temple clothes, although as I recall, the instructions specify that the clothed body can be temporarily covered with a white sheet if there is to be a viewing involving large numbers of the public. The only time I have seen that done was when George Romney laid in State in the Michigan Capitol rotunda. The television news showed a long shot of the casket with people filing by, and no temple clothing was visible.

  178. Lloyd and MCQ:

    Insipid attempts at art by artists who are Mormons depicting a cherubic, blond Joseph Smith reading straight from the Golden Plates (i.e. with neither seer stone in hat nor two chrystals in bows and breastpate [urim and thummim]) do not constitute the Church’s statement on what happened historically, even if some of these pictures have found their way into the Gospel Art picture kit. It’s high time that we stopped expecting artwork to convey doctrine or reliable historical information. We don’t expect that in other contexts, so it’s confusing to think why we should expect it with regard to Mormonism.

    As to official statements, I am not aware that the Church has “deemphasized” Jospeh’s use of a hat in the translation process but I agree that it is not often discussed in Church classes.

    Brad, I do not think that the depiction will be of an FLDS temple ceremony. Because it is described as coming in the context of an excommunication proceeding, I am guessing it will be a flashback to the LDS Endowement Ceremony that has been experienced.

    Are there really Mormons who wonder why this should be something difficult for Mormons to bear? As with Tracy, just looking at the TV guide page that is floating around the internet makes me a bit sad. The point is that these things are extremely sacred and important to us, not embarassing. We don’t understand why they are being used for entertainment value.

    Having said that, I feel that we shouldn’t get defensive or huffy puffy about this. Ideally, we could just respond with a dignified silence and a shrug of the shoulders. Getting up in arms will only backfire and make us look ridiculous. We need to let it roll off our backs as graciously as we can. We need to treat it as entirely irrelevant to us and our religion, which it is.

    I thought that the Newsroom piece captured that nicely even though I don’t think it was necessary for the piece to go into so much detail about how negative depictions of us don’t have a negative effect on our strength. For example, I didn’t think that listing those examples was effective.

  179. Why don’t we wait until the episode airs before judging its artistic merit?

    I understand that many LDS will object to any depiction of temple rites. But I think we can agree that, if temple clothing and/or ceremonies are going to be depicted, it can be done more or less respectfully and tactfully. I don’t get the impression that the producers of Big Love suffer from the same anti-Mormon bias that tainted the film September Dawn (which apparently also depicted parts of the endowment). I think there is a desire to generate some controversy (because that generally translates into more viewers), but I have been impressed with how sympathetic and even-handed Big Love has been so far.

  180. Peter LLC says:

    It’s high time that we stopped expecting artwork to convey doctrine or reliable historical information. We don’t expect that in other contexts…

    Maybe we need to do a better job of communicating this to the rank and file. Not too long ago during a priesthood lesson, one long-time member of the church based his contribution to the discussion on Joseph Smith’s teachings on the artwork accompanying the lesson.

    He may be alone in reading so much significance into such illustrations, but I don’t know.

  181. I’ve seen several people buried in temple clothes, including my grandmother a few months ago. CHI guidelines state that an endowed member can be dressed in temple robes for an open casket funeral and viewing, but that caps/veils should be added just prior to closing the casket.

  182. John F.
    I think you’re right, it will likely be a flashback. So here’s my question: it seems, if past episodes are an indicator, that they will at least attempt to treat the ceremony with dignity. Is such a thing possible? If we heard in advance that they would be doing baptism for the dead by proxy in a motel room, we would all assume, unequivocally, that they were mocking something we consider sacred. All the things that the Big Love family finds sacred — the power of fasting and prayer, personal revelation, baptism, eternal marriage, baptism for the dead — are treated not just with respect but portrayed as sources of real power for strengthening their family for now and in the eternities. Their beliefs and rituals are depicted as a key source of strength for a family caught between their religious convictions and the demands of a modern, secular world. What if the upcoming episode a) does not show anything expressly forbidden, b) depicts Barb as experiencing the presence and influence of God within the temple in a way not possible outside of it, and c) does so without making her look like a deranged lunatic?

    I think we really need to wait before we assume that sacred things are being defiled for sordid entertainment purposes.

  183. The fact that it’s in the TV show means that it’s being used for entertainment purposes. Not sure there’s a way around that.

    As to the show Big Love’s depiction of FLDS practices, is your view the consensus, that the show is being respectful of those practices and depicting them as a source of real strength? Or is the show making fun of polygamist Mormons (and Latter-day Saints both by proxy — through the actual polygamists — and directly in the shallow portrayal of Mormon characters in the background of the story)?

  184. #183 “As to the show Big Love’s depiction of FLDS practices, is your view the consensus, that the show is being respectful of those practices and depicting them as a source of real strength?”

    I have been saying from the beginning that Big Love is the most sympathetic depiction and exploration of religious life in the mainstream media.

    “the shallow portrayal of Mormon characters in the background of the story”

    I think the shallow portrayal of LDS in the show is partly a response to the shallow responses of LDS to the show.

