HBO's Depiction Of Mormon Ceremony Upsets Church

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is angry over an episode of HBO's hit series "Big Love" that the church says is in "appallingly bad taste."

An upcoming episode of "Big Love," which chronicles the lives of a fictional polygamist family, is reported to be depicting an endowment ceremony, one of the most sacred rituals of the Mormon Church.

"It now seems the show's writers are to depict what they understand to be sacred temple ceremonies," read a statement from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "Certainly church members are offended when their most sacred practices are misrepresented or presented without context or understanding."

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The statement says that before the first season of "Big Love" aired more than two years ago, HBO executives promised the church that the series wouldn't be about Mormonism.

But the church argues that "Mormon themes are now being woven into the show" and that Mormon characters are often "unsympathetic figures" who are "narrow and self-righteous."

While the church has not called for a boycott of HBO or the program, several of its followers have, using the blogosphere and "Big Love" message boards to air their complaints.

In a statement released earlier this week, HBO defended its decision to include the ceremony on the show, according to Reuters.

"Obviously, it was not our intention to do anything disrespectful to the church, but to those who may be offended, we offer our sincere apology," read the statement.

In a separate statement the creators of the series said that they "took great pains to depict the ceremony with the dignity and reverence it is due."

Just days before the third season of "Big Love" premiered last January, the creators of the show told ABCNews.com about their continued efforts to make the show as realistic as possible for viewers, especially on the heels of the April 2007 raid of a Texas polygamist sect.

"We began to write the season in advance of the raid in Texas," said Mark Olsen, co-creator of the series. Olsen said that the raid occurred during last year's writers' strike, and so when the staff returned they got right to work.

"We had to make the series relevant," said Olsen. "We couldn't have this season fail to acknowledge the events that had transpired in these characters' lives."

"It would be like 'Sex and the City' not acknowledging that the Twin Towers were not there anymore," he said.

The Yearning for Zion Ranch, a compound run by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, was raided in April 2008 after state authorities received calls reportedly from juveniles claiming sexual abuse. Texas Child Protective services then removed hundreds of children from the care of their parents while they investigated claims that the sect forced underage girls to marry older men and bred young men to become sexual abusers.

The more than 430 children were returned to their parents in June, a month after first being separated from their families. The investigation is ongoing.

But Olsen and show co-creator Will Sheffer said that the Texas raid was actually a double-edged sword in terms of the show.

While it made their show more culturally relevant it also associated the series with one of the most "unsavory" news stories of the year.

"When we get this publicity in the real world we really don't know whether it's a boom or a bust," said Scheffer.

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