Thursday, 12 March 2009

HBO, Mormons Square Off over Airing of Sacred Rite / U.S. and World News

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- HBO on Tuesday defended its plans to depict a sacred Mormon temple ceremony in an upcoming episode of "Big Love."

The drama about a Utah polygamous family will show an endowment ceremony Sunday.

HBO said it did not intend to be disrespectful of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and apologized.

"Obviously, it was not our intention to do anything disrespectful to the church, but to those who may be offended, we offer our sincere apology," the premium cable channel said in a statement issued Tuesday.

But the ceremony is an important part of the "Big Love" story line, HBO said.

There seems a certain inevitability in this story. It is inevitable that so-called Mormon "sacred ceremonies"  will figure in the controversial HBO TV series Big Love, an every day tale of polygamists; inevitable that the Mormons would complain bitterly; inevitable that the officials of the church would not encourage a boycott of HBO but that their very public statement to that effect would trigger a "spontaneous" movement among grass roots Mormons to do just that; inevitable that the makers of the programme would be depicted as careless and inaccurate  in their portrayal of Mormonism.

After all it is written somewhere - surely - that only Mormons can tell the Mormon story. of course, in that case you would never get to hear about this part of the story because it is all too "sacred" to talk about.

Just to clear up a few problems and inaccuracies in the story, inaccuracies whose source is the Mormon Church so you may judge for your self whether you would get anything like the true story if it was left to Mormons to tell it. In an official statement church leaders have said:

"Certainly church members are offended when their most sacred practices are misrepresented or presented without context or understanding,"

Now here is a conundrum. There is no indication that these leaders have actually viewed the scenes so how can they possibly know whether they misrepresent or take out of context Mormon "sacred" temple ceremonies? We are told that an expert in these ceremonies was on set to guide the directors and actors in achieving accuracy.

The article tells its readers that Mormons take a vow not to talk about these ceremonies outside the temple. If these leaders have seen the scenes, how are they to correct them if they can't discuss them? That's the problem when you blur the line between "sacred" and secret. They blame you for getting it wrong, even though they probably haven't viewed it, and will not tell you how to get it right because they won't talk about it.

Mormons seem easily offended and one has to ask whether it is right to simply roll over every time they cry foul. What is the definition and nature of "offense" in every day life? Is there really an offense simply because someone "takes offense"? Or is offense proven as much by the intention of the assumed offender as the feelings of the one offended? Mormons really need to tell the difference between something that is offensive and something they simply don't like or would prefer didn't happen. They call my church apostate and that is offensive but I don't feel the need to issue a press statement every day of the week; I get over it and get on with life.

In the real world, outside the rarified (stifling?) atmosphere of Mormondom people do shrug off so much in their every day lives and if they don't they are considered touchy. But Mormons have always been good at playing the martyr, considering themselves "persecuted" if someone challenges their faith in Joe Smith, offended if someone tells their story for them in a way that they don't like, victims because someone slams a door in their face. If they ever met real persecution - as millions of Christians do around the world every day - I don't know what they would do.

Led no doubt by the Mormon hierarchy, the article refers to "members of this fast growing religion". Nothing could be further from the truth. Mormonism is currently in a state of almost complete stagnation, growing at a mere 2-3% and with its convert rate sticking at around 300,000 per annum. The drop out rate is getting on for 80% and at any one time around 1 Million Mormons are waiting for their names to be removed from church records. "Fast growing religion"? Their going to fall out of bed in a minute.

Finally, there is the central issue of the series - polygamy. The story reports:

Despite earlier assurances from HBO, it once again blurs the distinction between The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the show's fictional non-Mormon characters and their practices," the church statement said.

HBO contends that throughout its three-year run writers and producers of "Big Love" have continued to make a clear "distinction between the LDS church and those extreme fringe groups who practice polygamy."

The problem is that the characters portrayed in the series are Mormons; just not Salt Lake Mormons. One of the greatest scandals of the Salt Lake Mormon Church is their stone-faced denial of any responsibility for polygamy. They keep insisting that other Mormons are not Mormons; that there is no such thing as Mormon fundamentalism; that they alone are permitted to tell this story. But the Mormons instigated polygamy, practiced it widely for the best part of a century and abandoned it only because the civil authorities made them.

It is simply shameful that the Salt Lake church should wash its hands of something that is integral to their faith and show not a jot of sympathy for or solidarity with those who consider themselves more faithful to the original vision of Mormonism. But Mormons have always been good at shrugging off responsibility and refusing to own the problems and then blaming others.


HBO, Mormons Square Off over Airing of Sacred Rite / U.S. and World News


Chino Blanco said...

Tom Hanks puts this brouhaha into perspective (and waxes prophetic) at the 3rd season premiere of Big Love:

"There's gonna be lies, and secrets, and discoveries, and problems. Television!"

Seth R. said...

"But Mormons have always been good at shrugging off responsibility and refusing to own the problems and then blaming others."

This is hardly a "Mormon thing." Every time I try to confront an Evangelical about the sordid moments in their own past, they typically respond with the tired old line - well, that's not MY church. I chose a pastor that doesn't preach that.

So I guess Evangelicals get free hall passes because they refuse to take responsibility for each other. Right?


Like I said Mike, this isn't a "Mormon thing." It's a "human thing."

Mike's 4 Tea said...


If you take the trouble to read Christian history books you will find Christians are very honest about our past. Individual Christians may not be competent to answer every question about the darker episodes in Christian history but on the level that counts it is all there to see, recounted, analysed and confessed. Would that the Mormon Church would be as ingenuous.

On the issue of "not my church" I am afraid you rather shoot yourself in the foot there. Mormons simply say "not my prophet", or feign ignorance. Even the late GBH spent most of his time as prophet saying "I don't know" "We don't understand much about that".

At least Christians, in saying "not my church" are recognising the problem. Mormons just pretend the problem isn't there or that it is beyond understanding. The Salt Lake Mormon Church taught and practiced polygamy and to now insist "nothing to do with us" is cowardly and wrong.

Seth R. said...

We must be interacting with different Christians Mike.

Mike's 4 Tea said...

I am a Christian and your interacting with me. Are you saying that I duck issues and make excuses? Or are you just seeing what you want to see, hearing what you want to hear?

Seth R. said...

Wasn't referring to you Mike. You're not the only person outside my faith I interact with.

Nothing I said was meant to specifically target. My only limited point was that this is a "human thing" and not a uniquely "Mormon thing."

To the extent that Mormons are human beings, they dodge and act irresponsibly. It happens.

That is all.

Mike's 4 Tea said...

I wasn't suggesting you were referring to me Seth. Rather I was pointing out that you are interacting with me and I believe your observation cannot apply to me. I am suggestng that Mormons tend to be choosy about who they use to illustrate thei stories and illustrations.

Working on the premis that I am not alone in my outlook (tht would be arrogant)I suggest there are plenty of good examples of Christians who face issues rather than duck them. On the other hand it does seem that Mormons quickly become adept at ducking issues and avoiding responsibility and the issue of polygamy is a case in point.

Christian history is told truthfully while Mormon history is told selectively by Mormons, even by Mormon historians and chroniclers. This is so obvious it really shouldn't have to be stated.