  185. john f. — Okay, many people watch Big Love and TV in general for entertainment purposes. I’ll give you that. But, mass media does not always necessarily equate with entertainment. Do I watch Big Love or Schindler’s List or the weather channel or Fahrenheit 9/11 to be entertained? I think a media scholar would argue that people bring different things to the viewing experience, so the meaning is not fixed, no matter what the writers intended. I suppose I watch for entertainment, but also to “monitor the culture” and for education and identification purposes, etc. It’s not all about entertainment. Nor can we say that if something brings in money, it is purely about entertainment.

  186. Interesting. Sort of an attitude of “If you don’t watch our show and love it, we’re going to screw your religion”?

  187. (That was a response to Lloyd, not # 185.)

  188. #178 “Insipid attempts at art by artists who are Mormons depicting a cherubic, blond Joseph Smith reading straight from the Golden Plates (i.e. with neither seer stone in hat nor two chrystals in bows and breastpate [urim and thummim]) do not constitute the Church’s statement on what happened historically”

    Are you including the Church-produced film about Joseph Smith which was described by the Church as being “historically accurate”?

  189. #186

    No… More of an attitude of “If you are going to shallow and judgmental of our show before it has even aired, we’ll now depict you as being shallow and judgmental.”

    They are trying to somewhat depict these cultures accurately afterall.

  190. Lloyd, as I wrote on your blog a few minutes ago, you seem to be interpreting “gross portrayal” to mean “misportrayal” — not sure if that is what the Newsroom meant with regard to the South Park episode. There is no effort on the part of the Church to actively disclaim that most of the translation was done by Joseph Smith looking into a seer stone in his hat and pulling the hat closed around his face to omit the outside light; in fact, Russell Nelson quoted David Whitmer and Emma Smith about this method in an Ensign article about the miraculous translation of the Book of Mormon.

    It is true that the Church chose to depict Joseph Smith translating directly from the plates in a scene in the Joseph Smith movie but I am not sure that the Church intended to imply that this was the only method of translating the Book of Mormon. It would have been really cool for us history buffs if they had chosen to portray him looking into the seer stone in his hat but it might not have worked as well artistically/dramatically.

    I am not sure that when the Newsroom piece referred to the South Park episode as a “gross portrayal” it was because of the depiction of the seer stone in the hat. First, the piece doesn’t say “misportrayal” so it is not necessarily claiming that the South Park episode inaccurate. However, I think that it can accurately be described as a “gross portrayal” because the portrayal was in the nature of making fun of Mormon religion and origins. You absolve the South Park creators by saying that their intent is to show that all religions look ridiculous from the outside and I commend you for being so open-minded about accepting a cartoon that has ridiculed beliefs that are held sacred by other Mormons. I think you might be expecting too much to expect other Mormons to not be bothered by seeing the mocking manner in which the South Park episode portrayed our history.

    For what it’s worth, I am with you on the South Park episode to the extent that I thought it was great and got a great laugh out of it. Where I differ from you is that I don’t ascribe noble intentions to South Park’s creators in mocking us. I just laughed out of an irrepressible sense of schadenfreude. It was brilliant. I also differ from you in disagreeing with the Newsroom’s use of the word “gross portrayal” to describe it. It was in fact a gross portrayal of our origins and history and that is what South Park’s creators meant it to be. To Mormons’ credit, no one started burning down Danish embassies and calling for decapitations after the episode aired.

    The same will be true of the Big Love episode. No one has to see the episode to be sad/disappointed/repulsed that they are going to be depicting the temple ceremony in the first place. You have expressed that you are more enlightened than the rest of the Mormons who are depressed about this but you expect too much to ask that Mormons not be disturbed by this treatment of those things that are most holy to them.

    Having said that, I agree with you on this point as well — that Mormons should not protest or send angry letters or do anything at all in response to this. That would only backfire and look foolish. I agree with you that the Newsroom piece is a bit ham-fisted, especially the way it lists those examples. That was not artfully done.

  191. Peter LLC says:

    The fact that it’s in the TV show means that it’s being used for entertainment purposes.

    I reckon there’s national public service broadcasters all over the world that would disagree with this point.

    See, for example, §4 of the Austrian Broadcasting statute on programming.

  192. I don’t think the Newsroom was specifically referring to the use of the hat as being the ‘gross portrayal.’ I sometimes wonder if the Newsroom even knows what it is commenting on at times. It is for this and many other reasons that I am highly suspicious of the Newsroom and see it as just an outlet for hired publicists for the Church.

    A few months ago I asked Church Historian Elder Marlin K. Jensen about the lack of historical accuracy in Church productions and manuals. He replied that in the last couple decades there has been virtually no communication between the Church’s curriculum and film departments with the historical department, and that rather than going to historians they have rather depended on historical myths that the culture of the Church has developed over the years.

