HBO’s Big Love Attempts Mormon Temple Profanation

Many of you are no doubt aware of the infamous and libelous Big Love TV episode that is supposed to air on HBO this March 15th.  But for those who aren’t, the producers and writers of the show have reached a new level of disrespect in attempting to profane the LDS temple ordinances on public television, and to make a mockery of the Church.  According to executive producer Mark Olsen, “We researched it out the wazoo . . . We go into the endowment room and the celestial room . . . and we present what happens in those ceremonies. That’s never been shown on television before.”  Then Olsen has the audacity to add, “But it’s not for shock value. It’s really a very important part of the story.”

Of course, those that read these statements will easily find Olsen’s words more than contradictory—it’s never been shown on television before, but it’s not for shock value.  Anyone that is excited about showing something on television that’s “never been shown before,” particularly when that thing is held exceptionally sacred by a large group of people, is doing it for shock value.  It’s the very same reason that the media continues to push the envelope in how explicit sex, violence, and horror is portrayed.  They have to show something new to keep the audience hooked, something that pushes beyond the limits of what has been shown before, regardless of the impact it may have on those whose values and morals are higher than theirs. 

It would be untrue to say I am not deeply disappointed in all of the people involved with Big Love, that they would be so insensitive and disrespectful to the LDS Church and its members as to attempt something like this which they know is offensive to us.  But that is what the show has increasingly been about.  Its producers and writers, who hired an “ex-Mormon consultant” for this episode, clearly have a vindictive attitude towards the Church, making it out to be something it is not, and perpetuating misconceptions such as Mormons as polygamists.  Now they want to go all the way in attempting to desecrate our most sacred worship practices.

But, to be honest, people have attempted to profane the temple before.  The ordinances have been scripted online.  Videos of supposed recreations have been posted.  All of these things have been made available to the public, and we will surely see much worse attempts in the future.  Undoubtedly, it doesn’t make it right in the least measure.  But has it profaned the temple?  No.  The temple continues to provide a place of peace and security for the Saints, a house of revelation and prayer where the Holy Spirit resides, a sanctuary where solemn covenants with God are made and sealed, a temple where the most exalting blessings of the Atonement of Jesus Christ are found.

Br. Randy Bott, an excellent BYU religion professor I once took a class from, made this very clear to me.  There will be many people who will attempt to defame the temple, and our sacred worship, but all of it is in vain.  The Prophet Joseph Smith once boldly prophesied:

Our missionaries are going forth to different nations . . . the Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.1

The only people that such defamation hurts are those that break the solemn covenants they’ve made with God, and all for filthy lucre.  They made promises in the presence of God, angels, and witnesses, and they will be held accountable for their actions, in addition to shattering their integrity and honesty among their fellow men.  Who will sell their promises for money?  And those that have not been members of the Church and do these things still know better than to shame and belittle the sacred practices of a major world-wide religion.

The irony is that what these people are attempting to do will backfire on them in the end.  President Brigham Young once rightly declared:

Every time you kick ‘Mormonism’ you kick it upstairs; you never kick it downstairs.  The Lord Almighty so orders it . . . Every time they persecute and try to overcome this people, they elevate us, weaken their own hands, and strengthen the hands and arms of this people.  And every time they undertake to lessen our number, they increase it.   And when they try to destroy the faith and virtue of this people, the Lord strengthens the feeble knees, and confirms the wavering in faith and power in God, in light, and intelligence.  Righteousness and power with God increase in this people in proportion as the Devil struggles to destroy it. . . . Let us alone, and we will send Elders to the uttermost parts of the Earth, and gather out Israel, wherever they are; and if you persecute us, we will do it the quicker, because we are naturally dull when let alone, and are disposed to take a little sleep, a little slumber, and a little rest.  If you let us alone, we will do it a little more leisurely; but if you persecute us, we will sit up nights to preach the Gospel.2

