Thursday, March 19, 2009

My Take On Big Love

Back before Comcast robbed me of HBO, I loved watching Big Love. The only time I've missed HBO has been when Big Love was on.

But I haven't really wanted to see it. Until this week.

Because I wanted to see for myself what the uproar was over.

I watched it illegally on YouTube. And, frankly, the uproar was misdirected.

After all, as LDS Scholar Hugh Nibley said (H/T KVNUftp):

“Even though everyone may discover what goes on in the temple, and many have already revealed it, the important thing is that I do not reveal these things; they must remain sacred to me. I must preserve a zone of sanctity which cannot be violated whether or not anyone else in the room has the remotest idea what the situation really is… No matter what happens, it will, then, always remain secret: only I know exactly the weight and force of the covenants I have made - I and the Lord with whom I have made them - unless I choose to reveal them. If I do not, then they are secret and sacred no matter what others may say or do. Anyone who would reveal these things has not understood them, and therefore that person has not given them away. You cannot reveal what you do not know!” (The Temple and the Cosmos, p. 64)

One thing that killed me was how many people made it sound like the full Endowment Ceremony was going to be portrayed. In fact, only a small portion was shown.

And, there were two glaring mistakes. I won't mention what they were, but they were obvious.

And, the Temple wasn't the only secret thing portrayed. In the end of the episode, the head wife gets excommunicated from the LDS Church. I'm not sure how accurate the proceedings were to reality, but I'm sure you can't find that on YouTube like you can the Temple ceremony.

And, it should clear up any rumors that they are trying to paint mainstream Mormons as polygamists.

But what should really trouble us was something the LDS Church pointed out in their press release:

Before the first season of the HBO series Big Love aired more than two years ago, the show’s creators and HBO executives assured the Church that the series wouldn’t be about Mormons. However, Internet references to Big Love indicate that more and more Mormon themes are now being woven into the show and that the characters are often unsympathetic figures who come across as narrow and self-righteous.

And the problem isn't that they are portraying tus that way. It's the Mormons who are portraying themselves as unsympathetic figures who come across as narrow and self-righteous.

I'm talking to you, Gayle Ruzika. Chris Buttars. Paul Mero.

I'm guilty of it, too, on occasion.

However, it's usually what my non-LDS friends mean when they tell me I'm not like other Mormons they know.

As a missionary, I was always nervous when someone informed me they once lived next to/worked with/knew a Mormon. Was the person they knew a "good guy" or narrow and self-righteous?

And, I think City Weekly hit it on the head a few weeks ago with their cover story:

Utah is bisected along religious, cultural and ethnic lines. But Utah doesn’t like to show its two faces. Every effort is made to wear just a good face for our visitors, to smile for the cameras, to promote our wholesomeness and to otherwise let the world know that Utah is normal. Except it isn’t. And it’s getting worse.

The death of former LDS President Gordon B. Hinckley marked a transitory time in Utah’s perception of itself and of its residents’ willingness to cooperate with one another. Beloved on one side and highly regarded on the other, Hinckley may have been the last finger in the dike, holding back what is becoming a bloodbath of ill will toward each side of Utah’s cultural divide. Since Hinckley's death in late January 2008, a slew of angry influentials have grown so powerful and outspoken that, to persons outside the LDS faith, they appear not only to speak for the LDS faith but are tacitly allowed to do so.

Thus, to non-Mormons and outsiders, state Sen. Chris Buttars—who frequently cites LDS scripture—is the face of Mormonism, not current LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson. We can’t imagine this is a good thing. Nor can a growing number of formerly silent Mormons. If people like Buttars—and his hatemates on Capitol Hill—are ever to change or decline in influence, that change will have to come from pressures within the Mormon community itself.


I am Laura said...

Hey Bob. Why do we have the same opinions on so many things? Craziness. I have been rather silent about this issue because I felt like I would be judged for my opinions. Ben and I watch Big Love. We have from the beginning. It is an awesome show and I feel they get many things right in the Mormon culture. I have heard lots of people say the lines are too blurred between polygamists and Mormons in the show, but if you have watched it from the beginning this is certainly not the case. There is no doubt who the Mormons are and who the fundamentalists are. Also they do show many kinds of Mormons. The across the street neighbor is a sweet lady who is great friends with one of the wives and she knows about them, but is still friendly and great. There are other Mormons who are more self righteous and because of that they come off mean and misdirected. I really have felt that their are far more Mormons who are this way. I have many Mormon friends who say things about non Mormons that make me shudder. Sometimes feeling you are right about everything makes you too self righteous and then you cannot see your own faults. This is part of the reason Ben and I are unsure if we should move back to Utah ever. I liked the article you quoted about Cris Butters being the new face of Mormons. I so miss President Hinckley. He had such a spark of life and I do think he was a great face for the Mormon church. I hope with time our new prophet can be seen more as the face instead of people like Chris Butters.

As far as showing the temple ceremony on Big Love. I thought they showed more of it than I thought they would. I wasn't mad about what they did show. They really did show it as being very sacred and showed how hard it was for Barb to give up that part of her life for her fundamental life. I, and many will take this wrong, was more embarrassed for the temple ceremony to be seen by people who haven't been to the temple. All religions have rituals that are very strange looking to outsiders so I think that others won't read into it too much. Other religions also wear religious clothing that is different than regular clothing so I think outsiders won't view the temple clothing as strange. I was still slightly embarrassed to have people see a very small sampling of what we do in the temple.

Lastly, Mormons were outraged about the temple ceremony, but little did they know (because most of them judged before seeing and probably will never see the show) that the disciplinary hearing was far more concerning for Mormons that the temple ceremony. It showed a side of the church I didn't want to see. My dad was in a bishopbric and I know he did not like the disciplinary hearings.

Now since I have written a whole post in the comments section I will just say that Big Love is awesome and I am so glad I watch it.

derekstaff said...

Well put, Bob. The other thing that really amused me about the Big Love furor is that people are forgetting that the temple ceremony is entirely ceremonial. It isn't some magic spell which loses its efficacy if seen by unbelievers, or which they can now cast themselves. Same goes for our temple garments. There is no reason for people to have gotten so incensed a couple of years ago when some protesters were waving them around at conference. The garments are not themselves magical, and do not lose their power when shown to the outside world. The ceremony and garments are symbols, and as such have only as much power as our faith and our understanding of their symbolism invests in them. The only person who can destroy their power for us is ourselves. So why worry about what others do regarding them? That only gives those others more power.