Thursday, March 12, 2009

Contrasting Reactions to Exposés on TV

I'd like to examine something of interest to myself by way of contrast.

Although it is not critical to understanding the contrast I'm about to present, I feel some desire to frame what I'm about to say by pointing out that I'm formerly (quite recently) a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and that my religion is currently a blend between several things, still including several aspects of Mormonism.

Mormonism and Masonry are subjects that have often been treated together, by both friendly and "anti-" sources.  I want to look at a different aspect of comparison.  In recent years, Freemasonry has been featured in several television programs.  There has been at least one program that has purported to accurately depict the Master Mason Degree, presumably exposing the Masonic secrets held sacred to members of the Fraternity to the general public.

Next Wednesday, HBO plans to air a new episode of "Big Love" which depicts portions of the Mormon Temple Endowment, in an accurate re-creation of an Endowment Room and Celestial Room and with accurately depicted Temple Clothing being shown.  For those of you who don't know, "Big Love" is a show about a Fundamentalist Mormon family living in Utah and dealing with life among their Latter-day Saint neighbors.  And for those of you who aren't familiar with Mormonism, the depiction of the Temple ordinances and even the Temple clothing is considered taboo in mainstream Mormonism, that's why the producers of the show had to hire an ex-Mormon to help them put together the set and props.  The producers have promised that they've done their homework and will be doing an accurate portrayal.

A common thread here is that both shows may be characterized as being created by people who are unsympathetic towards the organization whose secret rituals they are "exposing."  Both programs are merely putting together information, the bulk of which has been in print since the mid-1800's, and as neither has been made by members of these organizations, the creators of these programs have apparently not broken any sacred obligations to come up with their respective footage.

So I've set the stage and shared what is in common, now for my contrast:  Masons have had mixed reactions to the exposé of the Master Mason Degree on Television, and I get the impression that, by and large, the Craft has welcomed the publicity created by such a program.  However, when Latter-day Saints are faced with the same type of situation, they seem to have taken a different route entirely in dealing with things.  The Church put out a press release entitled "The Publicity Dilemma"  which at the time of this writing is front-and-center on the Church's main website, and the majority of opinions online seem to be very negative towards HBO's actions.

I am curious what it is about the scenarios or common psychological make-ups of these two groups to cause them to react so differently to such a similar situation?  Why aren't the Mormons able to channel this potential attention into a positive force for their growth, when the Masons have been able to succesfully do so in at least a handful of cases that I'm aware of?  On the other hand, is the easy-going attitude of the Masons indicative of a general lack of respect for their own solemn ceremonies, or is this response consistent with the best and highest Masonic ideals?  Or, does the religion vs. fraternity comparison make this equivalent to comparing apples to oranges -- if so, why?

A closing plea, please be respectful to the Latter-day Saints in any comments left in relation to this post.  They are getting enough flack as it is from other sources.