I am not worried about this show.  Do what they may, the work will roll on, mightier and faster than ever.  I’ve also learned this great teaching from Br. Bott, that when the sacred things of the temple are displayed outside of that sacred context and divinely ordained environment, they take on a entirely different and foreign meaning to whomever they come in contact with.  Outside the temple they are no longer sacred, they are no longer exalting.  There is no priesthood where those things will be displayed, so there is no power.  They don’t have the same meaning as they do to us when we are in a dedicated house of the Lord, so they will be misunderstood.  They become just words and fabrics.  They will be mocked and ridiculed and laughed at, but probably ignored by most, and they will always get it wrong.  This is the difference between the sacred and the profane.  The Apostle Paul once gave this as a sign of true disciples of Christ, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12).

Members of the Church should not get angry at these individuals, write bitter mail, or make a scene, as much as it is deeply disheartening to see this happen.  That is precisely what they are looking for.  If you pay attention to a temper tantrum, it will only provoke more of the same.  Let’s make this an opportunity to share the gospel even more, and the blessings that are to be found in the temple, the blessings promised to prophets of old restored again.  Let’s be comforted in the fact that we have a living prophet today, that the living gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored to the earth, that the authority of the priesthood is in our hands, and that the temple provides us a place on earth where we may commune with our Heavenly Father, and ultimately be in His presence.  Nothing can take that away from us.  President Joseph F. Smith once taught:

Let it be the aim of he Saints to cultivate the spirit of generosity and good will, such as was exemplified in the life of Christ, and proclaimed when the angels heralded abroad the message: ‘Peace on earth, to men good will,’ and which has been reiterated in the modern restoration of the gospel.3

See the Church’s response to this issue at the LDS Newsroom’s article “The Publicity Dilemma.”

  1. History of the Church 4:540 []
  2. Discourses of Brigham Young, 351 []
  3. Gospel Doctrine, p. 112 []


  1. Posted March 9, 2009 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    Amen, Bryce!

  2. Posted March 9, 2009 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    I simply must chuckle that polygamy doesn’t hold the attention of the viewers as “shock” value in and of itself anymore. Really, I must question what that says about polygamy? Ponder that one! lol

    I simply loved the statement the LDS Newsroom made in addressing “The Publicity Dilemma”. As always it was done with such respect and reverence, while still asserting a solemn rebuke. When I read statements such as this one, my testimony just seems to enlarge.

    Your points and advice concerning the HBO production of Big Love and our reactions to it are “spot on” and hopefully will be followed by all LDS members. Thank you.

  3. Posted March 9, 2009 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    Great post, Bryce. Thanks.

  4. Posted March 9, 2009 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    Well said, Bryce. Deprive the issue of the oxygen of publicity and it too will pass.

  5. Rebecca A
    Posted March 9, 2009 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for your comments about this. I found this article just minutes after I heard about this upcoming episode of HBO, and I was really comforted by the quotes you refer to and your statements. Our Church is true, and it will not be stopped by things like this. Thank you.

  6. Brian B
    Posted March 9, 2009 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

    I heard a NPR segment about one month ago interviewing one of the creators and writers for Big Love. He (the writer) was raised in the Church and during his adolescence turned to homosexuality. As I listened to the segment, it was obvious that the writer (sorry, I forgot his name) obviously has quite a bit of emotional issues that he had to deal with as a child. It seems that Big Love is his platform to ‘get back’ at church. It’s sad, very sad. When the show was first announced a couple of years ago I thought it wouldn’t last long; but curiously, it has a solid audience base. Although it is negative advertising, it’s still advertising and the Church continues to grow and the work is still being accomplished.

  7. Laurie
    Posted March 9, 2009 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for this thought provoking article. You have calmed my emotions, set my heart at ease, and helped me to remember that we have nothing to fear.

  8. Chris
    Posted March 9, 2009 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

    Well said, and in keeping with the Spirit. We shouldn’t fuss about it. Let us carry on, calmly step back, and watch the Lord fight our battles, for he has promised it.

  9. Posted March 9, 2009 at 11:26 pm | Permalink

    Lots of good points, Bryce. Well said.