    As an example, he pointed out that the makers of the new Joseph Smith movie did not communicate with the Church History department until nearly all of the filming had been completely. When they saw a rough cut of the film, it was “full of bad history.” He said that unfortunately at that point, too much money had been spent and that significant changes could not be made to the film.

    One of his primary goals as the new Church Historian is to develop a level of communication between the curriculum, media, and PR departments with the history department to try to get so many of our historical myths corrected.

    I’m a big fan of South Park and view them as perhaps the smartest social commentary on television today (along with the Daily Show), so my perceptions of the intents of Matt Stone and Trey Parker are probably a bit biased.

  193. “As to the show Big Love’s depiction of FLDS practices, is your view the consensus, that the show is being respectful of those practices and depicting them as a source of real strength? Or is the show making fun of polygamist Mormons (and Latter-day Saints both by proxy — through the actual polygamists — and directly in the shallow portrayal of Mormon characters in the background of the story)?”
    I’ve only seen the firs season, but they portray things like prayer, blessings and baptism as very serious and fulfilling actions. They aren’t mocking them at all from what I’ve seen The portrayal of some LDS characters is very shallow, but there are characters that are very real as well.

  194. Steve Evans says:

    Loyd: “I sometimes wonder if the Newsroom even knows what it is commenting on at times. It is for this and many other reasons that I am highly suspicious of the Newsroom and see it as just an outlet for hired publicists for the Church.”

    I’ll give you a chance to correct yourself on this. It’s a fairly outrageous statement without a foundation, one that directly attacks the press arm of the Church. I suspect you are capable of expressing yourself adequately without resorting to stupid hyperbole.

  195. Steve,

    It’s actually a very accurate description of what I wonder, am suspicious of, and how I see things. Perhaps I am wrong in feelings these ways.

    I could make a list of statements by the Newsroom that have bothered me or have seemed to me to have a certain level of disingenuity (such as it’s argument that fundamentalist Mormons were not fundamentalist Mormons). In this statement, the Newsroom’s claim that Big Love was blurring the lines between fundamentalist Mormons and traditional Mormons seemed blatantly false to anyone who has actually paid attention to the show.

  196. Loyd,
    The point is, regardless of the descriptive claims you can make about the statements, you seem to be extrapolating conclusions and implications that are uncharitable at best.

  197. So only charitable statements could be made about the Newsroom?

    Is there anybody out there who follows Big Love agrees with the statement that the show is blurring the lines between fundamental and traditional Mormons?

  198. Steve Evans says:

    Loyd, the point is that you are ascribing more charity to HBO than to the public affairs dept. of your own Church. That is something that you should consider very thoroughly before continuing to fire off public comments about it.

  199. “Loyd, the point is that you are ascribing more charity to HBO than to the public affairs dept. of your own Church. ”

    Will I be asked this next time I go for a temple recommend interview?

  200. I don’t think the show blurs the line for its viewers. But there is a much larger subsection of society that is aware of the show and its basic premises but does not watch it. I think that the show’s very existence does blur the line, at least for the latter group.

  201. Mark Brown says:

    Will I be asked this next time I go for a temple recommend interview?

    Doubtful, but don’t you think it is worth considering, by itself?

  202. Brad,

    do you agree with this statement?

    “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. Such things say much more about the insensitivities of writers, producers and TV executives than they say about Latter-day Saints. “

  203. Another interesting thing. The statement only mentions Latter-day Saints as being “Mormons” once when it says “Latter-day Saints – sometimes known as Mormons”.

    And yet explicitly refers to fundamentalist Mormons as “non-Mormons.”

  204. “Doubtful, but don’t you think it is worth considering, by itself?”

    Maybe for a brief second before I decide it’s not.

  205. Loyd, I think the newsroom statements are accurate, from the point of view of the Church. It’s remarkable that you are not willing to see these issues from the Church’s point of view. Instead, you seem to be willfully seeing all issues from the opposite point of view. Why is that?

  206. “Will I be asked this next time I go for a temple recommend interview?”

    Why are you asking this of people here? Who do you think you are talking to?

  207. Loyd, sometimes picking at nits just gives you lice.

  208. MCQ,

    “I think the newsroom statements are accurate”

    Have you been following Big love?

    “It’s remarkable that you are not willing to see these issues from the Church’s point of view.”

    I am willing to see them from the Church’s public affairs department’s point of view. I just think they are wrong. I think the Church is too big and complex of a group, culture, and institution to limit their views to those given by the Newsroom.

    “Why are you asking this of people here? Who do you think you are talking to?”

    To Steve Evans who said that I was “ascribing more charity to HBO than to the public affairs dept. of your own Church. That is something that you should consider very thoroughly before continuing to fire off public comments about it.”

  209. “Loyd, sometimes picking at nits just gives you lice.”

    What does picking at zits give me?

  210. Kevin Barney says:

    This thread has played itself out, so I’m closing comments. Thanks for playing, everyone!

  211. Mark Brown says:

    Hookay everybody,

    I think it would be good to take a break. Deal?

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