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Did Big Love go too far or was it no big deal?

by Allison Waldman, posted Mar 17th 2009 8:15PM
big love clan
Last week's episode of Big Love received more hype than any other show this season for one simple reason. The Church of Latter-Day-Saints (LDS) was protesting – in advance – the HBO drama depicting a secret church ritual. The church felt that the producers had gone too far by showing a sacred ceremony that was not meant to be revealed to those who are not members of the faith. While I respect their desire to protect their traditions, I think they should have waited till the show aired, because now that I've seen it, my attitude is simply this, "No big deal."

Not to be flip, but the traditions of many religions may look alien or unusual to the uninitiated, but that's not a reason to keep them behind a veil of secrecy. The scene was crucial to Big Love because it illustrated how Barb was still deeply entwined with the church she had been brought up in. Her falling away from church activities coincided with her marriage to Bill and Nikki and Margene. Her polygamy has kept her from church and she was feeling a spiritual void. Going to the church and having the "endowment" ceremony only reminded her of the choice she had to make – to be loyal to her parent's and their church or stick with Bill and her sister wives?

If LDS was concerned about their ceremony being cast in an unkind light, I disagree. Yes, it was unusual and I had never seen anything quite like it, but I was also fascinated. I imagine the first time a TV show presented a bar mitzvah – was it Buddy's bar mitzvah on The Dick Van Dyke Show – it probably looked (and sounded) alien. When Frasier showed Frederick's bar mitzvah in 2002, Star Trek's fictitious language Klingon was even inserted for Hebrew.

The bottom line is that the scene in Big Love was important and not exploitative. It added to the drama and was completely respectful and fair. It also worked brilliantly, setting up Barb's later scene when she was ex-communicated by church elders. The upcoming Big Love finale should be a doozy.

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Here are the official statements from HBO and the Show's Creators:

From creators Mark Olsen and Will Scheffer:

"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."

From HBO:

"We know that the writers/executive producers of the series have gone to great lengths to be respectful and accurate in portraying the endowment ceremony. That ceremony is an important part of this year's storyline. Obviously, it was not our intention to do anything disrespectful to the church. 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/executive producers have made abundantly clear the distinction between the LDS church and those extreme fringe groups who practice polygamy."

May 01 2009 at 4:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Hi Bruce,

Read all your posts. You have a strong opinion and a helluva way of expressing them, no doubt.

I just wanted to mention something. The purpose of relgions, in general, is not to make one person think they are better than another or to separate society into sects or cults. In my opinion, the purpose of organized religion is to create a place where people who are like-minded in their perspective on life and who are striving to be better people can meet and help one another. I see nothing cynical in that. In fact I think that's beautiful.

As for Big Love and temple episode, I'm one of the Mormon morons who really didn't get my feathers ruffled. It's going to happen whether I like it or not. When I was a Mormon missionary I had garbage thrown at me, I was assaulted by drunks while onlookers laughed, had the police called because my companion and I were simply in the neighborhood, and had a lifetime of insults thrown my way. Fortunately I'm a woman who isn't easily offended. At the end of the day those people didn't know me, nor did they understand my intentions.

And Bruce, if I needed an attorney to argue my case, I'd want you on my side!

March 26 2009 at 9:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Bruce, you are my hero!! We share exactly the same views, except I can't put them down in words as well as you do!


March 25 2009 at 10:29 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I would be down with "Bruceism". Thorw in unlimited free downloads of music, movies, and tv shows and I'll sign the check now.

I liked the episode, I thought it was well done. The secret rituals and ceremonies don't really play that big of a role in the show as a whole anyways so I say "who cares". I'm an atheist and I love the show but seeing the rituals and ceremonies don't make me want to become a Mormon nor do they give me a dislike for it, it's just a tv show, nothing more.

March 25 2009 at 12:07 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


Words are just words. Shit fuck ass cunt ... just words. Some have four letters, some have more, some less.

But most importantly, this is an internet forum about tv shows. Extremely reserved, proper language is not necessary. But I assure you, when I file court briefs and talk to judges and juries (I'm an attorney), I don't "cuss" - although I have not had a case where one of the parties has had the audacity to tell me he made a knowing and voluntary choice, at the age of 8, to join a particular religion. Such a ridiculous, delusional statement deserves an impassioned retort, as well as a few 'cuss' words for emphasis.