  10. Ryan
    Posted March 10, 2009 at 12:54 am | Permalink

    Yeah, the Standard of Truth quote was the first thing to come to mind when I read about this issue. I also found your uplifting website too. Bonus. Keep up the good work. (D&C 101:16)

  11. Posted March 10, 2009 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    Thank you all for your comments. Here is another good quote by President Heber J. Grant:

    Where are the men who have assailed this work? Where is their influence? They have faded away like dew before the sun. We need have no fears, we Latter-day Saints. God will continue to sustain this work; He will sustain the right. If we are loyal, if we are true, if we are worthy of this gospel, of which God has given us a testimony, there is no danger that the world can ever injure us. We can never be injured, my brethren and sisters, by any mortals, except ourselves. If we fail to serve God, if we fail to do right, then we rob ourselves of the ability and power to grow, to increase in faith and knowledge, to have power with God, and with the righteous. (Gospel Standards, p. 85-86)

  12. Maralyn Dotson
    Posted March 10, 2009 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    Thank you for your insights and thoughts on this subject. If we didn’t have opposition in this life, how would we grow and get stronger? We have to take a stand now; we cannot sit back any longer and be “Sunday Mormons.” If we are not doing something significant during the week toward sharing the gospel, we are not helping the work to move along. I know I can do much more. I appreciate the message of peace that surrounded your comments.

  13. Posted March 10, 2009 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    I am continually saddened by the stories and subjects this TV series feel they need to “explore”. Why did they need to hire an ex-member if their show is supposedly about a man and his family who are not members of the church. Why did they need to recreate the temple ceremonies of the LDS church if the show is not supposedly about that church.

    In case you didn’t know, Tom Hanks is one of the producers of this show. My repect for him just plummeted to new lows.

    While I agree we shouldn’t let these things drive us to madness, I do think that we can make our voice heard. I think it is appropriate for us to let others know this is inappropriate. If we feel we need to take actions to let our voice be heard, I think we should do so in a controlled fashion. The Church’s statement on the issue underscores that members are free to respond as they see fit. I think it is appropriate for us to let the sponsors of this show know that we don’t support this show.

  14. Sylvia
    Posted March 10, 2009 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    Thank you for your article here. It is refreshing to learn again about the statements made by our prophets on the destiny of our Church. And it is a blessing to read the comments following. It seems like we are a support and an encouragement to each other. Thanks for this forum to express our opinions on values and doctrines we cherish in a positive upbeat way. So much is negative and destructive out there, HBO case in point.

  15. Posted March 10, 2009 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    Some might be interested to know that Tom Hanks, executive producer of Big Love, was a member of LDS Church at one point in his childhood, or at least went to church often with his stepmother, who was an active member for a time. It’s uncertain whether he was baptized. His stepmother said that Tom “enjoyed going to church.” His father and stepmother seem to have divorced at least partly on account of their religious differences, she being a Mormon and he being agnostic (or perhaps Catholic), which caused conflict in the family. See some of his religious history here.

    So is Tom Hanks’ recent encounters with the Church related to that experience years ago? Possibly. It certainly gave him an impression of the Church.

  16. Posted March 10, 2009 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    You’re kidding! Apparently Tom has a bone to pick with the church now, too. Really sad. Apparently the ex-member forgot that God will not be mocked. I wouldn’t want to be with the Big Love bunch when they go before the Eternal Bar!

  17. AJ
    Posted March 10, 2009 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    Any idea which version of the ceremony they are going to use? As far as I know, Big Love tends to mirror mainly the FLDS rather than mainstream. I am not sure what the FLDS use for a Temple Ceremony but am sure that it would not be what is current in the LDS Temple. If it is the FLDS temple ceremony, then it will be interesting to see the differences.

