Everyone around here seems to be talking about HBO’s episode of Big Love set to air Sunday which will feature a church disciplinary court and a detailed portrayal of temple rites. There is so much to say about it, frankly. Obviously most members of the Church are very upset about it. It makes me wonder what fuels their anger. Are they upset because HBO is sharing sacred information they would prefer be kept private? Are they upset because HBO is mocking (or people who watch HBO will mock) things they hold sacred? Or are they upset because HBO is embarrassing them by making Latter-day Saints seem strange?
In any event, they are upset, and rightfully so. HBO is violating a major taboo within the LDS culture. But if Mormons are going to complain about how their sacred beliefs are treated by others, then they ought to look at how they treat other people’s sacred beliefs. If you don’t dish out respect for others, then I don’t think you have a right to complain when they don’t respect you.
The first thing that pops into my head is the story that broke last year about LDS missionaries who took pictures of themselves mocking a Catholic shrine. The Church was responsible, apologized, and disciplined the missionaries involved, but there is still a bad taste in my mouth over it. I was a missionary, and I heard the other missionaries speaking disrespectfully of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Evangelicals, even Buddhists. Elders would study things they could say to trip up the pastors of these faiths, and would brag about making them look stupid.
Despite the apology for this specific instance, the notion that those of other faiths are stupid seems propagated by LDS authorities, not negated. Consider Elder Holland’s recent talk on the Trinity in which he blasts the sacred doctrines of so many Christians and flippantly refers to them as “incomprehensible” (The Only True God and Jesus Christ Whom He Hath Sent). Not too long ago LDS leaders teaching that the Catholic Church was the whore of the Earth- that great and abominable Church. Now the great and abominable Church simply refers to all people who aren’t on par with the LDS view of God. And though I want to be respectful of the Temple’s sacred nature, I do think it is appropriate and relevant to point out that the rites there used to contain a very negative caricature of Protestant pastors.
Most recent and most hurtful of all to me personally, the Church has openly attacked what I hold to be sacred: My right to marry the one I love. Yes, I consider gay marriage sacred. Perhaps I feel it even more so because it is denied me, but I believe that the life long union of same sex couples is sacred. The Church not only fights to prevent that from happening, but they say nasty things about it, calling it selfish and saying that it will “erode the social identity, gender development, and moral character of children” (The Divine Institution of Marriage). They confuse homosexuality with gender confusion and misrepresent what it means to be homosexual. Members of the LDS Church have been even more disrespectful, saying that I have no morals whatsoever and that I am a threat to America and even to the world.
If Latter-day Saints are going to be “offended when their most sacred practices are misrepresented” (official LDS statement) and when they feel their sacred practices are mocked or attacked, then they ought to be more careful about how they represent and talk about the sacred practices and beliefs of others. Frankly, I have a hard time sympathizing with offended Mormons right now. It’s not that I want them to be disrespected or that they deserve to be disrespected, is just that I don’t feel like they are even aware of how they have disrespected others. They don’t seem to understand the double standard they are asking from the media when they want only positive press. They don’t see hypocrisy in boycotting HBO after complaining about gay activists boycotting Mormon owned businesses in the wake of prop 8. They just don’t seem to get it!