March 10, 2009
Over the past few days I’ve watched a tempest in a teapot over the episode of Big Love that will air this Sunday on HBO. It seems that the show will include a depiction of the sacred/secret Mormon temple ceremony, temple garb and all. It’s no surprise that faithful LDS are up in arms about the program, crying foul and adding this outrage to their list of anti-Mormon persecutions. But details about what else will be shown or the tone of the episode are sketchy to non-existent so you’d think outrage would be put to better use after the show runs. Actually scratch that— from an LDS viewpoint the fact that anything regarding the temple is being hinted at are grounds enough for a full-blown assault on HBO.
I understand why the faithful LDS feel this way. At one point I would have joined the protest. The temple, the pinnacle of LDS theology, is being handled by the unclean hands of HBO’s godless gentiles (Yes. Mormons sometimes call outsiders “gentiles”). Some are thinking “Why can’t they just leave this thing that is sacred and beautiful alone?” They are not alone in feeling this way.
It is not uncommon for other faiths to have suffered offense from the insensitive handling of the things they consider “sacred.” The Catholics certainly have their sacred beliefs, so when the book The Da Vinci Code came out, the Roman Church spoke out against the book and the falsehoods they said it portrayed. And people listened…… Well, no, actually no one did. The book was huge success that was read by thousands, if not millions, of people. Hell, I even know of a quite a few Mormons that read the book. Why…..? Because they hate Catholics. No, actually…. just kidding. They read it because they were curious and because it wasn’t their sacred cow that was being butchered. Truth is, it’s really hard for us to understand and fully comprehend what is sacred to another— hence we often end up treated that thing in a way that might be considered offensive by others. It’s sad but true.
So as this whole thing with Big Love has been growing, I have been wondering if faithful LDS realize how hypocritical they’re being. Righteous indignation on this topic is so deliciously ironic coming from a church that is built on the idea that other church’s sacred creeds are an abomination. Not only though is the Great Apostasy from God’s truth key to the Mormon story, it has fostered a culture that looks down on and even mocks other religions.
About a year ago a story ran about Mormon missionaries mocking and defacing a Catholic shrine in Colorado. They even took pictures. (See, they hate Catholics……Okay. Just kidding. I’m just having a little fun here). While some will claim this is an isolated event I can tell you that it isn’t. I saw and took part in similar mocking (minus the vandalism) when I was a missionary. I also know the tone the Church took about other religions when I attended— not too long ago.
Still don’t believe that Mormons do things that other religions find offensive? Exhibit B: The pre-1990 Temple Endowment film. At the risk of further offending, the Mormon temple ceremony used to feature a generic Christian minister in the narrative film presented as part of the ceremony. He wore a collar similar to many Catholic or Protestant clergy, was depicted as a employee of Satan and his ‘confusing Satan-inspired creeds’ were mocked. The LDS Church should be given credit for removing this from the film in 1990 but the sentiment is still embedded in LDS teaching and culture.
Lastly, there is the Mormon practice baptism for the dead, a practice where Mormons perform proxy baptisms for those who have died so they can “become Mormons.” Many of other faiths find this practice offensive because ancestors, despite devotion to another faith are being baptized by Mormons. The LDS Church is quick to point out that the ceremony is of no effect unless the dead person (on the other side) chooses so. Even with this assurance many have issues with the practice but in virtually all cases the practice continues.
I think you get the point. The LDS Church is certainly not the only group to suffer offense for others on religious grounds and, in fact, they have dealt out a fair share themselves. Right now the ‘Gentiles’ are curious and it’s the Mormon cow up on the block. But heck, who knows some good press might come out of this— and maybe, just maybe, LDS will not take themselves and their religion so deathly serious. Actually, scratch that last part. If anything, I think unfortunately this will have the opposite effect.
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