  18. Posted March 10, 2009 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    The TV Guide says that they hired an ex-Mormon consultant, so my guess is they will try to make it like the LDS, even though the main characters aren’t supposed to be LDS, which is even more confusing and blurs the lines between the LDS and FLDS even more. I’m certain the FLDS temple is not like the LDS, so why portray it as such. Doesn’t make sense…

  19. David
    Posted March 10, 2009 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    The episode apparently features a flash back to back before the characters were living an FLDS lifestyle, and were in good standing with the LDS Church. Thus, it will attempt to be a representation of the LDS version.

  20. Posted March 10, 2009 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    We’ve little in common doctrinally and are hardly on the same page. But we do have the common attribute (Latter Day Saints and Jehovah’s Witnesses) of getting slammed in the popular media, and for much the same reason. I enjoyed your post.

  21. Posted March 10, 2009 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

    HBO released a statement today:

    “We know that the writers/producers of the series have gone to great lengths to be respectful and accurate in portraying the endowment ceremony. That ceremony is very much an important part of this year’s storyline.

    “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.

    “It should also be noted that throughout the series’ three-year run, the writer/producers have made abundantly clear the distinction between the LDS church and those extreme fringe groups who practice polygamy.”

    Mark V. Olsen and Will Scheffer, the creators/writers/producers of Big Love, also released a statement:

    “In approaching the dramatization of the endowment ceremony, we knew we had a responsibility to be completely accurate and to show the ceremony in the proper context and with respect. We, therefore, took great pains to depict the ceremony with the dignity and reverence it is due.

    “This approach is entirely evident in the scene portrayed in this episode and certainly reflected in Jeanne Tripplehorn’s beautiful and moving performance as she faces losing the Church she loved so much.

    “In order to assure the accuracy of the ceremony, it was thoroughly vetted by an adviser who is familiar with temple practices and rituals. This consultant was actually on the set throughout the filming of the scenes to make sure every detail was correct.”

    HBO, Olsen, and Scheffer are missing the elephant in the room. How accurately do you need to portray desecration for it to be inappropriate for TV? How explicit does profanity and insult have to be to a story before it is considered wrong?

    Clearly they didn’t research the temple enough because they missed one of our most important beliefs in connection to the temple, which we repeat time and time again, namely, that since we hold our temple worship so exceptionally sacred, we don’t talk about it specifically, discuss it, show it, portray it, repeat it, put it on display, photograph it, or otherwise perform it outside of the temple. That is part of what makes it so sacred. It is only meant for those who have properly prepared themselves to receive it. To portray it in any fashion is immediately taboo. Hiring an ex-Mormon “adviser” should have been their first clue that what they were doing was wrong. Of course, I don’t think they missed this in their research, but entirely ignored it. They knew this perfectly, and did it anyway, for reasons they are not willing to express.

    In President Boyd K. Packer’s book The Holy Temple, which is probably near the top of every member’s reading list about the temple, he wrote:

    Our reluctance to speak of the sacred temple ordinances is not in any way an attempt to make them seem more mysterious or to encourage an improper curiosity about them. The ordinances and ceremonies of the temple are simple. They are beautiful. They are sacred. They are kept confidential lest they be given to those who are unprepared. Curiosity is not a preparation. Deep interest itself is not a preparation. Preparation for the ordinances includes preliminary steps: faith, repentance, baptism, confirmation, worthiness, a maturity and dignity worthy of one who comes invited as a guest into the house of the Lord. (The Holy Temple, 26)

  22. Posted March 11, 2009 at 12:30 am | Permalink

    Along these same lines I was watching last week “Law and Order” where some LDS offshot group is investigated, it repeatedly shows garments sewn in black thread, and mocked by the police and attorneys.

    I think we are getting a little blow-back from Prop.8.


  23. Posted March 11, 2009 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    I think we are getting a LOT of blow-back from Prop 8. (and retribution, hate, etc) We apparently got the attention of the adversary…

  24. Doc
    Posted March 11, 2009 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

    The x-Mormon writer for Big Love is Dustin Lance Black, the same guy who wrote the screenplay for Milk and, from his speech at the Academy Awards, has an axe to grind with the Church. I agree with the previous posts…don’t give this controvery oxygen and it will die a quick death.

