Final season of Big Love is…hmm. Are you feeling it?

Mormons, ERA, and Barb Drinking Booze

Big Love, Season 5, eps 1 -3

I caught up on this new season of Big Love yesterday and I have a big “meh” growing, even though there are some good things happening. 1) It feels reeeeaally forced in a lot of ways and 2) it seems like it is a midget practicing witchcraft away from being Passions. Oh, that there was a magical midget on this show. And of course the religious stuff they got wrong (or off in places) just bugged the hell out of me.

Lemme ‘splain. (And for new folks since the last season of Big Love, I am a former Mormon, my ex worked for Merril Jessop – he runs the YFZ Ranch in Texas, and my family was one of the first “out” polygamous familiess of SLC under the leadership of Brigham Young. Hit my “polygamy” tag for further reading, if you’re interested.)

I was really glad they showed all of the various polygamous factions in Bill’s Capitol Hill Meeting, although I lol’d at one of the poorest looking groups saying they were from The Avenues. That’s THE Hip Neighborhood in SLC, where houses are some of the most expensive in town, and it’s been gentrified over the past several decades.  It’s a short walk from one end to Temple Square, the Capitol building, and Millennium Park, and a short jaunt to University of Utah at the other. Note: I stayed on 2nd and B street with my girlfriend, so I know of which I speak. She lost her lease when rent quadrupled as gentrification hit that block. We were super sad because the HOTTEST GUYS shopped at the Smith’s on 5th street, the local grocery store.

Anyway, they did a good job of hitting up all of the major players, and there are several factions of polygamists, the FLDS is just the most notorious and most numerous.

Sunstone: First off, my dad is a member of the Sunstone Symposium. My dad is a “radical” Mormon, and anyone that knows my dad would laugh, because he’s so Mormon it’s not even funny. But see, he likes to question things, just for the sake of questioning them. Ultimately he believes in Mormonism, but hey, he gets to feel like he’s all intellectual, and stuff. And that’s what Sunstone is: a MAGAZINE. Where people write in articles, run forums online, maybe have a traveling program or lecture series that local Mormons can attend and ask questions, and then all ultimately agree that Mormonism is true. This whole membership thing they presented it as on the show, as if it’s a club? Uh… never heard of that one. You get the magazine, you attend the lectures and symposiums, or you submit articles for either; there’s not a “get me a foot into this fraternity” thing Barb was presenting.

ALSO. Sunstone is thought of as a bunch of dissenters and naysayers. It’s not desirable for a good Mormon to be involved with or subscribe to Sunstone. Why? Because in Mormonism you accept whatever you are told by your leaders as truth, period. There is NO questioning, there is NO dissension, that leads the way to being an apostate. Oh, some Mormon might tell you that it’s all free choice, but that’s because they’re so deep into it they can’t see the forest for the trees. So for Barb’s mother, who is an upstanding LDS member (and who’s son in law is one of the few paid employees of the Organization) to be so heavily involved with them? Uh uh. ESPECIALLY if she had gotten burned all those years ago with the ERA (more on that in a bit) and was chastened by the leadership for it. She’d be toeing the line, without question.

That sort of lack of understanding of the culture bugs me, but eh, what are you going to do.  I will say that all of the Sunstone panel people cracked me up, because that’s EXACTLY what they look like: dark hair (good Mormons are blonde, lol) librarian-style glasses, tweed coats… all the trappings of an “intellectual,” in other words. With their leather-bound and monogrammed Quads. (All four LDS scriptures in one binding)  We called them Nordstrom’s Mormons in my neighborhood.

ERA vs. Mormon Church. I hope you all know that the Mormon Church is THE reason why the ERA didn’t pass way back in 1982. That’s not hyperbole. I can remember clearly a blue mimeographed notice on the bulletin board outside the chapel telling everyone that they had better not support the evil and wicked “equal rights” amendment. The prophet himself told us all that to support that bill would mean a support of Satan himself, and that families would be torn asunder, and I hope you all have learned by now that nothing is more important to Mormons than family.

Oh, the church has all sorts of things about how men and women are TOTALLY equal, we just have different responsibilities: guys have the priesthood (women NEVER will, never. Not ever.) and women have motherhood. End of discussion. They’re both super important, you guys, and God, in His wisdom, gave us each our appropriate jobs so we wouldn’t get overburdened. *cough* And if you’re a women that doesn’t have kids, it’s your duty to help other mothers, btw. Even to this DAY the church says that two of the three greatest enemies of the church are feminists and intellectuals. Well, they’re right. (The third should be obvious, homosexuality.)  This is what all the “your priesthood head” and “your priesthood leader” stuff is about – men are ultimately boss.  But you ladies get to have babies, that’s just like leading, right?

