I put off watching the Mormon special on “Rock Center with Brian Williams” until Saturday night. I am the type of person who gets very emotional about things — especially related to my religious beliefs. I, like most members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, believe strongly in my faith and am proud to be a Mormon. Therefore, it’s sometimes difficult for me to watch a TV special about the church because there’s always the “Oh no, what are they going to say about us?” question in the back of my mind.
But I have to say after watching the hour-long special, I came away with mostly good feelings and thoughts.
I enjoyed the segment with former Jet Blue CEO David Neeleman and his testimony about worldly vs. temporal things. I think the line that stuck out to me the most was “God’s spiritual blessings to me are more important than the temporal blessings.”
The interview with Jeff Benedict, author of “The Mormon Way of Doing Business,” was great, too. I was so touched to hear him say, when asked why Mormons are so successful in business, that “the most powerful influence in these guys lives growing up is their mom.” He mentioned us putting our boys in music lessons and “looking at their collar” before they headed out the door. It was such a sweet way of saying “mothers matter.” It made me think about the story in The Book of Mormon, Helaman’s stripling warriors: “We do not doubt our mothers knew it.” (Alma 56:48). I never want my boys to doubt my faith, either.
I am glad they talked about our temples and the sacred ordinances that are performed there such as the marriage sealing; however, I wish they would have interviewed a member who had actually been through the temple. I feel they would have treated the topic with more sacredness and respect. Abby Huntsman is a good friend of mine, and a beautiful person. I can understand her hurt when speaking about her bishop’s concerns for choosing to marry someone outside the church. She shared some of her ideas about the temple and the temple garment. I’d like to briefly share some of mine.
When Williams asked Huntsman about why people don’t know more about the church, she responded with “I don’t think they’ve done a good enough job opening up. They’ve been very secretive.” I disagree. Secret and sacred are two very different things. In fact, not only has the church reached out in the media creating websites such as mormon.org, lds.org, and promoting the “I am a Mormon” ads and billboards, but whenever a new temple is built, the church throws its doors open to the public to come walk through. My brother and sister just had the opportunity to go see the Brigham City Temple last week. It was a wonderful experience for them.
It bothered me that Brian Williams talked about being able to go sit in St. Patrick’s Cathedral but not being able to go into the Mormon temple. He’s missing something here: Anyone is allowed in our churches. In fact, members are constantly encouraged to bring neighbors and friends of different faiths to church on Sunday to worship with us. We want people to share in our joy! The temple is different. The temple is much more sacred, where covenants are made. It is a place of worship, of peace, of learning. I will never forget my first experience going through the temple for myself. The love and holiness I feel when I am there is very special and sacred. I was taught to keep myself pure and to strive to learn and obey Heavenly Father’s commandments so that I could one day receive the blessings of this special place. It is something we as Mormons are constantly trying to do — to live worthy of our temple blessings.
I was very upset with the showing of the temple garment. When was the last time NBC showed anyone of a different faith standing in their underwear? The question Brian Williams asked Abby Huntsman about whether or not she thought a member of the faith would let him see their underwear was completely ridiculous. Yes, they are sacred. Yes, they hold special meaning. They are also our underwear! Why would you ask someone to show you that? What would he say if someone came up to him and said, “Excuse me. I’m just really curious about what underwear you’re wearing. Could you take off your clothes and show me?” Absurd.
The temple garment is a symbol of those beautiful covenants I’ve made. I don’t wear them to receive “magic powers.” They are a reminder of my commitment to keeping certain promises. For those curious about the sacred nature of the garment, there is a wonderful article on lds.org entitled “The Temple Garment: “An Outward Expression of an Inward Commitment” by Elder Carlos E. Asay.
I have never had an issue with men holding the priesthood, and so I couldn’t personally relate to Joanna Brooks and her struggles with wanting more equality within the church. Bearing children, creating a loving home environment, and raising the rising generation is responsibility enough for me. I feel 100 percent equal to my husband and am grateful he holds the priesthood, the power and authority to act in the name of God, to carry out His responsibilities here on earth. We are different in our roles, but one is not greater than the other.
I loved the segment with the interracial LDS couple, Al and Juleen Jackson from Lehi, Utah. I loved their simple, pure testimony.
When people refer to us Mormons as “living in a bubble,” I have to stifle a laugh. I wonder why people think we are immune to the rest of the world because of our religious beliefs? I have had so much life experience, met so many different types of people, traveled to many different places all over the world, and have lived a very rich life full of culture and diversity being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I know what “real life” is like. I have trials. I have hardships. I’ve been through incredibly hard, soul-searching, difficult times. I am human. I’m not living in a different world, but my perspective on life is perhaps what sets me apart. I process things and deal with things differently and maybe a little easier because of the knowledge I have of my Savior and what He’s done for me.
I got a little emotional during the segments about the Bishop’s Storehouse. When Harry Smith said, “Mormon’s really believe they are their brother’s keeper,” I couldn’t stop the tears from flowing. This, to me, is what life is about. Loving others. Helping them. Caring “more about others than [you] care about [yourself] and to focus on other people and what they need,” as Clark Johnson so beautifully put it.
I hope the segment has opened some doors for people with questions about the church. I encourage anyone with more questions to go to lds.org or talk to a missionary representing The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to learn more about the gospel of Jesus Christ. And I hope, overall, people come away with a feeling of love.