  25. Kristin
    Posted March 12, 2009 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    “clearly have a vindictive attitude towards the Church, making it out to be something it is not, and perpetuating misconceptions such as Mormons as polygamists”

    I came across your article while looking up Big Love on the internet and read the above quote. I am not a member of the LDS Church, but wanted offer my opinion, for what it’s worth. I am a viewer of Big Love, and I have to say that first of all I don’t think any intelligent person thinks mormons are polygamists, especially if they do watch Big Love. It has actually made it very clear there are huge differences between the church beliefs and those of the polygamists. I also don’t believe the show is vindictive towards your religion at all. I can obviously only speak for myself, but I watch because it shows a different kind of family in our world today, yet a lot of the issues they go through are similar to any family (communication, morals, etc). It’s just a TV show, entertainment pure and simple. However, since the main characters have evolved from an LDS background obviously reference must be made to the LDS religion, and I think the show has done a great job of showing the difference between the crazy compound religion and the regular LDS religion. I understand that whatever they are about to show on next weeks episode is something you hold sacred, and perhaps it should be given the respect you ask, but please know that most of the world aren’t going to know the difference anyway. I think the fact that so much is a secret in your religion is more of a factor of people not trusting your church and all the misbeliefs, not a TV show. I don’t want to offend you with my opinions, but simply to say that as someone not involved in your religion, it doesn’t make sense to me why you are so offended by something that most of us are going to forget about the day after watching the show anyway. I really don’t think the world will be buzzing the next day about what ‘those crazy mormons do in their temples’. Again, I believe everyone deserves respect, and I’m not trying to offend at all, just to say it’s really no big deal to the rest of the world.

  26. Posted March 12, 2009 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    Hi Kristin,

    Thanks for your kind comments and thoughts. I appreciate them very much, and am not offended at all.

    Unfortunately, most people I believe are not like you. They see a show like Big Love, and, if they are not a regular viewer, immediately make a connection between the Mormons and polygamists. This is a misconception that we’ve had to deal with for over 100 years, even though polygamists are immediately excommunicated from our church. Even after everything we’ve done to dispel the misconception, it is still one of the most prevalent descriptors for our religion and church in societal thought according to recent studies. So that is why we are offended by shows and other things like this that help perpetuate myths.

    The fact that the show was not supposed to be about the LDS Church, but about the FLDS Church, strikes us as odd when even more and more LDS themes and characters are being strung into the story, and most particularly this episode. Also, since the creators and producers of the show have had ties with the LDS Church in the past, it makes us even more suspect of their real intentions in doing these things.

    Another misconception that we are trying to quell is that we are extremely secretive in the LDS Church. It appears that you may also hold this belief. The only part of our church that is secretive is the details of temple ordinances, and that is because we hold it so sacred. If you think about something that is very sacred in your life, you probably also hold it secretly to yourself, and would be offended by it being put on display for the public without regard to you. These things aren’t secret because we don’t want people to know about them, they are held secret because we deem them very sacred, and only meant for those that have properly prepared themselves to receive them, including having faith in Jesus Christ, repenting of past sins, being baptized, receiving the Holy Ghost, and having a worthiness and maturity appropriate to receive such sacred and holy things. You could compare our temple to a convent, or the sanctuary of the Eastern Orthodox churches. Not everyone is allowed in, or allowed to see everything, and it is blasphemous and highly offensive to do so.

    One example that shows that we are not a secretive people at all is the Church’s current involvement with producing the Joseph Smith Papers. This is a project which is endorsed by the National Archives’ National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), and will serve to publish every document ever written by Joseph Smith, or any others connected to him. We are truly puzzled by the common belief that we are so secretive.

    I’m glad that you believe that most will forget about this the day after watching it. Indeed, that is what we hope and believe will happen. But it still doesn’t excuse the act which is so insensitive and disrespectful to us and our sacred beliefs.

    Thanks again for your comments.

