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. ((History of the Church 4:540))
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. ((Discourses of Brigham Young, 351))
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. ((Gospel Doctrine, p. 112))
See the Church’s response to this issue at the LDS Newsroom’s article “The Publicity Dilemma.”