Beliefnet
Mormon Inquiry

It’s always something of a spectacle to watch how the mainstream media tackles a religion story — the Get Religion site (run by a group of journalists) has been posting on that theme for years now, with the general conclusion that “the press just doesn’t get religion.” So how is the media handling the Big Love story, specifically LDS objections to the Big Love episode set to air this weekend that will depict LDS temple cermonies that, in practice, are observed only inside LDS temples by Mormons in good standing with the LDS Church?

At Variety, an AP story, “Mormon leaders take aim at Big Love.” The story leads with an HBO defense of its right to show the episode (which no one disputes) and the propriety of doing so (which is the crux of the conversation). Furthermore, the headline seems strangely inconsistent with what the Mormon leaders are actually quoted as saying in the story. They have explicitly NOT called for any boycott, counseled Mormons to NOT be offended by HBO’s depictions or decision to air the episode, and suggested this is a minor item that will quickly be forgotten. The exact wording from the LDS statement (quoted in the article) is, “There is no evidence that extreme misrepresentations in the media that appeal only to a narrow audience have any long term negative effect on the church.” So the story is pretty reasonable but the editor who wrote the headline is probably above his pay grade.

Also at Variety, a long response authored by an individual Mormon who happens to be employed in public relations (but not by LDS Public Affairs). It’s posted under the headline “The Mormons strike back.” [Maybe their next story will be headlined “Return of the Journalists.”] The published letter presents an articulate statement of LDS objections to the HBO decision to air scenes that package depictions of LDS temple ceremonies as entertainment.

However, the official LDS response has not been to press the objections summarized in that letter. In a press release posted at the LDS Newsroom at the official LDS.org site, a softer tone is taken, as also illustrated by comments in the first Variety post discussed above. The LDS news release is titled “The Publicity Dilemma,” and the question of how to respond to the issue and to media coverage of the issue is certainly a dilemma. I am in the same dilemma — by responding to the issue I am giving HBO and Big Love publicity it probably does not deserve. So whatever you do, don’t watch the episode just because you read about it here.

For those who prefer their media reports in short video snippets or for readers who really have no context for this whole discussion, here are some media video spots that give fair coverage to the LDS temple experience.

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