Moreover, attacking someone's grammar or use of a few bad words is the lazy man's way of disagreeing without being able to argue the merits and facts.

What does the LDS church being "open to the public" have to do with anything? Yes it's not like scientology where you have to pay in order to learn the religion's dogma (it costs at least $100k to learn about the alien overlord named Xenu who imprisoned the thetans in jars of antifreeze then dumped them into intergalactic volcanoes). But all religions are businesses, and they're all there to make money. They just go about getting money from their followers in different ways. The LDS Church is quite profitable, to say the least. Not as profitable as the Catholic Church, but they've been around for centuries. LDS has done quite well for a religion only about 150 years old, and whose founder is demonstrably proven to have been a ridiculous fraud.

You should join my religion. All you have to do is swear allegiance to me, pay me $100, and don't kill, rape, or steal from anyone, and then as a reward you'll spend eternity in heaven, where you can have all the sex, oxycontin, and pre-release blu-ray discs you want.

It's a lot like Christianity, only you worship and pay me directly rather than a middleman. You should try it - how do you know my religion (Bruceism) is not true? It's certainly more valid than Mormonism. It takes an idiot of the highest caliber to be a Mormon, whereas it only takes a hopeful and naive person to be one of my followers. Isn't the chance of enteral bliss worth $100? Drop me an email and I'll send you the address where you can send me the money. Oh yeah... if you don't join my religion you'll burn in hell. Forgot to mention that.

And in my religion, you can cuss all you want. Fuck shit damn whore slut tittie cunt.

March 21 2009 at 1:59 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


Bullshit. Religion is not a "choice" any more than homosexuality is. Unless you started out as an atheist, studied all the world's religions and after much thought and comparative debate you decided to settle on LDS, you are full of shit.

I'll bet you anything that your parents were members of the LDS Church. Parents brainwash their children with their own religion. Moreover, an 8 year old is not mature enough, nor mentally capable of making an informed decision to join one religion over all the others. Just because you never rebelled against your Mormon parents and decided to become a Jew to spite them, that doesn't mean you made a knowing and voluntary "choice" to become a Mormon.

8 year olds are not capable of understanding Santa Clause or the Tooth Fairy, so you expect me to believe you made an informed, knowing, rational decion to adopt the religion of your parents and become a Mormon at AGE 8? Are you really that deluded that you believe you had any choice in the matter? You were a Mormon the moment you popped out of your mom's vagina.

It should be against the law to so much as MENTION religion to children. Their minds are too susceptible and they do not yet have the mental capacities to question and challenge religious teachings - especially when told by an authority figure (parent, teacher, priest, rabbi, etc.). It should be a first degree felony, punishable by life in prison, to so much as MENTION religion to any person under the age of 18. Once your kids turn 18, you can tell them about the magic underwear, burning bushes, imaginary voices, people rising from the dead and living inside whales, 800 year old people parting the sea, etc. Of course, an 8 year old will listen in awe. An 18 year old will laugh his ass off at you. This is why religious people fight so hard to get control of school boards so as to force their religious beliefs into as many schools, and into the youngest classes possible. It's evil.

The bottom line is this: religion is a mental disorder, and it's highly contagious. It's not a "choice" - nobody "chooses" to be religious. There are different strains of the disease - christianity, judaism, islam, mormonism, scientology, zoroastrianism, etc... but they're just slightly different manifestations of the same disease. About 4-6 percent of the population has a natural immunity to the disease, and children are most susceptible to infection. Extreme stress/distress can also weaken the body's defenses to religion - that is why so many sick and dying people, as well as people in prison, "find religion". But don't think for a second that it was their "choice" to do so. 99% of religious people were infected by their parents - with the same strain of religion their parents were infected with. Like you - your parents were LDS, so you were infected with LDS at a very young age. It only took a few years from the time you could read before you were sufficiently brainwashed and infected.

I believe you that you've never regretted it. The known symptoms of religion are extreme/unwarranted confidence, hearing voices, inability to make rational decisions, a strong sense of superiority, and extreme euphoria. I'd be pretty happy too if I "Knew" that the creator of the universe loved me, listened to me, has a personal relationship with me, and will reward me with an eternity of pleasure after I die.