So the fact that ep. 3 dealt almost solely with the struggle to accept these two roles was a nice touch, I’ll give them that.

HOWEVER. The Priesthood in relation to Barb trying to give a blessing?  There is no way in HELL that Barb would attempt that in the first place (there would need to be a MAJOR schism in all of her beliefs to get there, and trust me, these few moments of drinking a little wine aren’t enough,) there is no way she would have used olive oil and not have sneaked and gotten Bill’s little bullet-shaped vial of anointed oil (it has to have a blessing with someone in Authority to be considered “anointed.”) There’s just no way.

Also, she didn’t even pronounce “Melchizedek” correctly, and there isn’t a Utahn alive (LDS) that doesn’t know how to pronounce that name. It would be like a Catholic pronouncing it “Pap” instead of Pope. So that irritated the shit out of me. Bill said it during their church service, and said it correctly. And when Ben started blessing the sacrament (and I’m sorry, but the two of them would have been doing that together since Ben was 12, another thing that bugged me) I instinctively bowed my head and closed my eyes and mouthed along, lol. INGRAINED PRAYER IS INGRAINED. People in the Mormon faith don’t keep their eyes open during prayer, either. I wish they would have sat in on a Sacrament Service in preparation, because no matter where in the world you go, the prayer is intoned in the exact same way. I’m not exaggerating. it’s comforting in a way, and really really creepy in another.

Whatevs, it’s little details that make it real or take me out of it.

Barb and Her First Taste of Wine: She just sipped that red wine like it was grape juice, huh? Guess what? When you’ve never had anything alcoholic before, and you live in Utah where everything you drink is super sweet, wine tastes like dirty socks. You make a face, you shiver, you REACT to the difference, and Jeanne Tripplehorn just failed as an actress on this one, in my eyes. I can remember the very first time I had an alcoholic beverage. (For newbies: I was as devout a Mormon as it comes.) It took so much courage to take a sip, you just don’t know. I felt that my entire salvation hinged on that sip, so it’s not just “rebelling” it’s knowing – I mean, to the bone knowing– that you are no longer going to heaven and that you’ll be cast out as a result. It’s really that serious. (Ditto for coffee, by the way, but alcohol is way more offensive to a Mormon.)

And so you know, the opening credits are just that: the four of them drifting away into Outer Darkness, the LDS version of hell.  You cease to be.

Did you notice the State Liquor Store? That’s the only way you can buy booze in Utah, these weird little stores, and sometimes they send members from various wards to sneak out there and write down license plates to see if any members are there. It’s a HUGE deal to step foot in one as a member. (Barb identifies as a fundamentalist Mormon, let’s not forget that.) Isn’t that shitty? How damn controlling is that state? You have to fill out a card to be on government file to get a beer/cocktail/glass of wine in a restaurant, too. “Membership cards” they’re called. Some places in the south still do that, too, in “dry counties.”

Nicky is becoming more and more like an uptight Mormon and not the uptight polygamist she originally was, and I don’t know how I feel about it. It feels weird, but maybe they’re trying to make her character assume Barb’s role. That’s my thought anyway.

And the fact that Margene is still not up on the faith? I so totally have to call bullshit on that, as I have since Season 1. I’m sorry, but this is all about their RELIGIOUS FAITH, and she isn’t aware of what a “Priesthood blessing” is? Nuh uh. She doesn’t know what the scriptures are? Laughable. They don’t have her in garments? No way, Josie.

I know this is meaningless to most of you, but to those from the cloth, it’s just a sign of them using this as a platform to entice people who wonder what it is and get them to tune in. That’s what gets Mormons so mad, when people don’t get what the religion is. And ha ha ha, they also don’t really want people to know what the religion is, but that’s the subject of my book, hopefully published one day.

I’m going to force myself to stick with it, if only because the Juniper Creek people are so fascinating (and spot on) to me.  The Henricksons?  Eh, not so much right now.

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  • Janice

    Hi – I clicked your Polygamy tag but it only linked to other Big Love recaps. Do you have other writing about polygamy elsewhere?

  • Laura Stone

    Hi, Janice! I do, on a different blog, though. It’s my old personal blog, so understand that it’s not a “professional” blog. Scroll down a few posts (they link back to here) and you’ll see the many discussions about the topic and my connection to that world.

    Hope you come back here for next week’s post! :)