  27. Posted March 13, 2009 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    Orson Scott Card commented about the Big Love story at the National Review Online. See his comments entitled “Big Love? Big Deal.” He also commented on it at Mormon Times. Terrance Olson has also written a great article on the subject over at Meridian Magazine.

  28. Posted March 13, 2009 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    When I first heard about this upcoming episode on HBO, I was shocked that the line was crossed and deeply concerned that the show would riducle our sacred vows.

    I really appreciated this post, and the comments from Joseph Smith. I felt the spirit very strong when I read what he had prophesied.

    I feel that this show will be used for good. I hope that this encourages investigators to ask questions about what they may see and the purposes behind the endowment session.

    I share my tetsimony to the world that the church is true and that it has been restored to glory once again upon the face of the earth. I invite all you read this post to search out Christ and come unto him.

    Dwayne Roberts
    Mount Juliet, TN

  29. Sean
    Posted March 13, 2009 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    This television show won’t hinder the work of the Lord. However, for those who have not been to the temple it will make things confusing. I cringe to think that something so holy will be displayed before an unprepared world in the name of entertainment. These ceremonies are sacred for a reason. I don’t condemn the world because they simply don’t understand what is involved here. However, the producers and writers of this show will have to answer for their actions one day and specifically how it influenced those not of our faith. We don’t need to mount any type of defense of the temple except to say that everything involved symbolizes the Savior and His atonement through parable style teaching.

  30. Posted March 14, 2009 at 8:10 am | Permalink


    You might find some interest in my post:

    Exposing sacred temple practices violates professional standards.”

  31. bman
    Posted March 14, 2009 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    All religious rites, sacraments are considered sacred to those who hold them. I’ve seen a great many marriage ceremony traditions depicted on film and television. I don’t share them, understand them, but neither do I think they are strange or weird, and better yet, I understand that they are sacred to those who practice them.

    Many non-Christian religions have traditions that seem odd from viewed from an outsider’s vantage point. If an aboriginal marriage ceremony is shown on television, where is the outrage? There is none. I once watched on a show titled something like “strange and amazing videos” the marriage rituals for some group in India. It was fascinating to think that if done in another context the rituals could even be called immoral, but they weren’t under the rules of that society.

    Let’s be fair and show outrage at any artistic portrayals of all sacred religious ceremony. But I don’t think even LDS would go that far, because the classic romance comedy often ends with a marriage ceremony – I’m thinking “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” here :-) – and marriage is a good thing right?

    One other quick thought is that we need to distinguish more clearly between the terms secret and sacred. Most if not all the definitions of the word sacred do NOT include an element of secrecy. I think that is because sacredness has everything to do with how one holds or esteems a particular subject. What is sacred to me isn’t sacred to another, and that is okay. We must not demand that others hold our beliefs as sacred as we do, which sacredness just happens to include and element of secrecy for those of us who have actually taken the covenant upon ourselves – all others are exempt from the expectation of keeping the secret.

    I will never watch the Big Love episode because I won’t subscribe to HBO because most of the programming there is unsuitable for my home.

    I agree with the non-LDS poster that says most people will forget the ceremony the next day.

    Which leads to a much greater point, most LDS are afraid of our history. We are constantly trying to distance ourselves from practices of the past which have brought about persecution, and polygamy is a biggie in this regard. We need to get over ourselves. Most of the world’s religions have pasts that they would like to forget, but the LDS tendency to take such a hard stance in trying to eliminate it from the public consciousness is only fueling the fire. It is times like this that a little humility would do us all some good.

  32. Posted March 14, 2009 at 2:15 pm | Permalink


    Thanks for your thoughts. I’d just like to say a couple things about your comments. Yes, there are many religious rites and sacraments that are considered sacred to those who hold them. The question we should ask ourselves is if we’d feel comfortable broadcasting it on TV or film if doing so was blasphemous or extremely offensive to those who practice those rites. That is when it becomes a moral question of right and wrong. Will we do something with someone else’s sacred things that they would not want us to do, or that was highly disrespectful to them? Would we tromp all over someone else’s pearls? There is an element of respect and reverence that all people should have towards those things that others hold sacred, whether or not they hold them sacred themself. It is a matter of brotherly kindness, goodwill, respect for others, and common sense. As Terrance Olson wrote in his article on Meridian Magazine, if we do not respect the sacred of others, it probably means that we don’t hold much sacred ourselves.