Of course, I'd be a fucking IDIOT if I actually believed that. And even if I were going to believe one religion to mitigate burning in hell after I die, which religion? There are hundreds of them, if not thousands. The only thing more egomaniacal and narcissistic than thinking you have a personal relationship with god is thinking that YOUR religion is the one correct one while all the other thousands of religions are completely false.

Ironically, Mormonism is the one religion out of all of them that is verifiably bullshit. Uncontested history proves beyond any question that Joseph Smith was a fraud, a huckster, a liar, and a moron. It takes a very special kind of idiot to be a mormon. Not that it's a chioce, mind you, but you'd think a semi-intelligent person set on being religious would settle on religion that's not 100% provably false.

But I guess it just "makes your faith stronger" to be a Mormon even when you know it's all a load of crap, eh?

The fact that you seriously believe you "chose" to be a Mormon - and at the age of EIGHT - is the most laughable thing I've heard so far this year.

March 19 2009 at 11:09 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to bruce's comment

Beware of a wolf in sheeps clothling, all aspects of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints are will always be open to the public. Just go into any Temple before it has been dedicated. All the visitor centers at the temples are open to the public after they have been dedicated. It is really sad that someone with such the ability to spell and speak freely would have rude and spiteful language to share with others? I know of a wonderful club some kids started that might be able to help. Heres the link.


Memberships free. Seriously how do you eat with that mouth?

March 21 2009 at 1:37 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have been a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints for 68 years. When I was eight years old I made THE CHOICE to become a member of my Church. I have never regretted it. God gave us our free agency to make our own choices - whether they be right or wrong. I was never "brainwashed or forced" by my parents to join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I believe there is only one God, one Jesus Christ and one Holy Spirit. We all worship - no matter what Church - the same God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost. I do not condone the religious beliefs' or practices of other people. They have a right to believe as they do. What right do so many of you have to condone the practices of our Church? Have you studied our teachings and principles? The ordinances that are practiced in our Temples are sacred to me. I am grateful for them. God bless all of you who have such negative and hateful thoughts about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Hopefully, someday you will feel the real need to inquire about the truth of the things we believe.

March 18 2009 at 11:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

mdaby3: glad to see some people have the ability to think for themselves when it comes to religion.

All religions are innately wacky, but the two most nutty, objectively insane and verifiably false religions are Scientology and Mormonism.

South Park has had two fantastic episodes about both religions, and I suggest you watch them if you have not seen them before. L. Ron Hubbard was a crappy science fiction writer who realized (and admitted to his friends) that he could make more money by starting his own religion. Had he been a commercially successful author, he probably wouldn't have bothered. So he took one of his wacky sci-fi stories and created a religion based on it. The evil alien overlord Xenu trapped "thetans" in pools of antifreeze, shipped them to the bottoms of massive volcanoes in DC-9 airplanes, and the volcanoes simultaneously exploded all across the galaxy, killing all the thetans, which now live inside our bodies and make us sad, depressed, nervous, etc (the thetans inside of us are the cause of all our problems). The only way to tame your inner body thetans is to pay scientology, inc., for "auditing" classes, and the more you pay them, the better you'll feel as you will gain control over the thetans living inside you.

This is what Scientologists actually believe. Of course, in my opinion it's no crazier than Christianity, Judaism, or Islam.

Mormons have similarly insane beliefs, but the amazing thing about Mormonism is how its founder, the charlatain Joseph Smith, came to "write" the "Book of Mormon" - but don't take my word for it, go read about it on wikipedia.


What's amazing is all the facts that prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Joseph Smith was a fraud are considered by Mormons to be "proof" that Joseph Smith was actually telling the truth. It's like saying "the fact that O.J. Simpson was covered in the blood of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman is proof that O.J. is innocent!"

It's amazing. Truly amazing. Of course, most people look at religions like Scientology and Mormonism and say "those religions are crazy and are certainly false" ... yet they would never question their own nutty religious beliefs, which they "Know" are the "Truth" (when religious people speak in capital letters you know they've convinced themselves of something which deep down they know to be untrue... which is, of course, the very essence of "faith").

March 18 2009 at 9:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Keeping on topic...

-There's no way Barb would have been able to enter the Temple unless it was under false pretenses. Considering she was facing disciplinary action, and based on her character development, she would not have held a current and valid Temple Recommend (which is required to be shown upon admittance into the Temple). That fact alone makes the whole premise moot.

-What was shown was not an Endowment ceremony, as was talked about in various media outlets prior to the airing of the episode.

-In no way was what they showed from the Temple ceremony necessary to the plot. They could have easily showed Barb taking the Sacrament (which is a sacred rite in and of itself) in an LDS Sacrament Meeting rather than a Temple ceremony to illustrate her desire and commitment to the Gospel. That, to me, says that the show was looking for the attention and sensation rather than putting something in proper perspective. If they felt they couldn't portray what they wanted to without the Temple, they could have showed Barb entering or even exiting. The actualy ceremony itself did nothing for the plot.

-There is no time limit in the Celestial Room (which is the room Barb, her mother, and sister were having their discussion in after ). In severe circumstances, perhaps during heavy tourist seasons at certain smaller Temples, Temple patrons may be asked to be considerate of time spent before even beginning the session, but no one would EVER be asked to leave the Temple. I believe the Temple worker letting the ladies know that their 15 minutes was up was a little bit of a dig at the Temple and its purpose. However, if a situation arose between patrons like the argument between Barb and her mother and sister, I believe they would have been asked to step out of the room, but certainly not demeaned like that.

-You are all right, the things private and sacred to LDS church members are widely available to learn about and view on the internet. So the argument can be made that it's really no big deal, however, I think the defensive attitude comes from misrepresentation and beliefs and practices being taken out of context. Everyone wants to be treated fairly. The Family Guy episode with Mohammed was censored by Fox because they didn't want to offend those who held depictions of him sacred. I'm sure the vast majority of the members of the LDS church offended by this episode feel like their beliefs aren't being treated with the same respect and tolerance as other religions.

March 18 2009 at 6:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

BDUB: All religions have silly little caps. Only Mormons believe in "magical underwear"... but don't get me wrong, I think the silly caps that jews, christians, and muslims wear are almost as wacky and stupid as magical underwear.

The one catch is that the magical mormon underwear is not seen in public - it's worn under the clothes. The goal of most wacky, idiotic-looking religious garments is to make a public statement - "look at me, I look like an idiot now, but I'll go to heaven and receive endless pleasure in the afterlife, while you and your normal-looking clothes will go to hell."

Religions nearly all pose the same test - wear something stupid-looking that stands out (like a huge red clown-nose) as a testament to your faith.

And so, when religious people do that, it is mentally IMPOSSIBLE for them to not feel morally and spiritually superior to all the heathen infidels who are NOT wearing the conspicuous red clown nose (or its equivalent, whether it be a silly hat, a disgustingly long beard, a beekeeper suit, etc.).

The whole point of conspicuous religious costuming is to give the followers an easy, yet meaningless way to feel superior to everyone else. If you believed the Creator of the Universe wanted you to wear a big red clown nose everywhere you go, could you wear it all the time (to work, on the street, to the doctor's office, to court...) without looking down on all the people NOT making jackasses out of themselves by wearing big red clown noses? No, you couldn't. Nobody could. The same thing applies with Jewish kippas, Islamic beekeeper suits (for women), and magical mormon underwear.

Ditto for the Church of Binky the Clown, whose followers must wear big red clown noses and size 40 clown-shoes everywhere they go. You know, as a testament to God (a/k/a "Binky").

But don't you dare laugh at the clowns - it's their RELIGION! Their big red noses and huge shoes MUST be respected! Otherwise you're a hater. A bigoted hater....


March 18 2009 at 5:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to bruce's comment

You. are. awesome.
I'm copying what you wrote (hope you don't mind), because I think it's a perfect argument against religion. Very well said.
I've watched BigLove since the beginning and hoped for some time that they would give me a clue into a religion I know little to nothing about. It doesn't make me want to become a Mormon or anything, any more than Tom Cruise's rants make me want to be a Scientologist, or any other TV show makes me want to do anything crazy.

March 18 2009 at 6:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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