    About others’ marriage rituals, many such ceremonies are not closed to the public, and anyone is invited to view them upon certain conditions. I was just in Ukraine a couple years ago with a group, and several in our party walked into a church and witnessed an Eastern Orthodox marriage ceremony. It was a sacred rite, but was not inappropriate for others to participate in it or see it, as long as they kept quiet, respectful during the rite, and the women covered their head with a scarf. Many such ceremonies are videotaped by friends and family and posted on YouTube. To them, such representations are not outside the scope of propriety, although many probably are. What was sacred about it was that it was performed in a sacred place, the church, and only those who entered the church could participate in it. It was secret from all others outside the church, the profane space.

    Another experience I had while on that trip in Ukraine was that we were told to be very reverent and discreet about taking photos inside the Eastern Orthodox churches, and if told not to take them that we should stop. While it is not strictly prohibited to do so, with our large group it would have been highly offensive to barge into the churches with our flashes a’blazing. We didn’t necessarily hold those churches sacred as the worshippers themselves did, but we respected their right to hold it sacred, and we reverenced their space. What if we had disregarded that right, and took tons of flash pictures anyways, believing we were “exempt” from the request to hold reverence for something deemed sacred by someone else? We probably would have been thrown out on our ear.

    I disagree with your view on the terms secret and sacred. Most definitions of sacred DO include an element of secrecy. Sacred means something that is set apart, not profane or common, private, and as such is not to be profaned or violated. Hence, it is held apart from typical or common experience. In other words, it is held secret in some form. Even the form of the words themselves, sacred/secret, come from similar Latin roots for something “set apart” or “separate.” Even if something that is sacred to another is not sacred to me doesn’t give me license to profane it according to my will. Again, it comes back to a moral question, and our amount of charity towards others. If you think about something that you hold sacred in your personal life, you would probably be very put out if someone else took it and pasted it in public view without regard to you or your beliefs.

    I don’t believe most LDS are afraid of our history. I think we are much more concerned with being perceived truthfully. When someone believes that I live a religion that includes those who practice modern-day polygamy, it concerns me because it is not true. It is a false image, a misconception. This is why we distance ourselves from the polygamists. The fact that we lived a form of polygamy over 100 years ago is not something that we try to hide, or cover up, or eliminate from our past. Indeed, information about that time can be found in any church history book. But it is not the life we lead today, albeit many out there still believe Mormons are polygamists, and lead the kind of lifestyle of modern polygamists. It is not true.

  33. Handel
    Posted March 16, 2009 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    The best type of revenge, we are told, is the kind of revenge does not appear to be one.

    If you ask me, it is 100% obvious that there is a hidden issue why Big Love had that episode: because the person/s behind it has/have an axe to grind at the LDS Church. And it was either induced, heightened or exacerbated by Proposition 8.

    I never believed in their statement that they had to do it for the sake of the story—it’s just a piece of p.r. and a feel-good formality. Honesty in Hollywood? That’s a myth.

    The writer who is part of the production is a lapsed member who publicly expressed his hate for his LDS family background because of his sexual orientation. The actor-producer came from a part-member family and did not have a good experience about it either. And the timing–so fresh, right after the Prop 8 saga! It is so, so, so hard to believe that these things are not related to the issue.

  34. K Christensen
    Posted March 17, 2009 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    Wow, thank you so much for all of this information. Bryce, I especially appreciate your comments and also believe that we should just let it die. I did not watch the episode of Big Love on TV, but I saw a small news clip from their portrayal of the endowment. I do have one question. As an endowed and sealed member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, how should we respond when a nonmember, family member or friend asks us if this portrayal is accurate? I know that the Mormon/Polygamist thing of course is not accurate, but what do I say about the portrayal of the endowment?
    Thanks K.

  35. Posted March 17, 2009 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    I would suggest taking the road that the apostles do when asked specifics about the temple ceremony. I would tell them we don’t discuss the details of the temple outside the temple. That is the very issue at heart here. The TV show is “discussing” the temple ceremony in an inappropriate and disrespectful fashion. Whether it is accurate or not is really not the issue, or even relevant really.

    Then I would suggest you take the opportunity to explain what the temple is, what the endowement, covenants, promises, blessings, and other parts of the temple are, how families are sealed, and the other wonderful aspects of the temple. You might even go as far as to explain that we make promises in the temple to keep the temple endowment to ourselves.

    You could also point out that we don’t talk about the temple ceremony with other people that are endowed either outside the temple. I don’t know if all the people wondering about this issue realize we don’t talk about temple ceremonies with anyone outside the temple, even other endowed members!

  36. Posted March 17, 2009 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    Thanks K. I think if anyone asks that you can say that we are not at liberty to discuss those details because we hold these things very sacred, and they are only meant for those who properly prepare themselves to receive them.

    As Brad noted, it is largely irrelevant. Overall, it was inaccurate, given the fact that it was taken completely out of the context of the sacred environs of a dedicated temple, and only a very small portion (a few minutes) of the ceremony was even attempted of an ordinance that is about 2 hours long. How much of a book could we understand if we read only a couple paragraphs?

    As I noted in my post, when these sacred things are profaned outside of the temple, they lose their power, they lose their meaning, they lose their Spirit, they lose their authority, they lose their ability to communicate truth, and therefore they are usually grossly misunderstood and even boring. In that sense, it was completely false and inaccurate, and anyone trying to gain any kind of proper understanding of the temple by extracurricular sources such as these will be left wanting. President Boyd K. Packer once wrote:

    Some things concerning the temple ordinances have been published by apostates who seek to injure or destroy the Church. Their accounts do not assist understanding, partly because the accounts are usually distorted. In any case the temple ordinances cannot be understood without the feeling and the spiritual presence that surrounds them in the temple. They must make very dull reading indeed for the enemy who has no right to the Spirit of the Lord. (The Holy Temple, 30)

    Fortunately, as Brad also noted, this should also give you the opportunity to share your testimony about the temple in a proper way, and there is much that we can talk about with others without going into inappropriate details. You can share how temples bind families together through sealings, how we make covenants with God of morality and Christian living, and that we give an opportunity to our ancestors to receive the blessings of the gospel of Jesus Christ. A glance through this website might give you some ideas (such as here). Books such as the one I just quoted from, The Holy Temple, are also excellent resources of information for sharing what the temple means to us.

  37. Posted March 20, 2009 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

    Daniel Peterson made a great comment about the “accuracy” issue:

    “It’s not ‘respectful’ to depict something the very depiction of which is literally a profanation of it. No matter how accurately the thing is profaned.”

  38. Bradley M
    Posted April 7, 2009 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    Bryce, thank you so very much for your diligence in maintaining your site, it’s so refreshing. I appreciate your insights and how you defend and sustain the temple.

    When I first read your post, I immediately remembered a quote by Hugh Nibley. However, I couldn’t locate it until today. I apoligize that it’s late but I hope your readers will read it and benefit therefrom.

    “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!”
    —Hugh Nibley, The Temple and the Cosmos, p. 64.

    Thanks, Bryce

2 Trackbacks

  1. By When Hollywood Bullies Mormons « MORMON SOPRANO on March 10, 2009 at 8:16 pm

    [...] and inevitibly treated disrespectfully. I enjoyed reading Bryce’s eloquent post over at Temple Study today. Among many great points, he included a timeless quote from the late LDS President Brigham [...]

  2. [...] add my voice to that of Bryce Hammond, Terrance Olson, Orson Scott Card and others in saying that the bigger of a deal we make of this, [...]

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